Monkey See Monkey Do


Socks, like a tie or pocket square, can express one’s individuality no matter the clothes one’s wearing—bespoke suits (believe me, you’re not the only one), or selvedge jeans (again, you and a million other men). Fred Astaire, with his impeccably tailored suits and what can only be described as perfect style, can be seen in classic films wearing bright blue or red socks with an otherwise conservative outfit. Today there are many choices for colorful or patterned socks, but sometimes the old standbys work just fine (or actually better).
Original Rockford red-heeled socks, in continuous production in the US for decades and known as the “sock monkey” socks, now come in a rather nice pink, as well as light blue, and although they work perfectly with jeans, I also wear them with less casual outfits. You can’t, after all, see the heels until you take your shoes off, but they do make a good conversation piece at homes where shoe removal at the door is obligatory. And when they wear a bit thin, yes, you can actually still make an original sock monkey from them, which just might amuse—for a moment at least—a kid being raised on iPads and electronic games.

Sacks & Saddles



Sometimes you’re walking on the sidewalk and something catches your eye—something particularly stylish (or sometimes particularly hideous). Bicycles are as plentiful as rats in The Big Apple, although fortuitously, these days, one sees bicycles a little more often than those much-maligned creatures (unless one is trekking along subway tracks, of course). There are beautiful bikes, ugly bikes, custom bikes and vintage bikes in various states of disrepair, but this one, a vintage bike not quite restored to perfection, but with the obligatory and now ubiquitous Brooks saddle and an American saddle bag, was just perfect. The gentleman (or lady) who rode and parked this has to be particularly stylish, I imagine.

Black Tie


For some reason Black Tie invitations today seem to mean that one can wear anything approximating black, or anything approximating a tie. (The tie means bow tie, by the way, not a black necktie.) It’s a shame, really, and the parade of celebrities wearing atrociously ugly versions of tuxedos at award ceremonies serves to only encourage men to take liberties with their dress that they shouldn’t. Of course certain liberties can show a sense of style, even whimsy, without offending the sensibilities of the style police.
My father’s tux, which I’ve inherited, is an early 1970′s Aquascutum, but the style is as fresh today as it was forty years ago (well, my father was pretty conservative in his dress, which meant his suits could outlast most trends). A single button peak lapel jacket and straight leg, no pleats trousers, is pretty straightforward, except the fabric has a black-on-black paisley pattern, almost invisible until either light shines on it, or you get really close. The paisley is a classically Persian design—and my father was happy to advertise his heritage, however subtly. And yes, it comes with a cummerbund, which just happens to be the Persian word for belt.

Handkerchiefs

Handkerchief tied around the neck is as old a style as wearing clothes themselves–and used to be about practicality. This is Dastmal Yazdi, handkerchiefs from the central Iranian city of Yazd, in either cotton or silk. Warm in the winter, to absorb perspiration or wipe your brow in the summer. A vintage Lee denim jacket and a Saville Row suit might be an odd combination, all the more so with an Iranian scarf, but who cares?

Cabrales, Cabron!


Yeah, traditional Mexican shoes. Here, updated stylishly by Industry of All Nations— about as elegant a loafer you can buy, for a fraction of the price of Italian or French shoes, and just as well-made. A wool blend upper, a rubber sole for trekking the canyons of the city. Plus, lined in that wool felt, which means you can wear with or without socks. The plaids work with jeans or a suit, the solid is a staple…or heck, maybe get both for less than a Benjamin.

Keys, etc.

There is a trend these days, it appears, to accessorize one’s keys. A large number of fancy and not so fancy keychains, key holders, and key fobs are on the market, providing men with one more accessory item to show off their style (or wealth) with. Although some have argued that the popularity of key chains or holders is due to men’s lack of jewelry options, I’d suggest that finding a good way to deal with the inevitable jumble of keys we must carry has always been a struggle; well before men cast their envious eyes at the female species’ plentiful options for jewelry or accessories.

I have always carried my keys on a chain, in this case an antique watch chain (to which I added a clasp to attach to a belt loop), but a nice, and small, leather holder prevents them from jangling in the pocket or scratching that nice phone screen that could be sharing its space. This simple and inexpensive holder, from the folks at Studio Gorm, comes in a thick, natural leather, which ages beautifully to a dark brown, and will last longer than the apartment whose keys it holds.

Watch your Watch

Perhaps I’m a contrarian, but the bigger wristwatches get the smaller I want mine to be. I understand why one needs a chunky, oversized watch when diving, or maybe when piloting a helicopter, but I don’t understand the point of wearing a clock on one’s wrist. Might as well go all the way, like Flavor Flav, and wear it around the neck— at least that’s original.

I like vintage watches, both for how they look and because they’re often very affordable (I of course like and appreciate the holy trinity of watchmakers; Patek Phillipe, Vacheron Constantin, and Audemars Piguet, but few of us, including me, can afford their wares.) It seems in the past watchmakers made watches to fit on wrist, not to encompass it, and there’s something elegant about an understated watch on a man’s wrist, one that requires the lady seating next to you at the bar to ask you what time it is, rather than merely glance at the monstrosity you’re flashing, which might just tell her it’s time to leave.

The Gruen Curvex, from the forties, is a classic design and can be picked up at any good vintage watch shop, or even on eBay from a reputable dealer for less than the cost of a good leather strap. (I like Cordovan leather straps from Horween— the last supplier of tanned horsehide in the U.S.) The 1940′s Omega military watch, a good size but not overpoweringly so, was purchased at a shop overseas, also for less than the strap cost, and needed a crown (found on eBay) and a minor adjustment— years later it still runs better than most new watches. Then again, if you really need that kind of accuracy, you always have your phone.

True Vintage Style

In the (often faux) retro-crazed first decades of the 21st Century (Mad Men/Banana Republic?), it’s refreshing to look back at true vintage style from the previous century; style we sometimes seem desperate to emulate (Williamsburg, anyone?) Joe Browar (right) and pal strolling down a street in the early fifties look as cool as it gets, and they seem to know it. The haircuts–pomade obligatory–were weekly affairs for a buck or two, the sunglasses were perhaps Raybans or American Opticals, but Joe’s t-shirt is perfection. So is the way he’s wearing it. His high-waisted, deeply pleated pants are definitely not fashionable by today’s exaggerated 1960′s standards, but if you saw this man walking toward you tomorrow, even without the requisite tattoos, would you not think he might be the most stylish person on the street? The pinkie ring only completes the look (hey, Bogie wore one)…

Persian Lambs


My Persian lamb scarf, actually made in Persia (or Iran for the geographically challenged) from Persian lambs by a tailor on Manouchehri Street in Tehran. Possibly the most elegant fur a man can wear, Persian lamb is also incredibly warm, although anything but a scarf or a collar on a coat might be a going too far , sartorially speaking. Expensive, yes, but if you find yourself in or anywhere east of Persia, say in the ‘stans, you can probably have one made for far less than the cost of a half-way decent cashmere scarf in Europe or the U.S. It’s not Prada, but designing your own is so much more fun.

The Persian Knot

Yes: look it up. Believe or not, from the land where neckties have all but been banished comes the Persian knot. Similar to the Windsor in appearance (but knotted differently), it’s a handsome, large triangle, and slightly misshapen. Perfect for wanna-be princes or just chic Americans, but not for Ayatollahs.

Not Just For The Army

I’ve always thought that despite the indignity of airplane travel today, one should not dress for travel as if one just crawled out of bed on a lazy Sunday, or as if in preparation to go for a morning jog. A sports jacket for men, tweed or a blazer, looks good, and can do wonders if asking for an upgrade, checking overweight bags, or in eliciting a modicum of courtesy from security agents. Many people look for comfort, though, and are loath to wear anything that might wrinkle or be even slightly uncomfortable in the cramped quarters of tourist class. Enter Massif; a line of comfortable, stylish, and beautifully made clothes, by the makers of military wear for the Pentagon. Massif has launched a civilian line that is a perfect fit (pun intended) for travel, and the sports jacket pictured, in a wool fabric that feels like felt, is ideal: from the flattering and fashionable cut, which means it can be worn with a tie, to the hidden zipper pockets for stashing passports and cash, or gold coins when necessary. The secret though is in the anti-microbial wool fabric that also won’t wrinkle, and a flip-up collar that can buttoned against the chill, of the aircraft or of the destination. And we all know how airlines can alternate extreme air conditioning with extreme heat, to say nothing of the microbes that inhabit their fleets.

 

 

 

Wovenplay

When it comes to kids’ clothes, there are plenty of stylish choices for parents and for gift-giving friends and relatives (not to mention the inevitable hand-me-downs), from Old Navy to J.Crew. But there are occasions when one wants to splurge on a beautifully made, elegant, and non-Chinese garment, for a boy or a girl, and outside of a handful of outrageously expensive European labels, choices are then otherwise limited. Enter Wovenplay (by New York-based designer Katherine Edmonds, who manufactures right here in the US), which fashions the most stylish duds a boy (or girl) can wear. From the fabrics to the cut and down to smallest detail such as handmade buttons, any child will look better, and be more comfortable, in a Wovenplay outfit. Here, a moleskin topcoat for boys— with removal cape— that will turn heads on Broadway and on Main Street, and a collection of more modern down-filled jackets for those sub-zero days…

 

 

Nest

 We wouldn’t ordinarily comment on a product or item of clothing that has been extensively covered in the media, both for its practicality, usability, and style. Nest is to thermostats what Apple was (and still is) to computers— no surprise there, since the people behind it are former Apple executives— and the eyesore that is in every home has now been transformed into a thing of beauty. Installation is not complicated, but requires some electrical work which, in one case, resulted in blowing out the motor of one friend’s HVAC system. Which brings us to the reason Nest is here on this site: customer service; a thing of the past with so many once-great American companies. Not only did Nest send a technician at 10pm to see what could be done, but have taken full responsibility for any repair costs, despite the fact that they didn’t install the thermostat and despite the fact that it can’t be proven that their product was even responsible for the motor failure. And beyond that, the Nest executive who took charge of the issue left his number for the customer to call in case of any questions or concerns. His cell phone number.

The next generation thermostat: elegant and simple, controlled from anywhere with its own iPhone app. Backed by real people who give a damn. Buy one, or two, or three.

Hotel Style

The Wythe Hotel in über-hip Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is a welcome addition to the neighborhood, advertising its presence from miles away with what seems to be the largest “hotel” sign anywhere in the world, except for Las Vegas, of course. (Unlike Vegas joints, though, the Wythe is thankfully otherwise understated.) What appears to be overkill and gimmicky is actually rather elegant, and not out of keeping with the still-industrial quality of the street. If Brooklynites can advertise themselves with their often loud tattoos, then why can’t a hotel scream its presence with its own mark?

 

Electric Boogie

We know all about electric cars, the future of automobile transportation, but far less about electric motorcycles, which in big cities such as New York, are infinitely more practical. The Zero Motorcycle company makes two models– a large battery powered and a smaller battery powered– that have all the advantages of two wheeled transport and virtually none of the disadvantages. The smaller model, with a range of over 70 miles (the bigger battery range is over 100 miles), is not only stylish but is a bike you can ride to work or to play, as it, like Vespa scooters, has no shifter (thus saving the leather on your nice shoes), and is as easy to ride as a bicycle. The bike can be charged from a standard outlet, or from a 220V one for a fast charge– charging stations are springing up all over big cities although with the range, you probably will never need one outside of home.

This bike, The Zero ZF6, has been customized by carbon(-), a motorcycle, electric bicycle, and Vespa dealer in NY which is Zero’s exclusive distributer here. MSRP on the ZF6 is $11,495– expensive, I know, but not so much when you consider it’s made right here in the US, and a good wristwatch can cost more. The motorcycle is as quiet as a bicycle, a big plus for Hog-phobics but disconcerting to those who want to alert cars to their presence. Until they make an app for the sound of a engine, you might just have to do with silence or a very loud boom box on the rack. Zach Schieffelin, the owner of carbon(-), might just throw one in for you.

Tattoo Brooklyn

 

In Brooklyn, the “coolest ” city in the world, at least according to GQ Magazine and certainly to its residents, one sometimes wonders if having visible tattoos is as much a requirement to rent or own as a clean credit history and healthy bank account might be. I, tattoo-less but bearded, perhaps stand out as a rebel for my lack of body art, but I’ve always been concerned that tattoos, while extremely fashionable and sometimes attractive, at least on lithe bodies, won’t stand the test of time. Unlike clothes which one can change with abandon, or facial hair that goes as easily as it comes, tattoos are basically there for life. Yes, they can also be stylish, but be prepared for them to be your enduring style, no matter the fashion cycle, for the rest of your life. Think Mike Tyson vs. Muhammad Ali.


Denim Repair

 

Denim is the unofficial uniform of men the world over, and has, fortunately or unfortunately depending on your point of view, even penetrated the once-stuffy white collar workplace. Good denim, the kind you pay well over a hundred dollars for such as Levis Vintage Clothing, will eventually be in need of repair, unless you refuse to ever wash a pair of jeans, in which case social intercourse may be an alien concept to you.

I buy my jeans unwashed and “raw”, but do not hesitate to wash them regularly, which means that even the sturdy denim Levis uses for its jeans made in the USA will eventually need holes and tears mended.

Kill Devil Hill, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, does about as good a job as I’ve seen anywhere. I ask that they use a soft khaki fabric on the inside of the jean where it touches the skin. And the repair is invisible on the outside.

Men in White

At the Course Camarguaises in Arles, France, the kinder, gentler bullfights unique to the area and the Camargue. Men run at the bulls in attempts to pluck ribbons from their horns, rather than do the dance of death we commonly know as bullfights, and which even Barcelona has now outlawed. Combining grace, style, and spectacle, and this being the French, wearing appropriately all white outfits, the razeteurscompete not for the ears or tails of the bulls they must outrun and outwit, but for good old fashioned cash.

 

 

Quoddy Moccasins

Yes, the hand-made-in-Maine shoes are terrifically comfortable and last almost forever. Almost. No sole can actually last forever, but Quoddy will re-sole your pair for fifteen bucks. They will also sew in a new insert so that the shoes, like this battered pair, will be as comfortable as when you bought them. This model originally had a black sole, but I requested a brick- colored one as its replacement, to make it unique. Yes, some good things can last forever, give or take fifteen bucks.

 

Barcelona Hat Shop

Hats, with the exception of baseball and truckers’ caps–which should only be worn while playing ball or driving a truck–should never have gone out of style. The great hat shops that survived the fallow fashion period, Lock & Co. in London, Chapeau Motsch in Paris, or Worth and Worth in New York are wonderful, but every major city has a wonderful hat shop–”worth a detour”–as Michelin might say. I have fedoras, newsboy, and Persian Diplomat hats, and wear them all. Hopefully not in an ironic way.

Gaudi

 


Not all Antoni Gaudi creations are necessarily aesthetically pleasing, but this, the tiled Passeig de Gracia in Barcelona, has to be the finest covering of a thoroughfare anywhere in the world.

Public Socks


The airport these days is the only place your socks will be in full view of the public. Wear something nice– bold even– with your loafers. Edward Green shoes from the nineties; a twenty-year old Swaine Adeney & Brigg bridle leather carry on bag and a vintage briefcase. No wheeled luggage, please: looks goofy, and besides, can no one carry even a few pounds anymore?

Made in the USA

My 18 year old Filson duffle finally succumbed to the strains of international travel right after Christmas – the bridle leather straps gave out. I sent it to the company to see if they could repair it (just to replace the straps, really) and received a call from the returns department a week or so later. Filson, it seemed, believed that they should replace the bag with a brand new one (at no charge, obviously), as they felt the duffle had gotten too old to be worth repairing.

And a week later the new bag arrived in the mail. I miss my weathered and well-traveled old duffle, but I must say I’m impressed with Filson. I mean, what company these days manufactures its products and stands by them, effectively for life?

“Might as well have the best” is their motto, and whether or not you believe theirs is, you have to grant them that they take the word ‘best” seriously….

Sweater Vests


There are myriad reasons to despise Rick Santorum and his views, and as many reasons to bemoan the sartorial preferences of all the presidential candidates, even Mr. Cool himself, President Obama. But wearing sweater vests, seemingly the mark of a square, a dweeb, or whatever, should not be a reason to poke fun at or demean one of the more extreme politicians of our age. Remember when cardigans, the Mr. Rogers look, were the object of scorn? Today, no hipster worth his Williamsburg digs is without one. Tie bars? Do Brooklynites even know you can wear a tie without a clip? Brogues? Bow Ties? Need I go on? The sweater vest can look square, professorial, or worse. But it can be a damn useful item of clothing, especially if worn under a suit or a jacket, when sweaters with sleeves can add unseemly bulk. This one, in a single ply cashmere is almost twenty years old (from an era when cashmere really came from the throat hairs of the Kashmir goat in the himalayas), woven in Scotland, came from Anderson & Sheppard. Yes, the Saville Row tailors with a famous and infamous client list, clothiers who’ve outfitted everyone stylish from Cary Grant and Fred Astaire to Prince Charles. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.

Leather Jackets

I’m not particularly fond of leather jackets–unless they’re horsehide. Don’t worry: in the U.S. it’s illegal to slaughter a horse for its hide (or its flesh). The toughest and most water-resistant of leathers (one reason motorcycle cops wear it), it ages beautifully. Saddles are not made from it, though, perhaps because it would be just too perverse to put a horsehide on a horse’s hide. This one is from Lost Worlds in Queens, NY; about ten years old. The hat is from Lock & Co., in London, and the boiled wool vest is from Jomeh Bazaar in Tehran.