Wine isn’t just a beverage, or even an industry, it is a country. It is of course those other things too, but since that first day a zillion years ago when someone decided to drink a bottle of spoiled grape juice the whole world has been spending inordinate amounts of time and real estate on grapes.
Half way between San Diego and Riverside is Southern California’s version of Tuscany. Or maybe its another version of Sonoma, or Napa, wherever it is like, it is called Temecula and I went there.
I spent three days at the Carter Estates and didn’t drink a drop of wine. I did however guzzle about a gallon of root beer and ate my weight in cheese. But I was not alone and there were plenty of others to make sure the wine didn’t go to waste.
Any place that has that much cheese is great with me, and the idea that it might be the sort of place where an ascot could be worn made me a fan.
An ascot. In real life.
Wine helps people do all sorts of things.
Like fly in hot air balloons. It was more than a hundred years ago that some French folks broke humans free from Terra firma, and since that time we have developed other things like airplanes and the ability to steer. Yet somehow people still climb into combustible unsteerable baskets and go up into the sky.
There was of course some swirling and sniffing, lots of toasting and nibbling, but most of all, there was an ascot.
My wife calls it “Fakebook.” I call it “intentional online messaging.” It is that thing we do where we present an image online of our most happy and prosperous selves.
For example, I have only beat this “Jared Raynor” in chess twice out of 200 hundred games. But I did in fact beat him and I think it no coincidence that I did so on the same day we met this guy on the street. It is also no coincidence that I have not previously posted screen shots of my losses. No coincidence at all.
I do not eat this beautifully all the time. But sometimes I do. I assume you have no interest in my peanut butter jelly sandwiches. They are neither artisan nor farm-to-table. They are pedestrian sliced bread Jiffy spread things best stuffed in elementary school lunches not posted anywhere on anything.
This is because I am a positive guy and my online life is not my life. My online presentation may be derived from reality but is not, nor has it ever been my, or anyone’s totality.
So I share the things and places that are good and worth knowing. worth doing, Possibly worth replicating. Like Leo’s successful execution of California casual unintentionally blending with my living room decor. That is worth replicating.
But not everything is interesting or good or presentable. I choose mostly the good. I choose this so that when I present the bad, perhaps it might get some notice. Maybe when travel tips and food pics gets crashed by the realities of racism, some of us will take an extra pause to consider.
Maybe we will do more than consider and we will act. We will do something. Act. Exert. Do good.
So I spare you my morning breath and laundry laden bedroom floor. You don’t need to see my kid’s mistakes or my neighbor’s noise. Because so-what. Who cares.
What you should know is that I find double monk strap cap-toe shoes to be incredibly versatile. They dress up and down like a grown up but not an old man. You should know that Bodega Louie is the best pastry in town.
And you should know that racism is real and we should do something about that.
Matthew 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.
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.
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.
… 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.We 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.
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.
And I don’t need to have the same tastes as you. That is okay.
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.
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.
Most people don’t realize that Picasso really knew how to paint. He is known for being the chief inspiration of people worldwide saying “My five year old could paint that”, but what these critics don’t know, or rather one of the many things they don’t know, is that those squashed square faces with yes on the sides of their heads were painted that way for a reason other than lack of skill. They were intentional. That is the right word, intentional.
I was given a white pair of shoes for Christmas. They were, or rather are, great; no logo, all leather lace ups with a cap toe. So I wore them, on Christmas. I wore them again in January and again in February all the way up through March. I’m not wearing them today; not right now. Right now I’m wearing brown shoes with my navy suit because I’m not wearing a tie. Had I on a tie I would be wearing black shoes.
I’m in no way a Picasso but I know a little bit about how to paint. When it comes to painting I know what sort of images I like and I know the limits of my abilities. With some more work and training I could probably further my abilities, and with more money I could definitely further my collection, but for now I’m alright. For now I have no problem wearing white shoes in the winter. Mostly I’m okay with this because right now I live in Southern California.
I know the rule that you aren’t supposed to wear white shoes, or pants or whatever after Labor Day or before Memorial Day. I get it. I’m all for seasonal dressing and it makes perfect sense if you live in a place that actually has seasons. Most rules grew out of reason and in my mind keeping or breaking the rules should be based in those same reasons, not in simple obedience. Not that I am off hand against obedience; not at all. But I have seen how obedience to trends and norms and magazines and television has led to giant big box stores and people in LA wearing pea coats in February.
I love pea coats. LOVE them. But I don’t love them when it is sunny, dry, no wind, and it is 75 degrees. Where I live now it is almost always 75 degrees and because of this, though I love my pea coat, I mostly miss it. I also miss snow pants. In the office I miss gym shorts and while at the gym I miss my blazer. At the beach I miss tweed and in snowstorms I miss linen.
I see it most pronounced when I venture to the mall (an evil suburban necessity). I see trends and groups much more than I see people. This is normal. All people, no matter how individualistic, follow some sort of group pattern or norm, I’m okay with this. What I am less okay with is that prevailing norms appear dictated by some odd unnamed other who is obviously somewhere else who appears to be dictating what everyone should be wearing. Tight clothes, loose clothes, warm clothes, cool clothes, collar up or collar down, all worn without regard to situation, unless of course that situation is defined narrowly by magazine ads, box store mannequins, and TMZ.
Mannequins and advertisements trump body type and climate. We should all learn a little bit more, how to paint. For instance the wearing of stripes and or tights (which are not pants) may best be determined by body type than celebrity imitation. Sportswear and accompanying gear may best be determined by activity rather than brand popularity. Color, composition, and form, should come before cubism or pop art exposition.
And while I live in a year round sunny desert clime, I will wear white… and do a lot of laundry because I will also eat salsa.
Holidaying is a much better word than partying, or in my opinion funner to say than “on holiday”. Unfortunately, or maybe it is for the best, funner is not really a word and most all of America is back at work starting off a new year with hopes, aspirations, and most likely a healthy dose of ‘meh’.
It starts with Halloween for the kids, then on to Thanksgiving for families and football, then December with its religious high holidays, then sliding down New Year’s. After that we are tasked with enduring February.Where is the fun now? Why did it die and who killed it?
Maybe fun is overrated and plain navy suits with white shirts and solid color ties are best. Maybe paying the bills, getting things done, and societal and personal progression are superior to immediate gratification and enjoyment.
But then again maybe all of those things aren’t mutually exclusive. Maybe you can personally progress and wear glossy purple suits at the same time.
Maybe… So navy suits aren’t always the best option, glossy purple suits are almost never a good option, but it doesn’t have to be one or the other.
I come from a culture where one has “Sunday clothes”.
The closet of my youth held multiple t-shirts, jeans, shorts, maybe a couple of polo shirts. Then, off to the side, was one button down, one pair of slacks, and one lonely tie. Those were the Sunday clothes. The shirt and pants would change as one was grown out of, and was then replaced, but the tie stayed the same. I had that one maroon tie with little white dots, from age 12-19.
It wasn’t just me. I was a bit dressier than most of my peers solely because I wore boat shoes on the weekdays as well. I remember being asked “why are you wearing your Sunday shoes?”
I still on occasion hear echoes from my memory when I leave the house in a tie on a weekday, “where are you going all dressed up?” or even better, “who are you dressed up as?”
Maybe this is why I find fascinating the world of style. I like to look nice, most everyone does, but what that looks like to different groups in different times is subjective and riddled with unwritten rules.
I like art. Rather, I like to look at art. I painted my first painting while in college not as part of a project, or to express myself, but because my walls were bare and so was my wallet. I wanted something cool to look at.
All of this came together while I was sitting at a desk in the Princeton archives looking at stacks of old football programs. Here was page after page of illustrations advertising the fashions of the day. Some of these ads were more than 100 years old, most were more like 85, but they all looked great.
The clothes and the art, both, met the definition of what I seek; they were cool to look at.
The images, like all advertisements, depict not only what you want, but who you want to be.
Isn’t that what style is? Showing who you want to be? maybe it is who we already are, but these illustrations are obviously aspirational.
I do not always dress the way I would like. There are obstacles, just like in all aspects of life; my wallet, my waist line, my schedule and the sort of tasks that fill it.
I do not always paint the way I would like. There are obstacles; time, laziness, skill level, did I say lazy already?
Sometimes, not too often the further time takes me from those days, but every now and again, the obstacles come from where and when I came from. But forget all that.
Just wear and paint things you think are cool to look at… as long as it is within the guidlines set up by whatever function you are about to attend as is indicated by the byline on the invitation reading, “dressy casual evening attire.”