Kirk Originals

by Eric Twardzik

Kids can be cruel. A select few possess a preternatural gift for it. In hindsight, the first revelation of this truth was when a student entered the classroom with newly prescribed glasses. In the early 90s, few things could be as socially damning to a prepubescent as a prescription for corrective lenses.

“Pointdexter.” “Geek.” “Milhouse.” And that unimaginative mainstay, “Four Eyes.” Since age 13, Fred’s been in glasses. At 16 he realized he could turn what was a liability into an asset and enthusiastically adopted a bold, tortoise acetate frame. Since then it’s been a 20-year revolving door of thick tortoise specs. They’ve become a signature of sorts, growing larger with each passing year.

The latest sojourn on that pilgrimage is Kirk Originals, a crafter of sunglasses and optical glasses that are designed in London and then painstakingly made by hand in England, Italy or France (three countries that know a thing or two about style).

  Margate optical  ($302), archival tortoise sunglass, and  Monte Carlo  optical ($262).

Margate optical ($302), archival tortoise sunglass, and Monte Carlo optical ($262).

The company’s DNA goes back to 1919, the year its namesake founders chose to leave behind the garment and button business for the eyewear one. Kirk Originals came about in the 1990s, when a trove of mod-era Kirks were discovered in a trunk.

“It was based on that find,” says Gordon Ritchie, Managing Director of Kirk Originals. “That was the ethos of this company—we were going to recreate the original shapes and designs from the 50s and 60s.”

Liam Gallagher wore Kirk Originals during his famed Glastonbury Festival performance in 1994, and soon pairs were decorating the nose bridges of Morrissey and Mick Jagger. Ritchie has a psychological explanation for their success.

“Those elements of classic styles are timeless. It’s like they’re embedded in our psyches.”

 Liam Gallagher, Oasis frontman, wearing Kirk Originals at 1994's Glastonbury Festival.

Liam Gallagher, Oasis frontman, wearing Kirk Originals at 1994's Glastonbury Festival.

The mid-century, architectural designs of the Made in England collection by Kirk Originals were enough to make us fall in love—even before we heard the story of their construction. It begins with cellulose acetate, the plant-based, nearly mystical synthetic compound used by the best eyewear makers. The type Kirks uses come from Mazzucchelli 1849, an Italian maker with six generations of experience.

From start to finish, each pair of glasses is made by a single craftsmen. The process begins by hand-dyeing the acetate, which is then cut into shape. Once the desired shape has been achieved, the acetate is heated and pressed in a mold to build the bridge.

Then the real fun starts: the shaping and carving of the glasses with a hand file, which takes a full 72 hours and ends with smooth, remarkably round edges. The thickness of the acetate—an impressive 8mm—makes such shaping possible, and allows the temples to be installed without any visible pins, thus preserving the ultra-clean, modernist look. The process ends with enough buffing and polishing to turn the final product into a reflective surface: perfect for a discreet teeth check after broccoli rabe.

After all of that, the glasses are finally in our hands. But when we position them on our noses and tuck the edges behind our ears, brushing away errant locks of hair and adjusting burglar caps, we’re not ourselves anymore. The rounded edges of the Mason channel David Hockney as we venture to the bodega for Advil. The Aviator-style Reed allows us to be Steve McQueen for an afternoon, no chase scenes required. The Harvey in tortoiseshell turns a coffee run into a live-action remake of North by Northwest.

Kirk Originals aren’t simply accessories that block UV rays or make cocktail menus in dimly lit bars readable. The dedicated carving process transforms each pair into something more: a disguise. And as any moonlighting private eye can attest, selecting the right disguise is key.

The Odeon

by Eric Twardzik

The appeal of the French bistro is eternal. From the pages of A Moveable Feast to that semester abroad, we relish those homey dining rooms where the steak comes rare (or raw, in the case of the tartare) and the roast chicken is never a compromise. New York is blessed with an institution that upholds those same culinary traditions alongside a history that could only have occurred in a very specific time and place.

Even if you haven’t been to The Odeon, you’ve seen its sign. Since first opening in 1980, the Tribeca restaurant has beamed its name through a 29-inch blazing red neon sign that’s appeared on the cover of Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City and cameoed in SNL’s opening credits of yore. More recently, it surfaced as a tattoo on Lena Dunham’s hip (for whatever that’s worth).

 Kitty wears a women's made-to-measure double breasted navy blazer.

Kitty wears a women's made-to-measure double breasted navy blazer.

Its identity was blurred between bistro and diner. Here you could dine on food prepared by a chef trained by nouvelle-cuisine founder Michel Guérard, and witness John Belushi partying with his fellow cast members deep into the night. The interior matched that schizoid energy: an imposing Art Deco bar with red leather swivel seats sat next to white tablecloths, modern furniture, and bow tie-clad servers.

Odeon regular Andy Warhol once rhapsodized on the democratizing tendencies of Coca-Cola: “…the president drinks coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke too.” The Odeon in its heyday was something like that, but in restaurant terms. You could stumble in for steak frites and witness Tom Wolfe folding a napkin over his white suit trousers, or Jean-Michael Basquiat tasting the Côtes du Rhône he’d just ordered.

Thankfully, this landmark did not become another CVS or Chase bank. It shines resolutely on Broadway, with rather minimal changes to the decor (aside from deceased or vanished regulars). It also hasn’t traded-in its American bistro charm for some flash-in-the-pan culinary trend. You can still celebrate success with steak tartare and a French 75, or mourn your decisions of the night before over a gruyère-oozing croque monsieur and a merciful Bloody Mary.

One day, hopefully far from now, that light will go off. But until that day comes we’ll continue to cherish its glow, sazerac in hand.

The Odeon
145 W Broadway
New York, NY 10013
@theodeonnyc

Muses


“Style does not come to you unless you pay attention to it.”
Amanda Brooks


It is no secret that looking good, or actually looking right, is not high on the cultural curriculum of the American male. That’s a shame, really. This sartorial epidemic can partially be attributed to most men’s lack of style icons, or muses—whether it be one’s father (the ideal), celebrities, or simply a stylish gentleman. Personal style starts there though...muses; individuals, characters, or attitudes (past and present) you are drawn to.

 Bjorn Borg | Swedish Tennis Player

Bjorn Borg | Swedish Tennis Player

 David Hockney | English Artist

David Hockney | English Artist

 Mark Rothko | American Painter

Mark Rothko | American Painter

 John McEnroe | American Tennis Player

John McEnroe | American Tennis Player

 Alexander Calder | American Sculptor

Alexander Calder | American Sculptor

 Tina Barney | American Photographer

Tina Barney | American Photographer

 Jane Birkin | English-French Actress

Jane Birkin | English-French Actress

 Rothmans Porsche 911 Rally Car

Rothmans Porsche 911 Rally Car

 Pablo Picasso | Spanish Artist

Pablo Picasso | Spanish Artist

 Jacques Cousteau | French Explorer

Jacques Cousteau | French Explorer

 Jackie Onassis | Former First Lady

Jackie Onassis | Former First Lady

 David Hockney | English Artist

David Hockney | English Artist

We’ve recently employed—and consequently become addicted to—Instagram’s story “highlights.” One highlight in particular, labeled “Muses”, effectively collages images of our, well…muses. Stanley Marcus, former Neiman-Marcus president and CEO, believed that good taste could be acquired through environment and education, that the eye could be disciplined to differentiate between good and bad by a constant looking process. And that’s what it’s about, a constant looking process that eventually becomes a matter of instinct.

Men and Manners

by Eric Twardzik

The idea of writing—not to mention reading—a printed book of manners feels almost self-consciously anachronistic in this day and age, like an Oberlin freshman devising an independent field of study around blacksmithing. Leave it to David Coggins, the author of Men and Style, to produce a slim volume of “essays, advice and considerations” that not only feels of the moment but beyond it. If we’re all following his wisdom on smartphones and social media in five years, modern society would be a much more pleasant place.

From a design standpoint, the book itself is a pleasant experience. The tone is set by the minimalistic illustration of Coggins on its cover, sporting his trademark beard and hat. The author appears throughout the book in a series of humorous and sometimes surreal scenarios, like a cartoon Virgil guiding our journey through modern etiquette. While Coggins does most of the talking, guest opinions from the likes of Todd Snyder and our friend Pastor Curt Benham are sprinkled amid the pages, most enjoyably in the series of black-background pages titled “Grievances."

menmanners.jpg

A good deal of the book is focused on the still fuzzy topic of digital etiquette. Rather than acting as a scold, Coggins appeals to our better nature. In a subchapter titled “Distraction in Focus,” he asks us to consider whether our constant device-checking means we aren’t fully present in the company of friends. He warns against the contagious effects of one smartphone emerging at the table—soon everyone else is checking Instagram too—and delivers his counter: “I’ve adopted a policy that if a friend takes out their phone I just wait in silence until they’re finished. This usually communicates that they are interrupting the flow of what we had been sharing.”

Yet it’s not all smartphones and social media. Other chapters address timeless concerns of personal style. In the subchapter “At Home: Domestic Gods,” Coggins makes the case for the personalized domicile, again asking readers to aspire to something greater: “You are an individual, a thinker, and have even watched a Truffaut film on TCM. Your home should reflect that. You don’t have to live in a mood board for an interior design magazine, but when people visit your apartment they will definitely take your measure by it.”

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Men and Style author has dedicated a chapter to style, and it’s filled with gems worth sticking on the refrigerator door. We heartily concur with “There are many ways to make an entrance at a good restaurant, the opera or a smart party, and being underdressed is one of the least desirable,” as well as his adage that “If you want one thing in your closet to wear to make a good impression then get a blue, unstructured sportcoat.”

While it appears in the same chapter on style mid-way through the book, the claim by Coggins that “…when your life, livelihood and sense of style align, it’s a powerful place to be” just as easily could have been the book’s coda. There’s no doubt in our minds that Coggins inhabits such a sphere, and we hope that the advice in this volume will help more men get there.

Stubbs & Wootton Bespoke

by Eric Twardzik


We’ve got a soft spot for impractically. And when it comes to footwear, nothing rivals the Prince Albert slipper for its outright rejection of utility in favor of decor. You certainly don’t need a velvet upper with a hand embroidered monogram to get yourself from here to there—but it makes getting there a lot more fun.

Stubbs & Wootton continues to uphold this old-world art from their home base of Palm Beach, Florida. The slipper-maker was founded in 1993, but feels as if it belongs to another time. Part of that trick is their reverence for traditional shoemaking methods. The other is their borrowing the surnames of two English artists from the 18th century, George Stubbs and John Wootton. The two were famous for their equestrian scenes, making them appropriate namesakes for a brand whose product is inexorably linked to aristocratic excess and flair.

 F.E. Castleberry for Stubbs & Wootton bespoke in a Harris Tweed herringbone.

Each pair is meticulously hand-crafted by artisans in Southern Spain and comes fully leather lined, complete with a leather outsole and a short stacked heel. They offer a variety of ready-to-wear styles, ranging from a discreet, solid black velvet to leopard print needlepoint to embroidered smoking joints. Fine choices, all; but their bespoke program is where the possibilities are, well…endless.

First you’ll choose your style of embroidery: monogram, motif, varsity-style sweater letters, or International maritime signal flags. Then you’ll pick from their signature classic evening slipper last or a square-toed UK last with a higher vamp. Once that’s put to bed, the real fun begins—starting with fabrics.

In designing this bespoke pair, Fred supplied Stubbs & Wootton with suiting fabric and tie silk for the commission. He began with a grey herringbone Harris Tweed cloth, set it on their UK last, and then trimmed it with an English repp stripe silk. Then, throwing all caution to the wind, Fred had his monogram hand stitched in 14K gold bullion, a type of metal thread.

 English repp stripe silk piping.

English repp stripe silk piping.

 Hand embroiderd 14K gold bullion monogram.

Hand embroiderd 14K gold bullion monogram.

Goldwork, the art of embroidery of metal threads, is particularly prized for the way light plays on it. Originally developed in Asia more than 2000 years ago, its use reached a remarkable level of skill in the Middle Ages when a style called Opus Anglicanum was developed in England and used extensively in church vestments and hangings. After this period, it was then routinely employed in the clothing and furnishings of the royalty and nobility throughout Europe.

Today, it’s increasingly difficult to find anyone adept in goldwork. It’s time consuming, expensive, and laborious. Did we mention expensive? Especially when working with 14K gold. It’s a modern day go-to-hell move for the genteel.

As anyone who’s had one too many martinis at a cocktail party can testify, it’s all too easy to place your foot in your mouth. One way to avoid this is to let your feet do all the talking from the get-go…especially if what you’re saying is, “Go to hell (if you don’t like ‘em).”

Curaprox Toothbrushes

by Eric Twardzik


“The greatest luxury is beauty—seeing it, surrounding yourself with it, having the ability to create it, or simply enjoying it.”
Charlotte Moss


It’s a poverty of our modern lexicon that “luxury” and “expensive” are practically synonyms. As the renowned interior designer Charlotte Moss alludes, luxury has everything to do with feeling—and nothing to do with price tag.

Case in point: The CS 5460 toothbrush from Swiss maker Curaprox. Each costs a mere $6.95, but in our minds it’s as beautiful as some of the Swiss timepieces ringing in at several thousand times that amount.

The humble hygienic device is a testament to the out-of-the-box engineering the neutral nation is famous for. Its octagonal handle ensures the most advantageous brushing angle, and it manages to pack in 5,460 filaments (those would be the tiny threads that do all the brushing), each of which is just 0.1 millimeters in diameter.

But its technical merits are only half the story. The brush is beautiful. It’s considered. It’s fun. It’s designed with the whimsy of a Caran d’Ache fountain pen or a Swatch watch. Offered in 26 different color combinations, juxtaposing handles and bristles colored orange, lime green, magenta, and much more. It’s like brushing with an Ellsworth Kelly.

The art of living well begins in the minutiae and the mundane—right down to the requisite ritual of brushing before bed. And an object as beautiful and simple as a Curaprox toothbrush may help us remember to enjoy it while doing so.