• Vintage Accessories

    Style  

    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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  • Ernest Hemingway

    Style | Culture  

    As significant as his writing was, Ernest Hemingway is remembered just as much for the life he lived beyond the page. Everything about him was oversized—war service in Europe, big-game hunting in Africa, all-night benders in Paris. Hemingway embodied a full range of traditionally masculine experiences few others have. He even had a dictum that summed up his approach: “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk.”

    His appetite for adventure only persisted later in his life, which ended tragically in 1961. If Hemingway’s literary output slowed during this final postwar decade, his celebrity spread far and wide.  He wrote dispatches on bullfights and marlin fishing for popular magazines, and was the subject (sometimes willing, sometimes not) of numerous awed profiles.

    Hemingway, in this final act, produced the smash hits The Old Man and the Sea, which earned him a Nobel Prize in 1954, and his Parisian memoir A Moveable Feast. Meanwhile, the legend of his manliness grew. While on a big-game safari in East Africa, he stunned the public by surviving not one plane crash but two. Rather than kick open a door that had been jammed shut, in spectacular fashion, he head-butted it to escape the wreckage.

    "He always looked great, as if he’d slept a baby’s sleep in a soundproof room with his eyes covered by black patches..."

    The look that ‘Papa’ Hemingway sported in these up-and-down years of late middle age was the iconic one that comes to mind when we think of him today: straight, medium-length locks of white hair and a healthy silver beard. This is not the trim, mustachioed younger man who penned The Sun Also Rises—but it’s the look that hundreds of Hemingway fans replicate in a remarkable lookalike contest that takes place every year in Key West, Florida.

    The graying Hemingway wrote from his house in Cuba, where he was most productive during the morning hours. Ever the man of action, he tended to compose standing up.  No matter how much red wine he’d downed or unruly conduct he’d modeled the night before, a good night’s rest seemed to cure all. He “always looked great, as if he’d slept a baby’s sleep in a soundproof room with his eyes covered by black patches,” one of his sons later recalled.

    Nevertheless, personal hygiene was an afterthought. Hemingway’s third wife, Martha Gellhorn, described him as “one of the most unfastidious men I've ever known.” The thing he cultivated best of all, perhaps, was an image of done-it-all manliness. ‘Papa,’ a nickname often assumed to have attached itself to him later, was oddly one the author chose for himself while in his mid-twenties. But it was in these final, bearded years that it truly stuck.

    * Originally written for Kiehl's Men's Wing.

    May 13, 2014 | Permalink (0) View/Leave Comments

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  • Kamakura Shirts

    Style  

    It could be argued that the oxford cloth button-down shirt is the bedrock upon which modern day American menswear is built. When John E. Brooks, the grandson of Brooks Brothers founder, designed the first OCBD inspired by a shirt he spotted on English polo players in 1896, he was unknowingly making history. It would go on to become the workhorse of the Ivy League Look in the 1960s. But history became legend. Legend became myth. And for forty years, the minutiae of the original oxford cloth button-down shirt, specifically the roll of the collar, slowly faded into relative obscurity. Measurements were updated, factories changed, and details diminished. It would take a Japanese man to resurrect it.

    In 1993, Yoshio Sadasue quietly opened a small luxury shirt store in Kamakura, Japan. The goal? Craft a shirt that could rival that original Brooks Brothers oxford, the existing gold standard of the Ivy League icon. Sadasue cut his teeth in a variety of roles at pioneering Japanese Ivy brand VAN Jacket during the sixties and seventies. His experience and passion ushered in precise patterns, 18-20 stitches per inch, buttons carved from natural shell, and button-down collars with the sought-after “roll”—a level of painstaking attention to detail that is uniquely Japanese.

    For the uninitiated, finding your fit will be a hurdle you will want to clear with a visit to Kamakura Shirts' 400 Madison shop in New York. They offer four different fits: New York Classic (most generous cut), Tokyo Classic (a little slimmer), New York Slim (even slimmer), and Tokyo Slim (do not attempt unless you are Japanese). I try on all four (multiple times) during my inaugural visit and am still, after 17 minutes, quizzically staring at myself in the mirror inconclusive as to which fit is best for my frame. The neck/sleeve measurements are in centimeters. Sometimes they don’t translate evenly to inches, which is one reason why some of the sizes will seem unfamiliar to Americans (thirds of inches?).

    It isn't long before I discover the slim fits are darted in the back. As a guy, I just don't do darts in my shirts. It seems very...un-American and slightly effeminate. I like to know that at any given moment I could still throw a football, should I come across a game, and not split my shirt at the seams. That, and while Kamakura's OCBDs are designed to be worn tucked in, you lose any hope of doing otherwise with darts. I'm left considering the classic fit in the New York and the Tokyo silhouettes.

    The knowledgable, young, Japanese (good sign) associate confides that the Tokyo fits are smaller, well, everywhere—in the sleeves, the neck, and the body. The English-as-a-second-language to Japanese is as charming as you would think...drawn out verbs at the end of hesitantly delivered short phrases. Ultimately, I decide the 15.5/34.5 New York Classic fits like a glove (that I can still bend my fingers in). While it is Kamakura's fullest cut, it is by no means a generous fit by American standards. It still sits close to my body while allowing for a full range of motion.

    It is worth noting that Kamakura takes particular pride in the roll of its collars. Cotton lined but not fused (lining and fusing help a collar keep its shape, but make it stiffer; not the goal on OCBDs), the natural-looking collar arguably embodies the best roll on an OCBD that doesn't fit like a tent. What's more? It is a grown-ass man's collar, one you can actually wear a tie with. But what might be the most miraculous feat of Sadasue’s resurrection of the Ivy-inspired OCBD is that he is doing it for under $80. It is a shirt you might just have to see to believe.

    May 1, 2014 | Permalink (0) View/Leave Comments

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  • Reiss Personal Tailoring

    Style  

    Alex McCart walks into the Reiss on Bleecker St. moments after hopping off a jet plane from London. In a black turtleneck and speckled grey tweed one button jacket hugging his rail thin frame, he is impeccably relaxed yet put together. McCart is the gentleman who heads up the personal tailoring program for Reiss back in the UK. He is in town this afternoon to introduce Reiss’ personal tailoring initiative stateside…and to size me up.

    Few things in life are more luxurious or uniquely personal than a tailor made suit. The Reiss Personal Tailoring experience is a manageable seventeen stage process which ensures every detail is explored to craft your perfect suit. It allows the client to become the designer in choosing every detail from fabric, styling, lining, and trims. After a conversation about what I have in mind, Alex and I flip through his swatch book judiciously fingering flannels, tropical wools, tweeds—weighing the pros and cons of each that catch my eye.

    Reiss’ point of view is expectedly British—buttoned up, a little shoulder, refined yet modern. I have been daydreaming about a double-breasted suit for some time. And while convention is to opt for a dark solid in your first silhouette of anything, I'm feeling bold. Now seems as good as time as any to go for it—after all, it’s going to fit like a glove. I land on a tropical wool Glen Urquhart plaid. The jacket* boasts a half canvas, peak lapels, a red undercollar melton, surgeon’s cuffs with a red contrast stitch buttonhole and my initials embroidered on the inside near the hip. I finish off the trousers with side adjusters and a 1.5” cuff.

    The experience ranges from $995-$1695, depending on fabric selection and options like adding a waistcoat. After your first consultation and a couple fittings, your suit is ready to wear after five weeks. It is the pinnacle of dressing for the gentleman who appreciates Reiss' modern British point of view. For me, I love dressing mine down a bit with a lived-in pair of selvedge denim and English benchmade shoes.

    *courtesy of Reiss

    Apr 21, 2014 | Permalink (0) View/Leave Comments

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  • Shoptalk Radio Interview

    Style | Miscellany  

    Nick Onken and I first met when I hired him to shoot branding images for my photography business. That was 2008. Fast forward to 2014 and not only have we become great friends but for much of that time, Nick served as one of my creative mentors. For that I am forever grateful. He possesses a youthful way of looking at the world in front of him—a unique blend of music, community, food, and pop culture.

    One thing I love about Nick is that the guy has a big heart. He is genuinely interested in people. In an effort to give back and inspire, he recently created a podcast that explores the entrepreneurial journeys of creatives he has personally come to know over the years. He’s interviewed over a dozen friends who are are up to big things in their lives—music moguls, dancers, non-profits, actors, and fashion designers—all living a unique and inspiring story. I listen on a regular basis and always walk away inspired to continue pursuing my own vision. When Nick recently asked to sit down with me, I was honored to dive into my own creative journey and look back at exactly how I got from there to here.

    You can listen here and check out the rest of the photo story Nick created. It’s a a real treat being shot by Nick…so of course I had to pogo around SoHo.

    Mar 25, 2014 | Permalink (6) View/Leave Comments

    610 left a comment on 5/11/2014 at 2:02 PM:

    This is amazing! I’ve started to follow your blog a couple of years ago. Back then I did not really care how I dressed, I did however love to go in here and look at the pictures. since my passion for style came way later than this I never took my time to read any of the posts. Now a couple of years later, after moving to London and working in the sartorial end of retail I realise what I have missed.

    Shame on me.


    ali left a comment on 4/23/2014 at 9:50 PM:

    What a great collection of photos. I wanted to pint out that I noticed your pogo stick was the standard issue silver color. Was it monogrammed? I could not tell. I am so sorry that you cannot find any pants that have the right inseam for you. Your poor feet must be so very cold.


    Cate left a comment on 4/17/2014 at 11:18 PM:

    great photos, great piece on nick’s site.


    Joey Dee left a comment on 4/8/2014 at 5:23 PM:

    Dear Fred:
    Your site & style will always be an inspiration! The content is always refreshing!
    Joey Dee


    Lauren left a comment on 3/31/2014 at 5:52 PM:

    Love your site!


    Jen K. left a comment on 3/26/2014 at 8:42 AM:

    That is so awesome! I’ve followed Nick’s blog for awhile!


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