…is that today is her twelfth birthday. And I’m clearly the
one with the problem here. My baby is growing up nicely and I’m fighting it all the
My LFG birthday tribute from a couple of years ago was an effusive one
and you can view it here. I’m gonna try to keep this year's mention a bit less sappy.
Why? Because LFG is a young lady now and she’s calling me out
for being too mawkish and sentimental. She declared it again last week when we
walked up to my elementary school for the eleventh time since she’s been old
enough to walk. "Dad, you've told me this already."
So here’s to you my rising seventh grader who made one “B” on
your report card this past year. Mother to one Reiley FG, Cavalier King Charles
LFG, you are gonna flip when we ride out to Middleburg next
week to pick up your birthday present that I commissioned!
“How do you feel
about accessories with polka-dots such as ties, belts and pocket squares? Is
the pattern suitable for men (in moderation)? Thanks in advance, ADG. Keep up
the good work. ~Hilton”
I feel good. About polka dots. And it took me no time to scour the visual drivel
that I’ve posted in order to find the supporting evidence. Ian Fleming and
Winnie did the best job of sporting polka dot bow ties. Polka dot...where the hell did the name "polka dot" come from?
All of us, to a person—do NOT argue this with me—when wearing
a blue polka dot bow tie with cream dots will take on some level of Unintended
Churchill Sycophancy. And if it is intended, then good on you.
I have one chocolate brown pocket square. It works in the
And in the summer. Who said brown ain’t a summer color? Call me.
I’ve even co-opted the same square for use as an ascot.
Because I have a skinny neck. And washboard abs.
When Richard Merkin passed away, his wife sent me a great
care package of Merkin Memories. And one item, consistent with Merkin’s
outrageousness was a red pocket square with oedematous dots on it. (Sorry—there are several of you mugwumps who use British spellings in
your blog posts to a laughable affective degree. Megtown over at Pigtown Design is allowed because her father was from England and she lived in Wales. The rest of you non-Britishers, unless you had at least one British parent who taught you rudimentary spelling or you went to school in England or you have a British Passport or you are the child of a British colonial subject, need to drop that damn habit post haste. However, I am allowing, along with my occasional spelling of the word color as colour, my aforementioned British spelling
of edematous because it is so effing over the top incredibly wrought in such a beautifully
quirky way that I HAD to use it. Shut the ___)
I usually wear my Merkin polka in the winter but when LFG and I get home,
I’m gonna thow it in my navy linen blazer. (Yes,
I spelled it “thow” deliberately. Courtesy of one T.C. … a KA brother of mine
who used to drop his r’s in certain words. “Cut-thoat” also comes to mind. It
must be a Winnsboro S.C. thing)
SocksPolka wild? Why not.
Socks Polka subdued? If you have to.
And finally, I almost pounced on these Jack Spade polka dot shorts the other day in Georgetown. Butcept for two reasons. One...they were about a hundred and thirty bucks. Two...and this is the bigger reason...LFG vetoed the dooky out of 'em.
Onward. Feeling good. Having escaped Florence and am now amongst ‘em with
LFG at Rehoboth. We both had our maiden 2012 Gus and Gus chili dog within twelve minutes of arrival.
And speaking of Feeling Good, here's the Godfather of Soul expounding on the phenomenon...live from Chastain Park. I kid you not, I was sitting in a lovely early 19th century flat in Paris one night...surprise...with a woman. It was our last night there and her friend who lent us the flat had a black and white television with three channels. Why would you even want a telly if you lived in Paris? I turned it on briefly and BAM! ...there was James Brown...live...from Chastain Park. Something about watching James Brown live from Chastain Park on a derelict black and white television, sitting in a great little flat in Paris, licking my divorce wounds while licking a stunner, that's story-worthy. Some damn how.
Pensky and Rick Hindin had this idea. And the idea ultimately became Britches of Georgetown. Britches in its heyday was a Washington Trad institution with
what I’ll call an experimental edge. At least when the likes of Pensky, Hindin
and Rykken were still on board. And for some reason I can’t separate Clyde’s
from Britches. Both Georgetown institutions kinda spawned together and there
was a time when you could buy cans of Clyde’s chili at Britches. Clyde’s still
holds on. Britches is long gone.
called Britches the Poor Man’s Polo shop.
It wasn’t Georgetown University shop nor was it Adler’s or any of the other
slowly steeped patinated Trad shops that many of us recollect and long to see
Britches was different. Sure, you could get your fill of Trad-Prep gear
at Britches but you could always find things that pushed the Trad-Prep Code to
its very outermost limit. And if you know anything about Washington D.C., the
Three Button Sack Coat Goofball town
that it is sartorially, you know that the outer edge of any style construct is about
half an arm’s length away. So the Britches guys were doing cool things in a
town full of Sartorial Flatlanders.
what was it that they did? Pensky-Hindin-Rykken were masters at spotting
emerging design talent and showcasing the wares of said up and comers in their Britches
stores. Ralph Lauren and a young Alan Flusser come to mind. Britches had Alan’s
first ready to wear line in their stores back in the very early 1980’s and the
goods were tasty to say the least. I had two or three Flusser rounded collar
French cuff dress shirts from that era and they lasted forever. And they were
different enough, just fuzzy enough for people to ask you where you got your
clothes from. The Britches guys would get in early with a designer and would
integrate their offerings in a way that there was always a new look, a design
variation or something fresh at Britches. Their offerings swizzle-sticked the
standard Trad-Prep cocktail.
they weren't rip-off artists by any stretch of the imagination. But they did do
a great job of offering private label goods that reflected their personal taste
level as well as their ability to observe what was emerging and integrate it
into their house brand goods. This was also the Britches inventory sweet spot
that a starving kid like me could afford—when it was on sale. There was even a
suit model at one time called the Rykken, named obviously for the point man who
for many years for the guy behind theBritches of Georgetown clothing business…Mark “Puerto” Rykken.
will never be able to convey this tale like Mark Rykken does. And I’ve asked
him like a little kid who admonishes an adult to read the same bedtime story
for the eleventh time...to “tell me the
Ralph story again, Mark.” But here goes. It was announced to the Britches
of Georgetown gang that “We are doing an
evening event for Polo and Ralph’s coming.” Now this might have been before
Ralph himself became an iconic part of the Polo brand but he was still a God to
anyone in the business.
This was early enough in the Ralph ascendancy for people
to still be agog at the rise of this man and his oeuvre. This was still the
time when High WASPs were steaming, guffawing and chortling over this lifestyle
interloper and appropriator from the Bronx. I’ll leave it right here regarding
the Ralph electricity because I don’t want to steal the thunder from another story
about when the little Trad shop I worked in finally “got permission” from Ralph to carry the Polo line.
all of the peacock devotees of Ralph who worked at Britches had about two weeks
to churn themselves into an absolute lather about what to wear when Ralph
comes. I mean think about it. You are a clothes fanatic and you work in an
incubator of great sartorial ideas, angles and offerings. You probably already
own enough foppish goods to contrive some kind of “hey Ralph, look at me” statement that will surely lure him
directly over to your twenty two year old ass as soon as he walks in the door.
And you’ve got one change to get it right.
tells the story about all the guys just obsessing over what to wear for the
Ralph event. After all, if Ralph likes you and likes what you have on, he might
even recognize your talent from the get-go and hire you. Interestingly, that’s
exactly what happened to the Britches employee who was charged with picking
Ralph up at the airport and ferrying him over to Georgetown. That would be one
the Britches guys preened and posed and coiffed and accessorized and augmented
and foppified themselves to the point of caricature. Puerto Rykken shared that
the Polo affectation bordered on hilarity. My mind’s eye sees a gaggle of Beau
Brummels on steroids standing around the store awaiting Ralph’s entrance.
enter he did. In an anti-fop contrivance that was riveting in its simplicity.
Rykken said that Ralph crossed Britches’ threshold wearing a light gray flannel
suit, white, straight point collar with no pin, a black grenadine tie, white
linen pocket square and black monogrammed slippers. All of the Britches Preening
Peacocks suddenly found themselves stewing in a broth of chagrined self-awareness.
the foppish sycophant-entreat of “look at
me…look at me” …Ralph the Anti-Fop, just smiled. When Ralph came to Britches.
And yes I know it’s Wednesday. I’m on vacation. Shut the Fop up.
It was Reginald Ambrose Darling. Current of Darlington House and the Upper East
Side via Reggie Darling who posited on the blow
versus show aspects of utilitarian
handkerchiefs. You can read his, as usual, correct orientation here. Bottom
line is that gentlemen for ages carried white cotton handkerchiefs in their trousers
pocket not only for nose blowing but for any call that might require a
gentlemanly daub at a smudge on oneself or a child or anything or anyone requiring
an intervention remediable by a gentlemanly gesture…courtesy of a utilitarian
square of cotton.
pocket hanks and my utilitarian ones were from the same source for years. It
wasn’t until my early thirties that I’d be caught dead with anything in my breast
pocket but a white linen or cotton square. Of course those were segregated from
my utilitarian handkerchiefs. Breast pocket whites should remain crisp.
Utilitarian hanks become wispy and attenuated and thin and silky feeling after
about twenty washings. Clearly, there’s a difference between blow versus show.
remember being about twenty three years old, peddling pharmaceuticals in
Charlotte, N.C. and sitting in the waiting room of a pediatrician’s office,
biding my time before being called back to talk to the docs about my antibiotic
syrup. There was a little girl, probably about ten years old, a Down’s Syndrome
or some other genetic disorder little gal and she was, as many Down’s kids are,
curious and talkative and tactile and wanted to know what was in my bag so I
visited with her. The reason I remember this story isn’t because of what I next
did but because of the reaction to it. I don’t remember who was with this child
or who was supposed to be watching her and she didn’t seem unattended per se.
It was a busy waiting room and I’m sure someone was there with her. But she had
some stuff in one of her eyes so I just pulled the blow version of my white cotton hank that rode in my back pocket
and said “let me get that” and I just
wiped this little girl’s eye. Blow
versus show. In action.
nurse called me back to see the docs a moment later and when the door closed
behind us, she was in tears. “That’s the
nicest thing that you did for that little girl, in addition to just sitting and
talking with her.” I’m thinking, shit, all I did was take care if an eye
booger. If this makes women cry, I might be on to something here. Now before
you think that I was some kind of twenty three year old special needs children’s
advocate…the Mother Damn Teresa of eye booger extrication, let’s balance this anecdote
out. Chances are, the Friday night after this little episode, I was at the
Cellar, trying my damndest to extricate the cotton swathings of certain
trixies. In other words, hanky panky-wise, I was showing. We won’t talk about the blowing.
"Do you want his Masonic ring?” my mother asked. While I was
honored that she wanted me to have it, I decided that it would be best kept
with her, in a safe place at home as opposed to being added to my box of random
family trinkets. I have my grandfather’s pocket watch and my father’s signetring, neither of which I use. So my stepfather’s Masonic ring would stay put. I
loved him like my blood father but I wasn’t going to wear his ring
from the Lodge.
still an undergrad, voraciously curious about Freemasonry and anxious to learn
the secrets as soon as I turned twenty one. Three of the four founders of my
college fraternity, Kappa Alpha Order, were Masons who’d returned to college
after the Civil War. Like many college fraternity rituals, the KA initiation poached a twist or two from the Freemasons so I was extra curious to be made a Master Mason. My
stepfather signed my petition to apply for Masonic membership. And so while still
in college, I began the sixth month study and the ordeal of three different initiation
rituals that in the end, bestow upon one the degree of Master or 3rd
Degree Mason. There’s a reason the slang phrase “the third degree” is used to denote someone getting an ass chewing
or dressing down of note. That’s all I can say other than that by the time I
got the 3rd degree, they’d calmed the process down a bit. My grandfather
got a cracked rib along with his 3rd. And without revealing too
much, the other thing I will share is that during my 3rd Degree,
when I was no longer hoodwinked, when I could finally see, the first face that
I saw was that of my stepfather. He unbeknownst to me, was there to participate
in the final steps of making me a Master Mason. My biological father never so
much as threw me a baseball so I don’t expect you to appreciate what this did
and still means to me.
of the Greatest Generation. My father missed the war but my stepfather, ten
years my mother’s senior, was a Navy man in the Pacific. He’d tell you that the Pacific theater would have had a different outcome if he
hadn’t as a teenager, been there. But then he'd soon admit that what he really did on board the ship was
bake pies. He helped keep the boys fed. And back home he was loved by all who knew him and he was constantly in the service of others. Kids and dogs loved him. LFG went straight to him before she ever let my mom put hand on her. And here he is with my mom and three of her sisters...getting some kind of treatment.
first wife died of lung cancer and he was left with an elementary school
daughter and a high school age son. Ditto my mother’s circumstances except my
mother also had a college freshman daughter. Fast forward a few years and by
the time I was a senior in high school, this man was calling on my mother. They
attended different churches but some mutual church friends connected them. It
was kinda of odd going to the door and greeting my mother’s “date” but it was also cute. He’d get
his kids situated and come over during the week in a suit and tie and court my
mom for an hour or so. By the end of my senior year, he was a fixture around our house. So much so that he grilled steaks for me and my buddy and our senior prom
dates. Oh, and he snapped the now infamous yellow polyester tuxedo shot of shame above.
married after I was out of the house and debauching wildly as a freshman in college but I
came to love this man as if he was my biological father. Mostly because of the
way he treated my mother...for the next thirty years. I haven’t to this day seen
anyone treat another person with such dignity and respect. And he didn’t do it
for show…just when his wife’s kids were visiting. He was unerringly consistent
in standing up when she walked in the room…of getting up earlier than my mom
and preparing coffee and danish or whatever the breakfast fare might be. She
was loved for thirty years by a man who loved her the way that my father should
have. Oh, and here’s another testimonial to this man’s goodness. My mother took
him to meet my paternal grandparents before she married him. My father’s father
thought the world of him and essentially told him during their first meeting to
get off of his ass and marry my mom because he would never find a better woman.
loved us too. I’m convinced of it…as much as he loved his biological kids. The
man was deeply religious and my mom said that he prayed bedside every night. On
his knees. She said sometimes she thought he’d never finish his prayers and
climb into bed. He was one of those guys that emanated that something…that
almost Zen like peaceful presence that made you say “I don’t know what the hell that is but I’ll have a double shot of it.”
Well I do know what it was. His goodness and kindness was the furnace that fueled
his existence and it came through in spades. Case in point…he is seventy eight years old
in the photo above. Bolo tie and Nautica shirt to what would have been my dad’s
Trad ensemble. He’s handling my precious bundle, LFG and he could not have been
prouder of me and his little granddaughter. But folks, for all practical
purposes, he’s blind. Macular degeneration had robbed him by this time, of
eighty percent of his sight. But you would never know it by his essence. And during the draw-down of his ability to see, not
once did his spirit waver. Not once did he complain and never did he feel sorry
for himself. Amidst his encroaching blindness, it was impossible for him not to see and focus on his blessings,
even as they in his later years became fewer.
called my mom and stepfather one Saturday morning about four years ago. LFG was
on with my mom and I could hear her loud, high pitched Southern voice and I
could watch LFG’s expression as they visited. A moment later I’m on with my mom
and she’s inconsolable. She’d put her best face on for LFG but now that she was
on with me I learned that my stepfather was dead. Sitting in his chair in the
family room. They had yet to remove him from the house and the first responder
guys and the medical examiner were doing the paperwork necessary to skip the
ambulance intervention and have the funeral home simply take him. It was such a
beautiful and deserved exit. He was sitting peacefully, fully dressed, hands
clasped together like they always were when he napped in his chair. He always
got up earlier than my mom and she simply thought that he was dozing. There was
no sign of pain, no sign of writhing amidst some acute attack of anything. He
just went Home. It is not ours to bargain for how and when we exit but I would
sign up for his journey in a heartbeat. His was a life well lived and a
departure so appropriate that there’s just no other way for me to describe it
than the perfect exit.
have to write a letter to him post mortem like I did to my dad, telling him things I’d like for him
to know. Unlike my father, my stepfather heard it from me first-hand. He was
among the five surrogate fathers that I had stand up during my wedding dinner
and I told him in front of a few hundred people how much I loved him for loving
my mom and for loving us. Oh, and I used to embarrass the shit out of him by kissing
him. I thought that I could get through this story without the
waterworks flowing but they’ve just started. I’m at home right now. Sitting in the chair
that he so gracefully left us while sitting in. Couldn’t be a better time for
the blow version of a hank.
“Isn’t there something of his
that you want?” my
mom said after I declined his Masonic ring. I took one material remembrance of
my stepfather. His blue Have-a-Hanks were part of his ensemble from the day I
met him. He would sometimes wear something more elegant in his breast pocket but he
always had a blue cowboy handkerchief discretely folded in his trouser pocket for blow. Always. And
always blue. And some had been laundered so many times that they were thin and
silky. The Navy man in him insisted that he personally fold them and put them
in his drawer just so. And I took one. One that he folded. Just so. It remains
folded in my dresser drawer at home. Right beside a pair of Merkin’s Corgi
socks. Just so. I swear that the handkerchief smelled like my stepfather for at
least the first three months that I had it. Maybe I just wanted it to.
Whatever. All I know is that I’d smell it every day or so and he would be with
me again. In all of his kindness and gentility and goodness for which I so
this Father’s Day all I have to do is say again what I was privileged enough to
say to him more than once during the time that he was in my life. I love you.
I’ve already written rather extensively on the role
of seersucker in my sartorial life and I gave Haspel their due in one of my New
Orleans reports. But one of my lengthier posts on poplin was lost when my blog
crashed and I accidentally deleted forever the first one hundred-plus stories
that I’d ever written. The good news is that a loyal reader was able to send
most of my stories back to me for re-posting. My poplin post wasn’t one that
could be resurrected. Probably a good thing though. It was a gut wrencher of a
story—NOT the poplin part—the parts about my two years in New Orleans and the
circumstances regarding my departure. So it’s poplin proper time y’all.
Poplin…probably the only fabric in a Trad wardrobe
where a hint of synthetic fiber in concert with cotton is acceptable. Why?
Because one hundred percent cotton poplin shatters with wrinkles like spun
sugar Hollywood prop glass. You look at it on a hanger from a hundred yards
away and an instantaneous spider web of wrinkles cascades before your eyes.
Don’t believe me? Go to J. Press and purchase the all-cotton poplin suit
offered above. It will look like crumpled legal pad paper before you get out of
the store with it. And it’s not the “guaranteed to wrinkle”… the desired and expected creased
subsets of fabric topography shifts that are de rigueur with seersucker and
linen. Wrinkled poplin is uglier and less desirable. Phyllis Diller for some
reason comes to mind.
I love linen and my summer sportcoat line-up
includes four of them. But linen is that anti-poplin and seersucker is poplin's cousin who attended slightly better schools. Linen is more elegant and less provincial than
poplin and if you want the skinny on linen from someone who loves it more than
me, go over and visit my best buddy Toad. He’s always tinkerin’ with flax but in the shot above, he's sporting poplin from Cable Car Clothiers. Oh,
and my “poplin is provincial” bias pretty much
gets debunked towards the end of this story.
So the standard poplin suits of my earliest Trad
years had just enough synthetic fiber content to play the wrinkle blunting
Sargeant-at-Arms to the Grand Master Cotton. Brooks the Brethren of course, was
the go-to source for the poplin suit color trifecta…tan, olive and navy blue.
Brooks wasn’t in every shopping mall when I got my first poplin suits so mine
came courtesy of the little Trad shop that I grew up in. And they were private
label house brands made by a little factory in Georgia. That same factory by
the way made for years, the Nantucket Brick Reds that the Murray family
sold/sells in their Toggery shop. It always kinda cracked me up that this New
England Yankee iconic trouser was made in Crackerland. And leave it to LFG's pal Alan Flusser to offer a snazzy alternative to the formulaic poplin with a button down collar edict. Here above is Flusser's rounded collar interpretation in tandem with the standard.
These mostly cotton utilitarian poplin things I reckon, came to light amidst the
same utilitarian desperation that spawned seersucker and pincord suits. The
pre-air conditioned South was beyond oppressive from late June till Labor Day
and men had to find options for business attire that wouldn’t have them
fainting from heat stroke. Folks, I grew up in the air conditioned version of
that world and I can attest that the heat at its most humid peak, is
nauseating. Nowadays of course, men just wear wife beater t-shirts and
butt-crack winking shorts and rubber flip flops to work. I mean it’s all about
And poplin suits at least to me, seemed more
utilitarian and less stylish than seersucker. In an “it’s ok neighbor,
we are all just trying to trudge through the dog-days intact” kinda way.
Seersucker, even before you segregate it into style centric categories of
single or double breasted options, has more syncopated swagger just lounging
there as a bolt of cloth. The alternating colors and the warp-weft deliberate
looseness that creates its seersuckling piccolo washboard of texture is gonna
dictate more élan than poplin from the get-damn-go. Seersucker begs seven
additional minutes of thought about whether to wear white bucks, spectators or
some other shoe. Poplin says “either put your damn Weejuns or your
Alden Tassels on and let’s get this over with.” Seersucker says “top
me off with a Panama”. Poplin says “you might wanna grab an
extra cotton hanky…not for show…but for brow wiping.” Shut
So the poplin suit ain’t steerage but it knows
better than to show up on the upper decks, even as an employee. TinTang over at
the Trad mentioned showing up for work one hot London summer day at Lloyds in
some heat forgiving cotton suit and was at once interrogated about whether he
was going on Safari that day. I can’t remember but they might have sent him
home to change. Bottom line is that a poplin suit has its place and its limits.
Fancy styling options? Not so much. Bespoke? Why in the world would you do that
unless you had more money than sense?
So what about styling? The construct and options
for poplin is about as basic as the fabric itself. Three button sack—hook
center vent—flat front trousers…hemmed with no break. A slight puddle of extra
linen cloth on trousers a bit too long might be forgiven till you can get back
to the tailor for a tune up. Poplin trousers with a break…poplin gathered in
non-puddling, poly-cotton accordion-osity can’t be allowed out of the house.
And…No ticket pocket no open breast pocket no double breasted nonsense. Get it? The Brooks interpretation did have patch and flap lower pockets but that's about it-styling nuance-wise. Remember the objective here. We are trying to avoid heat stroke, not win a
preening contest. I’m all about having at least a white cotton handkerchief in
my breast pocket. But a poplin suit seems to be an exception to even this basic
sartorial rule. Poplin…the anti-fuzzy. And thanks to my buddy over at Heavy Tweed Jacket for the image above that I stole from his site without permission.
I wore the hell out of my tan and olive poplin
suits when I was a sales rep in the Carolinas during my mid-twenties. I’m not
sure what happened to them but by the time I moved north and worked indoors all
day, they were absent my closet. I had plenty of lightweight tropical wools and
as always, one seersucker suit, but no poplin. And it seems that my olive
poplin suit was always rigged with an Argyle and Sutherland rep tie and a blue
button down. I rarely wear button down shirts with suits but anything but the OCBD
classic with poplin seems wrong.
And then I moved to New Orleans. Oy. I grew up in
the South but had never set foot there. I agreed to a two-year assignment that
would have me visiting state agencies and legislatures and legislators and
advocacy groups and spending more time in and out of places than sitting in
just one. All of that previous shit is code for being a lobbyist and shill for
big pharma. Kinda of a Daumier version of Robert Macaire or a "reverse Ratapoil." I was fairly streetwise before rolling into New Orleans but
nothing…and I mean nothing…prepares one for doing THAT kind of work in THAT
kind of city and state and in THAT kind of heat. I think I’ve mentioned before that it was time to leave
my thirteen year career after this assignment. I couldn’t shower long enough or
often enough to rinse off the smarm.
But until the smarm calculi became unbearable I shilled. In poplin. It was May and things were
already uncomfortably warm and sticky humid. I commented to an office worker
who had been there all her life that even in our plush, hyper air-conditioned
office, everything seemed “wet.” I’d pick up a memo or a report
and it seemed limp like overcooked pasta. She just laughed.
By this time my Flusser bespoke habit was well in
place but I couldn’t wear even my lightest weight tropical wool suitings. There
was a Joseph A. Banks on St. Charles Avenue and over there I went. This was by
the way, before Banks lost their way…before they became the Men’s
Wearhouse…back when a reasonable but declining argument could be made that they
were the “poor man’s Brethren.” I hadn’t yet discovered Perlis
and I was in one of those “any port in a storm” predicaments
so Banks set me up with one tan and one olive poplin suit. These two options
that became my uniforms for that summer and the next one. Trad icons, yes.
Fuzzy style preening platforms? Nope. Not poplin. Plus, the last guy who
preened excessively in the Baton Rouge Capitol building got shot.
So what motivated a poplin post? Unequivocally I
can say that the young man above, one Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. was the catalyst.
Obviously not the exact photo above but I’ll start with it because it speaks
volumes of an era and a man who like all of his ilk…cared about what they wore
and how they looked. But not too much. Point collar. Pinned thru and anchoring
a woven, grenadine maybe? …tie. Strong. Lodge passes typical WASP Ascendancy
muster including a St. Albans and Harvard legacy, World War II distinction as
well as a long history of public service. The only tweak I'd have made to this WASP's ensemble would be to tuck that white breast pocket linen in just a bit more.
I’m not interested enough to learn too much more about
Lodge Jr.’s one-year stint as JFK’s Ambassador to South Vietnam but I can
speculate that it might not have been his easiest year. I will at some point, enjoy listening to Lodge Jr.'s firsthand account of his South Vietnam tenure over here at the WGBH Media Archives.
What I will say is
this. The man sported one hell of a poplin suit while glad-handing those who might
overthrow the corrupt puppet leader and while reconnoitering the local terrain. I suspect
that Lodge Jr. probably felt that there were days during this year-long
assignment when he couldn’t rinse away the taint of South Vietnam instability
and corruption. Puppet leaders and protracted instability post Lodge Jr.’s one
year visit didn’t seal South Vietnam’s fate but it didn’t help it. But I digress to more world changing topics. Let's get back to the superficial. If duende could ever manifest in poplin, this would be exhibit one at the Duende Poplin Possibilities Trial. Open patch pockets all the way round.
Sleeve linen showing just so. Trousers hemmed short but not Thom Browne child molester short. High middle button stance vectors the three-two roll. Trousers appropriately covering a middle age paunch but in no way tries to hide it. Those may not be Belgian shoes but damn they look close. The swagger here says "South Vietnam is headed down the shitter and I've got a paunch. Wanna make something of it?" This is poplinessence all to be damned.
So do you think he had
this one made in Hong Kong or back home by some east coast purveryor? Three-two
roll. Open patch pockets. It’s way too Yankee for me to assume that anyone on
Savile Row would acquiesce to such requests. And it defies the formulaic edicts of
Brooks, Chipp and J. Press poplin. It says "Where I'm headed is hot in more ways than one." It says that "Even though these straw man scenarios and puppet leader whatevers are gonna test me, I'm at least gonna have trace elements of style amidst the drudgery." Style he had. And I like it.
Finally, this is off the poplin topic grid but
Happy Birthday two days ago to George Frazier. Happy Birthday to the man who
won the Bowdoin Prize courtesy of an all-nighter at the typewriter. Happy
Birthday to the man who wrote scorching, edgy stuff for Downbeat Magazine when
he was in his mid-twenties. Stuff that smacks of what Rolling Stone editors
would have lapped up like catnip if they’d existed in the 1930’s. Happy
Birthday to the man who wrote Esquire’s epic treatise… The Art of Wearing
Clothes…a treatise on men, some of whom most probably wore poplin when appropriate and
who cared about how they looked. But not too much.
Onward. Sans poplin and will probably remain so.
Because I don’t wear suits very often and you never wear poplin as a sport
coat. And five gets ten that Frazier never wore poplin of any ilk. Maybe shorts on Nantucket. Maybe.