Saturday, September 18, 2010

Flying High At The Avro

Last night was the launch party for Leslieville's newest watering hole and my own personal favourite bar in the world, The Avro. I might be a tiny bit biased, since it's owned and operated by one of my best friends, but I truly believe that The Avro, as a bar, offers Torontonians exactly everything they need, no matter what, all the time. I'm just saying. I don't think folks ought to be chancing that it isn't by patronizing any other bar in the GTA, with the possible exception of Bistro 422, which I love on its own merits.

I am just so goddamn proud of Rachel Conduit - the best friend/owner/operator in question - because there's some serious grit needed to open any kind of business. Lord knows I'm far too timid to try the same tactics. Whereas I have vague dreams of becoming some sort of "writer," maybe, in the future, my gal pal sat down, made a business plan and created a whole abstract experience. Colour me awed over here. That's impressive.

And the Avro is legitimately impressive on its own merits. Named for the Canadian aerospace powerhouse the Avro Arrow, on which Conduit's grandfather was an engineer, the cozy Queen Street East space offers an alternative to the pricey joints on the same stretch. It's not a sleek spot - some of the light fixtures are made from refurbished industrial refuse - but it's absolutely beautiful in a handmade, Canadian sort of way. Despite being a clothing store, like, six months ago, the Avro feels like an established place.

It's cozy. It's cheap without being cheap, because Conduit recognized that most of the bars in that 'hood ran to the expensive side of the spectrum. It's open late, because, with the notable and disgusting exception of Jilly's, the local peeler bar, most of the bars on that stretch close whenever the bartender's feet get tired, and that is early. Most importantly for a bar, it has an actual bar. I hate going to alleged "bars" like, oh, say, the Green Room in the Annex, and finding there's no bar there. Oh, sure, tables are fine, but I really do feel that any place purporting to be a boozehouse needs to have a place where bartender and patron meet. A long counter top for slinging drinks and gossiping about the locals is absolutely essential, and The Avro's was handmade and optimized for awesomeness.

The Avro keeps a variety of folks in mind: the young people who want an escape from the student-ghettoized Annex neighbourhood but aren't keen on shelling out seven bucks for a bottle of brew; the local folks who want a mellow night close to home; the customers who like to bar hop and take in the gamut of watering hole experiences; the people who want to support local under-30s in their bid for greatness; drinkers who want a well-designed experience to back up their booziness. And in each case, the bar is a success. Big mazel to The Avro and to Rachel. Fly high, Avro girl.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Fly Guys

I love a well-dressed man. Give me a guy with a vest, a stylish pair of spectacles, a great tattoo, and a disarming attitude, and I'm sold. I feel that the men of my generation don't dress up, and I sort of wish they did. Oh, sure, they put on a suit for weddings and job interviews, but the daily double-breasted no longer applies. I realize that suits aren't really always the easiest things to run around town in, but there's no reason that dudes can't bring meaty style and substance to the table.

New York's fashion week, on now, usually focuses fairly heavily on the womenswear, neglecting the XYs in the crowd; men, I think, have an easier time generally. Women's fashion trends can be all over the map - hemlines up and down, cleavage out or covered, fabrics, textures, things that are gorgeous and things that are clearly meant as an experiment. It's wilder, with more frills and swoops. Even when things are severe and knife-edged sharp, trends fluctuate so wildly from season to season that there aren't a lot of "classic" women's looks that aren't consciously retro.

Men's fashion, on the other hand, moves at a more glacial pace. Suits get two buttons or three. Shoes change colour. Cufflinks disappear. The art of dressing well, for men, is more the art of paying attention. Many, many articles in GQ, Esquire, Details, and the like have been devoted to the cut of a man's shorts, his swim trunks, his work bag, or his eyeglasses. Characters like the one Joseph Gordon-Levitt played in this summer's Inception have the added bonus of being handsome like a movie star and costumed like a gentleman: he was all natty vests and braces, which is a hot look for a twenty-something guy.

Browsing The Sartorialist can be sort of like soul food for the closet, since he features all kinds of interesting outfits on a variety of folks, and basically, they're all beautiful. Granted, he's not perfect: he once praised a Bottega Veneta menswear ensemble that I'm pretty sure was a halter top, and he loves to feature insane Japanese fashions that look outstanding on the wearer, but would look completely deranged on some corn-fed blond Midwestern kid. I guess that's sort of part of his point - context helps make beauty - but it lessens the impact the blog has as a style guide and repositions it as more of a global DIY lookbook. Still, he has impeccable taste in men's looks, across multiple generations and continents.

While I absolutely have a soft spot for the casual look favoured by most of the guys my age - hello, I came of age in the Tony Hawk era, of course I like baggy jeans and ratty tee shirts - I just love it when dudes get dressed up. Or put some effort into their look. Even a distinctive and well-maintained haircut or beard can signal some game. Trying, just a little, to bring attention to detail to outfits, to strive for an aesthetic, speaks, again, to the kind of paying-attention that is so appealing.

But the suit is the real swoon-bringer. I'm not one for the 80s power suit - too many buttons and pinstripes and horribly slick Gordon Gekko hair wrecks everything - so I like suits that evoke the 1930s, sunshine, and Italy all the same time. Trim lines, rolled up sleeves, maybe a Wallabee boot in place of the leather-soled shoe. In the same way that I often strive for a post-apocalyptic farm girl look in the outfits I assemble, I like dudes who look like they can do things in their suits. Often, I'd prefer those things to be, like, stomping grapes for wine, or playing in their 1960s garage band. The suit has been an emblem of business and power - which is why so many women aped the look when they entered the corporate world in the last century - but I like it so much more when it evokes romance and pleasure. That's so attractive to me. Clothes for doing.