Is That a Unicorn in Your Pocket, or Are You Just Poorly Translating the Bible?

Unicorn-print accessories, like Lisa Frank stickers but for men, have enjoyed a good couple of years. Pictured above are Drake’s tonal printed pocket squares (derived from La Dame à la licorne; not currently available) and Kent Wang’s more colorful version, based on the Verteuil Tapestries).  Reginald Jerome de Mans has talked about the history of these accessories with Drake’s and Hilditch and Key going back to the late 1980s, but what about the history of the unicorn itself? And why are we keeping ol’ one horn in our jacket pockets?

Annalee Newitz talks about the evolution of the unicorn myth via Chris Lavers’ 2010 scholarly study of unicorns through history:

As Lavers explains, the original Hebrew text of the Old Testament mentions an animal called a “reem.” When scholars tried to translate this word into Greek, they were flummoxed. They had no idea what this “reem” was. They knew it was big, and it had horns, and that it obviously wasn’t a goat. (Goats are mentioned elsewhere in the Bible.) So they translated it as “monoceros,” meaning “one-horn.” Then, when the Greek Bible was translated into Latin, the word became “unicornus.” And that word, translated into English, is unicorn.

Early in the 20th century, when scholars cracked the code on ancient cuneiform script, they finally learned what that mysterious reem really was. In these ancient texts, written around the time when the Hebrew Bible was being penned, there are many references to an animal called a rimu. Like the biblical reem, the rimu was enormous, strong, and had horns. That animal was an ox. So all of those references to unicorns in the Bible? Those are actually to an ox. Which, if you read the actual sections of the Bible, makes a lot more sense.

But for nearly 1500 years, Christians believed in the unicorn version of things. The unicorn came to symbolize Christ, its horn the cross, and its tribulations during the hunt were like Christ’s tribulations on earth. Interestingly, the idea that unicorns were attracted to virgins comes from a pagan source. A Latin book called the Physiologus, probably written in the second century CE, mentions that a unicorn can only be caught when it lays its head down in a virgin’s lap. Christian analysts seized on this idea, suggesting that this was symbolic of how Christ came into the world – with the help of a virgin. Keeping all of this in mind, it’s easy to understand what those 16th-century unicorn tapestries are all about.

Next time you’re decorating your Trapper Keeper or tweed patch pocket, think of the mystical beauty and profound majesty of the ox.

-Pete

The Soft Silk Knit
For as long as I’ve been buying silk knit ties, I’ve always preferred the crunchy variety - the kind where if you squeeze the tie in your hand, the silk material feels a bit “crunchy” as it rubs against itself. I like these for their heavier weight, as the tie doesn’t flop around as much, and for their more distinctive visual texture. You can find them on the high-end at Drake’s, but the best bang-for-you-buck might be from Land’s End. Those retail at $60, but it’s not uncommon to see them go for ~$30 during one of their many sales. 
Some months ago, however, I came across this photo of Dr. Keith Churchwell. Here, he’s seen wearing a brown hat, light blue shirt, Russell plaid jacket, and a burgundy soft-knit tie. The softer knit tie seems so much better suited to an autumnal ensemble, much like how a wool tie would be a better here than any of your basic silks. So, I’ve been hunting for a good soft knit to try out. 
Luckily, it’s easier to find soft knits than crunchy ones. Many the more traditional American clothiers will carry them, such as O’Connell’s, Ben Silver, and J. Press. For something more affordable, there’s The Knottery. In addition to silk, there are also ones made from wool, cashmere, and alpaca blends. Our friend Will at A Suitable Wardrobe has some cashmere ones on sale, and Brooks Brothers just came out with these Donegals. I may just try one of these options out this fall. 
Incidentally, the photo above was taken by Rose Callahan, who has two upcoming events for new her book I Am Dandy. The first is on November 7th from 6-8pm at the Fine and Dandy shop in New York City, and the second is on November 18th from 6-8pm at the National Arts Club (also in New York City). The second will double as the opening reception for a weeklong exhibition of prints by our friend Rose. If you’re in town, stop by and tell her we said hi. 

The Soft Silk Knit

For as long as I’ve been buying silk knit ties, I’ve always preferred the crunchy variety - the kind where if you squeeze the tie in your hand, the silk material feels a bit “crunchy” as it rubs against itself. I like these for their heavier weight, as the tie doesn’t flop around as much, and for their more distinctive visual texture. You can find them on the high-end at Drake’s, but the best bang-for-you-buck might be from Land’s End. Those retail at $60, but it’s not uncommon to see them go for ~$30 during one of their many sales. 

Some months ago, however, I came across this photo of Dr. Keith Churchwell. Here, he’s seen wearing a brown hat, light blue shirt, Russell plaid jacket, and a burgundy soft-knit tie. The softer knit tie seems so much better suited to an autumnal ensemble, much like how a wool tie would be a better here than any of your basic silks. So, I’ve been hunting for a good soft knit to try out. 

Luckily, it’s easier to find soft knits than crunchy ones. Many the more traditional American clothiers will carry them, such as O’Connell’s, Ben Silver, and J. Press. For something more affordable, there’s The Knottery. In addition to silk, there are also ones made from wool, cashmere, and alpaca blends. Our friend Will at A Suitable Wardrobe has some cashmere ones on sale, and Brooks Brothers just came out with these Donegals. I may just try one of these options out this fall. 

Incidentally, the photo above was taken by Rose Callahan, who has two upcoming events for new her book I Am Dandy. The first is on November 7th from 6-8pm at the Fine and Dandy shop in New York City, and the second is on November 18th from 6-8pm at the National Arts Club (also in New York City). The second will double as the opening reception for a weeklong exhibition of prints by our friend Rose. If you’re in town, stop by and tell her we said hi. 

Alternatives to J. Press’ Shaggy Dogs
Pete’s post yesterday reminded me of how much I also regret not buying those Shaggy Dog sweaters when they were “just” $160. On sale, that price occasionally dropped to $108, but fat chance you’ll see them go that low now. At this point, you can expect a sale price of around $172.50 with J. Press’ usual 25%-off discount, which is north of what they used to sell for at full retail just a few years ago. 
There are some alternatives though. The now defunct Ralph Lauren Rugby line used to make brushed Shetlands, and every once in a while, you’ll see them still floating around eBay for between $50 and $110. The sweater isn’t as thick and densely knitted as J. Press’, but it fits slimmer and has smaller armholes (the second of which I really appreciate). It also has sueded elbow patches, but I imagine those can be carefully removed with a seam ripper if they’re not to your liking. 
Howlin’ of Morrison also has a model towards the end of this page. I really like their Shetlands (this particular piece looks fantastic), but find their brushed version a bit thin (from memory, slightly thinner than even Rugby’s). On the upside, they also fit slimmer than Press’, which might be good for some builds. 
Other options include these pieces by Edifice x Present, Present, William Fox & Sons, Drake’s, John Tulloch, and Neighbour. Of those, I’ve only handled Neighbour’s, which are, again, thinner but potentially better fitting. Some of the prices here aren’t that much cheaper than what J. Press is asking, but it’s nice to have options when sale season comes. I also think there’s a potential for the York Street version to go on deeper discount than J. Press’ mainline stuff, but only time will tell. 
Lastly, MKI also used to carry some last year, but they’ve since sold out. Might be worth keeping an eye on their webstore to see if they’ll restock. 

Alternatives to J. Press’ Shaggy Dogs

Pete’s post yesterday reminded me of how much I also regret not buying those Shaggy Dog sweaters when they were “just” $160. On sale, that price occasionally dropped to $108, but fat chance you’ll see them go that low now. At this point, you can expect a sale price of around $172.50 with J. Press’ usual 25%-off discount, which is north of what they used to sell for at full retail just a few years ago. 

There are some alternatives though. The now defunct Ralph Lauren Rugby line used to make brushed Shetlands, and every once in a while, you’ll see them still floating around eBay for between $50 and $110. The sweater isn’t as thick and densely knitted as J. Press’, but it fits slimmer and has smaller armholes (the second of which I really appreciate). It also has sueded elbow patches, but I imagine those can be carefully removed with a seam ripper if they’re not to your liking. 

Howlin’ of Morrison also has a model towards the end of this page. I really like their Shetlands (this particular piece looks fantastic), but find their brushed version a bit thin (from memory, slightly thinner than even Rugby’s). On the upside, they also fit slimmer than Press’, which might be good for some builds. 

Other options include these pieces by Edifice x Present, Present, William Fox & SonsDrake’s, John Tulloch, and Neighbour. Of those, I’ve only handled Neighbour’s, which are, again, thinner but potentially better fitting. Some of the prices here aren’t that much cheaper than what J. Press is asking, but it’s nice to have options when sale season comes. I also think there’s a potential for the York Street version to go on deeper discount than J. Press’ mainline stuff, but only time will tell. 

Lastly, MKI also used to carry some last year, but they’ve since sold out. Might be worth keeping an eye on their webstore to see if they’ll restock. 

It’s On Sale: E. Marinella and Drake’s Ties

A selection of neckties by E. Marinella and Drake’s are on sale at Gilt today, with prices starting at $79. Included in the bunch are some navy foulards, like the ones you see above, which would go very well with any conservative suit. 

It’s On Sale: Shoes and Ties at Gentlemen’s Footwear

Gentlemen’s Footwear is having a sale right now. The selection isn’t big, but the quality is excellent. There are a couple of Drake’s grenadines for $95 and some basic designs by E.G. Cappelli for $89. Jesse published a great post two years ago about the value of a good, solid tie, and I think this one would be a great piece for any occasion. You can take inspiration from this photo of Timo, which we featured in our "Real People" series.

Also, while the main website doesn’t reflect the new price, the store’s blog notes that these two Carmina models are on sale for $375 (with free shipping). You have email them in order to purchase, however. 

Three Good Sales

Three good sales started today.

The first is at Drake’s, who just put a selection of their men’s accessories on discount. Note that folks outside of the EU can expect another ~20% off at checkout for not having to pay European taxes.

Next, The J. Peterman Company is offering a “30% off + free shipping” discount with the checkout code WeLoveYouToo. The code drops this Swaine Adeney Brigg umbrella down to $245. Not as cheap as the time Jesse found it for $187, or even when he found it for $234, but it’s been over a year since I’ve seen it go down this low. 

Finally, H.W. Carter & Sons is giving an extra 20% off with the code 0020. That drops these boots by Oak Street Bootmakers down to about $175. They have some other nice casual shoes as well. I own a few Oak Street Bootmakers shoes and really like them. 

It’s On Sale: Drake’s Ties

A small selection of ties by Drake’s, Marinella and Richard James are on sale at Gilt today. I particularly like the two Tussah silk ties you see above. Tussah is similar to raw silk, but slightly looser woven and more “delicate” feeling. They’re available on Gilt for $82.50. 

I imagine most people are on Gilt at this point, but if you still need an invite, you can use ours here

(Many thanks to Josh for the tip)

Six Sales I Like

As many readers may know, I put together the sales roundups for our Inside Track. Lately, each week’s post has contained 25-50 sales announcements, and the whole thing takes me hours to put together. On the upside, it means that I get to shop at sales a lot. Not a bad benefit for a guy who enjoys clothing. Here are six sales going on right now that I particularly like, along with a selection of items I’ve been eyeing.  

Roden Gray: These guys just did another price drop yesterday. I really like this Aspesi M65 jacket, which I think would look great with a pair of jeans or chinos. Union in Los Angeles has the same jacket on sale, and there are more colors and sizes available, but the discount is less tempting (they do have nicer pictures though). Also, if you don’t mind the price, this Nanamica jacket is pretty awesome. I picked it up two months ago from Barney’s (who has it on even deeper discount). The quality and fit are hard to tell from online photos, but it’s a wonderfully made piece with a great silhouette. Take another 10% off at checkout with the discount code getgray

UshowU: Both Jesse and I really like Nigel Cabourn, but his stuff is very expensive. The only way I find myself owning his designs is to wait until they go on deep discount, like right now at UshowU. Of the more affordable pieces available, I really like the “granddad henleys.” I own a few and wear them on occasion with leather jackets and jeans. They come in white, green, and British tan

Exquisite Trimmings: Exquisite Trimmings has a bunch of men’s accessories on sale, including some Drake’s ties and pocket squares.  With the right brown sport coat, I think this textured green boucle tie could make for an excellent look this fall. I also like some of the batik pocket squares still kicking around. You can expect another 20% discount at checkout if you don’t have to pay European taxes, and the discount code SF10 will knock another 10% off as well. 

Emmett Shirts: Emmett specializes in shirts, but they also make some pretty nice ties. Some of them are on sale right now at half off, with another 20% taken at checkout if you’re outside of the EU. I like some of the basic blue designs, like this simple pin dot. You’d be hard pressed to find a sport coat or suit that won’t go with this tie. 

Trunk Clothiers: Sizes are limited, but there are some Boglioli suits and sport coatsCommon Projects low tops, and a Nanamica jacket on discount. Boglioli, for those who aren’t familiar, makes a pretty good version of the softly tailored, unstructured sport coat that’s been so popular. As with many of the aforementioned stores, non-EU customers can take another 20% off at checkout.  

Carson Street Clothiers: Carson Street Clothiers just put much of their stock at 50% off. I’ve always liked chukkas for casual wear, and of all the chukkas in the world, I think Loake makes one of the best looking, affordable options. It’s on sale right now at Carson for $200, which is slightly less than what they go for at Pediwear.

A Suitable Wardrobe Mid-Season Sale

One of my favorite online stores, A Suitable Wardrobe, just started their mid-season sale. There are knit ties for $40, Drake’s pocket squares for $45, and a range of Drake’s neckties starting at $56. This excitingly includes striped grenadines and tussahs (a more delicate cousin to raw silk). I picked up a brown tussah for myself, which I’m pretty sure is the same model shown here. The photos at A Suitable Wardrobe are a bit dark, so know that things listed as navy are probably a true navy. 

Also, I own some fragrance by L’Artisan Parfumeur, and it’s easily my favorite. Only scents for women seem to be included in this sale, but if you have someone to gift these to, one might make for a nice present. 

It’s on Sale: Barney’s

Barney’s has added more items to its sale and dropped prices on stuff already on sale, discounting some things to 60% off. Although items like this Perfecto by Schott leather jacket or these Viberg boots are still far from inexpensive, they’re exceedingly well-made and handsome pieces in normal colors that don’t often last at deep discount. Also worth a look: Ovadia & Sons shirts, Zimmerli underwear, Drake’s accessories, Crockett and Jones shoes, and a surprisingly large selection of Engineered Garments.

-Pete