Monday, October 13, 2014

Shadows on the Wall: Rogue Territory Stealth Stantons

There are some brands I'm just drawn to. I've been this way my whole life. I suppose it stems from living inside my own head. As an only child, I spent several hours playing with Lego, designing, building, creating what I drew with my mind's eye. The notion of a platonic ideal, not understood as such by my child brain, was nevertheless the driving force behind such creations. Several components would work in concert, synthesizing a multitude of influences, yielding something which look like it's influences, but be it's own unique thing. I'd watch Buck Rogers, Battlestar Galactica, Airwolf, Blue Thunder, Firefox - if it flew or went into space, I'd labor over creating some new vessel that was at once derived from, but not present in, those universes.

Years later, as an adult, I find these same processes driving my eye toward clothing and accessories. I love clothes that are classics and look timeless, but at the same time, possess their own characteristics to make them their own interpretation, their own twist, but rooted in that same desire to reach for a Platonic ideal.

Rogue Territory is one in a long line of premium menswear companies who offer their own spin on classic jeans, jackets, shirts, and pants. What I particularly like about their jeans are two things - the fit, and the details. I purchased a pair of their stealth Stantons - a classic slim-straight silhouette, constructed in LA - in a sturdy, "murdered out" flat black (black warp/weft) selvedge denim from the Nihon Menpu mills in Japan.  Unlike some black denim, these never started out shiny black, they were always an inky flat, abyss. The faint scent of sulfur (sulfur being used to dye the jeans) lingering on the finished product, only added to the menace. At 15 oz, the fabric has some real heft, and character. Before long the scent and stiffness dissipate yielding to your form, and becoming yours. These are far and away my favorite jeans these past 9 months. To my mind, as black denim, they are almost perfect: only the white inseam and button fly lining breaks the mood of these stealth jeans.

The photos below are of my pair - get your own pair, and put your own spin on them.

Monday, October 6, 2014

EDC: Taylor Stitch T-Shirts

A good t-shirt is as singular as it is ubiquitous; you (can) wear one everyday, they can perform every function - from layer to statement, a t-shirt says something about your personality, even while wearing one you forget it is there. When they are done right, they transcend from everyday carry - to part of what you depend on to carry you through the day. In this, they are an alchemical marvel.

In a post two weeks ago, I briefly mentioned my search for the perfect t-shirt. It's been an epic quest - easily as long as the Lord of the Rings (with less hobbits). And just like LotR, there can only be one t-shirt to rule them all.

For me, at this time, that t-shirt is made by Taylor Stitch. It ticks several boxes for me:

1) Trim in the shoulders, room in the chest. All too often, if you want a shirt that hugs your shoulders, you have to pay the price by wearing a sausage casing all the way down. Not so with the t-shirts by Taylor Stitch. They are trim where they need to be, but skim, rather than encase, the body.

2) Not too short - all of their t-shirts have enough length to go past your belt, even with the lower modern rise on most pants, your shirt covers you, but doesn't look like a dress, either.

3)Pre-washed and pre-shrunk. None of that, how much do I need to size up? guessing game.

4) The cotton is a good quality - the base models are a nice thickness, they work as either stand alone tees or undershirts. The Sequoia models are burly, at 11oz, but so soft, they are supremely comfortable.

5) Though not an imperative - I like that they are made locally, in California.

Check them out online or in-store, they are a great addition to your wardrobe, and reasonably priced - $29, or 2 for $25 a piece.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Rose by Any Other Name

Long time readers will note that it's hardly just now I've stumbled on to an obsession with mechanical watches. I've always been fascinated with tools, aesthetics and Military influence on design. At the center of that intersection (6 corners in Chicago parlance) lays the Submariner. Rolex made a small batch of Submariner watches especially for the British Navy. There were probably less than 2000 made, ever. Rather than recite the whole story here, I'll simply direct you to Gear Patrol's informative article about the subject, here. But as long as you're here, look at the pretty picture:

Beautiful, right? Well, it could cost you about $80,000-$100,000. Doesn't look so hot now, does it? Unless you have that kind of scratch laying around, in which case, good on you. The whole purpose of these watches was that they were tools - tough, waterproof watches with automatic movements, designed for legibility - "sword hands" replacing the usual Rolex hands, and work, with no option but to wear a military strap, the bars being fixed to the case. They shouldn't be six figure status symbols, but supply and demand being what it is, scarcity makes it so.

Enter Steinhart Watches. Due to patents no longer preventing designs from looking like this, they've created what in watch circles is called an "homage" watch to the above design, the Ocean Vintage Military. Looking much like the above watch, but in a 42mm case (instead of a 40mm case that Rolex Submariners have long used), it is made of well machined 316L stainless steel, powered by an ETA 2824 automatic watch movement, which is built like a tank, with ubiquitous replacement parts available, and a 300 meter waterproof depth rating, if you feel like diving that deep and seeing what time it is. While it will never be a Rolex, it's not $100,000; It's $500. Though beautiful, it is a tool, not a status symbol. If you want a full review of this watch, you can't do better than Worn&Wound's review of it, available here.

And it made a lovely 40th birthday present to myself.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Weekend Waxing

I've lived in San Francisco fourteen months now. In that time, all notions of seasonal apparel learned in a lifetime of living in Chicago have fallen by the wayside. This is not an entirely bad thing. While in some ways, my sartorial skills have atrophied - no one needs to wear suits anywhere, unless you work in Finance it seems. My dress shoes, long a staple of my day to day in Chicago for work in the not-for-profit space now seem only to exist to occupy a spare corner of my closet.

Days are now spent in search of the perfect fitting t-shirt, a button down that looks best un-tucked, the ideal pair of sneakers, the right pair of jeans. My sneaker game has never been stronger - multiple pairs in white, in black, from several manufacturers, abound in my wardrobe. This past week, I saw on sale a pair of Vans I have eyed for many months now. On sale. Part of the "Van Doren" Era collection, but no longer on the site, I couldn't pass them up. So I didn't.

Lovely shoes, but I am a tinkerer. Remembering that somewhere in the house was a bar of Otter Wax, I thought, well, hell, I live in San Francisco, I bet these would look great if I waxed them. Theoretically it's damp and rainy here much of the year, and waxing the canvas to help waterproof these would really help turn them into year-round shoes. So armed with a bar of wax and a heat gun re-purposed from my wife's craft bin, and a bit more patience than I normally exhibit, I'm now ready for the city - whether the drought continues or not.

The process couldn't be simpler - take out the laces, and rub the bar of wax on the whole canvas upper, working in sections. Then use the heat gun to melt the wax into the fabric, being mindful not to scorch anything. "Don't scorch anything" sounds dire in a check-that-door-for-heat-Tim Backdraft way, but it's actually really easy; apply heat to a small section of the waxed shoe, wait for the wax to shimmer, turn off the gun, and work it in with your fingers. Do this over the surface of the entire shoe. Repeat with other shoe and BOOM! Done. Break your arm patting yourself on the back.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Luther's Denim - A New Jean on the Scene

It's hard to separate the blue jeans from America. When Bruce Springsteen has a record cover with him, in jeans, standing before an American flag, it sort of drives the point home.

Blue jeans are quintessentially American.

So when I was approached by Luther's to review a pair of their jeans - unsanforized, made in the USA Cone Mills redline denim - I jumped at the chance. Full disclosure, I was given these jeans free of charge, and while I still intend to give an unbiased review - I want to be out in the open. Their jeans are utilitarian - no hidden selvedge belt loops or coin pockets here. These are designed to be worn like their predecessors. Their nearest comparison might be to the LVC range, albeit focused on the mid-20th century, rather than running the gamut of denim history. Focus is good for a young company, and really, who doesn't like blue jeans and rock and roll? They have three fits at this time - the 47's - a slim model, the 55's - a regular fit, and the 66's - a tapered fit.

I asked for, and received, a pair of the 66 model. Raw out of the box the quality of the finished construction impressed me.

In particular, the denim looks really great. Of the two below pictures, the bottom is probably more accurate in color, a deep blue-black, which should wear nicely. And check out that nice white/red selvedge!

Another aspect I like is the hardware - the rivets, the buttons and patch, all have a heft, and really nice finish, while still looking the part, evoking the classic style associated with blue jeans.

But all do they fit? Well, raw, they fit big. But they should shrink, according to their website, by about 2 inches in the waist and 2-3 in the legs. Pre-soak fit pics:

Stay tuned for post-soak fit pics. Anyone starting a new denim company in this day and age needs drive and direction. It looks like Luther's has both - the question is do the public want traditionally detailed selvedge jeans? I'm betting they will.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dockers Want You to Wear the Pants

I have a dirty secret. It's not something that would normally be considered shocking, but amongst the denim heads I consider my tribe, it's akin to treason.

I hated blue jeans as a child.

Stiff, scratchy, uncomfortable - they were my pants of last resort. Through most of high school, I wore anything but jeans: khakis (this was before anyone called them chinos), fatigue pants - anything else. Since that time, I've fallen in love with raw denim, and embraced the challenge of the break in. But I have never stopped loving chinos.

You could argue that if jeans have a rebellious image, khakis and chinos have, in modern times, acquired something of a conservative, safe connotation. Dockers seeks to undo this. Kind enough to send me a couple pairs of their Alpha khakis, they are everything jeans are (or more appropriately, should be, to me), slim, modern, appealing - but I can wear them to work. And go out later and still feel like I have my edge. Embrace your inner everyman - Not Tom Hanks, but Jack Lemmon, Jimmy Stewart. Maybe your everyman is Montgomery Clift - but there are chino-ed icons out there, waiting to show you how it's done.

THIS is how it's done.

Dockers will be in Chicago Thursday April 11th and 12th to personally show you how it's done with the help of GQ executive stylist Brett Fahlgren and Chicago-based fashion stylist Naima Naito. They will show you how to wear the pants. But, you ask, where are the pants? On Thursday, from 11-6, they'll be at Pioneer Court (Michigan Ave and the River) and on Friday, from 12-7, they'll be at One Financial Place. Go hang out at the Dockers Airstream trailer, and win some pants, then wear them.

Who doesn't love an Airstream?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

3Sixteen Jeans: I Wanted Black

When I went to San Francisco last fall, I knew I'd go to Self Edge. I spent my first full day wandering around the city, taking Caltrain to BART, and wandering the mission, while my wife attended various work functions in Palo Alto, which seemed to be a city worth missing. After a nice breakfast sandwich and coffee from Bar Tartine, I wandered over to Self Edge. Before going, I had a pretty solid idea that I was going to look at the 3Sixteen jeans, and due to my strangely over-large calves, I'd be looking at their slim straight cut. Likewise, for whatever reason, I knew - I KNEW - that I was going to pick up a pair in black.

I was half right.

Once I saw the Shadow Selvedge, I knew that was what I was going to get. With indigo dyed warp threads, and black dyed weft threads, initially they have a very dark, almost formal denim look, if such a thing is possible. But as they wear, they get fantastic, almost electric contrasts. With the cognac leather patch, they are definitely worth picking up.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my post-purchase libation celebration, recommended by Kiya - Zeitgiest. Go there and enjoy yourself.