Ask Me Anything: Do Clothes Make The Man?

19/05/2011 § Leave a comment

If there’s anything I might be able to help you with, drop me a line, post haste!  Reach me here: contact@quitecontinental.net
McQueen. Image via ACL. (via LIFE)
Dear Mariah,
Do clothes still make the man? If so, in your opinion what single item of clothing most typifies the modern gentleman?

My dear, what a lovely question you’ve posed!  As you have probably gathered, I am a woman who has a deep appreciation for menswear.  Throughout my life, I have found myself surrounded by men who have taken a particular interest in their personal style — albeit widely varied in taste and approach.  I always tend to fancy a bit of a dandy, so it should come as no surprise that I have known and loved my fair share of peacocks, my father being the first, and the progenitor of this inclination.

My own personal style shows the influence of the men in my life — often because I tend to steal things from the ones I love most — and the fact that I grew up something of a tomboy.  I loved horses, played a lot of soccer and didn’t wear any makeup until my mother gave some to me for my 16th birthday.  Naturally, my inclination is to dress a bit like a boy.  My shirt almost always will have buttons on it.  I wear ties, I like grandpa sweaters with suede elbow patches and I have a weakness for smart blazers.  Sometimes I look like I should be mucking out a stall in my riding boots and work shirt, but the lawyer in me also loves a good suit.  Somehow I also relish being a girl and dressing like a woman.  I love dresses and sky-high heels.  I adore silk and lace and I almost always have red nails.  My favorite looks incorporate both of these leanings, yielding a look I call “polished tomboy.”

Cherie, I feel uniquely positioned to answer this question for you.  My point of view on menswear is that of a lady who eyes your wardrobe appreciatively, with an eye on what I might squirrel away for my own.  However, in order to round out the conversation, I’ve also asked a few of my nearest and dearest to also chime in to see if we can’t make this a more well-rounded conversation.

Will Price, of The Momentum of Failure:
I feel, to a certain extent, yes, the clothes make the man. A simple example would be the face value effect. Two men show up for a job interview for the same position. One man in a ripped t-shirt, baggy shorts, and flip-flops, while the other man is dressed to the nines in a suit and tie. Based on appearance alone, 9 times out of 10, the man in the suit will be given priority regardless of character. This also depends heavily on where the interview is. But in this instance, the clothes made the man. They made him appear readier and more willing and able to do the job. Sure, the guy could turn out to be a psychopath that ends up going nuts with an uzi after being let go for not meeting quarterly quota, but the fact is, he got the job. But what of the man in the shorts? Well let’s be honest: If he showed up to a job interview where the heads of the company smile on suits, he probably wasn’t too serious about the gig. But had the same scene gone down at an REI or an outdoors-enthusiast spot, the tables might have been turned.

We’re a shallow society. A generalization, sure, but it’s much easier to judge someone by appearance first and character second. So aiming to please visually is natural. Plus when you think you look good, you feel good.  So, to make a long story a bit longer, the clothes make the man, but the man makes the choice. So, you really make yourself.

In terms of one single item that is typical of the modern gentleman, I would say a classic and well-built leather wallet is a must.

J.Oliver, of Downeast and Out:
The single item that typifies the modern gentleman for me is becoming cliched these days, as more and more young men are improving their standard of dress. However, if I had to boil the argument down to a single item, I still believe a pair of dark brown or walnut-colored wingtips in calf or cordovan is the item the modern man cannot do without. Yes, captoes are more formal and a navy blazer is arguably the foundation of a wardrobe, but the wingtip deserves much praise for its versatility, as it can be paired with anything from a suit to a cardigan to a t-shirt. There are also a variety of styles within the wingtip family (longwings, shortwings, oxfords, and derbies), allowing a man to still show some individuality and personal preference with his choice. And as I continue to see gents walking around in black, laceless, square-toed dress shoes, I don’t think the point that “the shoes make the man” can be emphasized enough. While I would still say that fit is the single most important element a modern gent should focus on, I believe that a nice pair of shoes are the one item that should not be marginalized. I for one will pay up for quality materials and superior construction, as I intend to enjoy and hold on to the pairs I buy for more than a few years.

Marisa Zupan, of The Significant Other:
I don’t think clothing was the only thing that ever made the man. It comes down to many other things, not least of which is passion, personality and drive.  That said, I think clothing is an integral part of expressing all of the above.  Some might point to the suit as the single most manly type of clothing, but I’d say it actually just comes down to the shoes.  My grandmother once said, “you can see a whole man through what he chooses to put on his feet”, and I’ve never forgotten this.  Shoes, and all of the considerations that go into them, are a very personal and functional item.  Beautiful shoes, no matter if they’re sneakers, work boots or wingtips can tell you where a man wants to go, and how dedicated he is to getting there. Invest in a good pair that fits your lifestyle and you better believe it will pay off. The ladies, they notice these things, take our word for it.

Cooper Samuels, of To Take The Train
To be honest, I didn’t start caring about clothes or the way I dressed until a couple of years out of college.  My first job was at a record label and I wore jeans and a polo to work every single day.  I could never get used to the idea of wearing a t-shirt, flip flops, and shorts to work like many of my co-workers.  It just didn’t feel right, so I figured jeans and a collared shirt would be somewhere in the middle.  If I would wear nice shoes and sport coat to work, someone would inevitably ask me who died.

In the south, southern frat style dominates men in their 20’s.  If you go to a southern school you are issued a pair of patagonia standup shorts, a frat t-shirt, croakies, and rainbow flip flops.  One night when I was out in downtown Nashville, I looked around and noticed every dude was dressed the same.  It drove me nuts.  How are you supposed to stand out if you look exactly like the guy next to you?  It was then that I realized it’s time to start paying more attention to the way I dress, so I cleaned out my closet and got rid of everything I had purchased from the time I graduated high school to that point.  I invested in some nice suits, shoes, and dress shirts.  I retired my baggy jeans and bought a pair that fit.  I also started to take notice of the way other people dressed.  What I’m trying to say with this back story is that clothes still make the man.  I think men pretend not to notice what other men are wearing, but the truth is they do.

To me the item of clothing that most-typifies the modern gentleman is his shoes.  I’m not scared to save and spend money on shoes.  You can make a cheap suit look good by finding a great tailor, but you can’t hide a cheap pair of shoes.

Yours Truly:
I believe that a man is a sum of so many different parts: respect, strength, self-confidence, gallantry, curiosity, bravery, love.  Taking pride in one’s appearance is undoubtedly one of these elements, so thus, if someone’s got everything else under control and then adds some great clothes to the mix, then it could be said that clothes “made” (or completed) that man.  Conversely, if you’re a jackass, but dress well, you’re still just another jackass in bespoke.

As for the single article of clothing that most typifies the modern gentleman, I strongly agree that good shoes are important.  I will admit that shoes are among the first things I will check when sizing up a gent. You must invest in at least one solid, quality pair of shoes.  When confronted with the price, take comfort in the fact that a good pair of shoes will be with you for years.  I have lovely memories from when I was a little girl, of my father sitting in the living room watching the Lakers with his wooden shoe shine box, lovingly tending his tasseled loafers, frequently pointing out he owned shoes that were older than I was.  (And yes, he still has these shoes.  And yes, they are still older than I.)

Other things that will catch my eye will be the glasses and tie you might be wearing (and I hope you’re wearing both, but that’s just personal preference), the fit of your clothes and your choice of socks (or better yet, lack thereof).  But above all, there is one small item that I believe speaks volumes about you — at least to me, anyway.  It’s your watch.

Gianni Agnelli. Via LIFE.

In my opinion, the wristwatch most typifies the modern gentleman.  A man’s choice of timepiece will speak loudly to me.  I’ll first note the style, then after a bit I might try to gauge up the age and price you probably paid, and then I will take a step back and try to figure out why you chose that particular watch — what is it about this watch that drew you to it?  What are you trying to say about yourself by choosing it?

I’ve mentioned it a few times already, but I frequently wear one of my father’s watches that doesn’t work.  I’ve always preferred to wear men’s watches because I have a sizable disdain for dainty twee lady watches.  I want something handsome and substantial on my wrist, just like I like my men.  I clearly remember the first watch I specifically asked for, when I was  8.  It was a large, men’s Timex with a round, white face and a dark brown braided strap.  The strap was so long on my 8 year-old girl’s wrist that I had to loop the strap back under itself to deal with all the extra slack.  I also took to wearing it on my right hand, even though I was right-handed — something I continue to do to this day.  The point here is that I’ll be wondering about the story behind your watch of choice.

In my life, I’ve known a few watches (and their owners).  There was the refined gent who alternated wearing a dazzling Chopard — that I frequently joked cost more than my first car — with a cheapie plastic Timex Ironman because he loved to swim and run.  He tended to wear the Ironman more, even with his fine suits.  So much so that I sometimes had to remind him it was “big boy watch time.”  There was the upstart who wore the diamonds in his bezel with so much swag, it became tiresome.  There was the handsome executive/repressed creative who favored switching the bands on his antique field watches so that a flash of Hermes orange would peek out of his cuff at board (bored) meetings, unexpectedly.

 I don’t design to tell you what kind of watch you should be wearing.  Aim for something that pleases your eye and is appropriate for your wallet.  You should be wearing the kind of watch you like.  You should also wear it in the manner you like, just like Gianni Agnelli above.  But rest assured,  I’ll notice whatever you’ve got on your wrist, and I’ll want to hear all about it.

If there’s anything I might be able to help you with, drop me a line, post haste!  Reach me here: contact@quitecontinental.net
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La Maison de Quite Continental: Hues to Choose

19/05/2011 § 4 Comments

Cherie, remember I mentioned that I would be undertaking a rather large overhaul of la maison this spring?  Well, I have taken the first steps down that path and have been focusing on the colors I’d like my walls to be.  Currently, they are your average, run of the mill shade of white, which I don’t entirely mind but I am now of the mind to try something entirely new.  After taking some time with books and my favorite decor sites, I narrowed down my preference to three colors: blue, teal or grey.  Next, I had to pick the exact shade I wanted.

Being a complete painting newbie, I was in need of some guidance.  I headed over to Tribeca Paint (217 West Broadway, between Franklin and White), a lovely paint and hardware store in the neighborhood, where I was confronted with color wheels and swatches and diagrams.  I took much too long to decide and asked a million questions, but the store clerks were eternally patient and very happy to help me.  I highly recommend Tribeca Paint!  I was then sent on my way with three Benjamin Moore color samples to play with and teeny tiny rollers to paint with.  I’m now armed and ready to paint small squares of paint in random spots, in order to help guide myself to a color.

Contemplating: clear skies (2054-70), marilyn’s dress (2125-60),
jamaican acqua (2048-60).

Though I love deep colors, I am leery to go too dark, lest I render my apartment some kind of dark cave, so my selections are on the lighter side — which I have been assured will dry darker.  Paint, why must you be so fickle?!  Why can’t you just be the color you say you are going to be?!

A bit of my inspiration below:

via La Dolce Vita.
via Desire to Inspire.
via La Dolce Vita.
via Home & Garden.
via My Paradissi.
via House of Turquoise.
via Desire to Inspire.

This last home — a Milanese palazzo, owned by designers — is simply amazing.  It’s been all over le interwebs so I won’t post all of the images, but if you would like to see more, head here.  These cool grey walls definitely have me leaning in favor of Marilyn’s Dress (2125-60).  What do you think?

The Shirt Off His Back {May 2011 How To Spend It, Financial Times}

18/05/2011 § Leave a comment

I feel this editorial has been extracted from the depths of my brain somehow.  I mean, we’ve got a sultry brunette, in gorgeous shirting, sporting exquisite accessories.  It looks as if she’s just rolled from bed and pieced together something almost suitable from the items her gentleman has left strewn about.  The insouciance of it all has me thinking of Sabina from The Unbearable Lightness of Being, not least of all because of the bowler hat.

Sidenote: I’ll be needing each and every pair of these shoes to get in my closet. Right. Now.  J’adore.

Styled by Damian Foxe, model Adina Forizs.
Via: How To Spend It, FT

LIFE Archives: Wild Hearts

18/05/2011 § 1 Comment

Popularized in the 1880s, diving horses were a boardwalk attraction that became a rarity after WWII.  Here, LIFE photographer Peter Stackpole captures one in Atlantic City in 1953.  I can’t find the accompanying article or write-up in the LIFE archives, so I have to believe these weren’t published, leaving us to wonder who these performers were, as we watch them carry the torch for a disappearing trade.

Taken in Atlantic City in 1953 by Peter Stackpole

Boys seldom make passes… {Warby Parker Showroom Visit}

17/05/2011 § 8 Comments

Yours Truly, wearing the Owen in striped chestnut.

Law school thrashed my eyeballs. I went from not needing glasses to realizing I had no idea what my professors looked like in less than a year (please add this to the list of cons for law school).  So since then, I’ve worn either glasses or contacts to correct my law-scarred vision.  (Is that a tort?) (Law school jokes!) (Sorry.)  I’ve been wanting a new pair of spectacles for some time and in my search for the perfect pair, I came across Warby Parker.

Briefly, for the 3 or 4 of you who are not yet aware, Warby Parker is an entirely online, extremely affordable, frame manufacturer that specializes in vintage-inspired styles.  $95 will get you a new sparkly pair of prescription spectacles, shipped free to your door (with free returns as well).  While currently only producing eyeglasses (and a monocle, in case you were in the market), Warby Parker will be adding sunglasses to the repertoire this summer.  Also worth noting is the fact that for every pair purchased, they donate a pair to people in need.  The combination of excellent style, affordability and philanthropy completely sold me.

Leery to purchase glasses you’ve never tried on before?  Well, Warby Parker has that covered through their Home Try-On program.  You select 5 pairs you’d like to test out, they send them to you free of charge and you get to try them for five days.  Then you send them back (yep, for free) and place your order online.  For those who are bit too impatient or too indecisive to narrow it down to 5 pairs, you can also elect to pop by a Warby Parker showroom (currently in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Portland, San Francisco, Oklahoma City, Dallas and Omaha).  I made an appointment with the exceptionally helpful Patrick, and dragged along the lovely Sarah of StyleOnTheCouch to help me select a pair and take a few pictures.  The images, unless otherwise noted, are hers.

The showroom, located just off Union Square, is a lofty, light-filled space that shares quarters with the Warby Parker corporate offices.  After a warm welcome I immediately set to work narrowing down my options to a group of semi-finalists, and pulled a group of five.  I then began plaguing Sarah and Patrick with multiple try-ons and demands to know which pair looked best.

Semi-finalists from top: Tenley, Crosby, Owen, Miles, Roosevelt
I’m obviously fixated on tortoiseshell.

Trying on the Tenley in burgundy fade.

In the Roosevelt in striped chestnut.

The shape of my face requires I stay away from overly narrow frames or anything severely cat-eye, so I knew I wanted a pair of larger, heavier frames, but wasn’t eager to venture into Man Repeller territory.  My finalists were the Owen (pictured at top) and the Roosevelt (pictured above).  So what do you think?  Which pair looks better?

See which pair I chose after the jump.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Quite Continental Wants: Forestbound Men’s Canvas and Leather Carryall

17/05/2011 § 1 Comment

Jessica, of The Shiny Squirrel and guru of all things accessory-related, turned me on to Forestbound, a Boston-based accessories line by Alice Saunders that utilizes salvaged and vintage materials to create interesting, conversation-starting pieces.  I immediately fell in love with the clean and sturdy manner in which Alice reinterprets the materials she sources and the one-of-a-kind bags she creates.  Owning a Forestbound bag is the opportunity to own a completely original piece of history — with remarkable style — that you can carry with you at all times.

I recently learned of Forestbound’s latest menswear-focused collection from Christine of N’East Style and was very interested to see Alice take a distinctly more masculine approach to her work. For her capsule menswear collection, Alice features the use of WWII era US military canvas, fashioned into a line of four spectacular bags.  While the bags were designed with men in mind as the intended consumers, it shouldn’t come as any surprise to you how much I like them.  Since reading Christine’s post, I cannot remove from my mind the image of the gorgeous Canvas and Leather Carryall.  I may be obsessed.  While the caryall also comes in white or tan, the olive is my clear choice here, as the contrast with the leather make for a very handsome bag.

Scoop the Canvas and Leather Carryall here, and do have a look about Forestbound’s Etsy shop as well.

Images via Forestbound

Field Notes: Brimfield, Boston, Cambridge

16/05/2011 § 3 Comments

As we’ve already discussed, this weekend I scampered up to Massachusetts for a bit of a mini-break.  With Lani as my partner in crime, our activities included the massive antiques fair at Brimfield where we haggled like pros, Cambridge and Boston shopping walkabouts, and a fabulous evening of dance moves and drinky poos at the Liberty Hotel with lovelies Christine and Sean. I have a special place in my heart for Boston and its environs as once upon a time I had a Mister in the Bean and we spent many a weekend wandering around. It was so nice to return.

Lani

Lani

Dapper gents.  Check out Mr. Moustache…

I have an awful obsession with GE fans.  My grandparents had one.  I want one.
This was a beautiful specimen, and priced accordingly, so I had to leave it behind.

This is my Moby Dick of the weekend.  The one that got away.
I decided against picking this one up, and continue to kick myself

Cambridge

While in Boston’s North End, we stopped by Acquire, a home decor boutique I’ve been a big fan of since 2008.  Owner Nikki Dalrymple has an amazing eye for beautiful, one of a kind pieces.  I always find Acquire to be a lovely little jewel-box of interesting tabletop accessories, wall art and accent furniture.  If you are in the neighborhood, you must see it for yourself.

Acquire
61 Salem Street
North End, Boston, MA

Acquire

Acquire

Dinner at Scampo in the Liberty Hotel

You’ll notice I didn’t include pictures of the aforementioned dance moves or my spoils from Brimfield.  As for the latter, I will be posting about them over the next few days.  As for the former, don’t hold your breath, cherie.

Afield: Brimfield, Massachusetts

13/05/2011 § 3 Comments

Very excited to head up to Massachusetts this weekend for a bit of an antique safari at Brimfield!  I have teamed up with the lovely Lani, editrix of Mon Petit Chou Chou, to tackle the mile-long fields and over 600 vendors and look forward to bringing you news of our vintage victories.

Also on the shortlist are some of my favorite Boston and Cambridge shops, a meet-up with a few of Boston’s best and brightest, and a cocktail or three.  Keep up with my shenanigans in real time via Twitter.  Wish me luck, cherie!

Bisous,
Mariah

Quite Continental Recommends: Sleep No More

12/05/2011 § 5 Comments

Sleep No More: the style of the 1930s, the mood of Stanley Kubrick,the feel of a haunted mansion,
the sounds of Hitchcock,the drama of Shakespeare

Cherie, I have an amazing recommendation for you!  Last week I had the excellent fortune to experience Sleep No More, produced by British theatre company Punchdrunk.  Here I am not using the word experience lightly, as Sleep No More is not a play viewers passively watch while sitting in an uncomfortable folding seat, waiting for intermission.  As an “immersive presentation,” Sleep No More thrusts its viewers into a macabre, 1930s-styled hotel to move about as they like.  Simultaneously, performers drift throughout the hotel among the audience members.  There is no stage to speak of, aside from whatever room you are standing in, and that is exactly where the actors perform a series of virtually wordless interpretive dance pieces.  Once done, they immediately depart, leaving it to you to decide if you’d like to follow them to their next scene.

Interestingly, a firm grasp of Sleep No More’s story – based loosely on Shakespeare’s Macbeth with overtones of Hitchcock’s Vertigo – is not essential to the experience.  True, the performers recreate major scenes that those with some familiarity of the play will recognize – Banquo’s ghost appears at the royal banquet, Lady Macbeth scrubs at imagined bloodstains, the witches conjure, etc. – but it would be an impossible attempt to string together the tragedy in its entirety.  (Another innovative feature of the immersive production is that there is no true linear storyline, no beginning and no end — you come to realize the actors are on a constant loop and that the play simply begins when the viewer enters the space, and ends when the viewer decides to leave.).  Instead, the story serves as a secondary element, something like a backdrop of a very sinister mood.

The runaway star of Sleep No More is the production design.  Punchdrunk took over three cavernous warehouses in Chelsea and has ingeniously transformed them into the McKittrick Hotel, a foreboding collection of over 100 rooms distributed over 6 floors, dressed with a baleful and decaying 1930s panache.  The lighting is minimal and is accompanied by a constant stream of music – some of the era, some modern – that lends well to the pervasive grimness.  Every room is meticulously curated, with every single element deliberately tended to, down to the smallest detail.  I vividly remember noticing the smell of certain rooms — the pungent scent of mothballs, of moss, of earth — as I walked through a children’s hospital, a graveyard, a taxidermist’s shop, nightclubs, dining rooms, a ballroom, bedrooms, sitting rooms, libraries, offices and gardens.  It’s worth the price of admission alone to have the opportunity to explore the dark and demented world of the McKittrick Hotel, and especially since you are able to do so at your own pace.

After arrival and “check-in” at the theatre/hotel, we found ourselves in a nightclub, complete with cocktail waitresses in glittering, deco-era gowns proffering drinks and a languid jazz chanteuse backed by a three piece band onstage.  The vibe was classy, but undeniably creepy.  We were then divided into small groups and ushered into an elevator for entry into the hotel.  In an interesting twist of fate, I was immediately separated from my companion.  After the elevator operator made clear the rules — at the McKittrick we were not allowed to talk, to use any mobile phones, or to remove the eerie, bone-white Venetian carnival mask we had been given at check-in — he brought the car to rest and opened the door.  My companion, being closest to the door crossed the threshold, but as he departed the operated barred me — and the rest of us — from leaving with him.  As the elevator doors closed again I watched a pitch black hallway swallow him up as he looked over his shoulder, watching all of us disappear with what I am sure was a shocked look on his face (I couldn’t tell for sure because of the mask, you see).

An immediate sense of unease settled over me.  I knew I wasn’t in any real danger, but I didn’t know where I was, what was going to happen, or how to find my compatriot.  The rooms were dark and there were sinister-looking artifacts everywhere.  There was more than a little blood.  Others had their friends to cling to as they experienced the McKittrick, but I couldn’t, I had to go it alone.  By the end of the night, I came to believe the best way to experience Sleep No More is alone.  It was simply amazing — an experience unlike any I’ve ever had in the theatre (and in real life, thankfully).  I didn’t sit down for two hours.  I walked up and down flights of stairs, felt my way through darkened mazes, followed strangers into creepy rooms and wandered through deserted halls.  I pulled books from shelves, opened drawers and read medical records.  Wearing my mask, I sometimes joined the crowds around the very talented performers, who generally didn’t acknowledge the audience, unless they happened to be in the way or were incorporated into the drama for a few fleeting moments with a hug, a touch, a look.   The masks and the pervasive sense of detachment immediately called to mind Eyes Wide Shut, only there was more murder, bathing and dancing, and less sex.

I emerged at the end — at the same jazz club where it all started — to find my compatriot fortifying himself with a few cocktails as he waited for me.  As we compared notes we realized that we had completely different experiences.  There was only one scene the both of us had witnessed, and we both were there for two hours.  I am hesitant to give away any of the vignettes I witnessed, lest you go to see this for yourself and feel you are missing something if you don’t see the same things, but I feel this pretty much sums it up:

Me: “Man, that was quite a bit of nudity, wasn’t it?”
Him: “What nudity?!? I was busy reading books in the library!”

Sleep No More is only in New York through 9 July.  I urge you to get tickets immediately.  I’m definitely contemplating going again, to see if I can’t find more of what the McKittrick is hiding in the shadows.

Sleep No More
The McKittrick Hotel
530 West 27th Street
New York, New York 10001

Image 1 via Quite Continental
Images 2,3,4,5,7  via Daily Front Row.
Image 6 via New York Times.

Tasha Tilberg for J. Crew Collection

11/05/2011 § 1 Comment

Lovely bit of Tomboy Style from the J. Crew Collection

I would wear all of this.  (I’m actually upset I’m not wearing this right now.)

Via FGR.

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