What’s On My Mind (March 2020)

No, this is not about worldly issues like the Coronavirus’ impact on Weblen goods, Michael Bloomberg’s appropriation of Instagram meme culture (and by association, democracy!!!), the global rise of right wing populism or the shift in global weather patterns due to environmental damage. Though it may not be obvious, equally important is my next style move. To be clear, I’m not talking about what anyone else should buy. It’s MY next style move. That’s what’s important. Me.

Here’s what’s keeping me up at night.

Le Tricoteur Guernsey Jumper

Style-wise, I’ve become boring as shit. Gone are all the flex outerwear and Japanese off-kilter workwear, and back is British-made clothes — the most boring of them all. Yet, I’ve never been more pleased with my style. All the experimentation with color, references and silhouette from that by-gone (6 months ago) era remain, but with now with familiar, well-made, heritage clothes.

While browsing the wares at Dover Street Market New York, I stumbled upon a guernsey under the label Labour and Wait. The guernsey is actually made by Le Tricoteur, a classic British sweater maker that has been making them for decades, if not centuries.

It’s thin enough for 3-season wear, yet well-made and textured enough to be long-lasting and interesting. I also suspect that Le Tricoteur does private label work for all your favorite boring brands.

Slouchy, Textured Blazer

While browsing 18 East’s Chinatown, NY outpost, I tried on a hand-loomed cotton khadi tweed blazer and was immediately smitten. It is slouchy and loose in all the right ways, wearing more like a structured cardigan than a traditional sport coat. Even going up a size, there’s no risk of looking like a Men’s Wearhouse type bum. The fabric used is irregular, extremely textured, and unlike any fabric I’ve seen on a blazer ever.

18 East’s Cotton Khadi Tweed blazer

Unfortunately, I took a little too long to decide, and they sold out the day after my store visit. That did get me thinking about the prospects of wearing blazers again, though. Personally, I’m holding out until 18 East drops the Spring season blazer they teased on Instagram stories, but many other brands also do this well.

Akira Satake Black Kohiki Mug

I once saw a tree that kinda looked like it.

Sunflower Chuck Taylor 70s

I adore the CT70. I’ve been thinking about adding a high-top for casual wear — my two pairs of lows have been relegated to gym wear — but I’ve been hesitating a little with the color choice. White, the classic choice, is terrible. Natural/Parchment is cool, but reminds me too much of the shoes I wore to secondary school. Black is probably the best, but is Self Edge-y in a way that is too hardcore for me.

Converse makes the CT70 in a sunflower yellow, which is, while a bright color, extremely versatile. I can see these complementing denim of all washes, natural painter pants, and workwear greens.

Light Washed Denim, Preferably Vintage, Preferably Patchworked/Upcycled

Like the fashion victim I am, I’ve been really enjoying looser pants. With all my existing slim denim relegated to bring-back-in-10-years status — my balls need time to recover from all that constriction — I can’t seem to fade jeans quick enough to a Spring-friendly light wash.

To shortcut the fading process, and to make me feel better about my consumerism, I’m on the hunt for dead people’s denim that’s been upcycled, and preferably patchworked. I’ve been shopping offerings from Levi’s Vintage Clothing, visvim and Kapital, but neither of them make the pant I’m envisioning.

I keep coming back to Atelier & Repairs’ The Detroit, a pair of upcycled Levi’s 501s I reviewed in the past but have since sold due to a sizing issue. This is exactly what I’m looking for right now; I just wish they weren’t so gosh darn expensive.

On Paraboot

Gerald Ortiz for Gear Patrol:

Paraboot has a distinct advantage over many other companies because of its vertical production. While other shoemakers source their soles from companies like Vibram, Dainite and Cortina, Paraboot produces its own rubber soles as it’s been doing since the early 20th century. Having in-house production of its own materials means Paraboot has greater control over the quality of the product, ultimately resulting in a better shoe.

I’ve always thought that Paraboot shoes were great, but I couldn’t wrap my finger around exactly why. The company having full control over production explains that and, in my eyes, raises the stock of the brand quite a bit. The rest of the article is similarly, wonderfully detailed, and is unlike what you’d expect from Gear Patrol’s style vertical.

Bad Graduation Prospects

Tanzi and Dmitrieva for Bloomberg:

The strong job market should be helping graduates to pay what they owe — and at the top end of the wage scale, it is. But in recent years, while high-school graduates have seen a sharp pickup in earnings, the lower-earning half of college graduates haven’t — and the gap between them is now the smallest in 15 years.

More than four in 10 recent graduates are working in jobs that don’t usually require a college degree, the New York Fed says. And roughly one in eight is working in a field where typical pay is around $25,000 a year or less.

I’ve noticed that my American peers feel a sense of anxiety that the job they have to get to repay loans will be ‘beneath’ degree they’ve worked so hard to obtain. The guarantee of a quality STEM job has not been true for a while now, yet hundreds of thousands of new college students enroll in tertiary education with that expectation.

New York’s Eric Levitz makes a connection between this fact and the relatively high support for Bernie among the youth, and I have to agree. I’ve been seeing support for Bernie from the most unlikeliest of places — super turbo, high-achieving students who seem, at first glance, like bootstrappy-type guys. It absolutely feels as though our generation will be financially worse off than our parents’ — the first generation in modernity to be that way — and not for lack of trying.

On Style

Cal Francis of Ditz to 032c:

Style, to me, is confident personal expression, unhindered by trend, but aware of its existence at the same time.

There’s been a lot of discussion online about ‘Style’ vs ‘Fashion’ recently, and I think this quote captures it well, at least for me. Specifically, I really like that last bit about being aware of trend/’fashion’. While high fashion and luxury brands do sometimes make good clothes, they can be out of reach for most people, making a singular appreciation for expensive clothes, in a word, classist. However, a small budget doesn’t preclude knowing what’s current, and a comprehensive lay of the land has helped me refine/refresh/redefine my taste even if I’m never ‘on trend’.

Sidenote: I don’t think anyone — people who obviously chase the latest trends included — would self-identify as being fashionable over having personal style.

Review: Lamy 2000

I’m running out of content to write about. I can only spend so much money on clothes to review (sponsor me), so I’ll go for this low-hanging fruit and say that the Lamy 2000 is the best sub-$200 workhorse pen out there.

As a college student who remains true to the analog in my note-taking, I use my writing utensils heavily. As such, on top of being fun to use and aesthetically ‘a vibe’, they need to be hardy and efficient. My pair of Lamy 2000s, kept inked in blue and red for contrast note-taking, does exactly that. The platinum-tipped gold nib has the right amount of flex for soft yet speedy writing. The light, rounded and tapered-to-the-nib Makrolon body is also comfortable to hold and write with over extended periods.

Most importantly, reinking the 2000 is a joy. The pen provides easy access to both ink levels via the ink window and ink filler via the seamlessly integrated piston filler, making the typically fussy fountain pen much more utilitarian. You also get reintroduced to that ingenius, uniquely Bauhausian use of materials every inking sesh — a weekly reminder that you’re kinda dumb tbh and that German designers had it all figured out back in the 60s so you should just give up now.

As good the pen is, it has its issues. The nib really only performs well when angled perfectly on the paper (pen geeks refer to this as the 2000’s notorious ‘sweet spot’), which can be annoying for new users. Also, the very same matte Makrolon that gives the pen its design cred does wear glossy over time, and not necessarily in a wabi-sabi, #patina kind of way.

That said, Lamy’s best in-class aftermarket support (shoutout Bob Nurin of the Lamy Service Center) makes any purchase from the brand worth the money. Over the years, I’ve sent multiple pens in for service nearly and they’ve all come back in tip top condition, nearly free of charge. You’re encouraged to actually use these pens instead of babying them — dispelling the myth that fountain pens are precious, fragile luxuries.

I’d recommend getting the pen from a trusted shop that will sort you out in the case of a manufacturing issue, such as The Goulet Pen Co.. Also for an extra $100, you can even get it in blue.