Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Link: History of the "Gunboat"

The Vintage Shoe Addict site has a fascinating, well-researched history of the long-wing, double-soled wingtip blucher shoe, which fans lovingly refer to as "gunboats" because of how heavy they feel when worn. This has always been one of my favorite shoe styles, especially in brown pebble-grain, as shown on the VSA link:

While appropriate year-round, my thoughts always turn to them this time of year, especially in this kind of brown, which I always associate with fall.

This shoe is generally associated with Florsheim; according to the link, they invented it c.1959. However, many other manufacturers made them in the shoe's heyday. 

They also were apparently widely available; I was just browsing eBay for some, and I came across a pair branded for J.C. Penney and another for Sears:

I don't know who made either of them, but I'm sure it was a quality maker. They look indistinguishable from Florsheims, and the pictures of the soles clearly show them to be welted, rather than glued.

My impression is that this style was the dress shoe for an entire generation of American men in the post-war years. And for good reason -- they're great-looking, extremely comfortable, and nearly indestructible. I especially remember an old man from the church I attended when I was a kid; he seemed to only have three pairs of dress shoes: gunboats in black, brown, and burgundy. But they were always meticulously clean and polished, and he always looked sharp. 

These shoes are also appropriate with virtually anything this time of year, from jacket and tie to cords or khakis with a sweater or a casual jacket.

Like with most other shoe styles, the only manufacturers I know of off-hand who still makes these with the old-fashioned quality are Allen-Edmonds and Alden.

I only advise clicking on those links to get another lesson in what the Federal Reserve is doing to the value of our money, especially if you remember what these shoes cost just a few years ago. Once you've seen that, you'll likely be inspired to do the smart thing: go to eBay and find a barely used pair for under $100.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Jimmy Stewart's Trad Boys

I was just looking at pictures for another possible Jimmy Stewart post. I came across this picture of him on his way to an Easter church service with his family, probably in the 1950s. 

Look at his two stepsons: these must be the tradliest kids I've ever seen -- 3-roll-2 navy blazers with two-button sleeves; repp ties (at least on the boy on the right; the left boy's I can't tell for sure); gray flannel slacks with big cuffs (I'm not a big fan of the no-break look on men, even though it's very trad, but it's perfectly acceptable on growing boys); proper black shoes and white shirts; and even white pocket squares. 

When was the last time you saw a grown man, much less a child, dressed this well?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Uh, if you're a man, yes it does.

I just saw this on Facebook. How far GQ has fallen. (Here's the link, should you feel compelled to unleash your Inner Guido.)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Jimmy Stewart Style: The Later Years

I've been a fan of Jimmy Stewart, both as an actor and a stylish dresser, for as long as I can remember. Born in 1908, he was of a generation that dressed well for regular, daily life as a matter of course. 

The waning days of summer always make me long for tweed, which often makes me think of a great photo of an elderly Jimmy Stewart wearing a gorgeous tweed jacket in Alan Flusser's book "Dressing the Man." 

Stewart's style, as shown in the book and in some of the photos below, appears (obviously these photos are of just random single days in his life; maybe they're not indicative) to have evolved in his later years, more away (but not exclusively, of course) from suits and more toward more casual (back when that was still a meaningful distinction) tweeds and blazers. These photos (and the one in Flusser's book) show him becoming especially fond of gorgeous, loud houndstooth tweed jackets and of pinning his shirt collars. 


Jimmy Stewart and his wife Gloria in NYC in 1983 

Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda in London in 1975

This photo exemplifies the timelessness of trad style. 

Fonda's clothes -- with the flared trousers; wide tie; the wide lapels, low button stance and overly-padded shoulders of his jacket; and possibly 70s shoes -- look dated (although he still looks fantastic by today's gym-clothes-for-all-occasions standards).  

But Stewart's moderately-tapered gray flannels with big (probably 2-inch) cuffs; black tassel loafers; shirt with pinned, moderate-length collar points; and moderate-width repp tie look looked fantastic then, and still look fantastic nearly 40 years later. 

The only problem is his (presumably) navy blazer, because the lapels are too narrow, and the shoulders maybe a little too padded. (I also dislike the lack of pocket square. And I'm not a fan of the overly-neat look of a tie clip, especially with a blazer or sport jacket, but that's a minor quibble.)

Jimmy Stewart in London in 1977

Jimmy Stewart in navy blazer and gray flannels

Jimmy Stewart in a more subdued herringbone tweed, with OCBD and knit tie 

Several of these photos were taken outdoors; Stewart -- previously one of the great hat-wearers -- unfortunately seems to have abandoned his fedoras in his later years. But he otherwise looks terrific in these photos.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Missing WASP 101

I don't know why it took this long, but for the first time since everything went down 14 months ago, tonight I found myself strongly longing to read the WASP 101 blog again. The link says that the blog is still operational, but is open to invited readers only. Richard, if you see this, feel free to send me an invitation.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

No One Owes You Anything

This has been on my mind since Heavy Tweed Jacket deleted his blog earlier this year, apparently for good. 

For some bizarre reason, he previously deleted it numerous times whenever he decided to stop writing new posts, restoring the archived posts when he finally decided -- usually months later -- to begin writing new ones again. 

He would also sometimes delete individual archived posts during times when his blog was active. 

And he would occasionally write new individual posts, then shortly delete them for no apparent reason (like his typically excellent post on raincoats, I believe around April 2013).

What the hell is this guy's problem?! 

No one is obligated to continue a blog for any reason -- they've lost interest, gotten too busy, feel they have nothing left to write about, whatever.

But why not leave the blog up for his readers, so that the old posts are still available to be re-read? That takes literally no extra work or time. In fact, it takes extra work and time to take everything down.

And, from his perspective, why would he go to the trouble to write probably the finest historical blog about trad menswear ever, including scanning catalogs and not only taking pictures of his own clothes, but sometimes even taking measurements of them (like comparing the measurements of old-stock Brooks Brothers oxfords to current ones), only to delete it all? 

It's like he's screwing with us, just because he can. (He even went to the trouble of deleting the blog's robots.txt file, so that the archives can't be found on the Internet Way Back Machine.)

Well, the fact is, he's not obligated to leave the archives up either, regardless of how angry and bewildered that it may make me or anyone else.

He's not obligated to do anything, and neither is anyone else, regardless of whether you or I like it or think they "should."

At times like this, I re-read probably the single best and most useful article I've ever seen, "A Gift for My Daughter" by Harry Browne. 

This is an easy lesson to forget, regardless of how familiar you are with it; my reaction to Heavy Tweed Jacket proves it. But, in my experience, if you dwell on it long enough, this mentality will eventually permeate your subconscious, and stop emotional reactions to other people's actions from occurring -- most of the time. 

(If you're interested in a more in-depth version, please see my review of the course Harry gave around the time he wrote this piece. Even better, when you're done, buy the course.) 

And please keep this lesson in mind if my blog ever disappears, in the unlikely event that you'd care. 

No one owes you anything, because you have no way to make him pay it.