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.)
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.
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.
Happy St. Valentine’s Day from Brooklyn.
Blue Bottle Coffee in Williamsburg. Espressos and cappuccinos are good, but an old fashioned cup of joe is great…..
Between West and Franklin Streets, Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
On Wythe Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Locavores rejoice.
City life meant you needed your fingertips more often than you thought. Now useful for phones, too.
Their storefront in Brooklyn.
Bicycle repair and accessories vending machine, Williamsburg. It works. Not sure, though, that a bike can actually be traif.