The Science Behind Scalping Tickets, Finding Tiananmen Square’s Tank Man and JFK’s Chowder Recipe
- Kempt Staff
There comes a point in every boy’s life when he realizes that digging a hole to China is impossible. Previous attempts at burrowing a Sino-antipodean tunnel had been foiled not by the inability of the boy’s plastic shovel to withstand earth’s 9,800-degree inner core, but rather by a late-afternoon thunderstorm or his mother’s maddening penchant for whisking him off the beach just as the tip of a chopstick was being exhumed. “If only I didn’t have to take a nap today,” he’d reckon, “I’d be in Hong Kong by supper.” We could all benefit from dusting off that sort of arrogant, boyish ignorance once in a while.
The older we get, the more absurd our childish scheme becomes. As Robert Krulwich explains, China’s antipode, or diametrical opposite, is in fact 150 miles north of Buenos Aires. If you dug a hole from any point in the contiguous 48 states, you’d end up in the South Pacific Ocean somewhere. And that’s not nearly as cool as ending up in China.
Public swimming pool in Suining, China
Halloween is hardly the scariest thing going on today.
At some point in the next couple of hours, the world’s population will top 7 billion people. The United Nations has gone out on a limb and predicted that the milestone baby will be born somewhere in India, where an average of 51 women give birth every minute.
Nearly four times as many people now inhabit the earth than did in 1930. As New England shovels its way out of the most severe October snow storm since the Civil War and the western world continues to weather the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, it’s worth asking the question: How much does overpopulation have to do with all of the very worst things affecting us today? And what does 7 billion people look like?»
All things change except barbers, the ways of barbers, and the surroundings of barbers. These never change. —Mark Twain
Jay Seldin gets it. His new tome, The Barbershop Book, is a sort of No Reservations-style look at barbershops in some of the most remote corners of India, China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, Haiti and Cuba. Seldin, an “environmental portrait photographer,” steps out of the way and lets the grooming rituals do the talking. The Barbershop Book is a fascinating glimpse into one of man’s oldest and most common rituals: a haircut and shave at the local barbershop—some of which boast nothing more than a wooden plank, a semi-sharp blade and a couple of chickens frolicking about.
We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Seldin about The Barbershop Book...»
We’re not generally fans of $20 pairs of jeans—with denim especially, a little extra will get you a lot better stuff—but it looks like the days of cheap jeans may be numbered. The culprit: cotton prices.
The Telegraph spills the beans in a great report from Xintang, a southern Chinese city that turns out 260 million pairs of jeans a year for everyone from Levi’s to Evisu. But the price of cotton’s skyrocketing, the workers are becoming slightly better-paid and the factory owners can’t make a profit on budget priced jeans anymore. The result? Absent some globalizing shenanigans, the denim rack at H&M is going to get a bit more expensive.
We’re sure the head office isn’t too happy about it, but If that’s enough to spur anyone to move up a rung or two on the denim ladder, we’re willing to call it a win.
The Seagull: Michael Williams tracks down a Chinese heritage watch brand. A deep cut. [A Continuous Lean]
Centurion: Tyler Brule sits down with the CEO of Zegna to celebrate the brand’s 100 year anniversary. [Monocle]
The New Standard: The Standard Hotel teams up with Happy Socks for some unusually geometric foot coverings—quite possibly the quirkiest thing Andre Balazs has ever done. [Hotel Chatter]
Neckerchiefs and All: The latest crop from Apolis Activism. [Secret Forts]
Done right, a birdman rally can be a celebration of human potential, a DIY tribute to the power of flight. Done wrong, as in the most recent rally in Jiangmen, China, it’s spectacular . In sum, two well-constructed ultralights managed to glide the required 50 meters while no less than half of the 34 contestants plummeted directly into the water in crafts like a dragon head, a cardboard television or an immobile statue of a horse. Please, someone get these people an ESPN deal.
We’re always on the lookout for a new stripped-down sneaker—especially now that Chucks and Vans are on the low swing of trendiness—but we may have found one with a good deal more heritage than we’re used to.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Warrior Footwear»
One of the charms of travel is seeing the world’s different style quirks: drop-crotch pants in Seoul, flat grays in Stockholm and in Shanghai…pajamas. Since the Middle Kingdom’s home to some of the better PJs in the world, it’s a sartorial highlight in an otherwise drab town, but it looks like the tourist bureau doesn’t see it that way.
In anticipation of the city’s 2010 world expo, the cops are getting the city dressed up…which includes cracking down on anyone seen outside the house in loungewear. It’s a debatable point, but a style fiat is never a pretty thing and it’s already drawing criticism. Even beyond the indignity of fashion police, Shanghai is likely to look a whole lot worse when they’re done with it.
Anyone up for holding a pajama day in protest?
Chinese Democracy: Complex surveys the female talents of the Middle Kingdom. [Complex]
Tally Ho: We can never get enough nautical ephemera. [Selectism]
Bennesquire: Esquire struggles valiantly to make Ben Affleck interesting, and succeeds. If you only read one celebrity profile this week… [Esquire]
The Pack: Packing a suitcase is now a spectator sport, and Mismo comes out looking pretty good. [h(y)r collective]
eCommerce and Flash media have developed together to the point that it’s possible to customize just about anything—with the right site, naturally. But we’re a little unsure of whether taking on tailoring was a good idea.
Shirtsmyway.com is a customizable shirting site that lets you enter your measurements, select a style, and generally oversee your oxford from conception to completion. Then it’s stitched together in China and shipped to your doorstep, just the way you imagined. Of course, we would never speak ill of tailoring, but something about this setup just doesn’t seem right…
We elaborate on our misgivings»
American manufacturing has been hit pretty hard lately, but boutique brands have a little more flexibility…and at least some of them are staying put.
Of course, it’s hard to know for sure, so A Continuous Lean has put together The American List, a handy guide to which brands are manufactured stateside, and it’s required reading for anyone interested in modern Americana. It's also a surprisingly short list.
Our favorites are Red Wing, Billykirk, and Engineered Garments, but it’s striking how much they all have in common. There’s a lot of denim, a lot of flannel, and a lot of weathered fabrics; it’s what you might call the American style.
At least, the part of it that isn’t made in China.
Sleepwear tends to get overlooked by the non-Schnabel parts of the world, but having a set of matching pajamas on-hand is priceless. Chinese cotton has been the go-to for a while, but it looks like France is getting in on the action.
This cotton set comes from A.P.C.’s new Madras winter collection. You can get the same print on a button-up, but we prefer it this way. After, a shirt is just a shirt, but a good pair of pajamas is practically a suit.
Orient Express: LL Bean will open shop in China this month. Beijing will receive the first of four retail locations, but unfortunately missed the Michael Phelps’ Mom Endorsement train. [DNR]
English Rain: A Continuous Lean’s Michael Williams offers a decidedly British fall look, from bags to bumbershoots. The whole lot exceeds $5,000, which is great for aesthetic but painful if you’re on this side of the exchange rate. [A Continuous Lean]
Tough Tooth: Liev Schrieber wears his wife’s jewelry and doesn’t care what you think. At least it’s a gold and diamond shark tooth. [W]
Draped in Olsen: Stock market meltdown, Palintology and menswear by Ashley Olsen. Isn’t that a Nostradamus prediction? [The Cut]
You might not know it from their ad budget, but Nike’s had brand problems for a while now. They make the right moves with the indie crowd, but they can still come off a little…evil. And their latest Chinese forays may not help. A rule of thumb: When you start calling for the heads of your critics, you may want to reconsider your PR strategy.
Gawker reports on a rumor that Nike had hurdler Liu Xiang fake an injury and drop out of the Olympic Games because of his poor chances. It’s not the most damaging rumor Nike’s faced—after all, the haters are always with us—but (as Gawker points out) they've come under fire for tampering before. And as bad as the scandal is, Nike’s response has been even worse. They reached out to their friends in the Chinese government to “investigate those that started the rumor,” meaning some poor blogger is about to get reeducated. A mess of back-pedaling followed, which ended up making everyone involved look worse.
It's familiar business to anyone who's seen *Rollerball*»