The seventies are considered the nadir in 20th Century men’s (and women’s) fashion—-and for good reason. Polyester suits, ridiculously wide lapels to go with tight pants that ballooned into elephant flares, busy prints and of course, home decor that matched one’s outfits. Today’s fashions may one day be viewed the same disdain we view the seventies’——ridiculously narrow lapels on jackets, trousers that sit below the waist and so on (will double monk strap shoes seem outdated in 30 years?), but in every bad style period there have also been some truly beautiful designs. The seventies——or for some the sixties (which probably actually began in 1966 and ended in 1972 or 1973)——produced great designs in men’s accessories, and I don’t mean the man-bag which thankfully never properly took off. I mean watches, that one piece of functional jewelry some of us fetishize, and others simply admire and like to look at to tell the time.
The seventies were, post-Moon landing and partly because of the space program, a time of technological advancement and all things ‘modern’ were good while all things old were, well, just old. The digital watch was coming——many thought here to stay, and quartz was just around the corner. The venerable Swiss watch makers were in a bit of a rut: classic designs were not as sought after, and fear of technology led to many a mistake in newer designs. Of course classic watches produced then, by the likes of Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin (or even Rolex and Omega, with their sports watches), were (and are) beautiful, but a few examples of more forward design are also to be appreciated today. IWC, or International Watch Company (a Swiss maker founded by an American) created this modern watch——a mechanical manual wind movement with a simple, easy to read face, but with an odd shaped case that screams ‘period’ but is somehow just as elegant today as some may have thought it then. This one dates from 1971, but the watch was produced until the mid-seventies and can be found in good condition for a fraction of what a new IWC retails for. Replace the band with a simple flat horsehide (shell cordovan) strap from Hodinkee, and you’re wearing something not only beautiful, but unique. (Love beads optional.)
It’s sunglass season, believe it or not, and the more snow, the more you need them, especially if you have skiing in your vacation or weekend plans. Of course sunglasses are a necessity in the winter sun or the summer, and not just to be stylish——all scientific evidence shows that protecting the retina from the sun’s rays is crucial to long term eye health. (Squinting, after all, may be easy but it’s bad for your wrinkles.)
There are literally hundreds of sunglass makes——from cheap disposals to designer brands to even custom-made pairs using vintage tortoise shells. But there’s something about the classic styles: simple shapes that won’t ever go out of style, however, that stand out from the crowd. (Think French Nouvelle Vague.) And like most objects we carry or wear, quality may not (or should not) be seen, but is definitely felt.
These pairs, equally at home as reading glasses or prescription spectacles and equally becoming for men or women, are hand made in France——a dying industry in this age of mass produced Asian goods——and are of the highest quality short of bespoke. From the hinges to the weight and balance, and ultimately feel of the glasses, there is no finer pair on the market. A collaboration between HoM and Cremieux, the French designer and retailer, the limited edition glasses, in three colors, are available in our General Store through special order. Get them now, or else be ready for wrinkle cream.
In this age of the smartphone that will do almost everything but cook breakfast, the idea of a chronograph (specifically a stopwatch) to wear on the wrist seems rather anachronistic. But very few men who wear chronographs actually ever use that function; it’s enough to know that it is there, and that someone went to a great deal of trouble to incorporate it into a tiny instrument (assuming it is mechanical and not a quartz version) usually reserved for simply telling the time at a glance.
It’s that “at a glance” that makes wearing a watch in the first place not anachronistic——we pull out our cell phones from our pockets way to often to begin with——and men have few choices in jewelry besides a watch anyway. A watch is also perhaps the greatest indicator of individual style, whether the choice is a Swatch or a Rolex.
Vintage watches, however, have a character all their own, and wearing one——either granddad’s or dad’s, or even purchased——affords one many more opportunities to express a style that is less common. This Universal Genève chronograph from the 1940’s (an inherited instrument) is a rare, unusual model, and unusually stylish. The chronograph function works fine and will do if you need to know how much time has elapsed since your last drink at the bar, but if you’re timing a race car’s (or a horse’s) lap, or if you want to know what time it is in Tehran, you might still want to check that phone in your pocket.
While the insides can be outfitted with a never ending assortment of padded dividers and pouches to protect that valuable Hasselblad or DSLR and lenses, the great thing about the bags is that they can also be used naked—with no protective measures installed whatsoever—and thus eminently useful for photographers whose only tool is their smartphone in their pocket. The smallest bag—called a Hadley—is great for a laptop, iPad, or a book or two (if one still reads print), plus chargers, glasses, and whatever life forces one to carry around. It can be worn as a messenger bag or carried as a briefcase, and the quick-release leather straps can be replaced at will (these have, recently, for quick release, convenient as it is, means quick-wearing-out).
The larger bags, while perfect for professional cameramen on the move, are also perfect carryon bags—flattened and stuffed into overhead bins, or maxed out with a week’s worth of clothes and toiletries. The bigger bags also have an inventive strap design—one that keeps the strap from twisting—and this one of Ken’s (which he actually uses for cameras) also fits nicely on the back of a bicycle, making for an elegant, if rather luxurious, bike bag. Ken got his bag at Fotocare New York.
When autumn rolls around, apart from one’s relishing the idea of being able to wear more than the bare minimum to be legally clothed, boots are inevitably a welcome addition to one’s choices of footwear. While there are many different kinds to be considered—and in Brooklyn or Japan it seems the more rugged the boot the better—it sometimes makes sense to have a pair that can function as boot but also can be smart enough to wear with a suit, almost obscuring the fact that it is a boot. (The work boot is wonderful with jeans or khakis, but I’ve never subscribed to the Timberlands- or Red Wings-with-a-suit-look, and no, sorry, it’s not really ironic.)
Alden, among other makers, makes elegant Cordovan (horsehide) boots along the same line as their dress shoes: the leather ages beautifully, and the boot can be dressed up or down. With jeans, whether walking, or riding a bike or a motorcycle in colder months, the ankle protection is a comfort, and with a suit (the boots properly polished, of course), a pair looks as good as a pair of brogues. This pair is about twenty years old, and is leather soled, which is in keeping with the dressier look. But I like a little rubber for snow and sleet days, so a local cobbler attached a Vibram sole—twelve years ago—which doesn’t add too much bulk but makes the boots practical in all circumstances. And if I ever want to revert to the leather sole, at least it’s brand new….
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.
A generation or two ago, men were unburdened by stuff they needed to carry around all day, even if they weren’t going to and from work. The briefcase fulfilled that obligation (although I never understood why men who had no intention of working through the evening; rather, were going to have a couple of martinis and pass out on the couch, bothered to lug papers to and from the office every day), but otherwise a wallet and keys were all a man needed. Unless, of course, he smoked, but a lighter and a pack of Camels fit nicely in any pocket.
Today, we have smartphones, the chargers or extra batteries that one inevitably needs for them, a laptop or tablet on occasion—even for a visit to the coffee shop, it seems—plus the wallet, keys, and perhaps an e-cigarette or two, if not the real kind. Whether for work or play, it’s probably not a great idea to through a laptop into a bag or briefcase completely unprotected, but many of the cases—neoprene, plastic, and even leather—are either too ugly, fancy, or impractical. I’ve always like the simple sleeve—it makes the laptop appear less hi-tech—and is no different from carrying what we used to call document cases. Alone, it’s easy to carry under one arm, and in a bag, offers enough protection from the inevitable drops or stray kicks under the table. There are plenty of sleeves to choose from, but this one from The Leather Shop is beautifully made (in the U.S.), is not as expensive as some high-end designer cases, and is understated enough to match the simple elegance of Apple products. Think hi-tech meets low-tech, but in a good way.
The Leather Shop also makes some impressive bags, and the yellow leather tote, useful for carrying a man’s stuff plus a few groceries, or at least the baguette that won’t fit in your briefcase (hey, you’re either looking out for the environment, or you live in Portand), is particularly stylish. It might be preferable to be able to walk the streets unburdened, but we all need something to carry all our stuff (apologies to George Carlin), at least sometimes.
We’re fans of vintage watches here at HoM, not for any obsessive collector reason, but simply because like many other objects from the past (think cars, furniture, etc.) there is beauty and style, in many of them that exists to a lesser degree today. Price is also a factor: for far less than what a new watch from the same brand costs at a retail store (not counting highly collectible and rare pieces that are sold at auction), one can often find vintage watches that not only express a more individual style, but work as well, or in the age of smartphones as well as watch needs to work, as a modern timepiece. And a watch is still, in my view, one of the few items of jewelry a man can and should wear all the time, even if its function is questionable.
Rolex is a storied brand, better known for its functional watches of the second half of the 20th Century (many of which, such as early Explorers or Submariners) command far higher prices used (or at auction) than new, but some of the smartest watches Rolex made were the Bubblebacks—simple, elegant, and remarkably accurate, even seventy years on. They’ve increased in price from just a few years ago when one could pick one up for a thousand dollars or less (unrestored), but are still affordable, especially the steel models, such as Ken’s. This one, from the late 40s, is unrestored—the patina on the dial shows its age and gives it character—and the crack in the crystal (easily resolved by a replacement for fifty dollars or so) can perhaps represent the inherent imperfection in analog timekeeping. Paired with a horsehide leather strap, naturally aged, it is quite simply, elegant.
No, these are not vintage photographs, but a street setup for the upcoming season of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. I always envied Nucky Thomson for his Rolls Royce (and his wardrobe) in the series, but seeing all these Model Ts parked on a street I normally associate with ugly, even garish new models, or lumbering SUVs, reminds one of a certain elegance in the uniformly black car that “everyone could afford” when Henry Ford introduced it.
From the wooden spokes on the wheels to the gray pinstripe wool upholstery (I wonder how that might look in a modern car), today everything about the automobile screams style, even though in the twenties it was a style icon only in that it was the first mass produced car. One of the characters from the show—the most stylish on television (sorry, Mad Men, you’re the runner up)—stepping out of the car, wearing a custom creation by Martin Greenfield of Brooklyn, would complete the picture. We’ll have to wait for the episode to air, to see that.
In the age of laptops, iPads, Siri and smartphones, who would have thought that the common notebook would be such an object of desire? Moleskine, the reinvented Italian company that boasts Hemingway as a one-time client, revived the blank notebook through a brilliant marketing campaign, although with their success it appears that Italy can now no longer actually produce enough of their product. China, it seems, has endless production capabilities.
For those who want their notebooks (even if they never actually write in them) to stand out from the crowd, there are hundreds of brands that make beautiful ones—from Field Notes, the good ol’ American company, to Smythson, the British outfit whose leather books are objects of envy.
Muji, the Japanese “no brand name” brand that makes wonderful objects one never knew one needed, has a terrific stationery line, attested to by the crowds in their stores trying out the latest mechanical pencil or colorful pen. Their new “Passport” notebook, however, is truly a standout. Made in Japan, where paper connoisseurship reaches ridiculous heights, it is exactly the size (and even color) of American and European passports (and most other countries’, too). With enough pages to last a vacation or business trip, or to just fill just weekly musings, it is nonetheless thin enough, and flexible enough, to cram into any pocket. Conveniently, for those who like to brandish some leather, it also fits into any passport case. Even with a real passport facing it.
It feels far more substantial than the $1.75 cost, and is elegantly simple; yet not so precious that you’ll wince when tearing out a page. Buy them by the dozen, and you’ll never run out of things to say. Or write.
Men once carried all sorts of objects to deal with the exigencies of life (and now we seem to think all necessities are covered by our smartphones). Men (and women, too) needed to be able to light a fire—and not just to light a cheroot—or to peel a fruit on the go,so pocket knives and matches were essential accessories for almost every gentleman. Today one also doesn’t have to be a smoker to need fire: perhaps one needs to light a candle, a incense stick, or even the charcoal for the backyard barbecue.
Smokers carry lighters; objects of style and beauty, unquestionably, especially if they are vintage Dunhill, Asprey, or Dupont, but not everyone can afford those storied brands. Enter the common matchbook; everyone has a few lying about the house. Functional and predictable, yes, but hardly stylish, not even if it’s emblazoned with one’s initials. A vesta, however, provides the perfect cover for the pedestrian object, no pun intended. Once ubiquitous but now available for a song at flea markets and eBay, a sterling matchbook cover is, to me, almost the perfect fire accessory. It looks and feels substantial, takes up no space in one’s pocket, and is an elegant table accessory to boot. Plus, refills are usually free, at least in the US, and courtesy of restaurants and cafes worldwide.
The small pocket knife—as opposed to the Swiss Army multitasking ones—is a wonderful accessory to carry (except on planes, of course). Whether to cut a loose thread, open a box, peel an orange bought at a fruit stand, or to whittle a piece of wood instead of staring at one’s phone, a knife is as useful today as it was 100 years ago. Laguiole, the French maker, makes beautiful ones—this one is the tiny version (with a 2 inch blade)—that will barely be felt in the pocket. Just don’t use it as a toothpick.
There’s something about motorcycles that appeals to men (and many women); perhaps it’s that man-and-his-horse thing that goes back centuries, if not millennia. After all, riding a bike is the closest thing to riding a horse, in rems of transportation, right down to the saddle sores.
A bike is also the last form of motorized transportation that can be truly bespoke, unlike automobiles, which started out that way until a certain Mr. Ford decided that what we really needed were off-the-rack vehicles. For those who can afford it, a bespoke suit, bespoke shirts, even bespoke shoes are the ultimate luxury. For those who can afford it and who still retain some rebel DNA, a bespoke bike is the not just the ultimate luxury, but the ultimate work of art, too.
There are a good number of motorcycle builders in the US and in Europe—people who do everything from modifying an existing bike (such as a Harley), to ground-up builds to a customer’s taste (and even size). One such man is Walt Siegl, whose bikes are painfully beautiful; painful as in you-don’t-want-to-ride-them-in-case-they-get-dirty painful. He works with vintage Ducati and Harley engines, and builds bikes around a completely rebuilt, every-part-new engine.
He manufactures the equivalent of “made to measure”, too (as well as true bespoke, which knows no bounds): a “standard” racer of his own design, pictured (at Achilles Heel), that is customizable. If I had one made, I might just want it for the living room. Or if I had a bar, inside, as sculpture. And, of course, to remind me and my patrons to not drink and drive.
There are thousands of options when it comes to bikes—everything from cheap Chinese-made, and yet quite stylish, rides, to vintage bikes, and to bespoke hand-made cruisers or racing models. I think a bicycle should be practical, elegant, and not cost as much as a car—not unless you’re riding one to win the Tour de France—and there are many choices of manufacturer building beautiful bikes here in the U.S. Budnitz is one such outfit: their bikes are simple, technologically advanced, and as beautiful as a bicycle can be. From the belt drive (which obviates the need for clips to keep oil off one’s trousers, in this case part of a rather nice linen blend J.Crew Ludlow suit) to the disc brakes, pedals that really grip regular shoes, and the light frame, this model, No. 3 Honey Edition, attracted my eye also for its classic styling, reminiscent of racers from a distant past. And the large, whitewall tires are particularly welcome on the uneven and perpetually pot-holed streets of NY.
Unlike the US auto industry, American bicycle manufacturers aren’t striving to build “the Cadillac” of bikes: they’re building the Bentleys, Aston Martins, and yes, the Packards of two-wheeled, human-powered transportation.
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.
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.
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…
A vintage belt buckle from the 30s in sterling silver–found at a flea market. They can still be found, on eBay too, and are terribly elegant. I had this one plated in rose gold some 15 years ago–the leather belt was bought separately in 1992. And, yes, I think Bills makes the best Khakis…
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.