#104: Jon Caramanica (NYT)

Jon Caramanica drops in to tell us about HGTV's Mike Holmes, International Design Yearbooks, The Jordan Two3 Cavvy loafer, and more.

Cool people like cool things, which is why we asked cool person Jon Caramanica to come on Perfectly Imperfect & redistribute his good taste.

Brooklyn’s Jon Caramanica is a pop music critic at the New York Times and the writer of the men's Critical Shopper column. At the Times he’s penned great pieces such as Into the Wild With Kanye West (keep an eye out for Jon’s upcoming book on Kanye West and American Culture) and New York, It’s Time to Shop!, a round-up of the exciting new stores such as Kathleen Sorbara’s Chickee’s Vintage, Bijan Shahvali’s Leisure Center, and Andrew Chen’s 3Sixteen. In addition to his pop music writing, he’s also the host of the NYT’s Popcast, a podcast where he covers the latest in music trends and news. Jon has great taste and lucky for us, he’s here to talk about what he’s been into.

Without further ado

Jon Caramanica (twitter, instagram)

🏠 📺 Mike Holmes 

Sometimes I think I’ve reached, like, the end of TV. I don’t really care about prestige drama. Reality franchises on their 7th or 12th iteration bore me. I gave up on cable news because it made me more jittery than coffee.

I can watch HGTV for hours though. Inject all that mid-period Chip & Joanna straight into my veins. Show me all the secret brick-cuttters working on the fringes of Laurel, Mississippi. Interested in couples therapy? Sit with a few episodes of “Love It or List It.” Want to know exactly why that first wave of commercials for “Christina on the Coast” got reedited? I’ll tell you if you ask nice.

Most of these shows revolve around how to make something more beautiful. Beauty fades, though. Is your dream built to last?

When it crumbles, Mike Holmes can fix it. A no-nonsense Canadian who tears down drywall with bare hands, he has a persistent mien of disappointment. Electricians, roofers, landscapers, plumbers - they’re all colossal idiot cost-cutters who prey on unsuspecting homeowners. In Mike Holmes’s world, all is chaos, and he is the only hope for order.

On his old shows - “Holmes on Homes,” “Holmes Inspection,” and so on, you get the point - - he glumly but firmly tears apart homes to find the evils that lurk within. He’s almost impossibly astute, an “Iyanla, Fix My Life”-level reader of the needs of a house - and its owners. (Reruns air mostly on the DIY Network, part of the extended Discovery/HGTV ecosystem.) 

I love how simple the homes are, and how catastrophic the hidden scars are. And yet time and again, he makes it right - an everyman healer and an avatar of the lost art of competence. In a time when every day feels like free fall, these shows are a somber acknowledgment of the ubiquity of disrepair, and a paean to the belief - the certainty - that it can be overcome.

📚 International Design Yearbooks

I’ve seen these annual digests of the best in product innovation around forever but only started buying them recently. I grabbed one at a place in LA that had loads of dusty design books on the cheap. Not long after that, I went to a Housing Works on the UES because someone on TikTok said it had the best clothing selection. It didn’t, but they did have 2 of these for $10 each.

They’re pure cheat code. Every good idea that’s being ripped off by contemporary artisans is in one of these - lamps bent into unnatural shapes, shelves that don’t look like they hold very much, dinnerware that you’d never dare eat off of. The designs are Italian and Japanese, of course, but also Finnish, Canadian, Spanish, even American. Each edition has a different luminary as an editor: Arata Isozaki, Mario Bellini, Philippe Starck, freakin’ Alessandro Mendini. They’re tidy, portable museums.

🎵 Remble

This TikTok-favorite rapper is an inheritor of Drakeo the Ruler but also brings to mind Aceyalone and maybe even MC Paul Barman and what can I say, life is wild.

👕 An Honest Living ™

Count on Fantasy Explosion to unearth the New York City vernacular vintage of your faded memories. Count on An Honest Living to invent it as it should have been. These high-quality limited-run garments celebrate the city’s familiar but niche institutions - OTB, Con Edison, Fung Wah, etc. I bought the cap celebrating the essential 1990s hip-hop club the Tunnel, and if anyone would like to sell me the Peter Luger coach’s jacket in XL, hit my DMs.

👞 Jordan Two3 Cavvy loafer

You ever search for something on eBay for so long it goes from unknown to unfindable to quasi-accepted to potentially washed - and that’s when it finally pops up in your size? Anyhow, I'm 95% sure my man Brendan Timmins (beautiful furniture – I’ve got two pieces!) put me back on to Jordan’s Two3 luxury line from the early 2000s, which looks pretty much exactly like the bizarro silhouette-experiment off-court fits so memorably documented on the defunct  What the F*** Is Michael Jordan Wearing? blog.

Anyhow, the Cavvy - a square-toe slip-on Vibram-soled loafer in which the elastic runs vertically right down the middle of the shoe. It is maybe the platonic ideal of viable square-toe loafers, with apologies to Martine Rose and the vendors of Orchard St. It is bizarre and tough, and screams for a flowy wide leg pant. The colorway with black leather and beige elastic really is something, but a few months ago, I finally found an all-black pair in my size, sort of, for a reasonable price. They look absurd and hurt my feet. I’m so happy.

🥤 Cherry Coke Zero

Why would you drink something else? (Besides water – water is ok, too.)

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