A Fine Man Once Said:

"Part of the 10 million I spent on gambling, part of it on booze, and part of it on women. The rest I spent foolishly."

- George Raft

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Every Dandy Needs One: The Shoe Care Kit

          In most cases, I usually like to drop my shoes off at B. Nelson's or The Leather Spa for a cleaning, polish, and shine. I'll sometimes even head over to the Concourse at Rockefeller Center to sit down for a shine. However, when I have the time, I enjoy sitting at home with my shoe kit and giving my shoes a good cleaning and polish (most of my shoes are some shade of brown and I generally don't like them to have a high shine).

          My wife purchased this little set for me about 10 years ago from Holland & Holland when the company had a Manhattan location at 57th street between Park and Madison Avenue (I believe Turnbull & Asser currently occupies the location). Interestingly enough, I don't believe that I owned any "high-end" English shoes at that time - just a few pairs of American-made J&M Aristocrafts handed down from my father - but thankfully the lovely woman was able to glimpse the uptown dandy lurking somewhere just under the surface.

          Plenty of blogs have described how to properly shine your shoes better than I can, so I won't even try to flog that horse. You'll basically need some brushes, an old rag or cloth, a leather conditioner, and a polishing wax. Lately, I've really only been using a conditioner (Saphir Renovateur). If I use a polishing agent, I keep it basic with a neutral so as not to cover up the developing leather patina on the brown shoes.

          With that said, this little set has everything you'll need to care for your shoes:

          A brush with dark bristles for black shoes and another brush with lighter bristles for shoes of a lighter shade, so you're not mixing black and brown polishes on one brush.

          Smaller brushes that you can use to clean around the sole edges and broguing perforations.

          The leather carrying case also has just enough room for some polish tins and the leather conditioner jar, as well as a spare cloth.

          After 10 years of buffing and brushing, the set is still in great shape and shows no signs of wearing down anytime soon. The gift that keeps on giving, wouldn't you say?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Vintage Edward Green for M. Bardelli: The Cadogan

          While shoe makers have progressed in leaps and bounds from methods used as recently as the 1980s, in everything from quality of leather to the ability to mass produce shoes with details that would only have been seen on a bespoke shoe 30 years ago, I still enjoy seeing examples of the shoes produced in the past by various American, English, and Italian firms. To be honest, this is for a variety of reasons - it could be that I've come across a pair of shoes in a defunct style or model, or the shoes are on a defunct last that is no longer used because it has been "improved upon", or the shoes are of a leather that is no longer used. Sometimes, after 30 years, the patina of a basic brown calf leather leather has simply evolved into a stunning work of art in and of itself. Whatever the reason for catching my eye, I'll try to share some of these vintage examples of classic men's footwear.

          Some of the more prestigious shoe companies of Northampton often re-badge their products for retailers who want quality shoes available to their customers under their own label or brand. For instance, Crockett & Jones currently makes shoes for the Brooks Brothers' Peal & Co. line of footwear. John Lobb currently produces footwear for their parent company, Hermes, under that company's own imprint.

          Edward Green has an established history of producing shoes for some of the finest men's ateliers and clothiers around the world. At one time or another, the company has produced footwear for some of the more famous names in American men's clothing, such as Paul Stuart, Brooks Brothers, Nordstrom, and Cole Haan. The tradition continues to the present, as Edward Green shoes can still be found anywhere from Ralph Lauren to Maus & Hoffman.

          The photo above is of a pair of Cadogan's in antique chestnut, made by Edward Green for M. Bardelli, Cashmere Cotton & Silk. One of the oldest men's clothing establishments in Milan, Bardelli's was founded in 1941 as a hat shop but gradually grew to become the elegant emporium that it is today. Specializing in “cashmere, cotton and silk”, Bardelli's is housed in a nineteenth century palazzo and offers a range of beautiful men and women’s collections including suits, shoes, knitwear, textiles for the home and marvellous accessories.

          This particular pair of shoes was made on the 202 last. This last remains one of Edward Green's more popular offerings, as the round-toed silhouette creates an elegant, but quite conservative, effect. This particular pair has a wider-than-normal width, but the shoe doesn't seem to suffer from any blobbiness or loss of refinement.

          One benefit of re-badging for the retailer is that it will often be allowed to customize some details of the shoe. While this model is a fairly standard semi-brogue, the medallion on this pair is different than what you would normally see on a typical Cadogan branded under Edward Green's own company name.

          As you can see below, this pair was re-badged for M. Bardelli.

           While this pair of shoes may have been produced to certain specifications for Bardelli by Edward Green, the shoes certainly don't suffer from any decline or drop-off in quality. Most likely, Bardelli chose Edward Green as a supplier because each company enjoys a well-earned reputation for holding itself to the highest production and quality standards. Based on what I can see here, it was a fine match.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Day At The Races: Sporting The Doublebreasted Seersucker

          As summer beckons, racing season in America is in full swing. With several invitations to join various acquaintances for a day at the races over 4th of July weekend (at Belmont), the end of July (The Haskell at Monmouth Park), and Memorial Day weekend (Saratoga Racetrack), now seems like a good time to start figuring out what I'll be sporting at the track.

          I have some linen sportscoats and slacks that should be fine. However, the linen slacks (from Brooks Bros.) are a light cream color and tend to wrinkle and get dirty very easily. As such, I would be reluctant to get down on bended knee to roll dice should I come across a floating crap game under the grandstand at Saratoga Racetrack. Although, truth be told, if someone will fade me then linen slacks be damned.

          Another alternative that I'm leaning towards is my doublebreasted seersucker made by Saint Andrews. Its a lovely suit with mother of pearl buttons, with the handwork and pick-stitching that you would expect to see from one of the tailoring houses that provides suits for Ralph Lauren's Purple Label. The problem, if the question of what to wear to the track can be really be classified as a "problem", is that I've always been befuddled by this paradox: generally, any event that I'm invited to where seersucker would be appropriate is most likely a casual event; however, the doublebreasted cut of the jacket tends to come across as "dressy" to most observers. Not that I blame them but I think that is the general perception of the doublebreasted. Nevertheless, for an afternoon in an owner's box at Belmont Park or a table in the clubhouse at Saratoga Racetrack, the doublebreasted seersucker might be ideal.

          Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to take any pictures of my proposed trackwear, but I'll post some pictures in the coming days and weeks and hopefully you dandies out there will post some "constructive" criticism.

          For now, here's a picture of the doublebreasted seersucker suit. The photo's actually a few years old (and perhaps 15-20 pounds ago), and I believe I was trying it on after having just picked it up from the tailor so the accessories don't necessarily work either - but I have time to work on that. I also reserve the right to break the suit up, and perhaps pair the jacket with a pair of slacks in a solid color, or vice versa.

Doublebreasted seersucker suit, Saint Andrews; Lilac dress shirt, Turnbull & Asser; Striped tie, Luciano Barbera; Ralph Lauren Purple Label Barksdales in Edwardian Antique.

Monday, June 13, 2011

What We're Ogling: Men's Ex - The High End Men's Suit Style Book

         Anyone who's been keeping up with An Uptown Dandy knows that I'm crazy about some of the men's fashion magazines being published in the Far East. Men's Ex puts out a monthly magazine with a variety of photos that I enjoy ogling, but the special issues focusing entirely on men's suits and shoes are just on another level altogether. 

          Recently, I was able to pick up a copy of Men's Ex: The High-End Men's Suit Style Book. Now, I'm not sure what anyone can be writing about with regards to men's tailoring and fabrics in such detail on page after page, and, sadly, I'll probably never see a translation of the text. Fortunately for Japanese illiterates such as myself, however, the magazine is loaded with photos of tailors, suits, and fabrics from around the world . It really is a joy to peruse.

The Italian tailoring section: The Neapolitan tailor Mariano Rubinacci

Getting down to the nitty-gritty:
Deconstructing a suit to (I would like to think) determine the quality of its construction.

A rather lengthy section focusing on dozens of ready-to-wear labels,
ranging from Kiton to Polo Ralph Lauren.

I particularly enjoyed this segment on sartorial icons with examples of some of the more notable contributions made throughout the years to men's style. Here, you can see an example of the "Prince of Wales" glen plaid check pattern that the Duke of Windsor would often pair with brown suede shoes. The previous page offers an example of Winston Churchill's three piece suit and bow-tie combination.

          I could go on and on, but I'll leave something new for you to be amazed at once you've picked up a copy. Kinokuniya in New York City does not have copies on the premises but can place an import order at your request. Be warned - there is an additional import fee, but in my opinion, The High End Men's Suit Style Book from Men's Ex is definitely worth the somewhat hefty price (about USD $27.00).

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Semi-Brogue Spectator: Ralph Lauren's Purple Label Whitaker

The ever-versatile spectator shoe:
The Duke of Windsor kicks off a Bahamian rugby match
during his tenure as the island's Governor, early 1940s.

          When last we spoke of co-respondent or spectator shoes and my general preference for a little suede with my specs, spring was only just around the corner and an airing out of my summer clothes was in order (see our previous post on Ralph Lauren's Purple Label Hutton here). With temperatures currently climbing to triple digits here on the East Coast, now seems like as good a time as any to revisit the spectator shoe and all of its sartorial virtues.

          When Ralph Lauren tasked Edward Green with the job of creating a traditional full brogue spectator, the Hutton seemed to have all the bases covered: dark oak calf leather with white suede accenting the full broguing, touched off with dark sole edges that subtly emphasized the vibrant interplay of light and dark tones at work on the uppers. Essentially, a classic look designed to put you at ease on the golf course or a summer wedding.

          Perhaps fearing that the Hutton might not be versatile enough to cover the full range of sartorial events that an uptown dandy might be expected to attend in one spring/summer season, Ralph Lauren doubled down and commissioned Edward Green's production of the Whitaker, a semi-brogue, or captoe, spectator shoe on the 89 last (derived from Edward Green's Cardiff model).

          This time, the dark oak leather calf was replaced with the lighter, almost golden "edwardian antique" color that again playfully contrasts against the lovely white suede leather. On the Whitaker model, you can see that while some of the broguing is highlighted by the white suede that frames the punching (along the captoe, for instance), in other instances the broguing remains "monotone" or without the contrasting color scheme (the broguing remaining in the edwardian antique color).

          This particular model was given a more informal, casual look by pairing the vibrant leather patina of the edwardian antique color with a natural edge heel and sole. Overall, I find the effect quite pleasing to the eye.

Here are a few additional photos minus the flash - its hard to say which set of photos are more "accurate" with regards to the edwardian antique color.

          Ultimately, if you're looking to justify multiple pairs of spectators in your closet, varying the "dark" leather color is a good place to start. The sole edge treatment is also helpful, as the dark brown or black "sole edging" treatment really changes the entire complexion of the shoe vis-a-vis the "natural" sole edge treatment. While I try to keep it real with the white suede, there are certainly other color and fabric options available if you want to broaden your horizons as you delve deeper into the world of spectators.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Cufflinks Galore at The Missing Link

          Roaming around Manhattan the other day, I dropped by the Antique Showplace, a three story structure located at 40 West 25th Street in Manhattan. Filled with small galleries run by various collectors dealing in everything from ancient Asian artwork to art deco-style radios, I was pleasantly surprised by the little gem of a shop specializing in all things cufflinks, from the more serious deco enamels, precious metals, and formal sets to the fun and whimsical novelty links. The Missing Link was opened by Michael Rodriguez in 1996 and offers an unparalleled selection of vintage and new cufflinks for both men and women. Whatever type of cufflink you're looking for, it's sure to be found amongst the estimated 10,000 pairs.

          Open on Fridays and Saturdays (or by appointment), be sure to drop by if you're in the Flat-Iron district. Michael is very knowledgeable and an absolute pleasure to chat with. If you're not completely bedazzled by the overwhelming inventory, be sure to look up and check out the collection of Dobbs hats and Louis Vuitton luggage.

          The Missing Link - it should be on any dandy's list of places to go in New York City.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

John Lobb in Geneva

John Lobb's Geneva shop
1960s euro cart included with your purchase of any prestige line shoes.

          After months of unreturned phone calls, texts, tweets, and bleets, intermittent postcards from London and Barcelona (always just a hastily drawn happy face, no text), or, better yet, the unconfirmed sightings from mutual acquaintances who were sure that it was her backstage at Fashion Week in Paris or positive that it could only be her sauntering nonchalantly through the galleries at Pitti Uomo in Milan, The Uptown Dandy's European correspondent, Jessica Butler, was kind enough to send along some wonderful photos from John Lobb's Switzerland outpost.

          In town to attend a conference at the Université de Genève on Metaphysics and Values (this was explained to me, with slow and precise enunciation reminiscent of the Reverend Al Sharpton, as essentially whether or not the whole of something might be more valuable than it's parts). Despite being absolutely pre-occupied for the remainder of her visit by the tall, rather dashing American lecturing on Diachronic Composition (see the abstract for his seminar here), Ms. Butler did eventually manage to wander off to the Rue du Rhone to peruse the luxury district.

          Perhaps the Lobb name had stuck in her mind because I had once dragged her into the St. James shop in London a few years ago (she has also seen my small collection of Lobbs in person and has always listened to my excited rants with patience and a friendly smile). But Jessica Butler is one of the few Americans to have made the pilgrimage to Northampton and its shoe factories (I can only assume such a monumental undertaking was done willingly), so it is more than likely that, like The Uptown Dandy, the name Lobb holds a special place in her heart.

          In any event, armed with her Cannon and a lightweight prime lens (35mm f2), Jessie took some great pictures of the luxury distruct, which is just outside the remains of the old city on the shores of Lake Geneva. It sounds very peaceful for a high-end shipping district, a complete contrast to Fifth Avenue in Manhattan on a weekday afternoon. . .

The ubiquitous JL City II in some kind of museum calf. The price tag says 1580 (swiss francs, I guess)

The current double-monk craze has apparently hit Switzerland hard as well. I was originally infected, bled from my eyes for five days, but the worst has passed and I feel much better now.

Loafer in crocodile. No price tag anywhere near this one.
Like JP Morgan said, if you need to ask, you can't afford it.

I've never seen Lobb heeled galoshes before, but they look fantastic of course!

Many thanks to Jessie Butler for the wonderful photos :-)