30 April 2010
28 April 2010
Ellie LaVeer Stager runs an old fashioned cottage business known as 'The Cordial Churchman' out of a room in her home, where she lives with her husband and children, and that business is bow ties. Not long ago, she sent An Affordable Wardrobe four bow ties for review, two for Winter and two for Summer. I was hooked immediately. For a fraction of the cost of many well regarded brands, Ellie offers quality hand made bow ties of a level of quality consistent with her more expensive counterparts. Bravo!
Recently, I had a chance to ask her a few questions about her products and her business:
What first got you interested in making bow ties?
In June of 2009 I was making my son a jumper out of seersucker. I was a beginner at sewing, but I really wanted to learn how to make new things. When I had some leftover fabric my husband said "Make me a seersucker suit!" Obviously, that wasn't going to happen, so he asked me to make him a bow tie instead. About 2 hours later he had his very own wonky looking hand made seersucker bow tie. He posted it on Twitter and on AskAndy.com's trad fashion forum and within a week, about 30 people were asking if I'd make them one. So that's how it all started.
Whom do you find is your customer base?
I make bow ties for the 15 year old young man across the street and 70 year old gentleman in the UK and everything in between. I've even had quite a few wedding parties that have had me make bow ties for them.
You offer bow ties for sale as well as the option of converting old neck ties into bow ties. Which do you do more?
I mostly sell the ties out of the fabrics that I have listed on my website. But what happens is the people who send me ties to convert get hooked on converted bow ties-so I have a lot of repeat business. There are some gentlemen who have asked me to convert over 20 of their neckties into bow ties.
At $26 for most of your ties, you manage to offer a tie, in my opinion, of a quality on par with any brand name producer, for half the money. What are your thoughts on that?
Since I am not selling my bow ties to men's stores and I'm selling directly to customers, I can make it so much more affordable for them. I think that people like that they can design their own bow tie to fit their style and even size.
What's new in the future for The Cordial Churchman?
One of the things I'm working on is tuxedo bow ties. These would be custom fitted for the customer who orders them. So if you have a size 16 neck, that's the size I make. No sliders or hooks. This way there is no visible hardware at the back of your neck.It is a very specialized item, bit I have enough people ask me about it that I figure there must be a need.Since I'm able to work directly with customers, they tell me what they like and I make it. Usually there are more people out there who like the same thing. That's really what keeps the Cordial Churchman working so well. Also, in the Fall I will reintroduce my patch wool scarf with some other wool scarf options.
Any closing thoughts?
I love my job! The type of men who wear bow ties are almost always cordial gentlemen who pay attention to detail.I try to go the extra mile and remind them that a real person is making their ties with care. I've received thank-you cards in the mail and nearly every day someone emails me to let me know how much they love the bow tie that I made them. It thrills me to know that I'm able to make something they appreciate so much. After making a thousand bow ties, I still enjoy it. Ellie and I have collaborated on a bow tie to be called the "Giuseppe"...fashioned from recycled pants in Nantucket Red...very Massachusetts, very Giuseppe. Ellie's bow ties are available direct at The Cordial Churchman, or you can find them at the Affordable Wardrobe booth at the Top Shelf Flea Market this Sunday.
26 April 2010
Remember those shirts I had made? Well, I only just busted out the blue and white stripe number yesterday. Seen here with the by now ubiquitous probably 1990s vintage J.Press blazer ($7.49), a silk knit tie ($1.99), and a collar pin ($0.50). Finished with trim cut 1960s vintage grey slacks, with just a touch of shark skin sheen.Forgive the odd angle of this shot. It was the only one I had that gave an honest representation of the colors and textures, key elements in this ensemble.
There was a fair amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth back when I got these shirts, especially over the construction of the collar, but with a knit tie and pin, I think they strike a distinctly George Harrison 1965 kind of vibe. Not something you see too often these days...I'll take it, thank you.
I used to be a strictly 'John' guy, but the older I get, the more of a 'George' guy I am.
To wit, the rig above was worn to my little bands performance in a brand new concert hall in Rockport, Massachusetts. 325 people in the audience, seated. A ceiling at least 30 feet high. A brand new Steinway grand piano. A set full of Chet Atkins numbers. George would have dug it. Nerve racking? Certainly. Fun? Hell yes. After all those years of sticky floors and cigarette smoke, I felt a bit like maybe I had finally "arrived".
Dig this shot, courtesy of Mrs. G. Looks like we're performing on Ed Sullivan. Gotta love it, no?
In other news...
A button up shirt over a tennis shirt is an old (gag) 'Preppy' convention. I gave it a whirl today:
Don't worry, it ain't likely to happen again. Way to affected and silly...totally out of context these days. Let's leave it to old guys and the eighties. But...
This is what I had on today for lunch with ADG. Our man found himself in Boston for business, so the wee ones and I took him to the the North End for lunch, at none other than the legendary Galleria Umberto.
2 slices of pizza, 2 arancini, 2 panini, two paper cups of cold red wine (Carlo Rossi) and a Sprite (for the boy)= $18. Unbeatable. Followed by a round of gelato and Lavazza across the street at the Caffe Vittoria. The internet can be a real time-wasting-pain-in-the-ass most of the time, but when you get a new buddy like ADG out of it, it all comes out in the wash.
Our man recently wrote a veritable tome on madras just t'other day. Read it. Here's my two cents on that:
O'Connell's of Buffalo has a downright insane pile of new-old-stock vegetable dyed madras pants. The selection will make you cry. But still, they are $90, and I'm not only a cheapskate, but also a poor b*stard.
But I've got these:
I'm thinking they must be the real deal. Probably 1970s vintage L.L.Bean, judging by the label.
I plan to soak em in the sink tomorrow and see what 'bleeds' of of them. Wish me luck.
And while I was poking around the O'Connell's website, I spied these:
Holy Mama, unlined pennies with a boat shoe sole from Quoddy? Seriously? That's really the living end. Please come to the Top Shelf Flea and spend $195 at my table so I can own these.
And with that, I bid you all Adieu until next Monday. I've got a million things to do in preparation for the Flea next Sunday. I hope to meet a bunch of you there.
Until next week,
24 April 2010
I have this Brooks Brothers sport coat in said color, probably from the late eighties/early nineties. It may seem somewhat innocuous in comparison to some of my sunny weather foppery, but I assure you, this periwinkle jacket is a tough nut to crack.
While it may seem a bit more subdued than some colors, it's harder to work with. Grey, navy and khaki are instant conservative base colors. Kelly green, bright red, Nantucket red, et al. are sheer boldness, setting a definite (loud) tone in their own way, but this periwinkle falls dangerously between these two divergent attitudes. I chose to play it safe and casual, with a navy button down and a paisley square in burgundy, navy and gold.
So, "where's the difficulty?" you might ask.
Periwinkle can go from nonchalant boathouse casual to geriatric white Velcro shoe territory in a hairs breadth, if you're not careful. Last time I wore some chuckle head said I looked like Bob Hope...and he was right.Damn jacket makes things difficult every time.
Which is , of course, the best thing about it, no?
23 April 2010
I bought one of these in blue on sale a while back. I dig it. The fits nice, like an old eighties shirt, but a little trimmer in the sleeves, which I like. The collar roll is pretty damn good, the cloth is that nice old fashioned oxford weave, real big threads, and so far the thing has held up to the washing machine and iron.
Oh yeah, that's the best part. They wrinkle, they require ironing. I've never been a fan of 'non-iron' shirts, and I know many of you feel the same. Apparently, the folks over at Lands End realize and appreciate this. From the recent catalogue:
The 100% cotton doesn't have a No Iron finish...so heads up, cotton purists (And No Iron fans may now rethink giving up ironing!)
and, in description of another shirt:
Like a classic pinpoint, this isn't No Iron...but the fabric feels so good, you may just look forward to breaking out your iron again.
Also, among their other shirt offerings are pinpoints in pink, navy and "iris" (read: purple) gingham check, and university stripes in the standard blue, but also the now hard-to-come-by pink, green and yellow.
Clearly, there is no comparison between a shirt like this and a real old Brooks Brothers. I would never even suggest such a thing. But for twenty bucks, these shirts are all wrinkly cotton, they fit well, they hold up and they look nice.
In closing, I don't normally like to do things like shill posts for catalogue retailers like Lands End, but I can't find the camera and after the last post I felt a change of subject was in order.
19 April 2010
"Here's a point worth examining. At what point do 'go to hell' pants cease to be 'go to hell' pants? J.Crew and Polo (among many others) are selling them this season. Several variations, in fact. I'd say at this point they've gone from go-to-hell to full-bore '80s preppy revival. Time to stow those suckers away until the trend passes and their FU is restored. The streets this Spring are going to be teeming with red pants, oxford shirts, oversized Wayfarers and yellow sweaters slung over shoulders. Avoiding pastels is the new go to hell."
I must admit he makes a valid point for several reasons. Still, even after having read that, i could not keep hold of the $5.00 it cost me to become the proud owner of these bright red shorts:
flat front, creased, and with a nearly scandalous 7 1/2 inch inseam.
Because, c'mon, how can I resist a label like that? Royal poplin? English Sports Shop? Bermuda? All the ducks are in a row on this one. I promise not to wear them with high socks, shirt and tie and a blazer. Though this was undoubtedly the way they were made to be worn, a man has to draw the line somewhere. But I digress...
I agree with Keohane completely...except for the part about putting away my brightly hued trews. None of this stuff has the shock value it once did. True, there was a time when garments like these proclaimed a certain degree of wealth, even a certain kind of wealth. And they were shocking. It was a way to give the world the finger, as it were, for men who couldn't or weren't allowed to with outright speech. We all know it, but that's just not the case anymore.
True, Ralph Lauren is an "outsider" who made his fortune by having a keen eye for this stuff, but we all know that too. Besides, he has been at it since 1967. One might ask when complaining about the way he co-opted this stuff ceases to make any sense, given the countless customers of his wares who simply don't know, or care to know, the history from which these garments derive.
Shock value is a strong thing. But it's strength is only good for so long. This is true of everything. When is the last time punk rock was shocking? Or mini-skirts? Or even swearing. When I was a kid, the f-word had a way of silencing a room. Now it's every third word out of most peoples mouths. Shock value fizzles, simply because it must.
Everyone likes to be cool. It's fun to be in on some hip secret. But when that secret gets out and it starts to become normal, the people who were there in the first place always get irked. But really, its' kind of unfair to exclude people from liking something only because the got around to it later, isn't it? Back in the punk rock days, I hated it when the things I liked got to be popular, and I took an instant dislike to anything that was popular. That kind of thinking made a lot of sense to me when I was 21, but the older I get the less it does.
So J.Crew and the like are selling pastel pants and RayBans this year. Is it really such a bad thing for young men to start wearing button front shirts and well fitting clothes? For years now, men have been dressing like slobs. Drives me crazy. So how can I complain if they all start dressing a little more like I do this Summer? Can't have it both ways, you know. Besides, trends like this tend to leave behind people who dress better generally even after the trend has passed. Where's the harm in it?
The WASPy types and the older crew will no doubt wail and scream about it, but it's because they're losing their once exclusive grasp on a cultural marker. But the fact is, clothing-as-signifier always trickles down to the masses. Is every guy you see in khakis a former military man? Is every man in a navy blazer with brass button ex-navy? Does it really matter? You catch my drift.
I, for one, will continue to wear my peacock colors all Summer long. I will also continue to avoid shopping at the mall at all costs. I like having a warm weather wardrobe that is starkly different form my cold weather wardrobe. It's fun. And when the trend is over, I'll still be the same guy, wearing the same pants. I suggest others do the same. Just embrace your sudden new found "coolness" for the Summer. If you still want to feel smug about, you'll always know that you have the "real stuff" and those damn kids don't. But don't give yourself an ulcer over it. Stressing too much about your red pants is kind of antithetical to owning them.
Maybe the name "go-to-hell" is the problem, maybe it just doesn't apply anymore, because maybe we're already there? Cripes, I don't know. None of this makes me like my pink pants any less.
Special thanks to Keohane, for opening a juicy can of worms.
15 April 2010
You know that drizzly weather, the kind when it never actually rains but you can't help but wind up soaking wet after a while? I dig a casual outfit on those days, and those old 1990s style lightweight anorak pullover jackets.
This thing here is the mutant hybrid of a classic yellow rain slicker and a pullover hoodie. Garish as that yellow may be, I doubt I'd be be interested in it in any other color.
If you live in the Boston area and you don't know about Used Book Superstore, you have no clue what you're missing. Paperbacks $1.99, hardcovers$2.99, plus kids books and in some locations records. These places are clean and well organized, just like a new book store, only everything is used. Plus, if you sign up for the newsletter you get all sorts of outrageous coupons in your email, as though the place weren't dirt cheap to begin with.
I may spend an indecent amount of time searching for and acquiring somebody else's clothes, but I could stay in these places until I've inspected every title, and left with 30% of them. Dangerous, in a good way.
So why tell you about this and not the other places? Because you don't need any more old clothes, and frankly neither do I. But there's no such thing as too many books, and where that's concerned I'm only too happy to share. Check these guys out next chance you get.
Now if only there next coupon was a 50% discount for chumps in bright yellow jackets....
12 April 2010
I always say that one of the most important "rules" of successful thrift store shopping is a total disregard for the current season and a willingness to buy what you find when you find it. The other day, I got a little bit of Winter and a pinch of Summer all in one drop.
The iconic L.L.Bean Norwegian fisherman's sweater is a staple of full-bore vintage 1980s 'preppy' style. Wear it with jeans, Bean Boots, and a down vest and you're screaming "Cornell, Fall semester, 1984" at the top of your lungs. Usually seen in navy with a white pattern, sometimes seen in white with a navy pattern. But, ever seen a red one? Me neither. No tags in this one, but clearly made of wool and of the period. Not bad for $1.00.
$35, available at Syms for $19.99, marked down to $15, marked down to (and presumably purchased for) $10, donated to charity, and purchased for $4.99. Five inches too long in the leg, but nothing old Mr. Lee can't manage with his eyes shut.
Penury is not and excuse...
10 April 2010
Tweed jackets, jeans and suede shoes have a history of playing nicely with one another. An extra dose of warm weather dandyism is achieved when the jeans are white, no?
I'm not one to fall for Summer fever too quickly, but I'll admit that this jacket was already stashed for the year. But given the high temperatures in the mid fifties, I dug it back out for one more go-'round. It's a two button darted number from Cricketeer, "Made with pride in the U.S.A. by American craftsmen" (just like this other jacket). Had for all of $6.99.It kept me as warm as I needed to be today. But the yellow square and khaki cap speak to warmer days. So do white pants. But while straight ahead white pants would be an egregious breach of all things holy, these get a pass...because they're not pants, they're jeans. I have no doubt this rig will likely send the old hardcore rule-following set into a dread frenzy.
It's true, regular khakis or grey worsted's would have finished this outfit well. But...
I dress this way because I enjoy it, certainly not because it is required of me. In fact, some might say it would be preferable for me to take a far more casual approach to my personal presentation. For that reason, I look for ways to rub the pretentious edge off of these sort of things. A thing like white jeans will do that well, as will knit ties, un-ironed oxfords, and battered old shoes. This kind of thinking allows me to find a middle ground where I can be the person I want to be without becoming an overdressed pretentious snoot.Besides, those white jeans really are the jam rolled just a bit too short with dark argyles and suede brogues.
And before one of you says it, here's a note on vanity:
Blogs are all about vanity. Al of them are, to some degree. They are one person saying what they will in a highly public way with the assumption that anyone else gives a damn. I'm no different. This problem is compounded by both the fact that this is a clothing blog, and the fact that I'm writing about my own clothing, a real self proclaimed expert...the very pretentious snoot I just complained about in the last paragraph, as it were.
Am I a little full of it?
Of course, but it makes for some fun reading and writing and that is the point, right?
Because a blog should fall in the crack right "in between" egoism and self deprecation, on a good day anyway.
08 April 2010
I'll admit, this one was tough to put together. In the earlier part of the day, I played it safe with only a white Brooks Brothers oxford under it, and some vintage Ray-Bans to nail it down. As the day wore on, the temperature dropped, so after much deliberation I decided to throw caution to the wind and just go all out with the bright red sweater...because the only thing more outrageous than a teal jacket is a teal jacket next to something in an electric shade of red.
Down below, dungarees and penny loafers. Once again, I have no time for socks.
Oddly enough, when taken all together, this rig had a vaguely vintage skinhead sort of vibe, albeit with an extra dose of peacock and a lot less hardcore.
Hmmm....confusing to say the least.
06 April 2010
Warm temps today and a trip to the playground called for a tennis shirt and khakis, while cool temps in the evening called for a bit of cover-up. Big fat wool cardigans come in real handy at night this time of year.
Two days ago, I packed up the tweed and flannel and dug out the cotton slacks (note the new header photo). As I was putting away all the cozy and warm gear, I hesitated on my two favorite cardigans, the one above and the vintage pseudo-varsity number. I'm glad I did because right about now they make for the perfect casual jacket. Allow me to explain...
As you may know, I spend my days tending to the children. This is not the sort of activity that lends itself easily to ties and sport coats, but as you also know, it'll be a cold day in Hell before I leave the house looking like a slob in the name of 'comfort'. A cardigan splits the difference nicely, I think.
I could have worn a blazer with this get-up, but that would have been admittedly affected and even stuffy. The cardigan gives me the sharpness of the blazer, but without the pretension. It's the jacket that's not a jacket, and warm on a chilly night to boot. Plus, creative buttoning gives it a rakish edge, I think. Lately, I've been a big fan of the 'three open at the bottom' look.
Underneath, a navy blue tennis shirt, with a white rugby style collar and rubber rugby style buttons. Here we have opposite versions of the same idea. The white collar lends a bit of dress to the casual shirt, while the cardigan lends a bit of casual to a finished look. The color scheme of navy, white, khaki and cream may look straight ahead to Summer, but the sweater keeps the whole thing firmly in early April.
03 April 2010
In the past few years, it has come to my attention that people tend to think only in extremes. A down parka, or naked on the beach, no in-between. I don't get it. I'm as happy as anyone that Ma Nature is all bright and happy lately, but I am not about to start running around in short pants and tennis shirts yet. If I did, I'd miss out on the delightfully confusing stage of "in-between" dressing, not to mention being cold half of the time.
That's why we have weird garments like this:
check out the fabric content. Linen, cotton and silk. Hardly fabrics for the blustery weather. But who needs a cable knit shawl collared sweater in the Summer? Must be for Spring. (please, no cracks about 'Made in China'. I know. That's not what we're talking about here. Drop it...). You know, because maybe in April it's 75 degrees all afternoon, but then you gotta walk home at 11:30, and it's only 50 degrees...
So maybe this weird cable knit thing works out pretty good with "Reds" , boat shoes and bare ankles, all of which just came out of storage.
My point is, celebrate the new warm weather right up to the hilt, but don't pretend it's Summer. Because it ain't.
I haven't been around here much in the past few days. That's because I somehow got invited to a press preview of the Fall/Winter collection from Levi's, at a loft art gallery in New York that took place on Wednesday evening.
See those skinny people standing on those boxes? Those are models, kind of like human mannequins. They were just standing there the whole time, while all those other people hung around being cool. But hell, there was an open bar...
A good friend of mine who lives in Brooklyn went to school for journalism, and has been published in magazines and newspapers like, you know, an actual member of the press. He said that companies like to invite bloggers to these things because they are easier to buy off, not operating in the same ethical circles as actual journalists. Therefore, I will speak no more about it.
However, the trip to New York was a real treat, as I got to meet a number of my so-called 'imaginary friends' in the flesh.
After arriving in the city and settling in, I had the rare privilege of sharing a coffee break with ADG and his lovely daughter LFG, who both just happened to be in town. Later, following a cigar and a stroll to the Village, I met up with Tin Tin, and we attended this fashion thingy together. You could say we stuck out like a couple of sore thumbs, but the Trad and I were more like a broken leg and a black eye at this thing. Turns out we exist 'in-between' the worlds of high fashion and old men. I also got to meet Mordechai ( a swell kid), Michael Williams (also a swell kid) and J.P. of 'The Selvedge Yard' (also swell, though perhaps less of a kid). The world got smaller, and I became even more of an internet dork.
Afterwards, Tin Tin and I dined at the lovely restaurant 'Le Veau d'Or', far and away the Frenchest place outside of France. And the next morning, with memories of Starbuck's espresso, Levi's,gin & tonic,braised leeks, steamed mussels, Sancerre, flan, cognac, Guinness, friendly conversation and a swell hangover, I boarded the bus for Boston, then proceeded to hit the sack early for a couple of nights.
Because I am also in between being young enough to stay out too late and old enough to really handle it well...