'People don't notice whether it's winter or summer when they're happy.'
- Anton Chekhov

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The Coolest Kicks: Tretorn & Stan Smith sneakers

By Jesse Kornbluth
Published: Mar 04, 2015
Category: Clothing

HOUSE OF CARDS: Have you been watching the new season? I haven’t. But my wife has, so I know how it ends. And I “know” something else: how next season — the final season — ends. But, you say, that’s a year away, those scripts haven’t even been written. True. But not important. I “know.” Shall we make sport of this? After you watch the last episode of this season, write me and tell me the 2016 grand finale. Then I’ll tell you mine. Please write me here, or comment at the “House of Cards” post on the Head Butler Facebook account.
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When I run into people who knew me in the Pleistocene, they often say, “You haven’t changed.”

What they mean is: “You’re still wearing the same clothes you were wearing half a century ago.”

True, for the most part. It’s like what Chris Rock says about music: “Your musical taste freezes at whatever year you started fucking.” Where I’m at with clothes is similar: As soon as my mother stopped shopping with me, I bought what I wanted — and still want. Like Andy Warhol, who used to buy a dozen button-down Oxford shirts at Brooks Brothers at a time.

Oxford shirts and khakis are eternal. But over the decades, footwear changes. Because I’ve never had to go to an office I didn’t run, I wear sneakers. Started with Keds. Converse. And then, as an early adopter, found Tretorns and Stan Smith Adidas.

For the next few decades, no problem. A pair died, a new one was born. But when our daughter reached the age of reason, she began to take an interest in my appearance — a critical interest. It took years to wear her down, but she now accepts striped oxford shirts and can look at khakis without nausea. Shoes were a point of contention, however, because she too likes sneakers and it is important to her that we aren’t wearing the same kind. Dad-and-daughter branding would not, in her view, upgrade my coolness; it would diminish hers. But Tretorns? Stan Smiths? She’d never wear them. On the other foot, they are not offensive. And that, friends, means that I can present them to you as Small Person Approved (trademark pending).

Tretorns came from a company in Helsingborg, Sweden that was launched at the end of the 19th century. They weren’t clunky like American sneakers. The soles were thick but light. The toe wasn’t the familiar half-circle. And the splash of color on the side was wonderfully modest.

Tretorns may have started as athletic shoes, but they moved on to the WASP elite. They were often found under socks with pom poms. They looked good with iced tea after tennis at the club. And then they made the Official Preppy Handbook and became cliché. Well, not to me. I’m loyal to Tretorns for fashion reasons — when it comes to all personal expression not requiring words, I prefer minimalism. [To buy Tretorns for women from Amazon, click here. To buy Tretorns for men, click here.]

Stan Smith Adidas are, when I can get away with it, my dress shoes. They are, after all, leather. And except for that delicious circle of color at the ankle, they’re monochrome white. It doesn’t hurt that they’re named after a player whose greatness didn’t end at the white lines.

I regret to report than Stan Smiths are the shoe of the season. Pharrell Williams walked a red carpet in Stan Smiths hand-painted with the words i dunno. Kanye West wears them. And more — he’s going to design them. [To buy classic Stan Smith sneakers for women from Amazon, click here. To buy Stan Smiths for men, click here.]

Retro? Guilty. Nostalgic? Very — these shoes are now made in China.

Short takes

Is Thomas Keller’s Roast Chicken The Greatest Ever?

a two to three pound farm-raised chicken
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons minced thyme (optional)
Unsalted butter
Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Rinse the chicken, then dry it very well with paper towels, inside and out. The less it steams, the drier the heat, the better.

Salt and pepper the cavity, then truss the bird. Trussing is not difficult, and if you roast chicken often, it’s a good technique to feel comfortable with. When you truss a bird, the wings and legs stay close to the body; the ends of the drumsticks cover the top of the breast and keep it from drying out. Trussing helps the chicken to cook evenly, and it also makes for a more beautiful roasted bird.

Salt the chicken. I rain the salt over the bird so that it has a nice uniform coating that will result in a crisp, salty, flavorful skin (about 1 tablespoon). When it’s cooked, you should still be able to make out the salt baked onto the crisp skin. Season to taste with pepper.

Place the chicken in a sauté pan or roasting pan and, when the oven is up to temperature, put the chicken in the oven. I leave it alone — I don’t baste it, I don’t add butter; you can if you wish, but I feel this creates steam, which I don’t want. Roast it until it’s done, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove it from the oven and add the thyme, if using, to the pan. Baste the chicken with the juices and thyme and let it rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board.

Remove the twine. Separate the middle wing joint and eat that immediately. Remove the legs and thighs. I like to take off the backbone and eat one of the oysters, the two succulent morsels of meat embedded here, and give the other to the person I’m cooking with. But I take the chicken butt for myself. I could never understand why my brothers always fought over that triangular tip—until one day I got the crispy, juicy fat myself. These are the cook’s rewards. Cut the breast down the middle and serve it on the bone, with one wing joint still attached to each. The preparation is not meant to be super-elegant. Slather the meat with fresh butter. Serve with mustard on the side and, if you wish, a simple green salad. You’ll start using a knife and fork, but finish with your fingers, because it’s so good.

I just saw The Best Film of The New Year (You’d Never Guess)

Having completed a long and generally unhappy slog through the Oscar-nominated films, my wife and I found ourselves leaving home on a frigid Saturday night to see The Best Film of the New Year — “Paddington.” You mock. Well, the joke’s on you. “Paddington” is considerably more — what’s the word we rarely hear about movies? — enjoyable than any of the films you’re supposed to be obsessing about. That is: sophisticated, witty, sly, original. Even beautiful. Entertaining in every possible way. The Times: “a knockout blend of fluid animation and live action.” Audience reviews: It’s the 3rd top grossing film of the weekend. Our puberty-ravaged 13-year-old texted us: “You’re seeing this without me? Mean!” So we’re going again. Happily.

Lyrics by Bob Dylan, Music by Marcus Mumford

Performed by Marcus Mumford. At the end, is that sweat in his eye — or tears? (Yes, that’s Johnny Depp on guitar.)