Oh, Grandpa!

grandpa-chic-paul-jasmin-booPaul Jasmin, photo c/o Band of Outsiders

Umit Benan, Band of Outsiders, and several other young, hip designers are using older men for their look books (NB The absolutely gorgeous Lauren Hutton, 65, sports J. Crew’s spring ’09 looks for women, after she roughed it with the Olsen twins in ’08). Is it fair to refer to the triumphant return of the shawl collar as nothing more than “Grandpa chic?”

The tenants of Grandpa Chic circa 2009, as far as I can tell, consist of the following:

– The Aforementioned Shawl Collar

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NSF’s Edward c/o Context

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Hovey and Dad c/o HHH

– The Cardigan

grandpa-chic-umit-benanImage c/o Umit Benan

grandpa-chic-max-minghella1Max Minghella wears Band of Outsiders

– Both…

grandpa-chic-fsc1Freemans Sporting Club Double Breasted Shawl Cardigan c/o Refinery 29

– Pleats

grandpa-chic-pleated-shortsPleated Shorts by Opening Ceremony c/o Material Interest

grandpa-chic-claude-grantPleated trousers c/o Claude Grant

The Moment thinks so.

– Tweed

grandpa-chic-sartorialist“Grandpa’s Coat” c/o The Sartorialist

– The Pyjama Set

grandpa-chic-pyjamas1Brooks Brothers Pajamas c/o Valet

grandpa-chic-schnabelSchnabel, c/o NY Press

– Slippers, Velvet or Otherwise

grandpa-chic-stubbs-wootton-slipperStubbs & Wootton NYC Sewer Slipper

grandpa-chic-fox-needlepoint-slipperFox Needlepoint Loafers by Paige

Galoshes

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c/o ACL

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Galoshes by Swims

and if Michael Bastian and Scott Sternberg have any say…

– The Tassel Loafer

mb-tassel-5Michael Bastian Sp ’09, featuring the Cordovan Tassel Moccasin by Alden

grandpa-chic-boo-tasselBand of Outsiders c/o h(y)r collective

What have I left out? NP, surely you’re one to make the case for pipes. Could we see a shillelagh for Fall ’10? A plaid hot water bottle cover? A souped-up walker? What do you think goes under the heading “Grandpa Chic?”

For more on Grandpa Chic see Newsweek and the Financial Times.

Beauty and the Beard

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Looking a bit like Kevin Kline’s Lear, Umit Benan’s model could not be more well-suited, pardon the pun, to the look of his debut line, which showed at Pitti Uomo earlier this month. High quality fabrics like cashmere and Sea Island cotton went into these gruff, rough, and tough-looking garments. Mr. Benan’s taken a fresh approach by flipping the fabrics so the good stuff’s all inside. As he’ll tell you, “What you see is not what you get.” For more on Mr. Benan and the beard, check out Material Interest. Thanks to Jake Davis for alerting me to this terrific new designer and his beautiful line. Mr. Benan can be see on the left in the last photo.

Notice the fit of the DBs. The topcoat, with its single row of buttons, is a work of art.

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Wood You Ski with Me?

bigmountainA couple weeks ago, I wrote about some – often times, quite literally – killer bi-athletes slash war heroes and their hulking wood skis. On the train this morning, I read about Rønning Ski, a father and son operation out of Skotterud, a small town in eastern Norway that specializes in making skis made entirely of wood from their local forests. ronning-father-son

Using ski presses from the 1960s, Jonas and his father Ulf Rønning (above, pictured) squeeze four different types of wood: ash, beech, birch, and pine into 50 pieces of laminate for each ski.

skiI’ve wanted to learn telemarking for several years. A pair of skis from Rønning might just be the ticket!

ski2All photos c/o Rønning and Monocle

Shock of the New (Gentleman)

wwd002Despite announcing net income loses of 6.6% on Wednesday, Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. is forging ahead.

“We are operating in one of the most challenging times our company and industry has ever faced,” (WWD) said company chairman and CEO Ralph Lauren.

The focus, as reported in Women’s Wear Daily, is on their “sub-brand culture.”

For Fall, this includes:

• The return of the three-piece suit;

• Monochromatic looks across furnishings and tailoring;

• A sharper silhouette, with a new rolled shoulder. (WWD)
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“Purple Label is classically the most sophisticated. It has an international quality. This could be Italian, it could be French.”

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“These are things you think you see in a lot of places because they’re timeless and classy, but you really don’t…. I love the ability to go from Purple Label, which has heritage, to Black Label, which feels like another brand.”

wwd005“Black Label is contemporary, somewhat technical. This is really saying what sportswear is. We took things from skiwear, various active things.”

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All images c/o WWD (pass protected), Photos by Thomas Iannaccone

Fundamentals of Shaving

shave-3Since receiving my shave at Freemans on Sunday, my skin has never felt better. In researching the best way to keep this fresh feeling, today, I came across Geo F Trumper’s “The Fundamental Principles of Wet Shaving.” More than anything, I can’t get over how well-written it is. With meticulously written phrases like, “making the hairs stand proud,” and “Massaging the skin food against the growth of the beard also helps to lift the beard in readiness for the lather,” how could I not trust Trumper’s with my face? You can find their products at Freemans or you can buy direct. I’ve really enjoyed the scent of the GFT Range this winter.

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Back to Basics: Quality is King

dorthea-langeYesterday, Brandweek ran an insightful piece examining a trend current in businesses as varied as greeting cards, clothing, and insurance (see video). Companies are focusing on the Great Depression as a selling point: When times are tough, where do we turn? “A home-cooked meal, time with loved ones, appreciating the things we do have, the things we can count on…” actor Dennis Haysbert bellows in an Allstate Insurance commercial.

bread-lineWhile a feature on Depression-era chic would probably make sense, I’d like to focus on the quality of construction that came out of that historic period. At the time, there was no consumer mentality. We were a country of laborers, and every dollar earned went to things that were well-made.soup-kitchen-31

I write about menswear because I am passionate about quality. These days, since we can count on little else to withstand the tests of time, we should be able to count on our clothing.road

Unfortunately, most of our clothes are no longer made in the United States. The skills honed by workers who dressed the men, women, and children of our country’s last Great Depression have been exported overseas. If we cannot buy American-made products that bear a similar high quality to those of the 1930s, let us buy only the quality imported products.cotton-picker

Somewhere along the lines, “new and improved” came to mean cutting corners in honor of that golden calf, the bottom line. One of those corners is quality. Selvedge denim, once the standard, became a luxury. Bench-made shoes were abandoned for mass-produced assembly line versions. Textiles are an after-thought to out-pricing the competitor.

sweat-shop-strikersMichael Williams of A Continuous Lean seems to have made it one of his missions to promote the quality reissues of many companies, the latest being Wolverine, and to showcase the companies (Sierra Designs) that are missing out. My hope, and I think Mr. Williams would agree, is that in this economy, the consumer desire to buy quality grows from a niche market demand to a mass movement. Once you’ve walked down 5th Avenue in a pair of Alden’s loafers, once you’ve worn whiskers into your Levi’s 501 shrink-to-fits, once you’ve weathered the storm, metaphorical or otherwise, in a Sierra Designs 60/40, you’ll understand that quality really is king.

All images c/o Corbis.