Author Archives:

THE RUNDOWN: NorthernGRADE

Behold: NorthernGRADE. Every September, some of the movers and shakers in American-made menswear descend into the cluttered, boozy labyrinth of the Architectural Antiques in Minneapolis to hawk their wares.
Inspired by NYC’s Pop Up Flea, the ladies and gentlemen at J.W. Hulme Company and Pierrepont Hicks tie shop decided to add the Midwest to the conversation by founding their own market in 2010—which makes this the second of a (hopefully) annual tradition.
I hitched a ride up to the fest for the launch of Buckshot Sonny’s, Max Wastler and Joe Gannon’s vintage sporting goods store. (If you’re not familiar yet, you should be.) It was hard to contain the excitement as it built over the 7.5-hour drive, and it wasn’t long before there were copious amounts of rapping during the 3G-less stretches of Wisconsin and Minnesota. When we arrived, we weren’t disappointed. What follow are simply snapshots punctuated by a few important quotes, because like many of the best experiences—you just kinda had to be there. Next year’s your chance.
Buckshot Sonny’s, named after Joe’s grandfather Sonny and Max’s dad, who they called ‘Buckshot’ as a kid, is “the store your grandfather would have taken your father to for his first baseball glove.”

  • “We want one of our baseballs or footballs to be the family picnic ball. When we’re done, I’ll give it to my son, and he’ll give it to his, maybe.” — Joe Gannon
Red Wing, this year’s main sponsor.

Two fine fellows: Brad Bennett of Well-Spent and Mike Maher of Taylor Stitch.

Intelligentsia coffee was on site.


The Hill-Side, offered by BlackBlue.

The incomparable Billy Moore, of Cause and Effect, hawking his skins. “Buy some belts!” he barks.
One of the (many) interesting things about Billy is that he’s not much for the indecisive. Like a maverick who pops up unannounced at spots all across the country, it’s “Buy a belt here and now, or wait and see where I appear next.”
And his process is nothing if not unique. It’s all about the story for Cause and Effect—whether it’s wading into a Tennessee river to drape a hide over a big, wet rock or hammering belts on a cobbled New York street.

You can read more about his process over at All PlaidOut, but here’s a bit of lore he shared with me about his mysterious Mason jar full of moonshine. This particular batch, Billy says, was made by the son of Popcorn Sutton, the legendary Tennessee moonshiner. No one’s heard from him since around 2009…possibly because he may not be alive any more.

“Popcorn Sutton been caught by the ATF for the fifth time,” Billy says. “He had about 5,000 quarts of moonshine, and they were going to give him 30 days a gallon.
“The story goes that he killed himself rather than go to prison. But here’s the thing: The only people who saw him dead were the sheriff and the coroner—who both happened to be his cousins.”
The trick is to take a breath before you take a drink.
Billy had me make a belt, which you’ll see in coming posts as we track its progress from natural leather to seasoned beauty.
One of the fine products from Duluth Pack, which we’ve written about before.
I had a chance to chat with Molly Solberg, Duluth Pack’s marketing director, who filled me in on why the company’s heritage matters to so many people:
  • “We’re fashionable because we’re 120-plus years old, not because we’re a flash in the pan.”
  • “You can walk into Walmart and by a $20 bag every season or spend $115 on one of ours and never buy another.”
  • “Every day, I walk through the sewing room. You’ll see a bag made by Linda, a breast cancer survivor. We have a sewer, Suzie, who’s been here for 20 years. Whatever we can do to help Suzie as she puts her kids through college, we’re going to do.”
  • “Ultimately, you’re employing Minnesotans and saving money over the long run.”

A clever business card from Angie Sheldon.

Becca James, the editor of Pop ‘stache, browses wool shirts offered by Greenwich Vintage.

On the culture of NorthernGRADE:
  • ‘Zen’ Pomazi, one of the purveyors of Greenwich Vintage, is finding that men take a little longer to care about appearance and quality these days. But eventually, he says, a nostalgia kicks in, even though it might be for something they’ve never experienced themselves.
  • “Guys get to a certain age—maybe they’re getting married, maybe they’re having kids—and they start to pay attention,” Zen says. “They see some of this stuff, and they remember Dad.”
And this, from Noah Zagor, is perhaps the best summation of why any of this matters:
“I had an uncle who was a geology professor at Oxford University,” Noah says. “I remember visiting him, and he would point to the motto emblazoned on the gates: ‘Manners Makyth Man.’”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misattributed the above quote. Our sincerest apologies to Noah. We regret the error.

“You always wore bright colors.” — A Personal History

Editor’s note: This is the second in our three-part series looking back at the style (if you can call it that) of our youths.
Earlier, Seth. Now, Jeff.

I always had a thing for obnoxious colors.
You liked them,” said Trace (a.k.a. Mom) when I talked to her this week. “Everybody made fun of me for doing it, but you would just stand there in your Superman underwear and complain that you wanted to wear your bow tie, suspenders or bright shirts.
The other parents would say, ‘Why are you dressing him wimpy like that?’ But you were such a happy kid when you wore those colors and patterns and prints. And if you didn’t like what I laid out for you, you stripped down and refused,” said my mother on my sartorial decisions as a five-year old.
Those are my mother’s words. I just called and talk to her to make sure I didn’t misquote her. Gotta fact-check, y’all.
I grew up on the edge of the suburban frontier with a cow pasture at the end of my street and a general store a few blocks away. My wardrobe was a mix of function and fashion. Overalls to go down to the creek, but bright and obnoxious. T-shirts, jumpers and backpacks, but slathered in with colors and prints and anything that would be able to be spotted from a distance had I wandered off in the mall or down the street.
But first, let’s take a moment to look how effing happy I am in the first photo on that swinging horse with my bright pink Nickeldeon T-shirt.
Left to right: 1) Pure joy: obnoxious t-shirt, swinging on a horse, full of glee. 2) It’s no surprise that I was an early adopter of photo bombing. 3) Acid wash denim jacket? Yes. Do I have acid wash anything right now? Yes. I also feel like this similar pose has surfaced on the Midwestyle.


I guess you could say I formed my personal sense of style from my environment. I was a raised on healthy doses of ’90s television injected everyday with my buddies from Saved by Bell, Clarissa Explains It All, Rugrats, All That! and anything that covered serious issues involving tweens. Although my mom picked out my clothes in my youth, I took the reins once my brain began to form. Clearly my style didn’t change once I was able to pick out my own Osh Kosh B’Gosh patterned shorts and Bugle Buy jeans.

Left to right: 1) Comb over, blue blazer, white OCBD and paisley tie. Swag, ya’ll. 2) Being a little brother has its expectations and drawbacks, such as being the one suggested to stick your head in a crocodile’s mouth.
I always insisted that we have costumes whenever we played games out in the yard. I’d drag out sheets from the garage to make capes and cloaks for our neighborhood battle royales. Whether it was playing out in the neighborhood with Nerf guns in my elementary days or the yearly Halloween “What do I wear?” issue in my teens, I was always the first and eager to respond to this crisis.
Take notes on the business dress code in my preschool Christmas recital. Singing in front of an audience is a tough gig. Imagine not looking fly in a tie when you’re five. These were my early white boy problems, people. Paisley or plaid.

Left to right: 1) Bright colored t-shirt again along with oversized sunglasses before girls caught on to the bug eye trend. 2) Matching plaid pants and bow tie with suspenders. Mom, I love you.

ACCESSORIZE:

Bow ties, dinosaurs, puka shell necklaces and Abercrombie & Fitch. The perfect formula of my school pictures documenting my late streak with puberty. It seems like yesterday I was praying that I would grown underarm hair. Presently, I’m still asking for some facial hair that or my mole on my cheek would share the spare hair.

“Girl Picture!” was shouted. Naturally, my friends and I assembled into the standard co-ed pose. Seriously though, you can’t put a group of freshmen college guys together expecting that they’ll pose normally. Sorority girl pose, anyone? Left to right: Glen, Jarred, Ryan, Chad, Patrick, Myself and Zach.


Notably, I’ve had various hair styles as well. Short hair, long hair, shaved hair, dreadlocked hair.
FUN FACT: My hair is actually wavy, not straight or curly. It’s also as thick as your dad’s back hair.
BONUS FUN FACT: When treated with endless swim practices of chlorine-saturated pools and the notion that swimming in a pool equates a shower, my hair only became more dirty/curlier.

CLOTHING MATTERS, people. To be more clear, your appearance and presentation of self matters. Those impressions and first looks carry weight for your future. Even at a young age when you’re playing the most epic game of Cowboys and Indians on 113th Street against the assholes down on 110th, you gotta look fly to out-win and out-do your opponent with the most epic draping and self-tied capes.

THE RUNDOWN: Topman

By now, you may be tired of hearing about Topman. The Chicago flagship store opened last week, and has been all the buzz around this store since long before that. Good thing we’re on a need-to-know-basis. Here’s what you need to know:
Personal shopping. Free. This is the only place we’re aware of in Chicago that’s offering a service where you can come in, plop down in a room that feels like your (more) stylish apartment, and be given the star treatment—for no extra charge. We caught up with one of the personal stylists, the always lovely Mel Muoio.
Here’s what she told us. If you decide to use a personal shopper, you get:
  • First dibs on new items.
  • That includes designer collaborations—if you’re into that sort of thing.
  • The right to reserve items.
  • Invites to special events. (And let us tell you: The British know how to throw a party.)
  • But most importantly, a style-savvy friend who’s not just out to make the sale, but to find what actually works for you. (Because if you don’t like it, you can take it back.)
On their card, it says: “This service is free with compliments of Topshop.” Ah, so British. In an industry where service and relationships are increasingly rare, this is a refreshing prospect.
The real estate is prime. On the corner of Michigan Avenue and Pearson Street, you get to see the city at its most scenic and commune in the ritual of downtown shopping.
But we’re not just talking about the store. With something like 55 styles for fall/winter 2011 that are specific to Chicago, there’s no need to worry about looking like the masses. Did someone say Barbour jackets? Somewhere in Logan Square, Jeff is reading this right now and fainting.


On Seth: Lavender block stripe shirt courtesy of Topman.
Granted, Topman isn’t for everyone. You may have to sift before you find something that works for you. But we’re finding that this anglophile’s haven has enough to satisfy both the experimental among us and, occasionally, the more classic.
(See below.)

AUTUMN 2011: From runway to cubicle, an intro to fall fashion.

With summer’s closure, we here in the Midwest get to play limbo each day with the ever-changing weather patterns. One day, you’re biking around the city in a tank top, the next you’re reaching for your scarf to throw over your chambray button down. Welcome to the Midwesterner’s fall.
But let’s…mix it up this year. Let’s talk fall fashions. I picked some looks that I found inspiring and accessible yet a little forward at times. Outfits and styling suggestions that you can conjure up in the morning and think to yourself, “Hey, I actually styled my look this morning and I feel pretty good about it.”

That’s how it goes. Look good, feel good, and then you’ll do good.
It’s just like that, people. So, here is your cheat sheet.

Let’s bring some of the runway to your office this morning, shall we?

Go ahead, log off the latest Lifehacker/Gizmodo/Reddit article and give this a glimpse.

Steven Alan Fall 2011 (style.com)
COLOR STORY: Olives, browns and greys. Simple? Yes. You (should) have these colors in your closet.
STYLING TIPS: Go ahead and duplicate this. It’s all safe, except tuck your socks back in. The white denim in the fall sounds like a good idea, too. Give that a go as well. Why not?
THEIR WARDROBE: Boots. Olive trousers. Parkas. Grey utility shirts. Bloody red pocket squares. Chambray button downs. Thick-and-chunky cardigans.
YOUR WARDROBE: Buy some boots; pass on the white denim if you must.
Shipley & Halmos Fall 2011 (style.com)
COLOR STORY: Light browns and camels, burgundies and wines.
STYLING TIPS: Please gentlemen, invest in a nice pair of nice, dark (selvedge) denim. Wear ‘em, beat ‘em up, they’ll look better. Mix yours navies, browns and burgundies.
THEIR WARDROBE: A navy peacoat, a well-loved leather jacket, a pair of cords, dark wash selvedge denim, colored denim, fair-isle sweater, toggle closure camel duffle coat, varsity jacket, plaid button downs.
YOUR WARDROBE: Get a nice jacket for fall, but ditch the varsity and colored denim if you must.
Marc by Marc Jacobs Fall 2011 (gq.com)
COLOR STORY: Camels, burnt orange mixed with navy and chocolates. Midnight blues and charcoals.
STYLING TIPS: Pairing browns with blacks with a touch of color. A nice tweed blazer over denim or trousers will look sharp, preppy and autumnal. A striped sweater can’t go wrong either.
THEIR WARDROBE: Black and brown wingtips, heavy-duty, fur-lined parkas, tweed trousers, leather totes, colored denim, printed ties, obnoxious sneakers.
YOUR WARDROBE: A charcoal, midnight or navy suit and big-striped sweater.

In summary, find a pair of boots, a suit, a sweater and fall jacket.
BONUS: Now only if we didn’t have student loans to pay back or rent to pay. 
Pringle of Scotland Fall 2011
Burberry Prorsum Fall 2011

Obnoxious colored outerwear? Yes. What’s your favorite?

THE GOOD GUYS: Blake in Bucktown

Meet Blake.

Blake loves writing. He loves food. Hence, he writes about food. A talented wordsmith and certified chef, he brilliantly combines the two in his professional life (magazine freelancer) and personal life with a blog called The Paupered Chef.
Blake and I get together for drinks almost weekly at a tucked-away neighborhood bar in Bucktown for the sole purpose of shooting the shit over cheap booze and reveling in the simple pleasures of Chicago. During these breaks from real-life responsibility, we mull over everything from style to food; business plans to literature; success to failure; and, of course, our unfinished ambitions.
But more than anything, Blake is full of thought. He considers everything carefully. And when he speaks, it’s not out of impulse. His words carry weight. And that’s one of many reasons I’m glad to call him a friend.
A few words about what Blake’s got on:

The belt, a distinctive eye-catcher, was a gift from good friend Max Wastler (of All Plaidout). It was in fact Max who introduced us over a quick drink at The Gage.

The bag, a Levenger, a gift from his dad eight years ago. Perfect for carrying plenty of reading material—and Blake’s an avid reader. The first few times we ran into each other, he sent me home with a couple of thick books by Fyodor Dostoevsky and Paul Auster. In turn, I loaned him Boss by Mike Royko. (When am I going to get that back, by the way?)

The shoes, hand-sewn in Maine.

“A week before I went on my honeymoon, I knew I wanted these shoes. The folks over at Quoddy were nice enough to rush the shipping ensure my travels would be comfortable and classic,” Blake says.

So here’s the deal: Over the next few weeks, we’ll be teaming up with Blake to produce a tiny cookbook of sorts. There will be four (count ‘em) recipes—one for each meal of the day—that will be constrained by situation (e.g. lunch while working from home), budget (e.g. $5, or maybe what you’ve got in the fridge) and time (e.g. you’ve got 10 minutes to throw an elegant breakfast together before heading to work.)
This is what you can expect: Beautiful photography, delicious food, and a few practical meals every guy should have in his repertoire. And it’ll all be styled.
Check back next Wednesday for the first installment.
On Blake: Slim olive chino by Wings & Horns; blue button-down by Gitman Brothers; summer gingham tie by J.Crew factory; hoof pick leather belt by Hickorees; “New Wayfayer” in tortoise by Rayban; leather satchel by Levenger, given to him by his father.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...