How Florence changed with the pandemic: Abbarchi, Ugolini, Vestrucci

How Florence changed with the pandemic: Abbarchi, Ugolini, Vestrucci

Monday, August 8th 2022
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“It was really eerie, Simon, with all the tourists gone."

“I know that was the same everywhere," says Simone Abbarchi (above), "but seeing the Piazza della Signoria empty made it feel like we’d gone back in time. Like the Medici could just step out of the Palazzo [Vecchio].”

Simone is telling me what it was like in Florence during the pandemic, over coffee in the café Rivoire. 

“I came into work almost every day, into the shop,” he says. “Or had to go to our workshop, just near to the Fortezza [da Basso, where Pitti is held]. It was strangely silent - not even a bird, somehow.”

Florence is probably the city I know best after London, having visited so many times over the years, and having good friends there now. It was nice to talk to them about what those times had been like. But also a little sad. 

Shirtmaker Simone Abbarchi had to move shop, because the landlord refused to lower the rent despite Simone not being able to open - or more importantly to travel, given most of his business comes from London and New York. 

So did shoemaker Roberto Ugolini, on the south side of the river. Both vacated shops they’d had for years, and moved to premises nearby. 

That was a familiar story in many parts of the world. “The landlords just don’t care - the empty city scared them, given so much of their money comes from tourism, but local makers leaving do not,” he says.

Fortunately, Roberto doesn’t need to be in a prominent location. He was already a little off the beaten track, next to the student nexus of Santo Spirito, but even there he would get daily inquiries by people who had no idea what bespoke shoemaking was.

“Honestly Simon, I wasted so much time explaining to people what went into bespoke shoes and why they cost that much,” he says. “They’d often say they’d come back to the next day, but they rarely did. It’s too alien a concept - the work and the time involved.”

So Roberto moved into a shop round the corner, which is on a quieter street and gets less passing traffic. Simone, however, felt he needed the footfall. 

“It makes a difference to people if you have a shop on a good street, they think of the shirts differently,” Simone says. “Also, it’s not too much to spend if someone wants a shirt made while they’re on holiday.”

Simone’s shirts start at €165 for made to measure, with bespoke from €230. With a lot of luxury ready-made shirts around that price he’s always been great value (and in my experience, very reliable too).

So he moved to a smaller shop on Via delle Terme, 15R (for those readers that asked recently, having visited Florence, whether he had closed). 

It’s still pretty new, with little on the walls, but actually it could end up being a nicer space than the old shop, which was always quite dark. 

The fitting area is next to the big glass frontage, which brings in a some natural light (that’s Lucas above, by the way, who runs the PS Shop, being measured up). 

There’s a nice sitting area round the corner for browsing through a wall of cloth books. Helpfully, the area for packing shirts and for storage is also on a mezzanine above the ground floor, reached via a nice iron staircase. 

And there’s a big table in the middle of the shop, where all the various options for cloth and colour can be laid out. In the picture below - taken from that mezzanine - Lucas is selecting an awning-stripe linen for a camp-collar shirt similar to the one featured in our Summer Top 10

The shirt I went with in a similar style is pictured below. I think it’s fair to say Lucas has bolder tastes than me.

I wouldn’t say Simone puts a lot into design work - he’s not a brand - but he has made a huge variety of shirts over the years, and will often have made something similar to any idea. 

When I asked about more casual summer shirts, which could be worn untucked or tucked, he suggested this camp-collar design and the one-piece collar that Italians often call a Loro Piana or transformable collar. It’s difference from a normal one-piece is that the collar can still be buttoned, and so worn with a tie. 

The shirt also has a squared off hem, which makes it easier to weat untucked. This means there is a little compromise when it’s tucked in, as it won’t stay tucked as functionally as a regular length. But for an easy summer shirt, that’s fine. (It’s also easier if you wear really high-rise trousers.)

Other shops in Florence have closed too. Sartoria Vestrucci, for example, closed its little shop and relocated to be part of Stefano Bemer.

This makes sense - the two were both owned by Tommaso Melani, and the beautiful converted church that Bemer uses is a natural home for tailoring. It feels like a home for crafts and craftspeople.

Vestrucci is also restricting its bespoke business to those that visit Florence, and will concentrate on made to measure. I really hope that model works - the Vestrucci combination of sharp cut and lightness is unique, and I love my flannel suit (which I had altered when I visited). 

In fact that goes for all these wonderful people and the clothes they make. These are not easy times to operate a bespoke business, and Pitti Uomo - which brought so much attention to the city - still has an uncertain future. 

It was lovely to see everyone again, and I fervently wish them the best for the years to come.

All photography, Jamie Ferguson, except shots of Stefano Bemer, Peter Zottolo

 

Subtlety and drama: The appeal of the purple sock

Subtlety and drama: The appeal of the purple sock

Friday, August 5th 2022
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Today’s article - a debut for someone I’ve long admired, Jason Jules - is an excellent example of why I like having these contributions on PS. 

I rarely wear contrast-coloured socks these days, particularly purple. But it’s still a look I admire, especially as a sophisticated alternative to brighter, more garish colours. 

I first wrote admiringly of purple socks in 2009, and none of my views have changed in the interim. It’s just that I tend to wear more muted, often tonal combinations, and strong colours fit in less. 

So it’s great to have Jason, who wears them with such aplomb, remind us of their virtues. There are many tastes, and many ways to be tasteful. 

By Jason Jules

Have you joined the purple hosiery brigade? Are you one of the men who have cottoned on - literally and metaphorically - to the almost infinite possibilities of wearing purple socks? 

While it might not have the power of Joseph’s Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, I find that when it comes to classic modern menswear the purple sock comes a close second, magically complementing almost every combination of casual clothing.

Tradition has it that the colour of one's shoes should relate to one's belt and the sock to one's trousers. The purpose of this is to achieve a kind of seamless flow, where there's a sense of continuation, like one uninterrupted line. 

But while I'm not saying we should abandon tradition altogether, I, and many others it seems, are of the belief that breaking the line, especially with the advent of the shorter trouser length, offers one opportunity for a more contemporary approach to elegance.

Imagine.

Right there in front of you is your fav grey-linen suit. You’re in a kind of casual mood today, even though you’re off to lunch with some high-flying business dudes. So it’s a light-blue spread collar shirt, worn sans tie, and dark-brown suede Alden loafers. What socks do you wear? Brown? Grey? Blue? 

The following day you’re heading down to the pub, for a lazy gastro meal with some old college mates. Ecru jeans, a navy merino-wool polo shirt, an olive twill overshirt and light-brown tassel loafers. What socks do you wear? Brown? Cream? Blue?  

It’s date night - nothing too fancy just a tweed sports coat, pastel-pink button-down Oxford, grey flat-front flannels and choc-brown desert boots. Socks - grey? Navy? Red? Burgundy?

While all these options might be appropriate, what they fail to provide is a deft combination of subtlety and drama - which is where purple comes in, - the colour favoured by clergymen, kings and princes.

Although there’s a playfulness about purple, it still imbues almost any ensemble with a sense of restraint and maturity by not drawing too much attention to itself - especially red, which can pack too strong a punch and dominate or even derail a look. 

Purple on the other hand is tonal and tasteful - and looks good alongside almost any colour combination you can imagine. In fact, I’d suggest that along with browns, khakis and greys you’d be surprised how well purple works with black apparel and also black footwear.

That’s not to say all purple socks are created equal or that one style is suitable for every occasion. It still makes sense to wear ribbed or cable-knit cotton socks with heavier shoes, and finer socks for more elegant affairs. 

Of course, the question you’re bound to ask is whether this is simply a passing fad, a soon-to-fade purple patch. Rather, I’d suggest it is a trend that has come of age, a new style staple.

Two industry contemporaries and menswear legends - Michael Drake and Michael Barnes (above) - have been purveyors of the style for years. In fact, when it comes to wearing purple socks, Mr Drake often credits Mr Barnes as his inspiration.

Today, that lineage is taken on by others, some of whom are pictured here. Michael Hill, Aleks Cvetkovic, Kevis Manzi, Mark Large and Ethan Wong are all great examples of the dexterity of the style.

While socks will always provide men with the chance to play with colour and pattern, allowing us to express personality and personal taste, I’d say even with all the other options available, purple socks are likely to become a kind of wardrobe essential, providing what often seems like a stylistic fait accompli with an elegant solution. 

It’s still relatively hard to find purple socks of a certain standard. Top of the list I’d say are Drakes and Pantherella. They can be found at those links.

Atelier Bomba, Rome: Chic handmade tailoring

Atelier Bomba, Rome: Chic handmade tailoring

Wednesday, August 3rd 2022
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Rome doesn’t have the menswear reputation of Milan, Florence or Naples. But there are some unusual little gems nestled in different parts of the city. 

One of the most interesting is Atelier Bomba. Started by Cristina Bomba in 1980, it has a reputation for fine knitwear and unstructured tailoring. 

Neither the website nor recommendations we were given really do the place justice, however - particularly on the tailoring. 

It’s a small, narrow shop, just off the big Piazza del Popolo. But the whole rear half is a working atelier, with drapey jackets, coats and trousers being made to measure. 

The walls are stacked with a stunning range of cloth. Much of it is vintage, and all of it is unusual but tasteful. The example below is a vintage hand-loomed cashmere. It almost had Milad and I ordering based on the cloth alone. 

Cristina was on hand, but the day-to-day running of Bomba is done by her son, Michele (pictured top) with his sister Caterina and wife Julia also closely involved. 

Michele is actually a trained bespoke tailor, and makes his own suits entirely himself. 

“I made a deliberate decision years ago not to make that part of the business,” he said. “The only way to have done it would be to outsource production, to become a manager, and I didn’t want to do that.”

Michele didn’t understand how anybody could make a bespoke garment without the cutter, and ideally the maker, seeing the customer. That led to a long conversation about practices among tailors and shoemakers, which is probably not worth reproducing here. But I guess might make an interesting future post. 

When we arrived at Bomba a customer was having a pair of navy linen trousers made. He was wearing them with a black polo shirt and soft slip-ons, and looked very much the easygoing part. 

The trousers looked nicely fitted. Inside, they had an awful lot of handwork - not all necessary perhaps, but probably part and parcel of the experience if you like everything being made on site. 

The jacket I tried on (below) had an equally impressive amount of handwork, and was nicely styled. Though personally, I’d probably prefer a bit of structure in a classic DB like this. The lapel peaks were a little unruly without it. 

“Sometimes we do put a little canvas in the jackets, just one layer of linen,” said Michele, “and no shoulder pads. The pieces can really be whichever combination the customer wants - that’s the obvious aspect of having everything made here.”

The style of some of the jackets was also a little quirky - the jacket I tried on had two buttons of different sizes. But again, Michele emphasised that this was just one style, and many customers made more subtle commissions. 

There were lovely craft details elsewhere too. The shirt/jacked pictured above had deliberately matched checks on the buttonholes, for example, which I can’t remember seeing before. 

We didn’t have time to try many pieces - I hadn’t realised quite how interesting the shop would be, or how engaging Michele and Cristina - but I suspect a shirt/jacket like this might be more my style. There are also long coats, work jackets and gowns. 

The knitwear was equally lovely, and might have broader appeal too. 

Apparently one of Cristina’s early obsessions was knitwear with the look of shetland, but light enough to be worn in the Roman climate, so she worked with melange cashmere to get a similar mix of colours. You can see the range in the cabinet above. They're all very light and very soft. 

The other knit they’re known for is super-fine merinos. (As in super-fine knitting, not the fibre itself.) 

Rather like Umbria Verde, their factory in Como uses old English looms that the founder took apart and remade, in order to get a finer setting. They now work at 45-gauge, which is why the pieces are so transparent (above). Again, particularly suited to Rome. 

Bomba, although small, has history and connections. The family was good friends with Vittorio Solbiati, and always made use of their linens. 

“When the company was being sold recently, we got a call to come and take what we wanted from the stock room,” says Michele. “That old cloth had been part of the sale, but no one wanted it. 

“So we drove up in a van and filled it to the top with the most beautiful bolts. We still have a lot of it in the back of the shop - it will take us a while to get through it.”

They've also been pivotal in retaining the character of their street, Via dell’Oca. “After the pandemic, there were a lot of empty streets here,” says Michele. “We convinced some friends, such as Patrizia Fabri next door, to take them. Otherwise they could have just become tourist places and sandwich shops.”

Those aren't Fabri straw hats below - they're by Bomba - but Fabri's are all made in a little atelier on the other side of the river. Another little Roman gem. 

I’ll definitely be back to see Bomba, hopefully this year. There was so much to explore, and Cristina and Michele were so lovely. 

Cristina in particular looked achingly chic despite the 35-degree heat, in an white linen tunic, jewellery and sandals. She reminded me rather of the equally stylish Audie Charles at Anderson & Sheppard

Both are also full of fun. Michele was happy to have his portrait taken, but Cristina said she’d only do so if there could be some knitwear in the shot too. 

The first photo below is what she gave us. Then she said the knitwear would look better on the dog, and proceeded to dress him up. 

Michele watched on, arms folded, with a smile.

Bomba is not cheap, largely a result of making so much by hand, on site. The jacket I was wearing cost €2800, and a work coat in linen was €1700. The cashmere knits start at €570. 

atelierbomba.com 

Via dell’Oca 39, Rome

Photography, Milad Abedi

Rayon shirts, and tucking in or out 

Rayon shirts, and tucking in or out 

Monday, August 1st 2022
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I’ve been interested in rayon shirts recently, perhaps as I’ve been dressing a bit more casually and would like an alternative to linen.

However, I’ve found it hard to find the perfect model. Usually the collar is the issue - this is a retro material, and the shirts often come with retro styling, which means wider collars. 

This can look great on larger men or those with larger features - like Ethan at Bryceland's for example. And they work well if that’s more your overall style I think, as it is for Scott Simpson.

But for a guy looking for a more subtle, everyday style, they can be a bit much. I’d love a Bryceland's rayon but I’ve tried them a few times over the years only to reinforce this conclusion. 

It was nice, therefore, to find the rayon shirt pictured from Pherrow’s, sold at Clutch Cafe. 

It has a smaller collar - the kind of thing a shirtmaker might cut as his default camp collar. To put it in numbers, it measures 7cm to the point, compared to 10cm for the Bryceland's. 

It’s also possible for collars to be too small, at least for me. This seems to largely happen with mainstream shirts, which I guess shouldn’t be surprising given their button-down collars and jacket lapels are so small. 

But I also have an old Gitman Bros camp-collar shirt from Trunk that has a 5cm collar. I end up undoing more buttons and rolling the fronts open, to try and increase the size. 

It’s worth emphasising that - as with everything we discuss - the point here is not to just follow someone’s preferences or dimensions - mine or anyone else’s. Rather, it is to understand another's preferences and then consider whether they apply to you. They may not.

Featuring this rayon shirt brings up some other issues readers have asked about. Let’s try and deal with one of them: tucking in and out. 

In very hot weather - as many of us have experienced in recent weeks - it can be much cooler to wear a shirt untucked. Air flow makes a difference. 

But a tucked-in shirt is usually more flattering, and certainly more elegant. It gives you a clean line at the waist and it makes the upper body look wider. It also lengthens the legs and brings attention to a nicely cut trouser. 

For those reasons, and because elegance is always at the back of my mind (no matter what I’m wearing), I will wear a rayon shirt like this tucked in most of the time. 

I’d also encourage others to try it. It might not be the intuitive thing to do, but try tucking a short-sleeved shirt into a pair of good linen trousers - they don't have to be expensive, just with a nice line, length and colour. 

Still I will wear a shirt like this untucked, and it’s more natural to do so with one that has short sleeves and a square hem. 

That's the question readers usually ask: when would you wear a shirt untucked?

With a shirt like this, but I'd also be more likely to do so with a long-sleeved one that had a square hem, and would do so last of all with something that was long-sleeved with a regular hem (a normal shirt, basically). 

Untucking a regular shirt can look good, and I recommended a linen shirt like that from A&S recently. But it takes a little more consideration to make sure it doesn’t look like you’ve just untucked your office poplin. 

If you're going to do that then having a square, blowsy cut helps; as does a soft collar and cuffs; unbuttoning it more to create shape is nice; also wearing something close-fitted underneath, like a vest; and sticking with casual, open-weave materials.

It's no coincidence that the same kinds of things apply to overshirts - they're usually looser and softer in the same way. 

The other subject short-sleeved shirts can bring up is bold patterns - Aloha shirts and the like. 

Two kinds really turn me off - the ‘fun’ type (Snoopy surfing anyone?) and the ones with that kind of dense pattern that reminds me of English men like Noel Edmonds

Actually, it’s unfair to lump this on Noel. The English middle-aged male generally is guilty of wearing ‘party’ shirts that have close Liberty-like patterns, presumably because it’s an obvious way to show that this is not an office shirt. 

But patterns more broadly are probably best left for another day. For the moment I'm sticking with love this plain ‘black’ from Pherrow’s, which is actually an inky navy. Following its success I bought the ‘natural’ - a kind of sand - but that benefits from something white underneath, like a vest, otherwise it rather washes me out. Always a risk with creams and related colours. 

The shoes are Edward Green unlined Belgravias, in black suede. The trousers are brown linen, from this Sexton suit. The bag is my old old Frank Clegg working tote. If anyone has any questions on the shirt - fit, feel, material etc - do ask in the comments. 

Photography: Alex Natt

Coloured summer jackets: Final Anderson & Sheppard commission

Coloured summer jackets: Final Anderson & Sheppard commission

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How do I feel about orange? This linen looked more like a terracotta red when it was a swatch, but let’s face it, it’s orange.

Fortunately I rather like it. Strong colour isn’t normally my thing, but when I do wear it, I prefer the colour to be softened somehow.

That comes over time with some materials – my Dege & Skinner tobacco suit, for example, was more orange than I had anticipated, but after wearing and cleaning and pressing a few times, really started to soften. And my other Anderson & Sheppard linen jacket, in a rather azure blue, was a soft colour by virtue of the white in the weave.

The linen shown here was unusual for being stonewashed, thanks to de Le Cuona, the interiors company that supplied it. More on them, and which of their materials could potentially also be used for tailoring, here.

Bright colours always look more at home in brighter weather – summer, sun, and in this case the baking heat of Florence.

I feel that cities which see a lot of sunlight build their cities accordingly, certainly old ones. There are more buildings in washes of pastel, or in simple white. Terracotta tiles are complimentary too.

Of course it must be heavily dependent on local materials, but you feel there was some guiding aesthetic at work in all this. (Anyone with knowledge to add here, rather than just impressions, do chip in.)

In this kind of environment orange linen seems at home. It certainly felt it as I went around appointments in town. In the fair of Pitti Uomo the colour was almost too subtle, like a washed-out version of what the peacocks were wearing. But around the city it almost blended with the brickwork.

One thing I wasn’t entirely happy about with the jacket was the lining and buttonhole colour. I wanted something that toned down the colour if I could, but this proved impossible.

There were no pale oranges, and no shades of warm brown or grey really worked. I haven’t given up looking, and may end up replacing it at some point in the future. (This is possible with button holes, though they’re usually not as neat afterwards.)

I ummed and erred similarly with the choice of buttons. If I want subtlety, does a brighter button achieve that because there is less contrast? Or is a darker button always better? In the end I went with the former, and that seems to have been right.

The other unusual thing about the material is the weight – it’s a 15oz linen, compared to the 11oz of normal Irish linens, or 9oz for most Italians. Interiors fabrics are rarely lightweight, as they need to be so abrasion-resistant, and de Le Cuona does even heavier ones too.

Interestingly I didn’t notice much difference in Florence though, even in 37-degree heat. I don’t sweat that much generally, but while I did notice a difference compared to the less structured Dege & Skinner jacket worn the day before, I didn’t notice one compared to that tobacco Dege suit, which is 11oz linen.

So my lesson is that while structure of a jacket – more canvas in the body, more padding in the shoulder – makes a noticeable difference, 4oz of extra linen does not.

That also applies to the benefits of those factors. Although this heavier linen flows beautifully, it’s a small difference compared to the slightly lighter Irish linen. The structure of a jacket, however, does makes a big difference to the overall look.

I had a couple of comments from friends as to how much they liked the way this jacket fit and flattered me. They preferred it to the less structured Dege jacket. Obviously the Dege was a lot easier to wear - but there are rewards for the suffering.

The padding in the shoulders of the A&S allows them to be pushed wider than my natural shape, while the canvas in the chest creates a sharp and elegant line, supporting that roll of the lapels and keeping the fronts sharp.

As we detailed in the first of these articles (it is the fifth of five, see article footer for the others), these design points were all deliberate, built off my experience with previous A&S cuts. But they wouldn’t have looked as good without that structure.

There’s also something to be said for having structure in linen in particular. Because while some elements will crease as soon as you bend your arms, or sit down, the front and in particular the chest and collar will retain their shape.

I think you can see that in the images here. It is 4pm on a very hot day, with the jacket having been worn and used since 9am that morning. The sleeves are rumpled to hell, but the chest and collar are still sharp.

This structure means there is a trade off with coolness of course, but I’d argue that it’s one worth making for any jacket designed to be smart.

If you want a linen layer that’s a lot cooler, it might be better going for something like an overshirt or shirt-jacket – an obviously more relaxed style.

The orange is not the easiest to combine with other colours, as you might expect. But so far I’ve found a couple I like.

The jacket is easiest to wear with white or cream either on the top or the bottom. So here it’s worn with a white linen shirt and grey Drapers 2-ply trousers. I particularly like this shade of grey as it has the tiniest touch of brown in it, which stops the trousers looking too much like a suiting.

And the other option is white or cream trousers, with a blue shirt on top. Denim is especially nice – something about the faded appearance of both the denim and the linen means they compliment each other. I’ll take a picture of that some other time.

The jacket could work with other bright colours – a brightly striped shirt, or certainly a tie or handkerchief. But as I increasingly realise (and feel at home with) this is not my style.

Also worn here are a cream linen handkerchief, which seems to set the white of the shirt off nicely, and dark-brown unlined Piccadilly loafers from Edward Green. You notice the lack of lining even more in the heat.

Pictured above, the PS team at Pitti - myself, Alex Natt and Lucas Nicholson

Photography: Jamie Ferguson except image above, Pontus Jonsén for Baltzar; and top and bottom images, Alex Natt. 

The previous four articles in this series are:

What Ivy means to me

What Ivy means to me

Wednesday, July 27th 2022
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When we covered Ivy-inspired clothing in a recent Reader Profile, there were some slightly dismissive comments about Ivy as a whole.

Given I’ve found that tradition particularly inspiring in the past five years, I thought it might be worth setting out what Ivy clothing I like and don’t like, and why.

I honestly think – as I said during our Ivy Symposium in New York a few years ago – that its principles have the greatest potential of any tradition in helping men dress well today: personally, elegantly and yet playfully.

Every tradition of clothing has its good and bad points - or at least more subtle and extreme ones.

I love tailoring, but I’m not a fan of braces or unusual double-breasted configurations; I love military-inspired clothing, but prefer an M65 or pair of fatigues to camo trousers or a souvenir jacket.

Ivy is no different. The brighter, louder clothing turns me off, as does the ossifying attitude of traditionalists. But the general relaxed attitude to tailoring, and combinations with sportswear, I find more inspiring than anything else.

So here are two lists: clothes I don’t wear and do wear, which may be considered Ivy.

The point is to avoid readers being turned off by the first, and as a result prevented from enjoying the second.

My Ivy is not:

  • Brightly coloured trousers
  • Fabrics with embroidered animals, flags or indeed anything else
  • Pinned or tab-collar shirts
  • Fun shirts
  • Wide, chunky shoes, particularly longwings
  • Madras jackets or trousers
  • Suits with no darts or shape otherwise
  • Blazers with gold buttons (unless, perhaps, worn with something from a different tradition, such as denim)

My Ivy is:

  • Soft-shouldered tweed jackets
  • Polo coats, raglan coats, duffle coats
  • Flat-fronted trousers
  • Oxford shirts
  • Polo shirts
  • Pale pink, pale yellow, purple. Not lime green or brick red
  • Shetland sweaters
  • Harrington jackets
  • White bucks
  • Low-vamp loafers (and low-vamp boat shoes)
  • Cordovan
  • Sports socks
  • Sportswear mixed in generally: sweats, caps and so on

When styled well, it’s not hard to see how the latter list could be a great capsule for a modern guy – existing in a dressed-down environment, but still wanting to dress well.

This contrast can be seen in other ways too, such as icons and attitudes.

My Ivy is not:

  • The guy wearing it head to toe: madras trousers, pink oxford, seersucker jacket
  • The Polo model piling on everything: shetland, jacket, rugby around the shoulders
  • The Neo-Trad overdoing it: flood pants, short jacket, pin collar
  • Lee Marvin in Point Blank, with his tan brogues
  • Don Draper when he wears checked jackets
  • Anyone insisting that Ivy should be worn in exactly the same way as a particular decade

My Ivy is:

  • Gene Kelly in sportswear, but with a collared shirt and loafers, not a tee and trainers
  • Robert Kennedy wearing a flight jacket and old khakis to play touch (American) football - below
  • Robert Motherwell or Jackson Pollock in their paint-spattered loafers or brogues
  • Paul Weller in French Ivy
  • Jean-Paul Belmondo in Breathless
  • Anyone mixing sporting and more formal clothing in a playful manner

Ivy has always evolved. Some things remain pretty constant – like flat fronts – while others change, such as the width of those trousers. From Army surplus khakis, to civilian trousers, to slimmer styles in the late 1950s, they became gradually narrower.

There’s a great Talon ad from 1955 of two guys in (moderately) slim trousers mocking someone in oversized ones – who’s standing in the window of an antiques store.

It changed with the influence of Italy from the late 50s; it was different when taken up by the Mods; there was the boom in Japan from the mid-sixties; and it had a twist added by the French, and so on.

Given all these cultural re-intepretations, it’s important to note that the whole essence of Ivy, from from its start in elite US college campuses, was of mixing things together and not giving a damn. That’s what made it energetic, interesting, and last.

Ivy style is a surprisingly broad term, encompassing much of traditional American clothing, its origins and reinterpretations, purists and rebels.

But outside America that can often be missed, with the label applied to a kind of caricature of madras, fun shirts and seersucker. It’s not a very relevant or sophisticated image.

I’d encourage readers to pick and choose the things they like from Ivy and make them their own. Guys don’t need any encouragement to wear sports clothes to class, as the originators did - but they could probably do with some help elevating those clothes when they leave.

Many thanks to Jason Jules for his help with this article. If anyone wants more on that topic, the Ivy Symposium has a few good people taking about that, such as Alan Flusser and Richard Press. 

And now, a pictorial story - to give an idea of direction, you understand, rather than make specific points. Remember, this is not about right and wrong, merely illustrating what I find inspiring, and what I think readers could too.

MY IVY IS NOT:

MY IVY IS:

The appeal of a silk dressing gown – at New & Lingwood

The appeal of a silk dressing gown – at New & Lingwood

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As I wrote earlier this year, I’m usually quite conservative when it comes to gowns. They’re very practical for me, thrown on early in the morning to get up with one of my three daughters. 

They can still be luxurious, and beautifully made. I’m good at looking after good materials, and can cope with the occasional stray soggy Corn Flake. But I’m not a man of luxurious leisure, and gowns that are overly fancy or fussy just don’t fit my life. 

However, I still recognise that a decorative silk dressing gown is a beautiful thing. If you like menswear, you will appreciate a woven-silk necktie; you will also love the scale and flow of a great overcoat; and a dressing gown such as the silk pictured above is a combination - a maximisation - of those two things. You’d be a fool to not be tempted. 

Fortunately, a reader recently asked what kind of silk dressing gown I would recommend. A classic navy spot? A quilted-lapel smoking number? And this gave me the excuse to consider the options vicariously. 

Anyone that spends time walking around Mayfair will have had their eye caught, at some point, by the New & Lingwood gown store at the end of the Piccadilly Arcade. 

There’s such a riot of brightly coloured fabric: black and gold; red and green; during the summer a procession of sugary linens in pale blue, yellow and pink. The only real local competition is from Favourbrook, and even they have quite a few dresses and waistcoats in plain cream or black. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if the display makes everyone that walks past reconsider whether they’d wear a silk gown. Or want to consider it. Want to want it. 

I think there’s quite a big difference between some of the options though. 

A black silk gown embroidered with skulls and crossed bones can look a little silly, at least to me. Are you trying to look dangerous and tough? In a silk gown? I know there’s the Eton connection, but more than just Old Etonians are buying them. 

Equally gowns in gold, with quilted facings and tassels. It’s a little too much, too showy. 

There is still a question of taste, in other words. Just as there would be if you were buying patterns and colours for another area of your life, like curtains or soft furnishings.

If you’re going to wear a brightly coloured dressing gown, my advice would be to avoid other aspects of decoration. Steer clear of the quilting and the tassels, focusing simply on colours and patterns that you like - as you would the silk in a necktie. 

I like the peacock-patterned silk above, for example. Although it’s clearly a bold pattern, and makes use of strong colour, the contrast is rather less than the green and gold above, or orange and navy. Compared to those, the pink and turquoise is quite subtle. 

I also like the fact that the piping is low contrast. Its soft gold is similar to the cream used in the body, and both blend with the pink and green rather nicely. 

To me, the bright-white piping on some gowns can make them look cheap, particularly with darker colours. Which is why the piping on the gown I covered earlier this year was so tonal. 

The New & Lingwood gowns are all finely made, of course.

I particularly like the wide, rounded shape of the facings, and the way they roll open all the way down to the hem whenever you leave the gown unbelted. Look at the belly on it in the image below - it’s almost as wide as the chest itself.

Also important is a belt that holds its shape, and doesn’t collapse when tied. Whether achieved by stitching or lining, it makes a big difference to how elegant the gown looks. Nothing makes a dressing gown look old and ratty more than a belt that has become basically a shoe string.

Many of the N&L gowns are also made in the basement of the main shop on the other side of the Arcade - something I’m not sure many people know.

This makes adjustments fairly easy, which is nice. It’s straightforward to do something like take off the fold-back cuffs and shorten the sleeves, for example, before reattaching them. 

Interestingly, N&L only had a medium and an extra-large in the store in this pattern, and I found the latter suited me better. 

A medium was more of a ‘true’ fit, with the end of the shoulder sitting right on the point of my shoulder bone. But I think a gown should be loose -  luxuriously so - and as a result have fullness in the body when you cinch it at the waist. The extra large, pictured here, did that better on me. 

More power to those that wear silk gowns and enjoy them. They are truly wonderful - and now that Vanners has gone, there will be fewer around that are made in the UK. 

From what I understand, the attempted rescue of Vanners - which had been weaving silk since 1740, and which I covered for PS back in 2009 - has now fallen through, leaving Stephen Walters the only mill doing this weaving at any scale. 

Let’s hope there are enough dandies around to keep production going there, at least. 

The silk gown pictured is £1,250. Linen gowns are a good alternative, starting at £595. Bespoke gowns are also possible, from a range of silks and other materials.

The pyjamas pictured are brushed cotton from Anderson & Sheppard. I find grey a good foil for strong colour, in much the same way as a grey flannel suit. The shoes are Sagan Lunes from Baudoin & Lange. 

Photography, Alex Natt @adnatt

What I pack when I travel – on holiday

 

A few years ago, I wrote a piece detailing what I packed when I travelled – focused on Naples in wam weather, but with application to colder weather too. 

However this was a ‘work’ trip for me. One where I was expected to give a certain impression, and tailoring was pretty much obligatory. 

If anyone is travelling for work or just wants to be smarter, the advice in that article still stands. But today, given I’m going on holiday soon, I though I’d do a vacation-oriented alternative.

 

 

Now, even though I’m on holiday, I don’t want to be wearing a T-shirt and shorts every day. I will take that and I do wear that, but I like more elegant clothing too much to wear it the whole time. 

Also, family holidays involve a small amount of variation in location. Although we spend most of the time in a villa with a pool, we will also usually spend a couple of days in a city too. 

And personally I think that for reasons of both style and propriety, I want to dress differently in an urban restaurant than I do at the beach. Most tourists appear to disagree with me, but I like to think it’s just because no one has explained this kindly and carefully them. Or pointed out that none of the locals are wearing board shorts and flip-flops. 

So, the conditions that variously shape my holiday wardrobe are:

  1. Heat. This is summer, and I’m travelling south. Temperatures 20 to 40 degrees celcius.
  2. Variation of formality. Beach, villa, city; playing with kids, travelling, dining.
  3. Space. We’re a family of five; no one can take too much.
  4. Style. Whenever practicable, I prefer to dress a touch more elegantly. Never in a tailored jacket, but not always in a tee either. 

With all that in mind, this is what I will be packing this summer. 

 

 

Tops

The thing that satisfies condition number four more than anything else, is wearing collars. A polo shirt or a casual shirt, rather than a T-shirt. Still, at least one T-shirt is just practical, for example when getting hot, sandy and sticky at the beach. 

 

 

Bottoms

The second thing that helps retain a little sartorial interest is wearing trousers rather than shorts. A loosely cut, openly woven linen trouser can be just as cool as a short, particularly with an elasticated waist. 

The colour scheme above also starts to make sense when you consider the bottoms. Pretty much every top can go with every bottom, creating a maximum number of combinations in a small suitcase. It feels kind of boring, but actually it stops me being bored.

 

 

Outerwear 

I’m unlikely to need much here given the temperature, but will need at least one jacket-like item for travelling and going out. And at least one sweater for the late evening or early morning.

The downside of polo shirts is that knitwear often doesn’t work well over them – or at least, the thicker they are and the more structured, the less it does so. Hence why cardigans are useful.

 

 

Shoes

Versatility here is of course of particular importance, given you need shoes that can be worn on the beach, loafing around, for dinner and for travelling.

 

 

Others

Apart from the obvious, like a pair of sunglasses, a straw hat, and a pair of swimming trunks, some extras to sneak in are:

  • Vest 
    • Useful layering to deal with changing temperatures. Under a shirt, polo or sweater
  • Neckerchief
    • Cotton, tied at the neck. Again warmth, but also for sweat
  • More than one hat
    • A nice way to add variation. As well as the straw, perhaps a cap, perhaps a bucket hat. Can add colour to otherwise functional tonality
  • Short pyjamas
    • I have a set from Schostal, with a short-sleeved top and shorts. Both can do double duty as normal clothes in a pinch. (Swim shorts can do that nicely too, if not too obviously for swimming)

 

 

This is not comprehensive, excluding things like bags for travelling and the beach (also, by the way, nice ways to add some interest and colour) for example.

But the main thing is dealing with all four of those conditions, which isn’t easy when there are two kids and a baby. This basic list has proved to be a fairly successful way for me to meet them, and not lose sartorial inspiration entirely. 

Tips and experiences from others, as ever, very much appreciated. 

Other pieces that may be useful:

 

Introducing: The striped short-sleeve shirt

Introducing: The striped short-sleeve shirt

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“A smarter short-sleeved shirt is not something I ever considered before, but I do actually like it.”

I have to say I enjoyed the process of launching this shirt last year - it’s fun to make something that challenges people, pushing at a few preconceptions. 

A short-sleeved smart shirt is not for everyone. A long-sleeved shirt, usually with sleeves rolled up, is a lot easier to wear in summer and it’s what I wear most of the time. 

But there is a nice, actually rather elegant look to a short-sleeved shirt with a pair of sharp trousers and shoes. That’s what I wanted to create, and show, and it was nice seeing many readers take that on last summer.

The quote above is from a reader at the time. Another said: “Having worn this for a few weeks, I find myself liking it a lot, which is nice as it was an impulse buy.

"[The fit] makes it not appear as a dress shirt with the sleeves cut off, or as an overshirt. [And the collar] helps differentiate it from an overshirt, which usually has a camp collar.”

Personally, I appreciate the coolness of a short-sleeve shirt on a very hot day, such as in Florence, where the images above were taken. 

And especially under an overshirt, so you don't have two layers of sleeves and can push back those of the overshirt. (I’d be wearing the outer layer in the first place for the sake of practicality, and pockets.)

However, I don’t have much experience of living in humid conditions, so it was nice to hear readers adding their experiences there too.

“Short-sleeve linen shirts are an essential working or travelling in and around NE/SE Asia,” said one. “I can understand some people’s reticence, but the practicality and coolness of them in hot, humid summers wins over. Thirty-seven degrees for the past three days in Japan with 60%+ humidity demands short-sleeve shirts.”

I think one reason this style of shirt has a bad rap is that it’s usually unflattering in its design. A tiny collar, square body and large, flapping sleeves combine to drown a lot of guys. 

So I worked hard on the sleeve, making something that was more akin to a rolled-up T-shirt than the square sleeve of an Aloha shirt. It’s large in the shoulder, but tapered, so slim but not tight (unless you're particularly muscly).

I won’t go into all the detail on the design again, but if anyone missed it the first time around, it's in the launch piece here.  

Today’s article is to let everyone know that we’ve added a blue/white striped version this summer, with a couple of small tweaks. 

We’ve made the collar a tiny bit smaller (a half centimetre shorter at the back) and given it a lighter weight lining. 

The lining doesn’t feel that different to start with, but it softens after the first wash, producing something that feels almost like an unlined style, but still with good shape. This is still definitively not a soft, camp-collar shirt. 

That’s just for the striped option. So you have the choice now between two collars in the two colours. As was the case last year, I’m interested to hear what everyone thinks when they’ve tried them. 

All the other details are the same. The same curving, rolling collar of all PS shirts; a longer body length to make it clearly for tucking in, not out; and handmade details (both functional and aesthetic) from Luca’s workshop in Naples. 

Available small to extra large, in Spence Bryson Irish linen, which means it keeps it shape better than most Italian linens and isn’t in any way transparent. 

Rather attractively, the blue and white stripe shows off the texture of the linen well, as you can see below. That’s something I didn’t really appreciate until I saw a finished shirt, but it’s a really nice feature. 

Elsewhere in these shots I’m pictured wearing the pale-olive linen PS Overshirt (below) over the white short-sleeve. 

We ordered triple the number of the PS Overshirts compared to last year, as they were so popular. As a result most of the permutations are still available - almost all sizes in the olive and the brown, and the smaller ones in the navy.

The trousers are the brown linen from my Sexton suit here. And the shoes, predictably, are black Sagans from Baudoin & Lange. 

Sunglasses, as discussed in the Dege jacket post recently, are the Californian model from Meyrowitz. 

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

  • Made in Naples in the atelier of bespoke shirtmaker Luca Avitabile
  • Hand-sewn buttons, buttonholes, armholes and collar
  • Uses Irish linen from Spence Bryson, and cream mother-of-pearl buttons
  • Cut long, like a dress shirt, and intended to only be worn tucked in
  • Uses the standard PS button-down collar, which rolls easily and naturally, when undone or indeed with a tie
  • Same body fit as the PS denim shirts (and oxford shirts after washing)
  • Blue stripe model has a 0.5cm lower collar and lighter weight lining
  • Ships from the UK and available in four sizes, small to extra large
  • More details on the PS shop here

Measurements: 

Small (37) Medium (39) Large (41) Extra large (43)
Chest 53cm 56 60 65
Waist 48 50 55 60
Yoke 45.5 47.5 49.5 52
Sleeve width at hem 17.5 18 19 20.5
Sleeve length 20 21 22 23.5

 

Hunter, Desii, Tartan: Florence’s surprising range of vintage

Hunter, Desii, Tartan: Florence’s surprising range of vintage

Monday, July 18th 2022
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Florence is a surprisingly good city for shopping, quite apart from any menswear shows that happen to be going on. 

It’s always been a hub for craft, and even in the city centre you’ll often walk past a little workshop with someone restoring antique furniture, doing some engraving or demonstrating traditional marbling. 

In fact it’s one of the most surprising things about Florence - that despite the fact it’s barely more than a small town, and absolutely flooded with American tourists much of the year, it still retains a this character. It has (so far) resisted becoming overwhelmed in the same way as Venice. 

There are a lot of cheap leather shops, of course, selling Chinese-made bags. But it’s not too hard to spot places with genuine craft going on, and indeed to spend an hour learning how to do engraving or marbling. 

Out of season, I’d recommend it as a holiday destination for this craft, alongside the art, history and food. 

I’ve written a list of shopping recommendations in Florence before - you can see it here, part of the travel series that eventually became a book I published with Thames & Hudson

But I didn’t include any vintage shops back then, because I simply hadn’t visited any. Since then I’ve spent time in a few, so I thought it was worth adding those, in particular the collection of Tommy at Hunter Vintage and the confusing double shop that is Desii.

Hunter Vintage

Via del Moro, 56

@huntervintagefirenze

During the various Pitti fairs (there are equivalents for women, children and materials - baby influencers anyone?) there is a slightly odd installation on the corner of Santa Maria Novella square. 

The antiques shop Bottega di Corte invites in a few local stores, including men’s and women’s vintage clothing. As a result, you’ll often walk past and see something odd and attention-grabbing in the doorway, like a bishop’s cassock or a full WWI uniform. 

The menswear in there is contributed by Tommy Pampaloni of Hunter Vintage (above), who also has a small showroom around the corner on Via del Moro. During a show, this is closed but it’s worth asking him if you can go round and see the dedicated shop. At other times, just go see the shop itself. 

Tommy’s great-grandfather was a legendary car collector, and the family has hundreds of cars and motorbikes in the countryside out of town. Many of the cars have been used in Hollywood movies.

Tommy was the one who had a passion for menswear, and started Hunter. He has a great range, though it’s fair to say it focuses on the more unusual, the historical or inspirational (unlike Desii). 

So there will be a pair of beautiful leather pilot’s trousers - largely useless for wearing today, but great inspiration for a modern designer. Or a first pattern US Army shirt, which is rare and beautiful and very beaten - perfectly wearable, but delicate and not one for the long haul. 

There are more regular pieces too - field jackets, Harringtons, duffle coats - but I’d still say this is a place to go with a mind open to any inspiration, rather than in search of something particular. 

I almost bought a 1930s German horsehide jacket (below) because the fit was so good and the patina amazing. But on reflection there were no times I would have preferred to wear it rather than my existing black horsehide

Desii Vintage

Via de Conti 17-23

desiifirenze.it

@desii.vintage

Desii is a Florentine institution, having started as a shop in 1947 and gone through various incarnations and three different generations.

Today there are four shops: new clothing (Desii Store) a sale shop (Desii Ognissanti) and two vintage shops next to each other (Desii Vintage). 

The vintage shops do sell some new clothing as well (mostly American, mostly workwear) which is where the confusion can start. But it’s mostly vintage from a wide time range - 1940s military to 1990s streetwear. 

The smaller of the two vintage shops (on the right as you look at them from Via de Conti) is just menswear, and is the place to start. The impressive thing is the amount of stock - if you want jungle jackets, you’ll find eight or ten, rather than one or two. There’s a stack of American-made chinos from the 1960s to the 1980s; rayon shirts in various sizes and styles; canvas jackets from very wide fishing designs to longer chores. 

It’s the best place to go if you’re after something particular. I was interested in a rayon shirt, for example, and old chinos. I didn’t find either, but there was a better selection than I’d seen almost anywhere else. I still can’t believe there isn’t anywhere like this in London any more. 

The bigger shop, on the left, is a mishmash. 

It’s theoretically new clothing and womenswear, but there are vintage jeans, chinos and military clothing in there as well. It’s worth browsing both if, again, you’re seeking something in particular. 

It’s also very good for luxury brands - Vuitton holdalls, Gucci loafers, Hermes scarves and so on. All genuine and reasonably priced. 

There isn’t much I’d buy from a selection like this, but one thing I’m always interested in is Hermes menswear (and scarves for either gender). It was here that I found an absolute treasure - a yellow suede popover jacket from the 1970s. Only gently worn, in the most delicate goatskin. Even the old label was beautiful.

Tartan Vintage

Via dei Palchetti, 5

Tartanvintage.com

@Tartan_Vintage

Tartan is tiny, and rammed. Run by a charming lady who’s obsessed with the UK, it’s nearly all British or British-inspired clothing. The Beatles, The Stones or Oasis will usually be playing. 

Being so British-focused is actually a nice change from the American military and workwear angle of most vintage stores. It means you get a lot of tweed raglan coats, Aquascutum raincoats, flat caps and knit ties. There are braces and straw boaters, silk cravats and spectator shoes.

It’s slightly more modern, in that you won’t find much before the 1960s, but the quality level is decent and the owner is always very helpful (and speaks good English, as you might expect). I got a couple of belts there a while ago - the intricate one featured here, and a simple webbing one. 

There was nothing special about the latter, but it was as good quality as you’d find today from Drake’s, Anglo etc, and a lot more attractive for having the patina of wear. Tarnished brass, variegated cognac leather, dulled webbing colours. That style of belt always looks a little old-fashioned to me when new. 

 

There is a handful of other vintage stores around Florence, but they’re much more modern - more thrift, more streetwear. If you’re interested in those, then Epoca on Via de Fossi is one of the best. 

Interestingly, the WP store on Via della Vigna Nuova has also recently introduced a vintage section. WP is the Italian distributor for several menswear brands (including Filson, as discussed recently), and was the first to bring many American heritage companies to Italy in the 1980s. There are seven stores around Italy. 

During Pitti, to celebrate the company’s 40th anniversary, they had a small display of vintage pieces from their archive, and a section for sale at the back of the store. It was expensive, but also highly curated. 

The guide to morning dress: Part three, the final suit

The guide to morning dress: Part three, the final suit

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by Aleks Cvetkovic

Having now been to my first Royal Ascot, it strikes me that the hardest thing to do with morning dress is to get the details right, and in so doing capture a kind of comfortable ‘old school’ elegance without looking like you’re playing dress-up. There were a lot of men at Ascot who clearly didn’t care for their clothes, and a few who wanted to enjoy some Edwardian cosplay - here’s the look I put together for the day itself. Here’s hoping it offers a third way and a handy reference for you.

Let’s pick up where we left off. The morning dress that Whitcomb & Shaftesbury cut for me has more than lived up to expectations, not just in its cut, the traditional proportions of which – slim tailcoat, wide-lapelled waistcoat and fearlessly high-waisted trouser – work together seamlessly, but also in how the three different cloths we chose complement each other.

Having this outfit made has more than confirmed my suspicion that the proportions of modern ready-to-wear morning suits, with low rise trousers and elongated waistcoats, really are missing a trick. The whole kit is extremely comfortable to wear, even in mid-June heat, and the way the coat’s tails curl so neatly around my legs to hang cleanly at the backs of the knees is very impressive.

Special mention should go to Whitcomb’s finishing, which has been consistently superb each time I’ve worked with the team.

Notice the subtle details that have been added to this suit, which only a bespoke tailor could offer: the exquisite laid-on braiding around the coat’s lapels and cuffs (the braid is vintage silk, kindly sourced for me by il maestro, Bob Bigg), the delicate bar tacks sewn by hand that reinforce the trouser pockets, and the fineness of the hand-sewn watch catch (the central buttonhole from where you fix your Albert chain).

The buttons are antique fish bone, which is traditional for formalwear and no longer readily available. Again, Bob kindly dug these out of his vintage stores. The white Marcella cotton waistcoat slips are lovely too, and something that most skilled alterations tailors could add to a ready-to-wear waistcoat – well worth doing, both for the old-world glamour and the way they contrast with the darker coat and trousers.

Speaking of ‘old world glamour brings us nicely to styling a morning suit.

The balance to aim for, whether for the races as seen here, or a wedding, is one that embraces the majority of the dress-code quirks and foibles, but stays on the right side of neo-Edwardian fantasy. Morning dress might be unusually formal, but it’s like anything else in your wardrobe. If you want to look elegant, don’t dress up – just get dressed. To me, that means choosing which parts of the traditional rig you feel comfortable with, and which to pass up.

So, what did I opt for? Jewellery-wise, I went the whole hog. I brought my antique pocket watch out of retirement, having not worn it for years, and complimented it with an antique ‘ruby’ tie pin. It’s 1960s costume jewellery, but I think it does the job.

Perhaps the most noticeable extravagance in this outfit is the silk-plush top hat, which is a 1920s example made by Lock & Co. I got extremely lucky with this. Silk plush toppers are sadly no longer in production (the last machines that made the cloth were broken up in the 1970s) and as a result antique top hats have become highly collectible. Some command silly prices: when I started looking for a topper I was quoted between £3,000 and £20,000.

I found this one on a market stall called The Last Stop for the Curious in Spitalfields, and after some negotiation paid £850, which is steep but a relative steal compared to many of the hats I saw elsewhere.

It’s also a fabulous object, with its iridescent sheen and sweeping curves, and a once-in-a-lifetime purchase that I plan to wear to the races for many years to come. If you are determined to source a silk topper too, give yourself plenty of time to go hunting and try obscure places – market stalls, vintage hat shops and antiques dealers. If you’ve got £3k or £4k to spend, Oliver Brown has a large collection available in-store.

So far, so traditional. But, I did decide to contemporise the outfit in two regards.

The first is the shirt I’m wearing. As mentioned in Part One, I considered wearing a starched detachable collar to Ascot, but in hindsight I’m very glad I didn’t. Instead, faced with 25-degree heat I opted for a collar-attached shirt from Ede & Ravenscroft, with a white cutaway collar and fine dark blue horizontal stripes.

It was far more comfortable to wear than a starched collar would have been, and it looked much more contemporary. The only starched collars I spotted on the day were worn by eccentric characters toting canes, spats and cigars, who seemed to be there more for the dress than the racing.

Importantly, this shirt has double-cuffs in the same cloth as the body. A contrasting collar is correct, but contrasting cuffs are a bit flash for morning dress.

The shirt’s dark blue stripes picked out the navy in my Prince-of-Wales check tie from Budd. The tie is part of Budd’s excellent new Wedding Collection and available here.

And the final detail to note is the pocket hanky, which adds a nice bit of colour contrast. I wore an old favourite from Drake’s, in printed silk and modal. Its rusty hue gives an otherwise sober look a touch of warmth.

A brief word on colour more generally, echoing the advice in Part One. Stick to a pastel-coloured shirt (baby pink or blue are safe bets) with a white collar, a dark finely patterned tie, and a fun contrasting pocket hank, and you won’t go far wrong. Avoid bold stripes, loud checks and bright colours. They look incongruous against a classic black coat or morning grey.

The other area in which I played with convention was the choice of footwear. I opted for a relatively racy, yet permissible choice,: black Kempton III demi-boots from Crockett & Jones’s Hand Grade line.

I am a huge advocate for Crockett’s shoes, which offer exceptional value for money and – in my experience at least – better fitting qualities than many considerably more expensive brands. The Hand Grade range is beautifully finished on excellent lasts with a significant amount of handwork. Kemptons also worked for me because they appear as Chelsea Boots beneath trouser cuffs, but cover less of the ankle so aren’t as hot to wear.

Crockett’s 367 last with its soft chiselled toe felt appropriately ‘English’ for the occasion too. If I’d been a dress-code pedant, I’d have opted for button boots, but these feel too Victorian to me. I could have gone for classic black Oxford cap-toes, but I don’t have any use for trad black Oxfords, and I’ll wear the demi-boots a fair bit.

The results, I hope you agree, are elegant but not antiquated, and relatively conservative – as morning dress should be.

Of course, this is my own personal take on the dress code (informed by a fair bit of research, it should be said) and there may be some who disagree with the choices I’ve made, as well as some purists who will rebuke me for neglecting a starched collar and chamois gloves. If that’s your thing, go for it, but I’m a huge believer in dressing for your time, no matter the place or dress code.

Above all, I hope this series has been enjoyable to follow, useful for those who are new to morning dress, and provides some helpful food for thought. Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions, and happy dressing!

A

Aimé Leon Dore launches in the UK – worth a visit?

Aimé Leon Dore launches in the UK – worth a visit?

Wednesday, July 13th 2022
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There has been a fair amount of excitement in London at the opening of the new Aimé Leon Dore shop in Soho – their first outside the US.

I can understand why. New menswear stores are rare at the moment, the dominant narrative being of stores closing or brands slipping in that direction.

And ALD is one of those brands men interested in style will have followed for years (it’s older than you think), with interest among classic menswear fans funnelled from its collaborations with Drake’s and its fresh-feeling combinations of traditional pieces with streetwear.

To an extent, ALD has been a victim of its own success on the styling side. Many brands now look similar, from start-ups to bigger brands like J.Crew. We talked about that ‘no trend’ trend last year, here.

This influence also been a result of personalities moving around. Brendon Babenzien, co-owner of Noah and previously at Supreme, is now creative director at J Crew. ALD’s Teddy Santis is designing the ‘Made in the US’ line at New Balance, and you can clearly see his influence in the ‘everyman’ shoots on display in the Oxford Street store.

I’ve liked a lot of this styling, particularly as regards more casual clothing. Of course little is ever really new, but the ALD lookbooks over the past three years have always had combinations that felt inspiring – whether it was sweatshirts with polo coats or flannels with trainers.

It also helped that they were so well-executed. The models were often friends, they appeared to have their own personal styles, and the whole thing looked relaxed and fresh.

Again, this might seem more normal now than a few years ago, but it’s still a pleasant change from most of what you get from both established classic-menswear brands – with their sterile-looking models – and from fast-fashion – with its hyper-masculine posing.

However, while I liked the styling, I was usually a little underwhelmed by the ALD product.

As with quite a few new brands, behind the shoots there seemed to little more than T-shirts, sweats and caps. There was rarely that much interesting in the product, whether in terms of cut, fabric, quality or simple creativity.

There were some nice pieces, often as part of collaborations. I preferred their version of the orange-Casentino fleece to that offered by Drake’s, for example. But these sold out quickly, and what you saw people actually wearing was sweats with a logo on them.

I should say that those sweats are better quality than most. A friend sources from the same factory, knows the grade, and you can feel the weight of the jersey when you feel them in person (one immediate advantage of having a store).

They’re not the same level as premium Japanese brands, such as The Real McCoy’s. But they’re a step above most of ALD’s high-street-wear competition.

Of course, they’re also more expensive. A simple grey sweatshirt from ALD is £175. There is a clear premium there for the costs of those shoots, the shops and the people. But you’re getting something more than just marketing for your money.

There’s also a point to make about contemporary design. One thing traditional brands often lack is a sense of being current, just in little things like the rise of a trouser, the chest size of a sweater or the use of colours. And so-called uniform brands like The Real McCoy’s can have the opposite problem – focusing so much on traditional cuts and styles that the results look anachronistic.

This is where high-street brands are often better – Uniqlo, perhaps, or Cos – as readers sometimes remark. And this is something you get from ALD. If you like the look of the hoodies people are wearing which are bigger, but a little shorter, with a close hood about the neck, chances are a current fashion brand like ALD will have that, and (with them) at a slightly higher quality level.

So how does this all boil down into the store experience?

I have to say I was impressed. There was more interesting product on display than I expected, and perhaps than you get a sense of on the website.

The recent collaboration with Woolrich had some nice knits, albeit with (fishing) flies embroidered on the front. There was a range of pyjamas in pleasingly wallpaper-like patterns. And DB seersucker suits made in the US, which had a great shape to the lapel.

Much of it still wasn’t my style, but the point is there was more originality – more like the creativity you see at a brand like Bode than at the sweatshirt start-ups that are far more common.

The shop itself is also very impressive. The design is luxurious, more like a gentleman’s club than a streetwear store. You could take all the product out (and the deflated basketballs) and fill it with Brioni tailoring without it being incongruous.

It also felt – and this is hard to describe – somehow authentic. Just as the ALD shoots celebrating people of Queen’s feel more real than square-jawed models, so the shop feels like it has a genuine vision and a genuine following.

The aesthetic, the staff, the customers, they all felt part of a whole. This is the kind of thing we perhaps get used to in classic menswear – in Anderson & Sheppard or in Connolly – but I think it’s rare in a brand like this.

Interestingly, authenticity was something the brand was criticised for lacking in its campaign to launch its UK-made New Balance: the models and the American music seemed at odds with the British terraces around them. That too shows people care: it’s a brand people feel protective about.

I think other brands should be scared. Compare the feeling of walking into ALD with other stores in London – not just the walking wounded like Brooks Brothers or Gieves & Hawkes, but Belstaff or Mackintosh or Barbour.

Those brands have genuine heritage and often quality, but there’s no sense of a following, no engagement or even knowledge among the staff. (Of course, that’s why those brands often do collaborations.)

And now ALD has investment from LVMH, they probably have the backing to do anything they want. Not, I suspect, the old model of explosion into 50 or 100 stores around the world, but to do things like make films about Robert de Niro's father or build community gyms.

For me, I can see myself popping in there now and again, to see what they’ve come up with recently and try things in person. I can also see myself buying some of the sportswear, such as a pair of the perforated shorts. The colours and cuts are so much more interesting, and again the experience so much better, that the likes Nike or Adidas.

The Aimé Leon Dore store is at 32 Broadwick Street. There is a café but it doesn’t open until 11, somewhat bizarrely. In the US there is a store in New York at 214 Mulberry Street.

Hand padding a bespoke jacket: How it’s done and why

Hand padding a bespoke jacket: How it’s done and why

Monday, July 11th 2022
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The various parts of the front of a bespoke jacket are normally sewn together by hand. This hand 'padding’ attaches the canvas that give the chest its structure, and hand sewing shapes the lapel too. 

It's often used as a sign of ‘real’ bespoke, along with creating a personal paper pattern. Very few ready-to-wear suits have it - so very little made-to-measure has either - and as a general rule of thumb this twin definition works. 

However, as you might expect, there are nuances and exceptions. The point of a personal pattern is not that it is an end in itself, but that it suggests there will be a good amount of alteration during the fitting process. We covered that in a previous article in this Anderson & Sheppard series here.

Hand padding is the same. Because it’s so labour-intensive, it is a decent sign that other, less obvious handwork will also go into the suit. The fact you can see those pin pricks on the underside of the lapel suggests the iron will also have been used to shape the jacket in more subtle ways. 

And then there are exceptions. There’s a good argument, for example, that there’s less point in hand padding with a lightweight make of jacket, as you get from tailors in the south of Italy. 

The role of padding also varies with the style of a jacket. Henry Poole pads its lapels by machine, but does the chest by hand; Anderson & Sheppard prioritises hand-padding the lapel because unlike Poole, it wants a more rounded and rolling style to its lapels.

As with any complex craft, there are levels, and once you get beyond the first one or two even the tailors start arguing about the point of parts of the process. 

However, none would argue that the shape of my Anderson & Sheppard jacket - which is the focus of this mini-series - would be possible without hand padding. 

The general 3D shape of the chest wouldn’t be achievable without handwork, and the particular style of the A&S front wouldn’t be possible without their coatmakers’ particular techniques. 

This point of this article is to illustrate them, with the help of coatmaker Frances (below), who put together the stonewashed-linen jacket we’ve been following through the series. 

Frances works in the roof of 11 St George St, the longstanding tailor’s nest that has Whitcomb & Shaftesbury on the floor below. It’s five minutes from the A&S headquarters on Old Burlington Street. 

The roof is great for coatmaking, as there’s plenty of light - half the ceiling is skylights. But this also makes it warm, and the four flights of stairs dissuade all but the most necessary trips to the outside world. 

Frances sits on her bench as we talk, padding the chest of a jacket across her knee. Tailors tend to do this because it gives natural shape to the chest as they sew, zig zagging across the layers of material. 

But it’s also good because you have to be close to the garment, making use of both hands. The finger of one hand feels the prick of the needle pushed through by the other, before redirecting it back up. 

“It’s hard on the fingers,” says Frances, showing off the callous on the finger responsible for feeling the tip of the needle each time.

Frances will get down from the bench when she’s shaping a lapel, however, because she likes to do that around its outside edge.

You can see that in the photo above. When this is done, you can see the effect this and the hand sewing has on the roll of the lapel.

Anderson & Sheppard has always been known for ‘soft’ tailoring. I put that word in inverted commas because since the growth in popularity of southern Italian tailoring, A&S is far from the softest around - just one of the softest on the Row. 

However, there is a substantial difference between A&S and its more structured peers in London. For example, the padding on the lapel of an A&S jacket doesn’t run right to the break line (the line where the lapel folds over) but stops a little short. This means it rolls more easily, and doesn’t stay as sharp. 

Context is important again, because that rolling is still less than a Neapolitan jacket. Personally I like how the lapel rolls on a two-button A&S, but prefer the three-button roll on a Neapolitan, largely because it seems to fit more naturally with a Neapolitan’s straight lapel. 

I’ve tried both with A&S, and opted for two buttons with this current jacket for that reason. You can see the roll in the image below, taken during a fitting. 

There are other small differences too, such as the fact A&S doesn’t run the canvas under the armhole of the jacket. This makes it more comfortable, but detractors would say less clean. 

Frances also pointed out the way she sews by hand around the inside edge of a collar canvas (below) to shape it. Some tailors do this just with an iron, but Frances says that can drop out over time, so she prefers to draw it in with sewing. 

It’s hard for tailors to specifically compare techniques, because few use more than one, or see customers from multiple tailors in order to compare them. Even as an experienced customer, so many different crafts combine in the final garment that it’s often hard to say something was specifically caused by one technique.

Tailors tend to stick with what works for them, and Frances has certainly been doing that, after more than 30 years with A&S. In fact, the other tailor in the workshop when we visited was her son, who joined the industry a few years ago. 

“I started off working in the West End, but then worked from home when I had children,” explains Frances. “Then years later my son wanted to apprentice here, so I came back in. Now we’re here everyday and it feels like nothing’s changed.”

This article is the fourth going in depth on the bespoke tailoring process, in the same way Permanent Style used to do when it first started. Those posts were shorter, but still, we did once do 13 posts on my first pair of Cleverley shoes. 

The previous three articles in this series are:

The last piece will focus on the final resulting jacket. 

Photography here: Alex Natt @adnatt

La Manual Alpargatera: How espadrilles are handmade

La Manual Alpargatera: How espadrilles are handmade

Friday, July 8th 2022
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By Manish Puri

I’m sitting at a round wooden table in the back office of La Manual Alpargatera. The owner, Joan Carles Tasies, is holding a chilled bottle of ratafia in his thick right hand and pours a measure into a glass in front of me.

“One day I received a panicked phone call from Jordi, one of our staff,” he says. “‘Your mother is in the shop,’ he tells me, ‘she’s selling shoes and climbing up to the top of the stepladder’. This was the fourth time my mother had come out of retirement and I had to tell her that this could not go on. It was too dangerous for her.”

“How old was your mother at this point?”

“95.”

I did sympathise with Joan Carles. Even with 40 years in the business and his status as owner, how could he expect the woman who had worked in the shop since it opened (in 1940) to listen to anything he said?

La Manual Alpargatera (alpargatera being the Spanish word for espadrille maker) was established by husband-and-wife Juan Olivé and Emilia Martínez. The photo above shows the couple in their shop -  but conceals two things.

Firstly, Juan was in fact Joan, but it was forbidden to use Catalan names at the time. Secondly, whilst Juan/Joan’s name is emblazoned across the store, it wasn’t really his business but his wife’s; but it was also unacceptable for a woman to run a business.

It was Emilia’s vision to bring the espadrille out of the country and into the city – preserving traditional techniques but refreshing the style to make them more fashionable. La Manual Alpargatera made wedge-heel espadrilles 30 years before Yves Saint Laurent (working with Castañer) sent them down a Parisian runway to worldwide acclaim.

When the shop opened in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter it was Joan Carles’ mother, Juana Martínez (above with her husband Francisco Tasies – for the avoidance of doubt he’s on the right), working as a sales assistant, who sold the very first pair of espadrilles.

After the passing of Emilia in 1980, Emilia – having no next of kin – knew only one person she trusted with her legacy; the business has remained in Joan Carles’ family ever since.

The lineage of women as the driving force behind the business remains intact. Joan Carles’ wife Asilde Sanchez (both above) has helped run the shop for 20 years and is now the ever-smiling and ever-present general manager – during my visit I realised she’d helped me pick out my last pair in 2019.

La Manual Alpargatera is unique among local retailers in that they continue to make their shoes in Barcelona – either in a factory near Tibidabo mountain or in a small workshop towards the rear of the store, at a table which hasn’t changed since 1940.

The in-house team is made up of around 10 people and the sales staff are all trained to make espadrilles in the workshop.

The aim is also for everyone to be sufficiently versed in the process that they can answer any question a customer might have. A laudable approach to retail, but not without its pitfalls, as Joan Carles recalled a particularly curious set of customers.

“A Korean family visited the store one morning, asked a lot of questions and stayed until we closed for siesta. They returned later that afternoon and stayed until the close. The next day they did the same thing. On the third day they bought some shoes,” he says.

I too was a beneficiary of Joan Carles and Asilde’s generosity with time. What I thought might be a two-hour chat spun into a 10-hour discussion on espadrilles, Barcelona politics and getting locked out of your hotel room while naked. You’ll be relieved (or perhaps dismayed) to hear that this article focuses on the first.

The first espadrilles were made 7000 years ago using (and named after) esparto grass - a strong and wiry fibre which has the unfortunate quality of smelling “like a pig’s barn” when wet.

Later hemp was used for the soles. Its soft (feels like “walking on carpet”) and flexible nature seems ideal for espadrille making, but it too is not without issue.

Cultivation of the cannabis plant required to make hemp fibre was problematic in Spain for many years. The fibre used for shoe making is also quite hairy, which means it is difficult to work it with machines – one could use finer clothes-grade hemp, but this would be prohibitively expensive and any sole made from it would have little flexibility. Finally, hemp is remarkably good at sucking up and holding onto water – Joan Carles knows local plumbers who continue to use coils of hemp instead of Teflon tape to seal pipes – and so a wet hemp espadrille can feel like a Dutch clog.

For these reasons, jute has replaced hemp as the fibre of choice. It is softer than esparto (and gets softer over time), smoother (and therefore easier to work with) and soaks up less water than hemp.

Whilst on the topic of water, I gingerly broached the question of what to do with hand-sewn espadrilles that had, despite the best of intentions, gotten wet at the beach. I was asking for a friend. I anticipated sucking of teeth, a disappointed shake of the head and an invitation to leave the store and never return. But Joan Carles was serene.

The advice is to machine wash the espadrilles cold with a neutral soap (ideally with a towel or bathmat so they don’t get too bashed about) and then machine spin them two or three times to expel as much water as possible. To finish drying, leave them sole side up out of direct sunlight – they won’t dry properly with soles down and the uppers will absorb colour from the jute. To tidy them you can scissor trim the soles (“the moustache”) as desired. Water is less of an issue than persistent humidity, which can leave the jute “rotten” if it doesn’t get the opportunity to rest and dry.

Next, we stepped through each stage of making an espadrille. I highly recommend readers take a look at this video which captures the process, but I offer a simplified summary of a process that can take between two to three hours here.

Jute rope is coiled to form a loose outline of the sole.

A thick wooden-handled needle is used to pierce the rope coils and worm thread throughout it – each pull of the thread squeezing the roped sole closer together.

I was given the chance to drive the needle through a sole made up of around six coils of rope. I made it through two coils before nearly skewering the palm of my opposite hand. It’s tough work, as illustrated by the callouses on the hands of the artisan above.

The uppers - usually made of cotton canvas - are then stitched to the sole by hand and any other elements such as ribbons are finally added.

But what’s the benefit of all this handwork? Inexpensive machine-made and glued espadrilles are readily available (often hailing from Bangladesh, where the majority of the world’s jute is grown) and they look quite similar – sometimes deceptively so, as decorative stitching is added at the end of the gluing process to suggest handwork.

Asilde gave me a pair of handmade espadrilles and invited me to bend them using the very same muscles that had failed to push a needle through rope. Sure enough, I was able to bend the soles, which returned to shape once I released my grip.

She then asked me to do the same with a pair of machine made, glued soles. Nothing. It was stiffer than a glass of homemade ratafia.

A handmade and handstitched sole is flexible, which confers comfort as it bends with the foot – it’s better for the longevity of the shoe and the body. Also, a glued espadrille can’t be washed with the same confidence as a stitched one – the vigour of the machine, the water and the detergent all combine to soften the glue.

While Joan Carles repaired some gouges in the wooden fitting benches that curve around the front of the shop (another fixture that has survived from 1940), Asilde talked me through their men’s shoes. Though occasionally she had to hare up the ladder to fetch sizes or retreat to the workshop and hammer a last into the toe cap to return shape to a pair that had laid flat for too long.

There are currently 11 models in La Manual Alpargatera’s men’s range (pictured below) not all of which are available online. I’ve picked out the ones I think would most interest the PS reader but happy to answer questions on others below the line if that’s helpful.

The Barcemola, Manchester and Tossa models (the first three shoes on the left) are closest to what I would consider a classic espadrille.

The Barcemola is a little wider in the foot and the canvas is printed with designs inspired by Barcelona – the elegant ironwork of Passeig de Gracia or the city flower.

The Manchester (which is the model I’ve worn for the past few years and found to be large to size) is shaped so that there is no left or right side and thus can, if you want, be rotated (like tyres) to even out the wear and extend their lives.

The Tossa is squarer than the Manchester in both the toe and the vamp which might make them initially uncomfortable for anyone with a high instep.

The Mundet (fifth from the left and above) is a blucher and La Manual Alpargatera’s bestselling men’s shoe.

Unlike classic espadrilles, where Asilde advised me to fit them snugly to my bigger foot – assured by the fact that both the canvas and hand stitching will give through wear – the Mundet was immediately comfortable to walk in (and a blessing for my feet, which had just endured three days at a music festival).

The Pinxo, Taverner and Valls models (respectively seventh, eighth and ninth from the left) are all traditional Catalan espadrilles with ribbons woven into the uppers.

The Pinxo was favoured by Salvador Dalí (above) who was a regular customer - it is available with and without ankle ribbons.

A pair of La Manual Alpargatera’s Taverner espadrilles from 1955 resides in the Met Museum’s collection.

The Valls is made by La Manual Alpargatera for the Mossos d’Esquadra (the autonomous Catalan police force) and forms part of their costume dress.

Each of the models comes in various permutations of insole (bare jute, canvas lined and padded) and outsole (bare jute, crepe, vulcanised rubber and recycled tyre – all shown above).

Joan Carles and Asilde were unequivocal that “bare foot and bare jute” is the best way to experience an espadrille. However, they understand that the customer might wish to trade the tactility and breathability of bare jute for the instant comfort and increased durability of a padded insole with rubber outsole.

If the combinations online or instore are not to your liking, then La Manual Alpargatera offer a comprehensive made-to-order programme where you can even provide your own fabric - Joan Carles told me about one menswear writer that had a series of espadrilles made to match the colour of each of his summer shirts.

I’m toying with the idea of having the Pallars mule slipper made with a flannel upper and a bare jute sole; the combination of smooth wool and cool, crunchy jute putting me in mind of an inverted apple crumble and ice cream, for the feet.

 

Joan Carles impressed upon me the lead time for custom orders – at least two weeks during the winter and four weeks in the summer. I explained that the PS reader is a rare breed – a sartorial camel that can go months, if not years, waiting for commissions, sustained only by the memories of past triumphs and the hope that the next will be the best yet.

In the days that followed my visit I exchanged texts with Joan Carles, sharing photos and clarifying points of discussion.

“You know with all that talk I probably [didn’t] mention our goal for our business,” he said. We wish to be in every citizen of Barcelona’s shortlist of things [that make them] proud of their city. We’ll never be like Barça [the football team] or Sagrada Familia, but we’d like to be in their ‘second row’ after that.”

It is a lofty ambition to be sure; but so was Emilia Martínez’s.

You can read Simon’s article on why he loves espadrilles, and how he styles them, in a recent article on the subject here.

I would like to extend my warmest thanks to Joan Carles and Asilde for their time, hospitality and knowledge of Basque desserts.

Photos 2, 3 and 8-11 are courtesy of Joan Carles Tasies/La Manual Alpargatera.

All other photos (except 16) are by Manish Puri. Manish is @the_daily_mirror on Instagram

Summer Top 10: Polos, more polos, and espadrilles

Summer Top 10: Polos, more polos, and espadrilles

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I wasn’t going to do a ‘high summer’ version of our seasonal Top 10. After all, the spring edition back in April included such things as panama hats and boat shoes. 

But everyone’s stock has been arriving so late that the intervening months have seen lots of favourite brands launch polos, rayon and the like. And the weather has been so hot in the UK that I’ve been searching for things like lightweight linen trousers and floaty shirts. 

So here’s a summer breakdown of my favourite things I’ve tried during those two warm months. 

Rubato knitted T-shirts

SKr2560 (£205)

Rubato have expanded their summer range significantly, with knitted T-shirts (long and short sleeve) and knitted polo shirts. All are made with cotton/silk mix that's very dry to the touch (almost, but not quite scratchy) and use this to make pieces that have a solid handle, but are cool by virtue of being open weave.

The polo shirts are my favourite, in particular the stripes, but I find the short-sleeve T-shirts (such as the cream above) the most interesting. They're cut with a high neck and a body that hangs straight, rather than having any ribbing at the bottom (in contrast to those from The Anthology, for instance). This makes for a rather different look, quite blocky and modern.

I took the black (medium) and will be trying in with both casual and smart trousers. The long-sleeve is more like a sweater, with ribbing on the hem. Still light and dry though.

AWMS espadrilles

£69

This latest launch from Tony is a spin on a menswear standard, as we should probably expect by now, with the obvious thing here being the traditional ribbons that tie up the calf. I have to say I’m a little unsure about the style, but having tried them myself the ribbon does function very well, in that it keeps the heel firmly in the shoe, while allowing you to have a roomy fit - often I have to compromise on one or the other. 

I also love the black-on-black colour option, which I’ve never seen before, as it makes them less obviously a beach shoe. They’re a basic make, again in common with what Tony does elsewhere, but this is clearly reflected in the price. 

Perro crepe-cotton polo shirt

€145

I’ve never been that much of a fan of knitted cotton polo shirts, because the ones I’ve tried historically (usually from Smedley) have been oddly warm on the skin and crumpled easily. That was why our PS ones were done in a high-twist merino. 

However, if you do like cotton, this version from Perro is the best I’ve tried in terms of performance. The crepe does something similar to a twist, helping the cotton to maintain its shape and make it more breathable too. A smallish collar and a straightforward make, but a great feel on the body. 

Casatlantic ‘Anfa’ knit

€130

This new polo from Casatlantic I loved too, though in spite of its cotton rather than because of it. The material isn’t the coolest; it’s a fairly thick cotton. But the style is fantastic, particularly with high-waisted trousers. 

It’s slim, short and fairly fitted at the waist (not unlike Rubato knitwear, though the Rubato polos are more generous there). The collar is large, and normally would be too dramatic a style for me, but it works in the black I went for, because the shape and collar are a little hidden. Unfortunately they all seem to have sold out quickly, and won't be restocked this summer. 

Pherrow’s open-collar rayon shirt

£149

It’s a perennial problem, actually, trying to recommend products in a round-up article, when they often sell within two or three weeks. This rayon shirt from Pherrow’s for example, available at Clutch, is the first I’ve tried that I really liked - primarily because the collar is smaller and overall it’s a very simple, straightforward make. Good price too. 

But many of the sizes have gone. I can see a medium in the black, an extra large in the natural colour, and one or two others. That’s about it. However, this is a style Clutch gets every year, so it’s one to note down and look out for. 

The Anthology drawstring linen trousers

$295

I have a pair of olive-green linen drawstring trousers from Informale that I’ve worn a lot the past couple of years. They’re for hot days, when you want that extra comfort, and not for tucking anything into, so the waistband is covered. 

However, I recently tried the similar style from The Anthology, and prefer them. It’s a single pleat, rather than double, so you don’t get all that pooling around the waist. They’re a better rise (for me) and the Japanese linen is cool while holding its shape better. I bought the navy, and am considering the olive. 

Haulier canvas tote bag

$575

Haulier sent me one of these totes to try, earlier in the year and the slow-woven canvas is beautiful. The leather isn’t quite as good, and they are expensive, but it’s a really nice option for a beach bag. 

I mention it because a reader specifically asked for a recommendation for a beach bag recently. However I realise not many readers will go to the beach often enough to be able to justify a bag just for that purpose, particularly for over $500. I prefer the proportions of the bigger (and so more expensive) version too.

Anderson & Sheppard linen holiday shirt

£245

I love wearing a linen shirt on holiday, but most of my bespoke ones aren’t really suitable. They’re more fitted, long, with a higher collar designed for a jacket. They look a little too smart on holiday, and certainly can’t be worn untucked. 

For that kind of shirt it’s worth looking for something more casual, which can often be ready-to-wear. One of the best there is these from Anderson & Sheppard, which come in a big range of colours, and are nice and blousy tucked in, or loose and flowing untucked. They do come up big though - even the XS that I wear is roomy. 

Simone Abbarchi bespoke camp-collar shirt

€210

The alternative to that is to try and design something with a shirtmaker, adding in all the extra room you want, the length, the softer collar and so on. Shirtmakers are not always great designers, and this can be a bit hit and miss. 

However, when I tried it recently with Simone Abbarchi from Florence (who also visits London and New York) he nailed it first time. This model has a camp collar, a straight hem and a looser fit. He’s also making one with a one-piece collar, which he calls a transformable or Loro Piana collar (as they were the first to popularise the style in Italy). 

Peplor shorts/trunks

€89

Peplor is based in Florence, a young brand using old Italian military fabrics to make various accessories - and these shorts. I wouldn’t normally wear camouflage, but this is very subtle, and the cut of the shorts is really nice, short and roomy without being an extreme of either. It’s based off an old gurkha style, thankfully without the double-buckle business. 

I did have one issue with them, which is that the drawstring broke, but apparently this was an early batch where the string was made in three parts. It’s now just one. They’re also pretty stiff, and won’t really soften much over time, so that won’t be for everyone. 

Among other shorts out there, RRL has a couple of higher rise canvas options, and Buzz Rickson has some styles around that are great, if expensive. Clutch received those recently.

As ever, if you have questions on any of these products, including sizing, let me know. Also how they compare to other similar things in the market.

If you only had five pairs of (casual) trousers

 

I began the companion piece to this one – looking at smart trousers – by saying that it was the hardest chapter to write in our Wardrobe Building series

I was right. I thought this one would be harder, but it’s not.

The problem with going from smart clothing to casual is that the number of styles – the social ways of wearing clothing – go up dramatically. This is something people often don’t appreciate when trying to give advice or ‘rules’ on anything casual.

However, the trousers are actually fairly consistent. There are baggy jeans and bootcut jeans and drainpipe jeans, but they’re all jeans. Same with chinos, to an extent. Even cords have been co-opted by different groups, such as skaters.

The things that separate one style from another are usually a matter of cut, not category. So difficult as it might seem to suggest five pairs of casual trousers that will work for everyone, the difficulty is often in the details. 

Here I suggest five, plus some extras, as in the smart trousers list. I also try to add in some thoughts on details like material, cut and colour. But an article like this could never contain all of them – so do ask questions in the comments, and if it seems like it justifies it, I’ll also work on follow-up pieces.

 

 

Dark blue jeans

I personally wear mid-blue more these days, but there’s no denying the versatility of a pair of dark-indigo jeans. Still smart with a sweater and loafers, but always more casual than tailored trousers, they became the uniform of guys that didn’t wear a suit to the office.

As far as style goes, to hit the notes for a PS aesthetic they’re best as a mid-rise (nothing that looks unusual, essentially) with a straight leg or slight taper, finishing with around a 7.5 to 8-inch hem. Like the Rubato ones, which I’m loving since I got them at the pop-up.

 

 

Mid-blue jeans

I wear mid-blue jeans more because I’m rarely looking to be smart with my denim. For that smart/casual crossover I’m more likely to wear flannels or a smarter chino. 

I also particularly like how well a mid-blue wash goes with colour, whether it’s the red of a sweatshirt or green of a tweed jacket. It’s a style thing, basically, but pretty much everyone can make use of having them as well as the dark indigo. 

 

 

Chinos to suit you

Most people are going to have one or two pairs of chinos in a capsule of five. As we’ve seen in our series looking at different makes, however, there are different styles resulting from different cloths and cuts. 

So here I’d recommend either a smarter chino like a Rubato or an Armoury Sports Chino, or a more casual one like a Real McCoy’s or Bryceland’s, depending on which suits your style more. The most versatile colour would be in bone/beige/khaki range. Pale and muted.

 

 

Casual linens

It’s a lot to ask, but these trousers have to work for warmer weather too, so we need a pair of linens. However, go for a lighter weight, perhaps Italian linen that’s softer and instantly more casual. Much as I love the starchier Irish linens, they’re so much smarter. 

The most useful colour would probably be bone/beige again; versatility can often be pretty boring. A second pair could be navy or olive. 

 

 

Cords

I struggle to explain why, but corduroy is much more of a chameleon than other tailored cottons, such as moleskin. In a dark colour, like a dark olive or dark brown, they escape the rural associations that often plague them and – although a set of only five trousers is not the place for it – they’re the best material out of all of these for strong colour. 

In a set of five like this I’d probably find olive the most useful, but end up going with brown or cream because I enjoy them so much. 

 

 

White jeans

Here are five more casual trousers, in fairly quick succession. First, white jeans – not for everyone, and better as ecru than white – but if you like them then very useful.

The other type and colour of chino 

If you chose workwear cotton above, go with smart here, and vice versa. Or you could go with a second colour, if for example you only wear chinos more casually. You get the drift here: it’s about adapting these suggestions to your personal preferences. 

More for summer 

Another summer option would be nice, to help out those linens and presumably a couple of pairs of shorts. It could be another colour of linen, a lightweight chino or even a cotton/linen mix. A drawstring is nice and relaxed too, just don’t tuck anything into it. 

Black jeans 

I have a pair of black jeans, but find I rarely wear them. They’re not really my style – I always reach for one of the other three colours of denim instead. Still, the faded black that’s basically grey can be really useful – great with brown-suede, for example. 

Fatigues

The faded green of old US Army fatigues is a really versatile colour, good with grey or navy on top as well as bold colours. They’re fairly easy to find vintage, and usually better that way, unless you’re going to wash them a lot at the outset.

As always, let us know which casual trousers you find the most useful, and any brand recommendations if you want to. Also shout if you want details on any of the trousers shown here – they’re all taken from previous PS posts.  

 

 

Some interesting Pitti picks

Some interesting Pitti picks

Friday, July 1st 2022
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It was nice to see Pitti back in some kind of working order recently, when I attended for the first time in two years. 

Attendance was still down, with many brands absent and indeed an entire building empty. That was a little shocking to see - just a barrier where the entrance used to be. 

And there was a distinct lack of Japanese and Koreans. Apparently there are still some restrictions on them travelling - or at least getting back once they leave. 

But still, it was nice. I really miss the concentration of creativity that happens at a menswear show. Everyone out in their best duds, reflecting their combination of a particular style subculture, the trends within it, and then their personality within that. Often I find the streetwear guys just as inspiring as the sartorialists. 

I also miss the cataloguing of the looks that used to happen in the major magazines. They were so useful. You’d trawl through 93 images but always find 10 or 15 that were worth saving.

Nowadays this mostly happens on Instagram, sometimes only in stories, and it’s often drowned out by images of what everyone had for dinner. WWD has a set, but it’s very fashion. 

So here are a few I liked at Pitti this year. It’s a deliberate mix of formal and casual, and I really wish I didn’t have to remind everyone, but it still feels necessary - this isn’t about copying looks wholesale. It’s about little touches of inspiration, whether a colour combination, a cut, or even just an attitude.

Women can get away with more than men when it comes to style (it’s all about associations), but still this is a great combination. Textured grey, white, tan, brown, beige. Of all those, I think it’s the brown/grey suit cloth that brings it all together. 

I wouldn’t wear the hat and I’d go for loafers rather than monk straps, but that’s the point: a different style on a different person, but something that can inspire me none the less. 

There’s something contrary in me that always wants to pick the unusual choice. Not the guy in the nice suit and nice shirt. But the guy in a T-shirt and khakis that has easily missed ideas for a nice suit and nice shirt.

Here I like the colour combination of white, washed-out green and washed-out grey (in the shirt). Goes well with his hair colour too. 

Maybe the theme for me this year was ‘tonal’. I’d never wear this outfit, but I was attracted by the combination of black, grey, white and a petrol blue. 

Looking at those that wear more casual clothing is also often an interesting exercise in proportion. Big T-shirt, but tucked in; big trousers, but cut short. It’s often length that makes something sloppy, rather than size. 

OK, here’s a nice bit of tailoring. Hi Andreas! An impressive amount of tonality going on here, with three shades of brown and a yellow (cream?) polo shirt. 

I’m not sure I could pull off quite that level of brown tonal. Maybe it helps that Andreas’s tan and hair almost seem part of the combination. Anyway, one I’ll put into the ‘try and see’ folder. 

This is probably more what I’d wear. Tan cotton suit, T-shirt, brown sunglasses adding something extra. 

I didn’t expect the burgundy-coloured Vans though. They really added something to the outfit, in the absence of any other colour or accessory. Helps a lot if they’re beat-up. 

Women again. My God they do the tonal thing well. Not because it comes more naturally somehow, but because we often don’t appreciate how much they think, have to think, and copy images even more wholesale. That’s based on a few conversations, but a subject for another day. 

Here it’s just beautiful white, beige, tan and black. I will definitely be copying that. And no, guys, it doesn’t matter if your bag doesn’t match your shoes. 

Wearing colours that are close to each other, but not quite the same, is something men often feel is a bad idea. It can certainly be risky, and not as smart, but it’s worth playing with in more casual clothing. 

I love this simple navy on navy. It looks like a working outfit, ready for a practical day in the heat, at a trade fair. But with an elegance nonetheless. 

There’s something similar here with Kevis, but rather more exaggerated proportions and, as a result, what feels more like a fashion look. 

High, wide trousers; deeply unbuttoned shirt; big hat and glasses. It’s these things that make it the kind of outfit many PS readers won’t like - but it’s about proportions, not the fact there’s a big ship on the front of the cap. 

I deliberately haven’t included most of the big hitters of menswear here - Ethan and Kenji, Anglo guys, Armoury guys etc. You’ll have seen most of those around anyway. And I haven’t included this picture for Tommaso either (on the left). 

Rather, I liked Eugenio’s orange slippers. Only at a pool party, and only with everything else very restrained, but I love it. Better than an animal print or a big monogram for me, personally. 

Here’s a lovely suit and tie. One of the few times I’ve found I like a ‘fun’ tie as well. Not too fun, not ironic, but deliberately more playful than a small geometric pattern.

Nice details too, like the bracelet, the sunglasses in the pocket. Still seems like a better way to go than a pocket square or a tie pin to me, most of the time. 

To be honest, I’m not sure why I like this one so much. Maybe it just seemed very authentic - his way of wearing a suit.

I couldn’t imagine the same look with a collared shirt, or with a polo tucked in. The full cut of the trousers, and the jacket permanently unbuttoned, are also part of the same attitude. The attitude and the personality make me very happy. 

I know, I know. The proportions are a bit silly: those jeans are so low the jacket barely overlaps them. But the purple, the purple under the navy is great. As is pale denim and the black loafer.

I’d take that and try a navy shawl-collar cardigan over a purple polo, with similarly pale jeans (slimmer leg, higher rise) and black loafers. That could look great. 

The thing I love most about simple colour combinations is that it gives you more room to experiment with other things (if you want to). 

This is basically just black and olive drab. But it makes it easier to wear a leather sandal, carry a little drawstring bag, add some jewellery.

Back to tailoring, with a combination I have actually worn and will again. Maybe that’s why I include less of these, because I feel I already know them, and have shown them on PS too.

Anyway, it’s beige/oatmeal, white and tobacco. I’ve done that with my Brioni jacket and my canvas Caliendo, the choice depending on how casual I want to be. And usually with the trousers from my Dege suit

Last but by no means least, a guy doing some western workwear very simply and nicely. It’s the much-more-wearable alternative to what you normally see in Brycelands imagery.

Pale blue work shirt, khaki khakis, and a western hat in the actually-rather-tonal colour of silverbelly. If you’re going to try a western hat in the sun, this is the way to start. 

All photos, Alex Natt, except Andreas and Eugenio, Skolyx, and three guys on the street, Pontus Jonsén of Baltzar.com

The canvas chore coat – and buying vintage online

The canvas chore coat – and buying vintage online

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I increasingly find that for the kind of casual outerwear I wear at the weekend (for taking the kids to the park, and similarly hard-wearing activities) I always prefer vintage. 

There are exceptions, of course. A Bryceland’s white chore coat, for example, bought because I love the design and know how well executed something from Ethan is. 

But nigh-on everything else is vintage, largely because of the way the pieces have worn in and aged. They look so much more attractive than anything new. 

The tough materials will have faded and softened. There will be little nicks and scratches, and even home repairs - which I love for the care they show someone else took with the clothing.

Now I think about it, a lot of the casual outerwear I’ve featured over the years has been like this  - particularly shorter jackets. There’s my M65, my black horsehide, the jungle jacket and the old kendogi (though the latter is a bit delicate for kid-herding). Reminders of all those below. 

Today’s piece is a chore coat I recently got from Broadway & Sons, which I love and is interesting to discuss because the style has become fashionable recently. 

As with all fashions, I start from a position of scepticism. But I still try to stay open-minded - if you’re really interested in clothing, I think it’s worth striving to remain so. 

It’s refreshing and often instructive to watch a trend evolve, to see where it goes and ponder whether, at any point, it could work with how you dress. Being closed-minded is so cold and dull. 

Carhartt’s brown-duck jackets and double-knee trousers started to become trendy a couple of years ago. It made sense - they fitted with the nineties revival, the popularity of looser fits, and with both workwear and skatewear. 

When I visited Le Vif in Paris earlier this year, Arthur showed Alex and I a few double-knee trousers (be aware - new/old ones are so coarse they’ll take the hair off your legs) and said Carhartt was suddenly incredibly popular.

I’ve always liked the way duck canvas ages, particularly the fading you get from sun exposure, which manages to be both subtler and more extreme than on an old bleu de travail or similar cotton. 

On the one hand it’s extreme because the colour fades a lot, from mid-brown to a more recognisable straw colour. The original remains beneath things like pocket flaps, as in the image above, so you can always see how far it has come.

Yet at the same time, this creates subtle effects on the outside of the coat. This isn’t easy to see, but in the image below the shoulders of my jacket are lighter than the body, gradating slowly down onto the chest. 

Also from a style point of view, the nice thing about this canvas is it’s a different colour option for casual clothing, yet remains very versatile. Similar in that respect to denim, or the green of military fatigues. 

Indeed you could have both denim jeans and a denim chore, duck trousers and a chore, and green fatigues and a field jacket, and rotate combinations of them to your heart’s content. Add a white and blue T-shirt, and you have an instant capsule wardrobe.

So, I had these thoughts as I watched the trend emerge and evolve. One thing I will freely admit is that I’m a snob to the extent of not wanting to wear the same thing as everyone else - so a new Carhartt jacket was out of the question (although I understand the modern quality is still good, in the unwashed, original weight). 

What I really wanted was a vintage one. It would have all the character described lovingly above, and because it could be a model that was no longer available, would solve the snob situation. 

Unfortunately most of the vintage duck jackets I found were hunting varieties - a separate category really, and while more unusual than a chore, too short and wide for my style. You have to be a bigger man, like layering, and probably wear your high-waisted trousers for those to work.

Eventually, I found a likely model at Broadway. My usual approach is to check in on sites like that every month, by the way, or when I get an email announcing a new drop that looks interesting. 

I keep measurements of jackets, shirts and trousers that I already own, so I can quickly see whether a new vintage piece is my size. With jackets, for example, I know that my M65 is 22.5 inches pit to pit, and that’s the minimum I need. Up to maximum of 24. 

I also know I need a back length that is at least 30 inches (the field jacket is 30.5), although this is also a question of style. Those hunting jackets are styled to be shorter, and would be huge if they had that back length. 

 

I’ve been shopping vintage for long enough now to know that my success rate is rarely more than 50%. There are just too many variables - fit, material, condition - to be consistently higher. It does vary between stores, and you can be narrower in what you buy and try, but then you also miss out on pieces that it was hard to get a sense of online. 

With this Broadway order, I bought five things and returned three, keeping this chore and an old Italian airforce sweater, but returning trainers, a shirt and a red hunting jacket. 

Broadway leans a bit more towards the thrift end of vintage compared to other stores. This is great for pricing, but I find also means the condition and style can be more patchy. 

Also, I should make clear that this is only the second time I’ve ever bought from them - I don’t buy five pieces a month! But once you’re ordering one or two things, you might as well add in the others you’ve been looking at for a while too, just in case. The shipping doesn’t change.

To anyone that’s used to shopping from a regular shop on a high street, this could all seem a big fuss. But often it’s the only way to find good vintage. And, it has the advantage that if something’s hard to find, other people are unlikely to have it. 

Plus, if you’ve been shopping for menswear for a few years, chances are there’s nothing you really need. You can easily wait and chase down that perfect piece. Indeed, it might be helpful given your consumerist tendencies to put some barriers in your way. 

 

I don’t have much interest in buying vintage smart clothing, particularly tailoring. 

The materials aren’t the same - fine suitings and shirtings are not designed to be worn heavily over long periods, and look the better for it. Heavy outerwear, such as a tweed raglan coat, is probably the only area that could be interesting. 

Casual outerwear, however, always looks great. Every time I see a cotton chore jacket in a store now, I just wish it was 40 years old and had been worn every day of that time. It is a matter of - as we so often say - how great things age. 

The jacket is from Big Ben, the workwear label under Wrangler that dates back to the 1920s. It was made in the US, probably in the early 70s. It is marked as a size 42, but fits me well over a sweatshirt, as here. 

The jacket cost €95 from Broadway & Sons. Despite my winding journey to this one, they’re not always hard to find and often not expensive. Usually getting the size you want is the issue. Worth making that list of measurements.

The red sweatshirt is a vintage Champion, bought at Le Vif. The quality is not the same as, for example, a Real McCoy’s one and I wouldn’t necessarily buy it again, but I do like the fit and colour. The jeans are my vintage Levi’s. Out of shot are suede boots. 

Photography: James Holborow

My battered Barbour: A rewaxing service to recommend

My battered Barbour: A rewaxing service to recommend

Monday, June 27th 2022
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By André Larnyoh

When I first got this Barbour jacket, I remember wondering if it was really me.

I was around 19, taking all my inspiration from Pinterest boards and The Ivy Handbook. A waxed motorcycle jacket seemed off the beaten track. But it was on sale, so I took the plunge.

In the eight or nine years since, while I’ve been fortunate to have acquired some other impressive and objectively cool things, nothing else I own has as much character as this. When people see it they frequently ask if it's vintage. It’s not – it’s just lived a life.

I’ve worn it a lot, and everywhere, from city to woodlands. It has become tattered, bruised, torn, had numerous random items shoved into its pockets but, in doing so, has become my personal gem.

If the jacket could speak, it would tell you a good few things about my life. Like how I used to carry a Swiss Army knife in the top pocket “just in case”, but that never extended past opening a box or bottle of Coke (or once my own hand). When I realised this, it later became the home of my iPod Classic (R.I.P).

Or that time I left it behind at a party after having a few too many cheap margaritas, and found it the next morning hanging off a railing outside. Later, after discovering someone had left their contraband in the pockets, I spent the day worrying I was going to get nicked at any second.

Before I bought the Barbour, I was actually lusting after a classic trench coat or a hardy black leather jacket. But I could never find a vintage Burberry in my size, and when I finally mustered the courage to walk into Schott, I walked right out again. That price tag? It’s what dreams are made of.

My hopes of looking like a spy or a street tough were dashed, but seeing as I was not and still am neither, it was no great loss. The Barbour ended up being the ultimate compromise. It was hard wearing, it had a belt, there were a lot of useful pockets and it set me apart - something which really mattered at the time. I was studying abroad back then, and everyone in NYC has a leather jacket of some kind. But I never saw someone in a waxed jacket like this.

Back home in London though, Barbour’s country jackets were a symbol of our national class divide for me. They were - and to an extent still are - the finishing touch for the displaced generation who were too young to be Sloanies and became entrenched in Clapham instead. The battered Babours these people had stolen from their parents' country house was sometimes the only interesting thing about them – an object that could survive so much wear and abuse over the years and look wholly original.

Mine comes from a collaboration between Barbour International and the motorcycle manufacturer Royal Enfield. (Good luck trying to find one - it’s long since stopped being produced.) I was drawn in by the olive green, different to the normal black or brown of the International line, and by some subtle differences that set it apart from most Barbours.

There are three buttons at the patch pockets instead of two, a soft moleskin collar instead of corduroy, and reflective strips - which were entirely useless to me until recently, when I started spending all my time riding around town on a bicycle.

There was even once a detachable synthetic fur lining that was occasionally used as a gilet under a coat, during some very cold winters.

Over the years I’ve had to send my jacket off for repair only twice. I’d usually send it to Barbour, who would take forever to repair and re-wax it.

Eventually some of the damage to the elbows and pockets became so extensive that they resorted to panelling over it with discarded bits of waxed cotton or replacing the pockets entirely. I was told this over the phone as if it were a great tragedy, but I was delighted: they were effectively Frankensteining my jacket! More character! More charm!

Still, the service provided by Barbour was slightly disappointing. Mostly the fact that all the damages were never covered: each time only half would be done. When I asked why, I was told that each jacket is only allowed a certain number of hours of work per visit.

As repairs aren’t cheap, it's safe to say I was annoyed. Meanwhile there were two large tears in the shoulders that were growing wider each day, and the stitching of the cuffs was fraying again. I didn’t want to spend more just to get another half job, so for a while the jacket just sat in the back of the wardrobe, only being worn when it felt safe to do so without causing further damage.

That all changed when someone recommended a place called Oily Jack, where apparently my precious piece could get the true TLC it deserved and desperately needed.

A small family-owned company in Kent, all they do is rewax and upcycle waxed jackets from Babour, Belstaff and other manufacturers. They quoted me 90 pounds for the rewaxing and various repairs, and said it would take a week. Seemed pretty short, but I was already committed so I held my breath.

When Oily Jack sent me images of what they had done to my jacket after a week (above) it was like one of those reality TV moments.

You know, the contestant wants a makeover and they spend the whole episode going over what's going to be done to their hair and their outfit, before finally revealing the new and improved contestant to their family and the world at large.

Gasps, tears of joy, incredulity at how different they look. All of those emotions flowed when I saw the results. It was like they had given this tired, worn-out jacket a new lease on life.

Using cloth from an old 80s Solway model, they had created new patches and piping across the belt where it was starting to fray, while material from a 70s model replaced some of the metal hardware. The rewaxing also completely changed the colour, making it a very dark shade of olive rather than the aged brown it had become.

Initially I was worried that this scale of change had removed all the charm the jacket had acquired over the years. But as soon as I put it on again, for a cold snap we had this Spring, I came to see it as necessary to extend the life of the old thing. It wasn’t being worn otherwise.

And who knows how it’ll age after this process? I guess I'll only know in another nine years. All I know is that I’m not going to be gentle.

Portrait of André, Will Milligan. Other before images, André; after images, Oily Jack.

oilyjack.co.uk

 

Peter Nitz hand-sewn briefcase: Review

Peter Nitz hand-sewn briefcase: Review

Friday, June 24th 2022
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Peter Nitz is a Swiss craftsman based in Zurich. He does a lot of teaching of hand-sewn leather techniques, including classes, videos and individual training. He also sells leather-working tools. (When you’re a bespoke craftsman, it’s good to have multiple sources of income.)

It’s the bags he makes himself I wanted to highlight, however, as I recently had a briefcase made and it is one of the loveliest pieces of leather work I’ve seen. 

I chose a classic flap-over briefcase style, specifically in a Barenia leather and raw brass hardware. 

Years ago I bought a wonderful Sac a Depeches briefcase from Hermes, but in a ‘shadow’ leather that doesn’t age at all really, and palladium hardware. 

While I have loved using that case, I always wondered whether I should have got the brighter and less conservative - but perhaps more beautiful - Barenia. This is me finally putting that to the test. 

I did want to cover Peter’s workshop, but I wasn’t going to get to Zurich any time soon. 

So I reached out to a couple of friends and PS readers who live there - Paul Fournier and Andrew Borda. Paul turned out to have the time that week, so he popped along and acted as our roving reporter. That’s him on the left, below, with Peter. 

“Peter was a great host and his team is lovely - quite a gem of a find I must admit,” says Paul. 

“I won’t thank you though, because I then placed an order I definitely hadn’t planned!”

Paul questioned Peter, and discovered that although he’s been in the leather business for 12 years, he didn’t start at an early age, as most do. 

Rather, Peter began in textiles, buying and selling vintage fabrics, then clothes and accessories. Usually he would scout pieces in Paris and then bring them back to Zurich to sell.

He eventually had two shops, one in each city, specialising in vintage. But then, during a trip to Paris he met an Hermès craftswoman, who made him fall in love with saddle stitching and leather work. 

Peter began teaching himself at night, as well as asking the craftswoman to travel and teach him in Switzerland. This experience, he says, is one thing that makes him keen to teach others. 

Peter eventually acquired some notoriety, featuring in Vogue France and working with Colette. 

For my bag I was keen for a classic briefcase, but Peter also convinced me to try his particular twist lock (above), where a claw-like piece of brass is twisted to secure the front, but slips through a shaped hole in the brass plate to open. 

I’m glad I did, for the lock is very satisfying to use - it slips through effortlessly when opening, but locks into place perfectly when you turn it. 

The mechanics of hardware are surprisingly important, I find. As you use it many times a day, you’re constantly reminded of any lack in quality or small misalignment. 

It’s one difference I always notice between my finer umbrellas from the likes of Heurtault, and less careful ones from Talarico

More prosaically, we recently bought a new oven at home and even though it functions well in every other respect, the knobs to control the hob are flimsy and scrape slightly when you turn them. I would pay good money to get those replaced with something better.

(Of course, you could take this to an extreme and get annoyed at every such thing in life. But I think the emotions of it are really up to you. A better way to look at it is, when you have the choice, why not have something better - and reward the maker who made it that way?)

The reason I love Barenia leather is the way it ages. The bright tan gradually softens to a rich brown, and the nicks and scratches it easily acquires get worked into the surface, becoming fainter until they just add to the texture. A little like a calf shoe.

I’ve seen this happen with a wallet of mine, with a belt and also with the envelope we designed with Equus a couple of years ago. 

So I know how this bag will look in a year or two, and I don’t panic at the scratches it’s got. The same goes for the brass lock, which I wanted uncoated, can leave to tarnish, and then will bring back up to a shine if and when I want. 

The way these processes work is not an easy thing to communicate, and that’s why so many leather goods are made today with treated surfaces that will never change - but like plastic, have no character either. It’s also the reason so few of Peter’s clients are Swiss - all most of them want, according to him, is Dior and Chanel. 

I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say it’s genuinely your role as consumers to show this, talk about this, and spread the word. Educated patrons are the only way such crafts survive.  

The bigger question for me in commissioning this bag was not the leather, but whether I would actually carry a briefcase still. 

If you’re still in the kind of profession where you wear a dark suit to work every day, a black or brown briefcase is a sensible choice. (For most, an attaché case is unfortunately too formal.)

However, if your workplace is becoming more and more informal, a tote bag like the PS bullskin one or a canvas briefcase, like the Filson we covered recently, is probably going to be more appropriate. 

And for me? It’s unlikely I have a working week similar to any reader; but I also have a need and a desire to wear smart suits more often. 

So far I’ve found I like carrying the briefcase a lot - partly because it’s something extra to add to an outfit when ties and handkerchiefs are so much less common. 

In fact, this is one of the nice things about summer too, I’ve found in recent weeks. Sunglasses and hats are functional, necessary accessories, yet also add something decorative to daily wear. 

I like carrying the bag with suits and smarter jackets, like the dark-brown Crispaire suit from Dalcuore pictured. It’s high contrast, and really adds something extra without those accessories. 

But still, I carry other things like my totes far more often, and if I didn’t already have every base covered, it wouldn’t have made sense. 

Peter’s work is fine and precise, and incorporates numerous little craft touches - such as one-piece gussets on bags like mine, with one gusset shorter than the other so it always stands up straight. 

I’d recommend him to anyone that appreciates hand-sewn leather. 

Most of his work is for women, and most of the social feed is of the teaching, but there are some lovely designs hidden in there. He does everything from watch rolls to wallets, handbags to travel bags, and cases for antique guns or cigars. 

And of course, if you can get to Zurich - as I couldn’t - it’s worth seeing the workshop in person. Thank you Paul for doing that in my stead. 

Atelier Peter Nitz is at Spiegelgasse 29. www.atelierpeternitz.com

Bags run from SFr4000 (£3300) to SFr8000. My bag was SFr6400. Exotic leathers range from SFr10,000 to 30,000. 

Courses and tutorials range widely in time and price. Details on both at those links. 

Dege & Skinner lightweight summer jacket: Review

Dege & Skinner lightweight summer jacket: Review

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This brown wool/silk/linen jacket was made in a lightweight model that Savile Row tailor Dege & Skinner introduced last year. It has a thin shoulder pad and no chest canvas, unlike their normal tailoring. 

I can directly compare the difference, because the other piece Dege made me was a linen suit using their traditional structure. 

Granted that was in an 11oz Irish linen, heavier than this 9oz from Caccioppoli (320156). But still, the difference is much greater than that, and importantly feels similar to any jacket from a Neapolitan tailor. 

I wore the jacket last week at Pitti Uomo in Florence, where the temperature was 35 degrees (and felt hotter than that, given the airless valley the city sits in); it performed very well - not as cool as a short-sleeved linen shirt, but as good as any tailoring I’ve worn there. 

In fact, there again I could make a direct comparison, because I commissioned the jacket to replace one that Biagio Granata made me three years ago. A lack of communication and some errors had made that jacket unwearable, but I loved the muted brown colour and slightly slubby texture of the cloth. 

This Dege jacket felt just as light and breathable, so I can say with confidence that one reason Neapolitan tailoring has been so popular in recent years - its lightness in the heat - is now less exclusive. There is a Savile Row equivalent. 

Of course, many will say that the Row should have done this earlier. Neapolitan bespoke tailoring started to become popular in the UK over 10 years ago, and a less structured jacket is not revolutionary. But still, we can be glad it’s here now. 

The cut of the jacket remains very English: you don’t have the straight lapels or rounded fronts of a Neapolitan jacket. But I know there will be many readers that prefer this style. 

It’s also worth noting that you do lose something of the English style by lessening the internal structure. 

The layers of hand-padded canvas in a normal Savile Row suit give the jacket more 3D shape, with a firmer chest and sculpted shoulder. It’s inevitable that you lose that by taking out so many of the ways a coatmaker puts form into a garment.

But I feel Permanent Style readers are educated enough to weigh up these pros and cons. For me, I’d certainly go with this model if I knew a suit or jacket would be worn regularly in hotter European temperatures. If it wouldn’t be, the choice would be more marginal.

Dege’s head cutter Nicholas De’Ath has been talking to me about this lightweight project for a while, and I know it’s been through a few different permutations. 

With my jacket, Nick originally put in an extra wedge of shoulder pad at the end of the shoulders, in order to lift the ends and reduce the effects of my sloping stature. But that made them look almost concave, to my eye, so we removed them. 

There is still a small echo of that in the point of the right shoulder, and that’s something I’ll have Nick look at when I see him next. This was the jacket’s debut outing, and it was inevitable something would need a tweak. 

(Before anyone asks no, I didn’t take straight up-and-down or front-back-and-sides shots of the jacket; the fit was not the point, and was always fundamentally good, given I had that existing pattern.)

The finishing on the jacket is beautiful, and this is something that Row tailors continue to do better than anyone in the south of Italy. 

Regular readers will know how much more work it is to have a jacket unlined than lined, as lining can cover all manner of unfinished edges. Having every seam inside so precisely taped, as here, is attractively neat. 

The overall outfit is very me, very tonal and unadorned. 

At Pitti, it’s nice to wear something like this because you slip into the background. You can spend your time interviewing brands and makers with your clothes merely an elegant backdrop. 

The trousers are a cream linen made by Whitcomb & Shaftesbury, in the slightly wider-leg style I wear most of the time at the moment (hem 20.5cm/8 inches).

The linen is 12/13oz from W Bill (60252), which holds a really beautiful, sharp line. The only problem is that it’s a little transparent, to the extent that you can see the pocket bags and inlay down the side seams. 

I rather like this on the side seams - it almost makes them look like a dress trouser with grosgrain down the legs - but the linen is probably not the best for something like an office environment. 

I also find linen that’s a little creamier is easier to wear, like the Holland & Sherry one I used for my Jean-Manuel Moreau suit. That’s currently not available, but I am working with H&S to try and bring it back. 

The polo shirt is a sample for a new charcoal version of the PS Finest Polo. It does just about well enough under the still stiff collar of an English suit, although it will never stay quite as upright as a shirt.

The shoes are Sagan classics from Baudoin & Lange in black suede - my default for tailoring somewhere as hot as Florence. 

And the glasses are the Californian model from EB Meyrowitz, in what they call amber mottle colour. 

Dege & Skinner bespoke jackets are the same price, whether the lightweight or regular structure, which is £3800. Suits start at £5000. 

Nick is in the US next from September 25 to October 12, in no less than 13 different cities. Contact Dege for details.

Photography: Jamie Ferguson

Dominique Lelys and Artumes: Taking on the spirit of Arnys

Dominique Lelys and Artumes: Taking on the spirit of Arnys

Monday, June 20th 2022
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By Tony Sylvester

Roughly three years ago I wrote a piece for the Drake’s in-house magazine Common Thread. Given a free rein on any subject I wanted to talk about, I’d started ruminating on the similarities between French and English style, one of the prompts for which had been the recent announcement that Drake’s would be launching ‘a store within a store’ at Beige Habilleur, in Paris’s 16th arrondissement.  

Beyond the obvious benefits to both brand and store, I started thinking about both the commonalities and differences in menswear either side of La Manche. For despite the historical focus on Italian, American and British style, relatively little time - in the English language at least - had been spent on the French approach to sartorial matters. 

Times have changed a lot since then. The French magazine l’Etiquette is available in English these days, and last year Reginald-Jerome De Mans published Swan Song: an entertaining collection of essays on French makers and clothing establishments. Witty, romantic and often pessimistic (with a suitably Proustian allusion in its title) De Mans, an American who spent time in Paris as a student, ruminates on the disappearing world of French craftsmanship and style.

As soon as the book landed, I cracked it open to the chapter on Left Bank institution Arnys (above). Keener readers will already know of the now defunct brand; Simon covered them in the early days of PS, and they cropped up in my article last year on artists’ clothing

The brand was swallowed up by LVMH-owned fancy-shoe providers Berluti back in 2013, a decision perhaps more motivated by their enviable retail position on Rue De Sèvres rather than their sartorial output, yet Arnys still holds a firm sway over menswear enthusiasts. 

The brand fascinates me greatly. I was a little late to the party, missing out on the store in its heyday, so trips to Paris often involve wild goose chases in pursuit of vintage pieces or nuggets of information to help me flesh out my knowledge (and collection). This past Spring, I was lucky enough to sit down with one of the men responsible for a great deal of the visual appeal of the Arnys, the head designer and director of style for 30 years, Dominique Lelys (below). 

I’m clearly not the only person besotted with the world of Arnys. One look at the stratospheric prices for their signature pieces on resale bears this out. So, how did they gain such a reputation? 

Farid Chanoune’s bible on French style, A History Of Men’s Fashion, makes just one fleeting mention of the brand, referring to them as “a purveyor of French-style English fashion since the early 50s” and no more. Considering how much space he devotes to others long forgotten and sunk into obscurity, this strikes me as odd. Does the veneration of Arnys not run as far back as I’d been led to believe?

The store was opened in 1933 by two sons of a Ukrainian tailor, Leon and Albert Grimbert. Their arrival in the heart of the Left Bank coincided with their neighourhood’s reputation as the outpost of the new class of intellectuals, writers and artists. This was thanks to cheap rents and a café-based salon des idées culture on the surrounding streets. 

The clothes sold at Arnys contributed to this new cultural force, helping in some part to give rise to the ‘BoBo’ (Bohemian Bourgoisie) look and mindset, in direct contrast to the more mainstream ‘BCBG’ (good style, good class) attitude on the other side of the Seine (below). 

Post war, one of the many cultural luminaries Arnys dressed was actor Philippe Noiret (above). His traditional yet eccentric dress caught the eye of a young student, Dominique Lelys, who ventured into Arnys hoping to emulate his sartorial hero on his meagre income. 

“I was working at Ralph Lauren doing their windows, as my background was interior design.’ Mr Lelys explains. “When I quit architecture school, I went to Hermes, but we didn’t really match. 

“I had met Jean Grimbert (son and nephew of the original founders) because I was already a customer at Arnys, and he said he wanted to see what I was doing. I showed him my designs and he said ‘please make me a tie collection’. So I started with them - it was 1983. After that he decided to hire me as a director of style.” 

“My style is very personal. When I was 10 years old my father, who was very keen on languages, decided to send me to England for a year. So I went to Barnstaple, in Devonshire, where I stayed with a family. I went to school, I learnt to play cricket, I learnt to play rugby, which I was very fond of. I understood very quickly the understatement, the English mentality and sensibility. I was very fond of this typical old England with its tweed and its kilts.

“I am French, and my father was very very French. So when I grew up he told me, you can keep what you’ve learnt but you have to adapt it to your nationality. So I made a mix: I know all the codes, sometimes I break them, sometimes I respect them. But I try to be what I am: A French man who went to school in England, who has two cultures. I have English friends and Scottish friends, but I’m too busy to travel these days. I think that England is gone.” 

It is easy to see what impressed the house boss in Lelys’ eye for design - he gave a distinctive Escher-like feel to his repeating patterns in autumnal palettes, with motifs resonant of the good life; hunting, drinking. The ties became one half of the story for the renewed, revamped energy of the brand. 

The final piece of the puzzle was an odd jacket in their archives: the so-called Forestière, originally made for the French-Swiss architect Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, aka Le Corbusier. 

“The first Forestière for Corbusier was quite different to the model that everybody knows,” Lelys says, upending all the wisdom I’d heard about the jacket’s history. “It had padding and was quite straight. I saw one prototype when I began to work at Arnys. We decided to take the padding out and to lower the shoulder, just to see how it worked. 

“It was an immediate success. Once we relaunched in the eighties, it became the best seller for Arnys, accounting for 50% of their sales. When we saw that this jacket was successful, we decided to make other offerings in the same vein and say “let’s go”. 

And go they did. By the late nineties Arnys catalogues (above) were full of wild and wonderful pieces inspired by vintage military and equestrian coats, and all sorts of aristocratic clobber recalling a pre-revolutionary ancien régime mentality (for a reference, consider the painting above of Baron de Thiers).

It was unique, wonderfully eccentric and often a little daft. 

I was speaking to Lelys in the home of his latest venture. We’re sitting on tweed sofas in the offices of Artumes & Co, a young French brand taking some of its cues from l’esprit d’Arnys but with a slightly greater focus on hunting. 

The founders Thomas and Nicholas Drach’s father ran the English shooting brand Holland & Holland for their French paymasters Chanel in the nineties, and that country-sports influence is front and centre in Artumes. It was almost inevitable that Lelys teamed up with them. 

“My silk maker said to me there is a company called Artumes & Co who do exactly the same thing as you do, and he showed me one design that looked a lot like one I had done for Arnys,” says Lelys. “So I called them up…now we are friends,” he laughs. 

“When Arnys sold to Berluti, many of the old makers just carried on making the same designs that I had made with them. But that legitimate heritage belongs to me, so I’m very lucky to have found this world of Artumes to continue. I have brought my know-how to them, but they also have their identity. So I manage both and it matches very easily. I am home.”

Lelys is more interested in continuity than simple repetition of old formulas, so the two developments he made at Arnys are updated here in new, adapted forms. 

His trademark patterns are present in the Tourdesoi (above), a series of lightweight scarves taking on the same role as his old tie range - brightening outfits and creating the visual interest between the lapels, albeit in a relaxed manner more reflective of the new brand’s ethos. 

In lieu of the Forestière, he has developed the arTeba. Based on the Spanish hunting jacket the Teba, it has been recut, nipped at the waist, cut higher at the armhole and longer in the skirt. In checked tweeds and bright corduroy, it’s a natural heir in look and mood to the Forestière’s considerable charms.
 

Unfortunately for me, its narrower, slimmer cut is not a good match, as part of the Forestière’s personal appeal was its oversized ‘anti’ fit.

I leave with a notebook full of acquired wisdom, but without a replacement model for my beloved Forestière - something I had hoped to find at Artumes. 

Hopefully another of Paris’s more interesting stores will be able can help a little in that regard. More on that next time. 

Photography: Alex Natt. Below, Thomas Drach (left) and Dominique Lelys

Reader profile: Cedric

Reader profile: Cedric

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Cedric works in the art world, and as such is rarely formal. But he retains an interest in tailoring, has childhood memories of going to Huntsman, and is even talking to Fred Nieddu about his first bespoke. 

He also has a depth of interest in American clothing that is rare among readers in the UK. This, the latest in our series listening to the stories of PS readers, is a profile of his style and how it has developed over the years. 

You can see all of the previous reader profiles - eight so far - here.  

Outfit 1: Semi-smart

What do you do for a living? 

I’m a gallerist - by the time this comes out I will have just opened my first permanent space. I’m looking to exhibit artists that I think don’t get enough attention, as well as international artists who aren’t shown by other UK galleries.

Is that what you’ve always done? 

No, I used to work in the City, for Bloomberg. I was there six years, and running one of their Swiss operations at the end. But I got rather tired of it and decided to pursue a passion for art - I did a Masters in Art History and then started working independently on various art and music-related projects.

That sounds like an easy way into it.

Right, I had a lot of freedom. This next stage will certainly be more of a challenge. 

How long have you been into clothes? 

I’ve always been interested in how things look, though it’s really grown in the past four or five years. My Dad was always a good dresser, and I remember he used to go and have fittings at Huntsman on Saturdays. It was like a family outing - we all went, and he loved the theatre of it, the fittings and everything. Back then it was a lot less expensive I think too. 

He’s less into clothes these days, but I’ve become more and more. Drake’s had a lot to answer for at the start, and then John Simons, then places like Clutch and The Real McCoy’s. It sort of accelerates, as you find one good thing - perhaps something at McCoy’s - and then see something else you then want to upgrade to. 

My Sunspel sweatshirts were fine for years, for example, but then you start to appreciate the difference a McCoy’s one brings, and you gradually replace them all. 

What are you wearing in this first outfit?

This is pretty much as smart as I get today. The jacket is a Dunhill blazer (with Benson & Clegg St George & The Dragon buttons), the Big Yank plaid shirt is from The Real McCoy’s, the jeans are Warehouse DD-1001XX (about 18 months old), the belt is Rubato and the shoes are Alden unlined LHS loafers.

Playing with classic things like a gold-button blazer gives me a lot of joy at the moment. I used to wear things like this a lot straighter, a lot more traditional, but I much prefer something more playful like this now. 

Outfit 2: Smart

This second outfit sounds like it’s a rarity these days then. 

Yes, I don’t wear a suit anywhere near as much, but I still enjoy wearing them now and again. The impetus for this one was Ralph Fitzgerald at Huntsman’s wedding in New York a couple of months ago.

It’s a fresco suit from Southwick - the original maker of the American natural shoulder. Traditional cut, soft shoulder, undarted, single hook vent, working three-button cuffs, flat front trousers, 1.75” turn-up. The proportions and natural shoulder flatter me I think, and it works with the Mercer shirts, knit or madder ties and Aldens that I wear a lot too. I pretty much only wear Aldens.

Where did you get the suit from?

From O’Connell’s, the traditional Ivy shop in Buffalo, New York. I have a Southwick blazer too, which I went to The Andover Shop in Massachusetts to track down. Then after I got this suit, which is the same cut and size - so I knew it would work perfectly for me. All I had to do was hem the trousers (which I did at Hidalgo). 

I love the atmosphere at O’Connell’s, and at The Andover Shop. They’re from a different age. They have that type of service that’s perfectly polite, but without a word wasted. I’d talk to them on the phone and it would be like ‘Thank you Sir, goodbye’ and bang, down went the phone. 

You mentioned you've learned some lessons from tailoring and alterations over the years - what are they?

I guess I’ve learnt not to alter a carefully considered or classic cut. I now only adjust the sleeve length, or hem trousers. When buying clothes I generally try on the same item in two sizes to ensure I’m getting the right one - the same applies to shoes. To an extent I’ve learnt to disregard sizing labels and trust how something feels on.

 

Where did the interest in Ivy League clothing come from?

A lot of my essentials fit into this category: I was wearing Oxford cloth button-down shirts, Shetland sweaters, flat-front chinos and penny loafers long before I was aware of the term Ivy Style. I’ve always liked clothes that are relaxed yet elegant. 

I’ve also got derbies, brogues and chelsea boots, but I tend to wear penny loafers the most. In terms of makers, I find Alden very comfortable and hard wearing; aesthetically I think they perfected the shape and apron stitching of the penny loafer with their LHS model. 

Back to clothing more generally, when I discovered the book Take Ivy many years ago I was fascinated by how timeless those sixties American collegiate outfits looked. I also liked that there were no rules: casual blended in with more formal, and different cuts worked together. 

Soon after I began looking into the origins of these items and realised many have a British history: the button-down shirt was designed for British Polo players in the 19th century to stop the collars from flapping, the loafer originated as a British country house shoe, and so on. So although it’s widely considered an American style because they popularised it, it doesn’t feel too far from home. 

Where are the rest of the clothes from?

The shoes are a pair of Alden 986s I inherited from my Dad, and they’ve just been resoled and restored by Alden. They’re 25 years old, but I think they look actually better than new - with the creases reflecting how they’ve been worn over time. Alden did a great job, repairing all the little broken stitches.

The shirt is the ‘button-less button down’ from Mercer & Sons, and the tie is from a Drake’s and Aimé Leon Dore collaboration - traditional Drake’s Mughal Hunter pattern but in different colours. 

Outfit 3: Casual

This is a bit more unusual for the kinds of things we have on PS. Tell me about the shirt and T-shirt.

The shirt is from Jake’s, made in a Permanent Style Oxford cloth. This was my first one but I’m going to get the white and probably the blue stripe as well. 

The T-shirt is also associated with you in a way - it’s an Allevol T-shirt from Clutch. I bought a few of them last year to get printed, and I love the quality. 

So many of the loopwheel T-shirts I’ve bought over the years have lost their shape. I had a few that seemed to really give in the waist. I still have them, but I’d only wear them in particular circumstances, such as under a rugby or a full-cut shirt like this, where the fit doesn’t matter as much. 

And what’s the print?

The ‘American Dream’ print is taken from a mid-20th century archival piece. I just thought it looked good - I liked that the text was handwritten, and oversized so that it’s not immediately obvious. I worked with an artist to re-create it and at the start of this year we handprinted a small run. 

I guess The American Dream has a more conceptual meaning today than when it was coined in the early 20th century, but it’s still about having the freedom to pursue one’s passion in life, as well as optimism and equal opportunity.

The deck shoes are from Wakouwa, which Clutch now stock as well, though it’s a brand Anatomica created. The chinos are the Field model from RRL - I have a few, they’re so great and hard wearing, and higher rise than most RRL. I realise these things are more casual than Permanent Style would usually feature, but there’s a similar theme of quality and classic styles. 

How long have you been reading the site?

Not too long. I first came across it when I picked up The Style Guide in Trunk several years ago - drawn by the ever-stylish Mr Kamoshita on the cover. But then I started reading more during lockdown. Your articles came up in searches, and I particularly like the journalistic / historic approach, focus on craftsmanship and how smart and casual sit together on PS.

When we met you also mentioned Tom Wolfe's ‘The Secret Vice’ - can you explain for readers? 

The Secret Vice was one of Wolfe’s essays in his 1966 book Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, in which he describes how much young men of the time cared about clothes and their marginal differences, yet wouldn’t speak openly about them - it was their secret vice. He gets into a lot of Ivy references: the flap pocket, the button on the back of a shirt collar to hold a tie in place, etc. 

Like Take Ivy, for me it’s a reminder of how much and how little has changed.

Acme split-toe shoes: Review

Acme split-toe shoes: Review

Wednesday, June 15th 2022
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Everybody loves a bargain. I think one reader referred to it as the ‘siren song’ of cheaper-but-quality clothing. 

The reference is often apt. Enthusiasts of anything expensive are drawn to the idea - like hypnotised Greek sailors - that they can get the same product from Uniqlo for a fraction of the price; only to find that it’s synthetic, treated, or simply looks cheap.

Chinese shoemakers seemed to be singing this song loudest over lockdown. Every month there was a new brand, promising the same quality as a European maker but at half the cost. 

Over the past two months I’ve been trying the brand making at perhaps the highest level among those makers, Acme, and I can say that in almost every way, the metaphor fails. The quality of the materials and make are very good. 

The only thing lacking is perhaps styles that appeal to me personally, and access to try those fits and styles, which are a little idiosyncratic. 

The shoe I tried was their 8008 split-toe derby, originally in a brown suede. I thought I’d wear a loafer most, but they recommended not starting with that as it would be harder to fit. 

This is true - but it also highlights the challenge with ordering shoes remotely. Trying their loafers would have involved a few shipments back and forth, particularly if I found they didn’t work for me and I reverted to something else like a derby. 

This would have happened within half an hour in a shop or stockist in London. I would have quickly discovered that the loafers didn’t fit my narrow heels, or were too slim for my toes, and I would have moved on to something else. 

The point is worth emphasising because although lots of PS readers have to buy online anyway - because they don’t live in a major metropolis - this lack of a physical presence is one reason the Chinese shoemakers are cheaper. Stores are not cheap, shoe stores in particular require lots of stock on site, and even trunk shows are expensive. 

I know some readers will have had a chance to see and try Acme during the recent Super Trunk in London, but this is not a frequent event. Appreciate the fact there’s an Edward Green or Alden store near you, because it’s all part of the cost.

With my shoes, there was a bit of to and fro even with the derby. The initial pair fit me well in terms of width, heel and arch (great support there) but they were too long. My toes were finishing over an inch short of the end, and the vamp was breaking twice when it bent.

Thing is, I couldn’t size down because then the shoe would be too narrow. Which highlights the other (smaller) issue with many of the Chinese shoemakers, which is that they make a very slim, elongated shoe. 

This is something I mentioned in my earlier article discussing the new Chinese brands, and has only been reinforced since. The market they’re aiming for is the sharper, perhaps slicker dresser that would normally look to Italian or French makers, rather than most English or Americans. It’s what the Asian market wants too, despite their feet being generally shorter and wider than those in the west.

Fortunately for me, Acme had a solution, which was a new version of their last. The shoes I had were on the N83, like most of their derbies. They were now developing a new one, N83+, which was 3mm shorter, a little wider and less angular. 

As they were making a new pair of shoes, I also opted to switch the material, going for black calf with the expectation that I’d wear them more in that elongated shape. 

The new shoes were an improvement. The upper was no longer breaking twice, and they were comfortable from the off.

They’re still a fairly long style, as I think comes across in the images, but they’re now on a par with something like my Corthay Wilfrids, rather than being longer.  

I should also say again, the quality was very good. These are Acme’s ready-made shoes but they have both hand-sewn welts and soles. The stitching on the upper is fine and precise (unlike an example I highlighted on the previous article). And the finishing was great.

They were a little over-polished, with some of the surface coming away, but that’s fairly common and goes after your first polish at home. The work everywhere else was perfect, including on the sculpted waist of the sole, and that tricky segue between sole and heel on the welt. 

The quality of the upper leather and other materials seems to be very good too. 

The real test of the upper is how it wears over time - softening and taking polish - but you can tell quite a lot from the initial feel and the way the skin wrinkles. This all looks to be on a par with top European makers. 

Acme are clearly looking for any little touches they can add, and the slightly flat, waxed laces finishing in brass aiglets are also nice. Personally I don’t like the brass on a smart shoe like this, but that’s easy to change and I appreciate the effort. 

Same goes for the packaging, shoe bags and shoe trees. The boxes have a curved lid, the shoe bags are lined, and the trees are purple. Again personally I don’t care about any of those things, and they can easily tip into being gimmicky. But equally I don’t mind them, and I doubt many others will either. 

My shoes cost $1650, which doesn’t sound cheap. But the comparison is with another entirely hand-made shoe, such as Stefano Bemer’s Tradizione line, which would be $2050 to $2350. 

That’s the kind of discount you’re looking at with many of the Chinese brands - something like 30%-40% compared to the same from an English or Italian maker. 

As I said, I can’t say they’re definitively the same quality, having only worn them for a couple of months. But right now I have no reason to think otherwise. I can certainly recommend them to readers therefore, and I’ll cover other, cheaper Chinese makers in the future too. 

Personally I won’t be changing where I buy from though. That’s half down to style - I wear that type of shoe so little today, and when I do I have bespoke from the likes of Cleverley - and half f down to lack of access. 

I like to see shoes in person and try them if I can, rather than doing multiple deliveries and returns, and my budget and location means I can do that. It’s also no small factor that I have a relationship with the brands, the shops and their staff, and the styles of shoes I like. 

But I know others will differ, in their situation and their priorities, and I hope my experience here is useful to them. 

Photography: shoes, on their own, and video below, Acme; shoes on me, Milad Abedi. And yes, my trousers are short in the top image. I'm lifting them up to better show the shoe. The trouser material is brown Crispaire, from this suit

How to avoid getting burnt out

How to avoid getting burnt out

Monday, June 13th 2022
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It’s very easy to feel burnt out in fashion, and in menswear too. So much ‘new’ is thrown at you, all the time, that you get used to the stimulation. 

If at some point it stops hitting home, stops being refreshing and exciting, the reaction is often to feel exhausted and jaded. Social media only makes it worse. 

I have friends in menswear who have said in recent years that they feel burnt out. They say nothing excites them any more. 

I’ve felt that now and again over the past dozen years, but it occurred to me recently that the thing that always keeps me fresh and focused is readers.

No matter where you might feel in terms of fashion cycles, or your personal style evolution, there is always a guy out there that’s trying to buy some decent, good-looking clothes for the first time. 

There’s a guy starting a job in an office. There’s a guy who’s tired of T-shirts and hoodies and wants something a bit more grown-up. There’s someone else who’s discovered he’s 40 and doesn’t have any idea what he actually likes.

In fact, there’s millions of them, and they don’t really care about whether a brand’s lookbook is better than the last one. They want you to tell them what will suit them, suit their place in the world, and provide good, lasting quality. 

They would like someone to navigate all those fluctuating brands, stores and fashions, and suggest how to achieve their aims. 

Last week I was sitting in the Starbucks at Victoria Station, having an espresso macchiato (why is Starbucks the only place where you have to specify it’s an espresso macchiato?) and waiting for Alex. 

A reader tapped me on the shoulder and introduced himself. He was from Canada, immediately excused himself for not being better dressed, and said thank you for PS, adding that there were lots of people he knew that were trying to dress better. 

It’s always nice to be thanked for what you do, and people do come up to me fairly often, which is frankly amazing. 

But more importantly, feedback comes all the time through other channels. 

About 50 times a day readers comment online, adding views and asking questions. Once or twice a week there are in-depth conversations through consultancy sessions. Then there’s a burst of it during a pop-up. 

It’s very valuable, as all feedback is. However, I’m realising it’s particularly important to me as an ever-present reminder that there are people who aren’t swirling down an Instagram plughole, who have real questions and few places to turn to. 

It also means I never run out of ideas. There are usually two suggestions for a new post in the comments of every post, so the list only seems to get longer. 

I used to do articles all the time when PS was first starting, announcing traffic totals. I don’t really do that much anymore, partly because articles have got longer and also there never seems to be room in the schedule. I think the last one was about a year and a half ago. 

So this is a brief update. The last 12 months saw 1.46 million unique visitors to Permanent Style, an increase of about 12% on the previous year, which is wonderful. 

Thank you all, not just for coming to PS and telling friends and making it what it is - but for always asking questions and keeping me focused on what it’s for. 

When there’s a guy in DC trying to work out what a smart/casual wardrobe looks like, another in Hampshire who wants your advice on bespoke now he’s finally made partner, and someone called Jack who asks a question on the site every single day without fail, it’s impossible to feel jaded about the world of clothing. Everyone just wants to dress better.

In the next couple of months we’ll be doing some design work on the site, and some functional improvements. I do hope you like them. I don’t have to ask for feedback though. I know that’ll come whether I ask or not.