My Fashion Tips. Just the Tips. Just to See How They Look.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012 | 0 Comment(s)

On wednesday mornings I drive the 10 minutes across the river to Northampton.   This morning I went into Bruegger's Bagels to get change for my meter, and i had to giggle when i saw the Western Wall of Bagel Bags in the back of the shop.  Dozens of dozens.  All in their own brown bag, stacked atop one another, waiting for hungry jews to come pick them up later this afternoon.

I've been trying to diversify the blog a bit.  You know, appeal to a bigger audience.  Maybe rake in my 1st advertising check (almost to the minimum threshold after 3 years!!!).  So I thought for today's blog i would focus on menswear.  To give you an idea on how far from my general areas of expertise this subject is, you should all know that I just spell checked "men's ware".  This should be transcendent.

I don't shop regularly.  It is not a regular thing for me.  This is actually a good thing because I am a compiler, which is a socially acceptable way of saying that I don't throw anything out.  Most of my t-shirts I had in high school.  Ok, maybe just half.   When I do shop, I find myself drawn to one of two locations.

The first is in Cambridge, MA, about 3 blocks from my old apartment.  It's called the Great Eastern Trading Company, and as far as i can tell it is owned and operated by an eccentric women in her late 50's who is part hippie, part theater queen, all amazing.  She will harass you if you carry drinks into the store (which i always always always forget, and still do.)  She also clears out her store every September and stocks it with vintage Halloween costumes.  Yah, that's pretty amazing.  But, during the other 10 months, it is a vintage clothing store.  But, they carry large stocks of cowboy boots, leather jackets, and (most importantly) snap shirts.  For those of you not in the know (pleebs), snap shirts are collared shirts with snaps instead of buttons.  The best one's have either threaded patterns along the hems or hokey needlework.  During my latest foray to the shop, i found the holy grail of snap shirts.  On the front of each shoulder was a 4 inch wide salmon (rainbow trout?).   Splashed across the back of the tan-based long sleeve with threaded hems was a majestic 3rd trout spanning the width of the shirt, it's rainbow belly exposed and gleaming.  Magnificent.  You don't come across gems like this everyday, and unfortunately, there was too much me to fit inside this particular gem.  It was the worst kind of non-fitting.  Not 'way too small', where the idea of purchasing the item would be comical (see fat man in a little coat), or 'way to big', where you try to see if your friend can fit inside the pants with you (that happens to be how babies are made).  Even 'just a bit too big" is ok.  Maybe to buy it and wear it "draped" or "baggy".  Maybe you leave it realizing that you just are too svelte to wear such over-sized clothing.  But no.  It was "just a bit too small".  Just small enough that the buttons closed, but then made me look like a 4-month pregnant lady.  "-not flattering" says the New York Times.

In a true test of friendship, I happen to have my slender friend nick (who officiated my wedding) along with me for this particular shopping trip.  He selflessly suggested that he might make me feel better by purchasing the shirt for himself (it fit perfectly).  Now.  I love nick.  He married me.  But i am still a little bitter about this whole shirt fiasco.  May he wear it in good health.

The second shop that i go to 'regularly' i found more recently.  Monday before my Sunday wedding I realized that i had a suit to get married in and absolutely no other nice clothes to wear that weekend.  That's not true.  I do have two trustworthy suits.  Blue and black.  And they look grownup and wonderful for a work environment (that i try to avoid).  But for my wedding, i wanted more pizzaz.  I mean, i had a rainbow colored wedding suit.  It would be weird to roll out in 4 year old dark jeans from old navy for my rehearsal dinner.

I mini-paniced.  Why hadn't someone reminded me about this?  Why hadn't I thought of it before!!! How am i old enough to get married when i don't even remember to get dressed!?!?!?!?!   I breathed.  I continued to breathe.  I ate something.  Probably made a sandwich.   And then i drove out to Northampton, as i did this morning, to visit Jackson & Conner, the men's store that two of my close male friends had sheepishly admitted to adoring.  These are manly men too.  Or rather, gruff men.  Men who don't automatically come to mind when you think 'loving a menswear store'.  So, since i don't consider myself when I think loving a menswear store', i figured, perhaps this place could also work for me.   And it did.

Jackson & Conner is a special shopping experience designed for guys who want to wear nice clothes that fit them well, but don't want to be overwhelmed with hundreds and hundreds of choices. In order to accomplish this goal, they needed to things: hip merchandise and even hipper customer service.  They bring both to the table (there is actually a functional red-felt pool table used to display merchandise in the middle of the store.  The pool cues are stored in one of the two extra-large dressing rooms and fit in seamlessly with the other rustic wall decorations.  The clothes are cool.  Some are even cooler than that.  And part of the store's appeal is that the fashion goes so far forward that they have the opportunity to help you explore new avenues in your personal fashion.  They push  . . . say, with something pink and full of pattern, you nod yes, they push further . . . . lime green vest . . . you say, 'too far," they recalibrate.  But where the difference gets made is in the fitting.  Jackson & Conner tailor everything that needs tailoring.  For most men, myself included, this is a first.  Up until this point, I have never felt more competent as a shopper as when i knew both the length and waist of my pant size.  Apparently, these are other pieces of fabric involved that determine how the jeans feel and look on your body.  It's amazeballs, these jeans (and the $25 pair that i'm picking up later this week [tailoring] almost physically turn me on the way they actually fit me.  It's a revelation.  They even took in my shirts.  Apparently having fabric spanning down from the arms and out from the sides is only cool if you are Batman, looking to glide across the building tops at night.  Or a flying squirrel.  I am (to the best of everyone's current knowledge) neither, and therefore they cut those curtains down like a second circumcision.  And similarly, i loved how i looked afterward.  I heart fitted clothing, and I don't care who knows it.

As for the customer service.  It's the only thing better than the tailoring.  Tara, the co-owner, essentially welcomes you into her store/house/family all simultaneously upon your arrival (we're facebook friends now).  She talks to you about what you are shopping for, what your style sense is, and how adventurous you are with your clothing.  I am eclectically eccentric but also specific and picky in my styles (remember, when i buy something, i buy it for life!), so i didn't need much help in the selection process (my friends, however, look substantively more well-groomed since Tara took over their fashion decisions).  What Tara did do was help me enjoy the process. She made me feel helped, without feeling waited on or pushed along.  She was the life long hip female friend who you always want to shop with, but maybe don't live near anymore.  She gives you her honest opinion (which you can feel free to disagree with) even if it means telling you something doesn't work.  She takes a Vidal Sassoon approach to shopping, you you don't look good, we don't look good.  You never get the sense that she wants to sell you clothes more than she wants you to look amazing at your event.  And there is a trunk in the back that has "vintage" t-shirts with slogans like "I like going Downtown."  Oh, I almost forgot, in the back, there are classic new england sports gear.  The old logos, the new logos.  All the logos.

I remember saying to Tara, shortly after meeting her, "I forgot that I needed clothes for my wedding."

Tara: "When is it"
Me: Sunday
Tara: THIS Sunday.
Me: (no change in intonation): Yes.
Tara: (calming herself): Ok, let's do this.

I then proceeded to buy the place out.  All the shop-less years collided with the best reason ever to splurge on myself and I wardrobed up.  I bought so much clothing i had to get a haircut the next day to feel as spiffy as the clothes i was wearing.  Tara also threw down and got all the tailoring done in two days.  TWO DAYS.  Most importantly, I had a lot of fun.  And there are very few times i can say that about a shopping trip.  It's why i've already been back twice since.  Second most importantly, I looked super badass for my rehearsal dinner and post-wedding brunch.

So to Tara and J&C, consider this a sincere thank you for making me, and by proxy making you, look very very good on my wedding weekend.

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