Sunday, February 26, 2012

"There You Go Again"...The Jimmy Carter Clip-On

I thought I was done with this. Jimmy Carter had problems out the you-know-what by the time he debated Ronald Reagan in 1980. His a_s was toast and his campaign reeked of simply going through the motions. But the Carter Clip-On Collar Bar couldn't have helped one i-damn-ota during the televised debates with Reagan. Look at it...languishing well below the higher, appropriate point of cinched-up contact where its purpose should manifest. Even if it was "slide-ruled" all the way up, the result would be sub-par compared to the tie stance visual interest enhancing big boy pin-through version. Come to think of it, Presidents or Presidential aspirants shouldn't wear any kind of tie stance enhancing hardware. A tie-knot preen, even correctly contrived, might cause Presidential Gravitas attenuation.
Either pin it like this or not at all. I don't have to worry about Gravitas attenuation. I'm only a Vice the private a small company...which means I'm also on any given week, Human Resources, Plumber, Auditor, Customer Service, Writer, Editor and Window Washer. Shut. Up.
You've heard me on this issue before. I’m weary of it and chances are most of you are too. Don’t make me have to address it again. If you own the slide/clip-on version—get up right now. Get up and locate it. And throw it in the trash immediately…this second. Now. And not in the little bathroom or bedroom wastebasket where if you change your mind after church today, you can retrieve it. Nope. Go straight away to the kitchen and shove it down in that large garbage can amongst last night’s casserole remnants and yesterday’s Greek salad lunch fixings…all of which must be rolled to the street tonight for pick-up first thing in the morning. Got it? Good.
Oh, and while you’re at it, toss out any of those little bo-bo cardigan sweaters that you might have languishing in the closet. And please, if you are wearing one while reading this, just jump out the damn window.
Sorry for the Sunday dose of tough love. But sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

Onward. With, from last night; systemic, Altoid proof, Greek salad breath. In a bo-bo cardigan. Till LFG tells me to take it off.

ADG the Two

Friday, February 24, 2012

Trad-Ivy Friday: San Francisco’s Cable Car Clothiers

The moment I walked in, a resolute olfactory waft took me back to Singletons Men’s Shop circa 1968…the little Trad goods haberdashery in my hometown of Florence, South Carolina. Within two feet of my entry, a comforting aromatic déjà vu hit me. And what made it so powerful was that I hadn’t smelled it in thirty years. But it was unmistakable. The place smelled just like Singletons. Clyde Singleton, creator of the joint in my home town, opened his doors in 1927. Charlie Pivnick created Cable Car Clothiers , declaring it open for business in 1946. And in both cases, it was very good.
But me at least, denotes movement and impermanence and so my characterization in the case of Cable Car is slightly incorrect. The smells didn’t need to move towards you. They were deeply permanent. Odoriferously patinated I’d say…just like the hyper-air conditioned Singletons of my youth when I’d go there with my dad on a July Saturday when he needed to pick up something he’d bought a week earlier. Bay Rum, wool, oxford cloth, leather, fifty year old fixtures and displays and cabinets and cases…glass topped or fronted…anything but fragile. Add sturdy to the broth and I’d say I’ve given my best effort to describe the key ingredients that constitute the aromatic legacy of such stalwart institutions as Cable Car Clothiers.
Alan Flusser had these things to say about Cable Car Clothiers in his 1996 book Style and the Man“Much like its namesake, this is the type of store that gives San Francisco an irresistible allure. Step through its doors and you step back in time—way back. Cable Car Clothiers is an anamoly in an age where museums or old photo albums are often the only medium able to connect one with his roots.” Further from Flusser…“Charles (Pivnick) is the Sir Lancelot of the herringbone grail.” That’s Charlie and his grandson above. And here’s a link to their story.
So I took advantage of one of my limited little windows of free time amidst my recent San Francisco meeting and walked over to Cable Car Clothiers. I’d seen their mailings a few times and had been to their website but I had to see first-hand, this Trad-Prep-Anglo outpost for myself…in situ. In addition to its tenure, its spoke in the wheel of an essentially extinct Old San Francisco…there’s gravitas. A tight little paucity of words to convey something ain’t part of my ability but I’m gonna give it a try. Cable Car Clothiers is (was) “J. Press West” – but different. Its clutteredness says hallmarked sterling and cucumber sandwiches, effortlessly offered where J. Press’ dishevelment is an equally uncontrived badge of electroplate and a Kraft cheese saddled Triscuit. The American Trad offerings abound but a key differentiator for Cable Car has been their commitment to British Goods. And yes, the previous sartorial genus-species categories deserve to be capitalized.
When I think of what old San Francisco might have been, I speculate that Herb Caen could have easily been a customer of Cable Car Clothiers. I mean where else would one want to go for the goods necessary to achieve this level of pinned particularity?
Same with Lucius Beebe but only for the panoply of accoutrement to complement his bespoken Henry Poole togs.
And one of my best buddies in the world knows exactly where to get some of the most authentic three button Ivy-Trad swathings. Here’s Toad replete in Cable Car-ness. Context is here.
BarnabyConrad, Jr. for sure, coulda kitted out courtesy of Cable Car Clothiers, for his evenings as Lord of El Matador, his North Beach whiskey hole. And Herb Caen was on many an evening, Conrad's wingman at the bar. Conrad said this about his El MatadorIt was an extraordinary time. Imagine, Noel Coward in my little rotten saloon."
Conrad would be a natural for Cable Car Clothiers. San Francisco native…prepped at Taft in Connecticut and then captained the freshman boxing team at Chapel Hill. Flirted with the painting curriculum at the University of New Mexico for a bit and then went back East to Yale and finished up. And Conrad was a fairly serious bullfighter…having faced hooved opponents in Spain, Mexico and Peru.
Conrad and Cable Car Clothiers have both been the proverbial real deal. Conrad…the antithesis of new moneyed WASP poseurs who buy more horse than they have skill to mount, then end up getting thrown and busting their asses while trying to ride with whatever Hunt they've bought their way into. Cable Car Clothiers…the antithesis of the slave-labor, sweatshop artisanal-heritage-authentic, spray-on-tan patination of the current gaggle of Trad-Ivy knock off artistes. You don’t “spray-on” the stones necessary to go toe to hoof with a freakin’ bull. The requisite stones aren’t adjective heavy like my stories and they damned sure aren’t fused and glued in a sweatshop. Cable Car Clothier Calibre Cavalry twill, hooked center-vented-lapped seamed balls. That’s what Conrad had on beneath his girlie looking matador pants in the photo above.
Oh, and the music that you hear when winnowing through the hallowed crannies of Cable Car Clothiers? It isn’t loud enough to dance to. And it’s coming from a radio. I saw it. It looked old enough to have tubes. Knobs on the face of it—not buttons to press or switches to flip. Knobs…you know, the things you turn to find a station. Probably a Public Radio station because it was playing really decent stuff that was just a bit too elegant and durable for commercial viability.
I’m in such need of clothes that my list of potential Cable Car Clothiers purchases was endless. I kid, I kid. Shut up. But I’d decided before I rounded the corner and entered the place that I’d like to have a token…a talisman from Trad-Ivy West. And much to my surprise, everything and I mean everything, in the store, was thirty percent off. You see, Cable Car Clothiers is decamping. Yep…walking away from the patinated vessel whose legacy befits the melange of Anglo British and Trad-Wasp American goods purveyed therein. They're downsizing…moving to smaller quarters. I hope that the reason for the move isn’t related to the declining appetite for…really decent stuff that was just a bit too elegant and durable for commercial viability.
I’d love to be more hopeful about such things but I can’t. I don’t have any attachment to Cable Car Clothiers per se. I mean really, I’d never been there before but now I can say that I saw the old-ish place at least once. Certainly I have a mawkish load of treacle for all of these once great places that are disappearing; sometimes abruptly evaporating or occasionally, in the case of Cable Car Clothiers, opting for Hospice as a step-down before calling it quits.
My hope is that they’ll flourish in their piccolo version of the original sanctum. But you can’t replicate decades of layers deep everythingness overnight. Sure, you could call in Ralph’s “visual team” or some of the slapdash, twee talent found via the “tumblr inspiration boards” … you know, one of those self-anointed “stylists”. My worry is that you’d get one of two things as a result. Either the dissonance that’s so painfully obvious in the new (relatively new) J. Press store on Madison Avenue. Dissonance manifest in what’s still a fairly decent pile of J. Press legacy merchandise that looks like it somehow ended up getting delivered to the wrong store. Merchandise sitting uncomfortably on the edge of a terribly sterile and brand-new chrome examining table, tentatively, in a paper gown, nervously awaiting the customer doctor. Awaiting the doctor while being attended by a jittery salesperson nurse. An attendant who feels just as out of place and tentative. Perhaps having needed to retire thirty years ago. Oh, and the other thing you'd get--music. Loud enough to dance to. Once the tubes warmed up.
So here’s to Cable Car Clothiers. To olfactory remembrances. And Patina. And music--not loud enough to dance to.

Onward. In my Cable Car Clothiers striped button down. I needed one.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Gabardine-My Final Words

Ok, let me finish up my gabardine ramble so we can move on this week, to even less pertinent drivel. Color and fabric quality/weight should finish this thang off. So what about fabric quality and weight? A mediocre quality flannel when brand new, might veil a good bit of its inferiority for the first three months of domicility at your house. Thereafter it begins to pill and stretch and take on a Robert Hall half-price droopiness. Not the same for gabardine. The thicker, less high-twist stuff looks like sh_t from the get-go. Two f-stops down from the very best and you’ve got a polyester looking thing with a bad case of jaundice.
I know this first-hand. My initial foray into the Ralph Lauren Custom Order Swatch Box back around 1985 landed me on the least expensive tan gabardine offering in the line-up. And I bit. During the eight weeks or so before it arrived, I had visions of wearing this two-three rolled, notch lapelled, Colony model trouser (the Colony model was great—high waisted, side tabbed really full legged trouser—think Astaire in the ‘30’s) with a crisp white shirt and a Polo paisley madder tie of mostly yellow and blue. If you can dream it, you can do it. And I was dreaming of something akin to the Apparel Arts gab above.
It rolled in sometime that July and I, brown as a berry from the poolside antics of said time, went over to Brittons on Main Street to see this, my first every anything not-off-the-peg. My dream didn’t turn immediately into a nightmare—I was too naïve to think that the suit couldn’t be salvaged…aesthetics wise. I looked at the little acronym bracelet that I wore back then. WWMOFD? (“What Would Merkin Or Flusser Do?) It then dawned on me that these two sartorial icons, both of whom I’d cross paths with in later years, wouldn’t have done such a thang in the first place.
One of the stalwart sales legends of Brittons during the time kinda chuckled as yet another of the patinated old sales fellas was marking the trousers and allowed that …“It does make you look kinda yaller.” Thanks. My investment of six hundred and eighty dollars (might as well have been two thousand for me at the time) began to feel weighty. No surprise there though. When you select literally, the least expensive swatch in the Made to Measure Box, Super 140’s it ain’t. This was probably a Super 8 at best. I might as well have had on my Senior Prom yellow tuxedo.
A buttery ultra-luxurious best of class gabardine would have trudged through the South Carolina summer in as good a form as poplin or seersucker. But my gabardine folly was a warp-weft convectionator. I soldiered on and tried to make use of it that summer but it ended up doing more time in my closet than on the mean streets and teachings hospitals of Columbia South Carolina and Augusta Georgia. I even tried wearing the trousers with a navy blazer but this too was for naught. I was then convectionated from the waist down which was just as bad. The photo above depicts a double knit polyester aberration from the mid 1970’s. It looks perilously close but less yellow, to my boondoggle.
So I tucked it away and didn’t resurrect it until I moved to New Jersey for my corporate indenture about a year later. It took no time for my peers to hang a moniker on my two-ton gabardine sandwich sign of a suit. And it was a sandwich sign—the antithesis of the lilting, flowing brook-like qualities of the good stuff. There were no cataracts of buttery fabric bunching up in the crook of my elbow when thoughtfully; I posed with chin on palm. (Cut me a break. I was a kid trying to be corporate) Instead, I was encased. Encased in what was to be known as The Rubber Suit. And it never again saw the light of day.

Now let’s talk about gabardine color choices for a moment. If you stick solely within the tan-neutral range, it’s tricky. Anything outside of it and you are more often than not, headed for trouble. Even the most sartorially advanced would do well to seek guidance on selecting a shade within the tan-neutral range and certainly so when venturing outside. Admittedly, I bring a little bit of personal trauma to this issue.
"What’s the big whoop ADG? I’ve seen enough Apparel Arts tan gabardine renditions and a photo or two here and there. All I’d need to do is point to one of those and have my tailor duplicate all aspects therein.” Remember, I made a huge mistake both in material quality/weight and in color. And if you visit a reputable tailor, the gabardine swatch book will have fifteen shades in the tan-neutral dugout.
Without knowing anyone’s skin tone as context, I’d recommend leaning towards the olive and brownish end of the scale. You can move an f-stop or two in that direction and still posses what would be considered a “tan gabardine” contrivance. I just fear the banana. The suit above isn’t gabardine; it’s a Flusser tropical wool tan of another twist. But if I tried to gabardine it again, this would be the color realm I’d feel comfortable in.
And finally, if you are feeling a bit adventurous within the tan-neutral realm, there’s a rather pinkish color of tan gab that’s really great. Seriously. Just as with the olive-brownish anchor, a pinkish version offers just enough fuzzy je ne sais quoi (“I be damn if I know” for you South Carolinians) to make the rig interesting. Just don’t overstep your sais quoi en route to the pink side or people will say of you what Tom Buchanan said of Gatsby (In the movie-not the book…the profanity was added to the screenplay) Jordan Baker: “He's an Oxford man.” Tom Buchanan: “Like hell he is, he wears a goddamn pink suit!”
So what about other colors? There are a few that seem to sing gabardine but I’m not in possession of fuzzy enough stones to try ‘em. I do have a stellar pair of ultra-lightweight Flusser trou in olive but I was too scared to go the whole suit. And my Polo Ralph light cream gabs (above) for summer are truly harmless.

Will over at A Suitable Wardrobe mentioned at one time, an interest in gray gabardine. Here’s my May 15, 2011 comment on the matter that I left over at his blog… ADG said...“I've never been able to find any gabardine shades other than tans, that seem "right" to me. Flusser had a pearl gray dupioni silk about ten years ago that was at first unsettling to the eye but made up, to me, a lovely suit. (Not for me) I suspect the same outcome once you find something (in gabardine) that suits you.”
And the Fluss did offer in a seasonal campaign several years ago, a stunning steel blue gabardine that surely made-up to be a stalwart display of gabardaciousness. Just not for me.

The final gabardine chapter, at least from ADG II, is now closed. I’ve either intrigued you enough to go and finger the silky leaves of your tailor’s gabardine swatch book or I’ve scared you off the idea completely. Either way, it’s probably a good thing.

Onward. In at the moment, Brooks Brethren Flannel Pajamas. (Pyjamas for you South Carolinians)


Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Rykken Has Landed

When someone over at my tumblr asked me about the conclusion of Rykken’s helmsmanship at Flusser, I said something similar to… “When the Beatles split, Paul and John  still respected each other. Think of it that way.”

I kinda feel like that gal who sang that hideously mawkish song “Torn Between Two Lovers” back in the seventies. We aren’t talking commerce here in my case folks. We are talking deep and abiding friendships. My simpatico with Alan is such that I could sit and talk with him for hours. My simpatico with Rykken is the same—but different. He’s one of the best friends I’ll ever have and we argue like two kids fighting in the back of the metaphorical family station wagon. I remember telling him one night amidst a martini induced argument at 21 to simmer down a little bit, that people were gonna think he was breaking up with me.
And my friendship with Alan transcends sartorial history and color and texture and me begging for another pair of his thirty year old hand me down bespoke English shoes and his gallant gesture years ago that enabled my correspondence and acquaintance with Richard Merkin. Alan was one of the first people with whom I was able to share in person, the news that my wife and I were going to have a baby girl. He has two of them. And when I was amidst the life-sucking and check book draining divorce process, Alan facetiously referred to the pay-out plan for transferring assets to my soon to be former wife, as my “Balloon Payments.” Fluss and his minions will be here in DC next week and I'll see them.

There isn’t a secret in my life that Rykken’s not in on. I remember sitting in a diner in mid-town Manhattan at lunchtime ages ago; tears and snot cascading down-perilously close to my head-to-toe Flusser rig. No, I wasn’t disappointed in the meatloaf lunch special. I was shamefully telling Rykken that my marriage was over and that I didn’t see how in the world I was going to fathom not living in the same house as my precious little two-year old LFG. He listened. And then that night we went to 21 and then San Pietro and I got smashed.
The only non-LFG wrist junk I wear is a permanently attached woven horsehair bracelet. Rykken and his family spent time years ago in South America and he bought a bunch of them back. They’d have to cut it off of me if I was in an accident. It’s permanent. I’ve had it on for years.  Kinda like the enduring friendships I have with Messrs Flusser and Rykken.
So the bottom line is this. My friends Rykken and Flusser will both thrive and they’ll both always be my friends. The good news is that I’m on “spending lockdown” for the balance of 2012 so I don’t have to worry about pissing either camp off with some huge plunk-down of cash for clothes! But for the moment, let’s take a look at what Rykken’s up to…style wise. He's running the made-to-measure/bespoke business for Paul Stuart.
The Rykken-Paul Stuart connection is elegant and this isn’t surprising. Charcoal gray pin-dots. Peak lapels.
And a paucity of flaps and contrivances that, in their absence, simply girds its elegance further. There is one fuzzy dice saving grace contrivance on this example. Sleeve cuffs.
Windowpane Double Breasted Rykken Majesty. Stunning. My affinity for windowpane isn’t a secret. It’s the base coat for fuzziness.
Ultra sophisticated pinstripes. With a double breasted shawl collared waistcoat adding dignity to the already dignified. It seems that if you can dream it…Rykken can do it.
And please, let’s not remain too “I’ve got serious and sublime business in the City” focused. Thanks be to Jesus that Rykken et al included something playful and fuzzy in their ideation! To say that this rig is animated is like declaring today Thursday. I’m loving this one but I’d have to whip it’s a_s as soon as I got it home; just to let it know who’s the alpha boss in my house. Stronger than nine rows of spring onions this is.
For a more thorough orientation to the Rykken experience, pass by the stalwart and always tasty off the peg offerings at Paul Stuart and glimpse not at the twee and theatrical Phineas Cole Happy Meals. Scoot up one flight of stairs to the Rykken atelier and…and…revel. Email Mark at . And tell him I said he needs to lose twenty-five pounds.
Onward. With Friends. I can’t stop loving any of ‘em.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine’s Date Kit

I chuckled twice yesterday in response to others’ rather cynical pragmatic view of Valentine’s Day. Someone referred to the commercialization of Valentine’s Day as the “Valentine’s Industrial Complex.” I considered that characterization brilliant as I allowed a little free-market chuckle. The other was the renaming of it. “Relationship Predicament Awareness Day” almost induced a chortle. Chortle versus chuckle? Think of the Spinal Tap amplifier. Chuckle goes to “ten”. Chortle, you guessed it; eleven.”
R.P.A. day applies to everyone. Those who’ve been married for decades, those amidst the early phase…maybe six to nine months-ish… of a mutually intriguing relationship that’s fraught with great long-term potential as well as those who are rather early…maybe two months… into an encounter so that the future of said connection remains speculative. The Valentine’s gift selection process for that last group becomes excruciatingly onerous. A jewel encrusted bauble may denote intent about which the giver isn’t yet confident. More practical gifts…offerings that reflect sincere deliberation but remain rather Switzerland like in subplot and meaning (think toasters and iTunes gift certificates) usually go over like a heavy a_s brick.
Now that I think of it, I could use a new toaster. We got no budget for one however. The Cleverley bespoke shoe experience, about which I’ve still yet to fully write, sucked enough of my walking around money to finance a gaggle of toasters. At least eleven.
Oh, and there’s another R.P.A. category…the currently unattached. That would be me…little ADG. The good news is that I’m off the gift buying hook and thus immune from the associated angst. The less than good news is that I’m currently unattached. Hold me.
So there’s no secret regarding the identity of my Valentine’s date. One Miss LFG … the straight A student and currently budding, much to my anguish and delight, lovely and articulate young lady. Articulate, you ask? Yes. We seem to have gone in no time, from twee little misspellings as evidenced above, to thoughtful emails letting me know that “I felt a bit crowded this weekend” and “Please don’t refer to yourself as Daddy or Mom as Mommy anymore.” Mom” and “Dad”, please.” These are verbatim quotes. The great news is that I’m blessed to have a connection with my young’un that allows for this comfortable level of communication between us. She’s eleven.
Oh, right. This is a post about my Valentine’s Date Night attire. Suffice it to say that the fuzziness was limited per…surprise…LFG. I pulled an old chalk stripe flannel suit from the ADG archives and amped-up ever so slightly, the fuzzy dice quotient with a Flusser horizontal striped shirt.
NO tie—LFG would have died had I showed up cinched at the neck. She unfortunately, indexes my level of sartorial deportment against all the other dads who show up for various school functions. I won’t belabor the point. If you read my blog, you of all people know the current sartorial state of daddies attending school functions.
Shoes? My Edward Green stalwart, go-to, never inappropriate chocolate suede monk straps are amidst refurbishment. And my Cleverley side gusseted classics are being remade.
So my fall back was an easy breezy pair of Belgians…with anything but showy socks. Brown shoes with a steel blue suit? You know my position on black shoes. I no likey them. Ok, ok, I did get busted over at tumblr for preening a pair of black Gucci bit loafers. That’s the exception. And LFG was neutral regarding my Valentine’s outfit. Mission accomplished.
Clyde’s Chevy Chase. Five-thirty reservations…the proverbial blue hair Shady Acres Village dinner time. LFG started with a cup of Clyde’s great chili. I opted for fried oysters. LFG tried a half of one. I figure that I’ll be able to talk her into trying another half of one…in about seventeen years. And yes, there was a Stoli Martini to the right of my fried oyster starter…but with a twist instead of olives. I concluded months ago that I was leaving too many olives uneaten, even though I love them. And that’s just wrong. Chicken tenders and a Cowboy steak rounded out our valve-closing culinary endeavor.
Oh, and the crossed utensils in the middle of the table? Tic-Tac-Toe. LFG used blue packets of Equal sweetener. I was told to use the yellow piccolo envelopes of Splenda. Thank God, she's still eleven.
Clyde’s remains a solid venue. It’s slipped a bit from the days of the singular Clyde’s on M Street but so has everything since then. But THE most brilliant stroke was the Bento Box of desserts. LFG and I both agreed that it was the highlight of our caloric line up. Double espresso for me. Sprite for LFG. It was a school night. Shut up.
Let me close this by sharing with you my Valentine’s gift from LFG. It’s a lovely letter. The envelope manifesting a little swatch of duct tape. I’ve defined this collateral adornment as simply LFG’s talisman of uniqueness and artistic freedom. And she made for me another friendship bracelet…that will later this morning, adorn my already junky left wrist.
Onward. In a  Blessed Predicament. With LFG R.P.A. wrist junk.