Okay, this is it — our last deal of 2014. From now until December 19, when you buy a tie or belt, we're throwing in a tin of Alfred Lane solid cologne — the Vanguard scent. Eventually we're going to be selling this in our store for $17.95. But it's Christmas time, we're feeling festive, and so we'll be handing them out for free to anyone who gets a tie, a belt, or oil painting.
Until December 19, that is. Then we're headed to Costa Rica to surf for two weeks, and we won't be back until January 3. (You can order merchandise during this time; we just won't be shipping until January 4.)
Okay, got it? Now, we suppose, it's time to address a question longtime readers may have. "Wait," you're probably saying, if you fit this description. "You guys don't like cologne. Why are you selling it in your store?"
And it's true that while answering a question about Axe, we once exclaimed, "We're not fans of cologne per se." And then followed that up a month later with an even stronger declaration: "Ben, no such thing as a 'hot new fragrance' in our book. We've recently made our case against cologne."
But that was in 2008. We're six years older now, which means we're six years smellier. Someone gave us a tin of Vanguard a while back, and we were pleasantly surprised. Unlike traditional cologne, it's solid, which makes it easy to apply with a (literal) subtle touch. Just a dab on our gullet, and its crisp and manly scent — sort of like a filtered pine forest in which a slightly inebriated Nick Nolte is enjoying a bottle of top-shelf bourbon — neutralizes the faint whiff of impending death that now emanates from our wilting telomeres.
What we're saying is we use the stuff, and like it enough to carry in our store. And if you a buy a tie or belt before December 19, you can make your own assessments, on us. Merry Christmas!
Earlier this year, while vacationing in California, we sampled some gelato made from water buffalo milk, and it was the smoothest, creamiest gelato we'd ever had. It got us to thinking — if water buffalos can be the foundation for great desserts, why not great belts too? So we started investigating, and months later, we've got a new product in our shop — The 300-Year Sterling Silver Buckle Belt: Water Buffalo Edition.
Like the first and no-longer-available version of this belt, this new edition features a beautifully crafted .925 sterling silver buckle by artist Mary Daughtrey. But this time around, the strap is made from water buffalo hide, which, as the photo attests, exudes a blend of rugged but polished character that makes it an understated show-stopper. Wait, rugged and polished? Understated and show-stopping? "You're throwing around a lot of paradoxes, guys," you may be saying to your screen right now. "What exactly are you trying to say here?"
We're saying your waist is going to be getting a lot of admiring double-takes if you buy this belt. And people are going to be asking you a lot of questions.
Here are your answers: You got it from Magnificent Bastard. The water buffalos came from India. The buckle was made in Arizona. The belts were manufactured in Minnesota. It only cost you $100, which, yes, is pretty amazing price for a belt that will stay in style for at least 300 years. (Amortize that, and it's less than a penny a week!) You're not sure if they can get one too — only a limited number were made. But they can try, if they hurry!
As a young, London-trained barrister, Mahatma Gandhi wore traditional business attire and pulled it off with aplomb. But it wasn't until he shed his suit and tie in favor of simple hand-spun sheet of locally produced cloth — aka khadi — that he emerged as a world-changing force. While rulers and revolutionaries alike typically signal their power and/or aspirations to power through crowns, brocade, epaulettes, sashes, and other ostensibly dazzling sartorial semaphores, Gandhi went in the complete opposite direction. His entire wardrobe appeared to consist of a bedsheet.
But if clothes make the man, it's also true, though much rarer, that the man can sometimes make the clothes. Gandhi donned a simple sheet and established himself as an icon of understated but indomitable will. His message was so true, and his convictions so strong, that he didn't need to clothe them in anything more elaborate than plain white cloth.
Now let us be clear here. We're not saying everyone — or really even anyone — should dress like Gandhi. If we said that, we'd never sell another belt or tie. But talk about artful dishevelment! Talk about not trying too hard! While Gandhi's wardrobe lacked variety, it had style to spare. And that's why, today, on Gandhi's birthday, we are breaking out the Bulleit and the Laphroaig and toasting the father of an independent India — and the father of business casual. Before Hef went to work in a bathrobe, before Steve Jobs prowled the hallways of Atari in bare feet, before Mark Zuckerberg taught mankind to share everything in a hoodie, there was Gandhi, showing the world you don't always need a power tie to be powerful. Our glasses are raised in his honor.
Sometime last year, the data scientists at Trivago figured out a simple metric for identifying potential customers: If you can't afford a belt, you probably are in the market for a good deal on a hotel room. Thus, an advertising campaign was born. In a commercial that started airing last year, a pitchman who would ultimately become known as Trivago Guy began captivating television viewers. Bedraggled, bleary-eyed, and, to connect with the target audience, beltless, Trivago Guy looks like he has spent the last 20 years draining hotel room mini-bars dry while leaving the pillows untouched. And yet who can deny the easygoing but absolute assurance he projects when explaining what to look for in an online hotel reservation service?
#trivagoGuy, in short, was a hit. But now that he has apparently captured the unshaven-and-beltless traveler demographic, Trivago has decided to give him a makeover. Share a photo of what he should look like on social media, and you can win a five-day trip to Berlin.
In the old days, of course, only new CEOs were allowed to wreck winning ad campaigns. Now, thanks to the democritization of media, we all can.
We think our Adam Smith Cashmere belt in Chocolate Sandwich Cookie is exactly what Trivago Guy needs to perfect his look. And to emphasize this fact, we're having a sale, from now through August 30, or until we run out of belts, whichever comes first. Regular price $90. Sale price $50, shipping included. We're sure Trivago Guy himself would approve — he knows a deal when he sees one.
When you're chasing extremely fit and agile villains up scaffolding in the midst of a chaotic but scenic construction site in the Bahamas, do you really care what time it is? Or is it more important that your belt remains secure? We're not secret agents ourselves, but we know a guy at The Sardine Can who swears he is — or was, until he learned a little too much about Area 153. (Nope, we'd never heard of it either, and of course that makes sense. It's three times more top-secret than Area 51.)
Anyway, Spiro — probably an alias — assures us that a secure, durable, and dashing belt would be an incredibly useful item for a genuine secret agent. So rather than give the world one more lookalike watch strap, that's what we've created. Based on the iconic color scheme of the watch band James Bond wore in Goldfinger, we present the Secret Agent Belt. Country of origin: China. Price: $30.07. Ships concealed in a handsome semi-automatic box, and available in our shop now.
Society's best defense against bad men wearing bad belts are good men wearing unusually stylish belts. Will you answer the call of duty?
Q: Wondering what you think about reversible belts like this croc/ostrich one — toolbag gimmick or useful wardrobe expansion technique? Also, that buckle looks strangely familiar.
A: At first glance, a belt that efficiently moonlights as another belt might seem to violate the principle of senseless lack of utility. In this case, though, the utility manifests itself in the realm of style. That is to say, a reversible belt doesn't make any claim to hold up your pants better, or provide some other practical benefit. It just multiplies the possibilities of looking magnificent. And that's the kind of utility we can embrace. In fact, we have plans to someday release a reversible belt ourselves.
Nonetheless, while we conceptually endorse reversible belts, there's still the matter of execution. Regarding the belt you've got your eye on, we love the Caiman crocodile side. But we think the full-quill ostrich side should probably bury its head in the sand. In other words, we'd approach this one as a strictly one-sided belt if we were to incorporate it into our wardrobe.
Unicorns are typically presented as fancy, flouncy creatures, like show ponies in drag. As it turns out, that's not true at all.
How do we know? Let's just say that on an elk hunting trip in Jackson Hole last year, we got the surprise of our lives.
Hypothetical question #1: Is it wrong to turn the most fantastic specimen the universe has ever produced into luxury menswear?
Hypothetical question #2: When a weaponized ungulate is bearing down on you at 60 MPH, does instinct sometimes take over?
Okay, truth is, these questions aren't so hypothetical. One moment, we were placidly contemplating the merits of two-button suits. The next, Satan's hell-horses were upon us. Racing toward us at impossible speeds. Snorting like dragons with hay fever. Suddenly, it was the age-old story: Man vs. beast. Them or us.
Also, we have some belts for sale. A limited edition series of 150. The roller on the brass buckle: genuine horn. The strap: genuine hide. The raw materials were shipped to New York City, where a fancy leather goods manufacturer produced the finished product you see here.
These belts aren't just belts. They're beautiful works of art that you could hang on the wall over your sofa.
Or, if you're stylish and brave, wear them as belts. Why "brave"? Well, as the postcard we're including with your purchase explains, we've been undergoing some odd effects when we wear these belts. The most significant: When we belch, it sounds like a dainty wind chime. Probably all in our heads, but considered yourself notified.
As for the wall over sofa, we've got that covered too. Along with the original oil painting we commissioned from Darrell Bush, we've also ordered a limited-edition run of 100 canvas giclée prints. These are signed and numbered by Darrell, and come with a certificate of authenticity. A less exclusive but still stunning portrait of this timeless hunting scene is available on archival paper, too.
Lightning rarely strikes twice. So while it's certainly possible we may run into a pack of angry unicorns a second time, we have to believe the chances of a Series #2 belt are low. If you want to be part of Series #1, act now.
Like flu doctors at the Center for Disease Control, we have been grimly monitoring worldwide onesie activity for the past year, noting national baselines, tracking geographic spreads, and conducting constant lab work to test for resistance, etc. (No animals are harmed during these experiments.)
In the past, only infants and very old people in assisted-living facilities succumbed to onesies, but a new and extremely virulent strain has surfaced in recent years. So far, outbreaks have mostly been limited to furries, Norwegians, and the occasional celebrity, but field reports from Sochi last week have us worried. Commenting in the New York Times, Olympic bobsledder Cory Butner warned, "I guarantee this is going to catch on in the States. In three months, they'll be all over the States."
As the Times story graphically documents, even Olympic-caliber athletes in prime health are starting to adopt this deadly Norwegian fashion trend and deliberately making themselves look like frumpy Teletubbies.
Our research reveals to us that the best way to inoculate yourself from the coming epidemic is to simply wear a belt. Perform this one basic task of human adult grooming every day, and your body will generate enough antibodies to naturally resist the onesies virus.
Q: Before you went Eat, Pray, Love you used to rail against the skinny tie. Like RAIL against it. Now you've come back and opened a store that sells only skinny ties. Do you find this at all ironic? —Andrew
A: Your note made us smile gently. Yes, partially because we've been project-vomiting gratitude out of our heart-holes ever since we returned from our extended Eat, Pray, Love sabbatical. But also because we took your conclusions about our store as strong evidence that you've been drinking Magnificent Bastards in unrestrained fashion.
We suppose if you strapped our Adam Smith cashmere belts around your neck (pictured in Chocolate Sandwich Cookie), they might qualify as skinny ties. We don't advise that.
Finally, there are our actual ties. All of them are exactly 3 1/8 inches wide at their widest point. Perfect now, perfect forever. Only a Jezebel columnist determined to shift body size norms would think to call that skinny. Or possibly someone who has just enjoyed a half dozen or so MBs.
Also: We still don't like skinny ties. But we thought of a compassionate way to eradicate them from America. Stay tuned for more on this soon.
Early last year we wondered if Bubba Watson was a toolbag with MB tendencies or vice versa.
Now we're pretty sure it's the latter.
This season Watson combined a pink head with his pink-shafted Ping G20 driver to support Breast Cancer Awareness (Ping donates $300 for every 300 yard drive Watson hits), and at the Masters he just won he wore the same white-on-white outfit for four days to raise money for Fresh Start, a California charity that provides cosmetic reconstructive surgery for children with physical defects.
Now Watson clothing sponsor Travis Mathew is selling a $200 white polo and belt package with 100% of the proceeds going to Fresh Start. If they sell out, an additional $50,000 will be donated to the California-based cancer research center City of Hope.
While both the polo and belt badly violate the MB principle of legible clothing, we're in, and the Pulaski Goodwill soon be receiving a NWT Travis Mathew polo shirt and belt.
Americans have been sitting on their wallets as of late -- so much so that U.S. households have cut their debt burden to the lowest point since 2004. If no one's living above their means, though, the economy stagnates. If you must tighten your belt, we
say make sure the belt your tightening is painstakingly crafted from premium materials and, ideally, expensive enough to give the average Groupon customer a nosebleed. Below we present five recent favorites, arranged according to how patriotically they're priced.
Q: I'm currently the proud owner of a Paul Smith naked lady belt. Since last time I've worn it I've dropped 2 inches around my waist. As a result, I need to put it on the smallest hole which goes against perfect prong placement. With a business meeting on Friday should bite the bullet and wear it or purchase a new one? At this point J.Crew and Banana Republic are the only options for last minute shopping. --Chris
A: Chris, that's an excellent belt on many counts. We admire your taste, your commitment to perfect prong placement, and your willingness to risk sexual harassment counseling by wearing an accessory with a naked lady on it to a business meeting.
But don't wear it on Friday. You'll leave a mark in the wrong place on the strap. Go with this J. Crew plaque belt as a surrogate. If you don't like it enough to keep, it's a no-hassle return.
As for retrofitting the PS belt to your new waistline, it's going to be a complicated and somewhat expensive operation but totally worth doing, like Matthew McConaughey's hair restoration. First, you'll need to take it to a trusted cobbler for the serious reconstructive surgery -- i.e., taking the extra length off the buckle side and cutting a new prong opening. Then we recommend you take it to a trusted tailor to recreate the signature Paul Smith stitching.
Q: I've just bought a pair of grey Kenneth Cole leather oxford shoes. I intend to wear them with long-sleeved shirts in the office. Should I wear a grey leather belt too? --Mark
A: First, we hope those Kenneth Cole oxfords plot on the proper portion of our shoe pointiness chart. (We're afraid for you, Mark!)
Second, we've never been fans of strict adherence to the belt-must-match-shoes rules handed down by previous generations of MBs, and the gray-on-gray you're wondering about sounds a little too Garanimalistic for our taste. You've essentially opened up the accessory playbook by wearing a pair of gray shoes, which is the footwear equivalent of denim. So while black and brown belts will both work, feel confident in pairing them with just about anything.
If you're in the market for an artfully disheveled, wear-it-with-denim belt, we highly recommend Kenton Sorenson's brass roll-buckle and distressed brass buckle options. Kenton has tapped into his Scandinavian roots and designed minimalistic belts cut from hearty 10 oz. leather, then hand sewn by his wife and daughter in his Cottage Grove, Wisconsin home studio, just 150 miles south of Pulaski. They're delivered by horseback and sold exclusively at another small business to make Wisconsin proud: Context Clothing on King St. in Madison, just a stone's throw from the capitol.
If you're like us and obsessed by perfect prong placement -- it should always be inserted into the third hole and never change -- there's no mass-production 28/30/32/34/36/38 guesswork or compromise; each belt is punched to order.
Q: What does MB have to say about wearing a suit without a belt? Assuming one has the physique to pull it off, how age- and office-appropriate is it? I'm 49 and in better shape than men half my age. And, I work in a conservative office environment. My intuition tells me 'no way' but I'm looking for one small thing to set me apart from the rest of the suits. Thanks for a useful and witty website. --Dino
A: There is no rule that says you have to wear a belt with a suit, even in a conservative office environment. If your pants are hook-and-bar (top) a belt is wrong; if they're a traditional button closure (bottom) beltless still works great.
To set yourself apart from the rest of the suits, try a different suit. (One of our staffers is developing one that will be ready for fall.)
Q: Does the MB have a white leather belt in his quiver? I have noticed a trend in fashion to don the WLB with certain styles or retro. Your take? --Stephen
A: Yessir, an MB has one of these arrows in his closet, and it's especially appropriate on the golf course/retro. It's not the easiest to pull off, but if there's doubt just think of Johnny Miller in 1976 on his way to a British Open title.
Q: What is a good belt to wear with jeans now that we are heading into the summer season? Cotton with D-Rings? Or keep it classic with leather? I am not a big fan enormous belt buckles, but if you were to ever put into the one displayed in the first banner I may reconsider. --Adonis
A: Cotton D-rings are a good choice (and not just in summer) and so is leather. Those are a "pick 'em" depending on what's on top and how you're wanting to pull an outfit together. The one golden rule with belts and jeans is to choose matte instead of gloss. For example, we can't imagine an MB wearing this black Prada belt with denim, but we'd admire a fella if he was wearing something more along the lines of this John Varvatos model.
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 languidly for 28 seconds. Strain into ice-filled rocks glass.