Archive for January, 2009

Degree of Difficulty – The Jumpsuit

Friday, January 30th, 2009

I don’t quite recall my inspiration, but over a year ago I ordered some jumpsuits on e-bay, convinced I could wear them in public without being flogged. All these months later, I have never even tried.

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I’ve meant to – the main thing that’s held me back is not my courage, but the weather. If it’s cold enough to wear a jacket, a jumpsuit seems wrong. If it’s hot enough to sweat, again a jumpsuit seems a poor choice. My short midwestern springs and falls seem to fly by without my jumpsuit-ing ever getting off the ground.

Whether or not I can someday coordinate with the weather, I’ll first need to determine if I can even coordinate a passable jumpsuit outfit. Tell me if I’m getting close.

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Involving any boots or any remotely-masculine shirt in my attempts continually trapped the look in a Billy Joel “Uptown Girl” video type vibe. The pink-patterned dress shirt, my oxfords, and some silver jewelry prettied it all up, so it played less literal and not so grease monkey.

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So this was the best I could do. Served up this way or any other, I’d say sporting a jumpsuit earns at least an 8 on the Degree of Difficulty scale. I have an extra one in my basement, exactly like it, if someone else out there wants to attempt the feat as well.

Second Opinions: Chausser Boat Shoe

Friday, January 30th, 2009

These two-toned boat shoes from Chausser leave me a little unsure of what to make of them. I find them a little girly, what with the heel, and a little…ugly, to be blunt.

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But I also find them a little awesome – in spite of, or maybe because of everything else. I need a second opinion – what do you think of them?

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Available at Blackbird.

Moneybags

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Recession got you pinching pennies? Carting around one of these thrifty totes by US Rags will slyly suggest otherwise.

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Crafted from up-cycled bank depository bags and available at Brooklyn’s Alter shop, my advisors have tagged them a safe investment in these volatile times. They’re more macho than most design-y tote bags, and make a subtle but witty statement in the face of our country’s current financial foibles.

Buy, buy, buy!

Could’ve Been

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

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From J.D.’s Wikipedia page:

In 1996 Salinger gave a small publisher, Orchises Press, permission to publish “Hapworth 16, 1924” the previously uncollected novella. It was to be published that year, and listings for it appeared at Amazon.com and other book-sellers. After a flurry of articles and critical reviews of the story appeared in the press, the publication date was pushed back repeatedly before apparently being cancelled altogether. Amazon now lists that Orchises will publish the story in January 2009.

– – –

I read that blurb this fall, and when I searched at Amazon.com, sure enough there was a listing for it. No cover work, price, or exact release date, but yes indeedy, it was there!

January is all but over now, the Amazon listing for the work is gone, and though I’m not stunned…I am for sure bummed.

Wheeling On…Cycling Chic Spring 09

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

This photo from Outlier was floating around the blogosphere this fall. The focus of the posts were the snazzy yet sporty wool pants, but I was taken in by the cap. I thought I’d found a navy one that approximated the look, but I appear much more like a Dodgers outfielder in it than I do a cycler.

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My failed search for a cycler’s cap wasn’t all that hard to recover from, initially. The workwear trend was keeping me and my headwear busy enough as it was. But the launch of the Treasury is prompting me to examine from a new perspective the way we dress and why we’re dressing that way. I won’t get too esoteric just yet. For now I’ll simply state that, for myself, it sounds bright and breezy to take a detour from this backward-glancing workwear trend, and aim my Spring wardrobe toward the wide-open future. 

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Escaping, for a spell, the earth-tones and raw-cotton earnestness of workwear that’s starting to feel humorless, honestly – I’m eyeing a new look that’s perkier in its color palette, its references, its mood. By incorporating the swift lightness of the cycling aesthetic, and its use of slick, shiny, man-made materials, I’m gonna be racing toward a sunny, shiny new look for my Spring 09 wardrobe. A proper cycler’s cap will be crucial, as well as a gaze set toward the future, for a while, instead of on the past.

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Bag: Raf Simons for Eastpak. Windbreaker: Patrick Evrell at Barneys. Bicycle: Fuji.
Knickers: Unholy Matrimony at Blackbird. Cap: Walzcaps.com. Blazer: Comme des Garcons x Brooks Brothers. Key Ring: Jack Spade. Shoes: APC.

Double Dutch Dope

Monday, January 26th, 2009

I’m on the verge of picking myself up one of these jump-ropey necklaces. The nod to 5th grade gym-glass is playful, and the packaging nearly seals the deal.

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I just wonder, as beads, essentially, if they’d be a little too chunky or “Living Single” for me to brave. I also imagine my neck hairs and skin getting pinched inside the beads quite a lot. Is the pleasure worth the pain? I’m trying to decide.

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Available at www.newhighmart.com

The Gift of Ohio Knitting Mills

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

It was December 22nd, and I’d just visited the Ohio Knitting Mills website for the very first time. Their offering of deadstock sweaters from 1947-74 were just what I’d hoped for: vivid, vibrant windows into the fashions of the past. The truncated waists, the short-sleeve cuts, the glassy-glossy buttons…every piece offered on the site seemed lifted from the dressing room of a Bing Crosby musical. In no time I knew my own winter wardrobe would be needing just such a blast of Bing-y coziness.

But the bold blue cardigan which had become my favorite offering on the OKM site was nearly $150, and with Christmas just three days away, the old “Tis the season of giving not receiving” guilt threatened to thwart my Crosby-colored dreams.

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Worse yet, I had already gifted myself with the Lomo LC-A camera for the holidays, so I couldn’t even use that guise as my excuse. It took but a minute though for me to twist my mid-January birthday into a perfectly legitimate opportunity to buy myself a knitted treat a few weeks early.

Within a half hour of ordering my birthday cardigan, a Steven from OKM rang me up, kindly concerned if my order was a gift that needed to arrive instantly for Christmas. I assured him it wasn’t, no need to rush the delivery, after which Steven excitedly described how the sweater I’d ordered was the same variety Mr. Rogers was often supplied with. Awesome to know, and awesome of Steven to provide such great customer service at every step!

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When my birthday present to myself arrived, I was concerned I had been sent the wrong sweater. On-line the cardigan had appeared so electrically blue, but the sweater sitting in my box was more subdued in its saturation. More of a cornflower blue, like a Perry Ellis golf sweater from 1992. I wasn’t digging it like I had dreamed and, for $150, I felt I needed to return it.

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But those darn glossy buttons reminded me of a sweater my German grandma had knit for me as a youngster back in the 70s. So I decided-to-decide that the outdated-ness of the yarn’s blue made the sweater more evidently vintage and rare-seeming, not just something I fell into at The Gap two winters ago. I knew I had it in me to give the sweater a safe and loving home, after all.

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The exact shade of this much-debated blue never quite registers accurately in any of the photos I’m presenting here, so trust my written descriptions if you’ve become confused. And though I had originally wished my sweater would seem more Life Aquatic-like in its coloring for when I’d pair it up with my recently-acquired red cap, I think my Team Zissou homage will pop just perfectly.

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You’re welcome, me.

Well Groomed

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

During a recent weekend in Chicago, the highlight of my shopping-oriented trip was the pile of loot I picked up at Mertz Apothecary. I’m always a sucker for grooming products packaged in ways the talented Mr. Ripley would’ve favored.

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I completed three wide-eyed, slow-motion laps through each and every aisle in Mertz before narrowing down my final selections. I recognized I was on a dangerous high in the store and should temper my lust before things got tragically out of hand. The final damage was only $45 though. My only regret now is not having carted off with more.

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These are the tools I’m currently using to brush my teeth, removed from their packaging. It amuses me how it appears almost as if I’m maintaining my oral hygiene with art supplies.

Is there some great reason Suave or Colgate couldn’t package their current products with a bit more style? I can never think of one.

Fashion as a Verb

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

With all things Elmer Fudd-ish being so fashionable these days, whenever I sport one of my plaid flannel shirts I’m quite aware how I never would’ve worn something so lumberjack-y three years ago and wonder if I would do so three years from now. Out of this arises then a more urgent question: Do I have any business even wearing such a shirt right now?

As Jake Davis recently touched on in issue 9 of h(y)r collective, the concept of all us GQ-ties slipping on our Red Wings and Carhartts in the name of this hunting & workwear trend can easily ring a bit false. Is grit something any of us really finds under his fingernails after a hard day’s work? Maybe Freeman’s Sporting Club could offer up a 14 oz. tub of the gunk in recycled amber glass and we could just purchase it on-line to help maintain our fronts as manly, manual labor-ers instead.

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Is it absurd for the likes of me to be Fudd-ing it up on my way to an uptown Thai fusion restaurant while lipping to Lykke Li on my iPod Touch? Absurd to some, perhaps.

But the way I choose to see it is: Dressing strictly and solely for the precise life one is presently living isn’t to dress without absurdity, but rather to dress literally without fashion.

Fashion, the very word itself, isn’t only a noun. Used as a verb it announces the making, the forming, the molding of something. Something that wasn’t, but that will eventually be. We already are who we are. Snore! Through our use of fashion we have the ability to make and mold (or at least tweak) the shape of who we will be next.

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By appropriating into our outfits the snappiness of a Wall Street power-player, say, or the slouch of a Harlem hip-hopper, or the nit ‘n grit of a Nebraskan coal-miner, we are looking, often, not only to redesign our aesthetic selves but to absorb as well the traits, truths or thrills we fear our inner selves currently lack. Adopting an iconographic trend in fashion is an outward signal that something inside ourselves, on a deeper and more lasting level, is wanting to be made, formed, and fashioned also.

So if these ever-changing trends are truly more than just superficial fads but also crystal balls into our future selves…then here, now, in the early moments of 2009, witnessing the uniforms of duck boots and dungarees born out of the hunter-worker trend, one could anticipate that the American man, collectively, is forming a future version of himself where he will be earthier, sturdier, and most of all stronger. Stronger in himself and in his connection to his work, to nature, to integrity, to history. This admirable man he will be molding himself into over time, and if the evidence of it may fade from his appearance in the wake of a newer fashion trend, it will remain vital to his character and his virtues long after.

Sorta sappy, I admit, but the sappiest thing is, now that I just blurted it all out, I actually sorta mean and believe most of it. (For myself at least, I can’t speak for anyone else).

Opium Dens & Wig Powder

Monday, January 19th, 2009

When it comes to music there’s a seemingly endless stream of songs for us each to love, a measurably smaller flow of entire albums to cherish, and an even narrower trickle of artists to treasure whole-heartedly.

For me, one of the few musicians I treasure whole-heartedly is Nina Persson, whether she’s fronting her famous band, The Cardigans or her almost famous band, A Camp.

Its been three years since Ms. Persson has shipped out any material album-sized in scale, so I look forward to February 3rd when I can order via Amazon the Europen import version of A Camp’s sophomore album Colonia. No way a Treasurer worth his salt could wait almost three additional months to nab a copy stateside, where the disc won’t be released until April 28.

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The band’s website states that Colonia draws from a variety of historical inspirations including, “The opium den to the Belgian Congo, from the Namibian desert by starlight to Victorian New York by gaslight.” Later they tease that Colonia wears an air of, “Electricity, wig powder, and laudanum.” Hot damn!

The reasons to treasure the works of Nina Persson’s bands reach beyond their masterful melodies for which Swedish pop acts are now expected to provide. There’s a flinty force of narrative and protaganism Nina brings to her every song, all of them tingling with the sting of despair, and the buzz of something un-bruise-able and hopeful. Her albums routinely choke me up, sometimes from joy and sometimes from sadness, and sometimes for reasons less clear but all the sharper.

I’m counting down the days…

The Parent Trap

Friday, January 16th, 2009

When I read early last fall that J. Crew was possibly resurrecting the Baracuta jacket for Spring 09, I wasn’t familiar with the iconic piece but it was described, and I’m paraphrasing now, “As the kind of coat your dad raked leaves in.”

With that, I whipped out my wallet and blazed over to e-bay to land myself a vintage version a full season before the trend hit the masses. But once I saw the actual pieces up for auction, concern set in. I feared the dad-raking-leaves vibe might read too literally on me. When you hit your 30s, referencing anything fatherly or grandfatherly through your wardrobe choices gradually presents itself as more of a challenge. (Darn.)

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Looking at some of the pieces I’ve been eyeing to spruce up my 09 identity, many of them fall into this Parent Trap, we’ll call it, where one risks the chance of appearing as an actual cigar-puffing, Kenny Loggins-humming, father of two washing down his Taurus in the driveway of his suburban Ohio colonial. Some dope who never managed to notice that pleated Dockers and Fair Isle sweaters were wrong for so long that some now find them amusingly right.

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Certain items seem to carry a prerequisite amount of undiluted hipness, youth, and/or insouciance to pull off. I can brainstorm a number of ways to modernize and un-Dad-ify the Baracuta or the boat shoe in a 2009 outfit…but I’d still fear resembling one of the silvery foxes from Knots Landing.

Wait. Maybe that’s not quite the issue. I probably wouldn’t mind looking a bit like a Knots Landing lead, really, but…I’d want the average passerby to understand it was intentional and presented with a wink.

Some trends, be it their references, their timing or their subtleties, prove a real pickle to pull off. A trend piece that only the fashion insider would understand isn’t always worth adopting. Many of us feel safer when pulling together looks that can be understood also (at least to some degree) by the non-insider as well. And that Baracuta strikes me as a little un-safe, especially with the plaid liner.

I’m curious to hear, do other readers fear falling into The Parent Trap through mis-steps in their wardrobes? Furthermore, how do you approach the two key intricacies of all fashion trends: Timing and Level of Irony?

(Products featured in this post: Red Baracuta jacket – J.Crew. Plaid shirt – Steven Alan. Boat Show – Sperry at UrbanOutfitters. Khaki shorts – Dockers at Urban Outfitters.)

Wardrobe Reminder: Suspenders

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

There’s something about those comfortable, carefree staples waiting in our closets that we can turn to any day or night and feel confident yanking off the hanger. The workhorses of our wardrobe we feel the most ourselves in. The only real downside to wearing a handful of things on automatic-repeat is that some of the other items in our closets tend to get neglected, if not forgotten outright. Especially the less-basic pieces.

The launch of my on-line Treasury has motivated me to mine a little deeper into my closet and unearth some of these items I’ve forgotten to remember. The first such find: my suspenders.

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I added two different blue pairs to my aesthetic arsenal in 2007 before attending the Park City film fests that January. They were dirt cheap, picked up from a snowboots ‘n ski-masks kind of store. Initially I found they took a little bravura to put into action, but once I did, they seemed simple and snazzy enough to pull off semi-regularly.

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Two years later, I almost never remember to actually incorporate them into my outfits. So I’m setting down in writing today my sorta-solemn vow to change that from this point forward.