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Stocking Stuffers and Small Gift Ideas

Friday, November 26th, 2010

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone the gift giving holidays quickly approach.  Today being black Friday I thought it fitting to offer some suggestions for those of you whom may need some small gifts for your fathers, brothers, sons or friends.

It is my feeling that too often stocking stuffers end up being items that do not find much use or purpose after their after initial duties of filling a sock are complete.

These stocking stuffers are intended to compliment a man’s wardrobe by having value in their style and finding frequent use.

Wardrobe:

-A shoe horn is an important item for any man who wears leather dress shoes.  While many men may already have some type of shoe horn it is often a cheap plastic version.  For these men or men without any type I would suggest a fine shoe horn made from horn or brass.

-A suit brush is another addition to a man’s wardrobe that helps him properly care for his investments.  Used to clean a suit by brushing away dirt it also can be used quite effectively as a replacement for the adhesive lint roller which can leave behind a residue.

-Everyman can use a package of simple white linen pocket squares.  To add a bit of a personalized touch get them monogrammed with their initials.

-An assortment of silk knotted cuff links is a welcome addition to any man’s collection.  Being inexpensive means quite a few can be purchased.

Accessories:

-As I have written before a decent pocket knife is a welcome addition any man’s daily carry.  They can be very simple and find many uses throughout the day.  Some good deals on knives can be found on Ebay.  Case XX knives are quality knives that can be found for reasonable prices with a little searching.  For online retail I suggest Deadwood Knives.

-A great socking stuffer for a cigar smoker would be a leather cigar case.  These come in a range of styles from the number of cigars they hold to the type of leather.  An added advantage is the ability to be monogrammed to add bit of personalized style.  

This list could go on for some length so at the very least it is intended to sparks some inspiration and help you to get the right items for those who will appreciate them.

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Personal stationary on the cheap

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

In today’s environment of Blackberries, iPhones, and Email it has become more and more common for individuals to simply send messages though text or email.  This might be all fine and good for most mundane messages but I adamantly believe that anything that is more formal (aside from business correspondence) or shows appreciation should be hand written and on good paper.  Often times this means it must also be expensive,  this is not always the case.

I enjoy the benefits of personalized stationary without the obscene costs of printing that would be charged by a firm such as Crane.  The answer is very simple and I would assume that many of you are already thinking it.  You simply purchase some quality paper (Crane offers packages of 40 sheets and 20 envelopes for under $20) and create your own layout on your computer.

This ultimately offers you more freedom in your stationary than would be afforded by a stationary company.  You can select any font you want and become quite creative in your layout.  Depending on your field of work or the nature of the note or the recipient this offers you the opportunity to finely craft your stationary to have the most impact.  I have a few basic versions saved on my computer and when it comes time to write a letter I slide the paper guide on the printer to to correct position and print out what I need.

Note: Good paper will most likely have a watermark.  I prefer to have mine in the correct position to be read if the recipient were to hold the paper to the light while reading.  In order to have your paper print correctly it is important to understand how your printer feeds and to insert your stock accordingly.


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Matter of Opinion: The simple gastronome

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

If ever you need, or want, to cook for another individual I feel every man should be able to offer something of quality.  What I mean is that every man should have a handful of dishes that they can cook by memory or close to it.julia-child

There are few things that can impress or satisfy people more than quality food.  As I have never met someone who doesn’t enjoy eating, having a small catalog of recipes that you can draw from provides you with the ability to satiate your guests or guest in a variety of scenarios. roast chicken

If throughout your life you have consistently failed in your culinary endeavors I still say, “push on”.  There are dishes that require very little skill and those that cannot be learned without a little trial and error.

As far as what sort of dishes you should learn, try and learn some dishes in different categories.  For example: a few things I pride myself on being able to cook are barbecued ribs and pork shoulder, German pretzels, a great piece of salmon, a roast chicken, and molten chocolate cake.  Knowing a variety of dishes allows you to provide for a more diverse collection of situations and people.pretzel

It is also important to note that I have learned all of these recipes and techniques myself by simply doing some research and practicing them.  Some great resources to find and learn recipes and techniques are the Internet and cooking shows.  Much can be gained through the collection of cookbooks but I recommend exhausting what you don’t have to pay for first.

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The Value of Tweed

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Tweed sport coats have in the past been associated with academics or old men but today I feel they are ready for their due redemption.  Tweed was first produced in Scotland and Ireland and its durable and warm nature makes it ideal for country wear while shooting or hunting.  The best tweeds are Harris and Donegal manufactured in Scotland and Ireland respectively.  The ability of tweed  to add true character to any mans wardrobe makes it invaluable and no man should consider theirs complete until it includes at least one piece of tweed.  These days good tweeds can be a little harder to find off the peg, requiring some searching or some tailoring. tweed jacket One British clothier known for their country wear is Cordings.  There catalog includes numerous tweeds in addition to other fine items.  I personally prefer a tweed jacket with leather buttons as I feel this adds additional character to the jacket.

Best worn during the fall and winter and when paired with cords your tweed will help seal out the biting wind.

Because tweed tends to have a considerable amount of visual texture, consider how busy the other articles of clothing you are wearing are in order to achieve a proper balance.

While tweed is not appropriate for a formal occasion it will always work well on the weekend or during a casual encounter.

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The joys of a traditional Barber shop

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

For many man a haircut is nothing more than a menial, unimportant chore that must be completed periodically.  For these men it is generally acceptable to simply stop in the local Supercuts or  similar fast food hair cutter to get it over with.  The result of a visit to one of these hair cutters is usually a bad experience and a worse result.

Similar to shoes, a haircut is a part of your look that can help bring it all together and it says a lot about a man’s view of himself and style.  Hair like clothes can be trendy, timeless, carefully crafted, or impulsive.  For this reason I feel for a man to get a quality result they must immediately rule out chain assembly line hair cutters.  With this option out of the way, one might then move on to salons.  It is possible for a man to get a decent haircut at a salon but there is something lost in the experience as they are generally targeted to women.  The final reason to look for a barber shop is that as in so many professions, the best at something do it all the time and take pride in what they do.  Those who cut hair at a salon cut primarily women’s hair and usually charge a similarly high price to cut a man’s hair.  Barbers, especially barbers who cut hair at exclusively men’s shops, are second to none at this skill.

I myself use a traditional barber shop in Boston and have always been very pleased with the results, but it is the experience that has helped turn my periodic visit into something that I look forward too.  My barbershop has walls of stained hardwood, comfortable chairs and an accommodating hostess that always greets visitors with a smile.  Notice I said “my barbershop”.  It isn’t just somewhere I get my hair cut it is somewhere I visit with friends receive a great service.

The experience for me starts with a short conversation with the barber about what I want.  This conversation usually evolves into “the usual” or some slight variation of this.  After a few minutes and a good conversations,  the barber washes, dries and combs my hair leaving me ready for anything.  Another option offered includes a proper wet shave, which I would recommend.  I think this, to a man, is what a day at the spa is to a women. One of the best parts is is the price which almost anyone could argue is too low for what they provide.

To those of you who have not experienced the joys of a traditional barber, start searching.  A great way to do a little research and read some reviews to help you find a great barber is though Yelp, if it is available for your area.

For those who don’t use a traditional barbershop I can only recommend you at least give it a try.

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The Mad Men Suit?

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Brooks Brothers is the well known retailer that has been regarded for years as a fine American clothier.  For the last two years it has supplied the wardrobe to AMC’s hit show Mad Men.  With Mad Men’s  success has come its influence on current styles and trends.  It’s characters conform closely to a style that is very much timeless and today it is becoming trendy to dress in a more classic way.  This I feel is a good thing as more young men will learn how to dress well.

mad-men-2

In response to this Brooks Brothers has unveiled their new Mad Men Edition suits.  These suits sport a “60’s” style in the form of narrow lapels, slanted pockets and a more fitted cut.MMSuit

I feel that this shows poor form on the part of Brooks Brothers.  I feel that any fine clothier should place itself above trends especially when they call for a partnership marketing campaign such as this.  A  Brooks Brothers suit should be just that, a Brooks Brothers suit.  It should not need to lean on anything else for its reputation.  This said, I enjoy the fact that Mad Men is showing influence in what its viewers think a well dressed man looks like and I feel that this trend will have an overall positive effect on men’s style.

I do think it is fitting that Brooks Brothers chose to make a Mad Men suit, a show about advertising.

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Wearing a tie with jeans

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Wearing a tie with jeans is a curious trend that seems to regain limited popularity every few years.  It tends to follow the cyclical nature of fashion, returning in some form but still looking just as confused.

This confusion comes from the fact that jeans are unmistakably casual, conversely ties are not.  This may have been originally devised as a clever way to seem ironic but in most cases it only causes the person to look silly and juvenile.  A dark pair of jeans may feel more formal but you will never negate the fact that they still jeans.  This gentleman below has many pieces of his outfit well coordinated above the waist but detracts from its overall potential but confusing the common theme with the addition of jeans.jeans with tie

If one wishes to dress up jeans I would suggest starting with darker jeans, that aren’t “stressed” or otherwise discolored, and pairing them with a casual jacket, such this one below.  I feel that this example below is more successful at dressing up jeans than the above example.  This still would only be appropriate for the casual situation.casual jacket and jeans

In all cases when looking at someone wearing jeans and a tie, no matter how attractive it may look or what goals they may be trying to achieve,  the same can be accomplished to a higher degree with a nice pair of trousers.  Don’t get me wrong jeans are a important part of a man’s casual wardrobe but leave the jeans-tie combination to those who like to follow men’s fashion trends.

Thanks for the question Brian.


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Style Icon: Gianni Agnelli

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Gianni Agnelli was a successful Italian businessman who became president of Fiat in 1966 and was involved in some way with its operations until his death in 2003gianni agnelli cars

Agnelli was never associated with loud colors or patterns but rather with a simple elegance.   He took advantage of the perfection of an immaculately cut suit and his own points of style to create a look that was his own.  Agnelli’s most recognizable style trademarks included his watch, which he wore outside his sleeve, and his tie, which he wore slightly askew.  These subtle points elevated Agnelli to the status of style icon in a country and culture known for its style.gianni agnelligianni agnelli in chair

This is the challenge of all who strive to achieve the pinnacle of style (no feat to be taken lightly).  While many are content just to achieve a well put together wardrobe, others like Gianni take certain aspects of style and make them all their own.


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A Matter of Opinion: The Bow tie

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

In the past few decades the bow tie has unfortunately been reduced to the mark of an eccentric or dandy.   This I feel is an unfortunate fact that has been bred from the slow decline of the average man’s sense of style and the promotion, by films and TV, of the bow tie wearer as an “uncool” or “nerdy” individual.

I am comforted by the fact that there has recently been resurgence of bow tie wearers in younger men.  This I feel is partly a backlash to the common notion of bow tie wearers as being a little odd and the fact that they give the wearer the opportunity to stands out from the crowd.bowtie

That said it is my opinion that more men should find the courage to work bow ties into their tie rotations.  If tying one poses a problem, practice some, it is not much harder than tying a necktie.

city bowtie

Just like neckties, bowties come in a variety of widths and shapes.  If the mere fact that you are wearing a bow tie is a stretch for you then start with more conservative colors and shapes and work in more variety as your confidence increases.

Break away from the pack and stand out as an individual by increasing the versatility of your wardrobe with bow ties.

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“My Guggenheim grant” – An interview with journalist/author Gay Talese

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Interview with Gay Talese about his life and style.


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