Flash vs fuddy

Flash vs fuddy

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

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

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

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

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

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

This crystallised for me recently in a conversation about loafers. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Real McCoy’s chinos: Review

The Real McCoy’s chinos: Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what makes these chinos so useful, so everyday? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other clothes:

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

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

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

therealmccoys.com

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

Remote, manufactured bespoke boots from Carreducker 

Remote, manufactured bespoke boots from Carreducker 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.carreducker.com/bespoke

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

PS (shorter) shorts are back

PS (shorter) shorts are back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But where the aim of the item is to be distinctly average, it’s something to keep in mind. Tailors generally change their lapel widths because they don’t want the lapel to stand out. The fit can, and certainly the cloth - but they don’t want a statement lapel. 

Shorts, for men, are the same. For many guys it’s enough  just to be wearing them rather than trousers. And there’s plenty of room to be expressive elsewhere - with printed camp-collar shirts or old-fashioned sandals - if you want to. 

Or you can just be well-dressed, with a well-fitting linen shirt and espadrilles. As I try to be. 

In the photos here I’ve shown the PS shorts with a few more casual clothes than in the past - to mix together with those other, smarter shoots and demonstrate the versatility.

In the image above, the khaki pair are worn with a simple white T-shirt. I wear collared shirts and polos more, but when I do wear a T-shirt in Summer it tends to be something like this - white, simple and quality (usually a circular knit - here from The Flat Head).

They’re worn with black espadrilles, from Diego’s, which I find surprisingly versatile. You wouldn’t think black would be that useful in a casual shoe, but a reader commented last year that he wears nothing else in the Summer, and he’s right - they go with almost everything. 

It helps that a lot of my clothes are darker, colder colours like the dark-brown linen overshirt the outfit is also shown with above. That’s our upcoming collaboration with Luca Avitabile, about more soon.

Next I’ve shown the same outfit with a cotton sweatshirt, from Dunhill. 

There's been friendly mockery in the past about showing ‘Summer’ outfits that feature knitwear, but it’s something I regularly find I have with me, if only because you’re often met with air conditioning when you go indoors. 

And of course, in the evening there are few things more pleasant than putting on a jumper with shorts, as the sun dips gently below the horizon. 

Dunhill don’t do this sweatshirt anymore, which is a shame. It’s styled like a sweat, but uses a very light, fine cotton, which makes the hand wonderful, look a touch smarter, and feel pretty cool. 

I’m wearing my old Berkeley cap with that outfit - a gift from a friend years ago - which does well for Summer headwear with casual outfits. 

Summer hats aren't easy, unless you’re smart enough to wear a full panama. So I often switch between a baseball cap and a cheap, beaten-up straw hat - which is shown with the linen overshirt above. 

Stylish beach homes seem to be full of old hats like this, but it’s not an easy thing to actually buy. I recommend getting something you like the shape of, but can afford to mess up, and then treating it very badly. 

Sit on it, even stand on it, cut off any ribbon or edging, and pack it in anyhow with your other clothes. You can reshape it quite easily (use steam if needed) and the ill-treatment is the best thing for making the hat look suitably old and familiar. 

The last outfit shows the green shorts with our Madras-check linen

Apologies to those that wanted this shirt ready-made, rather than bespoke using our cloth. There seemed less point when it was available RTW from some other brands; but now it’s not, as far as I’m aware, we could make it for next year if enough people still want it. 

Wearing a shirt with shorts is a good way to retain some elegance in Summer. To avoid the look of shapeless, untucked polo and cargo shorts that often seems to be the default for men over 40.

Not a business shirt, of course, but something in linen or linen/cotton, whether classic white or blue, or a bolder check or awning stripe

I’m sure most readers will be familiar with the shorts and their basic design, but for those that aren’t, here’s a summary:

  • The shorts are 100% cotton
  • The green and khaki have belt loops and washed, ‘sport’ finish. The navy has side adjustors, so is smarter, and no washed finish
  • They have a coin section inside the right-hand pocket and one rear pocket on the right, fastened with a button
  • They are made by Italian factory Rota, who readers will probably be familiar with and make for several other high-end brands
  • The make is a good level for ready-to-wear, with great hardware, linings, buttons, and finishing. A machine make, but with a high level of precision
  • They are available in four sizes - small, medium, large and extra-large - equivalent to Italian sizes 46, 48, 50 and 52
  • They should be washed cool, at 30 degrees, and hung to dry before ironing.
  • Shipping is from the UK
  • Price (£175) does not not include VAT, as most PS customers live outside the EU. Taxes are added at checkout.
  • Available on the PS shop site here

In terms of alterations:

  • All the shorts can be taken in considerably at the waist, by 5cm (2 inches) at the most. It helps here that there is only one rear pocket, as large alterations won’t push two pockets oddly together. On the green and khaki shorts, such a reduction in the waist would also require the rear two belt loops to be taken off, and reduced to one, over the back seam.
  • The navy can also be taken out in the waist, by at least 3cm (1.25 inches) as there is considerable inlay there and running down the leg. However, the green and khaki cannot be taken out as this would leave lines around the old seam (as they are garment dyed and washed).
  • Both shorts can be shortened in length, at least by 5cm (2 inches). The bottom of the leg is obviously smaller than the thigh, but there isn’t much taper at the bottom. At the worst, the leg might need to be narrowed slightly as well. The green and khaki pairs, however, would require the turn-up to be cut off and machined on higher up, as again there are fade lines at the top and bottom of the turn-up.
  • The navy short can be lengthened, by at least 2cm (0.75 inches) by either reducing the size of the turn-up or changing the way the turn-up is made (currently it is folded over, making three layers of material. The folded layer can be reduced.) The other two cannot. 

Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

Below are pictures from previous shoots - demonstrating other ways to wear them. Note, though, that these all have the old, longer length.

Blouson, chore, or leather jacket? An exercise in casual paradigms

Blouson, chore, or leather jacket? An exercise in casual paradigms

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Three years ago, I wrote an article called ‘Five paradigms of casual clothing’, which attempted a rough division of informal men’s clothing into different styles.

It was an interesting exercise. The categories were necessarily very broad, and encompassed many niches and trends; there was also obviously a lot of overlap between them, and some pieces that were more universal than others; but still, it was possible to describe general categories, and allocate types of clothing to them. 

I thought of that division recently because a few readers were asking for advice on casual jackets. Should they buy a blouson or a chore jacket? Which was more formal, which more versatile? 

Usually, formality is the most important aspect of clothing we discuss. It’s crucial to tailoring, and I understood why readers were asking that question first. 

But with casual clothing, probably just as important is the style tradition the piece of clothing comes from. Its roots, its culture, and its resulting associations.

So I thought it would be useful to revisit those categories of clothing, and consider how they affect a particular purchase, such as a casual blouson/bomber/chore jacket. 

To recap, the five categories were:

  • British country. Think rural clothing in most parts of the Western world, given it largely has English origins. Tweed, cords and waxed cotton; flat caps and fisherman’s sweaters.
  • American prep/Ivy. Has many roots in the above, but America’s cultural influence means that it is now widespread and has many offshoots: French Ivy, Rugged Ivy in Japan, suedeheads in the UK.
  • Italian smooth. This needs a better name. But it is the Italian style, the continental look, that went international in the 1970s and ever since has dominated most upmarket menswear brands. Slim cuts, luxurious materials, simple colour palettes. 
  • Workwear. Clothes at least originally built for work, or service. Encompassing military styles after WW2, and Western clothing too. United by rugged materials in particular. 
  • Sportswear. Modern sportswear. Sneakers and synthetics. Not something we touch on much, but obviously mixes with the others, and hugely influential. 

Of the jackets the reader was considering - largely derivatives of the chore coat or blouson - a chore definitely falls under workwear in this categorisation. Originally for French workers, it's straight cut, and patch pockets make it simple and practical. 

The blouson or bomber jacket is trickier. Most of the styles have military origins, but they’ve been consistently repurposed ever since - whether it’s leather jackets being worn by bikers or field jackets by students. Indeed, some styles have more in common with Varsity jackets, which are definitely Ivy.

I think here the material and hardware are more significant. The reader was largely looking at dark-brown suede models, and this feels more luxurious, more Italian. In most iterations, that’s the category it belongs in - particularly I think when zipped (like the Connolly below) rather than buttoned (like the Valstarino above). 

So why is this categorisation useful to the reader? 

Because it tells him the chore coat will sit better with workwear chinos, with T-shirts and with sweatshirts. The suede blouson, on the other hand, will be more at home slim Incotex chinos, or indeed with tailored trousers, and cashmere sweaters. 

The difference between the two is about style, about different traditions of clothing, as much as anything else. So the reader should consider which of these two they wear more - which, perhaps, is more their style - when making the decision.

You might suggest this distinction is still about formality. The blouson is simply smarter than the chore coat. That’s true, but style is also important too (where it rarely is with tailoring). 

And often, formality has little to do with it. For example, which is smarter, a denim chore coat or a denim trucker jacket? A brown-horsehide motorcycle jacket or a brown-waxed Barbour jacket?

The bigger difference there is stylistic traditions, and associations. That’s the reason the Barbour would look silly with cowboy boots, and the horsehide wouldn’t look great with wellies. 

I think that when readers are considering how to build a small, quality wardrobe of clothes, they should keep these distinctions in mind. 

But there are several caveats. First, some items of clothing are so universal that they work with anything. Jeans are the obvious example. They’re not going to look out of place with a shooting jacket, a varsity jacket, a leather jacket or a Nike windbreaker. 

Still, the style of jean might vary. Zegna or Loro Piana outerwear usually works with rather different jeans than something from Bryceland’s or The Real McCoy’s. 

Second caveat: some of the most stylish people and stylish looks come from mixing traditions together. The unexpected pairing of a tweed jacket with a cowboy boot. A vintage black-leather jacket worn with pressed charcoal flannels. 

But that doesn't show that the categories don’t exist. Rather, it’s only because they exist that there’s contrast in the look, which makes it looks so unexpected and stylish. 

The other arguments against analysing clothing like this are usually that the points are obvious, that they are a care of overthinking, or that they’re too prescriptive. 

As to being prescriptive, I’m certainly not saying readers should dress purely within one of these traditions. Just like with the so-called ‘rules’ of menswear, it merely pays to understand traditions - certain ways people have dressed historically - before going off and breaking them. 

You may find it helpful, for example, to root yourself in the casual chic of Stoffa, Rubato or Saman Amel, before experimenting with the addition of a western piece into the wardrobe, like a cowboy shirt or an alligator belt. 

Or you might find you’re more of an Ivy guy, with a wardrobe of preppy chinos, oxford shirts and Alden loafers. At which point to might try mixing in something more workwear, like a vintage chore coat over the top of those chinos and a sweatshirt

As to whether these points are all obvious, they can’t be because readers ask about them. They may well be for you; they may well be for most people; but they certainly aren’t for everyone. 

And as we discussed in our post on creating your own style, people that find style easy have often just absorbed more of it subconsciously. They can just try combinations and think they ‘look wrong’. That doesn’t mean that what lies behind it can’t be spelled out - can’t be learned. 

I guess a final objection might be that fashion is so mixed now, so global and so rehashed and rehashed, that these categories no longer exist. Drake’s used to sell Valstar, then sold chore coats, and now sells trucker jackets. 

I think that has more to do with how Drake’s has evolved over time. Most menswear shops are actually still quite narrow and consistent. Trunk sells Valstar and Incotex. Clutch sells horsehide jackets and workwear chinos. Because customers want things that go together.

Actually chinos are another good example, similar to suede/leather jackets. We’ve talked a lot more about ‘chinos’ in recent months, but that word covers a huge range: from bespoke trousers in the finest cottons, through Italian chinos with a bit of elastane, to workwear models in coarse, heavy canvas. 

Asking for a ‘chino’ is like asking for a cotton shirt: it runs everything from a superfine Alumo to a Buffalo-check flannel. You need to be more precise. 

Casual clothing is a lot harder to navigate than tailoring: it’s bigger, less culturally consistent, and more subject to fashion.

There's also a tendency today to think that you can buy and wear any piece of clothing. That if you can't find a way for it to work with everything else, you just lack style.

Actually, most people dress more in one category/tradition/paradigm than another, and experiment with occasional pieces from elsewhere. It's less complicated and more coherent.

That's a particularly good lesson for younger guys, trying to build up a wardrobe of quality clothing. When you don’t have that many clothes, and you can’t afford to buy that many clothes, everything has to work with everything.

So even though there are lots of shades of grey here, and many traditions overlap, I think these style paradigms are always worth keeping in mind

The illustrations are nearly all of casual, short brown leather or suede jackets, to compare. Top to bottom:

Desert boots (and knitwear, and bespoke) at Anglo-Italian 

Desert boots (and knitwear, and bespoke) at Anglo-Italian 

Friday, June 4th 2021
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Somehow, Jake and Anglo-Italian manage to keep relatively under the radar here in the UK, despite being one of the few classic-menswear shops keeping that spirit relevant. 

Perhaps it’s because they don’t actively seek out mainstream coverage, or because so much of the business is overseas - the shop has almost become a showroom for an online store, such are the international sales.

Whatever the reason, I think it means Jake’s consistent innovation often goes unheralded. 

Anglo-Italian is one of the few shops in London selling good flannels, good oxford shirts and good brogues. But there’s always an original point, an angle, that shows each piece is being considered fresh each time. Whether it’s travel flannel that wrinkles less, or vintage stubby lasts on the shoes, there’s always a viewpoint - albeit a very subtle one.

Some of these tweaks are my style, some are not.  

For example, in the current collection I love the Ice Cotton crewnecks (above). ‘Ice Cotton’ is not an Anglo term - it refers to a particular yarn - but Jake’s version is a touch shorter, with a smaller collar, such that it works on most people without a shirt underneath. (Or it does on me, which does happen that often.) 

On the flip side, I see what Jake is doing with the Sport Sweatshirt, which is made with cotton on the inside but merino on the outside. The idea is to replicate the feel of a cotton sweatshirt, but with a smarter outward appearance - one more in keeping with the Anglo look. 

He succeeds, but it’s not something I personally want. I prefer to have one or the other. With merino on the outside, there’s only part of the sweatshirt feeling, and I like full merino knits on their own too. For a different approach to sweatshirts, I probably prefer the Armoury’s Indoorsman Sweatshirt, with its waffle knit. 

But this is a personal preference; I know others would disagree. And far more important is that Jake is constantly doing these things, all the time. So there are always new things I love. 

One of those is the Anglo Desert Boot, which I picked up a couple of weeks ago. 

Most of the desert boots I’ve had in the past have been of lesser quality - the likes of Clarks and similar - or have been styled more like a regular dress shoe, with a more structured toe and so a smarter look. 

Jake’s thing with shoes generally is to give them a low profile. Which means a toe that slopes downwards when seen from the side, and less of a spring (so the toe is flatter to the ground). 

With the loafers that also means a lower vamp, further down the foot, and that’s replicated subtly by lower lacing on the desert boots. They also have a lower height at the back, which makes them look even more laidback, and stops them getting caught on a tailored trouser leg. 

It’s striking how different these things make the boot compared to my Shanklins from Edward Green, for example. I love them, but everything from the height to the toe to the thin welt to the makes them look like a smarter, luxury style. 

Jake designed the boot as something to wear with tailoring as well as T-shirts and chinos. 

I would wear it with tailoring, but only the most relaxed kind. Certainly, with flannel trousers and a crewneck. Not with something like my Sexton flannel suit. And only possibly with my Panico flannel suit

Just as interesting for me, though, is that the relaxed shape means they work with even more casual things than Anglo-Italian sells, such as the hoodie and workwear chinos shown on me above. 

Colour-wise, a tan boot might be a touch nicer with this outfit, but the softness and low profile of the desert boot work really well. 

And I think this is something men could get a lot of use out of. Because often the temptation with a casual outfit like this is to wear trainers, or perhaps chunky boots. There are few options in between. And if you’re an older guy who doesn’t want to wear trainers, or its too warm for big boots, these are a really nice alternative. 

The quality is good too. It’s a simple make, as with most desert boots - stitchdown construction, no lining. But the suede is thick and supple, and the crepe sole seems to wear well. 

Crepe soles can be pretty cheap, and when they are the edges quickly fray - that’s what happened with cheaper ones I had in the past. The bits can be cut off, but you don’t want to be doing it all the time.

The Anglo ones use a denser, harder crepe that suffers less from this problem. They’re also single, dark colours: almost as bad as the fraying on crepe is the natural-coloured soles that have the edges painted black. Given the texture of crepe, that always looks messy. 

I was a little concerned when trying on the Anglo boots, that the place where the two pieces of leather overlap on the inside of the shoe, seemed to move around and rub. But that settled down quickly, and now they’re very comfortable. 

I sized up slightly, taking a 9 when I’m normally an 8.5. 

Jake says he knew the best way to get a more refined version of the desert boot was to have them made in Italy, and that’s probably a good way to think about it. They’re an Italian version of a Clarks boot (and indeed the maker is an old Clarks supplier). 

Among other boots I have or have tried, the Edward Greens are beautiful but seem to have more in common with an English dress boot. Alden is similarly low in profile, but leather soled and rougher. Carmina is more similar to Edward Green, but not at the same quality. 

Lastly, Anglo just recently started offering an MTO service on the boots. For £300 (up from £245) you can pick your suede, size and sole - light crepe, dark crepe or Vibram (which I like less). 

Actually, one more thing. As readers have noticed and inquired about, Anglo-Italian are in the process of setting up their own bespoke tailoring

This will be housed in a new space around the corner from the current shop, and managed by a young cutter and coatmaker hired last year. In the intervening months Jake and the team have had great fun pulling apart all his old bespoke suits and learning little making details. 

The service will offer the Anglo-Italian style, with its soft shoulders and roomy fit, in a full bespoke service - full hand work, full fittings process etc. 

Prices will be good for anything using Anglo-Italian cloth. Jackets start at £2700 including VAT, suits at £3350. Anything using another bunch will be more expensive, with suits around £3500 for example. 

More on that service soon. 

Clothes on me: Real McCoy’s sweatshirt in ‘Milk’; old Army Chinos from The Armoury; black bandana from Clutch Cafe. 

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

Interwar art, posters and menswear – with Fab Gorjian

Interwar art, posters and menswear – with Fab Gorjian

Wednesday, June 2nd 2021
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The most elegant advertising of the past was produced in the 1920s and 1930s by lithograph - often carved onto stone rather than metal, before being printed. 

They were incredibly over-resourced. Train companies like LNER hired commercial artists to produce original paintings, which were carved by a different craftsman onto stone tablets, and then printed by hand. A simple poster on the wall of a station was a work of art in itself. 

The trajectory of the style was interesting too. Having begun as information posters - with intricate paintings and rows of text - they became increasingly simple and stylised.

This was influenced by the art of the time, but also by a realisation that posters needed a simple, evocative message to drive interest. You can see that trend in the four images below. 

I’ve always found this period of graphic art inspiring. 

My parents had framed posters for local attractions like Kew Gardens on our walls at home, and of course the menswear illustrations from Esquire and Apparel Arts are very much in the same mould. 

That was what drew me to the work of Fab Gorjian (below), and I bought an original artwork of his last week, as a 40th birthday present for myself. 

I didn't realise until I spoke to Fab, though, how involved his process is - how far he goes to create works as close as possible to those interwar tourism posters. I had assumed, just looking at the textures, that they were watercolours. 

"I tried so many different techniques to recreate that lithograph look," he says. 

"It's hard because the surface is matte, and uniform, but still with this subtle texture from the paint and little imperfections in the printing."

Eventually, Fab came up with his own, original process. He draws the original image, scans it, and then uses the scan to create a stencil for each colour. 

The colours are then applied with a roller onto the stencil, one at a time. The roller creates the desired texture (imagine the effect you get when you roll paint onto a wall) but the edges are clean and sharp.

White areas are left unpainted, as was the case with the originals. 

It's not easy to get the precision, because every time you use a stencil to roll on a new colour, you're hiding 90% of the image beneath it. 

Fab has got pretty good at this now though, to the extent that he deliberately overlaps some areas to create slight imperfections - again, as the originals had. 

In the image above for example - commissioned by Fox Brothers - you can see the slight gaps and overlaps intended to create that effect. 

Above is the painting I bought.

To create it, Fab had his girlfriend stand in this pose, wearing a pair of his own tobacco-brown trousers. Which was great, in that it created a natural-feeling pose and some beautiful folds in the fabric. 

The only issue was she is rather smaller than Fab, so the trousers looked even wider-legged than reality. “I had to make that up a little, filling out the trouser with a slightly bigger calf for example,” he says. 

There’s a lovely tradition of this with the original railway posters, where artists often modelled characters on their wives or other family members. That’s why all the women in one poster sometimes have the same face. 

I chose that image from among Fab’s work because it has real style and flair. But also because the tobacco/cream/black combination is one I particularly love.

I don’t wear it in the way he draws it much, but I do in a suit/shirt/tie (shown above, in Naples) as well as shirt/trouser/shoe. 

I think images like this also illustrate what elegance there can be in menswear without the need for neckwear, handkerchiefs or double breasteds. The elegance is in the lines, the proportions and the colours.

It doesn't matter whether you’re wearing a suit or not. 

Fab has done wonderful work for Fox, which I've included above and below. But I don't find many of the clothing combinations reflect my view on style. 

They are, of course, deliberately period, but outfits with hats and spectator shoes feel less representative of what I love in menswear. Simple elegance below the waist - or more practical, energetic images, like the cycling one below - are more me. 

I wanted to buy the original work from Fab, rather than a print, because I’m at an age where I want to hang original art - in a house where I’ve brought up my family, and have no plan of moving from. 

My wife and I bought a painting from local artist Mark Pearson last year for the same reason. It helped that doing so supported our local gallery, and that many of the images are of local places that have significance for us.

We do still have a couple of posters, but they’re kept for sentimental reasons: a special gig, a visit to the Italian National Cinema Museum on our honeymoon. In fact, it hadn’t occurred to me before but both have a lot in common with those interwar tourism posters, and Fab’s work. 

The gig poster in particular, from The White Stripes’ 2005 tour, could easily have come from Fab’s portfolio. Even if it wasn’t made in the same original or exacting manner. Perhaps someday I'll track down the original of that too. 

Fab's prints sell out quickly and none are currently available. However, more are apparently being put up soon. You can find them here, and they cost around £300 each.

Fab is also always available for commissions, which start around £1500. My original painting was £1200.

His work is also currently on display at Fortnum & Mason.

www.fabgorjian.com

What is French Ivy?

What is French Ivy?

Monday, May 31st 2021
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By Tony Sylvester

“A few years back, I posted a photo of Paul Weller on my Instagram (above). It was taken in 1984 in his Style Council era, where much to the consternation of the Mod faithful, he was constantly tinkering with his attire - alienating the core fans that stuck rigidly to the tired-but-true Mod-revivalist formula. 

It’s a candid snap of Paul en route to the Band Aid single recording. Hair slicked back, he wears an oversized herringbone DB coat with patch pockets, nonchalantly fastened at the lowest button. Dark selvedge jeans are rolled ankle high to reveal white socks with tassel loafers. A college scarf tossed over one shoulder adds Oxbridge élan.  

I remarked that he was in “full French Ivy”. Based on the subsequent conversations, it seemed the term was not as familiar as I had anticipated. Perhaps it still isn’t, and perhaps, digging into the history would be interesting. 

I first heard the expression ‘French Ivy’ in the early 2000s in a completely different context. 

It was there on the pages of those mysterious Japanese publications like Men’s Club and Free & Easy, with their occasional smatterings of English. Just one of those terms like ‘Dad’s Style’ and ‘Rugged Ivy’ that seemed to make a sort of visual sense, without need for further translation. 

The looks the term accompanied seemed to recall a style of dress I’d witnessed growing up in London, around the same time as the Weller photo above. 

In my first excursions into the West End, alongside the postcard punks and other subcultural icons of the day, one of the more eye-catching looks in Covent Garden and the King’s Road was a relaxed style of dress that consciously mixed the traditional with the Bohemian, the well-worn with the modern. 

The vintage Meccas of Flip and American Classic provided faded 501s and big raglan-sleeved overcoats, which would then be complimented by newer offerings of chunky shoes, argyle socks and polo shirts. The result was a look that created a route from the dominant ‘casual’ terrace-boy styling that had taken over the suburbs of Greater London where I lived, back to the continental cool of 1960s Soho. 

This is the look I see in my mind’s eye when I imagine the old J Simons shop near Drury Lane - with its Bass Weejuns, Paraboots and BD Baggies button-downs, filling the pale-wood fittings next to curated second-hand sack jackets and London Fog raincoats. The combination was never fully explained to me, it just ‘was’. 

With the express aim of demystifying this look, its context, and particularly its Japanese origins, I spoke recently to W David Marx, whose superlative Ametora (Basic Books, 2015) gives a pretty definitive account of the rise of post-war menswear in Japan.

The book’s subtitle ‘How Japan Saved American Style’ demonstrates how big an influence Marx believes Japan had. And on concepts as well as clothes. One of the biggest takeaways from the book for me was how not only clothes, but the terms used to describe them, move and morph once divorced from their original context - creating not only new looks and styles, but even new terminology in turn. 

For example, the word ‘Ivy’ itself no longer strictly meant the clothing worn on the campuses of elite American universities. For the Japanese reader, it was a more general shorthand for traditional clothing. This is similar to the way the Japanese word Sebiro, meaning a business suit, is a direct translation in Kanji of ‘Savile Row’. The specific, original term takes on a more fluid, general meaning. 

“In the 1960s, Ivy was sold as a very particular American look, more refined than the brasher Hollywood and jazzland styles,” Marx tells me. “But when Ivy saw a revival in the late 1970s, it became a bit more flexible, generally meaning a casual, traditional style.” 

This is where it gets interesting. Because now the term was less strict and dogmatic, it could be affixed to other words to describe looks utterly removed from the East Coast collegiate context.

First up was British Ivy: basically what the Sloanes and Young Fogeys of Thatcher’s Britain were decked out in, a little bit Charles and Di, a little bit Brideshead Revisited; ‘Anglo-prep’ if you will. 

“And then it went a bit weird with ‘French Ivy’," Marx continues. "It was specifically used in around 1982 to describe the preppy look of young conservative French boys from good families. This acted as a bridge from Ivy and Preppy to more sophisticated Euro styles that took over in the mid-1980s.” 

For documentary evidence on this, seek out Thierry Mantoux’s BCBG: Le Guide Du Bon Chic Bon Genre (Hermé, 1985), the French answer to Peter York’s The Sloane Ranger’s Handbook and Lisa Birnbach’s The Official Preppy Handbook

Like those earlier books, it takes a tongue-in-cheek stroll through the rarified tastes of the more well-heeled denizens of Paris - where they like to holiday, what they name their children, and most importantly for us, how they dress. So there is your Lacoste polo, your JM Weston 180s, your Charvet ties, and indeed everything from that bastion of taste, the sadly long-gone department store Old England.

BCBG is a strictly ‘Right Bank’ affair - sensible, conservative and refined - in stark opposition to the other Gallic school of style ‘BoBo’ (Bourgeois-Bohemian), its more showy Left Bank cousin.  

It wasn’t just clothes from French companies that defined the look, however, either at home or in Japan. In fact one of the most enduring icons of Americana owes at least some of its Japanese popularity to the French. “The Japanese obsession with 501s exploded in the early 1980s, in part because French and Italian guys were all wearing them,” says Marx. “They became popular in Japan as part of that French aspiration rather than rugged Americanism.” 

So what does this all mean for the contemporary gentlemen? I’d suggest that the Weller look - also pictured above, as he is observed by incredulous Mods - is as snappy, timeless and stylish now as it was 37 years ago. 

The pairing of a polo shirt with sports coat or overcoat feels particularly relevant in this post-Covid era. The Sea-Island cotton ‘Isis’ style from John Smedley is a good pick: easy fitting, classic and still made in the UK. Alternatively, a clean and simple cotton-piqué number like Rubato's new generously cut Tennis Shirt

Sturdier, chunky footwear in the vein of the aforementioned 180 Penny loafer from JM Weston (below), or the Golf and Demi-Chasse models, paired with thicker, slouchier socks, like the WigWam Model 625 in ecru (sold by Beige Habilleur) add a good grounding to the look. 

Elements like these, plus a lot of the more idiosyncratic details of Weller’s look have swung back into vogue recently, thanks in no small part to the team behind French magazine L’etiquette.  

Six issues old, and now available in English as well as its native tongue, L'etiquette is a biannual ‘Guide to Men’s Clothing’, focusing less on fashion and more on the personality and character of clothes, and the men who wear them.

The mix of casual and refined, luxury and utility, old and new gives off the same confidence and esprit as French Ivy. In fact one of the people who reached out to me about the Weller post was the magazine’s editor-in-chief, and now creative director of DeFursac, Gauthier Borsarello. 

“I had no idea about the term until you talked about it!” He laughs. “But I know the look, I think it started when American brands started to become important in France, in specialist stores like Western House/Hemispheres (the forerunners to Pierre Fournier’s cult brand Anatomica). When mixed with classic French (ultra boring but perfect) tailoring, it created this new look.” 

I wonder if this means that it is less about French clothing, and more about the way you wear them? “Precisely,” he concurs. “I think it is casual clothes worn in ‘a French way’. It is the art of the mix. French Ivy happened because France became more open to other cultures - the post-war period and the cultural blending it brought. It could not exist without the UK and the US.” 

This is the first guest contribution from Tony Sylvester, who many will know for his writing, styling and own brand. For those that don't, he is @toneloki

Pictured below: French Ivy looks, from L'étiquette

Transforming ends, scraps and waste: Yves Salomon raincoat liner

Transforming ends, scraps and waste: Yves Salomon raincoat liner

Friday, May 28th 2021
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How far is it possible to make a coat lining with shreds, off-cuts and otherwise wasted pieces of fur?

When I made a lining for my M65 field jacket two years ago, the thing that attracted me most was the idea of re-using fur that would otherwise go to waste. 

Since then, the maker Yves Salomon has gone further in that direction. Last year they issued what they called the Resource Pact, which promised to drastically reduce the use of new fur, focusing instead on re-using existing furs, recycling or up-cycling old pieces. 

It’s quite a change for a fashion company mostly producing new fur up to that point. To support and help publicise it, I thought it would be interesting to test the limits of the process by making a lining for my Coherence raincoat out of off-cuts. 

(Fur is of course a controversial subject, but also far from a simple one. We had a really good discussion about this two years ago in this post. Rather than repeating all the same points, I would ask that anyone interesting in talking about it add their contribution there. Posts never die on PS - they only mature.)

The lining for my field jacket (above) was also not made with new fur - it was re-used from another, old coat. But this is relatively straightforward as the skins all match already, making a uniform pattern and colour. 

Other Yves customers do this kind of thing all the time, for example bringing in their grandmother’s fur coat and making the body into a gilet, one sleeve into a muff, the other into gloves. 

Rather harder is using off-cuts from production, because there is rarely enough to make one uniform coat or other piece of clothing. 

But, I think this can look fine in a lining. After all, it’s more hidden away, and a little variation in the colours can even add extra interest.

It's like patchwork tweed, or the way Japanese boro cloth re-uses old cotton panels and stitches over them to create something new - and beautiful in a different way to something clean and new. 

I decided to make a lining for a raincoat this time, because my previous liner had the small disadvantage that it could only be used in one coat. 

A liner for a field jacket can’t really be re-used in anything else. It’s too short for an overcoat, too long for a bomber.

Of course, it can be altered, re-used and re-worked in the future - just like those old grandmothers’ coats - and I’m sure I will do if I ever stop wearing it in the field jacket. The whole point of this, after all, is that fur is precious and shouldn't be wasted. 

But for the moment, the rabbit lining was limited. One that was made for a raincoat, on the other hand, could also be used in any other raincoat (if buttons were attached in the same places) and even a roomy overcoat. 

The Yves Salomon team showed me a big selection of all the off-cuts they had. (Nothing is ever wasted in a fur atelier - even the tiniest scraps are kept and reworked into a complex patchwork (see image at bottom). Who does this with wool, even the finest worsted or cashmere?)

From this selection, I picked out groups of dark and mid-brown mink. I was interested in mink because it is considered the warmest and most luxurious, but also because it is not as thick as rabbit and the browns would be a nice, subtle lining for this or any other coat. 

We already had a pattern for the liner, because I had the original one from Coherence. So we laid that out and started fitting the different colours of mink into sections (below).

It's a lot easier to make a liner when you have the original pattern like this, and buttons set in the right places. A lot of time is saved in pattern making. I know a reader did this with the PS Trench Coat recently, in the same way.

There were a couple of other unusual things we did to make the maximum use of the fur.

One was to use the full width of the skin, which isn't common with coats because the colour varies from the centre to the edge (see central section below). Most people want a uniform colour, and so skins are normally trimmed, and more used.

The other was to use scraps at the edges and joins in the lining, to help avoid trimming or the use of extra pieces. Given the overall aim of making the most of what we had, both seemed fitting.

The end result (below) was a section of very dark, almost black mink across the top of the shoulders; then a mid-brown area across the middle of the back; and finally darker brown skins on the lower part of the back and the two halves of the front.

It’s not a combination a furrier would ever use on the exterior of a coat. But on the inside I think it's nice, and certainly unique. It has a story and a purpose. 

Covid delayed the result by several months. To the point now where I’m receiving it just as the weather is warming up. 

But many of the workers at Yves Salomon are elderly - often with decades of experience in fine furs - and management were taking no risks at any stage of lockdown. 

Still, it was worth the wait and I’m excited about wearing it this Winter. Fur is wonderfully warm, almost like a radiator under a coat. And it’s nice to feel that this material would have gone to waste otherwise. 

I’ve since learned that the darkest section across the shoulders was the remainder from a customer’s great-grandmother’s coat, and almost 100 years old. Yet it’s still in perfect condition, and now has a new lease of life. 

I’ll post pictures at a later stage of the lining in the coat - perhaps when it’s being worn, in Winter. 

This lining cost £2200 - expensive for a lining, but cheap for mink, as it used up-cycled, mixed female mink. If a customer brings their own fur pieces to be made bespoke into a gilet then the manufacturing price would be around £1,000, depending on the style. A rabbit-fur gilet would cost in the region off £1,250.

Photography: Alex Natt, James Holborow and Jamie Ferguson 

Yves Salomon Resource Pact here

The T-shirt under tailoring

The T-shirt under tailoring

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I’ve never actively disliked T-shirts under tailoring. I just tend not to wear them myself and, when I have seen them worn, I think it can be done quite badly. 

Done well, wearing a T-shirt rather than a collared shirt can pleasingly subvert the formal expectations of tailoring. 

Done badly, it looks like someone trying much too hard to be cool. They’re clearly striving - obviously, consciously - and that’s rarely a good look. 

One helpful way to think about it, I find, is to treat the T-shirt like a crewneck sweater. 

So get a T-shirt that is knitted together (fully fashioned) like knitwear, so the collar will look smarter. And wear colours that are similar to knitwear that works well on its own - cream, navy, grey, brown - as well as standard white.

(There’s a feature on those knitwear colours here. We need to think of a phrase for knitwear worn like this though, on its own, without a shirt collar. Perhaps ‘solo’ knitwear?)

In fact, there’s no reason it couldn’t just be a sweater under the jacket. 

In fine-gauge merino, it would be just as thin as a T-shirt but look smarter. And the long sleeves could avoid that strange feeling of having bare wrists peeking out of jacket cuffs. 

In the outfit above, I’m wearing a navy Anthology cotton T-shirt under the DB blazer. Navy on navy is the easiest combination there is of ‘solo’ knitwear and a jacket, and the T-shirt looks quite smart, being knitted. 

But looking at it now, the look would have been even cleaner with a fine merino crewneck. The collar line would have been finer, and the body smoother. A cashmere could be nice in the winter as well.

I think it’s generally good advice when wearing a T-shirt under a jacket to stick with one of two extremes. Either this smart look of mine - where the T-shirt is basically doing the same role as a formal shirt - or something more casual like Yasuto Kamoshita wears above and below. 

With the casual look, it’s less that you’re swapping a shirt for a knit, and more that you’re wearing a T-shirt and chinos - just with a jacket on top in the same material. 

This is why those suits are often cotton. The T-shirt may be plain, but it can also be coloured or patterned. It’s more likely to be worn in the summer. And the shoes will be similarly casual, either Belgians or trainers.

I like Kamoshita's colour combination below (even if I want to tuck that T-shirt in) and it can also work well with completely unstructured suits, like the Drake’s Games blazer below.

One thing I didn’t notice until I started thinking about this piece, is how many well-dressed men do this look with double-breasted jackets. I thought I was largely alone in thinking that worked better than single-breasted. 

It does make sense though. It’s subtler when a relatively small amount of T-shirt is shown, which is inevitable with a DB jacket. 

Something else that can help is wearing a scarf under the jacket, to fill the neckline. This also adds a touch of dressiness, and is something you could add for a smarter appointment, like drinks outside on a warm Summer evening. 

My favourite pieces for this are my silk Hermes scarves, one of which is shown below. This is also more effective with a double-breasted jacket than single. 

Adding a pocket handkerchief would also add some interest.

Most other points will be pure intuition to PS readers - or at least, obvious once they look in the mirror. 

You don’t want a white T-shirt that’s so thin it's transparent. Oddly, that seems to be a mistake celebrities often make. 

Those actors also have a tendency to wear V-necks, which have the same problem as thin tees: they make you look like you’re wearing underwear. And in any case, unless you have a particularly strong neck and shoulders, a crewneck will be more flattering. 

Lastly, don’t worry about getting the collar of the jacket dirty - something often put to me as the main problem with this look.

Unless you’re wearing it every week, or do so with only pale-coloured jackets, it won’t be a problem. And any small blemishes can be dealt with by dry cleaning. 

Having played around with it, I think I might wear T-shirts under tailoring more. But I’ll wear knitted tees more than regular ones, and knitwear colours more than T-shirt ones. Both will make a difference. 

If I’m honest, I also thought a T-shirt under a jacket would be less flattering on my long neck. But the high collar of the jacket actually means a T-shirt (or crewneck knitwear) looks better on me than otherwise. 

Another good candidate will be double-breasted casual suits, such as my Musella Dembech suit. 

Clothes pictured:

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

Casatlantic ‘Mogador’ trousers: Review

Casatlantic ‘Mogador’ trousers: Review

Monday, May 24th 2021
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These trousers from young brand Casatlantic deserve to be in our chino series (previously Rubato; upcoming Real McCoy’s) by virtue of being cotton twills, in a fairly clean style. 

But they aren’t your everyday, classic chinos. They’re very high rise, with a wider tapering leg, in a slightly unusual material. 

I really like them. But they’re something I think I'll wear as a particular choice, leading the rest of the outfit, rather than an everyday versatile chino. 

They were inspired by the military trousers that founder Nathaniel Asseraf’s grandfather used to wear in Morocco, following the Second World War. 

Although Nathaniel was born in Sweden, and lives in Gothenburg, his family originally came from Morocco. It’s photos of his grandfather’s life in Casablanca, often wearing leftover French and American military clothing, that inspires the look and feel of the Casatlantic brand. 

Although the story actually starts before there was any consideration of Morocco. 

Nathaniel’s day job is working for Broadway & Sons, the longstanding vintage dealer in Gothenburg that was founded by his father in the 1980s. That’s Nathaniel modelling the clothes in many of the shots online

Nathaniel used to wear vintage military trousers a lot - high waisted, wide legged, softened over decades of use - and was asked by friends where he got them. Where they could get them. 

Of course they usually couldn’t, because vintage rarely comes in a range of sizes. So - as the story often goes these days - Nathaniel started looking to see if he could make some himself. 

That was when he found the pictures of his grandfather and his friends. And when he started trying to find a factory in Morocco that could make them for him. 

“When I first started working with this place, the guys were very unsure about the styles,” Nathaniel says. “They would say ‘Are you sure you want them this high? We’re not sure anyone will buy them.’ I had to insist on the height, the width. It was a lot easier knowing the popularity of the vintage styles.”

The trousers that resulted have a rise of 33cm (on the size 30 waist) which is what I would call a true high-rise - right up above the hip bones, on or above the belly button. 

There are three styles, with the biggest difference between them being the leg line. Tanger is the widest (24cm at the hem), Mogador the middle (22.5cm) and El Jadida the slimmer (20.5cm). Pictured in that order, left to right, below.

They’re all fairly generous, and even though it’s the middle option, I’d describe my Mogador as definitely a wide leg. That’s particularly obvious through the knee. Where tailored wide-legged trousers (eg my Sextons here) are pretty straight from the knee down, the Casatlantic ones are tapered, almost pegged. Which does make them look less dressy. 

There are other small differences between the models, with the most obvious with the Mogador being its side adjusters on the hips (not the waist) where the others have belt loops. 

“The original 1930s pair these were modelled on had these low side adjusters and belt loops,” says Nathaniel. “I guess it allowed them to be tightened at the hips, while the belt at the top could be more decorative. I didn’t think most guys would get that today though.”

The lower adjuster functions well, tightening neatly into the side seam. I ended up going for a very snug 30-inch waist, but I also tried a 32, and there the adjuster was very useful. 

That side seam also seems to be set a little forward, which makes the pockets easy to use even though they are cut vertically, into the seam. 

This is a very clean way to design pockets, but when I’ve used it in the past they are uncomfortable to use. Not so here. 

The make is quite simple in general though, which has its upsides and downsides. 

For example, the waistband is made as a single piece, with no seam in the back. This is the way jeans are made, rather than chinos, and looks great but has the disadvantage that the waist can’t be altered easily.

There is also no lining to the waistband - just two pieces of the cotton twill, inside and out - which is a little less stable. Both are used on military trousers I have too, but contribute to a feeling of it being a fairly straightforward, functional make. 

When I spoke to Nathaniel, he did say he was planning to change this: “The new Safi model that’s coming out this week will have a seam in the back of the waistband, and we’ll be using a cotton lining inside too. This is our first collection and we’re still learning a lot from feedback on what people want.”

The trousers currently come in three colours. I bought the white, and loved the sturdiness of the twill, which holds a sharp crease. Cloth is usually the hardest thing to get a sense of online, so it was a great relief.

Apparently the navy and beige are different, though. The cotton is bleached to make the white less ecru/yellow, but dyed for the other two colours, which makes them softer and drapier. 

All three have the nice dry handle Nathaniel wanted though, replicating the feel of new military trousers, which then soften as they’re washed and worn over the years. 

(If any readers are unsure what ‘dry’ means in relation to cloth, imagine something that your hand slides across easily, with no softness, friction or nap to stop it.)

I really like the Casatlantic trousers, but as I said they will be an occasional piece for me, rather than a basic chino. 

I particularly like them as a Summer option, with a polo and deck shoes - as shown. The material has a sailcloth-like feel to it in the white, which makes this style feel particularly appropriate. 

It also means I’m fine with the higher rise. I wouldn’t wear it every day, but as an occasional style option it’s great. I do the same with an old pair of Arnys linen trousers already. 

While we’re talking about high-rise trousers, though, I thought it would be good to illustrate why I find them limiting. 

The images higher up this post show the trousers with a PS Finest Polo untucked, which is natural with knitwear and looks great. The ribbing of the polo covers the waistband, lowering the visible rise by a good five or six centimetres. 

But when something is tucked into trousers this high - and not covered by a jacket or overshirt - the proportions are too unusual for me. The body is just too small; it looks odd.

I’ve deliberately tucked my polo in in the shots above, to illustrate this. Of course, the polo would spill out a little during the day, but those proportions between leg and body are still pretty extreme. And I believe I actually have a fairly low waist compared to the average. 

Nathaniel’s styling of the Casatlantic trousers is fantastic. Even if you don't like the trousers, I think the site and the Instagram account are worth following just for that. I’ve included a few of my favourites above. 

These shots are all of shirts untucked or with knitwear, though. When the shirts are tucked in, it’s not my style. I know it works well for others, but I personally prefer to be less unusual. For the majority of my trousers therefore, I’ll continue to want a lower rise. 

The Casatlantic trousers cost €150. They have recently been restocked, but not all colours will always be available. Nathaniel likes the idea of small batches that are then unique or collector’s pieces. 

A new model is launching on Wednesday, Safi, which will have the slimmer leg of the El Jadida, but side adjusters, on the waistband. 

https://www.casatlantic.com/

@casatlantic_

New comments functionality

New comments functionality

Saturday, May 22nd 2021
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We deployed a new comments interface last night on Permanent Style, with the aim of adding useful functionality.

The new system allows:

Posting of images in comments

These should appear as thumbnails in your comment, once the image is uploaded and we have published the comment. The image can then be enlarged by clicking on it. This will save readers having to post images elsewhere, for example on Flickr, and then linking to them. And make all points easier to illustrate.

Pinning of comments

The PS editorial team will now be able to 'pin' some comments, and their replies, so they always appear at the top of the feed. If readers ask particularly useful questions, or there is an update contained in a comment, we will pin them so that any new readers don't miss them. Do feel free to suggest pins yourself.

Resorting comments

Comments can now be resorted, so the newest appear top rather than the oldest. If you are revisiting a post with a lot of comments, this may well save time.

Better subscriptions

You can now receive alerts when someone replies to your comment, rather than only all new comments on the article. Either or. There is a section to do so at the top of the comments section - called 'Subscribe' - and an option to sign-up to replies when you leave a comment. Hopefully that will make it easier to follow discussions without your Inbox being flooded.

 

I'm sure there will be teething problems with these changes, even though they have been thoroughly tested. Please do let us know what you spot, and we will fix them ASAP.

Do also shout if you have any other suggestions - all these changes were built on previous reader requests. We haven't, so far, been able to add rating systems for each comment, however. And the signing-in options with social media are being added later. Anything else, please say.

Thank you

Simon

Tailoring and milsurp: How to dress like Ethan Wong

 
 
Like many men that feature in this ‘How to dress like’ series, I find the differences between how I and Ethan Wong dress just as interesting as the similarities. In fact more so.

We have similar influences in classic menswear and vintage sportswear. We both love tonal dressing, hats and larger jackets. But Ethan has more Ivy influences, wears high-waisted trousers, and is more likely to combine more unusual pieces (particularly vintage). 

Also, where my aim is generally to be simply well-dressed, to be subtle and refined, Ethan is more experimental and happy to stand out. Age and environment probably have something to do with it, but it’s just as much about personal aims too.

The similarities show we have principles in common – which then makes you respect the differences, and question them. Would I wear white socks with tailoring? Why I don’t wear more patterned shirts? Can I pull off a bucket hat?

I would probably reject the vast majority, but as I’ve written about with fashions, consistently challenging your style in this way is the way to stop it becoming stale.  

Which of course is why I asked Ethan to take part in this series, and explain the combinations in these, some of my favourite outfits. 

For those that don’t know, Ethan lives in Los Angeles and runs his own blog, A Little Bit of Rest, as well as the podcast Style & Direction. He can be found on Instagram at @ethanmwong.

 

 

Outfit 1: Casual suit, white socks

Ethan: “I like this outfit because even though the outfit is tailored, it still feels very casual. 

It helps that the suit isn’t a true dark navy, but the use of a casual shirt and suede loafers helps too. I think the knit tie adds a bit of somberness to the outfit, as well as being a slight Ivy nod; a repp tie or geometric would make it too dandy in my opinion.

The suit is custom from Ascot Chang suit (in Holland & Sherry Crispaire) with a 1950s khaki workshirt, Kamakura knit tie, and Alden x Brogue ‘Harvey’ tassel loafers. 

I’m sure some readers will be unsure about the white socks. Personally I find white socks (and variations of cream and light grey) wonderful! 

I think it’s best to think of them as a way to make tailoring feel and look less stuffy. I’m sure your readers know plenty of menswear guys who do it, and what I’ve found is it tends to go well with casual elements like wider silhouettes or more rugged cloth, like flannels or cotton twill. 

Starting out with jeans, chinos, and odd trousers is a great way to get used to it. Not everyone has to do it with smart tailoring, but I like the feel. I’d definitely avoid actual gym socks though.

 

 

Outfit 2: Casual jacket, bucket hat

“I feel like this outfit is inspired by a few things: a little bit of Drake’s/Aimé Leon Dore, the tonal ideas of Saman Amel or P Johnson, and of course all done in my way, which means a bit more vintage and Ivy. 

The jacket is a Marling & Evans houndstooth from Ring Jacket USA which has a bit of a broad shoulder and a fuller cut. I typically like more contrast with my trousers, but since this was a sunny day (and I was feeling that tonal inspiration), I paired it with these vintage ecru/light khaki Levi’s 501s. 

They’re from the MiUSA [made-in-USA] era, so they have a high rise and straight fit, which I like from a jean. My shirt is a cotton sportshirt (Cuban collar) from the 1940s, though the long points are tucked in to avoid the #menswear ‘runaway collar’ that is often done with similar shirts [where the collar is worn over the top of the jacket’s collar]. To break up the light colours and make the fit more Ivy, I added my cotton Drake’s sleeveless cardigan. 

The shoes are Wallabees from Padmore & Barnes in a light suede to slightly echo the light colours of the rest of the outfit. They also provide an Ivy nod, though are rather contemporary too given how often I see them.

The most unusual thing here is probably the bucket hat. I probably benefit from the fact that I’m still young, so being childlike seems more appropriate!

I think leaning into the fun of an outfit allows you to pull off a bucket hat, echoing the use of white socks. Bucket hat with jeans and sportcoat sans tie? Yes! Bucket hat with a business suit? Probably not. I never liked ballcaps so a bucket hat fills that space for me. I like to figure out if the bucket hat feels natural to the outfit rather than a fashion accessory. 

 

 

Outfit 3: Vintage knit, striped shirts

“I love this outfit. If I remember correctly, I put it together when I was watching The Crown for the first time, so this is probably inspired by some scenes in the 1950s. 

It’s a vintage Brooks Brothers Makers shirt in a bengal stripe, underneath a 1940s sweater vest, with its characteristic close fit and wide ribbing. The outfit continues that tonal feeling I’ve been having, so the navy blue is repeated in a vintage club tie and a wonderfully plush wide-wale cord trouser from Magill

A key part of this outfit I feel is the striped shirt. I think it’s no secret that I have an intense love affair with striped shirts: I find them so much more interesting than plain ones, which I seldom wear outside of casual pieces. If you look at old 1930s Apparel Arts illustrations, you’ll see that many men are wearing striped shirts with seemingly every pattern: geometrics, bold abstract designs, and a plethora of stripes. 

I wear my stripes in the same way, but with a bit of attention to colour. For example I find that blue- or burgundy-based patterned ties go with everything, so that’s what I typically wear, particularly with abstract geometrics and repp stripes/clubs. Navy-based ties are probably best since they’re more versatile and have a much more somber feel.

 

 

Outfit 4: Full cut, alligator belt

“This outfit might be peak Ethan, as in the thing that is most me, at least where tailoring is concerned. 

It’s a contemporary take on vintage tailoring that combines pieces from both eras. The jacket is another one from Ring Jacket USA, this time in a dark-brown plaid made from their proprietary Balloon cloth (a must in Los Angeles). 

The shirt is an old custom piece I got years ago that has the spearpoint collar seen in old films and Esquire magazines; you can see that the taper is much more apparent and it’s shorter than what we saw in the 1970s. 

The tie is a deadstock green polka dot from the 1930s-1940s, which goes wonderfully with the blues and browns of the top half. The elephant-grey trousers are taken from a 1940s gabardine suit and are perhaps my ideal trouser silhouette, despite the fact I don’t own many dress pants in this cut. The shoes are my beloved Alden tassels in Color 8 shell cordovan.

It’s interesting I’m wearing a belt here. When I commission trousers or suits, I typically ask for side adjusters just to keep things streamlined. However, I do like wearing belts! Part of the reason I’ve got one here is that a lot of my trousers are vintage, and belt loops are common: vintage jeans, chinos, and occasional flannel trousers from Polo RL. 

I also like the mid-century charm of a thin, exotic leather belt; this vintage one is alligator, has a one-inch width, and has a fun western buckle. The gabardine trousers have thin dropped loops on a Hollywood waistband, so it was practically begging for this belt! 

 

 

Outfit 5: Western looks and hat angles

“Clearly this was inspired by the Bryceland’s aesthetic, though I’ve owned some of these pieces for a while and have done similar outfits in the past; it could be retroactive! 

My jacket is again from Ring with the trousers a vintage pair of Polo RL flannels in dark green. My shirt is an LVC [Levi’s Vintage Clothing] sawtooth, which certainly brings that Brycelands/Ethan Newton vibe to mind. 

The black fedora is the real star, a custom piece from Wellema Hat Co. It’s my second piece from him, commissioned at the beginning of the pandemic. 

Angling a fedora is a tricky thing and I think it depends not only on the type of fedora, but the outfit you’re wearing. I like wearing my fedoras pointed forward with the brim snapped down when I’m wearing smarter looks; my brown Wellema is perfect for that.  

However, putting that vibe on every outfit feels a bit too much like a Party City gangster, where cocking it back with the brim snapped up feels more western, which is in line with the vibes of this outfit (thanks to the denim shirt). I actually keep this black fedora snapped up for that reason, as that’s how I typically style it! 

 

 

Outfit 6: Casual/tailoring crossover

“Another tonal look! The jacket is a linen ‘chore-blazer’ I got from a random shop during a family trip to Paris. The shirt is a very open, basket-weave style from the 1930s; it’s beat up, so it’s best worn ultra casually with a bit of slouch. 

The wide-legged trousers I bought when I was at university, from an old Uniqlo U collection. They’re a light seersucker in a great shade of brown. The shoes are the Wallabees again and if you look closely, you’ll see that I’ve got on a thin 1960s horizontal striped tie as a belt!

An interesting point here is the parallels between tailoring and casual wear. At one point in my menswear journey, I was convinced that my casual style had to be different from my tailoring style; this is how I got into rugged Ivy, milsurp [military surplus] and workwear. 

Over time however, I realised that my love of tailoring was really about certain details: soft shoulders, drooping lapels, wide hems, a high rise, and clean lines/drape. A lot of those can apply to casual clothing too. 

That was particularly obvious when I worn period-accurate vintage, where sportswear (casual wear) was built on the ideas of tailoring. It was only natural for me to start incorporating them when I wasn’t ‘dressed up’, this time with even more references to milsurp and workwear.

It all points to what I think is the endgame of menswear: the ability to wear anything you want but still have a cohesive style. 

Ethan M. Wong (instagram)

A Little Bit of Rest (blog)

Style & Direction (soundcloud) 

 

Introducing: The Finest Polo

Introducing: The Finest Polo

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This knitted polo we’re launching on the PS Shop today is in some ways just a short-sleeved version of the Dartmoor.

It has the same finest-in-the-world make (hence the name), the same reinforced collar, and the same top-end merino. It is also, it’s important to remember, a piece of knitwear, which has implications for cost and care.

But actually I think it’s more significant than that. It is a truly smart polo shirt that’s incredibly cool in hot weather – and I know so many readers that will benefit from that. 

Dressing elegantly in the heat is never easy, but wear the polo with a pair of crisp linen trousers and loafers - with the option of an overshirt or jacket over the top - and it’s hard to imagine something more relaxed yet elegant.

The most important thing for me about the polo was that it had to be a high-twist merino.

I’ve worn various knitted polos over the years, and never particularly liked the normal options of cotton or silk/cashmere.

Cotton is intuitive, but actually as a knitted polo it tends to be soft and surprisingly warm. Almost cloying. It’s not particularly cool and can lose shape easily.

Silk/cashmere is normally the luxe option, and it does feel lovely. The problem is it’s not that cool, as cashmere is so warm. And the silk tends to add a sheen to the polo that I don’t necessarily want.

A high-twist merino, however, can be knitted openly enough to let through more air than any other fibre (which is the real problem with cotton). It also has a nice dry touch, and keeps its shape well.

The effect is similar to high-twist trousers, which sartorialists will appreciate. With the difference that a polo can use a finer, lighter wool than trousers, so there’s no trade off with texture.

Wool is also, of course, more odour resistant than cotton and dries quicker – both helpful properties in the heat. Combine that with the way it holds a smooth shape, and it’s fair to say high-twist merino ‘performs’ better.   

The only potential disadvantage is care. You can’t chuck it in the washing machine with a bunch of T-shirts – it needs its own delicate cycle. But actually, that’s the case with anything fully fashioned like this, even in cotton.

Design-wise, the thing that stands out most is the collar.

The Dartmoor has proved popular with readers that like a slightly higher, more structured collar. More similar to a shirt, and better under tailoring.

But if anything, the situation with polos is worse than with jumpers or sweatshirts. All knitted polos seem to be made with super-soft, small floppy collars. Which is looks relaxed, and is great if you want something to wear with shorts to the beach; but it’s not an effective partner for tailored trousers.

Last year I wrote a piece about my core Summer wardrobe, which included a navy ‘Adrian’ polo from John Smedley. I like lots of things about that model, but as readers quickly pointed out, the collar is quite unflattering – small and collapsing around the neck.

The PS Finest Polo is very different. Tall at the back like the Dartmoor, sitting proud above the collar of a jacket, and with a generous point (7cm) that perhaps has more in common with the Smedley Isis than the Adrian.

That point is slightly different to the Dartmoor, as I expected it to be worn on its own more often, without a jacket. It’s more rounded, less spread, and has slightly shorter points. For me, the result the perfect mid-point between tiny high-street polos, and the very large, vintage-inspired collars on some classic menswear ones. 

Not too big, not too small. Like so many things we try to design for PS, something distinctive but with only quiet charm. 

The body of the polo is cut slim - like the Dartmoor - and so it’s worth checking the measurements against a polo you already own. You might want to size up if you like a more generous fit.

The sleeve is also a mid-point between contemporary and vintage styles, sitting just over halfway down the arm. The ribbing also causes it to ride up a little when worn, which to my eye is quite flattering.

The ribbing on the body is larger than most (7cm), again like the Dartmoor, making it look that little bit squarer, widening the shoulders, lengthening the legs and so on. This is something most classic-menswear brands seem to do now, whether The Anthology, Bryceland’s or Colhay’s, which is great. It’s a small difference but a noticeable one.

A brief word should be said on the quality of the make.

The Finest Polo is made by Umbria Verde in Italy, who also make for the best designer brands. They are simply the best in class, as can be seen by any examination of the details of the construction.

We’ve gone into this before, on pieces about the Dartmoor and the Finest Cardigan, and all the same elements are present on the Finest Polo. The smaller excess in the seams, the smoothness of the fashioning, the placket sewn in the same direction as the body. They’re all tiny things, but they are the reason the polo feels so different when you feel it and wear it.

If you’re interested in illustrations of those points, have a look at the bottom of the two previous launches, Dartmoor here and Finest Cardigan here

PS products always aim to be the absolute finest quality there is. That means they won’t be affordable to many, but then it’s never possible to cater to everyone. This is our niche: offering elegant clothing that compliments tailoring, made at the same quality as designer brands but rather lower prices. (A similar make to the Dartmoor sells for over £600 elsewhere.) 

The Finest Polo is offered in navy and cream. These, for me, are the most versatile colours in knitted polos like this: navy goes with every colour of pale trouser, cream with every dark trouser.

I particularly enjoy the navy with the white or natural-coloured linen trousers I wear a lot in the Summer (such as the Casatlantic pair pictured higher up). And the cream with many colours of sports jacket as well as with trousers in olive, dark-brown or black (shown with olive-linen shorts from Anderson & Sheppard).

In the other outfit I’m also wearing the navy with a seersucker suit from Dalcuore, a combination which feels wonderfully fresh. It also shows how nicely the collar sits under the jacket. 

Interestingly, I found with that outfit that both brown and black Sagans looked good, with the black just a little smarter and perhaps edgier. 

Above, you can see the cream polo with the brown-linen trousers from my Sexton suit. 

Interestingly, this is one of my favourite colour combinations - cream, brown and black - but whereas last Winter I showed it in flannel, cashmere and cordovan, this Summer it’s linen, merino and cotton. 

The shot below is also good at demonstrating how nice a brown suede blouson or overshirt is with the cream polo. That one is a very lightweight, unlined model from Rifugio

Care

This is not a regular cotton-piqué polo shirt. It cannot be chucked in the washing machine and tumble dried. It is more akin to a fine dress shirt, which needs that bit more care and attention.

The Finest Polo can be washed in a washing machine. But, as with all knitwear, only on a delicate/wool setting. This will usually have the lowest level of spin, 30-degree heat, and minimal agitation during the cycle.

You can also put the knit into a shirt bag or string bag, as is often used for delicates. But this is less of an issue than with heavier knitwear. Wool detergent is the same: nice, but not required.

This also goes for drying. You can dry it flat on a rack, as is usually recommended for knitwear to avoid it stretching. But actually it’s so light that you can drape it over a washing line or wherever you hang your shirts. I’ve done that with my Smedley polos for years and it works fine. 

If the body is a little wrinkly after drying, or the collar a little out of shape, iron it lightly with a cloth on top. I don’t always bother to do so though, given the wrinkles quickly ease out as you wear it.

One other advantage - unlike a cotton shirt, I find I can wear this polo for at least two days before it needs washing. Perhaps not in the hottest and sweatiest of weather, but it never takes on odour in the same way as cotton.

Ordering

  • The Finest Polo is available on the PS Shop now here, priced £185 (plus VAT). Remember, it’s fine merino knitwear, just with shorter arms - not a cut-and-sew cotton polo. 
  • It’s available in navy and cream. The cream is cool, more ecru not yellow. 
  • It is made in fine high-twist merino wool, by Umbria Verde in Italy, and distributed from the UK. 
  • As with all PS products, we offer free returns and exchanges, so feel free to take two sizes to check the fit, and return one.
  • Shipping is charged transparently, at the cost of the courier, rather than being built into the price. 
  • The polo fits slim. The best way to tell which is right size for you is to compare the measurements to a polo you already own. Please do so. 
  • In the pictures I am wearing a Medium. 

Measurements 

Size S M L XL
Length 65cm 67 69 71
Chest 48 50 52 54
Shoulders 38 39 40 41
Bottom width above rib 43 45 47 49
Sleeve length 25.5 26.5 27.5 29
Bicep 16 17 18 19

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt 

Learning to dress my body better

Learning to dress my body better

Monday, May 17th 2021
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I've learnt many things over the past 13 years of writing Permanent Style, but one I've learnt most intimately is how different clothes suit my particular physique, and physiognomy.

This does come up on PS, in articles about collar height perhaps, or trouser rise. But I've never reflected on it as a whole, and I thought it would be helpful to do so - as a specific partner to the more general articles elsewhere.

Let's start with the positive. I am tall, and I am slim. These are probably the most important things in terms of making clothes look good, and I am very grateful for them.

If you are slim, it is much easier to draw a flattering line between your shoulders and your waist. While the shoulders can be more or less padded, widened or roped, there's little you can do to make someone slimmer. 

Even in a shirt or in trousers, it’s that waist that makes the most difference. And you notice this especially as you get older. People often say it, and with good reason: the best way to look good as you age is to stay in shape.

 

The visual advantage of being slim

This is much more important that being toned or muscly. In fact, being too muscular can often undermine the look of clothes - particularly smart ones. 

A jacket is most flattering when it runs sharply from wide shoulders to small waist, and has plenty of length to do so (hence the advantage of being tall). A big chest or big arms just get in the way. 

Even when tailors use drape to accentuate the chest, this is never to distract from the ‘V’ shape of shoulder-to-waist. 

Lifting weights also tends to round your shoulders. It makes the deltoids bigger (on the side of your shoulders) and the top of the trapezius bigger (between your neck and shoulder). But because it can’t move the point of your shoulder bone, making these muscles bigger just makes your shoulders rounded.

In fact, I’ve had tailors tell me it’s just impossible to make someone with a body like that look elegant in tailoring. Elegant being the operative word there.

This is also suggested by history. A quick look at the well-dressed men of the past also shows many were slim, but rarely muscly. They were in shape, but little more.

 

Robert Redford and Paul Newman, in great shape

The negative aspects of my shape tend toward the gangly: sloping shoulders, a long neck, a fairly big head. 

I’ve learnt that because of these, I always look better in something collared, like a shirt or a polo sweater. They encircle my neck and frame the face. 

I do still wear T-shirts, but always with the awareness that I’m giving something up when I do. I rarely wear crewneck sweaters on their own

Cutting out categories of clothing is painful when you love them as much as I do. But over time, as you grow into your style, I find you happily do this in return for knowing that the clothes you’re wearing flatter you. 

This is something else that happens more with age. Even if you stay in shape, things like wrinkles, stooping and exaggerated facial features encourage you to stick with things that bring out your best. It’s the best argument against old men wearing T-shirts.

 

Higher collars (left) suit my neck a bit more than lower ones (right)

When I wear T-shirts, as I said, I’m aware of a trade off. As with most things in menswear, there is no right and wrong here, no should and shouldn’t. Just certain effects created by certain clothes, which you can pick between. 

For example, low collars on shirts are a little less flattering on me than tall ones (see above). But tall collars are usually smarter: a workwear chambray shirt or a flannel overshirt looks silly with a high collar. 

So I either have to not wear that type of shirt, or accept that the collar will be a little less flattering when I do. Sometimes I go with one option, sometimes the other. But in both cases I’m making an educated choice. Not just blindly following a rule. 

Sometimes this trade off is not about good and bad, but good and great. 

For example, I don’t look bad in short jackets, like blousons. Sometimes I even think I look rather good. But my height means that longer coats always add a certain something. They make the most of a natural advantage I have, and usually look better

I choose not to only wear long coats, but I also never miss a chance to wear one when I can.

 

The advantage of length

Other aspects of physique, and their trade offs. 

My legs are a little bit short proportionately compared to my upper body. This means high-waisted trousers are particularly useful, given how much they lengthen the legs. 

But I don’t like high-waisted trousers from a style point of view. They’re too anachronistic without a jacket or knitwear. So there I'm always trading off flattery for style. 

Also my sloping shoulders. Many is the reader that has said I look best in structured tailoring: the thick shoulders of Edward Sexton or the wide ones of Anderson & Sheppard. 

But you can’t wear those jackets with jeans. And I really like wearing jackets with jeans. There’s no better way to enjoy tailoring and dress down. So I’m also happy to trade flattery for style there too.

 

Natural shoulders (left) v padded/extended shoulders (right)

Something no one in fashion really wants to admit is that your face is more important than your body. It’s what everyone is looking at, and it’s what they mean when they say you’re ‘good looking’. 

Unless your aim is to specifically show off parts of your body, clothes should really just be a attractive frame for the face - sending the eye happily upwards to where the action is. 

I raise this because when I look back at old pictures of myself on Permanent Style, the biggest difference I notice is not in the clothes, but the face. (See comparison above.)

I have come to accept that I have very little hair, and that cutting it very short is the best option. It has come down slowly from a grade 2, to 1, to now 0.5. 

I also know that while glasses are a nice style choice, I’m basically better looking without them. And I’ve grown out my beard as well as shaped it better.

 

Then and now: Less hair, more beard, no glasses

Occasionally a reader on PS or Instagram will call me good looking. At that my thirteen-year-old self (which still lives somewhere inside me) laughs out loud. 

I’m not that good looking. Anyone that’s seen my younger brother will know that to be true. He is - as a kind friend once put it - like me just with hair and a chin. 

But I think, over time, I have become good at making the most of me. I know what looks best, and I know what trade offs I’m making, when.

And that’s all any of us can ever do.

Rubato officer’s chinos: Review

Rubato officer’s chinos: Review

Friday, May 14th 2021
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I've come to really like these Rubato chinos, but it’s worth saying from the outset that they're not the originals. 

I had them narrowed after a few weeks, as I found the leg too wide. The change was mostly in the thigh, which went from 33.5cm to 32cm. The hem was narrowed too, but only from 20.5cm to 20cm. 

This was based on the shape of my old Armoury pair, and is what I prefer for casual trousers - I did the same with an old pair of Army trousers last year as well. 

The result, I think, is certainly something that is not slim, but not noticeably wide either. Of course, these things vary between people and over time too, but right now it feels like a good, contemporary line. 

I was a little nervous of slimming the trousers, as I count Oliver (Dannefalk, Rubato co-founder) as a friend and didn't want to offend him. He'd put a lot of thought and work into making these his perfect chino, after all. 

But Oliver was fine with it, indeed encouraged anything that would mean I'd get a lot of use and pleasure out of them. Which I think shows a generous spirit. 

And everything else about the chinos I love. 

The material is a Japanese cotton twill - heavy compared to a lot of mainstream chinos at 335g, but not compared to Japanese/workwear brands. It has a sharpness to it which makes them fairly smart, even if not in the ivory shown here. 

The make is unfussy but neatly done, particularly around the waistband lining and the waist button and zip closure. It all speaks to both quality and attention to detail. They are made in Japan as well as using Japanese cloth.

Interestingly, Rubato describe the trousers as sitting on the natural waist, which I would think would mean above the hip bones (see illustration of what I mean here). 

Actually they sit just below the top of the hip bone on me, which is not surprising given the front rise is 28cm. 

My bespoke dress trousers, by comparison, have a front rise of 30cm, and something I would describe as true high-waist trousers - like those old army fatigues, my Panico trousers, or Casatlantic chinos - have a front rise in the range of 33-35cm. 

Whatever the terminology, this is lucky for me as it’s a rise that works well, being close enough to my bespoke trousers to sit in the same area. 

The chinos have been washed three times so far, and I noticed a small expansion of the waist after the first wash (an inch at the most) but otherwise no change. 

They come unhemmed, and I had them hemmed as well as slimmed by Pinnas & Needles. They came back a bit longer than I had expected, but actually work well turned-up like this for more casual shoes (or maybe espadrilles in the Summer) and turned down for smarter ones. 

Smart loafers like the ones I'm wearing sit somewhere between the two, and I find can be worn with either length. It’s just a different style. I know some will dislike a length like this that is actually floating above the shoe, but it does look more casual and contemporary to my eye. And as I said, easy to change. 

The material does have enough body that you could iron in creases, and maintain them with repressing every two or three wears. It’s not the look I wanted though, and I don’t think there’s much virtue in trying to make them smarter in that way. 

Interestingly, the more I try different types of chinos (and there will be more articles in this area) the more I find they fall into different categories of formality. 

The first we can call workwear chinos. My Armoury ones fall into that category, as do some Real McCoy ones I’ll cover soon. The way I would define this category is that the chinos are just as casual and jeans - and in the same way could be worn with, for example, work boots or a leather jacket. 

These Rubato ones are not that casual. They sit in a ‘smart’ chino category along with the likes of my Stoffa basketweave chinos, which really look best with shoes like belgians, loafers, or slim/simple trainers.

However, personally I don’t think I’d wear them with a jacket. Or at least, not a bespoke tailored jacket, which I’d want to wear done up most of the time. For me, only tailored cotton trousers work there (like these from Dalcuore) and even there I generally prefer wool or linen. 

I can see my opinion being swayed on this though. Because brands I respect style tailored jackets with chinos like this, and because it works OK when the jacket is soft, undone, and worn with some slouch. So perhaps it's just me, or perhaps it depends a lot on the jacket. 

I’ve deliberately shown the chinos with everything Rubato - knitwear and belt - both to show off the overall style, and to discuss knitwear sizing. 

This V-neck is a size Medium. It is just about long enough to work on me, with these trousers; if the rise were even slightly lower, it would not. And even here it can ride up a bit. (Obviously rise is not the only factor - height and torso proportions are relevant too.)

I tried sizing up to a Large for my next purchase, a grey crewneck (below). The length works much better on me there (an extra 1.5cm) but it is much bigger in the chest. In fact it’s large enough to be a ‘look’, I think. Nothing necessarily wrong with that - and the shortness of the Medium is probably equally unusual - but it is a noticeable difference and one that has to be taken into account. 

To complicate matters, Rubato have recently released a new line of cashmere/linen knitwear, in a new 'easy' fit. This style fits bigger, with the Medium I tried comparable to the body size and length my Large pictured above. It is also noticeably wider in the waist. 

All the changes are deliberate, with Oliver and Carl aiming for a more relaxed, slouchy fit. Something that's loose and thrown on easily in the Spring and Summer.

Personally I think I prefer the body shape of the other range, even if I couldn't quite find the perfect length/width combination. But it's early days, and as usual with Rubato, everything else is perfect - the 'earth' colour (below) is unusual yet subtle, and the cashmere/linen is soft and luxurious, yet very lightweight.

In what could seem like a very straightforward category, Rubato keep on producing knitwear that is original and beautiful. Which is probably what keeps me coming back.

The suede belts are also great by the way - a brushed suede that has just a little longer nap than others, giving it a slight velvety feel. It’s also impossible not to like a one-inch width after you’ve chatted to Oliver for a moment or too. 

The only thing I don’t like is the buckle. It’s solid brass, which is the main thing, but I do rather like uncoated brass, for the way it tarnishes over time (and can be polished back up, should you wish). 

As mentioned, I’ll be doing more reviews of chinos soon, including Casatlantic, Blackhorse Lane and The Real McCoy’s. You can also see previous chino articles on The Armoury here, Stoffa here, and Drake’s and Anglo-Italian here

The other things worn in the shoot are:

  • PS White Oxford shirt
  • Socks from Anderson & Sheppard in ‘Chamois’ cotton
  • Belgravia loafers from Edward Green in ‘Mink’ suede
  • Frank Clegg large working tote in ‘Chestnut’ tumbled leather
  • Cartier ‘Chronoflex’ watch in yellow gold
  • The chinos are the Rubato ‘officer’s’ style, size 48

The Rubato officer's chinos are in the process of being restocked, and will be available in new colours. The single-pleat style that was initially on offer will be not be offered again, however.

The chinos cost 2300 kr (£195), the lambswool sweaters 1800 kr (£150) and the cashmere/linen sweater 2380 kr (£236)

www.atemporubato.com

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

Blackhorse Lane made-to-measure jeans

Blackhorse Lane made-to-measure jeans

Wednesday, May 12th 2021
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About two years ago, I started a process helping Blackhorse Lane set up a made-to-measure system for their jeans. 

Some PS readers took part in an early trial, which mostly went well, but several things - particularly Covid - consistently got in the way. I’m pleased to say that now with shops open again, the service has finally launched

From the outset, my advice was not to offer a full bespoke service. Yes, offerings like Lot No.1 at Levi’s are great, where you’re largely starting from scratch and can invent almost anything. 

But what Blackhorse Lane really needed, and its customers said they wanted, was a reliable way to get jeans that fit them better. Not to design something original. 

The way to get this reliability, I felt, was to start with the jeans Blackhorse Lane already sells, and then tweak them. 

BHL already offers most shapes, rises and sizes as part of its collection. So a customer that comes into the shop can try several rises and find one that’s very close to what they want. They can do the same with the width of the leg, as well as the amount it tapers, and therefore the opening at the hem.

They can effectively put together the fit and style they want from everything that’s on offer - and make minor adjustments where necessary. 

The shop (in Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross) also has a huge range of denim on display. So you can pick your material from a made-up pair of jeans as well, rather than a swatch. 

All this should help bring the customer’s expectations and the final result closer together. And therefore make it more likely the customer will go away happy. 

(It always surprises me when an MTO or MTM service doesn’t have a big range to try on, like this. They should really invest in one, and learn from examples of companies like Stoffa - who will usually have every model, cloth and size on display, even if not your particular combination.) 

 

 

As part of the final test for this Blackhorse Lane service, I had a pair made which were then featured in the marketing video above. 

We started with my favourite style, the NW1. Size 32 fits me on the hips and seat, while a 31 is perfect in the waist. So we used the 32 as the model, and matched the waist from a 31. We also raised the front rise a tiny bit, around a centimetre. 

I liked the leg line, which tapers slightly but is fairly straight from the knee down. However I was interested in trying it a touch wider. So we added 1cm to the width, mindful that it would be easy to remove that later (but impossible to add it).

And then we chose the denim. I wanted to try the brighter blue of the Turkish organic denim, particularly having seen how it faded on another customer’s pair. (Having more such jeans on display is another thing I’m encouraging BHL to do - adding yet one more area of predictability.)

The final jeans were great. A tiny bit tighter in the hips than my other NW1s because of the denim, but everything else exactly as expected. 

The service costs £450, with a surcharge of £50 for some rare denims. Once the personal pattern is created, any subsequent pairs are £375. 

This is still obviously expensive, but it's not much more than other premium, ready-made denim, and it's not hard to make a decent cost-per-wear case for great jeans.

The process involves an initial appointment in the store, where models are tried on, adjustments agreed, and the order placed. Usually this is with Lilly who is the pattern cutter at the factory (shown below). 

She makes the unique pattern at the factory in Walthamstow, the jeans are put together, and after three weeks there is a second appointment where they are hemmed (while you wait) to the length preferred. You then walk away with them. 

Currently the service is only offered in store, in person. Repeat customers could potentially be serviced online, but given the whole experience is centred around trying everything in-store - and the predictability that results - it doesn’t make sense to do it remotely while possible. 

Note that you can also request some style changes to the jeans, such as different threads or rivets, a zip fly instead of a button fly, or a vegan patch instead of leather. I will also make sure to photograph my pair sometime soon, to show how those worked out.

There are more details on the Blackhorse Lane MTM service on their site here. Appointments can be made by emailing [email protected] 

By the way, it’s worth saying that I have no commercial interest in the success of this service. Blackhorse Lane say they are likely to want to advertise at some point, which would be nice, but that’s it. My reward was a lovely pair of jeans.

More details on these kind of relationships on this page of PS, as always. 

Clothing worn in the video: Liverano ulster coat, Begg & Co scarf and PS grey watch cap

Video: Itch Media

Viberg Service Boots: My choice of work boot

Viberg Service Boots: My choice of work boot

Monday, May 10th 2021
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During the past Winter, I was vaguely looking to replace my longstanding work boots from Wolverine (above)

They’d done great service: on long country walks, camping in different parts of the country, and just going to the local park in rain, mud and snow. 

But after 11 years the upper wasn’t in great shape, and the Wolverine make isn’t really on a par with the other shoes and boots I have. So I was looking to trade up. 

It was an interesting journey, as it always is when you explore a new category of clothing (or indeed anything you enjoy) and I spoke to friends that were consumers, friends that were retailers, and a journalist or two. 

I ended up settling on a pair of Viberg service boots (below) in a Horween brown Chromexcel. Seven eyelets, 2030 last, natural midsole, brown waxed laces and a stitchdown construction. As classic as it comes from Viberg. 

In fact, a lot of what convinced me was the quality and approach of Viberg itself. So it’s probably worth explaining those, as well as giving some context of the work-boot category as a whole.

Not everyone likes the name ‘work boot’, but for a Permanent Style reader, I think it’s pretty apt. 

Because what we’re talking about are boots that originated as equipment for proper heavy-duty work, and from companies that largely still make that kind of footwear. 

This doesn’t really apply to any of the other brands we cover on PS. Someone like Tricker’s might be known for its boots, but they’re country footwear, not workwear. Harrison Ford might have built houses in Alden Indy boots, but the company is still arguably (and I expect argument here) a dress-shoe maker that also offers nice boots. 

Work-boot companies like Red Wing, Whites or Wesco, on the other hand, made and make boots for logging, firefighting and ranching. Physical labour that requires a type of make. 

What does this mean in practice? A chunky sole, certainly, but a thick midsole as well - sometimes a double one. Heavy, usually oiled uppers. Often a steel shank. 

In terms of style it usually means a wider welt, a rounder toe, and sometimes white stitching or a natural mid-sole that separate the boot even further from the high-end makers we know. 

The attraction to the lover of dress shoes is that these companies often still make along heritage lines, which means quality materials (eg full-grain leathers) and toughness through materials, rather than more steel or composites etc.

They’re boots that are still well made, but which you can camp in, climb in, and do similar outdoor activities. 

Of course, the make depends a lot on the brand. And this is how I see the market (thanks to all those that provided information, experience and opinions here - and to readers that will doubtless chip in with their tuppence-worth now):

  • Entry level is brands like Wolverine, Red Wing, Thorogood and perhaps Thursday boots. The latter is a newcomer, the others have history, but they’re all tough and very serviceable, with prices ranging around £200 to £300. 
  • The higher quality work boots come from the likes of White’s, Wesco and Nick’s Boots. These are a different quality level, pretty much indestructible, with double midsoles and huge leather footbeds. Prices rather higher, around £500 to £600. 
  • Viberg is more expensive still, around £700, and arguably out on its own. This is because they use finer materials (more calf, more Stead suede), and because there’s a more obvious push to offer more everyday, leisure styles. Which isn’t really what I was looking for, but more on that later. 

Of course, the irony with comparing work-boot brands like this is that most of the time, fineness of make or materials doesn’t really matter. 

The only thing the customer of a real work boot cares about is whether they’re comfortable to wear all day, protect the feet from everything, and last a really long time. It doesn’t matter if the sewing is a little wobbly.

The leisure customer might care more though - as well as caring about the style. Almost on the point of principle: they buy the best quality in everything else, so why should this be any different?

I won’t go into a lot of detail on Viberg, as that could be a whole post on its own (and it’s maybe an interesting one for those I know in Northampton, as much as consumers). But I’ll briefly explain why I liked the Service Boot

Compared to a lot of work boots, it is made on a fairly slim last - the 2030, which owner Brett Viberg created in 2010 in the process of redefining the styles Viberg offered. (Brett is grandson of the Viberg founder.)

It also has a fairly low toe - not that far off the ground - which of course is called ‘spring’. Dress shoes vary in how much they have too, but it varies particularly in work boots, with some almost comically turned up (see the 310 boot). 

Viberg boots had always been made with a fairly slim waist, in order to give greater support to the arch over hours of hard wear, and the combination of this with the new slim last created a Service Boot which it was much easier to wear outside work.

The result still looks very different to anything else we’d normally cover on PS. The toe box is still wider and higher. It’s a stitchdown construction, which you never get with dress shoes. And the Chromexcel leather of course starts looking oily and only gets more so, fading and creasing.

But as an option to wear outdoors, with the kind of chinos, sweatshirt and gilet sold by The Real McCoy’s and many others, it’s perfect. 

The Viberg website is a little confusing, and personally I find the styles less appealing the further they get away from work boots - there are derbys, slippers and even trainers. 

I did try a few other styles, including the chelsea boot and hiking boots, but only found the Halkett as another style I liked (below). It’s Goodyear-welted, and is a newer model aiming at a more urban customer. 

The Halkett is nice, particularly in this ‘bitter chocolate’ grey/brown colour. But although welted, it still has the toe shape of a work boot to my eye. Which is not what I want from Viberg. I’m happy with my outdoorsy trade up. 

Other clothes pictured:

Camping shot:

viberg.com

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

Layering and accessories for cold Spring days

Layering and accessories for cold Spring days

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Back when these things were possible, I remember an American friend visiting in the Spring and asking: “How on earth do you dress for this weather? I can see my breath in the morning, but my midday I’m roasting and can barely wear a jacket.”

We’ve been going through such days again in the UK recently. I’m no meteorologist, but it seems the combination of cold air (winds from the North or East) and hot sun (given the time of year) mean it can be freezing until the sun gets up, then boiling when it is. 

Dressing for such weather can be frustrating, particularly if you’re a traveller and thought carefully about packing for every eventuality. 

I was thinking about this recently when we toured London for our recent series of articles on great shops - which is the outfit pictured here. 

Alex and I were having coffee at the Allpress on Redchurch Street, and alongside the fascinating variation in style you get around there (business, fashion and defiantly anti-fashion) there was a broad range of choices for the Spring weather: some guys in T-shirts, others in coats. 

I find a better approach is to dress in layers, with heavy fabrics for the basic pieces (jacket and trousers) which avoid the need for a coat. The last thing you want is to be carrying a coat over your arm all day. 

In this case the jacket was navy Fox lambswool, an overcoating material at 20/21oz, made up by Solito. I wouldn’t actually recommend something this heavy for a jacket, and regret it slightly: 16-18oz would have been better, with almost as much heft but much more pliable. But it does come into its own on days like this.

The trousers were brown corduroy from Brisbane Moss, made up by Whitcomb & Shaftesbury. They too are very heavy, at 19/20oz, although I don’t regret those - the weight has perhaps more benefits in a trouser, giving them a fantastic shape.

The advantage of these weighty cloths is that even on a brisk, chilly morning, they are very effective wind breakers. It’s that northerly air that’s going to make you cold, and these stop it. 

The rest of the job is done by layers and accessories. 

The shirt itself (Bryceland’s Sawtooth) is pretty heavy, but it’s reinforced by a vest underneath (Lee Kung Man, also Bryceland’s). And if needed, that vest can easily be removed. 

In fact, a more practical option there would be a sleeveless cardigan, in that it would provide more warmth and be easier to take off. But that probably wouldn’t have worked so well with the outfit (more country, less western). 

The scarf and watch cap protect the remaining areas exposed to the cold - the head and neck - and can of course themselves be easily removed. Indeed, the scarf can even be pleasingly stuffed into a jacket pocket, keeping its colour and pattern on display. 

Also, while I certainly didn’t think about this at the time, a silk scarf works particularly well because silk is such an effective wind-breaker. It’s not as warm as wool or cashmere, but its density makes it great at blocking cold air (the reason they were often worn by cyclists).

By the middle of the day, having lunch at Morris’s on Clifford Street, the scarf was in the pocket and the watch cap folded in a bag. 

It was decidedly warm, even in the shade. Although the necessity of sitting outside (still required in the UK at the moment) meant I was still grateful for the heavy jacket and trouser cloth, whenever a cold wind whipped around the corner of Bond Street.

It’s also occurred to me while writing this piece how I often dress in such combinations. See examples below from Stockholm in the Autumn (watch cap in the bag at that point) and Florence in the Winter. 

That might also be motivated by the fact that, on a long day of visits, whether to shops or stands, it’s a pain to have more than one outer layer. So it’s a jacket or an overcoat, not both. 

Threat of rain would necessitate a lightweight raincoat that could be rolled up into a bag, perhaps. And a brimmed hat that would be better in that case at protecting the head.

Clothes in the main outfit, with links to more details:

And accessories:

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

Both chic and bold: How to dress like Angel Ramos

 

Although Angel Ramos and I have only met a few times, we’ve always seemed to have something in common when it came to styles we liked.

Angel wears slippers a lot, and has more of a tendency towards bright colours and patterns. The overall image is perhaps louder. But there are a lot of similarities too: tonal dressing, black, cold shades of brown. And overall an emphasis on casual chic, with polo shirts and roll necks rather than printed ties and pocket squares. 

Angel is the co-founder of 18th Amendment, a brand in New York that grew out of his previous tailoring enterprise, Angel Bespoke. I haven’t tried the clothes, so can’t comment on them, but perhaps that’s the next step. It was certainly lovely talking to Angel for this, the latest in our series of ‘How to dress like’ articles.

This series counts as a Guide on PS, within the category of Style that you can see in the menu above. Perhaps have a look at a few others you might find interesting, including ‘The Essentials’ and ‘Summer’.

After all, it was only a couple of weeks ago that several readers said they didn’t realise there was a Lookbook section to the site. 

 

 

Outfit 1: Simple

Angel: “I love this outfit because of its simplicity. It’s something a modern-day gent could see and feel they could wear: not something they’d feel only someone in the industry could pull off. These are fresh tones, and it looks modern. 

Off-white is such a favourite colour of ours – it’s literally in every season. It’s been a go-to for me for years and something I pair with everything. Here I’m wearing an off-white polo from our Fall/Winter MTO collection with a pair of medium-grey high-twist trousers, in our normal full fit and higher rise, and a pair of slippers, which is typically my go-to as well. 

When it comes to this ideology of simple dressing, I say having the proper knitwear is crucial. The proper polo paired with trousers can look just beautiful – sometimes a jacket just isn’t required. 

 

 

Outfit 2: Black

I love this dark-toned ensemble (coat, knit and trousers are all black) because regardless of what the world of menswear says, I think black is absolutely chic and modern. Black in my opinion has been rather stigmatised in menswear, despite being embraced by high fashion. 

When I started in the business more than 10 years ago I also abided by the law of “black is for weddings and funerals” but the more I built my own world aesthetically, the more I liked its elegance and wanted to show it in ensembles that were not just formal. 

I particularly like using black alongside bold patterns, as with the jacket here, rather than just wearing black suits. It’s also worth remembering that as a bigger guy it really does flatter you. 

The sports jacket is my all-time favourite, in an exploded Prince-of-Wales fabric. I grew up with a mom that was a seamstress and dressmaker, and she would reupholster furniture in our house with bold fabrics, like this one. I’ve always liked to pay homage to her. 

The other things I’m wearing are our house version of a chesterfield overcoat (we named it the Lucky Coat, after Luciano) and a pair of classic flannel trousers in Fox cloth.

 

 

Outfit 3: Tonal

“This outfit was a full look from our 2020 Fall/Winter MTO collection. Camel overcoat in our house interpretation of a polo coat, rust-tweed sports jacket, with none other than the off-white polo and some flannel trousers. 

Tonal looks like this have always been a favourite of mine because they’re so clean and easy to do. And it’s simple to swap the jacket for a bolder one when you want a real storyteller piece. Tonal also conveys a level of elegance and chic that seems to go well with my personality of being insanely outgoing and gregarious. 

Looking at it now, this outfit reminds me of a proper Autumn in New York. The tones recall a drive out into the Catskills, still of course smoking a proper cigar. 

 

 

Outfit 4: Checks

“This is probably my second favourite sports jacket! It’s a Highland tartan that contaings absolutely stunning tones of cream, camel and red. It’s something I often reach for in the Fall and Winter. Here I paired it with a black cashmere turtleneck, and my favourite winter trousers: 590 grams of proper flannel from Fox in a medium grey. 

I think this outfit shows how I tend to balance bold jackets with simplicity elsewhere. You need to allow the jacket to tell its own story, not competing too much with everything else. Or put another way, I want to embrace boldness while not feeling like I’m just trying to look like a clown. 

Although, I don’t consider off-white trousers to be bold and often wear them with bold blazers like this. It’s become my go-to trouser every season in the collection. It’s my personal pair of sweat pants, lol. Some do grey trousers with everything, we do ivory. 

 

 

Outfit 5: Brown trousers

“I love the idea that you can take something classic and iconic, and modernise it. Like the navy blazer with gold buttons. 

Many gents think it’s something only their granddad wore, but it’s great with a light-denim shirt like this linen and cotton, chocolate-brown linen trousers and my favourite Belgian loafers. This is our classic navy travel blazer, in a high-twist wool. It’s brilliant, it just goes with everything.

When it comes to brown trousers, I personally think you can pair them with several shades of brown, black (depending on the season) and pattern if that’s something you’re into. 

Brown trousers for me are more of a Spring/Summer thing, so I wear them with other shades of a brown or a natural slipper. It does also look great in colder weather, with for example a black oxford shoe; that’s just something I tend to wear. 

eighteenthamendment.com

 

 

Photography: Milad Abedi, Robert Spangle and 18th Amendment

Dalmo made-to-measure cashmere

Dalmo made-to-measure cashmere

Monday, May 3rd 2021
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In recent weeks we’ve talked about hand-framed knitwear - the slow knitting process used on knits like the Stoffa ribbed polo and the Saman Amel cricket sweater

I’ll do a more in-depth piece on the process later, but today I wanted to add one more producer to that list: an Italian family-run company called Dalmo, based in Tuscany. 

Dalmo’s main business is making for other people. They are the kind of small workshop that produces top-end knits for luxury brands such as United Arrows and Rubinacci, as well as for smaller operations such as Brio in Beijing, or Sartoria Corcos. 

But they also sell under their own name, and offer a remote made-to-measure service of sorts. It was this offering that I tried, and which produced the grey crewneck pictured above. 

The workshop is small, with 10 people working seven looms or other machines. They do hand-framed knitwear and hand-woven scarves - which use similarly sized, old machines - as well as some actual hand knitting. 

You can see two of the women hand knitting above. Often when big brands say something is hand knitted, they mean hand framed (below). To an extent this is understandable, as the effect is similar, with both creating a more spongy, malleable feel than regular knitwear. Hand knitting is further along the same spectrum.

The workshop was set up by Lorando Dalmo in 1950, inspired by his mother’s knitting, and in the following decades he made for brands such as Ferragamo, Trussardi and Sacks Fifth Avenue. 

In 2000, the next generation took over, and focused the business on just hand-made knitwear in luxury materials. That's mostly Loro Piana yarn, but also cashmere/silk, vicuna, and in Summer linen, Peruvian pima cotton and makò.

Today Clotilde Dalmo, Lorando’s granddaughter, runs the social media and handles individual customers, like those looking for made to measure. 

I was recommended Dalmo by a friend, and asked Clotilde about making an MTM sweater for me. 

She initially suggested I send body measurements, but in my experience it's more reliable to use existing knitwear and tweak it, largely because most guys have little experience with commissioning knitwear (unlike shirts or suits). 

I find it’s better, therefore, to either try something the brand already has, or measure knitwear you already own and consider what you would change. Clotilde was happy to do this - the MTM service is pretty informal at this point, and operating mostly over Instagram. 

She sent me a crewneck in a size 40, which turned out to be a pretty good fit, and I just requested the waist to be narrowed by 4cm (in width, not circumference), the sleeves to be shortened and the collar to be slightly smaller. All were based off measurements I took of other knits I own. 

The knit I received three weeks later was beautiful, but had a small error with the width in the waist. It looked like 4cm had been added, rather than taken away. 

Clotilde was very apologetic, and said she suspected it was down to the fact a different woman had made the new piece than the sample, because so many have had to self isolate during Covid. Which is pretty understandable. 

A new piece was made, received another two weeks later, and was perfect. It is pictured here: a fairly heavyweight crewneck, in four-ply cashmere from Loro Piana. The hand feel really is lovely, probably the nicest feeling knit I have alongside the Saman Amel covered recently

Given the weight and brand of the yarn, it was towards the top end of Dalmo’s range, at €540. The cheapest is €215 for a summer-weight polo. 

Most people, even those that have only MTM tailoring or shirts, are fine without MTM knitwear. They just need to find a brand that fits fairly well, whether that’s a little slim or a little big. 

But for those that like these things more precise, or are particularly tall and slim, for example, there are few hand-framed or hand-knitted options. I tried Licia Luchini for hand knitting last year, but it wasn’t that successful. And brands like Stoffa or Saman Amel do it, but only in their particular designs. 

I’m pleased therefore Dalmo worked out well, and I can recommend them. It’s also a lovely workshop and team of people. I’m considering next either a fully hand-knitted piece or a hand-framed Summer one.

Clotilde is in the process of setting up a website to make ordering easier, but in the meantime anyone can contact her on Instagram @dalmocashmere, or email [email protected]

In the images here, I’m wearing the knit with:

Other made-to-measure knitwear we’ve covered, for comparison, includes:

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

Spring/Summer Top 10: Chores, shirts and sweats

Spring/Summer Top 10: Chores, shirts and sweats

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1. Drake’s bright-red suede chore jacket

£1195

I’ve been asked a few times over the years about these suede chore jackets from Drake’s. Personally I tend to prefer blouson styles, and chore coats in cottons, particularly vintage ones. But since getting this a month ago I’ve become a convert, largely for the lovely feel of the heavy suede. 

I also loved the bright red. This might seem like an unusual choice, but I already had a Mont St Michel cotton in red, so I knew I’d like the colour with casual things like jeans and workwear chinos. And that’s how I’d wear this style of jacket - not with flannels or any smarter cottons. 

Unfortunately I had quite a lot of colour transfer with the jacket, with the red rubbing off on my jeans and sweatshirt. It all came out in the wash, but I took it back to Drake’s to get the inside rubbed down and treated (with a suede protector) and that largely got rid of the issue. They've now done this on all stock, but be aware there will still be a little transfer. The size shown is a 40.

2. Michael Browne mockneck 

£525

It might seem odd to include a mockneck in a Spring/Summer piece, but Michael Browne specifically designed this knit to be worn most of the year, as the lightest version of this style you can find. 

Made in a fine merino and silk, it’s certainly lightweight - I barely noticed I was wearing it the few times I have. It comes in cream and navy - I took the navy, in medium.

And in any case, Michael deserves a shout-out for launching his own website selling accessories and clothing in his impeccable style. It launches tomorrow here

3. AWMS: The beret

£59

This is another unlikely inclusion in a Spring/Summer write-up. My only excuse here is that Tony has just released them, and I wanted to cover it.

Tony is Tony Sylvester, whom readers may well know from his Instagram presence (@toneloki), work for Timothy Everest, and writings for various publications. He has started offering a small number of products that he loves, but finds difficult to source. These include leopard-print slippers, and now this beret.

It is strikingly different to most berets in being 'short flight', which means the volume of the beret is small, sitting close to the head. I find this easier to wear, and it avoids some associations, particularly military ones.

It is also, - I know Tony won't mind me saying - pretty rough and ready. The wool is not the finest, and nor is the make inside. But that is reflected in the price, and is what Tony wanted. 

4. Allevol T-shirts

£60

I tried one of these T-shirts from Allevol recently - a Japanese brand run by Taka Okabe of Clutch Cafe. They’re great in the same way as many other Japanese tees: circular knitted and heavy weight, but also have the same slight drawbacks of being slightly short and square in fit. 

The cotton, however, is quite dense, which I know some readers will prefer to the looser, slubbier feel of the Warehouse ones I’ve mentioned before. That knit also seems to mean they lose their shape less. 

Size-wise, I find I’m a little between sizes, liking the chest of the large, but waist of the medium. I ended up with the medium, and I think that was the right call. 

5. Husbands ‘Boy Scout’ shirt

€240

One of best ways to dress down tailoring is wearing casual shirts. Unfortunately while there are lots of denim shirts out there from tailoring brands, and the occasional chambray, there’s little else. 

Which is why I like this ‘Boy Scout’ shirt from Husbands in Paris. It’s made in a casual cotton twill that softens nicely with washing, and this shade of khaki - particularly as it fades - is quite a versatile one under tailoring, while remaining obviously casual. 

The proportions of the shirt aren’t perfect for me, but then they rarely are with RTW shirts. I just dart the waist and make sure the shoulders fit and the sleeves are long enough. Here I took a 15.5” neck. 

6. White socks: Tabio and WigWam

£35 and €22

As white socks have become more fashionable in recent years, I've had quite a few questions about my favourite pairs. My favourite cotton ones remain the AnonymousIsm ones recommended in the Autumn/Winter version of this list.

I know some people prefer wool socks though, particularly if their feet tend to cold rather than hot. In that case the best I've tried are Tabio wool rib ones, currently available at Trunk (above). The white is just the right shade of off-white, and the wool is fine enough that they feel lovely on the feet.

If you wanted more of a classic Ivy look, you'd want a wider rib than those Tabio ones. Perfect in that regard are WigWam sports socks, which Beige in Paris is stocking.

They are the original Ivy sock, and unsurprisingly are therefore the perfect rib and colour. But they are pretty rough too, and 37% nylon. I'm sure some will like the authenticity and the fact they're made in the US, but I found them uncomfortable and mention them only by way of contrast.

7. Colhay’s merino sport shirt

£165

Ronnie at Colhay’s has just released his first Spring/Summer collection, and my favourite is the short-sleeved knit. 

It’s heavier than most short sleeves like this, but that has the advantage that you can wear them more into the Spring and Summer. And the colour selection overall is perfect - navy, cream, dark brown and dark olive. 

Fit-wise, I found this easier to fit than the knitwear. I was a solid 40, whereas with the other knits I find I’m between a 40 and a 42. 

8. Casatlantic Mogador cotton trousers

€150

This is only a brief mention, as I will do a fuller review piece on these trousers soon - many readers have been asking for one. 

In brief, I’d describe the Casatlantic trousers as being very high rise (34cm at the front), in a great cotton that’s sturdy yet not rough, and with a wide leg throughout the three models that largely just tapers more with the different styles. 

I took the Mogador in a size 32 in white, as for me they will be an occasional summer trouser, to wear with an untucked polo and canvas shoe or espadrilles - rather than an everyday chino.

9. RRL hand-knitted ranch cardigan

£1305

I have a real weakness for these cardigans, I think because they combine the menswear classic that is the shawl-collared cardigan, with a freedom to wear wildly different colours and patterns. 

I bought this one this season as a treat to myself (even though I know I should wait until the sale with most RL) safe in the knowledge that I know I’ll get a lot of wear out of it, given how much I love my navy one and cream one

I found the weight was also good, which was nice because summer-weight ones are often pure cotton and too heavy as a result. This is a mix of linen, cotton and wooI. I took a medium.

10. The Real McCoy's quarter-zip sweatshirt

£225

Regular readers will know I like a knit with a collar whenever possible. This is tough with sweatshirts (unless you get a hoodie) as there are few of them around. I have an old one from The Flat Head, but it doesn't seem to be available any more.

Fortunately, The Real McCoy's have started regularly restocking the style above, which I really like. It's relatively lightweight for a traditional sweat (9oz) but the loopwheel cotton is great, and the collar does that thing my Stoffa polo never quite does, which is stay up at the back (if you want it that way) but fold gracefully down at the front.

If you already have more than enough grey sweatshirts, try this 'milk' colour. Not something to wear with kids around or while eating pasta, but surprisingly easy to wear for something that is white, not cream. I have that colour, size medium.

Photography: Brands own, Permanent Style, or Alex Natt @adnatt

Massura made-to-measure jacket: Review

Massura made-to-measure jacket: Review

Wednesday, April 28th 2021
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Massura is a German tailoring outfit run by Moritz Kossytorz, based in Munich but using a tailoring workshop in Naples. 

The style and make of the tailoring is not much different to other Neapolitan tailors, but I think Massura is worth highlighting for two reasons. 

First, there are few such places in Germany, and Moritz serves Cologne and Dusseldorf as well as Munich. (Plus travelling to Zurich and London.) 

Second, the services he offers are cheaper than most, with a handmade made-to-measure (MTM) suit starting at €1600 and bespoke at €2500. The structures are also unusual, with RTW made to the same standard as MTM. 

I tried the MTM service, with one fitting in person and two over video/email. 

The result was good in many respects, but there were substantial issues with the balance and shoulders at the back of the jacket. 

One thing I can say about Moritz, however, is that he is very keen to avoid the trap of being a new, relatively cheap tailor that tries it for a few years and then disappears. He is aware of the dangers and talks of a ‘very German’ approach to business and customer service.

He has fixed jackets for other clients a few months after they were delivered, and is keen to work on this with me later on. Hopefully when we can see other again in person, rather than over Zoom. 

Still, for the moment I felt it was fair to review the jacket as it is, given the fittings we had (MTM is normally just one) and Moritz (below) agreed. I will follow up later on in the year if the jacket is altered. 

The levels of tailoring at Massura are not standard, and should be described first. 

Bespoke is as normal: full hand make, finishing and padding, with a unique pattern with no limit on fittings. Jackets start at €2000 (all including VAT), suits at €2500. More expensive cloths can add up to €200, but no more.

Made-to-measure, however, is probably closer to semi-bespoke. Most of the making is the same as bespoke. The only difference is that the internal work - the padding and so on - is not as precise, some hand finishing is left off the outside, and some ironwork is skipped. Overall, it apparently takes 30% less time. 

The big difference with MTM is the fit. This is done using a block pattern - a ready-to-wear shape - and then adjusted as much as possible. There is also normally only one fitting. It starts at €1200 for a jacket, €1600 for a suit.

Then there’s RTW, which is made to the same level as MTM. This was launched last Spring, and this year there will be an MTO version of it too - basically, RTW but with the ability to pick cloth and make simple changes like sleeve and body length. 

Perhaps most surprisingly, the RTW and MTM are priced the same, with no extra charged for the fitting and re-cutting (plus travel) of MTM. 

I was interested in trying the MTM option, as we’ve been focusing on offerings like this recently - examples have included Edward Sexton, The Armoury and Anglo-Italian. While I will always prefer bespoke, I wanted to better cover these more accessible services for readers. 

The fit of the Massura jacket I think reflects the fact that MTM starts from a RTW block.

Tailors often say I am deceptively difficult to fit. I have fairly regular proportions in terms of chest, waist and height, and these can often lead to a clean look in the front of the jacket (as here). 

The biggest issue at the front is my sloping shoulders, and having the right shoulder slightly lower than the left. This can lead to a slight collapsing under the arms, particularly on the right. Moritz actually dealt with this fairly well. 

The difficulty comes at the back. My (relatively) long neck, pronounced shoulder blades, hollow lower back and pronounced seat mean that the back of the jacket is more of a challenge. At the very least it has to be a lot longer than the front, to get up and down all those curves.

This seems to be where the Massura MTM had difficulty, and there are issues around the back of the shoulder and armhole, where things are collapsing. 

The jacket does appears to have become crumpled somehow during wear, and the collapsing is exaggerated rather by the sunlight. But the photo does accurately show where the issues are. 

There were a couple of other small issues, such as the left sleeve being longer than the right still. And it could do with more overlap in the vents. 

But at this point I’m judging it against full bespoke tailoring, which is not fair. Despite the extensive handwork in this jacket, it is definitely made to measure. 

Compared to other MTM I’ve had, this sits somewhere below average. The fit in the back was much better on the best examples we’ve covered, such as Saman Amel, Jean-Manuel Moreau and The Armoury

It’s probably worth repeating the point about handwork, because it may be this is what some Massura customers buy the tailoring for. 

After all, it’s hard to find handmade RTW tailoring, and the MTM might suit some people better than me, if they’re a better fit for the block. The upcoming MTO is yet one more handmade option. 

There are all the functional points mentioned above - hand-padded collar, canvas and so on - plus the finishing inside and outside is good quality for Naples. Not with the finesse of London or Milan, but with nice top stitching throughout the inside and on the lapped seams outside. 

Readers have asked a lot about video fittings over the past year, and with Moritz I did have the second fitting over Zoom, plus a third set of changes following some photographs sent by email. 

Those didn’t improve the jacket a lot, but it’s impossible to know whether that was related to them being online or not. Fittings in person will always be better of course, but for me to rate the effectiveness of video I’d really have to try something purely online. 

Moritz also made it very clear that, whenever physical fittings weren’t possible, an unlimited number of video fittings were available - to try and make up for the lack of meetings in person. I know some other customers have gone this route.

In any case, hopefully the easing of lockdowns over the rest of the year will make this point less relevant. 

The cloth, by the way, is a lovely tweed from Abraham Moon called 'Lichen'. I have plenty of darker tweeds, so was looking for something more vibrant, that would be a nice match for stronger colours like my bespoke shoes from Nicholas Templeman worn in these photos. 

It’s a mid-weight lambswool twill, 375g, and has code PL375 2010-27.

The other clothes are a shadow-stripe oxford shirt made by D’Avino, and my Richard James cavalry-twill trousers. The latter really are an excellent fit and make - Ben and his team did a great job. I only wish they were in a colour I wore more often. 

I elected not to wear a pocket square with this outfit, as I felt the lines and colours of the other clothes were so nice together, and the square might have been a distraction. 

But in retrospect it would have looked better with some silk in the breast pocket, particularly as these country colours look so great with strong colours like orange, yellow, purple and sky blue.

Moritz has suggested altering this jacket further down the line, and trying the bespoke service. 

I’ll certainly do the former, and report back on it on PS. While this jacket hasn’t worked out that well in some respects, it wouldn’t be complete without reporting later improvements that reflect the normal approach at Massura. 

And I’d be happy to try the bespoke as well, if Moritz feels it would work better for my physique. At €2000, it is competitively priced. 

As ever, this piece is only a reflection of my one experience, so I’d love to hear from other Massura customers, in the comments below or by email. 

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

massura.de

The Italian handmade shirt

 

Many countries still make shirts by hand, including in Spain with the likes of Burgos and, further afield, someone like 100 Hands in India. But it is Italy that has really kept the flame alive.

Indeed, it’s one of the most most surprising cultural differences in menswear: that the finest shirts in England or France are made entirely by machine, and those in Italy largely by hand. That kind of cultural difference doesn’t exist in any other category – suits, shoes, knitwear, anything. 

So why would countries have such radically different views on hand sewing? What is the point of it?

That’s the point of this article. To not only describe the Italian handmade shirt, but explain what the point of each step is: functional, decorative, or perhaps none at all. 

 

A sleeve attached with two lines of stitching: by machine (inner line) and then by hand (outer line)

Let’s start with the armhole, because that’s where there are a few myths about handwork. 

Two lines of stitching attach the sleeve to the armhole of the shirt. The first one is usually done by machine, in order to secure it, and only then is a second seam, which is the one you see, done by hand. 

Because the first seam is done by machine, hand sewing does not allow you to work in greater fullness – i.e. squeeze a bigger sleeve into a smaller armhole. This is the case with tailoring, but with tailoring that first attachment is done by hand. 

Italian handmade shirts do usually work in much more fullness into the armhole. It’s just that they do that by careful and slow use of a machine. The importance of the hand work is then control of the fullness once the sleeve has been inserted. Excess cloth can be messy, and this handwork gives much greater control in the finishing. 

This allows the shirtmaker to create little pleats or ‘shirring’ at the top of the armhole, if they wish. Or, some find handwork means they can get a smoother, cleaner finish to the top of the armhole by hand.

Finishing like this – with small, almost invisible hand stitches – is often what makes a shirt look more handmade, and in some people’s eyes, more bespoke. 

 

Misaligned seams under an armhole

One aspect of the armhole that often causes confusion is misalignment of the seams. 

If you look under the arm of a handmade shirt, chances are that the seam in the body of the shirt will not line up with the seam under the sleeve. 

It’s often said that this indicates that the pitch of the sleeve has been altered: the sleeve has been turned in its armhole so it more closely matches the angle of your arm. 

This is not the case. 

Armholes are not round, but oval. If you simply turned the sleeve to get a different angle, the sleeve would no longer fit in the armhole properly. Sleeves can be pitched better or worse, but this is done in the pattern making, when the sleeve is sketched and then cut out, to a particular shape. 

 

The shape of the top of the sleeve is determined before it is inserted

If seams are misaligned, it indicates two things. First, it shows that the pitch of the wearer’s arm has been considered in the pattern making – which it often isn’t in cheaper shirts, and certainly not in RTW. This is the most important point. 

Second, it indicates that the body of the shirt has been put together before the sleeve is attached. This is more time consuming than the alternative, which is to leave both side seam and sleeve seam undone, and then do both in one long line. 

Attaching the sleeve afterwards gives the maker more control. They are able to check the fit and finish more accurately, and it’s more common on bespoke shirts for that reason. 

So misaligned seams are often a sign of greater quality, but not for the reason often given. (And note that it’s an aesthetic choice – some makers consider seams that don’t join up to just be messy.)

 

Hand stitches on the shoulder seam (left) and attaching the collar (right)

Next is the collar. Don’t worry, these points get less detailed the further we go. 

Some shirtmakers put the collar onto the body of the shirt ‘in the round’. They basically put the shirt body on a mannequin, pin the collar on, and sew the two together like that, in a circle. Rather than attaching them when laid flat, on a table. 

This gives a more natural curve to the shape of the collar. It sits more naturally on the neck, and is more likely to stay like that when the collar is unbuttoned. 

I do think this makes a small difference. But, as with the sleeve, the pattern making is also crucial. If the piece of material that makes up the collar is a slight curve – a smile shape – rather than a rectangle, then the collar is also more likely to curve round the neck. 

 

A cuff attached by hand (the very small stitches between it and the sleeve) and with its edges sewn by hand too

The same goes for the cuff. It too is circular, and attaching it this way by hand makes a difference, as does the shape of the cuff itself. Being slightly cone shaped can also be helpful.

One thing the hand sewing definitely can do, is give a cleaner look to the finishing of the cuff. Good hand sewing can effectively be invisible, tucked underneath the cloth, whereas a machine stitch will always be visible. 

It creates something of beauty: a piece of art. While handwork does help functionally around a shirt – and just as importantly, is a good sign of more careful machine work – it is this aesthetic role which is the most obvious difference. 

 

Hand-sewn hems, by (top to bottom) 100 Hands, D’Avino and Luxire

For me, this beauty is nowhere more obvious than in the hem of the shirt, at the bottom of the body. 

On most handmade Italian shirts, this bottom hem is rolled and slowly stitched by hand, in the same way as a hand-rolled handkerchief. It is a lovely process to watch, and it produces something that is truly lovely. (Though some are better than others – see above.)

The side seam of a shirt is also sometimes finished by hand – after a first line by machine – and this looks nice too. But the hem is most obvious, and the finishing around collar, cuffs, placket etc the most subtle. 

There is an argument that finishing a seam like this, by hand, creates more natural stretch in the seam and makes the shirt more comfortable. 

It is true that a seam sewn by hand will have more stretch, but only in the tiny amount of material that sits between it and the machine line. This is a benefit of handwork I’ve never really felt as a customer.

 

A hand-sewn buttonhole

Finally, buttons and buttonholes. 

A hand-sewn buttonhole is an attractive thing, though the difference is much more marked in tailoring than it is in shirtmaking. 

It is also arguably stronger, but only because it gives the shirtmaker more control over their work. Different materials require different tension in the stitching, and that’s much easier to control by hand. The result is often a stronger, and neater, buttonhole on less usual materials like jersey or superfine cottons.

Hand-sewn buttons are not usually more secure than machine ones. The difference, however, is mostly in whether the shank of the button is ‘wrapped’ by a machine. This is by far the most secure. You can do it after hand-sewing as well, but few makers do. 

 

Careful machine sewing, alongside delicate hand sewing

Handmade shirts are usually functionally better than machine-made ones. But mostly because they indicate greater care has been taken with both the hand and machine work – as well as the pattern making. 

Just as big an advantage is aesthetic: the beauty of small stitches hidden just below the edge of the placket on a cuff, or of a collar. And the evident craft of a hand-rolled hem. 

Some of this is also personal and subjective. Most artisans, for example, always finish the ends of collars and cuffs by machine – no matter what else has been done by hand – because it’s cleaner. But there are also some that prefer this by hand. 

Frankly, there is a lot of rubbish in this area, with brands using ‘entirely handmade’ to mean anything from buttons and buttonholes, to actually made with no machine involved.  

Different countries take different approaches to handwork – at least in shirtmaking – because its benefits are debatable. I find real benefits in a small number of them, particularly the sleeve and collar, but I also understand why others do not.