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.

Borg vs. McEnroe

It was one of tennis’ greatest rivalries. Fire and Ice. The gentleman and the superbrat. The cool Swede versus the troubled youth from Queens. While it lasted only three brief years, the utterly compelling rivalry culminated in one match—widely regarded as one of the greatest of all time—at Wimbledon in 1980…the men’s singles final.

Björn Borg versus John McEnroe.

The film is cinematically beautiful, sweeping, and captures the game of tennis like no other film before it. It’s the summer of 1980, days before Wimbledon. Borg is chasing his fifth consecutive Wimbledon title (or maybe it’s chasing him) and the ferociously abrasive McEnroe is the only man standing in his way. Their origin stories are intricately woven into the three days leading up to the tournament, all set against the emotionally swirling original score by Jonas Struck and Vladislav Delay.

“You have to find it. No one else can find it for you.”
Bjorn Borg

Shia Lebouf as McEnroe and Sverrir Gudnason as Borg marvelously mirror the demigods they play on the screen. The costume design is as magnetic as the rivalry itself. This particular era in tennis sportswear is nothing short of inspired. Each man serves as a brand muse in his own right. With Borg armored in Fila and McEnroe brandishing Sergio Tachini, both men laid claim to the red, white, and navy war paint.

The rivalry between Björn and John changed the world of tennis and changed both men forever. It’s a thriller of a film that only ends in tears for both…and, inevitably enough, for the audience too (yes, Fred got emotional during the epilogue).

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.


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.


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.