The Travel Kit: A Great Bag

03/01/2012 § 2 Comments

“Hello! I need a suggestion for a great travel bag. It needs to fit my 15″ Macbookpro, my Ipad, a book, a notebook, Canon camera, make-up/face essentials and wallet. Any suggestions will be appreciated! Thank you!”

Of course, always happy to help!  But before I launch into my suggestions, I want to first mention a few of my guiding principles/basic assumptions.  First, I like my luggage like I like my men — handsome, sturdy and dependable; rugged, yet gentlemanly.  In my picks you’ll see a predominance of canvas and leather and not a lot of fussy patterns and shiny thingamajigs — but I’m guessing that’s why you asked me.  Second, you won’t find any backpacks here* — I haven’t been able to bring myself to wear one since the seventh grade, so I’m definitely not traveling with one — but I guessed with all of this stuff you’re going to be carrying, you’d want to keep your hands free sometimes, so I looked for bags you could carry on your shoulder.  Third, I assumed that your camera is a DSLR and requires more space than a small point and shoot.  Fourth, I assumed you wanted something in a carry-on size, so most of these will have a little space for extra items, like a change of clothes or a pair of shoes.  Lastly, since you didn’t give me a price guideline I had a little fun and tried to give you options in a few different price ranges.

Hope this helps!  And let me know where you end up taking your new bag!

Osa Johnson and luggage, in Vanuatu.

Introductory ~ $300 or less
Perfect if you’re just starting your own travel kit, or were looking for something that won’t break the bank.  While these options are lower in price, I sought out brands that have proven their durability.
Filson Sportsman’s Bag
With lots of pockets and two snap-out dividers in the main compartment, the Filson Sportsman’s Bag has room to spare and lots of little nooks and crannies to exploit.  As it was originally designed for huntsmen in the field, I’m sure this durable bag would be able to handle whatever you threw at it.  Also check it out in otter green.

The Filson Sportsman’s Bag is made in the USA.

Bean’s Vacation Bag
An L.L. Bean Signature reissue of a bag that originally appeared in their 1933 catalog, this handsome leather bag is guaranteed to age beautifully.  With the unconstructed interior, you really have the freedom to pack whatever might fit.

The San Fernando Valley Mercantile Co. 20″ Tool Bag
While I was in Argentina, I posted about how much I loved my new 16″ tool bag from the San Fernando Valley Mercantile Co. and Warren has since informed me that it is completely sold out.  If you had your heart set on it, fear not, you can pick up this slightly larger version.

The San Fernando Valley Mercantile Co. tool bag is made in the USA.

Land’s End Canvas 1963 Trip Bag
I first heard about this great bag from my good friend Jen, who also writes the great mommy travel site Parenture.  When she touted the 1963 Trip Bag as a great to a alternative diaper bag for dudes, but I couldn’t help but think it would also be a perfect carry-on for me.  The pricetag is definitely easy on the wallet as well.

Archival Clothing Duffel
This clean and simple duffel by Archival Clothing really appeals to me.  The two pockets on either end are perfect for your boarding pass and passport or perhaps a slim novella, a map or two and your phone.

The Archival duffel is made in the USA.

Intermediate ~ $900 or less
Were you are ready to make a more substantial investment, these would be my first look.

Jack Spade Waxed 18oz Canvas Pocket Duffle
I’ve long been a fan of Jack Spade, and actually carried one of their flap messenger bags around when I went to Egypt a few years ago.  What struck me at the time were the smartly placed compartments and how easy everything was to get to when on the go.  While I was traveling much lighter at that time than you will be, this petite duffle looks like a great alternative.

Saddleback Classic Briefcase (Large)

Saddleback founder and world traveler Dave Munson prides himself on making some of the most — if not the most — durable leather bags available, backing them with a 100 year warranty, bragging that “they’ll fight over them when you’re dead,” and posting photos of crocodiles trying to eat them.  Made of luxuriously large pieces of high-quality leather, what I love best about them is they don’t sacrifice style for function.  (See Dave Munson talk about the construction of the bag here.)  With all the straps and D-rings, I can perfectly see Dr. Henry “…we named the dog Indiana!” Jones strapping on one for an adventuresome archeological dig.  I can see one on safari with Osa Johnson in the 1920s, and yet it also looks right toting around your Macbook and iPad.  Get the large size, and you’ll be good to go.

*Okay, I slightly lied about the “no backpacks” thing, because you can, in fact, convert this handsome leather briefcase into a backpack (Which I suppose is the best of both worlds if you like the backpack world, yes?)

Col. Littleton No. 1 Grip

The folks at Col. Littleton, Tennessean purveyors of fine leather goods, clothing, knives and other such good stuff have a knack for designing the kind of bags I want before I even know it.  Perfectly achieving the kind of genteel adventurer aesthetic I love, I can see Col. Littleton’s bags in the hands of Teddy Roosevelt or Amelia Earhart, packed with the warmest cashmere, a flask of the finest whiskey, a book of short stories by Rudyard Kipling and an ivory-handled knife.

This gorgeous bag, the No. 1 Grip, takes its name from what used to be the common term for a carry-on from 1870 to 1940.  “Grips” were not checked bags, were not given to porters, and were only to be handled by the owners.  This bag opens wide to accommodate all of your treasured items and tightens securely with several lovely straps and clasp — and please do note the plate above the clasp, just waiting for your monogram.  With handles for carrying it either on your shoulder or in your hand, this bag will see you around the world and back.

If you didn’t have quite so much stuff, I would be recommending the No. 3 Grip, as I’m a sucker for umbrella straps, you see…

Both the No. 1 and the No. 3 Col. Littleton Grips are made in the USA.

JW Hulme Co. Classic Duffle – Small

Are you noticing a trend?  Can you not tell that I am a girl with a special place in her heart for rich, burnished leather that will only get better with age, especially when it is paired with hardy straps and buckles and maybe a place for my initials?  This duffle from JW Hulme hits that sweet spot and offers a bit more space than the previous two options, owing to its slightly more boxy shape.  If you are a traveller like me, you’re always apt to return home with a few new small treasures and this bag would definitely have room to stow them away — perhaps even in the secret interior pocket, perhaps?

I see myself grabbing this bag and heading out on hardy, rugged adventures in the American west.  Possibly by stagecoach, but more likely on horseback or in a classic pickup or 4×4 — but this bag isn’t merely rough and tumble, it’s much too luxurious to be considered such. I especially love how the closure flap is a bit reminiscent of a saddle and that JW Hulme will emboss your initials into this gorgeous leather for free.  Quite classy indeed.  Throw this over your shoulder using the detachable strap and you’re ready for just about anything.

The JW Hulme Co. Classic Duffle is made in the USA.

Investment ~ $1000 and up
Time to dream of big budgets and the trips you could take.  These pieces are the kinds of investments that conscientious travellers have been making for many years.  If you are joining their ranks, I salute you.  One day I shall see you there.

Ghurka Express bag in khaki twill

The Ghurka Express bag makes me think of journeys in the style of Abercrombie and Kent or perhaps the Cunard Line or the Orient Express.  A bit more refined than the previous options, I agree, but it is exactly the kind of luggage I would love to pass down to my own plucky, adventuresome daughter on the day she graduates from school and sets off to conquer the world.  She’d do it too.

This handmade khaki twill bag, edged in chestnut leather, has compartments galore and the clever, yet handsome, closures ensure all of your valuable items and whatnot will travel safe and sound.  Also drawing my eye are the two external flap pockets, the umbrella straps, and the detachable shoulder strap.  Outfitted with one of their classic luggage tags and stamped at one end with their lovely crest, detailed with banners, crossed tusks and the name of the bag, the reasons the Ghurka Express Bag has remained popular since its its introduction as one of the earliest Ghurka designs is readily evident.

If you love this, but desire an all-leather bag, the Express is also available in a gorgeous chestnut leather.  And yes, when I pass down my bag to my daughter, I will of course have to replace it with that.

Swaine Adeney Brigg Oxford 19″

Hello, lover.

Quintessentially British and nothing but class, Swaine Adeney Brigg, Royal Warrant Holders to HM The Queen as whip and glove-makers and to HRH The Prince of Wales as umbrella-makers, manufactures the kind of bags my Anglophile dreams are made of.  Makers of luxury travel goods, gentlemen’s accessories and equestrian goods of the highest quality for over 250 years, Swaine Adeney Brigg also happen to have designed the hat worn by Dr. Indiana JonesSo you can see we are definitely in the right place.

This roomy bag zips completely open for easy access but cleverly placed side gussets hold its shape whilst you pack, offers a slightly boxy shape for extra room, and keeps everything safe and dry with a lovely flap — all in hand-finished traditional English bridle leather.  It is also worth mentioning that this gorgeous bag is made entirely by hand from start to finish by a single craftsman in their Cambridge workshop.  It is the kind of handmade, traditional British luxury I’d love to call my own.

While you’re at it, pick up their Whangee umbrella.  What’s good enough for The Prince of Wales is definitely good enough for you.

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If there’s anything I might be able to help you with,

feel free to drop me a line: contact@quitecontinental.net

Ask Me Anything: Curl Tamer

04/08/2011 § 2 Comments

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Yours Truly.  My specialties are curly hair and mischievous looks.

Hi Mariah,
I noticed you’ve got curly hair, just like me.  I was wondering what products you use?

Over the years, I’ve gone through a number of phases in my relationship with my hair.  (I blogged about it a few months ago, if you’d like to read it.  It’s a bit wordy, so consider yourself forewarned…)  But yes, my hair is definitely curly and rather full.  I had a Brazillian Blowout back in the winter, which rendered my hair completely — amazingly! — straight.  I loved it and completely recommend it for curly girls who want  wash and wear straight hair for a couple of months.  It gradually has worn off and this summer I am rediscovering my love for my curls.  You can see the current state of my locks above.

Everyone’s hair is a bit of a puzzle/middle school science fair project.  You’ve got to experiment until you find what works for you, but here are some of my tips for taming curly hair:

  • Never ever EVER brush your curls…unless you want to look like a poodle.  Curly hair should be combed through when soaking wet, and left to its own devices after that.  I only use my fingers to style my hair after it is dry.
  • Curly hair is thirsty.  After you think you’ve put in enough product, add more.  And don’t be afraid to double or triple up on your products.  At present, I’m working with three or four to get the curls you see above.  In the shower, be sure to use a good conditioner, as dry hair invites frizz.  Lastly, unless you have super oily hair/scalp, don’t wash it every day.  Try going a few days.  If you absolutely can’t go without washing your hair, try merely rinsing and lightly conditioning it.
  • Air drying is always best.
  •  Lastly, find a stylist who understands curly hair.  In New York, I go to Angela Soto at the Whittemore House Salon in Greenwich Village, and I **highly** recommend her.  She’s amazing.

Secret summer weapons.

So what’s on my hair right now?  The two products you see above have been a godsend to me this summer: Je Veux Argan Oil and SACHAJUAN Ocean Mist.  Both were recommended to me by Angela, and can be purchased at the Whittemore House, if you’re so inclined.  I especially like the Je Veux because it conditions my hair without weighing it down — a problem I had when I tried using pure argan oil.  The Ocean Mist does an excellent job of defining my curls, especially in the morning after I’ve slept on them.  I’ve also heard good things about Fekkai Beach Waves and Bumble and Bumble Surf Spray.

My summer regimen is as follows:

  1. Wash, comb through a deep conditioner (the only time I comb my hair), wrap hair in towel to wring out excess moisture
  2. Apply generous amount of Je Veux Argan Oil, evenly spritz SACHAJUAN Ocean Mist, scrunch
  3. Air dry.  Once dry, finish off with a bit of hairspray.  I love Elnett.

Hope that helps.  Do let me know how it goes for you!

**Sidenote**  It seems like argan oil is everywhere lately, and I didn’t have the faintest where it came from, so I asked  Tara Cole, holistic health and nutrition coach (and good friend/partner in crime) to explain:

“I am always on the search to uncover healthy, holistic solutions to heal the body.  I discovered argan oil and its multitude of uses last year, and have been hooked ever since.  This amazing oil keeps my skin young and healthy and looking fresh. 

It can also be used to re-hydrate the body, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and soothe skin ailments such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema.  It can reduce appearance of scars and stretch marks, moisturize cuticles, and it’s a great way to nourish and add shine to your hair.  I also dab a little on insect bites in the summer to heal quicker.  

This ancient healing oil is derived from the kernels of the slow growing argan tree, exclusive to the dry lowlands of Southwest Morocco.  I recommend finding an organic, cold-pressed oil for best results.   I like both Josie Maran Cosmetics argan oil, and Arganica Oil.

For help with organic questions and holistic health tips, you can visit Tara at her website, Green Tara Wellness.

If there’s anything I might be able to help you with, drop me a line: contact@quitecontinental.net

Ask Me Anything: The Perfect Button-Down

28/06/2011 § 4 Comments

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The amazing Ms. Jenna Lyons* Image via Style.com

Dear QC,
I’m relatively new to your blog, but am thoroughly enamored with your looks for summer (chinos, oxfords, and the like). I was wondering if you have any tips for choosing the best fit for button-down shirts? Do you shop men’s, women’s or both? I’m a bit curvy and not sure where to begin, I’m afraid I’ll be swimming in a men’s shirt, but won’t get the same look in a women’s cut!

I’m a size 12 and pretty curvaceous, as I have a 40 inch bust. I’m a recent graduate from Saint Louis University, so I shop on a budget, with few splurges. My best friends are upscale resale stores and on occasion eBay, but I try to find looks in stores where I can try things on first, and then buy pieces at a discount elsewhere.

Any suggestions would be fantastic!

First, thanks for your kind words and asking for my help!  Ah yes, you have figured out that I almost always have buttons on my shirt.  (In fact, I’m wearing a button-down right now…)  Let’s first get you sorted and then offer a few tips to everyone else.  I should first disclose that you and I have opposite “fit issues” when it comes to shirt shopping.  While mother nature has blessed you with a womanly bustline that has me positively green with envy, I’m what some might call “athletic”…if they were being nice.  But I think that my experience hunting for a perfect shirt will lend itself nicely to your search.

Our first stop is Brooks Brothers.  With women’s shirts available in sizes 0 to 20, I’m confident you could find something here.  Their Classic Fit is the fullest fit available, isn’t darted and has a french front, but I’m curious to see if you might like going up a size or two and trying their more tailored fits — namely, the Tailored and the Fitted.  The darts on a larger size might add a nice bit of shape, whereas the Classic Fit might end up being a bit too blousy.  (Sidenote: the Miracle Non-Iron shirts are amazing, especially for travel, business or otherwise.  I took one with me on a trip to Cairo and it held up beautifully crammed in my duffel.  They’re also excellent if you hate ironing as much as I do.)

Next up, J. Crew.  Here, I recommend the men’s shirts over the women’s.  I’m an especially big fan of their Vintage Chambray Utility Shirt, and have been wearing mine nonstop.  Last summer I went to the Liquor Store in Tribeca to try out the sizing.  I fit into an extra small, but preferred the small because this is a shirt that is meant to be worn a bit loose.  Luckily, these shirts go up to an extra extra large, so I’ll confident you’ll be able to find something comfy and casual.  (The J. Crew women’s shirts go up to an extra large or a 14, which should work.  To be safe, I’d suggest the Perfect Shirt with a bit of stretch, as I understand from my more endowed lady friends that the single biggest issue with wearing button-downs is that annoying gap that tends to open between button holes across the bust.) (I wouldn’t know as my buttons aren’t taxed in the least bit.  They’re practically on vacation.)

Lastly, if you only get one oxford shirt, I want you to get a bengal stripe by Ralph Lauren.  I’ve got more than a few and they only get better and softer with age.  On the women’s side they offer sizes up to 14, but just in case you find the fit unsatisfactory, I might suggest purchasing the men’s shirt and taking it to a tailor to add back or side darts to tweak the fit and make it your own.  (Sidenote: Go to a menswear shop and get measured to figure out what size you are in men’s dress shirts, as they are sold by neck size and sleeve length.)

Good luck!  Do let me know what you end up getting!

A few tips for those with me in the — ahem — “athletic” boat:

  • For dress shirts, the Brooks Brothers Tailored Fit cannot be beat.  The darts are excellently placed.
  • Also try J. Crew men’s shirts in slim/extra small.  An added bonus for tall girls like me, the sleeves are usually quite a bit longer than those you find normally on a woman’s shirt.
  • Check out the men’s shirts at Wharf.  Made in New England, they are of excellent quality, are offered in a small and are meant to shrink a bit.  (Sidenote: I hear that Wharf is working on a line of ladies shirts, which I am sure will be very exciting.)

*Postscript: By the by, I am rather obsessed with Jenna Jyons, President and executive creative director of J. Crew.  She’s 6 feet tall, brunette, from California, and the heir apparent at J. Crew — how could I not be a fan? The lovely Kendall Crow posted a great interview of Jenna and Derek Lam at Parsons (their alma matter) on her blog that you should take a look at, when you have a moment.  I love how Lyons is so funny and down to earth, and greatly admire her personal sense of style — not to mention how well she handled the whole (ridiculous) nail polish gender controversy.

If there’s anything I might be able to help you with, drop me a line: contact@quitecontinental.net

Ask Me Anything: Shoes for a São Paulo Winter

20/06/2011 § 3 Comments

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Women trying on shoes, 1930. Image via State Library of New South Wales.
Hello!
I need to buy wintery everyday shoes. I thought about oxfords but they are too popular around here (São Paulo). I dont like moccasins, I’m feeling too old for my Chuck Taylors, and flats are a little boring and too girly. Are there any options left???

I have to admit I was thrown for a loop upon reading your first line!  I was going to confess my jealousy over how forward-thinking you were, as I can never seem to prepare too much for the next season until it is upon me…but then I realized you were in Brazil and in the same boat I usually find myself in.  So let’s get to work and get you ready before the temperatures drop in the Southern Hemisphere.

Sneakers
I love white sneakers, especially canvas ones.  I don’t like them too sparkly white, as I think they’re much better with a “beat to hell” look.  Hands down my favorite canvas sneaker is the classic Jack Purcell (shown above).  Since you mentioned that you felt “too old” for your Chuck Taylors (which is impossible, believe me!), perhaps the Purcells will feel a little more grown-up.  I also like classic white Keds, basic Supergas,Tretorn T56s, Adidas Lavers with the green sole, white on white checkerboard slip-on Vans.

For shoes with a bit more color, I like Onitsuka Tigers, and that’s about it.  I loathe huge basketball shoes and I only wear running shoes to run.  (Anyway, when I buy running shoes I’m not normally paying attention to what color they are, only how well they fit.)

Boots
Perhaps you are looking for something a bit sturdier for the winter months?  I love the color and detail of the Wolverine Gibson Mattie boots (shown above).  I also like the classic smooth Doc Martens in 14-eye, and the James Wingtip Lace Up and the Paige Tall Riding Boot, both by Frye.  Speaking of riding boots, if your budget is pretty flexible check out these by Ferragamo and these by Ralph Lauren Collection.  If you care to enter dreamland, feast your eyes on these beauties by Hermes.

Another idea might be men’s desert boots or chukka boots — try Clarks or J. Crew.  They both also make a “women’s” version, which involves taking this naturally handsome boot and sticking it on a wedge.  Avoid at all costs.

Slippers
I know you mentioned that you didn’t want oxfords, but I was wondering if you had considered a pair of slippers like these beauties shown above by Stubbs & Wootton?  The slipper can be a bit tongue-in-cheek for some, but if you’re not afraid of that, then you’ve got a whole world to consider!  Ralph Lauren has their horses, Brooks Brothers will lend you their monogram, Del Toro will make you a pair with your own, and the aforementioned Stubbs & Wootton has plenty of designs worth perusal.  I especially like the “tassels” on these linen slippers.

If there’s anything I might be able to help you with, drop me a line: contact@quitecontinental.net

Ask Me Anything: Shabby Haberdashery

13/06/2011 § 2 Comments

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Schwartz Tailor Shop, St. Paul, 1918.  Via Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest.
Dear Mariah,
With a closet full of fine shirts (Borelli, Kiton, Charvet, Ascot Chang, Emma Willis, Battistoni et al.), I’m curious to know your thoughts on what to do with them as they age. After years of washings and ironings the first thing to go tends to be the collar. In most cases, the shirts and fabrics are in perfect condition – even ten years on. But the collars start to fray slightly. Do you think these are still wearable (albeit casually) and if so, only in the country or are they ok in the city as well? Or will I just look like a well haberdashed homeless person?

Fine shirts indeed.  I can see how you would be loathe to simply throw the baby out with the bathwater here.  The preppy adage that you should keep things — especially items of quality and sentimental value — as long as humanly possible, is near and dear to my heart.  In some cases you will be able to repair your keepsakes to make them good as (or better than) brand new — here I am talking about the soles of your shoes, the strap of your watch, restringing your pearls, etc. — but in some cases, your items cannot be repaired or reconditioned.  Instead, these are things to be loved in their perfect-imperfect state for years on.

In the case of your shirts, your instinct is correct here.  Your frayed-collars are no longer appropriate to be worn with a suit, but for weekends kicking around the city, country, shore and points beyond, they are perfect.  You should feel free to wear these shirts casually.  Take care not to pair them with anything too prissy, because this look is all about comfortably lived-in finery that gets better with age.  You definitely won’t look homeless.

If there’s anything I might be able to help you with, drop me a line: contact@quitecontinental.net

Ask Me Anything: Basic Black Flats

06/06/2011 § 5 Comments

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Hi Mariah,
I’m searching for a pair of basic black flats and I would like to spend less than $200 on them.  What would you recommend?

A wardrobe workhorse most definitely, I am always on the lookout for a good pair of black flats to add to my collection.  Since moving to New York from Los Angeles, quality flats have become more of a priority for me, as I’m now doing quite a bit more walking than I did in the City of Angels and I’m not one for wearing running shoes — unless I’m actually running, of course — I’d feel too much like an extra from Working Girl.

Repetto BB Classic Flat

Ballet Flats
If you’re more inclined towards something of a ballet flat, Repetto should be your first stop.  While your price range will rule out most of the ballet slipper-inspired shoes made by the famed French ballet shoe company like the pair above, I managed to find a pair of grosgrain ribbon flats that were within your price range here.  You could also purchase their actual ballet shoes for much cheaper.  However, don’t expect them to hold up as well as shoes made for walking.

Take a gander at the ballet flats by Tory Burch.  I like her Revas for their bright colors, elastic collar, and the fact that a basic pair prices at just under $200, but the recently released Eddie flat is my new favorite.  The Eddie is simple, classic and without the large medallion found on the Reva.  Also worth noting: J.Crew also has a solid offering in the Lula flat, the Sloop by French Sole, and the very affordable Amarissa flat from Lauren by Ralph Lauren.

KORS by Michael Kors Olympia

Flats
Looking for something even more basic than the ballet flat?  The Olympia by KORS by Michael Kors (pictured above) is about as basic as you can get, and is within your price range.  Urban Outfitters also has some solid offerings at very affordable prices.  Check out the Deena & Ozzy pointy patent skimmersummer skimmer, and the BDG pointy leather skimmer.  I also quite like the wingtip-inspired Berkeley flat by French Sole.

Dieppa Restrepo Gaston Tassel Slip-on

Loafers
If you’re looking for something in a loafer, the above tasseled beauties by Dieppa Restrepo are a bit out of your price range, but if you could be persuaded to stretch it a bit I would definitely recommend scooping them up.  A cheaper tasseled option can also be had in the Washington by GH Bass & Co.  Also check out the penny loafers at Bass, and these very affordable canvas loafers by Cooperative available at Urban Outfitters.

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Ask Me Anything: Do Clothes Make The Man?

19/05/2011 § Leave a comment

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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

Ask Me Anything: Los Angeles Bound

13/04/2011 § 1 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
Image via LIFE.
Dear Mariah,
I’ll be in LA after going to Coachella, in case you have any bar/restaurant/shopping suggestions…they’d be appreciated!

Ah, cherie, you’ve asked one of my very favorite questions!  Namely, what should you do with yourself on a Los Angeles vacation.  Being a native, I readily acknowledge that Los Angeles can be a tricky place to holiday, d’accord! It isn’t like any other metropolitan city in the world and that can be off-putting for those used to a more generically urban setting.  There’s no efficient mass transit, the layout of the city doesn’t even attempt to make sense and the snarl of freeways confound even those living in Los Angeles.

Those approaching Los Angeles for the first time should endeavor to not to be intimidated by the nearly 500 square miles of the city, and try to recognize that you won’t be able to “do it all.”  Come to the City of Angels with an idea of the type of holiday you’d like to have clear in your mind, and the itinerary will fall right in line.  Since I didn’t get this kind of direction from you, I’ll provide you with a few of my favorite places, cherie.

Eating, drinking, sleeping:

Old Hollywood
Say you’d like to holiday in a manner that would impress Clark Gable?

Stay: Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Maison 140 Beverly Hills, Chateau Marmont
Eat: Musso and Frank’s (an institution, open since 1919!), Formosa Cafe, The Polo Lounge (for power breakfasts), The Dresden, Dan Tana’s, Mel’s Drive-In (for late nights)
Drink: Polo Lounge (upscale), The Frolic Room (divey), Tropicana pool/bar at the Roosevelt, Bar Marmont, Pig’n Whistle

Downtown
Willing to explore the newly-blossoming Downtown scene?

Stay: The Standard, Ritz Carlton Los Angeles, Millenium Biltmore Hotel, Figueroa Hotel
Eat: Chaya Downtown, Sugarfish, Mas Malo, Water Grill, El Cholo
Drink: The Falls Lounge, Edison, The Crocker Club, Spring Street Bar, Brass Monkey if you’re in the mood for karaoke

Beachy
Warm sun, mild ocean breezes

Stay: Hotel Erwin, Viceroy Santa Monica, Shutters on the Beach, Oceana
Eat: Capo, Tito’s Tacos (amazing tacos served in a cardboard box), Father’s Office, Ford’s Filling Station, Primitivo
Drink: The Other Room, lobby of the Viceroy Santa Monica, Casa del Mar for something a bit more stately

A few random places of note:
El Carmen
(tequila bar), Jar (steakhouse with a mid-century modern feel), AOC (lovely winebar), The Bazaar by Jose Andres in the SLS Hotel (bar/restaurant),  The Little Door (French bistro in a lovely hidden garden), Pace (tiny Italian cafe in Laurel Canyon), Toast (popular for brunch), Clementine (tiny, delicious), Tuk Tuk or Saladang Song (Thai), Red O (Mexican), Roscoe’s House of Chicken n’ Waffles.

On shopping:
Los Angeles is home to a very strong mall culture, so there are plenty of such places to go to, if that’s your thing.  The Beverly Center, of course, is the grand dame of LA malls.  Taking up an entire city block and completely indoors, the Beverly Center will cover most bases, but there are also open-air shopping malls: The Grove, 3rd Street Promenade, and Westfield Century City.

What I think is much more interesting (and I definitely recommend you do this instead of zombie-walking around a huge mall) is poking around the shops to be found along streets like Robertson Boulevard, Colorado Boulevard, South Beverly Drive, Rodeo Drive, Melrose Avenue, Beverly Boulevard/West Third Street, and Abbot Kinney.  If you give me a bit more info on your shopping list, I’d be able to recommend specific stores, but these are good places to start, with multiple options.  Also of note is the haggler’s heaven Santee Alley.

Flea markets more your thing?  Visit the Rose Bowl Flea Market on the second Sunday of each month, or the Pasadena City College Flea Market on the first Sunday of each month.

Last but not least:
Go to Sprinkles and have a cupcake for me.
On second thought, don’t tell me about it…

Have I missed anything, Angelenos?

Enjoy your trip!

Ask Me Anything: New Old Hollywood Sunglasses

30/03/2011 § 4 Comments

I’m very pleased to introduce a new feature on Quite Continental called “Ask Me Anything.”  Yours Truly tends to get a lot of questions about this and that and whatnot, and I thought I might answer them here.  So if there’s anything I might be able to help you with, drop me a line, post haste!  Reach me here: contact@quitecontinental.net

Marlene Dietrich in 1938, taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt.
Dear Mariah,
I am looking for a pair of sunglasses: round lenses, tortoiseshell frames, old school, old Hollywood style.  Any thoughts?

Even though it is fuh-reezing here in NYC, summer is on my brain and nothing says “summer” better than a new pair of sunnies.  As we recently discussed, I just picked up a lovely new pair of Ray-Ban Caribbeans to comfort myself until the temperatures start to rise, but I love the idea of a pair that look like they are from the 1930s.  Please note, sunglasses of this sort can be tricky — one misstep and you could end up looking like John Lennon, when you were actually aiming for Marlene Dietrich (or her male counterpart).

For your consideration, a few options that will have you ready for your close-up:

Ray-Ban RB4141 Rounded Wayfarer in Light Havana with Polarized Green Lenses: While not a true round frame, I really like the fresh take on the classic Wayfarer here.  Scoop them here.

Oliver Peoples Sheldrake in Matte Sycamore with Green C Vintage Glass: We’re still not quite in truly round territory, but I have a distinct weakness for tortoiseshell paired with green lenses.  Scoop them here.

Oliver Peoples Riley 48 in Dark Mahogany with Viola Glass Photochromic: Our first round lens is courtesy of one of the oldest Oliver Peoples frames — the Riley.  Loving the colored lenses and the delicateness of the frames here.  Scoop them here.

Warby Parker Begley: I really like the Begleys.  The frames are close to being completely round, but have a bit more heft than the Peoples Rileys.  Add some green lenses, and you’re good to go.  Scoop them here.

Sidenote: If you’re not familiar with Warby Parker, climb out from under that rock, cherie, and learn!  The entirely online boutique sells stylish prescription eyeglasses for only $95.  While they do not currently offer sunglasses, you can order frames sans lenses and have tinted lenses put in at your local eyeglasses shop.  When compared to the $400 you’d drop on either of the Oliver Peoples, Warby Parker is quite an attractive alternative, no?

Warby Parker Monroe:  If you’re committed to completely round, Warby Parker has that covered as well.  Scoop them here.

Moscot Miltzen:  Moscot provides a very handsome option with real glass lenses (and yes, green is available).  You’ll also get added points for verisimilitude here, as the Miltzen is Moscot’s oldest model and was introduced in the 1930s.  Scoop them here.

Ralph Lauren Purple Label Keyhole Sunglasses:  These Purple Label beauties offer more substantial frames, if the preceding options were a bit delicate for your taste.  I especially like how bold the tortoiseshell is here, but these frames may be a bit too flamboyant for some.  Scoop them here.

Persol PO2988S: In the mood for Italian?  Persol offers a model that has a very straight bridge (no keyhole) that is continued through to the temples — very similar to Ms. Dietrich’s frames.  Scoop them here.

Sidenote: In honor of the 50th anniversary of the film To Kill A Mockingbird, Oliver Peoples will be releasing a Gregory Peck frame, modeled after the glasses worn by his character, Atticus Finch.  Created with the assistance of Peck’s son Anthony, who owns the pair worn by his father in the film, the frames feature handsomely round in a range of muted tortoiseshell colors.  While they’re not sunglasses, I’m guessing you might like these as much as I do.  Look for them in the near future at Oliver Peoples boutiques and Barneys New York.

Via: NYT.
Images courtesy of Ray-Ban, Oliver Peoples, Warby Parker, Moscot, Ralph Lauren, Sunglass Hut, and NY Times

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