Sunday, June 27, 2010

Fiftieth post; Here's to a few more

I mentioned it briefly back in one of the first posts that I made on this site just over five months ago, but I started shopping at thrift stores back when I was in college.

At that time, I was going to school and working two part-time jobs, and by purchasing most of my clothes at thrift stores and various garage sales (including a great, yearly church rummage sale that took place near my college), I could update my wardrobe on a fairly regular basis and still stay within my budget. I could even find some incredibly outlandish outfits to wear to parties or even a (*gasp*) rave.

After I got out of college, student loan debt loomed. Thrift stores then took over as my main clothing purchase place, and I shifted into an incredibly stripped-down lifestyle for a couple years to pay down debt and then start saving for a down payment on some sort of house.

During those more spare years, I had a very basic wardrobe and rarely deviated (the same could be said for my eating habits as well). I didn't own (or even like to wear) jeans, I never wore shorts, and I basically wore some sort of slacks and a collared shirt every day (other than weekends, where I'd drop down to a t-shirt). I didn't view my wardrobe as anything other than utilitarian, and there were several years were the entire amount I spent on clothes and shoes combined clocked in at less than fifty dollars.


As I mentioned in the aforementioned linked post, my attitudes towards clothes changed over time, and meeting my wife only helped influence some of those changes.

I mentioned that I used to hate wearing shorts above, and that's largely still true. I've been pretty body and self-conscious for a long time, and I figured that by starting a blog like this, it might help me get over things a bit.

I've still only told two people I know about it, though, which might explain the small readership... :)

The other main reason I started the site was that despite maintaining two other sites, I felt like I'd become a bit complacent about my writing. Starting a blog about a subject that was completely different than what I'd written about before (and something I still feel like I'm learning a great deal about every day) seemed like a good way to keep my interest level up over the long haul.

I've tried to leave the format fairly open, as I didn't want to pigeonhole myself to strictly fashion and/or style, and it should probably come as no surprise that my favorite post since starting the blog isn't about either.

If you've read anything on here and enjoyed it, I appreciated it. I'll try to make the next 50 posts even more interesting.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I left my heart (and part of my wallet) in San Francisco

While long stints with no updates are certainly nothing new to this blog, the reason I've been silent this past week is because my wife and I went on a much-needed vacation. Our destination choice was San Franciso, a city I hadn't been to since I was a teenager (and then for only a short time). We had our minds set on relaxation, food, and seeing some sights, with a bit of shopping thrown in for good measure.

There have been numerous other people write about the city more eloquently than I'll be able to in this entry, but I will say that this trip bumped it to the top of my list of most-loved cities in the United States. The international flavor, west-coast vibe, and sheer number of places, people, and things to see in the city were overwhelming for our short visit, yet I felt like we took a lot in during six days and over 30 miles walked (plus many more covered by mass transit).

Ferry Building, San Francisco

We saw the coast (and three dolphins swimming together!), walked through a bunch of different neighborhoods, visited 3 museums, ate a ton of great food, went to the farmers market, saw some city landmarks (City Lights Bookstore, Haight & Ashbury, etc, etc), and generally tried to take it all in.

ethiopian food

Wearing my favorite vintage chambray with sleeves rolled up, getting ready to dig into a plate full of Ethiopian food.

If you've been there, you know that San Francisco is something of a shopping mecca. Within 4 blocks of Union Square alone, there are flagship stores for just about every high-end outfit that you could possibly think of. Saks Fifth Avenue, Burberry's, Harry's Of London, John Fluevog, Alden, Allen Admonds, Brooks Brothers, Hickey Freeman, Hermes, and probably 100 more. The Levi's store even had a custom, made-to-order shop.

Needless to say, most of these places were completely out of my league in terms of prices. I do like to look at clothing and fabrics and cuts of things (and sometimes snark at prices), so I went into some of the aforementioned stores (and several others) while there. In the midst of all the madness, I even managed to find a couple deals.

First off was a pair of gun metal gray Alfani desert boots. I'd been looking for a pair and even held off an a sale pair of Clarks the day before leaving town, so when I ran across these for $26.00 (plus tax), I made them mine.


Yes, the soles are man-made, but for less than 30 dollars including tax, I could live with it.

Speaking of Clarks, a few days later I ran across a pair of desert bucks in the clearance section of a store that shall not be named. They were the only pair of shoes in my size in the entire section and looked like they had been drop-kicked around the store a few times, but after breaking them in the past couple days, they already have a killer patina. Crepe soles and totally excellent, especially for $27 (plus tax).


It wouldn't be a true vacation without hitting a few of the thrift stores that San Francisco had to offer, and since my wife had already mapped out locations, we managed to make our way through about 8 or so during our visit. Again, I managed some pretty good finds.

First off is a Kenneth Cole three-button 100% wool jacket with a Nehru collar. Many will scoff at Kenneth Cole (and I know I certainly have), but this one fit me perfectly and has a lovely cut. For $7 I couldn't resist it.

Kenneth Cole

Next up is another jacket, this one from the St. Michaels (so, pre 2000) Marks & Spencer line. Like the Kenneth Cole, it's not exactly a high end jacket, but it's made from a nice, light super 100s wool, and I have a feeling I'll get some use out of it during these hot months.

Marks & Spencer

Look at those arms, this thing needs a good steam after being rolled-up in the carry-on.

Marks & Spencer 2

Lastly (and possibly my favorite) is a vintage Pendleton tweed jacket that fits like it was tailored for me. Super nubby 100% wool made in the U.S.A. with some super-bright pinpoint flecks of color woven in. Oh, and leather elbow patches and braided leather buttons.


Pendleton 2

My gosh, it's full of colors.

Even though the last day was completely socked in with fog, blocking our view of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco is a city I would recommend anyone visit.

I can't wait to go back.

Grove by the Pacific

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Vintage ties: The skinnies

In what will probably be my last vintage tie post (see also: square ends, hand-painted, geometric and space age, and novelty prints) for awhile, I'm going to break out my favorite skinny ties. I've noticed this style in particular coming back into the forefront lately, largely I'm sure due to the success of Mad Men, but I've had a thing going for these ties for many moons before that show was a thought (and to be honest, I've still never seen an episode).

Without any further fanfare, I present the ties!

brown embroidered

This silk number is embroidered in several different colors (well, pink and white anyway) with undetermined shapes that are eye-catching without being gaudy.

art deco black and white

This understated black silk number is art deco all the way. 4 simple boxes filled in with white, this one reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright for some reason.

surfboard design

Simple black silk with an embroidered triple line racing strip down the middle and a nice starburst near the point in white and orange. Fall, all the way

hand painted red silk

Technically, this one could have landed in my aforementioned collection of hand-painted numbers, but the tiny additions to this red diagonal print are so subtle they're almost not there. Very nice.

army green

Army green silk tie with a black box damask fade. Totally killer.

black with lanterns

I've noticed that a good portion of my older sharkskin and/or silk ties have at the very least some sort of minor embroidery on them. This one is no different, with a ivy and lantern (?) pattern that wobbles its way up the middle.

art deco subtle

Another art deco style motif, this one is subtle and nice as well, with shades of gray and hints of light mint green that keeps it from being too somber.

dark blue with green shimmer

Not sure that this is my favorite, but it's among them. A dark blue silk number with an army green check box damask that not only fades near the point, but has a clean line cut out near the left edge. Kind of a tricky color combination, but it totally cracks when added to the lineup.

Hrm, my next post is already number 50 since starting this thing. Time to start thinking...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Vintage ties: The square-ends plus one

This is the fourth in the series of photographs of vintage ties in my collection. If you missed the first three installments, I've previously posted hand-painted, geometric and space age, and novelty prints.

This time out, I'm going to be featuring square-end ties from the collection that I think are unique. I have a few knits that are also square, but they're not quite as stand-out as the silk and wool numbers below.

red with black tear drops and white dots

I have an abundance of red ties and this one nearly kicks all their asses. Dazzling red with a sort of black and white teardrop embroidered pattern. Sharp.

red grey maroon stripe

Another tie with wicked reds, this one works with a ton of colors. Almost exactly the colors of The Ohio State University.

old kimono?

Okay, so this one isn't straight-up square, but close enough. My suspicions are that this tie is actually made out of a very old piece of fabric from the middle east due to the damask pattern, but I could be wrong. Either way, it's beautiful.

icy blue

I picked this tie up a couple months ago and have worn it a couple times since. Depending on the outfit, it works with either cool or warm weather. 100% cotton and silk. Shiny and crisp.

embroidered red

You would think I'd get sick of red ties, but you'd be wrong. Plus, this one has a strange little embroidered design on it that really draws your attention and makes you wonder just what the heck it is. Rorschach tie.

black blue wool stripe

This wool number just rocks with a blue oxford, as the thin stripes are almost the same exact color. More of a fall tie, this one feels perfect when the wind whips up and the leaves start turning.

grey green blue

The colors on this tie are some of the most beautifully understated of any tie in my entire collection. I just want to curl up in a blanket of the same color and hibernate.


This is the plus one I mentioned above and it's just a true oddity. The silk tie is nothing to be excited about, but it's embroidered with two separate colors (including a gold metal thread) and just has something about it that I can't deny.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Rocking the top coat

If you enjoy pop music and haven't heard of Francis And The Lights, let this be your introduction. Seriously catchy, concise music, and the lead man (Francis) rocks a pompadour and top coat like you haven't seen. Music gear hounds will note the monome blinking out a melody at 45 seconds, but it's the song that first and foremost makes the thing. Oh, and the beautiful, subtle lighting and retro-tastic, delicious dance moves at 1:55.

If that piqued your interest, here's the fabulously-dressed Francis doing his best electro soul. Yeah, it's great stuff as well.

Can't live without it? Here's a link to the forthcoming CD on If you can't wait that long, the digital version is already available.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Tie bonanza!

It is true. I am somewhat obsessed with ties. There's something about a good tie that can set off an ensemble, and really, you can't have too many of them.

A couple days ago, that very statement was tested, because I ran across one of the best troves of cravats I've seen in ages. It was at the end of an almost completely fruitless morning hitting garage sales and a couple stores when I stumbled across an absolutely huge pile of great neckwear at my local haunt.

Because I have an already overflowing rack, I limited myself to 14 ties, then called my good friend, who came and raided the place and got 21 more. This whole first pile (rep racing stripe, wide stripe, paisley) is all Land's End, vintage Land's End, and older Jos A. Bank. I snagged the colors I figured I'd wear most. The best part is the total cost of all 14 ties (at $2 apiece) is probably close to what I'd pay for a single new tie from either of the aforementioned stores.

pile o ties

I also picked up two insane, super chubby knit ties by Land's End that are literally the thickness of heavy wool socks. They won't be suitable for at least 4 more months, but I can't wait to rock them with a nice tweed.

super chunky wool

On a separate trip, I ran across this stunning silk tie that caught my eye from a distance.

silk lovely

As it turns out, my eagle eye suspicions were correct. A 100% silk Hardy Amies tie from London. It's a beauty.

Hardy Amies

There's still a part of me that feels like very day I break out a new (to me) tie, I feel like I'm stepping out with an entirely new outfit. This latest round of finds should have me unveiling fresh combinations for quite some time.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ahoy. Greetings.

That project I mentioned a couple posts ago ran a bit long and shelled me out a bit, but things should slow down and allow me to get back to some regular posts here. I'll start off with one of the cooler garage sale finds of the year so far, a ship log (the "Ship St. Paul") from the early part of the 20th century that I got at a yard sale for $2.

Log Book cover

Log book first page

Obviously, this book has seen some wear and tear. The corners of the cover are all worn down, the binding is split with pages loose on the inside, and there's water damage galore. That said, it didn't smell musty and I could detect no active mold, so I simply couldn't pass it up.

Inside the front cover was the ships forecastle card, which was cool enough in its own right.

log book forecastle card

log book forecastle card closeup

The book is filled with page after page of entries that basically describe what would be the day-to-day life on a Northwestern shipping boat 100 years ago. There are lots of descriptions of weather, which I'm sure got somewhat monotonous for someone on the boat at the time, and while I haven't read through the entire book, my landlubbing self finds the hand-scrawled entries absolutely fascinating.

log book entries

log book entry closeup

Of course, I had to do some internet searching on the boat, just to see if there was any more information out there, and sure enough, there were not just one, but two great photos on the University of Washington's digital collections site of the boat. Below is one of them, but be sure to check them both.

picture of the ship St. Paul

"Crew on deck of the Northwestern Fisheries Co. cannery ship ST. PAUL leaving Seattle, Washington, March 1912" - from the John Cobb field notebook

One of the only other mentions of the boat (not to be confused with another, more famous Ship St. Paul that was key in the discovery of Alaska) was that according to this article, it was turned into piece of a Seattle pier aquarium sometime in the early 30s (which then closed in 1956).

A lot of times when I'm thrifting or hunting around at garage sales, I'll buy something simply for its "object" value. This log book had that in spades. It's unique and incredibly aged, with not only words that tell a story, but an appearance that does so as well.

log book back cover

Yes, the back cover is even faded a different color than the front