Introducing: The PS Arran scarf

Introducing: The PS Arran scarf

Monday, September 27th 2021
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My favourite ever scarf is the Arran model from Begg. 

Over the years you will have seen me wear it with everything, from a Western hat to a baseball cap, a polo coat to a tweed jacket (examples at those links).

Outside of some lightweight ones and my beloved Hermes squares, I have worn nothing else for a decade or more. 

But there were still a couple of frustrations I had with them. 

The key one was colour. Although Begg offer the scarf in 32 different shades, there isn't a real menswear navy - just a strong, almost royal blue. It doesn't look right with a navy blazer or coat. (I've tried.)

Then a few years ago, they discontinued one of my favourite colours: the mid-green they call 'army'. It's still available in other models, but not the Arran.

So earlier in the year I decided to try and order both of them myself, so they could be sold through the PS shop

The other niggle I had with the Arran was more minor, and actually Begg went some way towards fixing it a few years ago. 

I wear scarves with a jacket a lot. In a temperate climate like the UK, a scarf and varying weights of jacket can get you through many months of the year. 

The problem is that, unless you use a rather complicated knot, most scarves stick out some way below the bottom of a jacket. Even when tied, they protrude below the waist button like some kind of weird sporran. 

I tried various affected ways of dealing with this - like the aforementioned knots, and sweeping the fringes back with my hand when I put my hand in my pocket. But they all felt a bit silly. 

The truth is most scarves are just too long for a jacket. And actually, I don't think they necessarily need to be that long with anything. 

A shorter length is still enough to wrap twice around your neck when it's particularly cold, and easily tie. Is anyone doing more than that?

Begg, in their wisdom, are offering a smaller size, which is 160cm long rather than 183cm. But again, not in dark navy or Army.

The two scarves we're offering, therefore, are in this length. I think it looks much better with a jacket (as shown above) and you only lose some material that would be dangling around your hips otherwise.

Plus it's a bit cheaper, which is always welcome (£170, including VAT, rather than £260).

The reasons the Arran has always been my favourite are the quality of the cashmere, the density of the weave and the 'ripple' finish. 

This finish is created by brushing a rack of dried plants called teasels (above) carefully across the surface. You can do this with a textured metal plate, but that loses some of the natural variation of the plant heads. 

Other mills also use teasels (on jacket materials as well as scarves) but the effect never seems as nice. It would take more of a technician than me - and perhaps a covert visit to the Begg mill - to say why. 

I guess the reason doesn't really matter. The important point is these are the best I've found and it's fantastic to be able to have them in both my favourite colours and length. 

Apart from shades of grey, I think dark navy and green are probably the two most useful colours of scarf in a smart menswear context. 

Navy is the smartest colour of all, and goes both with all shades of grey and with itself, alongside many browns, greens and cream.

In the outfit above, I think it really brings the jacket-and-trouser combination together. This may be because it helps replace the necktie that an outfit like this might often have had. It adds textural interest, plus another colour, and creates a similar vertical line.

As fewer people wear handkerchiefs or ties, adding a scarf like that can make a big difference.

The jacket is my herringbone tweed from The Anthology, the trousers are a pale-beige cotton from Dalcuore, and the shirt is a blue shadow stripe from Simone Abbarchi.

The green, on the other hand, is my perfect autumn colour. 

It's great with greys and navy too of course, but this olive-y green is particularly beautiful with more casual colours like beige, brown and tan.

Best of all is a tobacco-coloured suede like the shirt jacket pictured above, from Connolly (covered in a separate article).  

Put that with a grey crewneck and brown-suede boots, and you can almost see the multicoloured leaves drifting down around you. (Sorry, getting a bit carried away.)

In order to show how it looks with other outfits, I've also included some old images at the bottom of this post of me wearing the same colour.

(Those were in a different type of scarf from Begg. The lack of them in my favourite cashmere, colours and quality has led to a good few compromises over the years, such as those other types in 'Army'. No more!)

The two PS Arran scarves are available on the Permanent Style shop here.

I shouldn't have to mention that they make great birthday and (if you're reading this in November) Christmas gifts. But there you are, I have. Thank you as ever for your support. 

Details: 

  • 100% high-quality cashmere 
  • Woven by Begg & Co in Ayr, Scotland
  • Measures 30cm by 160cm
  • Only available through the PS shop, not through Begg
  • Ships from London
  • Price same as Begg's in the same size, £170 (including VAT, £142 without)

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

Reader profile: David

Reader profile: David

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

The first profiled Manish, who enthused about Russian watches and recommended that readers should start building a wardrobe with good trousers. It's worth a read, for the outfits as well as the comments, here.

Today we meet David, an Australian now living in London, and hear about setting a clothing budget, as well as how things have changed post-lockdown.

Outfit 1: Casual

Here I'm wearing a (very old) striped oxford shirt from PJohnson, a linen overshirt from Drakes and cotton trousers from Stòffa. On the feet are sneakers from Common Projects.

Are those brands you particularly identify with? 

I think I identify most with Saman Amel and Stòffa. To me, they have complimentary aesthetics and bridge the gap between the formal and casual in a way that feels relevant and tasteful.

It helps that both teams have been tremendous at getting to know me and giving me advice on what will work best. That way, I can pair a Saman Amel jacket with a pair of Stòffa trousers. Or a piece of Saman Amel knitwear with Stòffa outerwear.

Do you have any style icons, historical or current?

Most of the people I look to for inspiration are either currently in the industry or enthusiasts on Instagram. There are too many to name, but I think Andreas Weinas, Gustaf (@Gusvs9), Ethan Newton and Peter Zottolo all have great style. Jamie Ferguson brings a lot of fun and humour to his photography that I really enjoy.

What money-saving tip would you have for other readers?

It's probably trite, but setting a clothing budget for the year can be helpful. In the past, I've listed the items that I've wanted along with the likely price. The process of prioritising them helps me think about why I want a particular item of clothing and how I'll combine it with others in the wardrobe.

This helps maintain some level of discipline. Sometimes items will move onto the budget for the next year and that's ok.

How much time do you spend thinking about what to wear the next day?

Unless there's a special event happening the next day, I would normally choose what I'm going to wear on the day itself.

Most of the decision seems to revolve around whether I'm going to wear a jacket or not. That helps me refine my choice of shirt, trousers and shoes, and I try to have a core set ready to go that can be mixed and matched with one another to keep the decision time down. If I'm going into the office, it would usually be a suit or a smarter combination of jacket and trousers. A trip to the pub might be an oxford shirt, denim and sneakers.

Outfit 2: Semi-formal

Saman Amel made the navy jacket here, and it's paired with a navy popover from PJohnson, light-grey wool trousers from Stòffa and suede loafers from Crockett & Jones.

Do you think you spend a lot of money on clothes?

Yes, I think so. Certainly more than most in my social circle. While I get a lot of value from the clothes I buy, it's important for me to keep other priorities and hobbies in some kind of perspective.

These days, I try to think twice and imagine the various ways that I'll wear something before I put the money down. I'm not always able to avoid the occasional impulse purchase, but it usually means that I've thought about an item for a while before I actually move ahead with it. The good news is that most of the clothes I buy I keep wearing consistently, so maybe the process is working.

What do you spend most, and least, money on?

I'm going to say I spend the most on jackets; the experience of having one made and the look and feel of the final product is really enjoyable.

In recent years, I'd say I've spent the least on shoes. I have a few old pairs - black and brown oxfords, suede chukka boots - that keep finding their way into the rotation. As long as I maintain them and have the soles replaced every now and then, I'm able to keep using them and that really increases their value.

What job do you do, and how does that interact with what you wear?

I work in marketing at a financial services firm. While I don't deal directly with clients very often, I do wear suits to the office most days. Fairly early in my career I became interested in picking suits and shoes that helped me look professional without standing out.

When I moved from Sydney to London five years ago, I suddenly had access to a wider range of options and quickly started expanding to casual jackets, trousers and knitwear that I could wear at the end of the week and into the weekend.

One of the better choices I made (entirely by accident) was sticking to cold colour tones across almost everything I'd buy. That meant that I could combine a variety of different clothes from casual to formal without anything looking too out of place.

Outift 3: Formal

This grey suit is from Atelier Saman Amel and I'm wearing it with a shirt from Luca Avitabile, a tie from Vanda Fine Clothing and a pocket square from Viola Milano. Loake made the black oxfords, Trunk Clothiers provided the raincoat and the sunglasses are from Cubitts.

How does your partner view what you wear?

I think she quite likes most of what I wear, especially a dark suit or a navy jacket if we're going out to dinner, an event or a date. She has great taste and sometimes provides input on styles and cloth choices for me that have worked out well.

How do your friends?

It doesn't really come up in conversation, but that could be down to the kind of clothing I wear when I'm out with friends. I aim to wear something relevant for the situation, so the hope is that when I wear a jacket out to a dinner, or an oxford shirt to a weekend gathering, I don't stick out.

Everything tends to be a little more casual when I'm visiting friends in Australia due to the climate and the more relaxed culture; I'll wear a jacket and trousers in the cities but denim (or shorts) and sneakers when I'm travelling around. It doesn't attract much attention as a result.

Have you changed how you dress since the pandemic began? How?

I've definitely been dressing more casually over the past eighteen months or so. At the beginning of the pandemic, I started working from home full time and had no need of suits and ties. I started wearing chunky knitwear in place of a jacket and denim with sneakers more often.

Once the most recent lockdown ended here in the UK, the jackets and formal shoes came back into the rotation but I'm still wearing ties less often. I'm guessing longer-term I'll be dressing a little more casually than I did before, but that might allow me to experiment more with other styles and influences that I haven't considered.

How long have you been reading PS? What do you like about it?

I started reading Permanent Style fairly regularly about six or seven years ago. It was only when I moved to London and needed some guidance on brands that I started going through many of the articles.

The 'Building a wardrobe' series is great; it helped me prioritise purchases and avoid a few expensive mistakes. I also found the 'How to dress like...' series an interesting and insightful look at how everyone involved developed their style.

What's your biggest tip for other readers in terms of building a wardrobe?

I've found that brands and tailors that are able to give good style advice are particularly valuable. It's not always easy to imagine how a swatch of cloth will look when made into a suit or trousers, and the wrong choice might mean a garment that you don't ever wear.

If they're willing to invest the time, have a conversation and get to know you first, they can get a better sense of what's right for you and quickly hone in on a small selection of options. Their advice should only improve over the course of the relationship and this should hopefully translate into clothes that you want to keep wearing time and again.

Brioni bespoke tailoring

Brioni bespoke tailoring

Wednesday, September 22nd 2021
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A few months ago, Brioni contacted me to ask if I would be interested in having a suit made, in order to review it. 

Not knowing much about the Brioni product, I was a little unsure. Invitations to cover other big-brand made to measure have not always turned out well. Prada MTM is one example that comes to mind. 

But fortunately, as soon as I started talking to the team in the Bruton Street store, it became clear this was serious bespoke. 

In fact, the biggest surprise I had was not related to bespoke. It was that all Brioni jackets - all ready to wear - have a hand-padded chest, lapel and collar. 

(Though admittedly not as tight or precise as the show model below.)

The only other brands in the world that do this, as far as I know, are Oxxford in the US and perhaps Attolini in Italy. None of the other names you might think of for tailoring - Kiton, Tom Ford, Zegna - do so. 

Of course, for ready-to-wear suits it’s debatable how much it’s worth doing hand padding. But as is often the case with handwork (or individual paper patterns) the significance is more what it indicates about the care taken elsewhere - how much hand ironing is done, for example, or how much refining of the pattern over several fittings. 

With Brioni, it signifies that these are all suits made with a bespoke mindset. They have loads of inlay in the seams (12cm across the chest), tailors in-house that can take any of the RTW suits apart, and extensive alterations that are standard, not extra.

So that's not just nipping in the waist or hemming the trousers, but sloping the shoulders and shortening the sleeves (from the shoulders) as well. Customers regularly bring back suits to be repaired, pressed and altered.  

This work and service goes some way to justify how expensive a Brioni suit or jacket is: in the UK online, suits start around £3000 and run up to £7000. 

But even there, the variation is mostly down to different materials - you get the same quality for £3000. And a Tom Ford suit starts at $4,000, without any of the handwork inside. 

Of course, top-line suits from the likes of TF, Zegna and Kiton do have lots of other handwork, but not as much as Brioni. Above, for example, is an impressively fine hand-sewn buttonhole, while below is the lining on the inside of the trouser waistband, which is all delicately attached by hand. 

Brioni bespoke is better value still, relatively speaking. 

It starts at £5,360, which is comparable to most top-end bespoke from Savile Row, Paris or Milan. In fact, cheaper these days than most of the big names, which are often north of six thousand.

I don’t think we should go too far down this line of thinking though. Because good as it is to know that the bespoke is decent value, I think the biggest selling point is going to be Brioni's service, convenience and sense of luxury. 

Presuming my jacket and trousers turn out well, I can see Brioni being an attractive option for those who value having many stores around the world - that they can pop into any time - and staff who provide good service. 

I’ve had a surprising number of conversations over the years with readers who bemoan the lack of professionalism among bespoke tailors. Who get tired of things going wrong, or of picking out cloth sitting on a hotel bed. 

Even among Savile Row houses, it can be frustrating to be an American customer and have just a one-hour window, every six months, to interact with your tailor. Sometimes even just half an hour. 

None of this will matter to those for whom money is the biggest factor, and they are of course the vast majority. 

But that doesn’t mean the preferences of others should be ignored. And there is something we all like about visiting a beautiful store, with enough (good) staff to have noted everything you discussed on the last visit. Which has lovely changing rooms, and indeed a sumptuous bathroom. (I took some photos in there - I want that marble sink.)

It's also lovely, in a different way, visiting a small tailor like Musella Dembech in Milan - where the workshop is in the family apartment, and Gianfrancesco holds the mirror out for you because he’s never got round to fixing it to the wall. 

But that’s not for everyone. For those that enjoy - indeed are happy to consciously pay for - good retail, someone like Brioni looks like a better choice than many other big brands. 

The biggest issue for me personally might be Brioni’s style. 

Their RTW jackets around the store are beautifully made, and impressively light when you try them. I was particularly taken with the ‘Plume’ construction, which is the lightest to still have all the same hand-padded canvas (lighter and softer than any Neapolitan jacket I’ve had).

But the house style does tend towards the mainstream aesthetic of shorter jacket, close fit and high gorge. They use a lot of super-count worsteds, silks and other more luxe materials. It’s not an aesthetic I would normally be drawn too. 

Still, this is personal. You can’t expect a bigger brand to be driven by the current classic-menswear vogue of wide shoulders, low buttoning points and chunky tweeds. 

And the team were very clear that the bespoke service meant I could have anything I wanted. So I wore suits and jackets to my fittings that demonstrated the proportions I liked - in these pictures, my Benson & Clegg flannel suit

I’ll see how the final result turns out. 

I will confess, though, to be rather fond of the Brioni team, a few months into the process. They are efficient, engaged and aware. They know what other bespoke houses produce and what they can offer to compete. 

They seem proud of their service, with tailors on site to be able to do any job. Indeed, it looks like the last fitting or two of mine will be made on location, rather than being sent to Penne. 

I also kind of think Brioni is an interesting case study. 

Many tailors try to make their businesses more sustainable by expanding into ready-made clothing. Some add cheaper RTW suits, to avoid competing with bespoke (eg Dege & Skinner); others use a foreign-made service that lowers costs (I think Kilgour were the first); and others add a RTW collection that does everything except tailoring (Anderson & Sheppard). 

Brioni started as a bespoke tailor, but very early on (in the 1950s) started doing runway shows, collections and the first trunk shows. They were an innovator, also setting up one of the first in-house tailoring schools. 

They are in some ways what an ambitious bespoke tailor aims to become: an international brand, but with no compromise on their tailoring. 

Over the years it feels like Brioni tailoring has been rather lost beneath celebrity collaborations and various changes of creative director. If I can, it will be nice to do something to change that. 

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

Wax Walker back in stock – and the fit of vintage knitwear

Wax Walker back in stock – and the fit of vintage knitwear

Monday, September 20th 2021
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During September and October will be restocking all of the outerwear collaborations we do with Private White VC, and releasing a new version of the Donegal raglan coat. 

The Bridge Coat was restocked a couple of weeks ago, and just over half have sold so far, mostly to the waiting list. But all sizes are still available.

The redesigned Trench Coat, which launched back in the Spring, will be restocked in a couple of weeks; and soon after that we should have the Donegal, in a new grey herringbone. 

Other winter pieces like the Indulgent Shawl Cardigan and the watch caps will also be restocked in a month or two - see the bottom of this post for a full list.

Today, however, it’s the turn of the Wax Walker - that modern and (for me) most flattering version of the classic waxed jacket, launched last year. It has just been restocked and is available here

Unlike the other outerwear, there’s only ever been one set of photos of the Wax Walker, so we thought it would be good to take some more, this time in and around Mayfair.

I think they demonstrate how well the coat switches from rural to urban.

I’ve included some of the images we took in Ireland last year at the bottom of this post, to remind readers of that rural side. But when you’re in town, the dark-brown colour of the wax, and the black corduroy, make it much more harmonious than a green Barbour or its ilk. 

Of course, some people want that contrast between a country coat and a city suit - that’s the point. But for those that don’t, or that need something to be a bit smarter in town, I think the Wax Walker works much better. 

This outfit in particular is a combination for a dark, rainy day in town. 

The roll neck is a black Bryceland’s RAF sweater (although that colour is not on sale at the moment - only navy, red, cream and camel) and the trousers are charcoal flannels, made by Whitcomb & Shaftesbury in heavy Fox cloth (19oz, FS405 A2069/33). The boots are the Cranleigh from Edward Green in mink suede.

I think this is a good example of how black knitwear can be useful, particularly in a more muted, cold-colour wardrobe. Navy doesn’t quite fit with the palette, cream is too stark, and dark brown would be the same colour as the coat and shoes. 

So black, although not a colour of knitwear worn that often by menswear guys, is a useful alternative - another option that might be already used elsewhere.

With the Wax Walker, black also picks up nicely on the black accents of the jacket: the facing on the collar, and the reinforcements on the ends of the sleeves. 

There’s also something about this shade of dark-brown cloth that feels like it has a black cast to it. A shadowy feel, perhaps, just created by the texture of the waxed finish. 

To exaggerate the effect, I’ve also worn a new black version of our cashmere Watch Cap (above), which will be available in the PS Shop later this Autumn. 

I wouldn’t wear the black cap with a black knit on its own - that would be rather too cat burglar-like - but with the Wax Walker over the top it works well.

And, just as with the knit, black is a surprisingly useful colour to have available as a cashmere beanie or watch cap. It compliments muted shades of everything, from brown to cream to green. 

Above I’ve also included an image of the Bryceland’s roll neck without the jacket.

I did this because I thought it was a good opportunity to demonstrate how flattering vintage-style knitwear can be. 

The Bryceland’s piece is inspired by an old RAF knit, and like those old pieces the ribbing at the waist is both tight and long. This means it folds down easily on top of itself, enabling you to move your upper body without any chance of the knit riding up, and letting in cold air. 

The chest is then cut large, so you could wear layers underneath if you wish. The overall effect is of an almost Atlas-like silhouette: large on top, slim down below. 

I also chose to size up, from my normal 40 to a 42: the slimness of the waist meant I could do so without that becoming too big. 

You can read the full details on the Wax Walker on our original launch post here. That’s always the best way to understand why the product was designed the way it was. 

If anyone wants a quick summary, the key points are:

  • It uses a dark-brown waxed cotton that is not usually seen in waxed jackets, making it unusual but also perhaps more modern and urban
  • It is cut long enough to sit over a tailored jacket
  • The back is designed like a field jacket, with bellows on either side of the back and a half belt. This creates a more masculine look than the normal raglan-sleeve style
  • That's accentuated by the lack of a shoulder seam - the shoulders have one piece of cloth sitting over the top. This looks good but also makes it more waterproof
  • It has a removable grey-flannel liner, making it a good layer for most of the year. The drawstring waist makes it adaptable for layers underneath as well
  • The outer chest pockets are cut into the seams, make them virtually hidden. They’re lined with cashmere
  • It uses British wax, British wool, and was made at the Private White VC factory in Manchester

There’s so much more. My favourite detail is the jersey panel we used across the inside of the back, to keep the bellows perfectly functional. It’s genius, but no one will ever see it. 

As I said, all the details, as well as pictures of me getting soaked, here. The Wax Walker costs £665 + VAT.

For those interested, the other upcoming PS products and restocks are:

And somewhere in there we will also have restocks of the ever-popular Friday Polos and the Selvedge Chambray shirt. It’s a lot isn’t it? Not often that I write it all down like that. 

As per usual, those on the waiting list will get first access, so email the support team if you would like to be on that list ([email protected]). Thank you. 

Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

The suede overshirt (or shirt-jacket, or shacket)

The suede overshirt (or shirt-jacket, or shacket)

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I have this image in my mind. Of a man meeting a good friend for brunch on a Sunday morning. A man that dresses as I want to: considered and tasteful, not showy or sloppy. 

He's looking forward to a coffee. He carries a newspaper under his arm in case his friend is late. And he wants to look good, for his friend but also because it feels like it celebrates the day. 

A jacket would be out of place, but it requires some kind of outerwear. So he wears the shirt-jacket above. It’s not smart, but you might say it was sophisticated. Certainly, whether he wears it with a denim shirt and chinos, or a cashmere crewneck and jeans, it looks easy and relaxed.

Perhaps this image recurs to me because we went for months without being able to meet inside cafes. Or perhaps because when I do meet my friends, it's rare that we don’t both have multiple children in tow. Which rather dampens the pleasure of dressing well. 

Whatever my personal frustrations, I also feel this theme is very relevant. As casual and looser clothes have become more prevalent in recent years, I hear from a lot of readers looking for something along these lines. 

I wouldn't wear this shirt-jacket into town. I'd always opt for my beloved tailoring (every chance I get). But I know readers that would. 

Indeed, I remember meeting a menswear contact a couple of years ago in a Mayfair restaurant.

He complained that, when he had met a friend at the same restaurant recently, on a Sunday afternoon, the friend had turned up in sportswear. 

The contact was, as you might expect, smartly dressed in a jacket and tie. "And the annoying thing was," he recalled, "that my friend thought there was nothing strange about this. Indeed, he thought it was funny".

Given the location, day of the week and nature of the meeting, I felt like something in between might have suited both of them better. Like a suede jacket and shirt. 

This one is from Connolly - their Driver Over Shirt in cognac suede - and there are a few reasons I particularly like it among other suede jackets, shackets and shirt/jackets. 

One is that it's cut like a shirt, rather than a chore coat. This is particularly helpful for me, as chore coats are often a little wide and a little short on my frame. This is slimmer and longer. 

I also think it means that the jacket looks smarter than something cut like a chore coat. It's closer to a nice blouson in that regard, like a Valstarino. 

Another thing I appreciate is the colour, which isn't as strong as the tobacco/snuff of similar suede outerwear (Ralph Lauren example here). 

In fact, you can see the difference if you look on the inside of the jacket (above), as the reverse of the skin is precisely that saturated snuff.

The slightly more muted outside is subtler and more versatile. For example, it actually looks good with black trousers or jeans, where few snuff or tobacco suedes do.

I also like the collar, though I didn't at first. It's small and looks like the one-piece collar you get on some summer shirts. 

I thought I'd prefer something longer, more akin to a jacket lapel. But actually, this suits the overall slim style of the overshirt, and it looks good up as well as down.

The only thing I really dislike about the model is the lack of pockets. 

If you want an unlined jacket, then internal pockets are not really possible without showing a seam on the outside. But I would have been willing to sacrifice one for the other, even if it made it less of a shirt. 

Fortunately, I know Cromford can do many clever things with alterations, including lining sleeves if these unlined ones ever begin to irritate me. So I have options. 

Other suede models get around this by making a feature of the stitching. The Drake’s ones, for example, have an internal pocket where you can see the stitching on the outside. But it’s cut and designed as a chore coat, so that works. 

Among other brands, RRL often does lovely suede shirt-jackets. I have a great one in dark-brown suede that was pictured here.

I only realise now that one reason I like that so much is because of its overshirt design, with curved bottom hem like a shirt. That one wasn’t as slim as the Connolly, but I had it altered by Cromford - one reason I know they can do this well. 

RRL have the same model on sale here, but it is now lined, and the suede doesn't feel as nice to me.

The Purple Label ones are more consistently available, and they’re lovely too, but rather thinner. I probably wouldn’t wear one tucked in, but you could if you wanted. They're more of a warm-weather option.

Both are better value than the Tom Ford version, which I have seen and tried. And some others, like Valstar, are cut like a strange halfway house between a trucker jacket and a shirt. 

This last point might seem like a fine distinction, but I think it’s what stops some suede jackets from being a good substitute for tailoring. 

A trucker-jacket style, or indeed a flight jacket, like mine from Himel Bros, is that much more casual than a blouson or a shirt-jacket. Something we covered in more detail on this post on casual paradigms

And at the smarter end of the spectrum, something cut like an actual jacket is a little harder to wear - like this Cifonelli - while a tailored jacket in nubuck is harder still - like this from Melina

I think I made mistakes in both those cases. Not in buying them at all, but in doing so when I didn't have that much else that was less unusual. If you’re trying to fill out this casual/chic part of your wardrobe, I think the best place to start is a suede blouson or shirt-jacket. 

Clothes shown:

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

A Sustainability Framework: Stoffa and Permanent Style

A Sustainability Framework: Stoffa and Permanent Style

Wednesday, September 15th 2021
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Over the past year, Agyesh Madan at Stòffa and I have been talking about how to create something useful together on sustainability. 

Today’s article is our first step. It sets out a definition of sustainability, and then a framework of all the factors that contribute to it. 

It is hoped this will lead to several other things. One is case studies, with this framework used to structure studies of brands that have tackled these areas. This could create best practice, which can be kept on Permanent Style and shared as a common resource.

By using a variety of companies, from small artisans to large brands, this could enable us to compare types of product as well as individual approaches. 

Another is guides for consumers. This framework already provides a way for consumers to rate sustainability - the things to look for and the questions to ask brands they buy from. 

That can then be expanded, for example with an explanation of the industry accreditations, which can often be confusing. 

Overall, the aim is to create consistency through reference to shared, informed criteria, and then promote an open discussion around them. We look forward to hearing your thoughts.

What type of sustainability?

There are at least three major types of sustainability: social, economic and environmental. 

In this project we are not talking about social sustainability - such as maintaining skills in a particular community, or the ethics of producing and exporting out of a community. Nor are we talking about economic sustainability - such as the short or long-term nature of different business models. And we will avoid separate debates, for example around human or animal rights.

We are talking purely about the impact of a brand’s product on the environment. 

1. Packaging

We will list these areas of impact in order of how the consumer sees them, rather than the steps in production. The first one most people think of is packaging. 

Packaging is more sustainable, broadly, the less there is of it, and the less it uses virgin resources. So if something is both recycled and recyclable, that’s a good start. 

If something is not recycled, you want it to be sourced responsibly (eg FSC certification) or use materials that are less intensive to produce - eg Bananatex.

Bear in mind, also, that plastic will often be required at some point in the journey, to avoid the product itself becoming damaged and therefore wasted. It can be useful to think of what is required for each stage: production to warehouse; warehouse storage; warehouse to customer; and returns.

The questions to ask are:

  • How much is your packaging recycled and recyclable?
  • How energy intensive is the non-recycled packaging?
  • How much plastic is used?
  • And at every stage of the journey: 
    • In production 
    • From production to warehouse
    • Warehouse storage
    • Shipping to client / Pickup from store
    • Return and exchange packaging
  • How is waste from packaging and daily operations dealt with?

2. Raw materials

Raw materials - what the product is made from - is the second most obvious area, but the one that has the greatest environmental impact. 

The first thing to consider is whether the product is made from natural or synthetic materials. Sometimes - for example in waterproofing - synthetics have a real, functional purpose. But often they don’t, and they severely affect the ability of the clothing to biodegrade. 

If we then look at natural materials, the biggest issue is provenance. There’s no point talking about the environmental impact of a fibre if we don’t know where precisely it came from. For large brands, this is often their biggest challenge, as each product involves a network of suppliers. 

It’s then relatively easy to analyse the fibre itself: how it's grown, dyed and then woven or knitted, and how waste is dealt with along the way. 

The questions to ask are:

  • What percentage of your collection is natural fibres vs synthetic fibres, and why? 
  • Can you trace the provenance of your yarn, fibre and original source of your raw materials?
  • How much of the fibre is grown via regenerative practices?
  • What raw material certifications do your suppliers have? 
  • How are colors rendered in your fabric? Which process of prepping, dyeing and finishing are used?
  • How is waste managed at your raw material suppliers?

3. Production

The production of the clothes probably gets the least attention, except when it comes to other areas, such as labour practices. 

Essentially, this is about the environmental impact of the factory or workshop. How renewable is their power supply? How do they manage waste? It could get very broad very quickly, taking in the way employees travel to work for example. But best to focus on the ones the producer can control - and highlight efforts like recycling water, or supplying electricity back to the grid. 

The questions to ask are:

  • What are the key energy sources for the electricity/power used at your production. Do these come from renewable sources?
  • How do you manage your raw material waste – mostly textiles and sometimes hardware. Is it upcycled, re-used, recycled, composted or landfill?
  • Is wash and care ease and its impact considered during the design and production of the garments.

4. After sales

As discussed previously on Permanent Style, the best way to reduce environmental impact is to buy less. The more the impact of making a garment is divided over wears, the better it is.

Key to this is being able to refurbish and repair your existing clothing. So how does the brand you are buying from deal with repairs? Do they offer a service themselves, or at least have other resources they can recommend? 

The brand also makes a choice in the kind of materials they use, and the making processes, as some make long-term care easier than others. Bespoke tailoring, with its in-built presumptions of alteration and repair is a good example. 

However, the biggest issue in this area is often consumers, who often don’t understand the best way to care for the product, and so extend its longevity. Part of the responsibility must rest there.

The questions to ask:

  • How easy is it to repair this product?
  • How easy is it to alter it?
  • What services do you offer yourselves to do this? 
  • What outside services have you tried and can recommend?

5. Transportation

An often under-represented aspect of a product’s sustainability is transport: how far did everything, from the fibres to the fabric to the product, have to travel to get to you?

This can be complex, because there are often some many stages in the journey of a product, including things like farming the raw fibre and and processing it with dyeing, spinning and finishing. 

As with after-sales, both producers and consumers bear some responsibility here, because the consumer knows when they are shipping things around the world. And in particular, when they are using online shopping rather than local retail, which usually involves more returns and exchanges. 

In food, the vocabulary for this has already been developed: the industry talks about ‘farm to table’, sourcing locally and eating in season. Although there has been some movement here in recent years around British cloth, for example, the vocabulary is not as well established with clothing. 

Questions to ask: 

  • Where does your raw material come from? 
  • Where is it processed, cloth produced, and final product made?
  • Where do final products ship from, and returns return to?

Further reading

Agyesh is more the expert here, rather than me. He has learnt a lot through research, testing and experience, but also leans on his contacts and good resources. Below are some he would recommend for reading until our next installment.

There is deliberately a range of views and perspectives - academic, commercial, regulatory and consumer. Some are articles, some podcasts; some are technical discussions around packaging, some consumer education. Hopefully they all have something to offer. 

Introductions:

Patagonia and plastic:

Discussions on Lumi:

Industry initiatives:

Pirozzi corduroy suit: Style breakdown

*This is an extract from the book Bespoke Style, which is available here on the PS shop*

Nunzio Pirozzi has a strong reputation in Naples. Indeed, he’s one of the few master tailors that other tailors consistently praise.

(The usual method of expression is pursing the lips and an emphatic thumbs-up.)

Generally, this refers to a tailor’s technical abilities, and Nunzio is certainly strong there.

However, from a style point of view he is unusually modern. He tends towards the short jacket, narrow trousers and tight fit of the younger Neapolitan tailors, despite being of the older generation.

The jacket of this suit is not long, and yet it was one of few in this series where I deviated from the house style – requesting it to be an inch longer.

 

 

House: Sartoria Pirozzi

Address: Viale Antonio Gramsci 23, Naples

Site: www.sartoriapirozzi.com

Cutter: Nunzio Pirozzi

Price (at time of writing): €3500 (incl VAT)

Suit starting price: €3500 (incl VAT)

 

I commissioned the suit in 2016 back when Pirozzi were working with tiemaker E.Marinella, and visiting London regularly as its in-house tailor.

Unfortunately they no longer do so, but Pirozzi do still travel to Asia, at Sartorial in China, Dal Duca in Hong Kong and Strasburgo in Japan.

I already had a caramel-coloured corduroy suit from Anderson & Sheppard, and it was one of my favourites. But that had a double-breasted jacket, and I was always unsure whether it was the right choice – I found I couldn’t wear the jacket with jeans easily, for example.

So this was an attempt to correct that choice, as well as make something that was a ‘three-way suit’, in that the jacket and trousers could be worn separately, as well as together as a suit.

The suit has done well in that respect, and been worn all three ways. But it was probably overkill to have two such similar suits. I should have stuck with just one or the other.

 

 

The overall style of this Pirozzi jacket is definitely Neapolitan. The canvas in the chest is lightweight; the quarters are open; the body is cut close.

But the shoulders are different. There is a little padding in there – just a single layer of wadding, but more than most Neapolitans.

The shoulder is a touch wider, and there is a touch of wadding at the top of the shoulder, creating a subtle roped effect.

These are all small points, but overall they make the top half of the jacket stronger and more formal than most Neapolitans.

 

 

The lapel and collar are interesting too. The lapel line isn’t quite straight, unlike almost all other Neapolitans (Rubinacci being the exception we’ve covered).

It is ever-so-slightly convex, curving outwards towards the shoulder.

And the gorge (where collar and lapel meet) is very high. The measurement from the point of the lapel up to the shoulder seam is 2¾ inches, which is the smallest of any tailoring covered in this series.

Like many other contemporary suits, the angle of the top of the lapel is also quite flat, pointing out towards the sleeve rather than downwards. (Compare it to the downward slope of Ferdinando Caraceni.)

 

 

Those last two points – the height and angle of the gorge – are in keeping with the view of this as a rather modern Neapolitan.

As mentioned at the beginning, the jacket is not long (30½ inches in the back seam) and yet it was lengthened at the first fitting.

It is also cut quite close to the body, has a fairly wide lapel (4 inches) and slim trousers (19 inches at the knee at 15 at the cuff).

 

 

So we can perhaps characterise the overall Pirozzi style as a Neapolitan suit with English influences in the lapel and shoulder, and a modern cut in the length and slimness.

The sleeve is more generous than some Neapolitans, partly as a result of that roped sleevehead. But it still narrows to 11 inches at the bottom.

The buttoning point is fairly high (17½ inches from the shoulder seam), there’s definite though moderate shape in the waist and lower back, and the outbreast pocket is a little lower than normal at 10¾ inches from the shoulder (most are 10).

Little deviations here and there – but as I always say, this is what makes the style of a suit.

 

 

Although this is my second suit in this cord, I have to say I never tire of how nice it looks with an ‘Italian background’ of navy tie and blue shirt.

The tie is of course from Anderson & Sheppard, as is the white-linen handkerchief (A&S are sponsoring this series and so have provided all the accessories, with Edward Green supplying the shoes).

The shirt is a denim-coloured linen, made by D’Avino.

Those shoes are EG Dovers.

 

 

Style breakdown:

  • Shoulder width: 6½ inches
  • Shoulder padding: Thin wadding
  • Sleevehead: Wadding, slightly roped
  • Sleeve: Moderate, narrows sharply to cuff
  • Lapel: 4 inches
  • Gorge height: 2¾ inches
  • Drape: Small
  • Outbreast pocket height: 10⅜ inches
  • Buttoning point: 17½ inches
  • Waist suppression: Moderate
  • Quarters: Open, from first button
  • Length: 30½ inches
  • Back seam: Moderately suppressed
  • Vent height: 10¼ inches
  • Trouser circumference at knee: 19 inches
  • Trouser circumference at cuff: 15 inches

Photography: Jamie Ferguson

 

Matching checks on a jacket

Matching checks on a jacket

Friday, September 10th 2021
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Checked jackets are always a lot of fun for tailoring discussions. Nothing makes you look harder at a fabric than working out the advantages and disadvantages of check arrangements.

The jacket above - first shown in our recent article on the new PS Plaid - is a great example. 

Here’s the puzzle: given the scale of this particular check, and the scale of the gentleman wearing it, where should the checks be positioned?

Below, you can see my jacket pattern - in white chalk - marked out on top of the cloth. 

The vertical position of the pattern is not that difficult. You just generally want to avoid the main horizontal stripe of the check (a) from clashing with the hem of the jacket (b). 

So you start from the bottom, and place the hem of the jacket somewhere in the middle of the check. (The only exception is if you find that this position somehow makes the check look odd as it sits across the chest and lapels - eg it runs into the gorge.)

The horizontal position of the pattern is harder, and can involve some kind of compromise.

First principle: You want the dart in the waist (c) to be in between the checks, so there is minimal disruption to the pattern as it runs down the body. 

That chevron on the pattern indicates where a dart will be, with the cloth being cut and pinched in, to give shape to the waist. This will necessarily distort the check, making it curve inwards. That will be less noticeable if the dart doesn’t touch any vertical lines of the check.

Second principle: You want the buttoning point of the jacket (d) to be in the middle of the checks, so they are evenly spaced across the whole front of the jacket. 

When you wear the jacket, buttoned, and look front on at someone, it should ideally look as if the checks march evenly across the front, running from one side to the other. This requires the waist button to be in the middle of the check. 

Third principle: Ideally the front edge of the jacket (e) below the waist button should not cut across a lines of the check. It just looks nicer that way.

You can see in the images that meeting these three principles involves a little bit of compromise. 

The dart (c) isn’t in the middle of the check, but at least it doesn’t interrupt those vertical lines. The buttoning point (d) isn’t in the middle either, but not far off. Both could move a little to the left, except that you don’t want the front edge (e) to start clashing with the line just behind it. 

I’m actually fairly lucky in terms of my proportions. A bigger compromise could easily have been required.  

And if I was rounder or curvier - less up-and-down - more distortion would have been inevitable. You see that particularly on women’s jackets. 

There are various other points of good practice as to how checks should be positioned. One, for example, is that you cut the sleeves so that they match one horizontal line of the check across the chest. 

Others up and down the sleeve might not match, but you want one to, and that is the most prominent. (See top image.)

Another is that, on the back of the jacket, the checks should match the collar - so the vertical lines run up from the back onto the collar without interruption. 

The two pieces of the back are therefore positioned so they are one-check-width apart at the top, where they meet the collar, and then that gap widens and narrows down the back, with the shape of the wearer. 

Interestingly, it is possible to reduce the distortion in the back by using lots of darts to create the required shape, rather than the centre and side seams. 

This is called a Westfield back, after a company that used to operate in Bond Street many years ago, and was traditionally done more on shooting jackets (which often had prominent checks). 

You can see an example below: there are seven darts in the waist and at the top of the back, with the result that the orange overcheck looks like it hardly narrows at all. 

Personally, however, I quite like the hourglass-like shape of the checks on a jacket made the regular way. It’s flattering, accentuating the waist, and doesn’t look like a mistake in the way ignoring some of the other principles might do. 

One last interesting, if geeky, point. 

The run of the checks on the front can be interrupted by the jett on the top of the pocket. This little strip of material across the top of the flap is usually cut at a perpendicular angle to everything else, because the material is stronger in that direction. 

Some tailors don’t do this on a checked jacket - keeping all the material running in the same direction - so the pattern isn’t interrupted. Anderson & Sheppard is one, and we showed an example in this previous article

For Bob Bigg, the coatmaker that put my jacket together and works with Whitcomb & Shaftesbury, this is ‘bad tailoring’, because it makes the pocket weaker. It’s a debatable point, and in any case minor given how lightly most people use their jackets these days. 

But as an alternative, Bob and cutter John McCabe (pictured top) suggested a pocket without a jett at all. This means that the cloth runs down from body into pocket flap with no interruption whatever - even from a pattern-matched jett. You can see this in the image below. 

The only problem with this option is that the opening looks a little strange if you tuck the flap in, but I’m happy with that. 

In fact either way, as I said, it’s a small thing with less effect than the points about the front or back. But it is a nice little detail.

There are more points to be made about the structure and cut of the jacket itself. The former is the new softer, inset-shoulder model from Whitcomb, and the latter something looser and lower than I’ve had in the past. 

But both deserve more than a paragraph at the end of so technical a piece. So I’ll leave them for another day.

You can read all about the material, which is exclusive to Permanent Style - what we’re calling PS Plaid - on this previous piece. It has sold so well that Joshua Ellis have just started weaving another piece (60m) so there's plenty of stock. 

That article also has all the detail on the clothes shown here.

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

If you only had five bags: A capsule collection

 

Five bags might seem like a lot – certainly compared to shirts or ties, as featured previously in this series

But given you’ll need some kind of suitcase, plus a day bag, and probably a backpack for cycling, walking or sports, five isn’t that many. You probably already own more than that. 

This article is therefore more about what options to go for in each of these categories, as well as which brands. 

 

 

1. The modern work bag

Most people need some kind of bag to take to work, even if it’s unlikely to carry any papers – which was the contents that drove most historical designs. A laptop is a similar size, and there’ll likely be keys, headphones, maybe even a keep-cup and a water bottle. 

The first thing I’d say is that, unfortunately, an attaché case usually looks too old-fashioned. If you wear a suit and tie to work, in certain professions, it can be OK. But most of the time, this beautiful piece of leather work and carpentry is just out of place. 

A better smart bag is usually a briefcase – so one with a flap-over top. Dunhill has some lovely examples. But even that is too smart for most guys today, even a version with a bigger flap and two straps, as here from Frank Clegg.

Usually the best option for a modern office is a zip-top bag. Either a hard one like the Clegg zip-top briefcase (above), or a soft one like the Connolly Grip bag or Deck bag (the latter almost a briefcase/tote crossover).

The biggest danger with these soft, zip-top models is that they can be a little small, particularly when carried by a larger guy. Ignore the male impulse to want the case as light as possible, and make sure you get a decent size. 

Oh, and another way to avoid that is to have a model in a much rougher, more obviously practical material, like a tin-cloth Filson. I have an old, patched model (shown bottom) which is fantastic, and a good partner to workwear as well as more casual tailoring.

 

 

2. The smart tote bag

I don’t use a work bag like that much, despite owning a Sac a Depeches from Hermes. It’s just too smart. 

Instead, my default every day is a leather or suede tote bag. This is more casual, and for me goes as well with a suit as with jeans. It’s the most versatile option on this list. 

There are still a few guys that see a tote as feminine, but given how ubiquitous they are these days, I find that strange. Particularly something in as rugged a leather as the bullskin nubuck of of the PS x Frank Clegg collaboration we did (above). 

The biggest downside of a tote is its lack of structure, which means it’s not great for papers, and even a computer if it’s particularly soft. But I’m fine carrying my laptop in the bullskin one – I just put it in a little canvas cover to protect it. And there are more structured totes, like the Commuter Tote or Market Tote offered by The Armoury. 

 

 

3. The weekender

This might be the category of bag I love most, with my favourite being the Dunhill doctor’s-bag style above. It’s probably because it’s the biggest expanse of nice leather you get to have and to hold. 

But it’s also the one I use least. I think because when I travel, it’s rarely by car, so weight is more of a consideration. And because when I’m carrying a large volume of stuff – eg for a shoot – my larger tote is more convenient. 

Still, everyone is likely to have one weekender or duffel bag, and they are lovely. I’d recommend the Bennett Winch ones in canvas or leather, and for something very modern looking, the Troubadour weekender

 

 

4. The suitcase

Everyone has a suitcase or two. The issue, at least if you have a family like me, is being able to afford good ones when you need a minimum of three to go on a family holiday. 

Fortunately, I was given one by Globe-Trotter years ago, and got a Rimowa one (above) a couple of years later on sale. And that was before Rimowa was taken over by LVMH and became much more expensive. 

My orange Globe-Trotter aged really nicely, getting scuffed and worn, and even acquiring the odd travel sticker. But in the end it just proved too impractical. It came undone occasionally, and was too hard to roll along. (Sorry Super Hans – I need the earth to carry my luggage for me.)

The Rimowa is so much better. It’s more practical inside, stronger, has never had any functional problems, and rolls like a dream. I never notice it, and when you’re hot, late, jet-lagged and perhaps hungover, that’s what you need. 

Given how expensive Rimowa has become, I’m not sure what I’d buy today though.

 

 

5. The backpack

A backpack should not be worn over a suit, or indeed over any knitwear that’s remotely delicate. In time it will destroy both of them. 

But I still have a backpack, which I wear for commuting by bike, and there’s a family one I use when doing practical things like camping, or going to build dens in the local woods. 

The commuting one is leather from Bennett Winch (above), and I’d certainly recommend it. The tumbled leather has a great texture, but it’s not that heavy (I’ve tried their canvas ones as well). 

For a more rugged one, I’d probably look to Filson or a multicoloured piece of fun like those from Epperson Mountaineering (below)

 

 

The next five

As you might suspect, I have more than five types of bag, let alone individual bags. Or at least have tried many over the years. Next therefore, are the five I’d get after the ones above. 

 

 

6. The canvas tote

These are great because they are so light and fold up, so you can take them travelling inside a suitcase for example. 

They’re also a nice way to accessorise, and add colour, much like an umbrella. Such as the yellow Trunk one of mine above. My favourites are from Ichizawa Hanpu, stocked by Trunk in the UK. 

 

 

7. The folio

Similar function to the modern work bag, for someone carrying less stuff. As I do this often, I have a couple I love, my favourites being a vintage piece shown here, and the envelope ones I designed with Equus a few years ago (above). 

Still, this is quite limiting as regards size, and so probably belongs in the second five, not the first. 

 

 

8. The suit carrier

Unsurprisingly, my favourite here is the SC Holdall I designed with Bennett Winch (above), and which features in the new James Bond film. You can even see it in the trailer, as Bond is given a new tux in a bar. 

But this also belongs in the second five, as I find when I travel I tend to either wear my jacket, or fold it up inside a large suitcase if I have one with me. See video here on how to do that. 

 

 

9. The casual briefcase

This is the category for that Filson briefcase mentioned earlier. I do think there’s a case for having this as well as a smart one, if you find you like this style of bag a lot more than a tote, for example. 

If you prefer totes, I’d say have a couple in different styles – eg a smart one and a more casual version, like a Chamula blanket tote (below) or a Porter Yoshida helmet bag

 

 

10. The messenger bag

I don’t own a messenger bag – I think the last time I did so was at school. But I’m including it here as it is another popular category, and I wanted to say that – for me, personally – it always feels a little teenagery. 

Certainly, I don’t think it’s a good option for guys commuting to work. Because it doesn’t look grown up, and because it’s killing the shoulder of that jacket it’s being worn over. Even a nice shirt will be ground down after a while. 

 

 

There are many other good brands I’d recommend based on my experience. They include:

  • Chester Mox for great hand-sewn, Hermes-feeling leather
  • Swaine Adeney for British-style bridle leather
  • Ortus (above) for the highest-level of make you’ll find anywhere. Just superb
  • Serge Amoruso (below) for bespoke commissions, and a quirky French style
  • J Panther for some original designs in canvas, not unlike Filson
  • Chapman bags for a similar fishing-bag aesthetic, also good for photographers
  • Acate Borsa for a Japanese take on Hermes-like pebbled leather designs

We’ve had some great content over the years on bags. I’d particularly recommend:

All photos are taken from previous PS articles. Most are linked to in the text. If you are unsure about any, please let me know in the comments and I’ll specify. Cheers.

 

 

 

The case for the Summer Suit. With tie

The case for the Summer Suit. With tie

Monday, September 6th 2021
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Thomas Mastronardi is one of the best-dressed men I know. So, in the spirit of welcoming a greater range of voices onto Permanent Style, I asked Tom to bookend the summer by writing something on the seersucker and linen suits he loves so much.

We disagree on some things, as will become apparent. But that is inevitable between passionate people and never an obstacle between friends.

Instead, it reminds me poetically of the things I already know I love in a summer suit and tie; and it encourages me, whenever I am on the borderline, to take the opportunity for greater beauty and self-expression.

Enjoy Tom’s florid farewell.

By Tom Mastronardi

Like most fellow followers of Permanent Style, I eagerly anticipate the pleasures of autumnal dressing and the siren’s call of flannel, tweed, and cashmere.

But, if I may, I’d like to take a moment to note that despite September’s arrival, there are still several weeks left in this long, hot, wet, relentless summer. And though the wilted, weary end of the season is in sight, I still take genuine pleasure – temperature be damned – in wearing Summer Suits.

Note I say suits.

Because I’ve found that recently the ruthless weather has practically dared me to put aside my sport coat and open necked shirt – despite the preponderance and utility of both in my wardrobe – and stare down those dog-days in natty defiance, turned out in a flawlessly tailored suit, replete with the proper shirt and always, always, always a tie. (Yes. A tie. It’s mandatory – but more on that shortly.)

But - and this is key - the cloth from which that suit is fashioned is the driver of the whole exercise. Think linen, seersucker, cotton. Full stop. Because, let’s face it; wilted wool is nobody’s idea of a good time.

And, yes, I know, I know, Fresco. Love it. But. My near-evangelical zeal for the holy trinity of summertime fabrics is not borne simply of comfort.

Linen, cotton and seersucker’s superpower rests in the way they democratize the whole business of summer dressing. Their innate informality infuses suit with an attitude of – are you ready – casually calculated refinement; which is something that simply cannot be achieved in any other quarter of the calendar.

The more insistently the season demands a casual response, the more perfectly these cloths fit the bill. (And as a general note, though it shouldn’t be necessary to mention it, in the name of whatever you hold holy, don't fully line the jacket.)

Because: Linen is most perfect when it is wrinkled.

And: The knife-edge crease in a seersucker trouser can be relied on to yield softly as the humidity rises.

Just contemplating the simple blue-and-white of classic seersucker (yeah, I know there are a host of options, but I like what I like and this is my soap box) always makes me feel cooler.

New this season, and my current favourite, is a three-button single-breasted with three open patch pockets in a 100% cotton from Huddersfield Fine Worsteds (above). This may be the lowest-cost cloth regularly – yet enthusiastically – selected for use by tailors, precisely because it is the best seersucker to be had.

For me, it’s the only cloth I elect to wear when no one in his right mind considers putting on a jacket (which is the essence of this entire screed).

I’ll almost always elect to pair seersucker with a white shirt, in either cotton or linen, with an unbuttoned button-down collar. I find that particular throwaway gesture, lifted from the Italians, always helps establish a casual insolence. Or, conversely, I will wear the subtlest of pale pastels with a proper spread collar.

Whatever shirt colour, collar, or fabric I may choose, the most significant aspect is that it is always best realised with a necktie.

I believe the necktie to be the ultimate accessory when wearing a suit – in any season. To quote a certain sage philosopher of my acquaintance: “...the tie is a beautiful thing, and its demise is a loss to culture.”

Too true.

Consider that an open shirt collar – specifically the all-too-common open dress shirt collar – surrenders its principal objective: to frame one’s face in the most appealing and flattering manner possible.

If we can assume that view to be universally accepted, then it’s not much of a reach to grant that the addition of a four-in-hand (like Brother Fleming’s most famous literary creation, I too mistrust a man who wears a Windsor knot) creates the most sophisticated visual punctuation; the foundation upon which to present one’s mug to society.

Also, one of the truest of truisms is that a necktie provides an opportunity to express your individuality. Old saw or not, it’s hard for me to find a more viable argument; from a solid grenadine to the most outrageous of rainbow-shaming foulards, a tie does make a statement about your taste – or lack thereof.

I drank the Kool-Aid early on, when as a kid it became apparent to me that The Guy Who Wore the Tie always got the girl. Case in point: Cary Grant, Ray Milland, Gary Cooper, Fred Astaire and James Bond invariably, absolutely, inarguably, wound up with Katherine Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman, Audrey Hepburn or Pussy Galore.

The truth is that yes, Virginia, ties do separate the men from the boys; and that donning a necktie should always be perceived as a privilege, not a pain (and if you find it “uncomfortable”, consider that perhaps your collar is just a mite too tight).

A seersucker suit with an open-necked shirt may telegraph that you can maintain your cool (with some degree of cool) on even the warmest day; but, by adding a tie, you’re set apart from the hoi polloi by choosing to beat the heat through the sheer élan of the gesture.

As regards tie colour, I tend to embrace something bolder in the summer – partly in a nod to the season, partly because the simplicity of the seersucker and plain shirt affords one a licence to do so. As summer moves forward, the brighter the red the pink or the yellow lightweight (and frequently unlined) silk the better. And madras? Be still my heart.

I have to admit, too, that I fondly remember a lurid tie from the mid-80s, printed with a fetching Varga-type cutie, that elevated my rather basic Brooks Brothers seersucker to new heights.

Linen and cotton suits allow for a greater variety of colour than seersucker; light creams, tans, and pale olives certainly, but I’ll even opt to go darker: navy of course, and this season I’m especially fond of a rich tobacco double-breasted number in a fairly beefy 14oz cloth designed by Drapers and woven in Ireland a few years ago exclusively for Paolo Martorano Bespoke [above].

Although I’ve had several flyweight Italian linens over the years, of late I’ve come to appreciate the substantial Irish variety. And who can resist the legend that tells of those once-upon-a-time Sons of Erin who submerged the newly woven cloth in the local brook long enough for the water and stones to soften it up? Stonewashed, indeed.

I’ll invariably elect a linen shirt for wear with a linen suit, in white or a pale neutral, either solid or with the faintest stripe (I’ve never been much of a fan of dark or boldly patterned shirts, whatever the season).

I’m also fond of linen ties with linen suits and shirts (and even linen socks, although their fragility never fails to cause a measure of disappointment), and am drawn equally to subtle pattern or cheeky print depending on my mood. (I’ve been unable to part with a vintage Versace parrot print for more than 30 years.)

The point of all this is that by suiting up rather than dressing down, by shrugging off the allure of even the most sophisticated of sportswear and taking up arms against the endlessly contumacious climate, swelter is roundly vanquished, and confident nonchalance carries the day.

So, elegantly suited and properly knotted, I’ll be spending these next few, short weeks savouring each and every opportunity to wear my summer suits before inexorable autumn ends the whole drill.

As a final note, I’ll leave you with this; as we soldier bravely through these dwindling days of summer, rather than worry you might be too smartly garbed at, say, a backyard barbeque, might I suggest that you address the situ by – briefly – doffing the jacket, discreetly checking the dimple beneath your knot, adroitly rolling your sleeves, and having a poised, imperturbable go at the watermelon.

Hot fun in the summertime. More, please.

---

Thomas Mastronardi was for many years the head of marketing at Paul Stuart in New York. He currently works with Paolo Martorano, as well as other clients.

The ties pictured are largely from Robert Talbott, saving the vintage Versace. The suits are from Paolo Martorano or Jon Green Bespoke. The shirts are also largely Paolo Martorano

The image of us together was taken at the New York launch of my book The Finest Menswear in the World. More here

Photography: Tom Mastronardi, save the last image, Jamie Ferguson.

Be open minded. Or, what is style?

Be open minded. Or, what is style?

Friday, September 3rd 2021
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I believe that core to understanding clothes, and perhaps even to enjoying them, is appreciating styles that are not your own. 

If you can’t, it closes you off to dozens of ideas - something as simple as the shape of a sleeve, or a colour combination - that you’d like in another setting. 

And even if it never influences you at all, it’s a healthy challenge. It refreshes and reinforces your own ideas by reminding you what you particularly like about your clothes. 

If John Stuart Mill had had an opinion on clothes, it would surely have been this. Openness to ideas both avoids any chance you might be wrong and - if you refute them - helps you understand your own opinions better. It avoids stagnation. 

And you thought PS took itself too seriously. 

Let’s take an example. In a recent post, a reader criticised chore coats and similarly straight-cut, shapeless clothing. 

He argued that being flattering - by implication, shaped to the wearer - was by far the most important aspect of clothing. Without that, it was hard to see how clothes could have style at all. 

Generally, I agree. Fit is the attribute of style most commonly underrated, and I make that point frequently. But that doesn’t mean less fitted clothes can’t be stylish. 

Clothes can be loose, baggy, floppy and still have great style. You see that in a lot of the recently rekindled skater and 1990s looks, and in tailoring too. Armani did it wonderfully, as we’ve covered, and someone like Michael Jordan was known for it. 

Famously, Jordan’s style came about because Chicago-tailor Burdi put a suit on him that was much too big. Jordan loved it. He was a big man, and always felt suits were too short for him. 

I would never dress like that. But in the example below I think he looks great. He looks natural, elegant - and gets away with the two-tone shoes and T-shirt because of who he is. 

There are even things I would take from the look, such as the green cast of that grey suit, and how well it works with black. 

It’s important to emphasise that we’re not slipping into relativism. 

Just because many styles can look good, it doesn’t mean everyone looks good. It’s possible to dress badly in any style - and indeed, dressing well in another style is likely this thing we are recognising and appreciating in others. 

The guy on Jordan’s right looks very ordinary compared to him. His shirt is too strong a blue; the trousers are too low. (Not low rise, but lower than they are designed to be. The fork is dropped way below the crotch.)

The reason he doesn’t look great is not because his style is different. He just hasn’t executed it effectively.

So what constitutes this act of dressing well? What makes someone stylish? What do Michael Jordan and the Duke of Windsor have in common?

I don’t pretend to know the answer, but there are a few things that I’m pretty sure contribute. 

One is looking natural. Not forced, not awkward, not stuffy. You are comfortable in your clothes and know what works for you. Another word might be authentic. 

Two is consistency, cohesiveness. There is clearly consideration at work in the whole. Even if you’ve worn that outfit a hundred times, it was thoughtful at the start and still looks it. 

A third, related to this, is traditions and education. It doesn’t matter whether people obey the ‘rules’ or not - the point is that they’re aware of them. 

(And for those that say many people dress well without knowing the traditions - it’s not true. It’s just subconscious. Some have absorbed rather than learnt, and while they wouldn’t state a rule, they would say the same things ‘just look wrong’.)

A fourth is personality. The best dressers are elevated from the norm by expressing something, having a view. It might come across in colours or in little accessories, in something loud or quiet. But they don’t look like a carbon copy of somebody else.

There are certainly other elements, and there is a lot to pleasantly argue about in each one. I look forward to doing so in the comments. 

Many people do not dress like me, yet I find them inspiring. 

Tony Sylvester (above), bless his Grecian slippers, wears many things I never would. But I’m always interested in what he’s going to try and work into an outfit next. 

The beret may never become part of my regular clothing, but it’s still interesting when he talks about the 'flight' of different styles. And it makes me reflect on proportion in other hats.

Why is leopard print so much sexier than, for example, tiger? Why do turned-up brims suit some heads and not others? Do band collars look best on bigger men? All questions Tony has made me ponder, while looking at outfits I wouldn't wear. 

Be like John Stuart Mill and let all the crazy ideas in. It’s the only way to avoid - in his phrase - your ideas becoming ‘dead dogma’. 

The people that don’t are the ones you're familiar with from forums. The ones that insist, loudly, on the rules and concoct their own definition of a gentleman. They tend to be noisy, condescending and oddly indignant. 

Sometimes those proclamations can sound like confidence. I think it sounds more like fear. 

What would I buy from Massimo Dutti?

What would I buy from Massimo Dutti?

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When is it worth buying the best possible quality, and when can you economise? 

This, of course, was part of the subject of my book The Finest Menswear in the World, which examined what constitutes ‘quality’ in various categories of clothing. 

But what about when you’re not looking at the finest things? When it’s a choice between buying a £100 sweater from the high street, or saving for a £250 Scottish one? 

Are you better saving money on underwear and other basics, or are those precisely the things you should be spending on, given you wear them every day?

In order to give concrete, if partial answers to these questions, I thought I’d conduct an experiment. I spent a happy couple of hours wandering around Massimo Dutti on Regent Street, and working out what I would and wouldn’t buy.

I picked Massimo Dutti because while definitely a high-street brand, they have a good classic-menswear aesthetic: brown-suede shoes and stone chinos, blue shirts and navy knitwear. 

It’s somewhere I used to shop from when I was starting my career. When I could afford most things in there, but sought out deals on luxury brands whenever I could. I know that applies to a lot of readers today. 

Not leather or shoes

Given the ‘Italian Smooth’ aesthetic at Massimo Dutti, it’s no surprise that there is a lot of leather and suede outerwear. 

The current range includes black and brown quilted jackets, as well as a suede overshirt with a detachable vest, with prices £269-£299. 

Having worked on a few suede and leather products (at Connolly and Cromford) I would avoid these pieces, because I know how much good leather - such as the nappa referred to here - costs. 

More importantly, rather like leather shoes, cheaper skins often involve compromises on the integrity of the skin, such as splits rather than full grain. The Massimo Dutti overshirts are soft, but they also lack body - they feel flimsy. This is also often a reason such leather pieces are lined, to cover up the rough suede of the split. Luxury pieces usually aren't. 

It is possible to buy quality leather that’s cheaper, but then it will be thicker - a bigger, coarser hide. Which can be great for workwear, for example, but less so for these smooth, chic looks. 

Another point worth considering is that, unlike shirts or underwear, you really don’t need many pieces of leather outerwear. Really one or two should be fine, particularly if you’re on a limited budget. I would save up therefore, for something like the Mr P range on Mr Porter, or a heritage maker like Dehen.

That same logic applies to shoes, especially today. As people need fewer dress shoes, it should be a lot easier to invest in quality ones. 

Some of the Massimo Dutti shoes are cemented, rather than even Blake stitched or Goodyear, and use split suedes. Plus, they’re £89, and that’s not a lot of money for a leather shoe. 

If you only need two or three good leather shoes in life, it’s worth spending on something like Crockett & Jones in the UK, or a Carmina or TLB from Spain

In some ways this is unfortunate, because the designs of the Massimo Dutti shoes are good - simple and classic, unlike some of the leather jackets, like the sheepskin fronting a polyamide quilt (above). 

Yes, shirts and knitwear

The design point is important, because it’s often easier to economise on basics, where the design doesn’t vary that much. 

Shirts and knitwear are good examples. You might not like the fit of a navy crewneck, but it’s unlikely you’re going to take strongly against the knit pattern or the ribbing at the neck. They’re going to be pretty standard. 

Shirts are a little trickier, because the collar is so important to the look it creates. But if you like the smaller, softer collars that mainstream shirts often have, then this is also somewhere you can economise. 

That’s particularly true with casual shirts, because expensive dress shirts tend to use finer and finer cottons, which is not necessarily a look you want, let alone a quality you need. 

(Inevitably, all these points are generalisations, but there are some more detailed articles on them around PS - eg here on superfine cottons.)

A roughly similar argument applies to knitwear: if you’re buying less luxurious fabrics, you’re likely missing out on less as regards quality. 

So among the knits I looked at and tried at Massimo Dutti, the cottons and then the merino wools seemed the nicest. There are definitely finer versions of both - in terms of material and make - but the difference between this cotton and the most luxurious I have is less. 

Cashmere is the tricky one. The demand for cheap cashmere has been so great in recent years  that quality has dropped everywhere, often with corners being cut - as we covered in this piece on Uniqlo

The Massimo Dutti cashmere is more reassuringly priced, at £149 rather than £89 at Uniqlo; and while it’s made in China, it doesn’t have the treated feel the Uniqlo did. But still, I think here you’re better off investing in one or two pieces slowly, and buying lambswool in the interim - which is often very well-priced for the quality and longevity, like £125 at William Crabtree, or £150 from Rubato

Yes to underwear, no to tailoring

To answer a question posed higher up, I do think underwear is somewhere you can save. 

Underwear and socks in finer cottons can certainly be more comfortable. But they can be more fragile too, and despite them being next to the skin, they’re not often the quality piece you notice and appreciate.

Plus, those pieces can get away with a little synthetic fibre in the mix, to add a little stretch (underwear) or a little strength (socks). 

I love the Zimmerli underwear I’ve had, but it’s too much to justify regularly (£85 a pair) and so I usually buy Sunspel (£32). Someone on a lower budget could happily buy Massimo Dutti (£15). Like Sunspel, they unfortunately always have the brand name on the waistband now, but at least it’s tone-on-tone. 

As to tailoring, I’m sure no one will be surprised that I suggest investing good money here. But certainly, you shouldn’t be buying suits that are fused, or those that have polyamide or polyester in the fabric. 

Yes to sneakers, no to jeans

I wouldn’t buy jeans or chinos, because they’re slim, low rise and have 2% elastane. So both quality and design reasons. 

With sneakers, the quality of most of the market is so poor, that actually Massimo Dutti looks good. The actual trainers have a cleaner make than Nike, and the clean models that are similar to Common Projects are decent too. There’s even a range that looks a lot like Loro Piana

I won’t try and cover absolutely everything, but in general synthetic pieces and sports clothing are often good value, because you’re unlikely to need anything actually high performance unless hiking or running. 

And I’d put overshirts in the same category as shirts and knitwear - as something that is so simply made that a version in a casual material could work well. Although it would be nice if versions like the one below were more than 65% wool.

I hope this gives some perspective and insight for readers that are constantly trying to work out what they should invest in, and what they should save money on in order to invest. 

I also don’t want to appear too harsh on Massimo Dutti. They do a good job of providing good clothing at this price point, and most of the designs are solid - including some evidence of menswear trends, such as mock necks - with a good taste level. 

It’s not uncommon for me to walk past their window on Regent Street and take inspiration from a combination of taupe suede and white cotton, or an olive overshirt worn over denim. I couldn’t say the same for a lot of other high-street brands, and that’s why I picked them to look at.

The important thing, I think, is to recognise that difference categories of clothing present different trade-offs. It's not just about how much you have to spend on everything.

There are differences because of what you get at a higher price point, and because of how things fit into your wardrobe. You’re unlikely to need more than a couple of good overcoats - but you’re going to need somewhere reliable to stock up on shirts. 

As mentioned, many of these points are quick and simple, as necessitated by a piece this length. If you’d like to talk more about details, please do ask in the comments below. 

The jungle jacket: Summer’s M65

The jungle jacket: Summer’s M65

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This might be our last piece on summer clothing this year, and I wanted to use it to talk about one of my most useful pieces of the last few months - this vintage ‘jungle jacket’. 

I bought it two years ago, at the now sadly closed Vintage Showroom in London. They were popular then, and have only become more so since - Drake’s released its version earlier this year. 

But something I find the new versions can't achieve is the lightness of the originals. That rip-stop cotton was made for tropical climates, and it’s as light as a linen overshirt, perhaps even more so. 

As a result, it became my default outer layer for casual combinations this summer, such as a T-shirt and workwear chinos at the weekend (example here). Or jeans. Or shorts. 

It has all the pockets you need - which is often the reason for wearing an extra layer in the summer - but is so light you almost don’t notice you’re wearing it. 

It helps that vintage versions have been washed and worn countless times, making them softer and perhaps even lighter too. 

Then there’s the normal pleasures of a vintage piece, like the natural fading at the hems and seams, and the little repairs where the jacket has been caught or worn through. You can see one on the back of my jacket in the picture above. 

In many ways, the jungle jacket is the summer equivalent of the M-65 field jacket, which has become so popular with menswear fans over the years. It is the same versatile pale-olive colour, and is just as effective at adding a touch of high/low dressing to an otherwise smart outfit. 

I’ve shot it with two outfits here, and the one shown at top is a deliberately smart colour combination: navy knitted polo, white jeans, brown-suede loafers. The same colours would work just as well with more formal materials too, such as cream flannels, a blue oxford shirt, and a navy cashmere knit. 

The second outfit, meanwhile, shows how nice it is with denim and with colour. It can look work with much stronger colours than that PS Yellow Oxford as well.

Of course, the M-65 is not that warm, being just two layers of cotton. But when you combine it with the fur lining I had made a couple of years ago, it gives you three casual outer layers - jungle jacket, unlined M-65, lined M-65 - that cover most of the year. 

The only obvious disadvantage of the jungle jacket here is that you can’t cinch the waist, which I always felt was one reason sartorial dressers particularly took to the M-65.

It meant you could mimic the waisted shape of a tailored jacket, and buy a fairly big size to fit over a jacket’s shoulders without it being too shapeless elsewhere. 

But then, the jungle jacket is a summer piece, where the main consideration is coolness rather than shape, and you're less likely to be wearing it over anything else. 

There were three different versions of the jungle jacket made by the US, from the early sixties into the seventies. But we’re not vintage collectors here on PS - we don’t care which is rarer, the version with the slanted chest pockets or the straight ones. 

We care more about which looks good, which is most useful, and what the fit is like. On that score, it's worth noting that the third iteration was made in a plain cotton poplin rather than the ripstop. You can see the differences on the Broadway & Sons website - they have a ripstop here and a poplin here.

I personally prefer the ripstop (below), because it feels a touch lighter and I like the texture, but it’s not a big difference. 

In terms of sizing, my advice would be to avoid the Large, which is so long that even friends that are taller than me (so over 6’1’’) find it too long. 

The jacket was designed to cover the seat and then some, with the option of a belt between the two sets of pockets - as a lot of military jackets have been over time. But those proportions look odd today. 

Mine is a Medium Regular, which has a perfect length. There is a slight compromise on the sleeve, which would ideally be an inch longer, but it’s a small point on vintage, which is often so hard to size right. Plus I often push the sleeves up in warm weather. 

Also, note that the shirt from the OG-107 US fatigues is sometimes referred to as a jungle jacket. This is a different style, having just two pockets on the chest and mostly worn tucked into the matching trousers. It’s still nice, but more of an overshirt.

Below, it is worn on the soldiers on the left and right, while General Westmoreland in the middle wears the four-pocketed jungle jacket.

The shirt varieties were also those most associated with protests against the Vietnam War, and John Lennon in particular (second image below). This probably gives them the most countercultural feel, but still, the jungle jacket and the field jacket still have a bit of that.

One of the few annoying aspects of the jungle jacket is that the hip pockets are extravagantly bellowed, in order to fit in as much as possible (see below). This can make the jacket a little ungainly if those are used and left unbuttoned. 

In fact, I find this is one of the main issues of modern reproductions, which often keep that sizing of the pockets, but in a new and heavier material that means they look especially bulky.

I tend to keep my hip pockets partly buttoned as a result. But that still means they're usable - in fact, I was wearing it so much over the summer that I developed a habit of using each pocket for a particular thing. 

My phone went in the top-left pocket, with one button closed so it wouldn’t slip out when I bent over; wallet went in the top right, with no need to button at all as it is so light; my face mask went in the bottom left, with one button closed for easier access; and keys were in the bottom right, with both buttons fastened to avoid any chance of them slipping out and hold the weight better. 

I’m sure that kind of organisation will please the geeks/obsessives out there. I’m rarely that systematic, but I did notice it was the one time I never forgot the leave the house without something!

The volume of jungle jackets originally made means they’re not hard to find - it’s often particular sizes that can be tricky, or if you want just one of the iterations. 

They’re also not expensive. I saw a few when I was at Hang-Up Vintage recently, all priced at £95, though the website only shows a deadstock poplin one for £155. The ones at Broadway & Sons noted earlier are €199 and €149.

There are camouflage versions too, but I don’t like camo as much. It’s very subjective, but camo for me is more obviously military, without the countercultural associations of the plain OG. It feels more towards glorifying warfare. 

In fact, that can be an issue with names and badges on a lot of vintage military clothing. But that’s probably a debate for another day. 

Clothes shown:

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

The guide to types of knitwear: Gauge, end and ply

 

As men start to dress more casually, knitwear is becoming ever more important. It’s more often the top layer of an outfit, and so holds greater responsibility to both flatter the wearer and reflect their style. It deserves proper, in-depth attention.

This article is the first in a series that will create a PS ‘Guide to Knitwear’. Over the next few months, it will look at everything from quality to fit to history, and eventually become a comprehensive resource on the same scale as our Guide to Cloth or Guide to Shirt Fabrics.

What types of knitwear are there? When I pick up a sweater and it says 2-ply or 30-gauge, what does that mean? And how does that knowledge help me buy better – particularly online?

This first article in our Guide to Knitwear takes a bird’s eye view, looking at the world of knitwear as a whole and categorising it, by explaining how it’s made and what it’s made from.

This will give anyone with an interest in good clothing a better understanding of what they’re buying, and explain some of the key processes and terminology along the way.

 

 

Gauge: Shirt or jumper?

You may have noticed that most Scottish knitwear is at least a certain weight or thickness. Finer, thinner sweaters tend to come from Italy, or from makers like John Smedley in England (above).

It’s the biggest, most obvious difference between types of knitwear, and it’s an important one, because fine knitwear is much smarter – more akin to a knitted shirt in terms of style and formality – while thicker gauges are what you think of as a typical jumper, designed for warmth.

The main reason brands, and indeed whole regions, identify with one weight of knitwear is that you need different machines for different gauges, and machines are expensive. Plus, the local workforce tends to build up expertise on those types of machines.

A typical Scottish cashmere crewneck today is 21 gauge (although it’s got lighter over time – 50 years ago the standard was 15). The same factory will probably make that and everything heavier, up to a 5 gauge, which is the chunkiest shawl-collar cardigan. A fine-gauge knitter will usually produce a narrower range, perhaps 24 and 30 gauge.

The number refers to the number of needles, and so stitches, per inch on a flat-bed machine*.

This difference between types of knitwear will usually be obvious if you’re browsing in a store. But online, armed with only a product description, it can help define what kind of knit is on offer.

 

 

Ply: Thick or thin?

While ‘gauge’ is usually only mentioned in the technical description of a piece, ‘ply’ can be more prominent, sometimes even in the product name itself. As in ‘cashmere two-ply crewneck’.

This is because, within the categories set out above, ply is the best shorthand for how thick a sweater is.

The crewnecks you’re used to wearing are probably 1 or 2 ply (above). This is the most standard. The next level up is 4 ply, which is really a heavier, cold-weather jumper. Anything above 4 ply is usually a chunky shawl cardigan, which can be 8, 12, even 16 ply**.

But what does it mean? The number refers to the yarn used: 2 ply means two threads (‘ends’) twisted together in the yarn, 4 ply means four of them, and so on.

A yarn might be described as 2/28, which means two ends of a 28-count, with the 28 referring to the fineness (28 metres of it would weigh 1 gram).

This can get confusing when you go into detail, because the same thickness of yarn can be made by using one end that’s twice as thick, or four that are twice as fine (eg 4/15). But this happens rarely enough that ‘2 ply’ and ‘4 ply’ are still good shorthand for thicknesses of knitwear.

 

 

Knit: T-shirt or jumper?

This might sound strange, but T-shirts are knitwear. The cotton is knitted, just like on a jumper (the opposite being woven, like cloth for a shirt or suit).

What separates a T-shirt from a jumper is the way its knitted panels are put together. A T-shirt’s panels are ‘cut and sewn’: cut along the edges and then sewn together, with an overlock stitch for example.

The edges of knitwear panels are fully finished (or ‘fashioned’) along the edges, so there’s no need to cut them. They are complete pieces, which are then linked together, in a surprisingly painstakingly process.***

This is what separates a cashmere jumper from a cotton sweatshirt****. And it’s why a polo shirt made by a knitwear manufacturer is so different from the regular cotton version you associate with tennis and polo. When someone refers to a ‘knitted’ polo, they mean one that has been fully fashioned.

 

 

Hand, machine, or hand-machine?

There are also slightly different types of fashioned knitting.

The vast majority of knitwear uses automated knitting machines. Some makers still use hand-operated machines though, and this is often called ‘hand framing’ (above). This is much slower, with the advantages being that it can produce a more open knit, has some slight natural variation, and is an easy way to create designs or pictures (‘intarsia’).

The feel of hand-framed knitwear is also a little similar to actual hand knitting – as in, no machinery at all but just one person with a pair of knitting needles – which does still go on. Hand framed is often what brands mean when they describe something as hand knitted.

Finally, a very small amount of knitwear is made all in one piece, without any seams. The machinery to do this full-garment knitting is expensive and so not seen as much, and is perhaps better for lighter weights. Regular jumpers arguably benefit from the structure that fashioning and seams give them.

 

 

Fibre: Sheep, goat or plant?

This categorisation is a big one, but also the most obvious. Which is why it’s only being mentioned now.

Most consumers know what cashmere, wool and cotton are, and their various properties. They probably even know what shetland wool is like (above), and a silk/cashmere blend.

There is still a lot of detail that can be delved into here, such as the different qualities of cashmere, the types of cotton, and the breeds of sheep. Few people realise that with wool, for example, most is merino, most of that is lambswool (the first crop from the merino sheep), and lambswool originally from a particular part of Australia is Geelong. They are all subsets of each other.

But that level of detail deserves a separate article.

 

 

Finishing: Wash and brush

This is a minor distinction, but finishing on knitwear can make a difference.

The most obvious one is a brushed shetland, where shetland sweaters are deliberately brushed to make them fluffy.

But all knitwear is washed at the end to soften it and bring up the fibres, and in general Italian makers do this for longer than Scottish ones. The result is knitwear that feels softer when it’s first bought (above), but sometimes doesn’t age as well, either pilling or (if also knitted more openly) losing its shape.

In fact, that’s a final minor category: tighter knitting. It’s something that was done more in the past, to make knitwear that would feel very heavy and robust today. It was also only lightly washed, and sometimes called ‘bare finish’ knitwear as a result. But really most traditional pieces were knitted more tightly – not with any more stitches per inch (‘gauge’) but just with more tension on each one.

 

 

Conclusion, notes

Knitwear is either heavy or fine gauge, thicker or thinner, fashioned or sewn, machine or hand knitted, and more or less washed.

These are the things that define it and divide it. Understanding them helps you know why a 30-gauge polo works under a blazer, but a 15-gauge will be too thick. Or why a fully fashioned polo is a better match for flannel trousers than a cut-and-sewn one.

Even if you understood such things already, knowing the terms makes it possible to talk about or communicate them. Which is particularly important when buying things remotely.

Hopefully this first installment in the Guide to Knitwear has been useful. There is much more to come, on necklines, fits and identifying dead fishermen.

 

Notes:

*Sometimes the term ‘needles’ is used instead of gauge, to accommodate different types of machine. The numbers don’t align – eg 21 gauge is 12 needle. Easiest to stick with gauge.

**You rarely get 1 ply in knitwear, because, interestingly, spinning two yarns together makes the result more stable. A single yarn has a natural tendency to twist, or torque, one way, and having two spun together that have been twisted in different directions balances this out.

***The two panels of knitwear that are to be joined, have to be placed on the needles of a circular linking machine, one stitch per needle, by hand.

****Some T-shirts and sweatshirts are also circular knitted, so there are no side seams. This traditional technique gives more pliability to the cotton, but also means the body has to be straight and square, rather than shaped at all.

Introducing: Permanent Style Plaid

Introducing: Permanent Style Plaid

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Two years ago, when we visited the Joshua Ellis mill near Batley, Yorkshire, I spent a happy couple of hours browsing their archive. 

As you might expect, the vast majority were classics: plain or textured cashmeres, houndstooths and herringbones. This is the majority of the market, and what most people expect. 

But now and again, there were little collections of really wonderful checks. Unusual - with real personality - but subtle with it. 

It was these I spent the longest time poring over, and which resulted in us bringing one of the most beautiful out of obscurity - the dark purple and green cashmere you can see pictured.

It’s available on the Joshua Ellis website, from today, in the same way the Escorial has been previously (rather than on the PS site). 

I've always had a soft spot for checks, but in the past I’ve tended to go for strong ones, or have them made into suits rather than jackets - which makes them stand out rather more.

The key thing I loved about this pattern was how much was going on, yet how subdued the overall impact was. When you say you’re going to wear a purple-and-green check, this is not what people expect. 

The base of the pattern is a dark green and very dark brown/purple. The latter, in fact, is so dark and mixed in that it’s hard to say exactly what shade it is. 

The suggestion of purple, though, is reinforced by a faint additional purple stripe (alternating with white in the twill) running horizontally, and a thinner, uniform purple line vertically. These are surrounded by straw-yellow stripes of varying widths. Then there’s a white stripe, a couple of faint blues and an orange. 

I know from experience how hard something like this is to design, how easy to get the shades or balance of the colours completely wrong, and I bow to the expertise of the Joshua Ellis design team. It’s a rich and beautiful pattern. 

I decided to call it the Permanent Style ‘plaid’ only partly for the alliteration. 

The pattern also has something Ralph Lauren about it - unsurprising perhaps, given Joshua Ellis have worked for Ralph for years - and I think to that extent something American too. 

English mills don’t usually produce designs like this, and the Italians rarely do either. The English would make it up in tweed, and the colours would be brighter. The Italians would happily make it in cashmere, but the cloth would be light and the colours less rich. 

This luxurious take on tartan has more of an uptown American feel, and hence we’ve used American terminology. It is the PS Plaid. 

I think it would suit a jacket worn more in the evening too, for these reasons. 

I’ve pictured here during the day, with some of my favourite things - a denim shirt, flannel trousers, suede tassels. Looking at that outfit now, an old red bandana might have looked nice as a pocket square. 

Or a purple spot. The fun thing about checks like these is picking up little aspects of the pattern and using them elsewhere. I might not use green in a hank or tie, but certainly a brown or yellow.

However, I do think I’ll wear the jacket often in the evening. It would look excellent with a charcoal rollneck, or a cream shirt. Even black. I have tried it with a cream knit, charcoal trousers and black Sagans and it works wonderfully. 

Something this luxurious - which must come from the depth of the colours as well as the cashmere - seems to suit dressing up.

We were keen to produce a fabric that felt as sensuous as the design implied, and to that end decide to use the finest cashmere Joshua Ellis has to offer, with slightly brushed finish.

The finish raises the fibres and gives both more ‘cover’ to the pattern (fluffiness makes any pattern less pronounced) and a more tactile feel. 

This is very understated - we're not talking anything like the milled finish of a flannel - but it does make the cashmere both more indulgent in feel and more subtle in tone, so accentuating both of the things that already drew me to the cloth. 

If anything, it reminds me most of this jacket in a vintage cashmere I had a few years ago. Not as heavy, but with the same old-school feel. 

The weight is a versatile 350g. So not for warmer months, but I'd certainly wear it nine months of the year in the UK - perhaps with a grey crewneck underneath when it was my outermost layer. 

For anyone looking at other Joshua Ellis jacketings, this weight and finish mean the PS Plaid is a unique quality, so not comparable to anything else in the range and not available elsewhere. 

The jacket itself was made by Whitcomb & Shaftesbury, in a softer style they are now doing with an inset shoulder, plus a more generous fit than what I’ve had from them before. 

There are many other things to comment on there though, so I'll do so in a separate post. 

The shirt is my old Al Bazar denim, the flannels are from Cerrato and the shoes are my Belgravia tassels from Edward Green. The red handkerchief that would have made a nice addition is here

Thinking as I write, I reckon a black or navy knit-silk tie would like good with this too. Unlike a regular checked-tweed, there would be nothing old-mannish about the combination. 

Details on the cloth and on ordering: 

  • The PS Plaid is available through the Joshua Ellis website only. 
  • Buy the length you require in units of 1m and 10cm. 
  • In terms of length required, I need 2.1m for a single-breasted jacket, but requirements will vary a lot with your size and desired style. Check with your tailor.
  • There is a limited number of swatches available, with a small charge that is refundable if you place a full order. Again, on the Joshua Ellis site.
  • If you want to send the cloth straight to a tailor, that is possible (and saves on shipping twice). Just put them down as the delivery address - with your name included in it - and let them know it’s coming, to avoid any confusion.
  • The cloth costs £175 a metre, including VAT. For jurisdictions outside the UK, there are separate set charges that will show on checkout - but which do not include VAT or duties. Joshua Ellis does offer free shipping worldwide however.
  • The cloth is regular width, a 350g 100% cashmere twill, woven by Joshua Ellis in the UK.
  • The check repeats every 6.5 inches horizontally, and 6 inches vertically.

There are no current plans to reweave the Escorial Tweed. The PS Harris Tweed, however, is being rewoven again and should be available again later this year.

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

Reader profile: Manish

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Sometimes I feel a bit envious of brands holding trunk shows, because they meet so many more PS readers than I do. 

I see people at occasional events, and of course the pop-ups once or twice a year, but that's about it. 

So one of the nice things about starting this series was just chatting to people like Manish - about what clothes they buy, which they don't, and how their style has changed in the past 18 months. 

That, of course, is also the benefit for other readers. These articles should provide a different perspective to my own - from people not in the industry, from different places and professions. 

We'll try to keep to one a month or so, and keep them regular. I hope you enjoy the first installment.

Outfit 1: Casual

"Here I’m wearing Crockett & Jones Harvard loafers and W. Bill linen trousers from City tailors Graham Browne.

The shirt is an old Uniqlo-Christophe Lemaire collaboration, cost twenty-five quid, is thick with sweat, ice cream and beer by the end of each Summer and still gets more love from friends than any of my tailoring! If Hemingway had gone into the ice cream business I think he would have worn this shirt.

Do you think you spend a lot of money on clothes?

I don’t have any super-expensive bespoke tailoring, but yes, I think I do spend a lot of money and I think it’s important to acknowledge that so I appreciate how lucky I am to be in that position, and to remind myself to take care of the things I have bought. 

I would add that, like many of your readers, clothing for me is more than just about looking good. It is also a passion and so maybe it’s better to compare what I spend on clothes against what others spend on their interests - for example following a football team home and away isn’t cheap either.

What job do you do, and how does that interact with what you wear?

I work in financial services in Canary Wharf and it’s a curious sartorial landscape. The vast majority of men are in ‘business casual’ which generally means a shirt and trousers, and the balance are in suit and tie. 

The mid-ground – which I would assume to include jacket and trousers – is hardly ever seen and would be considered more dandy than a suit and tie, which I don’t feel is the case in most other working environments.

Pre-pandemic I would wear a suit and tie to the office every day, and that wasn’t really about style (although, of course, it wasn’t not about style either). It was mainly about having a uniform that was easy to pull together and expressed my intent for the day. 

However, once I do go back to the office I am going to try and sit in the mid-ground a little more and wear a jacket and trousers. I sense that everyone’s views on work have been pulled into very different shapes over the last eighteen months, so it will be fascinating to see how people respond with their office attire.

Outfit 2: Semi-formal

I’m wearing penny loafers from Morjas and a shirt from Yuri & Yuri. The linen trousers are from Stoffa. I remember when I was being fitted for them it was the first time somebody had been bold enough to squeeze their fingers through my love handles to locate the top of my hips. The result is a pair of trousers that rest comfortably on the lip of the hip all day long. 

The linen work jacket is from Anderson & Sheppard and I waited patiently for 18 months for that thing to go on sale on Mr Porter. When it eventually did it was only available in a medium and I was hoping to get a small, but over the years the jacket has worn in beautifully and now I’m so happy I’ve got the slouch and comfort of the bigger size.

What do you spend least money on?

I spend the least on watches, which is largely because I know sod all about calibers, crowns, cogs and crystals. I’m sure if I did I could quite easily get sucked into a horological black hole and want to buy expensive timepieces but for now, I’m really happy digging through eBay and Instagram for old Russian watches.

In the 60s and 70s, the Russian watch industry was making watches for both the domestic market and for foreign companies like Sekonda, so it’s not too hard to find vintage stock that is robustly made for a good price – I have six that all cost less than £60 each. My favourite maker is Raketa (meaning Rocket) not least because in Cyrillic the letter ‘R’ looks like a ‘P’ so more than one person has glanced at my watch and assumed I’m wearing a Patek.

How long have you been reading PS? What do you like about it?

I dug back through the archives to try and answer this question and it was late 2013/early 2014. What I like, and I think this is especially true of the last three or four years, is how you’ve been exploring the tension within the title and underlying credo of the site: Permanent Style. 

How do those definitions expand and contract over time? How does something we once considered permanent transition to impermanent and vice versa? Is it possible to have a ‘permanent’ part when the ‘style’ part is so subjective? 

I think the main reason that the site has been able to explore those broader questions is that you’ve never gotten too bogged down in dogma and have championed using the PS platform to explore and discuss things that I never thought would be covered when I started reading back in 2013. I’m thinking of articles like Tony Sylvester’s superb series of recent columns, the increased coverage on casual wear and highlighting other people’s styles that aren’t straight-up classical menswear. 

Outfit 3: Formal

I’m wearing Alden tassel loafers, a Bryceland’s Oxford shirt and a cashmere tie from Drake’s factory store - may it rest in peace. The jacket has been made up in a Fox Brothers tweed and both it and the trousers are from The Anthology. 

I wear a lot of my tailored jackets with black shoes, charcoal trousers and white shirts. The intellectual reasoning for this is that I like a contrasting gradient that leaves lighter colours nearer my face, plus I have dark skin and a dark beard (although that is whitening with each passing day) and so I find a white/cream shirt very pleasing. 

However, I genuinely think the real reason for this mode of dressing is that it has just been ingrained in me as a boy by the different school uniforms I had to wear, all of which were as above but just topped with a polyester blazer.

What's your biggest tip for other readers in terms of building a wardrobe?

For those readers that are just starting out, I would advise taking it slow. Sadly life isn’t like a Hollywood makeover and any headlong dives into changing up the wardrobe will probably end up with you looking and feeling a little phoney. 

Work with what you’ve got as a base. If you’re a jeans and T-shirt guy that’s cool! Maybe just trade up those jeans to start with and then in time the favourite band T-shirt gets rotated with one that doesn’t smell of Lynx Java (which is what all of my old band T-shirts still smell of).

For those that have a base, I would say trousers, trousers, trousers. Jeans are fantastic but so limiting. Jackets are the crowning glory but, in my view, you can still look sharp without them. But trousers? Once you have a few pairs of versatile and well-fitting trousers in the wardrobe it’s like when Dorothy opens the door in The Wizard of Oz – everything turns to technicolour.

How does your partner view what you wear?

With lust in her eyes! Seriously though my partner Gemma is so unbelievably supportive. I think a lot of us have been in positions where we’ve had to play down how much we’ve bought or what we’ve spent to people close to us, ‘Yes darling, I couldn’t believe Drake’s had another sale with all clothes in my size on heavy discount. And so soon after the last sale too.’ 

So I feel very lucky to be with someone who not only tolerates but actively encourages my interest. I think it also helps massively that she is a talented home sewer (@sewersaurus) and so we enjoy talking about cloth and construction - she’s always taking a look at how my seams are finished on different garments. 

It’s wonderful to have an overlap in interests and I’m trying my damnedest to expand that overlap by getting Gemma to make clothes for me. I’ve got two beautiful camp collar shirts so far and I’m nudging/nagging her into making me a quilted vest for winter but her waitlist is longer than Sartoria Corcos!

What do you worry about most in terms of what you wear?

I think the last time we talked, Simon, was at an event that you hosted for Saman Amel – another brand that I have so much time and respect for. At the event, Dag said something insightful, in that supremely casual manner of his, which was about how the challenge for a lot of their customers was to be ‘elegant but relevant.’ 

I think I’m getting a little better at the first part of that statement, but if there’s anything I do worry about it’s about trying to fulfil the second part.

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

Manish is @the_daily_mirror on Instagram

Good Art Hlywd: Unexpected craft and beauty

Good Art Hlywd: Unexpected craft and beauty

Friday, August 20th 2021
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I was buzzing when I got off the phone with Josh Warner of Good Art (above) last week. 

It's been a while since I've talked to someone new that has that bright-eyed passion - the enthusiasm of an obsessive creator. 

He reminded me of Graham Thompson, of Optimo, or Simone Mattioli of Umbria Verde. There was the same excitement about the product, the keenness to explain it, and the simple love of beautiful things. 

It says something about Josh that he liked my comparisons, found them interesting and wrote them all down. 

While trying hard not to generalise, I also think there's also an openness about this kind of person. 

As soon as Josh appeared on the Zoom call, he was showing me round his house in the Hollywood hills, introducing me to his partner and his dog. They're building a guest house a bit further down the hill. 

It’s the same simply, unpretentious welcome I felt from Graham in Chicago or Simone in Italy. 

Let's rewind a bit, though, and explain why I'd asked to interview Josh in the first place. 

For a few years, I've admired the silver jewellery from Josh's brand, Good Art, on display at Rivet & Hide in London. 

Now this might raise a few reader eyebrows. After all, Good Art makes curb chains and belt clips, decorated with skulls and expletives. Surely Simon doesn't think he's some kind of biker? 

No, but look closer. Remain curious. 

Pick up a piece of Good Art jewellery, and if you appreciate these things, you'll immediately recognise something in the quality of the materials and the work.

Chain links move smoothly and effortlessly against each other. On a key chain like mine (below), the sections all revolve and twist frictionlessly. You notice how the clip is split in two, so there’s a clean overlap. The thumb lever is pleasingly bevelled.

It's not so much the decoration you notice, but the engineering.

It was only when I talked to Josh - always the best part of the discovery process - that I understood the reasons his jewellery felt like that.

"Most jewellery is very cheaply made," he says. "Even with the big names, there is no attempt to improve the quality - just the decoration, branding and materials.

"If you pick up a keychain from a fashion brand and compare it to one from the corner store, they might well be made in exactly the same way. There's no interest in performance."

Josh's aim - since he started selling his own handmade jewellery, from a stand on Venice Beach - was to make jewellery with his biker aesthetic, but to the same level as Cartier or Tiffany. 

"That means an interesting combination of really expensive, modern machinery and detailed hand work that has been the same for millennia," he says.

“You’ll have a cutting-edge machine for extracting oxygen from the casting process, next to someone using a pin to etch a ring detail.” 

Good Art is now a company of 25 people, with its own dedicated foundry in LA. 

It's on Mr Porter (although Rivet & Hide is the only London stockist) but remains relatively unknown, largely because the quality and the materials make it expensive. (The solid-silver keyring is £775; gold rings are £7-11,000.)

As with many of the finest things in the world, it's not very scalable or very efficient. 

"Look I just want to put beautiful things into the world, to create joy with them. There's enough cheap shit in the world," as Josh says. "I'm at a place where I can't even afford my own stuff, but that doesn't matter. I still think if you're going to do something, it should be the best it can possibly be."

Like the type of enthusiast I characterised him as earlier, Josh’s feelings about competitors are a mix of anger and bemusement. 

"Jewellery is just a terrible business, particularly here in LA,” he says. "Everything is brand, everything is about which celebrity wears it. And everything is outsourced - nobody trains their own people, so all the stuff is basically the same." 

Or, as he sums up: “What’s the word for when nepotism rots through a village of idiots?”

Josh reserves a particularly strong stream of vitriol for one competitor that will remain nameless. Because of their low quality, but also their dishonesty.

"On our bracelets, we forge every link, then cut each open, attach the next link and solder up the join. It's the strongest way to do it, but it's hard and it’s time-consuming," he explains.

The competitor doesn't bother with that. They just make each link open (a 'C' shape) and squeeze it closed around the next one. That's the same technique used on the cheapest chain you can imagine - on my kid's £3 souvenir keyring. 

Josh knows he shouldn't rant about other brands so much. As he says, it shouldn't be the point. It's not the point. But it does come from a place of confusion as much as anything else (as in, why would anyone want to make this crap?).

“People talk about a thing called a purpose line. My purpose line is aesthetics, creating beauty. Others’ is making money. I guess that’s what I need to remind myself.”  

I’ve always had a soft spot for things that are hardier because they are finer - as opposed to fine socks or knitwear, which are often more delicate than cheaper versions. 

Felt hats, for example. A fedora made with finer felt will be stronger than one made with coarse felt. That’s why a great hat can be run over by a car and still refurbished. Or why cheap hats come with plastic rain covers, and good hats don’t need them. 

Good Art jewellery falls into this camp: the craft makes it stronger. “I’ve always wanted to build things that are welcoming to life,” says Josh. “We go to great lengths to make sure our pieces are perfectly polished and gleaming when they leave the foundry. It should be that way. 

“But they’ll look better once they’ve been used and dinged up. You’ll knock that keyring on a door handle and it’ll get a scuff. Then you’ll drop it and it’ll get a little nick. And after a few weeks it’ll look like no one else’s in the world. 

“It’s so much better that way. Silver is a soft, warm metal. It's just beautiful with that kind of use.”

 

 

I am not an expert on jewellery, and many of the things Josh says I’m taking on trust. But as should be clear by now, that’s something you naturally do when you talk to him. 

Plus the results are clear to anyone that holds a chain in their hands. Most readers can’t do that of course, but if you can, it’s worth a visit to Rivet & Hide in London/Manchester, or Self Edge in LA/San Francisco/New York - or the other various dealers.  

My key ring - the Barrel Key Chain - is shown here on the new black version of our nubuck tote, made by Frank Clegg (below). There are still a couple of these left from the last batch, in the black and the original brown.

More details in this article, plus information on the clothes shown. 

Many thanks to Josh and everyone at Good Art for their time.

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

Colour, size and drama: How to dress like André Larnyoh

 

André Larnyoh has enviably easy style. 

It’s tempting to put this down to his work as an actor, but that would be too simplistic. That training certainly creates “natural physical awareness”, as he puts it, but there’s also fascination with aesthetics in general, and the influence of working in menswear. André used to work at Trunk in London, and recently started at Drake’s. 

It’s also easy to think that there are photos of André everywhere. After all, he appears in Trunk’s feed, has modelled for Scott Fraser Collection, for Adret and for Polo Ralph Lauren (see bottom of article). 

But as he says, none of those were his clothes, reflecting what he actually wears every day. And as with Gianluca Migliarotti – whom we covered most recently in this series – André posts very few selfies.

So I think he’s a great subject for this latest ‘How to dress like’ feature. 

 

 

Outfit 1: Finding the right denim

OK André, let’s talk through the first look. Where’s everything from?

This is a lightweight Mackintosh that I got at Trunk about two years ago, with a Levi’s shirt. I have a lot of Western shirts, I pretty much live in them. 

Where have you had them from?

It’s been a bit of a learning curve. My first one was from Levi’s and a size medium, and as you can see I’m pretty tiny. It fit in the shoulders, but was just too blousy in the body. 

It was also too light – I think the secret to a good Western shirt is nice snaps and a mid-weight. It can’t be as light as a normal shirt, but you don’t want a original heavyweight either. Just something so it can soften nicely over time, all that good stuff. 

I have a Polo one, which is OK, and then this heavier Levi’s which is my favourite. Maybe one day I’ll be able to get a Bryceland’s one. 

 

 

The trousers are Kit Blake, the Aleksander cut, with double pleats – a high-twist wool in a mottled grey/brown colour. It’s a bit more casual than normal flannels, and I love the rise. 

I always wear high rise. I think it makes me taller: I hope it makes me taller. But either way I like it because it’s so comfortable. 

A good example of being aware of menswear principles without necessarily following them. 

True. The shoes are Crockett & Jones, my absolute favourite shoe, period. They go with everything. The jacket underneath is from Lardini, and the glasses are from the Japanese brand that Trunk sells, Ayame. They don’t sell this model though – the Around (which is a terrible name!) 

The glasses are big, bug-eyed, with a 50% blue tint, and I love them. I’m wearing them right now actually. I don’t know, maybe I look ridiculous and nobody’s told me yet, but the tint makes everything seem calm, and I love the size – there’s almost a Jackie O thing about them, where the size hides your face. 

 

 

Outfit 2: Wearing colour

Number two, the green shirt. Now I know we’ve talked about this before, but not on PS: do you think your skin colouring makes it easier for you to wear colour?

I think it does, yes, but actually I don’t wear that much colour. I’m scared of big blocks of it. Partly from teenage years I think – all the mistakes you make, going round in a violet shirt with a paisley tie and thinking you’re the shit. 

So I wear neutrals mostly – white, grey, black, dark brown, navy. But I really like the colour of this shirt.

I laughed when I first saw the drop from Drake’s, along with a yellow one and a pink. But then I went to this exhibition at Tate Britain, by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. It was mostly portraits of black men and they were often in dusty-pink, black or green shirts. That inspired me to try the pink and the green Drake’s ones, and I love them. 

That often seems to be the way with colour, or perhaps with any clothing you don’t usually wear – you need to see it on someone else before you feel confident to wear it yourself. 

Yes, true. And in those portraits it made their skin seem more vibrant. 

 

 

Maybe I can wear more colour than other people, and if that’s true I’ll take it. But it’s still always easier to wear neutrals, and so I do it more. I mean I already have a big wardrobe for someone my age – it’s hard enough to choose what to wear from among dark colours. I don’t want to have to think about colour coordinating in the morning as well.

I feel self-conscious in strong colour, and perhaps that’s because I’m wearing big sunglasses and other unusual things too. You need some self-restraint. 

I see the trousers are the same as the previous outfit. How about the shoes – that’s a fairly light colour with the trousers, and with dark socks. 

Yes, I think the shoes (from Adret) look a little paler than they are in real life. Or maybe they’ve lightened over time. And the socks – yes I think was actually planning to wear no socks with this outfit, but I forgot to change! 

I don’t think dark socks are that bad though, to be honest. There’s the whole thing about matching socks to trousers, and that lengthening you etc. And that is probably true, but the fact is I’m wearing pale khaki shoes, so they’re going to stand out against the trousers no matter what. 

 

 

Outfit 3: Shawls and cable knits

Is that RRL, your lovely cardigan in the next outfit?

Oh yes, I love that thing so much, and it’s the one piece of RRL I’m lucky enough to own. It’s not the hand-knitted ones, but it’s still lovely. It’s wool but with some silk too; the colour variation is lovely; and the concho buttons have this satisfying ping whenever I take it off. 

I’ve had it almost two years and while it looked a little aged at the start, it’s really nice and worn in now. I shove things in the pockets – not just my hands, but books, anything. If it’s not cold enough to wear a coat, then I just wear this, so everything goes in those pockets. 

Is it hard to get the right size in slouchy things, given you’re smaller?

Yes – any bigger in this cardigan and it would have drowned me. But it’s just right. It fits on the shoulders, which is the main thing, and then it doesn’t matter if it’s a little long. 

Shawl-collar cardigans are great too, I’d love more. They frame my face, they feel cosy, you can wear them over shirts, T-shirts, knitwear, anything. 

 

 

Do you often layer knitwear like you’re doing here?

Yes a fair bit, and this combination of a cable-knit jumper, trousers and loafers is my absolute go-to in the morning. You know everyone has something they just turn to when they have no other particular ideas? This is mine. 

I wear the cable knit with a bandana if it’s cold, but otherwise not. And I wear a jacket, coat or cardigan over the top. It’s a base outfit that takes me anywhere, and is good for anything. 

I notice you rarely wear shirts under jumpers like this one. Is there a reason?

I just don’t like myself like that. I think maybe because it looks a bit old, and a bit clean-cut? It looks great on other people, but it makes me look like someone I’m not. 

I’m only 26, and I feel a button-down under a crewneck ages me 10 or 20 years. So I wear the cable knit on its own or with a bandana instead. 

The trousers are Edward Sexton, in a camel Fox flannel, and the shoes are Crockett & Jones, the Boston model. 

 

 

Outfit 4: Mismatched navy

Talking about dark colours earlier on, here you are in all navy. 

Yes I like slightly mismatched navy combinations like this. The jacket is from Vetra, bought at John Simons, and I think it looks good because of how much it’s been worn and washed. It’s the first thing I get out in the Summer – when I get those lightweight things out from under my bed (they’re kept in a suitcase). 

The shoes we’ve chatted about before as well – it’s the jazz/dance shoe right, from Crown?

Right, the Regent model. I got them only a year-and-a-half ago, but they’re pretty bashed up already. It’s a dancing shoe really, it’s not designed for being worn out and about. Similar to Repetto shoes, the French brand. 

They suit your style a lot I think, as they look so soft and relaxed. But I can imagine other people feeling they look a bit too much like a ballet shoe. 

Yeah, and I get teased about them all the time for that. It helps that I actually did a little ballet, so that’s some kind of comeback. 

 

 

I’m sure some readers will be able to relate to being teased a bit for their clothes. Does that ever stop you wearing things? 

Sometimes, but when it’s things that are fundamental to how I dress it’s fine, because it feels so part of me. If you feel awkward in the clothes already, or a little stiff, it’s then that you can start to feel bad. 

You wear vests a lot under shirts and knits as well. That’s something else that I think people can be nervous about, thinking it makes them look like some kind of lothario. 

It’s weird, I’ve gone through stages with vests. When I was a kid, I wore them all the time. My background is Ghanaian, and everyone in that community wears them. Then when I was in my teens, I didn’t want to wear them anymore, because they made me feel like my uncles. 

Then about three or four years ago, I put one on instead of another undershirt, and it really worked. To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about it in the UK – how do you feel? I know you wear them sometimes.

I guess I like it just peeking out of a shirt, so one more button done up than you have. But I think that’s about recognising who you are and your style too – if they had that heritage for me, as they do for you, I might feel differently. 

To be honest, most people where I come from would cover them up, but I think you’re right that that makes a difference. Plus, I do think it has a little sex appeal, hard as it is for a guy to say that. 

 

 

Outfit 5: Navy and black

So many great themes coming up. OK, so last outfit. We have mismatched navy again, and the undershirt. The same black loafers as outfit one as well – do you ever wear brown shoes?

Not really. So many people seem to think black leather shoes are formal, but they don’t feel like that to me, at least as a loafer. And I used to think that they couldn’t go with everything, but they do.

There’s probably some light shade of brown that they wouldn’t work with, but I honestly can’t think of anything else.

Is it a little bit a function of what else you wear?

Yes perhaps. I also wear them with military tan, but there might be a stronger khaki shade there that wouldn’t work. But I just think black looks so much more sexy and elegant than brown ever did. That might also be associated with drama school. 

 

 

How so?

It’s weird. We were just always told to wear black. Because it’s neutral, because you’re there to learn and to perform, not to be noticed for your fashion choices. And I was getting into menswear at the time anyway, so I had black and brown shoes (and hats, and lots of other silly things I won’t get into). 

Over time that kind of bled into what I liked, and I’d wear for example a black rollneck, because it would mean I wouldn’t have to change when I got there. It was New York too, so it was probably part of the feel of the place. 

When I moved here and started working in menswear, it was all about brown. But I just don’t like brown shoes – sorry, but it’s true. I’ve got the exact same shoe in brown calf, and they’re killing me, because I haven’t worn them enough for them to wear in. 

Where is everything else from?

It’s the Lardini jacket that you could just see in the first outfit, a baby-cord shirt from Camoshita, and vintage navy trousers. 

Cheers André. 

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt, except images below, Ralph Lauren and Adret

 

 

Adding interest to a navy blazer and grey trousers 

Adding interest to a navy blazer and grey trousers 

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We used to do a lot of posts called ‘Reader questions’. Someone asked recently what happened to them. 

Well, we still do them - it’s just that the site is now so big that posts normally reflect a half dozen readers asking similar things. Today’s post is an example. 

In the comments to the post ‘Flash vs fuddy’, a few readers asked how to make more standard outfits - those neither flash nor fuddy - more interesting. Another reader then asked, on a separate post, specifically how to add interest to the ‘menswear uniform’ of navy jacket and grey trousers. 

I have a couple of more obvious, general points, before illustrating some specific options around shirts. 

Quality and cut

The first point might be obvious, but it’s important. 

The things that make these conventional outfits interesting are precisely the ones that I’ve been banging on about for the past dozen years: quality and cut. 

If you want to look good in tailoring, don’t wear a double-breasted jacket, a pinned collar and double-monk shoes. Get quality shoes that look better as they age, good trousers that flatter your shape, and a quality jacket that’s been made for you. 

This doesn’t have to be expensive. Most people don’t look after their shoes, have their trousers adjusted, or buy flattering styles of jacket. Do all three and you’ll be better dressed than 99% of the population. 

Then, buy quality when you can afford to. Slowly and intelligently, buy fewer clothes but the same amount of money. The effect will be telling - especially where materials make a big difference, as with shoes and ties.

Shirts one: Add pattern

While you’re waiting for that policy to take hold, you can experiment with some little changes around the jacket and trousers. 

Shirts are by far the easiest way to do this. You’re unlikely to be wearing a handkerchief in your pocket these days, and may not be wearing a tie. A scarf is a great option without those other two decorative pieces, but decorative scarves aren’t for everyone either. 

There’s knitwear, but that’s weather dependent, and there are options around shoes. I particularly like black suede, for example, as a way to shake up a pretty conventional, formal outfit. But there aren’t many more options than that. 

So, shirts. First option is a nice stripe, like the ‘shadow stripe’ pictured above. This pattern is nice because it’s not too bold, as an awning stripe might be, nor something that looks like it’s still missing a tie, as a hairline stripe can. 

If you want to go less corporate, pick a coloured stripe instead. Swap the blue above for a lilac or a pale green. 

Shirts two: Texture

Second option: change not the pattern, but the texture. 

This is our old friend the denim shirt. (It’s a very old friend of mine, being an eight-year-old shirt from Al Bazar that’s literally falling apart at the seams. About two years ago the dissolution had an old-world charm to it, redolent of frayed cuffs and faded carpets. Now it’s just as mess, but I haven’t found a replacement I like. So it’s the only example we have.)

I shouldn’t have to tell readers why denim is nice here. But as briefly as possible: it’s the same colour as a business shirt, but a different texture; its associations are of workwear rather than formalwear; so it’s a little unexpected with fine tailoring, which subverts it pleasingly, if subversive is what you’re after.

Denim adds personality, basically, which was the desire of all the readers that brought this subject up. 

If you want more personality, less corporate, less smart casual, you can add more design details to the denim shirt or change the smart blue colour. A Western shirt - with all its points and snaps - would have more details (see here). A darker denim or chambray shirt (see here) would change the colour. 

Shirts three: Dark colour

Which brings us onto option three, where we ditch the business blue and go to the darker end of the colour spectrum instead. 

Navy on navy still looks elegant, but less formal. I wear it a lot, probably too much in fact. It’s just so easy yet no one else seems to be doing it. (That I see in person, not that I see in my echo-chamber of a social media feed.) 

Here the navy is an old version of the Friday Polo - our heavy cotton-piqué shirt that Permanent Style first offered back in 2015 (which launched with, I now realise, me wearing navy on navy). 

The colour change makes this an interesting option, but we have the change in texture as well. The cotton piqué immediately suggests sport, activity. And this colour even fades a little over time, in some of the same way as the denim. 

And four: Knitwear

Final option. Not a shirt at all anymore, but knitwear. 

The impression knitwear gives under a jacket - at least in my head - is one of relaxation. It just looks soft and comfortable in there. 

The material is soft, the edges soft. There’s no sharp cutaway collar or tight little tie knot. The appropriate activity is lounging in a club chair, not (like the polo) swinging your arms at a tennis ball. 

And it certainly looks interesting, which again is the whole point of this. 

In the US, I’ve noticed, there is a tendency for security guards to be given a uniform of navy blazer and grey trousers. 

First of all, I’d like to say, be grateful for what you’ve got. I wish guards in the UK were granted at least this semblance of seriousness by their employers. 

Second though, I do see how the prevalence of this look could make guys a little less keen on the ‘menswear uniform’ of blazer and flannels. It’s like wearing a cream jacket to a restaurant where you realise all the waiting staff are wearing cheap, synthetic versions of the same thing. 

But still, I do feel that the combination of quality, cut and options one through four should sufficiently separate the elegant man about town from any security staff. Perhaps the knitwear most of all. 

And there are plenty of other ways to add more personality, if that's what you want. That's where things like jewellery come into their own.

Do please tell me if you disagree, or indeed have any other helpful suggestions. Those from other readers are always at least as useful as mine. 

Clothes shown:

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

Below: some other old examples from PS of navy jackets and grey trousers


Why has Italy been so influential?

Why has Italy been so influential?

Friday, August 13th 2021
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The reason Milan became the centre of Italian fashion was Florence and Rome couldn't sort out a fight. 

Italian clothing itself became successful abroad because people were tired of the 'haughty, arty' French. 

Spurred by our recent discussion of Armani (below) and his degree of innovation, I've been reading more into the history of Italian fashion, and found it rather interesting. 

Speaking to some Italian friends, many of them weren't aware of this background either, so I though it would make a nice article. 

The easiest thing to forget is how recent the advent of ready-to-wear fashion is. 

In Italy it was particularly late, only starting in any way after the Second World War. There was production of textiles and leather goods (Ferragamo, Gucci) before then - and of course couture and bespoke tailoring - but no real industrial production. 

That changed with Italy’s extraordinary growth after the War, and particularly in the 1950s and early 1960s. That was when Italian designers first started to emerge, initially couture (Capucci, Simonetta) and then women’s ready-to-wear (Valentino, Missoni). 

It’s no coincidence that so many of the Italian companies we’ve covered over the years on PS, from Bresciani to Bonafé (below), were founded in that period. 

I find it particularly interesting how the style of Italian clothes at that time is described. In many ways you could use the same terminology today. 

In the book Fashion, Italian Style, which accompanied an exhibition at FIT in New York in 2003, Valerie Steele writes: “Deeply ambivalent about French high fashion, Americans ardently embraced the casual elegance of Italian fashion.” The clothes are described in Newsweek at the time as “for real people - albeit rich people - to wear to real places” and as “refined sportswear”.

We’re talking about jersey dresses and pumps here - and for men, lightweight tailoring from the likes of Brioni - so it’s a long way from what we think of as even old-fashioned sportswear. But still, the Italian attitude - in contrast to the British as well as the French - has been quite consistent ever since. 

This ‘easy elegance’ of Italian fashion seems ubiquitous now. It’s the foundation for nearly all tailoring we see, from designer brands to the high street. And for anyone that has grown up in the past 50 years, it can seem like that’s always been the case. 

But it was the first real challenge to Britain’s menswear hegemony for centuries. And the growth of ready-to-wear allowed it to take over remarkably quickly. 

First was the growth of Italian couture, in contrast to the cerebral French; then ready-to-wear that felt easy and accessible; and finally the big designers of the 1970s and 1980s, Armani (below) and Versace, followed soon after by Prada and Dolce & Gabbana. 

So why was Italian fashion so successful? 

It’s easy to generalise about the culture, to talk about dolce vita and la bella figura. But that’s a long way from explaining everything, even if it explains something. As the Neapolitan writer Luigi Settembrini said, Italian style is a question “constantly in danger of foundering on the stereotypical reefs ‘national characteristics of peoples’”.

What’s more certain is the fundamentals of craft and regional specialisation that Italy had. Even before clothing production started, Italy was where couturiers went to source the best lace, silk and other textiles, as well as bags and shoes. 

Of course, this is an element we’ve covered on PS over the years. There’s the weaving around Biella, making use of the waters coming down from the Alps. The leather work in Tuscany (Mont Blanc visit below), originally based off local cattle production. The silk around Como, and so on. 

As Steele says: “Creativity is universal, but that marriage of traditional craftsmanship, innovative design, and modern industrial technology is rare.”

Italy’s specialisation and small workshops laid the foundation of the success of ready-to-wear in the 1960s and 70s. What’s striking today, 50 years later, is that a lot of it still remains. Certainly compared to the UK and France. 

A friend who runs an Italian mill commented to me recently: “Everyone complains that production is moving to China. And it is. But there’s still so much more left here that elsewhere, and we need to remember that so we preserve what we have left. China is getting more expensive every day.”

As a journalist, you only have to visit the mills around Huddersfield, and then a behemoth like Ermenegildo Zegna or Vitale Barberis Canonico (below), to see how much Italy still has to lose. 

There are quite a few good books on Italian fashion, even if most of them focus on womenswear. They include The Origins of Italian Fashion (Sofia Gnoli) and Italian Fashion since 1945: A Cultural History (Emanuela Scarpellini). The bio on Brioni, Gaetano Savini, the Man Who Was Brioni (Morelli, Della Cagna and Finamore) is also nice visually.

I found Steele’s FIT accompaniment the most accessible, however. It has lots of illustrations, not too much academic detail, and good contextual quotes from contemporary media. It’s still mostly womenswear, but that’s inevitable. 

One story in it that I found entertaining was the explanation of why Milan became the centre of fashion. 

Italian fashion was born in Florence. Giovan Battista Giorgini organised the first show for Italian couturiers at his villa in 1951, and a year later the first grand show took place at Palazzo Pitti. (How many guys going to Pitti every year realise that this was effectively the birth place of all European fashion?)

Unfortunately there were more couture houses in Rome, and soon after the first Florence show a group of designers defected to their own Roman version. This split maintained for a few years, forcing buyers and media to choose between them. 

That opened the way for Milan. As ready-to-wear became more prominent, the industrial city became a focus for production and boutiques. Soon fashion shows started moving there, and within 20 years Milan became a fashion capital, despite not having the same cultural or artistic heritage. 

In 1952, American Vogue declared that “Italy is capable of producing a kind of clothes which suit America exactly...Namely: clothes for outdoors, for resorts...separates.”

Twenty-six years later, the same relaxed elegance was still being picked up on. Newsweek reported that Italy was popular because buyers were “weary of French fantasy clothes” and Italian RTW was “classically cut but not stodgy: innovative but never theatrical”.

A few more decades on, and I feel the characterisation still generally holds.

There are certainly Italian brands that tend towards the dramatic, and ones that are no less arrogant than anywhere else. But easy elegance is still something we turn to Italy for. 

The biggest change in the past 20 years has probably been the bleeding of cultures, as the internet has brought everyone closer. Swedish and Japanese brands are doing things in just as chic and relaxed a manner.

But they all owe a big debt to the past 50-plus years of Italian style. 

Books included in this article below. References, quotes and information also taken from various PS interviews over the years.

Adret ‘Jack’ bomber jacket: Review

Adret ‘Jack’ bomber jacket: Review

Wednesday, August 11th 2021
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Although there has been quite a bit of coverage of Adret in the past two years (including on PS), pictures of the clothes in the wild are rare. 

I thought it would be useful to shoot my most significant purchase from Adret, therefore, and reflect upon it. That's the Jack bomber jacket in worsted wool, pictured below. 

(The other purchases were a thermal top, a pair of sandals, a handkerchief and a scarf. I comment on those briefly at the end of this piece.)

The Jack bomber is a short, casual jacket whose most unusual aspect is probably that it is entirely tailored. 

It's more common for blousons and bombers to be elasticated at the hem, and therefore sit on the waist, letting the rest of the body flow out above. Most that are not elasticated simply drop straight, rather than trying to taper into the waist.

This does taper, with a pronounced dart on either side of the hips at the back rather than elastic. I think it’s this lack of ribbing, combined with a material that you’d more commonly find in tailoring, which makes the jacket look quite smart and unusual. 

The material is an old Vitale Barberis Canonico wool, which appears to have quite a lot of texture due to the mixture of black, brown and olive yarns in the weave. It would make a nice sports jacket. 

The tailoring feel continues with matte horn buttons up the front, each sitting on a good shank, and pleasingly functional hip pockets. 

On most good sports jackets, the flaps of the pockets can be tucked neatly inside, leaving a clean, jetted finish instead (see below). This can be useful if you need ready access to them, or simply want to change the style.

Yet it’s rare for casual jackets to do this, presumably because it’s quite a fiddly job. The only bomber or blouson I own that has that feature is from Loro Piana. 

One of the questions people ask about Adret is what the quality is like (presumably because of the high price).

I think it’s more useful to judge that on considered touches like this, rather than simple things like precision of stitching, which should be a given. 

The cut of the jacket is pretty roomy, which anyone who has followed coverage of Adret will not be surprised by. 

As I think these pictures show, though, the chest is generous but not oversized. Other styles of jacket, such as an old bomber or a varsity jacket, would be bigger. 

What is noticeable is the size of the sleeve, which is large in the upper arm and tapers significantly below the elbow (shown below). This I think is very effective. It makes the jacket look flatteringly big but without any sloppy dropped shoulders or excess material. 

The knock-on effect is that the Jack really looks better with other loose-cut clothes. These are some of my wider linen trousers - from Edward Sexton, 9-inch hem - and yet they don't look wide here. 

It has been asked whether Adret is a ‘whole look’ brand, where you really need to buy all the clothes together. 

I don’t think you do, but Adam (Rogers, co-founder) does have a particular aesthetic, which means certain silhouettes and certain colours. The clothes will always look best with other pieces with the same outlook. 

This jacket, for example, would look unbalanced with skinny jeans, and a rich, vibrant top would be out of place. It’s much better with wider trousers and muted tones.

My combination here is particularly restrained, which I guess is typical of me, particularly when I’m trying out new clothes. It doesn't have to be as dull as that - the Adret range includes a huge range of colour, from pink to yellow to green. But they're all similarly pale or muted. 

In these photos I've worn the jacket with two different tops, to show it can switch between being a little smarter and perhaps a little younger or contemporary. 

I would guess most PS readers are likely to wear a jacket with a collared shirt or sweater, like the black Dartmoor above. This certainly looks more put-together, and flatters me more when the jacket is removed. 

But I probably prefer the look at the top of this article, with just a black knitted T-shirt underneath. It looks more modern, and perhaps more relaxed too. 

Interestingly, the collar of the Jack bomber works quite well when it’s up - staying up at the back and dropping down at the front - but it’s not a tall collar when folded down. It can look a little small with just a T-shirt underneath. 

So to the issue of price. The Jack bomber was £1600; the linen version £1200. This is on a par with any designer brand, and very expensive for the kind of start-up we normally cover.

The defence is that Adam and Seto (the other co-founder) have invested a huge amount in their workforce in Indonesia, their livelihoods, workplace and training. The shop in Mayfair is one of the loveliest you will ever visit, and cannot have been cheap. 

More importantly, Adam has created something genuinely distinct in menswear, and beautiful. The former should be recognised and rewarded by anyone that cares about clothing, while the latter will always be to particular people, priceless. 

It is modern, easy and elegant. That’s the way they describe it, and I think it’s true. 

But the price remains a barrier. For me, it means mostly that I can’t afford to buy much. I’ve bought the pieces I have both because I love them and because I want to support Adam and Seto, but if they were less expensive I would certainly have bought more. 

Those others pieces, by the way, were:

  • Fellows sandals, which are great but I bought the size too small. Currently considering putting money aside for another pair. 
  • Yellow handkerchief. A great example of Adam’s sense of colour. A soft, buttery yellow cotton that is wax-resist dyed and looks much more sophisticated than the more common bright silks. 
  • Indigo scarf/bandana, which I love for the same reasons.
  • Cream thermal top, in knitted cotton. A great piece too, but I find it too like a thermal to wear on its own, so it’s restricted to layering under things. 

Images of all those at some other stage. Also featured in this article are black-suede Alden LHS loafers and my Frank Clegg large working-tote bag. 

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

Are bespoke shoes worth it?

Are bespoke shoes worth it?

Monday, August 9th 2021
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Every time I do a review of bespoke shoes, the question comes up as to whether they're worth the money. Whether bespoke shoes in general can really be worth it, given the little issues I often report. 

My short answer is that, in my experience, they are not worth it unless you're in for the long haul. 

Don't commission one pair of bespoke shoes, from a famed and distant craftsman, and expect them to solve all your issues. It's very unlikely. 

I've overheard so many guys talk about dreaming of using a maker - usually Japanese - and how everyone says they're the best. That those shoes will finally be perfect (unlike the others they've tried). It's hard to hear.

However, I do think bespoke can be worth it - and highly pleasurable - over the long term. If you work with one maker for a while, and will regularly need dress shoes, then it can develop into a really effective and enjoyable experience. 

The real issue is that modern society is not set up for that kind of relationship. 

The reason the famous shoemaker is unlikely to make you a perfect pair of shoes is that sculpting a pair, from scratch, to fit your particular feet, is surprisingly hard. 

Much harder, in fact, than making a beautiful pair of shoes - and yet it's the aesthetics most people focus on. 

Even among those in menswear, it's surprising how many talk about really ill-fitting shoes they've had from big names, which they'd never admit publicly.

These are nearly always a first pair. When I've used a shoemaker multiple times - as with Stefano Bemer for example - the fit has always improved on the second pair, and even on the third. 

I must emphasise though, the fit has nearly always been better on the first pair than most ready-made shoes. So it's still a good fit. It's just not perfect. 

Perfection comes slowly, because fitting is tricky. You can't see how the foot is inside the shoe (unlike tailoring); you can't adjust the fit much after the shoe is made (unlike tailoring); any issue with fit can cause actual, excruciating pain (unlike tailoring). 

Plus, as some shoemakers say, you have to 'fit the mind as well as the foot'. People vary in how they like shoes to fit, but they don't necessarily realise how they're different. And even if they do, they've probably never had to communicate it. 

When men wore dress shoes every day of the week, and rarely used more than one maker, this didn't matter. 

Within two or three years, you'd have a great last and could order shoes made on it any time you wanted. That would be your experience for the rest of your life, for decades.

You also had a maker that knew you personally, that would be very good at repairing and refurbishing their own shoes, and so on. Fashions also changed less, so there was less risk of shoes looking out of date. It still happened (old industry magazines show that clearly) but a lot less. 

There are many reasons that doesn't work today. Men wear fewer dress shoes; they want to try more makers; fashions change more; it's less likely the maker is local; and, relative to the income of the guys that aspire to them, the shoes are more expensive. 

(They're actually probably cheaper relatively than they used to be, but everyday working Joes like you and me didn't used to shop at top West End makers.)

Even with all this, bespoke shoes today can be wonderful.

Making them is both an art and a craft. 

It involves actual sculpture, for God's sake - sculpting of an artistic, idealised form of your foot in the shape of a wooden last.

The skill of then making them is an amazing combination of strength and delicacy. Tiny stitches made by calloused hands. 

And the resulting object is also a piece of art in itself. There is no other area of menswear where some people actually buy the shoes to look at them more than wear them. Or where there are companies that only make versions that are works of art - that cannot be worn. 

If you do wear them, the shoes are also one of the few pieces of clothing that get better with age, that become both more beautiful and more distinct with time.

It's no wonder they can sometimes feel like a fetish.

Ready to wear is wonderful too, but bespoke shoemaking is the zenith. 

The problem is making it fit for purpose, today. 

I encourage everyone that can afford it in the long term to try bespoke shoes. But if you can, I'd recommend to: 

  • Try as few makers as possible 
  • Accept that none of those first pairs will be perfect 
  • Patronise a local maker, or one to whom you will have regular access 
  • Once you have one you love, slowly build a small collection of classic shoes, that you will therefore use and wear for a long time
  • Along the way, talk to your maker, establish a relationship

Shoemakers can help here too, I think, for example by shortening waiting times as much as possible. 

I also think an adjusted last system or RTW make on a bespoke last, rather than full bespoke, is a good option as long as expectations are managed well. 

A friend recently asked me whether he should save up for a pair of bespoke shoes. He'd had bespoke suits, shirts and invested in a lovely dress watch. But he wanted to try shoemaking.

I advised him against it. He was only ever going to buy one pair, and I couldn't help feeling, after all that money and all that waiting, that he was going to be disappointed.

In a follow-up article, I’ll walk through how I would have approached my bespoke shoe journey differently (as a regular customer).

Note: There are of course many other advantages to handmade shoes, including the strength of saddle stitching, the ability to resole more often, the fitted arch support and so on. Here I’m intending to reflect my experience and give advice, rather than go into them all. (Unlike this piece on bespoke tailoring.)

Shoes pictured, top to bottom, with links to relevant articles:

 

Artists’ clothing: Comfortable, practical, modern

Artists’ clothing: Comfortable, practical, modern

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By Tony Sylvester

Sitting down to write today, I am wearing my favourite recent piece of clothing. Brand new from Bryceland’s, the knee-length linen Farmer’s Smock (below) might be a bit of a departure from what you expect from the design team of Ethan Newton and Kenji Cheung, but it nevertheless fits their manner of doing things to a tee. Similar to their Towel Shirt, it feels like an undiscovered item eager to be reinterpreted for the modern wardrobe, and I’m all in. 

Despite the modest name that reflects its humble origin, the smock feels Bohemian in spirit rather than workaday. All the elements of the piece, from the bib front and stand collar to the gathering at the cuff and yoke, put one in mind of a fin-de-siécle painter more than the French labourers who originally wore such garments. But maybe that’s no surprise, considering how ‘workwear’ has been co-opted by artists over the years. 

I've tried the smock loose and billowing over old beaten-up jeans and paired with sandals one day, and tucked into a pair of high-waisted black-linen trousers with Belgian loafers the next, highlighting its similarities to a dress shirt. Or simply with pyjama shorts and grecian slippers, as today. 

In the chapter ‘Dressing like an avant garde artist’ in his superlative A History Of Men’s Fashion, Farid Chanoune notes that at the turn of the Twentieth Century, “a metamorphosis occurred under the triple aegis of youth, sport and art”. The beginnings of this modern age were driven by a new creative generation, weary of the old world. 

How did they dress? They “drew on workers’ and tradesmen’s attire - corduroy pants, blue smocks and overalls” in an effort to break free of bourgeois notions of class.

It didn’t hurt that workwear was both comfortable and hard wearing as well as being ‘of the people’; this was a functional as well as a creative choice. 

This legacy is still with us today. I’d wager a lot of readers can get away with wearing navy ‘chore coats’ based on bleu de travail to meetings instead of sports coats or suit jackets, which to me speaks to the association with artists rather than the jacket’s workwear origins.  

I am fortunate enough to have never had a job that demanded a code or uniform - at least since stacking shelves as a teenager - so dressing has always been a question of personal aesthetics rather than a regimen. I have been lucky to be able to create my own image. With this in mind, I have purloined much from artists when it comes to my wardrobe. 

I’ve pilfered Picasso’s Orcival Breton Stripe (above), Joseph Beuys’ Lock & Co felt fedora (also above), Dali’s laced espadrilles (article top) and Jackson Pollack’s Weejuns (bottom of the article). But probably none have taken such a prominent spot in my wardrobe as the Forestiere jacket by the sadly defunct Paris brand, Arnys (below). 

Originally commissioned by the artist and architect Le Corbusier in 1947 as a uniform jacket, he took as the starting point the classic French gamekeeper’s moleskin or cord jacket (in this case one worn by Gaston Modot in the 1939 film La Régle Du Jeu). 

Simplifying its construction, he added a mandarin band collar, patch pockets, elbow pads and a kimono sleeve for ease of movement. Over the next 50 years, the Forestiere became a French ‘Bobo’ (Bohemian Bourgeoisie) staple,  beloved by politicians and men-of-industry alike. 

My cream-linen summer version (below) is simplicity personified: loose of fit and ‘worn in’ (a polite way to put it) where the winter iterations are plush affairs in autumnal colourways with contrasting linings. Mine came from the Paris-based vintage dealer Chato Lufsen, who also make a spot-on repro version called ‘La Bores’.

This is an article of clothing that can slot seamlessly into a wardrobe, taking on a similar role to a chore coat or unstructured sports jacket.

Most of the modern brands I admire give a nod to these artistic traditions, whether it’s implicit mood-board aspiration or explicit pieces named for a painter or poet.

Kentaro Nakagomi’s label Coherence is one that makes no bones about its mission: a series of seriously quality coats taken directly from portraits of 20th century artisans and writers; Duchamp, Corbusier (again), Camus and Hemingway have all featured heavily. 

One of the most eye-catching examples from the past year is the ‘Mitsou’, an oversized coat in sailcloth canvas that owes as much to a craftsman’s shopcoat as an overcoat (below, top), and is based on a particularly splattered, wrinkled and threadbare coat worn by the Polish-French painter Balthus in a portrait in 1948 by Irving Penn (below, bottom). 

I’ve always loved this photo. The defiantly louche artist reclining, cigarette in mouth, his disheveled coat tied up with string and buttoned to the throat, perhaps to keep the cold at bay in his garret.

A much more enticing inspiration for an overcoat purchase than some aristo horsing it up on the polo field. 

On this theme, the fashion journalist Charlie Porter has just published What Artists Wear on Penguin. The clean stark cover features Georgia O’Keefe’s suit seemingly floating in the void, the graphic design consciously echoing the secondary school curriculum fave Ways Of Seeing by John Berger

There is a lot of Berger’s tone in Porter’s writing here too. It has a breezy, conversational style, heavy on opinion. He elects to cover a lot of ground rather than going in depth, giving the book the feel of a transcribed lecture or a BBC4 mini-series.

It is most certainly a book about art rather than ‘style’, but its sentiments echo a lot of what we’ve discussed above. The concerns of practicality and function, the idea of dressing as role play, the symbolism of how we present ourselves to the world.

I especially enjoyed the delve into the lounge suit as the “standard of authority” in male dress - a benchmark to be subverted or accepted, as Porter puts it. 

Of particular note is the quiet surrealism of Gilbert & George’s complimentary, but not identical, check suits, and Alberto Giacometti’s “clothing of Male respectability: tweed jacket and flannel trousers” (above): a conservative sartorial choice undermined by the fit and condition the sculptor elected to wear them in. 

As Porter writes “Giacometti’s jackets have style from their spacious cut, the aged softness of the cloth, the wilful shambles that overrides any smartness, the relaxed balance of his baggy pants”. 

As a man who wears extraordinarily nice clothes in an almost inelegant manner, this resonated with me deeply.   

Playing around with white bucks

Playing around with white bucks

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During sunny weather in the past few weeks, I've been playing around with these old shoes from Lodger, the shoe shop that used to be on Clifford Street in London, and where I first started writing about menswear

The shoes were a recreation of a 1920 tennis shoe, made in white nubuck with this extra band behind the toe cap. 

They are not white bucks - the shoe identified with upper-class society in the US (hence the 'white shoe' law firms I used to write about in my previous career), and part of Ivy traditions of menswear. 

But they're close enough to allow me to play around with wearing the style of shoe, and seeing what I like it with. 

Now in theory, white bucks go with anything. 

They're historically a smart shoe, worn with Summer suits and other warm-weather tailoring. Although they have a derby construction and usually a pretty round last, their stark white colour makes them quite smart.

Formal pale shoes are not that unusual historically, but these became the best known thanks to Ivy students that went on to wear them in their establishment careers - and popular figures such as singer Pat Boone in the 1950s. 

You see echoes of that today in fashion brands more than lawyers. Thom Browne is a good example, though Fred Castleberry is a better one. Fred styles white bucks with tailoring very effectively, and even though his style is usually too fashion/showy/plain unusual for me, he’s always worth checking for inspiration. 

Below: three eras of white dress shoes.

On the more casual side, you see white bucks commonly worn with jeans and chinos, and they can look great. 

The whiteness suits casual trousers in the same way as a white sneaker, and here the round-toed shape is an advantage. The traditional red sole helps as well. 

I think the look tends to be best with an open-necked shirt and some fairly simple or formal colours elsewhere, such as white, navy and grey (examples below). Wearing a necktie or bowtie pushes it over the edge.

It can also be easier to wear them casually when the bucks are  more worn in - scuffed and even plain dirty. 

This too is an Ivy tradition, though its roots might have partly been in just how hard it is to keep white shoes clean, rather than an aesthetic choice. 

The results of my personal playing around were that I did like the tennis shoes in both smart and casual outfits, but not too smart or too casual. 

So while they did work with this pale-grey suit, it required the shirt to be open-necked and even then the shoes stood out a lot. Not what I was after. 

And with jeans they were usually too smart - even a simple dark, straight-leg jean like these from Blackhorse Lane

The latter might have been because the shoes were too white still, having recently been cleaned, and they might work better when scuffed up. But I'm not going to go around rubbing them on walls just to find out. That will have to come with time. 

So, slightly smart and slightly casual. 

The outfit above is the casual option. The chinos aren’t quite as rough as jeans would be, and the the shirt elevates it significantly. A white collared shirt under a grey crewneck is clean and neat. 

I probably also feel more comfortable in this combination because it has Ivy elements in common with the white bucks, namely the chinos and the shetland sweater. 

This is largely meaningless in terms of cultural associations, given this is the UK not the US. To anyone walking by these are just white shoes, not white bucks. 

But these traditional combinations are often a rich seam for mining ideas. There will usually be reasons they worked historically, which might well pertain today.

The smarter equivalent is a menswear uniform of navy top and grey bottom, but while the trousers are tailored, the top is not. It’s a cotton sweater rather than a blazer. 

More subtly, the white shirt reflects the shoes, and the trousers are light grey rather than mid- or dark. Both help the shoes to stand out less, and the whole seem more harmonious. 

You’re still wearing white dress shoes in a city where there’s a chance not one other person is. But they would stand out even more with navy or charcoal trousers. 

Both outfits would be nice without the knitwear, by the way, and in warm weather they wouldn’t be required. But as explained here, I think sun is more important than temperature or season when it comes to wearing white. 

I’ve also played around with a navy overshirt, rather than the cotton knit, which is more practical if you’re out and about. 

And I like a vintage military-green piece as equivalent outerwear with the casual outfit. Either jungle jacket or M-65, depending on the weight required. 

Playing around, by the way, usually means trying out outfits on my bed or valet, and then wearing potentials for a day or two, with rather too many glances in shop fronts or cars windows. 

It’s fine, I tell myself, it’s my job. 

The shoes were cleaned by Tom, aka The Jaunty Flaneur, last Summer. 

The traditional method is to apply white powder to the surface, but this is basically just covering up the dirt. Better is to try and remove them, initially with a Gommadin block (Saphir's answer to a pencil eraser) which lifts some stains away with friction. A steam and brush can help too. 

With white you usually want to avoid wet treatments, as it can create new water marks; but here Tom did use Saphir Omni-Nettoyant suede shampoo as well, and that worked OK.

In terms of where to buy white bucks, I haven’t shopped for them myself so can’t provide any direct recommendations, but Alden is the standard. I’m sure readers will be able to fill in other options. 

This post also reminds me, now I think about it, how interesting Lodger was. Nate and the team turned out a new shoe design every month - initially two a month - of which this tennis shoe was one of the first. Such investment in design. 

They also sold them for a while using a ‘reverse auction’ model, where the price dropped steadily until someone bought them. That was quite unreliable, but still innovative compared to shoe companies today. 

The clothes shown are:

Casual:

  • White button-down shirt, bespoke from Luca Avitabile
  • Grey shetland sweater, Berwick shetland from Trunk Clothiers, size Medium
  • Old ‘Army’ chinos from The Armoury, no longer sold
  • Woven leather belt, E Tautz
  • Large Working Tote bag from Frank Clegg

Formal(er):

  • White linen shirt, bespoke from Luca Avitabile
  • Dark navy cotton sweater, Anderson & Sheppard, size Small
  • Bespoke trousers from Solito in ‘Crispaire’ high-twist wool from Holland & Sherry
  • Jaeger Le-Coultre Reverso watch in yellow gold

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

 

 

Carreducker remote-fitted bespoke boots: Review

Carreducker remote-fitted bespoke boots: Review

Monday, August 2nd 2021
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I think when craftsmen are doing remote fittings, they err on the safe side. 

That’s one consistency I can draw from my online bespoke over the past year. 

Whether it’s with WW Chan, Massura or Ferdinando Caraceni in tailoring, Carreducker, Carlino or Petru & Claymoor in shoemaking, or Stoffa in shirtmaking, they all seem to have stayed conservative. 

In many ways that’s understandable. After all, with most clothes it’s easier to take them in than to take them out. Certainly with shirts and knitwear, and with shoes it’s easier to add an insole that it is to start stretching the upper. 

My bespoke manufactured boots from Carreducker, recently received and pictured here, are really lovely, and the only fit issue is a similar, slight roominess. 

With a thicker sock, they’re perfect. There’s enough room to wiggle my toes around, and the heel is held firmly in place. 

Avoiding heel slippage was the biggest challenge of the fitting, as my slim ankles mean the boot had to be cut quite close - but couldn’t be uncomfortable. 

When I first got the boots I was worried the fit was much too loose, as the heel was slipping. But that turned out to be largely down to the stiff sole. Once that softened up a little - after a handful of walks - it stayed snugly in place. 

I will wear the boots with thicker socks in the Winter, so the fit might be fine as it is. And they’re fantastically comfortable with a chunky cotton sock, and then all that quality calf and suede surrounding the foot on the inside. 

Realistically, though, I haven’t worn the boots enough to tell. And if I do need them smaller, it’s simple to add an insole. I’ll make a decision when the weather turns cold again. 

I mentioned suede surrounding the foot - that’s the long, bellowed tongue that runs up the front, and might even be my favourite part of the boot. 

It’s very fine and soft, in contrast to the tough and rugged make elsewhere. And it’s lovely feeling that fold around the foot as you lace them up. 

Some of my Edward Green boots have that feature as well, and it’s similarly pleasing. With the Carreducker boots it’s exaggerated because the tongue is so long. A bit like enjoying more material in an extra-long overcoat. 

My initial reaction when I received the boots was surprise at how chunky they looked. 

This is down to two things: the thickness of the sole and the height of the storm welt. The two build on each other, creating a tall dark barrier between the upper and the ground. 

The sole is the same thickness as the example I picked, but appears thicker because I chose a dark rather than mid-brown edge. The storm welt, however, is definitely taller. 

This I hadn’t seen during the fitting process, as the welt wasn’t attached, and James says he tried it as a style point that could easily be reduced later. As the stitching as it at the bottom, it’s fairly simple to cut off a strip from the top. 

I quite like the welt height though. 

It’s certainly not disproportionate to the rest of the boot, given its height. And it looks practical and only a touch unusual. 

Still, I might have to trim it a little for another reason, which is that when I wear the boots there is a small gap in places between the top of the welt and the upper. This undermines the water resistance rather, as rain would get into that gap. 

James had foreseen this might be a problem, but until the wearer has their foot in the boot and so pushes the upper out, it’s impossible to know whether that will close the gap. Mine doesn’t, quite. 

In places, even with thick socks on, the boots do lace up completely, with no gap between the facings on either side. 

This is normally something you want to avoid, because as the leather softens with wear, those facings will want to go a little closer to maintain the same fit. 

But actually, I find this happens much less with bespoke shoes than with ready-made. 

The reason, another bespoke maker told me, is that a RTW shoe never fits precisely and so has little gaps in places between the foot and the shoe. It is these that close up as the upper softens and fits more closely to the foot. 

A bespoke shoe should fit more closely, and so doesn’t have these little gaps. Hence less change to the lacing over time. 

The Carreducker boots are generally well made. The only thing I would pick up is the stitching along the storm welt, which in one or two places could be more precise. 

James held his hands up to this, and agreed it could be straighter. Going through the welt and the upper like this is not easy, and with handwork some variation is inevitable. But it’s still something that could have been better. 

It’s also worth bearing in mind that Carreducker’s style is not the same as other, finer and dressier makers. While not necessarily excusing that welt stitching, James’s aesthetic is generally of a functional, strong shoe, more akin to his former employer John Lobb than say Daniel Wegan or Yohei Fukuda. 

A comparison with those makers on making points wouldn’t be fair. 

The boots were made under what Carreducker calls its ‘Bespoke Manufactured’ system. They are bespoke in every way, except that the sole is sewn by machine. 

They were also measured and fitted remotely - James and I did not meet face to face - and they were my first pair of shoes from Carreducker. There was no existing last. 

It’s worth repeating that the fit was good, and particularly good given this remote process.

You can read more about these approaches from Carreducker, as well as many others they offer, on our introductory article here

These boots cost £660 for the lasts (a one-off cost), £1745 for the make, and an extra £200 for being boots (more materials, more work). Total £2605 (including VAT). 

The olive-green chinos are from Blackhorse Lane. On which more soon. 

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt