Bartender, I’ll Have A Big Pony — And Make It A Double

Wed 10 Dec 2014 - Filed under: 1990-present — Christian
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Ralph Lauren recently launched a mobile coffee truck in Manhattan, and today the New York Times broke the news on his new restaurant, The Polo Bar.

Scheduled to open later this month, it’s located just around the corner from the new Polo flagship on 5th Avenue. Quotes the article:

Simon Doonan, an author and the creative ambassador at large for Barneys New York, said Mr. Lauren’s retro approach to gastronomy may speak to those who have grown weary of lectures about the provenance of each roll in a breadbasket. “I think a lot of food today is unnecessarily creative,” he said. “Every time you go out to eat, it’s like a Jacques Tati movie or a ‘Saturday Night Live’ sketch.” Mr. Lauren, in contrast, offers “a meal you might get if you walked into an episode of ‘Mad Men.’ ”

OK, “Mad Men” cuisine, but what about the dress code? The article concludes:

Mr. Lauren stressed that the Polo Bar would not be “a formal restaurant,” but what will he make of those customers who are sure to show up at the front door outfitted for a theme-park flume ride in Orlando instead of a fox hunt in the Scottish highlands? “We just had a conversation about it,” he said. “Would you turn them away if someone comes in in a T-shirt?”

He admitted that he’s no stranger to the maître d’ brushoff. “I’ve been one of those guys,” Mr. Lauren said. He recalled dropping by a fancy establishment, years back, when he had already become a force in global fashion. “I had shorts on, and they turned me away,” he said. He accepted that fate with equanimity.

As for the Polo Bar, sartorial regulations could wind up being flexible. Mr. Lauren broke into a subtle grin and said, “I guess if I don’t do any business, I’ll take anyone.”

Brooks Brothers is supposed to be planning a restaurant next to its own flagship, suggesting the comparisons between Polo and Brooks will extend to more than just cut and cloth. — CC

Bean Counter: Millennials Drive Boot Backorders Toward 100,000

Fri 5 Dec 2014 - Filed under: 1990-present — Christian
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In the 1980s, there was a trend at my high school in sunny California for LL Bean’s classic rubber boot, worn year-round, of course.

Fashions come in cycles ever generation or so, and today the morning news is carrying the story that there are some 60,000 backorders for Bean boots, with another 40,000 expected by the end of the year.

According to

Between 60,000-100,000 people have placed orders for the boots that won’t be delivered until after the holidays, according to L.L. Bean spokesperson Carolyn Beem. In all, the company said they anticipate selling “in the range” of 450,000 pairs of bean boots this year, a significant increase over last year.

Why the increase in sales? Well, blame teens and millennials.

“Younger people are buying them. They’re all over college campuses and high schools,” Beem said. “Without changing anything, they’re back in style.”

In an attempt to make up the shortage, L.L. Bean spent $1 million to purchase another molding machine that makes the rubber bottoms of the shoes, Beem said. The rubber bottoms are made in Lewiston, Maine, while the stitching of the leather tops takes place in Brunswick, Maine.

“We’ve bumped up production – we have three shifts going, we’re hiring new people,” Beem said. “We’re doing all we can to lessen the wait time.”

The Bean Boot, also known as the Maine Hunting Shoe, was created by Leon Leonwood Bean in 1912. Wonder if the kids care about trivia?

And for those of you who celebrate St. Nicholas Day, leaving a boot outside on the night of December 5th, make sure it’s not from Bean. It might not be there in the morning. — CC


Young Man With A Plan: Introducing Jay Butler Shoes

Thu 4 Dec 2014 - Filed under: 1990-present — Christian
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jay butler brown penny loafers dock

This week saw the launch of a new shoe and leather goods brand called Jay Butler. What makes a “fine young gentleman” like Justin Jeffers want to start a shoe business? You’re about to find out. — CC

* * *

IS: What in the world makes a young guy start a shoe company on his own?

JJ: Soon after I started working as an auditor for Deloitte I determined that it was boring and unfulfilling. So I started a menswear blog, The Fine Young Gentleman, as a creative outlet and to foster my growing interest in menswear. As time went on I became pretty removed from my job and I longed for a way to combine what I had learned at Deloitte with what I had learned from blogging. I wanted something that was fulfilling, purposeful, challenging and having to do with menswear. I also wanted to be my own boss.

I started chatting with friends, readers and family about ways to make a move into menswear.  The idea for a well styled, well priced and well made line of shoes came about. Eventually I had to stop talking about doing something and actually do it.  So I left my job, moved back to Philadelphia in January of 2013, and soon after that started putting together what is now Jay Butler.

IS: Tell us about the design process.

JJ: When I started this adventure I had no idea what I was doing. I wasn’t completely a chicken with his head cut off, but I was close. Once I got on track the first step was to sketch the shoes to figure out the style and type of lines and shapes I wanted. Then I had two different lasts developed, one for the rubber soled shoes and another for the leather soled ones. Then I emailed a few factories to inquire about manufacturing.


IS: Where did you decide to have them manufactured?

JJ: The shoes and leather goods are produced in Mexico. I visited factories in the US, had samples made by factories in China, and talked with factories in India. In Mexico they were using the same techniques as the American factories were using, things like hand sewing, and doing them well.  The proximity to the US was also a deciding factor.  And although the cost of production is higher in Mexico than China and India, it is less than it is in the United States. Which is of crucial importance in allowing Jay Butler to sell shoes for less than $200. I think there is a serious lack of good options in the sub $200 space. Yes, there are options for between $100 and $200; but I don’t think any of them offer a really solid deal to consumers. If they did, Jay Butler wouldn’t exist.

IS: So what makes them different from what else is currently out there?

JJ: I think there are a few things that give them better style, better construction and better value.  The shoes have a very classic, elegant and masculine look to them.  They are decidedly sleek looking, helped in part by the low profile flexible soles. I am not a fan of that whole clunky look. I am also not a fan of the excess of design accents and tweaks we see. I wanted a casual shoe that did not draw that kind of attention to itself, something that was supremely wearable. I told the factory that I work with that I wanted the leather lining to feel like melted butter and my foot like lobster. So they went out and found the softest lining leather they could find. It’s worth the extra cost over lesser leathers. Not to mention the upper leathers are also nice, both the suedes and the full grain cow leathers. All of this for around $150 is, I think, unheard of in today’s market.
IS: How did you decide on the name?

JJ: Jay Butler is a combination of the names of two men that I never had the honor of meeting. Jay Desgrange was my mother’s father, my grandfather. He was a mechanic, a fire chief and an Army man; serving during WWII. Frank Butler was my father’s maternal grandfather, my great grandfather. He was a county sheriff and an exceptional baseball player, legend has it that the Yankees asked him to try out for the team; he turned them down citing a need to care for his family. On a separate note, I volunteer as an EMT in part because of the precedent established by these men. My father was in the National Guard, a few cousins have served in various branches of the armed forces, and another cousin is an officer at his local fire company.

IS: Tell us a bit more about yourself.

JJ:  I grew up in Bryn Mawr, which is a suburb of Philadelphia, and spent most of my life there; minus a few years in Boston and NYC and a summer in London. I am not quite yet 27 years of age. When I am not found in Philadelphia or NYC I am probably on Nantucket, a snowy mountain snowboarding, playing golf, or visiting my parents down around Naples Florida, where they have moved since retiring. I think the ratio of golf holes to people down there is 1:1.



Fierce Authenticity: The Aran Sweater

Mon 1 Dec 2014 - Filed under: 1990-present,Clothes — Christian
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The cold will come upon us soon and stay. In preparation I pulled out my faithful Irish handknit. It might come as a surprise to some that the source for this sweater was Lands’ End. The company was stocking their catalogs with some credible country attire at the time, such as moleskin trousers, heavyweight Viyella shirts and Irish hand knits. I fell in love with the sweater the moment I saw it. I did not keep a copy of the catalog page, but the sales pitch was similar to the narrative on the card that came with a bit of yarn for repairs: “Somewhere far away, in a small cottage, a hand-knitter made this fine sweater just for you.”  The knitter was V. Thompson, her name on the card, which was a novel and nice touch. I imagine that she was part of a small stable of knitters drafted into making sweaters that ended up under a few fortunate Christmas trees over 25 years ago.

Some readers will be cheered and others chagrined to know that the Aran handknit sweater was among the handful of “Official Preppy Handbook” approved sweaters.  Whether preppy or uber-traditional, it seemed like a must-have at the time. I recall seeing them on folks and was happy to think that the wearer had a passing association with the Emerald Isle. (Continue)


UK Ivy News Roundup

Sun 16 Nov 2014 - Filed under: 1990-present — Christian
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Several things are afoot in Ivyland across the pond.

• First off, a new edition of “Hollywood And The Ivy Look” has garnered press in The Telegraph, where Hollywood is said to have had an “obsession” with the Ivy League Look.

• Also in the press department, the John Simons shop got a write-up on The Huffington Post.

• There are new shirts in Graham Marsh’s Vintage Ivy collection at Kamakura Shirts. (In related Kamakura news, the company informs us that its website has been revamped and now includes an improved search function, personal account system, credit card payments, new videos, and a monthly newsletter.)

• We were also contacted recently by the brand Harry Stedman, which has an Ivy and vintage Americana influence. Check them out here.

• Finally, notorious Internet troll and Ivy guru/sociopath Jimmy Frost Mellor (aka “Russell Street”) recently talked Ivy on this podcast, coming in around the 1:54:12 mark.

• And after a year of excommunication, Frost Mellor has been allowed back on the FNB Talk Ivy forum, where he is reportedly posting under the username “Incognito.” One of Talk Ivy’s “mods” (pun obviously intended) assures us he will watch his mouth.

Ever heard the fable of the frog and the scorpion? — CC


Knit Picking: The Brooks Brothers Dot-Knit Tie

Thu 2 Oct 2014 - Filed under: 1990-present,Clothes — Christian
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brooks tie

In the previous post, the discussion broached the subject of knit ties. Fittingly, I had a post ready for that.

Above is a new tie at Brooks Brothers which I spied in the store about a week ago. I plan to be wearing it incessantly throughout the season. Black flecked with blue (there are other color options), It’s the perfect kind of mixture of Ivy (the blue) and chic (the black) that I’ve been playing with the past year or so. Simple but stylish, blending restraint with flair, this is the kind of item I’ve loved wearing since my twenties, though I keep getting distracted by and acquiring handsome items that alas don’t speak to my soul.

If that sounds pretentiously philsophical, it’s probably because I feel glad to be alive today. Last night I was hit by a car (again), this time while on my bike. I’m only here because I leapt from the bike at the last millisecond in a defiant gesture that asserted, “I will live to dress again!”

A few years ago, menswear omnivores no doubt noticed that knit ties became popular among Pitti Uomo types and their sycophantic followers. Soon polka-dotted knit ties began to proliferate, but I had a strong aversion to them. The one above is more like a birds-eye pattern.

Since someone in the comments section recently opined that knit ties are ugly, it’s probably time for a vote. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

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