About Andrew Hodges

Andrew Hodges is a small-town Southern lawyer and author of a-southern-gentleman.blogspot.com, a blog about classic style and culture in the American South

Father’s Day Gift Ideas

With Father’s Day swiftly approaching, I present some gift ideas for the stylish dad in your life.

dad-tie-bar-tieThe Necktie

A necktie is the ultimate stereotypical Father’s Day gift.  Although the idea is cliché, no man can have too many neckties.  For a really good bargain tie, check out The Tie Bar where every tie is fifteen bucks.  Pictured is one that I own in Carolina blue.  It will be mistaken for a much more expensive tie (mine has).  For an extremely nice tie (with a much higher price tag) check out Drake’s of London.

dad-mens-ex1Magazine Subscription

How about an out-of-the-ordinary men’s style magazine subscription?  I’m not talking about GQ or Esquire.  Instead I would suggest The Rake that is published bimonthly in Singapore.  Another option is Men’s Ex from Japan.  Although it’s written in Japanese, the photographs are a great resource for learning how to put clothes together into a cohesive outfit.  Print versions can be prohibitively expensive outside Japan; I get mine digitally through Zinio.

Shave Kitdad-shave-kit1

Every man needs a good shave kit for travel.  I like this one from Col. Littleton. It is made from leather and canvas with solid brass hardware.  It unfolds to hang conveniently on the back of a hotel bathroom door.

dad-jiffy-steamer1Travel Steamer

Continuing with the travel theme, I would suggest a Jiffy travel steamer.  Instead of scorching or staining his clothes with a cheap hotel iron, the stylish dad in your life can gently remove those inevitable travel wrinkles.


dad-asw-shoe-care-kit1Shoe Care Kit

Quality shoes will last for decades if given proper care.  The ASW online store has a beautiful kit available in wood, silver and leather.

A Stylish Movie: Diner

diner-style-dress1

Diner (1982) is a dark and melancholy look into the lives of a group of buddies struggling with the transition to adulthood in 1959 Baltimore. Eddie (Steve Guttenberg) threatens to call off the wedding if his fiancee can’t pass his elaborate football quiz. Shrevie (Daniel Stern) fights with his young wife about the organization of his record collection. Billy (Tim Daly) has a pregnant girlfriend who refuses to marry him. Boogie (Mickey Rourke) is a womanizer with a gambling problem. Fenwick (Kevin Bacon) is an unemployed drunk. Modell (Paul Reiser) is a passive-aggressive mooch. These friends eat French fries with gravy, discuss their respective problems, and engage in much meaningless conversation in their favorite local diner. The movie is sort of like Seinfeld without the humor. For instance, in one scene Paul Reiser ponders: “You know what word I’m not comfortable with? Nuance. It’s not a real word. Like gesture. Gesture is a good word. At least you know where you stand with gesture. But nuance? I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong.” I can totally see that same monologue coming from the mouth of George Costanza.

Although I found the “plot” to be rather tedious and depressing, Diner is at least a stylish movie. By utilizing thrift-store treasures, costume designer Gloria Gresham did an excellent job of recreating the late 1950s Ivy League look. Imagine lots of tweed and loosened repp ties with tie bars. In one scene Tim Daly wears a great navy-blue Duffle coat over his tweed jacket, tan sweater vest and brown pants. Bass Weejuns complete the outfit. Other small touches include the heavy ring that Mickey Rourke wears on a chain around his neck. Steve Guttenberg wears a wonderful thin, square gold watch with a brown leather strap. Kevin Bacon lights his cigarettes with a silver Zippo lighter and blows perfect smoke rings in the diner. He tools around town in very cool red Triumph TR3.

I find it hard to recommend Diner based upon entertainment value alone, but the movie does provide an excellent window into the roots of the American Trad style of dress. It is also fun to watch this group of famous actors in some of their earliest roles.

Starting Over

Through a much improved diet and increased exercise I have managed to lose about thirty pounds in the last eight weeks.  I am in better shape now at age forty than I was at any time in my thirties.  I plan to lose an additional fifteen pounds in the coming weeks.  That will put me back where I was when I graduated from college fifteen years ago.  While this has been great for my health, my energy level, and my self esteem, it has been brutal to my wardrobe.  So far I’ve lost an inch out of my neck, two through my chest and three from my waist.  At the end of this journey I will be left with shoes, socks and neckties.  Everything else must be replaced.  I will be starting over.

I am in the same quandary as recent college graduates just entering into the workforce.  On the one hand there is a need to quickly fill ones closet with enough garments to make it through the week.  On the other hand is the desire to take sufficient time to find quality items and fit them into the budget.  I intend to resist the temptation to run out and buy a bunch of off-the-rack clothing.  Instead, I have been putting significant thought and research into prioritizing the rebuilding process.

biddle-in-a-suitI recently ran across an article, written by George Francis Frazier, Jr., that has provided some measure of guidance.  The article, “The Art of Wearing Clothes,” was originally published in the September 1960 issue of Esquire.  The text of the full article can be found at The Materialist.  In the article Frazier details the history of male attire and names his list of the best dressed men of his time.

Frazier names A. J. Drexel Biddle, the Adjutant General of Pennsylvania, as one of the best dressed men in America.  He then details Biddle’s “monastic” wardrobe.

It includes seven so-called business suits—two double- and one single-breasted navy-blue  serge; one double- and one single-breasted dark-blue pin-stripe flannel; one single-breasted  charcoal-grey flannel. (They were made by either H. Harris of New York, who charges $225  and up for a two-piece suit, or E. Tautz of London who charges, as to do most topnotch British  tailors, almost a quarter less. All have skeleton alpaca linings and the sleeves have three buttons  and open buttonholes. The single-breasteds have three-button, notched-lapel jackets.) For  formal daytime wear, Biddle has a charcoal-grey cheviot cutaway, a single-breasted white  waistcoat, and black trousers with broad white stripes. (With these, he wears a black silk ascot  and a wide wing collar.) For semiformal daytime occasions, he has a charcoal-grey single- breasted cheviot sack coat and trousers, in either black or Cambridge grey, with broad white  stripes. Besides a ready-made Aquascutum raincoat, Biddle owns three outer coats—a double- breasted blue chinchilla ($175 from Tautz), a single-breasted light drab covert cloth ($225, H.  Harris), and a double-breasted polo coat with white bone buttons ($325, Harris). He has, in  addition to a tweed cap, four hats, all of them purchased at Lock’s in London too many years  ago for him to recall exactly what they cost. One is a high-silk, one an opera hat, and the other  two homburgs—one black and one green. For formal evening wear, Biddle has tails ($175,  Tautz), a double-breasted dinner coat with satin shawl lapels ($150, Tautz), and, for warm  weather, two single-breasted, shawl-collared white gabardine dinner coats ($98 each, Tautz).  His evening shirts, with which he wears a conventionally-shaped bow tie, have pleats, roll  collars, and are made for him by Dudley G. Eldridge of New York at $28 each.

Biddle’s sports clothes include three tweed jackets ($160 each, Harris), three pairs of charcoal- grey flannel slacks, and a half-dozen button-down shirts made by Eldridge out of silk that he,  Biddle, bought in Spain. His shoes, of which he has three pairs of black for daytime wear and  one patent leather and one calfskin for evening wear, were made by Paulsen & Stone of  London, who also made for him, for sports wear, a pair of black moccasins, a pair of black  loafers, and two pairs of white canvas shoes with brown leather toes and rubber soles (which he  wears with either prewar white flannels or an ancient double-breasted light-grey sharkskin suit).  Biddle’s neck-band shirts, which are either starched dickey bosoms (elongated so that the  bosoms extend below the middle button of his jacket) or semi-starched pleated bosoms, have  white cuffs and bodies of either grey or light blue. They cost $26 each and are made by  Eldridge, who also makes his stiff white collars ($3 each) and his ties ($7.50 each), which run to  solid black silks and discreet shepherd checks and are shaped so as to make a knot small enough  to fit neatly into a hard collar. His underwear is ready-made and comes from Jacob Reed’s.

Like all men with innate clothes sense, Biddle eschews such abominations as ankle-length  socks, matching tie-and-handkerchief sets, huge cuff links, conspicuous tie clasps, and, most  hideous of all, cellophane hat covers. Indeed, well-dressed men, almost without exception, are  interested in something novel in clothing, only when it is both as attractive and functional as,  say the duffer coat, which proved its value to the Royal Navy in the Second World War.

Naturally, Biddle’s coat sleeves are not only uncreased, but also of such length as to permit a  fraction-of-an-inch of his shirt cuff to show—as, similarly, the neck of his jacket is cut so that  the back of his shirt collar is exposed. As for the width of his trousers and coat lapels, it is  determined, not by the extreme narrowness that is something of a rage these days, but by,  respectively, the length of his foot and the breadth of his shoulders. He selects, in short, clothes  that become him. For anyone who is not as “clean favored and imperially slim . . . and  admirably schooled in every grace” as Biddle is, the Biddle style of dress would be  preposterous. Few things are more precarious than the indiscriminate aping of another man’s  wardrobe.

Obviously most men today would not require the formal clothes present in Biddle’s wardrobe.  Because I live in the American South, I would need more warm-weather attire and less flannel.  Nevertheless, the article presents a fascinating look into the closet of a well-dressed man and proves that a man can get by on a modest selection of conservative clothing.  If you were to update Biddle’s wardrobe for today, what would you take off the list?  What would you add?  Post your lists in the comments.  I’m fascinated to hear our readers’ opinions.

Reader Question: Southern-Style Hat

I see that you are a connoisseur of Southern-style clothing. I have a very important question that has been causing quite a stir lately and I would like your opinion on it.

I’m the President of a marching band in Covington, LA (about thirty miles away from New Orleans), and our band is very famous in our area, especially during Mardi Gras as we march in six parades, three of which are in New Orleans. What makes us so famous is our style of music (funk, of course, with a little bit of pop) and the fact that we dance just as much, and just as well, as we play. We are known for this, and as we march down streets like Canal St. and Napoleon Ave., people always ask us to dance, or “lay down the funk” as we like to call it. But we are just as equally known for our uniforms. While every other band wears the traditional “marching band uniform,” we wear something completely different.

band

We have always been known as the Southern Gentleman Band, as well as by our official name, the Marching Wolves. While our Drum Majors wear white tuxedos with blue and gold vests (our colors), the band members proudly wear a blue and gold suit with our famous Panama hat. It is part of time honored St. Paul’s School Band tradition that spans forty years. It’s what separates us from everyone else, and our members take a lot of pride in it.

Over the years we have undergone a few uniform changes. In the 1970’s and 80’s we sported plaid pants, and somewhere in there we also wore ascots. This year marks the 100th anniversary of our school, and we are getting brand new uniforms for the occasion. The uniform itself remains almost the same, but we are having issues with finding an affordable, aesthetically-right hat. Our current hats haven’t exactly won the test of time and have been really beaten up. The new proposed hat is a fedora, thus ousting the forty years of wearing Panama hats. Although just a hat, trading our southern-style hat for a new, cheaper, and possibly more durable fedora has raised quote a lot of controversy with our local school community, alumni, and current band members.

new-hat

So to get the point, my question is this: does going from a Panama hat to a fedora diminish our southern-style uniform? What are your opinions?

A Panama hat is a traditional straw hat (actually of Ecuadorian origin) that is popular in tropical climates because it is light weight and breathable. The impression of the Panama hat as a “Southern” hat stems from its utility as an appropriate accessory to the summer-weight suits worn in the sweltering heat and humidity of the American South. I expect many style-aficionados might find fault with wearing a summer hat during Mardi Gras in February or early March; however, I would not throw away forty years of school tradition on that technicality alone.

I’m frankly not a big fan of the proposed white fedora. From reading the comments on the Facebook debate, it appears that many others are not fond of it either because it looks cheap, would not be as breathable during strenuous marches, and is a break from tradition. I gather from the other side of the debate that the Panama hats are too expensive and not durable.

One option that may not have been considered is the straw boater. I wrote about them last spring at my blog, A Southern Gentleman. A straw boater has a wide brim similar to the Panama. Straw boaters typically include solid or striped ribbons that could accomodate the school colors. And since a boater is made from layered stiff straw, it would likely be more durable than a Panama hat.

For something completely different, you might consider a porkpie hat. Again, I wrote about porkpie hats last spring. I mention the porkpie hat because of its association with jazz and blues musicians. If you decide to depart from the Panama hat, the porkpie might fit your “funk” style better than a fedora.

This is certainly a curious and unique question. I will look forward to our readers’ opinions and comments on the matter.

Swaine Adeney Brigg Document Case

sag-briefcase

My lovely and generous wife gave me this beautiful Swaine Adeney Brigg document case for my 40th birthday. After much anticipation, it finally arrived last week (my birthday was in December).

sag-packaging

London’s Swaine Adeney Brigg has been a celebrated maker of equestrian and leather goods since 1750. The company is a Royal Warrant Holder appointed as “Whip and Glovemakers” to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and “Suppliers of Umbrellas” to HRH The Prince of Wales. My Dark London Tan document case was ordered through Sterling & Burke in Washington, DC.

sag-accessories

When my document case arrived last week via FedEx, I opened the box and began to peel back the layers. The entire contents of the box were nicely wrapped in white tissue paper. Below that was a thick layer of bubble wrap. The case itself was inside a burgundy fleece bag that was wrapped in a clear plastic bag. Inside the box I also found a leather name tag, two brass keys, and a tub of SAB leather feed with a soft cloth applicator.

sag-lock

The document case is an exquisite piece of craftsmanship. The brass three-position lock is thick and sturdy. The beautifully tanned leather exudes a heady aroma that fills a room.

sag-pen-holder

I opted for the machine-stitched document case that is about half as expensive as the hand-stitched model; the machine-stitched case is $1,025.00 and the hand-stitched version is $1,975.00. These document cases are also customizable (interior pockets, shoulder strap, hand-stitched handle, etc.) for an additional fee. The case interior has three open sections; I had pockets added for business cards and my fountain pens (that’s a Pelikan pen in the photograph). That custom option added $165.00 to the price tag.

I have wanted a really nice briefcase for a long time, and I am thrilled with this document case. It is a piece that should last the rest of my career and still be worthy of passing down to my son.