October marks one year since I encountered Coach leather goods firsthand. Since then, the Legacy Field Bag has become the carrier I reach for nearly every day. Each dent and ding it picks up seems to add a little character, and in spite of a few scuffs it’s held up remarkably well. If that’s a preview of the quality, I’m should be in for a couple of good decades. (Side note: My one complaint with the bag is that both of the iconic Coach turnlock fasteners have popped off at one point or another. The folks at Coach quickly replaced the first one [+1 for customer service], but I have yet to call about the second. Hardware aside, the leather is top class.)
Let’s have a look under the hood and see what’s inside. Spoiler alert: There are a lot of nerdy magazine writer/editor things in here.
Top to bottom, left to right. First row:
Let’s talk early-20-something finances.
You may be on your academic grind, looking to ace your next physics exam while struggle-studying your way to that business degree (all while being super pissed that your liberal arts curriculum demands you take a physics class to get a friggin’ business degree). Or you may be newly graduated, basking in the sun of full-fledged adulthood and itching to grab life by the proverbial bullhorns. Little did you know, however, that the bull came bearing gifts. Gifts that include but are not limited to: rent, utilities, car insurance, taxes you actually might have to file yourself, student-loan debt collectors, and a just-above-minimum-wage-paying job.
Whichever category you find yourself in, you probably don’t have much expendable income. How are you supposed to keep yourself clean behind the ears and looking fly without much excess cash? No worries, playboy, you just have to know where to find sartorial heaters on your newly-employed-Millennial budget. (And if you don’t even have a budget, this message is brought to you by Mint.com). Luckily, your boy has been (and still is) where you are. Remember, brethren, where there’s a will there’s a way.
Introducing this fall’s three best #peasantmenswear destinations:
- Target: Having added Phillip Lim to their growing list of designer collaborations—a list that also includes the likes of Rag & Bone and Odin New York—Target has seriously got their #luxe juices flowing. Some of their in-house Mossimo and Merona brand joints hit all the right feels as well. And all for less than a week’s worth of tips in an espresso-stained barista apron. (Merona wool overcoat, $80; Merona varsity jacket, $30; Mossimo cardigan, $25).
- Land’s End Canvas: I don’t know about you, man, but my dad shops almost exclusively at Land’s End. Like, he’s got LE catalogues for days just lying around the house. Little does he know, Land’s End’s little brother Canvas goes to the hole twice as hard. Smart, well-designed pieces that don’t break the bank. Plus, some of their best are currently on sale.
- JCPenney: Remember that time JCP hired Nick Wooster? And remember when he helped create the best men’s merchandise your-mom’s-favorite-department-store had ever seen? Turns out most suburban 40- and 50-something (your dad included) hate wearing clothes that actually fit, because pretty soon former CEO Ron Johnson and the Woost God were both out of the picture, along with the tailored silhouettes they had helped usher through the door. If you’re smart, you’ll pick up what’s left of the JCP line while it’s still available. And do your dad a favor and grab something for him, too.
On a day that’s starting out at 30 degrees in Chicago, all I want to do is pretend it’s summer. Turns out, our friend and photographer extraordinaire Nathan Michael just released this video of a poker night he organized at Heritage Bicycle and General Store. In Nathan’s words: “There’s no grander way to say goodbye, than with a glass of bold whisky and a game of poker.”
Food came from Trenchermen; booze came from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. It was an evening of cards and merriment, and on this blustery morning I’m feeling nostalgic for warmer days. (Although, I have it on good authority that a few fingers of good scotch can indeed take the bite of winter.) See for yourself below, then read on.
Adieu to Summer from Nathan Michael on Vimeo.
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society has been ramping up their American outreach over the past year, and we’re actually pretty blown away by the concept. They bottle their own limited edition single cask whiskies from famous distilleries across the world (think: Laphroaig, Balvenie, Glenfiddich, etc.), except there’s a catch. Instead of labeling the bottles with these well-known names that might prejudice your taste, they use a numbering system that simply informs you which region the spirits came from. Then, they list off-the-wall tasting notes. For real. Check this out: “The reduced nose turned out apple and rhubarb crumble, banana loaf, gingerbread men and oranges in a canvas kit-bag.” Elsewhere, you’ll get “millionaire’s shortbread” and “saunas.”
Thus, they let you create your own relationship with a rare whisky that won’t be seen again. And for a drinking tip? They recommend “any time at all.” We can get behind that.
For more of Nathan’s work, follow @nathanmichael on Instagram and Twitter.
Chris Ciesiel. Better known (to some) as @thehydeparker, proprietor of The Campground, Kansas City’s own guerrilla cocktail service. We first met Mr. Ceisel, and his lovely wife, @owlandmouse, like you do these days…through Instagram. They built a backyard speakeasy with their own four hands, and as far as we’re concerned, it’s the best damn place to get a stiff drink in KCMO.
Chris and I connected over fine spirits, and he’s been a constant source of inspiration to me in my fledgling cocktail journey. That’s why we’re so excited that he’s agreed to share his knowledge with us—and you. So, first up from Mr. Ciesiel: how to get your own bar up and running.
Throughout every aspect of life there are essentials, or must-haves. For example: riding a bicycle and wearing a helmet (you do wear a helmet, don’t you?); eating a Chicago-style hotdog with neon-green relish, diced onions, two sport peppers, tomato wedges, Kosher pickle spear, celery salt, steamed poppy seed bun with mustard (absolutely no ketchup). Similarly, there are certain rules that apply to properly stocking your home bar.
Before I dive in and you get overwhelmed with how much all of this costs, I should reassure you that building the perfect home bar takes some time. Like any other skill on the way to manhood, it’s not something you knock out in one fell swoop. And that’s part of the fun, isn’t it? A bottle here, a cordial there. This is a journey. Savor it.
Let’s get into it.
- BOURBON: You’ll either find Bulleit or Buffalo Trace on my stick. They’re both aces and won’t break the bank ($25-30).
- VODKA: I don’t often drink vodka, but when I do it’s Tito’s Handmade Vodka ($18). That is all you need to know.
- GIN: This is where it gets a little tricky, as not all gins are created equal. Hayman’s Old Tom ($25) is my ideal mixing gin for everyday use. It’s botanically forward, while imparting a bit of sweetness. Ransom Old Tom ($35) is the “historically accurate” version, distilled with malted barely and neutral corn spirits. What’s more is that it is barrel-aged. This gin plays wonderfully in cocktails that are very gin-centered, i.e. Martinez. Finally, I’ll use a dry gin, such as Beefeater ($16), for my other cocktails that don’t typically include a citrus, as it is reasonably priced for every day consumption.
- VERMOUTH: You’ll need both sweet and dry. There are a number of different varieties/brands of vermouth out there, but I have come to love Carpano Antica Formula ($35) as the best for sweet (even as pricy as it is) and Dolin Dry ($12) for well, dry. You’ll find that there are many varieties of vermouth at different (read: cheaper) price points, so you should certainly experiment.
- AMARO: These Italian digestifs provide bitterness and a different yet pleasant dimension to cocktails. There’s several we usually stock: Cynar ($24, an artichoke liqueur), Fernet Branca ($26, peppermint, menthol), Ramazzotti Amaro ($22, orange peel, cardamom, cinnamon).
- SWEET: Make an easy, rich, no-cook syrup by combining sugar (turbinado) and water—at 2 parts sugar to 1 part water—in a large jar, and shake the hell out of it. It should dissolve after five minutes and be ready to incorporate into cocktails. Oh yeah, and get some sugar cubes too (ahem, Old Fashioneds?)
- SOUR: Get off your lazy ass and hand-press some fresh lemons, limes, and oranges!
- BITTERS: You’ll definitely need one… Angostura Aromatic Bitters. You can experiment with the other flavors at your own will.
- I love spicy, hot ginger beer! That’s why I use Cock ‘n’ Bull. Also because there’s no artificial sweetener.
- Jiggers: Exact measurement is key when crafting cocktails with pricey spirits. But if you want to add a little spill-over bourbon to my Old Fashioned, I won’t get mad at ‘cha.
- Boston Shaker: I typically use these whilst shaking cocktails containing egg, as the emulsification process builds up subtle pressure which is easier to expel by tapping the sides.
- Cobbler Shaker: I like these because they are easy to use, and they create a tight seal when in action. Added bonus: They have a built in strainer. If you have a couple extra bucks to spend this month, check out Cocktail Kingdom or Umami Mart.
- Bar Spoon(s): Because you’re going to want to stir your spirit-heavy cocktails. Word of advice: Get something with a tight coil. They’re easier to twirl.
- Mixing Glass: I like Pyrex beakers, because, well, they look cool.
- Channel Knife: This ensures you get those nice long twists.
- Y-Peeler: Quickly get that peel to garnish you drink.
- Paring Knife: Same concept as the Y-peeler, only you’ll get thicker peels, and you can easily trim down that bitter white pith.
- Cone Strainer: When you want to double strain to omit the mini ice chips formed by vigorous shaking.
- Hawthorne Strainer: These are used to strain shaken (or stirred cocktails) while keeping the ice in the tumbler. The wire coil helps prevents other debris from entering your drink, i.e., mint leaves, berries, etc.
- Julep Strainer: These are typically used to strain stirred cocktails.
- Muddler: My friend Dylan Sly over at Manifesto crafted me a Brazilian Walnut muddler. Chances are, it’s better than yours.
- Mallet & Lewis Bag: Oh yeah, Dylan also made me an Thor-sized American Oak Mallet. You could kill a man with this thing!
- Juicer: Either a handheld or a stand-up, any juicer will do (scour your local antique malls, as I picked up a really nice juicer from the 1950s).
In no way is this an exhaustive list, but it is a good, solid start. I began building my bar several years ago while obsessing over with one drink: the Aviation. The more I experimented with cocktails, the more equipment I amassed. Or, you could blow your rent/mortgage, and purchase everything in one outing. Finally, put up some nicknacks that give your bar space your own personal touch. For instance, we have a .22 caliber hollow point bullet; locust sheddings; a hen feather we found at Will Rogers’ home; and a really cool vintage postcard that sums up our love for all things booze.
By now, it’s been a couple of months since we met these cats, Grant Legan and Kara Dykert. And we’ve discovered that they just keep getting better the longer we know them. Separately, they’re amazing people. Together, they’re unstoppable. So, it’s a good thing for artists in the Midwest (and beyond) that they’ve joined forces and established a home for imagination here in Chicago. It’s in the form of a website that turns the camera lens on designers, visual artists, wardrobists and more. But honestly, they tell it better than we do, so we’ll toss it over to them. Meet The Niche.
Where are you two from?
is from the suburbs of Chicago. Homegrown in the midwest.
is from Holland, MI. Moved to the Chicago area during college.
How’d you meet?
We actually met through Twitter. I (Grant) was doing an editorial through a local menswear company in Chicago, and Kara was one of the models. We bonded over whiskey and both being 7s on the enneagram personality test.
What is The Niche?
is a community for creatives living in Chicago. It’s also a voice to share the stories of creatives who are passionate about growing their art form and working hard at it every day.
Why start the Niche?
When we met, we realized we were so proud and humbled to know so many creative people. We began a bubbly conversation about one artist who was creating something fantastic, which spooled into endless tangents of creatives we had come to know over the years who were making such amazing things right in our own city.
When you look at the Niche, what do you see?
A place where we can learn from the other passionate people around us. A place where we can grow together and realize that we all want to help each other out. If you think about it, we all want the same thing: to be living a creative life and making things that make us happy as artists.
Favorite [experience or relationship] that has resulted from The Niche so far?
I think our favorite experience thus far is the personal interaction we get to experience with each person we feature. We get to step into their lives for a minute and see what makes them tick and how they got to be so amazing. They share with us some of their own inspirations, and we are able to then continue that conversation with others. We love the honesty and vulnerability that the people we’ve interviewed have shared with us. We really love being brought into their story.
What places, objects, or people do you look at for inspiration?
I personally pull inspiration from the people and conversations happening around me. I pull inspiration from my own day-to-day emotions—and from music and dreams. My mind morphs with music, and it feels with experience.
I am 100 percent a people person. I am inspired in my relationships—by my friends and family who are doing things they love and using their gifts and talents to better other people. I pull inspiration from being tactile, by using the things around me to create. I’m a total repurposer; I love taking what’s around me and recreating with it. I pull random ingredients from the kitchen to create fun meal. I pull “trash” to recreate furniture, to decorate, or to design with. I like to see the potential
in things, and that inspires me.
Have you ever thought about combining the powers of the creatives you’ve profiled so far into an event or trip?
Our long term goal for The Niche is to continue to discover these creatives that are hiding in pockets all over the city and across the world. From there, we hope to bring creative minds together and create “story branding” for companies we are passionate about or that have a wonderful story as well. I mean, collaboration is everything.
What would you like the Niche to become?
We would like it to be a community that works on creative collaborations. We would like to continue creating beautiful work and telling stories. Our form hasn’t become concrete; it’s still growing. Its been a pretty organic process so far and we’re excited to see what it becomes.
Who’s on your wish list to profile?
There are many greats out there. We are moving in a pretty organic way, for now. We enjoy being surprised by each new person we feature and each new relationship or contact we gain from that moment on. We both really love and respect people who are genuine and kind and talented. We don’t necessarily have a wish list of creatives, but we do want to keep meeting people who inspire us and are willing to share a part of their lives with us.
Follow The Niche: Website + Instagram + Twitter
Get in touch with Grant: Portfolio + Instagram + Twitter
Get in touch with Kara: Portfolio + Instagram + Twitter
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