Thursday, October 7, 2010

The History of the Weejun

Maine’s G.H. Bass & Co. introduced the Bass Weejun in 1936. The name Weejun is a derivation of Norwegian; the loafer was inspired by moccasins made by Norwegian fishermen in their off-season. The moccasins were discovered after World War I by American and European travelers, and then promoted by Esquire magazine. The most distinctive addition made by Bass was a strip of leather with the now-famous diamond-shaped cutout.

In the 1950s this style of loafer became a staple of the Ivy League style of men’s dress that developed on college campuses. The Weejun was dubbed the “penny loafer” when those students made a fashion statement by placing pennies in the diamond-shaped cutout. Since then they have been worn by the likes of John F. Kennedy, James Dean and Michael Jackson. They are still popular with those who favor the “American Trad” style of dress.

The classic Weejun penny loafer is still available today. Bass has also recently released an updated version of the Weejun called the Dover. According to the Bass website, it is a derivative of the original with a “slimmer profile and modern lines.”

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Don't Ruin Your Silhouette

As recently published on Men's Flair:

A silhouette is the outline of a solid object. When applied to male attire it refers to the (hopefully pleasing) outward appearance of a man’s clothed shape. Michael Anton, writing under the pseudonym Nicholas Antongiavanni, very artfully stated in The Suit that “the virtue of tailored clothing is that it improves a man’s rudimentary shape.” Unfortunately many men seem to consistently and unwittingly sabotage the tailor’s effort to create a pleasing silhouette.

The habit of walking around with an unbuttoned jacket is a quite common sartorial sin. An unbuttoned tailored jacket hangs open like a limp dishtowel. Jackets are tailored to accentuate the narrowness of a man’s waist and then flare out at the hips. The button set near the natural waist holds the jacket closed at this narrowest point. To ensure proper drape and a pleasing silhouette one should always, when standing, fasten the top button of a two-button jacket, or the middle button of a three-button jacket.

Many men seem compelled to fill their trouser pockets full of all sorts of paraphernalia. Common lumpy masses include lighters, knives, huge wads of keys and fat wallets stuffed with three-year-old receipts and expired credit cards. Trousers should hang without any lumps or ripples; filling trouser pockets with all of this kit ruins their elongating line.

I hold a special dislike for those clunky, awful belt-worn cell phone holsters. Unless your name is Bruce Wayne, please don’t wear junk hanging from your belt.

So what to do with all of these trappings? The first thing is to pare them down. Clean out your wallet. How many credit cards do you really need to carry in your pocket? Are you really going to use that coupon for a free round of miniature golf? Get rid of the key to that car you sold last year. Do you really visit the safe deposit box often enough that you need to carry the key with you every day?

Once you have separated the wheat from the chaff, you need to decide how to covertly carry the necessities. You might invest in a nice coat wallet (see Andrew Williams’ recent profile of Ettinger of London) and keep it in an inside jacket pocket. I carry a slim iPhone in one inside jacket pocket and three keys (office, home and car) in an outside jacket pocket; these items are completely unobtrusive. If you must carry more than a few bare essentials then put them in a nice leather briefcase. I’m saving my pennies for a Swaine Adeney Brigg document case…

Friday, August 6, 2010

Warby Parker Interview

As recently published on Men's Flair:

I recently had the opportunity to interview Neil Blumenthal, one of the founders of Warby Parker.

Andrew Hodges: By offering low-cost boutique-quality glasses directly to consumers, Warby Parker has created a unique niche in the eyewear industry. What led to this idea for a new kind of eyewear company?

Neil Blumenthal: Andy, Dave, Jeff and I were tired of paying $400+ for new glasses every time we scratched a lens or misplaced a pair. Andy had the great idea to sell glasses online, which enabled us to bypass the middlemen (the optical shops and large licensing companies) that charge outrageous amounts for frames and lenses. And, I had experience designing and manufacturing frames from my days at VisionSpring, a non-profit social enterprise that distributes eyeglasses to people in need throughout the world. We set out to transform the optical industry by providing the vintage-inspired, boutique-quality frames we love, at a revolutionary price point.

Hodges: What was the inspiration for the designs in the current Warby Parker eyewear collection?

Blumenthal: All four of us have been lifelong glasses wearers with an eye toward larger, classic shapes and vintage frames. Our first collection is inspired by our lives as recent students at The Wharton School and our time as New Yorkers. The brand is both classically Ivy League and urban hip. Many of the frames are named after literary figures, including the Huxley (Aldous Leonard Huxley) and the Roark (protagonist in the Fountainhead). The name “Warby Parker” actually comes from two characters found in Jack Kerouac’s unpublished journals, Warby Pepper and Zagg Parker.

Hodges: Some potential customers have expressed frustration about delays because of the short supply of frames. Were you surprised by the level of demand, and has the company taken measures to address the supply issue?

Blumenthal: We thought our idea would resonate with our friends, but we had no idea that it would resonate with so many people so quickly. While it was exciting that so many people from all of the country and world were interested in our eyewear, we felt terrible that we couldn’t provide everyone with glasses right away. The four of us would literally stay up all night writing emails to apologize to customers. Thankfully, we’ve now been able to produce additional frames and we are almost through the waitlist that grew during the weeks that we sold out of frames. We’ve now tripled the team’s size and are working hard to quickly produce as many frames as possible.

Hodges: Does Warby Parker have any immediate plans to broaden its collection? Should we expect any new designs or a wider range of sizes?

Blumenthal: Yes, we’re currently designing some great new frames in different colors and sizes. Our new collection will be available in October.

Hodges: Many Men’s Flair readers live overseas. Has the company considered making eyeglasses available for orders and shipping outside the United States?

Blumenthal: Absolutely! We’re working on it as we speak.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Fine Line

An article of mine recently published on Men's Flair:

As the current readers of my blog, A Southern Gentleman, already know, and as my new readers here on Men's Flair may soon discover, I am a proponent of classic men’s style. One may trace the roots of most of the best elements of male attire to the first half of the 20th Century, sometimes referred to as “The Golden Age of Style.” I do not mean to romanticize that era or suggest that it represents some utopia of male sartorial splendor. But it is an inescapable truth that, as a general rule, our ancestors dressed more stylishly than we do today.

When incorporating these elements of classic style into one’s daily wardrobe, I believe there is a fine line between dressing with style and merely becoming a caricature of an era. For example, a safari jacket, if woven properly into a summer wardrobe (a vintage Esquire illustration comes to mind), can add a classically stylish element to a man’s attire. One who instead pairs the safari jacket with a pith helmet and gurkha shorts risks being mistaken for an extra from Hatari! or a WWII military reenactor who took a wrong turn somewhere in North Africa.

A couple of years ago I picked up a handful of issues of a new magazine called Classic Style. The name of the magazine was promising, but unfortunately much of the content crossed that line into retro caricature. I recall one advertisement for a leather belt-worn cell phone holster (that’s a rant for another day). The model pictured in the advertisement was dressed in a gray double-breasted suit with high-waisted pleated trousers, a loud geometric-patterned vintage tie with a silver tie bar, a Panama hat and spectator shoes (apparently making spats unnecessary to complete the look). Individually, many of the elements of the model’s attire were quite stylish. Panama hats, spectator shoes and tie bars are all classics. But taken as a whole, the look was fatuous and outdated.

I encourage everyone to incorporate, in moderate doses, elements of classic style into their daily wardrobe, and to aspire to dress better than the t-shirt and flip-flop clad masses. But beware of looking like you just stepped out of a Wellsian time machine. It’s a fine line.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Impressions of Boston

A couple of weeks ago my wife and I spent a long weekend in Boston; it was our first visit to that historic city.  We stayed at the Omni Parker House, the home of the Parker House roll and Boston cream pie.  Interestingly, JFK proposed to Jackie in the hotel restaurant, and Ho Chi Mihn was once a pastry chef in its kitchen.

I traveled to Boston with the preconceived notion that the city was filled with gentleman's shops.  I was hoping to find shops filled with leather and wood, wool and cigar smoke.  I was sorely disappointed.  The hottest shopping spot is Newbury Street where one finds Burberry, Armani, and other similar high-end, high-priced fashion shops.  The most interesting store I found was J. Press in Cambridge, but I even left there empty-handed.

Between trips to the local taverns for beer and the World Cup, I did a lot of people watching.  I was surprised to discover that the population is largely composed of young, fit individuals; maybe I've grown too used to Southern obesity. 

The standard male uniform appeared to be dark, flat-front trousers, a black belt with modern silver buckle, black shoes and a blue striped or checked button-down shirt (sans jacket or tie).  Even in the downtown area I rarely saw a man wearing a tie. 

I was more perplexed by the attire of the young women in Boston.  I saw countless attractive women wearing blouses with a low scallop in the back that completely revealed the back of their bra, including the straps and the fastener.  It reminded me of the thugs that wander around with sagging pants and exposed boxers.  I'm no expert on women's clothing so I'm not sure what advice I would give those young women.  Is it too risqué to wear those blouses without a bra?  Maybe.  But in my mind underwear should go under ones' clothing.

Notwithstanding its lack of sartorial splendor, I found Boston to be safe, interesting and historical.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Reader Question: Tie Cleaning

Where should one send a tie to be professionally cleaned?

Although I have never used their service, it appears from a search of the online style forums that Tiecrafters is the consensus favorite.  Their tie cleaning service is $10.50 per tie, with a four tie minimum.

By no means should you take a tie to your local dry cleaner.  Your neighborhood cleaner is probably clueless about how to properly clean a tie.  They would likely press the tie, causing the rolled edges to be cruelly flattened and possibily even damaging the silk.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Men's Flair

Men's Flair has flattered me with an offer to become a weekly contributor to their online style magazine.  I will be joining several other columnists including one of my favorite bloggers, Simon Crompton, who writes at Permanent Style.  My first column should appear in the next day or two.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Warby Parker Review

This weekend I finally got my hands on some Warby Parker eyeglass frames.  As part of their free home try-on service, Warby Parker shipped me five frames of my choice.  I ordered the Miles (pictured), Fillmore, Zagg (in two colors) and the Langston.  They arrived second-day air packaged in a nice black box with "Warby Parker" embroidered in gray on the top.  After examining the frames, I find myself quite impressed with the styling, quality and price (only $95). 

Unfortunately I was disappointed by the fit.  I tried on the Fillmore frames first and was shocked at how narrow they were between the temples.  I found the Zagg and Miles to be equally narrow.  The Langston was better, but even the temples of that pair splayed apart slightly.  I looked back at the Warby Parker website to see if I had somewhere missed a sizing selection.  I then discovered that most of the frames are listed as "Width: Medium."  A very few, like the Langston, are listed as "Width: Wide."  I have a relatively large head (my hat size is 7 3/8), but it's not a watermelon.  Yet even the widest available frames (of which the selection is small) are too small for my face.  This is somewhat surprising to me; I had assumed that these big, chunky-styled glasses would also be proportionally larger in size.  I was mistaken.  Hopefully if Warby Parker continues to enjoy success they will decide to offer some of their great styles in a variety of sizes.

If you have narrow or slight features then I would heartily recommend a pair of Warby Parker eyeglasses.  Nowhere will you find comparable style and quality for the money.  If you have a big head like me I guess, at least for now, you will have to look elsewhere.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Warby Parker Update

My name finally rose to the top of the Warby Parker home try-on waiting list.  I received an email today notifying me that I was now eligible to order up to five pair of glasses.  I have placed my order and hope to have some frames within five business days.  Stay tuned for a full review. 

Monday, June 28, 2010

My Diaper is Full ... of Fashion

Jeans have always been a Mommy fashion must-have, but now it's time for their little ones to steal the style.  HUGGIES gets fashion forward with new denim diaper design to help your baby stay trendy while keeping dry.

Seriously?  Are these for the fashion forward Mommy who is too lazy to put pants on her child?  I recommend that Mommy pair these with an "all daddy wanted was a blowjob" t-shirt.  Then she can send her trendy baby out to play in traffic.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Stylish Movie: Bugsy

Set in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Bugsy (1991) tells the story of New York mobster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel who comes up with a scheme to build a lavish casino in the Nevada desert.  The film's star-studded cast includes Warren Beatty (as Siegel), Annette Bening, Harvey Keitel, Ben Kingsley and Elliott Gould.  Although the film has been criticised for being factually and historically innaccurate, it won an Oscar for Best Costume Design.  Bugsy is replete with double-breasted suits, fedoras, pocket squares and boutonnieres.  Even better is Beatty's casual attire of bold odd jackets, button-down shirts, and cravats.  For sartorial inspiration I recommend Bugsy.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Vintage Family Photo Contest

The first photograph is my father, William Clay McGehee, on board the USS Cumberland Sound, somewhere in the Pacific, Spring 1945.  The second photo was taken upon his promotion to the rank of Commander.

This photo is of W. Oldemar Blum and was taken in a Russian concentration camp for Latvians, possibly Salaspils.  I have always been fascinated by the contrast between the happy, smiling faces and nice clean clothes compared to where they are and what they would soon be facing.  This photo was the last anyone in the family ever heard of W. Oldemar Blum and his family.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Garden & Gun: Soul of the New South

I recently discovered, in a stack of periodicals at the gym, a wonderful magazine called Garden & Gun.  I subscribed and received this week my first issue of the bi-monthly magazine.  The Charleston-based magazine targets affluent Southerners interested in outdoor and sporting culture, food, music, art and literature.  For example, the June/July 2010 issue includes articles on hunting dog art, heritage livestock, a wooden boat craftsman, and a great recipe for fried green tomatoes.  The magazine is printed on heavy stock and is full of beautiful photographs.  If you are interested in Southern tradition and heritage you should definitely pick up a copy of Garden & Gun.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Newsboy Cap

The newsboy cap (also known as an Apple cap or Gatsby cap) is a brimmed casual cap made of eight fabric panels that converge at a buttoned top.  As the name suggests, the caps are widely associated with newsboys of the early 20th Century.  Newsboy caps provide a stylish alternative to the ubiquitous baseball cap.

I recently purchased an excellent green linen newsboy cap from Brett Stiles at the B! Wear Cap Co. in Mariposa, CA.  I am impressed with the quality of the cap.  It is made from a coarse, open-weaved linen that makes the cap breathable and light as a feather (the B! Wear caps are available in a wide variety of fabrics including wool, leather, cashmere, and linen).  The lining is a silky blue material and the hat band is of light brown suede.  One nice feature is a wire that runs through the bill that allows you to shape it as you may desire.  I was also impressed with the reasonable price, the prompt delivery, and the friendly customer service (the cap arrived with a nice handwritten note).  B! Wear has similarly received rave reviews from members of The Fedora Lounge, an online forum dedicated to classic style. 

If you are in need of a casual hat, consider the newsboy cap.  And consider B! Wear as a good source.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Warby Parker Update

Back in March I discussed my plan to try on some new eyeglass frames from Warby Parker.  I received an email update yesterday stating that "the response to our new organization was far greater than we could have imagined.  We have been working as quickly as possible to craft more frames.  Several thousand new frames are finally complete and are ready to be sent out to be tried on at home.  We are just now starting to fulfill home try on orders, but the waitlist has grown so long that we won't be able to provide glasses to everyone on the waitlist within the next week or two. ... You should receive an email from us as soon as possible letting you know when you can log on and order some frames to try on at home for free."

So anyway, I'll review the frames when I get my hands on a pair.  Hopefully more on this topic later.

Monday, May 24, 2010


A pork pie is a traditional British meat pie made from seasoned pork filling and jelly encased in a pastry crust.  The porkpie hat is so called because of the resemblance of its crown to a pork pie.  The hat was famously worn by the silent film comedian Buster Keaton, and more recently by Gene Hackman's character Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle in The French Connection (1971).  Pork pie hats are now most often associated with blues and jazz musicians.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Milestone

A Southern Gentleman received its 5000th visitor today.  Thank you to everyone who follows my ramblings.  Keep in mind that if you want to follow A Southern Gentleman on Facebook you may click on the fan box in the sidebar.  You may similarly wish to subscribe to the blog.  Feel free to share entries with friends via email using the envelope icon below each post.  Please direct your questions to the email address listed in the sidebar; I'm always looking for new ideas to discuss.  I would encourage participation in the Vintage Family Photo Contest that I announced a couple of weeks ago.  Finally, thanks again to you, the reader.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Vintage Photo Contest

Here are the first submissions to the vintage family photography contest:

These are photographs of my maternal grandparents, Clarice and Ottie Willich.  The photograph of them together is from their wedding day on May 28, 1937, in Horton, Kansas.  At the time he was 25 and she was 23.  The other picture was taken in 1958 when my grandfather was on a guided hunt in Kenya.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Reader Question

What does it mean if a suit jacket is fused?

Suit coats have a layer of cloth between the outer fabric and the inner silk lining that helps give the jacket its shape.  On higher quality jackets this layer of cloth is a floating canvas shell made of horsehair combined with other materials.  On lower quality jackets the canvas is replaced with much cheaper fusing.  Fusing is a synthetic material that essentially turns to glue when heated.  Because the fabric is glued together the jacket will not drape as elegantly as one with a canvas shell.  A bigger problem with fusing is the potentially disastrous effect of dry cleaning on the jacket.  If you have ever seen someone wearing a jacket where the fabric looked "bubbled," then you have witnessed the unwelcome result of dry cleaning on a fused coat.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Why Wear an Ascot?

Recently, on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart made fun of CNN's Roland Martin for wearing an ascot on national television.  I appreciate Roland Martin's impassioned response:

Jon Stewart asked, "Why?  Why wear an ascot on national television?"  Because this country is going to hell in a hand basket.  We're lost.  We've succumbed to the insane desires of this new generation that is devoid of the common purpose of Americans. ...  Why an ascot?  Because I want my America back.  I want to reclaim the soul and the style that made us the greatest country on Earth.  We have abandoned the stylistic principles of the founding fathers and their wigs and tophats, and their ruffled tops, for the god-awful look of flip flops and t-shirts and baggy pants and sweats.  Jackie O. took us to new heights.  Now we have the fashion sense of James Carville.  Look, I want to help restore the values of America. ...  I want us to be great again.  I want an ascot for every god-fearing boy and man.  And it's time that we reclaim our history. ...  It is time that we return to our roots as a leader in fashion.  Join me in this fight and accept this call to arms and may we all rediscover what it means to be an American.

Preach on Roland Martin.  Can I get an "amen" from the congregation? 


Friday, May 7, 2010

Vintage Photo Contest

The early part of the Twentieth Century is sometimes referred to as the Golden Age of Style.  It is a sad reality that our recent ancestors exhibited a higher degree of style and deportment than we do today.  To illustrate my point, consider the men pictured in the Depression-era photograph above.  Those unemployed men, who are waiting in line for free food, are wearing suits, vests, overcoats and hats.  Imagine how people might be attired if a similar line formed today.

To further illustrate the point, I have decided to host a vintage photo contest.  I am asking that you, the reader, submit classy family photographs from the Golden Age of Style.  Let's see those three-piece suits, fedoras, pinned collars, tie bars and flapper dresses.  With your help I anticipate we may all see some dapper men and beautiful women, and maybe even gain some sartorial inspiration.  You may send your photographs to the blog email address listed in the sidebar.  Please also feel free to share a few details about the individuals, circumstances or settings depicted in your family photographs.

As an incentive for your participation, the winner (as voted on by my readers) for the best family photo from the Golden Age of Style will receive a copy of Alan Flusser's newly updated Style & the Man that will be available on shelves May 11. 

Sunday, May 2, 2010

F. M. Allen

I received an interesting catalog in the mail this weekend from F. M. Allen.  Their offerings appear to be rugged, yet sophisticated, and inspired by outdoor pursuits.  I especially like the details (such as the bi-swing, half-belted back) of the pictured brown linen sport coat.

This is the F. M. Allen story as told on their website:

Frank Maurice Allen was born 17 April 1906 in Upton Cum Chumley, Buckinghamshire, England. The son of Sibyl Cooper and Robert Charles Allen, he spent much of his youth hunting in Windsor Forest near his grandfather’s farm.

Allen had no formal training in the field, but was a natural. His early success trapping rabbits earned him the nickname “Bunny” from a gypsy hunter named Piramas Berners, and that endearment stuck with him the rest of his life. Allen continued to hone his skills as an outdoorsman and eventually followed his two brothers to Kenya in 1927.

Following military service during World War II, Allen established himself as a professional safari guide. He would become one of the last great gentleman hunters of Africa, leading safaris for everyone from the Prince of Wales to Mick Jagger. Allen finally retired in 1996 at the age of 90, and passed away in 2002. He led a thrilling life of abounding passion and excitement.

It was his unquenchable sense of adventure, his taste for the fine life and, most importantly, his sensitivity to the people and the places of his time that made him a larger-than-life gentleman guide. Though Allen spent the majority of his life in Africa, he was first and foremost an Englishman. Today, it is that English inspiration and his rugged yet refined spirit and distinguished taste level that serves as our guide as we scour the globe to bring you the very best in gentleman’s sportswear, accessories, and items of uniqueness.

Each F.M. ALLEN product available in our catalog, website and retail stores has been designed with the spirit of the modern gentleman in mind. We’ve taken the very best of classic design and construction and, when called for, blended in a touch of contemporary advancement. The items are crafted by artisans in places like the England, the United States, Scotland, Ireland, and Italy-- places where artistry, workmanship, and attention to the most minute of detail is very much alive and well.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The American Idol Pocket Square Incident

Last night on American Idol Crystal Bowersox became emotional while singing a lovely version of "People Get Ready."  During the post-song interview she attempted to pluck the handkerchief from Ryan Seacrest's breast pocket, but quickly discovered that the pocket square would not budge.  Seacrest then said, "actually I think it's taped," while physically jerking the immobilized hank from his pocket.  Bowersox then used the dislodged pocket square to dab the tears from her eyes.

Two comments.  Don't tape your pocket square into your breast pocket.  Just don't.  And a properly prepared gentleman will have two handkerchiefs; one goes in his breast pocket for display, and the other in his back pocket for a delicate lady's tears.  Or as the old adage goes, "one for showin' and one for blowin'."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tom James Blazer

Tom James finally got my pants sorted out and offered me a twenty-percent discount on a blazer for my trouble so I met today with my tailor to pin down the details.  I elected to go with a warm-weather version in navy hopsack with a navy lining.  I specified that the jacket should be double-breasted in a 4-on-2 buttoning stance.  I chose quite plain antique silver buttons.  The sleeves will have functioning button holes.  The blazer will sport peak lapels, side vents and patch pockets.

Nicholas Antongiavanni in The Suit notes that "the classic blazer is double-breasted, with four instead of six buttons (arranged like a square, so that two can actually button), side vents, and patch pockets, to reflect its naval origins. ...  It's shade should be a little lighter than suiting navy, and its weave a little more textured."  He also advises that a true blazer should have simple metal buttons in brass, silver or gold.  The jacket that I have ordered is in keeping with this classic style.

Antongiavanni warns against the "ubiquitous worsted, two-button, center-vented version; for since odd jackets afford you the chance to wear many stylish details that cannot be worn on suits, it is not reasonable to forgo these in favor of one that looks all but identical to a run-of-the-mill suit jacket."  The problem with buying an off-the-rack navy "blazer" is that the vast majority you will find are of this common and vulgar variety.  My Tom James tailor commented to me today that what I ordered was both classically stylish and commercially unavailable.  It is unsettling and disturbing to me that the mainstream offerings in menswear stores are so bland and tasteless.  It makes absolutely no sense to me that the most classically-styled odd jackets, like the double-breasted navy blazer, are unavailable to the masses.  Unfortunately, the only alternative is to do what I did today and have one made.

The jacket should be here in about six weeks for a first fitting and I will post an update and some pictures at that time.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tailor Store Polos

Three new polo shirts in spring colors arrived in the mail yesterday from The Tailor Store.  This is my second order; on both ocassions I have been quite pleased with their product.  The only downside is the long wait on shipping from Sweden.  But if you are not in a hurry, it's hard to beat a made-to-measure polo for only thirty dollars.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Ponte Rialto Boater

My new (to me) vintage straw boater arrived in the post last week and I am just now getting around to sharing some photos. As seen in the photograph to the right, the hat has "Ponte Rialto VENICE" printed on the inside lining.  The Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto in Italian) is the oldest of four bridges spanning the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy.  On the black leather hat band is printed, in gilt, "Made in Italy."  Interestingly, I found for sale online an identical Ponte Rialto straw boater among a group of Bing Crosby collectibles.  The description for that sale indicated that the hat was manufactured in the 1940s, but I cannot independently confirm that assertion.  Regardless, it is a well made straw hat that I will enjoy wearing this summer.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Stylish Television: Mad Men

I know I am way behind on the times, but on the recommendation of a friend I just finished watching the first episode of Mad Men.  For the uninitiated, Mad Men is an award-winning AMC television series about a fictional 1960s New York City advertising agency.  The show completed its third season this past November.

After watching the first episode, I am in stylistic sensory overload!  Not only are the props and attitudes (think gender bias and workplace smoking) historically accurate, but the clothes are amazing.  In just the first episode I spotted three-piece suits, pinned collars, white linen pocket squares, cufflinks, fountain pens, fedoras, tie bars, an office drawer full of folded white dress shirts, and a great slim-cut single-breasted tan rain coat.  Oh that we should all aspire to dress like mad men!  I'm hooked!

I wonder if I could get away with having a crystal decanter of rye whiskey on the credenza in my office ......

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Straw Boater

As the weather grows warmer here in the South, my thoughts turn to summer headgear.  The Panama hat may be a classic, and more prevalent, choice for protection from the sun's rays; however, I prefer the straw boater.

The boater, also known as a skimmer, is a stiff straw hat with a flat crown and brim.  It is typically adorned with a colored ribbon tied around the crown.  The boater has its origins in the sennit straw hats issued to midshipmen in the Royal Navy near the end of the nineteenth century.  Those sailors would also have worn short blue jackets with brass buttons; therefore, the boater is quite properly worn alongside a blue blazer with gilt buttons.  Because the boater is a fairly formal hat, it may also be correctly worn with a lounge suit.

The boater saw its heyday in the early twentieth century when it became a popular form of warm weather headware for the upper middle class.  It was also popularized on the silver screen by the likes of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly.  A surprising number of these vintage boaters remain available on the market today.  The quality of these original boaters seems, for the most part, to exceed that of the few that are still produced today.  In preparation for the hot weather ahead, I recently ordered my own vintage Italian boater from an online purveyor of antiquarian fashions.  I will post pictures when the hat arrives. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Reader Question

Can you recommend an online resource for affordable pocket squares?
Pocket handkerchiefs are widely available online in the twelve to thirty-five dollar range from suppliers like The Tie Bar, Southern Proper, Howard Yount, Kent Wang and Sam Hober.  Pricer squares may be found at Ben Silver, Paul Stuart and Mariano Rubinacci.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Russell Moccasin

My favorite pair of casual boots are the pictured Chukka Hikers that I had custom made a few years ago by the Russell Moccasin Company.  The company has been hand crafting hunting-inspired boots in Berlin, Wisconsin, for over one hundred years.  They offer a wide variety of moccasin-style boots and shoes in an array of different leathers and finishes along with many custom options.  They can even craft boots and shoes out of your own game hides.

To order a pair of custom boots or shoes from the Russell Moccasin Company, you must provide careful tracings of your feet along with ten different measurements of each foot.  Deatiled instructions are provided on their website and in their print catalog.  Once you submit your tracings and measurements, they keep them on file for ten years so that you may easily order additional pairs of footware.

My feet are wide at the ball, but narrow at the heel.  Because of this oddity I often find off-the-rack shoes to be uncomfortable.  Because my Russell Moccasin Chukka Hikers were made to the shape of my foot, fit and comfort are not an issue.  And that is the beauty of custom-made footware. 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Stylish Movie: The Thomas Crown Affair

Widely hailed as one of the most stylish movies of all time, The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) stars Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway.  McQueen is a bank executive who orchestrates a bank heist and then plays cat and mouse with a beautiful insurance investigator (Dunaway).  Throughout the movie McQueen exudes rugged sportiness and masculinity while wearing an array of three-piece suits with flat-front pants, along with his trademark Persol sunglasses with custom blue-tinted lenses.

Marion Maneker, in Dressing in the Dark: Lessons In Men's Style from the Movies, wrote that the "original Thomas Crown Affair ... remains one of the best movies for learning how to wear a suit and tie.  Steve McQueen's pale blue shirt, royal blue tie and classic three-piece Prince of Wales suit conveys his character's old-money background and reckless thrill seeking better than any dialogue."

For sartorial inspiration, I recommend The Thomas Crown Affair.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Classic Blazer

It is a linguistic error to refer to all odd jackets as blazers.  A blazer is a specific type of odd jacket characterized by details, such as metal buttons, that are steeped in naval heritage.  In its most classic form, the blazer is double-breasted, with metal buttons in a 4-on-2 stance, peak lapels, side vents and patch pockets.  The fabric is coarse, such as flannel (for cool weather) or hopsack (for warm), and blue in a shade slightly lighter than navy.  The buttons are traditionally brass or gold, but men with gray hair or who intend to wear the jacket with gray trousers may instead opt for silver or nickel.  A dressier, yet still classic, version of the blazer is often seen in worsted wool, with buttons in a 6-on-2 stance (like the drawing above) and flap pockets.  In either variation the combination of double-breasted blazer and odd trousers is less dressy than a lounge suit, but more dressy than a sport coat and trousers.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Continuing Saga of the Tom James Trousers

My Tom James tailor arrived at my office first thing this morning for another fitting of the gray trousers with the protruding pockets.  He took additional measurements as well as several photographs of the offending problem areas.  He promises to return with the altered pants in a week to ten days so that he can ensure they fit perfectly.

I have had a hankering lately for a double-breasted blue blazer with peak lapels, flap pockets, and matte silver buttons.  We chatted a bit about looking at fabrics and buttons on his next visit, and he offered a twenty percent discount on the blazer to make up for the trouble I've had with the pants.  Although I'm still waiting for the pants to be right, I can't argue with their customer service.  More later on the pants (and the blazer).

Monday, March 8, 2010

Styptic Pen

Have you ever nicked yourself shaving and then had to walk around the house for the next ten minutes with a scrap of toilet paper glued to your face in a vain attempt to stop the bleeding?  If so, then you may be unaware of handy toiletry item call a styptic pen (also known as a styptic pencil).  A styptic pen works by applying some type of alum, usually aluminum sulfate or titanium dioxide, to a cut.  This causes the vessels to constrict and stop the bleeding.  To use a styptic pen you simply moisten the tip of the mineral and dab the offending nick.  Styptic pens are widely available at drug stores; the one pictured above is available online at The Art of Shaving.

Book Review: Dressing the Man

When I encounter a sylistic conundrum, I often first refer to Alan Flusser's Dressing the Man.  Heavily adorned with photographs of style giants like Fred Astaire, Clark Gable, and the Prince of Wales, and illustrations from Esquire and Apparel Arts, Flusser's Dressing the Man is the ultimate reference on men's style. 

In Dressing the Man, Flusser examines the historical development of tailored men's clothing and sets forth the rules for their proper wear based on those origins.  He discusses the art of mixing patterns, considerations of proportion for diffferent body shapes, and appropriate colors for varied complexions.

This book will likely not appeal to the casual dresser.  With the exception of one chapter (that seems to have been added as an afterthought) on business casual, Dressing the Man focuses mainly on timeless, traditional conservative male attire.

For any man interested in looking his best, Dressing the Man deserves a prominent spot in his library. 

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Warby Parker

Warby Parker, an upstart eyewear company started by four students who met at the Wharton School of Business, has come up with an interesting new concept in eyewear sales.  They have cut out the middleman and offer vintage-inspired acetate eyeglasses directly to consumers for ... only $95.

Warby Parker offers twenty-seven classic frame styles in black, tortoise, amber, crystal and a variety of other brighter colors.  They even offer one monocle, "the perfect accessory for budding robber barons, post-colonial tyrants and super villains."

To see how frames look on your face, you can upload a photograph of yourself to the Warby Parker website and try on frames using their Virtual Try-On service.  When you have narrowed your selection you can take advantage of their Home Try-On service.  Warby Parker will ship you up to five pair of frames, free of charge, to try on at home for seven days.  GQ Magazine has called Warby Parker "the Netflix of eyewear."

The other day I played with the Virtual Try-On service and then decided to order a selection of frames to try on at home.  I quickly recieved an email informing me that recent features in GQ, Vogue and Daily Candy had resulted in an unexpected number of orders thereby depleting their home try-on inventory.  I have added my name to the waiting list, but have been informed that it may be a month before frames are available.  Notwithstanding the delay, this combination of classically-styled frames and an innovative business model has me quite intrigued.  More on this later when I get my hands on some frames.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Reader Questions: Women's Attire

What do you think of women wearing jackets with pocket squares?

I don't see anything wrong with a woman wearing a pocket square, assuming that her tailored jacket has a breast pocket in which to display it.  Imagine a winter outfit consisting of a slim-fitting tweed tailored jacket, light blue blouse, charcoal skirt, brown heels and a silk paisley pocket square.  I think that would look pretty sharp.  An alternative to the pocket square is a silk scarf around the neck.  However, I would go with one or the other; a scarf and a pocket square together might be a bit much.

Have you ever considered writing another blog called A Southern Lady?

I certainly pay attention when I see an attractive woman in beautiful clothes.  And I have female friends who love to drag me out clothes shopping because I'm not afraid to tell them when an outfit looks atrocious.  But I don't pretend to be much of an authority on women's attire.  Instead of starting another blog, I might recruit some of the sharply-dressed Southern ladies around me to author guest posts on topics of interest to my female readers.  If anyone has an idea for a topic they would like to see covered in a guest post, send me a message at the blog email address listed in the sidebar, or post a comment below.

Tom James Customer Service

Well I'm impressed.  Within 18 hours of my last post, I received an email from the Vice-President of Retail Operations for the Tom James Company who wished to ensure that I am satisfied and that my fit issues are addressed.  Since then I have received a call and a follow-up email from my local Tom James representative who assures me that the problem can and will be fixed.  I am encouraged.  More to follow on this ongoing trouser saga.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Details of Tom James Pants

My altered Tom James pants arrived at the office a couple of weeks ago.  I'm now getting around to providing a few detail shots.  As you may see, the trousers are partially lined.  The label sewn under the hem at the bottom of the leg is an interesting detail.

On the whole I am pleased with the fabric and construction.  I would be completely satisfied if the pants fit properly.  And arguably fit is the biggest reason for going bespoke.  I have a nice pair of off-the-rack Hiltl pants that still fit better than these Tom James pants that were supposed to be made to my exact measurements.  The alterations did not completely solve the fit issue across the front of my thighs so the pockets are still pulling slightly open.

I do not intend to contact Tom James about the fit issues.  It's been a couple of weeks since the altered pants arrived via post at my office and there have been no follow-up calls from my Tom James representative to inquire whether the alterations were successful.  I won't call becuse I'm curious to test their level of customer service;  to see if or when I am contacted about the fit and what if any remedy may be offered.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Handwritten Note

I read somewhere that history may look upon us as The Lost Generation because there will be little permament written record of our existence.  Our photographs are digital and our correspondence is by text and email.  Much of what we know about early civilizations was carved into stone or written on papyrus scrolls.  But with the digital revolution I fear our generation has lost the art of the handwritten missive.  I am complicit in this cultural shift; this very blog is merely bits of data floating in the ether.

So I have resolved to make a concerted effort to write more notes.  I am under no illusion that writing a few notes will change the course of history, but I do believe that in this digital age a handwritten note can be gracious, mannerly and distinctive.  A handwritten note is appropriate for expressing many sentiments including thanks, condolence and congratulations.

To follow through with this resolution I have ordered some personalized correspondence cards from a local office supply store.  I purchased a new Pelikan fountain pen from Richard Binder and some Diamine ink (manufactured in the UK since 1864) from Swisher Pens.  (As an aside, for an outstanding review on a vast array of fountain pen inks check out Glenn's Pens.)

For my daily correspondence I will continue to use email and text.  But when it really counts, I resolve to put ink to paper.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Odd Vests

An odd vest (called a waistcoat by the British) may add an additional layer of warmth and interest to a gentleman's attire.  By adding some protection to an exposed shirtfront, an odd vest will extend the usefulness of a lightweight tailored jacket during cooler weather.  Wearing an odd vest will also allow one the flexibility to remove one's jacket at the office, yet remain looking natty.

Probably the most useful odd vests for wear with worsted suits are ones in solid cream, light-blue and light-gray linen.  For country wear a tattersall vest would be appropriate paired with tweed and flannel.  Tattersall is a checked pattern that originated with horse blankets used at Tattersall's horse market in London in the 18th Century.


Odd vests may come in single or double-breasted versions, and with or without lapels.  Double-breasted waistcoats are considered more formal.  When it comes to the details of an odd vest, common wisdom dictates, as expressed by Alan Flusser in Dressing the Man, that "the louder its hue, the quieter its style should be."  Therefore, a tattersall check would be most appropriate in a single-breasted vest.

When wearing a single-breasted vest, one should always leave the bottom button undone.  It is said that this practice developed from imitators of portly King Edward VII whose tailors were unable to keep up with his rapidly expanding waistline.

Today's low-rise pants pose a problem when it comes to wearing odd vests.  One may note from the illustrations that the vest should cover the waistband of the trousers; there should be no visible belt buckle.  Such is a sartorial sin on par with exposed skin at the ankles.  The bulk of a buckle under the vest is also problematic.  The solution is to wear higher-rise trousers with braces.  A side benefit to this practice is that it creates the illusion of a longer leg line.

During these cold winter months, inject a little interest into those navy and charcoal suits.  Wear an odd vest.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Reader Question: Rock Concert Attire

I dress fairly conservatively.  With that being said, I am planning to attend a rock concert soon and do not wish to look like a fish out of water.  By the same token, I don't want to wear the classic "band t-shirt" or any other type of clothing that is normally associated with fans.  How can I keep my style and look "cool" at the same time?

The typical rock concert uniform includes jeans, a black concert tee and black boots or Converse All-Stars.  To keep from looking out of place I would use that uniform as a starting place but make it more stylish by elevating each element.  Consider dark jeans or trim flat-front charcoal pants.  Instead of a concert tee, consider a black button-down shirt or a thin black merino-wool sweater.  Instead of sneakers, consider a pair of black dress ankle boots.  You could top it off with a black leather jacket; a dark blue or purple velvet jacket would be even better.

A rock concert provides you an opportunity to wear accessories that you might otherwise avoid.  I have a black leather belt with a chunky eagle's-head buckle that I got off eBay that I only wear to concerts.  A friend of mine has a wild pair of Mark Nason shoes similar to the boots pictured above that he wears to concerts.  When it comes to accessorizing, be guided by your own sense of style.

I would caution you to avoid wearing any item of apparel that is prone to stain or that you consider to be a favorite.  At a rock concert you are very likely to encounter beer, sweat, vomit, blood and urine.  You will not enjoy yourself if you are worried the whole time about the drunk next to you spilling his beer on your suede jacket.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Book Review: Sharp Suits

I spent a lazy, rainy Sunday afternoon flipping through Sharp Suits, wherein the author, Eric Musgrave, examines the history and evolution of the modern suit and the men who inspired that evolution, from King Edward VII to Elvis, the King of Rock.

I especially appreciated the sentiment expressed by Prince Albert in one quotation from the book:

The appearance, deportment and dress of a gentleman consist perhaps more in the absence of certain offences against good taste, and in careful avoidance of vulgarities and exaggerations of any kind, however generally they may be the fashion of the day, than in the adherence to any rules which can be exactly laid down ...  In dress, with scrupulous attention to neatness and good taste, he will never give in to the unfortunately loose and slang style which predominates at the present day.  He will borrow nothing from the fashion of the groom or the gamekeeper, and whilst avoiding the frivolity and foolish vanity of dandyism, will take care that his clothes are of the best quality, well-made, and suitable to his rank and position.

In my opinion, the plentiful photographs are the best attribute of Sharp Suits.  Unfortunately, many of those photographs are of men on the runway or on the musical stage who are wearing the trendy dress that Prince Albert warns against.  I wish there were more photographs of men wearing traditional conservative suits.  Nevertheless, the book provides enough such photographs to make it worthy of perusal for sartorial inspiration.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Alden Tassel Loafers

This week I picked up a new pair of Alden tassel loafers on clearance at David Lindsey Clothier.  The shoes should pair well with charcoal trousers and an odd jacket.  Although I have seen some men do it, I do not intend to wear these tassel loafers with a suit; loafers are for loafing.

When you get a new pair of dress shoes I would recommend a light protective polish before you wear them the first time.  Use cedar shoe trees between wearings to maintain the shape of the shoe, help prevent cracking and creasing, and absorb moisture from the lining.  By the same token, rotate your shoes and do not wear the same pair on successive days.  If you follow this advice a pair of high quality shoes such as these may last for decades.