90 years gone

12 Aug

I thought these needed to be shared. I think its just amazing that little collections of history like this exist in the bottoms of drawers and in the back of attic trunks.

A collection of British motorcycle trial medals from a gent named J.V. Brady, who seems to have done well for himself racing in the mid to late 20s.

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Sadly information has not been easy to come by about the fellow or his race history, but the time period was amazing for motorcycle racing and clubs. While many of these trials would have been open street races across towns and between cities, many motorcycle clubs in England at this time sponsored and maintained tracks or “motordromes”. These race courses were occasionally composed of wooden boards, sloping up from the inner lanes to provide a literal fast track to race on. They were also fraught with accidents because the repairs were so tricky and bikes in this era were pretty rigid and sprung seated.

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George Brough

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I am making the assumption that Bradley was a man, though this may not have been the case, as clubs and trials were often open to women.

Vintage Photographs of Women and Motorcycles (8)

Nancy and Betty Debenham, well-known motorcyclists, riding BSA bikes with their dog, 1925. (source)

Finding these sent me down a rabbit hole of English motorcycle history.

 

 

Enjoy

 

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How to store it- Wool

15 Jun

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I’m a Californian, living in Vermont. Aside from everything that Californian’s don’t naturally know about living in New England, I had to teach myself seasonal wardrobe storage. My first year here, I bought enough woolens to choke an Outer Hebrides crofter. This was good, because I trundled around in sweaters and tweeds and didn’t freeze to death (yet) , though I did fall down a lot. The problem ultimately came when that first spring did. I had all of this wool, and no idea where to park it. A little research, and then some additional research, with some research on the side, led me to my current “system”.

Bag it-

Fist and foremost, breathable cotton or linen bags are needed to keep wool away from moths and carpet beetles, especially in climates where humidity spikes for long periods, encouraging moth hatching. They also discourage dust/grime/cat hair collection, and reduce the need for post-storage dry cleaning.

For sweaters, these are great, and don’t cost an arm and a leg. You want wool sweaters to breath, hence the fabric.

For coats/jackets/ other hangables, these are useful. Same principle as above.

For ties- I tend to find fairly tight-lidded boxes, and fold the ties in lengthwise thirds. Though my incredibly skilled father-in-law is working on a new tie-storage solution for me. Coming soon.

Leather jackets and canvas coats with fur collars and wool/alpaca linings should also be stored in bags in a similar manner. Though with the heavier items, invest in these– the wider shoulder will support the material without stretching it and putting stress on the seam.

Drawer it/ Closet it-

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Once the item is enclosed, it can be stored in a drawer or hung in a closet. I like to take some additional steps to further discourage wool chomping trespass. In drawers I use pipe tobacco. Standard Dunhill nightcap, to be precise. Tobacco contains the natural insecticide nicotine (evolved to kill, friends, evolved to kill), and just the smell tends to do wonders for pest prevention. If you aren’t a fan of the smell of fresh tobacco (ie, you are crazy), you can mix it with clove or mint oil, which masks the smell somewhat, and doesn’t reduce its efficacy (though you may attract goth kids). For easy drawer/ bottom of garment bag tossing, you can use tobacco tins with holes nailed in the bottom, and a fine mesh placed over the holes to prevent tobacco spreading around. There are plenty of cheap tobacco tins to get crafty with on ebay and local antique stores.

 

A few small steps for man, genocide for the wool moth!

 

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Ramblers Way

24 May

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I don’t typically go into great lengths over consumer ethics with this site, though I have my opinions. If you’ve been reading along through the years, you’ll notice I focus on what is normally referred to as “heritage brands”. This broad term, to me at least, can describe a brand with a rich history, but more accurately describes a brand that focuses on craftsmanship and quality over mass production, price scaling, and distribution. In this vein, a company like Brooks Brothers is not a heritage brand, though often the products made for them are made by heritage brands (and in more cases, in Chinese factories).

It has been interesting living in Vermont these last few years. There are cultural and socioeconomic facets to this place that are more deeply rooted than I care to discuss, but a really interesting one is the crap economy. Vermont is a tiny state that produces VERY little for export. This little state however, in the mid 1800s, produced more wool and woolen goods than any other location in the US. Vermont had a massive wool industry, and in the space of 60 years, it fell flat due to a variety of circumstances that more or less equated to the industrial revolution, outsourcing production, and agricultural life being ended abruptly in favor of factory work. In short, people left Vermont, and its sheep pastures, to make quick money and live in cities. This ultimately destabilized the American wool industry for the next century, and left Vermont in a 100+ year economic recession.

Where am I going with all of this? Some woolens brands remain in New England, and new ones are popping up.

One such  is Ramblers Way (named as an homage to the English walking tradition, not as play on words on the Sheep breed Rambouillet, or the English folk song ), a woolen goods brand based in Kennebunk Maine ( founded by Tom’s of Maine Tom and Kate Chappell).

Check out their beliefs statement page. Any brand that commits to quality, sustainability, and local industry is a great one in my book. All of this is well and good, but they also make a really attractive line of woolens, and (dare I say it) sweaters. One in particular is their Shawl Neck Fisherman.

 

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Tiecrafters- A first hand experience

7 Nov

I have a profusion of ties. A bumper crop. An excess. When presented with a piece of clothing out of fashion, but made to a high standard, I have to pick it up. With most garments, this gets me in trouble, but with ties, there is hope.

I decided to take the plunge, and have a few of my ties experimentally “thinned” by a professional. Finding said professional was not difficult. There are more or less two primary companies that pop up when you search for tie alteration services, and only one of those is resoundingly well reviewed across the menswear-o-sphere. Tiecrafters is a NY NY based firm that specializes in tie cleaning and alterations, and has been around for 60 years. They are recommended by major fashion houses (Hermes to name one) as the cleaner of choice for scarves and ties.

With the reassurance of good reviews to spur me, I packed up 3 ties and shot them to Andy at Tiecrafters. I chose carefully, trying to get a feeling for their service with different types. I chose a Sawine Adeney hunting club tie (3.75 inches wide), a Paul Stuart Repp (4 inches wide), and a Cerruti Grenadine (4.25 inches wide). I requested that the ties be cleaned, and their size reduced to 3.25 inches across the board.

Without making it overly clear, I snuck a challenge into the order. The Swaine Adeney had a nasty burn on the absolute edge of the part of the tie that would still show on the corner of the tie at 3.25 inches. Additionally, the Cerruti grenadine had a few pulls here and there, as grenadine will.

(some re-crafting in action)

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About 2 days after receiving my package, Andy, the owner, called me directly to chat about the ties, and generally check in. I was pretty impressed at the customer service. A few days after that, he called to say my order was nearly complete, but one of my ties was still going to show a little damage at the requested width, so if it was OK, he’d take it to 3 inches to turn the damage to the other side of the tie, to hide it. I agreed, thanked him, and received my order almost exactly a week after sending it in.

Here are the results.

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The work done, to my untrained eye, is wonderful. Every stitch, roll, seam, and line was perfect. All labels reattached with the same type/color thread with perfect centering, the lines and tip shape are all exactly the same. Further to that, they all drape and knot as they did before re-crafting. The damage on the Swaine Adeney is nicely hidden, and the pulls on the Cerruti grenadine are almost entirely gone (whether this was an intentional thing, or happened when the fabric was cleaned and/or re-shaped, I don’t know). There was one single pull remaining on the grenadine tie, which I quickly fixed with a Snag-grab-it needle (seriously, go get one. I keep mine in my wallet. For sweaters and woven silk, its a must),

Overall, I’m thrilled with the service, quality, and turn-around time of the order. I found the customer service stellar, and downright unusual for this day ‘n age.

If your ties are too wide, or for that matter- your lapels overly thin, give Andy and Co a call at Tiecrafters.

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E. Tautz

6 Sep

Interesting series of videos in which menswear designers travel around the English countryside interviewing mill workers who make items sold on Savile row.

If you’ve ever found yourself without brands to search for on eBay, this video will assist you greatly.

 

 

 

 

 

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Late summer

20 Aug

In like a lion, out like a lamb, or is that just for winter? Seems to be the case for New England summers. There is already a chill at night, and the days are hovering in the 70s. Tweeds will be returning soon.

A little recap, as I spent an inordinate amount of time this summer living life while not documenting it.

Gardening

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Closet Projects

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And now, Fall, come at me.

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Passaggio Cravatte Revistited

14 Aug

In the spirit of full disclosure, I thought I should also reveal, as neutrally as possible, the goings on around this brand. It seems there have been concerns around their dealings with customers, and fabric sources. I take no side except to reveal what others have been saying.

 

Start here

 

 

 

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Gianni of Passaggio Cravatte

19 Feb

I had the opportunity to speak with Gianni from Passaggio Cravatte recently, through the magic of Styleforum. Passaggio Cravatte creates lovely ties in Italy from vintage and antique silks. They primarily create made to order ties for men who want a truly unique accessory.

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L&A – How long have you been in business, and how did you get started?

PC –  At age 13, I discovered neckties. I called various brands, and makers of ties . I did it in secret from my parents because I was small and I could not even wear a tie. When I called I would pretend to be a potential customer, asking these tie makers to send me the sample pieces of silk. I would fantasize about ordering those that I liked the most. But being a 13 year old, I never fulfilled my dreams. As I grew older, I did obtain the ties I thirsted after, but then over the years I saw that those styles were always the same.  They had more or less the usual colors and the usual designs. I was tired of never finding the tie I wanted, and started to become dissatisfied, though I retained a passion for ties which led me to start this business. I wanted to see true dandy style with special designs and unique colors. Then one day, four years ago, I went looking for vintage silks still printed by hand, and from there it all started. I have not stopped to look since!  Today we are the only ones who have these types of vintage silks, hand-printed many years ago. We are the only ones that do not have generic stock ready because everything is bespoke. We are the only dedicated vintage silk tie makers in Italy, and for that matter, the only tie maker as dedicated to the 7 folds in a single piece of cloth construction of ties. And this when all ties these days are made from 3 pieces of silk! Let’s say I’ve set out to create the Rolls of ties. And even further, we handle almost all of our orders bespoke by mail, creating these custom pieces for clients around the world.

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L&A – How do you select fabrics, and what standards do you use in selecting them?

PC – When choosing silks, we are very selfish. Fabrics will either appeal to me, or not at all. A vintage fabric must seduce me in order to be chosen. How? Through its colors, its patterns and its quality. For example, we have only vintage printed silks, still hand made. This is because the vintage hand-printed silk has a quality and a unique flavor. Every silk piece is usually only enough for up to 3 ties, and then is extinguished forever. This is why almost all of the pieces we make are so rare and special. We don’t do seasonal collections for this reason; there is no repetition of these unique creations of antique silks. Every month there is something new.

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L&A – Do you create designs for one type of man or several types?

PC – Every man has to be himself. With my fabrics I only have the task of fulfilling a man’s dreams. How? Giving access to the vintage silks, which allow the expression of his personality and inner self. And so my goal is not to sell, but to make a happy customer. And being a small family, each customer becomes like a son. And like any good parent, I always try not to miss anything with my children!

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L&A – What style of tie do you feel is the most timeless and least prone to going out of style?

PC – Two models never suffer from temporary fashion. The first is the old 7 folds in one piece of fabric, which began in the early 1900s. And the second model is the intramonabile 3 folds or classic tie. We always make the whole tie hemmed by hand like the old 7 folds in the 100 year old fashion.

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L&A – Whats your favorite cloth to work with?

PC – My favorite fabric to work with is grenadine, hand-made many years ago. Working that fabric is a unique sensation in every way. This is because it is almost completely transparent. It allows you to show the customer all our skill and all the quality of grenadine. When made with 7 folds the old way, the transparency is fantastic, given by the inner folds of grenadine itself.

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L&A – If you had to select three ties for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

PC – If you had to choose only 3 ties for the rest of my life I have no doubt. I’d choose a debonair yellow highlighted paisley , all dark colors. Then a tie with a blue background for bright colors. And finally, I would bring with me a burgundy grenadine for more formal evenings!

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L&A – What inspires your work the most?

PC – To me this is more than a job, its a real passion. In fact, I never get tired, and that leads me to always try to improve myself constantly. It is my desire to make more and more of my customers happy, and make them friends.

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Thanks to Gianni for taking the time to share his work. See more of his work at Passaggio Cravatte.

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Begg & Co.

26 Jan

I’ve always been a sucker for Celtic products. Knowing this, and indulging it against her better judgement, my wife recently presented me with a lovely scarf from Begg and Co.

Based in Scotland, and established in 1866 (in Paisley), Begg has been making woolens for a long, long time.

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I was struck by the simplicity and quality of their products. The best, and most obscure (yet respectable) part of their production process is the use of “specially grown hand-harvested Italian teasel plant heads” for the final texture finishing on their woolens. If that isn’t attention to detail, I don’t know what is.

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It looks as if Begg & Co. has recently undergone some re-branding, and begun to market both its cloth, and consumer focused products to a more style conscious market. Definitely a brand to keep in mind as they explore a new and ever heritage-quality hungry demographic.

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Now is the Winter

31 Dec

Winter, oh winter. You start after New Years, really. There is a glory and a sparkle to the snow and ice during the holidays. Come Jan 2nd, its nothing but bitter cold with no psychic tinsel chaser.

These wintertime distractions I hold to be self evident-

Winter Fridays are tie days- Also Sat-Thurs.

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Winter means obtaining as many sweaters as possible, at deeply discounted prices from cabalistically obscure companies with hard won coupon codes obtained through complex information exchanges on boring mens style forums.

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Post sweater binge, I realized I needed storage for all of these woolly body stockings, specifically sweater storage– which then, in its own turn, set off a full closet reorganization which culminates in the invention/creation of a new closet accessory that is not yet to be revealed.

Now comes the drinking and reading-

Port and Aubrey-Maturin

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or The Rathbones and Giardini Arimei

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Let us also not forget the mulling of everything liquid-

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Finally, there is this

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Which is the olfactory equivalent of pounding a horn of mead on a moor cliff and drunkenly rolling through the gorse and heather, then plummeting into the sea. Its actually amazing what DS & Durga has done here. It smells so good.

Ok 2014, I’m ready.

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