Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Don Cornelius-Fred Astaire Love Child

I paraphrase loosely B.B. King’s reaction to the lyrics of When Love Comes to Town, the 1987 U2 song written for him by Bono. King said something like…“You mighty young to write such heavy lyrics.” I can’t remember what I had for dinner three nights ago but I’ve always remembered that line.

I feel the same way about Barima. When I drink Barima’s visual treats and read his commentary I have a B.B. King moment. This kid hasn’t lived enough life yet to have that much aplomb. I guess that blows my already flawed theory that time and tenure are influencers of style. Is it nature or nurture? Hell I don’t know. What I do know is that this kid has the stuff. And Barima, trust me young sport, there will be a time when you’ll consider it a compliment to be called a kid.
I look at his contrivances and think…”damn, this kid ain’t old enough to posses his legitimate swagger.” When I did the Merkin tribute story I included Alan Flusser’s observation of Merkin’s sartorial mélange…“Coming upon Merkin in the street is like walking into a bazaar in Marrakesh-you don’t know what to look at first.” In my inelegant Southern way let me just say that Barima delivers the same damn thang. And Barima’s Savile Row-esque aplomb is washed cleverly in his ethnicity…ever present without looking like a revisionist devotee of 1970’s blaxploitation films.
Here’s an example above. Barima manifests a theatrical production with tweedy, fair isled motivations while finishing this rig with colour and accessories that knock it clean out of the ballpark. If I tried to replicate this verbatim, I’d end up looking like the victim of a Tommy Hilfiger-Old Navy-Rugby fraternity hazing event.
So what about his style? Theatrical? Yes, of course. An inextricably ethnic thread therein? Well it would worry the shit out of me if there wasn’t. Ghana is rich in colour, movement, texture and sounds. A Ghanaian antecedent surely does nothing but buoy his style deliverables but country of origin isn’t enough. Barima is a thinking man’s dandy. He’s the je ne sais quoi poster child. Literally…“I don’t know that” or as we would say in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina…“I be damn if I know.”…in this case, where Barima’s stuff comes from. I now and forever Knight Sir Barima as…the Chocolate Merkin. And most of you know how I revere Merkin so this is nothing but 100% praise for Barima.
And another thing about Barima’s or anyone else’s style. It’s his. Don’t attempt it. Find your own. His colour-style-amalgamation makes my middle age-Belgian shoe-fuzzy diceyness appear cowardly. Dramatic he is. A poseur he is not. I’m reminded of that scene in the movie K2 where the two guys are braving winds and snow in a small tent on the side of a mountain. One guy asks the other if he has his strategy yet. ...his strategy for making the K2 summit. The other guy says something like “I don’t know…what’s your strategy.” To which his buddy replied… “Mine is mine, it won’t work for you.” Same with climbing Mount Style.
I missed Barima by about a week when I was last in London. I think he was home in Ghana for holidays but I do remember trading a few emails to see if we could meet up for a drink. I think he’s old enough to drink cocktails. London is a tough city for young people to survive financially…unless you are propped up by family or living in a house with fifteen other people in Peckham. Peckham hell; probably two hours farther out of London. I believe I’m correct in saying that for now, Barima has decamped back to Ghana to regroup.
Tintin…you know…the guy who has a blog that I ghostwrite, was talking about who has a voice in the blogosphere and who doesn’t. He made solid arguments regarding who has something to say versus those who simply paste pictures and captions into a blog and purports it as commentary. I like Barima’s voice. It’s tinted with British Colonial aftertastes and it’s crisp. So when he’s writing at length, you get all the evidence necessary to realize that this young man not only has opinions but has the gifts to voice them well. Here are some examples for you.
As noted in the opening photograph of Roger, Neo-Edwardianism in dress, as well as deportment, was a nostalgic exhumation and customisation of an old style. It was the ideal postwar reaction; emerging from half a decade of atrocity, loss and devastation and seeking reinvigoration in the aftermath, Row tailors advocated this fashion to entice customers back to suiting."
And from Barima's Relaxed Suiting post..."It's been well documented that I achieve a more informal look the same way other like minds do; my shirt and tie combinations could only really be seen at parties or in a creative office. Anyone who really thinks bold ensembles are de rigueur in a conservative professional environment is an idiot or has befriended one too many wide boys. But going the other way and playing the colour field down doesn't harm a suit's out-of-the-office cachet.”
And on Astaire in Easter Parade...
 “Just look at his exit - total and intuitive awareness of his environment in full display, he performs a variety of cane tricks, finishing with his trademark spinning catch and exits with a wave and a smile in bounding, mercurial twirls. Cheating a child out of an Easter Bunny never looked so admirable…”

And this, about a suit he borrowed to attend a wedding…“Ghanaian weddings favour a conservative mode in principle, but they are nevertheless as rife with egregious errors such as evening dress in the daytime as anywhere else on the planet. Still, the simplicity is the thing and bow ties are always welcome. The suit was kindly lent to me as I had none of my own when I initially relocated. I've more than made up for that now.”
Ok, so he borrows the suit above. Does a couple of Barimanastics and BAM…he’s rigged better than ninety percent of the world.'
The sartorial master, Ahmet Ertegun received this Barimanal observation…
“…..one cannot dismiss the twinkle in Ertegun's eyes that implies a capacity to be as indelicate as his companions, at least once upon a time. Nutini was a great admirer of Ertegun's sartorial sense, liking it to that of his own grandfather, but also reminisced that when it came to retaining a finger on the pulse, he was more like a 25-year old. Indeed, one would expect nothing less than precise attunement to the zeitgeist from Ertegun, the man who wrote 'Mess Around' for Ray Charles, signed Led Zeppelin and fell asleep in a nightclub whilst finalizing negotiations with The Rolling Stones…”
So he’s a visualist and a darn good writer. If there’s a flaw somewhere it’s one that I posses as well. One post will be well written with catchy commentary and then the next three may be comparatively lean on all fronts. I’ll defend both of us. I write this drivel in my spare time and it by no means is it my job. And Barima…well let me just say that more of his stuff is fun to read than not. I’d like to see more comments on his posts. Maybe you’ll become a follower.

This link will take you straight-away to Barima posts that almost exclusively depict him and his sartorial contrivances. It would be a cool way to orient yourself to why I deem him visually worthy of this tribute post.

Onward. With about one tenth the stuff that our Barima has.

Ps...Barima read every word of this post and approved one hundred percent of its tone and content before I published it. So spare me any interpretation that you might have about ethnic edginess and political correctness. This man rocks every bit of what God gave him.

Monday, August 30, 2010

LFG and the Nose-Spoon Trick

Young Fogey said...

"...Am I the only one who noticed the picture of LFG in the background, the one with the spoon on her nose?"
That would be LFG and some fella.
 Onward. No spoons. Day one of school. Where are the years going?
Little Miss Safety Patrol LFG and Spoon Mentor ADG

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Trad Week Random Review

All in my world will in a few more days, be right again. Even though I’m not with LFG every day of every week, it’s comforting to know that she’s twenty minutes away. But this week she remains at Ponte Vedra with friends and I’ve had no live phone time with her. So I’ve been slightly off center this week, awaiting her return.

Then I get this email on Tuesday early evening. The paucity of words seem inversely proportionate to the way this little missive made me feel. LFG is just now entering the email realm and this was kinda like manna for me. I now know what parents mean when they talk about the comfort they feel when a child taps in with them via text or email.

From: L___ G____[mailto:___@gmail.com] Sent: Tuesday, August 24, 2010 6:31 PM To: D___G____ Subject: hey

i miss you

I miss you too my little Monkey and can’t wait to see you. 
Now I don’t remember squat about Kindergarten. It remains a cannabis hazed foggy recollection for the most part. But I do remember the day we smushed our little hands in plaster. Being the capricious little fella that I was, I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t take it home to my mom the same day we did the smushing. A couple of days later, I gifted the little plaster-hand to my mom. A few years ago she gifted it back to me. Now it shares space with LFG’s hand.
LFG is growing up and I’m fighting it every step of the way. She’s a gift of immeasurable value and I love the little woman that she’s becoming. But in no way will I refrain from pouting about and lamenting the fact that she’s not that cuddly little thing anymore. Shut up.

Ok, on to a pile of random drivel…..
Someone emailed me and asked about the “rugs outside”. Here’s the deal…yes they remain outside year ‘round. They are old and in no way valuable. Only in rare instances will rain or snow make its way to these old rags but sunshine does routinely. So they are dirty and patinated and faded and gnarly…just like me.
I have two old rugs that I bought at a neighbor’s yard sale when I was about twenty five years old. They aren’t valuable either but they have sentimental value. They’ve travelled with me to various destinations and have accommodated my treading them during times prosperous and times painful. This old Bokhara greets you at one door.
And if you’re one of the lucky, this Pakistani (I think) prayer rug will greet your feet in the ADG bedchamber. It accommodated for a few years, the predictable patter of little LFG feet as she climbed in my bed at around three each morning.
Ok, a thanks is in order…and long overdue actually. MegTown from PigTown Design sent us a neat little string of flags to announce to the world that cocktails were served on the ADG veranda. She also sent me a Titanic-Iceberg ice tray. She knows my sense of humour. Thanks again for the flags Meg. At first glance they look like a bikini top for a dairy cow. Shut up.
Ok, let’s talk cars for a moment. I didn’t get to attend the Concours at Pebble Beach but I was the grateful recipient of consolation gifts. A program and a baseball hat arrived in solace.
I’m gonna be off on these numbers a little bit. However, twelve is an exact number and that’s the number of the Jaguar racing XKs assembled at Pebble Beach last week. This will probably never occur again in my lifetime…due mainly to the fact that less than twenty of these works of God remain in the world today. Damn.
I don’t collect cars…other than little replica ones…but I do collect other things. And I share with you evidence that lets one know they have too much stuff. I was thumbing through Forty Years of Spy…the autobiography of Sir Leslie Ward… “Spy” of Vanity Fair fame. I’ve long since read it cover to cover but refer back to it from time to time. It’s a must for any serious Vanity Fair caricature collector.
I’m looking at the above illustration in Ward’s book and thinking…“I’ve seen that watercolour somewhere before…damn it looks familiar!” So I think a little more and then traipse down the hall.
I own the original watercolour sketch by Ward and I didn’t even remember it. I suppose that happens to Ralph and his cars from time to time or Steve Wynn and one of his Picassos.
I finally got around to framing my Richard Merkin New Yorker covers. Expensive green-deco frames consistent with Merkin’s pop-art-ish covers. Michaels craft store and a can of spray paint…thirty bucks total. 
Wouldn't be a random trad post without a Belgian shoe comment. It’s about time to send these back for their rubbers. I’ll do a post later next week explaining the process.
I did give the Belgians a break one day this past week. Ralph cordo tassels filled in.
Thoughts on these?
And help me out on this one please. Dry vermouth…I haven’t had to buy a bottle in ten years. I like ‘em dry over here. When did Martini & Rossi change their bottle? I much preferred the traditional label. No worries…I bought Noilly Prat anyway.
I like them dry and I enjoy a traditional martini glass. And…I’m completely hooked on olives stuffed with jalapeno pepper shards. I’m going through a jar a week. Spare a liver anyone?
I don’t like even well-made martinis in some kind of aberrant glass. It negatively influences the taste.
And margaritas in martini glasses confuse me as well. Kinda like that dairy-cow bikini top.
Let me close this drivel out with a remark about the stuffiness of shirt collars…pinned or not. Sometimes it’s nice to just throw on an old Sero button down and a knit tie. Classic…classic…classic.


Oh and Ps … it may not be cold enough to swath yourself to this degree just yet. However, it’s time to store the seersucker and madras. One more week and the linen stuff has to go as well. I don’t like the transitional months.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Pinned Collars: An Elegant Solution to an Irrelevant Problem

I love the fact that something as benign as a collar pin, coupled with my typical inflammatory embellishments and pseudo-fictional back stories can incite such responses. So I’ve re-crafted my previous post to accommodate opposing points of view.  Come on…I live seven miles from Capitol Hill…I can flip-flop on issues with the best of them. Here’s my redo…

Well crafted collars are lovely without any type of anchoring adjunct. 
A well cut shirt with a proper collar need not be encumbered with any hardware to augment, or in some opinions detract, from its posture. 
Add a well tied, precisely dimpled tie and you’ve got a sartorially winning combination. However, for those who are interested in heightening the visual interest of a well tied-properly dimpled tie and the relationship with the collar it visits, you might consider a collar pin. Pin-through collars manifest a tighter, more precise anchoring. Slide on collar bars are just as swell. 
But remember a collar and tie unrestrained is sublime.

Onward. To LFG's elementary school new academic year orientation...sans the still in Florida LFG.

ADG. Still Woofing.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Pinned vs. Clipped Collar: A Protracted Discourse

Clip on collar pins are like clip on ties and clip on suspenders. Under no circumstances shall anyone over the age of nine utilize these sartorial aberrations. Either impale your collar or leave it sans girding. Skewer it or let it be. Impale the cloth or anchor that collar through its pre-sewn eyelets. Take a cue from aplomb master Astaire.
Why? Because the difference between a pinned-through collar and one anchored by some type of slide-on ditty is like being seated in the Cub Room at the Stork Club versus Sherman Billingsley ordering you and your party to Stork Siberia. Clip-on slide-on and your collar will be relegated to the cheap seats. Let me say it another way. Anything other than pinned-through shouts sartorial rookie. Poseur is too strong and frankly, an unfair characterization but plebe certainly isn’t. Here’s Papa pinned nicely in the Cub Room
Here's Astaire again...and he's pinned this point collar to perfection. I’ll touch on collar types and the damage pins  inflict so sit tight. Astaire also tarted up his shirtsleeve nicely with an inconsequential monogram. The point collar just takes to the pin better than any other collar style.
Australian pilot Sir Norman Brearly was known to pin it down before taking to the skies. I’d love to live in a world where half this level of sartorial precision was the norm.
Frank’s sartorial acumen was unimpeachable. However, I’ll use his pinned collar example to make a point about club or rounded collars. Once you pin them, the already modest collar essentially disappears. The resultant look is, at least to me, a bit underpowered. It’s “off” in some way and ends up looking like the antithesis of the anchored aplomb of the Astaire point collar. Sinatra also appears to be wearing a collar with sewn-in holes for said collar impalement. I’ll take that issue up in a moment as well.
Here’s George Frazier pinned to perfection. Surely he would cut you down to size if he discovered you sporting a clip on anything. I suspect for Frazier it was either a Brooks Brothers oh-so-properly rolled button down or it was a point collar pinned to perfection. And God help you if you wore a carnation and a pocket square.
Let’s bring Wolfe and Merkin into the fray. Obviously the issue of collar girding was one of significant import for both of these dandies. In Wolfe’s dedication of The Right Stuff to Merkin, he mentions not only the collar pin issue but a Frazier corollary of some sort.
Ok, so let’s talk hardware. While some may spend significant bucks on collar pins I never will. I buy the gold and silver plated ones at Paul Stuart because I’m prone to lose them. And who the hell’s gonna know the provenance and alloy content of your collar pin? Those that I allow to get that close to me are already so rapt in Maxminimus Fuzzy Aplomb that they could give two hoots and a damn regarding the hardware that they are about to relieve me of. Shut up. I mean it. Shut up. The pin at the top is exclusively for shirts that have preset-sewn-in holes. I no longer own any of those shirts so if anyone does, send me an email and I’ll drop this one in the mail to you. You need to buy pins like the second one.
I don’t like the pre-drilled collar holes because their placement demands that you tie your tie a certain size to accommodate the un-editable space created by the pinned collar. Some ties result in smaller knots based on weight and type of material. And if the entire rig isn’t cinched with air-tight z-e-r-o space showing around and below the knot...the result is loose and sloppy-exactly the antithesis of what the pinning-girding effort should yield. The picture above that I nicked from a website illustrates my point. Everything looks nice. The suit, the shirt, the tie…nice choices. But the screw-on collar bar leaves way too much space around the rig.
Now let’s take up the issue of sequelae…collar trauma. Folks, it’s the price of doing business. Yes, the pin-through ritual will take a toll on your shirts. But either accept this and concede it or don’t wear pinned collars. Nothing more to say here. Take comfort in the fact that when laundered, the pin holes generally heal and that only after years and years of use will the collar look too buck-shot and thus require retirement. Here are examples from my closet. Keep in mind that all three of these shirts are at least fifteen years old—the Brethren end-on-end was made in the USA so that tells you something about its age.
End on end probably takes more of an irreparable hit than other fabrics. Keep in mind though, that even after years of wearing this shirt and the resulting scars, I still wear it and once it's pinned again, all of the battle scars seem to fade into the overall assemblage.
A slightly less traumatized Paul Stuart example.
And I stopped pinning this Flusser shirt from fifteen years ago so the damage is minimal. I don't like how small and incorrect these club collars seem post-pinning.
So here’s the ADG interpretation of collar pinning done right. Airtight and snug. Also realize that this is a hybrid collar. It offers the circularity of a club collar but with rounded collar points that remain pronounced amidst its pinned-collar harness.
Of course it wouldn’t be an ADG post without at least one fuzzy iPhone picture. So here you have the balance of the rig that shrouded the impale-ee.
Fuzzy completeness manifests via the Toad of Toad Hall Man of No Consequence Monogram. Opposite the 5th button. Shut the……
So if you can’t run with the pinned-through dogs, I suggest you keep your clip-on ass on the porch.

Onward. Pinned. Woof-woof.