Archive for October, 2013

Investigating Vests

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My uniform has expanded greatly over the past year. It used to consist of blue OCBDs, khaki chinos and penny loafers, but now it includes ties, blazers, sport coats, and corduroys. These additions have made getting dressed much more interesting and life in general more enjoyable. This got me thinking about what I could add next. If you read the title of my post then you already know that the answer is a vest.

Navy Vest 1961Navy Vest 1961

The vest has long been a part of classic American style. It is also a look that illustrates the British influence (They call them waistcoats) on American style. However, it is the image featured at the top of this post from the Deerfield academy in 1961 that piqued my curiosity. This picture from the “Hey Day” of the Ivy League look shows young men sporting vests in a truly casual and fun way. While I am not nearly as young as those pictured it made me think that I should not be intimidated by the vest.
Red Vest 1961                                   Red Vest 1961 (Red vests are more common than one would think.)

There are a lot of things that I like about the idea of adding an odd vest to my wardrobe. A vest can dress up a blazer or sport coat and at the same time they do not have to look “dressy.” In fact, when they are paired with cords and a tweed sport coat the look is more country mouse than city mouse. Plus, since it is not often that I get to wear a suit the addition of a vest allows me to add a level of formality to the flannel trousers and blazer look that I am more likely to wear. Not only can it dress up or down an outfit, but they are great for adding texture, color and patterns to an outfit especially, because they available in so many materials, patterns, and colors.

Roycur in Tan Vest 1968Roycru in tan vest then

Roycru Tan VestRoycru in tan vest todayTan VestEnsiferous in tan vest

I started looking for vests on my own, but I quickly turned to a few people who wear the vest well for advice. Luckily for me they were more than happy to help me and they gave me a few tips on what I should be looking for in a vest that fits into the TNSIL cannon. I will pass these tips along. They also allowed me to use a few of their pictures for this post for which I am very grateful (Billax, Roycru, and Ensiferous thank you!).

Navy Vest Navy VestVest Variety 3

Above are all examples from the Ivy master Billax of how vests can add texture and color to an outfit.

So, what does the Ivy League vest look like? This vest has 6, not 5 buttons and the bottom button is left undone, the vest should be long enough to cover your belt, it has 4, not 2 pockets, and one of the most important things to remember is that when you are wearing your vest with a blazer of sport coat you are not to remove the jacket in public.

Where do you find this vest? If you are interested in a vest I would recommend looking at Orvis and to my own surprise J.Crew whose vests almost all fit the description above.

Tartan Vest ThenTartan vest thenTartan Vest TodayTartan vest today from Ensiferous

I can’t wait to add the option of a vest to my growing closet.  I have decided to pursue a tan wool vest, because I think that it will work well with both my navy blazer and my brown tweeds. I have already lost out on one on Ebay, but I will not let that discourage me, because I know that while patience itself is bitter its fruit is sweet.

Art, Ads, and Classic Style

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In my spare time I enjoy watching old movies, looking through vintage yearbooks and magazines all to catch a glimpse of classic style in action. While these sources often contain wonderful examples of classic style there are other types of images that I enjoy equally if not more than film and photographs and those are illustrations, drawings, and paintings. Whether it is an old Norma Hilton ad, artwork from the Saturday Evening Post or the work of a contemporary Japan graphic illustrator there is just something about them, and that something is their ability to capture time, emotion, style and to communicate all that in a way that borders on the fantastic. I have included a handful of images below. I hope that you enjoy them.

Hiroshi Watatani Illustration

Illustration by Hiroshi Watatani (more illustrations and info here ). Also, I aspire to look like this.Date With The Television, art by John Falter.  Detail from Saturday Evening Post cover April 21, 1956.

Date With The Television by John Phillip Falter  from the Saturday Evening PostNorman Hilton Ad

Vintage Norman Hilton AdYuppie Handbook 2The Yuppie Handbook: The State-of-the Art Manual for Young Urban Professionals

Ivy Man and Beautiful GirlPrize Pupil — unsigned paperback cover art, 1966Sears Catalog

Sears Roebuck and Co. CatalogSir Alfred Munnings

Alfred James Munnings Portrait (Story here)Trad & Ivy Romance paintings by Jack VettrianoJack Vettriano Jive (Study)

Dress Belt: Engine-Turned Buckle & Belt Strap

Dress Belt: Engine-turned buckle & Strap

As I was looking through some old pictures one picture in particular caught my attention and not for a good reason. Actually, I really like the picture, but what struck me about the picture was how bad my belt looked. It was far too casual for the wool trousers as well as the event. It was time for me to invest in a belt better suited for dressier occasions.

Dress belt inspiration picBelt inspiration picture.

I already knew what I wanted, an engine-turned buckle on a crocodile strap, but per usual what I want and what I can afford are not the same thing. The buckle that I wanted is the gold standard of engine-turned buckles, the Tiffany & Co. buckle, but at $225 it was not going to happen. The same goes for the crocodile belt strap, just too expensive. I needed a more affordable alternative.

What is engine-turned? It is a fine geometrical pattern inscribed into metal. Designs vary as illustrated below.

My buckle

Engine-turned variation #1Engine-turned Variation #2

Luckily I have known others in the same boat as myself and I did what they did. I purchased an etched rhodium over brass 1” buckle from Trafalgar for $55 (See here) which they engraved with my initials at no extra cost. I then ordered a brown crocodile embossed 1” hole less strap from Beltmaster for $19 (See here). I ended up having to take the strap to my cobbler to be shortened which cost me a whole $5. All in all I ended with what I think is a pretty nice looking belt for under $100.

New belt New belt in action.

I haven’t worn the belt enough to give any detailed feedback, but I can offer a few thoughts. First, get your buckle engraved with your initials. It won’t look quite right without them and they add so much to the buckle. Also, remember that it is standard for men to use block letters and first, middle, last name order when adding monograms to anything. Second, I have heard that my strap may wear down after use which will result in the inability to “latch,” but at $15 a pop I should just be able to replace it without too much distress. Hopefully my new belt will catch my eye for the right reasons the next time that I am revisiting old pictures.

Questions For Your Cobbler

Questions for your cobbler

Not too long ago I posted  about the hole that I had worn in the bottom of my Weejuns (Penny Loafers for Penny Pinchers). I thought that my loafers were done for as the damage had made its way through the cork, but due to the encouragement of my readers I took them to my local cobbler for an assessment. It turned out to be the best choice as he was able to repair my loafers, but I was not as prepared as I prefer to be in such situations. I thought that I could use this experience to help those of you who like me are inexperienced with shoe repair to have a few questions prepared for your cobbler.

My Local CobblerMy Local Cobbler

My loafers were returned to me repaired using a different method than I had expected. Expecting, but not requesting, or at least inquiring was my first mistake. I only asked if they could be repaired and that was it. I should have asked how he was going repair them. There are two types of shoe repair, full soles and half-soles. Both methods are exactly what they sound like. Full sole repair involves replacing the full sole and half soles; you guessed it, half soles.

Weejuns Before RepairWeejuns before repair. Notice the finished stitching.

Most people tend to recommend half soles for cheaper shoes and full soles for a quality shoe. Full sole repair involves replacing everything from the toe to the heel.  Half sole repair is when the toe and instep area are replaced. You can think of full sole repair as replacing a tire while half sole repair is more comparable to mending the tire. However, many have indicated that a half sole repair can hold up if well done.

Weejuns with New Half SolesWeejuns after repair. Here you can notice the absence of stitching.

I expected a full sole repair, but I received a half sole repair. I also expected the soles to be stitched, but they were only glued. Now all soles are glued, but I expected stitching as well, because that is the way they were originally finished. Was my cobbler wrong for using this method, I don’t think so, but I would have appreciated being consulted or at least informed as to how he intended to repair the shoes.

My Repaired Weejuns

The new half soles are thicker than the originals

Despite being surprised by the finished product this was a good learning experience. I now know that if I want a full sole shoe repair I should ask for it. I also know to inquire about the possibilities of resoling my shoes. Will they finish the shoe with stitching?  If not, why? What other options are there? I hope that my experience can help those of you who are thinking about visiting a cobbler for your first time. Remember there are no stupid questions.  I am looking forward to wearing out the soles of my Weejuns for a second time.