Me, outside the blog: Reader questions

Wednesday, September 27th 2017
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In this next instalment of posts responding to reader questions, I will try to answer those about my life outside Permanent Style.

Now, some readers have asked why I answer these questions, and indeed why readers put them. It is called a private life for a reason, after all.

But while there are limits, I do understand why readers find my it interesting. I’m interested in what music my friends in the industry listen to, for example. And in particular, I’m interested in anything that might overlap with menswear - such as taste in art or interior decoration.

On the other hand, I also understand if you just don't care. 

Jamie: What are some of your favourite cultural diversions (museums, books, plays, music, films)?

As a general point, I’d say the arts are very important to me - in particular literature, film and art.

It’s actually an interesting experiment when you first have children, to see which of these hobbies you still find time for, when your free time is so drastically reduced.

I was a big music fan when I was a teenager, and I thought that would be the thing that I’d always find time for. But literature and film turned out to be more important.

Adam: What are your top 3 books and why?

Midnight’s Children: Salman Rushdie. Had a big impact on me when I read it years ago, and I’ve read it three times now. I love the way Rushdie plays with language.

EM Forster: A Room with a View. At its best, I believe literature contains more wisdom about the human experience than any other art, or science. Forster is full of it.

The Children’s Book: AS Byatt. Great writing, great story, and very evocative of progressive movements, in particular Arts & Crafts.

Anonymous: What books/newspapers/magazines etc. do you read regularly?

Almost nothing on menswear. If I do, perhaps The Big Black Book (US version) or The Rake.

Elsewhere, the Financial Times Weekend (best writing, best magazine), and either the New York Review of Books or London Review of Books.

The former is better edited, but is too often full of US politics. Both are great as a way to read non-fiction without actually having to read the book.

BespokeNYC: I’d be interested to know other blogs, websites, publications you read that aren’t about the field of menswear.

Other than the above, I listen to Radio 4 (particularly Today, Start the Week and In Our Time), read the BBC site for news and cricket scores, and subscribe to the following podcasts: 99% Invisible, The Infinite Monkey Cage, No Such Thing as a Fish, and The Comedian’s Comedian.

Anonymous: a cuppa tea or a cuppa coffee??

Coffee. I’m a bit of a coffee addict, though I prefer dark-roasted Italian coffee to the more modern (and almost ubiquitous now in London) light-roasts.

Dino: What car illustrates your style best?

I’m afraid I know nothing about cars. We don’t own one (partly out of cost and convenience, partly out of principle) and I’ve been into cars particularly. I’d always rather cycle. Unfortunately it’s not very conducive to fine clothing - there’s always a tension there.

Neil: Do you keep and consume media on a single smartphone / tablet – or are you traditional in that respect and carry individual / hard copy pieces in the wonderful bags you own?

Odd as it might be for someone that makes a living through digital media, I really dislike digital devices. I never want a Kindle - books are just too beautiful and pleasurable to use.

I have to use my phone (Google Pixel) to monitor emails, publish comments, use Instagram, but I do it as little as possible.

I’ll always have a hard copy of something with me to read, such as the NYRB, and I tend to keep notes in notebooks. But then I also use Pinterest and Evernote to categorise and organise things.

Anonymous: Why do some of your readers assume you are some kind of lifestyle guru? You have clearly gathered a lot of knowledge about the world of bespoke and artisan craft, but how would that lead someone to ask you for advice on skincare?

Well, I guess because there’s no reason my approach to writing about clothing - which tends to be more analytical and objective - couldn’t be applied to other areas like grooming.

But I tend to avoid doing so, only occasionally writing about things like perfume or electronics, because I don’t want the site to lose focus. And because it would take a lot of work to get to the same level of knowledge in those other areas.

Zubair: What’s your favorite piece of music or favorite artist in that category?

As a kid I was a heavy metal fan (Iron Maiden, Machine Head, Metallica) and as an adult more into blues and jazz. Most of the music I listen to today is either modern versions of blues music, or old jazz.

Current examples of stuff I’m listening to are Dan Auerbach, Wilco and Kyuss. And Wynton Marsalis.

Gary: How would you describe your interior decoration preferences? And in the same vein what artists do you like?

I’m a big fan of decorative arts as a whole: when I used to backpack around I’d spend a lot of time sketching church windows, ironwork, textiles. That’s still something I love and study when I can.

So my tastes in interior decoration tend towards the antique and the patterned - heavy dark-wood furniture, Persian carpets, William Morris.

Modern art, particularly abstract expressionism, was a big love of mine at school, and I regularly visit the Tate and National Gallery here in London. Favourite artists might be Kandinsky, Toulouse-Lautrec and Rothko.

Jeff: what do you do to keep fit/stay the same size; what, if anything has changed for you in this area since you started the blog?

I’m fortunate in that I’ve always been sporty, and particularly liked stamina sports - running and cycling.

I get pretty jittery if I don’t exercise regularly. Commuting every day by bike helps a lot, and I usually run to work once a week if I can.

That helps keep the same size for clothing, though I do vary a bit if I’m training for a competition or something else in particular.

Stuart: How does your family deal with an ever expanding wardrobe and your (other than the family's) storage requirements?

We moved house recently and now have an attic that’s great for storage, but it’s still an issue. They are very tolerant, but it’s certainly helped a lot as the blog has become a source of income in recent years, rather than just a hobby.

Below you can see the main wardrobe, which has double-level hanging, ties on rails, and shirts and knitwear folded on the shelves. I generally fold my shirts because I have to carry them folded to work on my bike anyway. If I'm careful they don't wrinkle much. 

Dino: We only have so much time and money and you seem to be devoting a fair amount of both to tailored clothing. Do you think this is being done against another domain of your life? What other part of your life is getting less commitment because of the attention to tailored clothing?

Good question. I clearly find time for all the other things mentioned above - books, film, art, family. But there are a few things that are perhaps on the same level of importance as clothing which I ignore - cooking in particular, which I’ve never been good at, and general practical things like DIY.

This post is relevant here if you haven’t read it: ‘Clothing is not important

Gary: As a father and husband, how do you find a proper work/life balance as your role in the industry becomes more valuable and desired? How do you budget your time and maintain a level of sanity?

I’m not great at this to be honest, often finding myself thinking about work in the evenings or at the weekend.

But having children helps a lot. If I’m with them I feel too guilty if I’m working or on my phone. So they make me relax, and I love being with them.

Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

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NK

Simon, I’m amazed at how compact your main wardrobe is! Do you declutter/retire items periodically or tend to keep most of your tailoring over the years?

Also, do you store jackets/coats in a dust bag? What are your thoughts on this generally?

john

Hello Simon
I found this really interesting and in some ways talking about your outside life explains to some extent the choices you make in clothing. For instance your description of interior design (to me at least) explained your suiting to a T. Plain block colours – often quite conservative, enlivened by dashes of colour.
I have yet to meet a listener of In Our Time that I didn’t like.
Second point I note you hang your silk ties up. I was always told to roll your ties and put them in a drawer to prevent them stretching; which I do. However this does make them prone to creasing and I would far rather hang them up. So, is it OK to hang up silk ties that you don’t use on a regular basis, in your opinion?
Final point about articles like this is you will inevitably get people suggesting things to you on the line of if you like X you must try Y. Let me be the first! If you like Dan Auerbach you really should check out David Allen Coe – especially his early stuff and if you can get it on vinyl so much the better.

Anonymous

Basic rule.

Roll the ties until they have released their creases, then hang them, where they will not get any more.

Simple.

Nick Amis

If you like this sort of music, check out Courtney Barnett, Kurt Vile and Mac DeMarco – though you probably already have!

P.D. Williams

Kyuss! That’s the last band I thought I’d see mentioned on Permanent Style. In that vein, I really enjoyed Elder’s album, ‘Lore’, released a couple of years ago.

Nick Amis

I think Machine Head (who I also loved in about 1995!) were probably even less expected to be mentioned on PS!

Dan

I thought the same, but very pleased to hear that Simon enjoys his metal. Good tastes in all areas it seems! Been listening to a lot of Kyuss lately; great band.

Matt

Well, I never thought I’d see Kyuss referenced on Permanent Style!?

I hope you continue catering to the small but select market of readers who manage to combine a love of tailoring with a passion for stoner rock!

ethan

Thank you simon very very interesting. concidering you are quite into both film an literature what are your top 3 films !

Martin

Yes, it would only be fair to list some of your favorite films. By the way if you should come to Vienna again I recommend visiting the Austrian Film Museum, the best cinma I have ever seen (compared to it the BFI in London is like a multiplex). It is about a hundret meters from Jungmann&Söhne).

Peter K

Thanks for sharing some details of your private life Simon. I like the eclectic taste in music you show. You may find your kids introduce you to new music as well. Mine have helped me develop an appreciation for hip-hop!

Oskar

This may be a question already asked, or one for another round of answers (so don’t publish if not right here): did you cut back on your day job to accommodate your extensive blog-related activities & travel (Japan, Italy etc.), or can you neatly combine destinations for the two hats you’re wearing? I assume your family’s understanding would be stretched if you devoted your entire day job’s holidays just to blog travel. However you do it.. keep it up!

James

Simon, I hope you don’t mind a practical question. Do you have your trousers made to a different length for certain shoes? I find that the best length for lace up shoes is too short for loafers and, conversely, the best length for loafers is a little too long with lace ups.

Tuomas

Yes Dan Auerbach is great! We seem to have a similiar taste in blues music. Interesting post overall, nice to read as always.

Anonymous

Are you talking about his solo stuff or Black Keys?

Anonymous

Since you probably don’t wash your knitwear after each time you’ve worn it, do you fold your sweaters and put them back in the closet until the next time?

KV

Hello Simon,
If you don’t mind me asking, what do you wear for cycling? Lycra?
I normally cycle to work on a Dutch style bicycle (upright) at relatively leisurely pace. It is only about 4 kilometres. Initially I didn’t want to change clothes but after having destroyed some suit pants, I now put jeans and change in the office. Still, I would prefer if I could avoid changing.

John

Hi Simon,
An interesting post on you within your world!
Now that I’ve got a glimse at the kind of stuff you read, I better understand why I’ve become a PS reader! There’re connections somewhere. I also know at least one of your readers who might well be reading at least few of the same things.
And what about the LRB?
John

Rune Teigland

Hi,
You seem to be a very keen cyclist.
I hope you watched the UCI world championship in road cycling last week.
It took place in Bergen, Norway, were I live.
What a celebration to cycling that was!

Tim Fleming

Ahhh… the arts! Life would be dull without them. If you like the sound of jazz guitar, I’d recommend a genre that has become a favorite of mine: gypsy jazz. Biréli Lagrène is an excellent example and his “Lullaby of Vitdland” and “Made in France” are worth hearing, easily found on YouTube.

Thanks for sharing and I appreciate the depth you’re giving to these interview questions.

On another note, I don’t remember seeing ads places in the middle of your articles, being interjected into the text. Is this new?

Tim Fleming

Ha! Too consumed with your writing to notice some of those I guess.

The typo from my earlier comment should have read “Lullaby of Birdland”

Naush

Thanks for sharing Simon. Any tips for transporting tailored clothing to the office when running or cycling to work. Do you use hangers, or any specialist luggage?

Rune Teigland

Dear Simon,

Could you give us some advice on folding?

Samuel

If I remember right, Simon, I read that you studied PPE in university.

I’d be very curious to hear more of your reflections on the luxury good industry, class, inequality, and so on.

I should add that while I am a moral philosopher, I am in no way opposed to pleasure, and unlike the most extreme moralists at Oxford I don’t think we are obligated to give all of our money to charity. (Though giving some is a good idea.)

Shem

hey simon, I have recently become a father and am now realizing that I take a very different approach to clothing and what I wear. While I use to wear shirts and sportscoats while on holidays abroad, I now gravitate towards workwear for their functionality (mostly cheap T-shirts and army chinos) and also to protect my delicate sportscoats from my son’s drool and abrasion when carrying him. I’m wondering if you have such experiences and if you have any recommendations for nice workwear (durable and hardy) type outerwear that can be worn in lieu of a sportscoat?

Damien

Hi, I am Damien my sister directed me to your blog couple of months back. I was in the process of having a MTM suit done for my wedding. Anyways, long story short, I like your blog, full of information (although not very mobile friendly…).

So my question is: I notice that the buttons on my suit jacket become loose. Now being left handed, I think I might close and open my suit in the wrong way. Should I invert the side of the button? From the traditional right to the left side?

I read that it was generally made for women and not men. Is that true? Anyways, will it be more comfortable having the buttons on the other side?

Thank you very much for the blog and pictures. And sorry for the long message.

Regards,
Damien

Anonymous

I particularly enjoyed this post at the time and was wondering if you would consider and update covering current interest etc outside of the normal content on this site?

I was also wondering what you would consider a reasonable amount to spend in art? Have you made any significant purchases? I always seem to prioritize large spending on art over clothing subconsciously

Anonymous

Both parent hood and general aesthetics would make a great post. I’d be very interested to read both.

I would recommend an art investment one day if you have not indulged already. Very fulfilling thing to purchase and lasts a life time

Anonymous

How about a quick update on books? Particularly timely given current circumstances…

Tom

Going back to some older articles because i really enjoyed your books recommendations. Do you happen to have favourite albums among the many bands you are mentionning?
Kind regards