Thursday, April 28, 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

How to Buy Suits off the Rack

A blog post about fully bespoke suits is mildly interesting.  At some point though, it gets a bit dumb... if you are willing to go through the trouble and expense of the bespoke experience, you should not be turning to blogs or bloggers for advice.  You should be turning to the tailor.  Imagine a blog entry providing guidance towards the purchase of a private jet or luxury yacht... obnoxious to say the least. 

For buying a suit from the rack, or even just a jacket, the process is simple.  As long as the neck and shoulders fit, you are in luck.  Put it on, unbutton it, raise your arms all over, twist and move round.  Make sure that the collar of the jacket stays wedded to your shirt collar, and that the shoulder seams are roughly at the top corners of your actual shoulders.  From there, the jacket may need to be adjusted by sleeve length, shortened overall, and most importantly, adjusted amidships.  Even if you have extra segments around your middle, there is still a need to adjust the jacket.  "Taking in" and "letting out" actually mean several things.  A tailor or very good seamster can assist you with making certain allowances or snuggings-in at strategic spots.  Pinned jackets with half-inch adjustments seem a bit too exact, but they can completely alter the shape of your shadow.

Uncut jacket and pants before fitting: baggy and tent-like

The shoulders and collar fit perfectly off the rack, and Frank and son Bill know exactly how adjust them regardless of the customer's shape.  He has a pretty limited selection, but doesn't charge for the tailoring, and the suits are generally at a 40-70% savings.  I ask him to put buttons for suspenders in all of the pants, and add a small loop under the backside of the lapel under the buttonhole to hold the stem of a flower.

Same jacket: fitted and with pants cuffed... sorry, bad photo

If you like your jackets skin-tight (I don't), you'll have to argue with the tailor a bit to get it brought in that much.  If you like to wear you pants in the high-water position and also skin-tight, your tailor should rightfully give you crap about it.  One thing you can tell the tailor or seamster is to "take it in, but leave the fabric".  This lets them know that they will see the jacket again after you've plumped up a bit and become ready to ease the sheets and fall off to a comfortable broad reach of caloric indulgence.

Don't fall victim to some of the advice floating out there concerning the purchasing of suits.  There is nothing wrong with the inexpensive ones, and while they may not be as elegant or as fine as some of the other pricier models, it is all about the wearer.  I see $1000+ suits everyday in Boston, but they are often maladjusted, boring in application, and a dreary waste of fine material.  Even a clearance $100 or $200 or thrift-store suit can be FAR more elegant than the $800 or $2000 when you have it altered to fit you well, so don't be intimidated or scared off by the idea of buying a suit.  Good clothing is often little more than good fit.  If you are not shaken by the more bold patterns, you will have an increased chance of finding a suit at astonishing discount.

One small point though: when you get fitted for a suit or are even just out suit shopping, wear dress shoes and a collared shirt if you want the adjustments to be correct.

Friday, April 22, 2011

What Can You Get for $350?

Survey: Would you pay $350 for this shirt?

No, I didn't get this shirt...
For $350, I got six shirts, and and fifteen $10 bills... sort of.
Our neighborhood postman does not like headphones, and instead clips a small portable radio to the outside of his letter bag and enjoys sports radio at the tiny devices tinny-trebled strained maximum volume.  He knows which names go with which faces, the history of nearly every house and its inhabitants, and can accurately speculate as to the goings-on based on what is being received through the mail-slots.  This morning, an early-bird delivery was buzzed into our robed and pajama-clad city house.

"Gud Mawnin'!Mawr stuff from London!Sign heeya!Summaz comin' soon!Howzya kid?!Havaniceday!"  He said in his rapid-fire early-morning friendly half-shout.

Shirts from London...  a package of TM Lewin (from whom I have never been offered or accepted any gifts, etc. by the way).  I wait and wait and wait until I get them with free shipping and at clearance prices.  I paid $200 for all of these:

$200 for 6 fine shirts

I did a quick search for what $200 could get me elsewhere.  I was [not] surprised to find what $350 could get me... though I would not.

$350 for one shirt... likely very nice.

Instead of dropping $350 for one shirt, it seems more sensible to be patient, and then strike when opportunity presents.  Who wants to read a blog about people spending $350 on a damn shirt?  You can pick up any magazine and see models draped in $450 undershirts if that's your thing.  Back in reality, a patient $33 for a nicely cut shirt is a bit better.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

All Things Glen

Yes, yes, the movie of a similar (or expanded) name was great... I know.  This glengarry hat of mine is worn with a kilt at weddings when kilts are stipulated for the groomsmen and guests, or to funerals where pipes may be played and the widow tells you in a letter:

"Marshall would have wanted his grand-nephews all in kilts, you boys meant so much to him.  The reception will be at the Caledonia Club, and [barman] will let you finish Marshall's remaining reserves.  Jerry told me that he still has three very good single malts back there from Marshall's account so I've told [club manager] that you can sign for it whenever you want."

Note: I was 13. 

I have also worn it spey-casting during salmon runs just to out-kooky the snobs.  Didn't work.

The stand-by Maxwell Kiltie and argyle socks.

THICK silk spotted tie was something like $7 new a few years ago.

Another Glen, is the Glen Plaid (technically Glen Urquhart Plaid).  A certain foppish Prince once nearly made it his, but it endures today as a great pattern.  In the northern, northern, northern New Hampshire town of Pittsburg, there are three Connecticut Lakes (the headwaters of the Connecticut River) which all begin as a six-inch trickling spring.  On the First Connecticut Lake, is The Glen, a fishing and hunting lodge where we've been going for several generations.  My Nanna handed my ass to me in a game of croquet, and Grandfather and I shared his final day of flyfishing before his health ruled out his beloved pursuit.  I later commissioned a custom spey-rod from JP Ross, and named it after Grandfather.  When I showed it to him last summer, he held it, slowly mock-casted for a minute, and very characteristically said a quiet "Thank you", this time in an unexpectedly sweet tone, followed by a nearly imperceptible sigh.  The sigh was maybe a bit for the gift, perhaps for memories of flyfishing friends now gone, but probably for the awful acknowledgment that with time, all things pass... even the once-immortal loves. 

Suit is not suitable for winter

If you have any relative older than you, write them a letter... with a pen, on actual paper, and mail it.  Articulate your thoughts or just pour it out... but send it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Patriots' Day

In Boston, and throughout the state of Massachusetts, we celebrate Patriots' Day.  A state holiday (and NOT a bank holiday) where politicians are somewhat forced to make a appearances at drawn-out ceremonies while a good number of folks genuinely have the day off.  It's also the day that more people from around the globe ignore our turnpike, subway system, and bus network and instead opt to actually run the twenty-six-point-whatever foolish miles into Boston.

We have several types of ivy, one of which is Parthenocissus tricuspidata, called Boston Ivy.  Unlike English Ivy, it's deciduous.  It explodes into enormous deep glossy green leaves sometime after the bright red buds appear.  Today, they appeared.

The roof-garden strawberries have also returned, along with several of the other plants.  The magnolia in the back courtyard stays white for about 10-14 days before its leaves come in for the summer.

The Boston Common took down the ice rink and filled the frog pond.  Soon, it will become the happiest disease incubator of giddy splashing children once the fountain is on.  The city is perfumed today with pleasant blossoms.

At the street, gardens are prepared for the season of tourists and the unforgivingly particular eyes of matriarchal organizations dedicated to botanical beautification.  Out of the front door onto petal-strewn bricks, my pasty ankle cowers under orange pants, not plants (Brooks Brothers: clearance $20), and LL Bean driving mocs.

Roof garden plants yawn and groggily wake up after the long freeze, a citrus tree is moved outdoors, and a roof-deck railing post is fitted out with a line spliced onto a cleat where Jr. can practice the turns and tucks of a sailor.  As the breeze freshens and smells of sea, this becomes a serious routine.


Unlike most, I love tourists.  They are excellent for the economy, and I am heartened to see parents and families of all strata deciding that a walk around a city is preferred to a day at an amusement park or something equally dulling and forgettable.  Granted, there are enclaves which should remain out of sight, and Grandfather's nastiest insult is still "leaf-peeper", deployed towards maddeningly slow driving/walking sightseers who interfere with his maddeningly slow driving/walking.  In Boston, if your house is picturesque, it is always the back-drop for tourist photos, and if you have a particularly pained over garden or expanse of ivy with direct sunlight, young couples will stage their wedding announcement photos in front of your house.  A sender of these announcements would be well-served to carefully examine the windows in each picture before releasing the photo to friends and family.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Heroic Heavy Wool on Formal Friday

They continue it pictorially at Fine & Dandy.

USS Constitution Tie: $10 from Giuseppe's Shop

This suit came from Giuseppe's Shop, and I thankfully got one first and final-for-the-season wear of it.  The pattern is almost splashy, the wool qualifies as regulated chainsaw-safety fabric, and the cut was tinkered with by the tailor to bring it in a bit.  A 42 degree day in Boston this morning likely is our last *cough* chill of the *cough* season.

There are some garments which wear the wearer... and this suit actually gets close.  A particularly sharp 3-piece will bestow certain powers upon the wearer, and while this suit bestows powers, they are much different.  It is similar to dating a clinically insane super-model or driving a concept-grade sportscar... it will only go vaguely how you want it to, but however it goes, it will be dramatic.  Her name was Veronica, and she was the most stunning German temptress one could ever encounter (Veronica was the sportscar).  Wait... what was I talking about?  Ah, yes... the suit.  It's heavy heavy wool and pippy pattern make it the perfect toss for a cold spring day, and a USS Constitution tie make it all Boston.

Straight-laced Johnston Murphy wingtips on their 3rd set of soles

We will all be trunking our woolens soon, so a last cold-snap seals the season with a round turn.  Here's to formality on a Friday.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Easter Colors

Wearing color during the cold months requires using paradox to enact a technicality.  Linens and cottons (yes, even light khakis) are generally off-limits for winter, or at least a bad idea in wet/cold.  Since corduroy is a winter (or cold weather) material, color may be introduced by way of the bright trouser.  Yellows, reds, greens, (whites might make the universe explode), and pinks are all within the technicality scope.

Vinyard Vines Cords: $19 at Filenes (+$5 cuffs)

I grabbed two pair of Vinyard Vines corduroys from (new Back Bay) Filenes for $19 each.  Not the steal of the original Basement (R.I.P.), but it would do.  I don't get myself in a lather over this brand the way every other mammal on the planet seems to, and their quality is indecipherable from the rest of like-tiered pants and clothing.  I'll give it to Vinyard Vines for color, though...

One has subtle pleats and the other is flat-fronted... irrelevant for the perpetually jacketed citizen.

Mrs. nabbed me a trio of spring socks for $9 new, and I thought that it might be time to pay last homage to cold here in beautiful Boston with a winter/spring/Easter ensemble which displays a wretchedly misguided combination of color.

Polo socks for $3/pair: Marshalls

Blue socks with the coralish-orangey-sockeye salmonesque pants will insult a few people during my stroll to the most irresponsibly generous martini-maker in the city.

Suede Henry Maxwells

Competing and conflicting patterns in a revived Thomas Pink shirt will add injury to the aforementioned insult, and disturb the human eye enough to grumble the undaring observer's lower bowel and cause the curmudgeon to percolate some angry spittle.

When all was said and done, this Fasika-themed kickstart allowed me to further self-aggrandize my stoic righteousness, though not to the point of encircling a tiny letter "c" after my blogged nonsense.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Pilled Sweaters

Sweaters are like prescription drug addicts... it starts off with a few harmless pills and it ends up overtaking everything, ultimately to ruin.  A series of LL Bean sweaters of mine have fallen victim to the pill epidemic recently, and I had tried nearly every possible solution, with only mixed results.  The chest, arms, and cuffs were in bad shape, with a large proportion of the native wool tied up in little clumps like woolen mouse turds across the better parts of the sweater.  While I don't mind a ratty old sweater, these pills are for guys who ride scooters and hang out with Chalky, Spider, and Dave.

Pilled sweater

Mrs. got me a device that is similar to an electric razor, made especially for de-pilling.  It worked somewhat well, but was laborious at best. 

Since razors always work better than electric ones, I decided to have a go with a cheap disposable plastic kind.  It worked... and well. 

After dragging the razor around the sweater, I determined that the blade cuts better in a "guillotine" position of almost 45 degrees.  While this would be nearly literal suicide for one's face, the sweater takes it well.

Hold at an angle for better results, and follow the cable.

Yes, I shaved my sweaters, and it worked in a fraction of the time that the device took.

Sweater pills piled up
Followed by a lint-roller, the sweater looked refreshed and restored, and the razor was still very sharp, so I covered it and put it in with my other sweaters.  If you don't have a lint roller, roll some tape sticky-side-out around your hand and you will accomplish the same thing.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Easily Spoken

A tip of the hat to those of you who deciphered the code, and attended.

"Alright boys, cram on that couch for a photo.  Damnit, hold still."

Left-to-Right: James of 10 Engines, Y-W-P, Giuseppe Timore, and friend M***** squeeze together for a late-hours photo.  Amidst gin/vermouth/olives, clothing was only once discussed.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Reviving Shirts V - Outdoorsman Edition ***Updated***

I recently dug this shirt out from the depths of closet limbo.  The fabric is nice, and the cut is acceptable, but the collar...

Somehow even too long for a tab.  Hopeless.

The elongated points were desperate and foolish.  They didn't button down, nor did they fasten underneath, and they served no point.  I nearly wrote "pointless" but in fact, pointful is all they were.  The only solution was to have them tucked under.

Much better.  Why couldn't Ralph have done this in the first place?

After the visit to the tailor and only $8 later, I had them under control.  Paired with an old jacket Mother gave me in highschool (converted to 4-button during college in preparation for a fly-fishing trip), the shirt collar now shows a leaner cut and more graceful line.


Some fishing trips and private lengths of water require jacket and tie, and sometimes it just seems right.  Father always casts tiny dry-flies with a tie on, sometimes a bow-tie, and a Double Maduro or bowl of Virginia Bright as bug-repellent.

Light water is fine for hip waders, but chest waders are a safer bet

For this jacket, I decided to pair it with a vest and a pair of LL Bean pants held up by suspenders.  This vest of course is worn over the jacket.

One of life's few allowances for vest atop the jacket

For sudden squalls or stream-side naps, tuck everything in to the waders

Other accessories for this outfit generally include a sandwich in a ziplock bag, sunglasses, thermos, and a net.  In some areas of Alaska and Colorado, a large caliber pistol is a good idea.

This outfit assures game wardens and fishery officials that they needn't bother ask you to display a license or back-country permit, and invites a stiff fleecing by podunk fishing shop proprietors when you stupidly ask if "there is any special equipment needed" and could they "please recommend as good stretch of water".

Puukko from Finland, gift from a dear friend

I am grateful that the idiocy of the urban lumberjackasses will likely never convert to urban fly-fishermen.  Speaking of, Giuseppe still has an Orvis vest and pants available at his shop.

 After posting this, I got several emails and unpublishable comments challenging my claim that people fish in a jacket.  Several day later, dear friend (an commenter) Plum sent this picture of me from a New Hampshire fishing trip several years past.  Though no tie, I sport a college-era J Crew roll-neck sweater under an Orvis linen jacket (unbelievably heavy and with working cuff-buttons).  Both garments live at the lake, a place where my wife often sends clothing she finds unfit for the city. 

"Father, what happened to your patch-pocketed fishing pants with the paint on them?" asked the young boy.  "We sent those pants to a nice farm upstate where they are much happier.  It was your mother's decision."