‘Vanity Fair Caricatures’ at No Man Walks Alone

VF-The_Winning_Post

Vanity Fair caricatures have been something of an obsession of mine for the past year and half. I gladly give credit to the urbane Maxminimus for introducing me to the vintage prints through his blog and now Tumblr, where he now usually resides. My meagre collection pales to his.

I’ve written a brief introduction to Vanity Fair caricatures for No Man Walks Alone:

Statesmen and scientists, ministers and musicians, authors and artists, there was hardly a human pursuit without a representative in the caricatures of the late Victorian political and society magazine Vanity Fair. From its founding by Thomas Gibson Bowles in January 1869 until its demise at the dawn of the Great War, Vanity Fair’s forty-five year run produced more than two thousand lithographic illustrations.

Click to read the full post.

VF-Jules-Albert_de_Dion

Review: Does Lexington’s Tolly-Ho Make Kentucky’s Best Burger?

Tolly Ho burger rings

Founded in 1971, Lexington’s Tolly-Ho Restaurant has long been a burger and shake mecca for University of Kentucky students. I went there myself as a UK student a couple of decades ago back at the old location on the corner of Euclid and Limestone.

Tolly-Ho recently received some great press when The Chive ranked the best burgers in each state, crowning Tolly-Ho as maker of Kentucky’s best hamburger. I figured it was time to revisit Tolly-Ho, after all these years, at its new location on South Broadway.

Tolly Ho door

I ordered the flagship burger, a Tolly-Ho with cheese. With fond memories of their onion rings, I chose rings rather than fries. It’s a good thing that Tolly-Ho makes great shakes because they carry Pepsi products, and, well, nobody wants that (they do have Ale-8-One readily available). I tacked on a strawberry shake.

There certainly is no complaining about the quality of the burger. It’s tasty and moist with the right “burger” taste. I ordered mine with cheddar cheese, and I will say it didn’t have that cheddar bite to it. That quibble aside, it was a solid burger experience. The Tolly Ho is, indeed, a great burger.

Tolly Ho Burger bitten

I am also a big fan of the onion rings. They were as good as I remembered. The serving size was generous (maybe too generous considering how badly I don’t need to eat onion rings). The batter was crisp and not crumbly, avoiding frequent onion ring failings.

My wife ordered the cheddar tots as her side, tater tots with cheddar cheese inside. They were good, but I’m not a big tater tot fan so I’m not the best judge. I think if they’re the sort of thing you like, you will like them.

Tolly Ho shakeI don’t want to fail to mention my strawberry shake. It was rich and thick with real strawberry flavor, not the dreaded Strawberry Quick taste. Some strawberry chunks would be nice, as would a dedicated shake glass or mug rather than the standard plastic Pepsi cups. But get the shake.

It was great being back at Tolly-Ho, although I miss the old location across the street from UK’s Student Center and north dorms, not that those dorms are there anymore. If you’re in Lexington and want to try a classic, stop by Tolly-Ho. Tolly-Ho has a great burger with excellent sides, but for the best burger in Kentucky I’m going to keep looking.

Tolly Ho Restaurant
606 South Broadway
Lexington, Kentucky 40508
Open 24 Hours
www.tollyho.com

Tolly Ho sign fern

Tolly Ho counter

 

Rancourt Teaches Us to Tie the Perfect Shoe Bow

The camp moc is a classic American shoe, and no one does hand made moccasin construction better than Maine’s Rancourt & Co. For those who like that factory fresh appearance on your mocs, or just want to know how to get your own shoe bow just right on any shoe, Rancourt has released a video to guide you through the steps.

Old, New, Borrowed, & Blue: Four Dressing Tips For Men

Something BlueWe all know the traditional English rhyme of wedding day advice for women (and also useful for triggering the return of Time Lords wiped from history):

Something old,
something new,
something borrowed,
something blue.

Each item is intended as a token of good luck for the bride. But there is wisdom contained within those words that can serve a style guide for men as well. We can take each of these elements as a helpful principle for men’s attire.

Something Old
“Something Old” are your standards, your wardrobe’s foundation, so buy carefully and slowly. The man’s closet should not be an ever changing carousel of radically different options, chucking last season’s must-have because it is now so very last month. Building step by step over seasons, years, and even decades, a man should purchase well established classics to serve as a rock solid wardrobe foundation.

Alden 909You can safely pull out the grey flannel suit from five years ago because you chose well and carefully at the time of purchase. Your decade old black captoes are kept polished with shoe trees inserted, and while not purchased as part of an “outfit,” go perfectly with your suit. That’s how a well thought out classic wardrobe works. Turning to Something Old is almost always the right place to start.

Something New
When stopping in to explore a men’s shop’s new seasonal offerings, the co-owner said to me, “It’s always nice to freshen things up a bit.” Now of course it was in her best interest for me to buy something, but she was conveying just the right idea. Even the most classic wardrobe will suffer from attrition, old items needing to be replaced. But we also enjoy a bit of novelty, and sometimes we are after something new just to freshen things up.

Classic though we want the wardrobe to be, ossified is something else entirely. It is well that we add in that Something New from time to time. This is often done the in the field of accessories. While one might claim to have a timeless wardrobe, it is an ideal impossible to realize fully. We will always be influenced by what is around us.

It doesn’t hurt to give a nod to shifts in stylistic preferences with a new tie or pocket square. The season’s trend may be toward narrower, printed ties, or muted paisleys, all well within the parameters of tasteful style. Such additions keep things fresh, and buying something small can often sate our urge to spend before we get carried away.

BR shop bows

Something Borrowed
I am an advocate of Generational Style, and that’s what I have in mind here. I love vintage items, and with careful selection, vintage items can be well blended into a classic and contemporary wardrobe. These things are Something Borrowed because we simply serve as custodians of what are being passed down from those who have gone before. Perhaps you have something you inherited—I hope you do—but if not, careful purchasing from eBay, Etsy, and even local antique shops can yield Something Borrowed.

The line to walk is narrow here. I am not advocating period correct reenacting in your attire. While I do happily embrace a certain retro look, and maybe more so than most, one ought to avoid the oft decried “costume” (the decrying of which has itself become cliché).

Like Something New, Something Borrowed might consist of soft accessories like ties and pocket squares. But “hard” items made of precious metals, like Deco cufflinks or lapel pins, or items made of leather, like a vintage briefcase, are excellent choices here. After your time with them is over they can be passed along as someone else’s Something Borrowed.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Something Blue
Perhaps it’s the inner Civil War buff in me, but I am a firm believer in the blue and the grey forming the palette foundation for a man’s wardrobe. While shades of brown cannot be discounted, particularly in the cooler seasons, blue and gray will be your cornerstone. And for day to day wear, blue has an even greater versatility than gray. It’s hard to imagine going long without some splash of blue; whether shirt, tie, or pocket square, blue demands to be used.

Something Blue suitI noticed that maker of beautiful ties Vanda Fine Clothing speaks of the power of blue in a blog post, “Every other client that comes through our door says he has enough blue ties – but guess what tie colour he ends up buying…?” There is good reason for that.

All blue all the time would certainly be dull, but if your default is to reach for Something Blue then you are doing well.

Keep in mind, then, that old advice for brides when you dress in the morning. If you are wearing a combination of Something Old/Something New/Something Borrowed/Something Blue you are likely finding the right wardrobe balance.

The Return of Carlo Franco: The Seven-Fold Tie Maker Is Back

Carlo Franco 1 The menswear Internet forum culture of the 2000s has spawned countless blogs (*cough*), and almost as many clothing brands. But without question, the real pioneer of those clothing brands was Carlo Franco, purveyor of Italian seven-fold ties. They placed themselves firmly at the high-end of the market, aiming at the big boys like Brioni, Stefano Ricci, and Kiton.

After early rave reviews, including for their own line of Italian made dress shirts, Carlo Franco’s decline was even faster than their rise. Expanding too quickly, family demands (caring for a dying father), and personnel missteps that led to neglected order fulfillment, ended Carlo Franco’s brief reign. Carlo Franco became something of a cautionary tale of how quickly the world that celebrates you can turn against you if you don’t stay on top of your game.

I was intrigued, then, when I heard that Carlo Franco was coming back. I have been an Internet friend (full disclosure) with original Carlo Franco co-founder Jill Speck for a decade, first through the menswear forums and now on social media. I reached out to her about her relaunch.

Jill agreed to the interview, and she addresses why she is relaunching Carlo Franco, faces up to the troubles when Carlo Franco’s first run ended, and why she’s not backing away from the woven seven-fold tie.

Why have you decided to relaunch Carlo Franco?  

Jill Speck of Carlo Franco

Jill Speck of Carlo Franco

Jill: Well, I’m an entrepreneur at heart. And while I joke that Carlo Franco was started as an excuse to go to Italy every year, the fact is that I never got over the thrill of how I felt the first time I walked into my weaver’s workshop in northern Italy and saw all the beautiful silk samples surrounding me on every wall. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized how lucky I was to have stumbled into possibly the premier weaver in the entire world of woven silks. Today, I’m blessed to call their art director a friend.

I also never shook that kid-at-Christmas feeling when my very first six designs arrived from Italy in 2003. I was officially in business! I could not have been happier. For some strange reason, I’ve always loved beautiful menswear. Perhaps it’s just because I love seeing well-dressed men!!

So, when life threw me an unexpected little curveball a couple of years ago, making change inevitable, I felt empowered knowing that I was the one who got to choose how it would change. I could put my tail between my legs and head back to the dugout, or I could hold my head high and swing for the bleachers, which is what I decided to do. I didn’t rush into anything.  The more I thought about, re-launching Carlo Franco—the one business that has brought me greater joy than just about any other entrepreneurial endeavor in my adult life—seemed like the logical thing to do. A complete no-brainer. It would bring me happiness. That would be the selfish answer! 

And yet the pragmatic businesswoman in me never would have brought it to market had the brand not received constant inquiries from former customers who wanted to see Carlo Franco back on the scene again. Hopefully, I could bring back to the market the superior-quality ties that our wonderful customers always appreciated.

After the difficult ending last time—and my understanding is Carlo Franco co-founder Chuck Franke is not involved with the re-launch—why did you decide to use the Carlo Franco name rather than restarting with something different?

Jill: That is a perfectly understandable question, and needless to say, this is not the first time I’ve heard it!  The brand itself, “Carlo Franco,” is obviously a fun play on words of my former business partner’s name. We never really thought that “Jillo Specco” had the same ring to it! :-)  It is no secret that we are a U.S.-based company.  However, 100% of our products are sourced from and produced in Italy. Hence, the Italian reference in our name. But despite the handful of hiccups associated with the brand seven or eight years ago, the brand name “Carlo Franco” still sees hundreds of keyword searches every month, even after we unofficially closed the shutters more than seven years ago. Our customers who had the opportunity to experience the quality of Carlo Franco firsthand still remember it today. Despite a few bumps in our own little Silk Road, we are proud of the superior quality the name connotes.

There were some people frustrated with Carlo Franco’s service last time. What can you tell them to convince them that they should buy from CF this time?  

Jill: Admittedly, this is not a fun topic of conversation for me, to say the least; but it is a fair question that deserves an answer. The short answer is that we had fulfillment issues because we did not have enough quality control on the supply side. But at the end of the day, I will take 100% responsibility for every unhappy customer. To be candid, there really were not that many customers affected.  However, as you know, in the world of the Internet, that’s all it takes. 

The long story is we decided to close down shop because tie-making was merely a labor of love for us. We had many other personal and professional things going on in our lives that were higher priorities at the time. We asked our office staff to make sure that every order was filled and every customer issue was resolved, and then we closed the doors. The young, naïve businesswoman in me believed that it would be done as requested. And frankly, I never looked back. I was working 2,000 miles from home while dealing with a dying father, and the tie business just wasn’t a priority. Of course, hindsight being 20/20, there are many, many, many things I would have done differently. The biggest personal lesson I learned was that people do what you INspect, not what you EXpect. Nevertheless, I still take 100% responsibility for everything that went wrong at that time.

Sadly, it wasn’t for two or three more years, when I decided to clear out some old inventory, that I realized to my horror and embarrassment that there were still unfulfilled orders and very unhappy customers with whom I had to deal. While this was possibly the most difficult business challenge in my life—because it was a question of my personal integrity—I’m very proud to say that there is not a single person in the world, to my knowledge, whose issue was not resolved above their expectations. Customer service will never again fail to be at the top of our priorities. B&W houndstooth What can you tell me about the mills and makers you are using?  

Jill: My weaver is in Como, Italy. They weave for many names you would know. They’re arguably the best in the world, and one of a very small handful who still actually does the weaving in Como—not China. My manufacturer is in southern Italy where each tie is hand-finished and hand-signed by the artisan who completes it. 

As good as the quality was from our last manufacturer, we simply could not trust them for fulfillment. They are largely the reason for our loss of credibility the last time. As the saying goes, “Betray me once, shame on you. Betray me twice, shame on me.” So shame on me.

Are all the ties 7-fold? 

Jill: Well, as you know, the debate could go on all day about what an “actual” sevenfold is. According to the Italian tie makers’ definition, yes, all of our long ties at this time are currently sevenfold. We are not currently offering the unlined sevenfold, however, because as much as we and our customers love the artisanship of a “true” seven fold, we just found that most customers prefer to have the added heft of the lined, folded tie. However, keep your eyes open! We hope to add a limited selection of true, unlined seven-folds to each of our future collections. But they truly will be limited editions.

Are all the designs woven or are you using any printed silks?

Jill: Well, as my sweet Daddy used to say, “dance with the one that brung ya!” We’ve always loved the way the light reflects off the texture and the richness of woven silks. So, I don’t foresee changing that anytime soon. 

Are the designs your own or are you working from a mill’s archives? 

Jill: We work in concert with them. We feel very fortunate that they afford us the latitude to make changes to the designs they provide as a starting point. This could mean changes and colors, textures, patterns, image sizes, etc. They also provide us the opportunity to create anything we wish to create from scratch. We’re blessed to have mutual trust and thoroughly enjoy working with them over lots of cups of cappuccino and silk dust!!!

tie knotThere has been a rise in popularity in the last few years of lighter, printed silks (also grenadines) with light interlinings, no tipping, and handkerchief rolled edges. How do you see Carlo Franco’s heavier ties fitting in with this different market?

Jill: We decided a long time ago that we could not be all things to all people. Neckwear is art. I appreciate changes in the market styles as they come and go and love the beauty of any new artisanship. However, Carlo Franco will likely continue to make the same type of necktie we always have—heavier woven silks along with the occasional cashmere silk blends. But I never say never.

Will there be a bow tie version of each of your long tie designs?

Jill: Yes! In fact, there will be at least one bow tie to each of our 61 new designs this time. It seems that every 20 or 30 years the popularity of bow tie trends upward. And right now, the trend is being led especially by the younger guys, which is fun to watch.

How many designs are you releasing? Price point?

Jill: As mentioned previously, this new collection has 61 new designs. To be more specific, there are 15 different designs with a number of color variations, bringing the total of unique designs to 61.

Pricing is always a delicate subject, and one that we don’t take lightly. Due to the weakened exchange rate, increased costs of shipping, and general inflation, our new long ties will retail for $235, which is still substantially lower than our comparable competitors. The Mogador weave will be $255 and bow ties are $85. However, by way of gratitude for the loyalty of customers through years of good and bad, we will be instituting a “legacy program” for anyone who has been a customer prior to our official re-launch. Those individuals will be given a significant discount on their first order.

Are the designs limited editions or will you continue making popular ties? 

Jill: As a rule of thumb, they are all limited-editions. On a rare occasion, we might do a second run. However, it would indeed be a rare occasion. The only exception to that will be our formal line. We plan to focus more this time on providing ties for weddings, New Year’s celebrations, and black-tie events—more of an evergreen collection.

Do you have plans for items other than ties and bow ties?

Jill: For the formalwear, we will probably add waistcoats and, perhaps, cummerbunds. There will be a handful of other high-end accessories such as our mother of pearl collar stays as well as a few other items that we’re not yet ready to announce. But beyond that, yes, we plan to just stay within the realm of accessories for now.

CF- ties + bowPhotos are courtesy of Carlo Franco.

‘Generational Style’ at No Man Walks Alone

No Man Walks Alone - Generational StyleMy new piece “Generational Style” is up over at No Man Walks Alone:

Perhaps you have an artifact that connects you with your past—your grandfather’s pocketknife, your father’s cufflinks, an uncle’s lapel pin. Others have only imagined being handed such a possession. These pieces are valuable not only as objects, but as memories of heritage and tradition.

Click over to read it all.

Continued thanks to No Man Walks Alone for tolerating my flights of fancy.

The Bibliotheca Four Volume Reading Bible Kickstarter

An exciting Kickstarter project called Bibliotheca is taking the Internet by storm with three times the funding goal reached with, at the time of this writing, three weeks to go. Who would have thought a four volume Bible project would attract such demand?

Bibliotheca founder Adam Lewis Greene is a typographer who has been brave enough to take a giant leap forward, pushing the boundaries of where the readable Bible movement has gone. His project is to publish an updated text of the old American Standard Version (ASV) using typefaces of his own design. I found his inspiration for his page proportions fascinating (watch the video). Greene clearly has thought deeply about the topic, and has done the hard work in the trenches to prepare himself for such a mammoth project.

Be sure to read the interview (Part 1 and Part 2) with Greene by the man who has led the charge in the Bible design movement from his Bible Design Blog, J. Mark Bertrand.

There are exciting possibilities for the future of Bible publishing, and Adam Lewis Greene clearly will be one of the visionaries who helps take us there.

Bibliotheca pages

The Cordial Churchman Turns Five & Debuts Their Own Braces

Picture via The Cordial Churchman

Picture via The Cordial Churchman

The Cordial Churchman celebrates its fifth birthday with a new video debuting their own make of braces (aka suspenders). Not only making in the USA, but in South Carolina, The Cordial Churchman specializes in fine bow ties.

A true Mom & Pop operation, Ellie Stager made husband, and churchman, Andy a bow tie out of some extra seersucker fabric. I remember way back when Andy posted pictures of it, and everyone started asking him if Ellie could make them one, too. This was before everybody and his second cousin started his own bow tie business.

When I had some fabric I brought back from Chennai (old Madras), India, it was to The Cordial Churchman I turned to have it transformed into Pinstripe Pulpit bow ties. They even made it to my own custom shape.

Stager & Co. at The Cordial Churchman are good folks, will make you a quality bow tie (even transform a long tie into a bow for you), and now will sell you a pair of braces, too. Why, they’ll even sew the braces buttons in your pants for you if you send them in. You can’t beat that.

Abercrombie & Fitch Meets Louisville’s Churchill Downs

A&F Engraving

A&F catalogThere was a time when the name Abercrombie & Fitch didn’t call to mind shirtless models (both male and female) and questionable mall clothes. There were few, if any, stores more venerable than New York’s outdoor outfitter Abercrombie & Fitch. Founded in 1892, it was a place where men like Ernest Hemingway would go to be kitted out for an African safari, or Charles Lindbergh for a trans-Atlantic flight. It filled its own twelve storey building on Madison Avenue, with a shooting range and fly casting pool in the middle of Manhattan. Eventually the time of luxury and quality ended, the store declared bankruptcy, and A & F was sold off to become the arbiter of bad taste you know today. One might argue the rise and fall of Abercrombie & Fitch is a metaphor for American civilization itself.

A & F expanded beyond its Madison Street confines during its heyday, opening seasonal resort shops for the A & F set, which leads us to this recent item from eBay. EBay is a treasure trove of oddities, vintage flotsam and jetsam. Much of it flies under the radar, some is simply outright mislisted. Sometimes those items bring to light lost history or a forgotten connection, and that seems to be the case here.

Fellows-AA Seat stickPictured in this Laurence Fellows illustration is a seat stick, the kind that was (or is, you can still buy them) used out of doors, particularly at race tracks. The seat at the top folds into a handle that makes the stick not only easily portable, but also useful as a walking stick. When you’ve reached your destination, unfold the handle into a seat and relax.

What makes this eBay Abercrombie & Fitch seat stick particularly interesting is its co-branding with Louisville’s Churchill Downs. One would suspect the seat actually was sold at Churchill Downs.

Did the Churchill Downs shop stock A&F items, or did A&F have its own seasonal shop at Churchill Downs? Or perhaps Churchill Downs had made a bulk order from A & F, and used the seat sticks in-house or gave them as gifts. Fascinating possibilities are raised about a forever lost time prodded by a chance encounter on a virtual fleamarket.

A&F 01 A&F 02 A&F point

John Lobb: ‘Time’s the Charm’

John Lobb is a name synonymous with traditional British shoes. John Lobb Paris broke away from the old John Lobb (St. James), and is known for its ready to wear shoes, while the St. James location is solely a bespoke (or custom) outfit. A bit confusing, but rest assured, all the shoes can be wallet numbingly expensive.

The good news is, this new fun animated promotional video–’Time’s the Charm’–from John Lobb Paris is free to watch. Enjoy!