Friday, September 29, 2006

Might as well do the thing properly.

If people (as opposed to commercial enterprises who refrain from overwhelming me with torrents of well-deserved ducats) are going to Steal My Damned Look, the least they could do is do it right, dammit.

This brings us to the (after the ridiculous objections made against the pocket square) second "most objected to" of the well dressed man's dicta. Suspenders (or braces for our UK contingent). They are supremely desirable on anyone, but they are practically mandatory on a gentleman whose height doesn't quite get to the 5'11" (or 175cm) mark. Why?

1- They give a cleaner line to the trousers, because a belt, in order to function properly, must cinch the waistband to the...um...waist.
2- They add a vertical element, which is both elongating and slimming and as someone whose matabolism went for a nap around 1996 this is key.
3- They do not crowd or bulge underneath a vest (waistcoat) should you be unfortunate enough to reside where these are a prime element of elegant insulation.
4- Since trousers hang freely, they drape better.
5- Gives an additional element of interplay regarding color, pattern and texture which allows the elegant man to subtly highlight his pocket square, or socks, etc.

That said, we must now consider the matter of what sorts of suspenders one ought have in one's arsenal. For me one name stands alone: Trafalgar. You want the fabric to be silk faille or grosgrain. To my mind, the woven (nevah printed) designs are the ne plus ultra but I can see why some gentlemen might prefer the more quiet designs such as the "Chase" line of stripes, or even plain colors; the "Fairfield" line. With some casual summer trousers, the braided leather models are acceptable and a bit insouciant.

The design above is called Venezia and, like most of the truly snazzy designs, is a limited edition collector's blah-blah-blah. I got it because I am raving Italophile and because the lovely, gracious and clevah Poppy has as her favorite, a lovely Hermes scarf entitled Fetes Venitiennes and one must always opt for stylistic synergy with one's pals. The choice of snazzy design is entirely up to you, with the sole proviso there is no jarring, discordant note with the rest of your ensemble.

Besides the aforementioned Venezia, I have about 9 others in the "design" category (we'll set aside the plain and the striped) including a couple of patriotic ones and two for the more festive sorts of black tie events.

Now, if you're rummaging through eBay you're in fairly safe waters with the woven-design models. It's the plainer brethren which prove easy to counterfeit. Look for the word "Trafalgar" engraved on the top edge of the levers, the fabric will NOT be in the same sort of silk as a regular necktie, and the juncture at the back will be in suede. Caveat emptor.

Now, off you go.

-J.

P.S. This is not to say I abjure all belting. I reserve my beltedness for "odd trousers" (usually grey flannels) or chinos or jeans or the dressier sorts of shorts.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

"The effrontery, sir, the damnably impudent cheek of it all."

Many of you, no doubt, are familiar with the "Steal This Look" concept as championed by what passes these days for fashion magazines.

Well, it's one thing when you're the one exhorted to do the stealing. Quite another when it's your look which is the subject of larcenous suggestions. Exhibit A (photo) is a from a certain high-end menswear purveyor with retail locations scattered in the Best Places.

As Poppy will readily testify, the look encapsulated (minus coat, as I have enough sense to reside where coats are superfluous) by said photo is pure, unadulterated Joke. Besides the fact all individual components are truly snazzy, you'll note the subtle, sophisticated interplay of patterns and textures. The damn-near-imperceptible nailhead pattern of the suit against the subtle blue-on-blue check of the shirt, highlighted by the grape/navy regimental necktie...are all part of my sartorial Gospel. The working sleeve buttonholes? The 4-in-hand knot? The dimple to the necktie?

That's "me!"

Why are these people doing pilfering my look for profit? Especially when I see not a cent of that profit. God knows I'm as big a fan of profit as can be found, but one must be fair and share said profit with me. Especially since I had to ride out those hideous years when high-gorge near-Edwardian suits, and monochromatic shirt-and-tie combinations were all the rage. Wasn't I steadfastly at the helm of the SS Timeless? Didn't I help navigate between the Scylla of Stodginess and Charybdis of Trendiness?

Isn't that worth a few ducats flung my way?

The prosecution rests.

-J.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The basics of basic civilization

Gentle Reader,

Those among you who've assiduously followed my career, know I am verging on mania or disorder when it comes to appropriate menswear. As -- apologies to Jimmy Buffett -- the son of a son of a tailor, these are occupational hazards, you understand. Still, often enough, men (or those women in their lives who shop for them) will ask me for my views on how to enhance the level of startorial splendor exhibited, without going utterly nuts and getting custom Trafalgar suspenders or something equally deranged. I say my bit and they are invariably disappointed.

"If you wish to be considered a stylishly dressed man," I intone "you simply, absolutely MUST wear a pocket square."



You could make weathervanes spin from the dejected sighs which accompany that innocent, pleasant statement. For those of us with a Jesuit education (or its equivalent), it's just like that bit from Scripture that went something like this: "But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful." It is not as if I have advocated Mr. X saunter about in a celluloid dickey or Mr. Y wear a snood and multicolored crinolines. It's a square of fabric! This was a pretty hopeless, lonely road to travel. Until this last year. My long-suffering wife and I had gone up from our for-all-intents-and-purposes-tropical home into the teeth of the vaunted Chicago tundra to attend a gala hosted by Poppy*. While decanted at Mme. Poppy's table, I noticed several--a minority to be sure, but still in appreciable numbers--of the gentlemen within eyeballing distance had pocket squares! Progress! Emerald City, at last at last!

And not just a thin white stripe of linen peeking out, either. While nobody had the diablerie to disport with a hand-rolled Irish linen in the intricate-yet-dashing four-point fold, some had puffs of white cotton, and there was one veritable plume of silk issuing from a certain gentleman's upper pocket. Color me impressed. In fact, at our (i.e. Poppy's) table, the pocket squared outnumbered the squareless by something like 4:2. Poppy's (and now, my) pal FiddleDD was clearly enraptured by the insouciant way in which I wore mine and beheld me in conversation to the exclusion of all else, including nourishment.

Here are my favorites:

The 4-point fold, preferable with linen.

The "TV fold," preferable with cotton.

Therefore, young man**, should you want to make a hit with the better element of the distaff side of the species...you must wear that poquet square, but hold yon plume.

* I must reiterate that as Mistress of the Revels, Poppy is a peerless wonder.

** Young ladies might wish to use this as a litmus test, although I recognize this is a very controversial thing.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Aw, shirt!


Dear Internet,

You may recall that I have--as is my wont being a Goldwater-type guy--often whined and moaned about things which have been changed. These changes, frequently without my approval, have almost invariably made things worse. We've discussed Brooks Brothers buttondowns and Izod Lacoste tennis shirts.

At the risk of seeming to heap abuse upon the Lands' End crowd, today I bring you an autumnal classic. This classic only staves off extinction on the pages of eBay, for Lands' End no longer carries these and I know not of a current-day equivalent. I speak, natch, of the rugby shirt.

You'll scarcely credit it, Internet, but there was once a time when you could get a for-real rugby shirt with a mere phone call to Lands' End. The fabric was plush, but hefty and tearproof. The construction was impeccable and likewise tearproof. It laundered beatifully and you've seen anvils which wear out more quickly. It was flattering, comfortable and a bargain. Not surprisingly, it couldn't last.

So, having yoinked more than enough on eBay to last me a lifetime, I bring you the dirty little secret on how to score the real deal, for Lands' End still sells ::cough, cough:: "rugby" shirts; in reality "rugby shirt-like" garments resembling the original the way a Miata resembles a sports car.

As usual, the trick is the label. As you will see from the above, the magical words are "Authentic Rugby" but also a label reading "Tough As The Game" will be accurate. Oh, and ask for measurements, because the XL of 1986 is the medium-to-large of 2006, given the American fetish for fast food.

Good luck!

-J.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Topless in PJs

I had a mission. I needed new PJ bottoms. A lo-o-o-o-o-ong time ago (pre-buyout) I used to get them through Lands' End. Unfortunately, LE was bought out by Sears and suckitude ensued. I'm not assigning blame, mind, I'm just sayin'. Having to fork over sales tax was no prize, either.

Here's what I wanted: PJ bottoms, in a shirting-like* 100% cotton fabric (no flannel, no knit jersey, etc.) UNDER $20 a pair. 'S it.

Those of you who've followed the saga of my search for proper bespoke stuff will know I don't mind dropping bank on something particularly nice, but nobody will see me in PJs.

Oh, I didn't need full-on PJs.

I just wear the bottoms with regular white Nordstrom undershirts (one size larger) which are THE finest, regardless of price. In the past I have bought 'em from Polo, but the quality was merely a'ight...and even the sizing is off. I mean, I'm a shade under 5'10" w. a 34" waist and even the size small has me swimming in fabric.

So, all of a sudden someone suggested Old Navy PJ bottoms, which retail for $14.50 (exclusive of gummint extortion) or even less if you've an O.N. outlet nearby, and they have been declared exquisite and a complete and utter bargain. The other suggestion I got were for Swiss voile bottoms from Zimmerli that clocked in at TEN TIMES the price. An order was placed, one in each color.

-J.

* Pinpoint, broadcloth, cambric, batiste, voile, royal oxford...that sorta thing