Retail stores are opening earlier than ever to try to catch the wave of Black Friday shoppers — see disgruntled Wal-Mart employees for more information and kvetching — but a scan of the ads thus far isn’t offering too much incentive to risk life and limb at a midnight — excuse me, 8 p.m., whatever — store opening. A few retailers even started their deals online today (probably a boon to public safety), and many more will put their deals online starting Thanksgiving so shoppers can sit at home in PJs bloating on turkey instead of sitting in a pup tent outside Best Buy.
There are the standard cut-rates on third-tier flat-panel TVs. Wal-Mart is selling an iPad for the same price that the Apple store charges, but is throwing in a $75 gift card with purchase. Other stores are offering “doorbusters” that amount to 25-50 percent off or so. In other words, nothing you can’t find in winter and summer clearance periods.
Yes, I’m a huge fan of off-season shopping. I’m also a longtime advocate of the bargain hunt, considering I’ve always been a fashionista label-snob but have always drawn a journalist’s salary. And even when I started making more money, I was set in my ways: Why buy regular price when redlines exist? Hunting for bargains, with years of strategy and wins under one’s belt, is a sport of sorts. Unfortunately, days like Black Friday are turned into a full-contact sport — see the case of the Wal-Mart worker trampled to death in 2008. And there’s a bit of disappointment, as a fiscal conservative, to see people throwing things in the cart en masse that may not be the best deal after all.
So in the interest of shopping diplomacy, here are a few things to watch as you shop.
A thousand apologies, my friend! Congratulations and many many more! Go wish him Encore!
And See posts from The Manolo here at PJ Lifestyle:
If you ever want to start a lively conversation among aging baby boomers just ask the question, “What was your first rock concert?”
There is a definite pecking order of impressive answers.
First, is the Beatles. (I have a close friend who wins this prize.) Second, is Led Zeppelin and then there are many possible answers for third place.
For example, my husband’s first concert was The Who, an acceptable contender. Mine was Jimi Hendrix and if you continue reading you might decide to award me the bronze medal for third.
It was June of 1970, and to celebrate our graduation from Newman Junior High in Needham, Massachusetts, three girlfriends and I went to see Jimi Hendrix.
Hendrix was performing at the now iconic Boston Garden, torn down in 1997, but then the home of basketball’s Boston Celtics and hockey’s Boston Bruins.
As we left the subway station and walked towards the concert, a store with the name Now Shop caught our attention. As 15-year-olds we were attuned to all the social and cultural changes taking place, but this store actually offered us the opportunity to change our look from suburban school-girls to “now.”
Shelves were lined with everything needed to dress like a hippie. There were tie-dye shirts, headbands, sandals, peasant blouses, fringed vests, peace symbols and of course piles of love beads. We all were salivating at the merchandise and bought as much as our meager budgets would allow.
My purchases included a small suede pouch with rawhide ties and two love bead necklaces. Now that the Now Shop transformed our look and our attitude, we were ready for Jimi Hendrix.
On stage he lived up to his reputation playing all his great hits including my two favorites, Foxy Lady and Purple Haze.
Hendrix was an amazing performer, but it was the entire rock concert experience that blew me away. The smells, (you know what I mean) the energy of the crowd, and above all, the excitement of being 15 and feeling a part of something that was so hip, cool and “now.” Yes, the times were a changin’ and we were part of that change.
Just seeing Jimi Hendrix would have been memorable enough, but, as fate would have it, this Boston Garden concert on June 27, 1970 was to be his last.
Less than two months later on September 18th, Jimi Hendrix died at the age of 27 of a drug overdose.
Throughout my life I have felt an emotional connection to Jimi Hendrix since his last concert was my first. In fact, I even mentioned this concert as one of my classic rock credentials in the first installment of this silly series.
Now, what shall we drink as you listen to the actual recording of Jimi’s last concert, showcased at the top of this piece?
Since you are reading about an event that happened to me 42 years ago, that means I am old and old people must drink lots of red wine to sustain their heart health.
The cheap wine recommendation this week is Acacia Pinot Noir. The label reads: “An elegant wine with strong black cherry flavors and an unexpected hint of violet and spice that we believe conveys the essence of California Pinot Noir.”
Yea, yea, who writes this label dribble? I just like the stuff, especially when it is on sale, but can never taste the flavors the label says I am supposed to taste.
So let’s raise our glasses to the legendary music of Jimi Hendrix and a group of once “hip” 15-year-olds who wore love beads to their first rock concert that turned out to be both historic, tragic and unforgettable.
Unless you’re a Hipster, eyeglasses are a major pain: kids wearing them get bullied, they’re expensive, they don’t play well with sports, and they can’t make up for perfect 20/20 vision. Finally, there may be a cure for nearsightedness (“Myopia”) on the horizon. Biomedical scientist David Trolio has experimented with a new contact lens that prevents the eye from malforming at a young age in the first place, by refocusing light as it hits the eye. He and his colleagues at State University of New York (SUNY) College of Optometry “successfully reduced the elongation of the eye that causes myopia progression.”
I wonder if this technology will work for adults? I wonder how young one has to be to get it done? I guess the rest of us will just have to deal with the bullying (really?), the cost (what about Costco?) and the imperfect vision. I am tired of wearing glasses and having vision problems but look how long it’s taken to perfect Lasik (and it’s still not great). Will this technology be that much better? I hope so.
Image via shutterstock / wavebreakmedia
Did you guys read about Elizabeth Hurley’s line of sexy kiddie bikinis?
Much like the author of the article, for me, the problem is a combination of two things – the bikini itself and the child model’s pose or, I should say, the pose she was instructed to do by someone. If she had floaties on her arms and was building a sandcastle, I might not have focused as much on the pint-sized string bikini. What really bothered me, however, was the wording that apparently went along with the pictures on Hurley’s site, such as a caption next to a bikini for the 8-13 age range, which said “great for girls who want to look grown up”. I checked out her site, elizabethhurley.com, to see for myself, and received an error message. I can only assume her reps are doing some damage control with regards to either the pictures or the descriptions.
It’s even worse when you go to Hurley’s website — which is still very much up. Here’s a screenshot from the UNDER 8 page which I’m not all that happy about posting here, but which seems necessary to preserve as evidence:
Vesta poses the usual questions to stir up debate about whether it’s better for young girls to wear very adult swimwear.
Here are a few questions that were on my mind: how do the fathers of the girls wearing these swimsuits look at themselves in the mirror in the morning? Do these men actually feel comfortable taking their girls in public with strangers seeing them dressed like this? Are they in denial about the damage done to an 8-year-old girl training to be “sexy” or do they not care? Or would most fathers today be proud of daughters growing up to be underwear models and porn stars?
Lady Gaga went all out to shock at the Phillip Treacy show at London Fashion Week when she arrived at the event dressed in a burqa covered in raccoon tails. She later swapped the outfit for a floral headress. Check out the photos.
The once anti-fur star has once again shocked with her fondness for animal skins, having previously been seen wearing fur while on tour in Bulgaria. During her visit to London Fashion Week over the weekend, Lady Gaga was spotted wearing a cream-coloured burqa with raccoon tails, a pink sheet and a floral headdress.
When she was previously spotted wearing fur, Animal rights group PETA compared her a ‘mindless Kim Kardashian’ before Gaga later attempted to defend her choice to dress in animal skin.
“You see a carcass, I see a museum pièce de résistance,” she wrote in an official statement on her choice to wear fur.
There have been Lady Gaga burka wearing scandals before of course, but nevertheless the sight of the 26 year-old wearing yet another one at the London Fashion Week has had the media talking once again. The Born This Way star can often flash the flesh as much as cover up, but it was latter she opted for this time out as she wore a burka-style outfit adorned with racoon tails, having modelled at the PHILIP TREACY Fashion Week Show.
Gaga – being Gaga – decided to up the controversy levels one step further though, and accessorised the look with a bright pink and yellow bag, with diamantes that spelt out the word c***. Oh Gaga. It was one of a few odd outfits worn by the pop star during the course of the day: earlier on, The Sun had spotted her wearing black leggings and a white jacket topped off with a pair of Mickey Mouse ears.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
I must commend Kathy Shaidle for effortlessly encapsulating what is most likely to earn a man a boost on the sexy scale. It really is quite simple. If I could offer an even more thoroughly abridged version, it would be: get some nice clothes, learn a few skills really well, and look people in the eyes when you talk to them.
One of Kathy’s lines, however, touched me in particular:
No one is ever surprised to learn that [Mark] Steyn is a big James Bond fan.
As a shameless Bond fan myself, I must comment on this. There is a tendency to view Bond fans as the equivalent of, say, Trekkies or gamers or sci-fi geeks: we are lumped in with sophomoric wannabes living in a fantasy world. I find, however, that most male Bond fans are much more dedicated to transforming themselves into their fictional hero (or a more realistic analogue) than are the sci-fi crowd.
Allow me to traffic in a few stereotypes here. Think of every comic-book geek you’ve ever known. Do any of them ever make an effort to transform themselves into the manly heroes they idolize? No. Most of them are idle, indolent, and inactive. If they’re scrawny, they don’t work out. They can’t fight, and they don’t take up boxing. They wear ugly super-hero shirts and argue over the canonical minutiae of whether Yoda’s lightsaber style would beat Mace Windu’s. This is horrendously un-sexy to females of any age.
What’s the female equivalent of “I’ll never get an erection again”?
I experienced that abysmal sensation when I learned that actor Alan Rickman was directing a play about deceased Jew-hater “activist” Rachel Corrie (or, as I like to call her, “St. Pancake”).
You see, women’s sexual fantasies are notoriously… odd, as anyone who’s read Nancy Friday’s 1970s sensation My Secret Garden can attest. (I’ll give you Mr. Spock, ladies. But Terry-Thomas?! Seriously?)
And up until the day he broke my, er, heart, my idea of a big thrill would’ve been sitting on Alan Rickman’s lap while he read aloud from the Manhattan telephone directory.
His face has been politely and aptly described as “anachronistic,” and he’s not as young as he used to be. And now we learn he’s a leftist.
But that voice!
(What are you laughing at?)
Yes, gentlemen, you can fake a British accent and maybe get lucky (unless you happen to be in Britain at the time, where your American one will do the trick). But a permanently sexy voice is a gift.
Rather than focus on the things you can’t change, why not consider those you can?
There’s a new documentary out of Italy that’s making the rounds in film circles, and followers of fashion — by which I mean everyone, because don’t we all need to get dressed in the morning? — should take note. It’s called “Schuberth: l’Atelier della Dolce Vita,” and it’s a charming profile of Emilio Federico Schuberth, a designer of alta moda (high fashion) in Rome during the heyday of Cinecitta.
Active from the 1940s through the 1960s, Schuberth was the “tailor to the stars.” The fashion faithful made pilgrimages to his atelier on the Via Condotti; his creations were worn by Rita Hayworth, Brigitte Bardot, Princess Soraya, Sophia Loren, and Gina Lollobrigida. In a 1954 photograph, we see Lollobrigida chatting with Marilyn Monroe; with its sensuous silhouette and artful draping, the Italian actress’s pink Schuberth dress is infinitely superior to the frankly unimaginative white conical-bra-with-skirt number worn by our brainy, busty blonde.
Now, remember that scene in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita where ellegantly attired models navigate a catwalk, while there at the back, a shy young woman stands with her clipboard, sweetly melting with excitement to be part — even peripherally — of such a stylish scene? That’s a Schuberth fashion show. And today, so many years on, that celluloid parade of poetry in motion still has the power to move viewers to want to pursue a career in fashion.
Even those who were destined to follow fashion as a career, the ones born into garment-business families — like Carla Fendi and Lavinia Biagiotti, who both provide commentary in the film — take on the air of starstruck teens at an early Beatles concert when speaking of Schuberth. At the height of his fame, Schuberth was called the “Italian Dior.” But such is his ongoing relevance that today he invites comparison to designers who rose to fame after him: Gianni Versace, Jean Paul Gaultier.
Today, Schuberth the fashion icon is largely forgotten. Googling the name yields … a German manufacturer of motorcycle helmets and protective headgear for Formula One racers and industrial workers. Everyone’s familiar with Valentino, the designer beloved by movie stars who got his start in fashion at Schuberth’s atelier, as the style sorceror’s apprentice. But Valentino’s first boss was a prescient pioneer, a marketing genius with an ambition that dwarfed his already-small petite stature.
Well before Halston would make his memorable appearance on TV’s “The Love Boat” in 1981, surrounded, rock-star-style, by model-groupies wearing his designs, Schuberth knew how to make the scene, a pack of live, Schuberth-clad mannequins always in tow. He was a pioneering publicity hound, delighted to appear in countless promotional newsreels and even going so far as to milk his own daughter’s nuptials for maximum attention — engraved on the wedding invitation was the fashion credit “gown by Schuberth,” long before Joan Rivers and an army of red-carpet commentators would focus media attention on award-show attire.
Manolo says, your papers please:
For me this gets to the heart of the whole question of non-regulation of fashion blogging, which has been celebrated as triumph of democracy in a dictatorial world (now everyone has a voice!) but also poses the dangers of opinion being automatically taken seriously, with no real knowledge on the part of the reader about the person opining, and the depth of what they may, or may not, know.
I’m not saying all fashion bloggers are dangerous (that would be a little hypocritical, no?), but maybe it is worth thinking about some sort of registry, or official database that requires certain disclosures that are verifiable.
The Manolo’s first reaction to this was, “Wait, the Financial Times has the Fashion Editor? Who knew?”
His second reaction, this is egregiously stupid.
Undoubtedly, this opinion, which is not entirely uncommon among the high nabobs of high fashion, is being driven by two things: the toppling of the centralized power of fashion editors at all levels, and the desire of big fashion advertisers to control what can and cannot be said about them.
The not so little secret is that fashion editors have long been complicit in making sure that the advertisers were treated properly, with special fawning photo features, and little to no negative coverage.
And now? While many style bloggers are nothing more than paid touts, many more, who remain independent, are not afraid of reporting honestly on, or even ridiculing high fashion flummery and balderdash.
All the Manolo can say is, welcome to the new era, Financial Times Fashion Editor.
Science proves what we have long known, that the shoes you wear say much about your personality.
Researchers at the University of Kansas found that people were able to correctly judge a stranger’s age, gender, income, political affiliation, emotional and other important personality traits just by looking at the person’s shoes.
Lead researcher Omri Gillath found that by examining the style, cost, color of condition of the shoe, participants were able to guess about 90 percent of the of the owner’s personal characteristics.
Researchers found that observers did well in guessing characteristics of the volunteers in almost all categories, and concluded that people do wear shoes that reveal their personality, whether they intend to or not.
Expensive shoes belonged to high earners, flashy and colorful footwear belonged to extroverts and shoes that were not new but appeared to be spotless belonged to conscientious types.
Stop the presses! Expensive shoes are worn by the high earners, and colorful feetwear adorn the toes of the extroverts! Who could have imagined such earth-shattering results!
But there is more…
Practical and functional shoes generally belong to agreeable people, ankle boots fit with more aggressive personalities and uncomfortable looking shoes were worn by calm personalities.
People with “attachment anxiety” or people that were most worried about their relationships generally had brand new and well-kept shoes. Researchers suggest that this may be because they worry so much about their appearance and what others may think of them.
Not surprisingly, liberal thinkers, who many think of as flip-flop wearing hippies, wear shabbier and less expensive shoes.
But what about the limousine liberals? Would they be caught dead in the pair of hippie monk sandals?
So, in the other words, the Birkenstocks say exactly what you imagine they would.
Naturally, the Manolo has much more to say about this at his humble shoe blog.
Ah, being a woman rocks. Especially this time of year, when the Victoria’s Secret Semi-Annual Sale rolls around. This morning, Angel cardholders received the email invitation to dive into the online sale early. Being a shopping ninja, I’ve learned some tips and tricks over the years to make the most out of this little-unmentionables bargain-a-thon.
1. The winter sale is better than the summer one. Why? Because the week after the in-store sale starts, it’s major closeout time with all clearance bras dropping to about $15 — even if the bra was a $125 Christmas special edition — and panties going for $2.99. In some stores, like Connecticut Avenue in D.C., all sleepwear is also half off the last marked price, so you’re getting the Pillowtalk Tank PJ, regular price $49.50, for $15. Prices also drop late in the online sale. Because the summer sale is shorter, doesn’t have as good of a selection, and is not as price-dropping as the winter one, get the things you want quickly in the summer one.
2. Shortly before the sale begins, Victoria’s Secret will start teasing loyalists with sale offers — hold fast and save up for the real deal. The only one that’s a better bargain than the SAS is the 7 for $26 panty sale that VS held in store and online this past weekend — they come out to $3.71 per pair, better than the $3.99 sale price.
3. When the online sale starts, pick up matching sets first and any neutrals you may want. While Victoria’s Secret has gorgeous colors and prints, these will be in plentiful supply both later in the online sale and in stores. And later in the sale, it’s more of a hunt to find matching bras and panties.
4. The sale is the time to try one of the new lines of bras that you hadn’t wanted to try at full price. But buy that sample piece early enough so that there are still others colors left if you’re smitten and want to go back to buy more.
5. The in-store sale, which begins nearly two weeks after the online sale begins, generally has better deals on beauty products (like 75 percent off fragrances) and on sleepwear. If there are prints you want in the Angel sleep T’s, though, the 2 for $39.50 deal online is comparable to the $19.99 markdown in stores.
Last week John Hawkins wrote about 5 Behaviors That Make You Trash. Right on! I’d like to go a few steps further and expand on the subject of public decency. There was a time in this country where public decency laws were actually enforced. It’s time to bring that back. The consequences for committing any of the following crimes in my world would result in hard labor in Sheriff Arpaio’s tent city.
As if it’s not bad enough to wear bike shorts to the grocery store, this guy’s spandex had a hole the size of a CD on his left inner thigh. He didn’t notice that there was a breeze around the man-meat? Or notice the chaffing when he pedaled his bike around town? Really? I assure you that hole in the thigh area was at least 4 inches in diameter. I tried multiple times to get a better shot but was a little afraid I’d get caught. If you look closely, you’ll see skin on the left upper thigh peeking out. We all hope it’s just leg skin.
Bike shorts are the equivalent of a Speedo at the beach. Most people don’t want to see the contours of the male form hugged tightly by spandex while they’re buying eggs (or at any other time).
Women on the campaign trail, be it candidates or candidates’ wives, are more likely to get into trouble for the cost of their wardrobe if it clashes with the economic realities of the day — stubborn unemployment, a burst housing bubble, recession, on and on.
On the GOP side, it was Ann Romney’s $990 Reed Krakoff bird blouse, and Callista Gingrich’s love for St. John at Neiman Marcus while Newt sat in the Bored Man Chair reading a book and her personal shopper sifted through the racks. The Gingriches, already taking heat for shopping sprees at Tiffany’s, were conscious enough of how this looked politically that they halted the Neiman Marcus trips during the campaign.
Over at the White House, it’s Michelle Obama’s $950 Comme des Garcons skirt worn to meet military families in a mess hall, or wearing $2,000 to $3,000 L’Wren Scott cardigans to mark Take Your Child to Work Day and greet troops at Fort Stewart, Ga.
Taxpayers aren’t footing the bill for these women’s closets, so should it be our business?
It may not be anyone’s business, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a campaign issue. Perception is everything, and when you’re trying to tell the downtrodden that you’re solidly in their corner, standing firmly on your Jimmy Choos, it opens the door for criticism and puts the focus on your pricey couture rather than your policies.
But I’d never tell a woman to give up her couture, as much as I understand that love. I’d simply advise her to acquire it in a smarter way.
I love fashion. I love the drape and feel of label-snob clothes, the smell of a leather label-snob handbag, the craftsmanship and curves of label-snob shoes, and am rarely seen without Dior sunglasses on my face or pushed up on my head. And yet, being a full-time journalist my whole adult life hasn’t exactly left me wealthy. Thus, over the years I’ve perfected the art of fashionista label-snobbery on a real-people salary.
When I made just $35,000 a year in Southern California, I was wearing $300 Emanuel Ungaro tops nabbed at the local Off 5th (Saks Fifth Avenue outlet) for $30. When Isaac Mizrahi launched his first buzzed-about Target line, I was fetching Isaac python flats at that outlet for $10. I got a $600 Oscar de la Renta cocktail dress for $40, a $540 Anne Klein wool and cashmere coat for $35, and on and on.
It’s the season premiere of Mad Men! I’m in my Brooks Brothers suit with a rye whiskey, an unlit Lucky, a dead man’s Purple Heart in my pocket — took some poking around the vintage stores for that one, let me tell you. After Mad Men caught on everyone wanted one, I guess. My wife is wearing a sharp form-fitting dress, and she’s wearing Peggy-style season-1 bangs, and as soon as the show starts we’ll turn off the lamp — the one where the lamp base is a ceramic cat with a long neck — and settle in for the first show in a year and a half.
That’s how you’re supposed to do it, right? Cosplay for web designers? Dress-up fun for adults who want to act like, well, adult adults. Perhaps. Not for me. Please. It’s like watching Twin Peaks with a bunch of people carrying logs or dressed in FBI black, telling each other they’d like a damn fine piece of pie. (Or “Eip fo eceip inef nmad a,” if you’re short and walking funny.) That sounded like hell, too.
When a show becomes an object of cultish adoration, and the fans assemble to worship together, there’s always that moment when it’s just . . . not as good as you expected. Or hoped. Or remembered. Something’s off; they’re straining to connect with the things they once did with ease. You realize you’re just there for the clichés: a Don Draper Line of Insight (TM), a Roger Sterling moment of nonchalant dissipation. Peggy being the Smartest Bestest Person in the Business, as well as an obtuse and humorless drip. Hey, maybe Sal will come back from the bushes. Maybe Betty will do something so unexpected she turns into an interesting character.
Maybe it’ll even be about advertising again. All right, be back in two hours.
Nothing happened. Nothing usually does; that’s life. This isn’t a complaint. The soap-opera elements of the show — divorce! infidelity! pregnancy! — aren’t the reasons people watch it. People watch it to see Roger Sterling breeze into the room and announce that the lobby is full of Negroes. Also the clothes.
There you are, watching The Game… or A Game. It’s cold, as it is when watching The Game, but your throat is dry and scratchy from yelling. A man heads your way selling beer. Do you: A) Hold the beer with your mittened hands, and hope you don’t drop it; or B) Take off your mittens and freeze your fingers? Well now you have a third choice.
The Skuuzi is a warm (looking) mitten with a built in beer-bottle (or cup) holder. We live in awesome times, don’t we. It doesn’t get much better than this. Oh hang on… I don’t go to football games (you can see better on TV), I don’t live in Green Bay, and I don’t drink beer. Oh well, it’s still an terrific invention.
The Skuuzi company’s website touts this as a Scandinavian koozi (beer can keeper-cooler thingie). But Skuuzi apparently, or at least on their US Trademark office application is run out of a townhouse in Greenwich Village. It worked for Haagen Dazs.
This is one of those reviews that will appeal to a very limited audience — those who practice what Tom Wolfe once referred to as “the Secret Vice.” And I have to confess: I consider myself a (junior) member of that club. I like getting dressed up. I like suits, braces, cufflinks, ties, patterned socks, captoed shoes, and dinner jackets. And I like learning about their history.
Mind you, I don’t get especially dressed up every day: I usually wear jeans and a buttondown shirt when blogging, as opposed to PJM’s original namesake garb. But when I go out for dinner, particularly on the weekend or during holidays, I like to look good.
There, I said it. Still with me?
If you’re not, I can understand. Ever since the 1970s, after the era depicted in Mad Men concluded, being well dressed has often been seen as a slightly strange affectation for a man. And yet, to get through life (including job interviews, office work, family gatherings, weddings, upscale restaurants, and other events), there are certain sartorial skills that a man must have.
Fortunately, they’re easily acquired.
At the height of the Silicon Valley boom in the late 1990s, several friends of mine, all in their 40s or 50s, who hadn’t gone on job interviews in ages, each asked me what to wear to them. And in each case, I simply handed them my copy of Alan Flusser’s 1985 book, Clothes and the Man and said, “read this.”
The Long Polyester Hibernation
Confession number two: I wasn’t always much interested in clothes. I became aware of Clothes and the Man in the mid-1980s, when I was in college, having graduated from a 13-year K through 12 hitch at St. Mary’s Hall (now known as Doane Academy) in New Jersey, a private college prep school where I wore a blue blazer, blue buttondown shirt, striped tie and gray trousers every weekday.
Not surprisingly, I left St. Mary’s more than a little confused about what to wear next, especially since simultaneously, menswear was coming out of its long polyester hibernation and into a brief moment of style (Wall Street “power suits,” Miami Vice pastels, suits worn by rock stars in MTV videos, etc.). Of course, with the possible exception of those who were very careful buying their power suits, most ’80s fashion dated very badly, leaving lots of men — including myself — with more than a few momentarily stylish skeletons in their closets. Clothes and the Man helped me avoid many further mistakes: the suits and sports jackets I bought prior to buying Flusser’s book around 1987 have long since been given to Goodwill. (Though I still have the psychedelic Bill Cosby sweater I bought from Boyds in Philadelphia in 1986, just to remind myself of the era.) Some of the clothes I’ve bought post-Flusser, I still wear from time to time, even after a quarter century of ownership.
Appropriate Styles That Will Last
That’s the whole point of Flusser’s most recent book, Dressing the Man: Mastering the Art of Permanent Fashion, which was first published in 2002: finding appropriate styles that flatter a man, and will last. Flusser’s book is copiously illustrated, with a combination of vintage photographs of the usual suspects (Cary Grant, Fred Astaire, the Duke of Windsor, Adolphe Menjou, Lucius Beebe, etc.), newly photographed men in a plethora of styles, and classic illustrations from the golden era of such publications such as Apparel Arts, the beautiful 1930s-through the 1950s forerunner of both GQ and Esquire, which I talked to Michael Anton about, back in October.
I don’t want to give the impression that Flusser’s book is merely a photo and illustration-heavy coffee table book without substance. Like his previous books (and frankly, if you own Clothes and the Man, you might want to thumb through Dressing the Man before buying it, unless you get obsessive over this stuff like I do), Flusser has lots of practical advice on his subject.
Dr. Helen’s new post quotes an excerpt from a new book on weight reduction and exercise, whose authors claim:
The covers of Playboy, Playgirl, Vogue, and Cosmopolitan, she claims, set our standards for attractiveness, not the reverse. According to [Femnist/would-be Goracle advisor Naomi] Wolf and others of her opinion, there is no universal standard for human beauty. Were we not programmed by advertisers and the entertainment industry, we would find a fat man or woman just as attractive and desirable as a thin one.
Years of serious scientific study, across numerous disciplines, prove otherwise. Our attraction to a pretty face and a flat belly is in our genes and is an atavistic throwback to a time when such features represented health and the ability to reproduce—important requirements in the selection of a mate. As Harvard Professor Deirdre Barrett puts it, these deep-seated universal standards of beauty “reflect our evolutionary need to estimate the health of others from their physical characteristics.”
I think I disagree with their disagreement — if only because…isn’t everything aesthetics at this point? And for most people — certainly those on the left who’ve discarded traditional religion, aesthetics flow from the academy and pop culture. Speaking of the latter, in his book, Shows About Nothing, where Seinfeld meets Nietzsche (and you thought Jerry’s Superman statue was in his apartment because he was a DC, not Marvel guy), Thomas Hibbs, a professor of philosophy at Baylor University called it “the Pyrrhic victory of radical individualism:”
Instead of the nihilistic era eliminating rules, initiating a lapse into a kind of anarchy, there is a medley of rules with no clear relationship to one another. There is something capricious and comical in the continuing hold that rules have on us; they operate like taboos, making little or no sense but nonetheless exercising an irresistible psychological pressure. Seinfeld’s insight into the odd ways rules now function in our lives is a remarkable bit of comic genius. Nothing illustrates better the Pyrrhic victory of radical individualism. We have successfully thrown off the encumbrances of authority and tradition only to find ourselves subject to new, more devious, and more intractable forms of tyranny. Classical liberalism thought that the most just form of government was one that recognized the natural and inalienable rights of human beings to self-determination. There was a kind of naïve faith in the ability of untutored individuals to choose for the best, to act on the basis of their long-term interests. The belief was that the only rules to emerge from such a system would be rules reasonably consented to by a reflective majority or by their duly elected representatives. But the advent of democratic nihilism renders dubious the assumption of a link between autonomous individual choice and reason, between the fleeting desires of the self and the self’s long-term interests.
* * * * *
Each character on Seinfeld has his or her individual limits, but these are not moral limits; they are more like the limits of one’s personality or lifestyle. This is most pointedly illustrated in the episode where Jerry and George are suspected of being gay. They spend the entire episode vociferously denying the accusation and vigorously defending their heterosexuality. Yet after each denial, they feel compelled to add, “not that there’s anything wrong with that.” Like other conventions once thought to reflect a natural order, heterosexuality has become an inexplicable remnant from the past. Instead of the body as ensouled, as the locus for the reception and expression of meaning and intimacy, the body is now a neutral and mute collection of organs and parts. The parts can be manipulated to produce pleasure. In one episode, Elaine attributes her failure to persuade a homosexual to change “teams” to her limited access to the male “equipment.” When George’s mother surprises him and interrupts his self-stimulation, she objects to his treating his body like an “amusement park.” The fixation on the body does not unveil any deeper significance; it blinds the characters to the complementarity of the sexes. Seinfeld matter-of-factly confirms Renton’s revolutionary prophecy [in 1996's Trainspotting] that we’re heterosexual by default, that in one thousand years there will be no men and no women: “It’s all about aesthetics and f—k all to do with morality.”
And 21st century morality really is all about aesthetics at this point, isn’t it?
Yes, I find myself for once agreeing with the earth-toned, less than buttondown mind of Naomi Wolf. And I…am…ashamed.
With great joy I am happy to report that I’ve said goodbye to my ‘man bag’ and hello to the stylish Epiphanie ‘Belle’ camera bag developed exclusively for women.
In recent weeks, I have searched online for a new camera bag that would meet my technical and style aspirations The search lead me to Epiphanie — a website dedicated to the camera bag creations of Maile Wilson. Maile, a talented photographer in her own right, liberates women from the ‘man bag’ epidemic with her line of camera bags that are technically superb and oh so very stylish.
As more women enter into photography either as a hobby or a business, the need for camera bags that can securely hold equipment while maintaining a feminine look has grown tremendously. Maile’s creations have answered this need. The typical camera bag found in a camera store is designed strictly for functionality, with a bewildering choice of colors — black or dark grey. Most are designed to fit a man’s’ frame and style sensibilities. For example, my Lowepro Slingshot, while very functional, became annoyingly uncomfortable during long photo shoots. It truly became a pain in the neck.
After comparing the the camera bags on offer at Epiphanie, I chose the ‘Belle’ model in pink with a lime green interior. The website provides a detailed description of Belle:
Dimensions (LxWxH) 14x8x8inches. Exterior is water-resistant, high quality synthetic leather. Interior crafted with extra padding for maximum equipment protection. Velcro panels can be adjusted & moved to any position for maximum customization & flexibility. Removable cross-body strap with padding for extra support. Two exterior pockets. One interior pocket with zipper. Light colored interior so items can easily be found.
Ordering through the website, the bag arrived at my doorstep earlier than expected. As I unwrapped the new camera bag, a thank you card attached to the packing caught my eye. The camera bag itself is packaged within a custom-sized dust bag suitable to store the camera bag when not in use. Business cards with inspirational quotes inscribed on them were tucked into the three zippered pockets. I have give the designer an A plus for excellent positive marketing technique.
How does this bag stack up to my current photo bag, a Lowepro Slingshot? On a recent field trip to Winterthur Estate and Garden, I quickly appreciated how well this bag fit my frame. I spent less time readjusting the camera bag and more time was focusing on the landscape.
An immediate difference was realized in the increased amount of equipment stored in the Belle photo bag versus the Lowepro SlingShot. I was able to load the Belle camera bag holds the following items:
- One Canon Camera body with lens
- Two additional lenses
- External flash plus snoot
- Two point and shoot cameras
- Cocoon organizer
- Coin purse
- One coveted tripod pass
Below is a photo of the equipment I was able to pack into the Belle camera bag:
I have compiled a list of pros and cons based upon my personal use of the Belle camera bag.
- Weatherproof material. This is a deal breaker for any camera bag, if the bag is not weatherproof than I am not buying it.
- Padded customizable dividers. The dividers are of a good sized thickness with velcro tabs allowing customization within the interior of the bag.
- Small details, like the metallic camera charm attached to camera bag handle make a big impact.
- Padded shoulder strap. My neck is thanking me profusely.
- Stylish design that disappears when you are working on a photo shoot and is eye-catching when you are not.
- The design doesn’t project to the world “Hey, I have expensive photo equipment in here, come steal me.”
- The price. The camera bags range in price from US $154.99 through $184.99. Belle retails at US$164.99. You certainly can find camera bags that are less expensive, but I find the combination of style and function of these bags to be worth the extra dollars.
Overall, I am extremely impressed with the quality and functionality of this camera bag. I would highly recommend this camera bag to women who have graduated from a point and shoot camera into dSLR photography or a professional photographer looking for a bag she can carry on to the shoot then out on the town.
What caused Halloween to become a fall holiday on par with Thanksgiving and Christmas? When did the memo go out? A hundred years ago, when I was a young tike growing up in South Jersey, you wore a thin vacuformed polystyrene spaceman mask that attached to your head with an elastic band, and wore your regular clothes under what seemed like a gray Hefty bag with a NASA logo that tied in the back like a hospital gown, which your parents bought for you at the local Woolworth’s for $4.99 or so. You scored a few tiny Hershey or Three Musketeers bars, and your parents worried about you getting an apple with a razor blade or a shot of LSD inside. You watched It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown every year on Channel 10, along with John Facenda’s TV reports about Camden going up in flames annually during the previous night, and worried that the mayhem wasn’t going to spread to your neighborhood. (This New York Times article on Camden and Mischief Night found at the top of a Google search on the topic was published in 1992, but could have ran verbatim for every year prior for a quarter of a century or so.)
And once the candy was gone later that night or the next day, that was about it. Today though, Halloween is a major industry, and plenty of families put as much work into decorating the house for Halloween as they do for Christmas. One of my neighbors has a giant pirate ship in their front lawn for Halloween; others have turned their front lawns into haunted houses and grave yards, with plenty of cobwebs, skeletons, and come the witching hour, lots of smokey dry ice. But not everybody is happy with the rapid growth of the holiday. Or as Mollie Hemingway writes at Ricochet, “Could We Tone Down the Halloween Mania a Smidge?”
My last neighborhood (Capitol Hill, DC) had such dramatic Halloween celebrations that people came in from miles around. One neighbor used to recreate scary movies or videos (e.g. Friday the 13th, Michael Jackson’s Thriller) with actual actors and dancers.
Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of Halloween. But neither do I forbid my children from taking part. The older one will be a cheeseburger this year, the younger an Octopus. I do forbid any dressing up as anything scary or demonic, but just can’t bring myself to ban a holiday where people give my kids candy and tell them how cute they are.
But I did pause after reading this column from Amity Shlaes, headlined “Halloween’s Pagan Themes Fill West’s Faith Vacuum.” She notes that consumers are expected to spend $6.86 billion on Halloween this fall. Here’s how her piece concludes:
There’s a reason for the pull of the pagan. In the U.S., we’ve been vigorously scrubbing our schools and other public spaces of traces of monotheistic religion for many decades now. Such scrubbing leaves a vacuum. The great self-deception of modern life is that nothing will be pulled into that vacuum. Half a century ago, the psychologist Carl Jung noted the heightened interest in UFOs, and concluded that the paranormal was “modern myth,” a replacement for religion.
Children or adults who today relish every detail of zombie culture or know every bit of wizarding minutiae are seeking something to believe in. That church, mosque and synagogue are so controversial that everyone prefers the paranormal as neutral ground is disconcerting. There’s something unsettling about the education of a child who comfortably enumerates the rules for surviving zombie apocalypse but finds it uncomfortable to enumerate the rules of his grandparents’ faith, if he knows them.
Perhaps when walking down your street this Oct. 31, you’ll see a child in an Aslan costume, or one dressed as Caspian, C.S. Lewis’s prince. The “Narnia” series was Lewis’s premeditated effort to lure kids to Jesus Christ through myth. The manipulative Lewis was on to something: Parents can keep children away from religion, but they can’t stop children from believing in something.
Fans of the orange holiday may want to pause for a moment to look at the empty spaces between its rituals, as with the pumpkin’s smile. Some of us forgo it to dedicate ourselves to one faith or another. But you don’t have to reject Halloween to ask what it may be replacing.
Exactly. It’s worth at least being intentional in how we celebrate this holiday and it’s worth thinking about what we say by how we celebrate it.
So what are your thoughts on Halloween? Do you make a big deal about it? If so, why? What will you — and/or your kids — be trick or treating as?
Me? I’ll probably go out as Mick Jagger. Or at least his CPA.
(Thumbnail on homepage by Shutterstock.com)
Late last month, I spoke with Michael Anton, former speechwriter for Rupert Murdoch, George W. Bush and Condi Rice, and deputy foreign policy advisor for the 2008 Giuliani presidential campaign, on The Suit: A Machiavellian Approach to Men’s Style, his sartorially-oriented parody of Machiavelli’s The Prince, written in 2006 under the pen name of Nicholas Antongiavanni. As its subtitle and nom de fashion hints, it’s a book aimed towards businessmen, professionals and those entering the political arena on how to use the business suit to their advantage. I spoke with Michael in 2006 when the book first came out for a Tech Central Station article, and it seemed like a natural fit to do a follow-up here at the Lifestyle blog.
- How a man can improve his style while making a minimum of aesthetic and financial disasters.
- How does a businessman square looking sharp with the trend towards business casual?
- How does a politician use the rules of fashion to his advantage?
- Anton’s take on the no-tie look that seems to be catching on amongst the on-air talent on TV channels such as ESPN, CNN and MSNBC.
- The continuing influence of the artwork created for Apparel Arts, an otherwise forgotten 1930s-era publication (later spun-off into both GQ and Esquire), on menswear.
- We also discuss the fashion styles of Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. Unfortunately, we recorded this interview before Herman Cain’s recent rise in the polls, and I very much regret not getting Anton’s take on Cain’s sartorial choices. (Good excuse for a possible follow-up interview next year though.)
16 minutes long; click here to listen:
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For our previous podcasts at the Lifestyle blog, click here and keep scrolling.
Get down with your Superfly Parliament Funkadelic wardrobes, Babs and Kris!
(For our earlier look at this time capsule of just how terrifying the seventies could be, click here.)
In April of 1981, I was rolling through the aisles of a fascinating store in Freiburg im Breisgau, in (West) Germany. I’d moved to Germany on the day of Reagan’s inauguration, and after some months in a residential hotel I was moving into my own 12 square meter (129 square feet) apartment. I needed to furnish it, and my German friends had pointed me to this new store on the edge of town, a Swedish firm called IKEA.
I loved the stuff, and still do: the simple clean Scandinavian look has always appealed to me. It had other advantages: it was cheap, it could be broken down and packed if I decided to take anything back to the States with me, and it was cheap.
When I eventually came back to the US and moved to North Carolina, there was an IKEA store built between Richmond and Washington DC, a feasible drive in itself and also something I drove past fairly regularly, as my grad school was largely funded by DARPA and similar agencies. I’d almost always at least stop in and buy some elegant unnecessary plastic objects, kitchen stuff, a lamp, and eat in the cafeteria which specialized in things like Swedish meatballs and smoked reindeer brisket.
So, IKEA finally decided to build a store here in the Denver area, in Centennial. (James Michener fans: the town of Centennial, Colorado, is named after the fictional town of Centennial, Colorado, from Michener’s novel about Colorado history, Centennial. The fictional Centennial was roughly 50 miles north and roughly corresponds to the town of Greeley. Don’t say you haven’t learned anything today.) I was anxious to look it over, plus I’ve just moved into a house and need more furniture. Specifically, I wanted a really simple, round glass-topped dining table, and I was willing to bet IKEA would have it.
My mother decided she wanted to see it. (Insert sinister foreshadowing music here.) She’s 76, has great trouble walking due to hip troubles, has breathing troubles, is nearly blind, and has a continuing assortment of leg injuries from walking into things and/or falling.
This makes the IKEA trip into an Adventure. I checked, and IKEA does provide wheelchairs; I informed my mother we were getting a wheelchair. I get her in my car, we drive to IKEA about a half hour away, arriving at around 11AM.
Now the adventure begins: the store has so much traffic that there are temp workers in orange tabards, directing traffic with orange plastic wands into the parking lots.
Outlying parking lots.
The temp workers don’t know how to get to the Handicapped spaces, but they all either think they do or they don’t want to cope with the increasingly annoyed middle aged man driving: they direct me hither and yon and say “Oh I’ll radio ahead,” although to whom was unclear. We finally find a parking place close enough that Mom says she can walk that far. Park, get her out of the car. Start walking.
Surprise: the big sign that says ENTRANCE is just directions. The actual ENTRANCE is probably 200 years further through the parking garage — which is half-empty, there apparently being a special privilege sticker for garage parking that I don’t have. Um, 200 yards further, Freudian slip After several rest stops, we finally got into the ENTRANCE — which was actually the elevator lobby below the actual ENTRANCE.
There was a quotation above the elevator: “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.” It’s now about 11:30.
Up the elevator, and having now walked further than she probably has in years, Mom was ready for the wheelchair.
The fascination with Vogue engendered by the book and movie, The Devil Wears Prada begat the fascinating 2009 documentary, The September Issue, in which Vogue‘s imperious, inscrutable and impossible editrix, Anna Wintour, was completely upstaged by Grace Coddington, the flame-haired, Welsh-born creative director of the Conde-Nast fashion mag pictured above. Now word comes from The New York Observer that Coddington has landed a reportedly $1.2 million book deal with Random House to tell the tale of her 70 years here on Earth. And what a seven decades they’ve been. After a convent schooling in post-war Wales, she became a gorgeous model in 1960s London until a devastating car accident disfigured her face (later repaired through surgery, but ending her modeling career.) After two decades as Photograph Editor of British Vogue, she moved to New York to work with Calvin Klein, and then came on board at Vogue.
She stole the show from Wintour in the 2009 documentary about the editorial process by which the annual September issue of the magazine (the year’s biggest) is conceived, orchestrated, and created, about which, Kyle Smith of the New York Post wrote:
This peek inside the star chamber is juicy viewing on a number of levels. It’s a psychological portrait of Anna, powerful female executive, mother, daughter, perfectionist. It’s a front-row seat at how the albeit-impeccably-turned-out-but-sausage-nonetheless gets made at Vogue.
And perhaps most interestingly, it’s a snapshot of Paris before the Revolution, before the bottom fell out of the Park Avenue parquet, the world Wintour courted and documented so finely in the pages of her magazine.
Cut to the $2 million-a-year editor sipping her Starbucks in the back of a chaffeur-driven limousine that is her daily commute as the examples of a soon-to-be bygone era unfold.
As the pressure of producing a blockbuster issue mounts, Wintour jettisons $50,000 worth of photos from a shoot. One minute a designer dress is on a rack in the halls of Vogue, the next it is on her back. Heraldic assistants sounding the alarm of her arrival contrast nicely with viewers’ knowledge that, in real life, Condé Nast receptionists were all recently laid off.
Even if you don’t give a fig for fashion, it’s rare that you get to see Nero tuning up his fiddle as Rome is about to spontaneously combust.
While Wintour was almost a parody of Meryl Streep’s parody of Wintour in Prada, Coddington came across as a warm, genuinely creative, witty and loveble soul, whose passionate dedication to the glorious photographs in the issue and to her colleagues on the magazine’s staff stood in stark contrast to Wintour’s Antarctic silence and froideur.