In Gregory Allen

Natural Selection

Consider the peacock for one second.  For years I thought that the gender with all the colorfully displayed plumage and 'Carnivale-esque' decadence was the female.  Shocked was I to find out that it was the male.  This prompted an investigation.  So I dug in my desk's top drawer, pulled out my magnifying glass, donned my round scholarly spectacles and Sherlock Holmes deerstalker then went on a Google search (of course).  This is where I surprisingly discovered that the males of many species were the pretty ones.  The ones with all the fluff and frill.  From the lion's monarchy-inspiring mane to the crowning glory of the stag's antlers, the natural beauty of the male species seemed destined to out shadow.  Well now here's a challenging platform for women to play keep up and for the male ego to grow to disgustingly universal proportions.  But what if I told you that the man being more visibly festive in nature was only so, in a sense, in order to attract the scrutinizing discerning eye of his female counterpart.  Kinda like God played a cruel joke somewhere or tried to teach a valuable lesson in balance of the sexes.

It also kinda makes one ask, "what the hell happened with humans?".  The male's ego keeps him and everyone around him thinking he's the 'bee's knees' and in turn created a system where women felt the need to prep and primp to keep up.  It's like we, the most adapted species, created a system where we became über-preoccupied with plucking our peacock feathers to come up with our own versions of what's pretty and sexy and somehow that fell into various stigmas from fixations on eternal youth to Brazilian waxes to various augmentations to manic dieting.  Well this isn't a call to regress or ditch city living and go off and live in the wilderness.  I feel that we have to adapt and adjust to the times we live in with all the ideas, technologies and advancements that have flourished over generations.  We have learned over time.  Women have busted through the 'mascu-dominated' barriers and ate liberated pie while men have begrudgingly relented and even acknowledged the incredible importance of their 'estrogenated' halves.  Men adopting to embrace the liberty of choice and option, often enjoyed by their female cohorts while simultaneously preserving yet redefining their gender roles have more to do with nature than not. 

Why all the talk of species?  Well whenever I come across a label that aims to nudge men in a direction of the future while circling the airports of good taste, fashion history and expression, I think of the difference such a label makes on modern men, fashion and dressing.  And I think of it in relation to how it differs from a womenswear model; in a sense, what makes it separately unique for menswear and for fashion.  Such a thought-provoking label is Gregory Allen.  This Toronto-based clothing and accessories label bearing the designer/owner's namesake made me think of a kind of controlled explosion.  Explanation?

Gregory Allen uses the lines of menswear staples and finds enlightening ways to color outside of them. Infused with color, prints and textures to brighten your drawers are Allen's eclectic dress shirts, pocket squares, bow ties and boxer shorts. What stands out with this label is the unashamed usage of color that in lesser quality hands would've failed. See, not only are the pieces crafted from premium materials like perforated supple lambskins and soft long staple cottons but they are also very well tailored with attention to detail in finishing and initial presentation through package design. Yes Mr. Allen pays close attention in making sure his products are given that specialty factor with canister packaging, for his pocket squares, bow ties and trim boxer shorts for example, that make them that much more special for the buyer or wearer's breast pocket, neck, bum, and ultimately, ego. The label seeks to have fun with traditional textiles in whimsical, not clownish, ways with fun vibrant plaids, checks, dotted and striped patterns in color and texture pairings that are delightful and utterly wearable.

Understood here is the specialty factor that more men are realizing they desire from their experience with clothing and shopping. This has long been a factor that many men have applied to their expectations from gadgets and electronics which they ultimately made personal. More men are discovering the personal aspect of clothing as they discover that when a label such as Gregory Allen is chosen, with keen design and premium elements, they can preserve a solid masculine identity while exploring the more progressive areas of dressing and adornment. It's welcomed consideration for the mannish-maned kings of the jungle and prouder-plumaged peacocks alike.

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In Bernhard Willhelm Mykita

A Reason to See Red: Mykita X Willhelm - Franz For Japan

What's a bit crazy, a lot colorful and touched with irreverence that would make a seasoned downtown club-head softly blush?  Why, the revelry oozing from the designs of Bernhard Willhelm of course.  Pouring out of the never-ending celebratory mind of Willhelm are usually pairings that expand the borders of taste, color, print, shape, pattern and even gender all within the context of fashion design.  Under the same token of design-panache, enter Mykita, the highly influential eyewear company whose attention to the art of making frames seems almost godly.  Sleek, polished and modern yet whimsical, vibrant and 'bad-ass', Mykita frames equally represent the fun and the well-made sides of quality eyewear.  It only seems kismet then that Willhelm would lend his expressive eye to collaborate with the super-influential Mykita to help out a culture that celebrates individualism, expressionism and pays back the most sincere form of flattery through insightful imitations of style.

Unless you've been under a rock for the past few months, you've probably seen the carnage that the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March left on their infrastructure.  Well take my word for it, the people and culture of Japan are resilient ones but sometimes it takes a few extra hands with the capabilities to dig into pockets to keep the resiliency bouncing.  Enter once again, Bernard Willhelm and Mykita.  Willhelm, who had already been collaborating with Mykita since 2009, has taken the companies ultra iconic Franz aviator model and created a special LIMITED EDITION (two words that excite me) pair.

This yummy balanced 'Oreo-esque' fusion of Willhelm's cheekiness and Mykita's spirit and superb craftsmanship pay homage to one of the greatest symbols that stands for a nation, its flag. Spoon some more 'creme in the middle' goodness on top and feel no guilt since this splurge is also equally humanitarian in that ALL PROCEEDS, minus the value added tax, go 'beeline' to the Japanese Red Cross earthquake appeal. However, make haste!!! I did say LIMITED EDITION!!! There were only 100 pieces made and at last count they are just under the halfway mark with the remaining quantity. A guiltless splurge that knocks four birds out with one stone: Mykita, Willhelm, Rehabilitation and Style.

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In Creep by Hiroshi Awai

This Life, Their Eyes

Eric was his name. Don't ask me from what country he was from; I can't remember.  All I remember is his insight.  He was the only guy of Latin descent in our clique of 'pre-teens and teens who deemed ourselves immortal because we were young'.  We were not particularly honor students or stellar cub scouts, just young and somewhat cool, so of course you know we thought of ourselves as the 'end all'.  Anyhow, I remember that while we'd always make it a point of complicating the obvious, simple or achievable, Eric always countered up simpler more feasible solutions, suggestions or insights that we chalked up as the rantings of a chico battling the language barrier.  In a sense, he seemed able to get around the inborn cultural differences of not being a black teen in avoiding all our learned wisdom stemming from the rise of black bawdy TV sitcoms, the snooping out our windows at the more than PG rated foolery on streets below during the 80's crack era and the vast 'right under our nose' teachings of hip-hop culture.  It was almost as if Eric was able to look at the musings of our teenage predicament and because the societal, racial and cultural nuances that we had never been without were lost on him, he just saw a situation for what it was or, in most cases, wasn't.  Sometimes it just takes the honest sheer observation of an outside perspective, trying to make sense of it all, to shed light on the amount of humanity, or lack of, we have in our lives.

I get a sense of this when I flip through my Japanese fashion magazines.  There's a heightened level of fascination with Western culture within popular Japanese culture.  Maybe it's the US freedom, the democratic process, the constant 'cultural envelope-pushing' or the 'pseudo-lust' to preserve a society while at the same time obliviously tearing it down.  Whatever the reason, the ways in which they take American staples and pay homage to them I have always found quite fascinating.  A remixed homage is captured not in invisible legacy, but in physical essence.  Many a Japanese label that reinterprets American sportswear seems to take all US the classics in all their iconic stylish revelry and offer them up in that meticulous Eastern tailored art with dimensionally textural, cheeky printed and colorfully explorative hands.

I first came into contact with Creep by Hiroshi Awai in a super influential store in Seattle called Blackbird.  A couple years ago after perusing the store at the onstart to the reignited Heritage movement, I became intrigued by a nubbly wool blazer with patch pockets that was at once finished with heat-set wrinkles and textured with a moddled flannel hand and windowpane weave.  It was a bizarrely attractive piece to say the least and it offered appeal to different kinds of wearers with influences of classic menswear, avantgardism and rock & roll.  For Spring 2012, Awai continues his love affair with American regalia and Asian artisianal fare with a collection that feels partly inspired by the 'kitchiness' of the New England WASP together with the 'expectedness' of the Boca Raton retiree with touches of the 'influential dishevelment' of the So-Cal beach bum.  There are some interesting tapestry-like weaves that take form in slim shorts, jackets and button-downs while some of the more streamlined pieces like slim cuffed lived-in trousers and loosely cut shrunken shirts and outerwear took on a relaxed seaside air.  The Creep man this season seems to be a well-travelled gent who has picked up interesting points of references from the cultures and textiles on his 'globe-trots' then paired them down to relate to his take on summer attire. It's interesting to see how one's perspective of another culture while embodying the aesthetics of his own plays itself out in fashion.  And it's all so conceivable and wearable.  You have to be appreciative of the motivation of certain designers to not see all the many ways in which people color inside the lines and just see the harmony in coloring outside them.

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