Archive for December, 2012

Adventures in Thrifting: Small Town USA

We all have our favorite spots and frequent haunts when it comes to thrifting, I am no exception. A few stores in my rotation are too far to get to very often, but are close enough that I can get to 4-5 in one day. On a snowy Saturday with not much to do I decided to hit the road.

My favorite part of thrifting is the journey which is what this post is about. The highlights of this trip are country roads, old homes and remnants of yesteryear that can all be found in Small Town, USA. When it was all said and done I walked away with two ties and a surcingle belt which is no jackpot, but I still had a great day.

The Snow Makes For A Scenic Trip

Snowy Roads

A Few Country Homes Along the Way

Country House 1

Country House 2Country House 3

Sidney, OH

The Spot Restaurant

The Spot FoodPeoples Saving and Federal Loans

About the bank

Sidney House 1

Sidney House 2

Sidney Castle

Big Four Bridge

Piqua, OH

Piqua Milling Co.


Piqua House 2

Piqua House 1Troy, OH

Troy Hayner Cultural Center

Troy Old Home 1

Downtown Buildings

Time To Head Home

Country Home

Heading Home

How Shoe Can You Get?

I have always been interested in social class, cultural/subcultural groups and the role that style ( plays in their construction. I stumbled upon this essay by Russel Lynes on social groups in college communities on last year and it has become one of my favorites. Russell Lynes was a art historian, author, and editor of Harper Magazine. He is well known for being an expert on highbrow and lowbrow. This essay was published in Esquire in September 1953 and is well worth the read even if there are no pictures.

How Shoe Can You Get?

By Russell Lynes

At Yale there is a system for pigeonholing the members of the college community which is based on the word “shoe.” Shoe bears some relation to the word chic, and when you say that a fellow is “terribly shoe” you mean that he is a crumb in the upper social crust of the college, though a more kindly metaphor might occur to you. You talk of a “shoe” fraternity or a “shoe” crowd, for example, but you can also describe a man’s manner of dress as “shoe.” The term derives, as you probably know, from the dirty white bucks which are the standard collegiate footwear (you can buy new ones already dirty in downtown New York to save you the embarrassment of looking as though you hadn’t had them all your life), but the system of pigeonholing by footwear does not stop there. It encompasses the entire community under the terms White Shoe, Brown Shoe, and Black Shoe.

White Shoe applies primarily to the socially ambitious and the socially smug types who affect a good deal of worldly sophistication, run, ride and drink in rather small cliques, and look in on the second halves of football games when the weather is good. They try so hard not to be collegiate in the rah-rah (or, as they would say, “Midwestern”) sense of the term that they are probably the most “collegiate” types now in college. Brown Shoe applies to the general run of those who are socially acceptable but above thinking that it really makes any difference. They constitute the general middle class of the college that overlaps somewhat into both White and Black; their ambition is to be the average citizen raised to the highest power compatible with being a cultured and relaxed gentleman. Black Shoe implies some of the attributes of the “grind” and is applied to those who participate a little too eagerly in seminars, literary teas, and discussions of life, literature, and the pursuit of philosophy. They are in college because they consider it primarily an educational and not a social institution; they mind their own business rather intensely, are probably in love with the girls they will eventually marry, and in many respects appear a good deal more sophisticated and  grown up than the White Shoe crowd.

The shoe categories obviously allow for a great deal more precise definition than this, as I have no doubt the first Yale man you meet will tell you. But pleasant as it is under the elms of New Haven, let us move into other groves of academe. We will have to take our “shoes” with us, however; the terminology may not be the same in all the colleges, but we will keep finding men whom the shoes will fit.

The Button-down Butterfly

First let us look at a group to whom the social aspects of college life are to all external appearances the only reason for being there. These are the social smoothies — butterflies in button-down collars — short haired, unbespectacled and with unextinguishable but slightly bored smiles. They wear the current college uniform, Ivy League version, but they wear it with an air of studied casualness, as though they would be at home and socially acceptable anywhere in whatever they had on. The uniform, of course, is the familiar khaki pants, white bucks, or possibly dirty white sneakers, a slightly frayed blue or white button-down Oxford shirt, no necktie, and a grey sweater which the wearer expects you to assume was knitted for him by a girl. On occasions that demand a gesture of formality, dark grey flannels without pleats supplant the khaki pants, a necktie (either regimental stripes or club tie) is worn, and so is a tweed jacket with vent, pocket flaps, ticket pocket, and three buttons. For bucks substitute well-shined cordovan in season. For city wear the uniform is a dark grey flannel suit; the haberdashery stays much the same.

The butterfly’s manner is as casual as his dress and like it conforms to a well-defined pattern. He says “Hi” to any passing figure whom he thinks he ought to know, but his eyes never quite focus on you, and the “Hi” is as much a dismissal as a greeting. He actually speaks only with those he knows to be entirely acceptable to the group in which he moves, and he avoids even the most casual social byplay with anyone who is not quite “shoe” as he can’t afford to be friendly with the wrong people. In the classroom he is politely tolerant of what goes on and sometimes, especially on Mondays he dozes as weekdays are merely the links between weekends, when he leaves town by car (his own if he happens to have one — but whether he has one or not he always has access to one (“only Black Shoes [take the] train”). Where girls are concerned he affects the attitude that they are an essential but always replaceable commodity. If you are to maintain your status in this group, you are not where you said you’d be when your girl arrives for a house party. She will have to go looking for you and likely as not will find you drinking in somebody else’s fraternity house. To continue to consort with he girl you were so desperately in love with in high school is considered a social absurdity, and sexually immature.

Conversation in this group has only one cardinal rule — it must never be permitted to take on any of the aspects of a serious discussion. To become involved or impassioned about any subject is a betrayal of the pose that nothing is important. The conversational pause, however, must always be filled, though never with a remark that looks as if it is intended to start a train of thought. “It all began when I was born a month too soon… ” will do nicely for most occasions, or “Well, let’s get back to the farm.” The point is that no situation is a serious situation, any occasion is an occasion to be taken lightly, thrown away and forgotten.

“School tie” is, of course, more important to members of this group than to any other, as is the necessity of belonging to the right clubs; equally important is the avoidance of any extracurricular activities with intellectual overtones. If they participate in sports, and most of them do, the sports are of the social varieties — tennis, squash, and skiing, rather than football, baseball or basketball. They regard the serious athlete as a “mercenary,” just as they regard the serious student as a “grind.” They take as many “gut” courses as the Dean’s office will allow and along toward examination time they pull up their argyles and spend the evening borrowing notes from more conscientious classmates. If they go to Harvard, they are apt to find it necessary to refurbish their intellects with the aid of Radcliffe girls.

The Intellectual Egg Beater

By glaring contrast with the button-down butterfly is the intellectual egg beater, though to an unpracticed eye it would often be difficult to tell them apart at a distance. The uniformity of the college costume is such that clothes are primarily a social camouflage, though there are always a few rebels who adopt a costume of mild revolt. I have been told, for example, that there are likely to be a certain number of Black Shoe physics majors and prospective engineers who are as inseparable from their blue jeans and plaid shirts and they are from their slide-rule holsters. There are also a few who as a gesture of strident defiance wear hand-painted ties, which are considered chic on the West Coast but sufficient cause for ostracism in the Ivy League. In general it is the science majors whose reputation for single-mindedness and nonconformity to the accepted standards of appearance is most blatant. Some undergraduates regard this as a lack of sensibility, a misjudgment of the true values of the liberal arts education in which a man is supposed to become a rounded personality, equipped to deal with worldly as well as intellectual matters. The only disturbing element in this attitude seems to be that on graduation the engineers and physicists are besieged with offers of high-paying jobs, and nobody can deny that there is something rather worldly and pleasant about that.

The devotees of the arts are not the radicals they were a couple of decades ago. It is not they who flout convention by leaving their collars unbuttoned; indeed, there is no button-up convention to flout. They are likely, however, to carry their books in briefcases, or attache cases; and bedeck their faces with heavy horn-rimmed glasses. They are not infrequently caught wearing neckties in class, though they are aware of the social risk they run in so doing. They tend to emulate the mannerism and mode of dress of the faculty rather than those of their peers, and they drink moderately, usually beer rather than martinis. They spend a great deal of time over weekends in the library. When they go to a football game, they sit through all four quarters. They do not become immoderately involved in it emotionally, but they are not so supremely casual about it as the second-half butterflies. Perhaps this is because they have a longer span of concentration. Where girls are concerned they make out rather better than the social smoothies — at least in their own terms. They have no reticence about devoting their attention to a single female, and there is no evidence that they have any less good taste or good luck that the butterflies. They think of a girl as a person who can also be talked to and with whom it is not a social gaffe to become involved. They are quiet about their attachments, and they place the satisfactions of continuity above those of variety.

Athletes — Pure and Impure

The traditional triple-threat athlete who shines on Saturday and sleeps through courses during the week, who wears his varsity letter plastered on his front (or as he used to, and may still, at Yale, on his back with his sweater turned inside out), and who is nudged through his courses with the help of a few friends and a few members of the faculty, all but vanished from the Ivy League some time ago. He was succeeded after the war by a type who, while his only known capital was his athletic prowess, treated sports as something of a gag and his own special talents for them as a knack which he really couldn’t help and which had nothing to do with anything that was important to him, such as women and liquor. He was half-diffident and half-smug about his ability, and he adopted the costume and customs of the social butterfly, though he rarely manged to attain the butterfly’s smoothness of exterior, casualness of manner, or special brand of cynicism. I have been told that his type is now on the wane and that a purer form of athlete, usually from a suburban high school, is reappearing in the Ivy League colleges, though he attains nowhere near the importance he once commanded in campus life and does not expect to or try to. He is as likely as not to be an able and conscientious student — in Shoe terms, Brown; in Princeton terms, Kazmaier.

The Competent Man

So far we have been looking only at the extremes who, if we were to add them up, would account for approximately forty percent of what members of the faculty are likely to refer to as “the Current Crop.” We do not need to describe what the sixty per cent look like or how they dress; they look like and dress like ninety percent of the other forty percent, a statistic that has no relevance whatever. But they think and behave somewhat differently. Superficially they emulate some of the social poses of the butterflies, or smoothies — the casualness, the easygoing cynicism, the lack of intensity that is characteristic of the social deportment of their generation. But their standards are quite different. The ideal, as I understand it, is to be “well rounded,” never to “panic” about anything or to be “tense” in any situation — in their terms, to “stay loose.”

The rounded man is generally well informed. He regards a gentlemanly familiarity with politics, the fine arts, literature and the more sophisticated aspects of popular culture as essential to “well-roundedness.” It behooves him to be able to discuss modern painting, “the modern novel,” James Joyce, TS Eliot, and “the willing suspension of disbelief” as easily as he does the characters in Mickey Spillane or Pogo or “Mary Backstage, Noble Wife.” He is inclined to think that any personal situation, however distasteful to him, will improve if you just don’t make a fuss about it, and that no public situation is as serious as the newspapers make it out to be.

He believe in being busy. He “heels” the college daily as a freshman or sophomore, is on the Dean’s List as a matter of course, and may devote his energies and talents to writing short stories, often in imitation of Tennesee Wiliams or JD Salinger. He is a moderate drinker and a moderate connoisseur of jazz, and he has a more than passing familiarity with folk music. He participates in sports — usually tennis or swimming — may be involved with the dramatic club or choral society, and his ideal is to be poised, busy, broad-thinking, broad-minded, and a gentleman. He is, to quote one of them, “too polished to be a radical.”

The college radical as we knew him in the Twenties and Thirties, the unbrushed and burning-eyed young man with a cause, seems to have no counterpart today. Causes are not popular. The old crusaders for modern art have evidently won their battle; reproductions of modern pictures hang today on the walls of many college rooms. The old fight for modern poetry of the days when Eliot and Pound were considered outlandish has petered out, and no equally controversial figures seem to have taken their place. The leftist political radical these days is extinct; I am told tolerance and a recognition of the pressures and counter-pressures of practical politics is the accepted approach to public affairs. To quote a competent man, “A determined effort is made to see the other fellow’s point of view.”

Not all of the sixty percent can achieve this supreme well-roundedness, of course, and the more successfully competent citizens have a certain well-tempered scorn for the man who is just a “good guy.” The good guy is not necessarily a polished butterfly, but he does not participate intellectually with the more knowing and facile elements of the community. His conversation makes up in volubility what it lacks in subtlety; he is glad to settle for “C’s” and he spends a large portion of his time at the movies or in his club or fraternity drinking beer, looking at picture magazines and watching TV. He is the soul and spirit of amiability — reliable, enthusiastic, and kindly to his own kind. In his room you will find pin-up calendars, a […] paddle from last summer’s vacation, monogrammed beer mug, road and railroad signs, and furniture that spilled beer won’t spoil. His attitude toward girls is demanding. She must be a good guy too, always ready to drop everything for a date, always “game,” never insistent about being taken home or to supper, able to put away quantities of beer and not show it. And she must know all the answers — but this is probably not difficult, because the same questions recur with deadly regularity.

These then are the main types who dwell within the ivied precincts — or so, at least, I’ve been led to believe. Some, like the engineers and the pre-medical students, look upon college as vocational training, but for the most part they consider a liberal education a step toward a new ideal — the gentleman of culture. In this age when scientist seem to call the tune, there is a strong tide running in the colleges against the limited kind of specialization that the pursuit of science and technology demands. If there is a revolt in the colleges today, it is the quiet revolt of the humanities.

In playing the game, “Let Me Tell You about the Younger Generation,” there is one more thing to bear in mind. The classification into which a man falls as an undergraduate bears astonishingly little relation to what he becomes later on. The social butterfly may just as well become a secondary-school teacher as an advertising space salesman or a lawyer. The literary egg beater may follow his undergraduate pursuit of the muse with a couple of years as the Harvard School of Business Administration and wind up in merchandising. The “good guy” who coasted along on his “C’s” and spent his weekends chasing women (or being chased by them) might easily marry a girl he has known all his life and find a way to get a Ph.D. in sociology. The correlation between undergraduate interests, associations, and poses, and what happens to a man afterwards is — to say the least — full of surprises and contradictions.

Merry Christmas & A Last Minute Gift Guide

Due to distance, work, and other family obligations Christmas comes early at my house. This is nothing new to me and I have become well-adjusted to celebrating Holidays when possible and not on the actual date. The downside to this is that actual Christmas is not quite as special, but the upside is that I get to share some pics to get everyone in the Holiday spirit. Also, if you need a few last minute ideas for the trad/preppy/ivy man or woman in your life maybe this post will give you a few ideas.

First, I will start off with a few gifts for the classic lady. In my humble opinion you cannot go wrong with pearls whether it is earrings, a necklace, or a bracelet. There are pearls for every budget and you can spend as little or much as you want. I opted for a pair of freshwater pearl earrings for my girlfriend.

Pearl EarringsAccessories in general make great gifts. They can be affordable while offering you a wide choice of brands and products to choose from. I purchased three accessories this year; an iphone case, a headband, and a keychain. I looked at iphone cases from Lilly Pulitzer and Vera Bradley, but ended up with a Kate Spade. The main reason I chose Kate of over the others is that I had read multiple reviews online about the graphic chipping or peeling. I also really liked the fun design.

Kate Spade Iphone CaseA headband can be to a woman what a necktie is to a man. My girlfriend wears them on almost a daily basis. So, I thought that I would add a colorful and cute headband from Keil James Patrick to her collection. I chose the Babe Paley model for its Repp tie design and feminine color combo.

KJP Babe Paley HeadbandThe last trinket that I purchased was a keychain. While this gift is very small it has sentimental value and what would Christmas be without sentiment? This adorable Scottie dog from Vera Bradley was the perfect finishing touch for my girlfriend’s Christmas.

Vera Bradley Scotty Dog KeychainNot only did I get to give presents early, but I also received them! I advocated for accessories as gift ideas and I received a few really great ones. The first gift that I received was a J.Press emblematic fox tie from my very sweet girlfriend. If you haven’t read my post about my love for foxes (trad like a fox ) it is simple, I adore them. This was a fantastic gift as I would not have purchased this for tie for myself (I try to thrift my ties for budgetary reasons). It is the first new tie that I have ever had that is anywhere near this nice and although I rant and rave above J.Press I was very impressed that my girlfriend made a mental note of this. Needless to say this gift means a lot to me.

J.Press Fox emblematic tieThe J.Press tie was not the only tie that I received. My mom picked up a wonderful tartan tie at a Scottish Tartan museum in Georgia for me. It is a Forsyth tartan and is very much my style. I have heard men complain about getting too many ties, but believe me I when I say that you would never hear this from me.

Tartan TieMy final gift was mentioned in my fox post as well. I received a needlepoint credit card wallet from Smathers and Branson . I have only recently began to carry a credit card wallet which is a big step-up as until this I was a debit card and driver’s license in my front pocket guy. The needlepoint work on this wallet is fantastic and the quality of the leather is really nice. I can’t wait to take this little guy with me every where I go.

Smathers and Branson Credit Card WalletNeedless to say this has been a terrific Christmas. I truly loved all of the gifts that I received, but giving gifts is what made it so memorable. I wish all my readers a safe and special Holiday season. And let’s not forget about what makes Christmas so special  and that is children. So, I leave you with this image, merry Christmas!

Toy Train







O’Connell’s Clothes Call

Although I would prefer to shop at Brick and Mortar stores, living in a mid-size city with no independent menswear store makes it hard. Sure I make the hour trek to the nearest Brooks Brothers store, but I would say that 9 out of 10 of my purchases are made online. Due to this I do a lot of online window shopping, but I still appreciate a good old fashioned catalog and O’Connell’s “Clothes Call” is by far my favorite.

A copy of the Clothes Call

If you have never heard of O’Connell’s I will give a bit of background. O’Connell’s Clothing company is an independent menswear store that is located in Buffalo, NY. The store was started in 1959 by three Buffalo Bill’s players (Thomas O’Connell, Richie Lucas and Don Chelf), but was bought that same year by Bernie Huber and is still in the Huber family today. They specialize in classic American clothing and all the wonder that it entails. I have actually never been to the store, but because of their seasonal publication I feel as if I have.

Magee Tweed Jackets

The Clothing Call is one of the few pieces of mail that I look forward to receiving. I often wait to read it until I have some time to sit and enjoy it. The simple layout and the beautiful clothing transports me back to a time which I never lived. A time when people shopped using mail order catalogs and I would bet that one could not only fulfill all of their wardrobe needs, but also their desires using only this publication. In the summer they feature terrific poplin suits and maybe a lightweight hightwist wool sport coat in blue and in winter they carry lambswool flannel and cavalry twill trousers. In short, they have you covered.

Hightwist Wool JacketChrysalis ChatsworthThe Clothing Call is not an antiquated document, but keeps one informed what is happening at O’Connell’s whether it be reading about trunk show week featuring H. Freeman, Southwick, and Samuelsohn or Alden shoe week and allows those of us who are not fortunate enough to be able to attend to turn green with envy. I keep every Clothing Call I get and revisit them often to learn and dream of the day that my closet is filled with its contents.  If you don’t receive the Clothes Call and aren’t able to visit them in person then check out their new website and don’t forget to peruse their renowned new old stock section ( O’Connell’s Clothing).

The Holiday Bow Tie

As Christmas and New Years quickly approach they inevitably bring holiday parties with them. If you are anything like me you appreciate the occasion to dress up and have a little fun while doing so. This year I decided that I would take the leap and try the ultimate holiday party accessory; the bow tie.

I have never owned or wore a bow tie before. I have always liked them, but with limited chances to wear a long tie and with the unwanted attention that it may have brought on such occasions (I try not to stick out) I have never really considered a bow tie an option. However, a holiday party gives me the perfect excuse to wear one.

Bow tie in a Christmas treeI already knew what type of bow I wanted. I wanted it to be red plaid and wool. I had been looking around for the perfect bow tie for a few days (Lands End, R.Hanauer) when I came home to an email from Carolina Cotton Bow Ties. Ethan from Carolina Bows was just providing me with a little bit of information about his two person team (mother and son) that specialize in classic handmade cotton bow ties. As I was looking over the site I saw the perfect red and green plaid wool bow tie. After chatting with Ethan about the coincidence of our correspondence he said that he would be more than happy to provide me with my first bow tie. So, merry Christmas to me and a big thank you to the kind folks over at Carolina Cotton Bow Ties.

Bow tie Close-upNow that I had my bow tie all I had to do was to learn how to tie it. Ethan encouraged me to learn with a cotton or silk bow tie as the wool may be a bit more difficult for a newbie. Being the stubborn man that I am I used the wool tie to learn. Even with the instructional insert it still took me the better part of an hour to get the hang of it. The fact that it took me so long to get it down made me thankful that I did not wait until the evening of the party to give it a try.

Me in a Holiday Bow tie in font of mantleMe and my girlfirend.Me and my lovely girlfriend.

The night of the party I was still a little nervous about sporting a bow tie. I paired the bow tie with my Brooks Brothers navy sack blazer (to be reviewed soon) and J.Crew grey flannel trousers. After arriving at the party I did not feel a bit out of place. In fact, I received more compliments than I did funny looks. The bow tie was very comfortable and unlike a long tie I barely noticed that I was wearing it. Although I still don’t think that I will opt for a bow tie in most tie appropriate situations, I will began to add a few to my collection.

Our kitty Parker in a bow tieEven our kitty Parker got in on the bow tie action!