Bespoke StationeryThis month, our Book-of-the-Month selection was Cancel Your Own Goddam Subscription by William F. Buckley, Jr. As regular blog readers now, I often lament how toxic our political discourse has become of late, so it was with much trepidation that I selected a book by someone as "ideological" as Mr. Buckley. But in the wake of his passing, it was amazing to see how many "liberals" had effusive praise for William F. Buckley, Jr. the man. While they may have disagreed vehemently with his views, he had a joie de vivre that made him admired by friends and foes.   

Besides, Cancel Your Own Goddam Subscription is hardly a "political" book — it’s more a compendium of correspondence between WFB and readers of the National Review, guests on Firing Line, and politicians ranging from Richard Nixon to Ted Kennedy. There are two things I enjoyed about the book: (1) Buckley’s infamous wit, and (2) the sheer volume of handwritten correspondence that Buckley must have engaged in over his lifetime. While I would consider myself "above-average" in terms of the number of notes I write, that isn’t saying much these days.

So…in the interests of encouraging an old school form of correspondence, we have a quick little promotion. Handwrite us a note on your own personalized stationery postmarked by Monday, April 7th, and we’ll send you back a small token of our appreciation (a double-secret bonus will be included if you’re stationery is letterpressed, and triple-secret bonus if you bought it from us!).

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Michael Toschi SUV2I try not to be the type of person who complains that "Things aren’t made like they used to" — it strikes me as a complaint of first resort by change-resistant curmudgeons. By and large, innovations in materials and technology improve the products we use, often at a lower price (most electronics would be good examples). But there is a product near-and-dear to my heart that I am giving one last chance. 

For the past 23 years (that I can prove with photographic evidence), I have owned a pair of all-white adidas Stan Smith sneakers. I have always felt that a pair of plain white sneakers were a staple of any gentleman’s wardrobe, and it was really only a matter of whether you preferred Stan Smiths, Jack Purcell’s, or K-Swiss Classic Tennis Whites. I probably wore the shoes 100 days a year, and they handled whatever was thrown at them. That included, on more than one occasion, a recreational soccer game if I didn’t have cleats. For most of those 23 years, a pair would last me at least a year, if not 2. It wasn’t till they were grey beyond recognition that I would step up and buy a new pair.

Last year, a dear friend bought me a pair for my birthday (exactly a year ago today). Within 6 months, and without being subjected to a soccer game, the top of the shoe popped apart from the sole. I had never had a pair "break" like that. Last week, relaying the story at Michael Toschi HQ, I picked up the Michael Toschi SUV2. I was about to write about swearing off Stan Smith’s forever when a package arrived from the same dear friend with a brand new pair. If they perform like those of my fond memories, I’ll forgive and forget the last one. Otherwise, I guess I’m one step closer to becoming a grumpy old man.

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Give Sony credit for internalizing the lessons of the wars of yesteryear. Believe it or not, it was 30 years ago that Sony?s Betamax format was defeated by VHS even though many technophiles still believe it was the superior choice. Many argued that it was the release of adult movies on the VHS format that seeded the market with players, and eventually dealt the death blow to Betamax (that is a hotly contested point, however [pun intended]).

Fast-forward to 2008 and Sony ? and their high-definition video format Blu-ray ? has won the war with HD-DVD (Toshiba, the creator of HD-DVD officially discontinued the business on February 19th). This year got off to a bad start for HD-DVD after Warner Bros. committed exclusively to Blu-ray in January, and February just got worse as Netflix, Best Buy, and Walmart announced they would no longer be supporting the format. Sony also moved quickly to line up exclusive studio support and advertised heavily.  But perhaps the biggest key to Blu-ray?s victory was Sony?s inclusion of it in the PlayStation 3 video game console.

No matter which format you supported, the resolution of this ?war? can only be viewed as a good thing for consumers.  Customers no longer have to buy a video player knowing that certain movie studios would not be releasing their films on it.  Ending this customer confusion about which format to back allows all of us to get back to what is important – watching our favorite movies in a better way than ever before.

The benefits of high-definition video are numerous: a crisper picture, more immersive sound, and the integration of bonus features which can be updated over an internet connection.  

While Blu-ray supporters and high-def movie fans can celebrate the end to the format war, it may still be some time before HD movies hit the mainstream.  Blu-ray now faces its toughest battle yet – overtaking the juggernaut of DVD.

This blog entry was brought to you by loyal customer & Book-of-the-Month member, Kevin Carpenter.  

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Admittedly, one of the issues with a Book-of-the-Month Club is you have to read a whole book each month! I thoroughly enjoyed February’s selection — Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster by Dana Thomas — and yet I just finished it this weekend. The basic premise of the book is that large luxury houses like LVMH or Gucci Group, in their quests for corporate profits, have sacrificed much for the bottom line. In some cases, it might be lesser materials, outsourcing production to lower-wage countries, skimping on packaging, or otherwise deviating from the original quality that made many brands the household names they are today. The book is filled with interesting anecdotes and statistics, that at alternating points make you long for "luxury" and disdain it.

Indeed, it is a shame that marketing has devolved to the point where so many companies bastardize certain words that they eventually become meaningless. "Concierge" is a great example. The "concierge" in your office building paid just slightly more than the rent-a-cop is not a concierge. If you’re lucky, they can point you to the restrooms, but they certainly aren’t getting you a table at a trendy restaurant or court-side tickets to the game. "VIP" is another overused-&-abused phrase. As Seth Meyers & Amy Poehler pointed out on SNL in the wake of the Elliot Spitzer scandal, "Anything that has the words VIP in the title is not for VIP’s" [clip here]. And so it is with "luxury" too.

The iPhone photo taken for this blog was at the Las Vegas airport in mid-February as I was knee-deep in the book. The store advertised "Luxury for $10", and included jewelry, scarves, and leather goods. Without sounding snooty, it seems impossible that any of those items could be both luxurious and under $10. That got me thinking, "What on Earth could be a luxury product for just $10?" If a true luxury item is sold at some multiple over the regular version of the same item, there are very few products that could make the cut. And I’m willing to offer a $50 On The Fly gift certificate to the commenter on this blog that comes up with the best product idea. My entry? A toothpick made of cocobolo.

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Bill Clinton, David Beckham, Jay-Z, and Prince Michael of Kent walk into a bar…

Actually, why even try to finish that joke when the title of this blog is already so clever. It’s based on an article I wrote for the Financial Times noting the recent resurgence of thick tie knots. While big, thick knots have been the norm in Italy for the past few years, the trend has slowly crept stateside. It was something I noticed but didn’t feel the need to write about until I saw Bill Clinton stumping for Hillary with a giant orange knot under his giant red face. Given the absolute lack of personal expression in most politicians’ wardrobe choices — navy suit, white shirt, red tie anyone? — it struck me as something worth investigating. You can read the article in full here.  

How
to
tie
it

The
fashionably
fat
tie
knot
can
be
achieved
in
two
ways.
The
first, and
easiest,
is
to
buy
a
tie
constructed
of
a
thicker
material.
The second,
opting
for
the
full
Windsor
tie
knot,
might
require
a
bit
of practice.

Here’s how: Drape
the
tie
round
your
neck
so
that
the
wider
blade
of the
tie
is
about
a
foot
longer
than
the
narrow
blade.

Loop
the
wider
blade
under
the
narrow
blade
on
your
right
side.
Slide the
wider
blade
under
the
narrow
end.
Bring
the
wider
blade
over
the knot
and
under
the
narrow
part
on
the
right
side
of
your
neck.

Pull
the
wide
end
down
and
cross
it
over
the
narrow
blade.
Bring
the wider
blade
under
the
narrower
part
of
the
tie
on
the
left
side
of
your
neck,
then
slide
the
wider
blade
tip
through
the
knot.
Pull
the
wider blade
down.
Tighten
the
knot
snugly
against
your
neck.

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Way, way back in 2005, when gas was only $2.50/gallon in California, I wrote of our adjacent neighbor — Club Sportiva. Club Sportiva was the first "luxury carshare" concept, started back in 2003; today, clubs like it are popping up all over the country. In late 2005, On The Fly moved in next door to Club Sportiva, and the two companies are separated by a gate that is left open all day so Club Sportiva members can peruse our merchandise, and our customers can ogle their cars. 

But thanks to the growing legion of readers of our blog, Club Sportiva has offered to let me take some of their cars for a spin in exchange for mentioning Club Sportiva six times in a single blog. Club Sportiva. Done. The first car up was a 2006 Aston Martin DB9 in navy blue with whiskey interior.  

Let’s get one thing clear: I am not a professional driver. I barely know how to pop the hood on our company SUV. If you want a detailed descriptions of horsepower or torque or reliability, you best find another blog. I will approach these cars from the perspective of someone who will appreciate how the car drives, how it looks, and who looks at you in it. Sound narcissistic? I’ve been called worse.

The Aston Martin DB9 is a huge car. But to me, that is quintessentially Aston Martin. The new, smaller Vantage could easily be mistaken for a Toyota sports car to the untrained eye, whereas the DB9 makes a clear statement. For this reason, I actually regret not wearing something a little more bold; I opted for a safe Fairway & Greene golf shirt & vest, Bills Khakis Chamois Cloth pants, a Mulholland Brothers Hippo Duffel in Bridle Tan and a pair of one-of-a-kind Michael Toschi wingtip prototypes to match the interior of the car. The sound of it helps as well. The engine is louder at 20 mph than at 80 mph, and it’s loud in the best way possible (the beautiful roar made me snicker at the Lexus-like commercials showing a driver in the car unable to hear anything outside).

The ride was surprisingly smooth, although I enjoyed more like someone scared to death of crashing his friend’s car than an owner. It accelerates well, although the paddle shifting is not as responsive as other systems I’ve driven in the past. Fear of fishtailing kept me from testing its cornering capabilities, but a reasonable 180-degree long, curvy onramp near Candlestick Park had me driving faster than all the traffic on the freeway way before having to merge.

Of the entire inventory of cars available to Club Sportiva members — and you’ll see the rest in the coming weeks — the DB9 has always been one of my favorites. Driving it only reinforced my opinion.

 

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Where was Michael
Toschi
when I was writing my recent feature story, ?When Men Choose Shoes? for
The Financial Times of London? Well, the answer of course is, ?He?s been
right here at On the Fly.?

Leave it to On the Fly to find the next John Lobb. Toschi?s dazzling array of
shoes and accessories still have me salivating, especially the ultra-stylish
Alessio, my favorite, and the Toschi G3 golf shoe, a masteful work of style and
function that would win the Nobel Prize if they gave them out for footwear
design.

While I plan to write regularly here at On The Fly, my "day job" regularly lands me in other publications. Since many of the newspapers and magazines that feature my writing have formal schedules (or at least formal compared to here), this will become a nice home for my most time-sensitive ramblings. That being said, if you’d like to read my most recent article on "male shoe queens", you can find it here:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/cc2746e8-db64-11dc-9fdd-0000779fd2ac.html

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Every once in a while
I like to go off-trend and try a different look just for the fun of it. And to see if I can pull it off.

I?ve always wanted to give the ascot a shot and when I was invited to a wedding
this weekend, I seized the opportunity. I wore a simple silk black ascot
instead of the usual bow tie with my tux (see the Blind Bunny Black
Teardrop Ascot
). To my great relief, it was met with hardy approval. The female
guests thought it elegant and dapper?and daring because, after all, I did risk
ridicule. The male guests envied the way it comfortably coddled my neck,
especially compared to all those tightly knotted ties and buttoned-up collars.
And no one said I looked like Thurston Howell, III.

There are three keys to rocking the ascot. First, you must choose your style
models carefully. Think Al Pacino in the Godfather. Think Fred Astaire or David
Niven. In more recent times, think David Beckham, Jeremy Piven, and Andre
Benjamin.

Second, practice wearing it around the house so that when the grand occasion
arrives you?re not pulling or tugging on it as if it?s a foreign object.

Third, it?s all about context. You can wear an ascot to a fine restaurant like
Fleur de Lys in San Francisco, to lunch at the Four Season?s in New York City,
to a Vegas show, or to formal affairs like weddings?any place where the crowd
is sophisticated, tolerant of eccentricity, and stylish rather than stodgy. You
should not wear an ascot to your grandmother?s birthday party.

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With all the talk these days about "change", we have decided that it is time to include new voices in the Modern Gentleman’s Blog. For those that can apply the eloquence of Obama, the experience of Clinton, and the straight-talk of McCain, to topics like menswear, smoking, drinking, and golfing, we have a forum for you to be heard! And we’ll pay you to share it…

If you’ve been a casual reader of our blog here, you probably have a good feel for the topics we cover, and the tone we take. If you have profound opinions about things that our customers will take interest in, we want to showcase your voice. Every blog entry written by one of our customers will earn him/her $200 in product credit which can be applied to anything on the site.  

Of course, there are both rules and guidelines, and On The Fly will retain the ultimate right to approve or disapprove any blog entries. If you are interested in participating, please send an email to blog at ontheflydotcom (hopefully you recognize why we’re not including the link because that just leads to more emails about erasing credit card debt and Viagra and we’re all set on both).

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Since the first business plan was written for On The Fly
(believe it or not, there was a "plan"), the vision was to offer
"solutions for the modern gentleman". To us, that includes products,
services, and information.
Since inception, we peppered the site with various articles about
everything from achieving a better shave to hosting a home poker night. We
then added the blog as an outlet for me to run my mouth about whatever
epiphany struck my fancy. But we have always planned to do more…

So it is with great pleasure that I can welcome
Richard Torregrossa as On The Fly’s Editor-in-Chief. Richard first appeared on our
radar screen when an article he wrote about San Francisco’s 49er Coach Mike
Nolan’s struggle with the NFL to get permission to wear a suit on gamedays. The
byline mentioned his most recent book, Cary Grant: A Celebration of Style.
After reading the book, we selected it as our Book-of-the-Month selection in
December. After hours of tense negotiations, Richard agreed to take on this
Sisyphean challenge.

Richard is the author of six books and has been a fashion
journalist for ten years. He has written for The New York Times, The Washington
Post
, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, and many other publications. He has written
articles on everything from the golf course as the new Red Carpet to David
Beckham’s choice in bespoke shoes and whether or not Barack Obama will kill
pleated khakis (we say No). He even wrote a provocative treatise on
Cary Grant as a superior style icon to Fred Astaire. Most importantly to us,
he travels the world and is an avid student of the craftsmanship
that elevates the finest things in life.  

Why does On The Fly need an Editor? That question deserves a
long and complicated answer, much of which will be revealed throughout the
course of this coming year. In the short term, you can expect to see more
blogs, better blogs, different kinds of blogs, and updated content
throughout the site.  

We are excited to have Richard on board, and we hope you
enjoy his musings…

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