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Posts from the ‘Style’ Category

For the Love of Proportions! Ties, Lapels, and Shirt Collars


It’s a simple formula worth knowing:

The widest part of the lapel and the widest part of the tie should be similar in width.

We especially like this illustration by BlackLapel.com :


The next time you wonder why someone looks so good in a suit, note the lapel/tie width ratio and see if it is influencing your positive perception.

HOWEVER, one caveat exists for the man who craves ‘ more lapel ‘ (reminiscent of SNL’s pop culture ‘ more cowbell ‘ catchphrase):

It can be ridiculous to try to match the width of a tie to that of a super-wide lapel, and so the law of diminishing returns applies to just how wide the tie should be. In this case, match tie-width to shirt collar width (being careful to choose a more substantial shirt collar and tie when working with large lapels).

CARRYING THE PROPORTION THEORY EVEN FURTHER

Eyeing the shirt collar before putting on a suit, and choosing a shirt collar width similar to tie width, can be a real help in balancing proportions.

Case in point — media mogul Keith Olbermann is referred to as a master of proportions. Unbeknownst to many, Olbermann is quite a large man…but, his attention to proportions has kept this point fairly mute among the public.

In this GQ photo, we notice Olberman’s consistency in keeping his tie width somewhat similar to his shirt collar width (as his lapels are so expressive that matching tie and shirt collar width with the size of the lapel would be absurd). We also witness on the left, what happens when overall proportion details go wrong. The good news is that with a little education and some attention to what he is wearing, the man on the left can transform his entire appearance.

Olbermann’s shirt collar and tie (widest part of each) measurements are similar. Also note the finer point of how the shirt collar edge is slightly covered by the waistcoat, compared to the free-floating shirt collar on the left.

TIE DILEMMA OF THE KNIT TIE

Knit ties can be quite dapper, but it can be confounding to know how to use them in a suit ensemble. But, when factoring in the proportion formula on matching tie width with the lapel and/or the shirt collar width, suddenly knit ties begin to work better with suits. The problem with knit ties is that most of them are just too skinny, and this fact alone throws off the overall proportions of the suit.

But, once we purge these skinny knit ties, and opt for fuller, wider and more cleverly designed ones, then the proportion problem vanishes, and knit ties become a real viable option to add texture to a suit.

 

Zero Collar Gap: The Third Signal of a (good) Handmade Suit

A screaming collar gap ... such a pity for a promising look

Collar Gap Offender


It’s surprising to notice that so many people with exquisite taste fail to notice the importance of a good collar fit with no “collar gap”. In my own experience, I have been slow to pay attention to collar gaps on suits, especially when mesmerized by an otherwise incredible look of an ensemble.

Compared to many readers, I am fairly new to the world of tailoring, with only about two years of suit-making self-study. Yet I have noticed, after spending many years in surgical wear and fabric design (with patents on a major surgical fabric product) that I have gained a real fascination with the dynamics of garment appearance, fit and function. Out of all the components of suit making that I’ve learned to date, it is particularly interesting to watch how collar fit affects the front and back fit of a coat.

Collar fit is such a strong component to the overall look of the suit, and if we start paying attention to different collar presentations, then we can quickly spot examples of a properly sewn suit collar and a poorly constructed suit collar. Here is a prime example of a poorly constructed suit collar that may be “fault elusive” to many. It is a pinterest sensation that is hard not to like, with a real problem–a shouting collar gap:


Even our dear Prince Charles, in his earlier years, made the mistake of wearing a suit with the dreaded collar gap in one of his portraits. Here we see a photo of the Prince years ago, with a text book example of how a collar gap contributes to the front V-Tug of the suit coat. But, not to worry since in the years that followed, prominent Savile Row houses such as Anderson & Sheppard promptly corrected the problem with technical precision. Take a look at the Prince’s before and after photos.


In this photo, we see:

1. an obvious coat collar gap with the jacket pulling away from the shirt,

2. the shirt collar is showing fully underneath the coat collar on the back of the neck, instead of less than 3/4″ (or less than 2 cm) of shirt collar fabric that should extend from the coat collar.

3. the classic front panel V-tug, and “fabric collapsing” in the chest area,

4. a secondary collapsing gap created between one of the lapels on the coat and the shirt itself, causing the lapel to lose its intended straight line.

Of course, the prince does have his hand in his pocket, which can affect the overall look, but since he is doing so carefully while choreographing his pose, we can conclude that his pose probably has minimal affect on the front drape of his coat.

And now, notice the corrections in this suit:


In this photo, we see the following corrections:

1. the suit collar follows the shirt collar closely, with what appears to be around less than 3/4″ (less than 2 cm) of shirt collar showing,

2. there is the correct amount of tugging of fabric around the chest and waist area of the coat, and

3. the overlapping lapel does not rise and curve against the shirt, but lies flat at a straight angle.

THE PHYSICS OF A SUIT COLLAR


To understand the physics of fabric draping that occurs when there is a collar gap, perform a simple exercise:

First, take hold of the back of the collar of the shirt or coat that you are wearing now and pull the collar backwards. You will notice two things that happen:

1.The front panel of your shirt or coat will pull up upwards, creating a “V-Tug” appearance with some fabric collapsing around the chest area.

2. The back of your shirt or coat will “bunch”, creating fabric folds.

When the collar is working in the opposite direction of the neck, an opposing upward pull occurs on the front of the jacket, and fabric is pulled up and “bunches” around the upper back.

Yet, when the collar is sewn properly and hugs the neck, these problems are eliminated.


To illustrate the point, pull your collar downwards, towards your neck, and notice the dynamics that occur in correcting the chest and upper back fit.

In this situation, the fabric on the back of the jacket is secured flush against the body and the fabric in front works with gravity to create a nice drape with the correct amount of tugging around the chest and the waist of a well-sewn suit.

Compare the different upper back results in the following two suits:


Upper back “Bunching”


Smooth upper back

Here, the close fit of the collar is vital in helping the fabric across the upper back lie smoothly against the body.

HOW UNEVEN SHOULDERS CAN CAUSE A COLLAR GAP

Most of us are not exactly evenly proportioned. And, it’s not unusual for one shoulder to be lower than the other shoulder. When wearing a ready-to-wear suit, the person with uneven shoulders can see a few problems occur:

If the left shoulder is higher, as seen below, in a ready-to-wear suit that is uniformly sewn,

* a collar gap will form, usually around the shoulder that is set lower, and

* fabric bunching will occur that moves in the direction the higher shoulder (as seen above)


In the photos of Prince Charles above, his right shoulder appears lower than his left shoulder, and the collar gap is showing against his weaker shoulder. In the photo that follows, it appears that his tailor has made the corrections necessary to even out the appearance of his shoulders.

Other than slightly adjusting the coat button positions (moving the buttons a fraction higher or lower) on these problem-suits which are pulling either to the left of the right, or a valiant attempt to slightly pad the lower shoulder, there is little that one can do to correct this type collar gap problem on a ready-to-wear suit. A person with offset shoulders should whenever possible, have his or her suits handmade.

IT’S ABOUT AWARENESS

As we take notice of how the collar fits around the neck, we develop an eye for fine tailoring.

Here are some contrasting examples of the bad and the good:


Collar gap with classic V-Tug with collapsing fabric and a curved (instead of straight) left lapel.


And now for the good:


PG Director Greg Jacomet in Cifonelli (who worked with an uneven shoulder). Here there is no collar-gap, around 2 cm of shirt collar showing in back, a straight lapel angle, and the correct amount of front tugging.


Stefan Bernard in a Zegna jacket. Notice the close collar fit on both sides of the neck, and the correct front panel tugging. The lapel angle is intentionally curved instead of straight, with both lapels curved and angled evenly.


Pal Zileri. A nice RTW specimen on all counts.

There are a few things you can do to improve the situation of dealing with a collar gap, ranging from wearing wide-spread shirt collars to mitigate the appearance of the collar opening to looking at having a tailor build up a weak shoulder on the coat, to making a subtle shift in button placement to improve a pull of the coat to the left or to the right (again, usually indicted by uneven shoulders). But, of course, having the collar correctly made to form to your neck from the beginning will save a lot of trouble in the end.

Any fool can know, the point is to understand- Albert Einstein

Sonya Glyn Nicholson

sources:

Dress Like a Grown Up

The Garment Doctor: The Collar Gap

Garment Doctor Series

Bespoke Suits in Singapore: Kevin Seah

Kempt: How a Spread Collar Can Improve a Collar Gap

The 2013 Sartorial Storm (Part I)

written for: Parisian Gentleman

John Hamm dressed for the role of a doctor in 1934 based on the writing of Mikhail Bulgakov set during the Russian Revolution. Could this "look " now be considered irresistible?
John Hamm dressed for the role of a doctor in 1934 set during the Russian Revolution and based on the stories of Mikhail Bulgakov. Could this look now be considered “irresistible”?

 THE MALE ELEGANCE CLIMATE

The male elegance climate appears to be simmering  to a boil lately (compared to a mere five years ago). While we are seeing a boon in men dressing well with a growing penchant for style and quality, at the same time we notice a collapse in the frequency of spotting the quintessential middle management man with scuffed-up shoes and a dilapidated leather belt with belt-hole notches shaped like inverted amebas (of which he seems oddly proud to announce that his belt notches chronicle his weight loss and gain history since 1990… hence you deduce that his belt must be around 13 years old).

These days, it is more likely for a man to feel good about having immaculately polished shoes and to find satisfaction in knowing that a belt is rarely needed with a suit in the first place, since the complete body line of a man looks much better when he opts for trousers designed for no belt, thus avoiding the “cutting of the man in half” visual effect that a belt causes.

This man realizes
This man understands that wearing a belt with a suit can be passé and cut the flow of the total line of a man.

Yet even if men are speeding towards sartorial excellence at an alarming rate, we continue to see the occasional breed of the sartorial counter-culture set fanning the embers of the spirit of the 1980s “casual Friday movement”, perhaps most by those who feel trapped as time-watchers living for 5 o’clock and for the promise of another weekend—leaving us with the impression of a lost ability to feel intrigue for any day except Friday, Saturday and Sunday…with even churches replacing dress standards with the come as you are mindset.

France (even with its obvious population of sartorial-gifted men and women) gives us a more direct example of a diminishing regard for the work week by introducing “Half-Day Fridays “, or more specifically a reduction of the hours in the workweek  from 39 to 35 hours, since the year 2000. At this rate, in the year 2052, we can project an introduction of the  two-hour workday–with  potential daily perks such as Tie-Less Thursdays, Facebook Wednesdays, No Need to Tuck Your Shirt In Tuesdays, and Don’t Bother to Show Up Mondays.

This passive attitude towards how we present ourselves creates a piggy-back effect that biases these same time-watchers towards the belief that the reason dressing casually is better is because it is easier. And, once it is perceived that the daily goal is to make things easier, then the possibility of sartorial glory is lost. And, if a sartorial atheist believes that Monday through Thursday constitute corporate enslavement, forced dress-codes, and a general sense of misery, then we accept that we are unlikely to see a glowing sartorial result within this cultural realm.

However, the incredible point that may be easy to overlook, is that the sartorially-inclined man can use Casual Friday to his advantage as an optimal opportunity to come to work in business-only attire, which causes him be noticed in a way that helps communicate his own unique persona while at the same time, nurturing career advancement potential and boosting the chance for success in his social endeavors.

Not foregoing the necktie on Casual Friday sets this man apart from the others.
Not foregoing the necktie on Casual Friday sets this man apart from the others.

Dress for the job above yours…and rethink casual Friday. Business Insider, 2011

Although many may consider disregarding Casual Fridays to be somewhat hardcore, in actuality, dressing well is a moderate gesture that pays great dividends.


THREE SARTORIAL RENAISSANCE CATALYSTS 

When considering the perpetual turnaround from style nonchalance to style concern, it is curious to consider what is causing the intensifying energy behind this sartorial revival that is winning eager converts by the hour. There are at least three catalysts causing  this resurrection of interest among men in all-things-sartorial:

First, the influence of television shows like Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire, as well as Hollywood movies featuring gangsters and spys no doubt play a pivotal role in the perception reversal from sartorial indifference to sartorial passion that is occurring among men. By simply watching episodes of shows and movies with images of men dressed in fine-tailored clothing causes our minds to take sartorial notes; and put simply, our visual pleasure centers are repetitively rewarded with images of impeccably dressed actors—which eventually results in giving us an impression that dressing well can be…pleasurable.

Sean Connery with Tailor Anthony Sinclair, London. A precursor to the male elegance media rage.
007 Sean Connery with Tailor Anthony Sinclair, London. Sean Connery’s,  fittings  finally offers the masses a peek at the world of bespoke tailoring…and provides a precursor to the current male elegance media rage.
The iconic Michael Kenneth Williams from the HBO television series "Boardwalk Empire".
The iconic Michael Kenneth Williams from the HBO television series “Boardwalk Empire”.
From the 2012 film "This Means War"---In the movie, the leading characters location is traced by a villain through a torn patch of South American vicuna , a relative of the llama shorn every three years and considered to be very rare and luxurious. The scrap of fabric is identified as coming from "Savile Row's finest tailor".  The mystery question of the real-life suit's origin? Chris Pine's suit is Ralph Lauren's Purple Label  and the Brit's Tom Hardy suit is Paul Smith (with a signature narrow lapel and slim leg).
From the 2012 film “This Means War”—In the movie, the leading characters location is traced by a villain through a torn patch of South American vicuna , a relative of the llama shorn every three years and considered to be very rare and luxurious. The scrap of fabric is identified as coming from “Savile Row’s finest tailor”. The mystery question of the real-life suit’s origin? Chris Pine’s suit is Ralph Lauren’s Purple Label and the Brit’s Tom Hardy suit is Paul Smith (with a signature narrow lapel and slim leg).

A second  pop culture influence (as covered in the PG article (A défaut de fin du monde, la fin d’un monde ?) comes from more and more ad campaigns capitalizing on the mesmerization with bespoke tailoring by featuring models in authentic, not so glamorous bespoke tailoring workshops. These campaigns create an awareness that something more exists in the world of style. Perhaps the man who gains a glimpse of the Savile Row tailor’s life in an unexpected print advertisement stops for a moment, and asks himself  “What is that??”. Once this question is posed, many men find themselves on a journey to the sartorial promise land, with the only regret being that they hadn’t started the trip sooner.

Even though for some of us, it can be funny to notice that some of these advertisements greatly exaggerate the quality and origin of many products, we can still appreciate the awareness that is created as themes such as the tailor’s dusty workshop, continues to grow among ad agencies promoting male elegance.  In the same vein, numerous ad campaigns are also promoting men’s style by featuring men who look as if they have stepped into a frame shot from another time era (usually ranging from the mid-1800s up until the 1960s) which brings on a sentiment for hand-tailoring, or at least encourages a sentiment for items that relay the spirit of being hand-tailored.

Corneliani. Yet another ad campaign with subjects photographed with the "dusty workshop tailor-at-work theme."
Corneliani. Yet another ad campaign with subjects photographed with the “dusty workshop tailor-at-work theme.”
Time Era Dressing -- Sans the vest, this man evokes the emotion of the 1940s
Time Era Dressing — Sans the vest, this Pepe Jeans model evokes the emotion of the 1940s
Timothy Everest, tailor to the upper echelon of public figures and celebrities, provides designs that particularly appeal to the more cutting-edge sartorial thinker. Here: The Town Coat, reminiscent of the beloved frock coat from the mid-1800s
Timothy Everest, tailor to the upper echelon of public figures and celebrities, also provides designs for younger brands like Superdry, that particularly appeal to the more cutting-edge sartorial thinker. Here: The Town Coat, reminiscent of the beloved frock coat from the mid-1800s

As fresh as it looks…the town coat is firmly grounded in history, owing a great debt to that forebear, the frock coat. It may surprise many, but back in its mid-19th-century heyday, the frock coat was as “it” as it gets, having come into fashion as a more subdued (and less froufrou) alternative to courtly attire — the Helmut Lang of its day. But by the dawn of the 20th century, it itself had come to personify the calcified rigor of aristocratic European society…NY Times, November, 2011

The third influence may be very familiar to the readers of PG. Men and women alike from a vast array of different backgrounds, who have experienced a sometimes unexplained interest in how men dress, are now writing about their sartorial thoughts, impressions, and experiences. And with the internet in place, these voices are now able to reach the bulk of the world, where like-minded people assimilate in sartorial thought and spirit.

The writers that are rising to acclaim realize that writing about how we dress has as much to do with emotion as it has to do with knowledge. And where there is emotion, there is meaning. This specific element of a writer evoking sentiments, combined with a scholarly approach to dressing well, appears to be fundamental in rallying the interest in male elegance by a growing population of men.

James Sherwood (in a suit perhaps reminiscent of Andrew Ramroop's first suit in 1969?).  Sherwood has gained worldwide respect for writing about bespoke tailoring with emotion, as well as scholarly detail.
A candid shot of James Sherwood (in a bespoke coat by Edward Sexton). Sherwood has gained worldwide respect for writing about bespoke tailoring with emotion, as well as with scholarly detail.

And so, as a man’s attitude sets the stage for the development of his appearance, indeed there seems to be a new awareness among men that time is short—a knowing that living life well each day is infinitely more rewarding than waiting for the perineal Friday to roll around.  Most notably, men in their 20s are recognizing that a striking sartorial style quickly sets them apart from a league of other men who have overlooked the shaking effect of developing an unforgettable persona.

Now we can say with strong certainty, that we have entered a completely new sartorial age–where quality matters and a return to style has become important in people’s lives.

Part II will examine this mass attitude shift and attempt a cultivated way to understand the emotion a man feels as he develops his sartorial persona—as well as how the women around him may perceive and react to him.

SN

Pomp and Practicality

aaaRemember the one in school who always seemed to dress right–the one indubitably awarded  “best-dressed” by popular vote–and who won so easily that his title was never in question? I often wondered if this dapper young gent’s mum should have had the real credit for his ease and fortitude, and whether his actual award should have been that of “most obedient son”.  Or, on the contrary, did this soldier-of-style have an innate talent to present himself eloquently almost from the time of his birth? I remember having admiration for these types who gave us the impression that they were well-bred  and knowledgeable, if only through the way that they dressed.  Even decades later, I recall the tailored chocolate brown velvet blazer that my classmate, Terrisina O’Neal, wore in Grade 7, and the yellow and blue wool argyle v-neck sweater with the bronzed-yellow tie that Chels Norton paired with his tan pants and polished loafers in Grade 10.

This fascinating point of being able to recall a style choice (years later) stays with me, because of the simple fact that, if these two former classmates did not dress as they did, I doubt that I would even be able to recall their names today.  And, if dressing well causes a person to be memorable, can these well-dressed soul’s “pomp” be more practical than we could have imagined?

Of couse it’s obvious that men have a greater challenge than women when it comes to making style choices that causes them to be remembered (most preferably in a good way) because there are fewer choices available in the sheer number of accessories and clothing pieces offered for men versus women. But even so, we see men who, ever-so-slightly, push the envelope in order to nab a definitive style for themselves. Yet with men and women alike, the feeling is the same when it comes to the satisfaction of  “owning your style” and in finding your own rite-of-passage in the field of elegance.

There is a bit of a awestruck feeling that occurs when seeing men take more daring style choices and carrying off their choices with ease (perhaps because we’ve seen the epic style failures of checks and stripes that are proportionately ill-mixed, the dizzying effect of over-accessorizing, as well as the intentional clashing of colors that makes us recognize the clothes well before recognizing the man). And isn’t it true that if it looks like a man has tried too hard to pull himself together, then he appears more like a walking window display, rather than a persona in his own right? After all, while persnickety tailors can be the best of the best, persnickety men can be the worst of the worst. But still, you may agree that we can’t help but enjoy a little pomp, while being spared the act of being “pompous.”  

The word pomp can be misunderstood.  The first definition of pomp connotes “dignified”, while the second definition connotes “vanity”.  These two definitions provide a confusing (even intriguing) dichotomy of meanings.  While we can safely refer to pomp as meaning dignified, most likely we can also agree that thinking of a pompous person brings on thoughts of  someone who is “irritatingly self-important”.   The root of the word  “pomp” is the Latin “pompa,” meaning “procession”, which gives the word a regal feel. And, the phrase “pomp and circumstance” has been preserved by Shakespeare in his play Othello, Act III, scene iii with the words “Farewell the neighing steed and the shrill trump, The spirit-stirring drum, th’ear-piercing fife, The royal banner, and all quality, Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!”

What gives a man a little “pomp”…just enough to be remembered? Here are six examples that tend to leave memorable impressions.

THE POCKETSQUARE, THE FINE DETAILS,  AND A TIE TWIST

Tie Twist, Pocketsquare, Fine Detail (red button-hole)
Tie tie-arch, the pocketsquare, and the fine detail of red button-hole stitching

There are three things that I notice right away about this style: the arched tie, the pocketsquare, and the contrasting button-hole stitching.  This look feels like it is understated but still holds a strong sense of style.  And, this combination of style elements definitely allows for focus on the man instead of his clothing.  It is not overdone, but nonetheless displays a lot of flair and individuality.  The pocketsquare itself is not a duplicate of any other color or pattern (over-matching a pocketsquare to other fabrics and patterns worn comes off as looking fussy and unimaginative), but is simply white in color with interesting stitching–a fine complement to this overall look.  A properly arched tie does not fail to intrigue…it makes me wonder how it was managed and just how one uses a tie slide…and what special twist or push or positioning caused it to look so steeped in 19th century tradition?  I adore this way of wearing a tie and it is pleasing to see this effect carried off well.  The red stitched button hole is bold and shows a willingness to take risks and seems to communicate at slight sense of adventure.

Even waist deep in hot water, Draper pulls off the ultra thin tie with ease.
Even waist deep in hot water, Draper pulls off the ultra thin tie with ease.

Another tie twist is opting for the ultra thin tie, inspired by  the 1960s era to complement a suit. Don Draper from the series Mad Men has become an icon for sporting this retro look.

THE BOUTONNIERE  

Perhaps no one has carried off the rose buttonniere better than Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, whom, on the day of his funeral, caused a sell-out of roses at local florists because of the volumes of men who sought rose buttonnieres on that day in order to commemorate his memory.Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau

Perhaps no one has carried off the rose boutonniere better than former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, whom, on the day of his funeral, caused a sell-out of roses at Canadian florists because of the sheer volume of men who sought rose boutonnieres on that day in to commemorate his memory.  This little article of nature seems to be worn by men in a class of their own. If this look is worn consistently, it is hard to imagine anyone who would not be impressed with the fortitude of the man donning a boutonniere, especially considering his effort in arrange for something fresh to be worn regularly that also gives pleasure to others, most of whom can appreciate the beauty and simplicity of a single flower.

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A working lapel button-hole with a boutonniere latch

A working lapel button-hole with a boutonniere latch raises the bar in the world of boutonnieres. I find this small touch to be impossibly elegant.

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scarlet carnations

One of the most understated choices for the boutonniere, the scarlet carnation. If you like to hold strictly to tradition, wear a red flower if your mother is living and a white flower if she is not, as is the custom in several parts of the U.S. and abroad.

douglas-fairbanks-jr-1933                                                                 Douglass Fairbanks Jr., 1933

a nicely worn boutonniere
a nicely worn boutonniere
A more modern twist on the use of the lapel notch.
A more modern twist on the use of the lapel notch.

THE WATCH

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Obviously, an amazing timepiece is something that can bring great pleasure to a man. Yet, it can be of benefit to a man to notice how he wears his timepiece. For example, it isn’t becoming of a man to pose for a photograph after noticeably pulling one sleeve higher than the other, thrusting his wrist forward and tilting his timepiece ever-so-towards the camera. This move is blatantly apparent to others who look at his picture. Even when a man is not posing for a photograph, constantly extending the arm forward to show off a timepiece smacks a bit of of desperation, and can be off-putting to others. However, when catching an accidental peek of a fine timepiece worn by an elegant man, that man is more likely to be viewed as a person of deliberation and success, not as ostentatious and overly proud. Conversely, a discreet man seems to enjoy functionality and style, and is more than adept at expressing himself well, even in regard to his selection of jewelry.

A discreetly worn timepiece
A discreetly worn timepiece

Finding a fine timepiece can be a memorable life experience. The research, anticipation, and finally, the reward of owning an item that is both a technical and beautiful, as well as a constant companion, can provide great satisfaction for decades to follow.

THE HAT

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Frank Sinatra

It seems as if it would have been a waste for Frank Sinatra not to wear a hat. There can be no question that this man was made to don un chapeau.  It is also a bit of a loss for many other men who have the correct face shape and dimensions to forego placing a fine Fedora, or the likes, a top of their heads.

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AN EXTRA TOUCH

My father always carried a freshly laundered handkerchief in his inside jacket pocket. He would offer the handkerchief to those closest to him, should they have a slight spill, need to wipe their hands, or find themselves unexpectedly emotional. This sentiment of offering a handkerchief to someone remains with me. It is these small subtleties that causes a man to become memorable and is testimony that real pomp comes not only from outward appearances, but also from subtle and sincere gestures of grace.

Endymion: A Men’s Fragrance to Remember

It is the final day in Brussels at the esteemed House of Degand, which I am attending for the book signing of the stunning talent, James Sherwood’s “A Perfect Gentleman” book (celebrating the rich history of men’s style).   Just before departing, I acquire an unforgettable men’s fragrance called Endymion, created by London’s House of Penhaligon’s…

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Some may think it’s odd to get wrapped up in the thought of discovering a killer fragrance; but, perhaps you know what it’s like to search for a fragrance you love—only to discover that five years later, you are still looking?

Yet, some things are just right.  And you know it instantly.  Such is the men’s fragrance Endymion from London’s house of Penhaligon’s.

Endymion

Created in 2003, Endymion is a sensual fusion of citrus, spices and leather.  It opens with a burst of sweetened mandarin wrapped gently in sage and leather, then settles and smoothes gently into a dark coffee heart.  As it warms up, mysterious resins rise up with hints of creamy nutmeg, cardamom and the softest leather.” Penhaligons.com

SCENTS ARE STILL MADE IN ENGLAND USING THE FINEST RARE INGREDIENTS; FROM HAND-SQUEEZED BERGAMOT, TO JASMINE AT TWICE THE PRICE OF GOLD. . . House of Penhaligon’s

After being completely allured by Endymion’s discreet ability to catch my attention, later I decided to poke around online in the attempt to find a bad review on the fragrance.  One man lamented that he wanted the scent to linger longer…yet the other reviews that I read sang tabernacle-like praises about the wonder of Endymion.

In fact, most every review sounded more like a love story between a man and his cologne instead of a critique.  And, I believe that this particular fragrance is relationship-material for a man as it calls out to be revisited regularly to ritually bathe the senses in a most pleasurable scent…so that the event of putting on cologne becomes pure pleasure in a world where we crave a certain aesthetical boost, whether we realize it or not.

Only twice in my life have I been frozen where I stood by a scent. To cut a long and embarrassing story short, I followed a guy off the London underground when I had no idea where I was, to find out from him what his scent was. And I’m usually pretty shy. The scent was Endymion, and I couldn’t help but inhale it the way you inhale a lover’s scent with your mouth part open to catch every facet and reflection. Warm, earthy, dreamy yet authoritative and potent. The effect on me may have been exaggerated because the man wearing it was probably the most beautiful man I’d ever seen – either that or his scent made him seem that way. It just made me want to pull his shirt off. I didn’t tell him that bit… but I did go and buy his perfume. –a review by Lucy2shoes@basenotes.net, November, 2012

SPICY BEGINNINGS

The year is 1860; the place, London.  A Cornish barber named William Henry Penhaligon moved to London and soon became Court Barber and Perfumer to Queen Victoria.

William lived in an age of decadence, excess and flamboyance.  He found so much time to self-actualize, that he began relating experiences to fragrances.  His trade remained strong during his lifetime and was carried on by his uber-stylish son Walt Penhaligon.

In the 1940s, the business faded into oblivion, only to reemerge in the 1970s and today, Penhaligon fragrances are coveted by men who, down to their bones, feel an appreciation for the highest standard in life and living.

William's son, Walt Penhaligon displaying stunning style in 1907.

William’s son, Walt Penhaligon displaying stunning style in 1907.

There is something old-worldly about this Penhaligon fragrance.  When you breathe in the cologne, you feel the purity of the perfumery trade permeate your senses.  What I find particularly pleasing is that the fragrance seems to develop beautifully (even elegantly) on the skin and that there is no offensive reaction of feeling overwhelmed by its intensity, even if a man enjoys lavishing himself with this perineal potion.

Although Endymion is classically masculine, before it develops, it feels distinctly unisex, and I admit that I like it so much, that occasionally I’ve doused myself with this brilliant brew of woodsy orange and eventual sophisticated mix of sage with only a slight hint of lavender.

For me, the scent creates an image of an eternally stylish–yet slightly rugged man toting a leather satchel by his side, taking a clever short-cut through a patch of woods before reaching his rather elite address, simply because his sense of adventure requires him  to do so.

 Founded over 135 years ago, Penhaligon's is the ultimate ole-world perfumer with an impressive patron list including fashion God Tom Ford, Britain's great Statesman, Sir Winston Churchill and the Royal family, who long before blessing the brand with two Royal warrants from Prince Charles and his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, employed William Penhaligon as Court Barber and Perfumier to Queen Victoria.

“Founded over 135 years ago, Penhaligon’s is the ultimate old-world perfumer with an impressive patron list including fashion God Tom Ford, Britain’s great Statesman, Sir Winston Churchill and the Royal family, who long before blessing the brand with two Royal warrants from Prince Charles and his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, employed William Penhaligon as Court Barber and Perfumier to Queen Victoria.” (From Localspotter.com)

The bottle pleases the eye and is William Penhaligon’s original design: clear glass with a distinctively Victorian ribbon-wrapped top. And, as a final note, the bottle itself is of immaculate construction, as I confess to have dropped it from a 5 foot shelf onto a tile floor with no damage other than a temporarily racing-heart.

How the Necktie Conquered the World

The necktie is a powerful gesture and sometimes we may underestimate its effect.  After being commissioned by Parisian Gentleman to write about this complex “strip of fabric” that can say so much with so little, I found the necktie’s story to be more captivating than expected.

Brioni, The Regiment Tie, Purple. The Regiment Tie communicates respect for convention, seriousness, straight-talk, and perhaps a little “frat boy” churned into the mix. Serious or relaxed…a perfect choice; but, be careful not to infringe upon a regiment or club and wear a regiment tie that has been designed to represent a specific organization.

Consider the power of a rather small piece of apparel such as the necktie.  This slice of fabric can make or break a job interview, determine admittance or rejection into a fine restaurant and be a key factor in whether a man is to be taken seriously, or not.  And it is fascinating to consider that a man’s choice of a necktie may give insight into his personality.

Stefano Ricci, Lavender Gray Paisley. A nice paisley conveys boldness and when well chosen, displays a strong flair for style (and perhaps even a slight penchant for the flower power era).

The vintage Sulka Tie is now an ultra rare deadstock item that the most every tie aficionado may seek to own.

From Drakes, London: “There’s a touch of sartorial audacity in a silk knitted tie that’s oddly liberating and we’re proud that our knits continue to set the standard. Starting with the finest quality spun raw silk they’re knitted on hundred year old looms that produce the distinctive crunchy ‘cri de la soie’ hand, the true mark of quality and authenticity in knitted silk ties. Spots are sewn on by hand. Made in Germany, 100% silk, 7cm width”

AN UNLIKELY BEGINNING

The first known version of the necktie is located in the massive mausoleum of China’s first emperor, Shih Huang Ti (buried in 210 B.C and whose tomb was unearthed in 1974 near the ancient capital city of Xian).

Inordinately afraid of death, the emperor wanted to slaughter his entire army to accompany him into the next world. Persuaded by his advisors to take life-size replicas of the soldiers instead, astonishingly, his tomb contains 7,500 life-size terracotta replicas of Shih Huang Ti’s regal fighting force. Reproduced in painstaking detail are their armor, uniforms, hair, and even facial expressions of the soldiers. Each figure is different – except in one respect: all wear neck cloths.

Other records indicate the Chinese did not wear ties, so why the emperor’s guards wore carefully wrapped silk cloths around their necks is unknown.  With silk looked upon as a great luxury, the neck cloths were likely a symbol of high honor and prestige.

THANK YOU, CROATIA

Hats off (or on) to Croatia for the contribution of introducing the necktie globally. As early as the mid-1600s, during the European Thirty Year War, from around 1618-1648, Croatian soldiers fought in various regions of Europe. The traditional Croatian military dress included a noteworthy scarf tied around the neck, which is very similar to the style in which the necktie is worn today.

The setting is now in Prague; the year, 1618.  Some Prague agents of the Holy Roman Emperor were in a state of dissent when a group of citizens threw the agents out of a window. The agents landed on a dunghill and happened to survive. Being foul tempered because of this angst with Prague, it is said that the 30 Year War ensued soon after. which gave way to an immediate need for Croatian mercenaries. Although these Croations were rough-and-ready fellows, they held fast to making a style statement by displaying notable neckwear.

The word “‘cravat” is a derivative of the word “Croat”. It is an enigma as to why the Croatians exacted such imitation.  Still, as these Croatian soldiers were stationed in Paris during the reign of Louis XIV, the Croatians’ overall style greatly impressed their French counterparts and French men rather quickly borrowed from their sense of fashion–most notably when it came to neckwear. “.

The tie gained entry into the bourgeois style circle of that era as a sign of elegance and the cultivated elitism, and soon after the rest of Europe fell at the cravate’s feet. Of course today we witness the power of the necktie in practically every culture, with 85 different tie methods and a wide array of materials and colors.

A SIGN OF OUR TIMES: OLD IS NEW

After a few generations of aiming towards exaggerated convenience in most every area of life, recently we have witnessed a hunger for handcrafted items. We have grown fatigued with all of the computer and machine generated merchandise.  Herbs and natural remedies often are favored in place of chemically produced drugs.  Handwritten notes are more valued than the common email.  And, a taste for meticulous custom-clothing has caused a case of amnesia when trying to remember the need for a shopping trip to the mall.

Today, the celebrated necktie has seen a specific revival in the house of Passaggio Cravatte, founded in 2010 by Gianni Cerutti and Marta Step. The shop is located in Robbio, Italy (near Milan and the Malpensa airport) and uses the rare practice of hand-cutting the entire necktie from a single piece of fabric, then the tie is carefully hand-stitched and meticulously hand-folded using a seven-fold method form the early 1900s to produce a newly made vintage piece.  Even the fabric is taken from 90 percent real vintage cloth and is hand printed with patterns that are hard to find and virtually unobtainable.

Passagio Cravatte seven fold passaggiocravatte.com

The result?  Nothing short of magnificent.  While a Sulka tie can be an amazing find, now there is a chance to take the pursuit of a “magical tie” a step further by experiencing firsthand the traditional necktie original construction–simply because of a dream transposed into reality by two determined Italians to return to the tried and true method of producing a work of art that can be selected, cut and sewn on demand.

THE NECKTIE: NOT TO BE FEARED

And so, whether you resent having to dress for an occasion or find pleasure in doing so, we must admit that the necktie is a wondrous opportunity for a man to express himself in a way that makes people take notice.  The necktie can give a man the chance to portray power or humility, seriousness or humor, status or convention.  If more men looked at the tie as a tool (and we know how the male species loves tools), then maybe we will accelerate even further this era of a a return to style.

The Comeback of the Century: Dressing Well Again

Above: Andrew Ramroop’s first suit from 1969. The renowned Master Bespoke Tailor Andrew Ramroop runs Maurice Sedwell No. 19 Savile Row and is the first black tailor to own a Savile Row tailoring shop. Twice he has captured the title of “Best Men’s Wear: Design, Cut and Fit” at the Golden Shears Awards, the Oscars of tailoring. Photo by Gentleman’s Gazette

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DON’T TAKE YOURSELF SO SERIOUSLY…REALLY?

Perhaps this message to “lighten up” our attitude about almost everything began in the 1980s with the book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff–It’s All Small Stuff by Richard Carlson. This dictum has its merits; but, these days, plenty of men find nothing wrong with taking some things quite seriously — specifically when it comes to dressing well.  And dressing well they do– with willing moxie and pluck, and with no complaints from women.

Choose any point in history and envision that time period.  It is likely that the pictures in your head include how people dress.  We “predate” ourselves in having an earnest yearning to express our individual style and wanting to feel at least slightly impeccable.  Put simply, we want to look our best, whether we admit it or not.

Yet in recent decades–just like the stunning reptile, the Golden Toad, who has not been seen since 1989, somehow our verve for style found itself on the verge of becoming extinct.

A DISREGARD FOR FORMALITY

Like it or not, society cares about what people wear.  Flashback to the year 2009 when Google displayed 9 million entries regarding Michelle Obama wearing shorts as she exited the Airforce One. Although poll results showed that 80 percent found Michelle’s attire acceptable (yes, even with major events occurring in the world, there is poll about the First Lady’s shorts), the truth of the matter is that deep down, people want the First Lady to have a slightly magical and regal presence, and there is a bit of mental confusion that occurs in seeing her appear as a Disneyland tourist.  Notably, since this uproar, Mrs. Obama has been on her best sartorial behavior.

The “Casual Friday” epidemic has found its way onto Airforce One. 

CENTURIES OF GIVING A DAMN

Since the donning of the first loincloth, it is safe to say that we are aesthetic beings.  Men and women alike, appreciate design and function, by our very natures of being.

And if you fast forward from the day of the loincloth to the medieval era, we notice that by this time, clothing became so important, that codes were put into place dictating how people dressed.  At that time, it was a privilege to wear certain items, and what your wore represented your core identity.

Even Medieval peasants had great concern for their garments.  [Medieval bronze caster. Image licensed under Creative Commons by Hans on Flickr]

There were strict rules governing who could wear what in medieval and Renaissance times. The general rule was that the poorer someone was, the simpler their clothes were: a simple belted tunic for peasants…made of wool or linen. Both men and women wore ‘hose’ – leggings like long stockings without feet.

Nobles had access to any fabric they liked, including the exotic silks and velvets brought back by crusaders and merchants, but only royalty were permitted an ermine trim.  (EducationScotland.gov.uk)

THE HEART OF STYLE KEEPS BEATING

Steady as a beating drum, free people across the world continued for centuries to hold the way people dress in high esteem (of course our neighbors in Russia and China and many Arab countries suffered a true repression of self-expression).

In free countries (often inspired by well dressed Presidents and Royalty during the 1700s and 1800s), men and women all over the world savored the opportunity to dress for self-expression, and to dress in order to make an impression.

Dressing well as a way of life, late 1800s. Oregon Public Library historical record.

In the early 1900s, when many-a-man traded in his horse-and-carriage for his first petrol-powered or Model T car, “dressing well” catapulted into a global obsession. Perhaps the glamour of cruising in style in these miraculous automobiles proved to be a motivating factor; but, whatever the reason (with exception of the time period of The Great Depression), for many years to follow, the pursuit of style held strong.

Hollywood brought images to us that inspired and motivated the masses. There was a feeling of believing that each person could create his or her own persona–that “wearable art” is limited only by the imagination. People were happy to present their best selves, as it was a pleasure instead of a burden to do so.

Silent film star Rudolph Valentino, 1920s

WHAT HAPPENED?

Of course the rest is history.  We have all seen the sharp dressed men and women of the 1940s and 50s.  And, television glorifies the rakish working man of the 1960s in shows like Mad Men.

Even the clothing of the 1970s, with all its ‘Make love, not war’ influence, had a certain thoughtful rebellion to its look of playboy leisure suits and bandanas and bell bottoms.

Tommy Nutter design exclusively for Ringo

The 1980s felt like a schlack-coated red candy apple with a lot of Wall Street shine and glory with little substance, but still; overall, even with the overdone braces and oversized MC Hammer suits, the intent to look our best remained.  Throughout the 1980s, we loved to follow the swaddle and swathe of our Princess Diana and somehow, we still cared about what we wore…and then came the 1990s.

BLAME IT ON KURT COBAIN

I like Nirvana.  When a Nirvana song plays, I feel an intense sense of nostalgia and appreciation for a stand-alone (even if troubled) performer.  That said, my first inclination in trying to put a finger on the downturn of concern about style is directly correlated to Kurt Cobain’s preference for grunge wear.

The “first thing to come out of the closet” look

To turn to a more technical theory, analyst have blamed this downturn in concern for style during this period on the recession of the 90s.  And maybe, like the time during the Great Depression, people really did put attention to style on the back-burner because they simply had other priorities.

“The recession came and after that fashion and beauty became more pared down. One of my first jobs after moving to New York was to make up Kate Moss for the Calvin Klein Obsession fragrance campaign and I just used moisturizer.” –Kay Montano, Makeup Artist for Kate Moss

Staying in the musical world for a little while, I am now reminded of the U2 song lyrics “Stuck in a moment and can’t get out of it”.   Even after the 1990s recession softened, in the decade that followed, a polished appearance seemed forgotten and along with the golden toad, the quest for style seemed to practically disappear.

Prompted by a “Skinny Girl” Liquor advertisement glorifying the nonchalant modern-day women, Monsignor Charles Pope wrote a thought-provoking post, lamenting our lax modern attitudes about the way we comport ourselves in public.  Here is an excerpt from his article:

…but as the commercial rolls on, I think we see that we have lost a lot. The picture flashes away from the elegantly dressed woman, careful for modesty and dignity (though excessively portrayed), to the modern scene where we are suppose to rejoice and approve at how far women have come.

And what do we see? Half drunk women, with painted nails and flip flops, liquor bottles in abundance, and the indelicate and boorish behavior of those who have been drinking too much. Further there are numerous displays of immodest dress, immodest posture and unbecoming behaviors. In effect, if you ask me, it is a celebration of all in our culture that is boorish, immodest, indelicate, and excessively informal.

THE GREAT COMEBACK OF THE 2010s

The bespoke tailoring business is on the rise. Men and women alike are becoming more concerned with the form, function, style and quality of what they are wearing. And, counterfeit items are beginning to be seen as lackluster by the general population.

But most markedly, men are discovering the power of developing real personal style and for many males, the allure of the technical and aesthetic side of the style industry is as strong as the fascination for power tools and Monday night football (or a good Rugby match, depending on preferences).

These days, men have found a renewed interest in dressing well, and custom tailoring is no longer limited to the elite and privileged.

What prompted this change away from the nonchalant attitude towards men’s style?  What has ended this long walk in the men’s style industry desert…and brought us to this cusp of an oasis which has thrived for centuries, only to fade and finally reappear?

As I begin to research the answer, I hope to gather other responses and theories about the revival of men’s interest in high-handed style.  A few explanations are evident.

Perhaps the strongest influence in regard to the turnaround from a sluggish to a keen interest in men’s style may be attributed to televised shows such as Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire, which have given men a new eye for pocket square folds, vests, pant pleats and cuffs, lapel design, and tie knots.  This phenomenon has been extensively covered by the media and reinforces the idea that with change, in almost every case, the starting point is awareness, followed by knowledge and action.

Another less obvious explanation to the skyrocketing interest in men’s style may be attributed to age we live in, specifically the age of technology.  While swimming in the  world of the internet, we find that almost every convenience is at our “keyboard fingertips”.

In essence, it is possible to exist for years in a single room with a bathroom and have every need and whim delivered to our front door.  Even our business may be conducted from the very bed we fall asleep in at night, and rise in during the morning hours.  We find ourselves in a state of virtual life that many times feels as real as if we were physically somewhere else.  We can skype our family and friends, conduct business, order products and even fall in love in front of a rectangle screen, without stepping foot outside our humble or not-so-humble homes.

In many ways, the internet has replaced the necessity for human contact.

With this cerebral life in full-force with not even a trip to our old-fashioned mailboxes necessary, we long for a real reason to make contact with the outside world.  The fact is that technology cannot produce a tailored-made suit from the confines of our bedroom.

With thousands of combinations possible for design, we can feel the tactile satisfaction of placing our hands on different fabrics, feeling our arms slide into a sample coat jacket and imagining being cloaked in a custom designed piece.

And so it is an intriguing and adrenaline-producing thought to have the very human experience of commissioning a custom ensemble — a quest requiring several fittings with each piece sewn specifically for the individual, until the final product is produced, of which there will be only one of its kind in the entire world.

With this new avenue discovered that produces and unrivaled human experience in the world of style, we fall for the allure of the experience itself.  And it feels right.

THE FUTURE: HIGH-HAND BRANDING AND CAREER OPPORTUNITIES

With the escalation of interest in custom clothiers, the future should see a continuation of what I have termed high-hand branding by mass marketers.

Already, we have seen a broadening and loosening of once sacred terms like bespoke, tailor-made, hand-crafted by order, hand-tailored, by appointment, made-to-measure, custom-made, made-to-order, Fatto a Mano su misura, and sartorial, to name a few.

The result of the misuse of these sacred terms shows disregard and even disrespect towards the skilled craftsman who has spent decades refining his or her art to earn the right to use these esteemed labels and descriptions which have been tagged for exclusive use for the custom clothiers and shoe makers alike.

Mass marketers are likely to water-down quality and use clever marketing terms to reel in uneducated customers, commanding high prices for pseudo quality and even convincing customers that items are “bespoke” or “tailor-made” which in reality, is not the case.

The pursuit of true bespoke quality is growing and the media is paying attention, as demonstrated in The New York Times September 2012 article What’s a $4,000 Suit Worth?

And so, while the custom clothing market continues to grow, attracting a wider age range and demographic group, mass marketers will attempt to ride piggy-back on this runaway train and only the most discerning customers may get what they pay for in the mad world of threads, button holes, and silk linings.

The future may also see a whole new career world opening up for young men and women who are looking for an alternative to the earning the masters degree and securing a corporate job.  As the demand for custom clothing increases, obviously more skilled craftsmen will be needed to produce high level clothing and shoes.  From tailors to cordwainers, the market of custom production will open up to welcome new artistic, financial and managerial talent.

Young Justin Fitzpatrick moved to Europe from the U.S., to learn more about the world of bespoke shoe-making.  He opened his shoe shine concession in Gieves & Hawkes on Savile Row and is currently preparing for his ultimate aim to launch his ready to wear men’s shoe collection.

THE ENDURING TRUTH OF TRUE QUALITY

There is a clear celebration occurring which recognizes master craftsmanship and true high quality market offerings. Finally, more of us seem to be developing an eye for quality and at last retiring our cargo shorts and cheap shoes in favor of the idea that less is more when it comes to selecting quality over poorly constructed items.

Moreover, vintage shops with treasures of years past are popping up with fervor and finally, the media is beginning to recognize real elegance when it presents itself. The result is that we find when we begin to select our clothes with the same criteria we may select a car or a home, we just feel better.  And, ten or even twenty years later we may discover that the clothing and shoes we bought decades earlier still perform quite well and that our bank account is also no worse for the wear.

*****

Note: This is my first commissioned article for the esteemed on-line men’s magazine, Parisian Gentleman

London — Magic and Tragic

London oozes culture from the cracks of its pavements.  History and liberty abound; yet, perhaps London stands alone as the place in the world that unveils the highest level of the opposing states of regal and raunch.

In some parts of the city, you can feel aristocracy in the air, which I find to be a pleasurable thing.  I don’t need anyone to give me a concerning smile and a hearty chat, but can simply enjoy a sense of refinement and elegance skipping around on the grey streets in the better parts of town.  And, if you are lucky enough to know of some obscure inner circle restaurants in London and cost is not much of a concern, your culinary needs will be more than satisfied.

Other places in London can be abrasive and untidy to the point of having to dodge waste on the streets and an obvious presence of groups of people who appear emotionally numbed, perhaps by financial woes, too much alcohol, logistical problems, and a general feeling of the weight of life.  In this state of existence, there becomes an acceptance of too many cupcakes, an abandonment of civility, and a lost-count of glasses of wine or bottles of beer consumed, as if people are grasping to own little moments where they are able to put down their guard and forget about their worries.

But on this day, there is an oblivion to the dichotomy of London as I decide to board one of those prettily glaring candy-apple-red double-decker buses running through the heart of the city, and today I become a full-fledged admitted-tourist.

During the double-decker bus tour, I attempt to take photos that give a unique perspective to some of the more common sites of the city and in the end, I feel that I have found pretty good results.

A man reading the morning paper on the front steps of London Bridge Hospital Building.

Old couple walking down the street together

The next day, I attended the Changing of the Guard Ceremony at Buckingham palace, and felt like I was crammed inside a box of overloaded toothpicks, barely able to move or see anything more than a 60 second segment of the ceremony in motion.

If I could do it again, I would roam around Buckingham Palace before the ceremony, watch a few minutes of the fanfare, and then leave and watch a youtube on “changing of the guards” at my leisure. 

The crowd making their way toward Buckingham Palace, awaiting the beginning of the ceremony.

More people rush to gather around the main gate.

–Most people are feeling a little stress because there seems to be no good place to stand.

The parade segment of the ceremony starts, and because I am standing at the gate, I can see nothing but human bodies in front of me.

So I turn to photograph the lady standing directly before me at the gate…clearly not happy.

Finally we see the Changing of the Guard Ceremony, and although there is a partial view, there is an air of satisfaction.

Machu Picchu — Feels Like Fantasy

On my trip to Machu Picchu, this is what I saw upon first approach…A fortified Inca town in the Peru Andes Mountains, thought to be built in the 1400s (exact date unknown).  

The invading Spaniards never found Machu Picchu during the war and so the Peruvians hiding away and thriving here remained safe. The site was not discovered until 1911 (Can you imagine discovering a place like this?). Machu Picchu is noted for its dramatic position, perched high on a steep-sided ridge.  No one is certain about why the inhabitants here appeared to suddenly evacuate this seeming paradise.

Ode to Paris

France was on my mind today when a sort of a bitter-sweet nostalgic mood came over me.  I guess it was a longing for the Paris of the past to stay strong and never fade; although, it is certain that everything changes. And so I hang on to some sweet memories and hope for at least a few more intriguing times in the city of love and lights.

Anyway, I’d like to take you out into the city to do some classic visits to places in Paris that you will probably recognize. I hope you can see things with fresh eyes and feel a slight thrill from time to time.

And of course, sometimes all these photos of the Eiffel Tower gets a little tiring…I mean how may miniature Eiffel towers can you view until you’ve just had enough ??

but if you look at the same picture through someone else’s eyes, then the familiar may seem slightly new again.

Night has a completely different feel than day does here.

A view from a boat on the Seine River.

Slightly dizzying.

From a top Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris on a rainy day.

A section of Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris at night … with an unbelievable midnight blue sky.

Heading to the Louvre Museum

All the fuss about Mona Lisa.

Jardin du Luxembourg at dusk (click to enlarge).

Champs-Elysées’ Arc de Triomphe

After climbing the stairs to the top of Champs-Elysées’ Arc de Triomphe, a welcoming view.

View of Paris from atop the Arc de Triomphe

Lunch at a Paris cafe with my niece Caroline.

And along the street, classic views…

Look above my head and you will notice that the tree is decorated with books.

A lovely Parisian sidewalk flower shop.

I hope that you felt like you visited alongside of me…It is good to keep these memories of Paris in a safe place.  xx ~Sonya

The Thing About Awards

I’m not an awards-type person, but like having the chance to recommend addictive blogs.

These awards on WordPress seem strange because how can you win an award just because one person says so?

Still, this “Addictive Blog Award” is appealing.  I suppose if someone is addicted to your writing, it means that you’ve tapped into something good that resonates with and is recognized by someone who finds himself or herself wanting more.  This is a great compliment, I can’t deny it.

Coincidentally (or not if you believe there are no accidents), two bloggers sent me this specific award in back-to-back comments on my Iconicallyrare “About” page…

…And, it felt like the stars were somehow aligning, and I needed to respond, so here goes.

“Heaven’s Path” in Ireland…where the stars appear to line up with the path (courtesy Gagbay, Heaven of gagbay addicts)

To accept, I must post the awards on this page, tell who sent the awards, write about why I blog and then recommend others (up to 10) and notify them that they have been awarded.

“Thanks” for the award goes to GNOSTIC BENT who has been Freshly-Pressed early on in his blogging experience and continues to write features that will grab your attention immediately after the first sentence.

And another thank you for the award goes to  Dear Ms. Migraine who writes with abandon about the challenges she faces when her body’s refuses to cooperate with her own desire to be healthy and happy.

Why do I write here? The reason is a bit intense, but I’ll tell you why:

I write or I die.  It sounds dramatic but the thing is that writing is my voice…if I stifle my voice I can feel myself fade and wither and become part of some distant group of atoms that are absorbing into a world outside of myself, and becoming lost like bubbles popping and blending into a distant atmosphere.

When I write I become distinct, my fuse contacts its source, my charge is amped up to full capacity, my cerebral self feeds the core of my soul…and I feel like I more than exist, I more than survive–now I am alive.

And now for the most important part…recommending writing that is stellar and iconic, and yes, addictive.

The Addictive Blog Award goes to:

1. Higher Thinking Primate – Hands down the most diverse blogger I’ve read here.  I’ve never received a return like or a comment from Higher Thinking Primate and sometimes wonder if he or she is a man/woman/ or machine… but with quality like this, who cares?

2. Unbound Boxes Limping Gods – Cheryl Moore is pure genius.  I visit her stories and illustrations, and find it difficult to leave.  Once you open the door and view her creations, you will understand.

3. Making a Movable Feast – Some people write so clearly and use pictures so well that you feel like you lived their words.  Emily does this for me…An ode to Hemingway, and thank you, Emily.

4. The Monsieur – Classic information on men’s style with visuals that have a timeless sharp edge.

5. Parisian Gentleman – Kind enough to feature me as a guest blogger, this monumental online men’s magazine has had almost 4 million hits and is a (if not the) key reference on how to be a gentleman.  Motto: First learn the rules, then break them.

6. Through Healing Lens – Robyn Lee will bend your mind with her story of being a gorgeous woman with a bountiful life and the moment that everything turned on a dime, but didn’t change her indomitable spirit.  She tells how she persevered  through insurmountable challenges and is finally finding a place of peace.

7.Alexandra Nour – This person is hilarious and sometimes I need to laugh.

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