PS Presents ’23: Arterton, LEJ, Marrkt, Fox and Rubato

PS Presents ’23: Arterton, LEJ, Marrkt, Fox and Rubato

Friday, January 27th 2023
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The PS Presents pop-up shop at 20 Savile Row is back this Spring, with a new raft of brands. 

The little shop will be occupied by Arterton for the whole of February, by L.E.J for the whole of April, and by four brands during March: Marrkt, Fox Brothers, Permanent Style and Rubato. 

We have the shop until the end of June, so more guests in May and June may well be announced later. 

The precise dates and opening times for each incumbent have also not been confirmed, but when they are, I’ll add them to the top of this post. They will be similar to those last Autumn, however, which you can see here

Arterton are first, opening next week on February 1st and there until February 28th. 

Arterton sell a few of their own products, including garment bags, but they are also the agent for other makers, including Nakata hangers, Paul Brunngard shoecare, Yearn shoes and Bridlen shoes. 

The first two are top-end - I’ve covered Nakata hangers before in Japan, which are absolutely beautiful, and mentioned the Brunngard shoecare box. I’m currently trying out the other products.

Yearn and Bridlen are more value propositions for shoes. Both are well-made, but I think the key attraction will be pricing, given the former is made in China and the latter in India. We covered Bridlen here, and will cover Yearn soon. 

Arterton will also be running events: there is actually a Nakata art display today - in both Number 20 and The Service - and then on February 11th there will be a whole Brunngard shoecare day. 

Anders Sundstrom and Linus Chu will be there from the brand, and there will be free shoe shines for everyone, plus a trade-in programme where anyone can try the Brunngard polishes by swapping them for something they already own. 

The next three brands, in March, readers will be familiar with. 

Fox Brothers will be there the week of March 13th, with their plethora of productmarrks - albeit with a more Spring/Summer feel. A nice opportunity to try some of the jackets Manish covered last week. 

Marrkt will be there the week of March 20th, with their top-end pre-owned clothing. Precise dates to be announced, though not with my pre-owned clothing this time. 

Rubato and Permanent Style will be there together, the week of March 27th. Again dates to be announced, but likely Wednesday to Saturday, as last time. 

 

Then in April, I’m really pleased to have Luke from L.E.J in residence for a month. 

I think a few readers may have caught Luke when he had a pop-up in the Piccadilly Arcade briefly last year, and it was the first time I had seen the clothes in person as well. 

Given the cuts and unique fabrics of L.E.J, it’s really good to be able to try on these pieces, and I’ve got my eye on some trousers and potentially shirts for summer - Luke is particularly good at that flowing, easy warm-weather style. In his words to "soften the masculine trappings of loved and familiar pieces".

The month-long residency will de dedicated to Spring/Summer collection, a wardrobe of playful pieces focused around a core of luxury casual shirting, with fabrics including rich silks, fine voiles, and Japanese narrow-widths.

As with the others, details will be added to this post (days, times, stock) closer to the time. We will, of course, have a little party too - hopefully with less rain and condensation this time

Readers awards 2023: Anniversary edition 

Readers awards 2023: Anniversary edition 

Wednesday, January 25th 2023
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Five years ago, in 2018, we began the PS awards series by asking about favourite brands, shops and stylists. 

This year I'd like to invite everyone to do the same, but actively reflect on how things have changed in the past five years. 

Five years is a fairly long time in clothing anyway, but I feel like Covid has accelerated all trends, bringing about some fairly fundamental changes in working practices, and perhaps how people view their lifestyles too. 

So I'd be interested to hear which brand's products really resonate with you right now; which styling you find most inspiring (from a brand or a person); which shop has given you the best experience; and which artisan you see yourself using going forward. 

As in previous years, please enter your nominations in the comments below. 

You can enter something for all categories, or just one. But remember that the most interesting thing for others is often your reasoning and experiences, so please don't skimp on these. 

In a week I'll tot them up and write something announcing the results, interviewing ecstatic winners and so on. 

These are the categories. Please remember to let us know how your views have evolved in the past five years. 

1. Best brand
Products, rather than styling, including quality and relevance 

2. Best artisan
What will you continue to have made, by whom, and why

3. Best styling
Who do you find most inspirational now? A brand, a magazine or a social media account 

4. Best customer experience
Which shop or brand deserves recognition? For things like knowledge, advice and product care, rather than just quick shipping

The Merchant Fox: All the casual jackets reviewed

The Merchant Fox: All the casual jackets reviewed

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By Manish Puri

In between short walks to the kitchen to restock on mince pies and watching Home Alone for the 83rd time (this genuinely may be an understatement), the festive period offers a singular opportunity to contemplate weighty matters concerning the passage of time. When did my nephew grow taller than me? When did Quality Street swap the foil wrappers for paper? And when did The Merchant Fox’s offering become so extensive?

Launched in 2011, The Merchant Fox is the retail arm of the clothmaker Fox Brothers and one of the brands showcased at the first Permanent Style pop-up back in 2017. My recollection is that the range was tasteful but relatively small: some F. Marino ties, a selection of cloth caps and, of course, a splendid array of vintage bolts.

However, as part of last December’s pop-up, The Merchant Fox returned and filled 20 Savile Row with a wide assortment of gowns, shirts, trousers and jumpers; so much so that I walked straight past the shop on my visit – my peripheral vision disregarding it as a pop-up on account of how well laid out and amply stocked it seemed.

Once inside it quickly became apparent that our planned article providing an overview of The Merchant Fox’s range would be quite a challenge; and so, in keeping with Permanent Style’s recent theme of exploring casual jacket alternatives, I’ve focused this piece on their jackets, overshirts and Tebas, which are often collaborations with specialist makers using Fox Brothers cloth – a big point of consistent taste and quality.

The pop-up provided a unique opportunity to see and try everything in person. Hopefully my rundown helps answer all those style and fit questions you might have had remotely.

The Utility Jacket (£570 to £720) (above) is made for The Merchant Fox by Hervier Productions – a family-run atelier that Fox’s Managing Director Douglas Cordeaux stumbled across while on holiday in France – and has traditional details like piped pockets and a smaller scythe-shaped collar.

The jacket combines the style of a chore coat (straight hem, triple patch pockets and one internal pocket) with the punch of Fox’s toughest cloths. The navy, for example, is cut from a 34/35 oz military issue lambswool; a cloth that - to borrow Malcolm Tucker’s put-down of a cabinet minister - is so dense light bends around it.

The robust nature of the fabric does make it less refined than some of the other chores in my recent guide, but if you like the short style and small collar, it would serve as faithful partner to knitwear, heavier trousers and casual shoes and boots.

Most of the Fox garments I tried worked well for me in size medium (I generally flit between small and medium depending on the brand and the style), but the Utility Jacket had a slim sleeve finished with a barrel cuff. Some folks will no doubt be comforted by the snug embrace of the wool and should go for their usual size. I’m of a somewhat fussier disposition and would be happier going for a size up.

Fox works with Spanish tailors Justo Gimeno on a few different models, and I tried their Teba and Safari jacket.

The Tebas (£650 to £795) adhere to the classic template: shirt-sleeve shoulders and cuffs, ventless back, four button front, a breast patch pocket shaped like your favourite coffee mug, hip patch pockets (some models with flaps and some without) and an internal pocket with button. All crowned by the signature notchless lapel – a shawl collar sketched by a Cubist.

I tried a medium which was perfect – sitting just off the shoulder with room for a Rubato jumper and an ideal sleeve length (you may recall from the chore coat guide that I had a devil of a time finding something that wasn’t too long in the sleeve).

Whilst you can source Justo Gimeno Tebas from other retailers (Beige Habilleur among them) what you won’t find is the range of Fox Brothers cloths. Compared to the Utility Jacket the fabric options are still geared towards autumn/winter but are substantially lighter (12/13 oz) and finer (merino). I particularly liked the char-brown flannel (above), the ambiguity in hue leads to a tug-of-war of outfit possibilities: should I lean into dark and tonal, or contrast with warmer, earthier colours?

If you prefer the meaty cloths used for the Utility Jacket you can also look at the Wellington Fox navy coat or the Khakee Town & Country Coat – both available to pre-order and with some design details carried over from the Teba.

I’m usually not super keen on field/safari jackets. I don’t know if it’s the incongruity of a nipped/belted waist with four bulky pockets orbiting it that doesn’t appeal. Or perhaps it’s just the sheer number of pockets – I have enough difficulty remembering where I put my phone in a two-pocket bomber.

However, I really liked the Fox Safari Jacket (£755 - returning in the spring) and was won over by the fit, the collar shape and the crisp lightness of the cloths (such as the olive-green Fox Air above), which I think help reduce the volume of the hip bellows-pockets compared to say, a stiffer cotton canvas.

The Safari Jacket comes with an internal drawstring to cinch the waist and a central vent in the rear.

In Simon’s recent article on overshirts he neatly defined two shirting categories: those that feel like a heavy version of a regular shirt and those that are more akin to a woollen jacket.

The overshirts (£240 to £490) made by The Merchant Fox in Casentino wool (below), flannel (above) or tweed - all weighing in around 17/18oz - sit firmly in the latter camp. The newer shirts have a straighter hem (which generally looks better untucked), two breast flap pockets and bands of ribbon on the reverse of the placket and the collar – a good way of reinforcing buttons and buttonholes, keeping heavier wool off your bare neck, and usually an indication that the shirt is a layering piece rather than something to tuck in.

There are also a couple of moleskin shirts which are very similar to the overshirts but, at around 8oz, would make better candidates for trouser tucking.

One nice detail on the overshirts (which are mostly made by Jokoto Tailoring in Bristol) is the placement of a button just a few centimetres below the collar button. This strikes me as a good way to keep the chest fully covered on a chilly day while teasing your admirers with a glimpse of whatever scarf/neckerchief/bandana you’re rocking at the neck.

The question of sizing depends on what sort of layering piece you want it to be. If you want your overshirt to top a T-shirt or shirt at most, then I’d recommend your usual size. If your layering style has been likened to Sanka from Cool Runnings (thermal T-shirt, shirt, thick jumper, scarf, hot water bottle, the works) I would size up.

One final piece to call out is the Borestière jacket made by Chato Lufsen from a couple of Fox Brothers cloths - a 17/18oz char-navy twill tweed and an 18/19oz flannel.

The jacket wasn’t available when I went in store, but I’m tempted on the strength of the cloth choice and Tony Sylvester’s write-up of his commission of a modified Bores jacket alone.

Many of the garments discussed here are available on a made-to-order basis. For example, the Teba jacket can be made for customers in a variety of styles (classic, pocket, safari or River Tone – which is fully lined), with simple tweaks made to the standard block (sleeve length, hem length, etc), and,
most crucially, in the Fox Brothers cloth of your choosing. Prices for MTO will vary accordingly but you can get more information by reaching out directly to The Merchant Fox .

Before I sign-off I’ll leave you with a tip if I may: The Merchant Fox regularly unveils small batch, limited edition versions of products via their newsletter, so I would recommend signing up.

As ever, all questions happily answered in the comments below.

Manish is @the_daily_mirror on Instagram

Some interesting Pitti picks: Mixing patterns, layering knitwear, wearing volume

Some interesting Pitti picks: Mixing patterns, layering knitwear, wearing volume

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As we did last year, during Pitti I picked out a few people and outfits that I really liked, but that could have been missed - because they’re not Ethan, Jake or Tatsuya Nakamura.

They’re deliberately a mix of smart and casual, tailoring and streetwear. But I would encourage readers to spend a few moments with each, even if they’re not obviously their style. Each holds beautiful little lessons, whether it’s a colour combination or an interaction of length and volume. 

If anyone wants the more expected faces I can do that sometime too, or include them next time. 

First is Paul Croughton, an old friend and now editor of Robb Report in the US. He’s had an increasing amount of tailoring made in the past few years, and the pieces from Fred Nieddu, such as this jacket and coat, are particularly lovely. 

As is often the case with great tailoring combinations, the outfit looks merely elegant at a distance, but actually has lots going on. In particular the three micro-patterns in the coat, jacket and scarf, which would be too much were it not for the anchor of white shirt and dark plain tie at the heart of it all. 

Cream, white and green. As soon as I saw those three colours here I started to wonder how I could wear them together too. A white shirt under a cream cardigan, perhaps, with a stronger, grassy-green trouser, coat or jacket. Perhaps vintage army trousers, a white shirt and a cream crewneck. 

I also find it interesting that the standard beige of the rain coat looks more like cream when it’s picked up by these whites and creams. 

Justo Gimeno’s father, Gimeno Sr. There is so little here I would actually wear myself and yet so much I like on him. The strong patterns of the tie and scarf, which feel better as a twosome than on their own; the burgundy Teba, combined with the green of the coat. 

There is an extent to which these stronger patterns and colours (the Teba is fairly punchy) are easier for someone older to pull off. As if there are clearly no restrictions of work or society any more. This feels like it would be as much at home, in Spain, as on a walk into Pitti. 

There’s strong pattern here too, in a hand-embroidered jacket from Bode. But it’s the lovely blues of the polo, jacket and cap that caught my eye: they form a quiet and harmonious backdrop to the eye-catching things elsewhere. 

I wouldn’t wear those trousers with it all, it’s a bit too jarring. But I would really like to try a polo in that colour.

As was mentioned in a recent article on PS, photographer Alex Natt has really honed his style in recent years, and I admire how interesting, personal and practical it is. Not always an easy combination. 

He’s outside a lot of the time and requires multiple pockets, so the outer layer is usually a Barbour or similar waterproof. However, fishing varieties are especially practical and are pleasingly unusual, as shown here. Then there are black jeans or carpenter pants, roll necks, a cap. All dark colours, all anonymous at a distance but telling well-combined close-up. 

Christopher Berii. Writer, model, and our current Tokyo correspondent. Read his piece on Japanese shoemaker Seiji McCarthy here

This is an old Ralph Lauren flannel suit that Christopher found on eBay, and the proportions work well on him. The 6x2 button set-up, fastening on the bottom row, is of course dramatic but Pitti is the kind of place for something like that, and it’s the kind of style that I think can work well elsewhere in evening wear

This gentleman was one of my favourites I saw. Smiling and interesting, every day. The orange shetland pops beneath the browns of jacket, trousers and indeed cap. Without it, the browns would be rather dull together, but as a mid-layer, the orange also doesn’t stand out too much. 

I like the second outfit above too. I’m never going to wear those shoes, but I admire how he really embraces volume, and it looks great even though he’s a shorter guy. One reason is the probably accessories around that volume, like the shoes, coat and bag; another is the similar volume in his other clothes: wide trousers and pieces like that fluffy fleece. 

Mikey, from Sunspel. Always a good dresser in an understated way, and I liked this warm and practical combination in shades of navy. Fine rollneck under chunky sweater, under waterproof coat with a watch cap.

I usually see a rollneck under a crewneck like this with more contrast, such as the previous gentleman, but this made me make a note to go home and try my finest navy rollneck (from Sexton) under something like a Rubato lambswool crewneck. If it works, it would be pleasingly unusual and very cosy. It’s something women do a lot more, and would be interesting to try. 

A reader commented that it was brave of me to wear double denim to Pitti (on the last day, my day off). I wonder if they realise that there’s just as much workwear at Pitti as tailoring. The bright suits might have been the reason Pitti became famous, but there’s a lot of western clothing, work clothing and sportswear too. I wonder whether it’s a case of only following certain feeds. 

I thought this shot, taken by Jamie on a cold morning, was a nice example of workwear done well. The fit of the buffalo-check jacket is perfect: just the right length, neat across the seat but big in the shoulders, with a tall collar on top. With an old tote, and boots that aren’t the obvious Red Wings. It’s an outfit that could be worn by any reader at the weekend, particularly if the cap were swapped for a beanie.

Photography: Jamie Ferguson

Who are my favourite tailors? (Part two)

Who are my favourite tailors? (Part two)

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Please read part one of this article, here, before this one. Without that context, setting out my priorities, this summary will likely be misleading. Everyone is different, wants different things from bespoke, and simply gets on with people differently. 

Assuming you’ve read and digested it, here are the bespoke tailors I prefer after 15 years of trying around 60

It’s a short list, but I don’t think people benefit from having that many - it removes too many of the pleasurable aspects of tailoring. 

If you would like feedback on others - perhaps because you live in a different country and are picking from a different group - please let me know in the comments and I’ll help any way I can. 

Also remember there is a breakdown of the styles of 25 major tailors in this Guide, with photos and measurements. There is also a list of all the tailors I have reviewed, with links to those reviews, here

Soft, casual style: Sartoria Ciardi, The Anthology

Most of the time, the tailoring I wear is Neapolitan in style: soft chest, soft shoulder, open and rounded shape. It can be smart, but it’s the only style I like with jeans and chinos. 

Neapolitans are not always the most reliable, and sometimes the level of finish isn’t great. Some also tend towards a close fit and a short length. Sartoria Ciardi, however, has been uniformly excellent for me, with a great fit every time and a naturally roomier cut.

The finishing is good for Neapolitan, they visit London frequently enough and I get on well with Enzo. His English isn’t perfect, but a colleague he now brings with him is fluent. 

The Anthology’s cut is slightly different from Ciardi, with some Florentine influences meaning the shoulder is more extended and the fronts more open. But it fits the same function. 

English, smart style: Steven Hitchcock, WW Chan

Although Neapolitan style can be smart, there is always something sharper and more elegant about English tailoring, and I adore it. If I can, I would always want that style in my wardrobe - to be worn smartly, with smart trousers. 

Among English cuts, the one I’ve found I prefer is the ‘drape’ style. But I must emphasise that a big part of this is what flatters my body, plus a subjective preference for the look. Not everyone wants to make sloped shoulders even more so.  

The drape-style tailor I’ve had the best consistent experience with is Steven Hitchcock. It’s a narrow thing, as I also like Anderson & Sheppard and highly rate Whitcomb & Shaftesbury. In the end the difference is tiny points of style and of relationship - even stupid things like I’ve had more made with Steven, so I've been able to dial in fit and style. 

I also add WW Chan to this section because, while not English, their cut is slightly smarter and the product is very well executed. They deserve a higher profile. The biggest downside is access, as they only visit London twice a year. 

Structured, stylised: Michael Browne, Edward Sexton 

Most people would be fine with just one of those categories above, and with just one tailor within it. If I were starting again - and if writing about menswear were not my job - I would only stray outside of them in order to wear a different, unique style. 

Two clear examples of that are Michael Browne and Edward Sexton. My top coat from Michael feels different to any other coat I’ve had made, or indeed worn at all; my double-breasted suit from Edward is dramatic, storied and made to be noticed.

I’d suggest someone else might like to use one of these to make a tuxedo, or another piece of evening wear where a statement is less unusual. 

Trousers: Whitcomb & Shaftesbury

Again it’s a tiny difference, but Whitcomb & Shaftesbury have made the best-fitting trousers I’ve had. Their offshore service makes bespoke more justifiable, and given I wear trousers just with knitwear so much these days, it seems reasonable to use one tailor for them. 

Whitcomb are also a great team, and they’re very accessible. Visiting tailors lose out in terms of access and I prefer the neat, fine English finishing these days to any fussiness of double-buttoned waistbands or lapped seams (again, as detailed in part one).

Does this mean I’m only going to use three or four tailors going forward? No.

Most obviously, covering bespoke is my job so I will cover new tailors that readers might be interested in, and ones that fit different criteria to mine (such as style, access or budget). In the coming months that will include Paolo Martorano, Assisi and Fred Nieddu, for example. 

There is also a case for covering new styles from existing tailors. Readers have asked about the double-breasted cut from The Anthology and from Whitcomb, for instance. 

More subtly, there are some tailors with whom I’ve built a great relationship over the years, and would probably want to continue to use. They include Pirozzi, who would be a strong challenger for Ciardi had I not used the latter so much, and Nicoletta Caraceni, whose biggest issue is access (she doesn’t travel). Lorenzo Cifonelli too, who uses denim and suede like no one else.

If I was advising a reader, I might suggest they could use one of these as an indulgence, after years of establishing a working wardrobe. A Cifonelli denim DB or a Liverano ulster as a birthday present, perhaps, fully aware of the disadvantages of using a tailor as a one-off.

Comparing bespoke tailors is unfortunately not a one-dimensional or entirely objective process, easy as that would be.

But all the tailors mentioned here have made me a great-fitting suit or jacket, as they said they would, when they said they would. That’s really what most readers want when they ask who I recommend, and it's what I attempt to set out in the PS reviews. 

It’s when you pick between the various tailors that things get more personal. Hopefully this two-part explanation of my particular preferences helps others make their own decisions. 

Do let me know who your favourite tailors are, on what criteria, in the comments below. Especially if you've been doing this for several years and have lessons to pass onto everyone else.

Who are my favourite tailors? (Part one)

Who are my favourite tailors? (Part one)

Monday, January 16th 2023
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This is the single question I get asked most, and when it is, I nearly always reply that it’s a complex area that really requires a full in-depth article. 

I think it actually takes two. 

In this first article, today, I'll explain my personal priorities. This is crucial. Without it the follow-up article is misleading, perhaps even meaningless. It’s why it’s so hard when someone wants a one-line answer. 

The tailor you prefer doesn’t just depend on where you live, or how much money you have. It also heavily depends on your style and lifestyle, how much you care about things like finishing, and even on your personality. 

A second article, on Wednesday, will list my small number of favourite tailors, and explain why they fit these personal, subjective criteria. 

Please forgive the set-up, I think it’s the only way to do this in a way that befits Permanent Style and its years of coverage of bespoke tailoring.  

1. Use as few tailors as possible 

I have used a huge number of tailors over the years, but mostly to present a full range to readers, in many parts of the world, with different preferences. Were this not my job, I would use far fewer - likely 3-5, with the number being driven by a need for different cuts and styles. 

This is because, firstly, it usually takes a suit or two for the tailor to completely nail your pattern and preferences. And secondly…

2. Relationship is key

This is something I’ve come to realise, rather too slowly, over time. If you don’t have a good relationship with the tailor - open, honest, mutually sympathetic - you’re never going to bring up the things that bother you, and if you did they won’t understand. 

This is a major reason why any list of favourites is subjective. The tailor has to be someone you get on with, which is dependent on your character as much as theirs. It also depends on culture and shared language. 

3. Location matters

Another factor I’ve only realised slowly. Perhaps these points are coming to me first because they seem to get the least attention.

When you have more tailoring, you’re more likely to have old tailoring you want adjusted, or repaired, or simply looked after. This is much, much easier if the tailor is local, and if not then at least a frequent visitor. It’s a significant part of the pleasure of bespoke: visiting someone you like, at your convenience, to get your clothes cared for and consider new ones.

4. Prestigious location does not

If you want the full Savile Row experience, it’s worth paying extra to visit Huntsman, Henry Poole or Anderson & Sheppard. There is such amazing history, and they are beautiful places to be. But once you’re on your third or fourth commission, relationship will matter more. And in the long term, the product itself of course matters most of all. 

So I’m perfectly happy walking up several flights of stairs to visit a tailor round the corner, and indeed happy if the work isn’t done anywhere close to Mayfair either, as long as the service is the same. 

5. Style really matters

If I could, I would never commission something from a tailor without seeing a finished example first. It’s happened too often that I’ve had a coat made, for example, and disliked the shape of the collar or the lapel. You can’t always see clearly at the final fitting, and even if you could, it’s not the same as walking around in it, trying it out in person, flipping the collar. 

Coats and DBs are the biggest issue, but I feel the same about cloth increasingly too. Compared to ready-made clothing, tailors’ biggest problem is style - few of them are stylish, few of them even think it’s important. In my experience it’s what puts off most men becoming long-term customers of bespoke. 

6. Professionalism

Delivering what you said you would, when you would. Consistency of cut and fit. Reliability in the long term: being there to build that relationship. 

Customers should often be a little more understanding when small tailors don't answer an email for a couple of days. They are tiny operations: if you want a dedicated customer service team, go to a bigger tailor and pay more. But there is a minimum level that makes bespoke worth it, and some tailors fall short. 

7. Cut is the reason to have more than one tailor

As mentioned, were I starting again I would largely use multiple tailors for different styles. It’s nice to have both a smarter English option - for me, a drape cutter - and a more casual one that suits jeans and chinos - probably Neapolitan. 

Then I’d add ones that are different again, but perhaps more niche, such as Michael Browne or Edward Sexton. For a special piece like a dinner jacket, or because you simply loved a particular design (a Liverano ulster, for example).

8. Hand work matters less, to me

When I first started buying bespoke tailoring, I was fascinated by Milanese buttonholes, lapped seams and pick stitching. Partly because they were just things that caught the attention, and partly because they were exquisite pieces of craft. 

I care much less about them these days. Some Neapolitan tailors are probably still too rough and ragged, but I’d actually rather have a neat hand-sewn buttonhole than a Milanese one - and I don’t care much whether the lining is hand sewn to the facing or not. Certainly, aspects of the cut such as shoulder expression or lapel shape are far more important. 

9. Comfort matters more, to me

These last few criteria are more personal, and probably need less explanation. 

For several years I’ve preferred tailoring that is more roomy - where that flattering ‘V’ shape is created by adding a little to the shoulders and chest, rather than taking it away from the waist. The proportions are the same, but the former is much more comfortable. 

10. What you think is flattering, can be personal

I’m tall and slim, but without a particularly big chest or shoulders. The tailoring that looks best on me usually adds to those latter two things, with drape, an extended shoulder or a wider lapel. I also think having even more sloping shoulders is a price worth paying for extra width. 

This is the biggest reason I’d discount tailors that cut a close chest, a narrow shoulder or a roped shoulder (the same effect as narrowing). I’m fully aware that this is related to fashion, as is number 7 above. But if everything is in moderation, that risk is reduced.

I hope that all made sense. If not, please ask any and all questions below. Part two, the list of the actual tailors, will be published on Wednesday.

Experimenting with the smock, or anorak

Experimenting with the smock, or anorak

Friday, January 13th 2023
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Fifteen years ago, I wrote a piece called ‘Enjoy your fashion cycle’. Ten years later, in 2018, there was one called ‘How I filter fashions’. Today, I find myself thinking along the same lines as we explore casual (but often no less traditional) aspects of menswear. 

The central theme of those articles was that just because something is a fashion, you shouldn’t dismiss it. Feel free to adopt the sceptical raised eyebrow of an experienced dresser, but keep an open mind behind it.

There are several reasons for this. One is that it just breeds happiness: when a sceptic becomes a cynic it turns them sour. 

But more relevantly to menswear, chances are the new fashion is nothing new - it’s just an old thing coming round again, and being played around with by every creative friend, stylist and brand you know.

It's a stimulating opportunity to see how a tweed cap, a duffle coat or a monk-front shoe can be worn, and whether it might work for you. In that 2018 piece, I gave examples of Aloha shirts, gurkha shorts and oversized knits, and explained why I had adopted one out of the three. 

In the past year I’ve done so again - with both fun and enjoyment, not fuss or stress - with smocks.

The Real McCoy’s had some, then so did Bryceland’s; Nigel Cabourn added to ones they’d had for a while. Hiking versions fitted with the outdoor trend of the past few years, sometimes referred to as Gorpcore. See also hiking boots, fleeces and the recent New Balance Rainier (above)

Smocks or anoraks have been around since at least the nineteenth century, and have two origins: as workwear, particularly for farming; and as expedition clothing, with explorers like Armundsen adopting the Inuit ‘annoraaq’ made from furs, and then having Burberry make gabardine versions. 

The expedition clothing led to military applications, with paratroopers wearing them to cover up their equipment, and the US navy issuing them for deck work. Then after the war, they became popular for newly fashionable outdoor pursuits, including hiking. 

Originally, a hiking smock didn’t have a hood and an anorak didn’t have a chest pocket. But the designs and terms have long since been mingled. 

When I tried the new versions, the key issue I had was shape. 

A smock is deliberately cut square and straight - to make them easy to get on over bulky clothing and with the workwear versions, to make them easy to construct. 

If you’re slim and tall, this isn’t that flattering. Ideally you want something slimmer - still in keeping with the piece’s style and practicality, but made for you rather than a one-shape-fits-all average. 

The Bryceland’s Anorak, for example, is lovely and looks great on both Ethan (below) and Tony. But I look better in models that are less square, and have a cinch at the waist rather than the hem. 

I eventually found a vintage one I liked from Jojo at Rag Parade in Sheffield - posted by him on his Instagram and bought after a few messages establishing chest width, length and material. 

That’s it pictured at top and below. It’s Italian, dates from the 1950s in Jojo’s estimation, and comes complete with a couple of badges showing locations in Switzerland and Italy. 

I don’t care how old or rare it is, but I do like the fit (with the waist cinch), the design, and the things that come with wear - softness, washed-out colour, and little snags and repairs. It cost £350, which isn't cheap but less than the new high-end versions. 

I've found it’s a useful casual, bad-weather piece. I wear it with jeans or chinos (brown Rubato ones here), boots and a baseball or watch cap.

With the former, it has something of the terraces about it; with the latter it’s more outdoors-y, particularly with hiking boots. Either way the black colour makes it a little more urban.

It isn’t as practical as a modern version in at least two ways. One, the hood doesn’t have the peak that a modern waterproof would have, and so in the rain is best with a cap. And two, it’s a tightly woven cotton but still only cotton, and so not waterproof. 

It would originally have had a light wax to make it more so, and I might experiment with adding that later (trying first on a hidden area, perhaps inside). But as with most leisure clothing this won’t be worn for long walks in the rain, let alone for actual hiking. It’s just fine for journeying between buildings and different forms of transport.

I’ve enjoyed exploring this trend, filtering this fashion, playing afresh with something old. 

It should emphasise that more trends get rejected than adopted in this process. Those hiking-style trainers aren’t for me - I prefer boots; I like natural knitwear rather than synthetic fleece; gnome-like beanies still look ridiculous on my head, no matter how good they might look on others. 

This is what the wide world of casual clothing is all about. Principles, yes, but also personality and play. 

Photography: Milad Abedi

When you buy clothes, what are you paying for?

When you buy clothes, what are you paying for?

Wednesday, January 11th 2023
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I’m often asked by readers whether a particular piece of clothing is ‘worth it’. Yet the older I get - the further along my clothing journey - the more I realise how subjective this can be. 

Also, I’m finding my particular subjectivity is changing. Once you have a wardrobe of well-made clothes, you start to realise how much you value customer service and consistency, as well as beautiful design. 

So I thought it might be worth discussing the things that contribute to the value of a piece of clothing. When readers ask with incredulity why one sweater is more than another, or dismiss all designer brands as racketeering, this will hopefully lend some perspective. 

1. Quality

This is the obvious one. There may be some debate whether you want fine, often more delicate fabrics, or coarser more robust ones, but everyone wants clothes that won’t fall apart if looked after appropriately. Strong, neat stitching; fabrics that get better with age rather than worse. 

The difficult thing with quality is often deciding how far you want to go, as there are nearly always diminishing returns: better materials are rarer and specialist labour is more expensive. 

2. Exclusivity

Doing anything that isn’t standard is more expensive. That’s why cheaper made-to-measure tailoring often looks similar - they’re not only going to the same factory, they’re using the same blocks. 

More subtly, designing a new material is expensive, as well as taking longer and requiring volume (both also more expensive). That’s why you don’t see the materials used in those Ralph Lauren jackets anywhere else. Someone like Stoffa develops its own yarns. 

For a brand that takes pride in its design, this seems obvious: they don’t want their jacket to look like anyone else’s. But for a young guy just looking for a good navy blazer, the value can be less obvious. As with menswear rules, just understand what's going on and then make your own decision.

3. Service

This is the big one that has been lost to the internet. You might be able to buy direct from a manufacturer today, but they will have as few people in customer service as they do in design.

Online customer service can be really good (as No Man Walks Alone have proved), but it’s rarely the same as having an actual shop. And the more access you want to that shop, the more of them there have to be.

Even within a shop, quality of service today has diminished. It’s now normal for a sales assistant to know little about the products. Even if they’ve had training, they’re unlikely to have much experience. Compare that with Anderson & Sheppard, where most of the staff have been there since it opened, and they'll happily do something like take a knit back to be reframed. You will value that a lot in a few years’ time.

The very top level of service must be where you get advice in person from the founder of a brand; or going somewhere like Meyrowitz and getting jusst expert advice. If you want someone of that calibre waiting in a shop every day, just in case you come in, it’s going to cost you.

4. Design

This is the hardest factor to quantify, and the easiest to think you don’t need in classic menswear. Yet anyone that has sought out a low-vamp Alden loafer, or worn a Rubato knit with that subtle V-shape, will know the difference small points of design can make. 

This is something you usually lose when you buy direct from a manufacturer, or from someone who claims to ‘cut out the middle man’: it’s the easiest thing not to spend money on. 

Then there’s design work of the type we highlighted here at Ralph, or at somewhere like The Real McCoy’s. The type that starts from scratch, requires prototypes and pattern work, yarn development and maybe two years’ lead time. All to make a pink-melange cardigan with black knitted motifs that will never be sold again. 

On the one hand, that could seem like a ridiculous amount of work to spend a single-season piece; but on the other, it does make that piece very special.

5. Styling

This is usually the one people see least need for. Location shoots, lookbooks, merchandising, mannequins: all the style and imagery that accompanies a product. In the age of street style and social media, do we really want to pay for it? 

Big brands do take it too far. One friend was on a shoot for a luxury brand recently that flew in seven different photographers and assistants from six different countries, for a three-day shoot; plus three cars, four dogs and a horse. Catwalk shows often seem to care more about the location, media and celebrities than the clothes. 

But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. I’m sure we’ve all found lookbooks from our favourite brands - as well as just displays in store - to be really inspiring; and often in ways our peers or favourite influencers aren't. 

There are many other factors of course - advertising, endorsements, discount models - but these are the main ones. 

So what do I personally want to pay for?

Today, I’m happy paying for a great retail experience, for long-term customer service and often for beautiful design. But I’m not going to buy a cashmere crewneck from Purple Label when there’s nothing discernibly different about it. I want that shop to always be there, and I’m happy to support it, but I’ll do so with more design-driven pieces. 

When I was younger, with a much lower budget, I had different priorities; but I think I should have valued quality and customer service more. I should have bought better, more versatile clothes, from people who would still be around in a few years to help me look after them.

With big brands, you can often see what you're paying for in numbers. Many are public, so their profits and costs are reported. Look up someone like Cucinelli - as a reader helpfully did for us last year - and you can see that while they only spent 22% on production, they also only made 18% profit. All your money is going on the shops, staff and marketing spend in between. 

Just think about what you want to pay for, and then which types of companies provide them.

Proportions and high/low: Lessons from womenswear

Proportions and high/low: Lessons from womenswear

Monday, January 9th 2023
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By André Larnyoh

The world of women’s fashion is huge. In variety, scope and scale, it towers above menswear. Yet, usually, men keep women’s styling at arm’s length, because it seems so different to what we know, and because it isn’t made for us.

However it’s not uncommon for women and women’s designers to pick up cues from what menswear and adapt them. So I’ve been thinking about the opposite: what can a man learn from women and their approach to clothing?

There are many things of course, from individual pieces to interesting colour combinations, but one that strikes me is the inherent innovation and creativity of womenswear. Women’s clothing often seems more expressive and playful, which is something I’m interested in exploring to break up the serious sobriety of men’s fashion.

The tricky question I’ve run into is, what can be taken from that side of fashion without being over the top? What can be expressive but also practical and honest?

Consider the designer Molly Goddard, for example. She makes dresses that I think are stunning to look at, in terms of quality, make and shape (above). But I’m not going to wear one any time soon, and her menswear range is less interesting. Therefore, what can I take from it?

A large part of the appeal of her designs is an understanding of proportion, and how this can, in a garment, take up space. Physically and fundamentally it creates stature.

As someone who prefers wider or more relaxed silhouettes, this idea of making creating space through proportion really speaks to me, and this thought process has led me to be inspired by women I’ve seen who take this further without necessarily resorting to extravagance. Think a very large coat with the sleeves rolled up, an untucked cotton poplin shirt cut oversized or bought 2-3 sizes too big, and wider-than-wide trousers.

Melissa Jane Tarling (above), a stylist and art director, is someone whose personal style is all about playing with or utilising the effects of proportion.

She favours voluminous tailoring – loose jackets and trousers or skirts, blouse-like shirts with long sleeves, large overcoats in varying earth tones. They often recall those eighties Ralph Lauren or Armani ads, though whether consciously or not I’m not sure.

You’d think all this flowey clothing would just create a mess of fabrics, but there is in fact cohesion – everything flows together ,even when it’s a mix of makers and brands. There are elements of fashion (Nanushka or Ferragamo) but the overall look is more traditional, reminiscent of 20th century artists or Mediterranean rural lifestyles. There’s a classical elegance yet it still feels modern.

So, how do I begin to dissect such a strong look and find what a man can take from it?

The first thing is playing around with layering, and paying attention to how materials move in different shapes and sizes. Linens and wools, sweaters in a relaxed cut and unstructured double-breasted jackets. Larger scarves that aren’t just oversized but stoles, which makers such as Begg x Co do in attractive neutral hues.

It’s arguably not far off the look Adret is known for (below), but whereas that has its roots in a specific style and a texture of garment, Melissa’s feels and looks cleaner and contemporary. It’s more personal because it’s been built up with a variety of brands.

Nowadays we go to great lengths to subvert tailoring, to contrast it with more casual clothing in order to make it more relaxed. Yet this is a second area where women have been doing far better for far longer, in my opinion.

Take Ralph Lauren famously donning a pair of faded jeans with black tie. Yes, it is a valid example, but it’s really a look few can co-opt without looking like they’re trying to emulate the man himself. Whereas the inherent freedom of womenswear, with its huge variety of styles, makes it easier to mix things up, to freshen what we consider classic pieces and make them more interesting, or simply relax and subvert expectations.

I saw a perfect example over the summer while sitting having coffee. Two women in their sixties were wearing voluminous Molly Goddard dresses - one white and one pink - but worn over the top, to stave off the chill of air conditioning, were MA-1 bomber jackets from Alpha Industries.

My biggest regret is I didn’t take a picture, because it encapsulated not only high/low dressing but also that balance of masculine and feminine. The contrast made it interesting: the unexpected with the conventional, the delicate with the durable.

This kind of statement dressing is not something most men will want to adopt, but there are always examples in womenswear – like the woman below mixing heels, a flowing skirt and bright nylon gilet. Simple, but punchy.

This inspiration has encouraged me to take greater risks, looking for combinations where such high contrast is possible without looking ridiculous.

It’s also often, I think, about adding a layer of comfort to otherwise sharp and perhaps restrictive clothing. It’s vintage 501s with silk shirts; it’s leaving the overcoat at home and throwing on a well-worn chore coat over that otherwise immaculate dark suit and roll neck on your way to dinner; or it’s choosing to wear highly divisive jazz shoes with tailoring, simply because they’re more comfortable. It’s something that men such as Gauthier Borsarello (below) do very well.

When looked at in these ways, you can start to see that women’s fashion needn’t be kept that far away from men’s. Again, this is not to advocate simply co-opting womenswear (unless that’s your own particular style or desire, in which case more power to you).

Rather, these are just a few thoughts and examples that I have found inspiring, after months of the subject rattling around in my head. It’ll be interesting to see what more comes up, for me and perhaps for readers too. The wonderful thing about women’s fashion is, there’s so much to choose from. The world of womenswear is huge.

The Cromford fur hat: Shearling for deep winter

The Cromford fur hat: Shearling for deep winter

Friday, January 6th 2023
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A few weeks ago, just before Christmas when it was suddenly freezing in London, I was in Cromford talking to them about offcuts.

The shearling coats we’ve done over the past three years have been pleasingly received - the olive double-breasted in 2020, the very dark-brown version in 2021, and the mid-brown overshirt this past winter. 

But cutting them all does lead to some frustrating wastage. Shearling is precious stuff, and leather makers (just like furriers) hate wasting the materials they value so highly. Visit any leather workshop and you’ll see spare skins or parts of skins everywhere. 

I wondered aloud whether all these offcuts could be used for anything - like a hat perhaps, suitable for the uncharacteristically cold weather. Pauline and Sarah had some thoughts, and within a couple of days had a design ready. Such are the virtues of being your own leather workshop. 

The result is not that unusual: a six-panel crown with a wide strip around the bottom, turned up to show the shearling inside.

However, the design does have one advantage, which is that you can adjust how far the shearling is turned up, making it lower or higher on the head. Those that wish to cover the ears further can do so, though to be honest it’s so warm I don’t need to even when it’s way below freezing. 

There’s actually an interesting point of physics there, which perhaps a suitably educated reader can explain: if you make the top of your head really warm, that heat travels downwards, making it less necessary to cover the ears or neck. Biting wind is the only time I think you'd need to. 

I’m reminded of George when he buys a rather less attractive fur hat in Seinfeld: “This hat just bottles in the heat. I don’t even need a coat, it’s unbelievable!”

Cromford’s hat can’t only be made of offcuts, given the need for the long run around the bottom. But the small parts do mean it’s easy to offer it in the three shearlings used for coats in the past three years. 

My favourite colour for the hat is the one I’m wearing, from last year’s double-breasted coat: dark-brown with black fur. But it is also available in the mid-brown and olive

Cromford are offering them in four sizes ready-made, from small to extra large. I’m wearing a medium here, which is meant to be for a 59-60cm head. My head measures 60cm (circumference, level at mid-forehead) but I’ve found like a hat like this to fit close. 

Part that's because I don’t want the hat to appear too bulky, as it stands out more. This often happens with fur hats - they become too dramatic and as a result hard to wear.

For the same reason, I think this kind of hat looks best when there’s bulk elsewhere - a big coat, a scarf etc. You’d probably wear those things anyway, but it’s worth remembering it works best with that larger silhouette. 

I remember seeing a man trying on one a few years ago in Italy, and deciding it was too big. But he was only wearing a sweater at the time. Just like the proportions of a brimmed hat, these things make a difference.  

I’ve tried several different designs over the years for a deep-winter hat, including astrakhans (back when Wil at A Suitable Wardrobe had them) and full-on furs with ear flaps. But this is the design I like the most, and so far have found the easiest to wear. 

Cromford are selling them for £195. As with everything they do, made-to-order options are available for a little more, if you want a different material. 

Interestingly, when we were shooting the hat I set up a little display in the Cromford window with it sitting on a full skin (below).

Two separate people stopped and asked about it as we were doing so, I think because it made them think physically of the raw material. And both were interested to know there was a workshop downstairs. 

Hopefully more displays like that, and pieces like this, will help spread the word. 

 

The shearling hat is available on the Cromford website.

Like the coats, this is a collaboration and PS receives commission on the sales. This is a rarity today - most of the time collaborations are separated off into the PS Shop, which I feel is more transparent. But Cromford like to be closely involved with the fitting and MTO commissioning process, so these products are handled by them. 

Esquire ‘Five Fits’ feature: Tonal shirts and jackets

Esquire ‘Five Fits’ feature: Tonal shirts and jackets

Wednesday, January 4th 2023
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Esquire magazine in the US recently profiled me for a column - their 'five fits' feature

It's run by Christopher Fenimore, who has been into menswear for about the same time as I have, although he was a little younger when he started.

It was fun talking about the early days of #menswear and what it felt like in New York - as opposed to London. The growth of Tumblr, particularly for Christopher and his street shots; the big deal that was the opening of The Armoury; the expansion of blogs and then explosion of social media. 

We conducted the shoot while I was in town for our New York pop-up, and the five outfits were a little limited by what I was able to fit in my suitcase; a couple of items repeat across them. 

However, there was one outfit I've particularly enjoyed in recent months that I'd never shown on PS, so I thought was worth featuring (below).

It's basically an extension of the tonal dressing we've discussed in the past - eg here for greys and cream, or here for brown and charcoal. 

But whereas those were quite smart, the tonal beige colours in the shirt and jacket here are  more casual. 

The shirt is a vintage US Army piece, and there are equivalents from many militaries in many vintage stores. The fit is blousy, but I'm fine with that in a casual shirt, and more importantly it has a wonderful texture - soft, worn, with the odd nick and scratch that speak of years of service. 

The jacket is my gun-club tweed from Ciard of course, and the fact it is a similar colour to the shirt pushes the combination I think towards the unusual and less traditional - certainly compared to that grey outfit in Paris

These tonal pairs are a fun area to play around with - grey shirt under grey jacket, black knit under black jacket, and of course navy under navy - without ever being over the top, given the colours are subdued and any pattern small enough to be barely more than texture. 

On the subject of vintage shirts, it's a category I was initially sceptical about - certainly compared to something like outerwear. 

But a few pieces have changed my mind - this army one, the red flannel featured here, and an off-white denim I picked up at Stock Vintage

There will always be compromises in fit, but if you have the body of the shirt altered then the compromises are normally limited to the collar (less of an issue if you never wear a tie) and sleeve length (only an issue under jackets, as I always roll my sleeves when there's nothing on top).

And in return you get something that has often worn in and slightly frayed, lending it an old-world elegance that many seek in a button-down oxford, or I love in my 12-year-old denim shirt from Al Bazar

You can read the full interview with Christopher on the Esquire website here

It's quite conversational, and easy to skim through, but covers several interesting topics. We reflect on the growth of menswear since it started becoming more popular, for example, and the idea I discussed with Ethan, that that market is maturing. 

Carl and Oliver embody a lot of that in what they make for Rubato, I think. And it's reflected in the list of things I give as menswear staples in that article, such as a really well-fitting, quality navy crewneck. 

The Rubato crewneck is a little higher at the back, so it works for everyone without a shirt. It has that V-shaped silhouette that they've moderated now and works really for everyone. And it's a lambswool that's strong and not precious. 

Anyone could wear it with a pair of old jeans at home or grey flannels to the office, and look more stylish both than the average Joe and the guy in a waistcoat and double monks that 15 years ago, I, Christopher and many others aspired to. 

Appreciating that is a real sign of maturing style, for me.

The other four outfits that Christopher shot had some nice angles, and I've reproduced some of them above and below. They should all be familiar to readers, but if any aren't just shout. 

Esquire interview here

Christopher is @c.fenimore

Vintage stores embody ‘materialism not consumerism’

Vintage stores embody ‘materialism not consumerism’

Monday, January 2nd 2023
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During a recent trip to Manchester, I visited a lovely little vintage shop called Bionic Seven. A partner store to Levison's in London, it leans towards more modern and more sports clothing, but has quite a few little gems in amongst the racks. 

I didn't buy anything, but I hugely enjoyed the visit. I've been thinking ever since about why, and what it says about vintage in general. 

One thought was the incredible range of ideas, designs, styles, and general inspiration there is in the average vintage shop.

If you think a regular store would have multiple sizes, and probably multiple colours, for every one of those pieces of clothing, you start to realise how dense vintage is in terms of style. A normal shop would have to be at least ten times the size to contain it all. 

A vintage store will usually have clothes from different periods, from different cultures and for different pursuits. 

In its small space Bionic Seven has workwear, military clothing, sports clothing, tailored clothing and outdoor clothing (fishing/walking/hunting); from every decade from the 1950s to 2010s; from Britain, Europe and America. 

The cuts vary wildly because of the different eras, and the cultures vary within the same era. 

If you were a fashion historian, you could probably pull out a half dozen pieces and show how they’d each influenced each other over the past century, with ideas pinging from a US military supplier to a Japanese seventies manufacturer to a nineties fashion brand. 

For example, I tried on an old English chore and a much more recent Carhartt hooded jacket. 

Both had been intended for the same kind of labour, but they had very different ideas on both protection from the elements and on ease of movement. They were completely different styles from different times and cultures, but had similar purposes and have both have been adopted into civilian wear since.

Of course, the variety and lack of sizes means shopping at a vintage store can be frustrating. But over time, as with my visit in Manchester, I’ve found it less so. 

It helps when you’ve got a core handful of vintage pieces - the ones that are most versatile, that most suit your style and lifestyle, whether that’s an M45 or a pair of old 501s. 

But even if there’s something you really want, there is a pleasure in tracking in down over time. I have a list on my phone of things I’m looking for - a great western belt, a perfect pair of fifties chinos - and it would be lovely to find them. But I also don’t mind if I don’t for quite a while. 

This is sometimes referred to as the pleasure of the hunt, and there is something in that. But I also find that looking for something is a means to discovering something else - stumbling across a piece you weren’t expecting. I recently bought a pair of Dutch cargo trousers from Worne at a local fair, for example, even though it was a style I didn’t think I liked. 

This of course, is a big difference between shopping vintage in person vs online. 

Vintage clothing is stimulating. I find the sheer variety, within a store and between stores, forces an open mind. 

In an age when so many people see a brand online first, and make a judgment before deciding to go into the store, vintage is the opposite and can be very refreshing as a result. 

Also, I think it’s fair to say that many brands today feel similar to each other - whether it’s everyone doing a trainer that looks like those Loro Piana ones, or the fact that every hot new streetwear brand seems to sell mostly plain hoodies and T-shirts.

I also reflected that my brief experience of vintage has furthered my love of clothes as objects. 

When you see buttonholes being sewn, or know how shoes are made, it’s not hard to value a piece of clothing for the craft-product it is. With casual, industrially made clothing it can be harder.

Browsing through every piece on a (good) vintage rack forces you to take each piece on its merits. You consider their individual character, why they were designed and made in that specific, deliberate way. You think about how they’ve aged, why the store owner selected them, even their place in our cultural history. 

It’s a long way from the social media-driven hype that is how many people buy clothes today. It’s materialism rather than consumerism - even without the sustainability angle. 

I’m very new to vintage clothing, and I’m sure most of these reflections will be obvious to those that aren’t. But I also know many readers don’t buy vintage, and they might find them revealing. 

More than anything, a good vintage store feels to me like a celebration of clothes, in a way that many high-street shops don’t. 

And that has always been one of the biggest things I love about tailors, shirtmakers and shoemakers. 

Thank you Darcy for your hospitality in Manchester, and indeed everyone else that has shown me round their shops above with similar enthusiasm - Brut, Hang Up, Crowley, Desii, Hunter and Le Vif.

How I wear a black tailored jacket

How I wear a black tailored jacket

Friday, December 30th 2022
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This is the first piece of black tailoring that’s been featured on Permanent Style, I think, outside of evening wear.

Over the past three years we’ve been exploring how black’s role in the wardrobe can be expanded, beyond tuxedos and lace-ups. In that time we’ve looked at:

In my view, this is the order in which they are easiest to wear, with black loafers simply an interesting alternative to the more ubiquitous brown, and black trousers requiring much more care.

Black jackets and black shirts belong at the bottom of that list. Black shirts can easily look cheap or flashy, while black jackets have a tendency to look too funereal, or like a ‘stroller’ - part of a formal wardrobe from more than a century ago. 

It was with that in mind that I made my first black jacket in a very casual, soft-shouldered cut (from the excellent Jean-Manuel Moreau) and a casual material - herringbone tweed. 

Since receiving the jacket back in September, I’ve been trying it with various different combinations of shirts, trousers and accessories, and seeing what I liked. As with many things on PS, I'm merely a beginner here, and I’m sure others will have their preferred combinations. But I also know many readers like this step-by-step process too, so here are my step-by-step thoughts. 

If we assume the aim here is a rich, more elegant daytime look, rather than something more rock ‘n’ roll, fashion-y or evening-y, the black jacket’s core problem can be summarised as:

  • Anything without any colour in it, like a white shirt or grey trousers, creates too stark a contrast
  • But any colour that is too strong (even a blue shirt beyond the very palest of pales) can easily look cheap

So I’ve found a nice option is colour, but very pale or very dark.

With trousers, that means dark olive or dark green primarily. Beige, stone and other off-whites are good at avoiding the high contrast of white, but can still look rather formal. 

With this particular jacket, flannel seems to be a little too close in texture to the tweed, and so corduroy is a better match. 

The trousers worn here are from my Ettore de Cesare cord suit, and the green is definitely a darker, browner shade, which works well. Just as good are the trousers I recently had made by Whitcomb & Shaftesbury in this dark-brown cord, which is equally muddy. 

It’s no coincidence that they’re the browns and greens I like wearing myself anyway, and recommended in the ‘cold-colour capsule’

In that selection, black was more of a secondary colour, for the occasional knit or polo shirt, which makes sense in a capsule as it's less versatile. But when black takes centre stage, it makes sense that the same colours work around it. 

However, in those kinds of combinations my default shirt is normally white - against a black jacket, white looks rather too stark. 

Cream is nice, but looks quite formal - like the colours of evening transposed into different materials. 

What works well is pale colours like pink, purple or yellow, illustrated by the lilac stripe I’m wearing here. Or washed-out blues like denim and chambray. 

A stripe is good because it softens the contrast created by the colour - plus it’s nice to have some pattern if you’re not going to wear a tie or a pocket handkerchief. 

Denim and chambray create similar visual interest with their texture and fading. Fading in particular both creates interest and softens the colour. Try a blue-poplin shirt with black tailoring and you immediately see the difference. 

For shoes, black is easy as it picks up the jacket, such as these cordovan tassels. The dark-taupe socks from Anderson & Sheppard I’ve recommended before, a colour always seems to add some interest without standing out. 

The scarf is my Arran from Begg & Co, in dark grey. You could be more adventurous with the scarf, but I like how tonal it is with the olive and the black. 

It’s also nice to have an accessory like a scarf when there’s that lack of tie or handkerchief. In fact, I’d go as far as to say I should always wear one, when the weather at least vaguely justifies it. 

I should also say that the jacket from Jean-Manuel is great: well fitted, shapely but comfortable, and exactly the same as the cream linen I reviewed last year. 

The last point should be a given, but of course we know that makers can vary, particularly with bespoke or handmade MTM. Jean-Manuel should be praised for his consistency as much as anything else. 

A black tailored jacket, in conclusion, is not something I’d recommend to a reader just starting out, or with only a small tailored wardrobe. It is an edge case, an interesting direction.

But I'm pleased this one does genuinely offer something different. Too often when I’ve seen black jackets in the past, I’ve thought the wearer would look better with a dark navy, if they wanted to be smart, or a dark brown, if more casual. I don’t think that’s the case here. 

Cloth: W Bill shetland tweed - Classic Shetland Collection, 12/13oz, WB12125

Photography: Jamie Ferguson

How to hand wash knitwear: Video

 

The clothing care I’ve always been worst at is washing knitwear. But I have got better in recent years, in part as I’ve become more used to the process and it’s felt more reliable, more predictable. 

Over time you also start to see the results. Polishing shoes is rewarding because you instantly see a difference. With washing knitwear it’s more subtle – a few weeks later, after a few wears, you just start to see that the knit isn’t pilling at all; it feels softer yet just as satisfyingly dense. 

We’ve talked about how to wash knitwear before – in this video with Audie Charles – but never demonstrated it. So today’s video shows the process, with Ronnie Chiu of Colhay’s washing a lambswool cardigan.

Note how relaxed it is, how simple, how most of the work is done by the soaking and the air drying afterwards. I’ve never understood how people can find ironing relaxing, but I can definitely see it with washing knits. 

 

 

The video is – as ever with PS – pretty thorough, with me asking questions along the way. If you want a very simple summary, we’ve also created one below, which will be shared on social media. It could be a nice refresher later on. 

Last, please forgive the bare pop-up shop background, and the audio quality. The morning we turned up, workmen decided to dig up the road outside, so the mics had to be quite controlled. 

Thank you very much to Ronnie, and to the Campaign for Wool, who have supported this series of films. 

 

Merry Christmas everyone!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Sunday, December 25th 2022
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Here's wishing you all, wonderful readers, a happy Christmas and a glorious new year.

Thank you also for your well wishes, and thanks, on the 15-year anniversary article - it honestly made me quite emotional. I can't believe how long some people have been reading, and how much they've taken from all those years of writing.

Now as suggested by one reader (unless it was my imagination) I will be doing nothing whatsoever for the next couple of days. See you then.

The Apres Ski boots from Ludwig Reiter: A Review

The Apres Ski boots from Ludwig Reiter: A Review

Friday, December 23rd 2022
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By Tony Sylvester.

I used to travel to Oslo regularly for a decade or so. A beautiful city, but not one abundant with window shopping options for those interested in menswear. One of the exceptions was Cavour; slap bang in the well-heeled part of town, offering an outpost of Neapolitan style to the more cosmopolitan Norwegian gentleman. 

Whenever I was trotting past, I’d pop in for a coffee, a chat with the chaps and a peruse of their stock; a mix of very Permanent Style brands - Orazio Luciano, Ambrosi, Saint Crispin’s, Tie Your Tie et al - alongside some simpatico creations under their own banner. 

Now and again, an item of very specific geographic use would stick out among the more general gear; perhaps none did so more than the Apres-Ski boot, by Austrian shoemakers Ludwig Reiter

I had found to my chagrin that Oslo can be a treacherous town in winter. My first cold season there, I’d invested in a pair of Diemme hiking boots, albeit ones with the kind of Vibram wedge sole typically found on Red Wings. 

A huge error on my part, as their smooth rippled soles were transformed into skates on the perilous pavements of muddy ice and compacted snow. They went onto eBay soon after. 

But here, among the cashmere slips and challis ties, was something better: a simple boot of shearling-lined black suede sitting on a Goodyear-welted rubber commando-style lug sole. In place of laces or straps there was a zip running up the front, topped off with a suede puller. 

For such a plain boot, the zip gave them a louder, even slightly frivolous look, and I couldn’t help but smile at them. The immediate image that came to mind was of the French actor Jean Gabin. 

Gabin was a titan of French cinema, though rather less known outside his native land. He was also an inveterate clothes horse, and an icon to me as an appreciator of the sturdier, well-dressed fellow. 

His film costumes and personal wardrobe often overlapped, and his bespoke suits and sportcoats, from defunct Parisian maker Opelka, were often worn with polo shirts and roll necks and his trademark baker-boy caps - a style he stuck with throughout his career.

The photo in question is from 1949, and the actor, then a somewhat haggard looking 45 years old, sits on a step, cigarette in mouth. Cap tilted back, he stares off out of frame. 

His unbuttoned shirt strains to contain a voluminous cravat, filling the lapels of his sports coat. Knees parted, the cuffs of his flannel trousers are flipped up to reveal striped socks and, rather incongruously, similar zipped shearling boots.

I’ve loved this shot since stumbling across it years ago on Pinterest, or Tumblr. It looks less like a portrait of a film star at the height of his fame than the street style frames of ordinary Parisiens snapped by Robert Doisneau around the same time. 

And those boots. They seem so out of step with the rest of his look, it would be jarring on someone without the “nuclear levels of presence” that he possessed, in the words of London Lounge’s Michael Alden. 

The zipped shearling boot, like so many articles of clothing, has a military heritage. In the early days of aviation, pioneers would don knee- or thigh-high ‘fug’ boots of sheepskin to alleviate the altitudinal freeze. 

When Louis Bleriot completed his cross channel flight in 1909, he did so in a boiler suit, tweed jacket and fleece-lined boots, and even before WWI, Burberry’s, Dunhill and other high-end outfitters were offering leather flying suits, gauntlets and the self same fur-lined or sheepskin boots to cash in on the new sport. 

It was on a pair of boots that BF Goodrich’s new fangled ‘zipper’ made its debut in 1923, long before it appeared on clothing, and the innovation proved a boon for the military pilot quickly needing to scramble into his kit. This 1937 pair of USAAF flying boots typifies this useful, if a little bulky, development perfectly. 

Post WWII, the zips navigated to the side or back of the boot, for what I can only imagine were orthopaedic reasons. Shoemaker Sebastian Tarek talked to me in particularly negative tones when I enquired about making a pair of unlined boots with front zips similar to the style offered by Japanese makers Phigvel in the picture above. 

It was his contention that they would play havoc with the tarsal bones of one’s instep, and being a man who cut his teeth at James Taylor & Sons in Marylebone, the orthotic specialists, I took his advice to heart. 

The Ludwig Reiter boot, as the name suggests, takes its cues from a more leisurely source: that of the postwar Alpine resorts and the lifestyle that went with them. 

As Nick Foulkes puts it in the Financial Times, the boot “recalls the glamour of St Moritz in the 1950s and 1960s. It is exactly the sort of thing I can imagine wearing to lunch at the Corviglia Club after a morning spent not skiing, before not doing the Cresta later in the afternoon.”

Well, quite. He even contended that as they’re black, you could “wear these miraculous shoes with a dinner jacket if circumstances required.” A piece of juxtaposition akin to Agnelli’s donning of hiking boots with a grey flannel suit (below) - another iconic menswear image of rule breaking that works thanks to the individual themselves. 

On arrival of my own boots, and spurred on by Gabin’s personal idiosyncrasies, I decided to pay hommage to his portrait, donning a similarly dissonant ensemble from my own wardrobe. 

My zip boots were paired with my own AWMS striped sports socks, charcoal flannels and heavy black fresco DB (both bespoke by Fred Nieddu at Taillour), faded denim shirt from Drake’s and a Margaret Howell neckerchief. 

And perched on my bonce, a City Sport eight-panel cap in tweed from John Simons. I find this style of cap incredibly difficult to wear thanks to the current associations with the risible chaps from Peaky Blinders. The City Sport’s shaped band gives a little more definition to the cap, however, giving it a slightly different and in my mind, more elevated look. 

Was the outfit a ’success’? I have to concede that personally, it was not. A little too costumey. In aping someone else’s look, I lost too much of my own personality in the final result. 

The boots however, are a firm favourite, their arrival coinciding perfectly with the drop in temperature here on the English coast. 

They are the ideal companion for breezy walks along the cliffs to take the sea air and feed the local crows, sporting a look more akin to the one below - a vintage Polo duffle coat, natural wool watch cap from Worne Clothing and corduroy easy trousers from Uniqlo. 

The fit is close, probably due to the thick lining, and like all pull-on boots, took some effort to zip up the first couple of wears (Sebastian’s concern for the bones of my instep ringing in my ears); but once on, they’re incredibly comfortable. 

Their price point is on the rich side, a cool £555 from Cavour. While akin to welted boots with similar materials from similar makers, I admit it causes pause given the very specific nature of their look and usage. 

Personally, I can’t put a price on staying warm and staying upright, and they are already in heavy rotation with my winter footwear. But the more economically minded amongst us might also want to check out the Reproduction Of Found zipped trainer boot (below) currently on offer from Beige Habilleur in Paris. 

Overshirts: Two types, ways to wear, where to buy

Overshirts: Two types, ways to wear, where to buy

Wednesday, December 21st 2022
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Continuing our recent discussion of jacket replacements - chores, Tebas, safaris and the like - I've shot two of my favourite overshirts in order to talk about different types, and how they can fit into a wardrobe. 

The buffalo-check shirt above is typical of a first type: a heavy shirt you can layer over a T-shirt or even a sweatshirt, but could just about tuck in as well. 

Most are flannel shirts, like this, in a brushed cotton - the kind beloved by fans of Americana, who perhaps picture themselves in the woods somewhere, with a thermal underneath and a pair of sturdy work boots.

It's a style that's also been co-opted by various other genres over the years though, including bikers and the general nineties grunge vibe I grew up with, which demonstrates its versatility.

The second overshirt, above, is of a thick felted wool and is more akin to a woollen jacket. 

This type is still cut like a shirt - front placket, sleeve cuff, chest pockets - but it’s more likely to have a straight hem, and there's no way you could tuck it in. It's great layered under a coat, but underneath you'd usually want a knit or a long-sleeved shirt. 

Mine is a little unusual, being an old Boy Scout shirt that's at least one size too big for me - I like wearing in a slouchy, oversized style. But similar pieces from the likes of Pendleton are common in vintage stores, and outdoor brands such as Filson offer them today.

Those modern brands will often clearly separate the two types: Filson has its flannel shirts and, separately under outerwear, Jac-Shirts.

But it can be hard to tell vintage models apart online, such as on the ‘shirts’ category of a Broadway & Sons for example. The best thing to do there is try and get a sense of the thickness of the material, by looking at the images of the collar or cuff. Some also have a give away like a partial lining

While these two types of overshirt are similar in style, and are both heavier than a regular shirt (the biggest reason they work untucked), they're different in how they fit into a wardrobe, with the latter more akin to a piece of outerwear. So I think it's useful to consider them as two different categories. 

Both are definitely at the casual end of our spectrum of jacket alternatives, however. They have no structure, little shape, and a straight front with nothing like a lapel to break it up.

As a result they’ll be relaxed, weekend wear for most PS readers, and that's certainly how I wear them - with jeans or chinos, boots or tennis shoes, T-shirt or a sweatshirt. 

They're robust pieces of clothing, which look better the more they're washed and worn. That buffalo check of mine, for example, is incredibly soft after its years of wear, and I love how the black on this kind of cotton fades to grey, while the red tends towards orange. 

They’re a good choice for those readers that ask about clothes to wear with their kids - they can have many things spilled on them, be washed frequently or simply scrubbed, and look nicer for it. 

I largely wear overshirts unbuttoned. I find if a shirt is untucked and completely buttoned up it starts to look like a big, long block that isn't that flattering. 

If I do button them for warmth, I tend to start with the button in the centre of the chest (as above) before adding others around them (below). 

Even if buttoning all the way up to the chin, the bottom couple are normally left undone, which helps break up that block of pattern/colour. Heavy use of trouser pockets helps too.  

(I feel there's a whole series of articles here, on 'how to wear' rather than ‘what to wear’. Rolling sleeves, popping collars, buttoning on a cardigan etc.)

A couple of other points that I anticipate might come up in the discussion below. 

Overshirts work untucked because of their heavier weight, which means they don’t flap around and look like a regular shirt. Someone asked recently whether I’d wear an oxford shirt untucked, and I wouldn’t, personally. I can see it as a style, but it’s not mine. Most of the time you’re going to look better with it tucked in. 

Linen shirts in the summer are a little different because everything is loose and flowy, and probably because being untucked has an obvious functional purpose. 

In terms of how much it’s worth spending on overshirts, the thing to pay for is the material - no fancy handwork, no extra detailing. Vintage versions are often great for this, if you don’t mind heavier ones being a little scratchy. Look out for those Americana styles or military ones like a CPO. 

Among new brands, outdoor ones like Filson or RRL are good sources. Every fashion brand will do an overshirt, but usually the material is overfinished and not that dense, meaning they won’t wash and wear in as well. 

The Japanese repro brands all do good models, particularly when there’s more of a biker aesthetic - see shirts at Rivet & Hide from the likes of Iron Heart and The Flat Head. American Classics carries new Pendletons, and The Merchant Fox some nice wools and moleskins.

All clothing shown:

  • Vintage buffalo-check FiveBrother flannel shirt, from The Vintage Showroom
  • Vintage red-felt Scout shirt, from John Simons
  • Heavyweight grey sweatshirt from The Real McCoy’s, Ball Park model, large
  • White T-shirt from PS, the Tapered Tee, large
  • Vintage jeans, Levi’s
  • Suede boots from Edward Green, Cranleigh model, 8.5E
  • Steel chronograph watch, Omega Speedmaster MkIV, tonneau case

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

Reader profile: David E

Reader profile: David E

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David is an example of a reader that has been into clothes for a long time, and now looks back on it from the perspective of a professional and father, fitting that interest into a life that has changed dramatically. 

A resident of south-east London, he’s been a reader for around 10 years, and in that time moved through high-street tailoring and English bespoke, done a Neapolitan pilgrimage, spent time with a few real West End characters, and seen trends come round and round.

But there's a sense that over that journey he’s gradually settled into what he enjoys, what suits him and what feels like good value. 

Outfit 1: Smart

  • Suit: Chalkstripe DB with four buttons and patch pockets, Solito
  • Shirt: White poplin, Luca Avitabile
  • Tie: Knitted brown wool, Budd
  • Shoes: Black calf Piccadilly loafer, Edward Green
  • Watch: Rolex Air-King 

Thanks for taking the time to do this David. Have you always been interested in clothes? 

Yes I think so. I have a memory of asking my mother for a red turtleneck sweater and a pair of green Levi’s for Christmas when I was pretty young. In my mind it was a great Christmas outfit, but I think I just looked like an oversized elf!

In my twenties I lived in Shoreditch and shopped vintage around Brick Lane - Rokit and others. Most of them sold clothes they’d adjusted or added details to themselves as well. I wore some very strange jumpers back then, as my friends will attest.

You were already working in finance at that point, correct? So did you enjoy wearing suits during the week?

Yes I liked that side as well. I remember doing work experience with a neighbour when I was 16 who was an insurance broker. He had this colleague who wore striped shirts and braces with skulls-and-crossbones. I loved that. 

When I was working myself later I shopped at Lewins (back when it was good), at Thomas Pink, at Ede & Ravenscroft. The latter were probably the best - they had this very enthusiastic, but very polite sales manager, and they sold two pairs of trousers with every suit. I’m not sure if they still do that. 

How did the transition to Solito and the rest happen?

Through blogs essentially, yours and later ones like Die Workwear. They were what opened my eyes to craft and the enjoyment of having things made. I also had two suits made with Dougie Hayward on Mount Street, before he died, which are precious.

In recent years though I have to say I’ve bought less at that level. Once you have a wardrobe of say 10 suits for work you really don’t need any, and with casual things that aren’t made for you there’s less point.

I find I'm particular about buying a shetland that’s £150 rather than £250, for example, if they’re both made in the same place and there aren’t any other real differences.

Outfit 2:

  • Jacket: Dark blue and grey check by Solito
  • Shirt: Blue poplin from Frank Foster
  • Trousers: Grey cashmere/wool Manny from Rubinacci 
  • Shoes: Brown-suede tasseled loafers, Anglo Italian

How do people dress in your office today? Is it more suits like the first outfit, or jackets and trousers like this one?

It’s primarily suits with no ties, which obviously has its downsides. But it means you focus on other things - shoes and socks, or a striped shirt. I still wear ties but they're a rarity. Also it’s only four days a week, so that’s one less day in tailoring. 

I never knew Frank Foster, what was he like? 

Oh he was amazing, it’s such an Aladdin’s Cave down there. You’d spend time looking through his cloth archive while he told stories, always involving one celebrity or another.

He loved to talk about Cary Grant sitting in the studio in his underwear, waiting for them to adjust a pair of trousers. Frank used to say it was women’s underwear too, though I’m not sure that part was true!

I know you said you went to Naples at one point. Would you recommend something like that to readers? 

It's obviously a lovely part of the world, and there are many other things you can do while you're there. But I think it’s most worth going if you have a fitting you need - some point to the journey. It would be less satisfying if you were just touring around seeing places. 

Having said that, the best part of it for me was seeing Talarico’s little shop. It was like, ‘Oh, so it’s just you two - and you’re making them right there. That’s the bench.’ You see these things online or in a book and they become almost mystical. It’s lovely to just see them first hand. 

Has your style changed at all since those early days of wearing bespoke? 

I certainly wear less English tailoring, but I think it’s mostly a queston of settling into a style, knowing what works for me and appreciating the details - handwork on my Solito coat, the way shoes have aged. 

Even on the casual side, I’ve seen trends come around again - there are so many pieces I wished I’d held onto, like Gucci loafers, striped T&A shirts - but I also feel I’ve settled more into what suits me and how I live day to day. 

Outfit 3

  • Jacket: Vintage waxed-cotton Solway, Barbour
  • Shirt: Slowear
  • Knit: Principe Firenze
  • Jeans: Drake’s
  • Shoes: LHS loafer, Alden

OK, let’s get to the more casual side. This is fairly typical for what you’d wear at the weekend, in the park or the playground?

Apart from the loafers, yes. I think over the years I’ve come to realise that my look is more Ralph Lauren than that more Italian leisurewear look, more frayed classics.

I like aspects of workwear, like a well-made chore jacket or the kind of jacket alternative you’ve discussed. A chore in particular feels quite timeless - you don’t look at it and think it feels very seventies or nineties. 

But I struggle a little with military clothing. It feels like I’ve seen that trend come around a few times. 

Do you buy much vintage? 

Actually this Barbour was the first time in ages I’d bought vintage. I always find Barbours way too long or, on someone my height, a good two inches too short. I’d learnt that only a Solway would work, but they didn’t sell them. 

So I eventually tracked one down in the right size on eBay and spent a feverish hour bidding. The result was great - it goes over a proper-length jacket, wears in nicely, and means I’ve re-used something that was otherwise just sitting in someone’s attic. 

It was the thing that made me realise vintage wasn’t that hard and was very rewarding. I’ve bought a few other things since, though I find browsing vintage shops difficult unless there’s one thing you’re after. 

When I was younger I owned so many great Ralph clothes that I just threw away, so I’ve been trying to find those again. 

It sounds like Ralph Lauren has aged with you, and come in and out of your life, or lifestyle. 

Yes I think that’s right, and over time you appreciate the consistency. When I was younger I would save up money from working in a supermarket, and go to Selfridge’s to decide which Ralph Lauren shirt I could buy that quarter. They lasted really well, in terms of quality and style, and I wish I’d kept more. 

Even with price inflation in the past few years, you can still get a Polo suit for £500 or £600, and that feels right if you’re a professional and can afford it. It’s a good suit. 

Thanks David. 


Luxury chore coats compared

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By Manish Puri

Not all chores are made equal. Some take longer, some require more exertion, and some involve going out into the cold. On a typical weekend you’ll find me frantically searching for loopholes in the chivalric code so I can cherry pick the best chores without guilt. “Yes, darling, why don’t you perform the task of taking the smelly bins out into the tundra and I’ll stand in the kitchen listening to a podcast whilst soaping dishes in lovely hot water. No, I understand your reservations, but my responsibility is going to take much longer.”

And so, it stands to reason that not all chore coats are made equal either. Traditional working models made from cotton twill are great – storied, hard-wearing, versatile and relatively affordable (especially if you go down the vintage/second-hand route). They’re also plentiful: most brands have a version.

But this guide focuses on the other chores, the chores of distinction. These follow the basic design template set out by Simon here – straight edges and triple patch pockets – but are fashioned out of unusual and luxurious materials, with considered points that elevate them into a real alternative to a tailored jacket.

In this guide I’ve selected six such chores for an in-depth look, and supplemented them with another six options at the end of the article. Brands are presented to you in ascending price order.

LEJ Cat Posh Plage Coat (£275 to £425)

I was fortunate enough to spend a few weeks travelling in Mexico this year and, with temperatures expected to be in the high-30s celsius for most of the trip, had to reconcile myself to the fact that jackets and outerwear would just be dead weight.

I did permit myself one piece for holding travel paraphernalia at airports, and to slip on as protection from aggressive air-conditioning. The item that I chose was LEJ’s Plage coat, largely because of how comfortable it is to wear.

The jacket is cut pretty straight through the body ,with the option to cinch the waist slightly using the martingale (half-belt back). The sleeve is fuller than any other chore in this guide and that’s something I really like (heck, if you’re ever required to do some actual chores you might want to be able to swing your arms a bit), though I appreciate some readers may prefer a more tailored sleeve.

It’s also something of a chameleon. The electric navy (above) is the sexy English cousin of the classic bleu de travail jackets. My green herringbone twill (presently out of stock but due back next spring) has such a strong jungle-jacket vibe I can virtually smell the DEET. This white cotton would surely be worn by the preternaturally attractive hospital staff of a US medical drama.

Because of the fuller fit and wide point collar (which is around 9.5cm compared to 6.5cm for The Anthology) the Plage coat does lean more casual and, depending on the cloth, possibly into outerwear territory.

That said, I wore a newly purchased black and white houndstooth tweed Plage to my office ahead of our evening Christmas party and I’m pleased to report it was well-received; alas, I can’t say the same for my dancing. I tempered the boldness of the check with the most neutral items in my wardrobe: white shirt, charcoal flannels and black loafers.

Two other details that I really like on the Plage are the finishing on the inside of the patch pockets, and the buttons. The former is a thick cotton ribbon, stitched on the inside of the coat to buttress the external seams at the pocket’s opening. The latter are a smoky and lustrous mother of pearl.

Should you consider fastening buttons (smoky or otherwise) to be an altogether tedious experience you could also look at LEJ’s quick release Plage coats. Identical to the standard Plage but with slim ties replacing the buttons and martingale. Yet another chameleon as the quick release element nudges it towards a mandarin jacket.

S.E.H Kelly Work Jacket (£396 to £480)

Simon memorably described SEH Kelly’s products as made of “materials…so lovely I could eat them”. Having been to the workshop, I completely understand that sentiment and, if I may extend the food analogy, I see their products as the midnight buffet at a wedding: there’s never enough for everyone so you have to be quick.

Which is to say there is currently limited stock of SEH Kelly’s Work Jacket (chores are too trivial a labour for something as hardy as this) available online. However, these guides were never intended to encourage a buy-now-think-later attitude (the reverse is so much healthier), and so I’m happy to feature the Work Jacket if it helps prepare readers for the restock due early January – expect to see jackets contrived from the same stay-wax cotton as the Duster Coats.

Details abound in the Work Jacket: the collar is beautifully shaped and aches to be popped; the standard left-breast pocket has crossed the aisle and now occupies the right leaving a faint shadow of its former self (created by the stitching of the left-hand internal pocket); patch pockets are replaced by deeply satisfying and deeply deep bucket pockets that run the width of the jacket front; an internal jetted pocket brings the count to five; the sleeves are inserted under a lapped shoulder seam with a small ventilation gusset near the armpit; the interior is partially self-lined and satin lines the sleeves.

Dark horn buttons are to be found in all directions: securing the thick cuff at the end of the sleeve, assisting the rear side-tabs to pinch away excess, and attached to the front with a ring-and-eyelet system (butcher’s buttons) that makes them removable.

In terms of cut, the Work Jacket is amongst the shortest in the guide – just a couple of centimetres shy of a blouson/bomber length – which works well for me given my penchant for higher-waisted trousers but might not be for everyone.

The colour options are uniformly excellent and put me in mind of deepest winter: moody and drab (those are compliments); I’m entirely comfortable gazing into the stunning Abyss Blue hopsack (pictured at the top of this entry) and having it gaze right back at me.

The Anthology Lazyman ($525 to $850)

I think it was the Permanent Style pop-up in 2019; Bryceland’s, Adret and The Anthology were all in residence, and I was trying on the first iteration of the Lazyman in a pale striped seersucker (above). From across the store, Bryceland’s Ethan Newton looked up from the counter, saw me considering the jacket and gave a silent nod of approval. I bought it then and there, and haven’t lived to regret the snap purchase.

The lapels nod to 1950s riviera style but with a restraint that allows the jacket to feel appropriate to most situations – suitably easy going for a holiday stroll on the beach but sufficiently elegant for a meal with friends. The waist is lent shape by tab adjusters on the back.

These details help to make the Lazyman, out of all the coats in this guide, the one I think works best with a shirt and tie (see Anthology co-founder Buzz in the fawn herringbone below).

In particular, the fuzzy navy bouclé (made of a mix of wool, baby llama and cashmere, with a bit of polyamide to bolster the delicate fabrics) and pale grey herringbone could underpin a fool-proof wardrobe for all but the most traditional of work environments.

Even though I think the jacket is well suited to shirt-and-tie getups, I should caution readers that it is short. Not by the standards of most chores and casual jackets, but if you’re fixed on a blazer alternative that covers your seat this isn’t the right choice for you.

The Anthology also offers the Lazyman in various cashmeres on a made-to-order basis. This isn’t something that’s readily available (the only other brand that I could find selling a 100% cashmere model was Zegna – discussed later) and I think it would pair well with the Lazyman style.

The other thing I’ve always loved about this jacket is the patch pocket shapes. The bottom corners curve almost imperceptibly through 90 degrees, while the short and stout breast pocket (set marginally lower than standard) reveals a flash of your sunglasses, which is a nice way to add some visual interest to a simple outfit of jeans, T-shirt and chore.

The jacket fits true to size. My purchase was an IT48 which serves well as a summer piece because I’ll usually wear it open with a light shirt or polo. However, were I to pick up one of the heavier winter options I’d go for a 50 to ensure there’s adequate room for some beefy knitwear.

Drake’s 5-Pocket Chore Jacket (£475 to £1295)

As one of their signature pieces, Drake’s is always a good place to start a hunt for a quality chore coat, and two things stand out to me from their offering.

The first is that their cloth range, size range and size availability is consistently stronger than the other brands in this guide. Over the years, they’ve made chores out of linen, wool, cotton twill, corduroy, denim, Tencel, canvas and suede. Right now, there are 14 different jackets to choose from, in seven sizes (34 to 48) and, even in the run-up to Christmas, there remains good availability in the most popular sizes.

The second thing is that Drake’s are the best at injecting personality and a sense of play into their chore coats, by stocking vibrant colours to supplement the core blues, browns, and greens. In the past I’ve had my eye caught by their fire-engine-red suede, rose-pink selvedge corduroy and tangerine Japanese linen.

Admittedly, the range right now is relatively subdued but I’m sure as we head into 2023 some fun colours will be unleashed.

Each jacket comes with five pockets – one internal pocket, three standard patch pockets and a patch ticket pocket. I’m generally not a fan of the Drake’s ticket pocket (I once unpicked one from an otherwise superb seersucker jacket) but I think it works for a chore, where the pockets are there to be filled.

Drake’s make minor style adjustments in recognition of the traits of each fabric. The rust suede jacket (pictured at the top of this entry and coveted by me for just shy of four years – sad aren’t I?) has a snap button on the cuff so you can tighten the sleeve opening like outerwear. The denim chores have rivet buttons to secure the pockets (just as you would find on a pair of jeans).

I tried both the size 38 and 40 and there wasn’t much between the two – the only place I really noticed a big difference was in the width of the arms. As with The Anthology earlier, I would recommend going with whichever size suits your style and layering preference.

Drake’s have also launched an Artists Chore Jacket which blends a chore with a smock. The result is a more generously proportioned fit (the size 38 was great), a mandarin collar, knotted buttons, and a curious round pocket with a vertical opening – if anyone knows its provenance I’d love to hear.

Anderson & Sheppard No. 2 Jacket (£1095 to £1395)

I’ve had an Anderson & Sheppard No. 2 jacket in linen tobacco for four years (snaped up after waiting 18 months for it to go on sale at Mr. Porter), and in that time it’s become a prized possession – so much so that I picked it for one of my three outfits when asked to be part of the Reader Profile series.

My opinion of the jacket echoes what I said in the summer about the Anderson & Sheppard polo, which is that there is no attempt to justify the price (high as it is) through extravagant or redundant details. The design exudes confidence through its simplicity, the proportions are bang, the finishing is great (the horn buttons are anchored by small backing buttons) and the cloth choices are, as so often is the case with A&S, impeccable.

My Irish linen (below) has enough heft but still flows over the body like an Italian linen. Other options include needlecord, a rugged handwoven tweed (above) and a lovely mid-weight navy flannel (I know Simon has written about the limitations of flannel tailored jackets, but I think an unstructured chore removes any stigma of excessive formality).

Of course, the RTW options online are just a jumping-off point with Anderson & Sheppard, given the range of MTO fabrics available.

Like many of the coats in this guide, I find the No.2 a little long in the sleeve. And unlike them the No.2 has a barrel cuff, which makes any alterations a little more expensive. I’ve not found this to be an issue on the linen jacket, which gets styled a la dégagé – buttons open, sleeves rolled up to encourage breeze on the wrists – but might be something to consider on the winter cloths if you have shorter arms.

The last thing I’d like to give a shout out to is the pockets, three of which have closing devices - a button on the breast pocket and zips on the two internal pockets. As someone who is of the firm belief that passports, credit cards and mobile phones love nothing more than leaping out of open pockets, I can’t overstate how much I appreciate the zip pockets (the only brand to have them in this guide).

Zegna (£1790 to £2890)

I agree, these are very expensive. However, I said at the outset we’d consider the most luxurious materials and that’s what these undoubtedly are - a fantastic dry-handled and lightweight wool, silk, linen and cashmere in steely blue (above £1790), a thick (almost spongey) wool (55%)/cashmere (45%) blend (£1990 – in three colours) and a mottled grey pure cashmere (£2890).

The front of the jacket has been shorn of its breast pocket: a decision that I’m sure will be simultaneously welcomed by those that like to keep things clean and minimal and agonised over by those with spectacles to deposit. This act of confiscation does give the coat the air of a Donkey jacket, but with these materials perhaps it’s fairer to refer to it’s a Thoroughbred.

Upon opening the chore you’ll find lining in the sleeves and across the shoulders. It’s a minor detail but, in common with the SEH Kelly jacket, it really does help the coat to slip on and off and obviates the need to rearrange your under layers after.

The interior also comes equipped with two small patch pockets by the hip – one with a button (nice).

As usual, I requested to try a size 38 and 40 in-store but ultimately only bothered with the former as it fit very well – despite wearing my thickest roll neck jumper at the time. Uniquely in this guide the Zegna coat has two shallow vents in the back which may have improved comfort - but only fractionally would be my guess.

The only negative on the fit was that (once again) the sleeves were a little long. Zegna’s coat has a button cuff at the end of the sleeve and so has the same attendant alteration issues as A&S. Mind you, if you’re able to afford this coat then the cost of an alteration is unlikely to be a dealbreaker.

I have to say I was quite taken by the Zegna offering. There’s no getting away from how expensive it is (even after allowing for the fact that Italian cashmere prices went up by over 40% between 2021 Q1 and 2022 Q1) but if you’re looking for a deluxe casual jacket option I’ve no doubt there are places you could spend more and get less.

Other options

Prologue (from HK$3398) offer a MTO chore jacket with a shirred back - recent commissions have been made up of vintage raw silk, linen canvas, and a milky terry cloth (above).

De Bonne Facture (€395 to €780) carry several chore jacket variants - the work jacket, the traveller jacket, the painter’s jacket, the architect jacket and an overshirt…with hip pockets. I wonder what happens if an architect gets on a train – should they change jackets? To be frank, the range is a bit confusing, and I’m not entirely convinced there’s sufficient differences to justify five models. But De Bonne Facture do use lovely cloths in soft, neutral tones and here you can choose between corduroy, wool (either twill, flannel, crepe or brushed) and yak (which I’ve not seen anywhere else).

Coherence ($925) make an unusual double-breasted chore coat inspired by a coat worn by the Dutch-French painter Kees Van Dongen in the 1950s. Perhaps not the best option for your first chore but certainly worth looking if you want a more individual take.

Scott Fraser Collection (from £295) is one to consider if you liked the absence of a breast pocket on the Zegna model but were less fond of the price. Scott’s two Partner jackets - the Corta (short) and Lunga (long) - incline towards a blouson and a safari jacket/robe respectively but retain the (mostly) straight hems and patch pockets of a chore coat.

No Man Walks Alone ($485 to $595) have designed a very light chore jacket in partnership with G. Inglese. The result looks more like a shirt jacket than a heavy-duty chore but, given how few brands offer chore jackets in patterned fabrics, I can forgive all for this delightful rusty brown gun club chore alone.

The Merchant Fox (£570 to £730) sell a classic French utility jacket (below) in a bulletproof coating cloth woven by Fox Brothers. Its material and cut make it less of a luxury piece, arguably, but we’ll look at this along with other Merchant Fox jackets in an upcoming article.

Manish is @the_daily_mirror on Instagram

The Index

The index is designed to collect the key information of each of the chore coats models featured. To aid comparison we’ve shown the chest, back length and sleeve length for size UK40/IT50/M - measurements taken from the brands.

Prices are correct as of time of writing.

Brand Model (Size) Price Pockets Fabrics Chest (cm) Back Length (cm) Sleeve (cm)
LEJ Cat Posh Plage Coat (M) £275 to £425 3 x front patch and 1 x internal patch - Cotton

- Tweed

- Wool/cashmere

- Wool/cotton

116 74 59.5
SEH Kelly Work Jacket (M) £396 to £480 1 x front patch

2 x front bucket

1 x internal patch

1 x internal jetted

- Corduroy

- Cotton sail canvas

- Hopsack cotton/linen

- Stay-wax cotton (due January)

112 71 89 (from centre back)
The Anthology

 

Lazyman (IT50) $525 to $850 3 x front patch and 1 x internal patch

 

- Cotton

- Lambswool

- Merino Wool

- Camelhair

- Seersucker

- Wool/Llama/ Cashmere/Polyamide

- Cashmere (MTO only)

118 72.2 63.6
Drake’s Five-pocket chore jacket (UK40) £475 to £1295 4 x front patch and 1 x internal patch - Suede

- Selvedge corduroy

- Denim

- Cotton

- Linen

115 72.3 65
Anderson & Sheppard Jacket No. 2

(M)

£1095 to £1395 3 x front patch (one with button) and

2 x zipped internal

- Corduroy

- Flannel

- Linen

- Handwoven tweed

- Many MTO options

112 71 47
Zegna Chore Jacket £1790 to £2890 2 x front patch and 2 x internal patch (one with button) - Cashmere

- Wool/Cashmere

- Wool/Silk/Linen/

Cashmere

TBC TBC TBC

 

PS is 15 years old! But what is permanent style?

PS is 15 years old! But what is permanent style?

Wednesday, December 14th 2022
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Fifteen years ago today, I was sitting in my office in Playhouse Yard, next to Blackfriars station, writing an article about structured finance transactions. 

I remember it was very cold, much like today, though there had been no snow. My seat was at the window and I could see people trudging past on the way to work, heads bent to the wind. 

I tended to get to the office early, about 8:30, so I could get home early and help my wife, who started to get tired at the end of the day. Our first child was due in January and she was heavily pregnant. 

However, I was having trouble concentrating on the details of collateralised debt obligations because that morning I’d published my first article on menswear, on a platform called Blogger. 

I’d registered the address PermanentStyle.blogspot.com, named after the (misremembered) subtitle of Dressing The Man, and written a very short article on why striped suits with striped shirts reminded me of pyjamas. 

It was a niche point, though a neat metaphor I thought. The writing was clear and precise, making use of the journalism training I’d had. But it felt scary to have my thoughts up there, in public, for anyone to read and criticise. 

There were no comments, no photo of me or indeed anything else, yet I felt exposed. How times have changed. 

After lunch, with that adrenaline still in the system, I banged out another piece. This time about how rules are guidelines, that they need to be understood but not slavishly followed. You need to work out your own style, I told all my non-existent readers, and have fun. 

Nothing has changed there. I still emphasise fun and understanding, and still get lectured about the rules. A couple of weeks ago someone on Instagram told me that wearing a pen in your outbreast pocket was “a complete no no for a gentleman”. You think these things have died, but they still exist. 

Today, Permanent Style is 15 years old. 

I’m immensely proud of this, though I confess it has snuck up on me. Only last month I was telling a friend that our anniversary was December next year. Oh well. 

There will be some suitable celebrations next year. A big party probably, some reflective editorial, maybe an irresponsible collaboration destined to lose money. Something like that. 

Today it’s just fun remembering that December day when I felt so scared writing 200 words on a website no one looked at. 

I have to say I’m pleased the advice has aged well. In that first month I railed against bright jacket linings and compromised magazine editorial, praising wedding ties and brown suits (above). I even gave advice on alterations (change the body, not the shoulders) that I was repeating in the pop-up shop only last week. 

But at the same time, there are ways in which my style has changed too. I didn’t think much of black suits, for example, and rather liked bright yellow socks. 

Which brings us to the question of what ‘permanent style’ actually is. Does it exist? How can it if your style, and society more generally, is always changing? 

I think it certainly does, but not in the way Alan probably meant, and not how I thought 15 years ago either. 

To have permanent style, to dress with style throughout your life, you need to be inquisitive, open-minded, and evolve. 

With a long view, this is obvious. You would look silly today wearing the clothes of a Victorian, or the bowler hat my grandfather wore to work well into the 1960s (above) - purely, as he said, to entertain the tourists. (He was deliberately dressing up as an ‘English gentleman’; some today still seem to do so.) 

We change as people too. Our jobs change, our lifestyles change, and this is mostly how I think about the impact of Covid. Readers are working more from home, but still want to look good and to enjoy their clothes. Helping them do so is our job.

There is no such thing as a single permanent style. Menswear changes happen over decades rather than months, but they still happen.

There is, however, such a thing as being permanently stylish. It probably requires a whole new article to define, although in some ways PS has been trying to define it for 2,674 posts and precisely 15 years. 

Here’s to another 15. If I get there I'll be literally jumping for joy.

Top and bottom image: from the Anglo-Italian review, photography by Jamie Ferguson

 

Anto: Shirtmaker to Hollywood, on and off screen

Anto: Shirtmaker to Hollywood, on and off screen

Monday, December 12th 2022
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I can imagine a reader walking past Anto Shirts in Beverly Hills and not stopping in. There’s quite a range of styles, and not all of them are the kind of classic look PS normally covers. 

The readers that have mentioned the shirtmaker to me have come in through other routes: seeing Anto mentioned in the press, or perhaps more often, seeing a shirt in a movie they liked and tracking down who made it. 

Anto does so much film work that there’s a decent chance they’ll be the maker you want - and that was my connection. I already knew Jack Sepetjian from our Shirtmakers Symposium, and when I was interested in a shirt made for Ryan Gosling in La La Land, I asked whether he made it. 

He did, and I covered the shirt I had made in its image here

I think this is likely to be the most interesting angle for readers. Anto makes quality shirts from my experience, but they are expensive (mostly $425+) compared to most we cover. What no other maker offers is the ability to use Harrison Ford’s shirt pattern from the latest Indiana Jones film, or Leonardo DiCaprio’s, and make their own version. 

Anto also acquired the archive of another Hollywood shirtmaker which goes back to the 1940s and 50s, containing the patterns of many of the Rat Pack, such as Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. 

If you’re at all interested in period clothing, that is a treasure trove. “Most often our work comes from costume designers approaching us to make shirts from a particular decade, when the film is set,” Jack (above) told me, when I spoke to him on a Zoom call earlier this year. 

“Any shirtmaker could make a go at creating those styles from photos or from a vintage piece, but no one has the pattern archive we do.” 

Given how often brands draw on military shirts from the same era, you feel there must be some useful civilian designs in there - though as Jack says, not necessarily from the performers of the day, or at least not what they wore to perform. 

Keen to get some first-hand experience of Anto - as well as some original photography - I asked LA local Robert Spangle (@ThousandYardStyle) to act as our roving reporter and go visit.

“I found it interesting that every aspect of the bespoke process, except for cutting and attaching the sleeves and collar, can be automated in the atelier in Studio City,” Robert says. 

“They still offer fully handmade, hand-cut shirts, but the automation allows them to cater to Hollywood. They can run out finished bespoke garments from a proven customer pattern the same day for a red-carpet event, or do small-scale production for wardrobe.”

This machinery is pretty new - when I spoke to Jack a few months earlier, it was something he was hoping to get up and running soon. The lack of it (and just as importantly, the staff required) was the major reason Anto had so few ready-made shirts available. 

"We’ve been so busy with film work the past couple of years that it’s been hard to get that going,” Jack said. "But that's what the business needs - people have been asking for it for so long.”

The atelier - a twenty-minute drive over the hill from the Beverley Hills shop - is also where the archive is held. Robert spent a happy half hour browsing through the old patterns. 

There were some technical innovations in there that I admired,” he says. “For example, they developed a special collar for Sinatra that is extremely canted, high in the back but with almost no collar stand in the front. It allowed him to sing without the shirt and tie disrupting his vocal cords.”

Many tailors around the world have patterns from famous customers, but they’re usually reticent about taking inspiration from them - and have less reason to do so, having no ready-to-wear. 

Also, those archives rarely contain a mix clothes that actors wore both on and off screen. There are exceptions, and some stars wore their own clothes in their film roles. But I don’t think anyone has this mix of civilian and costume clothing, from such a variety of actors, over such a long period - Anto was founded in 1955.

Anto has also been family owned for that whole period, with Jack its third generation. Anto Sepetjian, the founder, immigrated to California with his family from Beirut, Lebanon in the fifties.

I guess that’s one more thing that makes it a Permanent Style kind of maker, even if that’s a little hidden behind the Hollywood glamour.

And Anto joins a lengthening list of places in Los Angeles that I'd love to go and visit. We covered Ghiaia recently of course, but there’s also makers we’ve covered like Wellema, Chester Mox and Good Art, and LA-specific shops alongside vintage haunts like the Rose Bowl Flea Market. Perhaps I'll get to go again in 2023. 

Any readers out there, it would be great to see you too. 

Drake’s corduroy Mk.I Games Blazer: Review 

Drake’s corduroy Mk.I Games Blazer: Review 

Friday, December 9th 2022
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This is the Mk.1 Games Blazer from Drake’s in russet corduroy.

To be honest, I’ve lost track of the numbers and which style each is, but the important thing is that this one's a fairly regular jacket with notched lapels - not the version I’d known best previously, with peak. 

All the other details are really just details - patch pockets, flaps, lack of lining. Particularly as that choice is often driven by the material itself - with this corduroy there is no need for any lining, as the reverse is so smooth; a hairy tweed is rather different. 

I also think it’s best to think of this style as lying somewhere between a jacket and a chore coat on our recent list of tailoring alternatives

While it has regular lapels and rounded fronts (two of the usual properties of a jacket) it also has no vents, no buttons on the sleeve and twin-needle seams (all more common on a chore). 

It's also cut a little short and square and, more subtly, has no internal structure - nothing in the collar, lapels or chest - and therefore no real shaping. 

As with a chore, this throws all the emphasis on the material, and this heavy cord is really nice. An English eight-wale, it’s strong but not stiff, and I've already seen mine soften over the first dozen wears.

In fact cloth choice might be the biggest strength of the whole Games range. This mid-brown colour is the perfect shade, as are the dark brown and the olive. I’m even tempted by the corn colour, which is striking but not too saturated. 

The navy tweed they’ve just brought out in the Mk.VII (single breasted, lined sleeves) is exactly what I would have chosen, as is the melton in the double-breasted Mk.III. There’s even the mid-grey herringbone I’m always banging on about as the most versatile jacket. 

They’re heavy - the tweed is a 14oz Harris - but that suits the style. They’re not a jacket replacement in the sense of something to wear around the office, as a modern replacement for a suit. 

Rather they're closer to outerwear, which is how most men who don’t normally wear tailoring would probably wear tailoring - not layered underneath an overcoat, but layered on top of a shetland or a sweatshirt. 

Instinctively, this role for the jacket is also reflected in how I've found I wear it. 

Over knitwear, yes, as with the Rubato lambswool crewneck pictured. With a warmer shirt, a hat and a scarf to make it more winter-friendly, rather than a coat. And while the down-gilet-over-the-top look is too much for me, I understand the motivation - it makes sense over this kind of chunky material.

I always wear the collar up - it’s what I’d usually do with a chore, and the lack of internal structure plus the thick material makes it feel natural. 

I wear it undone most of the time. Given the lack of shape and structure, there isn’t that much to be gained by buttoning that waist button

When I do button the jacket it’s against the cold, and while I’m likely to use the waist button, it looks just as good with the top button instead - plus the functional button under the chin perhaps.

Finally, I use the hip pockets a lot. The material can clearly take it, and the cord also makes it a little awkward to use trouser pockets if the jacket is buttoned.

These are all things I would naturally do with a chore. 

So where does this type of jacket fit into a wardrobe? 

I think it’s for the guy who wants a piece of outerwear that is casual but can be worn with flannels and jeans. Perhaps he's tried chore jackets but found them too simple, square or straightforward. 

Not for the kind of guy who works in an office, in tailored trousers and smart shoes, and wants a jacket to go with them. He should try the pieces labelled ‘tailored jacket’ at Drake’s. Not necessarily to buy that one (I’d nudge him towards made to measure in any case), but to notice the difference in style, cut, structure and resulting smartness. 

As a reader pointed out recently, it is definitely easier to wear a tailored jacket with jeans and casual trousers than most people think. I want to help with that and never lose that. But I also know there will be many men who want a jacket that is precisely this casual. 

Drake’s is expensive these days. This jacket is £795 and that’s a lot for a cord jacket, even with the store, service and styling that I’m very happy to pay for. 

This puts me off some of the tailoring, but I’m more willing to pay for clothes that feel unique - where I can’t get the same thing anywhere else and can ‘feel’ more of the design. I think the Games blazers fall into that category, as do the Drake's suede chore jackets.

I did try the Games trousers that match this jacket by the way, but didn’t take to them. 

I think it’s great that Drake’s break them up with this way, and you can buy both, one or the other. They do them in materials - linen, cord, canvas - that I’ve always recommended as best for a ‘three-way suit’.

But the trousers felt a little lower in the rise than with previous iterations, and I didn’t like the single pleat. That thick cord is also an easier sell in an outerwear jacket, but a little more specific in a trouser. 

Other clothes pictured:

Christmas gift list 2022: Towelling, tooling and totes

Christmas gift list 2022: Towelling, tooling and totes

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1 Double-breasted towelling robe

Anderson & Sheppard, £395

The sartorial design of this robe from Anderson & Sheppard is so satisfying. It basically has ulster-coat lapels, with one buttoning under the chin when the collar is up. Good pockets, turn-back cuffs, but that lapel is the best thing. 

Anyone that likes a really warm gown, or wears them around the house more than after a shower, may not want towelling. But one advantage of the material is how it takes colour - you can wear a bright blue or red and it doesn’t look showy unlike wool or silk. 

 

2 Silk backgammon set

P Johnson, A$245

A satisfying travel game for someone into menswear. Hand-rolled silk, horn buttons, and a pleasing range of three colours - green, brown and blue. There’s even a pretentious little motto (‘ludete prudenter’ - play wisely). 

I used to have a rolled-up leather set like this I travelled with, which was always a useful diversion. Obviously silk requires a calm, indoor setting, but it’s a lot lighter too. 

 

3 Modern Black Tie book

La Bowtique, £40

Mickael’s book on black tie is long, stylish and fun. Roughly A5 size, and often with large text and imagery, it nonetheless runs to over 300 pages and covers everything from styles of bow tie to the different modern occasions for eveningwear. 

It’s light on history, but then most black tie guides are too heavy on history for me. It’s still knowledgeable, but its greatest value is communicating the joy of eveningwear, through the urgent writing and playful photography. 

 

4 Tooled leather belt

Parker Boots, from $225

My recent foray into western boots (article on the final pair coming soon) led me down a rabbit hole of related crafts, including hand-tooling of leather belts. It’s a lovely craft, and one of the easiest ways men can wear decorative patterns such as these. 

Zephan Parker’s team cut the belts in-house. They’re all made to order, with solid brass buckles. The veg-tanned leather starts out pretty stiff, but softens over time. Add some leather cream to move the process along. 

Anyone interested in leather tooling in the UK should look up ex-Cleverley shoemaker Dominic Casey, who used a QEST scholarship to learn the technique in Arizona and Oregon.

 

5 Handmade ceramic espresso cup

Ceramica Artistica Solimene via Stoffa, $50

These frosted terracotta cups have a very organic feel, with the shape and the glaze varying between each one. The shape was inspired by plastic cups used on Indian railways, but are also reminiscent of those in Italian train stations - drunk quickly on the go, with a cornetto con crema in the other hand, before scrumpling the cup and throwing it in the bin. 

It’s these experiences they remind me of, and you have to say it’s typical of Stoffa to offer something so crafted, subtle yet unusual. The packaging’s lovely too. 

 

6 Paul Brunngard shoe-care briefcase

Arterton, £220

I’ve tried a few different boxes and cases for shoe-care products over the years, from Saphir and Turms for example. This is the best of the lot, a wool-lined case made in solid walnut, with nice details like magnets in the lid to hold the brushes. It looks gorgeous and has a satisfying weight. 

The downside of the design is that you can’t easily keep other products, such as Saphir. The holes are the wrong shape, and there’s no general space for things other than polishes and creams. I need a new set of products anyway, but this will limit the case’s use for others. 

 

7 Ichizawa Hanpu roll-top tote

Trunk, £220

I’ve had one of these totes for five years, and it’s often featured on Permanent Style. But while Trunk stocked other Ichizawa totes in that time, they never had this, my favourite model. It’s just been brought back as part of a collaboration in four colours. 

The bag is made from one piece of hard-wearing canvas, in Kyoto. The most satisfying aspects of the design are the fold-down top, which is kept in place by the handles when carried, and the prominent metal feet, which mean the bag stands upright more than most. 

 

8 Extra-long shoehorn

Abbeyhorn, £156.50

Anyone that has been into classic menswear for a while, and particularly bespoke shoes, will have more than one real shoe horn. Usually made by Abbeyhorn in England, they’re a lovely natural item and usually a by-product of the African meat industry. 

If you walk past somewhere like Taylor’s on Jermyn Street, however, you will see the really big ones, which are decorative objects in their own right - the kind of combination of beauty and function that's at the heart of so much menswear. The longest Abbeyhorn has is 24 inch; sometimes Taylor's have longer ones, but they're much more expensive.

 

9 White port

Various, such as Graham’s, £24.99

Not really a menswear recommendation this, but a personal one given I love an aperitif (a good excuse for just one drink when you have small children!) and my wife’s connection to Portugal.   

I’d never tried white port until a friend gave me a bottle of this recently, but it’s lovely with tonic or soda. More interesting than trying one more gin variation, and feels very Christmassy too. 

 

10 Striped merino-wool blanket

The Merchant Fox, £445

I was a little unsure about the striped patterns on these Fox blankets, but seeing them in the pop-up store last week convinced me. It’s a lovely, subtle pattern, in soft colours inspired by British moors and heath lands. 

I’ve had a Fox blanket for years, and like their cloth they do feel different, largely because of the density of the weaving. The fine merino feels soft (not scratchy) but really strong and substantial too. Mine is a plain blue/grey, and if I was to pick a plain one from the current range it would be this natural colour (£320).  

If you want more ideas, most from previous years are still available. Search 'Christmas list' to see them. 

Moulded Shoe, New York: Home of the modified last

Moulded Shoe, New York: Home of the modified last

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Monday, December 5th 2022
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Moulded Shoe in New York is a charming shop. A family-run business now in its third generation, It’s narrow and tall, with shoe boxes stacked way up to a double-height ceiling. 

There are newspaper cuttings, customer photos and a Japanese cartoon on the walls. It’s from the old fashioned - and delightfully so - ‘more is more’ school of retailing. 

Still, as a clothes lover it’s unlikely you’d think there’s much here for you. They clearly sell Alden, but surely the Alden store on Madison will have everything this retailer could have? 

Not so. For this is one of the very few shops where you can get the modified last. 

The modified last from Alden creates a particular shape of shoe, with a slim waist, wide front and slightly bent inwards at the toes, following the shape of the foot (below). 

It’s a shape that’s more orthopaedic, perhaps prioritising comfort and functionality a little over aesthetics - unlike most dress shoes. It suits men with a narrow heel, wide joints (sometimes called a ‘spade’ shape) and high arches, which is a fairly large minority. 

The modified last is not sold widely because it is considered to be slightly odd, even ugly. Certainly, no shoe designer who was focused on design would make a shoe like this. 

However, this reputation might be exaggerated by the fact that the other shop known for selling the modified last, Antomica in Paris, puts men in rather large sizes. Pierre and Charles tend to insist on it

Anatomica is a wonderful menswear shop - one of those places that still remains a true destination - and should be celebrated and frequently visited. But it is rather frustrating that you can’t buy the modified last in the size you want. 

Hence my visit to Moulded Shoe in New York, and hence the conversation I’m having with the owner Ronnie. 

“Pierre first saw the modified last here,” he says, unlacing a boot for me to try. “He came in here and loved the shape, so he talked to Alden about offering it in his stores.”

I inquire about the preferences for sizing. 

“Yes, they tend to prefer more of a ‘fashion’ fit - longer and narrower. He thinks it’s flattering,” he says. 

I’m not sure about whether it’s more a fashion thing or not - certainly there’s more fashion going on at Anatomica than Moulded Shoe, but it’s not exactly French couture either.

Still, the difference in sizing was dramatic. After a quick measurement on the American-specific (‘Brannock’) scale, Maurice suggested a size 9D. Anatomica had recommended a 10.5C. 

The fit felt very good: close through the arch and ankle, but with plenty of room to wiggle the toes. A better fit than most ready-to-wear I have, and in some ways better than some bespoke.

On that original article about the modified last, reader ‘Plop’ got it pretty much spot on. In his experience, he said he’d recommend sizing down a half size on the modified, and perhaps a size narrower. I tend to wear a 9E in wider Alden lasts and a 9.5E in narrower ones.

I bought a pair of half-brogue boots in snuff suede (D8814), driven by the fit and the fact it would be my only chance to shop at Moulded Shoe (Alden don’t allow them to ship outside the US). 

I think the last shape works well in a boot because its idiosyncrasies are a little obscured by the design. But still, it’s the smaller size that makes the difference: when you’re not wearing a shoe that’s a full size bigger than you’d normally wear, the curved shape is a lot less obvious.

The last works particularly well on me because I have that 'spade' shape described earlier. (If you have flat feet or are wider in the heel, the Berrie or Trubalance lasts from Alden are better.)

But I know many other men do too - you only have to read the number of comments from readers asking about sizing in loafers, saying their heel always slips out. Chatting to Tony Gaziano a few weeks ago, he estimated that perhaps 20% of Gaziano & Girling customers fall into that bracket. Perhaps enough to justify a dedicated loafer last for some brands. 

It's in that context that the remark above about the fit of bespoke shoes should be taken. This one last works particularly well on me, and bespoke makers are often trying to create it from scratch. 

Of course, it's also not a fair comparison because those makers are trying to create a very visually attractive show at the same time. 

But it feels significant that while we were in the store, a reader did come in (pictured top) that had tried bespoke makers, been unsatisfied, and been recommended to try the modified last as an alternative. From a purely fit point of view, it can clearly fill a niche.

I'll take some photos of my boots in a few weeks to show how they look. I'll probably have a better idea of how I feel about them by then as well. 

Moulded Shoe sell other shoe brands, though not at the same level as Alden, and they make bespoke shoes, costing $1500-$2500 - but real orthopaedics. 

They don't make bespoke loafers full stop, because they think a laced shoe will always fit a customer better. 

MouldedShoeNY.com 

Photography: Christopher Fenimore 

Collectable cards show the ages of British Costume

Collectable cards show the ages of British Costume

Friday, December 2nd 2022
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Near where I grew up in Mortlake, south-west London, there is an incredible antiques shop. 

‘Memories of Mortlake’ is the life’s work of collector Elke Crowther, who sadly passed away last year, after decades of selling anything and everything in her house-cum-shop. 

There are antique plates stacked up, in the old-fashioned sink. An enormous oil painting of Kaiser Wilhelm lies sideways along the top of a wardrobe. The shop window is piled with examples of 40s and 50s design: postcards, cigarette packs, biscuit tins. 

I mention all this by way of context, as this post is about a little discovery I made at the back of one shelf: a perfectly preserved set of cards illustrating British fashions through the ages. 

Dating from the late 1950s, these were given away with tins of Brooke Bond Tea: you bought a tin, you got a card, you endeavoured to collect the set. 

Elke did a pretty good job, and although most relate to womenswear (it has changed much more, after all), there are enough including menswear to make them interesting. 

Here are the meticulous little images, in reverse chronological order, with the text on the back supplied by fashion historian Madeleine Ginsburg of the Victoria & Albert Museum. The illustrations are by Michael Youens. 

I’ve added my commentary in italics, but I’m sure you’ll have your own thoughts as well. 

Day Clothes about 1927

With just this first example, I've included the text on the woman’s costume as well, to give a sense of what usually runs before the men’s.

"This lady, from a fashion plate of 1927, shows how plain, straight, loosely-fitting and low-waisted dresses had become. They became shorter from 1920, and by 1925 legs clad in beige flesh-coloured stockings were visible to the knee. 

Women looked as free and easy as boys with their flat figures and new short ‘bobbed’ hairstyles, covered in tight cloche hats.

The man’s suit is still high-waisted with a rounded jacket. Men’s trousers were full, sometimes widening at the turn-up to form ‘Oxford bags’. Contrasting sports jackets were starting to be worn for leisure."

Historically, I find the more extreme fashions within menswear get recorded and discussed - such as the oxford bags mentioned here. But these were often fairly short-lived.

More interesting is how the cut of suits varied each decade or so - here, there is the ‘rounded’ jacket, which refers to the cutaway of the fronts, and the high buttoning point (the waist). 

Day Clothes 1920

"The man’s lounge suit fits tightly and still retains its long jacket. The trousers are straight but shorter, generally with the turn-up, introduced about 1904. He wears the new, soft, felt hat and spats protecting his shoe, introduced in the middle of the 19th century."

This cut, you feel, would be at home at Liverano or the Anthology, with the exception of the length of the jacket. It’s interesting how close fitting the jacket is, and how much slimmer the trouser, compared to only a few years later. 

Also noteworthy is how, over time, old-fashioned elements are gradually dispensed with. For example note how this gentleman has a contrast collar, probably detachable, whereas by 1927 he does not. Yet the spats live on a while longer.

Day Clothes 1916

"The gentleman wears a ‘lounge suit’ with a long, loose-flaring jacket and high-button lapels. His trousers taper slightly. Bowler hats were very common and for evening he could wear either the less formal, more comfortable dinner jacket, introduced in the 1890’s, or the more formal cut-away ‘tails’."

All of a sudden, the suit is barely recognisable. So long, and buttoned so high, that it looks nothing like a jacket today. Although the inverted commas around ‘lounge suit’ are intended to reflect the newness of the term, it also makes us reflect on how dissimilar it is from a modern suit. 

Day Clothes 1901

"Her companion wears a high, curved top hat with a double-breasted ‘frock overcoat’ on top of his formal jacket and striped trousers."

A shorter entry here, unfortunately, with most of the text discussing the woman’s clothing. But the image and short text says it all - we are before the lounge suit gained popularity, and everything is about long, high-buttoning frock coats with contrasting trousers. 

Day Clothes 1896

"The gentleman wears the top hat and frock coat that have become established formal dress for over forty years. Black is established as the standard colour for formal dress, and little else has changed except details like the length of the lapel and the curve of the tails. He wears a high starched collar."

The Victorian period witnessed relative stability of dress, as reflected in this commentary, with the frock coat and trousers dominating smart daytime attire. Although it’s interesting that 40 years is considered a long period, yet the suit today has barely changed except in aspects like lapel widths for rather longer. Always good to get a sense of perspective.

Day Clothes 1872

"[Described as ‘seaside costume’] The man wears an informal lounge suit, the shape based on a cut-away coat. He wears the more comfortable turn-down collar with knotted tie and low-crowned ‘bowler’-like hat."

What a suit! Not just the pattern, but the cutaway jacket, the peeping waistcoat, the contrast collar. It’s still a lounge suit, though, and only worn because this is a more casual environment - by the seaside. Over time the casual replaces the formal, the suit replaces the frock coat, and today the shirt and trousers replaces the suit.

Day Clothes 1856

"The man wears a light overcoat over a ‘frock coat’ with full square tails, not cut away, and a contrasting waistcoat with lapels and loose, straight, drab trousers. He wears a bow tie introduced about 1840 and the now universal top hat."

This image is apparently taken from a painting of a couple at the races - ‘Derby Day’. Actually the male costume isn’t that dissimilar to the morning dress required in the Royal Enclosure of Ascot today, at least compared to the other variants above. Which shows how some places and events can retain that formality, when they have such control.

Day Clothes 1848/9

"Her companion wears the new-fashioned short lounge jacket with wide trousers, introduced for country wear around 1800. His collar is lower and a bow replaces the starched cravat."

I still find it surprising when descriptions of clothing this far back talk about new fashions, set to such precise dates. Though I have to say, the gentleman’s companion doesn’t look that pleased with his new fashion. 

After this card, the years start leaping back, usually by a century or two at a time. We’re next taken to the era of Henry VIII…

Man's Formal Clothes about 1548

"This gentleman from a portrait painted about 1548 by Guillim Stretes, wears an overgown with full upper sleeves adding breadth to his shoulders, fashionable from about 1520. His doublet is loose with a seam at the waist and skirts, and his upper stocks (breeches) are separate from his hose, for greater comfort and ease of making. 

He has a padded ‘cod piece’ and his shirt is embroidered in black silk with small frills at the neck, which eventually develop into the ruff. His cap is softer and wider than previously, and his shoes are less broad in the toes than in the early years of Henry VIII."

I won’t go further back in time, as the costumes start to lose their relevance. But I like this one because of its fine points - highlighting slightly less broad shoes - when there’s so much more dramatic going on. Like massive sleeves and a cod piece. 

I also find clothing of this era funny for the way it reminds us how cyclical ideas of masculinity are. Wearing puffy sleeves and red tights might seem odd, until you think of all those guys with gym-built torsos and skin-tight stretchy jeans…