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

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

beShoes - A Shoe Symposium at Pitti Uomo


Aside from the interesting street-style images that come out of the annual Pitti Uomo trade show, the event doesn't seem that different from the shows that I've visited here in NYC hosted by MRket at the Javits Center. Both events feature row upon row of booths featuring some wonderful men's clothing but at the end of the day, these are essentially events for buyers and sellers to connect. So I was intrigued by Simon Crompton's recent post at Permanent Style regarding beShoes, a symposium and cocktail evening celebrating the best of the world's shoemakers.

Unfortunately, I won't be anywhere near Florence in early to mid January so I'll miss the symposium. But it does sound like something that I would like to attend. Kudos to Mr. Crompton and the folks at Stefano Bemer and Bespoke Magazine for putting together what sounds like an enjoyable evening.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

An Italian Take On An American Classic - The Blue Suede Shoe from Kiton

As the story goes, Carl Perkins was on stage one night when a scuffle broke out near the stage. In the middle of the ruckus, Perkins heard someone yell out, "Uh-uh, don't you step on my suedes!" When he looked down at the fellow, Perkins saw that the guy had on a pair of blue suede shoes. The line stuck with him, and in 1955 he wrote the song "Blue Suede Shoes." A rock and roll standard, it was eventually recorded by everyone from Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly to Bill Haley and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Menswear isn't terribly different than the rest of the world, which is to say that the more things change, the more things stay the same. If blue suede shoes were all the rage in 1955, it looks like they're still going strong. Of course, the pair on display at Graceland are captoe brogues, but when I happened to come across a pair of tasseled loafers at the Kiton sale, I was intrigued. I've been looking for a new pair of casual loafers for a while now, but nothing had really jumped out at me. In this case, I thought the blue suede would be a nice change of pace and could work well with khakis or denim.

The shoes have some nice details - the leather uppers are unlined, and I really like the contrast between the navy suede and the natural sole edge. Kiton shoes are well made, but probably a bit beyond my comfort level at the suggested retail price. This unlined blue suede loafer would normally fall into that category for me, but at 85% off the retail price, I thought it was worth a shot. Upon initial wearings (in the house), I've found the shoes to be incredibly comfortable, and the EU 9 fits like a glove.

The photos taken without a flash are probably a better representation of the actual navy color. It is much darker than the photos with flash would indicate. I used the flash to provide more detail as to the workmanship, but I've included the images without the flash for what I believe is a more accurate representation of the suede color.

I'm looking forward to joining the legions of Americans, both past and present, who have boldly pronounced at one time or another, "Don't scuff the suedes."

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Kiton Sample Sale @ Soiffer Haskin

In recent years, Soiffer Haskin has added a veritable cornucopia of high-end luxury purveyors of men's clothing to their sale line-up. Where once you could expect an annual bonanza of deals from companies like Paul Stuart and Asprey, recent seasons have included such iconic brands as Ralph Lauren and Brioni. This past week, Kiton took the stage with items discounted as high as 90% off the (admittedly high) retail prices.

I wasn't looking for anything in particular, but I happened to be near the Soiffer Haskin site - well, technically I'm in the area every day as the location is right across the street from Penn Station - so I dropped in. I've been looking to add a pocket square in brown and a few casual button-down collar shirts, and I was in luck. The selection was thoroughly picked over by the last day, but prices had also been reduced to 80% off men's accessories and men's dress shirts (I also picked up a pair of blue suede casual loafers that I'll have more on in a subsequent post). So there were some deals to be had if you could find something to your liking.

The shirt is a nice navy and red checked pattern that caught my eye as I sifted through the shirt rack. The quality is what you'd expect from Kiton - MOP buttons with a teak hue, and lots of handwork. I could be mistaken, but the edges of the shirt appear to be hand-sewn and hand-rolled like the edges of a pocket-square,

The pocket-square that I found is also quite nice. As I mentioned, I was looking for something in a brown-based pattern, and this fit the bill perfectly. The blue paisley and center pattern reminded me of something that Drake's might produce. Interestingly, the Kiton square was actually made in England - printed in Macclesfield, to be precise - and there is something distinctly British about the design, to my eye.

All in all, I'm glad that I stopped in and I'm very pleased with these additions!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Rollin' with the Long-Hair Felt: The Vintage Borsalino Fedora

I've put together a decent collection of panama hats, straw boaters, and linen caps over time. Surprisingly, though, I hadn't picked up any felt or fur fedoras for the cooler weather. Perhaps because my father always had on a newsboy or eight-piece pie cap, I tend to wear a variety of cashmere and woolen caps to work and on the weekends. And while I generally enjoy perusing the variety of offerings on display at a place like J&J Hatters in New York City, more recently I've found myself looking into vintage fedoras.

Headwear seems to be one of the few categories of menswear where most people seem to acknowledge the superior quality of vintage items. Also, when looking at modern stock, I tended to find the crowns were less pronounced than I think I would prefer (I'm sure this is something that wouldn't be a problem if I went with a custom order). At the same time, the felt on "ready-to-wear"fedoras does not seem to be very substantive (again, this is probably something that could be addressed with a custom order).

So, when I came across what appeared to be deadstock vintage Borsalino fedoras in what appeared to be a lusciously thick, long-hair felt in a beautiful whiskey or camel color, I took the plunge. I'm by no means a fedora expert by any stretch of the imagination. but I was pleased with my acquisition. The felt is really exquisite, and the crown is quite high (about 4.5 inches) and pinched in a way that reminds me of something George Raft would have worn in The Glass Key.

I'm not sure that I'll ever use the wind trolley, but its a wonderful little detail which I believe Borsalino included with models intended for the US market, This particular model was made by Borsalino for a Chicago haberdasher named Thomas & Moore which I believe is no longer in existence. Someone with more expertise than I could probably date the fedora based on the model information inside the sweatband (it appears to be a late '60s/early '70s model), but I would love to hear from anyone who knows more about the store.

With temperatures pushing into the 30s and 40s (degrees fahrenheit) here on the East Coast, I'm looking forward to putting this long-haired felt fedora to good use in the weeks ahead!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Thomas Brogue from Foster & Son

Every now and then, a fine pair of shoes will practically fall into your lap and and you can think is, "Somebody up there likes me." In this case, the shoes in question are a pair of Thomas brogues made in 1996 in the rare "classic polo tan" calfskin leather (you can see the Thomas brogue at the Foster & Son site here).

The seller identified these shoes as having a wide width, which is inaccurate. In hindsight, the sole edge is a bit pronounced - so when you measure the sole, you get a wider than normal measurement. But I don't believe the actual inner width of the shoe is that wide - it's seems fairly standard. Unfortunately, this seller had two additional pairs for sale that were identified as narrow widths - which, in hindsight, were probably just shoes with normal or standard sole edges, and which probably appeared to be narrower compared to the Thomas brogues. I didn't take a chance on those other pairs because of that width description, but more than likely those shoes were ordered by the same customer, and probably fit the same. In any event, I'll just have to be happy with the pair that I did snap up.

Surprisingly, the shoes were never worn by the gentleman who placed the original order. Even more shockingly, these shoes fit my feet very well :-)

I'm looking forward to wearing these shoes in the spring and summer. I've been applying a healthy dose of Saphyr's Renovateur - the leather doesn't look dry, but it is almost twenty years old, so it certainly can't hurt. In the meantime, I've just been enjoying some of the details - the bevelled waist and suppression create an elegant silhouette that I've tried to capture in the images. The heel has angle to it that is reminiscent of a cuban heel, and creates an interesting angle effect where the heel meets the sole. Finally, I've never seen a shoe with such a striking brogue pattern - there is something elegantly whimsical about the design.

All in all, an exquisite example of English bespoke shoe-making at its finest.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Brunello Cucinelli Sample Sale: 12/8 - 12/12

Sample sale season seems to be kicking into high gear for luxury men's lines. Fresh on the heels of the Kiton sale (more on that later) at Soiffer Haskin, Brunello Cucinelli is having their bi-annual sale at their showrooms in Manhattan. I've been to this sale before - discounts usually start at 60 to 65% off during the beginning of the week before bumping up to 75-80% off during the final two days. I've written about the sale before, and have come away with a few choice items in the past, ranging from a canvas/leather overnight bag (you can see images here) to cashmere mock zip-ups, polo shirts, and button-down shirts. Even with the discount, the prices are still a bit steep but in some cases, definitely worth the investment.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Carmina Shell Cordovan - The Cognac Wingtip Shoe

I have expressed my admiration of Carmina and the excellent work the company does with shell cordovan. As far as I know, Carmina uses shell cordovan leather from the Horween company, which is the same leather that you'll find on any of Alden's shell cordovan offerings, as well as C&J's shell cordovan offerings available under the Ralph Lauren Polo brand. However, Carmina has created an impressive niche for itself in the shell cordovan market due to the quality and craftsmanship of the shoes.

With all of that mind, I was surprised to come across a pair of Carmina's wingtips in their beautiful "cognac" shell cordovan leather as I was thrifting on the upper east side of Manhattan (I found these in a high-end consignment shop that shall remain nameless). The shoes are an EU 11E, which I believe would correspond to a US 12. I've put the shoes up for sale on eBay, so any of our big-footed brethren can find the auction here.

For now, enjoy some pictures of Carmina's wonderful cognac shell cordovan leather.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

John Lobb Spruces Up Its Classic Footwear (NYTimes)

An interesting article in The New York Times regarding the recent appointment of Paula Gerbase, a London-based fashion designer, as the first artistic director for John Lobb. This would be the RTW branch of the venerable shoemaker, currently owned by Herrmes, not the bespoke family-owned operation. One generally approaches these "evolutionary" appointments with some trepidation why exactly do the models needs sprucing up), although based on some of the images of the models shown, as well as the comments made  in the article, it sounds like Ms. Gerbase is drawing inspiration from the archives and perhaps simply revitalizing the color palette. In any event, I'm looking forward to seeing some of her creations :-)


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Back In Plaid: The Return of the Colorful Brioni

I posted around this time last year about the colorful brown Brioni jacket that I had picked up that spring and which I had hoped to wear last fall (you can view the original post here). Unfortunately, it always takes me a while to get around to these things, and it actually took me about a year to get this to a tailor. I took the jacket to Wilfred's in Manhattan, who I've been using for some time now for tailoring work that goes beyond a basic hem or sleeve alteration. If I recall correctly, the jacket was a bit tight around my stomach, and the sleeves needed to be shortened. I would need to check the invoice because I may be confusing this jacket with another article of clothing, but it may have also been shortened by about 3/4 of an inch.

[As an aside, I'm happy to say that I've generally been pleased with Wilfred's work. I'm usually comfortable waiting a week or two for the finished product, which may be an issue for others. On average, I'd say most work takes about a week. If there's any additional tweaking, that should probably take another 2-3 days. On average, I usually am able to get the piece back in about a week. I have found that, while Wilfred et al have their own preferences regarding trouser break, sleeve length, etc., they are happy to do whatever you like.]

There was an interesting discussion about the jacket at Ask Andy (you can find the original thread here), and I found most of the comments interesting and helpful when thinking about what I was hoping to alter and how it would look when I got it back. I'm a notoriously poor photographer, so I'm never quite sure how much of the commentary is due to the terrible images that I usually post (the images included here are not much better). Certainly, the jacket is quite colorful, but I was looking for a multi-hued brown tweed or check for some time, and the Brioni jacket fit the bill perfectly. While comments regarding the low button stance were probably on point  as well, I did not find it sinfully so and I was willing to live with that because I thought the fabric was unique. I still also find the darting at the front of the jacket to be less of a distraction than others.

In any event, I thought it was only fair to post new images for those who took the time to discuss the appearance of the jacket last year. As always, I apologize in advance for the poor quality of the images (as well as my rumpled business casual appearance, the direct result of a long afternoon spent with 5 toddlers), as well as my poor posture (as it seems that my "relaxed" position includes a slightly stooped right shoulder), but I hope they succeed in giving some idea as to how the jacket looks on me now (one year and about 20 pounds later).

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"Fall" In for Autumn!

Unfortunately for fans of fall like myself, the weather here in  the tri-state area has been unseasonably warm lately, with temperatures hovering in the 70s and little opportunity for autumnal layering. Yesterday, however, dipped just low enough for me to try out a few items that have been burning a hole in my closet for some time now.

The first item is a cashmere Holland & Holland 3-button jacket that I picked up years ago from the H&H store on 57th street between Park and Madison (it disappeared years ago). The jacket is a rust-colored affair with little specks of various colors woven into the fabric, large bishop patch pockets, and a single vent. If you're into the little details, the jacket's lining has a wonderful pattern consisting of dual shotgun shells at rest, a nod to the company's illustrious history as royal gun-makers.

I've generally worn the jacket for outdoor fall events with jeans or khakis, but I thought I'd try to put together a decent business casual outfit, for one of those days where I don't need a suit but want to look a little better dressed than what everyone else considers business casual these days.

Unfortunately, my terrible picture taking skills have only deteriorated over the years, so I will try to take better pictures next time, But I paired the jacket with with a red and brown checked dress shirt from Domenico Vacca under a neutral shetland fair crew-neck sweater isle from Brooks Brothers in various shades of green/beige/tan/brown/etc. I thought that all of that worked well with the London House/Rubinacci flat-front corduroys in a light beige/olive color that I picked up recently, with the Edward Green Brooksville longwings in chestnut antique for RL's Purple Label. 

 I had the sleeves taken in a bit but left the jacket a bit roomier than normal to wear with bulkier sweaters. I've had the Brooks Brothers fair isle sweater for a while, and I like the fabric and the pattern very much. I forget how I came by it, but I feel like it was gift purchased in my usual medium size, which at some point became too big for me in Brooks sizing because everything seems to be cut quite generously (if anyone can offer some suggestions on how to shrink it down a size, I'd love to hear them).

Of course, the next day temperatures were back in the low 70s, but I was pleased with the jacket even if I was only able to put it on for one day! I'm looking forward to wearing to cooler temperatures cool in the weeks ahead :-)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Return of the Action Back Jacket

There is an old story of a baseball fan that had a ball signed by Joltin' Joe DiMaggio and Paul Simon. On one half, Paul Simon wrote "Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?" To which the Yankee Clipper responded on the other side of the leather orb, "I haven't gone anywhere." If the same question was proposed to proponents of that staple of 1930s sportswear, the action back jacket, the answer might be similar to the great DiMaggio's.

Descriptions differ, but generally the action back was worn as outdoor active wear for events such as shooting and hunting. In theory, the side gussets under the shoulder provided greater freedom for raising the arms. Other features usually include a half belt under the side gussets at the back of the jacket. Some versions include a pleat at the center back, or a series of pleats along the length of the back of the jacket. At the front, large patch pockets are usually the norm.

Christian Barker being fitted for his own suit featuring the action back, 
courtesy of Timothy Everest.

More recently, the action back has become almost entirely a stylish touch found on heavy tweed shooting jackets meant to be worn in the English countryside or the Scottish highlands. Interestingly, at some point it seems to have become the standard during the height of the British colonial empire and was almost out of place sans pith helmet.

Clark Gable in repose.

Clark Gable seems to have done much to associate the action back with the stylish cad or the pure-hearted gentleman rogue. He wore the action back to great effect in It Happened One Night, which in Gable's case may have simply been a safari of a different stripe. Several photographs of Gable form the 1930s suggest that the action back was a favorite in his personal wardrobe. Whatever the case may be, the action back seems to have been adopted during that period by the rakish gambling and horse racing set in America.

You can imagine my surprise, then, when I happened upon a vintage action back jacket in a lovely, thick patterned wool made by the venerable Palm Beach company. Unfortunately, the jacket seemed to be cut in something close to a 42 extra long, My misfortune, however, was my brother's good luck, as the jacket fit him very well. The sleeves probably needed to be taken up, but that's a minor alteration. Its also a bit tight around the waist, but my brother has been losing a good deal of weight recently, so it isn't hard to imagine that the waist issue will have resolved itself in a few weeks time.

For those that care about such things, the details on this jacket are quite nice. There leather buttons are worn but charming, and the quarter-lined interior allows you to see the inner workings of the action back's details. There is also a flap over the front chest pocket that adds a little flourish to the more sedate front of the jacket.

All in all, a great purchase that will allow my brother to unleash his inner Douglas Fairbanks while on his own urban safari. And following in the sartorial footsteps of such eminently well-attired individuals as Mr. Gable and Mr. Barker? Truer steps have never been taken.

Brioni Sample Sale

I believe Soiffer Haskin has done one of these before, but I didn't attend so can't speak to whether this will actually be any good - but it certainly does have potential!

Wednesday through Friday
Men’s Tailored Clothing, Sportswear and Furnishings

Tailored Clothing, Sportswear and Furnishings

Up to 75% Off Retail Prices

Wednesday, October 29th through Friday, October 31st

Wednesday: 9:00am to 7:00pm
Thursday: 9:00am to 7:00pm
Friday: 9:00am to 5:30pm

Soiffer Haskin
317 West 33rd Street, NYC

(Just West of 8th Avenue)
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(American Express, Visa or MasterCard)
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(917) 562-2140

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Farewell to Summer

With temperatures starting to drop here in the Northeast, its beginning to feel like fall is right around the corner. Of course, that brings a whole range of wardrobe options back into play, but it also means the linen and seersucker goes back into storage for the next few months. So its with a heavy heart that we bid a fond farewell to another wonderful summer. On the bright side, everyone in my household is already missing their respective summer straws :-)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Edward Green for RLPL: The Carter

Online clothing enthusiasts like to talk about "grail" items - although at some point the definition changed from a hard-to-find, obscure, or downright unobtainable item to merely some object that one simply hadn't gotten around to purchasing just yet. With a shelf full of shoes, I would be hard-pressed to say that there are any "grail" shoes remaining out there for me. After I found a few pairs of J&M Handmade 100s and Edward Green's Windsor, there really wasn't that much out there that I was pining after. However, if I was going to use the term "grail shoe" to describe any one pair of shoes, the Carter, an Edward Green shoe made for Ralph Lauren's Purple Label, would be the shoe.

Ralph Lauren's Purple Label offerings from Edward Green represent an interesting paradox. None of the models made by EG for RLPL are truly hard-to-find, because if it came down to it, you could probably have any of the models made up to RL's specifications via EG's MTO program. That being said, the RLPL models are somewhat hard to find because RL doesn't offer the same models season after season. So if you liked the a particular model and didn't purchase it when it was available, you might to wait a few seasons before its available again. This was an issue with my RLPL Barksdale loafer in Edwardian Antique, a pair of shoes that I have literally worn to death (and still do). I actually have never seen them offered again in Edwardian, and was surprised to see them this fall in dark oak after a hiatus of several years.

The Carter is another model that disappeared from the shelves after being stocked with some regularity over the course of several seasons. For many years, I assumed it was RL's version of the Dover. In reality, its probably more closely related to EG's Ecton, the Dover's three-eyelet cousin featuring EG's magnificent split-toe that is actually crafted together using pig bristles. In the Carter's case, RL added EG's HAF sole - basically a double sole that tapers elegantly to a single sole waist.

In any event, the Carter is a wonderful model, featuring the split-toe design that really exemplifies EG's expert craftsmanship and subtle elegance with regards to shoe design. Somewhat surprisingly, RL designed the Carter on the 808 last, rather than their old favorites the 89 or 888. I have read many complaints about the shape of the 808 last over the years. Tony Gaziano, the designer of that particular last during his EG days, has been quoted many times as stating that the 808 was ill-conceived and plagued with fit issues from its inception. Indeed, the popular 888 last was apparently a re-design of the 808, but I have to say that if I had to choose between the two, the 808 would probably get the nod. The toe box isn't quite as squared, which also results in more room for the toes along the sides and at the vamp - as I'm not the biggest fan of square toe boxes to begin with. I imagine they''ll feel great in the fall with a thick pair of socks on. Looking forward to it :-)

Of course, an added treat with older EG's for RLPL were the lasted shoe trees in burnished mahogany. At some point, the trees were discontinued and unlasted trees had to be purchased sepaartely. The fact that these Carters came with the 808-lasted mahogany trees was a special bonus!

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Man in the Baggy Tan Suit

It seems that the leader of the free world has been getting a lot of grief because he chose to wear a tan suit to a press session on foreign policy. The criticisms seem to center on 2 main points: (1) the President wore a whimsical summer outfit to what was a somber session on the very serious current events taking place throughout the world; and (2) the tan suit was actually embarrassingly ill-fitting and poorly tailored.

Most assuredly, there are probably others who can speak to what is appropriate wear for a "serious" policy discussion - many people seem to be of the opinion that the President's normally ill-fitting grey or navy suits would have been more appropriate for the occasion. And that may be true, but the notion that a tan cotton suit is something of a leisure suit or clown outfit is at best a canard and, at worst, a malicious lie.

Certainly, tan cotton or khaki suits of the type that Haspel of New Orleans became famous for during the 20th Century are a warm weather, seasonal option. Of course, this stems from the fact that the cotton is supposed to breathe better in warm weather. It seems odd that of all the people that have chosen to wear a cotton suit in a business setting in order to keep cool during the dog days of summer in the last 75 or years or so, it was the President who was considered to be unprofessional or insufficiently serious.

As to the second point, the suit certainly appears to be rather ill-fitting. When I wake up to Al Roker and Matt Lauer commenting on the shockingly poor fit of the shoulders on your jacket, things are not going well for you, at least from a sartorial standpoint.This, of course, is in line with the rest of the President's business attire, generally speaking. In this instance, I wonder how much of the negative commentary has to do with the distinct drape of the cotton suit. There is generally a stiffness to the fabric so that it does not seem to "adhere" to the shape of the body. Basically, there is a bulbous aspect to a cotton suit that is well-tailored.

In the President's case, if someone were to announce tomorrow that the suit worn by the President to the press briefing was made by Haspel or Joseph A. Banks, would anyone be surprised? The suit has the rather bland, amorphous fit of an off the rack item - the arm-holes of the suit jacket look enormous, in keeping with the one size fits all ethos of ready to wear made for morbidly obese Americans. The fact that the President is rather trim has apparently lead to this sorry state of affairs wherein the President had probably purchased this suit based on tag size rather than actual fit. What we are left with is an unflattering jacket with armholes that are too wide and sleeves and a waist that are probably too long. The tie is too long and incredibly wide and he only seems to want to show some shirt cuff from one of his two sleeves. On the other hand, the President did pair the suit with dark brown wingtips and he also buttoned the appropriate button on his jacket, so there may be hope for him yet :-)