Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Well Edited Cadence: My Take on G. Bruce Boyer

Bobby Short had it I think. His friend and one of my fuzzy mentors, Richard Merkin did not. I’m glad to know this because it tells me that the appropriately modulated may still befriend the reckless. The fuzzy flâneurs and in my case hopefully; the peacock poseurs may still seek succor from the poised.
Seems to me that Tony Biddle had this well edited cadence too. So I’ll define this modulated je ne sais quoi with the hat-trick backdrop of Boyer, Biddle and Short in mind. “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should." Did my mama first say that to me? Hell, I don’t know. But what I do know is that all three of my subjects convey(ed) an enviable level of sartorial elegance while at the same time avoiding foppery that says “look at me, look at me.” They woulda all been failures in Dallas.
Biddle had the name and his wife had the money so there really wasn’t anything getting in the way of him warehousing a wardrobe that was tenfold larger than his ever was. Where did I read it? Gentry? Flair? I’m too lazy to go look it up but Biddle at least in my opinion, had a surprisingly well-edited, mathematically lean wardrobe.
Bobby Short wore the same thematic get-ups during almost all of his public life. Dinner clothes when tickling the ivories at the Carlyle and for the most part, dark suits and solid color ties otherwise. Short was always, always impeccably turned out in well-made clothes emanating from a rigorously edited closet. I must admit straightaway that the genetic coding required to enable this behavior was out of stock when my country-ass came along.
Photo Copyright: Rose Callahan
This brings us now to my friend G. Bruce Boyer. Son of what I’ll call the Bethlehem-Allentown fringe. Close enough to know about John O’Hara’s Pottstown coal mining realities but fortunate enough to have options that precluded having to go work in them. I’ve vague knowledge of the area, having visited many times my former wife’s aunt at the Good Shepherd home in Allentown and when I recall it, I feel good things. She was a remarkable woman with cerebral palsy to the degree that her hands shimmied uncontrollably. None the less, we would get a grammatically precise, well edited, superbly cadenced, typed on an old typewriter, letter from her about once a month. Must be something pragmatic and practical about the area that creates economy and rigor.
Photo: Christian Chensvold--Ivy Style
Economy and Rigor. My motivation for writing this story came from Boyer’s navy wool jacket. Not a shiny brass-buttoned navy blazer and not a jaunty navy suit. Hell, the color may not even be true navy. Whatever. All I know is that my history says it’s probably the last thing I’d bespeak, yet now I want one. I met up with Boyer in NYC recently and was taken by the simplicity his outfit. This double breasted blue jacket girded a well edited paucity of color, texture and pattern. I wish I’d taken a photo of Boyer’s rig when we were together but it’s essentially identical to this one that Christian Chensvold captured over at Ivy Style. Slight difference was that G-the-Bruce had on a navy and silver club tie when he and I sloshed through a rainy Gotham.
What I’m trying to say is that Boyer’s editorial rigor isn’t confined to his stellar writing. The man has sprezzaturated sensibility that complements his noteworthy sartorial acumen. I see myself as sartorially NASCAR to Boyer’s Rallye Monte Carlo. His is amiable precision; sprightly cadenced against my all-out go fast-turn left, fully floored impertinence. Hyperbole? Of course, who the hell do you think’s writing this shit?
I believe any sartorial library to be incomplete without Boyer’s book, Elegance. The current world of sound bite attention spans, twitter twits and tumblr turds doesn’t encourage mindfulness. And Boyer’s is a mindful book. Seems that today we’d rather look at picture books than process well written assertions that transcend one hundred and forty characters. Yet Elegance, with its paucity of illustration is chock full of images if you’ll just let Boyer’s words take your mind where it should go. Alan Gurganus said that “adverbs are the MSG of writing.” I’ll add that photographs then, are MSGs with V-8 engines and dual exhausts and I can’t imagine allowing my blog stories to stand alone without the augment of adverbs and photographs. Perhaps Elegance isn't always top of mind when considering sartorial references due to the explosion of clothing picture books shortly after its publication. But it should be.

Here’s Boyer from Elegance...positing on the loafer. "The history of the loafer, it seems to me, takes issue both with the opinion that decent standards of dress are melting like butter and the world is going to hell in a hand-basket and with the theory, on the other hand, that we are entering a new age of formalism. What it does simply indicate is that our material lives are potentially more comfortable than were our grandparents', and that proprieties are perhaps a bit more flexible and subtle than our Edwardian ancestors'." 

And on bleeding madras..."The appearance of a madras shirt new was not an exactly reliable indication of what it would look like after two or three launderings. Far from being a liability, however, this effect was highly prized and considered a unique and novel clothing experience, and in fact the beauty of "bleeding madras" was seen to lie in the the weathered appearance that accrued from this blending property of the cloth. In the halcyon 1950's, no summer attire branded one more arriviste than a bright madras shirt and spotless white buckskin shoes. They both wanted a bit of breaking in, of seasoning--and so did the man who wore them."

Sometimes I'll just open Elegance to any random page, knowing that whatever I'll read will be easy on the eyes yet fully-loaded with lore and specifics. The man is a good writer.
Photo: The Sartorialist
Ok, back to Boyer's swathing. G. Bruce isn’t always monochromatically contrived. There’s enough playfulness in Boyer’s more adventurous rigs that precludes stodgy. There’s whimsy tethered to a Quaker State practicality that keeps Boyer on the safe side of full of beans while remaining disciplined enough to avoid looking like Mr. Bean.

And he’s a nice guy. Proof of this other than my personal experience, is that the younger, irony laden, edgy, urban style wannabes…respect and seek him out. Nobody shit talks Boyer. I won’t speak for him but I suspect that he’s found the explosion of style blogs and online sartorial repositories enjoyable. He doesn’t know how to use a cell phone but he’s keenly aware of what’s going on in the sartorial blogosphere. Just Google him and you’ll see that he’s either the subject of or the participant in a gaggle of online conversations.
The Sartorialist
But he’s not a pushover. I realized thirty years ago that if someone is loved by everyone then chances are he doesn’t stand for anything. Boyer’s anything but milquetoast. Caspar he ain’t. He has standards without being strident and he suffers no fools. But he conveys it with such elegant diplomacy that it’s never off-putting. A participant in one of my strategy simulations a few months ago characterized me as condescending. I’d prefer to typify it as pugnacious passion. But then again I’m wordy and delusional.
He’s also exacting without being retentive. I witnessed Boyer giving StevenHitchcock well founded, to-the-point requests for a tweak or two on a jacket. Tailors will generally admit that they've had at least one client whose body they could easily fit while failing miserably at fitting their mind. In other words there are some obsessives out there who will argue an eighth of an inch with their tailor. Folks, there is no eighth of an inch for cutters. Mohels maybe, but any tailor who agrees to adjust something an eighth of an inch will either do nothing or do more. Boyer knows what he wants and how he wants it and wastes no words when diplomatically conveying it.
A lot of what I see passing as sprezzatura amongst the look at me, ersatz urban urbane is really contrived angst…pack-mentalitzed irony. The unbuckled double-monked, shrunken clothed hipsters could take a cue from G-the-Bruce. True sprezza I think, occurs when one doesn’t give too much thought to it. Agnelli had it yet his grandson Lapo seems to caricature the legacy. If you hang out with Boyer or scroll through his photos, you’ll find just the right amount of whimsy without feeling a capricious bitch slap. Maybe just his upturned sleeve cuff is all that’s required to convey it. The ironic contrivers probably take an hour and half to get ready. My money says Boyer’s out the door in thirty minutes.
Photo: Rose Callahan
Let’s end this tribute with another Boyer style-ism and a quote. I’ve never been able to cinch a tie in a twisty-turny enough way to create the skinny-end playfulness that others do. Boyer nails it. I won’t be trying it. And here’s the quote…“It is both delusional and stupid to think that clothes don’t really matter and we should all wear whatever we want. Most people don’t take clothing seriously enough, but whether we should or not, clothes do talk to us and we make decisions based on people’s appearances.”

So here’s to my friend G. Bruce. A man-in-full…but not too much.

Onward. Adverbially tumescent. Peacocking, if you will.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Tadich Ethic Redux

It was several weeks ago that I promised part two of my San Francisco sortie. I believe my promise was… “The next day.” Its dilatory arrival speaks to the paucity of time that I have these days to devote to telling stories. And remember, the core of this twaddle was written as a second installment from my trip to Baghdad by the Bay about a year ago. So the one year old stuff is italicized and my current commentary is; well, not. I'll make my current, co-mingled comments parenthetical as well. Parenthetical...I've always wanted to use that word. Shut up.
My recent San Francisco trip was last minute—so quickly planned that there was no room for thought about staying over or going early to enjoy myself personally. I had to get back east and so my San Francisco experience was limited to the city itself and experienced in little pockets of free time that I had over two days between meetings that I sat in on and the day that I actually spoke. And I loved every little flurry of available time that I had to run out and sample a bit of this unique city… a city that I’d had only a small taste of previously. I think I mentioned in my other San Francisco post that for whatever reason; unlike every other major city in the States and quite a few in Europe, my San Francisco experiences to date have been identical to this last one. Fly in…head to a large hotel downtown…attend a meeting and fly home. With of course, some client arranged dinner at a nice restaurant. Oh, and I did have a drink one time at the Top of the Mark.
One of my readers shared this in an email to me after reading my Cable Car Clothiers post… “L_(his wife) and I visited Cable Car Clothiers on a Saturday morning when we were last in San Francisco two summers ago.  Monument to cultural preservation that it is (and British at that), CCC with its over-stuffed woolly windows was downright other-worldly on the August weekend morning when we swung by.  Still, it makes some sense in the context of a city that prizes its past (the Tadich Ethic, or so I think of it) better than any this side of London.”
I’m digging the comment on many levels but mostly because I like history and I love the back story and I want to know about places and things. And it’s also no secret that I grieve the passing of things that I think shouldn't go away. My blog is peppered with the maudlin-mawkish twaddle of lament for things no longer valued or relevant or…just flat-out not here anymore. But I try not live in the past and I incite change for a living. I’m not scared to move forward but there are things I regret that we don’t take with us. (I lied last year when I wrote that—leastways I think I did—about not being scared to move forward. Perhaps I have a pathological attachment to things past...a low-grade addiction to patina. Maybe even an attachment to my idea of how things were but weren’t, ever, really. Contrived Maudlinazation? I’ll have to check the new DSM-IV-TR to see if it’s designated. Am I pining for shit that perhaps never even existed? Palestine?)
(Maybe I am reluctant to move forward. Thursday January 24th was my birthday. It was also the tenth anniversary of the first moving company arriving at my marital home to whisk away LFG and her mom to their new home in Old Town. I remember opening my sleepy and not well rested eyes that birthday morning—greeted by a still almost bald headed two year old little LFG…standing bedside watching me sleep. She grinned sheepishly and handed me…a cupcake. When I returned that early evening from my agreed upon daylong exile to the office; the house was empty save my earthly goods that would be picked up the next day. I’ve moved somewhere obviously since then. Maybe all of it’s been more lateral than forward.)
But how old is San Francisco? I mean…the place pretty much burned to the ground in 1906. I don’t even know what the "recently old" San Francisco was like other than what I read courtesy of Barnaby Conrad, Lucius Beebe, Herb Caen and of course, if you wanna define old in a slightly older context, Jack London and John Steinbeck come to mind. Oh, and I enjoyed Armistead Maupin’s less-old… Tales of the City. But Tadich I suppose, is a wee-bit of old former San Francisco and I’m glad LPC suggested that amidst the serendipity of our schedules, we meet up there for lunch. No surprise—I loved it. I’d say Tadich is the culinary peer to its sartorial cousin, Cable Car Clothiers.
And it is indeed a small world--even in San Francisco. I’m standing out front of Tadich and I notice a guy, probably close to seventy years old, in a UNC baseball cap. He was waiting for his buddy to show for lunch. I asked what his connection to North Carolina was, letting him know that I was from South Carolina. And out came one of those syrupy eastern North Carolina accents that can only be made elegant by people of his generation. He’s been in San Francisco for over thirty years and now retired, he and his wife enjoy going back to North Carolina to visit friends and family but he never intends to leave his now, City by the Bay.
And if we’d talked for another ten minutes, we’d have known people. We didn’t argue over the differences between our state’s barbecue or the schools... Carolina(s) or whether or not the Shag—our tribal dance—originated in his or my Carolina. He admitted that as a teenager and a student at Chapel Hill, Ocean Drive Beach South Carolina was his destination. Why? He came to Ocean Drive to dance…to shag. And I told him that I spent summers in an old wood frame beach house just a few blocks down from The Pad. And then the proverbial question popped…"Who was your daddy?” Here I am in San Francisco and by happenstance, an eastern North Carolina accent is carrying me back to North Myrtle Beach and I’m twelve and sitting on the screened porch of our beach house, mildly sunburned and tasting salt in the air. All of this, standing in front of Tadich. Nice.
So folks, with the exception of a few strands of non-italicized filler midstream, you’ve now read what’s been sitting in a folder on my laptop for a year. I’ve got another dozen half-baked, unfinished piles somewhere on my computer. Maybe someday soon I’ll dust ‘em off and throw ‘em at you. Oh, and after I traipsed recently with the ghosts of Conrad and Caen and Doda, I ordered and devoured both of Barnaby Conrad's memoirs.
It's an understatement to say that this man has lived a life in full. If you suffer from even the vaguest symptoms of Contrived Maudlinazation, you'll love reading these two anecdotathons. 

Onward. Awaiting the emergence of one LFG…a gal who once again made her parents proud with all A’s on her second academic reporting period. I remain however, on academic probation.


Friday, February 22, 2013

Help Is On The Way

Some of y'all know that my paying job involves strategy work in the biotech/pharma/medical device/diagnostics space. I thought that I'd mix business and pleasure by sharing with you one of the latest direct to consumer (DTC) campaigns that I created.
Onward. All ironic and stuff.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Black Fleece Summer 2013

Gentlemanmac, a very pertinent reader left a snarky message for me over at my tumblr. Here it is…
“Are you ever gonna change that stupid York Street picture that's been up for two weeks? At least put up something cool, like a rottweiler, while you're not posting stuff.”
Spot-on old sport. I couldn’t agree with you more. I don’t have time at present to read or write blogs. So as a placeholder and an alternative to my J. Press York Street visual fiasco that so offended a reader, feast your eyes on the Brethren’s Black Fleece offerings for warm weather ’13.
Surely this Goat Rodeo Forrest Gump Bobo sh_t is much more soothing, no?
Oh, and before one of you emails me and gives me the standard… “Yeah, those ensembles do look rather silly but several of the individual pieces would look great as a separate entity, not all bound up in a gaggle of other Black Fleece stuff.” Ok, here’s the deal. If you really believe that; then let me buy you these teabagger britches. We’ll all be waiting to see a picture of you sportin’ em.

Tell Forrest I said hey.

Shut Up; then…Onward.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

J. Press York Street

From Gentleman's Quarterly
So a reader emails me and asks my opinion about the J. Press-Ovadia collaboration called York Street. I had no clue what he was talking about. After snooping about a bit and landing hereI now have an opinion...

The J. Press York Street conflagration smacks of Charlton Heston in the last year of his life...A Stalwart Alpha Legend cum Rodeo Clown. Sad. Really.

Onward. Stalwarts and all.