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But first, gift guides

Editor’s note: Two of our favorite ladies, Katie & Emily, run a thoughtful blog called “But first, coffee. It’s devoted to the trials and travails of becoming real people (in their words: “our attempt at a grace entrance into adulthood, though so far it’s been more of a stumbling-in-late kind of entrance.”) They graciously agreed to pick some gifts they’d give the boys in their lives.

(We assume that means they’re getting us all of these things because they love us so much.)
But first, I want y’all to meet my besties with testies breasties:
Katie is the best. We spent our undergrad years living one house apart. On a weeknight, she could fully expect me to show up at her door in my robe with my laptop and a bottle of wine declaring, “I’ve got a paper to write and need company.” Before moving a block away from me in Logan Square, she lived with me and my roommates for a month and fed us like we were kings. She comes from a family of six, you guys. She knows how to take care of boys (i.e. children).

Emily is sort of cool, too. She would willingly pick me up from campus upon the promise of ice cream and pleasure of listening to Taylor Swift in the car with the windows down and heat cranked in the fall. She’s a regular at Addison’s and can name all of the ingredients in every appetizer from the menu. I also tried to date Emily, once. Maybe twice. She has higher standards. I don’t blame her. She’s currently keeping all of her friends sane and real while in grad school for counseling.
Together, these girls are real friends, talented friends.
  • They can rap all the lyrics to Super Bass by heart.
  • They respond to at least 60 percent of my text messages.
  • They both know how to make a playlist for anything, such as “November,” “Songs for New Cities,” “Twinkle Lights in Your Bedroom,” “Listen it’s going to get really cold,” and”front porches + good books.
  • They can truck through an entire season of Laguna Beach in one sitting (with a bottle of wine, of course.)
So it’s safe to say I know them pretty well. And here’s something else I know: They totally want these gifts for themselves. If they gave ‘em, they’d snag ‘em.
Emily has a few words to say about this gent:

This is for the Southern gentleman who has long retired his croakies but will still open my door. He quotes The West Wing in everyday conversation and mix CDs are his love language. He likes tacos, road trips, and sending mail the old fashioned way.


  1. Subscription to the Atlantic. A man should always have something interesting to converse about, sure it might take you a month to finish an article, but it’s worth it.
  2. J.Crew Plaid Wool ScarfI appreciate a man who can pull off a good scarf. It shouldn’t be flashy and you don’t need to tie it in any weird way, just wear it. Simple is best. But you know that already.
  3. Pendleton throw in Charcoal Stewart. It’s getting cold and you need to have a nice clean blanket at your house. If you wanted to use it to entertain a lady for an indoor picnic in deepest darkest January, that would also be acceptable. 
  4. Peace Like A RiverA coming of age tale with a precocious child narrator set in the barren plains of the North Dakota Badlands. This is one that will stick with you. Plus, you should always to have a book on hand when someone asks for a recommendation.
  5. French press by BodumThe thing about a French press is that it makes you look like you care about food and the finer things in life even if you are still sort of confused about them. 
  6. Whiskey stonesHow great would it be if I was that kind of girl who could drink whiskey with you? Well, sorry, i’m not. But I will think you are classy if you have these.
If this is you, you can ask @emlew out on a date. Just be tall and have the Constitution app on your iPhone.
Katie wanted to describe who this man is that would be getting these gifts (which she would eventually steal).
This is for the “classy lumberjack.” He has read of all of Vonnegut’s works and probably wanted to get “so it goes” tattooed on his forearm when he was 18. He loves his mom, wool socks and building bonfires. He’s understated and shy. Oh, and he’s read Watchmen…twice.

  1. Flannel button-downn from Gant Rugger. My philosophy when buying clothes for men is: “Can I wear it?” In this case, the answer is most definitely yes, I can. Plus, who doesn’t love a man in flannel?
  2. Untreated leather belt by Wood & Faulk. This handmade belt is simple and untreated, ready to be broken in and made your own. Simple. Manly. Perfect.
  3. Wool gloves from Buckshot Sonny’s Sporting Goods. Jeff and I were recently having a conversation about how he’s having a hard time finding manly gloves. Well here they are, made in the USA.
  4. True/False tickets. Our college town’s very own documentary film festival, True/False is a wonderful weekend in Columbia, Missouri where filmmakers and goers descend on our small town for a weekend of revelry, good wine, and eye-opening documentaries. Check out their site for more info.
  5. Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA. This is by far the best Indian Pale Ale I have ever had. Stock up with some to enjoy and some to age.
  6. Beard Balm by Men’s Face Stuff. It’s exactly what it sounds like.
If you find that your flannel collection has a few favorites missing, you can probably find @katiestipo wearing them in Bucktown with some new coffee stains.

Thanks, ladies.

How To Say Thank You

requires a little planning.
a little practice.
a little unfettered honesty.

midweSTYLE: Dad jeans

Have you ever seen something so ugly that you had to have it?
A good handful of my purchases turn out like this.
If it’s ugly, no one will buy it.
If no one will buy, it will get marked down (sooner).
If no one will buy it and it’s ugly, there will be a full size run for me to sift through.
Like these dad jeans. A baby blue denim from the archive of the 70′s, so faded in color. Surely a dad from the ’70s wore this same style and cut. Moderately awkward fit and color, kind of rigid and damn near impossible to match with anything.
Of course, I wanted them. No one else did.

On Jeff: Faded navy military jacket by J.Crew; indigo striped shirt by Club Monaco; grey crewneck sweatshirt by Jack Spade; baby blue denim by Club Monaco; desert boots by Clark’s with grey laces from J.crew; speckled boot socks from Target; black framed glasses by Gant Rugger.

THRIFTY THURSDAY: Louis

When it comes to bags and the necessities that go into your everyday carry, you have to decide what works for your lifestyle.
You’ve got a big-boy office job: Try a briefcase.
You’re one of those guys that carry a messenger bag: Fine.
You’re a snot-nosed liberal arts undergrad rat (like I was): Give a backpack a go.
You’re not a fan of carrying any of those: Tote along, friends.
Carry what fits with your setting and lifestyle. Bags with top handles are particularly my game. I love a good Filson tote, as well as a Jack Spade dipped-canvas coal tote. Durable, beat up and broken in.
My preference comes from not wanting to carry something across my body. It cramps my style, usually dishevels my blazer, and I don’t want scoliosis. Enter the tote.

Hold up, what is this guy doing with a Louis Vuitton? Hear me out. I got it for a killer deal and it’s a freaking Louis?! Do you know how many middle-aged, Gold Coast housewives armed with LVs, hauling strollers and pumped with Botox have stopped me on the streets of Chicago complimenting this bag? Well, three this week and I don’t know if that’s a really good indicator of “cool” either, but who’s keeping track….Not me. Nope.

Plus, tell us you’d turn down this Louis Vuitton luggage from Darjheeling Limited if you had the chance. No? Neither would we.

I thought you guys were about thrift. It’s in the title. Thrift can be relative. Sure, we generally mean it in the Salvation Army sense, but occasionally a thousand-dollar piece comes along for a couple hundo, and we call that a deal. I snagged this sucker off of eBay from the wonderful ladies over at eDrop-Off. I was Googling leather handbags one day and stumbled across this one on their eBay page. It was very clear in the description as it being “well-loved and worn” which I read as, “generally beat up and perfect.”
With my interest peaked and time ending soon on the auction, I called the store and asked to speak with an associate. They promptly answered my questions, and I went for it.
Bidding ensued, and I had a price point where I was going to stop bidding (It goes without saying, but always have a figure in mind where you’re going to stop. It’s too easy to get sucked in to simply wanting to win. And boom: Immediate and brutal buyer’s remorse.)

I also happened to thrift this oatmeal-flecked wool cardigan by Pendleton a few years ago when I was in undergrad. If you want to burn up, look for anything wool and itchy. You’ll be nice and toasty.

On Jeff: Vintage “Monogram” collection tote (eDrop-Off, $222) made in America by Louis Vuitton; oatmeal-flecked wool cardigan (thrifted, $3) by Pendleton; blue cotton oxford (Legends Shopping Center, $60) by rag & bone; selvedge “Henley” denim ($220) by Baldwin Denim.

Look for Less: Cost or Quality

This or that?
Buy designer digs or buy the less expensive option.
You decide. It’s your money that you earned, but let’s look at the options.
  • Designer quality goods generally have, well, a higher quality. Nicer factories, more substantial garment construction techniques, higher quality fabrics and more luxurious blends are used, such as cashmere. Designer brands usually have specialty characteristics, such as seaming and fit, yanno, a little personality. You get the tag with the designer’s name on it. “Hey, this was constructed and dreamed up by the imaginary, or imaginaries, under this brand that saw this as something worth constructing and associating their name with as a part of their intimate collection that fits within the brand’s lifestyle and identity.” I mean, some of my favorite pieces are designer, because they fit so damn well and have a story behind it.
  • Off-brand, or “house” brands, generally use fabrics of lesser quality along with less strict quality control procedures. For example, your sweater may fall apart because a seam wasn’t secured after one wear. You get something mass produced. It’s not as unique or poorly made (see: Forever 21.) What’s interesting is that if you look closely at a clothing line or when you walk into a store, you can tell if the store is pushing a product or a lifestyle. Is this store trying to sell me something? Or is this store trying to sell me a lifestyle, an identity, a sense of community— a story.
Left to right: Speckled jersey sweatpants by 3.1 Phillip Lim, $350; Salt & pepper sweatpants by American Apparel, $38; Shetland Varsity Letterman Jacket by Thom Browne, $1,298; Brown Varsity Jacket by Abel, $110.

$350 is a bit much for sweatpants. I totally agree, but do I want these? Absolutely.
Are they necessary? No way. But here is where the bridge splits and you can decide…



Left to right: Fairisle crewneck by CPO, $60; Fairisle shawl collar cardigan by Burkman Bros, $250; Gameday chinos by Bonobos, $88; Hayden pant by Theory, $195.

Certain designers cut their pieces in particular fits. Huge Boss suiting runs slim, so does Ben Sherman, A.P.C., D&G, Prada, etc. If you need a suit and you’re built like a toothpick, you’ll probably have to fork out the extra dough to get a suit that fits you well… off the rack, if you don’t have time for a tailor. Same goes for chinos, sweatshirts and Lord, don’t get me started on dress shirts.

Hear me out, there is nothing inherently wrong with designer brands, off-brands or mass-produced pieces, although some would argue in relation to relativism, ethnocentricism and ethics. Save it for a family meal.
Ultimately, you’re the consumer and you have the choice.

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