stefano merola gloves
 
I’m frequently asked why and how Permanent Style started. So often, in fact, that it occurred to me it’s because I’ve never written it down. So here it is.

Seven years ago, I got a bonus from work and bought my first suit. (My career has been as a journalist, and now product manager, at Euromoney Institutional Investor). The suit was single breasted and pale grey, with white pinstripes. It was horrible, in cut, style and make. But I thought I looked fantastic.

While I could deceive myself about its lack of style, I couldn’t ignore the shoddy construction. The chest bubbled after it was caught in the rain. Stitching came away inside the trousers. Overall it felt stiff and uncomfortable, despite the lightweight cloth.

I was determined to find out why, and at some point in that research process a mildly obsessive side to my character took over. I read everything I could find on suit construction, learning about floating canvases, small armholes and hand-stitching curves. I never thought about myself as a geeky type, but this was clearly my area.

I began to get boring. I lectured people in the pub, and even hauled over strangers to explain to them that they had to remove the basting stitching from their jacket vents.

I was saved by Catherine, a friend who had recently moved to New York and started a successful blog on its social life. She suggested I started my own blog, as that way friends that were interested could read the information there (and more would be interested than would admit it) and I would stop boring people in the pub.

Looking back at those old posts, some are naïve and some make me cringe. But there is a genuine sense of inquiry that runs through it all. I wanted to find out, and when I couldn’t find out I would ask. Although much has changed since then, and my knowledge level has grown exponentially, I like to think that spirit remains.

When I write about Asprey’s workrooms, I’m not satisfied that having that production on site is necessarily good. I want to know what tangible benefits there are, and how the situation has come to be. Although brands will represent these things as conscious decisions, they are often accidents of history, driven by pedestrian factors like real estate and local labour.

I still learn new things every week – like the difference between stamping and casting in jewellery. And other tropes of the luxury industry come round so often it’s almost funny. Like the insistence by one brand that their goods are special because each one is made by a single artisan, from beginning to end; and another’s claim that the thing that makes their goods special is the fact each artisan is a specialist, working on one tiny area of a long process.

Much has changed in the past seven years, but I’ve never come close to running out of subject matter. The reaction of readers is also wonderful. It always surprises me when I meet someone and they thank me for the work I’m doing. I’m not doing it for you. I’m doing it for me, because I’m fascinated and passionate about every aspect of craft and luxury. It’s a happy coincidence that others like it too.  

(Image: Talking to Stefano Merola of Merola gloves, photographed by Luke Carby)

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mike

What do your co-workers in your day job think of your style and blog?

Rob O

Thanks for the explanatory article Simon – I was mistakenly under the impression that this is a full time job for you now. I suppose the bespoke budget must mandate additional income streams. Anyway, long may your blog continue, it’s a unique take on a complex and opaque industry.

Alec

The blog has been a consistently great outlet for me since discovering it a year ago – and I sincerely appreciate the personal responses to any questions I’ve posed in the various comments sections.

If I had one main take-away, it has been my increased awareness and appreciation of British brands and the craft behind them, which has subsequently factored in to a number of key purchases.

Demain 1953

Simon

Your blog is a breath of fresh air in a world where quality so often is lost to convenience and a throw away culture. Your enthusiasm and research is a pleasure to read, and we really enjoy looking at the tailoring, articles and accessories you review as well as any articles in how to spend it!

Keep up the good work !

Nik

I really enjoy your blog Simon and always look forward to the email updates. I stumbled across it when I was considering getting a suit from A Suit That Fits and was looking online for advice and reviews. I’ve been hooked ever since. If I had one small criticism (it’s not really a criticism, more an observation) it’s this: now that many of the articles are about €5000 Cifonelli suits or £2ooo G&G shoes, it feels like you’ve jetted in to the stratosphere of expense far beyond most of us readers. Actually, that’s more of a compliment than anything else – but it means many of us can only admire from afar.

Bradley Viljoen

Simon
I think i must have thanked you more than enough times having troubled you with so many questions and comments over the last few years but once again, thank you. I look at your blog daily and feel deflated when nothing is posted!
On another note – the image showing you talking to Merola Gloves. Yes those illusive gloves that i covet so much and cannot find anywhere. You provided me some time ago with a list of suppliers – none came up trumps. What an absolute missed opportunity for Merola gloves not having a large selection available to sell to the UK public – but why? Please can you mention something to them, even if they start an on-line ordering system it will be better than nothing

PS: Hope you enjoyed your breakfast at No67 on Sunday! I just caught a glimpse of you whilst walking by (not stalking i promise!)
Regards
Bradley

stephen

Hi Simon, firstly let me thank you for the blog after having found it I have read widely and learnt much from it. However the real value of your blog beyond the detail is the open, enthusiastic, warm and welcome tone that you set throughout. It breathes real life into the subject matter, the writing and little details that raise this blog above just about any other on the net. As an example I was looking at Eastern European tailoring…after many Google searches the best article ended up being here.
Thank you and long may it continue.
Stephen.

S

If I may ask, how much would you say you spend on bespoke a year?

You must have one of the best wardrobes in the UK by now.

S

Peter

Dear Simon,

I can only comment to the beginning of your essay because the later part is not clear to me. I don’t understand why you bought such a suit in the first place. I don’t agree with your use of the word boring. You say you wanted to speak with others about clothes, but they did not share your interest. That does not mean you became boring. In their eyes, they may label and have labelled you a bore. Your problem was to find persons not under the influence of alcohol and persons truly interested in the world. You wish that a certain spirit of inquiry were to be recognised a driving force in all your posts, but you fail to recognise your fellow guests did not share this spirit of inquiry. You submit to their slanderous judgment you are a bore, in truth they are bored because their own character lacks goals besides being idiots.

Peter

Correction, please: not “a driving force” but “as driving force”

Ville

Permanent Style is without a doubt the finest body of work online on the strange and wonderful world of men’s classic clothing. Trade publications shine some light on the comings and goings of factories and trade shows, but artisans are mostly left out and I’ve come to question whether some makers are buying praise instead of earning it. PS is independent, articulate and always interesting. One thing I’d change, though: the site’s photographer, Luke Carby, has a thing for taking out colour on most snaps. Cloths, weaves, patterns and colours should be seen — all combined are at least half of the fun and beauty in clothing. Still, I’m looking forward for the up-coming Crmpton book.

Julian

A lot of stuff that I’ve read from people claiming to be experts say that a first commission with a tailor can often be only OK and that it really takes a second, third or even fourth commission before the tailor really starts getting the customer’s pattern and style totally locked in and the relationship gets to its most productive level. I understand why it is important for your blog to spread your commissions across multiple tailors but do you ever feel that you’re missing out by not being in a position to pick one tailor, at least for suits and/or jackets, and work with them over multiple commissions to really fine-tune your pattern?

I should of course add my thanks and admiration regarding your excellent blog.

– Julian

J

Great insight into how your website began and it’s raison d’etre.

Have to admit I was a little surprised this is not now your full time job though. So extra kudos for that. I had assumed it would be too difficult to visit the tailors and factories etc while you are presumably working normal 9-5 office hours.

Yes, about the ‘boring’ one’s friends and family, I am lucky in that my family and friends are all interested in clothing to a similar degree, although mine borders on the more obsessive.

I too have had a similar incidence where I have known colleagues to walk around with the baste stitch still in the vents of a RTW suit. I agonised over telling him that they are meant to be removed, but in the end I didn’t, I just thought he would be too sensitive to take the advice and he would have seen me as condescending. Some men’s egos are simply too fragile to have stuff like that pointed out to them, so I personally steer clear of such ‘advice’ now. These were guys who buy suits at Next or wherever, (irrespective of good income) and feel that is pretty much the pinnacle of stylish business wear so anything else is just utter vanity and a preposterous waste of money (to them), so for me there is no point in acknowledging your interest in high-end stuff.

We are getting into the territory of “none of my business” now, but do you freely reveal the cost of your clothes to friends who casually ask “like your suit, how much was it?”, asked in the spirit of they might want one too.

This is one thing I really, really struggle with as I generally don’t like to lie to people, but equally, if I were to be honest it might horrify them.

J

WOW… I admire your fortitude Sir!

Chris

Simon,

Thanks for your commitment and valuable insight; the blog is my daily source of relief from Microsoft office.

I wondered if you had any plans to host another PS drinks?

Best,
Chris

jamiemcp

Dear Simon,

I’ve been invited to a wedding in Granada, Spain in the middle of September and I’m at a bit of a quandary as to what to wear. I expect it will be quite a Spanish affair as the groom is Spanish, and the bride is half Spanish. Normally I wouldn’t be phased as I’m in the fortunate position of owning a number of bespoke suites (Peter Johnston in Edinburgh) and have a morning suit so that covers of most eventualities in the UK.

But given that I live in Scotland, I don’t really have any formal wear for hotter climates as unfortunately I wouldn’t have the chance of wearing it very often. My suits are more on the medium to heavy side of things, and I don’t think morning dress would be appropriate. At the moment I’m thinking of wearing a light blue single button Duchump blazer (which I already have) and possible some white or very light cream chinos paired (which I will have to purchase) with either some light tan C&J brogues or a pair of vintage oak G&G St James’.

What are your thoughts on separates for a wedding? I’m slightly worries that I’ll look like a Brit dressed up for the sun but without being able to carry it off.

Thanks

Jamie

John

Hi Simon,
The most important thing is that you decided to share your ideas and passion for the craftsmanship behind the best products that make up today’s menswear and how to use them.
I’m personally thankful to you for what I have come to learn and improve in my understanding of menswear.

James

Hi Simon, you say you bought your first suit seven years ago. Had you never needed to wear a suit before then? Did you borrow/hire one to use before that time?

KP

Simon,
Utter nonsense if people are ridiculing your writing. Speaking for myself here – I genuinely think you are doing a stellar job here. Actually not! What you are doing is saving us that read your posts be smarter in our choices and come across as knowledgeable! Totally appreciate the perseverance. Reminiscent of persevering to get that Century or a fiver-for in a Test Match.
Thanks a ton for this, and please don’t stop writing.

Christopher

And you awakened an interest in clothes I never knew I had – and although the learning curve felt expensive, I hold that the best quality you can afford is cheaper in the long term. I hope you’re proud!

Frank

I have been a reader from the beginning and enjoyed the blog a lot. While I still enjoy reading it, it seemed much more consumer oriented back then. I understand that the world changes (and we do as well) but the blog seems much more about product placement now. It is as if your newspaper with down-to-earth news suddenly has turned into a glossy weekend magazine. Still worth reading, but a different product and a different perspective on the things written about.

Bertie Wooster

Simon – aside from your passion for this whole art, we should hugely appreciate that you diligently reply to all posts and comments on your website. How do you manage a full time job and this though…do you not sleep at night. Or do you have flexi work hours?!

Paul Weide

Forgive me if you’ve written on this, but given your unique vantage, would you care to tell us where men’s style is going? You mentioned your personal growth in this post, but now that you have more (global) perspective, I for one would love three big insights from you on this subject. Is the future “unanchored ties” as the Armoury would have us believe? Is Flusser right about the 1930s as apex?

AO

Simon,

Another accolade from me for launching the blog and helping thousands of men, including myself, become better dressed versions of themselves over the years. There are other style blogs on the ‘net but in terms of sheer usefulness and value none have matched PS in my opinion and none get more recommended to my friends who have noticed my improved dress sense and wish to improve their own.

If any new readers are finding the latest posts too high-end or esoteric, I recommend scrolling right back through the archives to find the ultra-practical stuff as the blog has covered more advanced content as Simon’s expertise has grown.

I’ll endeavour to attend the next London meetup.

Paul Weide

“The arc of tasteful menswear is long, but it bends toward Trad.”

Anonymous

I’d add that that the blog is almost as much a pleasure to read for its impeccable written style as for its excellent content. Your choice of words Simon, gives some insight into your careful choice of cloths and buttons etc.

BespokeNYC

Little late to the party but had to share the love. Thank you Simon for creating one of the best menswear blogs on the ‘net. Your advice is incredibly helpful and practical and I can legitimately point to specific articles you’ve written that have changed my whole approach to style and dressing. Perhaps more importantly, your writing feels like it is motivated by a genuine love of craft and clothing, which is incredibly refreshing among the rather snarky, self-satisfied world of #menswear.

Please do keep up the good work, with best regards from your loyal readers!