Friday, March 29, 2013

Sharp Stylings #64: Del (and Gill) Evans

We can learn so much from yesterday’s fashion icons.  And living in a post-Mad Men world means we can even enjoy aspects of current male fashions! Every Friday, I’d like to start your weekend off right with a little style inspiration from either then or now. Hopefully, my fellow Mod enthusiasts will find the whole or some detail of the whole to appreciate and maybe even adopt.

Let's take it back to what really inspires us: the originals.

I first came across these photos on the Jack The Cat Was Clean blog (definitely worth stopping by for stories from the people who were there in the beginning). Out of most 1960s photos I've seen, these were the ones that really spoke to me. Photos of a couple (Gill and Del Evans) who really knew their style and went all out with it.

It got better once you read their own story about the time: a couple who met and fell in love amongst a background of cafes and clubs. A shared enthusiasm for clothes and music is what brought them together and, years later, they remain together. And that love of clothing didn't diminish over those years: Del is still a designer dressmaker! And her husband still kicks down with the suit and button-downs!

But let's go back to those early days and zoom in on a photo that, for me, captures what I love most about the Mod thing: the styling!
Sorry, ladies, this man is taken.
BOOM! You just got served with a class act.

Del Evans, 1964, in a self-designed suit (Del drew his own designs) made to measure at Hepworths in New Street, Birmingham. According to Gill's description, the detailing of this suit included black & white tweed, narrow trousers, 4-button front (much coveted among the male Mod set), flap pockets including the ticket pocket AND breast pocket, 8" side vents (8 inches!), and black leather buttons. Top that off with a black knitted tie with tie tack and a pair of black narrow shoes with a subtle pointed toe, and you have a look that the original Mods book really could have benefited from.

Oh, the cane? Shoot, that's just icing on the cake. According to Gill, there was a short period when the walking stick was a necessary accessory to getting your groove on at the local clubs. Gill Evans: "A walking stick was a popular accessory for a time and at the West End Ballroom Birmingham. The Mods would dance in a circle with them."

This is the stuff many of us love: the clothes, the pose, the detailing, and the story behind it all.

And hey, like they sometimes say, behind every stylish man is a stylish woman:
Gill Evans: sharp, sassy, and slick!
Interested in reading more about their story? Check these links:
Well, that's it for me today. I'm off to shop for a walking stick... 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March Music Picks

So, I think Anorak Thing and Monkey Picks have been on to something good with their monthly music picks. Something so good, I think I'll join them!

Years back, I used to take part in one of those Live365 internet station things and I used to love uploading a wide range of good music. I got burnt on having to convert everything to MP3 though, so I eventually pulled out. But, now that YouTube has grown into a vast video archive, I can just grab songs off of there. Hopefully, I can keep this up on a monthly basis.

Anyways, here's a Top 10 list of stuff that's been hittin' me just right this past month:

1. Herbie Hancock - Fat Mama - Makes me miss the days a couple of years back when I used to DJ jazz/soul tunes in between sets of live jazz from The Nick Rossi Trio at the Burritt Room in San Francisco. It was a mellow time when I got to experiment with '50s/'60s/'70s jazz along with newer tracks, then taking a break to enjoy a drink and listen to the guitar, bass, and vibes from the Trio.

2. Nina Simone - Cum By H' Yere (Good Lord) - Pulled this album out again recently. Amazing voice and stripped-down instrumentation. Love the way it just soars as it goes.

3. Simon & Garfunkle - Homeward Bound - One of my fave S&G tracks, amongst many. I was always a fan, in general, but that fandom went up a few notches when we picked up their 'Old Friends' live CD a few years back. They still have that chemistry!

4. Prince Phillip - Keep On Talking - Received the Hall of Fame: Rare and Unissued Gems From The FAME Vaults compilation for Christmas and it's been playing often on our system. The track that gets me going and makes me want to go back to hunting for good soul 45s, though, is Prince Phillip's 'Keep On Talking' written by Dan Penn.

5. Gil Scott Heron - I Think I'll Call It Morning - This one off another album I hadn't listened to in a long while. You know how it is: you get into a record, put it away for a couple of years, and when you re-visit it you re-discover songs that you may have overlooked before. This track became my new favorite.

6. Rodriguez - Crucify Your Mind - We're late to the Rodriguez party, barely catching the Searching For Sugarman movie at our local Elmwood theater over a month ago. And yes, it IS as good as you've heard. I couldn't decide on which track to include, so I'm sticking with my wife's favorite.

7. Dexy's - Nowhere Is Home - This new Dexy's stuff ain't bad, I tell ya. I keep coming back to this one, playing it over and over while I'm at work. Just has that type of mellow beat I'm really into these days.

8. James Hunter - Minute By Minute - Caught the James Hunter Six earlier this month and, as always, it was a great show. Now, his CD is playing non-stop in our car and this is the fave track.

9. Ten Year After - If You Should Love Me - Sad news earlier in the month when Alvin Lee from Ten Years After passed away. Admittedly, as a young Modnick, this is a band I NEVER thought I'd ever get into. Then, one day, I heard this song and my musical horizon expanded just a bit more.

10. Dr. Robert - Heavenly Thing - Back in the '90s, my friends and I got on a huge Dr. Robert kick. Some of you might have remembered him from his Blow Monkeys days, but when he released his solo EP, Coming of Grace, we were hooked. Now, in all honesty, it may have had a lot to do with the fact that the EP featured back-up from people like Paul Weller, Mick Talbot, and Rhoda Dakar. No matter what, though, it was Dr. Robert's voice and the songs' compositions that kept that thing on re-play. Egad, almost 20 years later, and Dr. Robert has done it again with this sweet slice of modern soul! (This clip includes a sample of the track mixed with 'Realms of Gold' which was my fave track off the Coming of Grace EP.)

That's it for this month. Hope these songs grab you like they grabbed me!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Weekly Blog Roundup: 3/26/2013

Wow, Daylight Savings Time messed me up more than I thought. This post should have gone up over the weekend! 
 Alright now, continue on with your week.
From A Dandy In Aspic.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Casual Friday #12: Martin Freeman

Working to look sharp for a rare evening out on the town can actually be easy. The tough job is trying to look sharp on a daily, casual basis. Yeah, you might have your Friday night suit at your beck and call, but what does it matter if you spend the rest of your time in target t-shirts and jeans? Every Friday, I'd like to offer up some style inspiration for tightening up your casual look, because let's face it... sometimes you just don't feel like wearing a tie, but still want to keep it sharp.

Casual comes in all kinds of different flavors. There's the type of casual you wear when you're out being active (hiking, long walks, working in the yard). There's the type of casual you wear when you want to just take care of errands or want to spend the day hanging out with friends. And there's the type of casual you wear when you want to look sharp, but, well, a tie's just too much. (My favorite kind of casual, really.)

Martin Freeman knows how to do up that type of casual. Recognize:
Image from the December edition of British Esquire from Freemanweb.
Friends, this is how you lay down the suave. This is the type of casual that just sets you apart from the Fred Perry and Adidas army. Simple, pale-colored shirt that goes with most anything (not sure how I feel about the button-to-the-neck though), dark 3-button jacket that's trim and well-fitted, light-colored pants (it is Spring, afterall) and a beautiful pocket square puffed up just right with a nice pattern to provide a bit of focus to the whole outfit.

Now unless you're spending the day playing socc football with friends, this is a casual look that can be very versatile. Dress like this when you're out grocery-shopping. If you're a single fella, you just might find yourself with a Friday night date by the end of the check-out. Dress like this when you're out just having a cup of coffee. Your hero, Paul Weller, sometimes still does. Dress like this when you're out having a drink with friends. Who knows... if they're the target t-shirt and patch-covered parka type, they just might learn a thing or two from you.

Sure, many people dress like this when they know other Mod types will be about, but screw that! Dress like this regardless of whether or not you'll be seen by your fellow modernistos. Don't save up your good outfit for that one Saturday night of the annual scooter rally.

Set a higher bar for yourself and pump up the casual!


Monday, March 18, 2013

Mod Gone Wrong: Mad Men? (You Decide!)

Hey, I'm as big a fan of Mad Men as the next guy, really. Sadly, my wife and I have fallen really on the show, leaving off somewhere mid-third season. But we are planning on catching up real soon, because it is an amazing show.

Sure, there's the great set design, the beautiful early '60s costuming, the solid writing, and, of course, all those great characters.  But, heck, I was sold by the first episode when they referenced the famous Volkswagen 'lemon' ad, which is generally credited for shifting the tone of advertising to a more 'hip' sensibility in the early '60s. (If interested in this subject, look up Thomas Frank's Conquest of Cool book... yes, I'm a nerd for this stuff.) Over 50 years later, advertisements have pushed the idea of 'hip' way past its breaking point.

And, what's hip these days? Yup, you guessed it: Mod! (To paraphrase my wife, "'Mod' is this season's black.") And what show is delving into the American 'Mod' era of the 1960s? Yup, you know it: Mad Men! So, it makes perfect sense to sell people a hip new line of clothing inspired by 'mod' as filtered through Mad Men.
Want a chance to live the "Mod life" in NYC? Here you go!
It really is weird, if you think about it, though. One of my first posts, way back in 2011, gave slight mention of the influence Mad Men was having on men's fashion. It wasn't the only influence, but it was a good one! Finally, suits were more fitted, lapels were slimmer, trousers were more narrow. No, Mad Men wasn't having a direct major influence on men's style, but it was contributing to a changing approach to a 'new' look for men. Words like 'retro,' European fit,' and 'slim fit' were tossed around to describe this look.

My guess is that, in time, people are just going to refer to this look as (the catch-all) 'mod.'  And you'll probably be able to thank Mad Men and Banana Republic for that. You see, the big news all around is that Banana Republic has released an official Mad Men-licensed 'mod' line of clothing! Yup, Mad Men is about to have a very direct influence on men's style.

People are going to be walking around in clothing inspired by the clothing worn on a television show inspired by the clothing worn by real people in the 1960s. Talk about 'life imitating art imitating life!'
Another Mod revival?
Now the weird thing is how the whole 'mod' thing plays into this. You know the basic history of the culture that developed with English youth in the 1960s and remained relatively 'underground' until the media exploitation of "Modsversusrockers." This, of course, led to a commercial bonanza with 'Swinging London,' the 'Swinging Sixties,' and a whole world gone 'MOD'!

Soon, 'mod' found its way to the United States, no longer really used as a noun to describe those English kids, but rather as an adjective used to describe pretty much anything new and 'hip.' And the the American youth ate it up! Feeding them all the 'mod' they wanted were companies mastering all those new hip techniques of advertising.
The Mod acne solution! Image from Belly Buzz.
Stuffy old adults just looked upon this as another teenage craze. In time, though, even those adults fell into the Mod pool. After a few years, their uptight clothing choices became more free, youthful and, yup, mod!
Modnick slacks & shirts for the older man.
(And remember, in the 1960s, 'older man' probably meant anyone older than 25!)
And this is where Mad Men comes in. Think about it. The characters on Mad Men aren't young (by 1960s standards). The 'mod' look they're about to be wearing in this new season is what people their age would have been wearing in the 1960s, a look that was no longer that cool with 'hip' American youth. If you were an American kid in the 1960s, would you have wanted your parents dressing like you?

Now, don't get me wrong... you all know I LOVE the Mod look! But let's be real here. Banana Republic is releasing a 'mod' line of clothing based on what un-hip adults would have been wearing in the United States in the late 1960s.
I know, Pete Campbell, right?
And, boy, is Banana Republic going for it! "Mad For Mod" is the tagline for the ad campaign. But mad for what kind of 'mod'? This type of 'mod'? 
Dean Martin, the guy who didn't "get" The Rolling Stones.
Hey, look, the clothing isn't bad, really. For new clothing, it's quite nice. You wouldn't expect anything less from Banana Republic, which has developed a well-earned reputation over the years. But when it comes to "Mad For Mod," I'm not sold. Other than a slim fit, the men's line doesn't do a whole lot for me. The women's line looks a bit nicer, of course, what with the geometric shapes and bright colors and all. But what all this does is make me wonder what this means for those of us already into this Mod thing. Are you going to walk around in Banana Republic Mad Men® (yes, all rights reserved) attire

My wife pointed out a key reason why she'd avoid the women's selections of this new 'mod' line: "Are you kidding? The minute you show up in one of those pieces, everyone will know. 'Hey, she's wearing a Mad Men dress!'" Heck, imagine showing up to a party in your new chic Mad Men-approved dress and finding one or two other women in the same exact dress? Quelle horreur!
Plus, for me, it'd be a little weird buying clothes based on a fashion designer's interpretation of 1960s styles found on a television show taking place in an era I've been interpreting on my own all this time. It'd be like rockabilly people buying a line of clothing based on Happy Days. Steampunk people buying a line of clothing based on Wild, Wild West. Or, I don't know, gothic people buying a line of clothing based on Twilight (don't know if this analogy makes sense, but I like it). 

But hey, always look on the bright side, right? When you're walking down the street you'll be hearing a lot less "Hey, it's a Beatle!" Instead, that'll be replaced with "Hey, it's a Mad Men!" And, you won't have to bother explaining what you're about to strangers anymore. "Oh, I know what a Mod is. Mad Men, right?

The flip side of that is that in a few years time, when mainstream fashion has moved away from the "Mad For Mod" look, you'll get to hear comments like, "Hey! 2013 called. It wants its Mad Men clothes back!"

But in the end, if I'm being honest with myself... yeah, I'll probably be looking for one of those Mad Men ties in the sales bins.
Besides, somehow we survived The Nanny going 'Mod' in the '90s. We'll survive this too.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Weekly Blog Roundup: 3/17/2013

Alright, a Sunday bit of blog linking for you today. Many of you are out drinking and wearing green today, but I'm stuck studying up on some work-related material. But, I'm taking a break to pass on some good articles:
Happy St. Patrick's Day! Getting in the spirit... with just a dash of the green.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Weekly Blog Roundup: 3/11/2013

Instead of ending a week with good blog posts, how about starting the week with them? (Great way to spin my laziness over the weekend.)

So, fill up on coffee, grab a bagel, and enjoy the following!  
 Alright, hope these set a good mood for the week!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Casual Friday #11: The Three O'Clock

Working to look sharp for a rare evening out on the town can actually be easy. The tough job is trying to look sharp on a daily, casual basis. Yeah, you might have your Friday night suit at your beck and call, but what does it matter if you spend the rest of your time in target t-shirts and jeans? Every Friday, I'd like to offer up some style inspiration for tightening up your casual look, because let's face it... sometimes you just don't feel like wearing a tie, but still want to keep it sharp.

Many of you around the internet world probably heard a collective cheer around a week or so ago when it was announced that 80's Paisley Underground band, The Three O'Clock were reuniting for a few shows around California. Well, if there's one thing I've learned, California (especially southern CA) really, and I mean really, loves its '80s!

But, hey, when it comes to the Three O'Clock, I'm right there with them! I remember purchasing my copy of Baroque Hoedown back in high school and digging on their neo-psychedelic sounds. It was a switch from the punchy punk of other late '70s/early '80s Mod bands I was into at the time.

And as I sat there in my bedroom, groovin' out to Cantaloupe Girlfriend and their cover of the Easybeat's Sorry (which I didn't know was a cover at the time), I used to take mental notes on their casual fashion choices. 
(L. to R.) Michael Quercio, Gregg Gutierrez, Mickey Mariano, and Danny Benair (Thanks Karen Finlay!) Image taken from the Sweet Rhythms blog.
Right off the bat, I can tell you it was Michael Quercio's look that had the biggest impact, in terms of casual style. (Granted, it did take me a few years to catch up to that type of style. I was still wearing a flight jacket when I bought this EP, after all). But I thought he had the smoothest, casual look going on here: pointed boots, slim-fitting narrow trousers, striped sweater/shirt, and that nice corduroy (I think) jacket (Levis or Lees?). Top it off with the '60s shag cut and you have the casual look I'd end up adopting a few years later.

The other look in this image I was really taken with was Danny Benair's earth-toned paisley look. Again, it took me a few years to catch up, but by my sophomore year in college, this was how I dressed walking to school. In high school, though, all I did was study that outfit: colorful, narrow trousers, paisley long-sleeved shirt, dark suit jacket, with, again, pointed shoes. A look that was casual, but dressy at the same time.

I only took a few ideas from Greg Gutierrez's look in the back... after all, I wasn't much of a sneakers guy, even in high school. But those striped trousers, with the wide belt, and that paisley scarf were incredible! Maybe a bit too daring of a look in my 16/17-year old mind, but something I'd gravitate to later on.

Unfortunately, Mickey Mariano's look is a tad too morbid for me to really comment on... but if I was 16/17-years old, I would have loved it! I still had a thing for black back then. Not in any sort of gothic/new wave sense, but just because my frame of mind was still trapped in a 2-Tone, Reservoir Mod way of thinking toward clothing!

One of the main things I took away from this whole cover was that there were people in the mid-'80s who did dress super cool! Unlike many of the revival-ish bands I was into at the time, these guys not only sounded a little different, but they also had an interesting look going on, all of it casual. No target t-shirts, Fred Perrys, or badges up and down a suit jacket. Just a mellow, relaxed look that still came off sharp.

Then the 1980s caught up with them:
But that's okay. The 1980s caught up with everyone!
But however they're dressed for the reunion show, I don't care! So long as I get to hear them rockin' out to this: