When is a chukka more than just a chukka? When it’s a Playboy. No, not that Playboy, I’m talking about the chunky-soled ankle boots that became legendary thanks to that other playboy, Steve McQueen. During his sixties heyday, McQueen was inescapable both on-screen and off, and when he was snapped lounging by the California coast, or jetting around town with whatever starlet he was seeing that week, he was oft wearing a hefty pair of chocolate suede chukkas with a big ol’ crepe sole.
Recently, while in Los Angeles, I paid a visit to the new Wittmore pop-up shop on Third Street. The colorful space is brings to life Wittmore’s nicely curated and eclectic brand mix, which up until a few weeks ago has been an entirely digital shopping affair.
The physical and online stores are the product of my longtime friend and mentor Paul Witt. Wittmore is a culmination of Paul’s many years in the clothing business and his varied work across various creative disciplines, a few of which involved me as his underling. The shop presents Witt’s personality well, and represents a playful perspective that very much aligns with his personal taste and style. It’s an inclusive and needed respite from the world of pretentiousness that can often surround so many menswear brands and stores. Wittmore brings a keen eye and an injection of playfulness that makes clothing fun again.
The good people of Garrett Leight recently produced a campaign video that focuses on The Harding, one of the California opticians most popular styles. The frame design and the accompanying video was inspired by the stylish playwright Arthur Miller, a man who possessed stellar taste in both eye-wear and women. As a company, Garrett Leight has been doing good things of late. It seems to be a bit of an anomaly in the eye-wear world as one of the few little guys around. The frames themselves have always been intriguing to me, especially the U.S. made collaboration glasses it did with my good friend Mark McNairy.
A while back I happened to be in LA the same week the company’s shop on La Brea opened and I really like how the brand is expressed at retail. It all feels very unique and I have to say that to me it feels like almost everything Garrett Leight touches is impressively done. I had a chance to catch up with Garrett himself and talk to him about Arthur Miller, their shared appreciation of handsome glasses and this new series of short campaign videos. The full conversation is after the jump.
ACL: What was the inspiration behind these spots?
Garrett Leight: Funny enough, I am actually answering this last because it took me a while to think about it. But the true answer is Steve Jobs. That book and further research after reading that book changed me. Yes I’m a designer, but more than that I want to change the world. And even if its just through creating an eyewear brand for now, its important that people know how passionate I am about our designs, our quality, and our business in general. Our whole team is very inspired, so this is just the beginning in terms of showing what kind of people inspire us, specifically in regards to frame design in this case. Furthermore, I was a journalism major, so I love using my words, and I just feel like a video in some ways is more powerful than the photography in our look books, especially with today’s average attention span.
Check another solid menswear store off my list.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of spending 24 hours in Montreal and I took the opportunity to stop by Rooney in Old Montreal for a look around. The brand mix at Rooney reminds me a lot of Steven Alan Annex, and I mean that in the best possible way, Steven Alan is probably my most shopped store in New York. Browsing Rooney, I recognized almost every brand that was present but still was compelled by a lot of what I saw. The shop does a good job of mixing workwear from labels like Post Overalls, LVC and Universal Works with more European pieces from Our Legacy, MHL and Barena. Not to mention a solid selection of clothes and shoes from the quirky Mr. McNairy. It all results in an interesting selection of menswear staples and quality brands that are worth owning.
Rooney is something that every city needs, but is strangely something that most places don’t have. Every market no matter how big or small should have a store that can pull in the top 25-50 brands and present things in an interesting way. It is good to be in Montreal and see something that is at the same time both familiar and new. Worth a visit for sure.
It’s been almost a year to the date since I have done one of these “looks,” and looking back, it seems these days I’m in a totally different head space. These posts, for whatever reason, take me forever to put together, but they are always rewarding at the end. This particular rig is probably the most conservative, and likely most expensive of any I have done thus far. The costliness of the arrangement is solely representative of the fact that, at a certain point, I came to the realization that it’s a lot more fun to dream up outfits that consist of really nicely made and expensive things. That’s it — so please tread lightly friends.
Mix and match as you wish. Take inspiration if you find it. Breakdown after the jump.
I met Mark McNairy in an office in the Garment Center in 2005. During our first encounter I distinctly remember thinking that he hated me. I also remembered thinking that I wasn’t so sure about him either. After a short while I realized that McNairy was not only one of the funniest people I had ever met, he is also one of the most talented. Over the past seven years of working with him I’ve come to appreciate the way in which Mark sees the world. I love the the crazy twist he puts on the classics and I’ve come to terms with the fact that Mark can create great designs so easily, a skill I don’t seem to possess.
Thinking back, I also remembered working with Mark at J.Press and trying so hard to get people to appreciate and love the clothes he made as much as I did. In those days the battles were hard fought and not always won, but there were bits and pieces of press and attention. I started ACL in December of 2007 and it only took me about a month to make my first mention of Mark. At that point he was working on several projects, all of which I was on-board with. Even at that point he had been around much longer than I had, and I would be full of shit if I didn’t admit that I learned a lot of what I know from Mark. We bonded over Ivy style, over made in the USA and all sorts of other random things. When I made my first trip to Japan Mark was the one who showed me the ropes. He was the friend who woke me up everyday with instant coffee and cigarettes. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to how much Mark has influenced ACL and my own personal style.
It is all of these things that makes me so proud of the recognition and attention that Mark is getting today with his nomination as one of GQ’s best new menswear designers in America. It’s true that McNairy isn’t exactly new (the guy is basically old enough to be my dad — sorry buddy), but he certainly is one of the best. To see the attention and praise Mark has received over the past few years has been equal parts incredible and inspiring. It is also entirely deserved.
The other nominees for GQ’s BNMDA are: Saturdays, BLK DNM, Ian Velardi, Ovadia & Sons and Todd Snyder — all good brands with talented folks at the helm. All of the nominated designers will be contributing to a special collection for the GAP, a new partner for GQ’s six year old contest.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say I am pulling most for Mark. It’s success that is long over due and definitely deserved.
The Woolrich John Rich & Bros collection gets better every season. The brand is a product of the Italian apparel group WP (who also created Woolrich Woolen Mills, the Barbour Beacon collection and others). Since I spent most of my time at Pitti with my good friend Aaron Levine, I forced him to model our collective favorite piece from the new collection — a tweed arctic parka.