One evening last summer, after several gimlets (as typifies these things), a friend and I got on the subject of uniformity of dress. “A suit and tie is conformity as its worst,” my friend declaimed. “Constricting, it hampers freedom of movement; mandated, it hampers freedom of expression; and bland, it hampers the freedom to be creative. You are a fool to let yourself be forced to wear them and a lemming to do so uncomplaining.”
My smile had far too many teeth: “You’re one to talk, scion of the IT department,” I observed archly. “Ill-fitting Gap khakis and a royal blue polo do not make you the hacker baron of the network closet, any more than your bowlers make you Dick Weber. Mind you, don’t get any pretzels in one of your dozen or so pleats.”
“These are not from the Gap – they’re Dockers,” he parried.
“The prosecution rests!” I crowed. But the truth is, often as not there is a uniform for your job, your environment, your life. And there was further truth to what both I and my friend had said, for there are far too many of us that, once the required dress of our daily lives is accomodated, settle into that dress with an unthinking devotion that renders it a pale costume. Once we forget that there are options, opportunities for creative expression, the addition of color and quality? Our clothes are less statements of self than mere weather-proofing or, what’s worse, simple fabric backdrops to hide behind. Even a royal blue polo can take on new life, if it’s given the chance to accompany something new and eye-catching.
Dan Senyurt’s new henleys (@ Dan Senyurt, Te Wharau 239, 67, 53) represent a studied alternative to ol’ Blue. “They are a happy compromise between the collared shirts and a good-old classic T,” explained Senyurt. While he admits that his henleys will never be mistaken for traditional businesswear, Senyurt’s latest designs combine “… all the surface detail of a good collared shirt,” yet remain true to their simpler roots. “I have added some finer highlights and wrinkles, which I feel adds a lot to the surface texture of the shirt,” Senyurt explained. Three for L$150 at Dan Senyurt, colors include blackthorne, rocksalt, ocean and ruby.
Regular denim *might* be sufficient here, but really the elegant simplicity of the henleys demands trousers of a more companionable variety. Jonquille Noir of Little Rebel Designs (Gallinas 144, 101, 57) typically makes clothes for women, but her Contrast Stitch Jeans in Sepia (L$100) are simple, well designed jeans with a stylish flare for a down-to-earth customer. “I design things that I personally like, and/or that I like to see men in,” Noir explained. “I veer toward normal, everyday clothing most often, and I love just about anything with a rockabilly or retro flair to it.”
More often than not, I wear a hat, and when I do it’s almost always a Kai Sion (@ The Hat Shop, Bruin 121, 215, 23). Sion makes subtle, deftly cut hats for adults in traditional styles and colors. No big Segue Segue Sputnick spikes, nor hatbands festooned with feathers from some pre-Cambrian roc, nor even thinly disguised fetish gear from some perversion du’jour of which we haven’t yet been informed, Sion’s hats hearken to the golden era of menswear – the 30′s, 40′s and 50′s. Bogart, Sinatra, Hammett and a thousand men with revolvers in their coat pockets planted these styles in American culture. Today, it’s the Flat Cap in brown tweed (L$75), a workman’s cap that echoes of Old Spice, pipe tobacco and clay poker chips.
Jeeper Creepers (Tean 236, 80, 25) shoes have been written up more than once here, and there is little one can say about Eponymous Trenchmouth’s work beyond “superb.” The Oslo collection (shown in black, pricey but worth it at L$400) is no exception. The Oslo is a curious and ennervating amalgam of styles, put together in that elusive manner in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Long and lean, the uppers at first recall something from Italy, but the clipped toe and the loosely fitted monkstrap are almost rakish, in the manner of a motorcycle boot. Adding to the sense of modish boot cut are the vents at the ankle, typically seen in dress boots of English manufacture (think Sir Paul ca. ’67). A closer examination, however, shows the unique stitching – small crosses along the centerline – that are an appealing highlight and once again show the attention to detail and fine craftsmanship that Trenchmouth puts into his work.
A good wristwatch is a pleasure to wear – the best combination of function and adornment. New designer Tharik Owen of Oyen’s Fine Timepieces & Jewelry (Pluto 176, 98, 28) is one of those off-the-path designers that seem to appear from the mist with fantastic designs that seem to take the finest points of their predecessors and add strange and beautiful twists to them. His Longsword watch with brown strap (L$395) is a journeyman’s watch – at once rugged and sophisticated, and not entirely out of character for a man whose other offerings include detailed, eminently employable handguns, sunglasses and swords. “The Longsword is my more ‘reserved model’,” said Oyen recently at his new store. “It’s got a nice leather band as opposed to the gold and silver of the others. It’s not as flashy, but its very elegant in its way – it’s something that might go with any kind of outfit.”
While not new, the beautifully crafted Victorian styles found at the Gaslights Emporium (@ Port Babbage (123, 207, 27) are a trove for the mix-and-match afficionado. Vincente Shepherd’s Black Suede Waistcoat (accompanies the Gaslight Victorian Suit, L$400) is the perfect accomodation for the Senyurt henley – a traditionally cut vestment that exhibits a masculine utility and a sense of purposefulness. Its thick, felt collars and large silver buttons give the waistcoat a highland gravity, and no less sense of the malthouse. Similar of effect is Shepherd’s Brown Jacket ( which also accompanies the Gaslight Victorian Suit, L$400), whose 19th century ethos fits well with the rest. The Autumn grows late, and a jacket of this sort – urbane, with a testosterone dash – serves as an attractive armor against the elements, be they meteorological or maleficient.