Friday, October 30, 2009

Old Man: Thrift Store Shopping (and my Grandfather's shirt)

First significant find in a while.

Two nice dress shirts from Kenneth Gordon. One with contrast collar (you know I'm going to rock this one hard with my collar pin), one with tab collar.


This nice wool LL Bean shirt jac. Not sure what the "x" means, probably some outlet deal.

This is the shirt I was wearing. This was my paternal grandfather's shirt. He died when I was still pretty young so I don't have a lot of memories of him, but this is a great one. My absolute favorite shirt/item of clothing of all time. Also the softest shirt I've ever touched. He also gave me my middle name (Burke). Strong Irish/English name.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Old Man: Humphrey Bogart

Short post today as I'm in the process of writing an essay for film class on Casablanca. Can't help but love Bogart's ivory, shawl collared, double breasted dinner jacket here.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Young Man: A Year Long Interview

I taught a lesson comparing culture during Beowulf times, The Canterbury Tales, and modern times. I think it went pretty well.

Regent suit/BB shirt and tie/white silk/AE Graysons


Guest Post: The Cordial Churchman: The Semiotics of Style

Husband of the ever-talented ELS of bow-tie fame, and frequent poster/commentator The Cordial Churchman wrote this very thoughtful post. It is a fantastic post, following up on my previous post, "Trad Semiotics." His title is so much better.

I'm honored to have been invited to guest post on Conor's delightful blog. I've thought from the first time I navigated to it that the way he has chosen to frame his posts in a young man/old man scheme is perhaps the most clever blogging strategy I've run across.

I've enjoyed the recent discussion about the philosophical and sociological entailments of style, and specifically of the style Conor and I share. I've especially found it refreshing that a fellow young man without a born-and-bred instinct for this style has begun to weigh in on his approach to these entailments. It seems to me that there are generally two types of clothes blogs: the reflective, story-rich blogs of those who have grown up in contexts where there was no real conscious decision to adopt "the style"; and the not boring, but still relatively timid blogs of the somewhat recently converted. I'm glad Conor has opened up a line of thoughtful discussion that gives voice to those of us who know that we're the new kid on the block, and yet have been chewing on what this style means to us, all the while continuing to appreciate reading about what the style means to those who never knew anything different.

So I submit this guest post as a way to advance the present discussion, from one whose history with this style is more similar than not to Conor's.

Let me offer another way to possibly nuance Conor's interesting observations on "The Semiotics of Style."

I don't think that linguists' insistence that the sign/signified relationship is ultimately arbitrary is quite the same thing as the observation that a tweed jacket on a college kid leads different people to different assumptions about that tweeded student. The arbitrariness of sign/signified is about agreed-upon conventions or codes that we use to eliminate or reduce ambiguities in interpersonal communication. The indeterminacy of the tweed jacket-sign, on the other hand, is a result not of the arbitrariness of an agreed-upon sign/signified relationship of convenience, but a result of the very real postmodern condition in which we live.

Whatever you think about Derrida, et al., it's a brute fact that, like Conor says, everyone is costumed. It seems as though there used to be a time when people could wear clothes relatively un-self-consciously. There was a uniform for you, depending on what caste in society you were in. (Of course everyone tried to dress their best and the lower classes often approximated the upper classes, but I think the point is still valid).

But now-a-days it's impossible to wear, say, walk, drink, smoke, shop, parent, worship, or do anything else un-self-consciously. That's why when the J. Press guy or whomever it was in some interview I read recently said that for trad types, it's not about style, it's about clothes, I applauded in agreement, and then immediately deconstructed that nonsense. The about-clothes-not-style posture among trads is just that: it's a posture. It's adopted. It's a strut. It's a sensibility that's held not un-self-consciously.

Mistakes in basic alphabetic semiotics are not the same kinds of mistakes in interpretation that are involved when someone sees you wearing a tweed jacket on campus. The former is the result of clumsiness and inefficiency in diction or writing, or in the decoding of those communicative devices. The latter is the result of the cultural condition, which upon further reflection, perhaps is not postmodern. Perhaps it started with the sans culottes.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Young Man: A Free Bow-Tie

Ellie LaVeer Stager, maker of handmade bow-ties and wife of prolific (relative) newcomer The Cordial Churchman has just the deal for me. And for you, assuming you like free stuff. If you don't, send me your money.

All you have to do is leave a comment on this post. And you have the chance to win a free, hand made-in-USA bow-tie. Great deal, in my opinion.


(I bet you suckers thought I was giving away a free bow-tie. suckers)

Old Man: What I Love About Cold Rain

Donegal tweed, lambswool, denim. leather.

And "Messes of Men" by mewithoutYou.


Old Man: On Trad Semiotics

(note: this is the result of over a year of thinking about this topic. I finally feel like it is the right time to post about it. It is basically an extension of my conversation with boatshoe in the comments after my last essay post, which frankly I think is more interesting than the post itself.)

Semiotics is the study of signs. It first gained recognition with Ferdinand de Saussure, in his seminal work "Course in General Linguistics." While most of the ideas in this work were anticipated by earlier linguists, it is renowned for the way in which he presented these ideas. The basic premise is that language is a system of signs, made up of signifiers and signifieds. So, for example, the letter "a" in English refers to the phonetic sound "ah." Most of the time. Because it could also refer to the article "a," the grade, or it could even be mistaken for an "o," or, in the case of the capital letter, "A," it could be an upside-down "V." And it goes on and on. The second basic premise is that this system of language is arbitrary. The signifier doesn't always correspond to a certain signified, and, worse and more confusingly, it doesn't always correspond to the signifier meant by the person doing the signifying. When I write a "C" on my cup at work, I want it to signify to my co-workers that it is my cup. But when my co-worker adds "oser" to the end of that, it means that my signifier "C" didn't signify "C" to that person, but it signified "L" to him. Hence the joke. This basic premise gave rise to many developments, including the maddening terrain of Jacques Derrida, deconstruction.

But this post isn't about deconstruction. It is about the semiotics of trad. You see, once people realized what Saussure was saying, they realized that semiotics could apply to many areas. There are many branches of semiotics, including musical semiotics, biosemiotics, and even fashion semiotics. Roland Barthes, one Derrida's early compatriots wrote a little about fashion semiology. But I've never read it. So this is mostly mine.

If clothing (starting broadly) is taken as a system of signs, we can begin to determine how our clothing choices signify things about ourselves to others. Because for a long time now, no-one has been able to say that they don't care about what they wear. Or that they don't think their clothing says something about them. If we build upon my previous post about costumes, we can start to sort this out.

Every person wears some sort of costume. It could be the everyman costume, the trad costume, or the workwear costume. These costumes say something about that person. That they want to fit in, that they like the 50's, or that they like the 20's (very broad generalizations). But regardless of the costumes they wear, everyone who chooses to wear clothes (and even those who choose not to wear clothes) chooses their clothes for a specific purpose. And to say that they choose them because they think it looks cool is a cop-out. Sure, I may think that patch tweed blazer Giuseppe passed on earlier was so cool, but the reason I think it is cool is really what I'm after here. I choose to wear trad clothes (tweed sacks, khakis, loafers, bowties, etc.) because I want to dress like a young adult dressed in the past. I think I also dress this way because there is a bit of rebellion in it, since almost no-one in college dresses this way now. So it is a way to stand out in a tasteful way. Also, my commitment to wearing quality new and used clothes represents a commitment to sustainable, repairable goods.

To me, the signifier-signified relationship between my clothes is: trad stuff is tasteful, respectful, but also has an edge that I like, and they represent quality and value. Sounds good right? To me it does.

But the problem is that almost anyone else who sees me wearing my trad rig is going to have a far different opinion. They might think I'm trying to look older to impress girls (like that would work), they might think I look stuffy and unapproachable, they might think I look like a world class douche, they might think I'm in a fraternity (really the same as that last one right?), or that I'm trying to fit in with the SC crowd.

The point being that I do not control what my clothes say to someone else. There is no one meaning that a tweed jacket conveys to everyone. The signifier/signified relationship is arbitrary.

Another example. I think a tweed or cord suit would be about the sweetest thing ever. One reason is that I think it gives of a cool professorial vibe that I like to give off. But, as everyone who has been on a college campus lately knows, no professor dresses like that. So who knows what people would think if they saw me in a tweed or cord suit.

Shoes are another example. I think tassel loafers are great. A perfect cross between the formal nature of oxfords and the casual nature of pennies. However, some people (looking at you Patrick) view the tassels as the worst kind of needless accessory. And apparently now in the DC area, tassel loafers go hand in hand with sneaky/sleazy lawyers (source: ).

And recently on the Ivy Style blog, there was a post about raccoon fur coats. Many of those leaving comments raved about them and their desire for them. I happen to think it would be the height of idiocy to wear something like that in 2009. They are impractical, very ugly, and have too many negative connotations. But what the hell, right? I'm the guy who wants to wear a corduroy suit, so what do I know?

See? This is why it is impossible to say that one's clothes are not a costume. While you may sit pretty in your chosen costume and never imagine that it is anything other than good style and taste, almost anyone else is going to associate each part of your outfit with something different than you do. And to them it all adds up to a costume.

Remember earlier when I said that this post wasn't about deconstruction? Well I lied a little bit. Or rather I made myself to be a liar with what I wrote after that. Because really what this whole post is, is a deconstruction of trad. Feel free to deconstruct your own style.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Young Man: Picnics in the Woods

Today my wife met me in the SC Botanical Gardens in between classes for a nice lunch in the woods. We went to the coolest little rock garden thing.

Crazy rock chair on the way.

The rock garden.

This is the only one I could get on top of. It isn't as tall as it looks. Gap plaid/RRL/Chippewa

My wife made it onto the tallest one. My feet were too big to get into the foothold. That's my story and I'm sticking to it, shut up.

To prove myself I got into the handstand push-up position. I used to be able to do 10+ push-ups in this position. Now it was tough even staying up there long enough for my wife to take the picture. Sorry about the indecency.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Old Man: Sunday Style, Sewing, Cooking

Tonight's post is a triple header.

Here is my church rig.

The two-btn./twin vented sack strikes again. This time with collar pin.

Thrifted cords and...

AE pennies. PRL socks.

Last night, in between nearly having a heart-attack watching Clemson win over Miami (my parents got to go) in OT, and finally watching Watchmen (Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Me), I fixed my horrible hem job on my RRL slim-bootcuts. If you'll recall the past pictures you know what I mean. All I needed was a heavier needle. Here's the result (same AE's; these things are like slippers).

Sunday is my cooking night. Tonight it was calzones: ricotta, motz, parm, green peppers, onions, pepperoni, black and green olives, and garlic.

Calzones on the left, dessert on the right (made by the wife).


Friday, October 23, 2009

Young Man: Twitter

I suppose I should finally get a twitter account. LL Bean's PR director gave my blog a shout-out recently and the only way I know to respond is to sign up.

Or at least that's what I'll say to make myself feel better.

(btw, I have no idea how to do it, so pardon me if I do it wrong at first)


Young Man: A Year Long Interview

Just another day at the local high school.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Old Man: LL Bean Katahdin Iron Works

Like JRS said recently, I could spend a boatload at LL Bean. And I could spend probably a few paychecks alone on some of their Katahdin Iron Works stuff. I have a pair of their Iron Works pants in Moss Green and I love them. Here's some of the other stuff I wouldn't mind having.





Utility Shirt

Here is a picture of mine. With Woolrich shirt-jacket and Chippewa boots.

The button is awesome, as is the label. Like I said, these things are awesome. I could do without the extra pockets, but they are fairly low profile, and are pretty convenient for phone and other stuff. I'd like a pair in dark brown.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Old Man: On Costumes

There is an awful lot of talk about costumes in this strange internet clothing world. The ivy guys say the trad guys are wearing costumes: as in they are boiling down a whole era into three things: button-down collars, sacks, and tent-like pants. The trad guys say the workwear guys are wearing costumes: as in they dress like lumberjacks even though they have never handled an axe. Almost everyone says that ascots are too "costumey" (a non-word I hate): as in they have too much Thurston Howell III going on and they are only valid in, well, Halloween costumes. The snark masters at FNB often describe the Fedora Lounge's posters as wearing bad gangster costumes. And most anyone with any sense says that high-end fashion people wear space costumes.

So who's to say? Which group is right? Which group wears costumes and which group wears authentic clothes in an authentic way? Because you would think that this matters, with the frequency the argument is used.

As I usually advocate (wildly unsuccessfully, mind you) in these types of discussions, we should start from definitions. Because words mean things. And while the case could be made that a dictionary is quite the pointless enterprise, when many sides are misunderstanding each other, they can be helpful.

The compact Oxford English Dictionary (the only free online version of the OED I could find) defines the word costume as: "noun 1: a set of clothes in a style typical of a particular country or historical period."

Well that ruins the whole long-winded response I had planned. Why? Because, by this definition, everyone is wearing costumes. The trad guys wear the set of clothes typical of (a small part of) the 40's through the 60's, the ivy guys wear pretty much the same costume but are more pompous about it, the workwear guys wear clothes typical of railroad workers and Navy men in the 30's, the Fedora Lounge guys wear clothes typical of bad mobster movies, and the fashion guys/gals wear clothes typical of The Matrix (i.e. imagined versions of the future).

But surely not everyone wears costumes right? What about the common Joe lumbering into my pizza place to order a large double pepperoni extra cheese for himself in stonewashed jeans and a Gamecocks t-shirt (the garnet really helps hide pizza sauce)? Well believe it or not, the common clay wear costumes too. But, they are actually the closest to escaping the costume conundrum. See, they wear the costume of today.

Now, don't get me wrong, I would much rather dress like a lawyer or a jazz trumpeter or a lumberjack or even a fat crime-boss than I would dress like 95% of the students at the local high-school (or 85% of the teachers at the local high-school).

I'm just saying, the costume argument sucks. So stop using it.

And ascots are cool.


Young Man Blues

My dad's favorite album of all time (well, top 5, depending on what album he is listening to at the moment). He passed on his love to me.

So awesome.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Possible Changes Upcoming

I've recently realized that this blog has become little more than "What Is Conor Wearing," which I find incredibly boring to write/post. I'd like to post longer, more detailed posts involving a little more theoretical stuff, like why I am wearing what I'm wearing. I'll probably continue to post some outfits, if I find any particular outfit really great, and I'll still post my thrift finds (which have been very few and far between lately) and cool purchases, as well as new music (new Castanets album, by the way), but expect them to be less frequent and punctuated by longer more thoughtful posts.

Also possibly in the works are some guest posts by people who I find more interesting and better writers than myself.


EDIT: I also came up with the idea to do a "Blog Review" every week or month or so, where I post awesome pictures from blogs I read. So if your blog is on my blog-roll, prepare to have your pictures stolen and hosted here. I'll give proper credit of course.

I've also been very inspired by Dale at The Smoking Pipe's* great photography to try and take some better pictures, so I'm going to try and take some pictures with more art.

*If you haven't bookmarked Dale's site yet, get at.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Old Man: Sunday Style

So tired, after another long gameday weekend.

BB cord/BB oxford/thrift tie/RRL chino/AE

And it was quite cold on the way to church so I threw on the scarf, in the necktie knot, which I quite like (thanks Beardsley).


Friday, October 16, 2009

Young Man: A Year Long Interview (plus bonus picture)

Just another observation.

First picture is really terrible and blurry.

Tweed ("The Wind at Your Back," c/o Jordan)/LL Bean/Robert Talbott (c/o and in tribute to ADG and his blog)/RRL/AE

Probably my prettiest tie.

Here's the bonus, a picture from last night of me wearing my new scarf.

Busy weekend: 10 hour shift tonight, 9 hour shift Saturday night.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Young Man: Scarves

I placed an order about a week ago from Context Clothing on behalf of my wife for my birthday. It came in yesterday (it contains a red Hill-Side bandanna and a Dunderdon scarf). My birthday isn't until December, but I kept telling my wife I would get her to give me at least one of the pieces before my birthday. She maintained that I would not win this time.

This morning, my scarf was sitting on my chair when I came in from taking the dogs out. I wore it today because it is cold and rainy. I knew I'd get her.

It is 100% lambswool and warm as anything.

This is my first scarf and I like it quite a bit. What are your favorite scarves/ways to wear them?


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Old Man: Relaxing Around the House

A few days ago, there was a thread on AAAT asking the members about something good to wear around the house. This struck me as a silly and strange question, since around the house is the one time (imo) where traditional rules don't apply. I understand someone asking about something appropriate to wear to work or a wedding, or even about stuff like pattern/color matching, since there are definite rules there (even if you choose to ignore them). But something to wear around the house?

Anyways, here is what I'm wearing around the house tonight (I thought I had to work, but my boss was so drunk when he and I agreed that I would work tonight he must have forgotten).

(one of the dogs came over to say hi, which is where I was going or coming from at the moment the picture snapped)

My 8 mth. old RRL slim bootcuts, an old Gap shirt my dad got me for Christmas four or so years ago, and:

LL Bean shearling slippers (please excuse the poor hem job on the jeans, I told the tailor to shape up or ship out; I think I'm serious).

So I guess my answer to the poster would be: something very comfortable.


Young Man: A Year Long Interview

Today was the second and last day of Fall Break, and the local school was in session (yesterday was an inservice day), which of course means that it wasn't a break at all, but that I had to go observe (and I have to work tonight as well). I did get yesterday off though.

J. Press/Nordstrom/Hanauer/LL Bean/AE

And a neat detail about my new J. Press jacket that I didn't figure out until the day after I got it: working buttonholes. Cool (and good thing the sleeves are a good length).


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Old Man: Sunday Style

Still sick, and a far too busy day for being so sick. Just got back from dinner, after church, and then my wife and I are interviewing with the Church Session tonight. Then I'm making strombolis. Ugh.

Corbin/BB/JZ Richards/AE Graysons


Friday, October 9, 2009

Young Man: A Year Long Interview

Still sick. But here is the Southwick blazer. With an A&S tie for HTJ.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

eBay Arrival

My Southwick blazer came last night. It fits great, and looks great too. A surprise was the buttons are brass but matte finish. Pretty nice. It is very minimally lined and a relatively open weave, which leads me to think it might be hopsack. Not bad.

I don't have a picture though, because I'm sick as a dog and should be studying for a test I have to take in two hours.

Mumble grumble.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Young Man: Birthday Wishlist from Ben Silver

My birthday is coming up in a few months, and as I was looking through the new Ben Silver catalog, I found a bunch of cool stuff for any of you extremely generous readers to buy for me (since I don't know anyone well-off enough to buy them for me).

A gorgeous blue Donegal tweed (did I mention I like Donegal tweed?)

Very nice db blazer. Love the ticket pocket.

Cool vest (can't say "waistcoat" as they do) with different colored tweed squares

Awesome Irish cufflinks.

Send me an email for address....


Monday, October 5, 2009

eBay arrivals (plus bonus)

I got the hat and tweed jacket today.

This is the jacket. I couldn't get a great picture of the hat, but I'm sure it will feature in future outfits so you'll see it soon.

This is what I wore today (BB/RRL/Chippewa), with a Hannah Hats tweed cap and my Hill-Side bandanna as a kerchief. I wasn't sure how it would work out, but I kinda like it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Old Man: Sunday Style

Pretty happy with how this shirt/tie/jacket combo turned out. Beep-beep.

One More eBay Win

OK, I know I've been on somewhat of an eBay kick lately, but this I swear I placed all three bids the same night...

Southwick Blazer

Saw this and thought, Why not? I only have one blazer and it's a poly/cotton blend, so why not try for an all wool blazer. Didn't need this one like the Press Donegal so I set the bid low. Got it for 10 bucks plus 10 to get it here, not much more than the thrift store.

But I promise you (and my wife), that's it for a while.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Young Man: A Year Long Interview

This look could be either "English country squire" or "high-school history teacher." I'm OK with either one.

Harris tweed jacket/Gant shirt/Polo tie/RRL khakis/Florshiem wingtips (couldn't get a good shot that showed the pants and shoes.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

eBay Win

Just won this J. Press Donegal tweed jacket.

Only had one other guy bid, presumably because the seller made no mention of it being J. Press. I found it by searching "donegal" (I have a sentimental attachment to Donegal tweed, since it was my absolute favorite place in Ireland). From the "Pressidential," their mid-level line.

Love that Donegal tweed.


Young Man: Updating Traditional pt. 2

Here is another try at the same thing as yesterday's post.

THis post features the strangest, coolest sack jacket I have ever seen. Two buttons, ticket pocket, and side vents (not visible). Love this jacket so much.

(don't worry, they aren't really that short, just hiked 'em up a bit to show the socks).