Thrifty Thursday: Fryes with that

I found my summer shoe.

I've been looking to get my feet into a pair of wingtips that are a little unusual. Something bright and something classic at the same time. I had found a couple that intrigued me over the past few months but I passed up two pairs of shoes...and regretted it. You know that feeling and you think, "Crap, I should have just bought them." Both pairs were Florsheim by Duckie Brown. One was a white oxford...

Florsheim by Duckie Brown
And another was a laceless version:
Florsheim by Duckie Brown

I missed my chance and have continued to hunt for a pair of the perfect white oxfords. Damn you, Florsheim, for making such amazing shoes but not in my size that I can try on.

Alas, the search continued for another summer fun pair.
And the search ended at Nordstrom.

Meet the off-white Frye "James" wingtip.

So comfortable and so slick. I thought I was going to walk away with a pair of Cole Haan's because of the added Nike Air technology, but these Fryes are going to hold up very nicely. More than half-off the full price? Great. By the way, there is a huge summer clearance sale going on at Nordstrom. Didn't summer just started though? Exactly.

On my feet: Off-white "James" wingtip (sale $98, reg $198 at Nordstrom) by The Frye Company.


Q&A: A look at Nonnie Threads

Meet Jonnie Rettele.

She's the mastermind behind Nonnie Threads, a small but remarkable menswear label that's designed fresh every season in a picturesque industrial space she shares with a few other entrepreneurial designers just south of Wicker Park. Behind each of Jonnie's designs is a story. These pieces are born out of rich traditions of American clothing, and with every new line, she channels a recognizable icon. Last year, it was Tom Waits. This year, Steve McQueen. You get the idea.

There are lots of reasons we love Jonnie Rettele. She's good at what she does. She tests her designs on her husband, Mustafa (score one for love). She's following her bliss, and she's passionate about clothing that's made in the U.S.A. And she sees that the American clothing industry needs a kick in the pants. She's challenging major players—shirting giants who have been around since the days when sailors were still kissing nurses in the streets. Yet, that doesn't phase her, because she's got a vision. And we like people with vision.

But here's the thing: America and quality, can be tough choices sometimes. And as good Midwestern boys, we grew up wearing hand-me-downs and having our mothers yank our hands down thrift store aisles. We still remember when we thought retail-priced jeans from American Eagle were a treat. But we're on a sartorial journey, which means that we're constantly evaluating—being thrifty most of the time, splurging on superiority some of the time, and trying to be sensible all of the time.

That's why we caught up with Jonnie at her studio—to test a couple of her pieces for ourselves and see if American-made quality is still worth the money.

Midwestyle: So let's tackle the issue of quality clothing. A lot of guys are hesitant to support pricy American goods because they can get cheap alternatives elsewhere. What's the difference?

Jonnie Rettele: I think you can tell. The fabrics are the first thing. It feels cheap, it feels thin, it feels starchy—and not in a clean way. Like it was just unloaded from a piece of plastic.

I was born in York, Neb. It's a smaller town with not a lot of industry. If they were to ask what my clothes cost, I think they might scoff. Their favorite place to shop is Walmart, and I understand that because I know what living a small town is like. But factory jobs went away from that town, and it's directly related: When you buy goods that come from other places, you're supporting manufacturing leaving. I'm trying to support local economy coming back here.

Part of it is also the environmental cost. It may be cheaper to import those materials, but it has hidden negative impacts other places, like the carbon footprint.

I used to buy pants from Zara, and after about 10 washes, the coloring would fade. That's something I try to do: Get my husband or people I know in the clothes so I can know how it's washing and know how it's wearing. I want to know exactly what this fabric is doing and be able to tell you.

And the details cost money: the seams, the stitching, the attention to detail. Those are difficult things to mass-produce. You're paying for a special piece; you're paying for a story.

MWS: What kind of story? You make a jacket that has a pretty interesting genesis, right?

JR: My father-in-law worked as a night security guard at Marshall Fields, and he started bringing all these coats over. They're just beautiful: amazing lining, amazing craftsmanship. I didn't realize that things aren't made that way anymore.

He used to save his money and buy two pairs of one type of coat in two different sizes. So, he's got this long leather coat with a shearling inside and a notched collar, and he bought it in a size 40 and a size 42. My husband's wearing the 40 now, and his dad's wearing the 42. He used to wear the 40 when he got it in the '60s or '70s.

MWS: Jeff and I were just talking about this the other day. Is timeless style something to shoot for?

JR: Clothing should last. A really inspiring element from my father-in-law is how he takes care of things. He gave us all these cashmere sweaters from Marshall Fields—probably 20 of them in different colors, crew-necks, V-necks, cardigans—and they were all individually bagged, perfectly folded.

I think that's something that men don't learn as much today—because everything is so expendable. You go to H&M or you go to the Gap, and "This is only a $20 shirt, so I don't really care if it gets a hole in it, or if I wash it with a dark color and it's a white; I'll just buy a new one." It's okay to spend the money on something if you're going to take care of it.

The story of Nonnie Threads just sort of happened, and it had a lot to do with being partnered with someone who was at point in his life that he wanted to start dressing like a man. And part of it was also being at the tail end of this long dry spell in menswear.

MWS: So what was it about menswear that pulled you in?

The energy from guys. Women are excited when they meet someone who's doing womenswear, but not as much guys when they meet someone who's doing menswear. It's not as common. And I think there was such a dry period in menswear in the past five years.

Trends don't move as fast as womenswear. There's a challenge because men will only go so far. I think they're getting more adventurous, which is good, and that can be a result of lots of menswear lines popping up and you have to do something different to stand out.

Then, all of a sudden, it's booming. The whole heritage movement has sparked that, where people are paying attention to where things come from.

MWS: What about here in the Midwest? When you think of menswear here, what comes to mind?

JR: Casual. You think of the West Coast, you think of board shorts and surfer wear. East Coast, you think of more tailored fashion. But the Midwest is casual. Maybe it's because a lot of us are from working-class farm families. I feel like sometimes the Midwest is really sheltered.

MWS: Last question. What's on the radar for menswear?

JR: I've been wearing vests since I was like in third grade, so I was really excited when vests came back in style. One thing I'm questionable about is the whole "bold color" thing. I don't think that will stick around as long as, say, the shawl collar. You'll probably see that for a number of seasons. Something I want to experiment with is more cowl necks with T-shirts. It's sort of peasant-y. Since there's so much more energy with menswear right now, I feel like there's a relevant need for having faster trends.

Here are a a couple of the pieces we picked up from Nonnie:

Seth, wearing the shawl-collar pullover by Nonnie Threads.

Jeff, wearing the slim-fit mushroom trousers by Nonnie Threads.

Over the next while, we'll be keeping an eye on how they hold up. In the meantime, you can follow @NonnieMen on Twitter. And check out her online store that opened just a couple of weeks ago. If you see something that strikes your fancy, let her know we sent you.

Photos of the Nonnie Threads studio by Seth Putnam. Photos of Jeff and Seth by Anthony Barlich.


STREET midweSTYLE: Daniel in Leawood

Meet Daniel.

He's the Brand Manager of Baldwin Denim in Kansas City, Missouri.

Daniel is one of the gentlemen who have been mentors, friends and upstanding fellows in my life. A stand-up guy who is passionate about leading people, companies and brands—and doing it well with integrity and honesty. He's one of the guys who's helped nourish my own passions and dreams, menswear and blogging aside.

And he's a man of classic style with subtle details that add a nice touch to his look.

On Daniel: Trim cotton navy blazer by Shipley and Halmos; oxford-cloth button-down by Gitman Brothers; penny loafers by Sperry Topsiders; Navy and red European ribbed surcingle by Torino; repp tie from Dad's closet; "The Henley," California wash by Baldwin Denim.


midweSTYLE: St. Louis (Part Two)

The Midwestyle traveled to wretched great St. Louis for a grand wedding weekend. College friends getting married brought us back to the city for a weekend of thrifting, dancing and getting into trouble—oh, and that wedding we were in. Ain't wedding season just...great...?
(See "Part One" for the rest of the story.)

Cam, Seth, Jeff.

We strolled along Busch Stadium and gave our two cents on what we think of the Cardinals. We walked down the street to another iconic St. Louis monument, The Arch. While Seth and I were doing groomsmen things, Cam visited the gold mine of designer clearance, Nordstrom Rack.

To see some close-ups of our wardrobe, check out our Tumblr for a few details.


STREET midweSTYLE: Brad on Chicago & LaSalle

Meet Brad.

He's a Brooklyn transplant in Chicago who runs Well-Spent. He's an intelligent guy who has a passion for discovering and bringing the focus on "honest, obtainable goods."



midweSTYLE: Proportions at play

We've been mixing it up a bit. And loving it. You know; playing with proportions, colors and fabrics.

Give some of these stylings a shot:
  • Bright and LOUD. Try a subtle dark layer when your outfit is on the neutral or lighter side.
  • Bold prints. Tame it or tone it with a less busy fabric or wash.
  • Highs and lows. Roll your sleeve or throw cuff your chinos. A little detail never hurt.
  • Bring an extra layer. You'd be surprised how a jacket/cardigan can pull your appearance together, especially when you're going from day to night.

On Cameron: Four-pocket "Trucker" denim jacket (eBay, $15) by Levi's; charcoal cardigan (thrifted, $20) by American Apparel; madras short-sleeve shirt (thrifted, $2) by Royal Knight; slim-fit chinos (Urban Outfitters, $10) by Dockers; black plimsolls (thrifted, $4); leather snap bracelet ($20) by Corter for Japan.


Friday Wrap-up: Mid June


Yes, you.
Have a great weekend, friend.

Cam and our friend, Gerard.


Thrifty Thursday: Levi's lately

Chicago is a land of wondrous things. Two of them happen to be the Levi's Stores on Michigan Avenue and Wicker Park. Earlier this week in stores they were taking taking an additional 50 percent already reduced prices on sale items. They might as well have said, "Please come in and find these clothes a good home for a fraction of the cost."

I've got my go-to people at each location that I work with each time I come in. Love the service and the prices. Also, it's Levi's. It just works.

Oh, you don't live near a Levi's store? That's okay. Their customer service is great and will happily track down your items, even the sale items, because Lord knows that's where and what I shop when I walk into Levi's.

Oh, Timex Camper watch for a mere $18, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways that you look sharp and timeless everywhere I take you.

Straight-leg cargo pants that I'm not swimming in? Please. I've gotten more compliments on these lately than I have the bow ties I've been rocking. I saw these on a gentlemen who worked for the styling department of Oprah and asked him where he got these, thinking they were Shipley and Halmos or Engineered Garments. But they were Levi's! He told me he didn't remember the style number but got them from a store in California for like 20 bucks. Eager to find these, I went to the Levi's store with a mission and that mission was completed.

On Jeff: Cotton hunting jacket ($30) by Levi's; cotton front-pocket cargo pants ($20) by Levi's; grey button down ($20) by J.Crew; "The Lexington" leather wingtips (Nordstrom Rack, $50) by Florsheim; "Camper" watch ($18) by Timex; leather belt with brass hardware ($5) by J.Crew.

Photos of Jeff by Jeff for Jeff by Seth.

Seth slipped the Levi's hunting jacket and never looked back.

That's Seth's beloved Saddleback Leather briefcase—which, as he points out for the budget-minded among you, was result of a giveaway from the generous folks over at the Art of Manliness.

The jacket won him over, so we ordered it for him a couple of days later and he took it down to ol' farm in southwest Missouri to bust out the over-under 20-gauge shotty and break in the reinforced shoulder patch.

Of Seth: Field photos by Jeff Kieslich. Farm photos by Oliver Drambour.


Gift Guide: Father's Day

Dad, Pops, Old Man, Tough Guy, Herr Kommandant, or just Bill—whatever you call him, his day is coming up on Sunday. If you're anything like the three of us, two weeks' notice is too much, a reminder the Friday before is too little, but six days to go is just right. Don't worry; we're looking out for you.

This is by no means a comprehensive guide—just our three quick thoughts for this year.

I've been on a hand-written note kick lately. So much so that I'm working regular, old snail-mail letters into part of my weekly routine. There's just something about them—the extra time, thought and care they take—that shows you mean it.

My parents aren't too particular about what kind of material goods they get, and I've always found that my best Father's (and Mother's) Day gifts have simple expressions of genuine appreciation. So Pa will be getting a long overdue letter from me this year.

If, like me, you want to spread the gospel of the hand-written note, consider sending a box of stationery as a gentle nudge. My advice? Go for something simple, elegant and typographical. But beware: A man's stationery is as personal as his penmanship, so this may be something you want to pick out together. If surprises are important to your gift-giving mojo, a pen would be the perfect lead-in to the stationery. Some of my favorites (all of which happened to be gifts):

"Jotter" stainless steel ballpoint pen ($5) by Parker.
"Medalist" [engraved, half of the pen/pencil set from the Classic Century collection] ($50) by Cross.
"Brass Bullet" Space Pen ($26) by Fisher.

What's one thing many of our fathers like? That's right: Beer. Now, how do they like their beer? Cold. Really, really cold. But let us suppose that our fathers want to enjoy a brew by a campfire in the wild, on a boat, or somewhere else that's nowhere near a refrigerator. How is he to keep his precious liquids at a reasonably desirable temperature?

The answer: Coleman's Heritage 150-Quart Cooler. This bad boy has been getting some good press recently (Selectism, 10engines), and for good reason. It'll hold 200—count 'em: 200!–cans of your favorite beer. As a nice bonus, those beers can then be topped with a paltry 55 pounds of ice. I would tell you to feel free to sub out the beer for your favorite flavor of Shasta or a nicely brewed organic iced tea, but then, what kind of advice is that?


Or, if your Pops is cigar man, a nice bundle of his favorite stogies would probably please him more than anything. And if he's a seasoned smoker, try getting him something he's never smoked. He'll love you even more for finding his new cigar of choice.

When Seth asked me to pick out some gifts for Father's Day, I read it as, "Okay, what do I want to give my future offspring, (Lord willing)?" A pair of shoes, a leather good and a Father's Day card came to mind. More importantly, I chose gifts that I would make said future children think, "Oh man, my dad had these and loved them."

First up: Shoes by Florsheim. Like these raisin and black Markhams ($112), these bone and chalk-pink saddle shoes ($221.25), or these black and cognac buffalo leather Jareths ($75). On a budget, baby. I love duo-tone anything. Best of both worlds.

Second: If your guy is an accessorizer, this wrap bracelet will look amazing as it ages—1/4 Triple Wrap Cuff (Need Supply, $48) by Billy Kirk. Or how about a wooden wrist watch (Canoe, $85)? If none of that is your jam, this distressed barn-wood hip flask (Etsy, $18.95) might be a good bet.

And at the very least: A card—the "Shirt" card (Rifle Paper Co., $4.50) or the "Hat" note set (Renegade Handmade, $15).

Recommended Reading: Max Wastler's series on last year's Father's Day over at AllPlaidOut.com.

Now get outta here and show some love.


Friday Wrap-up: June 10th

Earlier this week, Cam and I did a photoshoot with Scout Photo (@scoutphoto) in Kansas City. Here's a snippet of what's to come in the coming weeks of some of our fresh summer looks.

Gerard (@gerard_brown), husband of Concrete Catwalk, and Cam strollin' down Brookside Boulevard in Kansas City. Photography by Nick Welch of Scout Photo.

Also, we have 776 followers on Twitter. Let's go ahead and bump that up to 800, shall we?

Moving on to our FRIDAY WRAP-UP:

We love our friends. They're doing great things. We particularly love our friends in the Midwest who are in the middle of some exciting stuff we'd like to mention:
What about gentlemen in the Midwest, you say? Let's check in with our good friends at Baldwin Denim...
Back to some more previews of next week.
Everyone loves a crotch shot, right?
Well, how about three.
But really.
What's the purpose of a crotch shot in menswear style blogging?
The purpose of a crotch shot is to show the intersection of the various patterns, textures, prints and styles colliding at a central point.
FACT: That central point is usually the crotch.

Have a crotchtastic weekend, y'all. We are.

Photography by Nick Welch of Scout Photo.


Thrifty Thursday: Rackin' it

Editor's Public Service Announcement: Just in case you didn't see Twitter or Facebook earlier this week, we did (finally) pick winners for the bow-tie challenge. Thanks for the reminders, questions and general cleverness about our tardiness. It would appear the interns really dropped the ball on this one. (We gave them one job—one job...). In any event, the lucky two were:
  • Drew Jones Art
  • mah5160
Congrats to the winners, and to the rest of you: Be sure and enter next time. We think the interns have learned their lesson. If pulling outhouse duty doesn't teach them, I don't know what will.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming:

There are a few places you're sure to find things cheap. Wal-Mart. McDonald's. On the apparel side of things, you'll get anything you find in a dumpster for free, garage sales almost always guarantee low prices, and thrift stores are nice for weakening the blow to your finances. But then there are times you're itching for something new, something that hasn't been washed and loved on by somebody else, something with price tags still attached—but price tags with small numbers on them. Enter Nordstrom Rack.

You see, there is no Nordstrom Rack in Kansas City (yet), so I had not encountered one until our recent wedding field trip to St. Louis. I'm not much of a planner, and I'm even less of a packer, so when time came to put together a bag to take to the Lou, I threw some underwear and toiletries in my Wanderer and grabbed some hanging shirts out of my closet in an effort to use as little energy as possible. And then I set off, without too many wedding appropriate items in tow. "I'll buy some in St. Louis," I thought. As you may have guessed, I'm also a procrastinator, so at about seven in the evening on the eve of the wedding day, I set out to find some shoes and some neckwear. Nordstrom Rack would have a moderately priced selection of both, I was told.

Granted, Nordstrom stocks a lot of things that I consider unwearable, for whatever reason. But, at the same time, the Rack had a nice array of Clarks, Top-Siders, and Florsheims, all at about half off. The tie collection was just as appealing and twice as cheap. I walked away with a pair of black suede Clarks desert boots for $50 and a $15 Rooster polka dot bow tie. Two items that will get a lot of wear. Two items that I avoided paying full price for. I think this is called winning.

Bow tie (Nordstrom Rack, $15) by Rooster; cotton oxford (thrifted, $3) by Arrow, medium; slim cotton chinos (Urban Outfitters, sale $10) by Dockers, size 31; leather belt (stolen from my father—thanks, dad); suede desert boots (Nordstrom Rack, $50) by Clarks, size 10.

Photography by Jarred Donalson.


midweSTYLE: St. Louis (Part One)

You know that feeling of joy when you are reunited with best friends who always greet with you a warm, bear-like slap on the back followed by a quick rub to diffuse the gentle sting? That's how I feel when the Midwestyle reunites.

We got together in St. Louis for our good man Patrick's wedding. If you're from Missouri or have Missouri friends, you know Kansas City hates St. Louis. And that St. Louis hates Kansas City right back. Or maybe it's just our friends have this thing with their hometown pride.

Either way, Patrick, a Kansas City boy, met Emmy, a St. Louis girl, and forged peace between the Montagues and Capulets of KC-STL—at least for the time being. Naturally, we brought our favorite Kansas City goods with us to this wretched great city!

Actually, we just found all of these belongings in our car. Let's be honest: You need to take some hometown swag with you wherever you go. We chose Boulevard Pale Ale, KC Baldwin hat and a throwback "Wizards" jersey.

But really "St. Louis" people, do you actually live in St. Louis? Nope, you live in Chesterfield, West County or Kirkwood. We, on the other hand, actually have mailing addresses that say "Kansas City" not "Lee's Summit" or "Overland Park." Represent.

The Three Madras Amigos showing our St. Louis denizens how we feel. Everyone loves a meaningless, mildly offensive middle-school gesture.

Noteworthy details: My no-break chinos and "Lexington" wingtips by Florsheim.

Noteworthy detail: Seth's thrifted woven and stitched loafers by Giorgio Brutini.

Noteworthy detail: The "KC" welt and felt hat by Baldwin Denim.

On Cameron: pink, fuchsia and orange madras shirt (thrifted at Wild Man Vintage, $7) by Royal Knight, medium; grey slim-fit trouser shorts (Urban Outfitters, $40) by BDG, size 31; "KC" baseball cap (Standard Style, $42) by Baldwin Denim, size large; well-loved and worn "Authentics" (online, $40) by Vans, size 10; throwaway aviators from Urban Outfitters ($10).

On Jeff: Grey slim-fit "Davis" chino (retail, $50) by Club Monaco, size 28x32; brown leather belt with brass detailing (sale, $4.99) by J.Crew, size 30; blue-and-green large-check madras shirt (sale, $29.99) by J.Crew; "Lexington" wingtips without laces (Nordstrom Rack, $50) by Florsheim, size 11; knock-off "Clubmaster" sunglasses (Seek Vintage, $12).

On Seth: Blue and violet plaid button-down (swiped from Cam); "Corporal" chinos courtesy of J Brand, size 30; woven and stitched tassel loafers (thrifted, $6) by Giorgio Brutini.

Photography by Jarred Donalson.
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