They say that scent is the strongest sense tied to memory, and for anyone who has ever switched laundry detergents and suddenly found their closet smelling unmistakably like a particular ex-girlfriend, it’s hard to argue. The things we remember consciously, by calling them up from our memories, are rarely matched by the extreme visceral evocation caused by scent. Case in point: Alfred Lane's clever solid colognes, in three self-assured scents, may be so damn evocative that you'll start remembering things that never even happened. Like that time you were a celebrated revolutionary (woodsy, sweet Vanguard), that time you were the most charismatic speaker the Academy had ever seen (warm, spicy Brio), or that time you were the most interesting man in the world (leathery, smokeyBravado). And since the colognes are made by hand in Chicago from only natural, wholesome ingredients, you’re sure to be in the mood to remember only the good things, not the bad. Which is more than we can say for that ex-girlfriend situation. Get it here.
SPOTLIGHT ON: Tom Cunniff, former writer for the J. Peterman catalog
The perfect blend of eccentricity, anachronism and great writing, the J. Peterman catalog has long been a primary influence on the way (and the reason) we write Rye & Rivet. Today we depart from our usual interviews with leather toolers and designers to give you an interview with a craftsman of another kind. Tom Cunniff was a writer for J. Peterman for ten years—we’ve asked him to shed some light on the eclectic, always intriguing style of this iconic catalog that’s so close to our hearts.
RYE & RIVET: The style of the J. Peterman catalogs, for many reasons, was (and continues to be) truly distinct. What is the importance of the writing style in forming that character?
TOM CUNNIFF: The creative genius behind the J. Peterman catalog was a writer named Don Staley. Sadly, he passed away a few years ago. While there really is a J. Peterman, when you think of that voice and the character of that brand it was 100% Don Staley.
Don was exactly what you’d imagine when you read the catalog. That voice was him. He was astonishingly, almost supernaturally well-read and cultured, but with humor and a complete lack of pretension. He was an intellectual who was fascinated by stories and how people made decisions.
There never would have been a J. Peterman catalog as we knew it without Don’s personality. The writing style was entirely Don’s voice. My job was like being a studio guitarist who is called in to play when BB King isn’t available: I had to do my best to channel Don and write so it sounded like him.
R&R: The idea of “brand as storyteller”, particularly in menswear, seems to be having a renaissance moment. Why now?
TC: I think it might actually be the only way to sell menswear. Women like fashion, but the thought of it scares the average guy half to death. Look at what most men wear: they pick things that render them invisible: blue polo shirt, khakis. The role of the stories is to give men courage, by providing a set of instructions. They help us understand what role we will play when we put on a given set of clothes. Spencer Tracy used to say “Know your lines and don’t bump into the furniture.” That’s what a smart story does: it helps us know the character’s backstory, hints at how a guy like that would stand, helps us hit our marks and deliver our lines with confidence.
R&R: To many of us, the rather long storytelling passages of the J. Peterman catalog are inextricably linked to the identity of the brand as a whole. But these days especially, copywriters are told to cut down more and more since it’s assumed the consumer won’t read most of the copy. How do you strike a balance between holding the attention of the reader and still maintaining that signature character?
TC: People will read forever if you give them a good reason to read. Long copy needs enough mystery and intrigue to keep you slightly off-balance. Most copy is awful because many business people are terrified of mystery, intrigue, humor, seduction, surprise — all of the very human things that make for good storytelling. They zero in on exactly what makes a story worth reading and say “get rid of that, I don’t know what that means”. I used to write and re-write drafts until the first paragraph hinted at something irresistible but left a whole set of questions unanswered. If the reader knows exactly where the story is going, what kind of idiot would bother reading the rest of the way.
Also: people read if the story, on some level, is about them.
R&R: What brand would you say is the J. Peterman of the moment, in terms of a fully-formed, unique identity? Who is capturing the imagination?
TC: Brands like John Varvatos and Tommy Bahama each have a distinct aesthetic. It comes more from merchandise than copy, but each has a definite point of view about the world. Apple knows who and what they are. So do Kimpton Hotels. As important as copy and art direction are, companies that have a unique identity generally express it in the product. The magic of J. Peterman was Don’s ability to inject a completely ordinary item — a t-shirt, a baseball cap — with style and character, purely through writing. It became special because of the way he described it. I don’t know that anybody else has been able to achieve that in the same way, before or since.
R&R: What’s the best lesson you learned or piece of advice you were given while writing for J. Peterman?
TC: Don used to say that anything beyond jeans and a t-shirt is a costume: the whole reason you put it on is to help people understand who your character is. As you walk into a room full of strangers, your clothing is quietly communicating a whole set of information about you. Not just casual or formal, rich or poor. When you walk into a room wearing a J. Peterman horseman’s duster, you’re providing a rich set of clues about who you are and how interesting you might be.
R&R: What’s the most interesting product backstory you encountered during your time at J. Peterman?
TC: My favorite story is, naturally, about Don. One day my phone rang, and the second I picked it up Don said “I’m having a hell of a fight with Peterman. I’m going to ask you something, but DON’T think about. Just say yes or no.” I said “Sure, what is it?” Don said “Should the next catalog have a monocle in it? Yes or no.” I immediately said “Absolutely yes.” Don shot back “OK, why?”
I said, “We’ve had a lot of ordinary stuff in the catalog lately. I know it’s all selling well, but putting a monocle in the catalog will be a fun little shock. It will keep people turning the pages, wondering what other surprises are waiting. It doesn’t matter if we sell a single monocle, the job of the monocle is to keep people interested.”
Don shouted “YES! That’s exactly what I’ve been saying.” He slammed the phone down on the table, and I could hear him storming down the hall yelling “Peterman, the monocle is going in that damn catalog”. It was a very proud moment for me, because Don knew I really understood what made the catalog sell.
Did we sell any monocles? Yes we did. Tons of them.
R&R: Finally, in our tradition: what’s your drink of choice?
TC: I like Hendricks and Tonic. I stubbornly drink them all winter until the weather finally yields to my will and becomes exactly right for a gin and tonic. My wife insists the seasons will change whether I do this or not, but I am not about to take a chance with something so important.
Thanks again to Tom Cunniff for his vibrant and thoughtful answers to our questions. Check him out here.
If we dig down into our memories deep enough, we think we can remember a time when we were warm. It may have been an illusion—it certainly has that sort of hazy, blown-out-around-the-edges, dreamlike look about it—because from where we stand now, in single-digit temperatures and surrounded by snowbanks, we really only half-believe it ever happened. Our only option in the present predicament is to layer: not the way we usually do, with non-bulky sweaters and maybe a jaunty scarf, but the kind of layering that asks, “how many pairs of socks can I put on while still fitting into my boots?” It’s in times like these that we’re thankful for versatile layering garments like Lumina Clothing’s hardy Monroe Shirt. Thicker than your average fare in 6 oz. twill, it’s the kind of shirt/jacket hybrid you can wear over another shirt. And maybe another shirt. And under a jacket? And maybe an overcoat? And the best part is, you can wear it by itself, too, rolling up the sleeves to let the plaid lining show for a sort of rugged heritage look. If it ever does get warm again. If. Get it here.
Every year we do the same thing— a week or so into January, we grab the closest notepad or dry-erase board and scribble out “be more organized”, with only the vaguest notion of what that means or how it could be accomplished. No wonder we never seem to get it done. This year, we’re taking a new approach, by outfitting ourselves with these remarkably useful pouches from Collected Works Co. With three sizes available (plus a rucksack and even a genius canteen-inspired laptop cord pouch), there’s bound to be one that’s perfect for whatever bits and bobs are making your life a mess. Plus, they’re made here in the USA from waxed canvas with solid brass snaps, so you can cross “buy American-made” off your list of resolutions as well. Now it’s just a matter of starting that workout routine you’ve been talking about. Get it here.
Small writeup on brilliant design object The Floyd Leg over at Cool Hunting…definitely worth the click. Check it out here.
It’s strange, really, how emotionally attached we can become to the objects in our lives. While we all know, in the back of our heads, the old mantra that the most important things in life aren’t things at all, it’s hard to ignore the resounding feeling of intimacy toward a well-loved leather bag, scarf, or favorite sweater. These things become, through our continued appreciation of them, greater than the sum of their parts— not just cabled wool or slubby linen, but something much harder to name. That’s why, when we look at such a minimal, blank canvas of an object such as the new natural billfold by Joshu + Vela, we feel that we’re looking at the start of a journey. The natural, veg-tanned leather, free of any unnecessary bells or whistles, is just begging to be personalized by the thumbprints and nicks and other imperfections that so endear us to our favorite objects. This, you might say, is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Get it here.
GIVEAWAY// DALYS 1895 & BRINKO TIES
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you’re totally mastering this whole “holiday season” thing. Let’s assume that you’ve painstakingly selected perfect gifts for everyone on your list (and heeded the often-maddening shipping cutoff date timetables to ensure prompt delivery). Let’s assume you’ve stocked your bar to Nick & Nora proportions to make your party guests feel welcome (and to take the edge off of those familial visitors, too). Let’s even assume that you’ve decorated, giftwrapped with ease and precision, and perhaps actually baked something that didn’t come out of a Pillsbury tube. Even if all of this were the case, we’d still be willing to bet that one crucial element of the season has slipped your mind—New Year’s. Every year we do it too—barely a deep breath after all the presents have been unwrapped and then we’re suddenly worried about what, where, who will ring in the new year. That’s why we’re glad to announce that we’re hosting a giveaway with Dalys 1895, exclusive purveyors of Brinko ties—follow the directions below to be entered to win one of two awfully-snazzy bow ties, perfect for adding that rakish touch that’s so complimented by the booze-soaked carousing of a good New Year’s party.
To enter, just sign up for our mailing list by clicking here (already signed up? You’ll be automatically entered) and LIKE Dalys 1896 on Facebook.
And, because it’s the season of giving, Dalys has also offered Rye & Rivet readers an exclusive 20% off discount sitewide with code “RIVET20”, now through 12/21. So everyone’s a winner, really.
Now that the tryptophan has set in and/or you’ve alienated half of your family with a political “conversation” at the table (whichever comes first), it’s inevitably time to turn your attention to the bevy of attention-hungry commercials for Black Friday sales shouting at you from the television. Or—and there is another option—you could leave the tube clicked securely to the “off” position and calmly check our painstakingly(-ish) curated roundup of our favorite promos for Black Friday and beyond, which can be found below. Trust us— by the time Christmas rolls around, no one will even remember that dems versus republicans food fight that just transpired. Probably.
BAXTER OF CALIFORNIA: 25% off all orders over $25 through Tuesday, with code “HOLIDAY13”. BEEKMAN 1802: 30% off any item with the word “blaak” in the title, now through Tuesday with code “BLAAKFRIDAY”, plus automatic 30% off discount on select “Cy Berman Day” sale page items. BILLYKIRK: 20% off sitewide today only, no code needed, plus receive a special gift with purchases over a certain amount (see blog for full details). BLACKBIRD BALLARD: 25% off with through Monday with code “BLACKBIRD”. BUCKS & CO: 50% off today only with code “BLACKFRIDAY”. DALYS 1895: 20% off through Monday, with code “EL5E43AQ”. ERNEST ALEXANDER: 25% off with code “HOLIDAY25” through Monday. FRANK & OAK: Up to 50% off select items (no code necessary). FREEMANS SPORTING CLUB: 25% off everything in-store and with code “TURKEY 25”, through Monday. HICKOREE’S: 20% off all weekend and free shipping on every order with code “BLACKFRIDAY”. 20% off on Monday with code “CYBERSPACE”, plus a free astronaut ice cream with your order. INDIGO & COTTON: 20% off with code “STUFFING”, through Sunday. JOSHU + VELA: Take 20% off any order over $60, now through Monday with code “BOUND 2”. THE KNOTTERY: Spend $100 to get $25 off with code “BABYITSFREEZING”, now through Monday. MATERIALS + PROCESS: Receive 25% off all purchases with code “NEEDTOHAVE”, now through Tuesday. MOHAWK GENERAL STORE: Spend $150 to get a $25 gift card; spend $250 to get $50; spend $450 to get $100, in-store and online through Sunday. NEED SUPPLY: 25% off all sale items with code “BLACKWEEKEND” through Sunday. OAK: Get up to 25% off your entire purchase with a tiered spend-to-get, through Monday. PROSPECTOR CO.: 25% off with code “BLACKFRIDAY”, through Monday. RALEIGH WORKSHOP: 20% off everything in-store only, and some additional discounts up to 40%, 11am-7pm. 20% off online orders on Monday plus free domestic shipping with code “CM20YEAH”.
TAMWORTH LYCEUM: Spend $50 to get 10% off your order with code “WINTERFEST10”; spend $100 to get 20% off your oder with code “WINTERFEST 20”, plus receive free shipping on any order over $100 through 12.05.
TANNER GOODS: 15% off the Mountain Light Mckenzie on Monday only, and free shipping now through 12.13.
WILL LEATHER GOODS: Friday only, spend $100 to get $20 off; spend $250 to get $60 off; spend $500 to get $150 off. WITTMORE: 30% off everything in-store and online with code “TURKEY30”, plus free shipping on orders over $150. 30% off everything plus free domestic shipping on Monday with code “MONDAY30”.
It’s common knowledge that nobody wants to be the kid who gets socks for Christmas. Socks, as a Christmas gift, usually hit that not-so-sweet spot right at the nexus of “practical” and “boring”. And worst of all, when your friends invariably ask what you got in your haul, you’ll have nothing to do but stuff your hands in your pockets and shrug, mumbling something about how Christmas is “like, whatever, man” before deflecting the question back to them, whereupon they will rattle off the bevy of highly-sought-after things they unpacked over the holiday— probably at least one of which is “impossible to find in the U.S.” and/or this season’s hot new electronic device. Well, not this year, pal. Because what you see above is not merely a pair of socks. No, indeed. The above pieces by Henrik Vibskov are nearer to art than footwear. We checked them out in person at The Sock Hop recently and were blown away. Just check the rad, midcentury modernish motifs and perfectly juxtaposed colors. Now imagine how awesome they’d look peeking out of the bottom of trousers, cuffed jeans, really, anything. Now imagine who will be the one feeling high and mighty when the post-Christmas gift break-down conversation goes down: “Oh, yeah, they’re by this really cool Scandinavian designer. Practically impossible to find in the U.S.” Go ahead, embellish if you must. We won’t judge. Get them here.