S.W.A.T. Tactical Sport Boots

The idea of combining the virtues of a trainer and an off-road, combat or hiking boot isn’t entirely original, but my Classic 6″ Swats continue to impress me. The sole has masses of cushioning, all-terrain grip, and a steel shank for stabilization, making it the equal of a high-end trainer (the company says they set out to design what they call a “cross trainer for law enforcement”). But the Swats actually do a better job for me than trainers costing several times their price. I get more ankle support than a low trainer and lose hardly any flexibility or cooling. And these let me walk and run through mud in a rainstorm for two hours with perfectly dry feet and a secure grip.

I’m 220lb, with an ultra high arch foot and hyperflexible ankles. I need maximum stability and shock absorption, a tough combination to find. The boot is docked with a tough leather and Cordura upper that stops at ankle level, giving most of the protection and support of a boot, but still leaving you more flexibility. The result is a shoe that’s good for almost every type of ground and lets you hike, walk, run, jump, wear it all day, and drive in it. Water resistance and breathability are excellent.

The Bates are obviously tough and provide extra ankle support off-road carrying a heavy pack, but it’s a higher boot. There are high-cut, full-on military boot Swats, too. I haven’t tried them. My 6″ lower tops answer a different need. They’re more of a universal shoe you can hike, drive or run in, and still wear at the office without feeling out of place (unless you work in a very formal environment). Another nice feature is these shoes are available in wide and women’s fittings. They’re also surprisingly cheap — less than $80 a pair.

-- Jonathan Coupe  

Original S.W.A.T. Men’s Classic 6″ Boot

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Original S.W.A.T.

SFC Slip-Resistant Shoes


Architects love to build walking surfaces that are horrible to walk on when wet. I found the elegant and foolproof answer to that — Shoes for Crews. This company has a shoe that I defy you to try to skid in when on slippery wet surfaces. They come in 50 or so styles for men and women, for work, play, casual and formal situations. The work models have steel toes. These darn shoes really work!

-- Don Bierey  

Shoes For Crews Slip-Resistant Shoes
Available from Shoes for Crews

Duluth’s Twill Presentation Jacket

I have fallen in love with Duluth’s Twill Presentation Jacket. The catalog picture above doesn’t do it justice. It is just dressy enough to work for business meetings, but enormously versatile to wear for just knocking around. In the last month, I have worn it everywhere from going to the movies to staying two days in a swanky hotel in Morocco for business meetings, hiked part way up an 11,000 ft mountain, and slept on a long flight. As this implies, it is a dreamy traveler’s jacket — never looks wrinkled (it is treated to resist wrinkles and stains), is tremendously comfortable, and has 13 pockets including zip-up pockets inside the outer patch pockets. Enough space to fit a moleskine in an outer pocket, a cell phone inside, a wallet safely zipped-in, some pens — and suddenly I don’t have to carry a backpack when I am going out for a quick meeting. And credit where credit is due: I first spotted this jacket on Tim O’Reilly, and promptly copied him, though in a different color. (I recommend the khaki color.) Although the jacket comes in other fabrics (canvas and denim), I think the twill is far and away the most versatile.

-- Paul Saffo  

Duluth’s Twill Presentation Jacket
$80 (size: regular)
Available from Duluth Trading


This is possibly quite goofy, but I got my 16 year old a Slanket for her birthday and she was thrilled. The Slanket is an extra-large blanket fitted with sleeves to anchor it while you lie back on the couch. She is quite certain that our house is insignificantly above freezing in the winter, so she’s always cold. Not anymore!

-- Chris Noble  

[Since we reviewed this item in 2006, several incarnations of the blanket-with-sleeves have emerged. Gizmodo published an excellent comparison review. Slanket, while a satisfying product, is one of the more expensive versions. -- SL]

$28 – $40
Manufactured by Slanket Loungin

Available from Amazon



I have been using a pretty cool detergent product that was launched recently. These are half ounce dissolvable packets of concentrated laundry detergent, so that you just throw one into the washer and you don’t have to carry, measure, pour or waste detergent. Very cool and convenient!

-- Kunal Bahl  

[The manufacturer also emphasizes that its products are environmentally benign. -- KK]

$15 (three packs, each w/20 loads)
Manufactured by Cot’n Wash Inc.

Available from Amazon

Instant Period Costumes

Just in time for Halloween. A trade secret from professional costume designers: throw out your sewing kit. The way to make quick and dirty costumes is to scrounge for old clothes, cut them up creatively with your scissors, and then instantly reassemble the pieces using a hot glue gun. No measuring, no patterns, no threads. The glued clothes hold up remarkably well. Since you can even wash them, it works for local theater shows. Now that you know the secret, you don’t have to buy this book — except if you want a whole bunch of cool recipes for recombining thrift-store bargains into pretty convincing period fashions.

-- KK  

Instant Period Costumes
How to Make Classic Costumes from Cast-Off Clothing
Barb Rogers
2001, 87 pages

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

A glue gun and glue are the most important tools you will need. With them, you will be able to place fabric where you want, embellish your garment without sewing and seal raw edges. A glue gun produces a versatile substance that dries quickly, is washable and is a great time-saver.

I’ve tried several types of glue guns over the years. When they first came out, they were all “hot” glue guns. When I was beginning to wonder if I had any fingerprints left, I found the Magic Melt glue gun, which is a low-temperature gun that works just as well. It can still burn you, but it doesn’t go through three layers of skin. It dries more quickly than the hot gun and is washable.

The one drawback to using this type of glue is that you cannot wash the garment in anything but cold water and either hang it to dry or use your dryer on air fluff. No heat! The glue will let go.

Directions for making Romantic Man.

For making Restoration Women: I located three dresses, which when put together make a beautiful Restoration gown. I threw all three dresses in the washer with a a mixture of brown and red dye to get the unusual color. Because the gowns were made of different fabrics and had lace on them, I achieved several shades of the same color.

Fresh Fruits

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if everyone wore more colorful clothes? You can get a glimpse of that heaven in this never-boring album of Japanese street costumes. Like its predecessor volume Fruits, this sequel, Fresh Fruits, preaches freedom of color and is meant to be browsed while standing in your closet tossing out the black.

-- KK  

Fresh Fruits
Shoichi Aoki
2005, 272 pages

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

Knitting Without Tears

This book is a classic. It is a relatively small instructional book on knitting. It is wonderful because it teaches one how to construct good looking garments without the use of knitting patterns. Her hallmark is a seamless pullover sweater. This book not only delivers quality knitting instruction – it is a great read!

— Mary Cavanaugh

This is not so much a how-to-knit book, though it excels as that, as much as it is a glorious how-to-enjoy, and how to live while knitting book, penned by a remarkable woman who found happiness at the end of her yarns. This short but famous primer is a good place to start knitting for life. I doubt I personally will suddenly pick up needles — although my teenage kids and all their friends have — but nonetheless I did read every page of her instructions with great pleasure.

— KK


Knitting Without Tears
Basic Techniques and Easy-to-Follow Directions for Garments to Fit All Sizes
By Elizabeth Zimmerman
1995, 120 pages

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

If you are a habitually tight knitter, try to kick the habit. Loose knitting tends to make your stitches look somewhat uneven, but what of it? Are you trying to reproduce a boughten machine-made sweater? Besides, it is surprising what blocking and a few washings will do to uneven knitting.

I used to think that people in the Olden Days were marvelously even knitters, because all really ancient sweaters are so smooth and regular. Now I realize that they probably knitted just as I do, rather erratically, and that it is Time, the Great Leveller, which has wrought the change – Time and many washings.


The human being is so constructed that it can be completely covered by a series of shaped tubes. Tailors and dressmakers succeed excellently and skillfully in making tubes out of flat woven material; their achievements are nothing short of marvelous. But we, the humble knitters, can fabricate natural-born tubes by the very nature of our craft of circular knitting. With the techniques of increasing and decreasing at our command, we can shape or even bend the tubes as we will, without seams, gussets, or darts. It is then only a matter of uniting the various tubes by knitting them together, or sometimes weaving them together, and we could, if he desired them, make long-johns for a octopus.


For a small baby, take 4 ounces of baby wool, work at any GAUGE you feel like, and see what happens. Babies vary so much in size, and grow so fast, that the jacket will be gratefully worn at some period during the first year.


Caps are quickly made, and invaluable for using up scraps of wool for color patterns and stripes. They are excellent bazaar material, as people will pay more for them than for mittens, and they are quicker and more fun to make. (For me the great drawback to knitting mittens is that, having created one, you have to turn around and copy it exactly, for a pair.)


Knitting can be solace, inspiration, adventure. It is manual and mental therapy. It keeps us warm, as well as those we like and love. It has existed almost as long as the soft sheep, and in giving us wool they deprive themselves of no more than an uncomfortably warm fur coat in the heat of summer.

Mephisto Shoes

French and expensive, Mephistos are what walking sneakers should be: good looking, hard wearing, and very comfortable. I wear the basic black model all the time, so much that I now take advantage of Mephisto’s offer to resole their shoes indefinitely. Since the shoes are leather, they adapt to your peculiar foot (such as my bunions), and they’re robust enough to carry on for many years with occasionally refreshed soles. I own two pair, so one is working while the other is in the shop.

Mephisto Men’s Match Walking Shoe

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Mephisto Great Lakes

El Wire

Do-it-yourself neon. This thin electro-luminescent wire (el-wire) glows very brightly. You can bend it easily, tie it to anything. It produces essentially no heat. Best all of it runs on batteries, meaning you can wear it or use it on your bicycle. We make signs with it and, of course, some wild costumes. El-wire (also called Live Wire) has been used to great effect in the night parades at Burning Man; I still have vivid memories of an animated neon kangaroo (mounted on the side of a bike) galloping across the desert. It comes in various lengths from .5 m to 10 m (you can cut it if you know what you are doing) and in eight colors. You can also make it strobe. It is the world’s most flexible light. It is very cool stuff.

-- KK  

Live Wire in bulk
Starting at $1.15 per foot

Custom Kits
Contains up to 20 feet of variously-colored wire
Available from Live Wire