twenty fifteen

Honor Roll 2015 In Review

I started this article the same way I always do: staring into a blank wordpress draft, ghost-tapping the keyboard, hoping a writer’s muscle-memory would find a way to begin.  Then I’ll delete, and start the process again.

Writing’s tough, man.  Expecting my students to compose a compare and contrast essay never ceases to hit me back with a pang of guilt.  So as long as I assign writing, I’ll ask the same of myself.

But somewhere in the fifteen to ninety minutes in the trenches of writer’s block, I emerge with something worthwhile to share, and inspiration takes hold.  It is at this moment that I am full with what I made this site for: purpose.

2015 was the first complete year of the honor roll.  I’ve had the pleasure to meet and talk with unique artists, and the opportunity to contribute to their work, which I fully believe in.  And from the artists, their work, and the people who value them, I have learned.  And for that I am most grateful.

From this year I’ve selected twelve moments.  If you’re a frequent reader of the honor roll, please revisit these pieces.  If you’re new, I hope these stories will help you to understand why I love what I do.

Click on the photos to read the articles.  Enjoy.  Happy new year.

  • January - Why Good Shoes Matter
    January - Why Good Shoes Matter
    "There I was, grading papers in class, and I saw my shoes sweating. I rubbed the condensation off, when my thumb turned black. The layers of polish were flaking off the cheap leather and onto the ground. It was my Huffy all over again. Two hours of work and the feeling that I beat the system crumbled in a coal dandruff."
  • February - Snow Day in Hakone
    February - Snow Day in Hakone
    "Every cut and corner of tatami – the straw mats that compose its flooring – was precise to every centimeter of the space. The room was peacefully bare and quiet, save for the interval hawing of the heater. There were the required technologies to modernize the abode, but with the aroma of fresh wood and tea leaves, this was an escape."
  • March - Ring People
    March - Ring People
    "Any well-fitting suit begins and reveals its mettle at the neck to shoulder line. Why? Take a look at your buddies for a moment. From the bottom of their neck to the edge of their shoulder, notice the near-snowflake array of variation in slope, bulge, length, shape, and more. Any miscalculation can turn a smooth neck-to-shoulder- slope into an avalanche of bumps and breaks. Koroshi Eri is the technique in custom clothing to truly suit the customer’s neck-to-shoulder line. It is by their tailors’ dedication of applying this technique in ready-to-wear garments that Ring Jacket has solidified their place atop this market of suits."
  • April - 沈阳制造 | Made in Shenyang
    April - 沈阳制造 | Made in Shenyang
    Not a lot of people would pay attention to the inside stitch. On a finished pair, you see a single inseam stitch, but it takes a process to get here. After the sewing the jeans together at the edge, we run a single stitch to close the inseam while the jeans are inside-out. Then we turn out the pair, fold over the first track, and finish off with a single chain stitch. From the inside, you’ll see the first white stitch, and the parallel pair. But from the outside, you see one even, neat stitch, and you’d never know the hidden track underneath. But I do, and I love that.
  • May - Kelvin's Colors
    May - Kelvin's Colors
    "Kelvin laid out his fine and fraying brushes, bottles of dyes, and blank canvasses of calfskin, tied his apron, and began a layer, accompanied by curious onlookers and those like myself unloading with English and Cantonese questions. Answering left and right, in between and during edge marks, Kel seemed unfazed by these inquiries, begetting a reflexive memorization of the coloring lessons he learned in Paris when he began his apprenticeship."
  • June - Arte con Brio
    June - Arte con Brio
    "As a home is an extension of its owner, I’d have to assume that an experienced curator founded BRIO. The brands alone suggest discerning taste, with each handmade flourish and graceful imperfection shining under the house’s lights. The store also reserves many of its walls for enormous canvasses of fine art, sculptures, or antique tools of the trade; even the central table’s ebony undulations are something to behold."
  • July - Under the Brim
    July - Under the Brim
    "So when you receive a Nick Fouquet hat by Alberto Hernandez, understand that you get a piece of Rubin with it. The sweat that beaded on his temple after one more steam press to settle the felt just a bit more. The flecks of dust on his fingers, bending and pulling a stubborn brim. The proud Guanajuato tradition of making sombreros. The lessons from his father, who learned from his father, of how to make, wear, and completely own your hat."
  • August - Talking Totems: Chad and his Suits
    August - Talking Totems: Chad and his Suits
    "My father has made every (suit I own).' 'Do you remember the first one?' 'Yes, when I was a teenager. It was my high school graduation, and he made it just for that day. It was . . . gray, herringbone, three-button. A classic suit.' 'Was this kind of suit your idea?' Chad shakes his head, points to the elder Park, and smiles."
  • September - Fifteen Years of Take5
    September - Fifteen Years of Take5
    "It’s a point that I belabor, only because I admire – envy, now and again – these individuals. But if you have a genuine passion for something, and you can make a career out of it, then why don’t you? It’s an idea that I tend to oversimplify, but when it comes down to it, that’s what Benny did to make Take5 and get it where it is today. I’ve met too many gentlemen who’s storefronts are testaments to this belief, and it makes me think, why the hell not?"
  • October - Toasting for Five Past, to Five More
    October - Toasting for Five Past, to Five More
    "I, like many others in the Asian region, owe a lot of my self-discovery in the world of style to The Armoury. It’s difficult to place a finger at what exactly this store does that holds such an influence, and it’s just as difficult to think where I’d be without their guidance. In a city of fast and fused garments, the aptly-titled retailer uses a few hundred square meters of territory, holding strong in the battle for good clothing."
  • November - Things We Like, That You Should Too: Yellow Hook Neckties & Co.
    November - Things We Like, That You Should Too: Yellow Hook Neckties & Co.
    "Rob and Courtney started Yellow Hook Neckties & Co. as a labor of love, an outlet for their creativity. But it’s also their connection to their past. To Rob’s own great grandfather Leo and his Coney Island barber chair. To his great uncles Antonio and Vincenzo, outfitting the locals from their tailoring house on 18th and 86th. To his stoop on Bay Ridge, whose’s golden soil gave the town a different name."
  • December - Clockenflap: A Hong Kong Home
    December - Clockenflap: A Hong Kong Home
    "It took me three years, but last winter came to an understanding: for all the gargantuan acts that attract the masses to this part of the city, something else entirely keeps us there: community. Now, as a visitor – frequent that may be – I’m curious to see what Clockenflap actually does for the city of Hong Kong. Does the magic of the Harbour Flap Stage flicker out with the Sunday headliner, or does it linger just long enough to inspire real action?"

Why Good Shoes Matter

Middle school was a bad time to prove one’s cool. Drawers of Top Dawg T-shirts. Depp No. 5 to replicate Vegeta’s ‘do. And bikes. The most devil-may-care rolled into the parking lot, coveted logos flashing in chrome frame: GT, Diamondback, Haro. I wanted that flash.

My dad — a man who values bargains so much that he tried convincing a merchant that he, too, was Korean — pleaded with me that my five-year old Huffy was just as good if we painted it navy and slap some stickers on it. Turns out, the paint couldn’t unwear the rust from years of learning, and I had outgrown the bike anyway. The bike we painted and polished never saw a foot of that parking lot. I remained uncool through eighth grade.

Value has been one of the challenging skills in establishing a permanent style. Whether it’s a wristwatch or trousers, I want something I’ll want to wear now through old age. I want to care for it, let it share its age gracefully, and carry on a story, of which my wear added a chapter. But I’ve found it’s such a minefield out there. Can I really justify dropping five thousand dollars on a handmade Neapolitan suit? I can make a case to my wife, but unless my teaching salary tripled, I’d have a better shot re-piercing my lip.

Sometimes I regret that I’ve fallen for the world of suits. I can’t un-see the cheap sheen of synthetic cloth in department stores. I seek the priceless imperfections of hand-sewn details here and there. Well, realistically, there’s always a price, for the beautiful land of menswear is unfortunately a land of luxury. The best I can do is use practicality as a compass. Save up for a $1400 off-the-rack three-piece once a year, perhaps. Then there’s always another trick: suck it up and go for “good enough.”

Uniqlo navy blazer

The Evolution of My Pants, Part II

What turned into a quick post about my new workhorse trousers turned into a reflection about how seventeen-year old me would shake his head at such a purchase.  Upon further review, I’ve decided to put together a multi-part story on why it took me so long to finally get a nicely fitting pair of pants on my legs.  I’m hoping you’ve been through the same, dear reader.

The Evolution of My Pants, Part II: The Suit that Squeezed Me

Whenever you dig through stacks of photo albums and find yourself five, ten years ago, the first mental task seems to be determining how much you have changed.  Terrible bowl haircuts.  Anti-establishment piercings.  I’ve learned to grimace less at these pictures, commemorating a time when I was growing from boy to man.  It’s a worthwhile experience I eagerly await for my children.  At the same time, I still can’t help but take note of my stylistic follies, even now.

Mens’ fashion moves relatively slowly, but when it does, it arrives in sudden jolts.  As mentioned in Part I, part of my decision to wear girl jeans was simply because a complete lack of slim-fitting options for men.  Of course, skinny jeans are the default choice for most young men; Levi’s 514’s tapered into 511’s, which funneled into 510’s.  Thin was in.

From this sea change of taste came a consequence: slim and tight as the standard of fashion with all garments, not just denim.  Tighter shirts, tighter jackets, tighter everything.  What many men – myself included – did not recognize is that standards in clothing are not universal.  Sometimes we fail to account for good taste.  Even the most flawless style icons can befall this trap.

Classic 007 in You Only Live Twice (photo credit: The Suits of James Bond)

The Evolution of My Pants, Part I

What turned into a quick post about my new workhorse trousers turned into a reflection about how seventeen-year old me would shake his head at such a purchase.  Upon further review, I’ve decided to put together a multi-part story on why it took me so long to finally get a nicely fitting pair of pants on my legs.  I’m hoping you’ve been through the same, dear reader.

The Evolution of My Pants, Part I: The Price of Fitting In

 If your misunderstood, angst-filled youth took place around the early 2000’s in American Suburbia, then the following statement should apply to you, or at least for my sake I hope to God it does: I’ve once owned a pair of girl’s jeans.

Such was the uniform of the early-era “Scene kid.” 80’s punk wore ripped jeans and black leather jackets, unifying a growing subculture.  2000’s hardcore threw on basketball shorts and baseball tees, allowing perfect mobility to activate the pit. But as bad luck and worse taste would have it, I chose the path of the early Scene.

The best Scene look bad decisions could buy.
The best Scene look bad decisions could buy.

A quick lesson on this “Scene.” From what I remember, in the late 90’s punk started moving towards a heavier and more complex sound, led by prototypes Refused and At the Drive-In. Once the sound inspired more bands to form, a fire caught in the hearts of the youth, who screamed and danced together in tiny venues. As a subculture, the genre was followed by a dress code, which I neither understood nor questioned. The Scene’s pieces of flair included the front mullet (regrettably detailed here), an edgy lip ring (mine lasted all of twenty-two hours before my mom threatened to kick me out of the house), and of course, those damn girl jeans.

The Gentleman’s Escape

The celebrated Man Cave is a universal goal we hope to accomplish in our lifetime.  Whether it an oak and book-paper soaked library for one, or gut shaking surround sound movie den, the purpose remains the same: a tiny plot of wall-to-wall escape to be the man you desire to be with the totems of manliness within a few paces’ reach.  Since I currently have neither the means nor the space to realize my own Battlestar Galactica study, to the barbershop I go, and what a barbershop I found.

The -dashery bit

A Dress Code for Flight

Waiting for FlightBefore my second trip to the Philippines, a Dateline segment covered an investigation into airline emergency protocols.  This was clearly appropriate to watch before a transoceanic flight.  One nugget of alarmist wisdom: in the event of a plane evacuation, passengers in shorts or skirts have been known to suffer ankle-to-thigh burns after rubbing down the emergency slide.  I’ve deliberately planned my flying uniform since.

These days, I always arrive to the airport in trousers and a blazer, and I am totally comfortable spending fifteen hours in an aisle seat dressed this way.  As suits have returned in popularity, I have noticed debates on what to wear for a flight.  I’d like to offer my own thoughts, not to justify my choice, but to offer a perspective.  So here’s why I fly in a suit.

The Long and Short of it

My name is Christopher Tuazon, and I wear short shorts.

It is currently eighty-five degrees outside of this building, though it runs upwards of ninety-one by most noons.  In my part of the earth, there is nothing pleasant about being outside for any part of the day.  Steam fogs your glasses the moment you leave your air-conditioned refuges, and before long the pools of sweat from your chest and underarms form a salty Rorschach pattern.  Out here, at this part of the year, it’s simple necessity to throw pairs of shorts in the wardrobe rotation, so I’ve recently done so.  But in doing this I have invited questions about suitability and masculinity.  So I’d like the opportunity to explain why I’m a short short man.

Making Good Hair

My first real hair crisis occurred sometime around sixth grade.  I should blame myself for this disaster, but I think it’s fair to place a bit of responsibility in the hands of the Backstreet Boys.

On a lazy Saturday MTV binge, “Quit Playing Games with My Heart” flashed on the screen for the umpteenth time, and a particular detail about the video caught my eye.

Quit playing games with my hair

I wanted that hair.  I didn’t rationalize or question it: I wanted the Caesar that swept across the nation in the late 90s along with frosted tips and coordinated dance moves.  However, with my straight and poofy Asian hair, I couldn’t achieve these curled bangs without some help.  Ensured that I was home alone, I went to my parents’ bathroom and plugged in my mother’s curling iron.  I fiddled with a device I’ve never used, pinched a tuft of hair in the clip, rolled, and singed my forehead with that awful, awful machine.  With equal parts shame and singey pain I hastily threw the iron back into the cabinet and lived with the rest of the day with one patch of curled bang, and the rest of the week with a patch of burned skin right below it.

Patient little treasures: a good ol’ cap

Resurrecting an old hat: reason enough to hoard your little odds & ends

Fashion trends dictate that what’s hot right now is but part of the cyclical pattern of what was hot, say, twenty years ago.  I’m seeing that right now as a proud member of the 90’s kids culture.  You have artists like Childish Gambino’s shout-out  to our generation’s beloved green and purple dinosaur not named Barney.  A quick #normcore search on instagram  pulls a gallery equal parts Big Pete, Blossom, and Easter Sundays between third and eighth grade.

It’s mostly because of this idea that I’ve yet to surrender my questionably stained Member’s Only jacket  plucked from a Buffalo Exchange in Santa Barbara.  It’s also partly sentimentality.  But beware the danger of nostalgia burrowing deep into hoarder’s territory.  You know that place: acceptance trifolds from colleges you maybe should’ve enrolled, the dried remains of a prom boutonniere, a fairly cheesy cream jacket that goes well with a Magnum PI stache.  It would be nice to know the fine line between artifacts and junk.