Handy Tips

Last Monday, I began to feel a little off. By Tuesday, I had the flu, as in the real flu, not an Irish flu after New Year’s Eve. When I called the office on Wednesday, I’m sure everyone was convinced I was simply extending my holiday break. I wish that were true. I haven’t had the flu for twenty years. It’s awful, and a huge time suck. Not only does being sick interfere with work, it precludes even simple organizing at home. As a side note, if I’m out sick and we move a meeting, nobody will lose his or her mind and run screaming in front of a speeding bus. Fortunately, I was productive earlier during the holiday break. Here is a project that can save money, and another that moves you away from the "hoarder" category.

Handkerchief Creation

Issue 1: My grandmother said, “A proper gentleman never leaves the house without a handkerchief.” I prefer the madras handkerchiefs, and typically buy mine from J. Press in Cambridge.

Issue 2: I have a plastic bin labeled “fat shirts.” These are the shirts I love, but really are too large and fit like maternity clothes. Most of the shirts are madras. When I wear them, I look like a table.

Solution: I took all the gigantic madras shirts to the dry cleaner and asked them to cut them up and make handkerchiefs. I gave them a sample of a J. Press one as a guide. The following week, I had 24 new madras handkerchiefs. Each one cost $6.00 to make. The J. Press handkerchiefs are $13.00 each. Now I can use any old shirt I no longer wear to create handkerchiefs. I am, however, concerned that the next step is heading toward Little House on the Prairie and making my own clothes from old blankets, and shoes from bits of leftover canvas.

Messy Linen Closet

I know everyone has his or her own method to organizing a linen closet. I hate finding the standard sized pillowcases for the twin beds mixed in with the California King sheets. I hate finding a top sheet that has no mate. I moved my sheets into individual plastic bins. Each bin has a bottom and top sheet, two pillow covers, and four pillowcases. I made labels for each bin and threw away any orphan pieces. I also threw out all the colored, patterned, or striped towels. Now all the towels are white and match. Easy peasy.


Anyone who has seen Auntie Mame with Rosalind Russell will have a relative they can identify as “so Auntie Mame.” This means eccentric, full of life, free spirited, and living life by her own rules. My grandmother was “so Auntie Mame,” but so is my mother, my aunts, my great-grandmother, my sister, and from what I’ve learned, generations of women in the family. I’m sure you can imagine the family get-togethers when all the women in the family are out-doing each other with, as RuPaul says, charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent.

If you are an Auntie Mame type, then everyone else, myself included, are “nice people who work very hard.” Or, worse, they are parvenus. In the movie, Gloria Upson is that type. She is snobbish, tasteless, and awful. I’d love to have friends like Gloria Upson and Bunny Bixler. She’s so top drawer. I do have a great grandmother who was a Bixler, and a great-great grandfather nicknamed Bunny, or Pinky. So I’m sure they would gladly welcome me at their snobby club. We could play ping-pong, drive in their brand new big American car, and buy brand new fashionable things at top-drawer stores. This is, no doubt, much more fun than returning year after year to Brooks Brothers and J. Press to buy the same gingham shirts and khakis.


What a Fool Believes

Every 20 years or so, I come back into fashion. I consider my style to be classic, which allows me to buy the same items year after year regardless of current trends. Typically, if I like something, I’ll buy several. I don’t want to be stuck if khakis change and become more “European”. Recently, I’ve seen some articles about the return of “Preppy”. Some may argue, but I’m not preppy, I think I’m just stuck in 1962.

This leads me to some of the atrocities I’ve seen made in the name of “Preppy”. Today, I’ll rant about the embroidered motif articles. I admit I have some motif belts from J. Press. There’s nothing wrong with a nice anchor, American flag, nautical flag, or whale belt. But that’s where it should stop. And I make a point of wearing my belts under an un-tucked shirt. Like my nautical print boxers, only I know I’m wearing them. Let me be blunt here, and I know some will be hopping mad about this; embroidered motif pants on men are bad. You don’t look funny, preppy, or classic. You look like a raging fool.

As for women, classic is good. Grace Kelly, Babe Paley, Slim Aarons, C.Z. Guest classic is correct. As my mother has pointed out, the whale motif skirts, or strawberry motif wrap dresses, simply de-sexualizes a woman. And, yes, you also look like a raging fool.

So my advice is to stop the madness. I don’t care how hip you think the green whale print pants are. Moderation is good in eating and fashion. However, I must point out in fairness, that moderation and drinking is bad for a cocktail party.

Young at Heart, but not with Clothing, Please

One of my least favorite things about living in Los Angeles is the problem of age inappropriate dressing. Last week I was at dinner at Jar (best filet in Los Angeles) and a table of young Hollywood starlet types was at a big table behind me. They all had the same light blonde, shoulder length hair, and tight short skirts. Now if you’ve seen Clueless you know what I mean when I say it was a real Monet moment. From the distance of the door everything looked good, but as I got closer to their table, whoa, it all fell apart. They were, in fact, not young starlets but older Hollywood wives who had visited the plastic surgeon far too often.

I have never considered doing a reality show. People are always telling me, “You and Noreen should have your own reality show. I bet it would be hilarious.” It wouldn’t be. It would be very dull moments of people working on their computers with occasional profane outbursts. I would like to do a reality show, though, where I help people who dress age inappropriately with makeovers. We would shop at Brooks Brothers, J. Press, Chanel, and other sensible brands.

Now don’t get caught up with this being “Preppy” or any other such nonsense. This is just plain good sense that would make the world a nicer place to live.

There are many benefits of growing older: you can yell at people, you sleep less, and you can wear certain clothing items previously inappropriate. These are some of my rules:

1.     Men may wear seersucker before the age of 12, or after 45. Between those ages makes one look foolish.

2.     Men may wear white bucks in the summer, or all year after age 45.

3.     Madras jackets work if a man is over 45, but younger people look like a horses ass in them.

4.     Men can wear bow ties over 45, unless you are a southern politician or Ivy League professor, in which case any age is appropriate.

5.     Ponytails are wrong, wrong, and wrong for anyone over 45.

6.     There is nothing wrong with a sensible bob haircut for women over 45.

7.     Skinny jeans are wrong for anyone, especially people over 45.

More specific rules are listed below. But the point is to stop the madness. When you see an elderly person on the street in tight jeans and a groovy t-shirt, stop them and ask if you can help them to the nearest age appropriate store. Unfortunately, I don’t think my reality show idea will work. As Terry Stone told me, “So you would take mature people and make them look old?” Uh, yeah.

Change is Bad

There's no such thing as too much madras

Many of you have written or called and asked me, “Sean, how do you stay trapped in 1962? Where do you find those clothes?” or “Sean, I’d be more than happy to take you shopping, I’m sure I could help you be more up to date.” The answer is that it’s not easy to stay trapped in 1962. The clothes I buy come in and out of fashion every 20-25 years. So I’m quite hip for a few months every two decades. Since the fashion industry insists on change, if I find an item I like, I buy several and store them. Some items such as Sperry Topsider canvas sneakers have never been out of production, thankfully. The secret is J. Press. They have the same ethos about change (it’s bad) that I do. J. Press is in Cambridge, New Haven, Manhattan, and Washington D.C. and is exactly the right place to find madras shirts and handkerchiefs, whale or anchor motif belts, and good school color repp ties. Of course, I have other sources for non-groovy 1962-wear. But the best advice I can give is to buy multiples. It’s possible that the next time you go to buy classic khakis, they will have been replaced with a cut that some might call “European.”

This is how hanging out on campus should be

J. Press catalogue 1962

Good ties, but you need to order through the time machine

American Graffiti, Ron Howard, good fashion tips

You never know when someone may say, "Sailing?"

Notice how well groomed and neat these students are