Saturday, March 31, 2007

Stop the insanity!

Now, about cufflinks.
I've said it before and I'll say it until I'm blue* in the face: One needn't drop major bank on menswear and accessories in order to be well and civilizedly arrayed. An example would be the silk knot cufflink set. A pair might set you back $10 if you go all out and splurge ($25 if you get a stud/link set and splurge.) and often just half that, even at retail. You can find them here and here.

This ought prove once and for all that one is capable of cutting a dandy figure for a piddling sum. So we'll hear no more drivel along these lines, yes? Good.

Now, setting aside the problem of cufflinks of inherently tasteless design (I'll leave it to your lurid imagination what these might be like) and inferior materials, the one cardinal sin, linkwise, is the swivel-back or T-bar cufflink.
It is always and everywhere, invariably, inexcusably wrong. It is beyond redemption. It is what men with notch lapelled eveningwear use. In fact, there are few graver sins. This isn't a function of cost, because many of these are eyewateringly pricy. Right there, lads, Uncle Joke has saved you much coin. You're welcome.

Quite acceptable, of course are the cufflinks with some other sort of back, be it a solid sphere or disk. It doesn't look unfinished as does the infinitely more lumpenprole swively monstrosity above, and has some measure of visual interest for when the inside of your cuff is visible.
These are acceptable but not ideal.

What, Uncle Joke, is the ideal?

The double-back cufflink, kids, that's what. The link part could be a solid bar o' metal or a chain, and the inner face could also be a smaller variant of the outer face (as would likely be the case with metal "knot" cufflinks) but the symmetry thing is everpresent and speaks highly of the wearer's polished sense of style. The matter of design is fairly open, but I'd avoid anything too busy or bejeweled. Particularly natty are the plain gold or silver with a shallow monogram or signet, moreso if paired with plain disk studs for a formalwear situation. In general, these are not horrifyingly expensive either, although they can be if you go in for platinum, which has the added cultural component of being expensive but only you know the true cost. (Like sterling collar stays.)

There. Better?

-J.

*Thus flattering the new navy Purple Label blazer I had run up.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Stopped clocks, etc.

Yesterday I socked it to Esquire. Today I come not to bury Esky, but to praise him.

In their $5000 wardrobe series they finally nailed something. The best $155 shirt. As I mentioned before, I am of the opinion Charles Tyrwhitt shirts are the best value going. All they lack is a gauntlet button, but that is just a couple of bucks away at any half-awake tailor.

Now, the thing is that one needn't plunk major coin on these shirts. CT has seasonal clearance sales (not like Jos. A. Bank, which has a sale a week) and you can score Sea Island cotton-or-better shirts for well less than half (the Sea Island cotton shirt above is on sale for only $55 and Super 180s can be had for $75) what they charged Esquire.

The fabric (even the "base" pinpoints and broadcloths) is cool and comfortably crisp, the workmanship excellent and the design dead-on (I can tell because the collar meets in a perfect /\, not the more proletarian / \ not that you can tell in the photo.)

Their neckties -- again if bought off the clearance section -- are also a steal.

Kudos, Esquire...now try to stay on the straight and narrow.

-J.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Setting the record straight. [sigh] Again.

The good folk ovah at Esquire magazine have been running a series on the best wardrobe for (the very reasonable sum of) $5000.

As you might suspect of the prestige media, things don't quite square with reality. The most recent installment deals with the blazer. Now, I'm just old enough to remember the series Esquire ran in the early 1980s, penned by John Berendt. Yeah, THAT John Berendt. In that series was an excellent brief little something (I have a feeling JB suffered from draconian excisions to his output, with which I am in position to commiserate) on the blazer.

At any rate, the brief (and I mean brief) snippet currently up has this photo and says:

A wardrobe requires only two blazers. The navy two-button blazer is the most functional -- it can be dressed up with a tie or down with jeans. The lightweight tweed works for the weekend or any event at which there's a chance of having a conversation bout the cinematography of Wim Wenders. Keep in mind that each of these sport coats, like any suit jacket, should be impeccably tailored. Gray two-button wool jacket ($305) by Luigi Bianchi Mantova; blue two-button wool jacket ($550) by DKNY.

Now. First of all, there is the egregious conflating of "blazer" with "sports coat" or "sports jacket." You expect to see this sort of drivel on eBay auctions for Polo University Club jackets, not at such a once-mighty paragon of male apparel.

Second, the navy blazer chosen has a negative sort of synergy going on. It's single-breasted, and peak lapelled and has a ticket pocket; it is precisely the sort of garment which would cause my late accounting professor to exclaim: "Oy, it it busy here!" Because it is. These flourishes, which can stand up better in the overall monochrome monolith of a suit (i.e. there is a much better ratio of flourishes to sq. yd. of a given color) really are over the top with khakis or grey flannels. Even a double breasted variant would allow these features to be sufficiently diluted. Close your eyes and imagine it.

See?

The calling card of the blazer is its dressy flexibility. Furthermore, a blazer has some sort of distinguishing button thing going on. They needn't be monogrammed gilt beauties handed down from some illustrious ancestor -- they could be bone, for example -- but they must stand in some happy contrast. A navy jacket with navy buttons looks as though one had a navy suit once and ruined the trousers.

The grey jacket in the picture is more problematic. If one stretches the point, a grey blazer is a possibility. Maybe even a stylish possibility. But this would entail the fabric being a rich, dark charcoal with, say, matte sterling buttonry. The weave would ideally be a flannel but a micro-herringbone could also work well. Otherwise you wind up with what looks like (all together now!) as though one had a grey suit once and ruined the trousers.

The article is correct in asserting the importance of having whatever garment be impeccably tailored. Now, what seems likelier to afford you that opportunity? Some flavor-of-the-month garment or something a bit more timeless and classical?

Exactly.

-J.

P.S. Remember believe none of what you hear and only half of what you read.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Have the bugler start warming up to play Taps.

Dammit.

Those of you who have been with me since the early days of my ceaseless efforts to bring civilized tastefulness and pleasant geniality to the world, will recall I had at one point touted the manifold wonders of Drinks Magazine.

The thrill is gone, baby.

I just got the most recent issue in my never-to-be-renewed subscription, and it's the latest in a series of ratcheting disappointments. I am, by nature a very conservative guy. If I like X, I want it to stay X. If I had wanted Y, dammit, I'd've gone looking for it.

Anyway. This magazine, as with all magazines which I love has devolved in an impressively rapid spiral. It used to be a magazine of impressive heft and content. It has now, in the throes of a prostitutive senescence, dwindled to a mere 35 pages from its more impressive 100something, perfect-bound purity of just a year ago. The paper is flimsier and less glossy, and the page could is barely half what it was 6 months ago, when the editorial rot had managed to set in. To add imprecative insult to grievous injury, it's now shilling passing as the house organ of a wine and cheese shop in Minnesota.

Other than the winters which recall the 1970s' scare du jour (global cooling, for the new kids) and the distressing lack of oceanfront property there is nothing wrong with Minnesota. many people live there and, except for being infested with fluffy-tailed tree rats squirrels, I have yet to hear complaints or mentioning of duress as a reason for convincing new residents to leave New York in favor of Minneapolis. But -- and follow me closely here -- I do not live in Minnesota. Rather, I live 82 states away from Minnesota. I live as far from Minnesota as is possible to reside and still dwell within one of the United States.

Yet chunks of the clumsily directed content has to do with all the great events and specials and sales and other bucolic endeavors at the XYZ Wine and Cheese Shop in Moose Teat, MN. A charming locale where, it bears repeating, I am not (nor am I likely to be) among the residents improbable as that may seem to the good people at XYZ Wine and Cheese, who doubtlessly frittered away a huge chunk of their marketing budget spent good money to get my name and that of my fellows appended to walking the streets the promotional-cooperative thing the magazine has been reduced to doing for pocket change.

You will also be shocked -- shocked, I tell you -- to know there has been no (zip, zilch, nada, zero) explanation for this impressive downmarket drift which began, if memory serves, around August 2006. Almost all of the columnists which gave the magazine it's editorial vibrancy have long since fled to greener pastures. Or maybe just for the tall grass. Anthony Dias Blue and the very estimable David Wondrich are the only recognizable "names." Wondrich has been reduced to a mere half page. This means the poor bastard cranks out two pages a year.

So, why this magazine has been co-opted by a particularly vulgar strain of commercialism is beyond me. I don't mind commercialism, vulgar or otherwise, I do mind being conscripted in showering my pennies thereon. It's like going to sleep with Bo Derek and waking up with Bo Diddley.

But not to take this vile abuse lying down uh laying down flat on my back, I will do something about it, and the repercussions of my choosing to stand up and strike a few impassioned blows on behalf of civilization will reverberate, even unto the walls of the prefabricated corporate offices of the XYZ Wine and Cheese Shop in Moose Teat, MN.

-J.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The pleat thing. (Photos to ensue.)

There is one thing in the matter of apparel for the civilized man which often gets overlooked. The humble trouser pleat.

In trousers, especially suit trousers or dressier "odd" trousers (we'll set aside the issue of chinos and their cousins), the matter of pleats is of prime importance. The main reason is that pleats supply a much needed "give" in the frontal hip area. But which pleats? There is only one answer: forward pleats.

Reverse pleats, as testified by their depressing ubiquity, are the cheaper option, not the preferable one. You will invariably find these pleats in the upper slopes of Mt. Menswear. Alan Flusser, Purple Label and all of Savile Row (as well as their acolytes and fellow travelers throughout the Happy and Magical Land of Sartoria) all construct the trouserings thus. Why?

Because forward pleats counter the movement of the leg better, can be made deeper (requiring more of that expensive fabric) and elongate the crease of the trouser. Reverse pleats, offer the precise opposite AND also make you look rather broad abeam. If you are 6'7" and about 145 lb., perhaps you might consider this desirable, but with the possible exception of the pituitarily gifted, no man really should give these a thought.

Flat-front trousers, whatever their glorious attributes in the matter of chinos, etc. simply do not provide any fluidity of movement to the leg. Recently (Nov.-Dec. 2006?) the menswear buyer for Neiman-Marcus was touting the wonders of cuffless, plain front suit trousers. Which are fine if you want to affect a snappy midcentury swingin' hipster vibe, but under no other condition ought these be considered by any man with a civilized sartorial sense of self. Any expert touting such excresences is really out to validate the gazillion units purchased by the parent retailer and, as such, is considering all of your individual requirements, such as the length, width and drap of his year-end bonus.

It's the apparel equivalent to the nehru jacket or Rage Aganist The Machine: a pitiful, aberrant, future footnote. No need to disburse funds in that direction.

I trust I have made myself clear.

-J.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Curiosity.

If you want to know what happened -- and if you haven't the foggiest about what I am discussing, the you most certainly don't -- feel free to contact me privately.

-J.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Emperor's Newest Set of Clothes

It has been said -- and I snottily add "not unreasonably so" -- that an intellectual is defined as a person educated well above his or her intelligence.

Within that body of persons, many (well, several) have taken it to dissect the "dandy" in order to come up with...well, I am not entirely sure with what. It takes all my willpower to read these treatises and not slump into a life-threatening narcoleptic episode.

Setting aside the obvious question of why anybody would want to perform said dissection nor what there is to be gained by it, it's interesting and, if you're of a mind like mine, amusing to traipse trippingly through the treatises, noting and gathering terms which certainly have been overlaid upon reality by academia.
One such treatise recently brought to my considerable attention was this one. To be perfectly honest, I don't view these sorts of theses maliciously. I view them in a similar light to a four year old's explanation of whence babies come: unwittingly amusing and with the barest resemblance to reality.

In reading these, the circuit-breaker in my brain is the word "semiotics" or derivations thereof. If I see the word crop up in a serious tone, I know I am in for an interlude of jollity and mirth even if it will take some effort to consider the usually ponderously impenetrable prose. In fact, the sooner the word "semiotics" makes its grand entrance, the more delight I am likely to derive from the author's output. If it appears, brazenly, in the title...why, I may need powerful orthodontic machinery to excise my smile.

The work in question by the improbably christened Olga Vainshte.in, is among these sorts of published items. There are many, within the broad spectrum of civilizedly arrayed men, who look upon these sorts of things with some degree of seriousness. They will scour the text and look for flaws -- real and imagined -- and seek to prove or disprove some point or other. This is, clearly, equivalent to being present at a real-life version of the Emperor's New Clothes and discussing whether that line below the small of the back is, in fact, a vent.

At the core, is an unfortunate attempt to dismantle an ostensible archetype and see what makes it tick, almost implicitly to see if it's reproducible. Much like gathering up X amount of water, carbon, iron, calcium and trying to construct a human therewith. The synergy of all the constituent parts is so great, that merely examining them dooms the whole enterprise to failure.
Let's then, look carefully at one such enterprise.

It starts, as often these things do, with a mostly nebulous quote by a long-dead Gallic expert on the matter. Almost always it's Baudelaire, since opium-addled syphilis is generally seen by all experts on the subj. as being precisely the sort of thing to lend one's writing veracity, gayety, je ne sais quoi and "snap." After all, when one sees a beloved segment of anatomy remain behind upon exiting an opium den, it cannot but propel one to write things such as:

"Dandyism resembles the setting sun: like the dying luminary, it is magnificent, devoid of warmth, and full of melancholy."
Ironically enough, this not only applies to dandyism, but also to what remained of Baudelaire's prepuce at the time.

At any rate, Vains.htein gets off the mark in very impressive form:

"[Dandyism] can be manifested in a person’s overall appearance, and in the ability to furnish a home, and in deliberate camp manoeuvres, and in the art of the complete makeover, although for the majority the most stable criterion traditionally remains the way one dresses. This was the dominant approach in the twentieth century, which made clothing the principal source of semiotic information. It is probably better to begin not by extrapolating from individuals, but by taking a close look at the ranks of the pretenders."
You will note that she uses "semiotic" right at the start (this quote is from the 2nd paragraph), promising us an interesting ride, beckoning us to ponder the drape and hand of the emperor's new apparel. No half-measures here. Of course, she threatened to get the point right and we all collectively held our breath, exhaling in relief when "semiotic" rode to the rescue and slew the dragon, or what may have been either a dragon or an extremely intemperate lizard.
With such a start, a gallop's pace cannot be too far behind. And, at such a pace, getting thrown off the saddle and into culverts, ravines and/or ditches for our delight cannot lag far behind.
"For a long time in England Quentin Crisp (1908-1999) was considered the number one dandy. Aesthete, writer, and journalist, he was incredibly popular, and there is a wax figure of him at Madame Tussaud’s."
Note, gentle reader, the descriptors of the late Mr. Crisp do not include the previously stated "the most stable criterion traditionally remains the way one dresses." Which is yet another of the unfortunate instances of conflating aesthetes with dandies. After all, one sees tomes upon tomes, article after article on such personages as the Prince of Wales/Edward VIII/Duke o' Windsor, Fred Astaire, Cary Grant or Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. precisely because "the most stable criterion traditionally remains the way one dresses." This is also why one is not likely to run across tomes such as Quentin Crisp Style, the marketability of violet hair being far more limited than is supposed by those whose life aspirations include the words "semiotics," "tenure" and "sherry." The number of sentient humans -- Dame Edna impersonators aside -- who could benefit from such an ouvre are as close to zero as time spent working it out via assymptotical mathematics will allow.
Unfortunately, whenever you read such an opening salvo you know the rollercoaster is about to propel you. Vainshte.in, having enjoyed the stretching of the definition, finds the experience both exhilirating and addictive, like a sorority pledge would a bottle butterscotch schnapps. This leads to a fusillade (or binge, if you prefer your pettiness judgmental) of distorted statements based on the originally mangled definition. Catch hold of this breathless gem:

"Based on the very approximate criterion [!] of cool, dandies of recent decades would include people of such disparate styles as the photographer Cecil Beaton, the dramatist Noel Coward, the writer Tom Wolfe, the musician Eric Clapton, Prince Charles, the singer Ann Lennox, David Bowie… the list goes on and on."

Contrast the above with this:
"Based on the very approximate criterion of steering wheels, sports cars of recent decades would include automobiles of such disparate styles as the German VW, the Serbo-Croatian Yugo, the Italian Lancia, the American Mustang, Ferrari, the Swedish Volvo, Porsche… the list goes on and on."
This, of course, is the siren song leading us down the path that, at its inevitable end, stops at the cliff's edge of "dandy means just what you say it means." Many poor deluded bastards, enchanted by the sing-song message keep skipping and hopping as the road falls away and wind up in the briny deep, bobbing up wearing Dress Campbell suitings and vermilion footwear, possibly a lady's vintage purse for a hat.
She continues:
"Contemporary dandies, if they are seriously to claim the title, need above all to recognize that genuine dandyism is a lifestyle. The dandy is a master at completely shaping his own life. Appreciation of this shape, however, requires a mature society; for otherwise its aesthetic potential will not be interpreted adequately."
It is here the academically popular fallacy begins to twinkle in the moonlight. I cannot imagine any dandy, nor anyone save the basest pretender to such a label, wanting to "seriously claim the title." Put another way, a real dandy is someone who is who he is, not someone who woke up one morning and decided to start an exciting career in the burgeoning field of danditry. Say what you will about dandies, the truest and best examples of the breed are refreshingly unconcerned with ticking categories in some scorecard.
Further illustration that Vainshte.in is off and running in an uncertain direction over difficult terrain is the endearingly haute naive claim that "Appreciation of [the shape a dandy has given his life], however, requires a mature society; for otherwise its aesthetic potential will not be interpreted adequately."
This of course, is the dirty little secret of the members of the Guild. All of them, to a man, pretend to flit from tailor to cobbler. They act as if the most important task is to find a new crepe wool for a suit, or a better last for the footwear. In fact, they are all quivering inwardly, worried this society might not be mature enough. Petrified the aesthetic potential of their lives will not be interpreted adequately, if at all. You can just imagine the market in self-help literature for dandies, actual and potential. How To Have The Aesthetic Potential of Your Self-Shaped Life Intepreted Adequately And Influence People by Quentin Crisp, Jr. smells of NYT bestsellerness and is accompanied by the sounds of shekels and ducats raining down gratefully from relieved dandies.
That Robbins guy (not Harold, the other one) could don a pocket square and slightly less flourescent dental veneers and hold seminars and sell audiobooks that prove helpful and lucrative on the topic of Awakening The Purple Coiffed Master Aesthetic Life Shaper Within!
In the interest of frisson, to tease and tantalize, we are treated to this:
"In the nineteenth century dandyism originally implied a kind of leisure; the dandy, after all, embodies idle elegance. Most dandies, therefore, were aristocrats and wealthy gentlemen or representatives of the artistic professions. As it evolved in the nineteenth century, the dandy’s lifestyle demanded constant training in the art of spending free time. The dandy’s code of behaviour was difficult but absolutely mandatory, prescribing cold politeness and outbursts of irony, imperturbability – nil admirari: be surprised at nothing, – the art of frustrating expectations and instantly creating an impression, measured épatage, leisureliness as a style of strolling, dancing, and dressing."
Perilously skirting a correct impression and flirting dangerously with reality, Vainshte.in, pirouettes gracefully around the main criteria scholars are convinced True Dandies must satisfy always and everywhere: Slinging around words and phrases in French. A little Latin is nice, but as the canon is curiously absent of Romans discussing witty aesthetes saying clever things from under a mop of heliotrope tresses, Latin only serves to denote a half-decent education. French is the thing, which proves convenient for overanalytical Gauls, who needn't take time out from inhaling opium vapors with the remainder of their nostril, seeing as how they have been speaking the language with noted fluidity.
Peppering one's floridly vague observations with naso-labially guttural phrases is practically the equivalent of one's Social Security number in dandy circles. Say something in Italian or, Beau forbid, German -- schadenfreude excepted -- and you might as well steep some vile part of your physiognomy in the Duchess' finger bowl between the fish and the sorbet courses.
Of course, there must be more to the whole dandy thing than possibly, maybe, perhaps dressing well and being witty and having amethyst locks which you toss as you, er, toss off a "preux chevalier."
Continues Vainshte.in:
"The ideology of the dandyist make-over is based on a very essential principle of nineteenth-century dandyism, namely complete chameleonism. The chameleonic dandy transforms his life into a self-fashioning workshop, designing not only his outer appearance and roles, but also his scenarios, situations, and material surroundings. The dandy’s chameleonic transformations are implemented through the principle of artificiality that is so characteristic of European decadence."
We're talking, basically, of a self-imposed and ceaselessly operating Zelig effect. How this squares with the previously stated quality of "idle elegance" will take far more porphyrious heads than mine to ascertain. It's not so much the artificiality -- and this is the point where the True Believers drag out Wilde and one of his glib remarks as some sort of irrefutable, scientific, academic-journal, peer-reviewed proof -- but the sheer unrewarded effort of it all that staggers the mind. To behave as if one were a certain sort of man, when one isn't and isn't likely of becoming, is patently absurd. It's like wearing uncomfortable and disliked undergarments when nobody is around.
Unless this is the dandiacal equivalent of mortifying the flesh (as undandy a concept as can be imagined) the whole argument collapses like a syphilitic Gaul overdosing on opium.
In order to save Blogspot some bandwidth, I'll skip to the end of the piece:
"So where are these modern-day dandies?, the weary reader is entitled to ask here toward the end. As we can see, in reality it is not so simple to find genuine dandies. Yet in virtual space, where there are far more opportunities for constructing an image of one’s own, the task is feasible. Partisans of both the theory and the practice of dandyism can easily find kindred spirits on the net, for there are quite a few sites which endlessly refine definitions, analyze canonical texts, and discuss the latest novelties of style."
Translation: "Lots of people can fake being a dandy on the Internet, much like lots of people can fake being a beautiful 22 year old nymphomaniac. You can find lots of people on the Internet who dressed like Adam Ant when they were, like you, confused loners in suburbia back in the mid 1980s. When you find them, you can all have a splendid time molding the definition of 'dandy' to cover wearing 20 year old Mani by Armani suits, spats, celluloid dickeys and pomegranate ascots. Then they all talk about how crimson brocade gambler's vests and a belt of field mice is what Beau Brummel would have worn had he been prescient enough. You mention detachable-collar envy. The End."
What I find most telling is that for all the perambulations, dissection, research, entreaties and effort, a scholarly exercise into the nature and causes of the dandy invariably (and I mean invariably) manages to miss the point in such a spectacular way as to be breathtaking. It is akin to gazing levelly at a giraffe and labeling it a middle-aged Filipino lesbian with rheumatism.
Most, if not all, of the men that we hold to be dandies would have just blinked dumbly had you read this to them and expected it to resonate within their bosom.
Much like they would politely decline to don the Emperor's New Clothes.
-J.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Why?

Someone recently posed this question to me.

Why? Why make something of an effort in the selection of your raiments?

This is one of those questions that are like a patch of quicksand. They seem but a step and a hop to cross but, actually, will leave you mired and sinking fast.

But, being the sort of romantic sort I am at heart, I'll take a crack at it anyway.

There are various reasons "why." None, perhaps, strong enough on their own to prompt me towards arraying the outer man in a civilized way, but in aggregate they prove to be a juggernaut of reasonableness.

1- The Bible. It say it, like, right there, that man was created in God's own image. Therefore, this compels me as a man of sound theology to not put Von Dutch or Gaultier or Versace upon something created in the image of the Almighty, because the clash will bring about the Apocalypse and there are a few things I'd like to wrap up prior to that. Because of my view of man in terms of Creation, it seems sound and logical to dress in a manner congruent therewith.

2- Respect. It helps to have a respect for the people you'll see and places you'll go. I recall an interview with legendary coachbuilder Sergio Pininfarina. He said that his firm designed automobiles (Alfa Romeos, Lancias, Ferraris, etc.) not only to be pleasing to the car owners, but also to provide beauty to those who would see these on the street. I'll go with that.

3- Enlightened self-interest. It puts Mrs. Joke in a more amenable frame of mind (i.e. it reminds her why she thought, at one point in her dim past, that being married to me would be a viable proposition). It also gives people with whom I associate (professionally, socially) the idea I just might know what the Hell I'm talking about. Which I do, it's just that sometimes the human race needs some prodding to realize this.

4- Mental agility. It takes exactly zero effort to throw on clothes. It takes a good deal more to do so with flair and wit and in accordance to the circumstances. (Dressing well is more than wearing excellent suitings.) Where's the challenge in merely donning the minimum required by an implicit/explicit dress code?

5- The Secret Code. Every once in a while you will run into someone who is a fellow traveler. You will, invariably, realize that you have infinitely more in common than just trousers cut to within 1/8" or an uncanny ability to create a sophisticated relationship between your pocket square and your silk knot cufflinks. Anyone capable of such feats also knows wines, cars, pens, cigars and what an abysmal waste of time critical theory is.

6- Courage. Most men out there think pocket squares, or double breasted jackets or suspenders/braces are "stupid." Many of those who don't, shy away from donning them out of fear of looking out of place or different. It is a good thing to properly* exercise and flex your individuality/independence muscles.

There you have it.

-J.

* Tartan suits needn't apply.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A little shopping is a good thing.

A couple of weekends ago, I took the lads up to Boston for a pleasant and instructive couple of days.

Sure, we saw all the usual things: Freedom Trail, North End, USS Constitution, etc. I mean, yes, of course, that was all very nice. (Ridiculously cold, as well, as noted by the frozen sheet of newsprint.)

But there are far more important things than statues, buildings and musea. There are destinations, pilgrimages, even. And one such pilgrimage was to the only Stateside outpost of Aquascutum.


The fact Aquascutum has an outlet here and, quite pointedly in my opinion, not in NYC, Chicago or L.A., speaks to the quiet Anglophilia of the city. Which suited me fine.

Naturally, a civilized man cannot step into such an inner sanctum without making some sacrificial offering from his wallet. Purely for the edification of his lads, of course.

The first, and most important, part of this educational process is vital: Score something for the maternal unit, as insulation against any reproaches as re. extravagance. Very, very important.

What first arrested my attention was a tote bag sort of purse thing in a very tactile-ecstasy sort of black leather with the Aquascutum house check lining.

However, I realized I was about to do some damage to the household account and therefore a stronger palliative was required. The ideal thing suggested itself in the form of a red merino/cashmere (there may be some angora therein, I haven't the time or inclination to separate the sheep from goats) coat, cut and styled like one of the very famous Aquascutum trenchcoats.

Which reminded me, that I ought get myself a trenchcoat. None of the typical tan/beige stuff. Something with a bit more, Oh-I-Dunno, intrigue thereto.


So this black beauty leapt at me. At first I was worried about the fabric content (I am somewhat legendary for my disdain of artificial fibers) but then I saw it was--whoa!--silk. You'd think a silk trenchcoat would be the hallmark of an International Man of Pimpitude...to say nothing of UNwaterproof, but you'd be wrong on both counts.


Speaking of hallmarks, I wanted to round things out with some quiet sterling silver stuff. The collar stiffeners suit my sense of, we, something. The idea of having something of luxury that is thoroughly hidden to all and sundry just appeals to me...probably for the same perverse reasons that I enjoy having my monograms placed in very hidden places.

And, because the staff had been very tolerant of both my clumsy photography (on evidence here) and my children--whose enthusiasm was flagging badly, quite possibly as a direct consequence of my total lack of photographic skill-- I decided on a pair of cufflinks to round out the afternoon. Simple, classic and double-sided. (The less said of swivel-y cufflinks, the better.)

And there you have it.


-J.