Archive by Author

Ramblers Way

24 Nov

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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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The Guernsey

17 Nov

 

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The Island of Guernsey is a British crown protectorate, as well as the source for a rather iconic style of simple black or blue knitwear known as the Guernsey sweater (or Gansey jumper, if your’e from the UK).

Historically, these sweaters were made in coastal western Europe for hundreds of years, the tradition spreading from the Southern Island of Guernsey Northward, settling as far as Denmark. Worn by North Sea fisherman and sailors of many nationalities for utilitarian warmth.

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Unlike the the modern Irish Aran sweater, the Guernsey was tightly knit from coarse wool to make it hard wearing and water repellent. Most were traditionally designed symmetrically, so you could reverse it back to front to make it wear longer. They were often dyed with indigo, as it was readily available and hid grime and fish scales, whale oil, and merhorse blood quite well.

Some time in the 1940s, some enterprising Aran Islanders decided to make loosely knit white versions (black or brown wool used for the working man’s version) of the Gansey for export. These have been widely adopted by the general populace as Irish fisherman’s sweaters. Though nothing can be said against true Aran craftsmanship, they aren’t made for repetitive hard work in wet weather.

Curiously, the Guernsey became more complex as it moved north, incorporating family patterns and cabled embellishments. There is actually a stylistic difference between the Guernsey (more plain sweater from the titular island), and a Gansey (more embellished version from Brattain/Ireland). The hyper embellished grandchild of the Guernesy, the Aran, is the Irish wide-knit terminus of the spread, while the Scottish kept the cables small, but added as many as possible to every inch.

A couple of long lived brands that have been making such upper body coverings for many years include-

The Aran Islands own Inis Meain

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S.N.S. Herning

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Makes you want to row a boat into a storm, no? Ok, that’s just me.

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squirrel time, again

6 Oct

 

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This marks the 3rd recurrence of my presence here in Vermont during the Summer to Fall transition. The first time, I just didn’t know what I was looking at. The seasons shift with a special kind of wanton subtlety. The natural forces of this state want you to be shocked on that first cold morning, to be caught outside with a light jacket at night. Oh, but now I know better

Vermont really is most lovely in the fall. Summer starts to creep away, and things coalesce into this state of grace on the spectral level. Everything just suddenly feels right. This in and of itself, is yet another natural bait and switch; the second you’ve gotten used to the crisp days and chill nights, you find yourself under 3 feet of snow, in a dead wind-blasted wasteland. Not to put a bitter edge on it or anything.

Here is a series of  personal distractions in biographical order-

Music

New sunglasses- Persol PO 3046S

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This video featuring Kalpesh Lathigra’s recent shoot of the RRL w2013 line for Port magazine

Getting the fall boots ready

Rider Cordovan and LL Bean Shearling Ducks- Also known as the Vermont Fall to Winter 2 step.

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I think it’s hot cider time.

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