It’s On Sale: Chuck Taylors and Swaine Adeney Brigg Umbrellas
Two sales just popped up, both only lasting for today:
First, Shoebuy.com has Chuck Taylors All Stars at 25% off. That puts my favorite model, the white high tops you see above, at $37.46. Use the check out code EMLFLASH14 and pay attention to sizing. Most people find they need to size down half a size in Chuck Taylors. So if you regularly wear a 10D, for example, then you’ll want to take a 9.5. 
Second, J. Peterman has Swaine Adeney Brigg umbrellas at 32% off. They’re still expensive, even with the discount, but SAB makes wonderful umbrellas and they have lots of heritage. Use the code INTIME at checkout. 

It’s On Sale: Chuck Taylors and Swaine Adeney Brigg Umbrellas

Two sales just popped up, both only lasting for today:

The Beauty of a Naturally Aged Leather Belt

I’ve been wanting an undyed leather to be to wear with jeans for a while now. Something thick, heavy, and substantial, made from a material that will beautifully age with use and time. The Flat Head wallet I posted a few weeks ago is made from an undyed leather, and has gone from a pale tan to a handsome, golden honey brown. 

I finally picked one up from Don’t Mourn Organize. It’s a small Utah company run by a guy named Scott, who makes belts, wallets, and full-sized bags from almost every kind of leather you can think of (vegetable tanned leathers, shell cordovan, and even some exotics). Since everything is made-on-order, customizations are also usually possible. 

Saddle, Bridle, and Harness Leathers

For undyed vegetable-tanned leathers, Scott has saddle and harness. For those unfamiliar, saddle and harness, along with bridle, make up the three main types of leather used in English saddlery (the art of making leather goods for horse riding). As their names suggest, bridle leather is traditionally used for making bridle reins, harness for making horse harnesses, and saddle for making saddle seats. These are very, very robust materials - the kind of stuff that will last for decades if well taken care of.

The difference between them is simply in the “finishing.” Saddle comes fairly “raw,” meaning it has little oil or wax content. This makes it less pliable, feel drier in the hand, and be a bit more susceptible to water stains. Bridle, on the other hand, is very smooth and polished, and the leather itself is more compressed. Readers might be familiar with it through Swaine Adeney Brigg briefcases, Ettinger wallets, or belts from Narragansett and Equus. Lastly, harness is perhaps somewhere in the middle – it has more wax and oil content than saddle, but it retains a bit more grain that bridle.

My Belt

I went with harness for my belt because of how easy it is to maintain. I had Scott use a buckle I had laying around and shave the thickness of the leather down to 0.25”. That makes it considerably more substantial than most belts you’d find on the market, but leaves it still comfortable to wear. Total cost? $65, including shipping. 

In the first photo above, you can see how my belt has aged after a week’s work of use and three applications of Obenauf’s Heavy Duty LP. The second photo is my belt brand new, sitting on Scott’s workshop table. The third photo is one of Scott’s own belts, which he’s had for about a year. As you can see it’s a beautiful russet brown, which I think looks terrific against a pair of broken-in raw jeans. I can’t wait for mine to get as nice. 

Umbrellas: Cheap, Expensive, and Everything In-Between

We’re back in rainy season again, and here in San Francisco, the weather was a bit wet this weekend. That reminded me of how useful it is to own several umbrellas. Not only does that ensure that you’ll always have something if one of your umbrellas breaks or gets lost, but it also allows you to have several options to choose from depending on your mood.

When buying a good umbrella, it’s tempting to get something unique and different, but I’d suggest your first purchase be one with a solid black canopy. These will go with anything, and in some cases – say if you’re wearing a somber suit – it’s the only appropriate choice. After your first good, black umbrella, you can get one with a navy or tan canopy if you’d like something conservative, or go with something dotted, checked, or striped for something more fanciful. 

The upside to decent umbrellas is that they come at almost every price point. Belt Outlet sells some basic black Totes for $15 after you apply the coupon code belt10. Fulton and Gustbuster are a bit more expensive, but remain reasonable affordable. Decent tartans can be bought through Orvis and Brooks Brothers. Those cost about $70, but they often go on sale. Wingtip, for example, has the Barbour version at 30% off with the coupon code TAKEACHANCE.

For a little more money, Howard Yount and Kent Wang sell some handsome single-stick options. Single stick means that the umbrella’s shaft and handle are all made from the same piece of wood. It’s a nice, artisanal touch, I think. (Note, whangees are not single stick because you can’t have the bumpy ridges on the handle go up the shaft for obvious reasons). London Undercover and Passoti are two other good options in this price tier.

Finally, for some of the best umbrellas in the world, you can turn to Swaine Adeney Brigg, James Smith, Fox, Francesco Maglia, Talarico, and Le Veritable Cherbourg. Those are made from better materials, often have single stick constructions, and are just beautiful sights to behold (as shown above). They typically run a few hundred dollars, but sometimes you can find “deals” (relatively speaking). J. Peterman occassionally discounts their Swaine Adeney Briggs, for example, and Grunwald sells Maglias at good prices (actual price is lower at checkout because of VAT discounts). Even on sale, they’re not cheap, but a look at some of those handles is enough to make a man dream. 

(Photos by fk118, Voxsartoria, and me)

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. 

Find Cover
It’s beginning to drizzle where I live, so I’ve been thinking about umbrellas a lot. The Chinese are said to have invented the first version during the Xia Dynasty, and there is some evidence that the Greeks had them as well. It wasn’t until the mid-18th century, however, that umbrellas were first used in England, and when they were introduced, they weren’t terribly popular. Nicholas Storey once recalled an anecdote by John MacDonald, who said that when he ventured forth with an umbrella in 1770, he was greeted with a heckle - "Frenchman, Frenchman, why don’t you call a coach?!" 
Today, an umbrella can be considered an essential for most men, and there are three general classes to choose from. The first class is the cheap, flimsy variety you find at places such as CVS for about $10. Those should be avoided. They only last a season or two, and even when they’re new, they’re unpleasant to use. It’s much better, I think, to pay the extra money to get something from the second class - reliable, industrially produced umbrellas. These start at about $16, but can go as high as $150. On the low-end of the spectrum, there’s Totes, which costs about $16 (use the discount code belt10). The handle is made out of a dark plastic that’s made to look like wood. It’s not the most elegant of materials, but it’s not terrible for the price. It’s also reasonably sturdy, and quite a good value for $16.  
A slight step above are Brooks Brothers and Barbour. These have slightly better finished wood handles, nicer detailing, and tastefully patterned canopies. Brooks discounts theirs by 25% every mid-season, and about 50% at the end of the season. At their sale prices, they’re especially good buys. A step above still are Davek and London Undercover. Davek’s umbrellas are especially nice in that they come with a lifetime guarantee, and should you ever lose yours, they’ll replace it for half the retail cost. They also have a slightly more modern feel than the other umbrellas discussed here, should you prefer that. 
The third class are artisanal or luxury-end umbrellas. In England, these include James Smith and Sons (the first umbrella shop in England), Swaine Adeney Brigg, and Fox Umbrellas Ltd. In Italy, there’s Mario Talarico, Francesco Maglia, and Passotti. These umbrellas tend to be handmade out of the best materials and constructed to the highest standards. The shafts and handles are made from Malacca, whangee, ebony, chestnut, rosewood, or sometimes even animal horn. Many come with full stick constructions, meaning that the handle and shaft are made from a single piece a wood. This is achieved with a lot of pressure, time, and steam. These are the finest umbrellas you can buy, and they’re a joy to use, but they’re also quite expensive. Most of them start around $175, and they can go as high as $1,000. Should you be in the market for one, you can visit any of those makers’ websites I linked, or check out the options at Shrine, Howard Yount, Under Knot, and Rain or Shine.
In the end, whatever you choose - either a $16 Totes or $1,000 Brigg - these should keep your dry for many seasons to come. And if someone calls you a Frenchman, you can probably be sure they read Nicholas Storey or Put This On (or you’re an actual Frenchman). 

Find Cover

It’s beginning to drizzle where I live, so I’ve been thinking about umbrellas a lot. The Chinese are said to have invented the first version during the Xia Dynasty, and there is some evidence that the Greeks had them as well. It wasn’t until the mid-18th century, however, that umbrellas were first used in England, and when they were introduced, they weren’t terribly popular. Nicholas Storey once recalled an anecdote by John MacDonald, who said that when he ventured forth with an umbrella in 1770, he was greeted with a heckle - "Frenchman, Frenchman, why don’t you call a coach?!" 

Today, an umbrella can be considered an essential for most men, and there are three general classes to choose from. The first class is the cheap, flimsy variety you find at places such as CVS for about $10. Those should be avoided. They only last a season or two, and even when they’re new, they’re unpleasant to use. It’s much better, I think, to pay the extra money to get something from the second class - reliable, industrially produced umbrellas. These start at about $16, but can go as high as $150. On the low-end of the spectrum, there’s Totes, which costs about $16 (use the discount code belt10). The handle is made out of a dark plastic that’s made to look like wood. It’s not the most elegant of materials, but it’s not terrible for the price. It’s also reasonably sturdy, and quite a good value for $16.  

A slight step above are Brooks Brothers and Barbour. These have slightly better finished wood handles, nicer detailing, and tastefully patterned canopies. Brooks discounts theirs by 25% every mid-season, and about 50% at the end of the season. At their sale prices, they’re especially good buys. A step above still are Davek and London Undercover. Davek’s umbrellas are especially nice in that they come with a lifetime guarantee, and should you ever lose yours, they’ll replace it for half the retail cost. They also have a slightly more modern feel than the other umbrellas discussed here, should you prefer that. 

The third class are artisanal or luxury-end umbrellas. In England, these include James Smith and Sons (the first umbrella shop in England), Swaine Adeney Brigg, and Fox Umbrellas Ltd. In Italy, there’s Mario Talarico, Francesco Maglia, and Passotti. These umbrellas tend to be handmade out of the best materials and constructed to the highest standards. The shafts and handles are made from Malacca, whangee, ebony, chestnut, rosewood, or sometimes even animal horn. Many come with full stick constructions, meaning that the handle and shaft are made from a single piece a wood. This is achieved with a lot of pressure, time, and steam. These are the finest umbrellas you can buy, and they’re a joy to use, but they’re also quite expensive. Most of them start around $175, and they can go as high as $1,000. Should you be in the market for one, you can visit any of those makers’ websites I linked, or check out the options at Shrine, Howard Yount, Under Knot, and Rain or Shine.

In the end, whatever you choose - either a $16 Totes or $1,000 Brigg - these should keep your dry for many seasons to come. And if someone calls you a Frenchman, you can probably be sure they read Nicholas Storey or Put This On (or you’re an actual Frenchman). 

Lotuff and Clegg: A Review

Lotuff and Clegg contacted me about reviewing one of their products, so I agreed to have them send me their English briefcase. I received the bag some time ago and find it to be absolutely incredible. The vegetable-tanned leather is exceptionally handsome, with a lot depth and richness to its color, as well as a bit of texture to its skin. It’s also very soft and pliable, but still resilient. I’ve noticed that it doesn’t scuff or scratch as easily as many high end bridle leathers. To secure its construction, there are pure brass buckles, rivets, and clips, which together not only make the bag more sturdy and reliable, but also more beautiful. 

Styling wise, the briefcase is modeled after old-school, English schoolboy, book bags. Instead of the centered, buckle flap closure you would find on most briefcases, this one has two straps that wrap fully around the bag, and then buckle down at the front. Inside is a typical organization system: two leather separators that create four large compartments for your books, laptop, and notebooks; a zippered pocket for your miscellaneous items; and some small pockets for your pens, calculators, and business cards. On the outside, there is a large pouch so that you can have easy access to things while your bag is closed. All in all, it doesn’t carry an extraordinary amount, but I can fit a laptop, two books, some papers, and a notepad. I would liken it to a Filson 256’s carrying load. 

The only downside is the price. At $950, it’s a pretty pricey, to say the least. Whether this is a smart buy for you is largely dependent on your budget, but I can tell you about some other options around this price point, so that you can have comparisons. North of this is Swaine Adeney Brigg’s Wrap-Around document case, which costs roughly $1,500-$2,000. Having handled this bag, I can tell you that it’s indeed superior to anything else on the market. The problem is that it’s so spectacularly romantic in its workmanship that unless you’re carefully dressed to match its class, you will look like the bag’s accessory. South of Lotuff and Clegg’s price point is Filson’s satchel, which costs between $600 to $800. The quality of this bag is a bit less opulent, so it’s easier to carry for everyday use, but its thicker bridle leather tends to wrinkle more. This is especially evident in the folds of the accordion, where Filson has glued and stitched two slabs of leather together (compared to SAB’s one slab of leather). The result is a kind of wrinkly, clump near the base of the bag, instead of the nice folds you would find on a SAB. Lotuff and Clegg’s bag has the same problem, but since the leather is a bit textured, it’s less noticeable. Filson’s also feels like a rugged version of the SAB, whereas Lotuff has a more refined, but casual, sensibility. 

In the end, I’ve found the Lotuff and Clegg bag to be just easier to pull off than other similarly high-end messenger/ satchel styled briefcases. I bring my bag into classrooms, libraries, and cafes, and something like this is much more suitable. It’s superbly handsome, and will age better than a Filson and keep things much more casual than a Brigg.  I liked it so much, in fact, that I bought the sample they sent me (which they kindly sold to me at a discount). It’s quite an expensive purchase, but if you’re on the market for a high-end bag, and considering things like the SAB or Filson, I think Lotuff’s model is well worth your consideration. 

(By the way, Bruce Boyer recommended me the book shown in the picture above - The Craftsman by Richard Sennett. I’m nearly halfway through the book and am really enjoying it. You can read a review of it here to see if you’d like to also pick it up). 

Addendum: Jesse and two readers (Michael and Joe) reminded me that there some other really great companies that make this style of bag - Saddleback LeatherNarragansett Leathers, and Custom Leathers. They’re much more affordable than the ones discussed above, so be sure to check them out as well. 

It’s On Sale: Swaine Adeney Umbrella
Over at J. Peterman, they’re offering Swaine Adeney Brigg umbrellas at close to half price - just under $200. If you’re not a man who loses his umbrellas, this is about as good as it gets for as good a price as you’ll find.
$187 from $350 at J. Peterman (use code jpten for 10% off)

It’s On Sale: Swaine Adeney Umbrella

Over at J. Peterman, they’re offering Swaine Adeney Brigg umbrellas at close to half price - just under $200. If you’re not a man who loses his umbrellas, this is about as good as it gets for as good a price as you’ll find.

$187 from $350 at J. Peterman (use code jpten for 10% off)

It’s On eBay
Swaine Adeney Brigg Umbrella with Custom Canopy
OMG you guys. This is basically the greatest umbrella ever.
Buy It Now for $250

It’s On eBay

Swaine Adeney Brigg Umbrella with Custom Canopy

OMG you guys. This is basically the greatest umbrella ever.

Buy It Now for $250

It’s On Sale
Swaine Adeney Brigg Umbrella
$234 from $350 at J. Peterman

It’s On Sale

Swaine Adeney Brigg Umbrella

$234 from $350 at J. Peterman

The Great Wallet Roundup

Lately the trickle of wallet inquiries we regularly receive has turned into a torrent. What precipitated this trend I cannot say, but there can be only one appropriate response: a Great Wallet Roundup.

First of all, let’s address what type of wallet you should carry.

I’m generally an advocate of the card case. Generally speaking, there’s no need to carry more than ID, a debit card and a credit card. Perhaps a health insurance card for emergencies. Anything more than this (say a store credit card or a club store card), you can grab them on your way out the door. The advantage of the card case is size. It can easily fit into a front pants pocket if you’re not wearing a coat, and will not create any visible bump if worn in a coat pocket. Cash can simply be carried in the front pocket, with or without a money clip, as you prefer.

Bi-fold wallets are a reasonable alternative for those who insist on carrying more cards with them at all times. These should nonetheless be modest in size. Jacket wallets, longer and thinner, roughly the size of a checkbook, are generally suitable only for those who always wear a jacket. Someone classier than me, in other words. Tri-fold wallets, as the Monty Pythons might say, are right out.

Wallets should be worn in the jacket pocket whenever possible. It’s better for your back, more difficult to steal, and given a reasonably-sized wallet, is the best choice aesthetically as well. In a pinch, a front pocket will do. I usually reserve the back pocket for blue jean days, and generally move my wallet to sit or (especially) drive.

As for the question of brown or black, it is a matter of personal preference. I generally wear brown shoes and so I generally wear brown wallets. On the rare occasion I wear evening clothes, I just pull out some cash and cards and use a money clip.

Wallets are available at a million price points, from Hermes to nylon-and-velcro. I’ve tried to put together a little range of possibilities, and hopefully you’ll find yourself something you like. Wallets often go on sale, and can easily be found in the vintage and second-hand market, but we’re focusing on new stuff at retail.

If I could have any wallet in the world, I’d likely have something made by April in Paris. This San Francisco-based company makes truly bespoke leathergoods. Beatrice, the owner, trained at Hermes, and welcomes you to visit your item as it is being made. Almost any design or skin is available. They’re also quite expensive. (Oh, and you could do a lot worse than the similarly expensive Hermes, who are one of the few big-name luxury companies who haven’t sacrificed quality in the pursuit of profit.)

On the inexpensive side of things, Saddleback Leather offers a bifold card case for only $15. The quality should be excellent, but if you’re looking for something with somewhat more refined aesthetics, Hartmann offers a handsome alternative for $35. I’m not nuts about ID windows, but what can you do?

Speaking of rough-hewn aesthetics, the recent Americana revival has hit the world of leather goods, as well. When I asked about wallets on Twitter, we had multiple recommendations for options from Tanner Goods (of Portland) and Billykirk. Tanner Goods’ choices tend towards “outdoorsy casual,” and Billykirk’s towards “axe-wielding.”

I’m a big fan of the leather-and-canvas choice from Duluth Pack of Minnesota, which offers a lifetime guarantee. They’ve also got a nice money clip bifold which is only $20, and a simple credit card wallet. In the past, I’ve recommended Filson wallets to those looking for something casual and durable, and, well, I still do.

If you’re looking for something “fun,” check out the selection at Jack Spade. They really get the silly trendy stuff right, with simple aesthetics and cool touches. They also come up regularly on sale and on Gilt Groupe for very reasonable prices.

My overall champion, though, is Swaine Adeney Brigg. The quality is exceptional - they are made in England and bear a royal warrant - and the prices, while high relative to the more mass-produced options, are not crazy high. Hermes may charge you $1500, but Swaine Adeney will likely be under $200. Indeed, the simple card case (the design of which is pretty much perfect) is available for $95. In fact, I’ve got myself so pumped up about it I may ask for one from my wife for my birthday.

Regardless of what brand you chose, my advice is simple: simplify. Your back will thank you, and so will the line of your clothes.