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)

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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.

The Letter on My Chest: Hillflint

I once spent a day in the archives of the University of Pennsylvania. I was doing research on the history of American football, focusing on its roots as an elitist quasi military ivy league creation and then its metamorphosis into a blue collar American religion. In the course of investigation I was able to handle a number of artifacts of various type and description, but my favorite item, was a sweater.sweater stuff

After handling this 100 year old piece of knitwear, woven back in those primitive times, I was a bit surprised at how hard it was to find one of like quality today. I started in my own college’s bookstore, one of those misnamed retailers of pennants and polo shirts but no dice. Plenty of t-shirts, but no classic P. In my various travels and continued research I was able to find some schools with similar items, but not the one I wanted. I looked everywhere. Lots of sweaters, but not the right one.

Then there was the internet and this one website. Hillflint.
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I found it and finally, over the holiday, I got it.

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The letter was not a felted applique patch but rather an intarsia knit letter woven right into the chest, just like the original I found in the archive.

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The little bit of branding in the waistband was their own touch but I liked it. This was not a jersey meant to be worn on Franklin Field, it was a sweater meant to be pulled over a button down on a crisp campus afternoon. Or in my case, a California evening when it dips down to the unheavenly temperature of 60 degrees.
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J Press Redeems Itself: or at least that one guy did

Walking past the Washington D.C. Brooks Brothers ‘Gatsby’ window felt like Halloween. I like some of what I saw but getting dressed shouldn’t be playing dress up.

A few blocks further down I felt like I was looking at a lackluster meal. The kind with all the right ingredients, a lot of labor, that just doesn’t turn out right. Not a bad meal at all yet still a huge disappointment. Remembering Cambridge, I inhaled and stepped inside.press doorsI was dressed much like last time, flat front khakis, blue button down, tan v neck, solid blue tie.

A man behind the counter said something along the lines of “hello.”

madrasI explained I was just looking a little but mostly wasting time he replied that he thought that was great and to enjoy myself.

Panama hats are obviously a thing right now. I saw one that might suit me, picked it up to maybe try it on, when a gentleman tapped me on the shoulder and pointed out the window. Outside was a little old woman sporting that Panama hat. The man chuckled and in a heavy accent said, “I guess it is summer time.”ivy books

While staring at cuff links a man asked, “which ones were you looking at?” I told him which ones I liked but that I was on strict orders to buy nothing. He smiled and said he understood.

He had grey longish hair. Not long enough to tuck behind an ear but enough to pass the collar in the back. I’m sure he must have had some wrinkles but his face, his eyes perhaps, seemed young. He was not bothered by me and I consequentially relaxed.

What he did next was remarkable.summer weight

A young black man walked into the store wearing shorts and a hooded sweatshirt. The salesman looked up, smiled a hello, and went right back to our conversation.

I wandered off on my own and the salesman directed a cheerful, “how are you doing today?” to the guy wearing Air Jordans. He did not tailgate the guy, hover over his shoulder, not did he ignore him in hopes he would go away. It was almost the same greeting I got, perhaps a little friendlier as the guy in the hood was a little nicer than I was.press capitol

By the time I walked away those two were chatting away. The black man had just gotten a job at a local shoe store, the sales rep knew everyone there, including the one who had just left. The black man knew every make of shoe imaginable but wanted a new suit. “well, you obviously aren’t working today. I’m sure {insert female name of shoe store boss here} wouldn’t have you walking in dressed like this?”

“Naw. I have today off,” he chuckled.sweaters

Maybe it was just Spring or perhaps not having your location listed on the corporate logo strips away the pretension. Whatever it was, this location was not like the last. Maybe it was just the grey haired guy with the young eyes but when I left there that day I wished I had money to spend.

I liked the clothes better, the sun was a little brighter, and I felt better about me.

Those two were still chatting when I left. I have no idea if a suit was purchased but I’m sure the newly minted shoe salesman will be back.

Me too.

Mettlers Clothing: best building ever but…

I drive past the building almost every day. I walk right past almost as often. I knew it was there, I just didn’t know it was a clothing store.

It used to be a church.Image

I left the place with my socks still on without buying any new ones.

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Now this is not to say I didn’t like it, a lot, but rather that I found no one item that I looked at, swooned, and walked away wishing the sticker price was lower. It was strangely a large collection of “meh” that when pulled together is both fantastic, but still… meh.

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Now Mettlers does not just do clothing, they do design. Which makes more sense. They do great design with well informed clothing. The fact that I’m “meh” on Mettlers means it is probably well worth a visit.

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But after some reflection I have decided what stole this visit’s fire, why I was underwhelmed. It was not the clothes or the building. Both were better than most. It was not the design, which was a sporting masculinity that I enjoyed, but it was something I like a lot, that disappointed me.

I once took an art class in college.

I was not an art major but having some artistic tendencies, I saw Drawing/Painting on the course list and decided to enroll. Besides, I had some electives to burn. I was foolish enough not to check those little numbers next to the course name, 5200.

It was for graduate students in art, not Sophomore business majors. The prof claimed I was fine and told me to stay. I’m glad I did because he made one statement that has stuck with me more than any other art lesson in my life.

When I submitted my project proposal he looked it over, shook his head, and said, “I can see what you are trying to do but you are simply not good enough to do it.”

A little stunned, I was speechless as he continued, “This is not to say you can’t produce great art, just don’t try to do things you aren’t capable of.”

I kid myself, no I believe, that I could learn to do what I originally proposed, but this was not the purpose of this class. That would be the purpose of getting a bachelors in art. But the utilitarian pragmatism of “do what you are good at” opened up unseen doors for me.

Now back to Mettlers.

I love Eakins’ artwork, especially the painting of a boxer being fanned in his corner. Mettlers had a fine hand painted imitation of that very painting. This was exactly my taste! But whoever the artist was that produced the imitation  they were no Eakins. I could see what the artist was trying to do but they were not good enough to do it.

 

For me it cheapened everything else in place.

I am One of “Them” and so are “They”

I am not an expert on clothing. The Trad’s fascination with my footwear will tell you as much, yet I would wager I spend more time thinking about clothing than your average man. The level to which I fail in clothing myself properly yet still appear more focused on doing so than normal, says something about the sartorial state of the modern American male, but I don’t think it is completely our own fault.

Take for example a recent experience.

J. Press Cambridge

Much has been said and written about the Ivy style and the traditional brand J. Press. I recently found myself in the neighborhood. I was in town for business at the University and was wearing a charcoal suit, sky blue shirt, and straight fold blue pocket square; nothing groundbreaking but no visible mistakes (cue shoe joke here). I stepped inside.

Fall racks at J. Press

The shop is beautiful. Orderly racks of jackets and coats intermixed with collegiate memorabilia. I would have loved to spend hours just touching the tweeds and checking the dates on old deflated footballs. A grey haired man near the register was roused from his boredom by my entry and giving me a once over asked, “Can I help you?”

I had no money. I would be buying nothing and felt a little ashamed because of it. Not wanting to be too intrusive on a business I replied, “I just wanted to look around and check things out a bit.” He shrugged a “very well” and went about fidgeting with folded sweaters whatever else. He did surprisingly well at lingering around but avoiding anything close to eye contact or, heaven forbid, a smile.

coats and scarves at J. Press

I made a couple rounds of the racks, touching very little, thanked the man and walked out of the store. What fools the two of us were that day. Yes, both of us.

The man showed little to no interest in me or my business, which is fair as I was not likely to be business that day. But that once over and his curt manner did not communicate helpfulness but rather he was the steward of something to be protected from outside intrusion and in our case it felt as if he was more of a security guard at a museum watching to make sure I didn’t cross the velvet rope and touch the paintings.

I didn’t need a security guard I needed a docent, a tour guide.

Perhaps he would have been one but when I looked at the crusty old man I froze. My normal bold self retreated. Not only did I refrain from asking my long list of questions but I lost all desire to ask. I had small things like wanting to know if the stripes and colors on the scarves represented schools, which I know they do, but which represents who, I have no idea. I would like to know. I like hats. I also have one of the largest heads on the planet and am conformist enough to not want to look like I’m headed for a costume party. In that store was a long table piled high with head wear options and I didn’t touch a single one.

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I should have asked. I could have asked but I didn’t.

I am surely not the only one struggling with personal insecurity and sartorial ignorance. It is a shame, and this is not the only such store where I have experienced this, that those who man the floor of such a menswear legends are repellent rather than receptive.

So what do I do now? Maybe I go to the Gap or some other affordable box where teenagers flirt with each other and expect me to unfold the entire stack of sweaters. I’m sure young Tiffany would be happy to tell me what Sarah thinks is so “way cute” for old guys like me to wear… which means my ignorance, and the ignorance of all like me, will continue.