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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Along with mountains of candy, Easer always bring to mind for me thoughts of bunnies, chicks, and lambs.  Maybe it harkens back to my childhood growing up on a farm in Iowa, or maybe I’ve just bought into the stereotype, either way, for me, this is the quintessential trio of animals for the season.

It was always around Easter that my family would go to the local hatchery and buy boxes of baby chickens.  These would be raised throughout the year - some for our table, and others to be added to our flock of egg laying hens.  In each box there were always a dozen or so chicks that were dyed pastel colors for Easter.

To this day, chicks, bunnies and lambs remind me of Easter and, more importantly of spring!!!

Even though there is still quite a bit of snow on the ground here in Minneapolis, I know that spring is not far off.  Already I'm seeing signs of it in store windows, and people are starting to plan what they will plant in their gardens for the year.  Spring fever is definitely in the air.

I always associate the bright colors of spring with Easter, it seems like that's when we “officially” have the go-ahead to wear them.  So with Easter less than a week away, I thought I spend some time on those wonderful spring colors in an often overlooked piece of clothing - socks.

I shared my love for fun socks in my post last year on fall colored socks but that love extends into spring and summer too.  So let’s take a look at some of the spring/summer socks in my collection

First lets look at the solid colors.  As you’ve heard me say many times, I’m addicted to the many great colors that Polo by Ralph Lauren socks come in, and the spring/summer selection never lets me down.  Pictured above are 6 pairs of awesome pastel colored socks - they remind me of Easter eggs in that bunny shaped basket. Starting at the top left and going clockwise, we have a bright sunny yellow followed by a beautiful light blue, and the perfect shade of pink.  Continuing down to the first row, on the right we have a great shade of lavender, with a fresh lime color in the middle, ending with a peach color on the left.  The lime and peach were new colors to me this year and I LOVE them!  I totally own my bias, but I think these Polo socks are amazing!  They are definitely my favorite brand of socks!

In addition to the solids, these great seasonal socks come in a variety of patterns as well. Pictured here are several argyle and striped options.  First, in the center back, are three pairs of argyle socks from Vannucci.  These are relatively inexpensive choices and I love the variety of color options they offer. To the left, is a striped pair from Bugatchi, also relatively inexpensive, and I LOVE the bright colored stripes - these will be worn a lot.  On the right is an awesome pair of pink striped socks from Polo.  As you’ve probably picked up on, pink and lavender tend to be two of my favorite colors and are well represented in my wardrobe.  Finally the argyle socks in the front are from Brooks Brothers in the classic shades of white, yellow, and navy.

Even though there is still snow on the ground here in Minneapolis, the days are starting to warm up, and I know spring will be here soon.  When it finally does arrive, I’ll be ready with some wonderful socks in pastel shades for the season.  Pastels are definitely for guys, and if you haven’t added these colors to your wardrobe this is a great place to start.  What a bold and fun way to enter into the season of sunshine.

Oh, and the pair that I'm choosing to wear for Easter?  Why the awesome argyle socks from my favorite store, Brooks Brothers, of course.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


As most of you know, Brooks Brothers has fast become my favorite store!  I love pretty much everything they sell, and am fortunate to have a store near me here in Minneapolis. 

Brooks Brothers, unlike many retailers today, has a very long and time honored history that goes back almost 200 years (they were founded in 1818), and has retained a well earned status as an icon of style and tradition.  I highly recommend you stop by their store or visit them online.

A few weeks back I was reading CollarRoll’s posts on Twitter (I read his Oxford Cloth Button Down blog religiously), when I was alerted to an article at Gentleman’s Gazette on the history of Brooks Brothers.  Naturally I HAD to check it out.  This is probably one the most informative and well written pieces I’ve read on Brooks Brothers, and so I’ve decided to share it with you.  I also highly recommend that you visit Oxford Cloth Button Down and Gentleman's Gazete's sites, as they are a wealth of knowledge and information as well.

If you love Brooks Brothers as much as I do, or if you just want to know what the heck I’ve been talking about for so long, I suggest you check out this article.  I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did, and will become a Brooks Brothers shopper like me.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


This morning I looked at my calendar.  Tomorrow will be the Vernal Equinox which is the first day of spring, and a week and a half later we will celebrate Easter.  Yes Easter, that harbinger of spring, is less than two weeks away, but you would never know it here in Minnesota.

I’m mentioning this because yesterday we are got another blast of snow.  In fact we’ve been getting one or two days a of new snow each week for the past month.  Between snowfalls, the weather warms up just enough to melt and refreeze the snow or we get freezing rain that forms patches of ice under any new snow that falls.  Either way this makes for very slick conditions, and makes my walk to the bus stop especially treacherous some days.  Yes, Old Man Winter is trying to hold on for as long as he can.

Spring may arrive tomorrow, but this is the scene outside my front door now.

In the midst of all of this snow, I am really grateful for my LL Bean Maine Hunting Shoes - more commonly known as “Bean Boots”.  They are my faithful winter companions on these snow filled days.

I first discovered these boots about twenty-five years ago and they have been a core piece of my winter wardrobe ever since.  I love how well they are made.  I have seen many “knock-off” styles over  the years (some from major brands) but none can compare to or match the quality of these boots from LL Bean.

The “Bean Boot” is the product that launched their whole company, and its history and the story of its invention over 100 years ago are truly legendary.

Mailer for the original Maine Hunting Shoe (from LL Bean website).

The story goes that one night after returning home from a day of hunting, Bean complained that his feet were, once again, wet and cold.  He was never one to leave a problem unsolved and so he began to work out a solution.  Combining the waterproof bottoms of galoshes with the leather uppers from boots soon became the perfect answer, and thus the idea for the “Bean Boot” was born.

In 1912 Bean produced his first batch of 100 pairs of boots, which he sold under the L.L. Bean Company name.  There were, however, problems with these early boots.  The rubber bottoms weren’t sturdy enough, and the leather uppers tore away from them.  In fact ninety pairs of those original boots were returned.

True to his satisfaction guaranteed policy (that still exists to this day), full refunds were given on the retuned boots, and Bean set out to improve them.  Once he hired U.S. Rubber in Boston to make the bottoms, the problem was solved.

The Maine Hunting Shoe soon became hugely popular, and the rest, as they, is history.

My Bean Boots stand ready to tackle the snow.

Here in Minnesota we never know what kind of weather March will hand us.  Will it be warm and sunny with the energy of spring or will it be another round of blizzard conditions.  While I have to admit that I much prefer the warmer temperatures of spring, on those snowy days I'm grateful for my trusty pair of LL Bean boots.  Even on the worst days of winter they never let me down.  They are truly my faithful winter footwear of choice.

Leave a comment below and tell me what your favorite winter footwear is.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Mention bow ties to most men and you’ll get a variety of reactions, many of them not positive.  Unfortunately, over the years, bow ties have gained a reputation for being either very formal and stuffy, or the epitome of nerdom, but I think these reputations are undeserved.

Before we go much further let’s talk about the origin of bow ties.  Their beginnings go back to the Prussian Wars of the 17th century.  The Croatian mercenaries wore colorful scarves around their necks to keep the opening of their shirts together.  The French soldiers who fought along side them admired these scarves and started to wear them as well.  

Once this look was taken back home to France, the French, who were fashion leaders for the world, quickly made it their own.  These new pieces of neckwear were known as “cravats” (a derivative of the French word for the Croats).   This new fashion style flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries, and has evolved into our modern day long and bow ties.

There are several styles of bow ties and they will come in both "pre-tied" and "self-tie" options.  The "pre-tied" is just that, bow ties that are already tied and clip together with a strap that goes around the neck.  This option is fine, but it takes all of the fun out of the bow tie experience.  You can also get "pre-tied" bow ties that clip on to your shirt collar, but I personally think those are just wrong on so many levels.  The "self - tie" option is, of course, the one that you tie yourself and is my favorite.  

All of these options will come in three main shapes.  First is the "thistle", sometimes called the "butterfly" since that's what it's finished look resembles - this is the shape you are probably most familiar with.  The second shape is called the "bat wing" which has straight parallel sides like a cricket bat.  Finally, the third style is the "diamond point" which has points on each end rather than a flat edge.

Here are the three shapes of bow ties.  On the left we have the "bat wing" shape, next to it in the center is the "thistle", and on the right is the "diamond point".

Over the past six months I have discovered bow ties.  I have to admit that these ties were a wonder to me, while at the same time being very intimidating.  People I would talk to who wore them would tell me, “If you can tie your shoe, you can tie a bow tie,” but I still held back in uncertainty.  Keep in mind that I have been wearing long ties most of my life so tying those is no problem - I could tie one while blindfolded without any trouble - but the bow tie, now that was different.  Or so I thought.

Here are some plain bow ties from my wardrobe.  The rep striped tie on the left is from Brooks Brothers and was the first new bow tie I purchased.  Next to it is a Sean John tie that truthfully is much larger than I prefer, but I liked the colors.  The two ties on the right are from Countess Mara in a light blue floral pattern and a solid lime green.

I’ve always had a marvelous infatuation with bow ties and secretly, down inside, always wanted to wear them, but just couldn’t do it.  Last fall however, I had an epiphany of sorts which brought me into the world of bow ties.  It dawned on me that when I first started wearing long ties there was a learning curve, as I had to learn how to tie them.  Only with practice was I eventual able to master the technique to the point where now, decades later, it has become second nature for me.  I realized that in time, with practice, tying bow ties would become just as easy, and thus my journey into bow ties began.

Here are some reversible ties from my collection.  The tie on the left is a Social Primer tie from Brooks Brothers - I LOVE this brand!  The center tie is from Jos. A. Banks and is perhaps the most versatile of all my ties.  It is a reversible tie with four different colored striped patterns. Finally, the Tommy Hilfiger tie on the right, while not a true reversible, can give that illusion when tied.

I first bought an inexpensive bow tie at a thrift store so I could practice tying it – I needed to reassure myself I could do this before committing the “big bucks”.  I practiced off and on for several weeks until I felt I was ready to purchase my first bow tie to wear in public (you can learn to tie a bow tie here).  Once that point was reached, off to Brooks Brothers I went to purchase my first new bow tie. 
The first two color panels of the Jos. A. Banks tie are a blue and white striped section and an orange and white striped section.

From that point on I was hooked, and I have since added a few more pieces to my still somewhat small collection of bow ties (I’m sure many more will follow).  I will say that wearing bow ties does take a certain amount of confidence in order to “pull off” the look, as they make a very bold statement.

The last two color panels of the Jos. A. Banks tie are a pink and white striped section and an green and white striped section.

Today, while still a rookie at tying them, I am no longer intimidated by bow ties.  In fact I love seeing what styles and patterns are available.  I still own and wear a number of long ties, but bow ties are quickly becoming part of my wardrobe as well.

If you haven’t tried wearing a bow tie I recommend that you do.  You may find that it’s really not your style, or you may, like me, find that you absolutely love them.  If you do try them, remember to wear them with confidence, and above all have fun with them.

Having fun with the Social Primer.

Sunday, March 3, 2013


On February 2, Punxsutawney Phil failed to see his shadow, thus predicting an early spring this year. However, in Minnesota, we know that Mother Nature is sometimes fickle, and oftentimes defies augury.  We’ve come to learn that as we transition from February into March, our weather can be sunny and dry one day, followed by a snow storm the next.  Uncertainty is the only certainty when it comes to late winter months in Minnesota.

What is certain though, is that the men in Minneapolis will handle whatever weather is thrown at them, with the style and form that has become their trademark. Wether March greets us as a lamb or a lion, Minneapolis men will meet it with their own particular iconic style, that assures us that spring is just around the corner.

As we journey through these final weeks of winter, on our way to spring, I thought I’d share with you some of the great looks worn by the men of Minneapolis.

This outfit shows a great use of color and focus. The plaid jacket becomes the central theme and everything builds around it.  The royal blue cap matches perfectly the blue strip in the jacket, while the tan pants and golden/tan shoes are reflected in the cream and orange stripes.

Traditional, classic looks never go out of style, and are a timeless comfort during the dark winter months.

By the end of January, "cabin fever" starts to set in and we begin to see brighter colors make their appearance in our wardrobes to chase away the winter "blahs".

Even standard work apparel shows off a bit of color and whimsy in February.

Layers and textures of shirts, sweaters and jackets, become more prominent as heavy winter coats are shed on some of the warmer late February days.

Younger and "hipper" looks show off their own unique take on more traditional styles.

Finally, in March, wonderful pastel shades of color make their appearance to remind us that spring is indeed just around the corner.

Friday, March 1, 2013


We are fortunate here in Minneapolis to have a number of theater venues.  Local tradition holds that, per capita, we have more theater seats than New York City.  I’m not sure how true that is, but I do know that Minneapolis is considered to be one the top cities for getting started in professional theater.

One of our premier venues is the Gutherie theater.  The idea for a new local theater with a resident acting company began with conversations held between Sir Tyrone Gutherie and his colleagues Oliver Rea and Peter Zeisler.  After a nationwide search for a location, Minneapolis/ St. Paul was chosen.  The Gutherie officially opened on May 7, 1963 with a production of Hamlet directed by Sir Tyrone.  Since then, the Gutherie has become a leading theatrical source for the Twin Cities and the surrounding region.

As the Gutherie grew, it set up multiple performing spaces throughout the city, always with the dream of eventually, one day, consolidating them into one complex.  That dream came to fruition seven years ago.  A visit to their website sums it up quite nicely;

     “As the Guthrie entered the millennium, plans began to 
     build a new multistage theater center on the banks of the   
     Mississippi River. It opened June 25, 2006, and the complex  
     includes three stages: a classic thrust stage for the grand-scale 
     classics of the centuries, a proscenium stage for the more 
     intimate classics of this century, and a studio theater for 
     developing the classics of tomorrow. The new theater allows  
     the Guthrie to retain its pre-eminence among theaters 
     nationally and internationally.”

On February 23, a friend and I attended the closing night of Eugene O’Neill’s classic, A Long Day’s Journey Into Night.  This play is admittedly a very difficult show to watch because of it’s frank handling of addiction and alcoholism.  While these topics are openly discussed today, that was not the case when this play debuted.  The Gutherie, as usual, gave an excellent performance and an enjoyable evening was had by all.

I chose to dress a bit more casual for  the evening, and paired a yellow shirt with a brown wool cardigan sweater. Tan chinos were added to this and the look was finished off with a long tie from Brooks Brothers, a pair of vintage maize colored socks from Polo by Ralph Lauren (I don’t know that this color is available anymore as I’ve not been able to find it again), and a my favorite cordovan cap toe shoes.

The next evening some friends hosted an Oscars party.  I’m ashamed to admit that this year I hadn’t seen any of the nominated films, so my ballot was purely guesswork.  Fortunately I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t seen the films so that made the “competition” even more fun.

The evening was casual, and I wore a medium blue cashmere sweater over a pink cotton shirt, with a two toned blue and white bow tie. These were combined with tan chinos, fun socks in complimentary colors, and of course my cordovan cap toe shoes - have you picked up yet on much I love these shoes?