Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Winter's Fool

"April is the cruellest month" but a few 80-degree days in mid-march certainly are a cheap-shot to the inseam.

Days ago, I walked with my jacket over my shoulder under deep blue Boston skies and flowering trees along Commonwealth Avenue.

A friend asked me why I wanted a photo of his shoes.  "Is this normal for lunch guests?" he asked.  "Just stand still while I photograph your shoes with my phone."  It seemed odd the moment I said it.

The following week, the wind pushed up white-caps on the harbor, the Charles River, and even Jamaica Pond.  Visible breath reappeared and the evenings were filled with the sounds of storm windows screeching closed again, followed by the rumble of sash-weighted wooden windows reclosing after a week of fresh-aired sleeping nights.

Windy and cold stroll to the office.  Gloves and thoughts of conversations from an earlier breakfast with Jr. accompanied me.

A spring scarf.  I couldn't bring myself to wrap wool.  Hopeless optimism, I suppose.

My quiet-day-at-the-office Mr. Rogers routine during winter.  The jacket was all of $10 at a consignment shop in Vermont.  It's a tiny-waled corduroy from Ralph Lauren.  Miraculously, it needed no alterations.

This sweater from Lands End cost me about $5 but it was an extra-extra large (with suede elbow patches).  Felting in the washing machine and dryer brought it into my size.

A morning stop by the cafe where televisions play news feeds from Italy and Portugal.  Over a decade of friends buying friends coffees back and forth.  No tallies kept.

*Blogger's note: When did "I'm good" or "I'm all set" become an acceptable substitute for "No thank you"?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Comments in Real Life

Imagine for a moment that the online world of men's style blogging existed in our actual lives.  Imagine that you are a man who takes some care (but does not obsess) in presenting himself to the world on a daily basis.

Now imagine that people came up to you in public (unsolicited) with things like:

"Excuse me, we have never met, but I wanted to tell you that your herringbone jacket is cut slightly too short, and that the lapel roll is a little floppy.  Also, your brown shoes are not really appropriate for the city."


"Hi, I am an adult male who was walking in the other direction and I couldn't help but notice that your pocket square seems to be the wrong choice.  I would have paired a darker one with that tie.  I also think that your socks are too winter for the rest of the outfit.  Bye."


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Rambling Round-up and Painful Embarrassment

 A family of albino squirrels live on the grounds of one of our local hospitals.  
Maybe they escaped from one of the research labs.

 At 30,000 feet, I left the spring-line of Massachusetts 
and passed through the snow-line to the northwest.

 A couple more days back in San Francisco, where a friend took me to the very top of the bridge tower.  A slow freight elevator no bigger than a phone booth carried us up.  I am prohibited from posting photos of the structure at the top, but there are a few available from others online if one were to search.  It was breath-taking and literally spine-tingling at 750 feet.  Keep in mind that the road and sidewalk is only 250 feet above the water.


A flight to Charleston, SC where a friend (and professional sailor) and I bonded over seafood.  He was coaching the Boston University sailing team on their winter practice, but he strangely doesn't care much for oysters.  Fine... more for me.

In Savannah, GA the air was warm with nectar-hungry bumblebees and the tables were full of French food.  Mother and Father buzzed into town and turned out in their evening wear to take me out for a lengthy dinner.  My shame was thick later that night when I was effortlessly outlasted by my parents, who sat in the lush hotel courtyard with Scotch and my father's cigars.  There I was, their mid-thirties aged son calling it quits a full two hours before them.  I thanked them and headed off to my hotel room, and though Mother hugged me and said "Goodnight. I love you" she was likely bristling at my lack of endurance for such important matters.  The next morning, I dragged myself up to prepare for the day, and in the pleasant hotel sitting area my father was already present, fresh and miraculously rested, sipping coffee in his bow tie and blazer while my corpse staggered up to the coffee counter.  Father took one look at me and gave the tiniest shake of his head: "amateur", he was likely thinking.

Georgia antiques. 

Back home in familiar territory, a lone daffodil welcomed us to a party at the MFA.  After the party, I got a chance to visit some Saxon porcelain from the Meissen plant.

If you ever want to read a true tale of murder, espionage, Saxon intrigue, and shamelessly insatiable social climbing, the discovery of European porcelain is told in a surprisingly thrilling book by Janet Gleeson:

I think that I convinced porcelain enthusiast Reggie Darling to take up this book a few months ago. 

Lost mittens from the winter that barely was.  

Clueless Brahmin
An older widow neighbor of mine had me fix her screen door recently which was creaking loudly.  
I gave it a spray of WD-40 and it was fine.  I hadn't even noticed that I had forgotten the oil spray at her house.  Three days later, she spotted me from her balcony during a sunny Boston day, 
and called over to me in her operatic patois: 

"Thank you for your help the other day, but you left your can of lubricant here."  

Naturally, every neighbor on the block also heard, 
and my wife bursting into laughter didn't help my case.

I added the "$20" because that is what I actually paid for it at the outlet in Charleston, SC. Readers of this blog likely already know that there is no chance in hell that I would have paid $115 for a piece of silk.

A ladybug and peapod tie by that great French silk-maker... a gift from Mrs. 

80 degrees Fahrenheit in Boston today on March 21.  The windows are open to the harbor's breeze and the cloudless blue sky, and a friend just arrived with a bottle Vintage Bourbon.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Pens, Inks, and Brass Blazer Buttons

Downtown between Washington and Tremont Streets, are some of the most interesting and great shops.  Two of them are particularly archaic by today's standards:  Bromfield Pen and Windsor Button.  I stopped into Bromfield Pen Shop to buy a new jar of ink, and this is where I wax nostalgic, telling you that letter writing is a dying art, blah blah blah.  I write at least two letters or cards per week, generally as thank you notes or as letters to relatives and friends, partially from liking letter writing and partly because Mrs. continues to buy tasteful stationary in abundance.  If you think that I am self-absorbed when it comes to blogging, Good Lord, you should hear the self-obsessed tone of my pompous letters to friends and relatives... talk about a jackass.


More inks. 

Still more inks. 

Fancy French ink. Ooooo (la la). 

 This is the one I bought.  the cheap bottle of Sheaffer ink was the only sensibly shaped bottle with a profile alluding to an old ink well.  If you have ever spilled a bottle of this stuff, this shape will be very appealing to you.

Tray after tray of fountain pens.  What good is having a nice (or expensive) fountain pen if you never write anybody letters or cards?  So what if your penmanship isn't steady?

Later that day, I was browsing through the basement of an old Boston library, where the card catalog has thousands of hand-written cards from when pen and ink was all there was.

If I'm sounding full of myself, it's because clearly I am.  I keep a blog of my opinions and clothing... what more evidence do you need to prove that I am full of myself?

Stroll a block or two towards Locke-Ober (a fantastic place to dress nicely for a date) and cut through the tiny alley to Temple Place where you will find another store that also somehow still exists.  Windsor Button.

Massive bins of buttons that you can buy singly or by the pound.  The majority of their stock is actually well-organized.

Blazer missing a button?  It's safe to say that they will have an excellent replacement. 

I met a guy this year who had all of his buttons on his blazer replaced.  He painstakingly picked out ten different buttons... two normal sized brass ones for the front, and each of the four brass buttons on each sleeve were different (though all the same size).  It was a gutsy and cool look.  It could only be cooler if each button had a specific meaning or angle to it (like ten grandchildren at ten different schools).

Friday, March 16, 2012

Spring Contest

Beginning April 1, I will be relocating my family to Miami for a few weeks.  The blog will of course continue.  I will return to Boston before the end of the month when the minor house renovations will hopefully be complete.  On April 1st, I am launching a charitable effort and contest, and I encourage all readers to participate.  The contest will conclude on June 1, 2012.
The rules are simple:

1. You may donate time, money, or goods locally.

2. The recipient of your donation may be a registered 501(C)-3 charity (not all non-profits are valid), an individual, a family, a local group, church, school, etc.

3. Email me a (confidential or anonymous) receipt, log of hours, photos, or other record of your giving.  I am trusting the integrity of everyone, so please be honest.

4. I will tally the totals, and will treat the top five donors to an on-the-house semi-formal (or formal) dinner reception at one of the great old Boston Clubs.  If you are unable to make it to Boston for an evening, I will make a donation in your name to the cause of your choosing.  Winners may also be chosen by their clever approach to donating.

5. Time donated will be measured in hours.  If you can’t donate time, money donated will be measured by dollar amount.  Every $15 will count as one donated hour, so you can always donate time instead of money.  Donated goods will be tallied by the donated value.  I want this to be applicable to all people, so don’t feel that you have to give money (donated time or goods is generally more valuable in my opinion).  If multiple people join you, you get credit for all of their hours.  Because I am equalizing time/money/goods, this should level the playing field for all.

6. I would love everyone to donate something locally to increase our collective total.  One hour, $15, or some clothing in usable shape.  You choose the cause and you make the donation.  Email the details (however small they are) and I will include them in our group total. DO NOT SEND ANYTHING TO ME.  The donation must be between you and your cause… I am merely providing the overall tally.

7. The cause to which you donate should be something that is close to your heart, local or domestic, and legitimate.  Donate packages of socks or school supplies to a family shelter, read or provide help to elderly neighbors, tutor children, serve meals at a shelter, spend a day picking up litter, anything you can think of.  For the purposes of this, political and policy advocacy groups will not qualify.

Please participate with at least one hour, $15, or a donated good (or all three).  I will keep a progress tally going.  We have two months as of April 1, so pick something worthwhile, and let’s get to it.
Also, I must reserve the right to not recognize certain donations into the tally.  Use common sense.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Those Bloody Boat Shoes

In Charleston, South Carolina enjoying the sea and various maritime pursuits.  It was cool enough that I wore socks with a pair of Allen Edmonds boat shoes.  When I removed them at the end of the day at the suite, I thought that my feet had bled through.

When I looked closer, I realized that despite having these shoes for a few years, I had never realized that the leather on the inside of the shoes is red.  They aren't bad boat shoes, and the soles are white and sturdy with good traction on teak.  One of the eyelets struck off on its own (visible in the photos), but otherwise I am mostly satisfied. The red interior apparently doesn't rub off on bare feet, because I would have noticed it before.  While it's an interesting feature, it's a dumb design idea.

Sperry, Dexter, Sebago and the others all experiment with exterior colors... Allen Edmonds decided to try the interior.  It was not the best choice, though the rest of the shoe is fine.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Reader Questions: The Symphony

Lexus Liberal wrote:

"Would you kindly do a piece on the suitable attire for attending a Boston Ballet or Symphony event? Preferably differentiating between opening night, Fri/Sat night and Matinee? It seems that the average Bostonian is either over dressed or in Walmart clothes. Is there a middle ground that regulars know about?"

My friend Plum (who is far smarter than I am, especially on these matters) came to my rescue and responded.  Plum wrote:

Back when the attendees of the ballet and symphony were all part of the same small society, a single unspoken code of dress and behavior held sway, at least over the good seats. The institution's role as a social arena was as important as its artistic function. Now the audience is fragmented, actually there to see the show, and the social role of the place is vestigial since the groups present have no interest in each other. 

So, it seems to me that one's attire must either be about engaging one's own subgroup (trying to raise the standard, for instance) or engaging a feeling that transcend the sub-groups (dressing the way people used to dress for the symphony even if nobody else there will). In both cases, in the absence of a single society, I think the crux is to set the tone of your own experience of the outing, and only secondarily to reach out to the other people in attendance. In more practical terms, either split the difference between what you find to be overdressed and wal-mart (and look like a music student or an academic), or pick a vibe you find appealing given the current senselessness of the milieu and go for it.


Well said, Plum.  When I go to symphony hall (or any theater) I wear a jacket and tie, or a suit, regardless of what I will see or hear.  Most importantly, I am grateful that people are attending at all, so I give them some slack on looking bad.  Slow and steady encouragement by example is the best approach.

Now it's over.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Traveling Shirts

I've had this shirt for about three years, and while I appreciated a few of its features, I only yesterday discovered one of them.

A hidden little pocket on the inside of the shirt front.  Tucked away below the belt, there is no reason that I would have noticed this sooner.

Notice that it fits a passport perfectly.  I could have used other objects, but this is a men's style blog and I want you to be under the carefully crafted illusion that I am about to jet off to London for a few days to have some handsome suits painfully hand-tailored for me.  I will not reveal the reality that I am actually about to go only domestically, where I will eat JetBlue's potato chips and watch several reruns of Law and Order on those little TV screens in the back of the airplane seats.  If anyone asks, I am not on a Monday-Thursday business trip, but instead gallivanting around like a playboy spending money frivolously and drinking pricy Champagne.  It'll be our little blog secret.