• Saddle Up

    Style | Prep Essentials  

    Sportswear is America's fashion child. It’s about living, and that’s where America has made its mark. In the early 1920’s, American golfers, following the Duke of Windsor’s lead, brought two-tone shoes to the greens long before they appeared on the feet of jitterbugging adolescents. Girls of the 1950’s typically paired saddle shoes with skirts, a white blouse and bobby socks. Although the normal coloration is white and black, today, they’re worn by both men and women in a variety of style and colors.

    Mark McNairy, Allen Edmonds, J.Crew and a handful of English cordwainers each have their take on the classic, but Ralph Lauren's are top drawer. Bench-made in Northampton England by Crockett & Jones (a renowned cordwainer in their own right), this particular pair are vintage at over 20 years old. Everything from the chocolate eyelets, to the tan shade of the saddle, to the silhouette of the toe (not too round but not too pointy) is just perfect. And then they're beat to hell. In tan/white, they subtly hint at the gentlemanly demeanor found on the links.

    Pair the brown variations with a multi-stripe sock from Smart Turnout. Come summer, lace them up sock-less with your shorts and summer-weight trousers. Whatever you do, just don't try to keep them clean.

    Aug 15, 2014 | Permalink (0) View/Leave Comments

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  • The Debonair

    Top Drawer | Style | Prep Essentials  

    When we caught up with Jason Pollak almost three years ago, he had just given life to Deja Vu Refinery. The pièce de résistance? The Debonair sunglasses. We immediately fell head over heels and have been basking in the sun in them since. Pollak is a product guy. His voice gets pitchy when he starts talking about his glasses’ 45 degree arm joints, historically accurate flat lenses, and custom lens colors (like beer bottle green and polarized beer bottle brown). In a previous life, he was a men's vintage clothing and accessories dealer with a penchant for iconic eye-wear.

    Deja Vu Refinery’s Debonair frame, smartly inspired by vintage Tart Optical Arnels, are handmade by master craftsmen from cellulose acetate (a high quality plastic that lends itself extremely well to coloration). They boast seven barrel hinges (not just five or, Heaven forbid, three), functional rivets, and rounded arm ends—an improvement on the Arnel.

    "What I'm doing is essentially vintage reproduction. It's something you've seen before but better."

    One need not be an eye-wear connoisseur to appreciate the meticulous attention to detail though. It is readily apparent Pollak has created something special. Each frame presented in a time capsule case wrapped in brown butcher paper adorned in idiosyncratic skeleton art. Pollak's personal wax seal finishes it off. The fact that it glows in the dark only confirms what we've known since discovering Debonairs—Pollak embodies an early 90s old-school cool.

    The Debonair ($135) is offered in 36 frame and lens combinations, polished to a shine or in a matte finish. While the translucent blonde hue isn't for everyone, the tortoise shells are as inspired as the iconic frames that came before. You can pick up your own pair for a limited time at 25% off with the discount code “CASTLEBERRY”. Each pair comes with a lifetime warranty and a grip of envious looks.

    Jul 15, 2014 | Permalink (0) View/Leave Comments

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  • Harry’s


    Shaving is a therapeutic experience for me in the morning. The feel of a well-balanced handle in between my fingers, the methodical stroke upon stroke, the rejuvenation—it's a nice ritual. A man can wax introspective while staring himself in the mirror and holding a blade to his throat. However, there is this moment when the romance of it all is lost. It's the moment I realize I'm on my last blade and that blade's last shave was yesterday. It's an amateur move. But I'm busy, so this happens more than I would like to admit. I need fresh blades and cream delivered to my door on my schedule.

    Andy Katz-Mayfield and Jeff Raider (Warby Parker cofounder) realized this too. Together they created Harry's and it's doing for shaving what Warby Parker did for glasses: offer a better designed product directly to customers in a market plagued by exorbitant prices. From their timeless yet modern ergonomic handles to their "gothic arch" blades, Harry's team of more than four hundred German engineers design and manufacture everything.

    Evangelizing a luxury, modern point of view on design pays off for Harry's. The guys took aesthetic inspiration from older ballpoint pens and knives boasting unique handles. With offerings in precision-grade aluminum and colorful blends of high quality polymers (a highlight is the safety orange), the result is quite handsome. I love the aluminum handle for its engravable quality. Hey, if it's not moving, monogram it).

    Harry's, taken from a grandfather figure in Raider's life, offers shave plans ($1.56 per blade and $8 per cream) based on how frequent you shave. It's easy and automatic. I no longer worry about buying razors or cream now. Every two months, I get a delivery at my door just before things get, well...hairy.

    Jun 16, 2014 | Permalink (0) View/Leave Comments

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  • Rowley Eyewear


    by Tucker Chet Markus

    1988—Cynthia Rowley started her career by inviting New York’s most well-known fashion editors to a runway show...in her apartment.

    An ambitious start that has defined the trajectory of Cynthia’s success since; the Cynthia Rowley name has flourished, now with over 60 boutiques across the world. And today, Cynthia and her husband, art aesthete Bill Powers, have brought the quality and sensibility of the Cynthia Rowley brand to eyewear.

    Launched last year, Rowley Eyewear is the result of Cynthia’s vision to make eyewear not a necessity for seeing but another way to see yourself. The women’s line is designed by Cynthia and the men’s line—called Mr. Powers—is crafted by Bill. While Rowley Eyewear is the latest company to embrace the direct-to-consumer e-commerce approach, what Cynthia has dubbed Rowley Care is what makes her offering unique—by creating what she cheekily refers to as her own version fashion insurance.

    Pony up $50 for annual membership when you pick up your first pair (or opt $5 monthly installments) and throughout the year, you can buy as many frames as you want for 50% off. If you break a pair, buy a new one at 50% off. Leave your frames in a cab (ugh!)? Buy a second pair at 50% off. If you just want to switch it up, buy a third pair at 50% off. In fact, buy as many pairs as you like at 50% off—each designed with the artful perspective of one of the most preeminent fashion designers today.

    We caught up with Cynthia and Bill about their inspirations—as fashion luminaries, as parents, and as husband and wife. Then we took a bunch of selfies, like they were originally intended to be, in a photobooth.

    Cynthia, what was the inspiration behind expanding the Cynthia Rowley brand to eyewear?

    C: As they say, a smile is the most important thing you put on in the morning, but if eyes are the window to the soul, shouldn't eyewear follow? Even though the e-commerce model already existed, no other designer had made glasses into a stylized accessory yet.

    Explain the point of view behind Rowley Care.

    C: Lose 'em, break 'em, scratch 'em, or maybe you're just bored: Rowley Care is your fashion insurance. By joining, you can purchase additional pairs of glasses at a reduced price.

    What era of eyewear do you find yourself most influenced by?

    C: Now!

    Bill, what’s the one detail that you look for first when it comes to eyewear?

    B: French writer Malcolm de Chazal said, "We know the halls of our eye like welcome visitors.”

    How does the Mr. Powers line capture this?

    B: The glasses should evoke a kind of déjà vu, but still feel fresh.

    Both the Rowley and Mr. Powers lines are seemingly defined as independent parts of a greater whole. With this in mind, Cynthia, how do you perceive Bill as a catalyst to your work? Bill, how do you perceive Cynthia as a catalyst to your work?

    C: We both love art, and that influences every part of our lives. He is kinda bossy, haha, but in the end we both have our own aesthetic.

    B: My wife likes to joke that giving unsolicited advice is my favorite hobby.

    When looking through your own specs, what's your favorite sight to behold?

    B: My kids.

    C: Friends and family laughing, the New York skyline, the beach, and champagne bubbles in a glass.

    And at arms-length, what is your favorite thing to read?

    C: Bedtime stories to my kids.

    B: The best book I read this year was The Flamethrowers.

    To finish, fill in the blank: I’m absolutely in love with the _____________ frame right now.

    B: I love the No.06 or No.86 at the moment.

    C: Well, the whole idea behind Rowley Care is that you don't have to limit yourself to just one pair! Right now I love No.29 in black, No.78 in honey tortoise, and No.62 in blush.

    May 27, 2014 | Permalink (0) View/Leave Comments

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  • Vintage Accessories


    Of the handful of friends I have who design interiors, they all seem to echo the same dictum: don't buy all your furniture at once. Doing so tends to capture but a snapshot of an individual's taste, personality, and experiences instead of a culmination of them. I think the same could be said of one's wardrobe. Personal style is best developed over time, a byproduct on the journey of knowing one's self.

    Part of what can make personal style interesting is when certain pieces tell stories or boast history. Whether passed down or purchased, the stories inherent in vintage accessories weave a weft that simply cannot be replicated by new. Carol Troy, author of Cheap Chic, lauds that “vintage gives you a feeling that in this throwaway world there are still some things around that can last ten, twenty, thirty, forty years, or more and remain beautiful.”

    The right vintage accessories can introduce an interesting depth to one's style. And more often than not, no one else will have it. It is now uniquely yours. The key to wearing vintage accessories is to buy great pieces (I love sterling silver) and mix them in sparingly with modern pieces you are already wearing. It is that mix of old and new that feels current.

    “Vintage gives you a feeling that in this throwaway world there are still some things around that can last ten, twenty, thirty, forty years, or more and remain beautiful.”

    This sterling silver American Indian chief ring is a gem I plucked from the Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show. While flea markets, thrift stores, and estate sales are viable options, I appreciate the curated offering of the vintage fair. It is a more organized, curated flea market, with higher quality merchandise (and prices to match). Make an entire day of it. It is highly efficient and beats pin-balling between shops. Nearly all my favorite vintage accessories come from vintage fairs and eBay.

    Since most vintage fairs pop up in larger cities, thrift stores are your next best option. They can be just as rewarding—you just get to roll up your sleeves little higher. Here are a few thrifting tips:

    • The best thrift shops are typically found in wealthy neighborhoods inhabited by septuagenarians (that’s the UES for New York) or in rural towns devoid of hipsters.

    • Don’t be afraid to haggle. I always start at 75% of their asking price (with a goal of making a deal at 80%). If an item you’re eyeing has any kind of damage, go even lower. Long awkward silences only work in your favor. Use generously.

    • Belts, sunglasses, rings and other treasures are often stored in drawers, which tend to be overlooked by most shoppers. Poke around.

    May 14, 2014 | Permalink (0) View/Leave Comments

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