29 May 2008

Sockless Wonders

As you know, when the summer season finally arrives, I greet it like a happy puppy. And that means going sockless. Warm weather is a perfect time to de-accessorise. I often can be spotted this time of year going bareback in a pair of horsebit loafers, tassel loafers, Weejuns, or boat shoes. Of course, my feet sometimes attract looks from passersby, but I like to imagine they are admiring my tanned and shapely ankles.
Just recently, during an outing to a neighbourhood dining establishment, I went sockless whilst wearing a pair of black Gucci horsebit loafers and charcoal worsted trousers. I concede, maybe this was a step too far, as my dining companion vigorously chided me over the ommission. But, I simply can not help it. When I slide my naked foot inside a warm loafer, the sensation of leather on skin heats my blood and invokes memories of ivory sands and azure seas.

28 May 2008

In the Afterlight

"You all know the wild grief that besets us when we remember times of happiness. How far beyond recall they are, and we are severed from them by something more pitiless than leagues and miles. In the afterlight, too, the images stand out more enticing than before; we think of them as we do of the body of a dead loved one who rests deep in the earth, and who now in his enhanced and spiritual splendour is like a mirage of the desert before which we must tremble. And constantly in our thirst-haunted dreams we grope for the past in its every detail, in its every line and fold. Then it cannot but seem to us as if we had not had our fill of love and life; yet no regret brings back what has been let slip. Would that this mood might be a lesson to us for each moment of our happiness.

Sweeter still becomes the memory of our years by moon and sun when their end has been in the abyss of fear. Only then do we realise that for us mortals even this is great good-fortune - to live our lives in our little communities under a peaceful roof, with pleasing discourse and with loving greeting at morning and at night. Alas! always too late do we grasp that, if it offered no more than this, our horn of plenty brimmed with riches."

On The Marble Cliffs, Ernst Jünger

No Regrets (The Walker Brothers)

Ian Fleming Chic

A brief tribute to Ian Fleming, in his centenary year. As a schoolboy I developed an imperishable curiosity about him. I spent hours perusing Fleming first editions in the book shops off Tottenham Court Road in London. I devoted one summer to reading every Bond novel and Fleming biography I could lay my hands on. The Hollywood glitter of the Bond movie franchise failed to impress me.
Fleming was noted for his dark blue suits and bow ties. He was one of those men who settles on one style and sticks with it. On his estate in Jamaica, he wore unusual belted shirt affairs. My favourite Fleming photos show him in Jamaica wearing a plaid shirt and khaki shorts. Of course, for me, it was not his clothing but his life that inspired.

27 May 2008

Epic Englishman

Some men love people. Others have a fondness for things. And then there are those who love places most of all. I think the English explorer Wilfred Thesiger (1910-2003) probably fell into the last category. Born in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and educated at Eton and Oxford, Thesiger spent a lifetime exploring Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. His many books, such as Arabian Sands (1959) and Marsh Arabs (1964), are testament to his wanderings and keen insights. He was a talented photographer. Thesiger twice crossed the Empty Quarter of the Arabian peninsula by foot and camel. An aristocrat who maintained a flat in Chelsea and who wore impeccable three-piece suits and tweed jackets from Savile Row, he sympathised strongly with savage peoples untouched by modernity. I highly recommend his outstanding autobiography, A Life of My Choice (1987). Great and unsusual men like Thesiger are increasingly rare in a shrinking, homogenised world. I doubt we will ever see his kind again.

23 May 2008

A Time of Cufflinks

There was a time several years ago, in London and New York, when I wore double-cuffed shirts almost constantly. Not only to the office, but to the pub as well. With suits, khakis, moleskins, and jeans. Often without a tie. In casual situations I wore silk knots. On dressier occasions, a pair of sterling silver knots. I never gave it much thought. Most of my colleagues and friends on Wall Street and in the City did the same. Later, I entered a phase where I thought double-cuffed shirts and cufflinks were awkward, and I eschewed them. The phase has passed, I am pleased to report, and I am again wearing the cufflinks that I squirreled away in leather boxes in my closet years ago. Today, I would be thrilled beyond words if someone were to present me a gift of vintage cufflinks from Turnbull & Asser.

21 May 2008

Cool Shirtings: The Unwearable Lightness of Cotton Lawn

In hot weather, my thoughts turn to cool shirtings. My summer shirt portfolio features polo shirts, short-sleeved madras shirts, checked shirts, and a variety of twill bush shirts that have been in my possession for years. I pair them with different combinations of khaki shorts, reds, boat shoes, and loafers.

With the impending summer season in mind, I recently undertook to acquire a traditional aloha shirt, the Reyn Spooner model offered by J.Press (above). However, much to my alarm, I discovered it is made of something called Spooner Kloth, a nefarious blend of 60% cotton/40% polyester. Now, I never, ever let synthetic fiber touch my skin, unless of course it is a vinyl, latex, or PVC bodysuit encasing the svelte charms of a hot brunette.

When I contacted the chaps at the Reyn Spooner company, they suggested I try the same shirt in 100% cotton lawn, or lawn cloth. I was intrigued. Named after the town of Laon, France where it was first manufactured, cotton lawn is a crisp, sheer, ultra-lightweight fabric used for curtains, liturgical clothing, and dresses. According to my research, however, its opaque, semi-transparent properties make it ideal for women's underwear and lingerie, rendering it completely unsuitable therefore for a grown man to wear.

If you see me going about my daily weekend activities in a summer shirt of madras or twill, spare a thought for what might have been and take heed.

15 May 2008

A Suit of Tartan

My wardrobe includes a pair of tartan trousers in a Black Watch pattern. An autumn and winter garment, tartan pants look wonderful with a blue OCBD, turtleneck sweater, and black tassel loafers. For me tartan trousers evoke memories of winter cocktail parties with the neighbours in Greenwich or New Canaan, sipping a whisky in front of the fire and making small talk with the cute Wellesley grad who works in M&A. I would like to acquire a tartan suit similar to the one in the photo (above), but I suspect it would only look complete with turban, beard, and sabre.

14 May 2008

Socks of Colour & Light

Around this time of year I make a special effort to wear socks in bright colours. Hosiery in red, pink, lemon yellow, sky blue, and lime green are guaranteed to turn heads and raise eyebrows. You might even get a favourable comment or two, as I generally do from older women, who, I try to convince myself, use the socks as an excuse to flirt.

Socks are a superb way to add a flash of colour to an otherwise drab outfit. It is an opportunity to be creative. For strictly casual situations I have been known to wear motif socks. Recently I received three pairs of motif socks as gifts: navy J.Crew socks with a green anchor pattern, and tan Tommy Bahama socks with martini glass and palm tree motifs. Very silly, I know.

As a younger man I bought my coloured socks from Hackett. Now, I go to Paul Stuart, Smart Turnout, and Brooks Brothers. Just yesterday, in fact, I met some important clients for lunch at the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel wearing a pair of Paul Stuart sky blue socks with my Alden tassel loafers, J.Press sport coat in a tan check pattern, charcoal worsted trousers, and white OCBD. Over salad and salmon, and a bottle of Beringer chardonnay, we discussed the importance of asset allocation and portfolio diversification. I am happy to report, my socks received a favourable reception and blended in perfectly with the view of ocean and sky. They may even have helped seal the deal.

13 May 2008

Drinking Jacket

Drinking is a ritual, I like to think, with unspoken sartorial traditions. When I began my drinking career in London at age 15, my imbibing attire consisted of standard Sloane kit: jumpers, Barbour jacket, Viyella shirts, double-cuffed dress shirts, jeans, cords, moleskin trousers, black chelsea boots, and horsebit loafers. Over the years I settled on two or three favourite sport coats to fulfill the role of drinking jacket, or, when I reached for a cigar, smoking jacket. I imagine I have spilled more drinks down my front than most people consume in a lifetime. However, today, I feel my drinking days are nearing an end, and before long I shall have to designate a new function for my odd jackets. The chelsea boots have long been retired.

Weejun Love

Many aspire, few achieve. When it comes to loafers, however, the Weejun penny loafer can be counted amongst the latter. First introduced in 1936 by G.H. Bass & Co., who derived the name and moccasin design from Norwegian shoes, it became popular with the prep school crowd and college students. It is an American classic.

On a recent visit to a G.H. Bass & Co. retail establishment, I picked up a pair of loafers in burgundy. Weejuns and I go way back. In fact I recall a family photograph depicting me age 8 or 9, wearing Weejuns with tan cords, argyle socks, and a Shetland crewneck sweater. During summer holidays in Connecticut and New York I wore them almost constantly, usually without socks. I took them seriously. On boating and fishing expeditions to Ontario or the Thousand Islands, rows would ensue with my chums over the comparative merits of the brown versus the black Weejun. Which colour was 'cool'?

Back in England, where the footwear of choice amongst my schoolmates was an English-style black loafer from New & Lingwood, I added the Weejun penny loafer to my collection, replenished thereafter by regular visits to J.Simon in Covent Garden. My Weejuns attracted notice wherever I went. During one of my first visits to Kenya in East Africa, where I liked to imagine Hemingway once wore the Weejun, a brand new pair of penny loafers disappeared from my tent one night.

Today, though tempted at times by similar offerings from firms such as Alden and J.M. Weston, I remain loyal to G.H. Bass. I still wear Weejuns in casual settings. There are few pleasures in life that can match the sheer joy of going out for the morning paper and a cup of tea in a blue OCBD shirt, khaki shorts, and a pair of old Weejuns.

The allure of these shoes only grows stronger over time. I experience it daily. Each morning, as I prepare my clothing for the day and reach for a pair of brogues or tassel loafers, my hands are drawn as if by an unseen force to the loafers from G.H. Bass. Such is the power of the Weejun.

12 May 2008

Avant de nous dire adieu (Jeane Manson)

une guerre pour des cyber-hoplites

"Le conflit : tel est l’ordre du monde. La philosophie présocratique, fondamentalement organisée autour de l’acceptation de la vie, de ses lois, et plus généralement autour de l’idée d’harmonie avec la nature et le cosmos, plaçait le conflit comme principe créateur et le constituait comme pôle de toute une conception-du-monde."

Extraits de la maladie de la paix, Guillaume Faye

Donnafugata, una sede sotto il sole

It is in times like these, as the darkening horizon draws near, and as notions of loss occupy my thoughts, that I seek solace in literature. The Leopard, by Giuseppe di Lampedusa, is a classic story of aristocratic decline in an age of revolution. Set in Sicily at the time of the Risorgimento, it centers on the character and views of Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina, a Sicilian aristocrat of German extraction.

Fabrizio's world is coming to a close. Whilst the nationalist Redshirts under Garibaldi invade the island, Fabrizio spends his time indulging his interest in astronomy and his passion for women. He tends to his estate, Donnafugata, and holds discussions with his tolerant yet gently disapproving priest. In need of money, his ambitious nephew Tancredi marries the daughter of the village mayor, who also happens to be the local mafia chieftan. It is the end of aristocracy and the triumph of the merchants, the middle classes, and the democrats.

Don Fabrizio's attitude to what is happening around him is one of resignation. On a political and social level, this is disappointing. One wishes he would spend less time looking through his telescope and more time organising a resistance. His political impotence in the face of savagery is symptomatic, one could argue, of the deeper maladies that later came to infect the ruling class of the West in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Piety gave way to decadence, virility to effeminacy, loyalty to treason; the biggest tragedy by far was the loss of confidence. But accepting fate is part of the aristocratic ethos to which a nobleman such as Don Fabrizio would adhere, so perhaps we should not be too hard on him.

As a novel The Leopard transcends its historical setting. Lampedusa (1896-1957) wrote the story during WWII whilst Sicily was overrun by Allied troops. Although partly based on the author's own family history, it can also be seen as his reaction to the occupiers' destruction of Sicily's ancient palaces and estates, not to mention their corrosive notions of liberalism and democracy. The story echoes our present day situation. As revolutionary processes threaten to obliterate traditional societies, the only things we are left with -- like Don Fabrizio -- are memories of a better, nobler age. The Leopard reminds us that change too often equals decline, especially in the modern era.

Similarly beguiling is Lampedusa's short story, The Professor and the Siren. For me, it is an even more haunting tale than The Leopard. It has certainly stuck in my mind all these years since I first read it. I think of it often.

03 May 2008

Baja Surf Trad

When the times get tough, it's time to get going. To Mexico, that is, for some much-needed rest and relaxation.

The last few months in the market have been punishing. Market volatility has stoked fear amongst investors. The strains of new business development, coupled with ongoing client service, have taken a toll. And so we're going on holiday, again.

But this excursion also has a more professional objective. As luck would have it, my very good chum is in the process of introducing a new line of bikinis. Part of our trip therefore will include a thorough analysis of the local bikini market. Extensive data gathering and beta testing will need to be performed. I have volunteered to conduct all field research operations, a task to which I am well-suited.

If you go to the beach in Cabo and you spot a tall, tanned, tweedy-looking fellow holding a G&T in each hand, and surrounded by a gaggle of young surf hotties, that's me.

02 May 2008

Italian Nationalist Style

Gianfranco Fini, president of Alleanza Nazionale (AN) and recently-elected President of the Chamber of Deputies in Italy. Note the tweed sport coat, white dress shirt, solid knit tie, and sunglasses. It does not get much better than this. Perfection. I am currently in consultations with my Turkish tailor to produce an odd jacket in a lightweight district check tweed similar to the one Signor Fini is wearing.

Young Fogey Accessories

Young Fogey Repose