Magnificent Bastard

Friday, October 31, 2014

belts

Magnificent Birthdays: Mahatma Gandhi

Magnificent Birthdays: Mahatma Gandhi

As a young, London-trained barrister, Mahatma Gandhi wore traditional business attire and pulled it off with aplomb. But it wasn't until he shed his suit and tie in favor of simple hand-spun sheet of locally produced cloth — aka khadi — that he emerged as a world-changing force. While rulers and revolutionaries alike typically signal their power and/or aspirations to power through crowns, brocade, epaulettes, sashes, and other ostensibly dazzling sartorial semaphores, Gandhi went in the complete opposite direction. His entire wardrobe appeared to consist of a bedsheet.

But if clothes make the man, it's also true, though much rarer, that the man can sometimes make the clothes. Gandhi donned a simple sheet and established himself as an icon of understated but indomitable will. His message was so true, and his convictions so strong, that he didn't need to clothe them in anything more elaborate than plain white cloth.

Now let us be clear here. We're not saying everyone — or really even anyone — should dress like Gandhi. If we said that, we'd never sell another belt or tie. But talk about artful dishevelment! Talk about not trying too hard! While Gandhi's wardrobe lacked variety, it had style to spare. And that's why, today, on Gandhi's birthday, we are breaking out the Bulleit and the Laphroaig and toasting the father of an independent India — and the father of business casual. Before Hef went to work in a bathrobe, before Steve Jobs prowled the hallways of Atari in bare feet, before Mark Zuckerberg taught mankind to share everything in a hoodie, there was Gandhi, showing the world you don't always need a power tie to be powerful. Our glasses are raised in his honor.

Adam Smith Cashmere Belt on Sale — Thank the Trivago Guy

Adam Smith Belt in Chocolate Sandwich Cookie (+ Trivago Guy) via Magnificent Bastard, $50.00
Adam Smith Belt in Chocolate Sandwich Cookie (+ Trivago Guy) via Magnificent Bastard. $50.00.

Sometime last year, the data scientists at Trivago figured out a simple metric for identifying potential customers: If you can't afford a belt, you probably are in the market for a good deal on a hotel room. Thus, an advertising campaign was born. In a commercial that started airing last year, a pitchman who would ultimately become known as Trivago Guy began captivating television viewers. Bedraggled, bleary-eyed, and, to connect with the target audience, beltless, Trivago Guy looks like he has spent the last 20 years draining hotel room mini-bars dry while leaving the pillows untouched. And yet who can deny the easygoing but absolute assurance he projects when explaining what to look for in an online hotel reservation service?

#trivagoGuy, in short, was a hit. But now that he has apparently captured the unshaven-and-beltless traveler demographic, Trivago has decided to give him a makeover. Share a photo of what he should look like on social media, and you can win a five-day trip to Berlin.

In the old days, of course, only new CEOs were allowed to wreck winning ad campaigns. Now, thanks to the democritization of media, we all can.

But the truth is Trivago Guy does provide an instructive lesson in when artful dishevelment stops being artful and crosses over into Stage I Homelessness. His rumpled hair? Fine as is. His three-day stubble? Also okay. His shirt? Incorrectly disheveled. He should switch from full tuck to semi-tuck. And most importantly, as London mayor Boris Johnson showed us in 2009, Trivago should indeed put on a belt.

We think our Adam Smith Cashmere belt in Chocolate Sandwich Cookie is exactly what Trivago Guy needs to perfect his look. And to emphasize this fact, we're having a sale, from now through August 30, or until we run out of belts, whichever comes first. Regular price $90. Sale price $50, shipping included. We're sure Trivago Guy himself would approve — he knows a deal when he sees one.

Introducing the Secret Agent Belt

Secret Agent Belt via Magnificent Bastard, $30.07
Secret Agent Belt via Magnificent Bastard. $30.07.

When you're chasing extremely fit and agile villains up scaffolding in the midst of a chaotic but scenic construction site in the Bahamas, do you really care what time it is? Or is it more important that your belt remains secure? We're not secret agents ourselves, but we know a guy at The Sardine Can who swears he is — or was, until he learned a little too much about Area 153. (Nope, we'd never heard of it either, and of course that makes sense. It's three times more top-secret than Area 51.)

Anyway, Spiro — probably an alias — assures us that a secure, durable, and dashing belt would be an incredibly useful item for a genuine secret agent. So rather than give the world one more lookalike watch strap, that's what we've created. Based on the iconic color scheme of the watch band James Bond wore in Goldfinger, we present the Secret Agent Belt. Country of origin: China. Price: $30.07. Ships concealed in a handsome semi-automatic box, and available in our shop now.

Society's best defense against bad men wearing bad belts are good men wearing unusually stylish belts. Will you answer the call of duty?

Ask the MB: Reversible Belts

W.KLEINBERG Ostrich/Croc Reversible Belt, Navy/Brown via Bergdorf Goodman, $374.00
W.KLEINBERG Ostrich/Croc Reversible Belt, Navy/Brown via Bergdorf Goodman. $374.00.

Q: Wondering what you think about reversible belts like this croc/ostrich one — toolbag gimmick or useful wardrobe expansion technique? Also, that buckle looks strangely familiar.
—Jim

A: At first glance, a belt that efficiently moonlights as another belt might seem to violate the principle of senseless lack of utility. In this case, though, the utility manifests itself in the realm of style. That is to say, a reversible belt doesn't make any claim to hold up your pants better, or provide some other practical benefit. It just multiplies the possibilities of looking magnificent. And that's the kind of utility we can embrace. In fact, we have plans to someday release a reversible belt ourselves.

Nonetheless, while we conceptually endorse reversible belts, there's still the matter of execution. Regarding the belt you've got your eye on, we love the Caiman crocodile side. But we think the full-quill ostrich side should probably bury its head in the sand. In other words, we'd approach this one as a strictly one-sided belt if we were to incorporate it into our wardrobe.

Finally, yes, that buckle does look familiar. Same one we use on our cashmere belts. Good eye!

Buckle Up. The Unicorn Belt is Here.

Unicorn Belt via Magnificent Bastard, $150.00
Unicorn Belt via Magnificent Bastard. $150.00.

Unicorns are typically presented as fancy, flouncy creatures, like show ponies in drag. As it turns out, that's not true at all.

How do we know? Let's just say that on an elk hunting trip in Jackson Hole last year, we got the surprise of our lives.

Hypothetical question #1: Is it wrong to turn the most fantastic specimen the universe has ever produced into luxury menswear?

Hypothetical question #2: When a weaponized ungulate is bearing down on you at 60 MPH, does instinct sometimes take over?

Okay, truth is, these questions aren't so hypothetical. One moment, we were placidly contemplating the merits of two-button suits. The next, Satan's hell-horses were upon us. Racing toward us at impossible speeds. Snorting like dragons with hay fever. Suddenly, it was the age-old story: Man vs. beast. Them or us.

Everything happened too fast for photos, but after hours of hypnosis, and in collaboration with acclaimed wilderness artist Darrell Bush, we have re-created the scene in oil and canvas.

Also, we have some belts for sale. A limited edition series of 150. The roller on the brass buckle: genuine horn. The strap: genuine hide. The raw materials were shipped to New York City, where a fancy leather goods manufacturer produced the finished product you see here.

These belts aren't just belts. They're beautiful works of art that you could hang on the wall over your sofa.

Or, if you're stylish and brave, wear them as belts. Why "brave"? Well, as the postcard we're including with your purchase explains, we've been undergoing some odd effects when we wear these belts. The most significant: When we belch, it sounds like a dainty wind chime. Probably all in our heads, but considered yourself notified.

As for the wall over sofa, we've got that covered too. Along with the original oil painting we commissioned from Darrell Bush, we've also ordered a limited-edition run of 100 canvas giclée prints. These are signed and numbered by Darrell, and come with a certificate of authenticity. A less exclusive but still stunning portrait of this timeless hunting scene is available on archival paper, too.

Lightning rarely strikes twice. So while it's certainly possible we may run into a pack of angry unicorns a second time, we have to believe the chances of a Series #2 belt are low. If you want to be part of Series #1, act now.

WARNING: Onesie Virus on Verge of Turning into Epidemic

Do you want a piece of me, Tinky Winky?
Do you want a piece of me, Tinky Winky?

Like flu doctors at the Center for Disease Control, we have been grimly monitoring worldwide onesie activity for the past year, noting national baselines, tracking geographic spreads, and conducting constant lab work to test for resistance, etc. (No animals are harmed during these experiments.)

In the past, only infants and very old people in assisted-living facilities succumbed to onesies, but a new and extremely virulent strain has surfaced in recent years. So far, outbreaks have mostly been limited to furries, Norwegians, and the occasional celebrity, but field reports from Sochi last week have us worried. Commenting in the New York Times, Olympic bobsledder Cory Butner warned, "I guarantee this is going to catch on in the States. In three months, they'll be all over the States."

As the Times story graphically documents, even Olympic-caliber athletes in prime health are starting to adopt this deadly Norwegian fashion trend and deliberately making themselves look like frumpy Teletubbies.

Our research reveals to us that the best way to inoculate yourself from the coming epidemic is to simply wear a belt. Perform this one basic task of human adult grooming every day, and your body will generate enough antibodies to naturally resist the onesies virus.

We recommend our Adam Smith Cashmere belt — but any belt will do. Don't wait until it's too late. No one is 100 percent immune if they don't take proper precautions.

Ask the MB: You're Selling Skinny Ties!

Ask the MB: You're Selling Skinny Ties!

Q: Before you went Eat, Pray, Love you used to rail against the skinny tie. Like RAIL against it. Now you've come back and opened a store that sells only skinny ties. Do you find this at all ironic?
—Andrew

A: Your note made us smile gently. Yes, partially because we've been project-vomiting gratitude out of our heart-holes ever since we returned from our extended Eat, Pray, Love sabbatical. But also because we took your conclusions about our store as strong evidence that you've been drinking Magnificent Bastards in unrestrained fashion.

We suppose if you strapped our Adam Smith cashmere belts around your neck (pictured in Chocolate Sandwich Cookie), they might qualify as skinny ties. We don't advise that.

Meanwhile, Joseph Kandell, Dan Feinbaum, and Steve Price used to be skinny ties. But they're no more skinny ties now than Mike Ditka's a football coach or Jon Gosselin's a TV star. They've moved on and have entirely new jobs. Like millions of folks in a rapidly shifting economy, they've made a strategic career pivot, acquired new skills and new training, updated their LinkedIn profiles, and now make their living as belts.

Finally, there are our actual ties. All of them are exactly 3 1/8 inches wide at their widest point. Perfect now, perfect forever. Only a Jezebel columnist determined to shift body size norms would think to call that skinny. Or possibly someone who has just enjoyed a half dozen or so MBs.

Also: We still don't like skinny ties. But we thought of a compassionate way to eradicate them from America. Stay tuned for more on this soon.

Bubba Watson's Masters Uniform Was for Charity

Bubba Watson's Masters Uniform Was for Charity
Early last year we wondered if Bubba Watson was a toolbag with MB tendencies or vice versa.

Now we're pretty sure it's the latter.

This season Watson combined a pink head with his pink-shafted Ping G20 driver to support Breast Cancer Awareness (Ping donates $300 for every 300 yard drive Watson hits), and at the Masters he just won he wore the same white-on-white outfit for four days to raise money for Fresh Start, a California charity that provides cosmetic reconstructive surgery for children with physical defects.

Now Watson clothing sponsor Travis Mathew is selling a $200 white polo and belt package with 100% of the proceeds going to Fresh Start. If they sell out, an additional $50,000 will be donated to the California-based cancer research center City of Hope.

While both the polo and belt badly violate the MB principle of legible clothing, we're in, and the Pulaski Goodwill soon be receiving a NWT Travis Mathew polo shirt and belt.

Earlier: Top 5 Ways to Make the Green Jacket Look Even Worse

Top 5 Ways to Tighten Your Belt

Top 5 Ways to Tighten Your Belt
Americans have been sitting on their wallets as of late -- so much so that U.S. households have cut their debt burden to the lowest point since 2004. If no one's living above their means, though, the economy stagnates. If you must tighten your belt, we say make sure the belt your tightening is painstakingly crafted from premium materials and, ideally, expensive enough to give the average Groupon customer a nosebleed. Below we present five recent favorites, arranged according to how patriotically they're priced.
Deadstock Swedish Army Belt
$75
Horween x Leffot Elston Belt
$125
Cause and Effect Belt by Billy Moore
$150
Tender Co. S Buckle Oak Bark Leather Belt
$245
Basil Rucuk Minimal Belt
$368
Maison Martin Margiela O Artisanal Wooden Cummerbund Belt
$2020
(Taking this concept a few steps too far? Yes.)

Ask the MB: Paul Smith Belt

Ask the MB: Paul Smith Belt
Q: I'm currently the proud owner of a Paul Smith naked lady belt. Since last time I've worn it I've dropped 2 inches around my waist. As a result, I need to put it on the smallest hole which goes against perfect prong placement. With a business meeting on Friday should bite the bullet and wear it or purchase a new one? At this point J.Crew and Banana Republic are the only options for last minute shopping.
--Chris


A: Chris, that's an excellent belt on many counts. We admire your taste, your commitment to perfect prong placement, and your willingness to risk sexual harassment counseling by wearing an accessory with a naked lady on it to a business meeting.

But don't wear it on Friday. You'll leave a mark in the wrong place on the strap. Go with this J. Crew plaque belt as a surrogate. If you don't like it enough to keep, it's a no-hassle return.

As for retrofitting the PS belt to your new waistline, it's going to be a complicated and somewhat expensive operation but totally worth doing, like Matthew McConaughey's hair restoration. First, you'll need to take it to a trusted cobbler for the serious reconstructive surgery -- i.e., taking the extra length off the buckle side and cutting a new prong opening. Then we recommend you take it to a trusted tailor to recreate the signature Paul Smith stitching.

EARLIER: Kenton Sorenson belts and perfect prong placement.

Ask the MB: Gray Shoes With Belt to Match?

Son, please don't tell us you bought these
Son, please don't tell us you bought these
Q: I've just bought a pair of grey Kenneth Cole leather oxford shoes. I intend to wear them with long-sleeved shirts in the office. Should I wear a grey leather belt too?
--Mark


A: First, we hope those Kenneth Cole oxfords plot on the proper portion of our shoe pointiness chart. (We're afraid for you, Mark!)

Second, we've never been fans of strict adherence to the belt-must-match-shoes rules handed down by previous generations of MBs, and the gray-on-gray you're wondering about sounds a little too Garanimalistic for our taste. You've essentially opened up the accessory playbook by wearing a pair of gray shoes, which is the footwear equivalent of denim. So while black and brown belts will both work, feel confident in pairing them with just about anything.

MB Recommends: Kenton Sorenson Leather Belts

Kenton Sorenson Vegetable Tanned Leather Belt via Context Clothing, $130.00
Kenton Sorenson Vegetable Tanned Leather Belt via Context Clothing. $130.00.
If you're in the market for an artfully disheveled, wear-it-with-denim belt, we highly recommend Kenton Sorenson's brass roll-buckle and distressed brass buckle options. Kenton has tapped into his Scandinavian roots and designed minimalistic belts cut from hearty 10 oz. leather, then hand sewn by his wife and daughter in his Cottage Grove, Wisconsin home studio, just 150 miles south of Pulaski. They're delivered by horseback and sold exclusively at another small business to make Wisconsin proud: Context Clothing on King St. in Madison, just a stone's throw from the capitol.

If you're like us and obsessed by perfect prong placement -- it should always be inserted into the third hole and never change -- there's no mass-production 28/30/32/34/36/38 guesswork or compromise; each belt is punched to order.

Ask the MB: Belt With Suit

Ask the MB: Belt With Suit
Q: What does MB have to say about wearing a suit without a belt? Assuming one has the physique to pull it off, how age- and office-appropriate is it? I'm 49 and in better shape than men half my age. And, I work in a conservative office environment. My intuition tells me 'no way' but I'm looking for one small thing to set me apart from the rest of the suits. Thanks for a useful and witty website.
--Dino


A: There is no rule that says you have to wear a belt with a suit, even in a conservative office environment. If your pants are hook-and-bar (top) a belt is wrong; if they're a traditional button closure (bottom) beltless still works great.

To set yourself apart from the rest of the suits, try a different suit. (One of our staffers is developing one that will be ready for fall.)

Seth MacFarlane Needs a Different Belt

Seth MacFarlane Needs a Different Belt
We love Seth MacFarlane. A lot. But there are a couple of big problems with his latest Hulu ad, besides a happy alien popping out of his stomach:

1.) A shiny, dress-up belt with jeans. As we've said before, go matte with denim; and

2.) Choose a belt that's a minimum 66.7% the width of the loop.

Ask the MB: White Leather Belt

Ask the MB: White Leather Belt
Q: Does the MB have a white leather belt in his quiver? I have noticed a trend in fashion to don the WLB with certain styles or retro. Your take?
--Stephen


A: Yessir, an MB has one of these arrows in his closet, and it's especially appropriate on the golf course/retro. It's not the easiest to pull off, but if there's doubt just think of Johnny Miller in 1976 on his way to a British Open title.

Ask the MB -- Belts with Jeans

Ask the MB -- Belts with Jeans
Q: What is a good belt to wear with jeans now that we are heading into the summer season? Cotton with D-Rings? Or keep it classic with leather? I am not a big fan enormous belt buckles, but if you were to ever put into the one displayed in the first banner I may reconsider.
--Adonis


A: Cotton D-rings are a good choice (and not just in summer) and so is leather. Those are a "pick 'em" depending on what's on top and how you're wanting to pull an outfit together. The one golden rule with belts and jeans is to choose matte instead of gloss. For example, we can't imagine an MB wearing this black Prada belt with denim, but we'd admire a fella if he was wearing something more along the lines of this John Varvatos model.

POURCAST

BETA

Sazerac

  • 3 shots rye whiskey (or to taste)
  • 1 sugar cube
  • Peychaud's Bitters
  • quarter shot of Absinthe
  • lemon twist

Soak the sugar cube with the bitters and place in the bottom of a highball glass. Mash with the back of a spoon (or muddler, which we hope has not been used to make a Mojito), add the rye whiskey and fill the glass with ice. Stir for about 30 seconds and then strain into another lowball glass that has been rinsed with Absinthe and filled about halfway with ice. Garnish with a lemon twist.


In-Depth Sazerac Coverage:

Ask the MB: Spring Cocktail Guide

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