Posts Tagged ‘Brooks Brothers’

“When you get to be 50 you find yourself talking and thinking as much about death and money as you used to about sex.”

-Jeffrey Bernard, Lowlife


While I haven’t yet alighted on Mr. Bernard’s perch of 50 at the time of the above quote, I have, as far back as I can remember, reflected on death and money (or at least the wages of sin.) Typically, when considering death and money in the same thought, I’m usually thinking of whose death might bring me money… but so far no one has left a cent. My approach towards both death and taxes is similar — namely, that I have a habit of being late on one account, and plan on being even later to the other. So far one (positive?) thing about how aged I’ve become is that I’m beginning to look like I belong in all those grandpa duds I’ve been sporting for years. One of my lingering problems is that I still look like a lot of things I’m not; bourgeois, solvent, well adjusted, or gay. Though I am none of the above, few can accept it.

Regardless of appearances, one club I may actually belong to is what Paul Fussell describes as the “floating class,” a.k.a the bohemian class, a phenomena which exists outside our  western caste system because it is unassociated with income. Bohemians are a tricky bunch; wearing uniforms outside our station (check), ignoring local morality (check), famously consorting with the disreputable (check), and being notoriously (if often  entertainingly) eccentric/difficult/unreliable companions (yeah, probably). All very amusing until it isn’t: some aging bohos are a tragic lot as Mr Bernard and his milieu demonstrated to the scandalized respectable classes (who followed his musings with the same excitement and horror as one watches cars crash.) His column was astutely described as a “suicide note in weekly installments.” I’m hoping this blog is slightly more upbeat. Only slightly.

Among of the paradoxes of aging (beyond the truth that youth really is wasted on the young) is that every new moment you are the oldest you’ve ever been, so the current “you” always feel old in comparison to yesterday’s you even if, in context of your family/community, you’re not. This might be why I always wake up feeling old.

This was the day I met up with KMK in North Beach for happy hour. Along my way through the Financial District I stopped to window shop at CCC.


This photo is the view looking back down Columbus to where the Montgomery Block used to be (built 1853, demolished 1959,) or “monkey block” for short, where the pyramid now stands. The Montgomery Block, a 4 storey monolith of a building, had survived the cataclysm of ’06 and was home to Pisco Punch, which was invented on the ground floor at the Bank Exchange Saloon during the barbary days, later perfected by the saloon’s last owner Duncan Nicol, who reportedly took the recipe to grave in 1926; the upper floors served as working space to many artists and writers, including Bierce and Twain.


This long time neighborhood institution was down the street from our watering hole. A worker owned co-op since 2003. Now that’s my kind of socialism.


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Summer Leftovers

Here I am, looking as if I had just swum through a tub of Neapolitan ice cream. Maybe it is the burning heat of our Indian Summer that inspired me, or maybe I just wanted to reminisce about the old days – when northern California weather used to make me feel like I was somewhere south of the arctic tree line. Part of the issue is that I live more coastal than bayside; this is a critical difference when it comes to micro climates and fog patterns. But we’re now in the thick of an autumnal heatwave and that’s cause enough to disinter the BBQ and finish off the backwash in that bottle of Boodles.

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And 100% polyester free. Good and good for you.

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The brooding gray chill of fall has been both refreshing and worrisome. Invigorating, because I enjoy de-mothing the wool sweaters and armoring myself against the wind. The cold has also been an inspiration to research as yet untasted artisan scotches (though I hardly need another excuse). Because my bank statements are often printed in red ink, that’s reason enough to open another bottle. But I’m nervous since the early rains are an ominous sign of what’s in store for the rest of winter. I say this because we had an extraordinarily foggy summer, which if past local seers of weather are correct, means a torrent of wet this winter. Build the ark now.

Seen here in some seasonal professorial garb. Missing, besides elbow patches, pipe, and flask, is the ruler (or perhaps Louisville Slugger) with which to rule any little convicts-in-training. I like Zara as far as brands go; their strength is certainly their jackets and overcoats. But they can go astray in the trouser department, mostly with an anorexic fit to the legs or a waist placed no higher than the colon. Since they are a European company, this might be a simple metric conversion problem. The trousers pictured  (forgiving my usual public flaunting of them unpressed) is a winning exception. The Uniqlo cardigan was bought in Tokyo, is a size large, and will no longer fit after a piece of Chicago style pizza. This is amusing because I can, often as not, wear an American small. Although, with my eating-for-hibernation diet of late, there have been less “small” sizes in recent rotation.

Tie: House of Edgar (of Scotland)
Shirt: Brooks Bros
Cardigan: Uniqlo
Jacket: untagged
Trou: Zara

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This might be my only legitimate schoolboy cardigan. Not that I mugged a schoolboy to get it, but I should point out that where I came from, that is the most meritable way of acquiring one. A distant second is actually attending school. Fashioned by the company School Apparel, this sweater is made of a stiff acrylic, easily wiping clean of mud, cafeteria food fights, and finger paint. Because of it’s hyper-synthetic ingredients, it also resists the lingering scent of cheap cigarettes (sneaked behind the gym). But more alarming than the carcinogens it’s made of is the fact that it’s an adult size small, which is why, at first glance, you thought I was wearing Thom Browne. Good thing I have all those high-waisted old man trousers, otherwise this cardy would be midriff exposing (making it — if possible — even sexier). Bonus: the tag at the back of the neck has a line for my name. Which I filled in with a crayon. Which I then ate. Cardigan: found at a Goodwill store, unworn with the tags still on it.

Our contemporary cardigan’s history begins with the 7th Earl of Cardigan. The Earl was a harsh and elitist snob, remembered for leading the infamous charge of the Light Brigade, as well as discovering our sweater’s pater familias, which he supposedly wore at some point during the campaign, and to which he lends his name. It is sad to reflect that a sweater whose popular introduction was by a military man in an active theater of war and is now considered an emblem of effete academia. I assume the cardigan’s appearance in American schools was merely following its prevalence in British educational circles, or at least in cliched films about British boys schools. The same British public school system has also bequeathed other treasures to education: caning and cross dressing, if I remember those films correctly. Maybe it’s time to reread Tom Brown’s School Days.

The shirt is a regulation Brooks Bros with a subtle warm stripe, and the tie a Burberry in their classic plaid. Chalk and paddle are optional.

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Red White and Blue

Summer is typically a late comer to the Bay Area, and this year it was even more tardy than usual. But, for the few days it stopped by en route to the central valley, time was made up by roasting us. I was excited by the rare opportunity to break out the linen, limes, gin, and tonic. Maybe not in that order.

The linen jacket is part of an H&M 2 piece which I treat as separates. It started life as a 2 button, but immediately I had a local dry cleaner deface it by adding a third button hole, and luckily it seems to have survived this mauling. Normally, a 2 button jacket isn’t cut to allow for a whimsically added 3rd button, and still look natural when buttoned up. (though purists would be quick to point out that you never button the top button with a 3 button anyway) Cynical me- I assumed that H&M suit jackets would be generically cut to allow for 2 or 3 buttons, as a simple cost cutting measure. It seems that I was right. This time.

I followed that assault with a fistful of mother of pearl replacement buttons, which cost me more than the sum total of the jacket. From a distance, they look suspiciously like their plastic predecessors. The suit trousers suffer from a lack of opacity and are frequently left on the hanger, at least until I decide to start that body waxing regimen I’m always threatening.

The gingham shirt and madras pocket square are both from Brooks. The linen trousers pictured here, are (unsurprisingly for me) Banana Republic, who I may stop mentioning in my posts from here on out, since I feel I’ve given them enough free advertising. Part of why I own so many BR pants is that they do a decent clearance sale (yes, that was a hint J.Crew, Brooks, Rugby, etc), and — for whatever reason — they’re are quite popular among men who donate to charity thrift stores in town, bless ’em all.

Tie: –
Shirt: Brooks Bros.
Jacket: H&M
Pocket Square: Brooks Bros.
Belt: J.Crew

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The wearing of this polyester bib is a gesture of goodwill between that aesthetically villainous decade (the 1970s) and that aesthetic villain: myself. It was an easy step for me since the tie qualifies as bad-ass in any decade (yes, bad-ass is an official sartorial category — of mine). With the hind parts of a lion and the torso/head of an eagle, the griffin, one of the Royal heraldic beasts of England, is considered the most royal of all mythological animals, because it is a graft of the kings of both land and air. An ancient symbol, it was the griffin that pulled Apollo’s chariot. Males are depicted without wings.

But the griffin on my tie is female, yet she clutches a spear or javelin in her claws. We’ll ignore the contemporary academician’s fetish of over-reading post-Freudian BS into everything, like when a prof sees the archetypal Madonna (the one from Detroit) in every famous or notable modern woman. Such absurd (and common) academic vomit typically leads the spewer to a) a self-help book deal and b) tenure. Rather than charge our griffin with Amazonian cross-dressing, we’ll leave the Athenas, Boudicas, Jeanne d’Arcs, and Marlene Dietrichs out of it.

Back to a more relevant thesis; the tie is limited to 3 colors: red, white, and black. This glorious primordial triad, mentioned by Empedocles (circa 450 BC) as being three of the primary four colors (his fourth is still in question, but it might have been the yellow that Pliny claims, along with our primal three, made up Apelles’ palette.) In case you were wondering about blue, it doesn’t turn up as a regular color in Western art until the 15th century* The more villainous quality of these colors was recently best worn uniformly by Indiana Jones’ main nemeses. But though the pigment threesome’s history is ultimately more balanced, from their use in prehistoric art, to current aboriginal works, one can’t help but appreciate the graphic power of this color combination.

Now, what the dots might mean I haven’t the foggiest. Ask your prof.

Tie: Efram Ilani
Shirt: Brooks Brothers
Vest: Benetton
Trou: BR

*And that regal blue, lapis lazuli, has long been associated with the other Madonna.

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