Fresh style insights, tips and commentary by Michelle Tea, Michael Braithwaite, Leo Plass, Page McBee and Carrie Leilam Love.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Nautical by Nature

I just got back from a two-night trip to Provincetown, Massachusetts. Provincetown is a lot of things - it's the town on the tip of the state's spiraling arm, it's where the godforsaken pilgrims landed, it's a Portuguese fishing village and a homosexual tourist trap. It's got tons of art galleries - some, like the Schoolhouse Gallery, quite cool - and as for literature, Norman Mailer lived and died there and his home has been turned into a writer's retreat, and Cookie Mueller's ashes were scattered on the beach there. The pretty, pretty houses with the lush English-style gardens lining Commerical Street are lovely to walk by, and the air smells like honeysuckle and the Atlantic Ocean is all sprawled out forever on the other side of the quaint wooden homes, and the sky always looks like the sky in a Maxfield Parrish painting, which is maybe why Eileen Myles, who used to live here, named one of her poetry collections after him. John Waters lives here, too.

While having a watery Diet Coke at the Monkey Bar with some locals, I was told that the primary fashion in Ptown is t-shirts - you can tell from t-shirts who's visiting, who's the invading gentry and who are the natives, or townies as we like to call 'em. For sure Commercial Street, the town's main drag, is full of joints hawking hideous t-shirts for every sort: 2 Cute 2 Be Straight nestled up against an Irish Yoga print of a man fallen down drunk, next to regulation beach town Bob Marleys, etc etc etc forever. I did not think I would have anything to say on this classy blog about t-shirts but then my traveling companion, filmmaker Peter Pizzi, wore his Madonna-inspired Italian pride number to a Bingo game at the Unitarian Universalist church, and ran into a competing claim on the torso of this female. No one is exactly sure what the 'it' in question is, but I think who does it better is obvious: Italian Women. Okay, now let's go shopping -

Wait, am I in New England or New Mexico? Miss Mizepah's Trading Post (322 Commercial) is an oasis of southwestern style in a town where you can't swing a dead lobster without hitting a silkscreen of an anchor or the Mayflower. Check out that beautiful wall of vintage Pendleton blankets! Proprietess Tiffany Mizepah Crane is a veritable Pendleton expert, having read up a bunch on the company's designs and practices (two books, Chasing Rainbows by Barry Friedman and Language of the Robe by Robert Kapoun, were available for shoppers to flip through) plus recently went on a trip to the looms up in Oregon. They give tours! Road trip! Anyway, Miss Mizepah Crane informed me that Pendleton works with Native American artists to get the full scoop on what the designs mean and where they've come from, which is nice to know.

I sure wish I'd taken a picture of the taxidermy armadillo that had been turned into a grotesque and fascinating basket sitting in a display case. While I'm at it, I'll wish that I'd gotten this cool Pendleton photo album to archive it in.

What's this?It's a gorgeous Pendleton duffel bag that's been sitting at Miss Mizepah's Trading Post for three years because everyone in Ptown is too busy spending their money on shitty t-shirts. Get it together, Yankees! She's brought the price down to $170 from $200, and I had a feeling she'd let the damn thing go for $150. I told Miss MC not to worry - with the Pendleton explosion currently happening at Urban Outfitters, where I recently spotted bags, toiletry cases, wallets and beach towels ablaze with the iconic designs - someone will surely snap up that steal of a bag by the end of the season. Let's take a look at its backside:

Niiiiice. And you know what would go lovely with it? Some jewelry from Galadriel's Mirror (246 Commercial Street):

Yes, I Am A Witch. Now can I have my giant amethyst necklace, please?

Map at 141 Commercial Street is good for jewelry, too. I pretty much like everything in this picture, but especially the Freemason pocket knife necklace by B. Daniels. I'm crazy about Freemason and Oddfellow imagery - glowing cosmic eyeballs, buzzing beehives, esoteric looking drafting equipment. Who doesn't love a secret society? It's neighbor, Fight Like Hell, is by Bing Bang, whose designer has made pieces for Philip Lim and Marc Jacob's runway shows. I like that one too, and think it would be a charming minor threat to walk around with such weaponry around one's neck.

The folks who run Map are associated with the folks from Juxtapoz magazine, and they carry some pop art of that vein, such as the David Shrigley Cocaine and Heroin salt and pepper shakers. These things are like that dumb fucking joke you've heard a million times but it cracks you up every time you hear it anyway. They also have these prints of hip hop lyrics.

Okay, back to wearables. I liked these dead stock skinny clip-on westerny bow ties. I know a lot of bow tie wearers are purists, and scornful of clip-ons, and I agree, they just don't look as good as a big, fluffy, rumpled and imperfect real bow tie. But I think it's okay for this style:

Anyone still sporting a wallet chain in 2010 should be beaten with it, but what about this here lanyard?

Yates and Kennedy is located right downstairs from the boarding house I used to live in when I was 22, 368 Commercial Street. They sell a little of everything you don't need but are suddenly obsessed with - magnifying glasses wrapped in nautical rope, yellowed teeth etched with ships to wear around your neck, tank tops that proclaim Avant Garde and giant spools of nautical rope fashioned into stools. I even spotted the incredible hoof-pick belt Leo Plass blogged about right here some weeks back. Classy place.

Did I come to Ptown to spend some QT with my bestie, give a high five to the Atlantic and ride a bicycle to Spiritus for some pizza? No. I came to freak out at Marine Specialties, the best weirdo Army-Navy surplus store anywhere. There is no rhyme or reason to the treaures you'll find. First class service flatware from a dead airline? Check. Barrel full of wooden spools from shut-down wool mills, many still wound with a handsome bit of yarn? Check. Smelly, taxidermy blow fish? You betcha. A glass vial once containing gunpowder, packaged in a round wooden flask, courtesy of the Dutch military, 1945? But of course.

I love those braided sailor bracelets, but they're usually white and I get them grubby real fast. This handsome eggplant number will keep it cute a little longer (though they're only two bucks, so you can probably grab both).

Thrifty fishwives get their bridal gear at Marine Specialties.

I saw a girl at Four Barrel in the Mission wearing this exact outfit the day after I returned from my trip. Let's hope she got it for $12, cause that's how much the ensemble would set you back at this place.

What the F is this? I hung around it for a bit, trying to crack the mystery, and wound up trying to figure out how I could make the belty bit into a proper, perfect belt.

Have I lost my mind? I think these slippers are so cool.

You probably don't need one of these ugly Jessica McClintock bustiers. But I bet you always wondered what the face of such evil looked like. And now you know.

An endless supply of golden anchor buttons? Aye, Captain!

Is it a picnic basket? A beehive? Where a snake charmer keeps his reptiles? Why is it almost a hundred dollars? All we know for sure is that wicker and leather are a love that will never die.

At $0.95, you can't afford not to buy a Belgian Red Cross armband.

My loot, arranged on my bed at the Breakwater, aka the Brokewater, where I implore you all not to stay on your Provincetown vacation, no matter how seductive the rates may be. Sometimes you get what you pay for. Blissfully, in the case of Marine Specialties, you get more. The jacket is a serge wool peacoat-style blazer from the British Navy, called a wren's jacket - cause it's for girls? Even cuter, and only $9.95. The green army bag was $6.95 and is my new favorite purse - and I got a lot of purses. And that oddly-shaped blue canvas thing with the interesting hardware? Oh, it's a gun holster that straps to your belt and is a fantastic alternative to a fanny pack. But if fanny packing is your thing, check out this one I spied among the dreamcatchers at Mystik Moon:

I was actually poised to buy this, but the girl working there had no idea how much it cost and came up with the hysterically funny $20. This thing looks cool but I think it's made of cardboard and would probably melt to your fanny if you broke a sweat while wearing it. I woulda given her five bucks for it.

I love Marc Jacobs the man because he's sober, has really shitty tattoos (Spongebob Squarepants? Really?) and has a porn star husband. His Ptown outpost is pretty disappointing - like a high end dollar store it sells random branded chachkies: tote bags, beach towels, t-shirts, and some whatev bathing suits. But it's such a cute space with the swan boat and the attractive staff, it's worth stopping by. As a fellow blogger commented, Maybe if Ptownies bought more than t-shirts, the store would sell more than t-shirts.

Does the above picture make you want to stab yourself in the eye with a stick of Nag Champa? Me, too. So imagine my surprise when a three dollar romper winked at me from a sale basket outside! I simply had to grab it - as Peter said, At a price like that, you can afford to take a chance, and it has a cute Banarama vibe. Here is the sales boy ringing it up. I was going to call him a stoner sales boy, but I don't want to enforce cultural stereotypes of teenagers working in head shops:

It's so cute, right? Three dollars! It's one-size-fits-all and makes me look a little bit like I'm wearing an adult diaper, but I'm going to find a way to make it work.

Okay, back to the things I want that I can never have. This gorgeous leather bag was hanging out at the Rogues Gallery shop at 208 Commercial Street. It was under $1,000, but not by much, friends, not by much. It's hand-made at their workshops in Maine. I don't think my snapshot fully conveys this bag's magnificence. Here:

Okay. It's not surprising to walk into the Rogues Gallery shop and discover a bag that makes you want to sell an organ so you can purchase it. But it is surprising, very surprising, to discover a t-shirt bearing a shout-out to your rundown, very un-glam hometown. Imagine my dear friend Peter's surprise when the Eastie native spotted this piece on the wall:

Crazy! We are fairly certain that this is the first time East Boston has been acknowledged by the fashion world. We're glad to see the North Shore finally getting its due. For those of us raised there among the fake Vuitton Speedy bags, the pumped bangs, the banana clips, the intense eyeliner, the track suits and the sweats with lettering arcing over the derriere - well, we always new the day would come. Can you guys make a Chelsea one next?

Coffey Men is a really charming men's boutique that doubles as the work studio of the guy who designs the clothes. The place is hung not just with garments, but with swatches of fabric pinned with notes about what is getting made with it and when it is due in from the seamstress.

Phew. That was a long blog for a short trip. I will leave you with some fashion gems I spotted back at home in San Francisco, starting with the adornments of the chap ahead of me in line at Pancho Villa the other day:

You know what tips me right over the edge is that handle at the top. It's like he took an awesome saddlebag-briefcase-man purse and strapped it to his waist. When I asked him what it was he modestly said, "A fannypack." But we know, don't we, that that is not a fannypack. This style innovator goes by the name Dax Tran-Caffee. He's an artist who is about to put an installation in the window at the boutique Acrimony over in Hayes Valley. It seemed rude to only put up a picture of his extravagant fannypack, so here is his face:

Nice 'stache!

And finally, I found this Louis Vuitton toiletry bag (fake? probably?) fashioned into a Kleenex holder as part of a really cool art installation in the gallery at the back of Adobe Books on 16th Street. I couldn't get the info on who made it, or who was responsible for the installation - an arrangement of knick-knacks, Kylie Minogue pin-ups, and books by Robert Gluck and Dodie Bellamy, but it made me really, really happy. Photo by Julie Michelle.


  1. Humanists do it best. And I think we do know what 'it' means if you catch my drift.

  2. So, you're a humanist? That explains everything.

  3. This post makes me happy as a clam. Thanks!