MtM MONDAY: THE POCKET SQUARE

It is made-to-measure Monday. It is time to shed some light on one of the most necessary accessory to a man’s investable wardrobe: the pocket square.

Accessories appear to be easy and yet many men hesitate. As many men ditch the tie, the pocket square is a must have accessory that can really lighten, brighten or embolden any sport coat.

I was introduced to the pocket square by an ex of mine, many years ago. Oh, how he loved the bespoke! His wardrobe was an investment, not only in his career and leisure life but also his personality. Though he didn’t live in NYC, he introduced me to a store he often shopped at for pocket squares, Seigo on the UES. This tiny store, on Madison between 89th & 90th ironically has the most beautifully handmade ties, bowties and pocket squares all made in Japan. The store is half the size of a NYC studio apartment, but don’t let the size fool you. How often have I been wrong about size? lol

NOW, A FASHIONABLE HISTORY OF THE POCKET SQUARE.

The handkerchief doesn’t quite have the fashionable ring that the pocket square does. In fact, many theories exists about the exact origin: the Egyptian nobility dyeing small linen cloths with red powder to symbolize status. The Greeks carrying around a scented cloth, because they loved perfume. King Richard II in the late 1300’s, recognized as the first person to wear the cloth as a fashion accessory. It is told that Marie Antoinette, insisted to her husband, King Louis XVI that the “handerkerchief” looked sloppy in all different sized and should be a uniform 16″ x 16″ size, Modern day pocket squares were made popular to every man in the early 19th century thanks to the rise of the 2-piece suit. The handerkerchief was no longer just a sign of wealth and status. In fact, this 16″ x 16″ piece of fabric in the pocket was more utilitarian and putting the handkerchief in the blazer, kept it from getting dirty. It was now a fashion accessory for a man’s suit.

WHY IS THE POCKET SQUARE A MUST HAVE ACCESSORY?

The simplicity in adding flair to an outfit that even the most awkwardly dressed man could easily put together. Pocket square designs seem limitless from colors to patterns. I love Rampley and Co. Unlike accessories like cufflinks, which only seem to come out for austere circumstance, the pocket square fits in even as men move to a more “casual” beat. A seasonless, timeless accessory.

When in doubt, stick with white. However, I would like to think that a little imagination and confidence goes a long way in the area of a small accessory that packs a big pocket.

BOOK REVIEW: TAKING THE LEAP BY PEMA CHODRON

“Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.”

Pema Chodron

I was lucky enough to discover the works of Buddhist nun Pema Chodron through a friend of mine. I saw him on my trip last trip to Boston and he gave “Take the leap: Freeing ourselves from old habits and fears” me as a birthday gift. It is a slim book, only 85 pages. In the first 15 pages, I wasn’t impressed but I kept on reading and I am glad I did.

Pema teaches us to to take ourselves less seriously. By leading with our hearts, we can open our minds. It is possible to forgive the story lines of our lives that can hold us back. The peace, wisdom, patience and understanding that we have been chasing in ourselves and in our relationships become easier to access.

For more, listen to my audio book review. If you are familiar with Pema’s works, I encourage you to share your perspective.

EVERY MAN IS A SNEAKERHEAD

What used to be kept exclusively or running errands and exercising, the sneaker is pushing wing tips to the side as the preferred shoe for a suit. Leather, suede, muted or bright colors, the sneakerhead is no longer a way to describe the skater or urban culture. Office culture has adapted. Baby boomers too!

No longer are socks the way to show of personality below the ankle, especially for men over 40.

Keep in mind, that I haven’t tested these myself but as a woman, I know what I like on a man. So that should stand or something, right?

BESPOKE SNEAKER ART: L’ATELIER DU TRANCHET

Parisian shoe maker, Cristophe Corthay has take bespoke sneakers to a whole new level. They are definitely for the man who wants to peacock for a certain occasion. Jeans, t-shirt and high-tops like these make a bold and unique statement. Check out this unboxing video from The Shoe Snob. They retail for $750. Made in Portugal. Designed in France.

BEST MINIMALIST/MODERNIST SHOE: ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA

Maker of the twin tie and now the triple stitch sneaker. Zegna blows their competition away because they understand that men of any age still have some “cool” left in them. A slip on that comes in an array of muted colors, made in either suede or deerskin. I think I am partial to the suede, but the deerskin is sleek too. Decisions, decisions! Part of their Su Misura service, these sneakers are easily customizable. After all, the Zegna brand is the epitome of the modern man – elegance and dynamism. I don’t say this because I worked on their ad campaigns in a previous life.

Zegna takes the quality of their products very seriously. The triple stitch retails or approximately $900.

BEST SNEAKER FOR THE BUDGET-CONSCIOUS: VANS

Vans is classic American. The slip-on sneaker is their hallmark. Their branding is on point: you know Vans when you see them. The best part? You can own a pair for under $100. Did I mention Vans offer custom? Americana since 1966. These sneakers are just for skaters and surfers anymore.

BEST SNEAKER FOR LUXURY ECO: KOIO

Move over Tom’s. Koio sneakers are made from regenerative leather. Designers, Johannes and Chris had a very specific vision trifecta: style, the best quality and benefiting the ecosystem. In the Alps, there is a specific farming method that works to restore the ecosystem, thereby preventing the over-farming of livestock and plants. This makes the leather more unique in touch, and appearance. Vegan “leathers” are made with materials that are derived by fossil fuels, so by sourcing leather from farms with a specific agricultural ethos, not only is the quality in the leather noticeable but also representative of that natural, truly free-range quality of life. These sneakers don’t have the $900 price tag of a Zegna or L’atelier but at an average price of $250 – $300, it is definitely a steal.

No matter what your budget, style or occasion, sneakers are giving the gentleman’s wardrobe versatility and a true personality makeover. Never think you are too stiff or boring, you just need to find the pair that works for you! Hopefully, my 2022 Sneakerhead recommendations will be a helpful start!

THE FOOD OF FRIENDSHIP

As you know, this blog is not for the easy listeners. As I continue to look inward and push myself emotionally and mentally in both the professional and personal areas, of my life, I wanted to share some of my thoughts.

Friendship is a priority in our life that is often overlooked, When we are younger its easy because the demands on our time are less. As life progresses and our emotional obligations build, those friendships seem to freeze in their place. If we are lucky, we may have one or two that have that magical ability.

My thoughts on nourishing that soul.

BE MY MILLINERY – MEN’S HATS FOR 2022

Of all the accessories I see on a man, I miss the hat the most. The baseball cap does not count. Hats are as seasonless and fashion-elevating as cufflinks and pocket squares. An accessory worth the investment but doesn’t have to break the bank. Personally, I adore a trip to a hat shop. Salmagundi in Boston. Goorin Bros. use to be my favorite of mine because they had many styles. However, it seems they are closing locations, the selection for women has not been great. Alas, we are not talking about me. We are talking about YOU.

Whether is the Fedora, Panama, Boater, Australian or the Flat Cap, millinery style is serious and is a wardrobe game-changer.

THE FEDORA – ALL ABOUT THE BRIM

A trend that dates back to the late 1800’s, and ironically was first worn by a woman on stage in Paris, worn by the title role Princess Fedora Romanoff. The hat style was of course, a center-crease, soft brim. However, it wasn’t until the mid 1920’s that, thanks to our neighbors across the pond, the “Fedora” made its debut in society. A hat fit for royalty, worn first by Prince Edward. It is important to note, that through the years, there is one major difference between British and American Fedoras, brim size. The American version, like most American things, got bigger. If you watch movies with such screen icons such as Humphrey Bogart and Cary Grant, it is clear the significance that a few good men played in mainstreaming this practical yet classically stylish hat.

THE PANAMA -Eat Your Heart Out Ecuador

I went to Panama several years ago and you could buy one in almost every store. It was likely many of them were, ironically stamped with “made in China.” It originated in Ecuador in the 1500. Similar in style to the Fedora, but made of tightly woven straw, beware if the label says, “made in China.” Why call it the Panama hat when it is made in Ecuador? Thank President Teddy Roosevelt. He wore one when taking a trip to inspect the construction of the Panama Canal. To further the case, the Panama Hat debuted at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1855, but without any mention of its country of origin, Ecuador, the Panama Hat stuck. We are glad it did.

THE BOATER – Part of a Summer Uniform

Some hats are for certain occasions. I think the Boater hat is for a summer cocktail party, wedding or other special occasion. In the post WWII era, British public schools adopted the “boater” as part of the school uniform. It is no wonder that this happened, as the style of the hat reminds me of youth. However, it was the epitome of elegance amongst the French and English high societies. Today, I wouldn’t mind seeing it on a guy this hat quite casually, who is in his late 20’s or early 30’s, However, style is for those that embrace it, regardless of your age. Rock what you can, when you can!

AUSTRALIAN – Beach Flavor Done Right

Those Aussie Lifeguards, know how to beat the heat. The Cowboy hat gets a new look, including a chin strap. These straw hats with a wider, more turned down brim, provide the ultimate protection from the sun.

Check out this guy…

FLAT CAP – A Fall/Winter Classic.

In 1500’s England, this was a staple part of the wardrobe of the working class. In fact, British Parliament it law in 1571 that all “non-noble” males over the age of 6 wear these hates on Sundays and Holidays. Then again, great style does defy the ages. The perfect accessory that complements any head and keeps it warm during the chillier months.

Deceptively Charmed.

A hat on a man creates charm and style. I love a man who can wear a hat properly. Its your calling card to conversation to you and about you.

BIRTHDAY THOUGHTS – A PERSONAL POST

I mentioned in a previous post, that my birthday is a time for introspection and examination of my decisions and and behavior over the past year. Well, that day is only few days away. If you read back far enough, you will know that I am pretty secure in being emotionally naked. The Stoics believed that if you want to live a certain way, perform the action repeatedly so you build your capability and it becomes a habit. How can something so simple on its face be so challenging?

I am up for the challenge.

Professionally Speaking

Life is always challenging when you are the sole producer of your income, but even in the muck of it, I thrive off of it. Has it really been 12 years since I have taken an official paycheck?

As I reflect, I understand that I need to make conscious effort to slow myself down. My brain thinks too fast sometimes and I can get lost in my audience. I’m gregarious and curious, and while these are mostly perceived as positive traits, if you aren’t conscientious about your conversation cadence, it can come off as rude. Always, always be conscientious. I am building this capability so it becomes habit.

Active listening. This piggybacks onto my gregarious and curious nature. I’ve been told I am good listener, but I know I can be so much better. There are so many cues in body language and tone within a conversation, that if we aren’t careful, we can easily miss. Trust and respect are not built on transparency alone. This is a great segue into…

The Personal

Its been a bit of a rough year, personally speaking. The trust of someone who was very close to me is gone. I’m not sure if its repairable and that makes me sad. As you get older, life is all about relationships. and I am more discerning with the company I keep, so this was a big challenge for me emotionally. Trust, love and intimacy are precious. A level of compassion and support demonstrated. It all seemed to be taken for granted. Its hard to wrap my head around why people have such a level of dishonesty, why things are said that are not sincere. How selfishness is like a virus, trying to destroy the good parts.

Was there an opportunity to make a different choice? Of course. I don’t break bonds easily. The bond was strong. In a way,it was rare and unbreakable. It was special. Special is quite difficult to walk away from. Aren’t there some connections not worth giving up on? Worth holding out hope for?

I know I have high expectations. I’m intense. I want the best for the people in my life. I strive for them. I make huge efforts with my relationships, regardless of the type. I expect accountability and a level of self-awareness, because I demand the same for myself. There are times I forget, to meet people where they are. If I want better communication, ask better questions. Be more patient. I know my Sicilian side comes out at times, my passion for communication and to want to really understand the person I am communicating with. Again, slow down.

Vulnerability is a funny thing. If I take a brutally honest look at myself, I have trouble with it at times. When I am hurt, I can lash out. I can give my all because that is just who I am . I don’t ever want to lose that, regardless of painful experiences. Yet, I believe I am emotionally mature enough to give vulnerability with the implicit understanding that I am comfortable with however it is received. Enter those pesky expectations! Its not easy to be comfortable when things aren’t comfortable, but ultimately, pain = growth.

THE ART OF COMPROMISE…OR NOT?

I recently read the Chris Voss book, ” Never Split the Difference.” It has many brilliant points on the subject of negotiating but calls out that compromise is a losing proposition.

Thinking about it more deeply, I would agree.

Compromise is Zero Sum.

We are taught to believe that compromise is a good thing. The idea that each party makes a concession to find their way to a “happy medium” If you look at the time you have “compromised” in your life, really examined it, are you happy that you did? Did it bring an overall better outcome for you? I am willing to bet money, it did not.

The Difference Between Good to Great.

I believe there is a reason why the 1% is just 1%. Innovation is not happening on a grander scale. We settle for good because good is fine. Good works. It is not bad. Isn’t great being gluttonous? This is where compromise comes in. We settle for safe.

The Great Divide

It is not just a geographical marvel. Great does divide us from the good. Great feels unattainable where good is easily within our reach. A compromise settles things without too much disruption. Yet, are we left feeling victorious? Did we put in our best effort? Were we willing to feel pain or struggle to get there? Perhaps this is why we look up to athletes and the Military elite, because they understand what it takes to get there, without shortcuts. The mind succeeds over matter to significant results. The pain is not hurt but growth.

We get there by not compromising. The end result, we are so confident in, that accepting a middle ground can’t be satisfactory. This, like most lessons in life, comes down to mindset.

Are there times I wish I had a passionate husband? Achieving all of my goals? Yes. I just keep forging ahead, despite any setbacks. I have taken the route of compromise and like Chinese food, it gives you a false sense of feeling satiated.

Whatever it is you want in your life. Be honest with yourself. Good is fine but it will never be great.

MORNING LOVE: A KEY TO LIFE

I would like to believe I can “think” my way into anything. The truth is that life and all of its riches, literally and figuratively, is much grittier than that. Humility, patience and compassion. The keys to a life well lived. Easy to forget, and takes lifelong practice.