Thursday, November 27, 2014

Tasteful, Understated Holiday Music (Updated)

Junior League, Rehearsal - 1961.  All photos from our personal archives.  Including the monkey photo.
"Muffy and the TDP community, I'm having some friends over for Christmas dinner and I want some good background music but nothing too corny. Do you have any suggestions for some good tasteful, understated Holiday music?"

Some suggestions (with links to playable music samples on Amazon):
For those in the city, some of the best Christmas music is Billy Stritch at Bemelman's Bar at the Carlyle Hotel on Sundays in December from 9pm to midnight:  .(Stritch has briefly appeared in this post.)

And while no one has specifically asked for a picture of Bing Crosby's brother's monkey, I thought I would include it anyway.
Bing Crosby's Brother's Monkey.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

For you, what makes a successful Thanksgiving?


Interesting People?  (Plymouth Plantation, 1968, Photo from our personal archives.)
A few days from now, Thanksgiving will be over.  So now may be the best time to ask this question.  How do you measure success when it comes to this holiday?  What makes, for you, a successful Thanksgiving?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Mercer Shirts

In our chest of drawers is the perfect Classic Pima Oxford in Blue on the left, and the equally perfect James Bond Favorite Racing Green British Brushed Cotton Tattersall on the right.  Mercer Shirts are famous for their collar roll....
Mercer & Sons is a small company that makes shirts the old-fashioned way, offering traditional style and fit.

There was one reader of TDP who was so exasperated we had not yet done a post on Mercer shirts that he threatened to buy a few and send them our way, just to shame us into it.  He had been "euphorically happy with Mercer shirts for years", and viewed the world somehow not right until these "real deal" shirts graced these virtual pages.

He loved the 100% cotton, with its thread count and non-non-iron feel.  He loved the pure, classic cut.

And there was one detail he loved most of all.  He wrote me,
Something that only a true purist cares about is the collar roll, on the OCBD. Absolutely the best, IMO. Others have tried to take the shirt apart and copy the collar, but the roll that competitors come up with never approaches the perfect "bell shape" of the Mercer roll. 
He closed his case to TDP this way, playing - I have to say - a little dirtily:
Maybe the most compelling advantage of being a Mercer customer involves the fact when you call the 800 number, you talk to Dave Mercer, in person. He seems to know you personally after a short time, and will do whatever it takes to make you a satisfied customer. Could be the Maine heritage. 
He signed off, "Just one customer, with no interest in Mercer, with the exception that I hope that Dave and his wife Serena never decide to retire."

Along the way, this reader also described the shirts as being a great value.  He was not the first person to say this, which seems like a strange compliment for a shirt that is by most accounts not cheap.   This is because these last a very long time.  And for many people, the total cost per wearing will be significantly less than even much cheaper shirts.

Finally, for those thinking ahead to the holidays, while Mercer shirts are individually hand cut and custom ordered, Mercer stocks their heavyweight Pima Cotton oxford button downs, with their generous cut,  in both blue as well as white.

Links: well as the button placement on their barrel cuffs.

Made in the USA, they arrive jauntily tied with a "ribbon" of shirting fabric.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Margaret Bourke-White

Margaret Bourke-White, a great woman, at home (Wiki link).  Photo from our personal archives.

“Cheap editions of great books may be delightful, but cheap editions of great men are absolutely detestable.”

-Oscar Wilde

Friday, November 21, 2014

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

If Michael Pollan's Food Rules were applied to Classic Clothes

It is easier to have a smart conversation about food than clothes these days.  One favorite and inspirational book is Michael Pollan's great Food Rules: An Eater's Manual.

It does not take much imagination, when flipping through the pages, to think of comparison guidelines to finding a classic wardrobe. Here are some:

Michale Pollan's Food Rules
Classic Clothes Analogy
10.  Avoid foods that are pretending to be something they are not. Buy clothes that are designed for a real purpose.  Buy shirts that sailors wear, not shirts that look like them, and certainly not shirts "inspired by our love of sailing." 
11. Avoid food products you see advertised on television. Often, companies that sell the best clothes have the worst marketing, and  companies that sell the worst clothes have the best marketing. 
 15. Get out of the supermarket whenever you can. Get out of the mall whenever you can.
28. If you have the space, buy a freezer. If you find something great at a good price, buy three or four.
34. Sweeten and salt your food yourself. Don't buy busy products that are marketed with someone else's good times.  Buy simple products that enable you to have a good time, and create your own memories.
44.  Pay more, eat less. Pay more, shop less, own less.
 2. Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. Be skeptical when buying any material your great-grandmother couldn't identify. 
64.  Break the rules once in a while Break the rules once in a while

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Irish Blackthorn Walking Stick

If you regularly walk on uneven terrain, a stick can be very helpful.


From my earliest memory, my family members have always walked with Irish blackthorn walking sticks.  They were simply the last thing grabbed heading out the door.   To this day, I always walk with a stick.  More than once it has kept a rooster at bay, given an aggressive dog something to bite other than my leg, and helped me navigate rough terrain.

These sticks last a very long time.  But they do wear out eventually, and occasionally get nicked and are never seen again.

For more than a decade I had been unsuccessful in finding new ones to replace the old.  The sticks that stores carried, even some for which I had to settle, were thin, light, too straight, and unsubstantial.

A few months ago, I was finally was able to find an authentic - albeit highly limited - source of Irish blackthorn walking sticks.  And of course I bought these two before posting this entry.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Reader Question for the Community: Holiday Pants for Men

Bob, Lee Roy (La Cage Aux Folles) and Per at our friend's NYC Christmas party three years ago.

"Where do you find holiday pants for men? I'm interested in sailboats or anchors...not too many options this year. I did find a nice plaid pair at Orvis.

Thanks in advance for the help."

Places to look for holiday pants (from the comments):
An old photograph of PR maven Edward Callahan and me from the same party, a year earlier.  

This Week in Tech discusses Net Neutrality

We never miss the show "This Week in Tech" (listening to rather than watching), and last night's conversation on net neutrality was especially informative.

It has always been a challenge to hear rich conversations, in which participants are passionate practitioners with deep knowledge, in a form that is timely and allows for going in deep.  Today's paid gunslingers with talking points on cable news programs are especially unctuous.

So if you are interested in the topic of net neutrality, or simply crave a role model of good conversation, listen to the first segment of last night's This Week In Tech.

I would start at about minute five.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

What criteria should be used for admissions to competitive prep schools and universities?

Brown Gates

Some communities are open to all, while other communities have tools for admitting or expelling people that meet certain criteria.

Competitive prep schools and universities are, obviously in the second category.  They have more applicants than they can admit, and regardless of that, the environment is only designed for a small percentage of the population.

The criteria used for selection is important to the evolution of the schools, and to those students who apply.  But the criteria also impacts our society as a whole; the admissions process of top schools, to some degree, influences what is taught in all schools, and it also influences who become some of our nation's most powerful leaders.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Winter Wear - Three Species

Pick one: look thin; or be warm and stay outside for a while. Here, a tartan flannel shirt under a wool sweater under a jacket. 
 All around, creatures are getting their winter wear.  Our hens, including this almost eight year old Rhode Island Red, are in a molt, loosing their old feathers and start to grown in their new.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Women's Shoes for the Workplace

Photo from our personal archives

Dear Muffy,

I am a 30 year old woman and work in a fairly conservative law firm.  I read the list of men's dress and casual shoes enviously and wonder if there are any similar suggestions for women's workplace shoes, especially with low to medium heels  For both personal and professional reasons, I am not interested in anything loud.  What classic shoes do women wear? Thank you.

Some companies:

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Can You Wear Barbours In Cold Weather?

Barbour Beaufort from F.L. Woods; Lambswool Scarf from Lochcarron

Hi Muffy,

What's is the range of weather one can comfortably pull off a Bedale or a Beaufort with a liner/ fleece. Can it be worn below freezing in cold conditions?


Question for the Community: What is the Future of J. Press?

Some of Our New York City  J. Press Photos From Seasons Past

I have received variations of this question:

"Does anyone have any knowledge about the future of J. Press now that the NYC store has closed? I see the website is still up and running, but I am wondering about the future of the company.

  • J. Press Website (Link)
  • WSJ Article - The Next Wave of Menswear Heritage-Brand Reboots (Link)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Single Image on Veteran's Day

 And added later, per Gary's comment...   Photograph from our personal archives