Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Happy Mou(stache) Year



So it turns out that there's no good photos of me since I started the moustache, so here's the best (worryingly). I'm in the middle, with the moustahce, with some lovely work colleagues. Anyway, 2008 - it's been a good year; Hope you all had a blast, and thanks for reading! 2009 will be more regular with the blogging. I won't promise any more than regularity, but who knows; maybe 2 Staples per week? Watch this space...

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

The Staple - Rebuttoning a Coat

Before/During:


After:

Button for Punishment

So I had the flu and a couple of rather hectic weeks - where did the time go; a minute ago it was November. I actually got around to rebuttoning a coat after constant reminders from the blogs of Sunday Best and Style Salvage. Of course in my haste to rebutton, I forgot to take a 'before' pic, but you can see on the first one, the old buttons are the darker ones. I found the new ones eventually in good old John Lewis; going for a classic military look. I saw some gorgeous gold-fronted wit a star-imprint butons on Liberty, but they hadn't enough. I also added the top row of buttons to lengthen the coat's appearance, and sewed in the cuff-buttons a little tighter, so that the sleeves would be slightly more nipped-in. All in all a successful evening's work, and the new coat gets lots of compliments. Especially when I wore it with a brown leather belt which cinched in the waist too. Though one tip; perhaps this should be avoided with a moustache; a little too much military can deliver unwelcome 'Hitler' comments - thanks Janine, Ross, Ben, etc for that. Aaanyway, I guess this rebuttoning has brought this coat back from the dead and this conforms to the whole credit-crunch-chic thing of redoing rather than repurchasing. The less said then, about my cashmere jumper and 12th cardigan from Uniqlo purchases, the better (except they are both lovely). Other Staples this December:
Rebuttoning an old coat
Watching an entire DVD boxset before breakfast (thanks flu)
Managing to bag some cheap first-class train tickets home
The Champion pub in Fitzrovia
Uniqlo knitwear
Covent Garden soups
Jean Genet's 'Querelle de Brest'

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Scarf Ace

So the cold is most definitely here. And, as with previous winters, I have been combatting the freezing mornings by wrapping myself in scarves. I’ve got many, but the ones I go back to in this sort of weather are, unsurprisingly, weighty, woolly and warm. This one is a current favourite. The electric blue stripes inject a little colour into what is otherwise a monochromatic piece. Also, it's very long and very thick, which means you can really bury your chin into it on a cold day and it wraps around the neck twice. I'm wearing my scarves more loosely this year, just wrapped once and billowing in the bitter wind, rather than tied into a half-knot. While it does get a little warm on the tube, the resulting fug keeps you warm owhen you get out. The lambswool itself has also gone quite bobbly now, but I've since decided that this is a nice antidote to a smart coat, and makes the texture more noticeable and a little worn. The weight of this scarf also means I can wear lighter coats, or as with today, a velvet blazer and still get feel toasty. Despite the Guardian's rejection of scarves in last week's Measure, they're still an absolute Staple for me; a reminder of Paris and the best way to keep warm this - and every - Winter. Other Staples this week:
Woolly scarves
The King's Head pub on Upper Street and it's brilliant funk night on Wednesday
M&S Extremely chocolatey Mini Rings
Matter at the O2
Shane Meadows' film This Is England
Vans slip-ons
The Cribs album 'Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever'

EXTRA! EXTRA!

Yesterday, on arriving at work, I found this article, by the lovely Gareth McLean, on my keyboard. The juxtaposition of my workmate leaving this on my desk, and the sane reasonings of McLean illustrate the power of the 'tache. It perfectly sums up my approach as well. Read it and nod sagely, fellow moustache-growers...

Friday, 21 November 2008

EXTRA! EXTRA!


A Monocle Shop? Has someone been reading my mind? A couple of people have drawn my attention to it already; I intend to get down there as soon as possible, though I imagine with such a tiny floorspace, there'll be queues around the block. Nonetheless, I'm sure it will be a great success.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

The Staple - Tiger of Sweden

Manchester, So Much to Answer For...

Well, a lack of postings last week, at least. I was up North again this weekend, visiting my parents’ new house in the Lake District. It was a much-needed break, and lovely to sort through childhood possessions and finally get somewhere decent to store my old copies of the Face, L’Uomo Vogue and Arena Homme. No massive surprises, though my old school yearbook provoked some brilliant memories…Needless to say, a long weekend spent in front of a roaring fire with a cup of tea in hand was absolute bliss. I met up with my parents in Leeds before heading up to Cumbria, found my Dad a coat in French Connection and dropped into one of my favourite Leeds shops, d_store. Every time I’ve been back, I’ve popped in here (and usually made a purchase), and the buying is superb; mostly Tiger of Sweden, but some other similarly minimal designers feature, the focus being on sharp, narrow silhouettes and mod-inspired tailoring. Coupled with some Northern hospitality, an open, airy layout and a particularly brilliant soundtrack, this shop is one of Leeds' best - and the sale section is a goldmine. I bought this shirt for the bargainous price of £23 and it got me thinking about skate style. I've been wearing (more out of comfort perhaps) some black velvet Vans slip-ons which I've had for ages, but paired with this and some dark Diesel denim, there was a certain skater tendance to my outfit; especially with the top button done up. I might cultivate this in coming months; like couriers, skaters forge a style that is based in both practicality and style; thus a casual shoe like the classic slip-on can look urbane and slick with a button-down like this. Also, this style blend is perfect for early, cold mornings; simple to throw on, warm and comfy, making it a Staple indeed. along with the rest of this week's Staples:
d_store in Leeds
Tiger of Sweden menswear
Weekend in the Lake District
SebastiAn remixes album
A fixed iPod
Shelved magazines
A good bottle of Brown Brothers Chenin Blanc

The Staple - Buck Magazine



PS: Hope you enjoy the new leitmotif; new house means a new perspective. Wooden hangers are always a Staple...

Bucky Strike

On my hungover way to Manchester last weekend for the Chibuku Warehouse Project, I decided to pick up a copy of Buck. It’s been mentioned by a few of my fellow bloggers, but until now, I’d been put off by the overly preppy, fussy cover. Foolish, I know, but first impressions count. Once I actually opened it however, it was a delight. Bite-sized articles complimented pages of street style photographs, review of some of my favourite watering holes sitting next to practical tips (who actually already knew how best to put up a shelf? Not me) and informed, relaxed articles. All this wrapped in a well-designed, unshowy and simple layout. I particularly liked the Sartorialist-esque North-East-South-West split of London fashion. Very on-the-button. It certainly made for an easy train-read anyway; shorter articles perfectly compliment the mix of fashion snippets and made the whole magazine more of a wide-ranging printed blog than a serious fashion tome. A neat and modern twist on print publishing. The trip back North also reminded me how much more friendly and inviting the people can be there; from the Travelodge to a 5am taxi home, everyone was chatty and helpful, even to a man dressed in a sequinned cape...Anyway, the weeks' Staples:
Buck Magazine
Meeting Justice and chatting to them in French
Folk knitwear you can curl up inside of
G2 crossword
The Warehouse Project in Manchester
Wetherspoons’ selection of Kopparberg ciders
Cafe Bin Tang in Kentish Town

Thursday, 6 November 2008

EXTRA! EXTRA!


One quick thing; on this week's notes of smart/casual, I've notice far too many men in the City pairing their normally pretty suave navy suits with ugly and cheap black shoes; Navy suits should be worn with brown shoes. No exceptions; I know there's a recession on, but go and invest, please. See this man (from the Sartorialist, where else?) for clarification. See George Bush for how not to do it.

The Staple - Casual Footwear

Smart vs. Casual

This week in the office, we've been given the 'reward' of wearing casual clothes for the week. Not the bonus we were perhaps expecting (biscuits work best for me), but it has confused me as to the importance of smart clothes at work. On the one hand, it's good to have a pride in your appearance, and feel confident when arriving to work, especially if you have to deal with clients. But most people in the office have come into work in some form of smart/casual; replacing work trousers with jeans, and to some extent shoes with smart trainers, but keeping a smart top half (unlike me; I sit here in my new plaid trainers, a Silver Surfer Marvel t-shirt and a salmon-coloured cardigan). I guess I am to the younger end of the office spectrum, but there has not been the level of casuality I might have expected. And this has got me thinking; perhaps I should smarten up properly for work, and dress up more for the evenings. As much as I love comfy jeans and a slouchy jumper (my vintage Folk one is perfect), it's not really a 'going-out' look. One thing I have noticed as a Northerner living in London is that there's no real division here between day- and evening wear; the time taken to go home, change and have dinner which would be commonplace back home, is spurned here for more time down the pub. Both have their advantages, yes, but from a sartorial point of view, unless you are in the habit of changing at work, the weekend becomes the only time to experiment fully with your wardrobe. I guess that's why I'm sat here in a bright cardigan, and everyone else isn't; and why people on Brick Lane look quite so umpressive/odd on Sundays. So next week I'm going to endeavour to wear smarter clothes at work, and go a little further with my evening outfits. Doubtless this weekend's trip to the Manchester's Warehouse Project will make for an interesting outfit choice...
This week's Staples:
The Chandos pub in Covent Garden
Wearing the right shoes with the right outfit (more later)
Nigella's brilliant Express recipes
Tuesday night's great TV
Grace Jones new album, 'Hurricane'
Topman's sale (plaid boots + check short for £20 total)
'The Conformist' by Alberto Moravia

Friday, 31 October 2008

The Staple - Winter Colour

AW08 Thoughts #3

So this week I have been mostly putting on jumpers; where did that cold snap come from? Anyway, it has pushed me further into the recesses of the winter wardrobe and last year's jumpers. Luckily, I have quite a few; but unlike seemingly 95% of people on the tube, I am not wearing only greys and blacks. Yes, yes, winter is the time for hibernation, but that doesn't mean we all have to retreat into monochrome (though it can look pretty good). As many of my fellow bloggers have noted, the BBC2 series British Style Genius is currently rocking the TV schedules, and at its heart are the underlying tenets of British Style; individualism, subversion and classic with a twist. I have always felt that we Brits are pretty good at this in the Summer; the fleeting glimpses of sun seem to bring out the most inventive outfits, but once the ice appears, out come the grey hoodies and ugly trainers. This week, my Staple shoe has been some green Lacoste trainers which I bought at the end of summer in the Matches sale. They are bright, but that's what you need when you're getting up at silly o'clock to get into the office. On that note, I have stopped wearing smart clothes on the Tube, and am now changing at the office. This allows a comfortable commute, and then a smart change once I arrive. Perhaps not the most practical choice, but it's worked well over the summer, and I reckon Winter will bring out a creative side...Although I have been a little 'thoughts' rather than full-on Staples of late, this will be recitified next week as the challenge goes ahead. Step 1; set foot in the vicinity of shops this weekend and attempt restraint; the utility bills that arrived this week will be a solemn reminder...
This week's Staples:
Dressing colourfully in Winter
British Style Genius (Tuesday, 9pm, BBC2)
A black and white checkerboard scarf
Nokia MP3 phone - my iPod is now a distant memory
Plotting some Winter trips; Kendal, Berlin, Manchester...
Hot water bottles
Anthony & the Johnsons with the LSO concert last night

Thursday, 23 October 2008

The Staple - Wardrobe Redux

AW08 Thoughts #2

Righto. I'm back. It's taken awhile to get myself sorted with the whole new house thing, and I've spent the last few weekends and available evenings doing wholesome, practical things like buying furniture, phoning gas suppliers and making lists. Now that practically everything is stored, shelved and in its new home, I feel like I can get things back on track. But it has been this mess and memory of two Transit vans of things that will be fuelling my next phase of blogging. Coupled with my credit crunch challenge idea, I'm gradually coming around to the notion that I have enough clothes and accessories for every possible situation (and many impossible & improbable ones). So my challenge for the next few seasons (I can't quite bring myself to say a whole year yet) will be bold and twofold:
First, to limit my spending on clothes/accessories to £100 per month. This may sound like a lot, but if you tot up the essentials, a couple of t-shirts and something perhaps quite extravagant, it's not that much. Luckily I have all the big purchases, but my frivolity will be carefully monitored, and any money left over from this at the end of a given month can be added to the next month's budget. No spending in advance, no 'borrowing' from a future time, fewer impulse purchases, a more planned approach to the shops. This will hopefully mean less wastage. Any money left over (I'm hoping there will be plenty) will be put into the bicycle fund, so that when Spring comes, I can treat myself to a beautiful Dutch-style upright bicycle. Who knows, maybe even a Pashley...
Second, to recycle, reuse and rediscover the things from the back of the wardrobe, those purchases I've made that have never quite made it into regular circulation, the things that aren't safe (I sit here in a grey Sisley cotton jumper, comfy cuffed Levi 501s and a red Burro/CBGB tshirt (with uberwarm red walking socks!) and the things that have been relegated to the 'archive' - AKA the big bag at the back of my wardrobe, or the bottom of the pile of jumpers. Over the next few months, I'm going to attempt to wear every item in my wardrobe at least once, those deemed unsuccessful or past their best will be going; there will be a gradual thinning-out until a big spring-clean and visit to Notting Hill Exchange and/or a charity shop. This might all sound quite radical, but if you'd seen the quantity of stuff that I have, and the proportion of clothes that I have which I don't ever wear, or haven't in the last 2 years, you'd be doing the same. I'm a horder; it's a compulsion. I always thing that something might come in useful. In fact, as I typed that, I heard a little voice say 'But it might!'. This includes getting old bags mended, and sewing buttons back onto coats and trousers which have been unworn since they broke.
In terms of new items, I am hoping to make statement purchases; one-offs or good-quality accessories which will update any old items I have. The only exceptions to this new regime will be specific summery items (basically, 3 pairs of shorts). That's it. Everything else is up on trial. I know my friend Martin, who is currently enjoying several old cast-offs (and if you're reading Martin, can I please have my Pucci tie back?) will be pleased about this. But anyone else reading this will surely have some stuff at the back of their wardrobe, or in a rarely-opened drawer that could do with getting rid of. The time has come for deciding what the Staples of my wardrobe really are. And that time starts now (well, at the beginning of November).
Other Staples:
A new regime for Autumn/Winter
Argos' simple, attractive and inexpensive shelving
Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes
A fresh batch of AW08 magazines
Friendly Fires' eponymous debut album
British Style Genius on BBC2
Home-made risotto

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

The Staple - Comme des Garcons wallet

So Much for the Credit Crunch...

So last night I went to the Liberty shopping event with my lovely friend Janine, and it was the busiest I've ever seen it. They'd laid on extra events, and got rid of the slightly frustrating one-coupon-per-glass-of-wine trick, and there was even a fashion show and a prize draw (we came so close to winning Mulberry bags!) Anyway, it seems that the buyers of luxe goods couldn't be less numerous at the moment. Totally in contradiction with the spirit of last week's post where I vaguely mentioned a 'Credit Crunch Challenge', I decided to splash out on a new wallet. My old red suede APC one had gotten pretty filthy, and I'd been coveting the Comme ones for ages, so it seeme the perfect time to grab myself a bargain, with 15% off and a £5 voucher to blow. Apparently, red wallets are lucky (I think this comes from the Chinese red envelopes of cash thing), and the star-print is pretty cool. I also feel less embarrassed when flipping it open, as it is both clean and unstained. While the crunch challenge is a good idea, and having seen just how much stuff I've got (moving involved 2 Transit vans jam-packed full!) I think a monthly budget/saving for essentials would be a good idea. Or at least reusing stuff from the back of the wardrobe (I found a bag full of old college Tshirts from the first year of uni - any ideas what to do with them?) and wearing old favourites in a new way. We shall see. I'd like to cultivate a smarter look, and move away from the coloured canvas trainers, but I'm not quite sure whether I can handle wearing smart shoes all the time. Anyway, once I've got my house sorted, and a bed that doesn't collapse, and a working shower and a million other home 'essentials' (aside: Habitat's fabrics are really floating my boat today) then I'll be back with some more ruminations. This week's other Staples:
A red leather Comme des Garcons wallet
Cha Cha Moon (just by Carnaby St.) for delicious noodles
Cracking out the Paul & Joe trenchcoat again
Fantastic help from Martin, Dave and Alex
Cassette tapes & a Walkman (my iPod's broken)
M&S Red Grape and Pomegranate juice
Civilised evenings; Art London, Liberty, dinner...

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Moving On Up

A shameless steal of M People's brilliant song (I wish I was being ironic here), but the last few weeks have been rather hectic. What with the Paris trip and moving house to the other end of Cally Road, as well as a pretty frantic time in the office and attempting to have a social life, I spent any free time cramming piles of magazines into boxes and waiting until the very last minute to pack my shirts. No blogging, but I did manage to fit in a quick haircut at the brilliant Aveda salon on Upper Street. I've been going here for awhile now, and it's always such a great experience. As well as a brilliant cuppa, they give a 10-minute head and shoulder massage which is - without fail - the most relaxing thing to happen to me every quarter (quarter?! this finance-speak is starting to invade my everyday life...) Also, you get a brilliant haircut; somehow the guys there just know what I want, and always come up trumps. I've gone for clipped very short on the sides, with a longer top and swept side fringe. Paired with my new moustache 'attempt' I'm looking like a new man. And £35 for an hour relaxing rejuvenation is well worth it in my opinion. Though I have been thinking of some sort of credit-crunch challenge ideas, hopefully I'll get back on track ASAP with some Staples. Maybe even a photo of the 'tache...

Monday, 22 September 2008

Parisian Staples

To finish my bumper week-long (but alas posted late) éloge to Paris, here's a selection of my favourite things there that I've particularly relished this past week:
Colette and its brilliant range of expertly-selected apparel, media and accessories
Using the Vélib system
Wandering aimlessly through the Tuileries and across the Seine
Being able to watch A Bout de Souffle on a big screen at last
The finest pastries and macaroons in the world
Beautiful, well-dressed citizens
An atmosphere of civility

The Staple - Parisian Delights #3

La vie Parisienne

So owing to some uninteresting hardware issues here, I've unfortunately not been able to blog quite as much as I might have liked. Sat here in the Eurostar terminal (on the floor, bien sur - chairs are obviously not aesthetically pleasing enough for Gare du Nord), I'm struck once again by a love for Paris. I still can't place my finger on exactly what it is, but if pushed, I'll say the atmosphere of civility. There's something exceptionally correct about working a legal number of maximum hours (35 per week) with a legally imposed hour's lunch break, having your company pay for your lunch, having a reasonable amount of paid holiday and a healthy respect for how and how not to work. Added to this is the idea that an afternoon spent in a cafe en bavardant is an acceptable weekend activity, and not spending every waking hour not in work down the pub (though don't get me wrong, I love doing this, it can be a little heavy on mind, body and wallet) makes for a particularly serene experience. Yes, this was more of a holiday than a business trip, but it just feels right here. It feels like priorities are in the right place in Paris, and as I sit here surrounded by British tourists fretting about passport control, the time, the weather and how to spend those last damned Euros, I find myself wondering if I should just stay after all. Parisian life is the epitome of a Staple - not just parties and gigs (though that's there if you want it) but a more fulfilling, pleasant and civilised way of spending your days. Paris, je t'aime.

The Staple - Parisian Delights #2

Vélo = Liberté

Paris' public transport system, despite its frequent strikes and curious but easily identifiable odours, works. The Métro is frequent, stops near everything and costs half the price of London's. The buses, while rarer, run for miles and always have enough space. Late-night taxis are impossible, but that's because the system is so well-regulated that it has practically eliminated the illegal minicab element. Overground services are also well-run, timely and cheap by British standards. Best of all are the Vélibs. The name comes from a compression of vélo (bike) and liberté (freedom; the first bastion of French culture, from Liberté, égalité, fraternité) and is so simple that it's hard to understand why it's not been thought of or adopted more widely. The premise is that locked around town at certain points are thousands of bikes, and all you need do to borrow one is let them check if you have €150 in your bank, and pay a daily charge (the princely sum of one euro, or 60p) and then you're off, free to cycle at leisure wherever you want. The only catch is that you have to return the bike to get back your deposit, but this can be at any other Vélib point in the city. Its marvellous. Coupled with this iniative has been a brilliantly implemented and constantly circulating system of cycle lanes, running the length and breadth of Paris. While the bikes are not particularly pretty, they are practical (think Ford Fiesta, rather than Aston Martin) and well-designed. I borrowed one for an afternoon, and despite Paris' awful reputation for terrible driving, I survived. It all seemed rather bohemian cycling around with a plant tucked into the basket...and from a roadside vantage, people-watching was much more fun. Paris by bicycle is a definite must-do when in the city.

The Staple - Parisian Delights

Vive Paris

I have, of course, blogged about my love of Paris before. It is, despite its smelly tube, tiny flats, lack of parks and a thousand and one other badnesses, my spiritual home. Last week I had the pleasure of reporting from this different urban metropolis, and believe me, the pleasure was all mine. After a trip which has been over 6 months in preparation and thanks to a lovely Anglophile colleague in my company's Paris office, I'm was in la belle ville for a week, working (a little) and wandering (mostly). Eurostar aside (fires in the tunnel do not equal a Staple), this journey yet again reminded my why Paris is not just another city, it is an entire way of life. I'm staying in Anicee's small but beautifully formed studio, just around the corner from one of Paris' few parks, the Buttes-Chaumont. Just treading those streets again, wandering aimlessly and being able to walk from work to the rue du Faubourg St-Honore and browse in some of the most gorgeous designer boutiques in the world sans peur, drop into one of my top 5 shops in the world, Colette and pick up a huge stack of CDs and magazines, and then return back home, fling open the shutters and dine alfresco with a bottle of Leffe and a gorgeous sunset is really enough for me. Added to that my weekly shop here cost €18, and tomorrow will see me hitting both the (brilliantly-kept secret) APC stock shop and the cinema on the Canal St. Martin, and I am in living heaven. I hope to add some more to the 'Paris is amazing' debate as the week progresses, but one phrase which makes everything so appealing will definitely feature later on: 35-hour week. This week will be a special Staple of one thing: Paris. Seven essentials will follow come the weekend (and here's hoping that I get to go to the Technoparade...)

Thursday, 11 September 2008

The Staple - Grace Jones

Amazing Grace

As I've mentioned previously, my summer has been liberally garnished with festivals. Actually, strike that, my summer has been nothing but festivals. Eight in total, finally finishing last weekend with Bestival (aka the Mud vs. Glitter) and one of the most brilliant performances I've seen all summer: GRACE JONES. I believe I've mentioned before how brilliant I think she is, her songs mean a lot to me and she's one of the 5 or so artists whose music never leaves my constantly rotating 2GB iPod (NOTE: Must get a bigger one soon). I love her. So when we slid up to the main stage at Bestival at the same time as a 'Secret Act' I was mildly amused. The opening bars of 'Nightclubbing' came on and I thought it was a backing track, then on she strode in an utterly ridiculous cape and leotard. I went utterly bonkers - missing her at Secret Garden and Festival Hall gutted me - and it made all the mud, rain and welly rash worth it. It's not that often I TOTALLY lose it to music, but for Grace, I do. Singing every word, humming every refrain and hands firmly in the air, I was blissing out. Then she proceeded to play all the songs I love, have an increasingly more ridiculous costume change EVERY song and make me bawl with joy. Absolute highlight of the year. When you're at festivals, especially with adverse weather conditions, you need an act like this who life your spirits, and make it all worthwhile. Bestival was pretty bliss in itself, mud excepted, and with all the sea creatures bouncing around to Grace, this was the icing on my festival season. Other Staples that will make your festival:
Grace Jones
Black wellington boots
M&S Mini Flapjacks
A fleece blanket
Gold sequinned shrugs
A selection of waterproofs
A thick cashmere rollneck for ultimate comfort

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

The Staple - B Store Sale Shoes 2/2

...of B Store magic

So there I was, rifling through a basement of beautiful clothes and shoes, working out if Siv Stoldal sheer white trousers would be practical in the rain (guess what? No.) when I was directed by the lovely girl working down there to a black, double-breasted jacket. Immaculately-tailored and with only one set of buttons, this will fulfil my need for a smarter autumnal jacket. I can already see it lending a sense of occasion to going out as the weeks roll past. My final purchase was again in the shoe department. Having waxed lyrical about getting some hi-tops last week, these Bernard Wilhelm beauties bring out my inner Klingon. K'avok ch'a! They, like the silver ones, are the softest leather, and unlike all my cheap canvas shoes, actually provide some foot support, so I expect them to be good for some street-pounding in the rain. For only 35 quid! Also, they are not too over-the-top, despite the typically Belgian detailing, which means I can wear them without the ceremony which would be required of a pair of electricc-blue patent ones. In these credit-crunch times, such conspicuous elements will be frowned upon, and here I have the ultimate boots, comfy, luxurious, but also understated. Not a word used often about Bernard Wilhelm...As if I needed more love for bstore, it's now a definite Staple - coupled with the lovely staff (Matthew Murphy, if you're reading - Tesco is not the best supermarket!) and delightful feel of civility. Now to this week's other Staples:
Bstore sale shoes
A lovely garden party in Honor Oak (courtesy of Jasper)
The Churchill Arms in Notting Hill
Peter Moren's brilliant performance at the Fly this weekend
Bestival planning
A morning glass of cranberry juice
Douglas Coupland's novel JPod

The Staple - B Store Sale Shoes 1/2

A Double Helping...

Last week's ruminations on AW08 galvanized themselves when I was informed that I was getting paid before the weekend, and then by chance checking my email just before leaving the house on Saturday to find that one of my favourite stores was having a sale. And not just any sale either, but 80% off. And not just any store, but bstore on Savile Row. Once my mind was made up, I hot-footed it down there, literally running down Conduit Street so I could still make it to a fantastic garden party (cheers Jasper) later that afternoon. What luck. Two pairs of shoes and a jacket, of which the above pair of beauties were the first thing that caught my eye. It's often very frustrating for me in sales, as it's usually only the large sizes of jumper that are left, and they are always enormous. With shoes however, I am blessed (in a double-edged sword way) with size 11 stonkers. What luck, then, that the only pairs of silver Mario's that were left were in my size, and reduced from £165 to an 'I-can't-believe-it's-not-more' price of £40. And they are comfy and not too showy; the silver is a more muted, subtle affair, and despite my enormous feet, these don't look like clown shoes. I am known for picking up sale bargains, but this has to have been the winner. Two pairs of surprisngly practical shoes which I wore all afternoon and evening with trousers and shorts, even when cycling that haven't made a mess of my feet. The key is the soft, raw leather which has already moulded itself to my feet. I can see these becoming firm favourites as Autumn draws in...

Friday, 29 August 2008

AW08 Thoughts #1

Credit crunch, credit crunch blah blah. No-one has any money, and as you'll have read countless times, this means everyone is buying less. Fashionwise, it's classic rather than crazy time. New accessories rather than entire outfits. With that in mind, I've been pondering the following purchases in order to update the wardrobe without any major investment (not that I actually need any clothes, in fact I'm due a clearout so if anyone knows of the best way to dispose of clothes (ideally with some financial recompense) then please do let me know.
First, I've been very tempted by several black patent leather belts - I know patent is not exactly a fresh idea, but I think it might give an interesting edge to old jeans, and replace the metallic ones I've been rocking seemingly forever. Dior has some nice ones (credit crunch alert!) but I reckon somewhere a little flash/nasty (like Massimo Dutti or Zara) may be a little my budget.
Second, paisley seems to be appropriate somehow - it's been all over catwalks, and the unusual retro-print is a pretty rare sight these days. Especially with "summer" now ending, I think a new scarf may be in order. My flatmate returned from Thailand with a gorgeous IKB-coloured scarf for me, and i reckon my dear mum might have some paisley material tucked away that could be ripe for conversion.
Third, some new trainers are also needed - I'm pretty much over my coloured plimsolls, but had no idea where to head next, until I saw a spread in the latest 10+ Men for patent hi-tops. I've got some gorgeous Marc Jacobs for Vans lo-tops from a few years ago, but I think something in a black or grey/silver might be the ticket. Perhaps these from Topman?
Finally, a good, structured jacket. This I think may be a sale purchase come Winter, and as with the belt, a hankering after designer (think Bottega Veneta, or McQueen) may have to be replaced with highstreet - Topman again has some good ones, but for £100. We shall see. Biding time will be key, as will be trying to avoid those impulse buys..

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

The Staple - Good Homewares

The Importance of Being Furnished

After two years of King's Cross living, it's time to move on. And the strange thing is that this is the first time that I've wanted to stay put; it's taken me a long time to make this space genuinely my own, and like any man with a vague interest in a home rather than just a house, this is all down to making your mark on the space. Not just covering a wardrobe in wallpaper, or camouflaging hideous chairs in ever-increasingly inventive ways, but actually buying nice homewares. For years now, I've had hand-me-down furniture and bedding and make-do items. But with the purchase of these cushions (yes, there is another) I feel like I'm entering the adult world. They represent a slightly extravagant homewares purchase (from Urban Outfitters' interesting but necessarily selective range of trimmings) which is symptomatic of needing to have a sanctuary rather than a squat to come home to. But more than this, they represent a maturing mindset, and a willingness to invest in that. Despite their cartoonish appearance, these cushions with their crazy day-glo patterns and kitsch leopard design will look equally at home in my bedroom at the moment, or a more civlised living room. For me, their youthful exuberance shows that I'm not quite ready for the full pipe and slippers just yet.
Other Staples this week:
Patterned cushions
A "Bob's" cocktail from Lounge Bohemia
Cycling to the park for a picnic
Making Bestival preparations
Starting to wear a (lightweight) coat again
Paul Auster's 'In the Country of Last Things'
The G2 crossword

Friday, 22 August 2008

Actual Staples

My 100th post was a little caught up in the ethos of what is is to be a Staple, that I managed to forget to include any Staples. So just before the Bank Holiday weekend takes over my life, here they are:
Lykke Li's album, 'Youth Novels'
Unity Day in Leeds
Magners Pear Cider
A lightweight silver summer scarf from French Connection
The Matches website, and it's brilliant Sale section
Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
Digitalism's Kitsune Tabloid compilation

Monday, 18 August 2008

The Staple - Individuality

Choose Your Own Adventure

So here we are, 1 year and precisely 100 posts on. How much has been learned in that year? How many Staples have been picked out and highlighted? While a retrospective would be nice, I'm not sure that there's much point - for while this blog has served so far as a record of stuff to do, stuff I like and stuff I think I essential - that is an ever-changing subject. However, in the spirit of a centenary party, I'll take the theme of my first blog and expand upon it.
Since the inception of The Staple, what I wrote standing in my kitchen still has echoed in my head, namely the idea that "everything you need to know about a person is in their shoes". I still stand resolutely by this. Having worked in the City for over a year now, I am still surprised by the number of men who wear cheap, nasty shoes. These men earn a fortune, and can well afford a good pair, yet so many end up in clunky slip-ons from Next. I kid you not. While the City may have the reputation and imagery of men in bespoke suits and Berluti hand-made shoes, the reality is much more mundane. On those rare days when a man in this combo does appear, he is the envy of Cannon Street. The correct pairing of a navy suit with just the right shade of tan lace-ups is so subtle, like the amount of collar to show, the size and type of tie-knot, or the interplay between shirt and cufflinks, that when done right, has made me (and others) stop and stare. It's not hard guys, it just requires a little bit of thought of a morning. Though I suspect that most of these guys have had other things on their minds lately - "credit crunch", anyone?
But the same subtlety also applies to streetwear. The recent trend of rolling up sleeves and trouser legs demands a critical eye; the right length, the right width of cuffing, the right number of rolls. While black slim jeans are an easy match with a plaid shirt, this look is inadequate in today's Topman-saturated market. Individuality comes in the styling details, rather than in the clothes themselves. Any fool can log on to Topman.com and have a little read and then recreate at the local branch. It takes someone thinking a little differently to make it stylish, individual, and sexy. It is this subtlety and individuality which I wish to make the focus of next year's worth of Staples; brash bars and frenetic festivals are unbelievable amounts of fun, but in order to become a Staple, they have to be tackled with an element of individuality. This means not just seeing bands at a festival and complaining at the sound levels, but taking matters into your own hands and playing a little Jenga if the mood takes you. Not just wearing a tshirt because you've seen it it in a magazine, but because you want to wear it in a particular way. Not just doing things for the sake of it, but because you genuinely feel it will improve your life. This may have gone a little philosophical, but so what? It's important to think about more than just the little things and take in the bigger picture when you can. So with that in mind, the Staple this week is not an item, a place or a person, but individuality. Essentials are what you make of them, and are personal to everyone - it is individuality which is the true Staple, in fashion in as much as music, or any other means of expression.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Guilty Pleasures

Having just been home and cleared my childhood room of things deemed 'not exciting enough to bring to London', I rediscovered an old stack of CDs from my teenage years. Over the last few days, I have (while my flatmates is away on holiday) been indulging in both this and this. If ever there was a guilty pleasure, it's early noughties proto-funk and breathy girl-band pop. Although I feel a little sheepish about these tracks, they will clearly be getting an airing at the next Club Rees.

Monday, 11 August 2008

The Staple - Cycling Culture

You're Better Off by Bike

Of late, I have been obsessed with cycling. It may seem odd, but let me explain: The current vogue in menswear of rolling-up trousers and t-shirt sleeves, coupled with a heightened sense of ecological awareness and the ol’ “credit crunch” all seem to coincide with the bicycle. This fashion stems from two influential points.
First, the bicycle courier; a utilitarian yet very individual figure who is enough of an outsider to convincingly rock a Mohican haircut or a radio headset without looking like a prat, but still prevalent across urban cityscapes, literally cutting a dash through the city. It is the independent, maverick nature of these couriers which is appealing; while they do not have a uniform per se, they are instantly recognisable (even without the bikes), and their daily play with death or serious injury in urban traffic combined with honed physiques and undeniable confidence make them attractive.
Second, the East London fashionite. As the quest for affordable housing in London pushes people much further from the centre, East London’s relatively affordable ‘studio’ and ‘warehouse’ spaces have become the de rigueur place to reside for a good few years now. While trendy in an edgy sort of way, fashionable types working centrally have realized that travel costs are eating into their Beyond Retro budgets, and thus invested in retro bikes in order to commute more easily. As cycle lanes have sprung up, so has the popularity of this method of transport, and now Bethnal Green Road is positively bursting with pretty girls on Pashleys in pastels and pointy shoes.
The convergence of these two scenes, coupled with a particular excitement bubbling up from within my peer group for this mode of transport has seen an influx of courier-inspired fashion details. From mutlicoloured cyclecaps, to the aforementioned cuffing of trousers; fashion spreads in transport/fashion hybrid magazine Intersection and endless photos of our buffoon of a mayor cycling to work, cycling is everywhere. Time to get on the saddle. For me, this t-shirt embodies this scene. Meeting a group of couriers in a central London pub, we got to talking, and one of them was selling these t-shirts. Turns out he'd been involved in an altercation with a Merc, which had run him over. In anger, he'd picked up his bike and chucked it through the Merc's windscreen. Ordered to pay damages, he took the inventive approach of making these t's and selling them off, thereby easily recouping his losses. Hotheaded initially, but with the support of not only the courier community, but the wider public also, this for me was a tipping point into cycling culture. Send in the bikes...
Other Staples this week:
Embracing cycling culture
Field Day festival
Trampolining
Rediscovering Mario Kart & GoldenEye on the N64
M&S Scones
Relaxing on a sofa
Pac-a-macs

EDIT: Just as I was about to publish this post, a TfL adfor cycling appeared on the telly; thus inspiring the title. Fate...?

Monday, 4 August 2008

The Staple - Music Festivals

Vive les Festivals

So here's what I've been up to in July. Basically, the festivals have taken over my life. I was planning on keeping this summer a little more low-key; last year I made it to eight festivals in all. This may seem entirely bonkers, and I suppose to some extent it is. But when your passions are live music, partying and dressing up in improbable combinations of clothes, there is no better place to combine all three. As July unfolded, I took the first Eurostar of the day to Brussels, where bemused business travellers sat amid huge rucksacks, cagoules and tents, the zzcchhvvip of fastenings sitting uncomfortably next to their pink shirt-and-tie combos. Rock Werchter is Belgium's answer to Glastonbury, and it showcased many of the same bands, but for much cheaper, and with the added bonus of a 24-can crate of beer costing just €13. Crowdsurfing to Justice, being awed by Radiohead for the second time in a week and rocking it up to everything from Kings of Leon and Beck to Duffy and Digitalism; the whole weekend melted into a blur of music, beer and good times, the photos marked only by the differing outfits. A favourite was using an old orange mountaineering cagoule over a tshirt and shorts, cuffing the sleeves and belting it in at the waist with a gold braided belt and accessorising with the gold visor and some purple canvas shoes. Sounds ridiculous, and it wasn't until I got back and spent the first half of the week marvelling at Facebook that I realised it was. The following week was party central, no time for recovery - Simian Mobile Disco, Jamie Lidell and Rockfeedback at the Cross Kings flashed past, all bleeps, sax and dancing on tables. Just a few short days of work (and some very civilised jazz in Stoke Newington) intervened into this party schedule as Latitude loomed into view. Another chance to see the majestic Sigur Ros, and experience the fabulous Joanna Newsom, as well as catch Interpol, Blondie, Midnight Juggernauts, Shortwave Set and Lykke Li. Unlike RW, Latitude was a tad more civilised, but that didnt stop the backstage forays, beer-filled breakfasts and ridiculous dressing; a highlight here was an outfit of 1980s CITV presenter pullover with burgundy jeans, blue shoes and a multi-coloured silk cummerbund patterned with New York theatre tickets; it looked as though a rainbow had been sick on me. Post-Latitude, a couple more gigs followed and a triumphant night of DJing at Club Rees @ the Fly rounded off the week. All that remained of the month of festivals was a quick day trip to Secret Garden Party (guttingly missing the inimitable spectacle of Grace Jones), and then a Leicester Square premiere (natch); here I managed to pull off gingham shorts on the red carpet, pairing them with grey bstore round-toe lace-ups, a black polo shirt, silvery scarf, belt and sunglasses. This sort of month barely leaves time for work, and I think, one month (or perhaps two if you feel like pushing it) of the year should be reserved for this sort of partying. With a veritable glut of festivals across the globe all summer, from April right through to September, it's important to be able to let go, follow the music and just go and have a damn good weekend (or 4) with your mates. Festivals are a Staple, but more important is your approach; push where you need to, rest where you need to - there is no place more suitable constructed for a week of hedonism. Bring on Field Day! Amongst this festival of a month, other Staples comprised:
Festivals (Rock Werchter, Latitude, Secret Garden Party)
Estelle's infectious single, 'American Boy'
Patterned cummerbunds
Warm cans of lager
The feel of grass constantly underfoot
The magic of Facebook's photo-tagging
Home-made lanyards and line-ups

Stapled

It's been over a month since the last Staple, so I guess I should at least give an excuse for the lack of posting. Unfortunately (well, not really) a hectic schedule of partying and festivalling took over my Monday evenings, and the delicious habit of Channel 4, a good meal and a blog that I had worked so hard to develop disappeared. Quite a few times this month, this lack of blogging has hit me, and I've actually had a great number of things that I've been meaning to Staple. Starting from now, I'm going to try and blog at least twice a week - potentially without including the "enduring leitmotif" (as termed by a great friend of mine) of a oven photo - in an effort to rectify this oversight. As a bonus, along with my fantastic DJing partners The Brothers Rees, there is a new blog for all your DJing needs, essential songs and general banter. OK, back to business with another Staple...

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

The Staple - Pastels

Fruit Pastels

This week I had the questionable luck to be hanging around waiting for a mate at Oxford Circus, and I decided to pop into H&M, just to have a look, while I was waiting. Having not crossed the threshold there for quite some time, it was a pleasure to wander around in the evening of a quiet Monday, without wading through the quicksand of neon teenagers. Maybe I'm just getting old, but Oxford Street on a Saturday now fills me with terror me, rather than the feelings of excitement that I had when I first came to London. On this occasion, I quickly grabbed a few polo shirts and a couple of neckerchiefs, and suddenly remembered just why it is that H&M is so busy - it's very cheap and very cheerful. Pastel polo shirts are my summer look, and this lilac one will be replacing a much-loved Lacoste one that is now practically sheer. A few weeks ago I bought a couple of polos at Rokit in Camden, just fairly plain in a lovely turquoise-teal and a powder blue with a maple leaf design on the breast pocket, however these were £15 a pop. H&M's were less than half that, just £5.99. That's absurdly cheap. I bought three (the lilac; a vibrant orangey-red, and a lovely sky blue) and am very impressed with both the quality and cut of them. The two-button placket is relatively stiff and looks great buttoned to the top, and the pastel shades work brilliantly with pastel cardigans. This clashing Hockney-via Burberry Prorsum S/S '05 is a smarter way to wear colour this summer; pastels take the brightness and mute it down a little, and when paired with a more subtle colour of jeans (burgundy; grey; black) or shorts leads to a smart yet still fun look. I’ve also been hankering after adding some pastel canvas shoes to my growing collection – Topman’s mint pair are top of the list, followed by their subtle (ish) peach pair. I'm a long way off dressing all in black yet...
Other Staples this week:
Pastel-coloured polo shirts and shoes
The Miller pub in London Bridge
Matthew Dear at the ICA (with my Dad)
A glut of sample sales (Thanks McQ!)
Whisky & ginger
Squint Homme magazine

UPDATE: So I bought the peach ones yesterday as they didnt have the mint ones. they are delicious...

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

The Staple - Full-Size Umbrella

The Surprise Formal Element

During the recent rather changeable weather, I have been carrying an umbrella with increasing frequency. And not a fold-up black one either; these ALWAYS break, unless you shell out £20 for a posho automatic opening one, which I am loath to do. A long umbrella - ideally not covered in golf or banking brands - is the mark of a gentleman. A curved handle is the masculine portion of a brolly, and makes it surprisingly practical when travelling by tube with your hands full. An umbrella should also have a steel tip for a reassuring clack when walking. This example, purchased from a supermarket in Brittany of all places, is perfect. A lovely chocolate colour with surprisingly smart cherry-coloured pinstripes and a soft-touch black handle. Agreed, it's no James Smith, but it's a pretty good start considering the likelihood of my losing umbrellas, and the distress that misplacing a £100+ brolly would provoke. For the princely sum of 8 euros, I have an umbrella that will smarten any outfit - I once read in the Sunday Times Style supplement that a full-size umbrella provides a "surprise formal element" and I have found this to be true - it not only dignifies even the scruffiest of jeans, but when walking with a baton this size, it forces you to walk properly and with a certain swing in your step. It's also very useful for batting small children, dogs and tourists out of the way on the tube. Some might say that there's certain Freudian element about the size of your umbrella, to whom I say if you had a steel-tipped pinstriped penis, you'd probably want to show it off as well. Anyway, give them a try, man or woman - full-size umbrellas are the only way to combat this vile global-warming induced weather...Other Staples this week:
Full-size umbrellas
Rubies' album 'Explode from the Center'
M&S Cheese scones
A day in Brighton with the parents
The Betjeman Arms in St. Pancras station
Andrew Rae's postcards
Neckscarves

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

The Staple - Reading on the Tube

Read All About It

Since last September, I made a dramatic change in my commuting habits. I stopped taking the bus after an horrendous 1 ½ hour ride on a 25-minute journey and switched to the much quicker Tube. Now I’m not a massive fan of the Tube; it’s always too hot, it’s stingingly expensive and more often than not, it’s FAR too full. But I have been hiding myself away in my own world when commuting, ears encased in some noise-cancelling headphones, and eyes focusing on a book. I used to read Metro, but when it dawned on me that the substance of Metro is mostly a) utter rubbish, and b) exceptionally Conservative, I decided to cultiver mon jardin, in the words of Voltaire. Since then I have read most of Paul Auster, some Ballard, and some odd things I found in the British Library (Scheerbaart) and second-hand bookshops (Cocteau’s ‘Maalesh’). But it was my Mum who got me onto Ian McEwan. I’d previously dismissed him (no idea why), and also I’m not a fan of period novels (Atonement), but on pressing a copy of ‘Saturday’ into my hand, I was hooked. The setting is all around where I went to uni, and the writing is clinically precise, but still warm and engaging. I quickly followed this up with a couple more of his; the beautiful ‘On Chesil Beach’ and the pretty disturbing ‘Cement Garden’. Now I’m back on to one of my favourites, Colette ‘The Pure and the Impure’. There’s nothing like some nineteenth century Parisian high society, debauchery and opium dens to liven up the commute. Get down to a good indie bookshop (Foyles, London Review Bookshop, Daunt, the Owl in Kentish Town, Prospero’s in Crouch End – anywhere but Tesco’s or Waterstones basically) and grab a book – guaranteed to improve any journey. Other Staples this week:
Reading Ian McEwan on the tube
Seeing The Whitest Boy Alive twice (Coalition in Brighton; Koko in Camden)
Getting out of London for a beautiful wedding
The Camden Arms
The ‘Great Gatsby’ look – Liberty print with chinos
DJing at the Fly on New Oxford Street
Being able to leave the house without a coat

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

The Staple - Cuffed Shorts

A Turn-up for the Books

So summer is once upon us again, however briefly, and I’ve cracked out my shorts. Once again, the intellectuels at APC have seemingly infiltrated my brain and created precisely the garment I was looking for, supplied by the buying genius at Selfridges. But I think I have eulogised enough about APC of late. This week’s Staple concerns a styling detail, which has also been pointed out recently by both The Sartorialist and Style Salvage, and is particularly important where shorts are concerned. With these shorts, and indeed my cuffed 501 cut-offs, the length of fabric on the leg is crucial. While the rolling-up of sleeves on T-shirts has been commonplace for a few years now, on trousers and shorts it is a little more directional.
On T-shirts, it makes the fit a little snugger, especially on baggier Ts, and somehow updates an old T. As for shirts, sleeve lengths have varied, but I am currently wearing my sleeves cuffed to half-way up my biceps. Again, this has the pleasing quality of modernising an old shirt - where an elbow-length could look a little office-y - as well as falling at the most aesthetically pleasing part of a man’s arm.
I have just begun to cuff (NB: cuffing is the folding or turning-up of a garment; as opposed to rolling, which is literally rolling the cloth) my jeans to a couple of inches above my shoes. This has both a pleasingly modern effect as with shirts, but also makes for a much cooler (in temperature terms) outfit. In addition, it demonstrates a personal adaptation of an item of clothing, a more daring approach to dressing. Especially important on dress-down Fridays in a no-shorts office.
As the acceptable length of casual, and indeed tailored shorts gets shorter, turn-up lengths become more important – I have been experimenting with various lengths, but I have found that I can comfortable cuff as high as 3 inches above the knee. This does need a smart(ish) pair of shorts though, and I have only paired it so far with polo shirts and cuffed shirts –with T-shirts, some of the impact is lost. Anyway, the Staple here is to be a little more daring with shorts, especially while the sun is out. Oh, and by the way, flip-flops are for Australians or the beach only. The rest of this week’s Staples:
Cuffing of shorts and trousers
Drinking cava in Regent’s Park
Gilles Peterson’s fantastically summery ‘Back in Brazil’ compilations
Pre-Festival excitement & the return of summer
Cocteau’s ‘Maalesh’ – diaries of his theatrical tour to the Middle East
Bangface Festival at Camber Sands
Soulwax’s documentary ‘Part of the Weekend Never Dies’

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Broken Stapler

I have to admit – and apologise – that the Staple has been a little lacking of late, and for that I can but apologise to my regular readers…all 3 of them. I have had various stuff going on throughout April with my Grandad (as no doubt you’ve read), and then a holiday, a festival, some premieres, seeing some brilliant DJs, being a professional DJ, meeting a bona fide rock star, a fantastic mate leaving London and related celebrations, Bank Holiday weekend, a birthday or six and also a rather sketchy Internet connection. Ultimately, my aim of one article a week has been well off-target. Rest assured that from next week, things will be back on track, and I will be Stapling like mad once again. I'll leave you, if I may, with a particularly 'Skins +10' photo of myself, and the first instance of my shorts in 2008...

Friday, 18 April 2008

Stapler's Question Time

After my recent ode to APC, MR Style commented that APC is a little expensive. I'd like to open this up to debate; Here's my take on it...
For me, buying APC (or really any 'expensive' item) has two main advantages. Firstly, the buying experience; making a purchase in Liberty with space to breathe and wander around without queueing or fear that some 15-year old might steal your bag, is infinitely preferable to H&M's poorly-designed shop on Regent Street. In addition, there is a sense of the 'reassuringly expensive' from this kind of purchase. The act of buying something like this is a luxury; the pleasant assistants, heavy card embossed bag and feeling of indulgence that engulfs you as you swish out of the plate-glass doors. A guilty pleasure with a short-term high. The long-term high comes from buying an item that is well-made and ethically so (in Tunisia), to a design which is both fashionable and rare enough that every second person won't be wearing it. Further, this quality means that it will last for longer than my current falling-apart coat. My APC coat was expensive (£155), but the combination of the above factors, in my eyes, makes it good value for money. I've also had many flattering comments about it as well. As a young man with no real committments, a relatively high disposable income and more than a passing interest in fashion, these purchases are made only at the culmination of a lovely thought process, and though I am the first one to scoff at stupidly expensive purchases, I also believe in paying for what you get. In short, I reckon that some items from the current APC collections are worth the premium, and I reckon MRStyle would too...What do you think? How much is too much? Is it better for the short-term to buy Primark, or should we all be buying clothes hat last longer than two weeks? Let me know via the comments...

Denis Allen Clarke (1926 - 2008)

Grandad

There has been a bit of a sad delay in my postings recently, and that's mostly due to the recent death of my much-loved Grandad. He was a lovely, kind man, who I talked to regularly, often from the pub. He was the sort of person with whom you feel very comfortable, and I'd spent many happy Christmases, birthdays and holidays with him and of course the rest of my family. His death was a shock; he had been active and independent right until his heart attack. There was no slow mental or physical decline, which I've witnessed several times before and is as far from a Staple as you can get. He was very proud of my professional achievements, and believed that I was following in the family tradition of journalism; in turn I looked up to him for guidance and support. We were very close, unusually so I suppose, as he was the last remaining relative on my Mum's side. Never fussy or imposing, he was a man of great humour and lived a socially useful, fulfilling and brilliantly rounded life. He is, and will be, greatly missed. Grandparents are your family history and support network; they are what makes you who you are, and in this way, they are above a Staple. They are your genesis.

The Staple - Scotland


A view from the train

From the slopes of Ben Nevis

Glen Nevis

Bonnie Scotland

I'm writing this from the summit of one of the highest railway passes in the UK. Corrour in Scotland, on the line between Fort William and Glasgow, at just over 1400ft is just staggeringly beautiful. There's still snow on the ground, mottling the palette of browns to a frosted chocolate. Although the clouds are low, the light across the glaciated terrain is clear and crisp; the rough grass has seemingly not been touched in millennia. The senses of both emptiness and remoteness are all-enveloping, and it's easy to forget that you are in Britain. It's a million miles from Oxford Circus, in every sense. And it's so heartbreakingly beautiful, especially with the light icing-sugar dusting of snow all around, turning to a thick covering as the altitude climbs. Dropping down a little lower, a fine mist covers the train and turns the clear sun into a hazy squint. This is so beautiful, so still and so superlative that I've run out of appropriate superlatives. The train is mostly empty, with a couple of tourists like myself and several locals who seemingly make this commute a few times a week. It's impossible for me to imagine making this journey without staring open-mouthed through the window, my eyes and brain struggling to compute the scenery unfolding. Extended train travel always provokes this reaction in me: I know I've said it before, but the most civilised and simple way to appreciate your surroundings as well as have time to think and just be , is on a train. If anything was a Staple, this journey is.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

The Staple - APC Coat

As Easy as A.P.C. 1,2,3

Once again, the basement of Liberty has provided a wearable, semi-affordable and eminently fabulous solution to my Spring coat search. This weekend was a little party-heavy (see EXTRA! EXTRA!), but at least the civilised confines of the menswear hall on Great Marlborough St. provided me with an escape. I met with Ben, a very good mate of mine with a similarly discerning eye for a well-cut piece of clothing – he was buying work trousers, I was aimlessly browsing. First, I picked up, tried on and in fact bought a lovely APC thick cotton canvas hooded jacket in a particularly nautical shade of cobalt blue. This was to be a replacement for my now slightly worn blue checkered jacket which I have been wearing for many years now. However, in my mild haze, I failed to notice until leaving this gorgeous double-breasted, light canvas, lined jacket, hiding on the opposite end of the APC stand. It too includes elements of nautical style (the subtle herringbone striping and blue and white palette) but is less overt, and is both smart and casual. Above all, the fit is sublime, looser than I was expecting, yet still flattering. The sleeves in particular are almost baggy, and contribute to the feeling that this is, unlike much of my wardrobe, a more mature, tailored piece. I’ve worn it with blue and faded black jeans this weekend to good effect, and despite the stripes, it seems compatible with checkered scarves. All in all, a very good purchase, once again confirming my love for this brilliant French label. Check out the rest of the collection here, and I dare you not to want at least one item…a supreme Staple.
Other Staples this week:
APC double-breasted jacket
A series of brilliant house parties over Easter
Mini Daim bars
SEOne club’s Remix Allnighter
Shameless on Channel 4
Whisky and ginger
The Dove pub in Hammersmith

Thursday, 20 March 2008

The Staple - Gold Belt



(NB: Yes, train wifi's good, but it's terribly slow. I had to upload this at home...)

Clunk Click Every Trip

So today I'm getting a train from King's Cross to Leeds to surprise my Mum for her birthday. It is a wonder of the 21st Century, not only that this sort of journey is possible and in fact exceptionally easy for 24 hours; but that the train is equipped with wireless internet. Seriously, the modern world is pretty amazing sometimes when you stop and think about it. Anyway, this technological marvel allows me to a little time to ruminate on this week's Staple; the belt. For men, this is an often overlooked area, most men wear a simple, classic brown or black belt with a gold or silver buckle respectively. I own these; they are not only practical, but also compliment the smart look - a formal or work outfit is incomplete wthout a belt to fill those loops. With casual clothes though, the choice is much more varied and interesting. Patent, pattern or a more unusual buckle perhaps? A belt is an oft-underused opportunity to add an accent colour or texture to an outfit. Further, this accent can completely alter an outfit and make it infinitely better, or worse. For awhile now, I have been playing with metallic accessories and in this (my second gold braid belt) I've found an item of clothing that brightens up a casual pair of jeans, but it subtle enough to suggest a trend-receptive outlook. Lazy fashion I suppose, but one can't walk around dressed like Eugene Hutz all day (much as I might like to). The texture of the woven leather is a pleasing breaker from cotton, and although the colour is a little obvious perhaps, but as with metallic shoes, it's rare to see another bloke wearing it. And it's both this belt and what it represents which is the Staple here; an idea of dressing for oneself (a break for individuality) as well as being a little more daring in what you wear - as I write this I'm sat amogst businessmen on the commute, wearing patent boots, maroon jeans, a silver belt, an off-white Liberty-print shirt and a salmon pink cardigan). What is there to lose? other Staples this week:
A metallic belt
Pizza from Icco's on Charlotte Street
Free wifi internet on the train
The Southwark Tavern in London Bridge
Jluian Schnabel's beautiful film 'The Diving Bell & The Butterfly'
Bank Holiday weekend
Neon Neon's album, 'Stainless Style'

Monday, 10 March 2008

The Staple - Burial's 'Untrue'

The streets are alive with the Sound of Music too...

I listen to music practically non-stop. I don't like it when there's no music in the background. From the moment I get up, either the TV or the stereo is on; the only way I can deal with the tube (at any hour) is to clamp my headphones over my ears and retreat into some appropriate tunes; at work, I always have some music playing and when I am napping I need some appropriately chilled music in the background. Every so often, I stumble across an album which shapes the next six months or so, and will not be leaving my iPod. Previous examples (in chronological order) include: Sound of Silver (LCD), Transparent Things (Fujiya & Miyagi), Writer's Block (Peter Bjorn and John) and a Bugz in the Attic LifeStyles compilation of '80s funk. Just before Xmas, I read about the incognito DJ and producer Burial, whose new album had been rated amongst the best of 2007. Normally, end-of-year lists are a little overone, but this was on DrownedinSound.com, the forum of uberMusos and sonic aesthetes of the highest (and often elitest and most pretentious) order. Duly, I investigated, after having many pleasant aural discoveriesas a result of positive reviews. And the fantastic sounds within - muffled garage beats over orchestral arrangements; choral crescendoes clashing with electronic shufflings - have provided a soundtrack to the last few months of dark winter. The sonic landscape (yes, it sounds grand, but it's not until you listen to this album that you can really grasp just how visual and grand a noise it makes) on display in 'Untrue' genuinely envelops you, swirls around you, sucks you down into a thickly smoky and richly delicious place; perfect for when you're swaddled in your scarf in the rain on your way home from a club at 3am. It's the kind of album that I have played, then heard in several different places, the kind that slowly seeps into your unconscious and before you realise it, the album has become a Staple. This is what makes a great album; personal conenctions with truly fantastic music. Other Staples this week:
Burial's album 'Untrue'
A slim silver leather belt
The Queen Mary pub on the Thames
American Apparel pants
Having a working boiler
Hoegaarden with Lime
Argos' self-service machines & "the laminated catalogue of dreams"

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

The Staple - VIP at the Astoria

EXTRA! EXTRA!

I've been lucky enough in my time in London to be invited to/gatecrash/turn up at some pretty fantastic events; Leicester Square film premieres, club openings, underground raves, the opera and even the odd press launch. Whilst always fun - and always with my mates - these events can sometimes be a little style over substance, where the prescience of the event and the crossing of the velvet rope is more exciting than the event itself. Last week's trip to the Astoria, however, was one of the best ones. As a regular gig-goer, I am used to the Asto's fair-to-middling sound quality, jostling for a good view only to have the tallest man in the venue to stand in front of you and never being able to regain this meagre place should you need the bar or toilet. While seeing Justice a few weeks ago was electric as a result of the atmosphere, when seeing Lightspeed Champion and the Young Knives I was treated, courtesy of my lovely friend Rhea, to life behind the velvet rope, on the VIP balcony. And I must say, it is the best spot in the whole place. Plenty of space to stand on the balcony which is practically directly in front of the stage. Returning from the bar was a pleasure rather than a chore, and with the music coming directly at you, sound quality becomes less of an issue. So what was already going to be an enjoyable gig was transformed into a brilliant evening, merely by a switching of place. Of course, the company of Rhea, Tom (and at the aftershow party, the Knives' lead singer, Henry Dartnell) was key to this experience, but it also proves that location is key in more than just housebuying. Scoring VIP tickets is always going to be rare, but this is one of those brilliant London experiences where there are only good memories to be had. Seeing a gig properly; a true Staple.

The Staple - Cashmere Wristwarmers

Wrists of Fury

They don't look much do they? But I've been meaning to blog properly about these little beauties for months now, as they're just about the only things that have been everywhere with me over the winter. I originally found them in the Brora catalogue - a favourite of my Mum's - way back in September, but it took me a while to actually get to the delightful shop on that centre of civility, London's Marylebone High St. As a man with oddly lengthy limbs (my friends call them the 'Long Arms of the Law'), these seemed the perfect thing for when coats, jumpers and shirts don't quite fit properly. This is virtually all of my long-sleeved items, but as I don't have the money to go bespoke, I have generally made do with rolling up my sleeves. From purchase day, I have worn them probably 90% of the times I've stepped out of the house, the other 10% being when they were in my bag. The mid-grey colour happily sits alongside any other colour (except perhaps light grey); the cashmere is soft yet durable and they are flexible enough for me to wear just around my wrists (which I'm certain I've seen at some fringe menswear show in AW07) or for me to retract my entire hands into. They also make convenient Oyster/entrycard holders. They are utterly functional: unlike gloves, I can do up my coat or use a mobile communications device when wearing these, and they can be rolled down away from my hands when they get a little too warm. I know winter's drawing to a close (I'm on the lookout for a transition coat; Topman's crimson double-breasted mac has my vote so far) but I can't recommend these wristwarmers highly enough; in fact I've been extolling their virtues to just about everyone I meet - so much so that many of my friends have invested, and my Mum now has a pair of rather fetching grape-coloured ones. Like Mum, like Son. So thanks Mum for, well, everything; but in this case for some sartorial inspiration and an absolute Staple. Other Staples this week:
Cashmere wristwarmers
The choral music of Mäntyjärvi, as performed by my friend Jen
Topman's double-breasted crimson mac
Jens Lekman's fantastic album 'Night Falles over Kortedala'
Having a weekend back in your home town
My Godfather's inaugural lecture at SOAS
Jumbo records in Leeds and their lovely staff

Monday, 25 February 2008

The Staple - Let Them Eat Cake

Anyone for Cake?

A bit of a wander on Saturday on my usual Oxford St.-avoiding route [Soho Sq-D'Arblay-Gt. Marlborough-Liberty-Regent-Conduit-B Store-Bond-Avery Row-South Molton-Poste-St. Christopher's Place-Reiss-Selfridges] washed me up in Selfridges' magazine hall. This is a dangerous place for me. I have an unabatable vice for glossy, beautiful photography with gorgeous clothes, articles erudite to irreverent, and men with razor-sharp cheekbones, all in a reassuringly weighty package. I buy most of the biennials and quarterlies, but have had to cut down on monthlies as a result. Favourites are: L'Officiel Hommes, GQ Style, 10+ Men and, of course, Monocle. But for the last year or so, I have been purchasing a lesser-known magazine called Let Them Eat Cake. Originally conceived when talented assistants of photographers, stylists, writers and designers were not given due credit, this magazine has been a gorgeous miniature pleasure of beautifully-shot clothes in an offbeat and experimental fashion. Whilst not strictly a mens publication, its sheer aesthetic pleasure combined of the 'underdog' ethos has made i one of my favourite purchases. And as I've followed it from Issue 3, I'm especially proud to discover that the magazine has made the transition from colour fanzine to a full-format glossy, and enough support to have less than five pages of advertisements out of 128, mostly photo-essays. What a delight, not having to flip past the umpteenth oiled D&G advert and find each page sprinkled with such sensory delight. This is a brilliant example of virtually independent publishing (LTEC is printed at a small Welsh press in Aberystwyth) making it good in the voraciously competitive glossy market. And unlike SuperSuper, there is an important and welcome lack of shock-and-awe tactics and in-your-face fonts. LTEC has been beautifully put together and is a welcome addition to my purchasing. A little more writing would be nice, but not if it reduces the quality and volume of photographic genius which is well worth my, and your, £3.50. It is, as it states on the cover, "for fashion's sake" - dedication to aesthetics. This makes it an unavoidable Staple. Along with the rest of this week's Staples:
Let Them Eat Cake magazine
A belt made from a Liberty print offcut
The Pride of Spitalfields pub, off Brick Lane
Uniqlo's '2 cashmere cotton jumpers for £30' offer
Fabriclive 36 - James Murphy & Pat Mahoney
Competitive hangman on a Sunday afternoon
Selfridges ever-improving menswear floor (and it's gorgeous electric blue patent Alexander McQueen hi-top trainers)

Monday, 18 February 2008

The Staple - Justice Live

EXTRA! EXTRA!

Seeing a good gig, as I have mentioned previously, is an absolute Staple. But seeing a dance outfit in a gig situation can be hit and miss. I was lucky enough to see Simian Mobile Disco a couple of months back, but their lacklustre, short set, coupled with an almost complete lack of stage excitement - two guys strolling around a big circular synth pressing buttons does not a show make - left me wanting. I have also been lucky enough to see, and more importantly hear, some great DJs in clubs, but at a gig, they have to put on a show and entertain with their live performance rather than just stick the album on and bounce up and down. When I saw Four Tet, the visuals were both clever and absorbing, but Kieran Hebden himself was just bopping in front of his laptop. We had no idea if he was checking emails, or actually playing a set. My faith in brilliant DJ shows was restored however, at Thursday's Justice show at the Astoria. They were positioned amidst a Spinal Tap-style wall of enormous Marshall amps, above a Battlestar Galactica digital bank of bleepy lights. In the middle, the trademark Justice illuminated cross, which is the focus and usually the sole discernible subject of any photos taken of Justice gigs. More importantly, they played genuinely Live tracks, remixed and rearranged in a completely new way. For a band with a such well-known repertoire, some of which are now a good few years old, they sounded fresh and took their eye-bleeding techno to a new level, throwing in familiar lyrics and noises amidst a wall of euphoric, ripped sound. This combo juiced the audience so much so that every last person was not just tapping their feet, but full-on dancing, right up to the rafters. I left feeling uplifted and played the album on the bus home - a sure sign of hearing something fab. Complete genius. A veritable Staple - seeing music you love played in a fresh way that makes you fall in love with it all over again. Et Justice pour tous...

The Staple - Spider Badge

The Diamante Badge of Courage

In my mind, people fall into two categories; badge-wearers, or badge-deniers. I am resolutely in the first camp. But, as with everything that I wear, I am rather selective. And I have been through many different stages. On my jumpers I like simple, and plain badges; envelope-lining ones from the Design Museum, or map fragments from Tatty Devine. My most recent acquisition is one that my workmate James found attached to his dry cleaning; an old fashioned revolver pin-badge. I also like a bit of sparkle on a cardigan as well; a diamante mouse, or golden spider's web or a tacky golden leopard playing with a fake pearl. But it's on the lapels of my coats that I really go to town. On my velvet jacket I prefer vintage blue and gold enamel or silver latticework butterflies. On my khaki double-breasted coat have been my best and most creative selections. I began with large round anti-war and other left-wing badges from my parents, before moving onto a Sonia Rykiel multicoloured plastic 'Voila' which became my signature around Paris. I switched to a black perspex camera and having lost all or parts of the above, am now on this diamante spider, which both pleases and scares my mates in equal measure. It was an ubercheap purchase from H&M, but doesn't show its price. And also always provokes an interesting reaction. For me, badges should not only be a way of personalising your clothes and conveying something of yourself, but also to brighten up plainer and darker clothes, and in some cases contrast against the masculinity of an item such as a military-style coat. The contradiction of having a sparkly badge on such a coat pleases me, and, I feel, is something that more people should experiment with. Just make sure you pick the right badge. Other Staples this week:
An eclectic collection of badges
Dried Smyrna figs
The George & Dragon pub in East London
Fortuitous night buses (N63)
The LSO's performance of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 15
Tring, Hertfordshire (and surrounding countryside)
Kim Jones for Umbro tshirts

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

The Staple - London Fashion Week

EXTRA! EXTRA!

The reason for the delay on this week’s blog is threefold; a rather busy weekend, starting work at 6.30am this week (necessitating a 5.15am wake-up alarm) and spending my Monday night this week not at home with the laptop and a cup of peppermint tea, but at my first Fashion Show. And it was in the ultimate spirit of My First..., as it was for the London magazine SuperSuper. So neon abounded, crazy make-up on the models (glittery 'taches for men) and guests (full-on clown faces), and unusual (to say the least) cuts, fabrics and details. Much of the evening was so 'fashion' that it made my brain hurt. As well as some utterly directional outfits (pea-green fur bodysuit, gimp masks and boys in heels that would have looked out of place in that peak of Nouvelle Rave, BoomBox) there were examples of promising talent there. Scott Ramsey Kyle's collection was a little OTT in its use of contrasting fabrics and neon for me, but did feature some well-cut dresses. Emma Bell's beautiful Quality-Street shiny fabrics and structured puffa jackets were a highlight; they may sound terrible, but were genuinely beautiful to see, and though the outfits jarred, individual pieces were beautifully made, and almost wearable. Dharma Taylor's menswear was very Shoreditch; a little gimmicky and made too much of putting your coat on your head. That is, if the just-released-from-borstal models didn't rip it off first. Finally Thomas Sels' dresses were a highlight, with one off-white striped, drop-backed creation really piquing my attention - it would have looked brilliant on a red carpet, on a Tilda Swinton-type perhaps. Interspersed between the clothes was video art, some terrible Art Brut-esque indie and a scene darling rapping about 'poached eggs' (actually pretty funny). Best of all was the soundtrack of eye-melting techno and b-more bass. We like. So an amusing start; last year I did promise myself I'd get to fashion week, so this is a good start, but next year I want to see some mens and womenswear that is both challenging and beautiful. SuperSuper show kids...and of course big thanks to the fabulous Katie for inviting me, and making it happen so successfully...

The Staple - Nokia Brick

Connecting People

Last week, after a very successful trip to Rough Trade East and my New Favourite Bar, I wound up on the tube back to King’s Cross with a lovely mate. On flopping onto the seats, what should we find but an old Nokia handset? I’m sure you know the sort – no camera, no music player, beepy ringtone and worn plastic buttons. Having gone through four of them myself last year, I know both the pain of losing them and their extraordinary resilience. These phones are infinitely preferable to modern flippy, slidey touch-screen phones that scratch easily, weigh a ton and have a tiny battery life because they have so many applications. Their simplicity (calls and text messages and that’s about it), genuine durability and universality (everyone’s got at least one spare Nokia charger) mean that they will be around for ages. I fully expect to lose my ridiculous Nokia Klingon phone and to have to revert to my standby brick at some stage, and that doesn’t bother me – just as long as I keep a record of the numbers and upload the photos to my laptop. With that in mind, we decided to attempt to return the phone to its owner, simply by texting the most recent messagers on it. The owner called it the next day and came to meet me near work, giving me a firm handshake, genuine thanks and a box of chocolates. Both he and I were pleased that such a thing could happen in London. And whilst it would have been easier to hold on to the phone and use it next time, the sense of having done something friendly and yet very simple was unmatchable, and really put me in a good mood. Karma, man. So next time you find an old phone, be virtuous – you already have at least one phone, and quite possibly a standby, take the initiative and give it back to its rightful owner. A simple, honest and free Staple. Other Staples this week:
Nokia brick phones (and their safe retrieval)
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings' new album, ‘100 Days, 100 Nights’
Ten-pin bowling in Elephant and Castle
Rough Trade East
Eating Nutella from the jar
A stripy Reiss woollen scarf
Tusker East African lager 

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

The Staple - The British Library

EXTRA! EXTRA!

So this weekend I went to the British Library for the Futurism exhibition. It was lovely; as a committed bibliophile, Kings Cross-dweller and lover of early 20th Century art, it was right up my street (literally and figuratively). Gorgeous and fascinating typefaces, sketches, film extracts and other assorted vignettes. As well as covering the history, ideology and more obscure European pockets of avant-garde publishing, there was also a significant section on Paris. I was in heaven. And what a lovely space, the British Library. Light, airy, with plenty of ergonomically-specific work areas, unusual artworks dotted about and the only the most erudite of clientele. This mixture of people and place makes the BL an absolute Staple for the aesthetically-minded. But this was a day that progressed into a brilliant evening. After lurking in Camino and the Big Chill House, we moved to a lovely authentic Thai place; dirt cheap and filling, just how it should be, and refreshingly lacking in pretension. Moving on to Old Street, we found the most fantastic bar I think I've ever been to. Hidden away in a basement on Great Eastern Street is a beautifully-designed, compact space, furnished simply in a vintage 1950s G-Plan furniture kind of way, playing fabulous foreign jazz and easy-listening music, with cocktails to die for and an atmosphere that most bars would kill for. Never too loud, or too dark, or too busy, thanks to a complete lack of standing space and a brilliant table-reservation system, this epitome of relaxed Saturday living was a cocoon of lovely people in a chilled bar genuinely enjoying themselves; kudos to Janine and Stuart for making the evening as perfect as it could have been. I feel I'm beng a little effusive, but rarely have I been somewhere that I could find no fault with, the perfectionist that I am. Which is why I'll not divulge the name; if you want to know, drop me a message, but for now, this bar is a secret that I'm keeping to myself. It's too good to share just yet. Keep your eyes peeled for your perfect bar; and once you've found it, keep it under your hat. Sometimes secrecy is the best Staple of all.