Recent TwitteryMy Tweets
- My New Duffel Bag from Owen & Fred
- Ludlow Shoes from J.Crew
- Tom Ford’s Project Upgrade for GQ
- American Gigolo (1980)
- My Shopping Plans for Black Friday 2013
- Charley Way’s Pea Coat: The Most Valuable Garment I Own
- A Vintage Timex from eBay, Handwritten Notes and More Dress Shirts
- A Harris Tweed Sportcoat from J.Crew
- Prepping the Arsenal: Shining Shoes
- A Kickstarter for Smart New Bags from Owen & Fred
a handsome, well made and affordable selection of shoes.If you crave a pair of stunning long wingtip or plain toe bluchers from Alden but find the $600 – $700 price tag a little tough right now, fear not. J.Crew has expanded its popular Ludlow line to include
The Ludlow shoes incorporate that English heritage of construction with a nice leather upper, a hefty leather sole with a steel shank and a Goodyear welt. The Ludlow line comes as a plain toe blucher or a long wingtip brogue. Though the shoes aren’t fully made in the U.S.A., many of their components, like the insole, outsole, lining and welt, are harvested on American soil.
For that past few years, J.Crew made a nice line of plain toe bluchers and wingtips called Prestons. I bought a black pair and a brown pair of the wingtips, and I’m very happy with them. I presume the new Ludlow line is intended to replace them. The Black Mahogany or Cigar Brown wingtips are particularly calling to me.
The wingtips go for $318, and the plain toe bluchers are $298. With good care, cedar shoe trees and taps under the toe and heel, these kicks should last a lifetime.
In terms of a handsome, well made, affordable and workable solution, it looks like J.Crew has hit another one out of the park.
Tom Ford recently did a series of style upgrades for eight different British men from different walks of life for GQ Magazine. (Project Upgrade: Tom Ford Edition – GQ) When the guys were still in their “before” stages, Tom asked each of them questions that were unique to their respective situations, but asked all of them one identical question: “Where do you see yourself in ten years?” – reinforcing the adage Dress for the job you want, not for the job you have. The results are striking.
Ford put a big emphasis on tailoring, remaining consistent with his love of Savile Row standards. The finished pieces show men who still look like themselves, but decidedly upgraded, deluxe versions – versions of themselves that I think many men are afraid of.
I believe that a man should dress like he owns the company, especially if the company is a one-man freelance operation. If you’re asking people to give you money for something, you want to look like someone who can be trusted with it. I think much of the hesitation for many men is based in fear: fear of responsibility, fear of growing up, fear of out-shining the boss, fear of not being able to fulfill the promise of the exterior package, fear of being “found out,” whatever. In my own experience, I remember times where I thought I didn’t want to push it or look too good or too successful. It wasn’t my place, or so I thought, fearing it was inappropriate to “out-dress my station.” Then one day years ago, I decided to fuck that. I think we should look like we own it in every way, and celebrate the hell out of it. And I think Tom Ford would agree with me.
Below are the videos GQ produced that give a great behind-the-scenes look at Ford’s process in making these guys over. We get to see the before, the after and the bits in between. To help with the project, he worked with GQ’s legendary Creative Director Jim Moore and hair stylist Oribé. The videos are short, sweet, and leave you wanting more. I hope you enjoy them and get as much out of them as I did.
Dressing Like a Grown Man for Salesman Toby Watkins
A Little Authoritative Power for Accountant Lee Ha
Tailoring for Builder Konran Rusiecki
Dressing the Part for Restaurateur Joel Gazder
Neutral Winter Palette for Film Director Jeffrey Smith
A Confidence Boost for Producer Fello Matallana
The Transformative Power of Good Grooming for Recruitment Manager David Voyle
Evening Wear for Art Director Ale De Carvalho
To see the original piece, including a before and after slideshow, visit Project Upgrade: Tom Ford Edition at GQ Magazine.
All clothes, shoes, accessories and photography by Tom Ford.
There is a scene in American Gigolo in which Julian (Richard Gere) takes a little taste of cocaine from his nightstand and turns to his closet and dresser drawers to pick out his clothes. With “The Love I Saw in You Is Just a Mirage” by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles playing on his stereo, he lays out jackets, shirts and ties in various combinations as he carefully considers the evening’s ensemble. It’s immediately obvious that he performs this ritual every time he gets ready to go out. It’s glorious.
American Gigolo is the first movie I can remember that depicted a masculine and reasonably sophisticated male character actively taking care and pride in choosing and wearing his clothes. Maybe the only movie. Written and directed by Paul Schrader and also starring Lauren Hutton, this 1980 noir-ish crime drama is about a successful Los Angeles male escort to older women (Gere) who gets pinned as the prime suspect in the murder of a wealthy client in Palm Springs. His liaisons have entangled him at the crossroads of the dark underworld and those who wield political and financial power, and he gets in over his head. In a role originally offered to (and turned down by) John Travolta, Gere turned his performance as Julian into a defining career move.
In his first gig as a costume designer for the movies, Giorgio Armani designed and provided Richard Gere’s stunning wardrobe. There are definitely some late ’70s / early ’80s touches – like some of the colors and the rise on Gere’s pants – but the overall fit, width and silhouette of his clothes are still surprisingly modern. The style of the clothes, coupled with the sheer amount of them, combined with the character’s apartment (gravity boots, anyone?) and his black convertible 450SL Mercedes Benz coupe ushered audiences into a new decade – a decade of decadence.
One of the movie’s most famous assets is it’s title song, “Call Me,” performed by Blondie and written by Deborah Harry and the inimitable Giorgio Morodor, whose signature synthesized pulsing sound also provided the movie’s score.
It’s hardly a perfect movie, but American Gigolo is still a really fun movie to watch, for so many reasons.
Watch the trailer:
Danté’s Inferno starts on “Maundy Thursday” in the year 1300. In the modern age, I believe his tenth circle of Hell would ensue on Black Friday – a day invented by retailers that makes employees want to kill themselves from pressure to make goal numbers and causes shoppers to kill each other (literally) to get the best price on even more stuff. I would rather swallow live bees than walk into a Macy’s, a Walmart or even Barney’s on Black Friday.
Aside from supporting my fabulous local businesses within walking distance, like Fine and Dandy and Domus, my Black Friday pursuits will happen strictly online in the warmth and safety of my own home, where the coffee, music and mood are infinitely better than what I’d experience in a mall.
When it comes to shopping for fit-specific clothes online, I prefer to buy from brands with which I already have a size and quality relationship. For example, I know I’m a 30/34 in Levi’s Shrink-to-Fit 501s, I know I’m an 8 1/2 in Aldens or Converse, I know I’m a medium with casual shirts and tees at J.Crew, and I know I can get a perfectly-fitting custom suit based on my measurement profile in my Indochino account.
As the shopping frenzy lurks, I happen to be in the market for what I mentioned above. Here’s a more specific list of what I’m looking for:
Levi’s Shrink-to-Fit 501s
According to an email I just received, Levi’s is offering 30% off site-wide, plus free shipping, until midnight on Sunday December 1st. I have two nicely worn pairs of 501 Shrink-to-Fits. One pair is very well-worn, and the other pair is in-between. I’m in the mood for a third pair to keep nice and dark, shrinking them down with hot water with that crucial first wash. From there, I’d wash them very infrequently, inside-out and in cold water with a hang dry.
Alden Plain Toe Chukka Boots
I’ve put these off for too long. And since Alden itself does not have an online storefront, one has to go through one of their stockists to snag a pair from the interwebs. For my purposes, it looks like Barney’s, who sells this lifetime investment in shell cordovan for a full retail price of $675. My fingers are crossed for some kind of site-wide sale for the holiday spendfest.
Converse Jack Purcells
I have exactly two pairs of sneakers. One is a pair of canvas Chuck Taylors in white, and the other is a pair in navy (now sun bleached and on their last legs). I’ve had my eye on an iconic pair of Jack Purcells for some time, and J.Crew has “remastered” versions of these canvas icons with some subtle style upgrades from the originals. They’re available in white or black and go for $60 full retail. I’d go with white.
Plain White Slim T-shirts
Speaking of J.Crew, I have three pairs of their slim “broken-in” v-neck tees and I love them. In my experience, a great-fitting t-shirt is surprisingly hard to come by. These tagless tees are arguably the best fitting and most comfortable t-shirts I’ve ever worn. I know it doesn’t sound like the sexiest purchase one could make, but I need a few slim broken-in crew neck tees.
Another Custom Suit
It’s no secret that I love Indochino’s custom suits. A recent purchase of a premium navy suit from Indochino whetted my appetite for another one. The hand of the Super 140s fabric (95% wool, 5% cashmere) is insane. I’m also looking at the Essential Blue Suit (Super 100s), which isn’t quite navy but something lighter, with a little slate in the tone. I do know Indochino is having a Black Friday sale from Tuesday November 26th to midnight Monday December 2nd. They’re offering 50% off select items, and 20% off all orders over $600.
I don’t think I’ll pull the trigger on all of these things, but I will definitely do some damage by Monday. I do know that when the stampede begins at midnight on Thanksgiving at retail rodeos everywhere, I’ll probably be asleep or watching Netfilx. But on Friday, keeping a safe distance from big stores, I will turn up my Holiday Spotify Playlist, enjoy my own amazing coffee and murder any leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner. I will also be visiting the aforementioned retailers and other favorite brands online to see what deals I can get on some handsome, well-made, affordable and workable goods.
At some point, I should also probably figure out what I’m getting as gifts for everybody else.
The pea coat is one my favorite designs in the entire history of men’s wear. Like many garments we wear today, this distinctly masculine, iconic garment has its roots in the military. Characterized by its dark blue color, broad collar and lapels, six-button double-breasted closure and vertical “slash” pockets, the pea coat was originally worn by European sailors before making its way to the U.S. Navy. Through the 1970s, the original Navy-issue pea coats were made with a densely woven, 30 ounce wool known as “Melton cloth” with a somewhat velvety nap. Nowadays, the pea coats you find at the surplus are made with a typically lighter weave that has a decidedly coarser hand.
I found my pea coat at a flea market in the fall of 1997. The woman who sold it to me had a rack of them, all original Navy issue, all vintage. To my good fortune, the one in the best condition also happened to fit me beautifully. It was $80.
Aside from its mint condition, its perfect fit and its irresistible price, my coat had something extra special: a vintage with a unique history. Sewn into the coat’s lining is a label from the Clothing Supply Office of the U.S. Navy. The label indicates the coat’s size (38) along with the officer’s name and service number. My coat once belonged to a Naval officer named Charles Way, service number 492-98-21.
Earlier this year, it finally occurred to me to do a little research. After a little poking around, I learned that the Navy stopped issuing service numbers some time in the late 1960s or early 1970s, making this coat at least as old as I am. I eventually found a website called The Navy Log and searched for Charles Way. I found him. Born on January 19, 1940, Seaman Charles C. Way, Jr. was from Enola, PA, and served in the U.S. Navy from June of 1958 to June of 1960. Since the pea coat was probably brand new when it was issued to Mr. Way, it is at least 55 years old.
In the years I’ve had the coat, some buttons have come off (all original and saved) and some seams have come out. I’ve had them all repaired, sometimes more than once. The shell of the coat is in great shape overall, but the lining, however, is starting to show its age with some fraying in a few corners. A less sentimental owner would probably just have the coat re-lined. But here’s the thing: in addition to the irreplaceable sewn-in label from the Navy’s Clothing Supply Office, Mr. Way actually hand-wrote his name in the lining with some kind of marker: “Charley Way.” It might seem weird to some people, but the idea of getting rid of it strikes me as disrespectful. So I keep it, just how Charley Way left it.
Based on his years served, Mr. Way likely didn’t see any action. But I can’t help but wonder where this coat was worn. On a ship in exotic (but cold) locations? On what ship? The USS Intrepid, the famous aircraft carrier that is now a sea/air/space museum docked in the Hudson River at the end of my block in midtown Manhattan, alternated deployments along the Atlantic coast of the U.S. from 1958 to 1961. Maybe he served on it. As I said, I can only wonder. And do a little more poking around.
If Charley is still around, he’d be 73 now. After a further web search, I found a profile for Charles C. Way on LinkedIn. The public profile of this Charles C. Way indicated that he retired from Penn State University in 2007. If this is my Charley, he would have been 67 at the time of his retirement. Since many men of that generation, like my own father, built lives and careers close to their childhood home, it would make sense. So I sent him a message on LinkedIn, introducing myself and briefly explaining the story of the pea coat. If he ever responds and if he is, indeed, the Charles C. Way who originally owned the coat, it will make a great follow-up to this story. I’ll keep you posted.
Because of all this, because of how beautifully it was designed, because of how well it was made, because of how good it feels to wear it, because it still keeps me warm, because of its history, and because I just might make a connection with the U.S. Navy seaman who originally owned it from 1958 to 1960, this vintage $80 pea coat just might be the most valuable garment I own.
I recently made my very first purchase from eBay. Ever. (I know.) I forwent any bidding nonsense, because I seriously don’t have the energy for it. Taking the “Buy Now” option, I bought a 1971 Timex Marlin for $65, and it’s fabulous.
And speaking of new purchases, I pulled the trigger on custom calling cards from Terrapin Stationers, the go-to resource for anyone looking for serious (and hilarious) cards and stationery. They were having a sale on a stack of 100 calling cards engraved in black ink on 110lb 100% cotton for $95 and I couldn’t resist. I ordered them with my name in all-caps with my website address below. If I want someone to have my phone number or email address, I can write it on the card manually, adding a more personal touch.
I also bought more dress shirts from both Charles Tyrwhitt and Paul Fredrick, replacing the easy-iron garbage that I bought by mistake. Each shirtmaker has its own merits and makes fine, handsome and affordable shirts.
Big things. Thanks for listening.
Oh… and the 1971 Timex Marlin:
And the Timex Military watch from J.Crew (with brown leather strap):
When I was in college, I had a beautiful Harris Tweed jacket that my sister had gotten me as a gift from Bergdorf Goodman. From a distance, it registered as a rich brown, but it was really a small check pattern of brown, olive green and deep red on a tan background. It had three buttons (though rolled as two), two pockets and a tan lining. It was beautiful. Being the college idiot that I was, I didn’t understand the value of a Harris Tweed. I mistreated it, lent it out a few times, and ultimately lost it.
Since then, I’ve harbored a yearly autumnal urge to get another one. Last week, I finally did.
My friend Jim and I like to go on sartorial field trips every couple of weeks to our favorite clothes haunts in Manhattan. Friday, we went to J.Crew’s Ludlow Shop in TriBeCa where he had to pick up two new tailored suits he’d bought. (They looked great on him.) Among the innumerable Fall/Winter offerings in the shop was a selection of beautiful Ludlow Fielding Sportcoats in Harris Tweed. Just for fun, I tried one on.
The 38R looked good and would have fit better with a little tailoring in the midsection. Then Nick, our guy at the shop, suggested a 36. Thinking it would be too small, I was highly skeptical but I indulged him. Wow.
In more than 25 years of wearing suits and sportcoats, I cannot recall a time when a jacket didn’t require at least some tailoring. This was a first. In a recent piece I wrote about how I like a jacket to fit, I focused on the perfect fit for me in five specific areas. This jacket nailed every one, right off the peg. The fit in the shoulders, chest, sleeves, waist/hips and length were all perfect. Even Nick took a moment after looking it up and down and said “I really don’t think you even need this tailored.” I agreed. And like any jacket or suit (or any garment, for that matter), this would get “broken in” and get even better over time. Sold.
The jacket is cut in J.Crew’s signature Ludlow fit, with a slightly wider notch lapel of three inches at its widest. It’s a three-button jacket, but rolled like a two-button, and features patch pockets, a double vent, charcoal gray collar felt and a throat latch for those extra cold bike rides in the city. The interior is lined with midnight blue bemberg and pick-stitched. There’s an interior breast pocket on each side, as well as a pen pocket and a smaller lower pocket.
And then there is that Harris Tweed Certification Trademark label. What is Harris Tweed? It’s a fabric handwoven from local wool by masters of Scottish wool – islanders in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. That label is a mark of rich heritage, deep tradition and true excellence.
Unless you’re a little college-age asshole who doesn’t appreciate the value of things, one understands that a garment made with Harris Tweed is something to be worn well, worn proudly, cared for and enjoyed for life. This one, my friends, is a keeper.