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This has been one of the longest blog posts in the making – since July to be exact. So it stands to reason that it may be one of the longest blog posts of all time. I’ve really struggled to cut down the images on such an amazing experience, so I really hope you enjoy it. Settle in, you may be here a while.

Japan, is one of those few places in the world that lives up to everything its meant to be, yet still manages to exceed your highest expectations. The only other place in the world I have ever been to that had the same effect on me was France, well, Paris to be exact, it just refused to disappoint, it was everything it ever promised to be!

To be honest, there is no particular story about to follow, just a barrage of different pictures and stories that sum up the trip as best they can. Ironically – or possibly not ironically…I’m never sure after Alanis Morissette – it depicts the trip perfectly. A lot of late nights, a lot of delicious drinks, even more delicious food and the most amazing people I have ever met.

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Where do I even begin.

A good friend of mine was turning 40 (you’ll catch a glimpse of him below) and decided his birthday would be held in Japan. Now as I’m not one to miss a party, I decided I would make the 20 something hour journey and share a beer or a bowl of Ramen with him on this momentous occasion. Truth is Ive always wanted to go to Japan, and this just became the perfect excuse, a boys trip to one of the craziest places I’ve ever been. How crazy? Well, keep scrolling, you’ll see.

We spent most of our time in Tokyo and were based in Nishi-shinjuko, just a couple of subway stops from the centre of town, or at least what felt like the centre of town. Tokyo is so sprawling it doesn’t really feel like it has a centre, or if it does, you never really find the end of it. With over 35 Million people in the greater Tokyo area it is the largest metropolitan city in the world and you certainly feel it!

I’ve never been able to quite put my finger on what it was that made Tokyo (Or Japan for that matter) so special. It has all the makings of a great city, great public transport system, amazing restaurants, bars and hotels, tourists attractions galore and is so clean you can eat off the streets – well, depends what you’re eating I guess. There are however 2 major things that stood out for me, the people and the culture. Come to think of it, that may be one thing. Despite its super modern state, the culture remains strong and you see it in the warmth of the people. Well, I mean you see it in the temples and stuff too, but the people mostly. Something that absolutely fascinated me, was how many people wore traditional dress on a Sunday, and I don’t mean the old folks desperately trying to hold on to tradition, I mean young ladies walking round proudly dressed in a kimono on there way to lunch with girls. Amazing!

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So what is there to do in Tokyo? Well, pretty much anything if you go looking for it. We spent our time eating and drinking mostly. Shopping is okay, but you need the time to explore and find the gems, time that we simply didn’t have.

When it comes to eating, i’m gonna start off by saying, you haven’t had ramen, till you’ve had ramen in Japan. That’s a fact. I was lucky, I had saved myself…for 38 years to have my first bowl of ramen. It was at 2am at a hole in the wall in Shinjuku on the night we arrived and it was worth the wait. Can I explain the deliciousness of it? I certainly can not. We ate a lot of ramen, some better than others but none disappointing. We even had fresh udon noodles at a place so tiny it went from empty to  full when the 4 of us walked in. True story.

But Tokyo isn’t just about ramen, you can literally get anything you want to eat if you know where to find it. I know this, because I found myself munching on horse tartar and bovine heart tubes one night at a Korean barbecue – To be fair I wasn’t particularly looking for that, but the experience was worth it. If you want to try anything new, get in the queue, yep, the Japanese love them a queue. Lobster rolls, soufflé pancakes, octopus balls (it’s not what you think) we queued for them all, sometimes for 2 hours. None of them were as good as the ramen. Man did I love that ramen.

Now, if you enjoy a little drink every now and then, you’ll be in good company. The Japanese love a drink (in a good way of course) and you’ll find them dressed in a suit and tie, arm in arm singing in the streets at 4am. It’s awesome! We drank a lot of beer, mostly because the beer is good, but also because its kinda cheap, or cheap enough that you can have a few. Our top drinking experience was however at the New York bar on the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo – you may remember it from the movie Lost in Translation – It’s considered one of the best rooftop bars in the world, and I totally get why. The view is incredible, the service world class, and really, nothing beats sipping an old fashioned while listening to a live jazz band.

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Japan really seems to comes alive at night, and we had some pretty late nights so trust me on this one. At some point we were eating donuts at 2am while watching a street fight and discussing where to go next. So, like I said, trust me.

Between the bars, the batting cages and the only Japanese onsen that allowed tattoos we had some pretty wild nights, come to think of it on one night we managed to squeeze all of the above in, I think. There was however one thing that topped everything we did during our entire trip, its called the Robot Restaurant and if you go to Japan and only do 1 thing, make this it! It’s impossible to explain and the pictures don’t do it justice, but it is a dinner theatre the likes of which you have never experienced in your life. I went from…‘meh…what a tourist trap’ as I sat watching a Daft Punk type robot playing a guitar in a room filled with mirrors, to ‘holy shit, my mind is blown and my life is complete’ as I watched a horse in a dress giving a zebra a piggy back. Yep. Best. Thing. Ever.

We also visited Shinjukus famous Golden Gai district for 1 last drink one night and I was simply blown away by the 100’s of tiny bars packed in amongst a maze of alleys. When i say 100’s I’m not exaggerating, and when I say tiny, I mean, some bars hold a maximum of 4 people! It’s definitely worth a visit!

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Thats the birthday boy up there, dressed the part while tucking into a little saki as we took on the Golden Gai one alley at a time.

I’m gonna have to stop there or I’ll never stop. I have endless stories and even more photos to share, but I think you get the picture. If you got this far in the post, arigato. I hope you enjoyed it.

Japan, is amazing, there really is nothing more that needs to be said. If you ever get the chance to visit, grab it with both hands.

Okay. Stay Fancy.

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In the world of mens accessories, it’s very rare that something new and interesting comes up. Trust me, I get daily e-mails asking for support of some or other Kickstarter campaign, it’s usually a pair of socks, or sometimes a wooden tie, strangely enough never a wooden pair of socks, but that would definitely intrigue me.

When the guys at Vanacci asked me to review their bracelet, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. I have loads of mens bracelets lying around, they all look great, sometimes I pair them with my watch, sometimes with my tie, their primary function though is to look good. So why the immediate interest in these Vanacci beaded bracelets? Well, they’ve added function to something that was until now purely decorative.

“What the hell are you on about?” I hear you ask.

What makes these bracelets different is lockstone technology!….Boom! Yeah, I didn’t know what it was either, so let me tell you. A selection of beads on the Vanacci bracelet are made of a material that captures your fragrance and then slowly releases it all day. The specific science is called capillary action – where water molecules are drawn deep into the material, to migrate slowly back up to the surface through osmosis. It is then that the water evaporates, releasing the fragrance: slow, sustained scent release. 

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Truth be told, I don’t really understand the science, but I don’t really think you’re supposed to, or even that you need to. It definitely makes for a strong conversation starter. According to Vanacci, a few sprays of your favourite fragrance will keep it lasting 7 times longer than just applying it to your skin.

The million dollar question is of course “Did it work?” You bet your sweet smelling ass it worked. I was really impressed, so was Elzaan who kept commenting on the fragrance all day – I had just bought something new that she was crazy about. The next day the fragrance was still there, very slight but definitely still lingering. That got me thinking, what if you want to use a different fragrance? Luckily, by day 2, it seemed to be completely neutral and was ready to capture a new scent. They do have 5 different styles, so maybe you can get one for each of your favourite fragrances and just keep the scent fresh.

If you’re looking for a Kickstarter to support, this is definitely something unique enough that you wont find it at your local department store. If you want to find out more about Vanacci and their lockstone products why not go visit them on their Kickstarter page. With Christmas on the way this might just be the perfect stocking stuffer for that special stinky someone.

Okay, stay fancy.

oxford-shoe There’s nothing worse than a man not knowing his shoes.

Okay, wait, there is A LOT worse, but in an attempt to never have you in that situation, I thought it was time to complete my ‘menswear 101‘ education on shoes, with the only major style I haven’t yet covered, the Oxford. I picked up these Oxfords (so shiiiny) from the new Tread and Miller collection, and thought I would use them to help demonstrate the difference between an Oxford and a Derby – For those who think a Derby is a type of horse race read here.

dscf0504textThe reason I thought this post necessary, is I’ve often heard guys referring to Brogues, as Oxfords, when this isn’t always the case. Not every brogue can be an Oxford, nor can every Oxford be a brogue. For some quick clarity, brogueing is the perforation detail given to the shoe – but more on that here.

An Oxford, quite simply is determined by the lacing mechanism. Oxfords have closed lacing. See simple.

Okay, not so simple I get it, this whole shoe thing is actually pretty complex, and more so to explain. Closed lacing, simply means that the eyelet tabs are stitched underneath the vamp of the shoe so that they aren’t visible. In contrast, the Derby, features “open” lacing, which means that their eyelet tabs are stitched on top of the shoe’s vamp

dscf0530dscf0549dscf0518dscf0573mediumSo where did the Oxford come from? Well, there should be no surprise that they originated in Scotland – I say this because it seem that back in the 1600’s Scotland was a serious hub for mens fashion and EVERYTHING originated there! They were called Balmorals back then – after the famous castle.

They became known as Oxfords, when a bunch or rebellious Oxford students fought against the evil oppression of knee high and ankle high boots (called Oxonians) in the early 1800’s. Imagine a world where rebelling meant not wearing a particular shoe? Weird.

The oxford shoe, is perhaps the most formal of all formal shoes. The closed lacing gives the shoe a neat appearance perfect for when you want to bring a further dash of dandy to your look. If you’re not sure what I mean, here’s a little tip.

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If you’re looking to up your formal shoe game, I’m gonna suggest a pair of oxfords. I’m even gonna suggest you give these Arthur Jack Atticus Oxfords a try – Full leather, uppers, block heel, almond shaped toe, they tick all the boxes. Oh, and be brave, get the burgundy.

Want R100 off your purchase? Thought you might. Just sign up the newsletter on the Tread and Miller site and boom, you get R100 voucher. Enjoy!

Okay. Stay fancy.

full-lengthI was lucky enough to be invited by H&M South Africa to preview the new Modern Essentials Collection (selected by David Beckham) before it hit stores on the 29 September. This collection is hand picked by fashion Icon David Beckham in an attempt to offer gentlemen around the world wardrobe staples that should last them for seasons to come.

Personally, I love this approach to fashion, it’s been my approach for many years now, picking items that will sit in my wardrobe and look good with anything else, anytime. My wardrobe is pretty much a pantone book of greys and blues in every shade and tone and if you flip through my Instagram you’ll see that navy and grey are pretty much my uniform…weirdly enough, navy and grey are a lot of peoples actual uniforms. What I’m trying to get to is you cant go wrong with navy and grey, it’s the perfect base to any good outfit.

So it goes without saying that I was more than pleased to find that this entire collection is a neutral palette of blue and grey with some autumn tones of green and burgundy thrown in for a little colour pop. It also covers my other personal essential, texture. It’s amazing what a little texture can bring to a monotone outfit, it helps set items apart and maintain there individuality even when they’re the same colour.

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I decided I would put together two looks, my usual formal look as well as something a little more casual. The formal was easy, I mean, do I need to go on more about the benefits of grey and navy? Nah, I think you get it. I picked out a tie and pocket square from the regular collection and everything came together perfectly, as it should, the modern essentials is meant to be the perfect base for your outfit right?

The 2 button charcoal blazer is heavily textured, while the shirt had a brushed cotton feel, so I went for a textured tie and pocket square that picked up on the blue of the shirt, the grey blue of the tie and the burgundy in the shoes. A small pop of colour goes a long way in giving your outfit a bit of stand out. Oh, one last thing, the pants were perfectly cropped and turned up to be the perfect height, straight off the rack, a rare find.

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The casual look, was again very monochromatic, but something a little different for me. The heavy cotton pants were cropped really high, something I saw a lot of in a recent trip to Japan, but something that even I (with my ‘show some ankle’ look) wasn’t totally used to. I decided to embrace it and show off an old pair of brogue boots in all their glory, but I’m really looking forward to using them in the peak of summer with a pair of simple white sneakers and white tee.

The rest was another experiment in texture, a heavily textured black polo neck with a lightly textured dark green bomber jacket worked incredibly well with the heavy cotton trousers. The bomber jacket also had some nylon side pockets, which gave a nice contrast without colour and helped bridge the texture gap between the top and the trousers. I really liked this look, it felt pretty bad ass!

mid-shotfl-bwclose-upIn the meantime, go check out the ad campaign where David Beckham and Kevin Hart reunite to take a road trip from LA to Vegas to take ‘I Beckham – The musical’ on the road. As an ad man myself, I love this kind of stuff, Beckham is a major fashion icon, so bringing someone like Kevin Hart on board really makes it all feel accessible to the everyday man. Very clever guys!

If you’re looking for some wardrobe basics, this collection is a great place to start, and I suggest you do it quickly cause everyone wants a piece of the modern essentials collection. No matter what you pick up, the colour palette makes sure everything goes with everything else, so pick up some pants, a shirt a blazer and blend it like Beckham.

Been waiting this whole blogpost to drop that line!

Okay. Stay fancy.

final-review-book-hoghouseWe love us a bit of BBQ, so when the opportunity came up to attend the relaunch of the Hoghouse at Spier, Elzaan and I grabbed it with both sticky fingered hands!

We haven’t been to Spier since the terrible experience we had about a year ago, but Hoghouse isn’t just another tourist trap on a wine farm, this place would be my next ‘local’, if I was a local. It isn’t all about barbeque though, it covers the three major food groups, beer, bread AND barbeque so really, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t go. They bake their own bread, brew there own beer and of course…smoke their own meat.

dscf9689dscf9654dscf9703dscf9692bwdscf9664When you arrive, you come face to face with “the hog” a massive smoker cooking up Texan-style BBQ all day son…ALL DAY!! And when I say ‘all day’ its not just a cool thing to say, I literally mean the meat is slow cooked all day. It’s a process they call ‘low and slow’ where the meat is smoked without sauce, allowing the natural flavours of the meat to blend with the smoke from the Rooikrans wood. This is a far cry from the way us South Africans like to BBQ (or braai) which is generally all about sauced up meat cooked over open flames, but hey, we were excited to try it!

This place is massive, but I mean ‘get lost’ massive. It’s smart though, split up into loads of tiny rooms, so you never short on atmosphere. It has a giant outside terrace on both sides and the attention to detail in the decor is amazing. I’m gonna call it farmhouse chic, cause it kinda feels like you’re at a friends house – but it’s a friend who used to be a graphic designer and decided to give it all up to live on a farm. I really hope that makes sense to someone.

dscf9734dscf9762dscf9741dscf9804dscf9756We were there for the inaugural Beats and BBQ dinner, which pretty much involved us, beer, bread and barbeque and a band we had never heard of. All the makings of a great night really.

As I mentioned earlier, these guys brew their own beer so I decided to give the Hogtale APA a try, I’ve never been a big fan of IPA’s but maybe this African Pale Ale would do the trick. It did, it was good, a lot less hoppy than an IPA and the perfect way to start. Naturally my next step was trying ALL THE beers, but of course, just tasters. Besides, the starters were arriving and I needed something to wash it down with.

Luckily, the night was all about trying, they laid out a table with pretty much everything on the menu, and well, we dug into it all. Sometimes I had to try something once or twice, just to make sure it was as good as I remembered it the first time. It was. My biggest culinary surprise was the pigs tail, yeah, you read me right, pigs tail, deep fried and delicious! It could possibly be the worlds best bar snack, crispy, salty, crunch and too rich to eat a whole bowl of them in one swoop! You could literally have made a meal of the starters, and they were all good, weirdly enough (for a BBQ joint), the arincini balls seamed to be everyone favourite!

dscf9858dscf9930dscf9951dscf9882dscf9889dscf9901dscf9934dscf9903dscf9990The stone jets ended up being incredible, the perfect mix of original tracks and cover songs played with their own unique twist! At some point the entire restaurant was standing up dancing and wouldn’t let the band leave! Ahhh…beer & wine, what good dancers you are!

The food kept coming and by the time the main dishes arrived we were all just full enough to give everything a try. The dry barbecue is something i’m gonna have to get used to, I mean the qulaity and flavour of the meat was outstanding, but I’m used to licking sauce off my elbows when I get stuck into a set of ribs. The buttermilk fried chicken on the other hand, was an absolute winner, especially when eaten between bites of Mac and Cheese! I’ve never been down south in the States, but I’m pretty sure this is where my stomach is most at home.

dscf9972dscf9960dscf9963dscf9966Conclusion, if you’re a local, this place is a no brainer. When you leave the office on Friday, just go straight there. Every Friday from 17:00 they whip out one free keg of beer to get things started, so I suggest get there early and get yourself a bowl of pigs tails! (follow #FreeKegFriday to see what’s up!)

If you’re from out of town, or town town (for Capetonians) it’s definitely the perfect spot after a couple of wine tasting in the area. The hoghouse at Spier is open Wednesday to Monday (closed Tuesday) for breakfast (9-11:30) and lunch (12:00 – 15:00). The BBQ kitchen is open for dinner from 18:00 to 21:00 on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and you can call them on +27 (21) 881 3174 or mail them at howdy@hhbc.co.za

 

Oh, one last thing. If you have a hankering for beer and meat the guys at hoghouse are hosting there very own “hogtoberfest’ on Saturday 8 October, in the grand tradition of Oktoberfests worldwide. It all starts at 11:00 and there will be a line up of three bands, including a traditional oompah-band and the Stone Jets (you definitely wanna catch these guys) for those worried about missing the big game, New Zealand and South Africa will be screened at 17:00. Tickets are R150 and include a glass and free beer tasting of Hoghouse beer and five other local breweries – Each brewery is producing a special festival beer.

Okay.Stay fancy!

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I’m a sucker for a woollen tie.

I just love the texture and non-shinyness of woollen ties, so when the gents at Aristocrats Bows n Ties asked me to review their woollen ties my biggest problem became picking just one. The range is pretty extensive and extensively awesome, if you prefer your ties a little slimmer you’ll be spoilt for choice.

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I didn’t just stop at the tie though, the mark of a good haberdashery (even an online one) is that the range is cleverly selected, it needs to allow everything to go with something else on the site. I had no problem matching accessories (something I usually struggle with online), in fact my only problem was again having to pick just one item.

In the end, this Ivy League Maroon Tie was the winner (I’ve had a thing for maroon lately – seems to be the perfect autumn/ winter colour) and tried to pick the accessories around the rest of the tie colours. The Grey Felt Lapel Flower picked up nicely on the tie, but didn’t have to POP on the jacket. In this case I wanted the pocket square to do the popping, so I also went for a Navy Blue Skinny Tie Bar so that it all worked harmoniously.

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Here’s a little pocket square tip though, pick a pocket square (wow, try saying that 3 times fast) with a different colour border, it gives you versatility in how you can use it and what you can wear it with. This Maroon flowers Pocket Square worked perfectly with the tie, but you could turn it around and let those points shoot to the sky for a completely different look.

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So, if you find yourself needing to upgrade the warmth of your tie collection, I’m gonna strongly suggest you go woollen! Maybe start with the guys at Aristocrats Bows n Ties.

Okay. Stay fancy.

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I havent forgotten about you guys. Promise.

Life has just been a little chaotic later and I’m struggling to find a moment to sit down and share some gentlemanly thoughts with you. Dont give up on us, there’s lots in the pipeline and things are about to get super duper dapper!

In the meantime, here’s some dapper dexterity.

Okay. Stay fancy!