New Friday Polos – black and green (and menswear trends)

New Friday Polos – black and green (and menswear trends)

Monday, December 28th 2020
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Shipping and production have not been entirely straightforward in recent weeks, as anyone following the chaotic clash of Covid and Brexit in the UK will be aware. 

But I’m glad to say we've been able to restock the Friday Polos - still the most popular product on PS - along with two new colours in this current button-down style. 

The first colour is a green we've done in the past (but in the old spread-collar) and the second is entirely new (though perhaps not unexpected), in black. 

We’ve also restocked the perennials, navy and white, while there are a handful of light-blue left from the last batch. 

A commenter asked something about trends recently, which I think is illustrated quite well by this Friday Polo re-stock.

Their question was, basically, if everyone is suddenly wearing black, and even adopting my suggested cold-colour wardrobe, how is classic menswear different from any other fashion? Have these new trends just replaced all the consensus around navy jackets and oxford button-downs that everyone has been eulogising until now? 

The answer, thankfully, is no. These current trends (black, tonal, western, caps etc) haven’t replaced anything. 

Your wardrobe of soft tailoring, flannels and loafers is still just as relevant and useful. These other trends are merely passing suggestions, which you can work into your wardrobe or not, depending how much they appeal to your character, and circumstances. 

As I wrote in this piece on filtering fashions, it’s stimulating to be aware of and consider all such trends, but you should be worried if you adopt even half of them. 

And I think the new Friday Polo batch reflects that: classic navy, white and green, but also black for the minority that have really taken to this trend, and woven it into their existing style. 

There are bigger, more significant trends of course. Classic menswear is not immune from these, and they often involve proportions more than colour: the length of trousers, the width of lapels, the fit of knitwear and so on. 

The nice thing about menswear - and classic menswear in particular - is that these trends last anywhere from 10-20 years. It’s a long time since short, tight suits were at their zenith, yet they’re still hanging on. 

This past year the trend towards casualisation - which has arguably been with us for a century - was accelerated by extraordinary events. Covid might have compressed 10 years of trend into just one. But we won’t know until we come out the other side. 

So don’t worry about investing in good clothes, or about ignoring black if it’s not your thing. We stocked more navy and white than the others anyway. 

The green is the stronger, forest green offered a few times over the years - originally with Adam and Mikey (that feels like a very long time ago), then with the one-piece collar version, and most recently as a normal spread collar as shown on Lizzie from Levi’s (above). 

It’s a stronger colour than some greens, and is therefore nicest with more rural colours - warmer browns for example - as well as with navy. Although Lizzie shows it goes very well with indigo and black too. 

We’ve improved the placket design, by the way, so it's a little firmer. There’s now an extra layer of lining, similar to what’s in the collar, to make it lie and stand straighter. 

It should be no surprise how the black polo is worn by me here, with dark browns, cream and black. 

That’s not the only way to wear it of course, but it is my favourite. And as pointed out on that capsule piece, the colours can all be swapped round: brown, cream or grey trousers; brown, cream or grey knitwear. 

I should clarify though - again in response to a reader question - that these clothes do not have to be worn just within those narrow parameters. The point of that article was that I found this a versatile capsule, producing a set of looks that appealed to me. That doesn't mean there aren't many other capsule collections involving those clothes, that look just as good.

I’ve also shown the polo with my Vestrucci suit (below). The suit isn’t looking its best - it had probably been hanging in the wardrobe at an odd angle - but the combination of black shirt and charcoal tailoring is a pleasing one I think. 

The jacket below is my suede shirt-jacket from Anderson & Sheppard, when they make in a short, trucker style.

This is a lovely piece for transitional seasons, and particular over a shirt like the polo, which is so comfortable to wear but also a little heavier than a regular polo, and so provides a little more warmth. 

Still not a combination for this time of year, but it hopefully shows the kind of olive green the black shirt looks good with. 

The other clothes shown are the cream Indulgent Shawl Cardigan (only one left - navy XS) and my black-suede Belgravia loafers from Edward Green. 

Photography: Robert Spangle @thousandyardstyle 

 

The Christmas Quiz!

The Christmas Quiz!

Friday, December 25th 2020
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**UPDATE: The answers to the quiz are now listed at the bottom of this post. Don't peek if you want to try it out yourself first! The winner of the competition was Mathias Olsen. Well done to him.**

This is a spot of fun for Christmas Day. It should test your historical knowledge, your technical knowledge, and (most importantly, of course) your PS knowledge. 

It goes without saying that all of the answers are on the internet, somewhere. But looking each one up on Google, and then assiduously filling them in, is hardly much fun - let alone in the spirit of the thing. So rattle through it and see how much you know.

Answers on a postcard (actually, email is probably better) to [email protected]. The best responses will be put into a hat, and a winner drawn, with the prize a signed dedicated copy of Bespoke Style. 

I’ve deliberately picked questions that are fairly hard - on the edge of my own knowledge mostly. So don’t feel bad if you don’t know many of them. That’s when the learning starts!

Have fun. 

Round 1: Shoes

  1. What last is the Alden LHS (above) most commonly made on?
  2. What is an aiglet?
  3. Is the Arca an oxford or a derby?
  4. What is a ‘full grain’ leather?
  5. What is the Spanish (and original) name for espadrilles?

Round 2: Dates

Give the founding years of the following companies. Aim to be within five years. Ten is just about acceptable.

  1. Anderson & Sheppard
  2. Saman Amel
  3. John Smedley
  4. Drake’s
  5. Selfridge’s

Round 3: Countries of origin

  1. Which cities are ‘jeans’ and ‘denim’ meant to be named after? 
  2. Where is Duffel?
  3. Paisley originated in one country, was imported in textiles from another, and named after a town in one more. Name all three. 
  4. Relate one of the (at least two) potentially apocryphal stories of why the panama hat is called the panama hat. Even though it comes from Ecuador. 
  5. The ‘blucher’ shoe was named after a general from which country? (Hint: Germany did not exist)

Round 4: Numbers

  1. Is 25oz a more appropriate weight for a shirt, a jacket or a coat?
  2. Which is thicker (all other things being equal), 30-gauge or 24-gauge knitwear?
  3. What does the ‘super’ number in tailoring refer to?
  4. Japanese size 25 shoes are equivalent to what US size?
  5. What does ‘2x2’ refer to in woven cloth?

 

Round 5: People

  1. Which 1930s movie star was best known for being equally comfortable in Western clothing and Hollywood glamour? 
  2. Which brand of boots did Gianni Agnelli famously wear with a suit?
  3. What did Fred Astaire occasionally wear instead of a belt?
  4. What colour were Beau Brummell’s breeches (mostly)? 
  5. Which US President was known for wearing contrast-collar shirts?

Round 6: Menswear trivia

  1. Name three books by Alan Flusser, two by Bruce Boyer and one by Yoshimi Hasegawa
  2. Are jackets trending towards looser or tighter, longer or shorter?
  3. Who are the two founders of The Armoury?
  4. Which two hot menswear streets in London both begin with the letter ‘C’?
  5. Which colour (or non-colour) is enjoying a renaissance among menswear wearers/writers/people?

Round 7: The sprezz test

If you’re trying too hard to look like you’re not trying too hard, what do you do with:

  1. A shirt collar under a roll neck
  2. The buckles of a double-monk shoe
  3. An overcoat
  4. The points of a shirt collar, under a jacket
  5. The buttoning of a double-breasted jacket

Round 8: How loyal a reader are you? (The self-indulgent section)

  1. Which tailor made two jackets to compare, one MTM and one bespoke, in the same cloth?
  2. Complete the post title: “I am not a XX”
  3. Where was the image above taken?
  4. What does the craftsman Sasuke make? 
  5. What was the subject of the first Symposium?

Round 9: Style

  1. Name two black-tie sins
  2. Put the following fabrics in order of formality: cavalry twill, denim, wool gabardine, tweed, flannel
  3. Which trouser colour is best at softening bright colours?
  4. Which shirt colour does the same?
  5. What is a wedding tie?

Round 10: Brand names

Which brands make the following products:

  1. The Shannon boot
  2. The Noa coat
  3. The Hundred Series suit
  4. The Arran scarf
  5. The Isy sweater

How many did you get on your first try? How many did you friends/acquaintances/Instagram connections get? Is this your dream pub quiz - where you know the answers and no one else does?

Here's hoping it raised both a smile and an occasional furrowed brow.

Merry Christmas everyone.

ANSWERS

Round 1: Shoes

  1. What last is the Alden LHS most commonly made on? Van
  2. What is an aiglet? The metal or plastic part on the end of a shoelace
  3. Is the Arca an oxford or a derby? Derby
  4. What is a ‘full grain’ leather? One which has not had the top layer of hide taken off
  5. What is the Spanish (and original) name for espadrilles? Alpargatas

Round 2: Dates

Give the founding years of the following companies. Aim to be within five years. Ten years is just about acceptable.

  1. Anderson & Sheppard 1906
  2. Saman Amel 2010
  3. John Smedley 1784
  4. Drake’s 1977
  5. Selfridge’s 1909

Round 3: Countries of origin

  1. Which cities are ‘jeans’ and ‘denim’ meant to be named after? Genoa and Nimes
  2. Where is Duffel? Belgium
  3. Paisley originated in one country, was imported in textiles from another, and named after one more. Name all three. Iran (Persia), India, Scotland
  4. Tell one of the (at least two) potentially apocryphal stories of why the panama hat is called the panama hat. Even though it comes from Ecuador. 
    1. It was worn by FDR when visiting the Panama Canal
    2. It was mostly imported from Panama into Europe
  5. The ‘blucher’ shoe was named after a general from which country? (Hint: Germany did not exist at the time) Prussia

Round 4: Numbers

  1. Is 25oz a more appropriate weight for a shirt, a jacket or a coat? Coat
  2. Which is thicker (all other things being equal), 30-gauge knitwear or 24-gauge? 24 
  3. What does the ‘super’ number in tailoring refer to? The length of the fibres (not the fineness, that’s microns)
  4. Japanese size 25 shoes are equivalent to what US size? 9
  5. What does ‘2x2’ refer to in woven cloth? When two yarns in both the warp and the weft pass over and under each other

Round 5: People

  1. Which 1930s movie star was best known for being equally comfortable in Western clothing and Hollywood glamour?  Gary Cooper
  2. Which brand of boots did Gianni Agnelli famously wear with a suit? Tod’s
  3. What did Fred Astaire occasionally wear instead of a belt? A necktie
  4. What colour were Beau Brummell’s breeches (mostly)?  Buff 
  5. Which US President was known for wearing contrast-collar shirts? Ronald Reagan

Round 6: Menswear trivia

  1. Name three books by Alan Flusser, two by Bruce Boyer and one by Yoshimi Hasegawa
    1. Dressing the Man, Style and the Man, Ralph Lauren etc
    2. Elegance, True Style, Gary Cooper etc
    3. Bespoke Style etc
  2. Are jackets trending towards looser or tighter? Looser
  3. Who are the two founders of The Armoury? Mark Cho and Alan See
  4. Which two hot menswear streets in London both begin with the letter ‘C’? Clifford Street and Chiltern Street
  5. Which colour (or non-colour) is enjoying a renaissance among menswear wearers/writers/people? Black

Round 7: The sprezz test

If you’re trying too hard to look like you’re not trying too hard, what do you do with:

  1. A shirt collar under a roll neck Pop it up
  2. The buckles of a double-monk shoe Leave one undone
  3. An overcoat Drape it over the shoulders
  4. The points of a shirt collar, under a jacket Let one flip up outside of the lapel
  5. The buttoning of a double-breasted jacket Leave one button undone, often the jigger button

Round 8: How loyal a reader are you? (The self-indulgent section)

  1. Which tailor made two jackets to compare, one MTM and one bespoke, in the same cloth? Eduardo de Simone
  2. Complete the post title: “I am not a XX” Gentleman
  3. Where was the image above taken? Peebles
  4. What does the craftsman Sasuke make?  Scissors and knives
  5. What was the subject of the first Symposium? Shoes

Round 9: Style

  1. Name two black-tie sins
    1. Not covering the waist
    2. Wearing a coloured bow tie or cummerbund
  2. Put the following fabrics in order of formality: cavalry twill, denim, wool gabardine, tweed, flannel Wool gabardine, cavalry twill, flannel, tweed, denim
  3. Which colour of trouser is best at softening bright colours? Grey
  4. Which colour of shirt does the same? Light blue
  5. What is a wedding tie? A black and white tie with a small check or herringbone pattern, appearing grey

Round 10: Brand names

Which brands make the following products:

  1. The Shannon boot Edward Green
  2. The Noa coat Berg & Berg
  3. The Hundred Series suit The Armoury
  4. The Arran scarf Begg
  5. The Isy sweater Connolly

New shop, outerwear and trousers at Saman Amel

New shop, outerwear and trousers at Saman Amel

Wednesday, December 23rd 2020
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Saman Amel have a new atelier in Stockholm. It’s on the corner: a small, ground floor space with a plate-glass window, worn wood and patinated brass. 

Inside, though, is all tonal chic. Perfectly positioned lamps and designer chairs. A colour palette picked to match the style of the clothing. 

The upholstery is even from Holland & Sherry. Or some of it.

I describe it thus because, despite the gradual release of Covid vaccines, it will probably be a while before you can go there yourself. So I thought it would be nice to see and hear about it. 

I was there in October just before the furniture went in. I also spent a fun hour in the old space - which they are still using - experiencing their other big news: expansion into outerwear, machine-washable trousers, and chunky knitwear. 

The more commercial side of this piece is a description of those new pieces, and my thoughts on them. 

The new outerwear is all made-to-order, so there are few images of it around. But it’s fairly easy to summarise them. There are three pieces: the City Jacket, the Field Jacket and the Vest. (Each accounts for one row in the image above.)

All three are chic and simple, with the only detailing functional. As you’d probably expect from Saman Amel. 

The City Jacket, for example, is a thigh-length, raglan-shouldered, fly-front jacket with a turn-down collar. There are poppers and a zip, there are hip pockets with a side entry. But little else. 

It is deliberately stripped back and luxurious. The brand it's most likely to remind you of is Loro Piana. The advantages being that (arguably) it looks younger and more modern, and (inarguably) it is better value for money. 

The City Jacket is €1500 in nylon, €2200 in merino wool and €3000 in cashmere. Expensive, but Loro Piana or equivalent would be double that, and you’d be hard pressed to say how it was better quality. 

I have to confess, I’m not sure I’d wear the City Jacket. For that length and style of coat, I’d probably prefer a wax jacket. I prefer wool and cashmere for longer pieces, and wouldn’t wear the nylon. 

But I do admire it, and would recommend it to anyone for whom it is their style. In some ways, a piece like this is much harder to design than a tailored jacket: there is more freedom, more room to go wrong. Artful simplicity is not easy. 

The coats are all MTO rather than MTM: they’re designed to be in set sizes, with small adjustments to things like the length.

This is different to most Saman Amel products, which are MTM - and some outwear too, like my split-raglan coat

The other outerwear piece is the Field Jacket, different from the City Jacket in its four front pockets, drawstring waist, cuff and hood. 

In the image above I’m wearing it in the nylon, and its similarly pleasing and practical. Again, I probably wouldn’t wear it personally - as I’d only have nylon for a real outdoors/hiking piece - but again that doesn’t stop me recommending it. 

Interestingly, the thing that puts me off such pieces the most in the city is the hood. It’s obviously very useful, but it feels like the one thing that separates this from being more elegant outerwear. I’d always prefer some form of hat, even if it were a baseball cap. 

As I write that, of course, I remember the exception, which is a duffle coat. The only defence there is perhaps that a hood is integral to its look. Whereas on a field jacket you can do without. 

New item number three is the Vest. And you’ll quickly realise there’s a theme here. 

The Vest I’m wearing above is in navy cashmere - beautiful material, just the right shade of navy. Great length too, and the perfect weight to layer under a jacket. It is €1000 in nylon, €1300 in merino and €1500 in cashmere.

I also really like my look above, with the vest zipped all the way up. It has something in common with the elegance of a roll neck under a jacket. 

I’m not so keen on the vest when unzipped though. In much the same way as a zipped collar has always been my least favourite permutation of knitwear. The zip looks a bit too technical, and not as fitting with a tailored jacket as buttons, or just a crew neck. 

This last opinion is more subjective than the others, but I do also think the Vest is a slightly less useful piece. Navy is great over almost every colour of jacket, but not necessarily under one. You need more colours of knitwear than coat.

Speaking of which, the new chunky knitwear is lovely, and unusual. 

Saman and Dag have invested in a new, manual loom for it - the kind where products are referred to as ‘hand framed’. You can see images of them in my visit to Corgi knitting in Wales

This type of knitting gives a denser, more malleable feel, as well as flexibility of production. Because each piece is made individually, it’s easier to tweak designs or make adjustments. There are also fewer technical restrictions: SA are experimenting with using a finer yarn to make up these chunky knits, for example. 

The management of all this is helped by the fact that the machine is in Stockholm, rather than at the knitwear factory in Italy. That will make things easier to tinker with. 

I tried a crew and a V-neck, grey and caramel, and ended up ordering a V-neck in cream. Cricket-style, but not obviously so. 

And finally - for some most importantly - the washable trousers. 

This is an area a lot of readers have been asking about recently, and I’m sure we’ll see more of in the next year: bringing together the fit of MTM/bespoke with the easy care of washable RTW. 

Stoffa have introduced a version of their trousers that are washable; I’m experimenting with a pair from a tailor with a simpler waistband; and chinos like those from Rubato have a similar mix of smartness and ease of care. 

I’m not sure the cotton Saman Amel are using at the moment is for me: it has 1% stretch, and an unusual horizontal weave. Dag said that the stretch is what customers expect, but I’d personally prefer them without. I also think it makes the trouser immediately more casual, as it takes away any possibility of a sharp line. 

But these are at an early stage, so it will be interesting to see how they develop. 

Of course, the advantage for Swedish readers is they can go and see the trousers in the new Saman Amel atelier, now. 

There’s a lot I could include about that interior decoration, including the Swedish-built furniture, the upholstery and the art. It was certainly something Saman took great pleasure in exploring. 

But that’s probably too much information for a post that has already attempted to summarise years of work and several hours of discussion. I’m sure Saman and Dag will be more than happy to talk all about it to anyone that visits the shiny new shop. 

Lastly, for those that can't visit, Saman Amel are putting together an online system for ordering MTO pieces of knitwear, trousers, and eventually outerwear too (not tailoring). That should be ready early next year.

Photography: Milad Abedi, except interiors shots, Wavy Studios (@wavy.se)

samanamel.se/pages/outerwear-aw20

The imagery that inspires me, by Oliver Dannefalk

The imagery that inspires me, by Oliver Dannefalk

Monday, December 21st 2020
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This is a guest article by Rubato designer Oliver Dannefalk, explaining what the hell he was looking at all the time on his phone. And then showing to everyone. It is a description of how he works, what inspires him, and what keeps him de-stressed. I hope it has some of the same interest for you.

"My girlfriend told me the other week that she’s never known anyone who can look through their pictures on their phone so many times, and come back to real life rejuvenated and inspired.

I didn’t think of it much at the time, I sort of grinned, felt slightly ashamed and took it as a hint that I’m on my phone a lot. Then I thought about what she actually said, and realised she was absolutely right: I look through my pictures a lot, it does inspire me and yes, I’m probably on my phone too much as well.

In these days and this age, you’re fed tons and tons of unwanted information in form of pictures, tweets, articles and news. News travels fast, as the old saying goes, but right now it travels faster than ever because the means of transportation are so much greater. We live in a world where we’re attached to our phones for the better part of the day, acquiring a lot of unnecessary information - and this can come off as distanced and anti-social.

But as we all know, there are two sides to every story. I’d argue the same amount of information can nourish you in the form of things you like.

 

Tapio Wirkkala glass
Fred Astaire
Berndt Friberg

I accumulate pictures on my phone daily. Predominantly though, these are not ones I’ve taken. These are not social gatherings, a beautiful sunset, a cute dog, a nice car. Don’t get me wrong, I take those pictures as well – but when it comes to that type of picture, I’m more likely to look through them, disregard a bunch and in most cases erase them all. This certainly doesn't apply to the other type I’ve accumulated over the years.

This is an inspiration collection, including glass objects, vases, ceramics, vintage workwear, furniture, interiors, fashion, architecture, football, menswear, old actors and actresses, art, plus design in all shapes and forms. These I revisit frequently: they all have a specific reason for being in my 'permanent stock'.

The inspiration might come from the way a specific painting is hung in a room. It could be the way a staircase handle curves, or is covered in braided leather. The Fred Astaire tuxedo; Emperor Akihito playing tennis; the cast from The Philadelphia Story; photographs by Todd Hido with that special light shining on a seemingly abandoned house.

The late great Franca Sozzani’s editorials for Vogue Italia - I mean, come on. The grandeur, the delicate finger on the pulse, the groundbreaking statements, all within a fashion magazine.

 

Franca Sozzani for Vogue Italia
Todd Hido
Emperor Akihito (and top image)

I often go through phases in this collecting. Sometimes it’s art: at the moment I’m really intrigued by Jean-Baptiste Besançon. His art is modern yet feels like it could’ve been around forever.

His use of colour is often muted, in tune with what I like. But sometimes he throws in a dash of colour or leaves a space hardly painted, or covers the canvas in what seems like black paint, but on closer inspection turns out to be deep navy or green.

Those colour schemes are perfect for inspiration in dressing. The greens, the blues, the beige and off-white, they’re all colors I have in my wardrobe and his art encourages me to try different ways of wearing them.

 

Jean-Baptiste Besançon
Richard Avedon
Robert Frank

Other times I’m stuck in black-and-white photography, Richard Avedon or Robert Frank. Masters of catching what seems to be everyday life and people, and in one shot telling a complete story.

Sometimes it’s pictures from a bygone era. Francis Wolff’s huge collection of pictures from the Blue Note era not only show a photographer with a really keen eye, but also the greats of jazz in their heyday, looking cool in that way only jazz cats can look cool.

I recently started shooting analog and Francis Wolff’s pictures are a great inspiration. Although I don’t have as many cool subjects, it still gives me insights into angles, lighting and composition when trying it on my own.

 

Wayne Shorter by Francis Wolff
Lee Morgan by Francis Wolff
Max Roach by Francis Wolff

I tend to see something I like, a photo, a movie, something or someone in a movie, and immediately my mind sets off. I want to know more.

I see a painting of an artist I didn’t know in an endless flow of pictures on Tumblr (yes Tumblr, I still use it) and I want more: I search, I find a name, I go deeper, I find more pictures, get more on the life and work of the artist and go further, consume everything interesting about them. Save more pictures.

This will often branch off into other interesting people, or things around or within the same category, and off I go again, down another trail.

I remember seeing a movie with William Powell for the first time, The Thin Man, and realising that I’ve had pictures of him saved on my phone for years, back when I had no idea who he was. He just seemed a superb dresser. In fact, he was the reason I commissioned my first three-piece suit, a beautiful navy flannel that has been worn heavily.

 

William Powell
Oliver, shot by Yuko Fujita
Jaroslav Drobny

All of these pictures give me feelings of joy and inspiration, practical advice for combinations in clothing, ideas for how I want to live and ways to furnish my apartment.

They also give me reassurance, in an odd way. I find them useful in situations when I need visual stimulation - for work, a photo shoot or anything else based on aesthetics.

It calms me down when I feel stressed, knowing I can go back to my own library filled with everything I love and admire. The way it’s shot; what it shows; the way it’s styled, situated, lit or portrayed. It’s colour, shape, texture and depth. And sometimes just a nice outfit.

 

Farnsworth House
Vilhelm Lauritzen
Isamu Noguchi

I know we need to be able to let go of technology and interact with each other and the world. We need to shut down and disconnect, enjoy a dinner with friends without gazing at our phones. This is all old news and I’m sure I'm preaching to the choir.

But at the same time, I know my personal gallery enables me to look at the people I meet and the things around me in a different light, packed with interest and with a sharpened eye, searching out the details, and the beauty in everything.

I’m not suggesting we bury ourselves deeper into our phones. But I humbly suggest that when we do, we do it for our own benefit."

 

Alvar Aalto
Vintage tennis outfit
West Ham football club
Nils Landberg
Poul and Hanne Kjaerholm's house
Slim Aarons

The height of knitwear: why necklines matter

The height of knitwear: why necklines matter

Friday, December 18th 2020
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A couple of weeks ago we talked about necklines on knitwear - as part of the article on mock necks

I thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at this, in particular the effect of different heights of crewneck. 

Just as with the collar of a jacket or shirt, different heights suit different men. Someone with a longer neck tends to look better with a higher collar, and someone with a shorter neck, a lower one. It’s a question of proportion, and balance. 

Style is a factor here too, of course. Higher collars might look more formal, and lower ones more casual. And fashions affect what collar shape looks desirable, as well as what simply looks high or low compared to the average. 

But arguably fit or proportion is the most important factor. It’s certainly the one men pay least attention to. 

Unfortunately with knitwear, you’re less likely to be able to specify a height. 

There are bespoke services for knitwear (such as 40 Colori reviewed recently) and of course most men don’t have shirts or suits made either. 

But for those that do, it’s much easier to have a shirt made, and so specify a collar height. With knitwear you’re largely picking between ready-to-wear brands.

So to illustrate a few of them, as well as demonstrate the difference these necklines make, I’ve photographed three here for comparison. 

The first example, above, is from Luca Faloni. The brand makes great Italian knitwear, and this is my favourite model - the cashmere crewneck

However, I don’t wear this without a shirt underneath, because the neckline is relatively low and I don’t think it looks good on my (purely relatively) long neck. 

It’s not helped by the fact that this model has a beige band running around the edge of the collar (as well as the cuffs) which makes it look lower still. 

The effect is less noticeable from the front, as shown at the top of this article. But even there I think it looks a little low, and of course people see you from all angles.

The next example is from Colhay’s. A young brand, they sell Scottish knitwear in a relatively slim cut. Reviewed recently here

Pictured is the grey cashmere crewneck, and I think it’s immediately clear that the neckline is slightly higher, and a better fit for my proportions. 

The darker shade of grey also arguably makes a difference, given my pale skin colour, but the neckline is the most important factor I think. 

Even so, I don’t tend to wear this sweater on its own - I’m more likely to wear a shirt or at least T-shirt underneath. For those guys that do wear a crewneck like this, however, I think the difference is worth noting.

(For an example of the Colhay’s knit with a T-shirt see post here. The white tee also serves to make the colour of the knitwear less relevant, as it sits between it and the face.) 

The third example, above, is from Loro Piana. It’s a cashmere model not currently available, but which was offered last Summer - called, if I recall, the girocollo. 

It has a higher neck still, almost verging on a mock neck. However, it's not that uncommon a height: you get it on a lot of shetlands, and my lambswool crewneck from The Armoury is this height. 

It’s also a style you commonly see on vintage sportswear, with a raglan sleeve. And given this Loro Piana design also a raglan, I imagine it was inspired by that heritage. 

Of the three crewnecks, I think this is the most flattering on me. The combination with the raglan shape means it’s verging on being too round-shouldered, but with a normal set-in sleeve it would be perfect. 

The only downside is that it looks a touch too high - or at least unusual - with a shirt. So it’s not that versatile. 

The last example I’ve included is the mock neck from Colhay’s we discussed a couple of weeks ago. You can see how close that sporty Loro Piana comes to being a mock neck, and decide which you think looks best. 

I’m with the LP height, but it is interesting how nice the mock neck looks on its own - and how much you appreciate its flattering effects in comparison to the examples above. 

This forensic analysis of crew necks might seem a little geeky, but it is something that I think a lot of guys should bear in mind. 

As dress becomes more casual, men are wearing more crewnecks without a shirt underneath - in particular sweat shirts. And it suits some a lot more than others, both because of their body shapes and because of the brands they’ve chosen. 

A shirt collar, of almost any height, is just more forgiving. If you’re going to relinquish that, put a little thought into how crew necks compare, not just in the length or the slimness of the fit - but in the neckline too. 

At the very least, it might mean you're less likely to wear that sloppy sweatshirt to an important meeting. Being well-dressed is not just about a suit and tie.

P.S. Another option with a crewneck is a bandana or neckerchief, as shown below. More on that - materials, lengths, knots - another time.)

WW Chan bespoke tweed jacket: Review

WW Chan bespoke tweed jacket: Review

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Wednesday, December 16th 2020
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Sometimes a jacket really impresses you from the off - the try-on, the fitting, everything just beautifully done from the start. 

It doesn't happen very often, and it doesn't necessarily make a difference to the finished garment; but it's a very good, very reassuring sign. 

This jacket, made by WW Chan, was one of those. 

I'll get into the details of the review in a moment, but just to say I'll also spend some time talking about WW Chan and their journey. Because they've really evolved in recent years, in terms of style and structure, in a time when most other tailors haven't. 

I’ve known WW Chan for a long time, ever since I used to travel to Hong Kong with my old job. But it wasn’t until 2018 that I really spent time in the workshop there, with Patrick (Chu), Arnold (Wong) and the team. 

When I did, I was impressed at their attention to detail and their open-mindedness. They were more aware than most tailors of other traditions around the world - and how those were affecting what their customers wanted. 

Still, I was a little unsure about the style that resulted. It seemed a little early stage and I wasn’t sure it was for me. 

That changed when WW Chan joined our pop-up shop on Savile Row, as part of the Bryceland’s residency. I tried on a jacket made for Kenji Cheung (of Bryceland’s), and loved the cut: wider in the shoulder, a little drape in the chest, straight but open in the foreparts. 

It wasn’t a lightbulb moment, perhaps more of a click, a checkbox confidently ticked. I could see how I would wear this style and why I would like it. 

(More evidence for what I’m always banging on about: that all tailors need try-on garments showing their style(s). It means the customer has a clear idea of what they’re buying, and their expectations are much more likely to be met.)

There was a reason I liked that WW Chan jacket so much, I think, and that’s that Kenji and Ethan had been working on it for years. 

Every time he made something for Kenji, Patrick would tweak it based on their feedback: a little more roping in the shoulder, perhaps, or a slightly longer jacket. It’s a testament to the value of having customers with taste - something that has arguably influenced tailoring over the years more than the style of the cutters themselves.

Ethan also points out that Patrick at WW Chan is relatively young compared to other head tailors in Hong Kong - and is actually into his clothes, which isn’t the case with many tailors. 

Still, I did end up changing some aspects of the style during the commissioning process. We removed the roping to achieve a more natural shoulder line, and used a curved or ‘barchetta’ breast-pocket shape, rather than the straight one on Bryceland’s tailoring. 

I’m happy to do that, once the fundamentals of a style I like are in place. What’s much harder is making a dozen such changes, chasing some theoretical image in your head. 

So, Patrick took measurements from me during that pop-up in London. We had a fitting during WW Chan’s regular trunk show here (they normally come twice a year) and then one more this past Autumn, when travel was no longer possible. 

This was my first experience of bespoke done remotely, but I’m not sure it’s that representative, as the initial consultation had been done in person and the first fitting was extremely good: pretty much perfect balance, shape and line. There was little to tweak apart from the style details. 

That meant that when we did the second fitting over Zoom, there were only small tweaks like the length of a sleeve, and adjusting the drape in the back. 

One thing I am definitely learning from remote fittings (shoes and suits) is that the big problem is often quantifying changes. It’s easy to see that the waist needs taking out, or there’s too much space in the arch of a shoe. The hard thing is for the craftsman to see how much that needs to change, or for the customer to communicate it. 

The final jacket fulfilled all my expectations. It was a lovely, clean fit, with natural shoulders and nice 3-roll-2 in the front. In fact, I think my slightly messy collar and handkerchief here belie how neat that make is. 

There is no padding in the shoulder, just body canvas, and the chest has three layers, but light ones: a wool/camel hair layer all the way down the jacket, horsehair to just below the armhole, and then cotton canvas on top of that. 

WW Chan have been on a journey with this structure as much as their cut. Their traditional structure, originating with the ‘Red Gang’ of tailors in Shanghai, came from the British, and so had heavier layers, horsehair down below the first button position, and felt over the top of that. 

In the past decade they’ve replaced the felt with cotton and shortened the length of the last two. They still offer three different levels of structure though, depending on what the customer wants (and the intended formality of the piece). 

The same goes for the shoulder expression too: it can be padded with different degrees of roping; unpadded with a flat, natural sleevehead (mine); or a Neapolitan ‘spalla camicia’ construction. 

I really like that shoulder expression on mine, although I think it’s borderline whether it and the cut mean the jacket can work with jeans and casual chinos. 

The spalla camicia expression might help there, but I also think it’s telling that Ethan and Kenji use the style more for suits than casual jackets, for example. Tailored trousers will be safer, and that’s what I’ll wear it with.

The jacket has a relatively low buttoning point: 18¾ inches from the neck point, which Arnold says is ⅜ of an inch lower than their standard. The pockets have been rounded more, to fit with the natural style overall. The Milanese buttonhole in the lapel is now a standard feature. 

If I was going to see Patrick and the team soon, I might look at whether the sleeve could be wider. I wouldn’t say it was slim, but I do prefer a more generous sleeve these days, and that’s the only tweak I can think of. 

The quality of the finishing is very good - as good as any normal English tailor (the likes of Chittleborough or Michael Browne counting as abnormal). 

And I adore the cloth. It’s a W Bill shetland, 12-13oz; robust but not too hairy, with body but certainly not too heavy. 

It’s the colour that’s the killer though: a mix of black and russety browns, which at scale gives the impression of a dark, rather urban brown tweed. 

The code is 12110 and it is available still, in the Classic Shetland bunch. 

There is one other advantage of WW Chan, and one disadvantage. 

The advantage is that they’re good value, being based in Hong Kong: suits start at HK$18,230 (about £1,800) and jackets at HK$13,000 (£1,300). My jacket was HK$14,830 (£1,480). 

The minus is that even outside of a pandemic, they don’t travel most places frequently. They do visit the US East and West coasts three times a year, but only come to Europe twice a year. So if you’re in London, as a first customer, it’s going to take over a year. Less than that in the States.

Other destinations are Zurich, Stockholm and Paris in Europe, and Sydney, Melbourne and Singapore in Asia. All twice a year. 

In the shots here, I’m wearing a relatively unusual combination, with a slubby striped shirt and scrap-of-indigo handkerchief. But the jacket is versatile enough to go with a range of things, including simple blue oxfords and grey flannels. 

The clothes are:

  • Cotton/linen striped shirt, bespoke from D’Avino
  • Stone-coloured wool trousers, bespoke from Pommella
  • Brown-suede Belgravia loafers, from Edward Green
  • Torn indigo cloth, used as handkerchief

Photography by Alex Natt (@adnatt)

wwchan.com

Which brands do we cover, and why?

Which brands do we cover, and why?

Monday, December 14th 2020
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Now more than ever, I think it’s important to say what we stand for at Permanent Style. And one of the ways that comes across clearest is our editorial policy: what we cover, and what we don’t. 

Implicitly, this defines our values. It reveals not only what we like, but what we think is important. 

So we cover brands because of their style, for example, but also because they deliver value. They must make clothes that are designed to last, both because of their quality and because of their understated, more permanent style. And they must help customers through all of this, from educated purchase to long-term care. 

I’ve come to realise this selection is central to the point and ethos of PS. It has come up recently when discussing hype in fashion, the quality/value aims of different brands, and in correspondence with PRs.

So here I attempt to define whom we cover, and why. 

Quality

I firmly believe more people should buy more quality clothing. It’s both more responsible and more satisfying. Our most important criterion for coverage is therefore high quality. And within that, we also tend to cover the very best.

This means that the clothing tends to be more ‘luxurious’ and expensive. But quality is always the driving factor. So we do cover bigger brands - Loro Piana, RL Purple Label, Hermes - when we think they deliver quality, while noting the higher cost and therefore perhaps lower value for money. 

And the small brands that make up the majority of the coverage are certainly luxury too, given they’re consciously aiming for a very good product and so are expensive. 

However, we do try to spell out where that quality lies - whether it’s fineness of work, feel of materials or longevity. Because perceptions of quality can be personal, and just as importantly, what counts as ‘quality’ varies between categories. Fineness matters a lot less with workwear chinos than with tailored trousers.

Our size also means we can’t cover everything. So even among quality clothing, we really focus on the very top of the market. From Berg & Berg and up; from Carmina and up. It would be lovely if there were another site that covered cheaper products as effectively. 

Style

The phrase ‘classic style’ or ‘classic menswear’ is not great. It seems to imply the clothes must be old, and perhaps old-fashioned.

But it can be useful shorthand, just because men’s clothing used to be more elegant, more subtle and more refined. And this is our second criterion for coverage. 

For a brand to be included on Permanent Style, most of the time it must be aiming for a look which is classic and chic. This doesn’t have to mean tailoring: even sportswear will tend to be unobtrusive, with a well-considered fit and a lack of loud logos. 

There are no gimmicks. No jackets with a notch lapel on one side and a peak on the other. No exaggerated fits, with shoulder seams at your elbow or waistbands round the thighs. Even ‘heritage’ styles are treated with suspicion: gurkha trousers or spectator shoes must prove they can look modern, and not like costume. 

My aim, and the aim of Permanent Style, is to look simply well-dressed. And so the brands we cover must be dressing a modern man. Not an eccentric or a menswear insider. 

Passion

This is probably an unexpected criterion, but I think a crucial one. 

The reason we cover more smaller brands than big ones is that they have passion. They are clearly, fundamentally driven by those points about quality and style above. 

This leads to an integrity of product. The founders design the clothes themselves and tell you why they’ve done it a certain way. They talk on Instagram, or their own website, about the decisions they made and the style they sought. They want to dress a certain way, and they're making the clothes to enable that.

Big brands can look cynical by comparison. This is obvious with designer brands at the moment - all producing the same trainers, the same sweatshirts. But it’s the case with high-street brands too. Their problem is selling by spreadsheet - using nothing more than sales figures and trend forecasting to decide what to produce. 

If you’re not part of the majority (in terms of spending power) then this won’t work for you. It’s why chinos all have stretch in them, and all shirts have tiny collars. It’s also why most of these shops only compete on price - and as a result, invest less in quality. 

Personally, I would rather cover someone like Scott Simpson, Paul Vincent or Adam Rogers, even if I wouldn’t wear most of their clothes. Because I understand exactly what they’re trying to do. 

The worst kinds of brands are the venture capital-driven ones, all piling into new areas of growth, whether it’s menswear or mattresses. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to spot these: within a year, they’re not the same company anymore. Usually they’ve frantically expanded.

Funnily, I find it’s quite easy to tell what kind of brand someone is running. Just listen to what they talk about. If they go on about sales, growth, or celebrity endorsement, then they’re the wrong kind.

The ones we like only want to talk about product. And once you start them off, you can’t shut them up about it. 

Not heritage, location or sustainability

Just as enlightening are the criteria we don't include.

First, not heritage. It doesn’t matter if a brand is one year old, or a hundred.

Heritage can be useful shorthand because old companies tend to produce more classic clothing, and produce longer-lasting, quality products. But they don’t necessarily, and we’ve already covered both style and quality above. 

Heritage is worth highlighting when it helps preserve knowledge or craft. A lot of expertise is locked inside these multi-generational companies and their staff. That should be protected. 

But heritage can too often be a smokescreen. It’s irrelevant today how old Louis Vuitton is, or Acqua di Parma. They’ve been turned into something else. 

Second, I don't care about location. The priority is quality and style, whether from China or Chesterfield. 

Yes, being made in England or Italy is still a fairly good marker of quality. But only fairly good, and getting worse every year. 

The best argument for location is the same one as heritage: the preservation of skills, through protecting people, who cannot move to the other side of the world. Plus maybe the environmental costs of shipping.

Which brings us onto the last area: sustainability. This is incredibly important, but I think is a question to put to brands rather than a reason to include them. The methods of rating someone as sustainable are not clear enough yet to rule people definitely in, or out. 

But it is something everyone needs to answer for. 

Those are criteria for a brand to be featured on Permanent Style. It’s why we cover Rubato and Loro Piana, but neither Suit Supply nor Prada. 

I spent many years as a magazine editor, with regular editorial meetings where we decided what would be covered in the next issue. I learnt that just as powerful as how you cover things is what you cover, and what you therefore exclude. 

Hopefully the points above will make it clear why I make those decisions today with Permanent Style.  

Photography: A visit to the (smaller) Saman Amel atelier in Stockholm - a brand that definitely complies. Shot by Milad Abedi

Heavy brown Brisbane Moss cords

Heavy brown Brisbane Moss cords

Friday, December 11th 2020
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The main reason I shot this outfit with Milad last month was to talk about the cords - a heavy Brisbane Moss brown that has both its pleasures and its weaknesses.

I’ll run through the rest of the outfit too though, because there are a few things to highlight, particularly given our recent article on the ‘cold-colour wardrobe’

The cords are 8 wale, 550g, which is the heaviest Brisbane Moss does by the cut length - it’s Brown 100 from the GS2 bunch

I’ve always had a thing for heavy trouser fabrics, because they wear and drape so wonderfully. You get a straight line without the fragility of a worsted, and they keep their shape better than a lighter woollen. 

Cotton has the added bonus of strength and a nice patina of wear, which is nice in cord until it starts to really wear down, and even better in cotton twills like my Fox trousers here. 

The only other cloth that’s really comparable in terms of performance is the tightly woven wools like cavalry twill or covert. 

But I’ve also had my problems with heavy trousers. 

I had two pairs made in the ‘Pardessus’ bunch from Holland & Sherry, which was really more of an overcoating - and indeed, is now only available as a few colours in their overcoating range. 

The problem there was that the cloth wasn't really woven tightly enough to make a good trouser. Fine as a coat or even jacket - when sharp lines are less of a priority - but too soft for trousers. They bagged a little and lost their shape as a result. 

(If anyone wants more detail on this cloth geekery, it’s all in the Guide to Cloth here.)

Given that history, I was a little worried about going for the heaviest Brisbane Moss. But most of the cords I’ve had in the past have been rather lighter and softer - eg here from Scabal - so this would at least give me the context of the opposite extreme.

The trousers were made up by Whitcomb & Shaftesbury in my normal pattern from them, flat fronted with a mid-rise, 5cm turn-ups and 19cm opening.

Interestingly, the thickness of the cloth made an unexpected difference to that trouser opening. Having four layers of the cord (as you do on proper turn-ups) made the opening almost too narrow to easily get over my calves. Certainly 1cm narrower would have been tricky. 

The trousers do wear wonderfully, and I think look great. They keep a great line, have a pleasing lustre without being too velvety, and the colour feels more modern that most cords. 

You get rubbing on the knees and seat that makes them look worn, but as with suede brushing the nap back up* removes that. It will be a long time before the nap actually starts to wear away.

The downside of the material is that the trousers are heavy and tough, which can be a little tiring on the legs. Not something you’d feel in the morning but - rather like shoes with a slight niggle - certainly noticeable by the end of the day.

So if you wear heavy materials like this, and are happy doing so, I can thoroughly recommend the cloth. But if you don’t and haven’t, I’d approach with caution. 

The dark shade of brown means the trousers are as useful as my charbrown Fox flannels, and fit into that cold-colour wardrobe very nicely. 

They do work with brown-calf shoes when there’s some variation in the colour, but look best with black - either black suede (as here), black calf (as with my EG Shannon boots) or in fact black cordovan (which I have in an EG Belgravia loafer). The soft glow of the cordovan seems more pleasing against the shine of the cord, compared to highly polished calf. 

Grey is the other dominant colour in the outfit - my Anthology tweed jacket. And the shirt is in our Lighter Everyday Denim.

That shirt could have been white or indeed cream, picking up on the other cold-colour options. But the pale denim is softer and more casual. 

The scarf too could have been cream, and would have looked very nice. But I wanted a more tonal look, and so went for a dark-grey instead. 

The handkerchief is an old cotton bandana, and is also useful here as an illustration of the point in that cold-colour post about pops of red, yellow or indigo. 

The scarf is the Arran from Begg, with its luxurious ripple effect. I remember so clearly watching that process being done at the Begg factory, with the dried teasles being carefully arranged. You’d think there would be an artificial equivalent, but then if it works, why change it?

The socks are a grey/brown from Anderson & Sheppard. The notebook is my cordovan one from J.Girdwood

Photography: Milad Abedi

*The nap runs up the trousers, so they feel smoothest when you run your hand up the leg. Interestingly, Italians often cut the cloth the other way, so the nap runs down. It's barely noticeable until you get to this thickness of wale though.

 

The cold-colour capsule

The cold-colour capsule

Wednesday, December 9th 2020
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I realised recently that an increasing number of my casual clothes fall into a narrow colour range. 

A good proportion of my favourite things - and certainly combinations - are a mix of brown, cream, black and grey. With some secondary colours at the edges. 

This might not be unusual in tailoring, but with casual clothing it’s more striking. And I think I like the palette for similar reasons - it feels smart despite the lack of a suit, its darkness and simplicity make it subtle, and yet its rarity means it has personality. 

In this post I thought I’d try to break down this cold-colour collection - for my own purposes as much as anything else. 

Knowing what you wear most often, in what combinations and why, is great when you need to  put together a small capsule collection, for example when travelling. Even if I’m just going to my parents for the weekend, with my family, it means I can chuck things quickly in a bag with the confidence that it all works together.  

This kind of analysis helps that a lot.

So, the four primary colours in this scheme are:

  • Brown. Must be dark and cold - see post here for more on what I mean by that.
  • Grey. All shades of grey, which sometimes means charcoal and light grey in one outfit.
  • Cream. Not white, though that can be a useful secondary colour. 
  • Black. As mentioned previously, something I wear more often these days. 

These four can then all be swapped around, between knitwear, trousers, shoes and outerwear.

Any colour can apply to any of them. You’re less likely to have cream outerwear (except in a knit, as below) or cream shoes (except as a leather trainer/tennis shoe) but otherwise any category can be any colour. 

Below I've picked out five different permutations to demonstrate:

  • Brown/black/grey 
  • Charcoal/grey/brown 
  • Grey/white/charcoal
  • Cream/black/brown 
  • Brown/charcoal/cream 

 

Brown - black - grey
Charcoal - grey - brown
Grey - white - charcoal
Cream - black - brown
Brown - charcoal - cream

These all work, and are consistent as well as characterful (I think). But if they get a little boring or too tonal, there are secondary options. 

Apart from the occasional bright, accent colour, these are all quite cold as well. They are:

  • Taupe, beige or stone. Basically, muted and greyed versions of these classic colours. Particularly useful as a trouser option. 
  • Navy. Useful in this colour scheme as a minor piece - a scarf, a beanie, sometimes a trouser. If a major piece, such as a jacket, the look becomes something different. 
  • Olive. Basically the green equivalent of the dark brown. I find this a harder shade, and not quite as good with black and cream as the dark brown. But a nice alternative if the shade is right. 
  • Bright red, yellow, indigo. A nice way to add colour, with a bright accessory like a hat, scarf, umbrella etc. This also means it can be removed easily. Red and indigo seem to work best. 

Some examples (the more I look for them, the more there are from my outfits this year):

 

The cold-colour capsule, with taupe coat
With pale taupe trousers
With navy trousers
With dark olive jacket
With pop of red

Each of those has the same basic combination of brown, black, grey and cream, but adds secondary colours.

Other things to note with this collection are that matte textures work particularly well (suede, flannel, nubuck).

But contrast in texture also adds useful variation without the need for another colour. For example, black calf shoes add some shine, and thus variation, from wool and suede elsewhere. Jewellery can do something similar, and is usually best in silver with this palette. 

In the image below, the brown calf shoes add that variation. Although having thought through the combinations in this way, perhaps black calf shoes might have been better: they would have provided both another colour and another texture.

Another thing this analysis has suggested to me, is that I should look to expand the colour/category combinations where I don't have them. For example, I don't have any black knitwear, but it would work with a lot of these outfits.

So I've just ordered a black crewneck from Luca Faloni to try that out.

One way to look at this capsule collection is that it’s just like a range offered by a brand.

Most small brands naturally have a narrow range of colours, or at least types of colour, so that everything works together. That’s the case whether you’re looking at the dulled colours of Anglo-Italian, the organic ones of Adret or hyper-tonal Saman Amel.

And I should also make clear that there is nothing original about this cold-colour look. Others do it well, often better than me, and have been for a while. I just like systematising, explaining and communicating. 

Most of those people are friends, so I’m sure they'll take it as a compliment. I’ve included a few images below, with their own takes and tweaks. 

Enjoy playing with my collection, their variations, and if you feel inclined, even analysing your own.

 

Rubato
Berg & Berg
Willy, The Anthology

The perspective of medieval menswear

The perspective of medieval menswear

Monday, December 7th 2020
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I recently saw a presentation by the cultural historical and writer Benjamin Wild (below), on the history of menswear. The talk covered everything from 1300 to the present day, but it was pre-20th Century that was the most interesting. 

The development of menswear in the past 100 years is covered pretty regularly: the Duke of Windsor, emancipation after WW2, the birth of the designer. Earlier trends are rarely covered in much detail, presumably because they seem less relevant. 

But there is a lot there that’s noteworthy, whether it’s how much our modern clothing is driven by the worship of individualism, or how fleeting our ideas of masculinity are. It can give us context and perspective. 

Here are a few of the points I found most interesting, which run roughly chronologically. The talk itself is not publicly available, unfortunately, but there is plenty more on Wild’s writing on his website here.

Early on, Wild made the point that the history of clothing up until the end of the 19th century was driven by institutions - by the monarchy, and by the church. 

They dictated what was acceptable and what was aspirational. This was one reason clothing didn’t change - alongside the limited means of production. 

This might seem obvious, but it stands in stark contrast to the second half of the twentieth century, where the powers of technology, globalisation and mass media have put the emphasis so much on the individual: what you want, what makes you look good. 

That emphasis on the individual might often be a ruse to convince you to buy something a particular brand is selling, but it’s telling that the idea of personal choice always frames the conversation. It’s worth remembering how much power we have.

Wild’s history began in the medieval period. And here, for hundreds of years, the dominant form of European male dress was the tabard (shown top, left; and above).

The tabard was a T-shaped piece of clothing, with a hole cut for the head, that hung to somewhere around the knees. The only shape came from a belt that could be tied around the waist, and from which tools or bags could be hung. 

You can see why the tabard was so practical, and lasted so long. It provided the basic covering required, was versatile, unisex, and had little requirement for sizing. It was also simple to make - just two pieces of material sewn together. 

In fact, its intuitive nature is probably demonstrated by how similar other garments round the world were - like the kimono, for example. One was a shirt and the other a popover, but otherwise they were a very similar concept. 

I found that section of the talk interesting because I’d never heard a tabard defined before - the only references to it you normally see are as some kind of heraldic layer over armour. 

The next point had wider implications about ostentation, and masculinity. 

For most of this late medieval period, rich people showed they were different from the poor by wearing more of these draped garments, or by dying them or ornamenting them. Apparently shaving the nap on the cloth into different patterns was popular. 

But later on, the nobility started differentiating themselves by adding shape. Tailoring was born. 

You can see this in the contrast between Phillip the Good (centre, in black) and those around him in the painting above. 

While most, such as the the noble and churchman on the left, are still in some kind of loose, long-sleeved tabard, Phillip’s outfit is tailored, with big sleeveheads. These clothes were now being cut close to the body, rather than just cinched, with hook-and-eye fastenings in the back. 

If you look closely, everyone in that painting also looks like they’re wearing Balenciaga Speed sneakers. Actually, these are pointed shoes called Crakows, named for the city in Poland they were supposed to have come from. 

This era of shaped, dramatic clothing and pointy shoes is one which, in the 21st century, we can find quite alien. 

How could it have seemed aspirational, and indeed masculine, to wear a cinched dress, poofy shoulders, and tights?

When we look at better-known images, like the Hans Holbein portrait of Henry VIII (above) that every English child sees in their history schoolbooks, it’s hard to identify with the clothes or why they were worn. 

But setting them in this longer running context helps - at least for me. 

The extreme of that trend came in France, most famously encapsulated in the Rigaud portrait of Louis XIV (above). 

Here, the King is shown in so much ornamental, flowing cloth that he couldn’t possibly have moved in it, let alone performed royal tasks. And he’s wearing red high heels - which I never noticed before. These were known (derisively) as talons rouges.

This type of clothing set the nobility apart because it showed they didn’t have to do anything for themselves - they had people to do that for them. And indeed, later Louis took to restricting which people were allowed to wear the red heels, making fashion a very explicit form of class signal. 

The reaction against this ostentation came in the 17th century in England - and this is where menswear nerds will be more familiar with the history, as it’s commonly regarded as the birthplace of the suit. 

When Charles II took to the throne, he decreed (on October 7 1666, according to Pepys) that courtiers should get rid of their lace and bows, and wear the new uniform of long jacket, waistcoat and (short, two-piece) trousers. 

As you can see from the image above (that’s Charles on the right), the proportions were very different from a modern suit. But still, it was a step change from the flowing fabric, cinched tabards and bows. It was plain, tailored cloth. 

This is still the age of institutions, and so what the king and courtiers wore, men everywhere aspired to as well. More interestingly, though, that aspiration also reflected the values Charles wanted to project: anti-French and anti-Catholic, prudent and Protestant.

That largely set the tone for the next 250 years. Well into the 20th century, men’s dress was intended to communicate that they were successful, serious people to be valued on their  character and their works. Not their beauty. 

Indeed, as Wild said in his talk, that idea of masculinity as being practical has died hard. Even after the peacock revolution and the flowering of fashion ever since, men are still most comfortable in clothes that are plain, and functional. 

There might be a lot of narcissism around today - begun, perhaps, by the fastidious Beau Brummell (above) - but there is still very little decoration in menswear. We’re a long way from even the fur and gold of Philip the Good.

Wild also talked well about modern trends, but I won’t go into them as they’re so broadly covered. For the moment I think it’s worth remembering, every time we scoff at some fashion trend or runway show, how narrow our ideas of menswear are - and how much of it has come before. 

P.S. In response to this post, a reader sent the image below, from a collection by a Canadian explorer. As he said, it's a particularly funny example of what was considered the height of masculinity 

Shirt style: Structure and lining, types and traditions

 

The next stage in our Guide to Shirts – after the recent pieces on collars and cuffs – is to compare different approaches brands take to the styles of their shirts. 

There are a few different aspects of this, including:

  • the cut (wide, slim; short, long)
  • the structure (fused or floating)
  • the make (steps of handwork, seams and processes) 
  • and, the details (pockets, buttons, pleats)

In this article, we’ll look at the structure: what the different options are, their various advantages and disadvantages, and the traditions of using them. 

 

 

There are two basic types of interlining, which are used in the collar, collar band, cuffs and placket of the shirt. 

These are defined not by what they’re made of, but by how they’re attached to the shirt: they are either fused (glued) to the outer surface, or stitched around the outer edges (but ‘floating’ in the middle). 

There are different types of each lining, including stiffer and softer options, brushed or not. But most importantly, there is also a big variety in weight – from roughly 50g all the way up to 400g.

So a collar that feels like it has no lining at all, might actually have a very lightweight fusing – so light that it effectively disappears after a few washes. 

And while floating lining is often seen as being heavier than fusing, it doesn’t have to be. It depends more on which weight you choose. (Below, Fiorenzo of D’Avino talks me through his different weights in his Neapolitan workshop.) 

 

 

Let’s look at floating linings first. 

This is the more traditional method of adding structure and shape to a shirt. Historically these linings would have been linen, but today they’re usually cotton.

A floating lining is cut to the same shape of the collar, band or cuff, and sewn to the shirt fabric around the edges. So it doesn’t move around inside, but you can feel it as a separate layer if you pinch the collar in two hands. 

One advantage of this over a fused lining is that it’s easier to create a thicker, stiffer collar, which is the key reason many traditional shirtmakers use it. But in lighter weights, it’s also softer than a fused lining, making it nice on casual shirts. 

The fact that the lining can move independently of the shirt fabric also makes it more comfortable – because of the collar, but also because of the collar band, which is constructed in the same way and of course is the part that sits against the neck.

 

 

A disadvantage of a floating collar is that it is harder to make. Fused linings can simply be glued to the collar fabric and then cut around. Indeed, most shirt factories can’t make floating collars for this reason – having the fusing to reinforce the collar as it’s made is an integral part of their manufacturing process. 

However, none of this means that it a floating collar is always superior. Yes, it is more traditional, harder to do, and only the better or bespoke makers do it. But at PS we know to dig a little deeper than that. None of those necessarily make it better – we’re interested in the outcomes, not the methods or traditions.

The other small disadvantage of a floating collar is that it is harder to iron. You need to work from the point and edges of the collar towards the middle – and do so carefully – to avoid wrinkles. 

But as with other quality menswear, this is a pretty poor excuse for avoiding them. If you can’t be bothered to iron properly, use shoe trees, or hang a sodden coat on a hanger, then frankly you don’t deserve nice things. 

 

 

Fused linings are a relatively new addition to shirts, having become available in the 1930s and undergone various revolutions in quality during the 20th century.

Just as there is a range of weights, there is also a range of qualities, with the best being woven and the cheapest being composites, made in a similar way to fibreboard. Unfortunately, the cheaper end of this spectrum has a habit of giving fused collars a bad name. 

The vast majority of shirts in the world today use some type of fused interlining. But some of the best shirtmakers also use fused linings. So while most of the big names – Charvet, Siniscalchi, Turnbull & Asser – only use floating, there are those such as Kiton or D’Avino that use fusing (or some combination of the two). 

The reason is partly historical. English makers use primarily floating linings because they traditionally made smarter shirts, originating in formal clothing. Those collars used to be starched, and some even used two layers of lining to achieve a desired stiffness. Even today, their collars are largely designed to be worn with ties, and with suits. 

Those stiff collars fell out of favour quicker in places like Naples, where culture and climate encouraged lighter-weight and more casual dress. 

But the importance of these traditions can be exaggerated. Certainly, they’re not as important with shirts as they are with tailoring. 

Just as big a factor is the availability of machinery. Naples retains a lot of handwork in its clothes because it did not industrialise as early or as widely, and took up fusings because they were cheap and easy – no machinery required. 

“A century ago, shirts had much more (and often better) handwork, because labour was cheap. Today labour is expensive, and machinery cheaper,” comments shirtmaker Wil Whiting. “I was recently lucky enough to see a 100-year-old shirt first hand, and the delicacy of the handwork was incredible.”

Still, while a buttonhole machine might only cost £5,000, that’s a lot for a small shirtmaker in a Neapolitan suburb, so the methods remain. 

 

 

So what are the advantages of fused linings? Why do some of the best makers use them? 

One key advantage is that a fused collar moulds better. If you wear a fused collar without a tie, it moulds over the course of the day, shaping away from your chin and tucking under the lapels of the jacket. This ‘S’ shape means the collar will not collapse beneath the jacket, as many floating collars do. 

And with a tie, a fused collar looks sharper. Indeed, mainstream shirt brands sometimes use fused collars for dress shirts, floating ones for casual shirts: the opposite of the division of traditions outlined above. 

Personally, I see the advantage of floating linings more in casual shirts. If you’re having a casual flannel shirt made, to wear with jeans and boots, then you’re more likely to want the collar and cuff to be soft. “I use very lightweight floating linings in casual linen shirts for that reason,” says Whiting. “You want them to be soft and wrinkle, but still have something in them.”

I’ve also never noticed a difference in comfort between fused and floating lining. I had my shirts made at Turnbull & Asser for several years, and have used others such as Emma Willis, Budd and Charvet. I prefer my fused ones. 

The other argument for floating collars is longevity: eventually any fusing will fall apart and start to bubble, where no floating one will. This is true, but with any decent fusing, that will take many years. I’ve had some shirts for more than a decade and never had this issue.

 

 

 

There is of course the option of no lining at all, which is most popular in America but by no means exclusive to it. 

I have tried this and it’s noticeably more comfortable. But you lose a lot of the control of the collar, and how it sits within a jacket. That’s fine with a very casual shirt, or one you never intend to wear with tailoring, but probably too much of a disadvantage otherwise. 

And then there are combinations of the different techniques. For example, some makers such as D’Avino use a collar construction that – they think – combines the best of both worlds. They have a floating interlining throughout the collar, and then a fused section just in the two ends (shown below). This also means the section that is theoretically more comfortable (the floating) is in the part closer to the neck. 

Plus bespoke makers use all manner of combinations to suit their customers’ needs. 

One London maker I spoke to for this article said they fuse an extra layer of lining to their floating one, for some clients, to create greater stiffness. One customer wants even stiffer and sharper, and so has two thick layers fused to each other and to the shirt. Another has sections just fused to the tips (similarly to D’Avino) because he always forgets to use collar stays. 

 

 

In the end, the decision is about outcomes – what you want and how best to achieve it. 

All fused linings are not cheap, and do not bubble after a few years. All floating linings are not heavy and stiff. They can be used for different aims, and indeed combined in various ways. 

Pay some respect to the rules, by taking the time to understand them. And then make your own decision.  

 

Petru & Claymoor bespoke shoes: Review

Petru & Claymoor bespoke shoes: Review

Wednesday, December 2nd 2020
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Almost a year ago, back in January, I began the process of making a pair of bespoke shoes with a new outfit in Romania, Petru & Claymoor

Shoe fans might have seen some coverage of the brand over the intervening year. It was set up by Mircea Cioponea and Petru Coca, the former better known for his shoe blog Claymoor’s List

The pair have a showroom in Bucharest, and also a workshop in Brasov. The latter is in the Transylvania region of Romania, hence the use of ‘Transylvania’ on a lot of their branding and communications. 

The split-toe derbys they made me were very nice, with a solid fit. There are one or two making issues, and a more significant one in the style that I’ll describe in a moment. They’re also the stiff, solid shoe typical of eastern Europe, which won’t suit everybody. 

But it’s hard to argue with the value: €1500 for a completely handmade, bespoke shoe (€250 of which is the last - so not chargeable on a second pair).

This was also my first experience of having any bespoke done remotely - which has of course becoming more common in the past year. So that was interesting to experience and think about. 

We began the experience by Mircea sending me images of their models, in various leathers, and me picking between them. Unfortunately some of the leathers proved to then be unavailable, so I couldn’t get the shade of kudu I liked. I find this a risk with older shoe models or smaller makers. 

But there was a split-toe derby in the Russian hatch-grain leather supplied by Horween, which I liked, so we went with that (pictured above). 

I was instructed to measure my own feet, in four different places on each foot. I then sent Mircea a video of me doing so (in order to see exactly where I had measured) as well as the measurements themselves. 

This was a relatively few number of measurements, compared to what a bespoke maker would usually take in person, for instance. 

The process was then delayed by Covid, and we started again in June. 

I was sent a fitting pair of shoes, made in a scrap leather with a temporary, glued sole (above). We then had a video call to see and discuss the fit. The shoes were a different style - a cap-toe oxford, rather than a Norwegian derby.

Overall, it was good. There were a few changes to make, and it had perhaps erred on the safe side in terms of generosity of fit, but it felt like a good start. 

The finished shoes were then received in October, and I have to say packaged very nicely. 

The shoe boxes Mircea is using are actually wine boxes, made from Transylvanian beech, and he included a bottle of wine from the local vineyard owned by his friend Mosia Galicea.

The box is wider than other bespoke shoe boxes as a result, and has a sliding lid, which is pleasing. The cloth and shoe bags were from a dark-grey tailoring material, and my initials were stamped on the side.  

The make of the shoes overall was strong. The work is clean and well done, with smooth transitions between sole and heel, and neat hand-sewing on the apron, for instance. There were some attractive touches, like the aged-brass aiglets on the ends of the laces. 

The shoes were also nicely polished, with darker colour on the toes, which really brings out the character of the hatch-grain. However it was a little messy near the welt, with some pale and dark patches. 

Looking carefully, the balance of the uppers on the sole was also not perfect. From above, the welt appears wider on one side than the other, on both shoes. 

This is a detail, and I doubt anyone would notice it that wasn’t analysing the shoes this closely. But at the same time, it’s also something I don’t see on my top-end bespoke shoes (Gaziano, Cleverley, Bemer, Fukuda etc) or on high-end factory-made shoes. 

The shoes are entirely handmade, in the same way any bespoke - i.e. hand welted, hand-sewn welt, hand-sewn sole, machine-sewn parts on the uppers. 

But they’re not a fine bespoke make. The heel is fairly square, neither narrowed to the waist nor pitched in the back, and with no clean transition from heel cup to stack. The waist is cut in, but not tightly, and the bevelling is subtle. (See post here for an illustration of those details.)

The shoe trees are also not solid or hollowed, being sprung models from Springline. 

Of course, most of these are style points as well as making ones. Dressy touches would be out of place on a country shoe. But it does mean the shoe resembles some high-end non-bespoke - particularly Saint Crispin’s - more than it does other bespoke shoes we’ve covered. 

The Saint Crispin’s comparison is worth dwelling on, because the overall style is very similar. As far as I know this is just because of the way shoes are made in the area: both workshops are in Romania. 

But from a style point of view, I think it’s worth considering whether you like that Saint Crispin’s look, when considering Petru & Claymoor for a new bespoke option. 

And, it’s worth considering whether you need the extra bespoke steps like a hand-sewn sole, when the lack of dressy details means that the look and feel is very similar to StC. 

The fit of the P&C shoes was very good, which was a relief as this was the area I was most worried about, given so much had been done remotely. 

The fit through the back of the shoe is close without being restrictive, while there’s plenty of room to move the toes. Although, this is something that's easiest to achieve on a derby style. Most ready-made derbys fit me well (unlike oxfords, loafers or boots) and so this is only a slight improvement. 

The only real fit issue is on the vamp of the shoe, where the toes meet the foot. Here the shoes are cut rather close, before lifting up into a fairly tall toe box. This makes them a tiny bit less comfortable, but also affects the look of the shoe - accentuating the creases and separating the toe area, as you can see to an extent in the images above and below

The significant style issue that I alluded to at the beginning is the width of the shoe. 

Mircea said he deliberately created a wide shape at the front, in order to give me plenty of room for my little toes. He was aware from other articles that this was my biggest pain point, and issue with shoe fit generally.

He was right to focus on that, but I think overcompensated. The result is a rather unusual, almost bulbous shape to the front that I don’t think quite comes across from the pictures. 

Indeed, when I received the shoes I was excited about how lovely they looked, but a little taken aback at this shape. I discussed it with Mircea, and he explained the reasoning above, as well as of course saying that it could be changed on a future pair. 

If I compare it to the shape of the Saint Crispin’s I had made four years ago, because they have a similar last, I find those more subtle and elegant. 

The last thing worth mentioning is that the Petru & Claymoor shoes are very stiff. Probably the stiffest shoes I’ve worn. 

This is partly the way eastern European shoes are made. As with the lack of dressy details, these are just not fine city shoes, and are deliberately robust. But it’s also a little the leather, which is thicker than most calf, around 1.8-2mm. 

I’ve worn the shoes about 10 times so far, and they are softening, but remain noticeably stiff and a little tiring on the feet as a result. It will probably take another 10 or 20 wears to know how much they will really soften up. 

I think that stiffness and the unusual shape are what would hold me back from getting a second pair of Petru & Claymoor. 

I really like them, but I need to see in the long term both how much they soften and how much that shape bothers me. I would also really want to see Mircea in person, to point these details out and to see alternatives. 

The team do plan to do trunk shows - to London, St Petersburg and Frankfurt - but obviously can’t at the moment. 

I like the look of some other Petru & Claymoor styles, such as the chelsea boots shown above. And I’ve always wanted a brown-suede toe-cap in this style, as my Saint Crispin’s pair didn’t fit that well (one area in which P&C comes off better from the comparison).

But I think we need that physical meeting to resolve some of these issues.

And perhaps that’s the biggest disadvantage of a remote bespoke process: it’s hard to explain and correct any issues that do come up. 

You might be lucky and not have any; but if you do, the customer’s lack of expertise makes it hard to fix them. That’s certainly something I’m finding in tailoring too - more on which soon. 

Complete pricing: First pair €1500, including €250 for the lasts - €1250 for subsequent pairs. Price includes all calf and suede, such as the hatch grain shown. Other leathers price on request. There is also a MTO option on their signature last, from €990. Normal delivery time, six weeks. 

petru-claymoor.com

Photography: Alex Natt, Petru & Claymoor, and Permanent Style

 

How great things age: Nicoletta’s 50-year-old jacket

 

In the coming months I will be writing more posts again in our ‘How great things age’ series, which aims to illustrate the beauty of quality clothing over time. 

Basically, it’s an antidote to the new clothing that it’s much easier to write about, and which most sites (especially social media) are dominated by. It shows not what you get now, but the reward in 10 or 20 years. 

Because, while quality clothes can look good the day they’re bought, it’s often in the long term – as things are worn, cleaned and repaired – that they really show their value. Plastic does not do that. 

 

 

Those upcoming articles will necessarily focus on my wardrobe. And while I do have beautiful examples – having started buying bespoke shoes and tailoring just over a decade ago – I don’t have anything that’s 30 or 40 years old (excluding vintage).

For that I have to turn to friends, and so today I’m going to highlight a jacket owned by tailor and friend Nicoletta Caraceni, in Milan. 

The tailoring house that Nicoletta runs, Ferdinando Caraceni, was founded by her father. (No relation to A Caraceni – full history/explanation here.)

Ferdinando was a very elegant man, and when he died, Nicoletta inherited a sizeable wardrobe. He was bigger than Nicoletta, but not much taller, and so the jackets didn’t fit too badly – the sleeves might need to be shortened, the body slimmed, but otherwise it was OK. 

That doesn’t mean that she could get a real bespoke fit, of course. Just that it could be something wearable, and still of the greatest quality. Plus deep emotional value. 

 

 

The jacket Nicoletta is wearing here is about 50 years old. 

She guesses it was made in 1971. There is a picture of her father wearing it in 1973, and it wasn’t new then.

The date on the label, in the inbreast pocket, has long been worn away.

(Side note: I find it funny how much I like these labels in my bespoke. I never thought I’d care that much, but I often find myself checking when a particular suit dates from. There is something special about having the moment captured, and stated. I almost want to add similar labels on my favourite ready-to-wear.)

 

 

Nicoletta’s jacket, in a densely woven black wool, is part of a suit. 

The trousers don’t fit by some way, but they have a second use: Nicoletta has kept them for spare cloth, in order to patch and repair the jacket. She used it to patch the elbows, as you can see in the image above. 

The edges of the jacket, where they would have rubbed on other surfaces, had become worn and frayed – mostly the front edge around the waist button and below, and the ends of the cuffs. 

Here Nicoletta put black binding on, instead of cloth, as it was stronger and rather suited the jacket, given it was already redolent of black tie. 

The lining has also been replaced more than once.

 

 

The hand-sewn buttonholes have lasted well, but the waist buttonhole was repaired at one point. Repairing usually makes most sense, as replacing buttonholes can be quite messy. 

There was one buttonhole that was too worn away, on the bottom of the right sleeve, and here Nicoletta covered by doing the repair with a bright Italian tricolore. I don’t have an image of that, but it is on several of her jackets, including the pinstripe she is wearing here.

Few things are less my style than multicoloured buttonholes. Indeed, much of what Nicoletta wears is not my style – she often pairs jackets like this with jeans and cowboy boots. 

But I really admire her approach to clothing. We have a similar passion for good clothes and fine craft, and ultimately this mixing of styles is very her: it has absolute integrity (in both senses).

 

 

A poorer quality jacket would not have lasted this well. 

Anything that used fusing, to start with, would have seen the glue dry and peel away over time, distorting the front. Fusing has improved a lot in recent years, but this would still be its downfall in the end.

Caraceni tailoring, like much in northern Italy, has a strong shoulder but rather light structure in the body. Nicoletta often says that these lighter layers lose nothing in strength or durability, and her father’s jacket is pretty good evidence. 

Any handmade tailoring is also easier to repair, for reasons we’ve gone into before (see video here on repairs, and here on alteration). There’s more cloth in the seams, and those seams are easier to open and work. 

Of course, with a lot of bespoke there’s also a good chance that the cutter and coatmaker you go to for repair, are the same people that made that tailoring in the first place. This isn’t the case with Nicoletta’s jacket – the staff aren’t quite that old – but they are all familiar with the techniques, having been handed down in the workshop over the decades. 

 

 

This jacket doesn’t look new, and certainly shows its age. The buttonholes look worn, and the hip pockets sag open (a good argument for flapped rather than jetted pockets, perhaps).

But in two distinct ways, this bespoke looks better than even new RTW.

First, the jacket still has the 3D shape and structure of bespoke, which gives it both better lines and a more personal shape.

And second, it has the beauty of age: it is unique, it has character; it has little details everywhere that hint at its journey over the past half century.

The first of those is the lasting appeal of bespoke make. The second is the appeal of all vintage clothing – except that, of course, it’s your own vintage.

The tailoring I have from Nicoletta – such as the cotton jacket below – is a long way from being this kind of vintage. But it’s lovely to think what it might look like after 50 years. At which point, perhaps, it will be worn by one of my daughters. They’re certainly getting tall enough.

 

The Permanent Style x Cromford shearling coat

The Permanent Style x Cromford shearling coat

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Friday, November 27th 2020
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I’ve been lucky this year that so many outerwear collaborations have come to fruition - no delays, no problems, everything fulfilling my expectations. That doesn’t always happen. 

This next one is no less exciting than the others, but I should note now that is being sold by Cromford Leather, not Permanent Style, and that it is mostly made to order/measure. 

Shearling is expensive, and stocking a volume of it is hard. Particularly when - as with pretty much everything we do - the aim is the finest quality in the world. Even buying the skins (nine for each jacket) makes you think twice. 

So Cromford have a small size run available now, and have bought skins to make more - either made to order (no size changes) or made to measure (their normal MTM service). Details on both of those, timings etc, at the bottom of this post. 

There are 20 jackets available in total, the RTW or MTO being £2250 (ex VAT) and the MTM £2812 (always 25% higher than their RTW). 

The key thing that frustrates me about shearling coats is the colours. 

There is certainly an attraction to wools and skins that are undyed, or more natural in colour. I assume that must be the reason why so many are pale, particularly light brown and tan. 

But it makes a shearling coat more striking than it needs to be, and probably less versatile. It’s also what drives the few negative (British) associations there are, such as John Motson or Del Boy

And it’s much less practical. Shearling isn’t that hard to look after, if you brush it down and keep the nap up. It’s robust and fine in light rain, in the same way suede is. 

But pale colours will show dirt much more quickly. Why someone like Ralph Lauren offers them in pale grey I’ll never know. Perhaps the typical Purple Label customer never ventures out into inclement weather anyway. 

So the shearling I’ve designed with Cromford is a deep, muted olive on the outside, with a dark brown wool on the inside. This double dyeing is not easy or cheap, but I do think it creates a coat that is very wearable, while still being distinctive. 

The other thing that frustrates me about shearling I’ve tried and worn in the past, is the traditional shapes. (Don’t worry, there are only two of these bugbears.)

Quite a few fall into one of two camps: either a big, chunky flight jacket, or a long, thigh length tube. 

I can completely understand the appeal of the first. It looks manly, rugged and traditional. In my life I’ve bought two, a vintage one and a new one from Nigel Cabourn. 

The vintage one wasn’t great (shearling tends to rip when it’s decades’ old) and while I still love the Cabourn one, it’s too thick to wear unless the temperature is -5 or below. Which isn’t often in the UK in recent years. 

More importantly, though, that bomber style is really only a casual piece, to wear with jeans, and it can feel like wearing a very particular look - like wearing a black leather jacket. 

The other shape I dislike is hip length or longer, single breasted, and perhaps lacks style. It’s looks purely practical, designed to cover the body and nothing more. Motson favoured that style. 

That thought process led to a design for our coat that was hip length, but with a sweeping double-breasted front to give it some style. 

The double-breasted front was influenced by a vintage piece I found, but also by the lapels on the Bridge Coat we make with Private White VC. The line here is not as dramatic as that, but you will see echoes of it in the slimmer waist, rounded shape through the chest, and then neck-framing collar. 

There are of course lots of other double-breasted shearling coats out there, but I’ve yet to find one that has this combination of sartorial lapel shape and practical length. I remember agonising over a Zegna one two years ago, but it just had a narrow, straight wrap on the DB, and was probably too pale in colour. 

One of the most satisfying things about designing outerwear like this, is the ability to make your dream coat. 

Something our vintage piece contributed to the design was a double layer of shearling on the collar and lapels. 

 

This allows the coat as a whole to be use lighter skins than most, making it easier to wear. But then the double layer at the front gives the lapels style and shape, while protecting the parts of you that need it most: the chest and neck. 

This difference is subtle, and might even go unnoticed by someone wearing it, but I think is key to this design being so functional. 

I was also very keen to make sure the fronts do button easily all the way up - there’s plenty of room under the chin. And the plunge pockets are set far enough forward to be easy to use too. 

Similarly to the Wax Walker, we also made these plunge pockets deep enough so that they can work as receptacles for your phone, wallet, keys etc, and use the hip pockets for your hands if you prefer (as I do). 

The shearling we used is Spanish merino. This is extremely soft compared to a lot of others used, such as entrefino, which tends to be thicker and rigid. The merino is dense though, and it is the density which gives it warmth. 

These types of skins are considered ‘double face’ in that both sides are treated (and dyed) without the wool of the sheep being removed. Often cheaper shearlings are actually two separate skins, a suede and a wool, which are sewn together because it’s cheaper (a little like split suedes). 

The outer side has a suede finish, and the inner is semi-curly wool, cut to 10mm length. An average of nine skins are required per coat, as mentioned. 

Basically, our aim was to make the finest shearling possible, using the finest materials. That isn’t the aim of every maker, but it is ours, and that’s why pieces like this are necessarily expensive. I won’t have to tell regular readers that a coat like this would be over £5,000 from a larger, designer brand. (Indeed, Cromford makes for some of them.)

Other design details on the coat include a small, zipped pocket on the inside - which is something that’s hard to do on shearling, given there is no lining, and so is often left out. 

There’s also a throat latch, which we widened and placed lower on the neck, to make sure no cold winds slip through between body and collar (which again, seems to happen on most coats - and which we did on the Donegal Coat too).

Finally, this isn’t a design detail, but it’s worth pointing out that shearling can look nice with the sleeves rolled back a little, as shown below. This is useful because it avoids sizing problems for anyone that’s a little shorter, or has relatively short arms.

Oh, and for those that are interested, the shearling is a by-product of the lamb industry, as most are. 

Ordering details:

  • 10 coats are available now, two in every size from S to XXL, costing £2250 (ex VAT) 
  • Skins are available for a further 10 coats, which can be made to these standard sizes, or made to measure 
  • If you order a RTW coat, it will be ready in three weeks
  • If you order MTM, it will take roughly eight weeks and cost £2812 (ex VAT). The extra time is consultation, and shipping and making toile fittings
  • The MTM must be in the same style as this coat, but otherwise there are no limitations
  • If you want a different style, this is a bespoke service, which should be discussed separately with Cromford
  • Ordering is through the Cromford Leather website here
  • All extra information, including care and sizing, can be obtained through contact with Cromford. I measure a 39-inch chest, am 6 foot tall, and wear a Medium

Other clothes shown:

  • Cream and red cashmere watch caps, from Permanent Style 
  • Jeans, bespoke from Levi’s Lot No.1
  • Grey crewneck, cashmere from Luca Faloni
  • Vintage bandana, from The Vintage Showroom
  • Grey flannel trousers, from Whitcomb & Shaftesbury
  • Navy roll neck, from Edward Sexton

Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

The style and price of Berg & Berg

The style and price of Berg & Berg

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Wednesday, November 25th 2020
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I’ve always liked the way Andreas Larsson at Berg & Berg designs - and styles - the clothes for the brand. 

In particular, I think his approach to casual chic (I’m sticking with that term) is impressive: he consistently demonstrates effective ways to look well-dressed without a suit. 

Separately, I find Berg & Berg’s approach to pricing interesting. They consistently produce a slightly lower quality level - in the name of value for money - than most brands we cover. But they’ve also been on a journey with that approach too. 

So while I was in Stockholm last month, I spent a couple of hours shooting and chatting with Andreas about those themes.

“For me, I think it should be easy to dress, both in terms of how the clothes feel and the combinations that go together,” says Andreas (above).

“So I don’t like all the fussiness around the ‘menswear triangle’ of shirt, tie and handkerchief - trying to put together bright, loud or adventurous combinations. It should be easier than that.

“Plus, I think your clothes should be things you can wear, if not on a daily basis, then at least weekly. Not a big collection of accessories that you only wear on occasion. That feels more relevant in 2020. Everything should be safe and easy, but not boring.” 

I suggest - tentatively - that this is also rather Swedish. “No that’s probably right,” he says. “We like being under the radar, culturally. 

“But also, it’s about the environment. There’s no point being super colourful when it’s going to be dark in an hour.”

In order to illustrate these points, I asked Andreas to wear something to our shoot that he thought encapsulated this view. And to bring things he would suggest for me.

His choice was a black knitted polo with a white T-shirt, and white cords. Black belt and black loafers; white socks and a white T-shirt. With a mac. 

“White trousers might seem a little showy, but to me these cords with a black knit feel super safe. It’s white and black - it’s simple, you’ve seen it before. 

“Of course, it’s not that practical when it’s snowy and slushy, or indeed with a kid in kindergarten. But you can’t be too precious about these things, it’s not healthy. They’re just clothes.”

For my part, I’d add that white and black are easier to wear in these particular materials. Knitwear and corduroy look a lot less stark than, for example, fine cotton and worsted wool.

We also talked about Andreas’s views on corduroy. Berg & Berg use a lot of it, and I know for many readers it's associated with an older generation, with rural pursuits, and perhaps not that cool as a result. 

“I think that all depends on your context,” says Andreas. “For me corduroy has always  seemed more skate, and punk. But perhaps it’s the culture I grew up in.

“I love corduroy because it’s soft and comfortable, and it ages well. It’s a real pain to shoot, but I think it’s one of the few materials that gets better with every wash - more like denim than most other trouser materials. 

“I know some people still see it as a velvet - which it is of course - but in our colours I don’t think it feels like that.” 

I suggest that a finer wale than the wide one Berg & Berg typically uses, would feel less velvety. “Yes, that’s true, and we have used finer cords in the past. But I think they’re better for five-pocket trousers, or narrower trousers,” says Andreas.

Black can be equally divisive. “I was against black for so long,” he says, “like a lot of people getting into menswear. I thought no one looked good in it, that it just looked cheap. 

“But actually it has a lot of charm, and it has that same advantage of being simple and subtle. It’s great with brown in particular - on the site we’ve been doing the chocolate brown trousers with black knits, and that’s a nice combo. Like some kind of teacher that’s branched out into fashion. 

(I agree of course - as noted in a few recent articles. In fact, I’d probably wear Andreas’s combination, pictured, more readily than I would the cream and tan he picked for me.) 

“Even navy and black works well, I think, even though it’s not supposed to be allowed,” he continues. “Brown and black, apparently, is banned too. I’m still waiting to be arrested for that - and for wearing brown shoes after six!

How about black on different complexions? “That was one of the reasons I never used to wear it,” he says. “But actually I think it looks better on my pale complexion that most colours. And I’ve yet to see somebody that doesn’t better in black than in orange, for example.” 

You heard it here first. Black is the new orange.

Turning to price, it was interesting to hear Andreas relate some of the story of Berg & Berg. “I think at the start we were very much a price competitor - selling ties, scarves, handkerchiefs, and doing so at lower prices,” he says. 

“But after a while you realise that can’t be your only USP, or at least you don’t want it to be. We’ve grown into a brand, and with that comes more design, more sampling, more service. And we get pressure now because our prices have gone up.”

I actually didn’t realise their prices had gone up, not being a regular customer. But Andreas agrees that it often happens over the first few years of a brand - because they want to be able to offer different things, and because they come to realise the full costs of running a sustainable company. This is of course something we’ve covered recently

“We took the decision to increase our quality in some ways as well, or at least change direction on it,” he adds. “For example we switched from using VBC flannel to an English one, because we wanted something that was hardier, that didn’t wear through so quickly.”

This, I think, demonstrates what drives a lot of the Berg & Berg products. The overriding aim is value, rather than quality. 

Now it’s very easy to get overexcited when you think something is driven by value. Who doesn’t want better value, after all? 

But it’s not as simple as that.

First, it’s accurate to say that most brands we cover on Permanent Style aim for pretty much the best quality. We might cover a range of knitwear between Luca Faloni, Colhay’s and Loro Piana, for example, but they’re all still near the top of the tree.

Berg & Berg is not aiming there. Its focus is a little way down the logarithmic price/quality curve. More merino, less finishing, certainly no handwork and so on. 

In one way, that means they’re delivering better value. But at the same time, the nature of that curve means that if you go further down, you get even better value. Until you’re just buying coated stuff from Uniqlo

It’s better to think of brands like B&B as aiming for a different level. One which might suit you, if your disposable income is lower. But which might not, if you want to buy something of a higher quality.

“We’re not aiming to produce the best possible product,” says Andreas. “Rather, we’re aiming for what we think is a sweet spot between quality and price. Somewhere in the middle of the road. Which I think is very Swedish too.”

I’ve personally tried a Berg & Berg shirt, collared knit, cord trousers and the pieces shown on me in the images here. Some of which I’ve covered in passing before

Of those, I happily wear the shirt based on its quality and the collared knit, but less so the cord trousers or the roll neck. On the trousers, that’s a combination of the material and a fit that doesn’t quite work for me; on the roll neck, I’d just be happy to pay more for cashmere. Interested to hear everyone else's experiences as well.

As with other discussions we’ve had about value recently, I think the important thing here is to realise that no one is ripping you off, and that you’re not magically getting the same quality for a lower price. None of these are designer brands: there are no big marketing budgets or Bond Street stores. 

And please, don’t obsess over value at the expense of style, or fit. Both are more important. You're buying clothes to look good, so be prepared to pay for it. 

The clothes Andreas and I are wearing are:

Photography: Milad Abedi

bergbergstore.com

What is comfort?

What is comfort?

Monday, November 23rd 2020
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Working from home has thrown up lots of interesting clothing debates recently - including whether people will just stop caring, as we discussed recently

Another interesting one, I think, is the idea of comfort. As in, ‘It’s just so comfortable wearing a T-shirt and sweatpants all day - I can’t see myself wearing anything else again.’

I’d like to unpack this idea a little, as it contains a lot of interesting assumptions. And, I find that thinking about them helps us understand the particular things we enjoy, or don’t enjoy, about clothing.

So, what is comfort?

A lot of people would answer that it's softness, particularly in something like a T-shirt or sweatpants. When I asked my 12-year-old daughter how she would define comfort, her response was ‘fluffiness, and nothing itchy’.

And yet, soft things are not necessarily comfortable. A fleece onesie might be even softer than your sweatpants, but that doesn’t mean you’d wear it - both because you’d feel silly, and because the thick, synthetic fleece might feel uncomfortable over time. 

Even staying with natural materials, not everyone likes the super-soft feel of fur. 

Another answer is looseness - a lack of restriction. Free-flowing linen trousers in the Summer, perhaps, that you barely feel you’re wearing. 

But that doesn’t necessarily work comprehensively either. Would you really want to walk down the street feeling like you’re wearing nothing at all? Basically naked, but warm and dry?

Part of the pleasure of those loose linen trousers is the occasional feel of the material - the cool, smooth cloth brushing over the skin.

The same goes for the comfort of being in bed. We recently got a new duvet that is also lighter, and it feels very odd. There is a particular comfort in a heavy blanket - indeed you can buy weighted blankets that are supposed to help children sleep better.

Separately, freedom of movement often comes not from lack of any restriction, but from restriction in the right places. As in the small armhole on a bespoke jacket, or close-fitting gloves. 

Shoes have to grip you, as well as letting you move. If those linen trousers were loose and falling down, they might be irritating and less comfortable. 

There are some men that seem to like trousers that are loose and falling down. But I wonder if style were taken out of the equation, whether a waistband that fitted more closely would prove to be preferred. 

At the very least, this shows another way - personal experience - in which the concept of comfort is subjective. 

One more answer is that comfort is about material that moves with you - that is moulded and lived-in.

This crystallises around the question of whether jeans are comfortable. 

We’ve had comments in the past where readers have asked how anyone can find jeans comfortable - because they’re so tough, so stiff. Tailoring cloths are often held up as superior, because of their looseness, softness, drape.

We’ve already touched on looseness and softness: good fit is part of that comfort too, and some feel of the cloth. 

But what’s really at stake here is that jeans mould to you, and feel reassuring as a result. You push against the denim, and so feel more of it. There is pleasure in the closeness of the fit - you feel the cotton more, and the way it warms to your body.

Other cottons, such as loopwheeled sweats, are similar. The pleasure there is not really the softness, but the pliability - the stretch and movement, which comes from the density of the knit. 

Another example is a horsehide leather jacket, which moulds. It is one of the most restrictive things you can wear, given it’s so close-fitting and tough. But you can still understand someone who says it’s comfortable, because of that reassuring, form-fitting feel. 

And of course there’s tailoring, which can be comfortable through fitting in all the right places (close on the neck, in the armhole; loose in the back and the chest; shaped but never tight in the waist). 

Finally, much of what we consider comfortable is psychological. 

For example, on the one hand, comfort can come through contrast. I wore a shirt and tie the other day for the first time in a month, and there was real pleasure in the feeling of a close - but not restrictive - fit. It just feels like what a shirt is designed for.

But it felt great to wear a T-shirt and shawl-collar sweater the next day. I appreciated it because of the contrast. Same goes for wearing trainers after a couple of days in welted shoes. 

Yet another example almost implies the opposite: comfort can come from habit, from the reassuring and familiar.

Old slippers can be the most comfortable thing, even if they're not the softest or best fitting. It's revealing, I think, that we'd call them comforting, as well as comfortable.

The idea of comfort is personal, complex, and psychological.

So it's silly to ask how anyone can find jeans comfortable, or how anyone can wear a suit and tie rather than a T-shirt and trainers.

It's what we like, what we're used to, and what we appreciate more.

For me personally, a lot of the feeling of comfort comes from appreciating materials. But I know it’s subjective, because those materials also vary: each has its own pleasure - there are different things to enjoy in wool, in fur, and in cotton. 

Perhaps the saddest thing about wearing just a T-shirt and sweatpants all day, is that you only get to appreciate one of them.

The mock neck

The mock neck

Friday, November 20th 2020
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I’m not sure about the mock neck. 

It’s been having a resurgence recently - everyone is doing one, from Camoshita to Loro Piana, Margaret Howell to Inis Meain. I can’t remember the last time a style of knitwear became so ubiquitous so quickly.

But it’s a slightly weird style. And by weird I necessarily mean unusual, as in you don’t see many people wearing them. It also means I don’t own one, so I don’t know whether it looks good or not. 

Without that experience, you turn to your style references: the people that have worn them through history, and as a result the people that other people will think about, when you wear one. 

For me those references are golfers (Tiger Woods in particular) surfers (starting in the 1960s) and Steve Jobs. Apparently there were some breakdancers too, but that wasn’t something I was aware of.

I don’t mind the surfer reference, but I’m not sure about the other two. And only Jobs’ version was long-sleeved. Plus it was black, tucked into pale jeans. Pretty shapeless jeans too.

Being unusual can be a reason enough for clothes to appeal to some. 

But it’s not usually what we’re aiming for with Permanent Style. We’re more interested in elegance and taste: in looking simply well dressed. 

So let’s try to break this down from a PS point of view. What are the advantages of a mock neck? 

Well, that higher neckline (than a crewneck) frames the face, which is usually good. It’s certainly the reason a roll neck (or polo neck, or turtleneck in the US) is flattering on many men. 

But you’d have to say a roll neck does it better. The only advantage of the mock neck is that it can be more comfortable. I know some guys don’t wear roll necks for that reason, although I do also think it takes time to get used to it - I used to be the same, and now it’s one of my favourite things to wear. 

You can also wear a shirt collar under a heavier roll neck, and avoid that issue without the shirt collar showing through. Or if you’re feeling very flamboyant, you can flip up the shirt collar and have the points sticking out the top of the roll neck, wing-collar style. 

The other nice thing about a mock neck is warmth, as it covers more of the neck. And that’s certainly a reason it’s popular in functional clothing, from wet suits to base layers. 

It’s also how I see the mock neck best worn - under an overshirt or similarly loose outer layer. Not on its own, and not necessarily with a tailored jacket. 

Although I wouldn’t wear the colour combination, I do think it looks nice on Aleks Cvetkovic in that manner, in this video we did together. 

Still, when it comes to warmth a roll neck still does it better. That might be too restrictive for surfing, or for climbing (ref. Drake’s) but not for just wearing around town under a coat.

Also, if the mock neck is being worn as a base layer, you really want a really fine knit, not the regular sweater weights most brands are offering. 

No, it feels like the only reasons to favour a mock neck, are that they are unusual and therefore interesting, or that you can’t wear a roll neck. 

Actually, one more - flipping the point about cultural associations on its head, I know there are some people that dislike roll necks for what they are reminiscent of (beatniks, philosophers, French people, French philosophers). Most of those people are women, actually, which should maybe worry heterosexual readers. 

So if you can’t wear a roll neck, or don’t like its associations, wear a mock neck. Plus maybe as a base layer. 

I don’t especially like how the mock neck looks on me in this shoot, though that’s perhaps unfair for two reasons. 

One, my Adam’s Apple seems to be make it look oddly pointed at the front. Never seen that on anyone else. 

And two, the jacket I’m wearing is from Anderson & Sheppard, and they always have a high collar. Which means the roll neck is sitting slightly underneath collar line, rather than above it. Were this a Neapolitan jacket, there would be a good half inch of clearance - more the line of a good shirt. 

The mock neck worn, by the way, is from Colhay’s, and is a lovely version for anyone that wants a mock neck. Beautiful deep, dark brown, neat cut. Though given it’s to be worn over a T-shirt, rather than a shirt, I would have liked it in cashmere rather than their lambswool. 

I do like this colour combination though: mid-grey checks, charcoal flannel, brown knitwear, dark brown shoes. It’s exactly the kind of sombre, subtle mix that particularly appeals to me right now. 

Perhaps I’ll try it next time with a polo-collar sweater, buttoned up to the top. That’s another style we’ll be looking into in an article soon. 

In fact there seems to be a theme here of neckline-related pieces. Following the Ciardi coat, the new Dartmoor, this article, and two more coming up. Plus there was this feature I wrote for Drake’s recently. 

I think it’s the combination of cold weather and a desire to dress down tailoring, by wearing knitwear underneath. As ever, any and all thoughts, points and alternative cultural associations are welcome. 

(I count Miles Davis as wearing a roll neck most of the time, by the way, rather than a mock neck. Yes, the collar was low, but it was turned over, folded down. A mock neck does not fold over.)

Clothes worn: Anderson & Sheppard bespoke jacket, Whitcomb & Shaftesbury bespoke trousers in Fox flannel, Cleverley bespoke shoes (ten years old last month - doing well).

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

Benson & Clegg flannel suit: Review

Benson & Clegg flannel suit: Review

Wednesday, November 18th 2020
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This is the kind of suit that makes you glad you're wearing a suit. 

The kind you look forward to wearing, as a change to the floppy casual home stuff you've been in too much recently.

Why? Because of the structure, the shoulder and to a lesser extent, the drape. They combine to create something quite transformative. 

Soft tailoring - Neapolitan in particular - has become understandably popular in the past 10 years. To the point where it’s almost the default style among menswear shops. 

But I’ll be interested to see whether strong tailoring makes something of a comeback in the future. After all, one of the advantages of a Neapolitan suit was that it was lighter, more casual, easier to wear all week. 

But with the suit looking less and less like default business clothing, I think people will be wearing them more for occasions - when they want to really feel its possibilities. 

This is that kind of suit. 

To catch-up, briefly. This suit was cut for me by Oli Cross (above), now at Benson & Clegg in London’s Piccadilly Arcade. The team there has been revamped recently - as covered in our previous article - but there is also plenty of tailoring history to build on. 

Oli trained under Malcolm Plews, and his cutting style is typically English and strong (though he is self-aware enough to be playing with lighter makes, set-in sleeves and other modern tendencies). 

This suit, therefore, is classic English in its make: canvas, horsehair and domette in the front; a decent pad in the shoulder. It is not, however, as padded or structured as the likes of Huntsman or Sexton. 

Oli would also not call himself a drape cutter, but he’s happy to cut extra room in the chest and back, and that’s what we went with. Long-time readers will know that’s a style I like, for the way it flatters the upper body, and Oli executed it well. 

I think both the posed and natural images below illustrate the impression of size that gives to the upper body.

Oli also naturally cuts quite a big sleeve, which you can really see in the image above. Look how large the top half is, and yet it still narrows elegantly to the cuff.

I’ve never understood why any tailor cuts a narrow sleeve. It’s just not flattering to look like you have skinny arms. I can understand the motivation for a waist that’s cut a little too slim, but not a sleeve. 

Unless the idea is that your biceps bulge when you bend the sleeve, like they’re trying to burst out. But if that’s the look you want, tailoring is really not the vehicle for it: you’re taking sharp, elegant lines (the shoulder, the lapel) and then deliberately putting a lump in the middle. There’s just no point - you’d be better off in at T-shirt. 

With a sleeve as big as the one here, there’s always more chance of a little messiness at the back. But it's easy to be a little trimmer, without resorting to sausage arms. 

Returning to Oli’s cut. This is partly what he would do naturally, and partly what I requested. 

We had slightly extended shoulders (6¾ inches along the shoulder seam); a slightly lower buttoning point (waist button 18¾ from the same seam); and a moderate lapel (3¾). All of which you can compare to other tailors in the Style Breakdown series, for context.

In every case, I was not asking Oli to cut a certain style or certain proportions, but rather responding to his questions - did I want it a little bit bigger, or a bit smaller; a touch wider, or a touch narrower. 

This is a good way to make sure you’re very much within a cutter’s natural style, and therefore comfort zone - a general practice I’ve recommended previously.

The fit of the suit felt good - solid - from the start. The balance was right, the fronts clean, no collapsing on the right under my lower right shoulder. 

In fact, I’d say this is often a key mark of a higher quality tailor. The majority of the time, when I’ve had things made by a Savile Row house or bigger names in Italy and France, there has been this solid initial fit - this professionalism, perhaps. 

Smaller tailors or perhaps those from Asia working at a slightly lower quality level, can get there in the end (eg Anthology) but there isn’t often quite the same strong start. 

There is some drape in the back of this suit, and around my shoulder blades, which others would want cleaning up - but it's exaggerated by the image above. The slightly messiness at the back of the sleeve I’ve commented on already. 

The only real issue we had fit-wise was the pockets on the trousers, which are gaping a little. 

This is an area that’s tricky on me, because I have a proportionally large seat and like a trim trouser elsewhere. But still, it’s something others have dealt with better. 

We’re going to see how these settle down, particularly given I use the pockets quite heavily, and look at them again in a few weeks. 

The make of the suit is very good - it’s what you should expect for a top-end Savile Row suit, and frankly for any suit costing over £4,000 (this cost £4,400, including VAT). 

The buttonholes are precise, the jetts neatly done, the lining nicely hand-felled. It’s perhaps a pity that the fabric around the inbreast pocket is cut halfway along the opening, but it’s a minor point. 

The only issue we had here was the length of the sleeves, which had to be adjusted a few times because of some silly miscommunication. But I don’t draw many conclusions from that, given the consistency of the service elsewhere. 

The cloth is a wonderful, a heavy flannel from Caccioppoli (570307, 17oz). I love deep, dark greens like this, but have found them tricky to source - most are too light or too strong. 

This green is perfect, and goes really nicely with rich, autumnal colours like oranges, purples and dark brown like my shoes here. But it also works well with brighter pops of colour, like the pink of this silk handkerchief (from Rubinacci). 

Those shoes were my first bespoke pair, by the way, from Cleverley, and are now 10 years old. They deserve an article in the ‘How great things age’ series sometime soon.

And the tie is great, but is actually polyester from Tie Rack. Its significance is emotional, as my grandfather wore it to my wedding (which we covered on PS at the time, here). 

Sadly, he passed away recently, and this will be one of the things I remember him by. 

Anyway. Returning to the drier world of tailoring, I would just conclude by saying that Oli’s work was impressive, and on this evidence Benson & Clegg deserve to be considered alongside any of the better-known houses on Savile Row. 

It is the kind of suit I look forward to wearing. When this newest lockdown finally ends. 

Benson & Clegg bespoke starts at £4,400 including VAT. They also offer MTO and MTM, which we won’t cover, and bespoke cut here but made in China from £2,650.

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

bensonandclegg.com

Video: How to deal with stains on tailoring

Video: How to deal with stains on tailoring

Monday, November 16th 2020
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This video, the latest in our series on how to care for your tailoring at home, looks at stains.

Cutter Ben Clarke, from Richard James in London, suggested this as a topic a while ago, but I wasn't sure. I thought we'd want to talk to a dry cleaner or similar professional.

It was only when we started discussing Ben's tips and tricks, that I realised how often a cutter or tailor has to deal with this problem. Cloth gets rubbed, spilled on, even bled on (easy to do with shears and needles around) and instant solutions are needed.

In fact, in that way these tips are particularly relevant to you, the reader. It's about first aid: about how to apply quick solutions or minimise the problem. You can still go to the dry cleaner if it's bad, but what - if anything - should you do now?

Interestingly, often the answer is nothing at all. Some stains can be dealt with quickly, according to Ben; others can be mitigated; but if neither of those is possible, you shouldn't do anything. It's too easy to make things worse.

 

 

Here's a summary of Ben's points, for anyone that needs quick advice, or a quick reminder:

  • Absorption is the best first aid on a wet stain. So if you can, soak it up
  • If the stain has dried, and it's not oily, then try lightly rubbing the cloth with another part of the cloth
  • The next thing to try (on a dry stain) is a bit of steam. Animal-based cloths, such as wool, contain natural oils, which work well with steam. Whereas water is repelled
  • Apply steam, then try brushing - particularly if it's cloth with a pile, like velvet or flannel
  • If the stain is oil, try French chalk powder. Sprinkle it on, leave it overnight, and then brush off in the morning
  • All chalks don't work though - eg the chalk a tailor uses for marking cloth does not
  • If the stain is blood, use your own saliva. Soak some cotton thread in your mouth, then put it on, pressing lightly. Can use tissue as well
  • With wax, you can put greaseproof paper on top and then use an iron, to heat up the paper and draw the wax out
  • But this is hard to do, and it's unlikely you've done it often. So anything this hard, is best just taken to a dry cleaner
  • Equally with stain removal products - it's easy to make a stain worse. If you're going that far, basically a chemical-based approach, then it's probably time to go to the dry cleaners. Particularly with something expensive like a bespoke suit
  • Same with wine, don’t try and treat it with lots of other things (nothing more than water) - just go to a dry cleaner
  • Good dry cleaners are not easy to find, but Simon recommends Michael Norman

Many thanks to Richard James and Campaign for Wool for their help with this video.

For other cleaning and maintenance videos, see:

Introducing: The yellow PS Oxford (shirt and fabric)

Introducing: The yellow PS Oxford (shirt and fabric)

Friday, November 13th 2020
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A reader gently mocked me when I wrote about the white version of this shirt and included styling advice. It's a white shirt after all - how hard can it be? 

I still defend that guidance: a white oxford is more useful than some people realise, particularly with workwear. 

But a yellow oxford definitely requires some explanation. The new colour being launched today is so unusual that I’ve never even owned one myself - until now.

I was interested to try it for that reason, because I'm always intrigued by new potential in the necessarily narrow field of classic menswear.

But it also made sense to try because a pale, faded yellow is such a staple in American oxfords, and the Ivy style that drives a lot of their popularity. 

I’m pleased to say that now I have one, I enjoy wearing this yellow PS Oxford more than almost any colour in the range. 

The only one that rivals it is the blue, because it is so classic and useful. But the yellow achieves that particular menswear aim of being characterful yet subtle, noteworthy yet quiet. 

It draws attention and indeed compliments, but more in the way a well-cut jacket will do. It seems to slot in naturally with everything else, yet you rarely see anyone else wearing it. 

(You may observe, quite correctly, that new products always seem to surprise me with how nice they are. But that’s only because the ones that don’t have that reaction never make it onto the site. In this case, a grey stripe and a peach colour both disappointed - yellow was the clear winner.)

So what does it look good with? Let’s spell it out a little, aware of that risk of gentle mockery. 

Its most obvious and immediate partner is grey, which is helpful given how predominant that colour is in smart men’s wardrobes. 

Grey flannels look lovely with it, as do grey high-twist wools. Grey knitwear and - as pictured above - grey jackets also. This grey herringbone is nice, but a grey flannel suit would be good too. 

And as if to collect all the menswear staples, navy is also complimentary. Particularly on the top half: a navy wool jacket or navy shetland crewneck. Both are lovely with the shirt, and perhaps grey trousers beneath. 

Then, on the more casual end of the spectrum, this pale yellow compliments jeans. 

A paler denim, such as that shown here with my vintage Levi’s, is especially nice, but almost any blue jeans work. 

For some reason I find that combination - the washed-out yellow with the much-battered jeans - particularly satisfying. I think it’s because each is so classic yet so casual. They both look better the more they are worn, dirtied, washed and worn again.

And yet they do suggest the idea of dressing with intelligence, with taste. 

Moving on, my next favourite colour with a yellow shirt is military green - olive, really - like the sweatshirt pictured above (from Merz b Schwanen). 

To be honest, I don’t especially like the colour with darker, stronger greens. But this paler shade is lovely. It could also be a jacket of course, or a tie, or a vintage field jacket

(Feel free to comment on the attraction or not, the affectedness or not, the many cultural associations, of a sweater worn across the shoulders. But I’ll leave my thoughts on it for another article.)

Yellow is also nice with darker browns, especially suede and leather. And it looks great with faded black jeans - not that I wear them, but I’ve seen it done to good effect. 

I think that’s about it for all colours. Easily enough for any yellow-oxford virgin like myself to be getting on with. You all have most of those in your wardrobe. 

The fabric itself, is of course unique to Permanent Style and was designed to replicate the rugged softness of old Brooks Brothers shirts.

This fabric can take a beating, but is also one of the most pleasurable things to wear. It gets softer with every wash and wear, even when you’ve worn and washed it 50 times (as I have with my blue one). 

It also has a vintage look thanks to the short-staple cotton used in the white weft, which gives the cloth a slubby look. 

This is essential in the blue oxford, nice in the striped version, and less noticeable in the white.

But in the pink and yellow iterations, it is absolutely crucial. Without that slubbiness, the colour would not have the pale, washed-out look that makes it so appealing. Both pink and yellow would be too flat. You could make the yarn paler, but it wouldn’t have the depth or texture of this. 

If you’d like more on the technical aspects of the cloth - its weight, ply, count etc - have a read of the original launch post on this fabric (designed in collaboration with Italian mill Canclini) here

The PS Yellow Oxford is available as both shirts and lengths of cloth on the PS Shop site. The latter to be taken or sent to a shirtmaker, if you use one. I’m wearing a Medium in these photos, but I normally have my shirts made bespoke.

Here are some practical points on buying the cloth:

  • As with all the PS shirt cloths the fabric is pre-cut into 2m lengths, which should be enough for most guys (roughly, anyone 6’3’’ and under).
  • The fabric is pre-washed, but as with most oxfords is still prone to a little shrinkage. We recommend allowing an extra 1cm in the body width and sleeve length, 2cm in the body length
  • If anyone wants to send the cloth to a shirtmaker, please put them as the delivery address, including your name (eg ‘Customer: Joe Bloggs’). Then let them know it’s coming.
  • The cloth costs £59, the shirts £185, both ex-VAT. Both are shipped from the UK.

And, some points on the shirts, for anyone that doesn’t know all this already:

  • The shirts made by the Luca Avitabile workshop in Naples (Luca being the bespoke maker I use most often)
  • They have several points of handwork, mostly functional, including hand-attached collars and hand-inserted sleeves. There are also hand-sewn buttons and buttonholes.
  • The shirts use vintage-style mother-of-pearl buttons, to compliment the vintage style of the fabric. These can also be requested on bespoke shirts made by Luca.

For more information on the clothes pictured here, see:

Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

 

Buying vintage – with Oliver and Carl of Rubato

Buying vintage – with Oliver and Carl of Rubato

Wednesday, November 11th 2020
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While in Stockholm last month, I spent a morning shopping with Oliver (Dannefalk, above) and Carl (Pers) of Rubato.

I was particularly interested to hear their views on vintage shopping, as I knew that both of them used to work in vintage stores in Stockholm, and that the experience had informed their approach to Rubato. 

Oliver (Dannefalk) worked at and then ran the Östermalm branch of Herr Judit, whose main shop was on the Södermalm side of town. Östermalm is more up-market and the stock there was more centred around tailoring - both English and European bespoke, brands like Rubinacci, and accessories like Marinella. 

I found talking about that interesting, because there’s a real lack of a similar store in London - something that focuses on really good modern clothing, rather than older and more cultish military clothing or Americana. 

Carl was a customer at the Östermalm store, and eventually worked there as well. Unfortunately the store later closed, and now only the Södermalm branch (shown above and below) remains. 

We visited towards the end of our walking tour, and found some nice pieces in among the racks. Bizarrely, the item I lighted upon was a bridle belt that turned out to be Oliver’s - actually, a present that Carl gave Oliver several years ago, and which Oliver ended up selling because he had too many similar pieces. 

The belt (again, coincidentally, made by Equus in the UK, whom we’ve covered a lot) was really nicely worn in. Bridle leather is best like this: it lasts forever, but can be hard and stiff for quite a while. It needs to be worn consistently, and will soften as it ages. 

The belt was probably an example of what good, modern vintage can be: something high quality that the owner no longer wears, and which gives someone else the chance to access for a much lower price. Plus some nice patina/character. 

Unfortunately, a lot of the rest of the stock at Herr Judit was less interesting, principally because it was cheaper and didn’t have the attraction of accessible quality. 

So perhaps my suggestion of a good, modern vintage shop in London needs to be modified to include a requirement for high quality. There’s always the occasional piece like this hidden away on the racks of charity shops in rich suburbs - the likes of Richmond, Hampstead or Marylebone. Someone just has to collect and curate them. 

Back in Stockholm, Carl was telling us about the kind of vintage he buys (by us, I mean Oliver, myself and Milad, who was taking the photograph). 

“I guess most of what I buy is outerwear,” he said. “It’s more likely to have survived the ageing process well, as it’s thicker and tougher.

"Apart from that it’s jeans and chinos - I love how the cotton on those will be worn-in and softened. You know you can treat them badly because they’ve survived so much already."

The coat Carl was wearing (above) was a vintage fireman’s jacket, with its characteristic large fly front and metal clasps. And it features in the new Rubato lookbook as well.  

“I think it was inevitable that those early days working in vintage would influence how we designed clothes,” said Oliver.

“We got to handle so much nice stuff - both beautiful bespoke tailoring, which drove a lot of my early interest in that - and great knitwear, great shirts. You get a sense of what will last.”

We touched on this influence in the launch article on Rubato, in September last year, and you can see it when you look at a lot of vintage knitwear as well as - frankly - design elements of knitwear many of us used to wear as kids.

In the image above, Carl is wearing one of the new pieces from Rubato - a rollneck in camel hair. The pair decided to offer camel hair as their new range rather than cashmere, as it’s a bit more robust, and so in keeping with that long-lasting vintage angle. 

There are three pieces in camel, all the same natural colour, and some new pieces in the existing lambswool - including the adventurous ‘Arnold Palmer’ yellow. 

They’ve also introduced belts, whose main point of difference is the width.

At one inch, they’re only a bit thinner than most belts (between a quarter and an eight of an inch, in my collection) but it is noticeable - a slightly smarter look, with a very smooth suede. 

Personally I prefer uncoated brass buckles to the ones Rubato uses, as I like the way they tarnish; but I can also see that the coated might be more in keeping with the dressy look. 

Rubato also just launched their chinos, last week. Oliver is wearing the single-pleat trouser (taupe) in the pictures here, and I've been trying out the officer's chino in ivory. 

So far I adore the cotton, the Japanese make, the two styles and the three colours. But they are higher in the rise and wider in the leg than I’m used to, so I’m not sure how much they’ll become a staple. (I also found they gained about an inch on the waist after the first wash.)

Then again, I have two pieces of the knitwear and wear them happily as exceptional pieces - only with my few high-rise trousers - rather than staples. So that could end up being the case here too. 

Oliver was wearing all Rubato when we met, and the short, raglan-sleeved coat he’s wearing is a sample of things to come. As is the longer coat worn by the model in the Country lookbook

My outfit, with the wonderful Ciardi ulster coat, was featured in detail on PS here

The newsagent pictured is Paper Cut, which I’d highly recommend (and stocks my books, which is nice). Oliver is reading Cereal magazine

The vintage store linked above is Broadway & Sons, which is probably the vintage store in Sweden. And on the topic of modern second-hand clothing, if anyone wants a good example of how that can be done well, check out Rag Parade in Sheffield

Photography by Milad Abedi

Carmina unlined chukka boots: Review

Carmina unlined chukka boots: Review

Monday, November 9th 2020
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There is one way in which this review is necessarily unfair. The vast majority of my shoes are at a higher quality level than these Carmina chukkas, and therefore my context will be different to many potential customers.

However, I have owned cheaper makes in the past, as well as tried on and seen many similar brands.

Also, most of the points made in this article don't require experience to be established, given they are observations from simply looking at and trying on the boots.

In fact that's necessarily the case with any review that takes place this soon after receiving a pair of shoes, rather than after say a year.

So, given all that, how good are these Carmina boots?

Well the first thing you notice is the softness of the leather. It's a reverse calf from Charles F Stead and feels impressively luxurious and comfortable. I think anyone buying at this level of quality would be pleased with the touch.

(Though, don't put too much store in the tannery. All tanneries have different levels of quality - indeed, more than perhaps any other manufacturer we cover, of raw materials or finished products. Plus, it's notable that only cheaper makers shout about where the leather is from.)

The colour of tobacco suede is also perfect, something some makers (usually English) don't always get right.

If I compare the leather to my Edward Green 'Shanklin' boots  (also unlined chukkas), the feel is similarly soft but the latter has more plumpness and body. It's a tiny bit thicker, but there's also more substance to it.

That won't make much difference to the comfort or support in the short term, but I'd worry a bit about how the less substantial suede would wear in the long term.

Of course, you would expect the quality of leather on Edward Green boots to be better, given they cost twice as much (£760 rather than £378).

But one of the points I'd like to get across in this article, is you do get more - in almost every way - when you make that much of a jump between brands.

When shoes have a £100 or £150 price difference, there is a discussion to be had as to what - if anything - you get for that difference. But not with such a large price difference as this, between what are quite similar companies (manufacturers, not big brands etc).

Next point. The Carmina boots are well made, with neat stitching and no hanging threads or loose ends - as you can get on the likes of Alden, for example.

However, there is some marking on the suede where the upper meets the welt, as you can see in the image above.

Making suede shoes and keeping them clean is not easy. It's why you often see shoes lined up in factories with their uppers wrapped in plastic. It's to protect the upper while the messy stuff goes on on the bottom.

However, this kind of marking is not something you'd expect on a high-end shoe, and you don't get on my Edward Greens, for example. I also checked a few Crockett & Jones boots and didn't see that either.

Often, issues like this come through factories producing greater volumes or doing so at greater speed, to reduce costs. Making slower is more expensive, but is also one of the things customers are least willing to pay for. (Their first question might be about the leather, or the construction, but certainly not how many are made per hour.)

It's something I mentioned in a previous article that TLB seem to be doing quite well on at the moment: using fewer bells and whistles, but producing a shoe that is very cleanly made.

Talking of welts, these Carmina chukkas use what they call a Softwelt construction, where the welt is sewn directly to a cut in the sole (above).

This does make the boots flexible and comfortable, with a similar feeling my Alden chukkas, for example.

The welt is also thin, running close to the upper. From a purely style point of view, this makes them look a little dressy, which is not ideally what I'd want with this style of boot. For me a chukka this casual in colour, material and make is better with a wider welt.

(The welt is actually a little thinner than the image below suggests.)

A last point on construction is the reinforcement of the boots around the top.

Most unlined boots include a strip of extra leather running around the top line of the boot, where the ankle is. Sometimes this connects to the extra strip that is needed behind the eyelets.

These Carmina boots forego the first strip (where the referenced Aldens and EGs do not) and they do not sew down the strip behind the eyelets on all sides, relying more on glue.

I found that after a couple of wears, the inner edge of that eyelet strip started to come away slightly.

Overall, these chukkas are decently made and impressively soft: I think most people buying at this level would be pleased with both the look and feel.

It's important too, because as people dress more casually, boots such as these - suede, unlined, flexible - will I think become the core of welted manufacturers.

There are, however, a few points of coarse make that either are visible or might be over time. And while the comparisons with Edward Green only illustrate things you get with higher quality/price, some of these points are not found on brands of the same level.

This review, by the way, was requested by Carmina following coverage of some of their peers, and as ever with PS, all of the points made were communicated to and discussed with Carmina in advance of publication.

Item reviewed: 80728 unlined chukka boot in snuff suede

Other items shown: White loopwheeled T-shirt by Warehouse & Co, via Clutch Cafe; chinos from The Armoury (old model); vintage Rolex GMT. 

Photography: Carmina and Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

The styles of overcoat (and how to design one)

The styles of overcoat (and how to design one)

Friday, November 6th 2020
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Anyone interested in buying or commissioning a new coat will be thinking about styles right now - what they are, what they’re called, what their relative advantages are. 

In this piece I’m going to set out the basic options, and my brief opinions on them. On formality, warmth, and other aspects of practicality.

It will focus on tailored coats - so nothing more casual like a trench coat, blouson or duffle. Those are usually best bought ready-to-wear (though a future article on an outerwear capsule will include them).

And it will not go into detail about cloth. There is a much more comprehensive article on that here.

The first thing to say about names of coats is, don’t assume everyone uses the same ones, or indeed has heard of the names used in online discussions. 

Different countries have different cultural references, and hence different names. Tailors know the styles they make and the styles they were taught. Their frame of reference is often no wider than that. 

Names are useful, because they put a label on the image you have in your head. They collect together a bunch of characteristics under a single term. 

But don’t assume that everyone knows what a guard’s coat is. If you stride into a tailor and request a paletot, you might be met with looks of confusion, even bemusement. 

So, I recommend focusing on the constituent parts of these styles. Break down what you want into its characteristics: single or double breasted, peak or notch lapel, length and cloth and buttons and so on.

This article will be organised along those lines, with the styles being mentioned more as examples.

Length: Overcoat or topcoat

The first decision with an overcoat is what weather you want it for. How cold does it get where you live, and when during the year do you want to wear it? 

This affects several things, including cloth and double vs single-breasted. But the first thing it determines is length. A shorter coat is - all other things being equal - less warm than a longer coat. As a result, coats intended for warmer weather are traditionally shorter - usually on or just above the knee. 

A coat of this type is usually referred to as a topcoat. It’s usually in a lighter weight cloth, but can be single or double breasted. The example above was made by Michael Browne.

Other types of topcoat include a covert coat (above), which is defined by the covert cloth it is made from - a tightly woven twill that is also great for trousers (though it can be a little shiny, so fairly formal).

This cloth makes the covert coat very hardy, harking back to its country origins. It is often in colours like fawn and olive too, and has multiple lines of stitching on the cuffs and hem, intended to prevent rips getting out of hand. 

The coat often has a fly front, and sometimes has velvet on the collar (another practical addition - as the velvet could easily be replaced). 

Double breasted or single breasted

The second choice to make is whether the coat will be single or double-breasted. 

Personally, I’m a huge fan of double-breasted coats. This is because DB tailoring is so flattering and stylish (particularly if made bespoke) yet a coat is one of the last ways it can be worn. Anyone can wear a DB coat to the office; not everyone can wear a DB suit. 

A double-breasted coat will always be a little smarter and more formal than a single, but not as much as with a jacket. It will also be warmer, and easier to add style details to (such as a belt or cuffs). 

It is often thought that a double-breasted coat must be longer as well - an overcoat rather than a topcoat. But that isn’t necessarily the case, as you can see with my DB topcoat from Ettore de Cesare, above. 

Peak lapel or notch lapel 

As with a jacket, a double-breasted coat will always have a peak lapel. But a single-breasted coat can have a peak or a notch - and it is perhaps more common to see a peak lapel on an SB coat than on a jacket. 

The only real factor to consider in that choice is that a peak lapel is more formal and a little more rakish. If you want something more stylised, a peak lapel is a good way to do it. If not, a notch should be the default. 

And a notch can be more or less stylised too - compare the Vergallo coat on me above, with the Michael Browne one further up. 

There is also an important difference between peaked lapels on a DB coat: many styles have a peak which points horizontally across the body, if not slightly downwards. 

(You could argue that this is not really a peaked lapel, but it does have the peak’s lack of space  - or notch - between the lapel and collar. So it probably belongs in the same group.)

The reason this lapel is more horizontal, was originally so that it could be fastened across the chest, creating a double layer of cloth in the same manner as a pea coat. And even if the coat is not cut to do this, the lapel does allow the collar to be worn up against the wind, without the peaks poking the wearer in the neck. 

The best-known style featuring this lapel is probably the Ulster coat - an example of which I’m wearing in the image above, made by Sartoria Ciardi. Originally a Victorian coat with a cape, often in casual wools like tweed, the Ulster has come to mean this style of DB overcoat, often with a belt and turn-back cuffs. 

Double-breasted coats with a more standard, upward-pointing peaked lapel are given various names, including a guard’s coat (above) and a paletot. Personally I don’t think the styles are that relevant, given how divorced they are from their origins, and the fact that a main difference was how fitted they were - which is rarely a factor today. 

However, what they all have in common is that they are more formal, and as a result tend to have no belt on the back, flapped pockets, a 6x2 button arrangement (so the top row does not fasten) and no cuffs on the sleeves. 

It is this formality that should be your first consideration when designing a coat. It would be incongruous to have a smart, peak-lapel coat from the front that was cinched and belted at the back, no matter what the original styles might have been called. 

Shoulders

This is a brief section, necessitated by the existence of the raglan coat. 

While all other overcoats will have a regular, or set-in, sleeve, a raglan sleeve runs right up to the collar, with no shoulder section between the two. An example is shown above. 

It shouldn’t surprise you to know that the raglan is more casual, and suited to coats that are worn with just knitwear, as well as tailoring. It’s also a style that there’s less point having made by a tailor - because its lack of shape means the tailor has less to add, and because it’s surprisingly tricky to do. 

There are also variations, such as a half raglan (which looks like it has a set-in sleeve on the front) and designs with a slimmer sleeve at the top, almost like a saddle shoulder on knitwear. 

Pockets

Now we get into design details. Pockets are an obvious one, and there are three basic options: flapped (straight or slanted), patch (with flap or not) and postbox (a combination of flap and patch). 

Flaps are smarter and go with smarter coats; patches are more casual and go with more casual coats. A postbox pocket (pictured above) is pretty bulky and so belongs in the casual category. 

I rather like postbox pockets on casual coats such as an Ulster, because a patch can seem rather too simple for something made bespoke. But I would have flaps on most smart coats. 

Ticket pockets on coats look a little out of place to me, though they are rather practical. And although some leave them off, I would usually have a welted breast pocket on an overcoat. It’s very useful for gloves. 

Belts 

It is often said that the back of an overcoat is where the sexy stuff goes on. I think the front should look good too, but there are certainly more design options on the back. 

The first is the belt. A smart overcoat, as mentioned, should have no belt at all on the waist. But most others have a half belt: one or two strips of cloth, either stitched to the material or left loose, and if loose then fastened with buttons. 

The style of belt is not a big decision - it’s unlikely to look out of place whichever you choose. So pick the one you like the most, and if you’re unsure go with the classic ‘Martingale’ of two strips and two buttons (shown above). It’s also not a hard thing to change later. 

There are ways for this belt to be functional, with extra buttons and buttonholes, but having done that a couple of times on my coats, I no longer request it. I just find that little cinching doesn’t make a big enough difference to what I can fit underneath. 

Pleats and vents 

Above and below that belt there will often be pleats, as a way to put more room into the back and seat, and therefore give you greater freedom of movement. 

A box pleat in the middle of the back is attractive, as are pleats either side of it - radiating from the belt - that look like actual folds made by the tightness of the belt (though they will probably actually be sewn down). 

Again, as with belts, there is minimal difference in terms of formality between these options, but I would say that if in doubt, go for the simplest style that you like. An overcoat is a big piece of tailoring to get wrong (as I have found to my cost in the past). 

At the bottom of the coat, there will then usually be a single vent that runs all the way down, making it easier to walk. There are different ways in which the coat can be pleated here, but the major choice is whether to have buttons enabling the vent to to be fastened, or not. In general, a smart coat would not have buttons, and a more casual one could. 

Cuffs and swelled edges

Other design elements on coats include turn-back cuffs on the ends of the sleeves. These would seem to be a casual choice, but have been included on a surprisingly large number of formal tailoring styles over the years, including evening wear. 

Personally, I wouldn’t have turn-back cuffs on a really smart coat though - nicer to leave it clean. 

The same goes for swelled edges, where there is a row of stitching a few millimetres back from the edge of the coat. This can be an aesthetic detail, though it was also seen as practical in terms of stopping fraying or rips running too far. 

As you’d expect, this is a more casual detail, and most often seen on Ulster coats or Polo coats. The latter is an interesting case in terms of style definitions, given how many different versions there have been over the years. In the end, it was a garment for a purpose (keeping warm after sport) rather than a defined design. 

This list, for me, is the best way to break down the styles of a tailored overcoat, rather than getting into paddock coats, chesterfields, great coats and surtouts. 

Such references can be useful, but they’re just as likely to get in the way. 

Often they can make a good starting point, rather than a clean definition. Edward Sexton and I referred to the coat we made in 2016 (below) as a great coat, for example, because of its intended length and warmth. But the pleats and seams on the back wouldn’t have been seen on any traditional great coat.

Hopefully running through all these sections will help define exactly what you want, in a similar way. 

(I can also do more detailed posts in the future, if people want. Eg illustrations of all the pocket options, or pleat options in the back. There isn't really room for that here.) 

The Winter Top 5: End, GRP, Real McCoy’s, Baudoin & Acronym

The Winter Top 5: End, GRP, Real McCoy’s, Baudoin & Acronym

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Anonymous Ism socks, via End

£30

The online version of End is a surprisingly good source for classic clothing. Although it’s still dominated by street wear, and the new shop off Carnaby Street is entirely trainers and hoodies, the website has a huge range. 

For example, it's one of the best places online to get shetland and Fair Isle sweaters. There’s Shetland Woollen Co, Howlin’, and Jamieson’s - the latter in a mad range of Fair Isle colour combinations. They also stock Alden, Anderson’s belts and Gitman Vintage. 

Here I want to highlight these simple socks, however. They’re from Japanese brand Anonymous Ism, and I bought my pair a year ago from Trunk (but they don’t stock them any more). 

Now, most of the time I can see the argument for buying cheap socks. If they’re short, casual, thicker ones, there’s just not as much of a difference in quality as there is with fine, dressy, over-the-calf ones. But these are easily the most comfortable socks I’ve ever worn. I was looking forward to Winter just to wear them. 

They’re fairly thick (like any sports sock) and so make decent slippers if that’s what you want. But inside a boot or loafer they’re amazing. It must be the cotton used, I think, because I can’t see anything else unusual about them. And they are the most expensive ones Anonymous Ism have. But given how much I wear and love them, easily worth it. 

GRP wool blouson, via John Simons

£375

John Simons has been criminally ignored on Permanent Style, and that will be fixed in a few different ways. The man who brought Ivy to London, and in the process turned it into something else, deserves deep coverage.

For anyone that hasn't been in, the shop is stocked entirely with heritage makers of quality clothing, and while they aren't all probably to the taste of PS readers, many are. For every brightly coloured varsity jacket, there's also an understated, quality piece like the blouson here.

Made by Italian manufacturers GRP, who have been working with John since the 1980s, it is made in a few different navy wools: the body is a dense, felt-like worsted, while the sleeves are an open-knit woollen. None of them contrast enough to stand out.

Among the knitwear styles from GRP, the quarter zip is probably the nicest. It's a long-necked vintage model that you often see in coarser wools, but not a nice smooth make like this. It's quite generous in the fit though, so worth trying on (whereas the blouson is a little trim).

The Real McCoy’s down vest

£1025

The Real McCoy’s launched a new website earlier this year, and the stock is both better and better organised. (They’re also opening a new physical store soon, while for the moment the downstairs section at Clutch Cafe remains.)

Among my favourite pieces is this down vest, which I bought last Winter. In fact, it got quite a few inquiries on Instagram when I shared a picture camping in it with my family over the Summer. I’ll likely do some more coverage of top-quality walking/camping/hiking gear at some point. 

The vest is veg-tanned deerskin, which is expensive but has a wonderful soft, substantial feel. The down is 91.5% duck feather. Basically, it’s what you expect from The Real McCoy’s: the best quality, in small runs, at a high price. 

I wear the vest over a sweatshirt with chinos if I’m going to park with my kids (we also did some den building during lockdown), for the aforementioned camping, and for going to and from sport - in that case, over a hoodie, with shorts, plus a watch cap. Standing at the bus stop. 

Other current pieces I’ve tried at The Real McCoy’s (though don’t own) are the milk-coloured loopwheel hoodie (probably the closest thing to my Loopwheeler one I’ve found here) and the field sports jacket, which is made from a really nice, tough herringbone wool, and horsehide. 

Baudoin & Lange Grand shoe, suede

£490

When I first covered the ‘Grand’ model from Baudoin & Lange at the beginning of last year, I wasn’t overly enthusiastic. 

It was a rather innovative shoe: Allan had done all sorts of things inside to make it more comfortable, the most surprising of which, probably, was cutting out an oval-shaped section of the structure around the joint of the little toe. 

But the overall look wasn’t me. It was too similar to a regular welted shoe in the leather and style, yet too dissimilar in construction. I ended up selling mine. 

I recently tried the same model in brown suede, and found that worked much better. In suede, there are fewer of the expectations of a dress loafer - it feels more similar to a Belgian or soft slip-on. 

It’s just more casual. If there are readers who like the idea of the Sagan (which again, would usually be suede) but want a version they can wear in more countries/weather, then I’d suggest this. Personally, I wouldn’t go for the calf versions. 

(And to anticipate the question - this has more structure than the Ginkgo model, and is Blake stitched rather than being cemented. There are often fine differences between the different parts of the B&L range.)

Acronym technical clothing

From €1700

Here's one to have regular readers spluttering into their coffee. I recently saw a friend wearing an Acronym waterproof jacket (the J1E) and have since become slightly obsessed with the design detail.

Yes, the models all look like they want to kill you; and yes, the website is stupid. It is also horrifically expensive. But the clothing is all driven by functionality, and it's fascinating reading about how it's all put together, and why.

It was a big thing a few years ago, when Acronym launched, but I think was missold in a lot of the coverage - primarily as a fashion brand.

A lot of the looks are strange and otherworldly, and the founder Errolson Hugh does have a habit of posing with zips halfway up his face. But the clothing is entirely about innovative materials and functional details: hidden phone pockets in the forearm, angled zips that allow movement while retaining rain cover, hoods that surround the neck without restricting it.

Have a look at this old video for a demonstration - in particular the gravity pockets in the sleeves, and the way the messenger bag works underneath the jacket. It's real cutting-edge technology and fascinating pattern cutting, driven by very particular functional needs. Not all synthetics either - a good few pieces in Ventile for example.

There's too much to go into here really, but if anyone is interested in technical clothing and has the budget, then I recommend reading up on Acronym. Perhaps something simple like the J27-GT (pictured). Without the drop-crotch trousers.

The symbolic value of clothes: An interview with Philip Warkander

The symbolic value of clothes: An interview with Philip Warkander

Monday, November 2nd 2020
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Philip Warkander is a Swedish academic, lecturer at Lund University in fashion studies. 

We got to talking recently thanks to an introduction by Dag at Saman Amel, and it was interesting how many of the topics Philip covers - from the value placed on clothing to the perils of growth - reflected things we have discussed on PS over the years. 

So I we conducted a more structured interview on those areas, which I have reproduced here. I hope you find it as stimulating as I did. 

 

Permanent Style: Philip, if you don’t mind let’s kick off with the subject of consumption, its good and bad sides, which I know you’ve written about.

Philip Warkander: Of course, happy to. I was actually re-reading the French writer Gilles Lipovetsky on mass consumption last week [The Empire of Fashion: Dressing Modern Democracy], and he touches on this. It was published in the 1990s, but I think it’s still valid. 

He was pointing out, in a modern or postmodern culture, how used we are to mass production. Ever since the industrial revolution, it’s become easier and easier to reproduce things at scale.

According to Lipovetsky, this fundamentally affects the symbolic value we place on goods: the fact they are so easily produced, and consumed, means we place less value on them. They are less important and less significant, because they’re so easy to replace. 

For him, this epitomises many aspects of modern society, and then of course has knock-on effects for depletion of resources and waste. It’s one area where these thoughts directly relate to menswear actually, because there are more brands that make to order, and so require more time from a customer and suffer from this less. 

Whether deliberately or not, a brand that does this - that sets up constraints on how accessible their product is - can increase the product’s symbolic value for consumers.

Interesting. So a bespoke tailor naturally makes their product more important because it takes months to get it, and because it cannot be easily replaced?

Yes, exactly. Also, it’s important always to look at consumption and production as two sides of the same coin. This is part of a bigger conversation about work, and time: how long we spend in our lives working, and what we work in order to be able to do. 

As a society, we’ve organised our time into clear sections, for work and for leisure. And to some extent we are always working in order to be able to consume during that leisure time. If we want to consume more, we need to work harder in order to be able to do so. 

So when we criticise how we consume things, we are also criticising how we work, and this particular division of time that comes from industrialisation. 

That point about the symbolic value we place on clothes is so intuitive, yet I’ve never heard it put that way. 

I think so too, and it’s not surprising that the value has decreased. Garments have never been so cheap as they are now, not in the whole history of humanity. 

In the past 20 years that has accelerated of course, driven by the fast-fashion industry. It’s staggering, in a historical context, that you can now dress yourself for £20 or £30. And it’s not hard to understand how this could affect the emotional relationship you have with clothes.

If you go back just a couple of generations, clothes were something you saved up for, you anticipated and longed for. Then you went to the tailor - this was still the norm, even in the 1950s - and took part in a process of having something made specifically for you. 

It might have been different for you, but I know my parents, when they were children, went to a tailor and had their clothes made. They were working class - this was not a luxury, it was just how it was done. 

And of course when you received the garment, finally, it was a big event. So it’s not surprising that between you and the fabric there were these emotional connections. You had invested time in it, aside from the money, and it was something you’d done as part of your family life too. 

The contrast between that and going to a large store, picking something off a rack from among 10 or 15 copies, is quite stark. And they smell slightly of chemicals from the transport.

If that's how we buy clothes, it makes sense that it's acceptable to wear something a few times and then throw it away, or just forget about it. And go back later to get a new one. 

My impression is that people have also tended to buy more clothes as they have become cheaper, rather than buying the same amount and using the money for other things. Which would also be explained by that point about how we value them. 

Yes I think that’s right. Another interesting factor, for me, is how much our consumption is a way we just use our time.

For example, in recent years I have tried to consume less - as we are encouraged to do, and a lot of people have. But I find I get bored. I’m so used to spending time thinking about what I’m going to buy, buying it and then consuming it, that there is a gap left. 

How often you buy things affects how you experience time.

I guess that’s another way bespoke has a benefit - because you have more interactions, even if you’re consuming less. A lot of readers say how much they enjoy that process, which can involve four or five appointments. 

Yes it’s a good combination in that way. You still get the regular thrill, like entering your card to buy something online, but without the same volume of product. And there's a greater emotional connection with the clothing. 

Plus there's a separate thrill from getting something altered, or repaired, and it feeling almost new every time. Do you think it’s necessarily harder, though, to make that shift to slow consumption when others in society aren’t doing the same? Or when parts of your consumption are instant, others not? My TV is still on demand, and Amazon delivers my headphones the next day. 

Yes, it does depends on how consumption fits into society as a whole. And I think that’s why the same people will often engage with the slow food movement, or micro-breweries for beer. 

Of course, we still need the global mass manufacturing process as well, because without that there wouldn’t be enough food. But you often find the same person that buys organic wine, takes a considered approach to other things they buy. It’s about a curiosity, in a way. Rather than just consuming the novelty of the thing as it magically appears on the shelf. 

Do we know how much people spent on clothing historically, perhaps as a proportion of income? 

There is some data, but it’s very dependent on the period and rarely captures everything. 

For example, through much of history textiles were a luxury, and as a result while you might have spent a certain amount on a new suit or a new dress, you would also spend more later having it altered, or repaired. And not just because it didn’t fit, but to keep it in style. You might also have done some repairs yourself. 

Then when it couldn’t be re-used you would have handed it down, perhaps to a servant - at which point it becomes completely undocumented.

Some clothes were even re-used in interiors. The cloth could be turned into rugs, in back rooms like the kitchens. Or used as stuffing in cushions. 

So you can never see the whole value chain. 

No, though it’s perhaps just as significant to consider how people talked about textiles. They were seen as a luxury, and were a luxury. They were expensive and they were valued. 

It’s a radical difference from how people value clothing today. And the change has happened in a very short period.

I find that thinking is most powerful when some people say they can’t afford a particular item of clothing. That’s the language used, yet it’s often less about affordability and more about value. The sweater is too expensive, but you still expect to be able to go on a foreign holiday, or go out to any restaurant. 

Absolutely, you have to see it from a holistic viewpoint. To question why you value different things. 

It can be controversial to talk about spending certain sums of money, as it can seem like the presumptions of a certain class. But, if you compare the volumes of clothing we all have, in any class, that can be very telling. Compare someone's wardrobe now with that of a person in 1920, or 1820, and the difference would be striking. 

I find it interesting that when people strip back what they own - when they try to get rid of ‘stuff’ - they still don’t buy quality. I have friends who have stripped back their wardrobe, saying they’re just going to wear a uniform of black T-shirts and jeans. Yet the T-shirts they buy are £19 from Zara. 

Which relates back to what we were talking about at the beginning - they’re not valuing things any more than before, they just have fewer of them. 

It reminds me of a seminar I do, on consumer culture, where we use a book by Georges Perec called Les Choses (The Things). It tells the story of this young French couple in the 1960s, who are really interested in acquiring things, of decorating their lives in a way. They often go to flea markets to buy the things, because they want that patina of age, the suggestion that it has an inherited value. 

I find it interesting to talk about, because my students don’t relate to it at all - the idea that capital could display itself through inheritance. To them, the newness of something has a higher worth than any suggestion of history. So again it’s about viewing items - not just clothes, but items in general - just for that short-term quality. 

That relates to a lot of traditions in menswear, from the so-called English country-house style of old tweed and threadbare carpets, to the Ivy tradition with its hand-me-downs and frayed collars. But I suspect that's a whole separate conversation. 

Yes, I think you might be right. There's enough in consumer culture to explore - I hope your readers find it interesting. It's really worth thinking about how we define ourselves through consumption - and indeed why we’re all so obsessed today with defining ourselves, and our identity. 

Thanks Philip, that’s one more to explore another day!

Absolutely. Thanks again.