CoVID Life

March 15, 2020

I was on a coach bus coming back from New York City and the best weekend of my life when I got the email. I don’t remember the exact wording but I’m sure it was just like every storefront flyer and newsletter “due to current health concerns regarding Covid-19…” There were more words in the email than I cared to read but the important gist was my place of work was closed until at least mid-April. Great. No work. Gym closed. All classes moved to online. I felt empty. I’m the kind of person who needs a purpose, reason to leave the house and suddenly all three of my main purposes were gone. 

Not much later I felt a tightness in my chest, my throat felt like it was closing. This must be the virus which I knew I had. I had just spent three days in NYC — the national epicenter for cases of coronavirus. The first death had been the day before. I had seen people cough just across from me on the subway, I had been in an Uber with a coughing driver. Of course I had the virus. I was going to have to stay in my bedroom for two weeks to avoid infecting my roommate. My friend beside me soon warned me that such a tightness was far more likely some simple anxiety and he was proven correct shortly thereafter when the discomfort disappeared.

Besides, how bad could things be? Maybe I’d get more time to ride my bike and write blogposts. And still, the music festival that was three weeks away was still on. Of course, by the time I arrived in Fairfax that festival had been cancelled. It was a long two hour drive back at home at 10 PM.

It was not a fun two weeks. I didn’t know if I was a carrier, I didn’t know if I was a risk. I had to stay inside, stagnating on the couch, drifting between living room, bedroom and kitchen. I visited my parents — I had to make sure beforehand that they were okay with potentially getting sick. My dad did the duty of visiting my grandparents and outright asking if they were okay with the risk that seeing family could kill them. 

The two weeks was brutal. Funny enough no one I came into contact with got sick, I never got sick, none of the dozen friends I saw in NYC got sick. Somehow, I was physically unscathed. Funny enough, quarantine hasn’t been as bad as I thought. I still receive 75% of my average wages every two weeks and without the cost of gas (I don’t drive) or eating, out my costs are damn near the same in terms of ratio. Going to the grocery store is different, everyone wears masks, yesterday I got yelled at for going in the wrong entrance.  But it’s really not awful. I got a coffee on the way to the store, I ordered take out a on Sunday. I went for a bike ride that was frankly incredible. Never before have I felt safe to ride through Carytown but I did yesterday and the roads were smooth and the cars few and far between. With no job I go out of town to the Bay almost every weekend, I see my grandparents, aunt and cousin far more than the traditional once every couple months. 

Social Media is different, arguably better. People aren’t posting the same pictures of expensive vacations and designer shopping trips. People are posting pictures in slippers and sweatpants. I know it will get old but for now it’s pretty refreshing. The neighborhoods are quiet, people go for runs and sit, six feet apart, in the parks. Yesterday I stopped by my mom’s front porch and just talked for a half hour before going home to make dinner.

Honestly, I could live like this for quite a long time. My only concern is the small businesses — what will my favorite record shop do, my favorite clothing store? And God, I really miss going to concerts. I miss the stuffiness of a crowded room. Isolation is weird. Not going outside much, the situation doesn’t feel totally real. Apparently, people will die ,but I won’t notice. I hate to put it so callously but I’m cooped up inside, I’d rather watch TV instead of the news, read a book, do homework. Simply, I think the best thing for me is to take this as a partially paid opportunity to go outside and exercise when the weather is nice, do my classwork, and move on. You think of this as a crisis, a looming economic freefall and mass death. No sir, no one will feel safe, comfortable with that mindset.

Autumnal Boot Bonanza

Autumn has arrived, I’m sitting in my living room in a heavy sweatshirt and drinking hot cider. It occurred to me that I’d love to talk about some fall footwear. By no means is this list a comprehensive guide, it is merely the footwear that will predominantly have my attention this season. Let’s be real – everyone here knows the typical Doc Marten’s, probably the Blundstones too. Those who know me at all can guess I’ll be throwing loafers like my life depends on it. With this list I instead hope to discuss a few options that the average reader perhaps is either unaware of or has not considered. The footwear that is under the radar, rarer, or perhaps just more expensive.

Starting off with something most people will likely know to some degree, Danner boots. The boots I’ve lusted after since I was 15 or 16 when I was obsessed with Topo Designs and anoraks. As my style became increasingly slim and black, the likes of the traditional Mountain Light became a thing of the past. I still retain a certain fondness for the brand’s style and this Snow Peak collaboration is, simply put, sexy, metallic red and black has me feeling a very certain way. They’re surprisingly affordable, especially compared to the typical $350+ price tag of a lot of Danner models.

We live in a post CK205W39NYC and Old Town Road world, it would be weird to do a list such as this without talking about some bangin’ western boots. Be it last year’s CK205 metal toe darling child to some classic offerings from Tony Lama or Lucchese, there are few things better than wearing boots that cause the theme from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly to play out of thin air. Personally, I wear some vintage zip-up cuban heels with a traditional western aesthetic, though the Rags McGregor x Nonnative 2016s/s boots (pictured above) are my dream. In the wake of said boots being basically impossible to find, the From the First Diego isn’t a bad looking option.

Finally, things get different. It’s near impossible to discuss boots off the beaten path without eventually coming to the ole black blobs, Guidi backzips, the best known (and typically my favorites) being the 788 and 988 varieties. That being said, I have lately developed an interest as well in front-zip models, the best known being the PL1 and PL2 though I have also recently come across the 5305fz, which is down right gorgeous in brown. And for those who, like me, find it hard to resist a collaboration, Guidi has recently done models with both Alyx and Nonnative.

When I said this was a list for fall/winter boots, that wasn’t entirely correct. I can’t not put my babies on this list. The greatest shoe of all time. (At least for me.) Yes, these were my most worn shoes of the summer, but I figure throw on some wool socks and they’ll be beautiful in the winter too. Sure, the suede versions aren’t exactly a good idea for trudging through snow, but it snows about 3-4 times a year year here, so I don’t care. I originally became interested in the Foot the Coacher f.a.s.t. Sidelace through the Takahiromiyashita The Soloist collaboration versions, though I ended up buying some plain non-collaboration ones which are almost exactly the same. It’s a weird sensation, having to break in sneakers but, once done, they are some of my most comfortable shoes. To be fair, they’re not that different from a classic grey New Balance. What it comes down to is, I assume, better material quality, and the fact that the the laces are sliding off the side. I suppose that, to me, it’s the small details that turn the basic into something special.

Oh look, another non-boot and this one is Foot the Coacher too. I have in my mind a vision of a deeply grey winter day, crawling out of bed, putting on my old reliable black jeans, some thick wool socks, and slipping into some comfortable clogs to meander to class, the picture of effortless chic. I already own the typical Birkenstock Bostons, but that’s just not enough for my hopelessly elitist taste. In addition to being produced by what has quickly become my favorite shoe brand, they’ve got that lovely pseudo-western detailing both too gaudy and too expensive for any real cowboy to wear. They’ve also got a vibram sole if you’re a sucker for brand name materials like me. Personally, I would like to get some black/white contrast ones, complete with silver detailing, to really up the flashiness.

Continuing with the western theme, we have what I would expect to be the most divisive items on the list, one that I myself can’t even decide if I like. They are the Beams x Suicoke ELS-VMBJP. No, I have no idea what the jumble of letters means except that perhaps the “BJP” likely stands for “Beams Japan.” Yes, they are basically Uggs with a Vibram sole, a back-zip, and western detailing. What intrigues me is that, likely a result of the divisive design, you can find these on sites like Yahoo! Japan for a cost typically less than that of a regular pair of Uggs. No, I have no clue really even how to wear them, especially in a way that makes them a little less ugly. I do think if even once I could pull them off that would be equivalent of clothing-based self actualization. Once in a while I come across something that is so silly and unwearable yet interesting enough that I just want to own them to keep on a shelf, these fall into that category.

Lastly, arguably the most basic and certainly the most obtainable, Austrian surplus Paratrooper boots. For those who are either too broke or too edgy for Dr. Marten’s, we have these shit-kickers. Easily obtainable at about $50 and damn near bombproof, these are at the very least functionally the best value on the list. I personally have a love-hate relationship with them, the break-in was awful, noticeably worse than even my Made in England Docs. One of them refused to soften or stretch for a few months, leaving the top of my left foot swollen and sore for the latter days of winter and early spring. Upon pulling them out this season I have found them surprisingly comfortable and quite reasonably versatile. My preferred wear is underneath my cuffed 3Sixteen raws, a look that would say skinhead if not for my penchant for a full head of hair and Patagonia fleeces.

Happy Stomping

Friday Spin / A Dream

I have a fantasy. Someday, a few years from now, I will move to a New England town. The kind of town that only exists in the imagination of writers, small, quiet, and secluded yet teeming with culture and bustle to rival any big city. I will live a peaceful life there, in an ancient home on a hill just outside town or perhaps in a studio apartment above a café. Brisk mornings spent jogging with Down to Nothing and Cold World blasting in my ears, days spent writing sponsored content for Instagram and reading, or whatever the modern man-about-town is expected to do. Title Fight provides the soundtrack to this fantasy. I imagine on chilly fall evenings when the sky darkens early and a gentle drizzle tinkles upon the copper roof this is the song that plays.

Hollywood’s Coolest Outsider

Just about everyone in fashion understands what a grail is, those who don’t probably have a grail but just don’t know what to call it. At most times, my top three would probably be a Louis Vuitton by Sofia Coppola SC Bag PM, the perfect black boot, and a Fucking Awesome skateboard deck with a picture of a young Chloë Sevigny on it. Writing this little piece, yes, it’s probably because I have a bit of a crush on her. But she’s a great actress, she’s in some cool films, and I’ll be damned if she doesn’t dress well. This is post is less a dissection than it is exhibition, a look into why I love her style to such a degree.

For the majority of those who truly love fashion, self-actualization typically comes in the form of effortlessness. It’s an idea that spans all levels of fashion from sprezzatura to normcore. They key to effortlessness is naturalness, wearing clothes that don’t feel forced, you want the clothes to seem like a component of who you are and arguably vice versa. I’ll touch more upon it further later, but I feel that Sevigny simply is a depiction of what good, effortless style can be.

Perhaps part of what draws me to Sevigny’s style is a certain sense of nostalgia. She honestly dresses somewhat like my mom. Light wash denim, clogs, the power of a good white button-down, even the classic LL Bean Boat & Tote. It’s a certain sense of the familiar, the items I saw constantly as a child and always associated with what my mom wore to the grocery store but now recognize as being kind of cool. On top of that, there’s the preppiness of her style, the aforementioned LL Bean tote, a good blazer, loafers galore. Hell, the woman has her own Weejuns. Whether I like it or not, I went to private school, I did cotillion, I work at a country club, these things have had an influence on my personal style. Though, to be fair, I own a copy of Take Ivy, so any influence is pretty voluntary.

It’s hard to discuss personal style without discussing the idea of consistency. People tend to believe (I think incorrectly) that certain styles require certain items and you cannot waver outside that. Almost like you aren’t allowed to be inspired both by a picture of a man in a suit and a skateboarder. Sevigny’s style exists as a defiance of that, that she can fluidly go from a Chanel two-piece to a Cramps tee and vintage denim. And not even just that her individual outfits can exist in contention, but that her choice of individual items. For instance, the inherent chicness of a Prada waist bag and Beret matched with the basic utilitarianism of Blundstones. Or wearing cut-off shorts with loafers, or even something as simple as wearing a romper and pearls with Air Force 1’s. At the end of the day, I’d argue that style is not about something as straight-forward as “here is a label, here are the rules,” it’s about knowing what you want and how to make that thing physical. Sevigny has mastered that. She can step out day to day in totally different outfits but so long as they each come off naturally, that is her style, that is who she is.

The final thing that appeals to me about Sevigny’s style is that she has a clear ear to the ground culturally. Perhaps it’s in part of how she got started. She wasn’t some model who got picked up at a mall for being drop-dead gorgeous, she was hired because a fashion editor liked her style, Harmony Korine put her into Kids because he liked her hair. Maybe this is why her style is so natural, she fell into her niche by being herself so why should she be obligated to be anything else? It’s no wonder, therefore, that she posed beside Jason Dill for Supreme x Comme des Garçons or that she collaborated with Opening Ceremony or modeled Uniqlo graphic tees beside Tadanobu Asano in 2013. The woman oozes metropolitan coolness.

It’s taken me far too long to write this post. I find it hard to describe why Sevigny’s style appeals to me to such a degree. It would be insufficient to say it’s just because she’s in some cool films or because she wears Margiela Tabis or because I happen to own her Warby Parker sunglasses. Maybe it’s just because I can sense she is someone who truly loves style. So the next time someone asks why I’ve got pennies in my loafers, it’s because Chloë Sevigny made it cool.

Friday Spin

Not a lot to say. This is the song that truly got me into Turnstile, it just hits. Love some of the looks in the video as well, the great sneaker variety, the bright blue Fred Perry Polo, all the flowers. Love it.

Nostalgia for a Past Unlived

Anyone who knows me could probably describe my summer uniform easily – a band tee, black jeans, black sneakers. If I’m feeling adventurous, I might even throw on black shorts in place of jeans. For no real reason, I decided it was high time for something different. Something between the heritage functionality of Engineered Garments and the laid back sportiness of Battenwear, a style I will simply refer to as the Camp Counselor look.

When I was a Boy Scout and still went to summer camp, this was always the kind of clothing I’d end up dreaming about part-way through the week but had neither the knowledge nor resourcefulness to assemble. A common theme that I will always come back to in terms of my fashion is the theme of nostalgia. This is a style that evokes a nostalgia for a past I never had, somewhere between a boy scout in the 1960’s and the victim of a summer camp serial killer in a 1980’s slasher. It’s a look designed to be comfortable, familiar, and affordable.

So let’s talk about items.

The first and, in my opinion, perhaps the most important is the shorts. Nothing speaks to me more of summers past than a good pair of shorts, the shorter the better. To really drive the whole camp look home, my personal preference is for a pair of vintage Boy Scout shorts. Frankly, they look great and they’re cheap, generally falling under $25. If perhaps, you don’t love the idea of musty canvas shorts, small nylon shorts do make an appearance. Hell, even some denim shorts can work, though I’m not sure I’m personally a fan.

Next is the top. So long as the other elements of the outfit evoke the style, I feel like this area has the most lenience. Though wherever possible my preference still leans towards going all in. In this case, vintage t-shirts are my favorite, especially ones for Scout camps. When working with olive shorts, white or preferably off white shirts look the best, keeping the overall vibe fairly lighthearted. Though hell, even a well placed band tee could even work, this Title Fight one is pretty cool.

When the weather is slightly cooler, you can freely add the odd layer. My recommendations would be basic sweatshirts, especially with collegiate graphics, button-downs in chambray or clean plaids, or the ubiquitous LL Bean anorak.

Finally, we get to footwear, probably my personal favorite and the category which inspired this whole idea. Only a few months ago I would never be caught dead thinking such a thought, but you can’t go wrong with a classic pair of moccasins. My personal favorite brand is Yuketen, the brand responsible for the Mocs pictured right, which are mine. Though if you are concerned about about price, it may be harder to find offerings from the likes of Yuketen, Quoddy, or Russell at a low cost. However, it’s hard to go wrong with offerings from LL Bean or Bass Weejuns.

If perhaps Moccasins aren’t your thing, there are some great other options, Birkenstocks in the Boston and Arizona iterations are not only great options, but well loved by all. Speaking of well loved, you can always go with a pair of classic sneakers, white high top Converse or Jack Purcells are the first to come to mind. Hell, the recent A$AP Nast Jack Purcell is different enough to standout but still a comfortably familiar look.

Lastly, accessories. My favorite is a good classic bag, backpacks especially. My preferred bag is the Topo Designs Klettersack, mine comes in orange and, after four years together, has been one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. They also have a great duffel bag in a similar style.

Additionally, you can more fully pose as someone who goes into the outdoors with the odd Victorinox Swiss Army, perhaps hanging from the belt? Speaking of belts, let’s talk about those as well. I’m specifically a huge sucker for a tooled leather belt, mine (not pictured) has a bunch of rodeo and bull-riding references.

There you have it, my idea of how to dress like you’re about to get axe murdered by the husk of a bullied camper, now get out there into the woods and whittle, or catch dysentery, or whatever people used to do at summer camp.

Friday Spin

Every name has to come from somewhere I suppose. This is partly where mine came from. God, I love this song. However, this blog isn’t just named for the song, it’s named for Scuffletown park in Richmond, a cute little place wedged between alleys. It’s about a block from my old elementary school, and within sight of 8 ½, one of the city’s best take-out spots and the location of The Video Fan (rest in peace). Though I did not really develop my interests fully until nearly a decade later, I like to think that this quarter mile area did play a large part in who I would later become. And that’s what’s special. A lot of this blog, how I approach my interests, is based upon a certain level of nostalgia, the music I was shown as a kid, the people I saw on the street, the films I saw. I like to think that my interests and how I present them are a tribute to that.

Also, my parents used to be neighbors with some of Avail’s members, which is pretty cool.

Yes, I know the song is largely about issues in Richmond, including the city’s former ranking as having the third highest per capita murder rate. But still, it’s a good song.

The Piece That Started It All

In December of 2016, fashion was relatively new to me. My daily wear consisted mostly of black jeans, Vans, and thrifted sweatshirts. Eventually, I did decide that a trucker jacket would be pretty cool. As far as I was concerned (or really knew), Levi’s was the only denim brand, so that’s what I looked for. I was looking on Grailed because I was a poor high school kid and I wanted to save money, this one was $40, one of the cheapest on the site at the time. I bought it pretty quickly. I did not know how special it would prove to be.

Specifically, this piece is from a Spring 2011 capsule collection done in collaboration with Opening Ceremony, the third coming together of the two brands. This collection is best known for an anorak Chris Brown was papped wearing. The jacket is made in the USA of Japanese Chambray, with Opening Ceremony branding on the tag and buttons. It’s very boxy, with a width nearly akin to a medium but a cropped length of about 20 inches. It looks great worn over a sweatshirt to balance out the boxy fit on my diminutive frame. It was already well worn when I bought it with beautiful fades, a soft feel, and corners faded near white from wear and slightly threadbare.

But what is most special about this piece is not what it is, but what it represents. It was my first “real” purchase, my first dive into buying pieces used, my first foray into Americana, and my first experience with clothing that truly had character. Through it, I discovered my love for classic Americana/Workwear pieces, without it I would have likely never discovered my obsession with Japan’s Wacko Maria. Further, it influenced my love of punk/indie subculture and its fashion which helped to grow my musical interests and in turn further my sense of style. In February 2019, I added to it its only adornment, a pin for the band Gumming, who you should definitely check out.

I don’t really wear the jacket as much as I used to, in many cases it has been replaced by the aforementioned Wacko Maria. But, I would never sell this piece for any price. It’s affordable enough and hardwearing enough that it is one of the pieces in my wardrobe I can really easily throw on and live my life. And besides, it has had a huge influence on who I am, at least in terms of fashion, and that it a debt that I can never repay. I say that as if the jacket is a person, lord knows I love it as if it was.

Friday Spin

For every instance of me posting one of these I have probably forgotten to do so three times. But anyway, I just got back from seeing these guys live with Lil Ugly Mane and it’s a slapper. Have a good one.

I’m in Love with a Belt

Monitaly has a belt, this belt, I want this belt real bad. I love how long this belt is, I love how shiny it is. I want to marry this belt and have its babies. I want to fall asleep caressing its supple bridle leather. I want to wear this belt with shorts for no reason other than it would be fucking stupid. I want to walk down the street and give people in that stupid Gucci belt a look that says “you absolute fucking neophyte, my belt might cost a few hundred less than yours but it’s made my Amish craftsman, enjoy your entry level conspicuous consumption, I have ascended.”

Sadly, this belt is out of stock and I currently can’t be bothered to proxy one from Japan at a mark-up.

Edit: Since originally writing this it has come back in stock, please don’t buy one because I need it more than you do.