Clothing, Stuff

Of time, people and Pateks

I’ve shared my collecting passion before, but I haven’t gone deep on my watch nuttiness. In college, a friend’s dad was a long time Rolex dealer and he turned us on to vintage Rolex sport or tool watches, which in the early ‘80’s could be had for $200-$300. Submariners were the waterman’s watch of choice, and our heroes from Jacques Cousteau to Hawaii’s North Shore chargers wore a sub.

I’ve hung on to those pieces, which turned out to be fortuitous as the global interest in watch collecting has driven prices crazy—both up and down over the last 25 years.

I’ve gotten to know some of the biggest dealers to the trade and collectors, and have built friendships that have lasted the test of time. When I was living in Chicago, just out of UCLA, I got to know Howard Frum, the Rolex King. His shop in Chicago’s Wabash Avenue Jewelry Mart was my lunchtime hangout, and the place has maintained its funk vibe as part Cheers—complete with the regulars, and part museum. I’ve spoken to Howard at least 250 times a year for the last 25 years. My greatest finds have come from him and his partner Maurice Tal.

While I’ve remained committed to Rolex steel sport watches from the 50’s through ‘70’s, dabbling in other brands proved financially diseconomic. The exception being Patek Philippe. I like the weirder Pateks from the 1970’s and I regularly wear a Patek 3700 that was one of Howard’s personal pieces until I was able to convince him, it took about a year, to sell it to me.

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At Ease Clothing Store Reunion

The Ultimate College Job Remembered

Most college jobs are a fleeting afterthought.  A campus job, ticket taker at a theater, or whatever retail gig that happens to be available.

Luckily, a select group of friends and I had a magical experience in Westwood Village. ’80’s fashion evokes memories of New Wave Village Mews plaids, Flock of Seagulls Hairdos, or Dynasty shoulder pads.  But, it was also the time that Preppy got really big.  At Ease on the corner of Westwood Blvd. and Weyburn was ground zero for West Coast preppy.  With outlets in Orange County and Pasadena, At Ease owner Al Douglass had established his signature take on prep, with a California meets Tokyo twist.  While Pasadena played to the locals and their progeny, who had grown up on Atkinson’s signature red seersucker, Newport was all about SC frat rats in Dacron and cotton Reyn Spooner reverse print popover Hawaiian shirts, Biltwell khakis and Top Sider smoked elk lace ups.  But, it was the proximity to UCLA that made working at At Ease so special.  Selling trad gear to fellow students, studio exec’s, and anybody else we could hit up for the post graduation job, was pretty perfect—being able to clock in, work two hours, clock out, go to class, and clock back in, made it pretty amazing.

The merchandise was prescriptive.  I couldn’t imagine walking into a men’s store today with a pant wall that was 25’x10’ stocked in prefinished chinos in trad colors from khaki to banana yellow.  Price $29.50.  Belts were striped surcingle by Trafalgar and tailored clothing ranged form Southwick to Norman Hilton.  We had the finest sock selection in the world, backed up by Alden shell cordovan plain toe bluchers, saddles and the Alden LHS (Loafer Hand Sewn.) A recent chat with the current Alden rep put sales of the loafers at nearly 600 pair/year out of the Westwood store alone.

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When You Only Need One…

I made a choice years ago that even though a suit and tie weren’t always required, they were always preferred.  As you can probably guess I’m an archivist of traditional clothing items that I’ve owned, and many of my favorite ties have survived my selling days on the floor of trad emporium At Ease in Westwood Village.

At the height of prep hysteria, we preferred traditional Talbott repp stripes, narrow as possible, with a Gittman or Brooks Bros. OCBD’s (oxford cloth button down).  We also discovered and embraced the silk (summer) or wool (winter) knit tie as an alternative to fussier patterns.  While the silk are long gone, several thrift-shopped mohair Rooster knits have survived and are still in the rotation decades later.

As I strive to limit the amount of “stuff” I’m hanging onto in general, I seem to being wearing more and more of a uniform.  Suits, shirts, and shoes in multiple versions of pretty much the same thing—so much so, that only I can seem to divine the subtle differences from one shell cordovan “long wing” wingtip form the next.  Sure, some are dead-stock vintage Florsheim Imperials from the ‘60s, while others are contemporary Thom Browne versions aping the vintage examples.  Suits are either vintage Saville Row, Huntsman, Anderson and Sheppard, Henry Poole, contemporary Thom Browne, or Brooks Brothers sack suits updated by the keen eye of T. Browne’s work under the Black Fleece label.

I’ve written about my shirt source, the one and only Freddy Vandecasteele, who has been refining both a straight collar turn back cuffed version of the my white dress shirt, or what I’ve determined is the perfect button down in either a white broadcloth or pique version.

In the search for the simple tie solution, I’m still partial to two color repp stripes, but am really only wearing solids.  The knit tie choice isn’t as simple as it may seem.  They’ve gotta have some heft to them to tie up right.  Too thick and they’re silly, too thin and they’re ridiculous.   I’d heard that the J. Press silk knit was just about perfect, and the word on the street was right.

The J. Press black silk knit tie may be the only tie you need.  I’ve become a zealot on the subject of this tie, and have been proselytizing its virtues to those curious enough to care, those nutty enough to ask.

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Manhattan Beach

Things Found–My personal time capsule

As I prepare for the move next door into my renovated beach bungalow (Project 137), I’ve started getting stuff together, going through the necessary items, and chucking, eBaying or Craigslisting the rest.

As part of the meditation, I came across my version of a time capsule: my wallet from my senior year at Aviation High School, 1979.

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Art, Stuff

Kustom Kulture: My uKes

I’ve become more specific in the things I like and care about. Call it handcrafted, bespoke, one off—you decide, but I really prefer things that have my personal imprint on them. I’ll powder coat the mundane bicycle crank in an obscure tint, thanks to Bob Barnes, put a patinated polish on a new pair of brogues, thanks Pasquale, and I’ll tweak that which doesn’t really need tweaking. I’ve posted about downsizing and editing, and one of the inherent pleasures in doing so is the chance to choose that one thing, or two, and really make it yours. Read more…


Getting Small

For the last five years I’ve been traveling from LA to Palo Alto in my work for the most exciting company in the world.  Hotels in Palo Alto are tough to come by, and expensive during Stanford basketball and football seasons, and in 2005, I was lucky enough to find 225 square foot “mother-in-law” unit in a great mid-century Eichler house in a cool tract of Eichler homes.  While my pad up north lacks a kitchen (I get by with a mini-fridge and microwave), I’ve come to realize that less can really be more, and super livable.  When Manhattan Beach became “disco” in the old New Economy, and charming beach cottages made way for lot to lot McMansions, my disdain for large and overbuilt increased like beach front square footage, and had me thinking about what you really need if you live in a place you really love.

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Defender 90: An old fashioned road trip, proves the validity of “un-boring” rides

Sometimes the soul just calls for a good old-fashioned road trip.  Having just picked up two Steve McQueen photo/bios (McQueen, and McQueen’s Machines), I was inspired, not just by the details of the amazing cars of the consummate cool cat, but the stories of his impromptu dashes across California in some of Italy and Germany’s finest.

While not as exotic, I channeled my inner-McQueen and felt that the often tweaked 1997 Land Rover Defender 90 that I have owned since new, was now worthy of a trek of it’s own.  Having only driven as far as LA-SF-LA in the Defender, what I was about to embark on could have proven to be uncomfortable, daunting, definitely loud, but necessary.  I’ve had the Defender apart in so many stages of tweak and undress, that I figured—saving some internal combustion disaster, I could figure out anything that could go wrong, or at least get in touch with someone who could.

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Manhattan Beach, Transportation

International Harvester Scouts…A Cub Scout’s Dream

As you can probably tell, it’s the introduction to the things that I love that are as important as the things themselves.  I love the surf mats, because of the memories that the smell brings, or the feel of my father’s shell cordovan wallet.

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New Year’s Eve morning with Fred Kamaka….Kamaka Ukuleles

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As a kid, I was in love with assembly lines.  Maybe it was the Cub Scout trip to the Rold Gold pretzel factory in El Segundo, the surfboard shaping and glassing bays of my teen years, or the industrial films that were shown on the rare rainy day recesses at Grandview School, but I love seeing how things I love are made.

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Clothing, Stuff



I’m a creature of habit in most things I do, from the prescriptive nature of the things I love to where I travel when I have free time. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that I’ve spent every Christmas holiday — other than the millennium year — in Honolulu.

Honolulu is a second home for me. And there are the things I do and wear in Honolulu that get me through the six months away, until I can’t stand it anymore and have to go back.

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