Altum

A few years back, Jess was working as the CMO of a women’s shoes and accessories company that had a store on Elizabeth Street in Soho. Across the way was a store for Terra Plana, a minimalist shoe company that made Paleo-friendly, barefoot-mechanics-inspired footwear.

Philosophically, I loved Terra Plana; I was certain that shoes with a zero-drop, ultra-thin, flexible sole and a toe box wide enough to allow toe splay, would have huge positive health effects on feet, ankles, knees and hips.

But it took Jess just a quick glance through the window to form an even stronger counter-argument: the shoes looked like crap. There was no way I could wear them to work, she declared, and I certainly wouldn’t be wearing them out anywhere with her.

That’s why I was particularly excited to meet Jeff Mroz a year or so back. A fellow Yalie who played football for the Cowboys and the Eagles before heading back to b-school at Wharton, he was working on a handful of interesting projects. Among them, a line of barefoot shoes that actually looked good.

After a year of hard work, the result is Altum, which miraculously appears to be succeeding on both the fashion and function fronts. They’re taking pre-orders now for their first run, and I’d strongly encourage you to check them out.

A Frayed Knot

My great-grandfather, a prolific inventor, dreamed up the machine that’s used to this day to mass-produce men’s ties. (Not a savvy entrepreneur, he sold the design for a flat price, rather than taking a cut long-term, so my grandfather [like my own father] was born on the Lower East Side, rather than up on Park Avenue.)

My grandfather, a far better entrepreneur, ran a silk import business that sold fabric to a slew of high-end designers, for dresses, for shoes and in large part for ties.

A second generation tie guy, I remember my grandfather standing in front of the mirror, carefully forming his tie’s dimple, key touchpoint of sartorial sprezzatura. When my grandparents stayed with my brother and me at one point while my parents were out of town, he was the one who taught me how to tie a tie in the first place.

My own father provided much-needed touch-up lessons; like learning to drive a car, it’s easy to lose steps before the motor pattern is fully engrained. So tie-tying, it seemed, was sort of a family art. But I’d never given much thought to what kind of knot I was tying – four-in-hand, Pratt, half-Windsor, full Windsor, etc.

My grandfather was a believer in moderation in all things, a common-sense kind of guy. (At one point, I dropped my towel while ‘surfer-changing’ into a bathing suit at the pool near our house. Distressed, I told my grandfather I was worried a girl might have seen me. “Don’t worry about,” he advised; “If she’s never seen one, she won’t know what is; if she already has, it’s nothing new.”) From that, I assumed the family knot must have been something down the middle, like the half-Windsor.

Recently, hearing the phrase four-in-hand three times in one day, I decided to look up how to tie that knot. And, to try and make sense of the online diagram I found, I pulled up the half-Windsor, to compare to something I already knew. But neither the four-in-hand, nor the half-Windsor, were close to the knot I had grown up tying.

Instead, after some further Googling, it appears the Newman knot is a full Windsor, described by one tie instruction site as “a thick, wide and triangular tie knot that projects confidence” and by another as “the knot for special occasions”. It’s the kind of knot for a guy who takes ties seriously. A family tradition for a tie family. One that makes me think, even in today’s casual world, I should find a way to wear one more often.

Smell Ya Later

Cleaning out my closet this spring, I tossed at least a dozen t-shirts and button-downs whose armpits had yellowed beyond acceptability. I went online to see if any cleaning products might help (answer: Oxiclean, though not enough to save that deeply yellowed batch), and discovered more importantly that it’s not the sweat, but rather the acidic aluminum in antiperspirants, that drives the color shift in the first place.

Still, that new knowledge presented me with an ugly Catch-22: better to scare people off with pit-stains, or with pit-stink? I had tried deodorant (as opposed to antiperspirant) a few times in the past, due to concerns about aluminum’s healthfulness, and each time had quickly sweated my way out of thinking that was an even vaguely publicly-acceptable solution.

So it was with more than a little skepticism that, on a friend’s recommendation, I tried out MenScience Advanced Deodorant. The brand name “MenScience” sounded like something out of a Saturday Night Live commercial. The fact that it was unscented seemed even less likely to work (what did deodorant even do without antiperspirant, aside from masking scent?). And ‘active ingredients’ like tea tree extract and witch hazel made me feel like the stuff might be better sold at a booth at Burning Man.

Despite it all, it works. After a few days of use, I found that MenScience Advanced Deodorant, stupid name and all, left me with less armpit smell at the end of the day than even high-aluminum-content products like Certain Dri.

Color my armpits surprised. And not, for a change, yellow.

Know Your Audience

Over the past two decades, I’ve largely stuck with Old Spice deodorant, though I’ve been less loyal to specific scents:

 

  • Old Spice Original: I started with this one, which seems to have been designed and branded to impress old men, especially sea captains.
  • Pure Sport:Switched to this about ten years back, when Old Spice first expanded its line. Sporty! Though apparently meant to help guys impress other young, athletic men.
  • Swagger:A more recent addition to the Old Spice lineup. Perhaps their response to the rise of the Axe brand? Either way, as the first designed to attract women instead of other dudes, a reasonable switch.
  • Denali:Picked this up on Friday, as it was all my neighborhood Rite Aid had left in stock. Looking at the packaging post-shower, I am now concerned this means I’ve stopped trying to impress the ladies, and am instead working to impress wild animals.[Nota bene: According to the cap, Denali "smells like wilderness, open air & freedom." According to Jess, it smells more like a teenage girl wearing CK One.]

Bag It

Filson.jpg

Just over a year ago, I blogged about the search for a new laptop bag – one I could use to carry my computer back and forth from work, while traveling, etc.

At the time, I got a slew of suggestions from frieds and readers, none of which, frankly, were quite right.

Then, last summer, while we were in a high-end department store in London, Jess spotted and bought for me a great bag that fit the bill perfectly. Unfortunately, price tag notwithstanding, it was a piece of crap, and after just a few months of use, it started to self-destruct.

Along the way, however, someone pointed out that the bag was, essentially, a knocked-off Filson. So, based on that, I just picked up a Filson Original Briefcase. The style was perfect, and the company’s reputation made clear the bag should last the same decade of wear I’ve gotten out of my now retiring Ghurka.

I’ve had the new bag for only a day or two, but so far, so good. For any of the dozen or so guys who wrote in to say they were similarly on the search, in case you still are, give it a look.

Murse Wanted

For the past few years, I’ve carried a Ghurka bag to work:

ghurka.jpeg

Which, I’ve always thought, was a reasonably fashionable alternative to a laptop bag.

Jess, however, thinks otherwise. I’d always written that off as a minor disagreement in taste. At least until last week, when we were out with a fashion designer friend of hers, who literally burst into hysterical laughter at the sight of the bag.

So, in short, I’m now on the search for a replacement.

I already own a Jack Spade messenger bag, which is perfectly suited to weekend jaunts. But it doesn’t fit my laptop, and carrying it slung across the chest quickly crushes a pressed suit.

What I’m looking for, then, is a laptop-friendly (in case it matters, a 15″ MacBook Pro), work-appropriate bag. Ideally one with handles, and a strap I can wear over just one shoulder when needed. One with room for documents and other odds and ends along with the computer. And, most importantly, one that’s suitably fashionable – equal parts British preppy and New England outdoorsy WASP. Or, at least, one that doesn’t look like it might best be paired with a pith helmet.

Lazy-web, please let me know.

Light Dressing

With the season sublimating from winter to summer, I’ve realized I have no presentable warm-weather clothes.

My favorite khakis have developed a blue stain over the right, habitually pen-carrying pocket. My polos have stretched far from their original shape. And even my plain t-shirts, over the course of too many washings, have shrunk down to what Jess recently described as baby t’s.

She kicked off the fix yesterday, buying me a pair of light-blue khakis, grosgrain flip-flops, and a summer-weight checked button-down. So, at least once a warm week, I can look presentable.

But, I suspect, one outfit isn’t enough to take me from here to fall. So, it’s time to purge my closet, construct a plan of attack, and start shopping. Beau Brummel, eat your heart out.

Helpful Hint

If you’re a student looking for an internship or post-college job, khakis and a medium-blue button-down don’t say “professional”.

They say “dickbag”.

(And, if you must, for god’s sake: brown shoes, brown shoes.)

Square

Until recently, I’d never worn a pocket square, assuming they inevitably took a suit or blazer to the far side of that fine line between ‘fashionable’ and ‘foppish’.

But, a few months back, for reasons I no longer exactly recall, I picked one up. And, wearing it, I started started getting compliments. Not on the pocket square itself, but on the suit. And not just from friends and colleagues, but from cashiers, doormen, waitresses and security guards.

So, feeling adventurous, I picked up two more. A different check, and an emboidered white. I tried them in the breast pockets of other suits and jackets, and the results were the same. People liked my clothing better. Not just the pocket sqares, but the whole outfits.

I’m still not sure exactly why this happens. Perhaps it’s an Emperor’s New Clothes effect – an assumption that anyone with a pocket square must take fashion seriously, and, consquently, that whatever they’re wearing must be fashionable.

Or perhaps it’s just that a pocket square is slightly unusual enough to catch people’s attention, to cause them to look at something – a suit – they’d otherwise largely ignore.

Whatever the reason, though, it works. By now, a jacket looks almost naked to me without a handkerchief in the front pocket.

But don’t take my word for it. In the last month, I’ve spotted pics of Tom Brady, Jay-Z, Daniel Craig, and Nicholas Sarkozy all sporting poking pocket squares. Not a bad crowd with whom to keep company.

Under Dress

Thursday morning, Jess and I head down to rural Maryland for the wedding of one of my good high school friends.

He’s apparently more Scottish than I’d previously realized, as the groomsmen – myself included – will be wearing kilts.

Today, a woman at the kilt rental shop (who knew?) warned that I needed to wear underwear under my kilt.

Oh, I assured her, I will.

No, really, she insisted. Sure it’s traditional for a man to wear nothing underneath, but if you aren’t use to it, she continued, the rough wool routinely causes penile hives.

Which is why I’ll now be layering on at least two or three of my thickest pairs.