A Pocket Guide to Menswear Bloggers


Andrew Cedotal | 6:07 am, March 15th, 2010

Though classic menswear has experienced something of a revival in recent years, and The Sartorialist (and his army of imitators)  have made the street style world terra cognita, no one, to our knowledge, has yet undertaken a proper taxonomy of menswear bloggers. Consider this our attempt.

The Americanskis

Canonical Examples: Secret Forts, A Continuous Lean, The Selvedge Yard

Remember when NYMag, in their profile of Andy and Kate Spade, joked that “so many men in this city have been wandering around in flannel shirts and Red Wing boots, taking their meals in restaurants with walls covered in a mishmash of antlers and art?” Yeah. Those are these guys.

While this corner of the menswear community has been much maligned as a gang of Life photo archive-combing eccentrics, they do serve an important place in the menswear ecosystem. They host amazing flea markets. They single-handedly keep the Red Wing company in business. And, to be fair, they dig up come of the most amazing pieces of Americana available on the Internet — A Continuous Lean’s vintage catalog finds are alone worth regular visits.

Likes: Vintage postcards, racecars, Arctic explorers, flannel (obviously)

Dislikes: Silk, shaving

The Trads

Canonical Examples: The Trad, Ivy Style

The Trad (actually a Manhattan insurance broker; formerly an Army paratrooper and park ranger) has a motto that aptly expresses the philosophy of these menswear grognards: “Not as good as it was. Better than it will be.”

Trads have a direct connection to the classic, anglophilic world of American WASP style, and their preference in dress shows it: heathery Scottish colors, natural shoulders, and a healthy regard for surcingle belts (like The Trad’s, pictured right). But the Trad viewpoint on clothing is really a prism through which all aspects of life can be viewed. Like that Barbour jacket, do you? Well, you’d better marry a girl like that — quotidian, homely, and dependable. Brooks Brothers doesn’t make lapelled tattersall vests any more? I guess they just went away. Like your youth will someday. Sigh.

Likes: Oxford shirts (preferably from Brooks or J. Press before their acquisition by vaguely unpalatable foreigners), 12-year whiskys, the United States Armed Forces

Dislikes: People who think “Oxford” is a cut or a material (It’s a weave, you louts.)

The Flussites

Canonical Examples: A Suitable Wardrobe, Men’s Flair, Ask Andy About Clothes

The followers of “classic menswear” are easy to identify. They’re obsessed with breaking down clothing by type, they abhor the use of man-made materials, and they all — all – have read every one of Alan Flusser’s books.

(For the uninitiated, Flusser created the wardrobes for the original Wall Street.)

Perhaps the best way to understand the Flussites is through the cloth subscription clubs organized on the Ask Andy forums. A group of devotees will decide on the exact specifications of a fabric, pool their resources, commissions a mill in Italy or Scotland to make it for them, and will then split it up and show off how, exactly, they have made use of it. Obsession, crystallized!

They are also the only people in the world who still know who Richard Merkin and Noel Coward are, so there’s that.

Likes: Matched patterns, foulards, back issues of Apparel Arts

Dislikes: Denim (a declasse fabric suitable only for poor agricultural laborers), athletic shoes, back vents

The Tailors

Canonical Examples: Sleevehead, English Cut, The London Lounge

These are the bloggers who — whether they ply the tailoring trade themselves or not — are concerned to the point of obsession with the cut and fit of men’s garments. Ever wondered why cuffs and pleats go together? Or how to spot a hand-finished buttonhole? Or how the inside of a men’s jacket is layered? These are the people for you.

Some of their writing can come across as boring or even flack-y (Thomas Mahon of English Cut, for example, rarely posts except to announce his stateside business trips), but there’s no better place to learn about exactly how high-end men’s garments are — and should be — manufactured.

Do not, however, under any circumstances get them started on the “true” meaning of the word “bespoke.”

Likes: Peaked lapels, 12-ounce nailhead worsted

Dislikes: Polyester, machine stitching, http://www.yoox.com/men

The Hipster Thrifters

Canonical Examples: An Affordable Wardrobe, Young Man/Old Man, The Natural Aristocrat

Maybe whenever you head to a proper thrift establishment (not a curated vintage store, you coddled milksop), all you can find is mountains of mom jeans, double-knit blazers, and Saucony Jazzes. But that’s because you’re looking in the wrong places entirely. If only you knew the secrets of these bloggers, you’d be hauling home tweed hacking jackets, and hand-tailored linen suits, and…oh, I’m sorry — all you can find is Gap tees? How sad. How very sad for you.

Giuseppe, the part-time Boston wine merchant who writes An Affordable Wardrobe, is the godfather of this community, having helped establish many conventions of the genre — the triptych of chest-up/shins-down/full-body photos used by menswear bloggers to show off their outfits, their grousing against the decline of great American brands, and so on. But while their watchword is, ostensibly, value, the Hipster Thrifters are far closer to dandies than they might admit — Giuseppe once acquired an entire suit in black watch tartan, Young Man/Old Man has a thing for raw silk gingham, and the Natural Aristocrat (pictured) frequently dons ensembles that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rake shoot.

Ask them for advice, and they will give it. Ask them where their secret thrift shops are, and they will dissemble to no end.

Likes: Robert Bruce, Gimbels

Dislikes: The Andover Shop, Paul Stuart

The New Boulevardiers

Canonical Examples: The Impossible Cool, Robert Brown Style

While Trads and Flussites might subtly name-check JFK or Frank Sinatra in passing, or gently allude to their respective influences, New Boulevardiers announce their adherence to mid-century menswear with everything they write. They’re the closest thing menswear has to fanboys.

With both the Ivy-centric sartorial ideas of the trads and the focused historical obsession of the Americanskis, New Boulevardiers are obsessed with cultural icons such as Steve McQueen and Michael Caine, rather than the 30s/40s-heavy pantheon of the Flussites. Again, like the trads, they tend to view fashion as just a window into life, although their selection of heroes is sometimes questionable.

Likes: Menswear magazines you have never heard of that are only published in Former British Empire countries, Free Jazz Vinyls

Dislikes: Gene Dickinson, Jason Robards

The Rise of the Freelancers: The Fight for Flea-dom


More and more workers are ‘freelancing’ today than ever before.  On a recent transatlantic flight, I found myself reading an interesting business class magazine that rehashed the old
Elephant and the Flea
dynamic of giant corporations versus independent-contractors and tiny single-person businesses. Charles Handy may have been writing almost a decade ago now, but the ex-oil man-turned best-selling author had an almost prescient view of the evolving economy.

The elephants – or established corporations – still steer the economy and tend to be largely dismissive of the fleas.  The fleas – small-scale entrepreneurs or heroic multi-taskers that work independently and fiercely – respond directly to demand and opportunity.  As the economy has evolved, fleas are now on the rise.  According to a recent CNN Money article, freelance professionals now make up more than a quarter of the US working population.

Economically speaking, there are opportunities and hazards in both cases.  Elephants still need to figure out ways to sustain and grow themselves while maintaining personal relationships and encouraging innovation.  Unfortunately, to survive in a challenging economic landscape, this often means taking advantage of the fleas, as evidenced by the rise of the permanent temporary workforce.  An increasing number of people are working in the capacity of permanent workers without any of the benefits or certainty, both at entry and advanced levels.

For fleas, the problem is still communication.  Independent contractors need to find better ways to cooperate with each other across their disparate industries.  While one flea can hardly gain the attention of an elephant, a veritable legion of fleas can definitely hold more sway (or at the very least make the elephant itch considerably.)

With the advent of organizations like the Freelancers Union, a Brooklyn-based non-profit that works to connect fleas with other fleas to create the critical mass necessary to shape policy and offer independent workers the same level of protection and assurances that full-time workers once enjoyed, we are definitely making significant strides towards cooperation. Union members in New York are eligible for health insurance, and a number of other benefits at an affordable rate.  Members on the west coast, while not yet eligible for health coverage, can still access dental, disability, and life insurance.

For fleas with no other safety net, this type of a national resource is indispensable.  And this type of representation is what’s needed to allow fleas to be heard by the elephants at the national level.  Perhaps ‘fight’ is a misnomer.  It’s not really a battle against the elephants, but rather a struggle to be heard.  A healthy economy should support both elephants and fleas, allowing for a mutually beneficial and symbiotic relationship between them.

So what do fellow small business fleas out there think about the noble fight for fleadom? What other resources have you heard about?

机灵巧妙的经济学 林行止


利维德(和杜布纳)的《怪诞经济学》,内容虽然引起不少争议,却无碍其成为售量已超过二百多万册而且仍在「热卖」的畅销书;其所以大受「读书界」欢迎,原因多端,唯以经济学为工具分析日常事象甚至生活琐事,是根本卖点。现在不同学派经济学家讨论经济问题,比如美国双赤困局、恶性通货膨胀会否再度肆虐以至次按风波如何收场等等的文章,仍然充斥冷热传媒及网络,然而,众说纷纭,莫衷一是,令读者如坠五里雾中,不知所措、不胜其烦,不过,令读者对这类命题兴趣缺缺的,主要还是理论与实际情况互不相干的形势日趋明显。非常明显,现在各国经济都有难以克服的难题,但这与日常生活何干?诸如美国的双赤、次按风波,又如内地的贪腐普及、贫富两极深化、外贸顺差山积令通胀阴影愈来愈浓和政出多门(「资金自由行」是近例,在笔者看来,此事所以一再拖延,主要是有太多特权人士没有时间先普罗投资者一步以合法渠道在香港股市吸纳股票而已;换句话说,这是利益未能均沾太多人「上访」令最高当局不惜牺牲外管局的信誉而「叫停」),均为必须理顺不然后患无穷的结构性困难;然而,经济发展并不因之呆滞遑论停顿。种种事实显示,中、美的经济事务都有一团糟的一面,可是,美国经济蓬勃胜前,消费者「大花筒」如昔;中国人民的物质生活大幅提高,经济增长并无放缓之象。这种现象,令人有经济现实和实际生活脱节之感,对夸夸其谈的宏观经济理论敬而远之,是有效管理时间的理性选择。  这种情况,造就了不谈经济学大道理、只从经济学角度论与大众生活息息相关琐事的著作如《怪诞经济学》的畅销,而看中这个市场起而效尤的经济学小品陆续登场,其中比较知名的有赫福特的《卧底经济学家》(T. Harford:《The Undercover Economist》)、法兰克的《自然经济学家》(资料见七月十三日本栏)和今天介绍的《发掘你内在的经济学家》,该书作者是佐治.梅逊大学(G.M.U.的名堂已甚响)目前风头甚健的经济学系教授高云(T. Cowen:《Discover Your Inner Economist》, Dutton)。无独有偶的是,除了《卧底经济学家》以荷里活电影中私家侦探形象为封面,其余三书封面俱以食物为主题。《怪诞》是一个切去八分之一的变种苹果(和另一本偶忘其名的书的封面雷同,数年来未见论者提及,真是咄咄怪事*),《自然经济学家》是四分之一甜饼(「批」)及一块切开一角的「画饼」,而高云这本书的封面是线系一根带叶的胡萝葡。这样的封面设计,大概要展示内容与起居饮食有不可分割关系吧。

上述诸书,加上兰斯堡一九九三年出版的《足不出户经济学家》(S. Landsburg:《The Armchair Economist》,台湾译《生命中的经济游戏》,笔者认为不伦不类)、一九九六年大卫.佛利民(米尔顿的独子)的《隐蔽秩序─日常生活经济学》(D. Friedman:《Hidden Order-The Economics of Everyday Life》, Harper Business),都可收寓学习经济学于轻松闲读之效,它们俱有益有建设性复有趣味性,值得向大家尤其是被教科书闷得发慌(如果真是如此便应转系)的经济系学生推荐。


*完稿后穷近小时之力,找到这本书:《逻辑及其极限》(P. Shaw:《Logic and its Limits》,牛津大学出版社,一九八一年),其封面亦是切开的青苹果其外金黄色橙其内的「青果」;读者想看真切,上亚玛逊网站即见。

二、  时间既是最珍贵资源,一分一秒因此都不可浪费,而所谓「文化消耗」(Cultural Consumption)最易浪费时间,附庸风雅之士佯作对艺术品十分陶醉、根本看不入脑者啃文学巨著、不知音乐为何物的人正襟危坐作入神聆听状欣赏歌剧,都是浪费时间的典型愚行。

喜欢读书的人随时会跌入浪费时间(和精力)的陷阱,为了「治病救人」,高云提出「八点控制阅读的策略」(页六十二至六十三),这种「阅读(或不阅读)法」,中学生家长和老师肯定不会认同。一句话,高云主张看书不必从第一页开始,最省时有益的办法莫如浏览一遍后才决定是否细读和哪部分应细读。高云每周二(新书上市日)都去书店,而且大多不会空手而回;此外,他还每周五天上公共图书馆的新书书架看看有什么可读的书(作为一位知名度颇高的学者〔他和同事合作的marginalrevolution.com是吸引最多「眼球」的网站〕,这种习惯真是难能可贵),如此这般,他买了不少书。可是,「十本书中我读毕的大概只有一本」,他说读者绝对不必介意读到一本不对胃口的书,问题是他应当机立断,不要为区区数十元的所谓「无法收回〔沉没〕的成本」(Sunk Cost)而浪费宝贵时间,继续意兴阑珊甚至垂头丧气地读下去,这样子的读书浪费掉的时间的机会成本肯定比书价昂贵。高云说有些书如对你的殷懃无动于衷的女朋友,你花了不少时间逐页拜阅甚至重读但毫无所得;对这样的女朋友你知道应怎样做,对书本也一样,马上放弃才是善策。高云引第一部英文字典编汇者约翰逊博士的话:「你应马上抛开一本你觉得味同嚼蜡的书!」  高云引述英国《卫报》二○○五年十月二十四日发表的一项调查,显示三分之一的伦敦购书者「为了看起来像个知识分子而买书」(solely to look intelligent);高云认为此比例实际应更高,而且不仅限于伦敦,世界各地的「读书者」都有此「毛病」,事实上,一位出版社编辑便估计美国购书者有百分之五十七「读毕全书」─不过,此「估计」有何根据,高云说他并不清楚;以他的「估计」,此数字被大大高估。高云认为那些「你自己动手」(DIY)的书阅读率应该最高,而一些轰动一时的时髦作品─文晦词涩的古籍经典且别去说─如霍金的《时间简史》,即使修订本只有一百七十六页,读毕的人亦属少数。


三、  同样基于时间最宝贵的考虑,高云对开会虽无恶感,唯对「管理不善」的会议成效持怀疑态度,他认为开会有很多「功能」,既是在同事、同业间炫耀身份的地方,亦是不同「派系」的同事藉以角力的场所,而最无聊的当然是闲聊─集体「风花雪月」或与邻坐同事交换小道消息。对这类会议,高云深恶痛绝,因为与会者的总合机会成本甚大,对有关机构(企业、官商组织或教育机构)是一大无形损失,他因此指出计算会议的成本,是提醒与会者必须心无旁骛办正事的办法。这种构想并无新意,大概三十年前,《信报月刊》便有多篇文章论及;不过,与科技发展并进,高云建议与会者各自把其每小时平均薪金输入会议主持者的计算机,让它计算公司为会议付出的无形支出是多少,比方说,当会议开支达到一定数目时,主持者便可提醒与会者:「各位,我们已花去公司若干钱,我们的成果又值多少钱?」高云认为这是可能提高会议效率的方法。他又主张最好尽量避免大家围坐会议桌开会,因为与会者藉此和同事沟通,很难不说些与会议主旨无关的废话(这些话应该留待在「茶休」或午膳中去说),他建议召开电话╱视像会议,那是免去「天气哈哈哈」之类非「会议语言」即与会者马上进入开会状态最有效办法。

?机灵巧妙的经济学.之二〔之一刊本月七日〕  ■八日收六日发行的《经济学人》,有本书的书评:〈怎样做得更好和玩得更开心〉(How to Work and Play a Little Better),可为读者告的是,书评指出高云师承米赛斯(L.V. Mises)「选择的逻辑」,因此在「我们怎样决定我们的需要」和「我们怎样知道他人的需要」上着墨,依照经济学观点解答这二大问题,生活质素可能提高。高云这本书便是循此「指引」铺陈、发展。言简意赅,这是笔者所未想及的。书评亦提及兰斯堡那本《足不出户的经济学家》,意见与笔者同。



四、  都说男女相恋必有男方向女方「行贿」的「指定动作」,因为在谈恋爱时以至结婚后,男方不时或定期送礼物给女方,已成为恋爱及婚姻生活的润滑剂!

为什么在一般情况下是男方向女方「送礼」而不是「逆向行贿」,经济学家并无解说,高云亦未提及,笔者的臆测是此为男女不平等包括男女未能同工同酬及家务仍是无偿义工的「自然趋势」。高云不提上述问题,他的切入点是指出男方送礼物给女方,传递了强烈的讯号,因此在什么情形下送什么样的礼物,极之重要。「讯号发放理论」(Signalling Theory)是史平思(A.M. Spence, 1943;二○○一年与读者较熟悉的阿卡洛夫和史特格列兹共同分享诺贝尔经济学奖)的发明(据其一九七三年的博士论文),本来用于劳工市场(有一个时期,哈佛MBA是求职的最佳讯号),高云将之引入「男欢女爱」(他这本书的副题之一是〈运用诱因坠入爱河〉)之中,高云指出人的衣着、言行、读什么大学得什么学位以至健康状况等,都发出一定的讯号,而此讯号是「个人的广告」(personal advertising),准此,你送一束花给女朋友、情人或太太,是否收到你心目中的预期效果,端视其成本和得之不易或得来全不费工夫上。显而易见,如果鲜花是免费的,受礼者肯定不会珍而宝之;如果礼物有「实用性」,受礼者亦不会雀跃。当然,高云的例子不周延,因为流行曲虽然「教导」我们路边的野花不要采,但两情相悦时一束免费的路边野花也可能传达强烈的罗曼蒂克讯号。


五、  西方人有要后辈以劳力赚取零用钱的传统,这种习尚且有「西风东渐」之势,唯这种做法的好处已受学者质疑,香港家长千万不可以为来自先进国家的东西一定好便有样学样。


可是,这种民间智慧并不管用,高云与其继女英娜就洗「碗碟」的「攻防」,便推翻有钱能使小辈服其劳的观念。高云支付「工薪」给英娜,以为这是减轻其太太的工作,同时清洁「碗碟」及对小辈灌输天下没有免费午餐、应该自食其力等大道理的最有效办法,哪知事情的发展与想象相去甚远。据高云的分析,人类既受「外部要素」(external factors)如金钱的驱动,亦为「内部要素」如心灵、自尊和希望做好一件事的成功感所左右;金钱诱因有时可使「内部要素」让路,然而亦可能有反效果。


可是,当父母以金钱为饵诱使后辈做杂工时,他们的义务观、责任感便消于无形,且会视父母为老板,亲情关系亦会转化为市场关系(market relationship);而当后辈受雇当家庭「贱役」的消息在平辈间传开时,对其影响是负面的,那比他们去麦当劳炸薯条或到超市打杂挣钱不光采,因为前者说明他们未成熟仍然受制于父母,而后者发出他们已独立的讯号。要小辈受薪当家庭杂工的安排若不知改善,很快小辈便宁愿外出做兼职,当他们把部分挣回来的钱交给父母代替他们应做的家庭工作时,家庭关系便慢慢变质。