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Posts Tagged ‘mens fashion’

Men are a peculiar species. Not just humans in general, who are weird enough that I cross the street to avoid them, but specifically the subspecies of males. Straight men, scientifically speaking, don’t talk much among themselves about anything that doesn’t involve cars, sports, or (presumably naked) women (gay men are encouraged to substitute their own clichés here: Judy Garland anyone?) (And, as an aside: it has always amused me that straight men who obsess over watching beefcake, tightly-wrapped-in-spandex dudes tackle each other for a living, fail to see how… um… “latent” their interest in sports is.)

Anyway, as as endlessly fascinating as the previous mentioned conversational topics are, it is a narrow list, and of limited help to a burgeoning male on the edge of adulthood. Lacking any sort of proper mentoring, rite of passage, or even the likelihood a present father, today’s young men have to turn to the internet to watch instructional videos on “why it itches” or simply “how to shave.” With the abundance of extra hormones in the fast food chain, teen boys are in need of a shave a good 5 years younger than dad.

One of many areas in which men of all ages are hopelessly uninformed is the realm of socks. After all, how much does a man need to know about pairing socks with Nikes? Assuming he owns a pair of something nicer than sneakers, a man must be semiconscious about what he’s making the rest of us look at, between his cuff and brogue. A spell back, my cyber clothing colleague, Will, over at A Suitable Wardrobe, posted about how socks now are generally of a quality that one can forgo sock garters altogether (he also mans-up the support item of this post by calling them “sock suspenders.” Nice touch.)  I know for a fact that the socks sold through his online store are certainly of this top caliber. But the bulk of foot tubes in my dresser drawer are, after a few cycles through the wash, shapeless sacks whose top has no interest in clinging to my knees, preferring instead to flutter about the ankle. This complaint has been voiced often enough in conversation with other sartorially inclined men that either A) Walmart needs a better quality production gulag on the mainland, or B) there is an egregious industry wide conspiracy of “planned obsolescence” in hosiery that warrants rioting.


Whatever the reason, a daily solution is still (as it was for grandad) sock garters, and among the nicest are those made by Swan Clothing. An accessory company started by Tara Bethune-Leamen 2005, she has previously focused on women’s accessories, however her luxury sock garters could be considered a first foray into the men’s room, so to speak. These garters are ultimately unisex — not entirely surprising  since women have historically co-opted our dry goods and looked better in them (e.g. The Night Porter and what Ms Rampling did for peaked officer caps/suspenders); as such, one shouldn’t be alarmed when visiting the Swan Clothing website. You will find a shapely set of lady’s gams modeling them for you which, frankly, I reckon as a bonus. If only Polo did that with bow ties; I’d buy even more.

Below I’m carefully concealing something. Hint: it’s below the belt.

And for the regular reader(s) — the tie of day:

Specs for the latter images:

Tie: Superba (100% Dacron and “fully washable”)
Shirt: Chalres Tyrwhitt
Cardigan: McGregor (vintage)
Trousers: BR
Overcoat: BR
Socks: Rugby (given the inspiration of the day I thought it worth mentioning)

Don’t forget to visit:

http://shop.swanclothing.com/

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One thing about scanning someone’s blog is that the reader often doesn’t realize if consecutive posts were launched yesterday or last year, unless the posts are specifically date sensitive. So when belatedly perusing an archive of posts -and finding an apology for not having posted in a while- I always pause to consider whether their neglect of my entertainment offends me. I always think: how absolutely selfish of them. As for my having neglected your amusement these weeks past, the sooner you get used to it the better.

(And before you get too smug recounting all the ways I’ve let you down recently, allow me remind you: if you think you’re disappointed in me than you haven’t met my mother.)

I feared that not having posted lately might set rumors loose; e.g. I’ve forsaken clothing altogether due to my cascading fury over nothing but low rise flat fronted trousers on the JC Penny’s clearance rack and in protest, joined a nudist colony. No, reality is hardly that interesting. Keeping it brief, I’ll say only that my various toils of late have left me with little time for a life, online or otherwise.

Not long ago I snuck out of the house recently wearing this sporty vintage corduroy masterpiece! As if wine colored corduroy wasn’t enough (so convenient for if/when I end up  wearing a glass of red), it also has elbow patches! As well as being double vented, having a throat button to bundle the lapels up on a blustery afternoon, and generous patch packets for handily transporting portable vices (note the plural).

No outfit of mine is complete without requisite rumpled button down and cryptic emblematic tie.

Tie: Rugby
Shirt: Land’s End
Vest: Forever 21
Jacket: Grodins

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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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In the spirit of the season — a spirit which usually appears as a Dickensian ghoul reminding me to give coal to everyone (and the bastards really deserve a lump on the head when it comes to lumps, but I’m a generous fool, what can I say?) — today’s subject is an oldfangled clip-on. The end of November is always a fine time to give thanks that bow ties are still even made, either clip-on or grown up style, and to reflect upon vintage specimens from grandad’s closet.


Above we see the 1 lbs of hardware to attach it to the collar (extra starch suggested), and below the first class berth/gift box that it travels in. The tag is to one Mr McDonald from a Lois Scheller. I hope she got that raise.

I don’t normally wear clip-ons because I find them too perfect and too tidy, (though I have friends who have sported them quite fabulously) but when it comes to making exceptions in my bow tie rotation- this piece deserves to be among them.

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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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“When you have a dinner jacket cut by Poole, you are thus skirmishing with history.”

Lucius Beebe (1902-1966), 20th century society writer, and the type of man to whom a light lunch was one “with fewer than four wines*,” was a Henry Poole man to the end, and in this he was in good company. One of his comrades in the Poole fitting room was the notable “King of the Dudes†,”  E. Barry Wall (1860-1940), a man who was reputed to have nearly 300 pairs of bespoke pants and (after my own heart) 5,000 neckties (most made by Charvet), which he changed up to six times a day. Though born in Manhattan, Wall wisely spent most of his adult life (as well as his inheritance) in Paris or the Côte d’Azur. Beebe, a New Englander who came of age as a writer in New York, decided in his middle years to move west and, among other literary pursuits, write for the San Francisco Chronicle. It was a paper whose editors he would come to believe to be outright Bolsheviks, and whose only intelligent act was to hire him to balance their otherwise west coast edition of Pravda.

Beebe had this to say about his tailor:

“Brooks Brothers in New York likes to remark that when Lincoln was inaugurated for his second term he was wearing a Brooks overcoat lined with fine twill silk and embossed with a figure of the American eagle carrying the legend “One Country, One Destiny.” Poole’s can, with equal veracity, point out that when Napoleon III ascended the throne of France, he was wearing (on credit) a uniform from Poole’s, and that Benjamin Disraeli, when he presented Queen Victoria with the gift of the Suez Canal, was in court dress by Poole… ‘If you were to go through the pages of Burke’s Peerage and the Almanach de Gotha,’ says Mr Cundy, ‘from 1850 to the end of civilization in 1914, I think we could match you page by page with our ledgers.’

Nearer Home, the late Evander Berry Wall once emerged from his suite at the United States Hotel at Saratoga Springs and paraded in forty changes of attire in a single afternoon, thus achieving for all time the title ‘King of the Dudes.’ Every outfit bore the Poole label (my emphasis)…”

It’s worth noting that Poole and Baron Rothschild bankrolled that dark horse, Prince Louis Napoleon, in form of $50,000 of their own money. Turned out to be a good payoff for the both of them when he later came back as Emperor of France. Another royal to grace 37 Savile Row‡ was Edward VII, in the form of the Prince of Wales, who survived mostly on Poole’s generous credit since his mom, Queen Victoria, choked his allowance because she found his lifestyle to be alarmingly dissolute. Another notable customer was Lord Cardigan, whose name-sakes I am in need of daily during San Francisco’s summers. And of course it was Poole’s that gave us the modern Tuxedo jacket as well, recounted here on the company’s website. Disraeli even made Poole a character in his Endymion.

In a note to Herb Caen Beebe wrote “I’d like my obit to say: ‘Everything he did was made to measure. He never got an idea off the rack.”

* When cautioned about his legendarily excessive culinary and boozing habits, which had lead to numerous kidney stones and attacks of gout, Beebe insisted he had no intention of facing old age on bread and water alone.
Back when “dude” meant “fop.”
They have since relocated to 15 Savile Row.

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Taking advantage of the summer as mother nature (and an even more savage mistress: my schedule) allows. Given the demise this year of the California drought I really should be modeling a parade of wetsuits, flippers, and snorkels. It may come to that yet. But today’s shot was a bright cloudless day and, as long as there’s a leafy tree to nap under, I’ll take it. Not that I was always this way- about either sunny days or naps. Taoism has it’s lore that says a man is not (perhaps cannot) be ready to receive certain pearls of wisdom until at least middle age. No doubt that was first claimed by an old man, but some tastes are certainly acquired, and a few more bitter ones are acquired with age, whether you intend for that to happen or not. A single malt scotch can be that way; one’s pH balance has to mature to meet a particular whisky or vintage of wine, and voila! What was ash in your mouth at 20 is ambrosia at 40. Sometimes people have aged likewise: a man whose actions I found distasteful in my youth, might begin to appear more favorable by the lamp of my own experience (though this is rarer, as my first sensation of disappointment is usually correct.)

Clothing can be similar. The daily uniform I wear now was anathema to me as an adolescent. But back then anything that wasn’t emblazoned with Iron Maiden or Slayer was unfit to cover my regal pastiness. Of course I still wear those tee’s under my Brooks Brothers button downs. It’s called keepin’ it real people! Then there are outfits I’ve been told I’ve outgrown: diapers, or that I’m too young for: diapers. Hoodies and ascots also fall in these categories respectively, and I wear both of those (but only one of them in public.)

Tie: Rugby
Shirt: Nautica
Vest: Polo
Jacket: Gap
Trousers: BR

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