The Sale Shop: Permanent Style, Marrkt and J.Girdwood

The Sale Shop: Permanent Style, Marrkt and J.Girdwood

Sunday, November 28th 2021
Share
||- Begin Content -||

Some readers will probably already have seen the Instagram announcement of a 'Sale Shop' in a couple of weeks, in the same space in The Service where we held the recent pop-up.

It's a collaboration between myself, Marrkt and J.Girdwood. We will be selling a mix of deadstock and our personal pre-owned pieces, for two days only - Friday December 10th, and Saturday December 11th.

From my point of view, the idea is two-fold: to sell in person some of the clothing I would normally put on Marrkt, just because it's nicer; and then to sell some personal pieces, including bespoke tailoring, that I think is better done face-to-face. Sizing on those bespoke commissions can also be a little trickier.

So I will be bringing over 100 items, including tailoring and shoes, shirts and ties, knitwear and trousers. Sometimes they're being sold because I bought the wrong size, other times because they proved not to be my style.

As with the clothes that normally go on Marrkt, most reductions will be in the region of 40%-70%. With expensive bespoke pieces, however, they are rather larger - around £150 for a jacket. Because you're obviously not getting the fit benefits of bespoke.

In terms of sizing, the clothes will fit between a 38 and 40-inch chest, shoes are between size 8 and 9, and everything else is mostly Small or Medium.

James Girdwood, however, has a size 42 chest, and of course the Marrkt pieces cover the whole range, from XS to XXL. So there will be something for everyone.

From Marrkt's point of view, they're looking forward to meeting customers in person, given everything's otherwise online.

Two staff will be there both days, and the stock will deliberately be brands PS readers will like: Real McCoy's, RRL, Nigel Cabourn, Bennett Winch, Bryceland's, Orslow and Alden, as well as a variety of tailoring.

Marrkt have quite a lot of samples and deadstock from brands too, and will be bringing a lot of new Viberg boots (all sizes), Red Rabbit jewellery and some other bits.

If any PS readers have anything they'd like Marrkt to sell, by the way, they can contact the team through Marrkt.com.

James Girdwood - whom readers will probably recognise from our previous pop-up shops - is also selling a mix of old and new.

He has a good selection of his personal pre-owned clothing, including pieces from Coherence, Real McCoy's, Muller & Bros, TCB, Pommella, Alden, Prologue, Edward Sexton, Dunhill, Nackymade and Crockett & Jones.

And then he has stock from his brand, J.Girdwood. These are 7-fold and 3-fold ties from Bigi and Francesco Marino, cordovan accessories, Codis Maya jewellery and Justo Gimeno Tebas. Those of course in more of a range of sizes.

Other details about the Sale Shop:

  • Discounts will be similar on all brands
  • Opening times for the shop will be Friday 10am-7pm, Saturday 10am-6pm
  • The dates again are December 10th and 11th
  • The location is The Service, 32 Savile Row
  • Unlike the previous pop-up, this is all stock to buy and take away
  • Payment is by card, although cash also accepted (it might just require a little fiddling around for change!)
  • Most of my stock that is not sold in the shop will then go on Marrkt, though I'm not sure how much of that there will be

Thank you all, and I hope you all find something wonderful to give a new home to.

 

 

The new Permanent Style x Cromford shearling coat

The new Permanent Style x Cromford shearling coat

Share
||- Begin Content -||

During the recent pop-up shop on Savile Row, the most asked-about item was the Donegal Overcoat. The one most readers came in with (perhaps surprisingly) was the Nubuck Tote. But by far the most popular - to try on, stroke and generally touch - was the PS Shearling

Everyone tried on their size in the end I think - Ethan, Tony, Lucas, and a host of readers. It was simply the most luxurious thing on display, and it made a big difference that people could feel it as well as see it. 

That’s the biggest problem with selling online. It’s hard to communicate how good something feels, let alone the specific ways in which it does so. 

I guess most PS readers will have tried on luxury shearling before, so that’s a good start. It has that same light-suede softness on the surface, but unlike suede also has a pliancy, body and bounce, because there’s curly wool underneath. Like wearing a fine suede overshirt on top of cashmere knitwear, perhaps. 

Let me know if that was a vivid evocation or, alternatively, gibberish. If it’s the latter I’ll try again. 

In the meantime, here’s another angle. If most readers have felt luxury shearling, then this is the same - possibly better - and much cheaper. 

I never make price a big selling point with our collaborations. In fact I think readers should be inherently suspicious of any brand that does so. But it is nonetheless true that Cromford uses the best shearling there is, and at any designer brand it would be almost twice as much. 

The PS x Cromford shearling coat costs £2700, which is an awful lot of money. But the same Spanish merino is used to make pieces that cost over £5000 elsewhere, and there are many in between that are nowhere near the same quality. (Look out for larger skins and seams in odd places.)

The design points I ran through in our first article on this coat are more important, but it’s good to remind everyone of the value as well. 

Those design points include the sweep of buttons that are all functional, fastening up under the chin. The double thickness of the shearling on the lapel and collar, which makes them sit better but stops the whole coat from being too heavy. And the pockets that work equally well for hands and accessories, whether you like to use the top or bottom set. 

All the details are on the original launch article here.

This year we decided to do a different colour of the shearling for the second run. But there are still some coats and skins (for made to measure) available in the olive too. See bottom of this article for details. 

This year’s colour is a very dark, greyed brown on the outside, and black on the inside. As described last year, this double dyeing is expensive, but I think creates a lot more character. Having a dark inner layer also makes the coat look less bulky. 

The colours of the shearling are actually quite similar to the ones we used on the Wax Walker, and the same clothes look good with it. 

So it looks particularly nice with grey, charcoal, taupe, cream and dark denim. But it’s also good with beige, mid-blue denim and navy. 

The colour could seem quite striking when worn with off-white jeans, as I am in the image above. But actually it’s just a dark brown like any other, as you’d have in a core suede blouson or tweed jacket, and I find it just as versatile. 

I’ve also deliberately shown it with different types of clothing to last time. 

Last winter the olive version was shown with jeans and crewneck, and flannels and a roll neck. This time I’ve added a cream hoodie (above, from The Real McCoy’s) and a denim shirt (below, from Bryceland’s). 

The combination below, in particular, demonstrates how nice this new colour is with dark indigo, which is not necessarily what I think most you’d expect. 

That image above also shows how the coat looks with the collar down. I didn’t include an image of this last time, but not because I dislike it that way. 

I am more likely to wear the collar up, but when down it has a nice roll through the front, and the curly wool  on that leading edge is broken up by the hand-worked buttonholes. 

Something else I didn’t show last time was actually my favourite way to button the coat, which is to fasten one lapel under the chin (there is a jigger button on the other side for the purpose) but leave the other lapel rolling open. 

The shot below illustrates this. It’s nice because you still get a lot of protection across the chest, but you also have that long, flattering lapel line. And it only requires two or three buttons to be fastened (the other jigger button, at the waist, is the third).

The coat is sold by Cromford, not us, and so you should head to the Cromford website for details about sizing, product queries, and questions about made to measure. 

The following is currently available:

  • 20 brown coats ready-made in sizes Small to XXLarge
  • Enough skins for 5 brown made-to-measure coats
  • 3 olive coats (shown below) remaining from last year: Medium, Large, XXLarge
  • Enough skins for 1 olive made-to-measure 

The coats cost £2250 plus VAT for RTW, and £2812 plus VAT for MTM.

  • MTM takes roughly eight weeks. The extra time is consultation, shipping and making toile fittings
  • The MTM must be in the same style as this coat, but otherwise there are no  limitations
  • If you want a different style, this is a bespoke service, which should be discussed separately with Cromford
  • I have a 39-inch chest, am 6 foot tall, and wear a Medium in both sets of pictures. I could happily size up to a Large too, though, if I wanted to wear more thick roll necks underneath. The difference between sizes is not Large. Again, though, Cromford are best for advice here.

Photography above, Milad Abedi; below, Jamie Ferguson.

Turnbull & Asser: The Sustainability Framework

Turnbull & Asser: The Sustainability Framework

Wednesday, November 24th 2021
Share
||- Begin Content -||

This is the first article using our Sustainability Framework, which we set out on PS a couple of months ago. Its aim was to create a definition of environmental sustainability that could be used to talk to companies we cover, about their efforts to become more sustainable. 

What we’re finding is that every company is on a journey. Some aspects of sustainability are easy to change, or have more impact, and so are tackled first. Others are almost impossible, or require innovation from suppliers. 

None of it is simple, and everyone is different. Which is why a lot of companies don’t talk about it, and why an advert shouting that a brand has cut water waste by 67% is virtually meaningless. That kind of advertising can also make people understandably cynical.

By actually talking to companies about what they’re doing, we hope to have a more open and productive conversation. Both to improve understanding among consumers, and share advice with other small companies. 

Our first conversation was with Becky French, creative director of Turnbull & Asser. 

Turnbull is a nice example to kick off with, because it is neither a small company of two or three staff - as many are on PS - nor a large fashion brand. 

A small company has the advantage of flexibility, and starting from scratch with suppliers. They can start with sustainability built in from the start. A big brand, on the other hand, often has dedicated sustainability staff, plus the budget to bring in consultants. 

T&A has two shops in London and one in New York. It has a separate office, and both shirt and tie production in Gloucestershire. The business is still largely shirts, but it sells everything from trousers to cufflinks. 

“The complexity of the product offer really makes things harder,” Becky told me, when we sat down in the Mayfair office. “It means for example that we have a huge range of packaging, all required for different sizes of product, for sale in store and online.”

However, shirts account for almost 80% of the business, so it made sense to start there. 

“The first thing we did, three years ago, was switch all the external giftbox and bag packaging so that it was recycled and recyclable,” says Becky. “I think there are customer expectations about how a luxury product should look - Mr Porter probably set the benchmark - so we didn’t feel we could get away from that. But we wanted to make sure that that packaging could be re-used by customers, and it was as sustainable as possible.”

The next challenge was all the plastic inside. “Shirts have to be shipped without being damaged or the collars being crushed, and anyone who’s bought a good shirt knows how many plastic packaging accessories that requires,” Becky says.

Customers coming into Jermyn Street and buying just one shirt could perhaps do without so much packaging. But not when shipping them in bulk, for example from the factory to New York. 

T&A has been around for almost 150 years, so the first thought was they must have used something before plastic. They did apparently, cardboard, but collars also got squashed. 

That started a search for a replacement material - asking suppliers, asking peers, and the factory management doing the same. “The thing is, nothing exists out there in the market at the moment,” says Becky. “No one is making something we can use. So while we can talk to suppliers and let them know there is the demand, we are very dependent on them.”

One resource that was useful was Walpole, the British luxury association. It has discussion groups for members, such as T&A, and over the past six months Becky and the team have been asking everyone for suggestions.

“People were so open and happy to share, which isn’t necessarily what you would expect,” says Becky. “Someone will have a supplier they recommend; someone else will have an experience that was helpful. Everyone is trying to improve here, so there’s no shortage of searching.”

There’s also no snobbery. For example, on plastic packaging one of the most helpful Walpole members was a dry cleaning company that was trying to cut down its plastic use, as it goes through a huge volume. 

“We’ve looked at so many options,” says Becky. “For a while we were talking to Flexi-Hex, which originally came up with a cardboard packaging to use on surfboards, but is now used by lots of industries.”

T&A hoped a version of the corrugated cardboard could be used to support shirt collars, but that didn’t pan out. Part of the issue is that every company is trying to become sustainable at the same time, and small companies like Flexi-Hex can’t innovate in every direction at once.

Another option being considered is replacing the collar stays with a material like bamboo. “We’re doing trials on that at the moment,” says Becky, “but I’m not sure whether it will be as reliable or, again, have that luxury finish people expect.”

There’s also a project to encourage customers to return their plastic packaging, so it can be re-used at the factory. “With a lot of these solutions, half the challenge is communication,” says Becky. “Such as encouraging people to re-use those plastic collar stays, or give them one metal set that they can use on all their shirts.”

A similar push is underway to get customers to return shirts they don’t wear any more - to be recycled or (if still wearable) given to charity.

In many areas, T&A has a bit of a head start. 

“For example, encouraging people to buy less is contradictory to the interests of a lot of businesses,” says Becky. 

“But we’ve always encouraged customers to bring back their shirts to be repaired, or to have collars and cuffs replaced. The team love this - there’s something very satisfying for a maker about keeping a great product going.”

Turnbull also has a lot of loyal customers around the world, and some bring in shirts that are 20 or 30 years old, to offer them for the archive. “Touring the archive as a designer is inspiring,” says Becky. “It reminds you of how great shirts can last well and, in that way, be quite sustainable.”

It should also be mentioned that Becky was wearing an archive piece herself, when we met: a boldly striped blue-and-white shirt with the collar cut off and therefore frayed. It looked very chic, at least on her.

Having its own factory helps T&A keep travel miles down. And while its raw materials come from around the world, shirting mils are among the most innovative when it comes to sustainability. Whenever I see Albini or Alumo at trade shows it feels like they talk about nothing else. 

T&A is also planning to offer a range of shirts in organic cotton - which brings up an interesting question: Why not make everything in that cotton, if you want to be more sustainable?

“We could take a position on that as a business,” says Becky, “but it would make the end product more expensive for the customer. I think it’s another area where the customer can drive things - if everyone just buys the organic range, then that encourages us to make more of the product that way. We’ll see the response when we launch the range in 2022.”

It also works further down the supply chain: as more companies have asked for organic cottons, mills like Albini have increased their range, and made them available as part of their standard stock service, rather than special order.

Turnbull & Asser Stores by Pip

Interestingly, the original spur for all this work was T&A’s Royal Warrant from HRH Prince Charles. The Royal Warrant is a stamp of approval for quality, yet perhaps customers aren’t familiar with anything further,” says Becky. “The criteria to retain a warrant are quite detailed in some ways.”

I didn’t know this either: the Royal Warrant has to be renewed every five years, and part of the process for those given by Prince Charles is that the company answers a set of questions on sustainability - and shows that they are constantly improving. 

“In response to that we initially looked at B Corps certification. Their process is very impressive, and not easy to go through, but it is widely recognised. In the end we decided we weren’t ready for it, but it’s something that’s still on the table when team capacity allows,” says Becky

The pandemic also delayed much of the work. “Supply chains have been under so much stress in the past two years that it’s not surprising a lot got put on hold. But it was frustrating. Now we’re back on it again, sampling and actually making decisions.”

That currently includes making some shirts out of Lyocell (wood pulp) and talking more about linen, which is one of the more sustainable fibres. Both require more communication work than production. 

They’re also experimenting with how shirts are stocked and stored. And looking at sourcing for other areas of the business, such as suits. “We generally use British fabrics, but the suits are made in Italy. There was a discussion of whether we should use Italian fabrics instead, to cut down on the mileage,” says Becky. 

“In the end we decided not to, and that was probably right for our brand, but I think if one thing has really changed in the past few years it’s that sustainability is part of every one of those conversations.”

For me, that last statement of Becky’s is the most important of all. No one is perfect - but many companies are genuinely striving every day to be better. Hopefully this first article has given you some insight into how this actually happens - the challenges and the achievements - at one company in particular. 

Read the Sustainability Framework, its definitions and aims, here

Why does good knitwear pill?

 

Nobody wants pilling, so if your jumper pills it must be a sign of poor quality, right?

Not necessarily.

Finer, more luxurious knitwear is more delicate and takes more looking after. If you don’t care for it, it might pill more than the cheap, coarse stuff.

And, cheaper knitwear – from big high-street brands – is often given an artificial coating to make it pill less. Because consumers notice pilling, but they don’t necessarily notice the slightly greasy feel of those coatings.

If you want good knitwear that doesn’t pill, you should buy quality, buy denser knits, and look after it (basically, not squashing it into drawers and washing it regularly).

That’s the short version of the advice.

Below, in this latest chapter in our Guide to Knitwear, is the long version. For people like PS readers that want to know why.

 

 

Over finishing

Pilling is created when fibres that stick out of the surface of knitwear rub together. They twist up, often with the help of moisture from the body, and form knots.

When there are more of these fibres sticking up, you get more pilling.

There are various reasons for having more, but one is that the sweater has been more intensely finished – washed, with softeners, and brushed – to make if feel more fluffy when you pick it up in a shop.

In general, Italian knitwear has more finishing than Scottish knitwear. This means it feels fluffier to start with, but can pill more and sometimes not last as long.

So that’s one reason luxurious-feeling knitwear might pill a surprising amount. It’s a difference we’ve covered before here. But there are others.

 

 

Washing

Knitwear that has less finishing will soften during the first few wears, and washes.

The washing is crucial. A good, delicate wash will remove some stray hairs, align the rest, and generally prevent things that can cause pilling.

With Scottish knitwear, it’s important to do this after the first few wears. But with any knitwear, it’s important to do it some time – and few people do.

If knits get a little dirty, a little rubbed, a little damp, then the fibres are more likely to knit together. A simple wash will clean and smooth that out.

Washing can seem scary, but all it needs is five minutes of soaking in warm water, with a small amount of non-bio detergent, and a little squeezing (not rubbing). It’s easy and rewarding. More tips on this video.  

There are also great services that will clean, repair and de-pill knits for you, if this is too challenging.

 

 

Caring

Rubbing is bad with wearing as well as washing.

So don’t wear a backpack over the top of a nice cashmere. Don’t shove all your knits into a tiny shelf. Fold it, and generally treat it well.

There’s actually an interesting tendency for people to expect expensive clothing to do everything – both feel amazing and be tough as hell.

You see it particularly with socks, where people often complain that expensive socks don’t last that long.

But fine things are often literally finer – thinner fibres, which is a big contributor to softness – and can never be as tough as something much thicker. So they need looking after.

 

 

Longevity

This tendency also has negative repercussions. Because people demand cashmere that feels great and doesn’t pill, brands come up with ways to add an artificial ‘anti-pill’ coating to it.

This then has side-effects. It can give a slightly greasy feeling to the knit, as we’ve covered in a piece on Uniqlo here. And the softness has to be achieved with more washing/softening plus knitting more loosely. The integrity of the garment itself is being undermined, all in the search for perfect cashmere under £100.

That lack of integrity will be felt in the long term. And this, perhaps, is the rub.

Great knitwear is designed to last many years – even decades. Those that know and value cashmere can proudly show pieces handed down from their parents, which still look virtually brand new.

Most knitwear will not last a lifetime, and most people don’t want if too. But if looked after well, there’s no reason it shouldn’t last – and look good – for year and years. And of course that makes it great value in the long term too.

 

 

Types of knit

A final trend worth noting is that all knitwear – cheap and expensive – is increasingly knitted more openly, making it more delicate.

There are many reasons for this, including that need to feel soft at the point of sale, expectations around comfort and lightness, and an attempt to communicate luxury.

There’s nothing necessarily bad about this knitwear like this. It’s just different. Historically it’s the kind of quality that was made for womenswear rather than men’s. But it is more delicate and will pill more readily.

If you buy a hand-knitted cashmere that feels wonderfully soft and open, then consider that it is more delicate and needs to be treated as such. The same goes for some chunky shawl-collar cardigans (above), if you can see the knitting is open and spongy.

Both of these might be very expensive, yet pill more than anything else you own.

 

Conclusion

Pilling indicates many things, but quality isn’t necessarily one of them.

Indeed, it actually used to be said that pilling suggested good knitwear – because it meant longer fibres were being used, that would rise above the surface and bind. Little stubby fibres were less likely to do so.

If you want to avoid pilling, it’s less about what price of knitwear you buy and more about what type. But just as important is how much you wash and care for it.

Good things need – and deserve – looking after.

How jeans can be repaired (and when they can’t)

How jeans can be repaired (and when they can’t)

Share
Friday, November 19th 2021
||- Begin Content -||

I recently had my vintage Levi’s repaired a couple of times by the team at Blackhorse Lane. The first time for a rip in the knee, and the second to reinforce the crotch seams.

It’s wonderful to be able to do that. The jeans are just as strong, despite being over 50 years old, and I have no need of anything new. 

This is more sustainable, of course. But just as important is that it makes the jeans more personal and precious. 

When I bought them they had already been repaired several times. Now I’ve added my own repairs - my own steps on their journey - and as a result there is a lot of emotional investment. I think that’s one reason they’ve become one of my favourite pieces of clothing. They are unique, irreplaceable. 

Still, they won’t last forever. Jeans can be repaired many times, and look better doing so than any other type of clothing. But there is a limit. 

The most common repair on jeans is reinforcing the crotch (above). You might not want to imagine this, but there’s more sweat and bacteria down there, and (depending on your activities and body type) much more friction. 

If the problem is caught when the denim is wearing thin, rather than actually blown through, then darning on the inside of the material can be enough. 

This is not darning as you know from knitwear, where hand sewing is used to recreate the weave in a small area of the material. (And which we’ve covered before, here.)

Instead, a sewing machine is used to sew repeatedly back and forth on the back of the denim (shown below). This is done again and again, so much that you’re effectively creating new cloth. 

The sewer will generally follow the direction of the twill, and use a thread that’s as similar to the colour of the jeans in that area as possible. It does do the same thing as darning knitwear, but rather more intensely, roughly and mechanically. 

Sometimes, a piece of spare material is also needed behind the repair, to reinforce it. 

On my jeans, I’d noticed that the seams on either side of the crotch were thinning significantly. There was still thread there, connecting the two sides, but you could almost see through it. 

In this case darning on the back of the seam was sufficient (below).

Where the denim on the knee had ripped, however, a new piece of material was also needed on the back. This can be another piece of denim or a piece of softer cotton: the former is stronger but stiffer, the latter softer but not necessarily as strong. 

When I had my first pair of bespoke Levi’s repaired, they used denim. Blackhorse Lane, who repaired my vintage ones, preferred to use softer cotton. Either way, the material is then darned on the back in the same way. 

“My advice is to bring in jeans before they actually rip through - when they’re just thinning,” says Lilly at Blackhorse Lane. “If you do that, chances are we won’t need to put any backing on, and the result won’t be as thick.”

This is particularly good advice in the crotch because the material needs to shape to your legs and seat, and you’re more likely to notice any extra thickness. 

Pictured above is a large repair on the knee of a pair of jeans. Lilly and the team have also put patches on the outside of knees for issues like this, but only in exceptional circumstances. 

“If someone is on their knees a lot, through their work, then it can be good to have an extra layer of denim,” says Lilly. “But it’s not normally required. The only other time we’ve done it was when a gentleman had spilt bleach on his jeans, and a patch over the top was more attractive than the stains.”

Another common job is repairing the buttonholes on the fly and waistband. Perhaps surprisingly, this has to be done by hand, so you effectively end up with hand-sewn buttonholes like on bespoke trousers. 

That’s necessary because the particular machine can only sew an entire buttonhole, and then cut the material in the middle. Trying to do that over the top of an existing buttonhole would be pretty messy. 

Entire waistbands can also be replaced, if needed, and pocket bags replaced too. 

“This happens quite a lot with other jeans because they use light pocket bags,” says Lilly (above). “This makes them more comfortable at the start, but they’re often the first things to go.”

A small hole or rip can be seen closed, but often the whole bag has fallen apart. Apparently, men rarely bring these in to be replaced until there’s almost nothing left. 

So what can’t be repaired? 

“Basically, when the material everywhere just gets too thin,” says Lilly. “When you can hold it up to the light and virtually see through it.”

At that point, the rips are going to come everywhere fast. So you’re effectively making an entire new pair jeans inside; it’s better to start again. 

I think my jeans still have a good few years left. Particularly as I don’t wear them every day - and not for anything as manual as they were probably originally used. 

So I’ll go on patching and darning for a good while yet. 

For details on how much jeans can be altered, rather than repaired, see previous article here

Blackhorse Lane repair any jeans, from them or any other maker. Take them to the Coal Drops Yard shop to discuss details. 

Prices range from £20 for a small hole to £35 for a large one and £60 for replacing a pocket bag. 

Other places that do repairs in London, and I would recommend are:

  • Soldier Blue: linked to Son Of a Stag and Rudie’s repair and alteration offshoot.
  • The Denim Doctor, been doing the alterations for a long time.
  • Hang Up Vintage - Ben, a vintage dealer who makes and re-engineers vintage clothing

Pictured above, the pile of repairs waiting at Blackhorse Lane; below, their Singer darning machine. All photography, courtesy of Blackhorse Lane.

Christmas gift list 2021: Shawls, soap and Swan Songs

Christmas gift list 2021: Shawls, soap and Swan Songs

Share
||- Begin Content -||

It’s that time of the year again. So, with both apologies and thanks to readers that bemoaned the lack of this list last year, these are just a few of my favourite things...

In these lists we try to go beyond menswear into other beautiful, crafted things. There also tends to be less clothing because we want things that can easily be gifted, so less personal, unsized, but still precious. 

1. Buly moisturiser, perfumes, combs

€29 and up

If anyone you know appreciates both effective and attractive beauty products, it’s worth looking at Officine Universelle Buly, the French brand that was relaunched in 2014.

I’ve tried moisturisers, soaps and perfume, and they’re certainly effective (the scents are impressively original). But just as much of the appeal is the detailed designs and packaging, which of course makes them great gifts. 

If you can, it’s also worth trying to get to one of the stores, or the concession at Selfridge’s. It means you appreciate the full range of products - including the world’s biggest comb selection - but can also more easily have presents personalised or wrapped. 

2. Emma Willis dressing gown

£1,300

I have a real weakness of paisley - always have, ever since I was obsessed with Etro in my twenties. I’ve restrained myself from most paisley since, particularly ties and handkerchiefs, but this dressing gown might push me over the edge. 

The material is a hand-woven wool/cotton mix, with an unusual texture that sucks up a lot of the bright colours. There are subtler versions too - if you visit the Willis shop you can browse through all the swatches, and they’ll send samples to you at home too. 

3. Pentreath & Hall matches

£9.50

Pentreath & Hall, just off Lamb’s Conduit Street in London, is a treasure trove for gifts. The mix of homewares, antiques and decorative items always manages to be tasteful yet a little eccentric, and very British. 

I'd recommend a host of things, including the stationery and the tableware, but there’s something pleasingly indulgent about the matches, particularly if they're used for lighting long table candles or incense. And that also means they make a high-impact but inexpensive present.

4. Swan Songs

£27

I'm thoroughly enjoying this book, a tribute to Parisian menswear by (pen name) Réginald-Jérôme de Mans.

It is eloquent, evocative, and succeeds wonderfully in communicating the beauty of the fine clothing the author has experienced over the years. The detail and enthusiasm makes you appreciate a drapey Arnys jacket, or wonky tie, even if it’s not your really style. And there’s a lot of knowledge and research on show. 

If there was any criticism, it would only be that the author’s verbosity and digressions sometimes obscure these points. And it is a budget production, which means the photography is not great. If only there were the money, or the backing, to pair these words with the photography of the blander and  commercialised coffee-table books that normally cover the subject. The wealth of information certainly deserves it. 

5. Aran blanket, Anderson & Sheppard

£795

A&S has a few beautiful blankets in the store at the moment (not online) and the hand-knitted Aran ones are sublime.

Last time I was in there was one in cream and one in dark olive, both with the distinctive Aran patterning, but heavy and spongey. They're wonderful across the knees or around the shoulders. I've got into the habit of doing the latter recently at my desk, when the heating is off in the middle of the day.

There are also two Fair Isle designs (one mostly navy, one most green), a lambswool and a cashmere cable knit, the first two being slightly less expensive and the latter slightly more.

6. Kinto travel tumbler

£35

This is just wonderful Japanese design. Trunk sells a range of these bottles for hot or cold drinks, and every time I use mine I appreciate the way the two caps keep the liquid contained, while also creating a measured flow of water (or coffee). 

There’s a good case that too many of these now exist in the world for them to have any positive effect on sustainability, but if you do know someone that would use one, and doesn’t have one already, this is the best I’ve used. 

7. Midori notebook

£14

Belongs in the same category as the Kinto tumbler. A deceptively simple notebook, you notice its key difference as soon as you open it: the binding is thread-stitched, which means it sits flat on the table. This is more expensive to do, but it makes the notebook very practical and satisfying to use. 

The paper is also fine but holds fountain-pen ink well, and isn’t transparent, while the cover looks like delicate tissue paper, with pleasing labels that can be added to divide sections. 

8. Bryceland’s Grecian slippers

£250

I was a little sceptical about this style of slipper previously. I wasn’t sure whether it would stay on the back of my heel, and thought it might look a little too unusual for my taste. But I was converted during the recent pop-up we organised with Bryceland’s, where I saw and tried those of Ethan and Kenji. 

The Bryceland’s ones are made with Bowhill & Elliott, but in the UK they don’t offer the style with a leather sole, which enables them to be worn outside (if only briefly). For that style, the other British maker, Broadland, is better. 

9. District Vision Keiichi running sunglasses

£205

I was gifted a pair of these back in 2016. At the time I thought I would never pay that amount for sports sunglasses, but I used them multiple times every week for running and cycling, and they performed better than any I’d had before (as well as, obviously, looking good). 

Last year they were broken in an unfortunate toddler-related incident, and I’m seriously considering paying that amount again. Even just for the nose pad, which was adjustable and, once adjusted, never moved no matter how fast I went. An indulgent but still practical purchase.

End, not Mr Porter, has the best selection in the UK.

10. Adret scarves and bandanas

Various prices

This is necessarily a niche recommendation, as Adret still don't sell online and so access is restricted mostly to the shop in London. However, the bandanas and scarves I enjoy most today are the the wax-resist ones Adam sells.

They are hand-dyed, which makes each one a little different, and more importantly the colours feel more modern than the bright silks most menswear brands still offer. I have a soft, buttery yellow handkerchief (unfortunately the hanks are no longer sold) and an indigo bandana, which uses a hand-cut copper Batik stamp to create its herringbone pattern. A dusty pink above is next on my wish list.

The Willy Wonka wool room

The Willy Wonka wool room

Share
Monday, November 15th 2021
||- Begin Content -||

OK, so when I wrote last week about how Donegal yarn is spun, I left out the best bit. 

It was deliberate, as I thought this process deserved a post on its own.

When Maureen at Donegal Yarns started our tour of the factory, she said she had taken a school party around recently. And one of the children had been so impressed, that they said it was like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. 

We smiled politely of course. But in my head I was thinking, there’s no way this is going to be that impressive. I’ve seen factories before. Those kids were too impressionable. 

Then we went to the mixing room (below). Even the name sounds like something out of Willy Wonka. In fact, it was probably called something else, but that’s what I remember. 

It looked like a fairly ordinary room, with a pile of coloured fleeces at the bottom. To be honest it looked a little bit grubby. My expectations were not raised. 

Then it started snowing wool. 

Slowly at first. Pieces of the coloured fleece started drifting down lazily from the ceiling. We looked inside, and saw there was a rotating double-ended pipe up there, spinning gently, with pieces of the wool coming out from either end. Well this is nice, we thought. Beautiful even. 

Then it span faster, emitting larger clumps of wool. Then faster still. And again faster, until from the outside all you could see was a blizzard of red, white, ochre and black. 

At this point, Maureen said I could go in. Like Augustus Gloop being told he could swim in the chocolate river. OK, not quite as good; but still, slightly surreal. 

Apparently you can’t really contaminate the wool, as it will be washed thoroughly later. In fact after it’s been mixed together here, it's sucked through pipes in the floor, and spat out into a baling machine on the other side side of the corridor. 

More echoes of Willy Wonka. I wonder if misbehaving staff ever get sucked down the tube as punishment, and sent back to their parents, never to inherit the factory. 

After I had danced like an idiot in the blizzard of wool, and Jamie had taken enough photos of me doing so, I was hosed down outside. 

Not, I was pleased to find, with water. That would not be a good idea in a building covered with wisps of animal fibre. Everything would get stuck to it. 

Instead an air hose is used to blow all the wool off - and indeed is used on machinery to do the same. 

We then asked the questions we should have done at the start, like how this process works and why it is used.

Apparently it’s a pretty efficient way to mix all the wool together. There are often large volumes, and as we covered in our previous piece on Donegal Yarns, there are both lots of colours and two distinct types - one that makes up the body of the fabric, and another that creates the flecks. 

Those have to be thoroughly mixed, otherwise you’ll end up with cloth that has noticeably more of one colour in one part of the material than another. 

It has to look random, but not be random. Like a random-number generator, which never feels random if numbers repeat. Or early iPods, which were apparently changed so the shuffle function didn’t play songs that were near each other. Because that felt more random. 

That’s probably one tangent too many. Let’s just quickly round off the production process. 

The mixed wool gets stuffed into bales, like the ones above. Those are then used to feed the carding machines, before that's washed and spun. Those stages are all spelt out in our previous article on Donegal Yarns.

I never actually saw what that mix of black, ochre, red and white got turned into. But going on what I’ve seen before from Donegal tweed, it will probably be surprisingly subtle. I’ll see if I can track down a picture of the cloth for a future article. 

Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

DonegalYarns.com

How my jacket style has changed

How my jacket style has changed

Friday, November 12th 2021
Share
||- Begin Content -||

In recent weeks we’ve been talking a lot about reflections on bespoke over time; the lessons I draw from commissioning tailoring for 13 years or so.

We did an article on how dramatically tailoring can be altered, using my Chittleborough & Morgan suit as an example. I’m planning one (following reader requests) on the pieces that, despite alterations, I’ve grown out of. And there was also our recent article on how my winter wardrobe has changed

These articles are satisfying to write, as I feel they offer more informed and objective advice. Bespoke has to be a long-term investment if it’s going to be worth it, and these pieces assess that from personal experience.

Today’s article is in that same vein. 

I commissioned the suit below from Whitcomb & Shaftesbury in 2015. Six years later, I commissioned a jacket, but with changes to the style to reflect my changing preferences. 

So what were those changes, what do they say about fashions, and how much do they undermine the argument for bespoke that is meant to last a lifetime?

Bigger

The most significant change was for the jacket to both look and feel bigger. 

Now some of this was because I had put on weight (both muscle and fat, mind you) in the intervening years. According to the measurements, about 1.5 inches on the chest and 1 inch on the waist. 

But this didn’t actually affect too many of the style choices. These were mostly about shoulder width, waist button and lapel shape, and weight changes mostly affect the size in the chest and waist - even the shoulder width is relatively unaffected. 

The desire for size was more about wanting a jacket that looked shaped - elegant and flattering - but also very comfortable. I think a lot of us have felt this desire for comfort in the past 18 months, and the fashion has decidedly tipped towards larger silhouettes at the same time. 

It was this I had in mind when I asked for the shoulders of my new jacket to be wider (⅜ of an inch in the end) and for the larger chest and waist to tend towards roomy. 

Wider

The fashion aspect of wanting a larger-looking jacket also drove other changes. 

We know from analysing the cuts of suits that the front of a jacket can be thought of as an ‘X’ shape, with the top half being the line of the lapels, the bottom the open fronts, and the crossover the buttoning point. 

If you want to look larger in the upper body, you increase the top of that X by widening the lapels (and the shoulders) and lowering the buttoning point. With my Whitcomb jacket, the lapels were widened from 3 inches to 3¾, and the buttoning point was lowered by half an inch. 

Requesting wider lapels was also a pure style point, unrelated to how it makes the body look. It’s something I’ve favoured for a while on any style of jacket, and the original Whitcomb lapels were unusually narrow in that respect. 

Longer 

Only a little longer. A half inch at most. 

The problem with any changes to proportion is that you have to keep the jacket in balance. I’ve seen newcomers dramatically alter proportions on a bespoke commission, only for the buttoning point to look like it’s over the groin, and the skirt little more than a frill. 

So always err on the side of caution. Look at the jacket as a whole, and consider that it must remain balanced. We’re not actually aiming for a piece of fashion here - the test of that being, perhaps, whether anyone unversed in bespoke notices the choices you’ve made. They shouldn’t; they should just think it looks good.  

So with this Whitcomb jacket, it wasn’t that I wanted it longer necessarily. Just that it looked much more harmonious when it was. 

A good way to test that is considering where you’d place a second button, below the waist button. If it would look comically low, then you’ve done something wrong. 

Even with my jacket here, I decided to leave off a second button because it would have strayed too far down the curved openings below. But that was more about that curved shape than about the length.

Rounder

Which brings us onto the last point, which is that I wanted the jacket to be more casual - which often means rounder. 

Those open fronts below the waist button were a little more curved. The lapel was cut straighter, so it curves slightly outwards as it runs up the jacket, rather than inwards (as the previous suit had done). And the shoulders were more natural. 

Whitcomb, like a few other English tailors, has started doing an ‘inset’ shoulder as an option on its jackets. This means that the sleeve looks like it runs underneath the shoulder where the two meet, and is what the Italians refer to as ‘spalla camicia’. 

More importantly, there is also less roping at the top of the sleeve, so the shoulder runs down naturally into it, without the little ridge you can see on my previous blue-flannel suit. 

There is also no gathering at the top of that sleeve - sometimes called ‘shirring’ - and I’d still emphasise that this is not a Neapolitan style, not one I’d wear with such casual things as jeans or chinos. Rather, it is a softer, rounder English jacket. 

More transient?

So those are the changes I made, six years later. Does that mean I now dislike my previous suit?

No. I still wear it and I still like it. It’s not perfect, but then few things are if you have and wear them for long periods of time. And there’s an emotional connection to a loved piece of clothing that’s just as important as anything else. (Worth reading Bruce Boyer on that topic, here.)

The changes are also pretty minor. The thing that makes this a question of style really, not fashion, is that they’re a matter of a half inch here or there. (A half inch! Everyone else has switched from jeggings to voluminous sweatpants, and you’ve changed a half inch!)

This is helped by the fact that menswear changes less than womenswear, and smarter clothing changes less than casual clothing. If you favour elegant menswear, you have to change least of all.

It’s also easier as you get older. You become more settled in your style, and novelty is less attractive. I think an intelligent dresser still recognises fashions, rather than dismissing them out of hand. He likes to remain relevant, and takes pleasure in being just a bit better dressed than everyone else. 

But the changes he makes in the name of fashion, are small. Wearing one pattern of knitwear more than another; tweaking the shape of shirt collars. Savile Row tailors will happily tell you how, in the time they’ve been working, fashionable lapels went from 6 inches to 1, but their house style only moved from 4 to 3. 

This is the context in which I updated my preferred cut of jacket. I hope running through it has been interesting, even useful.

The jacket pictured is made in PS Plaid, a cashmere check that we created with the mill Joshua Ellis. This has recently been restocked, and is available on their website, here.  

Crockett & Jones ‘Harvard’ loafers: Review

Crockett & Jones ‘Harvard’ loafers: Review

Wednesday, November 10th 2021
Share
||- Begin Content -||

I’ve always recommended Crockett & Jones to readers over the years, as a solid, good-value English shoe. But I’ve only briefly owned a pair.

I had some when I was in my twenties, but bought the wrong size - so sold them within a few weeks. This pair of Harvard loafers, which I’ll review today, is therefore my first proper experience of Crockett’s.

I bought the Harvard model because I was interested in trying a more Ivy style of loafer, with its longer apron and higher ‘wall’ at the front of the toe.

The classic American penny, basically, which Crockett’s was the first to introduce into the UK, back in the 1940s (1952 catalogue below - blue suede!).

I have Alden LHS loafers in this style already, but only in suede.

I wear those very casually – with chinos, with jeans, even with shorts – and hadn’t thought that I’d wear a leather version, as I usually prefer a slimmer shoe for that (like my Aberdeen-last full-straps).

It’s early days, but I’m finding that I like this Ivy style most with casual chinos, like my old Armoury ones shown in these images. This is very much the ‘workwear’ style of chino. With a smarter chino like those from Rubato, I usually prefer my slimmer loafers.

Basically, I like to smarten up casual clothing.

That usually means wearing slim shoes like a suede Belgravia, even with white jeans. But when everything else is very casual, like beaten-up chinos and an oxford, a cordovan penny loafer is a stylish way to do it.

(And of course, finding ways to smarten up casual clothing is very much the order of the day. When others are in a hoodie, wear a shawl cardigan; when they’re in Converse, wear pennies.)

But onto the shoes themselves.

I’ve been very pleased with the quality here, although it turns out that might be because the Harvard is more similar to the Hand Grade line of Crockett’s shoes than the main line.

Chatting to James Fox from Crockett’s, he explained that they use oak-bark tanned soles from Rendenbach on their cordovan shoes, because they find they’re a better partner for that tough upper material. And otherwise those soles are only used in the Handgrade line.

A loafer style like this also has a hand-sewn apron – one of the few jobs that Crockett’s still outsources workers at home (“I know some like doing it in front of Strictly,” James said with a laugh) - so there’s an extra level of craft.

The only remaining difference between these and a Hand Grade shoe is the lack of a channelled sole (shown above).

So this is perhaps best seen as a review of the Hand Grade and cordovan Crocketts shoes, rather than the range in general.

The other point worth making on quality is that cordovan from Horween doesn’t really vary, unlike grades of calf leather from a single tannery. So the quality of the upper here is the same as you’d get from a more expensive brand, or indeed from a bespoke maker.

That doesn’t mean there’s no reason for a John Lobb or Edward Green shoe to be pricier – as a reader put to me recently – because there’s a lot more to a shoe than the upper. But it’s one point that’s consistent.

On cordovan generally, makers I speak to always say that Horween is the best, consistently. I haven’t tried other producers myself, but brands have many times, and that’s always their conclusion.

Among shoes in Horween cordovan, the only difference worth noting is that Alden recolours some of its supply before using it. That’s why Color 8 often looks darker from Alden.

If the Harvard had been in Color 8, it would have made me think twice, because I really like that Alden shade. But there’s less of a difference with other colours, like my mid-brown.

The only thing you do get with lighter colours of cordovan, is natural variation between skins. (Not surprising really, given the very hands-on way that Horween stains them.)

My pair is lighter than the ones shown on the Crockett’s website. Which I prefer, and was a reason I chose them, but is also an argument for buying in person if you can.

I’ve found my Harvards very comfortable, which I think is partly down to the fact they’re unlined, unlike my Aldens. (The LHS is half lined, just in the back, and the full-strap loafer is fully lined.)

Cordovan is always a tough material to wear in, and being unlined helps that happen more quickly and easily.

A downside, though, is that the uppers lose shape more easily, turning up at the toes after wearing. This is absolutely fine if you use shoe trees in them, and also isn’t a problem if you forget to do so for a few days (as I did on holiday recently). But I heavily recommend using trees when you can.

The other reason the Harvards are particularly comfortable is that I sized up – from the 8.5E I usually wear to a 9E.

This was for two reasons. One, I wear more casual, thicker socks in general these days, but particularly with these loafers. They’ll often be worn with off-white Ivy-style socks or something similar.

And two, I think over the years I’ve tended to prioritise fit at the back of the shoe too much, rather than the front.

As readers will be tired of hearing, I have a slightly ‘spade-shaped’ foot, with a narrow ankle and wide toes. This makes loafers difficult to fit: a shoe that is wide enough at the front is too big at the heel, causing it to slip when I walk.

On balance, I’ve tended to get the right fit for the heel, and put up with closeness at the front. But I think that might have been wrong, because it’s easier to put a half sock in the back of the shoe, or use a tongue pad, than it is to try and stretch the front of the shoe.

It’s not a big issue, and doesn’t make any of my older shoes less wearable. But when combined with the use of thicker socks, it was a good reason to size up here.

Interestingly, James also said that 2019 was the first year in Crockett’s history that a loafer was the top seller.

As mentioned earlier, they've been selling American-style loafers since the 40s - above is the earliest catalogue they have showing the style, from 1952. But the oxford has always been the most popular.

In 2019 it was overtaken the Sydney, which is an elongated penny loafer. And the Boston loafer in brown suede was number three. That’s perhaps not surprising, given how more casual things have become more generally, but it does mean this article has particular relevance.

I’ve historically always preferred Alden cordovan, and Edward Green for my calf loafers. But for this colour (not Color 8) and style (classic American penny), I’m very happy with Crockett’s instead.

The Harvard loafer is made in dark-brown cordovan, on the 314 last, which is known for being generous in its fitting. The Harvard is unlined and costs £640. 

The Harvard 2 is on a different last, the 376, which has a slimmer heel, and is made in dark-brown suede. Fortunately I didn't need the slimmer heel, though it could have been helpful for my foot shape. It has a rubber sole and costs £370, reflecting the cost of both cordovan and the oak-bark sole. 

Both are evolutions of the more famous Boston model, which is also made on the 314 last, in a range of calf leathers and suedes. It costs £375.

Photography: Jamie Ferguson. Shirt shown is a white PS Oxford

Repair, recycle and de-pill knitwear: Cashmere Circle

Repair, recycle and de-pill knitwear: Cashmere Circle

Monday, November 8th 2021
Share
||- Begin Content -||

One of the good things about writing about caring for clothes, is that it spurs me to be better at it myself. 

I’m not too bad at most things, by the standards of Permanent Style. I brush and put cream on my shoes; I steam and brush my suits (rather than dry cleaning them); I am assiduous about moths. And of course all this makes me much better than the average guy. 

But I’ve never been as good with knitwear. I don’t allow it enough room in the wardrobe, which leads to pilling, and I don’t wash as much of it as I should - even though it’s easy. 

Whenever I write about caring for knitwear, it spurs me to improve. That might be why I’ve written about it so much - see video on care here, an article on darning, and a previous piece on repairs.   

Today I’m doing it again; I hope it has a similar effect on you. 

It’s good to wash knitwear regularly if not frequently. Certainly a couple of times a year. A simple, short soak in warm water and soap, and a little agitation is enough. 

However, a really good refurbish and repair is also really worth it, and cannot be done yourself. 

This includes a thorough depilling, a repair of any small moth holes, and perhaps some alterations. 

It’s something I’ve done before with the company Love Cashmere in Scotland - but I tried another recently, Cashmere Circle, and wanted to add them to people’s lists. 

It’s also worth having more than one because these companies use a network of people at Scottish mills, who use their downtime to take on extra work. There are few full-time employees, particularly for repairs, and so sometimes communications and lead times can be unreliable. 

Good refurbishing of knitwear can make it look as good as new. It’s hard to believe that some people maintain great-looking knitwear for 20 years or more, until you see what good care like this can do.

My charcoal hoodie pictured is from Ralph Lauren Purple Label. I bought it in the sale about eight years ago, and I love it. 

The neckhole is perfect - a little high, a little small. The hood is quite closed at the front, so it sits close to the back of the neck, rather than dropping down your back. And I like how the two sides of the hood overlap at the front.

It is also, as you’d expect, in a lovely soft and thick cashmere. It’s been worn so much, though, that it has pilled under the arms, and a little on the belly. (For more on why good things pill, look out for our upcoming article in the Guide to Knitwear series.)

I’ve tried a little de-pilling, with an emery board and with a razor, but neither are perfect. The emery board has a habit of pulling up fibres as it removes pills, while the razor misses quite a lot. 

I still think this is worth doing occasionally yourself, but it makes a difference sending it to a professional. My charcoal hoodie came back from Cashmere Circle looking and feeling as good as new. Washed, pressed, de-pilled and with a small hole fixed too. (The photos seem to make it look a little pilled still, but that’s just the fluffiness.)

And of course, it’s not new. I haven’t used any more of the world’s cashmere to buy a new sweater, and I’ve spent a lot less money than a new piece. It’s a cheaper and a more sustainable retail high. 

“The most sustainable clothes are the ones you already own,” as Ross Powell at Cashmere Circle puts it. 

I spoke to Ross over Zoom to learn a little bit about the company. 

“There’s two of us, me and my partner, in London. Then we use an office in Edinburgh to help share the work out among local people,” he says. 

“We’ve seen a steady increase in demand, mostly around the theme of sustainability. And we can do any type of knitwear - anything knitted basically. Cashmere is just the most valuable and the most popular. Plus the name sounds better.”

Ross points out that fewer mills do refurbishing services these days, because it’s often not seen as worth the hassle. Also, while good shops might repair a piece of knitwear for you - sending it back to the mill they use - they’re unlikely to want to simply wash and refurbish it.

Just as important is the fact I can send all my knitwear to one place. I also gave Ross and his team a cardigan from Connolly to alter, so a different brand and indeed from Italy rather than Scotland. If everything had to go back to different places, I’d be much less likely to do it. 

A few readers have asked about knitwear alterations recently, so it’s worth explaining how limited this usually is. 

Knits normally need to be altered by a factory, which has fashioning machinery, rather than a tailor using a regular sewing machine. 

They also have no inlay, no spare material inside the seams, so things can be taken in but not taken out. 

Lastly, my experience has been that it’s worth keeping any alterations very simple. Pretty much the only thing I change is slimming the body of a piece. And even there, a miscommunication led to Love Cashmere slimming something too much for me in the past, making it unwearable. 

With this Cashmere Circle alteration, I pinned the cardigan up the side seams, and then tried it on, to make sure I was happy with that shape. I then sent photos to them, to make sure it was understood where the new seam should be. Fortunately, the result was spot on. 

When I put my results on Instagram recently, one reader asked whether I used Cashmere Circle to wash all my knitwear. No, absolutely not. That would be very indulgent, and perhaps a little lazy. 

Still, if I did then it would be more responsible and sustainable than buying something new. So if you find you just never wash your knitwear, it might be worth considering. 

And if you are going to get rid of knitwear, please don’t just throw it away. Give it to a friend, give it to charity, and as a last resort use something like Cashmere Circle’s recycling service.  

Another reader commented recently that their knits looked good for about two years, then wearable for up to five, before being thrown away. That isn’t quite disposable fashion, but it’s not far off. 

I think we can all do better than that. 

www.cashmere-circle.co.uk. The laundry service costs £35, full revive and repair is £45, and elbow patches are £65

Richard Burke: Style hero

Richard Burke: Style hero

Friday, November 5th 2021
Share
||- Begin Content -||

There’s this one outfit worn by the character Richard Burke in Friends, played by Tom Selleck, that has stayed with me for years. 

It’s in the penultimate episode of series six. Richard comes to Monica’s restaurant to try and win her back. He walks casually into the kitchen, hands in pockets, in his ever-so-easy manner. 

He looks amazing: sophisticated colour combination, luxurious materials. Both, I’m sure, in deliberate contrast to Chandler and the rest of the friends. This is an older guy who knows what he’s doing, and is comfortable in his clothes. 

He wears a pale-grey shirt with a faint check; roomy, pleated olive trousers; a chestnut-brown belt with brass buckle; and over the top, a sand-coloured jacket in what is clearly a fine, lightweight suede.

I love the combination for the reasons readers will expect: it’s subtle and muted, yet unusual. It would scream taste if it wasn't so subdued.  

Combinations like these look easy, but they aren’t. If the shirt were darker grey, it wouldn’t be as good. If the belt were a brighter colour - more caramel - it would't be as sophisticated. 

It's so much easier to be conventional. To wear a blue or white shirt instead of the grey. A dark-brown belt instead of the chestnut. These would all be fine (in fact they'd look great) but they wouldn’t be the stand-out look this is. Something would be lost. 

I’m not sure I can really call Richard a style hero. He’s fictional, after all, and only appears in a handful of episodes. There’s not much of a wardrobe to emulate. 

But what is there has stayed with me for 25 years, long after the menswear in most other TV faded. And it feels very current, with the relaxed silhouettes, Armani colouring and smart/casual aesthetic. 

My other favourite outfit comes from earlier, when Richard is first going out with Monica. 

For their date, he wears a grey/green soft-shouldered suit, black shirt buttoned to the neck, and a black leather belt with silver buckle (above). All topped off with gold-framed reading glasses. 

It’s very toned-down and simple. Without the belt it would all be a little plain, but that belt draws it together. 

It makes me think I should try and put belt loops on some of my trousers again, given I wear ties so much less. 

Those two outfits come together, in a way, with another grey/green combination in the following episode (above). 

The suit here is a similar murky green, but this time he wears a dark-grey shirt and a braided chestnut belt similar to the first outfit. The black belt would have looked just as good, but more formal - and perhaps that’s appropriate, given this is a house party, not a date. The shirt is unbuttoned at the neck too. 

These grey/green shirts reappear in other, more casual outfits, but not always as successfully. 

In the first outfit below, one is worn with pale-blue denim and a black western belt. Kudos on the belt, but the shirt isn’t so great with the blue jeans. Particularly as it’s a fairly smart shirt with a covered placket. 

A better match for the jeans is a paler colour of shirt worn later - almost a khaki colour (second image above). This also has no covered placket and two chest pockets. It’s much more fitting.

My favourite combination of this type is the last picture above: the same khaki shirt but with black jeans and black hiking boots.   

Of course, it’s no coincidence that these colours recur. Costume designers generally use a narrow range of clothing for characters, particularly minor ones. It's part of their identity. Only bigger characters, with more complicated stories, get more complicated wardrobes. And then only over time. 

The costume designer for Friends, Debra McGuire, has talked about how she established colour palettes for each of the characters.

Monica, for example, was “in this black-white-gray-burgundy world for a long time”. She also talks in that interview about her desire to keep things smarter than just jeans and a T-shirt - to give Friends more style. 

Now can Richard do black tie? Of course he can. 

His very first appearance is in a double-breasted dinner jacket, cut just as big as the suits and buttoning low on the hips. 

The lapels are generous without being over the top. They’re grosgrain rather than satin, but with a satin binding. This is reflected in the satin bow tie, which is framed neatly by a collar of similar proportion.

The shirt is pleated, with nice mother-of-pearl buttons. I’d prefer a covered placket or studs, but that's just me. It still feels very on-character, the black tie that Richard would wear: the best possible combination of stylish and comfortable.

The only thing that undermines this outfit is Selleck’s habit of putting his hands in his pockets. The jacket is ventless, and using trouser pockets with a ventless jacket is not a great look. Everything bunches up at the back. 

Later, bare-lipped, Richard demonstrates how good a navy raglan coat looks over his grey/green suiting, in the scene in a video-rental store (top image above). 

A brown scarf works nicely over the collar of the coat too, as does the black tie with a jaunty geometric pattern. 

Interestingly, the one time we see him in a formal suit and tie (last image above) the jacket is much more square-shouldered and padded. Which could be more appropriate, given its worn over a white shirt and silk tie, at a restaurant. 

Richard also does a really nice line in 50s-style cardigans, piped dressing gowns and much-loved old T-shirts (all above). 

Almost the only outfit I dislike is the last image: a teal button-down and jeans. If I was being fussy, I’d also like him to undo one more button on that shirt. He’s certainly got the chest for it. 

Below are a couple more shots of my favourite outfit, where he's at home without that sand-suede jacket. And, for the sake of completeness, the one outfit that was particularly popular with female viewers: wearing nothing but Monica’s pink dressing gown. 

Other sitcoms of this era such as Frasier and Seinfeld have much more classic-menswear to talk about. But they're also covered more. I’ve never seen Richard Burke given his due, so here it is. 

The Armoury’s ‘Dayware’ jackets reviewed

The Armoury’s ‘Dayware’ jackets reviewed

Wednesday, November 3rd 2021
Share
||- Begin Content -||

Unstructured jackets, or shirt-jackets, have become very popular in recent years, and The Armoury offers a bigger range than almost anyone else. 

So I thought it would be useful to review all of them together, and run through what I think of each model. We can do the same later with other brands, such as the range of such casual jackets at The Merchant Fox, Drake’s or P Johnson, if people are interested. 

The Armoury has four models - all part of the casual collection they call Dayware - and they have one thing in common: there is very little internal structure. No padding, nothing more than light canvas. Basically a shell of material, usually with a lining, cut into a range of shapes. 

It is those shapes that do the most to separate one model from another, partly in terms of formality but more in terms of style. 

The City Hunter 2

The City Hunter is a model the Armoury have done for a while, and is basically their version of a Teba - the traditional Spanish shirt-jacket which has the distinctive lack of notch where the collar and lapel meet. 

I have owned Tebas in the past, and wasn’t particularly taken with that collar design, or the normally boxy fit. But this style from The Armoury is rather better, I think, and I have the brown version pictured above. 

The cut is a little slimmer - more of a contemporary fit that you’d expect from a modern brand - and the details are better. They reflect the fact that someone has actually thought through what a modern wearer would need, rather than just copied an old style. 

There’s a buttoned breast pocket, for example, which is particularly useful for a phone when putting the jacket in a bag or overhead locker, or even when just bending down. There are two patch pockets, but also a small internal patch on the right. And there are two internal, buttoned pockets.

One thing worth noting is that the collar can be worn up and down, and this creates two quite distinct styles - one an unusual version of a regular jacket, the other more similar to a Mandarin or Nehru jacket (above). Some readers might find they like only one and not the other.

The Safari Jacket 2

The point of having a range of jackets is that different models appeal to different people, and the safari jacket is one that doesn’t appeal to me. 

The Armoury version is a good one. The pockets have both bellows and gussets, making them capacious, yet they don’t stick out from the body when empty, which is often a risk with these pocket styles. 

The buttons have been enlarged since the first version (which I had in linen) and this suits it - the look is now slightly more towards a jacket than a shirt. And the collar is one of the nicest I’ve seen for a safari. It has that distinctive, long point, but it’s not as big as many, which seem closer to a 1960s Yves Saint Laurent style.

But the safari jacket overall still feels too trad for me. Too much like a piece of costume, or something enthused over by revivalists, trying to dress like a character from history. As I noted when designing a piece with Fred Nieddu recently, I prefer fewer pockets, and a more subtle collar. 

(It is worth noting that this effect is most noticeable in traditional material, like pale linens. Of the two materials currently on offer, the dark-brown cotton panama looks rather more modern.)

The 3 pocket blouson

This has become a familiar style for The Armoury, with Mark, Jim and others shown wearing versions in many different materials, from khaki cotton to buffalo-check flannel.

I admire the style. It’s always hard to create a new version of a piece of menswear, rather than just copying a vintage piece, and I think short jackets are particularly difficult. There are so many fewer places to put pockets, and the proportions have to be just right or it becomes unflattering on many guys. 

The 3PB does those things well. It’s not so short that it only works with high-waisted trousers, even if it’s designed more for that cut, and the differently angled patch pockets look surprisingly cohesive. 

It’s still not a style I would wear, as in a short jacket I prefer something which hugs the waist closely, with room for movement in the upper body above it. Like The Armoury’s suede jacket, the Wright, or a bomber like my old Hermes linen one

It's also interesting to compare the cut to the Jack bomber from Adret, which on the surface looks like a similar but actually is both straighter (without that band at the waist) and roomier.

If I was to have a 3PB, it would have to be made to order, so the waist fitted very closely. That is something The Armoury offer - the ability to do MTO versions of all these jackets should be a big part of their appeal -  so perhaps I’ll try that at some stage when I can get in and see the team. 

The road jacket

The road jacket falls into a similar category - but as with the whole range, it is still executed very nicely. 

This is more of a traditional biker style, with large patched chest pockets, an extended tab closure at the waist, and pleats in the back and front. The latter appeals to my style more than the 3PB, as it has that flattering size in the chest and back, which again is shown to best effect when the waist is fitted closely. 

The nice execution is in things like the internal patch pockets that match those on the outside, the hand-sewn buttonholes, and the closed sleeve gussets. Plus of course premium materials and horn buttons. 

Thinking about it as I write, it’s details like this that set the Armoury Dayware collection apart. 

It’s so common to see brands doing ‘their version’ of an old flight jacket or a trucker jacket, but really adding nothing new, and producing it only in the most conservative colours or the ones trending that season. 

Mark and the team have never done that, and even though I would usually prefer to wear a suede blouson or a linen overshirt rather than the 3PB or Safari Jacket, I recognise the time and thought taken to do something distinct. And I know each style will appeal to different readers. 

As I said at the start, there are a lot of unstructured jackets and shirt-jackets out there. It’s becoming the dominant piece a menswear shop offers, rather than a sports jacket. So it’s telling that among them all, the collection at The Armoury is unique. 

The Armoury have their own summary of the Dayware jackets here. Prices are:

  • City Hunter: $650-$1050
  • Safari jacket: $650-$800
  • 3PB: $595-$750
  • Road jacket: $595 or $750 (Casentino)

Made-to-order prices depend on materials, but start at $100 extra on top of the ready-made price for linens and cottons

How Donegal yarn is made

How Donegal yarn is made

Share
Monday, November 1st 2021
||- Begin Content -||

*Donegal Coat update: The first batch is ready and will be shipping out this week. A smaller second batch will go on sale next week. Use the form on the shop page to be added to the waiting list for that if you're interested*

Jamie and I travelled to Donegal Yarns recently, to see where the historic yarn is spun, right on the wind-battered coast of Ireland. 

It’s one of the few traditional sites of manufacture in the British Isles I haven’t visited, and it seemed like good timing, given our new iteration of the Donegal Coat - using yarn from the last major spinner here - was about to be released. 

I found it fascinating. More interesting, if I’m honest, than I was expecting. 

I’ve visited almost 100 mills, ateliers, factories and workshops over the years, and it’s easy to become blasé about it. To think they have nothing new to offer.

But as soon as we were ushered into the waiting area at Donegal Yarns - with samples of coloured fleece on the table, and a craftswoman off to one side patiently carding it - I remembered why I love these visits so much. 

There’s nothing glamorous about a factory waiting room. It’s not a luxury hotel or a flagship store. But it’s real. 

We were offered a cup of tea. The noise of the factory was audible underneath everything, as we talked. And laid out on the table were the raw materials of the yarn. 

With Donegal tweed, I had always assumed the characteristic little flecks or ‘burrs’ came from some aspect of the weaving process. That it was tweaked, or made to run irregularly, in order to introduce that natural-seeming variation. 

But it’s actually the types of wool in the yarn. Two are used: one regular fibre that makes up the majority of the cloth, and one shorter, actually slightly felted, that makes up the flecks. 

You can see the two below, held by myself and Chris of Donegal Yarns. The one Chris is holding on the right is for the flecks. 

These two are mixed together, then spun into the yarn. 

Because the latter type is shorter and thicker, it sticks out or creates little slubs, which then get scattered randomly through the cloth when it’s woven. 

Originally this effect came from the hand spinning and weaving, and the fact that a greater range of wool was used. It was poor cloth, woven as a cottage industry around this area of Ireland - in the same way Harris Tweed has always been woven in Scotland. 

The land isn’t great for farming crops, so the local occupations were mostly fishing, grazing sheep, and using those animals for everything possible, including textiles. 

Thinking back to how Jamie and I drove in, around the sides of steep hills, through small farm holdings, looking out at the mist-shrouded Atlantic, it wasn’t hard to imagine a time when this area felt very cut off, and was reliant on everything local. 

Once Chris had explained the process, the coloured wool on the table in front of us took on greater significance. 

You could look on a sample like the mustard yellow above, and differentiate all the colours of felted fleece that were worked in - the oranges, greens and browns. You could see the pinks that lifted a brown cloth, or the blues that lightened a green. 

And of course, I appreciated more the flecks in my own coat. I was wearing our sample of the PS Donegal Coat - because it was nice to show Chris how his yarn had been used - and I looked at its yellows, browns and blues. 

There are fewer of those flecks in this year’s version of the coat, because it is a starker pattern of black and cream. If there were too many colours, or they were too strong, they would stand out much more in this version than in last year’s dark brown, for example. 

But still, I really feel it’s the thing that stops this coat being like any other regular, conservative herringbone. It’s not just grey, it’s also blue, tan, orange and white, scattered in among black and the cream stripes. 

As I said, there’s nothing like a factory visit to bring you closer to a piece of clothing. 

It’s the perfect antidote to a high-street chain, where all the clothes are stacked rail upon rail, hanging on thin plastic hangers, as if no one really cares what the clothes are at all. (Which is odd, when you think about it, given it’s a clothes shop.) 

The rest of the tour I found interesting too, but in a slightly more geeky way. More because I had never visited a spinner, so all the machines and processes were new. 

There are basically three. The first is carding, where the wool is brushed out straight, into long lines that look like yarn but have no strength - you can just pull them apart easily. 

Below you can see the carding at Donegal Yarns. The advantage of materials with bright colours in them is that they stand out against the dark machines, like the pink below. It also makes it look like a 100-year-old candy-floss machine. 

The last image shows me pulling apart a piece of the wool, to demonstrate how fragile it still is. 

The resulting ‘hanks’ of wool have to be washed and dried - to remove as much of the natural oil as required - before it can be spun. 

That’s the hanks below, looking almost like seaweed, fresh from a local catch. 

It’s actually a great way to get a sense of how the yarn would be like if it was woven into a length of cloth, and I found myself fantasising about orange, yellow and biscuit-coloured coats as we walked around the washing and drying rooms. 

Then the yarn is spun. At speed, onto the cones you (or realistically I) see at mills being loaded onto looms for weaving. 

This is no less impressive, but harder to get a handle on, given the speed at which it’s done. 

Still, most of the machinery at Donegal Yarns is old, some of it (like the mule hanking machine below) being as much wood as metal.

Some even dates from when the factory was set up, at the beginning of the 20th century - as a local government project to bring home-based crafts all together. 

And today it’s last large spinner in the area. There are a couple of small operations, but mostly doing weaving as well, and mostly for interiors. 

Which of course makes it even more special. Thank you to Chris and all the team for making us so welcome, and for answering all my painstaking questions.

It makes my coat - and all the others we have made and will make - feel so much more personal.

More on the history of Donegal tweed on the Donegal Yarns website

Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

The best things from the pop-up: Bryceland’s, Colhay’s, and on to Scott and Masaru 

The best things from the pop-up: Bryceland’s, Colhay’s, and on to Scott and Masaru 

Share
||- Begin Content -||

This was so lovely. The opportunity to see readers in person for the first time in two years, and such great products to show them. 

Before the party kicked off, I made sure to try on all of the Bryceland’s products I hadn’t seen or tried  before. 

My favourite by far was the lounge jacket. Styled as a tuxedo, with grosgrain lapels and piping, it has a wonderfully broad lapel, with a low belly. The material is a black Fox wool, but it’s made to order generally so you can pick a range of materials (cream and grey shown on the Bryceland’s website). 

Most importantly, it looks very elegant yet feels like a dressing gown. And the trousers have a tie waist, but then you’ll never take your jacket off with black tie, so it won’t be seen anyway. Definitely worth a try on if you come to the shop in the next 10 days. 

The down jacket and down vest I’ve been looking forward to trying for a while. The latter is cut pretty short and large, even for a gilet, but is designed to sit over the top of even outerwear like a blouson or denim jacket. 

The down jacket works better for the proportions I normally wear, and is in a nice matte-black. Made to be as practical as possible, the shell is a nylon/cotton mix and the fill the most efficient mix in terms of warmth and value - 90% down, 10% feather. 

The other things I hadn’t tried were the frogged-button shirt and the farmer’s smock. The latter might be a little too much style-wise for me, but the collar is a nice height - often a band-collar like this can be too skimpy, and not great on anyone that finds a normal shirt collar flattering. 

Most of Ronnie’s stuff at Colhay’s has been covered already, most recently in our Autumn/Winter Top 10, but it’s worth coming in just to try the shawl coat - basically a shawl-collar cardigan but the length of a dressing gown. 

The weight is often the issue with long knits like this, but the lambswool Ronnie uses is pretty light, and it’s quite open, so overall weight isn’t an issue. 

And try on the cashmere shirt cardigan. I’m still not sure about it how I’ll wear mine, but it’s certainly not as light and flimsy as some cardigans like this that are designed to be worn as shirts too, so it has that on its side. 

Tony’s brand, AWMS, is on the small table in the middle, and he has his new collaboration with Crown shoes - leopard-print Belgians - plus the berets and new ‘alumni’ scarf

There’s also a cracking cricket sweater - only for teasing purposes only, as it’s not available yet - and some cheeky slippers made in various vintage cloths. 

From Wednesday of course, shoemaker Masaru Okuyama will be coming to the shop, which feels significant to me, as one of the first Japanese makers to be here in London. 

And from Thursday, Scott Fraser Collection will be replacing Colhay’s. 

A lot of what SFC does starts with the trouser as a foundation - be that with coloured panel knit shirts, or a drapey cuban collar shirt. So they will be bringing their two most popular cuts - the classic wide leg (straight cut, wide and high waist) and the Empire waist trouser (Hollywood waist with a wide leg that tapers to the ankle).

These will be available in a size breakdown, and a selection of about 25 fabrics to order from. Then there will be a size run of the Cuban-collar shirts, a selection of accessories (hand-made in London belts, pocket chains and vests) some current collection pieces for MTO, and stock of the popular Ripley knit - Scott has ordered some specifically for the weekend. 

Finally, Scott will be bringing a hand-picked set of vintage Italian knit shirts from the 1950-70s. He has been collecting these shirts for the last 15 years and plans to bring out some of the highest-grade for these few special days on the Row. 

One more unique reason to come along. 

Permanent Style Presents is at The Service, 32 Savile Row, from today until November 7th. 

Full details on the dates and opening times here

Reader Profile: Andrew

Reader Profile: Andrew

Share
||- Begin Content -||

This is the third in our series of articles meeting, and questioning, Permanent Style readers.

The first profiled Manish, who enthused about Russian watches and recommended that readers should start building a wardrobe with good trousers. And the second featured David, an Australian whose advice was that readers should seek out tailors who also offer good style advice. 

Today it’s the turn of Andrew, an American who currently lives in Zurich, and buys at perhaps at a slightly higher level than the other two. 

OUTFIT 1: FORMAL

Here I’m wearing a DB solaro suit by Ferdinando Caraceni, a striped poplin shirt from Siniscalchi, and a knitted silk tie from Charvet. The shoes and belt are from Stivaleria Savoia.

This outfit is indicative of how I like to dress this time of year for work. Solaro wears quite warm and I find it is the perfect fabric for spring and autumn, on sunny but not hot days. It’s too heavy to wear in the summer above 25 degrees or so, as is a gabardine so and doesn’t breathe well. 

At first I was worried solaro would be hard to wear, but I actually find it very easy as it goes with a very wide range of colors. I actually have to stop myself from wearing this suit too often.

What job do you do?

I own a restructuring and turnaround advisory business based in Zurich. My clients are mainly SMEs and mid-sized investment firms based in Switzerland, Italy and France, and I travel regularly to Paris and Milan to visit clients.

I wear a suit and tie to the office almost every day. In these cities, light-coloured and more casual suits tend to be more common than in London, where I used to live, and are considered acceptable business attire. As a result I wear a lot more gabardine, cotton, linen and flannel suits and a lot fewer blue and grey worsteds than I did in London.

Has that changed with things becoming more casual too?

Yes, I’ve made some subtle changes to how I dress to continue wearing a suit, but in a more casual way. I love striped shirts of all kinds, for example, and often wear a striped shirt with a solid knitted (in spring/summer) or wool (in autumn/winter) tie and suede or slip-on shoes with a suit, to take down the level of formality.

I usually only wear a solid white or blue shirt, printed silk tie, pocket square and black oxfords for an important occasion, like a board of directors meeting. Otherwise, that combination feels a bit too much these days. But these things go in cycles and I’m sure I’ll go back to solid shirts and the rest before long.

Who are your style icons?

My style icons are Sergio Loro Piana, Yves Saint Laurent, Carlo Caracciolo and John Stefanidis. These are all men who, in my opinion, dressed elegantly and had a certain nonchalant attitude that made them very chic.

For more current examples, I take inspiration from men I meet or see walking around on the street, mainly when I travel to Milan and Paris. They are usually older men who have nothing to prove, and as a result look perfectly comfortable and natural in their clothes. For example, my Russell Check jacket, loden overcoat, and yellowish cotton suit are all things that found their way into my wardrobe as a result of taking inspiration this way.

I don’t really follow anybody on Instagram, mostly because I use social media very little.

OUTFIT 2: SEMI-FORMAL

In this outfit I’m wearing grey flannel trousers and a brown jacket by Ferdinando Caraceni, a button-down chambray shirt by Siniscalchi, and a dark-green merino cardigan. The suede oxfords and the belt are by Stivaleria Savoia.

The outfit shows the benefits of visiting a tailor in their workshop, rather than selecting cloth from sample bunches during a trunk show. The cloth for the jacket is a vintage hazelnut and black grain-of-rice pattern from the 1970s or 80s (maker unknown) that I found digging through F. Caraceni’s archive of fabric. 

The flannel trousers are also from an old roll of Fintex flannel that’s at least 20 years old. I tend to prefer vintage flannels to modern ones, as they tend to be heavier and more compact. I find newer flannels can be a bit spongy.

How do you travel to work?

I normally walk to work, often dropping my son off at the creche and then continuing to the office.

In Zurich we have four distinct seasons: in spring and autumn it tends to rain a lot, summer can get quite hot, and winter is very cold. As a result, I have use for a lot of things that I wouldn't in a more temperate climate, like heavy outerwear to avoid getting too cold in the winter and linen and high twist suits in the summer to avoid overheating. 

It also means that for the sake of practicality I tend to wear things that, according to the textbook, should not go together, like my suede EG Galway boots with a suit on a rainy day.

Does the amount of light, and sun, make a difference too?

Yes, moving to Switzerland from London in early 2020 and setting up my own business had a

big impact there. The places I spend my time now tend to be sunnier than London, which lend themselves to wearing more and warmer colours.

During the week I wear a lot of light-coloured, more casual suits (for example, in shades of beige, taupe, brown and green), which I never did in England. We try to spend as much time as possible in the mountains or in Italy at the weekend as well, and I tend to wear warm shades of brown, green, burgundy, and yellow when I am out of the city.

What do you spend least money on?

Trousers, summer sports jackets, and accessories. 

Relative to the number of suits and jackets I have, I have few trousers. This is because I tend to use trousers as a neutral base to build an outfit around, a bit like Simon’s concept of the Italian Background applied to trousers.

I find that you can go a long way with only a few pairs of trousers: one or two grey flannels, grey tropical or high twist, blue jeans, and then a pair of cotton trousers or chinos depending on your taste and how formally you dress.

With a basic wardrobe of 5-6 pairs of trousers I can mix and match a lot and cover almost any occasion where I don’t wear a suit. My trouser wardrobe will probably grow slowly over time, but these will be more nice-to-haves than anything essential.

I don’t spend much money on accessories like bags, scarves or gloves because I have a few of each that I really like and have used for a long time, and I don’t have any need to replace them.

OUTFIT 3: CASUAL

In this outfit I’m wearing a russell-check jacket by Ferdinando Caraceni, Levi’s Lot 1 jeans, and a Barolo-coloured (I made this name up, it’s a dark red with more brown in it than Burgundy or Bordeaux, which tend to have a bit of purple) cashmere rollneck. The boots are suede Edward Green Galways.

I spend a lot of time in the mountains and countryside over the weekend, and this is how I like to dress when I am away from the city. The jacket is a 560g thornproof tweed from the Huddersfield Alsport bunch and is absolutely indestructible. I have no doubt it will outlive me.

The Galways are a masterpiece of design. I wear them like this over the weekend, as well as to the office with a flannel suit on a rainy or snowy day. The fit isn’t quite as good as my bespoke

shoes, but it’s good enough and these boots are otherwise so good that it makes no sense to try to improve them by asking a bespoke maker to copy them.

How long have you been reading Permanent Style?

I’ve been reading PS since almost the beginning, and I recall going back and reading through the archive of what was written before I started. 

What I like most about PS is that it has evolved over time as my knowledge has grown and I have built my wardrobe. Simon and I are almost the same age, and we were in very similar stages of our lives when he started PS and I started reading it. 

Early on, I really liked the reviews of tailors and other makers, as I was trying to find which styles worked for me and why and to find a tailor that fit that. Now that I have found that tailor and am no longer shopping around, I am much more interested in the thought pieces and interviews. 

I still read the reviews and technical pieces, though I tend to skim through them as I am not in the market for a new tailor and have never really been interested in the technical side of tailoring. I view that as my tailor’s job, not mine.

I like PS because Simon is genuinely curious about all kinds of tailoring, and that shows through in the breadth and depth of the articles. The articles are well written, thoughtful and cover a broad enough range of topics that they don’t become repetitive. 

I also find it remarkable that, unlike any other website or social media feed, PS has managed to keep the level of discourse in the comments section extremely civil, which is a reflection of Simon’s personality.

What’s your best piece advice for readers?

My tip for readers is based on great advice I got from my dear friend Gianluca Migliarotti, which is that tailors are made by their long-term clients. 

It is very hard to understand the style of any tailor without understanding the tastes, preferences and lifestyle of their clients. Those clients are the ones that keep tailors in business, and tailors become good at making what they order.

Based on my experience, you are most likely to be satisfied with the work of a tailor with clients whose lifestyle and taste most closely match yours, as they will be more likely to make you a garment that matches your own vision of how you want to look.

Everybody has that vision and it is worth thinking hard about it before spending a lot of money on clothes - bespoke or otherwise. That vision will be refined over the years as you develop your sensibility, but investing a bit of time and energy up front can help to avoid costly mistakes.

Photography: Mohan Singh @mohansinghphotography

 

Introducing: The Herringbone Donegal Overcoat

Introducing: The Herringbone Donegal Overcoat

Share
||- Begin Content -||

This feels like it’s been a long time coming. Probably because I just got excited about this material a good year ago, and started talking to people about it soon after. 

The wait is also not over quite yet, though. Due to delays everyone is suffering at the moment - petrol, people, pingdemics - the new Donegal coat will be shipping in about two weeks’ time. The cloth only arrived a week ago. 

But expectations have been so high for this particular collaboration, and we’ve had so many questions about it, that seemed best to put it on sale now. At the very least, it means readers can effectively pre-order theirs, and so stop worrying that they might miss out. 

If you would like the new grey-herringbone iteration of our now most popular-ever product, the PS Donegal Coat, you can buy yours on the PS Shop here. It will be shipped out to you in about two weeks, and you will get regular updates during that time confirming the schedule. 

So why was I so excited about this version of the Donegal? 

I think it was mainly that I see it as potentially the most useful we’ve ever done. 

I know I talk about versatility a lot, but when you’re spending several hundred pounds on something, I feel it should have broad application. Particularly for younger readers that don’t have a full wardrobe already. 

And grey herringbone has always been a cloth I’ve recommended, both for jackets and coats. My Anthology tweed jacket has been shown on PS with everything from beat-up jeans to a shirt and tie on stage in New York. It is the only colour and pattern that I’ve found can bridge that extent of casual and formal. 

And it’s no less useful as a coat. Something like a camel polo coat can bridge casual to formal too, but it’s still a more unusual and striking option in either scenario. Grey herringbone is both subtler and easier. 

The issue I have with most grey herringbone coat materials is that the pattern is too small. It’s almost more texture than pattern. 

That’s fine if you want to tip towards the smarter end of the spectrum, in a tailored, double-breasted overcoat for example. But it can be a bit smart for a raglan coat, and makes them too uniformly grey for jeans or workwear chinos. 

The first two iterations of the PS Donegal Coat (here and here) used a fairly small herringbone too, but that was because it was meant to be texture - something added to a charcoal and dark-brown coat respectively, alongside the Donegal flecks, to add surface interest. 

With this version, the pattern was important - to make it a herringbone coat, rather than just a grey one. To make it the first thing you noticed. 

As we all know from talking about suits, casual things often have more pattern, and this is no less true here. 

It is that stronger pattern that makes a weekend coat as much as a business one - and of course means it suits a wide swathe of people that is now dressing more casually, but still wants to be well put-together. 

In pursuing this perfect pattern, the first thing I tried was to increase the contrast in the colours of the herringbone. Where version one was charcoal and black, and version two brown and black, I tried two options with version three: grey and black (as most mainstream coats are) and cream and black. 

The latter was much better, but it still lacked something. The pattern was a bit too small. I didn’t want anything as dramatic as my Connolly coat, but it still felt too much like texture. 

So having talked to the weavers, we switched from a 2x2 to a 3x3 twill. This basically means the twill is bigger, so each herringbone line is wider, and the pattern becomes bigger too. 

I loved the final result. It seemed like the perfect balance between a smart, elegant chic-casual overcoat and a sportier, relaxed, Ivy-style coat.

I’ve shown those two looks in these images, with the smart version above - sharp trousers and a nice knit - and the casual one below - jeans and a T-shirt.

I deliberately kept the colour schemes similar in these outfits, in order to focus on the contrast in formality.

So even though the smart outfit doesn’t involve a jacket, the cream-corduroy trousers and navy knitwear look much more dressed-up. There’s also a crisp, stark white shirt above, and dark-suede shows below.

The casual outfit uses white too, but a heavyweight T-shirt instead of a shirt; there’s navy, but a chunky shawl-collar cardigan; and then of course mid-blue jeans, which makes anything and everything more casual. 

The coat - strong of pattern but subtle of colour - goes with both beautifully.

The other lovely thing about grey herringbone, I’ve found over the years, is the way it works with bright colours. 

We know from tailoring discussions that mid-grey is often good in this regard, but the casual herringbone pattern helps too. 

It’s one reason my grey-herringbone jacket is the one pictured with a pink-oxford shirt in that article, and a yellow oxford in this one

With this larger-scaled coat, I’ve shown how it supports strong colour with a large saffron-yellow scarf in the photo below, and in other shots around this piece with the bright-red PS watch cap

A raglan, balmacaan-style coat is the best partner for long scarves or shawls by the way. Its long fronts mean the scarves hang easily, naturally, despite being so oversized. Much better than with a double-breasted tailored coat - where it’s too big to go underneath, and can seem a little forced when draped over the top. 

All this so far has presumed that you, the reader, are familiar with the PS Donegal that I’ve enjoyed designing and offering the past three years. 

If you’re not, here’s an efficient summary. 

The PS Donegal Coat was born ​​out of a need for a versatile coat that could be worn with jeans for a walk, or tailoring to the office. Something that could be thrown on, almost without thought, and yet be rigorously designed that it always flattered the wearer. 

To that end, it is a little longer than most (but can be shortened if required) to add a touch of flair, and that’s balanced by a slightly higher collar that effectively frames the face. That collar stays up when put up, due to curved insert on the neck. And the standard throat latch is reshaped to sit more elegantly when not in use. 

It has both two internal breast pockets, and a large hip pocket (iPad sized) in which to keep a hat, book or anything else bulky. The outer hip pockets are lined with cashmere.

It has a distinctive yet subtle lining in antique gold; and the buttons are matte two-hole buffalo horn - a style more commonly seen on Savile Row, and reflecting my love of bespoke tailoring. 

Just as important as the style, though, in fact probably more so, is the Donegal wool. 

Donegal tweed is so pleasing and unique in its texture. There’s slubbiness in there, an authentic and natural look, plus great colour variation when you look carefully, but compared to other traditional cloths it never feels old-fashioned - unlike a big windowpane check for example.

The tweed is spun especially by Donegal Yarns in Ireland, the last remaining mill that makes the yarn - before being woven in Lancashire and then manufactured by Private White VC in Manchester.

For full details on the design and details of the Donegal Coat, have a read of the original launch article here

Ordering

  • The Donegal Overcoat costs £792 plus VAT. 
  • At the moment it is exclusively available through Permanent Style, on the webshop here.
  • There are sizes from XS (chest 46, Private White size 2) up to XXL.
  • Have a close look at the measurements below if you're unsure of sizing, and if in doubt compare them to a coat you already own.
  • However, the coat fit is pretty standard, so taking your normal size is usually safe. 
  • I am six foot tall and usually wear a size 50-chest jacket. I am wearing a Medium.
  • As with all PS products, there are free returns should you want to change sizes. Ships from the UK.

Measurements:

X-Small/2 Small/3 Medium/4 Large/5 X-Large/6 XX-Large/7
Chest 50.5cm 53 56.5 60 63.5 67
Waist 52 54.5 58 61.5 65 68.5
Bottom hem 58.5 61 64.5 68 71.5 75
Length 108.4 109 110 111 112 113
Sleeve 81 82 83 84 85 86
Cuff (width) 13.8 14.1 14.5 14.9 15.3 15.7

Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

Updates: Pop-up from this Thursday afternoon

Updates: Pop-up from this Thursday afternoon

Sunday, October 24th 2021
Share
||- Begin Content -||

Just a few updates ahead of the opening of the latest Permanent Style Presents pop-up shop, this coming week.

  • There will be a small drinks reception to celebrate our opening, from 5pm-8pm this Thursday, the 28th. All welcome
  • Opening times have been confirmed as follows:
    • Monday to Saturday, 10am to 6pm
    • Sunday, 12pm-5pm
  • Scott Fraser Collection will start their show from Thursday next week, November 4th, rather than the Wednesday. They will run until Sunday 7th, the last day of the pop-up
  • As mentioned in an update to our launch post, most pieces from Bryceland's and Permanent Style will be for try-on only, with orders shipped to customers for free. They will therefore arrive from PS the next day, usually, and from Bryceland's within three days

The other details, for anyone that missed them last time are:

  • The sixth Permanent Style Presents pop-up shop opens on Thursday 28th, in The Service on Savile Row
  • It will run from 5pm on the 28th, to 5pm on Sunday November 7th
  • It will be run in partnership with Bryceland's, and both brands will be there throughout
  • Other brands are split into two groups:
    • First five days: Colhays, and AWMS
    • Second five days: Masaru Okuyama, and Scott Fraser Collection (the latter from Thursday 4th)

Look forward to seeing everyone soon - it has been far, far too long.

Simon

 

 

Black tie among friends

Black tie among friends

Share
||- Begin Content -||

 

By Tony Sylvester

A couple of weekends ago, at the invitation of photographer Jamie Ferguson and writer Aleks Cvetkovic, a few friends got together for a weekend away in the Devonshire countryside. Obviously, social invitations and jaunts out and about have been thin on the ground for the past months, and even the simple act of packing a suitcase felt like blessed relief after being cooped up in town. 

One of the first things we collectively decided was that a black-tie evening should form the centerpiece to the weekend. Jamie and Aleks had managed to book a rather grand Georgian country house for the proceedings, and it seemed appropriate to give our evening wear a much needed airing. 

Of course, 'normal' black tie invitations come with a certain level of expectation. The hosts set the tone in this regard, along with the type of event the invite promises. This weekend was nothing of the sort. In the company of friends, shorn of social responsibility, and being specifically in a group of chaps who pride themselves on how they dress, all bets were off in terms of how the rules of formal wear could be applied. 

It was fascinating to see how varied the interpretations were, and how much the fellows' personal style seeped into their ensembles. Here are four I’d like to focus on.

Benjamin Phillips

I’m sure a lot of readers will be aware of Ben from his tenure managing the Drake’s store in London. Ben’s quiet, polite demeanour creates a wonderful juxtaposition to his authoritative presence and personal style. 

After four years of flying the sartorial flag for Drake’s and wearing a suit and tie everyday, Ben’s new role managing a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy calls for a more relaxed and ‘athleisured’ approach. The black tie invite offered him a chance to both dress up beyond the remit of his everyday pursuits, and display his new laidback sensibility.

Ben wore a made-to-measure DB dinner jacket with peak lapels - in the rarely seen make up of black corduroy and matte-cotton facings. 

Made for him by Drake’s, the cut very much followed their house style: unlined with a natural shoulder, and with the smaller ticket pocket nestling in the larger patch pocket. The theme was continued with the same cotton being used in lieu of grosgrain or silk in the evening stripe of the matching cord trousers.

A lovely play on the notions of formal and informal, corduroy has a similar sheen and handle to its more elegant cousin velvet, but is of course more often used for hardy outdoor pursuits. The informality continued with a pale-blue chambray button-down standing in for a dress shirt, while a heavy jacquard-weave bow tie with a plush diamond motif from London-based maker Labowtique echoed the deep undulations of the cord. 

The ensemble was finished off with a pair of black velvet Albert slippers with the Prince Of Wales Creasy embroidered in bullion - from Broadland Slippers, with bare ankles. 

Jake Wigham

I mentioned Jake Wigham in my last column for Permanent Style. A shirtmaker based in East London, Jake has an encyclopaedic knowledge of classic Ivy/prep style and how it cross-fertilises with the British youth cultures of the 60s and early 70s - most notably in Mod, Soulboy and Suedehead subculture. 

The shirts he makes are imbued with this passion, taking the classic six-button Brooks Brothers button-down ‘polo’ shirt with its unlined collar and roomy fit and offering his version made-to-order. 

His take on black tie was full of allusions to these elements. The vintage off-white dinner jacket in a slubby tropical wool was made in the late 1940s by Burton. He paired this, perhaps surprisingly, with US Army- issued OG107 ‘Baker Boy” trousers. Perhaps more surprisingly, however, the washed olive green was wonderfully harmonious underneath the pale ecru of the jacket. 

One of his own white button-down shirts was worn artfully wrinkled and unironed (in bona fide Ivy fashion) with a small batwing bow in matte satin and matching cummerbund, there were white socks and loafers by fellow london brand Horatio, and all worn with pennies in the vamp cutout, naturally. 

What made the whole look work for me was the vintage details in the combination of youthful collegiate stylings and militaria. The overall look would not have seemed out of place in a Princeton yearbook from the 1950s, yet did not look costumey or contrived in any way. 

Scott Simpson

Scott Simpson is owner of the brand Scott Fraser Collection. Another devotee of vintage clobber, Scott came up similarly through the Mod and Soul subcultures, but his brand finds its expression across the decades. 

Scott chose the Bryceland’s white linen Farmer’s Smock for the only bow tie-less black tie rig of the weekend. By tucking in the smock’s long tails, he emphasised the dressier elements of the item, drawing on its similarities to old-fashioned formal shirts with its trapezoid bib front and soft stand collar. The black dress trousers, white socks and tassel loafers grounded the outfit and let the real hero piece sing out.

The one item that brought exclamations from the rest of the guests, Scott’s choice of a vintage wool kimono-style wrap jacket was bold and adventurous. 

This extremely rare piece of men’s leisurewear was made by the celebrity designer Oleg Cassini. Cassini is remembered primarily for his womenswear, making gowns for Jackie Kennedy when she was First Lady. Scott stumbled across the piece while searching for inspiration for his range of Italian knit shirts. 

What made the rather eccentric kit work for me was the simple colour palette of black, white and jewel-tone red, lending the outfit the formality of an officer’s mess rigout.  

Tom O'Dell

Perhaps the most conservative look of the weekend, Tom’s choice will resonate with more traditional readers. 

Its simplicity and single-minded smartness showed Tom’s personal style to a tee. Tom works primarily as a stylist and dresser in film production, and while knowledgeable about period detail and dress, I would say his personal look falls somewhere between heritage brands and more contemporary looks - so perhaps mixing Barbour jackets and gun-check overcoating with Margaret Howell knitwear and Paraboots. 

Like Jake, Tom went for a vintage cream shawl-collared tuxedo jacket but, until Jake's take, let it ring clearly with more classic companions: black dress trousers, a white dress shirt with black studs on the placket, a medium-sized black satin silk bowtie with pleated velvet cummerbund, again handmade by Labowtique, white silk pocket square, black socks and loafers. 

Understated, elegant and straightforward. 

‘Creative black tie’ is a phrase that can really raise the hackles. It conjures up nightmarish visions of the gaudy and the garish, embodied by the horror that accompanies seeing photos of the Met Gala every year. Black tie’s key function is that of a ‘great equaliser’ - a failsafe benchmark to be adhered to for both convention’s sake and the tried and tested code of what ‘works’. 

But there are those of us of a more extravert demeanour who enjoy butting up against that with a gentle sense of brinkmanship. Deviation, to my mind, should be approached with caution and mindfulness. With experience and confidence, you can take the essence of what you find comfortable and resonant in your day-to-day wardrobe and also apply it elegantly to formal wear. 

Now what the hell am I going to wear to the cocktail party on Saturday? 

 

The jackets I picked for winter

||- Begin Content -||

A couple of weeks ago, when our little Indian summer here in the UK came to an end, I started the process of switching my wardrobe around for colder weather. 

I keep winter sweaters, roll necks, coats and heavy tweeds stored in the attic, and slowly change things at this time of year (switching back in March or April).

This is always exciting, and inevitably the things I bring down first are my favourite pieces - the ones I’m most excited about. 

That’s interesting in itself, if anyone looking at capsule wardrobes is interested to know what my favourite winter pieces are. 

But this year I think it was particularly revealing, because it illustrated changing times for clothing: fewer suits, more jackets; fewer formal materials, more casual jackets in general. 

This article is a description and an explanation of what I picked. 

My main wardrobe can hold 20 pieces of tailoring: two rails, 10 on the top and 10 on the bottom.

(See this post for pictures of that wardrobe, and my storage in general.)

Usually these rails would be nearly all tailoring, with around half suits and half jackets. This winter, I took down 10 jackets, just 3 suits, and filled the rest with more casual outerwear: leather blousons, suede over shirts, chore jackets and so on. (I’ll talk long coats later.)

As I’m in town only 2 or 3 days a week, rather than 4 or 5 before, I simply have less use for tailoring. I wear it every opportunity I can, and look forward to doing so, but I don’t feel appropriate wearing a jacket during the day around the suburb where I live. 

So, what were these 10 jackets and 3 suits that I was most looking forward to? They were:

Now, that’s a lot of jackets by any standards. But when you consider all the things left out - Hitchcock jackets, Cifonelli, Solito etc - it is a decent bit of editing. 

Some of the choices were required by the need to create a versatile collection. 

For example, I chose my Caraceni rather than my Hitchcock navy cashmere not because it’s better in any way, but because given the choice between two I like equally, it was nice to include another double breasted. 

Equally, that first double-breasted from Ciardi was largely chosen over my Anderson & Sheppard checked grey jacket because I wanted to include some corduroy. 

The result is a versatile range for what I need and wear: navy, brown, green and tan; tweed and cashmere but more tweed; soft and sharp but more soft. 

The three suits I chose were:

The most significant thing with these is that there are so few of them - where previously, as I said, they’d take up a whole rail. 

But also, it’s notable that there is no navy, no worsted. This is not a selection for business, and two of them aren’t really that smart. 

They also all three have trousers that can be used separately, and the A&S jacket can be used on its own as well. 

Finally, coats. These are a little different, as it’s still too hot for really heavy pieces like my Sexton great coat or Ciardi ‘British Warm’. They’ll be swapped in later. 

For the moment it’s lighter pieces, so my longer coats were: 

All a bit lighter, with a good range of colours - navy, grey, brown. (This is excluding a rain coat or more casual things like the Wax Walker. They’ve been hanging downstairs for a while.)

I make no bones about the fact that this is a lot of clothes. I've always had a lot - gradually upgrading over the years - and of course many are required by what is now my job. 

But if I were to do a greater clean-out, for whatever reason, these are the kinds of pieces I would keep. The ones that I find most useful, as well as the ones that give me most joy. 

In that way, it’s akin to the discussion we had a few weeks ago around Tony’s article on downsizing his wardrobe. The process is similar. 

Now I just need to decide which of those lovely pieces of tailoring to wear first. 

Links to all the clothes mentioned are in the text. If any of them aren’t clear, or you would like any of the images of them identified, please let me know. 

 

The guide to knitwear fibre: Wool, cashmere and cotton

 

One sweater says lambswool, the other says merino. What does that mean? What’s the difference?

This cashmere sweater costs £30; this other one costs £300. Can they really be made of the same thing?

In our first chapter of this series – The Guide to Knitwear – we summarised all the things that made one sweater different to another, from yarn to gauge to loom.

Now we start taking deep dives into each one, beginning with fibre. This is the raw material the knitwear is made of, whether wool (merino, lambswool, geelong) another animal product (cashmere, vicuna, silk) or a plant (cotton, linen, hemp).

By explaining what they are, their different types and their properties, it will hopefully help readers understand what they’re buying and make informed choices.

Plus it’s kind of interesting.

 

 

What are the types of wool?

The vast majority of high-end knitwear – the kind Permanent Style readers might be considering – is merino, from a merino sheep (above). This is not a British breed, but usually imported from the likes of Australia and South Africa.

So if a label says something is merino, it’s not telling you much. It’s just ruling out other breeds – usually coarser and British, of which the best known is shetland – and probably telling you it’s adult merino, not lambswool.

If it is lambswool, the label will usually say so, and it means the wool comes from the first shearing of a sheep. Which makes it finer and softer.

(Interestingly, the way you identify lambswool is by looking at the fibre under a microscope and seeing that it has one pointed end and one square. The squared end is where it was cut, the other end is the tip. All future wool taken from the sheep will have a cut tip, so both ends are square.)

Once you know it’s merino lambswool, you’re into specialty breeds or flocks.

For example ‘geelong’ refers to a particular type of merino sheep, which originally came from the geelong area of Australia. It was particularly high quality, and so sought after.

In recent years, geelong wool has increasingly been processed in China, rather than Australia, which makes it a less reliable indicator of quality. But geelong will still usually be a particular fine merino. (Though not, in my experience, as nice as cashmere, despite being marketed as such.)

 

 

Why does this matter?

So, we have there a series of subsets. Geelong is a type of lambswool (above), which is a type of merino, which is a breed of sheep. 

What do we get as we descend that structure, using ‘better’ wools?

The biggest factor is fineness, which is measured in microns. Adult merino might be up to 21.5 micron, lambswool anything from 16.5 to 20, and geelong 18.5 or so. A human hair averages 70-80 micron, by the way, so this is all pretty fine.

There are other attributes of the wool fibre though. One is softness. Although fineness largely determines softness, lambswool of the same micron as adult merino will still be softer. And cashmere is softer because it has fewer scales in the fibre structure.

Another is length: one issue with cashmere is that although it’s fine and soft, it’s shorter than most merino. And another is colour: pale, almost white wool is prized because it can be dyed into a greater range of colours.

Then there are some peculiarities of different specialty wools, such as the crimped shape of Escorial wool, which is another merino breed.

When these fibres are spun into yarn, you get a whole set of new differences, which we might cover later. But the biggest one is worsted and woollen-spun. Just as with woven materials in suits, a worsted yarn is spun finer to create a smoother, often denser product. It’s what you see in light knits, such as those of John Smedley. Other, normal jumpers are woollen spun.

This only matters here because a coarser fibre can still look and feel fine if it is worsted.

 

 

The types of cashmere

Cashmere’s added value is fineness. Chinese cashmere (above) will be around 15 to 16 micron; Mongolian is 16.2 up to 18; Afghan is coarser and generally used for weaving. But all are finer than lambswool.

(There’s also baby cashmere, which is the first combing of a cashmere goat and is the finest of all. But, according to those I spoke to, there is far more ‘baby’ cashmere in the world than could realistically come from these animals.)

There is some real variety there among types of cashmere, which explains a lot of the price difference. There’s also variation in length of the fibres and mixes of length.

But just as important how the cashmere is used.

A lot of cheap cashmere, for example, is knitted loosely so less is required. A chemical softener is used to make it feel softer (and give it a slightly oily touch) and it’s over finished, making it very fluffy but not as strong. More on that in an article here.

There is also some traditional difference in how cashmere is knitted. For example, Scottish knitwear usually has less of a finish (less fluffy) than Italian. With the former you can usually see the yarn more clearly.

We talked about the advantages and disadvantages of that in this previous article. But the important thing to remember is that denser Scottish knitwear softens with wear and washing, and should last longer. Judging knitwear just based on what you feel in a shop is rarely that accurate.

Among other luxury fibres, vicuna is finer still, though shorter than cashmere. It’s an amazing fibre, but often hard to justify given how very expensive it is.

There’s also camel, which is around 16 micron, and mostly limited by its colour. And a little alpaca and angora. The latter is a very short fibre, and produces a particularly fluffy texture.

 

 

Plant fibres

Fibres like cotton and linen are mainly used for Spring/Summer, to make knits feel cooler. Both are cool to the touch, and trap heat less.

Cotton is seen more often because not everyone likes the crispness of linen, even though cotton is heavier and not quite as cool. Hemp behaves in a similar way to linen.

Sometimes the best solution is to mix cotton or linen with wool or cashmere. This produces more of a mid-weight jumper, not as cool as the two plant fibres on their own, but still lighter and fresher than wool.

The mixing can actually be done in two ways – one where the fibres themselves are mixed together before being spun, and another where one spun yarn of each is twisted together. The advantage of the latter is that the proportions are easier to control.

Silk is fantastic for strength and lightness, but again has a disadvantage in producing a sheen on the surface. So it’s most often used in mixes, usually with cashmere in lightweight knits.

There are differences in the qualities of all of these fibres, with Egyptian or Supima cotton having a longer staple length for example. But the differences are not as marked as those between different wools and cashmere.

Combray: Vintage, high-end menswear

Combray: Vintage, high-end menswear

Share
||- Begin Content -||

I find I’m particularly interested in vintage clothes at the moment. 

That may be because of their inherent character, or the fact it seems more sustainable, or just that I’ve had a lot of clothes over the years, so often the things are more unusual or interesting are vintage. 

Whatever the reason, it led me to an online vintage store I hadn’t heard of before, Combray, which despite the name and largely French stock, is based in Hong Kong. 

It’s run by Simon, a mathematician at a local university, and the thing that struck me immediately was how curated it was. There aren’t too many clothes, and they’re all the highest level of quality - from people like Arnys, Charvet, Anderson & Sheppard and The Andover Shop. 

My biggest frustration with vintage is always the lack of curation - the fact you often have to spend a good hour so rifling through racks before you find anything that’s of the best quality and a reasonable size. 

It’s why I’ve bought pieces in the RRL shops over the years. They’re always expensive, but what you’re paying for is the curation, the selection. If they have a leather jacket, it will be at the perfect point of worn in but not falling apart, and be somewhere between a 36 and a 42 chest. 

The Vintage Showroom in London was almost as good in terms of its curation, but unfortunately it’s now just largely online. And in fact the same goes for Brian’s Wooden Sleepers in New York, now he’s moved out of Brooklyn and up to Yonkers. 

Of course, it’s only 35 minutes on the train up to Yonkers, but chances are if you’re a tourist visiting New York, you’re less likely to head up there than go to Brooklyn. 

Which I think makes curation all the more important. Shopping vintage is hard enough, but doing so online - when you can’t try things on without shipping back and forth - is harder still. It needs a tight selection and great customer service. 

Combray seems to be doing both of those things, which is great. Simon has a clear idea of the kind of clothes he wants to offer, and the photos and measurements on the site are good. 

His love affair with French menswear started when he found a Charvet shirt in a local second-hand shop: “It was just so lovely, better than anything else I had, with this beautiful logo on the label,” he says. “Plus of course it was a lot cheaper than getting it new.”

Although Simon appreciates the aesthetic attractions of vintage, his prime driver has always been cost. “Even today, I don’t really buy anything new ready-to-wear,” he explains. “There is the occasional bespoke commission, which is obviously different, but ready-made things always seem nicer and cheaper second hand.”

After the Charvet purchase, he got into other high-end French brands like Sulka, Arnys, Seraphin and Chapal. He liked the fact it was a smaller world, certainly compared to the attention given to English or Italian menswear. 

“Within the world of French clothing, I actually find a lot of people trade these old clothes around,” Simon says. “Particularly places that don’t exist anymore like Arnys or Sulka. People buy things and wear them for a while, but might later sell them on, I’ve seen a few clothes go through the shop like that.”

In fact, this is one reason he keeps such a large ‘Archive’ page on the site, showing many of the things that have been sold in the past. “There is precious little information around on old French brands - the occasional blog article, and a StyleForum thread about French tailoring, but that’s about it,” he says.

“I think it’s great that people can see on there a gallery of all these great French pieces, get a better idea of what they are like and even taken inspiration from them.”

It was an unusual French piece that first caught my attention: a Sulka raincoat in navy silk (above). It seemed to tick the boxes of things I like: unusual but subtle, classic but characterful. 

Unfortunately, I neglected to read all of Simon’s notes, and didn’t check the measurements on the sleeves. Although the body length was just about OK on me, the sleeve length was a good two inches too short. 

Other than that it was lovely though: nice sheen to the surface, good shape when cinched, and with a nice zip-through liner. 

The other piece I bought was more of a success: an old canvas backpack made by a German company I hadn’t heard of before called Seil Marschall. 

Having read up on them since, they’re a pretty quirky outfit, but the quality of the bag is superb. Great canvas, lovely hardware, and nice details like an antler fitting on the end of the waxed drawstring. 

Then there’s the attraction of vintage: the bag is already beautifully weathered and looks like it’s been used for a decades. I love the patina on everything from the canvas to the leather to the brass. 

The prices, by the way, are in US dollars, not Hong Kong. It’s not quite as cheap as you might initially think (and hope)! 

Combray is, of course, a reference to Proust, and Simon is a big fan of French literature - even if he’s even got far through In Search of Lost Time. “I love the writing, but I never made it any further than Swann’s Way,” he confesses, “I still read it, but I pick it up and enjoy the language, rather than working through the story.”

It’s a good name for a French vintage shop though, given Combray is associated in the book with nostalgia and beautiful times past. 

Simon initially started selling his own French clothes, then added those of others, and has recently added a few other brands, when friends have offered them to him. He still wants to retain the French focus, but it’s hard to turn down Loro Piana or The Andover Shop, and that does keep the quality level up - plus new stock coming in regularly. 

In fact, he has even sold a Permanent Style product in the past - the first iteration of the Trench Coat made with Private White VC. Ethan at Bryceland’s is always saying the biggest compliment to his clothes will be if they go on to become great vintage. I didn’t realise how true that was until I saw a PS piece on there. 

LeCombray.com

Simon accepts clothing to sell too, of “similar caliber and spirit”. Anyone interested can contact him through the form on the website

Brioni bespoke jacket and trousers: Review

Brioni bespoke jacket and trousers: Review

Wednesday, October 13th 2021
Share
||- Begin Content -||

This Brioni jacket was made for me under their bespoke programme, using the London store on Bruton Street. We also made a pair of cotton trousers, which I cover lower down, and a shirt. 

In our previous article, I made the case for Brioni as a bespoke option for those that like the experience of a luxury brand, and the easier access of having a network of stores.

With bespoke starting at £5,360 (inc. VAT) Brioni is around the same price as the biggest-name tailors, whether in London, Paris or Milan. The quality of the make was also, from what I could see, very good. 

The only missing piece of the puzzle was fit. 

Fortunately, this has also turned out well. There are a couple of small areas that could be improved on the jacket, but overall the fit is at least average among the top bespoke houses, and you’d hope would be improved over time in the same way. 

I wasn’t that confident at the start, though, for two reasons. 

First, the system of taking measurements and aspects of the body shape was quite programmatic, working from amending house blocks. Often this is a warning sign that what you’re going to get is closer to made-to-measure than bespoke. 

However, it’s only a rule of thumb, because what really matters is how much, how often and how finely the tailor is willing to alter those pre-existing ideas of fit. 

Having an individual paper pattern, drawn from scratch, suggests there will be more of this. But there’s no reason you can’t do that from a block as well. 

The second thing that worried me was that under this Brioni system, the first fitting would be in a spare piece of material, and largely in a Brioni-style jacket - not the style I would necessarily want in the end. 

This can be useful for the tailor to get the ideas of balance and proportion right, before moving onto style. But it does mean the customer has fewer opportunities to see their desired style and perfect it. 

At the first fitting many of the fundamentals were good, such as the front-back balance and my sloping shoulders. 

But we did make large changes to the style, lowering the buttoning point almost two inches (to 18.5 inches from the shoulder seam), adding an inch in length, and widening the shoulders, as well as making the waist and back larger. 

At the second fitting (there were four in total) Brioni’s approach seemed to work, with the jacket now in its correct cloth, fitting well and in a style I preferred. Tailors might well question this step-by-step system, but if it works for Brioni to coordinate between the store and the Italian workshop, the only thing lost is one extra look at the style. 

The cloth I picked for the jacket, by the way, was a wool/silk/linen in a pale beige. It was intended as a replacement for this jacket which, despite Elia's best attempts, I have simply outgrown. (There’s a whole separate article there, on the longevity of tailoring and changing body shapes.)

Brioni do have a lot of cloths to select from, but they tend towards the more silky and luxurious, the Super 180 wools and the superfine cottons. So a lot of them I wouldn’t go for. 

I still found something I loved, but a service like MTM at Ralph Lauren Purple Label would have more cloths that would appeal to me, as well as perhaps a greater range overall - both luxurious worsteds and hairy tweeds (and nearly all proprietary). 

The trouser material was a silky-feeling cotton, in a lovely cream. And the shirt they made by default was also in a luxurious twill. But both were superfine cottons, which feel lovely but do crease quickly. 

It’s also fair to say that Brioni charge a greater uplift for luxurious fabrics than most tailoring houses. Although there is a good range available at that starting price of £5,360, the cloth I picked meant the jacket would have cost £4860 and the trousers £1640 - a total of £6500. 

The trousers fit very well from the start. In my notes on the first fitting it says: “Trousers good - nice fit, nice balance, overall impressed. Widened leg slightly, took in waist a touch, but that's all.” 

These corrections were made precisely at the second fitting, and from then on there was just some umming and erring over length. 

The jacket was a little trickier to fit, because the first fitting had been so much tighter than I would normally want. But by the third fitting, there were only minor things to correct, like a little wrinkling on the front from the way my shoulders are rounded forward. 

The final result, as is shown in the images below, was solid. Perfectly balanced on the front and under the arms; following the contours of my back nicely from nape to seat; sleeve pitched cleanly despite being a relatively slim cut. 

All this was more impressive given it’s such a lightweight cloth, and unlined.

I wouldn’t normally have a summer jacket completely unlined, but it’s the style Brioni usually do, and it gave them an opportunity to show off their internal finishing. 

That combination of being unlined and using a lightweight material meant that the back was not as clean as a heavier, lined jacket would be. But still, I think there was a small issue with the slope of the shoulders on the back of the jacket. 

This is never perfectly clean, as otherwise you wouldn’t be able to move, but it looks to me as if the back could do with being picked up on either side, to make it less messy behind the armhole. 

There is also, perhaps, a little wrinkling still on the front of my shoulders where they round forward. This is very slight, and I think actually exaggerated a touch by the shadows of the photography, but it’s something else that could be improved in any subsequent commissions. 

Overall, though, I should emphasise that this is a solid bespoke fit - better than pretty much any MTM I’ve had, and better than a good number of bespoke tailors too. 

The finishing on the jacket was also superb - better than most Italian tailors. Only the top-end names like Ferdinando Caraceni are comparable. 

The pick stitches around the edges are exactly what such details should be: clearly handmade, but small enough that most people wouldn’t notice them. 

The binding on the inside seams is delicate and precise. The buttonholes are finely done, and it’s always a nice touch when the top buttonhole is sewn twice - on the inside and the outside (see below).

This is done because, unlike the other buttonholes, the top one might be seen on both sides as the lapel rolls open at that point. 

The trousers also have attractive finishing touches, like the extra strip used on the side pockets. This adds strength, but also looks nice and clean. 

Interestingly, a reader commented on our first Brioni post that they would expect the Roman house to offer very padded, square-shouldered suits. 

This is a cut that has been associated with them in the past, and you still see on some ready-to-wear. But actually the summer suits and jackets I was looking at were all softly made, with minimal shoulder padding and inset shoulders. 

There is a range of makes, all with names that you can ask about and use for reference. Mine was the ‘Plume’, which I picked because it was the lightest style that still had a full construction in the chest. 

Brioni also does styles with nothing at all in the chest or shoulder, and they can do the same inset shoulder as I had, but with the ‘shirring’ or ripples associated with Neapolitan tailoring. 

So - again, as another reader asked - they really are a good option for a range of Italian cuts, from the stronger shoulder I’d associate with the Milanese, to the very light and soft Neapolitan. 

The first article on Brioni contained a mistake about hand padding of the ready-made jackets. A reader questioned this (thank you) and when I talked to head office, it turned out I had been misinformed. 

That original article has now been amended, and if you have any questions on this aspect of the RTW, I recommend reading that. It also means that those jackets, while still very well made, aren’t as unusual or great value. 

However, this whole process was about covering the bespoke at Brioni, rather than RTW.

It was meant to establish whether what they offered was proper bespoke, and whether it was executed well. 

On those points I can confirm that it is, and it was. There were some small fit issues, as described, but this was still strong bespoke and I think should be considered by anyone that likes the luxury experience of a big brand. 

My only caveats would be house style - it helps a lot if you like the natural style of the brand or tailor - and the rising price for different cloths.

I haven't covered the shirt in detail, because it wasn't the focus and because there wasn't room. But I can at a later stage if readers are interested. 

Note that there is a surcharge for the full bespoke fitting and hand-padding I had, of £300. This is referred to internally as the ‘LM1’ service, and is included in the price quoted above. 

Other clothes shown:

  • Green knit: Linen, made to order, from Dalmo
  • Brown oxfords: Yohei Fukuda
  • Brown loafers: Edward Green Belgravia in mink suede
  • Belt: Brown suede from Rubato
  • Grey trousers: Crispaire, made by The Disguisery
  • Pocket square: Cream cashmere from Anderson & Sheppard
  • Watch with brown strap: Cartier 'Chronoflex' Tank Francaise
  • Watch with black strap: Jaeger Le-Coultre Reverso

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

Autumn/Winter Top 10: Wax, Ivy and secateurs

Autumn/Winter Top 10: Wax, Ivy and secateurs

Share
||- Begin Content -||

This year’s A/W Top 10 list includes a sprinkling of new names, but a lot of familiar ones too. 

I don’t think this is unexpected or unwelcome. The world of classic, crafted menswear is not large, primarily because men still don’t spend that much on clothing - they buy more, perhaps, but still don’t seem to have the knack of buying the same but better. 

Still, as large men’s brands have largely been the ones to struggle or go out of business in the past year, I do wonder which of the small names we know can grow to fill that space. Who can be the new Aquascutum, J Crew, Daks, Brooks Brothers etc? Are any of them that scalable, or progressive? 

Something for a future post. In the meantime, here are my favourite things that came out this Autumn/Winter, with brief explanations why. 

Colhay’s long-sleeved polo

£395

There’s nothing that unusual about this cashmere polo from the new collection at Colhay’s - Lockie and others do similar two-ply polos, which I also have and love. The point of difference is the colour: other makers never do this dark, dark brown, or indeed the dark olive that Colhay’s does some of its other pieces in (see shawl, top). 

I’m also interested in the shirt cardigan, though I suspect I will only use it as a collared cardigan over a T-shirt or shirt, rather than tucking in as a shirt on its own, as is suggested. 

The Anthology ‘Civilman’ trousers

$305

The lovely thing about having so many new, young brands in menswear is that they often come up with combinations you wouldn’t have thought of: like these Civilman trousers from The Anthology. They have jeans pockets at the front, flapped ones at the back; they’re classically cut but use a denim-type material; and the finish inside is more akin to jeans or chinos. 

The fit is high rise, with a slightly more generous thigh and seat, as tailoring tends to do but chinos often don’t. And the leg line too is straight but not baggy.

The only thing I’d say is, the material is as soft or coarse as denim, it’s almost half way between that and a smarter cotton twill. It’s also definitely white rather than off-white or ecru. So I see them as a really nice, smarter trouser, that happens to have jeans-style pockets. 

Wythe jacquard overshirt 

$328

Most of the Wythe collection isn’t at the level we normally cover on PS - deliberately, as Pete wants to keep it more accessible. But of the few pieces I tried earlier this year, this overshirt felt a step above. 

Using a undyed, unbleached cotton yarn, the material feels very natural and slubby. But it’s also beautifully soft with nice body too. The pines design won’t be for everyone, but it’s great over a heavyweight white T-shirt with jeans and boots. 

Uniqlo cream ‘Ivy’ socks 

£5.90

Uniqlo doesn’t call these Ivy, but I do. Because I’ve been looking for a good style here for a while: off-white, wide rib, chunky and hard wearing. The best I’ve found was actually from Anonymous Ism, at John Simons, but they’re no longer in stock. 

So Uniqlo, as is often the case, is a good fall back. Not the best quality by any means, and annoyingly they shift into a ‘Heat Tech’ version for winter that has a lot more synthetics. But the colour and style is perfect. 

John Simons still has a model without the chunky rib and with a Harvard ‘H’ on it by the way. And End Clothing also does some solid Anonymous Ism options. Just not quite as nice a rib as the Uniqlo. 

Mazarin dress ‘Ivy’ socks, via Mes Chaussettes Rouges

€22

In that hunt for Ivy socks, I also tried these from Mes Chaussettes Rouges. They're also the perfect colour and rib, but they’re fine and dressy, not no much a sports sock. 

But there will be people who prefer a luxe feel in a sock like this, no matter how casual the effect is supposed to be. And for them these are the best I’ve seen. 

Sunspel fisherman’s knit

£235

I’ve wanted a good fisherman’s knit like this for a while, but all the new ones are too luxe, and the vintage ones too baggy and coarse. The current Sunspel version strikes a good balance: not too coarse to wear over a T-shirt, but still with that rugged feel and faint lanolin smell. 

It also has a nice, high collar and a slimmish fit - a far cry from the really bulky ones that were traditionally made so you could layer absolutely everything underneath. 

Edward Green waxed-suede Govan boot

£800-£950

Edward Green recently brought out a small range of shoes and boots in a waxed suede, which is the first thing I’ve seen in a while that’s similar to an old Lodger pair I loved (here).

This kind of suede is water-resistant and tough, in my experience, and also ages really nicely. It’s a perfect bad-weather winter boot, but more elegant than, for example, an RM Williams Gardener style. 

There’s a grey and a dark brown, in a derby, chukka and chelsea boot. Personally I prefer the dark brown (‘iron’) and the chukka or chelsea. In the end I chose the chelsea, because although I often feel that style is a little slick for me, it’s less so in this boot and last. The chukka would have been great too. 

RRL sweatshirt 

£175

Two things to note here. Most importantly, the cut of this sweatshirt is more ‘V’ shaped than anything else at this quality level. A bit shorter, narrower waist, slightly dropped shoulders. Appealing to anyone that wears higher waisted trousers. 

Second, it’s a grey melange with more black in it than the classic sweat you see from Merz b Schwanen and so on. This makes it look less clean-cut, less smart. It’s not an uncommon colour, but worth noting as an alternative. 

Drake’s ecru jeans 

£275

I’m not that much of a fan of the washes on the Drake’s jeans, but the ecru pair is the perfect shade of off-white, and it’s a great cut: medium to high rise, generous leg without being baggy, and a subtle taper. 

I’m a little in between sizes, but I actually prefer the colour of the ecru to my bespoke pair from Levi’s. So if the fit works for you, they’re a great choice. 

Niwaki Higurashi secateurs

£59

Niwaki is a Japanese gardening shop that has just opened on Chiltern Street. And it’s run by a reader, Jake, so it must be good.

The products are beautiful, with a real focus on craft, and not all just for gardening - there are kitchen things, a bit of stationery, and some pocket knives. 

I bought my wife a pair of the Higurashi secateurs, which are a joy. The same feeling I’ve had from things like my knife made by Sasuke when we were in Japan: it just performs beautifully, and you feel it every single time it’s used.

The Higurashi set count as mid-range, below the pro level but above the starter options. If you’re worried about looking after them well, it’s worth reading the ‘About’ section of the site. 

 

The pop-up is back! With Bryceland’s and more

The pop-up is back! With Bryceland’s and more

Friday, October 8th 2021
Share
||- Begin Content -||

*UPDATE: Just to clarify, anything that is not available as stock in the shop, and so has to be shipped to a visiting reader from either PS or Bryceland's, will have free shipping. So no extra charge there. Thanks*

Some readers might have already seen the recent announcement that the 'Permanent Style Presents' pop-up is back. It starts in three weeks' time, in The Service on Savile Row.

We're taking over the whole back of the cafe, alongside Bryceland's, for 10 days - Friday October 29th to Sunday November 7th. (Opening times: 10-6pm, Sunday 12-5pm.)

And then we're bringing in some partners for half of that period each. So in the first five days, we'll also have Tony Sylvester's brand AWMS (berets, slippers and all) and all the lovely knitwear from Colhay's. That's October 29th to November 2nd.

Then in the second five days, we'll be joined by Scott of the Scott Fraser Collection and by bespoke shoemaker Masaru Okuyama - who has just relocated here from Hong Kong, so is now one of the first Japanese shoemakers to be local in London.

Finally, there will be some opening drinks on the Thursday, October 28th, from 5pm. If you fancy browsing things with a glass in your hand, that's the event for you.

I also learnt just yesterday that Ethan Newton will be able to fly in for the event, from Tokyo.

That seemed unlikely for a while, with his partner Kenji (also now living in London - below left with Ethan) having to run the Bryceland's concession. But Ethan is able to come, so pop in for in-depth chats about any of the Bryceland's products.

As ever, I will be on site most of the time, and can't wait to see you all. As with many things during Covid, time seems to have been compressed: I can't believe it's been two years since our last shop.

We won't have James or any J.Girdwood products this time, but Lucas Nicholson will be helping staff the PS section - someone readers might remember from the old Drake's shop on Clifford Street, and may have chatted to about PS products over the past few months when emailing the support team.

One point worth noting is that quite a few of the products in the shop won't be available to take away, but will just be to try on sizes and styles, before ordering online.

This is how Bryceland's worked in its previous pop-up shop, and it's very effective. It means they can afford to have all the stock on display, rather than only bringing over part of it. And it's the same with PS: at this point we just can't fit all the products, with stock, in a pop-up like this. So be prepared that some items might not be there to take away.

Of course, this is how the Scott Fraser Collection works with nearly all products, and Masaru (below) is a bespoke shoemaker, so he will have only samples on display (really worth seeing if you can).

Colhay's will be the exception: it will have stock available of almost everything, the only ones requiring pre-order being the cricket jumper and the shawl coat.

If you have any specific questions, please ask below and myself or someone from one of the brands will answer.

Thanks again - see you there!

 

Comfortable yet elegant: A cosy winter combination

Comfortable yet elegant: A cosy winter combination

Share
||- Begin Content -||

*Note: The source of the material for the trousers has been corrected, below. It was Zegna denim, not Loro Piana. Still not available though!*

We haven’t done a simple outfit post in a while, so let’s talk about this one - worn for a recent interview in A Collected Man magazine. 

The jacket is my W Bill tweed from WW Chan in Hong Kong, which I was pleased with at the time and have only become more so since. 

The fit is good, and the style exactly what I prefer today: wider shouldered, lower buttoning, smart but still soft. It’s not a cut I’d wear with jeans, but it’s perfect for everything else. 

There is a bespoke elegance to a fit like this - it’s undeniable when you see the cleanliness of the back, or the 3D shape through the shoulder, sleeve and chest. But it’s very subtle. There’s nothing like a big shoulder, dramatic lapel or DB fastening to catch the eye. 

For how I like to dress, that’s ideal. 

When I first reviewed the jacket, I showed it with a slightly unusual indigo striped shirt. In a subsequent article on shirt collars, I wore it with the most simple of combinations: a blue shirt and grey flannels. 

The outfit today shows one more aspect of its versatility: the dark, cold, muted tones that I often favour, and have covered in several recent articles (see ‘Warm and cold colours’ and ‘The cold-colour capsule’).

The colours are very similar to this outfit, worn with last year’s Donegal Coat; the sweater is just charcoal rather than grey, and the trousers wool twill rather than denim. See also, the studio outfit shown at the bottom of this post announcing the Wax Walker. Charcoal, cream and brown again. 

For some reason this never feels boring or repetitive to me. Perhaps because I grew up wearing a similarly narrow spectrum for work in an office: grey or navy suit, white or blue shirt, black or brown shoes. 

The cold-capsule combination of brown, cream, black and grey or charcoal feels similar, just not as business-y. It’s also not something I see other people wearing that much. 

As a result, playing within a little world like this - and in the process focusing more on cut and texture than colour and pattern - feels both easy and personal. Which is a very appealing combination.

The outfit as a whole also feels cozy and comfortable. It’s perfect for those that have become used to clothing that is soft and unrestrictive over the past 18 months.

The cashmere roll neck is warm and reassuring, while the jacket over the top is cut loose - so it doesn’t pull at you even when buttoned. And the coat is a spongy blanket to wrap everything up in. 

There’s no hard shirt collar at the neck. The only place you feel held at all is on the waistband of the trouser. And there’s the option of a cashmere beanie folded up in the pockets, to be taken out for cold, wind or rain. 

The shoes aren’t sneakers, granted. There is no foam insole or cushioned sole. But these loafers have been worn and cared for long enough to be comfortable all day. And there are unlined versions too, such as these (same shape, just no tassels) which are more comfortable still. 

And if you can’t live without sneakers, I find the same combination works with smart chinos like these from Rubato and clean, slim sneakers like these from Mizuno/Margaret Howell. I’ve worn that combination too, and found myself sprinting for the bus a couple of times. 

The only thing I’d change in that combo would be a thicker gauge roll neck, or a lambswool one, to fit the casualness elsewhere (eg this Rubato). 

Speaking of roll necks, the one thing I find can harm their versatility is that they can look flimsy, even feminine, on their own - without the jacket. 

That’s certainly the case with the thinnest ones, such as this fine gauge from Edward Sexton, which I have in navy, or the mock necks from Michael Browne. The charcoal one I’m wearing in the pictures is a two-ply from Drake’s, which is just about OK. 

Anything thicker and chunkier looks great without a jacket on top, but then it’s so thick that you probably couldn’t wear one anyway. 

One suggestion is to push the sleeves of the roll neck up, to the same kind of length as you have when you roll the sleeves of a shirt. It stops the knit being such a big block, and makes it a little more casual too. 

The coat, of course, is from Connolly. I’ve had it a few years now, and originally covered it here

Connolly continue to carry the design in different fabrics, but there are no plans to stock this particular version. Still, the PS Donegal that’s coming this October will also be a mid-grey herringbone, and do the same job while being less unusual in style. 

The trousers were made by Pommella, in a wool twill from the Zegna Woollen Denim bunch. I don’t know why it was in there, as it’s nothing like denim, but in any case this cream isn't available by the cut length, I'm told, only as a roll for brands etc. 

I love these trousers - I think they’re a great example of tailored trousers that make an entire outfit elegant on their own, something Manish talked about in his recent article. I think this pair are one of only two or three I’ve received multiple compliments on. 

So I’ll let readers know if I ever find someone offering the cloth again. And if anyone else does before me, please let us know too. 

As mentioned, the pictures are from an interview in the watch magazine A Collected Man, available here

It covers some interesting areas. There’s always a little bit about my background and PS origins in these articles, as they’re aimed at non-PS readers. But that is minimal here, and we also cover sustainability, primary/secondary interests, and modern media. 

Photography by Jonnie Craig

www.acollectedman.com