Rakish and Urbane is a forum for my thoughts on style and what inspires me: From the Harlem Renaissance to the streets of Brighton with everything else in between!

One Quote that Inspires Me Day in Day out

"Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step."

Martin Luther King

Friday, 30 July 2010

Been getting some feedback

So I've had some feedback so I thought I might continue with the blog. Instead of posting whatever comes into my mind I think I'm going to limit this to one post a week with perhaps a few photos every now and then. Sadly I cannot access Blogger at boarding school so bear with me when there are no posts. Anyways, on to the post.

So while I've been taking a blogger sabbatical (!) I've discovered a few new sites of interest and so I've added them to the blogroll. I've also discovered a few new great artists (musical ones that is) so I thought I might try to get some interviews with them for the blog!

So with that in mind today's post is on music. Jazz music and it's relationship with my generation, the teenagers of today. Check out this article first as it is very much related, though a slightly different take on what I'm about to write about: http://www.jazzloftproject.org/blog/general/the-new-face-of-jazz

Now if I were to say Jazz to almost any of my friends, they would laugh. We've grown up with, at first, Avril and Busted, then James Blunt and nowadays Florence and the Machine. These bands and singers are often talented, but their music is almost always far less intricate than most jazz pieces. Jazz needs to be pondered one as to turn one's full atention to it or else it becomes background music, elevator music! However with pop, one doesn't often listen for the little intricacies, most people just wait for the chorus and sing along. And sadly most songs nowadays seem to be chorus and not much else (K'naan, Waving Flag?). Either that, or they add a rapper to have some lyrical variation. Therefore, my generation have become used to simply turning on pop music and not really concentrating on it. We change songs before they are over and we don't carry on listening to that song for even a month because a new one is out.

Now I'm not saying everyone of my generation listens to pop, far from it. In fact many of my friends hold pop in even greater disdain than I do. But even they don't much like jazz. Perhaps the way we listen to music as a generation has changed. I do like Jazz by the way, but even I don't listen to it in the same way the critics or the real fans do. Any music will serve as background music (provided the location suits it) but jazz was intended to be the location. It created an atmosphere and became what you concentrated on. In the dark clubs of NYC or New Orleans, musical geniuses like Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington and Oscar Peterson would play all night long. And you wouldn't go just for the club atmosphere or "to pull" like most nowadays. You would go to listen to the magical music played. You would talk about it, you would listen to each note and think on the song. We as a generation simply don't do that sort of thing very often.

Do Ibiza clubbers do that? Maye some do, those few who appreciate the song as more than just "a great tune". Do people who attend Ellie Goulding concerts do that? Perhaps some do. But you know there will be people attending just waiting for her most well known and most catchy song and not really caring for the rest.

What I'm trying to explain is why my generation don't, generally, listen to jazz. Our concentration span isn't shorter, it isn't because we simply don't have the ability to understand its various forms and the finer details of music theory. It is because we have become so used to hearing a song, but not truly listening. That is, most of our generation.

It's not all doom and gloom, as the article on Jazz Loft suggestedm why not expose the indie/alternative crowd to it. Why not put it to them as it was meant to be, in dark clubs and with some soul, not just in concert halls with precision. I certainly consider myself to be one of the alternative crowd rather than the pop crowd. It's worked with me, I don't know why. Perhaps it's because I long for that age where people took pride in everything they did, less than a third of the country was obese and the whole world seemed to be full of life and soul. And as people who listen to Britain's popular indie group Mumford and Sons often say, "We like it because it has soul, not just a catchy tune but some sort of emotion in it". Prove to them that jazz has so much soul and so much emotion it can be overwhelming (As Jazz Loft's article pointed out) and maybe we'll see a resurgence.

So for you out there reading, thiking, what does this kid know about jazz? What does he know about sociology? Let me tell you this. I like Jazz, and I'm part of and exposed to the generation I'm talking to always. I know their musical tastes and I know what they think.

If this has got your jazz interests going temporarily, check out "JazzWax.com", an amazing blog with some fascinating interviews and memories of the old world and indeed the present world of jazz. Check out Jazz Loft, a really great project dedicated to preserving some brilliant memories and records and the whole vibe of that loft. Finally, check out "Jazz Ain't Dead", an inniative deicated to keeping jazz alive but also innovating and incorporating more recent genres.

Thanks again folks.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Need some followers

I hate to say it but I get the feeling no one out there is reading Rakish and Urbane. That doesn't mean I'm going to stop posting, just that I am going to wait until some people do show up, otherwise I don't know if it's worthwhile. If there are a few readers out there, please do contact me!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

4 Pieces to go with the Shorts

Rather than do a shoddy lookbook I thought I might simply highlight five brilliant summer clothes that will go nicely with the shorts. Rather than giving prices/logos/materials I'll just keep it simple with plain pictues, hopefully they'll inspire a great look!

Not such a substantial post, but hopefully it's given you some ideas for the rest of your summer wardrobe. I'm off to Brighton tommorow so expect some pictures for the blog (if the camera will work).

Monday, 19 July 2010

Some Brilliant Summer Shorts

I am rabidly anti-cargo shorts unless you are a) a soldier or b) someone who actually needs 20 pockets on your legs. As such, I won't mention them again. However, I am loving this new trend of smarter twill shorts with cuffs (I call it a trend because even Topman has caught on!) which are a great alternative to the surfer/chav look which the nation seems to sport all summer long!
Not only are these smart shorts suitable for formal occasions, they can be worn in casual circumstances as well provided one gets the rest of the look right. They can look very good when put with a jacket and shirt, very useful for when the weather gets too hot for a full suit. However, you don't want your shorts too long or too short if wearing them formally. Too long: You no longer look smart, too short: Leave it to the women. I'd say that 1 or 2 inches above the knee cap should be good.
Now onto pictures and prices:
First up, Topman's basic offerings. Topman have really taken to this trend and have produced plenty of colours to choose from. Some are too bright to go with formal dress codes so I've chosen a simple grey pair. For £26, you can't complain.

Next up we have JW's offering. These shorts are very comfortable, not too tight, and the white goes beautifully with a matching jacket or shirt. They might also go well with some nice white bucks. I'd wear them casually with a bold pair of suede loafers and formally with Alden tassles.

Finally, Ralph Lauren's lovely shorts. These aren't cuffed but they shouldn't come below the knee. Being a lighter colour, they look brilliant for summer.
That concludes the post, tomorrow, I'll put up a very large summer feature with a few concepts and plenty of suggestions for new looks and classic styles.

Friday, 16 July 2010

On Jack Wills (and why it DID used to be outfitter to the Gentry)

Well I admit that the title is a little bit pretentious, JW wasn't really the outfitter to the gentry in the same way Gieves and Hawke or Barbour are. However, for a little while, they were the outfitter for the gentry's children. Of cours, we don't really have much of an upper class left so the very few of them that are still making money from estates and polo (think, Prince Harry) don't really constitute the "Gentry" nowadays. Instead, one has to factor in bankers and lawyers to the "upper class" grouping.

Also, it seems that much of the country perceives anyone that attends a public school (for our american cousins, that is a Private School) to be "Upper Class". Anyways, sociological musings aside, bankers children suddenly seemed to be taking notice of this new brand back in about 2007: Jack Wills. I think this is partly because of there being a store in Salcombe, in Devon. Salcolmbe is one of those places where every banker who has a country retreat seems to migrate to in the summer. So it was possibly the most business savvy move the brand could have made hitting the epicentre of their potential clientele's world. Everyone was now coming back with one or two pieces of Jack Wills and a teen fashion revolution was taking place.

Of course, Jack Wills now has a far greater spread of customers' backgrounds. This has, in my opinion, been massively detrimental to the brand's credibility. "Outfitters to the Gentry" now had people who certainly weren't the gentry clamouring for a piece of the pie. And so they made more tee-shirts, scrapped the velvet smoking jackets and hunting tails and replaced them with items that had JW all over them rather than the original peacock. No longer did this brand cater only to the rich (or those who saved for that one item they loved) and the refined.

While Ralph Lauren has always stayed on the same course as the original polo clothing, one can see people walking down the high street or in Primark wearing a loud RL polo or a jumper. However, RL keeps up the Black Label and Purple label and still is popular with the 5th Avenue children and teens and still embodies the stereotypical WASP image in much of its clothing. However, Jack Wills seems to be in between the new naff items and the old traditional public schoolboy clothes.

It seems to have done the impossible, made chavs want to wear tweed and chinos. I know this because on my last visit to the Brighton store, I heard five different people muttering, "S'Too expensive, lets get some socks and get summin' next time." Now I don't want to be classist, far from it, but if the majority of the brand's loyal customers are the complete opposite of the original followers then of course the whole brand will change. And by it changing, the original JW wearers move on, deeming it to be "Chav clothes".

Fortunately, I still have loads of the original clothes they made and so do others however I don't think I will ever purchase anything other than their chinos and their accesories (even the socks aren't as good as they used to be, no more 40 pound hunting socks!) because the whole brand image has become tarred. In the same way Abercrombie doesn't come across as being the All American clothing of choice because everyone out there seems to have some of it or have pictures of them posing next to the topless guy outside (how much is he payed?!).

I guess what I'm trying to say is that brands have to watch out for a seismic shift in their customers' backgrounds and to try to stay true to their original ethos (in this case "Outfitters to the Gentry") or risk losing the people they originally relied on. Beware!!!

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

On Sockless Loafers

I have noticed recently a lot of blogs showing or discussing the sockless lock. I rather like it and have been wearing my driving shoes sockless recently. It gives off a very casual air and looks very Sartorialist (especially if done with leather loafers or perhaps brogues). It also stops the need for uncomfortably hot socks in the present summer weather which is certainly a blessing. Quite a few blogs and magazines praise those "invisible" socks which stop your feet from sweating too much directly onto the insides of the shoes. I have not tried these with anything but trainers because the only ones I have are white and so would not go at all with any of my more formal shoes.

However, a brilliant site (I know, I keep cribbing things off other sites, I'll have to make my own inspiration soon!) simply advocated dilligent washing of the feet and not wearing the same shoes too often so perhaps the invisible option is unnecesary?

I think sockless is a brilliant trend (Can one call it a trend? I hope it stays around) and certainly advise rocking it this summer. As such, I thought I might recommend a few great shoes for it at both ends of the price spectrum.

First up, at the bottom of the market, though still incredibly comfortable and with good soles, the River Island loafers. Now I have a pair in yellow (after seeing Bright Young Things I couldn't resist) but I think black works in both casual and smart casual circumstances. Oh, and did I mention they are only 40 pounds?

Next up (apologies for the appaling layout, I'm only just getting to grips with blogger) are some lovely Ralph Lauren shoes. The blue option is my favourite but there is also tan and some darker colours. They have a good solid sole so there is no worry of them wearing out (there shouldn't be, they cost 395 dollars) and once waterproofed would make a good accompaniement to the Henley look or even a nautical outfit. If I wore them, I'd probably team them with a seersucker suit and of course wear them sockless.


Finally, in the upper echelons of the driving shoe world, we have a shoe from a brand that has recently seen a far bigger customer base than it would have in the past with a new outlet on the House of Fraser site: New and Lingwood. Their shoes are to die for and come in a selection of colours (Dark Blue, Tan, Red) and are very nice. 249 quid will bag you these in the present sale so be quick (original price, 300 pounds):

To conclude today's post, the suede loafer is an item that has connotations of luxurious decadence. Suede is certainly one of my favourite materials as it is so smooth but can be applied to anything really and is not overly expensive but seems - for lack of a better word - classy. Wear 'em proudly.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

The First Post: Inspirational Material

Here are a few pictures and quotations that have made me think or evoked something within me over the past couple of months.

This first picture comes from The Madbury Club, the most amazing innovation I've come across. It can't really be called a blog, nor can it be called an ezine. It's more of a treasury of sartorial wonders, amazing music and beautiful photography. The articles are always fascinating and their lookbooks have clothes to die for, worn in the most amazing ways and with such style. Bereolaesque is the only word I can think of that sums up the whole atmosphere the guys involved radiate. Featured in the picture is Joshua Kissi, one of my heroes. He and Travis Gumbs together, run Street Etiquette. SE is and has been my favourite blog for the past seven months or so. The looks they have on the site and the brilliant responses they give to questions and comments make it a standout from all the other mens style blogs. I just wish they would update more frequently, I await the next post with baited breath!

Next up is a picture from Ivy Style, a brilliant website with fascinating articles and brilliant features and pictures. The Madras clothing here though is my favourite look I've seen on the site. I don't actually have any madras clothing but am planning to purchase plenty to live out the summer in style. I believe it can be used for almost any piece of clothing so one can be really innovative with it.

Finally, a picture from Copenhagen Street Style. Copenhagen street style is a brilliant blog, reminiscent of the Sartorialist, that captures pictures of, obviously, Copenhagen street style. Having lived in Copenhagen for seven years in the past it brings back a nostalgia for the clean streets and brilliant outfits that can be seen all around. Here's my favourite look I've seen on the site, I love the way he matches the socks with the jumper and the gillet with the boat shoes (the latter isn't quite matching but it is similar). Very dapper!


Firstly, I hope any readers who stumble across the blog while it is being fine tuned bear with me.

Secondly, what exactly is the blog about? Well anything that inspires me will get a feature, but also, my primary interests: Mens style and Music.

When I say men's style, I mean old Ivy League looks combined with more modern streetwise style. I value quality over price tag. I value long lasting appeal over fads. However, I won't take myself too seriously when posting, so don't expect rants!

My Musical tastes will get a look in as well. I like most genres of music, though Jazz and some hip-hop are my preferred types. However, I'll be exploring other types and new artists constantly and reviewing them.