Monday, August 27, 2012

Trad-Ivy Tuesday: Astronaut Style...A Study in Contrasts

When I look back on my first few years of elementary school, I see now that I was desperately in search of heroes. There were none at my house. Unless you count my mom and little guys don’t wanna see their mom as such when sitting in Mrs. Anderson’s class. Cale Yarborough was my local God and the Apollo mission crew members were my runners-up. This stuff was huge for the country and inestimably riveting for a little kid like me. They wheeled this ungainly industrial grade television stand topped with a black and white model large enough to be a refrigerator into the classroom and we watched the Apollo missions in their entirety. I still get excited thinking about it.
 Neil Armstrong…self-proclaimed nerdy engineer. Test pilot whose peers said was one of the best. Ever. Chuck Yeager caliber talent. First man to walk on the moon.  
Phi Delta Theta at Purdue. He nourished his right brain with music composition while honing the left with Purdue’s Aeronautical Engineering curricula.  And he met his first wife there. She stayed with him for thirty-eight years.
Tough-ass test pilot…Right Stuff astronaut or not…Armstrong had to endure the unimaginable G-Force of grief...burying one of his three children. His only daughter died of a malignant brain tumor in 1962.
After his retirement he first became a professor. Seems fitting to me. Years later he joined Thiokol’s board of directors after their solid rocket boosters were found to be a culprit in the demise of the space shuttle Challenger. Armstrong also chose his paltry few company/business endorsements very, very carefully it appears. Underexposure seemed to be his post moon walk strategy. It seems that he chose his cohorts only after rigorous vetting.
He stopped signing autographs decades ago because it repulsed him to see them for sale by autograph dealers for stunning sums. Seven thousand-five hundred dollars, before his death, if you want specifics. He sued his barber for selling his hair. He won the suit. Commercial gain by others who curried favor with him under false pretenses incensed him.
American Hero Armstrong allowed the inevitable reality of physical aging to take its course without delay or surgical-dermal filler interventions. I see in his face, that same stuff that my stepfather had. A sense of self...tethered to such a strong sense of identity and purpose that his cadence of quiet reserve...made swagger superfluous. And I can only speak for me but…his introverted nature and gallant deportment took him so far out of the public eye that I’d almost forgotten him. Regretfully.
 Buzz Aldrin...second man to set foot on the moon…West Point graduate…American hero.Truly.
His baby sisters called him “Buzz.” He thought enough of the nickname to make it his legal one in 1988. Maybe “Dusty” should become my legal name.
He flew the F86 Sabre in Korea and shot down two MiGs. Doing so in the less manoeuvrable Sabre speaks well of Aldrin’s skill. And stones.
A Master Mason…Aldrin claimed territorial jurisdiction over the moon on behalf of the Grand Lodge of Texas. Texas? Why does this not surprise me? But I admire Aldrin for cold cocking an Apollo Moon landing conspiracy theorist in the face in 2002 after being lured to a suite at the Beverly Hills hotel under false pretenses. He faced no charges.
It seems that as great a man as Aldrin is, he hasn’t met too many public appearances that he hasn’t liked.
Commercial gain? Why not?
This is from the "People Famous for Doing Shit Second" series courtesy of I reckon, some kind of Franklin Mint thang.
Armstrong co-mingled with stars. So did Aldrin. Then he danced with ‘em.
He chose his cohorts. I'll leave it to you to decide if you think his sieve for cohort inclusion is tight enough.
Exposayvou. Aldrin filed for divorce from his third wife sometime in 2011. These guys aren't easy to live with. None of them. Neither are healthcare sales and marketing strategy consultants who travel an average of two nights per week and try, when they're home, to burn their house down. Shut up.
Overexposure is one thing. Excessive publicity amidst bad plastic surgery is yet another.
Onward. Late for my Botox appointment. 
I raised the dosh to pay for it by selling my Buzz Aldrin action figure on eBay

ADG II …still in awe of these spite of their frailties. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Friday, August 24, 2012

Trad Randomanalia--Reader's Questions

I have a pile of questions from folks over at my tumblr and being the long winded guy that I am I've decided to gather up a bunch of 'em and posit some responses here...
aduckgetsdressed asked:

“When did you get your first toy soldier?”
Ducksterini...I was a kid of the 1960's and '70's and essentially ALL of the lead-hand painted makers had given up on their version of to soldier b 1966. The heady era of painted-lead soldiers was the mid 1800's till the late 1950's. After that, bags of literally a hundred plastic toy soldiers could be bought for the price of ten lead ones. And by the '60's there was concern about lead poisoning. I had tons of plastic ones growing up. But then about 30 years ago my uncle gave me 6 old lead ones and that whetted my interest in them. I collected maybe 30-40 more and then put that collecting effort aside as I bought more art and caricatures. After my divorce, I unpacked the old box of lead toy soldiers and the collecting bug came back with a vengeance.
preppybythegraceofgod asked:
“Ok, what's the secret to your successful greening? Also, you have anymore paisley shorts or pants like you sent my cohort in style, Carolinastyle. Thanks, cheers, F.T.H.”
Green shoe polish. And yes, I've probably got another pile of duds that you boys would like to have.

Anonymous asked:
“I have to laugh. So many blogs have popped up recently that are unquestionably in imitation of yours. In some cases its the tone, in other it's the writing or the photos or the themes. You probably won't admit it, but I can and I have no horse in this race. You should be flattered by the imitation. And by the way, you still surpass them all in terms of style, creativity, vision, artistry, pathos ... You are a character!”

That's very kind of you to say. I wish that I had more time to write stories these days but I just don't. 

cosmosdream asked:
“Hey ADG, I'm a young guy who enjoys following your blog, and now the Tumblr. You wear a lot of cotton suits. They look great. Do you recommend buying them fully canvassed? I ask because I hear that cotton suits don't last so long. Maybe that's wrong? Sorry if this is obvious canon. BTW, I buy my suits custom made in Hong Kong, so finding the cotton suit in question isn't an issue.”
My greatest indulgence was having the Flusser boys make me a seersucker suit. Common wisdom, which the record shows that I possess none of, would tell us not to spend the big bucks on fully canvassed bespoke goods that are so seasonable and so perishable. But if you are getting them in Hong Kong, you are probably getting them for palatable prices so why not swing for the fences?

Anonymous asked:
“Do you have a go-to company for your chinos?”
Not really. I buy 'em on the cheap from Polo and J. Crew mostly. But I'm thinking about giving Bill's a try again. 

traddom asked:
“OK ADG, what's more classical and versatile for spring/summer, blue seersucker or pincord suit and why? Gracias, dollahs in the mail. PAB”
I haven't thought about pincord in ages. I do have a pair of pincord trousers but I'd vote for seersucker. It's just a personal preference I suppose.

Anonymous asked:
“How about some commentary / posting on lapel width and proportion? I just got a good look at 007 in the famous glen plaid 3 piece suit from Goldfinger and was shocked at how skimpy his lapels are. These days, I figure the go/ no go limit is probably at 50% on the Lapel-O-Meter, but your pal Ralph will frequently shoot up to 75 or more. What say you?”
Lapel width is something I've not paid too much attention to when it comes to my clothes. Since most of them are MTM/bespoke, I leave it to the elves to decide what the proportions should be. I was aware of Flusser's modest update and tweak to their house model about five years ago and was pleased with the slightly streamlined result. I do recall having a Polo DB suit about twenty years ago with lapels so wide that Mark "Puerto" Rykken referred to them as "dorsal fins."

"Was there ever a time when you first went from Off The Rack to something more and suddenly you had One Really Cool Garment and a whole lot of also-rans? Did you cull quickly and mercilessly or did you just work towards spreading the luxe around, like dressing on a salad? Or have you never had to suffer with the ordinary?"
First, I've never really deemed my closet as containing any "also rans." The off the rack stuff that I've held on to or bout at Bobby from Boston or whatever...has always been a complementary part of my sartorial lineup or it ends up out the door... eBay or to a couple of devotees who read my blog and wear the same size clothes that I do. Regarding culling quickly and mercilessly...It took me years to learn this skill. I used to hang on to stuff that I hadn't worn in years just because "this is Purple Label, I can't get rid of it..." I've now learned to let stuff go a bit more readily. And finally, my negative net worth tells me that not only should I have suffered the ordinary longer than I ever did, I should be doing more of it currently.
A question on Western--Top Pockets...
Eaztu (unregistered) wrote:
"What's your opinion of trousers with pockets cut like the one above? I've always preferred pockets cut vertically that are a continuation of the side seam. Even the slightest diagonal seems to emphasize one's width - probably not something you need to thing about."
Well first, yes, I'm blessed with having a build that I reckon is a bit more complementary to wearing these things. On the other hand, they still manifest the same puckering whateverishness on me and everyone else who wears them. Even Columnist and sartorial know it all, my favorite wordsmith...George Frazier.
I'd waive anyone off from making buying western/top pockets if you are uber retentitive about lines and symmetry and such. Because regardless of one's build, they are gonna be problematic. 
As one who's always in search of things a bit askew, they suit me.
"Hello, Can you tell me the origin of "GTH" and patchwork. I have heard a few versions and would like to know the real story. Joe"
I'm not sure. But the general conscenus I hear from those in the know, generally attribute much of the Trady-Ivy jauntiness to Chipp, the venerable Gotham store that I undortunately, never set foot in. But the story goes that Sid Winston and his boys were always contriving jaunty assembleages of madras and patchwork stuff and colorful, woldly patterned linings and risque and humorous neckwear.
And I suppose the best evidence of Chipp's  propensity for whimsical, GTH items was their infamous jockstrap.
And of course, my Rinpoche, Mr. Flusser, courtesy of John Tinseth from The Trad and Rose Callahan  posits on GTH trousers here. And I quote the quote.."The stylish button-downers would engage in a form of sartorial one-upmanship that brought wild dollops of golf course color or tartan-inspired outrageousness into classic ensembles that made insiders smile while others winced." --Alan Flusser from Style and the Man

Ok. That's enough for now. Gotta go loofah my stretch marks. 


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Trad-Ivy Tuesday: Nuanced Authenticity

I’m amazed that with the attention span of a gnat, I developed early-on an eye for nuance. Nuanced Authenticity…yep…I think that’s what I’m gonna try to speak to in this story. Nuanced authenticity defined as operationalizing a set of standards but not necessarily being so rule-bound that the dogma ain’t flexible.
Flexibility within the standard allows I suppose; a degree of Trad-WASP sprezzatura. Not that the Trad-WASP tribe would ever seek sprezzatura on purpose. If ever there was a club that would, if you could even get them to admit it, argue that insouciance is an outcome, not an objective, it would be the stereotypical Trad-WASP gang who drank cheap Scotch, drove beat up cars from Detroit and wore their clothes to death. Sprezzatura says prosciutto and melon when you stop by. Trad-Wasp insouciance says a box of Triscuits and some kinda cheese spread. 
And I did have at eighteen years old an eye for nuance and authenticity or at least what I thought it to be. Nuanced authenticity is perhaps true in other genres too. As I type this, suddenly I’m convinced of it. Authentic horse-farm people…you know; the ones you see at the Safeway in Middleburg with hay and shit on their muck boots can spot a poseur a mile away. I reckon the working cowboys out west can suss-out the drug store cowpoke faker in a heartbeat too.
Singleton’s, the Trad mother church where I became fully addicted to all of whatever this Trad-Classic-Ivy stuff is, opened its doors in 1927 and it was through those same doors that I strode with my father when I was old enough to go places without soiling myself. Men of his generation didn’t change diapers. By the time I began working there, the store’s patina was legendary. At least it was in my mind. The shelving and cases had been updated in 1947 when the owner, Harold Creel bought the place from Clyde Singleton after he returned for the War. And I kept those shelves and cases spic-and-span. If you’ve ever been in J.Press Cambridge then you’ve entered Singleton’s. Of all the rag joints I’ve been in here and in England, it’s the closest thing to my mind’s eye recollection of my hometown store—if you reduce the square footage by half.
I wish that I could find some photos of Singleton’s but they are just not, yet at least, to be found. The best I could do, given that even I no longer own one stitch of anything with a Singleton’s label, was to beg my buddy Marvin Woodrow to check his dad’s closet back home to see if there was any Singleton’s signage therein. And he came up with two private label neckties and photographed them for me. I immediately knew the maker of the ties. It was a, shall we say, a maker of the more popularly priced goods and the salesman was the son of the owner. I’ll leave it there for now because it’s an entire story with legs all its own.
I lived a happy and provincial life in Florence and by the time I was old enough to get clothes crazy and large enough to buy mens sizes, Singleton’s was all that anyone my age would need. Especially if one’s provincial existence to-date precluded ever setting foot in New York, Boston or other cities that could have broadened my awareness of the proverbial next level of Trad kit.
Keep in mind that when I was eighteen years old, Brooks Brothers didn’t exist in malls. They remained exclusively in about a half dozen cities in the States. It would be another two years when I attended a Kappa Alpha national conference in Atlanta that my maiden walk through the doors of the Brethren would manifest courtesy of the old Peachtree Street store. My stomach was turning when I walked in the door. The Peachtree Road Brethren Patina made my Singleton’s 1947 shelving veneer seem twee and chrome and Blue Light Special-ish. And it would be two more years before I’d make it to New York to experience Brethren Mecca at 346 and its Trad-ier counterpart around the corner, the old J.Press location.
 I regret very little in life but I do lament missing Chipp, who was across the street from the old J.Press store. Something tells me that of all these shrines, Chipp mighta been my go-to store.
So with innocently limited context that kept my aperture narrow, Singleton’s offered me everything I needed to develop my lens and filters for Trad Authenticity. The Singleton’s line-up included Gant, Pendleton, McGregor, Allen Solly, Corbin, Haspel, Hart-Schaffner and Marx, Berle, Sero, the old Haas Tailoring company in Baltimore for made-to-measure. Singleton’s sold private label stuff from various makers including that hot bed of lower end makers down in Bremen Georgia where for years, Murray’s Toggery had their Nantucket Brick Reds cut and sewn. When you are eighteen years old and have never been anywhere, the aforementioned baseline for becoming a natural fibered soft shouldered devotee was a gracious plenty.

But then I began to notice little things. Differences. Things that didn’t shout or even whisper. They didn’t have to. They just were. Different. Florence had a gaggle of lawyers and doctors and another smattering of professionals who all shopped at Singleton’s and I delivered, usually within walking distance, new clothes and altered older clothes to every law office and county courthouse chambers we had. And I can still name the only few at that time, lawyers who went to either an Ivy undergrad or an Ivy law school. And I bet I can name the half dozen kids, either my age or slightly older who went to prep schools…mostly Woodberry Forest. And it was from this little subset, as well as one other customer, LLH, a finance company executive who looked like he was going to die of a freaking stroke any minute, that I noticed two nuances especially, that told me there was another...a subtly different sartorial level…another Trad realm.

I noticed these particular two nuances either in situ on these customers or in the clothes they would bring by for some little alteration…a seam repair, take-in or let-out or in some cases with the tightest of penny pinchers, a hail mary final go at piecing together clothing that shoulda been given to Goodwill. It became obvious to me that even though these customers bought a good portion of their clothes at Singleton’s, they also shopped elsewhere. Their custom included places that in my mind were probably even more authentic than Singleton’s. And I wanted some of it. If I’d seen the old style Brooks Brothers artist illustrated catalogues, I’d have been on the way to sorting it all out but I hadn’t and the other thing I began to suspect  was that there was another level of Trad WASP-dom to which I did not belong.
I noticed Dr. Ed Mc_ _ _ one day in the store with a shirt pocket like the one above. My radar immediately told me that it wasn’t Gant. My line-up of all cotton button down oxford cloth standards were one-hundred percent Gant and the pockets weren't rounded like that. But Gant at twenty bucks a go and at half of that to me, courtesy of Mr. Creel’s benevolence, I was just fine. Until I saw that pocket. These people drank from other sartorial oases  from time to time. And I wanted a sip.
The squared-angled shape of my Gant shirt pockets said Florence and public schools and family travel exclusive of airplanes. It said our old wood framed un-airconditioned second row beach house at Ocean Drive instead of the coat and tie dining rooms at Sea Island, Jekyll or Ponte Vedra…places I wouldn’t frequent till I was thirty years old.
But the one that really got me was this. An olive gabardine suit and a tan poplin one that lawyer Boone A_ _ _ _, III would wear as he jauntily cut through the store, tattered manila portfolio in hand, headed to the courthouse. What was it with those seams? And that quirky, hooked vent? Our Haspel goods, probably the most authentic Trad product in our shop, didn’t have this additional level of what looked to me to be the needle and thread equivalent to industrial strength riveting. All I knew is that I wanted something like that and I didn't even know what the hell it was or why I wanted it. Was it flinging upon me a craving for strange ? It wasn’t that I was inauthentic and absent any and all nuanced personal style. I had some game. But I was again reminded that these people, even though they were for the most part, my people; really weren’t. These two little nuances…these mild provocations that inched open my world view only slightly more, told me to feel that way.
Onward. Hooked. But mostly double vented.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Trad-Ivy Tuesday: The Soft—Unpinned Collar

“If it’s not a button down, I’m not interested.” This was my mantra from the time I was old enough to buy my own shirts ‘till I was close to thirty years old. Until then, I had no interest in a straight collar, a modified spread or anything…other than a button down.
The Trad Mother Church that I worked in offered one basic style of a straight collar shirt but I never took notice of it. Seems to me that the local preachers preferred it. Our highest volume stock in trade was courtesy of Gant and it was always oxford cloth button down…at nineteen dollars a go. I can’t find a photo of it and I am not dreaming this one up…Gant had a deep, almost orange-ish yellow called maize (surprise I know) that was solely unique to them. It made every other yellow look washed out…not that even the Gant maize color did anyone’s coloring a favor. Ok, I’m digressing.
Why would I need anything other than a button down? My clothing line-up until age thirty consisted totally of single breasted, single vented, mostly 3/2 rolled clothing. The exception was an occasional from the outlets, Ralph rig that might have been double vented. But peaked lapels, sleeve cuffs and double breasted rigs, even though just around the corner, weren’t yet part of my oeuvre.
And when they did arrive, the sartorial components that beg for a shirting alternative to the age-old buttoned down standard, whispered to me…  “pin it, pin it…” so I complied. The cinched and secured, elevated visual stance of a well dimpled tie was enough to keep me devoted to the pinned-collar-code to this day. Plus, I could never seem to pull off the unpinned look. Sure, when I did, the unwashed masses would have never known that I was falling short of the mark. But I did. And that’s all that mattered.
Here’s my one exception to the rule where I’m actually comfortable with the outcome. But the tie clasp offers the grounding and securitization that for some reason I think I need. But others through the years have done the unpinned collar rather well. Here’s a few
Sir Henry Cotton
John P. Marquand does it but this look is just too sloppy for me.
Acheson does it but his vest supplies the cinched tie arc that makes this anything but relaxed.
Gable. Strong as nine rows of spring onions.
Scott. Unpinned.
Bobby Jones
Gary Cooper
And here’s my buddy G. Bruce Boyer manifesting Ivy-Trad-Tweed-Cord Sprezzatura all-to-be-damned. Folks, this is about as stellar as it gets…relaxed—unstudied wise. With an unbuttoned button down collar. Sublime.
If you’ve read my stuff for any length of time, you know that this photo of my pimply faced teenage dad is one that still provokes scores of unanswered questions. Fear not, I won’t take you back down that maudlin path again. Suffice it to say that I remain intrigued by the unrequited genesis of his style.
And when LFG and I were home last June, I found this photo of my dad. How do farm boys in Horry County, South Carolina develop this level of style? Soft, unpinned collar and some swanky bit of neckwear to bring it full circle. This looks kinda Ralph before Ralph. Suffice it to say that I never got the hang of pulling together this unpinned, soft collared casual look. My dad was rocking it at ten.
Amidst the previous photo of my father was this one. Looks like some kind of corporate head shot thing for the files. My mom had no answer regarding the photo so that puts me at a complete loss as well. I remained a company man for thirteen years before starting my own gig. My dad lasted about thirteen minutes, listening to others, before he started his. Maybe this was his exit photo. Whatever the case…as much as I love the photo booth shot of my dad, this one doesn’t trip my trigger. Full Windsor knot and an unpinned collar. It’s just not my thing.
So here’s my final verdict on the unpinned, soft collar. I’m neutral. If you can pull the look off, then I suppose that it’s ok. I prefer a tightened up, fountainhead arc of a well dimpled tie preening above a pin. It could be a karmic thing for me, I don’t know. I tried the unpinned caution-to-the-wind collar when last I needed a new driver’s licence. The outcome’s above. Case closed. At least for me.