Drake's Neckties

by Eric Twardzik


“Choosing a tie has to be an irrational act.”
Eugenio Marinella


This maxim, issued by the founder of E. Marinella, comes from a man submerged in neckwear. And yet it speaks to our own ethos concerning the tie. We don’t need them to keep us warm, protect us from the elements, or to wipe our mouths with (though feel free to do so with any Ralph Lauren factory/outlet tie). They serve a higher purpose. As Glenn O’Brien reasons in How to Be a Man, “The tie’s only function is beauty. It is an emblem of art and artifice.” And art is anything but rational.

It’s true that ties have become a rarer sight in our ever more casual world, but we’re not complaining. We’d rather see the necktie embraced by those wearing them out of free will rather than compliance. And if you’re anything like us, there’s no point in volunteering for tie duty unless you’re going to wear the very best—and that brings us to Drake’s.

 Drake's spring/summer '18 neckties.

Drake's spring/summer '18 neckties.

The London maker offers scores of new ties with each season. And while the colors, patterns, and prints offer more diversity than a Brown admissions brochure, each collection is united by a triptych of details that have collectively become known as sort of a Drake’s signature.

Almost all feature hand-rolled edges, a flared back blade, and—perhaps the most noticeable peculiarity—blades without tipping. “Tipping” refers to the fabric that backs most modern ties at each blade’s end. While the de rigueur practice of the day, tipping was historically seen as slightly suspect, as if it were concealing lazy craftsmanship.

By intentionally foregoing tipping, Drake’s casually pulls off the sartorial equivalent of a humble brag. The result is a relaxed—you might even say “floppy”—gait that emphasizes the hand-rolled edges, flared back blade, and devil-may-care rakishness of its ancestor, the cravat scarf.

 Fred wears  Drake's green sailing print silk and cotton tie  with our made-to-measure khaki cotton suit.

Fred wears Drake's green sailing print silk and cotton tie with our made-to-measure khaki cotton suit.

Highlights from the Spring '18 season employ interesting fabrics from Drake’s enormous offering. There are vibrantly colored tile and medallion prints in Panama silk, a lightweight textile known for its open, textural weave, matte finish, and remarkable knack for retaining bright hues. There is an orange mini circle and diamond print imbued with the luminosity unique to foulard silk. An abstract, rounded square print in navy uses the chalky power of madder silk to leave its mark.

It’s nearly impossible to pick a favorite. But if you really press us, we’ll shamelessly admit to fawning over these preppier designs: the medallions, the dots, the motif of a green sailing boat emblazoned on a silk/cotton blend. It’s just the right mix of texture, sheen, and weight and pairs perfectly with our English khaki cotton suit. The entire collection is so beautifully designed that you can be irrational in your choice and yet still be rationally dressed.

The Inexhaustible Virtues of the Navy Blue Blazer

If there has been one mainstay in the closets of well-dressed men for the past century, it's the navy blue blazer. It's the work horse behind any gentleman's wardrobe worth its weight in gold [buttons]. Navy is gentler (than black), softer (than black), more accessible (than black), and goes with anything you can throw at it. While routinely paired with chinos and loafers, the navy blazer works just as well mismatched with a charcoal wool trouser or dressed down over a pajama set.

Though most often associated with an emblematic silk tie and a certain hauteur, the blazer finds its origins on the river. The style originated with the jackets worn by members of the Lady Margaret Boat Club of St. John’s College, Cambridge—they were an eye watering red, suggesting their wearers were on fire, and so were called ‘blazers.’

 Images by  Nick Onken

Images by Nick Onken

Out grew the 17 year-old hand-me-down boasting uncle Chip’s Prep school insignia? Not to worry. Now is as good a time as any to get one made-to-measure that actually fits. An ill-fitting jacket is always going to look like it belonged to your ugly uncle.

Our house style embodies updated touches like a 2 button closure, a 3.5” notch lapel, natural shoulders, side vents, and flap pockets. Cutting it in a doeskin will keep it in rotation year round. It's a medium-weight wool with a short, soft nap and a tightly woven structure. Despite its softness, doeskin is hardwearing due to its compact weave. You want that contradiction in the cornerstone of your closet.

We take ours with gold buttons. They’re handmade in England by Benson & Clegg, a top quality bespoke tailor who happens to be a Royal Warrant holder to the Prince of Wales. The buttons are created by craftsmen following a tradition of artistry and excellence established in the 18th century. Dark brown horn works just as well for a more subtle touch…there is no rule against having both, after all.

Swatch

by Eric Twardzik

Even in our most nostalgic of moods, we must admit that the majority of boyhood sartorial affectations don’t carry over to adulthood. Cowboy boots? Only if you happen to be employed as a ranch hand. Sports jerseys? Fine—if you’re at the game. Scouting uniforms? Also a nay, lest you happen to be the scout master of your son’s troop.

But there is one exception. We’ve never quite outgrown—scratch that, we refuse to outgrow—our infatuation with the Swatch Original Jelly Fish.

 Alex Beh in a yellow Swatch watch.

Alex Beh in a yellow Swatch watch.

The Jelly Fish was born of the 80s. It was a typically Swiss response to a specifically Swiss problem: faced with increased competition from inexpensive Japanese watches, they engineered their own, better version. Swatch models were made of plastic, and had just 51 parts, about half the number that usually went into Swiss pieces.

The result wasn’t something you got for making partner or bowing out of a profession altogether. No, this was more likely awarded for completing sixth grade on the A-honor roll, or a splurge-purchase made with a summer’s worth of lawn-mowing money.

 Fred's son in his vintage Swatch.

Fred's son in his vintage Swatch.

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Swatch launched with a range of watches, but for cool factor nothing held a candle to the Jelly Fish. At the time, the completely transparent band and case felt as groundbreaking and futuristic as a Walkman. We wore them on our wrists long after the clear plastic had begun to yellow, like the pages of a well-read book. The watch itself identified card-carrying members of a club with a mutual admiration for beautiful things. We wore them with the wild delusion that they belonged in the Museum of Modern Art.

Adulthood got to Swatch, too. Today the watchmaker has scores of models, many of which don’t appear too different from the timepieces sold by any number of similarly priced makers. Sadly, the Jelly Fish is not among them. Those who missed out on its heyday can still find them on eBay in various states of yellow (or if you’re really lucky, unworn and translucent in the original box).

 Fred in his yellow Swatch.

Fred in his yellow Swatch.

But that first-wave adolescent energy hasn’t vanished from the brand entirely. It lives on in a handful of the colorful, one-tone Swatch models that manage to be minimalist in design but playful in attitude. Fred religiously wears a yellow model that will pop against a blue bengal stripe or provide a note of monochrome harmony under a handsome grey bird's eye. Our friend Michael Hill of Drake’s is often seen with a translucent fire engine-red piece that keeps the rest of his perfectly tailored ensemble from looking too put together.

 Michael Hill, Creative Director of  Drake's , in his red Swatch.

Michael Hill, Creative Director of Drake's, in his red Swatch.

We understand the value in growing up—but we like to keep a figurative locket of boyhood on hand (pun intended), lest we ever take ourselves too seriously. After all, what’s a better reminder of the past than time itself? One glance at the dial and we’re 12 again, counting down the seconds until she arrives at our secret meeting spot. We relish the reverie; then look at the hands again and realize we’re running late to therapy.

Antihero Desk Plates

by Eric Twardzik

Your banker. Your child psychologist. Your high school principal.

However and wherever you came across these early authority figures, they likely shared one thing in common: a desk nameplate bearing their name or station in life. They knew—as we do now—that you only get one chance to make a first impression. And in that moment, a gold-framed strip of walnut fastidiously inscribed in white letters implied significance.

 Antihero Desk Plates, $45.

Antihero Desk Plates, $45.

We wanted one… someday. Perhaps we even attained one prematurely, thanks to a nominal appointment as captain of the debate team or a successful (if at all disputed) run for student council president. And just when we thought we’d made it, the high school yearbook arrived announcing one-dimensional superlatives such as “Most Likely to Become President,” “Best Smile,” and “Class Clown,” only to be bestowed upon a chosen few like titles in a feudal kingdom. And if there can only be one of each, where does that leave everyone else?

That’s why we’ve repurposed the desk plate, twisting it into something… self-deprecating. These aren’t titles you’ll find on the desk of a tenured professor or senior United States senator. These are about coming to terms with unfulfilled potential. We like to think of them as desk plates for antiheroes.

“Former Child Prodigy.” “Underachiever.” “Black Sheep.” “Troubled Youth.” “Unruly Heir.” They're desk plates for the names they call you behind your back. Beat them to the punch before they take their seat.

English Gold Blazer Buttons

Menswear is about subtlety. It’s about style. It’s about taste. Good taste. Which is why we’ve preached the oft overlooked significance of the button like a broken record. The button is the handshake of the garment. It tells you (and everyone else) in three seconds everything about your jacket and the man inside it. When in gold, even more so.


“Gold were as good as twenty orators.”
William Shakespeare


Whether cut in doeskin, flannel, or hopsack, all of our house style made-to-measure navy blazers are trimmed with gold plated fox buttons by Benson and Clegg. They’re handmade in England by craftsmen following British traditions dating back to the 18th century. Our penchant for the fox is entrenched in its personification of our strap-line: The better you dress, the worse you can behave. It’s the handsome red coat that allows the fox, in the stealing of chickens, to ask for forgiveness instead of permission.

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Wes Anderson emphasized this very peculiarity in his film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book Fantastic Mr. Fox. Anderson made an auburn double breasted corduroy suit Mr. Fox’s costume de rigueur for stealing chickens, ducks, and hard apple cider to provide for his family (essentially the sartorial equivalent of a fox’s coat of fur). The red fox is the epitome of unruly behavior gilded with good intentions and style.

But we digress. Benson & Clegg was founded in 1937 by Harry Benson and Thomas Clegg in London. They are the proud holder of the Royal Warrant to His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. What’s that? Glad you asked. A Royal Warrant of Appointment is a mark of recognition of those who have supplied goods or services to the Households of The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh or The Prince of Wales for at least five years, and who have an ongoing trading arrangement. If it’s good enough for Prince Charles, it’s good enough for us.

F.E. Castleberry Rockets

by Frederick Egan Castleberry

At the beginning of the year, Greats approached me about designing a shoe. Greats is the Brooklyn shoe company with a reputation for turning out top-shelf sneakers made by hand in Italy. After a handful of design meetings and a lot of Americanos, the result of our collaboration is the leather trainer nicknamed the “Rocket.”

 Jonah naps in the green Rockets.

Jonah naps in the green Rockets.

“There's a lot of ingredients go into being a good tennis player.”
Rod Laver

We believe the same when it comes to designing a good shoe. I started with various vintage iterations of my favorite sneaker…then set out composing a luxurious love letter to it. While the low-top tennis shoe proved to be a classic after it was first introduced in leather in the late 1960s, it felt just as timely for an homage using the best ingredients. The F.E. Castleberry for Greats Rocket is handmade in Italy of full grain leather (the only type that truly gets better with age), sports an American crocodile heel tab, dual color midsole, waxed cotton laces, and rich vegetable tan Vachetta calf leather lining.

Vachetta leather is a straight-forward material. It’s an untreated cowhide, meaning it hasn’t been dyed or treated with preservation processes that more commonplace leathers undergo. This allows it to age naturally, develop a beautiful patina (a sheen of oils and other elements from the foot that darken the Vachetta leather), and allows you to wear them barefoot. Socks, wear them only to weddings…and then, well only if it’s your own.

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Since launching my eponymous made-to-measure suiting, I’ve had a penchant for little design details only my clients see or will ever know about. It’s a secret handshake, more or less, between me and the wearer. The Rocket is no exception. Up the side of the right tongue, “Rocket” is scrawled in cursive with blue ink. When laced up it’s invisible. It’s a nod to middle school when we’d scribble on our sneakers. The go-to-hell green soul and crocodile heel tab is also rendered in yellow and royal blue color ways for men and women. They’re on sale now for $240 at Greats.com.

Loafing and Weaving

by Frederick Egan Castleberry


“What makes existence really nice is virtue—with a dash of vice.”
Harry Graham

I’m a man with few vices. Fine Scotch, dark chocolate, and I suppose…tasseled loafers. My tasseled “collection” embarrassingly verges on vice. Cigar cordovan with a double leather sole, pebbled caramel calfskin, snuff suede, beat-to-hell brown calfskin, vintage Susan Bennis Warren Edwards dark brown lizard, navy suede, braided tassels, but I digress. Do I know how many pairs sit in my closet? No, nor do I want to know for fear of intervention.

If my penchant for tasseled loafers wasn’t a vice already, it certainly is now with the addition of these Allen Edmonds wide-weave leather tasseled numbers. A birthday present from the American shoemaker, they’re the perfect tasseled loafer for the guy with more pairs than he's willing to own up to. Goodyear welted, mocha lamb lining, and a full leather sole—they’re summertime keepers.

Allen Edmonds is currently having their Anniversary Sale through April 24th. It’s good time to pick up a pair...maybe an early birthday present to yourself.