What I'm Listening To 8/14/2017

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What I'm Listening To 8/14/2017

A weekly collection of songs I can't stop listening to, posted Mondays. This week: Marshmello x Khalid, Flosstradamus x Calez, and other anthems I'll hear on repeat starting in T-14. Back to school season is upon us; prepare to get ignorant.

Looking for your new favorite song? Check out the full playlist below:

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Highsnobiety: Meet Kevin Starr, Venture Capitalist and Secret Sneakerhead

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Highsnobiety: Meet Kevin Starr, Venture Capitalist and Secret Sneakerhead

My third article for world-leading lifestyle publication Highsnobiety, talking sneakers, business, and life with Kevin Starr of Third Rock Ventures, the Boston-based VC firm behind many of today's most innovative biotech companies.

Kevin wears Chrome Hearts and Y-3 sneakers to board meetings with Nobel Prize winners. We should all be like Kevin. Read the full story on Highsnobiety via the link here.

Special thanks to Kevin Starr and Chris Danforth for making this possible. 

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What I'm Listening To 7/3/2017

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What I'm Listening To 7/3/2017

A collection of songs I can't stop listening to, posted Mondays. This week: LCD Soundsystem, new St. Vincent, and the sublime haunting of ANONHI's "Drone Bomb Me." Drink in the sounds, find a spot outside, and enjoy the long weekend. 

Looking for your new favorite song? Listen to the full playlist below:

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Highsnobiety: The Story Behind the adidas Sneaker Worn by Soviet Special Forces

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Highsnobiety: The Story Behind the adidas Sneaker Worn by Soviet Special Forces

My second article for world-leading lifestyle publication Highsnobiety, all about the adidas "Москва" sneaker - an adidas Gazelle knock-off that ended up on the feet of Soviet Spetsnaz operatives serving in the Invasion of Afghanistan.

On foot in the middle: three stripes.

On foot in the middle: three stripes.

On foot on the left: three stripes.

On foot on the left: three stripes.

 

You can read the full article on Highsnobiety here. A special thanks to Chris Danforth from Highsnobiety for his help making this story and research possible. 

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"Salt:Vanity" by Murray Fredericks (2017)

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"Salt:Vanity" by Murray Fredericks (2017)

Over the decades, Australian photographer Murray Fredericks has fallen in love with the salt flats of his native Outback. During his first visit in 2001, Fredericks reported experiencing an intense calm - a sense of diminutive oneness, the kind that could only be felt by a small being below an infinite sky.

The enchantment was cast.

In the years since that first fateful visit, Fredericks has returned time and time again to these limitless horizons - only this time, he brought a mirror. The resulting photographs, part of Fredericks' now-showing "Vanity" series, are as surreal at that first trip so long ago: in this unflinching flatland, simply reflecting anything different is jarring if not wonderful.

I'll skip the art history critique - "Vanity" is damn cool to look at, and should be revered for that quality. Even more impressive: every single image in the series is the result of physical, not digital, manipulation. With a simple tool and a simple landscape, Fredericks makes images that would challenge even Photoshop savants. 

Check out more selections from the series below, then visit the artist's website here for more. 

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Shoe Review: Thursday Boots "Duke" Chelsea Boot (2017)

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Shoe Review: Thursday Boots "Duke" Chelsea Boot (2017)

Shoe: Thursday Boot Company’s “Duke” Chelsea Boot in Honey Suede

Price: $199 MSRP, from ThursdayBoots.com

 

In the mid-19th century, the British Empire was riding high. Napoleon defeated and the “Great Game” in check, nothing, it would seem, could halt Britain’s trot – as long as they could get on their horse, that is.

Noticing Queen Victoria’s struggles with clunky lace-up riding boots, her shoemaker (an English cobbler named J. Sparkes-Hall) designed rubber-sided “patent elastic ankle boots” to aid Her Majesty’s equestrianism. By the time Sparkes-Hall filed a patent for the design in 1851, he cited the fact that “she [Queen Victoria] walks in them daily” as “the strongest proof of the value she attaches to the invention” to back up his invention’s worth. Probably helped that they looked great, too.

An 1851 ad by J. Sparkes-Hall promoting "patent elastic" boots (source: The Gentleman's Gazette)

An 1851 ad by J. Sparkes-Hall promoting "patent elastic" boots (source: The Gentleman's Gazette)

Perhaps due to their equine origins, close to a century would pass before “Paddock” boots (named after the horse enclosure) became associated with “dressing up” instead of “dressage.” During the 1950’s – British Empire now firmly shattered – a group of young filmmakers, creatives, and other selectively-employed youths who hung around London’s Kings Road neighborhood grew to favor the  boots. That youthful clique, which included the likes of Mary Quant and Alexander Plunket Greene, was nicknamed the “Chelsea set” by the British media. You can see where this is going.

Born to help a reigning queen with her queenly reins, the Chelsea boot became a shining example of 60’s-era Swinging London as Britain once again colonized the world. Popularized in the US by “British Invasion” rockers such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, Chelsea boots became the ultimate symbol of sleek, sumptuous rockstar style.

The Beatles photographed in Chelsea boots (source: GQ via The Idle Man blog)

The Beatles photographed in Chelsea boots (source: GQ via The Idle Man blog)

Does a boot designed for easier take-off really signal that much about its wearer? To chaste and proper Victorians, certainly not. Yet, to legions of rock fans (and designers like Hedi Slimane who worship their same gods), the Chelsea boot epitomizes slick, casual cool.

 

Impressions:

Before we begin, a confession: of all the visions to euphemistically fw, I just didn’t dig Hedi’s YSL at all. Perhaps it’s because I couldn’t afford a $4000 leather jacket. More likely, it’s because everyone I saw wearing the “Slimane aesthetic” (black leather jacket, distressed skinny jeans, suede Chelsea boots) off the runway looked drug-addled or just plain mopey.

Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane Mens FW13

Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane Mens FW13

Depression memes aside, that’s just not how I try to live my life. 

It was this conditioned aversion to all things “Chateau Marmont” that caused me – regrettably - to overlook suede Chelsea boots. Even while YSL and Common Projects turned out grail-tier suede Chelseas as early as FW13, no level of product or promotion could pique my persuasions. In my mind, suede Chelseas were the Father John Misty set’s equivalent to Bapestas: expensive; costumey; a pan-flash, with extra herb.  

Then, I actually tried them on.

Father John, I repent.

First, let’s talk comfort. Compared to the lace-up boots I own from Santalum and Wolverine, the slip-on/slip-off a Chelsea boot provides is just plain nice. This one eased friction point is a wonderful introduction to what is all around a very comfortable boot. The elastic has just enough backbone to keep your ankle locked in without abrasion – not like you’ll be making quick cuts in Chelseas, but should you find yourself stage-diving in rocker boots, rest assured they’ll stay snug. Worth noting: I followed Thursday’s advice exactly and sized one full size down my usual US10. Even with think-knit Anonymous Ism socks on, I felt cozy yet never constrained.

Also on the subject of coziness, I’d be remiss not to mention the insole. Materials-wise, it’s a combination EVA comfort strip on top of cushy cork midsole, all under a leather interior lining. Experience-wise, it’s a zero break-in daily driver. My first day wearing the Dukes, I spent a solid 4+ hours on my feet, walking around Princeton, New Jersey to shoot photos with a friend. Compared to my usual experience in Cuban-heeled boots (4 hours standing in Bean Boots = a compulsion to sit known only by father penguins), the Dukes were a remarkably pleasant surprise.

Next, let’s talk about the shoe itself. Rather, let’s just look at it:

DSC_0755.jpg

It’s gorgeous.

The toebox is round and rakish; the heel, stout and firm. My one aesthetic gripe is that I wish the elastic inset were color-matched to the suede, but as to the shoe's architecture itself, I'm beyond complaint. Thursday claims the boot went through 20+ redesigns before coming to its present shape, and judging by the Duke’s serpentine charm, their effort was more than validated. There’s little room to wax poetic about minor changes to a centuries-old design, but one ageless proverb comes to mind: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If the streamlined skeleton of the classic Chelsea profile was good enough for royalty, focus the R&D elsewhere. Like, for example, that skeleton’s skin.

The honey suede is a deep, golden orange, and retains its supple hand-feel despite Thursday’s “WeatherSafe” treating. It’s my understanding that WeatherSafe is a detuned DWR optimized for rough leather – wax without glisten, armor without a shine. Even coated, the suede is buttery and pliable, fighting creases with an elasticity I once only expected from the boot’s heel panels. Plus, like come on – just look at this suede. It’s beautiful! It’s textured! The tasteful thickness of it… ahem. Moving on.

Another boon to longevity: those stitches you see above are locked into a leather Goodyear welt, meaning water resistance and easy resoling. 

Another boon to longevity: those stitches you see above are locked into a leather Goodyear welt, meaning water resistance and easy resoling

While I haven’t been caught in any claim-verifying afternoon pop-ups yet, this water resistance alone makes a compelling case for the Duke vs. other mid-price suede Chelseas. Even the most committed faux-Buddhist rockers would snap at water stains crashing their style.   

Which brings us nicely to wearability.

A Day's March/Uniqlo/Gap/Thursday Boots

A Day's March/Uniqlo/Gap/Thursday Boots

In my mind, suede Chelseas occupy a privileged position in the pantheon of menswear: true versatility. Like the white low-top tennis shoe, they are both simple and elegant enough to fit all contexts. Despite my seething hatred for the nonsense witticism “you can dress it up or dress it down” (a lazy, even trite piece of ad copy that describes the simple act of wearing clothes), the Dukes feel at home in both t-shirt and button-up alike. Paired with casual outerwear, they’re a no-brainer regardless of any other contexts your outfit implies.

A Day's March/Uniqlo/Gap/Thursday Boots

A Day's March/Uniqlo/Gap/Thursday Boots

They’re just that wearable.

Case in point: I’m working in a less-formal office this summer. Instead of hauling both casual boots and hard-bottoms to my summer apartment, I’m bringing a single pair of gorgeous suede Chelseas to cover me for both days in and nights out alike. Two birds, one Dukes.

If you’re looking for a versatile leather shoe you can rock with everything but shorts, learn from my mistakes: gives Chelseas a chance. Post-Dukes, I feel foolish for writing off suede Chelseas as costume shoes for the #fashion crowd. In fact, I find myself wearing them all the time. Perhaps I’m overcompensating for the years of wear my ego denied; perhaps they’re just that versatile, comfortable, and handsome on-foot. Whatever the reason, I adore my pair.

DSC_0746.jpg

While it won’t outcompete the luxury craftsmanship of Saint Laurent’s Wyatt or its Common Projects equivalent, Thursday made one hell of a Chelsea boot at a fraction of the cost. Made for the Queen yet priced for the people, the Duke is accessible royalty – and in suede, to boot.

 

Disclosure: Thursday Boot Co. sent these boots along to me for nothing more than a request for an honest review, and to me, an honest review requires the reader trusting the writer - hence, the candor. My sincere thanks to Darnell and Matthew at Thursday Boots for their kind gift. 

 

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Wool, Suede, Cotton, and Nerd

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Wool, Suede, Cotton, and Nerd

This week's featured outfit: suede Chelseas, cotton chinos, and this spectacular wool bomber jacket by Swedish start-up A Day's March. For my first outfit shoot back since a bit of academic burnout threw me for a loop, I wanted to build an outfit entirely around natural materials. As much as I love GORE-TEX and the like, there's a textural richness that only organic fabrics like cotton and wool can conjure. While defaulting to texture may seem like a cop-out way of describing an otherwise boring outfit (it's minimalist, Mom! My Tumblr friends think it's cool!), minding small details like how different rough-hewn fabrics look next to each other can add a lot of visual cool to basic palettes. 

A Day's March / Uniqlo / Gap / Thursday Boots Co

A Day's March / Uniqlo / Gap / Thursday Boots Co

Unfortunately, if you're like me, even adding "a lot" of visual cool is merely throwing sand back to the ocean. No matter how long you spend comparing textures and hand-feels, the very act of searching out "complementary organics" only exacerbates an organic clash guaranteed to negate any potential coolness: the material conflict of "nerd v. clothes." 

Herein lies truth. Finding truly cool clothes takes effort - whether that's stalking eBay or building relationships that grant access to the good stuff. Furthermore, cool clothes look cool in isolation; yet, no one buys cool clothes to not put them on. Cool clothes look cooler on cool people; yet, the societal consensus on what makes someone cool concerns how little effort they broadcast.

A Day's March / Uniqlo / Gap / Thursday Boots Co

A Day's March / Uniqlo / Gap / Thursday Boots Co

Herein lies conflict. If it takes effort to find cool clothes, but looking good in them requires showing the exact opposite, there exists a wide and uncomfortable middle ground. To clarify: this middle ground is not the purgatory so often assigned to people wearing styles they don't understand to build social proof (popular moniker: "fashion victims"). Instead, it's the familiar tread of just the opposite: the hobbyists, the enthusiasts, the people whose deep love for and understanding of the style they wear extends far beyond "CDG is popular now so I'll buy the little heart Converse."

Thursday Boots Co "Duke" Chelsea boot in Honey Suede

Thursday Boots Co "Duke" Chelsea boot in Honey Suede

To the world at large, those enthusiasts often aren't cool. They look like they tried (effort!!!), and are therefore disqualified from the pedestal of sunken-eyed, listless-yet-image-obsessed #influencers.

But I never really got that.

Everyone takes care of their appearance, full stop. So why penalize someone who lets that effort be seen?

After all, isn't that person living authentically, a virtue most aspire to yet seldom achieve? Isn't that same person also setting realistic expectations of what it takes to achieve their look, a flashpoint topic in most mental health debates? While it's certainly neither cancer research nor national security, taking little steps to destigmatize public effort would go a long way in discourse.

A Day's March / Uniqlo / Gap / Thursday Boots Co

A Day's March / Uniqlo / Gap / Thursday Boots Co

From my perspective, the best part of this entire "uncomfortable middle ground" is that those same hobbyists, enthusiasts, and cool clothes collectors frankly don't care if passerby like how they're dressed. "Screw what this uptown R train thinks," thinks the dude dressed in full Rick Owens on the subway. He's happy to express himself. In my opinion, that level of authentic self-realization is the coolest thing out there.

TL;DR I'm a huge effin' nerd and writing about why nerds are cool only dug this hole deeper.