Down goes another one:
The McClellan building, humble occupant of the corner for over a century, demolished for another portion of the Downtown East complex. By spring the girders will be 15 stories high.
For the last two years the metal clasp on the waistband of my dress slacks has been broken. It hangs off. I think my wife sewed it up once but it came off again. It’s not that the pants are tight; they’re fine. Well, they're a bit tight, but I got the suit more than ten years ago. Since then lapels got wider, then narrowed again, the great rising and falling of the breath of fashion. It’s not that the suit is ragged or frayed. It’s just old. The clasp has lost its will to clasp. The button does the work. The clasp is just there for ceremony, like an old war veteran who falls asleep halfway through the program.
I bought a new black jacket a few years ago at my bulkiest; it hangs. I swim in it now. As it happens I have a few Personal Appearances to make, and thought a new suit would be a good idea. If nothing else, it locks you into your current diet. On Saturday while running errands I decided I would stop in to Men’s Warehouse (“You’re going to hear the raspy voice of the owner’s commercials. I guarantee it”) and was instantly sized up by the manager as a 36S. I thought I was a 36R. No sir. This way.
He pulled a jacket off the rack and I shrugged it on, checking the cuff for the price. It was $600. I did not want to pay $600. I looked in the mirror: it was okay. Calvin Klein! I was certain they had a sale that would defray the cost by a factor of 50%, because the price is never the price. Which is why I hate shopping for clothes, more or less.
“This week,” he said, “It’s two for one. Buy one suit and get another of comparable price, or an outer coat.”
“But I don’t want another suit.”
“An outer coat, perhaps.”
“Could I buy one and pay half this price, or full boat, that’s the drill?”
“That’s the drill.”
That being the drill I thanked him for his time, shook his hand, took his card to give us the illustion some relationship had been formed and would probably result in commerce, and walked cattywhumpus across the mall to Banana America, which has the same color palette diversity as the 1923 Ford Assembly Line. But! FORTY PERCENT OFF said the sign. Ho ho. Found a jacket I liked, a lot. $398. Calculate, calculate . . . then I saw the sign that informed me that this rack was not participating in the current promotion.
Well, then neither was I. Okay. What rough beast slumps off to Macy’s, waiting to be fitted? Me. I got a short fellow about my height and perhaps my age, although I’m at the age when men rarely think other guys are their age. They’re either older, OBVIOUSLY, or younger, OBVIOUSLY. He was all silver-grey, and me, I’m sure I’m just slightly so. He was a bit distracted - so many customers - but also intense, and he gave off an air of barely-repressed concern, as though this might go horribly wrong.
The first problem: I was wearing a light sweater. I hadn’t anticipated on suit shopping, and it was cool when I left the house. So we got me a shirt from the back room, which made me feel like a guy who has to wear the House Jacket because he showed up at “21” without a sport coat. He steered me over to the racks, which I had investigated before seeking a salesman so I knew the lay of the land for prices. Perhaps I should have been insulted he didn’t take me to the high end stuff, but hell: middle-aged man in black jeans and grey Converse shoes doesn’t exactly say Platinum Amex.
Suit-fitting has a certain rote intimacy that’s assumed as part of the process: Pat the shoulders, pat the waist to get your contours. Over here James - it is James? - we have the slim fit. Broad at the shoulders and tapered at the waist. I slipped it on.
Like a glove I loved and lost and wept over, and would now weep to meet again. Oy: it was perfect. And I’m looking in the mirror, wishing I had a Sharpie so I could draw a ‘stache on the mirror and say “hello, Tony Stark.” Now the pants. They fit as well, even though the waist dimensions were different from most of the slacks I have.
“Jeans, that’s just an approximation,” he said, waiving away the obscenity of jeans-sizing.
The pants fell just where I wanted them to fall; now it was a matter of fixing the sleeves, and a conversation about how much shirt-cuff I wanted to show. Enough. I’m tired of shooting my shirtcuffs. Give me three-quarters of an inch. He folded the fabric and chalked it and got out a ruler and said DON’T MOVE, I HAVE IT . “When I see it I know it,” he said, suggesting decades of experience that produced an ability to apprehend with preternatural intuition the proper cuff length.
By the way: the suit was half the price of the Men’s Warehouse suit, meaning it was the same price, since they were two-for-one. But! It was the Columbus Day Sale, which meant 20% off.
He explained with grave concern that this did not apply to alterations, or the removal of tags and the opening of pockets.
That was fine.
Also, there is no charge for the removal of tags and the opening of pockets.
Hence no discount, I guess.
All told I got a suit in half an hour, and walked out thinking I’d be smart and sharp the next time I put on the Armor of Personal Appearance. Clothes make the man, after all.
Driving home I passed the bottle shop, the parking lot thronged as always on a weekend. They always have a guy directing traffic, guiding people to their parking spots.
And the man running traffic was the young man I met last week who dressed like a Musketeer. Complete with feather in his hat.
I wonder if, in 300 years, someone will stand in a parking lot dressed like an early 21st century man in a Slim Fit Athletic Cut jacket, and all the ectomorphs in shifts will regard him as a throwback.
This week in Halloween-themed brand extensions:
Makes you wonder what a marshmallow tastes like, exactly. And if it's really a marshmallow anymore when it takes on the flavor of candy corn. Not unreasonable questions. Wikipedia:
Manufacturers first combined sugar, corn syrup, carnauba wax, and water and cooked them to form a slurry. Fondant was added for texture and marshmallows were added to provide a soft bite. The final mixture was then heated and poured into shaped molds. Three passes, one for each colored section, were required during the pouring process.
The recipe remains basically the same today. The production method, called "corn starch modeling," likewise remains the same.
Corn Starch Modeling. There's a piece of jargon I'm glad to know; pity it'll never come up in conversation.
Continuing along with the ads of 1967. Not a golden age, if you ask me. You can feel the old order thrashing around, the dinosaur tail felling trees as it sweeps back and forth.
So . . . which came first?
Pop-Tarts came first. These were the Hydrox to their Oreo, the RC Cola to the Coke. Not to debate the merits of any of those; you can never win a fight with someone who preferred Hydrox, even though the name sounds like an industrial cleaning chemical. But these were the ones you found at the home of a friend whose parents just had a weird brand constellation in their cupboards. I mean, everything was off. Hunt’s ketchup. Ice Milk frozen treats. V-8.
Toastettes came along in 1967, and were put out of their misery in 2002.
MENSWEAR IS GOING BOLD
About Rand shoes, I can’t say much, except that Hammered Brass doesn’t sound very comfortable.
Rand was part of International Shoe. Nothing to see here, otherwise; let’s move along -
And some of you are screaming STOP, Who’s the artist? Because everything looked like that for a while, it seems.
It’s Bob Peak, one of the most famous movie poster artists in the medium’s history. You’ve seen a few of his poster. Yes, you have. He was big-time when this ad came out, so International Shoe must have been making a big national push. Anyway, google the name and search for TV Guide covers; the guy was all over the book, and defined commercial art in the late 60s and early 70s.
DIG THE CAR, NOW PEOPLE
It’s embarrassing to watch the car companies use youth-speak to market their automobiles. One Dodge campaign had “The Beat Goes On” as their motto, because nothing moves the merchandise like Sonny and Cher, and here we have “groovy” and the suggestion that your car will entice one of those new modern free-spirited girls you’ve been reading so much about in the paper and magazines.
Yes, sexual mores had changed by 1967. A lot. And the ads of 1963 were not only much more demure, but more likely to have happy homemakers in dresses making tomato soup - women were about the same age as the soon-to-purr Liberated Dodge Enthusiast. Think back to 2010. The ads. The styles. The expectations. That was only four years past, too.
Must have felt like whiplash.
NOW PINK FOR EXTRA GENDERING
When sales are flagging, change color:
The full ad:
And a contemporaneous TV ad - the page says it’s 1967, but it must be early in the year before the Pink Push. That goop is shampoo?
There’s something so depressing about that ad - the middle-class / middle-age / generation gap / ugliness of it all. Mom and Dad are entering the end of their time, trying to keep current with new colors and styles, but it’s not becoming.
The younger generation of parents is doing better, because they’re living the new flameless life:
And everyone’s hair sticks up on end from all the static and the air is dry and the house never really feels warm in the sense you get from water going through radiators, but if you grew up with Dad bitching about refilling the coal scuttle, you’re okay with that.
No, not overcompensating for the fact that it’s a women’s cosmetic company NOT AT ALL. War! Justice! Birds to shoot! Cattle to bring to market!
The Sonar Remote:
You can turn it on and off without changing the volume! Now there’s an improvement everyone’s been asking for.
Admiral was a big name in TVs and other appliances, but the influx of cheaper imported TVs did them in. Six years after this ad they were sold to Rockwell, but the brand continued. Monkey Wards sold Admiral products; after they bit the wax tadpole, Home Depot was their primary outlet. (Never seen an Admiral product at Home Depot.) The international division, AOC, is now “The Worldwide Leader in HD Television and Monitor Manufacturing,” according to their site - so yes, you can still get an Admiral TV, in a way.
That lamp. Oh, that lamp. But who’s the guy?
The hagiographic Wikipedia entry notes: Magnin reveled in the informal title of "Mr. San Francisco”. Bonus info: He played Pope Pius XVII in the movie “Foul Play.” Given the writing style of the wiki piece, I expected that to be prefaced by “Although personally Jewish, Magnin . . . “
He sold his father’s store to Amfac, a Hawaiian land-development company that became a classic conglomerate, with dozens of businesses. (They opened up a hotel in Minneapolis, the Amfac Hotel, thinking perhaps that meant anything to anyone.) Department history enthusiasts know of I. Magnin, famous and upscale; hence JM was known as the Other Magnin, a bit more down-market. But then they went for mod style, as the comments on this page notes, and chased the ever-increasing youth dollars.
Which is why it’s amusing that the store is a Barneys now, if you know the Barneys story.
That's it! Usual usual here and there; see you around.