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.

Friday, August 13, 2010


The MB&F HM4 Thunderbolt Live from Hodinkee on Vimeo.

This watch is retro futurism at its finest - remember Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow? 150 hours go into machining the sapphire. That's about a month's worth of labor. On the sapphire. Alone. Watch the video then go to Hodinkee for more.

HIT: LL Bean Signature Saltwash Canvas Tote

When you're a little guy, every trip feels like an adventure. This notion lingers through college until you finally realize that you don't need an expedition-grade bag to go couch surfing for the weekend in New York or DC.

This tote from LL Bean Signature (more about them later) is the perfect replacement. The design couldn't be simpler. No straps, zippers or buckles to mess with. Just one monster compartment in heavy duty canvas with beefy handles.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

HIT: Brooks Brothers Fall 2010 Look

This shot is for the Fitzgerald 1818 Corduroy suit. I've owned that suit - in wool - and didn't love it. The cut was a bit fuller than I'd like. But I love this kit and I must admit that I'd never be bold enough to put it together myself.

The gingham shirt with tartan tie, the suede long-wings with the dark belt, and a white pocket square. Nothing "matches," and yet it makes for a great look. Also, to my eye, this is further evidence of the breadth and depth of J.Crew's influence.

Finally, how much does this guy look like the guy from HBO's Hung? Weird.

HIT: Linus Bikes

I'm lucky enough to be in a situation at the moment where I don't need wheels of any kind. I walk to work and hop a train or cab just about anywhere else I need to be.

Right. Wheels? Me? Don't need 'em.

But I really want some.

Most of my buddies got into cycling in their late twenties and have these sexy road bikes. I've not yet caught the bug, so I'd be going for something less aggressive that I don't need to finance and can ride without special shoes.

Retro bikes are seriously in vogue, but the right animal is elusive so you're going to pay a lot for it. Enter Linus Bikes out of Venice, CA. Inspired by European bicycles of yore, these guys have created a line of commuter bikes that are solid, gorgeous and a great value. They're not selling online yet (they say they will be "soon"), so you might have to go on the road to find one. But it'll be well worth the effort.

I'll have a Roadster Classic in black (above). No gears, a pedal break(!) and an absolute steal at $389.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

MISS: D&G are Making a Movie

High-fashion met the movies when Hubert de Givenchy bullied his way into designing Audrey Hepburn's gowns in Funny Face and Sabrina. The two industries have been closely aligned ever since.

Until recently, however, this dynamic has primarily been what you'd expect - high-end stars and pictures need high-end clothes and costumes. Then, this past December, designer Tom Ford changed all that. His directorial debut A Single Man was widely acclaimed. (Incidentally, Ford gave an excellent interview with Terry Gross about the film on Fresh Air. I highly recommend giving it a listen. Find it here.)

But, fashionistas, just because Tom can do it doesn't mean that everyone can.

T Magazine announced
that the D&G boys, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, are releasing a feature length film this September, Quando, Quando, Quando.

Perche, perche, perche, D&G?

Please go here and watch the trailer. I haven't been able to get through it without laughing a little. Domenico and Stefano are brilliant at what they do, but I've seen more substance in a thirty-second clip of a Menudo video.

I'm giving the film an official preemptive BDC miss, which is totally unfair. But, whatever.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

INTEL: Union Made Goods

The economic euphoria of the early to mid aughts was artificial. Thanks Bernie.

Our reaction to this has been a renewed interest in authenticity. We won't get fooled again. The "buy local" movement is dominating the food and fashion industry, and, as New York Magazine points out, is even bleeding into the publishing industry. All very cool.

Now, one of the best places to get cool, authentic American goods has gone online. San Francisco's Union Made Goods launched their new site yesterday. Have some.

WORDS: Slash and Burn

A very cool poem from The New Yorker this week.

Russian Girl on Parizska
At twenty, you hold this street's attention
better than the Bolshoi could -
the boots, the perfume, not to mention
the bling and ermine on your hood.

The way you walk is slash and burn.
Like understatement's now a crime.
You leave a wake of men who turn
to make sure they were right the first time.

They're like small countries who betray
their old allegiances ahwile.
Bound over you as your vassals, they
blame others when they go on trial.

You yawn, head for a brasserie -
all gold and mirrors, lit like Christmas -
and join the two men drinking tea,
dressed in black suits, who mean business.

-Justin Quinn

Monday, August 9, 2010

SOUNDS: Tennis, Magic Kids and a Rant*

I won't write about music often, and I promise to never do so in a critical way. I just don't have the chops for it.

But Portland based Everybody Taste is a must-read. They're always up on the buzz, and they've got full-length samples to go along with the artists they feature.

Everybody Taste gets all the credit for turning me on to Tennis and Magic Kids.

As I mentioned in my watches post, I love things that have a good back story. Tennis's is pretty good - they are a husband and wife duo that went sailing and wrote about it. Read more about them at the New York Times T Magazine Blog, and their own blog, White Satin Gloves. Then go buy their EP, Marathon from iTunes.

Although it's not available on iTunes yet, you can buy Magic Kids' new LP Memphis directly from True Panther right now. I don't know their story, but they're from Memphis and they've got a cool synth-pop thing going that feels new and crisp.

God. See how bad that was? BDC is not a music blog.

RANT* - The new Arcade Fire album is, not surprisingly, really good. Let's get our shit right for them, huh? They're not THE Arcade Fire. They're just Arcade Fire. That's it. Even if you think they're THE greatest band in the universe, they're still just Arcade Fire.

INTEL: The Fantastic Four

With few exceptions, Glenn O'Brien's word is law with me. I know he can get a little bitchy, but the guy is damn near flawless when it comes to sartorial advice. So when The GQ Eye posted an archived note from O'Brien on buying a watch today, I thought I'd have a little fun with it.

O'Brien writes, "I have a lot of watches, but I wear only about four of them."

Fine, Glenn. Four it is.

*I know. $4000 is a lot of do-re-mi. But this is the only piece of jewelry you'll ever buy yourself. Or, at least it should be. Do it right.

Note - Click the name of the watch to see it.

The Omega Speedmaster Professional
I love stuff that has a good back story, and this one doesn't get much better. You can read all about it here, but the gist is that NASA needed a watch that could handle going to space, and this was the only one that survived its ridiculous battery of tests. For me, this is THE watch.

The Fortis Flieger Automatic Chronograph
This is a close second to the Speedy Pro. (It's also much more affordable.) The Flieger is the official European cosmonaut watch. I love the leather band and chunky crown, and the dial looks like something from a flight instrument panel. Not that I'd know.

The Bell & Ross Vintage 123 Black

No great story with this one, I'm afraid. Launched in 1992, Bell & Ross is an embryo compared to most of its esteemed colleagues in the luxury timepiece market. Still, they make gorgeous, quality stuff. The face on this one reminds me of old clocks you see at railway stations. This would be my "dress" watch. I'd even wear it with a tux. (Yes, James Bond has been steering us wrong all these years. No watch with a tux. Technically.)

The TAG Heuer Carrera Automatic
I know, TAG is a bit obvious. But the one I've linked to here is a really handsome watch with an automatic movement that you can find in many department stores. And it's a little more refined than the standard "look at me" stainless steel, newly-minted lawyer-who-didn't-know-how-else-to-spend-his-cash model.

Friday, August 6, 2010

HIT: UniQlo Easy Care Oxford

Recently, UniQlo released their Fall/Winter 2010 look-book. Not surprisingly, they paired items in an edgy, fashion-forward way. Yawn.

While they're not doing anything new or exciting, I thought I'd take a second to mention a product of theirs I love - the Easy Care Oxford. As far as non-irons go, these can't be beat.

UniQlo's material and craftsmanship are not nearly as fine as everyone's favorite non-iron over at Brooks Brothers. But they fit well, are positively wrinkle free after a tumble in the dryer and, at $29.99, cost less than half as much. (I did that math in my head.)

INTEL: Conde Nast Traveler Dress Codes

Americans are great people and I'm proud to call myself one eighty to ninety percent of the time. But I'm not sure I've ever been flattered to be recognized as one. I know, I'm a commie.

But we really dress like shit, especially when we're abroad. Fanny packs, white sneakers, "Everyone got a bottle of water?" You can see, and hear, us coming a mile away.

Conde Nast Traveler has tried to help. Before your next trip abroad, have a look at Conde Nast's Etiquette 101: Dress Codes. Posted last fall, it's a five page do-and-don't guide to going native in just about every region of the world you'd ever hope to find yourself in.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

MISS: Ebbets Field Flannels Ball Caps for J.Crew

It became clear sometime around the summer of 2008 that J.Crew was back. Dumping its small, liberal-arts college frat-boy aesthetic for a smart, affordable, sophisticated men's line, it established some major closet real-estate among, well, everyone.

In addition to revamping their own stuff, J.Crew also partnered with classic brands such as Alden, Ray-Ban, Belstaff and Levi's to further lend some authenticity and quality to their products.

Most of these partnerships are killer, with one glaring exception - the Ebbets Field Flannels vintage ball cap collection. Total miss.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against ball caps. I was rarely without one through college. I still have a great, handmade eight-panel Yankees cap from the now shuttered Cooperstown Ball Cap Company that I'll wear to the stadium, and I kinda dig Ebbets' homage to Roy Hobbs included in the line. That being said, it's a little silly for a man to be wearing one unless he's playing or watching the game.

J.Crew's price-point, while affordable, is still high enough to weed out the guys who could give a shit about what they wear - i.e. the guys who would wear a ball cap out on the town. So I have to wonder, has any J.Crew shopper bought one of these, save as a gift for dad or grandpop?

Button-Down Collar?

The idea behind this blog is to write about men's style and culture in a non-douchey way. To me, the popped shirt collar is the doucher's emblem, and you can't pop a button-down collar.

Also, I happen to really like button-down collar shirts. They're not as fancy as point-collar or spread collar shirts, but they are the workhorse of my limited, relatively inexpensive wardrobe.

Button-down collars, which stay put even if they're not properly pressed, are lower maintenance than point collars which never really look right again after you wash them. Plus, button-downs have a sporty, American history. (See The Original Polo Button-Down.)

Finally, button-down collar makes a cool sounding acronym. BDC. Dig it.