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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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Vermont Vintage- Pytchley Hacking Jacket

23 Mar

I’ve decided to routinely show off some of the vintage items I pick up in my random travels through the maple state. I find some really amazing stuff in some very odd places. For example, observe this 40s-50’s Pytchley Hacking Jacket I found in the wild for 20 bones on the barrel-head (oddly, the rack it was on was balanced on the top of a barrel).

PHM IMG_0399 Phacking3 Phackingtag

Vermont has a really strong heritage of gentlemen sheep farmers and horse people (no, not centaurs). I’ve been so close, so close I say, to
picking up some 20s Peal and Co, riding boots in an abandoned barn having a clean-out sale, only to have them snapped up by some New Yorkers on a mission to ruin my day.

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Vermont Vintage Autumn Hunt- Irivin Flight Jacket

13 Nov

My wife and I set out this past Saturday to tour a few of our favorite haunts for antiques and vintage (because we are 90 years old at heart.) This tour normally produces a few nice items. This time, it was especially fruitful in the vintage clothing category. For the purpose of graceless bragging, I’m sharing one of the finds.

I found (my wife found for me, I should say) this Irvin RAF sheepskin jacket.

Let me say that I love Sheepskin jackets, especially now that I live in a place where temperatures go below -20. You can throw them on top of nearly any outfit, and with snow on the ground, it needs no context. Whats not to love?

The Irvin Company was the first to make the Sheepskin bomber. Started by Leslie Irvin, pictured below, who was also the effective founder of rip-cord parachuting.

I’ve had my eye on the Schott version for a while now, made from black sheep, no less. Just as authentic really, as the Irvin company at the height of WWII had such a demand for this style of jacket that they had to contract out the manufacture of them to companies like Schott Bros.

I suppose now I can delay the purchase, unless of course my readers demand a side by side comparison, in which case, I shall have to bite the bullet.

Ok, winter- Do your worst.

 

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Winter Sunglasses

11 Nov

My go-to sunshades for the spring and summer months were a pair of honey colored Ralph Lauren frames with a fairly dark tint.

These frames are great, but not overwhelmingly appropriate for the weaker light and darker color scheme of winter.

My ideal winter/fall sunglasses have two primary characteristics:

1.) Tortoise Shell- bringing those fall colors into play, adding color without clashing against the somber nature of the season of death and salt and snow sports.

2.) “Vintage” colored lenses – less dense color in a light blue or green for weaker light.

I turned to the internet to supply me with frames that would work. I settled on a frame from the new collaboration between Oliver Peoples and Japanese brand TAKAHIROMIYASHITA,  and rather than selling my kidney on the back market, I found them on ebay for far less than sticker.

Green mineral glass and tortoise shell temples/bridge. Done and done.  Almost done, I mean.

I was perusing one of my regular vintage clothing shops, and found some frames in the 1$ basket. Oliver Peoples ( oh look, a theme), from the company’s first line. Model OP 506. After a quick trip to a local optician’s shop, I had a new pair of vintage OP sunglasses for $61, not too shabby. Oddly, the tint is a super-saturated green, but it only looks green while looking through it. Obviously magic of some kind.

 

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tao of the whiskey bottle

19 Oct

I was feeling down a few days ago, nothing earth shattering, but definitely in a slump. During a rare yet always wonderful break from client calls and contract drafting, I wandered to a local church basement shop. As I walked in, feeling all but completely shunned by the gods of good fortune and random luck, I heard a little voice, cracked and small, say “you’re back! I’ve been looking for you” (I suppose I go to this place more often than I realize, in my mid-work-day haze). The speaker was a tiny old woman I never noticed working there before. She was in fact waiting for me to come back, as she demonstrated by pulling from behind the counter 3 sport jackets. Harris Tweed sport jackets. In my size. I was surprised to say the least. To top it off, quite literally, was a book called Hellraisers: The Life and Inebriated Times of Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O’Toole, and Oliver Reed. I looked at this tiny woman, mumbled a shocked thanks, still not entirely sure how to say “how could you have known exactly what I would have wanted?”, and she replied “Just don’t come crying to me when you go down the bad path and become a drunk!” and cackled merrily.

 

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Schott, revived, remade

24 Aug

Okay, yet another post about a leather jacket. What? I’m preoccupied with being cold again. So a few weeks ago I picked up this old 1970 bomber jacket. The jacket had spent some time inside of a burning American Spirit cigarette factory by the smell of it, and the leather had seen better days.

Knowing a good thing when I see one (Schott), I bought it anyway. First thing to be done? Cigarette stench removal. I find washing a leather jacket to be totally acceptable if done correctly. The trick is baby shampoo. Regular detergent is too astringent, and will suck natural oils out of leather, leaving it stiff and prone to cracking. Hand washing is best, but the delicate cycle on most washing machines is acceptable. Once a good washing has been accomplished, the jacket should be allowed to air dry in a warm place with lots of air flow.

Once the jacket is dry  its time for conditioning, and here you can go two routes: Oil, or Cream Conditioner. Oil (Mink Oil, Obenaufs Leather Oil, etc) will significantly darken the leather, and make it more pliable/softer, while Cream Conditioner (Meltonian Leather Balm , etc) will only superficially condition/soften without doing much to the color of the leather. I went with the Obenauf’s Leather Protector, as this jacket was pretty damn dry after years of storage/ chain smoking.

This was the end result of all of that work. Fairly shabby, with the ribbing blown out, and gnawn at by generations of Vermont barn creatures.

So I looked into having the ribbing replaced, and a collar made. The folks at Schott were very helpful, answered my questions quickly, and were generally great throughout the whole repair process. Sadly, now that the early 70s have come and gone, they no longer manufacture jackets in a burnt caramel color, so I opted to have the ribbing replaced in black, and a shearling collar made to match.

Here is the end result-

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go figure out how to wear this thing with tweed.

 

 

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groomed

12 May

I was married last October in rural Vermont. It was a small wedding; friends and family all gathered in a little sunny clearing in the trees, in front of a large pile of tree covered boulders, down from a tiny 1700s foundation that sat next to a now disused town road. It was all golden and red, crisp in that autumn way that you can apparently only get in New England. I can easily say that it was one of the happiest days of my life.

The whole thing was hand made, not in the “we made this because it’s quaint to make things” sense, but because the entire wedding was had for about half of the average flower budget of some weddings (I am told). My wife’s family are all Vermonters, and as such dont truck with store-bought when they can make it themselves. This is alien to me, being a native So. Californian raised with the ‘buy it and get it over with’ ethic. What it added to the occasion was invaluable. When people come together to help, and they’ve spent their lives providing their own necessities and taking pride in their work, the end result of a little casual work is astonishing.

Being a groom can be difficult.  I doubt its due to any kind of lingering patriarchal sensibilities, but rather a mixture of personalities. I am an unnaturally laid back person (read LAZY), while my wife has the details of what things should be already conceived in her mind before I bring them up. She manifests her world, while I flow through mine. Being supportive in a sea of chaos and seeing ones way to a shared vision of a special thing takes work (and a lot of yelling, storming off, aggressive smoking of cheap cigars, and friend interventions). This was true in my case, but perhaps it wasn’t true in yours.

This dynamic left me with one single thing to handle on my own; finding a suit to get married in.  A small thing, right? Easy on the face of it; but then take into consideration my shovel shaped hips and monkey arms (not to mention non-existent budget), and its harder than it seems. I never knew finding ceremonial dress would be so tricky.

Early in the search we came across a classic Victorian evening suit, complete with tails and a waistcoat, in flawless condition, for a grand total of 40 bucks. The fit was perfect, but the look was not. I never knew I was a vampiric orchestra conductor until I put this suit on. I would add pictures to this description, but I have too much self respect. Speaking of self respect, my wife tried to get me into Dandy Pants from A Fine Tooth, but I have a fear of stretch fabrics.

Ultimately my search turned to eBay. Page after page of wrong measurements and ugly fabrics. Then I found it. The measurements were close, and the color was spot on.

The cut was perfect for our 30s picnic in the woods motif. With a little help from my seamstress mother in law and our hand sewing jill-of-all-trades friend Holly, it turned out pretty well.

The arm length wasn’t quite right, but then my arms are about 2 inches longer than they should be, so its fine considering (damn you, gibbon ancestors).

The shoes are Mezlan, thrifted new, the shirt and socks are J. Crew.

Diamond point bow tie is vintage, as is the pocket square.

Moral of the story: if you have very little money and want to have a lovely wedding, marry an aesthetic genius who owns a tiny spot of land in the woods, and make sure they have a family filled with expert Yankee craftspeople, and friends like these.

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cordovan- also shoes, evolutionary defense, and run-on sentences

3 May

I’ll be the first to admit that I have a shoe problem. I have upwards of 20 pairs, though in my defense, the majority were purchased second hand and brought back to life. I’m hard on shoes; I stomp around, I scuff them, I dig large holes in the garden and then leave them sitting in dried mud for days on end.

I’ve found that with your typical leathers, this rough treatment eventually ruins the shoe. I’ve had good results with Obenaufs leather treatment. Obenaufs is basically a combination of bees wax and tree resins (and smells amazing-I’m considering using it as a personal grooming substance, though it may attract bees). I’ve seen this stuff bring leather back to life, and keep it that way. Although, it will make any shoe you treat with it almost impossible to properly shine afterwards.

This was the state of hectic shoe destruction I found myself in when I came across cordovan. Cordovan is a color, kind of a deep burgundy; while shell cordovan is a specific leather made from a very small area of horse hide. This area, known as the shell, is the ovoid, hyper dense, membranous fascia between the skin and the muscle on a horse rump. Hoofed herbivorous mammals were in constant danger from large predators during their evolution. When you find yourself running away from a large sabertoothed-something-or-other, it would evolutionarily behoove you to have a well reinforced bum (Claw Proof Ass is my new punk band) – great for avoiding summary devouring by a group of lions, but evolution obviously didn’t take heritage-workwear obsessed male fashion bloggers into consideration. I should have a silent moment of thanks to this little guy for evolving into something both delicious, and hard to catch, every time I shop for shoes.

Because of its inherent density, shell is basically waterproof and scuff-proof. Similar to the normal leather tanning process, but even more so, nearly all the moisture in the shell is replaced with oil via a long term boiling process. So in circumstances that would cause most leathers to crack and fall apart, shell is protected with the ungodly amount of fat it contains. Shell cordovan, in short, is great for hard-wearing shoes. Sure, it doesn’t shine as well as actual leathers (unless one owns the shinbone of a deer), but it lasts profoundly longer. Check out this omphaloskepsis inducing video from the last remaining American producer of shell cordovan, Horween leather.

Most shoes in thrift stores are considerably older and considerably more worn than most, and shells are no exception- but with shell, looks can deceive. I recently found a dusty pair of cordovan longwing brogues, made by Florsheim  (even in those days, they were still manufacturing with quality), in a church basement thrift for 5 bucks. The shoes are probably 30 years old. If they weren’t made of shell cordovan, they would be crumbled to nothing from all of the years of neglect. As they were, all I need to do is brush them vigorously for an hour or so, and they’ll start looking sharp again. While other leather dries out over time, shell exudes a layer of those protective waxy oils that the industry calls spew (lovely, I know); this makes the leather look like total crap to the uninitiated- something to be thrown away, when a little care and a trip to the cobbler can turn them back into lovely footwear. That’s what I decided to do with these longwings- I elected to have them completely resoled and conditioned by a local cobbler- here is the end result

My next objective: to thrift  a pair of vintage cordovan boots I can put to the acid test of daily wear and gardening. In an uncharacteristic fit of overspending, I recently bought myself the pair of Alden #8 cordovan boots shown at the beginning of the post, but they’re actually too nice to wear just yet, so I’ll resort to the thrill of thrift hunting to find a pair already partially beaten to hell.

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allen edmonds

29 Apr

This is a love letter of sorts. A love letter to a shoe company. Yes, I’m aware that this could be the symptom of some sort of yet undiagnosed social-psychological complex, but here it is.

I had an extremely worn out pair of Allen Edmonds Sanfords that were in desperate need of some attention. One of the AE selling points is recreaftability. Any shoe they make can be sent in, resoled, refinished, and made close to new again for a fairly low price. This can theoretically be done for as long as the upper lasts. I decided to give the service a try with my half-dead Sanfords. I packed them up, shipped them off, and promptly forgot about them for 3 weeks.

It struck me that I hadn’t heard anything about my shoes for quite a while, so I gave the recrafting dept a call. Spoke with a nice lady named Beth, who told me that my shoes had been sent to my house (my billing address) instead of my office (shipping address). She also said that if I hadn’t received them she could open a claim with UPS on my behalf. Dejected, I agreed. My shoes were definitely stolen. My house is on a busy thoroughfare, and we’ve had packages stolen before. UPS turned up nothing. I gave Beth at AE another call, and she graciously offered to replace the shoes with any similarly priced pair in stock on their website. This is actually the best customer service imaginable. Sure, it was their fault for using the wrong address, but most companies would have shifted the blame to the shipping service.

As a replacement I chose the above AE Strand model. I’ve been dressing a little too much like a 60 yearold man these days, these shoes don’t really alleviate that condition. I suppose I should settle into the 20-something Kennedy look. But hey, they were free (mostly).

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