Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Square Linen

   Linen pocket squares are never far from my jackets; certainly not since the collection I built in a single afternoon’s perusing at Hackett’s 2009 sample sale. Naturally, my favourite was the first to disappear, possibly when airing it out became a tad literal

   I derive some of my fun from texture mixing and linens complement most jacketing fabrics that come to mind. Their rumpling properties don’t prohibit puffing; nevertheless, they are mainly built for the folding varieties, which are stable as long as one’s breast pocket does not allow too much slack – this you will uncover when the edge of the square begins to gently flap up and down your chest

   Retailers are not numerous but they are out there; the most desirable are offered by the likes of Kent Wang, Sam Hober, Drakes and San Francisco's renowned Cable Car Clothiers. The stalwarts of Jermyn Street are known to offer them, albeit in irregular supply. Sam Hober also thoughtfully provides a simple yet edifying care guide

   The uber-versatile white Irish Linen square is something of a benchmark in this milieu but any tastefully coloured combination with a contrasting, hand rolled edge, such as my departed fuchsia and navy, is as valid and certainly more vivid for that impish/impudent approach to classic suiting

Pledge This

   Theoretically, it's to one's advantage when childhood friends embark on musical paths, so as to request of them, "Remember me when you're a goddamned rock star someday"

   Today, dear Tallulah Rendall is that friend for me. She's very good; more enchanting, off kilter and alluring than your average Girl With a Guitar. And her ethic cannot be underestimated. And so, I'm only to happy to create a post composed of some of her music and a link that details her quest to fund both the completion of her second album and creative endeavours by various artistic collaborators that will be inspired by individual songs from the record. Indeed, if like attracts like, then the visual aspect alone will be worth the contribution

   I've always been fond of the phrase, "Grass Roots Movement," and as for promotion, of self or otherwise, well... Mode Parade exists, no? Let's see if we can't bring this to life

Tuesday, 27 April 2010


   Even in Accra, I can occasionally cast a look at the eyeframe wares of certain "status" designers whose security is shored up by the prepotency of luxury conglomerates. "I paid this much; I know I got the best!" is not a considered stance to take with one such as I, rarely capable as I am of holding back and able to gracelessly break all but the most well made of sunglasses. Every time I popped the left lens into my old Ray Ban aviators 3 years ago, I would ponder that Luxottica have much to answer for

   Good craftsmanship is that which I cannot irreparably ruin, these days. Give some of these much advertised pieces six months and the hinges of these desirable commodities will have an ease of movement comparable to that of a swing door; an unpopular analogy I'm always ready to deliver to their owners. No wonder they usually respond by attempting to pocket my own

   I like to seek out current eyeframes of quality; Colette normally has an interesting selection of brands to proffer its clientele. I've recently been recommended Thierry Lasry's offerings, which, like particular eyewear lines that promise an attention to quality, are said to be handmade; Lasry's native France is his fabrication ground. His output has not gone unnoticed beyond its consumption; indeed, the Institut Français de la Mode presided over by Pierre Bergé, Yves Saint Laurent's former partner, appointed Lasry as its industry consultant to its students when it branched into eyewear creation in 2008. Lasry's unusual vision of high-class, 1970s-derived frames has also made him a darling within Los Angeles' mode circles. In a nod to his surname, the name of each frame ends in 'y':





   Ralph Vaessen also holds some interest - less for his designs and more for his atelier's handcrafting in buffalo horn, which, at the very least, allows him to command a luxury price point and offer lightweight, firm creations. The Dutchman favours relative simplicity and familiar styling: certainly, his is a line for those under the unfortunate categorisation of "stealth wealth":



   Rapp Limited, originating from Toronto, is also created and hand finished by an atelier operation. The product is rather clinical yet vivid in its presentation; a type to suit superficially detached gallerists and architects, perhaps. Like Cutler and Gross, I think they do very well to promote an expensive form of geek chic:





   With such detailing and assurances, I look forward to trying out these brands in person once I'm ready to resume my itinerancy

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

That Heat

   I hate summer time

   It has precisely little value outside of its voyeuristic cachet. The mixture of loss of inhibitions and sensible practicality that leads to pleasing feminine visions also results in disgusting visuals of cross-gender partial nudity that gouge into the mind for the longest time. Lord knows why you all love to throw your clothes off and cavort around open spaces, frolicking without the mess

   I have an outstanding request from one reader to advise on dressing for intemperate climes such as the one we share here in Accra. Presently, the sun has rendered me insensible; there's an ice cream headache waiting for me whenever I move to overturn these circumstances in my favour. Yes, I have air conditioning. And yes, it consistently gives me a nasty cold

   For the sake of my aesthetic theory, there are usually few photographs of my summerwear; to dress for the occasion, I normally sport something elegant in black that also functions as a fitting expression of self:

   All in all, I’d rather be in Iceland

   However, request my presence at a gathering with a British Summer Time theme and the topmost photo is the result. It's intended as pastiche only, with the mode owing more than minimal guidance to the photographic submissions section of The Chap. My ramie Junya Watanabe jacket, one of the few lightweight designs that can be comfortably sported above 25 degrees, deserves better than such purposeful irony. The artifice makes it wrinkle faster

   One's summer jacket is a garment for pleasure because your dress options remain open. That Panama, the linen scarf, the silk neckerchief, the correspondents, the open-necked psychedelic shirt, the tasteful eyeframes, the go-to-Hell trousers in M&M palettes; it's a framework that has lasted almost a century but there's a protean manner of stretching it if one loves a challenge

   For all my scepticism, I like the idea that summer is a two or so month-long Traffic Light Party for gentlemen. Consider it; sun and insensibility - what else should encourage a sartorial frolic in primary colours?

   I'll be going Green

Neil & Iraiza - 'Wednesday' (2002)

It's elegant listening

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Cut Down

   Perhaps a compounding factor in my reaction to the sad event of ex-Gang Starr rapper Guru's death is that he passed on whilst still hugging his grudge against his former partner, hip hop creative legend DJ Premier

   There's a natural disappointment to seeing such fertile partnerships dissolve into acrimonious ruin; nevertheless, everything has its time and Gang Starr certainly had theirs. Premier's prolific approach to furnishing artists with his output will certainly fly the group's flag for time to come, whether indirectly or not

   There is a hint of artistic ruin to Guru's end, unfortunately - the alleged amount of control over his affairs that was entrusted to MC Solar has more than a tinge of addle-minded desperation that also suggests some paranoia. I don't like to speculate on the personal circumstances of the newly dead, however

   Rhyming skills are in a dearth of supply today; hip hop is assuredly lesser without his capabilities. Find peace, fellow; we'll always have Jazzmatazz

Monday, 19 April 2010

Supergrass - 'We Still Need More (Than Anyone Can Give)' (1998)

"Because here it comes
Here it comes"

   Last week delivered the news that Supergrass, previously enjoying a certain veneration within the canon of Britpop survivors turned good, had opted to part ways. And so, I opt to remember them in song; one of their own, of course

   I'm perennially drawn to any form of underdog and so my choice is one not fondly recalled by the band itself, although that opinion may also be symptomatic of an unfondly remembered experience. A rerecording of a b-side during their second album's campaign, behind the boards are the Dust Brothers - John King and Michael Simpson - helmers of the ever-memorable Paul's Boutique by the Beastie Boys and Odelay! by Beck. Bearing the provenance of two of my favourite albums, this song would always receive an open-minded first listen from me. When last viewed, my iTunes displayed a listening count in the 50s - considering my mp3 files number in the thousands, that represents an addiction by my standards. Of course, optimistic itinerancy as fetching, upbeat song does easily fixate me

   'We Still Need More...' has place of pride with the various listeners of the soundtrack to the MTV Films-produced black comedy Dead Man On Campus, for which it was commissioned. The Dust Brothers irregularly supplied various films with original music around this period and produced around half of the soundtrack, for which they also served as executive producers. The following year, their facility for pop cultural anthropology through hip hop and electronic music would deliver one of my favourite ever scores for one of my favourite ever films, Fight Club

   The juxtaposition of vocalist Gaz Coombes' glam rock propensities with the surf rock flirtations of the backing exemplify the Dust Brothers' easy approach to recombinant genre play; it's to their advantage that the band had already written a strong enough song that could paper over any potential production missteps. However, responsible as King and Simpson were for encouraging scores of white men to sing over any "classic" hip hop breakbeat, indirectly or otherwise, their own approach was always far more nuanced, unprejudiced and witty than the obvious and capricious takes offered by their followers

   Its greatest trick is not that it is a Beck-like song that sounds expressly like a Supergrass one but that it sounds like a song produced by the Dust Brothers and still - due to the fact that it is augmented rather than outright altered - very much the creation of a band; a pleasing irregularity when Supergrass' own feeling was that they lacked control over its recording. Besides, all sounds better with strings

   As for Supergrass, a reunion would not be unanticipated

Friday, 16 April 2010

A Dream Within a Dream

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow—
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand—
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep—while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream? 

- "for Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes. And Barbara with infinite love as I falter on the road to Ithaka." Edgar Allan Poe, 1849 

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Salon Music - 'Chew it in a Bite' (1996)

   Salon Music is Yoshida Zin and Takenaka Hitomi. In operation since 1981, their career encompasses intricate synth pop, full bore rock'n'roll, ethereal shoegaze, krautrock and breakbeat-impelled psychedelia

   I'm specifically fond of their version of 'Say Hello, Wave Goodbye,' recorded with Sparks

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Colour Wheel Spins

   Kaleidoscopically speaking, this is a year-round ensemble. The sobriety of the deep navy (in person) double breasted and the grey-green of the trousers is enlivened by the exuberance of the accessorising. It's waggishness meets temperance. As I prefer it

   The laces are only for the playful

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

How to Show Up Your Friends

   Ahmet Ertegun, late founder and chairman of the revered and iconoclastic Atlantic Records, had a penchant for correct dressing to the extent that he made other grown men, such as Paolo Nutini and Kid Rock, who flank him above, appear even younger than their Wikipedia entries would have you believe

   Of course, whilst this appears to be a mere clash of refinement and unruliness, one cannot dismiss the twinkle in Ertegun's eyes that implies a capacity to be as indelicate as his companions, at least once upon a time. Nutini was a great admirer of Ertegun's sartorial sense, likening it to that of his own grandfather, but also reminisced that when it came to retaining a finger on the pulse, he was more like a 25-year old. Indeed, one would expect nothing less than precise attunement to the zeitgeist from Ertegun, the man who wrote 'Mess Around' for Ray Charles, signed Led Zeppelin and fell asleep in a nightclub whilst finalising negotiations with The Rolling Stones

   His instincts were not only used to make Atlantic one of the most hallowed of record labels - as an exemplar of the conservative mode, he sought little more than quiet perfection - and achieved it


   This recent addition to my eveningwear rig has crossed at least three timezones to reach me. Of course, it was worth it. A relic of the Peacock Revolution's influence on conservative Savile Row outfits perhaps, it's a silk brocade paisley evening jacket tailored for a client of the merged tailoring houses J. Hoare & Co. / E. Tautz & Sons. Latterly, Norton & Sons own both houses; indeed, Tautz has already been put back to work as a ready to wear tailoring line since last year under the aegis of Norton's leader, Patrick Grant, breaking with all three firms' ampersand traditions in the process

   The amount of handwork is commendably extensive. The photographs belong to the seller; despite appearances to the contrary, the jacket is jet black though the brocade does respond as seen to illuminating stimuli. For now, the sleeve length is the main aspect of contention; however, I've long been curious about turnback cuffs and the alteration possibilities within

   A pure joy to wear

Sunday, 11 April 2010

It's Peter O'Toole Sunday

“Oh, it’s painful seeing [film] all there on the screen, solidified, embalmed. I love the theatre, because it's the art of the moment. I’m in love with ephemera and I hate permanence. Acting is making words into flesh. And I love classical acting, because you need the vocal range of an opera singer, the movement of a ballet dancer and the ability to act - as you turn your whole body into the musical instrument on which you play. It's more than behaviourism, which is what you get in the movies. Chrissake, what are movies anyway? Just fucking moving photographs - that’s all. But the theatre! Ah, there you have the impermanence that I love. It’s a reflection of life somehow. It’s… it’s like… building a statue of snow”

   Very possibly history's most feted Academy Award bridesmaid - honorary conferment notwithstanding - Peter Seamus Lorcan O'Toole is in many ways a great man. Even his middle names fortify this assertion

   An aesthete with a mental repository for each of the Shakespearean sonnets and the proclivities for liver degradation and mental abuse, O'Toole habitually welded self-destruction to self-expressive talent. As a role model starring in the cautionary tale of his own life, he is near peerless, particularly as he has made it as far as his late 70s, subverting the traditional early existence failure of the likes of Basquiat, Dean and Beardsley

   Mercurial, ingenious, naughty, natty and soaked in esprit and other spirits. Sober conservative style sported by one with little other attuning to sobriety for a great deal of his life. I'd have demanded him for a godfather if the possibility was forthcoming. Apparently, he once spirited valuable earrings out of Egypt through a drug mule-esque concealment within his foreskin

   Such a dissembler may not be instantly apparent as an inspiration but for the right mind, fault and positives can be discerned - one only has to ponder our enduring appreciation for Capitalism, ultra violence and McDonald's

   I'm on the side of the man with the self awareness to visualise a career and a future beyond his own damage, the raconteur who named his biographies Loitering With Intent, the star whose aspect of disreputability saturates his garments of such propriety but remains so far above a mere lounge lizard by dint of ability. Who needs a perfect gentleman?

"I'm the most gregarious of men and love good company, but never less alone when alone"

Friday, 9 April 2010

All Earthlings

   This is a post about the photographer Richard Kalvar

   In a 1990s issue of DC Comics' Supergirl written by Peter David, one character, anti- heroic demonic rogue Buzz, questions humanity's received wisdom of our own capacity for enlightenment, spiritual purity and self-glorification when we're essentially ridiculous beings lumbered with embarrassing functions such as ablutions. The gag's on us. I received quite an evocation of that insight when I first saw Richard Kalvar's Earthlings

   Kalvar does not so much pose questions with his unposed photographs as he invites the viewer to complete the sentences - the necessary elucidation is entirely up to us. In a sense, his preference for titling his subjects "earthlings" is explication in itself. We have as much a clue of the workings of each scene as its participants; indeed, as its creator, purportedly, at least. Not all that we do is clarifiable; think of the discomfort of strangers at a random look cast askance by another and suddenly anything we do could be construed as downright weird. The absurdity of such happenings cannot be minimised

   Kalvar does not stray often from black and white, which fuels the intrinsic abstraction of his work. The images are not titled, rather filed by date and location. They are seemingly built around the disconnect that occurs when a moment is immortalised on camera, removing that moment from the flow of natural events in a freeze framed second. And it proposes a view of life in which all human activity can be thought of as opaque and unordinary and bizarrely comic given the right pair of eyes. Naturally, such views and practices resonate with me

   I don't have to walk too far to cross the looking glass of the absurd these days - there are enough men and women here at all times of day openly pissing in the streets with the conspicuous abandon of the average 3am urbanite drunkard, enough people who are apparently disinterested in raping me yet will not take no for an answer if they believe that they can get something out of one of my pockets, enough transpicuous philandering that polygamy may as well be legalised for the non-nobles

   It's not our fault; we were just made this way, no?

Richard Kalvar is represented by Magnum Photos. Interviews may be perused here and there. All material is copyright

Thursday, 8 April 2010


   There was always something contiguous at first regarding my relationship with Malcolm McLaren's career; I darted around the cultural alterations left in his wake without either committing to them or initially realising what influence he'd had. Eventually, I'd come to know his name. He possessed one personal aspect that I believed held some appeal: artistic legerdemain that afforded him the deftness to make the intolerable, the aggressive and the underappreciated conventional without the sacrifice of their intrinsic characteristics. A sneak thief of genre with few peers - I like that about a person

   1946 - 2010. Good night, good night, good night

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

My Impeccable Sense of Haute Couture

   So, the livery of Britain's Favourite Alien©; almost always of a kind that is definably oddball, outward and outré

   Informing today's title are the early words of the seventh incarnation of the Doctor, as embodied by the peculiar showman's élan and mobile visage of Sylvester McCoy. The character's current, eleventh persona has deftly created warring camps with his attire - "Bow ties are cool" is the diktat from his  recent debut episode itself - yet I've perennially found myself on the side of the 1987-9 model, not only for his meddlesome, obfuscatory, warm and ruthless persona but his offbeat formality. Such whimsy, a lasting influence? And yet an evaluation of the hero of a world-recognised adventure series from a sartorial standpoint could not be more germane to this column's mandate

   Forgiving the branding-motivated question marked apparel - although, that said, it is quite the endearing personalised umbrella - McCoy's costume is cleverer than received wisdom would have it. Hewn closely to the producers' conception of an appearance thought of as normal from afar and stranger under scrutiny,  I'll restrict myself to 1989's brown jacket model over the more familiar cream. It was to represent the devious and darker undertones of the character's progression; in practice, it veers the outfit's previous spring associations towards the autumnal and better melds its elements together, muting the fair isle-inspired vest and picking out the brown tones of the rather classical correspondent shoes. And the jacket is better cut, to boot, tightening up the well considered silhouette of proportioned garments and full cut trousers that assist in exuding the comfort and theatricality of McCoy's character. A sort of playful John Steed, perhaps

   There is a confluence of designs that allows much to be gotten away with; a veritable rainbow of colour alongside a cornucopia of pattern. That the most obtrusive component remains the lurid, questionably designed, as opposed to questionably hued, question mark vest - disdained by the actor to the extent that he once tried to arrange its absence for an entire serial - is a testament to paying attention to an era of considered combinations (the 1930s) in an era of neon excess (the 1980s). Strip the outfit down a tad and one would be golfing in St. Andrew's 70 years ago. This is also cogent to its wearer; McCoy beat David Tennant to becoming the first Scottish Doctor, behind the scenes and in front of the camera, sporting plaid, tartan and paisley and deploying his own accent throughout his tenure. Thus far, this remains the only portrayal in which the Doctor was definably not the model of a very English alien

   The accessorising similarly straddles the line of over-application. A paisley scarf under the lapels is perhaps the height of stylish scarf use and a segment of today's Italian dressers favour such an adornment in the pockets of their coats these days, or is that merely Lino Ieluzzi? Then there is the manner in which McCoy's fob chain was pinned to his lapel, which strikes me as a somewhat patrician affectation and is certainly my preference for its more statement-based positioning over the more familiar waistcoat placement. Finally, McCoy is inarguably a hat person, to the extent that the incongruity of a straw with a self-tied band - achievable with a pocket square - accompanying cooler weather wear simply merits my admiration

   Such a mix is certainly not for the undexterous, which makes it rather iconic as a presentation for a physical performer of McCoy's abilities. If not for this concept, this ensemble may never have come about. For lessons learned, it speaks for itself

   Inspiring, but not as one would expect