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Style for Dorks Podcast: San Francisco’s “Bitch Talk!”

Link to Podcast here! bitchtalk

Check out my podcast debut with Erin Lim, Karyn Paige and the sassy San Francisco podcast, Bitch Talk Podcast. Within, the power of good shoes, how and when to break style-rules, the neologism “Nircited,” and the question: is your personal style broadcasting what you want it to?

Enjoy!

Link to Podcast here!

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14 Days of Reflection: Episode 11 – “The Once and Future Ring.”

pasttenseking

Photo feels like it was taken somewhere between 5 and about a million years ago.

Today, I spent two hours learning about my “Once and Future Ring.”

Once: it was silver. I bought it at a time of major transition, and truly, not an easy time.

On the outside, it was a period of major creativity. I was beginning to trust my eye, started to move beyond the biz-casual look I’d always favored, and I was featured in a style blog for the first time. I also, unfortunately, rocked a goatee.

On the inside: turmoil. I was single for the first time in years, experiencing a lot of work-related stress, and working through a lot of difficult emotions.

To top it off, I’d just lost a very special, older ring while trying to lift a neighbor’s fallen motorcycle. I put it in my pocket so it wouldn’t get damaged, and never saw it again. I needed something to fill the gap (or the knuckle, I guess).

Along came the ring (of the Once and Future variety): not from some wrinkled antiquarian peddling Mogwai and ancient artifacts out of a curio shop down a dark alley, but rather, simply, eBay.


ringhugeWhen Gabi and I were preparing to get engaged, we talked about rings.

She was ready with a ring: Gabi’s grandmother had left her own ring in Gabi’s mother’s hands (so to speak), and Gabi warmly anticipated wearing it proudly, and fondly, and was moved to tears just to imagine it.

Should I, too, wear an engagement ring? Yes. But I already wore a ring – one which symbolized so much. Without looking like a certain Beatle, it wouldn’t be possible to wear a wedding band, my old ring, and an engagement ring. Should I say goodbye to my old ring?

We looked online and found other vintage men’s rings. Some were very expensive and some were not, and honestly, none were as beautiful as what I already wore.

waterview

The ocean mirrors my ring? The ring mirrors my stone?

When Gabi and I were celebrating our engagement, through the window of our vacation house, we gazed at the water and the rocks of the Pacific; the oceanscape seemed to mirror the picture agate of my ring. The past and the future seemed to merge.

All at once it became clear; the stone would move forward with me (and us) into time. The metal ring, well loved through the years and losing its gold plating, would be laid to rest but reborn – recast in a metal that has been precious to me since youth.

Since I was young, I was shown my own Grandfather’s watch, made from a metal so soft and lively, it is  described by the name of a flower: rose gold. 

Watching a young man painstakingly trace the lines of my old ring on a computer screen, preparing a 3d printer to cast a wax mold, to design an object with a history as old as civilization itself, it seemed so fitting.

The old and the new combined. My life as a full-fledged human will so join that of another full-fledged human. The sorrow of the past is reworked into the joy of the future. And this artifact from my life will both pass into memory and forever join me in the years to come.

It has a good ring to it.


For the previous 10 episodes of Turning 41: 14 days of Reflection, click here.

14 Days of Reflection: Episode 10 – Bold Patterns to Filter Out Noise

redwhitebleandplain

The power of this shirt’s pattern comes from the fact that it’s simple, leaves plenty of space, and uses colors so classic, we made a holiday to celebrate the flag that flies them. (Picture taken June 14, Flag Day)

Listen to the sounds around you.

A gadget beeps. A refrigerator hums. Water gurgles through pipes through the ceiling overhead.

Rarely, in our world, is it actually quiet. We block these sounds out. Or do we?

Today, I listened to This American Life episode about a guy, working in an office, who went through the trouble of determining the musical key of the buzzing around him: fluorescent lights, monitors, dial tones. Sometimes, he said, the tones might produce a kind of invisible music. If we are lucky, he suggested, it might be a major third. A cheerful tone. If we are unlucky, it might be a minor tone, or worse, a tri-tone – a musical interval so vile that medieval music theorists called it the devil’s tone. The idea here is that people are influenced, emotionally by music. We all know that. So how could we sit in an office, listening to a minor chord or tri-tone, for hours on end, without negative implications? And vice versa – could the sound of the microwave, defrosting our morning bagel, harmonize with the freezer itself, forming an optimistic musical harbinger of the day to come?

The attention to detail struck me at once as whimsical and also profound. The noise around us takes energy to block out, to focus on, and as Jack Hitt suggests, never in the history of humankind have there been so many droning noises filling our ears. Gadgets and machines and motors in constant cacophony.

Indeed, I can’t stand sitting in a cafe near a noisy refrigerator, and conversely, I’ll note to myself, upon shutting off a heater or air-conditioner: finally, I can think!


stripes

This is the pattern (because of its simplicity and boldness) that a million lesser patterns are jealous of.

This is why we like to take quiet getaways to quiet places (although many of us have yet to take the final step of shutting down our devices once we’re there). This also underscores the value of the tradition of shutting off my phone and computer on Shabbat (a custom I should probably practice more thoroughly).

And this, perhaps, explains my love of certain patterns in clothing: notably – checkers and stripes.

In a world of chaos and constant noise, filtering down to simplicity can actually refresh and rejuvenate – on the inside but also on the outside. Sure, stripes can be bold. But also, there is purity to the design and it blocks out other noise.


selfiestripes

You don’t need to wear stripes everywhere you can. But you could.

Five Rules For Selecting a Power Pattern

1. Try choosing a pattern in the simplest colors the eye knows: red and blue. Black and white.

2. Pair it against something neutral. Jeans or grey.

3. For a bolder effect, wider stripes. For subtlety, go narrow.

4. To increase noise, add stripes, but be sure you know how much flair you can handle (perhaps by peeking at this guide, first). 

5. Prepare for compliments.


For Days 1-9 of 14 Days of Reflection, Click here.

14 Days of Reflection: Episode 7 – Back to Life, Back to Reality

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An interpretive self-portrait. “Blue Marble” photo courtesy of NASA, 1972.

I returned to work from a surreal, blissful weekend with a cold.

My nose burns, my bones ache.

Truth is, there’s something grounding or reassuring about the reality: mucous and all. In between the hugs and back-slapping, the retelling of the play-by-play, the flicking through photos, in between was DayQuil. Sneezing. My coworkers. Meetings. Phone calls and emails that had nothing to do with getting engaged, the meaning of existence, or love.

And this is good! This means that what happened last weekend wasn’t a dream (some day, incidentally, I’ll tell you about my dream, the first night of Gabi and my getaway, wherein a family of four including two adolescents moved into the vacation house). The weekend was a gift, a time to be removed from the troubles of the world and float in a temporary paradise.

Today was the second part of the gift: the realization that you get to keep it.


kittooseSome clothing is for the fantasy. Part of what I enjoy about my favorite designers is the fantasy they play with (and often undermine). And certain occasions invite us (or allow us, anyhow) to play with fantasy.

Red, white and grey seersucker? Pants and matching jacket? Yes!

On the other hand, when the party’s over, it’s time for a plain, white T.

It’s good to come home.


14 Days of Reflection: Episode 4 – What Goes Around Comes Around, One Level Higher

meandhavnehSitting in my desk chair, a voice called my name and I turned and froze: a former student had showed up for our run. A run I’d completely forgotten about.  He was dressed in tank-top, shorts and running shoes.

Ten minutes later, I was wearing an outfit cobbled together from the lost-and-found: a sweatshirt two sizes too small, running shorts, and a baseball cap with the school’s logo.

On that run, we talked about the same thing we used to talk about when he was my student and I was his teacher: reaching your goals, overcoming fear, being true to yourself. And it was the same running route, too: Scott Street. Presidio. Marina. The hill.

That hill, stretching from the bay to the Pacific Heights, 3 excruciating blocks, used to be a major topic of conversation on our runs. It was the central symbol in our talks about life.

“Keep your eyes on what you’re doing now. Don’t get discouraged by how far away the goal may seem. Promise that you will only climb for the count of 10. When you’re done, recommit to another 10. True victory comes when you’re no longer counting.”

Here we were, two years later, and each of us had grown so much, the same running loop, the same scenery, the same running loop.

Maybe a level higher, maybe a level deeper.


Seersucker Phase 1

Seersucker Phase 1: 7 Years Ago

Moving topics, from the Fillmore Street hill to Capitol Hill:

In less than 24 hours, Washington DC will honor Seersucker Thursday.

Former Mississippi Senator Trent Lott inaugurated this day in the 1990s to revive this storied fabric. Once, it was the only thing a Senator could wear on a pre-air conditioned, muggy June day.

In my closet, I have three seersucker jackets.

The first is from Urban Outiftters, and I bought it seven years ago, with the remainder of a gift certificate. It’s essentially an unstructured blazer, without the actual pucker that seersucker is known for. (Incidentally, the word Seersucker means milk-and-sugar in Persian, referring to the color of the stripes)

The second two are from Brooks Brothers, and I bought them two years apart.

Seersucker Phase 2 departs from the norm, in that the pattern is the same, but the jacket and trousers are actually a different color.

Phase 2

Seersucker Phase 2 : Three Y ears Ago

I had to get used to Phase 1 to do Phase 2.

Then came along Phase 3. The stripes in the jacket are a different width from the pants, and since Gabi and I were at a festive (and blazing hot) outdoor wedding, I went gangbusters and yanked a parasol from a parasol-pile to keep us in the shade. And to add to the outfit-awesome.

Seersucker: Phase 3

Seersucker Phase 3: One Year Ago

Seersucker never went away, but I moved on.

Old rules, like “Don’t match your tie and jacket” and “you can’t wear seersucker after Labor Day” went out the door. (For a list of Trent Lott’s other Seersucker taboos I also advise ignoring, click here).

I was finding my own voice, and pushing the rules as far as I cared to.

Here, on the cusp of my 41st birthday, many of the challenges in my life (most of them in my head) are no different than the challenges I faced when I was 31. But I’m better able to handle them. I can climb a much bigger hill.

Same hill. Same material. Same style. Different me.

One level deeper. One level higher.

14 Days of Reflection: On Turning 41 and the Aftermath

When I turned 40, I was a little brat. For 24 hours, nothing could satisfy me.

In retrospect, I was wallowing a little (er, a lot) in what I felt like was the end of an era. And when an era is ending, and you’re panicking, and you think you will turn into an old man overnight, no meal tastes good. No wine tastes good. No bed is comfortable. And you act like a complete brat.

Caution: objects in reflection are grouchier than they appear.

One year ago, about to turn 40. Caution: objects in reflection are grouchier than they appear.

Trust me, I’ve repented and apologized to all concerned parties who were drawn into the gravitational pull of my black-hole of wallowing.

But now I’ve had a year to practice being 40 and there’s been a few surprises. As it turns out, I prefer 40 to 39.

Like learning to play violin, being in your 40s doesn’t sound too great at first. It’s pretty screechy. But with time, you can achieve the right tone.

Once the initial shock subsided, I began to feel a little more confident in my choices. I went to a conference and wore a suit. I sat with students and listened to their problems and shared the kind of perspective that a man in his 40s might have. I wore stuff that clashed on purpose because hey. I’m 40. I can do what I want.


merpywindowAnd silliness – there’s always silliness. And now, it’s even better.

When you’re a teenager, you’re already silly.

When you’re in your 20s and you’re being silly, it’s a little trite.

When you’re in your 30s and you’re being silly, maybe you should act your age.

But when you’re 40 and you’re being silly – you’re showing your commitment to your youth.

This week, I celebrate the lessons I’ve learned by being 40, and count down to even greater changes ahead.

What to wear on an airplane: Vol II — Conference Edition

Click here for “What to wear on an airplane part 1.”


One small (but very cute) suitcase.

One small (but very cute) suitcase.

What to pack for a weekend is made much more complicated when that weekend involves a single small suitcase, 5 hours on a plane, and 4 days of all-day conference.

Me, I’m spending the weekend with a great group of colleagues at a conference for educators. I have one suitcase and need to make it through four days worth of professional-yet-casual outfits. What do I bring?


shirtntie1. Pack a plaid shirt and a cotton/synthetic tie. The plaid shirt will hide plane wrinkles, the tie won’t get creased once you wear it and throw it in your suitcase.

socksairport2. I think of colors as belonging to camps (more on that, here). Decide whether you’re going for browns (yellow, green, orange, etc) or for blacks (red, white, blue, grey, purple). When travelling, I go for blacks. That means black shoes, black belt, and all the red, white, and blue I can stand.

blazercollar

Sorry for the frown. I was flying United.

smiling3. Pack a grey, corduroy blazer and a grey sweater. Swap between them every day. They’ll match everything and keep you warm if your conference is in Pennsylvania in March. 

Fair Isle is fair game for any conference. It stands out, but won't attract unnecessary attention.

Fair Isle is fair game for any conference. It stands out, but won’t attract unnecessary attention.

4. Find a tie which pops, and yet features a classic pattern, like this Fair Isle tie.

5. Dress classy, but be comfy.

6. Be on time for your sessions. Which reminds me…I’m late!

10 Things I Learned from 30 Blog Posts in 30 Days: [30 DAYS OF WRITING: EPISODE 30/30]

The author, after 30 days of blogging: weary but none the worse for wear. So to speak.

The author, after 30 days of blogging: weary but none the worse for wear. So to speak.

This is day 30 of a 30 day New Year’s Resolution.


1. Thomas Edison famously said: Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety nine percent perspiration. I’d recommend a few extra-percent non-perspiring dedication.

2. Doing something important even when you don’t want to, especially when you don’t want to, is one of the marks of maturity.

3. The more creative you act, the more creative you are. Creativity is more about doing than about being.

4. Though ritual sometimes gets a bad rap in the modern world, daily repetition creates space for magic to happen.

5. It’s okay to put things on hold, even things you love, to focus on something special. But then, get back to those other things.

6. Worrying is a great way to paralyze creativity.

7. After exercise, your temperature, your mood, and your outlook improves for hours. True, too, after exercising creativity.

8. Creative expression brings people together. People to creator, people to each other.

9. Once we’re done with school, college, and grad-school, the feeling of “completing” something is rare and wonderful and needs to be cultivated.

10. Succeeding at a challenge you’ve given yourself sets you up for more challenges, more success.


Special thanks to all my readers, all my supporters, and especially to the blogger responsible for (and who supported me through) this month-long adventure.

Liquor is Quicker, but Dandy’s is Dandy: [30 DAYS OF WRITING: EPISODE 29/30]

This is day 29 of a 30 day New Year’s Resolution.

Since this whole 30 days of writing thing began in Austin, (click here to reverse time, 30 days), it makes sense that we should end up back in Austin. (Tomorrow’s post will be sort of meta, so this is my last chance to come full circle.)


dandy's

What I did on my winter vacation.

Being a bit of a dork, before traveling to a new place, I like to gather suggestions – where to go, where to eat. This is not to say that I don’t love wandering. Believe me, I’ve found myself in plenty of bizarre travelling scenarios, all because of my penchant for wandering into the less-trod corners of cities. But I like to have some pins in the Googlemap, so to speak, before I get off the plane. So, since certain men’s style magazine featured a “must visit” menswear store, on my second day in Austin, I headed over to inspect their wares / wears.

Yup. It was very good. All the same brands I’ve seen at all the other “don’t miss them” menswear locations in Chicago, Madison, Los Angeles, San Francisco. The same mix of lumbersexual, high quality, rugged work-shirts and insanely expensive denim. Some blazers and ties. Also, gifts: leather holsters for coffee-jars. Cremes that smell like an old apothecary. Decorated with salvaged wood, exposed beams, brick. You know the look.

The same special stuff I’ve seen a hundred times. 

Then, a few days later, driving in a cab to dinner, I did a double take.


mannikan3mannikan2Dandy’s is one of a kind, but their vision is one that I immediately connected to: vintage style, modern cut menswear. And when I say vintage, I don’t mean 70’s or 60’s or even 50s’s. I mean the period of the late 1800s through 1930s.

Now, I’m not talking steam-punk (you know, monocles and propellered top-hats). That stuff is amusing at best, and suitable only for Burning Man or maybe the Edwardian Ball. Rather, I’m talking about finely crafted clothing – not costumery.

After receiving excellent customer service from their staff, I spoke with Wendy, the tievestjackethatco-owner, and her husband Chris, who rocks the vintage look as naturally as any Wild West saloon barkeep. The store started from a deep desire to create this vintage, gentleman’s look, and it began in the iconic way that every good company begins – out of a garage, a streetcorner trunk, or, in Dandy’s case, an elaborate sidewalk tent, complete with steamer trunks and velvet curtains.

“We wanted to recreate a look and a feel, not just put out stuff for people to buy.”

A few years later, now, Dandy’s is doing something that no other menswear place shoesdandybootsis: designing clothing according to this century old aesthetic, and choosing cuts and patterns not because they’re trendy, but because they’re handsome. For example, during this time period, mennikanwhatvestandjacketmany jackets featured four buttons – this created a broad, gentlemanly silhouette. Now, this doesn’t exist – outside of Dandy’s.

Also: cloth covered buttons, double-breasted waistcoats, hats far beyond the fedora, classic boots (some inspired by the otherwise extinct spats of yesteryear, and ties in rich colors and patterns than might have graced the neck of a gentleman from 1915.

Dandy’s designs are in-house, many products are made within a few hundred miles of the store, and the aesthetic is inspiring.


teaburgundysuitOn your next trip to LA, certainly, stop by American Rag and General Quarters, in San Francisco, visit Union Made, in Madison, visit Forequarter, and in Austin, sure, visit Stag. But miss any of these places, and it’s not a problem. You’ll find the same items in a dozen other places.

But whatever you do, do not miss Dandy’s…even if you need to plan a trip to Austin, just to see it.pocketwatches

The Business Card You Wear: [30 DAYS OF WRITING: EPISODE 27/30]

bizcardThis is day 27 of a 30 day New Year’s Resolution.


Really good heros and villians leave a card.

Sometimes, it’s actually a card (the Joker). Sometimes, it’s just a letter (Zorro). But no matter how cool the card, it’s always left after the dastardly (or heroic) deed is done.

Whereas you have an advantage: you have a card that goes before you into new places. It doesn’t require a macabre love of mayhem and death, nor training in rapier/whip combat.

It’s whatever you put on in the morning.


magneticc

My “other” business card. The one I don’t wear.

Recently, I designed and printed some business cards in preparation for an Education Conference, and I was struck by a few things: notably, how much more ready for interaction I was, toting my new business cards. I’m a pretty approachable guy, good with conversation, but with cards in my pocket, I probably tripled the number of new folks I spoke with because I was excited to hand over a card.

It helped me feel accessible. It helped me connect to my professional me.


cardThis, too, is true for your clothes. You’re at a meeting or conference. Or at the airport. You’re standing in a room full of people, all with limited time and energy. You want to leave a good impression, of course. But also, you want to create a good impression. Your business card says much more than how to contact you. It communicates why to contact you.

Or, to play with italics, why to contact you.

And whether you’re new to business or you own a brand-new business – if you’re young and trying to figure things out or starting a third career, now’s a good time to put some thought into your new business cards. This is not about “fake it ’till you make it.” It’s about make you into who you want to be.

And others will see that new you, too.


 I always try to find a way to add one point of flair to my look, no matter what.

I always try to find a way to add one point of flair to my look, no matter what.

Some things to think about as you put together your outfits:

1. Some people are afraid to Style-Up because they work in a field where everyone dresses “comfortably” (you know what that means). In reality, though, in order to have a style-edge, you only need to kick it up a couple of notches. Start with a great fitting button up and good shoes. No one will think you’re getting snooty.

2. Once a week,  go full-on styley. I suggest monday, when everyone could use a little extra glide-in-their-stride. I swear, nothing chases away the Sunday Night blues like a great outfit. Blue or otherwise.

3. When travelling, or at a conference, have an outfit or two that you know are your “power-looks.” Not only will it build confidence, but also it will help make you recognizable to folks who only see you now and then. Not only will you look familiar, you will look awesome.

4. A talented chef told me that she always tries to find a way to add “crunch” to a dish. I always try to find a way to add one point of flair to my look, no matter what. The red laces, the pocket square, the causal, denim tie – those things get noticed and set you apart. And you only need one.

5. If you are speaking in front of a group, have an amazing blazer to give you shape, definition, and to project confidence. It doesn’t need to be (and shouldn’t be) a stodgy, heavy suit-jacket. Pick something unstructured and light.


kurtOur final word by the great author, Kurt Vonnegut:

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”