Pastry Post: The Lead Weights of the Suit Industry

It’s been a little while since I made my first post about suits, and I decided I would have a follow-up for that one in regards to the experience of trying to find my sartorial glory prior to posting the update to my previous post.

But before I begin, I’d like to talk a little bit about power supplies.

Stay with me. I used to work for a computer manufacturer, and one day, we were meeting with a new chassis manufacturer that would, in theory, provide us with our computer cases and the internal power supplies to go with them.

Now power supplies were (and are) an oft-overlooked piece of hardware when spec’ing out a computer build. One that can provide a steady stream of power while absorbing the occasional power spike can save your expensive investment from an early, smelly, death.

melted

“If ONLY they had spent an extra $20!”

Now it used to be (and I may be accidentally aging myself here), you could tell the quality of a power supply by how heavy it was. The heavier it was, the more capacitors, resistors, and other groovy electrical components were built in to it and it could signify a good buy.

It didn’t take the cheap, crap manufacturers long to figure this out, as evidenced by our first meeting with one of these said manufacturers.

“How much do you want the power supplies to weigh?” they asked, as if it were an obvious question. We were perplexed, because a power supply’s weight shouldn’t really be variable. It should weigh whatever it weighs.

Turns out, this manufacturer would add weights to the power supply in order to make it heavier than it originally would be, thus giving the impression of quality. We didn’t buy from them.

But as I’ve noticed, items that give the APPEARANCE of quality are rife in the custom clothing industry. And things like functional sleeve buttons are the lead weights of the fashion industry.

When Cucumber and I were suit shopping, we dropped in to a suit store in which you’ve probably heard of. It didn’t take too long to figure out that the off-the-rack section wasn’t going to work for me (as I have mentioned, off-the-rack suits and I just don’t get along), but they had a section in which you could have custom clothing made for you. Not that it was bespoke, just that it was a brick-and-mortar form of made-to-measure. Not a bad thing, as long as you accept what it is.

But the sales rep was desperate to make a sale.

The sales rep that we had talked to was a nice enough guy, but it was pretty obvious that his commission went up drastically when custom clothing was ordered, as he was fairly well pushing us that direction from the moment we walked into the store. Can’t say I blame the guy, but the tactics in which he tried to push us towards custom were just kinda slimy.

usedcarsalesman

You want a suit? I gotcha suit. Full’a canvas! N’stitching!

N‘Buttholes, aye..aye.. mean button holes!

One of the tactics he used, was in talking about how obviously high-quality the made-to-measure suits were, because they employed the use of pick-stitching in construction. Pick-stitching is (anymore) entirely decorative. It used to be that you only saw it on really high-end clothing. But like our friends who add weights to power supplies, the pick-stitch was quickly adopted by low-cost manufacturers as a way of bringing the appearance of quality to cheaper clothing.

hand_picked_stitching

A stitch in time may save nine, but it ain’t fooling anyone into thinking your suit cost more than it did.

The other item he mentioned: functional button holes. I am not a fan of them. Why? Because I’m not convinced of the utility of buttons on suit sleeves in the first place. There’s some debate about the origin of buttons on suit sleeves. The most obvious (and likely correct) source of buttons on the sleeves are a vestigial form that came from the ability to adjust the garment to better suit the wearer whether it be from the owner gaining or losing weight, or simply because it’s hot or cold.

The other origin story of suit buttons involves snot, and is therefore my preferred version. The story goes that Napoleon (or Alexander the Great, or Admiral Nelson, or Wellington, or whatever historical figure you like) repeatedly saw his men wipe their noses on the section of sleeve in which we now see button holes. So disgusted was he by the lack of professionalism, that he had his men sew buttons onto that spot, making it painful to wipe one’s nose.

Now I don’t know about you, but my nose isn’t such that it can only be wiped on one small section of sleeve. Thus, like at Waterloo, Napoleon’s efforts would be for naught.

24-jacket-sleeve-buttons

“Napoleon (with stereotypical French accent): Ah hah! There is no WAY they will THINK of wiping their noses somewhere else! Now, let’s go invade Russia! There’s plenty of time before winter!”

Functional button-holes on suits, nowadays, are just another attempt at indicating quality. They don’t really offer any real adjustment – buttoning them all doesn’t reduce the size of the sleeve, and unbuttoning them just makes the sleeve split. In short, it looks awful. Worse yet, it’s advised that when you have functional sleeves, you leave 1-2 unbuttoned so that one can tell it was “custom made” (laa dee dah).

Here’s the thing I don’t like about all of this stuff – it’s an attempt to make it seem like your clothing is something that it is not. It’s an attempt to make your suit look fully bespoke (i.e. patterns made specifically for you, fully canvased, etc), and sold for a much higher price than it actually is. After having it tailored to me (which will be discussed in a future post), it looks really great. It fits well, and it will totally serve the purpose for which it is intended, at a price that was acceptable to me.

Adding pick-stitching, functional button holes, and whatever other flair you want is, to me, the same as buying a “Limited Edition” badge, and sticking it on your car.

09-1984-toyota-camry-liftback-down-on-the-junkyard-picture-courtesy-of-murilee-martin-550x412

It might be time to discuss just what exactly is “limited” on your car.

The irony of all of this? On my new suit that I ordered made for me (despite the fact that I didn’t order it this way), it came with functional button holes.

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Traditions: Duck, Duck, Goose for Life

From mentioning venue duck poop to duck traditions! Something for every duck enthusiast!

In traditional Korean wedding ceremonies, duck or geese carvings are used as a symbol for peace, fidelity and the future blessing of having many ducklings/kidlings. The designs are usually based off the Mandarin Duck, a species of duck commonly found to mate for life. In Chinese culture, mandarin ducks have their very own metaphor to represent a loving couple, e.g. Bob and Susan are like “two mandarin ducks playing in water.”

Side note: I always used Bob and Susan as my example names as a holdover from taking French in college. Our instructor, Pierre from Paris, ALWAYS used Bob and Susan in his examples. When we asked him why, he said in his super thick accent, “Bob et Susan…What could be more American names?” I also spent the entire year writing my essays about snakes in backpacks as “un serpent à sac à dos” was weirdly used as an example in the first chapter of the book. Spoiler alert, the French backpack snakes took many international flights in my French essays. Je suis fatigué de ces serpents motherfucking sur cet avion motherfucking! Doesn’t quite have the same feeling to it…

Ce serpent est venu à une fin malheureuse comme un sac à dos.

 But, back to ducks…

The tradition of presenting wooden ducks stems from the custom of the groom presenting his bride’s family with live ducks or geese as a present prior to marriage. As the modern woman likely does not have numerous Pinterest boards devoted to the live geese/ducks she would like to keep in her fifth-floor-walk-up studio apartment, wooden carvings became all the vogue. Wedding ducks are commonly sold as souvenirs in Korea and China, but should you want a pair of authentic loving ducks for your wedding, you best start looking for a very special wood carver as soon as possible as there are some criteria for wedding duck prototyping.

To be a good wedding duck carver, according to tradition, one must be:

  1. Wealthy.
  2. Healthy.
  3. Married to a good partner.
  4. Not have ever been divorced or have relatives who have been divorced. (This duck pond just got real small.)
  5. Have lots and lots of male children, bonus points for five sons as it aligns with Confucius’s emphasis on family strength through proliferation.

I’m going to write to David Beckham and see if he want to carve Pastry and I some wedding ducks.

Another tradition is to incorporate string on the bills of the ducks. How lovely, you are thinking, decorative wedding ducks in festive outfits! NO. The string on the female duck’s beak symbolizes how the bride should endeavor to always be quiet and support her husband in all things.

PUT A STRING ON MY LADY WEDDING DUCK AND THERE SHALL BE HELL TO PAY.

At the wedding ceremony (though this is no longer common), the ducks are wrapped in cloth with only their string-tied faces peeking out of their tea towel. Once the bride arrives, the ducks are then placed within the ceremonial table/altar. Once they get hitched, the groom’s mom whips out the string-silenced lady duck and throws it to the bride for her to catch in her skirt. If the brides successfully fields the wooden duck, she will have sons. If she was last picked for softball at recess, all lady children for her.

The couple usually keeps the wooden ducks post-wedding in a prominent place within their home. But, duck placement says a lot about how things are going in their union. Facing toward each other, duck life is great! Frolic in that water together! Facing away, no longer playing in water! Things have gotten a bit rough.

The sign that Bob and Susan are going to end up either in marriage counseling or on Maury.

So, I kind of like the idea of carved wooden ducks. But, NO STRINGS. And, really, finding a duck-carver of note may be a serious issue. Mr. Beckham, if you happen to be reading, best work on your whittling skills for next May.

Naked Mole Rats of Love

As the glorious naked mole rat sadly did not seem to have a wedding cake topper option, I made a quick mock-up for Heterocephalus glaber enthusiasts.

MoleRatLove

Those teeth, those whiskers, that thermoconforming skin, that resistance to cancer, and lack of pain…Glorious, are they not?

Imagining these on top of a cake is vaguely nauseating and wonderful at the same time. It would be like  two, uh, wrinkled, pinkish skin sacks laying limp on buttercream while dressed in their wedding finery.

Note: A true naked mole rat cake topper would actually feature one bride and numerous grooms as they function in eusocial colonies very similarly to bees with one queen, three male consorts, and a whole bunch of workers doing the digging. foraging for food, grooming, and rearing of mole rat pups. It takes a village, okay.