There’s a small shop in Rome called Gammarelli that’s tucked away behind the Pantheon. At first glance, it may not seem different from the many family-owned clothiers scattered throughout Italy. The small, rectangular space is fitted with glass counters and glossy wooden shelves. On the main floor, there are bolts of cloth stacked neatly on top of each other for customers to peruse. Towards the back of the shop, an old, wooden staircase spirals up to the workroom, where tailors labor away on benched tables peppered with pincushions and pieces of chalk. The shop’s head tailor can sometimes be seen here running up and down between the floors for fittings, while a tall, bearded man in a tweed sport coat on the main floor scribbles down orders on a notepad. But between the worsted wools and crisp cotton wovens, you’ll also see deep purple robes, ceremonial swords, and feather-trimmed hats. On the signage outside the shop, below the name Gammarelli, the words read: Sartoria Per Ecclesiastici, or “clerical outfitters.”
If there’s such a thing as timelessness in dress, you can find it here at Ditta Annibale Gammarelli, purveyors of ecclesiastical clothing since 1798. For over 200 years, whenever a new pope is elected, the shop’s tailors and managers rush out the Vatican to meet the supreme pontiff in a chamber called the Room of Tears. They present to him a custom, white papal cassock, cut to a floor-brushing size, and made with some thirty handsewn buttonholes. The Pope slips into his Gammarelli garb and dons the traditional papal accessories: an ermine-trimmed red velvet shoulder cape known as a mozzetta; a white skullcap known as a zucchetto; and a pair of red leather papal shoes. He then steps out on the balcony of St. Peter’s to greet the faithful.
Over the years, after this initial ceremony, each Pope has accessorized his dress slightly differently. John Paul II ditched the red slippers in favor of cordovan colored walking shoes made in his native Poland. When Benedict XVI restored the use of swanky bright red slippers for outdoor attire, Esquire voted him “Accessorizer of the Year.” That prompted the Vatican’s official daily paper to issue the stern reply: “The Holy Father is not dressed by Prada, but by Christ.”
A couple of months ago, in a searing review at The New York Times, food critic Peter Wells grilled one of New York City’s most acclaimed institutions. Peter Luger is widely regarded as one of the best places to eat a steak. The 132-year-old restaurant is known for its Teutonic dining rooms, delicious meats, and long wooden bar, which has been “worn to a shine by a century of elbow-rubbing.” The broiled dry-aged steaks, cut in portions serving one to four, are said to be intensely beefy and deliciously charred.
But last October, Wells left the iconic restaurant unimpressed. He called the fries mealy, the salad drippy, and the potatoes dingy and gray. Then he wrote: “What gnaws at me every time I eat a Luger porterhouse is the realization that it’s just another steak, and far from the best New York has to offer. […] And after I’ve paid, there is the unshakable sense that I’ve been scammed.” In the end, the Times critic gave the restaurant an abysmal zero stars.
Perhaps as a sign of our times, Twitter took to the review almost immediately, with users eager to chime in with their hot takes. Some, such as Atlantic columnist Amanda Mull, were reasonable and even-keeled. (“My other opinion today is that Peter Luger is Good […] it is always sort of a debacle and always costs too much but it’s great for reasons I can’t totally explain, much like New York City itself”). But most echoed Wells’ sentiment, whether in earnest or perhaps simply wanting to say they also noticed the Emperor has no clothes. “Self-Satisfied New Yorkers Swear They Hated Peter Luger All Along,” summed up Eater. Comedian and online personality Desus Nice tweeted: “Pete Wells just did the same thing to Peter Luger what Jay-Z did to the X5.”
Even when it’s online and you can shop from the comfort of your own home, Black Friday still feels like a mad dash to find the best deals. Over at Put This On, we’re rounding up the best of Black Friday promotions. The list is massive, with the number of sales going into the hundreds, and we’ll be adding to the list over the weekend as we learn of new deals. For those who want something more manageable, I’ve pulled togethersome of my favorites inthese three posts. Combine those with the ten sales listed below, and you have what I think are the most exciting Black Friday deals this year.
For many people, tomorrow will be a day of frenzied shopping, deal hunting, and hemming and hawing. To help readers make the most of the promotions, I’ll have a list of Black Friday sales over at Put This On. The list will be published on Friday morning and then continually updated until the end of Monday. I’ll also have a shorter, more manageable list of my favorite stores here.
In the meantime, I thought I’d share eleven things I bought earlier this season that are now on sale. Some of these things were purchased months ago, so I can say a little about how they fared. Admittedly, the list leans casual — and there’s a lot of workwear. But if Japanese tidying guru Marie Kondo can now sell merch, I can talk about how much I love workwear on a blog originally rallying for its death. Here are eleven things I liked enough this season to purchase – from Blundstones to Balmacaans – and are now available for a little less money.
Mr. Porter’s massive selection puts them in everyone’s orbit. Whether you favor classic tailored clothing, Japanese workwear, or oversized, minimalist contemporary garb, Mr. Porter likely carries more than a handful of brands for you.
I remember when Black Friday was about waking up early to try to beat the crowds, only to wind up standing in line and wondering whether the savings are worth the trouble. Thankfully, nowadays, everything is held online, which means you can snag the best deals without ever having to leave your couch. But still, it helps to have some intel.
Every year at Put This On, I roundup Black Friday sales for our readers. The list, which comes out on Friday, is massive and often reaches into the hundreds of stores. For those who want something more manageable, I also list some of my favorites here. Since some stores have already started their promotions, here are nine early-bird specials that I think are notable. More will come as the week moves on and new deals emerge.
When it comes to American style, few companies tower over our history like Brooks Brothers. After all, it was out of their Manhattan store where many Americans first bought their oxford button-downs, polo coats, penny and tassel loafers, Shetland sweaters, bleeding madras, and natural shouldered suits. Brooks Brothers figures so strongly into our cultural identity, they even shaped how we discuss clothing.
The sack suit, for example, is not called so because it fits like a sack. Instead, it’s a tailoring term that Brooks Brothers picked up in 1901 to advertise their “No. 1 Sack Suit.” During the Victorian era, the term sack — sometimes spelled sac or saque — referred to how the garment is made with two relatively straight back panels, rather than the four curved pieces that shape the back of a frock coat, morning coat, or tailcoat. Brooks Brothers followed in that utilitarian tradition when they made their first-ever mass-produced item for men, which was first worn by store clerks before it made it into corporate boardrooms. Brooks Brothers’ No. 1 Sack Suit carried men from the turn of the 20th century into the “jazz clubs of the Roaring Twenties, through the dark days of the Great Depression, on to college campuses in booming postwar America.” Consequently, the suit’s name also became shorthand for Ivy Style. Technically, all suits are a sack cut, but a sack suit refers to a particular iteration made famous by this New York clothier.
When it comes to a more casual style, however, many of the more influential companies radiated from up-and-down the West coast. From Levi’s, we get five-pocket jeans and much of American workwear. Lee and Wrangler were to Levi’s what Ivy shops such as J. Press and Chipp were to Brooks. Later came sneakers from Nike, sportswear from Patagonia, and the dream of a leisurely, forever young, California lifestyle from brands such as PacSun, Vans, and Stussy. The other giant is Eddie Bauer, which is now sadly a shell of its former self. For nearly two generations of Americans, however, this Seattle-based company was one of the best sources for down-filled parkas. But it was an accident of history that it was ever American at all.
Woe betides anyone who takes life advice from me. I am, after all, a man who wound up writing about workwear on a blog called Die, Workwear. But for the academically inclined who may be hustling to get grad school applications submitted before December 1st, let me impart some advice: don’t go to grad school. Get a turtleneck instead.
A turtleneck will confer you all the same benefits of having a graduate school education. For one, you’ll feel smugly superior to other people and have false confidence that you’ve become more attractive (you are not, and you have not). You get to say “residency” with a convincing and assured tone. You’ll fit right into any event billed as being part of a “speaker series.” Like having a graduate diploma, a turtleneck will not increase your job prospects. You will, however, become slightly more annoying to everyone around you. Consequently, you will likely suffer from incurable loneliness and social isolation. The only difference is that graduate education can cost you upwards of a quarter-million dollars. To put that in perspective, that’s like buying 5,000 turtlenecks from J. Crew or three from Cucinelli.
How did this workwear garment become such a symbol of the smug and insufferable? The story of the turtleneck follows the same arc of almost everything associated with high-society. Things that once gave more than a whiff of moral laxity are today used as a cudgel against rebellious youths. At the turn of the 20th century, proper gentlemen in frock coats frowned up upon lounge suits as the ill-attire of workwear men and lowly store clerks. Today, a suit-and-tie is seen as the entry card to proper society. Similarly, jazz was once labeled as the “devil’s music” for its focus on improvisation over a traditional structure, performer over composer, and the black experience over conventional white sensibilities. Now it’s something people list on their Facebook profile to seem high-class and sophisticated. (Anyone who thinks rap music represents some kind of new degeneracy needs to listen more closely to blues classics such as Victoria Spivey’s “Dope Head Blues” and Charley Patton’s “Spoonful Blues”).
In the early 1980s, when prep and power dressing dominated the American landscape, a few Japanese designers were preparing for a revolution. In the West, many of our trends in literature, architecture, and fashion derive from the Regency era. We wear navy suits because, in the early 19th century, British men of means paired navy coats with cream-colored breeches. About a generation later, Regency blue gave way to Victorian black when Queen Victoria decided everyone should look somber. Nearly 200 years later, these norms remain. Most men today wear navy, black, grey, and white — following in the steps of those early-19th-century traditions — and pair navy coats with lighter colored trousers because of Beau Brummell.
For a select few, this all changed in 1983 when Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto debuted their now-legendary spring/ summer collections in Paris. Thoughtlessly dubbed the “beggar’s look” by critics, these so-called rags were quite calculated in their design. Their asymmetric, deconstructed, and artfully ripped clothes enshrouded their wearers in mystery. As Yves Saint Laurent noted, fashion in the early 1980s was all about color and lots of it. These Japanese artists, on the other hand, deliberately avoided vivid color and made heavy use of a monochromatic palette, from “strong and varied hues of black to the simplicity and crispness of shades of white.”
“Kawakubo’s and Yamotmo’s black was often an unassuming, harmonious shade, reminiscent of Japanese ink painting,” wrote the authors of Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion. “Their expressive use of a black palette also partook of the qualities celebrated in Jun'ichirō Tanizaki’s book In Praise of Shadows (1933), which finds in shadow the essence of the Japanese aesthetic and speaks of the Japanese skill with light and shade. The designers’ choice of color, unfettered by any Western paradigm, was perceptively singled out by The Washington Post as the distinguishing feature of their style, along with the purity of their aesthetic. The French newspaper Libération likened Kawakubo’s and Yamamoto’s creations to their intense black-and-white films of Kenji Mizoguchi, while French Vogue compared them to calligraphy scrolls, which symbolize a beauty devoid of color.“
On an island in the New York Harbor, a quick ferry ride from downtown Manhattan, you can spend a night in a tent while enjoying an unparalleled view of Lady Liberty. The experience is hosted by Collective Governors Island, one of the many glamping destinations popping up across America. Glamping, which is a portmanteau of glamour and camping, is about “roughing it,” but with the modern amenities of a luxury hotel — a real bed, plush furnishings, stocked minibars, massage tables, and attending stewards. Such experiences have been around since the early 20th-century with African wildlife safaris, but today’s glamping retreats offer something local and democratic.
The Yelp reviews for Collective Governors Island are nothing short of hilarious. The campground is described as a “soccer field” and “dirt-filled.” One reviewer complained that there aren’t enough planned activities aside from movie night and s'mores. Another says the island is too quiet. More than a few say that sleeping under the stars — no matter how romantic the idea — means you have to suffer under a blanket of heat and humidity. This is because, well, the Northern Hemisphere tilts towards the sun in the summertime, and sleeping in a tent means it’ll be hot. My favorite is the reviewer who complained there are bugs and wished there was a kiddie pool. The most sensible person wrote: “Some of these reviews are a bit ridiculous. I mean, it’s CAMPING after all.”
Then there are the critics on the other side of the aisle. Sportsmen, hikers, and outdoor purists often see glamping as a posh and phony version of the real thing. Why pretend you’re reconnecting with nature when these RRL-like set-ups are often better than your actual home? Glamping is frequently described as inauthentic, but that raises the question: what is the most authentic version of camping?