Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Little Christmas Miracle

Christmas time is really a wonderous time of year. Ever since I was a kid, I felt that "tingle" inside of me from the first week of December up until the big night, Christmas Eve. The television commercials, Christmas music on the radio, Its A Wonderful Life, Charles Dickens, St. Nick, the colorful lights and the smell of pine, and chestnuts roasting on an open fire, or in my case an oven's broiler, all seemed to lift everyone's spirits and put everyone in a more cheerful mood.

Today, as an adult, it still gives me the chills, and I'm not embarrassed to admit that I still cry at the words, "Everytime a churchbell rings an angel gets its wings". The lights give living rooms all acorss the world a warm glow, and the smell of the heat beaming from radiators across Brooklyn bring me back to my grandmother's dining room where we would feast on an assortment of fishes...squid, octopus, shrimp and spaghetti. It just tasted better on that day, and still does, in my Aunt Rosemary's place in Ridgewood, NJ. She took over after my grandmother passed away in 2000.

This year, the family welcomes two new miracles, my son Hudson Antonio, named after the famed yet derided Dutch explorer born to an English family, and a famous Italian who I'll get to later, and my cousin Elizabeth's soon to be born son Michael Anthony, not named after my brother who will swear it so. We will also hold an empty place in our hearts for our family's matriarch, Margaret DonDiego, who passed away last January, after one last Christmas Eve with her family. Margaret was my grandmother's sister, and the last surviving Dondiego of the Greatest Generation, when she died at the ripe young age of 91. She will be missed surely, but her absence will not be total, as we know that she, and the rest of her siblings remain with us, especially at this special time of year.

So as the holiday approaches I have a tale I'd like you to focus on, and remember, when you're feeling down, when the holiday passes, and when things return "to normal". It began Thursday morning, a bitterly cold morning and my first day back at work after spending a few days home sick with a sinus infection. I picked up my wife at the day care center where she drops off our children, and we drove down the 30 blocks to where we work. Upon getting out of the car, we do our morning ritual. "Ridiculous" could be one word to describe it, but for those of you who read my blog for the fashion and style advice, well, you understand. We get out of the car and in the bitter cold I pose for my wife as she photographs me for posting on a few men's style web sites. We usually take a few shots before plopping the camera back in the bag to finish the shoot in my classroom. Well on this day, when my wife grabbed the camera out of my bag, my wallet spilled out along with it, unbeknownst to either of us.

As the day went on, a co-worker came to my classroom to ask if I would like soup from the local diner at lunch. It was Split Pea day, and it was damn cold, so the thought of the hot soup going down at lunch was exciting to me. As I reached into my bag for my wallet, my hand found nothing. Perplexed I searched my desk, and then called my wife, to ask if she had taken it for something. No luck. I guessed I left it at home. Upon returning home and not finding it, I was devastaed. I knew it must have fallen out when the camera was stripped from my bag earlier for our "stupid" photo shoot. Inside my wallet was my MetroCard, my insurance cards, my bank card, my ID, $35, and most importantly a check from work that I wanted to use for some Christmas shopping. Sure, everything but the cash could be replaced, even the check. But that would take up to 8 weeks, and waiting that long for something I had planned for months gutted me. Even with the Christmas music, and its spirit in the air, I was down in the dumps.

I brought it up to my kids in school, and offered them a reward if they found it. Some of them laughed and said, "Why would I return it? I'd keep the money and run off!" they joked. But it made me think, what would stop someone else from thinking tat, and DOING that. OK, running off may be a little extreme, but for a 13 year old kid, $35 is a lot of money...and who knows what could be taken from the bank card? I'm not religous at all, but very superstitious, and lit my St Anthony votive candle. St Anthony (San Antonio de Padua) was my confirmation saint, chosen because of my grandfather, Antonio, for whom my son is named. He is the patron saint of lost causes and lost things, and he has never let me down when I would ask him for help. EVER. But as Friday night came to an end, and I ripped the house apart to no avail, and the wallet was still gone, I blew out the candle with marked dejection.

So, Saturday morning rolled around and the weatherman was calling for snow. My wife had taken the kids and went for our weekly Italian food shopping ritual early, so she could be back in time to get us a prime spot on the left of the block (because plows always plow right) and we could hunker down. When she left, I went downstairs to check our mailbox in our apartment building. Two bills and a Union newsletter. I brought them upstairs, placed them on the kitchen counter, sat and watched Manchester City throw away a two goal lead, and then a 3-2 lead, only to finally pull out a win in Mark Hughes' curtain call. After the game, I decided I would hit the gym.

As I left I noticed that the mailman's cart was sitting outside the building. Hmm, maybe the bills were from Friday and I just forgot. Eh, I blew it off, went to work out and returned 2 hours later to watch the Rangers whoop Philly. As I entered the building it dawned on me that sometimes packages get delivered at a different time and maybe one of my many eBay purchases (this is how a deal with my "habit" now, buying less, searching longer and paying well below market rate for men's clothing) had been shipped here instead of my work address as I usually indicate. I opened the box, and there was a brown parcel...what I thought were pocket squares from Kent Wang that I recently ordered. I got in the elevator, pressed the "4", tore open the parcel, and then I saw it. MY WALLET!! With a Christmas wallet had everything in it that it had when I dropped it...the cash, the check, my ID, my bank card, EVERYTHING. I was moved, again, to tears. Not only did someone pick it up, but they took the time to mail it and stand in line at the Post Office (which in case you didn't know is RIDICULOUS at this time of year) fill out a card, and send it to me; all without letting me know who they were. No return address, no signature on the card, even a burry postmark...

So as the Holidays approach, and you gather around with your families, I hope you think of this good deed, this genuine act of kindness that some stranger, who did not reveal him or herself, did for me. Try and keep that thought as the winter turns from a warm gathering of friends and family to a cold January, and an even colder February. Keep it in your minds as the flowers bloom, the sun shines longer, and the temperature rises. Remember this as the leaves fall once again, and the snow returns. Remember that we are all capable of doing good, and that this holiday gift, this Present, can be something we can do all the time, to make this sometimes cruel cold world, a better place.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year! Thank you king stranger, thank you Aunt Margaret, Gramma, Papa and God Bless Us, EVERYONE!

This is what good deeds do to people...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Second Hand Man

In these trying economic times, people are trying to stretch the value of their dollar as far as they can. Eating out less and cooking at home more; renting instead of buying; walking instead of driving. Many men, who love clothing like I do, and don't earn 6 figure incomes...guilty again...are doing whatever it is they can to keep their hobbies alive as the nation tries to recover from the economic crisis. Hell, I've even forsaken ice-hockey, a three hundred dollar per season commitment, for roller hockey. Seventy bucks gets me ice time every week for 15 weeks at least, even if the ice is the asphalt on the corner of 54th Street and Ft Hamilton Parkway.

What many people, for reasons unbeknownst to me, still have a hard time accepting, is buying clothing second hand. Pre-owned. USED. Sure, if I use the "u" word it sounds a hell of a lot less appealing, but thats why companies like Lexus, BMW, and Mercedez-Benz paid their advertising teams millions to figure out a way to capitalize on an market they haven't tapped until the early 2000's. Those marketing whiz kids figured out, that if you make buying something second hand sound more appealing, people will do it. And do it in droves. The used car salesman became the nice man selling pre-owned luxury to Americans who couldn't afford new luxury. His hair became a little less slick, his mustache turned into a clean shave, and he exchanged that plaid sport jacket with the ugly lapels, for a nice slim silhouetted navy suit with a red tie and crisp white square. But how did he do that OVERNIGHT? He's still only a used car salesman for goodness sakes, and he's still working on crappy commission rates! He did it by scouring for the very same deals his customers were looking for, but not at some car dealership, but at thrift stores and online fashion forums.

I know what you're thinking, "why would I want someone else's crap that they don't want?" Have you ever bought a used car? Have you ever borrowed your older brother, or father's jacket? Chances are you have, and chances are it didn't bother you then, and shouldn't bother you now. Some of my favorite item's of clothing I purchased second hand, either from eBay, one of the many online marketplaces like StyleForum's B&S (Buying and Selling for those abbreviatedly challenged) Forum, AskAndyAboutClothes' Trad Thrift Exchange, or my local Salvation Army.

Now chances are that you won't find that diamond in the rough, a fully Canvassed Oxxford solid navy suit in a 40R new with tags, for $3.99, but you may certainly find it for 80% off the retail price of nearly $2,000 on one of the internet forums mentioned above. Thats the great thing about the internet. Its basically enabled EVERY thrift store, from every corner of the world, to sell their goods in one giant online thrift marketplace. I was able to purchase, two years ago, a brown bird's eye fabric Oxxford suit with double vents and flat front pants, used on eBay (Linda's Stuff) for $250 shipped to my door. The suit arrived at my door in pristine condition...maybe it was worn once, but it had obviously been cleaned, pressed and was ready to go. Naturally, when buying second hand clothing, you take precautions, and I did, and as soon as I got it, had it cleaned again, just to make sure. I got two good years out of this suit and it became a favorite of mine, until one day a few months ago, I decided that I needed to slim down my wardrobe, and put more money toward household expenses. I did a quick eBay search to see how much Oxxford suits were selling for, posted it on the B&S on StyleForum, and sold it within a day for $400. I even made a bloody profit! Why? Beacause someone else, like me, valued an Oxxford suit, and took advantage of a seller selling it at a price that wouldn't even be close to fathomable had it been new.

Here's another steal I found on eBay...a beautiful Turnbull & Asser Tweed Suit. This suit orginally must have cost the owner thousands of dollars. Its clearly very old, as the lapels are very wide, an indicator that the suit was originally made in the 1960's or 1970's but its shape flattered my body, even if the tie didn't (d'oh!). My cost? $200 on eBay. Now, after a year of working out at Dolphin Fitness up the block from me, I no longer fit into it, and I'm trying to sell it to another gentleman who loves him some English Tweed. Any 38S out there interested? I have it priced at $275. Still a value as fine clothing, that is well made, like this, will last forever with the proper care.

Now Ranger, you can't possibly want someone else's shoes? Sorry, I do, especially if the price is right, and the condition is good. In fact, I just bought a pair of Alden shell cordovan (for those of you who haven't experienced this type of leather on your feet, please do so immediately!) cap toe boots in No 8 Shell, a burgundy color. These boots new, retail for well over $600. My price for them, $230, shipped to my door, with polish and three Alden shoe trees! They have become my favorite pair of shoes, and fit me like a glove. With buying shoes second hand, it usually takes a wear or two to get them to mold to your feet, as they tend to stay in the shape of the foot of the original owner for a bit. Had these shoes been excessively worn, I may not have jumped, but based on the pictures and the owner's description of wearing them at most 6 times, I bit...and it tasted GREAT!

Gross you say? Well think about what could happen in a shoe, and then think about what could happen on the cloth seats of that 2005 Camry you're mom just got for $6,000. Now it doesn't seem so disgusting anymore does it? Sure, we tend to get "skeeved" because clothing is as intimate a possession as anything else we own. Its attached to us, a part of us; a part of who we are. But in order to be able to buy someone else's clothing that will work for us, we have to get past that. The clothing is not a part of us, no more than your mom's used Camry is a part of her, or a "pre-owned" Lexus is a part of its owner.

So, bottom line is that its all about the bottom line. Wise purchases enable to me to spend more on things that I can't get discounted. Things like the custom shirts from Ercoles that I love so much, or the custom jackets that fit me like a glove. Things like those custom trousers I'm wearing in the boot pictures, that have a few extra dollars in their pack pockets thanks to some wise purchases of "pre-owned" luxury items.

I'll leave you with a few other vintage purchases, some that I've passed on to others as I've grown at the gym, and others that still sit in my closet reminding me that all that glitters isn't always new, wasn't always mine, and never will be me.

Tweed jacket, wool tie, DB overcoat, cashmere sport jacket, longwing shoes, and tweed sport jacket:

And no, I don't buy used underwear...thats where even I draw the line. Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Gentlemanly Service - Ercole's Creative Fashion

In this day in age, when the apex of customer service is a live voice from India reading from a script, and the norm is a computer responding to keyed telephone entries, real service has disappeared, or so I thought.

Today I made my way to see my local tailor, Frank, at Ercoles in Brooklyn. I had a few things to do, order two pairs of trousers, check out some grey fabric for a sport jacket, and discuss some future plans to get his business online. I called at 11:30 AM and got Frank's father, Ercole, who told me that his son Frank would be in soon. I said OK, and made my way around the neighborhood to run some errands and pick up some groceries (fresh chicken cutlets, imported prosciutto, and home made mozzarella-one smoked and one well as some Italian cookies) and then headed over.

I got there, and said hello to Ercole and told him I'd wait for his son Frank, no problem. Talking with Ercole is a wonderful experience, as his English is doused with a beautiful operatic Italian accent. The minutes passed and still no Frank. In the meantime, a local developer with about $15,000 worth of sportcoats showed up, and was waiting, as was a local judge, and another young man who obviously had a lot of work for Frank and his crew. Now Ercole was getting steamed, and yelled at Frank on the phone for running late. Some choice Italian phrases (words even I understood) were thrown around and finally when Frank turned up at 1:00, Ercole was ready for lunch. He grabbed his cap, a black flat cap, and threw on a beautiful plaid sport jacket over his blue check shirt and deep blue trousers. I told Ercole to have a good lunch, and I said I'd wait for Frank to take care of the other customers, as I needed time to talk to him regarding the website I'm working on for him. Ercole invited me to join him. I took it as a polite gesture, and declined, until he insisted with a genuine and warm wave .

We made our way across the street to a little Italian place and shared a dish of antipasto, some sparkling water and some fresh Italian bread. We both got the fresh baccala (codfish) in a puttanesca sauce, one of the specials. The cod just arrived from Boston a few hours earlier. The fish was so fresh it didn't even need to be chewed. Ercole even gave some of his entree to an older patron who said she hadn't had baccala in ages, since her mother made it when she was a youth. We shared a nice glass of white wine, and an even nicer conversation. He told me about the town he came from, what it was like, .5 km from the sea in Calabria. he told me of his parents, how his father was hurt in the Second World War, and about being a father. I told him of how my great grandfather came here from Southern Italy and distanced himself from his heritage to fit into American society, and how I always regretted never being able to speak Italian, as he had to the beautiful waitress and the chef/owner, Butchie.

When it came time for the check, I asked him how much I owed, as I assumed we'd be splitting. He told me to give him $5 for the tip, and that was all that was needed. I insisted, knowing the meal was well above $50 without tip, but again, he turned my money away. I thanked him profusely. We then walked a few doors down for a cup of espresso, again, he picked up the tab. We then walked back to the shop and Frank was just finishing up with he last of the gentlemen that I left inside as we went to eat an hour earlier.

This is real customer service. This is what I imagine my great grandfather experienced when he went to get his clothing made in the mountain village of San Fele, Basilicata, 130 years ago, by their local craftsman. This is what's missing from today's mass produced, make a quick buck, men's clothing industry. I knew, before today, that I would be a customer at Ercoles for as long as I live, and Ercole knew that as well, and it didn't matter. This is the mark of a true gentleman, and to me that means more to me than any amount of money a sale can keep in my pocket. This is what keeps a customer loyal. It also doesn't hurt that I get a top quality product made for me, by a skilled artisan. But this artisan is also gentleman, and to me there is no value that can be placed on that.

I hope one day, when my son Hudson is old enough, to take him to Ercoles, and have clothing made for him. And when I do, I'll be sure to tell him of what happened to me today, and how being a man is more than just what our mass media tells us it is, and being a gentleman is all about how you treat people. I hope that one day he can pass it on to his son, as Ercole has passed it on to Frank, and on to me.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Summer Style Retrospective - Part 3 - Swim Trunks

Do you hear that sound? That tapping on your window? There it is again, tap, tap, tap. Ah yes, now you remember it. Its Fall, gently rapping at your door. Today, for the first time this year, Fall's cool chill has graced the air of Brooklyn with her presence. As I sit here by my keyboard, I eagerly anticipate the first sip of coffee that I hear dripping in the kitchen. Drip, drip, drip. But don't let these thoughts occupy too much space in your mind, as we both know, that not only will Summer come back for a visit one last time before the Autumn gets here for good, but that it may come back with avengence and provide us with the motivation for one last dip in the pool or the ocean. As we Splash, splash, splash in the water that last time before next year, lets think about what we'll be splashing around in. Swim trunks, the bathing suit, those special shorts used for more leisurely activities, and general lounging at the beach, pool, lake, or river. So what should we wear while lounging our lasts?

Its far too easy today to take a trip to the mall, or the outlets, and for $20 buy a bathing suit that fits more like a tent. This is the mistake that most American men make. Similarly to those baggy cargo shorts, men tend to wear their bathing suits far too long, and far too baggy. There's no need to wear, what one of my buddies calls them, "manpris" when sitting in the sun at the beach. Swim trunks should NOT, EVER, venture below the knee of the wearer. But what about for guys who are not skinny freaks that make Thom Browne models look overweight? Well, we'll start here:

Taken on Hilton Head Island, SC, here I'm wearing an Etro suit and my daughter is wearing a "What the hell is this?" face.(It was her first dip into the Atlantic, or any ocean for that matter) The suit is very light and 100% cotton, and it dries suprisingly fast for the material. It has two side seam pockets and a rear patch pocket, but I strongly suggest keeping your valuables out of them when anywhere near the wet stuff. The suit is lined to keep everything where it should be, and really is my most comfortable pair of trunks. These stop right at my knees and are my longest pair also. Etro, a Milan based fashion house, sells these upwards of $150 retail, but who pays full retail for anything? They were at the Etro Outlet store in Woodbury Commons for $80, and at the time of my visit two years ago, were having their Labor Day Sale. The 50% off all summer goods there brought the price down to $40, a great bargain. For around that price you can get your typical "manpri" suit at Nautica or Tommy Hilfiger, right?

A man should never own only one bathing suit, especially one who usually hits the beaches religiously each summer. So below we'll look at a few other pair, of the shorter variety. First, a pair of "board short" type trunks that I picked up at a shop on King Street in Charleston this summer. The brand, Nantucket Brand, I have never come across before. When reading up on the company, I realized why. The brand is sold only in their two company shops, one in Charleston the other in Nantucket. There they sell mostly preppy wear for the Nantucket set. As I meandered my way through the shop, checking out OCBDs, khakis, and ribbon belts I found my way to a back alcove. (Thats the word right? Alcove?) In this little nook of the store were all of their sale items. Polo shirts, shorts, belts, and swim trunks. All summer items that needed to be cleared out and all were $20 each. So for that price I couldn't pass up this navy and red pair of board shorts (an unlined bathing suit):

Pictured here with a JCrew tailored fit polo and my Ben Silver Ball Cap, these come about half way down my thigh. They are 100% polyester and have two side seam pockets and two back flap/velcro pockets. When examining the suit further, the "Made in China" tag becomes apparent as the fairly shoddy interior stitching. There are quite a few loose threads inside the suit, and I've had to take my shears to them on a few occations after some washes, but for the $20 I paid for them, I'm satisfied. Had they been full price, they most certainly would have gone back; but they were just right for lounging on a SC beach waiting for the sun to set...always with the upcoming hockey season on my mind!

The last suit I'll be showing you is by far the shortest, but also a favorite of mine. While out of our apartment last summer due to a fire in our building, a dry cleaning company took all of our clothing to clear all the smoke from them, leaving us with literally just the shirts on our backs. So, we headed out to Paramus, NJ, and to the massive Century 21 department store there, to pick up a few things to get us through. These trunks, and a similar pair in white and orange, were two of them. The brand is Acquarossa, another Italian outfit, and they were $19.99 each. Normally these suits would retail around $80. These are 100% polyester, which helps them dry miraculously fast, with a 100% cotton lining. Only coming down about 1/3 of the way on my thigh, I needed to be careful with the sun, and made sure I sprayed my thighs with SPF30 each time they were worn. Here you can see why:

Now I'm sure a lot of guys wouldn't feel comfortable in a suit this short, and they probably would look so good if I had even a little more of a belly, but if your decently fit, and not shy about showing some leg, these come highly recommended. These provide a shorter alternative without being the "full monty". As for that, unless you are an Olympic swimmer, competing in an Olympic event, please don't wear a speedo.

Now we'll turn our attention to shirts. A disturbing trend caught my eye as I spent two glorious weeks at two of America's finest East Coast beaches this year. Grown men wearing "surfer style" shirts while on the beach or at the pool. Big men, small men, skinny men, and fat men. Listen, if your 12 years old, and have one of these, its ok. In fact, then, its quite appropriate. Little kids forget to come back to mommy and daddy for the reapplication of vital sun screen and wind up getting burned. That sucks. But for those of you old enough to know better, c'mon now. No man should be caught dead wearing these things unless he's a professional surfer, competing in an event. The same as the speedo rule. "But Rob, what if you just get burned too easily?" Then wear a tee shirt, a sweat shirt, or anything else BUT the surf shirt. Even if your modest about exposing yourself to the ladies on the beach, just throw a tee shirt on and you'll will be fine. Leave the Underarmor shirts in your gym locker and your surfer shirts on your kids. Its just not acceptable.

One of these three styles of swim trunks should suit just about every man who ventures their way into the water this last weekend of summer or next year. But before the last sun of Summer sets beneath the waves of Fall, try and get out one more time to enjoy it. Enjoy the warmth of the sun. Enjoy the refreshment of a cool ocean breeze on a hot and humid day, but please, do it without your surfer shirt and "manpris".

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Summer Style Retrospective - Part 2 - Color in Tailored Clothing

So I posted an entry about how I like to wear casual clothing in the summertime, but what about when the occation calls for something a bit more dressy? Well, if you are afraid of color, then your options are substantially limited. Wool isn't the best choice (unless its a very fine weave) for the warmer months, so cotton is king. Khakis and a light shirt are the easy go to option during these summer swelts, but if you need to dress often, you may look like your wardrobe has the handicap of being very constricted.

If you want to stay in the cotton range, and mix it up, I suggest going to colorful options which aren't generally a feature of American clothing. Just because these items are imported from Europe, doesn't mean they have to be expensive. I have NEVER paid anywhere near full price on any of my trousers, and can find especially good deals on summer trousers in places like Daffy's, Century 21, and the B&S Forum over at All of the pants you will see below have been obtained from one of those three fora. I didn't pay more than $50 for any one pair, and most were bought closer to $20 each. Many of these pants retail for well over $200, so I'm living proof that buying luxury doesn't always have to be cost prohibitive.

Here is a pair of very light wool Incotex pants with a yellow gingham shirt. After work the BrooksBrothers blazer and BB Pink tie was removed.

This look shows a light navy cotton pant (Adam and Eve) with a madras long sleeve shirt and seersucker vest. To me, seersucker is the ideal summer fabric, refined enough to be considered dressy, cool enough for hot days, and textured enough to give your look a little "edge".

Below are some red chino-lino pants, a colorful tie and belt with a subdued pink stripe dress shirt.

Perhaps the belt was an unneccesary addition, but you live and learn.

Here is a look I wasn't terrifically pleased with, but felt is was just "alright". A seersucker jacket (part of a three piece suit) and navy cotton trousers and a light blue shirt witha navy striped tie. Did like the shoes and trousers together are Alden for JCrew longwings. Love the look, but for the price would have rather just purchased a pair of shell cordovan longwings direct from the Alden store. they now sell them in whiskey shell.

We here have lighter blue trousers with whiskey cap toes and a fitted navy blazer. To compliment the trousers (Incotex) I went with a sky blue tie.

This look probably elicited the most comments (good and bad) from the fora where I post. The pants are Tangerine Mabitex and the jacket is a bold blue 3 roll 2 to which I had white MOP buttons added. A Paul Smith Tie and Square were added but the most "controversy" came through my choice of shoes and head gear. In retrospect, I probably would have gone with one of my summer driving caps and the JCrew Longwings instead. But with color, you have to try different things...

Regular khakis feature here, with the color coming from the salmon tie. Remember how nice June was in NY this year?

Green Incotex and a Navy hopsack blazer. For a more subdued look, lose the white shoes, and go with a darker brown.

Almost as summer as seersucker, the linen suit. It doesn't have the greatest fit, and the pants have been altered as they are entirely too long here. But, for the price (well under $100 on sale) it suited me just fine. The madras tie, light blue gingham shirt, and blue faced and banded watch provide just enough color where the suit lacks it.

The green pants and blue sportcoat for a July engagement party. This time with white bucks and my yellow gingham shirt with a skinny Theory light blue cotton tie.

Here's a really ambitious get up of seersucker (jacket), gingham (square), plaid (shirt) and stripe (tie) with denim.

For more casual wear, a bit of an inverted dress down colorway. The first look, Cobalt Blue Incotex chino-linos (cotton/linen blend) with a light yellow gingham shirt. The second is a light yellow Incotex chino-lino with a blue gingham shirt. These are two ways color can be incorporated into a more casual look.

I'll leave you with a project for next summer. I picked up this great seersucker plaid jacket at a thrift store on my travels in Richmond, Va this July. I'd like to have the pocket flaps and lapels slimmed down a bit as well as having the waist nipped for wear the first 80 plus day of 2010.

Stay tuned for the last summer installment...bathing suits.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Summer Style Retrospective - Part 1 - Wearing Shorts

So one of the perks of teaching school here in NYC, aside from the opportunity to educate our young minds, is that for the majority of July and August, there is no work to be done. Room preparations this year don't start until the 8th of September, although many teachers, including myself, will head back a bit early to get a head start. So what is one to wear through these hot and oft humid months while not being gainfully employed? Its easy to fall into a lazy habit of doing what most of America does, throwing on a pair of baggy cargo shorts, or worse jeans shorts, and an ill fitted tee shirt. Maybe a polo shirt will eek its way out of your wardrobe's slumber for a night out. Maybe.

Well, I hope to illustrate how I have attempted to remain stylish, and more importantly cool and comfortable, while the rest of my mind was on hiatus. The key to a summer wardrobe is fit. Just because your in a relaxed mood, doesn't mean your clothing needs to follow. Its a common misconception that baggy = comfortable in the summertime swelter. This is simply not true. Shorts that creep their way down past your knees are no longer shorts, but longs, and highly uncomfortable as humidity and sun play their games with the atmosphere. Take note of a few examples below that show how shorts and a nice top, be it a polo or a tee shirt, can be worn while remaining cool and well dressed.

Shorts are French linen and the tee is very soft cotton.

Cotton khaki shorts and a very light and soft cotton polo.

Same shorts paired with a cotton shirt, sleeves rolled, and a straw hat.

Cotton shorts and a cotton pique polo. The shirt here is not baggy, but conforms to the shape of my body, and I wasn't a bit out of my comfort range.

Another soft and light polo with a cotton driver's cap...I guess I wore those shorts a lot this summer!

Cotton shorts that were long pants. I had these pants trimmed down in the leg and cut to fall just above my knee.

Cotton madras shorts with a long sleeve cotton shirt, sleeves rolled. These shorts are a bit baggy for my tastes, but the madras material (an Indian cotton that wear very well in summer climates) is breathable enough to keep me cool, even if there's a lot of air between my skin and cloth.

A madras long sleeve shirt and my sole pair of "longs", a pair of madras pants. The pants were rolled up for an evening stroll on the South Carolina shoreline.

Using these images as guides, one can mix and match well fitted tee shirts, polo shirts and long sleeved shirts with shorts to keep cool on the warmest of summer days.

Next up tomorrow in Part 2 of my summer retrospective, keeping cool while keeping on your pants! Stay tuned...