Bruce Boyer black and white

 
Following the almost embarrassingly positive response to last week’s post on Bruce Boyer (embarrassing for Bruce that is, not me), here are his answers to your questions.
 

Bruce Boyer

 
1 – Are your suits, jackets and shirts mostly bespoke? 

Almost all my suits and jackets are bespoke, from a relatively few tailors. It’s hard to go back to ready-wear once you’ve had a good custom-made garment. Probably half of my shirts are bespoke, from a variety of shirt makers. [Bruce declined to list the makers]

2 – Does the white Oxford shirt in your last picture have a spread collar? Isn’t that a bit unusual?

The white spread-collar shirt is indeed oxford cloth. It’s from the custom department of Brooks Brothers and has no lining. I prefer softer collars. A spread-collar oxford cloth is slightly unusual, one tends to think of oxford cloth being only for button down collars, but I like to experiment occasionally and mix things up a bit. Nothing revolutionary, but slightly individualistic. 

3 – How do you find dress in NYC differs from Europe?

There used to be great differences, and it was easy to tell an American from an Englishman, Frenchman, German, or Italian. But today everything is global and wherever you go in the world you tend to see the same stores selling the same products made by the same manufactures. And walking down streets like Savile Row or Via Montenapoleone or Madison Avenue, that once were incredibly chic,  I see too many men wearing the same cargo shorts, polo shirts, and hyper-designed running shoes. Men’s desire to be a member of the group seems to be stronger than their desire to be individuals, and the dress of the group these days seems to be determined by the lowest common denominator. Perhaps we are all more homogenised today. Or more frightened and lonely.

4 – In your book Elegance you talk about what to take when travelling, and how to look after ones clothes on the road. Would you update or change that advice now?

There have been a number of technical advances in luggage, and travel wardrobes are much more casual than than they were thirty years ago, even for business trips. And we all have more electronic gear.    

Bruce Boyer accessories

 
5 – Do you think young men should focus on building up a wardrobe of bespoke clothing, slowly but surely?

I’ve always advocated this, because I think a young man on the make cannot afford cheap clothes. Cultivate your sense of style, buy the best you can afford, be disdainful of fashion trends, and never throw anything away if you can help it. And that’s part of the larger picture of valuing and respecting craftsmanship and quality.

6 – Did you find it hard to stick with your style of dress through the 80s and 90s? What kept you faithful?

Actually the 70s were much worse, an almost complete abandonment of taste. By the time the 80s rolled around, an equilibrium had begun to set in on the wave of a Neapolitan style. Most of my interests — virtuoso music, worldly women, good clothes, not necessarily in that order — were set by the time I was 15. My tastes ran to Anglo-American dress, jazz and blues, and sophisticated women, and I’ve never seen the need or desire to diverge, or flow with the times. Which of course makes me a bit boring and predictable. 

7 – Where are your leather bags from, in the pictures?

The small carry-all – and I like small bags because I hate to stuff my pockets and ruin the lines of a garment – is an old Ghurka bag, #191 (called the “O’Rourke”). I recommend it, if you still find one.

8 – What brand of glasses do you wear?

The frames I’ve worn for the past thirty years and more are the Anglo-American Optical Company’s “Model 406”. I think they make me look somewhat urbane and literary. 

G. Bruce Boyer photographed by Rose Callahan in NYC on Dec 9, 2011

 

Thanks to Rose for the pictures

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Nicolas Stromback

Truly a great inspiration.

Simon, a question relating to recent posts about the perfect sock. I recently acquired my fist pair of knee-length socks from Bresciani, a nice green wool-blend. Having gotten used to wearing them I have noticed a particular issue that I find hard to work around, which is the fact the any pair of trousers I put on, they seem to get stuck on the sock, creating a must undesirable dent around the knee area. So every time I have been sitting down, I have to spend some time correcting the trousers. Have you experienced anything similiar?

Nicolas Stromback

Have you found any particular material of sock less apt to produce this effect? I havent tried silk or silk-blends for instance. Wool or cashmere seem to have to most friction.

Matt S

I love the gauntlet cuffs on his first suit.

DE

Bruce is definitely an inspiration. If you get the chance Simon, could you ask Bruce about his shoes? I find American shoes from makers like Alden (and even some Church’s obviously made for the US market) disappointingly wide and inelegant (often shaped a bit like a bath tub!) – however, I think haute French makers like Corthay (and others) too defined and almost feminine in their lines. Bruce seems to be prefer suede (as do I) and is sporting an elegant but not over intricate loafer in the second photo. I’d love to know where they’re from – if it’s possible to ask him?

John E.

You amaze me. All the leading brands are available with a choice of width fittings in the USA. In Britain everything including Crockett or Church’s is F. I stopped buying shoes in the UK 30 years ago for this reason.

John E.

Not my experience for over 3o years Simon. And incidentally I never mentioned EG which I would regard as a price point or two above Church’s or Crockett. I’m an American size 11 C fitting. Always able to get them off the shelf at the Church’s stores on Madison or the one they used to have in SF. Ditto Alden. Never in the UK. Admittedly the last time I tested the proposition was about 10 years ago when I forget to pack my patent evening shoes so I have a size 10.5 (UK) F fitting pair hiding in my closet somewhere amongst the roughly 40 pairs of either 10.5 UK or 11 US C fitting Church’s shoes (okay I have a fetish!). I’ll test it again this summer just for kicks.

John E.

Thanks for info Simon. I’ll give it a try. Crockett has a nice suede cap toe brogue.

John E.

Simon that was precisely my original point. They only offer wide fittings off the shelf whereas I’m a C.

John E.

They may well have Simon but in my experience (admittedly a little rusty) but they don’t have them available off the shelf in the stores. As I said I’ll test the proposition in their Jermyn Street store when I’m London this summer. Ditto Church’s.

twitter_EugeneFreedman

Outstanding. If you can do more interviews with style icons that would be great. I like the articles about pieces of tailoring, but this type of interview raises things to another level in my view. It provides perspective.

Freddy

Nicolas.
I had this problem a few ago. Like you when starting to wear long socks. So between me and Mark at Crowe’s the problem disappeared!!! Magic!

BespokeNYC

Nicholas, I had the exact same issue and, having been unable to find a decent solution, have pretty much given up on long socks – I’d rather risk the occasional display of hairy leg than the annoyance of hoisting my trouser legs down every time I stand up.

Freddy, maybe I’m being slow as it’s a Friday but I’m not sure I understand your reference. Any practical advice much appreciated!

twitter_NicoStromback

Yes, I am at that point now too. I am not interested in wearing my trousers wider to make up for this issue, and frankly, I get up and down over a hundred times a day, so yes its getting a bit annoying here too! Have been looking into finding Bresciani socks that are slightly shorter. It seems they are available at Italiandipity.com

John E.

It’s static electricity and usually happens in the winter when the air is dryer. Wider trouser legs don’t solve the problem (being older I favor a traditional cut). There are anti static sprays around that women have been using for years. You might want to try those.

John E.

Simon. It does on my wider trousers but I live in CT where winters are particularly cold and dry. Tonight it’s going to be Zero F.

twitter_NicoStromback

Freddy, this Mark at Crowes you are talking about, would you please share more as to what you are referring to? Thanks!

twitter_NicoStromback

Ah ok, got it. But then again, any tailor should be able to look into this I assume. When on this topic, I am going to London beginning of March to look into getting my first bespoke/MTM suit. From your advice and my preference I’m thinking of visiting Timothy Everest, Graham Browne and Choppin & Lodge. Also because they are in roughly the same price range (TE for MTM though). Any others you might recommend?

twitter_NicoStromback

Which of the three is best for a first timer?

twitter_NicoStromback

Great. Thanks Simon!

Jerrell

Thanks for this Simon. Two things:
1. To echo Bruce on point 3 – I live out west in the U.S. – tech city – and it is tough out here for a lover of suits. Practically everyday one gets asked, “Why are you dressed up?” I can understand why men of smaller confidence would give in to a herd mentality, dressing with the group.
2. Do you plan on devoting a post to the Cifonelli FW 2015 show? I would love to see your critique on some of the outfits.

Jerrell

And to just add a further point to my post –

Maybe this is slightly controversial, but I think if more places (restaurants, theatre) had a dress code – business casual, or men must wear a jacket – then societal standards of dress would improve. At the least it would communicate to men that jeans and a t-shirt don’t work for every occasion (or where I live, sports jerseys!), and the same for women regarding yoga pants.

twitter_blairinvestment

Jerrell are you in Seattle like me, or the Bay Area, because I get the same comment at least once a week and that’s usually just because I have a blazer on!

Jerrell

I’m in Seattle.

At times I wonder – subtracting the men in men’s stores, am I one of 10 or so men wearing a suit and tie? Is the number higher or lower?

Mac

Simon, Bruce wears quality clothes and shows his respect for them. In our modern, disposable culture, little care is taken with regard to basic fit and general quality. Alterations can cost as much as the garment that was originally purchased.

Low prices are to blame. Quality must inevitably suffer to maintain profits. The clothes, being cheap to buy and of low quality, become disposable to those who buy them. It’s an endless cycle!

Like cheap booze and cigarettes, maybe governments ought to put a tax on the low-quality rags that pass for clothing today. People might then actually think before they buy.

Frank

Thanks, Bruce and Simon! Again some interesting observations are made, e.g. about taste in the 70s etc. I did like miniskirts on women though…

J

I’m going to be a contrarian now and say I’m a bit dissapointed with Bruce’s “declined to comment”.

I find this a little disheartening.

Bruce would, presumably, be the first to admit fine menswear is not like womenswear as a cultural interest. So most men would not feel confident in going up to another man and saying “you look great, where did you get your suit” in the same way a woman might, and that be seen as an unremarkable thing to say to another woman.

So most men who *want* to dress better but don’t necessarily know where to start will look to sites like this or styleforum whatever; therefore it’s largely done in private (unless you have a brother, dad, best friend with the same tastes). Most won’t have today.

So I find it disheartening that a style writer such as Bruce would “decline to comment” on where he gets his stuff made as ultimately that seems a little ungenerous to say the least. Not that there was anything that I particularly needed to have a reference point for, but it seems odd to decline your requests Simon.

Can’t have it both ways where you decry the state of modern dress, but then take such a stance.

Sorry Bruce, not impressed I’m afraid.

Mac

J, no doubt our total disagreement is entertaining to Simon! (He’s wisely saying nothing!).

Okay, imagine you’re sitting in your tailor’s, drinking tea and discussing which shade of navy for your new 3-pce suit. Life is beautiful. Then, Wayne Rooney walks in. Or Dizzy Rascal. Or George Galloway. With a film crew. It’s never quite the same again!

A tailor’s is like a club. You don’t want any Tom, Dick and Harry going there. It’s where YOU go.

You don’t need to know who Bruce uses. The beauty is that he can take the credit for his style. No-one else. We can admire his style, rather than marvel at the maker. His tailor is his little secret. His close friends may know. Discretion is at the heart of bespoke.

Find a tailor who shares your tastes. Ask his advice. It’s a collaboration. Let the tailor know what you want. Listen to his advice. Ultimately, the client gets the suit that they ask for.

Avoid Style Forum like the plague.

Personally, I avoid Style Forum like the plague. It’s full of cretins. Permanent Style is very different.

Mac

Simon, I like that Bruce declined to name names. It always used to be said that a gentleman should never divulge the name of his tailor (unless he knew you well and was happy to introduce you).

Try telling that to the Instagram and Twitter brigade!

James

Mac – it’s a rather good thing for you (as a regular commentator) that Simon doesn’t sharr your /Bruce’s view – the whole blog is largely about comparing and getting to know Simon’s different tailors – including via Twitter and Instagram!

I have to say, I’m with J on this one – I think it’s a strange thing for someone in Bruce’s place (having agreed to be featured) not to name his tailors. He seems to say to the widest possible audience, ” I dress well, and I know you think I dress well too, and I deplore how few people dress as well as me…. But you’ll have to guess as to how to do it, as I wont tell you”

J

Hi Mac

I was indeed intending to be a little provocative, or at least thought provoking!

To me, it’s different than you or I as civilians who might take that stance – I know Bruce’s name, but I am not a follower of his work, but I know he is a fashion journalist of sorts. This is what makes his stance very odd I felt. He is *not* a random man in a pub (who of course would be well within his rights to tell us to ‘Sod off’ were we to ask about his makers) he is someone who is decrying the modern worlds taste levels. Ergo, if people ask for Bruce’s advice as an ‘authority on style’:

“Love your shirt Bruce, can you tell me who made it?”

Well… Fill in your own adjective when someone declines such an innocent question. If Simon did the same, well this wouldn’t be much of a website.

Prince Charles is shouting from the rooftops about his various tailors and craftsmen he orders from. I’ll take my lead from him as a gentleman regarding these matters – Goodness, if an heir to the British throne is happy to tell people he orders bespoke at Savile Row or such and such a shoemaker forim Northampton, it does seem perhaps a little grand of a fashion writer to ‘decline’ to comment when the whole nature of the piece was about what made Bruce stylish.

Ironically, I wasn’t even one of the people who asked that question on the shirt or whatever it was.

I’ve now considered all opposing viewpoints on this and I am still not impressed I’m afraid Bruce!

Mac

Hi James, I think I understand you now! It’s a very fair point to make. I still think that Bruce can write about the subject of style and retain some privacy for himself. Everyone has a right to that.

Regarding HRH Prince Charles, he is in a position to bang the drum for British business. His position demands it. Otherwise, I don’t think he’d be quite so vocal.

The cutters in Savile Row used to politely decline interviews. A lot of it was to do with the kind of clients they were making for. Old money, politicians, etc. Their sort didn’t like people knowing their business. Publicity can attract the wrong type of people. Negative association can do much damage just as a Royal Warrant brings kudos.

A tailoring firm spends maybe 3 months making a suit (more for a multiple order) for a complete stranger who has only paid half the price. It’s a risk. Some finished suits are never collected and are never paid for. There are a lot of wanabees and a lot of dishonest types out there. It pays to be careful. That’s one of the reasons for that sort of discretion.

Mac

Hi James, this debate shows how alien the concept is to some people! The thing is, your tailor cannot make you stylish. You have to look after yourself. There are some spectacularly unstylish men who go to the best tailors. I’ve seen them. Personally, I’d say just admire Bruce’s taste and take inspiration from it. If you find your own tailor, the world’s your oyster! Simon’s blog alone has endless examples for you to peruse.

Peter K

Now that I have re-read this interview and thought about it I agree that Bruce Boyer should reconsider not naming his tailors and shirt makers. It is all fine and good to deplore the lack of craftmanship and respect for quality. But to then decline to name (and publicly celebrate) the craftspeople you have grown to favour is passing up an opportunity to promote better clothing and craft.

Harper Bartlett

If there’s ever a Part 3, I’m still interested in what “discreet wristwatch” Mr. Boyer prefers.

Freddy

Nicolas . Sure. He just seemed to tailor them over my lower leg. Why not get in touch? – hope you won’t mind Simon. We are all here to help each other. !
F

twitter_NicoStromback

I will check it out when I get to London. Thank you!

Stephen

The way question 1 is phrased suggests that Bruce is declining to mention the shirt makers, not the tailors, though Simon can perhaps clarify this. Bruce may not have mentioned his favourite tailors but he historically has; Cheo and Logsdail (separate tailors) in NY, Anderson and Sheppard and Steven Hitchcock in London and Rubinacci in Naples. Bruce points to Italy for the best of RTW; Brioni, Kiton, Castangia and Corneliani. Perhaps he was wishing to focus on elements of style, particularly the development of personal style, rather than commerce but I don’t think it hurts to mention his choices. Interestingly they also reflect some of Simon’s own historic commissions (Steven Hitchcock et al).

John E.

Bruce’s comments about bespoke are very relevant. Quite honestly it’s possible to have too many clothes. I have too many suits in my closet. 17 (admittedly accumulated over a long time and none have dated) but really you only need about six or seven. Ditto with sportcoats. Probably four is enough (9!), a couple of blazers, and a couple of lightweight summer coats. One can go crazy on shirts (Gatsby has nothing on me) but I’m never going to wear them all and ditto ties although again Pareto tends to apply. Of course none of us know this when we start out.

Alex Hassan

I love Ghurka bags and have a good number of them for different use. I’ve converted my business bags, travel bags and personal bags and accessories to Ghurka. O’Rourke is one of my favorite Ghurka bags because of the look, the functionality and the fact I could use it as crossbody or backpack. Ghurka has one in their vintage section for sale. Here is the link:
http://www.ghurka.com/vintage-orourke-v24

Old Bostonian

“Urbane and literary”: That’s our man, Professor Boyer!