New black bullskin tote, and angled DBs
A new black version of our bullhide tote, a collaboration with Frank Clegg, goes on sale today. It’s available on the Frank Clegg site (not ours) alongside a restock of the dark brown.
I shot some pictures of it with Alex last week, and it reminded me of an interesting tailoring point about the jacket pictured, an old double-breasted from Anderson & Sheppard.
John Hitchcock, the ex-head cutter who made it for me, always said he liked the front edge of a double-breasted to cut away slightly from the waist button. It helped to stop a DB from looking boxy and square.
I’ve indicated the angle that he meant in the picture below (the green line). It also applies to the edge on the other side of the jacket (the yellow line) but this is interrupted by my hand being in the pocket.
Most tailors would cut this front edge straight down from the waist button. You can see how this looks on other pieces of mine, such as the Henry Poole suit here.
Mr Hitchcock preferred a slight angle, so the edge was a diagonal pointing towards the waist. This does the same job as the long line of a lapel, emphasising the slim waist while also suggesting wider shoulders and hips.
The best illustration, actually, is on this old article where I compared the styles of five of my double-breasted jackets – from Poole, Caraceni, Cifonelli, Caliendo and A&S.
There you can see that the front edge drops down straight from the waist button on four jackets, but angles slightly away on the A&S. The jacket shown there is from my dark-grey A&S suit.
The angle has to be very subtle. The kind of thing no one would notice until you point it out to them. Which I think is the case here.
It’s also the kind of artful touch that’s more common in bespoke than ready-to-wear.
Designers tend to go for more obvious things like rounding the corners of DBs, or reducing the wrap until it’s barely a double breasted at all. Often, I’m told, because they feel they need something obvious to catch the consumer’s eye.
Tailors are rarely that innovative or even interested in design, and as I've often said before, I think this can be their biggest weakness.
But when it comes to subtle changes in geometry on a jacket, like this angled front, they are past masters. And they rarely sacrifice elegance for an eye-catching gimmick.
One last, technical point about the jacket shown. The fact that it’s checked shows that the material runs straight down that front edge, rather than being cut back at an angle.
So either the front of the jacket has all been rotated slightly, or the iron has been used to stretch that area. If I ever see Mr Hitchcock again I’ll ask which.
Back to the tote bag.
After the success of this nubuck tote in the first two batches, Ian Clegg and I decided to try black as a second colour.
I was a little nervous about this, because I had seen the brown myself, as a full hide, at the Frank Clegg factory in 2019, but hadn’t seen any other versions. So I was unsure how the black would turn out.
Fortunately, I think the dusty look of the nubuck really suits black, as it easily avoids any of the business associations that a black leather bag could have.
In fact, of the two colours, I feel like black is now the more unusual, more stylised choice. It has something of the night about it. More Goth than Gekko.
All the new bags, black and brown, are being shipped by Frank Clegg from the US.
Last time we had stock with both them and us, but it caused too much confusion (and needless costs) with shipping between locations.
Frank Clegg also offer free domestic and international shipping on expensive bags like this, so there isn’t much extra cost to an English customer who would have previously bought their bag from the UK, for example.
If you want extra information on Clegg’s policies, or taxes and duties, in advance of purchasing, the best thing is to contact them. The bag is available from their site here.
You can read more about the details of the tote, its design and inception, on the original launch article. Here's a summary for anyone that wants a quick reminder:
- The Permanent Style x Frank Clegg tote is the same general design as Clegg’s ‘Tall Tote’
- The functional difference is that two internal pockets have been added, one zipped and one open
- The bigger difference is the leather, which is a thick bullskin nubuck
- The bullskin feels very soft and luxurious, but it’s also tough. While the surface has a tumbled softness, the skin has a lot of body, which makes it more substantial than suede as well as stronger
- It also has a 3M treatment that makes it water and oil resistant, and virtually impossible to stain. I’ve been using by brown one for almost three years, and there isn’t a mark on it
- The skin is from Remy Carriat, a family-owned French tannery
- Importantly, the nubuck has a more contemporary look than leather, making it a good material for anyone that needs a daily bag but doesn't want to look too traditional
Then, a few product details:
- The tote has rolled handles with an eight-inch drop
- The edges are buffed and polished, rather than turned
- It is unlined
- The internal zip and puller are solid brass
- It is fully made at the Frank Clegg workshop in Fall River, Massachusetts
- It is 14.5 inches wide at the base, 18.5 at the top, and 5.5 inches deep
- It weighs 3lbs (1.35kg): more than some totes, but less than other cases or duffles, for example.
Elsewhere in these images, I’m wearing a shirt from Simone Abbarchi, in a white twill. I find twill the nicest material for a sharp, smart white shirt. Which is what I wanted here with a DB jacket and high-twist trousers.
Those trousers were made by Cerrato, and the high-twist wool is Drapers 4-ply. There's just enough contrast between jacket and trouser, for me, despite them both being grey, helped by the stark white shirt and the polished brown shoes.
Those shoes are from Yohei Fukuda (reviewed in full here) and are probably my favourite really smart, elegant shoes at the moment, despite not being full bespoke (there were no fittings). The design is just so nicely balanced, and perfectly executed.
The umbrella is black silk, from Michel Heurtault. The pen is from Yard-O-Led, and the watch my JLC Reverso.
Overall a simple, elegant non-corporate non-necktie combination, I think, made a touch dandyish by the checked jacket. (My Ciardi corduroy, here, would have been less dandy.)
Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt
On your point about the pattern of the check against that angle in the quarter; if you look at the full figure photo the check verticals appear parallel throughout your entire front half. I’d guess then the pattern has been slightly turned for the cutting. If some stretching was involved would there be some distortion in the check? If it’s the former this is surely testament to the skill and eye of the cutter and tailor to achieve that. (For the record I wouldn’t have noticed the angle but may have done if the check had not been straight.)
It might have been turned, but not necessarily. If the iron had been used to stretch the cloth slightly then it wouldn’t necessarily be noticeable. It is also used sometimes to shape the fronts around a more round customer, without any noticeable difference.
Also things like the waist dart actually create more distortion – there is some there at the waist here, but even then you barely see it. What’s important there is that the dart is in the middle between the checks, which is always a bit of a balancing act as to where you place the cloth when creating the pattern – given you also need to consider how it looks on the front edge.
I did chat to a couple of cutters about this, by the way, including at A&S, just for background.
Thank you, Simon. Just to ask a supplementary question to that, I assume then the moulding of the cloth for want of a better term is held in place by seam stitching, padding etc? Must be a challenge with a regular pattern like a check.
No, it doesn’t need to be held in place by anything. You can just shape wool with heat and moisture – you can see to what extremes on this piece we did about collar canvas etc
Thank you, Simon.
This is one of my favourite jackets. Do you think with the cutter now departed A&S would still be able to deliver this jacket today? Shoes are also beautiful.
I personally wont be purchasing the bag but if i was i would ask about the tax free purchase price for shipping to UK. It’s surprising how few brands based abroad offer this and i never understand why?
I think A&S would be able to, yes. By the way, chatting to them for the piece, they did emphasise that this angle of the front edge was more Mr Hitchcock’s idiosyncrasy than a firm part of house style. But that doesn’t mean you couldn’t request it.
Aahhhh decisions, decisions! I have been hoping for a restock of this for ages – but now seeing the black, I’m a bit torn on which one.
Maybe an obvious question – most of my jackets/coats are brown, as are my shoes (leather and suede) – so brown tote + brown suede shoes or jacket is definitely overkill, right?
Well, I wouldn’t say brown shoes and brown tote is overkill. I do that all the time and it’s fine. Even brown suede.
A brown jacket as will might be a little much, but you could just wear brown calf shoes rather than suede and I think it would be fine.
Overall, I think you’re likely to find the brown more versatile.
I have just this week received a Frank Clegg commuter tote.
I cannot praise the build quality of the bag enough – it is just gorgeous. It is the nearest I have seen to the Hermes quality of leather work.
Fast and efficient import/delivery as well.
Sod it – just ordered the black. I’ll try and fill the brown allocation with a nice tumbled leather in chocolate or cognac 😄
Good call. It looks fantastic. Congratulations.
That’s such a nice outfit, I have avoided check outerwear over the past few years due to the slightly showy nature of it, especially when combined with other patterned accessories. Ok for the races but less so daily life. But this combination of greys, including jacket in that slight brushed finish and simple yet refined footwear and bag just makes the jacket blend in as a point of individuality but not overly eye catching. Of the many perfect combos you figure out Simon this is one of my faves!
Wow, lovely to hear. Thanks JP
Love this outfit Simon, great balance in the tones. I may be biased because I arguably wear too much grey, but I find it interesting the colder grey of the high twist trousers perfectly contrasts the grey check jacket to my eye as far as contrast goes. Especially with the hint of colour in that check I can see. Lovely.
That front edge angle is something I wouldn’t even notice if you hadn’t pointed it out but it creates a great effect on the proportions and gives the appearance of less excess when the jackets open. That’s what I would notice.
The bag really sets things off. I said last year the brown was a thing of beauty, but the black genuinely has me tempted, that texture is crazy. I think it’s these subtle hits of black that are adding a very unique element to your style. Notes are being taken.
I just ordered the brown tote. I was tempted by the black but decided to buy the more versatile version. I rarely wear black shoes and that is mostly for the most formal occasions (where a tote may be out of place).
I have, as many in ”menswear” been skeptical of black. Especially black worsted suits but also black calf leather.
But I have learned to appreciate black suede and black grain calf where the structure is more interesting. If I ever by a black suit it would probably be in cotton. I think that the black tote is a perfect example of using black.
But you can actually have too many bags. So I bought the brown. That is extra important for a commute where you want to have most items there every day.
Nicely described and thought through Carl, thank you.
Love the bag – bit beyond my budget but perhaps I’ll be able to save up considering trips abroad aren’t looking all that practical at the moment.
If you don’t mind, on the theme of bags, my current gym bag is a backpack holdall hybrid but I’m looking to swap this – partly because I’d like to start wearing a suit to work (instead of shirt, trousers and a more casual jacket). I wouldn’t want to wear the backpack with my suit for fear of looking like a school boy and in case of any damage done to the suit from the continual use of the bag.
Any styles you’d recommend?
Yeah, sorry about that. We are always aiming for the absolute finest, which means much of it isn’t very affordable. Just our niche.
Your logic is very sound on the gym bag. I use a Bennett Winch canvas holdall, which I find works well. Tough, light and easy.
Not a problem – something to aspire to! It’s certainly cheaper than buying a house closer to my gym.
Can I ask which model of Bennett Winch holdall you use as a gym bag?
Sorry, of course. The Commuter in black
Many thanks Simon
The solidity of your jacket,shirt and trousers is set off by the fabulous (may I say,slightly racy) shoes. These are beautiful shoes with all the elegance of a racing yacht.
That’s very kind, thank you Peter.
The balance of the design in this classic Yohei Fukuda really is appealing to me more and more. I can’t think of any other shoe I’ve even tried on that has the same combination of beautiful style and great fit.
Oh, how I long to own a pair of Mr Fukuda’s wonderful creations! I wonder if there will be any London trunk shows in the foreseeable future…?
Also, as an aside Simon, have you ever come across a German shoemaker called Patrick Frei? Aesthetically he seems very distinctive and although I can appreciate he might not be to everyone’s taste, his attention to detail is something to behold.
Not that I know of I’m afraid Edward, but then that’s just travel in general.
Yes, I saw Frei’s work when he won the shoe prize, and it was exquisite.
To be honest, though, one of the things that this pair of shoes reveals to me again and again, is how the beauty of shoes is largely in the proportions, the balance and lines, rather than fancy details or stitches per inch. It’s just so much more elegant. And, that they must fit really well or there’s just no point at all.
They have to have the perfect ratio. They have to be designed not assembled.
HI Simon. Love everything about this. The cold colour palette is so understated and works so beautifully
Frank Clegg bullhide tote question – can you give me thoughts on zipper v. no zipper. I like zippers on totes for planes but from the pictures (sand suede tall tote) it makes the tote appear boxier. Just your thoughts after using it on whether the zipper helps and thoughts on how it affects the shape of the tote. Thanks
I’ve never felt the need for a zip on the top of a tote, no, which is why we didn’t include one.
Very little rain ever gets in, given you’re carrying it at your side with the handles pulled up. And the zip is just quite unattractive.
It does affect the shape a little bit, but those are my reasons for not ever wanting one.
I remember seeing your coverage of this jacket many years ago and thinking it wonderful. Without wishing to be indelicate, do you think maybe the fit has changed over the years with physical changes you may have undergone (maybe even good ones eg more muscle)? Is this something you have adjusted for on any of your jackets?
The fit has changed slightly, yes, and I have had it adjusted – there’s an article on that here
With all due respect to Mr Hitchcock, I would not have wanted him to make a DB for me like that. Perhaps it’s because I dislike open quarters in general. But I can’t get away from the thought that the coat looks out of balance (even though I realize it is not).
A quick note of appreciation of the tote. I bought the brown nubuck from Clegg to replace a canvas-with-leather-strap zip tote I had from a fashion brand. The great thing about the Clegg tote shape is the handles are exactly the right length that one cannot be tempted to sling it over the shoulder and ruin a jacket. (And anyone taller than 5′ 6″ will not have any trouble keeping it clear of the pavement.) In the interests of full disclosure, my wife remains thoroughly hostile to the tote, on the grounds that was too expensive for something as un-versatile as tote. But along with my JPLC aviator, it’s one of only two bags that make me happy. Not entirely certain how I feel about the black version, but the images make the saturation of the colour seem cool enough that it couldn’t be mistaken for a high-end computer bag or anything like that.
Lovely to hear, thanks for letting me know Michael
Why do you write: “If I ever see Mr Hitchcock again,……” – That sounds as if you can’t write him?
I don’t think we know each other well enough for me to contact him personally Peter. He has also since retired, so it’s not so much a professional inquiry.
I could ask his son, Steven, who I know better, to ask his father, but I’m not sure it’s important enough to require that kind of investigation.
This is a beautiful tote! However and surprisingly enough, this kind of bag is only carried by women in continental Europe, mainly Italy, France and Spain. Obviously a cultural oddity!
I don’t think that’s really right John. I know friends in France, Spain, Italy and Sweden that do so. Perhaps we’re talking about different groups
On the angle thing: I guess the front of the jacket has all been rotated slightly (instead of ironing) since the pattern also seems to be on an angle througout the jacket (even at the top).
Not necessarily, no. See comments above on this. Ironing can easily alter only one part of a jacket.
Curious how useful you find a double-breasted check jacket like this? Seems like it is very distinctive, and a bit formal.
It is both, and I wouldn’t wear it in an office setting, not with many other distinctive things. But a navy plain DB I would
Thank you for the nice article! It’s a beautiful jacket. However, isn’t the fact that the check follows the front edge a tailoring defect? If the edge is made intentionally to stand at an angle, the pattern shouldn’t follow it in my opinion. It should rather fall down ‘straight’. Otherwise it creates a rather unflattering A line. What I mean is that I’d expect the vertical lines of the pattern to be perpendicular to the ground, no matter how open or angled the front is. I can see the same issue on your blue single breasted A&S jacket but it’s less pronounced there since there is no pattern.
It’s not really the same on a single breasted, as the bottom edge is curved. That’s much less of an issue.
With a DB like this, yes definitely, if the lines were obviously not perpendicular to the ground then it would look odd. But it’s very subtle, and no one would ever look at those lines and think that. Particularly as, because of the shaping, the checks run parallel to the bottom hem as well.
In fact, that’s probably the best indicator that this was done through ironing not rotating. I hadn’t thought of that before
I could benefit from your expertise if you don’t mind briefly sharing. I am thinking about buying my first (and likely only) bespoke suit, and due to my personal taste and perception of the brand, I am thinking Huntsman. Is there any reason you would recommend not going with Huntsman? I understand it is expensive, which is OK (not that I am rich); what I would be afraid of is one of those scenarios where the top notch quality is no longer there and they are living off of traditional reputation.
Thanks for any help,
My experience with Huntsman wasn’t that amazing, but that was a cutter from a while ago who is no longer there. The current cutters are very good from what I’ve heard.
The only things I would say are that you’re not really getting much extra for your money compared to other Row tailors. But if that’s the style you want then I don’t think there’s much of a risk you won’t get a great suit.
Simon, Thank you much for your thoughts. There is some rich information in here and it is quite helpful. If you don’t mind a follow up, I am specifically interested in making something similar to the below suit. Would you say this fit is specific to Huntsman, or more to a historical period? Big thanks once again, Bill
Always happy with follow-ups, don’t worry.
I think you could get the same style from any structured English tailor, so the likes of Poole, Dege, Gieves etc, as well as Huntsman.
Do be careful of the puppytooth though. I find it quite a showy material, even though the pattern is small. More an event suit than a day to day one, particularly in a DB.
I’m also not a massive fan of high that DB is buttoned.
Big thank you again. OK, so a good amount going on here… thank you (very much actually). I think you are saying that the shape of the suit is not necessarily characteristic of Huntsman… is that correct? For me this is an important point because it is the main reason I targeted Huntsman.
This is a very different and very specific suit; if it was a non-specific style of lets say the 1950s, and several houses made it, then I would like to go where the best value is… so the best of the structured tailors you recommend above; however, if it was more characteristic of huntsman, I wouldn’t be interested in going to a different tailor, even if that other tailor could make it to the same specifications and at a lesser price.
Sorry to pester you with this minutia, I am just not sure who else to ask (i.e., as nice as the people at Huntsman have been, it is difficult for them to be objective).
No worries Bill. And yes, I’m saying a similar cut could be found at other tailors. Particularly with an image like this to lead them.
Thank you so much… this has all been very helpful. And thank you for all of the content!!
Always my pleasure. If you want to do anything to support us, tell a friend
Hello, I had an interesting thought. That suit was made in 2002, would it be easy for me to find out who the cutter was at Huntsman and where they are now? Once again, thanks much.
I don’t know to be honest. Huntsman may not give that kind of information
OK; and thank you again for the response.
I’m pretty sure that the cutter for this suit was Terry Haste, so you could get a better suit for less money by going to see the originator… Kent, Haste in Sackville Street.
A very nice tote from Frank Clegg. Living in Massachusetts, I am familiar with their bags – and have several – they have a wonderfully wide range of leather totes, bags, etc. They should also be complimented on their facilities in an old mill. A great adaptive reuse of an historic structure. Fall River needs much more of this kind of investment. As an historical note: totes were originally for carrying coal – especially anthracite coal for domestic use. They were made of heavy canvas and their innovation was to carry the handle down to become part of the bag’s bottom, thus making it hard for the handle to separate. (Coal was heavy.) Then mass maketing discover the tote and they became canvas carry-ons for everything from groceries to picnic supplies. Yours is a wonderful example of “low” to “high” with a change of material and use, while keeping the innovative handle attachment.
Thank you Jack, and I didn’t realise that about their original use, thanks
There may be a few apocryphal origin stories for tote bags! The one I’ve heard is that what we recognise as the “tote” bag today was invented by LL Bean for carrying ice or other supplies to ones boat (hence the boat n tote bag).
Probably. I also feel like this is the simplest type of bag there is, so it’s probably existed in one form or another for much longer than LL Bean has been around. Perhaps older than the industrial mining of coal as well.
how about a picture for the front side with the DB buttoned?
Been expecting to see this somewhere in this page but was surprised that there is no photo showing the front of the DB when buttoned….
Yes, very good point Luke. It was only after taking the shots that I realised we had omitted that.
The look is exactly the same as the grey jacket linked to in the article – here. But I realise it’s not quite the same as seeing the same jacket buttoned.
is 3M treatment also done on the interior of the bag?
I got a Montblanc bag in perfect condition at a second hand store for a bargain price (https://tinyurl.com/45bf9xtb – as image ref) a few years ago, which is perfectly organised with different inside pockets where I can put pen, papers, block note, computer, etc. Though I do love this bag, and think it looks lovey, there’s no denying it does look formal in its very neat black leather, too formal almost for everyday office work, and more suited to meeting with externals (though even with them, a tie will almost never be worn, this is IT after all) – and even then it might sometimes be a bit much.
Since I’ll soon have to go back to the office after COVID, I’ve started to think of an other, more casual, bag that could be easier for everyday life.
I’ve noticed that there is a certain love for totes on PS, which makes me very curious: while I wish I would understand, I don’t really do. I don’t get why a tote, and not something else, as a tote seems to be unpractical:
The impression I get off of it is, shortly put, as something I would use for a small grocery shopping trip 😀 – but then can’t help and think that I must be wrong somehow.
So how do you use a tote? What do you use it for, what do you carry in it? In which context? What do you have to say regarding my supposed practicality view?
How would another bag, say Frank Clegg’s commuter briefcase (in grain or suede leather), compare to a tote from your point of view, in terms of practicality but also in terms of style?
And finally, if I could only get one bag, what would you advise? So that the answer can be used by most, maybe 2 advices would be great, one that has to consider a laptop and one that doesn’t, that would be very kind.
Thanks a lot for your time and efforts.
Quite a lot of questions there. But I’ll start with a short one. Which is that the reason I like totes and not the commuter briefcase or any other similar bag is that they all look too smart. There is no alternative that doesn’t.
In terms of organisation, a tote can have several internal pockets, and a computer can go in a padded case if you want, but I don’t usually.
Howdy Mr. Crompton,
I have been reading your work for some time and love finding ways to sneak the insight gleaned into my everyday presentation. This is my first attempt to join the discussion, and I thank you in advance for consideration.
It’s hard to remember a time when I have been so ambivalent. In fact, I tend to be quite decisive. And yet, the question of brown or black for this particular tote is just totally confounding.
Admittedly, I am a bit of a bag fiend. I own an embarrassing number of Filson bags, all in the tan twill. Hence, my dilemma.
One one hand, I have a million Filson bags, so I sort of have brown/tan covered, and should get black.
On the other hand, I have a million Filson bags, so I should get brown, in order to facilitate an effortless, eyes closed, matching situation.
The fact is that I ordered black (with no small trepidation). I love the rock n roll connotation of this lack of color. I’d like to thank you for introducing me to this artisan, as I’m always on the hunt for best in class.
Amazing, thanks Bo. I hope you really enjoy it – and that it provides a nice alternative to the rest of your collection