Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Keep That Beard Dapper

A dapper man takes care of himself and his appearance. You know that, of course, or else you wouldn't be here among my acolytes. As you'll recall we covered shaving in an earlier article but some of you may not be of the clean-shaven variety. You prefer the more hirsute approach to being dapper and that is perfectly acceptable; many people find it Über-sexy and très manly. Some people actually look far better with facial hair than without, including your Wingman actually. Without facial hair I look a bit like a grown up, scowling Charlie Brown minus the yellow & black shirt. But I digress. Seriously, some people look far better with a beard than without.

A beard can make all the difference in the world. Yes, that's the same guy.

I've had facial hair for a long time. I had that wispy boy moustache in the latter part of high school, that timeless, age-old attempt to look more adult that usually fails and makes one look vaguely silly but it's allowable because you're still under 18. Then came my service time in the US Army, and in general facial gair is disdained in uniform. Sure, it's allowable but barely. No beards, and the moustache must be trimmed so that it barely exists, and usually makes you look like either a serial rapist or some other foul criminal when combined with a seriously short military haircut. The Navy allowed short beards for a time, up until 1984. The no-beards rule serves practical purposes, in that it maintains a certain uniformity but also because of gas masks...

What? Gas masks? What the hell are you talking about, Wingman?

A beard prevents you from achieving a tight seal against your face with a gas mask (or even a firefighting mask), and that would allow in things like say, smoke or nerve gas and chemical agents. Trust me, from experience, it is NOT fun to have tear gas inside your mask with you. But again, I digress.

Beards have made a comeback as of late. Our Special Operations troops working in the bush in Iraq and Afghanistan have what are termed as "relaxed grooming standards" which provide for facial hair growth so the men can more easily blend in with the locals and because when you're living for weeks at a time in a primitive environment it's a bit easier to maintain. A certain segment of the population sees pictures of these bearded badasses and want to emulate that look themselves, but without the years of grueling training or actual committment to the Warrior Ethos.

Another segment of the male populace sees the crew of Duck Dynasty and wants to adopt the redneck chic persona. Those guys are all filthy rich and have high-maintenance wives, so maybe a giant beard is the key?

The bulk of last year's World Series champion Boston Red Sox made the entire season into a beard fest.

Hockey players traditionally grow a beard when their team enters the playoffs and refuse to shave it until their season ends.

Zdeno Chara, with and without. He looks better with.

Not everyone, though, should grow a beard. Again, I have a very round face and the facial hair is great at breaking up the roundness. And since I shave my head bald, it takes away the Charlie Brown Factor. A beard is something easy enough to expeiment with, and to try it out simply requires you to stop shaving and look scruffy for a few days until it fills in and you can begin to sculpt it into a dapper man-carpet. Unlike a tattoo, it's not permenant. If it fails, then all you need to do it shave it back off and chalk it up to experience.

Actually, yes you do.

But once you do grow it, you have to maintain it. For years I kept mine a very short jawline beard but a couple months ago I let it grow out and fill in a bit. I used to set the shortest guard on my trimmers and do the whole thing about once a week. Now I've gotten to where I simply comb it through and use beard scissors to trim the recalcitrant tentacles that are too long and refuse to cooperate.

Dude...combs? Scissors?

Yeah, chummy. You have to actually maintain this thing. The old-fashioned way. You know that multi-piece grooming set that your mom gave you for Christmas and you forgot about? Break it out, you foul little Neanderthals. Included in that kit should be a small comb for facial hair and a little pair of scissors for sculpting and trimming. If you lack said kit, get thee to your local apothecary (that's drugstore for you neophytes with a lesser vocabulary) or just peruse the men's section of toiletries at WalMart. Get a small comb and a pair of moustache/beard scissors. I've had my scissors for over 20 years, and the comb is the one that came with my trimmer.


Most beards will want to curl up and grow any which frikkin' way imaginable and need to be tamed and trained to go the way you want them to go, and combing it does that. It keeps your beard looking neat & tidy, and if you're a Cro-Mag slob when you eat, it will comb out your excess Dorito crumbs. Don't be That Guy with the food in his beard and try to laugh it off by calling it a Crumb Catcher. That Guy gets laughed at and seldom gets laid unless it's by a chick who makes Ke$ha look like a princess by comparison.

If you're so inclined, a quality barber at your local corner shop should be able to trim and shape it for you when you go for your regular cut. This little video from Tom Bushnell at Murdock London is a great overview of beard maintenance by a professional barber.

At home, I find a good exfoliation with an apricot scrub does wonders for removing dead skin cells under your beard. It's also good while growing your beard out to deal with that itchiness as your face adjusts. I personally use conditioner in my beard a couple times a week. Beard hair is coarser than regular top-of-the-head hair and this will keep it softer and looking healthier. There are also specialized products to condition your beard, such as Black Jack's Beard Lube. Tom spoke of it in the above video.

It's possible to look quite dapper with a beard if you take good care of it. It's a personal preference but I think there can definitely be too much beard and it will detract from a suave debonair dapper look and become a circus sideshow. That's up to you, though. A well-maintained beard combined with a proper set of stylish attire can create a very dapper you. Be you. Be dapper.

That's just too much beard for me.
A much more dapper fellow with a neat beard and a great tie.

A great before & after. The before looks like a suicide bomber and after looks well put together.
A good winter combo of a topcoat and beard

Model Ricki Hall. Almsot too much beard but still within reason.
No, no, no, no, a thousand times NO. This makes my eyes bleed.
Ryan Gosling making the beard look quite dapper.
Paul Rudd ruined a decent beard and tux by being in dire need of a haircut and a comb.

Joaquin Pheonix looking homless despite sporting shades worth more than my car payment.

The beard can be your friend.

Unless you're in a circus or a contestant in Beard Wars, maintain limits to your beard.

Who's got your back? I do.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Now Hear This Volume 4: Grammy Night Special

Ah, yes...tonight is the annual Grammy Awards, when most decent music is overlooked in favor of the industry masturbating each other over whichever over-produced spoiled asshat or other. Few recent winners, in my humble yet correct opinion, are worth a tinker's damn.

Last year the band fun. won a Grammy for Best New Artist and for Song of the Year, and it was a good song, a song I once plugged and then almost immediately regretted doing because it was effing inescapable afterwards for the next year. The trouble with popular music and Top 40 radio is that they will RUIN a good thing by overplaying it. I'm convinced that record labels buy airplay for certain songs by paying off the giant conglomerated companies like Clear Channel and Cumulus who own hundreds of radio stations each and one programmer picks every single song to be played at every second of the day via computer and stations can't deviate from what Central Command says.

Oh, yes, the days of calling a station and making a request are long gone. Back when I was a young pup you called a station and the on-air DJ would answer after 80 rings during a song and you'd make a request and they would usually play it. The stations had say so over what they played within the station's format. Then the mega-companies came along and then came staff cuts. Many stations only have a live human on the air during the morning drive and late afternoon drive. The rest of the time it's just canned time & temp & traffic reports. Half the stations don't even have a local morning show and just plug into a syndicated feed where fake plastic wacky funsters with names like Bad Boy & Fatback in the Morning or BJ & Zipper or a million other stupid lame-assed combinations of a front-man, a parrot sidekick who laughs and agrees with everything, and a token chick to keep women listeners on board. A central programmer comes up with the playlists for all the Top 40 stations they own, and it gets plugged into their central system and sent out via satellite. A computer tracker code in the songs reports back that each song is getting X number of plays on X number of stations.

My local Top 40 station fired their rather successful one guy/two chicks local morning show and went with some syndicated formulaic feed, and their entire afternoon is Ryan Seacrest's sugar-coated G-rated funfest, the afternoon drive is a local guy who used to be the morning host on the local hip hop station, and the evening is some equally insipid Perez Hilton feed show.

But I digress. Last year the Album of the Year was Babel, from Mumford & Sons. A great album and great band, but for me the album wasn't quite as spectacular as their debut. And the rest of the 2013 Grammy Awards was a blur of crap.

This year, hmmmm, what have we to look at?

 Record Of The Year
 Get Lucky-Daft Punk Featuring Pharrell Williams & Nile Rodgers

 Radioactive- Imagine Dragons


 Locked Out Of Heaven-Bruno Mars

 Blurred Lines-Robin Thicke Featuring T.I. & Pharrell

Let's see...I've talked about almost all of these songs before. Back in August, actually, for some and May  for another. By the time I wrote about them, I was painfully sick of Get Lucky and Blurred Lines both. I wasn't really impressed with either. I liked Imagine Dragons a lot but after awhile that song got beaten to death. And Lorde...I gave her a rave review too and now her songs are getting played every 56 minutes. I'd like to see either Lorde or Imagine Dragons get the nod to show I was ahead of the pack.

 Song Of The Year
 Just Give Me A Reason-Jeff Bhasker, Pink & Nate Ruess, songwriters (Pink Featuring Nate Ruess)

 Locked Out Of Heaven-Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine & Bruno Mars, songwriters (Bruno Mars)

 Roar-Lukasz Gottwald, Max Martin, Bonnie McKee, Katy Perry & Henry Walter, songwriters (Katy Perry)

  Royals-Joel Little & Ella Yelich O'Connor, songwriters (Lorde)

 Same Love-Ben Haggerty, Mary Lambert & Ryan Lewis, songwriters (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis   Featuring Mary Lambert)

Different from Record of the Year, this one goes to the songwriters. Every single song was played ad nauseum. I applaud the message of the Macklemore song but at the same time he's asking people not to stereotype, he lumps all "right wing conservatives" into the same pile. I'd give it to Lorde, just out of spite for pop music because she got her start on alternative radio.

Best New Artist
James Blake
Kendrick Lamar
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Kacey Musgraves
Ed Sheeran

Who? Until the nominations came out I hadn't heard of James Blake or Kacey Musgraves. I'd barely heard of Kendrick Lamar, and Ed Sheeran is that dreamy little British kid who sings those whiny songs like "A Team" . I think based upon the insane success of his stuff this year Macklemore has it hands down. Ironically, some Best New Artists quickly disappear after they win. In 2011 the winner was Esperanza Spalding. Who? The other nominees were Drake, Florence & The Machine, Mumford & Sons, and some punk kid named Justin Bieber.

I don't plan on watching the show live. I think I'm recording it on the DVR; I forget.

So....WTF else is going on musically?

There's crap like Let Her Go, by Passenger. Totally estrogenical to the point where my balls lurch back up into my body when I hear it and only drop back down when the song is over. This is James Blunt for 2014. The *only* reason to willingly play this song is to suffer through in hopes of getting laid afterwards.

Also highly estrogenical is Say Something by Great Big World. Yeah, it's complete chick music, but there's something so incredibly sad about the song that makes it a guilty pleasure.Guest vocals by Christina Aguilera, whom I would normally disdain, but she for once holds back and doesn't over-sing or screech a run up and down the scale. Instead she's perfectly beautiful with her delivery and the video is sad in the same heart-tugging way the first five minutes of the movie "Up" was.

If you liked It's Time, by Imagine Dragons or Walk Off The Earth by Red Hands you'll love Best Day Of My Life by American Authors. Very similar in sound and it's a great feel good song. You can't help but smile as you listen. I was going to use the official video, but the band also released an incredible version called The Dog Video that was simply the coolest shit ever. Then again, I'm a  big softie.

If you're an 80s alterna-kid like me you'll remember the immortal classic track by Art of Noise called Moments In Love. The production crew behind Katy Perry ripped off the mesmerizing synth riff and twisted it around a bit to make Dark Horse, a song that would be pretty cool if not for the hideously horrible rap in the middle by something called Juicy J. The rap lyrics are horrible, even worse than the bullshit Kanye comes up with, and those are terrible enough. Scrub the rap from the song and it's listenable. Otherwise, it's dreck.

So, Wingman, what DOESN'T suck?

Well, you'll remember that back in September I absolutely RAVED about Feathers. These chicks kick ass up and down the synth spectrum. By far they were my Best New Artists of 2013, and they've started this year off with a huge bang as well. They just released a new EP called Only One and the new single Wild Love. They are currently opening for none other than Depeche Mode on their current European tour. That's some hella exposure if you ask me.

Swedish dance act NONONO caught my ear a few weeks ago with a really bouncy groove called Pumping Blood. By the end of the song you'll be whistling along. I dare you to not whistle...

And finally, there's CHVRCHES. These guys are already leading the pack for my Best New Artists of 2014. Everything I've heard so far from their debut The Bones Of What You Believe is an absolute gem.

Who's got your back? I do.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Do you see what I see?


According to a recent study the majority of Americans, 61% in fact, wear glasses or contact lenses or use reading glasses, up from 57% a decade ago. I fall into that category myself. I've worn glasses since my freshman year of high school and annually I find myself at the optometrist deciphering eye charts and determining which is clearer, 1...or 2...3..or 4?

Chart showing the ages and numbers of people wearing glasses

It's called a Phoropter. Seriously.

I wear contacts most of the time, because it's far more practical at my day job to not wear glasses. I'm myopic, which means I'm near-sighted. In fact, I'm REALLY nearsighted. I'm not quite to the point where I need bifocals yet, but I do often joke that if my glasses got any thicker I could see the future.

Kids can be merciless in their teasing when it comes to wearing glasses. Sadly, this leads kids to feel like outcasts for needing vision correction, and that leads to adults who are self-conscious and uptight and vain about wearing glasses, and hence may refuse to wear them even though they need them. I've known people so vain about being seen in glasses that they didn't even own glasses to wear after they took their contacts out for the night.

In my own experience, I've found that women tend to be more vain about wearing glasses than men, and that's a shame...women in glasses are sexy as all get out. But I digress.

Gentlemen, glasses are no longer just a functional-but-utilitarian thing to be endured. They can make a statement and set you apart from the crowd. Say, for example, you're a prairie-dog in a cubicle farm or an office where everyone is basically wearing the same type of business attire, your options to stand out are limited. You can wear a unique and stylish ties. You can break the dreadful cycle of the white dress shirt and branch out into colors with coordinating ties. And you can have some badass glasses. Dare I even say, Dapper Specs...
After awhile, these guys just become interchangeable with a tie being the only difference.

Cube Farms suck. Don't be the average prairie dog. Be YOU.

Don't be a clone clown in a Clone Clown Suit. Be YOU.
BE YOU. Be the Dapper Man in the Dapper Specs.

I recently got new glasses. I found a set of frames I really liked almost a year ago, but when it came time to go ahead and get them, the shop where I saw them didn't take the new insurance from my employer, nor did they even have those frames on hand any longer. Thus started a 2-week marathon search where I went to 10 different shops and tried on nearly a hundred different sets of frames. Nothing grabbed me the same way that original set did. I knew what I wanted but had to find a way to get it instead of settling for a reasonable facsimile. I widened my search of available retailers for said frames and found a place a hundred miles away that not only carried the brand but also took my insurance. And now I have what I wanted.

It's okay to be daring. Try on a variety of styles, but you absolutely have to take someone with you as a second opinion, preferably a lady friend who will give you an unvarnished opinion on what you're trying on. As with most things, what YOU think looks good on you may not necessarily be true in the eyes of the those who will see you. Remember how that wisdom held true in my article on smelling good? Trust The Wingman; he knoweth of that which He speaketh.

Some frames will look better on you (or worse) depending on your face shape. The frame shape should contrast with your face shape and the frame size should be in scale with your face size. I have a round face and find that rectangular lens shapes do best for me. I tried on a pair of round-frame glasses in a chic tortoise shell design knowing full-well that they'd look bad on me, and looked like a total imbecile in them. Round specs have that professor connotation and are a retro classic look but really, a narrower, thinner face works best for them. Actually, in my own opinion rectangular frames work for damn near everyone. But, as a general rule:

LONG FACE- Long faces are rectangular in shape with a strong chin and defined cheekbones.

Try: Large wide frames that extend beyond the temple with sides positioned in the middle of the frame, help add width and shorten the face.

Avoid: Small square styles that make your face appear longer.
round face.

ROUND FACE- Round faces generally have soft features and a rounded jaw line.

Try: Angular frames such as rectangles, will lengthen your face, add definition and draw attention to your cheekbones.

Avoid: Small round glasses or very large shapes that echo the shape of your face

OVAL FACE- Oval or heart shaped faces can be soft or angular, but are generally balanced in proportion.

Try: Rounded and square styles all suit this shape face. Slightly angular frames with a middle side position will add dynamic structure to your face.

Avoid: Heart shaped styles that echo the shape of the jaw.

SQUARE FACE- Square shaped faces have distinctive jawbones, full cheeks and an even jaw and chin line.

Try: Finer shallow frames such as ovals and soft rectangular shapes will help soften your features. Choose a frame with a high side position to add length to your face.

Avoid: Square styles and those that are wider than your face.

Apollo Sport computer glasses
FA206 by Factory 900

Flexon frames in Blue Suede Twilight

Chainring frames by Oakley

Junkyard frames by Oakley
Burberry 2105 in Dark Havana
Frederick frames by Miyagi

You have several possibilities for frame materials. Metal is traditional, and offers varied colors and shades, but for really experimental colors and funkyness go with acetate (ie: plastic). Some really exotic designers even go with wood in their frames. I tried on a really neat set of titanium wire frames (literally, the temples were thin wire) that were rimless, but they looked frighteningly fragile and I occasionally fall asleep in my glasses. Acetate plastic offers vivid colors and tortoise patterns, but depending on the frame design you'll likely need to skip actual glass frames and go with polycarbonate lenses. Polycarbs are lighter and lend themselves to anti-glare and scratch resistant coatings. I haven't had glass lenses in close to 20 years.

In the end I went with a frame called Voyeur from Marc Ecko, in a blue/black tortoise pattern. I almost got Helix model 104's in Gunmetal. It was a pretty close decision.

Helix 104's. I almost went with these.

Helix 103's

8361 frames by Manhattan

Ted Baker Eyeblast frames
Hay frames in ebony by Ted Baker. These exact frames are my glasses for the past 3 years

Many manufacturers have a virtual try-on feature on their websites where you can upload a photo of yourself and then select different frames for the program to superimpose on it. It allows you to do some of the leg-work at your own convenience before venturing out into the shops.

Mirage frames by NoeGo.
Vega 4 frames by Parasite
Plasma 1 frames by Parasite

Xion 2 frames by Parasite

French manufacturer Parasite (and their offshoot NoeGo has a lot of really wild frames.
The Lindberg Spirit frames I tried on. Dapper in a minimalistic way.

Jorn frames by Lindberg.

So take your time, look around, and explore. There are frames of every imaginable style and in every price range. There's no need to look like every other member of the herd. Stand out at the office, stand out at your local pub, stand out at the happening night spot or dance club. Glasses aren't the end of the world; quite the opposite. Contrary to what you may have in your head negative about glasses, they can be an essential (and dapper) fashion accessory in addition to being a functional tool. See, and be seen.

Would I steer you wrong? Never. Not the Wingman.

Who's got your back? I do.