What is French Ivy?

What is French Ivy?

Monday, May 31st 2021
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By Tony Sylvester

“A few years back, I posted a photo of Paul Weller on my Instagram (above). It was taken in 1984 in his Style Council era, where much to the consternation of the Mod faithful, he was constantly tinkering with his attire - alienating the core fans that stuck rigidly to the tired-but-true Mod-revivalist formula. 

It’s a candid snap of Paul en route to the Band Aid single recording. Hair slicked back, he wears an oversized herringbone DB coat with patch pockets, nonchalantly fastened at the lowest button. Dark selvedge jeans are rolled ankle high to reveal white socks with tassel loafers. A college scarf tossed over one shoulder adds Oxbridge élan.  

I remarked that he was in “full French Ivy”. Based on the subsequent conversations, it seemed the term was not as familiar as I had anticipated. Perhaps it still isn’t, and perhaps, digging into the history would be interesting. 

I first heard the expression ‘French Ivy’ in the early 2000s in a completely different context. 

It was there on the pages of those mysterious Japanese publications like Men’s Club and Free & Easy, with their occasional smatterings of English. Just one of those terms like ‘Dad’s Style’ and ‘Rugged Ivy’ that seemed to make a sort of visual sense, without need for further translation. 

The looks the term accompanied seemed to recall a style of dress I’d witnessed growing up in London, around the same time as the Weller photo above. 

In my first excursions into the West End, alongside the postcard punks and other subcultural icons of the day, one of the more eye-catching looks in Covent Garden and the King’s Road was a relaxed style of dress that consciously mixed the traditional with the Bohemian, the well-worn with the modern. 

The vintage Meccas of Flip and American Classic provided faded 501s and big raglan-sleeved overcoats, which would then be complimented by newer offerings of chunky shoes, argyle socks and polo shirts. The result was a look that created a route from the dominant ‘casual’ terrace-boy styling that had taken over the suburbs of Greater London where I lived, back to the continental cool of 1960s Soho. 

This is the look I see in my mind’s eye when I imagine the old J Simons shop near Drury Lane - with its Bass Weejuns, Paraboots and BD Baggies button-downs, filling the pale-wood fittings next to curated second-hand sack jackets and London Fog raincoats. The combination was never fully explained to me, it just ‘was’. 

With the express aim of demystifying this look, its context, and particularly its Japanese origins, I spoke recently to W David Marx, whose superlative Ametora (Basic Books, 2015) gives a pretty definitive account of the rise of post-war menswear in Japan.

The book’s subtitle ‘How Japan Saved American Style’ demonstrates how big an influence Marx believes Japan had. And on concepts as well as clothes. One of the biggest takeaways from the book for me was how not only clothes, but the terms used to describe them, move and morph once divorced from their original context - creating not only new looks and styles, but even new terminology in turn. 

For example, the word ‘Ivy’ itself no longer strictly meant the clothing worn on the campuses of elite American universities. For the Japanese reader, it was a more general shorthand for traditional clothing. This is similar to the way the Japanese word Sebiro, meaning a business suit, is a direct translation in Kanji of ‘Savile Row’. The specific, original term takes on a more fluid, general meaning. 

“In the 1960s, Ivy was sold as a very particular American look, more refined than the brasher Hollywood and jazzland styles,” Marx tells me. “But when Ivy saw a revival in the late 1970s, it became a bit more flexible, generally meaning a casual, traditional style.” 

This is where it gets interesting. Because now the term was less strict and dogmatic, it could be affixed to other words to describe looks utterly removed from the East Coast collegiate context.

First up was British Ivy: basically what the Sloanes and Young Fogeys of Thatcher’s Britain were decked out in, a little bit Charles and Di, a little bit Brideshead Revisited; ‘Anglo-prep’ if you will. 

“And then it went a bit weird with ‘French Ivy’," Marx continues. "It was specifically used in around 1982 to describe the preppy look of young conservative French boys from good families. This acted as a bridge from Ivy and Preppy to more sophisticated Euro styles that took over in the mid-1980s.” 

For documentary evidence on this, seek out Thierry Mantoux’s BCBG: Le Guide Du Bon Chic Bon Genre (Hermé, 1985), the French answer to Peter York’s The Sloane Ranger’s Handbook and Lisa Birnbach’s The Official Preppy Handbook

Like those earlier books, it takes a tongue-in-cheek stroll through the rarified tastes of the more well-heeled denizens of Paris - where they like to holiday, what they name their children, and most importantly for us, how they dress. So there is your Lacoste polo, your JM Weston 180s, your Charvet ties, and indeed everything from that bastion of taste, the sadly long-gone department store Old England.

BCBG is a strictly ‘Right Bank’ affair - sensible, conservative and refined - in stark opposition to the other Gallic school of style ‘BoBo’ (Bourgeois-Bohemian), its more showy Left Bank cousin.  

It wasn’t just clothes from French companies that defined the look, however, either at home or in Japan. In fact one of the most enduring icons of Americana owes at least some of its Japanese popularity to the French. “The Japanese obsession with 501s exploded in the early 1980s, in part because French and Italian guys were all wearing them,” says Marx. “They became popular in Japan as part of that French aspiration rather than rugged Americanism.” 

So what does this all mean for the contemporary gentlemen? I’d suggest that the Weller look - also pictured above, as he is observed by incredulous Mods - is as snappy, timeless and stylish now as it was 37 years ago. 

The pairing of a polo shirt with sports coat or overcoat feels particularly relevant in this post-Covid era. The Sea-Island cotton ‘Isis’ style from John Smedley is a good pick: easy fitting, classic and still made in the UK. Alternatively, a clean and simple cotton-piqué number like Rubato's new generously cut Tennis Shirt

Sturdier, chunky footwear in the vein of the aforementioned 180 Penny loafer from JM Weston (below), or the Golf and Demi-Chasse models, paired with thicker, slouchier socks, like the WigWam Model 625 in ecru (sold by Beige Habilleur) add a good grounding to the look. 

Elements like these, plus a lot of the more idiosyncratic details of Weller’s look have swung back into vogue recently, thanks in no small part to the team behind French magazine L’etiquette.  

Six issues old, and now available in English as well as its native tongue, L'etiquette is a biannual ‘Guide to Men’s Clothing’, focusing less on fashion and more on the personality and character of clothes, and the men who wear them.

The mix of casual and refined, luxury and utility, old and new gives off the same confidence and esprit as French Ivy. In fact one of the people who reached out to me about the Weller post was the magazine’s editor-in-chief, and now creative director of DeFursac, Gauthier Borsarello. 

“I had no idea about the term until you talked about it!” He laughs. “But I know the look, I think it started when American brands started to become important in France, in specialist stores like Western House/Hemispheres (the forerunners to Pierre Fournier’s cult brand Anatomica). When mixed with classic French (ultra boring but perfect) tailoring, it created this new look.” 

I wonder if this means that it is less about French clothing, and more about the way you wear them? “Precisely,” he concurs. “I think it is casual clothes worn in ‘a French way’. It is the art of the mix. French Ivy happened because France became more open to other cultures - the post-war period and the cultural blending it brought. It could not exist without the UK and the US.” 

This is the first guest contribution from Tony Sylvester, who many will know for his writing, styling and own brand. For those that don't, he is @toneloki

Pictured below: French Ivy looks, from L'étiquette

Transforming ends, scraps and waste: Yves Salomon raincoat liner

Transforming ends, scraps and waste: Yves Salomon raincoat liner

Friday, May 28th 2021
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How far is it possible to make a coat lining with shreds, off-cuts and otherwise wasted pieces of fur?

When I made a lining for my M65 field jacket two years ago, the thing that attracted me most was the idea of re-using fur that would otherwise go to waste. 

Since then, the maker Yves Salomon has gone further in that direction. Last year they issued what they called the Resource Pact, which promised to drastically reduce the use of new fur, focusing instead on re-using existing furs, recycling or up-cycling old pieces. 

It’s quite a change for a fashion company mostly producing new fur up to that point. To support and help publicise it, I thought it would be interesting to test the limits of the process by making a lining for my Coherence raincoat out of off-cuts. 

(Fur is of course a controversial subject, but also far from a simple one. We had a really good discussion about this two years ago in this post. Rather than repeating all the same points, I would ask that anyone interesting in talking about it add their contribution there. Posts never die on PS - they only mature.)

The lining for my field jacket (above) was also not made with new fur - it was re-used from another, old coat. But this is relatively straightforward as the skins all match already, making a uniform pattern and colour. 

Other Yves customers do this kind of thing all the time, for example bringing in their grandmother’s fur coat and making the body into a gilet, one sleeve into a muff, the other into gloves. 

Rather harder is using off-cuts from production, because there is rarely enough to make one uniform coat or other piece of clothing. 

But, I think this can look fine in a lining. After all, it’s more hidden away, and a little variation in the colours can even add extra interest.

It's like patchwork tweed, or the way Japanese boro cloth re-uses old cotton panels and stitches over them to create something new - and beautiful in a different way to something clean and new. 

I decided to make a lining for a raincoat this time, because my previous liner had the small disadvantage that it could only be used in one coat. 

A liner for a field jacket can’t really be re-used in anything else. It’s too short for an overcoat, too long for a bomber.

Of course, it can be altered, re-used and re-worked in the future - just like those old grandmothers’ coats - and I’m sure I will do if I ever stop wearing it in the field jacket. The whole point of this, after all, is that fur is precious and shouldn't be wasted. 

But for the moment, the rabbit lining was limited. One that was made for a raincoat, on the other hand, could also be used in any other raincoat (if buttons were attached in the same places) and even a roomy overcoat. 

The Yves Salomon team showed me a big selection of all the off-cuts they had. (Nothing is ever wasted in a fur atelier - even the tiniest scraps are kept and reworked into a complex patchwork (see image at bottom). Who does this with wool, even the finest worsted or cashmere?)

From this selection, I picked out groups of dark and mid-brown mink. I was interested in mink because it is considered the warmest and most luxurious, but also because it is not as thick as rabbit and the browns would be a nice, subtle lining for this or any other coat. 

We already had a pattern for the liner, because I had the original one from Coherence. So we laid that out and started fitting the different colours of mink into sections (below).

It's a lot easier to make a liner when you have the original pattern like this, and buttons set in the right places. A lot of time is saved in pattern making. I know a reader did this with the PS Trench Coat recently, in the same way.

There were a couple of other unusual things we did to make the maximum use of the fur.

One was to use the full width of the skin, which isn't common with coats because the colour varies from the centre to the edge (see central section below). Most people want a uniform colour, and so skins are normally trimmed, and more used.

The other was to use scraps at the edges and joins in the lining, to help avoid trimming or the use of extra pieces. Given the overall aim of making the most of what we had, both seemed fitting.

The end result (below) was a section of very dark, almost black mink across the top of the shoulders; then a mid-brown area across the middle of the back; and finally darker brown skins on the lower part of the back and the two halves of the front.

It’s not a combination a furrier would ever use on the exterior of a coat. But on the inside I think it's nice, and certainly unique. It has a story and a purpose. 

Covid delayed the result by several months. To the point now where I’m receiving it just as the weather is warming up. 

But many of the workers at Yves Salomon are elderly - often with decades of experience in fine furs - and management were taking no risks at any stage of lockdown. 

Still, it was worth the wait and I’m excited about wearing it this Winter. Fur is wonderfully warm, almost like a radiator under a coat. And it’s nice to feel that this material would have gone to waste otherwise. 

I’ve since learned that the darkest section across the shoulders was the remainder from a customer’s great-grandmother’s coat, and almost 100 years old. Yet it’s still in perfect condition, and now has a new lease of life. 

I’ll post pictures at a later stage of the lining in the coat - perhaps when it’s being worn, in Winter. 

This lining cost £2200 - expensive for a lining, but cheap for mink, as it used up-cycled, mixed female mink. If a customer brings their own fur pieces to be made bespoke into a gilet then the manufacturing price would be around £1,000, depending on the style. A rabbit-fur gilet would cost in the region off £1,250.

Photography: Alex Natt, James Holborow and Jamie Ferguson 

Yves Salomon Resource Pact here

The T-shirt under tailoring

The T-shirt under tailoring

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I’ve never actively disliked T-shirts under tailoring. I just tend not to wear them myself and, when I have seen them worn, I think it can be done quite badly. 

Done well, wearing a T-shirt rather than a collared shirt can pleasingly subvert the formal expectations of tailoring. 

Done badly, it looks like someone trying much too hard to be cool. They’re clearly striving - obviously, consciously - and that’s rarely a good look. 

One helpful way to think about it, I find, is to treat the T-shirt like a crewneck sweater. 

So get a T-shirt that is knitted together (fully fashioned) like knitwear, so the collar will look smarter. And wear colours that are similar to knitwear that works well on its own - cream, navy, grey, brown - as well as standard white.

(There’s a feature on those knitwear colours here. We need to think of a phrase for knitwear worn like this though, on its own, without a shirt collar. Perhaps ‘solo’ knitwear?)

In fact, there’s no reason it couldn’t just be a sweater under the jacket. 

In fine-gauge merino, it would be just as thin as a T-shirt but look smarter. And the long sleeves could avoid that strange feeling of having bare wrists peeking out of jacket cuffs. 

In the outfit above, I’m wearing a navy Anthology cotton T-shirt under the DB blazer. Navy on navy is the easiest combination there is of ‘solo’ knitwear and a jacket, and the T-shirt looks quite smart, being knitted. 

But looking at it now, the look would have been even cleaner with a fine merino crewneck. The collar line would have been finer, and the body smoother. A cashmere could be nice in the winter as well.

I think it’s generally good advice when wearing a T-shirt under a jacket to stick with one of two extremes. Either this smart look of mine - where the T-shirt is basically doing the same role as a formal shirt - or something more casual like Yasuto Kamoshita wears above and below. 

With the casual look, it’s less that you’re swapping a shirt for a knit, and more that you’re wearing a T-shirt and chinos - just with a jacket on top in the same material. 

This is why those suits are often cotton. The T-shirt may be plain, but it can also be coloured or patterned. It’s more likely to be worn in the summer. And the shoes will be similarly casual, either Belgians or trainers.

I like Kamoshita's colour combination below (even if I want to tuck that T-shirt in) and it can also work well with completely unstructured suits, like the Drake’s Games blazer below.

One thing I didn’t notice until I started thinking about this piece, is how many well-dressed men do this look with double-breasted jackets. I thought I was largely alone in thinking that worked better than single-breasted. 

It does make sense though. It’s subtler when a relatively small amount of T-shirt is shown, which is inevitable with a DB jacket. 

Something else that can help is wearing a scarf under the jacket, to fill the neckline. This also adds a touch of dressiness, and is something you could add for a smarter appointment, like drinks outside on a warm Summer evening. 

My favourite pieces for this are my silk Hermes scarves, one of which is shown below. This is also more effective with a double-breasted jacket than single. 

Adding a pocket handkerchief would also add some interest.

Most other points will be pure intuition to PS readers - or at least, obvious once they look in the mirror. 

You don’t want a white T-shirt that’s so thin it's transparent. Oddly, that seems to be a mistake celebrities often make. 

Those actors also have a tendency to wear V-necks, which have the same problem as thin tees: they make you look like you’re wearing underwear. And in any case, unless you have a particularly strong neck and shoulders, a crewneck will be more flattering. 

Lastly, don’t worry about getting the collar of the jacket dirty - something often put to me as the main problem with this look.

Unless you’re wearing it every week, or do so with only pale-coloured jackets, it won’t be a problem. And any small blemishes can be dealt with by dry cleaning. 

Having played around with it, I think I might wear T-shirts under tailoring more. But I’ll wear knitted tees more than regular ones, and knitwear colours more than T-shirt ones. Both will make a difference. 

If I’m honest, I also thought a T-shirt under a jacket would be less flattering on my long neck. But the high collar of the jacket actually means a T-shirt (or crewneck knitwear) looks better on me than otherwise. 

Another good candidate will be double-breasted casual suits, such as my Musella Dembech suit. 

Clothes pictured:

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

Casatlantic ‘Mogador’ trousers: Review

Casatlantic ‘Mogador’ trousers: Review

Monday, May 24th 2021
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These trousers from young brand Casatlantic deserve to be in our chino series (previously Rubato; upcoming Real McCoy’s) by virtue of being cotton twills, in a fairly clean style. 

But they aren’t your everyday, classic chinos. They’re very high rise, with a wider tapering leg, in a slightly unusual material. 

I really like them. But they’re something I think I'll wear as a particular choice, leading the rest of the outfit, rather than an everyday versatile chino. 

They were inspired by the military trousers that founder Nathaniel Asseraf’s grandfather used to wear in Morocco, following the Second World War. 

Although Nathaniel was born in Sweden, and lives in Gothenburg, his family originally came from Morocco. It’s photos of his grandfather’s life in Casablanca, often wearing leftover French and American military clothing, that inspires the look and feel of the Casatlantic brand. 

Although the story actually starts before there was any consideration of Morocco. 

Nathaniel’s day job is working for Broadway & Sons, the longstanding vintage dealer in Gothenburg that was founded by his father in the 1980s. That’s Nathaniel modelling the clothes in many of the shots online

Nathaniel used to wear vintage military trousers a lot - high waisted, wide legged, softened over decades of use - and was asked by friends where he got them. Where they could get them. 

Of course they usually couldn’t, because vintage rarely comes in a range of sizes. So - as the story often goes these days - Nathaniel started looking to see if he could make some himself. 

That was when he found the pictures of his grandfather and his friends. And when he started trying to find a factory in Morocco that could make them for him. 

“When I first started working with this place, the guys were very unsure about the styles,” Nathaniel says. “They would say ‘Are you sure you want them this high? We’re not sure anyone will buy them.’ I had to insist on the height, the width. It was a lot easier knowing the popularity of the vintage styles.”

The trousers that resulted have a rise of 33cm (on the size 30 waist) which is what I would call a true high-rise - right up above the hip bones, on or above the belly button. 

There are three styles, with the biggest difference between them being the leg line. Tanger is the widest (24cm at the hem), Mogador the middle (22.5cm) and El Jadida the slimmer (20.5cm). Pictured in that order, left to right, below.

They’re all fairly generous, and even though it’s the middle option, I’d describe my Mogador as definitely a wide leg. That’s particularly obvious through the knee. Where tailored wide-legged trousers (eg my Sextons here) are pretty straight from the knee down, the Casatlantic ones are tapered, almost pegged. Which does make them look less dressy. 

There are other small differences between the models, with the most obvious with the Mogador being its side adjusters on the hips (not the waist) where the others have belt loops. 

“The original 1930s pair these were modelled on had these low side adjusters and belt loops,” says Nathaniel. “I guess it allowed them to be tightened at the hips, while the belt at the top could be more decorative. I didn’t think most guys would get that today though.”

The lower adjuster functions well, tightening neatly into the side seam. I ended up going for a very snug 30-inch waist, but I also tried a 32, and there the adjuster was very useful. 

That side seam also seems to be set a little forward, which makes the pockets easy to use even though they are cut vertically, into the seam. 

This is a very clean way to design pockets, but when I’ve used it in the past they are uncomfortable to use. Not so here. 

The make is quite simple in general though, which has its upsides and downsides. 

For example, the waistband is made as a single piece, with no seam in the back. This is the way jeans are made, rather than chinos, and looks great but has the disadvantage that the waist can’t be altered easily.

There is also no lining to the waistband - just two pieces of the cotton twill, inside and out - which is a little less stable. Both are used on military trousers I have too, but contribute to a feeling of it being a fairly straightforward, functional make. 

When I spoke to Nathaniel, he did say he was planning to change this: “The new Safi model that’s coming out this week will have a seam in the back of the waistband, and we’ll be using a cotton lining inside too. This is our first collection and we’re still learning a lot from feedback on what people want.”

The trousers currently come in three colours. I bought the white, and loved the sturdiness of the twill, which holds a sharp crease. Cloth is usually the hardest thing to get a sense of online, so it was a great relief.

Apparently the navy and beige are different, though. The cotton is bleached to make the white less ecru/yellow, but dyed for the other two colours, which makes them softer and drapier. 

All three have the nice dry handle Nathaniel wanted though, replicating the feel of new military trousers, which then soften as they’re washed and worn over the years. 

(If any readers are unsure what ‘dry’ means in relation to cloth, imagine something that your hand slides across easily, with no softness, friction or nap to stop it.)

I really like the Casatlantic trousers, but as I said they will be an occasional piece for me, rather than a basic chino. 

I particularly like them as a Summer option, with a polo and deck shoes - as shown. The material has a sailcloth-like feel to it in the white, which makes this style feel particularly appropriate. 

It also means I’m fine with the higher rise. I wouldn’t wear it every day, but as an occasional style option it’s great. I do the same with an old pair of Arnys linen trousers already. 

While we’re talking about high-rise trousers, though, I thought it would be good to illustrate why I find them limiting. 

The images higher up this post show the trousers with a PS Finest Polo untucked, which is natural with knitwear and looks great. The ribbing of the polo covers the waistband, lowering the visible rise by a good five or six centimetres. 

But when something is tucked into trousers this high - and not covered by a jacket or overshirt - the proportions are too unusual for me. The body is just too small; it looks odd.

I’ve deliberately tucked my polo in in the shots above, to illustrate this. Of course, the polo would spill out a little during the day, but those proportions between leg and body are still pretty extreme. And I believe I actually have a fairly low waist compared to the average. 

Nathaniel’s styling of the Casatlantic trousers is fantastic. Even if you don't like the trousers, I think the site and the Instagram account are worth following just for that. I’ve included a few of my favourites above. 

These shots are all of shirts untucked or with knitwear, though. When the shirts are tucked in, it’s not my style. I know it works well for others, but I personally prefer to be less unusual. For the majority of my trousers therefore, I’ll continue to want a lower rise. 

The Casatlantic trousers cost €150. They have recently been restocked, but not all colours will always be available. Nathaniel likes the idea of small batches that are then unique or collector’s pieces. 

A new model is launching on Wednesday, Safi, which will have the slimmer leg of the El Jadida, but side adjusters, on the waistband. 

https://www.casatlantic.com/

@casatlantic_

New comments functionality

New comments functionality

Saturday, May 22nd 2021
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We deployed a new comments interface last night on Permanent Style, with the aim of adding useful functionality.

The new system allows:

Posting of images in comments

These should appear as thumbnails in your comment, once the image is uploaded and we have published the comment. The image can then be enlarged by clicking on it. This will save readers having to post images elsewhere, for example on Flickr, and then linking to them. And make all points easier to illustrate.

Pinning of comments

The PS editorial team will now be able to 'pin' some comments, and their replies, so they always appear at the top of the feed. If readers ask particularly useful questions, or there is an update contained in a comment, we will pin them so that any new readers don't miss them. Do feel free to suggest pins yourself.

Resorting comments

Comments can now be resorted, so the newest appear top rather than the oldest. If you are revisiting a post with a lot of comments, this may well save time.

Better subscriptions

You can now receive alerts when someone replies to your comment, rather than only all new comments on the article. Either or. There is a section to do so at the top of the comments section - called 'Subscribe' - and an option to sign-up to replies when you leave a comment. Hopefully that will make it easier to follow discussions without your Inbox being flooded.

 

I'm sure there will be teething problems with these changes, even though they have been thoroughly tested. Please do let us know what you spot, and we will fix them ASAP.

Do also shout if you have any other suggestions - all these changes were built on previous reader requests. We haven't, so far, been able to add rating systems for each comment, however. And the signing-in options with social media are being added later. Anything else, please say.

Thank you

Simon

Tailoring and milsurp: How to dress like Ethan Wong

 
 
Like many men that feature in this ‘How to dress like’ series, I find the differences between how I and Ethan Wong dress just as interesting as the similarities. In fact more so.

We have similar influences in classic menswear and vintage sportswear. We both love tonal dressing, hats and larger jackets. But Ethan has more Ivy influences, wears high-waisted trousers, and is more likely to combine more unusual pieces (particularly vintage). 

Also, where my aim is generally to be simply well-dressed, to be subtle and refined, Ethan is more experimental and happy to stand out. Age and environment probably have something to do with it, but it’s just as much about personal aims too.

The similarities show we have principles in common – which then makes you respect the differences, and question them. Would I wear white socks with tailoring? Why I don’t wear more patterned shirts? Can I pull off a bucket hat?

I would probably reject the vast majority, but as I’ve written about with fashions, consistently challenging your style in this way is the way to stop it becoming stale.  

Which of course is why I asked Ethan to take part in this series, and explain the combinations in these, some of my favourite outfits. 

For those that don’t know, Ethan lives in Los Angeles and runs his own blog, A Little Bit of Rest, as well as the podcast Style & Direction. He can be found on Instagram at @ethanmwong.

 

 

Outfit 1: Casual suit, white socks

Ethan: “I like this outfit because even though the outfit is tailored, it still feels very casual. 

It helps that the suit isn’t a true dark navy, but the use of a casual shirt and suede loafers helps too. I think the knit tie adds a bit of somberness to the outfit, as well as being a slight Ivy nod; a repp tie or geometric would make it too dandy in my opinion.

The suit is custom from Ascot Chang suit (in Holland & Sherry Crispaire) with a 1950s khaki workshirt, Kamakura knit tie, and Alden x Brogue ‘Harvey’ tassel loafers. 

I’m sure some readers will be unsure about the white socks. Personally I find white socks (and variations of cream and light grey) wonderful! 

I think it’s best to think of them as a way to make tailoring feel and look less stuffy. I’m sure your readers know plenty of menswear guys who do it, and what I’ve found is it tends to go well with casual elements like wider silhouettes or more rugged cloth, like flannels or cotton twill. 

Starting out with jeans, chinos, and odd trousers is a great way to get used to it. Not everyone has to do it with smart tailoring, but I like the feel. I’d definitely avoid actual gym socks though.

 

 

Outfit 2: Casual jacket, bucket hat

“I feel like this outfit is inspired by a few things: a little bit of Drake’s/Aimé Leon Dore, the tonal ideas of Saman Amel or P Johnson, and of course all done in my way, which means a bit more vintage and Ivy. 

The jacket is a Marling & Evans houndstooth from Ring Jacket USA which has a bit of a broad shoulder and a fuller cut. I typically like more contrast with my trousers, but since this was a sunny day (and I was feeling that tonal inspiration), I paired it with these vintage ecru/light khaki Levi’s 501s. 

They’re from the MiUSA [made-in-USA] era, so they have a high rise and straight fit, which I like from a jean. My shirt is a cotton sportshirt (Cuban collar) from the 1940s, though the long points are tucked in to avoid the #menswear ‘runaway collar’ that is often done with similar shirts [where the collar is worn over the top of the jacket’s collar]. To break up the light colours and make the fit more Ivy, I added my cotton Drake’s sleeveless cardigan. 

The shoes are Wallabees from Padmore & Barnes in a light suede to slightly echo the light colours of the rest of the outfit. They also provide an Ivy nod, though are rather contemporary too given how often I see them.

The most unusual thing here is probably the bucket hat. I probably benefit from the fact that I’m still young, so being childlike seems more appropriate!

I think leaning into the fun of an outfit allows you to pull off a bucket hat, echoing the use of white socks. Bucket hat with jeans and sportcoat sans tie? Yes! Bucket hat with a business suit? Probably not. I never liked ballcaps so a bucket hat fills that space for me. I like to figure out if the bucket hat feels natural to the outfit rather than a fashion accessory. 

 

 

Outfit 3: Vintage knit, striped shirts

“I love this outfit. If I remember correctly, I put it together when I was watching The Crown for the first time, so this is probably inspired by some scenes in the 1950s. 

It’s a vintage Brooks Brothers Makers shirt in a bengal stripe, underneath a 1940s sweater vest, with its characteristic close fit and wide ribbing. The outfit continues that tonal feeling I’ve been having, so the navy blue is repeated in a vintage club tie and a wonderfully plush wide-wale cord trouser from Magill

A key part of this outfit I feel is the striped shirt. I think it’s no secret that I have an intense love affair with striped shirts: I find them so much more interesting than plain ones, which I seldom wear outside of casual pieces. If you look at old 1930s Apparel Arts illustrations, you’ll see that many men are wearing striped shirts with seemingly every pattern: geometrics, bold abstract designs, and a plethora of stripes. 

I wear my stripes in the same way, but with a bit of attention to colour. For example I find that blue- or burgundy-based patterned ties go with everything, so that’s what I typically wear, particularly with abstract geometrics and repp stripes/clubs. Navy-based ties are probably best since they’re more versatile and have a much more somber feel.

 

 

Outfit 4: Full cut, alligator belt

“This outfit might be peak Ethan, as in the thing that is most me, at least where tailoring is concerned. 

It’s a contemporary take on vintage tailoring that combines pieces from both eras. The jacket is another one from Ring Jacket USA, this time in a dark-brown plaid made from their proprietary Balloon cloth (a must in Los Angeles). 

The shirt is an old custom piece I got years ago that has the spearpoint collar seen in old films and Esquire magazines; you can see that the taper is much more apparent and it’s shorter than what we saw in the 1970s. 

The tie is a deadstock green polka dot from the 1930s-1940s, which goes wonderfully with the blues and browns of the top half. The elephant-grey trousers are taken from a 1940s gabardine suit and are perhaps my ideal trouser silhouette, despite the fact I don’t own many dress pants in this cut. The shoes are my beloved Alden tassels in Color 8 shell cordovan.

It’s interesting I’m wearing a belt here. When I commission trousers or suits, I typically ask for side adjusters just to keep things streamlined. However, I do like wearing belts! Part of the reason I’ve got one here is that a lot of my trousers are vintage, and belt loops are common: vintage jeans, chinos, and occasional flannel trousers from Polo RL. 

I also like the mid-century charm of a thin, exotic leather belt; this vintage one is alligator, has a one-inch width, and has a fun western buckle. The gabardine trousers have thin dropped loops on a Hollywood waistband, so it was practically begging for this belt! 

 

 

Outfit 5: Western looks and hat angles

“Clearly this was inspired by the Bryceland’s aesthetic, though I’ve owned some of these pieces for a while and have done similar outfits in the past; it could be retroactive! 

My jacket is again from Ring with the trousers a vintage pair of Polo RL flannels in dark green. My shirt is an LVC [Levi’s Vintage Clothing] sawtooth, which certainly brings that Brycelands/Ethan Newton vibe to mind. 

The black fedora is the real star, a custom piece from Wellema Hat Co. It’s my second piece from him, commissioned at the beginning of the pandemic. 

Angling a fedora is a tricky thing and I think it depends not only on the type of fedora, but the outfit you’re wearing. I like wearing my fedoras pointed forward with the brim snapped down when I’m wearing smarter looks; my brown Wellema is perfect for that.  

However, putting that vibe on every outfit feels a bit too much like a Party City gangster, where cocking it back with the brim snapped up feels more western, which is in line with the vibes of this outfit (thanks to the denim shirt). I actually keep this black fedora snapped up for that reason, as that’s how I typically style it! 

 

 

Outfit 6: Casual/tailoring crossover

“Another tonal look! The jacket is a linen ‘chore-blazer’ I got from a random shop during a family trip to Paris. The shirt is a very open, basket-weave style from the 1930s; it’s beat up, so it’s best worn ultra casually with a bit of slouch. 

The wide-legged trousers I bought when I was at university, from an old Uniqlo U collection. They’re a light seersucker in a great shade of brown. The shoes are the Wallabees again and if you look closely, you’ll see that I’ve got on a thin 1960s horizontal striped tie as a belt!

An interesting point here is the parallels between tailoring and casual wear. At one point in my menswear journey, I was convinced that my casual style had to be different from my tailoring style; this is how I got into rugged Ivy, milsurp [military surplus] and workwear. 

Over time however, I realised that my love of tailoring was really about certain details: soft shoulders, drooping lapels, wide hems, a high rise, and clean lines/drape. A lot of those can apply to casual clothing too. 

That was particularly obvious when I worn period-accurate vintage, where sportswear (casual wear) was built on the ideas of tailoring. It was only natural for me to start incorporating them when I wasn’t ‘dressed up’, this time with even more references to milsurp and workwear.

It all points to what I think is the endgame of menswear: the ability to wear anything you want but still have a cohesive style. 

Ethan M. Wong (instagram)

A Little Bit of Rest (blog)

Style & Direction (soundcloud) 

 

Introducing: The Finest Polo

Introducing: The Finest Polo

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This knitted polo we’re launching on the PS Shop today is in some ways just a short-sleeved version of the Dartmoor.

It has the same finest-in-the-world make (hence the name), the same reinforced collar, and the same top-end merino. It is also, it’s important to remember, a piece of knitwear, which has implications for cost and care.

But actually I think it’s more significant than that. It is a truly smart polo shirt that’s incredibly cool in hot weather – and I know so many readers that will benefit from that. 

Dressing elegantly in the heat is never easy, but wear the polo with a pair of crisp linen trousers and loafers - with the option of an overshirt or jacket over the top - and it’s hard to imagine something more relaxed yet elegant.

The most important thing for me about the polo was that it had to be a high-twist merino.

I’ve worn various knitted polos over the years, and never particularly liked the normal options of cotton or silk/cashmere.

Cotton is intuitive, but actually as a knitted polo it tends to be soft and surprisingly warm. Almost cloying. It’s not particularly cool and can lose shape easily.

Silk/cashmere is normally the luxe option, and it does feel lovely. The problem is it’s not that cool, as cashmere is so warm. And the silk tends to add a sheen to the polo that I don’t necessarily want.

A high-twist merino, however, can be knitted openly enough to let through more air than any other fibre (which is the real problem with cotton). It also has a nice dry touch, and keeps its shape well.

The effect is similar to high-twist trousers, which sartorialists will appreciate. With the difference that a polo can use a finer, lighter wool than trousers, so there’s no trade off with texture.

Wool is also, of course, more odour resistant than cotton and dries quicker – both helpful properties in the heat. Combine that with the way it holds a smooth shape, and it’s fair to say high-twist merino ‘performs’ better.   

The only potential disadvantage is care. You can’t chuck it in the washing machine with a bunch of T-shirts – it needs its own delicate cycle. But actually, that’s the case with anything fully fashioned like this, even in cotton.

Design-wise, the thing that stands out most is the collar.

The Dartmoor has proved popular with readers that like a slightly higher, more structured collar. More similar to a shirt, and better under tailoring.

But if anything, the situation with polos is worse than with jumpers or sweatshirts. All knitted polos seem to be made with super-soft, small floppy collars. Which is looks relaxed, and is great if you want something to wear with shorts to the beach; but it’s not an effective partner for tailored trousers.

Last year I wrote a piece about my core Summer wardrobe, which included a navy ‘Adrian’ polo from John Smedley. I like lots of things about that model, but as readers quickly pointed out, the collar is quite unflattering – small and collapsing around the neck.

The PS Finest Polo is very different. Tall at the back like the Dartmoor, sitting proud above the collar of a jacket, and with a generous point (7cm) that perhaps has more in common with the Smedley Isis than the Adrian.

That point is slightly different to the Dartmoor, as I expected it to be worn on its own more often, without a jacket. It’s more rounded, less spread, and has slightly shorter points. For me, the result the perfect mid-point between tiny high-street polos, and the very large, vintage-inspired collars on some classic menswear ones. 

Not too big, not too small. Like so many things we try to design for PS, something distinctive but with only quiet charm. 

The body of the polo is cut slim - like the Dartmoor - and so it’s worth checking the measurements against a polo you already own. You might want to size up if you like a more generous fit.

The sleeve is also a mid-point between contemporary and vintage styles, sitting just over halfway down the arm. The ribbing also causes it to ride up a little when worn, which to my eye is quite flattering.

The ribbing on the body is larger than most (7cm), again like the Dartmoor, making it look that little bit squarer, widening the shoulders, lengthening the legs and so on. This is something most classic-menswear brands seem to do now, whether The Anthology, Bryceland’s or Colhay’s, which is great. It’s a small difference but a noticeable one.

A brief word should be said on the quality of the make.

The Finest Polo is made by Umbria Verde in Italy, who also make for the best designer brands. They are simply the best in class, as can be seen by any examination of the details of the construction.

We’ve gone into this before, on pieces about the Dartmoor and the Finest Cardigan, and all the same elements are present on the Finest Polo. The smaller excess in the seams, the smoothness of the fashioning, the placket sewn in the same direction as the body. They’re all tiny things, but they are the reason the polo feels so different when you feel it and wear it.

If you’re interested in illustrations of those points, have a look at the bottom of the two previous launches, Dartmoor here and Finest Cardigan here

PS products always aim to be the absolute finest quality there is. That means they won’t be affordable to many, but then it’s never possible to cater to everyone. This is our niche: offering elegant clothing that compliments tailoring, made at the same quality as designer brands but rather lower prices. (A similar make to the Dartmoor sells for over £600 elsewhere.) 

The Finest Polo is offered in navy and cream. These, for me, are the most versatile colours in knitted polos like this: navy goes with every colour of pale trouser, cream with every dark trouser.

I particularly enjoy the navy with the white or natural-coloured linen trousers I wear a lot in the Summer (such as the Casatlantic pair pictured higher up). And the cream with many colours of sports jacket as well as with trousers in olive, dark-brown or black (shown with olive-linen shorts from Anderson & Sheppard).

In the other outfit I’m also wearing the navy with a seersucker suit from Dalcuore, a combination which feels wonderfully fresh. It also shows how nicely the collar sits under the jacket. 

Interestingly, I found with that outfit that both brown and black Sagans looked good, with the black just a little smarter and perhaps edgier. 

Above, you can see the cream polo with the brown-linen trousers from my Sexton suit. 

Interestingly, this is one of my favourite colour combinations - cream, brown and black - but whereas last Winter I showed it in flannel, cashmere and cordovan, this Summer it’s linen, merino and cotton. 

The shot below is also good at demonstrating how nice a brown suede blouson or overshirt is with the cream polo. That one is a very lightweight, unlined model from Rifugio

Care

This is not a regular cotton-piqué polo shirt. It cannot be chucked in the washing machine and tumble dried. It is more akin to a fine dress shirt, which needs that bit more care and attention.

The Finest Polo can be washed in a washing machine. But, as with all knitwear, only on a delicate/wool setting. This will usually have the lowest level of spin, 30-degree heat, and minimal agitation during the cycle.

You can also put the knit into a shirt bag or string bag, as is often used for delicates. But this is less of an issue than with heavier knitwear. Wool detergent is the same: nice, but not required.

This also goes for drying. You can dry it flat on a rack, as is usually recommended for knitwear to avoid it stretching. But actually it’s so light that you can drape it over a washing line or wherever you hang your shirts. I’ve done that with my Smedley polos for years and it works fine. 

If the body is a little wrinkly after drying, or the collar a little out of shape, iron it lightly with a cloth on top. I don’t always bother to do so though, given the wrinkles quickly ease out as you wear it.

One other advantage - unlike a cotton shirt, I find I can wear this polo for at least two days before it needs washing. Perhaps not in the hottest and sweatiest of weather, but it never takes on odour in the same way as cotton.

Ordering

  • The Finest Polo is available on the PS Shop now here, priced £185 (plus VAT). Remember, it’s fine merino knitwear, just with shorter arms - not a cut-and-sew cotton polo. 
  • It’s available in navy and cream. The cream is cool, more ecru not yellow. 
  • It is made in fine high-twist merino wool, by Umbria Verde in Italy, and distributed from the UK. 
  • As with all PS products, we offer free returns and exchanges, so feel free to take two sizes to check the fit, and return one.
  • Shipping is charged transparently, at the cost of the courier, rather than being built into the price. 
  • The polo fits slim. The best way to tell which is right size for you is to compare the measurements to a polo you already own. Please do so. 
  • In the pictures I am wearing a Medium. 

Measurements 

Size S M L XL
Length 65cm 67 69 71
Chest 48 50 52 54
Shoulders 38 39 40 41
Bottom width above rib 43 45 47 49
Sleeve length 25.5 26.5 27.5 29
Bicep 16 17 18 19

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt 

Learning to dress my body better

Learning to dress my body better

Monday, May 17th 2021
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I've learnt many things over the past 13 years of writing Permanent Style, but one I've learnt most intimately is how different clothes suit my particular physique, and physiognomy.

This does come up on PS, in articles about collar height perhaps, or trouser rise. But I've never reflected on it as a whole, and I thought it would be helpful to do so - as a specific partner to the more general articles elsewhere.

Let's start with the positive. I am tall, and I am slim. These are probably the most important things in terms of making clothes look good, and I am very grateful for them.

If you are slim, it is much easier to draw a flattering line between your shoulders and your waist. While the shoulders can be more or less padded, widened or roped, there's little you can do to make someone slimmer. 

Even in a shirt or in trousers, it’s that waist that makes the most difference. And you notice this especially as you get older. People often say it, and with good reason: the best way to look good as you age is to stay in shape.

 

The visual advantage of being slim

This is much more important that being toned or muscly. In fact, being too muscular can often undermine the look of clothes - particularly smart ones. 

A jacket is most flattering when it runs sharply from wide shoulders to small waist, and has plenty of length to do so (hence the advantage of being tall). A big chest or big arms just get in the way. 

Even when tailors use drape to accentuate the chest, this is never to distract from the ‘V’ shape of shoulder-to-waist. 

Lifting weights also tends to round your shoulders. It makes the deltoids bigger (on the side of your shoulders) and the top of the trapezius bigger (between your neck and shoulder). But because it can’t move the point of your shoulder bone, making these muscles bigger just makes your shoulders rounded.

In fact, I’ve had tailors tell me it’s just impossible to make someone with a body like that look elegant in tailoring. Elegant being the operative word there.

This is also suggested by history. A quick look at the well-dressed men of the past also shows many were slim, but rarely muscly. They were in shape, but little more.

 

Robert Redford and Paul Newman, in great shape

The negative aspects of my shape tend toward the gangly: sloping shoulders, a long neck, a fairly big head. 

I’ve learnt that because of these, I always look better in something collared, like a shirt or a polo sweater. They encircle my neck and frame the face. 

I do still wear T-shirts, but always with the awareness that I’m giving something up when I do. I rarely wear crewneck sweaters on their own

Cutting out categories of clothing is painful when you love them as much as I do. But over time, as you grow into your style, I find you happily do this in return for knowing that the clothes you’re wearing flatter you. 

This is something else that happens more with age. Even if you stay in shape, things like wrinkles, stooping and exaggerated facial features encourage you to stick with things that bring out your best. It’s the best argument against old men wearing T-shirts.

 

Higher collars (left) suit my neck a bit more than lower ones (right)

When I wear T-shirts, as I said, I’m aware of a trade off. As with most things in menswear, there is no right and wrong here, no should and shouldn’t. Just certain effects created by certain clothes, which you can pick between. 

For example, low collars on shirts are a little less flattering on me than tall ones (see above). But tall collars are usually smarter: a workwear chambray shirt or a flannel overshirt looks silly with a high collar. 

So I either have to not wear that type of shirt, or accept that the collar will be a little less flattering when I do. Sometimes I go with one option, sometimes the other. But in both cases I’m making an educated choice. Not just blindly following a rule. 

Sometimes this trade off is not about good and bad, but good and great. 

For example, I don’t look bad in short jackets, like blousons. Sometimes I even think I look rather good. But my height means that longer coats always add a certain something. They make the most of a natural advantage I have, and usually look better

I choose not to only wear long coats, but I also never miss a chance to wear one when I can.

 

The advantage of length

Other aspects of physique, and their trade offs. 

My legs are a little bit short proportionately compared to my upper body. This means high-waisted trousers are particularly useful, given how much they lengthen the legs. 

But I don’t like high-waisted trousers from a style point of view. They’re too anachronistic without a jacket or knitwear. So there I'm always trading off flattery for style. 

Also my sloping shoulders. Many is the reader that has said I look best in structured tailoring: the thick shoulders of Edward Sexton or the wide ones of Anderson & Sheppard. 

But you can’t wear those jackets with jeans. And I really like wearing jackets with jeans. There’s no better way to enjoy tailoring and dress down. So I’m also happy to trade flattery for style there too.

 

Natural shoulders (left) v padded/extended shoulders (right)

Something no one in fashion really wants to admit is that your face is more important than your body. It’s what everyone is looking at, and it’s what they mean when they say you’re ‘good looking’. 

Unless your aim is to specifically show off parts of your body, clothes should really just be a attractive frame for the face - sending the eye happily upwards to where the action is. 

I raise this because when I look back at old pictures of myself on Permanent Style, the biggest difference I notice is not in the clothes, but the face. (See comparison above.)

I have come to accept that I have very little hair, and that cutting it very short is the best option. It has come down slowly from a grade 2, to 1, to now 0.5. 

I also know that while glasses are a nice style choice, I’m basically better looking without them. And I’ve grown out my beard as well as shaped it better.

 

Then and now: Less hair, more beard, no glasses

Occasionally a reader on PS or Instagram will call me good looking. At that my thirteen-year-old self (which still lives somewhere inside me) laughs out loud. 

I’m not that good looking. Anyone that’s seen my younger brother will know that to be true. He is - as a kind friend once put it - like me just with hair and a chin. 

But I think, over time, I have become good at making the most of me. I know what looks best, and I know what trade offs I’m making, when.

And that’s all any of us can ever do.

Rubato officer’s chinos: Review

Rubato officer’s chinos: Review

Friday, May 14th 2021
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I've come to really like these Rubato chinos, but it’s worth saying from the outset that they're not the originals. 

I had them narrowed after a few weeks, as I found the leg too wide. The change was mostly in the thigh, which went from 33.5cm to 32cm. The hem was narrowed too, but only from 20.5cm to 20cm. 

This was based on the shape of my old Armoury pair, and is what I prefer for casual trousers - I did the same with an old pair of Army trousers last year as well. 

The result, I think, is certainly something that is not slim, but not noticeably wide either. Of course, these things vary between people and over time too, but right now it feels like a good, contemporary line. 

I was a little nervous of slimming the trousers, as I count Oliver (Dannefalk, Rubato co-founder) as a friend and didn't want to offend him. He'd put a lot of thought and work into making these his perfect chino, after all. 

But Oliver was fine with it, indeed encouraged anything that would mean I'd get a lot of use and pleasure out of them. Which I think shows a generous spirit. 

And everything else about the chinos I love. 

The material is a Japanese cotton twill - heavy compared to a lot of mainstream chinos at 335g, but not compared to Japanese/workwear brands. It has a sharpness to it which makes them fairly smart, even if not in the ivory shown here. 

The make is unfussy but neatly done, particularly around the waistband lining and the waist button and zip closure. It all speaks to both quality and attention to detail. They are made in Japan as well as using Japanese cloth.

Interestingly, Rubato describe the trousers as sitting on the natural waist, which I would think would mean above the hip bones (see illustration of what I mean here). 

Actually they sit just below the top of the hip bone on me, which is not surprising given the front rise is 28cm. 

My bespoke dress trousers, by comparison, have a front rise of 30cm, and something I would describe as true high-waist trousers - like those old army fatigues, my Panico trousers, or Casatlantic chinos - have a front rise in the range of 33-35cm. 

Whatever the terminology, this is lucky for me as it’s a rise that works well, being close enough to my bespoke trousers to sit in the same area. 

The chinos have been washed three times so far, and I noticed a small expansion of the waist after the first wash (an inch at the most) but otherwise no change. 

They come unhemmed, and I had them hemmed as well as slimmed by Pinnas & Needles. They came back a bit longer than I had expected, but actually work well turned-up like this for more casual shoes (or maybe espadrilles in the Summer) and turned down for smarter ones. 

Smart loafers like the ones I'm wearing sit somewhere between the two, and I find can be worn with either length. It’s just a different style. I know some will dislike a length like this that is actually floating above the shoe, but it does look more casual and contemporary to my eye. And as I said, easy to change. 

The material does have enough body that you could iron in creases, and maintain them with repressing every two or three wears. It’s not the look I wanted though, and I don’t think there’s much virtue in trying to make them smarter in that way. 

Interestingly, the more I try different types of chinos (and there will be more articles in this area) the more I find they fall into different categories of formality. 

The first we can call workwear chinos. My Armoury ones fall into that category, as do some Real McCoy ones I’ll cover soon. The way I would define this category is that the chinos are just as casual and jeans - and in the same way could be worn with, for example, work boots or a leather jacket. 

These Rubato ones are not that casual. They sit in a ‘smart’ chino category along with the likes of my Stoffa basketweave chinos, which really look best with shoes like belgians, loafers, or slim/simple trainers.

However, personally I don’t think I’d wear them with a jacket. Or at least, not a bespoke tailored jacket, which I’d want to wear done up most of the time. For me, only tailored cotton trousers work there (like these from Dalcuore) and even there I generally prefer wool or linen. 

I can see my opinion being swayed on this though. Because brands I respect style tailored jackets with chinos like this, and because it works OK when the jacket is soft, undone, and worn with some slouch. So perhaps it's just me, or perhaps it depends a lot on the jacket. 

I’ve deliberately shown the chinos with everything Rubato - knitwear and belt - both to show off the overall style, and to discuss knitwear sizing. 

This V-neck is a size Medium. It is just about long enough to work on me, with these trousers; if the rise were even slightly lower, it would not. And even here it can ride up a bit. (Obviously rise is not the only factor - height and torso proportions are relevant too.)

I tried sizing up to a Large for my next purchase, a grey crewneck (below). The length works much better on me there (an extra 1.5cm) but it is much bigger in the chest. In fact it’s large enough to be a ‘look’, I think. Nothing necessarily wrong with that - and the shortness of the Medium is probably equally unusual - but it is a noticeable difference and one that has to be taken into account. 

To complicate matters, Rubato have recently released a new line of cashmere/linen knitwear, in a new 'easy' fit. This style fits bigger, with the Medium I tried comparable to the body size and length my Large pictured above. It is also noticeably wider in the waist. 

All the changes are deliberate, with Oliver and Carl aiming for a more relaxed, slouchy fit. Something that's loose and thrown on easily in the Spring and Summer.

Personally I think I prefer the body shape of the other range, even if I couldn't quite find the perfect length/width combination. But it's early days, and as usual with Rubato, everything else is perfect - the 'earth' colour (below) is unusual yet subtle, and the cashmere/linen is soft and luxurious, yet very lightweight.

In what could seem like a very straightforward category, Rubato keep on producing knitwear that is original and beautiful. Which is probably what keeps me coming back.

The suede belts are also great by the way - a brushed suede that has just a little longer nap than others, giving it a slight velvety feel. It’s also impossible not to like a one-inch width after you’ve chatted to Oliver for a moment or too. 

The only thing I don’t like is the buckle. It’s solid brass, which is the main thing, but I do rather like uncoated brass, for the way it tarnishes over time (and can be polished back up, should you wish). 

As mentioned, I’ll be doing more reviews of chinos soon, including Casatlantic, Blackhorse Lane and The Real McCoy’s. You can also see previous chino articles on The Armoury here, Stoffa here, and Drake’s and Anglo-Italian here

The other things worn in the shoot are:

  • PS White Oxford shirt
  • Socks from Anderson & Sheppard in ‘Chamois’ cotton
  • Belgravia loafers from Edward Green in ‘Mink’ suede
  • Frank Clegg large working tote in ‘Chestnut’ tumbled leather
  • Cartier ‘Chronoflex’ watch in yellow gold
  • The chinos are the Rubato ‘officer’s’ style, size 48

The Rubato officer's chinos are in the process of being restocked, and will be available in new colours. The single-pleat style that was initially on offer will be not be offered again, however.

The chinos cost 2300 kr (£195), the lambswool sweaters 1800 kr (£150) and the cashmere/linen sweater 2380 kr (£236)

www.atemporubato.com

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

Blackhorse Lane made-to-measure jeans

Blackhorse Lane made-to-measure jeans

Wednesday, May 12th 2021
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About two years ago, I started a process helping Blackhorse Lane set up a made-to-measure system for their jeans. 

Some PS readers took part in an early trial, which mostly went well, but several things - particularly Covid - consistently got in the way. I’m pleased to say that now with shops open again, the service has finally launched

From the outset, my advice was not to offer a full bespoke service. Yes, offerings like Lot No.1 at Levi’s are great, where you’re largely starting from scratch and can invent almost anything. 

But what Blackhorse Lane really needed, and its customers said they wanted, was a reliable way to get jeans that fit them better. Not to design something original. 

The way to get this reliability, I felt, was to start with the jeans Blackhorse Lane already sells, and then tweak them. 

BHL already offers most shapes, rises and sizes as part of its collection. So a customer that comes into the shop can try several rises and find one that’s very close to what they want. They can do the same with the width of the leg, as well as the amount it tapers, and therefore the opening at the hem.

They can effectively put together the fit and style they want from everything that’s on offer - and make minor adjustments where necessary. 

The shop (in Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross) also has a huge range of denim on display. So you can pick your material from a made-up pair of jeans as well, rather than a swatch. 

All this should help bring the customer’s expectations and the final result closer together. And therefore make it more likely the customer will go away happy. 

(It always surprises me when an MTO or MTM service doesn’t have a big range to try on, like this. They should really invest in one, and learn from examples of companies like Stoffa - who will usually have every model, cloth and size on display, even if not your particular combination.) 

 

 

As part of the final test for this Blackhorse Lane service, I had a pair made which were then featured in the marketing video above. 

We started with my favourite style, the NW1. Size 32 fits me on the hips and seat, while a 31 is perfect in the waist. So we used the 32 as the model, and matched the waist from a 31. We also raised the front rise a tiny bit, around a centimetre. 

I liked the leg line, which tapers slightly but is fairly straight from the knee down. However I was interested in trying it a touch wider. So we added 1cm to the width, mindful that it would be easy to remove that later (but impossible to add it).

And then we chose the denim. I wanted to try the brighter blue of the Turkish organic denim, particularly having seen how it faded on another customer’s pair. (Having more such jeans on display is another thing I’m encouraging BHL to do - adding yet one more area of predictability.)

The final jeans were great. A tiny bit tighter in the hips than my other NW1s because of the denim, but everything else exactly as expected. 

The service costs £450, with a surcharge of £50 for some rare denims. Once the personal pattern is created, any subsequent pairs are £375. 

This is still obviously expensive, but it's not much more than other premium, ready-made denim, and it's not hard to make a decent cost-per-wear case for great jeans.

The process involves an initial appointment in the store, where models are tried on, adjustments agreed, and the order placed. Usually this is with Lilly who is the pattern cutter at the factory (shown below). 

She makes the unique pattern at the factory in Walthamstow, the jeans are put together, and after three weeks there is a second appointment where they are hemmed (while you wait) to the length preferred. You then walk away with them. 

Currently the service is only offered in store, in person. Repeat customers could potentially be serviced online, but given the whole experience is centred around trying everything in-store - and the predictability that results - it doesn’t make sense to do it remotely while possible. 

Note that you can also request some style changes to the jeans, such as different threads or rivets, a zip fly instead of a button fly, or a vegan patch instead of leather. I will also make sure to photograph my pair sometime soon, to show how those worked out.

There are more details on the Blackhorse Lane MTM service on their site here. Appointments can be made by emailing [email protected] 

By the way, it’s worth saying that I have no commercial interest in the success of this service. Blackhorse Lane say they are likely to want to advertise at some point, which would be nice, but that’s it. My reward was a lovely pair of jeans.

More details on these kind of relationships on this page of PS, as always. 

Clothing worn in the video: Liverano ulster coat, Begg & Co scarf and PS grey watch cap

Video: Itch Media

Viberg Service Boots: My choice of work boot

Viberg Service Boots: My choice of work boot

Monday, May 10th 2021
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During the past Winter, I was vaguely looking to replace my longstanding work boots from Wolverine (above)

They’d done great service: on long country walks, camping in different parts of the country, and just going to the local park in rain, mud and snow. 

But after 11 years the upper wasn’t in great shape, and the Wolverine make isn’t really on a par with the other shoes and boots I have. So I was looking to trade up. 

It was an interesting journey, as it always is when you explore a new category of clothing (or indeed anything you enjoy) and I spoke to friends that were consumers, friends that were retailers, and a journalist or two. 

I ended up settling on a pair of Viberg service boots (below) in a Horween brown Chromexcel. Seven eyelets, 2030 last, natural midsole, brown waxed laces and a stitchdown construction. As classic as it comes from Viberg. 

In fact, a lot of what convinced me was the quality and approach of Viberg itself. So it’s probably worth explaining those, as well as giving some context of the work-boot category as a whole.

Not everyone likes the name ‘work boot’, but for a Permanent Style reader, I think it’s pretty apt. 

Because what we’re talking about are boots that originated as equipment for proper heavy-duty work, and from companies that largely still make that kind of footwear. 

This doesn’t really apply to any of the other brands we cover on PS. Someone like Tricker’s might be known for its boots, but they’re country footwear, not workwear. Harrison Ford might have built houses in Alden Indy boots, but the company is still arguably (and I expect argument here) a dress-shoe maker that also offers nice boots. 

Work-boot companies like Red Wing, Whites or Wesco, on the other hand, made and make boots for logging, firefighting and ranching. Physical labour that requires a type of make. 

What does this mean in practice? A chunky sole, certainly, but a thick midsole as well - sometimes a double one. Heavy, usually oiled uppers. Often a steel shank. 

In terms of style it usually means a wider welt, a rounder toe, and sometimes white stitching or a natural mid-sole that separate the boot even further from the high-end makers we know. 

The attraction to the lover of dress shoes is that these companies often still make along heritage lines, which means quality materials (eg full-grain leathers) and toughness through materials, rather than more steel or composites etc.

They’re boots that are still well made, but which you can camp in, climb in, and do similar outdoor activities. 

Of course, the make depends a lot on the brand. And this is how I see the market (thanks to all those that provided information, experience and opinions here - and to readers that will doubtless chip in with their tuppence-worth now):

  • Entry level is brands like Wolverine, Red Wing, Thorogood and perhaps Thursday boots. The latter is a newcomer, the others have history, but they’re all tough and very serviceable, with prices ranging around £200 to £300. 
  • The higher quality work boots come from the likes of White’s, Wesco and Nick’s Boots. These are a different quality level, pretty much indestructible, with double midsoles and huge leather footbeds. Prices rather higher, around £500 to £600. 
  • Viberg is more expensive still, around £700, and arguably out on its own. This is because they use finer materials (more calf, more Stead suede), and because there’s a more obvious push to offer more everyday, leisure styles. Which isn’t really what I was looking for, but more on that later. 

Of course, the irony with comparing work-boot brands like this is that most of the time, fineness of make or materials doesn’t really matter. 

The only thing the customer of a real work boot cares about is whether they’re comfortable to wear all day, protect the feet from everything, and last a really long time. It doesn’t matter if the sewing is a little wobbly.

The leisure customer might care more though - as well as caring about the style. Almost on the point of principle: they buy the best quality in everything else, so why should this be any different?

I won’t go into a lot of detail on Viberg, as that could be a whole post on its own (and it’s maybe an interesting one for those I know in Northampton, as much as consumers). But I’ll briefly explain why I liked the Service Boot

Compared to a lot of work boots, it is made on a fairly slim last - the 2030, which owner Brett Viberg created in 2010 in the process of redefining the styles Viberg offered. (Brett is grandson of the Viberg founder.)

It also has a fairly low toe - not that far off the ground - which of course is called ‘spring’. Dress shoes vary in how much they have too, but it varies particularly in work boots, with some almost comically turned up (see the 310 boot). 

Viberg boots had always been made with a fairly slim waist, in order to give greater support to the arch over hours of hard wear, and the combination of this with the new slim last created a Service Boot which it was much easier to wear outside work.

The result still looks very different to anything else we’d normally cover on PS. The toe box is still wider and higher. It’s a stitchdown construction, which you never get with dress shoes. And the Chromexcel leather of course starts looking oily and only gets more so, fading and creasing.

But as an option to wear outdoors, with the kind of chinos, sweatshirt and gilet sold by The Real McCoy’s and many others, it’s perfect. 

The Viberg website is a little confusing, and personally I find the styles less appealing the further they get away from work boots - there are derbys, slippers and even trainers. 

I did try a few other styles, including the chelsea boot and hiking boots, but only found the Halkett as another style I liked (below). It’s Goodyear-welted, and is a newer model aiming at a more urban customer. 

The Halkett is nice, particularly in this ‘bitter chocolate’ grey/brown colour. But although welted, it still has the toe shape of a work boot to my eye. Which is not what I want from Viberg. I’m happy with my outdoorsy trade up. 

Other clothes pictured:

Camping shot:

viberg.com

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

Layering and accessories for cold Spring days

Layering and accessories for cold Spring days

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Back when these things were possible, I remember an American friend visiting in the Spring and asking: “How on earth do you dress for this weather? I can see my breath in the morning, but my midday I’m roasting and can barely wear a jacket.”

We’ve been going through such days again in the UK recently. I’m no meteorologist, but it seems the combination of cold air (winds from the North or East) and hot sun (given the time of year) mean it can be freezing until the sun gets up, then boiling when it is. 

Dressing for such weather can be frustrating, particularly if you’re a traveller and thought carefully about packing for every eventuality. 

I was thinking about this recently when we toured London for our recent series of articles on great shops - which is the outfit pictured here. 

Alex and I were having coffee at the Allpress on Redchurch Street, and alongside the fascinating variation in style you get around there (business, fashion and defiantly anti-fashion) there was a broad range of choices for the Spring weather: some guys in T-shirts, others in coats. 

I find a better approach is to dress in layers, with heavy fabrics for the basic pieces (jacket and trousers) which avoid the need for a coat. The last thing you want is to be carrying a coat over your arm all day. 

In this case the jacket was navy Fox lambswool, an overcoating material at 20/21oz, made up by Solito. I wouldn’t actually recommend something this heavy for a jacket, and regret it slightly: 16-18oz would have been better, with almost as much heft but much more pliable. But it does come into its own on days like this.

The trousers were brown corduroy from Brisbane Moss, made up by Whitcomb & Shaftesbury. They too are very heavy, at 19/20oz, although I don’t regret those - the weight has perhaps more benefits in a trouser, giving them a fantastic shape.

The advantage of these weighty cloths is that even on a brisk, chilly morning, they are very effective wind breakers. It’s that northerly air that’s going to make you cold, and these stop it. 

The rest of the job is done by layers and accessories. 

The shirt itself (Bryceland’s Sawtooth) is pretty heavy, but it’s reinforced by a vest underneath (Lee Kung Man, also Bryceland’s). And if needed, that vest can easily be removed. 

In fact, a more practical option there would be a sleeveless cardigan, in that it would provide more warmth and be easier to take off. But that probably wouldn’t have worked so well with the outfit (more country, less western). 

The scarf and watch cap protect the remaining areas exposed to the cold - the head and neck - and can of course themselves be easily removed. Indeed, the scarf can even be pleasingly stuffed into a jacket pocket, keeping its colour and pattern on display. 

Also, while I certainly didn’t think about this at the time, a silk scarf works particularly well because silk is such an effective wind-breaker. It’s not as warm as wool or cashmere, but its density makes it great at blocking cold air (the reason they were often worn by cyclists).

By the middle of the day, having lunch at Morris’s on Clifford Street, the scarf was in the pocket and the watch cap folded in a bag. 

It was decidedly warm, even in the shade. Although the necessity of sitting outside (still required in the UK at the moment) meant I was still grateful for the heavy jacket and trouser cloth, whenever a cold wind whipped around the corner of Bond Street.

It’s also occurred to me while writing this piece how I often dress in such combinations. See examples below from Stockholm in the Autumn (watch cap in the bag at that point) and Florence in the Winter. 

That might also be motivated by the fact that, on a long day of visits, whether to shops or stands, it’s a pain to have more than one outer layer. So it’s a jacket or an overcoat, not both. 

Threat of rain would necessitate a lightweight raincoat that could be rolled up into a bag, perhaps. And a brimmed hat that would be better in that case at protecting the head.

Clothes in the main outfit, with links to more details:

And accessories:

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

Both chic and bold: How to dress like Angel Ramos

 

Although Angel Ramos and I have only met a few times, we’ve always seemed to have something in common when it came to styles we liked.

Angel wears slippers a lot, and has more of a tendency towards bright colours and patterns. The overall image is perhaps louder. But there are a lot of similarities too: tonal dressing, black, cold shades of brown. And overall an emphasis on casual chic, with polo shirts and roll necks rather than printed ties and pocket squares. 

Angel is the co-founder of 18th Amendment, a brand in New York that grew out of his previous tailoring enterprise, Angel Bespoke. I haven’t tried the clothes, so can’t comment on them, but perhaps that’s the next step. It was certainly lovely talking to Angel for this, the latest in our series of ‘How to dress like’ articles.

This series counts as a Guide on PS, within the category of Style that you can see in the menu above. Perhaps have a look at a few others you might find interesting, including ‘The Essentials’ and ‘Summer’.

After all, it was only a couple of weeks ago that several readers said they didn’t realise there was a Lookbook section to the site. 

 

 

Outfit 1: Simple

Angel: “I love this outfit because of its simplicity. It’s something a modern-day gent could see and feel they could wear: not something they’d feel only someone in the industry could pull off. These are fresh tones, and it looks modern. 

Off-white is such a favourite colour of ours – it’s literally in every season. It’s been a go-to for me for years and something I pair with everything. Here I’m wearing an off-white polo from our Fall/Winter MTO collection with a pair of medium-grey high-twist trousers, in our normal full fit and higher rise, and a pair of slippers, which is typically my go-to as well. 

When it comes to this ideology of simple dressing, I say having the proper knitwear is crucial. The proper polo paired with trousers can look just beautiful – sometimes a jacket just isn’t required. 

 

 

Outfit 2: Black

I love this dark-toned ensemble (coat, knit and trousers are all black) because regardless of what the world of menswear says, I think black is absolutely chic and modern. Black in my opinion has been rather stigmatised in menswear, despite being embraced by high fashion. 

When I started in the business more than 10 years ago I also abided by the law of “black is for weddings and funerals” but the more I built my own world aesthetically, the more I liked its elegance and wanted to show it in ensembles that were not just formal. 

I particularly like using black alongside bold patterns, as with the jacket here, rather than just wearing black suits. It’s also worth remembering that as a bigger guy it really does flatter you. 

The sports jacket is my all-time favourite, in an exploded Prince-of-Wales fabric. I grew up with a mom that was a seamstress and dressmaker, and she would reupholster furniture in our house with bold fabrics, like this one. I’ve always liked to pay homage to her. 

The other things I’m wearing are our house version of a chesterfield overcoat (we named it the Lucky Coat, after Luciano) and a pair of classic flannel trousers in Fox cloth.

 

 

Outfit 3: Tonal

“This outfit was a full look from our 2020 Fall/Winter MTO collection. Camel overcoat in our house interpretation of a polo coat, rust-tweed sports jacket, with none other than the off-white polo and some flannel trousers. 

Tonal looks like this have always been a favourite of mine because they’re so clean and easy to do. And it’s simple to swap the jacket for a bolder one when you want a real storyteller piece. Tonal also conveys a level of elegance and chic that seems to go well with my personality of being insanely outgoing and gregarious. 

Looking at it now, this outfit reminds me of a proper Autumn in New York. The tones recall a drive out into the Catskills, still of course smoking a proper cigar. 

 

 

Outfit 4: Checks

“This is probably my second favourite sports jacket! It’s a Highland tartan that contaings absolutely stunning tones of cream, camel and red. It’s something I often reach for in the Fall and Winter. Here I paired it with a black cashmere turtleneck, and my favourite winter trousers: 590 grams of proper flannel from Fox in a medium grey. 

I think this outfit shows how I tend to balance bold jackets with simplicity elsewhere. You need to allow the jacket to tell its own story, not competing too much with everything else. Or put another way, I want to embrace boldness while not feeling like I’m just trying to look like a clown. 

Although, I don’t consider off-white trousers to be bold and often wear them with bold blazers like this. It’s become my go-to trouser every season in the collection. It’s my personal pair of sweat pants, lol. Some do grey trousers with everything, we do ivory. 

 

 

Outfit 5: Brown trousers

“I love the idea that you can take something classic and iconic, and modernise it. Like the navy blazer with gold buttons. 

Many gents think it’s something only their granddad wore, but it’s great with a light-denim shirt like this linen and cotton, chocolate-brown linen trousers and my favourite Belgian loafers. This is our classic navy travel blazer, in a high-twist wool. It’s brilliant, it just goes with everything.

When it comes to brown trousers, I personally think you can pair them with several shades of brown, black (depending on the season) and pattern if that’s something you’re into. 

Brown trousers for me are more of a Spring/Summer thing, so I wear them with other shades of a brown or a natural slipper. It does also look great in colder weather, with for example a black oxford shoe; that’s just something I tend to wear. 

eighteenthamendment.com

 

 

Photography: Milad Abedi, Robert Spangle and 18th Amendment

Dalmo made-to-measure cashmere

Dalmo made-to-measure cashmere

Monday, May 3rd 2021
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In recent weeks we’ve talked about hand-framed knitwear - the slow knitting process used on knits like the Stoffa ribbed polo and the Saman Amel cricket sweater

I’ll do a more in-depth piece on the process later, but today I wanted to add one more producer to that list: an Italian family-run company called Dalmo, based in Tuscany. 

Dalmo’s main business is making for other people. They are the kind of small workshop that produces top-end knits for luxury brands such as United Arrows and Rubinacci, as well as for smaller operations such as Brio in Beijing, or Sartoria Corcos. 

But they also sell under their own name, and offer a remote made-to-measure service of sorts. It was this offering that I tried, and which produced the grey crewneck pictured above. 

The workshop is small, with 10 people working seven looms or other machines. They do hand-framed knitwear and hand-woven scarves - which use similarly sized, old machines - as well as some actual hand knitting. 

You can see two of the women hand knitting above. Often when big brands say something is hand knitted, they mean hand framed (below). To an extent this is understandable, as the effect is similar, with both creating a more spongy, malleable feel than regular knitwear. Hand knitting is further along the same spectrum.

The workshop was set up by Lorando Dalmo in 1950, inspired by his mother’s knitting, and in the following decades he made for brands such as Ferragamo, Trussardi and Sacks Fifth Avenue. 

In 2000, the next generation took over, and focused the business on just hand-made knitwear in luxury materials. That's mostly Loro Piana yarn, but also cashmere/silk, vicuna, and in Summer linen, Peruvian pima cotton and makò.

Today Clotilde Dalmo, Lorando’s granddaughter, runs the social media and handles individual customers, like those looking for made to measure. 

I was recommended Dalmo by a friend, and asked Clotilde about making an MTM sweater for me. 

She initially suggested I send body measurements, but in my experience it's more reliable to use existing knitwear and tweak it, largely because most guys have little experience with commissioning knitwear (unlike shirts or suits). 

I find it’s better, therefore, to either try something the brand already has, or measure knitwear you already own and consider what you would change. Clotilde was happy to do this - the MTM service is pretty informal at this point, and operating mostly over Instagram. 

She sent me a crewneck in a size 40, which turned out to be a pretty good fit, and I just requested the waist to be narrowed by 4cm (in width, not circumference), the sleeves to be shortened and the collar to be slightly smaller. All were based off measurements I took of other knits I own. 

The knit I received three weeks later was beautiful, but had a small error with the width in the waist. It looked like 4cm had been added, rather than taken away. 

Clotilde was very apologetic, and said she suspected it was down to the fact a different woman had made the new piece than the sample, because so many have had to self isolate during Covid. Which is pretty understandable. 

A new piece was made, received another two weeks later, and was perfect. It is pictured here: a fairly heavyweight crewneck, in four-ply cashmere from Loro Piana. The hand feel really is lovely, probably the nicest feeling knit I have alongside the Saman Amel covered recently

Given the weight and brand of the yarn, it was towards the top end of Dalmo’s range, at €540. The cheapest is €215 for a summer-weight polo. 

Most people, even those that have only MTM tailoring or shirts, are fine without MTM knitwear. They just need to find a brand that fits fairly well, whether that’s a little slim or a little big. 

But for those that like these things more precise, or are particularly tall and slim, for example, there are few hand-framed or hand-knitted options. I tried Licia Luchini for hand knitting last year, but it wasn’t that successful. And brands like Stoffa or Saman Amel do it, but only in their particular designs. 

I’m pleased therefore Dalmo worked out well, and I can recommend them. It’s also a lovely workshop and team of people. I’m considering next either a fully hand-knitted piece or a hand-framed Summer one.

Clotilde is in the process of setting up a website to make ordering easier, but in the meantime anyone can contact her on Instagram @dalmocashmere, or email [email protected]

In the images here, I’m wearing the knit with:

Other made-to-measure knitwear we’ve covered, for comparison, includes:

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt