Thursday, May 28, 2009

Brothers in Arms

Woman 5/28/09

The rain always brings out the Wellingtons. Hers were by Tretorn, red not glossy but matte and reaching only to her lower calf not towering to her knees. They seemed to be slightly oversized given her slender frame; there was too much room in the opening though it could have been from her slim legs.

She had on these gun-metal gray leggings as well. With a slight pattern but mostly imperceptible from a distance.

Given the rain today, the trench was an easy choice. Hers was again slightly different. It was your typical tan single-breasted trench coat, but from about the chest level down, the coat flared out – making it look like a pleated trench dress. The bottom of the coat ended slightly above her knees and the red skirt she had on went two inches past. Almost like two skirts layered over each other.

The trench was buttoned fully, but above the neckline was her crisp white shirt. A thin pencil stripe with the collar buttoned up – more preppy than bohemian. On her face were these resin rectangular frame glasses – black on the front, brown on the side and yellow inside.

Her handbag was a faded black canvas which on first look had a print that resembled a Keith Haring graphic. Once you noticed the Brooklyn Industries round logo patch on the bottom corner though, it became obvious that the print were the letters that spelled out Brooklyn Industries done in a very Keith Haring-like style. A trace of red on the zipper and around the logo added to an otherwise black and grey color scheme.

The rain had made her dirty blonde hair slick and wet, giving her a just-out-of-shower look. And perhaps the two bungee bands (one auburn, one bronze) on her right wrist were for pulling her hair back in a ponytail when dry.

Halfway into the subway ride, I looked over and saw her with a black little notebook open on her lap. She was sketching. With her artist’s pen, she was sketching faces onto the pages. It was hard to tell if they were from memory or directly based on the people in the subway.

I think in her own way, she was chronicling the people around her. Much like I was her.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Freckles de Jour

Woman 5/26/09

Freckles. Lots of them. Lots of them but limited to a specific area. At least to the public eye. It was limited to just her face. And even then, it was just a wide swath across the middles of her face, from cheek to cheek. Not the forehead, not too many below the lip line. They were dark brown, set off against the sun-kissed bronze of her tan. The freckles looked like tiny flower petals that had blown off the tree and settled on her face in a random pattern.

The tan itself was another matter. Even. Not too dark, not too light. Perhaps her genetics contributed to the outcome. Nevertheless, having seen people go too orange, red, or even ashen with their tans – one appreciates something as simple as a good tan.

Curiously, she reminded me of Catherine Deneuve in that classic flim, Belle de Jour. Her black hair was just about the same past-shoulder length, and the bangs had been styled back to reveal her forehead (sans freckles) just like the image on the poster.

She had little or no make-up on her, and a pair of small studs on her ears. In keeping with the character, she had on a very conservative cardigan. Crewneck, coffee-colored, and probably a silk-blend suited for the spring and summer season. Her top two buttons were undone, but revealed not much more than her tan.

On her legs were skorts. Yes, skorts. Dark brown, going past the knee slightly and from the distance looked like they were a lightweight wool blend material. On her feet were the Tory Burch ballet flats that have been ubiquitous in NYC since last summer. Hers were black with the gold Tory Burch medallion sitting on the front of the shoe. She did have on flesh-tone thin liner socks. They were sitting above the shoes line and if one was looking closely, quite noticeable.

Her bag was classic French. Louis Vuitton hobo style bag. Large. It had an LV nameplate on the front and center of the bag. And was from the Monogram Canvas line.

It was a lot of brown. It was very reserved and a very classic European look. And the freckles complemented her perfectly.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

B-Boy Fashionista

Man 5/19/09

It was the watch that set the whole thing off. Perhaps it was the morning commute but I wasn’t paying much attention to this man initially. But a good glimpse at the watch and it made me look at him in a different light.

It was big and it was very bling. This large round black face, matte black watch with small diamonds in the bezel, diamonds in place of the numerals, and right smack in the middle of the watch face a skull assembled out of diamonds. Mind you, one couldn’t really be certain if the diamonds were real. But paired with the matte black metal link strap and the silver dial. It was one very, very striking watch. Black on black with a diamond skull.

His look was classic B-Boy Fashionista. Any other day and he’d be photographed for The Sartorialist or LookBook or any of the million Japanese fashion sites on the internet.

On his feet were Nike Air Force One high tops. White and pristine. On his head was a black baseball hat with a black New York Yankees logo. He was wearing it backwards with the bill flat and the manufacturer sticker still stuck on. Black and pristine.

The pants were an olive cotton that were extremely tapered and clung to his legs but wide and baggy on his thighs. As if he was wearing some sort of military riding pants. The cuffs were folded over but not revealing any ankles. He also had on a loose deep cut v-neck cotton sweater and a grey v-neck tee underneath. In the neck of the sweater he had placed his glasses, which were a retro Woody Allen-type plastic frame but with a modern twist of a brown colored front and a bright yellow reverse color combination.

There was this enormous black scarf wrapped around his neck and looked almost like he had an extra layer of clothing around his shoulders.

The skull motif repeated itself on his right ear lobe which had a black skull earring stud. The left ear lobe didn’t have a stud, but he did have a loop pierced into the top of his ear.

His hair was long but tucked into the hat. A few wisps appearing in the front, but the tail very visible out of the back. It was black but streaked brown. On his face was a light goatee that really looked like a light mustache and some form of a soul patch. Honestly, he probably couldn’t grown a full beard if his life depended on it.

There was of course the fashionista messenger bag. Well, there is no such thing as a fashionista messenger bag. There is however large men totes or in this case a large bag masquerading as a messenger bag. No flaps, no outer pockets, just one long zipper at the top of the bag. Black leather but a wrinkled leather and to his credit, slightly worn. The shiny silver tab on the side said Marc Jacobs.

As he got up to leave, I caught a glimpse of the label on his pants. Dickies. Does Dickies make pants for fashionistas now?

Friday, May 15, 2009

51 - 49


If there were 100 mistakes, he made 51 and I made 49.

He was Steve Lee. The partner who I started a small business with nine years ago in NYC. We'd met while working together at an ad agency. He was director of design, one of the founding members of the industrial design division of that agency. I was in my first job in NYC and clueless about how things worked in NYC, at the agency, and all things industrial design.

Steve quickly took me under his wing when we started working on a project together for the client I was responsible for. Slowly, meetings morphed into lunch. Lunch morphed into drinks after work, and drinks morphed into dinner. Little by little he became one of my best friends in NYC, and I found myself hanging out with him at his loft on Grand Street.

We were very close. So close that he accompanied me to my then girlfriend's (now wife) college graduation. So close that when an opportunity came for him to branch out on his own, I spent an entire week convincing him how great it would be, and how much cooler it would even be if I was allowed to join him as a partner.

So, there we went - opened our own shop out of his loft. Our own version of the American Dream.

But, it wasn't meant to be. I was too young and Steve needed a person that was more mature, more understanding, more driven, more knowledgeable, and more connected. Steve needed the person that I think I am today. Nine years ago I was just a kid. So we fought. We had some great early success, and looked to be on our way to more, but we fought. We fought constantly. Even in good times. And it made us both miserable.

My favorite memory is when we got our first large check from the client. It was over a quarter million dollars. He was so excited he was going to photocopy the check, and then fax off a copy to his mother and also have it framed. I had never held a check with so many numerals on one line.

It was an ugly breakup. But it was bound to happen. It didn't have to be that ugly, but then again, perhaps there was no choice. I lost one of my closest friends and I learned some valuable lessons.

I never got to tell Steve how much I learned from him, and how much he influenced my life. Or that I never considered him responsible for the breakup. It wasn't entirely my fault, but it wasn't entirely his either. 51 - 49. Let's just say the one extra was the catalyst for the breakup.

This week I found out that Steve is on his last legs, and not expected to beat his illness. His health is failing rapidly and he is not likely to live much longer.

I can't say I'm going to miss Steve- I haven't spoken to him for years.
I can't say that I should reconcile with him. It's pointless and disingenous at best - serves no purpose.
I can't say I'm his friend - we parted rather acrimoniously.

I miss his friendship.

The man deserved to live a long and full life. And I will remember him for the rest of my life.

Months after our parting, I bumped into him on the street. Well, not quite. He didn't see me as I was coming up the stairs of the subway station, and I didn't bother to alert him to my presence. We just walked right by each other like any other strangers in NYC.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tiny Bubbles

Man 5/12/09

Name one item of clothing that is a sure sign of warm weather and brings a smile to your face, but at the same time makes you shudder at the thought of wearing it yourself. And no, it’s not lewd or revealing.

Give up?

The Hawaiian Shirt.

See you smiled already.

There was no denying the full force of this Hawaiian shirt. It wasn’t terribly loud. It wasn’t particularly camp. It was very basic as far as shirts in this category go. The man was wearing it as part of his wardrobe and not in some hipster cynical statement making fashion, but as a middle-aged working class man who genuinely believes in the power of the Hawaiian shirt.

It was cut loose and long. Not oversized but definitely flowing. A base yellow color – light almost a warm and pastel dandelion. The print was classic. Station wagons. Not just any station wagons, but those old pre-war Woodies that had the rounded hoods and sides that were paneled entirely in wood. It was the same Woodie printed randomly all over the shirt. And paired with the station wagons were intermittent appearances of a grey silhouetted palm trees. One could just imagine cruising down the coastal road in an old Woodie, windows down and passing palm trees bordering the beach.

His jeans though were another matter entirely. Not surprisingly they were cut loose and for comfort. The color was a light indigo – almost borderline acid wash. But what really caused consternation was that the back of the jeans were a different material and color altogether. Some sort of weird harlequin style had made it into mainstream denim fashion and this man had deemed it acceptable to pair those jeans with this Hawaiian shirt. The material was some sort of cotton, perhaps twill, in a color that was between light grey and dusty white.

Of course, on his feet were these black leather ankle boots. The kind that European men wear and so beloved by NBA notables such as the ex-Knick Charles Oakley. No laces, just elastic on the sides and a toe that was more square than it was sharp.

That smile on the face? Dragged down by the jeans and kicked out the door by those boots.

Black was the other dominant color on him. Black baseball hat with no logo. Black aviator sunglasses sitting on the bill of the black logoless baseball hat. Black laptop bag sitting on his lap. Even the watch was black. Though it was really more of a black and gold combination. The links of the metal band were equal parts gold and black, though the face itself was black.

The most disappointing was the crewneck undershirt that was visible underneath his splendid shirt. It was a little frayed and slightly yellowed from age. Probably clean but definitely well-worn.

New rule. If you are going to wear a Hawaiian shirt, treat it with some respect and don’t sully it an old undershirt. Or at least make sure its not easily viewed by others. Bad fashion pairings is one thing. But that old undershirt is just plain desecration.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Read into Me

4/30/09 Man

Let’s start at the end.

This is a book that I’m definitely going to buy. I never realized it’s existence, and perhaps I might have even seen someone reading it previously. But without this blog, I most definitely would have never bought the book. I still haven’t but it’s now on my list. Granted, it’s not a given that the book, or even the series is even one to my liking, but the point is that one has to seek out new experiences regardless.

The book?

Istanbul Noir. Apparently, there are a series of noir anthologies published by an independent press that sets each anthology in a different city. The publisher is Akashic Books. And this gentleman on the subway was reading one of their books.

Book aside, he had over his shaggy mane these white over-ear headphones. It’s rare to see white headphones – discounting iPod earphones, and these stood out on the brown hair on his head. The logos on the headphones looked like a “JL”, the mark of WESC. It’s a brand that’s been around for a while, and brand-conscious hipsters know it all too well. Didn’t realize they made music accessories too. Lesson number two. These headphones were not too large, white all over, with a mark on a small button that holds the head adjustments, and on the ear-piece a very noticeable WESC logo.

The shaggy hair was followed by a semi-long shaggy beard. Both brown - a medium grade of that color. No glasses, but very large eyes.

The rest of him was de rigueur hipster:

Black bomber jacket
o Nylon
o Ribbed cuffs
o Looks like a more fashionable re-making of a working class staple

o Black cotton but looks weathered enough to pass for a charcoal grey
o White contrast zipper and hood drawstring to alert you that it came from American Apparel

Eye-popping tee
o Bright mustard yellow tee
o A hint of a hot pink illustration screened on the front

Dark indigo skinny jeans
o Cuffs folded at least 2.5” to reveal a lot of ankle
o Pasty white ankles

Ankle socks
o White athletic standards

Athletic inspired sneakers
o Gola – a somewhat non-mainstream brand favored by those in-the-know
o Blue with white accents

And since it was raining that day, he was carrying a cheap black retractable umbrella.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Top o' the Morning

Woman 4/30/09

This you’ve never seen before. Perhaps in that far away land which spawned JRR Tolkien or Austin Powers, but certainly not here – not these continental United States of America. Then again, when one is mainly sequestered at home, perhaps one does not see common things as such.

It was a bowler hat. Black, British, and on the left side of the hat a small side feather that was brown in color. This wasn’t your Andes-style woman bowler hat, this was a true British bowler. Although given it’s lack of pomposity and it’s somewhat diminutive size, I’d say that it as probably a hat originally made for a boy, or even perhaps expressly made for a woman.

And so it was that this woman was wearing a black bowler on this damp dreary day in New York City. Not unlike many days in London I’ve been told. The front of her blonde hair was tucked into the hat though most of her straight hair was visible in the back.

And to add to the Anglo-ness of this woman, she was wearing a long red wool coat. That’s right – Beefeater. The bowler hat and the red coat just screamed BEEFEATER!

Coincidentally, she had on these dark skinny jeans that only accentuated the length of her coat, and the Burberry scarf really just kept on adding to the mix. That scarf had the telltale Burberry check pattern with shades of light blue, brown and pink.

What was really standout about this woman was her glasses. A great pair of resin- frames that were a glittering gold color. Somehow, that glitter brought out the blue in her eyes and just made an indelible impression. Imagine the glasses and those eyes without the distractions of the hat and coat. That platinum blonde hair to that mix could be deadly.

By now, you’ve realized that this woman takes her fashion seriously, though not without putting her own touch and personality into it. Yes, she dressed with a point-of-view.

Under the coat was a oatmeal colored cashmere sweater. The cuffs were ribbed, but folded back a good 4 inches – the short sleeves of her coat revealing that touch. And the sweater was hiding what looked to be a white Oxford shirt.

The legs of the jeans were folded back about 3 inches, and on her feet were these blue hiking socks tucked into a pair of boat shoes. Well, a pair of marina moccasins to be exact. Tan with brown tassels and on the outside of each shoe, a panel of nylon. The soles were clearly white.

Her face, as far as one could tell, was natural without any makeup. Two small gold studs in her ears with small diamonds glittering in the artificial light. Her nails were short and clean, and on the left middle finger was a sliver ring band.

She was carrying a tan canvas tote that resembled something one could purchase at a grocery store as a reusable grocery shopping bag.