Thursday, December 23, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

HIT: Baxter Blue Steel "Not a Replica" Straight Razor

Use this bad boy daily, and walk around with that 007, "I just cheated death, bitches," chip on your shoulder.

From their site,"The Hart Steel razor blade is predominately a hand made product, and all of the processes are completed in Northern Michigan by skilled artisans. Hart Steel is tested at a Rockwell hardness of 63, which gives oneʼs razor the sharpest and most long-lasting edge possible. Artisan Technicians, from start to finish, hand grind, mark, sharpen and assemble each razor. Each AT personally stamps each razor to indicate his craftsmanship. The Horse Butt Leather used was chosen since it has a natural beauty and durability."

Get one here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

HIT: Silver Retro Airplane Cufflinks

Neither my father nor grandfather was much of a French cuff guy, so I'm not going to be inheriting any cuff-links. And although I've been getting by on those silk barrels for a few years, it's time that I get in the game.

Now, of course, I plan on remedying the dearth of heirloom cuff-links in the fam by one day investing in a nice monogrammed set for my kid or nephew or whatever. But for now, I'll happily settle for these from Fine and Dandy Shop. They're affordable (Tiffany sells a similar set for $200), silver, art-deco, and fun-without-being-silly.

While you're there, check out the rest of Fine and Dandy. They've got great stuff at reasonable prices.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

INTEL: Italian Tailors

O'MAST from Kid Dandy on Vimeo.

If you think caring about how you dress makes you soft, watch this fantastic video of Italian tailors talking about their trade. I think you'll feel differently. From Inquiring Minds.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

HIT: Florsheim Veblen

Wingtips are super hot at the moment, but almost any pair worth having is going to cost well over $200.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't think that's too much to pay for a fine pair of shoes. But when you walk to work every day, your kicks take a beating. It's hard to justify shelling out serious cash for something you'll tear up in a few months.

Enter the Florsheim Veblen. Modeled after their legendary Kenmoor Long Wing ($225), these look great but retail at $160. Use your trusty 15 percent-off discount code - try 1012 or 8052 - and they're only about $136.

I've got one pair already, and I'm already toying with the idea of getting a second. They're that nice.

Order direct from Florsheim here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

SOUNDS: Sufjan Stevens "Too Much"

From Sufjan's amazing new The Age of Adz. God bless this man for not getting dull.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

HIT: The Zenith Christophe Colomb

One of the coolest watches I've ever seen, brought to you once again by Hodinkee.

I couldn't load their video, but check it out here. It's only 9 seconds long.

Monday, October 25, 2010

SOUNDS: Girls "Broken Dreams Club"

New Girls EP is out soon. Get a free download here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

HIT: Harris Tweed at TOPMAN

Harris Tweed is the only fabric in the world governed by its own Act of Parliament and it's now available at TOPMAN. Who knew?

They've got Harris Tweed ties for about $30(!) and I love this slim cut, elbow patch, Harris Tweed blazer for $300.

These gloves, $50, ain't bad either.

SOUNDS: Flying Lotus "Kill Your Co-Workers"

Flying Lotus - Kill Your Co-Workers from beeple on Vimeo.

Super cool video.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

HIT: Stick Umbrella from Lands' End Canvas

When it rains, lots of guys reach for that Gore Tex parka, which basically kills any look they might otherwise have going. Gore Tex stuff is sportswear, so it only looks good when you're coaching, golfing or hiking.

Instead, get yourself a proper - not the folding kind - umbrella. You'll be shocked by how much drier it keeps you than your parka, and you'll love carrying it around. Trust me.

This one from Lands' End Canvas is a beauty. It also comes in navy blue, and is super affordable at $39.95.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

HIT: Burberry Prorsum Single Breasted Woolen Peacoat

I love the Eastern Bloc look of this coat. Sure, it's way outta my league at $2500, but you know how these things go. The design trickles down to more affordable lines and, with a little digging, you can get the look.

If you're in the market, try this one at Top Man - $300.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

SOUNDS: Sleigh Bells "Infinity Guitars"

Sleigh Bells "Infinity Guitars" from Phil Pinto on Vimeo.

This week was huge - releases from Sufjan Stevens, Belle and Sebastien, and Antony and the Johnsons. Check 'em out.

Sleigh Bells have been kicking ass for a bit now, but this vid is relatively new.

Monday, October 11, 2010

HIT: Omega De Ville X2 Big Date

This is a gorgeous tank-style watch that moved into my number one Most-Desired-Dress-Watch slot over the weekend.

I love Omega. And in addition to its aesthetic, the De Ville really stands out with its quirky mix of Roman and Arabic numerals. Plus, it features an automatic movement.

It also comes in black.

Friday, October 8, 2010

INTEL: Dress Code, Fall 2010

Ahh, crisp fall weather. Nothin' like it. But that means it's time to start dressing again. The old "It's too hot for a collared shirt" excuse just ain't gonna fly.


Jacket: Lose the fleece. Lose the Gore-Tex. Lose the college sweatshirt. It's fine stuff for camping and tailgating but save it all for your next dirt fight. Instead, get yourself a sport coat or blazer that fits well and wear the hell out of it. Obviously, you can go nuts and get a really gorgeous one, but this is going to be an everyday garment. An inexpensive corduroy one will do fine. The important thing again is fit. The jacket should not add any weight to your appearance and the sleeves should not extend beyond that ball in your wrist when your arms are at your side.
TIP: If you get a blue blazer, beware that pairing it with grey trousers might make you look like a security guard. Avoid this by wearing a shirt in any color but white, and brown shoes instead of black.

: This is NOT going to be an everyday garment, but you can get a ton of mileage out of it. Make sure it's dark, and wear it in place of your jacket on mild days.
TIP: On cool days, wear a cardigan beneath your jacket - buttoned, it will create this cool waistcoat effect. My pattern for buttoning is--top undone, bottom two undone.

Shirt: Wear button-down collared shirts as much as possible. As I stated in my very first post, button-down collar shirts always look neat, even if you don't have time to press them properly. Point- and spread- collar shirts look too sloppy when they aren't ironed, and too dressy when they are. Get the slimmest ones you can find and don't worry about the neck being the right size - you're not going to be buttoning the top button anyway.
TIP: No Easter egg colors here. Stick with whites, blues, grays. And don't be afraid of check patterns.

Tie: Get some casual ties and rock them. What do I mean by casual? Generally, stay away from anything that has a graphic or looks like some sort of optical illusion. And nothing too shiny or silky looking. Go for solids or stripes, in a robust fabric like wool or cotton. **The GQ Eye did a post about this yesterday. $10 ties at Uniqlo.
TIP: The width of your tie says something about its formality. (Not sure if I said that correctly.) For example, at its widest, my tuxedo neck tie is about three or more inches across. My casual ties are all under two and three-quarters inches.

Trousers/Jeans: This one is simple. Your jeans should be dark, your trousers should be pleat free, everything should fit.

Shoes: Leave your sneakers in the closet and your hiking boots in the mountains. This year, you're wearing shoes or non-sporty boots. I recommend finding a nice casual chukka, like the Clark Desert Boot, or a pair of inexpensive oxfords that you can just destroy.
TIP: Go with brown shoes, here. Black shoes look great, but they're not nearly as versatile. I think the Italians have a saying like, "Black shoes are only for funerals and galas." Or something.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

MISS: GQ 2010 Style Manual

I love GQ. Truly, I do. But I feel obliged to call them out when they emit a giant sucking sound.

The latest GQ Style Manual provides just such an occasion.

While they're fairly open about the fact that this is simply a collection of their best style advice, they are not open about the fact that almost all of the content and artwork is pulled directly from back issues. Lame.

If you've not picked up a copy of GQ in three years, or haven't stopped by their website, you might find the guide useful. Otherwise, save your $12.

SOUNDS: Tennis - When You Walk in the Room on TUNNELVISION

Love Tennis. And this is a song that was not released on their new EP.

INTEL: Vintage, Hermes-Crafted "Purse Watch"

Hodinkee, everyone's favorite timepiece blog, posted this cool pocket watch a few days ago.

It's smaller than you think - 37mm by 42mm - has a mechanical movement, and a "digital" display, sans hands.

Some people just don't want to wear a watch, and this is an elegant alternative to the iPhone. In fact, it gets me thinking - might someone resurrect the pocket watch?


I once sat through eight hours of theatre in one day. It was not fun. But I think I'd be willing to give it another go after reading The New York Times critic Ben Brantley's review of the Elevator Repair Service's production of Gatz - a seven-hour play in which the entire text of The Great Gatsby is read, word for word.

Why would I do this? I guess because the magic of Gatsby - for me - is completely tied up in its language. To read it aloud is a pleasure, and to hear a pro do it sounds like a treat. Kinda.

Details here.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

SOUNDS: Sufjan Stevens "The Age of Adz"

Sufjan Stevens's new album is due October 12th. Stream it now, in its entirety, at NPR.

NPR Music First Listen: Sufjan Stevens "The Age of Adz."

Friday, October 1, 2010

INTEL: Ramblers Way Farm

You know Tom's of Maine Toothpaste? The stuff that sort of tastes like a minty mixture of soap, peroxide and spackle? Well, they've founded a really, really cool clothing company.

Ramblers Way Farm makes wool comfort wear. That's right folks. It's wool. And it's comfortable. Weird, right? Basically, they've figured out a way to spin the yarn in some super-fine way, and the clothes are designed to be worn against your skin.

The stuff is pricey, but here's why - everything is made in America. Everything. The yarn is spun in America. The pieces are assembled at a factory in America. The sheep are an American breed, grown on farms in Colorado, Montana, South Dakota, Texas and Utah. When you wear Ramblers Way, American airport officials wave you through security with a wink and a smile. Goddam right.

The flat seams make for cool detailing. I really dig the blue henley above and the grey, hooded cardigan.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

STREETS: Kyle Samperton is DC's Only Authentic Original

Apologies for the hiatus. After a super fun blitz across the pond, BDC is back.

I'm not great at the street style thing, as these photos clearly demonstrate, but I met Kyle Samperton - DC photographer and style god - at a party thrown by Washingtonian Magazine last night at the Phillips Collection. I couldn't resist.

Kyle was the only fella who really stood out. And, as you can see, he absolutely killed it in a 19th century Salvation Army top-coat, Navajo jewelry, and his dad's tie. Kyle was kind enough to give me the full skinny on everything, but that's all I remember. (Apologies if I made any mistakes, Kyle.)

Monday, September 20, 2010

ART: Marie Lorenz "Inaccessible New York"

Marie Lorenz's Op-Art piece from this weekend's New York Times, Inaccessible New York, perfectly describes what I love most about New York City.

Somehow, on a little tiny strip of land crammed with millions, you still end up feeling like a part of it is there just for you.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

HIT: Michael Williams and Mister Mort Covering NYFW for Gilt MANual

Michael Williams of ACL and Mordechai Rubinstein, aka Mister Mort, shot NY's fashion week for the new men's style blog by Gilt, Gilt MANual.

Do yourself a favor and check out both slideshows. Each is like a crib-sheet for picking up your game.

Mister Mort's show.

Michael Williams's show

Both Williams and Rubinstein understand that when it comes to (capital-S) Style, "God is in the details." Few of the guys they shot are wearing anything terribly unique, and yet every one stands out by adding a small - I don't know - touch? Or something.

The best part? There's something democratic about the "touches" these guys caught. I mean, it doesn't cost a dime to leave a button undone or roll your trousers, but doing so in the right way can add millions to your look. I know I didn't say that well, but you'll see what I mean.

My favorite is Michael Williams's shot of Cory Ohlendorf of Valet, above.

Friday, September 17, 2010

MISS: The GQ Eye for Posting Timo Weiland's "The Watch"

This video was posted on The GQ Eye, which is typically a fantastic place to go for men's lifestyle buzz. Huge, huge, huge, miss on this one guys. You're better than that.

Dear GQ,

I often wonder why so many men have an aversion to your magazine along with anything having to do with fashion. This stupid video is why. Did you not learn anything from Zoolander?

When you post something like this, you alienate any and all the "undecideds" who might consider following your blog, subscribing to your magazine, or actually admitting that they care about their appearance.

This video is dumb. Worse than that, it's profoundly boring. Boring people, boring clothes, boring effects, boring music. I can only hope it made it to the web because some editor owed Timo a favor. Or got laid.

Please get your shit together.



p.s. The magical guy who makes the girl go all spinny looks constipated. Cheese bender?

HIT: J.Crew Factory Online

Outlet shopping sucks. Sure, you might find the occasional deal. But more often than not, you waste the day hunting through stacks of leftover sizes and weird styles. It all feels too much like work.

But now J.Crew is putting their outlet online at the J.Crew Clothing Factory. The shop features a solid stock and decent discounts. Best of all, you don't have to drive anywhere and finding your size is just a click away.

Beware - the shop is only open on weekends, from 12am Friday to midnight Sunday, and supplies are limited. So, if you find something you like, don't sit on it for too long.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

HIT: Tsovet SVT-FW44

Styled after a WWI infantryman's field watch, the Tsovet SVT-FW44 is one of the finest and nicest-looking watches you'll find for under $1000. (And it's well under $1000 - try $350.00 retail, direct from Tsovet.)

While it doesn't have an automatic movement, its sapphire crystal, screw-down crown, super beefy 44mm case, brushed steel finish, and cowboy-leather band render it an elegant, affordable alternative, reminiscent of the Fortis Flieger Chronograph I featured several posts back.

They come in a few different colors, but this is my favorite. If you're interested, act fast. Today is the first day I've seen them back in stock in several months.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

INTEL: What About a Bow Tie?

J.Crew's Keats-Stripe Bow Tie

Even though we eventually stop buying new school clothes, the idea of renewing our look every fall survives well into adulthood. When you're out looking for new gear over the next few weeks, you'll surely notice that bow ties are now widely available. Yes, they're tempting. But consider the following before you pull the trigger.

Fashion is like English - replete with ambiguity, splendid when gotten right, and certain people just have a way with it. If you already rock a bow tie with confidence, you could probably give a damn what I think - I heartily salute you.

But if you're on the fence, and most men are, remember that bow ties are a stunt accessory. They scream, "Look at me!" Glenn O'Brien calls them the conservative equivalent of a nose-ring. Sophisticated style should be understated.

Plus, if you're a girthy bloke, a bow tie is definitely going to work against you. Neck ties have this wonderful slimming ability - think vertical stripes - but a bow tie is going to sort of accentuate your ab. Think hefty bag.

Of course, the bow tie does have its place - I greatly prefer one with a tux. Otherwise, I say leave them be. At least until you can grow some grey in that 'stache. After all, one of the beauties of old age is that it gets much harder to look like doucher.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

WORDS: Drink What You Know

When you think about it, rules for drinking are not so different from rules for writing. Many of these are so familiar they’ve become truisms: Write what you know. Write every day. Never use a strange, fancy word when a simple one will do. Always finish the day’s writing when you could still do more. With a little adaptation these rules apply just as well for drinking. Drink what you know, drink regularly rather than in binges, avoid needlessly exotic booze, and leave the table while you can still stand.
--Geoff Nicholson

I finally started watching Mad Men. I definitely dig the pretty clothes and all that, but I'm more impressed by how much those guys drink at work.

The brilliant little excerpt above is from a piece that ran in The New York Times earlier this summer. It is an absolute must read.

Find it here.

SOUNDS: Write About Love, Part 2

Download Belle & Sebastian's new track in exchange for your email address.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

SOUNDS: Belle & Sebastian Write About Love

The new Belle & Sebastian album, Belle & Sebastian Write About Love is due October 12th. Hooray for that. In this half-hour video, see them perform two new songs.

(Sorry the video looks weird. Working on it.)

INTEL: Gilded Again

The New York Times's style guy Bill Cunningham has done a few pieces this summer about Jazz Age inspired parties throughout the city, the latest of which he shot last weekend at Governer's Island.

The parties look super fun and stylish, but Cunningham implies that this could be the seed of a new trend. I think they're more a reaction than anything else. Grandpa's stuff is everywhere these days, isn't it? Pop into an Urban Outfitters, Top Man, J.Crew, H&M, or Gap, and it's wingtip brogues, trilbys, tweed, and bowties. We're all loving it, and a few are taking it to the extreme in a celebration of our more stylish former selves. Pretty cool.

See Cunningham's video, here.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

HIT: J.Crew Men's Shops

J.Crew Upper East Side Mens Shop from Michael Williams on Vimeo.

I'm constantly trying to convince my nay-saying pals that J.Crew has changed. Yesterday, Michael Williams of A Continuous Lean posted this beautifully shot video of the new Men's Shop at 79th and Madison that bolsters my argument, I think.

Right now, the Men's Shops only exist in New York, but they're indicative of J.Crew's renewed commitment to sharp, mature, sophisticated menswear.

MISS: Man Make-Up

The New York Times reported yesterday that the men's cosmetic market is "bullish."

Men are not using cosmetics to add color to their lips, cheeks or eye-lids, but rather to cover up blemishes and other imperfections, according to the story.

NO. No, no, no, no, no.

Sure, we all need a little moisturizer and if you like a fancy type designed specifically for men, knock yourself out.

But men don't wear make-up. Period. When you look like crap, just wear it. You think Newman wore make-up? Or McQueen? C'mon ladies. Get it together.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

INTEL: Steven Alan and Dockers Team Up

I have this love/hate relationship with khakis - love the idea of them, pretty much hate wearing them. Why? Because while they have all this potential as an alternative to jeans during the summer, they always have a billowy, sloppy fit.

So, I was thrilled today when The New York Times announced that Steven Alan and Dockers are getting together to offer a new line of khakis for Barney's due out this October. They'll be available in three fits, and, yes, they'll be expensive - $128 according to the article. But as the Times points out, Alan has this knack for nailing the perfect balance between "fitted-ness" and "slouchy-ness." Here's hoping he delivers.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

SOUNDS: Matt & Kim "Cameras"

Dance punk king and queen Matt & Kim released their latest track today. Album is due November 2nd, according to their website.
Cameras by mattandkim

HIT: Coleman Camping Lantern Lamp

A few years ago, a buddy of mine moved into a new apartment and furnished it with a few items from Uncommon Goods. I had never heard of them at the time, but every once in a while I'll head back to see what's new.

These days, I've been hunting for a small reading lamp. Uncommon Goods didn't have the right animal, but they did have this guy.

A paragon of American-kitsch, it is not beautiful and would look silly in most apartments. But it certainly conjures nostalgia. Plus, imagine the cool bedtime stories you could invent about that bear and his cub as they look down into the valley at that lone, tasty vict- er, I mean, fisherman.

Monday, August 30, 2010

INTEL: Copenhagen Bicycle Rush Hour

Bicycle Rush Hour in Copenhagen from Copenhagenize on Vimeo.

I want my city to live this way.

INTEL: Go Shopping (Alden DC)

In 2005, DC's Alden, located for years on K Street, moved a few blocks nearer the buzz at Gallery Place to 9th and F Streets. Somehow, I'd managed to miss it until last week. As you can see, the place is exactly what you'd hope for - sort of a cross between a library and a high-end locker room.

To be sure, Alden's website is an absolute disaster. Maybe they're trying to add to their classic image or something - "Yeah, um, we don't exactly do the Internet" - but I really can't see myself ever releasing credit card information to that travesty. So I was delighted to check out the real thing and super impressed by the bargains.

They didn't have rack upon rack of clearance items, and thank god for that. Digging for deals sucks. Instead, they had four shoes or so, marked down anywhere from 50 - 75 percent, including a gorgeous pair of cordovan wingtip brogues in oxblood for $200. (They retail for something like $600.)

It was also a treat to talk to the saleswoman. She knew and loved her product, was happy to chat, and did not once push me to open my wallet. Plus, she schooled me; there are only two Alden retailers on the East Coast - one in New York, one in DC. That's it. Despite popular belief, there is not one in Massachusetts. (Only the factory lives there.)

The lesson here is that we need to get off our asses once in a while. Shopping on the net is convenient and fun, but the best deals out there are still, well, out there. Good hunting.

Monday, August 23, 2010

STREETS: Bike Theft Ethics

Posts will be a little thin this week, I'm afraid. Lots of traveling.

Today, I'm back to the real world after an epic weekend in New York. Cycling was de rigueur. I saw a nasty, near-tragedy between an early Saturday-morning coffee toting hipster and a careening bike-dude on Grand between W. Broadway and Wooster, pretty people on prettier bikes, and lots of orphans chained to sign-posts, old meters and stanchions.

Some of the abandoned bikes still looked rideable, though. And they were looking longingly at me. And I want one. "Wouldn't that little fella appreciate a nice home?" "Yeah, but what if he belongs to someone?" Stupid conscience.

My grandfather, who grew up poorer than dirt, was famous for, um, appropriating what he thought were abandoned items he found on his way home from work. He never said this, but his ethic seemed to be something like, "If it's within spitting distance of a trashcan or curb, it's up for grabs."

I'm not that bold, but The Neistat Brothers' Casey Neistat has convinced me that, sometimes, it's ok to steal a bike.

**Heads up - this video features the f-word once-ish and the s-word once-ish. If that offends you or someone who is within earshot, don't watch it.

the ethics of stealing a bike from Casey Neistat on Vimeo.

Friday, August 20, 2010

SOUNDS: Ra Ra Riot "Boy"

Ra Ra Riot - "Boy" from Arts & Crafts México on Vimeo.

New Ra Ra Riot drops next week, but you can buy this EP now from iTunes. Catchy.

HIT: No. 10 Opinel

I had an Opinel when I was a kid, but had completely forgotten about them until a year or so ago when I walked into a small farm supply with family in Chagford, England. Of course, I didn't have my wallet on me. But I promised myself to return later that week to pick one up. I never did and, once again, forgot all about them.

Then GQ featured Psycho Bunny's Robert Godley in this week's installment of their 10 Essentials series. Number 9 for Godley? Sure enough.

Opinel's beauty and utility make it the perfect pocket-knife. It's extremely lightweight, holds a decent edge, and the locking mechanism - if you want to go so far as to call it a mechanism - is infallible. (It's that metal cuff at the top of the handle. Open the knife, rotate the cuff, and the knife is locked.)

So, I've finally placed my order. The No. 10 refers to the length of the blade - 10cm. The little guy cost less than $20, including shipping, from OpiKnife.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

MISS: Gant by Michael Bastian Fall 2010

Michael Bastian makes really cool stuff. Gant makes really cool stuff. So you'd think the two getting together would be really, really cool.

But the image above is laughable, right? I mean, here's an extremely high-end American designer peddling the full-laxedo I wore to practice for umpteen years. The collection is riddled with this lacrosse motif and, with the exception of his version of the Polo logo (it's now a lacrosse player instead of a horsey man), I think it's lame.

Bastian says this makes those who wear the collection "sporty." It doesn't. It makes them poseurs of the worst kind. Not only that, but hasn't Abercrombie and Fitch been doing the same thing for years?

Clothes don't make a guy sporty. Being fit and playing sports do.

Check out the rest of the slide show, here.

INTEL: Parisians Love Ralph Lauren Burgers

After four years of renovating a mid-eighteenth century building on Paris's Rive Gauche, Ralph Lauren opened his titanic 13,000 square foot flagship store this spring. But what's creating the most buzz at the moment is his restaurant. According to an interview with Lauren in Harper's Bazaar, Vera Wang can't even get a table.

To be fair, whether or not Parisians love the place is unclear - 35 percent of shoppers in Polo's Parisian stores are tourists. This is probably just some elaborate ruse so that the wait-staff can laugh at us as we say, "Je prend un cheeseburger and fries."

The restaurant, housed in the rear of the building's the first level, includes some nice outdoor seating and is adorned with all sorts of American stuff. The burgers cost €24 (about $30), and word is they are worth every penny. On the odd chance anyone happens to read this blog and gets a chance to check the place out, let me know what you think.

SOUNDS: Summer Camp

Summer Camp - Ghost Train (viral) from Paddy Power on Vimeo.

This is Ghost Train by London-based Summer Camp. Everybody Taste posted some intel on them a week or so ago. Head there to find out more and check out another vid, then read this from The Guardian.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

INTEL: Military Surplus

With the exception of the classic pea coat, military inspired trends ebb and flow. Fatigue and field jackets are super hot at the moment, flight jackets were hot a few years ago, cargo pants seem to come in and go out every few years, and berets will hopefully remain too fancy for civilians for the balance of my lifetime.

With fall around the corner, you'll be seeing a lot of this stuff. But here's a recession-friendly tip - before you buy that GI sweater, take a second and check out a military surplus store online.

For example, J.Crew is selling their Timex Vintage Military Watch for $150. It looks like this -

I love this watch. But I think $150 is a lot of money for a simple Timex field watch with a quartz movement. So, I Googled "military surplus watch" and started clicking. I found these at a surplus store out of Edwards, Illinois called IMS-PLUS.

(NOTE - I've neither purchased nor seen any of these first hand. I have, however, seen J.Crew's Timex and it's a quality piece. I'm offering the following merely as an inexpensive way to get the look.)

The Benrus WWII Watch, $139.95 - Still a little steep, but it has a mechanical movement. Plus, it's authentic - Benrus really did make watches for WWII GIs.

General Purpose Watch, $39.95 - This is the most inexpensive watch with a mechanical movement I've ever seen. (A mechanical movement, as opposed to a quartz movement, means that it has no battery. Mechanical movements are mechanized - springs, gears, stuff like that. You wind it up like grandpa used to do.)

Squad Leader Watch, $19.95 - This thing looks almost exactly like the J.Crew version, though I can't imagine it's as durable or well made. Still, it's a cheap way to get the look, and at $20 you could by them two at a time. Word to the wise - I'd keep it away from water.

Now, of course, to really nail the look you'll need that cool J.Crew band with the metal D-rings. It's called a NATO watchband. Again, Google it and you might find a better deal.

Good hunting.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

HIT: Levi's Made & Crafted

Levi's jeans are everywhere at the moment. Walk into Urban Outfitters, and they've got piles of Levi's in every flavor imaginable at a price point somewhere in the neighborhood of $50-$60 or so. Cross the street to J.Crew, and there they are again. Only now, instead of the skinny 511s in more colors than a bag of Skittles, you're looking at the eminent 501s in premium denim retailing between $100 and $150. Down at Brooks Brothers you'll find a similar line. Finally, go online to Unionmade and drool over their stuff from the Levi's Vintage collection. Price point? $230-$450. (**More news - ACL announced today that Levi's has partnered with Filson.)

None of this is as bewildering as it sounds, I guess. Levi's is huge and different divisions are designed to appeal to different customers. I get that. What I'm confused by is the absence of their Capital E line for men. I can't find it anywhere and my local Barney's Co-Op lady says the line is dead. Maybe I was the only one who liked it.

I buy a new pair of jeans every other year or so, and it's getting to be about time. So, today, I checked out their new Made & Crafted line. (The Reference Council did a piece on them a while back.) I thought for sure this would replace the Capital E line. And it does - kinda.

I tried on a pair in their "standard" fit - great look and the quality of the denim, I tried the "rigid," seemed fine.

But what I still love about my old Capital Es is that they were purportedly hand-made in the USA, so they have all these cool artisanal details. (Who knows where they're really made - I'm a sucker for a good story.) The Made & Crafted, on the other hand, were made by machines in Turkey and they look it. Kind of a bummer. The price point is somewhere in the neighborhood of $150, which isn't too bad for premium denim.

In the end, I guess this is a HIT with an asterisk. When I get new jeans, I'll probably end up with a pair of these. But only because they killed the better line.

Here are a few shots. Apologies for the crappy quality.

STREETS: The Baumer's Bus

A VW Bus in this kind of condition is always worth some iPhone real estate. But things got more interesting when I looked inside and saw this -

A quiver of wooden racquets, all snug in presses. Long live the Baumer.

HIT: Billykirk Mechanics Belt

Two words to describe Billykirk leather goods? Simple quality. Chris Bray and William Kirkland (he's Billykirk, get it?) founded the company in 1999 in LA, and then moved their operation to the East Coast. Now, much of their stuff is made by Amish leather workers in Pennsylvania Dutch country. "It has, no doubt, been one of the most interesting business relationships of our career," Kirk says in an interview on the company's website. Bray adds, "They have no idea who the Rolling Stones are or that we are at war."

They carry an array of leather accessories including bags, belts, wallets, and - if you're so inclined - cuffs.

This is my favorite product of theirs - the No. 117 Mechanics Hidden Buckle Belt. With the buckle tucked behind the leather, so as not to scratch the paint-job of whatever you happen to be wrenching, it's the epitome of anti-bling.

Monday, August 16, 2010

WORDS: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Jonathan Franzen established himself as a great American novelist with his 2001 National Book Award winner, The Corrections. His highly anticipated follow up, Freedom, will be released on August 31, and the critics have spoken - this is the greatest American novel ever written. Ever.

Well, not all of the critics have spoken. But the notoriously harsh New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani has, and she LOVES this thing.

Calling Freedom "a compelling biography of a dysfunctional family and an indelible portrait of our times," Kakutani delivers one of the most sparkling reviews I've ever read. Sure, she sort of pans everything else Franzen has written up to this point, but in sum-total her critique is an absolute apotheosis of both him and his new book.

It may sound as though I'm sort of poking fun at Kakutani, but I'm not. Hers is a brilliant piece of writing. She points out all that Franzen gets right - and, if we're to believe her, he seems to get it all right - without fawning over him. That is so hard to do well. And nice to see, I think.

Check out the review here.

An excerpt from the novel via The Times, here.

And another excerpt from the novel via The New Yorker, here.

INTEL: Cold Feet

It seems as though we've only got two seasons here on the East Coast anymore - Hot-as-Hell and Friggin'-Freezing. And though we're stuck in the throes of the former at the moment, the latter is just around the corner.

Last fall, I bought my first pair of Clark's Original Desert Boots.

I absolutely loved them from the start. They look good with everything. Then it poured one January weekend in Manhattan and I might as well have been bare-footed. I know. I can hear you from here. "Dude. Desert Boots."

Don't get me wrong, these are still my favorite shoes and I think every guy should have a pair. But as much as I'd love to see what trench foot is all about, I've got to upgrade before things get ugly around here.

Alden Indy Boot

Alden is one of the oldest shoe manufacturers in the United States, and you won't find a better boot than this. The bomb-proof waxhide leather will keep you dry and warm for years, and the more miles you add to them, the cooler they'll look. Just ask Dr. Jones.

I really, really want a pair of these. But at $400+, I'm not sure I can spring.

Bean Boot by LL Bean, 6"

This is the product that started the entire LL Bean empire. They now carry several versions of the boot at their regular store, and a few more in their Signature line. (ACL just featured one from the Signature line which looks particularly sharp.)

If I were taller, maybe I'd go for a higher boot, but I don't have much leg to surrender. I'm sticking with the basic 6" chukka in brown. And at $80 a pair, you could outfit yourself and four of your friends for what you'll drop on the Indys. Oh, by the way - Life. Time. Warranty.

Red Wing Gentleman Traveler

Red Wing manufactures real boots for men who work for a living. With entire lines called "Logger" and "Lineman," this, apparently, is their fancy boot. It seems the Red Wing gentleman knows how to handle an oxy-acetylene blow torch. And why not?

Of course, there are many, many others. Let me know what I'm missing.