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Rowing Blazers: selling the club’s stuff to members and non-members alike

Most of us live in Ralph Lauren’s world, the one where we are a Lifshitz, which should be just fine, but in hopes of becoming something else, something we see as more, we put on the trappings of that more, portraying ourselves as belonging to, or being of, that other thing.

In Mr. Lauren’s case, he did it so well that he has not only gained admission to so much of that imitated world, but he has created a whole new universe built right over the top of that old one to the point that most of us are completely unaware of this past.

But this past still exists. As in it isn’t gone but is still alive; it just usually isn’t ours.

With an eye on this old world, I have watched this little brand, which grew out of a book, that sort of sprung from an old blog, up till just now, when I was able to go check it out in person.

Rowing Blazers has been written up by GQ and Esquire, all sorts of style or fashion folks that know much more than I, so I will stick with what I got myself from them directly.

Jack is doing the work. At the Los Angeles pop-up I found him glad handing in a way that appeared surprisingly invested. LA normally lives up to its reputation of shallow fixation on the who’s who brand of social climbing, and here we have a clothing style rooted in emblems and icons communicating very specific memberships, and here was Jack paying authentic attention to all sorts of nobodies. Like me.

I have a lot of experience with nobodies and a now solid set of associations with somebodies, and way to much intimacy with wannabees. I have learned that a defining characteristic of actual somebodies is that they do not, or no longer, need to try to act or project their somebodieness. Wannabees on the other hand must constantly police and buffer themselves against the nobodies lest such association put their charade in jeopardy.

Jack showed no interest in sleuthing my pedigree before paying me attention. I watched him act the same with others.

That works for me.

Now I have never met Ralph, and maybe he acts the same, and for all I know all of this is just an act, I know how that works, but this sort of access versus authenticity matters in the realm of tradition and clubs.

And that is most definitely the world Ralph, Jack, and any other trad, prep, ivy, or otherwise institutional representative style of clothing are engaging. But while Ralph once sued the American body governing the sport of rugby for infringing on his presumed ownership of the word “rugby” (I will never let that go), Jack sells a line of rugby shorts that celebrate the rebelliousness of that sport’s roots. While tried, and tries, to pass traditional emblems off as his own creation, Jack has published books explaining the history and meaning of sartorial emblems.

In the end they are both selling things originally meant to denote in group to those who are most decidedly not in, Rowing Blazers is at least being up front about it. I should also note that Rowing Blazers is also the official outfitter for USA Rugby, USA Rowing, and a whole bunch of other actual clubs or teams. It isn’t all for the masses.

 

Tyler Durden, Style Icon

Tyler Durden is not bound by convention. He does not play by the generally accepted rules of demeanor, modern capitalism, or clothing.

Getting recreationally punched in the face is attractive to very few people, until they see someone who looks unusually attractive getting his tooth cracked. Then suddenly people want to be that guy.

Were this guy wearing a standard business suit he would appear an authority figure and hence a bully if in fisticuffs.

If he were just wearing a t-shirt and jeans he would likely be dismissed as trailer trash whilst scuffling. 3DB3028A-5136-4D82-9EC2-7519DC886E35

There are those who would point out that Fight Club is just a movie and Tyler Durden isn’t a real person.

When it comes to fashion, Durden is every bit as real as Brad Pitt.

It’s The LA Moment x2: Commonwealth Proper

“I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it again, It’s the L.A. moment. It’s the L.A. moment.” Craig stated with enthusiasm.

He did indeed say it twice and probably has repeated that repeated phrase a million times- because it’s true.

Craig said it to me in an easy-going sort of way, looking over at Mike with a smile. The two of them had just spent the entire night painting the interior walls of Commonwealth Proper’s new showroom in DTLA.

The space used to be the backstage area of Al’s Bar, one-time hot spot to see artists like Beck, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the Replacements. You can still see what used to be the stage in what is now a clothing shop next door. When I was there I could also see a white board with a sketch of the new floor plan and a list of all the construction still left to be completed before they open. It looks to be the kind of classy with an intentionally unfinished rough edge sort of place that I would expect from Commonwealth Proper.

Commonwealth Proper has matured since it started back in 2008. It has grown up in that there will now be 4 showrooms (Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, LA), and matured in that the brand doesn’t have to try to be anything other than what it is. They have established themselves and are free to be whatever sort of menswear design shop they want to be.

And I kind of love what they have become. Commonwealth Proper has done this odd thing where they have learned the skill of bespoke tailoring appropriate for Wall Street and too good for Congress, while maintaining both a sense of humor and an edge.

I am not a floral corduroy jacket or full plaid suit wearing guy, I’m too physically large for that much pattern, but I love that Craig makes and wears those things. I love even more, and am the sort of guy, that would wear a fitted navy suit with the two Ron’s, Swanson and Burgundy, printed on the lining. I would wear that to death. If someone pitched that idea to me in advance I would snicker with self-righteous doubt, which of course shows how little I know and how skilled these guys are.

In the Studio

I rarely have a problem with sloth, though physical inactivity is occasionally an issue, but more I struggle with inability to give consistent attention. I am constantly engaged in this project or that, which is an issue when it is always this or that rather than this, all the way to completion, then that.

So, as at least two absolutely groundbreaking, world changing, writing projects sit mostly done on my hard drive, and as my olympian physique gets ever further away, what do I do? I paint and draw.IMG_1884

 

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I have some projects in the works that I think are pretty exciting. Stay tuned (he says to himself and not necessarily the reader).

Mueller is Not a Style Icon: he is just a professional adult

In Washington’s current climate of crassness, exaggeration, and accusations, the public are not well served when the press print things that are salacious, silly, or just plain wrong. So as a public service I must say, that no-

Robert Mueller is not a style icon.Related imageWhat a shame that the New Yorker has fallen so far that the editorial board knew no better than to accept the author’s proposal that because the man wears suits that fit, he is somehow doing fashion.

I of course wear ill fitting suits, not because I am anti- fashion, but rather because I am anti sit-ups and there are consequences for such decisions. Somehow we have confused the sort of discipline that includes reasonable portion size as well as reasonable amounts of pomade with style. That isn’t style, that is a healthy morning ritual.

Occasionally in the mornings I trim my nose hairs. This is not some sort of extreme preening worthy of note by the national press, this is simply because I am a grown man with a job who doesn’t want those he interacts with to be distracted by a disgusting nose jungle. Mr. Mueller’s attire might indeed be like my nose, intentionally boring, or it may be naturally boring (like the lucky noses), but either way it is a far stretch from any sort of rhinoplasty.

So stop it Mr. Patterson. Do not tell America that by wearing a pin striped suit with a button-down collared white shirt, that Mr. Mueller is doing anything other than just being boring- and a little bit wrong.

What we really need to discuss is why a man with such an important job is wearing the exact watch I was disappointed to have in 4th grade. I wanted the calculator watch thinking it would help me get an A on my math test. If that investigation is leaking why isn’t anyone looking into that watch because even Mr. Checketts at Bell View Elementary knew better than to start a test without checking our wrists and no one who cares a thing about style is wearing a Casio DW-290.

 

(Yeah, so maybe this is like a year late- just like the impending indictments)

Legacy Admissions: a handout to the already haves.

Legacy admissions are not a leg up, they are a hand out to the already haves.

Data shows that the number one predictor of the likely education level a child will receive is the level of education the parents have already attained. This is not due to some sort of amniotic intelligence transfer but rather the tendency of most teachers (parents) to teach others, to simply do what they did.IMG_9436

People who have gone to elite colleges are more likely to know the application process, understand the school’s expectations, and better yet, they often know the people making the admissions decisions.IMG_9508

If you look at those who attend elite schools you will find that most of them had parents who went to elite schools, or at least good schools, and as one might guess, these parents also have a good amount of money. Whether the schooling or the money came first doesn’t really matter, but there is surely a solid correlation. In addition, you will find that most of those who are accepted into elite schools had tutors and took test prep classes during grade and high school. These kids being tutored are the A students, not the ones at risk of athletic ineligibility. On top of that, you will also find that most who gain entry into elite colleges attended high schools that have previously sent other students to elite colleges. Turns out that following well-traveled paths is more likely to get you there than forging new trails.

There are few, if any, immaculately conceived scholars who rise from nowhere with potential so obvious that Harvard can see it.crew guys

Most people who haven’t been to Harvard don’t know many others who have. Most who never attended Princeton, don’t really know what Princeton is looking for in an applicant. Most at mediocre high schools, are unaware that most at great high schools are taking extra SAT prep classes. Some, who never went to Yale but still managed to accumulate wealth, spend some of that wealth to send their kids to schools where the children of Yale grads go.IMG_9500

That is how people get in.

If you want to investigate potential unfairness in admissions to elite schools, maybe we should look first, I repeat first (not as an afterthought), at the practice of giving preference to those who are already advantaged in the application process.

Birdwell Beach Britches:

In 1961, back in the days of Gidget and the Endless Summer, a seamstress named Carrie Birdwell Mann started making and selling swimshorts at her Orange County home. More than 50 years later the company is still in O.C. making pretty much the same thing, and for the most part- only that one thing.IMG_6570

We call them boardshorts. The world knows about boardshorts thanks to Old Navy and Target, but surfers know about boardshorts largely thanks to Birdwell. Mrs. Mann invented the shorts specifically for them.

Not to take away from what Quiksilver, O’neill, or any other surf brand have accomplished, but when it comes to boardshorts, Birdwell is what all of them are trying to be.IMG_6498

Like any responsible adult, the folks at the factory were a little leary of me when I showed up asking questions. But once they determined that, as they put it, “wasn’t up to any weird @*!!” they were more than happy to show me around.IMG_6492The family sold off the business, or as the current owners say “entrusted” them in 2014. Since then, a couple things have changed, while some other significant things have not.

For instance, they started using actual patters.IMG_6489While this may have removed some whimsy from the whole purchasing experience, it did make predicting if the shorts were going to fit a little more reliable.

They also updated the van.IMG_6597And by updated I mean they painted it not fixed the engine, which is why I found it parked comfortably in the factory parking lot.

What they didn’t change were the people working the floor. They have remarkably low turnover and most of the folks sewing the shorts today, are the same folks who sewed them ten years ago.IMG_6494

This might be in part an explanation for what else hasn’t changed, which is that these shorts are nearly bomb proof. I think these shorts are what the authorities use to identify the victims of shark attacks since the shorts are what always survive.

*I said that not them*IMG_6506

It is interesting that in our modern world of fast fashion and quarterly shareholder returns, there can exist a company and brand that survives without attempting to broaden offerings in order to capture market share or lowering quality to widen the margin and spur more turns.

They didn’t do that and they are still right there.IMG_6566

Like I said before, I don’t surf.

But if taking steps past big box mass retail is a sign- I might be on my way.IMG_6594