Friday, 30 July 2010

Five Times Fly

   Highlighting the insouciant sharpness of Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes is today's mandate:

   They also had quite a way with an indelible classic or two; thank God Gamble and Huff were on their team:

Thursday, 29 July 2010

See Change

   Of all the quotations on style one can dredge up from print and the internet and use them to beat others over the head on message boards in a manner that's both bloviating and fascistic, I currently favour this aphorism from that silkily spoken, maneating man of letters, Gore Vidal:

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn”

   Amongst my reasons is its lack of dogmatic prose and prescriptive superiority inherent in these type of sayings that can be rather self-aggrandising, as well as snobbishly - or self-analytically, in the case of Yves Saint Laurent -  dismissive of the idea of fashion. No one does particularly well by living under repression and tight diktats: it tends to make them explode. Reference every bell tower-based sniper ever and those funny sorts who favour only basic black, whips and hot wax

   See, Vidal's position actually allows for interpretation and exploration. It is my belief that people do not fundamentally alter, but we can change the trimmings - what we want to say is prone to shift at will, no matter how secure we get. I should know - I'll probably amend and re-amend this entry within 5 minutes of your reading this

   To illustrate my own point, I decided to pore over the archives of my ensembles going back to late 2008. I learned that I am still the same Master of Offbeat Formality that I have always been (according to my favourite primary school teacher, at least). But now, I look as if I ingest slightly less drugs

   Look at this as the effects of better shopping choices and an expanding consideration. The ensembles don't contain any more or less thought than ever, and as was implied by my references last year to my unsteady employment, my budget certainly dwindled as 2009 wore on. But I changed because of my experimentation and my learning. And I experimented because I wanted to learn and to see myself change. The constants of this exploration were that I knew what I wanted and I didn't give a damn

   My inclinations can run towards the brash, but of late I find it entertaining to be saucy in less obvious ways. Has anyone else tried oversized stainless steel eyeframes with their conservative suiting lately? It's so much more fun than bumfreezer jackets with 10" long arms; I'll always choose to appear ludic over appearing insane

   A touch of the personal applied to entrenched standards usually creates the most interesting change in my eyes - there's nothing more exhilarating than making something your own: adding to the familiar without reinventing it utterly. After all, There Are No New Ideas any longer. Or so I've been told

   My idea of change is effectively my idea of style. It is not to build and destroy. It's the confidence to accept what is already there and still look for different ways to see

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Leather Lust Object No.1

Crocodile Leather Train Case by Hermès, dating back to the mid 1950s, from the estate of a French noblewoman and marked with her gold coronet and initials

Inside The Greenbrier

 Scans: Architectural Digest, November 2005

   Provider of respite to 26 Presidents of the United States and over two centuries-worth of the Great and Good. Once the host of an underground bunker, created for Congress in the event of mid-century nuclear attack. Masterfully furnished interiors devised by Dorothy Draper - gilt edges for gilded living and that sort of thing. Currently undergoing hard times and now under the auspices of entrepreneur Jim Justice, a man whose moniker delightfully elicits old world notions of cattle barons and the later Jazz Age

   Mr. Justice's innovations include a spacious underground casino - with a coats-only dress code! - that alone should make any downtimer want to book a room, I'd imagine. A fellow like myself, however, would probably spend most of his hours in the Victorian Writing Room. Writing Rooms Are Cool

   As eyepopping as Mrs. Draper and her successor Mr. Varney's upholstery selections are, I nevertheless hope that the new regime's not much interfered with the interiors. One may capitulate to modern vulgarity in the interests of turning a profit but the Old need not be devalued just because it is not the New

   If he doesn't want it, however, I'm certain I can find room for that leaf print carpet

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood - 'Down From Dover' (1972)

   I never much took to The Go! Team, that irrepressible band of racket-making Brighton-hailing noiseniks who suggested a 21st century vision of Big Beat by removing all of the lager and amyl-fuelled white boy funk angst and replacing it with lo-fi, rarely refined, twee day-glo white boy funk angst instead. Never have I heard anyone so brazenly eject all nuance, charm and surprise from the careers of the Dust Brothers and the musicians behind the soundtracks of The Littlest Hobo, Highway to Heaven, The Waltons and Knight Rider, and get away with toddler-level raps and a desperate sheen of Americanisation that even Sasha Baron Cohen would find challenging to satirise. Actually, never have I heard a band more indebted to the quality of its source material

   The point of the above is that 'Ladyflash', one of the band's very few shining moments, was not responsible for introducing me to Sinatra and Hazlewood's duet-based Dolly Parton cover, though the tight, splendid musicianship of their version goes a way to explaining how those noiseniks could not screw it up

   For all the megrims of 'Down From Dover's abandonment-and-miscarriage-based narrative, it is almost concerningly pleasurable to listen to. Counteracting its misery is an almost upbeat, almost bluegrass funk-like take on the original's campfire tale music, leavened with wistful-sad strings, a relaxed strum of country guitar and temperate horns that suggest an equanimous state of mind: "This may be a sad story, but in Life, as you know, sometimes tragedy will sandbag you. It's best to get on with it." This sentiment likely suits the late Mr. Hazlewood, who, when not letting the Chivas Regal flow, spent his days rejecting most notions of fame and  later perambulating like a vagabond across Europe and the United States, dodging the income tax where he could

   Lee's throaty, almost growling rumble easily projects a hint of his character's unreliability that telegraphs the unhappy ending before his first line has ended, but Nancy's tremulous delivery is the standout; keyed into the same desperate emotionalism that makes Dolly's performance so memorable, she twists it by building towards a dance around lachrymosity as the story reaches its climax. With Hazlewood's errant lover to respond to, her reading takes on an equally desperate, but less desolate and more resolved tone, clutching to a bruised brand of hope until the final moment of devastation and disappointment arrives

   And then the song quickly fades to silence. Another journey through another complicated life is complete, but the road, as evoked by the music's laidback essence, winds its way on

   We couldn't have it any other way

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Get Wed

   I think that for an alternatively dressed wedding, one's nods to tradition should retain both bearing and visual interest

   A friend of mine recently stood out amongst the formally-observant male guests at a summer wedding in a Scottish ensemble redolent of one John Russell, the 13th Duke of Bedford, here at home in 1966 and adorned in the hedonist's formalwear of that time:

Photograph by Terrence Spencer//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

   This peacock streak carried on to his son, Lord Francis, OE - uncle of the present Duke - when he married the Malayasian Singapore-born model Faith 'Anak' Ibrahim in 1971. In the spirit of the times, he wore an appealingly cheeky, suitably aristocratic velvet frock coat suit with braided piping and a dégagé approach to neckwear. This might make his later conversion to upmarket estate agency seem unglamorous in comparison, but such is natural progression. I understand that his father's tome, How to Run a Stately Home, is fairly edifying (such a pity that his The Duke of Bedford's Book of Snobs is something of a rarity - I'd expect it to be barrel-full of laughs)

   This certainly is nowhere near the level of today's proliferation of pooling trousers, undesirable, inauthentic corsages and shiny, embroidered waistcoats that may as well be hewn from leisure suit-grade polyester. And why begrudge a little preening on that most happy of occasions?

Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images

Monday, 19 July 2010

(A Book On) Fashion Blogs by Kirstin Hanssen and Felicia Nitzsche, with Elina Tozzi

   Everyone observes everyone else

   This is what the book is for:
Fashion blogs are crucial news and inspirational sources for everyone who wants to stay up-to-date about fashion. These blogs are therefore both visually and with regard to content in competition with traditional media. Fashion blogs raise many questions. Is the fashion blogger the new trend-watcher? Can they be referred to as professional amateurs? How does blogging affect privacy? Is fashion blogging the ultimate way of self expression? Kirstin Hanssen and Felicia Nitzsche carried out a research.The main content of the book is divided into five categories: fashion journalism, street style photography, party photography, personal style and men's style. Bloggers around the world have been interviewed and the interviews are supported by visual blog material.
   And this is how I came to be a part of it:

   Last autumn, before the instituting of the Mode Parade e-mail no less, Kirstin sweetly requested my involvement in a project that has taken her, Felicia and Elina countless months collating URLs, arranging the publication of this milieu-exposing tome and selecting the 40-odd bloggers they felt to be the faces of this little world who were not Scott Schuman, Yvan Rodic or that plucky yet grandmother-esque 13 year old Rei Kawakubo-fetishist. And me. Apparently, they appreciated my flair for opalescent flamboyance and murky self-portraiture, as well as my ability to perpetrate offences against the English language five times a month

   Also, I suppose that they needed some guys in there

   Resource allowances for my contribution to the book were no less frantic behind my scenes. Kirstin had tailored a series of 17 interview questions, along with photograph requests. Which arrived in January. When I had just moved to Accra, where I remain to this moment. With my photographic library in London undergoing a back-up process due to a vandalised MacBook. And my dislike for the column's original "Style Time" moniker already thrown into sharp relief

   Authoring the column itself does not approach true posterity. Blogger's servers can crash and it will all burn. Or I could delete it. My own caprice is probably equal to that of Fate's, so who knows who will get there first

   Being published in a collection that will eventually achieve a wider release outside of Europe this year and thus blind the colour-sensitive that will view my ensembles: when I put it this way, that reads much like posterity. Or a posterity error, by any other measure

   Elina evidently intuited that Mode Parade is something of an atypical "fashion blog;" this I noted when she described the language of other bloggers as "somewhat tiresome" in comparison to my own. I'm guessing that it had not been a fruitful day on Google when she wrote that down. I jest, Elina; I always welcome a compliment 

   Of course, The Mode Parade isn't for much other than my disorderly ruminations and my Narcissistic Ensemble Recordings. And my caprice, as noted above. I've no interest in being on-trend and I'm never knowingly on the pulse; those are the fringe benefits of the research I undertake. I like being able to reflect on the few collections I appreciate, months to years after their deployment into the world. I also prefer tradition, and permutations thereof, to the trendy anxieties of the hermaphroditic, ankle bearing, voluminous trousered, overly cropped jacket-sporting set that champions "eccentricity" over consideration. Actually, I disdain any set that rides such a train of thought - the brain food tends to be ruinous

   And now, back to the process report:

   It came together in the end once I'd finally hit on the best name to rebrand this space with. I overthought the 17 questions posed to me and typed accordingly. I found the various portraits taken by YF, Jamie Archer, James Lewis, Stephanie Rushton and Daniel Barnett, acquired their permission  for their usage and forwarded them on, along with a few other ensembles I excavated from my inbox. Regrettably, I've improved on most of those presentations since realising my proclivities for oversized eyeframes, Western-influenced African sartorial largesse and copious facial topiary, but the passport photograph that I was asked to take for my feature was developed in an aged colouration that tidily evokes the current Me. I was even wearing a silk brocade tie from the 1970s and a vintage shirt with a long collar as if to underscore the confluence at play. The editors aside, who knows how much of this photography made it in

   Loved ones in London have a copy. Apparently, Elina mistook the "Barimavox" in the column's URL for a genuine alias, despite the mononym in my About Me/Your Author page that also appends each post. Or maybe she thinks "Barima Vox" is a cute appellation. Nevertheless, the book's feedback was aglow with approbation, and this from non-readers of this column, no less (hello, Mum)

   I wanted to review the book, but they won't let me have it yet. This means that its authors can potentially succeed beyond our little milieu. Which they deserve to. They possess two capabilities that seem to be embargoed in some parts of the world: they are talented and they care

   My semi-regular readers should not investigate this book because I am a part of it. They should investigate it because it really merits those apt old phrases, "painstaking" and "a labour of love," whilst seeking to analyse just what drives people like me to our amateur editorialising, public showcasing and fiscally unrewarding endeavours

   History is sometimes made by the passionate and the self-regarding, or so I've been told. On that premise, the book writes itself. Nevertheless, there is a tangible value to blogging for those same reasons; the existence of the book - to gather, to assess, to comment, to edit and to highlight - intrinsically asserts this. This shooting into the dark has attracted the attention of Big Others, as exemplified by the likes of Susanna "Susie Bubble" Lau and Garance Doré, who also took part. I'd go as far to suggest that one day every single brand of perceived or real merit will gleefully utilise this modest communication tool until it breaks

   But I'd rather not give away my interview responses. The book is published by, and available from, d'jonge Hond and a visit to the book's blog will yield its collection of coverage and other stockists. Its international release indeed awaits; I hope it will be confirmed soon

   To conclude, if the Fellows behind my favourite style/cultural blogs (as requested during the interview) happen to read this, your bows are in order: Winston, Ryan, ADG and Christian, MM, Robert, Nick et al

   Everyone observes everyone else. And then they take notes

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Opera Pumped

   There are two spheres of thought regarding opera pumps: the punctilious one that holds it up as a whimsical and cherished avatar of formal tradition that proudly dates back to its 18th century antecedent, the court (dancing) shoe, and the anxious other that dismisses it as an feminising exemplar of menswear’s foppish Regency-era foibles that should have been laid to rest with Liberace and his wardrobe

   I’m a traditionalist with an appreciation for the ambiguous effect on the heterosexual psyche perpetrated by the likes of Prince, Michael Jackson, the cult of the bishounen and Jaye Davidson; one could discern my allegiance simply by learning that I possess a purple jacket, a set of bow ties, a number of pink garments and a mumu. Also, in some lost civilisations, the shorthand for “Dorky yet somewhat dashing” is “Barima”

   It’s also worth noting that duels, and therefore death through stab wounds, were something of a habit where fops were concerned. And as that era also happens to precede ours through the power of procreation, I, for one, am not going to be casting any generalised aspersions of a sexual sort

   If asked why my footwear has bows, I usually point to my neck and say, “One can never be too prepared”

   The defensive would feel the need to point out that bareknuckle boxers in the 19th century would don them to spend a few injurious rounds with one another, but this is hardly necessary. Opera pumps only truly stand out  within black and white tie ensembles when attention is drawn to them, and as it is most often women on pediwear-scrutiny duties, viewers tend to be appreciative on some level. Achieving such understatement with such fanciful detailing is a lesson worth heeding, I’d say

   You see, opera pumps also require a fine eye to go with that quiet-but-flashy sensibility. These days, tradition necessitates attitude (pride, not defiance) and that old classic masculinity, where in the past, they were merely mutual complements. The American sartorialists that I know or know of, living on a continent that regards dressing down as a catholicon of masculinity and relaxation, seem to bear a particular brunt for their tastes. All those menswear things that are relatively commonplace in Europe yet almost taboo in their areas tend to result in scrambles for acceptability: no wonder some of them come to regard the affected, peacocking neo-fops of Pitti Uomo as “cool”

   Modern sartorialists should not need affectation or trend hopping to be memorable. Refinement lifts us all up; common language flourishes when the foundations and details receive their due with pride. Without due consideration to why these things even exist, they will get away from us and – quelle surprise! – the terrorists win

   Yes, I’m for the pumps. I appreciate the sleekness; their appealingly aristocratic nature; the idiosyncrasies they impute to a man’s formal silhouette, the added kinetics they lend to my dancing. And they are now as good as deviant; that’s practically the only excuse I need

   If one is interested in stockists and cordwainers, this pictorial is for you. I love the iridescent shine of my Brooks Brothers/Peal & Co. patent model, as seen at top, but I’d be more than partial to the less conspicuous calfskin, particularly the Russian calf that Cleverley is known to offer

   For what it’s worth, I prefer the bows to be no more than lightly pinched:

Edward Green opera pumps rebranded as the Ralph Lauren Purple Label Orsett

 Brooks Brothers

 Moreschi Grant

 An unknown midcentury man in London; the woman's reaction behind him makes this ripe for comedy captioning

 Paolo of the Suitorial blog wears Allen Edmonds Ritz slip-ons. I also own them and neither of us are too fond of them, given their loafer-like last; they are nevertheless recommended as a less "challenging" variant

I think I also used to own that carpet

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Outfit - More of The Same

   Another vintage-based ensemble, another Ghanaian wedding, and so it goes:

   With a bonus tribute to The O'Jays (because we would need two more to comprise a Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes homage):

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

The Covetous Post

   I'm feeling yearnful:


Holga D Digital Camera

Gaziano & Girling bespoke stingray wholecuts, made for a Forvm member

Junya Watanabe S/S10 Blouson (for my Dressed Down Days)

Taschen's Favourite Hotels

Ettinger Bridle Hide Billfold, via Unabashedly Prep

A boat cloak, opera cloak or Inverness cape

 The most aureate car I've ever ridden in: the Mercedes Benz 600 Grosser


The New Statesman - Sex Is Wrong

Come spend twenty five in the Machiavellian company of Ultra Tory, Alan Beresford B'stard

Series One, Episode Three: