Here at MB HQ, it's that time of the year where our conversations turn toward the ever-worsening trend we describe as the Halloweenification of Christmas. You know what mean: Millions and millions of adults, dressing up in clownishly garish Christmas costumes to honor the birth of our lord Carrot Top.
Has anything ever provided less joy to the world than a grown man or woman, half-sloshed on 100-proof eggnog, trying to camouflage his bone-deep holiday despair by wearing a naughty snowman on his chest?
On December 12th, the 'weenification' of Christmas will reach its awful apex on National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day. We understand the profound global forces underlying this phenomenon. Social media has connected us all more tightly, made us all more visible to each other, and yet, paradoxically, all more invisible to each other as well, as everyone battles for attention.
The urge to stand out intensifies in this new milieu — and what better way to signal one's singularly charismatic sense of style than in a context where looking ridiculous is the explicit goal? Talk about a tradition tailor-made for an era where self-esteem and convenience rule.
To all this, we issue a hardy and heartfelt "Bah humbug!"
And advise you to cede National Ugly Sweater Day to Utah. On December 12th, put on a garment that will truly make your heart swell with gratitude for this incredible world we live in, where impeccably crafted garments are always just a click away. We recommend this Rice-Knit Cashmere Cardigan in Burnt Red Melange.
Yes, that name sort of makes it sound like this sweater belongs on a menu rather than your back, but don't be deterred. The cashmere comes from the Bayangovi region of Mongolia, where zero-degree days qualify as "hot" and the local livestock develop suitably thick and fluffy coats to compensate. Nomadic herders hand-comb the wool from these magnificent creatures, and each of these sweaters comes with a label that specifies the exact herder who did the combing! Add some genuine horn buttons, and what you've got is a Christmas sweater that looks as stylish as it does cozy.
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 for the monogrammists' arguments, they speak for themselves, like Howard at Ask Any About Clothes who posts, "I like monograms sometimes. It represents the feeling of being important and professional."
Q: Hello, I am just about to start college and in need of a watch. I read on the site about military-inspired watches and do love the O&W watches but they are definitely out of my price range. I diverted my attention to your other suggestion which was the J.Crew's military-inspired watch, and for $150, I think they are fairly priced. My question is, your original posts about the O&W and J.Crew watches all have black dials but I am leaning towards the white dial version of it available on J.Crew's site. Is the white dial military-inspired watch still MB-endorsed? —Sean
A: Sean, keep in mind that a watch like the longtime MB favorite, the O & W Kartargo, is built to last for decades. Over time, a reliable watch that never goes out of style becomes a treasured, faithful companion — sort of like a tiny mechanical dog that will never shed on your clothes or shit on your rug. Viewed in this light, the Kartargo's current price of $489 is not all that extravagant. But if that truly won't work for your budget, there are other far less expensive options, especially if you are OK with a quartz movement.
For a mechanical military watch on a budget, consider the Military Watch Company's GG-W-113, which follows the specifications (PDF) issued by the U.S. government for infantry watches in 1962. (We first saw these watches at Hickorees, but unfortunately, they're currently out of stock there.) The GG-W-113 is made in Germany, it's water-resistant to 30 meters, has a hack system for anal-retentive time-setters, and it only costs $125. While the Kartargo is automatic, you will have to wind the GG-W-133 by hand, every day, for several seconds. It will seem grueling at first, but then you'll come to look forward to this little daily ritual, this brief acknowledgement that life is fragile, temporary, always in danger of running down unless you make an effort to push forward.
Oh, right, your question: What do we think about white dials? Military watches invariably feature black dials because that makes them less conspicuous in combat situations. While you probably don't need to take precautions against sniper fire in everyday life, we still greatly prefer black dials for civilian use. They're more understated than white dials, and, in our opinion, more readable too.
Nothing tests the Magnificent Bastard principle of understatement more than holidays. Halloween is the worst, followed closely by the 4th of July. Red, white, and blue are great colors for Ol' Glory and beer cans, but unless you're a superhero, too much red, white, and blue in your wardrobe at any one time can make you look like you're hitting the bricks to shill your local tax return service. If you're looking for a role model, choose Founding Father Thomas Jefferson over Uncle Sam — subtlety trumps bombast every time.
Of course, on a day when bombs — or at least their Las Vegas cousins, Class 1.1G fireworks — are bursting in air, subtlety's a relative concept and some red, white and blue in your wardrobe is completely appropriate. With that mind, here are 5 ways to show your patriotism without looking like Yankee Doodle Toolbag on the 4th of July.
Block Headwear makes our favorite hats. Salute the spirit of Betsy Ross by hiring a seamstress to create a new temporary hatband for you using 67 cents worth of grosgrain ribbon from M&J Trimming. Get the 7/8" size.
It's become popular in recent years to bash the French, but while America was fighting for its independence, the French gave us the spirit of Enlightment that would later inform our Constitution, military support, and, we're guessing, some pretty good pastries. Show your gratitude with this Moncler track jacket.
FINAL WORD OF ADVICE: Choose only one of these items and leave it at that. Except for the beer koozie. That goes with everything.
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: While rolling my sleeves above the elbow just seems natural to me, I find myself wondering how high they should be rolled? I've noticed you endorsed Alex Rodriguez's above the bicep rolling, but that seems like showing off the biceps a little too much, which would violate the MB rule of understatement. —Brian
A: In hindsight we acknowledge the Alex Rodriguez post too strongly endorsed his excessively high sleeve rolling in our haste to make a joke about him still being on the juice. We regret that we may have misled some readers into inappropriate bicep/tricep exposure, and would like to take this opportunity to offer some more thoughts on the subtle art of sleeve-rolling.
As we explained in our initial post on this topic, you want the sleeve to end up enough over your elbow to give a phlebotomist a clear shot at your medial cubital vein. But don't get carried away. A good phlebotomist doesn't need a lot of room in which to work.
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: Engagement rings...the inevitable awaits. I noticed a recent trend of colored/gemstones set in rings instead of the traditional diamond. Also, I am thinking of buying a gemstone ring because all of my recently engaged friends seem to have purchased rings at the same place because they all look alike. Wanting to stay MB and keep my second half MB as well, what say you about the gemstone engagement ring? --Mitch
A: We've answered this question before regarding the man's ring (with a chart), and we'd put a gemstone engagement ring for the Mrs. at the same lousy position on the scale.
Don't do it man.
If you want to set yourself apart from your Zales-shopping peers, while simultaneously conferring loads of class upon your bride-to-be (and by association, you), apply the understatement principle and choose a band. We like platinum. A good local jeweler should be able to create one in a shape you like for roughly a grand. If not, there's always Tiffany & Co. If she requires a diamond, get two with a pair of earrings.
Q: What does an MB wear to an early September (over 100 degrees) afternoon football game at the alma mater? --Claxton
A: Even in cooler Big Ten climes, afternoon September football games against the likes of Austin Peay are best enjoyed at a bar near the stadium, rather than squeezed in with 80,000 sticky, sweaty Badger fans.
If the ticket's already purchased, follow our advice already given to Los Angeles Lakers fans: look like a fan without really trying. This means shorts, shoes/sandals, and a t-shirt/SS you'd feel comfortable wearing to a non-gameday BBQ, with only a subtle hint of your team loyalties. In other words, somewhere in between the plastic flip-flop, team jersey, backward ballcap-wearing undergraduate throngs, and the legible grey-haired alum with the world's worst sunburn.
2.) Sneakers that you plan to wear with shorts are one item where we give more leeway than we usually do to bright colors, patterns, and logos. Don't go crazy though. If Turtle from Entourage would wear it, you've probably gone too far.
3.) Sticking with white or gray is your best bet for picking a shoe that can work with a wide variety of shorts. (Important note: If you're a size 12 or over, do not go with an all-white shoe unless you're trying to pick up work as a clown at children's birthday parties.)
4.) If you're dying to incorporate red velour into your wardrobe, a pair of sneakers is the only place to do it.
The T56s offer timeless style. Our great-great-great-great-great-grandkids will be wearing these in 2210. In 2010, they're the shoes we reach for when we know the evening's going to involve some furious table tennis action.
"Leave your socks at home," the Superga website enthuses, because the interior of the 2750 feature finished inseams. We like that touch but we're not going to go that far. For all summer sneaker-wearing we recommend the Banana Republic no-show socks.
Williot is a Spanish brand that made its debut in the U.S. market last summer. If you want to look sporty but not athletic -- i.e., you aren't planning to do anything more strenuous than mixing cocktails by the pool -- these are a great choice.
Why are we recommending these Chuck clones and not the real thing? Thanks to the hidden Air Nike technology hidden in the heel, they're one of the few Chuck-style shoes that you can play basketball in and not sentence your feet to a lifetime of Bill Walton-like pain. When your day involves anything more strenuous than a J. Crew photo shoot, wear these.
Designer Seishi Tanaka hand-draws the sketches for the TST line and it shows. This model leans toward the more athletic end of the athleisure shoe spectrum -- we think we could actually play some touch football in it -- but it has an organic quality not found in the hyper-engineered footwear of, say, Nike or Reebok.
If you want to add a Gallic touch to your Fourth of July barbecue, try these sneakers from Jean Paul Gaultier's shoe line, Pataugas. (You can pick up last year's slightly different model at yoox.com for only $89.)
Q: I'm in between jobs right now, so I've been taking time to work out and run every day. With the weather warming up I've been wondering if it's okay to jog shirtless yet. How warm does it have to be, or how in shape must I be, to justify this? --Mike
A: Mike, you should never jog shirtless. If you have some extra chub, shirtless jogging is a violation of common courtesy -- no one should be subjected to seeing all that giggle while they're taking their dog for a walk.
On the other hand, even if you look like The Situation on steroids (yes, we know that's probably redundant), shirtless jogging is a violation of the MB principle of understatement. We recommend a simple, logo-less tank-top, preferably nothing synthetic or resembling that of a true professional.
The Shark's signature final-round folds remain the same, but thankfully his wardrobe has changed. Eschewing bright colors and patterns in favor of neutrals, now he chokes in style. Might this style evolution be the influence of new bride Chris Evert?
Top: Norman at his last triumph in 1993 at Royal St. George's, looking quite peculiar
Bottom Left: Norman on Saturday in white polo with ivory cashmere v-neck
GOOD 1. Pants. Lounge-fit khakis work nicely on bigger men. 2. Footwear. Climbing/hiking boots transition well from granola/North Face look; useful for dodging sniper fire. 3. Shirt. Untucked, unbuttoned knit short-sleeve satisfies MB principle of artful dishevelment.
BAD 1. Headwear. Ski mask creates hat-head and even worse, hat-face, especially in hot desert climates. 2. Weapon. AK-47 noisy and big and showy. Violates MB principle of understatement. 3. Neckwear. Bullet scarf made from too large of diameter rounds (see understatement). Leave larger caliber accessorization to G.I. Joe & Rambo. 4. Jewelry. Pinkie ring acceptable only if starring in Scorsese mob picture.
Mezcal Rob Roy
1 oz mezcal (Del Maguey Chichicapa)
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1/4 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
Stir all ingredients over ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.