Rod’s Togs – Lacoste Banlon-Style Shirt

Back in 1996 I went for the first time to the Essence Music Festival. This is a huge music event that, at least in those days, celebrated and showcased the rich vein of what’s known as ‘ol’ school’ music, hosted in the New Orleans Supersome. Rather than try to define such a nebulous term it might be easier to list the talent on show over that Fourth of July weekend – Barry White, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Kahn, Luther Vandross, Cameo, The Whispers, Frankie Beverly and Maze – and that was just the main stage. There are also ‘superlounges’ – small stand-up gigs staged in the outer hallways of the Superdome for either lesser known, up-and-coming artists, or maybe just artists with an expected smaller draw than those on the main stage. I was lucky enough to catch Maceo Parker that year and had so much fun over the extended weekend I returned for the next eighteen years! The following year among many others (Maxwell, Ashford and Simpson, Erykah Badu, Maze) I saw Bobby Blue Bland and was less than impressed. How can a blues band have two drummers but no guitarist? Long, sustained, minor key solos don’t really work on a piano! Mr Bland came on stage looking like a grouchy old grandad whose nap had been interrupted, wearing an odd-looking seventies-era polo shirt with a broad elasticated waistband.
I’ve since found out the known as ‘Banlon’ shirts and they are much beloved by certain people of a Mod persuasion, I would guess more for their nostalgic connotation than their stylistic contribution.


A bit of internet research reveals that ‘Ban-Lon’ was originally the name of the man-made fibre but the term has at some point transported to describe this kind of polo with the elasticated waist band.
Anyway last year during a work trip to New York I did my usual routine of walking up Madison Avenue, down Fifth Avenue then heading down to the village to look at more shops. At the Lacoste shop I saw this shirt in obvious colours so couldn’t resist getting it. This is not your usual Lacoste polo. Aside from the red and blue hoops on the chest and arms, the material from the stripes down is pique cotton but the upper chest and sleeves are a different textured waffle weave. I probably could have lived without the Banlon-style waist band but the rest of the shirt is far enough away from that worn by Bobby Blue Bland that it wasn’t a deal breaker for me.

Sunglasses – Tom Ford

Polo shirt – Lacoste

Jeans – Levi’s 501

Desert boots – Clark’s

… and in keeping with my commitment to try and post more lifestyle pics …

Happy Halloween everyone!

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Rod’s Venting On Vents

Regular readers may have noticed that I have an aversion to vents on my tailored jackets, which has become an occasional topic of discussion on menswear forums. 

A recent e-conversation provoked me into thinking when and why it was that I began wearing ventless jackets. I THINK this was a stylistic holdover from the suits I was wearing from the nineties onwards. I started my first ‘proper’ job in 1991 after grad school wearing a couple of jackets I’d acquired in vintage resale shops and had been wearing for a few years since the latter revival days, which happened to be ventless. At that time a wardrobe overhaul was much-needed but my beloved three-button jackets were just not available anywhere. 

There was a big box menswear shop in Houston named ‘Suitmart’ which sold overstocks and last year’s models at cut prices. Neither the quality nor the prices were high, but at least they were mostly 100 percent wool which was about the only criteria my largely clueless mind required back then. I had little choice but to succumb to the then-current trend of wide-shouldered double-breasted style jackets with pleated strides. 

Looking back – and taken in context of the times – this look was not too cringe-inducing. I’ve probably made more egregious sartorial errors over the years, but this was hardly my stylistic finest hour. One thing I did like about those jackets was that despite the oversized shoulders and severe taper from shoulder to hem, when worn buttoned the ventless backs hugged your bum and made for a nice smooth expanse of cloth when seen from behind, from the neck to the lower hem. This style of jacket was obviously influenced by the suits of the thirties and forties, often on display in classic movies of that period. One point of reference that sticks in my mind is the memory of Kirk Douglas in ‘Out of the Past’ (a great film noir remade in the eighties as ‘Against All Odds’, for which I have a soft spot not least because of the Cozumel locations!). Kirk was seen wearing some very sharp threads, but I particularly liked the elegance in the huge expanse of smooth, unbroken real estate on display when he turned his back! There was added menace in the broad-shouldered tailoring, especially when compared to the heavier but down-at-heel anti-hero Robert Mitchum in his rumpled trench coat. 

The next stop on my suit journey was when the gods of fashion eventually moved the prevailing cuts away from double-breasted suits back to a single-breasted three-button version. I noticed this in America in the late nineties and was happy to load up on these at the time, but at length realised they weren’t nearly so stylish as those three-button versions influenced by the sixties Mod look, and the tubular cut without waist suppression was not very flattering. I recall having this style of suit in black, navy, olive green, silver-grey microcheck, tan microcheck, and the cream sharkskin shown below. Again, for me the saving grace was a lack of vents which at least kept the view from the rear somewhat smooth and refined. 

By the time I rededicated myself to Mod style in the late aughts, use of the internet had exponentially increased the available resources for clothes shopping, and three-button suits and jackets with a desirable fitted shape were readily available both online and sometimes in the high streets and malls. Even J. Crew for a while offered their Ludlow suit jackets in a choice of two- or three-button versions. I was likely influenced by my previous ventless predilection to have all the vents closed on all my new acquisitions, and that’s the way it’s stayed for the most part ever since. 

For those who choose to sneer at my preference I would remind them of a few iconic examples of ventless suits, which just happen to be at the top of my list of best suits in popular culture. Perhaps the most famous suit in movie history as worn by Cary Grant in ‘North By Northwest’ was ventless, as were a couple from one of my favourite Bond movies (certainly my favourite from a style perspective, along with FIVE – count ‘em – of the best looking beauties of the entire canon!)

Often people cite the utility of side vents in accessing trouser pockets, but as a kid my Mam always told me it was bad manners to put your hands in your pockets so it’s something I try to avoid these days. 

Despite Bond as played by Connery having side vents in his debut dinner jacket in Dr. No, and Tom Ford’s baffling and unsightly centre-vent creation for Daniel Craig, the gold standard for dinner jackets continues to be sans vents. An example of how the elegance of ventless jackets can be disrupted is seen in ‘Casablanca’, in which we see Bogart, in conversation in his office above Rick’s nightclub, turn his back to the camera as he hikes up his iconic ecru dinner jacket to put his hands in his trouser pockets. The audience is then presented with the very inelegant view of his arse! (I couldn’t find a screen shot of this snd I’m not sad enough to go and play my DVD and do a screen grab of the film, but there seems to be plenty of evidence that Bogey didn’t follow my Mam’s advice regarding hands in pockets!)

My Dad was built similar to me – the same height but a bit more stocky and he gained weight in the last few years of his life. I think we also shared the anatomical quirk of having a bit of shape in the bum. I recall him telling me he hated jackets with side vents as they flapped around his behind. His remedy was to favour single-vent jackets which always seem to me a bit old-fashioned, notwithstanding the hook vents admired by Ivy Style advocates. I do agree with his dislike of the way double vented jackets with too much material in the lower rear cause the back panel to flap around like a pair of curtains on a windy day. I also dislike the look of gaping vents on jackets made with too much waist suppression. I will admit that on a few of my more recent suit and odd-jacket acquisitions I decided to either leave the vents open or have them only partially closed to make a short vent. In the saga of acquiring my bespoke wedding suit I ended up with two almost-identical silver sharkskins so I had one made with five inch side vents just to add a note of distinction between the two. 

In recent years I’ve also come by three Ted Baker sports jackets and one from DNA Groove, each of which is so beautifully tailored that I halted my alterations at the sleeve length (and adding a third button when needed!)

I’m hoping that my next commission is going to be a cobalt blue Prince of Wales checked jacket which will be made by Jason at Thick as Thieves. As I intend this to be a travelling jacket which may mean being worn while cramped into aeroplane and/or car seats, I’ll most likely be asking Jason for five inch vents to add a little more flex for wearing while seated. Watch this space for details on how that turns out. 

How Do You Store Your Shoes?

I’ve pondered for a long time how to store my shoes. There are shoe racks galore out there but often they don’t offer the flexibility needed for shoes of different heights, from low driving mocs to high Chelsea boots. The biggest problem for me is for a rack to be wide enough to fit shoes in pairs. I’ve used the ‘Elfa’ system from The Container Store to fit out a lot of my cupboards. It’s designed really well with loads of flexibility but the standard unit width is 24 inches which isn’t wide enough to fit three pairs of men’s shoes. Consequently I had shoes placed in racks backwards to make them fit, and the ‘overspill’ lined up under the couch in the spare bedroom and on shelves in the cupboard. 

Then I hit upon the idea of using this ‘garage shelving’ from The Home Depot. It’s 14 inches deep which easily greater than any of my footwear. As you can see, it’s wide enough to easily allow four pairs across the width of 35 inches, plus it allows the flexibility to choose your own height between shelves. 

I put wheels on the bottom for manoeuvrability as I haven’t decided exactly where it will stay. I’m hoping to have fitted cupboards installed all along one bedroom wall, to which I’m happy to give my wife complete access if in exchange she’ll relinquish her small walk-in which will be perfect for this rack. I’ll report further on the success of that negotiation in due time!

Here are the contents from the top down:

1 – Dr Martens Ashland black lizard rubber sole derbies / Meermin burgundy grain shearling lined Dainite sole jump boots/ Polo tan leather high top boots / George Cox X Robot black calf perforated vamp leather sole derbies

2 – Meermin black calf leather sole slippers / Del Toro black velvet with white skull leather sole slippers / Florsheim Royal Imperial black suede leather sole venetian loafers / Johnston and Murphy black patent leather sole derbies

3 – Allen-Edmonds Clifton burgundy calf punch-cap leather sole derbies / Allen-Edmonds McNeil burgundy shell longwing brogue leather sole derbies / Allen-Edmonds McNeil black calf longwing brogue leather sole derbies / Allen-Edmonds Cortland black calf captoe leather sole derbies

4 – Allen-Edmonds Player Navy suede brogue leather sole derbies / Ralph Lauren snuff suede punch-cap leather sole derbies / Allen-Edmonds chilli calf captoe leather sole derbies / Meermin snuff suede plain toe leather sole derbies

5 – Meermin polo suede leather sole penny loafers / Cheaney Howard chestnut grain calf Dainite sole penny loafers / Shipton and Heneage Howard burgundy grain calf Dainite sole penny loafers / Crockett and Jones tan grain calf rubber sole penny loafers

6 – HS Trask black grain buffalo venetian rubber island sole driving mocs / Clark’s navy suede venetian rubber nub sole driving mocs / Shipton and Heneage Milan navy suede leather sole penny loafers / Florsheim X Duckie Brown tangerine suede rubber sole derby bucks

7 – Fins For Him purple suede venetian rubber sole driving mocs / Roberto Durville red calf penny loafer rubber island sole driving mocs / Ralph Lauren Polo royal blue penny loafer rubber island sole driving mocs / Allen-Edmonds Ventura Highway dark blue nubuck penny loafer rubber nub sole driving mocs

8 –  adidas ‘mi adidas’ customised Samba blue leather red stripes white rubber sole / adidas Rom white leather blue stripes gum sole / adidas Gazelle blue suede green stripes gum sole / adidas Padiham blue suede pink stripes gum sole

9 – adidas Oyster X Samba blue nylon and leather white stripes gum sole / adidas Oyster X Samba red nylon and leather white stripes gum sole / adidas Samba World Cup (England) white leather red and blue stripes gum sole / adidas Samba black leather brick red stripes gum sole 

10 – adidas Stan Smith white leather navy trim white rubber sole / adidas Campus black suede reggae stripes black rubber sole / adidas EM Champ bright blue leather black stripes blue rubber sole / adidas Côte tan suede brown stripes gum sole

11 – adidas Topanga orange suede blue stripes white rubber sole / adidas Gazelle OG blue suede red stripes white rubber sole / adidas Gazelle OG red suede white stripes white rubber sole / adidas Gazelle OG yellow suede white stripes white rubber sole

12 – Clark’s desert boots honey amber suede crepe rubber sole / Clark’s desert boots black suede crepe rubber sole / Tricker’s chestnut calf leather sole jodhpur boots / Arthur Knight navy calf combination leather-rubber sole Chelsea boots 

13 – Meermin black calf wholecut rubber sole Chelsea boots / Carmina burgundy calf combination leather-rubber sole Chelsea boots / Meermin polo suede Dainite sole Chelsea Boots / Epaulet Carver merlot horsehide rubber sole Chelsea boots

Other utility or specialty footwear not pictured:

Seavees in navy linen

adidas Adilette flip flops

adidas beach shoes (3)

J Crew X Birkenstock blue plastic sandals

Dr Marten 10 holer black calf boots

adidas X Goodyear grey nubuck driving boots

adidas Forum basketball boots

adidas white leather tennis shoes

adidas TKD white leather high top boots

adidas Marathon running shoes (2)

adidas Stan Smith special (for cycling)

adidas MTB shoes


Rod’s Togs – Gold Panama Hat

This week I was sent back to Fort Lauderdale for work, so I chose to wear another of my Panama hats. I got an email today from JJ’s Hat Centre in New York announcing 50% off their summer styles. I got most of my Panamas from there at reduced prices. The style below is named ‘Bowery’ and I thought it fitted and suited me so well I got the same hat in blue (shown recently), gold (shown below), raspberry, sage green and coffee brown. I took a look on the site and they don’t seem to offer this style any more, nor do they seem to have other Panamas for sale in such a wide range of colours as they did this model, so I’m glad I got all the ones I liked already.

To travel I wore a casual outfit: Ralph Lauren Polo popover shirt, Ben Sherman chinos and Cheaney loafers.  The sunglasses are a recent acquisition from Moscot and I like how the gold flecks of the tortoise frames pick up the gold of the hat:

Lifestyle shots from the hotel balcony including a great sunset over the Fort Lauderdale beach. Sometimes I like my job!

Hat – ‘Bowery’ JJ’s Hat Centre
Sunglasses – ‘Fritz‘ by Moscot
Jacket – Suitsupply
Shirt – Tyrwhitt
Tie – No name brand, upgraded by Sam Hober
Pocket Square – No name brand from ebay
Strides – Banana Republic
Socks – Uniqlo
Shoes – Meermin Polo suede

 

 

Rod’s Togs – Blue Panama Hat

When asked about hats I often offer up the advice that for those wishing to try out a brimmed hat look, it’s hard to go wrong with a Panama. Wear one on holiday where you won’t have to run the gauntlet of your mates taking the piss down at your local pub, and if you’re uncertain about pulling off the look, you can convince yourself that it’s a functional way of dealing with the sunshine.
I‘ve long ago dismissed any feelings of self-conscious uncertainty when it comes to hats, and have acquired Panama hats in several colours besides the traditional beige. My only reticence in wearing hats is the that they don’t always get along with my spiky barnet!
Last week I was in Miami and Fort Lauderdale for work – if you can’t feel confident wearing a Panama hat in that environment then maybe this leaving the house thing is not for you!
The suit is one of my favourite summer suits in wool-linen-silk glen plaid check (‘Prince of Wales’ to we Brits, although this has no coloured overcheck). I’ve featured it on the blog a couple of times before but this is the first time paired with this striped Grenadine tie.
Most people know by now that genuine Panama hats are actually made in Ecuador and got their geographically inaccurate name due to their popularity with construction workers toiling on the Panama Canal over a hundred years ago. They come in a variety of grades based on the quality of straw used, from cheap, dry, brittle versions for around $50 to ‘Montecristi’ quality which can take weeks to make, cost in the thousands and be hand-woven of such fine fibres that the texture is like linen. Montecristis can be rolled up and stuffed into a pocket and will bounce back to their original shape.  All my Panama are somewhere between those two extremes.

Hat – ‘Bowery’ from JJ’s Hat Centre, New York
Sunglasses – Oliver Peoples Cabrillo
Suit – Suitsupply
Shirt – Tyrwhitt
Tie – Tyrwhitt
Pocket square – No name
Socks – Uniqlo
Shoes – Allen-Edmonds Player in navy suede

Bonus shots from the balcony of the Hilton at Fort Lauderdale. How nice to be out of the house, and what a great view!

 

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