11 April 2014

Happy Birthday

Duluth, 1937

Duluth, 1945

Puerto Rico, 1951

South Korea, 1959

South Korea, 1971

Yuma, 1987

28 March 2014

Funking Out With Billy Reid & Snatch and the Poontangs

I exit the elevator at the seventh floor of Saks Fifth Avenue and the low hum of disco, funk and R&B hits me. The songs are good. Thankfully the volume is set at conversational volume instead of the standard ear-bleed level at most fashion events. It's a recognizable tune, even though I've never heard it before. It's been copied, sampled, and reinterpreted a few times over the years. The tune is comforting in its strange familiarity.

Nick Sullivan of Esquire magazine sits down to speak with designer Billy Reid and have a conversation about his eponymous menswear collection. Eric Jennings, the creative director at Saks, rounds out the rest of the panel. The conversation is light and friendly. It follows the career trajectory of Billy as he started, stumbled, redirected, and refocused his fashion career over the last few decades.

Growing up in the South, seeing his mother's clothing shop located in his grandmother's house ("It was like 'Steel Magnolias' but with clothing") seems fated to result in a fashion designer son. It didn't. Billy's involvement with sports lead him to studying Physical Education in college. Failing out of the P.E. program led him back to design and a career in selling and designing apparel.

The newest collection is solid. It's made up of easy to wear, mix-n-match pieces. That is what appealed to Nick when he saw Billy's work the first time. These are "clothes that are familiar to wear" he commented. Nothing is too "fashiony." Nothing is gonna raise a disapproving eyebrow from your sweetheart if you wear it. They are staples of a man's wardrobe, crafted with an exacting eye. Changing a detail here, using an unusual fabric there, the collection feels familiar to what's sitting in your closet, but it's done better.

Billy makes clothes he believes in and are inspired by the world and not just the South. It's a struggle for him not to get pigeonholed in Americana. He's reinventing himself to stay current. It's not about just fixating on some dusty archives from the 50's and 60's and staying put. It is about how you interpret that and make something new. That's what Billy does.

The gentle beat of the funk and disco comes back as the conversation draws to a close. It's a new track I've never heard before.

Story & Photos by Matthew Karl Gale

A couple weeks ago, the fella who reported this story was at a party and we wound up shooting the shit during what was a circus of swanked up Dandies at a Paul Stuart event.  Standing on the staircase landing, we talked and watched the violently affected parade by.  All that was missing was the guy in coveralls with a really big shovel.  Matthew tells me he wants to write and asks if I'll help.

I give him a look and wonder if he's having problems with his computer 'cause I damned sure am having problems with my recent conversion from PC to Mac.  But he tells me he wants actual help with   writing --  I assume for nothing despite my sterling reputation in men's phassion.

I agree,  based largely on one single test he passed.  After having drinks and dinner at my apartment, Matthew sent a 'thank you' note.  Of all the assholes who have Hoover-ed food and drink in my apartment for the last six years, I have only received thank you notes from Matthew, Alice Olive and ELS --  And ELS and Alice don't really count because they're girls and not from this country.

I like the Shuggie Otis album Matthew insisted on including and it's linked in the first paragraph.  As a brief aside, Otis rang a bell from my youthful '70s obsession with funk (archived here and at a storage facility in MD.)  Shuggie and his Greek Dad, Johnny Otis, did the 1969 album, Snatch and the Poontangs, which was rated "X." Shuggie, by the way, was 16 when it was recorded. 

I knew a drill sergeant who stole cadences from 'Snatch.' Or, Snatch stole from my Drill Sgt, regardless,  I'll never forget,  "Among the whores you might hear my name ring - But a bitch with a head shaped like a four way cold tablet liable to say any God damned thing.  And,  "...I'd climb over 50 pussies to get to one fat boy's asshole." There's more in the video below if the spirit moves you and I can only hope "Snatch and the Poontangs" will get some more airplay.   I'm gonna recommend it to Mordachai Rubenstien for his new radio show, Voices Inside My Head.  Tune in Thursday nights at 8PM and be sure to me that 'thank you' note.

17 March 2014

GQ's Ireland (1962)

GQ Magazine, April 1962

While GQ seemed to be the smaller and more intellectually challenged little brother of Esquire, and I've waded thru years and years of both….GQ, for a time, stood on firm turf in the early to mid '60s... both visually and in the writing.  This April issue celebrated Ireland and it has a moody and dark attitude.  I love it.

An GQ is not easy to find and this came from a bound volume so scanning was a challenge.  However, inspirational ideas, fashion jargon for 'stealing,' are everywhere despite the binding.  Not only in unique layout, photography and stories but in the apparel itself.  The nubby stripe shirt reminds me of nubby silk Rooster tie stripes -- A mitre madras shirt reminds me of…nothing. It's unlike anything I've ever seen and I'd kill to have one today.  A rain coat with hacking pockets and sleeve turn ups?  I'd buy that.  I'm even saving up for a Jill Gill - - the NYC artist of all those beautiful whiskeys.

I know fashion designers dig thru these old mags but do fashion editors?  I'm guessing most do not.  And for the very first time, during NY Fashion Week, my hunch was confirmed from widely divergent sources regarding what we'll call,  "Fashion editor illiteracy."   "He didn't know shawl from peak."  "Zip knowledge of apparel history."  "I had to explain canvas construction." "All he liked was black." You get the idea.

I sat in front of Nick Sullivan at Esquire and in a couple minutes he showed me a 1950's Mac hanging on the back of his office door and pointed out the construction suggesting it might even be my size.  We discussed the military influence of clothing and why stealing unit insignia was not only vulgar but unnecessary.  And sure, there was the 24 hour "shoe-cam" which was monitoring what he wore on his feet everyday…but the man was fashion literate.  That much you could not argue.

G. Bruce Boyer bemoaned the GQ of today doing a 20 page spread on jeans and t-shirts.  It's what they know, Bruce.    But I'm guessing there's an archive somewhere in that GQ office and I'd like to suggest it would be a lot more fun to go thru than the PR pitches.

13 March 2014

Dinny the Piper

In the year ‘98, when our troubles were great
It was treason to be a Milesian.
And the black-whiskers said we would never forget
And our history shows they were Hessians.
And in these troubled times, it was a great crime
And martyrdom never was riper
Near the town of Glenshee, not an acre from Meath,
Lived one Dinny Burns, the Piper!

Neither weddin’ nor wake would be worth a shake
If Dinny was first not invited.
For at squeezin’ the bag, or emptyin’ the keg,
He astonished as well as delighted!
But in these times Dinny could not earn a penny,
Martial Law had him stung like a viper!
And it kept him within till the bones of his skin
Grinned thru the rags of the piper!

Now one day it did dawn, as Dinny crept home,
Back from a fair at Lethangin,
When what should he see, from the branch of a tree,
But the corpse of a Hessian, there hangin’!
Says Dinny, “These rogues have got boots, I’ve no brogues!”
He took hold of the boots wi’ a griper,
And the boots were so tight, and he pulled with such might,
Legs and all come away with the piper!

Ah, then Dinny did run for fear of bein’ hung
Til he came to Tim Haley’s cabin.
Says Tim from within, “I can’t let ye in!
Ye’ll be shot if you’re caught out there rappin’!”
So he went to the she’d where the cow was in bed,
He began with a whisper to wipe her,
And they lay down together, in seven foot of heather,
And the cow took to huggin’ the piper!

Well the day it wore on, and Dinny did yawn,
And he stripped off the boots from the Hessian!
And the legs, for the law, he just left in the straw,
And he slipped home with his new possessions!
Now breakfast bein’ done, Tim sent his young son
To get Dinny up like a lamplighter,
And the legs there he saw; he flew up like a jackdaw!
And said “Daddy, the cow’s et the piper!”

Ah, bad luck to that beast, she’s no musical taste!
To eat such a jolly old chanter!
Ah, faugh! We’ll evict! Take a lump of a stick!
Drive her off, down the road and we’ll canter!
Well the neighbors were called, Mrs. Kennedy bawled,
She began for to humbug and jiper,
And in sorrow they met, and their whistles they wet,
And like devils, lamented the piper!

And the cow she was drove a mile or two off,
And they came to a fair at Killaley.
And there she was sold for four guineas of gold
To the clerk of the parish, John Daley.
And they went to the tent where the pennies were spent,
Tim bein’ a jolly old swiper,
And who should be there, playin’ the Rakes of Killdare,
Just your bold Dinny Burns, the piper!

Ah, then Tim give a jolt like a half-drunken colt,
And he stares at the piper like a gammick!
I thought, by the Powers, for the last sev’ral hours,
You were playin’ in the old cow’s stomach!
Well when Dinny observed that the Hessian’s been served
Began just to humbug and jiper,
Oh, in grandeur they met, and their whistles they wet,
And like devils they danced round the piper!

Manus Lunny & Andy Stewart, 1987
from, Dublin Lady

28 February 2014

The Ethnics of Antonio Ciongoli

Terra cotta basket weave cardigan - $595 Pine/white with navy deco gingham spread collar shirt - $225 Pine/terra cotta medallion printed open weave silk tie - $150

Inspiration for our Duomo scarves and ties

Brick "Duomo" wool challis scarf - $175

Terra cotta/pine/stone gun check sportcoat - $995

Various ties in the pine/terra cotta stone story, including prints inspired by Medici family shield and Ghiberti's bronze panels for bapistry doors - all $150

Pine donegal "Medici" rolleck sweater inspired by the diamond windowgrates of Michelangelo's Capella Medici in San Lozenzo - $595

Terra cotta casentino wool maremanna jacket - $995

Terra cotta Italian chamois work shirt popover - $250

White/terra cotta/pine bold tattersall twill spread collar shirt - $225

Navy/white/lavender japanese flannel spread collar shirt - $225 & Gray knit toggle vest with suede trim - $595

White/charcoal stripe Japanese cotton tab collar shirt - $225 Fatigue green knit toggle vest with suede trim - $595 & Fatigue green/charcoal shepherd's check belted peacoat - $995

Cashmere blend crewneck with wool "guild shield" embroidery - $650  - The shields  represent the Florentine tailors and shoe makers guild as well as the Medici family coat of arms

Shearling asymmetrical peacoat - $2995 & Brick "Duomo" wool challis scarf - $175

"...he might hear a young grandson being greeted
at the Cosenza train station by packs of jubilant relatives
who would make the boy feel like a McArthur returned, or 
a kind of Latin Lindbergh in a ticker tape parade -
except instead of confetti, the boy would be showered
with wet kisses from endless uncles, aunts, and cousins who
could not understand a word of English.

With an 8mm movie camera, the boy would begin to 
click off scenes of these relatives…Perhaps these films
would later be shown in a kitchen back in Brooklyn
where a bedsheet, serving as a projection screen,
would be tacked up to the flowered wallpaper.

And when the lights would go on in this 
Brooklyn kitchen, tears would be seen in the eyes 
of some older folks." 

The Ethnics of Frank Costello by Gay Talese
Esquire Magazine, Sep. 1961

A few years ago Antonio Ciongoli introduced me to Gay Talese.  A meeting was set up at Gay's home and we talked for a couple hours.  I brought up the excerpt from the Costello cover story in Esquire and while  Talese remembered the story he couldn't remember his unusual but beautiful meandering off subject and loaded with remembrance and nostalgia.  I told Talese how much it moved me and he smiled, his eyes narrowing into slits, and said with some surprise that he should probably revisit the story if only to see it if it was worth republishing.

New York Fashion Week is a cold slog through mostly forgettable designers who are all trying too hard.  Throw in the pushing and shoving by remarkably nasty attendees and it's a scene light years from what I envisioned when I attended my first show in what would be Bryant Park's last.

I've cut back on shows and a lot of shows have cut back on me.  Probably as it should be since I'm not a fashion guy.  But like Talese, I love storia and especially the kind that connects to something completely foreign and unknown.  Only in this way is it possible to continue to misspell people's names.

Antonio Ciongoli of Isaia's Eidos showed me his new line for Fall / Winter 2014.  The show room is still in the understated quiet of Elizabeth Taylor's townhouse on West 56th.  If you're quiet,  you can almost hear the walls talk as Anthony Perkins gets drunk and Richard Burton orgasms.  Antonio has had a lot to do with educating me in Italian apparel.  But I still think, as a whole, the Italians are too studied.

If American sportswear is about being relaxed and casual, then the Italians have taken that and extruded it through endless and needless details: scarves in July, wrist dental floss, double monks and now triple.  Pitti is all you need consider to get my point.  I like the billowing sail of an oxford button down over a man's alligator belt -- Antonio prefers a more fitted silhouette…over an alligator belt.   Seems there's always something to agree on.

I'm not writing for anyone but me so what you see here is what I like.  I love green and don't think anyone uses it enough.  It's everywhere in this collection along with my appreciation for the even rarer color I call, 'dried blood' or what Antonio calls, 'terra cotta." If you cut yourself shaving a lot then this is a no brainer for you.  Even the chamois pop over comes from another place but the roots are so American.  What you do with Eidos is your business…tang it up all you like --  Or, just leave it alone and let it speak for itself.

Update: Following are retailers for Eidos Napoli.  

For spring, it will be available online via Carson street clothiers, CHCM, The Armoury, Haberdash (Chicago) and Lawrence Covell (Denver). All of these stores will also carry in store as well as Charles Speigel (Pittsburgh), Boyd's(Philadelphia), Pockets (Dallas), Sy Devore (LA area), Carriere (LA Area), Steven Giles (Oklahoma city) Scoop (East Hampton and Brentwood), Syd Jerome (Chicago), Mr. Sid (Boston area), J3 (Cleveland area), AK Rikks (Grand Rapids), Butch Blum (Seattle), Shaia's (Homewood, AL), Oak Hall (Memphis) and Got Style (Toronto).

26 February 2014

Short Sleeves - Short Temper: Ralph's Rant

When we're done with dinner… I'm gonna let you fuck my wife."

Ralph knew there was a problem when the prospective client  didn't call back.  Six months of intense work on one of the biggest accounts in town --  Revenue over a million but there was a 10 year relationship with another agency.   Still, Ralph's ego didn't let him say no when he was approached.

The prospect complained of shitty service over a shitty lunch at his favorite restaurant; a place Ralph detested and thought touristy and pretentious. The prospect told Ralph the 'relationship' had been over for a couple years thanks to a change in 'players' -- Both at his company and at the agency.  Ralph looked at the prospect and saw a wounded Gazelle on the Serengeti Plain hobbling along to keep up with the herd.

Ralph's nostrils flared slightly  at the sniff of blood as he shoved a fork of rare dry aged rib eye across his capped teeth.  All the signs were there but then why hadn't the prospect called back?  Ralph called early in the morning and late in the afternoon to avoid the secretary but he only got voice mail.

Late in the afternoon, on the day of the new contract, the prospect called.  Ralph knew in an instant.  The prospect talked and Ralph, in a fog of anger, depression and confusion, heard little but picked up key phrases "…they really came through" "account manager replaced" "lowered fee" "you're proposal was solid" "appreciate everything…" As Ralph held the phone to his ear, he stopped listening and thought only of what he would say.

"I appreciate that, Tim." Ralph said, "A lotta people worked very hard and very long over here but I can tell you've made your decision and I respect that." Ralph heard Tim stumble along a "thanks" and some at-a-boys and still Ralph didn't know what was going to come out of his mouth next but that was sales.  The best never knew what they were going to say. That's why it always sounded so good. So…fresh.  And Ralph knew he was one, if not, the very best.

Ralph saw the light in his mind and followed it, "You know what, Tim. How about you come over for dinner this Friday night?  My wife's a great cook. Graduate of the Kump school.  She's really amazing.  I've got a case of Krug we can crack into…" Ralph heard the prospect's breathing over the phone turn anxious. Like he wanted to hang up but Ralph wasn't going to let him. "And, Tim.  When we're done with dinner… I'm gonna let you fuck my wife."

The prospect's voice is barely a tremble, "I'm not sure…" He pauses a long beat to let Ralph fill it but Ralph isn't biting.  Tim clears his throat, "I, uh. I'm not sure I heard you right." "No, you heard me right, Tim.  After dinner at my house... I'm gonna let you fuck my wife…because Tim, that's exactly what you've done to me."

Ralph grits his teeth, purses his lips and slams the phone down.  A piece of black plastic flies off the phone and across the office.  Ralph watches the bit of phone come to a rest at the feet of a life sized cardboard Batman next to his credenza.  Ralph smiles, clasps his hands behind his head and knows, as sure as Batman is standing in his office, that he has the best job in the world.

25 February 2014

Trad Review of Ralph Lauren's Restaurant

No idea this was still around. Season Four / Episode 402 of Chicago's "Check, Please"

19 February 2014

Hooterville Fashion Week

Me and the Golf Foxtrot with Fred

We were invited to Hooterville Fashion Week (blogging's awesome), n thanks to the millions of miles I travel each year, largely due to this awesome blog of mine, I  copped a first class seat. Greyhound rocks it when it comes to their award's program.

I tried to IG  (that's Instagram, Mom!)  my upgrade but the driver told me they were trying to cut back on paper so no tasty ephemera to photo for posteriority but we got to sit right behind the driver which is so much cooler than sitting next to the toilet which is so not waxed cotton.

Fred "the King" Ziffel- Old dudes know how!

My hero of heroes was sitting n the front row of the killer JC Penny runway show…….of course.  Fred Ziffel, most recently fashion director at True Value Hardware,  is killing it n this tasty jacket, tie and shirt combo.  He's popping the collar as well which, is like, what I'd totally do.

Even though King (I bow to you)  Ziffel is older than dirt, he has amazing juice (He has a Tropicana tattoo on his butt. Don't ask me how I know).  Fred selfishly educates all the younger dudes whom he affectionately calls Twinks.  I had no idea what Twink meant  but Fred promised to 'splain it' if I'd come up up to his room later that night.  Which I did. He is such a lovely man.

William Michaels for AmeriMexicana Work Wear

Sickest dude of dudes, William Michaels curates AmeriMexicana while walking that awesome tight rope of edgy work wear greatness: American Union work wear n illegal Mexican picker denim.  Michael laid out some awesome facts n figures for the line.

Last year saw sales increase of 1200% net.  Profit margins increased some 3000% and 1,349,000 people now follow AmeriMexicana on Twitter.  That's a flossin' increase from 34 followers last year.  Don't believe me?  Check out this killer picking jacket n Juarez orange with velvet toading n extra large bellow's pockets for lettuce or grapes.  How sick is that?

Nicky Brewster models AmeriMexicana Picking Jacket

Sam Drucker showing dudes how to buy Twitter followers

Fellow blogger, Sam Drucker, of 'Now that I Get It - I Don't Want It' came all the way from LA and whacked us all with this crazy 1754 Filson Lumberjack shirt originally owned by, I swear to McNairy,   George Fucking Washington... back when the first dude was a surveyor or some shit like that.

I'm not sure really, but isn't the 17th century awesome?  I'm guessing it survived so long because they didn't have dry cleaners like today --  Back then they had colonist dry cleaners --Try finding a colonist dry cleaner today.

Almost out of room n vocabulary.  Anyway, HFW was awesome and I wanna thank all the flossers --with a special shout to Fred Ziffel, the man with the longest floss.  Gotta run…our college intern Eb's telling the Golf Foxtrot our last bus outta Hooterville is leaving soon n if we don't hurry we're gonna get the seat n to the toilet.

12 February 2014

My Bloody Valentine

My Bloody Valentine Cocktail

In the late '80s,  I worked as an outside insurance adjuster in the DC/ Northern Virginia/ Maryland land of congestion.  Traffic was criminal and I spent 10 hour days in a butt ugly light blue Nissan Sentra --  Not exactly what I had in mind when the boss promised a 'company car.'  With only an AM/FM radio, music choices were mostly country, Christian or Barry White.  I finally found an alternative station out of Annapolis that could just make it to Manassas before it was rolled over by, 'Three Rusty Nails.'

I was a sponge soaking up new sounds and bands out of Annapolis.  The Feelies did a cover of Patti Smith's, 'Dancing Barefoot' that this one dj played over and over but never identified.  I finally recorded it on my company, 'Olympus micro cassette' and played it for a kid at an alternative music store in Alexandria.

My Bloody Valentine, a band MIA in most everyone's vocabulary in Northern Virginia,  had huge play on the Annapolis station.  Again, like the Feelies, they were a unique sound, but they were a tad more more popular and every once in a while I'd hear them while eating crab at the Quarter Deck in Arlington or throwing back beers at the Tune In on the Hill.

I wanted to do a cocktail for Valentine's Day and I really liked the Negroni that uses Prosecco instead of gin.  Along the same lines, I replaced the Prosecco with Blood Orange soda and while it's not a requirement,  a couple shakes of Regan's Orange bitters really rounds this cocktail out.  It's more  refreshing than boozy.  Bitter, but quaffable.  I first used a martini glass but the Golf Foxtrot inherited a dozen or so coupes from her grandmother and while I'm not a big "colored glass" guy, they do pair well with the bloody red.  

2 oz Aperol or Campari
3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth
4 oz Blood Orange Soda
2 shakes Regan Orange Bitters

Add ice and stir until very cold.  Strain into a coupe.  Maybe throw in a Whitman's Sampler for her.  I gave one to a stripper on Valentine's Day in 1977.  I was driving a '68 Dodge Charger and pulled into the parking lot behind behind the Suzy Wong Club when a cop...

09 February 2014

"Gone is the romance that was so divine…"

The second you see it - It hits you.  I was last here for the Ivy exhibit but the space has grown up.  Men and women are in residence having nudged the college kids into storage.  The elegance of this space is simple.  I run into a young man whom I respect immensely and he tells me he thinks it, 'uncompleted.' I tell him it only gives way, as it should,  to the glorious respect of the cloth.   Beautifully cut... for men and women both.  It is damned near... other worldly and I don't think I'll ever forget it.

The Fashion Institute of Technology is not the kind of place you'd suspect has a museum --  Especially in New York City.  It stands at 27th and 7th Avenue looking more like a concrete federal office building than a fashion institute.  The museum entrance is on the south side of 27th, usually blocked off, adding to the federal feel of the place.  Inside, a flight of stairs down, is an exhibit area darker than the inside of a goat.  A quiet calm settled in as the 1930s stood, and sat, in front of me -- Men and women and the clothing they wore and, I like to think, took off each other.

Co-curated by the museum's, Patricia Mears and writer, G. Bruce Boyer, the clothing hails from the 1930s. It was a time of economic and political, 'shit hitting the fan'  but as Boyer has often written, it was, despite the uncertainty,  the golden decade for apparel.  I've always said that today's popularity of menswear has much to do with our own economic hard times.  When you're broke and out of a job,  there's something to be said for getting dressed up.

Bespoke is everywhere in the exhibit.  In that respect, it belongs in a museum's humidity controlled steel locker, wrapped in acid free paper and tucked far from the public's oily fingers.  Sorry, I once worked as a museum technician but as clothes mad as I am, I couldn't help but admire how interesting the women's clothing was... it's so alive.  Silk clings to a breast and falls off a nipple.  Shape forms around a tight waist and bottom while a hip is cocked and a long finger seems to point to my crotch.  Wasn't there a very bad '80s   movie about a mannequin coming to life?

Menswear saw both the Italian and British represented generously by loans from Rubinacci Napoli London House and Savile Row's Davies and Son.  Luca Rubinacci and I stand together admiring a trench coat from his grandfather's company which began in the early '30s.  I point to the gorge of the collar and Luca tells me a story about his father's obsession with collecting vintage London House for a family museum.

Handed down over three generations, his father acquires a Rubinacci white tie jacket made in the '30s and most recently owned by a circus clown who patched it with bandana cloth. Luca tells his father to restore it but his father refuses telling his son, "I don't want what it was --  I want what it became." So do I.

Elegance in an Age of Crisis:  Fashions of the 1930s
Fashion Institute of Technology
Exhibit runs from 7 February 2014 to 19 April 2014