Flashback Week


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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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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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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