Orient Mako Automatic Dive Watch

Looking for a nice and reliable watch is a challenge, and doubly so if style and cost are both considerations. Quartz watches are great devices, usually inexpensive and highly accurate, but there is a certain romance to a precision mechanical watch. Where a quartz timepiece will eventually break down and need to be replaced, mechanical movements may last for decades if properly maintained.

Orient — a subsidiary of Seiko, and one of the few Japanese companies that make mechanical watches — produces solid timepieces with self-winding movements, meaning that as long as you wear the watch regularly it will power itself from the movement of your hand.

I purchased my Mako about a year and a half ago on sale for US$100, and I wear it every day. For a watch at this price level it has some nice features, including a stainless steel double-locking bracelet, rotating bezel to allow time keeping without having to do any complicated math, and an impressive 200m (660 ft.) water resistance, which is a feature seldom encountered in watches costing less than $200. And for those concerned with aesthetics as well as function, it comes in a variety of colors.

According to the manual this watch is not recommended for diving (and many retailers will caution against using any watch not rated to at least 300m/30 bar), but I’ve taken it well below 30m/100ft on several dives and have not experienced any problems that tend to occur when using watches not intended for diving (condensation being the most common).

Two caveats to the otherwise unreserved praise: the first is that any mechanical watch (Rolex and other ten thousand dollar watches included) will be less accurate (on average) than any quartz watch. Second, for those with extreme OCD the Mako has one significant design flaw: you cannot hack the movement, which means that even when you are setting the time on the watch, the second hand continues to move. It is the one thing I dislike about this model, but admittedly this is seldom a problem for anyone who is not a special forces commando who must be able to synchronize time to the second.

Overall, this is a beautiful line of watches for an eminently reasonable price, and if you are interested in a watch that holds up under pressure, this is the best around for the price.

-- Adam Wunker  

Orient Men’s Stainless Steel Automatic Dive Watch

Available from Amazon

Merrell Barefoot Pace Glove

A great pair of barefoot-like shoes for everyday wear. The style is much more unassuming than the Vibram FiveFinger shoes. They’re comfortable, light, and I feel what’s underneath my feet. I don’t like to walk around (foot pain), which is why I’m writing this recommendation; as this shoe has made walking more enjoyable for me. I’m somewhat surprised that a no-cushion shoe has caused less foot pain than my usual casual sneakers. I’ve worn them for three solid years and they’ve held up well, though the label has broken off and it looks like some non-essential threads have started to fray (the Vibram soles look like they’re still going strong). The shoes are made of thin material, so I don’t wear them much past fall or in early spring. When I do need to replace them, I’ll be getting the exact same pair!

-- Maria Angeles  

Merrell Women’s Barefoot Pace Glove

Available from Amazon

HexArmor Hercules Heavy Duty Gloves

I bought these for my husband about five years ago. I’m a member of Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and these were included in an equipment briefing by Norwest Safety staff. HexArmor is used by public safety and emergency responders because it protects you from cuts and scrapes — including knives, broken glass, dirty needles, and other stuff you might find in debris. These have a better level of puncture protection than regular work gloves.

These are long gauntlets, so they protect your forearms as well as your hands. I find them wonderful for pruning roses, but in our area the big battle is against Himalayan blackberries, which are prolific, invasive, and have nasty thorns. These work really well on our own property and in the extensive volunteer land reclamation my husband does. My friend Jerry says they are also great for wrangling cats through unwanted baths.

-- Normandy Helmer  

Hexarmor Hercules 400R6E Gloves

Available from Amazon

Posture Support Jacket

I have a bad shoulder and have struggled with shoulder pain most of my adult life and specially while lifting. Four years ago, my doctor recommended Alignmed S3.

This is a jacket that I wear while working out and it does not let my shoulder get into a bad position. In addition it keeps my posture correct. This has been a wonder product for me and has kept me injury free for 4 years now. I am on my second S3 and have just ordered a 3rd one.

They have an OTC product but I have experience only with the S3 which you get by prescription. Even though the cost of the product is $345 (it was higher when I first got it), my insurance helped offset some of that cost.

Note that I don’t have any financial affiliation with Alignmed; I’m just a very satisfied customer. This product has helped improve my quality of life so I can’t talk enough about it.

-- Amit Agrawal  

35-Cent Money Clip

After nearly a lifetime of getting Costanza’ed in the bottom by my wallet, I began to use this 35¢ tool and have never looked back, so to speak.

It firmly clamps bills and even cards in place until use, is easily removable and has caused much envious conversation.

The only drawback is that I bought a box of 12 (the smallest I could find) and am still using the same one after six years.

Appropriate technology rules!

-- Mark Kiemele  

Ideal Document Clamps
$4 / 12 clamps

Available from Amazon

The Worldwide History of Dress

I’m guessing that when technology permits us to design and produce our own clothes as easily as we do our websites, we’ll go beyond jeans and start making our outfits a little more distinctive. These one-at-at-time items will be supremely personalized, unique. And a return to the way wardrobes of past were once also made one-at-a-time into distinctly personal items. When that moment comes, you might want to lose yourself in this massive 600-page archive, which catalogs the full diversity of costumes from around the world. Over 1,000 glorious illustrations, in astounding ethnographic variety. Tribal, royalty, folk. Outerwear, footwear, headgear, armor. It is the best one-volume summary of Fashion on Earth I’ve seen. (It’s expensive, so check it out at your library.)

-- KK  

The Worldwide History of Dress
Patricia Rieff Anawalt
2007, 608 pages

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

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A circumcision waistcoat possibly from the Hebron Hills during the British Mandate period, or earlier. The groundcloth is Atlas satin, a luxury fabric woven with a silk wrap and a cotton weft. The front of the waistcoat is thickly covered with a variety of coins, the better to express the high social value of the boy wearing it. Length 11 7/8 in. (30cm).


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The 19th-century tall hats and enveloping cloaks of certain of the Welsh peasantry were markedly behind the times. These garments bear a decided resemblance to the popular image of a witch precisely because they were the characteristic wear of the time of witchcraft persecutions of the 1630s.


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Above her richly patterned sleeveless coat, worn over an ornate red silk dress with high shoulder pads, a stand-up collar and blue turned-up cuffs–an outstanding example of the festive dress of the 19th-century Mongolian nobility–this Chalka tribeswoman models the “sheephorn headdress.”


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Front and back views of a Micronesian warrior suit made of knotted coconut-palm fiber. The accompanying upper-body armor is sturdily constructed of plaited bast fiber. Length 32 1/2 in. (82.5cm), width 15 in. (38cm).


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A walrus-gut kamleika made by the Yup’ik people of St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, in the mid- to late 19th century. It is adorned with beaks and small feathers of the crested auklet. Length 43 in. (109.2 cm), width 54 in. (137 cm).


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This 1950s Conibo man is clad is a cushma, a long, wide, poncho-like cotton tunic that has been worn in the area since prehispanic times. The brown to black dye used in decorating these garments is obtained by boiling mahogany bark.

Skagen Titanium Blue Dial Watch

I have owned a Skagen watch for almost a decade. I grew up on bulky cheap utilitarian watches (which I still own & use while doing work around the house or while camping) and always thought that most fancy watches were boring, heavy and identical. Until I picked up a Skagen.

Skagen watches are sleek, durable and completely different from anything else on the market. The case of my watch is less than 8mm thick. It doesn’t even feel like I’m wearing a watch. They come in various colors, metals & different dial designs. The titanium band coupled with the thinness of their watches is what really sets them apart.

The titanium band takes a little getting used to. It doesn’t flex or grab your arm hair like your grandfather’s watch. Instead you set the length for the clasp by sliding the catch mechanism and locking it in place via a slick hidden lock under the latch. Once you get the length set, you’ll never have to readjust a thing.

Occasionally when I forget to grab my cheap watch, I have snagged and torn the titanium band apart (like separating links of chain mail). For $30 Skagen has sent me a new band pretty quickly. Once, I dropped my watch on it’s face and destroyed the glass. Again for a $30 repair fee, instead of replacing the glass, they sent me a brand new watch. When they say lifetime warranty, they back it up.

If you’re looking for a slick thin timepiece, check out Skagen. You’ll receive more compliments & questions about where to buy one than you can shake your old Casio at.

-- Daniel Smyth  

Skagen Titanium Blue Dial Watch

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Skagen

Jimi Wallet

The Jimi Wallet is a minimalist hard-shell plastic case design. It’s the perfect antidote to the “Costanza Wallet” syndrome my dad had, because it forces you to discard all but what you really need.

The Jimi has room for exactly three pieces of plastic, a security access card, and a money clip that holds 5-6 bills. That’s it.

The Jimi pops open with a bit of pressure applied to a few dimples. You can do it easily with one hand without looking.

I have owned several Jimis over the last decade. The build quality is excellent. Realistically, I find that I get three years of daily use out of one before the plastic joint starts to fray. I am okay with this, because it gives me the opportunity to get a new color.

I’ve got nothing against slim leather or cloth wallets, but the Jimi is what works for me. It was the wallet equivalent of coming in from the cold. I can say with no exaggeration that I get a minimum of one compliment a week on it when I pull it out in stores or restaurants. People see it an intuitively get that it’s an evolution.

-- Pete Forde  

Jimi Wallet

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Jimi

Tip: Add a “Sag-B-Gone” Button to Your Blue Jeans

Larissa Holland of mmmcrafts came up with a good solution for people who don’t like belts or suspenders and also don’t like it when their jeans start to stretch and get saggy as the day goes on: a “sag-b-gone” button! The no sew dungaree buttons are available on Amazon.

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

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Filson Mackinaw Wool Vest

My Filson Mackinaw Vest is the single most utilitarian piece of clothing I own. And during the fall, winter, and early spring I wear it nearly every day. We’ve reviewed Filson in the past. They have a legendary reputation among hunters and outdoorsman for wool clothing that stays warm when wet, and holds up over time. This holds true for this vest, but I love it because it’s just as functional at home or in an office as it is in the field.

When I originally picked one up, I was wary that it might be unflattering given its fairly utilitarian design, and I figured I would mostly wear it while foraging. However, I have been pleasantly surprised over the past few months with how well it works paired with a nice shirt and tie (which, in my case, has secured a number of compliments), or a heavy sweater. I’m not here to defend the vest’s fashion statement, but rather pointing out that because it looks good I’m more likely to wear it on a daily basis. Mine is light gray, and looks good with almost every color combo. As far as sizing, Filson is better than most outfits in that these are sold according to jacket size, and can be ordered extra long for us tall guys.

Two things stand out about the Mackinaw vest. The first is that it has, by far, the best range of pockets on any piece of clothing I’ve ever owned. It has two hand warming pockets, which are great on a cold day because it means I don’t have to throw on a heavier jacket just to keep my hands warm when I head outside. It also means I have somewhere other than my back pocket to store my wallet (thus reducing the potential for back pain). It also features two chest pockets; the right easily fits a notepad, while the left is designed for holding writing instruments, or other tools (I keep a Maratac AAA flashlight, and a few pens and pencils).

The other major benefit of the Mackinaw vest is that I can wear it everyday without worrying about wear. I wear vests a lot, in part because I like that it doesn’t limit my arms, and because it’s a flexible piece of clothing.nWhat I have found is that most vests are NOT built for daily wear. Stitching comes undone, fabric begins to tear or pill, and in general they become limp and lifeless after just a few months. The beauty of the Filson is that its heavyweight felted wool and heavy-duty stitching make it near bulletproof. It doesn’t shed, pill, or wrinkle, and it looks good day in and day out. And because it’s a vest made of thick felted wool it can be worn over three seasons and across a really wide temperature range.

-- Oliver Hulland  

Filson Mackinaw Wool Vest

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Filson