Category Archives: Spouting Off

The Boutonniere, Reborn

la_touche_errol_flynn_7030.jpeg_north_780x_whiteThe scene: The Italian Kitchen, corner of Hollywood and Argyle, Hollywood, California.

The Time: January, 1936.

The Plot: Errol Flynn has just become the prototypical overnight sensation as a result of his performance in Captain Blood. The burgeoning star has a dinner meeting with a gaggle of senior executives from Warner Brothers to discuss a possible new deal with the studio. Warner Brothers has the upper hand … Flynn still owes them two more movies under his existing contract with the studio’s low-budget subsidiary, Cosmopolitan Pictures, and they want Flynn to work cheap for at least one more flick. Flynn really has no bargaining power at all, so it’s the kind of meeting where a guy wants to be on his best behaviour.

Halfway through the meal the wife of Hal Wallis, second-in-command at Warner, arrives fashionably late. All of the men politely stand as she arrives at the table – except for one. One of the studio creeps eschews the standard etiquette and Flynn calls him out on it. The movie mogul is less than contrite about the incident, mumbles a half-hearted apology … and Errol Flynn, best behaviour be damned, hauls off and punches him in the face.

The moral? Real men take manners seriously.

Also, Errol Flynn was wearing a boutonniere.

From the last decade of the 19th century and well into the depression years, a boutonniere was the way for a well-dressed man to show a bit of flash and a shitload of confidence. It was part class, part “what the hell” insouciance, and completely cool. Street corner flower sellers would open early each day and hand-craft boutonnieres to order from their daily stock. Whether you were a captain of industry, an ambitious young executive, a breakout movie star, or just a well-dressed ne’er-do-well, a freshly twisted flower in your lapel was a simple and stylish way to let people know that you were not of the common herd. A man with a proper boutonniere was a bull amongst steers. A ram amongst sheep.

A man amongst mopes.

No one really seems to know what happened to the boutonniere. But a good guess is that the wartime austerity of the 1940s, the move to suburbia in the 1950s, and the long descent into terminal casualness throughout the 1960s and 70s combined to doom this once-awesome accessory. Along the way there have been some exceptional men who re-claimed the boutonniere and made it an essential part of their style and persona – Pierre Trudeau comes immediately to mind – but they have been sadly few and regrettably far between.

Edward Armah boutonnieres and pocket square combinationsHowever (and you probably saw this coming) all is not lost. The fine folks at Edward Armah have crafted a line of handmade fabric boutonnieres that are subtle, stylish, rakish, bold, and best of all, will last pretty much forever. Wear one in your sports coat or blazer on a Friday at the office. Pair one with a pocket square in your favourite suit to totally dominate a meeting. Or finish a suit and shirt combo with a little hit of arrogance that no tie can ever match for your next dinner date. A great starting point would be this sublime black and merlot number that will work with virtually anything you own. All you need is a functional button hole – another reason to avoid cheap suits – and enough attitude to pull it off.

Errol Flynn was a man’s man. If you can rock a boutonniere, maybe you are too.


Spring Tip: Take A Look At The Shape Of Your Shoes

John Varvatos bound oxfords in distressed black leather.See that headline? That’s a clever sort of double-meaning deal based on the the word “shape”. Shape can mean condition, and shape can mean the contour or outline. And now that spring is here, you need to check on both.

I told you it was clever.

It’s also necessary. Over the past few days I’ve seen a lot of dudes out walking around in shoes that are, to put it mildly, embarrassing. Don’t be those guys. Take a couple of minutes right now to dig into the closet, bust out your favourite pair of warm-weather casuals from last year, and take a look at both aspects. Start with condition. Are they beaten up well past “comfortably distressed” and a lot closer to “downright ratty”? Then check the contour of the toe … are they really rounded, like you just stepped out of a 1996 time machine? Or are they super pointy, the kind of thing you would see on sleazy second cousins at a late 80s wedding?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes” then it’s time to chuck those puppies and invest in something new. Broken down shoes are bad for your feet, your shins, your back, and your posture. And painfully out-of-date shoes are bad for your social life. Is that really what you want? A hunched back, aching feet, and potential dates dismissing you as a thrift store reject? No, of course not. Stupid question. So update your damn shoes.

Now then. Getting new shoes that aren’t all threadbare and nasty isn’t that hard since that’s sort of what they are all about. Ignore that part of the equation and just concentrate on shape. Shoes look best – and last longest – when you stick to the classics. You want a toe that is tapered but not pointed, and with a nice curved toe box that isn’t skater-shoe round. Take a look at those sweet John Varvatos oxfords in the picture at the top of this post. Those are the shape you want. They will look great this year, next year, and ten years after that. Pair them with jeans, pair them with casual pants, pair them with slacks and a vest on casual Friday … it doesn’t matter. They just work.

Shoes – especially quality men’s shoes – are an investment, not a fashionable whim. You aren’t going to get lasting quality on the cheap, so it’s only smart to make sure that you get your money’s worth with timeless style.

Tom Ford Revisited

Tom Ford Overcoat - Daniel Craig in Quantum of SolaceSpeaking of gorgeous outerwear … did you know the 3/4 length overcoat that Daniel Craig wore in Quantum of Solace was also a Tom Ford? It borrows the same tapered waistline from the pea coat but keeps the detailing to an absolute minimum for a ultra-clean look, even when worn over a full suit.

If you do decide to break the bank and invest in a piece of Ford outerwear, at least you can take solace (heh, heh) in the fact that you will be riding in some very posh company. But don’t expect to have enough coin left to buy your new friends a drink …

Hot Tip – Shampoo Your Face

Evil SpockAre you a cool and modern guy who is packing a bit of facial hair? I’m not just talking stubble here, I mean something with some substance – a ‘stache, a nice goatee, a full-on Abe Lincoln, whatever. If that’s your look, then chances are pretty good that you are mistreating that carefully cultivated growth ever time you get in the shower. You wash your hair on your head with a product designed to properly clean the follicles and protect the cuticles … and then you callously move on without giving the hair on your face the same consideration. Dude!

When you are lathering up your head with your shampoo of choice, take the extra minute and shampoo your facial hair too. Really – dont be drying out that hair with whatever soap you use in your face, protect it and nourish it with the same product that you trust to maintain the health of the hair on your head.

Shampoo your head, shampoo your ‘stache/beard/whatever, then get on with your regular schedule. Your face and the hair upon it will thank you.

Men’s Summer Style, 2012: Flood Pants

I have noticed a slightly disturbing trend in men’s casual wear for the coming summer season. A number of otherwise decent designers are pushing lightweight pants with a shorter-than-normal hem – right at the ankle instead of breaking on the top of the shoe. The idea is to highlight a “proper casual shoe and no socks” look to give men the idea that summer casual doesn’t have to mean shorts and that you can wear a proper trouser and still exude summer cool. To try and head off any ideas that these are “flood pants” the hem is bought in tight to the ankle to emphasize the idea that it belongs right there, on the skinniest part of the leg, and is not just creeping up and looking stupid.

Now I am all for the idea of men dressing with some style and class when the weather gets hot – less with the shorts and more with the slacks is a good thing. But I can’t recommend this at all. Unless you are runway-model skinny, the natural cut of the thigh and knee combined with the super-tight hem is going to make you look like you are wearing parachute pants. And this is not going to age well at all. One of the reasons to stick with classic styles and cuts in the men’s wear arena is to make sure than when you invest in a piece this year you know you can wear it next summer, and the summer after that, and the summer after that. That replay value is not going to be happening here at all.

Verdict: Avoid.

%d bloggers like this: