In America, summer ends on Labor Day. The custard stands shutter. The high school lifeguards watch their tans fade. The sun sets earlier, the river turns colder, and the corn grows sweeter. I’d like to take a moment to reflect. Now, I won’t bore you with stories from my road trips, although in the past few months, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing much of this great country from behind the wheel for the first time in many years. And I won’t yarn about the weddings, receptions, and family gatherings which comprised much of my leisure time this summer. No, I’m going to talk about clothes.
What follows is a short list of pieces which I found myself reaching for straight from the clothesline all summer long.
“Pastel? That in right now?” Friends. I love my friends, but sometimes, their inferences make me feel every bit the fool. This short sleeve madras from the first Gitman Vintage collection found its way onto my back more often than I care to admit. While the bold turquoise, tangerine, lavender, and bloody pinks that make up this plaid aren’t as common as say, the black, green, and navy of, ahem, black watch, that’s precisely why I love this shirt. While many learned this summer that the right shade of gingham looks hip and not at all like a “picnic blanket,” ( friends circa 2006), I learned to enjoy a pattern you can’t find anywhere. At the factory in Ashland, Pennsylvania, Chris Olberding of Gitman Bros. uncovered a treasure trove of line sheets brimming with ready-made classic plaids and patterns from thirty years ago. And the fit, oh the fit. Mr. Olberding, like Thom Browne before him, understands that there is a young male consumer who appreciates a simple, well-tailored shirt, one made in America no less. Thank you, Mr. Olberding. To read more about the history of madras fabric, check out Lands’ End.
I have the great fortune of being exactly the same size as J. Crew’s fit model. Equally great, after learning about a sample sale, I cleaned out their shorts bin. It’s been years since I owned a pair of navy blue chino shorts, a requirement for my grade school uniform. While not usually a fan of an extra long short, the lightweight chino club short garnered compliments left and right this summer.
Fourth-generation shoemaker, Kevin Shorey of Quoddy (pronounced kwah-dih) tells me he’s received more than a few calls for “the all plaidout.” And while it made me smile to learn I have a shoe named after me, I think of it more like having a dish named for a regular at his favorite diner. Like “Lou’s Omlette,” a Quoddy moc can be modified to suit your whim. Ask Lesli Larson of Archival Clothing. She has a pair of APOs sans deerskin lining. Unlike Michael Jordan or Kanye West, it figures that my shoe is neither high tech nor high fashion. No, mine’s just a high quality, handmade American shoe, found on the feet of men — judging from the Brooklynites attending one wedding this summer — young and old. My cousin called them “the nineteenth hole,” because all the old fogies at his country club wear them post-game. It looks like the red brick camp or boat sole has been picked up by the likes of Sperry Top-Sider for Spring 2010, as Selectism and Hypebeast document with precision.
The photo for the Trace Carrier leather belt from Connecticut’s Leatherman, Ltd. comes courtesy of Emil Corsillo, also of CT and head honcho for The Hill-Side, possibly the coolest line of accessories I’ve ever seen. I first learned of the trace carrier a couple years ago shopping in Patagonia’s Upper West Side store.
“Whoa. Where’d you get that belt?”
“You don’t have to tell me.”
“No, it’s just… you’re like the third person to ask.”
Those in the know will admire its hardware, the odd way the leather bends around the brass knob, the quality of the leather. Before Emil and I even met, he knew who I was. I’ve written about this belt before. He knew that. Standing among some wild Scotsmen, Emil grabbed his belt and shouted, “Max!” I grabbed mine, “Yeah? Hey, trace carrier.” The Scots never let us hear the end of it. “That how you shake hands in America?”
Not for everyone, it is a conversation piece. In fact, not too long ago, I was at a certain brand’s new men’s shop on a main thoroughfare in the borough of Manhattan, and one of the store managers scurried over, “Where’d you get that belt?” I’ll let you make up what followed. Needless to say, call Jeffers at Leatherman, Ltd. Tell him Max sent you. If a certain store has its way, the belt may not cost $60 for much longer.
What I recall of the summer of 2009, a summer that’s been unseasonably cool in most parts of the country, besides the incredible run of late by my beloved St. Louis Cardinals, is a summer warm with generosity and a welcoming spirit I haven’t felt in years. As mentioned, I’ve had many opportunities this summer to sit and catch up with old friends and family members. I’ve also been fortunate to meet and connect with several new compadres, and I’ve really enjoyed watching relationships new and old grow as summer plodded along like a Budweiser Clydesdale, heavy, gallant, and — let’s face it — probably a little drunk.
May the autumn of 2009 be an august one — that is one “inspiring reverence or admiration; of supreme dignity or grandeur; majestic.” Oh yeah, and let’s all wear plaid wool and roll in fallen leaves. See you out there.