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Spring Essentials

It may not seem like it at the moment, but spring is definitely on the way, which means you’ll need to take a look in your closet and see if need to update any part of your wardrobe. Macy’s men’s department has a few options that will stand you in good stead in during the coming change of seasons.

Ralph Lauren Mock Pullover

One thing that will make spring proceed more smoothly is this mockneck cotton sweater from Ralph Lauren. For my money, the best colors are derby blue (shown above), buff, and if you’re under 25 and willing to stand out, chrome yellow.

joes-jeans-wilkes-brixton

As for what you should put on your legs, traditionally I’ve been opposed to anything that not a button fly Levi’s 501, however, I’ve been warming up lately to Joes Jeans, especially to these straight-leg, Wilkes Brixton coated jeans in black. They’re both in style and sufficiently understated so as to appeal to my desire for tradition.

BOSS gaberdine blazer
Finally, with a change of pant, jeans or slacks, this tan gaberdine blazer BOSS Black could do double duty at work, or for a more casual occasion.

Quest for Perfect Jeans

Finding a decent pair of denims can become a quest for the holy grail, a foredoomed pursuit of glories past.

On their website you can buy Levi’s 501 button-fly “rigid rinse,” the ur-jeans, for a mere $36 – forgiving to the wallet but not to the body. They are guaranteed to chafe your inner thighs.

Or you may elect to buy the same cut 501’s (“XX” made in Amsterdam) from a slightly higher quality dark-wash denim for $268 at J. Crew. They are a little more comfortable than the originals, but at that price you don’t want to wear them when weeding a thorny garden.

Choices in between are limited to streaky, over-washed, greasy-feeling, thin-weight, distressed jeans that look as if a homeless person had traded them for a cup of coffee.

First off, stop looking for the cup of everlasting life. Jeans don’t have to be perfect (which is a relief to know because you will probably fail to find perfect ones anyway). Jeans need not be the repository of your essential being or the sacred vessel of your singularity. Grand hopes and dreams will overstuff a pair of humble denims. Anyway, aren’t denims the most conformist of clothing choices?

Blue jeans were born in the 19th-century as cheap work pants. Above all they are supposed to be sturdy. After a requisite breaking-in period, they may become comfortable, too. However, in the good old days comfort was second to their ability to withstand a season of gold-panning without ripping.

Man in Uniform

According to a profile in The New Yorker, the most influential person in American fashion believes that a man needs a uniform.

Every day J. Crew’s Mickey Drexler wears a heather-gray T-shirt, a striped “Thomas Mason” blue-and-white button-down with long sleeves rolled up and shirttails out, aged Swedish jeans, and Alden cordovan wingtips. Sometimes he adds a plain black blazer.

That’s it, guys, the new-millennial uniform for aged hipsters. It’s a good look, casual yet savvy. At least it’s not black – the default fashionista uniform.

Straight cut blue jeans on a guy in his sixties? After a certain age, don’t men need a little forgiveness in the seat, waist, and thigh?

Speaking personally, Mr. Henry finds that whenever he spends an entire day wearing pants that pinch his privates, his mood suffers.

Consistent with the hard-driving CEO personality, Mickey Drexler is short-tempered. Could this be a symptom of tight pants syndrome?

Let ‘em loose, Mr. Drexler. Your underlings will appreciate it.

Chronic shortage of trousers

Mr. Henry appreciates the best of everything. However, fortune, or rather its absence, does not permit him to have the best of everything he appreciates.

Because he prefers to wear the finest suits, his closet holds but three that fit the changing fashions as well as his changing frame: a dark navy for serious functions, a medium charcoal grey for daytime business, and a tuxedo. For other occasions he saves the suits and wears a jacket and trousers.

Consequently, because of the normal five-pound weight spread between his winter and summer body, he is chronically short of appropriate trousers.

Ten years ago “super-120” wool, what Armani uses it for their Black Label, was the best suit cloth you could buy. A pair of trousers would cost upwards of $650.

Now J. Crew offers Loro Piana super-120 wool trousers for a mere $175. How can this be?

New technology in looms permits Loro Piana to spin a light, strong, soft fabric from the best Australian and New Zealand wools, so-called “Tasmanian,” the most comfortable and durable suit cloth yet invented.

If you order online, J. Crew will hem and cuff them to your length.

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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.

What Not To Wear on the Casual Friday

Mom jeans.

The President is the elegant man who looks very good in the suit, but he definitely needs the casual clothing makeover.

He looks like Urkel X.

There are plenty of traditional and manly designer jeans that would provide the better fit and the better image. Perhaps something from Paper, Denim & Cloth, or Seven for All Mankind, or the Manolo’s current favorite, Earnest Sewn.

Fifteen minutes of trying on the jeans in the presence of the properly-trained male clothier would have saved us from having to talk about this subject.

Glambassador

mutassim-qaddafi-in-shiny-suit

In his memorable essay “The Secret Vice,” Tom Wolfe writes:

one day in December, 1960 . . . Lyndon Johnson, the salt of the good earth of Austin, Texas, turned up on Savile Row in London, England, and walked into the firm of Carr, Son & Woor. He said he wanted six suits, and the instructions he gave were: “I want to look like a British diplomat.” Lyndon Johnson! Like a British diplomat! You can look it up.

Note well: Never ask your tailor to make you look like a Libyan diplomat, or else you’ll get the shiniest suit known to man.  Apparently, what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas, sartorially speaking.

But at least Libya’s National Security Advisor, Mutassim Qaddafi (son of Muammar Qaddafi), is carrying on the family tradition of eccentric flamboyance.

For the Gentleman Cad

hickey-playboy-corduroy-trousers

Since there’s nothing preppier than corduroys embroidered with cutesy whales, ducks, or monkeys, the folks at Hickey seem to be targeting the elusive Groton-alumni-who-are-truckers demographic.  Presumably the care label reads, “Requires no additional irony.”

They even make a matching cashmere sweater.

Let ‘Er Rip

YE Venezuela Independence Day

While parading during Venezuela’s Independence Day, this army cadet looked down to discover that it his crotch was celebrating its newfound freedom.  It’s a good thing the soldier wasn’t going commando.

Bondage by Tom Ford

The Los Angeles Times has a long but excellent article on the new wardrobe 007 in Quantum of Solace, the latest James Bond movie. Ditching Brioni, Bond now has Tom Ford as his custom tailor. That helps to explain the above three-piece suit, a style Ford has tried to re-popularize in recent years. While a three-piece is appropriate now that the franchise is looking back to its early years (e.g., Sean Connery wore one in Goldfinger), it’s a shame that the vest was cut so voluminously and short. Also, Connery’s Bond knew not to fasten the bottom button.

In any case, Ford, acting like a sartorial Q, at least gave Bond some tricks up his pants:

one of Bond’s coolest secret weapons this time around is a small button tab inside the cuff of each trouser leg that never has a second of screen time, and whose sole purpose is to keep 007′s pant legs precisely where they should be

Izzy has never before heard of such a thing, and is curious how it works. Another interesting tidbit from the article is that the costume designer

desperately wanted to source a very specific, very expensive suiting fabric known as “mohair tonic,” a wool-cashmere blend with a subtle sheen not unlike that of a subdued sharkskin suit. “It was extremely popular in the ’60s; all the Mods and all the wannabe Bonds wore it,” she said. “I’m sure Sean Connery would have worn it at least once.” According to a Ford rep, when a sufficient quantity could not be found, the Tom Ford team developed the proprietary fabric to specification in its Italian mills (and cloaked in Bond-worthy industrial secrecy, she declined to identify the specific mill).

Note that the costume designer does not say that Bond himself ever wore such shiny fabric, which, whatever its merits, has never been considered high class.

The Making of a Cowboy

Ronald Reagan in cowboy hat

The accusation, now frequently heard, of “cowboy politics” stems from the iconic image of Ronald Reagan as an all-American denim-clad horseman.   But it turns out that, while Reagan had long enjoyed riding horses, his cowboy attire originated as a bit of showmanship:

In 1966, a local reporter from KTIX in San Francisco wanted to do a segment on horseback with the candidate for governor of California. Lyn Nofziger, Mr. Reagan’s press secretary, accompanied the reporter and was shocked to see his candidate in jaspers [jodphurs?] and English riding boots.

“When he changed into his riding clothes, he came out. And I looked at him—and he was not yet the governor—and I said, ‘You can’t do that,’” Mr. Nofziger recalled. “He said, ‘This is the way I always ride.’ I said, ‘This is not the purpose of that. It’s to get votes. They’re going to think you look like a sissy!’ He’s a great cowboy, looking at him. He played a cowboy in movies.

You can find photos of Reagan in his more aristocratic, English riding-wear here.

Everything’s OK-9

Chinese security personnel

With their matching khakis, polo shirts, and baseball hats, these Chinese Olympic security personnel look more prepared for a golf course than a terrorist hunt.  But the uniform does succeed insofar as it offsets the menace created by the presence of guard dogs.

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