Experience has taught me and my vivid, active, visual imagination that the longer I wait to witness what’s been declared worthy of my attention, the higher the likelihood that I’ll be disappointed. I remember when The Big Chill hit theaters in 1983. Everyone was talking about it and everyone seemed to have something deeper to say about it over and above simply how much they enjoyed it.
Typical of my movie going behavior then and now, I ended up seeing The Big Chill about eight months after it premiered. The build-up in my mind, fuelled by all that had been said about it and all that had been written about in reviews, was really high…unfairly so I reckon. I liked the movie. But as I walked out of the theater I was thinking big whup…big deal versus Big Chill. It was my fault. Everything that had been said about the movie was probably true. The problem was that I allowed eight months’ worth of chatter about it to make my expectations unrealistic. Or maybe I hadn't lived enough life by 1983 to make deeper connections. Who knows.
Time is not a friend to my imagination. I’m just too prone to gin up expectations that aren’t gonna be met. I did the same with Take Ivy, the epic little book that for years was almost unobtainable and when you did find a copy of it, five hundred bucks got you a circa 1960’s photo book of Ivy guys in cool clothes, annotated in Japanese. I’d never seen the book except for excerpts of it from blog posts. Tintin did a story…probably a few stories on the book and the young Japanese guys who did the photography and the writing. So when the second printing was in work, of course I pre-ordered it. My disappointment was one hundred percent my fault. I couldn’t for the life of me, understand what all the hype had been about. To this day I believe that a good bit of it was due to the fact that the original version was so scarce that just lack of supply fuelled a good bit of the book’s aura. I do owe that book and its authors an apology and I’ll do so someday…in a blog post devoted just to that.
"So who the hell is Sid Mashburn?” I said. And I said it several years ago when I first encountered the man in the media. I think it was this Garden and Gun photo of Mashburn on his screened porch. Southern boy gone New York on us and done well in the men's retail/fashion/design business. And he seemed like a nice enough guy, devoid of the manufactured urban irony so common amongst the McNairys, Muytjens and their scores of devotee sycophants who blog their contrived urban edginess online.
|Garden and Gun|
And then I watched somewhere online a few years ago, a brief interview with Sid about his overall strategy regarding his aesthetic code and how it conveyed to the tactical process of creating goods for his Atlanta atelier. Essentially Mashburn declared that he wanted to modernize the classics and source tasty goods from artisans who turned out high quality interpretations of what he desired. I’d heard similar assertions many times before over the years but there was something more sincere about what Mashburn had to say.
Perhaps part of my taking to Mashburn was the fact that he was a Southern boy with nice manners and his twenties were a few decades past him. He lacked, at least in the video clips that I saw, all traces of Urban Edgy Ironic Angst (U.E.I.A.). U.E.I.A. … You know what I’m talking about if you’ve followed any of the tumblrs or blogs so fraught with the “look at me, I’m the f_cking trend setter here in Urblandia ("even though I convey it from the basement of my mom’s house here in Peoria") and my goal here is to convey the look but to also make you feel less hip than me.” Michael Bastian might be the nicest guy I met at the Ivy Style symposium and I’m pleased that I spent a moment talking with him because I was before that encounter, ready to toss him on the same pile as the U.E.I.A.s. Bastian’s a really, really decent guy and so is I believe, Sid Mashburn.
Then over the last several years, I routinely visited Sid’s website but never pulled the trigger on anything. But I did conclude, not having fingered the goods personally, that the taste level was high, the playfulness and whimsy was present and accounted for, the fuzziness was there but none of it seemed theatrical or costumey. There were no look books with Thom Browne calibre shrunken-ness yet my boy Mashburn in more than one photo in the blogosphere was sockless. I’m on the South Carolina Kappa Alpha redneck record as one to eschew socks when at all possible. And when society or my clients demand them, I’m gonna wear some doozies.
Let me go ahead and call Mr. Mashburn out on the only criticism he or his shop will get from me in this post. I DO speculate that Sid was the guy who if not originating it, certainly fuelled the trend of wearing double monks with one buckle undone. Folks, I’m all for a little Horry County redneck sprezzatura; you know...a bit of ADG fuzziness. But the unbuckled monk thang got campaigned way too grandly to the point of premeditated affectation. Who done it? I ain’t no sartorial sleuth per damn se but I’d go looking under logs and rocks around the U.E.I.A. compound if I was really jonesin’ for the answer. But like I used to say about my sister when we was fightin’ like cats and dogs in the back of my mama’s Vista Cruiser station wagon on vacation in 1971…"Sidney's ass started it, mama."
Over the last three years I’ve not been in Atlanta with enough free time to swing by and see what the Sid Mashburn emporium looked like in situ. That’s fancy talk for I’d never been there. And remember, I’ve now had three or so years of Sid Mashburn build-up and ADG imaginative conjugatin’ and cogitatin’ to have my expectations beyond realistic when I did, finally have the time last week to roll in on ‘em. The Big Chill WTF? … A Take Ivy take-down? I was prepared for the inevitable underwhelming or a hog trough full a attitude that would make the tasty goods not so. Plus, it’s just the nature of my business travel, but over the course of any given year, I generally get to see a lot of haberdasheries across the country. And my baseline comparators for well edited tastiness include regular visits to Paul Stuart and the Flusser atelier in Gotham. And thems make for high comparative bars.
The first thing that I noticed when I walked in the store mid-morning last Tuesday was the expanse. It’s larger than my mind’s eye had it. And it’s not over visualized. What I mean is that there’s no evidence of, unlike the albeit uber tasty Polo Ralph stores, a a gaggle of steroid laden visual team ninjas hitting the place overnight and leaving, kinda like Santa or the Easter Bunny, suit forms with five pocket squares and sunglasses brimming out of a now too turgid breast pocket. The place is over the top tasty with black being a predominant color playing nicely with Berber rug kinda neutral colors in balance. The goods are nicely presented and the place, unlike the “let’s pack this shit up to the ceiling and then have constant markdowns to move it out” strategies of J.EverybodyDamnBodyElseCrew et al, is well stocked with inventory without looking like Uncle Fester’s bloated ass sittin’ on the sofa after too much Sunday dinner, The joint is well edited.
And the place was abuzz for a mid-morning weekday. Only a few other customers but everyone was busy and it didn’t seem like busywork. The place had a nice energy and cadence and was inviting. Much unlike the caustic “what the f_%k are you doing in here” sideways glance that you’ll surely get when walking into the J. Crew Liquor Store or their Men’s Shop in Gotham where they almost dare you to buy one of their piece of shit sweatshop button downs with the precious little re-imagined baby collar points. Shut up. So in keeping with my standard practice of not announcing myself as a blogger, I gandered around solo after a very affable gentleman welcomed me to the store.
The place is fraught with young’uns and they are all into the edgy looks that the twenty-something sartorials are prone to these days. But there was an absence of attitude and a level of professionalism that is sometimes even absent from the Purple Label corner of Ralph’s Gotham Mansion. Let me cut the verbosity and say that everyone I spoke to in the store was courteous and professional. And I doubt that the fact that I was swathed in Flusser and Cleverley head to toe had that much to do with it. And of course I didn’t meet Mashburn. He was elsewhere that morning.
So let’s get to the clothes. Folks, everything in the store is off the charts tasty and I saw nothing that I wouldn’t wear. Nothing. The taste level is there. The quality is there. And the price-point strategy is unapologetically…correct. There’s an absence of Thom Brown shrunken-ness balanced with a basic philosophy of slimmer silhouettes and slightly, and I emphasize slightly, shorter lengths in general. Bottom line is this; similar to how I feel about Paul Stuart…if I bought all of my clothes off the peg, I could outfit myself exclusively from Sid Mashburn’s offerings.
Sid doesn’t offer any $350.00 off the shelf cotton shirts but nor are there any cheap-ass $89.00 dollar ones from the J. Crew type sweatshops of third-worldia. I believe that Mashburn has hit an enviable balance. The quality is there in every item. No bullshit, the goods carry their price points credibly. Off the chart tasty sportcoats, with the exception of Sid’s highest, high end, Kiton-ish jackets can be had for sometimes under a grand. And some of the well contrived two piece suitings are yours for south of fifteen hundred.
I believe the genius if Mashburn’s joint is the balance that he maintains to stay in what I’ll call an all-inclusive sweet spot. Let me explain. A fifty-five year old Piedmont Driving, Cherokee Town and Country Club guy could walk in and feel like he was in the right place. He might default back to H. Stockton if he was a chubby boy but otherwise he'd be ok. And an Urban Edgy Ironic Angster, if he had mama’s credit card and the keys to her Vista Cruiser could rock out in the joint too. Mashburn has hit a steady state of edginess and forward thinking uniqueness while remaining true to the Trad antecedents what brung him. It’s a store for everyone.
Let me close this by updating you on what I bought. Which by the way was precious little. I need nothing and have three jackets in the works courtesy of other bespokeydoke makers so the Mashburn clothing rack was no less populated upon my exit. Oh, and the shoes…If I did need shoes, I could source all of my needs from Sid’s own label makes from Northampton. I think he’s clever to offer a reputable Northampton maker that enables him to keep even his best private label offerings below six hundred-ish-esque bucks. There are a few Edward Green’s on offer at higher price points but why bother. Got to Leffot in Gotham if you wanna step up and start spending over a grand for your shoes.
Oh, what did I buy? I’ve always wanted the Sid oyster belt buckle and now I have it.
And God knows I needed another green canvas bag like a needed another ho on my head.Thanks Sid.
|Photo from www.wearethemarket.com|
Oh, and one other thing. Sid and his wife have five daughters. Lordy. Maybe I can send LFG to Camp Mashburn for the summer. Surely at least one of his girls would take to my precious young'un.
I’ve not been as over the top impressed with a purveyor in twenty years. Sid Mashburn’s joint is the bomb. If I lived in Atlanta, I’d axk ‘em to let me work there gratis on Saturdays just so I could rub up against the tasty goods.
Onward. To Denver for a day. Amazing what I’ll do for my day rate of two-fifty. Shut up.