Sunday, June 26, 2005

The good old days...

Except for this illustrious blog, there are precious few places where the civilized gentleman may turn, these days, for sage advice and wise counsel on the matter of apparel and grooming. Men, at least in the USA, have no fashion magazines, and what few books are published on the issue are generally wrong on crucial matters.

A good litmus test is to go to the section on formalwear. Any book suggesting (or even tolerant of) notch lapel tuxedos ought be set aflame.

This wasn't always the case, though. Esquire magazine, in the 1930s, was THE beacon on fashion and style for gentlemen. The illustrations by Laurence Fellows still look fresh and timely (and more often than not, they look like the windows of emporia such as Paul Stuart and Ralph Lauren Polo) and still influencing civilized men's apparel 3/4 of a century later. But Esquire is no longer that. It's basically a New York-y Playboy* with a snotty edge and no nekkid wimmin.

Gentlemen's Quarterly (GQ) is another former stalwart. As recently as 1983 it was a vibrant, intelligent voice in men's fashion. Then all that changed in the fall of that year, when it changed its focus from fashion and grooming to deal with puff pieces on art, celebrities, politics, etc. The change was in response to a new magazine from the publishers of "W," entitled "M." The latter was an excellent magazine on fashion and style and had an unabashed American viewpoint. However, the publishers pulled the plug and with the demise of M, all we had left was an emasculated Esquire and a gelded GQ.

Our options are few. Stick close and pay attention, I'll get us all home in one piece.


* About which, the less said the better.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

This is the look you want.

It's summer, but it's also summer 2005. This means that when going to a "smart occasion" (as our Britpals might say) you need to be a bit more pulled-together. An excellent way to do so and still be the raffish, Continental rake you've always envisioned is with the tan linen suit.

This needn't be worn with a tie, but it could be, I s'pose. Here's the recipe:

1 single-breasted tan* linen** suit
1 straight- or spread-collared light blue shirt, barrel cuffed. Pinpoint is ideal, as is end-on-end. Broadcloth could also work, provided the blue doesn't look like buttercream on a cake. NO, no buttondowns, no tabcollars, no French Blue, no French Cuffs. VARIATION: white/blue stripes, provided the blue in the stripes is no darker than a French Blue.

This being summer, the silhouette really ought be relaxed and drapey. Keep the "that-is-so-5-minutes-ago" trim, high-gorge look away.

You can see the intended effect--spoiled, alas, in execution--at the Polo site, in their feture on the "tan Congressman suit." (If the link doesn't work,'ll just have to go there and search. It'll reveal itself soon enough.)

Any tie should be along the taupe or green or MA-A-AYBE blue axes. For keeping your trousers on, a simple "ranger" belt (in alligator or crocodile with sterling buckle***/keeper(s)/tip, should you feel plush...but a quality braided leather will suffice) in a medium sort of mahogany will prove quite stylish, but the rakiest among us will opt for one of Trafalgar's assorted brown leather suspenders, like these.

As for shoes...while oxfords are eminently suitable, I kind of like tasseled loafers, lowish in the vamp and not too, y'know, busy, tassel-wise. Suede is an interesting look, and not half-bad sockless if you're thus inclined. No lug soles, no boat-moc grommets...remember, the intention is sleekness. Something along these lines.

For such a casual suit, you may want to seek out not only the big names like Polo (or, better yet, Purple Label), Brooks Brothers or Oxxford, but also look to the better value purveyors, Jos. A Bank's, Lands' End (where these are conveniently sold as separates...the whole thing running no more than $200!), and if you'd like a bit of both, Ben Silver.

Now, all you need is a vintage Alfa Romeo convertible, a waiting bottle of prosecco and an eager ragazza longing for your affections.
* Anything along the stone-sand-khaki spectrum will do
** Cotton/linen blends are OK, if you simply must.
*** Keep it discreet, you're NOT a touring member of either the PGA or PBR

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Over, done with, fini, adios.

I'm telling you now, so that you needn't whine.

The high-gorge, urban-hipster, slim-cut, unpleated, cuffless 3 button suit is dead. Start eBaying now.

What's coming down the pike is a classical variation of this. Softer, more comfortable. The urban-hipster thing always reminded you of being inside something. Rearward pleats will still be exiled from Fashionable Island, but the truly stylish will still be able to opt for forward pleats--good luck finding them--of course, cuffs (1.5" or 3.75cm) will be mandatory.

Shoulders will no longer be pinched, but rather a bit broader and pitched forward, but not anything like the slouchy silhouette that shuffled insouciantly from Milan in the late 1980s. The 3 button stance will hold, as well, but with a bit more gorge, and the lapel rolling gently (in a well made suit, anyway) to the center button, the only one buttoned*. Stick with ventless. Oh, and breast pockets will be slightly slanted.

And...start knocking back those sideburns. Nobody's casting for Brady Bunch 3.

* You button the top one only to show people you fell off the tater truck just in from Dogpatch.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Things without which you oughtn't live. Pt. 1

I have (re) discovered the unalloyed joys of driving shoes. No, these are not made for walkin' around--although puttering around the house is no big deal--but they are unsurpassed for driving and general comfort. The thinking man's "Ugg" if you will.

What makes the driving shoe a driving shoe is how the traction surface extends (in a right angle-ish way) up beyond the heel, about halfway up the back to where the "plug" would be.

There are two basic sorts of driving shoes, the boot (a sort of midtop affair) and the moccasin. The boots are better for walking around outside and provide a bit more (duh!) ankle support and for instances where the driving might prove to be more energetic, with a lot of the clutch/brake/gas fandango.

Of course, there are good ones and bad ones and price is no indication of quality. In the boot category, the following Italian number--beware the dollar to Euro conversion!--is the one to have, and is available in the dark brown shown or in black:

The moccasin to have, and hurry!, is this one from Lands' End that runs a piddly $40: bastards won't let me link to their pic)

In the moccasin category, you'll find a glut of pretenders, but most are too unstructured to be worth a damn, and almost all look like an ungainly hybrid between house slippers and boat mocs. Avoid.