Pre-pandemic, the vast majority of our bike miles were strictly utilitarian: getting from home to the office and back in a small fleet of cargo bikes and rugged, studded-tire-clad winter beaters. The remaining miles were pleasure rides: going to the liquor store and back.
While we still occasionally fake-commute, COVID-19 has made most rides for fun, and made us rediscover the joy of going fast on minimalist vintage steel road bikes (Principle of Archaism). This year we're completing the look and going full-on Breaking Away (with the addition of a helmet and a 25% higher BMI):
1.De Marchi Classic Merino Shorts (Principle of Organic Materials)
While they're a tad long — even classic Italian brands are not immune to decades of shorts' expanding inseams — it's nothing our tailor can't adjust (and remove the branding while he's at it). The "Elastic Interface Endurance" pad adds comfort for the longer rides, even if you draft off a semi for a segment.
2.EGi Merino Wool Tank Top (Principle of Organic Materials)
Ever hear of EGi? Us either. We took a flier on this Italian-made tank and we're getting more. Slim-fitting yet stretchy, seamless, super comfy. Cheap. Runs one size small.
3.De Marchi Classic Leather Gloves (Principle of Organic Materials)
Almost a perfect late-'70s period match, top-notch Italian craftsmanship, and like the shorts, padding where you need it.
4.Puma Speedcat Sparco Suede Low-Top Sneakers
We've written extensively about the sneakerization of just about all footwear, but unfortunately road cycling shoes remain largely unaffected. So we've turned the Puma Speedcat into a cycling shoe, and so far, so good. They're light, have a low profile, and rigid sole for good pedaling power. Puma runs one size small. If you have any other strong suggestions please drop us a note.
Q: What do you think about Vuarnet sunglasses? Back in the day I skied with a pair of 002 Cateyes and no helmet. I've noticed they're on the scene again, but the rest of the Vuarnet collection is kicking off a Thermonuclear Toolbag Oakley vibe. Think pairing a tortoise shell Vuarnet 02 with Alps and Meters Alpine Winter Trousers and Anorak. Do you sanction the re-released 02? —Dan
These genuine vintage frames satisfy the MB principle of archaism, and will also save you 110 bucks. You'll need it if you decide to get into that Alps and Meters gear.
Thanks a lot for the tip on A&M, BTW. While the anorak ($695) is not up our alley for skiing — a hood/helmet combo has never worked for us — those alpine winter trousers ($725) look fantastic. Wool-blend herringbone with leather leg paneling are a great way to stand apart from the nylon and polyester-clad hoi polloi.
Getting into minimalist casual golfing lately. Find myself loving the game even more. Been using Driver, Hybrid, 5 iron, 8 iron, 50, 56, 60, and putter. What’s your set looking like these days? — Jack
A: Jack, depending on the size of your bag, with only 8 clubs they could each follow CDC social distancing guidelines. Very responsible!
Glad you're loving the game more than ever, but without a 3-iron how do you punch out from the woods? Or keep something beneath branches? We'd be lost without it.
Anyhow, to answer your question, here's what's in the bag, with occasional tasting notes:
Driver: Cleveland Classic 8.5°
Before Cleveland temporarily stopped making drivers in 2014, their masterpiece was the Cleveland Classic, the closest titanium has ever come to persimmon. You can still track this down on eBay.
3-wood: Titleist 906F2 15°
3-PW: Mizuno MP-18
We're Mizuno forged blade connoisseurs and this is the best set they've ever created. Almost too beautiful to actually use. Now that they're onto the not-as-good MP-20s, you can find them for ~$600.
52, 56, 60: Titleist Vokey Spin Milled
Putter: Ping Anser 3
Every year a bunch of goofy putters appear on the market, get Golf Digest gold listed, and disappear about as fast. We just stick with an icon, understanding that there is no $300 fix for pulls, pushes, the yips, and leaving anything low.
Q: I recently injured my left knee and need to use a cane. The insurance company supplied an ugly blue aluminum number that looks like it came from a drug store. Since it seems that I will need a cane for some time to come, I am thinking of trying to find a plain aluminum one or getting a nice wood cane. What do you think? —P.T.
A: P.T., if you've read our recent post about peacoats and the wisdom of following MB Principles of Anglophilia, Archaism, and Organic Materials, isn't the answer obvious? You need a vintage wooden cane from England.
More specifically, you need a Howell cane. According to cane aficionado Canequest, the brand was founded by John Howell in London in 1832, and his canes were the shit with it mid-19th century Londoners suffering from knee injuries like yours.
Q: I recently bought a peacoat - dark navy, well fitted, none of those goofy epaulettes or anything like that. I say it's a timeless classic but my girlfriend says they're out of style. Who's right? —Peter
A: Peter your GF is so spectacularly wrong we're gravely concerned about any sartorial advice you may have taken from her.
Would Tom Ford be asking $4,950 for his peacoat take if he thought they were out of style?
We're big fans too, because the garment adheres to at least 3 key MB principles:
1. Principle of Anglophilia
It originated in the British Royal Navy.
2. Principle of Archaism
It's been a standard part of the United States Navy uniform since 1881.
3. Principle of Organic Materials
The definitive Naval Clothing Factory peacoat is 100% wool, with corduroy-lined pockets (cotton).
You nailed a few of our peacoat requirements (i.e. navy, flair-less, slim fit), and hopefully our most important one: a Three Days of the Condor Collar. You need to be able to stand it up tall like Redford.
Style blog consensus favors the Billy Reid "Bond" version ($695; pictured upper left), but the anemic collar is in desperate need of growth hormone, and is a disqualifying feature. For others who might be in the peacoat market, first check the local military surplus, and if you're flush consider this gorgeous Maison Margiela option.
Q: I used to follow you guys religiously until the content dropped off a few years back. I assumed it was due to you solving all the world's problems and too many MB cocktails. Glad to see that is over.
Anyhow, now that's it's winter: camel overcoats. What's your take? — Josh
A: Josh, glad to have you back.
Once the first snowflake flies our outerwear is almost exclusively filled with goose feathers, yet we do admire the traditional camel overcoat because it adheres to some core MB principles:
Q: We are supposed to be excited about Shinola watches but nearly all models run over the MB 40mm principle. Is it then, shit?
A: Shinola has 127 watches for sale on their site and 29 are at the MB-approved 40mm case size or smaller. Given the dramatic watch size inflation of the past decade — thanks Arnold Schwarzenegger — Shinola's 23% stake in ≤ 40mm watches is something Janet Yellen would admire.
Where Shinola deserves to get labeled as shit is in its value. The cheapest watch they sell is the $500 36mm Runwell. Anyone who would pay $500 (at the minimum) for a quartz watch constructed primarily of Chinese parts (but assembled in Detroit!) doesn't know his ass from his elbow, or even from a hole in the ground.
(We've said this before, but not since 2010: A quartz movement vs. a mechanical movement is the equivalent of motorboats vs. sailboats, gas fireplaces vs. wood fireplaces, or fake breasts vs. real breasts. Naturally, the latter is always better.)
So, AD — and anyone else out there in the market for a new timepiece — save yourself $175 and wrap this 36mm Ollech & Wajs mechanical, military-style watch around your wrist. It's high-quality Swiss-made gear that will likely last your lifetime, and shines the floor with any watch from Shinola.
We get a lot of "what should I wear?" questions at Ask the MB, so we thought than on occasion, when we're having an occasion, we'd share what we wear. Articles and accessories will reflect core MB tenets like archaism, Anglophilia, artful dishevelment, and a few others that don't start with the letter A.
The first occasion: A singles match at the club during Wimbledon.
For any tennis played during this fortnight we always channel two of our all-time favorites, Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, and split the difference where we can. We also strictly follow the Club's hopelessly vague and wonderfully antiquated "almost entirely white" rule.
1. Shorts. While ATP players' shorts have not yet reached the slacks-like length of the NBA and NCAAB, they're still far too long for our taste. We want zero restriction as we go wide to reach for our opponent's cross-court volley, and tanned thighs nicely accompany a down-the-line winner in response. 4" max inseam here, and cotton of course (principle of organic materials). So we're wearing these Sergio Tacchinis (the McEnroe brand) from a terrific UK eBay shop called honourabletype. Bookmark this one. $43.69.
2. Shirt. McEnroe got the shorts, so naturally Borg gets the shirt. What else but Borg's iconic Fila striped polo with oversize collar and 4-snap placket? $41.99.
3. Shoes We could take the court with the left foot wearing a Borg Diadora and the right foot in a McEnroe Nike, but instead we're opting for the classic style, relative obscurity, and archaism of Pantofola d'Oro low-tops in white. Launched in Ascoli Piceno, Italy in 1886, these are made for the street but hold up great on the court, and no one else wears them. $210.00.
Q: So, spring and summer are both in the air. And that means sunny days and sunglasses. Randolph Engineering hasn't had a lot of options as of late... do you have any suggestions for other, MB-approved shades? —Will
A: With sunglasses, we prefer to gaze backwards, into the past. A few recommendations:
Allyn Scura We always start at Allyn Scura and usually find something old, obscure, and interesting, like these deadstock Giorgio Sant'Angelos in brown tortoise. Yes, there is a high degree of difficulty here. But we can also imagine anyone from Kurt Cobain to Cary Grant looking good in these — they're versatile. So if you think you have what it takes, here's a little more info. Made in NYC in the '80s, they were designed by Mr. Sant'Angelo, born a nobleman in Florence Italy and, according to Wikipedia, an influencer to John Galliano and Marc Jacobs. At just 49 bucks the style/dollar ratio is higher than AMZN's P/E ratio. (WARNING: Pairing these with either Springtime in Italy or Roman Holiday will result in you actually becoming an Italian nobleman.)
Magnificent Bastard Finally, you can't ask us about sunglasses and not expect us to mention the Girard 3700s, as worn by Bradley Cooper in American Hustle. We're down to two pairs in our shop, and for all we know, they may be the last two mint-condition deadstock pairs left in the universe. Or maybe not. But do you really want to take that chance?
Once Google Glass hit the streets, we knew it was only a matter of time before monocles experienced a resurgence. It's Newton's Third Law of Fashion: For every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction.
So when some people start wearing computers on their faces, others will move in the opposite direction, donning crippled glasses. Inevitably, the monocle is having a moment. According to the New York Times, the one-lensed eyepiece is a certified "mini-trend."
Is this particular fashion moment one you should take part in? On the one hand, the monocle is archaic, Anglophilic, and even when providing vision correction, characterized by a senseless lack of utility. On the other hand, it's an extreme affectation, a facial prop for men who don't think bow ties are fussy enough.
To help clarify where we ultimately come down on the issue, we've created a new decider.
Where are all the thirsty plutocrats? Six months ago, the Dalmore issued the Paterson Collection — twelve bottles of single malt Scotch whisky crafted by Master Distiller Richard Paterson and packaged in crystal decanters with sterling silver collars. The price, as set by British retailer Harrod's: $1.6 million, or roughly $5,695 per shot.
Liquid gold? Hardly. These whiskies are actually about about 4.5 times more expensive per ounce than Glenn Beck's favorite hedge against communism. And about 2 times more expensive per ounce than cocaine.
For $1.6 million, we reckon you could buy at least twelve of Pulaski's finest taverns. But think how hard it would be to wrap and ship Jen’s Knaughty Pine or Woz's Polish Pickle to your loved ones?
The Paterson Collection makes for a much more convenient Christmas gift. Or at least it would if Harrod's realized who the target market for a $1.6 million twelve-pack is. Amazingly, the retailer insists that "this product cannot be purchased online." If you want it, you've got to pick it up in person or at least talk to someone on the phone.
Don't get us wrong — we love that kind of archaic 20th century thinking. We also love that the Paterson Collection is so top-shelf it comes in its own rosewood wardrobe.
But we're pretty sure the demographic for $1.6 million hangovers consists almost entirely of 23-year-old Internet broguls. I.E., people who've never seen a shopping cart outside of an iPhone app. Once the Paterson Collection can be ordered with a single click, it will sell faster than a thousand shares of Twitter on its IPO.
Q: The ascot....I am wearing it. It does have a HDD (High Degree of Difficulty —Ed.) but a real MB can pull it off. Your thoughts on this? —Jason
A: The ascot meets at least four core MB principles:
1. Anglophilia. They were first introduced in England. 2. Archaism. In the late 19th century. 3. Exclusivity. It's nearly impossible to find a good one. 4. Senseless Lack of Utility. They are even more useless than a necktie (i.e. they're too short to double as a belt or decent tourniquet in a pinch).
In other words, we love them.
But can you really pull it off? To answer that question we've created an ascot-wearing "decider" flowchart below to help guide you.
A: In the June 2011 GQ creative director Jim Moore stops just short of endorsing them but recognizes their popularity saying they're "a big trend this summer," and that they're best "anytime you'd wear your flip-flops." [page 58]
Even though they were invented in the 14th century (principle of archaism), and are usually made of canvas and rope (principle of organic materials), for us they fall into the footwear no-mans land between a shoe and a sandal, currently occupied by MB bête noires Sanuks and Crocs.
However, if your preferred pedicurist is booked — June is Pedicure Awareness Month, BTW — we say go for it, as long as they're a. less than 20 bucks, and b. gingham.
A: Well, it's pretty magnificent to be heir to the throne of the fading empire that gave us the Magna Carta and golf, and wearing hats like the one Prince William was wearing this weekend is part of the job description.
As for anyone else? William's bearskin hat is certainly characterized by a senseless lack of utility, and scores high on archaism, organic materials, and Anglophilia as well. But its primary historical purpose — to make a soldier look bigger and more imposing in battle — violates the principle of understatement and essentially establishes the garment as elevator shoes for your head.
As you allude to, the standard hat of the British Foot Gaurds is made out of an entire bearskin. It weighs 1.5 lbs. and, most consequentially, stands 18.5 inches high. Getting in and out of limos and taxis would be a huge hassle while wearing one of these things, so until horseback reemerges as the predominant form of travel, we say "pass."
3 oz rye whiskey
1 oz sweet vermouth, preferably Dolin
3 dashes Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel-Aged bitters
Stir over ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a pearl onion.