Giving clothes a new lease of life: The Valet, Real McCoy’s, Cleverley
If you love clothes, it’s not easy to resist the call of a new season. As much as you know the value of what you own, and want to wear it forever, shiny new things are tempting.
The best defence, I find, is to invest time and energy in your existing wardrobe. Giving shoes a good cream and polish, for example, often reminds me how much I love them - and starts me thinking of new ways to wear them.
Another approach is to change and alter things that have been nagging you, perhaps stopping you wearing them altogether. This past weekend I replaced the buttons on an old Valstar jacket with matte horn ones, for example, which I much prefer.
Of course, as with polishing, these are things you should do anyway, regardless of whether you’re fighting the lure of retail. But it’s good to know they have that added bonus.
Below are three things in that vein I did recently. Hopefully they might inspire some readers to do the same, and give a new life to beautiful clothing.
1 Patinating Foster & Son shoes
Readers who read my original review on these bespoke oxfords will be familiar with the issues they had.
Chief among them was the leather - its polish and its colour. The shoes were over-polished in an attempt to give them a patina, which quickly flaked off when they were worn.
I dealt with that myself, but the result was a flat, matte brown that meant I tended not to wear them, picking something with a nicer colour - even if it was not bespoke (such as my Paolo Scafora oxfords).
So I decided to take them to PJ at The Valet (previously 'The Jaunty Flaneur', who had done a great job on shoes for me in the past. He had darkened and given life to a pair of Edward Green Dovers, and cleaned an old pair of white bucks.
I asked PJ to turn these Foster shoes from brown to black (I only have one other pair of black bespoke shoes), with the subtlest of colour variation. Perhaps a little fading or antiquing, and largely in the back of the shoe.
The result was superb. A brilliant deep black, with a rust-like spottiness in areas at the back that only comes out in sunlight - and then only at a particular angle. They look 30 years’ old.
What most impressed me was that PJ took my suggestions so well, even though it meant the result would barely show off the intricacy of his work. Indeed, he said he found it fascinating creating something that subtle - adding textured colour and then washing black layers over the top.
Patina services cost £145. the-valet.com
2 Altering a Real McCoy’s T-shirt
One of the aspects I like most about workwear is the heavier, often circularly knitted T-shirts. They wear in wonderfully, and feel better worn on their own than thinner cottons really designed to be underwear.
The only issue with the technique is that the tees can’t have much shape. The workwear aesthetic is already quite boxy, and the lack of side seams makes the fit even squarer.
I’ve always struggled to find good slim-fit T-shirts (see Son of a Tailor here; my current favourite is Japanese brand Iron Heart, but they sell out quickly). So I thought I’d see if a local tailor could add shape to a Real McCoy’s one.
I used a lovely local outfit called Otherwise in Peckham, run by an old West Indian couple who worked in the rag trade for decades. They took on the job and charged £25.
I was very pleased with the result. Their experience even meant they gave good advice on slimming it slightly more in the waist than the hips, so it wouldn’t sit up too high.
I had measured a T-shirt I liked to get the right proportions, and they executed perfectly. The McCoy’s one is now my favourite tee.
There is a list of other places recommended for alterations and repair here. Do also read readers’ comments and recommendations
3 Stretching Cleverleys
These dark-brown oxfords were the first ever pair of bespoke shoes I had made - nine years ago.
They’ve served me well, and I particularly liked the elongated last shape of the Anthony Cleverley design. (Though probably made a mistake in using that same shape for my monk straps.)
However, the fit was good without being perfect. They were always a tiny bit tight around my little toe. I never thought this was a big problem, until I realised I wasn’t wearing them because of it.
It might seem silly to only change that after nine years, but I had been very pleased with them in every other respect.
It is, perhaps, a reflection of how one’s understanding and experience of bespoke changes over the years. It can take a better-fitting pair to realise how your first pair could be improved. And then an external prompt to get on and do it.
I might also, nine years later, have become less patient with anything remotely uncomfortable. Becoming old, basically.
So, these were taken in to see George Jr and Adam, and we decided to put them back on the last with some extra leather around the toes.
Two weeks later, the results were great. If you knew what you were looking for, you might notice a slight swelling outwards at the point they have been stretched, but it's a tiny difference and has made a huge one to how they feel.
Stretching at Cleverley is free, part of the cost of bespoke. Similar services like reattaching a lining that is coming away would also be free. Bigger jobs such as resoling are not.
Patination photography by Mitchell Vito Helson @mitchellvito
In your first review of the Foster & Sons shoes you mentioned you ended up taking them to a a patina artist to fix the issues – was that a different visit to the one reviewed here? As in, have they been re-patinated twice now?
Yes, sorry I should have said, that was really just to sort out the flaking, but the colour was still rather flat
Excellent post, thank you. Where are you getting horn buttons those days, given Button Queen being online only store?
Bernstein & Banleys
Interesting that 2 of the items mentioned are shoes.
Which is why I think it’s ‘easier’ to get men to spend more on shoes then bespoke clothing .
They will probably last longer and give more value .
Is their anything that can be done for tired looking trousers and shirts ? Any kind of dyeing to rejuvenate colour fade ?
Yes I know what you mean. I do think there’s a similar case to be made with a jacket in a robust material though, like a tweed.
Good question on recolouring. I don’t know to be honest, I’d assume it would be hard to do well, but interested if anyone has ever tried it
A friend of mine only wears black, and he periodically has his t-shirts/jeans redyed at a place in LA. Obviously that doesn’t work for most other clothing, but still an interesting practice.
I have tried to recolour some dark blue items: a chino, a shirt and a cotton jacket that were all quite faded and I was hardly wearing anymore because of that. The result was not that great. The colouring worked fine and the clothes looked markedly better (although not like new as the cloth had aged and that didn’t go away of course) but only for a few washings. At the latest after half a year they looked as before, so the procedure would have to be repeated frequently.
Nooooo… Now PJ will be too busy 🙁
Seriously though, he’s a star and deserves all the attention he gets.
I have just collected my re-patinated bespoke Cleverley shoes from Pj and have to say I am delighted with the result. He has done a fantastic job and has perfectly matched the ‘new’ shoe colour to the rather special bridge leather, which really makes the shoe stand out. It has been a pleasure to deal with him throughout this process; moreover, he is both very professional and rather charming in the way he deals with his customers. He is a true artisan and a rare talent; I recommend his services without reservation.
Were the Cleverleys shot after the alterations, because I cannot spot any hint of it.
Yes they were. You’d only see it if you were looking at them from above though – looking along the edge of the upper above the welt
Good article. By coincidence I left some old double monks with PJ to patinate last week. I also gave him my Lodger ‘tennis shoes’ (which I recall you own too Simon) to be resoled in a light brown Microcell. They fit well but I wasn’t wearing them and realised it was due to the stiff leather sole.
Might be worth linking in your article to your previous piece about the company that revamps tired cashmere.
Oh yes, good point. Love Cashmere are great – they and all other repairers are in this piece:
I had a pair of black cap-toe oxfords stretched after they became too tight. Now I can keep wearing this pair of shoes for another 20 years.
I’ve also had gussets added to shirts that became to tight.
No success with darning socks though. I can’t seem to master that skill.
It’s amazing how replacing the buttons can make an item of clothing feel brand new; I recently had a nine year old sport coat cleaned and had the chipped mother-of-pearl buttons replaced with ones that match the dark blue colour of the cloth, it now wears in a totally different way.
Nice piece Simon, been thinking along these lines myself recently. Would you ever ask an alterations tailor to shorten a jacket? Only by quarter/half an inch.
No I wouldn’t to be honest. It would involve too much compromise in the proportions elsewhere
Jackets could undergo even drastic changes! It’s absolutely unbelievable what some alteration tailors could achieve.
Even shoes, to some extent, can be alterated in a more substantial way than the kind of tiny stretch mentioned in this post. In the now defunct blog A Suitable Wardrobe, there was the story of a pair of shoes brought to the Antony Delos’s atelier in Paris. The result was absolutely stunning!
I think you would be fine shortening a jacket by a quarter/half inch. How long is it overall and how tall are you Toby?
Are you assuming the shortening is just from the bottom, so the buttonholes stay in the same place and the pockets too? If so I wouldn’t alter half an inch personally. The proportions will change too much, as will the angle of the opening of the quarters
Re. Colouration of faded garments. Suggest home dyeing, with in-machine dyes. They are a vast improvement on the method of ‘leave and soak’ dyes. The colour is usually true and will rejuvenate older garments. Two caveats: if the garment is very variable and patchy before dyeing it may take a repeat session to even out colour – this may lead to a darker overall colour than initially intended. A way around this, though more intensive, is to bleach the garment first (to remove all colour), thoroughly clean (to ensure bleach is removed), then dye. Second caveat is cloth choice: dyes work best with cotton, linen and wool (natural fibres) and not at all well with synthetics. Best to initially choose some older garments to try first to ensure the outcome is in line with expectations.
Thanks a lot. What clothes have you tried this successfully in?
One vital point to note while dyeing clothes at home is to ensure that you run your washing machine on empty a couple of times after putting anything dyed/bleached in there. I recently tried brown Dylon on an old pair of cream linen trousers I’d stopped wearing, and when they came out an unappealing biscuit shade I bleached out the dye and tried again with green (again with disappointing results). Unfortunately a little of the brown dye remained in the drum, and the following day I managed to taint a nice blue dressing gown and my favourite grey Land’s End polo. Pain in the ass.
Would you mind clarifying my understanding of shoe patina?
As I understand it, patina—and I’m talking artificial patina here as opposed to what develops naturally over time—is the use of leather dyes to create variation in a shoe’s color, often to resemble the natural development of different colors over long periods of wear. Leather uppers on shoes without patina, the word used in this sense, are usually also dyed, but in a single color. So while the dyes on most shoes, with or without artificial patina, fade over time, there’s greater concern over the fading of shoes with patina because, as the wearer repolishes these shoes over time, the coloration looks more unnatural than shoes without initial patina.
Does that sound about right?
The descriptions are correct, yes, but whether the shoe fades after a patina as you describe depends a lot on how much dye has been used, in how many layers, and so on. It can be basically completely colour fast and not fade, but it takes more dye and that’s easier when creating darker colours, as here
A great article that SHOULD be much expanded on.
Any self respecting flaneur should be ignoring the lure of the new at all costs.
Send your cashmere and wool sweaters to ‘I love Cashmere’ and they will come back like new. Repaired, cleaned and de-piled (I send my sweaters there every year since reading about them in PS).
Re-launch that old jacket with some beautiful horn buttons. I recently did this with a killer navy blue cashmere jacket that I bought in NYC 14 years ago – it looks fabulous.
These days I buy all my shoes from Joseph Cheaney & Sons. They have fabulous styles. The quality is off the Richter scale. Incredibly comfortable – every bit as good as Lobb’s and much better value PLUS for £150 they will do you a complete refurb when they need repair – they come back as new !
All my outwear of late is from ‘Private White’. Beautiful classic designs, great quality and Manchester manufactured with a lifetime guarantee !
New clothes look rubbish anyway. Buy only selectively and clothes that will look good in 20 years time.
Style forever, fashion never has to be the mantra for any self-respecting flaneur going forward. Avoid crass consumerism. It’s vulgar.
£25 seems expensive to alter a basic t-shirt. My local alterations tailor (in London) charged £15 to add shape to a polo shirt in a similar way.
For heavier t-shirts, I recommend Armor Lux’s plain classics at only £29 from retailers such as End Clothing. IIRC the Real McCoys are over £80. My holiday favourites are Sunspel’s classics which are made in England.
Another interesting article Simon. I’ve said it before and (I’m afraid) I’ll say it again – with regards to fit, bespoke shoes are a very different proposition to bespoke clothing. The scope for alteration post-completion is very limited (unlike bespoke clothing) and neither of the two pairs of bespoke shoes I’ve had made fit me perfectly (one pair tight in the heel, one pair has a roomy toe box). Unless you have the time, patience and funds to work with the same bespoke maker three or four times and refine the last, I would recommend finding a last that suits you at a decent RTW maker like Edward Green. The bonus is that you’ll be able to buy at least three pairs of EGs for every pair of bespoke!
Thanks DE, I do think that’s worth repeating. Particularly as men will often try bespoke tailoring a few times and then decide to try bespoke shoes hoping for something similar
You haven’t looked after your Cleverley’s very well. It looks as though they need a dose of Saphir Renovateur and then some cream and/or wax.
I am always surprised at the way in which shoes and hats can be neglected. Shoes, in particular, are often not taken care of and they are items that many people look at first in an outfit.
It isn’t complicated. Brush before you go out, brush when you come back; occasional application of shoe cream and wax; renovate every few months. Wear your shoes in rotation.
They’re actually in good nick Philip, the photo is pretty poor. But absolutely with you on the routine.
See our video on basic shoe care, if anyone else wants more detail:
Interesting you mention Son of a tailor, i’ve been trying them for some months and the measurements are terribly inconsistent even if the materials and the idea looks very good. I’ve ordered 6 shirts and 5 needed to be remade because they were off by 2 or more cm from the target measurement. Probably the price they offer (56€ initially, 42 if you order 5) makes them skimp (a lot) in quality controls.
That can you suggest to customers who was cheated by artisan ? For example I pay in full for Bestetti shoes 1 year ago. Since then no shoes, no money back , no unswer on e-mail … nothing. As far as I know a lot of people have had trouble with Marco from Bestetti
I would suggest writing your experiences honestly, as you have done here, as a first step.
Then unfortunately it’s a legal step – a local small claims court. Not easy though.
I have the opposite problem. I just bought a beautiful new Loro Piana cream silk shirt reduced from £520 to £145. Instructions always recommend dry clean only. However I’ve successfully washed similar shirts without problems at 30’C. Not this time. Despite carefully hand washing in Woolite and rinsing in cool water. Then rinsing with a small amount of white vinegar, to restore sheen, and rinsing again the silk still needs conditioning to restore drape. I’ve heard that rinsing in hair conditioner might work. Do you have any suggestions.
Best regards A.
No, sorry, not a problem I’ve come across. I guess silks, their weave and their finish, might vary enough for that washing method to not work.
Excellent article and sage advice. My grandfather spent his working life (post war) plying his trade for Lobb in St James’s so I have grown up having this attitude and approach preached to me from a young age. Keep up the good work!
Excellent job on the Foster & Son shoes, and something I’d recommend to anyone with shoes that have fallen out of the rotation. I don’t have the option of going to the professionals here in Ulaanbaatar, but just yesterday I spent a pleasantly monotonous couple of hours with a bottle of acetate and a vintage pair of burgundy Alfred Sargent loafers that have been sitting unworn since I bought them. They were finished to a high mirror shine that looked almost like patent leather, and I’m not a mirror shine kind of person. A little time with a rag, a soft bristled toothbrush and a bottle of nail polish remover was enough to strip away the gaudy finish, and now they’re back in the rotation with a nice matte polish to them.
Interesting, thanks Keith. More impressively, you’re based in Ulaanbaatar? What do you do out there (I backpacked through there years ago)
I’m an author, but I’m here because I married a Mongolian woman and had to toss a coin to decide where to live. The weather’s much nicer here than back in Manchester, so it wasn’t a difficult decision 🙂 Bit of a menswear desert, though.
Interesting. Yes, I can imagine it probably lacks high-end tailors. Any good cashmere access?
Yep, cashmere is Mongolia’s single saving grace, stylewise, and as the largest brands run sales with a regularity that would make DFS blush you can get very high quality knitwear for around the same price you’d pay in the UK for grade C crap from Topman.
Oh good. Pleased it’s not all immediately exported
Interesting you feel Ulan Bator is nicer weather – wise than Manchester…must be the sunshine, as last I checked Ulan bator was something like the coldest or 2nd coldest capital in the World….summers are warm, but winters are incredibly cold…I believe Reykjavik has the coldest average annual temp – the winters are surprisingly mild, but summer is non – existent, and never really gets better than what most places would call early spring….
You’re right, and I should clarify. The summers in Ulaanbaatar are glorious, 20-30C with clear blue skies and mild nights. It’s an idealised version of the English summers you remember from your childhood. Perpetual picnic weather. The winters, on the other hand, are brutal, with temperatures falling as low as -40C and not climbing above zero for four or five months. That’s why we bugger off to Bangkok in October to avoid it 🙂
Much easier with white spirit. It gives the same result, but is far easier to work with than nail polish remover.
Re. dyeing of clothes: in response Simon, a range of cotton items but mainly shirts and polo shirts usually to alter, enhance or change colours for ones that may not be readily available. Keith’s point is correct – always do a run or two to clean through the machine – just a cautionary principle. Worth also noting that stronger colours (read bold) take better than muted colours (greens, browns etc.). Experimenting with ‘denim’ colour to add rejuvenation to faded jeans or over dyeing to enhance shade is also worth trying.
Rejuvenating/re-purposing items you “love” can sometimes feel more rewarding than a new purchase…
One activity I have taken to is giving new life to eye-wear.
I have taken my older frames, and reversed their purpose. Sunglasses become clear “regular” glasses, and vice versa…
The funny odd/thing I have found, is that styles that seem to be in/out for regular/sunglasses reverse, an so something you feel is tired as a pair of sunglasses, look great as a pair of regular eyewear.
If you find a good optometrist, they will also clean the frame, and do little things like install, new “nosepads”, and install fresh mounting, or hinge screws.
My favorite is an old pair (from when I was 12 or so) of Polaroid “Cool-Ray’s” in tortoise shell that I had re-fitted as regular glasses. Everyone compliments them – even baristas’ handing me a coffee!
Hi Simon. Would you consider wearing the Foster & Son shoes now that are black and a bit shiny with a tuxedo? Or what type of shoes do you recommend or wear with black tie attire? I have a bespoke whole-cut calf pair by Stivaleria Savoia that I only wear with tuxedo and was actually made by Signor Ballini expressly for such purpose. I find that the patent leather slippers (and shoes) and those with some sort of coat of arms or initials look cheap. Than you, Fabrizio
Hi Fabrizio. Yes, I would certainly wear them with black tie. Generally a black calf Oxford is perfect, ideally with nothing on the toe – no broguing or a cap – like your wholecuts. I don’t like the plastic of patent, and if wear a slipper it’s plain
Thank you. I totally agree with you on this issue. I just don’t dare to wear tuxedo slippers: but this is just a matter of personal taste and comfort zone. Are your tuxedos all black or do you also own a night blue one?
One black, one brown velvet jacket, one black velvet jacket
Thank you Simon
A question about the first pair, the overpolished ones. I have a pair that suffers from a similar issue but there is no good independent patina service that I know of in my city (Geneva), it’s only offered at a few stores if shoes were bought from them (these were bought in London actually). Is it possible to take this excess polish at home and what procedure would you recommend? I’m far from excellent in this area, mind you, but happy to work hard to get them fully matte and then re-polished as the overpolish bugs me. They are otherwise excellent shoes, by Cheaney.
Hi Stephan. Yes it is possible to take the excess polish off with products, basically similar to or including white spirits. But I would also attempt just using a cream like Renovateur from Saphir, which will take a little off, and wearing them as much as possible so it naturally cracks and scuffs too. Basically, the process of trying to strip the polish is hard to control and I think your chances of doing it successfully are slim.
You could just send them by mail to a service?
Yes, probably a good idea, Simon. May give it a go with the renovateur first. Does it make it any harder/easier that they are black?
Probably harder I think – more likely that dark lines will be left. Sorry
Can darts be let out from a shirt? I recently received a second batch of bespoke shirts which out of the box were a bit tight even though the first batch are perfect. I am not quite sure how this happens as the sleeves are also shorter, the collar tighter and lower on the shirt and around the belly is also tight. (I have lost weight since my first batch). Just want to check whether I can remedy the situation in any way?
The darts might be able to be let out without marking, it will depend on the cloth.
The other things will be hard to fix without remaking the shirt
Wish I had used the Jaunty Flaneur to resole a pair of Foster and Son shoes I recently had done. F&S charged me a £185 and outsources the resole to Tony’s heel bar ( who did a pretty average job) as their new factory could not resole shoes that weren’t on their current last. I was only informed about this after I complained about the quality of the refurbishment. If I had known I would have gone to Tony directly and saved myself £100. very disappointed with Foster and Son’s service and will not be using them for anything else!!
Simon, do you have a recommendation for a quality shoe dyeing service in the United States along the lines of The Jaunty Flaneur?
Try The Elegant Oxford, I have used them for EG and G&G shoes with great results.
Thanks a lot JJ
Thank you sir!
JJ, I’ve tried to contact them today without success. There’s no phone number on the website and the email address appears to be incorrect. Do you have a proper phone number or email address?
After a frustrating and ultimately unsuccessful search for a black suede Derby, I’ve acquired a mid-brown pair which I intended dyeing black. I’ve been in touch with The Valet, but they’re not taking any patina/dyeing work at the moment. Do you have any suggestions for anywhere else that might offer a dyeing service?
Not in the UK I’m afraid, no. There are some patina artists abroad (eg Dandy Shoe Care I think), but I know some people are put off by that or would want to see someone in person.
Ok, thanks, Simon. I’m tempted to try doing it myself, as it’s dyeing rather than patinating, but I’m a little hesitant. Perhaps I’ll wait to see if they open up the service again in the new year.
It’s certainly possible to do it yourself, but I’ve never done so and there will be some risk. I’d wait until they’re open again probably, yes
Why dont you spray them with black renovateur yourself and wear them until you get to patina artist? Or try doing if yourself? Correct me if im wrong, but suede cant be stripped of colour so artist would only use dye on top anyway… and black is easiest. You cant really screw up black dye.
I have seen at-home dye jobs that aren’t great, end up looking a bit patchy. If you’ve done it yourself and have any tips, or links to tutorials, it would be great to share them M. Cheers
Hi Simon, do you know what happened to PJ? He did a fantastic job couple of years ago with my shoes but when I tried contacting him through Januty Flaneur but I dont think he works there anymore…
I don’t I’m afraid, no
To be fair, my best results at changing shoe colour was spraying brown loake kempton with dark brown renovateur. Hence my suggestion. I dyed myself shoes 3 times, once shoes would head to bin, but got a new lease at life, and 2 times i got tan suede on a massive discount.
Old scuffed clarks loafers i turned almost black oxblood (lesson in there, black is easiest). Tan suede trickers adam on a red dainite sole i turned really muted snuff colour (lesson in there, rubber does not look good dyed). Made a great 3 season rain loafer.
Tan suede loake lincoln using the same dye i turned into golden brown colour… love the end result, but now when ill need to resole them soon, im not sure ill want to spend 100£ to resole loafer i got for 20£.
Only first pair i wasnt happy with, black would be fine, but i wanted really dark oxblood, and after turning them almost black and trying to lighten them, they did get patchy..
I can post pictures of end result?
My tips? Dont try any particular colour. If youre after particular shade of colour, leave it to proffesionals. (I cant imagine messing up black). Use lots of moisturiser. Dye seemed to really dry out the leather and suede. Use gloves and cover the work surfaces really well, dye is really hard to wash off the fingers. Probably its just me, but suede seemed easier to do than calf.
What i did with suede was, give it a really big coat of dye, wait overnight to dry. See the end result. If looked patchy, brush properly and give it another coat. Repeat the process. It will darken the shoe more but also after a certain point it wont get darker, and patches will dissapear. In the end, 2-3 coats of renovateur, folloved by invulner. I dont think i needed more than 3 coats of dye.