Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tweed on the steed

Winter is hanging around these parts, but the weather has been just sunny and dry enough that bicycle commuting is still an option most days.

From the top down
I tried to pull a little bit more color out of the subtle weave of my trusty tweed, so I went with a purple/blue mercerized cotton v-neck, the flowered cotton Gant tie from this haul, my Florsheim monk strap boots and some chinos.

detail shot
The nice thing about wearing items that skirt the line between two colors is that they can veer in different directions depending on what they're paired with. Here, my university-stripe oxford in blue and white actually seems to be leaching a bit of the purple from the sweater, along with the navy tie (which also has a similarly vague tone). The pocket square is strictly in the corner of purple and cream, and holds a surprise of its own...

Mackinac Island scarf
It's actually a women's souvenir scarf, and while it's technically a little on the large size to use as a pocket square, the thin density of it allows it to work without too much thickness in the breast pocket. I actually have several women's scarves that I use in this way; I don't hold a grudge one way or another and actually really prefer some of their colors when I'm feeling like I should let my peacock side fly. In this particular case, I just liked the checkered pattern and colors, so that's all I chose to show. Whatever works, right?

It was actually quite apropos that I rode my bike while tucking away the Mackinac Island scarf, as the resort island has had a ban on nearly all motor vehicles for quite some time. I think retreating there to bike around in its giant state park sounds like a great idea to escape from the blistering summers at some point in the future.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Setting the table for spring

After a stint of unseasonably warm temperatures, mother nature decided to toy with us once again here and dropped down to unseasonably cold. So, here we are one week after the first day of spring and there's snow coming down again. If you see a newspaper headline that states, "Old Man Shakes Fist At Sky," it might be referring to me.

It's been awhile since I made a good post about tie finds, and fortunately the thrift gods have come through with some beauties that will become absolute go-to pieces when the temperature warms up again.

Polo silk tie
First up is this silk brocade Polo tie with a great maps / sailboat motif. Totally electric.

Polo red flannel
Next up is this plaid cotton flannel tie, also from Ralph. It feels like a beat-up pair of pajama pants, but looks like a firecracker. Swoon.

Lily Pulitzer tie
Easily the most eyeball-popping of my finds, this Lily Pulitzer gem very nearly glows with greens, pinks and reds. I'm thinking this one will get worn with my green Lacoste pants at some point.

Owl ties
Last, but certainly not least are these novelty-print Owl ties. I actually found these on ebay for incredibly cheap (especially considering their silk weight and construction). I try to stay away from too many ties like this, but if you've been following this blog for awhile you already know that we have a history with owls in our household, so I only thought it fitting.

Speaking of the owls, I saw them for the first time this year the other night. I'm trying to not be superstitious or anything, but I'm guessing that we'll soon be joined by a new member of our family.

If I suddenly stop updating the blog for awhile, the aforementioned will be the reason why. Fear not, though. I will return. :)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Jacket not jacket

If I had to make an educated guess, I'd say that I probably wear a tie to work about 90% of the time. When the temperature is blistering hot in the summer, I get away with open collars a lot more often, but in the winter it's pretty much steady tie for months.

That said, I don't always wear a sport coat. There are days in the spring and summer that I pair up a long sleeve shirt and tie (sometimes with a vest) with a cotton canvas, denim, or even leather jacket then shed said jacket while in the office.

Today was one of those days, and I broke out a cream-colored Ralph Lauren medium-weight cotton number I'd picked up in the fall.

Ralph Lauren cotton canvas jacket
It's a nice solid cotton canvas number that works well both on the cooler ride into work in the morning while breathing enough to not make me break into a sweat on the way home. Here, I paired it up with a cotton striped blue shirt and Ra La linen tie in baby blue.

chinos and cream
The cut of the jacket isn't perfect, as it's a size XL, which fits in the arms but leaves a bit to be desired in terms of the fit around the midsection. It's not completely slouchy, though, and goes nicely with a pair of chinos and a canvas/leather belt. I could probably find a slimmer cut jacket that also fits my 37" arms, but it would probably cost me more than $2.99 (and maybe I'll find one yet and retire this one).

Speaking of sport coats, if any of you readers and fellow thrifters run across any nifty lightweight (linen or cotton or something similar) ones in size 42l (or 42xl, as I need at least 27" from shoulder seam to arm opening) for a reasonable price, gimme a holler. I'm looking for a couple more decent late spring and summer weight numbers to add to my arsenal and everything I've run across in the past six months is either trashed or way too short (in the arms) or way too big (in the body).

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tags and Textures: Madras tie

Just over a year ago, I ran across three madras ties at a thrift store and couldn't believe my luck. All had absolutely beautiful coloring, and I wore each a great deal over the course of the warmer months. That being said, I can only remember a single post where I'm actually incorporating one of them into my outfit, so I guess I'll have to remedy that in the future.

With the weather warming up here, I thought it would serve as a good time to feature some detail photos of one of them.

madras close-up
None of the ties are spectacular in terms of brand name (two vintage Hathaway's and one Rooster), but they're just absolutely lovely in terms of color and quality.

madras edge
Here's the edge with some extreme detail of the weave.

madras twirl
It's all about spring and summer, and they're going to be pulled off the tie rack a lot more in the next couple months.

Speaking of madras, I used a photo from the same shoot as a background on my recently-launched twitter page. After much hemming and hawing, I decided to start up an account mainly as a way to communicate with other bloggers who have twitter accounts, as well as a way to make some shorter comments that might not really fit on here very well. I'll also be posting links to what I feel are really excellent deals that I run across on ebay. The auctions I link to will have no affiliation with myself, just things that I see when I'm searching for things myself and decide to pass along. If you're on twitter and that sounds interesting, follow me and say hello.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Avoiding the pinch

I'm going to state right off the bat that I'm not Irish. I'm a classic American mutt, and I'm totally fine with that. If the words of a great uncle of mine can be believed, then my family is descended at least in part from Ponce de León, but I know that I'm part French, part Dane, part English, and probably a few other nationalities for good measure.

Green pants and navy
I picked up these pants last fall, and stowed them away for the winter after dropping them hems on them a couple inches. Besides being St. Patrick's Day, unseasonably warm temps were in the forecast again, so I couldn't help but break them out.

vintage Izod Lacoste
Not only are they bright green, but they're also vintage Izod Lacoste, with expansion straps and buttons on the sides. Kinda dorky, but I love them. If you have a good memory, you'll notice that I re-claimed a tie from February's Style Share and incorporated it here as well.

navy jacket
A true "business up top, party down low" outfit, I kept things somewhat normalized with a standard navy jacket, university stripe OCBD, and the aforementioned clover-leaf tie and a cream and green pocket square. Burgundy penny loafers rounded it all out.

Over the course of the day, I only got a few playful comments and some random smiles from passerby's (either out of joy or pity, I can't be sure). It's either confidence or folly (perhaps a little of each), but I wouldn't have had the mind to wear something like this a couple years ago. I'm glad I did, though, because it was fun.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I'm hungry for spring

Today was one of those glorious days where it truly felt like winter was really retreating back into the shadows. On the bike ride into work, it was in the lower 30s, but warmed to almost 70 by a mid-afternoon stroll and just under that on the bike ride home. I didn't have any meetings and thought I'd play it a little loose, so I went with the vintage dinner jacket that I found late last year.

dinner jacket montage
I didn't try to do too much with it in fear of making its more odd qualities stick out, and paired it with a lighter pair of chinos, a blue wool knit tie, and a pocket square with similar coloring. Keeping in mind some fairly consistent color-matching, the spread-collar shirt had dark brown stripes that tied into both my dark brown leather belt and loafers, as well as blue stripes that were close to the tie and pocket square color.

dinner jacket detail
In the end, it didn't feel costume-ish at all. Instead, the more playful aspects of the jacket (one button closure and sleeves, lapel and pocket cording) seemed perfect for the lighter weather.

I doubt the anonymous poster who expressed their one-word dissatisfaction with my purchase will see this, but overall the jacket worked out even better than even I had expected it to. It'll go into regular rotation, for sure.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Style Share return - Lands' End rugby

Greg officially wins the title for the first Style Share return for March.

Lands End rugby
He chose this excellent eggplant and green Lands' End rugby shirt that I only wish had fit me.

Lands' End Rugby return
As per usual, I'll let him tell it:

I paired the rugby shirt up with a yellow oxford cloth button-down, a green/yellow/red/purple Lands' End rep tie, Lands' End khakis, and Lands' End lace-up boots. The (nearly) all Lands' End outfit was unintentional.

I've done this look several times with a rugby and it's pretty much a classic. Throw a jacket on over the top and it works just as well.

Thanks to Greg for his contribution!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Project: Pocket square(s)

Late last year, I put together a small sewing work area and figured out how to hem pants over the course of a couple evenings. It took me several tries, but I finished up two pairs (both of which will make their debut once it warms up) before the area went into stasis as other projects rightfully pulled my attention away.

I'd been planning other things in the back of my head, though, and every since I read this post on Yankee Whisky Papa's always-informative and endlessly inventive site, I had it in my mind that I'd teach myself to sew hand-rolled edges and whip myself up some pocket squares. Heck, he'd even sent me a piece of lovely rayon crepe (among other pieces that I need to feature here) that was just asking to be turned into a square, and it had simply sat on my dresser for months.

Brooks Brothers oxford
I didn't want to ruin the lovely piece of fabric that YWP graciously sent my way, so I started out with something I could live with errors on, an old Brooks Brothers oxford with an un-salvageable hole and a blood stain (yes!). After cutting it into appropriately-sized pieces, I decided to go with some red contrast stitching, figuring it would force me to be more mindful of my mistakes and possibly even look a bit nicer if I managed to finish it without major issues.

hand-rolled oxford edge
As it turns out, doing hand-rolled edges is a little more difficult than I thought it would be. It probably doesn't help that I have the hands of an ogre, when thin, nimble digits would probably make for an easier time. And yet, despite the roll being a bit too thick and a little uneven to look truly professional, I'm pretty happy with how the first edge (which took nearly 45 minutes) turned out.

I will get faster, and I will finish this one and more. This one scissored oxford alone has enough material for 4 pieces, so I'll start with that and move forward. It probably won't hurt to have another quiet project I can work on here in the near future.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sweater surprise

Today was one of those delightful days on the plains when the morning temperatures hover around 20, but by late afternoon they've risen into the 50s. The early March air still has a bit of bite to it, so layering and wool are my friends.

morning outfit
The morning outfit paired some heavy chinos and gray suede desert boots with a gray shirt, cream-colored wool knit tie, a Pendleton Cowichan sweater, and a wool Pendleton jacket. Amazingly, I just found the driving cap two nights ago for $2, and the tweed matches the jacket nearly to the very color speck.

The surprise in the title of this post has a bit of a double meaning, the first of which is the amazing design that was fully unveiled when I took off my jacket.

afternoon outfit
With the temperatures warmer at lunch, I left my jacket at home and the sweater basically served as its replacement for the rest of the day. When I first donned my outfit this morning, I'd actually thought about pairing it with a Fair Isle knit tie (which actually would have been fairly interesting given the connection to Cowichan knitting), but the styles clashed too much and I wanted to let the thunderbird rule the day. If that weren't cool enough, it's actually a one-of-a-kind sweater that was sampled, but not produced.

How do I know that, you ask? Well, the second part of the surprise is that the sweater itself wasn't a thrift find, rather I was the lucky winner of a giveaway drawing sponsored by Pendleton Menswear on Facebook. If you're on Facebook and like Pendleton, I'd recommend following them, as they do a good mix of historical posts and product promotion without over-doing things (averaging a post a day or so) like some other companies tend to.

If you've been reading this site for any time now, you know of my love for Pendleton, so needless to say I was pretty excited about having my name chosen.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mister Midwester and the case of the counterfeit cravats

A couple weeks ago, I was sifting through a stack of cravats at a local second-hand clothing store when my hand touched what seemed to be some very quality goods. The silk was thick and the weave was tight and if I had any doubts, the labels themselves calmed my pangs of mistrust. I purchased the four cravats, with names such as Boss (both of which still had their original store tags), Gucci and Versace, and went home, feeling rather full of myself.

high end fakes
As I sometimes do when stumbling upon such a treasure, I took a few photographs of the cravats and posted them to an online gathering place, to brag a bit with some fellow second-hand shoppers. The ties weren't exactly in my particular wheelhouse in terms of color and design, but I hoped that another fellow might fancy them and reward me kindly, thus paving my way for more second-hand adventures.

The first response was by a dear chap who stated, "Good sir, I do believe you have been hoodwinked." I simply could not believe it! Who would dare try to pull such a fast one upon me? Not only that, but in a locale known for such straightforward peoples and, dare I say, "authenticity?"

With such a seed planted in my head, I put on my sleuthing cap and went looking for clues. In only a few minutes, I had found my answer. The fine chap had not lied; I had indeed gotten the wool, or should I say, "silk," pulled over mine eyes.

fake tie label
The photographic accompaniment on the previously-mentioned guide is not so good, but the details matched my counterfeit cravats perfectly. Here, one can see the "dimples" of the stitching in the logo of the tie.

fake tie content tag detail
In addition to those finer points (including the much wider size), the blatantly obvious tag listing content of fibers should have been enough of a warning sign, but it was too late for me.

I had lost eight dollars, but gained valuable knowledge, and in the end had a good tale to tell. In the future, I must remember that when in doubt, I need only buy things that I would wear in the first place.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Cross section of maximum capacity

After weeks of telling myself that I was going to do it, I finally got around to installing a second tie rack today. For a couple months now, I'd been stacking tie after tie onto two bowing hangers, and I finally found the time to re-arrange them properly.

It forced me to weed through my collection and get rid of some things and take inventory in general. Just before I dove into my original rack to start weeding, the sun hit it just perfectly and I knew I had to get a picture.

tie rack cross section

This rack has 32 posts for holding ties, but obviously there are a few more than that base number here.

As mentioned above, this is my original tie rack, which houses all of my vintage ties from the 50s and 60s as well as a bunch of other random stuff. The left side of it is draped with hand-painted and madras with a few others (like embroidered animal and bird ties) that have slipped in for good measure.

By the time I finally finished arranging the other rack (which now houses the repp stripes, knits, linen, and woolens), the light was too poor to get anything of quality, but it's crammed nearly as tightly. I'm officially at the point where buying a new tie means getting rid of one that I already have. I must attain some equilibrium.

Or, a third tie rack.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Style Share - March

If you've been following this blog since the beginning of the year, you probably know that my life is about to get much more busy. With a child entering my life sometime in the next few weeks, this blog will be taking a backseat for awhile, and entries will more sparse as I adjust to my new routine (or complete lack thereof).

So, in celebration (and because I'm already assuming that I'll skip next month), Style Share for March is the biggest yet. The theme this month is obviously spring, and I tried to reflect that in the items up for grabs. Lots of brighter colors, perfect for the warming temps. There are ten things to choose from (for free*), and I'll send out items to the first six(!) people to claim their items in the comments. Once items are claimed, they're off the board, but the person who claimed the item will need to contact me through the email listed in my profile so I know where to mail the particular items.

As always, the only thing I ask is that the recipient of said item of clothing email me back a photo or two of them wearing it for a follow-up post on this site.

Boom! Here goes...

Lands End ocbd
Lands' End vintage OCBD in blue and pink! 60/40 blend (cotton/poly) made in the U.S.A. No size tag, but based on measurements (neck is 16", sleeve from shoulder seam to hem is 26", chest, from armpit to armpit is 21") I think it's a 16/34. This is all about spring.

Tie Rack
Tie Rack Tie for Leonardo Strelli in a lovely, repeating inverted flower motif. Kinda deco, classy, and playful all in one.

Lands End stripe tie
Lands' End thick silk tie in traditional navy, with 5 bold repeating stripes of grey, green, red, purple, and orange running through it. Someone claim this and pair it up in an outfit that destroys before I decide to keep it.

Brooks Brothers paisley
Stunning Brooks Brothers gold paisley with lots of red and green. Another possible bit of lunacy on my part in giving this away.

Rohde Royce tie
I'd honestly never heard of Rohde Royce before I picked up this tie, but this lovely pastel flower and fruit motif in imported cotton just screams (or at least gently whispers) spring.

Lands End rugby
Older Lands' End rugby (size medium) in the most unreal color combination I've seen in ages. Seriously! Please note that there is a pencil-eraser sized bleach spot just above the neck tag on this one (you can see it in the photo) as well as a tiny (right by the left sleeve cuff, which could easily be fixed) hole on this shirt. If anyone asks, just tell them you had to clean the blood off it after exiting the scrum. Rubber buttons and all.

Brooks Brothers blue
Another Brooks Brothers tie, this one in a nice navy / baby blue / cream pattern. Play it up, play it down.

London Fog
London Fog windbreaker in cream with teal(!) highlights. Yes, it's kinda 80s, but as my dummy shows, it can still be done in style. Size is large and would probably fit a 40 - 44r just fine.

Brooks Brothers in red/green
Brooks Brothers in burgundy and green linked disc motif. Crack this off with some gold cufflinks and/or a big, shiny lapel pin. Bling for spring.

Lands End tie in green and purple
Yet another Lands' End tie (I swear they're not sponsoring this, although that is an idea... hrm...) in green, purple, yellow, and red silk. If you celebrate Easter, I don't think you could ask for a better color combo than this. Fresh green lawns and hidden eggs from a rabbit.

*Seriously, it's free, and yours to keep forever. No strings attached. I won't share your name on the site or with anyone else unless you have a blog of your own that you want me to link. Please note that all clothing will be used (but certainly not stained, smelly, or damaged, as I do have standards), so please only agree to participate if this sort of thing doesn't gross you out. Thanks!

Style Share return - Lands' End tie

First off, I have to make a bit of an apology on this entry, as February's edition of Style Share offered up a multi-color houndstooth jacket that was claimed by a reader.

As I was getting it ready to mail, I noticed a small hole in the right elbow that had somehow gone completely unnoticed (even while photographing it). Needless to say, I felt like a heel, and mustered up an apology.

Lands End tie in red, green, and navy
Fortunately, Joe was a good sport and accepted a replacement item; a red, green, and navy striped Lands' End tie.

Style Share return with Lands End tie

photo courtesy JoeTheMiddleYears

Here, he paired it up with a Polo button-down and a Lands' End Navy blazer. A super classic look that really makes the complimentary colors of the tie pop out and become the focal point.

Again, thanks to Joe for being understanding and for his contribution.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Encouraging the thaw

If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time at all, you know that I'm very influenced by the seasons when it comes to my style. Today was no different, and while the base part of my outfit was fairly subdued by itself, a couple accessories hinted at the spring to come.

cream tie combo

Over my left shoulder is a magnolia tree and a burning bush. In a couple months they'll both be glowing.

White OCBD up top with my camel hair herringbone jacket and cream-color Lord Jeff wool sweater vest for another layer of warmth. To keep it from being completely drab, I pulled out the fat linen square-end tie from this haul and a lovely cotton pocket square that almost perfectly matched it in color (and even repeated the square motif).

down below
Down below is pretty darn boring as well, with straight brown wool pants and some split-toe bluchers. As I mentioned above, though, this one was all about the little peeks.

The snow is melting, and more color will arrive on the scene shortly.

P.S. Tune in Thursday night for the biggest and best Style Share yet. Brooks Brothers, Lands' End, and London Fog all make an appearance, among others.