From Squalor to Baller

Oct 20

Indian Summers and Fall Stock: A Visit to Khaki’s of Carmel 
Last month I took a quick trip down to Khaki’s of Carmel with my good friend (and resurrected blogger) Gus. I’ve visited (and written about) Khakis on several occasions, but all of my previous trips were in the Spring; I took this opportunity to stop in at one of my favorite stores during the transition to the cooler months (in theory, that is - it was 75 degrees here yesterday). 
The roster of impressive brands represented at Khakis seems to have grown substantially, even since my last visit. For instance, the selection of ties now includes Drake’s, Bigi Cravatte, Luciano Barbera, E. Marinella and more, which accounts for almost every celebrated tiemaker that I’ve ever heard of. The same goes for shoes, shirts, and suits; each category is completely loaded with incredible brands. 
Anyway, since I’ve covered this store in detail before I won’t launch into the whole spiel again; instead, enjoy these photos of some new stock that caught my eye.
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Rubinacci “VIilla Lucia” pocket square

Bigi, Drake’s, Barbera, Marinella, and more. 

Drake’s wool/silk pocket square

Gus wearing the new Ring Jacket alpaca sportcoat, one of two colors

Edward Greens

Boglioli soft tweed

Gus’ Edward Greens from Khaki’s

Ring Jacket’s celebrated “creamy waffle” fabric

Gus, myself, and Jim Ockert (owner of Khaki’s)

Indian Summers and Fall Stock: A Visit to Khaki’s of Carmel 

Last month I took a quick trip down to Khaki’s of Carmel with my good friend (and resurrected blogger) Gus. I’ve visited (and written about) Khakis on several occasions, but all of my previous trips were in the Spring; I took this opportunity to stop in at one of my favorite stores during the transition to the cooler months (in theory, that is - it was 75 degrees here yesterday). 

The roster of impressive brands represented at Khakis seems to have grown substantially, even since my last visit. For instance, the selection of ties now includes Drake’s, Bigi Cravatte, Luciano Barbera, E. Marinella and more, which accounts for almost every celebrated tiemaker that I’ve ever heard of. The same goes for shoes, shirts, and suits; each category is completely loaded with incredible brands. 

Anyway, since I’ve covered this store in detail before I won’t launch into the whole spiel again; instead, enjoy these photos of some new stock that caught my eye.

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Oct 17

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Oct 16

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Oct 13

I just got back from a rather spontaneous week-long trip to Newfoundland with my girlfriend; for that reason, I’m a bit behind on blog emails and posts. I don’t have many photos of myself from the trip (most of my photos are of the amazing landscape) but here’s a quick shot of what I wore most of the time while I was there.
Field Jacket - Gap | Denim - A.P.C. | Chambray shirt - Proper Cloth | Shetland sweater - O’Connell’s | Sneakers - Superga

I just got back from a rather spontaneous week-long trip to Newfoundland with my girlfriend; for that reason, I’m a bit behind on blog emails and posts. I don’t have many photos of myself from the trip (most of my photos are of the amazing landscape) but here’s a quick shot of what I wore most of the time while I was there.

Field Jacket - Gap | Denim - A.P.C. | Chambray shirt - Proper Cloth | Shetland sweater - O’Connell’s | Sneakers - Superga

Oct 08

A Closer Look: Linjer Leather Goods
As many of you know, this blog rarely focuses on the most expensive or least expensive items out there. There are other sites that write about the polar ends of the menswear spectrum; instead, I try to find products that provide the best value, and that is rarely present on the extreme ends of what is available. So when my friends Roman and Jenn wanted to meet up and discuss their new leather goods company that provided items at very aggressive prices, I was excited to hear more. 
Roman and Jenn have recently founded Linjer (pronounced “lin-yer,” Norwegian for “lines”), a company that strives to make high-quality leather goods without the luxury markup. I’ve grown a bit tired of the catchphrase “it’s like Warby Parker for [X],” but in this case, it applies well; Linjer has done a great job of finding a market saturated with expensive items and offers an extremely competitive alternative. Finding leather goods that are both well-made and reasonably priced is tough, so their concept seems like a good one. [[MORE]]
The two behind Linjer are currently located in San Francisco, so I was able to give one of their products a test drive for a couple of days. The item above is their soft briefcase in navy (note that their current lineup is only cognac and black, but that navy and mocha brown are “reach colors” if they hit certain fundraising milestones - which it looks likely that they will).
Now, if you are looking for an old-school, British-American style briefcase, you will not find that here. Linjer’s products are a bit more minimalistic and muted, more like a product from, say, Mismo or Delvaux (either of which would be several times more expensive than a Linjer product). The stye of the brief is a simple zip top with a few inner pockets and a laptop sleeve (comfortably fits up to a 15” macbook - I checked). All told, I think the design is simple and attractive. I also appreciate that there are no obvious logos on Linjer bags, an unfortunate trend on many high-end leather goods.

The leather is an earthy-smelling vegetable tanned leather from Turkey; the hue is deep and rich, and I have no doubts that it will hold up well over time. The brass hardware and YKK excella zippers are also quite sturdy as well. Linjer’s goods are assembled in China at an American owned and operated factory, but for what it’s worth I don’t think the factory was chosen for purely monetary reasons. I know that Roman and Jenn spent a lot of time checking out European factories as well and did a lot of research before moving forward with their current location. I know that the two of them are obsessed with minutiae like myself and hold their products to a high level, and I’m confident that the construction is solid. 
Granted, I don’t think this bag is quite at the level of the big dogs in the industry, but the price is so much more competitive than the other names that come to mind. For instance, the machine stitching is solid, but not as nice as Chester Mox's handstiching (not that I would expect it at this price). The finishing and detailing are good, but aren't as clean as, say, Frank Clegg products. That said, the product is still miles above the unattractive chrome-tanned (or corrected grain) bags we normally see at this price. Dollar for dollar I don’t think you could do any better. As far as I know, the only option for a solid leather bag even close to the price of Linjer is Saddleback leather goods, and frankly I don’t like the aesthetic of their bags at all (or the fact that they act like their bags are made in the USA when they aren’t). 
Currently, most of Linjer’s goods are available in black and cognac; if the launch is successful, they’ll add more colors and styles. Since the above style isn’t currently available, here’s a nice picture of their cognac color:

I also had a brief look (no pun intended) at Linjer’s portfolio case, and was impressed by it as well. I don’t have as much use for something like that, but it is no less well made. There are some other goods in Linjer’s first collection, namely a messenger and satchel bag, but I’m not as much of a fan of the design of these (or the milled leather, from what i can tell from the pictures). To me, the all-star items are the soft brief and the portfolio. Linjer’s goods are currently available on their Indiegogo page, which reached the first funding goal yesterday. 
A good friend of mine runs his own startup and was recently explaining to me what a disruptive innovation is; he said that a disruptive company’s product is rarely better than the original - in fact, it’s usually a bit below - but it offers something at a never-seen-before price. This is what Warby Parker has done for glasses, what Gustin has done for denim, and what I think Linjer is poised to do for leather goods. It may not be a perfect substitute for the best of the best, but it provides a significantly better value. If you’re like me and look for value more than name brands, keep a close eye on Linjer.

A Closer Look: Linjer Leather Goods

As many of you know, this blog rarely focuses on the most expensive or least expensive items out there. There are other sites that write about the polar ends of the menswear spectrum; instead, I try to find products that provide the best value, and that is rarely present on the extreme ends of what is available. So when my friends Roman and Jenn wanted to meet up and discuss their new leather goods company that provided items at very aggressive prices, I was excited to hear more. 

Roman and Jenn have recently founded Linjer (pronounced “lin-yer,” Norwegian for “lines”), a company that strives to make high-quality leather goods without the luxury markup. I’ve grown a bit tired of the catchphrase “it’s like Warby Parker for [X],” but in this case, it applies well; Linjer has done a great job of finding a market saturated with expensive items and offers an extremely competitive alternative. Finding leather goods that are both well-made and reasonably priced is tough, so their concept seems like a good one. 

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Oct 06

Those of you that follow me on Instagram and twitter already know that I recently arrived in Eastern Canada. No, I’m farther east than Toronto. Yup, still past Nova Scotia. I’m talking waaaay east - like the farthest east you can possibly go on this continent. I’ll be here for the rest of the week and will be spending a good amount of my time outdoors, enjoying the cool air and beautiful landscape. For that reason, this isn’t much of a menswear-y trip; there’s no real reason for tailored clothing, nice shoes, or anything more sophisticated than denim and OCBDs. 
Packing for this trip has made me realize two things: 1) I know nothing about Canada, and 2) I am not remotely prepared for even moderately cold weather. Of course, I rarely need to be, given San Francisco’s perpetual 65 degree climate, but it certainly would be nice to have better cold-weather clothing. This may not be an ideal list of what to bring on such a trip, but it’s what I have on hand.
Raincoat
Field jacket
Shetland sweaters
Blue button-down collar shirts
Denim
Chukka boots
Hiking boots
Sneakers
Gloves
Scarf

Those of you that follow me on Instagram and twitter already know that I recently arrived in Eastern Canada. No, I’m farther east than Toronto. Yup, still past Nova Scotia. I’m talking waaaay east - like the farthest east you can possibly go on this continent. I’ll be here for the rest of the week and will be spending a good amount of my time outdoors, enjoying the cool air and beautiful landscape. For that reason, this isn’t much of a menswear-y trip; there’s no real reason for tailored clothing, nice shoes, or anything more sophisticated than denim and OCBDs. 

Packing for this trip has made me realize two things: 1) I know nothing about Canada, and 2) I am not remotely prepared for even moderately cold weather. Of course, I rarely need to be, given San Francisco’s perpetual 65 degree climate, but it certainly would be nice to have better cold-weather clothing. This may not be an ideal list of what to bring on such a trip, but it’s what I have on hand.

Sep 29

Item Roundup: Chukka Boots
The leaves are starting to change colors (or so I’m told), everyone’s talking about pumpkin spice lattes, and the dollar is gaining ground on the euro. When put together, these signs can only mean one thing - it’s time to grab some autumnal footwear.
The chukka boot is an incredibly versatile shoe and is perfectly at home in the autumnal months. I have two pairs and find myself reaching for them more than any other style. They make a great in-between shoe and I highly suggest that you try out a pair if you haven’t already.
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Chukkas can be made in any number of materials, but their somewhat casual nature means that they look particularly good in textured materials like suede and pebble grain (although they’re also popular in cordovan). Here are just a few of my favorite models:
Meermin: This wallet-friendly brand has chukkas in four colors of suede: snuff, sand, navy, and dark brown (note that some have rubber soles and some have leather). All models are built on the Hiro last, which is classically round shape. Most people size down one full size from their US size, but consider sizing down 1/2 if you have a wide foot or a high instep. At under $235 shipped these provide a great value.
Carmina: the other Spanish darling has many models that come and go quickly, but one of their classics is a chocolate suede chukka on the Soller last, available at Quality Shop and Skoaktiebolaget for between $450 and $500. This is similar to the Meermin model, except that it is made of notably higher quality materials and has some slight design differences. Whether it’s worth the twofold price increase is up to you. 
Loake: Loake shoes come in a few different lines, but the “1880” line is the best by a good margin and is really the only one worth looking at. There are a few sources for ordering Loake shoes; I have had good luck with Pediwear but feel free to shop around for better deals. There are two popular Loake chukka models - the Kempton, which is a snuff suede model on a classic round last, and the Pimlico (pictured above), which is in dark brown suede and is built on the slightly chiseled Capital last. Both Loake pairs come in at under $290 from Pediwear.  It’s worth noting that the Kempton is also available at Brooks Brothers in snuff, dark brown suede, and pebble grain; these are currently sitting at $360 but can dip lower during sales. If you buy abroad in UK sizing, know that Loake lasts are generally quite roomy and you should have no problem sizing down one from your US size. EDIT: I’m told that the Brooks Brothers pairs above are actually made by Alfred Sargent; if this is the case, their current sale price is quite good (see more here and in the comments below). 
Alden: America’s best shoe company makes several exceptional chukkas, my personal favorite being the unlined suede chukka on the Leydon last (available in snuff, tan, and dark brown suede). The Leydon typically fits a bit narrow so consider sizing up in width. There is also a cordovan model built on the Barrie last (generally speaking, go 1/2 size down). The product shots don’t do the shoes justice - they look great in person. 
Allen Edmonds: this go-to brand is surprisingly light on chukka boots since they discontinued the Amok (sad face). The only one of note is their new "Gobi" boot, which is currently on sale for $249. I’m not a fan of the contrast lacing shown in the stock photo, but that can be easily changed, and for the price it could be a good option for those that don’t want to deal with international purchases.
Clarks: The company’s ubiquitous desert boots are a popular option for those that are uncomfortable spending big bucks on shoes. I think it’s worth saving up for the Loakes or Meermins above, but for the price these are a solid option. 
Well, those are my picks. Which do you have (or want) in your rotation?

Item Roundup: Chukka Boots

The leaves are starting to change colors (or so I’m told), everyone’s talking about pumpkin spice lattes, and the dollar is gaining ground on the euro. When put together, these signs can only mean one thing - it’s time to grab some autumnal footwear.

The chukka boot is an incredibly versatile shoe and is perfectly at home in the autumnal months. I have two pairs and find myself reaching for them more than any other style. They make a great in-between shoe and I highly suggest that you try out a pair if you haven’t already.

Read More

Sep 22

Out & About: A visit to The Armoury NYC
In the same way that our online personas are rarely identical to the way we live “IRL”, I have found that stores usually offer very different experiences between their online presence and physical locations. On the one hand, there are great stores that have existed for decades and are just now beginning to realize the power of e-commerce. On the other, you have stores that dominate the internet but have a physical presence that doesn’t do the product justice. There are many degrees of this, but one thing is consistent: a store may have a great web presence or a great physical presence, but it is very rare to have both.
The Armoury seems to be the exception to this rule, as their new store in New York is a flawless extension of the brand’s powerful presence abroad and online. 
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The Armoury’s NYC store had its soft opening late last year, and it has been wonderful to watch the company’s presence develop in the USA. The store itself is an amazing place - it’s a tall, narrow shop in the TriBeCa neighborhood, with beautiful displays, artwork, and architecture. And, unsurprisingly, all the products in the store are easy on the eyes too. 

On the off chance that some of you that aren’t familiar, the Armoury was founded in 2010 by Mark Cho, Alan See, and Ethan Newton. They had a shared vision for a men’s store with a classic, yet international flavor - they have worked hard to bring in unique goods from all over the world, and each one is exceptional. Their selective list of artisans and designers speaks for itself and you should familiarize yourself with it if you haven’t already.
The new NYC store has some familiar names on its roster, as well - Jeff Hilliard of jhilla, Zach Jobe (who ran the NYC styleforum trunk show), Jeremy Kirkland of Run of the Mill fame, and Nick Ragosta (whom most of you have seen all over tumblr). They’ve done a great job of bringing the new store up to the level of the original one without making an exact duplicate; you will see many of the same artisans in the two stores, but there is nothing to suggest that the new one is just a satellite location. 

Of course, when you’re limiting your store to only carrying the best of the best, the tradeoff is that things will get expensive. With that said, the Armoury carries many brands that, despite their price, still provide a great value (in my opinion). For instance, Carmina shoes and Ring Jacket suits are not cheap, but hold up to garments well above their price in terms of quality and design. Dollar for dollar they’re some of the best out there, and I had certainly never heard of them before the Armoury men brought the brands into their store.

And, of course, the Armoury’s shelves are stocked with items for the true ballers among us - St. Crispin’s shoes, Jean Russeau leather goods, Orazio Luciano jackets, and more, not to mention the frequent visits from traveling artisans like Liverano and Ambrosi. The stock may vary in style and price, but everything in the store is of exceptional quality and would be a beautiful addition to even the most discerning wardrobe. 

Over the past few years it has been wonderful watching the Armourers craft their wonderful “house style;” they have introduced so many exceptional brands to menswear nerds across the world and have taught us a lot about dressing well in the process. Although I’ll have to save up a while before buying anything in this store, I can still confidently say that these men have taught me quite a bit about dressing simply and classically (which, as you know, is the cornerstone of what I write about here). 

Nobody can deny the incredible appeal of the Armoury’s selection of goods; their store is probably the only one in the world in which I would be happy to wear anything from their shelves. Even so, what I find makes this company so unique is the people. They feel a bit like kindred spirits to me - these aren’t salesmen, they’re clothes nerds. Most of them came from backgrounds very far away from the retail world - finance, law, tech, and so on - and took a big leap (and a big risk) to turn their hobby into their job. Each person on their team brings a crucial talent to the company, and they all share the trait of being wildly passionate about what they do. I have a huge amount of respect for people like that, and it’s wonderful to see the Armoury team’s hard work pay off.
It’s difficult for me to capture in words how amazing the store is, so I’ll just post some photos instead. Do stop by if you’re in New York, and tell everyone I say hi while you’re there. 

Jeff Hilliard browsing the Carmina library

Orazio Luciano

Ring Jacket

The wildly popular Carmina string loafers

Leather goods galore

Perhaps Ring Jacket’s most iconic fabric - “Creamy Waffle”

Exceptionally beautiful Drake’s scarves, for the man who has everything.

A beautiful store full of beautiful goods.

A sample of the ties selection at 168 Duane St. 

Fox umbrellas

Out & About: A visit to The Armoury NYC

In the same way that our online personas are rarely identical to the way we live “IRL”, I have found that stores usually offer very different experiences between their online presence and physical locations. On the one hand, there are great stores that have existed for decades and are just now beginning to realize the power of e-commerce. On the other, you have stores that dominate the internet but have a physical presence that doesn’t do the product justice. There are many degrees of this, but one thing is consistent: a store may have a great web presence or a great physical presence, but it is very rare to have both.

The Armoury seems to be the exception to this rule, as their new store in New York is a flawless extension of the brand’s powerful presence abroad and online. 

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Sep 18

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Sep 15

Out & About: the Frank Clegg Leatherworks Workshop
A few months ago I was having a chat with my friend Jacob about how the idea of “American made” items is often over-romanticized. I told him that I certainly have a tendency to do this; when I hear the phrase “Made in the USA” I like to picture a wood-floored workshop filled with well-worn tools and with ceiling-high windows that fill the dusty air with afternoon sun. In that room, a skilled craftsman with graying hair and a smudged pair of glasses holds his work up to the light, his calloused fingers wiping away sawdust and checking for imperfections (and, of course, finding none). He then nods contentedly, eyes twinkling, and places the item in a box with my address on it before moving on to his next project. 
Of course, this image in my mind isn’t really what most American manufacturing looks like. Unless you’re at Frank Clegg’s workshop, in which case it’s exactly what it looks like. 
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In short, visiting the Frank Clegg workshop was like walking directly into that image I had in my head. In a room filled with the smell of leather and buckets of brass hardware everywhere, a very small group of men and women make some of the best leather goods on earth. Every surface is covered with an array of leather products in different stages of production; some stand alone as a made-to-order item or a sample, while others lie in a pile of identical products. All of them were designed and built in this Fall River workshop and bear the signs of good materials, good craftsmanship, and good taste.

Frank Clegg has been making leather goods since the early seventies, and has built up a considerable following in that time. Many of his core items remain virtually unchanged from their early designs and have remained popular across several generations. He told me the story of a lawyer who purchased one of his briefcases in the mid-seventies; 38 years later, the lawyer is about to retire, with that one briefcase taking him through his entire career. If that’s not an heirloom piece then I don’t know what is. 

Frank’s products have made it into the hands of many folks over the past 40 years, including one gentleman that happens to be the President of the United States (Frank proudly pointed out that Obama’s bag wasn’t a freebie; it was a full-priced purchase). There have been other celebrities and prominent figures that have been spotted with Frank’s wares, which is not wholly unsurprising given the quality and tastefulness of his products. Of course, his goods aren’t only for lawyers, politicians and celebrities; most of his customers are just people with an appreciation for well-designed and well-made things and are willing to treat these items as an investment.
The primary materials used in Frank Clegg products are belting harness leather and tumbled leather. These leathers are sourced from Italy and France and, although similar, differ slightly in feel and appearance. The belting leather is firmer and the tumbled softer, but both make incredibly beautiful leather goods. Frank is also known to experiment with more unique mediums like shrunken leather, which has a distinctive “wrinkled” texture. 

Frank also enjoys designing bags made with some stunning exotic skins - take the bag below, which is made from a single skin of a 21-foot wild alligator. “They don’t get this big in captivity, so we need to get wild skins for this,” he explains. He then hand-stains the hide for a rustic look that complements the wild nature of the animal. If you’re looking to buy “the Beast" it will set you back a cool $17,000, but you’ll probably be the coolest guy at the office with this at your desk.

One of the keys to Frank’s success in creating such wonderful pieces over the years (besides great materials and hard work) has been to keep his team small and local. He has never considered moving his small team to another location or outsourcing parts of the process to other areas, he explains. 
Advancements and improvements have been made over the decades,  including the addition of a large CNC machine used to cut leather hides (instead of metal dies). The effect is the same, but the former is much quicker and allows all that extra space to be filled with more leather goods instead of bulky dies. The CNC machine also reduces waste and allows the team to be more creative and experimental with their designs. 

In the past few years, Frank Clegg has collaborated with some exciting brands, his most recent being a partnership with Michael Bastian and with Dan Trepanier of TSBMen before that. I asked Frank if he had any exciting collaborations planned for the coming months; he grinned, and told me that he couldn’t give me details but that his next collab would be “pretty much the top of what I could hope for.” I guess I’ll just have to wait and see. 

In the meantime, Frank and his two sons are continually adding to their collection and working to improve every aspect of the business. The oldest son, Andrew, works full time in the factory and helps with design of new products (like this new camo bag), and the youngest son Ian takes care of product photography and works on the website and social media. 
I have been enamored with Frank’s products ever since I first discovered them, but this factory tour has convinced me that I will eventually have to buy one of his bags. It probably won’t be this year (or even next year) but it will happen. Fortunately for me, I don’t need to be in a rush to buy. Frank’s products have remained virtually unchanged in forty years, and if his team keeps making things the way they always have, I can’t imagine looking for leather goods anywhere else.

Frank explains the construction of his travel duffles

The inside of these bags is as beautiful as the outside. 

Small duffles in tan ready to be finished.

Suede makes an appearance.

Details of a briefcase handle (which can easily be replaced after years of wear)

The leather rainbow - black, chocolate, chestnut, cognac, tan.

Smaller items like these pencil cases and wallets remain popular as well.

Duffle bag details. 

More exotics - three panels of lizard skin.

Out & About: the Frank Clegg Leatherworks Workshop

A few months ago I was having a chat with my friend Jacob about how the idea of “American made” items is often over-romanticized. I told him that I certainly have a tendency to do this; when I hear the phrase “Made in the USA” I like to picture a wood-floored workshop filled with well-worn tools and with ceiling-high windows that fill the dusty air with afternoon sun. In that room, a skilled craftsman with graying hair and a smudged pair of glasses holds his work up to the light, his calloused fingers wiping away sawdust and checking for imperfections (and, of course, finding none). He then nods contentedly, eyes twinkling, and places the item in a box with my address on it before moving on to his next project. 

Of course, this image in my mind isn’t really what most American manufacturing looks like. Unless you’re at Frank Clegg’s workshop, in which case it’s exactly what it looks like. 

Read More