Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I'm pitiful.

Here are the Cliffs Notes.

I had to go on business to the Gulf coast of FL, to look over a project for work. During said jaunt, I stopped for a peek-in at the RL store. Long story short, I have a RLPL blazer (with--discreetly--monogrammed buttons...the shame!) coming my way soon.

This time I opted for single-breasted. I like the flexibility of shirt options and I need something to show off some snazz-o-rama buttondowns. So I got another one. This one, to add a bit of texture to the thing, is made from a teeeeeeeeeeny li'l herringbone wool/cashmere blend. Feels very nice. We'll see how it looks once it's finished.

-J.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Not like it was before.

There are some things available now that, frankly, suck. Some don't actually suck qua suck, but have taken a definite nosedive in quality. To counter these nasty effects of "progress" we have eBay.

The three things currently on my radar that need to be eBayed because the retail version is unacceptable are:

1- Izod Lacoste tennis shirts, because the new Chemise Lacoste shirts are cut differently and overpriced and made from a different fabric than the classic.

2- Levi's shrink-to-fit (STF) 501 jeans, because the cut has been altered and the quality of the manufacture has slipped after the shifted production from their Cone Mills facility to the 3rd World. Sure, you can get what you need from Levi's in Europe or Japan (where our good stuff goes) but it seems deranged to pay $175 for a pair of basic f'ing jeans that used to cost $20 not 5 years ago.

3- Brooks Brothers oxford cloth buttondown (OCBD) shirts. Since the eleventy gazillion buyouts BB has suffered, the fabric and quality have taken a hit and the price spiraled. The best modern alternative is Mercer & Sons, but even at the introductory price you're still staring at $70/shirt.

And that's all the hints I'm a-give you for now.

One of the problems I've run into before is raving about something on eBay and then watching demand spike and prices go crazy. For example, the old Gillette adjustable razors I prefer could be found, mint-in-package, for $5, then my pal Corey got on TV and kickstarted that whole old school shaving trend. Good luck finding a trashed one for under $30. So, I like being able to score the "right" shirt for $5 and until I have stocked up I shan't release further details on how to tell good from bad from ideal. I'm not getting hosed again.

-J.

Friday, August 11, 2006

High Society

No, not the film...no, not the porn mag.

I was in the library when I stumbled upon The Social Register (TSR) summer edition. I had a hunch the selection committee* may have been less than impressed with my status as one of America's preeminent lunchbox collectors. But, on the off-chance they were able to peer into my deeper, spiritual qualities, I decided to thumb through it in a (futile) search for self. This left me to muse what it would take to be among the listed, since all the coolness on permanent display in this blog and ovah at Dandyism.net is clearly insufficient, and having had ancestors in the hemisphere since 1565 and a baronet are as nothing.

Snubbing one's betters seems to me to be an enterprise fraught with cheek, so I decided to delve.

While the whole getting-in process is gilded with a glittering lack of specifics, it is a very safe wager this is one of those invitation-only things. As near as I can figure, it would seem anyone eager to get listed therein must be sponsored (and seconded and all that) by four to five people already listed therein. If time is of the essence you may, of course, marry a listee. This seems to work for far better for women marrying a listee; men who marry a listee usually see their listee metamorphose into a former listee. Why the Y chromosome is a more reliable indicator of NOKDness is something that has yet to be clarified, but we must accept it as some fact of science. Regardless of your marriage(s), you are not guaranteed squat, listing-wise. Pretty much the only guarantee of list-worthiness is winning a Presidential election. It used to be that Presidents used to--coincidentally and conveniently--be among the listed even before getting elected dogcatcher, but that changed with Harry Truman. I may be said without the slightest fear of contradiction that President Truman, on his own merits, was not really the sort of man one readily associates with TSR. Afterwards, all Presidents get themselves listed.

If you're obnoxious and impertinent as I am, you'd notice there are aspects of the Social Register which seem riddled with special sort of irony. Ponder, for example, this little factoid: There are about 25,000 families in the Republic who delight themselves on (among other things) TSR's exclusivity BUT somehow freely consent to have their addresses and phone numbers in a book available in every public library from Salmon Dick, Alaska to Palm Teat, Florida and all points in between.

Still, we live in a time of posers and arrivistes and the Social Register method, while flawed, provides something of an acid-test for separating uncouth, lottery-winnin' yokels from people of breeding and standing. The doubtlessly stringent (and almost certainly Byzantine) screening process leaves the reader confident those allowed to grace the Social Register pages aren't just wealthy, they're OKD. There isn't much carved in marble about these people except they are ostensibly tasteful, probably affluent and presumably discreet. Any other desirable (charity, kindness) or deplorable (rancor, vapidity) attribute beyond these may readily find refuge among the listees, seemingly at random.

As you will certainly not be surprised to note, The Social Register derives enormous delight in not answering to (or even just answering) anyone. This much we know to be true:

It started in 1887 in New York City**
There were separate editions for major metropolitan areas (sometimes whole regions).
In 1977 the whole shootin' match was squished into one national book. Two editions are each year (the winter one rolls out in November, the summer edition in May)
Past that, you must don a deerstalker cap and grab a magnifying glass. Oh, and drag Dr. Watson along, also, because it gets pretty complicated. The listings seem to have been composed on a diesel powered typewriter which last saw service during the Coolidge years.

Let's go to the 2000 edition and look up the entry for Thurston Zachary Howell III (names changed to protect the innocent and all that), which yields the following gems: "Bbc.Prs.Jib.CtB.Dvg.Lyf.Qt.Ww." At first you think the information was gleaned in conversation with a man talking with his mouth full. However, further investigation (i.e. at the front of the book) is repaid with the knowledge that "Bbc" is Boston's Banker's Club, "Prs" is the Prescott Reading Society, and "Jib" is one of two things:

1- An egregious misspelling (possibly a typo) or
2- A club so exclusive -- some clubs are so exclusive, they have no members -- that to ask about them serves as further evidence (as if any were needed) the reader belongs anywhere but there
Mr. Howell is absent from the 2001 (and all subsequent volumes) book. One can readily speculate, but my assumption is he is Stf.Asa.Fing.Brd.

Like any other self-respecting phonebook, this one has listings beyond the main one, including such sections as Births, Deaths, & Marriages. (The only times a private citizen, if he is to be truly well-evolved, ought appear in print.) My favorite section is called "Dilatory Domiciles." I love it partly because in a momentary twinge of dyslexia I misread it as "Depilatory Domiciles" which I understood to be houses where the Better Element goes for a full Brazilian.***

According to Dictionary.com, Dilatory means "1- Intended to delay. 2- Tending to postpone or delay," which is perfectly useless for the purposes of deciphering the riddle contained in TSR. The idea is to convey "seasonal homes" without actually using such a vulgar term. It is noteworthy most of thse Dilatory Domiciles have names. Nothing as evocative as "Tara" or "Monticello" but not anything to be ashamed of, with names such as "The Oaks" or "Walnut Crest." Still, even with misreading, this section has not as gleeful a title as the "Married Maidens" one. After you make up your own puerile jokes, you realize it's a concordance of women's married and maiden names.

This summer's edition, features listings of Yachts (and owners) "for the convenience of subscribers." Because, y'know, it'd be damned inconvenient to go around wondering how broad abeam is Mr. Jonas S. Grumby's "Minnow" (home port, Marblehead, MA) to say nothing of how many tons it displaces. "Ahoy Polloi!"

I got home, filled with naive curiosity and began to peruse the web. In delving into the details of the matter, it will be an underwhelming shock to realize TSR is pretty Northeast-heavy and (naturally) a haven for old money. The New England and Mid-Atlantic sections of the Eastern seaboard providing about 65% of the listees. Hell, 30% of the listees are located in New York (4,362) and Pennsylvania (3,138) alone. New money is clearly (and almost thoroughly) shunned. California has far fewer than Massachusetts, despite having six times the number of people. Florida doesn't fare too badly, leading the non-Northeast contingent, on the strength of sufficient numbers of people deciding, in their senescence, they were good and sick of both winter and taxes. The least represented state is North Dakota with a whopping ONE entry, denoting what simply must be, unarguably, the glittering social vortex of Bismarck.

As you would expect of such a delightfully archaic thing as TSR, the web offers precious little meaningful suggestions for getting thereinto. However, my ::cough, cough:: research clearly indicates that it's supremely easy to get kicked out. Just as easily as a you got in by virtue of some distant marriage into a Mayflower**** family you can get chucked because you married someone on whom one of the less savory characters on The Sopranos was based. Check this out: In 1984 there were 38,000 listings in TSR, but by 2004 the powers that be had effected a purgative cleansing to the tune of about 13,000 and had therefore trimmed the roster down to +/- 25,000. One can only imagine the disgrace of being excised from the listings, and the subsequent need to move, to start over, to flee the shame of it all.*****

-J.

* I'm guessing this is an anonymous bunch, and rather star-chamberish at that.

** Apparently arrivistes were a threat even then.

*** The irony being that there are damned few Brazilians in this book, AFAICT

**** Quite lenient to allow boat people. I sense a progressive spirit moving, weaving through TSR.

***** In fact, one can imagine the long lines of Volvo and MB station wagons, winding their way south out of Darien, CT and Wellesley, MA and King of Prussia, PA like a sad, preppy Grapes of Wrath.
Tea Partay

Enjoy. (See if you can spot the flaws in attire...)

-J.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Sartorial overachiever, Pt. 1

The assiduous reader will recall I had made a heartfelt plea for suggestions regarding PJ bottoms.

While suggestions blackened the sky, usually in the gigabuck range, one of my Usenet pals suggested Old Navy PJ bottoms, which retail for $14.50 (exclusive of gummint extortion) and they have been declared exquisite and a complete and utter bargain. The next best suggestion I got were for Swiss voile bottoms from Zimmerli that clocked in at TEN TIMES the price.

These are so good I am amazed they are Old Navy. My fear is the goofballs who run Gap Inc. (parent company of Old Navy) will realize how good they are and shift 'em over to Banana Republic (another division of Gap Inc.) for three times the ducats.

An order was placed, one in each color. You should yoink some your own bad self. Hurry.

-J.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Attention fellow tribespersons

Those of you for whom madras has always been a given, or who use the Social Register as a kinder, gentler White Pages...click on the links below:

http://tinyurl.com/p4f5c

and

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTU2He2BIc0

Tip of the borsalino to Christian at www.Dandyism.net

-J.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Jermyn Street Fightin' Man

A while back, during an e-meeting of dandyism.net's Ruling Junta, the following comment about one of the Chosen Four wafted across the summer breezes:

“He [some unnamed member] would seem to be, based on the website, someone upon whose shoes I would gladly vomit, preferably after having drunk very, very cheap vodka.”

As both a shoe fetishist and vodka-absorption mechanism (i.e. former professional magazine writer), Mattis was hurt, wounded, appalled and offended. His succinct riposte: “After which he would find said shoes lodged between his teeth.” While his (Mattis’) heart is in the right place, whether he is correct is not so simple a matter to determine, as we’ll examine shortly. However, he is correct in his general outlook on the matter.

As the dandy saunters insouciantly through life, he often exacerbates the baser passions of his fellows and his lessers, and this—particularly in the case of the latter group, as evidenced by the comment above—often manifests itself in the form of belligerent provocation. The stereotype of a dandy is such that it assumes dandies are a diffident lot, shrinking back in cowardice because a bloodstained shirt would unflatteringly wash out his skin tones. Which isn’t true. Dandies may not be men of violence, but we are men of action.

Here is where Mattis’ answer becomes a springboard for discussion. A dandy intent on placing, with great celerity and no little force, his footwear against the teeth of his foe must be particularly mindful that not all shoes are ideal for this task. Spectators between the teeth? Sure. But captoes? The captoe is more of a groin-kicking shoe, whereas the brogue is better suited to cracking a couple of slats on a supine--or possibly prone--opponent. The monkstrap, of course, is the ideal footwear to lodge up someone's lower digestive tract, since the buckle rewards the user with additional bit of frisson. The penny-loafer is singularly useless for any pugilistic endeavor, as any kicking motion will surely launch them. Yes, of course, these would seem to have merit as projectiles, but the bitter truth is these shoes are inadequate, lacking both distance and accuracy.

If the aggressor seems the type who is easily suffused with blood, a dandy would be wise to avoid footwear made (wholly or partly) of suede, “reverse calf” or buckskin. Shell cordovan is the ideal leather, but simple calf will suffice. These along with the slightly pedestrian cowhide will prove more resilient against the hematological onslaught of any lout in the process of being taught simple etiquette. A dandy must equally beware of the shape of the toe of a given shoe. Too rounded and one’s kicks are likely to glance off ineffectually, too chiseled and one misses the mark in a most awkward fashion. Tassels and “kilties” only complicate matters.

A dandy will not speak of square toed shoes in mixed company.

There is much debate among scholars as to whether the matter ought rest here, with shoes, or proceed onwards. As the official arbiters of all that is best and finest, it behooves us to showcase all possibilities, allowing the reader to decide on his own. Following is a brief overview, with apologies to those among the readership who have already applied forcible physical correction to unprovoked antagonism.

One’s hosiery should provide cushioning for the foot inside the shoe, as it will be subjected to no small amount of force as it metes out Dandy Justice. It should also allow the shod foot to move, fully and without undue friction, throughout all its planes of motion. If a dandy wishes to attempt the Penny Loafer Launcher gambit, he should array himself with the finest cotton lisle socks, in a delicate interlock knit such as Pantherella's, as this will provide for the best possible trajectory. (So-called "experts" on this technique assure the Junta the most advisable thing is to launch the LEFT shoe—if one is right-footed—to test for windage, aim, etc. prior to launching one’s “prime” shoe.)

Trousers ought have a gentle taper from knee to ankle. If the taper is too severe or “pegged” it could restrict the full extension of the leg and inhibit hip flexion. This, needless to say, would greatly nullify the benefits of any footwear in the course of addressing aggression against one’s person or any provocation to same. Well, possibly not in the case of cap-toes, as its signature move (i.e., The Nut Cracker Sweet) is optimally suited for a lower target. In the case of a man whose physical defense plan hinges on the already risky Penny Loafer Launch, he is almost certainly doomed to meet a grave humiliation at the hands of a drinker of cheap vodka. Therefore, a man who is attired in such trousers is almost certain to be confined to stamping his feet at one’s foe and, if he is of Mediterranean extraction, being mistaken for a flamenco dancer.

However, trousers of insufficient taper are aerodynamically inefficient. These suffer from unacceptable drag coefficients and may be readily seized by the great unwashed with whom one is altercating. The result? Being upended in an unseemly way and additional cleaning bills. The trousers ought be inward-pleated, as well. This maximizes torso rotation and hip flexion and is, quite literally, the master pivot point for a dandy man of action. There is some controversy on this, but onseam pockets seem to help.

Shirts should be cut full—but not voluminous—again, for the sake of torso rotation. The shirting ought be a tight, solid weave such as cambric or pinpoint. These offer near-frictionless movement inside a jacket, always an important consideration. The choice of shoulder pleats or a central box pleat is up to the individual dandy, depending on his propensity for jabs (box pleats) or uppercuts (shoulder pleats). Pockets are to be eschewed as too easy to grasp by an opponent, especially one saturated by very, very cheap vodka. As a point of personal preference, I will interject my predilection for buttondown collars, also to minimize the opportunity for said opponent to seize any part of my person. I believe a great deal of merit has also been ascribed to the cutaway in this regard.

The necktie ought be secured to the placket via a strong tie bar and, if one can pull off the look, a bow tie is ideal.

The jacket is a source of much misinformation for the dandy compelled by circumstances to engage in a combative redress of grievances. Many dandies, once it becomes apparent that provocation or aggression must be repulsed, jettison the jacket. This is unwise because the jacket may suffer some damage while comeuppance is being administered to the layabout in question, and also because the jacket provides a measure of protection against both the drunken flailing of the impudent vodka-swiller, as well as against any debris such as E-Z Pour Shatterproof vodka bottles, screw caps, swivel-backed cufflinks or teeth. The mistaken notion is that whatever function as armor a jacket may provide, is outweighed by its cumbersome nature, which restricts movement and unnecessarily protracts the proceedings.

This needn’t be so. A jacket featuring a “blade cut” or a “drape cut” and egg-shaped scyes will astound users with its functionality and, if one is of a mind to wear sports jackets, a bi-swing back may be added to further enhance movement even beyond the capability of its wearer. If such a back is not compatible with a man’s physique, he may opt for a double-breasted model, making sure he buttons it at the bottom row of buttons. This will loose the torso from any restrictions while still keeping one’s necktie and waistband out of reach. In any case, side vents are to be avoided, as they are easily grasped.

Lastly, a signet ring on the dominant hand is strongly suggested. If a man prefers a “karate chop,” as do most adherents of Issey Mikaye and of Hong Kong tailors, the rign ought be on the pinky. Men who prefer a more Queensberry-ish blow (with apologies to Oscar Wilde) which is especially the case with those who go in for natural shoulder stuff, really should have it in the ring finger.

We trust this primer has been of use to our readers who are compelled by circumstances to sharply correct the lesser, coarser elements of society.

-J.