Friday, June 29, 2012

Trad-Ivy Tuesday

Here. Look at this. It's a pair of army surplus khakis. Still starched heavily from the army laundry. Back when the army still issued cotton stuff.

Erudite post I know.

Eighty-Gee-Two. Travelling.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Problem With LFG…


…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 way.
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 Spaniel.
LFG, you are gonna flip when we ride out to Middleburg next week to pick up your birthday present that I commissioned!

I Love You. Immeasurably.
Dad.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Polka Dots


“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 winter.
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.

Eighty Gee Two

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Trad-Ivy Tuesday: When Ralph Came to Britches


David Pensky and Rick Hindin had this idea. And the idea ultimately became Britchesof 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.
I 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 again. 
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.
So 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.
And 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 the Britches of Georgetown clothing business…Mark “Puerto” Rykken.
I 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.
So 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.
Rykken 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 Jeffrey Banks.
So 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.
And 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.
Surveying the foppish sycophant-entreat of “look at me…look at me” …Ralph the Anti-Fop, just smiled. When Ralph came to Britches.
Onward. And yes I know it’s Wednesday. I’m on vacation. Shut the Fop up.

ADG II

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Have-a-Hank on Father's Day

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.
My breast 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.
I can 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.

The 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.
I was 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.
He was 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.
His 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.
They 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.
And he 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.
LFG 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.
I don’t 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 respected him.
So on 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.

Onward. At home with my mama. And LFG
ADG II

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Trad Ivy Tuesday: Cabot Lodge, Jr. and Cotton Poplinosity


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 comfort, right?
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 √©lan 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 up.
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.

ADG II
 And speaking of puppets.

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