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Socks with shorts

Each summer morning before deciding on his day’s choice of footwear Mr. Henry scans the weather report, looking in particular at the temperature. The question he poses himself is not whether he will wear shorts and a polo shirt, his default hot weather costume, but whether the temperature will climb so high that his poor feet will boil in closed shoes and as a consequence he must wear sandals.

If sandals are the day’s choice, a more ticklish problem arises, namely, whether to wear socks. If the temperature will reach 90 and above, the decision is clear. Sockless sandals are the only choice. But what if rain is predicted? What if he plans to spend time in gelid air-conditioned interiors? What if he plans to be outdoors among bloodthirsty mommy mosquitoes? Aren’t socks necessary, even with sandals?

Mr. Henry wears socks proudly. With the confidence of a Scandinavian giant gamely navigating the avenues of midtown, Mr. Henry remains blasé if hipsters with tattoos and slouched trousers should cast derisory glances at his stockings.

In defense of socks:

  • When hiking Manhattan’s valleys, you need expedition footwear. To protect against chafing on long walks, socks are a must.
  • Sandals that expose bare footflesh cannot protect against scrapes and scratches, vectors for the introduction of exotic, antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Save yourself, man!
  • The mosquito is the most dangerous animal in the wilderness, and she adores your ankles.
  • Chilled air sinks to the floor. Half an hour of such temperatures and your arthritic toes – old soccer injuries – start barking, not to mention your plantar fasciitis.
  • Who admires your knobbly, hairless, vein-riddled ankles, anyway?

The Life Antarctic with Ran Fiennes

Ranulph Fiennes with snowRanulph Fiennes book cover

One of the great joys of facial hair is observing snow sticking to it, thus proving the beard’s insulating powers.  Best of all is when giant carbuncles of ice form, as on Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the British globetrotter thought by many to be the world’s greatest living explorer.  Whether or not that is hyperbole, he certainly competes with Ewan Mcgregor for world’s greatest hair, adventurer category.  (While there appears to have been some photoshoppery involved in the bookcover photo (his jacket appears to have been taken from the photo on the left), Izzy includes it since it show Fiennes’ weather-beaten mane at its most spectacular.)

Even when relaxing in the comfort of his home study, as seen below, the adventurer maintains his devil-may-care approach, with ancient (torn?) desert boots and khakis with frayed hems.  Alas, his plentiful testosterone has exposed his scalp to the elements.

Ranulph Fiennes at home

In the interview accompanying the photo, Fiennes explains:

Everything in my wardrobe is old. I haven’t bought a suit in 10 years, that’s for sure. My dinner jacket must be at least 20 years old. My shoes, which I had in the Army, must be over 30 years old. I don’t like buying clothing.

Asked about his grooming routine, he continues:

For 25 years I have worn Clarins day and night creams. When I was in Antarctica I got seborrhoeic dermatitis, which affected the areas between my eyebrows and next to my nose. I ran out of cortisone cream and discovered that Clarins day and night creams for women do the same job without the side-effects. I’ve continued to use them ever since.

When a man has circumnavigated the earth from pole to pole via land, he may casually admit to wearing women’s cosmetics.

Perhaps Fiennes should have started moisturizing at a younger age.  He was once considered to play the part of James Bond in the movies (Roger Moore was selected instead), but the producer rejected him for having “hands too big and a face like a farmer.”  This, presumably, was before Fiennes cut off the tips of his frostbitten fingers with a Black & Decker power tool.

All Feet on Deck

j-crew-sperry-chukka-topsiders

Sperry top-siders are an American classic, if a bit boring at this point.  Thus, Izzy was delighted to discover this new J. Crew “chukka” top-sider.  A hybrid of deck shoe and desert boot, it refreshingly combines change with continuity.  And it looks mighty comfy, too.

Making Glove

dents-leather-gloves

Izzy recently popped into H. Herzfeld, possibly New York’s last true habedasher.  Inside the cozy store, which has been in business since 1890, it is easy to imagine one is on Jermyn Street in London, not E. 57th Street in Manhattan. It probably the only place in New York city that sells shirts by Hilditch & Key and Harvie & Hudson, among with many other rarities in America, such as sock garters. Browsing toward the back of the shop, Izzy felt a pair of gloves from Dents, the leather of which was so surprisingly soft that it truly sent a shiver up his spine. The salesman said that the British glovemaker was the best in the world, which, Izzy had to agree, was not a hyperbolic claim.

Prozac on Your Feet

 

From the delightfully named Happy Socks come, well, socks that will cheer up anyone’s mood. The huge selection includes bold argyle socks, which are perfect for your inner harlequin (romantic or not), and “high heel” socks that make for a fun surprise. The company is based in Sweden, and its socks are, happily, Ikea-priced at $10 each.

The Dude’s a Biden

Joe Biden

Regardless of one’s politics, it’s hard to deny that in choosing Joseph Biden as his running mate, Barack Obama picked the best-dressed man in the Senate.  Admittedly, there’s not much competition for that title, but Biden stands out due to his willingness to wear form-fitting suits in a shade other than blue or gray, fun suspenders, pocket squares, casual shirts with the top two buttons undone, and, in the winter, a chesterfield coat with a velvet collar.   And in what is perhaps a bold statement about his foreign policy, he often wears shirts with French freedom cuffs.

Pattern Recognition

Prince Charles in kilt

Izzy gives Prince Charles credit for being, er, ballsy enough to wear kilts in celebration of the union of Scotland and England, but he erred royally in combining a loud tartan with a bold argyle.  Either the kilt or socks ought to have been muted or plain, as the Scottish nationalist Sean Connery demonstrates.

Slip Sliding Away

Kirk Douglas on slide

Once the heroic face of Spartacus and Colonel Dax, Kirk Douglas, sad to say, looks a bit pathetic in cartoonish primary-colored playclothes.  While he is has been supporting a noble cause, the renovation of playgrounds around Los Angeles, is it too much to ask the living legend to maintain his dignity?

Turning Siamese

Thom Browne siamese pants

Courtesy of Thom Browne comes this freakish nightmare—of ironing, that is.

Jumbo Tie

Alber Elbaz in giant bow tieOscar Wilde with bow tie

Ridiculously large bow ties (made of what appear to be Shantung silk) have become the sartorial trademark of Alber Elbaz, artistic director of French fashion house Lanvin. Though they given him a whimsically clownish appearance, they do at least make him look friendly and approachable, in contrast to the cold hauteur of so many fashion designers. And to those in the know, the colossal bow tie pleasantly brings to mind the flamboyant aesthete Oscar Wilde.

Ardor for Barbour

Barbour Beaufort jacket

Jeremy Hackett, the man behind Hackett—a brand that, by copying and improving upon English classics, is in many ways the British equivalent of Ralph Lauren—waxes eloquent about the time he discovered the virtues of a Barbour jacket:

When I opened my first shop in London in 1983, I sold — as one magazine kindly put it — dead men’s clothes. Today they are known as vintage, and some items can fetch exorbitant prices. Once, on one of my frequent forays to Portobello Market, I chanced upon an ancient, patched-up Barbour jacket. I bought it and put it in the window, where it sold within minutes at a price not far from what it cost new. The attraction, I realized, was precisely that it was worn. In no time at all, no self-respecting Sloane Ranger would be seen without this distinctive olive green coat. Young army officers wore them as part of their mufti, teamed with straw-colored corduroys, suede shoes and red socks. Aspiring bankers adopted the Barbour, and it also became de rigueur over black tie. It was a way of airing your country pedigree, though you may have actually lived in a two-up, two-down in Fulham.

It spoke of damp dogs sleeping on tartan coat linings in the back of battered Land Rovers, of point-to-points and Badminton Horse Trials, all things dear to an Englishman. I recently retrieved my old Beaufort Barbour — with its oily texture, brown corduroy collar and brass zipper as strong as a railway line — from the attic, where it had lain neglected for nearly 20 years. Suddenly, I was filled with nostalgia for the countryside. So, despite not owning a large pile in the shires, I shall wear my shabby Barbour the next time I go shopping on Sloane Street — but I think I’ll leave my green wellies in the Land Rover.

These Colors Don’t Run

J. Press university socks

So as to celebrate July 4th in full patriotic regalia, Izzy yesterday wore a white linen shirt, blue linen trousers, and these red-and-white striped socks from J. Press. He won’t go into why he even owns the eye-popping pair—all he’ll say is that it’s a bad idea to shop on eBay while intoxicated.

He is, however, proud to report that two strangers on the street complemented him on the socks, so evocative of Old Glory. He did admittedly get, er, ribbed about them at an Independence Day party, to which he responded that he’d pried the pair off the carcass of Ronald McDonald.

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