Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What We Wear In Winter: A Guide

grey worsteds
The Sales have begun. Actually, many of them began before Christmas this year. We can pick up a few essentials at excellent prices. Here's a simple guide, especially for young men starting a wardrobe.

Our advice is to get in the habit of buying fewer things and paying a little more for quality and classic style. That said, especially for the young, don't be afraid of great stylish values, like a coat from Uniglo, once in a while. Finally, you will need some "annuals:" even good socks wear out at the heels, and you will lose that glove.

Wear wool trousers, not cotton in winter. Wearing cotton khakis in winter (or any other time at the office) is a sure sign of someone who is not paying attention. Ditto corduroy at more formal offices. We should wear worsted wool, preferably grey in a comfortable weave. Flannel trousers may work for you in January & February (see note below on suits).

Get and wear merino wool knee-length socks; Brooks Brothers is expert at this (and, sadly, not much else these days, except boxers). Remember to get the ones with the elastic at the top, unless you expect Jeeves to lay-out your braces in the dressing room each morning.

merino knee-length
We can still wear mid-to-heavy weave dark blue-wash denim to an office in winter , when appropriate, and for social engagements. Just be sure to wear those merino knee-lengths to keep your legs warm and a mid-length coat.

Flannel suits? Maybe you saw them on Mad Men but,  remember, you saw a lot of stuff there that either never happened in real, real life or shouldn't have. Contemporary homes, stores and offices are too warm for flannel suits. If you must do it, make sure that you've been exercising. Flannel favors those who are trim.

Barbour in winter? We think Barbour coats were and are a brilliant idea, but we also think their liners make for a bulky fit over suit-coats or blazers. Try a Lands End Commuter Coat, which keeps you very warm and, at $179, is a great value: also the Squall Parka.

Uniglo thermal coat 
Overcoats: That longish herringbone overcoat or, even worse, that velvet-collared chesterfield that Santa (mom) brought you one Christmas? No, not if you're wearing proper clothing underneath (you can actually wear this with dark denim) . Who wants to do business or fall in love with Holden Caufield IV? Nobody, that's who. Uniglo makes a remarkably affordable mid-length overcoat in navy.

Gloves, hat, scarf? Yes, yes, and yes. But, why pay $125 for a pair of black leather gloves, when you know you'll lose a left or right again*? Orvis makes a very good pair in black and brown (about $60). Hat? The new-style fedoras are nice in late fall and early spring, but, unless yours has ear-flaps, forget them. As you may know, we are true believers in Saint James Watch Caps from France. Scarf? You only need one: Patagonia fleece in black ($30), an indispensable great value.

Thinking about leaving the house without a hat in real winter, or worse, wearing that ball-cap? Do yourself a favor: don't.

SJ Cap/Fleece Scarf
Long-johns? Okay, if you're skiing or skating outdoors, or chasing that caribou through the north woods for that very special stew recipe from gramps before he went away to the home. Basically, if you really had to wear longs to work or a party, you should grab Tolstoy from the shelf, light the fire, settle in with your loved one, and don't even think about going out.

You're welcome.

One last note: Twice each year, we recommend that you look in the closet and drawers with an honest eye to those items you simply do not wear and probably never will. Give them away. Pruning after winter and summer will train you to have less, but to invest in things you will wear proudly for a long time. Tomas Maier, the German designer, says that we can be very well dressed having only two suits, or even one which we replace now and then. True.

* If you can afford it, buy two pair of the same gloves once you know they are good ones. Or, buy one dark brown and one black, since you can easily mix and match. You know you will lose one glove each winter, and so you will still of have a left and a right. If you lose two lefts or rights, please return your RareBurghers membership card and put your hands in your pockets.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Books II: Get Shorty-vich

Yuri's Sigh-beria

Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky may not be household names, yet, but they are the Nureyev & Fonteyn of Russian literature translation. Poor Constance Garnett!

The pair have made a new translation of the Pasternak modern classic, Dr. Zhivago. Some bookshops may need to re-inforce the shelves  to hold this tome,  and tree-planters better get busy in the forest. This text is not to be confused with the sentimental lightness of the unfortunate David Lean film. Oooh, Yuri....Ouch!

Santa is likely to bring a copy of the book to some unsuspecting Gen XorY-ovich in our house, but I wish that publishers would get back to giving Twitter-crazed readers a break by releasing long (450+ page works) in installments.

Konemann W&P, left
"Get back," you ask? Tolstoy's War & Peace was originally published in six separate parts. Dickens famously wrote in installments and received payment by the word. Dostoevsky? Same-ski. Yet, we send Beauregard and Elsie off to camp armed with thick David Copperfields for something we idiotically call "Summer Reading."

Newsflash: "Some Are Reading," but millions more are not, since they are overwhelmed by size and heft.

The new e-readers are clever contraptions, but those e-ditions require the same massive psychological leap for Texter-Tweeter readers, especially the young ones, that the hulking hardcopies do.

Literature profs will be offended by a suggestion that we "spoon-feed" great works, but the alternative is that people will only see literature as something they HAVE TO DO at school, in order to become a bond trader or founder of the next

What we now call trade "paperbacks" cost about 3,000% more than volumes which  began life as "pocketbooks." Let's get back to that pocket-sized concept.

Mr. Penguin and Bill Murray (What about Bob?) had it right. Baby Steps.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

No Jazz, No Diploma!

Several events recently conspired to remind me of the richness of classic Jazz and the woeful state of musical education and appreciation in the US.

First: one evening last week I was a little early for a holiday party, so I decided to play tourist, wandering past the tree at Rock Center, crossing Fifth Avenue to light a candle at St. Patrick's (at $2, the undisputed best value in NYC), and continuing north, a rare native among the mostly European pre-holiday swarm.

Passing Cartier I was suddenly struck by the familiar sound of John Coltrane's alto-sax on his seminal rendition of My Favorite Things (link below) pouring out of the speakers and into the chilly late fall air. Thousands of people were passing-by, some recognizing the famous show-tune above the chatter on their cell phones. Few, I'm sure, recognized the legendary 1961 solos by Coltrane and McCoy Tyner on piano.

I stood still on the corner and listened.

Next: very early Saturday morning, "round midnight" in fact, my wife ( the Darling Girl ) and a daughter (a DD) and I were listening to our nephew/cousin play a set with his band Oh Whitney at The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. I was reminded of the days when Adrien was about 13 year old and playing in a jazz combo in a little place near his home in St-Germain-en-Laye, just outside Paris. He had been a baby-faced drummer in the midst of adults, barely visible behind the smoke and his drum set. In Brooklyn, he managed to hold a good but still developing band together.

Finally, I read in yesterday's Times that James Moody, one of jazz's great sax players had died (link below). I began the day in his honor listening to his record Young At Heart and continued humming/singing his Love and Marriage throughout the day. I usually save jazz for the late afternoon or evening, but his deceivingly simple note-playing and relatively soft tone was a perfect way to begin the day.

James Moody
Here's an amazing fact: it is actually possible to obtain both a high school diploma and a bachelor's degree without having to demonstrate an understanding and/or an appreciation of classic Jazz. This is a monumental  mistake.

But, the good news is that it is never too late to make up for this lapse in what one hesitates to call our "education." We are better off approaching jazz from the heart and soul, rather than simply from the head. This is, of course, precisely our problem: we think that we can think our way into and out of any problem at all. After all, we are in control, aren't we?

As if.

Jazz explodes that thought and in doing so provides a rich gift: the ability to overcome our fear of not being in control by turning it into joyous and mysterious sound. Jazz, at its best, gets very close to being sacred music. Coltrane, Davis, Ella and Sonny Rollins never said, "Hey, let's go think some jazz." They wanted to let their souls roam and play.

Even with that caution about an intellectual approach, I still highly recommend Ben Ratliff's book The Jazz Ear as a primer. Ratliff, the Times' jazz critic, held a series of conversations with noted jazz musicians, while listening to those musicians' favorite recordings. These conversations provide a guide to the history of Jazz's musical and human story, a great deal of which, but not all, is also the story of African American music, history, and culture.

But, mainly it's fun, sexy, sad, joyous, bruising, exultant, fearful, triumphant. It is The Iliad and The Odyssey with no requirement to know ancient Greek. You only have to sit still, or, if you're lucky, stand on a city street corner in the evening, and listen.

My advice is to begin with two well-known tunes, re-interpreted by Coltrane and Miles Davis: My Favorite Things and Bye Bye Blackbird (links below). Then, just go from there. Not only will you complete your education, but you will have a richer life for it. And, don't forget James Moody.

Moody obit:
The Jazz Ear:

Friday, December 3, 2010

Are Books Obsolete?


1) Are books obsolete? They are if you do not have any, or don't bother to read. And, if the latter is the case, you may soon become obsolete.

But, what if you do read and own some books; will they soon be obsolete anyway, as new digital readers emerge?

I recently pruned our own shelves, attic, and cellar in anticipation of a move, getting us down to about 1500 books. I do not worry that these might become obsolete for me; they will not. I read often and often read several books at a time. I prune the ones not truly worth keeping and buy annuals to fill in the gaps.

What about Kindle or the ipad? I admire the ipad's overall design and the way that the engineers and designers treated printed text as they digitized it for the screen. It is a beautiful machine. Some books with pictures and many magazines may actually look better on an ipad than on paper.

The Kindle, on the other hand, holds little interest for me. It is physically unappealing, a typically mediocre corporate-design product, focused more on the corporation's needs than the needs of readers and viewers. This machine does not attract the eyes or hands the way that the ipad does so successfully. Kindle, I think, is a one-dimensional fad that will soon pass.

One thing that I can say with some certainty is that our current gadgets, be they ipads, cellphones, laptops, will be obsolete within ten years: maybe five.

How can this be? Think about the gadgets, if any, we were using in 2000 vs. what we use today for communication, music, work, entertainment. Toast. It will be the same with our current machines soon enough.

My books will not be obsolete in ten years, but my phone and computer will be.

Are your books obsolete? Up to you.

2) I've just seen Martin Scorsese's documentary starring Fran Lebowitz called Public Speaking on PBS. I had forgotten what a brilliant and whacky wit she is, possibly because she hasn't written much lately, due to a massive writer's block. Try to see the film if you still can.

She believes that there are too many books being published instead of too few. Agreed. Everyone wants to have their say in print and trade publishers are accommodating every Mo, Larry, and Curly-Sue who has an opinion.

Lebowitz's theory is that this is about self-esteem and that we are a culture obsessed with self esteem, which takes the place of real learning in and out of schools. She feels that there is too much democracy in the culture, where we do not need it, and too little of it in politics and government, where money prevails.

Instead of the old meritocracy for writers, we've dumbed it all down into Reality Publishing with too many books written by people who think we really want to know the texture and color of their undergarments. This is not to say that we do not have many very good writers today (or that we don't appreciate undergarments); we have many, but we could easily survive without half of this stuff making its way onto shelves in a dwindling number of indie bookshops and in Amazon warehouses.

3) Our obsession with self esteem has a cousin, I think: our obsession with being entertained every moment of our day. We find it hard to drive across town without listening to our favorite music, or stand in the checkout line without thumbing-up Beyonce's latest Tweet.

We like what comforts us, which explains the success of genre writing like mysteries and thrillers, from A.C. Doyle to John Le Carre'. What really attracts us is not newness, but sameness. We rely on characters to act in the same ways each time out. Nothing terribly wrong with that.

But, this craving for instant entertainment and sameness makes it harder than ever to to read great long works.

The best books often make us feel discomfort and impatience. They are great precisely because they give us the unexpected and they invoke  mystery. They are not in a hurry to do either.

The Magic Mountain may indeed be magic, but it is also a very, very long trick. Lydia Davis's new Proust translation certainly holds mystery (when is something going to happen!), but it is in the minute details of everyday living (well, okay, Proust's everyday living).

The great books make us wonder in both an imaginative and a mysterious sense . A great book will entertain those who have patience, while challenging the very way we had been seeing the world before we read it. The work's rewards are directly related to our own commitment to its difficult charms. It is very much like falling in love, a wonderful yet perplexing experience for anyone who tries it.

When that kind of wonder-full experience becomes obsolete, just turn out the lights.

Ed Note: US students tied for 16th place for Reading in recent international testing, a bit above the average score. We tied with Poland. Shanghai was first, while 2nd place Korea was not even close.
Have you sent your children a book today? 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Watts All The Fuss About Keith?

Charlie Watts

Keith is busy being Keith with a new book. It's all about him and, wow, are we surprised. He's a guy who brought self-indulgence to such a high (or low) level that we all assumed he'd never be able to put the "auto" in biography. Why bother to type it all out, when the whole shebang was already written in the fault-lines of his once-handsome face?

Disclosure: I was an early and ardent Stones' fan. I can still see the beleaguered look on my father's face when I played 12 X 5's Around & Around over & over on his new Lafayette stereo in our living room. Dear Millennials*, in those ancient days, families had only one phone, one TV and, if you were lucky, one "Hi-Fi;" until the Beatles and especially the Stones & Yardbirds  came along. Then Santa gave us our own stereos; guess he had teenage kids too

Standing in the center
But, we are not here to praise possible seizures, we are here to praise the Stones' best and most satisfyingly stylish musician, Charlie Watts.

When our parents claimed that they would never let their daughters marry a Rolling Stone, boys became inspired. But that was about Mick, Keith, and Brian. Bill Wyman was not a threat and Charlie? Well, Charlie seemed nearly as old as some of our parents, not Ginger Baker-old, but still.

Then, some of us began to notice that Charlie had his own very distinctive style. It was more formal than that of most of his contemporary musicians. He was well-beyond the prevailing Mod-Rocker style wars. He wore suits, which looked comfortable on him, while Brian mostly wore bright red cords with a black turtleneck. Girls adored Brian; women loved Charlie and probably still do. 

At left, looking cool
We're not saying that Mick & Keith didn't have a sense of style. They did. It was just that Charlie's style was so, well, square, that it was cunningly original. It took us a while to get that.

As for playing, Charlie had been a somewhat successful jazz musician, while the boys were struggling with their "spots" in art school on their way to possible advert careers, where they might have written blues-based jingles for Alka-Seltser or Ex-Lax (Just Can't Get No....)

Quintessential CW
While Mick was trying to sound like a white American boy trying to sound like a black American man, Charlie was simply being Charlie, keeping the time and the beat steadily, molding the boys's rough enthusiasm into something approaching art in those early records. By Aftermath it was all over, except for the shooting gallery. The rest became and remains just pretense.

My lifelong friend Mulligan has an amazing faculty for remembering certain of my own relationships/conquests of which I have no recollection. I suspect that is because they never occurred. Mulligan might have idolized Keith in that respect; except that at least some of what Keith remembers may have actually happened. 

Charlie's drum work and style were a happening, and they still are. He is a true RareBurgher.

Ed Note: Middle LP, above, the archival copy of 12 X 5, which helped me to garner my own stereo. And, here's a vintage look at CW and his Stones, wearing a tie behind his drums, over Mick's left shoulder. Be patient through a 15 sec. ad.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Too Good To Be Crew?

Nov10 J.Crew
1) We received our review copy of the new new new J.Crew catalogue and thought it would be a good idea to review it before it becomes old, old, old, which only takes about a week. Is there a J.Crew National Forest somewhere?

Tape Measure: 136 pages. Women's pages = 95, including Front and Back Covers. For Men: 39 pages/no covers. Ouch. 2 pages for Kids. Nearly 70% of pages for women! No wonder they call their CrewChief Mr. DressHer.

Men's Stuff: Not many "gotta-haves" here. Merino wool sweaters, but they're nothing new in the RareBurgher closet; you already have two crew-necks, one v, and a vest or cardigan. If not, how did you or your loving-one get on this mailing list? Get thee to a merino.

©2010RareBurghers/Model Nathalie
Frank Muytjens, Men's CrewChief, has included Saint James watch caps on a "Top Shelf" page, where they promote classics from other makers.  But, RareBurghers was way out front with our recommendation on these, earning us a private invite to to the Saint James HQ in Normandy from their Head Cap, Yannick Duval (see Three Winter Tales, 3/12/10). Nathalie is wearing a red one, right, and Nathan wears the navy, #2 below.

The corduroy workwear jacket is fine, but not particularly original. Besides we bought a better black one for $50 at the midtown Madison Ave shop (they frequently overstock seasonal items).

As with the women's clothing, these prices are beginning to approach the J.Cruel stage for many loyal customers, including us. Apparently, some of the clothing is not only waterproof, it's trying to be recession-proof as well. Maybe for some, but not for us.

The Crewth As We See It: We may have face up to the fact that these people have been so good for so long that maybe it's getting to be too much about them, and less about us. Jenna Lysons has great taste, but do we need to know her every thought and see her everywhere? And there was Frank M himself profiled in The New York Times "T" Magazine's Fall issue, then The Mickey's profile in The New Yorker recently. No matter how famous he gets, he will always be at least the third most notable Mickey in the world.
We say, enough already. Customers want J.Crew to be about them; and, they want updated classic style that's affordable. If we want to spend gazzilions to look like we're living in a Ralph Lauren ad, we'd just cough up for Ralph prices and the silly polo-pony badge (Not us!).

Every day, thousands of people create new style blogs (see: ), most of them women. Are they a real threat to J.Crew's future dominance? Probably not, except that someone might find a way to organize them into a dynamic central marketplace.

We really like these guys and what they've done. But, can J.Crew's success last forever? That may be too good to be Crew.

2) RareTips: Here is a brand needing no review, because it is consistently great at what it tries to be and do. It tries to reflect the active, outdoors style of its founder, employees and customers. It took an LLBean-like idea and gave it a California attitude. It began making climbing pitons as Great Pacific Ironworks, then vaulted into an iconic position for skateboarders, commuters, and, yes, a million or so upper-middle-class label conscious folks too. Patagonia.

A couple of winters ago, while walking across Soho one day as the wind and sleet kicked me in the teeth, I hung a sharp right south on Wooster St. and headed for the Patagonia store. I purchased this Micro D-Luxe fleece scarf, shown at left on Nathan and above on Nathalie. Later, I bought a black one for my wife, the DG; I steal it on the days she steals my brown one.

It's the same brown as the day I bought it, despite a few launderings. It saved me that day and became an instant-vintage item. What is that exactly? It's something that, once you have it, you think you've always had it. You look forward to its season just so you can use it or wear it. It becomes a natural part of your style, instantly, and it stays that way, even when it becomes tattered from wear.

They don't make brown any more, but black and light grey are fine. Get both: $30 each. One? Grey, please.

Yvon Chouinard & Dog
3) Patagonia's founder, Yvon Chouinard,  never let Patagonia be mainly about himself, while continuing to steer one of the most admired businesses/brands in the world. In fact, many of you will not even recognize his name. If you'd like to know more, read Jeremy Bernstein's archive profile of him in The New Yorker, or JB's book, Mountain Passages, University of Nebraska Press.

When we build our RareBurghers' Hall of Fame, Mr. Chouinard will be a charter member.

4) Depending on when you read this post, you might see that Brooks Brothers has  (have?) wisely begun to advertise on RareBurghers. Hopefully, they will continue to do so after reading our future review of their business and style. Hint: unlikely.


Friday, November 5, 2010

Walking Around

MIC Court#1


Saint James/Blue Shutters





Little Cranberry$


Monday, October 25, 2010

A-Mays-Ing Grace

Two Teams/Two Cities
The last out of a team's season happens in an instant, but lingers for days, weeks, even years for some. Admitting that your team will play no more games is difficult,  especially if your team happens to be the NY Yankees. Success does indeed breed a bitter discontent in baseball. You wonder what in the world Jeter will do with himself!

Well, Jeter has a fiance named Minka Kelly; you should not worry about him.

It happens that I have two teams in my life: the other one being the San Francisco Giants, with whom I have a long history. Here it is:

1955: My father took me to my first-ever baseball game by subway to the Polo Grounds (right) to see the NY Giants play the Milwaukee Braves. It took me decades to figure out why he chose the Giants over the Yankees or Dodgers. He didn't.  He had been a Boston Braves fan until 1953, when the team had moved west. He went to see his team.

I instantly fell in love with the Giants, based on aesthetics as much as anything else: the orange and black team colors, the way they looked on the off-white Jerseys, the old stadium itself. My father bought me a baseball signed by all of the Giants, 1954 World Champs: Willie Mays, Johnny Antonelli, Dusty Rhodes, etc.

Sadly, I no longer have that ball, but I have the memory of that ball and that day. I'm eternally grateful to my father for taking me, even though the team-bond I formed has caused some heartache over the years

The Giants could not win another World Series in the next 56 years , and I have wondered more than once, if my attendance was far more meaningful to them in some catastrophic way, than it was to me. Perhaps 2010 will be different.

1962: The Giants left New York after the '57 season along with some other team whose name I forget. I use to listen to the distant games on my radio, a huge wooden thing with tubes that created more warmth than the radiator in my bedroom. Russ Hodges announced the games played at Seals' Stadium (left), the Giants temporary home.

I naturally assumed that Hodges was at the games, but he was in a NY studio reading a ticker-tape, while a sound technician created the crowd noises and the crack of the bat. Hodges was famous for once having to invent the game action for about 17 minutes,  when the ticker malfunctioned one day. He was so good, his fake game would surpass most of what passes for announcing of real games today.

I remember exactly where I was in October '62 for the 7th Game at Candlestick against the Yanks: Bobby McDonald's house (Forest hills Gardens NY), where we played basketball most afternoons. Willie McCovey (right) stepped to the plate at Candlestick in the bottom of the 9th, two-out, two-on, score 1-0 Yanks. He hit what he later called "the hardest ball of my life" into Bobby Richardson's glove at 2nd. Series over.

Talk about lingering! That ball is still headed into right field for a 3-1 win in my heart, if not my mind.

1976: That season, I lived in San Francisco near Alamo Square. I attended what was supposed to be a rare Candlestick double-header with the Mets. It turned out to be about six different games after factoring in the weather over 8 hours: bright sunshine, cool evening breeze, fog from the Bay, and finally finger-numbing cold. San Francisco summer at its best, and worst.

1989: Yes, we waited 27 years for another chance, against the cross-Bay rival Oakland (Phil/KC) Athletics, who quickly took the opening two games at their undistinguished  home field. On Oct. 17, I rushed home from work to see the 3rd game only to have my wife, the DG,  meet me at the door (naturally, at 54 Highland Road) to tell me about the huge earthquake hitting the Bay area at that very moment.

It took 10 days to finally play that game, but the Giants, their fans, and their city were not thinking about baseball, and they quickly lost both games at Candlestick.

2001: I purchased a ticket for a seat right behind home plate, before flying out to attend a business meeting on the peninsula. I took the train right to the new Pac-Bell Stadium (now AT&T). The Gilroy Garlic Fries' concession was located directly behind home; the catcher, batter, umpire and fans smelled those fries for the entire game: probably everyone in the whole place did.  Yes, I did have them, and they were real and they were great: so great, in fact, I don't remember the score or care.

2002: Hanging on the chair beside my right shoulder is a 2002 World Series commemorative Giants cap. Honestly, I do not have too much to say about 2002, when the Giants were ahead in games 3-2 and  5-0  against yet another California team, the Angels, in Game 6.

They lost the game and the Series.

I had mixed feelings about those Barry Bonds' Giants. Enough has been said and written about Bonds; he is a polarizing player. I can only say that, if we have to make a choice between an egotistical cheater and a system of eternal Grand Juries, which can hound and torment any citizen for as long as they please, while leaking information at will, I'll take that flawed individual every time. The season for that court case never ends.

2010: Any team needing to win one game out of two, going into Philadelphia, no matter what the sport, is up against history and the culture of a city with THE most rabid fans anywhere. But, the Giants did it, taking the NLCS game-six 3-2. I had to listen to the games on radio again, due to a little boy executive spat between Fox and Cablevision. Even those dim-wits can't ruin baseball.

I remain calm, loyal and will be at peace, no matter what happens in the Series against the Rangers

My father bought four tickets that changed my life. He took me to that Giants' game and he took me to my first tennis match at Forest Hills. Both decisions have made a richer life. I still have a young boy's enthusiasm for his team, do or die, and I enjoy my tennis games more than ever.  The artistry and the small details of the games still appeal to me as much as the outcomes; grown men competing and at play.

I do not know what Cubs' and Indians' fans do to keep their hopes alive. Those are the only two teams who have waited longer to win a Series than the Giants. I do know that Giants' fans sustain themselves by treating a few wonderful seconds which occurred in 1951 (Bobby Thomson's homer) and 1954 (Mays's Catch, left) as if they too are still happening, a kind of A-Mays-ing Grace.

That's a pretty good thing to have, but maybe one win every 56 years would not hurt either.

© 2010 TWMcDermott

Ed Note: We dedicate this piece to the memory of our great friend, teammate, and opponent, Kurt Sanger,  and to Bradley White. Kurt and I used to gather every "little kid"in the neighborhood and play baseball against them: just the two of us. He died in 1989 just outside Candlestick Park. Bradley and I specialized in stoop-ball and our own invention "cup-ball," for which we crumpled up a wax-paper cup ball and used a piece of fencing for a bat. We each made up all players' names. This game was brilliantly played underneath beach cabanas. Bradley's family moved to SFO in the Fifties.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Gene Meyer's Ties: Dot Calm World


It is time to do something about our neglect of the necktie.

Some people may lament the current state of our political, financial, and educational worlds, but I find the lack of respect for ties equally alarming.

Many blame the tie's demise on the rise of the dot-com world and the casual look. Whatever the cause, I prefer the dot calm world of Gene Meyer's neckties above all others.

I draw your particular attention to the green tie with the large blue dot, second from the left. Despite the fact that green can be a very difficult color to blend, I wear this tie as often as any other: to parties with a navy blazer, or in summer with a tan poplin suit. It has never failed to get positive comments from people, no matter how many times I've worn it. People always seem to think it's "of the moment," even though it's at least ten years old.

Gene Meyer made this tie and the other ones in the photo as well. My wife, the DG (Darling Girl), and I discovered his work while we were in Milan in 1995. This was back in the days before I had become a blogging tycoon; I was an informal client-advisor to the best hotel company in the world. That company had just hit the jackpot by buying another hotel company and landing two gems, one on Fifty-Seventh Street in NYC and the other in Milan.

Lucky us: I had to make sure the hotel was fit for ultra-sensitive editors, photographers and their models. I assure you that it was.

I cannot provide a photo of that first tie, because it is hiding somewhere* (certain daughters like to borrow brightly colored ties to wear as belts; I 'll need to check on that); however, here is the tin from the shop, Nationali Cravaterie. I recall immediately liking Meyer's signature polka-dot linings.

The two ties shown in the top photo, on the left, were constructed with a vertical weave in the silk which gives them a smoother feel than diagonally woven ties. It also encourages stretching, but not so much as would happen with a knitted tie. Still, it's best to keep this type of design wound inside a round tin or wooden box.

Meyer used a different, fuller weave for the ties to the right here, which gives them a kind of spring to the touch. Also, they are more formal. I wear the silver/blue/green one at parties and celebrations, especially at holiday time, when the circles are sometimes taken for ornaments. The blue one is more appropriate for business.

Some of you may have seen Meyer's work and not known, at the restaurant Le Cirque in New York or its more modestly-priced cousin, Circo, across town. The waiters at both places wore Meyer ties in various circle designs. Perhaps they still do so, despite the fact that Meyer, apparently, has stopped designing ties altogether.

Reportedly Mr. Meyer is designing and selling carpets and rugs now in Florida. We wish him great success in this endeavor. In fact, we wish that he is so successful at it and makes so many great carpets and rugs that he wakes up one morning with a sudden urge to make ties again, a lot of ties, with dot linings.

The RareBurgher world will be waiting for them.

*Ed Note: Readers might have taken note that losing items of clothing is a recurring theme here. My DG has become used to hearing laments about who has taken this or where that could have gone when I placed it right there only three years ago. Experience says that the tie in question will turn up in a suitcase, inside a jacket pocket, or hanging in a  garment bag in the attic. We will keep you updated.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Beauty, But First, Some Beasts

1. Tangled up in boos: Some days, we just leave the music at home, because we can't deal with the tangle. Even when we put away the plug cords carefully after use, they are tangled by morning. This happens to you as well, we know, but you were afraid to tell anyone. It's okay: no worse really than having your socks always come out of the dryer inside-out.

Rejoice. According to Fast Company, you can find a tangle free cord at:

2. Wasteful Receipts: We received the paper receipt shown on the right as a booby-prize from CVS. As you can see, it's more than a yard of wasted paper. We got this receipt/coupon for buying a single newspaper! They give you these wads of paper every time, no matter what you buy. The cashier tried to give me a plastic bag to go with it! For a newspaper. That happens all the time too and most of them wind up attached to our nearby fence.

We suggest that the cashier should only release  plastic bags after patrons beg, and that they should ditch their idiotic coupon receipt policy in favor of the trees.

3. Thom Browne's School Daze: A few years back, a famous Fashion Editor, whom we will refer to as She Who Must Be Obeyed*, suggested to her friends who run Brooks Brothers that they attach themselves to the designer, Thom Browne. He did some very nice things there with his Black Fleece line; in fact, we wore one of his oxford cloth shirts today. Unfortunately, he has not had any positive influence on the rest of the store, which is the JCrew That Couldn't.

We mention this here, because Mr. Browne also started a trend, which we refer to as the Pee Wee Herman look. It tries to make men into boys.

Let's be very clear: when men put on boys' clothing or boys' sizes, they look ridiculous, and we don't care who you are, where you work, or how your parents treated you when your were a wee thing.

Pant-legs to the ankle, shorty-short suitcoats, and sleeves halfway to your elbows are unattractive, look like "costumes," and RareBurghers would never wear them. Period. In fact, we're mildly embarrassed to even mention it.

4. Found these on a single day within a hundred yards of each other. Don't do this to yourself. Please.

5. Spill Great After All These Years: We have been to the Abstract Expressionist show at MOMA twice already, and may go again. Here's a piece of a Pollock we saw today:

And, here's another picture....same day....

                     ....Soho sidewalk, Prince St., near Lafayette.

We mean no disrespect to Mr. Pollock, whose art we admire; we just wanted to point out that a RareBurgher notices life's details.

6. Perfection: And we leave you on a high note: Rothko. No.14 (Horizontals, White over Darks 1961)

* Ed Note: aficionados of John Mortimer's Rumpole series will recognize that we have borrowed this title, which Rumpole reserves for his spouse. The Fashion Editor in question might also be called She Who Must Be Okayed. Anyway, as with Pollock, we mean no offense. We like her; she has really good taste and Browne's more eccentric style cannot be blamed on her.