A few months ago shoemaker Sebago finally got in on the made in America trend with a new penny loafer produced in Maine — exactly where a PR spokesperson was unable to tell me.
The loafer is part of a new collection called Handsewn In Maine that is available at Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, and at Sebago.com. The shoes are priced at $425.
A press release from the company touts the brand’s heritage, which goes back to the state of Maine in 1946, then goes on to play up the collection’s “premium packaging,” which includes “a certificate of authenticity signed by the craftsman.”
Somehow I don’t think this was necessary back in the day. — c C m
There are plenty of embroidered shorts out there, but little tennis rackets or crossed golf clubs are a bit mundane.
But yesterday I finally found the perfect pair that seems like it was made just for me. After all, how many other surfing Weejun-wearers could there be? (Continue)
Today Brooks Brothers sent out an email unveiling Red Fleece, the new name for what was formerly called the University collection. Brooks now has golden, black and red fleeces similar to blue, black and purple labels.
Now before you purists and fogeys cry foul, recall that Brooks has produced special collections catering to young men for at least 100 years, and Red Fleece is just the 2013 iteration of a longstanding merchandising strategy. (Continue)
First published April 10, 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” gripped the American imagination and, almost a century later, has yet to relinquish its hold. Its personal, poignant narrative, fatally flawed but perfectly drawn characters, and ability to capture a particular place and time set it apart in 20th century American literature.
The story is a cautionary tale, to be sure: the illusory power of the past, the idea of money solving any or all of one’s problems, the mixed bag of virtue and foible that make up each human being, the harsh reality of having your dreams come true. But it also presents another eternal, if less examined conflict, that of Old Money vs. New Money.
Gatsby has acquired the enormous house, the garish clothes, and the fast cars. Yet his mysterious past and bizarre behavior—he has few friends and doesn’t bother to even attend the lavish parties he hosts—cement his dubious social standing, “Wealthy, but not one of us,” in status-conscious Long Island. Gatsby could have been a cliché of the nouveau riche criminal class, but Fitzgerald reveals a vulnerability and awkwardness in him, tethered to a near-universal motivation: he’s done everything he’s done just to try to get his girl back.
Tom Buchanan, on the other hand, is Old Money, but displays the worst characteristics of it. He is arrogant, self-centered, and petty. When it comes down to brass tacks, he shirks responsibility for his actions and, after tragedy befalls others, he slips away in the night, his honor tucked under his arm like stolen goods. It’s a scenario we’ve already heard or read about before: wealth and privilege, behaving badly and walking away from the consequences, unscathed.
There’s another side of Old Money, however, that makes for a less interesting story, but a more interesting study. It’s the Old Money that has integrity; that lives far below its means; that raises it children to be productive, well-adjusted adults; that uses its position and resources not just to preserve and expand its wealth, but to quietly make the world a better place for everyone.
While much of what comprises the culture of Old Money is antithetical to modern society, it has nothing to do with being a snob. Old Money dresses and behaves so that it is not obvious how much money it has or what position it holds in society. Old Money treats others without regard for how much money they have or what position they hold in society.
The geographic epicenter of this culture is Boston, where my wife was raised and educated. Tellingly, the city is also where a Beacon Hill billionaire was recently seen scraping the ice and snow off his own car one morning, just like many other citizens of the city. Make no mistake, some Boston Brahmins (more often pretenders to that throne) can be as elitist as anyone, but their core values of thrift, discretion, hard work, and public service are well-documented. In a world of professional athletes and entertainers constantly proclaiming their own greatness while bathing in bling—and just prior to filing for bankruptcy—such attitudes are refreshing.
Almost two centuries ago, the newly-minted Old Money families of Boston sought to make their city the “Athens of America”. They realized that their quality of life depended on not just their personal wealth, but on the well-being of the general population. They rightly concluded that a well educated, productive, and ethical citizenry would serve everyone well. Consequently, they put their money to work, building universities, libraries, museums, and hospitals. Walking through the city today, it’s easy to argue that they realized their vision.
The Old Money families of Boston, and of other major cities in America, personify a code of behavior: that of an educated, articulate individual who places the interests of his or her community on par with their own personal interests. They prioritize quality of life over a standard of living, eschewing vulgar displays of wealth. They pass this philosophy on to their children, and their children to their children. They act as role models for New Money and the general public.
Old Money is a culture and a philosophy that creates great people, great cities, and great nations. It holds its adherents to a higher standard of behavior, but pays great dividends. If talent does what it can and genius what it must, then Old Money does what it should.
Gatsby, for all his faults, may have understood that. Tom Buchanan, for all his money, never would. — BYRON TULLY
Byron Tully is a Los Angeles-based screenwriter happily married to a proper Bostonian. “The Old Money Book” is his first book and is available on Kindle and Nook.
Part way through Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” the title character has ostentatiously orchestrated his reunion with lost love Daisy at neighbor Nick’s cottage. Gatsby brings over gardening and catering crews to ready the place, then fills the tiny cottage floor to ceiling with flowers.
“Do you think it’s too much?” Gatsby asks.
“I think it’s what you want,” Nick replies.
I’ve no idea if the director considered the lines a self-deprecating in-joke, but it certainly sums up Luhrmann’s all-amps-on-ten approach to filmmaking. And while the director certainly Luhrmannated his source material, neither his over-the-top style nor changes to the text are what leaves one feeling disappointed. No, all the pyrotechnics are fine, it’s the wooden storytelling that had me checking my watch just as the film was reaching its final act. “The Great Gatsby” is long and slow and Luhrmann manages to sap all the drama from the characters and story just when it should all be racing towards its tragic climax.
I haven’t seen too many movies on opening day, and certainly none at 10:30 AM, but I was eager to see the film and share my impressions. Also, the story has been kind of a recurring motif throughout my life. In high school we held a Gatsby party in English class after finishing the book, and I was chosen to portray Tom Buchanan. Not because my classmates thought I had anything in common with the Old Money jerk, I assume, but more likely because I was too popular to play Wilson but not popular enough for Jay or Nick.
Years later I fell in love for the first time at the San Francisco Bay Area’s famous annual “Gatsby Summer Afternoon,” a spectacular event and a pretty damn romantic place for first love. I’ve read the book a number of times, most recently last summer, and enjoyed it more with each reading. And the 1974 Robert Redford version, as Wolfsheim says of Gatsby, is certainly “handsome to look at,” and I’ve watched it many times.
The familiarity many of us have with the previous version, as well as dialogue direct from the book, haunts Luhrmann’s adaptation, as we can’t help but hear the lines spoken differently, either in our own imaginative voices or those of the 1974 cast. There wasn’t a single line I thought more poignantly delivered by the current cast. Most were grating.
If you’re willing to suspend your disbelief and accept the changes in the story, the film starts out just fine. Much of the changes are to the Nick Carraway character, and I thought the differences from the novel more intriguing than the performance of Toby Maguire, whom I find miscast. Leonard DiCaprio’s long-delayed first appearance on the screen is fantastically fun, and he seems to do the best he can with the role, but ultimately the director is responsible, and Luhrmann clearly has more on his mind than drawing Oscar-winning performances from his actors.
“The Great Gatsby” is certainly eye candy. Gatsby’s house now looks like a castle, and is surrounded by a kind of fairy-tale forest. Sartorially the film is flat, whereas I always enjoy looking at the clothes in the ’74 version. Gatsby’s parties are filmed like music videos, and all of the spontaneity and sense of genuine revelry is lost. The ’74 version makes you gawk in amazement at how they partied during the Roaring Twenties, and laugh when the partygoers start jumping in the pool in evening dress. Luhrmann’s parties are as artificial as can be, and the pool dives just an empty gesture for effect.
Period music, though used sparingly, is used well, making you wonder why Luhrmann felt he needed the contemporary music, the movie’s most annoying quality for me, but perhaps less so for those who like that sort of music.
I chose the humorous graphic above because in addition to the camped-up filmmaking style, Lurhmann’s script feels packed with Cliffs Notes. The novel’s metaphoric devices — the green light, Dr. Eckleberg’s watching eyes — are literalized and stiffly explicated, as is the clash between Old Money and the nouveau riche. This isn’t a filmmaker who challenges you to figure things out. Meanwhile, the novel’s deeper themes about American culture are totally lost amid the hyped-up love story.
Gatsby’s unbelievable fidelity (he even has the motto “ever faithful” in Latin above his castle gate) will surely fuel the dreams young female moviegoers, many of which were in the theater with me. And, as in the book, Nick remarks on Gatsby’s tremendous capacity for hope.
Once this project was announced, it would have been naive of us to have hoped for anything but a Baz Luhrmann film. And on that he has completely delivered. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD
After you’ve seen the movie, come back and vote on whether you found it bubbly or flat:
We kick off a series of Gatsby posts with a piece I did for Ralph Lauren Magazine on Tommy Hitchcock, who served Fitzgerald as the model for Tom Buchanan.
My primary text for the article was the lone Hitchcock biography by Nelson Aldrich, Jr., who, in addition to writing the book “Old Money,” penned the 1979 Atlantic Monthly cover story on preppies we presented here a few years ago.
Hitchcock was rich, handsome, heroic and the world’s greatest polo player:
Back at home and lauded a war hero, Hitchcock enrolled at Harvard and spent time at Oxford before devoting himself to polo. With his home fields at the Meadow Brook Club in Westbury, he was the right man at the right time, dominating his era as Bill Tilden did in tennis and Bobby Jones did in golf. “Dressed for polo in shining boots and white breeches,” [writes Sarah Ballard in Sports Illustrated], “with a camel hair coat thrown over his muscular shoulders, Hitchcock appeared clothed where other men looked costumed.”
Head over here for the full story on the real American hero who, transformed in the imagination of F. Scott Fitzgerald, became a bigoted, selfish jerk. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD