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Monthly Archives: December 2012

Blowup1

This past weekend I finally got a chance Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 film Blowup after being recommended it countless times over the past year.  Overall, the film is a mod-era masterpiece, but there was one scene in particular where the main character Thomas, a photographer played by David Hemmings, traipses through a park, snapping off frames of a couple in the distance, that I keep coming back to.  The scene is beautiful and brilliant, but I must admit, that’s not why this scene stuck in my mind.  Wearing a pair of Beatle boots, stark white denim, a button down shirt with the collars undone, and a forest green jacket, Hemmings’ outfit, which would become his uniform for much of the film, had me considering the remaining few cold months ahead.

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lg_RM-Williams screen res

Normally two shoe posts in one week is something I try to avoid at all costs, but with the holiday and such, things have been a bit off to begin with, and what the hell, I’ve got boots on the brain.  Oh and this is my blog after all so I might as well do as I please.  Alright, enough with the excuses, because it’s time to talk about a man who probably wouldn’t have had the time to listen to a single excuse in his entire life: R.M. Williams.  Born Reginald Murray Williams in 1901 in Belalie North, South Australia, R.M. was a camel-boy, a well-digging, a business, a bootmaker, and an all around tough-mother.

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PWEST2

What is it about the southwest U.S. that makes it so appealing to a Jewish kid from the East Coast?  Now, I don’t have much in common with the mighty Ralph Lauren, but I can say that he and I do share this particular question.  For the past decade or so, since my parents decided to purchase a vacation house not near the beach, nor the mountains, but in Santa Fe, New Mexico, this question has been on mind.  At first I dreaded coming out here, yet as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to love the Southwest for the much needed change of pace that it provides.  For Ralph, the southwest was an untapped well of inspiration, a region with colors, designs, and textiles that were unlike anything he could find in his homebase of New York.  And so in 1978, with the west on his mind, Ralph Lauren launched a new side of his brand, a move that elevated him from being merely a designer for the natty East Coast mentality, to a designer for the American history books.

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PB1

Six months ago, if you’d asked me what I thought about the heritage movement I would’ve told you with all the confidence in the world that it was undoubtedly on it’s last legs.  And yet here I am, eating those imaginary words by writing about a pair of Red Wings as one of my final posts so the year.  You could say that it’s this southwestern atmosphere messing with my head, but I suppose in a way it all makes sense.  I, like so many of my peers, had used the heritage wave as my gateway drug to the hashtag menswear set, and as they say everything is cyclical, so with another year coming to a close, I have found my way back to the start once again.

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Strok4

With another semester in the books and my vacation not really starting until tomorrow, earlier this week I was lucky enough to have a few free days to simply do nothing.  I decided to spend my time checking in a few places I haven’t been able to get to over the past few months, and while visits to the Rhinelander Mansion and C.H.C.M. were as enjoyable as ever, as I moved through the rest of the muddled world of New York retail, something hit me that I hadn’t really pieced together until now.  Even before I moved to the city I recall reading about this new phenomenon of “bespoke barbers” and “faux-speakeasies” and I’ll admit I found the idea of a nostalgia based somewhat intriguing, but since I’ve been living here, I think the whole market has just turned a bit ridiculous.  There’s now countless places across the city where you can get a sixty dollar haircut from a guy in a waistcoat and an upturned moustache, or grab an old-fashioned for twenty bucks in a dimly lit hole in the wall lined with books that no one’s read in thirty years.  You walk in expecting that good ol’ gentleman’s club vibe, but it never really winds up being what you’re looking for anyway, and more often than not that only feeling you have walking out is regret over a freshly emptied wallet.

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L1070576

A couple days before Thanksgiving I found myself standing in front of a plywood wardrobe in the attic of my childhood house in Maryland as my Dad handed over a fistful of knit ties.  As I received the stack of ties, I couldn’t help but think that I’d seen this day coming.  The day when my parents would begin the great purge that all empty-nesters inevitably embark on once their children wander off.  I graduated high school three years ago now, my brother’s was two years before that, so I was far from surprised when I came home to find my parents knee deep in a house-wide cleanse.  Along the way they’d discarded all of our undersized furniture and (pre)teen books, which admittedly is of no great loss to me, especially considering that in their place my Dad was now passing down a pile of long-lost gems from his closet.

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OB2

A few weeks ago, I found myself standing in a local magazine shop on 23rd street flipping through GQ’s special “Style Guy” issue.  I had wandered into the store in search of some publication from Mexico, but I soon lost sight of that upon spotting the all Glenn O’Brien issue of GQ, because let’s face it, if you can’t enjoy O’Brien’s writing, you should probably get your head checked.  Thumbing through the pages I soon stopped on a full page shot of O’Brien’s decades old Schott Perfecto.  While there’s something appealing about any worn in and worn out leather jacket, O’Brien’s left an instant impression on me for it’s one all-important addition.  Right there in the very center of his jacket was a crown, a signature that was not his own, but belonged to Jean-Michel Basquiat.  Considering how concerned everyone is these days with finding deadstock items, and keeping their clothes pristine (a belief that I am admittedly quite guilty of), the idea of defacing a piece of clothing, and thereby turning it into a piece of art was obviously intriguing to me.  As I’ve headed down the rabbit hole of seventies and eighties New York, reading stories of O’Brien, Basquiat, and the city in general, I’ve come to understand that crown as an echo of a bygone era.

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Esky3

Esquire Magazine published their legendary first issue in October 1933 featuring the likes of Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Ring Lardner Jr., Joseph Auslander and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.  Despite it’s lofty list of famous contributors, Esquire’s introductory edition was still quite lacking in comparison to it’s subsequent issues, because it was missing one crucial component: Esky.  You could say that it wasn’t until Esquire’s second publication in January of 1934 that they found their spirit, or at least their spirit animal for that matter.  Right there on the second cover, was Esky, a bug eyed figure, with an up-turned mustache, and slicked back hair, climbing into a martini glass wearing a full tux and tails.  From that issue onward, Esky was embodiment of the Esquire attitude, he was well-dressed, jocular, and just sophisticated enough to forgive his indiscretions.

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Borsa1There’s this scene just over halfway through Borsalino, where Jean-Paul Belmondo’s character arrives at Alain Delon’s character’s newly acquired mansion and the two men reflect on their rapid rise from foot soliders to kingpins.  As Belmondo stepped out of his open air coupe, wearing a double-breasted overcoat brown with this faint windowpane check and is greeted by Delon in a satin shawl collar belted robe, that he’s wearing as a jacket (complete with pocket square,) I couldn’t help but stop and think that Borsalino might be the best dressed movie that no one ever talks about.  What strikes me though is that the film seems like it was specifically designed to be high scripture for the menswear community, right up there with Three Days of the Condor, Breathless and the Godfather Trilogy   Borsalino plays out like an amalgam of all these films combined, it’s French Nouvelle Vague, meets gangster flick, all wrapped up in meticulously tailored outfits complete with a bevy of Borsalinos.

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Patrick Grant By Richard Nicholson

Patrick Grant By Richard Nicholson

There’s few people in menswear I trust like Brandon Capps.  Before there was tumblr, there was Drinkin’ and Dronin’, one of the original free-scrolling image inspiration boards the could cover everything from turn of the century naval jackets, to cell-phone pics of beer cans, to Pitti street style, to multi-colored brogues, and everything in between.  It was a grab bag of just about anything you could imagine, a fitting format for a guy who’s style is as inspirational and diverse as the photos he posted.  While Drinkin’ and Dronin’ has subsequently made the jump to Tumblr, and Brandon has found a home as Billy Reid’s made-to-measure specialist, the blog lives on, and I still look forward to Brandon’s smattering of posts, as they’ve always lead me down some interesting paths.

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