In which AMR dons the skimpy veil of “journalism” to self-analyze his own obsession interest in authentic—or authentic-ish—American attire and the recent revival thereof:
Until recently, men like Leung would’ve skipped the Woolrich for a skinny Dior suit. But in recent years a number of tastemakers, many foreign, have dedicated themselves to reviving iconic American clothing for a hip new audience. Some have collaborated with classic U.S. brands on revitalized products (see: Suzuki and Woolrich). Some have stocked hunting garb in their big-city boutiques. And some have actually begun to reproduce emblematic gear—Wayfarers, Penfield vests—to exacting standards of authenticity. The result—on ample display in places like Brooklyn, N.Y., and Portland, Ore., where certain streets now resemble catwalks crowded with bookish lumberjacks—is a subset of prosperous peacocks paying a premium for garments originally meant for mining or fishing, then wearing them to tapas bars and contemporary art installations.
Affected? Absolutely. Still, how we dress says a lot about who we want to be, and that ache for authenticity—or, at least, the aura of authenticity—is revealing. For the foreigners who instigated the fad, sturdy American gear has long evoked a distant, idealized culture. As a child, Suzuki would watch “The Graduate” and obsess over Dustin Hoffman’s parka and Jack Purcells. “Americana represented a new, almost utopian viewpoint for me,” he says. With the recent decline in our security, industry and standing, that nostalgia for a prelapsarian America (and the durable domestic goods that defined it) seems to have settled over the stylish set here at home. “Ironically, it’s largely because of overseas interest that Americans can now wear real American stuff,” says Michael Williams, a fashion publicist who covers Americana on his blog, A Continuous Lean. “They’re recognizing that heritage and quality are precious in our disposable Wal-Mart world.” It’s as if globalization has come full circle, creating both an appetite for cultural anchoring and a fashion to feed it.
Barack Obama had a drinks party at the White House on Wednesday night. He invited congressional leaders of both parties for cocktails at 7:30. In his relentless push for his stimulus plan, he’s apparently not going to let them out of his sight…
This is a notable departure from Obama’s predecessor, whose relationship with Congress was notoriously chilly and whose relationship with the bottle ended at age 40. But it connects him to a rich presidential tradition that goes back to the Founders, who drank heavily after signing the Constitution…
FDR won the presidency on a platform of ending Prohibition. Every evening, including during the war, Roosevelt mixed drinks in the Oval Office from behind his desk, before him a tray equipped with whatever he needed for the martinis or old fashioneds he was mixing. “He mixed the ingredients,” recalled author Robert Sherwood, “with the deliberation of an alchemist but with what appeared to be a certain lack of precision since he carried on a steady conversation while doing it.”…
LBJ carried on the presidential carrying on, though in his own inimitable style. Joseph Califano tells the story of drinking while riding around Lyndon Johnson’s ranch. “As we drove around we were followed by a car and a station wagon with Secret Service agents. The president drank Cutty Sark scotch and soda out of a large white plastic foam cup. Periodically, Johnson would slow down and hold his left arm outside the car, shaking the cup and ice. A Secret Service agent would run up to the car, take the cup and go back to the station wagon. There another agent would refill it with ice, scotch, and soda as the first agent trotted behind the wagon. Then the first agent would run the refilled cup up to LBJ’s outstretched and waiting hand, as the president’s car moved slowly along.”
Norton & Sons' Patrick Grant has revived the old sporting and military tailor that dressed the Duke of Windsor, Churchill and America’s pre-war elite with a new line of highly traditional, high-quality ready-to-wear menswear - all sourced from tiny traditional artisans around the U.K. Knitwear from Shetland, Hawick and southern Wales; a belt maker who usually only takes orders from the British military and then goes back to his day job; a South End leather goods company that turns out about six pieces a year for Asprey. The collection isn’t too tweedy - more a hybrid of the kind of clothes men like the Duke of Windsor or Anthony Drexel Biddle would wear. They’ll offer six suits (heavy flannels, pinstripes and twist worsted), sport coats, pleated pants, knitwear, leather goods, belts…
“Edward Tautz founded E. Tautz in 1867at 249 Oxford Street between Audley Street and Marble Arch in London’s prosperous West End. Tautz had been head cutter at the venerable sporting Tailors Hammond & Co before leaving to establish his own firm. At Hammond he had been tailor to England’s finest sporting gentlemen, including Edward VII, as Prince of Walesand he took many of his noble clients with him to E. Tautz.
Edward Tautz was an innovator in both cloth and cut, continuously releasing new products in new and innovative materials including waterproof tweeds and rainproof coverts. He fought hard to protect his business from counterfeiters, even going to the extent of using the courts. In 1886 he proved, in court, his invention of the original Knickerbocker Breeches, that were to prove so popular and were the forerunner to today’s plus 2’s.
On February 16 1895, a young Winston Churchill placed his first order at Tautz, an order which included 1 pr blue medium Tautz Overall’s, 1 pr dress pants with gold lace and one pr Venetian dress overalls with gold lace. Churchill was to be a regular client for the next twenty years. He was a great fan of the firm and indeed as a schoolboy at Harrow once wrote to his mother imploring her to send him amongst other things ‘Breeches from Tautz’.
The firm made its name as a sporting and military tailor but in the 20th century expanded its civilian tailoring business and famously developed the Tautz Lapel, a double breasted lapel with a subtle rounded tip and lower almost horizontal gorge. This distinctive cut was taken up by the stars of Hollywood in a big way and the likes of David Niven and Cary Grant both ‘Sported the Tautz’.”
Eater reports today that it received notice of a dining deal from the “21” Club, which included this line:
"…we have (somewhat) relaxed our dress code in the lounge and bar areas, as well as the dining rooms. Ties are still preferred and greatly appreciated, but they are no longer a must." …
"21" was the last restaurant in New York City to demand that gentlemen wear a jacket and tie. Think of that. Thousands of places to eat in this town and the hoi polloi’s penchant for sloppiness has become so enveloping that only one eatery has the guts to tells its patrons to look decent when they go out to eat. It’s truly discouraging.
PARIS (AP) — The French state will help provide free newspaper subscriptions to teenagers for their 18th birthdays, President Nicolas Sarkozy announced Friday. But the bigger gift is for France’s ailing print media.
Sarkozy also announced a ninefold rise in the state’s support for newspaper deliveries and a doubling of its annual print advertising outlay amid a swelling industry crisis.
Sarkozy argued in a speech to publishers that the measures are needed because the global financial crisis has compounded woes for a sector already suffering from falling ad revenues and subscriptions.
In a speech to industry leaders, Sarkozy said it was legitimate for the state to consider the print media’s economic situation.
"It is indeed its responsibility … to make sure an independent, free and pluralistic press exists," he said.
Southwold’s reputation as the home of eccentric adventurers has rested on the likes of the late Dennis Collings, whose modest terrace house in Station Road was crammed with treasures and trophies from all over the world and far back into pre-history.
A friend of George Orwell, this traveller-collector - whose front door was famously stuck fast by a mountain of unopened mail - died in 2001. After many gifts to Southwold Museum, the remnants of his heaped hoards are to be sold at Bonhams in London next Wednesday.
Some 37 lots span the Collings passions for natural history, archaeology and anthropology. Most have low estimates, but the huge range and quantity of objects amazes.
Behold a boneyard of tusks, horns and skulls - of walrus, antelope and lion, some of which were shot by the late owner in the 1920s. Like the part-fossilised whale ribs, the ancient fragments of human craniums were pulled from cliffs or picked from sand.
Alongside a glazed case containing 14 bird skeletons (estimate £100-£200) there are two cabinets of exotic butterflies (£200-£400) and a group of Victorian portraits of native Solomon islanders (£400-£600). There are boxes of arrowheads and fossils and masses of Roman pottery and medieval metalware, books, book plates, seals and micro-mosaics depicting Grand Tour scenes.
A large collection of animal bones from the eroding beach at Easton Bavents, north of Southwold (£300-£400), relates to a favourite hunting ground, where Mr Collings also detected the primeval traces of “Bavents Man”.
Visitors were often regaled by the academic’s unintentionally hilarious stories about the “marvellous little chaps” he had largely imagined.
His collection of antique blades and clubs - Japanese Tanto, Malay Bade-Bade, Indian Pesh-Kabz and Maori Greywacke Patu, with the stress very much on the wack - attested to a life of both discovery and danger.
Hubert Dennis Collings was born in Surrey in 1905, the family moving to Southwold four years later when his father Dudley bought a doctor’s practice in the town. Dr Collings was founder-curator of Southwold Museum from 1933, giving much of his own considerable collection, which he had arrayed in the room over St Edmund’s Church porch.
At 18, Dennis set off to survey tropical plants in Portuguese East Africa, staying on to lay a telephone line to Portuguese Nyasaland and compile the first map of the region. Back home, he renewed a friendship with George Orwell that lasted until the novelist’s death in 1950.
After Cambridge, the scholar became assistant curator of the Raffles Museum in Singapore until the outbreak of war. While his wife and children took refuge in Cape Town, he became an intelligence officer, ordered finally to surrender to the Japanese in Java. But a man intent on uncovering history was to remain largely silent about his imprisoned past, claiming to anyone who asked that his horrific ordeal had been “not too bad”. Freedom took him back to Singapore, where he helped set up the Malayan Jungle Welfare School and compiled a dictionary of the Orang Asli, the indigenous people of the Malay Peninsula.
After almost a decade as curator of the Ghanaian State Museum and the Portuguese fort of Dalmina, from 1952, he returned to Southwold.
Orwell’s friend was made an OBE for his work in Singapore and Ghana but turned it down in protest at British colonial policy and its consequences.
For decades, those with a curiosity about the world were welcomed to the Station Road museum, where whole departments were stuffed under beds or on top of wardrobes.
In the secret museum with the blocked front door everything was behind the scenes.
The location—the Istituto di Scienze Militari Aeronautiche—was an oblique clue, the set itself more of a giveaway. An impressively high-ceilinged space in the International Style was filled with serried ranks of desks, each topped by a manual typewriter and accompanied by a coat stand from which hung Browne’s signature gray cardigan. Something uniform was promised, and duly delivered by the militarily precise arrival of 40 models identically dressed in shrunken gray suits paired with camel coats and chunky wingtips.
In other words, Thom to a tee.
The 41st mannequin sat out front like Queen Bee, dinging a desktop bell that cued a Pavlovian response from the massed males. Ding! Coats off, cardies on. Ding! Briefcases on desk, sandwiches consumed. Ding! Four models enter in Browne’s schoolboy shorts suit to collect the typed papers. Ding! Cardies off, coats on, another day at the office, over and done with.
"Beauty is uniformity," murmured an exhausted Browne after the show.
On any pilgrimage of Scotch divinity, the Sistine Chapel would be the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, a private club with several locations, the most inviting being a Georgian town house on tony Queen Street in Edinburgh. Spread over three floors are tables of wool-clad connoisseurs beside groups of young merrymakers downing local ales. For about $170, anyone can join, but on Thursdays nonmembers are welcome to dine without a quibble.
Membership has its privileges, however.
On the second floor is the Members’ Room, featuring a bar lined with several hundred identical whiskey bottles, each labeled with nothing but a number. Pick up the Bar Bible and you’ll get Lewis Carroll-esque descriptions of the whiskeys (“From Orkney’s most famous distillery, a light, mischievous dram … fantastic foreplay whiskey … soy sauce, Coca-Cola, sweetie cigarettes with an aftertaste of mace”) but no mention of the distillery. The whiskeys are rigorously vetted by the society’s tasting panels, and with the crack expertise of the young ladies behind the bar to guide you, sampling unnamed single-cask beauties becomes a giddy guessing game. When I wanted a straight answer on one of the malt’s identities, the bartender shot back, “What, and ruin all the fun?” While ephemera has never been in short supply in Scotch’s inner sanctums, the beauty here is that for the price of a dram, anyone can taste along, as long as the cask holds out.
On May 26, 1996, Mariana Cook visited Barack and Michelle Obama in Hyde Park as part of a photography project on couples in America. What follows is from her interviews with them, via the New Yorker:
BARACK OBAMA: Michelle is a tremendously strong person, and has a strong sense of herself and who she is and where she comes from. But I also think in her eyes you can see a trace of vulnerability that most people don’t know, because when she’s walking through the world she is this tall, beautiful, confident woman. There is a part of her that is vulnerable and young and sometimes frightened, and I think seeing both of those things is what attracted me to her. And then what sustains our relationship is I’m extremely happy with her, and part of it has to do with the fact that she is at once completely familiar to me, so that I can be myself and she knows me very well and I trust her completely, but at the same time she is also a complete mystery to me in some ways. And there are times when we are lying in bed and I look over and sort of have a start. Because I realize here is this other person who is separate and different and has different memories and backgrounds and thoughts and feelings. It’s that tension between familiarity and mystery that makes for something strong, because, even as you build a life of trust and comfort and mutual support, you retain some sense of surprise or wonder about the other person.
Not to be cheesy, but who was the last president you can imagine speaking about “love” in such a (for lack of a better word) soulful way. John Adams?