Reader Question – Parkas

The main reason I started up this blog was to create a way to connect with like-minded people as I felt isolated when it comes to matters sartorial, in particular relating to Mod style. I love the discussion of the details. Like any ‘hobbyist’ – cars, sports, watches, antiques, dogs, films … it’s not much fun if you don’t have people to talk with about your hobby, so I welcome any thoughts, opinions and questions that provoke the discussion.

Recently Rob wrote in asking about my thoughts on parkas, and on checked shirts. I’ll address checked shirts soon but here are my thoughts on parkas …

Yeah I confess that I haven’t mentioned them much on here but there’s no denying they are part of the Mod culture. Maybe too much part of the culture! Unfortunately the image of ‘Mod’ to the general public is often encapsulated in someone wearing a parka, two-tone suit and Jam shoes! I’m sure I’m not alone in having been guilty of falling into the trap of wearing these sort of togs as a clueless teenager, upon first getting swept up in the revival era of the late seventies. This image is viewed with such disdain, even by Mods themselves and ex Mods, that they go to lengths to distance themselves from the entire shooting match. It’s quite typical for those of my vintage to discreetly sneak out the back door of Mod and enter through the door of Ivy League style which has a similar – even overlapping – aesthetic to classic Mod style, but seems to have a bit more of an ‘adult’ connotation and less ‘youth cult’, so it suits those of us advancing in age.

Anyway if we’re being honest, most of us involved in Mod style in our youth owned a parka at some time. Over the years I owned three – none of them for very long.

When my brother was in his early teens in the early seventies he had two. They were non-Mod olive green four-pocket versions something like in the pic below, except I think his had four rectangular front pockets with flaps secured by exposed silver press studs:

I remember his first one had an olive green quilted lining which when he grew out of it was replaced with a similar version with a red quilted lining.

A few years later when I asked my Mam to get me a parka she refused as the youth cult connection which had been absent during my brother’s era was not something she was going to condone or finance, so I had to pay for my own with milk round money!

Most of the lads who joined the revival in my town bought German Army parkas from the local military surplus shop.

I hated these things. They didn’t have fish tails like those of the original Mods. They were dirty and smelly, absorbed rain rather than repelled it and like many parka styles, due to the pocket placement they encouraged everyone to walk around in that gormless hands-in-pockets elbows-out manner!

The first parka I had was bought from ‘Jeremy Adam’ a long since defunct menswear shop in the town centre aimed at teens and young adults which, during the revival period, had a small selection of off-the-shelf Mod items. Aside from parkas they had skinny ties, button down shirts, boating blazers and three-button suits. None of them were great quality but at that time we weren’t very discerning. This parka was a replica with a fur-edged hood and fishtail but had no military provenance and was clearly knocked up in a factory somewhere to quickly take advantage of the revival bandwagon. I bought a Union flag from a mail order shop advertising in the back of the NME and my mate’s girlfriend did a sterling job of stitching it on (thanks Amanda!). I wore this when a bunch of us went to see Secret Affair at Newcastle City Hall and when we went backstage to meet the band after the gig we got them to sign our tickets and Ian Page also signed my parka alongside the zip.

Signed on the front by sax player Dave Winthrop
Back of Secret Affair ticket signed by Ian Page, Seb Shelton, Dennis Smith and Dave Cairns

I also wore this one when I went to see The Jam soon after. I didn’t get to meet the band but if you’re paying close attention to the Complete Jam video there’s a glimpse of me at the Newcastle City Hall gig during their performance of ‘David Watts’:

Me in parka, arm raised, bottom right

Me on the left

My mate Chad had a lighter-weight fishtail parka with a quilted lining. It was an olive green colour which was darker than the sage green of most of the other parkas we saw and I managed to pull off some sort of convoluted trade where I passed on my parka and ended up with his.

I don’t know what happened to this one but don’t remember having it for long. Some time later I acquired from a friend of a friend what was probably a decent replica of an M-65. He was a big fan of Keith Moon and had written ‘Mooney’ in ball point pen on the sleeve. I think I left it round my mate Gary’s house and never went to reclaim it. Gary was a scooter nut so he’s welcome to get some use out of it.

Parkas of course were very practical coats for keeping a suit clean and dry when riding a scooter during the long periods of inclement weather in Britain, and as such have been worn by scooterists from the early sixties to the present day. I never owned a scooter in my youth so the attraction of wearing an otherwise less than stylish coat which brought instant aggravation from rival youth cults became lost on me. My Dad gave me some money to get a beige trench coat for my birthday in November 1981 – an obvious copy of a Burberry with the same tan checked lining – and I never wore a parka again. Some of my mates who were among the more dedicated to the scene also started to move away from the ‘Identikit Mod’ look. Stu got one of those very stylish US Army gabardine trench coats in olive green as worn by Richard Crenna as Colonel Trautman in the ‘Rambo’ films, and Phil got the similar US military sateen version as worn by Gary Shail as Spider in ‘Quadrophenia’:

(Many years later I got an Air Force blue gabardine trench coat like Stu’s which was subsequently lost during a house move around 2003 and I’ve been trying to replace it ever since, but they seem to be very rare!)

Those of my mates who got involved with scooters and sustained their interest beyond the early eighties went for the authenticity of US Army M-51 or M-65 parkas – the style worn by original Mods.

Genuine US military versions in good condition are becoming increasingly difficult to find now decades after they were superseded by newer military versions, although there appear to be a variety of replicas available. I see some people getting hold of NB-3 parkas like the one pictured below:

I can’t get behind this trend. They are what we called ‘snorkel parkas’ when I was a young teen. I had one in navy to wear during winters when I worked on the milk round at age thirteen. They were as common as dirt among school kids and in my view they may be very practical in winter weather but they’re completely devoid of style.

The image of ‘identikit Mods’ wearing modern replica parkas festooned with patches, badges and the obligatory target on the back was ubiquitous for a brief time in the revival period around 1979-1980 but then was quickly abandoned. Sadly as mentioned this image remains front and centre for many in their impression of Mod style.

The peak period of Britpop in the nineties largely passed me by as I was already living in America, but the likes of Liam Gallagher made the wearing of parkas cool again for some people. He seems to be the biggest advocate for parkas since the revival. I still think it’s a hard look to pull off and I’m just happy that I live in a climate where I don’t have to think about wearing such a heavy coat.

I’ve written in here a few times that as we approach the extremes of weather, style starts to take a back seat to practicalities. For me right now parkas are over the boundary of style. If I was still living in England and regularly braving the wind and rain driving in off the North Sea at the Stadium of Light, or persevering through the English winters on a scooter there’s no doubt I’d think differently!  I’m happy that these challenges aren’t something for me to be concerned about right now, so despite its historic association with Mod style, the likelihood of me getting back into a parka remains slim!

Rod’s Togs – The Gingham Check Jacket

Back in August 2018 I wrote about my then newly acquired grey gingham checked jacket, and at the time I was still undecided about the best colour strides with which to pair it.

Since then I’ve acquired these Air Force blue strides from The Tie Bar on Madison Avenue in New York City which I think work perfectly. The slightly grey cast to the blue works well with the grey ground of the jacket and they’re a better option than the rich royal blue strides suggested in my original post.  I’ve read on menswear forums that dark blue / navy odd trousers are difficult to pair up with. This may have something to do with our eyes being used to seeing a more conventional dark top and lighter bottom outfit (think classic navy blazer with grey or beige strides). Anyway with a bit of thought it can look fine and I’m happy with the way this outfit works.

The Tie Bar got their foothold in menswear – obviously – by selling inexpensive silk ties. Divergence being a key to financial success they branched out into selling other accessories – socks, pocket squares, lapel pins etc. – then more recently offered shirts and strides.

The strides are 97 percent wool and 3 percent spandex – very lightweight. Quality-wise they won’t get purists salivating and they may not prove to be very hard wearing but their lightness suits the climate in which I normally operate and they fit me perfectly without the need for alterations. (They may seem slightly short in this picture but I hitched them up to show off my socks, normally I’d have them sit on the tops of my shoes!)

Sunglasses – Oliver Peoples Cabrillo

Jacket – Ted Baker

Shirt – Tyrwhitt (Leno)

Tie – Paul Fredrick

Pocket square – Nordstrom

Strides – The Tie Bar

Socks – Dapper Classic

Loafers – Shipton and Heneage

Scuba Flag Cuff Links

For a long time I’ve been planning a blog post about my cufflinks collection and I’ll get to finalizing it one day but for now I just wanted to show these latest acquisitions from my trip to Cozumel.

My first visit there was a trip arganised through a dive shop in October 1995. This was my first experience of scuba diving beyond the checkout exercises I had done in a pool and a disgusting mud-filled gravel pit in Texas to get certified!

I liked it so much in Cozumel I’ve now been there twenty times.

There’s a small town on the island – San Miguel – with some shops selling t-shirts and other tourist fayre and In years past there seemed to be dozens of silver jewelry shops. Over time the number of these shops seems to have diminished and I’m not sure why. I have a vague recollection of having (possibly) seen cufflinks made in the scuba flag design using red coral. I may have just imagined that but more recently the memory set me off on another of my obsessive holy grail style hunts.

Did the cufflinks really exist or was it my imagination projecting from having seen the design on various other items of jewelry? With the number of silver shops having reduced significantly over the years, during the last couple of visits to the island I didn’t have the time to make a thorough search.

This time I got lucky. I found a shop just off the main square in the town that had rings, ear rings, bracelets and pendants with the red coral scuba flag but no cuff links. The shop is family-owned and has a silversmith who works behind the scenes somewhere, so while I couldn’t find the cufflinks in stock they were able to take a couple of tiles from a bracelet and convert them to cufflinks. Success at last!

These go really well with the dark red accessories I use for one of my favourite outfits that I’ve posted about several times before, this time including some new shades with dark red accents too:

As a PS – day-to-day I usually carry a small amount of cash and my cards in a bifold wallet, but when I’m on holiday I carry only my driving licence and a couple of cards in a slim card holder. In addition I always have a large wad of cash which is mostly five-dollar bills and one-dollar bills for taxi rides and tips. This wad is too fat to fit into a wallet and I usually secure it with a rubber band. I noticed the shop had a silver money clip with the scuba flag so I bought that too, to use especially for holidays:

I also got a caduceus charm for my wife and a dolphin charm for my daughter so the shop did well out of me!

I’ll definitely stop by the shop next time we go to see if they have any other goodies!

Sunglasses – Jacques Marie Mage Comanche (Reserve)

Suit – Thick As Thieves

Shirt – Tyrwhitt

Tie – Chipp Paul Winston Grenadine garza fina

Pocket square – Kent Wang

Socks – Uniqlo

Shoes – Allen-Edmonds Player (navy suede)

Rod’s Togs – Packing For A Beach Holiday Again

Back in 2017 I wrote a post about packing for a beach holiday so here’s another version. We recently came back from Cozumel – that’s my twentieth visit to the island and I absolutely love it there. Thankfully my family loves it too. A week lounging on a beach might seem like the ideal time to abandon any anxiety about what to wear but with just a little bit of thought and preparation you can look good and be completely situation-appropriate without devolving into the absolute nadir of a wife-beater and crocs ensemble!

This time around I stuck with an orange and blue theme – that makes mixing and matching easy if you’re forced to improvise and make substitutions to your original plans like I had to after I spilled parsley sauce on my polo shirt during the first night’s dinner!

A typical day is me going scuba diving in the morning then a quick shower and change for an afternoon with the family – either lounging by the hotel pool or visiting one of the beach parks. In the evening we’ll wander into the town to look at the shops and pick out a place to eat.

Aside from my scuba gear, daytime threads are usually a crew neck t-shirt and swim shorts. In the evenings I’ll probably wear a polo shirt and cotton shorts. If there’s an occasion to visit a slightly more swanky restaurant – this time it was my wife’s birthday – I might wear long strides.

Here’s my gear for travel to and from the island – it’s always wise to have long sleeves for a drafty aeroplane:

Jacket – Umbro

Polo shirt – Lacoste

Strides – Lacoste

Trainers – Adidas Topanga

Here’s my daytime kit for five days pool and beach at the hotel:

T shirts – adidas X 3, Scubapro; Dive Paradise;

Swim shorts – adidas X 2; Old Navy

Here are my evening options:

Polos – Fred Perry X 2, Lacoste

Madras – Lands End

Shorts – Tommy Hilfiger (orange), Levi’s (blue)

For my wife’s birthday dinner at Pepe’s restaurant:

Shirt – Uniqlo

Strides – Lacoste

Driving mocs – Ralph Lauren Polo

D-ring belt – no name

Accessories:

Driving mocs – Ralph Lauren Polo

Linen Scarf – Levi’s

Trainers – adidas Topanga

Panama hat – J Crew

Sunglasses – Ray Ban New Wayfarers X 2

Watch – Seiko Prospex solar PADI

Our holiday last year got cancelled due to the pandemic so we may end up going twice this year. Watch this space for details if we make it back. I’m thinking of a red white and blue theme next time!

Rod’s Togs – Beige Suit Part Two

This suit provides a slight contrast in formality to the lightweight linen suit posted recently. It’s 100% cotton and very robust with structured shoulders and although a similar colour, it wears quite a bit warmer than the linen version. Acquired many years ago from eBay for $75. Again, to prevent the pale colour from washing out my pale complexion I like to combine this with a saturated shirt.

Sunglasses – Moscot Lemtosh (limited edition ‘dark blonde’)

Suit – Banana Republic

Shirt – Tyrwhitt

Tie – J Crew

Pocket Square – Bachrach

Cufflinks – Tyrwhitt

Socks – Uniqlo

Shoes – Meermin snuff suede three eyelet plain-toed derbies

Rod’s Togs – Beige Suit Part One

Now that the temperatures are well into the eighties where I’m at, it’s time to break out the linen. When we go out for dinner in the summer months I’m usually to be found wearing a loose linen shirt, linen strides and driving mocs. Something like this:

You can’t beat those linen shirts which are available at a very decent price and can come in a broad variety of colours. I’m not a great fan of short-sleeved shirts and only own a couple. I prefer the look of long sleeves, even if they’re rolled up a couple of times. In the above pic I’m wearing penny loafers with Dainite soles instead of the more typical driving mocs. Wearing these shoes, along with the jacket to match the strides, steps up the formality of my usual rig by a notch or two which was warranted for a neighbour’s birthday celebration held on a restaurant patio.

I took the pic with the jacket closed but left it open most of the night, partly as I was mostly sat down and partly just to ease the formality to fit the situation.

This look takes some inspiration from Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in ‘The World Is Not Enough’:

I say ‘inspiration’ as I wasn’t trying a full on emulation here! Brosnan’s suit is herringbone linen, his shirt is a Turnbull and Asser broadcloth and his shoes are single monkstraps, but the general colour scheme is similar. I’m somewhat more pale and pasty then he is but in either case wearing a light beige, almost ivory suit looks good with a bold, saturated shirt. I really like these pebble grained loafers in a chestnut reddish-brown.

Stand by for a post about a different version of the beige suit coming soon.

Sunglasses – Oliver Peoples Cabrillo

Suit – INC (Macy’s)

Shirt – Uniqlo

Pocket square – No name

Belt – Tyrwhitt

Shoes – Cheaney Howard

Rod’s Togs – Gig Gear

Aside from several Breton-style shirts I seem to have acquired a ton of hooped polo shirts too.

Recently my mate Dave – proprietor of the ‘Rock and Roll Brit’ blog linked on my home page – invited me to sit in for a few songs during an informal gig he’d arranged in St. Petersburg. ‘That’s Entertainment’, ‘Wonderwall’, ‘You Do Something To Me’ got a run out!

Sunglasses – Ray Ban Gatsby Metal Squares

Polo shirt – Fred Perry

Jeans – Levi’s LVC

Trainers – Adidas Rom

Guitar – Takamine EF 381 SC 12 string

Rod’s Togs – Military OG Trousers

Let’s get a couple of ‘full disclosure’ statements out here first, concerning my preferences.

1. I’m becoming increasingly bored with jeans. For any male who grew up since the 1950s, jeans have been a near ubiquitous component of their wardrobe. This is understandable to a degree. Since the early career days of Marlon Brando and James Dean they have represented a cheeky rebelliousness for kids as they weren’t favoured by the earlier generation. They also stood up to the knockabout back-street lifestyle of a typical pre-teen whether coming up in the city, the suburbs or the country. And when that kid moved into adulthood, if he moved into a blue-collar occupation then jeans transitioned perfectly into workwear, due to being hard-wearing and somewhat protective. But after seventy years of this ubiquity I’m frankly bored to death with them even though I accept that in certain contexts, paired with certain other items, they remain appropriate.

2. I’ve never liked ‘cargo pants’. The side pockets look clumsy and unflattering to me and I’m left to wonder what people need to be carrying around with them that requires so many pockets. If the cargo pockets are there for aesthetic rather than practical purposes then my reaction is that this bulky look is totally at odds with the sharp, trim silhouette that’s characteristic of Mod style.

So in my search for an alternative to wearing jeans that does NOT include cargo pants I’ve noticed a general appreciation in menswear circles for what Americans call ‘OG pants’. The ‘OG’ refers to ‘olive green’, the default colour of American combat uniforms from the Second World War throughout the Korean War, Vietnam War and beyond. Anyone familiar with the TV show MASH will have seen uniforms in this colour worn by the cast in every episode.

As a kid I would often go away with the family stay to at a rented cottage in the Yorkshire Dales for ‘Blackberry Week’ (half term holiday in late October), and as the Army’s Catterick Camp was in the same area near Richmond we’d often see soldiers in uniform wandering around the market towns that we’d visit. In those days the British Army combat uniform was a ‘DPM’ (disruptive pattern material) woodland pattern camouflage jacket and ‘Lightweight’ trousers in solid olive green.

So in considering military surplus strides as an alternative to jeans, my Anglophile leanings caused me to check out the British version first.

I’m not really a fan of the button down belt loops, and some versions come with a large map pocket on the front thigh which is too close to cargo pants for my liking.

The American version is named ‘OG 107’ and they are available from military surplus stores as well as a plethora of recreations ranging in price from cheap to laughably expensive. Somewhere in the middle are Stan Rays reproductions which retail for about $85, but I recently scored a pair brand new with tags from eBay for $45 shipped.

I haven’t handled the military version up close so I can’t write about how close these Stan Rays are to their origins. Details-wise they have deep patched front pockets, zip fly, belt loops and button down patched rear pockets. They appear to be robust but lightweight 100% cotton which is exactly what I was hoping for, with a fine ‘hopsacky’ hand. Upon receipt I immediately put them in a hot wash and tumble dry to soften them up a bit and maximise any shrinkage in the cotton, then had them tailored.

eBay buyers are beggars not choosers and mine were sized 34-34. If I’d had a choice and a chance to try them on in a shop I’d have probably gone for 32 or 30 waist as even the slimmer versions are generously cut as shown above, so I had some slimming done in the waist and legs.

Advocates for Stan Ray OGs seem to enjoy wearing them in a loose and even sloppy manner, with the high waist allowed to sag and the hems casually rolled up once or twice. This of course is not my style so the tailoring allowed me to sharpen up the silhouette somewhat. In hindsight I think my tailor was a little over-aggressive in taking in the excess. I wouldn’t have minded a slightly more louche look and fit which might have been a benefit in hot weather.

The intention was to have strides that I can grab and don without much thought, for activities like the school run or a quick trip to the supermarket. I admit that it would be generous to suggest that strides like these have much of a connection or provenance to the classic 1960s Mod look, but in the interests of pushing the boundaries whilst keeping one eye on style they have a place in the casual section of the wardrobe alongside chinos, sta-pressts, five-pocket strides and cords, and provide a viable alternative to the ubiquity of boring jeans!

Sunglasses – Ray Ban Carbon Fibre Aviators

Breton style t-shirt – J Crew

Strides – Stan Ray

Desert Boots – Clark’s Originals

Rod’s Togs – Making The Case For Orange Shoes

In the classic 1974 film ‘Chinatown’ set in 1930s Los Angeles, there’s a scene in which Jack Nicholson as well-to-do private eye Jake Gittes is snooping around the cliffs investigating some dodgy goings-on with the municipal water authority when he’s suddenly swept up in an unexpected deluge of water being run off from the reserve supply in order to create the illusion of a shortage. He makes for a sorry sight as he trudges back to his car with his bespoke suit drenched and missing one “god-damn Florsheim shoe”.

Florsheim is just one of many once-reputable American menswear brands which have taken the long journey from being highly regarded, through the downward spiral of offshored manufacture and reduced quality in the race to the bottom, and which now trade on long-past glories. Their famed Kenmore longwing brogues remain much sought-after in vintage circles but the current version is not nearly as robust as those from the past, made in America.

Perhaps in a grasp for credibility, in 2009 Florsheim partnered up with New York fashion house Duckie Brown to produce a range of shoes – Florsheim by Duckie Brown – that combined traditional styles like longwing brogues, loafers and suede bucks with a wonderful array of bright colours. This wasn’t a million miles from the George Cox Robot shoes which I discussed here and were once available in every colour in the rainbow.

I was a bit late to the party on finding out about these great looking Duckie Brown shoes, and by the time I got into one of those all-too-familiar obsessive hunting modes the collaboration with Florsheim was at an end and available choices were limited. I missed out on the royal blue calf brogues but I did manage to snag this pair of tangerine suede bucks which I’d lusted after for a long time … and which have subsequently remained on my shoe rack with very rare use.

Sometimes it’s useful to examine our decisions and try to come up with a rationale behind them – in this case, why I wore them so rarely. I’m not afraid of the colour, and at one point I was even searching for a pair of bright orange suede Adidas Gazelles until I remembered I already had that colour covered with these bucks. Maybe the combination of vibrant orange but in a shoe style firmly rooted in American trad caused me to subconsciously assign them to a stylistic no man’s land? I tend to wear Adidas Originals classic trainers like Gazelles with jeans and choose one of several pairs of driving mocs to wear with linen strides, so where do suede bucks fit in? I often advise people to tread carefully with their purchases, as the more ‘out there’ an item may be when it comes to styling or colour, the less versatile it will be and thus the less ‘bang for your buck’ in terms of uses per dollar. I use these orange suede bucks as the perfect illustration for a great looking shoe but due to its vibrant non-versatile colour, it gets very little use.

As a teenager I was an admirer of The Jam almost to the point of obsession, but when it came to being influenced by style I was always much more into Bruce Foxton than I was Paul Weller. That’s why I joined a band and took up playing the bass and of course my first bass was a Rickenbacker.

When Weller split up The Jam my musical interests were exploding, partly as a result of being in a (non Mod) band and partly just from the wonderfully eclectic cacophony of new music that was the environment of the second half of the eighties. I didn’t care much for The Style Council and haven’t followed Weller’s solo career very closely since then. I certainly haven’t been interested in his baffling approach to clothes and hair styles since those days!

A couple of years ago there was an excellent documentary on The Jam named ‘About The Young Idea’, and more recently I’ve seen equally well done films ‘Into Tomorrow’ about Weller’s career and ‘Long Hot Summers’ about The Style Council. At some point in the latter there’s a clip of the band around the period of ‘The Cost Of Loving’ in which they were decked out in white trucker jackets and white jeans.

I thought this was a fantastic image for the band and a great look for spring and summer. I believe the pic below was from the ‘Heavens Above’ video which was a song from the album which was clearly influenced by the Philly Soul sound, released as a single in America but not back home. The video was shot around a windmill, possibly in The Netherlands, which may have influenced the preponderance of orange!

I have Levi’s trucker jackets in white and blue but neither have been worn in a long time. I’ve mentioned before how jacket season where I live is short and the truckers have to compete with – and usually come off worst against – several Harringtons, monkey jackets, MA-1s and cotton blazers.

I’ve been an advocate for white Levi’s as an alternative to blue jeans for many years now, and this renewed admiration for the kit worn by The Style Council inspired me to dig out my white denim trucker jacket. The double blue denim outfit – the Canadian tuxedo! – has been frowned upon for a while which may partly explain why my own blue trucker hasn’t seen the light in a long time, but a double white denim outfit? Maybe I could go for that – maybe it should be named the ‘Florida tuxedo’? Wearing that with a ‘Cost of Loving’ style orange polo would give me a great excuse to dust off those long neglected orange bucks which in my opinion would be an upgrade on the stark black leather loafers Weller wore at that time.

Then I remembered that drummer Steve White provided a bit of contrast to the whole ensemble image by sporting an orange denim trucker and that set me off once again on another of those all-too-familiar obsessive hunts.

Once again I found I was late to the party as there were several decent looking versions popping up on my internet search, but they were all from a couple of years ago and all sold out.

Then I got lucky with this from Amazon …

Of course its great that that there was a happy conclusion to this particular round of compulsive behaviour on my part but I’m equally happy that I now have a couple more outfits with which I can wear my long neglected orange bucks and put away that nagging feeling that they were the epitome of white elephant purchases in my wardrobe.

Sunglasses – Ray Ban New Wayfarer 2132

Jackets – Levi’s, DZDS (Amazon)

Polo Shirts – Lacoste

Strides – Levi’s 501

Shoes – Florsheim By Duckie Brown

Rod’s Togs – The Bright Pink Broad-check Shirt

I’ve never liked that pale pastel pink colour that Brooks Brothers uses for their Oxford Cloth Button Down shirts.

It’s nothing to do with perceived femininity. I can see how with a grey suit and navy tie it could be a good look, I just never much liked pale pastels, including the pale yellow and pale blue too which are the other favoured colours of OCBD shirts. I much prefer saturated colours. Maybe its something to do with being pale enough myself so I don’t like the idea of pastels washing me out. I have no problem with bright pink colours like fuchsia as shown here and here.

Browsing the Lands End catalogue last year I came across this more vibrant pink shirt with a blue check. This came in a cotton fabric mixed with some sort of futuristic non-wrinkle man-made content too. The end result is a smooth hand and cool feel that did indeed remain wrinkle free during air travel for work recently.

My experience of Lands End is that their sizing is very generous so even though most of my togs are ‘medium’, this was a size ‘small’. Some of their shirts have a ‘tailored fit’ option but curiously not this one, which is ‘traditional fit’. You can see it’s somewhat roomy which is helped by the open box pleat in the back. This is a detail I particularly dislike on shirts, so I may get the side seams slimmed, but as I so rarely wear a shirt like this without a jacket it’s not a priority for me. Of course there’s the pointless chest pocket which I could live without but this would also be hidden under a jacket. It’s cool to have a splash of bright colour when wearing ‘standard’ gear like navy blazer and grey strides.

Sunglasses – Ray Ban

Jacket – Uniqlo X Lemaire

Shirt – Lands End

Pocket Square – no name

Strides – Express

Chelsea boots – Arthur Knight

Rod’s Greatest Hits – The Royal Blue Linen Prince of Wales Suit

The world of menswear seems eager to sound the death knell of the suit. The consensus seems to be that since so many people are working from home now, and even long-established financial houses are relaxing their business-formal dress codes. survival of the suit will require a less formal silhouette to be worn by choice in casual social settings.

Time will tell if such ominous predictions come true or not, but I’m lucky enough to have the choice and the chance to get suited up for work.

This is one of my favourite suits – featured on the blog before – which complies with the trend towards less formal in terms of cut, cloth and pattern. Royal blue is my favourite colour and I was chuffed to find this suit in linen Prince of Wales check. I already had the royal blue matching accessories!

Sunglasses – Jacques Marie Mage Dealan in hickory

Suit – Suitsupply

Shirt – Tyrwhitt

Tie – Shibumi Berlin

Pocket Square – No name

Socks – Uniqlo

Shoes – Polo Ralph Lauren

Watch – Rolex Submariner

Cufflinks – O’Connell’s lapis lazuli

The Cary Grant Sunglasses

Cary Grant has been held up as a beacon for menswear enthusiasts for so long that his mention has become all too predictable. I’m guilty myself. Of his many films my favourites are ‘Notorious’ for the plot, ‘To Catch A Thief’ for the Monaco scenery, and ‘North By Northwest’ for so many things: the plot, James Mason as the villain, Eva Marie Saint as the beautiful intriguing heroine, the finale on Mount Rushmore, and of course, the suit!

There’s also some of my all-time favourite dialogue from any film:

James Mason:  Has anyone ever told you that you overplay your various roles rather severely Mr. Kaplan?  First you’re the outraged Madison Avenue man who claims he’s been mistaken for someone else.  Then you play the fugitive from justice who’s supposedly trying to clear his name from a crime he knows he didn’t commit.  And now you play the peevish lover stung by jealousy and betrayal.  It seems to me that you fellows could stand to do a little less training from the FBI and a little more from the Actors’ Studio.

Cary Grant:  Apparently the only performance that will satisfy you is when I play dead!

James Mason:  In your very next role and you’ll be quite convincing I assure you!

In many ways – including the addition of snappy dialogue – NXNW could be viewed as a forerunner to the Bond series. A handsome, impeccably dressed hero deals with espionage, a sinister villain up to no good and a beautiful lady, getting into and out of various scrapes, but are we ever truly convinced that he’s in any danger? Cary Grant was allegedly offered the part of Bond for ‘Doctor No’ but his regular million dollar salary would have eaten up the film’s entire budget!

In NXNW Grant accessorises that impeccable blue-grey glen check suit with a very cool pair of sunglasses. I mentioned in a preamble to a post on Moscot shades here that there has been a long internet discussion as to what brand they were which was never fully resolved. A couple of years ago all debate was sidelined when it was announced in the Hollywood Reporter (see link below) that Oliver Peoples had been working with Grant’s widow and daughter and had their permission to come up with a modern day replica.

I was at first intrigued but I balked at the price which was north of $400. In the time since release the price became more agreeable so I eventually snagged a pair … which have remained mostly unworn!

The presentation of these glasses is sound enough (although they missed a trick in not providing a glen check cleaning cloth which could have doubled as a pocket handkerchief!) but something about them just didn’t work for me. It’s possible that because I have other glasses in similar colours I reached for the others out of habit, but on closer examination I think it’s more likely I have to admit that they just don’t suit me.

Out of my thirty-plus pairs of sunglasses I have very few that are round, so maybe round frames just don’t suit me, and along with that, when I compare the Oliver Peoples version with those of Cary Grant, despite me owning the smaller of the two sizes available, size 48, they look huge on me.

In the debate over the origin of Grant’s NXNW glasses It has been mentioned that Moscot’s popular ‘Lemtosh’ model was a close replica. I’ve visited the Moscot shop in the Bowery area of New York City and already own some of their other models – Hyman, Nebb and Fritz – but curiously they never offered the Lemtosh in a colour close to those worn by grant. Below is the much lighter ‘blonde’ version …

Recently they offered the Lemtosh in a limited edition run of only 150 pairs in ‘dark blonde’. I took delivery of mine recently (number 002/150) selecting the ‘calibar green’ lenses and was very happy with the result.

With the sizing of sunglasses a millimetre or two each way in lens width can make a huge difference and I feel like these Moscots fit me so much better than the Oliver Peoples version. For comparison see below – the Moscots (upper pic) are sized 46-19-145 while the Oliver Peoples (lower pic) are sized 48-19-145…

In the pics below, Moscots are on the left, Oliver Peoples are on the right …

My final analysis is that Oliver Peoples got the frame colour correct but the grey lenses aren’t accurate and the sizing is too large. In comparison the Moscots weren’t outwardly trying to replicate Grant’s shades, so they didn’t quite capture the richness of the reddish brown acetate, but the green lenses are closer to Grant’s and the sizing / proportions work better for me.

Along with the other sunglasses I own in various versions of brown / tortoise acetate I just didn’t think it was worth it for me to keep both pairs so I offloaded the Oliver Peoples version.

We can only hope to emulate the style of Cary Grant but getting a pair of cool shades like these might help bring us a small step closer.

Web story

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.hollywoodreporter.com/amp/news/oliver-peoples-releases-cary-grant-north-by-northwest-inspired-eyewear-1198304

Solving The Cold Weather Conundrum With Military-Inspired Gear – Part Three: Jump Boots

Turning to appropriate footwear for winter weather – I have a pair of black ten-holer Dr. Marten boots in the back of the cupboard for extreme foul conditions but they aren’t very versatile and for that reason have been very rarely pulled out.

My impression is that Mods of my vintage who still live in Britain often lean towards chunky brogue boots to see them through the worst of the winter. The likes of Loake Burford, Bedale, Glendale or Tricker’s Stow seem to be popular choices.

I’m sure these are practical and they seem robust enough to deal with foul weather but they just look a bit too rustic and clunky for my tastes.

I was in Brooks Brothers many years ago and saw a pair of burgundy pebble-grained leather chukka boots with dainite soles by Peal. I’m not sure from which maker they were rebadged – maybe Alfred Sargeant? – but they struck me as possibly the ultimate foul weather footwear.

I was slightly tempted but I remember thinking that was a lot of money to spend on boots which would see rare use.
More recently I was in the Meermin showroom in New York City and they do a similar boot for around $200.

At the same time I noticed they did a ‘jump boot’ style captoe derby lace up which had a shearling fur lining and dainite soles.

These could even eclipse the Peals as the ultimate foul weather footwear, but the two standard colours – dark brown or the antique oak pictured above – were not very appealing to me.

I decided to shelve the idea for the moment but my patience paid off as more recently Meermin had one of their periodic made-to-order offerings during which you can choose some details – leather type, colour, sole, linings – to customise your preferences. I made my choices and the boots arrived at the end of last summer. My options were burgundy grain calf leather, dainite soles, and shearling linings, with the intention of creating the ultimate winter boot on that burgundy colour that had attracted me to the idea in the first place:

Once paid for I was in a brief ‘buyers remorse’ mode wondering if I should have paid the upcharge and gone for the shell cordovan option but I just thought calf would be better if they got wet as I wouldn’t have to deal with the characteristic cordovan white spots! No regrets now!

I have several Meermins in a few lasts (mostly Hiro) all in UK 7.5 as my US size is usually 8.5. I was hoping the shearling lining wouldn’t bugger up the sizing but they have adjusted the size to accommodate that and they fit really well with the shearling making them feel nice and snug.

The leather quality looks great. It’s a gleaming burgundy colour which is a proper red. (I was disappointed with some ‘burgundy‘ grain loafers I got from Morjas last year which were almost black so they were returned).

I wasn’t sure about the punch cap but it adds a touch of class and slightly mitigates the rustic grain leather, which adds to the versatility. I reckon I could wear these with strides from as casual as jeans and heavy chinos up to odd trousers or even suits in heavy fabric – maybe flannel or tweed. (I don’t own suits in flannel or tweed but they would certainly work with odd-jacket outfits with strides made from either!)

I prefer the look of eyelets over the speed hooks on some of the other Meermin models but it makes lacing up a bit of a challenge and that’s not helped by the ridiculously short laces they sent. The infamous nightmare Meermin break-in doesn’t seem to apply here as they were very comfortable right out of the box. I found that there’s a flex point near the top of the boots’ shaft so it’s more comfortable to forego using the top set of eyelets.

The stamping of the grain pattern on the toecap isn’t as aggressive as on the rest of the boot. I suspect that this may be a deliberate move by Meermin to facilitate those with the time, patience and desire to polish up a mirror shine on the toes. That’s not really my thing but it’s there for those who want it. My only other mini gripe is that the addition of a leather pull tab at the top of the rear seam – really just an extension of the backstrap – would have been a bonus in making them easier to don. Not a big deal.

So there’s my optimal cold-weather options. There’s not much about this ensemble that makes obvious references to the Mod look but in my view the military provenance of each item makes for a coherent outfit that does not cross the line into dress-up. Judge for yourselves if I managed to maintain a small element of style while coping with the elements. I certainly feel like this outfit reflects my own preferences much more than a brightly coloured nylon ski parka or other similar modern outdoor gear would, despite the reservations of those army lads I encountered many years ago!

I wore this entire rig recently on a trip to Buffalo NY so I could ‘field test’ my acquisitions, and I’m happy to report that I remained toasty despite the temperature never managing to creep above freezing.

If I ever do find myself suffering at the Stadium of Light one Boxing Day in the future I’m confident any suffering I’m made to endure will be more likely a result of the team’s performance, not due to the cold!

Solving The Cold Weather Conundrum With Military-Inspired Gear – Part Two: Jumper And Trousers

After acquiring my pea coat, my thoughts turned to what to wear with it to help stave off the cold.

Staying with a military theme, obvious choice would be a seaman’s roll neck sweater. Similar versions were worn by RAF pilots:

A crew neck and scarf probably offer a bit more versatility, with it being easier to doff the scarf once indoors and warmed up, than having to peel off the jumper. When I was a young lad working on a milk round through some brutal winters at the end of the seventies, my Dad was quite chuffed to see me sporting a blue-grey RAF ‘wooly pully’ jumper (with traditional canvas shoulder and elbow patches) to keep out the cold on those frigid early mornings. I searched for something like that …

… and I’m still searching for one in the right size and colour at the right price. They’re not so easily available this side of the pond and postage from the UK is a nightmare! I did get one delivered but it was too small so it was returned. Meanwhile someone tipped me off that a jumper similar to the off-white roll-neck as worn by James Garner above was on sale in Uniqlo so I grabbed this at a very reasonable price in their recent sale:

My preference is still for something in RAF blue-grey and it would contrast better as I’m not altogether satisfied with the near tone-on-tone effect with these beige trousers, but I’m still happy with the roll neck. It’s lightweight and not scratchy at all but still a very warm layer with which to face the elements.

I don’t have a lot of experience with roll necks but I found a nice detail in this one, in that the height of the neck allows you the option of turning it down twice to have a bit more ‘breathing space’ or just the once for a bit more protection from the elements …

Trousers for a foul weather situation can be tricky. Traditional cotton strides like jeans and chinos are rubbish in cold, wet weather as cotton is not well suited to keeping the wearer warm and dry. I’d learned that outdoorsy brands like Lands End and LL Bean sell chinos with toasty flannel linings which might fit the bill against the cold but I’m not sure how well they would work in the rain. Aside from getting some waterproof shell suit style over-trousers there aren’t a lot of wet weather options. I’ve heard of a brand named ‘Outlier’ who make strides which look like chinos or five-pocket jeans but are made of some kind of breathable man-made waterproof goretex-type material which may bear a closer investigation. Anyway I did some roaming on the internet and ended up with these Eddie Bauer fleece-lined chinos for only $40.

They’re not particularly stylish but they at least share a distant military provenance with the pea coat. They are a bit unimaginative compared to my usually more colourful threads, but I refer back to the trade-off in style versus comfort in cold weather. They should work well as long as I don’t get caught in a downpour.

In order to provide a bit of contrast between jumper and strides I ended up throwing down for a second pair in their only other colour which is a charcoal grey

So if/when I find a blue-grey wooly pully I’ll have the option to wear it with the beige strides, or the cream seaman’s jumper with the charcoal strides.

The beige version came with a red and black tartan lining, the charcoal just had plain black lining. Wearing chinos with boots gives you the option to roll them up without them looking like ‘high waters’. Both colour strides are not very inspiring to me which may explain why people like to display the brighter inner fleece but I don’t think that’s for me!

Solving The Cold Weather Conundrum With Military-Inspired Gear – Part One: The Pea Coat

I often say that at the extremes of temperature – both hot and cold – there comes a point at which style has to take a back seat to comfort. Those of us enamoured with Mod style don’t find the transition easy and we can be reluctant to succumb to the needs of the environment which usually results in some level of suffering. With winter approaching it got me thinking of how to survive when the mercury dips, without completely abandoning all allegiance to style.

The last time I went home to England in the winter was at Christmas 2008. It’s a tradition to go to the football match on Boxing Day. Even though I’d dug out a few items from the scantly-stocked winter clothes section of my wardrobe for the trip home, I remember willing the final whistle to be blown. Was that because the entertainment (I’m being kind here, this was Sunderland!) was in short supply, or because I was feeezing my arse off? Maybe a bit of both!

I have only a few items in my closet which can’t claim at least some tenuous link to Mod style. My leather winter coat is one of them. I’m not even sure what you’d call this style of coat. It’s somewhat similar to what my Mam would call a ‘car coat’. Some mates used to sift through the racks of 1950s American varsity jackets in Flip to try and unearth a similarly cut vintage gem. Those were usually tan or brown corduroy with a fake sheepskin lining to get that Roddy Frame of Aztec Camera look.

Mine is in soft pebble grain leather, but even with the zip-out Thinsulate lining zipped in it was no match for the North Sea winds blasting around the Stadium of Light in late December.

This got me wondering what would be a better choice if I were to find myself in a similar predicament, and the best answer I could come up with in providing the warmth without abandoning all style was the trusty naval pea coat, otherwise known as a reefer jacket.

I generally enjoy the fact that there’s a military provenance in so much of what we wear, from the obvious (olive drab parkas, flight / bomber jackets, aviator sunglasses) to the more subtle (silk stripes on the outseam of dinner suit strides).

When I was an undergrad in England a few of us went on a camping trip to the Lake District and once we’d set up camp we noticed some other lads had set up not far from us. We went over for a chat and it turned out they were army lads on leave. I expressed my surprise that none of them were wearing any military gear at all and asked why, seeing as military gear was supposedly designed for comfort and utility ‘in the field’. They replied that all their issued gear either did not last and/or was not fit for purpose which was a disappointment to me since I have a sort of reverence for the form-follows-function aspect of many items of military-designed gear. This was 1989 and things may have changed since then for squaddies but I’ve still preferred military style over the primary colours and man-made fabrics of more modern outdoor equipment. So for protection from the harshest elements for a long time I’ve liked the look of naval pea coats.

Variations of pea coats have been worn by navies throughout the world for decades which is a testament to their practicality in harsh conditions. I did a bit of research and found that the term originated from ‘pij’ cloth from the Netherlands. Jackets in this style were worn as long ago as the age of sail, with their short length being practical for crewmen when they needed to scramble up the masts and tend to the rigging. As with so many items, quality of manufacture has deteriorated over the years.

The trendiness of pea coats waxes and wanes from year to year but they are never completely out of style so there is usually a wide variety in terms of quality, price, fabrics and colours available, from cheap and flimsy mall brands through ‘designer’ labelled versions and on up to the very expensive military replicas by the likes of Schott, Buzz Rockson and Real McCoy. Still, among the most sought-after are the vintage US Navy versions made in the sixties from heavyweight 100 percent ‘Kersey’ wool before the suppliers started to scrimp on cloth weight and wool content.

I contemplated getting a pea coat for a few years but never looked too hard as I didn’t feel like I had the need, beyond my rare forays to the northern states in the winter for work, along with the slim likelihood of me heading back to England for Christmas some year in the future. But last year during some idle roaming on eBay I spotted this one and for only $40 shipped I couldn’t pass it up.

This is a US Navy version in Kersey wool dating back to 1968 and judging by its condition either it was never issued or else it can’t have seen much action as the condition is near perfect. The pewter buttons aren’t original as they weren’t issued until 1974. For $10 I got a set of black plastic ones with the engraved ‘fouled anchor’ emblem but decided to keep the pewter buttons for now. I also chose to keep the Petty Officer First Class rank badge which lends an air of authenticity to the jacket, to show it’s not a high street knock-off.

The size is 38 but was very roomy so I had the side seams slimmed and the sleeves shortened – alterations which cost more than the coat! My aim was to try to keep it snug enough for warmth but with enough room for a thick jumper or even a blazer to fit underneath if I wear this for a work trip.