THE BOULEVARDIER: Dare you

Every week, our Boulevardier, Marq Frerichs, considers matters related to men’s style. This week: Having fun with fashion (like Mr. Tom Wolfe, above) in a ghost town.

Toronto empties out come August: We have no world leaders to block our streets, no rainbow-waving bears to hug, or bejewelled Mas bands to follow. Every week, by Thursday at 11 a.m., the fashionable set have left town. The first string (so the Hogtown hierarchy goes) has migrated north to Lake Joe, the Muskokas, the Kawarthas and Honey Harbour.

So, what should one be seen wearing at the cottage? Unless you’re wearing a buckskin-beaded jacket  à la Pierre Trudeau, I don’t really care. You’re not here, so I don’t have to see you wearing that Tilley hat, those floral Bermudas and ‘dem Crocs. By the way, a stubby isn’t an accessory. Really, you’re most likely not even close to roughing it. Once I stayed at a cottage where the boathouse had more rooms than a Parkdale tenement.

And thus we—the royal “we” that is—have the city to ourselves.

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THE BOULEVARDIER: See you, see me

Every week, our Boulevardier, Marq Frerichs, considers matters related to men’s style. This week: The iPhone 4 and what it means for male vanity.

I’ve been waiting for this moment for years and years. And it’s finally arrived and, to my surprise, no one else seems to have grasped the significance. How is it that Marshall McLuhan or Faith Popcorn didn’t predict this moment in social connectivity and future fashion?

C’mon people, what was so important that happened last Friday? Friday the 30th? Fine. Drum roll please…

We entered the AGE OF THE JETSONS.

I remember an episode of the Jetsons where one of the women calls her friend via video phone early in the morning. She hits the button, then screams. We see the screen: The friend is beyond disheveled, with smeared makeup and matted hair. Realizing that she isn’t put together, the friend darkens the monitor, grabs a perfect latex mask of herself and pulls it on.With a click of a button, the screen comes back to life and she’s perfectly coiffed and made-up.

If you’re as image-conscious as I’ll admit to being, my iPhone 4 has changed everything—again. (To quote Apple.) As you might imagine, I came to Skype late in the game. Not everyone has a machine with video, but now I have the technology right in my hand. Does the phrase “What will I wear?” come to mind?

Better yet: Who will I be?

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THE BOULEVARDIER: Flirts in skirts

Every week, our Boulevardier, Marq Frerichs, considers matters related to men’s style. This week: Why men in skirts are totally hot. (See Marc Jacobs, above.)

OK, I swear this is the last one. Really, I promise. No more of this tangent I’ve been on. As a friend of mine recently wrote on Facebook: “After the mensire, the murse, now the mirt?” Yes, it’s time to drag out that ol’ chestnut, the male skirt. Why? Have you been in the city for the last month? The heat, ya lummox!

I’m going to strongly advocate that the skirt is the best male garment for three distinct reasons.

1. IMAGE. This summer’s heat reminds me of a wonderful commercial from the late ’70s or early ’80s for York Peppermint Patties. It starts with a POV of an opening elevator door, then zoom through the first two figures to the bored face of a young “office girl.” She lifts a York peppermint patty to her lips and slowly takes a bite. Cue the sound of breeze; her hair beings to billow. She says: “When I eat a York peppermint patty, I feel the cool wind blowing through the forest and racing up my legs and …” Pull away to the whole elevator, and we see the others edging away from her as she begins to reach an ecstatic moment of consuming. Gale force winds ensue and she is rapt in the refreshing coolness of the chocolate. Needless to say, her skirt is being blown out of control.

Now I realize that I’m completely crazy to have this image in my head but that’s what I picture when I think of donning a skirt. All my over-heatedness would magically disappear. (I live in a special place.)

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THE BOULEVARDIER: The Vuittons

Every week, our Boulevardier, Marq Frerichs, considers matters related to men’s style. This week: The rise of a (sort of) new aesthetic for Toronto gents.

The corner of St. Joseph and St. Nicholas streets is not what it once was. Circa 1983, it was the nexus of Toronto’s alternative cultures. At one in the morning, Katrina’s, a super chic gay club, was packed with hot pant/mesh topped disco boys and drag queens. A line was forming to get upstairs to the Voodoo Lounge: mods, all suited and booted, glam-punks (not the punks of Kensington market), and the New Romantics. Across the alley was Club Zee, full of early hip-hop style and B-boys.

And then there were the Channels.

This clique brought the style level of the after-hours way up. Kings and queens of the five fingered discount—they must have been the bane of Holt Renfrew. The look? All designer, all the time. Shoulder pads, stir-up pants, Beatle boots or shabooties. A crisp white shirt with a pencil tie and clip, or perhaps a black lace bow. There were shoulder pads on the double-breasted suit, jackets always had two gold buttons—and did I mention the shoulder pads?

The Channels wore the subtlest of makeup: a little white face and eyeliner under their Wayfarer or Jackie O shades. I always thought they were the epitome of Grace Jones style. They carried a small box for a clutch, and pearls—a single strand on the neck or wrapped around the wrist. These boys worked the fine line of masculinity, lived in androgyny.

The androgynous male has a rich history, from St. Sebastian to Tony Curtis in Spartacus to early David Bowie. I’m convinced model Agyness Deyn stole my look, from when I was in my school uniform.

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THE BOULEVARDIER: My toes knows

Every week, our Boulevardier, Marq Frerichs (above), considers matters related to men’s style. This week: Toe polish for men. (Oh, yes.) Photograph by Giovanna Castiglione.

I had a wonderful moment yesterday.

Blissfully listening to my iPod on the subway, I felt a pair of eyes on me—you know the feeling. I thought, Oh boy, this is awkward. Did I cut someone off to get into the car; have I taken the seat before someone who obviously deserves it? Perhaps those eyes are busy thinking that my sartorial choices are off-kilter, or am I singing aloud without realizing it? I casually raised my gaze and locked eyes with a woman across the car. Her stare was full of worry.

Realizing that she had my attention, she slowly moved her eyes down my body. I followed her gaze. In lockstep, our eyes moved from my messy coif, past my vintage AllDayIDreamAboutSex jersey, with no pause at the shiny beads around my wrist. She didn’t flinch at my semi-opaque army pants (commando not an option). And so there we were, finally, staring at my feet.

I’ve got a thing about my feet. I looked up suddenly, knowing what the what-up was.

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THE BOULEVARDIER: Hearts and smiles

Every week, our Boulevardier, Marq Frerichs, considers matters related to men’s style. This week: A case for why the smiley face trumps the heart. (Even that cute Comme des Garçons one above.)

I’m just going to come out and say it: I loathe graphics on T-shirts. OK, perhaps that’s too strong, I really, really don’t like T-shirts with graphics, words, or ads for some product that I don’t consume—especially when I don’t recall receiving a royalty cheque for the “space” that is my chest.

But then, as a society of consumers, we give the world a lot of free ad space. I have an iPhone, which is shorthand for “Look at me, I’m a ‘creative’ type. Buy one if you want to be creative.” The same goes for a Blackberry—”I’m a business type etc.”

I do love images, though, and the meanings that they convey. When I was growing up, the image that I remember most was the smiley face, that simple sunshine-yellow circle and line drawing smile. Thanks to Wikipedia I know this: “The iconic smiley face, with the black ink smile and two oval dots for eyes…was created by freelance artist Harvey R. Ball in 1963 in an advertising campaign by The State Mutual Life Assurance Company of Worcester, Massachusetts.” Neither Ball nor the company copyrighted it, so it’s one of the few images of happiness that’s actually free. I seem to recall hearing that somewhere—that smiles are free.

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THE BOULEVARDIER: It ain’t a murse, buddy

Every week our Boulevardier, Marq Frerichs, considers matters related to men’s style. This week: The male bag vs. the murse. Above, two chic options from Joanel.

One of my few problems with summer is my stuff. I have a lot of it. On any given day I might be toting around dancewear—sweats, tights, T-shirts, a towel, ballet slippers, jazz shoes—a video camera, still camera, laptop, notebook, book, newspaper, magazine, water colour set, plasticine, and of course, a couple of scarves. Do I really need all of it, my portable creative studio? Strangely, most days of the week, yes. This creative life is killing my shoulder but I’ve got a full soul.

Naturally I’m always on the lookout for a new, beautiful and more functional bag.

There seem to be three styles for men these days:

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THE BOULEVARDIER: At the G20, part 5

In his last dispatch from the G20, The Boulevardier (above, on Queen Street) shares his photos of Toronto’s historic protest. This weekend’s violence and vandalism dominated the headlines, but there were also moments of rare beauty and community. (And hipsters, of course.) Take a look.

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THE BOULEVARDIER: At the G20, part 4

Marq Frerichs, our men’s style columnist, has spent hours each day at the G20 site, documenting the protest (and protesters) in words and photos. The following images were taken before the violence started yesterday, and reveal both the creativity and conflict that’s present at the summit. (Incidentally, did anyone check the tags on the clothing that the cowardly Black Bloc protesters left behind when they melted back into the crowd? I’d be willing to bet that it wasn’t organic cotton from a local, independent designer….)