"...Pour down your unstinted nimbus, sacred moon."
Walt Whitman, Look Down, Fair Moon (1865)
That's all we get from the celestial bodies, here in New York City: the moon. We have to make due with aircraft warning lights atop skyscrapers, lights inside apartment buildings resembling advent calendars, and of course, the moon. Stars just can't make the trip across the Hudson.
We do, however, have a great quality of evening light, something so distinctive it's practically tangible. It's an admixture of street lamps, taxi cab blinkers and the living presence of towers, all promising that the true dark stillness of night will never touch us.
I'm preferential to the quality of light in the West Village, of course. Perhaps it's a perfect proportion of street lamps, small residential buildings and welcoming storefronts that makes it so endearing. Whatever it is, there is a warmth to the luminosity below 14th Street and its subtle radiance lighting the cobblestone streets informs me that whatever is troubling me at the moment, will largely be okay.
I've given a lot of thought to the evening light of New York City, but I've never been able to capture it in the moment. Last week I was returning home from Equinox on Greenwich Street and saw a perfect example on Hudson Street. You can see my closest bodega, Spyros & Sons Food Mart, my favorite rare and first edition book stores, Left Bank Books, and Chocolate Bar.
Here the light just shimmers across the cobblestones and bursts in radiance from streetlamps like seraphim. I love how the white-hot welcoming light of the stores holds itself in balance to the rest of the scene, like some sort of living Piet Mondrian painting.
I don't know if I'll ever leave New York City. As I wrote in The American Interest
, I've been captivated with the idea of living here since I was 17. But if I do, there will be a list of things for which I'll ache. Like the energy of the city, like the arts, the quality of evening light will be one of the things I'll miss most. It's something that I can't truly define, but still know what it is.
Check out Ruell's Apparel on Etsy, and follow Ruell's on Twitter
(A green plaid bow tie from Ruell's)
Are you interested in attractive, handmade apparel made in the USA at a very attractive price point? Does that seem like a rhetorical question because in a sense, who isn’t interested in that combination?
Then let me present to you Ruell’s Apparel, a quality manufacturer of bowties, neckties, pocket squares and men’s accessories, based out of Austin, TX. I found Ruell’s shop on Etsy and was immediately struck by the tasteful selection of patterns for pocket squares and bowties at a very reasonable price.
I was a fan of all the merchandise that I saw, but particularly impressed with a summer-y madras pocket square and handsome green plaid bow tie, priced at about $10 and $20, respectively.
(The personal note I received from Ruell's in the package)
My order for my pocket square and bowtie arrived promptly and even included a personal note from Alton Ruell Conn, Jr., the shop’s proprietor. I was so impressed with the product and presentation of this young (two month old) shop label that I asked Alton if he could talk to me for an interview about the shop and happily for me, he agreed.
(I'm a big fan of the simplicity and color scheme of Ruell's logo)
Below is our conversation about the present and future of Ruell’s.
Dan from Disaffected Prep: Alton, I’m a big fan of everything that you’re doing with the shop right now. Can you share your inspiration for it?
Alton from Ruell's: It all started a few years ago when I knew it was time for a change. I had come to the realization that I had fulfilled my passion in Information Technology of almost 20 years. I was looking for something more fulfilling where I could contribute to the local economy, grow long term while giving back. Austin is a great city that is built on make it local and shop local. It is one the reasons I love the city so much and that it continues to thrive.
I was thinking it could just be that I needed a job change and that would fulfill the voice inside of me seeking change. After entertaining many options and testing a few I decided I would stop pressing it and allow the change to come to me and it did. While preparing to attend a local fashion show trying to decide what to wear I happened upon bow ties. After the show was over it hit me: I found it. Bow ties, neck ties, pocket squares and men's accessories was it. The feeling I experienced wearing the bow tie and the compliments was enough to set me on this journey of Act II. I know my passion for Act II is creativity, color, using my hands and apparel with the hope it will brighten someones day.
(I thought the madras pocket square would look good in a khaki blazer I have from Ralph Lauren)
Dan: That's great - I really love the sense of journey that led you here. Focusing a bit on the product itself, how do you source the materials? I really like how my pocket square feels wonderfully broken in already.
Alton: Most of my material is repurposed fabrics sourced from high end men’s shirts. I wanted to take advantage of materials that are already out there and give them new life. It sets me apart for the patterns are not sold in fabric stores or on the open market. It also keeps with my mission of buy local. When I can’t find fabrics I will shop at fabric stores but that is rare. I am working on a process to produce my own custom patterns to set me apart even further.
(The bowties feature regular tie, clasp or clip-on options. I went with the clasp, and yes - I'm using Alan Flusser's classic Dressing the Man as background.)
Dan: That's great, and makes sense that the fabrics I've touched of your's have have a lived-in quality (in a good way). Taking a step back, who are your favorite menswear designers? Are they a big influence on your work with Ruell's or do you try to chart your own path without them?
Alton: I don't have a favorite designer per say but love Project Runway and have been watching since it began. I enjoy the creative process and construction each contestant brings to the show. I wouldn't say any designer has influenced design or pattern for Ruell's. I chart my own path.
Dan: Are you eying any new product lines in the future or are you sticking with your knitting for the time being?
Alton: I am planning additions to Ruell's Apparel to include scarves, neck ties, belts and cuff links. Also coming, decor to include pillow covers, art prints and more. I am super excited about what's ahead.
(Alton shared with me this picture of a necktie currently in development)
Dan: Just wrapping up. Any last comments you want to share?
Alton: I'm self taught and an open mind has guided me through the process of launching Ruell's. I'm learning everyday and I believe that's key to starting a business as well as in life.
Dan: Thanks Alton! I think you're off to a great start and I'm looking forward to seeing your success in the future!
Again, please check out and support Ruell's shop online
. You'll be hard pressed to find a better combination of quality and price.
All photography from Disaffected Prep, other than Alton's picture of the prototype tie.
N.B. I am not compensated for any work on Disaffected Prep - all purchases from Alton’s shop came from my own pocket.
Happy New Year from me at Disaffected Prep. May your 2005 be as brilliant as this:
(photo taken 01/01/2015 in Madison, CT)