Bob Schwartz

Category: Fashion

What If We Took on the Character of the Places Our Clothes Are Made?

pyramids

I try to buy clothing made in America, but as a practical matter that’s very hard. Most of the basic, reasonably-priced items are made globally. Maybe that will change sometime, but it has been the trend for decades.

One thing I do, however, is look at the labels of the global clothes I wear. As I looked today I wondered: what if, in some of kind of magic, the clothes imparted the wearer with some of the character of the places they began?

Here is today’s lineup:

Shirt: Egypt
Jeans: Mexico
Briefs: Nicaragua

That itinerary does change from day to day, and includes Vietnam, Bangladesh, China, Honduras and other ports of call.

Is the spirit of Egypt in my shirt, and does it pass through my skin? How about my Mexican jeans? And what about Nicaragua, so very close to my very important parts?

Something to think about as we wrestle with the impact of globalism.

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Create a Fragrance by Abraham Lincoln

Trump Success Launch

We know what Donald Trump thinks that driven and confident men should smell like.

Success

“Success By Trump captures the spirit of the driven man. The scent is an inspiring blend of fresh juniper and iced red currant, brushed with hints of coriander. As it evolves, the mix of frozen ginger, fresh bamboo leaves and geranium emerge taking center stage, while a masculine combination of rich vetiver, tonka bean, birchwood and musk create a powerful presence throughout wear.”

Empire

“Empire by Trump is the perfect accessory for the confident man determined to make his mark with passion, perseverance and drive. For those who aspire to create their own empire through personal achievement, this dynamic scent is both compelling and leaves a lasting impression. Bold notes of peppermint, spicy chai and a hint of apple demand attention.”

What would a fragrance by Abraham Lincoln be like? What would he call it? How would he describe it?

Abraham Lincoln

To get started, here is the list of ingredients Trump put in his fragrances, Success and Empire. But please feel free to be creative. You are creating a fragrance for one of our greatest Presidents.

Apple
Bamboo leaves
Birchwood
Chai
Coriander
Geranium
Ginger
Juniper
Musk
Peppermint
Red currant
Tonka bean
Vetiver

Underwear and Ideas

Boxer Briefs

The life of underwear is interesting. It begins with elastic that is comfortable and useful. But over time, the elastic relaxes. The underwear still works pretty well, still looks pretty good, and you are reluctant to replace it. Why bother?

Then you finally do replace it, and the new one is an improvement. It really does feel better. Works better too. What took you so long?

It may be worthwhile to consider replacing old ideas and old ways with new ones. You might be surprised how easy it might be, and how much better it works and feels.

Random Beads

Random Beads - Bob Schwartz

Every picture supposedly tells a story. Actually, every picture is a story.

Beading is a glorious craft. In the hands of a talented artist, the results can be beautiful and enlightening.

But like all art, it can be a messy business. In the case of beads, this can mean tiny items underfoot, and with bits of wire, pretty painful ones. Particularly where barefoot is the custom.

A quick post-beading cleanup led to quite a collection of such detritus, like shells on a beach. Tossed in a white bowl, they looked like something. And so the photo above.

If you are a fan of randomness—and we should all be—you will see in this totally spontaneous display any number of things. Gregory Bateson said, “I am going to build a church someday. It will have a holy of holies and a holy of holy of holies, and in that ultimate box will be a random number table.” Exactly.

Here is a beader in her natural habitat, the largest bead store in New York. It is filled with beads mostly from China which, as in most things, is able to provide whatever we want or need in seemingly infinite supply. So it is all together: geopolitics, economics, ancient tradition, minerals, pottery, glass, color, art, craft, and, of course, beauty. Note, however, that in this emporium, the beauty of the beader outshines all of the beads.

Bead Store

Suit and Tie: The Sad and Silly Syrian Election

Syrian President Assad Votes

It is reported that President Bashar al-Assad wore a dark suit and light blue tie for voting in today’s Syrian election. Good reporting. He looked good. So did his wife Asma.

Assad actually had opponents, the first time Syria has had a contested presidential election in fifty years. No one could think that this opposition meant anything. The other candidates could not think so. And yet there were supporters and voters at the polls, maybe out of fear, maybe out of hope, maybe just wanting to pretend things are normal. Some new normal, so that with one more term, a few more years added to his enlightened regime, there would be no more deaths after the 160,000, no more displaced and refugees after the millions.

Journalists and other nations are sworn by a sense of fairness and professionalism and diplomacy and sovereignty to pretend that this is an election, even if they have some quibbles. They might, if they had a better sense of irony or humor, treat it like Halloween or Mardi Gras. An occasion on which one dresses up to play the part of something you are not, say, a democratically elected leader in dark suit and light blue tie.

The U.S. also had an election during a civil war. Lincoln did have opposition and he did win. Whatever he wore when he voted, he certainly didn’t look as slick as Assad, nor was Mary Todd as socialite beautiful as Asma. By that point Lincoln was deeply tired and sick of the horrible conflict and would do anything he could to finally end it. The good news is that there would be only a few more months of war. The not so good news is that even with the good that came, it would take decades for the wounds to begin healing. The worst news, for Lincoln and the country, is that he would soon be assassinated.

Lincoln and the civil war were sad but never silly. Assad, in his dark suit and light blue tie, within this hollow semblance of an election, is sad and morbidly silly. Unlike Lincoln, he may be around for years, continuing to rack up votes and deaths. But looking real good.

Labor Day 2013

ILGWU - Yiddish, Italian, English
In talking about the labor movement, there are reasons to be encouraging and critical.

I grew up in a union household. My grandfather was an immigrant who joined and trained in the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), famous for its “Look for the union label” song. I keep his union card handy in my desk.

The contributions of unions to American life, to the creation of a huge middle class, are beyond debate. Whatever you think of unions today, the labor movement helped make America.

Any critical comments will be taken as ammunition by those who oppose unions reflexively as an un-American scourge on our economy and way of life. Some of these people would not only eliminate the labor movement from present day America, but would be pleased to go back in a time machine and wipe it from history. There is little doubt that if this could somehow be accomplished, America might look like Czarist Russia or some other unbalanced and benighted society.

Those are the caveats. Here is the current situation.

Organized labor is disappearing from American life. Union membership as a percentage of the work force was 35% in the 1950s; it now hovers around 11% and is still dropping. The relentless push for right to work laws goes on, but even without that, the numbers may not rise, and may continue to decline.

It doesn’t matter how it got like this. There are plenty of rear view mirror analyses, including things like admitted abuses and overreaching, along with a shortsighted sense that the party would never end. For a lot of workers, union and otherwise, the party is over.

This, however, is not the end of the story. A heroic effort to re-imagine and re-vision unions and the labor movement can take place. This is going to take brutal self-examination and, as is implied, imagination and vision. Unions can evaluate who they are and who they can be in the context of 2013 and beyond—including being a centerpiece for progressive change. But with that, unions must also figure out who they can’t be and shouldn’t be. This is where having eyes wide open comes in. It is also where courage comes in and defensiveness must go out.

The idea that agents of progress look the same in every age is patently untrue. It is one of the traps of progressive movements, thinking that who and what worked a century ago or a few decades ago will work forever. It won’t. But there is something that will. Creating that something doesn’t begin by blaming the enemies, though enemies there be. It begins by admitting that there is a problem making unions fit in with current America, and an opportunity to create a labor movement that does.

There are Labor Day cakes in the local supermarket, decorated with American flags. The stores probably didn’t mean that Labor Day is the patriotic, all-American equivalent of Independence Day. Last night the local country club exploded Labor Day fireworks. That probably isn’t a political or economic statement. So maybe, as organized labor gets to work trying to figure out what exactly a 2013 movement looks like, it might start with the simple task of putting the “labor” back in Labor Day.

Dennis Rodman Fired from Council on Foreign Relations

Dennis Rodman
For the record, that headline is a joke.

Former NBA Star Dennis Rodman has never been a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, either before or after his surreal visit with Kim Jung Un in North Korea. The CFR says, “With nearly 4,700 members and term members, CFR’s roster includes top government officials, renowned scholars, business leaders, acclaimed journalists, prominent lawyers, and distinguished nonprofit professionals.” Dennis Rodman is not one of those.

If you have followed the story of Rodman’s North Korean visit, you may be amused.

If you have not, please do not spend a single brain cell on learning anything more. If you want any engagement at all, just take a look at the photo above of Dennis Rodman in a wedding dress (he was not getting married). Consider that he is one of the biggest stories in America today, at least for fifteen minutes. Then consider why we have difficulty solving real problems.

Writing Advice From Coco Chanel


Legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel had a famous piece of advice for dressing with accessories.

It is also the single best piece of advice for writers or for any creative people. If you practice writing or any of the creative arts or crafts, or if you teach writing or any of the creative arts or crafts, this is a mantra that is guaranteed to improve any work:

Look in the mirror and take one thing off.