Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Tradmas! '12

Keeping with tradition, my relatives make the pilgrimage to my nearby aunt's house, who is always welcoming of us every year, and whose house happens to be large enough to fit everyone. We spend Christmas Eve attending the afternoon service, eating a hefty warm meal, opening presents, sipping on hot cocoa (or something more spirited for the grown ups), and enjoying each other's company well into the early Christmas morning.

Bulldog outfit. Shaggy, Flap, Slacks, Scarf. Throw in some papa bear Golden Fleece too, and those Waldens while you're at it. It was a chilly rainy evening and went with a trench instead of my planned JPress blazer as my over coat. Although the sweater was plenty warm, I felt naked without a sportcoat or blazer in church for Christmas, as it tends to be one of the better-dressed days out of the calender. At least it was nice to see a good amount of fellow young men in suits or coat and tie. Even a few bowties, with me leading the helm.

My youngest nephew, Jake, and his newest toy. We love to spoil the guy.

After a light slumber, the kids awaken again to unwrap more presents, this time left by Santa. Sadly, I don't get as excited as the little ones do on Christmas morning. Entrance to adulthood has forever robbed me! But its fun to see the lil' hellions run around with their new prizes. Jake particularly enjoyed his set of Avengers.

And we eat another hefty, delicious breakfast meal before heading back home and counting down another 364 days. Brooks University Red Stripe, seasonal D-ring, and Bill's.

Happy Holidays and I wish you a Healthy, Prosperous New Year's!


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Autumn - Early Winter, 2012

Holidays, hot chocolate, and warm blankets. The best time of the year!

To reference a common theme of this blog- that clothes do not have to be expensive (See: Rule #10)- I've added notes to specific prized hunts that I've scored over the past year.

School day. I finally got me a pair (actually two) of the famous Bill's Khakis, which gives fellow fashionistas a hard-on for their made in USA quality and rugged 8.5oz twill. For the ultimate trad elite, add a cuff and hem with no break. These are the M3 flat front chinos which fit very well for a youthful athletic body, or I'd recommend the M2 "standard fit", as the M1 tends to be too baggy.

J. Press OCBD with Flap Pocket, Trim fit, made in USA, $55 with 30% plus add. 20% sale online (originally $130)
Bills Khakis Original Twill, M3, color Khaki, made in USA, purchased from eBay NWT for $60 (originally $130)
Trafalgar Engine Turned Plaque and dark brown calf belt strap
J. Crew navy socks
Allen Edmonds Walden penny loafers, made in USA, purchased from eBay slightly used for $50 (originally $250)
Seiko 5 watch

Another school day. The above and below outfits feature another pornographic trad item, the J. Press OCBD with Flap Pocket.

 J. Press OCBD with Flap Pocket, Trim fit, made in USA, $55 with 30% plus add. 20% sale online (originally $100)
 Bills Khakis Original Twill, M3, color British Khaki, made in USA, purchased on eBay NWT for $50 (originally $130)
Leatherman Ltd. motif belt, made in USA
Brooks Brothers argyle socks
Allen Edmonds Westchester loafers, made in USA
Hamilton Khaki field watch

Dinner downtown at a quaint country barbeque restaurant. Went for my "country gentleman" look for the evening, with the Barbour quilt jacket, Shetland cardigan, tattersall, and cords. Notice the autumn earth tones, and matching brown shades from the sport shirt to the leather buttons all the way down to the argyle pattern and loafers. Some call me obsessive. I beg to differ.

Barbour Liddesdale, color Olive, made in England, purchased from UK Ebay for $50 used (originally $180)
Ralph Lauren Rugby Shetland Shawl Cardigan, color Navy, $55 with 50% plus add. 20% sale online, (originally $130), current 2012 collection
Orvis Tattersall Sport OCBD, color Red, Navy, Gold stripes, purchased on eBay NWT for $25 (originally $90), current 2011/12 collection
Ralph Lauren Corduroy pants, color Cinnamon, gift
Trafalgar Engine Turned Plaque and dark brown calf belt strap
Brooks Brothers argyle socks, made in Italy
Allen Edmonds Westchester loafers, made in USA

Pumpkin' Pickin' with the Lady. The shaggy dog orange matches the occasion. This is from the 2009 F/W collection, but J.Press brought it back for the current 2012 season.

Barbour Liddy, made in England
J. Press Shaggy Dog shetland sweater, color Persimmon, made in Scotland, $90 used from clothing trading forum (originally $200) 
Orvis Tattersall Sport OCBD, color Orange, Blue, Brown, Green stripes
J. Crew chinos
LL Bean mocs, made in USA

Date night downtown in late Summer, hence the pink and black cosmopolitan vibe of the outfit. I'm particularly fond of these jeans, by Raleigh Denim, as they are made in my home state in Raleigh, NC from cotton grown and spun from locally operated Cone Mill. North Carolina used to be one of the great denim suppliers of the country, but now only Raleigh Denim carries the flame. Everyone exclaims aghast "$300 for a pair of jeans!" but the quality and local craftsmanship is worth the price for premier denim, as opposed to Hecho in Mexico rags. And yes...ahh the fact that I only paid $60....slightly above the price of those Hecho in Mexico jeans that the outcriers wear...is what gives the satisfying feel of awesome. That plus I will probably own these jeans for the few decades, and you realize that $100+ denim, combined with the sensible no-how of actually never paying a $100+ for quality domestic goods, serves as my shining ode to Rule #10 and my blog itself! I intend on only owning 3-4 pairs of jeans at any given period of my life, because really, you never need more than that. A good pair of jeans is meant to be worn over and over as it ages into its own graceful character. And might as well have a USA made label for Dat Nostalgia if you're planning on passing it down to your grandson.

Brooks Brothers Chino Unstructured Sportcoat, color Navy
Brooks Brothers OCBD, color Pink, made in USA, $15 via Garland Factory Store (originally $90)
Raleigh Denim, Alexander Fit, made in USA, $60 used from clothing trading forum (originally $285)
Trafalgar Engine Turned Plaque with black alligator embossed strap
Brooks Brothers pocket square (note: pink and blue checked pattern matches the pink shirt and blue denim of the outfit)
TheTieBar.com 2" black knit tie
Allen Edmonds Walden loafers, made in USA
Bucherer dress watch with black alligator embossed strap
Persol sunglasses

Another ensemble from a country gentleman, for church and brunch. Matching bow tie and fun socks.

Barbour Liddy, made in England
LL Bean Shetland, $20 from LL Bean store with sale and promotional gift card (originally $40)
Brooks Brothers Windowpane OCBD, made in USA
Ralph Lauren corduroy pants, color dark brown, gift
Orvis shotgun belt, made in USA
Cole Haan Saddle Bucks, vintage, made in USA, $40 on eBay
Brooks Brothers #1 repp bow tie, reversible, made in USA
Brooks Brothers #1 repp socks (via Flatiron collection)
Hamilton Khaki field watch

Hiking on a mild Autumn day. Yes, I have purchased another Synchilla. This is my third. The Patagonia "Yanaba" patterns was featured on now-vintage Snap Ts with tribal and nature-themed motifs, and can be had on eBay for the price of a brand new Synchilla. Patagonia recently brought back these themes, and due to their popularity, they tend to sell out quickly, which is why I chose to buy it at full-price and at least enjoy them for the whole F/W season. Still, I was able to rummage a few dollars of savings, as Patagonia decided to raise the MSRP to $120. But no one seemed to have told Shoebuy.com which still has them at $100. Yup, someone got fired. And as predicted, the Yanaba patterns are sold out as of this article's posting.

Patagonia Synchilla Snap T pullover sweater, color "Yanaba Forge", $100 from Shoebuy.com (originally $200), current 2012 season
Patagonia Stand Up shorts, 7" inseam
Hamilton Khaki field watch
Not Seen: The Game College Bar hat, Persol sunglasses with croakies, Merrell Moab Gore-Tex XCR trainers

Medical trad. Rotating with a physician at a community healthcare center. Seen is the iconic Park Avenue captoe dress shoes, the gold standard among the men's fashion groupthink. Typically, the best value is at Nordstrom, where their annual summer sale has them marked down to $200. And if you can find them lower, then Nordstrom will price match. Protip: buy a Nordstrom gift card in advanced off Craigslist for even deeper savings.

J. Press OCBD with Flap Pocket, Trim fit, made in USA
J. Press wool pants, color Medium Grey, made in USA, $140 online (originally $250)
Trafalgar Engine Turned Plaque with black alligator embossed strap
Allen Edmonds Park Avenues, made in USA, $180 from Nordstrom via Craigslist gift card (originally $200 from $335)
Bucherer dress watch with black alligator embossed strap
Brooks Brothers pine bowtie, made in USA

Christmas shopping at an outdoor mall. The weather was wet and chilly. These chukka boots are my second pair after my Clarks Desert Boots. Leave it to the British, whom are accustomed to dreary weather, to make a proper boot for rainy conditions, as my DBs are too slippery with the crepe sole and its suede outer layer isn't conducive to rain. These Herring chukka boots are in pebble grain leather to allow for skids and have a Dainite rubber sole for slippery surfaces. They will serve as a formal-but-still-a-shitkicker in my shoe arsenal.

Brooks Brothers Regent rain overcoat with inner lining removable vest
Brooks Brothers sport OCBD, color Peach
Brooks Brothers Clark Fit Advantage chino, color British Khaki, $20 via Garland Factory store (originally $90)
Brooks Brothers argyle socks, made in Italy (note: Autumn foliage colors of green, navy, and orange match the scarf, jacket, and shirt)
LLBean chino belt, made in USA
Herring Strathclyde boots, made in Portugal, $115 via Herring.co.uk (originally $190)
J Press Drsgdn Tartan scarf, made in Scotland, $33 online (originally $60)


Saturday, November 24, 2012

RL Rugby Closing

My last article featured my opinion on Brooks Brother's Flatiron concept, which is entering the contest just as it appears the main competitor is throwing in the towel. Ralph Lauren's Rugby, the manifestation of high-end collegiate inspired, fashion "forward" neo-preppism, will be closing so that Ralphy can focus on "more scalable global opportunities with the core Ralph Lauren brand". So basically, Rugby was seen as a failure.

This was foreshadowed early on. Soon after its launch in 2004, Rugby opened a location on college town destination Franklin St. in Chapel Hill, NC, right across UNC's university campus. I remember walking in its newly opened doors, impressed with the decor and selection (don't mock me...it was a simpler, more ignorant time). And just a year or two later, the doors were closed. Maybe the prices were too high. Or maybe Rugby couldn't appeal to the collegiate target.

While I was not a loyal fan and prefer to look above the overly WASPy fashions Rugby produced, I respected the medium and its contributions. Because even though I'd never be caught dead with a fashion designed rugby polo coronated with a regal-esque patch of a made up athletic club established in 1920-something, I appreciated the effort of our American powerhouse clothing outfitter trying to sell its famous preppy image to our young generation. Trad itself is a dying art, and Rugby was our ammo in the fight to keep traditional clothing alive, no matter it's grimaced interpretation of it. Rugby's intentions remained aligned with our own while trying to grab attention from the broad masses. And yes as inferred, Rugby had its many faults. But it also had very strong character points as well. Their University Chinos have garnered high praise for its slim fit and reasonable price. And I've liked their winter offerings that displayed wide selection of interesting patterns and motifs, as well as their Shetland sweaters, of which I own two (a crewneck and a shawl cardigan). And although much of their price points lied far above the average college kid's loan budget, Rugby's sales were decent enough and even more so with a student discount. Not to mention, the youthful appearance allowed for nicely fit proportions and bodies, great for ectomorphic freshmen.

I actually thought Rugby was doing well enough, just hitting its stride as a mainstream brand. But just under a  decade after its launch, Rugby will cease after F/W 2013. Perhaps its an ill-mentioned sign of the changing times. Whereas Rugby would've made a killing amongst college students in the default preppy era of the 80s, now it has met its demise, ultimately losing in its attempt to swoon the masses with its antiquated Ivy League approach.

Niche competitor JCrew is doing well, but only because they shed their All-American focus (formerly competing with Lands End and LLBean) to a more worldly and urban interpretation of classic Americana (now competing with the high-end fashion houses, even boldly stepping up its appeal with runway shows). The transition started around five or six years ago, not coincidentally as JCrew served as a very influential brand in my own journey to Tradville, and has thus proved successful, cementing their base as a formidable label while being widely accessible to the average male in malls across the nation. It seems JCrew has such a firm grasp on the market that its easy to say that this is where the trend is going: away from New England Prep and towards New York City Vibe. I have no qualms with JCrew and overall like their direction. But it shows that Papa Bear Trad and Little Cub Prep are migrating for the hibernation, as the chilling winds of modern day clothing blows elsewhere. Lesson learned: 20th century influenced clothing is outdated and boring. Prep is dead. Hipster is alive and well.

With Rugby gone, the youthful preppy segment of the market lies with Flatiron for the taking. You'd think this would excite the Brooks Brothers execs, but I'm sure they see it as a doomed warning, that perhaps the market isn't as accessible as they thought.

Read more on GQ and IvyStyle.

(Protip: come this time next year, raid the Rugby halls for some closeout deals.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Brooks Brothers Flatiron

Last Fall, our favorite pair of Brothers launched a concept brand that directly targets the youngest, newest generation of tradsters and prepsters, the very same consumers as you and me. Flatiron (perhaps named for the iconic Flatiron building in NYC, which itself alludes to a clothes iron, for a time gone by before treated non-iron fabrics) directly competes with Ralph Lauren's Rugby brand, launched a few years prior in 2004, so much so that visiting either storefront feels like walking into a continual loop of relic Ivy League black&white photos, cracked aromatic leather chairs, and collegiate artifacts.

I have no qualms with a nearly 200 year old cornerstone establishment evolving to catch the sartorial imaginations of yet another generation of young men and women. Back in the early 20th century, Brooks Brothers targeted the college man with trunk shows, bringing the newest fashions to campus and helping to create the newest campus styles (giving rise to the TNSIL).  A century later, Flatiron hopes to capture the same kinds of tastes of our more challenging to grasp, ever-changing group of Echo Boomers. Unfortunately, Brooks Brothers fails to realize that by diffusing into the more hipper side of things, they alienate the position of what they're already known for: classic timeless style. It just so happens that the young collegiate man that gravitates towards tradom and Brooks Brothers doesn't care about fake rugby patches and graphic t-shirts with pre-distressed insignias. We want to dress like young refined gentlemen, not like middle school boys. I donated my Abercrombie and American Eagle rags years ago. Let those 140lb pretend Ruckers buy overpriced rugby polos, and let the younger men ready to rise above their fellow average-ers quilt their cloths to the blanket of distinguished tapestry that Brooks Brothers Senior has always blanketed upon polished men. Men in their early to mid 20s are in a state of transition, and those attracted to wearing the likes of Brooks Brothers and J Press want to dress like our fathers to earn our new maturity and to garner respect as we set foot into our chosen careers and life paths. We are not necessarily the type that wants to fight against tradition; we don't need to experiment with fringe modern styles that replace tried-and-true standards. The greatest benefit of trad and prep are the inherent idioms of proven reliability that makes the style so great, and its classic image on a 20-something signifies that he is ready for the world's variability and challenges as a recent adolescent-turned-adult convert.

Brooks Brothers shouldn't lower its standards, and instead push forward the continual teachings of authentic classic men's wear that has been taught for generations past. In essence: Let today's younger generation come to you, not the other way around. Sell and campaign to us imagery of proper fitting, non-overbearing logoed shirts tucked into slim chinos, a clean preppy staple look, and save the awful "athletic meet formal" mismatched rebellious thought process that says our generation needs to change things up. Again, those souls are the type that shop from H&M or still buy from Hollister Co, and they will never fit into your target population. The modern Brooks Brothers man is still just that, a Brooks Brothers man. A tradster. A prepster. A Yuppie. Tell me, exactly when would anyone past the age of 19 have the occasion to ever wear a t-shirt with a fake printed undone bowtie? The young guys predisposed to true trad and prep would never wear that, and would much rather adorn a simple polo or OCBD instead. The average-ers think of Old man style as boring and plain, but we see it as tasteful for the ever shrinking class of professionals. Which in itself has become today's backlash statement. A return to domestic goods. A return to "old man" anything. 1960s. Mad Men. The Impossible Cool. High ideals. James Dean wearing a simple white tee. Not a logo shirt whoring out the brand. It has come to the point that choosing to conform to the American Dream has become a rebellious statement in itself. And that's how I see myself, and hope you the reader, as well.

Not to say Rugby and Flatiron are terrible concepts. I definitely like the attention to detail and modern fits, and personally have a few items from Rugby and can see myself buying from Flatiron. Again, there is no problem with going for a new direction to garner attention and build brand loyalty. But its the over-saturation of "forward thinking" fashion appeal that leaves the distaste, especially with thinking that has false approval in terms of actual daily wear. Can you really see yourself wearing Red Wing boots with suits, or a sweatshirt under a blazer paired with cargo pants and penny loafers? Too cataloge photo-op, not enough realism. The 23 year old intern will choose something more grounded, no? And to reinforce my feelings: stop the graphic shirts. Just stop it.

I like Flatiron's stores, and naturally Rugby's as well. Sure, the over projection of mid century Ivy League mouthful can be rather "Okay, we get it...It's the past meeting the present shtick!" but it is visually fun to set foot into for those of us who don't eat at Hogwarts for breakfast everyday. As you can infer, there are some hits and misses. The introduction of the Cambridge Fit for example is cool, which to be honest, I have no idea what differentiates it from the still new Milano Fit, but it's comforting to know that there are sizes for every taste and body type which Brooks has earned my highest approval for, whereas just a decade ago, they only offered fits ranging from Balloon to Blimp. Cons would be the styling choices as explained in my diatribe above, and the expensive prices. I feel like only the 1 percenters of New England prep academy alumnni can afford this stuff at full price. And to hell if I'm investing in a $600 sport coat made in Thailand.

I was excited to see that Brooks Brothers was coming to a nearby mall this Fall. Then I was slightly disappointed to see that instead of a Brooks retail location, a Flatiron had opened up in its place. This location is situated minutes away from Duke and UNC and nearby NC State universities. And of note, Rugby had opened on Franklin St. in the UNC town of Chapel Hill when the brand launched a few years ago, but that location had since closed down. Possibly because of the prices. Or possibly because the Tar Heel fratters preferred their Carolina Blue OCBDs to their over-branded skull and bones. We'll see if Flatiron can seize their targeted market this time around. But I have a feeling it may be a miss yet again.  (I have only visited once, but it was during prime shopping hours on a Saturday. The store had been open for about two weeks now. I saw a young preppy brother and sister, probably just freshmen in high school, getting Mom and Dad to buy a few polos. This was the only purchase during my 20min spy infiltration.) ((And another thing I noticed: I was dressed much preppier than the sales force. At least the team members at JCrew look like they just stepped out of the catalog. I saw one brand rep wear baggy jeans from what looked like the Backstreet Boys era. I don't expect you to wear Brooks denim the cost of a whole paycheck, but at least get some slim dark 514s to match the fashion you are selling! /elitist ))

My friend and I took a trip to the brand new Flatiron at my local mall. Here are the outdoor front and side store views. Notice the Signature Repp and Argyle & Sutherland stripes on the awnings. 

Inside the store.

A miss in my opinion; no need for the 1818 (nor the logo on a sweater for that matter).

Fitting room. 

Shoe rack. Red Wings, Rancourts, Allen Edmonds-made Brooks Brothers branded

Preppy women.

They had some clothing items from Brooks' official collegiate collection, with OCBDs with Duke and UNC trademarks, but low and behold the fraudulent-in-the-name-of-fashion-and-brand-allusion offerings of Columbia and Yale universities, offered as a stock item in this Fall's collection. The ultimate faked orgasm of all. If I went to said Ivy League institutions, I'd be pissed that some kid in North Carolina can wear my alma mater, supposedly distressed over years of wear, in the namesake of appearing like a true Ivy academic. Forge your way into preppy authenticity! Become a true prep by visiting your very own local Flatiron today!

Copy of the Manhattan map of all of BB's original locations in New York City, commissioned in 1874. The cabinet holds leather and personal grooming goods. And that's me! Barbour Liddy, BB Clark Advantage Chinos (cuffed to no break), and AE Waldens. Not pictured is a BB red university stripe OCBD tucked in with my Volunteer Traditions motif state belt.

Checkout in the background looks like a bar.

With all the rage of collaborations and special collections, our other granddaddy on the family tree, Jacobi Press, is jumping into the neo-prep arena with the upcoming York Street. I like to think they won't shift too far from their niche, but with unimpressive past collabs with Urban Outfitters, I'm not as hopeful. Flatiron, Rugby, York Street, the new Gant, LL Bean Signature, Lands End Canvas....it just keeps on escalating....

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Themed Parties

My graduate program holds an annual Back To School Bash to help get our partying out of our systems before the real "fun" begins of stressful nights and just-barely passed exams. This year the theme was nautical influenced, so I pulled out my inner Yachting Captain's personality and went full out, sailing the 7 drunken seas and coasting along the Isles of Memory Lapse.

Full blast required:

Don't be that lame guy who comes to every themed party wearing a t shirt, jeans, and a I'm too cool to dress up for this look on his face. Use themes to your advantage to compliment your personality (or break out of the mold every once in a while). Just so happens that this was a nautical themed party, and a great excuse for preppy attire and worth mentioning on this blog, but for times like these I say to hell with your sartorial rules and just let loose. Go for fun and creativity instead of trad.

I used Pierce Hawthorne (played by The Chevy Chase) as my inspiration, minus the Ascot / Pashmina Afghan since I didn't have time to find one as cool.

Attached my professional name tag on my captain's hat that I got from Party City. Everyone called me Cpt. ____ Sparrow by the end of the night. I am wearing my old shitkicker Anderson-Little blazer since I didn't want beer spilled on my nicer J.Press one. Ralph Lauren short sleeve pink polo, popped naturally. My Volunteer Traditions state belt since I actually don't have the common nautical flagged ones that every fratter owns but can't interpret let alone know the difference between starboard and portside. Duck Head stone chinos and my sockless Classic Brown Sperrys, not pictured. Test drove my new Smathers and Branson monogrammed flask, which got a lot of approving nods and high fives.

Glow in the dark frogskins for added measure. The croakies prevent your shades from falling into the turbulent water, or in my case, beer. My date / friend / first-mate with matching sailor's hat.

Such a simple outfit got me a ton of compliments. Other guys wore boring swim trunks and flippy floppies, or those flimsy life jackets (was thinking of doing this along with a martini glass too, to satirize the typecast drunken rich yachtsman about to be evacuated, but oh well will save that idea for next time). Most of the girls wore Saint James-esque meridian striped shirts. But no one looked baws like me!

Believe me when I say I f*cked a mermaid.

Friday, July 27, 2012

An Olympic Pony

Ralph Lauren designed the Olympic opening ceremony apparel kits for our American athletes in London 2012. Mr. Lauren, who's name is already synonymous with Wimbledon and Polo (the sport), was the perfect choice for outfitting the ol' red, white, and blue, creatively combining his influences of sport and classic American fashion.

I am a biased of course. This is a trad blog with sympathy towards tradly style.

And as it turns out, Mr. Lauren doesn't have as much approval from most everyone else. Some criticisms do carry some veracity, such as the fact that these all-American uniforms are not actually so, having been made in China. But other criticisms, well, are just ridiculous. Militarisitc? Really? As one commenter noted, it's easier to see a yachtsman wearing this than a dictator.

But here is my argument in support of the uniforms. The sentiment in my guide highlights the continual downgrade of dress in not only this country, but all of modern society. The opening ceremony is one of the world's biggest events and you would think we'd want our young men and women dressed up for the occasion. In years past we got away with track suits, but in 2012 we came back to our senses and showed the world we can look stylish again. What some may call old fashioned and boring, I call the use of the quintessential American blue blazer with gold buttons a huge hit. Combined with a club collar, repp tie, and white pants, the whole ensemble reflects smart and cool American athleticism. The beret, which some say is too French, serves as a proper cover that's much better than a cowboy hat that's too Redneck. The vintage inspired wardrobe reminds me of the Chariots of Fire era; these days you'd only see this kind of classic style at a rowing regatta, but tonight you saw it on the international stage.

I applaud Ralph Lauren. Sure they're made in China (what isn't?) and yeah maybe his pony logo is kind of obnoxiously loud but overall he designed what could be our most stylish and attractive uniforms yet. We may not look as awesome as the Dutch, outfitted by SuitSupply, but hell, it could've been a lot worse.

Let the games begin. USA! USA!

See some of USA's best and worst outfits here.