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.

Suntory Yamazaki 55-Year Old

Will Price, Gear Patrol:

The release surpasses a 50-year-old offering Yamazaki released in the early 2000s, and there are only 100 bottles available. To buy one, you’ll need to win a lottery and have ¥3 million JPY on hand.

27 thousand US dollars, people! Even if you do win, you probably won’t be drinking this. In fact, it’s likely nobody will. But, you’re guaranteed a face-to-face with any oligarch of your choosing.

Labour and Wait

While perusing the wares at Dover Street Market New York (aka Temple of All Clothes Cool) trying to recapture my fleeting youth, I stumbled upon Labour and Wait’s little enclave to the right of the main entrance. Less traditional clothing brand, more curator of old-school, well-made gear, the UK-based brand has assembled a collection of the most function-over-form versions of home goods, kitchen tools, outdoor accessories and British clothing.

Labour and Wait is not the type of brand you typically see in DSM. DSM is known for stocking the most avant-garde (weird) shit. Pants with 6 sleeves, hats for your ankles, shoes with no soles, that kind of thing. DSM is so cool that that they even opted NOT to sell Yeezys, essentially rejecting free money (artists… amirite? *rolls eyes*)

Contrastingly, Labour and Wait specializes in the Naoto Fukusawa-esque Super Normal. Think the ultimate expression of selvedge jeans, British knitwear, French chore coats and Australian work boots. As such, uh, something something jarring juxtaposition of Labour and Wait’s modernist tendencies on the store’s postmodern environment, or some smart, intellectual shit like that.

I’m too tasteless to know what of their non-clothing offerings are actually good, but I find their metal lunchbox extremely well-designed, with gaskets in all the right places and a fitted divider. It’s reminiscent of the mess tin I used to throw into fires back in my Scouting days. With this, you can pair your lunches with your Buzz Ricksons and take your military-but-make-it-fashion cosplay to the next level.

Labour and Wait does not sell anything particularly unique, but that’s the point. The products represent, in their minds, the best versions of everyday items, perfected over time by old-world companies. It’s the same button-shoulder Armor Lux sweaters and Blundstones that you can get anywhere, but seeing it in context with everything else makes the whole more than the sum of its parts. It is curation a la Tumblr moodboards, and is immensely valuable now that social media is drip feeding us new brands through our every bodily orifice.

I also like that they say where everything is sourced from, but I would like to see them actually highlight the companies that made the stuff. I can’t see why they don’t — potential customers might seek the source out directly — but it’s disingenuous to infer the products as either made or designed by them. I, for one, definitely thought that the case before digging deeper into the brand.

While I have not pulled the trigger on anything yet, I can see myself owning one of everything. In particularly, I’m angling towards the fisherman turtlenecks, guernseys (made by Le Tricoteur), and utility totes (made by Matsunoya).

Everything is available on their website, though the stuff they have just looks way better in a brick and mortar setting as everything is in view in context. Labour and Wait is based in the UK, but it ships internationally.

UNIQLO U Spring/Summer 2020

Uniqlo USA has announced their U Spring/Summer 2020 collection in collaboration with Christophe Lemaire a.k.a. the slouch God, and it’s pretty great. Uniqlo U is known for well-designed, fashion-forward cuts that look more expensive than they are, and it has definitely delivered on that this collection.

As always, there are lots of repeats from previous seasons that makes getting in on them now a little less cool. The fabrics used also disappoint year after year and are almost never as good as the designs they are paired with. However, Uniqlo U is essentially Lemaire’s diffusion line, and the extremely high design-quality-to-price ratio means that you’re getting the best bang for your buck in all of menswear.

Here are my 4 standouts from this season’s drop.

Denim Work Jacket in Light Washed, Medium Washed and Raw

This work jacket is one of the few new designs for the season, but it’s the best piece of the entire collection. It is beautifully cut with the correct collar choice for 2020 and a great selection of pockets to boot. This is THE chore coat that all the Engineered Garmentses and Orslows of the world will be compared to this Spring, and it’s made by Uniqlo for crying out loud. All three colors are great, but I’m leaning medium-wash to add to my already robust collection of blue outerwear.

Striped Regular Collar Long-Sleeved Shirt in Beige

That slightly A-line silhouette in combination with the low pocket placement makes for a #fashun version of what your dad would wear to work, in the best way possible. I have my fingers crossed that this comes in anything but broadcloth.

Cuban Short-Sleeve Shirt in White

Camp collars had their moment in 2019, but they are about to explode this Spring. While everyone zigs with loud prints on simple silhouettes, you can now zag with solids white on this beauty of a Cuban shirt. It is on trend, but different enough from the pack that you’ll stay ahead of the curve.

Denim Relaxed Shorts in Tan

Wide waistband? Double forward pleats? Side adjusters? Check, check, and motherf’in check. These shorts have all the rich guy features you want, without the need for rich guy bread, though rich guy confidence would absolutely help you pull these off. One of my favorite pieces this season, and one I hope they bring back in long form this Fall.

Throwing Fits: Return of My Favorite Menswear Podcast

In last few years, one’s stable of podcast subscription has succeeded one’s list of frequented websites as a true signifier of content taste level. I’m personally proud of my personal Avengers of podcasts that I’ve assembled. And no, I’m not f’in telling you what they are. Go develop your own taste.

The crown jewel, the Iron Man, if you will, of my subscription Avengers is a podcast that I am not proud of. I’ve never admitted this, and I’m extremely embarrassed to say this, but the now-defunct Failing Upwards was my favorite menswear podcast bar none.

Hosted by two menswear fixtures in Lawrence Schlossman and James Harris, the podcast takes an interesting and distinct approach to covering fashion and its adjacent subcultures. Beneath the veil of obnoxious loudness and mildly problematic humor is an emphasis of personal style over trend-hopping. Also, because of the show’s notoriety, it essentially self-selects its guests, so even the high-profile, distinguished folks who do go on are all ready to play ball.

I’m not the only one who raves about the podcast. Its huge following is cult-like, with its acolytes speaking in the same weird code (“on deckington”, “GDMF” and “Zoovie” come to mind) as the hosts. It’s not just speech that has trickled down. Some followers have adopted the camp collar + really short shorts + loafers combo or fleeces + Blundstones that the podcast hosts espouse.

After a complicated breakup with Barstool Sports, the podcast is now back under a new name — Throwing Fits. In the meantime, I’ve been replaying my favorite episodes (standouts from this year being Alex Delany, Antonio Ciongoli, Corey Stokes, Naomi Fry and Mister Mort), getting more insights out of them each time. I’m stoked that it’s back, and I can’t wait for the rumored Ezra Koenig episode.

Their series premiere is available on your podcast app of choice.

Review: Supreme Hanes Underwear

Honestly, from a technical perspective, these boxer briefs are some of the worst you can buy. They’re identical to Hanes boxers with the exception of Supreme branding at the waist band, and they cost 17 dollars more per 4-pack. They don’t last very much past a dozen spin cycles and they don’t work well on anyone who has done a single barbell squat in their life.

But, as someone who struggles to wear any Supreme (I can only authentically wear their fine art and menswear-y stuff), but loves what the brand has come to be, these work. I’m not cool, and I don’t dress cool, but having that good Barbara Kruger-flipped italic bold Futura peek out from below my too-short tees when I’m seated lets me feel like I can at least tribe-signal to people who are actually cool.

Buy these overpriced undies at Supreme, and I’d definitely recommend getting them in black. Not that I would ever, but I don’t want to see your shit stains.