One of my all-time favorite bands has to be Led Zeppelin, and one of my choice tunes from the legendary act has to be “Baby I’m Gonna Leave You,” lead vocalist Robert Plant always delivers each and every line that emerges from his angel touched (or possibly devilish howl) throat. The line that always stuck with me from the tune has always been “woman, I’ve got to ramble.” Especially as of late, Plant’s crooning of those favored lines have taken on a whole new personal meaning.
I recently jumped the pond to London to work on a project for the creative agency I work for (SapientNitro), and the moment could not have happened any sooner. Not only have I been dying to return to the “mother country” and Plant’s native city since having a London-led Euro-epiphany last year, but Miami also had grown a bit too small for me. In a both a personal and professional sense, I felt it wasn’t just Miami’s constant heat that was stifling a few things, some social tailoring needed to be made. In the abbreviated version, I had an itch to ramble, and London seemed to be the best venue to sow those nomadic oats. Not only was it hands-down the most stylish city I’d frequented, but I was completely captivated by the poise, demeanor, and weight of history the British seemed to effortlessly carry. Call me Benedict, but I was captivated by a nation that had roots of style dating back more than a millennium ago.
This may sound like a recurring post. I’ve written on this topic in the past; the dichotomy of London versus Miami (many cities for that matter), and how it has resonated ever since my initial voyage across the pond last year. Be it the weather, dialect (prefer the British accent substantially over the horrendous “Miami” accent that many locals “speak” in), and style, the metropolises are a true tale of two cities. Where London is often accused of being too uptight and reserved, Miami is a city that has invested heavy culture capital in flash, excess, noise, and many eccentric tendencies of Latin culture. Like a stereotypical defensive kid brother, it doesn’t take long to realize Miami acts as if it has a lot to prove.
Then there’s that word “metropolis,” which seems a bit unfair in this instance, especially to London. Miami is a new city, but that’s just the thing. Miami isn’t really a real city (in many contexts) at all. Ask any European, New Yorker, or dare I say, Angeleno, and they’ll confirm this statement is true. In its infancy, Miami is beginning to connect the urban dots, but still has a long way to go. I’m getting off topic here, but you see my point: I was ready to ramble.
Anyhow, the transition was welcomed and came none too soon, it still felt like absolute madness. Between facilitating discussions to switch continents to actually hopping a flight, only 8 days elapsed. An ironic moment of “careful what you wish for” quickly set in as I ran around Miami’s 80 degree “winter” heat trying to tie all loose ends together, all while trying to shove my life into 2 fifty pound suitcases. What went in those suitcases? Every blazer, sports coat, and jacket I owned. Not just because I knew London was still in the thick of a brutal, record-setting deep freeze of a winter, but because I had the advantage of knowing what was walking the streets of London. That being a plethora of well-dressed gentlemen rocking some of the world’s most impressive haberdashery the world has seen.
One thing every man has got to embrace is a great blazer. Navy is always recommended as the first must –have collection piece, but from there it becomes almost a quest to find the best tweeds, cotton, linen and other patterns to make a statement. A well-tailored blazer is something you’ll see everywhere walking the streets of London, especially Central London where bankers put our Wall Street types to shame. Go one step further off the streets of Bank, and journey through London’s countless markets, and you’ll find fabrics, cuts, and seams older than some of our cities in the good ol’ US of A.
Then there’s France.
I was reminded, if not overwhelmed, of the need in life to blaze your own trail on a trip to the Marches-aux-Puces Saint Ouen in Paris this weekend. For those who don’t know, the Marches is one of the world’s largest flea markets, boasting an incredible selection of centuries old antiques, furniture, artwork, metallurgy, and most important, vintage clothing. I was tipped off of its existence after reading a recent issue of Vanity Fair that profiled famed makeup maestro Pat McGrath, who lamented it was a must-stop in all her treks to the City of Lights. It surely didn’t disappoint, and it more than lived up to being a holy grail and ground zero for impressive tailoring, patterns, and fashion houses of today and yesteryear across Europe and the world.
It’s also a breeding ground for some of the world’s stealthiest pickpockets. Yet again, when blazing a trail there are hazards, and to avoid sticky fingers, a blazer is not only a distinguished, masculine must when strolling the streets of Paris, but also a proven protector against thieves in the temple. Think of it as a petty-coat protector against petty crime. Not to mention it’s a dapper rebuttal to the stereotype most Parisians have of Americans. You know the one. Overweight, sloppy, jean-obsessed, croc-wearing mongrels from the west, haplessly looking for the Eiffel Tower and a great joint to grab a box of croissant (Starbucks). So don’t just do it for convenience and safety sake, do if for America (USA! USA! USA!).
Forget the fanny pack and a comfortable pair of walking shoes; while we’re at it, don’t event think about those matching t-shirts seen amassing the streets of many cities from tourist groups. The point of all my ramblings is wearing a blazer is a man’s best friend when traveling. In the most basic, functional sense, it makes going through airport security a breeze. We have all been there before. There’s also some joker in every line at any TSA checkpoint whose pockets seem to be like a neverending chasm of gizmos, leftover receipts, pens, and god knows what else. Wearing a blazer helps cut the clutter, and also helps combat the growing movement of “casual dress” that’s plaguing too many airports in our fair country.
It’s fantastic to once again be in a new season, and a time where I can once again ramble. After bidding Miami adieu, and scheduled jaunts to Dublin, Berlin, Lisbon, and Ibiza on deck, you can believe I’ll be blazing a trail through all of these destinations. I don’t necessarily have a plan once I get to any of these destinations, but that’s never really the point. That’s the whole point of being a rambling man. Having the freedom to just to roam, but to always look good doing it. Besides, the better you look while in route, the more excusable your terrible French will be.