Sunday, April 29, 2012

Inman Park, Atlanta

Spring means festivals throughout The South and one of our favorites is the Inman Park Festival in Atlanta. For background I would suggest  reading the write up on the history of Inman Park on their Neighborhood Association site. The festival takes place every year on the last full weekend of April.  It consists of a tour of homes, a large and colorful parade, the market (consisting of over 250 vendors and artists) and live music all weekend.  If you happen to be in the Atlanta area for a visit, the neighborhood is well worth visiting.  Just park and take a stroll along the tree-lined streets and you'll almost forget you're just a stone's throw east of downtown Atlanta.  Here are some views of this year's festival and some of the homes.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Summer means visors!

In The South we love our visors. I'm don't really think it's a uniquely southern thing, but I do notice them a lot more down here.  Perhaps it's because our golf season is so much longer than in other parts of the country. I was in the market for a few new visors for the summer and was, of course, looking for a product made in the USA. 

Quick aside... I was given a visor that I thought was quite cool, and wore it to an event this morning with my family. My wife, being ever observant and never shy about calling BS on me, happened to read the label when I took it off after walking indoors.  "Made in Bangladesh" right there in black and white.  She was shocked that I would even wear it.  She's right (as always) ;-)

So, now that I'm home I went on a quest for visors that are made in the USA (preferably in The South).  I checked out State Traditions first since I have been looking at their Georgia themed merchandise for a while.  I looked on their site but couldn't find info on where the products are made.  One quick email and I found out that the visors are made in Louisville, KY. They responded right away too - I'm talking about less than 15 minutes on a Saturday afternoon.  Now that's service! :-)

I ordered one for now (seen here) to get a sense of the fit and finish.  If all goes well, I'll be ordering several more in various colors.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Newnan, GA

Coweta County court house in Newnam
While traveling on business today, I had the opportunity to stop off and spend a little time in historic Newnan, GANewnan is located about 30 miles southwest of Atlanta.  Although the population has grown considerably in the past 10 to 15 years, Newnan still manages to maintain it's small town feel and southern charm.  That charm is due in no small part to the fact that many of it's antebellum homes and buildings still remain in all their glory.  They were unaffected by the unfortunate events that took place at the close of the Civil War just 30 miles away in Atlanta. Luckily for the residents Newnan, they were untouched by Sherman's murderous March to the Sea that started in Chattanooga, then proceeded south to Atlanta destroying many smaller towns along the way. Incidentally, one of those towns was my home town, Big Shanty, which is now known as Kennesaw.  Today Newnan is a thriving community steeped in history. It's certainly worth spending time exploring.

Painted horses on display in downtown Newnan - there are 25 in total, but here are just a few for your enjoyment.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Be authentic, please! or China don't know preppy!

I just need to vent.  I spend quite a bit of time looking at new brands (especially Southern, preppy or traditional). Nothing turns me off more than seeing the dreaded "Imported" in an item's description.  I see many companies try to build brands based largely on an American aesthetic: Ivy League style, preppy, southern, etc. In and of itself, there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, I love to see companies create new brands based on authentic, traditional American styles or unique regional identities.  There is much to be celebrated in our great country - especially the uniqueness and character of locals such as The South, New England, The Southwest and others. What I appreciate even more is if there is some kind of substance behind the design. Classic LL Bean Maine Hunting Shoes come to mind as a great example. What bothers me is when there is a complete lack of authenticity; when the article of clothing or accessory is produced merely to capitalize on a perceived notion of authenticity .  I now understand what Muffy Aldrich (The Daily Prep) means when she writes about authenticity:

"We live in a time of box stores, whose locations are based on proximity to highway exits, where consumers buy mass produced, context-free goods. To most, there is no perceived irony or dissonance in a person who has not been to the ocean in years buying, underneath a giant poster of a ship, a cheaply made nautically themed shirt that would not survive the shortest of sails, made in China, from a high school student who has never seen salt water." 

Living in The South, I often search for authentic items that represent this region: bow ties, light weight cotton garments, etc. Needless to say, locating clothing made in the USA is difficult.  Finding clothing made in The South is even more so. One would think that with the plethora of "Southern Preppy" brands being so popular on college campuses throughout The South, that most of that clothing would be made here in one of the southern states. Sadly, the answer is no, not as many as one would hope. 

Have no fear though, there are companies out there that produce quality products, made right here in the good 'ol US of A.  I've listed a few of my personal favorites here. Please comment with others that I may have missed.

Made in The South: 
Jack Donnelly Khaki's - Roswell, GA - Khakis & Shorts
R Hanauer - Fort Mill, SC - Ties, bow ties, belts and more.
Otis James - Nashville, TN - Handmade ties
Ledbury - Richmond, VA - Shirts
Hartmann - Lebanon, TN - Luggage
Southern Tide - Greenville, SC - Classic clothing
Diamond Gusset - Bon Aqua, TN - Jeans
Earth Creations - Bessemer, AL - Shirts and Pants
Jolie and Elizabeth - New Orleans, LA - Women's Fashions
State Traditions - Birmingham, AL - State inspired polos, hats, visors and accessories.  Made in Louisville, KY

Other brands Made in the USA (this is by no means an exhaustive list, but simply brands that I have personal experience with):
Eliza B. - Essex, CT - Shoes, belts and leather goods.
Bill's Khakis -  Reading, PA - Khakis, Shorts and Shirts (They also have a facility right here in Alpharetta, GA).
Allen Edmonds Shoes - Port Washington, WI - Shoes
Alden Shoes - Middleborough, MA - Shoes

Please add to this list!  I want to know about great American companies making traditional clothing in the US.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Earth Day from The South

The family and I spent the day in yard planting and preparing our gardens! The Confederate Jasmine, Honeysuckle vines, and Lilacs are all in full bloom. The amazing scents carry forever on the breeze. The dogwoods might be done blooming, but the rest of our native species are just now starting to flower.  Our peaches are coming along nicely as well. This spring has been particularly cool so far and the native plants love it.

Confederate Jasmine

Young Peaches - We'll be preserving these this autumn.

Wild Honeysuckle vines.

Grancy Grey Beard

Native Georgia Azelia

Saturday, April 21, 2012

My first visit to the famous George Dean's in historic Athens, GA

I was in Athens, GA this past Friday for meetings on campus at UGA. I had some time to kill so I walked around downtown to see what kind of vintage and classic clothing stores I could peruse.  Although I had heard of George Dean's many times, I had never had the chance to visit.  If you find yourself in Athens, George Dean's is an absolute "do not miss" store.

It's hard to say what I found most impressive - the amount of high-quality men's wear (most of which made in the USA) or the kindness and graciousness of the staff and, especially the owner, Wayne Dean. Wayne is the son of the store founder (you guessed it), George Walker Dean. Sadly, George Dean passed away on October 2, 2008 at age 88 . He was a veritable fixture in Athens business and community life for many years.  He opened George Dean's in 1966 when he bought the long-standing John Q. West apparel shop.  He is best remembered for his love of people and treating all those that passed through the doors of his shop with fairness and decency.  His son, Wayne, continues that tradition to this day.

Wayne Dean, owner of George Dean's

Everything (and I do mean EVERYTHING) the well dressed southern gentleman could need is here.

If I ever feel that I can "pull off" a hat, I'll know where to find one!

I will be returning for a Seersucker suite and many other "must haves!"
 As you'll see on their website, the store carries a wide variety of classic brands.  Being located in a college town, they also sell lines popular with students here in the south: Southern Proper, Volunteer Traditions and Southern Point Co.  Bottom line: George Dean's has everything the southern gentleman could need! 

I left the store with beautiful new R Hanauer Red/Black University Combo bowtie. R Hanauer products are proudly made right here in The South in Fort Mill, South Carolina.
Similar to the one I purchased, but mine is red & black (go Dawgs)!

Fortunately, the store is a fixture in Athens and won't be going anywhere any time soon. Thankfully I will be returning to UGA in a couple of weeks for more meetings, so I'll plan for extra time to pay another visit and hopefully get that Seersucker suit and a few other things I had my eye on. For those of you who will not be making it to Athens, they have a website and an online store.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My next tie purchase!

I had the pleasure of stumbling upon a fantastic site today: Confederate Colonel. From the about page, the site is "an online community of those striving to live the life of the Southern Gentleman or Southern Lady in today’s world. It is Chivalry with a Southern accent. It is the New Life of The Old South. It is a rich heritage waiting to be claimed by those who strive to live life with the quiet dignity that once exemplified life in the South. It is gracious Southern living at its best." Well said, sir! I received an email from Stephen Clay McGehee, the owner of the site thanking me for registering.  Now that is Southern graciousness defined!  Stephen was also kind enough to send me a link to a store front that he operates called the where he sells the tie you see here.  I certainly will be ordering one soon!  Check out Stephen's site and start readin'! 

Required reading on Southern Manners

Well now, these are types of things I was taught by my folks and was expected to know, but they're seen less and less nowadays. I'd like to change that.  I call them "Southern manners," but really they're just simple rules of good manners and civility.

Here are just a few excerpts to whet your appetite:

"Gentlemen will open doors for ladies, offer their seat to them, stand when a woman enters the room and offer their arm when going up or down steps.  A Gentleman will never use foul language in front of women and children, or discuss improper topics in front of them.  It is sad to say this, but it is necessary today to explain what some of those topics might be."

"A Gentleman combines the skills of manners, conversation, conduct and personal integrity all rolled into a seamless package."

"Good manners do not ask you to give up life, limb, personal health or significant amounts of money.  Instead, it calls for civility and respect for others expressed in word and deed."

It's a small document - it won't take you long to read.  I guarantee that if you follow these simple rules you'll not only make great impressions, but you'll always be welcome and well thought of by those around you.  If these rules were the rule, not the exception, imagine what a nice place the world would be.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Even a trad feels piratical sometimes...

My OCD manifests itself in some strange ways sometimes.  Unfortunately, for my disposable income and closet space, I'm now addicted to Leather Man Ltd. belts from Eliza B. I just picked up this great design that has a classic look with just a hint of "FU."  Nothing says "watch your back" like standing on the dock wearing a classic tab and buckle belt covered in jolly rogers!

A tie that won't get me kicked out of the Capital Building!

I just picked this vintage beauty up. Patriotic with a subtle homage to the Stars & Bars.

Monday, April 16, 2012

New belt - score!

There's nothing better than getting a great deal. I just scored a genuine Leather Man belt (Eliza B.) on the eBay for $20! It's not exciting as far as designs go but it's made in the USA by the great craftsmen at Eliza B. and will last forever.

Another treasure found...

Found this great Brooks Brothers tie this weekend. It's a Makers tie, which means it's made by BB and not just a relable. I'm not sure in what situation I would wear running chickens, but I'm open to suggestions!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

New Learher Man Ltd. belt from Eliza B. arrived today.

As expected, exceptional craftsmanship. Very pleased with my new Made in the USA classic! Thanks Eliza and team!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thrifting for lost treasures

     I'm probably one of the most frugal people I know.  That reminds me of a saying that one of my schoolmate's mothers made many (too many) years ago.  My friend and I were sitting at his kitchen table talking about all the stuff we were going to buy once we graduated from college and got really great jobs. It was predestined, we thought.  How could we not graduate and immediately fall into a lifestyle fit for kings?  Ah, to be young and delusional again...  As we were talking we lamented how our parents, who could obviously afford to send us to a good school, were so cruel to deny us our every want.  His mother, who had been eavesdropping on us from around a corner, chose that moment to smack us back into reality.  Just as our commiseration was reaching a climax she walked by and nonchalantly said, "Boys, your problem isn't family means, it's personal means... as in you don't have any.  You've got Cadillac tastes on Bonneville budgets. I suggest you keep studying if you ever want to change that."  Truer words were never spoken.  In retrospect I'm glad that my parents didn't give in to every want that I professed as a young man.  I see that too often these days and it doesn't build character nor does it instill realistic expectations in young minds already full of unrealistic ones.  
     Having been taught the "value of a dollar" from a young age, I was (and still am) horrified by the price of most things in the market place.  I was also taught that you get what you pay for and I've relearned that lesson countless times throughout my adult life.  I have no problem paying more for a quality made item that I know will last.  The problem is finding those quality items in the first place. I've also been on a mission to buy "Made in the USA" items whenever possible.  Talk about a tall order to fill - these days it's almost impossible. I have two options: buy high quality, Made in America clothing when available or thrift for the vintage stuff. 
     First, let's talk about thrifting... I love to thrift, it's like treasure hunting for me.  Nothing beats the thrill of finding a classic piece of clothing (like L.L. Bean or Patagonia), with "Made in the USA" on the label and in great condition for some ridiculously low price!  It's amazing to me what people donate to charity.  I've found everything from American made L.L Bean OCBD shirts, J. Press jackets, Canali suits, old Land's End, Brooks Brothers, etc. to classic "Made in America" shoes by Allen Edmonds, Alden and L.L. Bean!  The trad classics are out there, they're just trapped in between rack after rack of crap!
     Unfortunately not everything can be found at a thrift store.  That's where finding a good quality vendor of classically designed clothing comes into play.  Muffy Aldrich, who runs The Daily Prep, has an excellent list of authentic prep clothing purveyors.  Much of that clothing and accessories happens to qualify as trad as well.  She does an outstanding job of separating the authentic from the mass-produced mall crap.  If you haven't read her blog, I highly recommend it.  One of her posts that I use as a reference is titled "Preppy vendors on my radar." A veritable who's who of authenticity and quality.  Thank you Muffy!
     One of the names that you'll find on that list is Georgia's own Jack Donnelly Khakis. Trad? Check!  Made in the USA? Check!  Made in Georgia about 15 minutes from my house? BONUS! Now I know what you're thinking, how can someone so frugal justify spending so much for pants and shorts?  It's simple really. First, they're made right and they'll last forever.  I take care of my clothes, so it's not out of the realm of possibility that I'll wear these items for 10+ years.  Second, they're made right here in Georgia, USA.  I couldn't ask for a better scenario.  I will be placing my first order in about a week and I'll write a more exhaustive review of the products then.
     Other names on Muffy's list speak for themselves: Alden Shoes, Orvis, Ralph Lauren, Leather Man, etc. In most cases the companies represented there offer a quality product that will last a very long time. If I happen to find any of their products in a thrift store, fantastic, but if not I have no issue buying them new. Have standards of quality and design, but shop smart!