Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Peacock in San Francisco

Mr. Aaron Britt is a journalist peacock that favors classic menswear. He grew up in Auburn, California, and has lived on both coasts. Aaron, and his wife, currently reside in the Mission District of San Francisco. He’s currently an editor and contributor at Dwell Magazine, and writes a San Francisco Chronicle column called “The Pocket Square.” This gentleman peacock always wanted to be a writer, and of course dreamed of being a novelist. He describes his job as a critic/essayist/explainer and strives to be a “public intellectual.” On the East Coast, Aaron worked as a reporter and researcher for William Safire, who edits the New York Times Magazine’s “On Language” column. Aaron has honed his sartorial style through his experiences and travels.

Mr. Peacock: What are you wearing?
Shirt: Red and white gingham from Fred Perry
Jacket: Theory
Tie: A second hand navy tie I picked for two bucks
Pocket square: Light blue and white cotton gingham from Cable Car Clothiers.

Pants: Oliver Spencer navy pants—part of a suit
Belt: Brown leather American Eagle. It's lasted for something like eight years now.

Shoes: Oxfords by Façonnable
Socks: Navy men's socks by Hue, with a very subtle flower pattern

Above left to right: Fred Perry's classic take on the Harrington Jacket—including the plaid lining, click here for more information; Mr. Peacock likes this blue and white checked limited edition Fred Perry Harrington Jacket, click here.

MP: How would you describe your own style?
AB: A bit buttoned-up and classically American. I like to dress up, but I also adore sportswear. I don't mean Nike running shorts (though those can be nice) but more like polo shirts, plimsoll shoes, Harrington jackets. More the sporting life than actual sports gear.

Above: Topman has a great selection of inexpensive plimsolls, click here.

MP: How old were you when you realized you were a peacock?
AB: I remember in middle school having a moment of disgust looking at my friends, thinking they all looked the same. I really had no justification for looking down on them because I looked just the same—Quicksilver t-shirts, jeans and a pair of Airwalks. I may have owned a pair of Dockers or something which I wore, but then I realized I would be happy doing something a bit different. I started wearing a beret and saddle shoes in high school.

MP: Who or what has influenced your style?
AB: Mods and Brit Pop. I like those classic British brands like Ben Sherman and Fred Perry. In high school and college I loved Blur (above photo) and Pulp and all those bands, so I thought that kind of indie/punk British style was cool.

MP: Who is your ultimate style icon?
AB: Marcello Mastroianni (see photo below). In high school, I would rent movies from the Auburn Public Library; mostly the films distributed by Janus Films, which included many Italian films by Fellini, de Sica, Antonioni. Marcello looked so amazing, and I think that was one of the first times I really coveted the way a man looked. None of the men I grew up around had style like that.

MP: What's your favorite item in your wardrobe?
AB: A Donegal Tweed Blazer. My wife’s family is close friends with another family, whose the father of which passed away. I didn't know him terribly well, but I'd always admired him. He'd been a diplomat, and at one time the mayor of Portland, Maine. After he passed away, his wife invited me and his daughter’s boyfriends to take look through his wardrobe and take anything we liked. I took the Donegal Tweed Blazer, which John wore at Oxford in the late 60s. It fits very well. I also took a couple of ties, which I confess that I've kept but never worn.

MP: Do you have a particular item of clothing you're obsessed with?
AB: Of course pocket squares, and lately bow ties. By the way, Sui Generis has a great selection of vintage bow ties.

Above: If you're in San Francisco, stop by Sui Generis on Market Street. They have a brilliant assortment of second hand menswear and accessories—including bow ties.

MP: Do you fold or casually drape your pocket squares?
AB: It depends on the material of the pocket square and the depth of the pocket. Cotton pocket squares I usually fold, linen and other materials I’ll usually gather and push into the pocket.

MP: Do you have a favorite menswear designer or brand?
AB: Grenson shoes. I have a pair of Grenson suede bucks and the craftsmanship is superb. I also love Fred Perry, going back to my sportswear/mod fascination. I'd always adored Ben Sherman, but none of those shirts fit me very well. Fred Perry is a much better fit. I guess Ben Sherman is for mods who don't like cake, and Fred Perry is for mods who do.

Above: Grenson Shoes are a favorite of Aaron Britt. These shoes are from the Rushden Range, a new collection from Grenson, which are around half the price of the original Rose Collection.

MP: What would be your dream purchase right now?
AB: I could really use a pair of slim gray wool trousers.

MP: Any menswear trends you adore? or abhor?
AB: I like the revival of American work wear clothing. I think it's interesting not just from an aesthetic standpoint, but because of what it aspires to. It's about work, of course, but not the bundling of assets and managing of interest rates. This is gear for building a sailboat or working at a paper mill. I think we have this collective yen for work that results in a physical product, and this brand of menswear embodies that.

Above left to right: Rogue's Gallery has some classic American courdoroy shirts on sale right now for only $50, click here; a work wear inspired natural indigo jacket, by Gilded Age, more information here.

AB: I don't have anything from brands like Rogue's Gallery or Gilded Age who do that sort of stuff, but I found a great vintage MacGregor plaid wool jacket at a vintage shop in Sacramento called Ed's Threads that is an original instance of that style. My mother gave it to me for Christmas and commented it was like something her father would have worn, but with a pack of Kent cigarettes in the breast pocket.

MP: Abhor?
AB: I don't like it when men wear their shirts untucked with a blazer. And gentlemen, when you’re standing—please button your jacket and stand up straight.

MP: How do men dress right now in San Francisco?
AB: By and large, many men dress well, and the hipster kids look great too. In the financial district you’ll see many shabby beige blazers, but you’ll also see some beautifully tailored navy suits and well dressed men.

MP: Tote bag, messenger bag or brief case?
AB: I use a Hlaska Evergreen briefcase (see photo below)—it’s a bit luxurious, but very functional.

MP: Can you share any sartorial disasters?
AB: Last April, I was giving a lecture at the Denver Art Museum on the phrase “good design” as part of their Design Council Spring Lecture Series. I wore a recently purchased Oliver Spencer navy suit. As I was speaking, I saw that two buttons had fallen off my new jacket. It distracted me for a moment, however, the audience didn’t seem to notice. I recovered them once I'd finished my talk.

Mr. Peacock urges you to check out Aaron Britt’s current column of The Pocket Square in the San Francisco Chronicle. He focuses on vintage clothing and includes useful second hand shopping tips, you can read it here, and watch the video here. Be sure to also take a peek at this busy journalist's blog (The Pocket Square), his website, and his postings on the Dwell blog. This dapper gentleman peacock also twitters here. Thanks Aaron!


ayem8y said...

I love shopping for vintage clothing it’s something about the quality, construction, and color palate from past eras, oh and the prices I just love the prices. I hate to say this but fashion is bad ecology. It makes me hate what I’m wearing and buy things I don’t need but does that stop me? Nope. I read somewhere that if you took all of the clothing in secondhand stores it would clothe the world. Wouldn’t that be drab? It’s scary to think what items will make it to the vintage stores of the future so much of today’s fashion is so shoddy and disposable.

Mr. Peacock said...

Ahoy Mean Dirty Pirate...
You are so right about
the current state of apparel—
everything is almost disposable.
Clothing today is not meant to last.
So many second hand shops
today are glutted with
Old Navy and other
inexpensive brands.

I like vintage too, but
it's getting harder and
harder to find really
wonderful vintage pieces.

They're using recycled denim
as building insulation...
so maybe someone will figure
out how to reuse, in an eco-friendly manner,
all of the ugly throw-away clothing!

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