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.