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

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Barney's Seasonal Sales - John Lobb's Phillip II in Tobacco Suede

Shoe fanatics have been making a bee-line for Barney's lately, as they've been having 40% off on selected Gaziano & Girling and John Lobb shoes. At the moment, the G&Gs are going for somewhere between $600-700, which is a decent price. There are also rumblings that Barney's may be severing its relationship with G&G, which would be a shame as its always good to have a selection of retailers available in NYC. Stores like Leffot and Leather Soul get a lot of ink, but you rarely see those shops offering almost their entire inventory for one brand at a significant discount.

We'll have to wait and see, but hopefully the rumors are just that. After all, back in December, Barney's was offering select G&G models for as low as $459. Those kinds of reminiscent of the fire sale Bloomingdale's had when it unloaded its Edward Green models for less than $400 per pair a few years ago.

All of this reminded me of what I thought was still the best deal Barney's has offered to date on John Lobb Phillip IIs in tobacco suede.

If I recall correctly, I first heard about the deal through Derek Guy via his posts at either Put This On or Die Workwear. I happened to be walking by Barney's Flagship on Madison Avenue, so I dropped in to the shoe department to see what models might be available. I was looking to replace my Crockett & Jones suede Connaughts, also purchased via Barneys, and the suede Phillip IIs fit the bill perfectly.

Even better, these Prestige-model shoes were on sale for $589, with Lobb shoe trees included.

As the feeding frenzy was already under way, the display models were the only pair remaining in my size. The sales associate therefore offered to take an additional 10% off, dropping the total down to under $550.

Of course, this is open to debate, but I thought it was an even better deal than the Gaziano & Girling's at $459 (of course, it helps that I'm not in love with G&G's inverted captoe). Lobb's prestige edition shoes - featuring the 7000 last with details such as bevelled waists, channeled soled, and typically outstanding John Lobb finishing - retail for roughly $1600 at Barney's.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Cultural History of the Dandy @ Slate.com

Leonardo DiCaprio (with Tobey Maguire) as Jay Gatsby,
looking quite dandyish in a pink pinstriped suit with turnback cuffs.

Here's an interesting article by Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell titled "The Man In The Pink Suit," which I took to be a reference to the Great Gatsby. I thought the passage on Gatsby was interesting in that it alludes to his "gangster" style, which, as I've been saying, was really just the lastest styles as worn by dandies who just so happened to be criminals in the 1920s and 1930s.

For Gatsby, the consummate performer, life is a stage, and Daisy is his audience of one. If clothes make the man, then this archetypal self-made man owes everything to his wardrobe. In the film, his bedroom looks like an outpost of Brooks Brothers; his straw boater stays in place even when he’s tearing around Long Island in his tricked-out yellow convertible. But the subtext is clear: Sharp-dressed men can’t be trusted. Their flashy suits are disguises, distractions. Gatsby’s style is more gangster than gentleman; it’s hard to picture him rocking Nick Carraway’s floppy bow ties or Tom Buchanan’s riding breeches. “An Oxford man!” Tom bellows. “Like hell he is! He wears a pink suit.” Though no Oxford man, Gatsby bears a striking resemblance to the Arrow Collar man looming over Times Square—a historically accurate detail not spelled out in the book. His tailored perfection is too good to be true, a two-dimensional fa├žade. Like the detachable shirt collar itself, Gatsby is dapper but doomed.

All in all, the article is entertaining and illuminating. And I was not aware that Michael Jackson was fond of quoting Napoleon, which is an eye-opener unto itself.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

More Big Thriftin': Alden for Brooks Brothers Shell Cordovan Loafer

On a quick thrift shop tour this weekend, I came across this pair of Brooks Brothers loafers, made from Horween shell cordovan by Alden.

The shoes are in excellent condition, and show very little signs of wear on the outer and inner soles.

Unfortunately, the size 8.5D shoes are too small for my size 10D feet - so I've put them up for sale on eBay. You can check them out here.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Miami Vice: Stylin' & Profilin' On the NBA Catwalk

LeBron James NBA players Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade and LeBron James arrive to the T-Mobile Magenta Carpet at the 2011 NBA All-Star Game on February 20, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.

I've been watching the NBA Playoffs during the last few weeks. Apart from the action on the court, the stylistic sideshow has been interesting, to say the least. Here, then, are a few notes, thoughts and random asides regarding the sartorial tsunami that has threatened to overtake the action on the hardwood.

(1) On the catwalk, on the catwalk, I do my little turn on the catwalk . . .

Once upon time, the NBA began the tradition whereby NBA superstars were shown entering the stadium and making their way to their respective locker rooms. My earliest memory of this tradition was of watching one Larry Joe Bird arrive at the Boston Garden, clad in his tight work out shirts and extra small hooded sweatshirt, black Converse weapons laced up and ready to go. If memory serves me correctly, the outfit was topped off with a mesh trucker's hat.

Oh, how times have changed.

When the league announced a dress code would be implemented a few years ago, it was not in response to players like Bird showing up as if, you know, he had been or was about to play basketball. The new rules were in direct response to the baggy pants and throwback jersey look. While some attempts to dress "properly" are still falling woefully short, one would be hard-pressed to argue that the overall sense of style across the NBA has not improved dramatically in the last 5 years. The sheer number of players who have moved away from the 5-button "Kings of Comedy" -era monstrosity to "traditional" suiting would seem to be evidence enough of a general trend in the right direction.

This natural progression has culminated in the NBA's version of a Paris fashion show runway - the pre-game arrival and televised strut, as it were, from the team bus or custom Maserati to the locker room. TNT, ABC, and ESPN will literally cut away from live action in another game or, even better, employ a split screen technique so the viewer can watch the playoff action while tracking his or her favorite player as said athlete prances around the bowels of [place name of corporate entity here] arena.

In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, here are a few examples.

Extra points to Kobe Bryant for the George Raft-like three-piece suit with peak lapels. 
I'm not a big fan of the monochromatic tie/suit combination, but he is showing some cuff 
and the subdued pocket square in white is a nice touch. Extra, extra kudos for the elegant travel bag.

I'm not sure who this is, but extra points for looking beyond the camera while doing his thing. 
The Nike dufflebag needs to go, but I'm a sucker for a three-piece so it's all good.

(2) NBA Action is Faaantastic! (Or, how I learned to stop worrying and dress like a maniac)

Lest we think there isn't room for improvement amongst some of the NBA's upper echelon players . . .

Not to flog a dead horse, but I think some of these outfits can best be explained away as misguided attempts to be fashionable rather than stylish. Fashion changes from season to season while style is timeless - or so the saying goes. But, really,  why not keep it simple: does your outfit pass what I'll call the Tardis test? Meaning, if you walked out of a red British phone booth 50 years in the past or future, would you be arrested or committed based solely on what you're wearing?

If the answer is yes, then you're outfit is in fashion my friend!

(3) Man, I Love This Game! 
(Or, wait, some of these guys are actually exhibiting an evolving sense of style)

LeBron James NBA players Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade and LeBron James arrive to the T-Mobile Magenta Carpet at the 2011 NBA All-Star Game on February 20, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.

Of course, one can always take an image and critique a outfit from head to toe. But the point here isn't that NBA players are have impeccable taste and are immaculately attired at all times. Quite the contrary. The point is that some are becoming less concerned with what is currently in vogue and more concerned with classic men's style. Yes, Lebron's pants might be too long and Chris Bosh's shoes have a bit too much burnishing at the toe box. And the button placements on these shoes seem a bit too high. But these are classic two button suits - this is a major step in the right direction.

(4) Flagrant Foul (Or, the curious case of the double-breasted capri suit)

Much ado has been made in the last few days about Dwayne Wade's double-breasted capri suit, worn the other night in Chicago during his most recent pimp walk. Again, the willingness to experiment is commendable, but there are a lot of things going on here. To begin with, this doesn't appear to be a suit. The jacket looks to be a navy color while the slacks are black. Perhaps in person the colors are easier to differentiate. If that wasn't enough however (see the image below), both the jacket and pants appear to have a polka dot pattern.

In theory, I have to admit that the idea of wearing a capri suit in Miami makes some sense. If you're main concern is combating the oppressive heat, a linen capri suit is certainly an intriguing idea. But the double-breasted cut to the jacket will only make the wearer warmer, due to the extra flap of fabric at the front. So you have pants designed to make you cooler, paired with a jacket that will make you warmer. Practically speaking, this outfit just doesn't make any sense. Wade apparently wore this outfit in Chicago, so perhaps the temperatures were not a factor.

In my opinion, I thought the loafers were a bit dressy for the outfit. I think a polo suede or chestnut calf would have hit the spot. Of course, ashy ankles are always a no-no, but easily rectified. Major points to Wade for employing someone to carry his white duffflebag, in order to allow his catwalk stroll to continue unimpeded.

In case you didn't know, I love this game.

Dwyane Wade

Dwyane Wade

[Watch Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, and Shaquille O'Neal make fun of  Wade here.]

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Rise of the Blank Slates

I came across an interesting article in the New York Times today  (you can view the article here) about the Brooklyn stylist Khalilah Williams-Webb who, among other things, is a personal stylist to Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks. I didn't learn enough about Ms. Williams-Webb's sense of style to comment one way or the other about her effectiveness as a personal stylist. But Mr. Anthony does look nice, if somewhat costumey (although that may have been in keeping with the event he was attending), in his pinstriped double-breasted suit with wide-brimmed fedora, cane, and scarf.

There were two passages in the article which stood out, in my mind. The first was this:

"Her responsibilities include ridding Anthony’s closet of oversize T-shirts and dated outfits. But she does far more than that.

Every few weeks, Williams-Webb meticulously selects outfits for Anthony, down to his socks, underwear, belt and shoes. She then places each outfit into a garment bag, with instructions for Anthony pinned to the bag. She sometimes arranges more than a dozen outfits at once."

Wonderful use of accessories.

This struck me as rather sad. On the one hand, Ms. Williams-Webb should be commended for introducing Mr. Anthony to what some refer to as "grown-man style." On the other hand, for me, one of the things that I enjoy about clothing is putting together an outfit, playing with colors, patterns, fabrics and textures, and matching a particular pair of shoes with a pair of socks or tie or pocketsquare. Where is the fun in having an entire outfit sent to you ready-to-wear?

What also struck me as odd is the extent to which the media attempts to portray these "blank slates" as stylish individuals. I use that term because what you have are famous people literally being dressed by someone else. Certainly, in this case, Mr. Anthony is being dressed by a fashionable or stylish professional.

But how does that make Mr. Anthony a style icon or even someone qualified to dispense clothing advice?  As the article puts it, Ms. Williams-Webb "helped turn him into the kind of person who attends fashion shows and offers style tips in the British edition of GQ." But is he really? What's being described in this article is a grown man being dressed like a doll.

There is a trend of late to compare the "blank slate" to the fashion icons of yesteryear - most recently, the same phenomenon was applied to Justin Timberlake (you can view the article here) - the talented entertainer  who appears to be channeling the Ratpack in the last few months. Timberlake also appears to be less concerned with developing his own sense of style, instead leaving the heavy lifting to Tom Ford. Which is fine, but this makes the comparisons to Cary Grant somewhat hard to swallow.

Justin Timberlake Outfits So Bad They're AMAZING!
Mr. Timberlake before his recent sartorial conversion;
I'm still looking for an equally disastrous image of Cary Grant in his early years.

In any event - a word to the wise (or just to those with no access to a personal stylist): working with your wardrobe, matching patterns, mixing fabrics, and training your eye to work within certain color palettes can be enjoyable. In the end, it can only help to develop your own unique sense of style.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Vintage Edward Green for New & Lingwood: The Braemar

Edward Green Falkirk for New & Lingwood - the camera flash gives the leather a reddish hue.

As many of you already know, I'm a big fan of Edward Green's Falkirk. The combination of intricate brogue work and the wingtip pattern is basically a must-have for me. I'd recently come across an early to mid-1980s Edward Green catalog - one page had pictures of my two favorite models: the Windsor and the Braemar, which is apparently identical to the modern Falkirk but with a floral motif punched into the side of the uppers, just under the laces.

I recently got into a discussion on the history of the Falkirk on Style Forum. As some of the more experienced members theorized, Edward Green used to have Falkirk model with the intricate broguing, including the floral motif. At some point, perhaps when John Hlustik took over the company, the old Falkirk's name was changed to the Braemar (you can view the vintage catalog here). Still later, a new Falkirk was created - this shoe was identical to the Braemar, sans floral motif (you can view an old post of mine on my Falkirk's here).

All of this is very confusing but only mildly interesting, but I bring it up to explain why I'm referring to these shoes as Braemars.

In any event, I recently came across a vintage pair of Braemars in very good condition. The soles and heels are original - if you look closely enough, you can just make out Edward Green's cursive "Made In England" on the waist) - and don't appear to be in need of a resole.

The uppers are in excellent condition - the broguing is still immaculate - and there are still no rips, tears, or scratches to the leather. Sometimes, the leather on shoes of this age will be a bit dry and stiff. To restore some of the leather's life, I treated the shoes with Saphyr's Renovateur - over a 72 hour period, the leather restorer was vigorously rubbed into the uppers on a daily basis, every 24 hours. On the next day, I polished the shoes with Saphyr's medium brown cream polish. I thought this gave the shoes a darker, less reddish hue.

These vintage Edward Green shoes feature metal eyelets, which were a popular treatment of the era. In contrast to more recent offerings, the soles don't feature much of a bevelled waist; on the other hand, the shoes still have the original channeled soles. I'm not entirely sure of the color - if I had to guess, I'd say the shoes were originally a dark oak color that was polished using a mahogany or burgundy polish.

The New & Lingwood stamp is still visible on the inner sole of the shoes. Luckily, the pair came with the original shoe bags.

This particular pair of shoes were made on the 201 - a now defunct last that apparently was a pre-cursor to the iconic 202 last. Whatever the differences, when looking at these lasts side-by-side, one gets the sense that it must little more than a tweak, as both designs feature a round shape and a generous toe box.

I have purchased shoes on the 201 last before, and my experience has been that they're generally a bit smaller that the listed size. So a US 10D is always a bit snug than I'd like. So I purchased these shoes, which happened to be in a size UK10E, with the belief that it might be a better fit. Unfortunately, the shoes are a bit too loose for my feet, so I've decided to put them up for sale - you can view the auction here. Hopefully, an aficionado who is closer to a true size US10.5E will put these to good use in the future!