I've decided to take up smoking again because, well, I'm a nihilistic millennial, and was wondering if I could get some guidance on pipe smoking. I was set on a Churchwarden's pipe, as it's distinctive but not predictable and overused like a calabash. I feel it meets the principles of archaism, senseless lack of utility and natural materials, but will it look like I'm trying too hard?
A: Thank you for smoking! We also appreciate your nihilism; your letter has given us a lot to be hopeful for as the holidays approach and we fret about where the world is heading. But choosing a 12" long pipe is the equivalent of a guy who wears extra-long ties.
As A.A. Milne, the author of Winnie-the-Pooh once observed, "A pipe in the mouth makes it clear that there has been no mistake–you are undoubtedly a man." But a 12" pipe is a signal that you really, really, really want to broadcast that message, and even dull-eyed observers will suspect there is some deficiency informing this effort. Don't short-change yourself in this manner!
Meanwhile, we agree on the Calabash; that is purely Sherlock Holmes costume-wear.
As a much better alternative, we recommend a Prince. While lacking the senseless lack of utility of a Churchwarden, it more than makes up for it with its Anglophilia. According to The Pipe Guys, it was fashioned for Prince Albert who would later ascend to the British throne as King Edward VII, and is also accurately identified by TPG as "simple and understated."
Q: I recently injured my left knee and need to use a cane. The insurance company supplied an ugly blue aluminum number that looks like it came from a drug store. Since it seems that I will need a cane for some time to come, I am thinking of trying to find a plain aluminum one or getting a nice wood cane. What do you think? —P.T.
A: P.T., if you've read our recent post about peacoats and the wisdom of following MB Principles of Anglophilia, Archaism, and Organic Materials, isn't the answer obvious? You need a vintage wooden cane from England.
More specifically, you need a Howell cane. According to cane aficionado Canequest, the brand was founded by John Howell in London in 1832, and his canes were the shit with it mid-19th century Londoners suffering from knee injuries like yours.
Q: I recently bought a peacoat - dark navy, well fitted, none of those goofy epaulettes or anything like that. I say it's a timeless classic but my girlfriend says they're out of style. Who's right? —Peter
A: Peter your GF is so spectacularly wrong we're gravely concerned about any sartorial advice you may have taken from her.
Would Tom Ford be asking $4,950 for his peacoat take if he thought they were out of style?
We're big fans too, because the garment adheres to at least 3 key MB principles:
1. Principle of Anglophilia
It originated in the British Royal Navy.
2. Principle of Archaism
It's been a standard part of the United States Navy uniform since 1881.
3. Principle of Organic Materials
The definitive Naval Clothing Factory peacoat is 100% wool, with corduroy-lined pockets (cotton).
You nailed a few of our peacoat requirements (i.e. navy, flair-less, slim fit), and hopefully our most important one: a Three Days of the Condor Collar. You need to be able to stand it up tall like Redford.
Style blog consensus favors the Billy Reid "Bond" version ($695; pictured upper left), but the anemic collar is in desperate need of growth hormone, and is a disqualifying feature. For others who might be in the peacoat market, first check the local military surplus, and if you're flush consider this gorgeous Maison Margiela option.
We get a lot of "what should I wear?" questions at Ask the MB, so we thought than on occasion, when we're having an occasion, we'd share what we wear. Articles and accessories will reflect core MB tenets like archaism, Anglophilia, artful dishevelment, and a few others that don't start with the letter A.
The first occasion: A singles match at the club during Wimbledon.
For any tennis played during this fortnight we always channel two of our all-time favorites, Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, and split the difference where we can. We also strictly follow the Club's hopelessly vague and wonderfully antiquated "almost entirely white" rule.
1. Shorts. While ATP players' shorts have not yet reached the slacks-like length of the NBA and NCAAB, they're still far too long for our taste. We want zero restriction as we go wide to reach for our opponent's cross-court volley, and tanned thighs nicely accompany a down-the-line winner in response. 4" max inseam here, and cotton of course (principle of organic materials). So we're wearing these Sergio Tacchinis (the McEnroe brand) from a terrific UK eBay shop called honourabletype. Bookmark this one. $43.69.
2. Shirt. McEnroe got the shorts, so naturally Borg gets the shirt. What else but Borg's iconic Fila striped polo with oversize collar and 4-snap placket? $41.99.
3. Shoes We could take the court with the left foot wearing a Borg Diadora and the right foot in a McEnroe Nike, but instead we're opting for the classic style, relative obscurity, and archaism of Pantofola d'Oro low-tops in white. Launched in Ascoli Piceno, Italy in 1886, these are made for the street but hold up great on the court, and no one else wears them. $210.00.
Q: So, spring and summer are both in the air. And that means sunny days and sunglasses. Randolph Engineering hasn't had a lot of options as of late... do you have any suggestions for other, MB-approved shades? —Will
A: With sunglasses, we prefer to gaze backwards, into the past. A few recommendations:
Allyn Scura We always start at Allyn Scura and usually find something old, obscure, and interesting, like these deadstock Giorgio Sant'Angelos in brown tortoise. Yes, there is a high degree of difficulty here. But we can also imagine anyone from Kurt Cobain to Cary Grant looking good in these — they're versatile. So if you think you have what it takes, here's a little more info. Made in NYC in the '80s, they were designed by Mr. Sant'Angelo, born a nobleman in Florence Italy and, according to Wikipedia, an influencer to John Galliano and Marc Jacobs. At just 49 bucks the style/dollar ratio is higher than AMZN's P/E ratio. (WARNING: Pairing these with either Springtime in Italy or Roman Holiday will result in you actually becoming an Italian nobleman.)
Magnificent Bastard Finally, you can't ask us about sunglasses and not expect us to mention the Girard 3700s, as worn by Bradley Cooper in American Hustle. We're down to two pairs in our shop, and for all we know, they may be the last two mint-condition deadstock pairs left in the universe. Or maybe not. But do you really want to take that chance?
We'd suggest giving one of thesetwo Hardy Aimes blue blazers a try. They're the requisite wool and slim-fit, have lapels with a BMI in the normal range, and being from Savile Row, fulfill our Principle of Anglophilia. And the best part? Until 11:59 EDT April 6 they're each about 80 bucks.
Once Google Glass hit the streets, we knew it was only a matter of time before monocles experienced a resurgence. It's Newton's Third Law of Fashion: For every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction.
So when some people start wearing computers on their faces, others will move in the opposite direction, donning crippled glasses. Inevitably, the monocle is having a moment. According to the New York Times, the one-lensed eyepiece is a certified "mini-trend."
Is this particular fashion moment one you should take part in? On the one hand, the monocle is archaic, Anglophilic, and even when providing vision correction, characterized by a senseless lack of utility. On the other hand, it's an extreme affectation, a facial prop for men who don't think bow ties are fussy enough.
To help clarify where we ultimately come down on the issue, we've created a new decider.
Where are all the thirsty plutocrats? Six months ago, the Dalmore issued the Paterson Collection — twelve bottles of single malt Scotch whisky crafted by Master Distiller Richard Paterson and packaged in crystal decanters with sterling silver collars. The price, as set by British retailer Harrod's: $1.6 million, or roughly $5,695 per shot.
Liquid gold? Hardly. These whiskies are actually about about 4.5 times more expensive per ounce than Glenn Beck's favorite hedge against communism. And about 2 times more expensive per ounce than cocaine.
For $1.6 million, we reckon you could buy at least twelve of Pulaski's finest taverns. But think how hard it would be to wrap and ship Jen’s Knaughty Pine or Woz's Polish Pickle to your loved ones?
The Paterson Collection makes for a much more convenient Christmas gift. Or at least it would if Harrod's realized who the target market for a $1.6 million twelve-pack is. Amazingly, the retailer insists that "this product cannot be purchased online." If you want it, you've got to pick it up in person or at least talk to someone on the phone.
Don't get us wrong — we love that kind of archaic 20th century thinking. We also love that the Paterson Collection is so top-shelf it comes in its own rosewood wardrobe.
But we're pretty sure the demographic for $1.6 million hangovers consists almost entirely of 23-year-old Internet broguls. I.E., people who've never seen a shopping cart outside of an iPhone app. Once the Paterson Collection can be ordered with a single click, it will sell faster than a thousand shares of Twitter on its IPO.
Q: Black suit: Is a slim fit black suit a good move for the office and, if so, how should it be accessorized? I prefer to reserve black for evening events, but I'd like to go beyond the navy and charcoal options. (I either don't like light-colored suits, or I don't look good in them...I'm not sure which.) —JY
A: A black suit — slim-fit or otherwise — is only a good move for exactly two occasions:
1. Funerals 2. Auditioning for a gangster role in a Tarantino pic
If you're bored with navy and charcoal and can't do light colors, try a pattern like a windowpane, pinstripe, or our favorite, Glen plaid like this one from Ralph Lauren
Q: What's your opinion of dress shirts from Charles Tyrwhitt? —Chase
A: Regular readers know we're raging Anglophiliacs but there are some notable exceptions, like the food, the Windsor knot, and the shirts from Jermyn Street menswear outfitters like Charles Tyrwhitt.
Besides the Windsor knot-ready collar design, their shirts all look far too neat due to the stiff, fused interlinings that inhibit artful dishevelment, an MB principle even more dear than Anglophilia.
By contrast, dress shirts with sewn interlinings (or no interlining at all) aren't just more comfortable, they lend themselves to AD, their collars sometimes taking on as much personality as the person wearing them.
To see what we mean, take a look at Cary Grant's shirt collar in North by Northwest, shot before the invention of fusing. In our view, Grant's shirt from this movie should be equally as revered and admired as his Kilgour suit or Persol sunglasses.
Q: The ascot....I am wearing it. It does have a HDD (High Degree of Difficulty —Ed.) but a real MB can pull it off. Your thoughts on this? —Jason
A: The ascot meets at least four core MB principles:
1. Anglophilia. They were first introduced in England. 2. Archaism. In the late 19th century. 3. Exclusivity. It's nearly impossible to find a good one. 4. Senseless Lack of Utility. They are even more useless than a necktie (i.e. they're too short to double as a belt or decent tourniquet in a pinch).
In other words, we love them.
But can you really pull it off? To answer that question we've created an ascot-wearing "decider" flowchart below to help guide you.
Q: I'm struggling to figure out what I should get my groomsmen for being in my wedding. Any ideas? —Trae
A: If it's your first marriage, you're probably relatively young and so are your groomsmen. They haven't been groomsmen at a ton of weddings yet, so we think it's safe to go with something fairly predictable and yet eminently useful to any man: A decent flask. Yes it's cliché and our endorsement might have something to do with our love affair with alcohol — did you ever think for one second this site is the product of men who are sober? — but it's the only groomsman gift we've ever received that isn't either in a landfill or hidden away in a drawer somewhere. (In fact, this gift is hidden inside our blazers' breast pockets right now.)
Anyhow, we like this Wentworth pewter flask from Kaufmann Mercantile. It's handmade in Sheffield, England, fully satisfying the principle of Anglophilia, and with the 6oz. version, also satisfying the principle of getting tight.
Now, if it's your second marriage or beyond, you need to be a little more creative. In this case, we like the Survival Hand Chain Saw from Garrett Wade. Extremely portable, weighing almost nothing, your groomsmen will find it perfect for sawing through their own arm when they need to escape that bridesmaid they're stuck under the morning after. It's not an item most guys have, but who wouldn't want to have one handy?
A: Well, it's pretty magnificent to be heir to the throne of the fading empire that gave us the Magna Carta and golf, and wearing hats like the one Prince William was wearing this weekend is part of the job description.
As for anyone else? William's bearskin hat is certainly characterized by a senseless lack of utility, and scores high on archaism, organic materials, and Anglophilia as well. But its primary historical purpose — to make a soldier look bigger and more imposing in battle — violates the principle of understatement and essentially establishes the garment as elevator shoes for your head.
As you allude to, the standard hat of the British Foot Gaurds is made out of an entire bearskin. It weighs 1.5 lbs. and, most consequentially, stands 18.5 inches high. Getting in and out of limos and taxis would be a huge hassle while wearing one of these things, so until horseback reemerges as the predominant form of travel, we say "pass."
Q: I'll be traveling across the pond to see Wimbledon next month and I'd like to strike a balance between artful dishevelment and weather preparedness. What would you suggest in the way of light outerwear that would be appropriate for Centre Court and/or tea with William and Kate? —Eric
A: An obvious choice is the classic and almost entirely logo-free "Made in England" Baracuta Harrington G9. It's got a touch of Teflon to repel the inevitable rain delay, and it has long been the choice of stylish Yanks (McQueen, Sinatra) adept at adding a note of elegance to even the most casual look. But it doesn't offer much in the way of artful dishevelment or surprise. Kate will be bored.
Instead, we recommend this bonded blouson, a collaboration between iconic British brand Barbour and Japanese designer Tokihito Yoshida. Barbour's almost as old as Wimbledon itself, and holds three royal warrants for its waterproof and protective clothing. (What, you don't know what a royal warrant is? Brush up on your Anglophilia.)
Tokihito infuses Barbour's classic style with some 21st century urban streamlining. With their traditional abundance of pockets, buckles, and heavy waxed cotton, much of Barbour's stock is a little too busy for us. But this collaboration is strikingly pared down, retaining just enough flaps and buttons and zipper pulls to provide some texture for the artful dishevelment you seek.
Note: Prices on this range from $245 to $450, so shop around.
Q: I've searched the MB site and been a long time reader but cannot find anything about monograms. Pockets, cuffs? Which if either is Magnificent? A reputation is hanging on this. Thanks. —T
A: In the context of clothing, monograms started out as a way for rich people to communicate with their launderers. "These are my shirts," a monogram says. "Return them to me, not Saltonstall."
Over time, monograms evolved into a way for anyone to communicate with people who can't afford a Kindle. "I can afford to spend $5 extra per shirt at Lands' End," a monogram says. "Meanwhile, you're just sitting there reading my shirt. Dick." Do you get what we're saying here? Monograms violate the principle of understatement, and are best left to the Donald Trumps of the world.
Plus, monograms are essentially tattoos for your clothes, and therefore just as superfluous on a truly beautiful shirt as, say, a tiny butterfly would be on Pippa Middleton's ass. Why further adorn that which is already perfect?
Q: Seeking to embrace the inner bastard, I have increased the number of blazers in my wardrobe and the only writing on my t-shirts is if I am exercising or sleeping in them. One wardrobe staple of mine from the past many years does not appear to be mentioned as truly bastard-worthy and I am concerned.
What says the MB on my basic black, made in England (Anglophile approved, I should hope) Doc Martens? --Christopher
A: Christopher, you're on the right track -- the number of blazers in your closet should always exceed the total word count on your entire wardrobe. If you ever find yourself with more words than blazers, you either have to throw out some of your t-shirts or buy more blazers. (BTW, we're counting our WikiLeaks sweatshirts as one word).
Now we just need to work on your footwear; there's a reason why you haven't seen a DM recommendation here.
The Anglophilic pedigree of Dr. Martens is not nearly as strong as most people think. They were invented in 1945 by German army doctor Klaus Märtens, who hurt his foot while skiing in the Alps. While recovering from his injury, he designed a recuperative boot with soft leather and air-padded soles. So essentially Doc Martens are orthopedic Nazi shoes, and they certainly look the part!
(The Anglophiliac connection? In 1959, a British company, R. Griggs Group Ltd., acquired the rights to make and sell the shoes in the U.K.)
Browse our shoes channel and you'll find lots of far less clunky, more appropriate footwear options for your new and improved look.
A: In theory, we ought to like rugby shirts on grounds of Anglophilia and tradition. In practice, well, you'd never want to wear an authentic rugby shirt off the pitch -- unless you want to look even goofier than your friend the cyclist who thinks his Team Radio Shack jersey looks good off the bike. Meanwhile, the more understated striped versions that have been showing up in designer collections in recent years tend to remind us of wrapping paper. Every once in a while we see one that almost changes our mind, but there are none in our closet at the moment.
Q: I'm about to pull the trigger on a pea coat from AllSaints. Have you come across this coat in your considerable pea coat research? --Mark
A: Despite its bona fide Anglo roots, AllSaints is not really on our radar since a visit to the Lincoln Road store last year. Their Singer sewing-machined storefronts are easily the best retail facade going, and the interior fixturing is nearly as appealing, however in our experience the clothes themselves do not fulfill on expectations. While we totally get and even endorse a neutral palette, AllSaints has pushed it too far, into Children of Men and even darker, dingier Orwellian dystopia territory. With skulls.
Having said all that, don't let us discourage you. The pea coat you have your eye on certainly looks like it's worth a try, especially since it's on sale and shipping is free.
How about it! It's Anglophilic, made of natural materials, exclusive, and not just derived from a military inspiration, it's actual military surplus. Why go designer when you can go right to the source? --Broski
A: Yes, it's all those things, and it's also modeled on a (flat-out ugly) woman, which is appropriate since military is big for them this fall. Military buttons, sleeve tabs, skinny cargo pants, and camo denim are the rage for women, but the closest thing to military you'll see us in this fall is a peacoat.
By our account military is on the 4-year election cycle. Men are on the presidential, women on the midterms. Look for lots of camo and epaulets available for the 2012 Obama-Palin tilt.
As the weather here has quickly turned from highs in the 90s to highs in the 60s, our palettes have turned equally as fast from desiring gin and tonics to needingMagnificent Bastards. We recommend mixing this drink -- and any other drink for that matter -- in a glass shaker, and, short of finding an Austrian 800 silver & cut glass cocktail shaker on eBay, can recommend a mixing vessel worthy of your consideration: the Williams Sonoma Dorset Cocktail Shaker.
Named after the county on England's southern coast, this lead-crystal barware catches and reflects light, thanks to its hand-fluting. And if that's not a charming enough backstory for you, it's not available at williams-sonoma.com. You actually have to travel to a store to buy it. $99.
An MB Cocktail recipe refresher course:
2 oz Bulleit bourbon
1 oz Berentzen Apfelkorn
1/8 oz Laphroaig 10-year scotch
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir vigorously for 20-30 seconds. Strain into ice-filled rocks glass.
Q: I've been struggling with finding a good umbrella -- all of mine are hugely logoed. Where does an MB get his umbrellas? --Albert
A: Albert, legible clothing is one thing. Legible umbrellas are quite another. Even when paired with golf spikes, this is a look to avoid unless you've got a paying sponsor.
When it comes to umbrellas it's important to buy one made in England, and not merely to satisfy the MB principle of Anglophilia. Besides soccer, James Bond, and the flush toilet, the British also invented rain.
If you're flush (with cash) then there's really only one option: A Swaine Adeney Brigg umbrella, preferably covered in coated silk and handled with horn from a deer or buffalo. Just don't leave this behind in a taxi. A tiny notch down from Brigg is James Smith & Sons, who've been making umbrellas for 180 years. Their solid stick umbrellas are essentially bespoke, handmade and measured and cut according to your height. Finally there's this Paul Smith stripe umbrella which, while not made or horn or silk, folds into something you can slip into your bag and doesn't cost more than the per-capita income of Burundi.
What's your take on Toy Watch? I'm feeling quite tempted to buy myself one but there's a little voice of doubt inside myself telling me to stay away... --CD
A: Listen to that little voice, CD, because it's noticed that Toy Watch -- which look like a Rolex humped a Swatch -- was once sold at Barney's and Bergdorf Goodman, and is now available at Sears. These were watches of the moment, and that moment happened three years ago.
Q: Been looking at Biased Cut ever since you posted the Custom Shirt Reviews. What do you recommend as far as collars? I like the look of the spread collar as it seems more modern. Did you order any spread collared shirts? --Mark
A: No, we didn't order any spread collar shirts for a couple of reasons:
2. 95 out of 100 guys look better with a point-style collar. It's similar to striped shirts, with point collars equalling vertical stripes and spread collars equalling horizontal stripes. If you're the rare man who needs his face fattened, a spread collar can work. If you're not, point collars are a much better bet.
Q: Where does gardening fall on the scale of magnificent bastardom? Specifically, the desire to dig in dirt, tend, watch, and enjoy growing your own fruits and vegetables and the occasional flowering plant (and yes, even more butch plants like arbor vitae). --Andy
A: Gardening has some theoretical virtues. The English love it, it involves primarily natural materials, it presupposes land ownership. But we have trouble getting past the clogs, which are basically Crocs for land-lubbers. And our manicurist, who is frankly a bit of an underachiever, hates it when we come in with dirt under our fingernails. Thus we prefer agriculture on a larger, noisier scale -- anything, in short, that gives us a chance to operate a chainsaw, threshing machine, or drag harrow.
Q: I'm headed to the beaches of Mexico and my wife has put her foot down on knee length surfer-dude shorts. I'm in reasonable shape for a 40 year old but I'm not quite ready to don the James Bond short shorts. What do you recommend in a mid-thigh model? --Matt
A: Anglophilia definitely has its limits, especially as the inseam approaches zero (top). While at the other end of the inseam spectrum, we're with your wife about not looking like The Situation and Pauly D. (Note to The Situation: give the biceps a rest and work those anemic calves.)
If an MB is in reasonable shape, even at your advanced age, our general rule is to go with the shortest inseam you can wear with confidence. With the right cut they're not only comfy but allow room for a few extra cervezas -- and they put you many miles away from Jersey Shore. Our perennial favorite is Penguin, like this 5" inseam caviar/light blue "Mr. Splash" option that gives a nod, however slight, to Mr. Bond.
Note: Original Penguin is one of the brands on sale at Giltman.com today. We consider this a sign.
Q: I see I am not the only one to take interest in your header. While the lovely lady was also what I noticed first, I had another thought: what are the best breeds of dog for a MB? --Jon
A: Like many other things, Anglophilia is at the heart of the answer, as is Paul Fussell's must-read 1983 classic Class. While MB-dom and class is not a 1:1 correlation we think his observations on dogs are quite astute:
They are classier the more they allude to nonutilitarian hunting, and thus to England. The top dogs consequently are Labradors, golden retrievers, corgis, King Charles spaniels, and Afghan hounds. To be upper-class you should have a lot of them, and they should be named after the costliest liquors, like Brandy and Whiskey. The middle class goes in for Scotties and Irish setters, often giving them Scottish or Irish names, although it reserves "Sean" (sometimes spelled "Shawn" to make sure everyone gets it) for its own human issue. Proles, for their part, like breeds that can be conceived to furnish "protection": Doberman pinschers, German shepherds, or pit bulls. Or breeds useful in utilitarian outdoor pursuits, like beagles. The thinness of dogs is often a sign of their social class. "Upper-class dogs." says Jilly Cooper, "have only one meal a day and are therefore quite thin, like their owners."
2 oz scotch
1 oz sweet vermouth
dash of bitters (your choice, your mood)
Fill rocks glass with ice. Pour in scotch, vermouth, bitters. Stir. Garnish, if you must, with a lemon twist.