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Have All The Real Men Actually Settled On Mars?

Vivek Nagrani – My Two Bits

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A young Marlon Brando.

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I have been wondering why Sir Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are so fascinated with colonizing Mars. It finally struck me, real men seem to have already commenced the colonization of Mars. The aforementioned pioneers are simply setting up shop so eventually women can move there and the human population can be saved.

Maybe I am out on my own here, but I just do not see any great male role models. Be it sports, music, fashion, or film, I am lost when someone asks me who I see as a great role model. I have had to revert to the fictional character Bruce Wayne to serve as my muse for what I think a man should be.

I get it, times change and that forces change across the board. However, there are basic elements that have defined masculinity since the dawn of time and will continue for our existence – which may not be that long if Trump gets high on a super size value meal and decides to press the big button on his desk. Thank God he does not realize its just a buzzer that is connected to his favorite fast food joint.

Steve McQueen in cru tee, jeans, and sneakers.

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What the hell has really happened? When I look back in time, men learned from their father’s who learned from their fathers. But today’s times are different and today’s youth are on their own. My dad sure as hell never used Tinder or eHarmony to meet women. This leaves a vacant space that where the rules have yet to be established. There are no social norms yet, no rules, no benchmarks for what is considered the right way.

In addition, society has just become accustomed to mediocrity. From product to talent, we live in a world where being average is acceptable. Kids win trophies for “participating” rather than actually winning by excelling. Innovation seems to be limited to the Billionaire Boys Club and the rest find solace in just re-making low hanging fruits. Today anyone willing to video themselves doing stupid shit can become a celebrity. Get a YouTube channel and you are a television star.  No one bothers to actually read these days either. What happened to actual talent? Just listen to today’s music. I do not want to sound like a crazy old guy but seriously, WTF is going on?

What really makes me nervous is the future of my eight year old daughter. Not so much for her but more for me. What kind of son in law am I going to be stuck with? So what is it to be a gentleman in today’s time? I sat down and had drinks with a cross section of women to find out what it is that makes a man today. Remember, times have changed and it is important that we are always evolving, but ironically, a lot of the basic traits that defined masculinity in the past seem to be exactly what has been forgotten today.

Circa 1940: American actor Humphrey Bogart (1899 – 1957) sitting on a fence smoking a pipe. (Photo by John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images)

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New/old rules that every man should follow in today’s uncharted times:

1.  A man should always open the door for a lady, the elderly and the less capable.

2.  A man should actually call when he is seeking the the audience of a woman.

3.  A man should take pride in not just what he wears but how he wears it.

4.  A man should always be gracious and polite to others… until deemed unworthy.

5.  A man should know his limits when it comes to drinking or other recreational drugs.

6.  A man should be physically fit or at least make an attempt to stay in shape.

7.  A man should be well-groomed. Never over-groomed or under-groomed, just groomed.

8.  A man should read at least two books a year (at this point, just reading is sufficient).

9.  A man should know how to cook three basic meals and do his own laundry if need be.

10.  A man should be able to keep a clean and tidy residence.

 

Bruce Lee: The Artistry of a Badass

 

Throughout history there have been exceptional people who’ve inspired us by the way they lead their lives and accomplish success, chief among them, Bruce Lee.

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Anyone that’s made it on the silver screen has the potential to integrate into popular culture. If they’re “lucky” enough to do so, the rest of us usually end up glamorizing their life, regardless how admirable their actual life is or was. In Bruce Lee’s case, we probably don’t glamorize him enough. The guy accomplished more in his 32 years than most do in a lifetime.

Yet his image is tied to his sculpted figure and insane kung-fu moves. Many of us think of him as no more than a film star, like Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, Steve McQueen, or John Wayne. The reality is that those adored actors can only compete at the lowest-common-denominator criteria for which Bruce Lee’s badass-ness can be evaluated.

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1. His rigorous physical conditioning didnt come close to his mental discipline

While standing at just 5’-7” hovering somewhere between 140–150, Lee’s physical appearance was statue-like, and he couldn’t have done it without a rigid physical discipline.

Here’s one of Lee’s 1965 gym cards, from the book, “The Art of Expressing the Human Body.”

Bruce Lee’s 1965 exercise list from Hak Keung Gymnasium.

We can see that Lee was all about building tightly wound endurance muscles, with each exercise consisting of 3-5 sets. If you’re interested in bodybuilding but still want to look like you can wipe your own ass, learn about the exercises in closer detail here.

As regimented as this sheet looks it’s a mere complement to Lee’s reading, meditating, and writing focus. He left behind 7 volumes of writing — everything from quantum physics to philosophy. He even wrote poetry. Is there anything more badass than a lethal man who writes poetry? On top of this, he also kept daily journals and workout regimens like the one above throughout his adult life.

In fact, if it wasn’t for Lee’s intense mental fortitude, he might have never recovered from a serious back injury in 1970. Instead, Lee spent the time writing and feeding his mind, setting new goals mentally, spiritually, and physically until he was healed. Without such mental focus and discipline, Lee likely would’ve floundered in bed feeling sorry for himself, letting his mind stymie his physical recovery. Lee focused, his mind accomplished. It’s a lesson all of us could learn from time to time.

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2. Wong Jack Man Fight

Bruce Lee demonstrating two finger pushup.

When Lee moved to Oakland and opened a gym to teach martial arts, he wasn’t so popular on the other side of the Bay Bridge. Popular accounts claim it’s because Lee taught martial arts to white people, something frowned upon by the martial arts community, but according to those familiar with the ‘60’s Bay Area martial arts scene, like Leo Fong, the Chinese-only martial arts sentiment started to deteriorate around that time, and even respected Chinatown teachers were willing to teach any student. “It was never about that. It all really had to do with Bruce’s personality,” said Fong in a Viceland piece about the fight.

Bruce wasn’t afraid to speak his mind on other kung-fu disciplines being taught, and things really boiled over when he gave a lecture and demonstration at Chinatowns’ Sun Sing theater. During the demonstration Lee criticized two of the most revered local teachers in TY Wong and Lau Bun. Conflict was eminent.

Oddly enough, a recent martial arts transplant named Wong Jack Man was the man to call Lee on his claim, having a mutual acquaintance deliver a note to Lee’s Oakland gym. Lee accepted without hesitation, and later when Wong requested fight guidelines on kicking the head and groin, as well as on eye jabs, Lee refused. The fight became an “anything-goes” affair.

The details of the fight are a little hazy with no video footage and only nine witnesses, but it apparently started with Lee delivering an opening blow to Wong’s temple. However, unlike in past fights, Lee was unable to quickly put Wong away, only being able to do so after a flurry of advances caused Wong to lose his footing. Wong had to yield giving Lee the win. The whole thing lasted between three and seven minutes.

Many say the fight was a seminal moment for Lee’s development. After all, he hadn’t destroyed Wong quickly like past foes and the fight had exposed serious flaws in his technique and conditioning. It was a fight like this that paved the way for the ultimate development of his non-traditionalist Jeet Kune Do martial arts style.

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3. He Changed Martial Arts Acting

 

There probably would not have been a Jackie Chan or Jet Li had there not been Bruce Lee. Even though Lee appeared in several films as a child actor in Hong Kong (his first role was at 3 months old!), he faced resistance in Hollywood, partly due to stereotyping (shit that still goes on today) and partly due to his disinterest in meathead roles.

So Lee took things into his own hands. Refusing to play Hollywood’s game, he stopped auditioning for martial arts films and started doing gung-fu demonstrations. Eventually a producer noticed him and cast him as the sidekick in the 1966 TV series, “The Green Hornet.”

Prior to Lee, martial arts films were a joke; actors couldn’t even do proper kicks let alone their own stunts. Lee took it a step further by writing scripts and choreographing fight scenes.

But the resistance wasn’t over, particularly when it came to Lee’s vision for his films. When Warner Bros decided to remove the philosophical elements from “Enter the Dragon,” Lee stopped showing up on set. After two weeks the studio caved and the film would become known for its unique fusion of philosophy and kung-fu.

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4. An Artist of Life

Lee was an actor, a martial artist, a teacher, a philosopher, a husband, a father, but he was an artist of life at his core. Here are a few nuggets of Lee’s wisdom.

“Defeat is a state of mind; no one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted as a reality.”

• “Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is essentially your own.”

• “Keep your mind on the things you want and off the things you don’t.”

• “Pessimism blunts the tools you need to succeed.”

• “By martial art I mean, like any art, an unrestricted expression of our individual soul… The human soul is what interests me. I live to express myself freely in creation.”

• “The medicine for my suffering I had within me from the beginning.”

 

Also see Lee’s views on self-actualization and the difference between pride and self-esteem.

 All the above being said, Bruce Lee was also badass in the traditional sense, as we can see in this recently surfaced video that appears to be Lee sparring with (read: absolutely schooling) one of his top pupils, Ted Wong, in a rare recorded session that’s since been restored for ultimate goose bump effect. Enjoy.

Read about other inspiring men, women, places, and moments in time, all a part of VK Nagrani’s Badass series.

 

My Two Bits: The Fashion Mullet

Let’s discuss the ever ubiquitous blazer or suit jacket and jean combination. What the f*** are you trying to say? Business up top and rebel below the belt?

I am a big fan of today’s more free approach to dressing.  However, before you break the rules, you should have a general understanding of the rules.  Every day I see men in denim and a suit jacket or blazer – more often than not, an ill-fitting jacket and bad denim.  Surprisingly, the fit does not piss me off as much as the mixing of these two looks.  I mean for Christ’s sake, it’s a fashion mullet – business up top, rebel down low.

You may feel differently, but allow me to explain why this look is so wrong.  First and foremost, denim is rebellious and steeped in blue-collar history.  The blazer or suit jacket is the opposite.  When paired together, the look is confusing, contrived, and uncertain.  It is like a cowboy wearing a tailored suit while out on the range – yes, stupid.  Would you use ketchup in place of tomato sauce?  Again, stupid.

I do get what the guy is trying to attempt.  I am a big believer that a man should wear a jacket, but it has to be the right jacket.  Go out and find a more casual looking jacket, unconstructed with natural shoulders, and on the shorter side.  Make sure it fits right and get a pair of jeans that fit perfectly.  And with regard to the denim fit, make sure to think of the type of shoes you plan to wear.  Go to a tailor and have them fit the jeans accordingly.

With regard to the denim, a clean wash, no holes because if you are pairing with a jacket, try to look balanced.  I love beat up denim, but that’s better paired with a real leather jacket or cool bomber.  Yes, I get it, you made a bunch of money in some tech startup or whatever and you don’t care.  That’s well and good but you still look like a douchebag.  Like the old saying, money ain’t never bought no one any class; I mean, just take a look at Trump.

And guys stop wearing denim when you are dining.  A few simple rules one should adhere to when dining.  Do not wear jeans if the restaurant has linens and white tablecloths.  Avoid denim if you will be eating with a knife and fork.  Never wear denim if the joint has a sommelier and you plan on drinking wine.  If you are at Applebee’s, hell wear a tank, ripped denim, flip-flops… nobody cares.

Something to ponder: Dressing for the occasion always elevates the occasion.

 

Badass Guys: Mad Jack Churchill

Jack-Churchill-Training-Exercise

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The mouthful of a name that Jack Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill carried with him was shortened by history to just “Mad Jack.” The main reason for the change is that he was a borderline psychotic crazy person who didn’t fear death the way most normal people should. Mad Jack spent his time after graduating military college riding his motorcycle around India and learning to play the bagpipes, pretty much because “fuck you” – that’s why.

Many war heroes are afforded mere moments of history’s spotlight. But, Mad Jack Churchill did an insane amount of badass stuff, that we at VK Nagrani are lucky enough to talk about all the cool shit he did over the course of World War II.

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1. Entering the War

After he got tired of all that nonsense, he joined up with the famous Manchester Regiment of the British Army so he could get in some quality Nazi killin’ time while the gettin’ was still good. When he got to France, the Blitzkrieg was effectively fucking all kinds of everything up, and the Brits were getting pushed with their backs toward the sea, doing what they could to slow the ever-advancing Kraut army.

Mad Jack had a few ideas up his finely pressed sleeves. He led some guerilla missions and small raids on German supply depots, leading the assault on his motorcycle and armed with only a BOW AND ARROW and his trusty Scottish broadsword, to presumably fuck their shit up Braveheart-style. When a fellow conscript asked him why he didn’t get with the times and put the broadsword away when he went to battle, Mad Jack replied:

In my opinion, sir, any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.

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'Mad Jack' Churchill with his War Bow; 6' tall, with an 80-lb pull. The only documented archer to inflict casualties in WW2. See SWNS story SWMADMAN; A dashing WW2 hero who captured 42 German troops armed only with his trusty Scottish sword has been ranked as one of the world's greatest adventurers. Lt Colonel John Malcolm 'Mad Jack' Churchill is featured in a new book compiled by the Norwegian Royal Explorers Club which honours the finest explorers and adventurers of all time. Churchill is known for his daring exploits, including making the last recorded bow and arrow kill in wartime, saving 500 people in Jerusalem from certain death and capturing German soldiers with the use of his Claybeg (corr) sword.

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2. War Hero

Word of Mad Jack’s raids spread throughout the ranks and morale was as at an all-time high. During one such raid, he was shot in the neck, but the Devil wouldn’t take someone so crazy so he sent him back to the only place he loved more than the battlefield – England. He was awarded the Military Cross for Bravery after rescuing a wounded British soldier from German ambush. There weren’t many Nazis around to kill back in civilian life, so Mad Jack got back into the war game again – this time joining an elite unit called the Commandos. He was reportedly unaware of what exactly a Commando was at first, but was all about it – probably because it sounded super intimidating, and that was totally his jam at the time.

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3. The Capture of Maaloy Island

Jack was the leader of Number 2 Commando, his own regiment inside the group, and was responsible for taking out artillery batteries on Maaloy Island. After landing an insane amphibious assault on their beaches, he did what most insane people would do, and busted out his bagpipes and played “The March of the Cameron Men,” to get his men all pumped on patriotism and bloodlust. As he neared the front of the line of war, he unslung his sword from its sheath, while wading in knee-deep water and began shouting at the top of his lungs:

 

COMMMANDOOOO!”

 

Two hours later the island was captured, and the folks back at British High Command received a telegram from the frontlines that read:

Maaloy battery and island captured.  Casualties slight.  Demolitions in progress.  Churchill.

That day he, and 50 of his Number 2 Commandos, took 136 prisoners and caused an unknown amount of casualties. But, knowing how badass this dude was, it was probably a lot.

Stay tuned to the VK Nagrani Blog for more of our Badass Guys Series!

 

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VKN Lessons In Style From: Jon Hamm

There are quite a number of similarities between Jon Hamm and his hard-working, hard-drinking Mad Men character, Don Draper (or Dick Whitman, if you’ve actually seen the show). While both men are effortlessly cool and ooze charm, Jon Hamm has mostly only borrowed Don’s well-tailored and classic style, not his habits of philandering and womanizing. Like his on-screen counterpart, Hamm is most comfortable in suits with neutral colors and traditional prints.

Hamm calls his style “aggressively casual”, an oddly appropriate term for someone who always seems so done up, yet is always so collected and cool. We here at VK Nagrani have learned a lot of Lessons in Style from Jon Hamm and we’re here to share them with you!

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1. Seasonal Suiting

Jon Hamm has a well-known penchant for suits and looking great in them. He knows how to cater his look to the weather. Year round, Hamm tends to his selection of earthen and neutral tones like a seasonal garden. In the summer months, he sports well-tailored fabrics in light and sandy colors like taupe, with a muted breeze colored dress shirt.

In the cooler days of the year, he opts for black-brown suits with thin pinstripes and patent leather shoes. Hamm will always go for the matching pocket square and tie, that is often in stark contrast with the colors of the suit, yet somehow still never break the office-ready ensemble.

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2. Black Ties Matter

If you can’t be Jon Hamm, maybe you should take a lesson from his style-book and step up your black tie look. He is the current reigning champion of the classic black tie look that hits all its marks – seen above in a silk lapel and white dinner jacket. When it comes to tuxes, Jon Hamm is very traditional in his approach. Why change what’s been working since the beginning of time?

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3. Accent with Accessories

Since he likes to dress in muted colors, accessories are his way to throw some flare into an outfit. He takes what is traditionally a very serious winter look – solid black pea coat, smoky gray pants and classic leather shoes – and hams it up Hamm style with vibrant blue patterned socks. The man takes a classic look and makes it absolutely his own.

Jon Hamm is a man’s man, and this is reflected in his outfits – he wears extremely well-fitted clothing that is held together with confidence. He uses color and pattern to great effect to blend in and accented accessories to stand out. There are many lessons to be learned from him, but rule number one is still always: don’t be unattractive.

Keep it bookmarked to the VK Nagrani Blog for more Lessons in Style from your favorite famous icons!

 

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The Oslo Jacket

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I love hoodies. I do not know exactly why, but perhaps because it was a staple during my youth and through college and reminds me of when life was so much easier.

As I grey, I needed to create a hoodie that was stylish and far more sophisticated than the local mall alternative.

For the gent who still remains young at heart but understands that a level of sophistication must be maintained.

Be young, be cool, but still elegant.

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The Details:

We combined baby Alpaca with Alcantara sleeves and created the most bad ass hoodie on the planet.

The interior is lined with “batskin” and the jacket has an open zip on the chest which allows you to reach into interior pockets without unzipping.

My favorite is the dual action front pockets.

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“Always Evolving.” – VK Nagrani

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This Men’s Wear Shop Is Not for Everyone

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Lounging on a cerulean leather chair at his store on the Lower East Side, a glass of Bunnahabhain 12-year-old Scotch in hand, Vivek Nagrani talked about the two types of men who frequent high-end clothing shops.

“There’s Banker A, who goes to Harvard, Goldman and buys a Lamborghini,” said Mr. Nagrani, 44.

That’s not his usual customer.

“Or there’s the guy who went to community college (his parents had no money),” he said, “but he loved finance and made his way to the top. Our client tends to be that guy. Top of the industry, but he had to earn it.”

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And that guy, Mr. Nagrani said, doesn’t like to go with the crowd, even when it comes to his clothes. That’s why, since starting his first full collection in 2013, Mr. Nagrani has offered limited editions, with each item numbered on an inside tag. The pieces are made in factories and workshops in Italy or Peru. Suits start at $1,800, and the shirts range from $350 to $695.

Mr. Nagrani entered the business in 1999, when he formed a partnership with a French factory in an attempt to make the ultimate men’s socks. His plan worked: Esquire declared his product “the best dress socks in the world,” and his clients include Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Mr. Nagrani, born in Pune, India, and raised in Northern and Southern California, sold what he called “junk toys” before his foray into socks. He built the business from there.

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