Monday, March 29, 2010

Tweed tweener

Today was one of those weird days of the year where it was 29 degrees Fahrenheit in the morning on the bike ride in, then just a smidgen over 70 when I stepped out of the office after work. As mentioned in a another post, such dramatic temperature swings require a bit more planning than normal.

Fortunately, I have a nicely-weighted tweed go-to jacket (bought for $3 a couple years back) that keeps me warm but is made of a lighter fabric that breaths a bit. On the ride in, a thin sweater provided an extra layer, while a scarf, gloves and hat kept my extremities warm. They went into the messenger bag on the insanely beautiful ride home.

The other nice thing about this jacket is that it has some fairly bright colors woven in, in very subtle ways, which you'll probably have to view the full-size photo to see

At any rate, I paired it with some dark brown khakis and one of colorful madras ties from this haul. Due to my commuting habits, I haven't made the full-on turn to spring, but it's definitely creeping closer.

Right before this picture was taken, my wife said something about "blue steel" (cue Zoolander) that made me laugh. She rocks.

If you look to my right in the above photo, you will see our garden scarecrow, who is modeled after a headless Patrick Bateman.

Have I mentioned how excited I am about spring?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Favorite Finds: "Destiny" by Otto Nuckel

In addition to finding a lot of my wardrobe at thrift stores and garage sales, I buy a lot of other things at these places as well. I've cultivated a modest, but respectable record collection from LPs I've paid less than $3 apiece for, and the bookshelves in our old house are absolutely overflowing. There's a near constant culling going on, and we still have stacks of books in corners of rooms as they look for homes on actual shelving.

A couple years back, I ran across one of my personal favorite book (and object) finds in a book by Otto Nückel, a German illustrator and graphic artist from the early part of the 20th century. I didn't know much about him at the time I ran across his book, but with a stunning 188 woodcuts (one on each page) in a cloth-bound hardback book from 1930, I knew that for $2, I needed to buy it.

Because this is a story told without words, the individual panels themselves are incredibly descriptive and beautifully rendered. They're also quite bleak, and while the title certainly refers to the story arc of the main female character, there's pitch-black humor in the title as well; Of course, everyone's destiny is that they eventually die.

This frame is not a spoiler, simply an illustration I found to be more animated, lest you think it is all still life.

It's not a particularly valuable book in that it sells for maybe $50 dollars or so in decent condition, but it's one of those titles that I've had for some time now and pull out every year or so just to look through. They simply don't make many books like this any more (although, I do have it sitting rather close to my Chris Ware collection on a shelf, and after a post-book discussion with Ware himself about Nückel, I feel like it's a fairly good choice).

It's also one of those completely random finds that you stumble across while buying things second-hand that you end up learning something from and then feeling like your life is a bit more rich because of it. Oh, and there's even a section with a clothing tailor.

For those not wanting to hunt down the out-of-print hardback version, Dover Publications put out a nice paperback reprint of the book in 2007. The book object is not the same, but the masterclass engraving work of Nückel is on full display.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Too short

Thwarted again! This time out the suspect is a pair of 70s-era Lee "Boss Of The Road" jeans in deadstock condition. Of course, they're 1-2 inches too narrow in the waist and a whopping 5-6 inches short in the legs.

For $3.99, though, I bought them, and maybe their sale will fund a couple other wardrobe purchases.

Seriously gorgeous, crispy stiff denim in dark, dark blue with amazing detailing like rounded-top copper riveting all around.

It's been an insanely busy week as I finish up a room remodel here on the home front. Maybe my next find will actually fit me.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fiber Arts Harris Tweed article

My wife ran across a great article in Fiber Arts Magazine about Harris Tweed and thought I would find it interesting.

I did, and now I am sharing it with you, dear reader.

There's a lot of very specific information in there about the actual process of creating the textile (and how it has evolved over time) itself...

At that time, the method for producing Harris Tweed was a simpler version of today's process. The raw material of wool was all produced locally, at one time solely by blackface sheep. Part of it was used in the natural, uncolored state; the rest was dyed, using plant materials until the introduction of chemical dyes in the late 1800s. Then the wool was mixed or blended (the shade being regulated by the amount of colored wool added), oiled to replace any lost natural oils, and teased - that is, pulled apart by the bristly flower head of the teasel plant to open out the fibers and remove any stray material. Next came carding, in which the fibers of the wool were drawn out and evenly arranged. The wool now went to the spinning wheel, which gave the yarn its twist and thereby its strength. After spinning, the yarn was ready for the loom.

There's also plenty of history as well...

In 1840, the Earl of Dunmore, a proprietor of Harris, asked local weavers to copy in tweed his wife's family tartan pattern (Murray tartan) for outfitting the workers on their estate. Lady Dunmore was so enthralled with the quality and presentation of the fabric that she began marketing the local cloth throughout the United Kingdom. Because of its camouflage-like colorings, substantial weight, and hard-wearing qualities, Harris Tweed rose from a regional poor man's cloth to British aristocracy's favorite fabric for outdoor sporting garb. By 1881, some 620 families were employed in the tweed and knit industry, and by 1900, a carding mill was erected in Harris to speed yarn production.

It's from 2001, but it's still well worth 15 minutes of your time.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Subdued spring

Ah, so this is what spring feels like.

For the first time in five (FIVE!) months, the temperature rose above 60 degrees (Fahrenheit), and for about 6 hours all seemed right with the world. With a morning temperature hovering around 30, though, I knew I'd have to wear one of my jackets that was warm enough that I wouldn't get too cold on the bike in, but light enough that I wouldn't crack a huge sweat on my ride home and back for lunch.

Basically, it was the perfect excuse to pull out my brown cashmere/wool combo from this post. With a scarf and some gloves (and ear-band and helmet!), it was just about right in the morning, and was thisclose to being too warm at lunch. With a temperature swing of over 30 degrees, I consider that a success.

At any rate, I paired it with my favorite light wool LL Bean pants ($2), a paisley Oscar de la Renta tie ($2), a blue/white striped Stafford oxford ($2) and what are quite possibly my favorite pair of shoes; A pair of vintage Florsheim wingtips that I scored for $1 just over a year back.

Yes, the bike is mine. More on it later.

In wearing the jacket again (and especially looking at the above photo), I realized that I'm going to have to get the arms taken in just a bit. They're rolling almost 29 inches from the shoulder seam right now, and I'm closer to 28.

The light was bright and harsh at lunch, so the shots didn't quite turn out as well as I had hoped, but I did take a couple details to hopefully give a little better idea of how the colors went together.

Seeing a close-up of my shoes also makes me realize that I need to give them a little love.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that the reason I named the post as I did is because we're supposed to get several inches of snow tomorrow. I couldn't go an break out all my crazy bright colors quite just yet with such knowledge in hand.


Monday, March 15, 2010

When you wish upon a (thrift) store

I am not a proud man. Sometimes I get all excited about a clothing item that I know I shouldn't be excited about, and I am not ashamed of that. A couple months ago, I saw a pair of baby-blue Gap khakis at a thrift store and lusted after them for spring. Unfortunately, they weren't even close to my size, so I got on the internet and looked around for something similar, only to be denied.

Imagine my surprise when I snagged these babies this weekend for only $2; half off their original price.

Definitely a sign of spring. And if that weren't enough, I also found a couple other great pairs of pants. The first were these 100% wool beauts in brown with threads of orange, blue, and green woven in ($3).

Finally, in the "you can never have too many pairs" category are these Land's End khakis, with suspender buttons (again $2, half off their original price).

Oh, and speaking of suspenders, I hauled in these emerald green and navy (sadly, my picture does not do them justice) numbers at the same time ($2).

Oh, and it is totally on. I rode the bike to work today after a nearly 4 month slumber.

And it was good.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mr. Rogers has a posse

The weather cracked here last week and I celebrated with one of my swank new cotton madras ties from this post, but just when I thought I was going to be able to dig into the more fun part of my wardrobe for good, around came one last (or, at least I hope) blast of winter. Originally we were supposed to get 3-4 inches of snow, but it held off and we got what can best be described as 2 or 3 inches of slush.

On days when weather is going to present such a beat-down, I have some nicer shoes with man-made soles that I don't mind getting smacked around a bit. I wanted something understated, but with a bit of color, so I went with a blue/brown combo from top to bottom. Recent find of an LL Bean cardigan ($3) over the top, with a vertical stripe (blue and brown, natch) Enro shirt ($1), blue corduroys ($2, from this post), and a shiny brown tie (and brown belt and the aforementioned brown Florsheim semi-beaters).

The cords are actually a bit brighter and lighter than the above picture shows, and I think they can be good spring or fall pants depending on what I pair them with.

Won't you be my neighbor?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sunday scores

One of my wardrobe goals for 2010 was to add a few more jackets, just so I would have a little more variety. Of course, I'm sure it's partially lust after seeing the massive collection put together by Guiseppe over at An Affordable Wardrobe, but my closet is still a bit on the slim side in terms of choice. If I had to guess, I'd say my limited palette is somewhat dictated by my odd measurements, but it might just be a bad time of the year for finding decent jackets at the thrift store.

The last six months or so have been pretty much complete busts in this department, so I was incredibly excited when I ran across not one, but two great jackets in my size yesterday (for $5 each, incidentally).

First one is a super unique slubbed silk (100%) jacket in a navy and white herringbone. It's light enough that I should be able to easily kick it for a couple months yet and versatile enough in color that I should be able to mix it up with chinos or jeans alike. At 44xl, I was worried that it would be too wide in the body for me, but it actually fits more like a 42xl.

The second jacket is a little more understated, but even nicer in terms of quality. It's brown/cream herringbone design that is made out of what I'm guessing is camelhair, as it's incredibly soft (no fiber content tags anywhere). Like the other jacket, this one fits me spot-on, which is a rarity, so it really wasn't too difficult of decision for me to make.

Pictures of them being incorporated into my daily wear coming in the near future.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Bidness casual

It was a week of meetings at work, with much high-level hand shaking and deal making.

Okay, so not really, but I like to pretend that sometimes. Actually, I did have a rather large amount of meetings here to start off March, some of which stressed me out. By the end of the week, I had a staff meeting where I knew that I wouldn't have to shine quite as much as I had earlier, but I still wanted to wear something interesting.

My solution was to break out some gray Levi's corduroys ($4), a vintage Arrow shirt ($1), and a fire-engine red square-end silk tie under a cashmere sweater vest ($1.50, from this post) and a nice 100% wool Polo University Club jacket ($2). Coupled with some black Florsheim wingtip oxfords (one of my steals of the year from 2009 at only $2), I had my serious side...

But, I planned ahead. When everyone piled into our office for our meeting, the temperature went up and I was able to whip off my jacket without looking too silly.

The small dog in this picture will probably be a re-occurring figure here, and who am I to argue? She is quite stylish on her favorite green chair.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wednesday WTF: Vintage basketball warmup jersey

I've mentioned it before, but sometimes I have a weakness for clothing items that would fall under the "kitsch" category before anything else. The item in this entry certainly does that, but it also falls under the small list of clothing items that I haven't even worn since buying them. In this case, that time frame is over 5 years, and yet I know I won't get rid of it.

There are many, many reasons that I keep it around, most of which might not make sense to someone who has any interest in traditional style. First off, I'm a sports buff (which surprises a lot of people, even after they've known me for awhile); Secondly, the colors on this vintage warmup jersey are still crisp and the team name is "The Crush," for gawds sake. Oh, and if that weren't enough, look at the name on the back...

So yeah, do I really need to explain the "neat" factor any further?

I've reached the point where I admit that I haven't been able to find any information about this particular jersey. I've searched the web over and over, looking through old ABA, pre-ABA, ABL, and other league names and teams and simply can't find anything.

The right breast area has the designation "1961CG," which I'm guessing corresponds to a date and some sort of league, but google delivers nothing. Various combinations of the team name, player name, and date also leave me scratching my head. I'm assuming it's from a very small regional team which dissolved and left hardly any records (none of which made it to the internet), but it still surprises me that I can't find even a small nibble of information.

What I'm left with is a nearly half-century old basketball warm-up jersey that will likely always take up at least one hanger in my closet. It would be a travesty to get rid of it before I found out at least a little about its history. Right?

Oh, and how about a close-up of that team logo?

As a former power forward, I approve