The menswear merger: Sportswear and tailoring

The menswear merger: Sportswear and tailoring

Wednesday, July 28th 2021
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Sportswear brands are adding tailoring to their collections, perhaps as they feel a need to dress up after so many years of sneakers and sweatpants.

Tailoring brands - from the opposite direction - are incorporating more sportswear. This has been happening for a while, admittedly, but it's been accelerated by everyone WFH. 

Some of the brands claim not to follow trends, but this clearly is one. 

Scattered around this article are looks from Aimé Leon Dore, Noah, Drake's, Beige, L'Etiquette, Rowing Blazers and J Crew - and the thing that jumps out at you is that none of them jump out. They all look related. 

Hoodies under tailored coats, sneakers with tailored trousers, blazers thrown over sweatshirts: they've all found pleasing contrast in this mix of high and low.

Compare the Aimé Leon Dore F/W 2020 lookbook to the sportier S/S ‘20 or A/W ‘19 to see the direction. 

It's important to say early on that this is nothing new. 

Mixing sportswear with tailoring was one of the most enduring legacies of Ivy style. The first really innovative designer in menswear - Armani - was fascinated by the combination. Ralph Lauren Polo has done it for years, and it was a big feature of Rugby. You see it every day in high-street brands like Jack Wills.

But that doesn't stop it from being a trend today - and it's a significant one when so many brands that are seen as being new and exciting in menswear are working it. 

I don’t wear the look as much as friends I know, so I asked them for their views first before reaching my own. (Always good to start open-minded, in art as in life.)

Jamie Ferguson reflected on why the mix-up has been so popular: “There’s been blending of styles before, but I think these are probably the two most extreme points - as in opposite to one another - that your average guy on the street can still look at and think 'yeah I can wear that'. It's not too off putting.”

Jeremy Kirkland and John Reuter at the podcast Blamo! have been chatting about this for a while. John reflects: “So many menswear and street brands are becoming remarkably similar - so much so that at times all their images and styling could be part of the same lookbook. 

And here's the thing: I'm totally here for it. I love the mixes of classic clothes that feel new and like they've always been around. They remind me of the tailoring/sportswear mixes you could find a young Alan Flusser in (subtler than the bolder cross-genre mixes he enjoys today). 

“Folks are dressing down tailoring and dressing up streetwear, and whichever direction they come from it gives them new brands to choose from.”

Jamie adds a practical point I hadn't considered: “The veering away from the slim look that dominated the early and mid 00's means that bulkier sportswear items like rugby shirts, hoodies etc can now be worn under a raglan sleeve coat or blazer. There's room for it all.”

I’m a little conflicted as to whether this is a good thing. On the one hand I love the fact that younger streetwear brands are embracing tailoring, and telling a new generation about the pleasures of a tweed jacket or a camelhair coat. 

But I also think it’s a shame that Drake’s isn’t putting out the same style as it was 10 years ago, because I loved that style. It was more about how old-English style could be creative and contemporary, rather than how it combined with streetwear. 

This is, inevitably, very personal. My style is more understated, with only single items of sportswear used for high/low contrast, and then only occasionally. Examples include the hoodie with a PS trench coat, and a baseball cap with a tweed jacket (both below). 

For how I dress, this is simply using sportswear in the same way I’d work in items from other traditions, such as a Western shirt under a tailored jacket, or a military parka instead of a coat.

I do love mixing sportswear and tailoring in whole looks, but with more refined and vintage-inspired clothing. This is the ‘casual chic’ that I’ve written about a few times in the past year, and which I continue to be obsessed. 

For me, there’s particular pleasure in the artful use of a polo under a crewneck sweater, instead of the more standard shirt. Or a slim, well-made deck shoe and full-bodied knit with tailored trousers. 

There are images of these below, featuring Saman Amel and Stoffa. These, along with Rubato and Adret, are the brands that embody this lower-contrast merging of tailoring and sportswear that I like. 

Still, I think it says something about my attitude to clothing that I still find these images of Aimé Leon Dore, Drake’s and Noah both beautiful and inspiring. If you’re actually interested in clothes, I don't think your interest can ever be limited to just things you would wear yourself.

Plus, this open-mindedness can lead to unexpected inspiration. For example, the image below from Drake’s makes me think my grey Loopwheeler hoodie would look nice under my Anthology polo coat, even though I’d never wear matching sweatpants. 

The second - easy, chatty, great-feeling - shot from Aimé Leon Dore makes me want to try white jeans with grey knitwear and beige outwear. Plus a cap. I’d wear Alden LHS loafers, but it would have a similar feel. 

And the third, perhaps the most unlikely, makes me think how great grey trousers would be in a wool that was much hardier than flannel. I wouldn’t wear it with a vest of course, but with a T-shirt or knitted polo, maybe. 

I’ve said it so many times before, but people seem to forget just as often: you don’t have to copy whole looks, or even any individual pieces. Just take it all in. Inspiration can come from anywhere. 

One thing that should be noted about these high/low combinations is that they are inherently risky. 

They are instinctively attractive, and the pay-off can be big if you’re after a high-impact look. But it's also easy to get them wrong: either forgetting that you don’t look like the model in the picture, or that your clothes are slightly (but significantly) different. 

I think this is particularly true of looks where everything is very loose and slouchy - the jacket hanging off, the trousers puddled on the top of shoes. It takes both awareness and attitude to pull that off. 

But none of that stops me finding these images inspiring. There’s simply nothing more stimulating than someone with both taste and talent bringing their perspective to something you love.  

Plus, it’s been easy to feel in recent years that tailoring has been slipping off the radar. It’s great to see people like Aimé Leon Dore bringing it back. 

The images are taken from the following lookbooks. Do shout if there are any others you'd recommend:

Introducing: The PS short-sleeved shirt

Introducing: The PS short-sleeved shirt

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Last Summer, I had coffee with a friend on a hot afternoon in Mayfair. Sitting outside a pavement cafe, he was wearing loafers, a beautifully tailored trousers and - to my surprise - a short-sleeved shirt. 

I’ve never really liked short sleeves, but the quality, sharp collar and tapered sleeves of his elevated the style to something that seemed both elegant and very appropriate. 

It felt appropriate because coolness was clearly paramount, and this was the coolest option. The style also made it clear that no jacket was intended or absent, as might have been the case with a long-sleeved shirt. 

That shirt spurred a long discussion of short sleeves, as my friend knew it would. And that led to my determination to make something similar, which could be offered ready-to-wear (unlike bespoke, as his was). 

Given my surprise, I won’t be surprised if this latest PS shirt offering surprises a few readers, but I’ve been wearing mine for almost a year now, and I love it. I’m a convert. 

It’s particularly appealing when the shirt is worn with equally well-made and tailored pieces elsewhere, such as bespoke linen or cotton trousers, and lightweight slip-ons. 

I think it’s important that the shirt is always tucked in, and looks clean doing so. So it has to be the length of a regular dress shirt - the same principle as the Friday Polo.

After that, there are two elements which separate it from other short-sleeve shirts I see. 

One is the collar, which is the same high, light, gently rolling button-down used on other PS shirts. Where most short-sleeve shirts have a very soft, low collar, intended to look relaxed and casual, this aims for the opposite: the most elegant version of the style. 

The second element is the sleeve, and this is the area that took longest to get right. I think Luca and I went through five samples in the end. 

Most short-sleeve shirts have quite wide, square sleeves. This is the style that fits most classically was seen most often in the past, so it makes sense. 

But I wanted something that was a little closer fitting, echoing not the untucked Aloha shirt - cheerfully donned at a 1950s suburban barbecue - but the rolled-up sleeves of someone a little more rugged.

That’s a look most associated with the likes of James Dean in a white T-shirt, but actually was often done with short-sleeve shirts too, as some of the images below illustrate. 

More importantly, it’s a little more flattering on someone that doesn’t have very big arms. Which is why presumably guys did it, and indeed lots of people still do so today, folding back T-shirt sleeves or pushing up polo shirts.

It’s a style of sleeve that actually you find on most modern polo shirts - such as my favourite among cut-and-sewn ones, the Armoury/Ascot Chang version.

The only potential issue with a sleeve like this is that it will be too narrow for some people. And linen doesn’t have the stretch of cotton piqué.

But I’ve tried it on several friends, and it fits 90% of them, so I think the vast majority of readers will be fine. If you’re unsure, have a look at the bicep measurements in the table below and compare it to a polo shirt you own. (For reference, my bicep measurement is 34cm.)

I should make clear that I also love the camp-collar shirt that has become so popular in recent years. 

Although it has a lower collar and often quite a square body, it’s a great option in the Summer and more flattering on many people than a T-shirt. I have a couple from Gitman Vintage via Trunk that I wear (shown in this post).

My favourite current version is probably the Summer Shirt from The Armoury, and I love my towelling short from Bryceland’s - even if it only really feels appropriate when I’m sitting beside a pool or in a beachside cafe.

But as with all Permanent Style products, the aim of the new shirt is not to produce something similar to what’s already out there, but to make something available that I like but cannot find. I wanted a shirt like my friend’s but couldn’t find one. So we made it.

The PS short-sleeved shirt is pure linen, using a Spence Bryson Irish linen rather than Italian alternatives, as it retains its shape better and isn’t at all transparent. 

The collar is the same as all the other PS shirts, as is the fit through the body, and the handwork by Luca Avitabile’s atelier in Naples. The only style change is the sleeve. 

The images show how I most often wear the shirt - with tailored linen trousers like these from my taupe MTM suit from The Armoury, and lightweight loafers like these black Sagans from Baudoin & Lange. 

It’s also particularly nice under a Summer knit, like the cream cotton from Anderson & Sheppard above

Cotton knitwear is lovely on mild days, as we often get in England during the Summer. It’s surprisingly cool yet provides a reassuring layer when the sun ducks behind the clouds. 

A short-sleeve shirt underneath makes the knit cooler still, feels nice against the skin, and you don’t have the issue with a jacket of a lack of cuffs at the end of the sleeve. 

Cream, white, taupe and black is also a particularly pleasing colour combination.

The watch is my old JLC Reverso with a new black alligator strap from Jean Rousseau. The glasses are the Bryceland’s collaboration with Japanese vintage collector Solakzade. 

The PS short-sleeved shirt is available from the shop now. Details:

  • Made in Naples in the atelier of bespoke shirtmaker Luca Avitabile
  • Hand-sewn buttons, buttonholes, armholes and collar
  • Uses Irish linen from Spence Bryson, and cream mother-of-pearl buttons
  • Cut long, like a dress shirt, and intended to only be worn tucked in
  • Uses the standard PS button-down collar, which rolls easily and naturally, when undone or indeed with a tie
  • Same body fit as the PS denim shirts (and oxford shirts after washing), with two darts in the back
  • Ships from the UK and available in four sizes, small to extra large
  • More details on the PS shop here

Measurements: 

Small (37) Medium (39) Large (41) Extra large (43)
Chest 51.5cm 55 60 62.5
Waist 47 51 55 58.5
Yoke 45.5 47.5 49.5 52
Sleeve width at bottom 17.5 18 19 20.5
Sleeve length 20 21 22 23.5

What are your primary and secondary interests?

What are your primary and secondary interests?

Friday, July 23rd 2021
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Two weeks ago, I was looking to get a new storage trunk for our bedroom. So I phoned a friend who knows his antiques and asked his advice. 

He recommended a couple of dealers, said he was happy to look at any pictures and information I received. (Apparently the biggest danger is wood filler being used on cracks - which won’t last long - and non-original handles.)

I shortlisted a few that fitted the dimensions, and with his help, picked out a lovely old Camphor-wood piece. 

I’ve asked this friend, Tom, for advice before, and he’s always happy to give it. He doesn’t work in antiques, but he’s a discerning consumer and has learned a lot from buying over the years.

For him, it’s just nice talking about them - because antiques are a primary interest. They are one of a few things in life he is truly passionate about. 

For me, they are a secondary interest. I appreciate and enjoy them enough to want to make intelligent, tasteful choices (an example being my beautiful rosewood desk, covered before and pictured above/below). But not enough to spend my leisure time reading about or researching them. 

A primary interest of mine - you’ll be shocked to hear - is clothes. Friends and family often ask me for advice in the same way I asked Tom about antiques. 

I’m equally happy to give it. Even though readers ask me every day, I enjoy working out what a friend wants, what his budget is, and what will suit him. It’s a nice exercise. 

Most readers, I’d imagine, would also list clothes as a primary interest. They are probably regularly asked by friends or family for advice - usually something like ‘I’m getting married next month, where can I get a good suit?’ 

In fact, I’ve often met these friends-of-readers, and always find it interesting talking to them. 

It might be at an event, or perhaps in the workspace I use. The friends know PS - usually because the reader won’t stop banging on about it - but they don’t really have the time to read it. Instead, they rely on their friend to filter everything. 

Often, those friends-of-readers spend more money than the readers. Or at least, they spend quicker. They want some advice, so they feel they’re making an informed decision, and then they want to complete the purchase and move on. 

Why is this distinction between primary and secondary interests important? 

I think makes you value the enthusiasts that you know. It’s really useful having friends that can give expert advice on which camera to buy, which play to see, or which watch to buy. 

Watches for me, for example, are definitely a secondary interest, and I have benefitted a lot from advice over the years. 

I have four great pieces, all bought in the space of six years, with the help of two friends that knew a lot more than I do. 

Currently, the Rolex GMT (below) and Cartier Chronoflex (bottom) are my favourites. They are the default whenever I’m dressing up (Cartier) or down (Rolex). 

I haven’t bought a watch for seven years, and have no plans to. At the most, I can see myself selling the other two, an IWC Portuguese and a JLC Reverso, if they’re not really being worn. 

I have no interest in owning watches that aren't used. Because I’m not a collector. Because it’s not a primary interest. I appreciate watches, but I don’t particularly want to spend time reading about them or talking about them. 

A lot of other things fall under my secondary interests: wine, food, theatre. But I’d include music and literature under primary ones: I don’t just listen to music, I read reviews; I don’t just read books, I have a book club (or did, before lockdown).

Your primary interests are also limited by how much time you have. 

I remember our friends playing a game when we were all starting families. We had to predict which hobbies we’d still make time for when we had kids, and which would fall away. In my case, I was surprised that literature survived easily, music just, and film didn't. I had predicted the opposite.

Or perhaps it's just a limit of our personality. When people are retired and have more time, I find they tend to double down on their passions. Whether it’s travel, gardening or tinkering with cars, hobbies tend to grow to fill whatever space is available. So perhaps no one can have more than three or four.

It’s a fun exercise to consider which are your primary passions, and which your secondary. 

I also think it helps remind us to make discerning choices - whether it’s buying quality clothing that will last, or quality antiques that will do the same.

Don’t lose contact with the friends that help you, and always be ready to help others. You’re Permanent Style readers after all - you have a lot to give. 

Being yourself: How to dress like Gianluca Migliarotti

 

Scrolling through the swathes of social media, I recently came across the image below of friend Gianluca Migliarotti – the filmmaker and co-founder of Pommella and PML.

For me, it encapsulated everything I love about Gianluca’s style. He is smart but silly. He is always well-dressed – valuing taste and beauty in everything around him – yet never seems to take himself seriously. 

He also wears strong colour. Not always in ways I would, but usually in ways that get me thinking about whether I could and should. He recently made me a pair of muted mint-green corduroy trousers, for example, which I love but would never have picked if he hadn’t recommended them. 

So, spurred by that image, I dug out a few of my favourite outfits of his, and we had a chat about them for this latest article in our How to dress like’ series

Unlike many people we’ve covered, Gianluca does not use social media much, and so there are relatively few shots of him around. All the more worthwhile, then, to publish a few and discuss them. 

 

 

Outfit 1: Green trousers

Permanent Style: “OK, let’s skip past the question of why you’re taking a selfie on a toilet. What are you wearing? Is that a dark-purple overshirt? Or dark brown?”

“Ha! Not it’s dark navy actually, but now you mention it dark brown or aubergine might have looked good with those colours. 

The trousers are cotton from Brisbane Moss, the Shakespeare bunch, and the colour is fantastic. Every time I wear them, a client ends up ordering the same thing. It’s impossible to get a sense of it from a little swatch, but it’s really nice – actually quite muted and subtle.

You wear a lot of green, particularly trousers. Why do you like it so much?

I love green. I have a couple of suits in green, a sports coat, a few trousers. I love it, even when it’s not as bright as here. It’s nicer in Winter when it’s darker and more muted too. Plus of course we do the Palazzi flannel with Fox, which is that kind of green. 

 

 

It makes me happy. It’s a happy colour. It’s not as obvious as navy, pale blue or anything like that, and it’s more fun. 

The other thing is green has so many different shades, that you can find any variation you want. And when it’s muted, you can use it as often as grey trousers. You could wear those trousers in the picture with a navy jacket for instance – simple – or with shades of brown. I mean you know better than me how to do these combinations, but it’s so easy.

I feel like you usually look smart, but never look corporate, business-y. So green rather than grey is a good way to do that. 

Exactly. My father is a lawyer, but I’m not. I’m a filmmaker, I do this thing with Pommella, so I want to be different. 

When my father started me with tailoring, he wanted me to have a blue suit, a grey suit, then a chalk stripe. But I feel awkward in that. I love it on other people, it’s beautiful, but it’s not me. I need something more creative. It’s good to know the difference.

 

 

Outfit 2: Cardigan punch

Let’s talk about this second shot, which Rose took of you. You’re wearing green there as a brighter pop of colour, but you also wear cardigans in that manner a lot. 

Yeah, the cardigan is another story. It’s something I grew up with – it was very Neapolitan back in the days. Winters weren’t that cold, so my father and my uncles wouldn’t wear an overcoat, but they’d have a heavier jacket, and then a cardigan like this underneath, without the sleeves. 

I got a lot of inspiration on the colours from one uncle who was a little colourblind . He’d wear all these combinations without realising it, and some of them were great. He’d say, ‘what are you talking about, what colour is this?’ and I’d say ‘burgundy’ and he’d say ‘what? I thought it was blue’.

This was a common look in Naples: even lawyers wouldn’t wear a suit a lot of the time. It would be grey trousers with a beautiful jacket: a casual, countryside kind of look. Brown shoes and so on. So a cardigan went well with all of that, it was comfortable and you could play with it if you wanted too. 

But I think it’s important to keep things smooth generally, and then just have the punch with one piece. Otherwise you’re a joker. 

 

 

Outfit 3: Black cord

You wear a lot of striped shirts as well man – do you find it’s a nice way to be able to wear colour, given you rarely wear a tie?

Yeah, I like that the shirt in the next picture, with the black corduroy, can stand on its own. 

The suit is the frame, and then you have this interest there coming out. The suit is a dark block – solid – and then there’s something playful.

I always like to wear something that has some light, some colour, which lifts things. But just one thing – and stripes can do that well. If you mix in too many colours and patterns then it’s a mess. 

The only tie I’d probably wear with that suit is a dark grenadine, like a black. But in Naples there is this very strong association between black ties and funerals. Maybe because people wear colour more, generally. 

I don’t believe in this – it’s bullshit, I love a black tie – but whenever I’d wear one, I’d hear my mother’s voice in my head, asking whether I was going to a funeral. 

Given how much you like colour, was black a rather unusual choice for a suit?

It is quite unusual for me, yes. The inspiration came from Jim Parker at The Armoury, who showed up once at Pitti in a black linen. And I really admired that. 

So I started digging in my memories, and I remembered some old British spy film where the guy wears a black-cord suit. But he would wear it with a turtleneck, which is too sleek, too playboy for me. 

I love that cool look, Sean Connery in lots of films, but I need to do it with a sense of irony. 

How do you do that? Show that irony, or self-awareness?

I think it’s mostly about personality. I wouldn’t wear a turtleneck with that suit because I would feel I was trying too hard – like I was trying to tell everyone I was the cool guy. You have to recognise what looks good in theory and what actually looks good on you. 

This is the biggest difference between what I do and what I see a lot at Pitti, I think. I see a lot of people taking themselves so seriously. They think they can be the Godfather and they can’t. They’re trying so so hard. 

 

 

Outfit 4: Tone on tone

And I think you’d say an example of that is wearing a shirt collar over the top of the jacket, Montezemolo style, right? Which leads us onto the next outfit. 

Exactly. I do it with a polo, maybe. But if you wear a shirt collar over the top of a jacket, you have to be ‘the guy’. You have to be Montezemolo [below], or Giovanni Gastel, the photographer that just died. You have to be the head of the whole outfit. Otherwise you’re just pretending.

 

 

Alan See is a master of that, and Ethan is too. They can do it. But you see guys at Pitti from a mile away and you know they can’t. 

We all need to understand our space, that area where we can look good and play in. Recognise your personality, the kind of person you are. You’re not a playboy or a designer. 

There’s a reason you and I can’t wear a big cowboy hat and boots, and it’s nothing to do with our physique or facial shape. It’s just not our personalities. Even if you could manage to take a photo that looked good, as soon as you actually spoke to someone it would be obvious. 

Exactly.  

So, when and why would you wear a collar over the top of a jacket, as you’re doing in those images with Dick [Carroll] and Jim?

It was partly the polo. It has this high collar but kind of out of shape, and it wouldn’t sit right under a jacket. So I tried it over the top, and I think it looks OK. Because it’s soft, it’s smaller than a shirt collar, and of course it’s tonal – blue on blue. 

 

 

The black shoes are quite stark against the trousers. I think a lot of readers would instinctively go for brown there, probably brown suede. Why did you prefer black?

I think the black with this kind of outfit is more appropriate, honestly. Brown would be a little too light, given how dark the jacket and polo are. 

You almost want the shoes to be like the jacket, but blue shoes never look good. So black is the closest thing. Unless the brown was very very dark. 

I also think black feels very appreciated in New York, where this was. You see more black shoes in New York than anywhere else, except perhaps London. It’s about being a city, being business, but also about what other people are wearing. Because in Milan, no one wears black shoes. 

There was this look, when I was in my twenties in Milan, of wearing black lace-ups, with blue jeans and a tuxedo jacket. It was the cool thing for going to clubs. But I think that’s about it on the black shoes!

 

 

Outfit 5: Double denim

OK, so the last look. Of you counting bills in a corner like some kind of dealer. I like the fact you’re wearing double denim here – shirt and jeans – but keeping them apart with the cardigan. 

Yeah, I think that helps it not become too much. Everyone likes that look of the denim shirt and jeans, usually inspired by Agnelli, wearing it with a beautiful tweed jacket on top. But as I said before, I don’t want to look like I’m trying too hard. So I put my personal thing in there, which is the cardigan. 

Agnelli would wear a crewneck instead, but a crewneck always feels too neat and conservative for me. Maybe it’s my body, but it’s also too clean-cut for me, too much of a ‘good guy’ thing. 

And we all know you’re not a good guy… Jokes. You usually button the cardigan low, just one or two buttons. Do you like how relaxed that looks?

Yeah I learned that, particularly from seeing Francesco Marino, the tiemaker [below, right]. He’s the master. 

 

 

I used to close three buttons out of five, so the top and the bottom ones were undone. 

Which is what I do.

Exactly, more classic, but still not stuffy. But then I saw Francesco, and I loved how he wore it – particularly with a tie. You see more of the tie that way, it’s longer and the look has more personality. Now, wearing it done all the way up feels too much like a vest for me.  

You don’t need it that much for warmth either. It’s not going to cover the chest in any case, so it’s really the back mostly that’s keeping you warm. 

Where are the clothes all from?

My jackets are always from Zizolfi, the only difference recently being that I have no padding in the shoulders. Mostly because I feel my shoulders are getting bigger. 

The jacket here is a super-heavy Fox cloth, limited edition, which I love in Winter. Honestly, you wear that and you never want to wear anything over the top. I wear it whenever I can. 

The trousers are Pommella of course, and the shirts are usually from Andrea Canevelli, my shirtmaker in Milan. Generally I prefer shirts made in Milan rather than Naples. They’re cleaner, none of the details or frills. Quality’s there, but nothing showy. 

 

 

Any closing thoughts? 

Maybe just that point about trying too hard, and being a little too jet-set. A lot of the magazines these days, even ones that used to be good (no names) are all about cars and yachts and cigars. 

Honestly, I’ve been smoking cigars since I was 20 and it’s a normal thing. But some people just seem to need to show off about it. And that’s the worst thing – when you feel you have to show off. 

Because it all seems a little shallow?

Exactly, like you’re trying to prove something to everyone all the time. Why do that, just be yourself. 

And why pretend to be this bullshit luxury jet-set thing anyway? Where’s the culture, the taste? It’s all so focused on appearances. I love beauty, I’m obsessed with beauty, and that’s where a lot of my ideas of taste come from. 

But the problem with a lot of these cars and cigars guys is that there is no beauty. It all looks cheap and insecure. It’s the definition of nouveau riche. 

Thanks man. Couldn’t agree more. 

 

 

You can see Gianluca talking about his work, background and style in the video we made here, also featuring Douglas Courdeaux.

Pommella makes bespoke trousers, ready to wear, and the offshoot PML makes many other things including shorts and shirts

Gianluca’s film work in menswear includes the wonderful O’Mast, about Neapolitan tailoring, and I Colori di Antonio, about Antonio Liverano in Florence.

pommellanapoli.com/

 

Blackhorse Lane chinos: Review

Blackhorse Lane chinos: Review

Monday, July 19th 2021
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This review of Blackhorse Lane Ateliers (BLA) chinos might serve two purposes. 

First, it covers the London maker as part of our ongoing series on chinos - which you can see all chapters of here

And second, it reviews Blackhorse Lane's made-to-measure service, which they only properly introduced a couple of months ago. 

Because while I like the leg line and general style of the BLA chinos, the rise is too low for me and the seat a little too tight in relation to the waist. 

The RTW chino is made in what's called the W11 model whereas I prefer their NW1 style, which is much higher in the rise. (Front rise of 30cm rather than 24cm.)

Even then, when I've had NW1 jeans from BLA I've asked them to take the waist in a little. Although I guess for some people that's something they might just cinch with a belt. 

These chinos are made from a Japanese left-hand twill cotton. 

As discussed previously in our article reviewing The Real McCoys, the left-hand twill means they are more immediately soft than a right-hand twill, and more similar to most mainstream chinos in that regard. The downside is they don't hold as good a line. 

The cotton is heavy compared to anything mainstream though, even if not quite as much as the Real McCoys pair or similar repro brands. It's more on a par with Rubato (covered here) in that regard. 

Blackhorse Lane like to improve parts of the product where they can. It's their USP when it comes to jeans - as we've covered in detail here

In most areas I welcome this, but not all. For example I find their pocket bags rather heavy on the chinos and lighter weight denims. 

The material lasts longer that way, but it isn't as nice to use and sometimes feels quite bulky. Plus pocket bags are pretty easy to replace when they do wear through. 

That's something I requested to change on my MTM pair, and I know they're looking at it for future iterations of the chinos too. 

I also asked to swap the buttons on the chinos for rivets, which was a mistake. 

My beloved old Armoury chinos have a riveted fly, like jeans, so I thought I'd try that on this pair. It seemed sensible to do the same with buttons on the back pockets as well. 

I wish I hadn't, because the brass rivets don't go that well with the grey/green cotton - to my eye - and stand out too much. Even a silver metal would have been a mistake I think, and I noticed afterwards that my Armoury pair just had jetted pockets. 

Otherwise, though, the MTM changes I requested were perfect: the rise of the NW1, plus an inch taken out of the waist.

In terms of fit, these were a vindication of the Blackhorse MTM service

In terms of make, there are small points where you would say the finishing isn't as precise as Rubato or Real McCoy's. 

This isn't as important as with smart clothes, but it is noticeable here and there. 

I'm also not much of a fan of the diagonal buttonhole BLA uses at the top of the fly. It's meant to be easier to fasten, but I find it harder. That might be a little subjective though. 

I'd make one point on fit here, given a couple of readers were asking recently about the fit of RTW clothes. 

It's generally worth having the waistband of trousers as tight as is comfortable. The tighter they are, the less likely the trouser is to slip up or down, and the more likely a shirt is to stay in place. Both things are annoying and feel like poor fit, functionally. 

You can often have the waistband tighter than you realise. Try it with side adjustors on tailored trousers: cinch them in and see whether you stop noticing the tightness after a few minutes. 

I find men often have trousers too loose at the waist, and then complain about them slipping down or shirts coming untucked.

The exceptions are belts, which are harder and bulkier than trouser material and so more likely to become uncomfortable. And real high-rise trousers, which can be less comfortable when tight because they're gripping onto your stomach rather than your hips. 

The dark green colour of these chinos is unusual, but I've found it surprisingly versatile. 

Greys often look a little strange in casual materials like cotton (corduroy is an exception), yet we all know how useful the colour can be in trousers. 

This dark green almost works as well. It's good with white or blue shirts, light grey knitwear or navy. And black, brown or white shoes. 

It fits very well into a cold-colour capsule too, and I find myself wearing it often with black knitwear, as shown above. 

Overall, the BLA chinos are a great, solid option, and have the advantage of an effective MTM route.  

They're not cheap, at £280 for ready-made and £450 for the MTM. But they are made in London, if that's something you like to support. 

I don't tend to iron my chinos, by the way, except after washing, but if you prefer a cleaner look than that shown here, you can do so every few wears. 

That will also lead to more fading around the edges and seams, which you may or may not like. If you want to minimise fading on cotton, you can always dry clean instead. 

I would also never iron a crease into chinos like this, because they're not intended to be that smart.

The only style I would do that with would be smarter chinos like those from Rubato. But even there I tend not to. The look veers between old man and hipster, for me, and I usually prefer to be someone more average. 

You can see the rest of the top half of this outfit in this article, covering the Begg & Co cardigan and RRL denim shirt. 

The desert boots from Anglo-Italian are covered here. The webbing belt is from Anderson & Sheppard. 

https://blackhorselane.com/collections/chinos-trousers

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

*Update: I've just been told that Blackhorse Lane are switching supplier for the cotton, as the Japanese mill has discontinued that line. All current chinos are still from that Japanese twill though, and any new material used in future batches will stay as close as possible to the current one* 

New black bullskin tote, and angled DBs

New black bullskin tote, and angled DBs

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A new black version of our bullhide tote, a collaboration with Frank Clegg, goes on sale today. It’s available on the Frank Clegg site (not ours) alongside a restock of the dark brown. 

I shot some pictures of it with Alex last week, and it reminded me of an interesting tailoring point about the jacket pictured, an old double-breasted from Anderson & Sheppard.

John Hitchcock, the ex-head cutter who made it for me, always said he liked the front edge of a double-breasted to cut away slightly from the waist button. It helped to stop a DB from looking boxy and square.

I’ve indicated the angle that he meant in the picture below (the green line). It also applies to the edge on the other side of the jacket (the yellow line) but this is interrupted by my hand being in the pocket.

Most tailors would cut this front edge straight down from the waist button. You can see how this looks on other pieces of mine, such as the Henry Poole suit here.

Mr Hitchcock preferred a slight angle, so the edge was a diagonal pointing towards the waist. This does the same job as the long line of a lapel, emphasising the slim waist while also suggesting wider shoulders and hips.

The best illustration, actually, is on this old article where I compared the styles of five of my double-breasted jackets – from Poole, Caraceni, Cifonelli, Caliendo and A&S.

There you can see that the front edge drops down straight from the waist button on four jackets, but angles slightly away on the A&S. The jacket shown there is from my dark-grey A&S suit.

The angle has to be very subtle. The kind of thing no one would notice until you point it out to them. Which I think is the case here.

It’s also the kind of artful touch that’s more common in bespoke than ready-to-wear.

Designers tend to go for more obvious things like rounding the corners of DBs, or reducing the wrap until it’s barely a double breasted at all. Often, I’m told, because they feel they need something obvious to catch the consumer’s eye.

Tailors are rarely that innovative or even interested in design, and as I've often said before, I think this can be their biggest weakness.

But when it comes to subtle changes in geometry on a jacket, like this angled front, they are past masters. And they rarely sacrifice elegance for an eye-catching gimmick.

One last, technical point about the jacket shown. The fact that it’s checked shows that the material runs straight down that front edge, rather than being cut back at an angle.

So either the front of the jacket has all been rotated slightly, or the iron has been used to stretch that area. If I ever see Mr Hitchcock again I’ll ask which. 

Back to the tote bag. 

After the success of this nubuck tote in the first two batches, Ian Clegg and I decided to try black as a second colour. 

I was a little nervous about this, because I had seen the brown myself, as a full hide, at the Frank Clegg factory in 2019, but hadn’t seen any other versions. So I was unsure how the black would turn out. 

Fortunately, I think the dusty look of the nubuck really suits black, as it easily avoids any of the business associations that a black leather bag could have. 

In fact, of the two colours, I feel like black is now the more unusual, more stylised choice. It has something of the night about it. More Goth than Gekko. 

All the new bags, black and brown, are being shipped by Frank Clegg from the US.

Last time we had stock with both them and us, but it caused too much confusion (and needless costs) with shipping between locations. 

Frank Clegg also offer free domestic and international shipping on expensive bags like this, so there isn’t much extra cost to an English customer who would have previously bought their bag from the UK, for example.

If you want extra information on Clegg’s policies, or taxes and duties, in advance of purchasing, the best thing is to contact them. The bag is available from their site here

You can read more about the details of the tote, its design and inception, on the original launch article. Here's a summary for anyone that wants a quick reminder:

  • The Permanent Style x Frank Clegg tote is the same general design as Clegg’s ‘Tall Tote’
  • The functional difference is that two internal pockets have been added, one zipped and one open
  • The bigger difference is the leather, which is a thick bullskin nubuck
  • The bullskin feels very soft and luxurious, but it’s also tough. While the surface has a tumbled softness, the skin has a lot of body, which makes it more substantial than suede as well as stronger
  • It also has a 3M treatment that makes it water and oil resistant, and virtually impossible to stain. I’ve been using by brown one for almost three years, and there isn’t a mark on it
  • The skin is from Remy Carriat, a family-owned French tannery
  • Importantly, the nubuck has a more contemporary look than leather, making it a good material for anyone that needs a daily bag but doesn't want to look too traditional

Then, a few product details:

  • The tote has rolled handles with an eight-inch drop
  • The edges are buffed and polished, rather than turned
  • It is unlined
  • The internal zip and puller are solid brass
  • It is fully made at the Frank Clegg workshop in Fall River, Massachusetts
  • It is 14.5 inches wide at the base, 18.5 at the top, and 5.5 inches deep
  • It weighs 3lbs (1.35kg): more than some totes, but less than other cases or duffles, for example. 

Elsewhere in these images, I’m wearing a shirt from Simone Abbarchi, in a white twill. I find twill the nicest material for a sharp, smart white shirt. Which is what I wanted here with a DB jacket and high-twist trousers. 

Those trousers were made by Cerrato, and the high-twist wool is Drapers 4-ply. There's just enough contrast between jacket and trouser, for me, despite them both being grey, helped by the stark white shirt and the polished brown shoes. 

Those shoes are from Yohei Fukuda (reviewed in full here) and are probably my favourite really smart, elegant shoes at the moment, despite not being full bespoke (there were no fittings). The design is just so nicely balanced, and perfectly executed. 

The umbrella is black silk, from Michel Heurtault. The pen is from Yard-O-Led, and the watch my JLC Reverso

Overall a simple, elegant non-corporate non-necktie combination, I think, made a touch dandyish by the checked jacket. (My Ciardi corduroy, here, would have been less dandy.)

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

Should you dress for yourself, or for others? 

Should you dress for yourself, or for others? 

Wednesday, July 14th 2021
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Should you dress for yourself or for others?

Unsurprisingly, the answer is both. 

Anyone that dresses without any regard for people around them is probably being rude, and certainly inconsiderate. 

Dressing purely to conform, other the other hand, is just sad. Whether the result is natty or sloppy, you shouldn’t spend all your time worrying what other people think. 

As with many style spectrums we cover, the best option is somewhere in the middle, with nuance that depends on both culture and personality. 

Yet that doesn’t stop people on social media from shouting things like ‘Dress for yourself!’ or more ridiculously, ‘A gentleman dresses for himself!’

It’s not true and it’s not helpful. 

Clothing is social. Always has been. There’s nothing wrong with being unusual or rebellious in what you wear, but don’t pretend it doesn’t matter what impression it gives. 

In fact, usually rebellion depends precisely on the contrast with the clothes everyone else is wearing. 

A punk striding down Regent Street in the 1970s - complete with mohican and studded jacket - is only saying something because he’s different. If his bank manager dressed the same way, the effect would be lost. He's not actually dressing for himself.

Indeed, were someone to be dressed that same way today, they would have much less impact. There may still be few punks around, but the look has long since become familiar, rehashed and commercialised.  

Today - as readers often point out - looking smart or simply dressed-up is more likely to be unusual. 

I also think classic menswear enthusiasts - perhaps even some PS readers - forget that even the concept of elegance is social. 

Something elegant is refined, simple and effective. Clothing that rubs the wrong way against its surroundings, that looks out of place, rarely has grace or elegance. 

This is particularly true with the idea of a 'gentleman'. The reason it’s ridiculous to say that a gentleman dresses for himself is that the core idea of gentility is being considerate, and respectful. 

A gentleman doesn’t necessarily wear a suit, and he’s actually unlikely to drive a flash car or wear a flash watch. But he is certainly polite and thoughtful - and that includes dressing appropriately. 

So, both extremes are nonsense. 

What about the subtleties in between? How much should we go against the grain?

For example, if everyone else is wearing jeans and a T-shirt, can I wear a jacket and tie? No tie? A jacket and jeans? Just a shirt and jeans? How far do I slide?

Here’s how I think about it. The choice is personal - it’s up to you. But that choice is measured in society’s terms, not yours. 

So society sets the norm. It is a measure of what people usually wear, the average, and it determines how much your outfit stands out. 

This varies between countries, between cultures, and between town and country. But the point is you have no control over it. This is why to some extent you are always dressing for other people.*

Then you decide - based on your own circumstances and personality - how far you want to veer away from the norm. 

I like to find a balance where I look well dressed, but stand out as little as possible. This is the little area I play in, just to the left of centre. It means I’m often a little bit smarter than the average, but not much. 

Usually the difference is in the quality and the cut of my clothes, rather than the category: my shirt and chinos will be very different to someone else’s shirt and chinos. 

I might look a little unusual when I’m waiting at the bus stop, wearing a jacket, flannels and loafers. But others are there in dress shirts, suit trousers and oxfords. The jacket puts me one notch smarter, not 10. The bigger difference is mostly cut, not category. 

This is only my preference. I happily enjoy seeing others dressed as intelligently, but veering further from the norm. 

If my buddy Ethan (below) were there in a towelling shirt or bow tie, he would stand out more. But that’s him, and he’s no less aware of the social context than I am. 

His context is also different. He's often commented that nothing real feels odd if you spend your time around Harajuku in Tokyo. And no one has any expectations of gaijin, as they’re seen as separate from Japanese conventionality. 

Plus of course, he runs a menswear shop. As Ethan said to PS here, he sees it as his job to push the style in every interesting direction he can think of, so customers can take little pieces of it they like. 

If you talked to him and learned he was a menswear designer, everything would make much more sense. 

The only thing I struggle with sometimes, is whether it’s foolish to change clothes based on context. 

For example, I could feel self-conscious wearing a pocket square in the suburb where I live, but wouldn’t when I got to the end of my commute, in Mayfair. 

I go back and forth on this, but in the end I think the most important thing is to feel comfortable. So if I don’t, I take it out. 

No one really just dresses for themselves, or just for others. It’s a false dichotomy. 

Everything and everyone is somewhere in between. That’s where it gets interesting.  

*This is also why there's nothing wrong with dressing differently as long-term fashions change. As people dress more casually - and they have been gradually for over 100 years - the average changes. So if you stand still, you drift further from the average and stand out more.

I personally think it's better to maintain your distance - how unusually you dress - rather than a particular style. A good example being wearing handkerchiefs less.

I'm sure there's a mathematical way to phrase this - if there is, please let me know!

The top image is courtesy of Optimo Hats. Interestingly, Optimo specifically talk about their hats as being for individuals - for those that don't dress like others. Unlike most hat companies I know, who emphasise getting everyone to understand and wear them.

The (17) made-to-measure tailors I have known

The (17) made-to-measure tailors I have known

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Although I haven’t covered the same number of MTM tailors as bespoke ones, Permanent Style has steadily accumulated a good range - from Kiton to Gieves, P Johnson to the Armoury. 

And really good made-to-measure is increasingly what younger readers are asking about. They want good quality, but also a focus on style. They may well move to bespoke later in life, but right now MTM is their best option. 

Still, the MTM companies featured here are not cheap. They’re all over £1500, many over £2000. Personally, I think this is what someone that regularly buys PS-recommended products should be looking at. There’s much more to be gained from investing in good tailoring (and shoes) than there is knitwear, shirts or jeans. 

These, then, are the 17 makers I have reviewed, or are in the process of commissioning with. Plus a list of MTM trouser makers. 

All are linked to the original coverage on Permanent Style, where you can go for more detail. I will endeavour to keep this list up to date every year or two - please do remind me if I forget. 

 

Saman Amel

Probably the two strongest experiences I’ve had with made-to-measure tailoring are Saman Amel from Stockholm and Jean-Manuel Moreau from Paris. Both produced excellent fitting pieces for me, through trunk shows in London. 

Both also offer a quality level that has a large amount of functional handwork in it - such as a hand-padded chest - which brings it closer to the level of bespoke. It’s not bespoke of course, in ways of both fit and make, but it’s a step change on other MTM. 

This is only the case with Saman Amel’s top line, the ‘Napoli’ level, but the lower Toscana line has the same strong fit. The only thing I’d like to change (but can’t on their style) about the jacket is the height of the notch, which feels a little fashion-y in how high it is. 

My experience with Saman and Dag has been a little mixed in other areas, but my experience of the tailoring was very strong. 

 

Jean-Manuel Moreau

Adding to my general points above on Jean-Manuel and his team in Paris, they have their tailoring made by the Orazio Luciano workshop in Naples - but to Jean-Manuel’s own style and pattern. 

So while the make and quality is the same as Orazio, the style is for a slightly more classic, longer and more comfortable jacket, compared to the close-fitting Orazio jacket I have - and cover in this article further down. 

The cream-linen suit JMM made me was lovely, and I wear both trousers and jacket separately often in the summer, as well as the suit occasionally all together. 

 

Eduardo de Simone

Eduardo de Simone runs a suit factory in Naples. He makes for other brands, mostly, but also offers his own tailoring under the name Edesim. Plus he has a small bespoke workshop, used for himself, friends and visitors. 

He made me two jackets, one bespoke and one MTM, as he was interested in talking about and comparing the differences. You can see the article doing that here. The MTM service itself was good, if not clearly better than others around the same make and price. 

Eduardo is also one of the harder brands here to use, as he travels less. Still, if you like the style, he is still someone I’d recommend. 

 

Kiton

Kiton made me a made-to-measure suit through their programme at Harrod’s back in 2014. It was the top line or ‘Lasa’ service. 

The overall experience was not that great, particularly given the price, and I think it shows the price inflation that happens with bigger designer brands. Three different people conducted the measuring, first and second fitting, which caused some confusion. And the overall fit was good without being outstanding. For over £4000, it should be better really. 

This level of make had a hand-padded chest, though not collar. This sets it above most of the Kiton MTM, which doesn’t not have any hand padding, but is made the same way as the RTW product - hand cut and with hand buttonholes etc, but using pre-made canvases. More on that in my factory visit piece here

 

P Johnson

P Johnson is perhaps remembered unfairly by regular readers of Permanent Style. The jacket and trousers the team made me were both a good fit. The issues were with disclosure of where things were made, and readers’ reaction to that. 

The jacket was good, and I still like the P Johnson attitude - less the more casual pieces they’ve been doing recently, but certainly the relaxed approach to tailoring, and colour combinations. 

The only issue with the jacket was some parts of the style, like a higher buttoning point and small, bellied lapel. But if you try a jacket and like this style, I can still only recommend it, based on my experience. They also have more stores and therefore are easier to access than many of the brands mentioned here. 

 

Anglo-Italian

  • Jackets from £1490 in four tiers, depending on the cloth: £1560, £1640, £1730 and £2200. Suits in the same levels from £1760 to £2100. Trousers are £450.
  • Background article
  • Review article

My Anglo-Italian MTM jacket was a solid product - without the extra handwork of some brands, but a firm basis for the biggest reason I like what Anglo-Italian are doing, which is their style. 

The green checked jacket I had made was distinctive in its Anglo colouring, all murky and subtle. And that for me made it feel much more contemporary than similar jackets or materials (Anglo also develop, and sell, their own cloth). 

One thing that is less obvious though, or expected, is that the cut of the Anglo MTM product is quite different, with a low buttoning point, roomy fit and good amount of low drape. It can be quite flattering, and is certainly comfortable. But it’s something that does need to be considered alongside other aspects of the style. 

 

The Armoury

The Armoury made me a very nice suit as part of their ‘100 Series’. It was beautifully fitted and beautifully made - though again, without the hand padding or similar of Saman Amel or JMM mentioned at top. 

However, the suit was interesting for how well it was finished, and the feel despite that lack. This is largely down to the fact that this series from The Armoury uses the excellent Sant’Andrea workshop in Italy. The downside is that this makes it rather expensive. 

 

Massura

  • Made to measure suits starting at €1600, bespoke at €2500
  • Full review

Massura is a German brand run by Moritz Kossytorz, based in Munich but using a tailoring workshop in Naples. The style and make of the tailoring is not much different to other Neapolitan tailors, but is worth highlighting because of the lack of German makers (Moritz serves Cologne and Dusseldorf as well as Munich, Zurich and London) and the price - handmade made-to-measure starts at €1600.

Moritz made me a green tweed jacket in a lovely cloth from Abraham Moon. The result was good in many respects, but there were substantial issues with the balance and shoulders at the back of the jacket. Part of this might have been due to doing some fittings remotely, though we did also do one in person.

Moritz has promised to correct the issues when we get a chance to see other in person next, and I will report back then - as well as update this listing.

 

Edward Sexton

Bespoke tailor Edward Sexton also offers an 'offshore bespoke' system, where the patterns are cut in London but most of the making is done in a Chinese workshop. I've included it under MTM because although the cutting is by hand, the chest and collar are not hand padded, so the making level is significantly different to the full bespoke service.

The team made me a brown-linen double-breasted suit, similar in style to the grey-flannel DB I already had from them that was fully bespoke. It was a good fit, though not quite at the same level as the full bespoke. The make in the chest is also pretty solid, and you feel that.

I wouldn't say the result is comparable to Sexton's full bespoke - unlike, for example, Whitcomb & Shaftesbury - but it is a solid way for people that like the Edward Sexton style to get a well-fitted suit in that cut. 

 

Orazio Luciano

Orazio made me a pink corduroy jacket, which was a decent fit, albeit with some issues. From the start, it was fitted quite closely, and with the slightly shorter cut that Orazio himself favours and has always worn. 

It’s important to separate these two things. We did have some pure issues of fit, mostly in the back and the sleeve length. But other things are more a question of house style - and readers should consider whether these work for them, rather than considering them faults. 

Orazio do also hand pad the chest and lapels of their jackets, which puts them above most other makers here in that respect. And that’s reflected to an extent in the price. Although it’s worth noting that the hand finishing is better on something like the Armoury suit mentioned above. Neapolitan make is rarely that fine.

 

Stile Latino

Stile Latino is the Neapolitan brand run by Vincenzo Attolini, who split from the better-known Attolini to start his own, rather brighter and more experimental brand. 

Stile Latino is really a RTW company, and MTM is not offered that widely. The tailoring is also not something that aims to compete with formal bespoke, or be any kind of substitute for it - unlike many of the brands here. 

But having said that, if you like the brand’s style, the MTM they made for me was good. And not many places do this type of completely unstructured jacket with an MTM service. 

 

Gieves & Hawkes

  • Suits from £1495 (lowest quality level, price at time of commission)
  • Review article

This famous Savile Row name has been through a few different permutations in the past 10 years, and changed its tailoring supplier multiple times too. It never seems to be able to decide whether its RTW and MTM should be closer to the Row, or to Regent Street. 

I reviewed the service in 2014, even though the suit was made for my brother-in-law. I was present for every appointment and saw the suit in action, so felt able to still write a review. 

The suit was good for basic made to measure, but no more than that. It successfully gave him a fit that would have been impossible off the rack, but otherwise was the same quality level as their fairly low-level RTW. 

 

Henry Herbert and Hemingway Tailors

In the early years of writing Permanent Style, I covered some cheaper services that I probably wouldn’t use today. One of those was Henry Herbert, a visiting service that I couldn’t really recommend - the lack of tailoring experience seeming to be the biggest issue. 

And the other was Hemingway Tailors, run by Toby Luper, who had his suits made at the Cheshire Bespoke factory. Toby’s suits were well made and a decent fit, but I wouldn’t recommend them today for the price point. 

Jake Mueser, Drake’s and William Crabtree

This is more a holding note that anything else. I am in the process of making a jacket with Jake Mueser, and plan to cover the service at Drake’s, given how many readers ask about it - though I think it’s far to say they are aiming to offer a solid MTO option on their RTW tailoring today, rather than a MTM offering that will compete with full tailors. 

I am also in the process of making a suit with William Crabtree, the brand recently set up by agent James Priestley. I covered his MTM chore suit in a previous article here, but haven't included it in this list as it's not tailoring. When I have tried the tailoring, I'll add it in. 

If you’re interested in made-to-measure trousers, the makers we’ve covered are:

Please note, all prices include VAT and are correct at the time of commission - some may have risen since then. Please check dates of the original coverage. 

The craft and beauty of Navajo weaving

The craft and beauty of Navajo weaving

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Friday, July 9th 2021
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“Each coloured section of a blanket has natural variation. That’s the organic dyes: each yarn is slightly different. 

“Then there’s the different types of dye. The weaver might deliberately mix together natural dyes like a cochineal red, with an aniline one. That’s what you can see in the Third Phase Chief’s Blanket [above].

“But laying across all of that there’s a seeming randomness to it. Like indigo yarns extended or inserted for no apparent reason. 

"This isn’t inaccuracy: the weaving is very personal. Actually spiritual. The Navajo feel they are weaving themselves into the cloth, and go where feels right.”

This is Peter Middleton (above), of the brand Wythe, talking to me recently about his passion for Navajo crafts. 

I originally interviewed Peter for a different piece - about the design process at Ralph Lauren. But at the end we got to talking about his studies, and why he loved and collected Navajo weavings. 

It's a tradition I know little about, but is very current given how fashionable Southwestern crafts have been in recent years. 

So we arranged to talk again the following week. To delve into more detail. 

Navajo work is the richest and most developed native weaving in the United States. 

There are other traditions. Tribes in the US northeast and Pacific northwest practised it, but usually with vines and other plants, as they didn't have access to cotton and wool. 

The Hopi and the Zuni, both neighbouring tribes to the Navajo in the US southwest, also weave. Indeed it's likely the Hopi originally taught the craft to the Navajo. There's also a rich Hispanic tradition (Rio Grande blankets) and the Mexicans may in turn have taught the Hopi. 

But the Navajo - as with other crafts like pottery and silver - took on and developed the craft, making it richer, more varied and unique. 

"They were a little bit like the Japanese with fashion," says Peter. "They watched and they absorbed. And then they ran with it."

One reason Navajo weaving has become so well-known is because it is the richest in the US, and the United States is so influential. 

Ralph Lauren is a particular fan, and has consistently included designs inspired by it in his collections* - starting with the famous Santa Fe collection in 1981. Indeed, one of the easiest ways to see great examples of weavings today is in RRL stores.

(Pictured above is one of Ralph Lauren's homes, above the RRL store in East Hampton.)

The Japanese, always inspired by Americana, have then taken on Navajo designs and worked them into their own brands and products, as have other brands around the world.

But Navajo weaving does deserve its reputation purely on merit. In that regard, it should be considered among other famous weaving traditions, from Persian rugs to Indian saris. 

The process is most similar to Kilim weaving, which comes from most countries that were once part of (or influenced by) the Persian empire - Iran, Turkey, the Balkans etc. 

This is because it’s a tapestry technique: the work is done on vertical looms, with warp yarns set vertically on a wooden frame and then the weft interwoven between them by hand, before being pushed down. 

“Compared to any other tradition, Navajo weaving is so idiosyncratic though,” says Peter.

“The women don’t weave horizontally, for example, as you might expect and as someone like the Hopi do. Instead it’s woven in patches - they start with a particular area in front of them, do that, and then move onto another area just above or to the side.”

This working in sections contributes to the characteristic diagonals of a Navajo weaving. Most designs involve diamonds, or figures with diagonals at the edges. In more recent times it is these figures that have been pulled across onto bags or cushion covers.

Then there is a technique called wedge weaving, where the warp is pulled across, hard, at regular intervals, to create a wavy texture. 

You can see that in the image below: the pattern already looks a little playful, but then you notice the direction of the warp, and realise actually it’s pretty balanced given how all-over-the-place the underlying weave is. 

There are a couple of other factors that contribute to this organic feel. 

One is that it’s considered taboo for Navajo to plan the design - because it is meant to be an intuitive, spontaneous expression. So nothing is even sketched in the sand: the blanket just develops as the weaver works. 

The other is that precision itself is considered to be impersonal, unspiritual. So designs are always going to be a little expressionistic. “If you compare the number of weft lines on a blanket - on the right and the left - they’re never the same,” says Peter. “Never.” 

Weavers sometimes also leave one loose thread in the work, as a means for their soul - which is literally in the weaving while they are working on it - to escape. 

[Above: A saddle blanket from around 1940. These are usually woven in two halves, to fold under the saddle and provide two layers of cushioning]

Another imperfection that can be picked up on if you look closely, is a diagonal line showing where the woman (it was always women) left off weaving one day, and came back the next. 

These are sometimes called ‘lazy lines’, but this is rather ungenerous. 

Because the point of the designs is that they are personal and expressive. This is not like a Neapolitan tailor trying to convince you that bad stitching merely reveals the beauty of handwork.

It’s more like an expressionist painter, adding colours and peculiarities because it’s how they feel. 

Cloth has always been one of the aspects I’ve loved most about clothing - whether it’s hand-woven tweed from Harris or hand-patched Boro from Japan (shown above, at Sri Threads). 

There’s something particularly special, perhaps authentic, about clothing yourself in materials that you understand and have a connection with. 

This extends to decorative textiles too. I have one piece of handwoven linen hanging on our wall that was handed down from my wife’s Portuguese great-great-grandmother. It is almost 150 years old and shows no signs of age.

So I loved learning about Navajo weaving from Peter, and from various other books and resources. The best among these, by the way, are the two books by Anthony Berlant and Mary Hunt: Walk in Beauty and The Navajo Blanket.

The first sees the weaving through the prism of the Navajo’s history, while the second has more academic detail on the weavings themselves. 

I was also, as you might expect, tempted to buy something myself. 

The best resource for this - and most information on Navajo crafts - is probably the Shiprock Gallery in Santa Fe. The owner Jed (above), is fantastic at explaining the history and details of each rug or blanket. He originally helped Ralph Lauren put together much of his collection. 

The problem is price. Small pieces like saddle blankets are around $3,000 and big rugs run into tens of thousands. This is antique art we're talking about.

An alternative is to commission something from a modern weaver. There are many on Instagram, and Ortegas (below) is worth looking at for a current weaver in the Chimayo tradition. Pieces are smaller, and perhaps less idiosyncratic, but no less authentic. 

Many thanks to Peter and Jed for their help with this article. Peter’s brand is Wythe, and Shiprock can be found here

*This could lead into an interesting discussion of what constitutes inspiration and what theft - something Ralph Lauren has been accused of in the past. I’ll leave that for a separate article though, if people are interested.

A casual Summer capsule 

A casual Summer capsule 

Wednesday, July 7th 2021
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About a month ago, proper Summer started in the UK. 

Now I don’t define Summer by the solstice, the calendar, or even the moon. Summer, for me, is when it's so hot that it severely affects the clothes you can wear. 

Anything consistently above 25 degrees, with bright sun, means shorts are an option and linen is a necessity. Sunglasses are a question of practicality rather than fashion. Headwear, if you’re as follicly challenged as me, is essential. 

It could seem like a restriction. But actually if you love clothes, it opens up a whole new wardrobe of things that are designed only for hot weather. 

In the UK, unfortunately, these periods are unreliable and often brief. It’s happening less and less, but there have been years where such weather never really arrived. 

So when it’s here, I revel in it. I get out the espadrilles and the guayabera, cream-linen trousers and white-linen shirts. I turn my face to the Sun and close my eyes.

This is also a professional exercise.

Because I'm aware that many readers around the world enjoy this weather more consistently, and for longer periods, than in the UK. If you’re in New York or Spain, this is weather you can plan for. 

During the first 12 days of our ‘Summer’, therefore, I posted a quick Instagram story every day of what I was wearing. 

At the end, it occurred to me that there was a lot of consistency there. That it almost made up a Summer capsule wardrobe. 

And so I thought I’d repost some of them, and comment on what that capsule could look like. 

One of the first outfits I leapt to wear is this one. 

I bought the guayabera from Anderson & Sheppard last year (imported from Ramon Puig in Miami) but only got to wear it a couple of times before the weather cooled off. 

It is traditionally worn like a shirt, with nothing underneath; but I like something simple under it, like a vest or undershirt. I like the style because it manages to look both subtle but unusual, casual yet conscious. 

It’s worn with fairly smart trousers - Fox Air high-twist wool, made by Pommella - and black espadrilles. 

The guayabera works equally well with my olive-linen trousers from Paul Stuart, which are pictured above with a different outfit. 

There, the shoes are still black but they’re Alden LHS loafers (dyed black after I got an oil stain on a snuff pair). There’s a grey T-shirt on top, but this could equally be a white shirt. 

And over the tee is an equally unusual jacket - my hand-dyed Mandarin jacket from Prologue. More on that here

The reason this starts to look like a capsule collection, I think, is all the pieces could be swapped around. You could wear the outfit above with the white guayabera (perhaps worn open) and with black espadrilles.

The next outfit is seemingly quite different: white-linen shirt, PS khaki shorts, brown-suede loafers. 

But most things could again be swapped with the preceding outfits. I might hesitate to wear the brown loafers with a brown jacket, but it wouldn’t look bad. The white shirt could be worn with either pair of the earlier trousers, while the grey T-shirt would look good too. 

The key thing that makes all this easier is that the tops are all lighter, and the bottoms darker. Even though you wouldn’t call the shorts dark, they are darker than the things above them: the white shirt, grey tee, and white guayabera. 

The following day, it wasn’t quite so hot but I kept the same colour combination, just in different styles: white T-shirt rather than a white shirt; khaki chinos rather than khaki shorts. 

That’s an old Flat Head tee, with my old Armoury chinos, vintage belt, white socks and still Alden LHS loafers. A rather Ivy look, overall.

The only thing that wouldn’t fit with the capsule idea was the vintage jungle jacket I wore over the top (shown at the bottom of this article). But that could easily be replaced, if you were putting together a capsule like this for travel. 

If you were travelling, and wanted a smart option too, then a cream linen jacket could be useful. 

In the outfit above - worn when I was going into town rather than staying at home - there’s the same principle of lighter top and darker bottom, just with different items. 

Those taupe-cotton trousers could easily have been the olive linen or Fox Air wool, and the white guayabera would have been effective too. 

In any capsule there are often compromises - unless you are very narrow with the colours and styles. And here while I prefer these smart Edward Green loafers with the jacket, the Aldens would be OK. 

With tailoring, it’s more usual to wear darker tops and paler bottoms. That’s usually easier with jackets, when the shirt underneath doesn’t matter so much. 

But with a casual capsule, such as the one we’re running through, it’s usually better the other way around. Another of my favourite Summer outfits, for example, is the one above: brown knitted polo or T-shirt with white or cream trousers. 

The trousers can be cotton or linen (as here, from Ambrosi); the shoes can be loafers, deck shoes or espadrilles (as here, Diego's). But you can’t wear the white shirts or T-shirts we've shown higher up.

A casual capsule collection - whether for travel or for a guy just building a wardrobe - could therefore be something along the lines of:

  • Khaki and/or olive shorts and trousers
  • White and/or grey T-shirts
  • White shirt and guayabera
  • Black and/or brown loafers and espadrilles
  • White or cream deck shoes
  • Navy knit or sweatshirt (could also be cream or grey)
  • Brown overshirt or jacket

The tricky area for clashing is really just the outerwear and the shoes. So I might only take black shoes if my single overshirt were brown. 

There are other colours you could happily throw in, such as the navy knitwear I’ve included in that list, or something brighter or patterned like a Breton top. 

If you need more smart options, you could take taupe trousers rather than the khaki, and add a taupe jacket, to give you a suit (shown above). If you need sportier ones, add dark patterned swim shorts and maybe something in towelling, to wear around the pool.

There are lots of ways to tweak it depending on your circumstances. But the foundations are to have dark and light one way round, and to make sure the shoes, bottoms and outerwear all work with one another.

I hear it’s going to hot again next week. Enjoy. 

Below, the shoes. Top to bottom: black Diego's espadrilles, black Alden LHS loafers, brown Edward Green Piccadillys, brown Alden LHS loafers, and two canvas shoe options - white, new, linen 45R oxfords and cream, old, cotton Doek derbys.

MTM chore suit from William Crabtree: Review

MTM chore suit from William Crabtree: Review

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Monday, July 5th 2021
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I know from experience that casual jackets often involve a compromise, for me. 

Usually one size will be perfect on the neck, waist and sleeve, but another will be better on the shoulders, chest and body length. Basically, I’m a little taller and a little slimmer than the average, so neither standard size is quite right. 

Of course, many people have bigger problems. Anyone that is shorter with a bigger chest, or taller with a smaller one, will know the frustrations of standard sizing. 

But it is the something that has stopped me buying chore jackets in the past. Overshirts can be made bespoke, or adjusted easily. A chore in a heavier material is harder. 

When I have bought them - such as this Bryceland’s one - it’s been when I feel the casual, almost sloppy nature of the style is more forgiving for the fit. I’ve sized up to get the right length, and accepted the larger body and neck.

There are brands that will make chores to measure. But none that also do garment washing - and this is key. 

It’s the industrial washing of chore jackets that gives them a pleasing softness and fading. You get both a little with washing at home, but not for quite a long time and often not to the same degree. 

Hence... my interest when James Priestley of William Crabtree & Sons said he had a factory that would make them for him, and garment wash each afterwards.

James’s background is as an agent in menswear, for William Lockie among others. He set up his own brand - William Crabtree - a few years ago, and last year opened a shop on New Quebec St, which is just to the west of Marylebone. 

Initially James only offered made-to-measure tailoring, which wasn’t at the level we normally cover. 

But he has since expanded, offering a lot of fairly traditional British menswear and a range of Lockie knitwear. There are quilted jackets, gilets, knitted ties and polka-dot handkerchiefs, alongside cashmere and cotton knits (not all shown online).

I particularly like the 1-ply sportshirts (actually the thickness of 2-ply, but we won’t get into that here) given I prefer my knitwear with a collar where possible. I have the charcoal and the navy (the images on the site aren’t great - the colours are actually standard greys and navy).

Last Autumn then, James and I began the process of making a chore ‘suit’. I’m not sure if that’s the right term - perhaps work suit is better - but essentially a chore jacket and trousers in the same material. 

He has a good range of materials to pick from, although ideally I would have wanted a slightly tougher cotton (mine was 16oz, but doesn't feel it). And there are two basic styles of collar, one rounded (like mine) and one more pointed. 

You can change a lot of other aspects of the design, including adding or removing pockets, and having pleats or flat fronts on the trousers. There wasn’t much I wanted to change to mine, given I wanted a very standard design. 

The only things I did ask for were belt loops rather than side adjusters (as I felt a belt might be helpful breaking up the top and bottom) and tweaks on the sizing. 

James has stock sizes in the shop, and we quickly established that my normal requirements were what we needed - that mix between two different sizes mentioned at the start. One on the neck/waist/sleeve, another on the shoulder/chest/length. 

Plus I wanted a fuller leg and a slightly higher rise. 

The jacket that came back was perfect - although, bear in mind that after years of not being able to find anything, any jacket that was long enough to cover my seat, and not massive in the body, would have made me happy.  

We did have an issue with the trousers, which were a good inch or so too big in the waist. This could have been altered, but James was still at the point of trialling the process, and wanted the factory to redo them. 

The second pair were much better. Initially a little tight, but the waist has actually softened and stretched a bit over time. 

The material is, as I suspected, a touch light for what I wanted. Ideally it would be the more traditional weight of a French Vetra or Mont St-Michel. But it is very nice, soft and incredibly comfortable. 

The question I’m sure some (more traditional) readers will be asking is, how the hell will I wear it?

The reason I liked the idea of the chore suit was that it could be a way to dress up what are, essentially, very casual clothes. 

It will never be confused with a tailored suit. But with a shirt and loafers, it definitely has something in common with tailoring, while still being workwear. 

It’s unusual - you rarely see anyone wearing one - and yet it doesn’t stand out much. It’s subtle, yet distinctive - which as regular readers will know, is always enough to get me interested. 

The suit is also, as I said, very comfortable because there’s so little structure in it, and it’s a light, soft cotton. 

That makes it nice in warmer weather too. Perhaps not the 30 degrees that we’ve enjoyed in London recently, but certainly into the low 20s. 

Plus both the jacket and the trousers can be worn separately. I coined the phrase ‘three-way suit’ a few years ago to describe tailoring that could be worn like this - and it’s no coincidence that most of those suits were cotton too. 

In fact, if James ever developed the pattern for it, I can see a very-unstructured-but-tailored blazer working as part of the set. Like a Boglioli, but made to to measure.

In terms of other styles, because the jacket has a nice collar I find it looks good with just a white T-shirt underneath, as shown above. 

You can keep the same brown loafers on the feet, and it still looks fairly smart. Or you can go more contemporary and wear a deck shoe or similar, slim trainer. I’m wearing a white version of the 45R deck shoe below. 

It’s a very casual look, but again, being a suit rather than simply a chore and chinos makes the whole dressier, as well as giving it more personality. 

The T-shirt is a circular knit from The Flat Head, bought in Tokyo a few years ago. 

An MTM chore suit from William Crabtree & Sons costs £650 in this cotton, but most woven materials are available. Corduroy is particularly popular. They take 4-6 weeks to make. 

The regular, canvassed tailoring is made in a different factory and starts at £1150 for a made-to-measure suit.

The shop is at 15 New Quebec Street, London. 

www.williamcrabtree.co.uk

Clothes shown: 

  • Circular knit T-shirt from The Flat Head
  • Linen deck shoes from 45R
  • ‘Large working’ tote bag from Frank Clegg
  • Button-down linen shirt from Luca Avitabile
  • Brown loafers, LHS loafer from Alden, via Trunk

Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

How relevant is 80s Armani?

How relevant is 80s Armani?

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By Tony Sylvester

It might seem counterintuitive to be talking about past fads or subcultures on a platform named Permanent Style. But while it is certainly admirable for a man to build a wardrobe around the timeless and perennial, it would be foolish to suggest that some sense of the ephemeral will not creep in. 

This is only natural. An inquisitive mind searches out that which is novel, while anyone with a passing interest in the history and culture of how people have dressed  cannot help but be taken by the discovery of some long-lost detail. 

To my mind, the key to preserving accord while taking inspiration from the past is to cast a critical eye and to 'pull back', viewing from as wide a point as possible, using the lessons you have learnt of what works for you as a filter. 

Every era has its acolytes and naysayers, but perhaps the most maligned decade of 20th Century menswear is the 1980s. The brash arrogance of the Thatcher/Reagan years is ripe for parody and derision, and has not seen quite the same re-evaluation as the luxuriously androgynous spirit of the 1970s (currently in vogue in some tailoring circles). 

The 1980s are viewed as a time when a vibrant underground provided the sartorial dynamism, while the mainstream remained irredeemably naff and drab. I would like - in this article - to provide a counter-argument in the form of the pioneering work of Giorgio Armani. 

In 1975, Armani launched his eponymous label after a decade working as a freelance designer for fashion brands in Italy. Immediately focusing on luxury, ready-to-wear menswear, his first collection for SS76 - shown at Pitti that year - exhibits an incredible confidence. 

The nascent hallmarks of his signature approach are already there: a generously draped silhouette, a muted palette, and a preference for soft inviting textures. 

We are fortunate that Rizzoli published a coffee-table sized monograph in 1990 entitled Giorgio Armani: Images Of Man. It chronicles the collections from this all-important decade, and illustrates all three prongs of his attack. 

Right from the early looks, we can see how Armani plays with proportion. 

A shearling blouson (above) is cut extraordinarily high for a piece of outerwear, sitting and fitting as close to the waistline as the trouser, mere inches below an oversized raglan sleeve. 

Overcoats and trenches exhibit similar billowing folds of fabric at the chest, while being dramatically cinched at the waist, suggesting the look of a comic-book strongman. 

The presumed formality of a double-breasted suit (above, top) is softened with an extended shoulder line, and a relaxed, baggy cut. 

Whole looks are built off single colours, the tight focus making slight contrasts in tone much more dramatic. 

The use of pale greys, washed greens and beiges, meanwhile, signals the influence of militaria and field clothing, and contributes to a faded lived-in feel.

Examples of both, extracts from early and late eighties collections respectively, are shown above.

Texture is used to create contrast. A donegal tweed jacket paired with a surprisingly robust-looking shepherd's-check shirt creates unexpected harmony between the pattern sizes (above). 

Elsewhere, the heavy stripe of an overcoat lies over the deep diagonal line of a cavalry-twill trouser. And a chunky polo plays off the marl of a covert-cloth sports coat, the whole look rich and tactile, despite being shot in monochrome. 

There is much to take from in the collections, and it's astonishing how many of the outfits have resonance today. Bigger proportions have been around for several years among both mainstream and designer brands, and tonal dressing has become a constant theme for both the fashionable and sartorial. 

Personally I find the use of pattern particularly striking, as well as the lack of traditional colour combinations.

A navy blazer with Armani will be shot through with a warming grey, while Prince-of-Wales checks are exploded into oversized detail, and sports coats use jacquard-like weaves rather than more commonplace windowpanes. 

As the book ably demonstrates, Armani’s work was thrust into its best possible light by his collaboration with photographer and graphic designer Aldo Fellai. 

Colleagues from their freelance days, Fellai’s pictures add an immeasurable merit to Armani’s work - casting them in a genuinely revolutionary manner. It opened up the vistas of how clothes would be visually marketed for years to come. 

The focus on black and white imagery, astonishing for a clothing brand when you think about it, would become the de facto tool for many trademark campaigns of the nineties. You simply would not have The Gap’s or Calvin Klein’s iconic billboard ads without their innovation. 

I can see the throughlines with some modern brands.

Yasuto Kamoshita (above) certainly carries that utility of function in his Camoshita line, along with unexpected combinations of soft, washed colourways. 

One of my favourite pieces in the Rizzoli book feels very current: a stunning piece of outerwear in the form of a hybrid of sorts; the classic alpaca ‘teddy bear’ coat crossed with the simplicity of a robe; an extremely generous shawl lapel, ankle length and turnback cuff adding to the visual delight (below). 

I was lucky enough to find one in a rich ruddy brown in impeccable condition on eBay a while back, a rare find 20 years after its make. The Outer Gown by London brand Gownsmith has something of the same feel to me, in spirit if not detail. 

Perhaps the contemporary label I most closely associate with the pioneering era of Armani is another London-based maker, Scott Fraser Simpson (below).

His Scott Fraser Collection nominally takes its cues from an earlier time - the ‘modernism’ of mid-century style - and yet something of the overall look owes a visual debt to Armani and Fellai. 

Catching up with Scott, he concurs. “I think it’s the proportions. The generous armholes and deep drape that allow you to not look or feel pulled in or constricted. It adds that relaxed feel but with a head nod of consideration. It’s always been my plan to bring more of that generosity into the flow of my clothes.”

“What I love about this is that clothes can transcend different occasions”, he continues: “when you want to be formal or when you want to be casual. It breaks those boundaries. It is thoughtful without typecasting the wearer. 

“The other element is the fabrics. In those Armani collections you got chunky tweed on top of a birdseye check and a pinstripe, all thrown together.

"There’s an unexpected artistry to the blend which has changed the way I look at fabrics and how to put them together. I’m forever searching out old rolls of deadstock fabric and end-of-lines to get that same effect.” 

As Harold Koda puts it so eloquently in the introduction to Images Of Man, “Giorgio Armani’s clothing for men from 1975 to 1990...constituted [a] profound inquiry into textile, comfort, the equilibrium between leisure and business”.

Post-Covid, will we not be asking ourselves the very same questions of our wardrobes? 

I feel like I already am, thanks in no small part to the imagery here. More restrictively cut garments have been sent to the back of the closet, shirt and knitwear purchases have been sized up, and newer commissions from Fred Nieddu at Taillour have ventured into much more relaxed territory (above). 

Shoulders have extended a little, sleeves are wider with more room in the chest. Trousers have deeper pleats, there’s less taper from the knee and cuffs are rounding out at 9.5 or 10 inches. 

Sometimes you just have to look back to look ahead. 

The rules and how to break them: Suits without ties 

 

This is a new installment in the series ‘The rules and how to break them’, which has been a little neglected in recent years. 

It’s a great little guide, exposing myths of menswear and calmly explaining the rationale behind advice that is normally just shouted (with a surprising amount of consternation and no nuance).

The guide – which you can see here – explains conventions such as ‘no brown in town, ‘no white after Labor Day, and others. As I write this I can think of several more we should add. 

Today, we’re going to talk about wearing suits without ties. Why some say you should never do it, the reasons behind the opinion, and as a result the ways it can be done intelligently.

 

 

Three years ago, when I still worked at a financial magazine in the City, the tieless look was in full swing. On a Friday night after work, bankers and lawyers would be standing outside the pubs, pints in hand, wearing dark suits, white shirts and no tie. 

It was a terrible look. They were all the same and they were all boring. Without a tie, they had lost the one thing that forced them to make a choice in the morning, and express some personality. 

Suits and shirts had to be conservative, but the tie was a shiny, patterned and even brightly coloured decoration. And now it was gone. 

This is one good reason people dislike suits without ties: the tie is a beautiful thing, and its demise is a loss to culture. When will so many men wear such delicate, decorative pieces of clothing again? 

 

 

The bigger argument, however, is that a suit is simply incomplete without a tie.

This is also part of the reason those office workers looked so dismal: they gave the impression of having just left off one piece of clothing out of laziness. 

The suit is a big dark block of colour, tailored to lead the eye pleasingly towards the face. As we go up there is a pale shirt, and then usually a necktie as the triumphant end of the journey. 

Without a tie, it can genuinely feel like something’s missing from the top of the outfit. 

I don’t think this is just a question of convention – of what we’re used to. There is something about the architecture of a suit that looks best with a neat tie at the collar. Separate jackets and trousers don’t have that problem, as the outfit is broken up.

For that reason, they’re often a better choice if you’re not going to wear a tie. 

A suit is also, usually, a sharp and finely made garment, kept pressed and buttoned. An open-necked shirt can seem out of place with that aesthetic, in the same way as a suit that is misshapen, badly fitted, or never done up. 

 

 

These are all good and valid reasons for wearing a tie with a suit. I think they should make any well-dressed man think twice about not doing so, and take every opportunity to add one. 

But, as with all these rules, that’s all there is to it: there are no absolutes. A suit can happily be worn without a tie, and the key to doing so is to consider these same reasons of why a tie looks good. 

First, a tie accentuates and finishes off the sharp, smart look of a suit. So if the suit in question is more casual, the reasoning loses power. 

A cotton, linen or woollen suit looks much more comfortable without a tie than a worsted one. The same goes for a suit in a more casual colour – basically, not navy or grey. 

With my linen from The Armoury above, for instance, the suit looks great with a tie, but also very natural without one, given its material and colour. 

The suit below from Kenjiro Suzuki in Paris is more borderline: it’s cotton, a casual material, but dark navy in colour. I was fine wearing it here without a tie, but I was conscious that it would have been very plain without a pocket square or some other decoration. 

 

 

These two examples also point to another good reason for wearing suits without ties, which is temperature. 

Exposing your throat to the air is very cooling, given the veins that pass close to the surface, and a bigger factor in the Summer than an unlined jacket. So it looks and feels far more natural to be tieless in the heat. 

The same goes for your ankles, actually, which is why being sockless is so practical as well. And in fact a suit and tie with bare ankles is often an odd look (a mistake I’ve personally made in the past). 

Good reasons for going tieless with a suit, therefore, include trying to being casual and trying to keep cool. I do so much more in the Summer, as demonstrated by the fact that most of these PS images are of Summer suits. 

I do wear Winter suits without ties as well, however, as with the example below – my brown donegal-tweed suit from Dalcuore

 

 

This outfit illustrates a last aspect of suits without ties, which is that it helps to replace the tie with something else.

Those City men looked drab without their ties, but they could have compensated by wearing more interesting shirts, a piece of knitwear, or another accessory like a scarf or handkerchief. 

This might have been tricky given their dress code, of course, but where permitted an alternative accessory can make a big difference. That Suzuki suit of mine might have suited a more colourful pocket square, and it helped that the shirt was indigo linen. 

The donegal Dalcuore suit is much improved by the navy spotted scarf (modal/cashmere from Drake’s). 

The particular advantage of a scarf, of course, is that is not as flamboyant as a pocket square, nor as smart. The suit can remain much more casual and everyday. 

Indeed, the scarf can look purely practical, though I’d encourage men to explore scarves that aren’t only required to keep their necks warm. 

 

 

Other accessories that can help include pins, sunglasses in the breast pocket, and a sleeveless cardigan. 

Casual shirts help too, like the black Friday Polo worn below with my Vestrucci flannel suit below, or a denim Western shirt

Patterned shirts can also be good, though personally I find they work best with Summer suits. Somehow with a Winter or smarter suit they don’t quite dispel the impression that something’s missing. 

I’ll close with the mantra that began this series of articles, back in 2008: “Rules are there for a reason, but there is nothing wrong with breaking them. It’s often only when you understand the rules that you can break them effectively.”

I’ve paraphrased slightly (I think my grammar might be improving), but still it’s nice to know that 13 years later, the mantra still holds. 

 

Revisiting Thom Sweeney casualwear

Revisiting Thom Sweeney casualwear

Monday, June 28th 2021
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I’ve been spending more time in Mayfair in recent weeks, as restrictions have eased here in the UK and businesses have opened. 

It was on such a visit that I went into Thom Sweeney recently, really out of a desire to see everyone I could. Having not been into any stores for several months, it was good to see everything first hand. 

I was struck by how much the current collection fits into our recent discussions of ‘casual chic’: that art of appearing refined and elegant without wearing a jacket or suit.

The Thom Sweeny colour palette has always been narrow. It’s navy, white and grey, with only the occasional olive or beige, and brown in footwear more than anywhere else. 

It’s very classic, even corporate: transposing business colours direct from suits and ties into knits and chinos.  

This works well for the simplicity of casual chic. There aren’t the subtle, earthy shades of brands like Stoffa or Rubato, but it all works together smoothly and intuitively. 

It’s not unusual to look along a rail in the Thom Sweeney store, and see just navy, white and grey. But that does mean it’s all very familiar and easy.

The quality of the product is also consistently high. I think I’d forgotten this, as I’d looked mostly at tailoring and shirts in the past and not bought ready-made for a while. 

A good example - sticking with a recent theme - is their knitted tees and polos. 

Both use a high-twist cotton that has a dry handle similar to the ones we offered recently from Umbria Verde. While I particularly like merino, this is the nicest fine cotton I’ve seen, and the twist helps both to keep their shape. Unlike, for example, John Smedley Sea-Island models.

The polos have an effective collar that, although not made with a stand, does a decent job of staying up under a jacket or cardigan. And that helps them frame the face too. 

The T-shirt’s collar is made with a tubular section below its interlock stitch, which helps it retain its shape. It’s also cut that little bit higher than most mainstream T-shirts. 

These all make the tee a good candidate for wearing under tailoring - if that’s your style. 

Thom [Whiddett, co-founder] does this often, and on the day we met to discuss the collection, he was wearing a navy version under a dark brown DB jacket, and charcoal wool trousers. He was the epitome of casual chic. 

That’s also him on the right, above, with the same tee under a cream jacket. 

“My favourite part is the little split in the side seams, at the bottom,” he says. “That little detail makes the T-shirt look so much more considered when you wear it untucked.”

The way the Thom Sweeney collection is put together, Thom says he’d wear that tee with almost everything in the shop - from high-twist trousers to shorts: “The only thing I probably wouldn’t put it with is the finest worsted trousers, like our Weighhouse suits.”

There are many things in the collection I wouldn’t wear. The trousers have always been too slim for me, and I’m not going to wear the track pants, zipped hoodies or caps. 

But don't be put off by these things. As Thom and I discussed, it would be easy for someone to wander into the store and think this was a fairly standard, fairly mainstream brand. All the expected colours and the categories are there. 

But there’s usually more to the product when you look closely. For example, the merino cardigan (above) has a placket that's wider than most, giving it a subtle collegiate feel. And the tension on the ribbing is less than most, so it doesn’t gape open. 

It’s little things like this, and the quality of the materials, that elevate the casual clothing above anything mainstream. 

This is, of course, reflected in the cost. The cardigan is £295 and the T-shirt £195. (Although if one more person tells me that’s ludicrous for a T-shirt, I will scream. It’s a sweater, just with short sleeves. Not a big-panel cut-and-sewn mass-manufactured tee.)

It’s a long time since I’ve had something made bespoke by Thom Sweeney. Eithen and the  team are now all on the basement level of the new store (above). 

But talking to Thom did remind me that their taste level and modernity extends to tailoring, and this still separates them from most English tailors. 

They were the first house to offer something as adventurous as Caccioppoli, a decade ago. And Thom was enthusiastic about the best current examples from Loro Piana and Solbiati, including the latter's Aloe Vera-infused linen shirting. 

The ready-to-wear tailoring has also got progressively softer, and there are now two lines: one with only a thin pad in the shoulder and the other with nothing at all. 

Thom Sweeney have always had a celebrity following, many of whom really are friends, and regularly turn up unannounced - or gather for the Thursday drinks in the top-floor bar. 

When I visited this time it was Michael Keaton, who sheepishly finished a bespoke appointment and left with a casual goodbye. 

Sometimes this exposure - and the team’s relative lack of social media - makes me forget how good some of the product is. I recommend looking at it with fresh eyes next time you're making that still occasional visit to Mayfair. 

Introducing: The PS linen overshirt

Introducing: The PS linen overshirt

Friday, June 25th 2021
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For a long time, my favourite linen overshirt has been an old model from Drake’s - readers will have seen it previously here, and it’s been worn continuously and lovingly since. 

One of the reasons I liked that model was that it had just two chest pockets, with no hip pockets.

The inclusion of hip pockets - as well as other design details, like epaulettes or bellows - always pushes designs towards the Safari jacket for me, which is not the subtle or modern look I want.

After Drake’s discontinued the design, I tried the ‘Valerio’ overshirt from shirtmaker Luca Avitabile. This actually improved on my old favourite, because while there were only two visible pockets on the chest, two side-entry pockets were hidden in the same piece of material, just below. 

This seemed to be the best of both worlds. The design was outwardly simple, but there was a pocket at the waist if you ever did need more. 

Still, there were a couple of points that I wanted to change on Luca’s design, and so I asked him to make me a bespoke one with these tweaks. 

As has often happened in the past, this led to us collaborating on a ready-to-wear version, which is what is on sale on the PS Shop today

The main design change I made was to enlarge the size of those breast pockets. Because nice as they were, the shape was rather shallow and wide. It wasn’t big enough to accommodate a mobile phone, and even with a small wallet the horizontal shape was rather counter-intuitive. 

It took us a few iterations to get this right. The pocket couldn’t be too deep, or it would start interfering with the side-entry pocket below; but it needed to be large enough to hold most mobiles. 

In the end we settled on 13cm wide and 17.5cm tall, which seems to fit all but the biggest phones. 

The other change was fabrics. 

I’ve found it difficult in the past to find the right linen in ready-to-wear overshirts. Even the bespoke one I made with Budd back in 2014 proved to be too soft and not have enough body. 

The issue I had with some of Luca’s ones was colours in the Summer and finish in the Winter. 

The wool ones, for Winter or at least Autumn, use a worsted that is too shiny and smooth for my tastes. The linen Summer ones, on the other hand, come in two shades that are too strong - a mid-blue and a bright tobacco - while the navy and olive use a heavier, hopsack linen. 

These might seem like small differences, but I find material is absolutely crucial in an overshirt, given that’s all there is. It’s even more important than with a shirt, as it has to hang and drape nicely too. 

For our overshirts, therefore, I used the same Irish linen as the two bright colours, but in a classic dark navy and deep dusty brown. 

These two are the easiest, most useful colours of Summer overshirt for me. 

It’s easy to be attracted by lighter or brighter colours, but as you’re unlikely to have a whole wardrobe of these (unlike sports jackets) they do need to be versatile. And dark layers on top are more useful Summer trousers are more likely to be pale.  

One reader already asked which of the two I consider to be the most useful. 

To be honest, I think they’re just different. I find I wear navy the most, but it has the limitation of not being good with navy chinos or shorts. Brown is definitely better in that regard, but still I find I like and wear navy more.

The image above is taken from our recent shorts article, and shows the brown overshirt effectively. That dark, dusty shade is particularly nice with khaki, white, grey and cream. 

And then below, the navy is pictured with a slightly smarter combination: a chambray shirt and white-linen trousers. 

White trousers with navy is immediately quite smart, showy, perhaps even redolent of the Riviera. But it’s toned down by the texture and softer colour of the chambray. 

A navy overshirt can of course go with any colour of trouser apart from navy, just like a blazer, from pale green to biscuity brown. I quite like it with the pale green of these linen trousers, for example. 

The other outfit I’ve shown the overshirt with, is the same trousers with a dark-brown knitted T-shirt (from The Anthology). This is useful to demonstrate a halfway house between shirt and tee: something casual, but knitted so more refined. 

Like the shorts outfit above, it also shows how someone that doesn’t normally wear T-shirts (perhaps because they’re less flattering) can put an overshirt over the top to give them that collar at the neck. 

Plus of course, the shirt gives you a better place to put your wallet and phone.

The best geometry for a collar is something Luca and I definitely agree on. 

It must lie cleanly on the neck, but stay standing at the back when you put it up (as I often do with a T-shirt underneath). Once popped, the points of the collar should fold gracefully downwards, touching the body of the shirt. 

It’s not an easy combination, but generally it comes having more structure in the collar stand, and less in the collar itself. 

The sleeves, by the way, have a decent length placket, which makes it easy to roll them up if desired. It’s probably the most effective way to make the overshirt look more relaxed. 

Elsewhere, the overshirt is cut a touch longer than most - 78cm on this size Medium - but as it’s just linen, could be easily shortened - perhaps around 3cm before the hem gets too close to the waist pockets. 

The body is cut fairly straight, but it’s also a little slimmer than some, perhaps vintage-inspired chores and overshirts. Check the measurements below against a shirt you already have to get an idea. It could be slimmed further if required. 

Oh, and I forgot to mention there’s also another, internal pocket, on the left hip. Also mobile-phone sized. 

Product details:

  • The PS Overshirt is made in 100% washed Irish linen, 290gm
  • The buttons are dark-brown horn
  • It is made in the Luca Avitabile atelier, Naples
  • It is a clean machine make: no handwork other than handsewn buttons, unlike PS shirts
  • The shirt has two breast pockets, two hidden waist pockets, and one internal hip pocket
  • It can be washed cool (30 degrees) and hung to dry, as with a fine linen shirt
  • It is available in dark navy and dark brown

Sizing: 

  • In the pictures, Simon is wearing a size Medium
  • The body is cut straight but slightly slim compared to other chores and overshirts
  • It is relatively long. Generally, an overshirt should reach somewhere between the bottom and halfway point of your seat
  • Alterations, as on a shirt, are easy. The only limitations are the waist pockets, if shortening the body, and reducing the length of the placket, if shortening the sleeve. 

Size chart:

Neck Chest Waist Shoulders Back length Sleeve Cuff
Small (44-46) 38.5cm 112 102 48 76 60 24
Medium (48-50) 40.5 118 110 50 78 62 25
Large (52-54) 42 124 116 52 79 64 26
Extra large (56-58) 44 130 124 54 81 66 27

Behind the scenes: The design work at Ralph Lauren

Behind the scenes: The design work at Ralph Lauren

Wednesday, June 23rd 2021
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I don’t think consumers value design that much any more. They concentrate on price and (more justifiable) quality, but design often gets swamped by hype. What is fashionable rather than what’s well-designed.

A large part of the reason is that good design is hard to quantify. You can’t put a number on it, or make a straight comparison with a similar product. It’s aesthetics, a matter of judgment. 

One way to quantify design is the amount of time, and therefore money, a brand invests in it. And the menswear brand that does that more than any other is Ralph Lauren. 

Unfortunately, they don’t talk about it. Over the years, I’ve been repeatedly frustrated by the lack of product and design information Ralph Lauren supplies - to either customers or journalists. To the extent that, when I covered a hand-knit cardigan back in 2017, it took a member of the design team to anonymously comment on the article, for us to understand quite how much work went into it. 

In order to try and correct this in my small way, I spoke to three ex-Ralph Lauren designers recently, to get their inside view on the product development process. They were Sean Crowley, Fred Castleberry and Peter Middleton.

 

Sean (right) in 2008, during his time at Ralph Lauren

“Ralph Lauren is a design-driven company, and it might be the last one standing,” says Sean, who worked at RL for 11 years and now runs his own vintage store in New York, Crowley Vintage

“Certainly on the evidence of the companies I worked for after Ralph, and friends that work elsewhere. Usually they have a block for their suits, shirts etc, and the decision each season is just, what colours shall we do it in? Last time it was navy, green and yellow. The navy sold best, so this year let’s try navy, brown and cream.”

These companies are often described as ‘merchant-driven’ rather than design-driven. As in, it’s the merchandising and commercial side of the business that controls the decision-making.

“At one subsequent employer I was the head of design, and every time I asked to make a tiny change - to try a different material that would add just 5c to the product cost - I was told no. Eventually I told them there was no point having a designer at all.”

 

Sean's wall of proposals for ties at Rugby. Other labels were much bigger, often taking up whole rooms of just ties

“The reason it’s easy to be design-driven at Ralph Lauren is that it all starts with concepts,” says Fred Castleberry, who ran conceptual design at Rugby, before it closed down, and now runs his own brand F.E. Castleberry.

“It sounds silly, but you actually were asking yourself every season, ‘where does the Ralph Lauren story go here?’ What’s the next room you walk into?’”

The concept was important, because it meant many of the design and product decisions were already made before the merchandising team got involved. 

“I would spend weeks researching, buying vintage, drafting ideas, and then we would mock up a room for Ralph to approve,” says Fred. “He always wanted it to be set out like a store, so he could see how the customer would experience it.”

 

Fred Castleberry

Once Ralph gave his approval, the concept team would present to all the heads of design - one for knitwear, one for tailoring, one for leather goods etc. They would spend a few weeks fleshing out the ideas, before merchandising joined in. 

“There was always a tension there with merchandising, and a necessary one,” says Fred. “If it wasn’t for them, the designers would just go wild.”

But because the designs were largely in place already, the role was to control costs, or perhaps the volumes of more expensive items. 

“If we had seven really complex, eye-grabbing pieces, that might be whittled down to five,” says Fred. “And maybe there would be fewer of them, used in the front of the stores rather than lots of stock. But the design concept would hang around them.”

Personally, it’s often these more unusual pieces that I buy from RL - a suede trench coat or a hand-knitted ranch cardigan - because I can feel the design work more. 

 

One of my two much-loved cardigans. The patterns always match across the front, which makes me smile.

The detail on these designs would be a combination of vintage research and then innovation with the makers. 

“For example, after visiting a dozen vintage dealers, we might find this old cardigan with a knit pattern that we’d never seen before,” says Fred. “We’d work it into the concept, and then when the knitwear designer became involved, we’d talk to the factory together, to see if they could reproduce it.”

The problem with old knitwear is that it tends to be both heavy and coarse. Both knitting and spinning have come on a long way. 

“So the interesting thing was trying to recreate that hand feel, without the same weight or roughness,” says Fred. “For example, you might use a linen/cotton yarn, because the linen would give it the crispiness, and cotton would add a little more weight than wool. That would also produce more of a Summer knit.”

The more I work in menswear, the more I appreciate work like this that goes into materials. People like Stoffa or Anglo-Italian who develop their own, rather than just offering their customers the same books as everyone else. 

And even among mills, ones like Loro Piana that innovate with their materials as well as producing tasteful designs. Unlike some merchants that are basically just holding rooms for other peoples’ cloth. 

 

Peter Middleton, courtesy of Zeph Colombatto

Peter Middleton worked on the textiles team for Ralph Lauren Runway - the women’s equivalent of Purple Label - before setting up his own brand, Wythe. “The amazing thing about the range at Ralph is that almost every single fabric you see in the store, no matter what sub-label, is a custom fabric. 

“When we saw the mills, we’d always look through their seasonal collections, but never pick anything. Sometimes you’d even have to push back a bit, if they kept saying ‘we have this new finish, it’s been very popular’. You’d have to remind them that that’s not what we’re after. Nothing standard is going to go into the collection.”

I’ve been tempted several times to have a MTM suit from Ralph Lauren, just based on the materials. They’ve always done particularly nice open-weave Summer jacketings in brown and straw that you can’t find anywhere else. 

Peter is the same. “Those Purple Label suits start around five grand, which is really expensive for a suit. You can get bespoke for less. But the kicker is the fabrics - you won’t find them elsewhere. And that’s where a lot of the value is, because so much work has gone into them.”

 

An anniversary patchwork jacket using many of those exclusive, open-weave cloths

When a company is that particular about cloth and product, it has to be design-driven. It’s impossible to be the other way around. 

“I remember someone once said to Ralph, ‘these other designers are doing X, which is interesting’. And he looked at them like, ‘why on earth would I care what other brands are doing?’,” says Peter. 

“He just works with the same themes he loves and always has - Safari, Southwest, English countryside, blue and white - but every time there’s something new he’s excited about. 

“At that big meeting of the design specialists, there might be a thousand ideas on the table, but he’ll focus on a particular leather colour. He’ll say that shade of leather is fantastic with the brown and cream here, and we’ve never done that combination’; or ‘we normally do that leather with sliver hardware, but with these knits it would look great with brass. That’s so interesting.”

Personally, I love hearing behind-the-scenes stories like this about the design process. About why I walk into a newly dressed room in the Bond Street store, and it all feels so familiar yet exciting. 

“I think he’s the best at making each season different, yet the same,” says Peter. “But while others do that to try and stay current, he never is. It’s just about what he and the conceptual designers are excited about.”

 

'Admiral' inspiration board
One of the last Purple-Label presentation rooms Sean worked on. Again, smaller than usual

Ralph Lauren is not the only company that works this way. Many we cover do (Adret is another example). 

Although, according to Peter, other companies he’s worked at function that way because the staff are ex-Ralph. He highlights Faherty, whose boss was at RRL. I’d add Antonio Ciongoli, who used to run Eidos and then founded 18 East. And of course Adam from Adret was at RL too. 

None of this, of course, means that every Ralph Lauren product is unique, or good value. They spend a vast amount on shoots and advertising. 

But one part of the value - design - is always there, and it’s distinctly lacking at many modern brands. Start-ups often focus on cost, delivering ‘basics’. Street brands are particularly guilty of just selling T-shirts and hoodies in lots of colours. 

“I talked to friends at [X and Y] recently, and asked ‘what does a design meeting look like for you? Their response was ‘what’s a design meeting’?” says Peter. “There are ideas, but they’re just simple and delivered on the fly. Even at big designers, they’re run by young guys who throw out an idea and wait for someone to make it.”

All three - Peter, Fred and Sean - talk fondly of those big design meetings at Ralph Lauren. Where the season’s concept had spawned a hundred ideas, a thousand products, and Ralph was cutting a clean line through all of them - picking out the outfits he would wear. 

“It’s very expensive, which is the biggest reason no one does it today,” says Sean. “And times are tough. I really hope they carry on doing it for a long time. You can see the results everywhere.”

Thank you so much to Sean, Fred and Peter for their help with this article. They are:

@crowley_vintage

fecastleberry.com

wythenewyork.com

Dege & Skinner tobacco-linen suit: Style breakdown

**This article is an extract from our book ‘Bespoke Style’, which sold out in less than a month last year. A new print is ready and will be on sale soon. If you would like early access, or are interested in stocking the book, please email [email protected] Thank you**

 

 

This suit from Dege & Skinner is perhaps the best example in this series of the archetypal English structured suit.

The shoulders are padded, but not to any extreme (less than Chittleborough & Morgan, for example). The lapels have a little belly, before straightening out (unlike any species of Italian). And the jacket is fairly long, more than covering my seat.

It is broadly fair to say that the style is the most common among English tailors today, and has been for some time.

There may be subtle differences in padding or drape, but most conform to these rough principles and proportions, historically derived from nineteenth century dress uniforms.

 

 

House: Dege & Skinner

Address: 10 Savile Row, London

Sitedege-skinner.co.uk

Cutter: Nicholas De’ath

Price (at time of writing): £4925 (incl VAT)

Suit starting price: £4925 (incl VAT)

 

I had the suit made by Dege in 2016.

The tobacco linen was driven by the fact I loved a similar suit made by Sastreria Langa in Spain in 2014, but not the make or weight.

The linen that time had been light at 9oz and not very starched, both aspects of linen not woven in Ireland. This time I went for 11oz from W Bill instead, which I have found I prefer for the way it rumples rather than wrinkles.

Tobacco linen still seems to be a trend, though it’s a long-running one at this point. I was copying someone else when I had mine made in 2014 – though I can’t remember who. And readers still today talk about it like a fashion.

 

 

I imagine that the overall look of this suit will go down well with quite a few readers.

Its shoulders, structure and length are elegant. The closed quarters mean less shirt is exposed. That and the length at the back make the legs look longer – because you cannot see where they end.

I fundamentally agree these things are flattering, and it’s why I don’t think I’ll ever stop liking or wearing English structured tailoring.

I wore this suit during a trip to Naples last year, complete with panama hat, and I felt like the very image of an English gentleman.

 

 

The only issue is that it is so formal in its smartness.

White tie is also incredibly flattering, with its high trousers, cutaway fronts and sweeping tails. But that’s not enough reason to wear it. To be stylish, it needs to be socially and culturally appropriate too.

The key advantage that softer, usually Italian cuts have is that they can look casual and informal, yet retain many of the flattering aspects of good tailoring. Like an emphasised shoulder, nipped waist and ‘V’ on the chest.

 

 

But to return to this Dege & Skinner.

The shoulder is not that wide, at 5⅞ inches. However, we’re measuring the shoulder seam, and the neck is not as high as some other suits (eg Richard Anderson); so it is shortened at the neck end and looks wider than the measurement suggests.

There appears to be a little roping at the top of the sleevehead, but there is no sleevehead roll in there: this is merely the shoulder pad and its canvas running out into the top of the sleeve.

 

 

The lapel is typically English, curving out slightly from the waist button, before straightening as it approaches the notch.

Most other things are moderate and typical too. The buttoning point (19¼ inches from the shoulder seam), the sleeve, the suppression of waist and back: all sit in the middle of a range among other English suits in this series.

The only things that are different are minor ones: the outbreast pocket is rather higher, at 9¼ inches rather than 10 inches (bottom of the pocket to the shoulder seam); and the vent is longer, at 10¾ inches.

 

 

A last point is the finishing, which includes more handwork than the suits in this series from Richard Anderson or Henry Poole.

The in-breast pockets are cut into the cloth rather than the lining, which takes rather more time but should be stronger. And little points like the piping there are also done, nicely and neatly, by hand.

In terms of overall style, this suit always makes me feel very summery and I picked deliberately bright accessories for it.

The blue-and-white striped cotton/linen shirt (from Luca Avitabile) is worn with a lemon-yellow knitted-wool tie and blue/brown cotton handkerchief (both from Anderson & Sheppard).

The suit looks rather more chic with a simple blue shirt and navy tie. But this feels celebratory.

The socks are green cotton. The shoes are the Chelsea from Edward Green: dark-oak antique on the 82 last.

 

 

Style breakdown

  • Shoulder width: 5⅞ inches
  • Shoulder padding: Moderate
  • Sleevehead: Slight roping, caused by pad and canvas, no sleehead roll
  • Sleeve: Moderate
  • Cuff: 10¾ inches
  • Lapel: 3⅝ inches, slight belly then straight
  • Gorge height: 4 inches
  • Drape: Small
  • Outbreast pocket height: 9¼ inches
  • Buttoning point: 19¼ inches
  • Waist suppression: Moderate
  • Quarters: Small, straight
  • Length: 32¼ inches
  • Back seam: Moderate suppression
  • Vent height: 10¾ inches
  • Trouser width at knee: 20¼ inches
  • Trouser width at cuff: 16½ inches

Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

Flash vs fuddy

Flash vs fuddy

Friday, June 18th 2021
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Here's an idea.

I reckon men face two, polarised dangers in their style that we haven't discussed before, or at least not formalised.

One is being too flash or showy; the other is appearing too old-fashioned - a ‘fuddy duddy’. 

When guys wear shoes that are too pointy, trousers that are too tight, or shirts unbuttoned just a bit too far, they risk looking flash. 

But equally when they favour high-waisted trousers, fedoras and braces, they can risk looking too ‘fuddy’. (It’s a word now - I like the alliteration too much.)

In many ways these are two extremes of a spectrum. Like formal vs informal, or urban vs rural. 

This crystallised for me recently in a conversation about loafers. 

My interlocutor expressed a dislike of my Belgravia tassel loafers because they were a little ‘flash’. Tassels, for them, were associated with toffs and playboys. 

However, they also weren’t a fan of my Alden LHS loafers. For them, the Alden loafer was too wide, too chunky, too reminiscent of an old man’s slipper. 

The perfect loafer for them - we discovered, after a bit of internet show-and-tell - was the Edward Green Piccadilly. All the slimness of the Belgravia, but without the tassels. The perfect mid-point between flash and fuddy. 

(Below, top to bottom: Belgravia, Piccadily, Alden LHS)

Of course the two extremes have their attractions as well. That’s why men tend towards them. 

The ‘flash’ end of the spectrum feels like it has more obvious style. It’s sexy, out there, saying something. It’s an easier look to sell, not least because it always looks good on a model, even if not on everyone else.

It feels young - and indeed to some extent this spectrum could be seen as between perceptions of young and old. 

The ‘fuddy’ end is more classic and elegant. It’s traditional, and so often seen as more authentic. Its charms are also often subtler, and therefore it can be seen as more sophisticated and intelligent. 

PS readers will tend towards this end of the spectrum. But our familiarity with it also means we know it can go too far. Whether it’s the classic menswear of pinstriped suits and tie pins, or the vintage dressing of flight jackets and cargo pants, it always has the potential to become period.

So how do you avoid getting too close to either extreme?

Mostly, by choosing moderate versions of a style, by not pushing anything too far. Wear higher waisted trousers, but not up under the ribs and not with braces. Wear tasselled loafers, but not too pointy or flimsy, and perhaps in brown suede rather than alligator. 

In fact that last example is a useful one to illustrate this balance. 

Brown suede is a pretty dowdy, dull material. There’s nothing shiny or exotic about it. In a double-soled derby, it can look pretty stodgy. Which makes it the ideal material to make some tassel loafers look less Eurotrash. 

This balance comes up a lot in PS articles, such as our recent one on white jeans. There I suggested as white jeans can risk looking flash, it’s good to have a slightly looser leg, a higher rise, and always a slightly off-white colour. 

Clothing also looks less extreme when it’s clearly practical. Unbuttoning another button of your shirt looks much less flashy when it’s actually hot. If the weather justifies it. Same goes for shoes without socks. 

One reason I think Western style has a perennial popularity - and is particularly strong at the moment - is that it’s a more rugged version of the ‘flash’ look. 

Boots are often pointy and jeans are often tight. There is a sexiness about it, but in a rugged, authentic way. At its root, it feels more masculine than the playboy equivalent. 

And at the other end of the spectrum, I think Ivy has a particular appeal because it is classic and traditional, but also sporty. 

The ethos of Ivy is casual and experimental, playfully mixing styles while understanding craft and traditions. And adding some actual sport, some genuine masculine athleticism, always helps.

I feel like this article might be most useful in the future. As a reference point, to link back to in upcoming discussions. 

Cultural associations are inescapable, and come up in almost every debate we have about style. I think flash v fuddy (do shout if you can think of a better name) will be useful in positioning those associations. 

And please don’t think any of this means you can’t wear what you want. Rock alligator tassel loafers if you can. Just do so with taste, intelligence, and a healthy amount of self-awareness. 

The Real McCoy’s chinos: Review

The Real McCoy’s chinos: Review

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If the last chinos we reviewed in this series were a little more unusual (from Casatlantic) then today we’re back with a very good, very everyday pair. 

Similar in that respect to the first brand we covered - Rubato - just more on the workwear end of the spectrum. 

These are the Joe McCoy chino trousers from Japanese brand The Real McCoy’s. 

As regular readers will know, I’m a big fan of The Real McCoy’s because they generally have the same aim as I’ve always had with tailoring: the highest quality, with pretty subtle, classic style. 

Although they are essentially a repro brand - faithfully reproducing American clothing from the 1940s and 50s - the pieces they reproduce are mostly quite understated and wearable. 

They aren’t cheap. That focus on quality and precise reproduction means they have to order very small runs of material and hardware, often getting a mill to produce something entirely new. These chinos are £265.

I don’t really care whether the reproduction is precise or not, but I do care deeply about quality. And I’m usually prepared to pay a little more if those two have to come together. 

So what makes these chinos so useful, so everyday? 

The first is the colour. This pale beige is a standard American military shade, but it’s also an civilian classic. It's the one you wore from Gap when you were a kid, or perhaps from Ralph Lauren when you were a little older. 

It goes with everything: navy and black, brown and green, cold and warm. The only possible exception is mid- to light grey tops, like a grey sweatshirt. But even then it can work if there’s some contrast elsewhere, like a white T-shirt or a dark belt. 

When I was a teenager, and wearing baggy versions of these from Gap, I’d have a black, long-sleeved Pearl Jam T-shirt on top. (I still wear an old favourite now and again, though usually for housepainting or similar.) 

Today, my favourite accompaniments are a white-oxford button-down shirt, or a blue sweatshirt like the one from Merz b Schwanen (via Trunk) shown here. That’s a size 5, worn with an old blue cotton bandana. 

The other thing that makes the McCoy chinos so everyday is the cut.

These are not original military wide-legged or high-rise chinos. They have a hem measurement of 20.5cm and 29.5cm at the thigh (in this, a size 32). They are slim, though not skinny. 

Compare that to the more common shape of classic menswear chinos, like the Armoury Army style, which has a hem of 23.5cm and a thigh measurement of 31cm. 

McCoy’s does do a wider-leg chino too, the US Army 41. But this Joe McCoy pair is specifically inspired by the ones Steve McQueen used to wear. Often with a sweatshirt, and most famously in The Great Escape

Interestingly, The Real McCoy’s doesn’t have the licence to use the McQueen name, but another Japanese company called Toys McCoy does. The two used to be part of the same outfit, along with Freewheelers, but the three split into different labels years ago. 

Son of a Stag in London stocks Toys McCoy and I have tried their official version, but prefer this pair. 

The rise on these chinos is also quite mainstream: I measure the front rise as 28cm inches, although the size guide says they should be 29. They did lose at least a centimetre from the original raw state, as the guide predicted. 

That’s definitely a mid-rise, and lower than more Army-inspired pairs. It’s the same as the Rubato pair covered previously, though those are a little higher at the back. 

The biggest difference from that Rubato pair and any mainstream chino is the weight and strength of the cloth. It is dense and tough. More so than any other chino I’ve worn or covered. 

It’s still nothing compared to heavy denims, like my 21oz pair from Blackhorse Lane. And it has softened nicely after a few washes. But it's that toughness that makes it feel like a workwear chino.

One thing we haven’t talked about in our coverage of chinos is whether the material is a left or a right-hand twill. 

In general, most dress trousers are a right-hand twill and most mainstream, casual chinos are a left-hand twill. You can spot it from the direction the twill of the cloth runs down the trousers (top right to bottom left, or top left to bottom right).

What’s the difference? Well, in general a right-hand twill tends to be denser and sharper, while a left-hand twill is more open and softer. 

The reason is that the yarn gets twisted in a different direction as it’s woven - often referred to as an ‘S’ or a ‘Z’ twill, illustrating the direction as a letter. A left-hand or S twill gets twisted more in the weave, and so produces a harder and smoother material. 

Below: Real McCoys on the left, with a right-hand twill; Incotex on the right with a left-hand.

As I said, dress cottons are right-hand, and so are chinos we’ve covered before like the Rubato pair, the original Armoury Army chinos, and this Real McCoy’s pair. 

By contrast, the newer Armoury Army chinos are left-hand weave, as are mainstream chinos like Incotex.

When The Real McCoy’s calls its cotton a ‘West Point’ cloth, this is what it’s referring to. Army officers - from West Point military academy - tended to have smarter chinos, with a right-hand twill. 

Neither is necessarily better, and as with all cloth, it's only one factor alongside weight, fibre, finish and so on.

In general left-hand tends to feel softer, but there’s also a particular softness about a dense cloth like right-hand cotton which has been worn and washed a lot. Right-hand also tends to look a little shiny before it’s washed a couple of times. 

Elsewhere, these Real McCoy’s chinos are finely made, with all reproduction points all picked up as you'd expect, including urea buttons on the fly and pockets. 

Often a good sign of a quality make on chinos is the way the back pockets - usually uncovered and unfastened, at least on one side - keep a straight line over time. They are sufficiently reinforced and closely stitched to keep their shape. These do that well, as do my old Armoury ones

Overall, I think these McCoys chinos are a great everyday option. They’d suit any guy that wants something to chuck on with a sweatshirt at the weekend, and perhaps spend half his day on the floor playing with the kids. They only get better the more they’re worn like that, then washed and worn, washed and worn. 

The only issues are inevitably the price, and perhaps the rise. Ideally I’d have that a couple of centimetres higher, at least on the back. 

But then, this is really comparing the trousers to bespoke, where you can everything you want. And that’s something I’m trying to get out of the habit with. It rarely happens with RTW. 

Other clothes:

  • Navy sweatshirt from Merz B Schwanen via Trunk (size 5)
  • Vintage blue cotton bandana from The Vintage Showroom
  • White trainers from Margaret Howell/Mizuno
  • Rolex watch, GMT Master Ref. 1675 with faded bezel
  • Donegal coat, Permanent Style sample

Feel free to ask about any of the clothes in the comments. Most have also been covered previously, but I'm happy to supply the link.

Joe McCoy chino trousers in beige, size 32 waist, cost £265. 

therealmccoys.com

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

The Western shirt four ways (with Begg & Co cardigan)

The Western shirt four ways (with Begg & Co cardigan)

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One of the reasons Western and denim shirts have been so popular in recent years is their versatility. 

On the one hand, their conventional pale blue means they sit easily beneath all manner of jackets or suits, while adding an intentional, unexpected note. 

But on the other, they’re still a casual shirt, with all the texture and design add-ons to prove it. Which means they can be worn with the most casual of trousers, such as workwear chinos. 

Chambray shirts, if similarly pale, can be just as useful - but usually with more subtle style details like pockets and contrast stitching, rather than MOP snaps and pointed yokes. 

These, along with the oxford, must be the shirts of the years to come. They're all pieces that can just as easily sit under casual tailoring during the week as with beat-up favourites at the weekend. 

I find I wear Western shirts in different ways too - some more conventional and others less so, depending on how I feel and where I am. 

This article shows four of them. All of which are easy to switch between, whether for reasons of style, warmth, or variation for its own sake (for example when travelling). 

Above is the first, the standard. A pale-blue Western shirt from RRL worn with a black-cashmere shawl cardigan from Begg and dark-olive chinos from Blackhorse Lane

There is a dark-brown surcingle belt with abrass buckle, just visible underneath the fold of the shirt. Not shown, on the feet, are brown-suede boots. 

The combination is an example of the cold-colour wardrobe, given the dark, cold, muted shade of the trousers, black knit and pale shirt. There’s nothing bright, warm or strong. 

The only style choice that might stand out is the peek of a white vest. Which we’ll get to in a minute. 

The combination’s coldness and darkness mean it’s unlikely to draw attention, despite actually being fairly unusual in its colours and textures. 

That changes as soon as you do something quirky like button the shirt all the way up. 

This is probably smarter, certainly warmer, and is particularly nice with a Western shirt because its front is so decorative: mother-of-pearl snaps topped off by a shank button at the collar. 

I tried having a bespoke dress shirt made in this manner a few years ago, with a covered placket and then a domed button at the top. But it always looked a little odd.

It’s still unusual with a Western shirt, but with obvious roots. 

Of course, context is everything with clothes. Our feelings about them are almost entirely driven by experiences and associations.

(A point well made in our recent article with Ethan Wong, where in his milieu a bucket hat could be less unusual than a blazer.)

A buttoned-up Western shirt might be less unusual in parts of the US (though perhaps also have unwanted associations). In London it merely looks like a quirk, and one I like when it feels appropriate because of the weather or situation. 

Actually, it’s interesting to compare it to wearing knitwear similarly buttoned up, which we covered recently. I dislike that look for its associations with football pundits, but I doubt anyone in Texas would make the same connection. 

One reason I dislike the way those pundits wear this style is they do so without a jacket. This leaves a lot of bulk in the body, and is unflattering unless you’re in amazing shape. 

It’s the same with bow ties, with fine roll necks, and with this buttoned Western shirt. You’re giving up the open V of a collar, and the long line of a necktie, so you need the V of a jacket or cardigan more than ever.

It's even better if that jacket or cardigan is fastened. Which is why mine is.

Returning to the vest under the shirt, this is something people will love or hate (again, largely based on associations). 

On the positive side, it can look manly, workmanlike, redolent of manual workers and an older era. It can look sexy, a sneak peek of underwear, chest, the man beneath. Ethan and Jamie do it well, among others. 

On the negative side, it can remind one of an old man, a string vest, a singlet. Something that - let’s face it - very few men look good in without the shirt on top.

Those feelings can be substantially reduced by replacing the vest with a T-shirt, or a Henley-style vest. The T-shirt option looks American, more ranch, rather Ralph

Whichever you go for, the effect is understated if just the top two buttons are undone, as mine usually are and is shown at the top of this article.

The more buttons you undo, the more you’re pushing the look. One more is still pretty subtle and arguably flatters a T-shirt more, which is the only way I really wear it. With a vest (shown above) it makes me look a little pasty and a little skinny.  

A final option. A red bandana underneath the shirt collar. 

I’ll do a fuller piece on bandanas at a later date. For the moment, I just wanted to highlight that this is a nice way to add colour, and is rather fitting under a Western shirt. 

Interestingly, bright red is often the nicest colour with both Western and cold-colour combinations. Nothing else has quite the same pop, and it sits well with blues, blacks, and cold versions of both brown and green.

The watch cap shown here with the Wax Walker is a good example

The cardigan, by the way, is the Yacht model from Begg & Co - perhaps the nicest piece from their expansion into knitwear. 

It is in most respects the classic shawl collar we all know and love. But it’s been modernised a bit, with the hip pockets removed, no ribbing on the sleeves and a straighter cut. 

The cut is drapey, which some will prefer (and is probably more unisex). The sleeves are straighter too, though the downside of the lack of ribbing is you have to be quite precise with the length - otherwise there’s nothing to stop it falling over the hand.

It does come in some unusual colours, like pink, yellow and black. The availability of the latter is the reason I tried it. 

The shirt from RRL can be seen here. It’s a nice fit and wash, but I do wish the collar were longer. The belt is from Anderson & Sheppard, hereThe chinos will be reviewed separately soon. 

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

Remote, manufactured bespoke boots from Carreducker 

Remote, manufactured bespoke boots from Carreducker 

Friday, June 11th 2021
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I've known Deborah Carré and James Ducker (below)for many years, having first covered their workshops when they were at Cockpit Arts (those pictures of me and Luke!), then the opening of their service at Gieves & Hawkes, and more recently tried the saddle stitching in their new space at Chocolate Studios. 

We also made a great film together last year, discussing the industry with some more unusual cordwainers. 

Throughout that time, Deborah and James have been among the most interesting and innovative people I've known in shoemaking. 

Their style has always been quirky - perhaps as James put it to me recently, a 'magpie' style, with little interesting bits and pieces always being pulled in. Anything, really, that catches their eye.

That style hasn't always appealed to my classical tastes. But their approach to making and to business always has. 

They ran workshops from an early stage as Carreducker, partly to smooth out what can be quite an erratic income from bespoke. James taught shoemaking at Cordwainers for several years, but now that’s closed - after the school became part of London College of Fashion - the  Carreducker course is the only one left in the UK. 

They also started an online store for shoemaking tools a few years ago, called The Toolshed (below). That made sense given how many shoemakers they were training, all of whom needed supplies. But it’s also a valuable service for the industry as a whole, and something few people have done successfully in other crafts. 

In 2015 they also started offering ready-made shoes, but not just RTW versions of their bespoke designs, as others would do. Instead, when they found shoemaking outfits around the UK that they wanted to support, they designed a shoe with them and used a kickstarter campaign to pay for the shoes. Which has led to slippers made in Sheffield, desert boots made in Suffolk, and walking boots made in Derbyshire. 

Those are the shoes you can see on the Shop page of the Carreducker site

All of which, as per usual, is a way of introducing the reason for this post: that a more recent innovation convinced me to make a first pair of boots with James. 

Last year, Carreducker introduced what they call Bespoke Manufactured. Basically, a shoe made in exactly the same way as their bespoke, except that the soles are sewn on by machine. 

The welts are still sewn by hand, but doing the sole by machine saves £845 on the normal bespoke price. In fact, they’ve just this month gone further than that, breaking down bespoke again to include Blake-stitched soles (no welt, so no hand welting), which saves another £355. 

This means they can cater to a much wider audience. For example, they recently made shoes for an older lady that had various issues with her feet. The Blake-stitched service meant that she received the same expert fitting and lastmaking, on a quality shoe, for under £2000. 

That’s still a lot of money, of course, but more affordable than the normal bespoke price (with Carreducker and others) of over £3500. 

James also recently made a pair using this service for a man who wanted something with so much space in the front of the shoes, that they weren’t even touching his feet. No constraint at all. 

“We did the consultation, all the measuring, and got the lasts back after a few weeks,” says James (below). “I thought they looked horrible, they were so big. But the customer was ecstatic - it was exactly what he wanted.”

I’ve long argued that high-end shoemaking needs more options between ready-made and bespoke. The high price, and sometimes unpredictable nature, of bespoke shoemaking puts a lot of people off and stops them making that jump. 

One option is to reduce the lastmaking work, by modifying a RTW last as Saint Crispin’s does. Another is to reduce the handwork, as Carreducker is doing here. 

When James and Deborah started out, their initial offering was actually bespoke-making on RTW lasts - a different option again, and one offered by several makers today, such as Yohei Fukuda, Stefano Bemer and (most recently) Gaziano & Girling. 

“I don’t think anyone really understood what we were offering back then,” says James. “It would probably have been better understood today.”

Part of the reason James and Deborah (above, teaching our class) started with that combination was that they were both trained shoemakers - rather than lastmakers and fitters. 

James had gone to work for John Lobb Ltd after doing a shoe course in Barcelona (where he was an English teacher) and Deborah had used the QEST scheme to do a similar course, while working in marketing. 

They both continued their day jobs for a few years while starting Carreducker - James made for Lobb for over 10 years - and again, I think the broader awareness of Deborah’s background, for example, informs a lot of what the pair offer today. 

I was very impressed, for example, by the thoroughness of the remote measuring and fitting system that James used for my boots. 

We had to make them remotely, because it was during lockdown and no one was allowed to visit anyone else. But of course, a successful remote system also opens up the whole world of customers potentially, if it can work. 

James not only sent detailed instructions, but he had created videos showing how the measuring should be done, and sent foam pads to imprint your feet (something others use, but I’ve only personally found at Texas Traditions in Austin). 

So, there was good reason to try Carreducker, because I’ve never done so before, because they’re doing something original, and because the remote service meant it had the potential to apply to all readers.

The only missing element was finding a style of shoe I liked, and fortunately I did that very easily. I hadn’t looked at the bespoke gallery for a while (it’s a little hidden - you can see it here) but when I did there was plenty to choose from. 

You can see, perusing that gallery, what I mean about the style - it’s very different from, for example, browsing Yohei Fukuda. The look is more playful, more rugged, with more colour and more natural-leather edges. 

But I liked the look of the Gilbert Hunting Boot (above). It would be something I didn’t have, that perhaps demonstrated the crossover between my style and Carreducker’s, and was something I would find it difficult to buy ready-made. Boots that high are never comfortable on my ankle bones or calves. 

The whole process took almost a year, with various delays resulting from Covid. But I’m pleased to say I’ll be able to show the results soon. 

The costs for bespoke (all including VAT) are:
- Lasts, a one-off cost of £660 for all bespoke
- Hand-sewn construction, £2,590 on top of that, sometimes with extras for different skins or styles
- Manufactured (machine-sewn sole), £1,745
- Manufactured (Blake-stitched or cemented, so no hand-sewn welt), £1,390
- Trees always £210 and optional
- My boots were £660, plus £1745, plus £200 extra for being boots, total £2,605

www.carreducker.com/bespoke

Photography: Carreducker. Below, the Gieves service on display. 

PS (shorter) shorts are back

PS (shorter) shorts are back

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The PS Shorts go on sale again today, in the same colours as the past two years: khaki, olive and navy. Thank you to all readers for their patience waiting for the restock. 

There is only one major change, which is that the shorts are 1.5 inches shorter than the previous iteration. The inside-leg measurement has gone from 10 inches to 8.5. 

I made the tweak because I felt the shorter length would be more current, and so achieve the core aim of the shorts: to be classic, moderate and easy to wear. Almost anonymous. 

It’s not a big change - shorts these days are trending much shorter, like 6 inches. But I think it means they look average, and everyday. Whereas the old length might now stand out by looking long. 

Savile Row tailors always used to say that they never ignored trends, they just moderated them. 

So if lapels on mainstream suits went from 5 inches to 2 over the space of 20 years (perhaps, from the 80s to the 2000s) theirs would go from 4 to 3. And most of the time they would be somewhere in the middle, say 3¼ or 3½. 

I think the change to the PS shorts is doing something similar. 

When we launched them in 2018, I said I was tired of most shorts being extremes. On the high street, everything was tight to the thigh; in classic menswear circles, it was all repro-vintage, with big legs and gurkha tops. 

The aim was to be something in between: well-made, but easy for a normal guy to wear. The new design simply renews that aim. 

I’m sure some people will say this is a case of overanalysing. But I find the topic interesting, even just academically. 

Every year, brands tweak their styles, materials and colours based on trend reports or on what ‘feels right’ given everything else in the market. Forecasters earn a lot of money from predicting these things and telling those brands what to do. 

I have no plans to change anything else in the PS range for those reasons. It’s just as important to wear clothes that are distinct - particular styles which express one's personality. 

But where the aim of the item is to be distinctly average, it’s something to keep in mind. Tailors generally change their lapel widths because they don’t want the lapel to stand out. The fit can, and certainly the cloth - but they don’t want a statement lapel. 

Shorts, for men, are the same. For many guys it’s enough  just to be wearing them rather than trousers. And there’s plenty of room to be expressive elsewhere - with printed camp-collar shirts or old-fashioned sandals - if you want to. 

Or you can just be well-dressed, with a well-fitting linen shirt and espadrilles. As I try to be. 

In the photos here I’ve shown the PS shorts with a few more casual clothes than in the past - to mix together with those other, smarter shoots and demonstrate the versatility.

In the image above, the khaki pair are worn with a simple white T-shirt. I wear collared shirts and polos more, but when I do wear a T-shirt in Summer it tends to be something like this - white, simple and quality (usually a circular knit - here from The Flat Head).

They’re worn with black espadrilles, from Diego’s, which I find surprisingly versatile. You wouldn’t think black would be that useful in a casual shoe, but a reader commented last year that he wears nothing else in the Summer, and he’s right - they go with almost everything. 

It helps that a lot of my clothes are darker, colder colours like the dark-brown linen overshirt the outfit is also shown with above. That’s our upcoming collaboration with Luca Avitabile, about more soon.

Next I’ve shown the same outfit with a cotton sweatshirt, from Dunhill. 

There's been friendly mockery in the past about showing ‘Summer’ outfits that feature knitwear, but it’s something I regularly find I have with me, if only because you’re often met with air conditioning when you go indoors. 

And of course, in the evening there are few things more pleasant than putting on a jumper with shorts, as the sun dips gently below the horizon. 

Dunhill don’t do this sweatshirt anymore, which is a shame. It’s styled like a sweat, but uses a very light, fine cotton, which makes the hand wonderful, look a touch smarter, and feel pretty cool. 

I’m wearing my old Berkeley cap with that outfit - a gift from a friend years ago - which does well for Summer headwear with casual outfits. 

Summer hats aren't easy, unless you’re smart enough to wear a full panama. So I often switch between a baseball cap and a cheap, beaten-up straw hat - which is shown with the linen overshirt above. 

Stylish beach homes seem to be full of old hats like this, but it’s not an easy thing to actually buy. I recommend getting something you like the shape of, but can afford to mess up, and then treating it very badly. 

Sit on it, even stand on it, cut off any ribbon or edging, and pack it in anyhow with your other clothes. You can reshape it quite easily (use steam if needed) and the ill-treatment is the best thing for making the hat look suitably old and familiar. 

The last outfit shows the green shorts with our Madras-check linen

Apologies to those that wanted this shirt ready-made, rather than bespoke using our cloth. There seemed less point when it was available RTW from some other brands; but now it’s not, as far as I’m aware, we could make it for next year if enough people still want it. 

Wearing a shirt with shorts is a good way to retain some elegance in Summer. To avoid the look of shapeless, untucked polo and cargo shorts that often seems to be the default for men over 40.

Not a business shirt, of course, but something in linen or linen/cotton, whether classic white or blue, or a bolder check or awning stripe

I’m sure most readers will be familiar with the shorts and their basic design, but for those that aren’t, here’s a summary:

  • The shorts are 100% cotton
  • The green and khaki have belt loops and washed, ‘sport’ finish. The navy has side adjustors, so is smarter, and no washed finish
  • They have a coin section inside the right-hand pocket and one rear pocket on the right, fastened with a button
  • They are made by Italian factory Rota, who readers will probably be familiar with and make for several other high-end brands
  • The make is a good level for ready-to-wear, with great hardware, linings, buttons, and finishing. A machine make, but with a high level of precision
  • They are available in four sizes - small, medium, large and extra-large - equivalent to Italian sizes 46, 48, 50 and 52
  • They should be washed cool, at 30 degrees, and hung to dry before ironing.
  • Shipping is from the UK
  • Price (£175) does not not include VAT, as most PS customers live outside the EU. Taxes are added at checkout.
  • Available on the PS shop site here

In terms of alterations:

  • All the shorts can be taken in considerably at the waist, by 5cm (2 inches) at the most. It helps here that there is only one rear pocket, as large alterations won’t push two pockets oddly together. On the green and khaki shorts, such a reduction in the waist would also require the rear two belt loops to be taken off, and reduced to one, over the back seam.
  • The navy can also be taken out in the waist, by at least 3cm (1.25 inches) as there is considerable inlay there and running down the leg. However, the green and khaki cannot be taken out as this would leave lines around the old seam (as they are garment dyed and washed).
  • Both shorts can be shortened in length, at least by 5cm (2 inches). The bottom of the leg is obviously smaller than the thigh, but there isn’t much taper at the bottom. At the worst, the leg might need to be narrowed slightly as well. The green and khaki pairs, however, would require the turn-up to be cut off and machined on higher up, as again there are fade lines at the top and bottom of the turn-up.
  • The navy short can be lengthened, by at least 2cm (0.75 inches) by either reducing the size of the turn-up or changing the way the turn-up is made (currently it is folded over, making three layers of material. The folded layer can be reduced.) The other two cannot. 

Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

Below are pictures from previous shoots - demonstrating other ways to wear them. Note, though, that these all have the old, longer length.

Blouson, chore, or leather jacket? An exercise in casual paradigms

Blouson, chore, or leather jacket? An exercise in casual paradigms

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Three years ago, I wrote an article called ‘Five paradigms of casual clothing’, which attempted a rough division of informal men’s clothing into different styles.

It was an interesting exercise. The categories were necessarily very broad, and encompassed many niches and trends; there was also obviously a lot of overlap between them, and some pieces that were more universal than others; but still, it was possible to describe general categories, and allocate types of clothing to them. 

I thought of that division recently because a few readers were asking for advice on casual jackets. Should they buy a blouson or a chore jacket? Which was more formal, which more versatile? 

Usually, formality is the most important aspect of clothing we discuss. It’s crucial to tailoring, and I understood why readers were asking that question first. 

But with casual clothing, probably just as important is the style tradition the piece of clothing comes from. Its roots, its culture, and its resulting associations.

So I thought it would be useful to revisit those categories of clothing, and consider how they affect a particular purchase, such as a casual blouson/bomber/chore jacket. 

To recap, the five categories were:

  • British country. Think rural clothing in most parts of the Western world, given it largely has English origins. Tweed, cords and waxed cotton; flat caps and fisherman’s sweaters.
  • American prep/Ivy. Has many roots in the above, but America’s cultural influence means that it is now widespread and has many offshoots: French Ivy, Rugged Ivy in Japan, suedeheads in the UK.
  • Italian smooth. This needs a better name. But it is the Italian style, the continental look, that went international in the 1970s and ever since has dominated most upmarket menswear brands. Slim cuts, luxurious materials, simple colour palettes. 
  • Workwear. Clothes at least originally built for work, or service. Encompassing military styles after WW2, and Western clothing too. United by rugged materials in particular. 
  • Sportswear. Modern sportswear. Sneakers and synthetics. Not something we touch on much, but obviously mixes with the others, and hugely influential. 

Of the jackets the reader was considering - largely derivatives of the chore coat or blouson - a chore definitely falls under workwear in this categorisation. Originally for French workers, it's straight cut, and patch pockets make it simple and practical. 

The blouson or bomber jacket is trickier. Most of the styles have military origins, but they’ve been consistently repurposed ever since - whether it’s leather jackets being worn by bikers or field jackets by students. Indeed, some styles have more in common with Varsity jackets, which are definitely Ivy.

I think here the material and hardware are more significant. The reader was largely looking at dark-brown suede models, and this feels more luxurious, more Italian. In most iterations, that’s the category it belongs in - particularly I think when zipped (like the Connolly below) rather than buttoned (like the Valstarino above). 

So why is this categorisation useful to the reader? 

Because it tells him the chore coat will sit better with workwear chinos, with T-shirts and with sweatshirts. The suede blouson, on the other hand, will be more at home slim Incotex chinos, or indeed with tailored trousers, and cashmere sweaters. 

The difference between the two is about style, about different traditions of clothing, as much as anything else. So the reader should consider which of these two they wear more - which, perhaps, is more their style - when making the decision.

You might suggest this distinction is still about formality. The blouson is simply smarter than the chore coat. That’s true, but style is also important too (where it rarely is with tailoring). 

And often, formality has little to do with it. For example, which is smarter, a denim chore coat or a denim trucker jacket? A brown-horsehide motorcycle jacket or a brown-waxed Barbour jacket?

The bigger difference there is stylistic traditions, and associations. That’s the reason the Barbour would look silly with cowboy boots, and the horsehide wouldn’t look great with wellies. 

I think that when readers are considering how to build a small, quality wardrobe of clothes, they should keep these distinctions in mind. 

But there are several caveats. First, some items of clothing are so universal that they work with anything. Jeans are the obvious example. They’re not going to look out of place with a shooting jacket, a varsity jacket, a leather jacket or a Nike windbreaker. 

Still, the style of jean might vary. Zegna or Loro Piana outerwear usually works with rather different jeans than something from Bryceland’s or The Real McCoy’s. 

Second caveat: some of the most stylish people and stylish looks come from mixing traditions together. The unexpected pairing of a tweed jacket with a cowboy boot. A vintage black-leather jacket worn with pressed charcoal flannels. 

But that doesn't show that the categories don’t exist. Rather, it’s only because they exist that there’s contrast in the look, which makes it looks so unexpected and stylish. 

The other arguments against analysing clothing like this are usually that the points are obvious, that they are a care of overthinking, or that they’re too prescriptive. 

As to being prescriptive, I’m certainly not saying readers should dress purely within one of these traditions. Just like with the so-called ‘rules’ of menswear, it merely pays to understand traditions - certain ways people have dressed historically - before going off and breaking them. 

You may find it helpful, for example, to root yourself in the casual chic of Stoffa, Rubato or Saman Amel, before experimenting with the addition of a western piece into the wardrobe, like a cowboy shirt or an alligator belt. 

Or you might find you’re more of an Ivy guy, with a wardrobe of preppy chinos, oxford shirts and Alden loafers. At which point to might try mixing in something more workwear, like a vintage chore coat over the top of those chinos and a sweatshirt

As to whether these points are all obvious, they can’t be because readers ask about them. They may well be for you; they may well be for most people; but they certainly aren’t for everyone. 

And as we discussed in our post on creating your own style, people that find style easy have often just absorbed more of it subconsciously. They can just try combinations and think they ‘look wrong’. That doesn’t mean that what lies behind it can’t be spelled out - can’t be learned. 

I guess a final objection might be that fashion is so mixed now, so global and so rehashed and rehashed, that these categories no longer exist. Drake’s used to sell Valstar, then sold chore coats, and now sells trucker jackets. 

I think that has more to do with how Drake’s has evolved over time. Most menswear shops are actually still quite narrow and consistent. Trunk sells Valstar and Incotex. Clutch sells horsehide jackets and workwear chinos. Because customers want things that go together.

Actually chinos are another good example, similar to suede/leather jackets. We’ve talked a lot more about ‘chinos’ in recent months, but that word covers a huge range: from bespoke trousers in the finest cottons, through Italian chinos with a bit of elastane, to workwear models in coarse, heavy canvas. 

Asking for a ‘chino’ is like asking for a cotton shirt: it runs everything from a superfine Alumo to a Buffalo-check flannel. You need to be more precise. 

Casual clothing is a lot harder to navigate than tailoring: it’s bigger, less culturally consistent, and more subject to fashion.

There's also a tendency today to think that you can buy and wear any piece of clothing. That if you can't find a way for it to work with everything else, you just lack style.

Actually, most people dress more in one category/tradition/paradigm than another, and experiment with occasional pieces from elsewhere. It's less complicated and more coherent.

That's a particularly good lesson for younger guys, trying to build up a wardrobe of quality clothing. When you don’t have that many clothes, and you can’t afford to buy that many clothes, everything has to work with everything.

So even though there are lots of shades of grey here, and many traditions overlap, I think these style paradigms are always worth keeping in mind

The illustrations are nearly all of casual, short brown leather or suede jackets, to compare. Top to bottom:

Desert boots (and knitwear, and bespoke) at Anglo-Italian 

Desert boots (and knitwear, and bespoke) at Anglo-Italian 

Friday, June 4th 2021
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Somehow, Jake and Anglo-Italian manage to keep relatively under the radar here in the UK, despite being one of the few classic-menswear shops keeping that spirit relevant. 

Perhaps it’s because they don’t actively seek out mainstream coverage, or because so much of the business is overseas - the shop has almost become a showroom for an online store, such are the international sales.

Whatever the reason, I think it means Jake’s consistent innovation often goes unheralded. 

Anglo-Italian is one of the few shops in London selling good flannels, good oxford shirts and good brogues. But there’s always an original point, an angle, that shows each piece is being considered fresh each time. Whether it’s travel flannel that wrinkles less, or vintage stubby lasts on the shoes, there’s always a viewpoint - albeit a very subtle one.

Some of these tweaks are my style, some are not.  

For example, in the current collection I love the Ice Cotton crewnecks (above). ‘Ice Cotton’ is not an Anglo term - it refers to a particular yarn - but Jake’s version is a touch shorter, with a smaller collar, such that it works on most people without a shirt underneath. (Or it does on me, which does happen that often.) 

On the flip side, I see what Jake is doing with the Sport Sweatshirt, which is made with cotton on the inside but merino on the outside. The idea is to replicate the feel of a cotton sweatshirt, but with a smarter outward appearance - one more in keeping with the Anglo look. 

He succeeds, but it’s not something I personally want. I prefer to have one or the other. With merino on the outside, there’s only part of the sweatshirt feeling, and I like full merino knits on their own too. For a different approach to sweatshirts, I probably prefer the Armoury’s Indoorsman Sweatshirt, with its waffle knit. 

But this is a personal preference; I know others would disagree. And far more important is that Jake is constantly doing these things, all the time. So there are always new things I love. 

One of those is the Anglo Desert Boot, which I picked up a couple of weeks ago. 

Most of the desert boots I’ve had in the past have been of lesser quality - the likes of Clarks and similar - or have been styled more like a regular dress shoe, with a more structured toe and so a smarter look. 

Jake’s thing with shoes generally is to give them a low profile. Which means a toe that slopes downwards when seen from the side, and less of a spring (so the toe is flatter to the ground). 

With the loafers that also means a lower vamp, further down the foot, and that’s replicated subtly by lower lacing on the desert boots. They also have a lower height at the back, which makes them look even more laidback, and stops them getting caught on a tailored trouser leg. 

It’s striking how different these things make the boot compared to my Shanklins from Edward Green, for example. I love them, but everything from the height to the toe to the thin welt to the makes them look like a smarter, luxury style. 

Jake designed the boot as something to wear with tailoring as well as T-shirts and chinos. 

I would wear it with tailoring, but only the most relaxed kind. Certainly, with flannel trousers and a crewneck. Not with something like my Sexton flannel suit. And only possibly with my Panico flannel suit

Just as interesting for me, though, is that the relaxed shape means they work with even more casual things than Anglo-Italian sells, such as the hoodie and workwear chinos shown on me above. 

Colour-wise, a tan boot might be a touch nicer with this outfit, but the softness and low profile of the desert boot work really well. 

And I think this is something men could get a lot of use out of. Because often the temptation with a casual outfit like this is to wear trainers, or perhaps chunky boots. There are few options in between. And if you’re an older guy who doesn’t want to wear trainers, or its too warm for big boots, these are a really nice alternative. 

The quality is good too. It’s a simple make, as with most desert boots - stitchdown construction, no lining. But the suede is thick and supple, and the crepe sole seems to wear well. 

Crepe soles can be pretty cheap, and when they are the edges quickly fray - that’s what happened with cheaper ones I had in the past. The bits can be cut off, but you don’t want to be doing it all the time.

The Anglo ones use a denser, harder crepe that suffers less from this problem. They’re also single, dark colours: almost as bad as the fraying on crepe is the natural-coloured soles that have the edges painted black. Given the texture of crepe, that always looks messy. 

I was a little concerned when trying on the Anglo boots, that the place where the two pieces of leather overlap on the inside of the shoe, seemed to move around and rub. But that settled down quickly, and now they’re very comfortable. 

I sized up slightly, taking a 9 when I’m normally an 8.5. 

Jake says he knew the best way to get a more refined version of the desert boot was to have them made in Italy, and that’s probably a good way to think about it. They’re an Italian version of a Clarks boot (and indeed the maker is an old Clarks supplier). 

Among other boots I have or have tried, the Edward Greens are beautiful but seem to have more in common with an English dress boot. Alden is similarly low in profile, but leather soled and rougher. Carmina is more similar to Edward Green, but not at the same quality. 

Lastly, Anglo just recently started offering an MTO service on the boots. For £300 (up from £245) you can pick your suede, size and sole - light crepe, dark crepe or Vibram (which I like less). 

Actually, one more thing. As readers have noticed and inquired about, Anglo-Italian are in the process of setting up their own bespoke tailoring

This will be housed in a new space around the corner from the current shop, and managed by a young cutter and coatmaker hired last year. In the intervening months Jake and the team have had great fun pulling apart all his old bespoke suits and learning little making details. 

The service will offer the Anglo-Italian style, with its soft shoulders and roomy fit, in a full bespoke service - full hand work, full fittings process etc. 

Prices will be good for anything using Anglo-Italian cloth. Jackets start at £2700 including VAT, suits at £3350. Anything using another bunch will be more expensive, with suits around £3500 for example. 

More on that service soon. 

Clothes on me: Real McCoy’s sweatshirt in ‘Milk’; old Army Chinos from The Armoury; black bandana from Clutch Cafe. 

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

Interwar art, posters and menswear – with Fab Gorjian

Interwar art, posters and menswear – with Fab Gorjian

Wednesday, June 2nd 2021
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The most elegant advertising of the past was produced in the 1920s and 1930s by lithograph - often carved onto stone rather than metal, before being printed. 

They were incredibly over-resourced. Train companies like LNER hired commercial artists to produce original paintings, which were carved by a different craftsman onto stone tablets, and then printed by hand. A simple poster on the wall of a station was a work of art in itself. 

The trajectory of the style was interesting too. Having begun as information posters - with intricate paintings and rows of text - they became increasingly simple and stylised.

This was influenced by the art of the time, but also by a realisation that posters needed a simple, evocative message to drive interest. You can see that trend in the four images below. 

I’ve always found this period of graphic art inspiring. 

My parents had framed posters for local attractions like Kew Gardens on our walls at home, and of course the menswear illustrations from Esquire and Apparel Arts are very much in the same mould. 

That was what drew me to the work of Fab Gorjian (below), and I bought an original artwork of his last week, as a 40th birthday present for myself. 

I didn't realise until I spoke to Fab, though, how involved his process is - how far he goes to create works as close as possible to those interwar tourism posters. I had assumed, just looking at the textures, that they were watercolours. 

"I tried so many different techniques to recreate that lithograph look," he says. 

"It's hard because the surface is matte, and uniform, but still with this subtle texture from the paint and little imperfections in the printing."

Eventually, Fab came up with his own, original process. He draws the original image, scans it, and then uses the scan to create a stencil for each colour. 

The colours are then applied with a roller onto the stencil, one at a time. The roller creates the desired texture (imagine the effect you get when you roll paint onto a wall) but the edges are clean and sharp.

White areas are left unpainted, as was the case with the originals. 

It's not easy to get the precision, because every time you use a stencil to roll on a new colour, you're hiding 90% of the image beneath it. 

Fab has got pretty good at this now though, to the extent that he deliberately overlaps some areas to create slight imperfections - again, as the originals had. 

In the image above for example - commissioned by Fox Brothers - you can see the slight gaps and overlaps intended to create that effect. 

Above is the painting I bought.

To create it, Fab had his girlfriend stand in this pose, wearing a pair of his own tobacco-brown trousers. Which was great, in that it created a natural-feeling pose and some beautiful folds in the fabric. 

The only issue was she is rather smaller than Fab, so the trousers looked even wider-legged than reality. “I had to make that up a little, filling out the trouser with a slightly bigger calf for example,” he says. 

There’s a lovely tradition of this with the original railway posters, where artists often modelled characters on their wives or other family members. That’s why all the women in one poster sometimes have the same face. 

I chose that image from among Fab’s work because it has real style and flair. But also because the tobacco/cream/black combination is one I particularly love.

I don’t wear it in the way he draws it much, but I do in a suit/shirt/tie (shown above, in Naples) as well as shirt/trouser/shoe. 

I think images like this also illustrate what elegance there can be in menswear without the need for neckwear, handkerchiefs or double breasteds. The elegance is in the lines, the proportions and the colours.

It doesn't matter whether you’re wearing a suit or not. 

Fab has done wonderful work for Fox, which I've included above and below. But I don't find many of the clothing combinations reflect my view on style. 

They are, of course, deliberately period, but outfits with hats and spectator shoes feel less representative of what I love in menswear. Simple elegance below the waist - or more practical, energetic images, like the cycling one below - are more me. 

I wanted to buy the original work from Fab, rather than a print, because I’m at an age where I want to hang original art - in a house where I’ve brought up my family, and have no plan of moving from. 

My wife and I bought a painting from local artist Mark Pearson last year for the same reason. It helped that doing so supported our local gallery, and that many of the images are of local places that have significance for us.

We do still have a couple of posters, but they’re kept for sentimental reasons: a special gig, a visit to the Italian National Cinema Museum on our honeymoon. In fact, it hadn’t occurred to me before but both have a lot in common with those interwar tourism posters, and Fab’s work. 

The gig poster in particular, from The White Stripes’ 2005 tour, could easily have come from Fab’s portfolio. Even if it wasn’t made in the same original or exacting manner. Perhaps someday I'll track down the original of that too. 

Fab's prints sell out quickly and none are currently available. However, more are apparently being put up soon. You can find them here, and they cost around £300 each.

Fab is also always available for commissions, which start around £1500. My original painting was £1200.

His work is also currently on display at Fortnum & Mason.

www.fabgorjian.com