While I continue to hold that shorts have no place in the city, reserved as they should be for weekends or summer vacation in the country or at the beach, I’m willing to concede that in hot climates, and if one’s profession involves much lounging about, they might be appropriate on days when the temperature climbs above 86 degrees (30C) or so——style be damned. However if one chooses to go naked below the knee (and it should never be an inch or so more above the knee), there are choices in short trousers that can be stylish, if not quite exactly elegant.
The temptation to cut off the legs of a pair of khakis or jeans should be avoided—-trousers designed to be full length will almost always look a little odd in the thigh with amputated legs, and jean cutoffs, while appropriate for women, lost their appeal on men somewhere in 1972. Cargo shorts are impossible; bad enough as long pants, they look ridiculous as shorts and if you have cargo, get a bag. The Bermuda short (which lands barely below the knee), looks terrific in Bermuda on a Bermudan, and is probably the closest to chic one can get while avoiding the AC/DC band member, or English schoolboy look, but slightly more modern takes on the Bermuda——a slimmer cut and a slightly lower waist—-achieve the look while being a little less stuffy. And inexpensive is worth striving for; this cotton pair is from Muji, the Japanese no-brand store, and costs less than $40. With a simple unstructured cotton jacket and a pair of loafers, you can almost get away with wearing them to dinner; with sneakers (for example these suede Mark McNairy Keds), you might want to stick to lunch.
It’s summer (on June 21, anyway), and it’s the season of bright sun and warm, or hot, days. Almost every men’s magazine or blog is extolling the virtues of a straw hat—-especially the Panama, which of course is woven in Ecuador—-and for good reason. A good hat will keep the sun’s rays out of one’s eyes and protect the skin of the face, and balding heads, from the ravages of our otherwise friendly star.
The Panama, which has gone in and out of fashion ever since the building of the Panama Canal (hence its name), seems more popular than ever, and there are now a myriad of styles that may well be woven in Ecuador but are nothing like what bosses wore with their linen suits at the turn of the last century. Not that there’s anything wrong with a straw hat of any kind—-not even those made in China, sometimes of paper and not straw—-but there’s something to be said about a real Panama; a hat that will outlast fashion trends and you might even be able to hand down to your progeny. Male or female.
Genuine Panamas, especially Montecristis, can cost a fortune, and depending on the hatmaker or milliner one might even spend in the thousands of dollars for a weave so fine that the hat feels like a superior cloth—-and yes, you can indeed roll those up. But there are fine Panamas at far more affordable cost, from venerable houses such as Borsalino, that can still last a lifetime and look as good as anything you might see on the Rue Faubourg or Madison Avenue. This one is classically shaped fedora, with a tan band (rather than the traditional black), and wearing it either brim up or brim down (in harsh sunlight) can be either a statement of fashion, or just pure whim. Hats are fashionable, yes, but they are functional too. And the function is to help keep a cool head and block the sun—-so if you’re blocking the sun, it’s good to remember that wearing sunglasses with a straw hat is still somewhat gauche, for the same reason, say, as wearing suspenders with a belt.
It’s only a month into winter in this year of the polar vortex, and we (in the midwest and east coast of the U.S., plus many other places on the planet) can’t live indoors all the time, or venture out only in boots and polar gear. Not for another two months, anyway. Occasionally, we’ll want to put on dress shoes despite the snow, ice and subzero temperatures. Leather soled shoes are fine, as long as you slip in a pair of felt liners to prevent frozen toes——these are alpaca felt from Purely Alpaca, made in the U.S. and very affordable, to say nothing of very comfortable——and if the shoes are made from shell cordovan, like these happen to be, snow, salt and grime will just wipe right off. Wearing a pair of thick wool socks, such as this colorful Nordic pair from Anonymous Ism of Japan, is also probably good policy.
Jeans are not ordinarily recommended when the thermometer dips well below freezing and refuses to budge——unless you’re comfortable with a decent pair of long johns (and who isn’t?). There are plenty of choices out there, including ridiculously warm 100% wool ones, but I prefer a thick cotton against the skin, and these 70/30 cotton/wool ones from Norse Projects do the trick. Plus you have to remember that the pants do come off at some point, perhaps in front of someone, so why not make those long johns an object of envy rather than derision? And what did our moms say about nice, clean underwear when going out, in case we ended up in an accident and the hospital?
The East Coast of the U.S. has been pummeled yet again, with snow and subzero temperatures (while Denver was basking in sixty degree weather). No point in being stylish in a blizzard——just stay indoors, maybe even in your jammies. Or, get in your truck (and you’ll need a truck) and drive south. Far south. You could have a stylish truck, though, and hope that it starts.
Back next week with a new collaboration.
Life in the 21st Century seems to mean, sartorially at least, wearing jeans on just about every occasion—dressed down, or even up, with a jacket and tie (please, not with a tuxedo). A whole culture has spread around denim, from the obsessive Japanese who’ve imported century-old looms to recreate what workwear in America once meant, to websites devoted to that perfect (and, of course, selvedge) pair. Levis has their wonderful “made in USA” vintage line, carefully reproducing jeans from another era, and almost every designer and every mall store sells a particular jean, generally modeled on the traditional five pocket pant that we’ve come to know and love.
Once in a while, a tailor or designer will flirt with denim differently. One such person is Craig Robinson, who makes beautiful bespoke suits and clothing in his atelier in Brooklyn (and on 5th Avenue in Manhattan), and whose take on jeans is more Grapes of Wrath than Rebel Without a Cause. (After all, the original Levis 19th Century jeans were not the five pocket “cowboy” cut we now take for granted.) Cut like a traditional pair of trousers, with fabric from the renowned Cone Mills (and yes, selvedge), his jeans fit more like a vintage pair of khakis—high waisted, pockets on the side—and are finished on the inside. Custom made by hand, these jeans stand out in a crowd, even in Brooklyn, and are as flattering as any pair of well-made trousers. They can be worn as workwear (as he does himself), or with a tweed jacket and knit tie. Just don’t wash them too often, unless you want them to look like your dad’s, or actually, your granddad’s jeans.
Early autumn is the time to contemplate cooler weather accessories, and practical but elegant gloves—often ignored and thought of as nothing but functional—are really as important as that favorite scarf or hat you’re dragging out of the closet. Especially in these bike-sharing and riding days in big cities.
While a good pair of peccary gloves—expensive as they might be— complete a winter outfit, for more energetic activity, let’s say, a pair of driving gloves are equally important staples of the fall and winter closet. Not the traditional driving gloves, mind you—the ones with holes at the knuckles—which if you wear them doing anything but driving a Ferrari or Aston make one look rather foolish, but a pair that resemble regular gloves but end at the wrist.
Whether riding a bicycle or motorcycle, driving a car or even just walking down the street, these gloves—crocheted on the outside of the hand and with a soft leather palm (and fingers)— allow one to still check the timepiece on one’s wrist, get a good grip on handlebars, and, of course, easily whip them off to check that damn message on one’s phone. Designed by Bradley Price, who also designs some fine timepieces in his Brooklyn workshop, Autodromo, wearing them means there’s no danger in looking anything but stylish.
Menswear designers come in all sizes and colors, and from varying backgrounds, but rarely do we come across a young man—and I mean young—who has a great sense of style and the drive to create a business from nothing. Meet the appropriately named Justis Pitt-Goodson, who started making bow ties by hand in his mom’s living room before he was sixteen (he’s seventeen now), and has expanded into neckties and even shirts, although not only the typical t-shirts one might expect from a high school senior (or much older men who should know better).
Always a sharp dresser who refused to go with the teenage fads of his day, Justis makes beautiful bow ties—adjustable with buttons no less—that wouldn’t be out of place at Bergdorf’s or Barneys. Right now he sells them at his BrownMill Clothing Co. store on Etsy, and will soon on his own e-commerce site, but apart from applauding a young man for his drive (he taught himself how to sew) and creativity, one should also applaud him for his fashion, no style, sense, and his confidence in not following the trends that his peers do.
One imagines a bright future for him as a designer and even retailer—after all, Ralph Lauren started out peddling ties—but in the meantime you can own a Justis original for less than the cost of a couple of drinks. With two brothers in the NFL this year (Jets and Cowboys), you also may well see a better dressed football player or two, post-game, that is.
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.)
Shelter magazines are full of examples of beautiful bathrooms, and I’ll admit I have a soft spot for big tubs set in the middle of a room. A living room, in this case, although it is very much part of the bathroom in a converted tenement building in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. A friend took over the whole apartment house, small by any standards, and lives on the top two floors. His idea for his bathroom—there’s a standalone shower, too—makes one want to take a soak while admiring the view of Manhattan, something he has, sadly, yet to encourage.
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.
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…
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?
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.
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 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.