Finger Licking Good

Imagine walking the streets of Rome all morning pretending not to be a tourist and hoping to blend in while you look for that “not for tourists” spot to plunk yourself down and order another cappuccino while rubbing your feet. You know full well that ordering a cappuccino after breakfast will blow your cover with the locals, although it may just be the accent, but you have set yourself a goal of at least three a day before heading home so you need to stay on schedule.

Until now, you’ve stuck to the winding side streets with a great sense of pride in keeping off the beaten path and criss cross the main tourist routes only when absolutely necessary. You wave and blurt out a friendly “Ciao!” to the locals you meet and, thoroughly amused, they wave “Ciao!” back. You’re almost a native!

Then you turn the corner and find yourself in the midst of the tourist hoards: fanny pack zippers jingling, cackling while taking a selfie pointing at a naked statue and observing perplexed a guy dressed in orange sitting cross-legged pretending to balance a pedestal, with one hand, upon which his colleague, also dressed in orange, is seated (you can’t miss them in Rome).

You are in Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina – smack dab in the middle of town. You are also in luck. Ciampini is right there in the middle of it all and it is full of tourists, but it is also full of Romans, because it does have great gelato, but even better “tramezzini”, if not the best in town.

Tramezzino Uova e Asparagi

Ciampini – Tramezzino Uova e Asparagi

It is said that the “tramezzino“, a triangular white bread sandwich without the crust, was invented in Turin as an alternative to English tea-time sandwiches and the word “tramezzino” (literally “in-between” with the use of the diminutive “-ino”[s] or “-ini”[pl.] suffix) was coined by the prominent Italian literary figure Gabriele D’Annunzio at the turn of the twentieth century since it was easier for Italians to pronounce.

You’ll have to summon what strength you have left to go in with your elbows wide and a determined look on your face, but it’s worth it. Think of it as a prize that you must win, as well as a fully immersive experience into what it is like for Italians to get through the day without ever forming a line. Glance at the selection of these delicious “tramezzini” sandwiches while you work your way to the register (you have to pay first, as in most places) and ask them to add a a typical Italian citrus soda called “chinotto” to your receipt to enjoy a truly authentic Italian standing lunch.

My favorite “tramezzini” at Ciampini are the “uova e asparagi” (eggs and asparagus) and the “tonno e carciofini” (tuna and baby artichoke).

Now pivot from the register and weave your way to the bar counter. Make eye contact with the guys behind the counter, they are much like children and dogs, so you must be firm and determined. Hand them your receipt and quickly list your order because they, unlike most of Italy, move very fast. You’ll probably need to point and gesticulate a bit to show them which “tramezzini” you want, but that will only make you look more Italian. Good luck and buon appetito!


Maserati hits the century mark.

I felt it was only appropriate to peek my head out after so long with news of Maserati’s centennial celebration. The roller coaster ride that has been Maserati over the last few decades has morphed into a smoother ride with the Ferrari-FIAT duopoly providing renewed energy, engineering and design to the Italian icon. After a lackluster series of hand-offs this great car brand founded in Bologna has finally found its soul again. It is great to see it resurgent at the ripe old age of 100. Congratulazioni! #Maserati100


Camo In, Camo Out.

My wife hates it and you probably will once you see it. I noticed it on the wrist of a flight steward during a trans-Atlantic flight on Alitalia. You know the crappy Italian airline I must always fly to get to Rome direct to visit my parents and in-laws as well as the extended family. The flight crew is usually wearing Armani designed uniforms and they exude “sprezzatura” left and right as well as a good dose of “Don’t ask me anything because I am too beautiful and well dress to care.” Which in Italian is pretty much the same as flashing the middle finger with nonchalance – just because.

The watch Gods are looking down on me and have been planning a slow and torturous death for me from the minute I ordered this thing online. I don’t know why I like it so much. It is really far from any of the watches I own and wear, but there was a little voice calling out to me. “Buy me. Wear me. You know you want it!” And so I hit the confirm button on the order page and a few days later there it was in the mail.

It is not terribly easy to operate and you have to get used to reading the time since the seconds appear larger than all the rest, but these are minor details when I have a camo watch. I figured camo is trending right now in the menswear sphere… jackets, shirts, underwear, socks, Pitti, shaving cream, cologne… you name it they’ve made it in camo print (even @NTBro has a camo stash from Barney’s that he won’t admit to or he would have to call “Bullshit!” on himself). It’s been in for about 6 months so now it will be out again for another 6 months and then in again so most of the menswear bloggers were still in diapers when it was in the last time around so they think it is the coolest thing since double monks were “invented” by the Sartorialist and an old Italian cobbler in the F/W 2009.

OK. I kid you kids (sort of). Relax.

Back to the monstrosity on my wrist. I love it. Like a rubbernecker on the FDR Drive, I can’t avert my eyes from it. I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty of it because technicalities will bore you and frankly this is not a Patek Philippe so what’s the point. Know that I like it, my wife hates it and you may too. Frankly, my darlings, I don’t give a damn.


The “Fuggedaboutit” Backpack by Outlier

Buzz about The Minimal Backpack by Outlier and the fact that I like supporting local NYC business roped me into getting one on back order in early December after the first batch sold out like hot cakes. When I got back from Rome after the holidays, there it was waiting for me. I wasn’t sure about the all white, but given that the original by Hyperlite Mountain Gear is reflective grey/silver it was really the only option. I am not a big backpack fan and haven’t been since college, but having kids changes things dramatically.

Practicality and aesthetics are not always an easy combination to find. What I like about the Outlier pack is simplicity, quick access, durability and waterproofing. NYC gets its fair share of rain and snow. I am often pushing a stroller and an umbrella is just impractical when the rain hits you while wheeling your kids around. My laptop, notes, books and other tools of the trade must always come with me and without an umbrella few bags will keep out the elements completely especially in a downpour.

So far with several days of rain in NYC I have dropped all my work essentials in the Outlier and it is pretty much the only things that has kept dry while bringing kids to school and then running to meetings. It is not for everyone and for me it is not an everyday pack (hard to match with a suit, but I am not always in one so…), but I can see it fit in to a bike commute or college campus where it can take a beating (and of course the great outdoors which is how it was intended in its first incarnation). There are no pockets or zippers or slits for headphones or any such add-on it is simply a duffle style pack with a roll top closure. I do not mind so much since I uses folders and pen cases and other smaller bags to keep wires, accessories and what not in order – I do not have to look very long to find what I need which unless you are a woman used to rummage through a bottomless purse can certainly be a turn off for a bag. I will have to give it a bit more work in the urban jungle before I can attest to its toughness, but so far it shows all the hallmarks of a rugged bag. It reminds me so much of another Brooklyn creation – the Mighty Wallet. It must have something to do with the “fuggedaboutit toughness” that Brooklyn is always looking to exude.


O’mast: Pride and Passion.

I chose to write this post in Italian first and then translate it into English since most readers here on tumblr are not Italian you can just scroll down to the English translation. It is only right to honor a beautiful documentary about Naples and some of the great Neapolitan tailors in a language that is closer to their own than English (although Neapolitan dialect can often sound to other Italians like a foreign language). It is often said in Italy that “siamo tutti un po’ napoletani” (we are all a bit Neapolitan) and in fact there is so much of that saying that comes out in the film. I recommend that you purchase the DVD from The Armoury as soon as they start distributing it in the next week or so.

 

O’mast: Orgoglio e Passione.

O’mast è un film che parla sopratutto di orgoglio e di passione. L’artigiano che ad un tempo era considerato uno di tanti lavoranti o commercianti che offrivano merce fatte con le loro mani, oggi è venerato come artista. Anche se Gianluca Migliarotti, il regista, nella chiacchierata in sala dopo la proiezione dell’anteprima Americana del suo film-documentario su l’alta sartoria napoletane dichiara che il suo non è un requiem, purtroppo un pizzico di malinconia si sente a fine filmato. Non è colpa certo di Gianluca che rende un bellissimo omaggio non solo a dei personaggi importanti della sartoria partenopea, ma a Napoli città bella è solare al di là di tutti i suoi problemi di cui si legge spesso nella cronaca. Si sente sfuggire dalle mani del tempo un qualcosa d’importante, la cultura (mondiale) del fatto a mano, del mestiere dove si deve saper usare tanto la testa come le mani per creare pezzi unici quanto pratici e belli. C’è chi fra i presenti alla Casa Italiana della NYU si lamenta che questi sarti non sono nell’orbita dei comuni mortali che non possono permettersi un abito da svariate migliaia di Euro. Eppure c’era una volta quando ogni quartiere di sarti, calzolai, arrotini, fornai, macellai e altri ne aveva a bizzeffe. Allora c’è n’erano per tutti i gusti e per tutti i portafogli. C’è pure da ricordare che ci sono persone che spendono svariati migliaia di Euro sul prêt-a-porter quando potrebbe benissimo farsi fare un abito come si deve da un sarto acclamato.

Mi guardavo torno torno nella sala e vedevo giovani tra cui alcuni dei blogger più gettonati del momento nella sfera #menswear. Mi chiedo però se basta un piccolo gruppo di appassionati a risuscitare il sarto e la sartoria? Non ti parlo dei lavasecco di quartiere che per arrotondare si mettono a farti l’orlo del pantalone, ma del vero sarto che ti fa un paio di pantaloni o una camicia su misura ad un prezzo ragionevole (non dico certo a prezzi stracciati). Il problema come dicono in O’mast è il fatto che c’è molta ignoranza di cosa vuol dire farsi un vestito su misura e credo che molto di questo sia il concetto che il sarto (qualunque sarto) sia molto costoso e poi che ci vuole troppo tempo. Ma il tempo ci vuole qualunque volta uno abbia il desiderio di costruire qualcosa di qualità che durerà per sempre. Sono il primo ad ammettere che con due figli non ho tempo per farmi fare un vestito su misura, ma allo stesso tempo la giacca o il pantalone lo faccio modificare se non trovo una taglia esatta. Lo so che non è la stessa cosa, ma è un esercizio nel cercare di indossare cose che mi stanno meglio piuttosto che peggio.

O’mast è un bellissimo film anche se ci presenta con un vero miraggio che forse non faremo in tempo a raggiungere prima che sparisca per sempre. Insieme alla malinconia però mi sono portato a casa l’ottimismo di una sala piena di evangelisti che si spera spargano la voce su questo film che documenta una specie in via d’estinzione che ha bisogno del nostro aiuto per sopravvivere e chi sa se un giorno non si torni tutti a trovarsi tanti artigiani sotto casa con prezzi alti e bassi e qualità diverse ma sempre con prodotti fatti a mano con orgoglio e passione.

 

O’mast: Pride and Passion.

O’mast is about pride and passion. The artisan who once was considered one of many workers or merchants who offered their handmade ware today is revered as an artist. Although in the post-screening chat Gianluca Migliarotti, the film’s Director, was adamant that his was not a requiem, a touch of melancholy is certainly palpable at the end. It is not certainly Gianluca’s fault whose beautiful homage not only to some of the most important Partenopean master tailors (“O’mast” in Neapolitan dialect), but also to Naples a beautiful city with a sunny disposition despite everything that you may read about it in the press. There is a sense that something important is slipping through the hands of time, the culture (globally) of making things by hand, the craft for which you must use your head as much as your hands to create unique pieces that are practical and beautiful. There were some present at NYU’s Casa Italiana who lamented the fact that these master tailors are not accessible to common mortals who cannot afford a suit that costs several thousand Euro. And yet once upon a time each neighborhood had multiple tailors, shoemakers, blade sharpeners, bakers, butchers and others. There was something for every taste and for every budget. One must not forget that these days there are people willing to spend thousands of Euros on prêt-a-porter when they could just as easily have a suit custom made by an excellent tailor.

As I looked around the auditorium last night I saw many young faces some where bloggers that are currently riding quite a wave of popularity in the #menswear sphere. I wonder, though, if a small but passionate group is enough to resuscitate the tailor and the concept of “la sartoria”? I am not talking about the neighborhood dry cleaners that can hem your pants, but an actual tailor who can make you a pair of pants or a shirt from scratch at a reasonable price (but not necessarily a bargain). The problem as is mentioned in O’mast is the fact that there is a great deal of ignorance about what it means to have a custom suit made and much of this comes from the misconception that tailors in general are all expensive and that the process is too drawn out for the tastes of a society that wants everything now. Time, though, is exactly what is needed anytime you want something of quality built that will last a lifetime. I am the first to admit that with two kids I have neither the time nor the patience to wait through multiple fittings for a suit to be made, but I do still take the time to have necessary alterations made to a suit or pants if I do not find a perfect fit. I know it is not the same thing, but it is an exercise in trying to wear things that fit better rather than worse.

O’mast is a beautiful film even if it presents us with a veritable mirage that we may never reach in time before it disappears forever. The melancholy was mitigated by the optimism of an auditorium packed with evangelists who I hope will spread the word about this film that documents an endangered species that needs our help to survive. Who knows one day we may find, as it was years ago, a plethora of artisans around the corner with prices from high to low and differing qualities, but always with products made by hand with pride and passion.

 

O’MAST from Kid Dandy on Vimeo.


Sprezzatura, Wabi-sabi and the future of men’s style in Italy

I wanted to add my two cents to Guido Wongolini’s recent comment about sprezzatura vs. wabi-sabi.

The reason sprezzatura does not resonate with me either (and frankly I do not understand the States-side obsession with it among “menswear” enthusiasts) is the lack of natural poise that it implies (think of the duck on a pond analogy). Working hard to make something look effortless is not an Italian way of life, either. Actually it is a well-known fact that Italians work hard not to work at all.

Italians have for centuries dressed elegantly as part of their DNA. They can do so effortlessly and look like they have done so effortlessly because of their incredible “sartorie”. Where they do put their efforts is in creating simple lines, well made fabrics, natural shoulders, proper fit, hand sewn details and quality craftsmanship that has been handed down through the generations.

This cultural norm (dressing well effortlessly) in Italy is under constant threat these days. There are the so-called Italian fashion houses that have moved even their “black label” production abroad in the pursuit of larger profit margins at the expense of quality or worse they produce garments using Chinese run sweatshops on Italian soil and cheap imported fabrics in order to skirt Italian “Made in Italy” label laws (as is the case in Prato – once the pride of the Tuscan textile industry). Then there is the latest imported American mass-fashion such as Abercrombie & Fitch for whose crap Italians line up around the block here in NYC. And lastly the horrific style worn by the “coatti”, “tamarri”, “truzzi”, “zarri” and “cafoni” (think Jersey Shore, but they actually live in Italy) with huge Carrera glasses (often knock-offs), gel, huge D&G black and gold watch, shiny puffer vest jackets worn over gaudy t-shirts and lots of gold around their necks and pinned to their ears. Good grief.

If anything, as wabi-sabi implies, most Italian men (the ex-Prime Minister aside) age gracefully and handsomely while accepting the transience of life and the beauty of aging. This sadly holds true only for the older generations that have included icons such as l’Avvocato and Marcello Mastroianni as well as the latest generation to age gracefully such as Luca Cordero di Montezemolo and Diego Della Valle. I see someone like Lapo Elkann who is certainly a genius at branding himself and FIAT, but from whom I cannot truly draw any sartorial inspiration with the exception of the times he wears his late grandfather’s wardrobe.

Premised all of the above there is no doubt that Italian men can still pull off elegance and style like few in the world. Will Italy maintain its sartorial edge and position in the global pantheon of great tailoring traditions? Time will tell.


No Country For Old Guys (Like Me).

As some of you may know, I have been much more active on my tumblr recently as I struggle to keep awake and work and blog while surviving the birth of my second son. The sleep deprivation is well known to those of you who are parents, especially of newborns. I enjoy tumblr because, much like Twitter, it allows you to glimpse at content quickly and it is perfect for the current “younger” generations that are beyond ADD and parents like myself that have minutes, if not seconds, to mindlessly enjoy a distraction such as the Internet before inevitably having to focus on preventing a toddler from burning down the house (I also get extra points for typing this post with one hand).

I have for the most part stuck to tumblr’s about men’s style since that is the content I like to discuss here and on The Dapper Dad tumblr. Understand that tumblr is really not meant for a thirty-something, married with children guy like myself (or The Daddy Complex, who I believe is the only other Dad with the guts to try out tumblr), so it is an anthropological exercise for me to see what is on the mind of the free spirited and care free twenty-something’s. Most of the popular tumblr’s are single guys in their twenty’s who fit in skinny jeans and suits that I could never fit into because my body is not a temple, but rather a pantry.

On tumblr you can ask the bloggers questions and for the most part these very stylish chaps actually know their sartorial stuff despite being young ‘uns. They are a bit too obsessed with “sprezzatura”, Park & Bonds, Nickelson Wooster, Boglioli, double monks and as of late Michael Bastian, but their passion is praiseworthy especially as I see more and more young men dress horrifically on their way to work and even worse on weekends (lucky baseball cap from college, fleece, khakis and sockless loafers – good grief). I do hope that these tumblr “menswear” crusaders prevail on their peers to dress in a way becoming of a man no matter what the occasion. There is no “art” to dressing like a man, but only the tinniest bit of effort put forth to have on hand clothes that you can grab and throw on without looking like a train wreck and that actually fit you properly.

Even as I struggle each morning to survive a toddler (i.e. PB&J) and a newborn (i.e. spit up), I can still manage a shirt, pants and shoes that are not sneakers or Crocs on my way out. One way to see if you are dressed appropriately is to say to yourself: “Would I have dressed like this in High School or College?” and if the answer is yes then go back inside and change. You may not be Gianni Agnelli or Marcello Mastrioanni, but simple and clean will go a long way in making you feel and look great.

Since most of you are in my situation and have already sewn your wild oats and settled down to a family life, I wanted to share my three favorite style tumblr’s with you. I think you will find the first very informative, the second inspirational (and probably aspirational to many) and the third just makes me laugh when my I am having a crappy day.

Put This On (@PutThisOn)

Curated by Jesse Thorn and Adam Lisagor out of Los Angeles, Put This On is (outside of the various men’s style forums) one of the most informative sites for men to find advice and information regarding men’s clothing and style from A to Z. They know their brands, their bespoke, their fit, their maintenance and cleaning, their eBay, their fabrics and much more. They are also one of the few places where you do not have to be a slim and trim college kid to ask about what might fit best for your body type. They also have a great web video series that will soon enter its second season and talks about different aspects of menswear such as the history of specific garments (e.g., denim) or how real leather shoes are made (e.g, all leather insole). There is no glamour or glitz to this site and that is what makes it special. They are down to earth and realistic. This is dressing well for real men. It is a great place to start even if you just want to up the ante a bit on your next business trip or date night with your wife.

 

MostExerent Brog (@GuidoWongolini)

A.k.a. Guido Wongolini who’s real name shares the same initials, but here he has playfully turned Italian which is one of his favorite sartorial schools. GW has quite a wardrobe. Carefully built using mainly bespoke tailors, his “guardaroba” fits him perfectly and is quite stunning. His almost daily self-portraits are a look book in and of themselves and yet he is not in the fashion industry. With his equally stylish sister (http://stoneleighgallery.tumblr.com/) often snapping pictures of various suit or pocket square details, his blog offers a look at how ideally (and with quite a bit of liquidity) you should dress on a daily basis and for various occasions. This is one of the most fun tumblrs I have come across because it reminds me of the days I used to travel frequently for work in Europe from my home base of Rome, Italy. Those days are long gone, but GW who jet sets for work throughout the Asia Pacific region of the world with a home base of Sydney, Australia allows me to reminisce. I don’t think I could live that that life now (travelling for work these days is, in fact, not as fun), I lived it to the fullest and enjoyed it at the right time in my life. I am not big on reality shows, but this is one that I enjoy checking in on from time to time.

 

Nice Try, Bro (@NTBro)

I would have to guess that he is one of the young whippersnappers that I mentioned earlier, but NTB is just too funny. He spares no one and pokes fun at anyone who crosses the line in the fashion world. Answering questions and doling out some good advice along the way (he actually knows his stuff – sartorially speaking), he can be self-deprecating and quite amusing with his comments. It’s refreshing to see him call out some of the silliness that is out there. Equally amusing is how offended some people get by his snark, proving that they take themselves way too seriously. This is someone I would have (and probably still today, if I had the time) enjoyed hanging out with back in the days of carefree bachelorhood and pre-parenthood. At the end of a long day when all sorts of crap has piled up, I do enjoy popping in on his tumblr for a laugh or two.

 

There is so much great content on men’s style out on the Internet and these are a few of the guys that when I get a few minutes of silence I gladly check to see what they have been up to. Take a look for yourself and let me know what you think. Maybe you’ll find a nugget of info or maybe you’ll get in a good laugh. Either way I am sure they can give you a bit of reprieve from the daily grind of kids, work and whatever else is on your mind.

 


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