For many people working from home is a new thing – thrust upon them as a result of precautions against the spread of the pandemic. As such there has been a lot of debate as to what’s appropriate attire when working from home. Outfits range from sweat-pants-and-hoodies right up to formal businesswear. The latter has the whiff of overzealousness to me, bordering on cosplay. In today’s environment of ever more casual workplace dress codes, are people really expected to be kitted out in suit, shirt and tie … while participating in a zoom call from the kitchen table?
My job requires frequent teleconferences but no video so I’m free to wear what I like when working from home. As I like to dress more formally when I’m out on a job site, comfort trumps formality for me when at home as it’s unlikely I’ll need to cross the door unless it’s to do the school run or grab something from the supermarket.
When I wrote about rugby shirts previously I mentioned how they occupy a space on the formality scale somewhere near a long sleeved polo shirt. Here’s another one I acquired which is warm enough for the slight chill we get at this time of year and suitable enough if I do have to step out.
I fully realise that the content of this blog is a niche market so I’m always happy to know that interest is being sustained. The last few years figures have been holding steady at between 12,000 to 14,000 views per year, coming from up to around 5,000 visitors.
The last year smashed those precedents with over 18,000 views from nearly 6,000 visitors in 98 countries.Since the pandemic seems to have affected life in so many ways in 2020 maybe it’s a factor here and people working from home have a bit more browsing time? Either way I’m happy that my ramblings continue to be of interest to some people out there.
WordPress changed the editing platform during the year which has made posting much more challenging, but I’ll continue to struggle with the pointless new features until I get more familiar with it.
I’ve finally started clearing out some unworn and/or unwanted clothes and shoes and had some success already with selling, so I hope to revive the dormant ‘Rod’s Flogs’ page with some updated pics of what I’m trying to get rid of. Feel free to contact me via the site or at email@example.com if you see anything you like or want more details.
Please also contact me with any ideas or comments. Thanks to all visitors and viewers for your interest and support of my efforts here – wishing you all a happy, healthy and stylish 2021!
The origins of Mod style are often fairly well laid out with (almost) all roads leading – directly or indirectly – to the look that was taken up and developed by the original faces of underground London in the very early sixties.
But one thing I love about ‘The Look’ is that in more than fifty years it has been by no means monolithic, nor static. Evolution may have progressed at a slow rate, but progress has definitely occurred and there is a broad enough scope of differing Mod-inspired looks that allow for plenty of variety. I chuckle when I think about a thread on the Modculture forum entitled something like ‘Items of Mod style that you dislike and would never wear’ and after several pages of participants volunteering their entries, some wag chipped in with the comment ‘so basically everything, right?’
In opposition to those people who suspect that Mods have their feet stuck in cement blocks when it comes to moving with the times, I’m constantly on the lookout for inspiration for new clothes that I think will look good, or new combinations of clothes I already own. Sometimes inspiration comes from unlikely places
One of my earliest TV memories, aside from the usual kiddie fayre, was the blanket coverage given to the Apollo space missions. James Burke, Cliff Mitchelmore and Patrick Moore were ever-present on TV for a while during my formative years. The astronauts of that era were very cool, combining their clean cut military background with a casual Ivy look. I knew nothing about that sort of thing at the time of course being still in the infants school, but it’s interesting that their style is now seen as iconic in some circles, and I’ve read comments online in recent years that some skins and suedes claim to have been influenced by their look, which I believe to be a bit of a stretch!
Since watching the moon landings as a very young kid I’ve had an interest in the developments from NASA. I visited the Johnson Space Centre countless times when I lived in Houston. I was at one time involved in biometric and cardiac testing of shuttle astronauts and once got a behind-the-scenes tour of the WET-F facility where the astronauts were training for a shuttle mission. I administered a nuclear treadmill test to Russian Cosmonaut Gennadi Strekalov (who was wearing not a Poljot but an Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch!) and became good friends with NASA pilot and instructor Roger Zwieg. So I have the slightest claim to authenticity when sporting the famed NASA ‘meatball’ iconography. It’s a refreshing change from the more obvious target t-shirt.
More recently, I was tracking an MA-1 jacket on eBay in unconventional dark red which was going for a paltry sum when I came across this pic of Jaz Karis within a feed from Fred Perry. I know absolutely nothing about this young lady beyond noticing her striking good looks, and the fact that she looked super cool in the same jacket that I was contemplating getting for myself.
That was enough for me to stump up the $25 for the jacket, and I paid an extra $6 for the NASA patch which I used to unashamedly rip off her look.
Anyway. all this just goes to show that you can get your style inspiration from a number of sources, some of them unexpected. If the end result works, it’s all good!
Sunglasses – Jacques Marie Mage Molino (Hunter) / Randolph Engineering Aviators
Jacket – Levi’s MA-1 replica
T-shirt – Ben Sherman / NASA ‘meatball’
Strides – Levi’s 511 Commuter / Levi’s 505 LVC
Trainers – adidas Samba World Cup Edition / Desert boots – Clark’s
At this time of year many of those who participate in menswear forums and blogs are overjoyed to be breaking out their cool / cold weather clothes. It seems that a majority look forward to the variety in colours, patterns, fabrics and layering that autumn and winter allow. Along with breaking out the scarves and overcoats they look forward to mothballing their linen, fresco and seersucker cotton in favour of tweeds, flannels, cords and moleskins.
I’m happy to live in a place where there isn’t a lot of variation in the seasons but I suppose I can confess to making certain adjustments when the mercury takes a bit of a dip. Today I was travelling to the Miami area for work and was about to grab my dark blue cotton blazer but in deference to the season – if not to the weather itself (a bracing 61 degrees rising to 75!) – I made a change.
This blazer is a wool-cotton mix, the colour was named ‘acorn’ with which the local pavements are currently scattered. It’s completely unstructured with only the sleeves lined so it works fine on a warm day but the colour seems fitting for the season.
I’ve acquired a few Breton shirts over the years and written about them here, here and here.
As much as I like the look they don’t get worn very often. Last year I got one from The Breton Shirt Factory that turned out to be too small so I gave it to my wife. Making that purchase put me on their mailing list and when they later contacted me about this blue version with a red stripe they sucked me in to making another purchase.
As a kid growing up in England we never had trick-or-treating or fancy dress and I’d never seen a pumpkin but it seems that they are now everywhere around here at Halloween, making orange the unofficial colour of Autumn in America. I don’t do fancy dress so this was my outfit to take my little girl trick-or-treating:
Back in 1996 I went for the first time to the Essence Music Festival. This is a huge music event that, at least in those days, celebrated and showcased the rich vein of what’s known as ‘ol’ school’ music, hosted in the New Orleans Superdome. Rather than try to define such a nebulous term it might be easier to list the talent on show over that Fourth of July weekend – Barry White, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Kahn, Luther Vandross, Cameo, The Whispers, Frankie Beverly and Maze – and that was just the main stage. There are also ‘superlounges’ – small stand-up gigs staged in the outer hallways of the Superdome for either lesser-known, up-and-coming artists, or maybe just artists with an expected smaller draw than those on the main stage. I was lucky enough to catch Maceo Parker that year and had so much fun over the extended weekend I returned for the next eighteen years! The following year among many others (Maxwell, Ashford and Simpson, Erykah Badu, Maze) I saw Bobby Blue Bland and was less than impressed. How can a blues band have two drummers but no guitarist? Long, sustained, minor key solos don’t really work on a piano! Mr Bland came on stage looking like a grouchy old grandad whose nap had been interrupted, wearing an odd-looking seventies-era polo shirt with a broad elasticated waistband. I’ve since found out they are known as ‘Banlon’ shirts and they are much beloved by certain people of a Mod persuasion, I would guess more for their nostalgic connotation than their stylistic contribution.
A bit of internet research reveals that ‘Ban-Lon’ was originally the name of the man-made fibre but the term has at some point transported to describe this kind of polo with the elasticated waist band. Anyway last year during a work trip to New York I did my usual routine of walking up Madison Avenue, down Fifth Avenue then heading down to the village to look at more shops. At the Lacoste shop on Madison I saw this shirt in obvious colours so couldn’t resist getting it. This is not your usual Lacoste polo. Aside from the red and blue hoops on the chest and arms, the material from the stripes down is pique cotton but the upper chest and sleeves are a different textured waffle weave. I probably could have lived without the Banlon-style waist band but the rest of the shirt is far enough away from that worn by Bobby Blue Bland that it wasn’t a deal breaker for me.
Sunglasses – Tom Ford
Polo shirt – Lacoste
Jeans – Levi’s 501
Desert boots – Clark’s
… and in keeping with my commitment to try and post more lifestyle pics …
Regular readers may have noticed that I have an aversion to vents on my tailored jackets, which has become an occasional topic of discussion on menswear forums.
A recent e-conversation provoked me into thinking when and why it was that I began wearing ventless jackets. I THINK this was a stylistic holdover from the suits I was wearing from the nineties onwards. I started my first ‘proper’ job in 1991 after grad school wearing a couple of jackets I’d acquired in vintage resale shops and had been wearing for a few years since the latter revival days, which happened to be ventless. At that time a wardrobe overhaul was much-needed but my beloved three-button jackets were just not available anywhere.
There was a big box menswear shop in Houston named ‘Suitmart’ which sold overstocks and last year’s models at cut prices. Neither the quality nor the prices were high, but at least they were mostly 100 percent wool which was about the only criteria my largely clueless mind required back then. I had little choice but to succumb to the then-current trend of wide-shouldered double-breasted style jackets with pleated strides.
Looking back – and taken in context of the times – this look was not too cringe-inducing. I’ve probably made more egregious sartorial errors over the years, but this was hardly my stylistic finest hour. One thing I did like about those jackets was that despite the oversized shoulders and severe taper from shoulder to hem, when worn buttoned the ventless backs hugged your bum and made for a nice smooth expanse of cloth when seen from behind, from the neck to the lower hem. This style of jacket was obviously influenced by the suits of the thirties and forties, often on display in classic movies of that period. One point of reference that sticks in my mind is the memory of Kirk Douglas in ‘Out of the Past’ (a great film noir remade in the eighties as ‘Against All Odds’, for which I have a soft spot not least because of the Cozumel locations!). Kirk was seen wearing some very sharp threads, but I particularly liked the elegance in the huge expanse of smooth, unbroken real estate on display when he turned his back! There was added menace in the broad-shouldered tailoring, especially when compared to the heavier but down-at-heel anti-hero Robert Mitchum in his rumpled trench coat.
The next stop on my suit journey was when the gods of fashion eventually moved the prevailing cuts away from double-breasted suits back to a single-breasted three-button version. I noticed this in America in the late nineties and was happy to load up on these at the time, but at length realised they weren’t nearly so stylish as those three-button versions influenced by the sixties Mod look, and the tubular cut without waist suppression was not very flattering. I recall having this style of suit in black, navy, olive green, silver-grey microcheck, tan microcheck, and the cream sharkskin shown below. Again, for me the saving grace was a lack of vents which at least kept the view from the rear somewhat smooth and refined.
By the time I rededicated myself to Mod style in the late aughts, use of the internet had exponentially increased the available resources for clothes shopping, and three-button suits and jackets with a desirable fitted shape were readily available both online and sometimes in the high streets and malls. Even J. Crew for a while offered their Ludlow suit jackets in a choice of two- or three-button versions. I was likely influenced by my previous ventless predilection to have all the vents closed on all my new acquisitions, and that’s the way it’s stayed for the most part ever since.
For those who choose to sneer at my preference I would remind them of a few iconic examples of ventless suits, which just happen to be at the top of my list of best suits in popular culture. Perhaps the most famous suit in movie history as worn by Cary Grant in ‘North By Northwest’ was ventless, as were a couple from one of my favourite Bond movies (certainly my favourite from a style perspective, along with FIVE – count ‘em – of the best looking beauties of the entire canon!)
Often people cite the utility of side vents in accessing trouser pockets, but as a kid my Mam always told me it was bad manners to put your hands in your pockets so it’s something I try to avoid these days.
Despite Bond as played by Connery having side vents in his debut dinner jacket in Dr. No, and Tom Ford’s baffling and unsightly centre-vent creation for Daniel Craig, the gold standard for dinner jackets continues to be sans vents. An example of how the elegance of ventless jackets can be disrupted is seen in ‘Casablanca’, in which we see Bogart, in conversation in his office above Rick’s nightclub, turn his back to the camera as he hikes up his iconic ecru dinner jacket to put his hands in his trouser pockets. The audience is then presented with the very inelegant view of his arse! (I couldn’t find a screen shot of this snd I’m not sad enough to go and play my DVD and do a screen grab of the film, but there seems to be plenty of evidence that Bogey didn’t follow my Mam’s advice regarding hands in pockets!)
My Dad was built similar to me – the same height but a bit more stocky and he gained weight in the last few years of his life. I think we also shared the anatomical quirk of having a bit of shape in the bum. I recall him telling me he hated jackets with side vents as they flapped around his behind. His remedy was to favour single-vent jackets which always seem to me a bit old-fashioned, notwithstanding the hook vents admired by Ivy Style advocates. I do agree with his dislike of the way double vented jackets with too much material in the lower rear cause the back panel to flap around like a pair of curtains on a windy day. I also dislike the look of gaping vents on jackets made with too much waist suppression. I will admit that on a few of my more recent suit and odd-jacket acquisitions I decided to either leave the vents open or have them only partially closed to make a short vent. In the saga of acquiring my bespoke wedding suit I ended up with two almost-identical silver sharkskins so I had one made with five inch side vents just to add a note of distinction between the two.
In recent years I’ve also come by three Ted Baker sports jackets and one from DNA Groove, each of which is so beautifully tailored that I halted my alterations at the sleeve length (and adding a third button when needed!)
I’m hoping that my next commission is going to be a cobalt blue Prince of Wales checked jacket which will be made by Jason at Thick as Thieves. As I intend this to be a travelling jacket which may mean being worn while cramped into aeroplane and/or car seats, I’ll most likely be asking Jason for five inch vents to add a little more flex for wearing while seated. Watch this space for details on how that turns out.
I’ve pondered for a long time how to store my shoes. There are shoe racks galore out there but often they don’t offer the flexibility needed for shoes of different heights, from low driving mocs to high Chelsea boots. The biggest problem for me is for a rack to be wide enough to fit shoes in pairs. I’ve used the ‘Elfa’ system from The Container Store to fit out a lot of my cupboards. It’s designed really well with loads of flexibility but the standard unit width is 24 inches which isn’t wide enough to fit three pairs of men’s shoes. Consequently I had shoes placed in racks backwards to make them fit, and the ‘overspill’ lined up under the couch in the spare bedroom and on shelves in the cupboard.
Then I hit upon the idea of using this ‘garage shelving’ from The Home Depot. It’s 14 inches deep which easily greater than any of my footwear. As you can see, it’s wide enough to easily allow four pairs across the width of 35 inches, plus it allows the flexibility to choose your own height between shelves.
I put wheels on the bottom for manoeuvrability as I haven’t decided exactly where it will stay. I’m hoping to have fitted cupboards installed all along one bedroom wall, to which I’m happy to give my wife complete access if in exchange she’ll relinquish her small walk-in which will be perfect for this rack. I’ll report further on the success of that negotiation in due time!
Here are the contents from the top down:
1 – Dr Martens Ashland black lizard rubber sole derbies / Meermin burgundy grain shearling lined Dainite sole jump boots/ Polo tan leather high top boots / George Cox X Robot black calf perforated vamp leather sole derbies
2 – Meermin black calf leather sole slippers / Del Toro black velvet with white skull leather sole slippers / Florsheim Royal Imperial black suede leather sole venetian loafers / Johnston and Murphy black patent leather sole derbies
3 – Allen-Edmonds Clifton burgundy calf punch-cap leather sole derbies / Allen-Edmonds McNeil burgundy shell longwing brogue leather sole derbies / Allen-Edmonds McNeil black calf longwing brogue leather sole derbies / Allen-Edmonds Cortland black calf captoe leather sole derbies
4 – Allen-Edmonds Player Navy suede brogue leather sole derbies / Ralph Lauren snuff suede punch-cap leather sole derbies / Allen-Edmonds chilli calf captoe leather sole derbies / Meermin snuff suede plain toe leather sole derbies
5 – Meermin polo suede leather sole penny loafers / Cheaney Howard chestnut grain calf Dainite sole penny loafers / Shipton and Heneage Howard burgundy grain calf Dainite sole penny loafers / Crockett and Jones tan grain calf rubber sole penny loafers
6 – HS Trask black grain buffalo venetian rubber island sole driving mocs / Clark’s navy suede venetian rubber nub sole driving mocs / Shipton and Heneage Milan navy suede leather sole penny loafers / Florsheim X Duckie Brown tangerine suede rubber sole derby bucks
7 – Fins For Him purple suede venetian rubber sole driving mocs / Roberto Durville red calf penny loafer rubber island sole driving mocs / Ralph Lauren Polo royal blue penny loafer rubber island sole driving mocs / Allen-Edmonds Ventura Highway dark blue nubuck penny loafer rubber nub sole driving mocs
8 – adidas ‘mi adidas’ customised Samba blue leather red stripes white rubber sole / adidas Rom white leather blue stripes gum sole / adidas Gazelle blue suede green stripes gum sole / adidas Padiham blue suede pink stripes gum sole
9 – adidas Oyster X Samba blue nylon and leather white stripes gum sole / adidas Oyster X Samba red nylon and leather white stripes gum sole / adidas Samba World Cup (England) white leather red and blue stripes gum sole / adidas Samba black leather brick red stripes gum sole
10 – adidas Stan Smith white leather navy trim white rubber sole / adidas Campus black suede reggae stripes black rubber sole / adidas EM Champ bright blue leather black stripes blue rubber sole / adidas Côte tan suede brown stripes gum sole
11 – adidas Topanga orange suede blue stripes white rubber sole / adidas Gazelle OG blue suede red stripes white rubber sole / adidas Gazelle OG red suede white stripes white rubber sole / adidas Gazelle OG yellow suede white stripes white rubber sole
12 – Clark’s desert boots honey amber suede crepe rubber sole / Clark’s desert boots black suede crepe rubber sole / Tricker’s chestnut calf leather sole jodhpur boots / Arthur Knight navy calf combination leather-rubber sole Chelsea boots
13 – Meermin black calf wholecut rubber sole Chelsea boots / Carmina burgundy calf combination leather-rubber sole Chelsea boots / Meermin polo suede Dainite sole Chelsea Boots / Epaulet Carver merlot horsehide rubber sole Chelsea boots
This week I was sent back to Fort Lauderdale for work, so I chose to wear another of my Panama hats. I got an email today from JJ’s Hat Centre in New York announcing 50% off their summer styles. I got most of my Panamas from there at reduced prices. The style below is named ‘Bowery’ and I thought it fitted and suited me so well I got the same hat in blue (shown recently), gold (shown below), raspberry, sage green and coffee brown. I took a look on the site and they don’t seem to offer this style any more, nor do they seem to have other Panamas for sale in such a wide range of colours as they did this model, so I’m glad I got all the ones I liked already.
To travel I wore a casual outfit: Ralph Lauren Polo popover shirt, Ben Sherman chinos and Cheaney loafers. The sunglasses are a recent acquisition from Moscot and I like how the gold flecks of the tortoise frames pick up the gold of the hat:
Lifestyle shots from the hotel balcony including a great sunset over the Fort Lauderdale beach. Sometimes I like my job!
Hat – ‘Bowery’ JJ’s Hat Centre
Sunglasses – ‘Fritz‘ by Moscot
Jacket – Suitsupply
Shirt – Tyrwhitt
Tie – No name brand, upgraded by Sam Hober
Pocket Square – No name brand from ebay
Strides – Banana Republic
Socks – Uniqlo
Shoes – Meermin Polo suede
When asked about hats I often offer up the advice that for those wishing to try out a brimmed hat look, it’s hard to go wrong with a Panama. Wear one on holiday where you won’t have to run the gauntlet of your mates taking the piss down at your local pub, and if you’re uncertain about pulling off the look, you can convince yourself that it’s a functional way of dealing with the sunshine.
I‘ve long ago dismissed any feelings of self-conscious uncertainty when it comes to hats, and have acquired Panama hats in several colours besides the traditional beige. My only reticence in wearing hats is the that they don’t always get along with my spiky barnet!
Last week I was in Miami and Fort Lauderdale for work – if you can’t feel confident wearing a Panama hat in that environment then maybe this leaving the house thing is not for you!
The suit is one of my favourite summer suits in wool-linen-silk glen plaid check (‘Prince of Wales’ to we Brits, although this has no coloured overcheck). I’ve featured it on the blog a couple of times before but this is the first time paired with this striped Grenadine tie.
Most people know by now that genuine Panama hats are actually made in Ecuador and got their geographically inaccurate name due to their popularity with construction workers toiling on the Panama Canal over a hundred years ago. They come in a variety of grades based on the quality of straw used, from cheap, dry, brittle versions for around $50 to ‘Montecristi’ quality which can take weeks to make, cost in the thousands and be hand-woven of such fine fibres that the texture is like linen. Montecristis can be rolled up and stuffed into a pocket and will bounce back to their original shape. All my Panama are somewhere between those two extremes.
Hat – ‘Bowery’ from JJ’s Hat Centre, New York
Sunglasses – Oliver Peoples Cabrillo
Suit – Suitsupply
Shirt – Tyrwhitt
Tie – Tyrwhitt
Pocket square – No name
Socks – Uniqlo
Shoes – Allen-Edmonds Player in navy suede
Bonus shots from the balcony of the Hilton at Fort Lauderdale. How nice to be out of the house, and what a great view!
The Ivy League Style has had an influence on Mod style going back to the adulation given by Mods in the early sixties to nattily dressed American jazz, blues and soul musicians touring Britain.
Despite living in America for thirty years I don’t feel like I have a full grasp of the exact essence of Ivy but I do have a surface idea of what’s going on.
I’ve shown my attempt at emulating an Ivy-inspired business outfit here, and I did a casual version here. The second one features a Black Watch tartan shirt which was a collaboration between Kamakura and Graham Marsh.
Graham Marsh was the co-writer of ‘The Ivy Look’ – a heavily illustrated book that works as a primer in helping an Ivy ignoramus like me get something of a handle on what it’s all about. He has also done further collaborations with Kamakura including this beauty:
I spotted this shirt in the Kamakura shop in New York several months ago and I have no idea why I didn’t jump on it. Despite my dislike of the name, I’ve taken a liking to ‘popover’ shirts and find them to perfectly bridge the formality gap between a polo shirt and a more traditional shirt, especially when worn with a blazer. The collar of a polo shirt will often slip down below the collar of a jacket, which is not a good look, while I’m not a big fan of traditional dress shirts being worn open-necked. This is how I’ve come around to admiring both popover shirts and button-down collars as they both do a good job of mitigating the two problems.
Along with the style, the colour and pattern is right up my street. Bright blue is my favourite colour, and combined with the check pattern it would stand out nicely against a solid navy blazer and thus provide a bit more spice than an all-solid look. I own several navy blazers in different fabrics and weights which I often wear when travelling for work. I usually wear an informal outfit on the day of flying out and recycle the blazer with a more formal shirt and tie for the last day at the job site and then going from there to the airport and home.
I wore it with a pair of chinos I got recently. It may not be easy to tell from the pics but these are a very pale blue-green colour which is an interesting and subtle alternative to the more common off-white / stone colour, and they pick up the colour from the shirt’s pattern.
This shirt has all the Ivy details which purists love and which I could not care less about, such as a collar button on the neck, locker loop, open box pleat and pocket, all of which I’d prefer not to have. It’s made in a crisp lightweight broadcloth which is cool for the summer. I chose a medium size Tokyo which fits about right. I took advantage of a free postage period so I didn’t lose out financially by not having bought it in the shop months ago, but in future I might do better to follow my original instincts!