Monday, April 29, 2013

Weekly Blog Roundup: 4/29/2013

Always late on linking up to good blogs, but better late than never. This is the stuff that's been in my feed lately:
That's it for this week!  Ahh... the mysteries of childhood:
Peanuts go Mid-Century Modern!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Casual Friday #13: Charlie Watts

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.

Like my friend Susan (who sent me the photo) said, "Style over 70." And sure 'nuff, Charlie Watts, in his 70s, just kicks out the style even when he's not posing for photo shoots or playing with the band. Here he is just keeping it casual:
Seriously, how many guys from those mid-'60s bands still carry this kind of style in their older years? He's even got a pair of striped socks to throw in a splash of 'pow' to a grey color scheme. But everything in this photo, from the coat, scarf, and vest down to those striped socks and loafers, captures a warm, casual look for a cool day.

But no matter how cold it was that day, it doesn't come near Charlie Watt's cool hang.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

In Defense of 'The Sixties'

I'll admit it. I used to hate 'the sixties.'

Do you know how rough it was growing up with parents who lived through the sixties? Parents who constantly had to rub it in your face just how great their youth was. My mom was more mellow about it, but my father would go on and on about the British Invasion, the Chicano movement, Bob Dylan, the socio-economic changes occurring at the time, blah, bleh, blah, bluh. Man, as a kid, all I wanted was to be left alone with my Transformers cartoons (which could never stand up to the cartoons they had growing up), my G.I. Joe action figures (not as cool as their G.I. Joe action figures), and my own music (my Top 40 could never match their Top 40).

And you know the worst part? They were totally right. Sure, it took me some time, and early on it did bother me to admit that, yes, The Who were totally amazing and that, yes, Bob Dylan was worth raving about. Heck, even my favorite Mad Magazine issues were from the 1960s!

But when I first got into the Mod thing, it wasn't necessarily built on an appreciation of 'the sixties'. That developed over time. For me, at first, it was just the general idea of 'rebelling' against 'society' by walking around in sharp suits no one else was wearing. But, in time, this began to center so much more around a 'sixties' look and lead to an obsession with sixties music, style, culture, and history.

In fact, there was a period when my friends and I were so obsessed with the sixties that we wanted to get all the details right in our clothing. "Well, they didn't really wear their trousers like that in the sixties, it was more like this." Or, "Hmm... that shirt's too 1968 for me. I think I'll pass." We were obsessive kids, but we were also learning the roots of our look (and the differences between what actual 'Mods' wore and what Carnaby Street shoppers wore). Truth be told, we were kinda more into the colorful, patterned Carnaby Street garb.
My crew and I, circa 1995-96. (Imagine the photo in 'Carnaby color'!)
Over time, we loosened up on trying to get our 'sixties' look just right, instead incorporating what we had learned into a growing, evolving look that we felt suited us (no pun intended) as we grew older. But for me, and a few of my friends, our look is still very much steeped in a sixties aesthetic, with a touch of modern elements thrown in... on occasion.

And that brings me to the big question people often throw around: "Isn't Mod about moving forward? Why are you still into all that retro sixties stuff? That's not modern."

And that's not a bad question. In fact, if you have a copy of the third issue of Sussed, Noel Kavanagh actually addresses this topic in the article, Post Modernist Mods. But here's my take on why so many of us still can't let 'the sixties' go.
Have you ordered your copy of Sussed yet?
First off, yes, from what I've heard, Mods in the sixties were definitely always 'moving forward.' Their styles changed rapidly, sometimes on a weekly basis. Their music was evolving and 'moving forward' with changing technologies in production. Mods did look forward, not backward.

But can you blame them?! Look what they were moving forward and away from:
Image of Teddy Boys taken from The Nifty Fifties website.
England was finally escaping the lingering effects of a post-WWII society and economy. The people there were leaving behind food-rationing and starting to find more money in their pockets. Heck, I'd be looking forward, too, and trying to escape the recent past as quickly as possible! Plus, that post-WWII culture was starting to bring in so many new and fresh international influences and it was exciting. There was actually something to look forward to!

Here's the problem though. What happened in the 1960s (starting in the late '50s really) was revolutionary in terms of design, fashion, music, art, and literature. That post-World War II boom led to so many changes in how people viewed the world. Heck, not to bring it back to that, but look at the show Mad Men (which I am finally caught up on!). From season to season, you can see how the characters' attitudes change in response to their social environment as it evolves.

We really haven't seen a rapid cultural shift like that since then. You can spot the major differences in a person's dress from 1964 to 1968. I challenge you to spot as marked a difference in a person's dress from 2004 to 2008. Heck, if I was watching the 1990s show Friends today for the first time, I wouldn't see that much difference in many people's dress today. (Granted, it could just be an ironic hipster thing.)
Have mainstream styles really changed much in the last decade?
But it's not just those changes in the sixties that attract some of us. Nope, it's the fact that so much of those changes were amazing! Midcentury modern furniture, Vidal Sassoon hairstyles, David Bailey's photography, The Beatles' studio work, Stax and Motown soul, new wave cinema, Mary Quant miniskirts... do I need to go on?

The Sixties raised the bar on Western culture to a pretty high level. And it's why so many of us continue to look back to those designs, which have become timeless. Unlike original 1960s Mods who wanted to move away from an era of food rationing and grey hand-me-downs, many of us look back to an era of colorful styles and sleek, sharp designs that have stood the test of time. Some of us are obsessed with Eames, Saraarinen, and Noguchi furnishings or John Stephen, Mary Quant, and Courrèges stylings. And let's not get into the '50s-'60s music we can't get enough of. Yeah, it might be 'vintage' but I think most of us hunt that stuff down because of the beautiful designs, not so much its retro-ness.
Just a few designers who helped shape the mid-century look that remains coveted today.
Let's face it, what happened in the 1960s set a standard some of us don't need to move away from. And a majority of people have caught up to us. Once, you could find midcentury furniture for dirt-cheap at a thrift store. Good luck with that today! (But you can settle for mid-century-inspired pieces from companies like West Elm and EQ3) Men are walking around in slim-tailored suits and women are walking around in bold, patterned dresses. "Retro"-soul acts like Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley are selling out venues. Television networks were scurrying for their own Mad Men-style shows based in the 1960s. (Anyone remember Pan-Am or The Playboy Club?)

Look, I'm all about moving forward and all that, but it's hard to move forward from a look that was done so well the first time around. Sure, we can add a twist here and there to put a check mark in the 'modern' box, but nothing beats a vintage, slim-fitting, tailored 3-button suit; nothing beats a mid-century Tulip Chair; and nothing but nothing beats a tender 1960s Otis Redding vocal.

I'm pretty comfortable with where I'm at, aesthetic-wise. I mix in vintage with some modern and I'm okay with that. I like a lot of contemporary things including clothes from Ted Baker (a little out of my price range, granted) and Thomas Pink. I even like some contemporary (probably non-Mod-approved) songs, like that new Justin Timberlake track (after the 0:45 mark, that is), which ain't half bad.

But I'm not scrambling to find something 'modern' for the sake of its 'modern'-ness. I don't care to have any tattoos etched into my skin, even though everyone and their moms are doing it today. I don't need to like the new Daft Punk CD just because it's modern music. And if I was a scooter guy, you better believe I'd be hunting down a classic, vintage bike instead of a modern one (can't beat that design!).

After all, like Dobie Gray once sang, 'the originals are still the greatest.'

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Weekly Blog Roundup: 4/20/2013

Friends, it's been a tough month with real life (y'know, work and all), so sorry for the lack of real posts lately. Going to try to spend some time at some point actually writing something instead of just commenting on awesome Modish stylings in photos.

In the meantime, go waste your time with other people who are taking the time to write real things:
Oh hey, look, it's 4/20 today. Go ahead, get all the stoner jokes out.
From A Modernist.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sharp Stylings #66: George Best

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 (wait, today's Tuesday!), 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.

I'm not a sports fan. I don't tune in to Superbowls, March Madnesses, World Serieses, or even World Cups. Heck, the last time I kept up with any 'sports' at all was about 10-15 years ago when The Rock was layin' the smackdown on jabronies across the country.

But I'm not a total sports ignoramus. I know who Wayne Gretzky, the Refrigerator, and Fernando Valenzuela all are. (Valenzuela was actually a hero to all us Mexican kids growing up in our neighborhood in the 1980s.) And, yes, I even know who George Best is.

I'm going to go ahead and assume that many of you are football fans who don't need me to waste my time copying and pasting a Wikipedia entry, the extent of my knowledge, on him. Let's skip the sports stats and get straight to the style:
George Best with Mike Summerbee in front of Edwardia, the clothes boutique they owned.
This jock was so sharp he had to go and open his own boutique! (Bradley Wiggins, ball's in your court.) And check him out, kickin' it with ease in his double-breasted suit, pressed shirt, and polished boots. Sure, he would have done well to leave that bottom button undone, but I wouldn't have told him that unless I wanted to risk a head-butt to the noggin'.

Really, this post is for any sports fanatics or jocks that might stumble across this blog. Hopefully, they'll learn a thing or two. After all, these days, most sports heroes are happy just hanging out in their workout clothes or a t-shirt, shorts, and sideways baseball cap with signature sneakers. Or, worse yet, like this:
But George Best is proof that you can sport a stylish suit-oriented look in your off-time while saving the sports gear for the field. Seems his style sense has been passed on some 45 years later, too.

And now I get why Paul Weller featured him on this cover:

Alright, jabronies, I'm outta here.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Sharp Stylings #65: Sonny Phillips

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.

Quiz time!


Do I really need to write anything about this? Do I really have to talk about the perfect, short-brimmed, chocolate-brown fedora? Do you need me to point out the floral tie that provides a little snazz-action and matches the hat? Is there any reason for me to comment on the shape of the lapel notch on the suit jacket or the narrow double-breasted front? Haven't I gone on long enough on the need for a good pocket-square to complete an outfit? And should I even bring your attention to the absolutely perfect pose going on here?

No? Good!

Then that gives us time for a little Sonny Phillips soul-jazz jammin':

May your weekend be funky and mellow.


Weekly Blog Roundup: 4/5/2013

First off, this week, I was welcomed to the We Are The Mods radio show to discuss Mad Men and the Banana Republic 'Mad for Mod' look, along with April Rodriguez of the well-done Ahoy Ahoy blog (which digs into contemporary fashions influenced by past Mod stylings). As you're reading today's links, tune in to the show and put on your headphones for a good talk on the subject. Plus, the very kind Andy Lindsay is interviewed, discussing his blog on Mod shoes (like those worn by The Who, for instance). I think it was a fun time for all and there are some great tunes thrown in there (including a new Hidden Jazz Quartet song!)

Click here to tune in to the show.
 Now on to today's link listing:
  • Very sad news this week for all fans of film. The great Roger Ebert passed away. For some reason, this celebrity death kinda got to me, mainly because of just how brave Ebert had been during his recent fight with cancer and how his writing prevailed through his continuing reviews and social stances. Chicago's horror host, Svengoolie, offers a nice remembrance here
  • The reviews for that new "MOD: A Very British Style" book are becoming my new favorite literary genre. Here's my current favorite.
  • I love corduroy, but never feel like I look good in it. Too bad, it's a great casual style.
  • I love 45s as much as the next guy, but with all these great new comps coming out, my pocket cash is going to CDs lately!
  • Oh, but wait! One of my favorite comps of the 1990s (has it been that long?), Mod Jazz, is finally getting a vinyl release! Man, I can't tell you how influential these comps were in my djing days.
  • Maybe these sunglasses hats will appeal more to the sunny California ladies who might read this blog, but let me tell you, if someone created a sunglass fedora hat... I just might have to pick one up!
  • Fitzgerald's is the NEW brand of shirt you need to keep your eyes on. College No. 9 takes a deeper look.
  • But don't forget the classics still around, like John Simons, as explored by Jimmy Mellor, guesting on A Modernist.
  • Okay, okay, once you're done listening to We Are The Mods, tune in to this great playlist featuring so many great early hits!
  • Space age meets men's fashion thanks to Cosak cloth!
  • How would YOU react if The Jam reunited?
  • Back when we visited London, I was bummed we didn't make it to the Tate Modern. But if you're around the area, check out the Lichtenstein exhibit! Trust me... we have a few at the SFMOMA and they are worth taking a look at close-up.
  • Vegas isn't all gambling, drinking, mall shopping, and shows. There's also good vintage and record shopping
  • Finally, end the week with a glimpse at the new video by local faves, The Bang!
 That's it for today... and in case you forgot, tune in to the We Are the Mods show!