Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Big Question

Why all this fuss about Trad?

Honestly, the amount of time, effort and expenditure put forth on obtaining the items and discussing them on the various message boards by a group of mostly American and English whack-a-doodles is astonishing. Especially when you consider how many of us there are posting - maybe 200, total?

Talk radio shows figure that one listener in 20 actually calls in; even fewer get through, since many of them wish to read a prepared statement on why Henry Kissinger is a nine-foot tall shape-shifting reptilian creature from another galaxy hell-bent on keeping the price of bobby pins right where it is, dammit.

Who knows how many lurkers on the MBs put in place some version of what they see and read about.

We've had all sorts of internecine battles on the subject, and like all good historical disputes the actual topic under discussion has never been universally defined. (Thus causing the disturbances.)

It gets rather heated at times, which is better than lobbing bombs or bullets but still pretty silly in the great scheme of things.

So what the hell is it we're arguing about?

I'd offer this pared-down list of characteristics of a Trad style (or Ivy, or TNSIL, or insert your term here):

Buttondown collars on the shirts
Relatively skinny ties - 3 1/2 inches at most
Undarted jackets with little or no padding in the shoulders
Flat-front trousers, with or without cuffs
Sensible shoes, occasionally crossing the line into elegance

Like the 12-bar blues, this is a basic template. Feel free to improvise, to the extent of creating something almost wholly unrecognizable as Trad, yet Tradly.

The Cinema - Bug-Eyed Composer, Bitten By Green-Eyed Monster, Finds Fiery Finale

John Brahm's Hangover Square (1945) illustrates yet again that the most dangerous thing a young chanteuse can do to a psychotic composer with bug eyes and a predilection for Norfolk jackets is get engaged to the slimy theatrical producer mere moments after snuggling with said composer in a hansom cab.

Laird Cregar plays composer George Harvey Bone, an absent-minded sort who writes ghastly concertos that aren't as bad as they sound. Along the way he gets snookered by music hall vixen Netta Longdon, who casts a hell of a big Netta over him, convincing him to write some pop tunes for her. George doesn't take much convincing once she's commenced shaking her considerable decolletage at him.

But what ol' Netta doesn't know is that George suffers from fugue states, brought on by discordant sounds, like a bunch of pipes falling off a wagon, or his own compositions.

And in these states, he's likely to do anything, and does.

The ever elegant and vaguely creepy George Sanders plays Dr. Allan Middleton, who suspects George of having a hand in the spate of violence in and around Hangover Square, but he can't prove it.

There's a lot of plot that interferes with the story but it all gets going when George attacks the theatrical producer, and then goes into one of his murderous funks. He lurks around Netta's building, kills her and carries her body off.

And in a stroke of luck, the sort that only seems to happen to the temporarily deranged, it's Guy Fawkes Day, and the street urchins are having a bonfire. George climbs up a ladder and sticks Netta's body, disguised by a mask, on the top of the pile. He also gets his pants singed on the way down, a fact that proves to be his downfall.

The Hangover Square Concerto was written by Bernard Herrmann, Hitchcock's favorite composer, and the final scene is a stunner, with the music and a long plan-sequence that takes the audience around the recital hall, back to the musicians, to George, and back out again, creating a marvelously paranoid and suspenseful atmosphere.

And George, who has managed to set the place on fire, dies while hammering out the final chords.

Great stuff. Sort of a CACA film, in that Cregar's eyes pop out of his head when he goes into psycho mode. Definitely a B movie, so it gets an enthusiastic three coil rating.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Why All the WTH Posts?

I was looking through the archives for something New England tweedy to make a point on a thread on the new Talk Ivy forum on FNB, and there's this feature where one can zap a saved photo from Photo Bucket directly to the blog.

So I did, and added the snotty titles later.

I spend entirely too much time photographing myself. It is weird, flat-out weird.

Conspiracy Theory WTH

Everybody has one of those days, but when this was snapped I was under extreme duress. The Lizard People had been active; Freemasons were pestering me on the phone with sinister questions like "Who is the 23 Skiddoo?"

Agents from the DEA were across the street, disguised as ducks, and my attorney was AWOL on a small boat somewhere in the Chesapeake Bay.

An aluminum foil helmet is not a guarantee of blocking interference rays - you want the Halliburton G9 Discombobulator for that - but it will do in a pinch.

And lest you fear exciting comment, rest assured that more people will wonder why you're wearing a necktie than about the unorthodox headgear. Thus is life in this lax, postmodern world.


Eraserhead WTH


I am often asked, "Sully, who is your barber, I wish to avoid him."

And I reply, "My hair gets this way because I do absolutely nothing to it. I do not even own a comb or hairbrush."

Bachelor Cooking WTH (cigar ash for flavor)


Mild-Mannered Reporter WTH


Espionage WTH Style

I had just left the Congressman's office and was making my way over to J. Press when I noticed I had company. In what I thought was a rather clever move, I ducked into the Spy Museum. Last place they'd look for me, right?


So it was off to Afghanistan until the heat died down.


The Acquisitive Mamma-Tamma

(From the top: Ties, ties , and more ties. Thrifted and eBayed. I tend to ruin ties at work, so presentable models at pennies in the dollar represent a good investment. A new LL Bean non-iron oxford cloth buttondown, on sale; an old Brooks Brothers buttondown, untreated, cheap from an Ebay seller. I like the pattern a lot. More ties; these with a 1940s vibe to them. The two on the right are from the Andover Shop; middle yellow one is a Rooster; far left Hilditch and Key. Got the whole mess for $4. A pair of Allen Edmonds Broadstreets in brown, from eBay. I'd been looking for a pair forever. and probably overpaid at $120 shipped, but hey, now I have them, and my spectator needs are now met for the next 50 years. A slew of Brooks bows from an Ask Andyer, and two blue university stripe shirts, one slightly darker than the other, from Ralph of Long Island via eBay. Total for everything, right around $200, with the shoes being the only high ticket item.)

Many people ask, "Patrick, enough already, why do you continue collecting so much stuff?"

And I reply, "Beats the hell out of me, but somebody's got to keep the thrift shops in business during these dark times."

And then they ask, "Why are you writing in the style of Longwing?"

And I reply, "Because he is on vacation."

Significant additions, all eBay, thrifts or private deals with other clothing nuts. I am particularly anxious for Fall now, so I can trot out a couple of older double-breasted suits and wear those 40s-looking ties.

Auditioning to Host Masterpiece Theater WTH


Hard-Boiled Wannabe WTH


Fat Cineaste WTH


Fat Cineaste WTH pt. 2


El Hombre Secreto WTH


Monday, July 28, 2008

Largemouth Bass - The New Coldwater Fish?

We've had a lot of rain here in the Northwest Corner and the water level in the lake is up about a foot and a half, and colder by what I am guessing is about 10 degrees, judging by my plunge.

Whatever it is, it seemed to stimulate the bass. More surface activity than in recent weeks, which seems odd to me, bucketmouths being a warm-water species.

I guess there's warm and then there's bathtub.

Besides, I long ago gave up trying to figure out fish.

I can't recommend the pith helmet enough as a fishing hat. It keeps the sun off and you can submerge it in water, to keep the head cool.

The latest in my series of Manly Fishing Photos. I have cunningly cropped out my embarrassing girth.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

WTH Style - Stupid Cleaners

The stupid cleaners pressed both my tan poplin sacks wrong - they buttoned them on the top, folded-over button and proceeded.

But luckily I own the Whirlpool Monolithic Steamer, a device so powerful and cumbersome, so awe-inspiring that small ape-like creatures worship it after their crude fashion, that it steams out such errors without breaking a sweat.

(Get it? Steam? Sweat? Ahahahaha.)

I am really enjoying the obnoxious madras ties this summer, and the pocket square comes from Kent Wang's Pocket Squared site. KW makes squares and cufflinks; it's an affordable way to jazz up your style with unusual stuff.

And those silly socks are from Joy of Socks, a silly name for a store if there ever was one. But good merchandise.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The New Permanent Press

Remember the 60/40 cotton and polyester dress shirts? "Drip-dry," "permanent press"? The idea was to relieve the Harriet the Harried Housewife from the chore of ironing, thus freeing her to drink beer and throw rocks at bottles at the junk yard.

And the harried bachelor could chuck his shirts in the bathtub, pour some soap on them, and gently agitate with his feet. (Alternate method - a broom or mop handle. If said bachelor owned such things.)

Life in those days must have been one big clothesline.

I still have a few of those shirts from Brooks or somebody, and the problem with them is that they never felt quite right.

And they were hot.

Fast-forward to today, with manufacturers merrily treating their fabrics with a sort of Teflon material and hardly a standard, must-iron shirt to be found anywhere.

If you buy a dress shirt at a department store chances are it will be treated.

Even Brooks Brothers, never known for their innovation, has gone for the 100 percent cotton, non-iron in a big way.

These non-irons are different than the old wash and wears, at least in theory. Being all-cotton, they should breathe and feel good against the skin.

Well, some do and some don't. I have quite a few, and here's how they rank:

Lands End: The non-iron broadcloth and pinpoint solids are my go-to suit shirts. I can't tell the difference between them and a standard shirt in terms of comfort. After repeated washings the Teflon starts to wear off a bit, and they look more like a regular shirt that's been ironed recently than a "Look Ma, No Wrinkles!" Official Non-Iron Shirt.

I have four LE pinpoint non-irons with buttondown collars that have been my workhorse shirts this summer. I got them specifically for the purpose. I have been leery of the non-iron with the buttondown collar in the past; the style's inherent casualness seems at odds with the eerily perfect-looking collar.

But these are fine and don't look like I got my head stuck in a bucket of starch or anything.

LL Bean: All their oxford cloth buttondowns in exact neck and sleeve sizes come with the Treatment these days, which strikes me as silly. Oxford cloth is one fabric that will take and hold even the most inept and perfunctory attempt at ironing.

But they are certainly sturdy. Great for fall, under tweeds or as stand-alone sports shirts.

Brooks Brothers: There are the regular line shirts, which have gotten better in terms of hand and breathability. On sale these represent a good value, although I still prefer the standard finish for the buttondown.

And there are the "346" line shirts, found in the outlets, and these are a decidedly mixed bag. They have averaged sleeve sizes, and the averages are pretty skewed, because the sleeve lengths are all over the place. And the non-iron fabrics range from the perfectly fine to the dreadful and plasticky. Really give these a good once-over before you buy - try them on, feel the fabric, button it all the way up and ask yourself, do I want this stuff under my chin all day?

It's a shame, because some of the 346 patterns are pretty snazzy.

The Field:

Nordstrom SmartCare: I have one of these, a white buttondown. They abound on eBay for about half the store price. It feels fine and performs exactly as advertised.

Joseph A. Bank: I have an older Travelers line shirt, which is plasticky and will shortly go in the donation bag; and a brand new one, from the StaysCool line.

This last is rather remarkable. A white buttondown, it is rather sheer. If you are hairy this might not be your best bet.

The fabric feels elegant. Or flimsy. I can't decide.

I wore it yesterday, with a Brooks poplin sack in their CoolMax configuration. (And I make fun of Lycra bicycle shorts.) And yes, the shirt Stayed Cool.

At $60 a pop it's a little dear; JAB runs continuous promotions, however, and the shirts will certainly be available at a heavy discount at some point.

[Edit, August 1] Charles Tyrwhitt: The English Jos. A Bank, home of the Eternal Promotion. Their prices just went up. Great patterns, but the overall quality of the shirts is uneven. I have four of their non-irons and as far as the fabric goes I find them indistinguishable from a must-iron.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Great Pocket Square Barrier

It's possible to get Marvin the Mook to start wearing suits and sport coats. It's conceivable to get him to think a bit about fit. You might even bludgeon him into investing an a few pairs of good shoes.

But Marvin is going to jibe at the addition of the pocket square.

The little bit of whatever peeking out of the jacket's breast pocket - or cascading out, depending on the flamboyance level of the wearer - is, to the average guy, the Last Frontier, the Great Barrier to be crossed.

The pocket square says, "Watch out, slobs - I have abandoned the cargo pants, the backwards baseball hat, the two-day beard...and you."

These arrived from Sierra Trading Post today. At $20 a pop. they are inexpensive as these things go, and I think I'll get a fair bit of use from them. Colorful but not garish, whimsical without being silly.

I can tell you guys one thing - women notice pocket squares. This is a mixed blessing, as for every attractive lady giving slightly more than the time of day there is a middle linebacker who wishes to adjust it, but as a bit of plumage the pocket square is quite effective.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

WTH Style - Understatement. Plus a brief fishing report.

Saturday was a typical mid-summer day for the Northwest Corner - blistering hot, muggy as hell, definitely not suit weather.

Oh yeah?

This is a cotton Brooks Brothers suit, with a high-roll three-button jacket, double vents, pleated trousers. The shoulders have a little more to them than I generally like, but it fits well. (Sometimes I think with my sloping shoulders I should really be looking harder at more structured jackets, anyway.)

The jacket is fully lined, which is a drawback, but otherwise this is a very good suit for this sort of non-suit weather.

So I tossed it together with a Brooks "luxury" shirt I got from eBay and a thrifted pink Hilditch and Key tie, hoping to elicit some more snotty comments from the Yoots. Also a pair of Allen Edmonds Niles in that "chili" color that I think goes well with blue, even if it is lighter than the usual brown shoe color deemed appropriate for use with blue suits.

The next time I trot this suit out I will go with a mod-ish look - white buttondown and dark knit tie. Black shoes.

Meanwhile, in sporting action...

Today I took a lady friend fishing. She is a natural athlete, and has found her groove with the fly rod to some extent. Better than me today, anyway, as she took two fish to my one. Her very first fish - with any kind of tackle - was a medium-sized bluegill, caught from a canoe on a size 4 Madame X caddis fly, with an Orvis 8.5 foot, six-weight rod.

She also entertained me with a steady stream of hilarious remarks on a wide (and occasionally bewildering) variety of subjects, and then made a terrific salmon and veggie salad sort of dish for dinner.

The only disappointing aspect of the day was she failed to fall in the drink, which featured prominently in our first two fishing trips.

The fishing was very slow, but the company more than made up for it. Tomorrow I will resume the Lone Wolf fishing regimen, but somehow I don't think I will be laughing quite as much.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

WTH Style - King Cotton

It was almost 100 percent cotton, head to toe, today. Press sack (that needs a cleaning; tan poplin is a magnet for smuts); Lands End non-iron pinpoint, LE tie, Wang seersucker square, BB shoes and socks.

Eight hours with the crew and I feel like I just went up Mt. Everest on a pogo stick.

It's amazing what wearing pink induces in people, including my favorite - questions about my sexual preference.

To which there is only one answer - "Why don't you kiss me and find out?"

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Great Loafer Hunt pt. 3

In the interests of science I purchased a standard pair of burgundy-colored, corrected grain Weejuns (the "Logan") from the aptly-named Zappos, who zapped 'em here in one day for no handling charge at all. Total cost - a little under $95.

If an American is going to buy a loafer chances are he will purchase these.

I propose to beat the crap out of them and see how they hold up. Photos will be posted as warranted.

Above, how they are now, fresh from the box.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


A real danger of taking a short vacation is the inevitable trudge back to the drudgery. Today I had to assemble the most obnoxious items available, just to keep the hounds at bay.

The Haspel plaid jacket is extremely comfortable and a pretty good deal from Sierra Trading Post. It is darted, but the darts get lost in the pattern and for the price, who cares?

Currently STP has one in 40R only, and another 42S that's quite cheap.

The trousers are from Lands End, flat front, linen, and delightful to wear in the sticky Northeast summer. I found mine in the Overstocks section some time ago. They seem to be in the regular price area at the moment [link].

Truly a "what the hell" kind of day.

* Post-Vacation Nitwit-Related Stress Disorder.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


In high school I was required to keep a journal, and I wrote a continuing series called "Things I Hate."

The teachers thought it was pretty funny.

And now, 30 years later, I am doing the same bloody thing. I just dropped the juvenile title, opting for the Menckenesque "Prejudices."

(None of H.L.'s style, though.)

I cannot stand:

  • Stretchy black bicycle panties.
  • The Democratic Party, as currently constructed.
  • Tailgaters - the moving kind, not the ones drinking their breakfast before the football game.
  • MSNBC - The single greatest group of brainless jabbering ninnies ever assembled outside of the United States Senate.
  • The Republican Party, as currently constructed.
  • Liberals, conservatives, libertarians, Greens, Move, hippies, hippity-hoppers, muscular Christians, people who speak in the current business school gibberish, and little yappy dogs.
  • Men who wear dress shirts without ties and jackets. Get a sports shirt, morons - you look like hell.
  • The idiotic American cult of youth.
I will have more.

Hardboiled - Henning Mankell's Serious Swedish Sleuth

Before I skedaddle on a brief vacation I'd just like to put in a plug for the police procedurals written by Henning Mankell. They feature Kurt Wallander, a cop in the southern Swedish province of Skane, which is between Denmark on the left and Latvia on the right.

Wallander is a complex man: overweight, indifferent-to-lousy health, far too sensitive for the job, and a terrific, if sometimes muddled, detective.

His little corner of Sweden is getting more and more violent, and his resources - both official and personal - increasingly inadequate to cope.

But cope he does, and along the way unravels some extremely weird and creative mysteries.

Mankell's scenarios are often bizarre and macabre. In translation the writing is spare, but with the occasional flex of the writer's muscle that makes me think he either does a lot of revisions and/or has a hell of a good editor.

The books tend to be long, but they are so well-constructed that the reader is either unaware of the length, or glad since it means the story isn't going to run out anytime soon.

Check it out.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

WTH Style - Red, White & Blue

See the man.

The man looks irritated.

Why are you looking so grumpy, sir?

The man works in a caring profession, but wishes to switch careers.

He is considering becoming a strangler.

The man has noticed his neck getting thicker.

This annoys him.

And, speaking of necks, he'd like to wring someone else's.

It would make a nice change.

The man is not picky - any neck will do.

It is almost the same as counseling, but quicker.

Navy BrooksCool poplin sack suit with a red butcher stripe point collar Brooks shirt and a blue Sam Hober tie. Square, also in the patriotic color scheme, from a grab bag of two dozen squares found at a thrift shop. Footjoy "factory blemish" shoes.

I was reading somewhere on the FNB site about a navy blazer really making a red striped shirt pop. I decided to apply that idea to the suit, an otherwise dowdy garment.

It also occurred to me that my head fits the color scheme too - red face, white hair, blue eyes.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Crucial Elements of Fishing

Here are some important things to remember when fishing - things that don't often get mentioned in the angling journals:

1. Assess the day with large amounts of caffeine. Clearly it is mid-morning in this shot, so any hope of an early hatch is shot to hell. Best thing is to get completely frantic on coffee and then take a nap.


2. Practice standing around looking manly. I do this in case a pickup containing one of those attractive gals featured in Fly Fisherman photo shoots happens by. It is impossible to overestimate the eroticism of a girl in waders holding a big-ass trout.

For some reason this tactic has never done me the slightest good, but I persist.

3. Find a shady spot for a streamside kip.

4. Inform the deer that the Hokey Pokey went out years ago.

5. Thank the duck family, in a voice dripping with sarcasm, for barging through just as the wary trout was starting to show some interest in my dry fly.