The jackets I picked for winter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The three suits I chose were:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The guide to knitwear fibre: Wool, cashmere and cotton

 

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

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

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

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

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

Plus it’s kind of interesting.

 

 

What are the types of wool?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Why does this matter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The types of cashmere

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

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

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

But just as important how the cashmere is used.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Plant fibres

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

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

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

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

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

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

Combray: Vintage, high-end menswear

Combray: Vintage, high-end menswear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LeCombray.com

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

Brioni bespoke jacket and trousers: Review

Brioni bespoke jacket and trousers: Review

Wednesday, October 13th 2021
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This Brioni jacket was made for me under their bespoke programme, using the London store on Bruton Street. We also made a pair of cotton trousers, which I cover lower down, and a shirt. 

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

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

The only missing piece of the puzzle was fit. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other clothes shown:

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

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

Autumn/Winter Top 10: Wax, Ivy and secateurs

Autumn/Winter Top 10: Wax, Ivy and secateurs

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

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

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

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

Colhay’s long-sleeved polo

£395

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

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

The Anthology ‘Civilman’ trousers

$305

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

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

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

Wythe jacquard overshirt 

$328

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

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

Uniqlo cream ‘Ivy’ socks 

£5.90

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

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

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

Mazarin dress ‘Ivy’ socks, via Mes Chaussettes Rouges

€22

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

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

Sunspel fisherman’s knit

£235

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

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

Edward Green waxed-suede Govan boot

£800-£950

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

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

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

RRL sweatshirt 

£175

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

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

Drake’s ecru jeans 

£275

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

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

Niwaki Higurashi secateurs

£59

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Friday, October 8th 2021
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*UPDATE: Just to clarify, anything that is not available as stock in the shop, and so has to be shipped to a visiting reader from either PS or Bryceland's, will have free shipping. So no extra charge there. Thanks*

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

We're taking over the whole back of the cafe, alongside Bryceland's, for 10 days - Friday October 29th to Sunday November 7th.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks again - see you there!

 

Comfortable yet elegant: A cosy winter combination

Comfortable yet elegant: A cosy winter combination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photography by Jonnie Craig

www.acollectedman.com

The work of Fred Nieddu, ‘Taillour’

The work of Fred Nieddu, ‘Taillour’

Monday, October 4th 2021
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Fred Nieddu (above) recently set up on his own under the name ‘taillour’ (an Old French term for tailor), having previously been the bespoke cutter at Timothy Everest in London.

However, chances are you will have seen Fred’s work around for a while, as he’s made pieces for friends like Aleks Cvetkovic, Tony Sylvester, Alex Natt and others, most of which have appeared online.

I recently started on a suede-jacket project with Fred, based off a jacket he originally made for The Crown (Fred has always done a lot of film work) and was then adapted as an MTO piece for the shop Beige Habilleur, in Paris.

But Fred is also a very talented cutter of suits and jackets, and I wanted to show a little bit of that first.

Fred cuts an English jacket, but with a very soft make and a natural shoulder.

The lines are sharp, but there is only a very thin shoulder pad and one layer of canvas in the body – often without demette (felt) on top.

In that respect he is similar to the direction a few English tailors have taken in recent years, such as Thom Sweeney, Whitcomb & Shaftesbury and Ben Clarke at Richard James.

The differences are that he does not offer an inset or Neapolitan shoulder (unlike TS and W&S) because he’d rather a client went to a Neapolitan for that. And his structure is always this lightweight, unlike others where it’s part of a broadening of their services (like W&S and RJ).

Fred is also more design-oriented. He studied illustration, has made various casual pieces over the years, and has to come up with new designs constantly as part of his film work. In this respect he's more similar to other tailors I've covered over the years like Davide Taub or Michael Browne.

I don’t know Fred as well as either Davide or Michael, but his creative approach is clear from his work. Pieces like the MTO jackets for Beige involve original design but also different approaches to construction, such as machining everything except the hand-sewn buttonholes.

“You often need a balance with casual pieces,” Fred says. “It's good to keep the authenticity of the originals, but you also want to make to a high level. If a customer wants hand-sewn buttonholes that’s fine, but I don’t think I would do anything else by hand.”

Fred is also working on a project for a ready-made raglan coat, based off one he made for Aleks (above). That will be RTW and sized, but made to a bespoke level. This is what Greg at No Man Walks Alone wanted (they will be selling it) but it could also have been made more simply.

My jacket started life as a piece made for The Crown when Fred was at Timothy Everest. The team made actor Ben Daniels a replica of a suede safari-style jacket worn by Lord Snowdon (above), which only appeared in one scene in the end – when he rushes past on his motorcycle.

That proved popular with Everest customers, and versions were made in brown, yellow and orange for customers. It is currently being offered RTW in green cord.

Then when Fred and Tony went to Beige Habilleur in Paris for a trunk show, they adapted a version for Beige (first image below).

This was simpler in design and more generous in cut. More French Arnys than English safari. It had a notched jacket collar, a tied belt, and larger squarer pockets. And it was made in end-of-line tweeds.

For my jacket, I've gone simpler still, returning to the brown suede of the Snowdon original (toile fitting, second image below) but removing the chest pockets entirely, as well as the bellows from the remaining hip pockets. Being in suede also necessitated removing the pleats in the back.

The result, I think, will be something that is easy and relaxed. Despite being an unusual design, I don’t think it will stand out.

We added internal ties that will make it easier to tie the belt in the back, and leave the front at least partly open. I’ll cover that in more detail when the jacket is finished.

It should be obvious that this process, too, shows Fred’s creativity. As if to emphasise this, at the end of our fitting Fred mentioned that he’s working on a new film where each character only wears one colour - so he’s currently making suits and overcoats in all green.

“A nice thing about working on my own now is that I can take on smaller pieces of work like that,” Fred says. That's because he’s now cheaper and more flexible than other teams – sometimes working in the costume department itself, alongside their tailors.

The only downside is that he can’t make large volumes, which is needed if you are costuming, for example, a lead in an action movie. That often requires dozens of the same suit, for the star and all the stunt men. “The most I’ve ever made is seven of the same thing,” says Fred, “and that was tough.”

But to return to the tailoring. For a while Fred wasn’t sure what his business would be after he left Everest. Most of his work was for film, but he didn’t want to lose the bespoke side.

“There was a moment when I was enjoying developing a bomber jacket, and I thought I’d love to just work in a factory doing pattern development,” says Fred. “But I always come back to bespoke.”

Some of the inspiration for that comes from his father, who was Italian. Fred remembers in particular his Dad coming to watch him play football. While the other fathers would all be wearing sportswear, his would be smart in yellow cords and a cashmere knit. "He was pretty flamboyant – liked having his initials on the cuffs of suits, that kind of thing.”

Fred’s taste is more understated, but there's still a love of clothes in common: “I remember in particular this brown chalk-stripe suit he had. I thought it was the loveliest thing. A dark-chocolate brown with just a faint cream stripe.”

Fred has made his father several pieces of tailoring over the years too. He made him a suit at Meyer & Mortimer (where Fred trained) but that was rather stiff: “He likes a roped shoulder, and a close waist, but the chest was too solid for him.”

Fred’s since made him two coats and a blazer in a softer make, of which his favourite is a Black Watch-like tartan.

Other things worth noting on Fred’s cutting are that he is open to almost any idea, what he calls “old-school Everest, where we are there to discuss ideas and inspiration”; and that he likens the lines of his cut to those of Sexton or Chittleborough & Morgan – just with very different shoulders.

“I can really see the appeal of that style," he says, "but personally I’d just feel too self-conscious sitting having dinner in it.”

He is also known for a patch pocket with a slanted top, and likes good shape in a jacket. "I don't like tailoring that's too shapeless or sloppy," he says. "But I do put a lot of my shape in the front and side body, so the back isn't too close."

He's also always open to working with customers’ cloth: “It makes sense, with Crescent Trading just down the road. There’s often something really nice and unusual in there.”

Fred works out of a workshop in Shoreditch, where he has recently added a showroom downstairs - since setting up on his own. You may find you know others in the area: Scott Simpson is downstairs and Charlie Borrow is just round the corner.

His prices for bespoke are £3500 for a suit, £2400 for a jacket, £2800 for an overcoat and £1100 for trousers (including VAT). Oh, and yes that jacket above is in Permanent Style tweed.

More on my jacket in a couple of weeks.

@frednieddu

Photography: Alex Natt and Fred Nieddu

A hoarder reformed: Downsizing my wardrobe

A hoarder reformed: Downsizing my wardrobe

Friday, October 1st 2021
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By Tony Sylvester

For the first time in a long time, I find myself in a particular clothing predicament: having spent the past few years in the same home, a move is imminent. While the change is welcome for many reasons, one of the obstacles is paring down my rather sizeable wardrobe. 

My wife and I currently inhabit a space that lends itself to the ownership of things. A parcelled-off part of a grand Victorian villa with large rooms, high ceilings and alcoves, it suits the accumulation of ‘stuff’ in all its forms. 

The previous occupants were similarly inclined, with floor-to-ceiling records and books - it’s a space that asks to be filled. My wife, being a curator and researcher by profession, and myself, being a hoarder (to put it uncharitably) both did our part to keep up the tradition. 

The move also comes as the result of a change in lifestyle, the most radical for me in more than twenty years. No longer being tethered to a concrete location for work has meant that a lot of my wardrobe has simply become redundant. In particular the items that lend themselves to being public facing, or ‘performative’ in some way. 

Previously, having a front-of-house role in menswear drove my sartorial decision-making in a lot of ways; wanting to keep a variety and range in my outfits five days a week - for my own sanity as well as the fun of playing a little brinksmanship with the form and expectation of colleagues and clients - kept me amused and entertained [see above]. 

Dressing has become more functionally comfortable and personal, with less concern with how I am perceived by others [below].

The timing of the move is also serendipitous, as I’m not sure this level of accumulation and consumption was healthy or sustainable.

Quite rightly, people today are more concerned with sustainability than at any time at the past, given to the unavoidable, hard scientific facts of environmentalism. I believe that we should be giving some thought to our ‘personal’ sustainability too, hand in hand with these ecological and ethical concerns. 

I’m sure that a lot of readers will have found themselves in a similar situation of late. Both the change in lifestyle and the concern about the sustainability of what we consumer.

So, how does one approach sustainability in one’s own wardrobe? Of course, the most conscientious way is to refrain from purchasing anything at all; enjoying what we already have and making do and mending as we go. This is ambitious and ultimately unrealistic for me, I’m afraid to say. 

While I have significantly curbed my impulses for what my friend Ethan Newton terms “acquisition mania”, the call of the novel and the urge of the refresh will always be present, and as readers of a website dedicated to what to buy and how to buy it, I’m sure most of you are in the same boat.

So, if abstinence is off the table, is there a key for a realistic approach to the problem? Some magic formula that cracks the code?  For me, I think the best way forward is a rule of thirds: 1/3 made to order, 1/3 vintage, 1/3 stock. 

There is no doubt in my mind that the made-to-order process is the most conscientious business practice in menswear. It’s flabbergasting to me just how much product is made, and horrifying to consider where it all ends up. 

Often brands at the higher end or even niche side of the market are equally as guilty of waste and overproduction, just better at hiding the excess. I fully throw my weight behind brands committed to small runs and tight ways of working, producing as close to what is needed as possible. 

Of course, bespoke tailoring is the most obvious example, but understandably the price point puts it out of most people’s reach. I’m always impressed by makers who can offer a made-to-order service at a more modest price tag, focusing less on the handmade / luxury side of the process, but still offering quality and service. 

One of my favourite newer brands in this category is Jake’s, run by Jake Wigham [below], a shirtmaker in East London. With a small workshop in Canning Town, Jake (previously a bespoke trouser maker) offers a spot-on fully fashioned button-down shirt, in the manner of classic Ivy style / 50s Brooks Brothers fit and a variety of cloths, for the same money as most ready-to-wear options. Looking to branch out over the next year into more garment making, his is a welcome addition to the marketplace. 

Much has been written on the sustainability of vintage / second hand, and there is little to add to this. For me this is the best option for overcoats, non-tailored jackets and anything where fit is less of an issue. If it was realistic to make all my purchases this way I would, but issues of both fit (one is hamstrung but one finds) and hygiene negate this. 

The last third might be perhaps the most contentious to the average PS reader, but mindful purchasing of stock pieces from ready-to-wear brands can even include those brands at a high-street level. 

Of course, not all ready-to-wear brands are created equal in their ethical practices. But buying something off-the-peg that has been mass-produced is not inherently bad, if your intention is to ensure that through its care, and later repair, that it has as long a life as possible. I think it’s up to you as the consumer to remove it from the damaging cycle of ‘wear and chuck’. Some of the longest serving items in my wardrobe are from Muji, Arket and Uniqlo.

As for the great clear-out, it’s slowly getting there. That which doesn’t end up in the second-hand market itself will be going to Suited & Booted, a London-based charity which helps unemployed and low-income men find work with mentorship, advice and most importantly, a new set of professional clobber. A very worthy cause if anyone reading is staring down the barrel of a similar downsize. 

In the second image of Tony above, he is wearing a representative mix of new and vintage: a Uniqlo mock neck, Muji socks and awms beret; but  vintage JM Weston Golfs, Pendleton shirt-jacket and Ralph Lauren cords.

Below: The Duke of Windsor's wardrobe.

Real bespoke chinos, in design, cloth and cut

 

 

Chinos from tailors never feel like chinos. Why is this? 

I used to think I knew the answer: the fabrics they used were too fine – dress cottons, made with fine fibres, finished for a sleek look and good drape. 

Chinos, even luxury ones, are usually made from tougher fabrics. They’re coarser, denser, and more casual as a result. 

Of course, often chinos are garment washed too, making them feel softer and look worn in. 

But that wasn’t the central issue, because a lot of top-end chinos, often from Japanese makers, are not garment washed. They start raw, just like jeans, and the customer does the work through wash and wear. 

 

 

I’ve since learned that it’s a bit more complicated than just materials. 

And the result of getting to the bottom of it is an end product: real bespoke chinos, made by Whitcomb & Shaftesbury, shown above. 

I know most people will be happy with ready-made chinos. For others, having them made by a bespoke tailor will seem ridiculously extravagant. The chinos will also, like most bespoke, be too expensive for the vast majority. These ones cost £528 (inc. VAT). 

But I also know there are men that have trousers made bespoke already, and get frustrated at trying to find chinos. They may also only want one or two pairs ever, because it’s not what they normally wear. 

For those guys, this could be a good option. 

 

 

So, the first issue with bespoke chinos is that you can’t wash them. 

With the high-end Japanese chinos mentioned above, it’s always assumed that a lot of their character will come with washing and wearing over time. It’s certainly what has happened with my favourites, such as these Armoury ones

But bespoke clothes are not made to be washed in a washing machine. It’s normally an issue with inner materials rather than outer ones: canvas becomes distorted or bent out of place, and linings on the inside of the jacket or waistband don’t cope well either. 

These bespoke chinos had to be washable, therefore. Whitcomb had done this occasionally in the past, so it wasn’t that difficult.

They removed the canvas from the structure of the waistband, used a simple cotton one on the inside of it, and reduced the amount of handwork (so these would be less likely to come undone in a machine).

 

 

The second point was less obvious, but more important: cut the chinos like jeans, not trousers. 

Jeans and chinos have a very particular cut. Basically, the outside seam of the trouser is a straight line, and only the inside seam is shaped to the style and the wearer. 

This is why jeans can show selvedge down the outside: it’s a straight line, not a curve. 

The pattern for tailored trousers works from the middle of the trousers rather that the outer edge (the line of the crease). This is kept straight, with both the inside and the outside seams being shaped to the wearer. 

Another way to think about it is that jeans are cut as if the wearer is riding a horse, with their legs unnaturally far part. Trousers are cut as if the wearer is standing naturally, with feet closer to shoulder width. 

 

 

Tailors generally dislike the way jeans are cut because it creates a lot of fullness around the inside of the leg and the crotch. This can look baggy (although on a coarse material like denim you don’t really notice).

There is one advantage to this cut, though, which is that the material sits flush on the outside of the hips. If you put on a pair of jeans and a pair of tailored trousers and look in the mirror, it’s here that you’ll probably notice the difference. 

With Whitcomb, we actually used some scrap material to make up trousers in both cuts – one tailored, one jeans/chinos – and I saw the difference immediately. The ones cut like chinos immediately felt like chinos. 

(It’s annoyingly hard to get across in photos, unfortunately – we did try.)

 

 

So chinos cut like chinos, in a washable make so they would age/fade.

Next was sourcing some actual chino material – rather than what the normal mills offer, which is that fine/tailored/sleek/drape look. 

The material you can see here is cotton canvas from Mikutex in Japan, the same one used by Blackhorse Lane for their chinos. (Annoyingly, Mikutex have since discontinued this particular line, but Whitcomb are in the process of testing the replacement.)

The final element was design. I brought in a range of chinos to Whitcomb, including new and vintage ones, so we could decide on which elements to choose. Like the cut, these make a huge difference. 

The most important element was the double-stitched seams, which usually run down the inside or outside of the leg, or through the seat, on chinos. We went for the most common option, which was double stitching on the inside leg and seat. 

Next was the lack of waistband. Most original chinos don’t have one, with the material running straight from the legs to the top, and only being visually separated by a seam (see above). 

There’s also more visible stitching elsewhere, such as that attaching the turn-up inside, and on the outside of the pockets. Of course, these all become particularly prominent over time, as the chinos are washed and these points fade first (see below – these have had one wash). 

The only design element we missed, in retrospect, was the height of the hip pockets. For some reason on chinos these are about an inch higher than on tailored trousers. Perhaps because they used to all be high waisted. When Whitcomb makes these for customers in the future, those pockets will be higher too. 

 

 

The result is the best fitting and best made pair of chinos I have. 

I don’t care so much about the finer making points, like the fact the buttonholes on the waistband and fly are sewn by hand. 

More important is the fact the fit is as good as my bespoke trousers (the Blackhorse Lane MTM was great too, but it’s MTM rather than bespoke, and best thought of that way) and that I can now make chinos in any shape and design I want.

The only issues with getting all chinos made bespoke in the future will be cost (it is a lot for casual trousers, there’s no escaping that) and the available materials. 

It will be good to see the new Mikutex cottons made up before I use them. And even then, this material isn’t my absolute favourite among chinos – I marginally prefer the right-hand twill of my Armoury ones or Real McCoys ones, but I don’t have a source for that yet. 

Still, all of these materials are a world away from the cottons normally used by tailors. This is the only pair of trousers I’ve seen that deserves to be called bespoke chinos. 

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

 

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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*Note: This article has been updated from its original version, to correct a point about hand padding. Details in the new version, below*

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. 

The hand padding on the chest and lapel I was shown - pictured below - was the first obvious sign, even if the staff admitted a real jacket didn’t have stitches quite as tight or precise as this display model.

I was even impressed by the quality of the ready-to-wear tailoring. 

I previously reported that the chest and lapel on the RTW jackets was hand-padded, having been told so by the staff in store, and been shown examples. 

This was challenged by a reader, citing an article where such a jacket had been taken apart by another tailor. When I asked to talk to the management to clarify, it turned out there had been a mistake: only bespoke uses hand padding. 

However, that padding does use an old machine that gives the tailor greater control than anything more modern and automated. And hand padding does become less useful the lighter and softer you want your jackets. 

There is always more rigidity with hand-sewing the chest, unless you have stitches that are so loose as to be almost pointless. And therefore even on bespoke, Brioni sometimes uses that old machine here, unless the customer asks otherwise.

Many other aspects of the ready-made tailoring is done by hand, from the obvious things like the buttonholes down to the much less obvious like pocket jettings. 

This is more than any other ready-made tailoring I have seen, including the likes of Tom Ford or Kiton. (The latter is much better at marketing theirs.)

And as is often the case with handwork (or individual paper patterns) the significance is just as much 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 lots 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 the same 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.

Although I don’t think we should go too far down this line of thinking. 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