Saturday, February 27, 2010

Whither thou, HTJ?

It's been about two months since Heavy Tweed Jacket, the American ex-pat living in Japan, took his blog down. I'm sure that I'm not the only one who misses his seemingly endless archive of old Brooks Brothers, J. Press and LL Bean catalogs, along with his insights into Japanese culture and occasional delicious-looking recipe ideas. I know that he went on hiatus sometime back in 2008, but I hope that he is doing alright and will be returning soon.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

For the Ladies: What to do with old bridesmaid dresses

If you are a guy, you can probably tune out for this post, but since I know that I have at least four female readers, I thought I would pass this along.

It seems to me that having to buy a bridesmaid's dress because someone asked you to be in their wedding would be pretty annoying. "Hey, you're one of my favorites, I really want you to be in my wedding. Oh, and do you have about $500 to spare that you can use to buy me presents for my multiple showers and to shell out on a dress that you'll only wear once all while you secretly resent me for getting married before you? OK, awesome." Thank goodness I will never have to experience this.

Well, clearly the ladies over at MyScoop feel you pain. Ashlyn Stallings, whose blog Miss Magnolia is on my blog list to the right, wrote an article for MyScoop with ideas for actually reusing some of those bridesmaid dresses. Some of the ideas that they've come up with sound pretty good and pretty doable. Be sure to check out both her blog post and her article, "From Bridesmaid to Everyday Outfit," on MyScoop.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Civil War Belt Buckles

Whether you live north or south of the Mason Dixon, I think that you would have to admit these belt buckles are pretty sweet.

Basically they're replicas of buckles worn by soldiers on both sides of the Civil War, and are actually available all over the internet. You can find them easily by Googling or searching on Ebay for "civil war belt buckles," and since I haven't ordered one myself, I don't really have a particular purveyor to personally recommend.

However, after doing some poking around, it looks like the ones from (pretty descriptive URL) look like they might be one of the better options. All of their buckles are made from casts of actual Civil War era buckles, so they don't get much more authentic without finding a 150 year old belt yourself. Aside from the classic "US," "CS," and "CSA" buckles, they've got a ton of other ones to choose from, including a number of states, which are all available in three different finish options: "Normal," "High Polish," and "Old Dark Antique Look."

Virginia buckle

Additionally, most of the ones on the internet come with three hooks which you use to attach it to your belt. That isn't really a standard mounting method for belts nowadays, but it looks like lets you choose from some other mounting options, which might make them easier to work with normal belt straps.

South Carolina buckle

Finally, they are only $17 with $5 for shipping and handling, so they're a pretty good deal, whether you want to display your patriotism or your Southern heritage.

Compare the ones above to this actual unworn Civil War era buckle

It should be noted that all of the images here, except for the last one, came from and can all be found on their website.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Oyster Belt Buckle and Strap

It is (presumably) a well-known fact that I am a sucker for belts. Well, the other day, Joe Gannon, of his self-titled blog, posted on Twitter about the oyster belt that he purchased from North River Outfitters, made by the Oyster Belt Co. ("Kind of as creative as the Dave Matthews Band."). This is a great looking belt, and Joe indicated that both the buckle and strap are made in the US, which is fitting since the oyster is a fine and delicious creature that is enjoyed by people all along the eastern seaboard and Gulf of Mexico, from Maine to Texas. It's pretty much the bald eagle of the ocean.

At $75 for the buckle and $50 for the strap, it is kind of steep, but I'd say it's probably worth it, and would make a great gift, especially for someone whose birthday is in April...

Friday, February 19, 2010

On Contrast: What I'm Wearing Today

I put together this little graphic below (all the rage on the blogosphere) to show what I'm wearing today. I think that what this combination really demonstrates is the principle of contrast. For example, there is the contrast between the British hunting origins of the Barbour and the American sailing origins of the Authentic Originals. There is also the contrast between the Brooks Brothers oxford cloth shirt, a boardroom staple, and the Pendleton board shirt, a lumberjack staple (presumably). The jeans and the belt serve as anchors for everything else and are fairly unremarkable. I think that this is a principle which is one that is espoused in The Official Preppy Handbook--the only style guide a person could ever need--and is also popular on the blogsphere nowadays, where it can sometimes be taken to the extreme (Bean Boots with a suit, anyone?).

What I'm Wearing (sorry, no links) Gap Authentic Fit jeans
Brooks Brothers Original Polo Shirt, but without a tie (none of that slim-fit business)
Pendleton Board Shirt in the "Authentic MacLean Tartan" (a thrift store find)
Barbour Bedale (but with the old tartan on the inside) with pile liner (not pictured)
Sperry Authentic Originals
Royden shot shell belt

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Nantucket Red Jeans Update...sort of

Some of you may remember my post last October about the RL Rugby Faded Colored Denim and my thoughts on making my own pair of Nantucket Red jeans from a pair of plain white jeans. Well, I still haven't ever gotten around to that, but it looks like I may not have to.

Tonight I found myself on the Urban Outfitter website--not a place that I typically visit. In going through some of their stuff, I saw that they are selling Levi's 514s in orange "Sun Fade." These look really similar to the ones being offered by Rugby, and at $54, are literally half the price. For those who like a slimmer-fitting jean, the 514 is also a good cut.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

J. Crew Helmet Bag

Back in December I wrote a review of the J. Crew Bowery drafting tote after I picked one up for $30 at my local J. Crew (it is still $98 online, in case you haven't checked in a while). After I wrote that, I received an email from ATDS reader Dan who informed me that upon visiting the J. Crew at Perimeter Mall in search of the drafting tote, he also came across a similar bag labeled "Helmet Bag" which was on sale for $50, marked down from $110 or something like that, and went ahead and picked one up. A few days later I was over at Perimeter and stopped in to have a look around myself and saw that they still had one of these helmet bags. Since it was the last one, and since I had just gotten paid, I went ahead and picked it up. I was pretty happy with my drafting tote at the time, but figured I would hold onto it and could return it later if I didn't want it.

Well, it sat in my closet for a while until my brother said that he wanted my drafting tote, so I sold that to him and brought the helmet bag out of the bullpen.

The bag is actually pretty interesting. While the materials, both interior and exterior, are the same as on the drafting tote, and the interior has the same pocket layout (albeit with slightly bigger pockets), at 19"x19" the bag is kind of a strange size, and I still haven't figured out exactly what I could put in the two big pockets on the front. However, what I do like about it over the drafting tote is that the handles are shorter and not quite as potentially "purse-like." It feels good to carry both in-hand and over the shoulder. While I don't have any helmets to carry, it does a decent enough job of hauling around my day-to-day stuff (notepad, camera, phone charger, papers, etc.).

In an attempt to find out more about the bag, I emailed Jack from J. Crew (you know, the "Jack Knows Best" guy). He wrote me back and said that it was, in fact, only available at a few stores, and was never sold online. Also, he said that it was inspired by old flight helmet bags. In trying to find out some about it, I came across these modern nylon helmet bags which are currently made for flight helmets (available here and here).

Also, those of you who look at Valet may notice how similar it is to the helmet bag that they wrote about the other day. Personally, I think the J. Crew one looks better--that bag on Valet looks like it needs to be ironed.

Bag from Valet article

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Wolverine 1000 Mile "Gentry" boots

I don't typically get caught up in all of the hype surrounding the launches of new clothing lines or designers' latest seasonal previews or whatever. I don't usually buy clothes because they are cool now, or the latest thing (that is called "fashion," not "style") and I think the Wolverine 1000 Mile Boot collection is a good reason why I don't get into it.

If you have been around the men's clothing forum or blog world for any amount of time, you may remember all of the hubbub surrounding the launch of Wolverine's 1000 Mile Boots. It was to be a collection of boots "pulled from the archives" and "Made in the US"--all of the things that appeal to the "urban woodsman" crowd. People on SF were counting down until they were released and bloggers couldn't wait and kept posting pictures of them with the latest information to be released. When the whole line finally launched, it was with more of a whimper than a bang. Turns out that only the 1000 Mile Boot was made in the US, not the whole collection, and the talk of them eventually disappeared and was replaced by the normal arguments of which boot was more awesome: Red Wings or Alden Indy Boots.

In light of all of the hype and eventual letdown related to it, Wolverine did release some interesting boots as a part of their collection, made in the US or not. Of those, I think that two of the most underrated pairs were in their Gentry collection, the Ramble and the Upland.

The Ramble

The Upland (which I prefer)

Inspired by old school field boots, the Ramble and Upland are fairly understated and feature Pendleton wool insets. I think these are good looking boots and I would love to get my hands on some. However, another thing that really annoys me about all of these "limited collections" and whatnot is just how damn hard it is to actually get your hands on them.

Hey Wolverine: I want to buy your boots, I'm trying to give you money. Why don't you just put them on your damn website like normal companies? Or better yet, why don't you just mail me a pair and I'll talk about how awesome they are on my blog?

Frankly it astounds me. Anyways, ff you know of any places that actually carry these boots, or know of a similar boot that is easy for me to purchase, please let me know.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Recommended: Birkenstock Blue Footbed Arch Support Insoles

If you're like me, you probably enjoy wearing boat shoes, moccasins, or other shoes that have absolutely no arch support. While I am typically a subscriber to the "sometimes it hurts to look good" school of thought, last fall my knee really started to bother me. I've never really had any other joint issues, but I eventually figured that it was a result of wearing shoes with absolutely no support pretty much every day. Knowing that I needed to do something about it, I went and talked to my buddy Sean who works at Abbadabba's, a local shoe store that caters primarily to hippies, outdoorsy people, and weirdos who insist on wearing vegan shoes.

After trying out several different kinds of insoles, I eventually decided on the Birkenstock Blue insole. It was actually pretty incredible; as soon as I tried them, the pain in my knee immediately went away. Unfortunately they were about $60, but one of the benefits of having a friend who is a manager is at a shoe store is he hooks you up with his discount (thanks, Sean).

I've been wearing them for probably four or five months now and have to say that I am very pleased. They fit in pretty much any shoe that I own (primarily my boat shoes and Bean Blucher mocs), and are fairly comfortable. In fact, if I try going without them for any period of time, it isn't long before my feet and knee start to hurt. My primary quibble with them, aside from the price, is that they do not work so well with sockless wear. They can become dirty and a bit smelly pretty quickly. There are some other companies that make plastic insoles, and I may look into them once the weather gets warmer. However, if you wear boat shoes and/or moccasins on a regular basis, I would highly recommend these. While you can find them online, I would really recommend finding a place near you where you can try them on, though they did seem to fit pretty true-to-size.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Blog of Note: Bhamarchitect's Blog

Thanks to a retweet of Charlotte Donlon's by Elisa, I came across the blog of Birmingham architect and developer Jeremy Erdreich, Bhamarchitect's Blog. While I was not familiar with Mr. Erdreich himself, I am familiar with some of the buildings he has worked on, including the renovation of the Phoenix Lofts and 2nd Row--the shops of 2nd Ave. North where Urban Standard is located. After looking at some of the stuff on his blog, and some of the buildings he has worked on, it is clear he has some good ideas regarding urban infill and redevelopment. Infill and redevelopment are some of the "sexiest" types of development to do, but also some of the most difficult. Having been involved in the Birmingham architecture scene myself, I am glad to see that as an architect who is also involved in development, Mr. Erdreich has a good perspective on the difficulties and realities that developers face, factors that sometimes seem to be lost on designers and architects. If you are interested in urban redevelopment, or Birmingham in general, I suggest checking out his blog, as well as the websites for his two companies, Erdreich Architects and Metropolitan.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

$7.50 Sperry Topsiders

I had some time to kill the other night so I stopped by the thrift store. I was about to leave without finding anything when I spotted a pair of Topsiders.

Normally causal shoes (and really most shoes) at the thrift store are in less than desirable condition, but these Topsiders looked almost unworn. On top of that, they were my size, and only $7.50! So I snagged them, sprayed them with a little Lysol when I got home, and then were good to go the next day.

Very little wear on the sole
I've got a pair of the Authentic Originals in the classic dark brown with white soles, but I think that the pair is actually much easier to wear, and more practical during the colder months.

The footbeds were in good shape (the indentation is from my insole)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Cocktail reviews from EJ Forbes' blog

I've written before about the great job that Ed Forbes does on his blog writing about different cocktails. Since I started reading his blog, I've tried making one of his cocktails each weekend. Here are the ones I have tried so far, along with my thoughts on some of them.

Scotch sour- This is pretty much your basic whiskey sour, though the scotch does add a slightly different flavor. I have to admit that this was the first whiskey sour I had ever made not using sour mix. It was pretty tart; I think the lemon could be cut back a little bit.

Knickerbocker- Basically just a gin martini (redundant, I know) with a dash of sweet vermouth. I usually have a hard time drinking martinis, but just the dash of sweet vermouth made this a very pleasant drink.

Black Feather- I tried this one last weekend and really enjoyed it. Maybe a little heavy on the cointreau, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, but there is a good depth of flavor here.

Between the Sheets- I usually avoid drinks with silly/sexual names, but this one was pretty good. I'd suggest boosting the gin a little bit.

Boss Tweed- This one was good as well, though I would cut back on the lemon juice as I found it somewhat overwhelming.

Satan's Whiskers- This was really a nice drink as well. Pretty well balanced.

Check out all the rest of Ed's cocktails over on his blog. I'm sure that you can find at least one (or two, or three) that strike your fancy, assuming you have a taste for fairly classic cocktails.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

LL Bean Continental Rucksack: Then and Now

Chris Robinson from R and R Review (which is desperately in need of an update) pointed these out to me today, and I don't think I had ever seen them before. He was looking for a bag in anticipation of an upcoming trip to the Continent, and I believe that these are on his short list. I think these bags highlight a job-well-done on Bean's part of offering a classic item, as well as an updated version, so that they might satisfy customers who are looking for both.

According to the website, the Waxed Cotton Continental Rucksack is based on a bag that was originally introduced in 1930. It has all of the old school detail one could want: classic styling, waxed cotton construction, buckling leather straps, and (synthetic) shearling shoulder straps. Overall, this is a very handsome bag, and I think that one would be hard-pressed to find a better option if they were looking for this style of bag. And at $90, it is fairly reasonably priced.

The Classic Continental Rucksack is clearly a modern interpretation of the previous bag. While I am typically opposed to this sort of thing, I think that Bean did a good job of keeping the spirit and design of the original while giving it the modern features (zippers, recycled polyester construction, modern styling) to allow it to be a competitive choice with similar bags. And at $40, the price is really hard to beat.

If I had to choose one, believe it or not, I'd probably have to go with the waxed cotton one. It would be a tough decision, though.

Monday, February 1, 2010

"Hipster's Guide to Birmingham"

Photo credit: latfh

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you'll know that two of the softest spots I have in my heart are for Birmingham and for hipsters. Sometime, in spite of not being a hipster, I am really aware of the hipster culture in the Magic City, but for those of you who are not as informed, someone on freeThinkBham (some sort of Birmingham young people's Marxist website that I am not generally endorsing) created the "Hipster's Guide to Birmingham." After reading it, I think they did a pretty good job and pretty much covered all of the bases. I liked the fact that friends of mine helped start two of the businesses mentioned in the guide (Urban Standard and Bici Coop). If this sounds like something that's up your alley, give it a read.

*Hat tip to Carrie Rollwagen for posting this on Facebook and bringing it to my attention