Memorial Day in the rain

What? You’re going to let a little rain ruin your Memorial Day plans? Thanks to some classics from LL Bean you can stay dry by the grill and still enjoy that burger. Have a hot dog too while you’re at it.

memorial day in the rain

No rain in your part of the country? Ditch the bean boots and jacket, throw on an old pair of boat shoes, and consider yourself fortunate.

How to wear green pants in Ohio

Seersucker, linen, oxford cloth, and brightly color chino season is here! You may be more familiar with its common name, “spring.” Perhaps this is true back on the East Coast or frat houses of the Southeast, but I can safely report it is not the case in Columbus, OH. That’s not to say Columbus doesn’t have its fair share of style and fashion houses. CCAD Fashion School, Limited Brands, Homage, and A&F all call the Columbus-area home, but such a decidedly preppy move as “Go to Hell” (GTH) pants is absent.

I’m not an Ohioan and one recent Saturday when the temperature said spring, I donned my faded kelly green chinos for dinner with friends. This is nothing unusual for me but for some unknown reason, it felt different this season. Thinking back, I used to wear GTH pants with reckless abandon in college and the first years of my professional career. The trend has since slowed. I can remember a crisp fall night in college meeting some friends at the movies wearing tan corduroys embroidered with chocolate labs. I loved those pants. They recently made their way into the donate pile because I haven’t worn them in two years. I wouldn’t be so bold as to call it maturity but there has been this creeping hesitation. The unbridled confidence of a junior in college with a boundless future has been replaced by the crippling self-consciousness of a man approaching 30. Have I run out of people to tell “GTH” or have I simply lost the desire to tell them?

Despite my trepidation, Jess and I proceeded to dinner. We were meeting two friends who were at the bar waiting for us. I was braced for the snide comment about my pants that would have made me smile in college but instead the first comment was, “Jesus, Zach, a tie? And a blazer?” I immediately forgot about the shade of my pants and enjoyed dinner. I did make secret resolution to wear a jacket and tie more often though. Perhaps I haven’t lost the GTH attitude after all?

green pants ensemble

Adventures in Boston

I really didn’t think I would like Boston. Correction. I was a Boston hater. The thought of me enjoying Boston just seemed counter intuitive. To Southerners Boston is the epitome of “Yankee land”, more so than even New York City. That being said, I set out for a business trip to Boston with an open mind. After only a couple of days exposure, I’m already thinking about my next trip. Yes, Boston hater to budding Boston-phile in two days and a snow storm.

Luck was not on my side for this trip. First I was attending an event at the convention center starting Tuesday, Election Day. That same convention center also happened to be Romney’s campaign HQ and after party venue for the night. It was an adventure getting back to my hotel Tuesday evening. I also experienced my first Nor’easter, at least a mild one. Thankfully this was only a minor inconvenience and gave me an excuse to visit Newbury St for some cold weather supplies.

Jack Spade hat and gloves Barbour scarf

I pack at two speeds: horribly ill-prepared or over packed to the brim. I didn’t check the weather report before leaving and I assumed I would be inside most of the time so I packed fairly light. This made me ill-prepared for the wintry blast that Boston received on Wednesday night. Fortunately I was already planning to explore Newbury St. Conveniently for me, Jack Spade and Barbour were right across the street from one another. I had already been eying a plaid scarf from Barbour and finger-less gloves from Jack Spade were also on my wish list so I’m only classifying these as quasi-impulse purchases. The hat was necessary for survival.

my first Nor'easter

Dining centered around beer selection as I was traveling with my most beer astute co-worker. Thankfully he was also familiar with Boston and led me to two delicious spots, Lord Hobo in Cambridge and Publick House in Brookline. Both were easy trips on the train and both involved great food and beer. The highlights were sampling the Jack’s Abbey Hoponius Union, an Imperial Pale Lager, at Lord Hobo and the burger and mussels at Publick House. We also stumbled across a 150th Anniversary bottle of Chimay at Publick House that neither of us had heard of but were eager to try.

150th Anniversary Chimay

Not one to shy away from sweets, I also enjoyed at piece of the original Boston Cream Pie at The Last Hurrah, the bar attached to the Omni Parker House, inventors of the Parker House Roll and the Boston Cream Pie. I devoured my pie before even thinking about a picture but I did snap a shot of my JFK lobster roll. Apparently JFK liked to write his speeches in the Parker House. John Wilkes Booth also used the basement for target practice. Bostonians were curiously proud of that last fact.

JFK Lobster roll

I barely scratched the surface of Boston since all I had available were evenings but I’d really like to explore more. The city is full of culture and American history, the locals were surprisingly friendly, and it is easy to navigate. Another trip is definitely in my future, perhaps this spring?

Getting Ready for Fall: Waxed Jackets

I’m occasionally a slow mover when it comes to clothing purchases. The wide range of information available on the Internet doesn’t always help either. Case in point, I’ve been on the hunt for a waxed cotton jacket for the last two years. Along with the down vest, the waxed jacket is another must-have in my book. Sadly it’s a must have that I do not own yet.

The candidates:

barbour beaufort

Barbour Beaufort

Filson Weekender Coat
Filson Cover Cloth Weekender Coat

Barbour jackets need no introduction. If you read AAAC or Styleforum, the Barbour jacket is the classic recommendation. The only downside is the price. These jackets clock in at a healthy ~$400. I’m all for paying for quality but that’s still a steep price of the entry and that’s partly why I’ve delayed my purchase so much.

At $290, the Filson Weekender Coat is not cheap but it certainly represents a savings over the Barbour coat. I love Filson’s bags but I have no experience with their clothing. If the quality is up to the usual Filson standards, then there should be nothing to worry about. My only hang up is with sizing. I have no idea how to judge the fit.

Fit is another general question; do I size up for sweater or do I buy it to wear with an oxford shirt? Do I go for the Jack McCoy Barbour as top coat look?

I fear this is not a debate that will be solved anytime soon. A casual search of the Trad Forum at AAAC gives Barbour a slight edge, but there are still plenty of Filson advocates out there. What do you recommend?

Getting Ready for Fall: Down Vests

Fall is my favorite season. I recently received a nice reminder of fall in my inbox from the fine folks at Jack Spade. It seems they are offering a down vest this year. To me it doesn’t get much more fall than the simple down vest.

jack spade weber down vest

The down vest is nothing new. Eddie Bauer claims the invention of the down filled coat in the ’30s and I’m sure the down vest wasn’t too far behind. It’s one of the pieces of technical gear that consistently finds its way into the trends of the times. Need proof? Just look to the movies. Smokey and the Bandit and Back to the Future are both movies that I enjoy and really they couldn’t be further apart stylistically. The one common link? The down vest:

Snowman from Smokey and the Bandit and Marty from Back to the Future

While it can be worn in nearly every season, the down vest to me means fall. The Jack Spade offering above looks quite nice but I’m fond of the humble Lands End offering. Size down and look for sales. I have two and I don’t think I paid more than $30 in either case. The patterned version is currently on sale for $19.99. I have one in green and one in blackwatch plaid. It doesn’t matter when I’m wearing it, it always reminds me of fall, football, and a cold beer in my hand. It doesn’t get much better.

nadsat fall down vest

Cole Haan Lunargrands: A step forward or backward?

The Cole Haan Lunargrands: A step forward or backward?

Nike sole + Cole Haan upper. Bizarre? Yes. Cool? Absolutely.

Nike bought Cole Haan in 1988. They have had iterations of Nike technology in dress shoes starting with “Nike Air” in loafers in 2000. This collaboration history eventually led to the Lunargrand. Nike has been working on the “Lunar” foam technology for sometime and first brought it to their athletic shoes in 2008. The Cole Haan Lunargrands were introducted in February of 2012 and to my knowledge are the first usage of the Lunar foam outside of the main Nike brand.

(As a side note, I’m not sure many collaborations are still in the pipeline. In a February interview with Cole Haan VP, Phil Russo, he told Sneaker Freaker, “Wait till you see what we’re working on for 2013.” However in May, Nike announced its intention to sell Cole Haan and Umbro to focus more on the Nike brand. So who knows what the future holds for these types of mash-ups.)

I tend to be more traditional minded so I usually steer clear of these cross-function mash-ups. I used to turn my nose up at the Cole Haan “Air” offerings. Dress shoes are dress shoes and tennis shoes are tennis shoes, right?

Cole Haan Lunargrand descriptions

From the Cole Haan Lunargrand launch page

The Lunargrands seem to transcend this mindsight and prove that equal parts Nike and Cole Haan can actually work. Bloggers have been eating them up and through some personal mental gymnastics (I need dress shoes with more comfort and traction for plant and site visits, right?), I decided to pick up a pair from the SoHo store while in NYC this past June.

So far I’m quite pleased. I shied away from more athletic inspired colors (gray + yellow) and decided on a traditional “milkshake” suede and red sole. Compared to Cole Haan’s other offerings these are downright stealthy, which I prefer.

My Lunargrands, Milkshake suede with red sole

The first thing I noticed about these guys is the weight. They are incredibly light. I don’t own any recent Nike sneakers but I imagine they really don’t feel any different. The flexibility is far beyond even the most broken in pair of loafers. They worked well for walking around NYC and they also served me well on a recent trip to Toronto. If you want to feel like you’re wearing sneakers but don’t want to look like it, then these are the shoes for you. But I suppose that has been the point of all the “Air” collaborations over the years right?

Florsheim Imperial Wingtips side by side with the lunargrand
Heel comparison

My new Lunargrands side by side with a thrifted pair of Florsheim Imperial wing tips, “gunboats” if you’re in the know. And yes, I know the heel is worn.

That being said, I really didn’t want to like these shoes. As I’ve said before I’m more traditional and don’t really like the cross-function mash-up. I think that leather soled shoes can be quite comfortable if you get a nice pair that are properly fitted. Leather is not always the most traction friendly, sure, but there are plenty of nicely done rubber soled, traditional dress shoes too.

The Lunargrands to me represent the dress down phenomenon but I sadly can’t resist the appeal. They are lightweight. They are comfortable in that familiar way. They were damn nice while I was on my feet all day walking around a manufacturing plant. This leads to a bigger question, is there room for progress in the world of traditional men’s wear? As a materials engineer I’d like to think there is room for new material innovations like the lunar sole but these things will always be relegated to the runway and the world of fashion. The old guard will never accept them but maybe that’s OK.

Traditional gentleman, sometimes progress is a good thing. Just don’t get yellow soles.

There’s vermouth in my Manhattan!

The Manhattan has long been one of my favorite cocktails. It’s simple (three ingredients), uses whiskey as the base, and is named after one of my favorite places. What’s not to love?

The Manhattan
Despite my love of the cocktail, I’ve never actually made one before. Shocking I know. Perhaps more embarrassing than shocking, the reason for my cocktail drought is that I’ve never owned a proper shaker or purchased vermouth before.

(Please don’t stop reading. Perhaps I shouldn’t admit to such basic holes in my bartending abilities before writing an article about drinking.)

Fear not, readers. Despite my lack of experience in the concoction stage, I’ve had plenty of experience with consumption. To me the Manhattan means whiskey with sweet vermouth and bitters. I thought subtle changes came from the proportions and the type of brown spirit selected (I’m partial to rye).

While doing some light reading in The Williams-Sonoma Bar Guide, I discovered a variation that I was previously unaware of, the Dry Manhattan. Everything is the same except dry vermouth is used in place of sweet vermouth. You may be more familiar with dry vermouth for its role in the classic Martini.

So what’s the difference? To the bar!

The bar tools

My Manhattan is simple:

  • 3 parts rye (I used Bulleit for this study)
  • 1 part sweet vermouth (dry if you’re making the dry variation)
  • 3 dashes Angustora bitters

Add all ingredients to a shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into your glass preference. Garnish is optional but I like a cherry.

1 part vermouth makes a big difference. To my palette, the dry Manhattan was more subdued but there was more separation of the flavors. The original Manhattan has a bolder flavor but I find it more balanced and it blends nicely into its own unique flavor rather than tasting like rye and vermouth. You can see in the picture below that is a distinct visual difference too. The dry variation (on the left) looks more like watered down rye while the standard (on the right) has a deeper, reddish color.

dry vs. standard manhattans

I tend to drink Manhattans more in the winter but the dry version might make a nice warm weather variation. Overall it was interesting but I’m sticking with the original. What’s your preference? Have any Manhattan tips? Let me know in the comments or on twitter.

The Judge Dredd Drinking Game

I’m taking a break from my usual topic to take a little trip down memory lane.  I’m 28 years old which puts me at about the perfect age to love the amazing run of 90’s action movies that graced the box office.  It was a time period that allowed the 80’s stars to age not so gracefully (looking at you Stallone) and make way for new action stars such as Keanu Reeves and Nicolas Cage.  If you’re my age I’m betting you have a hard time not sitting down to enjoy The Rock or Speed if you come across it flipping channels.

For the purpose of this post I’d like to focus on one of my personal favorites, Judge Dredd.  Judge Dredd extends itself beyond the realm of just 90’s nostalgia though.  Judge Dredd has been given new life in the form of one of the more challenging 90 minute drinking games around.  I can’t take credit for this game in any way, shape, or form.  I’m only here to share it with the masses.  The credit goes to this gentleman along with a few other contributors.

Let’s take a walk down memory lane, shall we?

Cool, comic book opening sequencetitle shot

I really like the comic book intro.  I think it is a nice nod to the comic heritage of the character.  Unfortunately things go downhill from here.

Stars Wars style backgroundThe Star Wars style back story works in this case and sets the mood.  I’m pretty sure the East Coast viewers assumed this whole “Cursed Earth” thing was just a metaphor for the Midwest.  Surprisingly, that’s not far from the truth.  Also please note, you should have had at least four drinks during the reading of the back story.

Our hero, costume designed by VersaceThe movie doesn’t take long to get to the action.  Fun fact: the Judge Dredd costume was designed by Versace.  Yes, codpieces make a comeback sometime in the future.

Hey, James Remar!Hey, it’s James Remar taking a break from Sex and the City to play the film’s first villian.  Sadly he was uncredited.  I wonder if that was at his request.

Court's adjournedI think the line was “Court’s adjourned”.  If the Judge is truly the judge, jury, and executioner all in one then would people in the future really get this reference?  Does court even exist?  It’s best not to think about these topics during the film.  The drinking helps supress these thoughts.

Diane Lane as the token hot judgeJudge Dredd had a pretty decent cast for the time period.  Diane Lane plays the smart, sexy Judge that Dredd relies on.  Rob Schneider plays the ne’er-do-well hacker that provides comic relief.  You can knock Rob Schneider all you want but try to name one movie that was made worse by his presence.  It’s not possible.  I wonder if Diane Lane wishes she’d taken the James Remar strategy of taking the money and going uncredited?

I won’t spoil the whole movie for you but I wanted to give you a little taste, you know, to whet the appetite.  Now it’s time to pick up your copy and get to drinking.  Without further ado, here are the rules:

Take a drink when any of the following are said:

  • Law, laws
  • Judge, judged, judging, judges
  • Justice

Take one shot when someone says:

  • I knew you’d say that

Simple right?  A word of warning, best to do this in the safety of your home with an average to below average booze content beverage.  Be careful with your shot selection too.  Light beer and bourbon makes for a nice evening.


Musings on Key Cases

Ever been stuck in the thigh by your keys when sitting down? You, sir, need a key case. I’ve been using a key case for going on three years and I can never go back. It’s one of those men’s accessories that is a little harder to find but well worth it. Not only does a key case keep your keys organized and out of your leg, but they also protect your pants. Keys can destroy the pocket lining on a pair of pants especially on wool pants. A case also protects your shiny new smart phone from scratches if you carry your keys and phone in the same pocket. The only downside is the added bulk of the case.

key case comparison

I purchased my first key case in 2009, a vintage Gucci case from eBay. It has served me well and I don’t plan on getting rid of it but I’ve had my eye an alternative for some time. Hickoree’s sells the made in Japan Phigvel-Makers key case and this past Memorial Day I finally snatched one up with a nice discount.

The Phigvel-Makers case cannot hold as much as my old case but it cuts a much slimmer profile. It’s made out of horsehide that’s left over from shoe production. It is rather stiff at first but I’m sure it will soften nicely as it ages. The closure is quite different than the Gucci case but this is the key to the smaller size. I was able to fit my apartment and mailbox keys along with my garage opener and one grocery store reward card. I can’t fit anything else but this is actually perfect since those are the only four items I use.

inside key case comparisonI’ve used it for the past two weeks and couldn’t be more pleased. It takes me a little longer to get my key out but I’ll gladly sacrifice those 10 seconds. The more tube-like profile is easier to fit in my pocket especially when wearing jeans. If you’re curious to see more shots of the case including how it comes apart then check out my flickr album.

So, still getting stuck in the leg? Consider a key case. Unfortunately the Phigvel one I have is currently out of stock at Hickoree’s but several brands sell cases like my old Gucci one including Burberry, Louis Vutton, and Filson.

A Needlepoint Birthday

Earlier in April I officially turned the page on another year.  I prefer to take the stiff upper lip approach to birthdays.  “It’s just another day” is a phrase that I have uttered over the years much to the chagrin of those that care about me.  If Don Draper doesn’t care about his birthday, why should I?  But I digress, I’m actually writing to talk about the wonderful gift I received from Jess, a needlepoint belt.
Mallard Duck Belt

Mallard Duck Detail

Tucker Blair

My belt is the Mallard Blue by Tucker Blair.  Tucker Blair was started by a Colgate grad that sometime in 2007 grew tired of the corporate world and decided to start making needlepoint belts (ref).  Needlepoint is type of embroidery.  It’s unique because rather than modifing an existing fabric, needlepoint creates a new fabric.

Needlepoint stitch example

In the case of belts, cotton yarn is stitched through an existing canvas weave to create the pattern (ducks, flags, monograms, whatever your heart may desire).  On its own this new fabric is not very stiff so leather is attached to back to provide the structure and durability necessary in a belt.

Belt detail

Needlepoint has a special place in the preppy world.  Preps tend to love a motif (ducks and flags especially) and needlepoints historically were hand stitched by a loved one.  The Trad has a great post on needlepoints that includes a funny anecdote about his wife finding the belt stitched by an old college flame.  While my belt was not hand stitched by a loved one, it was hand stitched and then purchased by a loved one.  That’s more than good enough for me.

duck detail

One last note, why are ducks so special?  Because The Official Preppy Handbook says so.  Wait, you don’t have a copy?  Fear not, I’ve copied the relevant passage below.
Excerpt from Official Preppy Handbook

Hopefully Ms. Birnbach won’t mind.  The handbook has long since been out of print.  If you’re interested in her work I recommend reading True Prep.  It’s something of a sequel or updated version of the original handbook.