Rod’s Togs – Sky Blue Polo And Sta-Pressts

Several years ago I was flying to New Orleans to attend the Essence Festival over the July 4th weekend. I was flying a lot for work at that time so had accrued enough status to be bumped up to first class. Sat next to me was a good-looking Black fellow. He was wearing a version of my own off-duty away-from-work ‘uniform’ – polo shirt and jeans. This is an outfit that can be bought on a very modest budget but there was something about his rig that just somehow elevated it above run-of-the-mill brands. I seem to remember he had dark brown leather driving loafers and a classy looking dark brown leather satchel. We chatted briefly and I said something like ‘nice outfit’. When the plane landed and came to a stop several girls from coach came forward and asked for a photo with him. This happened again at the baggage carousel and when I asked was told he was Hill Harper – perhaps not a household name but quite well known as an actor (‘CSI New York’), TV presenter (‘How It Really Happened’) and writer.

Anyway I frequently cite the example of his look to illustrate that people who dress tastefully don’t need to show off with obnoxious gimmicks and garish brand logos, it’s much more classy to be confident that your clothes speak for themselves. Your outfit doesn’t need to scream “THIS COST A LOT OF MONEY” – even if it did!

When I was a teenager during the revival period it was frowned upon to ‘steal’ another Mod’s look. There was a limited amount of resources for us to buy our gear, and as we seemed to move in the same circles within our town (coffee bars, discos, sea front, etc) it would have been a huge faux pas to be seen wearing the same gear that someone else had already established as their own. So it was an unspoken rule that we would avoid acquiring certain items that others in the group already had.

Nowadays I have no such morals, and I’m happy to admit to … let’s call it ‘being influenced by’ and then ‘emulating’ a good outfit. Recently my cyber-pal Agiris posted this picture on Styleforum which is another example of that classy, understated and cool appearance of Hill Harper that I aspire to:

A seemingly simple rig of polo shirt, cotton chinos and suede shoes but something about this elevates it above the prosaic … and not a label or logo in sight!

In the spirit of my recent posts on alternatives to wearing jeans I thought this was a great example of a casual outfit that could be appropriate for any number of situations, and wearing cotton strides in place of jeans just elevates the formality a notch or two. In todays world of ever more casual clothes I’m always happy to find all-too-rare sources of inspiration like this, so I of course set about putting together my own version. I liked the way the dark blue trim on the polo shirt picks up the dark blue of the strides but finding something similar proves to be very difficult so I settled for a plain long sleeved polo in the recent Lacoste sale:

Sunglasses – Roka Rio-Ti

Polo – Lacoste made in France organic

Strides – Merc Lord John Sta-press

Desert boots – Clark’s Originals

A few words about the desert boots. I did a post in the early days of the blog here in which I mentioned my black suede dessie’s. They were bought in October 2009 towards the end of a time in my life when my colour choices would often default to black. As I moved away from that theme I had some regret that I hadn’t got them in navy blue instead and resolved to get navy blue when the black ones wore out. The problem is that the things are damn-near indestructible and after all these years they are still going strong. I recently caved in and got these nearly new ones in navy from Poshmark for $30. My eyes don’t distinguish dark blue from black very easily and I might have preferred them to be a shade or two lighter but at that price I can’t complain, so here’s a side-by-side comparison:

Rod’s Togs – Orange Accessories For Halloween

This is a new combination for me but since it’s Halloween I went with orange tie, pocket square and socks.

Sunglasses – Moscot Lemtosh in limited dark blonde

Blazer – Suitsupply navy hopsack

Shirt – Linea Luomo sky blue gingham

Tie – Hilfiger

Pocket Square – Macy’s

Strides – Howard Yount tropical wool

Socks – Uniqlo (they’re orange not red!)

Loafers – Cheaney Howard mahogany scotch grain

Rod’s Togs – Skulls For Halloween

For some reason my daughter loves my tie with the repeating skull and bones motif and she’s always pestering me to wear it. With Halloween coming soon I let her have her way …

Sunglasses – Leisure Society Cortez

Suit – All wool dark silver-grey sharkskin

Shirt – Tyrwhitt

Tie – Paul Winston at Chipps

Pocket Square – no name

Socks – Uniqlo

Shoes – Allen Edmonds Lexington in chilli

Skull cuff links – The Tie Bar

Watch – Rolex Yachtmaster platinum

Rod’s Togs – The Pumpkin Patch

I’ve said it many times before but it bears repeating for anyone looking in who is just starting out on their style journey: if you stick with sixties Mod style as a framework for your outfits it’s hard to go wrong.

Recently we took our little girl to the pumpkin patch to pick out a pumpkin to be carved for Halloween. This is an activity which would have been completely alien to me as a kid. The only pumpkin I had ever seen was in picture books being turned into Cinderella’s coach. We made our lanterns out of carved-out turnips (a.k.a. ‘swedes’ in other parts of the world!) and I only became aware of trick-or-treating when I watched a Charlie Brown cartoon.

The point being that a Fred Perry (or Lacoste) polo shirt, jeans and desert boots is an outfit worn by Mods sixty years ago, by me as a teenager in the late seventies, and by me well into my sixth decade, and in my opinion is pretty much unimpeachable in a casual context.

… and despite my misgivings about traditions alien to me – Layla had fun. Once again happy kid = happy Dad!

Sunglasses – Ray Ban New Wsyfarers

Polo Shirt – Fred Perry

Jeans – Levi’s 501 Selvedge

Desert Boots – Clark’s Otiginals

Alternatives To Jeans – Part Three: Linen

As the temperatures hold steady in the nineties during the dog days of summer and beyond, for me it becomes too hot for either chinos or Sta-pressts so it’s time to break out the linen strides.

Levi’s may take the credit for boosting the popularity of jeans, chinos (Dockers) and Sta-pressts but I’m not aware that they have had much influence in promoting linen trousers.

I remember being in a conversation several years ago with a girl who was saying she loves to see her man in linen and I wasn’t convinced at the time. Growing up in cold, rainy north east England there’s not much scope to even consider wearing linen anything, but decades of living in a hot climate have gradually convinced me otherwise, and regular viewers of this blog may remember pics of me wearing linen strides with some frequency in the hotter months.

For my initial foray I think I finally succumbed and got a pair at a very reasonable price from the Cubavera brand in Macy’s and immediately took a liking. In a bland beige / cream / off-white colour they can match up with just about anything you wear on top. I don’t like to wear them too loose where they are flapping around in the breeze, and I really don’t like versions with drawstring waists which for me are too reminiscent of pyjamas. I prefer belt loops which can accommodate a belt and mitigate a looser-fitting waist. In most cases I’ll be wearing them with polo shirts or linen shirts (cheap and brightly coloured solids, mostly from Uniqlo) and they coordinate perfectly with driving moccasins for that French Riviera look.

I ended up accumulating a few pairs in the aforementioned basic beige or similar. Aside from a couple from Macy’s I got another from J Crew via eBay.

I saw someone post a pic of cornflower blue strides on Styleforum years ago and after asking about their provenance he tipped me off that they were Polo Ralph Lauren so I snagged a pair for myself from eBay

More recently I had been admiring a similar coloured pair on the Dapper Classics website. These were even more vivid cobalt blue. When I found them at a much reduced price – possibly as they weren’t going to be offered any more – I stumped up for them. I usually wear them either on a night out or when travelling for work paired up with a red linen Boglioli blazer

Another Macy’s version in sky blue which I wear with my cobalt blue linen blazer

These navy ones are also Polo Ralph Lauren. I had them on the ‘outgoing’ rack for ages intending in to sell them on eBay but didn’t get around to it. Then I came up with the idea of pairing them with a recently acquired white pique popover from Suitsupply and black driving mocs and it became a favourite outfit for a weekend dinner.

At the height of summer I have no problem wearing linen trousers in a more business-oriented work outfit. I got these blue ones by Tommy Hilfiger at Nordstrom Rack intending to wear them in a casual setting but found that the blue matched perfectly with the checks on my rust windowpane jacket so I repurposed them for work.

I’ve acquired three pairs of cotton-linen strides from Banana Republic which I wear for work with linen blazers – tan, grey and off-white:

These are linen silk from J Crew in a herringbone pattern which I wear with my purple linen blazer

I featured this all-linen outfit some time ago on the blog. It works very well for business travel in the summer

If more formal business threads are required but the Mercury remains high I can turn to my navy linen suit. This is in heavy Irish linen which is alleged to wear cooler than lighter Italian fabrics but I’m not sure I can support that view. Anyway it allows me to show up for formal work meetings and probably be more comfortable than anyone dressed in wool suiting.

My tobacco linen suit is less formal than navy but still gets worn for work. The fabric in this one is also quite heavy:

Finally – strictly for away from work upscale events I have linen suits in white, tan and grey. Here are some lifestyle shots …

There are always going to be some occasions when wearing shorts just can’t be avoided, but I subscribe to the belief that in all but the hottest environments away from the beach, pool, theme park or backyard barbecue you will be just as comfortable and eminently more stylish if you embrace the linen strides!

Alternatives To Jeans – Part Two: Sta-Pressts

In Part One of this series chinos were discussed, which achieved peak popularity some time in the nineties, followed by the inevitable backlash. This was even mentioned in an episode of ‘Seinfeld’ with Gerry breaking up with a girl because she liked chinos, and him expressing his derision for the advert’s tag line “If they’re not Dockers then they’re just pants”.

Stylish men stepped away from chinos, as in their least-flattering form – baggy, shapeless, multi-pleated (see Timothy Dalton above in ‘License To Kill’) they seemed to represent the worst aspects of the office drone work uniform

If chinos don’t figure in your options for an alternative to jeans, you might want to consider Sta-pressts. Levi’s claim the credit for the explosive popularity of denim, and the marketing strategy for Dockers helped chinos on their way to saturation point, but there also seems to be strong evidence that they can also claim credit for Sta-pressts too.

Sta-pressts come in a variety of brands, styles and colours but the originals were marketed by Levi’s. They were made from a poly-cotton twill blend in the five-pocket jeans style with the key feature being their ability to be machine washed and worn direct from the dryer without the need for dry cleaning or pressing.

Sta-pressts were seemingly popular with original Mods (perhaps they embraced the modern tech fabric and appreciated the convenience of not having to iron them?) and later with skins and suedes.

I mentioned the shop named ‘Jeremy Adam’ in my post about parkas from a few months ago. This shop was in my home town centre during the revival period and among its offerings it had a small section selling gear that would appeal to Mods. I got a pair in cornflower blue from there which I liked so much I wore them till they became faded and worn out. This version was a bit more formal than the original Levi’s five-pocket style, being a smooth-handed poly-cotton poplin with pressed-in creases, on-seam front pockets and welted rear pockets. When I went back to get a replacement pair they only had a lighter sky blue which wasn’t as appealing but I had to make do with them. Soon after this the revival had more or less run it’s course at least as far as high street retailers were concerned, and Sta-pressts were no longer easily available except for in black. I had a few pairs in black which I wore as part of my school uniform from the fourth through to the sixth form. My Mam was fine with this as they were cheap and easily washable and didn’t need pressing or dry cleaning!

Sporting the second pair of light-blue poplin Sta-pressts – October, 1981

Following my rededication to Mod style in the 2000s I sought out some Sta-pressts and the age of the internet made this a lot easier than during the days of my youth. At this time Merc were selling a version named ‘Lord John’ and as far as I could tell these were a close replica to the poly-cotton poplin version I’d remembered from my teenage years. I got them in sky blue and dark blue. Following the size guide recommendation I got them a size above my usual – 34 as opposed to 32 – they have a high rise of 12 inches from the crotch seam to the top of the waistband and 8 inch bottoms. Merc still sell their ‘sta press’ – now named the ‘Winston’ for $ 71 but I’m not sure if the cut has changed. They’re in a range of colours so boring I’m not tempted

A recent photo sporting Merc ‘Lord John’ in dark blue

Relco is a brand that markets Mod-related gear. The quality is generally at the low end of the spectrum with prices to match. I have their versions of Sta-pressts in prince of wales and houndstooth checks. These are the kind of inexpensive strides which can look OK at a distance but in reality the quality is hardly top drawer, the biggest issue being that they’re made of poly-viscose. This fabric is easily washable and will certainly be wrinkle-resistant so they work OK for me if I’m travelling by air and want to arrive looking unrumpled, but wearing one hundred percent man-made fibres next to the skin is not the most luxurious sartorial experience. I’d have much preferred to own strides in these patterns made from poly-cotton, and it’s baffling why Relco offer their solids in poly-cotton but their checks in poly-viscose. These are again size 34 and have a lower rise of 10 inches with 8 inch bottoms but a slimmer cut in the legs.

I have another pair of light grey Relcos which are poly-cotton and have a more pleasant hand. They are a similar cut to those from Merc but the finishing is not as good. These are size 34 with a rise of 11 inches and 8 inch bottoms.

As for Levi’s, I’m not sure of the rationale behind their marketing strategy, but rather than being permanently available Levi’s will periodically revive their Sta-presst range for limited periods and in limited colours. I don’t believe they’re easily available currently and one of their recent offering was only available in a ridiculously skinny fit. Several years ago I was able to snag a pair each in the only two colours they offered – one in very light grey – almost white – and the other in a dark beige hue. Levi’s came up with elaborate names for these colours, something like ‘stainless steel’ and ‘timberwolf’!! These are in their 511 style with on seam hip pockets and welted rear pockets.

The fabric is a poly-cotton twill, more robust than the poplin versions mentioned above by Merc and Relco but the styling is still more formal than five-pockets. Again these are size 34 with an 11 inch rise and 7 3/4 inch bottoms. Notably these two pairs do not have darts over the rear pockets the way trousers are usually cut, so the waist was loose and I had to get them altered with a slice taken out of the rear centre seam.

Recently I have ordered Levi’s Sta pressts from Stuart’s of London in ‘harvest gold’ and another pair from End named ‘desert safari’. (What is it with these elaborate names for colours?) The first were the formal style, the second were in five-pocket jeans style. In both cases the fit was huge and baggy, The Stuarts version was returned. The End version were size 34 with a 12 inch rise and 7.5 inch bottoms but a very loose tapered leg. In both cases the colours were disagreeable versions of cream / beige so I sent them back and got stuck with the high cost of shipping both ways. Lesson learned!

This image of ‘harvest gold’ Levi’s is from the Stuarts of London web store
Similar colour (desert safari) and fabric from End but in a five-pocket style

Some people take to the internet in search of modern day reproductions of classic Sta pressts. Along with Merc and Relco mentioned above, I’m aware of Warrior and Trojan but don’t have any experience of either brand so I can’t speak to their quality or accuracy. If you go down this route I suggest sticking with poly-cotton fabric and avoiding poly-viscose.

The other alternative is to search out old stock – sometimes if you’re patient you can get lucky. I got this pair of Levi’s 513 in a great cobalt blue colour but sadly they are too small for me so will hopefully soon go to a good home. They are sized 32 and have a 10 inch rise and 8 inch bottoms but a very slim cut. The fabric is poly-cotton twill that doesn’t seem as agreeable as my other Levi’s Sta-pressts but that may be just due to their skinny fit.

I just found a pair on Grailed from a seller in Bulgaria in a more standard beige five pocket style:

They just arrived and I may have got lucky this time. Curiously they are sized 33 in the waist with an 11 1/2 inch rise and parallel legs with 9 inch bottoms so they are definitely going to need some adjustment but should work out OK to wear with my tan suede trucker jacket and suede Chelsea boots.

Alternatives To Jeans – Part One: Chinos

Most of us know the story of how a certain Levi Strauss became famous for being the purveyor of heavy workwear made from indigo cotton twill cloth imported from Nimes, France (‘De Nimes’ = ‘denim’). The late nineteenth century timing was perfect for selling to cowboys, gold miners, frontiersmen and factory workers during the period of spreading colonisation and burgeoning industrialisation in America, and thus the legend was born.

During the mid-fifties, blue jeans made the jump from workwear to part of the ubiquitous teenager uniform thanks to exposure in films like ‘The Wild One’ and ‘Rebel Without A Cause’

I’ve read about original Mods coveting Levi’s shrink-to-fit jeans. I find this slightly at odds with the image of sharply-dressed suited-and-booted Mods dancing in sweaty Soho basements, but given the elitist nature of the leading Faces I suppose I can see that a fair few oneupmanship points could be gained by wearing Levi’s imported from America which were notoriously difficult to come by in England during the austere early sixties. This is depicted in ‘Quadrophenia’ when Jimmy is subjected to an incredulous outburst from his dad when he comes down to watch The Who on ‘Ready Steady Go’ wearing his newly shrunk and still damp jeans!

I have a clear recollection of hanging out in the streets with my group of lads in summer 1980, most of whom had joined the Mod bandwagon by then. My mate Phil said he was bored to death with jeans and was going to stop wearing them, a position which I may not have taken up fully myself but certainly admired. He spent the remainder of the summer wearing Fred Perry polo shirts and v-necks with sta-pressts and desert boots – not a bad look then and now!

I still wear jeans on occasion but currently own only two white Levi’s, two blue Levi’s and two Uniqlos (one pair of which is mothballed for future needs). I also still find myself in occasional agreement with Phil in that jeans can be really boring as a result of their ubiquity. The trend in recent years of wearing new rigid jeans unwashed for countless months to develop unique fade patterns leaves me completely baffled.

As we are hitting the dog days of summer now, aside from being boring it’s just not practical to wear heavy cotton denim in my climate of ninety-degree heat with over ninety percent humidity. Time to consider alternatives.

The first option that comes to mind is chinos. Chinos are also made of cotton of course and can came in a range of weights but it’s not hard to find chinos in a lighter weight than most denim strides and thus more appropriate for warm weather. Also they are readily available – in fact most commonly available – in lighter colours which work better in deflecting heat.

Chinos have their origin in American military uniforms made from Chinese cotton twill which at some point made the transition to civilian wear. The default colours were military too – olive, tan and khaki – to the point that Americans are more likely to refer to chinos as ‘khakis’ regardless of colour.

Chinos are generally light- to medium-weight cotton trousers that are made in twill weave and cut more formally than jeans, with slanted or on-seam side pockets and either jetted or flapped rear pockets – no patches. As such they lie midway on a formality scale between jeans and tailored flannel or worsted trousers, resulting in them being an unfortunate key component of the ‘dreaded business casual’ uniform of office drones the length and breadth of the western world!

Chinos are probably most commonly seen in ‘stone’, ‘putty’ and other off-white variations as shown abovd, along with the military colours mentioned, but they are also available in every colour of the rainbow for the more adventurous. Brighter colours seem to work better in warmer weather and the level of formality can vary from those with smoother-handed cloth and pressed-in creases to those ironed flat and displaying a well-worn patina of frayed hems.

Chinos were very popular in England towards the end of the eighties – there was a subtle fifties revival creeping into style and pop culture (James Dean-esque Nick Kamen in the Levi’s TV ads, Southern Comfort’s ‘Who are you mixing it with?’ cinema ads, etc) and looser-fitting pleated trousers were in evidence, so the chino cotton version was a part of this look and of course Levi’s got in on it with their range of Dockers. It was common to see lads wearing a blazer and chinos – and often even a tie (shock!) at the pub or nightclub. Along with this came the immersive association of chinos with office wear as mentioned above. When suit-and-tie was no longer the default white-collar garb, to avoid the potential minefield of poorly defined ‘business casual’ dress codes, many men played it safe with chinos.

Following the immersion came the inevitable backlash, but expressing a dislike for chinos is like expressing a dislike for jeans. They are as varied as they are common and it shouldn’t be too hard to find a good version. I think chinos can be a useful alternative to the ubiquity of jeans, a notch or two more formal, and as stated they can be very versatile too as long as we pay attention to cut, fit etc and not fall into the trap of the baggy office drone. Navy and black versions start to look tired very quickly as the cotton doesn’t hold dye very well after a few washes. Original colours of khaki, stone, beige and olive aren’t very adventurous. I like them in bolder colours for wear in the summer months, and I never wear them for work

I have a couple of pairs of Levi’s K-1s in their original Crammerton cloth (I liken this to the chino equivalent of desirable Cone Mills denim). The first pair are ‘aviator style’ – quite loose-fitting legs with a high rise …

The second pair has the interesting detail of having the inseams covered …

I have a couple of lightweight pairs from Club Monaco in royal blue and dark burgundy …

One of my favourite pairs is in bright orange from Lacoste …

Staying with bright colours, these red ones are the Clark model from Brooks Brothers. I seem to remember reading that there’s a tradition among yachtsmen that you only wear red trousers on board a yacht if you’ve sailed over the equator. I usually wear these with a dusty navy cotton Brooks Brothers blazer …

Another version are ‘Nantucket Reds’ particularly as worn in the summer in northeastern states. The attraction of these is that they are guaranteed to fade with wear and are worn as a signifier of membership in an elite social strata. Tread with care here!

I have chinos in marine blue, which pair well with a tan cotton blazer …

… and navy blue which I pair with a gold-yellow cotton blazer…

Perhaps among my least adventurous are in medium grey and cream which I commonly wear with my dark blue and mid brown cotton blazers. These two pairs came from Express and have a small percentage of elastase in the fabric mix which gives them a bit of stretch, making them very useful for travel …

I got a gold pair for a bargain in the closing down sale at the Ben Sherman shop on Spring Street in New York City. These have the interesting detail of the outseams being taped to show off when you roll them up …

The final two pairs are in dark slate grey, and a very pale sea green colour which is hard to capture with an iPhone camera – they are a step away from the more common stone version but no less versatile …

It’s understandable that some people may give chinos a wide birth due to the office drone connotation mentioned above. There was also a time here in America when the ‘going out’ uniform of drunken college lads seemed to be denim shirt and off white chinos from which more discerning fellas may also wish to put some distance. Hopefully the above pics provide some evidence for the defence that chinos can be deployed in more imaginative ways than this and should not be discounted from a well-dressed man’s wardrobe.

The Union Jack

Britain recently celebrated the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend. Leaving aside any arguments for or against the monarchy, it may be a fitting time to discuss the British flag and its connection to Mod style.

When I was a kid in school both pupils and teachers alike referred to our flag as the ‘Union Jack’. More recently flag purists with nothing more to occupy their empty lives object to this and claim that it’s only a Union Jack when flown on a British Royal Navy ship and should otherwise be known as the ‘Union Flag’, although I have read more recently that this convention was officially dropped many years ago.

I enjoy informing Americans, many of whom are unaware, that our flag is a combination of the three flags of England, Scotland and latterly following the Act of Union in 1801, Ireland imposed upon each other. Wales doesn’t seem to count!

Seminal pop artist Sir Peter Blake may have been responsible for bringing the Union Jack into pop culture and in doing so gave the whole image of its sturdy, stoic and stolid reputation a makeover. Pete Townshend – himself a one time art student – famously wore a jacket made from a Union Jack in 1966 which was seen as an act of youthful rebellion and coincided with the era of ‘Swinging London’ for which the British Flag was a central icon.

Mods of my vintage who lived through the revival years of the late seventies into the early eighties will have seen their fair share of Union Jacks – stitched onto the back of parkas, painted onto the side panels of scooters and pinned onto the lapels of suit jackets – to the extent that many would understandably like to distance themselves from those aspects of ‘identikit Mod’ imagery.

I plead guilty to all of the above in the past of course but over time I’m not so concerned with stylistic guilt. Firstly ours really is a beautiful flag and is perhaps the most recognised the world over. Secondly, having lived in America for over thirty years I find that with the passage of time grows a mild, vague patriotism that would likely be absent if I still lived in England.

I first started to wear a Union flag pin on the lapel of my lab coat when I worked in a busy Cardiology department as I was so tired of explaining to people several times a day that I wasn’t Scottish / Irish / Swedish / Australian. This habit continued when I changed jobs and was wearing suits every day for work, and continues to this day. I’ve accumulated a wide array of items – both clothing and beyond as seen below – adorned with the Union Jack and I doubt this will stop now!

I have a few other lapel pins …

I have cufflinks too in etched steel and coloured enamel …

Other accessories include key fob, iPhone case, pen, wallet, mask …

I have a silk pocket square from Charles Tyrwhitt and a cotton bandanna too …

I have Union Jacks on both sports socks and more formal socks, and inside my red Ray Ban Wayfarers …

Whenever I compete in a triathlon I’m likely to wear my swim cap and wrist band …

For my rare ski trips I have a CWU-45 jacket which works perfectly. Stitching a flag on the back may appear to be moving into dangerously identikit Mod territory but it makes it easy for others to recognise me on the slopes …

When I’m driving I’m still flying the flag – on the Jeep windscreen and of course the valve caps …

I have Union Jack helmets for riding with and without engines …

On the bike I might be wearing flag-emblazoned top and gloves …

I’ve acquired a few travel bags, along with luggage tags …

I was so chuffed when I finally tracked down the Olympic series Lacoste polo. Unfortunately the colours didn’t last well on this one. The rugby shirt from Cotton Traders was a present from my brother …

I’ve acquired a few items with the Great Britain Olympic Team Union Jack emblem …

Ben Sherman managed to combine two Mod / pop art symbols of the Union Jack and the arrows …

I have a small Union Jack shrine in the Man Cave …

I have the full size guitar: Epiphone Supernova …

Perhaps most bizarre, my orthodontic retainer …

As much as I may enjoy flying the flag, you have to be careful not to overdo it. Nobody wants to look like Kenneth Bailey!

“Matchy – Matchy“

In the film ‘Bruno’ (2009), the eponymous character played by Sacha Baron Cohen is harangued by military officers for wearing a scarf and Dolce and Gabana belt with his combat fatigues. Bruno complains that he had to accessorise the uniform as it is too “matchy matchy”

The term was quickly adopted and spread by internet menswear enthusiasts as a mildly derogatory critique of outfits that display too much common ground among the various components.

I was involved in an internet discussion some time ago with a like-minded participant who stated that he liked to wear his sky blue Fred Perry polo with navy tipping along with his sky blue suede adidas gazelles which navy blue stripes. I thought at the time that this was a man after my own heart, and while I don’t posses items in those exact colours, a quick look at my recent Easter post shows you that his way of dressing accords with my own. I’m not sure if the lad in question was an avowed advocate of Mod style – if I had to guess he’s probably younger than me and is more influenced by that football terrace / Britpop scene of the nineties which can arguably be indirectly traced back to Mod style.

I probably have to confess that I’m guilty of wearing matchy matchy outfits at least to some degree.

The matching shiny satin tie and handkerchief sets are an obvious signal that the wearer is a beginner. I was surprised to see a publicity photo of Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in Goldeneye sporting a matching solid blue tie and pocket square set but thankfully this outfit never made it to the final cut of the film!

The popular and accepted wisdom with accessories is to choose a pocket square with colours that reference another colour in your outfit but don’t match it exactly, but I can’t deny that there are times when I may sail a bit close to the wind on this one:

I also plead guilty to sometimes wearing socks that reflect tie and/or pocket square colours. Colours and patterns should complement each other within and outfit rather than directly copy each other. We have to decide how close items can be in colour and / or pattern before they fall prey to being considered matchy matchy. Here are a couple of outfits which come close. Readers can decide if they pass or fail. A lot of this comes down to personal taste. I know of people whose entire sock drawer consists of solid navy, charcoal and black. It’s hard to go wrong with this approach but it’s not exactly adventurous either. Context – and climate – are factors too. Getting suited up for a job interview requires a more sober approach than getting suited up for an outdoor wedding in the summer.

Rod’s Togs – Easter Duds

For a lot of people Easter serves as something of a watershed whereby they transition away from their winter clothes and dust off lighter and brighter threads – weather permitting of course, but there’s definitely an association with bright hues and pastels where possible.

This was my outfit for the neighbourhood Easter egg hunt:

Sunglasses – Moscot Fritz in tortoise black

Polo – Fred Perry

Strides – Levi’s 501

Trainers – adidas Gazelle OG

Later that weekend we went out for dinner:

Sunglasses – Ray Ban

Popover – Ralph Lauren Polo

Strides – J Crew ( linen)

Driving mocs – Fins For Him

Rod’s Togs – The Suede And Leather Truckers Again

I’ve related my story about truckers before. Got a Levi’s suede trucker but was never happy with how it fit. Moved it on and replaced it with a version from Asos which was great quality, better priced and fit better.

As much as I love the suede version I have to be cautious about when to wear it, to avoid rain, beer spills etc. That’s why I ended up getting a version in dark brown Buffalo leather in 2017, in particular with a trip home to England in mind. Jacket wearing season is short here in Florida but I’ve had both of them on recently: the suede for a birthday party and the leather for a recent trip to Disney for my daughter’s birthday, when it was very cold.

I’m not really into theme parks but happy kid = happy dad!

Here’s a side by side with suede and leather versions:

Sunglasses – Jacques Marie Mage Last Frontier Rawlins Noir

Suede Trucker Jacket – Asos

Polo – Lacoste

White Jeans – Levi’s Made and Crafted selvage

Chelsea Boots – Meermin snuff suede

Sunglasses – Moscot Neff Blonde

Leather Trucker – Levi’s

Button-through polo – Ben Sherman

Jeans – Uniqlo

Scarf – No name

Trainers – adidas Côte

Rod’s Togs – The ‘Wooly Pully’

The ‘woolly pully’ is the affectionate nickname given to the wool jumper (pullover) originally developed for Special Forces and Bomber Command during World War Two.

I mentioned in the three part series I did around this time last year on ‘Solving The Cold Weather Conundrum With Military Inspired Gear’ that I was in search of an RAF blue version to give some contrast to the other items I’d assembled and thus complete my cold-weather rig. I finally got one recently:

I’d owned a jumper like this in my youth which I wore during a couple of brutal winters in the late seventies working as a milkman’s assistant. I think my Dad, who flew Lancasters for the RAF during World War Two, was quietly chuffed that I’d taken a liking to this bit of RAF-inspired kit.

My original thinking was that this was a utilitarian item that leans towards the substance-over-style end of the clothing continuum and certainly doesn’t have any obvious connection to Mod style, but there is something to be admired in its very basic no frills design.

Shortly after we were introduced to Pierce Brosnan as the new James Bond in ‘Goldeneye’ (1995) we see him sporting a wool jumper that is not a military version but is also not a million miles away, given the robust knit and similar dark blue colour.

And in the recent release of ‘No Time To Die’ we see Daniel Craig set off to despatch the villain in his big finale wearing a military-inspired cashmere version in navy blue by N. Peal. The drawstring neck is a finicky detail that betrays the form-follows-function that is so admirable about a lot of military and military-inspired gear. I read somewhere that the original iteration of the military versions came with a drawstring neck, perhaps to allow donning over headgear, but this was soon dispensed with.

My version came from Outdoor Knitwear who claim to be suppliers to the military. It’s made of 100 percent wool (an unknown amount of which is British!) and said to be machine washable. I’m usually a 38 chest so went for a size Medium. As you can see it fits me fairly closely thanks to the ribbed-knit pattern, so if you’re interested and prefer a looser fit – size up. I washed it by hand in cold water then soaked it in fabric softener to prevent any itchiness although I would wear a base layer anyway. Outdoor knitwear have a broad selection of colours and styles, including versions with V-neck and the current forces iteration with epaulets and a sleeve pen pocket, neither of which appeal to me.

Sunglasses – RAF Issue aviators

Pea Coat – U.S.Navy surplus 1968

Jumper – Outdoor Knitwear

Strides – Eddie Bauer

Boots – Meermin

I feel like the jumper could be combined into an outfit for less severe weather but including other military- inspired items:

Sunglasses – RAF issue aviators

Jumper – Outdoor Knitwear

Strides – Stan Ray OG107

Desert Boots – Clark’s Originals

Rod’s Togs – The Herringbone Jacket

I’m not shy about ‘fessing up to my influences and have been happy to note on this blog the provenance of some of my ideas that have been ‘borrowed’ from various areas of pop culture. The red MA-1 and the sharkskin suit are two recent entries that come immediately to mind and I’m sure there are many more.

Recently I was watching a film on the Turner Classic Movies channel (TCM) named ‘The VIPs’ (1963) and was taken with the always debonair Louis Jourdan’s outfit on screen – a herringbone jacket, white shirt and charcoal trousers.

It’s similar to the outfit James Garner wore when he brought Raymond Chandler’s 1940’s trench coat-and-fedora private eye up to date in 1969 for ‘Marlowe’, although Garner channels the Bogartian rebelliousness by being not nearly as sharply turned out as Mr. Jourdan despite their similar togs.

Look here and here for some excellent breakdowns of the two characters and their clothes at the BAMF style website (a very entertaining website from which I ‘borrowed’ some of these pics!). Jourdan’s outfit is generally more formal and his jacket has straight flapped side pockets and a centre vent. Garner’s ventless version has patched pockets (with flaps added to the hip pockets) and he wears a less formal button down shirt with collar button undone and tie pulled loose. In later scenes he adds a bit of colour with a maroon and navy striped tie and a non-button down shirt. Jourdan keeps it formal with a black tie and allows a splash of colour with a maroon silk pocket square.

As for me – I’ve had a herringbone jacket in heavy tweed for several years and kept it at the back of my wardrobe for those somewhat rare occasions when I’m sent to the northern states for work during winter.

It’s made in a very thick and spongy tweed that does well against the elements, but since acquiring my donegal and purple tweed blazers it’s been years since I reached for the herringbone. Maybe there was something about the jacket’s fit that just didn’t feel right? I think it’s good that we occasionally do a bit of self-examination to identify why certain items in the wardrobe are often overlooked. Then maybe it’s time to send them to a better home!

I decided it was time for an upgrade so the herringbone will go for sale as it’s been replaced by a more refined and defined version. Refined in that the ‘hand’ of the new jacket’s fabric is smoother and lighter than my original, and defined in that the black and white twines are more distinct than the more blurry taupe and charcoal version of my original. Like Garner’s mine came with patch-and-flat hip pockets too but I dislike the ‘saddle bag’ effect these can have so I had the flaps removed.

I’m happy to more-or-less emulate Messrs Jourdan and Garner’s complementary items in their outfit: white shirt, charcoal strides and black captoes.

Just as I was contemplating this post I happened to catch a re-run of ‘The Pink Panther’ (1963) on the TCM channel and lo and behold there was a very young Robert Wagner sporting a herringbone jacket as part of a more casual rig worn at the ski lodge in the Italian winter resort of Cortina:

Here’s a side-by-side of my two jackets – old on the left, new on the right :

Sunglasses – Oliver Peoples Jaye in Bordeaux bark

Jacket – J Crew

Shirt – Tyrwhitt

Tie – Sid Mashburn

Pocket Square – No Name

Strides – Epaulet (‘Cadet blue’)

Socks – Uniqlo

Shoes – Allen-Edmonds Concord

Taking Stock Of The Blog 2021

Last year I reported that 2020 had been the biggest year of the blog to date in terms of both views and visitors. Surpassing that was always going to be a challenge and in 2021 I didn’t quite reach the same amount of views but the number of visitors set a new record with well over 6,000 visitors from 92 countries.

I keep hearing that due to the ever-evolving nature of the internet, blogs and message boards are becoming a thing of the past as everyone turns to Instagram and TikTok. I’m still not tempted to join.

Aside from Styleforum which blunders along and has periods of seeming a bit stale, the two website fora I most frequently visit are Mod Generation and Modculture. Mod Generation seems to be in deep decline with very rare entries despite over 6,000 listed members, and I recently heard that the Modculture message board is soon to close. Traffic there had recently dwindled to just a few regular posters but it was generally a good set of lads and quite a few of the items I’ve written about and posted pics of on this blog have been acquired as a result of tips from there. I’ll definitely miss the place for a daily check-in and exchange of banter.

Over the years I’ve often wondered what happened to the original sixties Mods? What happened to the most dedicated and clothes-committed of the bunch? Did they get married, get mortgages and no longer have the disposable cash to spend on clothes and customizing their scooters? Did they grow their hair and beards and start smoking pot? Or did they just lose interest? I’m left to wonder now about the current ‘Mod Generation’ and how so many have signed up to Mod-related message boards but then not bothered to participate and have stood by as a key aspect of community and communication moves into decline? Maybe it’s easier to be passive on a dedicated Mod Facebook group than it is to actively participate in online discussions? Maybe it’s me who has fallen behind the times?

Well I’m still here and intend to continue with my musings. Once again I renew my invitation for anyone to contact me with ideas or comments. Thanks to all visitors and viewers for your interest and support – wishing you all good health and happiness throughout 2022!