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

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Spring 2012: Sample Sales Are In The Air

Some of last year's sample sale bounty: 
Brunello Cucinelli short sleeve polo, cashmere half-zip jumper, 
gingham button down dress shirt, and Lacoste polos.

As spring slowly approaches here in the Northeast, temperatures are beginning to creep higher and higher. If that's not enough to get you excited, perhaps the dawning of another season of sample sales will do the trick. Soiffer Haskin got the men's clothing season off to a start with its Loro Piana sale this week - although the discounts at LP aren't earth shattering, have faith: the men's sales are always all over the place.

Last year, in my opinion, the stand-out sales were from Brunello Cucinelli, Ralph Lauren (at Soiffer Haskin), and Turnbull & Asser. 

Brunello Cucinelli's items were reduced to 80% off retail prices at the tail end of the sale - and there was more than enough inventory still on hand to find some gems. BC's very substantive mother-of-pearl buttons are probably worth $65 by themselves, which made the button-down and polo that I picked up pretty good bargains (relatively speaking for a polo shirt that retails north of $500). Cucinelli's reputation is based on their absolutely wonderful cashmere, and the half-zip jumpers were a steal.

The Ralph Lauren sale at Soiffer Haskin was less impressive in terms of sheer inventory, so you'll probably need to be in line before 9 am on the first day. I ended up leaving with a Purple Label lilac dress shirt by Lorenzini, an unlined cashmere tie, and a pair of boxers in a lilac stripe that I picked up because they're a perfect match for the lining on my favorite pair of Incotex slacks.

In terms of absolutely insane deals, Turnbull & Asser's summer sale was the winner, in my opinion. The shop set aside a few rooms which were fulled with boxes and boxes of last season's shirt designs.  Most of the available models featured the bold stripes and colorful patterns that T&A are famous for. Models were also available in Turnbull & Asser's regular fit as well as the slimmer "exclusive" fit. In some instances you'll need to do some digging, but in other cases, I literally turned to a box and found something nice right on top. With shirts reduced from $295 or $325 to $25 per shirt, its really hard to go wrong. Definitely check it out - the 57th Street shop's summer sale is usually in late May or early June. 

So, keep an eye on the schedule - you'll never know which sale will be the one to remember! 

Good luck and happy hunting!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Suiting Up For The NFL Draft: The New York Times Article

Dontari Poe
Defensive Tackle and Dandy in the Making

I was perusing the style section of the New York Times yesterday and saw an article by Greg Bishop titled "Preparing To Look Good On Draft Night." The piece focused on a defensive tackle named Dontari Poe from Memphis who is slated to be drafted [Note: Poe ended up going at #11 to the Chiefs] in the first round of this year's NFL Draft (you can view the article here).

There were a lot of things to like about the article, not the least of which was Mr. Poe's desire to look good on draft night. Aside from a few minor nitpicks, I thought Mr. Poe's stylist, Rachel Johnson, did a nice job of creating an elegantly subdued combination of clothing for Mr. Poe. Based on the slide show that accompanied the article, Ms. Johnson put together a wardrobe of dark suits (the suits appeared to be a collection of charcoal greys and navy blues - no abysmal blacks) with normal proportions (two or three button enclosures, double vents, single-breasted) with light-colored shirts and muted ties. Indeed, I even let out a slight murmur of appreciation when I saw Mr. Poe's wingtips in British tan in one image  - God bless his heart.

Initially, I thought things might take a turn for the worse when Ms. Johnson indicated that she looked to the NBA's player/fashionistas for inspiration. I waited for the parade of five-button suits in creme colors with dark pinstripes; but the deluge of vulgar patterns and offensive colors never came. In the end, Mr. Poe looked . . . well-dressed. Perhaps I need to pay closer attention to the sartorial cues put forward by Monsignors James, Stoudamire, Wade, et al.

One thing that did confuse me throughout the article was the use of the term "custom made." I generally use the terms "custom-made" and "bespoke" interchangeably - usually to mean a suit that has been cut from a cloth pattern  by a tailor for his customer. What seemed to be happening here though - and I certainly could be mistaken - was that Joseph Abboud flew in a handful of suits for Mr. Poe and Ms. Johnson then adjusted the suits, which were presumably sent to a tailor for the alterations to be done.

Mr. Poe probably won't be complaining, but it seems he was sent a few off-the-rack suits, which were then tapered up by his stylist, who either made the alterations herself, or (more likely) sent them to the tailoring department. Regardless of the exact order of events, this is hardly what I would consider "custom-made." It would seem that Mr. Poe has had an off-the-rack suit tailored to fit him - and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. I do it all the time. But to say that the suits have been "custom-made" seems either incorrect, at best, or misleading, at worst. Either way, I would expect more clarity from the New York Times.

As to my nitpicks, they are quite minor. However, as Mr. Poe seems to be a burgeoning dandy, I will throw them out into the vast nothingness that is the internet, in the hope that they might one day find their way to his attention. Of course, I'm not even sure if the images accompanying the article showed off the completed suit; however, if that was the case, I would simply suggest that the pants be shortened so there is less of a break in the trouser leg. A straight, unbroken trouser line will have a heightening effect. The cleaner line of the unbroken trouser leg would give Mr. Poe a neat appearance, and might actually counter his naturally stout frame by providing the appearance of a more elongated frame.

Finally, Mr. Poe, don't be afraid to let a little sleeve cuff protrude from the sleeve of the suit jacket. After all, every good dandy should show some.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

'Llero.net: A Cufflink Primer

Here's a link to a short article that I wrote for 'Llero.net on cufflinks: It's All In The Wrist - A Cufflink Primer.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Chelsea Boot: John Lobb's Tudor

I was flipping through my catalog of shoe images the other night and came across these photos that I took of my booty/plunder/swag upon returning from my trip to Northampton to visit the shoe factories and factory stores back in 2009. One of my favorite purchases turned out to be this beautiful pair of chelsea boots from John Lobb. The model name is the Tudor and the Parisian Brown museum calf is really something to behold. The patina is truly exquisite - I'm still befuddled as to why John Lobb would have discontinued the use of this type of leather.

The 7000B last would seem to be a very sleek last - this pair is actually in a wider size UK9EE, which is quite comfortable on my foot. The shoe is still quite snug despite the wide fitting. There's been relatively little creasing above the toe box, which is either a testament to the leather quality or simply a result of the very good fit. Despite the EE width, the shoe retains a rather elegant appearance.

I had metal toe taps installed at B. Nelson, and also added a plastic heel guard because I sometimes walk to work in the boots and didn't want to kill the rubber on the heel too quickly.

In hindsight, I visited the John Lobb factory at just the right time - factory store prices increased significantly shortly after my visit (my original posts on the trip can be seen here and here). At the time, however, a pair of John Lobb shoes at about 30% of the retail price was just about the best deal
in town . . .on either side of the pond . . .

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Edward Green's Finest - The Windsor for Wildsmith

Hyperbole aside, my unabashed admiration for Edward Green's Windsor has been well-documented. As an unapologetic broguing addict, there are enough perforations on this shoe to keep me happy for years. As an amateur historian, the loss of the "crossed golfclubs/lacrosse sticks" pattern has rendered the Windsor model a museum piece that represents the very best of what Edward Green was capable of during the Hlustik era.

Last year, I was fortunate enough to come across a vintage pair of Windsors in Edward Green's acorn color that were originally produced in 1985 for Nordstrom (you can see the original post here.) While the shoes were in great condition, I thought it would be interesting to see what Edward Green's re-crafting process could do, and so I sent the shoes back to the factory for a cleaning and resoling (you can see images of the re-crafted Windsors here.)

Of course, the great thing about being known as a Windsor enthusiast is that shoe aficionados are gracious enough to keep me in mind when they happen to come across a pair (presumably a pair that doesn't fit their own feet). And so it was that Style Forum member Isshinryu101, a collector and purveyor of vintage shoes, thought immediately of An Uptown Dandy when an absolutely breathtaking pair of Windsors came into his possession.

I know what some of you may be thinking - how many pairs of Windsors can one man have? Well, in my opinion, one can never have enough Windsors. In any event, these two pairs are sufficiently unique so that I won't be losing any sleep over this recent addition to my collection.

While both pairs are on the now defunct 201 last, the re-crafted pair is in acorn and on a narrower width, which gives the shoes a refined appearance quite similar to the 82 last. The more recent pair is also on the 201, but in chestnut antique, and has a "regular" width which really changes the appearance of the shoe substantially.

Made by Edward Green for Wildsmith, I was pleasantly surprised - if not downright astonished - by the almost pristine condition of these Windsors. While the soles showed some minor wear, I'd really be surprised if the shoes had been worn more than once or twice.

Despite the relatively advanced age (probably going on at least 20-25 years old) of these stunning examples of Northampton craftsmanship at its most impressive, the leather uppers have held up quite well. While the burnishing perhaps is not to the same standard that one is used to seeing on more recent models from Edward Green, the tan leather has a wonderful richness of tone and patina that is truly beautiful to behold.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Fit For a King: Ready To Wear from Turnbull & Asser

Turnbull & Asser has a long and distinguished history as a shirtmaker to his HRM Prince Charles and others. In the last few years, upon the death of the Prince's longtime tailor, he apparently began having his suits made by Turnbull & Asser. I looked at a few articles that commented upon the switch at the time - none seemed to clarify whether the Prince had gone with the ready-to-wear offerings or full bespoke, although I would assume it was bespoke. Regardless, the Prince's suitings were most likely made by Chester Barrie, at the company's clothing factory in Crewe.

Interestingly, at the time of Prince Charles'  switch to Turnbull & Asser, it was reported that Chester Barrie was making some 30,000 handmade suits per year (1998), with the help of some 475 tailors. On top of that, the company was producing 117,000 machine-made suits, ultimately selling some $16 million in clothing for Ralph Lauren's Purple Label (while only managing about $5.5 million in clothing sales via their own Chester Barrie label).

I recently came across a double breasted blazer from Chester Barrie for Turnbull & Asser. With the readily-apparent level of handwork, its easy to see why the Prince went with Chester Barrie and Turnbull & Asser.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

What We're Ogling: The Return of Last Magazine (Issue 01)

From 2004 to 2009, Last Magazine was far and away the best magazine in the world for fans of high end men's shoes. During that time, Esquire Japan published about twelve issues which are now extremely hard to find and highly sought after by shoe connoisseurs around the world. Unfortunately, despite the magazine's cult status, Esquire Japan ceased publication of the magazine - presumably as a result of the global economic downturn which followed the financial crisis of 2008.

So imagine how surprised I was to discover that Last Magazine is back, now published by Simsum Media. It appears that this first issue hit the newsstands at the tail end of 2011, and while my Japanese is a bit rusty, it would appear that the second issue was due out in March 2012 (I'll need to drop into Kinokuniya to see if I can order it).

So how does this new magazine stack up against its well-regarded namesake? Its probably too early to tell. The photography is wonderful and there is a great variety of styles on display by a wide range of shoemakers, some of whom I'm familiar with and some that I'm being introduced to for the first time. On the other hand (and I recognize that this might be quibbling), while I haven't done a side-by-side comparison of the two magazines, the new publication seems physically smaller than the original, while the paper stock doesn't seem as high end as I remember it.

I certainly don't want to sound like I'm complaining - a well put-together issue of Last Magazine is certainly better than the vacuum that existed from 2009-2011. I eagerly await an opportunity to peruse future issues.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Got Shell? Comparing Cordovan Offerings from C&J and Carmina

As I mentioned in my previous post on the stash of Crockett & Jones shell cordovan shoes that I picked up recently, I thought it would be interesting to contrast the C&J split-toe loafer made for Polo Ralph Lauren with the split-toe loafer made by Carmina.

Both companies source the leather for the uppers from the Horween Company, but Carmina's offering shows off a channeled sole with a nicely bevelled waist. The Crockett & Jones shoes do not include those touches, while its retail price, at $850.00, is roughly $200.00 more than the Carmina retail price (at least, the Carmina retail price that I paid in Barcelona - I believe the same models will cost more in Paris  or via distributors such as The Armoury in Hong Kong or Epaulet in Brooklyn.

The C&Js are in the always impressive dark brown cigar color, while the Carmina shoes are in an equally eye-catching Burdios or Bordeaux color - a dark brown but with a hint of burgundy.

Really, a tough call if one were forced to choose between one pair or the other. Thankfully, since I couldn't find the C&Js in my size, I don't have to worry about it :-)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Edward Green: High Praise for An Uptown Dandy's "Evolution Of A Last"

I have been chatting with some of my friends across the pond the last few days about my recent blog post on the evolution of Edward Green's lasts, which was primarily based on comments made by Tony Gaziano on Style Forum some time ago. Word made its way back to the good people at Edward Green, and I was pleasantly surprised today to learn that EG had "tweeted" a link to the piece, noting that the post was "a fascinating read . . . on the history of EG lasts." You can see Edward Green's Twitter page here.

Many thanks for the kind words and for spreading the word as well - I can only hope that you enjoyed the piece as much as I've enjoyed your shoes over the years, but I'm sure that's not possible . . .

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Crockett & Jones for Polo Ralph Lauren: The Shell Cordovan Split-Toe Loafer

I recently came across a small supply of shell cordovan split-toe loafers made by Crockett & Jones for Polo Ralph Lauren. I believe it is the Prescott model. Unfortunately for me, while the shoes were significantly discounted, I couldn't find a pair in my size. Of course, that was probably a good thing since, as some of you will remember, I just returned from Spain a few weeks ago with a split-toe loafer in shell cordovan from Carmina. So, luckily, I was spared from having to make the tough choice as to which shoes to keep.

I'm planning on doing a side-by-side comparison of the two shell cordovan offerings in the next few days, but for now I thought it would be a good idea to highlight these wonderful shoes before they are all gone - I've sold a few pairs already and have one on eBay at the moment.

The shoes are typical of Crockett & Jones - without a channeled sole or bevelled waist that you might see on some other shoes in this price range, such as Carmina, but the beautiful cigar-color of this shell cordovan is what makes the shoes really stand out. Don't quote me on it, but if memory serves me correctly, C&J sources their cordovan leather from Horween here in the USA, which is probably the best stuff out there.

These shoes show off the lovely shell cordovan patina that you sometimes see - its sometimes uneven but is really lovely to behold and a welcome addition to any real shoe aficionado's collection.

[If anyone is interested,  I'm currently offering a pair in size 9 via eBay here.]