Sunday, 30 August 2009

Necktie Abuse (Adventures on High Street)

  Be far from it for me to discourage creativity, especially when experimenting within the myriad offerings of the British High Street, but some things need to be considered inviolable, in the name of not looking like an idiot if nothing else

   Exhibit A: sporting a bow tie on a recent visit to Uniqlo begat a conversation with an enthusiastic young salesman in a hipsterish uniform of plaid shirt, jeans and braces. We exchanged friendly, if perfunctory, insights about menswear, such as ongoing preparations for the incoming season (bright accents on duller palettes, the apparent return of corduroy jackets, and fair isle vs. argyle, in case one's wondering). He offers that bow ties are too old fashioned for him. I don't mind because I'm fairly certain he'd simply buy clip-ons if he was so inclined. It's his next pronouncement that reminds me that we're only conversing because he has the capacity to work the buttons at a till*:
"I like to use regular ties like bow ties. Have you ever tried it? You just tie it up and it just sits across your collar like a shoelace"
'So that's how those Face Hunter kids are doing it,' I think. I respond:
"That just seems excessive. It's also likely to damage the tie. Why not wear a bolo tie?"
"What's a bolo tie?"
"...Thanks - gotta run!"
   Even to me, the fact that my first reaction was to stifle laughter and my second was to avoid a double-take appears childish. And considering my own penchant for offbeat and non-traditional uses of accessories, I should have admired his gumption. But I couldn't. Because his ingenuity seemed misplaced where it should have been clever. Neckties aren't generally built for such use - their very design and proportions go against it. The wonky, stringy mess of silk and pattern his iconoclasm conjured up in my mind was second to the fantasy image of Dali productions created after a 96 hour crack binge that was followed with a ketamine chaser

   Funnily enough, I haven't seen the guy since

  Exhibit B: while I don't want Gok Wan's job for love nor money (alright, I'd like the money), I was approached by a fellow in H&M as he closely scrutinised his own appearance in the mirror. He was sporting one of the new season's TREND(Y) print shirts with the same line's Dries Van Noten-esque jacket currently on sale as a suit separate and for whatever reason, he wished to benefit from my wisdom. I told him he was making a mistake. Actually, two. The first was in thinking me to be wise. The second was the silver skinny tie that adorned his neck like a Junk de Luxe cast-off faux cravat. But he was not to be put off. And in my head I heard two words: "Diplomacy Time"

   The upshot was that the intrepid shopper left the store with the jacket and shirt in the correct size - for what it's worth, both suited him well, unlike myself - the conviction that he should cut open the jacket vents when he reached home, and the persistent notion that he should buy a nice scarf with which to decorate his neck because what did a tie ever do to him?

   I should have charged a fee

   * I actually wish I could work a till. It's not like I'm doing much better

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Monday, 24 August 2009


   An appreciation of the finer things should happen by chance as well as by design. My recent interview with San Francisco's unimpeachable Mr. Peacock reminded me that one of my most appreciated items isn't a garment but rather my stalwart camera bag made by M. Billingham and Co.

   A gift from one of my favourite uncles, I refer to it as a stalwart because it's been with me to hell and back for around 8 years. It saw me through my student days, including the clumsiness of random proles with tall drinks at pubs, and has kept my possessions protected through my subsequent "professional" life. Its value doesn't just lie in its physical benefits - it's also given me a valuable perspective on designs of its ilk. Like many products of a bygone age, it could be said to have never been bettered

Mine! All mine!

   The website is worth a browse - the products are as valuable for amateurs and casual users as they are for professionals; the prices are hardly bank-breaking, and even though mine was a gift, I attest that they're worth every penny. The photovest below is strangely compelling for a man who uses a rather low quality point-and-shoot:

   I may have a yen for mixing things up but at the end of the day, quality accessories count

Product stills by Billingham

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Monday, 17 August 2009

Broken iPod Blues

Image: Loot Ninja

   My iPod joined the list of the newly dead this month. I must admit, it had some serious stamina for an early Apple mp3 player that usually held a charge for up to half of the advertised 12 hours, given that it was bonded to me for 4 and a half years. It also possessed serious cachet as a design classic, considering it was the U2-branded version, though I had the good fortune not to inherit a drive full of the band's music, barring 'Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me'; one of the 5 or so tracks of theirs I like

   Suffice to say, this is an issue. Less of its pressing nature is linked to the days-worth of classic rock and soul that's eating up gigabytes on my laptop. The problem is that I've been re-exposed to contemporary pop and dance offerings via today's digital music-focused channels, which I'd managed to stave off via simple misanthropy, a staunch belief that music releases are becoming less interesting with the passing of the weeks, and an addictive habit that already prompted me to fill up a 20GB music player with over 4800 songs from different time periods, countries, genres, somehow managing to listen to every single one at least once in my iPod's lifetime

   I need a new 'Pod like I need a new camera like I need a new job. But the 'Pod has elicited the most interesting considerations for me (if I'm capable of interesting considerations, that is) - the camera requires a more diverse lifestyle to make its acquisition truly worth it, while the joblessness just makes me disappointed

   The loss of music on demand has truly awakened me to the fact that I spent most of this decade ignoring the bulk of its sonic selections, unless they had anything to do with Timbaland, Britney, Japan (the country, not the defunct pop group) or a film score. It was not total ignorance, for indeed, I spent a stint as a music journalist for a time (link below), as well as a stalwart member of I Love Music for 3 years, but I tired of being "on-trend," and it became clear to me around the time I stopped paying attention that I sure as hell was not missing much

   Nevertheless, it's late 2009 - to my shock - and everything is sounding rather 2006 at best. Or further back. And when the only hot new release that I find remotely enticing is the new Shakira single (utterly enhanced by watching the video, even though the song itself is so redolent of 1977, not that I was alive then), it's time to do what I've always done when music hits a dry patch - turn backwards and dig deep

   So, I'll be intermittently wasting time with a chart of sorts featuring what I was listening to this decade as we hurtle towards 2010. Singles, albums, the odd EP and my preferred listening material from past times when the world enveloping me would proclaim the Arcade Fire to be the future

   This column needs a little more diversity. So I may as well make the effort

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

The Pocket Square Post

   It really wasn't meant to be a week's gap between posts

   When it comes down to it, I'm not one much given to thinking so very hard about my clothing choices and the way my ensembles present themselves. Anyone who knows me would likely say that I'm not exactly one for consequences or results, and this is somewhat true of the way I wear - outfits just pop into being, like a bubble perhaps, or a manufactured pop group. They share a particular trait with mayflies, which is to be too brief in their existence to outstay their welcome

   But like mayflies, there does exist a certain consistency. Which in this case, according to a friend of mine who has dissected this habit in the text below, would be my pocket squaring and its ability to remain notable in a potpourri of colourful vestments that forces the eyes to focus, women and small children to stare, and the critical mind to whir into action and prepare a thesis that usually emerges as "Great!" or "Not good"

   So, big puffy folds - take it away, YF:

"If you use a fairly large pocket square in a soft, supple silk, you should be able to achieve one. If it's a vintage find, the age of the silk may help a bit too in terms of softness"

   And on the topic of folds that escape in all directions:

"For the second one, a lighter silk pocket square with rolled edges will do that quite easily"

   But how to get the maximum effect from your pocket adornments? How, indeed:

"It also depends a little bit on your jacket; there is a bit of leeway in how much "slack" there is in the pocket in the design. A little bit of slack is a lot better for the big puffy types. My suits' chest pockets are pretty tight; most larger squares are a nuisance. On the plus side, my TV folds are really ... straight

"However, these are just technical gaps. The actual art of folding ... well, it's a mystery"

   For anyone looking to unfurl that mystery as they would a little slip of printed silk to enliven a jacket, here's a YouTube video to waste 59 seconds with

   This post is also for Marco. Because you did enquire, fellow

NP: John Powell - Happy Feet Score