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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rep the Real

So here's a dirty little revealing of an untruth from my past.  In spring 1994 I was going through what a casual observer might call a coming of age awakening where I discovered the sudden thrill within me of being bound to the island of Jamaica by blood.  So there I was, a brand new freshmen at the 'long-toothed age of 17' at Howard University pinning posters on my wall of popular West Indian nightclub spots in my Bronx stomping grounds like Sunbeam Lounge, 'The Glass Bucket' and 'Act III'.  Although I would imbibe with the occasional fare at the local 'hole in the wall' reggae-infused dive joint The Glass Bucket, the nighttime moonlight was hardly enough to foolishly hide my peach-fuzz kissed top lip from the gargantuan 'by the book' bouncers outside Act III.  And of course, Act III was the place to be.  So as I'm in my dorm room pinning up my shrine to a life I dared to dream of, in walks a fellow dorm mate from some island and as we hit some convo, he begins to eye the wall.  After perusing all the popular dancehall acts that breezed through Act III that spring he turned to me and asked if I was a yardie.  Sadly, I dabbled in soaking my liver in bottom shelf rum and practicing a menacing rudeboy stance but didn't bother to educate myself on the absurdly obvious colloquialism 'yardie' which simply meant of Jamaican descent.  So my reply was a questionable "yeah? heh, heh" which was followed by his skeptical "uh-huh" and later by my Homer Simpson-esque "D-oh!".  See it might be in your blood, but you've got to understand it to live it.  The point is, you can't fake the heritage.

Let's face it, not only is heritage dressing deep in the psyche of American mens fashion right now, but it also makes sense.  However, similarly to my attempts to fake the funk in Nightclub Diaries of a Bronx-born Adolescent, there are several companies and chain stores whose attempts at getting heritage dressing right, seem regrettable.  I believe a huge aspect of modern heritage dressing not just capturing the mood of Americana during its build up but also subscribing to craftsmanship, detail and the classics of design all within the context of relating to our lives today.  That detail of American heritage dressing is very closely related to the sartorial snappiness and Savile Row elegance that is London, only remixed and broken-down for relevance to life on our side of the Atlantic.  This is why an edited collabo of the heritage and the sartorial make sense when paired together and also why I was immediately drawn to the introduction of Ben Sherman's new Plectrum Collection.







The company's new Plectrum Collection is Ben Sherman's new premium top-level, 'designed in London' coneptual collection that is more directional and sartorially tuned in with the enlightened modern male consumer.  What strikes me as key in Plectrum's approach is the fact that it all seems designed.  Clarity?  It feels designed and not just organized at some board meeting where silhouettes are rehatched and new print and color thrown in.  For Fall 2011, you get a sense for and see the thought process behind Plectrum's mixture of colors and the pairing of prints with textures to arrive at a wholly dimensional story.  The proportions on the knits are appropriate for sensical layering while having the appeal to be integrated into your Saturday romp wear or mid-week afterwork aperitif attire.  It's very nice to see a collection that takes into consideration the impact of how you enter a room just as strongly what is left behind when you exit it.  Collar trims and trim chinos in popping colors and wooly textures that exude strength yet invite one to canoodle marks a great attempt at killing several birds with one stone.  It's the execution and the nuances of quality clothing that create the lore that establishes a heritage.  The time and energy was taken to get it right and that's an undertaking one clearly cannot fake.





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