Thursday, January 28, 2010

Objects I Love: Panasonic R-70 transistor radio

Truth be told, I listen to the radio only a fraction of the percentage that I used to. I have an insanely large collection of music, and instead of taking my chances with what I suspect is largely crap on the airways, I pull something off my shelf (or out of my digital library) that I know I will enjoy. Is that elitist? Perhaps.

And yet, there are a couple things that I really enjoy listening to the radio. There's something soothing to me about waking on a weekend morning and hearing at least part of "Car Talk," and there are days when I come home from work and spend an hour in the kitchen working on a meal where I flip back and forth between sports talk radio and "Fresh Air" with Teri Gross.

I'm getting really circuitous here, but the other thing I absolutely adore listening to on a radio is baseball games (particularly college baseball). There's something about the numbers, the names, and particularly the cadence of it all that really appeals to me. There are the long periods of near dead air sometimes punctuated by rapid bursts of action and the ocassional low-scoring pitching duels that unfold with ever-increasing tension. I have my team that I follow, and this is where the cutest damn chunk of plastic and wires in the world enters the stage. Please let me introduce the Panasonic R-70 transistor radio (aka "The Panapet").

The coolest vintage radio ever? Probably

I discovered my first Panapet at a thrift store about 3 years ago. I'd never seen anything like it before and knew that for the $3.99 price, it would be mine whether it worked or not. I got it home and replaced the 9-volt battery and it crackled to life. I spun through the AM dial and realized that sadly, there wasn't much worth listening to. Not much to listen to, that is, except baseball...

In less than a month, it will be college baseball season, and my army (which now numbers 4, in 3 of the 5 total colors available) of Panapets will be ready to inform me of every inning of the season and provide a chattery backdrop as the days get a little bit longer and the temperature gets a little bit warmer.

From a design standpoint, I don't think that this particular device has been rivaled until recent times, if at all. It's got an Eames era, space age flair that just works in the five color combination that it were released in (blue, green, red, white, and yellow). In addition to the dual dials for volume and tuning (which look like eyes), the split body (which opens to reveal the transistor guts and 9-volt connection, along with a solid battery housing cage) is highlighted by a clear, rotating band display, a perforated speaker opening, a mono earphone jack and a built-in keychain. Yes, you saw/read that correctly, a keychain. It was the 70s version of the iPod, but much more colorful and playful.

Fortunately, they were also very popular, and if you can't find one at a thrift store, flea market, or junk store, they're abundant on ebay as well.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A couple scores

Was a totally random night on the thrift-run this evening. First off, ran across a lovely cedar Russel Wright gravy dish (or baker bowl, I'm not certain). Our household gets a bit weak in the knees for pretty much anything RW, so this minty condition piece was snatched up without hesitation for only $4.99.

Russel Wright, so suave

The next nice find was a couple cashmere sweater vests in the very wearable colors of gray and light brown. No nibbles or fuzz balls at all, I was sold for $1.50 each (originally $2.99, but it was half-off evening).

Next was a pair of semi-vintage Lands End corduroys in a nice bluish-gray. Just my size in the waist and totally deadstock. They've even un-hemmed, with massive 40 inch inseams right now, so I could totally rock some 3 inch cuffs if I wanted. $2 after the 50% discount.

Lastly (but not least) are some super interesting, vintage foreign pants of some sort. I honestly don't know much about these, but they're a wool/poly mix and very heavy, with some very nice detail work that I've tried to picture below. Check the leg hems, the waistband and the black line detail down the sides of the legs, in addition to the slightly fleur de lis pattern on the hook fastener. Sadly, I got these home and the inseam was much too short for me, so into the trade pile they go. These were also $2, so at least I'm not out too much.

Monday, January 25, 2010

This will not end well

Over the course of the past couple weeks, I've picked up not one, but three nice vintage wool sweaters (none of which cost more than $3). This past weekend, I finally decided I should give them a good, cool sloshing about so I could actually add them to my wardrobe.

As I tossed them into the tub, I looked at their tags closer and was surprised to see how casually one sweater wanted me to treat, "the world's best virgin wool."

Machine wash and dry? Really?

Granted, Puritan isn't known for being a top-of-the-line brand, but I've never given a 100% wool sweater a machine wash and dry and not had it turn out looking something like a miniaturized version of its former self.

In one case, an old sweater of mine that received such sad treatment ended up being tied into a small, knotted ball and became a favorite toy of one of our dogs (living it's life being occasionally shaken in a frenzy and lovingly referred to as, "the sweater ball").

Giving shrunken wool sweaters to a small dog as a plaything probably isn't setting a good precedence, but neither is machine-washing wool, I say.

And for the record, aforementioned dog has never destroyed another sweater (although loveseat cushions are another matter).

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Find of the week: Harris tweed hat

I must be honest; I've never been a big wearer of hats. I'm a rather tall fellow, so putting something on my head only makes that fact even more readily apparent. When winter rolls around, a flat black or gray stocking cap is my friend, but the rest of the time I usually steer clear (with the exception of one embroidered 10 gallon that pushes my height to roughly 7 feet cumulative when I put it on).

It was then, with a bit of whimsy, that I purchased a tweed hat this weekend. I was ten steps away from leaving a local thrift store empty-handed when I saw a nice brown number sitting on a chair by one of the (empty) dressing rooms.

Upon picking it up, I flipped it over and looked inside, only to find that it was not only my size, but also a Harris tweed, made in the good old United Kingdom. Smashing!

Just look at that sensuous salmon-colored lining!

I'd bought hats in the past and they'd sat in the bottom of my closet, so I was determined to wear this one immediately. Fortunately I had a tweed jacket (that I'd paid $3 for) close enough in color to roll with. The day of wearing was chilly, so I paired it with a blue and white striped Stafford oxford ($1) and a vintage silk tie ($1.99) with a Toscano v-neck wool sweater ($2).

The tie pattern was this close to being too busy, but I decided to risk it

There were more than a few comments at work, which I expected, but I'm darn well going to get some good use out of a sweet Harris tweed hat. Did I mention that it was only $3 dollars? Double smashing!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

So, what's your style?

Other than relatives giving me the doting, "oh don't you look nice!" at various church and school functions when I was young, the first time I remember someone commenting on what I was wearing was in junior high. It was a classmate of mine and he called me a "prep."

I can't remember exactly what I was wearing at the time (probably nothing more than a light-colored polo shirt of some sort), but I do remember that the comment was not meant as flattery. I spent my formative years in a small town in the midwest, where being good at sports and tough (yes, even in junior high) seemed to help your chances of success, at least on a social scale.

me rocking a velour shirt

Me rocking a velour shirt back in the day

I went through high school without giving my wardrobe much thought, then went off to college in a different town and flew through different phases about as fast as I could. There were dabblings in goth (oh, dear), thrift store castaway (a mish-mash of skinny pants and horrendous print shirts, mostly entirely made of polyester) and finally the dreaded couldn't give a crap man-child phase (ratty pant 'n t-shirt, every day). That latter look stayed with me for a few years post college, as I landed with a dot-com boom-era job that allowed me to indulge sandals and 70s era t-shirts with faded iron-ons with worn army pants.

Not my everyday outfit in college, but close, sadly.

Where I've finally arrived has largely been caused by two things. First, and most importantly, I met a great gal who showed me that it's fun and yes, even comfortable to dress nice. Secondly, I got a job where I have to at the very least wear shirt with a collar every day.

The end result is a style that's not incredibly refined nor is easy to label. It's constantly morphing based on what I can find within my budget and an ever-expanding knowledge of what I think looks decent and works (although, sometimes the two still don't quite meet).

So, if I had to narrow things down, I'd say that my look is a combination of classic, contemporary, and cowboy, with a dash of kitsh thrown in for good measure. My tastes in regards to books, music, and art are largely similar, so it all makes sense, really.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Let's get this started

Over the course of the past couple years, I've found myself increasingly interested in men's style and vintage fashion. I've been cultivating a vintage tie collection for about 6 years now, but after following blogs like An Affordable Wardrobe, I decided to start my own little home on the internet to show that style isn't relegated to the coasts.

Of course, I love browsing great sites like Put This On and A Continuous Lean, but unfortunately my pocketbook isn't as large as my eyes when I view them. I'll post about style and some great scores that I've managed to find, but probably sprinkle in some material culture and other random entries along the way. It should be fun.

There's no doubt that The Sartorialist will never make a stop to my fair city, but hopefully I'll represent the flyover states to my best ability.