Tying the right knot

Left over right. Right over left. Any sailor or boy scout can tell you that’s the way to tie a square knot. But is that the way you tie your shoes? I’ll bet not.

At two years of age I learned to tie my shoes. My big sister, four, had not yet tied her own. After suffering parental mockery and humiliation she delivered me a prompt beating, one that became an invaluable, lifelong lesson in Realpolitik.

But despite my cleverness my shoelaces always came undone unless I tied them double.

Now thanks to Verlyn Klinkenborg, editorial page sage of The New York Times, I tie my shoelaces in square knots that do not come unraveled as I walk.

From Verlyn I learned why it has been that for decades when in a crowded locker room or busy Zen temple for precious minutes I struggle to untangle knots.

Verlyn transformed my life. Overcome with gratitude, I floated the idea of naming the family hound “Verlyn Klinkenborg.”

In single voice my wife and child rose up in anger. “Dad, that’s stupid.” explained Little Henry.

Registering her standard and customary observation, Mrs. Henry added, “You just don’t have practical good sense.”

Perhaps they have a point after all. It is true that Klinkenborg’s three Teutonic syllables do not trip off the tongue melodiously like Lolita or Postlewaite or any number of more appropriate dog names.

In my town’s junior high school a boy named Klinkenborg would not have had an easy time. Might it be the same for a dog?

Worse, with Verlyn for a first name his prospects for health and happiness would have been compromised substantially further, unless, of course, he were a strapping giant with an earnest interest in fist-fighting, in which case he would have been called “Bud,” or “Buzz,” or possibly “Bubba.”

Perhaps I’m simply envious of V. Klinkenborg’s cynosure on The New York Times editorial page, an employ obliging him on occasion to write feelingly about grasses, fences, and seasons. Hoarfrost circling his wizened temples, he chronicles our stately course from bright innocence to dusky death. He is the poet of barns and hay, an unexpected contributor to the Times editorial page, to be sure.

Do newshounds, skeptics and smart-alec journalists really accept Verlyn in all his many parts? I wonder.

I wonder, as well, what sort of shoes V.K. wears. Are they crusty, yellowed old stompers with hard rubber soles, the kind you get at the hardware store? When he shows up at the Times’ 41st Street tower, if indeed he shows up at all, does he sport a sensible pair of academic-issue, English working-class, no-longer-trendy Doc Martins?

Choice of footwear must pose difficulties in the morning. “Let me see. Today, shall I be poet, sage, farmer, professor or New York Times editorial grandee?”

I’ll bet he phones it in.

And then, of course, each and every day Verlyn Klinkenborg must bear the burden of his august name. To achieve manhood despite this permanent handicap cannot have been an easy journey.

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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.

The Butterfly Effect

OUTSOURCING

Although the recently deceased Nobel-Prize winning economist Paul Samuelson never won a medal for his attire, his bow tie here is one for the record books.  While such neckwear has often been described as resembling a butterfly, Samuelson, probably through carelessness, somehow managed to make it look like it was about to flutter off his chest.

How, one might wonder, could a self-respecting economist justify wearing a self-tie bow tie, which takes so much more effort to don than the pre-fabricated variety? To quote the prodigious professor, “Every good cause is worth some inefficiency.”

Izzy Is not Dead

Izzy apologizes for his long absence. Some months ago, in a foolhardy moment, he answered the following advertisement:

MEN WANTED FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY. SMALL WAGES, BITTER COLD, LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS,
CONSTANT DANGER, SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL. HONOR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS.

To his surprise, rather an a frozen slog across Antarctica–easy enough to endure–the journey was in fact a trip through the benthic regions of the soul.  “When you stare into the Abyss, the Abyss stares into you,” said Nietzsche.  Izzy would like to think that he won a staring contest with the Abyss.  (This, despite the fact that the Abyss, not playing fair, contorted its face into a ridiculous cockeyed grimace.)

Now safely back in the Shallow, Izzy would like to turn your attention to another achievement of Nietzsche’s, his moustache.

Nietzsche's moustache

Long before his signature facial hair reached absurd proportions worthy of a machete, one of his students described the philosopher’s appearance:

I had not expected that the professor would come storming into the room . . .  like Burkhardt.  I also knew well enough that a challenging tone in a writer does not always echo his behavior as a private man.  But I was nonetheless surprised by the modesty, even humility, of Nietzsche’s demeanor when he came in.  In addition he was of small rather than middle stature . . . And the iridescent glasses and deep mustache gave his face that impression of intellectuality which often makes even short men somewhat imposing.

While it is known that Nietzsche devoted great concern to his appearance, the famous photographs of him with with whiskers completely covering his mouth are not indicative of his own taste.  By the time those photos were taken, Nietzsche was living in a sanitorium under the care of his far-more-insane sister, a proto- and later actual Nazi, who made the eccentric grooming choice for him.

Izzy is going to heed the lesson here, and make sure that his living will includes a clause about appropriate facial hair.

Great Moments in Manly Charm

Manolo says, there is the reason why many man-oriented bloggers consider Silvio Berlusconi the sort of role model.

“Ah! Bellisima! Look at you! You are so beautiful and tanned!

“Now, come to the embrace of Silvio!”

“Please, touch the hand of Silvio so that you may feel how warm he is in your presence….And now you are blushing like the little school girl. Silvio has won your heart, no?”

Continue Reading…

The Power of the Photoshop Makeover

Manolo says, behold the power of the photoshop makeover!

Hey Vato, What Happened?

And, what would motivate such dramatic potential changes? It is all about the Benjamins!

Richard Rodriguez, the gang member who was kicked in the head by an El Monte police officer after a televised car chase, has filed a $5-million legal claim against the city. But before he appears in court, he’ll possibly be undergoing a serious makeover.

Rodriguez’s attorney, Nick Pacheco, has suggested that his client ditch his thuggish look (seen in his mug shot on the left), in favor of a more conservative — albeit less eye-catching — visage (seen in the photoshopped version on the right).

In the booking photo, Rodriguez’s head is shaved, and the name of his gang hangs over his lip. Tattoos climb his neck. In the “after” rendition, he’s wearing a black suit with a metallic gray tie, neatly combed hair and a lush mustache.

Pacheco hopes Rodriguez’s makeover will allow the jury to be sympathetic to Rodriguez, who claims to suffer headaches and blurred vision as a result of his arrest.

“People get past looks when you put on a suit and your hair is grown,” said Pacheco.

Even with the “lush mustache” Mr. Rodriguez is no George Clooney, but still, his lawyer is essentially correct: the power of good grooming (and the necessity of avoiding facial tattoos) is perfectly self-evident.

Man-Scara? Guyliner?

Manolo says, here is the idea whose time has not come.

I admit it: I like guys in makeup.

Not just any guy, though. I’m a sucker for those sexy, bird-flipping bad boy rock stars in their skinny jeans, smudged kohl eyeliner and just-rolled-out-of-bed hair. Think Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day or Good Charlotte twins Benji and Joel Madden. Better yet, picture a deliciously sinuous Scott Weiland from the Stone Temple Pilots, for whom I’ve always nursed a distant crush.

But my guy in makeup? Well, why not. According to Jane McKay, senior makeup artist with M.A.C Cosmetics, he wouldn’t be alone.

“There is a trend emerging from the rock world that’s filtering to the street,” says McKay. “When you look at people like Adam Lambert from American Idol, he’s androgynous and willing to wear makeup and shows men that other men look quite good.

“Men in eyeliner is not as bizarre as you’d think. In evolution, a lot of animals have a dark rim around their eye. It’s just evolved from nature.”

Evolved from nature, just like prehensile tongues and using long sticks to extract termites from their mounds.

The entire trend towards the man makeup is misguided and unlikely to endure. Indeed, the Manolo agrees with Guardian writer Paul MacInnes

A man wearing makeup is like a toddler with a mortgage. It’s unnatural and likely to end in disaster.

Good haircuts, clean teeth, proper skin care, and the moderate fitness regime, this is all the average man requires to look his best.

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.

I Am the Walrus

chipp-walrus-tie

Any gentleman with whiskers, great bulk, and a taste for oysters should appreciate this vintage tie from Chipp, the long-gone prep habedasher.  In Izzy’s fertile imagination, the walrus represents a Rubenesque version of Matisse’s Pink Nude.

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.

Back Pak

munib-nawaz-pakistan-jacket

Pakistani designer Munib Nawaz shows his national pride by placing an outline of his homeland on the back of a tailcoat.  

The only major brand Izzy can think of that puts a country’s map on its products is the British label Hackett, which every now and then stamps the outline of the United Kingdom across a shirt or and tie.  Izzy himself has been known to don such a shirt—he likes to wear his anglophilia on his sleeve.

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.

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