Monday, 30 January 2012

New accessory shop - ties, cufflinks, braces...

It's always good to welcome a new business so today I'd like to introduce a Dorset-based company called PerUomo - here's a link to the website - which gets brownie points immediately from me for using a model who looks as though he may actually have seen his 30th birthday, men's magazines please take note.

Cutting to the chase it has some good stuff on display. As regular readers will know I've been looking at refreshing my tie collection a bit as I've been doing a small amount of telly. One of my pet hates is boring Paisley designs; you get a lot which are self-consciously loud but end up a bit samey. The pattern on PerUomo's Italian pure silk green and blue is regular enough not to be utterly garish but spaced out enough to be a bit interesting, which is my idea of a good design. Others may disagree of course but at £34.95 it's certainly on my list of possibles. There's a good range of colours for people who don'y fancy this one. I can't speak for how well-made they are because I haven't actually seen one in the flesh, but I have no reason to doubt them.

To accompany this I might consider a pair of cufflinks from the company, although if I were matching them I'd have to see them in person to decide. There are a lot of designs similar to many I've seen before but I'm quite taken with this blue and white gilt pair. You know the routine, a shade too big and they might swamp an otherwise quite tasteful outfit. They also sell braces which are not my thing, but they have a good selection for wearers.

The family members who run this site already have one placeholder for a forthcoming range of cufflinks in addition to those already on the site. I'll be watching what comes in with interest.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Tee time - but maybe not yet

I feel for makers of tee shirts this time of year. Sometimes they get in touch with me to promote their goods, as did a business I hadn't heard of called T-Lab recently. We design good tees, they say, of course you do, I think, but what muppet's going to wear them when it's this cold outside?

The answer is of course that the weather is changeable at this time of year. Whereas we might well be in with a chance of snow in February we might just as easily come up with quite mild temperatures, and of course you can always put a jumper over the tee.

Which in this case might be a bit of a shame because these are rather good. I was thinking about buying something with a bit of a design on it and the ones these guys put together are well suited to a bloke my age - as you can see from the picture of the one I've got, it's a logo but not so much of one as to look a complete mid-life crisis.

Where the garment really scores, though, is in the quality. We're talking heavy duty cotton, comfortable, roomy (it's an XL and doesn't feel as though it's stretched right across me in spite of the fact that I could clearly lose a stone or three) and the stitching is solid. The neck has the right thickness to last longer than the five minutes you'd expect from something cheaper.

It's pretty good for the £20 the company currently wants (down from £25). I could see myself stocking up - but maybe a little later in the year when it's tee-shirt type weather.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Getting knotted - more on ties

I've been refreshing my tie collection this year. I've done a bit of TV and if I'm honest the ones I have, although they're fine face to face, tend to end up showing up as pretty dull. The studio lighting doesn't do them all any favours.

Over Christmas I wrote about ties from Victoria Richards andI remain a fan. She designs them for Jon Snowand they look distinctive without - necessarily - appearing garish. Granted she can do brightly-coloured if she's asked. Her website will be stocking up with new designs in about eight weeks; in the meantime a load of ties come up as out of stock, which is frustrating.

Tie 15, Sue Forrest Ties
So I've been looking elsewhere and found Sue Forrest, - notice the spelling of her website omits one 't' in "' and hasn't bought the .com version. Based in Hay on Wye, which is always going to earn Brownie points from me as I had my honeymoon nearby (COUGH) years ago, she hand paints her own designs onto silk and makes them into ties. They don't have names like the Victoria Richards models, and I appreciate my buying "Percy Bar" from Victoria probably sounds a bit more exciting than buying "Tie 15" from Sue. But it's a nice design; regular enough to be coherent but fairly obviously hand painted and therefore unique - even someone buying the same thing will have some slight variants due to the hand made nature of the thing.

I like it very much. Her website says people tend to love or hate her ties which I can understand - but to enliven a standard dark suit and white shirt they're an excellent look, and at £45 not bad for something hand made and unique. You'd pay more for many so-called "designer ties" in a department store. I'll be keeping an eye on her site to see what else comes up.

I did think I'd found something original at first - an exchange of emails, however, tells me she also supplies Jon Snow and he's a good customer. I am not stalking this man.

As with previous posts on the subject I have no affiliation with these craftspeople - this blog is not incentivised by any vendors in any way

Win tickets to Woman In Black premiere

Those of you with kids, come to the front. Those without, I suspect most readers are a little senior for this. However...

Daniel Radcliffe's new movie, Woman In Black, premieres tomorrow and there's a chance you can win tickets, sit with the stars including Radcliffe and Ciaran Hinds. I'm not running the competition (get you into a premiere? I only wish I could...), it's from the PRs promoting the movie.

This being a style blog there is an inevitable dressing-up bit to what you have to do. It's simple, although the chances of winning are low. You turn up to the premiere - which is at the Royal Festival Hall - dressed as your interpretation of the Woman In Black. If you're very lucky you'll get chosen to go into a VIP fan area of the red carpet.

Then the best dressed entrant is given a pair of tickets to the premiere and will be invited in. It really is as simple as that.

Good luck - and if you're lucky enough to win, or send one of the kids along and they win, please tell LifeOver35 all about it!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Dry December and the middle aged

Flickr: Tim Pearce, Los Gatos
As regular readers will know I'm temporarily off the booze because of a mild gum infection (cleared up now) and antibiotics, and of course you always have to finish a course of antibiotics even if the symptoms have cleared up.

So I'm feeling fine but am unable to drink until Thursday evening - well, technically Thursday lunchtime but I'm not a midday drinker. All of which leads me back to last night's Inside Out London, that link should work for one week on iPlayer, in which BBC London journalist Wendy Hurrell documented her staying away from alcohol for the whole of December.

It's worth watching if only as a reminder of the stuff we all know about alcohol. In excess it does harm, not only to you but to people around you, and you're likely to notice benefits from cutting down or cutting it out even if you don't classify yourself as a heavy drinker. We all know this stuff but a reminder never does any harm - it's well made and some of the facts on what it does to your health and appearsance are worth going over again.

Of course Hurrell isn't "one of us" - this blog is primarily aimed at the over-35 male; I'm certain she doesn't qualify as a male and I have serious doubts as to whether she's seen her 30th birthday yet, not that it's any of my business. The programme covers older people too.

My own experience has been enlightening from a number of other angles. It's only been five and a half days so not comparable with Hurrell's experience but there have been things I'd expected to improve which haven't done so. Sleeping patterns - I tend to wake up a few times overnight - are pretty much unchanged, although last night was good. Any thoughts of "cut down the alcohol and you'll sleep better" have proven so far illusory.

Likewise feeling more alert and refreshed on waking in the morning; I'm still the same drowsy, incoherent waste of space I've always been first thing. And nodding off in front of the telly, let's not even go there. Talking to my friends I wonder whether that's just a fortysomething thing. The only difference now is that instead of thinking "this wine must be stronger/lower quality than I thought" on finishing a glass after dinner and dozing off, I'm now thinking "either this orange juice is off, this programme is unbelievably soporific or I'm genuinely knackered".

On balance this is positive. Blaming tiredness and lethargy on alcohol and deciding I would do something about it 'eventually' was sloppy thinking. You don't have to underestimate the harm alcohol can do to understand that attributing every bit of fatigue to it could be masking an underlying issue which isn't drink related at all.

It's only been five days so I wasn't expecting a radical change in wellbeing. And I'm not going to fall back into the habit of having wine with a meal because we "might as well" and it's easy. I'm sure I'll lose a little weight by cutting down, which will reduce my risk from heart disease, diabetes and all those other things we all understand and know as we order the next pint.

Nonetheless, going without it for a few days and noticing so little difference in so many areas has left me determined to look again at a few other areas of my life - diet, stress and exercise in particular - and stop using "I really must consider cutting down on alcohol" as an excuse not to do anything else.

Friday, 6 January 2012

What would you give for a better body?

Flickr: Tucia
Now this is just silly. According to the BBC's website today, many men are unhappy with their gut. That's not the silly bit, I fully accept it and am not desperately proud of my own. Body image, the piece goes on to say, is no longer (if it ever was) an exclusively female thing.

I'm OK so far on that. I set up this blog with the idea of writing about and for men who were a bit concerned about their appearance but who feel that from early middle age we're a bit abandoned by the style mags and media in general. I have no problem at all with someone wanting to demolish the myth that fat is an exclusively feminine issue, that we don't care how we look, that we're as attached to the idea of being better as anyone else of either sex, regardless of orientation (I don't buy into the idea that self-image and dress sense are exclusively gay things, either).

No, the silly bit is where the BBC has fallen for a bit of spurious research. I hate spurious research and as a jobbing journalist I get plenty, believe me. I dislike it strongly when it actually gets coverage. This one is from the University of the West of England's Centre for Appearance Research (I didn't make that up) and it says - wait for it - 35% of men say they'd give up a year of their lives to have a better body - flat gut, more muscles in the upper body, you know the sort of thing.

Oh, really? They'd give up a year of their lives? What does that actually mean, though? They'd allow someone to come and shoot them a year before their allotted time, if that could be calculated with any certainty? They really wouldn't mind telling their family that healthy though they felt, they'd made this agreement for a decent set of abs so it was now time to go off to Switzerland and face the end a bit earlier than absolutely necessary?

It's a ridiculous statement to make and frankly a stupid question to have asked.

I have a much better one. If you or I were seriously that unhappy with our bodies that we felt we'd shorten our lives to improve them, how come we're not shortening our days by half an hour or so to go for a quick run? Pair of trainers, shorts, t-shirt, 20 minutes or so a day before the usual shower, you think we won't see a difference if we combine it with less fat and sugar?

Of course there are time constraints. There are families to look after, kids to prepare for school. There's always going to be something stopping a lot of us. Nonetheless, the idea that a third of men with an average age of 40 are so concerned that they'd shorten their lives to get fitter (which incidentally is more likely to lengthen life) when in reality they can't find half an hour four times a week to do something about it is more than a little preposterous.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Everybody duck, the patterned shirt is back

Flickr: Smath
I've just been reading the as-always-excellent MSN men's pages and today it's all about fashion looks we're going to be sporting over the next 12 months. The first one was the one that made me shudder the most; the patterned shirt is going to be a big seller. MSN highlights this example from John Lewis. Usefully it's reduced - the picture on this page is from Flickr (I don't have the rights to lift John Lewis pictures).

On the right person these will of course look great. This blog, though, is called Life Over 35 and for that reason if none else I won't be buying a shirt with a particularly loud pattern. The reason is simple; I've pulled off the remarkable trick, at 47-later-this-year, of not drinking much beer but growing a beer gut nonetheless. Of course I'll be working on getting rid of it (and how often have I said that in the past) but for the moment anything that draws attention to it - like a really loud pattern - is out.

There are many myths about what clothes to wear when one's become a little bulbous. Most are based on the principle that vertical stripes are slimming. This is rubbish; first tests have proven it doesn't work (look at a square with vertical lines through it and another with horizontal lines and the majority of people will find the horizontal version looks thinner when the sizes are in fact identical - so vertical lines are fattening) and second a set of vertical lines over a belly actually ends up working like a contour map of your shape.

The jeans I highlighted from Wizard before Christmas are good in this respect in that they're well cut and very matt black - my wife tells me they're slimming on me. Blocks of colour are always good if you're less than confident about your shape. Combine with a casual top from Fat Face (the Henley top in that link works well on me with a white or off-white tee underneath it) or the one I highlighted from Sea Salt last year (I have bought one of these and it works well as very casual - although they seem to have sold out now) and you'll look fine.

I suspect the MSN site is aimed partly at a younger constituency. Early twentysomethings do indeed look great with a bit of a swagger and a loud shirt. Standup comics and TV presenters often get away with it because of the context; Paul Merton wears something with a fairly extreme pattern most weeks on "Have I Got News For You". If you've worked hard enough to have an athletic build then the chances are you'll look pretty damned good, too. For the rest of us I still recommend blocks of colour.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

An alcohol-free week

Flickr: Tim Pearce, Los Gatos
'Tis the New Year and inevitably the papers have been full of how to get yourself fit, how to detox and soforth. The most reassuringly sensible advice, to me, is the one that's been doing the rounds about a month of detox being a waste of time - you need to be reasonably sensible all year round to make any lasting impact on your health.

I'm no expert but this seems so sensible it has to be true, and is at the very worst a harmless idea. Nonetheless, following a minor gum infection and a visit to the dentist I have antibiotics and yes, they're the sort with which you mustn't drink alcohol.

Contrary to popular belief this isn't true of all antibiotics. I know, I saw it on QI so it must be true. The fact is that in the early days of antibiotics they were prescribed to sailors who'd been into port, found a prostitute and got themselves infected with something nasty. So they were prescribed and - because the patient would be more amenable to getting reinfected before the last lot had cleared up when under the influence of alcohol - they were told drink would render the drug ineffectual.

Nonetheless I've checked and mine are indeed the alcohol-free variety (and the infection is, honestly, a gum thing). The snag I'm going to face is that I don't like sugary, sweet drinks, so sitting at dinner with a can of Coke isn't an option I'm going to relish. I find water quite dull and elderflower gets a little cloying after a while.

It's while looking at the range of drinks available at supermarkets that I start to realise just how in love with alcohol we are as a society. At the end of last year I referenced the excellent blog by Wendy Hurrell (who I see has been kind enough to reference this entry for which my thanks) in which, for a TV documentary, she went without alcohol for a month. I'm only aiming for a week so it's going to be a pushover, but I'll be interested to see whether I start to notice changes in my health and sleeping patterns - and indeed alertness and maybe even weight (a tall order for a week).

At the moment I'm still at the stage of being struck by just how much we orient ourselves around alcohol at the moment, and whether I'm going to find anything I find halfway palatable to have as my preferred 'tipple'.

Suggestions welcome...

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

The gift card: a rant

Flickr: Wonderdawg777
Hello, welcome back and I hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Year. I was lucky enough to get a Fat Face gift card.

Regular readers will know I like Fat Face. Casual clothes, watch some of the patterned excesses if you're my age but good quality, nice design. You get the picture. So I went online to the site and found they had a rather nice pair of black Chelsea Boots (I'd have preferred the brown but they'd sold out, fair enough). Casual, slightly beaten-up looking, really nice for casual wear.

I haven't got them though. And why not? Because like so many other retailers they don't allow you to use gift cards over the Internet when the cards were bought in a shop. This is far from unique to Fat Face. Last year I had a WH Smith gift card (by now a useless shop I'm afraid; when I asked on the week of its release whether they had the Blu-Ray of "The King's Speech" they didn't, whereas every other DVD retailer in the universe had made damned sure they had loads - WH hadn't even stocked it in the first place) and once again, I could only use it in actual premises.

I'm sure there are technical reasons it's difficult to have a preloaded and top-uppable card working online. No doubt someone from IT would be able to explain it to me.

But as a tech journalist since 1989 guess what - I don't care. If you're a High Street retailer you're going to be under threat by now from the online world, and if you have an online presence as well then your gift tokens need to work seamlessly - or else I'm going to start buying my gift tokens elsewhere next year.

A stereotype says men hate shopping. Personally I don't - but I do like a business to accept genuine money when I offer it regardless of the channel. It's now 2012 - retailers, your New Year's resolution needs to be to make buying with you a seamless experience, whether the customer is in front of the computer, on a smartphone or in your shop.