Iconic March 1965 Esquire cover by legendary advertising provocateur George Lois
Among the many things that bar me from movie stardom, one of those preventatives is the fact that I have a monkey head. Typically, movie stars have larger heads when taken in proportion to the rest of their bodies. My head is comparatively small. Having accepted this, I’ve realized that I can’t really wear standard 3″-3.5″ wide ties if the proportions of the tie, shirt collar and jacket lapel are going to look right on me. Narrower is the game for this chimp. The same goes for the scale and proportion of my shirt collars and jacket lapels. The maximum tie width for me is around 2-2.5 inches.
Also in this episode is my spiel on shaving. Too frequently, magazines and blogs publish a piece that boasts the definitive run-down of how to get the best shave, sometimes even citing a grooming expert. Unfortunately, it’s all a recycle of old news. The truth is that – no matter what you read – there is no new ground to be broken in the “art of shaving.” It’s a well-tread track on a firmly-established grooming ritual. In the episode, I explain my ritual and the products I currently use.
Tonal Slate Wool and Linen Suit, Premium Cobalt Blue & Navy Gingham Shirt and a Slate Blue Silk Lapel Pin from Indochino.
I recently wrote a piece about the lean, no-nonsense monochromatic dress code for men of a certain stature, referring to the idea as “Garanimals for busy and powerful men.” Men like this need to be able to reach into their closets blindfolded and assemble something that works without thinking about it or getting it wrong, like Garanimals.
For those among us who like a broader palette, Indochino has launched both Spring and Summer collections for 2013 that offer a great range of colors, patterns, fabrics and textures. Any and all of the offerings are designed to go with everything else in the collections: any suit goes with any shirt and any tie, however you want to mix it up. Put any suit and pocket square from the Spring Collection together with any shirt and tie from the Summer Collection, or vice versa.
The Spring Collection includes a dozen new suits and several blazers and vests in lighter fabrics and blends of linens, cottons and lightweight wools, as well as cotton shirts in a mix of stripes and patterns. Spring accessories include ties, pocket squares, silk lapel pins and colored tie clips.
The Summer Collection introduces new suits, blazers and vests in seersucker, a perfect summer staple. Also making an appearance in the collection is the classic trench coat (with a removable zip hood) in five different colors, including timeless tan. There are also belts, pocket squares and chinos in an array of ten different colors.
One of the most noteworthy inclusions in the Summer Collection are shirts of 100% Egyptian cotton from Thomas Mason. Starting in England in 1796, Thomas Mason fabrics have been a premium standard in high-quality garments, particularly shirts. In the early 20th century, they became the exclusive supplier to Turnbull & Asser, who supplied shirts for English royalty (and for Sean Connery during his tenure as James Bond). Today, Thomas Mason mills are located in Italy, retaining their stature as the source for premium shirt fabrics.
J.Crew has been offering a handsome selection of Thomas Mason shirts for a while, ranging in price from $148 to $168. As much as I like J.Crew (and I do love J.Crew), the S/M/L/XL shirt sizing is a big limitation and a roll of the dice for most men who aren’t a perfect medium, for example. To get the shirt to fit perfectly, one would have to have it tailored, pushing the ultimate cost of a $168 shirt over $200. As with all garments at Indochino, the Thomas Mason for Indochino shirts are custom made for each customer. With their perfect fit promise, Indochino offers a $75 credit for local tailoring to make sure the garment fits perfectly. If the alterations are beyond the scope of a tailor, Indochino will remake the garment. In essence, a perfectly-fitting, custom-made Thomas Mason shirt from Indochino will cost no more than the initial price tag of $159. No contest.
For my own experience with the Spring/Summer 2013 gear, Indochino furnished me with a suit, shirt, tie and lapel pin of my choosing from the Spring Collection. Sticking to my favorite color, I went with a study in blue: the Tonal Slate Linen & Wool Suit, the Premium Cobalt Blue & Navy Gingham Shirt, a Navy Linen Tie and a Slate Blue Silk Lapel Pin.
My exact measurements well-established with my Indochino account, the fit of the custom suit and custom shirt were a slam dunk. Perfect. The linen and wool blend suit has a great hand and is light as air, without wrinkling as easily as 100% linen. The tonal slate is an incredibly versatile shade of blue that I can wear with almost any shirt, casual or dress, with a tie or without a tie. I can even wear the jacket as a blazer with jeans and a t-shirt. The custom shirt was a first for me, as I’ve been pretty happy with my standard 15.5″ x 35″ extra-slim fits. I must say that the fit of a well-made custom shirt is incredible. It has an uncanny way of hugging my form without feeling tight or constricting movement, especially in the armhole and sleeve.
My only reservation with my new duds was with the silk lapel pin. I think the lapel pins look great, but for this simple guy, a little too-too in the self-decoration department. As I’ve said many times, a watch and cufflinks are as blingy as it gets for me, and my wearing of a pocket square is inconsistent at best. If I’m going to decorate my lapel with a floral, I’m more likely to wear a real flower. But when I order suits from Indochino, I always opt for a functional boutonniere on the lapel, which includes a hidden thread loop behind the lapel to secure the flower’s stem.
Overall, the Spring and Summer Collections feature a fantastic, smart and versatile selection of warmer weather offerings that play together quite nicely. Whether someone likes to burst with color or, like me, keep it a little quieter, there is something here for everyone for the spring and summer months or in any month in warmer latitudes.
Michael Bastian, one of the most worthwhile menswear designers working today, collaborated with UNIQLO to make a line of handsome and affordable polo shirts that fit just the way they’re supposed to. These incredibly stylish and accessible polos make perfect additions to the spring and summer casual kit.
The Bulldog Natural Skincare moisturizer lineup: Original, Sensitive and Anti-Ageing Moisturisers
Not only am I a fan of Bulldog Natural Skincare for men, I am also a customer. A happy one. For the past year or so, I’ve been a faithful user of the Face Scrub and the Original Moisturiser. While I only use the scrub about once each week, the moisturizer is a daily thing, both morning and night, either after a shave or a wash.
While both are a little denser in consistency than the Original Moisturiser, they both share the very light, non-greasy and good moisturizing qualities of the original. The Sensitive Moisturiser is specially formulated with two essential oils, green tea, green algae, konjac mannan and vitamin E. And it doesn’t seem to have any added fragrance, which can irritate sensitive mugs – great after a shave, especially for those of us with sensitive skin. The Anti-Ageing formula is a tad richer than its Bulldog siblings and has a mild but masculine, clean smell. It contains five essential oils, millet seed and oak apple tannins “to help deliver visibly younger looking skin in 4 weeks.” I’ve only been using it for a couple of weeks, and, though I don’t look 25 again, I can say that it does make the skin look and feel more supple.
No matter what any product professes in terms of age-defiance (yes, even that 2 ounce jar of Creme de la Mer for $275), nothing is capable of reversing years of bad behavior or making you look 20 again. Even plastic surgery will just make you look like someone your age who is trying to look younger, i.e. someone who had plastic surgery. Good skin is an inside job that requires good diet, plenty of water and enough sleep. Moisturizers, even ones as nice as these, are only topical notions that can help slow aging and help maintain the results of good habits and choices. Eat well, exercise, drink plenty of water, don’t smoke, go easy on the booze, keep your skin clean, and use a good moisturizer like Bulldog, and you’ll look younger than your contemporaries who are still partying like it’s 1999.
Homosexual acts were illegal in England and Wales until the Sexual Offenses Act in 1967. Despite the law, police in 1960s England tended to be somewhat lax about actually enforcing an antiquated law that even then seemed an affront to personal liberty in a changing society. But in a climate where the police weren’t necessarily posing a threat to closeted gay men, blackmailers were having a field day, threatening to ruin the lives of gay men by exposing them unless they paid up.
1961 poster. Click to enlarge.
In the groundbreaking 1961 British film Victim, Dirk Bogarde plays Melville Farr, a successful and prominent barrister who also happens to be a closeted homosexual. With a beautiful, devoted wife and a skyrocketing, well-respected career, the exposure of his secret gay life could cost him everything. He, among numerous other gay men, both prominent and regular, is being blackmailed. When his former paramour, Boy Barrett (Peter McEnery), who was also being blackmailed, hangs himself in jail, Farr is overcome with guilt since Barrett repeatedly tried to contact him in the days just prior to his suicide. The film follows Farr as he leads a fight - with the help of the police and of other victims - to take the blackmailers down.
Victim first came onto my radar when it was initially released on DVD about ten years ago. I’m still struck by how daring it was in light of it’s time (1961), being the first English language film to ever use the word “homosexual.” When it was released, it was arguably the most daring English language film ever made… so daring that it was initially banned in the United States.
The maturity and sophistication with which the material is handled is astounding, especially Farr’s “coming out” to his wife Laura, astutely played by Sylvia Syms. She’s no passive “yes” woman. Rather, she backs Farr into a corner and demands an explanation for Boy Barrett and the graffiti whitewashed on their garage (“FARR IS QUEER”). Her reception, acceptance and ultimate management of her husband’s confession is one of the most remarkable and mature character treatments I’ve ever seen on film.
Though Victim very pointedly and openly deals with homosexuality, I wouldn’t necessarily consider it a “gay movie.” To me, Victim is about many things: hypocrisy, freedom, integrity, repression, change and, most pointedly, fear. As Farr says in the film, “Fear is the oxygen of blackmail.” But most importantly, I think Victim is about a man putting it all on the line and risking everything to do the right thing. Melville Farr ultimately becomes a man not fully ruined but a man fully realized.
Beautifully shot and lit in black and white, Victim is also a great looking, wonderfully acted movie. It captures a pre-swinging ’60s London still wrapped tightly in the constraining societal formalities and influences of the 1950s. For the men (and women) in this world, the bar was the safe haven. The modest production was directed by Basil Dearden with a bold script written by Janet Green and John McCormick.
After a witchy winter, spring has sprung, including a little flirtation with 80º F earlier in the week. With the warmer weather come shorts and flip-flops, about which I have some definite feelings I express in this episode. And though I did enjoy the time with my partner-in-crime at this year’s New York International Auto Show, I discuss the vanilla experience of the show overall, which exhibited fleets of boring-looking luxury cars, stripped of all character and sex appeal and in desperate need of design CPR. Also on my mind, and on the radar of media/entertainment reporters lately, is Aereo, a brilliant (and affordable) service that provides live broadcast television over the internet to computers, iPads, iPhones, and the Roku. It’s a beautiful disruption to the stale broadcast and cable subscription models that has networks and cable providers really pissed. And finally… just when you think you’re going to learn something new in a magazine or on a blog about getting the perfect shave, just remember: you’re not. It’s all been said before, and there is nothing new to say or learn. (But it won’t stop me from writing my own “definitive” piece on getting the perfect shave. Stay tuned for that nonsense.)
Thanks for listening!
“Love’s Theme” by Barry White & The Love Unlimited Orchestra – iTunes | Amazon
It was brought to my attention that my original review of the Nanotech Gray Twill Suit from Indochino neglected to include a “spill test” of the suit. The fabric of the Nanotech suits from Indochino are treated with a polymer that repels water, stains and wrinkles without compromising the weight, thickness and hand of the fabric. This video is a demonstration of how the suit repels water.
Indochino’s Nanotech Gray Twill is made with 100% Australian Merino wool (Super 100). My concern with the nanotechnology treatment was that the polymer-coated wool would have a compromised feel, much like my experience with those no-iron cotton dress shirts that make my nipples feel like they’re being sanded off. I was pleasantly surprised. The finished fabric is a medium-weight, all-season wool with a nice hand and a subtle sharkskin look from the twill weave.
As a fan of dark suits, I think the gray twill is very versatile, with a medium weight that will work in all seasons. And it’s wrinkle and stain resistance make the suit ideal for travel. My suit was ready to wear, right out of the shipping box, with no need for an iron or steam touch-up.
The suit, as it came in the shipping box.
A new optional feature with Indochino’s Nanotech suits is something called the Smart Pocket, which I review in detail in the video below. It is essentially a rubber, touch-compatible inside jacket pocket designed specifically for smartphones. Companion to the pocket is a rubberized hole hidden under the boutonniere hole on the lapel, enabling the headphone cord to seamlessly pass through the jacket and plug into the phone. There is also a small clip to coil up excess cord. With so much that can be controlled by the headphones now, including Siri, it’s a totally hands-free experience that can be handy (and safer) for a guy who spends a lot of time driving, commuting by train or bus or traveling in airports (or even riding a bike, as I briefly demonstrate in the video). As a non-commuter, I would probably forego the Smart Pocket with subsequent suits. It is, again, an entirely optional feature.
Rubberized hole hidden under the lapel.
As with all Indochino suits, there are numerous customizations one can make with the suit. Here are the customizations I added with this one:
Two jacket vents (double vent)
Two buttons on the jacket
Purple bemberg lining
Inside jacket monogram (“George Hahn” in script)
No pants pleats
Functional sleeve buttons
Contrasting color felt (under the jacket collar)
Side tabs on the pants (no belt loops)
I’ve written before about Indochino’s custom suiting and their process. In a word, I’m a fan. It’s a model that works well and has me scratching my head as to why one would roll the fit dice with off the rack basics when one can get such a well-made custom suit at such a brilliant price. Maybe it has to do with immediacy. In our “right now” culture, waiting four weeks for a suit seems like forever. Two things about that:
A beautiful bespoke suit from a master custom tailor – with basting, crafting and multiple fittings – has a turnaround of closer to eight weeks and a four-figure price tag.
Once you’ve had and worn a made-to-measure suit, it’s hard to go back to the rack.
In essence, quality and fit trump impatience. It’s worth the wait.