Hooman Majd

About Hooman Majd

Hooman Majd was born in Tehran, Iran in 1957, and lived abroad from infancy with his family who were in the diplomatic service. He attended boarding school in England and college in the United States, and stayed in the U.S. after the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Majd had a long career in the entertainment business before devoting himself to writing and journalism full-time. He worked at Island Records and Polygram Records for many years, with a diverse group of artists, and was head of film and music at Palm Pictures, where he produced The Cup and James Toback's Black and White. Majd’s book The Ayatollah Begs to Differ was published in 2008, and his latest book The Ayatollahs’ Democracy will be published in the Fall of 2010. Hooman Majd has also written for GQ, Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Financial Times, Foreign Policy, Politico, The New York Observer, Interview, The Daily Beast, and Salon, among others. He has also published short fiction in literary journals such as Guernica, The American Scholar, and Bald Ego. He lives in New York City and travels regularly back to Iran.

Meet Your Tailor; Pull Up Your Pants


There’s no question that having a tailor make your clothes for you is the closest to sartorial nirvana, but of course most of us can’t afford bespoke suits, shirts, or bespoke anything, for that matter. That said, it is infinitely better to have one tailored suit than half a dozen off-the-rack ones that will be out of style in a year or so—my father’s generation often made do with a couple of nice suits that lasted almost a lifetime. A bespoke suit, apart from the fit and finish, allows one to express an individual style; and if not extreme in cut, will always be stylish if not entirely fashion-forward. (I still often receive compliments on my twenty-year old suits that could hardly be said to be fashionable.)

A master tailor, like Craig Robinson of New York, can guide the uninitiated, and unlike some of his stuffier counterparts, can be playful, too. Like myself, he prefers trousers that sit on the waist, not the hips, which brings us to the question of suspenders. I’m not fond of belts (or belt loops) on dress pants, and think suspenders provide a cleaner line. One can wear silk suspenders, a la Gordon Gekko or Larry King, but that look, when the suspenders show, is a little ostentatious. Elastic suspenders with silk tabs are the perfect choice—they move with you, are easy to put on, and look great even when the jacket comes off. Hard to find these days (many elastic suspenders are too wide, come with leather tabs that make it difficult to secure to buttons, and are too casual for a suit), but a good tailor’s shop should be able to outfit you with a pair, and at a fraction of the cost of the suit you’ll want to have made to go with them.

In Praise of Linen

Linen is alternately praised and condemned as an ultimate summer fabric for me; praised for its breathability and comfort but condemned for its wrinkles and sometimes stiff character. But nothing looks or feels better on a hot summer day than a cream colored linen outfit—wrinkles be damned.

It’s difficult to pull of cream jackets or suits in any other fabric (winter whites notwithstanding, and then only for trousers), for a tropical weight worsted wool suit might look fine in a khaki tone but tends to look strange in cream or eggshell. The choice, if one is inclined to go with cream, is either linen or cotton. Cotton has its advantages, sure, but somehow the deeper creases and wrinkles linen develop (within minutes, at that) give the wearer that air of a devil-may-care attitude, and a well-tailored and proportioned suit will always look good, no matter how wrinkled. The wrinkles can, of course, be steamed out at the end of the day, or the suit can simply be hung outside a hot shower…

This jacket is bespoke, part of an old suit that looks good with jeans, too. Some may argue for it to be blazer it should have patch pockets and a center vent, but I say who cares? I’ve worn it as a suit to summer weddings, and I like the contrast between the formal cut of the jacket with beat up jeans. Wrinkles? You bet. It’s even been in the washing machine a couple of times, and wrinkles have steamed right out.

Linen is wonderful during these hot months, but I avoid the fabric in a shirt. Miami Vice was good, but only for the eighties.

Persian Shoes


I’ve received a lot of mail concerning my Persian shoes, and Glenn O’Brien, GQ’s Style Guy, has been a long time admirer, in person and in print. I wore a green pair (self-dyed) on Bill Maher’s Real Time back in 2009, in support of the Green Movement’s Persian Spring, which, needless to say, raised a few eyebrows (all the way up to their turbans) in Tehran.

But they are a wonderfully stylish alternative to sneakers or espadrilles—cotton uppers and cotton (and leather) soles, that are virtually indestructible. Sadly, the art of making them is being lost—you can’t find any self-respecting Persian actually wearing them, not unless they’re working rural folk—and when I wear them in Iran I receive rather bemused looks from passersby. You can’t buy them in the U.S. (or anywhere else except Iran, for that matter), mainly because of sanctions, but if you know someone traveling to Iran (perhaps a journalist or someone on a tour?) ask them to pick up a pair for you in the Bazaars—you won’t regret it. Or, write to your Congressman or MP and demand that they lift sanctions on giveh—the Persian word for the shoes—because, after all, the shoes are made by artisans in the provinces of Iran where nuclear is just another word for nothing left to lose.

Henley (Not Just For The Regatta)



The Henley shirt is deservedly a classic, and has made quite the comeback in recent years, especially among aficionados of “heritage” style. There are now thousands of styles to choose from, at every price point, but few might know that the shirt’s name (and popularity) originated when it was worn as a part of a uniform by rowers. At Henley-on-Thames, naturally.

Although as an athletic shirt it performs admirably (or as admirably as the athlete wearing it), it is a stylish alternative to the plain t-shirt, and is, in a way, a little nicer under a sports jacket. Or under a windbreaker, this one an old custom Birdwell Beach Britches. This shirt is an HoM original—an exclusive limited edition collaboration with Yogamat Clothing—and is inspired by 1920s styles worn by Olympic athletes. Made of thick, organic cotton, right here in the U.S. by (paid) workers, the quality is unsurpassable—a shirt that will last almost a lifetime. Longer sleeves allow a cozier fit for the cold months, indoors and outdoors, while the ribbed sleeve also allows it to be rolled up to whatever length one prefers in the warmer months. Unusual for modern Henleys, this shirt has placket concealing the buttons, completing a vintage look that also looks modern in a sea of retro and vintage inspired clothing. A small breast pocket can fit a folded currency bill, a key, a matchbook, or a receipt or note paper. It is purposefully small, a nod to a time when small was plenty big enough…

Available now, in the General Store.

Madras, continued


Other than wearing something like a shocking pink neon blazer, wearing a Madras jacket might be as attention grabbing as possible (camouflage used to be like that before it went mainstream). But loud as it may be, it is extremely comfortable, cool in the summer, and in an unconstructed jacket such as this one (vintage Ralph Lauren) fits like an old shirt.

Don Draper might wear one with a pair of gray slacks and a solid tie—you can certainly replicate that look, but I like the jacket with khakis, or in this case, with tropical weight wool trousers for a clean look that contrasts nicely with the haphazard design of the coat. White bucks are a good choice for footwear, but mine were destroyed a few years back. So suede Keds (by Mark McNairy) do the trick, and perhaps better for shifting gears on this monster of a motorcycle—a BMW GS, the SUV of motorcycles (albeit without the requisite carbon footprint)—that is a dream for navigating the potholes of the city. It will remain a dream, however, as I make do with my trusty, but slowly rusting, Vespa….

Madras, Or Should We Say Chennai?


Madras, the golf course favorite of many an American male, is an exceedingly comfortable summer fabric—originating in Chennai (once called Madras), India. As loud as an item of clothing can be, and befitting the American reputation for our occasional loudness, it is nonetheless appropriately stylish, especially when worn with a certain nonchalance.

It works especially well paired with a t-shirt and snug denim jacket (vintage 1960s US-made Lee, in this case), and Kenyatas sneakers, which although I’m generally opposed to wearing for non-athletic endeavors, I’m willing to make exception for on occasion. Especially if they’re made not in an Asian factory but in Kenya, as these are. When was the last time you wore an Indian fabric (by Brooks Brothers, no less) with African shoes? Anti-colonialists rejoice: clothing from three continents, all encompassing former colonies.

As for other items of Madras clothing—such as jackets—yes; I do have an opinion…

Loafing Shoes


Loafers seem to go in and out of fashion on a regular basis, which is a good thing if you keep your shoes for longer than a season or two, since the return of loafer style is usually right around the corner. We’ve turned that corner this year, and although the chunky shoe is still very much “in”—and brogues and cap toes aren’t going away anytime soon—my preference is for a leaner silhouette for loafing.

This 15 year old pair is by Edward Green, and the shoe reflects the more English or European style of loafer, which is narrower, longer, and with a higher vamp. Works equally well with or without socks (I prefer sock-less in the Spring and Summer), and with casual wear or a slim suit. Heavier loafers, like the Alden Cordovan model or Bass Weejun (Penny loafers) are staples in many a shoe closet, including mine, but there’s something a little more distinctive about a pair that is utterly unlike the thick-soled shoes we see on the streets of New York, London, Tokyo and, of course, Brooklyn.

Polo (Not Ponies)



The polo shirt is a summer staple in most men’s (and women’s) closets, and there are literally thousands of styles, colors, and fabrics out there. The legendary Lacoste crocodile and the ubiquitous polo pony adorn many a chest, but so does the Fred Perry wreath these days, and you can even sport a marijuana leaf on your favorite shirt, if that’s your style (you rebel, you). And of course you can go logo-less at virtually every price point; some of the least expensive shirts are sometimes the most understated.

While the piqué polo shirt, with its banded collar and sleeves, works perfectly on the tennis court (as Rene Lacoste discovered way back in the late 1920s), and is perhaps the ideal shirt to wear (and most elegant) while balancing atop a galloping pony with a mallet in hand, the soft cotton version, with a soft collar, is somehow more elegant when wearing a suit or blazer. Strictly speaking not really a polo; rather, just a more casual short sleeve shirt a step or three above a t-shirt, it’s less common in the right fabric and fit (please, no oversized synthetic blends seen on many golf courses or the occasional dad, with his sleeves hanging by the elbows), but Save Khaki, a small NY based outfit makes what I think may be the perfect version; something that Cary Grant might have worn in To Catch a Thief. Available in thin or wide stripes (in their store, but not on their website; although available at other sites such as Steven Alan’s), it’s a reasonably priced, made in America item that to me is the perfect warm weather shirt—whether with jeans or khakis, or with a trousers and a blazer.

Watch those Spectators

With the imminent release of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, we’re bound to see a revival of certain 1920′s styles—in fact,Brooks Brothers has already unveiled their “Gatsby” collection of clothes and accessories inspired by their role as outfitters to the film. And spectator, or correspondent shoes, are, as expected, in that collection.

They can be difficult to pull off wearing without the look seemingly contrived, but spectator shoes are nonetheless beautiful. They can be part of a full-on vintage 20s look, just like Leonardo will appear, or one can just wear them with jeans–in this case, Peal & Co. for yes, you guessed it, Brooks Brothers shoes, albeit circa 1995, not 2013. And paired with Levis Vintage Clothing 1955 501s, at Cubana Social, Williamsburg, where no look is ever contrived. 1925, 1955, 1995, 2013….and the look goes on…

 

Milk and Sugar



Seersucker, the summer fabric once associated with the genteel American South (or, sometimes less-than-gentle Southern Governors and Senators), the New England establishment, and preppies the world over, is now de rigueur for fashion conscious men everywhere. Fortuitously so, as it is probably the most comfortable and lightest of cotton fabrics, that happens to look terrific in a jacket or as a suit.

The word ‘seersucker’ comes from (and is the anglicized version of) the Persian expression sheer-o-sheekar, or ‘milk and sugar’, and originated in Mughal India, where Persian was the lingua franca. While suiting was traditionally cream with blue stripes, these days one can find the stripe in an array of pastel colors—I particularly like pink and green. This jacket though, an old Italian one, unconstructed and unlined with a dove gray stripe, came from Bergdorf Goodman and has been through the wash enough times that it has begun to fray at the cuffs, just as I like it. And being unconstructed, the roll-over third button can actually be buttoned, which looks especially good when worn with tie.

Speaking of ties—and as a fan of knits—I like bright colors for spring and summer, and I’m told electric blue is the color of the moment. Good news, I suppose, since I happen to usually pull this one out when the clocks Spring Forward. Oh, and for those who argue that seersucker, along with white, mustn’t be worn before Memorial Day or after Labor Day, I say if the temperature hits 80 degrees in April, as it often does in our age of climate change, go for it.

Sandal Scandal



Actually, the only ‘sandal scandal’ is wearing a pair with socks. Otherwise, except for leather flip flops, I’m a big fan of sandals, especially on summer weekends, and especially away from the sidewalks of a gritty city (with or without a linen suit). And in the gritty city of New York, there’s Barbara Shaum’s shop, in the East Village, where you can have a pair custom made.

Bespoke sandals may seem an extravagance, and perhaps they are, but when you can have a pair made exactly as you want them—with a perfect fit, no less—at the price of one the better designers’ models, why not? Barbara is a NY fixture, written about everywhere for her long career (over 50 years) making sandals, belts, or some other leather item you fancy, and her craftsmanship is as good as it gets. Yes, there are shops in Florence where you can have a nice pair made for you, and in parts of Africa bespoke is the only option (and a good one, at that), but if you’re in NY on hot day, I defy you to walk into Barbara’s shop on E. 4th Street and not walk out with an order.

Red Wings and Red Trucks



Red Wing boots have rightfully enjoyed a renaissance for a number of years now—among aficionados of “heritage” American brands in the US and abroad, but also as stylish footwear for the winter months.

Their new made in Maine chukkas (part of Red Wing’s Heritage Brand), however, while maintaining the quality and durability of a pair of Red Wing boots, are appropriate year round—with or without socks. Lighter than boots and with a soft sole, they work with khakis or jeans, and this pair, the “Sage Mohave”, is a particularly nice color.

You don’t need a vintage red Ford truck to complement the look, but it doesn’t hurt, especially if the truck isn’t as pristine as the chukkas are at first.

Dye Your Tie; Wear Denim On Your Back


I’m a fan of denim shirts, as long as one doesn’t wear them with denim. Good with a suit and tie, I think, but it’s not easy finding an elegant non-Western shirt—perhaps someone will make an off-the-rack one, one day.

This one (by American Apparel) is great—no button down collar, which I don’t think is right for a thick material like this—and a collar bar works nicely with it. It’s not exactly denim, but close enough for comfort (literally). With a solid wool tie—customized here by myself with three different Sharpies—and a tweed suit (with very baggy trousers) that reminds me of my geography teacher in English boarding school, it’s a departure, but not so far, from Downton Abbey.

Levi’s


There are many quality brands of jeans (and a new one every day, it seems). Although I admire makers who are cutting and sewing denim the traditional way in the US and Japan, I tend to stick to Levi’s 501s. I prefer the Vintage line, 1955s, and these cinch-back 1933 501s. Except I like to cut off the cinch.

Fashionable Weeks

Fashion Week in NY (or Paris, or Milan) can make for a curious sight for the accidental tourist—hordes of men and women congregating at various locations across the city, looking as though they’ve just stepped off the runways themselves—and unless one is in the business oneself, appears to be an exhibition of vainglory. Shows can be fun, though, whether for pure amusement (and sometimes mockery), or to witness a particular designer’s rather special sense of style. Mark McNairy’s show, dubbed “The Eagle Has Landed”, was in the latter category, with his perfectly but casually dressed four-year-old son in the front row paying reasonably close attention to his father’s interpretation of American style…
On a slushy and rainy NY day, and realizing your shoes need a quick polish before sitting in the front row of a runway show, a finger always helps. I know colored laces are all the rage these days, but somehow pink works nicely with a pair of traditional brogues and a conservative suit…

MMN
And always point at the man in the gray flannel suit, she thinks, but not with your fingers.

Bon Voyage


I’ve been known to express (in writing, no less) my dismay at the lost art of travel, and my distaste of, or even allergy to, wheeled luggage; to say nothing of my horror at the display of atrocious style in today’s airports, train stations, and ocean-going liners. Luggage is as important to me as any sartorial choice in travel— as with dress, one does want it to be as convenient and comfortable to use as possible— and, yes, I do understand that wheels make carting suitcases around airports, now that porters are nowhere to be found, rather easier. But to me nothing seems less elegant than pulling or pushing a suitcase, unless you’re over 70, and besides, just how heavy can a suitcase be? Will the little physical exertion required to carry a suitcase twenty yards or so really kill you?

I would love to have Goyard make me a custom wardrobe suitcase or trunk, one with little drawers and hangers so that I’d never have to unpack on trip, but alas I can neither afford it nor would such a case be practical for travel today, unless one is traveling with a valet and a footman on one’s own plane or yacht. I settle for suitcases I’ve had for years— an ancient Globetrotter (before the re-branding that brought re-pricing) that has needed little care over the years except a change of locks; a Tanner Krolle bridle leather suitcase that works as good as new, except for the deep gashes and scratches that come from handing over your luggage to airlines to care for, and a bridle leather carry-on that has endured far more abuse, including being checked in on occasion, than a leather case deserves. Since I dislike shoulder straps (I’m not a schoolboy) as much as I dislike wheels, a vintage 40′s briefcase, that happens to fit inside the carry-on, is my preferred vessel for a laptop, notebook, and books. I may get a little more exercise than I want to when traveling, but I say it’s worth the effort…

Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down





Narrow ties are great, with the right outfit of course. They look silly with double breasted suits, and sillier if you are styling a 70′s sport coat from your dad’s closet. There have always been narrow ties, even at the height of 70s excess, and I have a couple I’ve kept for years. (The advantage in keeping old ties is that one day they will be truly unique, an you will never appear in the same (or similar) tie as someone else at a party, or at work.) Ties allow us to express individuality, although I tend to draw the line at ties that scream “look at me!”

So stripes in unusual colors, plain solids, woven patterns, and yes, the occasional Hermes tie, should happily coexist in any closet. Choosing a tie from a lesser-known maker, or from a designer that doesn’t produce a pattern by the millions, is preferable as far as I’m concerned since I like my tie to have few brothers roaming the planet, or to be an only child if at all possible. A Matsuda tie from the eighties is one of my favorites, but I get also complimented on my Michele Savoia tie that I believe to be one of a kind. And if a favorite tie is simply too wide to be ever worn under any circumstances (say, if it exceeds 3.5 inches), Tie Crafters in NY will size it down professionally to whatever width you like, breathing new life into your closet for less than the cost of couple of beers.

Vintage Eyewear (’50s)


Eyeglasses, or at least well-made and stylish ones, are extremely expensive these days. Plenty of designers offer good styles, but I prefer to get my glasses on eBay. They can be American or French made; vintage new old stock, and although buying a pair like this can be hit or miss once you receive them and try them on, they’re inexpensive enough to make it worthwhile. Virtually any style is available, but I particularly like American Optical…and fifties French frames.

Watch Your Cap

I’m a big fan of hats, all kinds of hats (except baseball caps), and rue the day, in my childhood, when American men decided leaving the house bare-headed was appropriate and proper etiquette for a gentleman. For those of us who live in parts of the planet that have four seasons, though, one of which can be brutally cold (at least for now, until all the polar caps melt), a fedora or newsboy hat, as elegant as they can be, don’t quite cut it in those months when warmth is the primary consideration, especially ’round the ears.

Watch caps, or beanies, then, are a favored if not essential accessory, but whether in cashmere, wool, cotton or synthetics, they can be boring and uninspiring. In recent years various designers have offered colorful caps, and the striped French fisherman classics are seemingly all the rage in New York these days, but Danish designers Norse Projects offer an incredibly soft merino wool cap that is thick, warmer than cashmere, and somehow sort of après ski elegant, no? For the ski itself, naturally, they offer virtually the same cap, but with a pom-pon (or pompon or pom pom or pom-pom, as you prefer). Wear it if you dare.

Surf’s Up


Surf wear—and surf & skate shops—are all the rage, it seems, and unless one embodies that lifestyle, wearing some of the surf inspired items can seem, well, a bit forced. But everyone needs a good sweatshirt, and good t-shirts, and M.Nii, an old Hawaiian surf wear company that started out making board shorts, makes the best.

The soft but thick, long-wearing fabric, the classic cut, and most importantly, the understated designs, make these sweatshirts and t-shirts versatile enough to wear with almost anything, almost anywhere. I particularly like their indigo blue sweatshirts—the wide single stripe adds a collegiate touch that gives personality to what might be beautifully made, but otherwise ordinary looking. And there’s nothing ordinary about the shirts that M.Nii make, right here in the U.S.A

(Surf boards photo taken at Pilgrim, Brooklyn, NY.)

The Tie Clip

Tie clips are fashionable these dandified days, perhaps because of the influence of period shows like Mad Men, which have contributed greatly to elevating the sartorial awareness of American men. It’s a handy thing, the tie clip; it attaches one’s tie to one’s shirt, preventing it from flapping around, and makes for a neater appearance while also affording one an opportunity to show some flair and flash some jewelry other than a watch, cufflinks, or a ring. Many men are seemingly confused about the proper placement of a clip— some wear it far too high, which renders it less than satisfactory as a clip but also looks silly. Unless you’re Lebron James, who wears it so high in his Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year photo that it replaces the actual knot of the tie (an idea no one seems to have come up with before, and which I will not attempt until an NBA team recruits me).

The clip should be worn right around where you’d button your jacket (and should never be worn with a double breasted suit)— it can be seen, but should not be heard. There are all kinds of clips available, from very inexpensive to ridiculously priced, but I like to keep it simple— a vintage Tiffany & Co. in this case, found years ago at a flea market, in gold and silver. Heavy enough to hold the tie and feel substantial (and increase in value with the price of gold), but discreet enough, too. Although probably not for LeBron.

New (Old) Kid on the Block



Brooklyn, and particularly Williamsburg, is gentrifying at a pace that rivals any other NY neighborhood. With the gentrification, and the now oft-maligned and sometimes deservedly mocked hipster scene, always comes shopping. Joining other small boutiques specializing in the authentic American look of yesteryear, new bespoke suit makers, artisanal chocolate makers and overly obsessive coffee grinders, H.W. Carter & Sons has just set up shop, conveniently only a block away from a subway line that will get you from a fully gentrified downtown Manhattan to Brooklyn in less than ten minutes.

Soon to become a Japanese visitor’s mecca, Carter, an old New England brand, specializes in work wear, but the shop carries other brands too, mostly made in the USA goods, and is a warranted destination for young men in terrifically well groomed mustaches (and beards), but also for regular folk who want the occasional high quality casual wear gear, or even a tie or a jacket, not made by slaves half way across the world. Oh, and they still make and sell work aprons, for those of you who like to make your own things.

Desk Tools


An old solid wrench, bought for a couple of dollars at a flea market, is useful as a wrench for an entire lifetime, but also as a paperweight (if you still have any paper). A vintage folding Stanley ruler, also costing only a few dollars, does a lifetime job, if you still have anything physical to measure; and an elegant old ivory bookmark works perfectly, if you still have any books to read. A bridle leather box, this one an early Bill Amberg, is the way to store notes and letters. If you still have friends who send you any, that is.

Khaki Culture



I’ve always worn khakis, at least since college, that is, when I’d get them from an Army Surplus store near campus that at time still carried real US Army surplus apparel. They were cheaper than any other item of clothing I could buy, were extremely comfortable, and although unfashionable then (in the waning years of hippie culture and well before preppy style), they looked good and, I thought, provided contrast to the sea of flared jeans on everyone under 22. Later, as the supply of well-made army khakis inexplicably dried up, I turned to Bills Khakis, made in Pennsylvania by yes, Bill, who bemoaned the paucity of options when it came to khakis, but unlike me, did something about it by starting a company to make essentially the same pants he had worn in college. Pants that properly sit on the waist, not the hips, and are true to their military origins.

I still love khakis, despite the dreadful tendency towards Casual Friday uniformity—think Steve McQueen and not your sartorially challenged boss—but the soft cotton fabric can be a little chilly in the winter, especially if, like McQueen, you’re prone to hopping on a motorcycle for a spin around town. Enter flannel-lined khakis, and Bills has that covered, too. Years ago I had a pair of his khakis lined in red flannel that survived a cycle spill and a few brutal Northeast winters, but now his are lined in plaids, a nice touch of personality to show off, at the cuff that is.

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.

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.

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.