Classic Style

No Frills.

By: Jen Shoop

There’s a ramshackle outdoor cafe on the northside of Heckscher Ballfields in Central Park that I pass at least twice a day.  A flimsy easel announces its menu highlights in garish neon lettering on the sidewalk just out front: “Frozen margaritas!  Beer!  And more!”  Clusters of wire tables, the kind you can tell from afar are wobbly, with one leg shorter than the rest, ensuring that you are never quite comfortable when you eat or drink, are circled by warped white plastic chairs, some streaked with dirt and possibly sun damage, and many flecked with stray bits of sharp plastic chinks dangling off the legs like skin tags.  The cafe looks to have been decorated by my grandfather’s friend so-and-so from the autobody shop: water-repellant, red-and-white checked plastic tablecloths likely bought in bulk with no consideration as to style or appeal top the tables.  Plastic salt and pepper shakers dot the tables irregularly, looking worse for the wear and likely filled with gritty lumps of salt and pepper that will refuse egress.  I haven’t yet ventured a look at the menu, but I’m certain of the fare: hot dogs on a grill, bags of Lays Classic potato chips, bottled water, Cokes.

It’s no frills.  But it has its appeal.

The Ballfields Cafe is of a different era, redolent of a lunch stand from 1962 at a community pool in suburban Maryland–the frozen margaritas notwithstanding.  Those, I imagine, were an addition in the late 90s, when a park employee might have lobbied, hard, for a Margaritaville machine, and voila.  While my stomach turns at the thought of the anti-freeze-like neon bottled sour mix undoubtedly used in their cocktails, there is something pleasantly authentic about the cafe’s offerings, its garage sale decor, its decided un-cool-ness in a city whose casual dining scene screams overwrought and trendy, all matcha this and single-udder-butter that.  It’s refreshingly straight-forward and un-ironic to the point of appealing, sort of like the squat red font above a fire department garage (HOOK & LADDER COMPANY NO. 12!) or the curlicue design on the back of a set of Bicycle playing cards.  It’s fetching in its staunch disregard for the times.

In that vein, some of my favorite no frills fashion workhorses…

Dr. Scholl’s.  I wore these constantly in middle school.  I have to say I’m kind of drawn to these “jellie” versions, but I’m partial to stark white.

Polo shirt.  Most of mine were Lacoste hand-me-downs from my older brother as a kiddo.

Levi’s.  I mean, these have come so full circle that they’re mainstream high fashion now.  Arguably nothing sexier on a woman than a pair of Levi’s and a white tee, right?!

GH Bass Weejuns.  These have a kind of sexy librarian appeal to them nowadays — you can make them work.  (See the snap at the top of this post!!)  I bought an updated pair in white last year from J. Crew and lived in them.  I liked wearing them with something a bit more feminine up top.

A house dress/shirt dress.  Something about this style from Theory looks like something I might have worn in 1942.  In a good way.

A yellow rain slicker.

Minnetonka Thunderbird Mocs.  These are so kitschy and off-tone that they’re almost hipster.

Jean jacket.  Timeless.

For Mr. Magpie: a leather bomber jacket.  I remember this strongly from college, when peacoats were curiously trendy on men (didn’t every guy you knew wear a peacoat in navy?) and Mr. Magpie instead wore a chocolate brown leather bomber jacket.  I always thought it was outrageously cool of him, resignedly agnostic to the trends.  He also had a khaki coat similar to this that he wore in cool but not cold weather.  The style felt so jarringly different from what was then in vogue, but I loved it.  And still do.  Also timeless: penny loafers, Sperry boat shoes, and gray New Balances.  (Mr. Magpie never wore NBs ever ever ever, but I like them.)

For minis: jellies (mini has had two pair of these this summer), saddle shoes, Gloverall duffle coatst-straps, and “party socks.”  (Who else had those?!)


PSA: There is a fantastic Tent Sale going on at Serena and Lily.  Loving this heart sham (contemplating buying a set for mini’s future “big kid” bed!), this scalloped duvet, and these embroidered sheets.

What makes you feel good about yourself?

Well, I love you, too.

I like everything about this dress, including its under $70 pricetag…

Amazon goddess.

A season late, I’m very into the white bootie.  I would love these.


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4 thoughts on “No Frills.

  1. Oooh — I have owned and/or still own most of these items! I guess I am a “no frills” kind of girl. My 2 pairs of Levi’s (one Wedgie, one wide-leg) are among my very favorites, even though they’re much less fancy/expensive than the other brands I tend to favor in the denim department. I also own 2 pairs of Weejuns MULES that I’ve acquired during the past year or so — one in cordovan and one in white. Love them!

    What is it about those grey New Balances? They remind me SO much of all of the cool, athletic guys I grew up with. My boyfriend has a pair of UK-made NBs in navy and I love them on him!

    1. Love! Timeless chic! I know what you mean about the NBs — they were such a thing when I was in high school / college. They tended to go hand in hand with a boyish laissez faire attitude…


  2. I immediately knew the place you were describing and love your description . I had to read it to my husband. We always enjoy walking over and having our first outdoor beer of the season with some chips and guacamole. The menu is actually better than you would think. You should try it. Definitely retro and and a nice change from the Le Pain Quotidien’s in the park.

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