Corthay shoe skateboard

During a sunny, late lunch in Madrid last month, Norman Vilalta and I spent some time talking about his experiments with new materials, and ideas on working with high-technology companies like Nike. It occurred to me that one of the reasons I enjoy talking to Norman so much – one of the best as well as the most creative bespoke shoemakers out there – is that he never talks about the past. It’s always about the future.

Regular readers will be familiar with my rants about the image of bespoke menswear that is perpetuated by luxury magazines. Tailoring, for them, necessarily goes with whisky, hotels and cigars. You can’t prefer pubs to hotel bars; you must have a thing for sports cars.

During that discussion with Norman, it occurred to us that the reason much of these things are associated is that they are seen as ‘traditional’. An interest in tailoring is presumed to be a desire to hark back to better, more elegant times. If you like clothes from the 1930s, you must also like the Art Deco, trans-Atlantic travel and jazz.

What rubbish. Crafted, bespoke menswear is the future, not the past. We are moving beyond disposable fashion (something men never really liked anyway) into an era of better-made, better-lasting clothing for better-informed, better-dressed consumers. I advise readers every day to invest in classic, well-made pieces because they are stylish, versatile and value for money. Not because they look good with a cigar.

This may sound naïve. Perhaps next season tailoring will be wiped off the catwalks, replaced by tracksuits and trainers. But I don’t think men will ever want to stop looking smart, professional and simply well put-together. A jacket will always look smarter than a shirt, which will look smarter than a T-shirt. And a bespoke version of any of them will be even better.

Photo: Luke Carby

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Well said!


Hear, hear!


I agree completely! Why don’t we agree to just eliminate track suits etc altogether.


Or just say that everyone over the age of 18 should dress like they are over the age of 18.


Unfortunately that’s not going to happen,particularly in the U.S. It’s just ridiculous to see grown men dressing like teenagers,but it happens every day. Ill fitting jeans,tee shirts etc worn by men in their 40s and older is absurd and in very poor taste.


Category: Philosophy.

Nah, it’s a good point. It is definitely annoying how certain things in life seem to bring particularly risible connotations. The sports car reference is apt. In common currency, the word bespoke is a loose buzz word associated with some pretty hilarious tropes for material aspiration. It’s all really about money and status (or the lack thereof), and the irony is that many people should consider investing in bespoke things long-term, whereas few should consider mediterranean pools, Learjets, Russian models and Bugattis.

Bespoke clothes are a sensible, middle-class thing, yet they are currently portrayed as the domain of quasi-aristocratic celebrities and wealthy criminals.


along with all the others, I can but agree


Hi Simon
One of the hardest tasks I find is judging the dress code for evenings out in London. Do you tend to wear suits even in casual settings like pubs, cafes and bars? I am not a huge fan of wearing a suit without a tie, to me in most cases it just looks like a component is missing, and as much as I love a cravat, it usually gives of the wrong signal. So I was wondering what your thoughts are? Would you hesitate to wear a tie on an evening, or would you consider that a little too dressy?


Hi Simon,
A tad unrelated but I was wondering if you could shed some light on an issue. I’m currently at university and am in the process of updating my wardrobe. I am about to buy a new set of business shirts and am not sure whether to opt for single or double cuffs. My current set are all double cuffs (bought previously without extensive knowledge on these matters) but I am much more inclined towards single cuffs, both aesthetically and for their ease whilst working. Is there any difference in how both of these are perceived for someone working in a corporate environment?
Thank you.

Mr P

Talk to any young indie musician about music and you’ll find all roads eventually lead back to the sixties. The era still influences any modern band worth listening to today. Likewise, the 1930s, as you know well, continues to influence anyone interested in, yes, ‘classic’ menswear today.

The 1930s was the last era when people everywhere dressed well, when they had their suits made (cheaply or expensively), when the average person understood how clothes should fit and when their role models were film stars, musicians and even politicians who dressed with taste and style. Pharrell Williams is the best we can do today!

Does anyone put on a bespoke suit to go to a pub? I love pubs, but I do not dress up to go and sit on a rickety wooden chair and drink beer. When people dress up they want to go somewhere special. Bespoke suits are expensive because they require hours and hours of work from highly-skilled hands. Are you suggesting that the Rake et al photograph manual labourers and traffic wardens in Brixton wearing Huntsman and Cifonelli? Anyone with the money to buy bespoke suits ( as opposed to getting them gratis) tends to like nice hotels, cars and watches. Wouldn’t anyone spend their money on such things if they were in a position to do so? Men everywhere aspire to afford the best.

Simon, you do so much to champion bespoke but we are losing the battle on elegance. Look around you! I don’t want to be the best-dressed man in the room. I want everyone to be well-dressed. The London Ritz is now allowing jeans in its beautiful bar. So, yes, there are many like myself who will always have a soft spot for the golden age of mens’ dress.


That’s all well and good but bespoke whatever costs money and for many is out of the question. Try justifying a bespoke pair of shoes or a suit to your wife when school fees need to be paid and the electricity bill is due any day. Luxury clothing is just that.