New York at Christmas: A Seasonal Walking Tour

We’re not sure we’ve ever mentioned it here, but in addition to various other irons we have in the fire, we are also a licensed NYC tour guide. And this is our favorite time of year, because ’tis the season for our “New York at Christmas” Tour, a 90-minute walk during which we visit the sites and share the stories that have made New York the Christmas Capitol of America!

If you live in NYC or plan to be here during the holiday season (or if you know someone who does), this informative and entertaining holiday stroll just might be right up your alley.

We won’t bend your ear at length about it here, but if you’d like more info, just pay a visit to Avenues and Alleys.

New York at Christmas: Santa Takes a Coffee Break

Life Without Lapels

We love us some vintage clothing; easily 80% of the clothes we wear on a daily basis are older than we are (we made our debut in 1958, in case you’re wondering).

So whenever we watch old movies (which, as longtime readers know, we do often), we spend as much time and energy focusing on the garments the actors are sporting as on the plot, performances and photography.

We especially like it when we encounter a garment, an accessory, a look unlike any we’ve seen before, and we came across an example of just that recently when we watched the Cold War noir, The Woman On Pier 13 (1949), starring Robert Ryan, Laraine Day, and John Agar.

William Talman, perhaps best remembered as Hamilton Burger, the DA Raymond Burr mopped the floor with week after week on “Perry Mason,” also appears in a supporting role as a bad guy (it was his motion picture debut). And in one scene that finds him squiring Day around from one seedy nightspot to the next, he wears a plaid jacket like none we’d ever seen.

And while we can’t honestly say we liked the look, it was at least interesting.

We are familiar, as perhaps you are, too, with several varieties of lapels on men’s sports, suit and formal jackets—notch, peak, shawl—but outside of the Nehru jackets that enjoyed their brief moment in the sun in the 1960s, we’d never before seen a man, on the silver screen or on the street, sporting a plaid sportscoat that had no lapels at all.

We turned to Marc Chevalier, easily the most knowledgeable person we’re acquainted with when it comes to vintage menswear. Here’s what he had to offer:

“Jackets like this one were briefly popular in the early to mid-1940s. The style originated in California, and was probably first designed by Clinton Stoner. Frank Sinatra was the most famous wearer of this type of jacket, back in the early ’40s.

“I seem to recall that it was called a “cardigan sportcoat” or some such thing.”

There you have it. A Google search yielded no mention of the term “cardigan jacket,” but Marc’s word is certainly good enough for us. However, we also couldn’t find any info about Clinton Stoner, and our curiosity got the better of us. Thankfully, Marc, bless his heart, had the full scoop (we knew he would):

A label from a Clinton Stoner garment“Clinton Stoner was a freelance men’s suit and sportswear designer whose merchant clients included Macintosh Studio Clothes and Saks Fifth Avenue. In the late 1940s, he opened his own custom sportswear shop—named “Clinton Stoner”—on the east end of the Sunset Strip. Stoner’s shop was a favorite of gangster Mickey Cohen, actor Robert Mitchum, etc. Stoner’s daughter, Beverly, achieved some notoriety of her own as a much-married, much abused nightclub singer.”

You won’t see us adopting Stoner’s (and Sinatra’s) lapel-free style anytime soon, but we are intrigued by the look.

Let us show you the Wonder City

Do you have holiday travel plans that are bringing you to New York City? If so, this 1930s pamphlet from a bus tour company, which comes courtesy of our pal Tim, will have you smiling and sobbing simultaneously (smiling at the charms of a cool bit of ephemera like this; crying at the prices cited compared to what you’ll be paying when you arrive).

Hi-res Hi-res

Speaking of traveling to NYC, we have an exciting new venture to share with you. As a duly licensed NYC tour guide, we’ve launched a walking tour operation called Avenues and Alleys. These privately booked tours are designed to broaden your horizons as a visitor to the Big Apples, showing you sites and sights you might not otherwise find on your own.

We’re especially excited about our Christmas Tour, which is now available for booking from Friday, Nov. 25 through Thursday, December 22. New York really is the Christmas Capitol of America (if not the world), and on this 90-minute stroll, we’ll show you the sights and share the stories that illustrate the major influence NYC has had on the way Christmas is celebrated here in the United States. You’ll see the classic NYC department stores where so many Christmas traditions were born (and whose windows continue to amaze and delight), including Macy’s, Lord & Taylor, and Saks Fifth Avenue; you’ll see Rockefeller Center with its iconic ice skating rink and breathtaking Christmas tree, not to mention Radio City Music Hall, home since 1933 to the Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes.

You’ll learn why it could be argued that ol’ Santa Claus was born in New York (and if not born, then raised to maturity), about the man who wrote A Visit from St. Nicholas (or did he?), and so much more. And along the way, you’ll enjoy the holiday atmosphere in the town that invented both hustle and bustle.

You can learn much more about us our website (which is also a NYC-centric blog), and we hope you’ll take a moment to “like” our page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. And given that we can use all the help we can get in spreading the word about our fledgling operation, please mention us to any friends and family who are NYC-bound for the holidays and beyond.

We’d love the chance to show you—and them—the town!