Broke and Bespoke

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More 80’s Dad Reinterpreted. 

Every so often I make an impulse purchase that is, at best, of dubious utility. This weekend, presumably, it was this ‘Binchotan Toothbrush’ from Japan which claims boldly that with the aid of binchotan charcoal (and a kind of unappetizing looking set of bristles) harmful mouth germs can be prevented from growing, and fresh breath ensured. We’ll see…

At nearly $8 it was pretty expensive for a non-electric toothbrush, but I’m hoping its value lies within the purview of the mantra ‘buy better, buy less.’ I’m keeping my fingers crossed in the hopes that it will be the last toothbrush I need ever buy, or that it can at least be rebristled several times before I go the full bespoke toothbrush route. 

The aforementioned BB Red Fleece OCBD, thrifted The North Face jacket, Lands’ End Canvas shawl collared cardigan, Red Cotton Denim jeans, and L.L. Bean Katahdin Ironworks boots by Chippewa.

The BB OCBD: Brooks Brothers vs. Brooks Brothers Red Fleece

For those of you who have been faced, as I was not long ago, with the dilemma of finding Brooks Brothers’ Red Fleece OCBDs on sale for about $25 and wondering how their collar rolls are, I give you this.

The collar points on the Red Fleece OCBDs are much shorter than those on regular Brooks Brothers ones. We’re talking 3.25” on the regular BB, and a hair under 3” on the Red Fleece (this is even shorter than the Uniqlo OCBDs collar points, which are right at 3” by my measurement). Though the construction on the Red Fleece is not as nice as on the regular line (I find this is especially so regarding the buttons), it’s perfectly fine, and should hold up to hard and frequent use quite well. 

The Red Fleece shirt is also shorter, which makes it great as a casual OCBD to be worn untucked with jeans or chinos, and without a tie. For ~$25, I’m fine with that as its purpose. They also have the nice added touch of an additional button at the back of the collar.

The fit throughout the body is similar to Brooks’ regular Extra Slim Fit I think, and the Red Fleece size ‘Large’ is a tad tighter throughout the body and neck than a 16.5x34 ESF, so I’d say it’s probably comparable to a 16x34 in the ESF.

Overall, despite the shorter collar points—the roll still has a decent shape to it, it’s just kind of short—I find myself wearing my two Red Fleece OCBDs at least once a week these days. I’ve mostly worn them under a crewneck sweater with some additional outerwear layer, but my look has been quite casual these past few weeks.

A horsehide jacket feels, smells, and breaks in differently than a cowhide one.

Early-1980s Dad Reinterpreted
Jacket: The North Face, thrifted $25
Sweater: Lands’ End Lambswool Crewneck, $30
Shirt: Gitman Bros., thrifted $5
Jeans: Red Cotton Denim, c/o Red Cotton Denim
Shoes: Red Wing Chukka, Crossroads Trading NWOT $36

Early-1980s Dad Reinterpreted

Jacket: The North Face, thrifted $25

Sweater: Lands’ End Lambswool Crewneck, $30

Shirt: Gitman Bros., thrifted $5

Jeans: Red Cotton Denim, c/o Red Cotton Denim

Shoes: Red Wing Chukka, Crossroads Trading NWOT $36

Ivy Style.

Ivy Style.

Hamilton Khaki and NATO Strap

Hamilton Khaki and NATO Strap

New Outerwear

I just picked up this Polo Ralph Lauren ‘Peak’ Down Vest on ebay last week. Though I often see them selling for around $100, I got this from a new seller with less than 10 transactions for $50. I was the only bidder. Ebay’s buyer protection policies are such that it’s much less risky to buy now from a new and untested seller than it used to be. With this being the case, deals can often be had from sellers who are just getting started and are compelled to price their goods a little lower than the going price.

The other day…

Oakland Love from TDK



Porter Leather Wallet, aged ~3 years


Sweater: Lands’ End Shawl Collar Cable Knit Cardigan, $35

Shirt: Brooks Brothers OCBD, thrifted $5

Jeans: Red Cotton Denim, c/o Red Cotton Denim

Shoes: Nike Flyknit Free 5.0, Nike Outlet $70

Some Thoughts on Fountain Pens

I’ve been meaning to write a post on fountain pens for some time now, but just haven’t gotten around to taking pictures and setting some words down. Well, I have a week ‘off’ from work right now, and I figured there’s no time like the present—or when I’m lounging around in pajamas reading Sherlock Holmes—to write such a post.

I’ve been a regular user and small-time collector of fountain pens for nearly fifteen years now. I began using a fountain pen in college as I was taking lots of hand-written notes for my senior thesis. It made the task a bit more interesting, and color-coding my notes with different inks was at least a marginally pragmatic reason for littering my desk with bottles of ink and various inexpensive fountain pens, much to the detriment of having space for eating or anything else (it was an all-purpose table in a small one room hovel called a ‘hotel’ where there resided, in equal measure, sad students and senior citizens).

I started out with pens in the $10-30 range, and remember liking my Lamy Safari and a Rotring (whose model name escapes me now) quite a bit. In grad school I moved on to the more hardcore stuff—pens with a three-digit price tag. Over the years, I’ve bought, sold, and traded dozens of pens, and have settled on a pretty solid collection that hasn’t changed in quite a few years.

I figured I might share some thoughts on fountain pens that I’ve gathered over those years for readers who may be looking to acquire one (or several) but don’t quite know where to start. What follows are just my rambling thoughts on the topic as they’ll be coming to me in the next thirty minutes or so, and is by no means meant to be exhaustive, encyclopedic (I haven’t the knowledge for this), or the last word on the subject. 

The Status Pen

If you’ve got some money to spend (say, up to $500—this is for ebay/pen fora prices, not retail), and want a statement pen that is simple and classic there’s no better pen in my opinion than a simple large-sized black and gold piston-filler of German manufacture. I find German pens (e.g., Pelikan, Mont Blanc) to be more solidly made and more precisely engineered than their Italian (e.g., Omas, Visconti, Montegrappa, Aurora—the latter two less so than the former two) and English (e.g., Conway Stewart) counterparts. The two pens I own that fit this category are a Mont Blanc 149 from the early 1980s, and a more recent Pelikan M1000. The Pelikan is a more solid feeling pen in my opinion, is a little less ‘status-ey’ than the Mont Blanc (which is a good thing in my book), and is a couple hundred dollars cheaper to boot.

Another popular status pen—though not a piston filler—is S.T. Dupont’s (French made) ‘Orpheo’ model. I’ve never owned one, but have handled them before, and can say that Dupont’s are wonderfully smooth writing fountain pens. In my experience, French pens (e.g., Dupont, Waterman) are extremely solidly constructed and precise writers, but seldom come with filling mechanisms other than the convertor/cartridge, which I find a little boring.

The New Vintage-inspired Pen

This is probably my favorite category of pen. And by ‘new’ here, I mean of relatively recent manufacture (say in the last fifteen years or so). I’m a huge fan of the fountain pens from the golden-era of pen manufacture (the 1930s-1950s), where designs ran from the wild celluloids and Art Deco designs of the 1930s (paradigmatically expressed, in my opinion, in Wahl’s ‘Doric’ pen) to the streamlined shapes of the jet-age (the most classic pen of this era is the wonderfully simple Parker 51).

In this category the field is wide open to you, as a number of manufacturers produce colorful pens evocative of a bygone era. On the higher-end of the spectrum I like American pen companies like Bexley and Edison. Some of the modern Parker pens fit this bill too, but my favorite, the ‘Duofold’ is getting harder to find and more expensive.

Many Italian companies draw on that country’s heritage as a maker of fine fountain pens and turn out some beautiful (though in my experience, sometimes not wholly reliable), but expensive, pens. Companies to check out include Stipula, Montegrappa, Omas, Visconti, and Aurora. Many of the Italian makers use the same materials as the original pens like ebonite (a kind of hard rubber), and celluloid (which has a distinct scent of camphor), whereas Parker, Edison, and Conklin use more stable and robust modern acrylics.

Modern English pens, though notoriously unreliable (I’ve sold and traded all that I owned), are quite handsome. Especially those from Conway Stewart and Yard-o-Led.

The Affordable Everyday Writer

Not everyone wants or needs to carry around an expensive fountain pen. If you’re just looking to get one fountain pen, and want to use it regularly without fear of it breaking, I would recommend looking into the following: 1) Lamy Safari (~$25); 2) Twsbi ‘Diamond 580’ ($55)—this is the best deal in fountain pens right now in my opinion. Designed by and for enthusiasts, the ‘Diamond 580’ is an easy to use piston filler that is solidly made and priced great; 3) Twsbi ‘Vac700’ ($70)—the same goes for the Vac700 as the Diamond 580. It’s a bit more expensive, but has the cooler vacuum filler system, and like the Diamond 580, it’s a pen designed for pen nuts and is easy to disassemble and care for yourself.

If you’re inclined to spend a little more, but are willing to do so in exchange for a pen that is indestructibly crafted and a classic of modern design (there is one in the MoMA), you need look no further than the Lamy 2000. Virtually unchanged since its introduction in 1966, it is a medium sized black piston filler, and can be found regularly on ebay for ~$125. If I am remembering correctly, I believe Neil Gaiman handwrites all his manuscripts with a Lamy 2000. 

There are many affordable vintage fountain pens to be found on ebay and elsewhere, but that’s too large a topic (and a bit far afield of my interests) to go into here. I will say, however, that one of my favorite pens is the vintage Parker ‘Vacumatic’ that I own. 

* Pens in pictures from L to R, top to bottom: Omas MoMA, Mont Blanc 149, Pelikan M1000; Bexley Classique (uncapped), Edison Herald, Hero 100 (a great Chinese-made repro of the Parker 51), Lucky 271 (Chinese Pelikan-inspired pen); 1937 Parker Vacumatic (uncapped), Mont Blanc 147, Omas 360, Stipula Saturno, Visconti Wall Street, Parker Duofold; Twsbi Vac700 (uncapped) and Diamond 530 (the predecessor to the Diamond 580)