31 October 2012

Period Incorrect

I've been watching the new CBS series Vegas (not to be confused with NBC's dreadful Las Vegas from half a decade ago, or the late-1970s ABC private-eye show Vega$). The premise is very loosely based on the life of Ralph Lamb, a rancher who became sheriff in 1960 and remained in the position for nearly two decades.

I was drawn in initially by the show's pedigree, with Nicholas Pileggi, the author of the books on which GoodFellas and Casino are based (and co-writer with Martin Scorsese of those films' screenplays) as its co-creator. Pileggi's involvement probably helped to lure Dennis Quaid to accept his first regular TV series role as Lamb, and Michael Chiklis of The Shield to come on board as mobster Vincent Savino. Jason O'Mara (star of the American version of Life On Mars) and Carrie-Anne Moss (probably best known as Trinity from the Matrix trilogy, here an amusing contrast in 1960s clothes and hair) are other appealing reasons to watch.

The idea of Quaid and Chiklis's characters as adversaries made me interested enough to sample Vegas, along with the setting at the beginning of the Mad Men era. To its credit the show looks terrific, but unfortunately it's turning out to have the familiar feel of many other cop shows: a case of the week intertwined with longer story arcs involving Savino's ambitions to become a legitimate businessman, and the conflicts this causes with his bosses back in Chicago.

But my biggest gripe with the show has nothing to do with the storytelling, but with the props, specifically the cars and trucks being used. It's been made clear to viewers that these initial episodes are taking place in 1960, but most of the vehicles that have appeared so far are newer. There are a couple of 1961 models (Savino's Lincoln Continental, the assistant DA's Thunderbird) which could kind of be excused, depending on the specific point in the calendar year the show is in, but there have been plenty of 1962 and 1963 models, and even a few '64s and '65s running around in the background. Even the sheriff's pickup truck is at least two or three years too new.

(Speaking of Mad Men, both Don's 1962 Cadillac and Betty's 1962 Mercury station wagon have made appearances, indicating the producers are using the same vintage car supplier.)

Now, most people wouldn't notice this, and fewer would care. The reason it jumps out to me as a glaring error is because, for the American car companies, 1960 was a crucial turning point in the evolution of automobile design. The designs of the 1950s grew increasingly gaudy and outlandish with each passing year, but by 1959 the stylists finally realized that they had pushed the excess too far. The designs of 1960 models generally represented a fresh application of restraint that would lead to a decade of style high points before once again swinging back to excess during the 1970s.

With that in mind, the show's use of newer cars results in the atmosphere looking confused. There should still be plenty of older 1950s cars on view and in regular use, and there are some, but not enough; the choice of using mostly post-1960 cars makes it look like the show is set in the middle of the 1960s instead of the beginning. If you're trying to establish the mood of a certain place and time, such details make a difference. Matthew Weiner certainly knows this, but it seems like the producers of Vegas aren't as interested in being as true as possible to their show's setting, and this ends up detracting and distracting from the rest of what's on screen.

30 October 2012

Storm Aftermath

I was just out walking the dog, and things are much quieter than they were 24 hours ago. But even so, we barely got touched by this thing, and we're extremely lucky compared to just about everywhere else. We never even lost power.

We got our share of high winds, and this morning there were tree branches all over the place. A couple of substantial limbs dropped into the street across from us yesterday, and within an hour or two a city crew came around with a truck pulling a wood chipper to clear them and turn them into mulch.

The next-door neighbors' back fence was knocked down, but I'm not sure how securely it was installed to begin with; a couple of years ago the teenagers who live there had a party, and eventually the police arrived to break it up, and some of the guests decided to, um, leave hastily by climbing over that same fence, and in the process it fell down, so who knows.

The dog had a tough time yesterday. The Mrs. took her out in the morning, before things had really gotten going. I took her out later on in the afternoon, and she turned around and headed back toward the house almost immediately. A few hours later it was the same thing, except the conditions were much worse. It wasn't until around 10:30 that it had calmed down enough for her to be able to complete her bodily functions.

29 October 2012

Trash Day Gamble

Monday is trash day where we live. With the storm coming I decided it wasn't such a good idea for the trash can to sit out at the curb overnight, so I reasoned that the city would delay collection by a day, like they do on holiday weekends. But the truck just came through. Most of the neighbors had put out their trash, and almost all their cans had been knocked down before the pickup. Oh well...

28 October 2012

This Week in Awesome (10/27/12)

At some point I hope to get back to posting these on Saturday...

Just in time for Halloween: frightening, and also kind of hilarious. (Blogfood)

This collection of tips and suggestions takes a while to scroll through, but it's worth it. (Kottke via The Billfold)

Time-lapse time. This week's destination: Paris, part one and part two. (Laughing Squid)

Here's an article about the, um, distinctive commercials employed by the Carvel ice cream chain back in the 1970s and '80s. It refers to the "tri-state area" of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut where many Carvel stores were concentrated, but I grew up in Rhode Island with a Carvel just a bit up the road, and I'm quite familiar with these commercials because they ran on our local TV stations too. (AdAge via The Awl)

And finally this week, I don't know why I didn't think to post this after it first ran on Adult Swim a couple of weeks back, but crush objects Jon Hamm and Adam Scott did a spoof/homage to the '80s-tastic TV series Simon & Simon. You can also find some background on how it came together over here.

26 October 2012

Pop-Ups and Fleas

Last weekend I stopped by a couple of clothing-related events taking place in the area. On Saturday I visited the American Field pop-up organized by Ball and Buck. It was a prime opportunity for close-up inspection of all sorts of American-made clothing and gear. I thought this was going to be an outdoor event, but it was inside an old building in the South End. (Maybe a hedge against the weather?) The live music was too loud for the indoor space, and the promised food trucks didn't materialize (there was one lone truck), but otherwise this is an event I'd like to see happening annually.

The highlights for me: imploring the rep from Red Wing to pass along my request to make more of their offerings in wide widths; getting hands-on with San Francisco's Tellason jeans (at $200 a pair they are definitely beyond my budget now, but someday I'm going to find a way to own a pair of these); and seeing Maine's Rancourt & Co. shoes in person for the first time—the quality and workmanship of these is really impressive, and they're also an excellent value. I also enjoyed looking over the goods from Taylor Stitch (also a San francisco company) and learning that their shirts are offered in chest sizes, which provides a better fit for more men.

On Sunday it was over to the VFW in Davis Square for the sixth edition of An Affordable Wardrobe's semi-annual Top Shelf Flea Market. It's always nice to stop by, say hello to Giuseppe, and chat about clothes. This time I was able to bring home something genuinely interesting and cool: a deadstock (old, but never sold) Brooks Brothers dress shirt (pics here) in my size, white with burgundy stripes and a semi-spread collar, still sporting a price tag from Filene's Basement along with its original collar stays and obvious fold lines from being in its original packaging for a long time. It's difficult to tell just how old this is, but the shirt is made in USA and the price tag suggests it probably dates from at least the late 1990s.

25 October 2012


Orvis came through: the shirt arrived yesterday. I'll probably never know how the wrong shirt got attached to the right image, but something must have been going on with their inventory. I'd offer to work for them in inventory control, but their warehouse is in Virginia.

24 October 2012

Her Ignorance Is Showing (and Telling)

As you know, I avoid politics in this space. It has to do with how I was brought up and my distaste of how the media already covers political issues in our country. But after I heard about this I was furious. Fortunately, John Franklin Stephens wrote a far more eloquent and dignified reply than I would have been capable of (and more than I think was deserved), so I decided to make an exception.

I am quoting this material directly from The Daily What:
After Ann Coulter referred to President Obama as a retard in a tweet during Monday night's presidential debate, Special Olympics athlete and global messenger John Franklin Stephens penned her this open letter:
Dear Ann Coulter,

Come on Ms. Coulter, you aren't dumb and you aren't shallow. So why are you continually using a word like the R-word as an insult?

I'm a 30 year old man with Down syndrome who has struggled with the public's perception that an intellectual disability means that I am dumb and shallow. I am not either of those things, but I do process information more slowly than the rest of you. In fact it has taken me all day to figure out how to respond to your use of the R-word last night.

I thought first of asking whether you meant to describe the President as someone who was bullied as a child by people like you, but rose above it to find a way to succeed in life as many of my fellow Special Olympians have.

Then I wondered if you meant to describe him as someone who has to struggle to be thoughtful about everything he says, as everyone else races from one snarkey sound bite to the next.

Finally, I wondered if you meant to degrade him as someone who is likely to receive bad health care, live in low grade housing with very little income and still manages to see life as a wonderful gift.

Because, Ms. Coulter, that is who we are — and much, much more.

After I saw your tweet, I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me. You assumed that people would understand and accept that being linked to someone like me is an insult and you assumed you could get away with it and still appear on TV.

I have to wonder if you considered other hateful words but recoiled from the backlash.

Well, Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor.

No one overcomes more than we do and still loves life so much.

Come join us someday at Special Olympics. See if you can walk away with your heart unchanged.

A friend you haven't made yet, 
John Franklin Stephens
Global Messenger
Special Olympics Virginia
Ann Coulter is a miserable, despicable excuse for a human being. Her venomous ignorance reflects poorly on all of us as humans and as Americans. I am generally disinclined to wish harm to others, but if something terrible were to happen to her I would not be the tiniest bit upset.

23 October 2012


So, another phone call from Orvis customer service, this time with the good news that they were able to locate the shirt I wanted in the correct color, and it's on its way to me. Fingers crossed...

22 October 2012


The rumors and promises have been swirling for nearly a year, and now it's finally official: Uniqlo has launched its US e-commerce operation. I think this may be a soft opening, as I receive regular emails from them and I haven't heard from them about this yet. But it's not a beta version, it's a fully up-and-running online store.

If you aren't familiar with Uniqlo, it's a Japanese retailer that emphasizes quality and value in basic styles meant for everyday wear.

The selection is quite broad; everything you can find in a Uniqlo store is on the website. Standard shipping is $7 (free on orders of $100) and returns are not free either, but until now the only option was a trip to New York (or the much more recently opened San Francisco and New Jersey stores).

In keeping with the pattern of their recent store openings, there are special prices on certain items, like fleece jackets for $20, men's cashmere sweaters for $80, and colored jeans for $10.

Uniqlo has big plans for expansion in the US over the next five to ten years, and it's a safe assumption that a store in the Boston area will happen at some point, but for now this is the next-best thing.

21 October 2012

This Week in Awesome (10/20/12)

Today is National Nachos Day, and there's still time for you to participate if you act quickly (or are in the Pacific time zone). Meanwhile, back on the internet...

Here's a cool time-lapse of the space shuttle Endeavour's trip through the streets of Los Angeles last weekend. (Los Angeles Times via Devour)

One of these scarves would make a nice gift for a literature lover. (Etsy via Laughing Squid)

T-shirt iconography in movies summed up in one graphic. (BlueCotton via /film)

The Onion spoofs the TED Talks. (If you don't know what that is, ask an intellectual nerd.)

And finally this week, those of you who, like me, are fans of Arrested Development and are eagerly awaiting the show's return (on Netflix) will enjoy this compilation of memorable quotes from the show. If you haven't experienced the show for yourself and are curious, the three seasons that aired on Fox are all available on Netflix streaming. (The Daily What)

20 October 2012

Retro Video Unit (10/19/12)

I've been thinking about posting this one for some time, and I had a couple of conversations this week about Freddie Mercury's legacy so I think it's as good a time as any.

"Under Pressure" by Queen and David Bowie—if you don't love this song, there may be something wrong with you...

18 October 2012

Update from Orvis

According to the email I received, a replacement shirt is on its way to me, but it will be at least a few more days before I know whether or not it's the one I'm hoping to get.

Update to the update: oops, I guess I posted this too quickly, because I just got a voice mail from Orvis customer service telling me that the order was checked before shipping and they found it was the same incorrect shirt I had already received. They are still trying to find the correct item for me.

17 October 2012

More Made in USA

I just read that work-clothing company Carhartt has a "made in the USA" line featuring some of its most popular pieces. I think this is smart business and I'd like to support it, though I don't need any work clothes at the moment.

I do have one of these jackets in black. I bought it several years ago and I generally wear it on weekends and sometimes to walk the dog, depending on the temperature. I like it because it's simple and rugged, and the styling is plain and classic, not something that will be "out of fashion" in a year or so. Mine was not made in the USA, and at the moment I can't justify spending the money to replace it with an American-made version, but it's nice to know that there are options.

And $75 is a very reasonable amount to spend on such a jacket, especially when you know the purchase supports American workers. A lot of companies are making great clothing in the USA, but not all of them are as accessibly priced.

You can see Carhartt's other made in USA items here (note: if you click that link, the page has a video that plays automatically). Perhaps sales of these products will encourage Carhartt to consider making more items domestically.

(By the way, if you live in the Boston area, there is a Carhartt store in the Legacy Place shopping center in Dedham, which offers an opportunity to check out these items firsthand.)

16 October 2012

Eyewear Out There

Retro-cool and wallet-friendly eyeglass purveyors Warby Parker, where you can get frames with prescription lenses for as little as $95, is traversing the country showing off its wares in a converted school bus.

This "class trip" has rolled into Boston for the week: you'll find the bus parked between Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market from today through Sunday the 21st, and if you stop by you'll be able to try on their offerings. I was downtown this afternoon and went by to have a look. The folks on the bus are very friendly and capable of answering any questions you may have about their products.

If you can't make it, don't worry; you can still order frames to be shipped to you for an in-home try-on.

15 October 2012

The Unknown Shirt

Recently I ordered a shirt from Orvis. I don't buy a lot from them, mainly because I think a lot of their stuff is overpriced. But some things go on sale eventually, it just tends to take longer.

For example, the shirt I ordered was one I'd first seen and liked over a year ago. During that time its price actually increased, from $79 to $89, before landing in the sale section at $59. Then they offered 25% off everything in the sale section, along with free shipping for a certain period of time. My size was still available (another frequent problem with waiting for things to go on sale) so I placed an order.

When the shirt arrived, it was a different pattern than what I'd ordered, but it wasn't any of the other colors or patterns this particular shirt was offered in. In fact it was a pattern I had never seen before, either online or in an Orvis store. I ordered a red plaid shirt, this was a lighter red stripe with some thin white and navy stripes. Very strange.

I called customer service, which has been uniformly terrific in my experience, and the rep promised to have someone find the shirt I want and send it to me, so we'll see how this story ends in a few days.

14 October 2012

This Week in Awesome (10/13/12)

It's chilly outside, and I love it. I guess that makes me a true New Englander, or something?

This one's tough to explain, so just have a look and you'll get it. (FILMography via Esquire Style Blog)

Pinterest is already full of weird things you can buy for your pets, and other stuff. (BuzzFeed FWD)

This is a commercial for The Simpsons in Russia. That may not sound like a big deal, but man it's impressive. (The Daily What)

This week's time-lapse video takes us to San Francisco. Go Giants!* (Laughing Squid via The Daily What)

And finally this week, you may have heard that Pixar is releasing a prequel to Monsters, Inc. next summer called Monsters University. The inevitable marketing onslaught has already begun, but in a much more clever way than you might expect.

*I can say that, right? I mean, the Red Sox aren't in it...

12 October 2012

Boot Talk

Red Wing's Heritage boots have been favored by style bloggers and workwear partisans for several years now. I thought about getting a pair a couple of years ago, and I wrote about certain styles that interested me.

The internet tells me that Red Wings run big (so you should size down) but narrow (so they probably wouldn't be comfortable for me and my widish feet). As it happened, I never got around to trying on any of those boots, but a couple of months later I bought a pair of Wolverine's 1000 Mile Boots, in part because I was able to try them on and found that they have a generously wide fit, even for a shoe labeled as medium width. However, as with Red Wings I did find them to run a half-size large. (This tends to happen with many brands and styles of boots.)

More recently I was thinking about getting a new pair of black lace-up work boots. My Caterpillar Second Shift boots are really comfortable and durable, but they are well worn-in and probably aren't appropriate to wear to work anymore (assuming that I go back to work at some point), and I kind of wanted to find something a little less clunky and a little more refined-looking.

While looking around I discovered a style of Red Wing boots that wasn't available when I was looking two years ago, that had already been discontinued. On Amazon they were priced at about half what they cost new, so I decided to give them a try. Remembering their sizing I ordered a half-size down from what I usually get, and they were plenty long enough, but as I'd suspected they were too narrow to wear comfortably.

I briefly entertained the idea of trying to stretch them, but ultimately decided to return them. But what could I get instead? I'd also come across boots from Frye that looked almost exactly like the Red Wings and which were also made in USA. They were somewhat more expensive, but Amazon was in the process of closing down its shoe site Endless, and to entice customers to shop the shoe section on Amazon they offered a 25% discount for signing up for emails. By using that code I was able to get the Frye boots for only about $15 more than I'd paid for the Red Wings. These are also offered only in medium width, but they are wide enough to be wearable. (From looking at that last link, it appears I managed to just miss a substantial price increase, which is kind of an extra bonus.)

I didn't like the laces that the Frye boots came with, but I was able to find flat textile laces that look just like the ones on the Red Wing boots. Since it's finally fall for real, I started wearing them this week, and they hardly even needed breaking in. By the way, I found that I didn't have to size down with the Frye boots; I got the same size as I wear in dress shoes.

By the way, if you like Red Wing boots and are interested in seeing them and trying them on, they are doing a sort of "trunk show" at Brooks Brothers locations nationwide this weekend, following a similar, smaller-scale event last fall. The information doesn't appear on the BB website, but I learned about it here and you can call your local store to check on it.

My message to Red Wing: please consider offering at least some of your styles (besides the Iron Ranger) in wider widths, because from my personal experience, what you call medium is more like narrow. More widths equals more sales.

SAR's Kitchen Helper: Very Easy Chili

In my household, both of us are quite capable of cooking, but neither of us is really that into it. But since I'm not working at the moment and the Mrs. is spending two days a week at an internship and one day a week on campus, I decided I should endeavor to cook something at least once a week that gives us enough for a couple of meals.

Last week I cooked some chicken breasts, cut them up, made a bag of tortellini, and threw it together with tomatoes, olives, and pesto. I'll probably do this again, but I think I'll vary it by adding some artichoke hearts and using that pre-cooked chicken sausage from Trader Joe's.

This week I decided that since it's turned cooler outside, I would make chili. I prefer to make mine in a slow cooker because it does most of the work for you. It's really easy to make good chili, and the slow cooker makes it pretty much mistake-proof. All you really have to do is cook some meat and open some cans.

Ground beef is the most common choice, but you can use ground turkey if you like (it's leaner, so less of it cooks off). I've used a meat I found at Stop & Shop called "skillet steak" that works really nicely, but I couldn't find it this time around. Once I had amazing chili that had been made using meat from a beautiful roast, but that's expensive and unnecessarily elaborate. Whatever meat you decide to use, you should get around two pounds of it.

Get two cans of diced tomatoes. I prefer the kind without peppers in them, but that's up to you. Also two cans of beans; most people use kidney beans but I like to use one can of kidney and one can of black beans, just for a little variety. Get one small can of tomato sauce; you want something that has not been seasoned to taste like spaghetti sauce. I like to add onion, but some people don't like onions. One large onion should be enough.

I do cheat a little regarding the seasoning: I buy one of those "chili kits" (they're usually near the salsa) because the seasonings are already mixed and you can just use however much makes it taste the way you like. Like I said above, easy and foolproof. These kits also come with cayenne pepper, which I don't use, and flour to thicken the chili, which I do use.

Cook the meat on the stove first in some olive oil, with salt, pepper, and maybe a little oregano and garlic powder. Cut up the onion and throw that in with the meat. While it's cooking, open all the cans. Dump everything in the slow cooker. When the meat is done add that and turn on the cooker, then add the seasoning. Stir everything up really well, then go away. Come back and stir once in a while. Follow the kit's instructions on adding the flour. Let it cook for at least three hours, probably four.

Serve with shredded cheese on top and cold beer.

10 October 2012

Armchair Network Executive

I watch Saturday Night Live more out of habit than any other reason; these days the show is only intermittently funny, but sometimes I want to see a particular musical guest, or see how a guest host does. I was looking forward to this past weekend's show with Daniel Craig as host because I've seen him display a sharp wit in interviews on shows like The Colbert Report, and I suspected he would be game for whatever the writers cooked up.

He was game, but unfortunately the material largely failed him, and there was one sketch that he didn't even appear in. (Why bother even having a guest host, then?) For years SNL has relied far too heavily on sketches that consist of a single joke repeated over and over again, and I suspect this is at least partly due to the challenge of coming up with a show's worth of new material each week. I recognize how difficult it must be to produce this show on such a tight schedule, but I think the overall quality of the show ends up suffering as a result.

The Mrs. is not as much of a TV fan as I am, but after watching this show she made an observation about SNL that I haven't heard anywhere else, but that makes a lot of sense: maybe it's time to stop trying to do the show within the space of one week. Maybe SNL should be on only every other week, which would allow more time to develop sketch ideas and make them as funny as possible.

The network would still end up with about the same number of new shows over the course of the eight-month television season, and NBC could fill in the off weeks with classic episodes that many younger viewers have likely never seen. Just a thought...

09 October 2012

The Name's The Same

Last night the Mrs. and I had dinner in the North End, at Piccola Venezia on Hanover Street. It had been quite some time since we'd last been there, possibly more than a decade. I had bought a Groupon for the place earlier this year and it was nearing expiration, so off we went. We enjoyed our meal, and had plenty left on our plates to bring home, so it's definitely a good value.

One of the interesting things about living in one place for a long time is the perspective you gain from your relationship to it. It's impossible for me to go to Piccola Venezia without thinking about how I first experienced it some 25 years ago, when it was in a much smaller space over on Salem Street. Back then the entrees generally were priced under $10, and a comparably inexpensive plastic pitcher of potent red wine would be served in the traditional (for Italian-Americans) "juice glasses."

After I'd been there a few times, I recall being told by a coworker that there were certain dishes that weren't officially on the menu, but could be had if you knew to ask for them. The whole experience of going to this place somewhat regularly, of being recognized and greeted by the staff when I returned, and of knowing I could order "off the menu" made me feel like an in-the-know Boston insider; there were just as many tourists wandering the streets of the North End back then, but it seemed they would be more likely to choose other restaurants.

Times change, and I'm sure it was a good business move for the restaurant's owners to move to a larger space in a more visible location, but it did mean losing some of what made the original incarnation intimate and special. I'm glad I was around to experience it.

08 October 2012

This Week in Awesome (10/6/12)

Another weekend, another MIA TWiA. Sorry about that...

Want to watch some pretty cool video of the earth from space, with narration? Sure you do. (The Awl via Grist)

Customize your ride with one of these special badges. (Etsy via Jalopnik)

Use these '80s pop lyrics to explain life back then to your kids. (The Morning News via The Hairpin)

And finally this week, in honor of the return of 30 Rock this past Thursday for the start of its seventh and final season (wah), a couple of treats: a collection of some of the show's best jokes in visual form (Vulture) and a gathering of favorite Liz Lemon sayings (click on the elevator buttons for audio). (Complex magazine via Videogum)

05 October 2012

Overheard: Probably Not Medical Use Edition

While stopped at a traffic light, two men were standing on the curb, one talking about his preference in recreational drugs: "Naw, man, I don't like that shit, just give me the regular reefer... unless you're gettin' it from the rich boys."

Retro Video Unit (10/5/12)

Sometimes I pick a song/video to feature here because the song has personal significance, or it's just something I've always thought was particularly good. Sometimes it's because of the video. Sometimes it's both.

In this case it's the song, "Blood And Roses" by The Smithereens, who had a run of several better-than-average albums in the 1980s. Their first album, Especially For You, is filled with good songs, and this is one of the best.

04 October 2012

More Belts

When I started yesterday's post, I was planning to write about belts, but I got off on the tie tangent. So, let's swing back: a well-made, durable belt will last a long time and get better with age. You should not wear the same belt every day for the same reason you shouldn't wear the same pair of shoes every day: you'll wear it out too quickly.

I try to have a number of different belts to choose from so I can wear one that's close in color to whatever shoes I'm wearing that day. (You know you are generally supposed to do this, right?) Also, I don't wear any gold jewelry or gold watches, so I try to avoid belts with brass or gold-colored buckles, which are not always so easy to find, so when I do I tend to stick with them. If you go to a department store like Macy's and look at the belts they sell, they are generally of mediocre quality, and most of them have cheesy-looking brass-colored buckles.

A few months back, I was placing an order with J. Crew and realized that I lacked a dark brown belt, specifically a more casual one that I could wear with jeans. I found a 1.5" belt in the sale section with a roller buckle in a gunmetal finish. This is wider than I normally like, but with jeans it works fine. It had rough, unfinished edges and had a reddish tinge to the color. It appears to be gone from their site, but it looks like this:
At the same time I was in need of a nicer black belt, having worn one out after many years. J. Crew happened to have one of those on sale too, and both were made in USA. The black belt is 1-3/16" wide and the leather has a matte finish, which makes it more suitable to wear with most casual and dressy outfits. This one is still available, and also comes in dark brown and caramel.
You can also find American-made belts at Allen Edmonds. They tend to be more expensive (mainly in the $100 range), but they are in the midst of their annual sale.

03 October 2012


You may not know it, or even have thought about it, but J. Crew has its belts and ties manufactured domestically. Their ties are nice enough, but each year they have followed the prevailing trend and gotten a little narrower. I bought one three or four years back that is 3" wide, and if you look at their site now you'll see that the standard width is 2.5".

That can be all right if you are of smaller stature (in which case, your jacket lapels should be proportionally narrower as well, to help lengthen your appearance vertically), but if you're 5' 8" or taller, or beyond your early thirties, you should probably be wearing ties that are proportionally wider and less trendy. Otherwise you'll run the risk of looking like you bought dress clothing when you first got out of high school or college and haven't bothered to update any of it.

Personally I prefer my ties to be 3.5" wide, which used to be something of a standard. The narrowing and widening trend of ties is annoying, especially if you've found a width that you like. I hadn't noticed personally, but I was recently informed that Brooks Brothers, in its ongoing quest to lure younger customers, has narrowed its standard tie width to 3.25", and they also offer "slim" ties that are almost as narrow as those from J. Crew.

You can still find 3.5" ties without too much effort (check stores like Nordstrom or Lord & Taylor, and websites like The Tie Bar or Mountain & Sackett), but it's disappointing when a company as traditional as Brooks feels the need to cave in to a trend that will obviously be played out in a few more seasons. I do think that with more casual fabrics, like summer ties in cotton madras, you can go a little narrower, but when I wore that 3" J. Crew tie a while back, it didn't look right on me.

02 October 2012

Welcome to October

I had planned to post yesterday, but a combination of an afternoon of errands and an evening of sinus discomfort quashed that. When the weather changes it often affects pressure inside my head, and seasonal allergies contribute as well.

Like APB, October is my favorite month too. I thought we had shaken off the last remains of summer weather, and I had started to return to dressing in jeans and long-sleeve shirts, but at the moment it's 72 degrees and I just walked the dog in shorts and a T-shirt. One significant difference, though, is the humidity, or rather the lack of it, making days like today much more pleasant.

It looks like this pattern will be around for the remainder of this week, with more seasonally typical temperatures moving back in over the weekend, just in time for us to see some out-of-town visitors.