Monday, November 28, 2011

Cyber Monday

Gerald sat there, listening to the banging on his door. The cops wanted to ask if he had heard anything - which he had - but he’d rather not get up from where he was sitting.

He’d met the couple a few months before. Well, they hadn’t really met but he’d made eye contact with them a few times. He discussed their arrival with Annie his cat that day they arrived as he scooped her food out for her, “odd folk they are - and awfully young to be moving into an apartment complex of old folk.” The first months were great, for them at least, Gerald had been slipping at calling the Jeopardy answers for a month or two and his hands were getting too shaky to cut out cat food coupons from the paper, so for him they were bad months.

Things started to go bad when the husband started to get lots of packages. Mary, the heifer downstairs, noted it one day as Gerald was walking to the grocery to get cat food, “They’ve been arguing. I thinks it’s about the packages he’s been getting.” When Gerald came back up, he noticed packages by the couple’s door addressed for the husband.

The cops knocked on the door and one of them shouted, “Mr. Arnold? Are you there Mr. Arnold?” Gerald sat in his chair, pet his cat, and kept Jeopardy on mute. Cops had scared him since he was little and he’d rather them not hear Trebek.

Gerald had one contact with the husband before the incident. “You buy that full price?” he asked the husband as the husband picked up a package. The husband nodded a “yes”. “You went full retail, man,” Gerald said smiling, not sure of whether to condescend or to offer advice, “never go full retail.” He smiled at the husband and walked away.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sweaty T-shirts

Hot and humid days in Pennsylvania can suck. I don’t think I minded them until I was old enough to start sweating without running around. I remember wearing cheesy travel t-shirts when this was starting to occur.

My uncle would have barbeques in the early evening, which was much too early to be having them for summer. It’s still as hot at 5pm as it was at 2pm and you never have much of an appetite when you’re sweating. The back of your t-shirt would stick to your wet neck. The sun would beat down on the river in the valley and make the air muggy and thick. All I wanted to do was sit and drink water.

My uncle had a neighbor, an old man who was older than my grandparents. He was lithe and spry but couldn’t hear much of anything. His wife had passed away years before. My first memories of him are when my uncle would drive my siblings, his dog, and me over to the old man’s property in his Kubota Mule. I never saw the old man when we drove by but his property was always there. The house looked as skeletal as the barn that sat with just a few tools and a tractor inside. The old man kept his property neat and clean. The dying, rusting and moaning, old cars sat in the back in orderly rows.

My uncle was friends with the old man and would invite him over for hot and muggy barbeques that my family also attended. He’d eat a hot dog, some Middleswarth chips, and drink some IBC Cream Soda, maybe half a can.

There are magical events: these are the things that we know we’re supposed to feel a reverence for; Christmas, extra-inning home runs in October, and the birth of a new relative. They’re times you sit and try to drink life in because you want to remember everything. They’re the times where life overloads you and you want time to process the living that’s streaming past you. These events are probably not as special as we think. Everyone experiences common events, even if we experience them differently.

The old man would drive different vehicles over to my uncle’s house. When I say that my uncle was a neighbor with the old man, I mean that their property touched, not that their houses were near. One time the old man drove an old ice cream cart over. The vehicle had two wheels in the front and one in the back. It had a little fridge in the front that could be covered with a wooden door. The driver sat in the back on an uncomfortable looking seat. The vehicle looked more like an old lawn mower than an ice cream cart. The old man was quite proud that he had gotten the old thing working. If the cart was a taxpayer, it was more than old enough for Social Security.

The old man was an avid hiker and at one barbeque he invited me on a hike over a mountain and through a nearby valley that was planned for that weekend. We were inside my uncle’s house so it must have been raining. It would have smelled like dirt and lamination, if I remember correctly. It was a break from the hot and humid weather but still warm enough to sweat in a washed and worn t-shirt. The hike sounded fun so I said that I would go. A few days later we had to cancel because of the weather. I never got around to making up the hike with him. Looking back on it, I figured that we both struggled with our own immanence. He seemed to be stuck in his house of bones, surrounded by the cars gored by rust, and I was stuck in my sweaty t-shirts, clinging to my body and away from the unknown. Or, at least, that's what I thought.

Sometime later I rode over in my uncle’s Kubota Mule over to visit the old man. My grandfather was driving. This was the first time I ever saw the old man on his property. He was standing at the top of a hill that stood behind his house. From there you could see the river valley to the south and the Appalachian Plateau to the north. At the top of the hill I saw that the man was hitting golf balls. It seemed odd, with the dead, empty house staring at me, that this man was doing something unrelated to his past. He whacked golf balls into his grassy field to the west. He stopped to rest when we pulled up by him. I don’t think I’ve seen the old man since then. He may have died a few years ago.

This is the difference between magical events and magical people. This is the difference between clingy, sweaty, t-shirts and hitting golf balls while surrounded by your dying past. The past really does, after all, die after a time. You just have to ride it out like an old ice cream cart.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

In defense of: 5-pocket cords and malt liquor


Levis? More like...

Comparing things consumed on a fairly regular basis in such a way that it will probably change neither items consumption pattern is probably useless. Malt liquor is cheap and does the job and the same goes for 5-pocket corduroys. You’d never spend much on either as neither can be considered an essential.

5-pockets have that pop (in the sense that you can get them in really dumb colors and pretend that you’re a WASPy jackass when you wear them – in reality a WASP would never fuck with $40 pair of pants) to bring some entertainment for the week. Malt liquor is a great mid-week prospect: hopefully no one is around to judge you.

Most 5-pocket cords need a $15 alteration to bring their 17” leg opening down to 15” or 16”. Malt liquor doesn’t need anything.

Neither of these things will last you a long time.

If you’re the type who only believes in the best, cheap 5-pocket cords aren’t for you. For those who just want something to wear other than chinos, jeans, and suit pants (?) [who still wears suits?] on the super cheap, then cheap 5-pocket cords will get you fucked up what you want.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The 2nd Defense of New Balance and the 1st of SexySex

I hurt my foot two days ago. I was running down a Pennsylvania rural road, with a steep incline. I heard a pop and now my foot hurts. Hopefully it’s nothing bad because I have NCAA Div. III regionals in a week and a half and missing that would be awful. So I’m icing and taking care of the swelling in hopes that it feels better. To help with this process, I’m exclusively wearing my New Balance 574s: it’s like wearing a pillow for your feet. I tried to wear my beater bucks but they weren’t doing it for me. As I frump around campus, my New Balances got me thinking about a previous post I did a while back. New Balances certainly have an early 90s charm to them. As the aging discovered that wearing cheap dress shoes is more uncomfortable than they remembered, New Balances certainly gained customers. As shoulders sagged so did sportcoats and as dogs replaced children, duck cloth pants replaced clean flannel trousers. Clothing of the frumpy lacked what Italian menswear has brought back: sexysex.


vagrant sneaker

Italian tailoring is a beautiful thing. When people claim that it’s a perfect blend of elegance and utility, they aren’t joking. A breathable, soft, and well-fitting blazer is easy, tasteful and is very popular among the new Anglo-Italian style overmen. The form-fitting, tapered-leg celebrates the human figure and doesn’t try to make the human body look like something it’s not. The tailoring allows men to look relaxed and natural, not stiff and artificial. Scared boys aren’t forced into a suit for alpha-males. The come-as-you-are is sexual in manner; it’s fun, loose in feeling, and doesn’t try to hide a thing. So, yes, the new tailoring is sexysex: a blend of utility and aesthetic.

The tailoring has the new balance of ideals that romantic comedies have been promoting for the past twenty years: little-thought necessary clothing balanced out by its own graceful appearance (which is similar to some compromise between two opposites that they always make in romantic comedies). Reasonable human beings will gravitate to this sort of thing. Those who take the time to learn and study the craft of dressing themselves will appear as though they care about greater things than dressing in the morning, which is a trait that is desirable in our society. Vanity is frowned upon as is dressing like a bum. However, does it not require vanity to not dress like a bum (when everyone else dresses like a bum that is)? Anglo-Italian tailoring attempts to address this problem.

I reject this balance. I am not a reasonable human being. I am a Daniel Plainview of menswear: minus the whole ‘power at all costs’ thing. I am the ‘frump’ and no tassle-loafer can change me. The idealism of frump isn’t sexy at all: it’s old and resembles a plastic trash bag. Sweaters, boots, jeans, parkas, ball-caps, and khakis float my boat. I like my blazers with lots of pockets and fitting loosely like a chore coat. I prefer loose sweater weaves to fine gauges. I like my kicks clunky and unwieldy, like John Candy in a role other than a fat man. It would seem that this style has no balance, just utility. Mister Crew posted Free & Easy scans a while back that sum just about everything up. Utility is everything, so perhaps I’m more of a Stuart Mill than a Plainview. I am the kid trucking through muck at 6:30 a.m. and I am the kid going to the rope swing on a hot summer day. I demand utility.



Mister Crew

Or is this really the case? Wouldn’t running tights and shorts serve me better than grease-stained chinos on a cold winter morning? Wouldn’t a pair of Merrel’s serve me better as shit-kickers than a pair of bucks? Ok, utility cannot be the only influence on the way I dress. Aesthetic has some play in the matter. But what’s the balance? I’d argue that on a utility and aesthetic graph, we’d see a shape very similar to an indifference curve; with Anglo-Italian tailoring being near where the curve is closest to the origin – the sexysex sweet spot. Aesthetic, such as YSL leather jackets and Prada Creepers, would be on the y-axis and utility, such as Bean Boots or Levis denim, would be on the x-axis. Your style can fall anywhere on this curve. Just know that there are opportunity costs with any movement along the line. As you get either more utilitarian or aesthetic there are diminishing returns: such that if your style attempts to become more aesthetic when it already has a steep tangent line, then to get more aesthetic you will have to give up more utility. For example, if you had a flatter tangent line and wanted to become more utilitarian, something like a cheesy hiking boot gives up a lot of aesthetic for just a little more utility when something like a pair of desert boots would suffice for your lifestyle. Of course, the indifference curve is different for each person given different lifestyles. It should be noted that the units of this curve should not be interpreted as units of aesthetic and utilitarian clothing you have. If this were so, the graph would make little sense because if you had a wardrobe full of exclusively aesthetic pieces and exclusively utilitarian pieces and wore them together then this would balance out to where Anglo-Italian tailoring now sits. Mixing random aesthetic and utilitarian pieces would certainly not occupy this spot; it would just look dumb. In short, it is your style and not your items that occupies a spot on the graph. Of course, your items do contribute to your style. The day you wear your Red Wings is a day you can’t wear your Allen Edmonds. The day you buy a coat is the day you can’t buy some jeans.


My frumpy isn’t sexy. It’s boxy and resembles Sweetums. The Heavy Duty Ivy aesthetic (though it would be closer to the utility axis rather than the aesthetic axis) is an Augustine of menswear. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a side effect of utility. I was attracted to false laceration as a youth anyway. I do not value the sexiness of menswear enough to give up my 574s. I enjoy the padding protecting my foot and floppy flannels that don’t hug me closely. Ties and slick blazers feel out of place in most college classes and I don’t get good enough grades to aspire to be an Anglo-Italian overman; the tailoring would be too much into my own fantastical self-reflection. Becoming oneself has influences of das Man. You must swing your balance outside of your own fantasy world and consider the world of context you have been born into. Balance the two and you’ve achieved something that I believe many of us are working towards.

I’ve identified my self with Heavy Duty Ivy but I believe that this person has not become a metaphysical ideal of my self. My self will be influenced from my inner and the outer and will change over time. This ideal of changing self (the term for this in menswear is ‘wardrobe’ which is seriously fucked up and material) is nothing new. We’ve seen it as we start as young adults in middle school, come out with a changed perspective as a grown adult, and gain a new perspective as we enter old age. I claim that your wardrobe indifference curve changes over time: you come to appreciate different things on your body. But I also claim that the collective menswear indifference curve changes over time. The point closest to the origin will change from Anglo-Italian menswear to something new and unknown over time. New overmen will appear sometime in the future to move Anglo-Italian tailoring aside as the center of the curve and replace it with a new perspective on menswear: a new set of morality.

So what did you learn from reading this? If lucky, you learned nothing.

Just for good measure: sexysex.