Monday, December 01, 2008
The focus here is a shopping list for men, but I'm sure that an equally lengthy list of recommendations of places for women to shop will spring out of my head (like Athena, to mix metaphors and pantheons in the same post) eventually.
On Your Body
OK. Look. I’m a total whore for murses. (That’s a man’s purse, if you didn’t already know.) I have a ton of them and I have bought cool ones in several countries when I happen to have stumbled upon them: Spain, Japan, Italy, wherever.
Where to find one for yourself? Honestly, the easiest way to find good murses is to scan the coolhunting blogs as they show up there all the time under the guise of “messenger bags” or “laptop totes”. Check out Josh Spear, Cool Hunting, and Uncrate for leads.
There are so many casual shoe brands with style. Stroll into any Otto Tootsi Plohound (they have locations all over The Blessed Isle) and you’ll find at least 4 or 5 brands you’ve never heard of. I recommend taking a look at whatever you can find from Tsubo (for comfort and edge) or Mark Nason (for edgy style).
When it comes to dress shoes, if you want the traditional styles, shop the traditional brands. You don’t need me for that. If you want something that combines comfort, quality and has more style, then I recommend checking out the offerings of Donald J. Pliner. You should be able to find his product in boutiques, major department stores and online.
If you’re willing to pay for truly superlative comfort and style, then brace yourself and put on a pair of Michael Toschi. The technology in his shoes makes them insanely comfortable. There is no other description. But be prepared that even on sale, they’re going to set you back at least $250.
Hedda Szmuk at The Eyeman at 84th and Broadway is your answer. Hedda will find you an excellent pair of frames within minutes. And then if you want to continue, she'll spend as long as you like finding other truly excellent options. As you explore the spectrum of spectacles available, you will be treated to Hedda's saucy commentary along the way. You should be forewarned that if a pair doesn't look good on you, Hedda might just snatch them off your face and absolutely forbid you to buy them.
If it’s time to get educated about scent, then there are only two masters you must know: Chandler Burr and Luca Turin. Start by reading Burr’s biography of Turin (The Emperor of Scent) and then read Burr in the Times (he writes Scent Notes) and buy Turin’s book “Perfume: The Guide”.
Fragrances are a personal thing, so let me recommend fragrance houses to explore that you won’t find every guy wearing. (Remember Drakkar Noir and your college squash team?). First, go smell the scents at L’Artisan Perfumeur and Bond No. 9 (outlets available around Manhattan) for some excellent androgynous options. If you’re feeling like you want something edgier, drop into Bendels and check out the scandalously named fragrances of Etat Libre d’Orange.
If you want something custom, go to Le Labo on Elizabeth Street in SoHo and they’ll mix something up for you special.
I think everyone needs a friend in the leather business. Me, I go down to see Memo at The Village Tannery on Great Jones Street between Broadway and Lafayette. If you want a backpack, a purse, a belt, pretty much any utility piece made of leather, drop in.
Shirts, Pants & Essentials
Keep in mind as you review this section that while I focus on shirts in my descriptions, each of these outlets also retails pants, sweaters, jackets and suits, etc..
My hands-down favorite place for menswear in 2008 has been Italian designer Eredi Pisano at 54th and Madison. It’s going to have the latest patterns, tailoring, collars…and price tags. Although, if you go during a sale, you’ll obviously be able to do better.
If Italian high-end is not your style, well, there’s no denying the influence of Jermyn Street on men’s fashion in the last five years. And it’s hard to go wrong shopping at Thomas Pink if you have the income. If you want to a lower price point with Jermyn Street styling, go for Charles Tyrwhitt. Both of these stores have retail locations near Eredi Pisano on Madison, as well as websites and catalogs.
The key with shirts, as with all clothing, is the fit. So if you want a more reasonable price point and a good fit, I recommend the Land’s End custom shirt process. You can input your measurements into their website and they will tailor a shirt just for you. It’s somewhat more costly than a standard Land’s End shirt, but you can be sure it will look great on you. And their customer service is to die for.
If you’re in NYC and you want to a boutique experience with multiple brands, I have three different recommendations, two are designer discount shops and the other is a boutique. Designer discount shops can be a hassle because these guys are out to move merchandise fast. On the positive side, you can haggle.
The first, relatively well known, shop is Riflessi, which has a shop on Madison Avenue and another on 57th Street. Long a staple of New York Magazine’s Best Buy column, Riflessi carried European and American designer brands a season or so behind the department stores and at a lower price. The less well-known shop is Valenti at 50th and Third Avenue. In addition to discounting designers, Valenti buys Italian fabric lots that European designers have elected not to use for one reason or another and they do their own private label shirts in the latest styles.
Finally, my favorite menswear boutique in Manhattan is Frank Stella. They have a store on 7th Avenue above 58th Street and another on Columbus and 81st. John Hellings stocks his store with a wide array of what’s hot, from the edgier brands like Ted Baker to more staid labels such as Tommy Bahama. Shop his seasonal sales and you’ll do very well indeed.
If you happen to be in Providence, Rhode Island, the only place to shop is Marc Allen on South Main Street. Marc moved north from NYC to raise his family and he’s got the best shop in town by a long shot.
If you happen to be in Los Angeles, you must go find menswear genius Marc Callo! For those of you connected to me on Facebook, Marc is the man who created The Jacket: my gorgeous platinum leather motorcycle-style blouson that magically elicits positive appraisals from peoples of all races, ethnicities, genders, and gender preferences when and wherever I wear it.
We live in the age of the screen printed T-shirt. There are many sites that follow the Threadless model of having the public vote on the designs they would like to see produced. I happen to prefer Design by Humans.
If you're an NYCer, there are several local designers worth noting. My favorite is Severyn. If you go by his table in Union Square often enough, you'll eventually meet his whole freakin' family manning it at one point or another. (I'm particularly fond of his wife Natalie, who calls everyone "Babes".) And, although they're so hot they need no promotional support from me, it's also worth mentioning the guys at Barking Irons whose funky designs are all about forgotten elements of the history of our fair city.
In Your Home
My personal philosophy is that there is nothing more important to me than ecstasy available through art. I really don’t think there are many endeavors that man engages in that matter more. I’m also a big believer in buying the work of living artists and I have met most although not all of the artists whose work I own.
Buying art is a very personal activity, so far be it from me to tell you where to buy it. If you’re already into buying art, you’ll have your own ideas about where to get it. If you’re new to buying art, this entry will hopefully provide you with a starting point for how to find art you might like at a price you can afford.
First of all, I’m a big believer in craft as well as art and you can find both at the best juried craft fairs: Lincoln Center has two craft fairs per year and Art Rider produces craft events nationwide.
Second, if you’re just beginning to explore buying art, I recommend buying the work of art students. There are two great ways to do this: 1) either attend the juried shows at a local art school or 2) go to Art Student Showcase on Lafayette between Prince and Spring. Art schools generally have an annual juried show in June and/or sometimes even a holiday art/craft fair for alumni (RISD has a fantastic holiday show!) in December. These are great places to go, meet young artists, and make acquisitions at any price point that works for you. You might find a lovely still life for $25 by a current student, a stunning pencil nude for $75 by a recent graduate or perhaps an oil landscape by an established alumnus for $7500.
If you just want any old invitation, go to the stationer. If you have a significant event that you want memorialized in a one-of-a-kind way, I’m a tireless promoter of Ceci New York. Lisa Hoffman is truly brilliant and working with her and her team is like having any great graphic piece produced for your company. You establish a creative brief, likes and dislikes, key themes, and they’ll make magic. You’ll pay for the privilege, but I guarantee you that you’ll want to frame it when it’s done.
Furniture & Lighting
For me, there are always two places to start furniture shopping: Maurice Villency on 57th and 3rd and Lee’s Studi0 on 57th east of 7th (above Lee’s Art Shop). Both have highly opinionated help available (I recommend Ed Silverii at Lee’s and Norman Teitelbaum if he’s not yet retired at MV) and lots of high-end design.
Being the CFO of our family K. feels strongly that I have to include three less pricey options for finding contemporary furniture options: NYC's own Scott Jordan, Manhattan retailer Jensen Lewis and the national chain Room and Board. All of them are great places to look as you seek out just the right piece. If the piece in question is a sleeper sofa, check out this 2005 post.