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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Part Two of The 80's, or I'll take you to a restaurant that's got glass tables, so you can watch yourself while you are eating

Mirror in the bathroom, click click click - Part 2

Ok so we had our look down, right smart!
On our first visit to London together the dollar was strong against the pound the Christmas and post xmas sales were on sooooo, we went a bit nuts.To the West End we went where I found a peg-legged prince-of-wales checked double-breasted suit with tight pleats and small cuffs, and a pair of blue baggy trousers that tapered down very tightly to the cuffed ankle and were lined which made them very comfortable and warm during the challenging NY winters. I had bought these new in London on the King's Road across the street from where Vivienne Westwood's shop Sex had been..those,.plus a pair of patent leather dress lace-ups and a pair of pointy blue perforated shoes with Doc Marten soles further down the street. I wore those blue perfs or the black Loake's tassels often with those blue pants.

Antoinette had a really hot vintage black and white patterned crinoline dress, a Dior knockoff suit with the cutest miniskirt from Renaissance, plus in London we got her this hand tooled and distressed leather jacket w/ matching tapered trousers. The outfit was striking, she still has it, beautifully lined too, people used to stop her in the street in Manhattan.

We never left home without our shades, Ray Bans of course.....
So one payday I wandered down Broadway to Canal Jeans' location there and after drifting past the poseurs and poofters I hit the men's racks, half an hour later, for less than $50, I was leaving the shop with a pair of woolen, deep-pleated, big cuffed, subdued vertically striped, high-waisted trousers (like I had seen in a Madness video), a men's vintage white cotton broadcloth shirt with narrow button-down collar, and a men's waistcoat that complemented not only the shirt & trou, but the two pairs (1 pair black, 1 pair pale grey) of Italian-made men's lace ups i had found on W8th Street 2 or 3 door s down from the 8th Street Playhouse, the theater that MADE Rocky Horror Picture Show a classic, as well as being the only theater to show films by Jean-Pierre Melville and others.....


So we went out to Peppermint Lounge, Negril, Irving Plaza, Roseland Ballroom, The Ritz, The Palladium, CBGB, Bowery Ballroom, The World, The Hotel Diplomat, the Reggae Lounge and so on........



The East Village at that time was the epicenter for all our activities. There were a couple of restaurants and bars that existed on the fringe which did a great weekend business from the Bridge & Tunnel people who wanted to be cool but found the Lower East side a little too edgy and those places were as far as they went and their purpose in the world has now transferred to Hoboken NJ so the Jersey kids don't have to cross the big Hudson River to scary ol' New York any longer. I am sure their moms sleep more comfortably now.
 But on St Mark Place and Avenues A or B or 7th street there were Ukranian & Polish restaurants at which we could all afford to eat-.pierogies, pot roast, mashed spuds, sauerkraut boiled green beans endless cups of coffee it was pretty much like what my German grandmother made at home and cost 4 bucks!




The Eastern European social clubs had pool tables and sold Heinekens for a buck-fifty and we would just nip out across the street to Tompkins Square Park to smoke our weed.and then back across again.
It really was like a big playground for the over-18 year-olds and the cops didn't care as long as you weren't violent or naked (before midnight at any rate, afterwards.....).
The paths through Tompkins Square Park were like the punk Champs Elysee and 5th Avenue where everyone paraded their take on style/fashion/politics/protest/hip/glam/flash personified by hippies/punks/goths/artists/mods/skinheads/... deep breath .... rockers/skateboarders/Rastas/New Romantics/club kids/greasers, etc.one not-so-grand faire de promenade of anarchists and wanna-be's....

.....socialists, communists, Hare Krishnas, born-againers, right-to-lifers, drug vendors,squatters, homeless et cetera, and on up St Marks they went. Sometimes though, in those days, you could find yourself alone in that park. Undistracted, peaceful almost bucolic.



Eventually the once vibrant vintage clothing sources dried up one by one, the cool clothes disappeared leaving vestments fit only for lumberjacks (grunge) and mental hospital refugees (hipsters) which is what you have seen the past 20 years. The new fashions were not what my very good mate, Nigel, or I could stomach- giant lapels, giant wide neckties, stupid contrasting collars and cuffs Yuuccchh!!! 
So we took the bold step of visiting the Mohan Brothes in the Lincoln Building on 42nd Street directly across the street from Grand Central Terminal and the Pan Am Building and one block further up Vanderbilt to Conway's Bar our local.
The Mohan Brothers were Indian chaps who ran ads in the NY Post & the NY Daily News offering bespoke suits and shirts for the discerning New York Knicks, Nets, Giants, Yankees, etc...



Nigel and I met up one lunch hour and took the elevator up to visit the Mohans and were met by very nice fellas who showed us dozens of books of samples as we tried to explain that we were trying to re-create the 60's Brooks Brothers suits that were the mod formal dress - wool worsted, narrow lapels, 3 buttons, double side vents.  Their offer was hard to refuse so we didn't - 3 bespoke suits, any fabric we liked, for less than $700 US dollars.
Even if they turned out just OK you couldn't beat $230 per suit anywhere, and to our delight they turned out pretty damned well.
Well, 2 fittings and one month later we were called to pick up our suits. I had ordered a plain dark blue suit medium weight, a charcoal gray cashmere, and a Glen Plaid replica of Sean Connery's suit in Goldfinger.They had your name sewn on a label on the inside pocket, fecking magic.


Matched up with our English and Italian foot wear, "Made In USA"  Oxford dress shirts, narrow vintage ties, Nigel and I presented a very sharp contrast to the off-the-peg Italian made designer,suits we saw in the street and in our offices. I mean,  bankers still wore only grey or blue baggy recent vintage Brooks Brothers (who had lost their way over the years) or department store knockoffs thereof. The "stylish" guys (Armani, Cavani, baloney) had kipper ties, garish shirts, big braces, often in braided leather, and matching expensive designer- tasseled wing-tipped shoes.
Oddly, looking at the ads right now and how the men on tv like Don Draper in Mad Men or Michael Westen in White Collar, or the characters in the very aptly named "Suits" are dressed, fashion has only just caught up to us.