Tag Archives: clothing

Rest in Peace Glenn O’Brien

As a 14 year old struggling for a small slice of social acceptance I used to flip through the pages of GQ magazine. Mostly I would just look at ads in search of the perfect haircut thinking that if I could get my own just right, maybe I could one day be as cool as these guys looked. No. That isn’t quite true. I was mostly just hoping to get just a little bit closer to cool but I knew I would never really get there. So I just flipped through the pages looking not reading.IMG_2747

Except for this one column, “The Style Guy”.

I grew up in a world where people were very much judged by what they were wearing, but almost no one knew a thing about style. It was just her skirt is too short, His pants are too saggy, and what brand is that? I was aware enough to know I was clueless and too ignorant to really know where to look for guidance. My father could tell me exactly what someone might have been wearing in 1825 Wyoming, or the importance of socks while hiking, but would then communicate that thinking about clothes at school was too trivial to be concerned with. Mom could point out a Mondrian or a Rembrandt but had no interest in either Coco or Chanel.

My only hope was Matt Hilbig.36654_1511282859621_2937488_n

Matt lived around the corner and taught me that you could buy boat shoes at Payless and no one would ever know they weren’t Bass. He also taught me that you could find everything from GQ ads in Nordstrom, but that my money was probably more in line with J. Riggins. Matt was the source of all of my practical and tactical sartorial lessons- but he was also 14.

Then I discovered the Style Guy.backyardbill_glenObrien42

As I got older it was The Style Guy that answered questions I never knew I should ask, and that even if I knew to ask, I had no one around who could answer. He explained to me the difference between a barrel and a French cuff, which one might assume everyone would know but I didn’t. He taught me what a contrast collar is and helped me understand that they probably aren’t for me. Above all he taught me that I could think about this kind of stuff without just trying to imitate some external norm or marching in some sort of conformist regimental order… and how to do so without being an idiot.IMG_1916

I had been reading the Style Guy for quite some time before I learned that he was that one grown up who used to show up on MTV talking about news. It was long after that when I learned this guy grew out of the Andy Warhol Basquiat punk rock New York and into the suit wearing wingtip world of GQ, without doing some sort of image dance that wasn’t really him. This man was amazing.

I have to say was because yesterday he passed away and I have lost the best teacher I ever had in how to be less of a dork, while still being me. He was the best.

 

 

 

Matt, you were second best. Just sayin.

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@Sunflowerman

image2Matthew Miller is a semi-nomadic menswear illustrator. He is the only one I have ever met, which is according to him, because he is the only one. This is probably true. Now there may be some illustrators who work in fashion including menswear, or some semi-nomads who also paint, but I believe Matt when he says he is the only one who actually makes a living off of doing just that one thing-menswear illustration. This making a living thing is important here because by all accounts he does in fact make one and is semi-nomadic because he can be and not because he is homeless.  I have not done any market research or investigation of my own, mostly because I don’t care; I just find his work and his story interesting.

Miller is a Midwestern kid who was always into art and when he came of age he decided to go off to college. No one in his family had ever been to college before so when he chose to go to art school as opposed to business or pre-law, no one was concerned. It was after all, still college. It was while at SCAD in Atlanta that the artist took an interest in clothing. Oddly enough this interest started with his first pair of Chuck Taylor All-Stars. They were the first item of clothing he loved and he wore them to death. He has since learned to love hats and watches as well. And as is the case with most artists who are young and not yet financially burdened, he painted what he loved.

Now comes the interesting part.IMG_3279

This young art student started walking into menswear shops and pitching his work. It worked. He painted for H. Stockton, did a bit of blogging via Instagram and such, till Marcus Troy invited him to a trade show and ta-da, he was a professional. Now he does work for Maurice Lacroix, Carlos Santos, ONS Clothing, and M. Gemi. Thanks to these folks Miller  and his companion have been globetrotting, painting, and if our meeting at LA’s Grand Central Market is any indication, they have been generally enjoying themselves.IMG_3283

Miller does not present himself as a menswear expert, nor am I convinced he is trying to become one. He did not pontificate on this aesthetic or that, nor did he critique my shoes. He did say he thinks watches are “magical” but I think he was talking about gears not fashion.image1

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Manly Men are and Have Been Dandies

… and for the record I own none of these images nor have I had a hand in their creation. They are just here to illustrate a point.

Dandy is not normally meant as a compliment when directed toward a man. It is considered calling the masculinity of the accused into question. I find this curious.DandyCutout

Maybe the man’s clothing show a little too much flair, a bit too fancy, overly decorated, maybe even froofy in the opinion of manliness police. Calling someone a dandy is often the same as, or at least overlapping with, soft, feminine… gay. Interesting.armor

Now in most cases, someone who would call another man a dandy- or metrosexual, or flamboyant, or prissy- in a derogatory way would also think gay to be bad. I have no intention of dealing with anyone’s opinion of homosexuality here, but I would like to address this curious connection with hetero normative masculinity and fancy clothes.custer-portrait

Clothing does not in fact make the man, or even make someone a man. I say this not to deny that humans signal or communicate when clothing themselves (very much the opposite), but rather to challenge what many think the messaging of frilly clothing means relating to hetero-normative masculinity.george-catlin-iowas

There is a stream of popular American culture that for some reason thinks decorated clothes, or colors such as pink, communicate femininity or weakness. This makes me chuckle. It makes me laugh not because anyone has accused me of dressing less manly (I don’t personally like flamboyant clothes or excessively decorated outfits), but rather because it is historically silly.Teddy-Roosevelt-Was-the-Toughest-Person-Ever

This tends to be normal for anyone mocking someone else for not fitting some imagined standard. Most mockers are ignoring their own shortcomings, however they measure that standard.

Warriors throughout the ages and across many cultures, have exerted hetero masculinity, strength, and aggressiveness… as well as an abundance of feathers, ribbons, and makeup.samuraiWe kid ourselves that armor and military regalia is utilitarian. Plumes on helms deflect sword blows. A forged metal face plate is only for protection, or maybe a touch of intimidation. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

Guys wear that stuff because they think it looks cool.hawaiian-tattoo-on-left-chest

Which is great because in most, or at least many, cases it does look cool… but also super fancy. Super decorated, just for looks, non utilitarian, fancy. I’m okay with this. I understand that such clothing tells me little, or likely nothing, about anyone’s orientation, strength, virility… but it does tell me quite a bit about their taste.Birdman-rapper

And I don’t need to have the same tastes as you. That is okay.mma-karma-elite-daily-800x400

I don’t have to be like you, or like you, but if I don’t (like you) my complaints should not be tied to your clothes.slide_308704_2702404_free

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Wherever You are, Be There: on campus

IMG_9870 (34)

Tweed because one should never be above a stereotype, scarf because this is California and you have to capitalize on scarf opportunities (when it dips below 50 degrees), and surly look because you kid yourself that this balances out otherwise pretentious behavior.

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The Alley

In recapping where I had gone for the weekend I once told someone “Olvera Street.” Their response was something along the lines of, “That’s for tourists. You need to go to the Alley.” So I did.IMG_0050

We went there not looking for anything in particular and consequentially found everything. We mostly bought nothing and ate something. All of that is what you do at the alley.IMG_0044

This is one of the only places in LA I have been too that really felt like it was in a city. The rest of this town is all parking lots and strip malls that make everywhere seem suburban. Not the alley. It has Rockefeller Center type crowds with Canal Street style merchants.IMG_0053

Plastic shoes, $50 suits, quinceanera dresses for days, and highly questionable electronics were everywhere. I, and I have never presented myself as an expert, have never before, had the urge to discourage the general public from specific sartorial choices, as much as I did in the alley.IMG_0077I also realize I am not a casting director for formulaic B grade movies about the Cartel. I mean, why go to Barcelona when you can WEAR Barcelona right?

But then again, if you like it and want to wear it, I think you should absolutely wear it. Joking aside- I mean that.IMG_0068

I will however, without reservation, make food recommendations. Eat It All!IMG_0067 (2)

Fruits, and otherwise boring vegetables, are given new life when sliced and drowned in chili powder. I don’t suggest eating any of this while wearing white gloves.

I was not wearing white gloves.IMG_0120

Not pictured is a giant pinata shaped like a Petron bottle. I’m told you can also get one made in your own likeness but I’m not sure what one should appropriately put inside either of these party favors if the children are under age. I am admittedly an outsider here but I always thought that pinatas were specifically for, those who are underage.

I have a lot to learn.IMG_0231

I am happy to get my upcoming lessons.IMG_0088

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A Tie is Not Just a Tie: it has to be a somewhat specific tie

My wardrobe is completely missing one of the basics. A very basic basic, which for me, a basic guy, is both sad and a little surprising. I wear ties semi-regularly, probably three times per week. I am not opposed to ties in general, though I am very opposed to many ties specifically. Not any old tie will do, though many old ties are perfect, as age is not the specifier.

There are rules for these sorts of things. At least there are for me, which is why this specific sartorial gap is a personal shame. I should fix this , but since this is “the season” maybe some advice. When giving neck-ware as a gift, one should know the rules or forever be doomed to the back of the closet in sit-com fodder fashion.lanvin-white-pin-dot-tie-product-1-4273713-026052035

I do not own a single pin-dot tie. Sad.

Polka dots are not for me, they are not the same thing. not at all.

I have striped ties. I mostly prefer stripes of two alternating colors, three at the most, but mostly two. And they should be thick/rep stripes, not pin stripes.photo(6)

Club ties are great, as long as they represent a club or organization you are actually connected to.

Solid colors always work.

No paisley.images

No characters, caricatures, or complex designs/patterns. Just no.

Plaid is good, preferably in a tartan that has some meaning.

These are not THE rules, they are just my rules.

As to the pin dots, they are to all be the same color. As in the tie is one color, and all of the dots are a different color, but not the same color as the tie.

I was once given a very generous and thoughtful gift of a tie. This person knew I wore ties but knew nothing of ties on their own. I was flattered by the thought but only once could I bring myself to put that thing around my neck and only then because it was under a sweater. Because really, why would I want to wear a picture of Winnie the Pooh around my neck?IMG_9513

Pin dots. Period.

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I Looked in the Mirror, and I Saw God

Today I tied the perfect half Windsor. The knot was just slightly asymmetrical, there was a nice dimple, and the tip of the tie just barely broke the top of my belt buckle. I did it on my first try. It’s my maroon club tie. It bears the logo of a proud institution that I can finally sport with legitimacy. It isn’t aspiring, it is earned.caddy

I don’t think shoes have to be earned but it took me forever to find the right ones. They are brown slip on loafers. Not Weejuns, or the normal penny loafers. The seams around the top of the shoe turn inside making them just a little sleeker. They ride that thin line between formal and casual. Forever all I could find were either frat boy moccasins or Euro genie shoes. Thank you eBay. Of course my brown leather belt matches.

I have on flat front cotton khakis. They reach right to the top of my shoe, covering my socks but not touching the ground, no break in the pant leg at all. This was luck. Even when I have had pants hemmed they never get it perfect. They still pool on the shoes or sag in the seat. This pair came right off the rack. Serendipity.

I rarely if ever use a comb, just fingers. The key isn’t the comb, it is the product. I’ve gone through gels, mousses, pomades. Some just didn’t have the hold, others held but turned flaky by mid-day. I don’t want wet and glossy, nor bed head, just a nice mid ground that looks tidy but with a little style. I’m too old, to responsible to do anything wild, but I’m not quite ready to give up and have hair that is just blah. So the idea is to do the blah doo but with fingers instead of a comb. With the right product it works. At least it works for what I want and today I got it right.

I shaved and did not cut myself. Not on my neck next to my Adam’s apple, not at the corners of my mouth. Not only did I not cut myself but I shaved in record time and managed to still erase that pesky little patch right under my nose. That spot where nose and upper lip meet. The one that no razor built by man can quite fit. Today I got it.IMG_4026

I buttoned down the collar on my powder blue shirt, and took a step back to take it all in. Perfect. After all these years of wandering in sartorial ignorance, being swayed by cargo pants or t shirts, being wooed by four button suit jackets or chunky soled Doc Marten’s, I finally figured it out. I nailed it. Today I was top to bottom happy with what I put on.

Then, when I reached for my jacket, I turned just a little sideways. It ruined everything.

That dreaded ballooning a shirt makes when tucked in, the one you should buy slim or fitted shirts to avoid, was full of me. Balloons are full of air, this was full of me. My stomach hung out over my belt buckle like some cornice; an avalanche just on the brink of happening.

Seriously!?

It wasn’t always like that. That thing, that baggage, that waistline that isn’t really me, it is a some-thing, not a part of a some-one. It isn’t me, it is just some passenger that stowed away while I was busy with other things. It used to be I could not only not find the right shoes, but I couldn’t afford them. I could never afford them so much so that even if I had money I had no idea what I should be buying. I was in the wrong shoe wearing the wrong shirt, in the wrong fit, but on the perfect body.

This body had its own reputation.

Every bit of it was solid. Large in the chest and shoulders, slim in the waist and wrists. I was maybe a little thick in the ankles but massive enough in the calves to balance it out. While I may not have been clothed very well, I had a great form to fit. My form wasn’t the best part of that body of old, the best part was what it could do.

It was never all that fast but it was quick. Nimble. That body could run forever and lift anything. It could bend any which way, needed very little rest, and no matter what I did, it bounced right back. It just was. Because of it I rode bikes, swam in rivers, climbed mountains. I ran, tackled, punched, and got hit right back. That body was fantastic.

That body was 18 years old.

Looking in the mirror today I saw God.scarfs

God is not in the tie I earned, those perfect shoes, or even in that once fantastic body. I saw God right at the moment when I realized I had tied the perfect half Windsor. I began to swell with pride. I began to become full of myself. Then I stepped back and saw how my midsection had swelled and the results of filling my plate 100 times too many. I came crashing right back down like Icarus.

To me that was God.

It was the same God that kept that perfect body wearing the wrong clothes and wracked with insecurity. That perfect body could never find the perfect hair product, or even the right haircut. It wore knock off brands and could never quite figure out what was going wrong.

I have finally found the right haircut, but it has come complete with nose and ear hair.

Such is the justice of God.

It is God because it keeps me grounded in reality.

Real.

Like God.

Real like spare tires and zits. Real like sports cars and divorces, bankruptcy and the birth of your first child.

Real, like important things.

Now do not get me wrong, my health is important, and how I dress can greatly affect how I am treated by the world and therefore influence how effectively I function in that world. But O how easily am I distracted by myself. My tastes my ideas, my hopes and my soul crushing insecurities. How easy is it for me to forget that I am not more important than you, and how one looks should not influence how I feel about them. Looks can be either an expression of self or a distraction from truth, and I cannot tell which is which from just looking.

Neither can you.shoes

Not that beauty is bad. I love line shapes and color, in nature, in art, in people. I love it in me, and in you, and in them. But getting in too deep is like eating nothing but the frosting off a cake. It is wonderful but your teeth will eventually hurt and your sugar high will come down. Frosting has no substance without the cake.

Dessert can be damaging without the meal.

My big round belly beneath a perfect half Windsor knot reminded me of that meal.

God didn’t curse me with fat. I did that. What God has done is bless me with a reminder that paint needs to be spread on canvas to mean anything.

My perfect shoes are stupid unless my feet are standing in the right place. The break in my pant leg is invisible unless I stand up. The perfect hair product is pointless if my head is empty.

On the other hand, making the mistake of matching your pocket square perfectly with your tie and not your shirt, is less important than whether or not that handkerchief is over a heart filled with hope.

 

That being said, your pocket square should match your shirt if it is going to match anything at all. I didn’t know that till after I got fat.

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