31 March 2009

April Food Day

It happened during the Fall of 1984. He was half covered in a sleeping bag on a bench in Battery Park. He had a long grey beard and tugged at it with a filthy hand. I looked at him and was startled when he caught me staring. He pointed a finger at me and shouted, "This can happen to you! This can happen to you!" Not for one day in the past 25 years have I thought it couldn't happen to me. He's never left me and I'm aware how easy it is to wind up on his bench.

Fellow Army Brat and all round nice guy at the "Easy and Elegant" blog is asking other bloggers to contribute and spread the word about the miserable shape of today's food banks. One screw up begets another and the food banks are in as much trouble as the city banks. This organization, Feeding America, is trying to fix it. Every dollar (.49 cents in 1984 money) buys 10 pounds of food or seven meals. $25 buys 75 meals. So, if you can-- join in on this. Click here to pledge and thanks.

30 March 2009

The Trad Shoots Madison

Avenue that is. Swimming pools. Movie stars...
A couple points here. I don't like sticking a camera in someones face and I'm too embarrassed to ask anyone. So, until I become rude or emboldened or both - - this is what you get. Sub Rosa.

27 March 2009

The Friday Belt - Braces & Champers

I'm running outta belts - - and room in these trosuers

Back in the mid 80's there was a huge resurgence in suspenders. While some didn't get it and went with clip ons - - there were a lot of guys having buttons sewn into trouser waist bands. In the States, most suspenders came in a box and in one size. Short guys like me had the brass levers almost on their shoulders - - like a 2nd lieutenant - - while tall guys had the levers a few inches above their waist. It wasn't until I made my first business trip to London that I discovered what a huge faux pas it was for levers to be so high. Like socks - - Brits can get braces individually sized and the levers wind up situated where they rightly belong -- three inches or so above the waist.

In London, suspenders are what ladies wear to hold up their stockings. Men wear braces. Always a big laugh back in the 80's when a Yank misused the word. Like someone asking you to pass them a rubber (pencil eraser). Braces seem to have fallen out of favor recently. Which is just fine with me. I still wear them and find they're much more comfortable than belts. That is, when worn with trousers that are loose - - which these are not - - because of a pork obssesion.

In London, you almost always kept your suit jacket on. At least during the work day and through most of the evening. Not until you're out with the boys having a late night curry and coats are given up to the backs of chairs that someone will tell me my levers are too high. I don't think there's anything these people love to do more than correct Americans. Except maybe drinking champagne.

Piper Heidsieck Extra Dry Champagne NV

The Brits love champers. Late at night at the Roof Gardens or lunch at Ball Brothers. And while there is something extra special about a Deutz, Billecart Salmon or a Louise Rose...there is this economy. It'll be a while before I see Louise again - - if ever.

Chilled Piper in a Pierre Duex champagne bucket of heavy pewter and served in tall flutes at home makes for a fine, if not everyday champers, a bi-monthly champers (with Prosseco filling in for the every days). Every other Friday night the Gulf Foxtrot and I enjoy Piper Extra Dry served with pot stickers, or a new favorite, hot french fries shaken in a mixture of freshly grated parmesan reggiano and truffle oil - - the Brits call that a starter - - for more than dinner I reckon.

26 March 2009

Lunch at The Four Seasons Restaurant

The Four Season's Hotel. Bob Hoskin's look alikes wander the lobby drunk with their shirts untucked while commenting on how classy everything is.

The Four Seasons Restaurant. Elegant. Understated. Tuck your shirt in when you come here.

The Lippold sculpture above the bar. Cool.

A very warm $16 Martini. Bad.

Lunch at the bar. Good

This was my first visit to the Four Seasons Restaurant at 52nd & Park. I've known about it for years but like the tailors on Savile Row it took some time before I had the courage to step inside. I also went to the wrong Four Seasons. Like a lot of people I went to the hotel on 59th and looked around thinking, "This ain't it. This ain't it at all." While the Four Seasons Hotel does nothing for me - - The Grill Room in the Four Seasons (is this confusing?) is a 50's master piece. Much smaller than I thought but warm, friendly and well run. Also, it's filled with Blue suits, gray suits and lots of Hermes ties.

As everyone knows in this economy - - lunch is the bargain. I had steak tartar and a glass of wine. And a pretty crappy martini. I arrived late in the lunch hour and sat at the bar. Waited a considerable amount of time. Not sure where the bartender was. Didn't matter. There was the menu to consider as well as the room. A beautiful place to take in with all the senses.

Lunch was pretty damned good too. And at north of $50 it should be although the show was free. Michael Douglas approached the bar and struck up a conversation with four women who were celebrating something. He glanced over my way and I got the, "scrape you off the heel of my shoe" look. He turned back to the women and I saw that he leaned into his conversation with them. It was a nice move. Very Gordon Gekko like. The ladies started giggling and that was his cue. To leave. A small irony here. Just last week I had lunch at 21. Gordon Gekko's restaurant of choice - - on the rare occasion he ate lunch. It was painfully bad. Bad service. Bad food. Bad customers taking flash pictures. "Lower than whale shit" was the expression we used in the army. I'd say it's fitting for 21.

Anyway, after Douglas left I nursed the martini and this guy goes to the window behind me flipping open his cell phone. I over hear a conversation that went kind'a like this:

You're blowing this way outta proportion.
No, it's not like that at all.
Why would you say that? What? I'm not doing that.
Where are you?
What are you doing there? I'm in the Four Seasons. Come over.

I check this guy out (Blue suit - Hermes tie) and keep an eye peeled on the stairs to see what the other party looks like. Is it his lawyer? His accountant? His Plumber? Five minutes later a beautiful blonde (Chanel suit - Hermes scarf) shakes up the steps in heels with shopping bags and a chilled aloofness...I only wish my martini was that chilled. "Blue Suit - Hermes Tie" goes over, buzzes both her cheeks and takes "Chanel suit - Hermes scarf" away. His Plumber... Am I brain dead or what?

You have to be brain dead not to love a place like this and while the Grill Room is one of the most beautiful rooms ever - - did you know JFK had his 45th birthday party here? I doubt his martini was as warm as mine.

25 March 2009

Trad Commute

60th Street and 5th Avenue 9:09 AM

A beautiful morning. I rounded the corner off 5th and was heading east on 60th when I saw the commuters streaming up the steps of this subway stop. It reminded me of my first job in NYC after college and how I loved to be a part of the morning rush. It made me feel alive and part of something in the city. It still does.

20 March 2009

The Friday Belt: A Rob Roy Spur

Suede Spur Belt

The Spur belt has been around donkey years, yeah. A few years ago someone working at RL discovered them and began knocking 'em off. Getting a small fortune for them as well. You can find the belt at any tack shop for $40 or so. RL Polo was up around $140 or so. They're in the outlets now selling for spit.

Going back to the last two posts - - I think the spur belt ties it all together. Equestrian echoes are everywhere: Tattersal shirt, Fox & Horn tie, cavalry twills, spur belt...Ok, the blazer buttons are somewhat ajar but they're personal. Besides, no one ever notices them. And they shouldn't notice the belt. Hidden by the sweater vest - - the belt is where it belongs. Besides, I hate matching suede shoes to suede belts. I almost always go to the Regimental / Surcingle belt when I wear reverse calf (Brit for suede). Something about it being slap - dash.

I like to call this drink, The Suede Rob Roy. You could call it The Reverse Calf Rob Roy but that doesn't really work does it?

The Suede Rob Roy

Whenever I hear a man order a single malt on the rocks --I cringe. Usually it's the kind'a guy who orders a dry aged steak well done and drives a Corvette. He probably owns a fur coat as well. Shame on me then for mixing Laphroaig with sweet vermouth. But you know what? It works.

Here's Gary Regan making his special version of the Rob Roy. I love this video. Gary lived above a bar growing up and you can't help but appreiciate how the guy moves and kind'a shakes. I use Gary's own orange bitters pictured above but he likes Peychaud's. Otherwise, I make mine just like Gary.

19 March 2009

I Forgot My Trousers

Turnbull & Asser cavalry twills with Poulsen & Skone suede cap-toes

I totally forgot to add this to yesterday's "Mind the Winter - Spring Gap" post. And I had a point... that was promptly forgotten as I reminisced about Polo sales girls. Anyway, if you'll scroll back down to yesterday's post you'll see a very English approach. You could also call it Canadian. The hunt tie, the tattersal shirt and the cashmere vest combine brilliantly with tan cavalry (not Calvary you civilians) twill trousers and suede shoes.

No cuffs on the trousers. Despite what the salesman at Saks will tell you - - most Brits don't cuff. I've worked with them since 1988 and in Lloyd's of London, a helluva place to view style in London, you'll see very few cuffs at work. Besides, you don't have to cuff everything.

Notice how the twill compliments the suede? Contrast is thrown out the door where trouser meets shoe and while calf wouldn't be outta place - - I just happen to like the suede and twill better.

There's a belt and a drink that cap this off perfectly but I need that for tomorrow.

18 March 2009

Mind the Winter - Spring Gap

Cravat of London tie from H Herzfeld

I do like blue and yellow. It hit 60 today. It'll be warming up the rest of the week as well. A good thing. Spring starts Saturday. I think. Never been one good with dates. Problem is, you walk out your door in the morning and it's not 60. It's nowhere close. Still, the thought of throwing on a coat makes me wanna throw up. I don't mind the cold but it just gets to be a drag.

Perfect day for the sweater vest.

Keeps you warm in the morning and come lunch you can take it off, throw the blazer on and head outside for that walk up Madison Ave between 59th and 67th. That's a target rich environment for the best dressed and most attractive women I've ever seen. Chicago, a city I love, never had anything close. There was a time when the Ralph Lauren Polo store had their grand opening on Michigan Ave and a bunch of us from work headed over to ogle the sales girls. Turned out they flew a bunch of girls in from NYC.

I remember one lunch hour talking to a friend from work and rounding a corner in the store when we happened on a beautiful sales girl who had her head down and was brushing her hair in front of a mirror. She snapped her head back and the hair went up and settled down on her shoulders. Did you ever see the Rita Hayworth scene in The Shawshank Redemption? It was like that. God, I felt good the whole rest of the day. I feel good just remembering it.

Canadian Airborne brass buttons

Who knew Canadian Jump School would pay off so far into the future? These really add something personal to a blazer. I keep hoping to get the, "Nice buttons..." from the girls on Madison but it'll never happen. I have an image of Jerry Lewis circa 1966 running down the street screaming, "Hey, LA-DY! Look! Look at my buttons!"

So, there you have it. Something colorful enough to imply Spring is around the corner yet warm enough without a coat. Before you know it - - Longwing's sun dresses will be everywhere and I'll be on Madison Avenue at lunch...showing off my buttons.

17 March 2009

Happy St Patrick's Day

The Donegal Tweed by J Press goes with anything

Even this old joke

So this Irishman is lost in the desert. Stumbling around and very near death when he kicks up an old brass lamp outta the sand. He yanks the top off and a genie appears. "Master, I've been trapped in that lamp for 300 years and you've set me free. You have three wishes." The Irishman looks up at the genie and through a cracked voice he utters, "Well, I've been roaming around this desert lost for weeks and I'm a bit parched - - How about a pint of Guinness?"

The genie roars with laughter and says, "Your wish is my command." And poof, there's a pint of Guinness in the Irishman's hand. No sooner does he drink it down than it magically refills to the top. The Irishman looks at the pint in astonishment and the genie says, "A little something I threw in for you, master. A never ending pint of Guinness. Now what can I give you for your other two wishes?" The Irishman smiles and holds up the pint glass, "I'll take two more of these!"

16 March 2009

Squeezing the Tweed

Tie and shirt picked out by Ira at H Herzfeld

Can a 3 piece be worn without a sweat band?

Extreme hacking and ticket pockets

Ira picked the socks as well

The days for wearing this are coming to a quick end - - and in more ways than one. If this were Chicago you can safely assume you're not outta the Winter woods until May. By mid June it's hitting 103. I lived in Chicago for almost 20 years and I would never wear this suit there but if anything will motivate me from putting on another 20 pounds by next Winter --it'll be this suit. Mentioned earlier, it was discovered in a Polo outlet somewhere in Florida - - marked down from $4,000 to $350. Amazingly, it was explained by someone in the biz that Polo still makes a profit with that kind of mark down. Talk about fair warning.

I can assure you this suit will cause serious weight loss. Since it's cashmere and since most offices and apartments in NYC have adequate heat...you can roast alive in this thing. Even in the dead of winter. I rarely wear all three pieces but instead wear it sans waistcoat or just the jacket with cavalry twill trousers. By the way, I really hate it when I hear people say, "sans." Is this blog turning me into an asshole? Or is it this suit?

It's too much when all three pieces are worn together and not because of the heat. What looks so beautiful in an ad or magazine often loses something in translation. Affected is the word some may use. Handsome in the slick pages of a photo spread but way overboard in real life on the street. The Gulf Foxtrot calls it, "The Sir Conan Doyle suit." I assure you...it's not her idea of a compliment. I bought this a year ago but it seems so wrong today. Not so much because it's warm - - not because I look like an asshole in it - - but because it's wrong today.

13 March 2009

Friday Belts: Stout Foxes

Guinness Stout, Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout and Young's Double Chocolate Stout

I have a dear friend who I've known since 1980. He has never judged me. He has always been there for me. I love him like the brother I never had. But Brian always buys beer that's on sale. I understand he's married with a family and a budget is important - - I understand that. But after you've been playing tennis in Florida - - in the summer - - and you're hot and soaked in sweat - -you do not invite me to your home and offer me a Stout.

But on a New York City winter's night - - with a bowl of Wick Fowler's Two Alarm chili -- there is nothing better. Add some decent corn bread. You know, the stuff that tastes like cake and I'm a very happy man. This Winter Brian is offering up IPAs, pilsners, lagers and anything else that ain't moving in the beer aisle.

I've been a big fan of Guinness for as long as I've been drinking beer. There are folks who read this blog that'll confirm, in the 80's, I bought warm, bottled Guinness in bars...and happily drank it. The Pub cans are head and shoulders above that old bottled tangy taste. But not even Guinness comes anywhere near Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout. Something of an acquired taste on single guy's budget ($10 for 4) I can assure you Brian'll never offer you one of these. Winter or Summer. They never go on sale and they're tough to find. If you see a 4 pack - - grab it.

Lastly, there's Young's Double Chocolate Stout. It's okay. Very creamy but not nearly as complex as Imperial. A big girl's blouse stout, yeah? Great for a beginner. There's a bunch more Stouts out there and Brian can certainly steer you to the stuff on sale come July.

J. McLaughlin Needlepoint Fox Belt

I was thinking of doing Champagne with the needlepoint Fox belt but they don't pair very well. This belt is from J McLaughlin and I'm a fan. There are other needlepoint's out there but nothing comes close to the heft, detail, stitching and heavy brass of the McLaughlin belt (unless you can con someone to make one for you). The Fox and Riding Crops on the navy field look perfectly at home on heavy winter cords.

The Odd Jacket is side vented but a proper hacking jacket would be center vented. Not that I care. I don't ride anymore and could care less. My sister will tell you I never could ride but that's a whole bunch of other stories which remind me of the time she locked me in a tack room in the middle of July.

Another Fox

That's Mrs Charles R. Rogers who appeared in the Summer 1953 issue of Gentry Magazine. I think she's stunning. Love her hair. I'm not sure why but in band I always had a thing for girls who played horn.

10 March 2009

Cashmere and Silk

Black cashmere robe with silk paisly lining and $45 to dry clean

Villa Delmitia of Milano. I don't know a thing about them.

I'm sitting here naked as I write this. The Robe is 100% cashmere lined with silk. The pj's are 100% silk. I wear them rarely - - not because they cost a lot. They didn't. But because dry cleaning in NYC is a mother and I usually sleep in boxers.

Marshall Fields on State Street means nothing to most and a whole lot to a few. One of the few remaining department stores that seemed to have a department for everything. When Macy's bought Fields from Target there was a lot of confusion within every department. I saw these black silk pyjamas go from $450 to $90 in three months. The robe took a little longer. $1,900 to $199 in about six months.

They feel as good as they look. And the hunt made the kill that much sweeter. Like a lion on the Serengeti, I watched patiently and waited for a wounded Gazelle. I feel bad the Gazelle was Marshall Field's but I'll never forget the pounce. I wasn't greedy. I killed only what I could eat.

06 March 2009

The Friday Belt- Single Malts & Stable Belts

The Stable Belt The Stable Belt for civilians

Stable Belt Details

Another Favorite Belt
Just a wee dram, yea?

The Laphroaig Distillery

Nice to see where my hangover was born

A big thank you to Jonty F! Whoever you are. Jonty F recently commented on a post regarding the Regimental Belt. Jonty provided a lot of detailed history and it kicked me off on some research and some memories. Certainly this belt I'm wearing echoes the military version of the Stable Belt. I just wish I could find an assortment more like this. If I were one of those Big Blouse fashion designers I'd be knocking these off for years. It's wider than a surcingle and it's adjustable. Perfect for the larger belt loops of today. And perfect for my waist as I discover how to add bacon to just about any dish.

I remember catching a glimpse of a Stable Belt worn by Sergeant Major Scully during Canadian Jump School. Located outside Edmonton, the school was segregated into French and English speaking. Scully ran the English side. He was average height but built with a thick chest that gave him a permanent lean forward. One day the head of the French side disappeared and a young French Canadian walked up to Scully and asked him something... in French. Scully took the last cigarette out of a box of Export A's, threw the empty box at the kid which bounced off his helmet and yelled, "Chevrolet Coupe! That's all the effing French I know!" Scully used another word for effing but you get the point.

Traditional clothing has always borrowed from the military. "Inspired" is a word I'm fond . It bothers me to no end when a designer steals insignia men died wearing. Why steal unit insignia when the history of the military is so full of ideas that, like the Stable Belt, a civilian version can be done with taste and respect. Hell, I think the consumer would think more of the apparel if he was clued into it's past. You build loyalty as well as a relationship. Just ask the Scots about single malts.

Single Malts have a fanatical base of supporters who take distillery tours and spend small fortunes on something they're gonna drink and waz only a couple hours later. I must admit to having a thing for Laphroaig and it's home, Islay. Haven't been there yet but I do see the attraction. To taste a place...that French word (pardon me, SGM Scully), terroir...which I can never say without feeling like an asshole...That's what Laphroaig is all about. Smokey and peaty like the sky in this You Tube video. The taste of the sea- - like raw oysters and a cold Manzanilla Sherry. Man, that's living. I always enjoyed Laphroaig with a cigar but it's getting almost impossible nowadays. Still, it's probably better that way. Come the right moment - - it'll be appreciated.

03 March 2009

Road Trip to UNC

Ten years of Yackety Yack

Last week I stopped by the year book office of UNC Chapel Hill for some extensive research regarding college apparel from 1960 through 1969. The "Yackety Yack" must mean something to me. I live in NYC and could easily have driven an hour south to Princeton for some time with their yearbook, the Bric a Brac. But UNC Chapel Hill still connects to me through amazing childhood memories visited here.

After some business around Charlotte, Concord and Winston Salem, I was reminded that fast food restaurants in NC share a similarity with full service gas stations in New Jersey in that neither are very accurate descriptions. I will admit to becoming a new fan of the Hardee's Country Ham Biscuit. Buy two and throw one of the biscuits out while adding the ham to the other and creating a double-ham biscuit. Sweet mother of God they are good.

1969 Yackety Yack

I was always curious when the transition from Trad to the more relaxed manner of dress (Hippie?) was made. Like flying from New York City to Florida in January...I'm always looking out the window in hopes of seeing that line separating cold from warm. I know it's not there but I can't stop looking for it. I do think I found the line at UNC.

Trad and Hippie -- this picture has it all in one place. The beginning of the end. Before you know it American apparel takes a nose dive for cheesy designers, rust colored shirts and ties as wide as the Jersey Turnpike. Nic Nic polyester shirts and Pierre Cardin polyester suits. You look back and wonder how it happened. I think everybody was having sex and didn't care what they wore. I feel the same way today but that's another post.

1967 Yackety Yack
She looks like a lot of fun. There's something about her that speaks to the change coming. She looks so 70's with the blouse and hair compared to the 60's hair spray and whoosh curl. When I was in the Army we would drive to Chapel Hill from Ft Bragg and try to pick up girls in the, "He's not here..." We'd explain our short hair by telling them we were Naval ROTC students. It never worked.
1962 Yackety Yack
You see what I mean about the hair? I apologise for all of these pictures. When I spoke to Michael in the Yackety Yack office he gladly took me into their archives and offered to scan anything I wanted. I felt like I was imposing and took pictures instead. Except when I saw this one. I told him I only wanted one scan and he advised me he could only scan in B&W.

I think Julian's has been in this location since the 40's. I admit, I'm not a fan of Alexander or the store. First impressions die hard. In 1977 or '78, I ambled into Julian's and asked to try on a shirt. I was told, "No." "How do I know it'll fit?" I asked. The salesman replied, "If you don't know your shirt size I can't help you." I didn't buy anything this trip either.

Competition? I doubt it. Julian's does have some nice stuff related to the university. Bill's khakis with Carolina Blue and White edging sewn on the rear pocket opening with brass buttons from the sleeve of a Blazer. How cool is that? Still, it looks like Joseph Abboud has made his way into the front room. A shame really. But they're still there and that's certainly saying something in today's economic climate. No doubt supported by all those wonderful people in the yearbooks. Beat Duke.

02 March 2009

The Elusive Bill Cunningham of the NYT

I rounded the corner at 57th and 5th this morning and almost ran him over. That's Mr. Cunningham in the blue parka. We we're face to face and I couldn't help but notice he didn't seem to be having a good time. As I walked east on 57th I convinced myself to go back and get a picture of him. When he saw me walking back with my camera out he took off. I'll keep trying but he's pretty darned quick.

Bean Boots vs Spectators

Central Park at 7:58 am on 3.2.2009

Bergdorf Goodman at 8:09 am on 3.2.2009

I can't wait.