Rod’s Togs – Casual Ivy

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.

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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:

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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!


Sunglasses – Garrett Leight Harding
Shirt – Kamakura
Strides – J. Crew Factory
Loafers – Cheaney

 

Rod’s Togs – Out For Dinner In Linen

The coolest outfit I own, in terms of temperature not stylistic finesse, is usually some combination like this. A loose linen shirt, loose linen strides and driving mocs, with the best accessory of all!
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Sunglasses – TAG Heuer with custom blue lenses
Shirt – Uniqlo
Strides – J. Crew
Driving mocs – Ralph Lauren Polo

More On Trainers – Continued

These days it seems trendy for people in menswear-related social media to stand in defiance of the inevitable ultra-casual working-from-home kit, and post pics of themselves in ultra-formal businesswear … while working from home!

If that’s what it takes to get in the correct frame of mind for working from the comfort of home so be it, but I’ve been working from home several days a week for many years now and I don’t feel the need to ‘dress up’ for the commute across the landing to the home-office.

When not travelling for work, as has been the case for several weeks – my day usually starts with dropping the youngun off at daycare then getting down to business in front of the computer.  All my conference calls are voice only, no video, so I’m usually kitted out in something like this:

I brought up the subject of trainers a long time ago in this post, and this one, and my views haven’t changed much since then. I always believed that classic-styled trainers of the style like adidas Gazelles or Stan Smiths which date back to the mid-sixties may not have been easily available to early adherents to Mod style but if they were, then they would have been adopted with enthusiasm.

Some people don’t think that trainers are really canon to Mods. I accept that the earliest stylists most likely only considered themselves ‘dressed’ when they were dressed up in suit and tie and would have seen no place for trainers and other casual items, but as the style spread and became less elitist and more egalitarian, certain trainers would have been the perfect complement to Levi’s, especially if worn with polo shirts and monkey jackets – two other items adopted from the world of sportswear.

I often refer to Richard Barnes as perhaps the most notable – and contemporaneous – chronicler of the original Mods. He clearly states “T-shirts … were considered very new and ‘in’ worn with Levi’s and sneakers”.  Later he writes, “Running sneakers looked good with Levi’s and Fred Perrys or T-shirts”. That just about describes my regular weekend or working from home outfit as shown above! ‘Sneakers’ can cover a broad range of footwear – this pic from his book shows at least two lads in what we used to call ‘deck shoes’ – navy canvas plimsolls – but it’s certainly not a stretch to believe that more structured trainers could and would have been worn:

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To support my position further I often cite the story of Pete Meaden buying boxing boots for John Entwistle from the Lonsdale shop around the corner from Carnaby Street. There was a cycling shop still in existence on Beak Street when I first visited Carnaby Street in 1980 where 1960s Mods may have bought cycling shirts and vintage style cycling shoes which resembled some vintage trainers in the early sixties.

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I came across further evidence in the excellent book ‘Mods – A New Religion’ by Paul Anderson in which he includes the following photo of two Mods outside The Scene nightclub, one of whom is clearly wearing old style canvas basketball boots with rubber toecaps:

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Then recently my cyber-pal Yorky posted this pic (below left) over on Styleforum. The driver is clearly wearing adidas shoes in a vintage Gazelle-esque style. Any sneaker geeks looking in may feel free to educate me on exactly which model they are – perhaps adidas Chile which I believe were released to coincide with the World Cup in Chile in 1962. (I’m not sure if the pic was colourised. If that was the case we can’t be sure of the colour accuracy).

Anyway it becomes more clear that some original sixties Mods did wear trainers. The whole debate is all a bit silly really as we are all free to wear whatever we want and if nobody tried anything new or pushed the envelope then we’d be constrained to a narrow uniform and where’s the fun in that? For those who choose not to wear trainers that’s entirely their prerogative but for me, along with desert boots there is no better footwear to go with Levi’s and a polo shirt.

Sunglasses – Oliver Peoples Jaye
Polo – Fred Perry MiE
Jeans – Uniqlo
Trainers – adidas Padiham

Sunglasses Part Four: Randolph Engineering

I’ve written about sunglasses before: Ray Ban Wayfarers in Sunglasses Part One, Ray Ban Aviators in Sunglasses Part Two and Moscot in Sunglasses Part Three. Among my collection of shades I also have several pairs from Randolph Engineering.

Randolph seems to be in a public relations tussle with American Optical as they both lay claim to being the sunglasses supplied to US forces. It seems similar to the dual claims of Victorinox and Wenger, makers of Swiss Army knives. as they claimed to be the “original” and the “genuine” knife respectively … until Victorinox settled the whole thing by buying Wenger in 2005!

As contracts to supply US forces are not endless and can flip between manufacturers it seems that both companies have been official suppliers at one time, so they can both claim to be the real deal. American Optical currently goes with “original” while Randolph Engineering claims to be “authentic”. I believe in all fairness that AO got the original contract in 1958 to supply these now familiar square-framed glasses, while RE joined the fray in 1978.

I have experience of both brands. My own history is that having lost my original pair of Ray Ban Wayfarers in 1999 which I’d worn for ten years, I asked my then-girlfriend to buy me some American Optical aviators for my birthday in November that year. They were available for about $40 from the military surplus store, so I chose black coated frames and grey lenses.

I have to say I was disappointed. The hinges worked loose in a short time and the black frame coating started to chip away, revealing that teal-green colour of oxidation beneath. They also came in a poor quality soft poly-vinyl case with a Velcro fastening – not very robust or secure. I only kept these a matter of months. There is no photographic evidence of me wearing them and I don’t even remember their fate – either passed on, donated or dumped! I do remember as early as Spring 2000 being in Las Vegas on a work trip and scouting round the forum shops (unsuccessfully) in Caesar’s Palace looking for new shades.

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I think my next pair of shades was a pair of budget Ray Ban B&L I’s later in 2000 before a return to the old faithful Wayfarers, but I’ve always had a sneaking admiration for the form-follows-function utility of military-inspired gear (note my admiration for my Dad’s RAF issue aviators in Sunglasses – Part Two) so several years later I gave the Randolph Engineering version a try.

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I don’t remember how much I paid but it was more than $40! First I got the standard chrome frames with grey glass lenses but some time later RE came out with matt grey metal frames to which I took a liking, so I gave the chrome ones to a mate and got the matt greys. Notice in the picture above that these were acquired before Randolph jumped on the bandwagon of branding their emblem on the lenses. Anyway, they felt a lot more robust than the AO version, with stiffer hinges and even came with a mini tool kit with screwdrivers, extra screws and nose pads.

This picture below is from July 2010 on the day I proposed to my wife in Paris and both sunglasses and wife look just as good now ten years on. I’ve since acquired many other pairs of shades so they don’t get daily use! The metal frames do not feel heavy to wear and the silicone nose pads are soft and grippy.

With Barb at The Louvre, Paris, July, 2010.

The square style of aviators came in during the late 1950s, replacing the teardrop shape of classic aviators. At this time pilots were being issued with crash helmets to wear in flight, to protect them from injury should they have to eject. (Unfortunately that still didn’t help Goose!). The cable ear pieces of those old aviator glasses were no longer appropriate for use with a helmet, hence the straight ‘bayonet’ style arms allowing easy on and off while wearing a helmet and breathing gear.

My original intention on getting this style of sunglasses was to wear these with my crash helmet when I’m riding but I found that above fifty miles per hour the wind gets behind them causing my eyes to stream so they are only worn now when I’m walking.

I was impressed enough with Randolph to become a repeat buyer. Some time later I got their ‘Concorde’ model which is in the traditional teardrop shape with standard ear pieces. I again got these in matt grey frames with grey glass, and deliberately chose them in a small size to contrast with other larger Ray Ban aviators I own. Note that by the time I acquired these the lenses were branded.

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I also got a pair of Randolph Crew Chief which is a slightly larger, rounder teardrop shape with green glass lenses and chrome frames with spring hinges, making them really comfortable to wear.

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A quick look at respective websites reveals that prices have jumped up in the twenty plus years since I first looked into the square aviator style. AO are currently $149, while RE are $219. Randolph now seems to have a wider range of options in terms of size, frame material and lens type and colour.

Strangely neither AO nor RE were used in the iconic film ‘Top Gun’ even though they were military issue at the time. Ray Ban paid for their own product placement in that film which I’m sure was a good investment as the film is credited with boosting their sales. The nearest to the square frame style is the Ray Ban Caravan worn by Tom Skerrit as Viper. They are a similar square shape to the AO/RE style but as we see him clean these glasses when Maverick goes to visit him to discuss his options following the death of Goose, we see they have L-shaped ear pieces so are not regulation issue.

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Square military-issue aviators have been on display in pop culture, perhaps most infamously by Robert de Niro as Travis Bickle famously descends into rage and psychosis in ‘Taxi Driver’:

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Sales may have gotten a boost when we saw John Hamm wear them as Don Draper in ‘Mad Men’:

‘Spy Game’ is an underrated espionage thriller in which we see Robert Redford sporting similar shades:

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It seems that these shades are deployed by cinema and TV costumers either to hint at a character’s military background, or in the case of Robert Duvall as Colonel Kilgore in ‘Apocalypse Now’, for active duty military characters:
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I used to work with a doctor who had previously been a USAF Flight Surgeon, and he wore this style of frame daily with his clear prescription lenses fitted, which was a good look. I’m reaching that vintage at which my sight is inevitably starting to deteriorate so I’ve had prescription lenses fitted into two pairs of Randolph Elite frames to sharpen up my distance vision while driving. These have small rectangular-shaped lenses and spring hinges. I got photochromic lenses in gunmetal frames with a clip-on tinted frame, and grey flash tints in a black frame. I chose to get polycarbonate lenses rather than the glass as supplied by Randolph making them very lightweight and comfortable to wear.

Rod’s Togs – Rust Jacket With Blue Check

Do you ever get an idea for a piece of clothing, seeing it in your mind’s eye, and then get obsessive about acquiring it? It happens to me quite frequently, sometimes with more than one desire at a time overlapping each other causing multiple concurrent quests! Several years ago I had spotted a picture of a rusty brick-red winter weight jacket and found myself on a mission, trawling eBay in search of my holy-grail-of-the-month. I did eventually find what I wanted, but along the way I came across this rusty brick-red summer weight jacket which I’ve featured earlier.  It’s completely unlined linen and was BNWT for the princely sum of $25 so I snapped it up.

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I put together the accessories to make the outfit above which I was content with in terms of colours, textures, etc. but I found I wore it very seldom. After a bit of self-reflection I think it was because I didn’t really take to having such an unconstructed jacket in a business ensemble. So more recently I began a new mission of low intensity in trying to one day find a suitable replacement that would maintain the other items of the outfit but with a jacket of better quality and fit.
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Well, I finally found the one above in a menswear mail-order catalogue. I didn’t get anything like as good a deal as I did on the original linen version but I like the added interest of the blue overcheck. The picture in the catalogue had rubbish pattern matching of the chest pocket due to the front dart, so I was glad to see they had done a better job on mine.

My original thought was just to replace the new jacket in the outfit and get round to selling the old one on eBay. The new jacket is in a wool-linen-silk mix with just a ‘butterfly’ lining plus lined sleeves, but it has a bit more structure and body which is more appropriate for a business outfit. Then I got to thinking I had some blue linen strides that would pick up the same colour of the check pattern, and started to wonder how this outfit might look in a more casual rig:

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So for the moment I can’t decide whether or not to keep the original rust linen jacket. Nor can I decide if the checked version is better with a tie or in the more casual outfit – comments are welcome!

I’ll probably keep them both for now. Maybe the checked jacket will prove itself a versatile item that can be worn in a casual mode for air travel on a work trip, and recycled later in the trip for a job site visit with shirt and tie, which is exactly what I’ve been known to do with a navy blazer. Anyway since coronavirus has now been cancelled (!) I’ll be returning to the road in July so I may soon have more opportunities to try this plan.

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Sunglasses – Garrett Leight Harding
Rust unlined linen Jacket – Joseph Abboud
Sky blue Prince of Wales Shirt – Tyrwhitt
Tie – Tyrwhitt
Pocket Square – Nieman Last Call
Silver-grey linen strides – INC (Macys’s)
Socks – Uniqlo
Chestnut grain loafers – Cheaney

Sunglasses – Garrett Leight Harding
Rust wool-linen-silk jacket with blue check – Patrick James
Navy pique ‘ice weave’ shirt – Kamakura
Dark blue silk pocket square  – no name
Sly blue linen strides – Hilfiger
Socks – Uniqlo
Chestnut grain loafers – Cheaney

New Wallet And Key Ring

As my wardrobe may be reaching close to saturation point – both in terms of what it can accommodate space-wise and what I feel I need to acquire –  it’s only natural to apply notions of style to other aspects of life in addition to clothes.

So recently I took advantage of a sale at Chester Mox, which is a luxury online leather goods shop. The website lists and showcases a wide range of wallet permutations but you can also specify your own preferences to customise details – both features and colours.

Mobile phones allow us to carry less and less in the way of cash and cards these days. Does anyone remember George Costanza’s ‘exploding wallet’ from Seinfeld?  That’s the complete opposite of my needs!

Some time ago I wrote about ‘Every Day Carry’ items – the essential things we take with us whenever we leave the house – and I mentioned how I prefer to carry as little as possible. There’s less chance of losing important stuff and less chance of creating lumps in your pockets and ruining the lines of your suit!

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For me, absolute essentials without which I can’t leave the house are pared down to iPhone, keys and wallet, (and during the daytime – sunglasses!). My every day wallet contains driving licence, insurance card, credit card and ATM card, along with a cash slot. My key ring has only two keys for car and front door, and a fob with my mobile phone number engraved on the reverse side.  I don’t intend to be swapping the contents of my wallet and key ring to multiple alternative versions with any sort of frequency, but for certain social occasions when I’m suited up and wish to carry the absolute minimum, I can reduce my every day carry even further by using a more formal card holder and key ring.

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I opted for ‘Slim Wallet # 57’ which is a minimalist card holder with slots for two cards on one side, plus an inner compartment for folded paper money. I customised this with an ID window for my driving licence on the reverse side. All of this chosen in my favourite royal blue colour with ‘mandarina’ orange accents.

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I also got a key fob to match in the same blue and orange.

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Chester Mox will include monograms on the leather in either shadow punch, silver or gold.  I also got my name and mobile phone number engraved on the key ring so if found by a Good Samaritan they can call me to return the keys. The quality of these items is top drawer with very precise hand stitching all around. As I don’t intend to be using these on a daily basis I see no reason why they won’t provide decades of use. Day to day I typically carry my wallet in my rear right trouser pocket. It’s slim enough to be unobtrusive – usually – but with certain trousers like my Levi’s it tends to be in a poor position for when I’m sitting. A card holder as small as this new one could be carried in front trouser pockets or any tailored jacket pockets without causing unsightly bulges, and will add just an extra touch of style when it’s time to pay the bill or hand the car keys to the parking valet. 

Rod’s Togs – The Sky Blue Monkey Jacket

I bought a blue denim Levi’s trucker jacket in Leeds market in 1988 and I still own it now. I can’t remember the last time I wore it – probably not since the double-denim look (the Canadian tuxedo!) began to be frowned upon in style circles several years ago. I’ve mentioned before that in Florida you can live without a jacket for most of the year and as I’ve acquired more alternatives that means less opportunities for each to get worn.

Most people of my Dad’s generation never wore jeans. Some looked upon denim as prison-wear. I recall James Brown saying he had to wear denim when he was incarcerated as a young man and swore he would never do so once he was released – because it couldn’t hold a crease! Others of my Dad’s era I suppose saw denim as clothing for the youth, which were usually given a bad rap in popular culture, such as in films like ‘Reefer Madness’ or ‘The Wild One’.

Instead of denim trucker jackets, gents who had served in the military and had a liking for any of the variety of short blouson type jackets of military origin replicated that look in their civilian wardrobe. My dad wore an off white golf jacket for many years, and later acquired a similar style in navy, as did I.

(Me second from left in the right hand picture)

I don’t recall seeing much evidence of sixties Mods wearing blue denim jackets. They may have been more popular during the revival, but they have a closer association with Skins, Boot Boys, bikers, scooter boys and heavy metal fans (heavily embroidered). Windcheaters / windbreakers, Harringtons and monkey jackets are a step higher in formality than denim trucker jackets and just look a bit more sharp and polished which suits the Mod aesthetic. Worn with either a polo or Breton shirt, jeans or sta pressts, and desert boots or classic trainers they add a layer against the weather that could work through three seasons in the British climate.

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My first attempt in recent years at acquiring a monkey jacket initially involved a search in vain for a white Fred Perry ‘tennis bomber’. Since these only seem to be available on limited release, I gave up the search and settled for one by David Watts as shown above. This was not a bad compromise in terms of quality versus price but the hankering for the real thing persisted until whatever mysterious stimulus required by Fred Perry to permit a re-release occurred and I finally got one of theirs.
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I wore this on my trip to England in 2017 and while it served me well in the late summer weather there, my effusive sister-in-law gave me a big hug when we met and smeared brown makeup on the front. Luckily that mark came out in the wash but got me thinking that in certain predicaments a colour less susceptible to marks than pristine white might be more practical. Sky blue would fill an unmet ‘need’ in my choices of lightweight casual jackets.

So of course I turned to Fred Perry and the other sites which distribute their brand, and of course their last release of the sky blue tennis bomber as shown above was back in early 2018. They’ve since been discontinued and are no longer available anywhere. Trust me – I’ve looked! I was faced again with the choice of looking for a decent replica or patiently waiting until the Fred Perry versions next become available, whenever that might be. I even went to the new Fred Perry showroom in New York City to see if sky blue versions were likely to reappear but the lady there said that she’d seen all the examples of upcoming releases and sky blue tennis bombers were not among them. Further internet searching didn’t help so I was back to the same dilemma which I’d faced before.

David Watts never did a sky blue version and a quick look at their website gives the impression that they are barely hanging on to their niche in the market. Inventory is sparse and not particularly impressive.

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I have a few pairs of sta pressts from Relco and they also do monkey jackets in several colours including sky blue, (see above) available from Adaptor Clothing, but they give the impression of being a blousey fit which is not what I’m after.

In my searching I came across the Real Hoxton monkey jacket which is available in a range of colours (see above).  There’s a very fetching deeper light blue but I didn’t care for the monochrome coloured knitted elastic trims, so I went for the lighter sky blue colour which comes with navy, red and white trim – coincidentally a close approximation of the Fred Perry jacket.

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Mine was delivered recently and I have to say I’m very happy with it. I went for the medium size and it fits me very well. Even the arms are about the right length with little to no bunching in the sleeves, which I find to be a common trait among monkey jackets and Harrington jackets. The material is a lightweight cotton with a soft hand and slightly ‘peachy’ texture and the jacket is made a bit more chill proof with a nylon tonic lining. The metal zip seems sturdy and the slim but not skinny fit means no blousing around the waist and rear. Aside from the lack of logo, raglan as opposed to set-in sleeves, and the addition of knitted piping on the lower hem, from five feet away there’s little to tell the difference between this one and a Fred Perry and it comes in at a fraction of the cost. If and when Fred Perry releases their sky blue version again I can’t say I wouldn’t chase one down if the price was right, but I admit it would be a bit silly to pursue one for the name and emblem only when this Hoxton version is a very close and decent copy – cheaper in terms of price but certainly not in terms of quality.

Sunglasses – Ray Ban Wayfarers
Jacket – Real Hoxton
Polo – Fred Perry
Strides – Levi’s 501
Trainers – adidas Samba World Cup Edition

Rod’s Togs – The Crested Blazer

With F/Lt Stevens on leave, Torquay, June, 1948

I really like this picture of my Dad from his RAF days,  (that’s him aged 27 on the right), which is captioned ‘With Flight Lieutenant Stevens on leave in Torquay, June 1948’. Notice he’s out-of-uniform but still sporting a dark blazer with the RAF badge on the chest pocket. I have a vague and distant memory of seeing this blazer when I was a kid but by the time I was old enough to remember such things more distinctly the blazer was history – either worn out, out of fashion or no longer fitting well.

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In the picture above from a holiday to Scotland in Summer 1967 Dad is on the left next to his best mate (and ground crew mechanic) Larry Newton. Both are wearing c
omedy deerstalkers bought for a laugh and Larry is sporting his own version of the blazer with RAF badge. (Yours truly is in the hooped polo shirt in the front row).
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These pictures got me thinking about crested blazers. You’ve got to give credit to Ralph Lauren for forging and maintaining an enormous clothing empire for several decades amid the shifting sands of the capricious fashion business. A continuing theme of his designs is the nexus of olde worlde English tradition combined with american trad and by extension preppy style.

Enduring components of the prevalent English theme in Lauren’s style include his appropriation of regimental striped ties, and his collections have often featured some version of the crested navy blue blazer. He even invented an ‘old school’ type crest for these Lauren blazers.  No surprise that he was chosen to redesign the line judges’ livery at Wimbledon.

I have a bit of a soft spot for that old English style myself. By the time I got to my secondary school it had been converted into a ‘comprehensive’ but still had a few vestiges of its grammar school past. We had a uniform of grey strides, blue shirt, striped tie and navy blazer with an embroidered Phoenix on the chest pocket. Sixth form prefects had the white piping stitched around their lapels. Ralph Lauren’s dream!

There was a bit of a revival of this look in the late eighties – a time when lads going out on a weekend still wore jackets and occasionally even ties. I used to think it amusing that fellas who would have hated their school uniform and done anything to get out of it a few years previously were now adopting a very similar look voluntarily. Even the bouncers at the excellent and late-lamented ‘Chambers’ nightclub in my home town had a uniform of navy blazers replete with chest pocket badges and cream chinos.

There’s a strong association between sports and blazers. In the book ‘Rowing Blazers’ by Jack Carlson he makes the case that the origin of blazers was with rowing clubs not with any naval affiliation. Either way, the sporting origin of blazers doesn’t necessarily result in a desirable outcome.  As Pete Aron in the excellent 1966 film ‘Grand Prix’, James Garner is forced to ‘go corporate’ but never quite looks comfortable in the maroon blazer he’s forced to wear as a media commentator while he’s between driving jobs.

The ‘green jacket’ given to winners of the Masters golf tournament is quite subdued, but the same can’t be said to the version awarded to inductees into the NFL Hall of Fame.

And then there are the hosts of the ‘Men In Blazers’ football (soccer) pundit show who have taken the look beyond parody, wearing blazers with a blazer badge consisting of two blazers and the Latin slogan ‘Vire recte vestiti’ which translates to ‘well dressed men’:

After the sixth form I went to college at Carnegie Leeds which had a great sports reputation. Anyone who played on the teams was encouraged to get the blazer with the Carnegie college crest of the ancient greek ‘discobolus’ for travelling to and from games. I didn’t like the style of the jackets (two button), but there was an option to get the silver bullion badge and put it on your own blazer. I was as proud as any young graduate should be when I matriculated in 1989 and was hoping the reputation of the place would stand me in good stead for my future. I then moved to America for graduate school where nobody knew nor cared a thing about Carnegie College!

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Still, my first ever custom commission was a blazer ordered to accommodate the college badge. Not being very clued up at the time, I spent an obscene amount of money at Brooks Brothers for a heavy wool made-to-measure blazer which fit poorly and which I wore very rarely. Another bad custom experience which was repeated when I commissioned my wedding suit from an independent tailor.

I then got this blazer made-to-measure a few years later at Bachrach with much lighter weight wool and somewhat better results, and transferred the badge onto this one. My favourite professor and mentor with whom I’d stayed in contact over the years heard about my tailoring adventures and cut the crested buttons off his own blazer and sent them to me. He came to our wedding in 2012 and sadly died the following year, thus giving extra sentimental value to wearing this.

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There was talk at one time of renaming the entire Leeds Metropolitan University ‘Carnegie Leeds’ but that idea was eventually vetoed in favour of ‘Leeds Beckett’ so it appears that the Carnegie name, reputation and discobolus crest are now consigned to the history books. Dusting off my blazer, which is a good weight for breezy spring weather, might serve to provoke an interesting talking point, but won’t open any doors for me! As we progress through life our work experience eclipses any cachet gained from the reputation of our seats of higher learning, which is how it should be.

The badge is made of real silver wires and can obviously come off as a little ostentatious so I don’t mind that over time it’s gained that tarnished patina which calms the look down. Back at college we’d usually wear our crested ties too, but this may seem ‘de trop’ with the discobolus displayed on tie, blazer badge and buttons. Nowadays I’m more likely to wear some other repp striped tie instead.


Sunglasses – Randolph Engineering Crew Chief
Blazer – Bachrach made-to-measure
Shirt – Tyrwhitt
Tie – Carnegie / Tyrwhitt
Strides – Banana Republic
Chelsea Boots – Carmina

 

Chelsea Boots – Part Five

My first ever post on the blog made back in October 2014 was entitled ‘Chelsea Boots’. I discussed a recent acquisition of Chelsea boots in black calf. ‘Chelsea Boots – Part Two‘ showed my new Meermin snuff suedes, ‘Chelsea Boots – Part Three’ my Carmina version in burgundy calf and ‘Chelsea Boots – Part Four‘ my dark burgundy horsehide boots from Epaulet.

At that point I thought I was done! I should have known better! Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed a cool pair of blue calf Chelsea boots which I got online from Arthur Knight, a footwear retailer in England. I came across this great colour pair of boots whilst roaming online and luckily they fit me very well. They can be dressed up or down but I tend to wear them with my royal blue windowpane blazer, and so far I’m very happy with them.


Did you think I was done with Chelseas then, at five pairs? Think again! That first pair I bought back in 2014 – I knew they were not ‘top drawer’ quality having got them from Aldo, a High Street / mall brand of footwear retailers here in America. Still, despite their less than stellar construction and provenance, they weren’t cheap, and I threw some extra money at them to get a rubber Vibram sole applied by a cobbler to make them a bit more useful in wet weather.

I mentioned in one of the previous Chelsea Boots posts that I didn’t wear this pair very often, maybe eight to ten times over the years, and did not do a lot of walking in them. Then a few months ago I wore them when I was in New York City for work and had a bit of extra time to go shopping. I was trying on some shoes in a shop on Madison Avenue when I removed the boots and was embarrassed to see my black socks covered in some weird tan-coloured detritus. I quickly realised this was the inner lining of those Aldo boots deteriorating with wear. That old adage about ‘buy cheap – buy twice’ came back to me … and they weren’t even THAT cheap!

Anyway I swiftly took myself downtown to the Meermin showroom. It’s not an easy place to find on the second floor of a building on the north end of Greene Street in the East Village, but it’s a nice, bright, spacious area with most of their shoe and boot models out on display. The bonus of course being that you get to try on shoes rather than spin the internet shoe size tombola wheel. Surfing the Meermin website you may find no less than five black calf versions of Chelsea boots. I tried a few on and settled for this pair in black ‘soft calf’ with a single width rubber sole.

Meermin shoes seem to be getting a bit of a reputation for being very hard to break in but that was not the case for these. They felt so good at first fitting that I abandoned the deteriorating Aldo boots and walked out of the shop in the new Meermins.  The ‘soft calf’ construction along with the rubber ‘city sole’ – which is much more forgiving than the Dainite soul I have on the snuff suede versions – combine to provide a very short break in and comfortable wearing almost out of the box.

One of the attractions of Chelsea boots is that they come in a broad formality range, from clunky RM Williams and Blundstones which are very rustic and informal, to those made by Edward Green and Crockett and Jones which come with sleek lasts, single leather soles and polished calf.  These Meermins sit somewhere in the middle of the formality scale, with wholecut construction, narrow, slightly rounded last and single width rubber soles. The leather has a subtle gleam as opposed to a high mirror shine, all of which contribute to the versatility. I could see myself wearing these with blue jeans, a blazer and sta-pressts, even a dark suit.

Rod’s Togs – Inspired By The Duke Of Wellington

There’s a nice little inside joke in the first James Bond film ‘Doctor No’ where Bond having been taken prisoner, sees the famous Goya painting of the Iron Duke in the villain’s secret underground lair and does a double-take. In the real world that painting had famously been stolen at the time the film was being made.

Anyway I came across a picture of that Duke’s descendent, the late 8th Duke, which I thought showed a great outfit. I don’t know much about this fella but in these pics he seems to set a good example of upper-crust classic English country-casual. A lovat green jacket with windowpane overcheck made up of blue and cream lines which pick up the blue shirt and tie and the light beige strides. We’ll overlook the egregious mis-match of belt and shoes, some tan country calf or brown suede footwear would have fitted the bill much better!

Anyway this look is not a long way removed from an updated version of the type of clothes we see the Earl of Grantham and family kitted out with in ‘Downton Abbey’ in which softly-tailored green tweed abounds:

I filed this image away in my memory as a general look worth pursuing at some point, until recently when I happened to be checking in with the DNA Groove website and came across this beauty. A softly-tailored lovat green hopsack wool jacket with feint overchecks in rusty orange and beige:

FD9D1FB5-2A3A-44A3-9CE7-1B7DD56C07F2Claudio tells me he’s shifting his business plan towards doing more made-to-order stuff as opposed to straight up off-the-rack so I may have been lucky to grab this. I have another DNA Groove jacket in purple linen so had a good idea of my size, and it turned out that the new one fitted me very well. The surgeons’ cuffs were left unfinished which allowed my local tailor to adjust the sleeve length but that, along with removing the flaps from the patch-and-flap hip pockets were the only alterations needed.

In a similar detail to the Thick As Thieves blazer I had made recently, this jacket’s lapel also has a really sweet roll above the top button. It’s all wool so I originally thought it would be a winter-weight jacket but it’s actually a light-weight open hopsack weave with nice texture, so will be worn on warm spring and autumn days. I thought about Cavalry twills or heavy chinos to wear with this – either would be appropriate, but in matching up the warm-weather utility of the jacket I decided to go with these tropical wool strides from Howard Yount. I could wear my loafers in chestnut, tan or polo suede too but thought that these little-used jodhpur boots would be in keeping with the rural theme going on here.

Sunglasses – Garrett Leight Harding
Jacket – DNA Groove
Shirt – The Tie Bar chambray
Tie – Sam Hober
Pocket Square – The Tie Bar
Strides – Howard Yount
Jodhpurs – Tricker’s

The ‘Contents’ Page

This is my 200th post on the blog. High time to get things in some kind of order. I always think it’s a bit sad that we live in such an age of immediacy that so much of interest gets lost in the abyss once it slides off the front page, and this is true of many blogs for which past posts just sink into oblivion.
So if you’re sitting at home bored and have some extra time to trawl the Internet, swing on over to the newly updated ‘Contents’ Page of this blog (linked here and on the front page menu). I’ve gone back and tidied up the formatting and related links in a lot of older posts, and arranged them in chronological order from day one in October 2014 to the present.  My intention is to continue to keep that page updated to make referencing any posts, old and new, a bit easier. Enjoy!

Mods’ – And Rod’s – View On Jeans

I refer to Richard Barnes quite often to get a contemporaneous idea of what was going on during the ‘golden age’ of the early sixties Mod period. He says that Levi’s jeans were coveted by Mods as they were very hard to get back then.  Some lads used to beg American servicemen to bring them over – along with obscure blues and soul records – after they’d visited home on leave. I can see how a sixties Mod would have scored a stash of one-upmanship points walking around London in American Levi’s if they were like hen’s teeth in England. Barnes writes that Levi’s “cost 42/6d [Two pounds and change!] … button fly fronted and stiff as cardboard when you first wore them. Kids had to sit in the bath and shrink them on. They used to scrub them and then later bleach them to get a faded look, the more bleached-looking the better.”

In Alan Fletcher’s novelisation of ‘Quadrophenia’ – hardly a work of unimpeachable accuracy since at one point he has Jimmy listening to the watery pop of ‘Concrete and Clay’ by Unit 4 Plus 2 – Steph mentions the new trend in Levi’s as “parallels, faded with patches”. I find this hard to believe and haven’t seen any evidence in pictures from the time. Later in the novel Jimmy sees Steph on the back of a Lambretta driven by the Acton Face who was wearing “… a full-length maroon suede and blue faded and patched Levi’s”. After shrinking-to-fit his new Levi’s in the bath, Jimmy “bleached them, bashed them about with a ponch, wore them and then dried them off in the sun”.  Patching up jeans seems more like the later hippy trend than for Mods to be wearing. In my childhood jeans often had patched knees but that was from the rough-and-tumble backstreet lifestyle of a pre-teen in the seventies, not from any desire or attempt to be fashionable.

Nowadays I find the ubiquity of blue jeans really boring. Of course I’m being hypocritical here as I do wear them myself sometimes but I try to limit their use because they’re just everywhere. Instead I prefer to wear white jeans, or else sta-pressts, chinos, linens, or five-pocket strides such as Levi’s 511 Commuters, all of which come with more colour choices and lighter weight than jeans.

As a kid my Mam wouldn’t buy me adidas so now all my trainers are adidas. Similarly we grew up with only Wranglers, Levi’s were very hard to come by in England ‘oop north’, so partly due to that I tend to lean towards Levi’s now. When we got Wranglers they were like cardboard and we hated them in that state. We used to put them in the wash every week whether dirty or clean to get them to soften up and wear in. Funny how that’s the opposite of what Jeans nerds do nowadays!

Then came a period when I was an early teenager that my Mam stopped buying me anything name brand. She considered it wasteful as I would grow out of it in no time. She didn’t apply this to my two older brothers – I guess she expected that their gear would get passed down and would get more use, but me being the youngest there was no-one to pass anything down to, so a lot of my duds were ‘off brand’. I’d get no-name jeans bought for me at some south Asian market stall.

A local chain then opened called ‘Geordie Jeans’ which were hugely popular for people all over the north east for a while, before inevitably their bubble burst and they were later regarded as cheap and tacky.

After my O Levels at age 16 I went with some mates for a week in London and got some Lee jeans at ‘Dickie Dirts’ – a big warehouse place that sold name brand jeans at knock down prices for a while until they also went under.

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Around this time my mate Phil said he was really bored with jeans and was going to limit wearing them. I agreed with this view and did likewise, so we took to wearing sta-pressts or suit trousers more often. That pair of Lee jeans from Dickie Dirts plus a pair of Jesus jeans that a mate gave me – having grown out of them due to his growing beer belly – saw me through college.

I did get a pair of black silver tab Levi’s 501 jeans when I was at college in Leeds, this would have been around the time that 501s were making a big comeback with some memorable retro-styled TV adverts featuring Nick Kamen and Motown soundtracks. This was a cash-in on the retro fifties/sixties trend that was sweeping through pop culture at the time and saw a resurgence in the popularity of plain white boxer shorts and Ray Ban Wayfarers along with 501s.

I remember buying my first pair of red tab Levi’s 501s (prefaded) during Spring Break of 1990 when I walked to the Galleria Mall from my flat in Houston. They lasted me for many years and I had several more pairs over the years of ‘standard’ 501s bought for around $20 to $25 at big box stores. They were so cheap compared to back home that when my brothers came to visit they would buy several pairs and store them up. At that time in London the same 501s were around the equivalent of $60 – three times the price of what they were in America!

After several years of having slipped into jeans-and-t-shirt mode, I gradually realised that faded jeans were fading out of fashion. Also, as I rededicated myself to Mod style, pre-faded stone wash jeans seemed at odds with the sharp look I was going for, so remembering my mate Phil’s words from 1981 I once again decided to try and limit my use of jeans.

These days I prefer white jeans and find them more useful in the Florida summer – I have some standard white 501s, which really could do with tapering, and some heavy white Levi’s Made and Crafted selvedge.

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I have two pairs of blue selvedge from Uniqlo – one every-day pair and another as yet unworn. The quality of these for the price is very good.

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I have two other blue selvedge by Levi’s – one pair are 511s made in Turkey which I thought were LVC but stand to be corrected on that. The other are 501XX big E made in USA, possibly at Cone Mills and maybe 1959 style with buried rivets in the top corners of the back pockets, but I don’t get caught up in that kind of minutia. I still tend to think of jeans as in most cases workwear or at the more extreme end of casual so not worth a lot of time, money, and obsessing over the details.

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I wear all my blue jeans rarely and I occasionally wash them in cold water on the gentle cycle and hang them up to dry.  I absolutely couldn’t be less interested in feathers, fades or whatever else, neither on my jeans nor anyone else’s. This ‘art’ of wearing raw jeans for months on end without washing just to get some pattern on them, to me is rank! I’d prefer to keep them dark navy with as little fade as possible for as long as possible.

I was a bit sad to learn that the Cone Mills factory – the famous source for many brands and the last American maker of selvedge jeans – had closed in 2017 and I thought about getting a pair while they were still available in back stock, but I’m not that bothered. I would have probably kept them, worn even less frequently than my others for sentimentality and that’s a bit silly. If you laid a pair of Cone Mills out among a bunch of other Levi’s I’m not sure I could even tell the difference.

I find attempts to ‘dress up’ jeans usually to be worthy of ridicule. At most they can be worn with a casual blazer but as I mentioned on a previous post about blazer and jeans, this look comes with a high degree of difficulty to avoid the Jeremy Clarkson look … or worse! 

Rod’s Togs -The Rugby Shirt

I would associate rugby shirts more with a Ralph Lauren photo spread than with Mod style. Lauren loves to take cues from ‘Olde English’ influences along with classic Ivy gear. But a retro style rugby shirt with a decent collar akin to that of a polo shirt means a rugby top like this functions in the same space as a long-sleeved polo.

I saw this among the racks of boating jackets when I was visiting the ‘Rowing Blazers’ shop in the Bowery neighbourhood of downtown New York City. It was more expensive than I wanted to pay but I fell in love with the colour scheme and couldn’t find one like it anywhere else. The TOFFS website had one somewhat similar at a lower price but they were out of stock and I wanted to wear it over the winter so I bought the Rowing Blazers one. At least I was able to to try it on and it fit perfectly without alteration. It’s very well made with thick beefy cotton and substantial stitching as you’d expect from a genuine-styled rugby shirt not a fashionable imitation.


Sunglasses – Tag Heuer
Rugby Shirt – Rowing Blazers
Strides – Levi’s 511 Commuters
Trainers – adidas Gazelles (custom)

Rod’s Togs – The ‘Goldfinger’ Dinner Jacket

It’s no secret I’ve been a fan of James Bond since I was a kid even though the quality of the series (and the threads) has waxed and waned over the decades. Richard Barnes notes that Connery’s portrayal of Bond was one of the few icons from the mainstream that sixties Mods admired.

The first time we see James Bond in the film series he’s playing cards in the casino dressed in the first of many midnight blue shawl collared dinner suits. A second Black Tie outfit is on display, worn by a Bond lookalike in the opening scene of ‘From Russia With Love’, and in the opening scenes of the third film ‘Goldfinger’ we see Connery in the revered tropical weather ecru dinner jacket, which is one of my favourite outfits from the entire canon.

More details and discussion on these outfits can be found on the excellent blog ‘The Suits of James Bond’ – http://www.bondsuits.com – run by my cyber-pal Matt Spaiser. See his breakdown of the details at: https://www.bondsuits.com/white-dinner-jacket-goldfinger/

I’ve written about Mod-influenced Black Tie before, and some readers may remember my attempt to emulate the look of Connery in Thunderball. I’ve also been trying to put together a close resemblance of the Goldfinger dinner suit for some time and now I finally have all the elements in place. I’ve been thinking about booking a cruise with my wife to the Caribbean for some time, and if we ever pull the trigger on that there will be a good chance I take this outfit along to wear for dinner at the more formal restaurant choices on board. If that happens I will try to provide some lifestyle pics, meanwhile these were just taken to check on fit.

My outfit has a very similar ecru jacket to Bond’s, with slim peak lapels and midnight blue strides. Differences in the details between my outfit and Bond’s include:
Fabric covered buttons instead of mother of pearl
Midnight blue batwing bow tie instead of black
Pleated plain poplin shirt instead of self-stripe
White braces rather than Daks side adjusters
Flat front strides instead of double forward pleats
Plain black calf slippers instead of elasticated side gore shoes


My own preferences would likely mean I would remove the replaceable button strip and use my mother of pearl studs, and include a textured white linen pocket square in the chest pocket.


Sunglasses – Tom Ford
Jacket – ebay
Shirt – Hugo Boss
Bow tie – The Tie Bar
Cuff links – Vintage (gift)
Strides – eBay
Braces – Albert Thurston
Socks – Uniqlo
Shoes – Meermin Mallorca MTO