28 February 2012

Sucker Punch

Given the fact that it's been well over a year since the last time I featured a Sucker Punch on the blog, I'd say the time is well nigh for one. This means I've either managed to avoid overtly conspicuous consumption hat flies in the face of even my own better judgement, or I've learned not to bang a drum about my shortcomings so much. Most likely the latter is true. In any case, today we make up for lost time with a double dose, a Sucker K.O. if you will.
The L.L.Bean 100th anniversary coffee table vanity book arrived yesterday, because I bought it. I thought it might be fun, and it was late at night, and there were a few dollars to burn (specifically $19.12, get it? 1912?) in the PayPal account, and here it is. It is a fun book, but I won't get too far into it here. Lord knows the internet will be gushing with reviews any minute now, and I'm not going to get involved. I will only say that regret set in the minute I saw a page featuring Lisa Birnbach's thoughts on the matter. Any time the good Ms. Birnbach rears her head in connection to anything I might like I get the feeling like I should just chuck it all in and turn to stark white unfurnished rooms and black turtlenecks. But I digress...

Not surprisingly, Ms. Birnbach is featured in a chapter focusing on the now iconic Norwegian Sweater, and by extension L.L.Bean in the 1980s. Among the photos we find this chap. Two days later (today, that is)...

I find myself headed out to the grocery store in this get up. True, it's a grouping of items I've owned for a long time, but I can't imagine what made me think to combine them in just this way just now.

The sweater is actually from Boston Traders, also very 1980s, found in a thrift shop for a few dollars. The vest is Lands' End, $12.99 on sale in the Spring time some years ago, and the shirt is a tattered old Brooks Brothers, with holes worn in the elbows, what I call a "sweater shirt".

They even got me right down to the shoes. Dammit!

27 February 2012

AAW x NSV Wrap Up

Thanks to everyone who visited our first collaborative effort at Drill Hall Flea Market on Sunday. It's so much easier to create a nice looking mini-shop when you have the help of a knowledgable and passionate collaborator. Thanks, Zach. (all photos heaisted from The Suit Room)
An Affordable Wardrobe...

p.s. End of Winter clearance sale going on in the Shop! 20% off everything! Use discount code WINTERSALE at checkout now through Friday 2 March.

25 February 2012

23 February 2012

(Another) Whiff of Spring

Little by little, the bright colors that are the hallmark of East Coast GTH style come creeping in. Funny, these days I feel that wearing things like pyjamas, flip flops and underwear in public as clothing shouts "Go To Hell" a lot more loudly than bright colors and embroidery, but that's just me.
Today, a bright orange sweater is the thing. Acquired for $1.99 at a thrift shop, the only tag it bore was one saying "100% wool". No brand name, no real way of discerning its age or provenance. Just a really good sweater in a cheery color for a couple of bucks. With a striped shirt and barest hint of oh-so-pretentious ascot showing, under a Barbour jacket, it's a nice whiff of Spring....just a whiff.

Below, favorite charcoal flannels with favorite tassel loafers and bottle green socks. I think I need to buy a dozen pair of these socks. I find they go with almost anything, in a way that is a whiff quirky without being silly...just a whiff.

p.s. the Shop will go into sleeper mode beginning tomorrow night for my upcoming appearance at the Drill Hall Flea this Sunday. Out of towners, if you've been eyeing something, get it now before I sell it live on Sunday.

22 February 2012

A Whiff of Spring

...but just a whiff. While we seem to have skipped Winter entirely this year, and the weather has been nice, it is still not yet March. And while I find myself surrounded with men running around in t-shirts and flip flops (dammit, already?), I won't take things that far. Still, a nod to the pleasantness of a bright sunny day is well in order:
This combination of bright green cords with zesty argyles and tassel loafers is just the thing when a bit of sunny dash is needed in what is still, technically, Winter. Up top, a navy and white micro gingham shirt, navy Shetland sweater, camel colored cashmere topcoat, and Donegal tweed cap.

A whiff of Spring...just a whiff.

20 February 2012

Jeans on Grown Ups

Wearing jeans (or dungarees as I so obnoxiously tend to call them here) and still maintaning the feeling that one is dressed like a "grown up" while not looking like a walking mid-life crisis isn't always the easiest thing to do. I find that it tends to be the footwear that makes or breaks a jeans outfit.
There are a lot of good choices out there, but the combination of favorite-old-well-washed-blue-jeans, charcoal socks, and big fat brown pebble grain bluchers is hard to beat.

19 February 2012

Mixing It Up (Quietly)

You hear a lot about pattern mixing in menswear blogs. The ability to bring numerous patterns together to create a harmonious whole is considered one of the marks of the "expert dresser", whatever that may mean. I play this game all the time myslef, sometimes succesfully, sometimes not. It's fun. But too much pattern mixing can make a guy forget that sometimes a combination of solids can be more striking. Sometimes, only one pattern will do the trick. In order to keep things interesting, yu have to mix things up sometimes. This can mean turning it down as much as turning it up.

Brooks Brothers "non-iron" shirt, $5.49, mohair and wool knit tie, $1.99,
vintage Italian wool knit vest, $cheap

Here, my well loved guilty pleasure of a non-iron shirt is paired with a yellowy buff vest in fine merino knit and a very nubby and fairly wide burgundy knit tie. The color combination of navy, white, burgundy and gold, is a mainstay of classic menswear. The shirt gives us pattern, while the two wool elements give us texture, two ways: fineness in the vest, roughness in the tie. We've also got an eclectic mix of periods here: a recent shirt, a 1970s tie, and a 1960s vest. And so, for all its simplicity, this combo is plenty interesting. The balance of the outfit remained relatively staid: a Brooks Brothers navy blazer (recent), charcoal worsted slacks (1960s),  and dark brown cordovan wing tips. Hunter green socks and a muted paisley square provided just the right dandy whiff.
As for the tie, we'll call this one currently another guilty pleasure. At nearly four inches wide, you'd almost call it huge, but I like it. Vintage mid-70s "Heathernit" by Rooster, 65% mohair/ 35% wool. Its not the only one, as I've been inexpicably drawn to wide knit ties lately. I think I'm ahead of my time. Any day now we'll be swamped with a retro 1970s look: wide lapels, nipped waists, broad ties, buckle shoes. I think we'll be spared the polyester and overall "brown" ness, but we might not be so lucky in the longhair and moustache department. Mark my words. Tom Ford has been nudging us into it for years, and this everything-a-little-too-small trend is bound to be replaced with everything-a-bit-too-big. After all, without exagerated proportions of one kind or another, fashion couldn't exist. How else could they make last years stuff look so hopelessly outmoded?

In any case, don't be too afraid of a wider tie every now and then, or pleats, or not, or pattern mixing, or a bunch of solids. Don't be afraid of your clothes at all....unless you're concerned with fashion, in which case your clothes should scare you to death. Mix it up, but don't let it mix you up.

In other news: Don't forget that I will be joining forces with Newton Street Vintage for a live appearance at the Drill Hall Flea Market this Sunday, 26 Feb. Details in the side bar. The Shop will go into vacation mode Friday to return on Monday. Many Winter items on sale plus some new stuff you haven't seen yet. I invite you all to come down, grab a beer, and get nerdy about menswear.

16 February 2012

The Jams

Innsearching for the video clip used in yesterdays post, I came across a few other things that really impressed me. Once again, men dressed in black and white:

This may surprise some, if not many of you, but as I see it there is a clear common thread running through each of these wonderful performances. It's not the black and white clothes. Think on it for a while. If you don't see it, I may not be the one to show it to you.

If you do see it, congratulations. You love music itself more than you are concerned with this or that version of it. At it's very best all music is, in all its various forms, an expression of humanity at its deepest, no matter what it happens to sound like.

Back to our ongoing discussion of being overdressed all the time tomorrow.

15 February 2012

Showdown: The Results

The formal suit has been sold. I thank the many of you who showed such enthusiastic interest in it, and I am most gratified that so many of you had a real use for the thing. Part of what I do around here is social work, finding good, loving homes for the orphaned garments of a more formal time. In the end, it came to a showdown between a tap dancer and a classical musician (not joking). The musician won.

True, this may not be Fred Astaire and Artur Rubinstein we're talking about, but it's nice to know that this suit will in fact continue a useful, appropriate existence. Congratulations, Mr. C****. May it help you reach new heights of musical virtuosity...or at the very least make the other members of the orchestra jealous.

13 February 2012

Brushing Off My Tails....

Every so often, an item comes into my possession that is simple to precious to be put up for sale directly in the Shop. Oddly, the last time this happened was with an antique morning coat, and this time it is an equally beautiful antique set of evening tails, not far unlike the suit worn by our man Fred Astaire so often in the 1930s.

Honestly, I sometimes feel that I may actually live to see the demise of garments such as these, and that's a shame. In a world where "dressed up" to often connotes merely a tucked in shirt and a pair of socks, we could use a little more formality, just to make our most special occasions seem, you know, special, or something.

So here we have a vintage tail coat, possibly 1930s, though maybe not that old. It's rendered in hefty but soft black wool, with lapels faced in grosgrain silk, grosgrain covered button too match. 38 inch chest, with about a 32 waist and sleeves 26 inches from shoulder to cuff. The armholes are high and the lines tight and sharp, for an thin athletic fellow of about 5'10".

See what I mean about the lines being sharp and tight? Clearly, there will be no slouching or incorrect posture in a garment such as this. But then again, any man would stand up straighter when he looks this good.
Cloth covered button at the back, a hooked vent, waist seam and closed pleats running the length of each tail. The construction of this thing reminds me of very old military dress uniforms.

Note the curved seams running up the back from the waist to the shoulder.

Traditional six button front with wide peaked lapels and a slanted breast pocket. There is a loop to hold a flower stem behind the left lapel just below the button hole.

Four button cuffs with faux button holes...

and some serious formal darts to give the unmistakable shape of a proper tail coat. The detailing and workmanship are off the charts here.

Complete with matching trousers, 32 inch waist with a high 15 inch rise, 30 inch inseam with about an inch to let down, featuring a watch pocket on the right and forward pleats...
Button fly and a v-notch at the back of the waist band.

A silk ribbon matching the lapels runs down the out seams, and the legs are cut somewhat wide with a slight taper. Think of all those Apparel Arts illustrations you've seen.

From Roger Kent. Perfunctory research tells me that Roger Kent was a men's shop with three locations in New York, most notably on Madison Avenue near Brooks Brothers, J. Press and F.R. Tripler, a store in New Haven, and another in Philadelphia. You can guess who the clientele must have been. Oddly, this was unearthed in the same place as the fancy robe I recently found. You have to wonder if it was the same guy.

The condition is excellent, though of course a pressing would be in order. Other than one tiny hole, less than 1/16 inch in diameter near the outer pleat on the right leg, there are no discernible defects.I'm entertaining offers on this suit. Offers and/or questions may be directed to anaffordablewardrobe@yahoo.com. Please remember, a slim man of approximately 5'10", 38 chest, 32 waist will fit into this suit. Only the suit (jacket and trousers) are included, not the necessary dress shirt, white tie and white pique waistcoat, or for that matter, top hat.

Please, someone give this a good home and find some way to wear it. Things like this don't to die, and your gal will be thrilled with whatever place you can take her to that would merit such a suit.

After all, this could be you:

11 February 2012

Thrift Shop Tyrolean

You really do find the damnedest things in the chaos of the thrift shop sometimes...
...such as a Tyrolean cape coat, made of real loden wool, dark green on one side, reversible to red plaid on the other...
...complete with antler buttons...

...and big wide cape sleeves. It's a beautiful, rare and wonderful thing, but I fear it may be too much, even for me. I'd like to think I could make this work, but sometimes you just gotta be realistic. I'm not an old man from the Alps, or even David Niven for that matter.

If anybody needs me, I'll be in the mountains looking for Pinocchio. If I I'm not home by supper, send out a St. Bernard with a cask of brandy on his neck, I prefer Bas Armagnac, but Cognac will do as well.

08 February 2012

A Matter of Convenience

I'm an old fashioned guy, and I like old fashioned things. I've even gone so far as to carve out a corner of the intenet to indulge my yammerings on the matter. But for all that, I do live in the world of today, and I'm not so much of a fuddy duddy to deny it completely. That's the irony, kind of like using a laptop to connect with other people who like to prattle on about old stuff...like proper cotton shirts versus the new fangled and now ubiquitous non-iron variety.
While I generally eschew the abominable non-iron shirt, I do have this one which I must admit has a way of making it into the regular rotation at least once a week. True, its made in Malaysia, and true, its treated with some kind of weird chemicals that pander to a fast paced sense of convenience above all else that permeates every crack and crevice of American society these days, but its a nice looking stripe and it only cost $5.49.  I could make the argument that the old term "original polo shirt" oughtn't be used given these modern extenuating circumstances, but I'm not so particularly hung up on minutia as some guys (see these comments, and these too. Sheesh! Do you guys enjoy clothes, or just needling others about them).
While I don't particularly care for the weird feeling finish of this shirt, I must admit that it fits very traditionally, with a perfectly rolled button down collar. After all, despite its modern cloth and overseas provenance, this is , after all, still a Brooks Brothers shirt. I reach for it when I'm in a hurry to change for work, when the kids have run me ragged and I just don't have ten minutes to iron. I gotta admit, having one of these things does come in handy for a dad with small kids sometimes.

I'll admit that I am enough of a fuddy duddy to starch and iron it anyway if I plan to wear it with a jacket and tie, but mostly I throw it under a Shetland crew neck sweater with a pair of khakis, cords, or flannels, when all I really need is a bit of collar sticking out to show the world I'm not a t-shirt kind of guy.

Bowing to convenience in an occasional pinch is fine. It is only when convenience becomes the sole factor in one's decisions that abject laziness begins to creep in.

Tread lightly in the non-iron world.

07 February 2012


An Affordable Wardrobe and Newton Street Vintage will be collaborating on a booth at the Drill Hall Flea Market on Sunday, 26 February, 10am-4pm. So much tweed it'll make you wish old Ma Nature hadn't forgotten about Winter this year. Save the date.

04 February 2012

Just Some Old Thing To Wear Around The House....

In the past, I've made my position of precious house clothes quite clear. I've never been one for luxury pyjamas or precious embroidered velvet slippers, as I find that the time I spend at home in my house clothes involves as much cleaning and house work as it does sleeping. And then this falls into my lap...
...an honest to God dressing gown. Not a robe, a dressing gown, made of some of the softest light weight tweed I've ever touched. Found at a favorite thrift haunt for $6.99, among a rack of ladies coats of all things. Rules of thrifting: 1) look where you don't think things should be, because sometimes that's where the are. 2) Learn to spot good fabric. I saw the sleeve sticking out of a heap of junk and the fabric is what caught my eye.
The beautifully cut shawl collar had me thinking black tie immediately. Do I dare be so obnoxious as to invite people to my house for cocktails and host them in this get-up? Does such a garment even belong in a modest two bedroom with toys all over the place?
Finding a belt with something like this in a thrift shop is like a gift from above, truly rare. Its got a few tiny moth holes, but only a few, so who cares? Guess I have to do a complete 180 degree turn and order some custom made broadcloth pyjamas and a half dozen pair of those damn velvet slippers. The full rig will be just the thing for cooking pancakes, washing dishes and picking up after the kids.

p.s. new stuff in the Shop, including Brooks Brothers sweaters, Alden shoes, and some serious vintage Harris Tweed.

03 February 2012

Hey, Daddy-Oh

So, I was gonna write something about dressing gowns and black tie, and how to fake it if you're a cheap b*stard, but the I stumbled across this, quite by mistake...

...and it reminded me of the good old days.

A punk rock outlook and a yearning for black tie need not be mutually exclusive, daddy-oh.

02 February 2012

The Abominable Plaid Dress Shirt, part II

After some initial trepidation, I find that the Abominable Plaid Dress Shirt is fast become a favorite wardrobe curve ball. Like any curve ball, it works best if kept in reserve and used by surprise, but I find myself opting for it far more often than I expected.
Seen here with a grey flannel bow tie by Miss Ellie LaVeer, and a favorite big fat shawl collar cardigan, the look is relatively subdues for what it is. I like to think of it as the spirit of the over-the-top look of a Polo ad, turned down to a reasonable (and actually wearable) volume. Below, pleated grey flannels and cordovan wing tips.

It all lies in finding the right plaid and the right cut. This shirt is in Dress Gordon tartan, which features navy,gold, white and hunter green, a palette of colors that works easily with many classic wardrobe staples. This shirt is also a properly sized USA made Brooks Brothers, with a classic unlined rolling button down collar, a cut that evokes the old school, even if the combination doesn't.

The plaid dress shirt may be more than a bit difficult, but it need not be abominable.