My Kinda Clothes: Tassel Loafers And Skull Pants

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I grew up in a Catholic, Eastern-European enclave in Pennsylvania coal country. As such, the Ivy League Look is something I’ve consciously adopted. It has not been passed-down to me nor born out of my environment, which I feel has given me total freedom in exploring it. To me it’s almost a form of fiction writing, a way to create a character and flesh out their characteristics and history through dress.

The core of my wardrobe comes from trad staples. I wear some combination of OCBD and chinos virtually every day of the year. However, some international influences creep in depending on the season. In the fall and winter, plenty of tweeds and Fair Isles find their way to the front of the closet, and in the warmer months I reach for my Persols and Italian loafers. I think of the latter as my Dickie Greenleaf mode, and as of this writing I’m fully in it.

OCBD

Back in college, nothing felt more victorious that finding a well-fitting white OCBD on sale. Since those pre-income student days, I’ve managed to stockpile a small horde of them, almost all of which are white or blue, with exceptions made for the light pink or university stripe outlier. The vast core of my rotation are Gant Rugger, which are ludicrous at full-price but reliably drop down to 50% each season. Gant’s Scandinavian overlords have clearly influenced the fit, and its extra-long arms and trim body fit my Stretch Armstrong-esque proportions well. I have a single OCBD from Lean Garments (whom I’ve worked with as a copywriter), which offers a similar fit with the bonus of an unlined collar and mother-of-pearl buttons. To wear with suits I have three custom OCBDs from Gitman, Ratio and Michael Spencer. They’re all terrific, but ultimately Michael Spencer takes the prize.

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Tassel Loafers

I have plenty of love for unadorned penny loafers, but there’s something about the impracticality of the tassel loafer’s extra ornamentation that really gets me. It also strays a bit from all-American territory and into something murky and continental, an effect heightened by the Italian-made loafers I picked up from M.Gemi (where I’ve been working as a copywriter) at the start of the season. I’ll wear them everywhere with rolled-up jeans and frayed chino shorts. The combination makes me feel like a disinherited manufacturing heir frittering away my final dollars at a remote beach bar. It’s actually a good feeling.

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Engine-Turned Belt Buckle

I enjoy monograms. At the same time, I never want to go full Colonel Kurtz and end up disturbing guests with initialed hand towels. I find that wearing a single, semi-discreet monogram everyday keeps things in check. So I picked up a engine-turned belt from Trafalgar with a monogrammed buckle that’s been serving me well. There’s something utilitarian and almost minimalist about the design of an engine-turned belt that I prefer over more traditional buckles. I’ve worn it every day since its arrival, and I plan on doing so until it either myself or the belt meet our demise.

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Prim Wristwatch On A Throne Strap

When it comes to accessories, I prefer having a single item—one belt, one watch, etc.—that I can invest my identity into and wear daily. For the last four years I’ve been wearing the same Prim watch, which was a gift from my best friend. She found it in a Prague antique store for about 50 euros. It’s exact date is unknown (I’ve had some fuzzy guesses at ’50s), but it looks like it’s had several decades of loving wear. The word “Czechoslovakia” is written in tiny type below the six—the Romantic in me finds something wonderful about a watch engraved with the name of a country that no longer exists. In short, it has the appearance of a prized heirloom without any connection to my own family past. But an heirloom requires a first generation to pass it down, and I suppose that role falls on me.

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Barbour Ashby Jacket

I won’t be wearing it for at least another two months and I’ll be missing it sorely until then. I’ve had my Ashby for several years, and it sees almost daily wear seven months out of the year. I have the zip-in quilted liner, which keeps it going through all but the harshest days of Boston winter. The best pieces of clothing are those that are made better by age and wear, and nothing seems to look better after taking a beating than a Barbour. I look forward to seeing where the color has changed each time it’s survived a particularly aggressive downpour.

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Skull Pants

Repetition is a valid critique of my style. Four out of the five items I’ve listed above can be found on my person most days of of the year. So when I wish to deviate I enjoy wearing something incredibly loud. I have embroidered pants and shorts that bear the miniature likenesses of ducks, anchors, signal flags and more, but nothing receives so many comments from bystanders as my skull pants. They’re also a relic of another time and place—the dead-and-buried Ralph Lauren Rugby label, whose Newbury Street store was a fixation of mine during the early years of college. All the buttondowns and chino shorts I bought from Rugby have worn out from heavy wear, but the skull pants keep going. Luckily for myself and others, you just can’t wear skull pants every day. — ERIC TWARDZIK

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26 Comments on "My Kinda Clothes: Tassel Loafers And Skull Pants"

  1. Good writing, good images, good taste. This kid’s going places.

  2. The Prim watch reminds me of a watch I acquired a couple years ago. My father in law passed in 2002, and most of his stuff was just lying around until mother in law passed in 2014. Anyhow, the wife’s sister gave my wife a box of their Dad’s junk, which included old leather key holders, key chains, and other “junk.”

    Included in the box of “junk” was an Elgin open faced pocket watch(1890’s), stainless steel, and with a railroad complication, which time adjustments are made by unscrewing the crystal bezel, a Westclox Big Ben pocket watch, AND a round 18K yellow gold Enicar (1950’s) wristwatch. All watches are in poor condition and non working.

    I’m sure the Elgin and the Enicar are repairable. The Enicar would make a wonderful dress watch, but will probably cost a great deal to restore. I might someday get it repaired. But the main question is, “Where did Dad in law get the Enicar?” He just wasn’t the kind of guy to buy a 18K watch, that must have cost over $100, (probably well over $100) when new.

    Dad in law was a machinist, worked in a steel mill. A gold watch would have been the last thing on his mind.

    Cheers!

  3. Bags' Groove | September 8, 2016 at 5:53 pm |

    If this kid’s going places in those “keep going” pants let’s hope they’re places far from the madding crowd…and horses; they scare so easily.

  4. I love that American flag sweater, I believe I have the same one. Polo from last year and made in USA, of cotton. I especially love that Barbour coat and it has aged beautifully. I was fortunate enough to have been given one (the Beaufort) as a graduation gift last year. The salesman at Orvis said it was long enough to conceal a sport coat. This fall will be my first of hopefully many times wearing it, I hate that is new. I only hope that mine ages as gracefully as the author’s.

  5. Well done Eric!! I particularly like your commitment to several pieces that you wear regularly. Ivy, in my view, is very much about repetition. Thanks for the wardrobe tour.

  6. @ M Arthur,
    Re “Ivy is very much about repetition”

    One semester, I wore the same combination to class every day: navy blazer, charcoal flannel plain-front uncuffed trousers, white BD pinpoint shirt, RL Polo navy tie with white stripes, and Weejuns. I was regularly complimented on my appearance. (Yes, I have more than one of each of the items mentioned above).

  7. “Ivy, in my view, is very much about repetition.”

    Yes, yes, yes, yes.

    Buy the best and wear (or use or drive) until there’s nothing left to mend, repair, or fix.

    This is what makes trad/Ivy so great: its resistance to fads and fashions. A form of defiance.

  8. Maybe this is another upside of ‘trad’ dressing – the ‘Steve Jobs’ effect: Jobs (and Zuckerberg) purportedly wore/wear the same thing every day (Jobs’ black turtlenecks; Zuckerberg’s t-shirts & hoodie) because it’s one less decision to make, thus freeing your mind up to focus on more important ones.

    If one’s closet has only khakis, OCBDs and loafers, any combo works. Plus, you can get dressed in the dark.

    Also – @Wriggles (and anybody else): do we know much about the provenance of an Elgin watch? My late father wore an Elgin wristwatch, but I didn’t know much about it. My brother may still have it …

  9. Paul
    The “Steve Jobs” effect was true in Jobs’ later years, those old enough can remember Jobs in his clothes horse days.

  10. @Mac: You are correct. Early Jobs had his midnight blue Armani moments.. That iconic photo of him with his arms rested upon the new iMac was a beauty.

  11. @Mac: and wasn’t there also a boyish phase with suspenders and a bow tie, worn with faded blue jeans?

  12. Yawn. More pretending thinly guised as pseudo intellectual ivy blather. Rolled up jeans and frayed chino shorts? M. Gemi? Rugby (skull motif pants) as a ‘relic’? Prim? Jingo sweaters? Stop. Just stop.

  13. @VEA: his style is not my own, but did you bother to read the first paragraph of his essay? There are worse out there, pretending to be more…

  14. @Paul

    I don’t know very much about Elgin watches, but they were a mass produced US watch, using interchangeable parts. During and after the American Civil War, or the War of Northern Aggression (as some people of the South referred to the War), mechanical stuff began to be made with mass produced, interchangeable parts. Guns, machinery, watches, etc. Elgin was a pretty high quality volume watch.

    The pocket watch my Father in law had was a railroad complication, meaning it was not meant for the time to be changed, once set. In order to set the hands, the bezel containing the face crystal had to be unscrewed to access a lever which engaged the winding knob to move the hands. I believe the time adjustment was not to be done unless the wearer was authorized to do it. So, I guess we can assume Elgin watches kept pretty accurate time. The watch I have is over 2″ in diameter and extremely heavy, and I think a 17 jewel movement. I won’t attempt to open the case, for I know I would ruin it in the process. The case has a threaded case back, in addition to the threaded bezel.

    Wristwatches came into vogue during WW1. Dad’s pocket watch is about the size of the wristwatches in vogue today. I can’t see why anyone would wear those huge wristwatches of today.

    Elgin sold thousands and thousands of watches. Back then, cases and movements were sold separately, meaning a customer could buy a watch movement, and have it installed in a chosen case, whereas, the case and movement had separate serial numbers.

    That’s about all I know about antique watches. Thanks for asking.

    Cheers!

  15. @VEA are you referring to the American flag sweater as a “jingo sweater”? If so, I hardly understand how a sweater with a our nation’s flag is a call to arms.

  16. Whoops, didn’t mean to put that “a” in there.

  17. @Wriggles – thanks for the in-depth info.! I don’t know whether it’s meaningful, or just a very strong coincidence, but my father’s father worked for the Pullman Company. He wasn’t a “railroad man” per se, but I wonder: a) whether my father got the watch from his own father; and b) whether, in the market, Elgin had some sort of railroad cachet or following.

  18. Yawn. More catty internet snark disguising deep-seated insecurity. Stop. Just stop.

  19. @S.E.

    I could not agree more. Today- Troy Shirtmakers Guild university stripe blue and white (ten years old) Ancient Polo Blue Label khakis with cuffs more worn than a man in business should wear (Friday casual) Zero Halliburton brief case (battered) and I just removed the cover from my Merc 250 SEC 111 body (clean but not too)

    I happened upon my thirty plus year old Porsche-Design pipe last night in a my office. Now that I am almost fifty, I may be able to pull off smoking it without looking like a goof ball.

    Zero Halliburton case probably not considered trad.

    Heading to the beach,

    Cheers,

    Will

  20. Bags' Groove | September 9, 2016 at 5:11 pm |

    @Wriggles
    I also cannot see why anyone, apart from those with Popeye-sized wrists, would wear a huge wristwatch. Every year of their seemingly-endless existence has had me saying that next year we’ll see a return to normal-sized watches. In the meantime I stride, staring resolutely ahead, straight past Watches of Switzerland’s window. I’m a long-established original-sized JLC Reverso devotee. No watchmaking manufacture has produced a better looking watch in 85 years. I’ve other fine Swiss and German watches, but they never began to equate. As for American watches, I’ve a couple of Walthams, one a fine enamel-faced, wire-lugged, hinged-back number from 1923, which I love dearly. How many know that the Swiss studied Waltham’s manufacturing process?

  21. @Paul

    Pullman Company made sleeping cars for the railroad industry. I can recall when I was a boy in the 1950’s, trains were very much part of America’s mode of long distance travel. I remember in 1958, my aunt and uncle travelled by train to Miami, Florida for their vacation. They were dressed in their finest for their trips, including my aunt wearing her pearls. (like June Cleaver).

    Elgin, being an American company, was the logical timepiece for the times. I think Illinois was another American watch company known for railroad timepieces. American products were the finest, until things started being outsourced. Cadillac was the standard of the world in autos, a Kaywoodie pipe was very much the equivalent of Dunhill, and so on.

    I’d venture to say your Dad got his watch from your Granddad. Granddad probably got it in his capacity as a Pullman employee, whether a gift or some type of award. Watches were a coveted item for retirements and achievement awards. My Dad worked in the steel industry for over thirty years, somehow, he never received the Hamilton wrist watch many other retirees received. He didn’t make a big deal over it, always said he didn’t need a watch after he retired.

    I was a self employed accountant, but worked for a few years for a national engineering company. I recall giving a janitor a “company” ballpoint. A very nice corporate pen, but hardly cost more than $10 or so. The guy was a good employee. He was more overjoyed at getting that pen, than if he had been given a $100 cash bonus. When I worked in the steel industry in the 1970’s, company stuff was very much out of the reach of the rank and file. I recall you had to turn in a worn Sharpie to get a new one. The boss sometimes would tell you the worn pen was still good. If left laying around, a Sharpie would be stolen.

    Nice to reminisce about the “good old days.”

    @Bags’ Groove

    The original sized Reverso was always a wish list item for me. As I’ve grown older, (and can afford one), I really can’t say I want one now. I still cherish my Wittnauer tank watch my Dad bought in 1947 ($33), and gave me when I was in high school (1966). It still is in sterling condition.

    Cheers!

  22. Here’s a different Pullman I wrote about for the Robb Report in 2002. I know we talked about the train company; can’t remember if he said he was a descendant or not:

    http://robbreport.com/Finance–Investment-The-Music-Man

  23. I just toured 2 Pullman cars in Savannah; remarkable engineering & craftsmanship went into those. I waffle between large vs small timepieces. I have a Cartier Roadster GMT XL and a Breitling Superocean II; both are too large to not feel ostentatious when wearing them. I do find that wearing them with well worn oxfords, chinos and loafs helps offset the nouveau feel to them. I still feel a bit sheepish in certain company with big timepieces but they’re almost expected in my line of work.

  24. Although Granddad was gone before my parents married, his Pullman association looms large in the family: my brother and I now compete to find Pullman ephemera online and give it to each other as gifts – I currently have a chromed, insulated water bottle and a woolen blanket with the company logo woven into the center, as well as some framed advertising.

    I’ve been told by New York City friends that the “giganto” watch trend – there, at least – arose because, when nobody drivesa car, you need some other kind of status item for people to see.

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