Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bonfire of the Weejuns

Nothing has probably incited more tisk-tisking than the ongoing, intermittent crowing that I manifest  about my Navy Blue Weejuns that I bought in college. 
When I play the “If the House Was On Fire” game, these navy babies always end up on the list of things I’d retrieve before exiting. I remembered the other day that when FootJoy sold dress shoes years ago, usually in golf pro shops, they offered a navy blue tassel loafer almost identical to the iconic Alden tasselated standard. And yes, I owned a pair. Can’t remember for the life of me where those concoctions ended up.
So the quest for a reasonably priced version of the old college blue Weejuns has been a Quixotic endeavour at best. I’d also admit that for me it’s been a half hearted one. I don’t need another pair. My vintage ones are fairing just fine. But I did find exotic navy blue shoddings for consideration. Ron Rider and Leffot can put you in a pair of stunning navy blue venetians for just under seven bills. Lovely but I don’t have that kind of dough these days.
The other reason that I’m not inclined to the Leffot level of navy blue pedal adornmentalia is that the balance on my John Deere’s will be due soon. Some axked me the other day what the status was on this contrivance. A pair of try-on loafers is en route to me this week. The conscientious folks at Yuketen want to make certain that the sizing is just right before they finish my order. Good-green things come to those who wait.
Really then, a navy blue shodding effort was until recently, gonna be a huge financial undertaking. Mark McNairy taunted us last summer with the promise of a navy blue Weejun re-launch. Alas, I’ve never seen these offered anywhere. Mark McNothing.
A couple of readers…that would be about 30% of my constituency, eagerly passed along to me a link to Oak Street Bootmakers with the news of their navy blue loafer offering. So here you go folks, a none too inexpensive but not Leffot level price point navy loafer. I don’t know anything about this purveyor but from the looks of this shoe, it seems to be a solid value. I’d prefer not having a double-soled version but everything else rings true to the essence of Weejuns…when Weejuns mattered.
Onward. With blue things.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Help Me-Help Me! Please!

I’m being held prisoner of war in Minnesota. The good news is two-fold. I’m being paid for my sequestering and…I know this is excessive…but I’m buying one of these souvenir potholders for every darn one of you.

And when I’m home later this week we’ll touch on….
 A blue loafer update….
 Why Toad owes me sixty bucks from last weekend…
 The tragedy of Snow Leopards…
 The National Book Festival on the Mall…
 Oh, and these books I found….
 And why this album cover played a key role in my formative years…
 Getting a haircut this weekend.

Onward. Minnesota Nice-ly.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Belgians Old and New

“One more of us—one less of them.”  I’ve received a report that Belgian Shoes in Gotham initiated a new convert last week. I can’t remember my first time darkening the doors of Aloof-shodding Central but here’s the recent converts update…
“…Loden green suede, black calf trim. Comfy? - doesn't begin to describe - the minute he put them on my feet I didn't want to take them off! It's a funny little shop, felt like somewhere in one of the arcades off Jermyn Street. Got a bit dazzled by choice of women’s, red patent with pink trim somewhat distracting so I looked at the mens instead and the kind gentleman helped me pulling out what I liked in women’s sizes. I tried the brown with black trim and the burgundy but as you know I like suede and have a bit of a thing about green shoes at the moment so went for these. Kind gentleman explained to me the rather arcane rubber soleing process. And when I mentioned your name they said 'oh  Mr G_____, we know him well' ...”
Ahh…the “arcane rubber soleing process”…certainly a cornerstone in the mélange of Belgian quirky. That is unless you have a lot more money than sense. Everyone who buys these shoes under any circumstance has more money than sense but those who eschew the rubber sole are in a different league. And loden green suede is as good a pair as any from which to depart on Belgian voyage maiden.

And then from another correspondent, New Orleans attorney, former Esquire Magazine writer and Esquire Good Grooming Guide editor, George Frazier, IV …
“…I have a pair of dark-brown Belgians that are over 40 years old. I got them way back when I lived in NYC (the 60s). One bow is missing; one sole is pretty much trashed. I had them reinforced with thin rubber soles at the suggestion of a friend who wears almost nothing but Belgians (she's Dutch, so maybe she felt a geographical affinity). They're the most comfortable shoe ever made, and wearing them has a real the World's-Opinion-Can-Go-to-Hell feeling.” And then in a quickly amended email … “My wife reminds me that her mother bought me the Belgians about 30-35 years ago, so I guess they're not that old.”

Well I’ll say this George, IV…yours are officially the oldest pair I know about...even with your spousal amendment of a few years. Now if I can only get you to snap a digital photo of them (and those couple of pairs of Peale loafers…the trashed ones and the still intact pair) for my archive. Seems to me that a fella who had his own Stork Club house account at age six would have nothing less than shoddings of intrigue.
Finding a photo of anyone wearing Belgians is rare. Unless of course you read my drivel ‘cause I’m gonna bust a pair at least once a week and they always seem to coincide with my crotch shots. Two for one I say. But I did find a Laurence Harvey—Mia Farrow photo that has young Laurence sporting a pair circa 1967. I think it’s a publicity shot for the movie A Dandy in Aspic.
And the All Male Issue of Flair Magazine has a profile on Gary Cooper that sees him in pseudo-Belgian shoddings.
Perilously close but seemingly a bit more sturdy than Belgians pure. …
“he favors moccasin type shoes specially designed for him by Farkas and Kovacs.” Farkas and Kovacs by the way, made the first prototype that went on to be the ubiquitous tasseled standard still purveyed by Alden.
So what about the rubber aftermarket add-on? Let’s set up this tutorial with a comment from Brigid.

“ your blog and your cousin's too! I have a Belgian shoes question...what do you do to make them more sturdy/hardy/less fragile. I know you mentioned that you would post something about how to resole or double sole Belgians. I just can't find it in your blog. I have 2 brand spanking new ones and I'm afraid to wear them. I figure they'll last about one day...maybe two. Help!? Thanks. Brigid
Brigid, we gotta talk élan, attitude and swagger first. Rubber soles or not, you must realize that to shore up…to make sturdy a pair of Belgians is an exercise in futility and an example of misdirected intent. Part of their quirky allure includes the fact that they feel like house slippers and are destined to physical decline faster than any other shodding with an MSRP over ten bucks. You just can’t care that much. If you do, you won’t enjoy them and they won’t enjoy being worn by you.
It’s an attitudinal thang Brigid. They are going to get trashed so have fun in them during their decline. When one pair declines to a certain point, you relegate them to things like…like Bumper Car driving.
So here’s the deal. You wear new Belgians until you get them really scuffed up and molded to your foot. Send them back for the rubber veneer too soon and you’ll have a pair returned to you that won’t fit properly. The soleing-gluing process tends to “tighten-up” Belgians so you gotta make ‘em your own before having the sole attached.
My latest ones are about ready to head back to Gotham for their rubbers. I’ve not sought out anyone inside the Beltway to do this work. I prefer sending them back to the mother church of faggy shoes and allowing their subcontracted farrier to do it. No used to be pound foolish and pound foolish-er.
I’ve seen ‘em come back with variations in the rubber but can discern no difference in the functionality of the latex layer regardless of the vendor. 
True Prep mentions Cat’s Paw but word on the street is that there are many, many brands mentioned by name in that book. Shut up.
Rubber soles or not…wear ‘em like you own ‘em ‘cause you do. And you oughta be ashamed of yourself for paying that kind of money for a moccasin that won’t last any longer than it takes for AllieVonBelgians to sneak-smoke a Virginia Slims when she’s on Montauk drinking with her posse.

Onward. Belgianly.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Synthetics Are Coming! Synthetics Are Coming!

Esquire Magazine—October 1968. One month of this stuff has more substance, edginess and gravitas than a year’s worth of most magazines today—barring maybe some think-tank wonk journal…but that’s work stuff right? I’m a narrow niche content pseudo-expert at work but I don’t read that stuff for general instruction or fun. And you don’t either. If you did; my blog would be the last damned thing on your reading list. I’m gonna ask someone who worked at Esquire during the Arnold Gingrich reign about Gingrich’s vision for and influence on Esquire’s content. He was still on the masthead as Publisher in October of 1968 but I’m thinking that by then, only his standards were present in lieu of an in situ Gingrich. "Salvaging the 20th Century"
And let me share with you my reorientation to world edginess. Edginess has always existed. Every generation has it. I suppose that I hadn’t performed enough due diligence when I concluded that some of the earlier decades of the 20th century fronted a rather staid populous. People…packed tightly into a decade here and there but not really making much of a fuss. I’ll admit again, I hadn’t done my homework. Reading a twenty-six year old George Frazier in a 1936 issue of Downbeat Magazine was my first instruction. Delving in to this 1968 Esquire last night was my capstone. “But wait a minute ADG, the sixties in general and 1968 for certain are poster examples of edginess, protest, chaos and societal reordering. So your naiveté regarding edginess now escalates to full blown stupidity with the citation of a 1968 publication offering apogee. If you didn’t know about 1960’s edginess before…well…” Ok, I’ll give you half a point for that.
But what I guess I’m not conveying clearly is that the edgy ones in decades previous seemed to have gravitas in tandem with their edginess. Could there be erudite edginess? Frazier’s Downbeat rants (be patient—I’m gonna write some stories about them) seem to be written by someone who after losing an academic scholarship at Harvard, wrote in one night, a Bowdoin Prize winning essay to regain Harvard’s graces and a place in next year’s class. That someone would be George Frazier. Kevin Federline…K-Fed to those of us who follow him…seems to be the only contemporary guy with edgy-cred that I can channel right now. Shall I stop this overwrought ramble? Bottom line is that people don’t read or write anymore. So edginess shrouded in gravitas and erudition has gone the way of Dacron-Orlon-Banlon-Rayon-Corfam and...and...Aztran.
Look at the sampling of minds that one month’s Esquire offerings would provide you. One money gets you guys positing stuff on paper that if all were present in the same room... a collective ass whipping would commence that would scare Dog The Bounty Hunter. Buckley and Vidal in a headlock...Kenneth Tynan and William Styron playing the dozens while eye-gouging each other with Truman Capote and the ghost of F. Scott cowering under a desk cradling a martini shaker. Damn...all you'd need to assure that the aftermath looked like Jonestown Guyana was Norman Mailer. It’s official. I’m now living, at least with my thoughts, completely in decades past. I knew it would happen but I wasn’t counting on turning into my grandfather until I was old enough to be one.
Oh, right. This rant is titled something about synthetics. Get to it then. I tracked down this copy of Esquire to get George Frazier’s superbly written article "The Peacock Revolution". Mission accomplished there but what I discerned from the print ads was the festering carbuncle of man-made fibers, films and syntho-polymers. I still think that the seventies was the decade of synthetic absurdities but the prodrome was in the starting blocks in 1968. Aztran? The Corfam—Aztran arms race had to have been riveting. Promeric Imitation Leather? I'm calling in sick right now.
I hadn’t grown enough to port over to the men’s department or wear adult sized shoes until well into the 1970’s. By then, everything was a plastic/petroleum derivative. I don’t think you could buy a purely natural fibered concoction in my hometown circa 1975. I kid you not when I say that I let out an audible, alone, in my house this morning when I saw this Dexter Corfam print ad. This was my first pair of adult shoes. And Corfam is all plastic and all insular. I remember getting home from church and removing at once, my Sunday clothes…I don’t know what went down at your house but an ass-whipping would ensue where I lived if you sullied your Sundays. 
My Corfam-Dexter shod feet would be soaking wet. Complain? Nope. I wore what they bought me and synthetics they did buy. An extruded, rolled out bouillabaisse of unnatural concoctosity otherwise known as Corfam. These weren’t shoes. They were incubator hot houses. My tetter is flaring up just thinking about something similar touching my body. "The miracle of wipe and wear"...I think I could have made a living writing copy back then! But then again in 1968 if you could shoot par golf consistently you could feed your family via the golf industry.
"Like walking on easy street...the miracle material." I just threw up a little bit in the back of my throat.
Catalina Martin...didn't she used to dance at the Cheetah Three in Atlanta? Please, someone who dressed during this era tell me what the collective thinking was. You willfully walked away from shell cordovan, pebble grained cowhide Weejuns, oxford cloth and flannel for this? I gotta know. Tell me please. Remember, these are the kind of things I never got to talk to my daddy about. Were the Mad Men of Gotham really THAT good at telling you that if you didn’t jump on the syntho-polymer Banlon bandwagon you weren’t cool? Lie to me if you must.
Ok, I’ve gotta do work-work now. But I will leave you with a few of the more hopeful print ads from October 1968’s Esquire. 
Jaguar and Triumph…still purveying elegant lines before the U.S. Government ruined their aesthetics by demanding those big ass rubber-baby-buggy-bumpers…front and rear.
And an almost apologetic postage stamp sized ad in the back of the magazine…for L.L. Bean Bluchers. Probably still made in U.S.A. back in ’68… my last pair’s cobblegenesis was one of the Salvadors…either El or San.
Onward. Naturally. In 100% cotton, silver, gator and shell cordovan. But commando.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tennis Whites-A Protracted Discourse.

I like the decorum associated with white. Mark Twain seemed jaunty while swathed in it. There was a time when as a kid, I'd have to wear whites on the municipal courts in my hometown. Shut up.
Dr. W.G. Grace carried off the Cricket Whites scheme in good form. He’d have probably looked swell in a white General Practitioners jacket but the calling of G.P. was trumped by the cricket pitch. Not sure that he ever really practiced medicine. I am sure that he and Lord Hawke both refrained from entering the pitch in the same moment that who played for a wage...emerged. 
Tom Wolfe revels in pissing people off with white elegance. His counter-bohemianism in full.
And look at this guy. Toad has never looked more regal than this. What kind of shoes did you have on?
The U.S. Open would be marginally more elegant if a tennis whites only rule was in place…for players and officials. This poor lady redefines high waisted trouser induced celibacy. These trousers on a woman, coupled with either Crocs or Birkenstocks would pretty much seal the deal for me.
And sorry about the foot fault controversy Andy. Might the outcome have been different if you'da cleaned up a bit and donned maybe...whites? Whitey.
But would tennis whites influence crowd behavior? Tennis seemed to be one of the last bastions of “no fist-fights in the stands.” That would be until this punk decided to cock off on a seventy something year old man. The man was protecting the honor of his daughter—nothing more than I would do for LFG. Shameful. Granted, they were all a bit on the rough side...way up in the nosebleed realm but excuse. 
So here’s a trip down tennis whites memory lane. What a fun looking bunch. They left shortly after this photo was taken and headed over to Hooters to drink beer and eat wings. 
Renee and Roger. France and Switzerland. Ashford and Simpson. Laurel and Hardy. Mickey and Minnie. Adam and Eve. Bill and Hillary. Starsky and Hutch. Hansel and Gretel. All of them would have looked fetching in white. Shut up. I'm bored.
I have nothing to say here. Nothing. Not a damn thing. Now give me a cigarette.
If you don't believe that physical power is the core strategy of sisters Williams, then go read The Art of War or something silly like that.
This is Tintin. And his older brother Stinky.
Fred Perry
Tony Trabert
And please. Let's just end this drivel with a stunning example of physicality. Nancy Kulp...better known as Jane Hathaway on The Beverly Hillbillies.

Onward... A.Whitey G.