Monday, March 16, 2015

Link: Ric Flair Esquire Interview

Esquire magazine has a new, brief interview with Ric Flair about men's style. 

The two best, most timeless pieces of advice from The Man himself:

"You gotta have a pocket square."

"A guy can have a phenomenal body, but if the suit doesn't fit him, forget it."


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

New Boyer Interview

G. Bruce Boyer is profiled in the Feb. 2015 issue of Lehigh Valley Style. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Knowledge: Picture Rails

It never ceases to amaze me how much information is available on the internet about virtually any conceivable topic, and how quick and easy it is to find it. 

People who aren't old enough to remember the world before the internet have no idea how much the world has improved in the past 20 years. 

I can't even begin to list the things I know about because of the internet -- things I never would've bothered to drive to a library to look up years ago (not to mention that many of those things I wouldn't have even known how to find in a library, because I wouldn't have known what to search for). 

Anyway, here's Exhibit 4,218:

Christian Chensvold's "Masculine Interiors" blog has an entry today about Harvard dorm rooms in 1899. 














It reminded me of something I've wondered about for a long time, but had never bothered to look up: why so many interiors in the Victorian and Edwardian eras had pictures hung with visible strings, and why some of them were also hung slanted downward. 

Apparently this was to avoid nailing into the plaster (anyone who has lived in a house with plaster walls knows how badly it chips when driving a nail, instead of making the easy, neat nail holes that occur with drywall), and presumably to also avoid marring wallpaper (when that was more common). 

Evidently it was wooden, crown-type moulding, affixed at the top of the wall or close to it. Then hooks were inserted into the moulding, and pictures, mirrors, etc. could be hung from it by strings, wires or chains, which were often also decorative. 

Pictures were also sometimes hung slanted downward to be more visible, especially when they were hung high on the wall (as in some of the pictures in the photo above), which I guess was more common then.

Apparently they fell out of favor around the 1920s, which coincides with the emergence of drywall. 

So, there you go: picture rails.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Super Bowl Sunday

On this, one of our society's holiest of days, here is a recent article by Frank Fitzpatrick of the Philadelphia Inquirer on the fashion sense of NFL coaches. He makes the same point I frequently do, that style and comportment have much more to do with taste than they do with money. 





Background: Vince Lombardi, who usually coached in a jacket and tie with a camel hair overcoat and fedora. Foreground: the New England Patriot's current coach, Bill Belichick, whom Mr. Fitzpatrick writes normally "shows up to work looking as if he's ready to shovel the parking lot."

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Rand Paul and the Button-Down Collar

It occurred to me today that, if Rand Paul wins the presidency next year, it could do a lot to re-popularize the button-down dress shirt (much the same way that I wish every incumbent president would regularly wear hats). While he doesn't wear them exclusively, he seems to wear them more often than not -- and, as can be seen here and below, he not only wears them, but he doesn't even stick to just white, wearing them also in light blue, stripes and even in pink.










We haven't had a president in my lifetime that favored the button-down, and I'm not sure we ever had one before my lifetime either. George H.W. Bush, probably the preppiest president ever, favored them earlier in his life, but seemed to largely abandon them around the time he ran for president in 1980. (It has long been rumored that his campaign advisers suggested that he ditch them because of the elitist connotations the button-down had at the time.)

G. Bruce Boyer has opined that the Ivy look may have come into disrepute among the general public at least partially because of Vietnam and Watergate; many high-ranking government officials in that era wore it, but it went into a decline among people in those positions around the mid-late 70s. 

I suspect that such a connotation for the button-down is lost now; I don't think the hyper-casual general public of 2015 stops to differentiate much between different collar styles being more or less elitist. (At this point, most "dressing up" in general is probably seen as elitist, but thankfully it's still expected of the president.)

It'll be interesting to see what happens, and it'll definitely be fun sartorially to see a major presidential candidate stray from the generic white point-collared shirt with stiff collar stays.

NB: This post is only about Senator Paul's clothes; no comments about his politics -- either for or against -- will be published.

Monday, January 26, 2015

House and Home: Post-Christmas Winter Decorating

(Yes, Giuseppe, I'm stealing your home decor title. I couldn't think of anything better; it's perfect.) 

It's odd how something that's obvious in hindsight doesn't occur to you until someone else points it out.

I suppose it's even more odd when such a thing spontaneously occurs to you on your own, without anyone else pointing it out. That's what happened to me the past few days.

I've written before about how my favorite time of year is Christmas, and how I'm always sad every January when it passes. If we were re-doing things, it'd make more sense to celebrate Christmas on January 25 -- and even to return New Year's to March 1 (although that would cause other problems that might not be worth spacing holidays more evenly). The holiday season is packed too tightly, especially since it's followed by a long, cold, boring January.

Anyway, one of the things I hate most about Christmas passing is how barren my house looks after all of the decorations are removed.

But I finally figured out the past few days that my problem isn't only removing the Christmas decorations; it's that I've always replaced them with decorations that look too much like spring, and too out-of-season for January, when winter has just begun.

I think I knew this sub-consciously for some time, as evidenced by my toying with the idea the past few years of leaving the Christmas decorations up at least until the end of January, or probably until Candlemas on February 2. But I always rejected that, primarily because I knew that doing so would make the decorations less special, and their specialness is part of why I love them so. You may love the day, but you also know it means nothing without the night.

So I would take them down on time, and replace them with connotations of spring -- silk flowers in the living room and on the dining room table, which would also get a tablecloth in a color like yellow or pink.

Finally it dawned on me the other day: I need to ease the transition from Christmas to spring with decorations that look like winter, but not like Christmas. No nativity scenes, Santas, poinsettias, wreaths, red ribbons, or anything that literally has the word "Christmas" printed anywhere on it. But plenty of things like snowmen or arrangements made of things like evergreen branches, sticks and pinecones. 

So here is the seasonally-appropriate, winter-but-not-Christmas decor I've enjoyed this month:

  • Silver damask tablecloth from Bed, Bath and Beyond, which gives the dining room a snowy/icy connotation (purchased on after-Christmas clearance for about $8.00)
  •  Evergreen arrangement with sticks, pine cones and red berries, connected at the bottom to bundled sticks, in the crystal vase in the living room where I previously put silk flowers in January (purchased on after-Christmas clearance at Gordman's for $7.00; it included three small poinsettias, which I removed but saved, and a red velvet ribbon around the sticks near the bottom, which I cut off)
  • Evergreen and pine cone arrangements on the dining room table and coffee table, along with a couple of snowmen and a wooden "snow" sign on various other tables, all left over from Christmas (this Christmas, I'll save this generic winter stuff for January, and I'll be on the lookout during this year for more overtly Christmas arrangements for the dining and coffee tables; with the other tables, the snowmen, etc. won't need to be replaced, because I have so much Christmas stuff that I was having a hard time fitting them in with it anyway)
This winter decor has been a massive success for coping with the post-Christmas let-down, and for decorating the house for winter in a way that's seasonally-appropriate, but still doesn't look too much like Christmas. I highly recommend it. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Links: Photographer Spends 20 Years Documenting How We All Dress Exactly Alike

"For the last 20 years, unassuming Dutch photographer Hans Eijkelboom has traversed the world, picking a spot, be it in Shanghai, New York, or Paris, and meticulously photographed what he saw.

"The 'anti-sartorial' photographs of everyday people capture specific visual themes – people in red jackets, men with bare chests on roller blades – that are grouped together with the date, city and time range they were taken. And this combination and repetition is what makes the photographs so powerful. Viewed separately, they would hardly even catch our eye."

So writes one article, titled "Photographer Spends 20 Years Documenting How We All Dress Exactly Alike," about the project, which the photographer has turned into a book.
Dutch photographer Hans Eijkelboom captures the universal anti-style of pedestrians around the world," explaining the "anti-sartorial" quip of the previous link more clearly.

Still another piece declares, "The book represents two decades of these fascinating studies. It’s hard to look at these images and not chuckle at the idea of individualism. The work is definitely funny but also sort of profoundly sad."

I'm thrilled to see this, because it validates something I've believed for a long time. I always shake my head whenever someone talks about how clothing standards of the past were "conformist," implying that they no longer are -- because, you know, people today totally don't all dress alike. Human nature doesn't change; most people want to blend in -- not to stand out, not to draw attention to themselves for being different than the herd. 

Clothing styles have changed significantly over the past 50 years, and standards have become much lower and far less formal. But the basic impulse that most people have to conform and fit in hasn't changed. 

The book actually shows this to be even more true than I previously thought; what astounds me most is how so many people are not only wearing the same style of clothing, but the same color. 

This reminds me of the time maybe a year ago when I walked into a Target and, within about two minutes, saw about a dozen age 20-ish girls -- not all of whom were together -- wearing black fleece North Face jackets. Not just all wearing fleece jackets of different colors and brands, or all wearing North Face fleece jackets in different colors, or even all wearing black fleece jackets of different brands, but all wearing identical (or nearly identical) jackets, all fleece, all black, and all with visible North Face logos in the same spot. 

It also reminds me of a story that attorney Ken C. Pollock told in a 2008 interview with the Ivy Style blog:

"A couple months ago I went to a party right from work, wearing my suit, and all the other men were wearing jeans. The owner’s wife came over and asked 'Ken, why are you dressed in such a conformist manner?' I said, 'You think I ought to wear jeans and a plaid flannel shirt?' And she said, 'Yeah, that’d be a good idea.' Be a non-conformist — just like everybody else."