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

Monday, October 24, 2011

Boardwalk Empire: The Straw Driving Cap

I've become a fan of HBO's Boardwalk Empire - almost as much for the intriguing storyline as for the absolutely dazzling men's wardrobe pieces that are on display throughout each episode.

Sunday night's episode floored me right from the beginning with this little men's accessory. You just don't see people wearing straw caps very often, if at all, but that was one bad-looking piece of headwear - and I mean that as a compliment. I took an additional screen-shot which, to my eye anyway, showed the intricate weave or design of the straw.

The rest of Steve Buscemi's outfit looks pretty good here too as well.

I'm not sure if I could pull that off at Saratoga next summer. . . then again, I'm not even sure that I could find something like that before next summer anyway. . .

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

More Vintage Johnston & Murphy: The Handmade 100s Captoe

After posting a few new images of my light brown J&M Handmades here, my friend Meister over at Style Forum was kind of enough to share some pictures of his own pair of Handmades. Its not every day that you see a pair of Handmades - and I still have never actually seen a pair of the captoes in person - and these photos only reinforced the idea that I'm missing out on something. I have to say that I'm usually not a big fan of the wide laces, but they look gorgeous with this pair of shoes.

With his kind permission, I'm posting Meister's images here to share with others who might appreciate the craftsmanship that went into making these shoes, which are another example of American shoe-making at its finest.

The channeled sole with a lovely bevelled waist - I just don't think any American company is producing anything like this anymore. If someone is, I'd love to see or hear about it. Granted, I'm only looking at the photo, but that work looks comparable to what you'd find on a pair of shoes from Lobb's Prestige line, or Gaziano & Girling.

The old J&M Aristocraft stamp, which would probably date this pair to the 1970s.

Absolutely stunning. Many thanks, Meister.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Vintage Edward Green: George Cleverley's "Butterfly" Loafer

This is chronology is a bit of confusing to me, but apparently at some point in the 1970s, the venerable 112-year-old bespoke shoemaker Poulsen, Skone & Co. was taken over by New & Lingwood. From the late 1970s until his death in 1991, George Cleverley -  considered by many to be the greatest master shoemaker of the late 20th century - worked as a design consultant for the company, which at some point decided to revive some of his earlier designs.

The idea was apparently to produce a range of superior shoes under the Poulsen Skone & Co. name. Based on the stamp on the sole, this pair of loafers appears to be an example of the results of that collaboration (there is some fading on the insole stamp, but the inscription reads New & Lingwood incorporating Poulsen Skone & Co.).

This model appears to have been manufactured by Edward Green on their classic loafer last, the 184. That illustrious shoemaker also produced their own model of the classic butterfly loafer with punched apron design, called the Tewkesbury.

Along the way, there have been slight variations - Flusser,  for instance, once offered a model that included the punched apron but which also included punching along the edge of the butterfly design as well. I'm never one to complain about to much broguing, but, in this instance, I would have to say that I like the clean look of the butterfly design sans the additional perforations.

In any event, one would be lucky to own this eclectic design from one of the 20th century's great shoemakers.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Back Where It All Begins: Johnston & Murphy's Handmade 100s

An American Icon: Johnston & Murphy's Handmade 100s

Six months ago, I started An Uptown Dandy with a post on my small collection of Johnston & Murphy's crowning achievement, the Handmade 100s (you can view the original post here). Since then, I've received a few reader requests asking for some close-ups of the broguing and leather. In light of the six month anniversary, this seemed like a good time to go back to where it all began (but please keep in mind that my photography skills are really non-existent).

The Handmade 100s are like the Russian Yeti or Canadian Sasquatch: rumours persist as to its existence, but they are rarely seen in captivity or the wild. Bennie's in Atlanta once had an incredible supply on hand - but sadly, that is no longer the case, so shoe connoisseurs are left to rummage through thrift shops and attics. Occasionally, a pair will surface on eBay.

Here, then, are some up close and personal images of an American masterpiece.

The quintessential Johnston & Murphy medallion. Many vintage J&M's from the Handmade and Aristocraft lines have this same toe shape and medallion perforation, which is almost instantly recognizable as a J&M product that was made in the USA during the company's heyday.

What really stands out on these Handmade 100s, besides the lovely shade of brown calf skin leather, is the absolutely perfect looking broguing patterns all along the full-brogue design. What may be even more impressive is the dark leather "piping," for lack of a better term, that we see above the broguing lines and along the edge of each leather piece that comprises the wingtip's leather upper.

In most cases, the various pieces of leather on the wingtip will have "jagged" or "scissor-like" edges. Interestingly, we can see the jagged leather edge along the rim at the top of the upper. But, interestingly enough, the leather piping seems to have been added along the rim of the shoe where the foot is inserted, just behind the broguing line. But along the edges of the other leather pieces that comprise the full- brogue, or wingtip, shoe. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I don't think I've seen this detail can be found on an Italian or English-made. Perhaps a trick of the American trade?

In this day and age, the sign of a well-crafted shoe can be found on the sole of the shoe. Channeled sole, bevelled waists, slight waist suppression, all of these little details are on full display when viewing the Handmade 100s.

The waist shows the original "Handmade" stamp and the channeled soles. The original heels are also still in fine shape, further proof that the Handmade 100s were built to last.

Many thanks to those of you who have decided to drop by,
read a post or two, or offer much-appreciated commentary!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Vintage Asprey: The Cashmere Overcoat

Previously, I posted about the end of the first golden era of sample sales here in New York City. Quite a few people expressed a desire to see images posted of the cashmere overcoat purchased at the first Asprey sample sale - there were also a few enquiries about the Crockett & Jones' handgrade semi-brogues purchased during the Tom James shoe clear-out, and I promise to post some pictures of those as well.

I obviously have a soft-spot for most of the items in my wardrobe, but the Asprey overcoat is a favorite of mine for a few reasons. To begin with, the rich, almost chocolate brown color of the cashmere is exquisite. I generally wear it with charcoal or grey suits, although I have also worn it with solid navy blue suits. The deep brown really strikes a sharp contrast with the more somber hue of solid conservative suits.

In addition, some of the little details set this coat apart from the more traditional overcoats hanging in my closet. This coat has loads of hand-stitching along the seams, but I really like the sleek patch pockets at the waist and chest. The design really gives the coat a more modern look for a single-breasted overcoat - normally a cut that's about as business conservative as it gets.

Another detail that you don't see every day are the "surgeon," "double," or "french" cuffs with the faux links. I wear this coat quite a bit , especially when browsing or shopping, and I really can't remember the number of times someone has asked whether the overcoat is bespoke or from which tailoring house it was commissioned.

Finally, I really love Asprey's purple lining. It just adds another layer of whimsy to the coat's overall effect.

And the horn buttons put the finishing touches on what I find to be a surprisingly versatile, yet undeniably elegant, overcoat.

While the fall weather has definitely made its presence felt this week here on the east coast, its just not cold enough for cashmere yet - in my opinion, anyway. But soon, very soon . . .

Monday, October 10, 2011

On Urban Safari with The Uptown Dandy

My Urban Safari Ensemble

Recently, I've been catching up on back issues of Japanese men's style magazines like Men's Ex and Leon. It seems that the safari jacket is making something of a comeback - if it did in fact go anywhere. Similar to the double-breasted paradox, I'm often left wondering whether I'm 10 years ahead of the curve or 10 years behind it. Here's a page from Leon praising (I would assume its praise) the virtues of the Safari jacket:

Nowadays, just about every brand carries some kind of safari jacket, but I like the added benefit of a little authenticity. I'm sure Banana Republic makes an excellent safari jacket that can withstand the hustle and bustle of the upper east side, but, if I was ever actually going on a real safari, could the BR jacket handle the wear and tear of the African brush? Who knows (I'm sure some of you may even be thinking, who cares?)

Once upon a time, Abercrombie & Fitch was an outfitter that provided rugged outerwear for adventurers like Teddy Roosevelt. I'm sure they still make a safari jacket, but the Then it hit me - I didn't need to find a good safari jacket because I already owned one. Years ago, I picked one up at Holland & Holland, and, as some of you may know if you're familiar with the company, it doesn't get more authentic than that. After looking through a closet or two, I was able to find the jacket in basically unworn condition.

It was about 85 degrees here on Columbus Day in New York City, but the crisp fall weather will be coming along any day now, so I thought I'd plan ahead and try to come up with something to wear with the jacket. Here's what I was leaning towards:

Sticking with the safari motif , I matched the khaki-colored cotton safari jacket with another Holland & Holland item, a thick cable-knit mock turtle neck sweater - a cashmere/kid mohair/merino wool blend, it feels heavy but wears well in relatively balmy weather.

I thought the cream and khaki colors would work well with a darker earth tone, so I thought I'd pair the coat and sweater with a dark green cashmere scarf, also from Holland & Holland.

Finally, in keeping with the green accessories, I thought I'd top the outfit off with a nice green cap from Beretta, another venerable purveyor of hunting goods - going all the way back to the 17th century. The cap is a shade lighter than the scarf, but it also has a red check pattern that I've always liked.

All in all, I think this would work well with a pair of jeans, and perhaps a pair of loafers or suede brogues. But, as I'm sure you already know if you've visited this blog before, anything in brown would probably do for me. . .

Anyway, see you out in the wild!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Vintage Lloyd Jennings: The Joys of Renovateur

Edward Green's original specifications for the Twickenham model,
commissioned by Paul Stuart in 1985.

I recently came across another pair of Twickenhams in a dark brown calf leather but otherwise identical to the pair that I re-crafted at B. Nelson's earlier this year (see here and here). When I found them, the shoes were caked in a layer of dust and grime, and, in addition to some significant creasing, the leather was very dry.

On the other hand, while there was typical scuffing and scratching that one would expect to find on a pair of shoes in this condition, the leather didn't appear to be cracked anywhere - basically, there wasn't anything that a good cleaning and a leather conditioner bath wouldn't work wonders on.

The shoes are stamped for Lloyd Jennings, which to my understanding was a shoemaker of some distinction with premises on Old Bond Street - apparently comparable to John Lobb, but I have no firsthand knowledge of this (but would love to hear more if anyone has any additional information on the company).

The shoes also have the following handwritten information in each shoe: '"446/3" on one line, followed by "136470" on the second line," followed by "9.E" on the last line. The numbering is fading, so I'm not entirely sure if those numbers are accurate. But this shoe is clearly modeled on Edward Green's Twickenham, which I have also seen referred to as the Kingston model in Volume III of The World of High-End Men's Shoes by Men's Ex.

I've yet to see this model produced by any other English company, so while I'm not entirely sure, it would seem that these could very well be another pretty old pair of Edward Green shoes. Regardless of the provenance of the shoes, this particular pair appear to have been well-made.

The heels and the soles appear to be original and were in surprisingly good condition, considering how the uppers looked. I didn't think a resole/recraft was necessary in this case since I (1) already have a lovely pair of Twickenhams in antique chestnut; and (2) these were just a bit snug on my feet (although a stretching would probably set this right).

So with that in mind, I decided to see just how much these might benefit from a basic cleaning with warm water, followed by a liberal application of Saphyr's Renovateur leather conditioner - I have become an avid Renovateur adherent, to the point where the conditioner is basically all I have been using on my shoes lately.

I began by cleaning the shoes with a brush to remove any particles that may have been lodged anywhere along the uppers. I then dampened  an old cloth with room-temperature water, and wiped off as much of the dust, dirt, and stains as possible. I also used a toothbrush to try and clean between the uppers and the welt. Here are some photos with the left shoe still in soiled condition and after the right shoe had been cleaned/brushed/wiped:

A before-and-after contrast between the cleaned shoe versus the original condition. As you can see, the cleaned shoe already looks much better. There is still some scuffing to the shoe, and there is still substantive creasing. However, the Renovateur is applied with the express purpose of reducing the blemishes and creasing to the leather. Here's how the cleaned shoe looks after the Renovateur has been rubbed into the calf leather using a rag/cloth:

As you can see, the leather looks much better. While there is still evidence of some nicks and scratches, the overall tone of the shoe looks much healthier and vibrant. There is some darkness where the conditioner has sunk deeper into the leather via the creasing and scuffing, but I find that this discoloration generally disappears within 16-24 hours after application. Generally, the creasing will dissipate, to some extent, within 24 hours as well. Here are both shoes after cleaning and the application of the leather conditioner:

And finally, here are the shoes in natural light after another round of conditioner was applied 24 hours earlier:

Vintage Lloyd Jennings Saddle Shoes.