"Many sources say that the customary length for jacket sleeves is to reveal at least 0.5 inches of the shirt cuff. However, I have not been able to find a similar custom on the length for sleeves on a top coat. Would you please tell me and the rest of your readers what is customarily accepted as the proper length for our topcoated selves?"
Despite how it looks in the drawing to the left (either the artist erred or the tops of the men's gloves are folded down), a topcoat or overcoat should fall to the bottom of the hand so it covers jacket and shirt cuff. That way, a man's gloves extend up into the sleeve and there's no skin exposed to the weather.
"When going to a new tailor, do you ever leave written instructions behind? For instance, I have selected a new tailor to make a dinner jacket for me. For once, I have very specific ideas about what I want, and feel confident that I can communicate my wants to him. However, I am sorely tempted to write a letter reiterating my specific wants and desires, to leave with him."
Specifying a drapey Neopolitan jacket to a tailor who makes clean, Roman style clothes for is a recipe for failure. I believe that we should choose tailors for their reputation and house style, and should then be comfortable enough with that style to let the tailor decide all but the major details of cloth, lining, style (double, single with three buttons, etc.), and pockets.
Past that, the fitter should be writing things down as you mention them and if you lack confidence in his ability to read what he's written you've almost certainly chosen the wrong man (or woman). I've had more than one get details wrong but that's part of the game and they are usually reparable.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Saturday, April 28, 2007
"My father was something of a dude and he tought me to dress to the limit of my pocketbook. He liked to point out that no man could help the shape of his profile, but that the cut of his trousers and the fit of his coat were something he himself could control, and that often others judged him entirely by his appearance. In the acting business this is especially true. Even when an actor is broke, hungry, and out of a job, he must put on a bold front. When he goes in search of a job, he must trim his frayed cuffs with an old razor blade, carefully press his best suit and shine his own shoes in order to appear prosperous."
-It Took Nine Tailors, Adolphe Menjou
Friday, April 27, 2007
Location, occasion and time of day combine to determine the best color palette and style for a man's dress. We don't dress the way English aristocrats did in the 19th century, but many of the guidelines developed then are still effective in social and professional settings today.
Location boils down to country vs. city. The best country colors reflect the browns, greens and accent colors of the daytime countryside. The closer we get to the center of a large urban center, the more our palette should shift into dark grays and blues. And in suburban areas between the country and the city, the most effective colors are in the middle of this spectrum - mid grays, mid blues and tans.
Time of day, or rather daylight and night (the usual dividing line is 6 PM), also plays an important role. Black and white are problem colors during the day but very effective in the dark, which is why semi-formal and formal evening clothes follow that lack of color scheme.
Finally, location and time of day are modified by the formality of the occasion. A dinner jacket might be the best choice for a charity ball but a polo shirt and trousers are probably better for informal entertaining at home in the California summertime. Even then, black gabardine trousers, black moccasins and a white polo will be an effective look that's based on tested principles of dress.
Similarly, during the day a man can adapt his clothes to his surroundings more effectively by thinking about the occasion. Navy blue pinstripes are perfect for a call on an urban law firm, but won't play as well as a camel hair odd jacket and gray flannels at an office outside the city.
Instead of wondering what to wear, think about the location, the occasion and the time of day.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
I can think of three ways to wear shirts: with trousers but without a jacket (like the fellow in the navy sports shirt in the illustration), with an odd jacket or sweater, and with a suit. Most of the appropriate shirt details depend on the context in which they'll be worn but one applies to all and that's the length.
Short shirt tails were a pet peeve of mine once. Dress shirts should be long enough so that they don't come out of the trousers when a man's arms are raised above his head. If a shirt has to be re-tucked in during the day it's because the maker tried to save a nickel on fabric and made the tails too short. For a cure, order shirts that are a couple inches longer than standard, with a seventh button on the front.
Aside from specialty shirts for formal wear, suits call for the most shirting formality. I like to pair my suits with shirts that have French cuffs, a placket button on the sleeve and more formal collars. In my own wardrobe that means cutaway, spread, and tab collars. Straight point and Eton collars are also fine, preferably worn pinned. And suits are the only proper companions for contrast collars and cuffs.
The differences between shirts for odd jackets and shirts for suits are minor. I prefer button cuffed shirts for wear with odd jackets. Precious metal cuff links look a bit too bright and glittery with tweed but a two button cuff (the second button keeps the cuff aligned) with a placket button seems about right. I prefer Eton, tab, spread and button down collars on these shirts and point collars are also appropriate. No cutaways, and no contrast collars.
When it comes to shirts for casual wear, which is any time they are worn without a jacket, just about anything goes. Casual shirt details warrant an essay all their own. Today, I will say only that for all the marketing emphasis by some shirtmakers on thick mother of pearl buttons and hand stitching, the only time those features come into play is when a shirt is worn without a jacket. Hand sewing is critical to the construction of a tailored clothing but on a shirt it adds nothing to fit and what it might add to aesthetics is usually covered by a jacket (or, in the case of those extra thick buttons, by a necktie). My advice is to buy machine sewn MTM or bespoke shirts to wear with jackets and use the money saved for tailored clothing upgrades.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
I met Kelly last month at the Collection of Sartorial Excellence in New York where she was showing ready to wear examples of what she can do. One of her straws caught my eye - a short brimmed pork pie hat with a black edge that was a bit too much for me. But we talked, and she showed me how she could give me an edge that blended in. I was hooked.
Working with Kelly is similar to working with a bespoke tailor - she can make just about anything but has a definite house style that influences the finished product. In her case, the house style is what I'd describe as hipster. Her top hat and bowler models, for example, pay homage to the past but are definitely not part of it. By dialing her style all the way back the result is something that a London hatmaker might not make but shouldn't have nightmares over either. I like it.
For an appointment with Kelly, contact her at 212 965-0686 or drop by her studio at 453 Broome Street Tuesday through Friday from 12 to 6 or on Saturdays from 12 to 5.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
If you're a boutonniere wearing man, tomorrow is St. George's Day, the one day of the year to wear a red rose in your lapel.
Should anyone ask you for the story of your rose, it is the symbol of the knight known for the legend of George and the Dragon. After George killed the beast and saved the princess, a red rose sprouted miraculously from a drop of the dragon's blood.
You just couldn't beat a story about a knight saving a princess from a dragon during the Middle Ages and George's legend was known across Europe. In real life a Roman soldier who was persecuted for his Christianity, he achieved sainthood in the tenth century and went on to become the patron saint of half a dozen countries, including England and Germany, and more cities including Moscow, Istanbul, and Venice.
Some four million roses will be purchased tomorrow in Catalonia alone, particularly Barcelona, where it is traditional to give a rose to your sweetheart or wife and receive a book in return. Those of us who don't live in Spain may have to be content with a rose in our lapels.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
"It is not every man that can afford to wear a shabby coat; and worldly wisdom dictates to her disciples the propriety of dressing somewhat beyond their means, but of living somewhat within them,--for every one, sees how we dress, but none see how we live, except we choose to let them."
Friday, April 20, 2007
Maybe sock manufacturers would make more interesting dress socks if we all stopped buying plain black pairs. Not that I have anything against black socks, as long as they are silk for evening dress, preferably with gray or maroon clocks on the sides.
Dress socks work best when their color either relates to something above a man's waist, or is consistent with the color of his trousers. And since we don't wear black trousers during the day, there's little use for black socks. The racy dressers among us might be customers for colors like brown, rust, hunter, maroon and even lilac, but what most men need for work wear in the Fall are over the wool calf socks with gray, blue and tan grounds and cotton versions of the same for Spring (to keep things simple, I lump cashmere socks in with the wool).
With base colors and materials decided upon, we can talk about patterns. Socks ought to be patterned (a simple rib may be OK when they are brightly colored), so they add visual interest to the day's dress. Widely available patterns include clocks, birdseyes, herringbones, houndstooths, neats and simple plaids. Discreet horizontal stripes, a favorite of the Apparel Arts crowd in the 1930's are also nice, if you can find them (I can't). Argyles and polka dots begin to push the bounds of propriety for suits but add nice touches to less formal clothing.
Note that we are only considering over the calf socks. I strongly encourage men to limit their dress sock wardrobe to OTCs as, unless they are worn with sock suspenders, mid-calf hose have a disturbing tendency to slip down to the ankle, potentially leaving bare skin visible on the calf. And, as you know, that's a transgression on the short list of mortal sartorial sins. Stick with the OTCs and avoid problems.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
I've formed an image of Ian Fleming (the author of the James Bond novels) based on no more than a dozen photos of him, and the little he wrote about Bond's dress. It's an off-beat English upper class look and I think men's style is headed back in his direction.
Fleming was a pioneer of lightweight suitings. It was a joke among his friends that the fabric of his suits wore out so fast that he just had new cloth sewn onto the existing buttons. He wore navy single breasted suits with three button jacket closings and turnback cuffs (this will be the last you'll hear of those from me for a while but he did give me the idea). There's also a photo of him in a three button black and white herringbone suit with a navy v-neck sweater. All very James Bond and very pre-War English.
As a suit-wearing man it was Fleming's choice of accessories that made his personal style. Spread collar blue and gray dress shirts were worn with navy bow ties with white micro-dots. He also carried a cigarette holder (not an unusual prop then but now we know better).
Casual clothes included cream cashmere crew necks worn with charcoal trousers and moccasins in moderate weather, and cream square bottomed shirts, worn with a belt on the outside of the shirt in warm weather, and more charcoal trousers. I think of that latter look as Caribbean English - it can be too hot for odd jackets during the day.
And there were the suede shoes. His black casuals were modern and, though common now, it wasn't common then to see them with suits. The capper was the black suede oxfords, a combination also seen on Cary Grant. So now I want a pair, and that gives me a reason to take Edward Green's Top Drawer program for a test run.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
I had my first basted fitting with tailor Thomas Mahon of Cumbria England yesterday. Thomas and his assistant, Ms. Alice Early, were in San Francisco for two days between stops in Chicago and Atlanta.
So the suit's pattern has been made and the cloth cut, but the major parts are sewn together temporarily so the tailor can adjust the fit to the customer's body This garment will be a quarter lined ten ounce Scabal mohair and wool double breasted with turnback cuffs, and there's a lot of work still to be done. The adjustments identified were typical of every first effort I've been a part of, including trousers that were too tight in several critical places, shoulders with a lot of extra cloth, not enough drape in the chest, and a bit of an issue with the coat bottom in front.
In the photo below, Thomas is smiling because, while the jacket won't have much lining, he's noting that what there is is to be paisley.
Since Thomas will not be back to San Francisco until Fall, I'm planning another fitting while I'm in England in July. That way the suit may be completed in time for our Indian Summer. I hope that's not too optimistic - in the final photo I've decided on a 10 ounce Lesser glen check in gray with a red windowpane that I'd like to get started before they sell out of the cloth.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
I couldn't resist. I had to have the new Seaward & Stearn pocket squares (pictured) from Kabbaz-Kelly & Sons.
Frankly, I overlooked them when I saw them in person, laid out on a table in Manhattan. But folded in a breast pocket they are transformed, adding a discreet touch to a worsted jacket that falls into the sweet spot between flamboyant and plain. That's a quality that's hard to find but worth while. Pocket squares are important.
I believe that a well-dressed man needs roughly as many pocket squares as he has neckties (the corollary to this rule is that the majority of men would be better dressed if they had half as many neckties and twice as many squares). It's not acceptable to be insecure about when it's OK to wear one. It's always OK. If a man is wearing a jacket with an open breast pocket, the pocket should have a square in it.
The way I think about it, there are two types of guidelines about pocket squares. One is how to fold them and the other is how to choose one. Folding is simpler - there are two basic techniques (there are a dozen others but only two are required). If you're wearing a silk square, shove it into your pocket until an inch and a quarter of silk is showing, point any waving ends towards your left side, and forget about it. Or, if you're wearing linen, adjust a square fold until the pocket displays a line of white a quarter to a half inch high.
Choosing a square is more complex. An inventory is required, consisting of white Irish linen squares (I get mine on sale from Schweitzer Linens for $15 apiece instead of the usual $25), and a selection of silks. Both types should have hand stitched edges.
Wear the linen squares with worsteds and even flannels if the occasion is formal enough. Otherwise, wear the silks (for extra credit, have some matte silk and cashmere squares to combine with silk neckties and reserve the shinier silks for your matte neckties). The square usually repeats a color in the shirt, the necktie, or even the socks, but some of the best combinations don't repeat any color at all, like the tweed suited guy in the drawing.
Necktie wardrobes that follow the guidelines I posted last week are going to be complemented by pocket squares in a similar, but never matching, palette of colors. Maintain wardrobe balance by acquiring a new square with each new necktie, and weed them both at the same time as well.
Those S&S squares are promised for next week. I'm looking forward to them.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
"I am getting married in a civil ceremony tomorrow and wanted some wardrobe advice. As this is going to be a quick, informal affair, I'm planning on wearing a blazer and trousers. I have a very nice dark brown jacket with a windowpane check. I was thinking of wearing khaki trousers and a light brown patterned tie with a white dress shirt. The pants and shirt seem a little pedestrian...should I go for a darker trouser or dress shirt?"
Congratulations! You don't have time to do anything complicated but if you'd like to look a bit more dressed consider a pair of tan gabardine trousers instead of the khakis. You should be able to get them tailored on the spot if you explain why you need them. In addition, either put a white pocket square in your jacket pocket or stop for a white carnation tomorrow morning.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
"I would rather have a young fellow too much than too little dressed; the excess on that side will wear off, with a little age and reflection; but if he is negligent at twenty, he will be a sloven at forty, and stink at fifty years old. Dress yourself fine where others are fine, and plain where others are plain; but take care always that your clothes are well made and fit you, for otherwise they will give you a very awkward air."
Friday, April 13, 2007
There are some eccentric approaches to shirt monogramming going around. Jeremy Hackett shows English models with their prep school nicknames monogrammed in red on their left shirtsleeve above the elbow (his is a trend that may stoke the ego of guys named Big but it's unlikely to be adopted by at least one contemporary of mine who had the unfortunate nick of Chowder).
One Italian style leader goes a bit further. Lapo Elkann wears the Italian flag monogrammed on his sleeve cuff. I don't endorse that sort of boldness though. It's one thing to wear the occasional gag item and quite another to look as though you need to reminded of your national origin.
Men can make arguments that monograms are suitably discreet when placed on the lower left side of the chest, below where the pocket is not supposed to be located. Those making that argument wouldn't be completely out of line, as the rib cage is indeed where many men wear their initials. But I like to remember that monograms were first sewn so a man could get his shirts back from the laundry, and that's still the least egotistical use for them today. I like mine sewn inside the collar where the maker's label would otherwise be. In red, of course. That way they are as discreet as a paisley lining in a suit jacket.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Everyone has their own opinion but I think Luciano Barbera is the best dressed man in the clothing business. That's probably because he's usually seen in the kinds of clothes that I would like to be wearing all the time - updated versions of the same kinds of tweeds, flannels and linens that the Duke of Windsor wore. Not worsteds and discreet ties for the office, but Saxony glen checked suits with cashmere four in hands and paisley silk pocket squares.
Son of Carlo Barbera, proprietor of one of the world's best mills weaving wool and cashmere fabrics, Luciano is responsible for an eponymous line of ready to wear clothing as well as a unique sense of personal style. There's a statement on the Luciano Barbera web site that sums his approach up fairly well: "On the gravest days of winter I put on my gray flannels, a cashmere tie in a sober color and my white linen jacket. The pants keep me warm. The tie gains me entrée into good restaurants. The blazer reminds me that summer will come again."
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Shorts season is upon us, at least for men who live away from the sea in California. And that resurrects a dilemma for me. You see, on the one hand I think of shorts as children's clothes. I still have photos of myself as a shorts-clad child, and few things made me quite as happy as my first pair of trousers. On the other hand, even the lightest trousers are a burden on a 105 degree (f) day on the golf course or the deck of a boat.
Compounding my objection to shorts is how badly most of them are worn. Isn't it obvious that shorts-wearing men look stupid in white socks extending to the middle of the calf? Shorts are best paired with espadrilles, boat shoes or slip-on casuals worn without socks. Second best, excuseable only when you're going to be walking five miles with a bag on your back, are those women's golf socks that just reach the top of a golf shoe.
On days when I can get past my childhood memories and the need to wear women's socks, I'm confounded by how difficult it is to find acceptable shorts without commisioning a bespoke pair from a tailor (profligate as I am, thousand dollar khakis have always seemed a step too far). The best ones for me would be self-belted and high waisted, like the ones in the drawing, but try to find a pair. Bill's Khakis offered a version they called Ghurka shorts for a while. They were marred by an extraneous pocket on the left leg, but that no longer matters. Bill's tells me that their manufacturer won't be making any more of them (I didn't find any remaining inventory with a cursory web search either, though I did come across a linen version at a previously unknown-to-me site called J L Powell). Less elegant, but considerably easier to find, are knee length models in khaki, seersucker, white duck or madras meant to be worn with belts. New England reds are OK too.
So anyway, shorts season is upon us. Be careful out there.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
I want turnback cuffs on my next suit, like the ones Ian Fleming is wearing in the mid-fifties photo to the left. We've seen just about every kind of 1930's suit detail resurrected by fashion designers these past several years, but not turnback cuffs. So there's no time to waste.
The most common form for the suit today is of course the two, three or, more rarely, one button single breasted version with notch lapels and side pockets, but that's hardly the only way to make them. There are also four and six button double breasteds, as well as a rarer form of DB cut so that it can only be buttoned on the lowest button (many DB jackets can be buttoned either at the bottom, at the middle, or both, but only a select few are cut to button only at the bottom). Unfortunately for the man looking for a little edge, the bottom buttoning DB is a feature that looks better on blazers than it does on suits. There's a photo floating around of Ralph Lauren wearing a bottom buttoning dinner jacket that pretty much proves it.
Which leads us back to the varieties of single breasted jackets. The most commonly seen deviation from the common form are side pockets without flaps, a personal preference of mine. Flaps came about when men decided that the the sight of gaping jacket pockets was too much to bear, so tailors added flaps to cover them up. Jetted pockets without flaps are a bit cleaner looking, and so also a bit more formal. Some men emulate the look by tucking their pocket flaps into the pockets.
I can think of another single breasted silhouette, one that was used by the late Duke of Windsor, but it will most likely only be available bespoke. The Duke wore a two button jacket with one button spaced above and one spaced below the natural waist. His coats were cut so that both buttons closed, and his country clothes often paired this arrangement with crescent-shaped pockets without flaps (if you're wondering, the points of the crescents faced towards the rear). It's an effective look for a shorter man.
Still unusual if a bit more common is the single breasted jacket with peak lapels, something the late designer Hardy Amies considered anathema. With one or two buttons, it's a lounge suit version of the dinner jacket. Some more fashion forward tailors have gone a step further and paired the lapels with slanted hacking pockets which, I say reluctantly as it's a mutt of a look from a historical perspective, are a nice complement.
Ignoring vents, and I intend to, that's about all the deviations that are within the pale (or just beyond it) for a suit to be worn to an office these days. Yes, a man could commission a Norfolk suit, a four button ghillie collared suit or some other variation with an action back but he shouldn't wear those in town. Men who want to show that they don't have to work, or who expect to be fired and need to keep a stiff upper lip, can wear a peaked lapel lounge suit with a double breasted vest in a country fabric like a Cheviot or patterned flannel. Country fabrics in City styling have plenty of precedent among men who don't need to earn a living (sadly, these men are more likely to wear jeans and a hoodie than a suit in many parts of today's world).
Men who need a safer way to add individuality to their clothes should consider jackets lined in brilliant colors that are only seen by those nearest and dearest. I, on the other hand, will be the guy wearing turnback cuffs on my navy double breasted.
Sunday, April 8, 2007
"I have tended to stick to black shoes for the vast majority of my suits with the very occasional pairing of a burgundy pair of shoes with navy. My wife recently bought me a pair of tan shoes. Since they were a gift, I feel I should wear them occasionally, but I can't figure out for the life of me what to pair them with. Do you have any insights?"
As you can see on the feet of the Italian dandy in the photo to the left, light brown shoes work well with light gray. They are equally effective with light blue, tan, cream and the various shades of seersucker, all of which are warm weather colors usually worn in Spring and Summer. I've worn fox suede oxfords with navy flannels in winter, but it's not a combination for the office.
"My sister has decided that my brother-in-law needs a suit. Who would you recommend in Hong Kong?"
The usual suspects are W. W. Chan, which travels to major cities in the United States, and A-Man Hing Cheong, which does not. A-Man, in the Mandarin Hotel, may be the better of the two but each of them has supporters (I have no personal experience with Chan).
If your brother-in-law has a choice, he's likely to get a better suit if he can order it in Hong Kong and get fitted there. The W. W. Chan model in the U.S. is measure on the first visit and then ship a completed suit. That works perfectly some of the time, but when it doesn't the alterations process can take a while.
Saturday, April 7, 2007
There has been a lot of interest in strollers on the clothing forums recently, and appropriate cloth for formal trousers is hard to find.
I have arranged to make available some lengths of 14/15 ounce (500 gram) Cheviot woven by one of Scotland's respected mills. Cheviot is the traditional cloth for formal trousers as it has a bit of lustre and takes dyes very well. It's an open weave that will wear cooler than its weight.
A two meter length of the cloth suitable for high waisted trousers is $150, plus shipping from San Francisco. I accept PayPal, Visa and Mastercard. If you'd like a length, send me an email with your card information and shipping address. You'll have the cloth in about two weeks, in plenty of time to have it tailored into trousers for the Fall.
"Mr. Du Pont was about 50 - pink, clean shaven and dressed in the conventional disguise with which Brooks Brothers covers the shame of American millionaires. He wore a single-breasted tan tropical suit and a white silk shirt with a shallow collar. The rolled ends of the collar were joined by a gold safety pin beneath the knot of a narrow dark red and blue striped tie that fractionally wasn't the Brigade of Guards'. The cuffs of the shirt protruded half an inch below the cuffs of the coat and showed cabochon crystal links containing miniature trout flies. The socks were charcoal-grey silk and the shoes were old and polished mahogany and hinted Peal. The man carried a dark, narrow-brimmed straw homburg with a wide claret ribbon."
Friday, April 6, 2007
My dress yesterday might have been a bit too studied. Navy serge suit, silver-gray shirt with white collar and cuffs, gray on white checked necktie, light gray, tan and dark gray pocket square, and maroon enamel cuff links. The pocket square put it over the top - it should have introduced a new color instead of repeating one.
Great dress should display insouciance, the appearance of indifference to the clothes one is wearing. Former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown has it in the photo to the left and it's his hat band that does it for him. With a blue band he'd look too composed. As it is, the claret band introduces a new element that makes the whole thing work better together.
Contradictorilly, the appearance of indifference requires care. It's usually achieved by the deliberate introduction of elements that are unrelated to anything else that's worn that day. For example, a gray flannel suit worn with dark brown shoes, ecru end on end shirt, navy necktie, white linen pocket square and maroon cuff links. It's a combination that might almost have been thrown together, and that's insouciance.
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Yesterday's essay discussed solid colored neckties and today's will consider patterned versions.
We'll start with stripes. A man probably needs at least four two-color striped neckties, and at least one of those ought to be Irish poplin for its sheen. Block stripes (above, from Ben Silver) and ribbon stripes (as shown below, from O'Connell's) are flexible styles that coordinate easily with patterned suits and shirts. Navy and gold, navy and pacific blue, navy and red, and red and gold are classic color combinations.
For serious occasions, there should be two Macclesfield ties. Mini-dots are discreet and fairly easy to find. White or silver dots on black and the same on wine are useful combinations.
There should also be a couple small checks, either shepherd's or houndstooth in navy on cream and gray on cream like the one below, from Brooks Brothers, as well as a paisley or two (get the paisleys in gummed silk if you can find them but I haven't seen one for about ten years) in a large print.
Next, there should be a couple of non-directional foulards or club ties, one of which should have a ground that complements navy suits. The other should pair well with gray suits. Sportsmen may choose prints featuring ducks or Labrador retrievers but most men will be better served by heraldic symbols, like the pictured tie from Henry Poole, or small flowers, like the tie at the bottom from O'Connell's.
Finally, most men should have four seasonal ties, two linen (or silk and linen) with tan and blue grounds for summer and a gray and a blue ground cashmere or wool challis for cooler weather. The patterns should be similar to the styles discussed above. These ties are to provide some different textures with which to vary your look.
So that's it, a dozen neckties that, combined with the dozen solids and semi-solids from yesterday, comprise a fine basic wardrobe for a well-dressed man.
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
A suit-wearing man needs a minimum of about two dozen neckties. About a dozen of those should be solids and semi-solids with textures that add surface interest. Solids make the most flexible neckties because their relative inobtrusiveness makes them amenable to frequent wearing, and they make it easy to complement a pattern in a suit, shirt, or both.
Knitted silk neckties, like the ones shown above from Paul Stuart, are a wardrobe staple in warm weather, and on less formal occasions (their square bottoms make them more casual). Black, navy and dark red are the most useful colors.
Grenadines, which are also knitted silk but in a tighter weave, are more formal than knits. Pictured above, and also from Paul Stuart, they may be worn where-ever a man might wear a lounge suit. Consider black, navy, burgundy and silver.
A few more solids should round out the collection. A man can never have too many navy neckties and an oxford weave solid (shown above in Pacific blue, another useful color, from Ben Silver) should be one of them.
Finally, there should be a couple ribbed solids in steel blue and in charcoal with a blue tint, either ottomans (the latter have a more visible stripe, as pictured above, from Paul Stuart) or twill (below, from Ben Silver).
Tomorrow we'll look at a selection of patterned ties.
Monday, April 2, 2007
The man in the illustration to the left is wearing a version of the stroller, a form of semi-formal day wear that's rarely seen today. Formal day wear is worn at weddings, funerals, and diplomatic receptions in addition to important Sunday afternoons, such as Easter Sunday.
But for the trousers, it's all fairly standard stuff. Black double breasted jacket with jetted side pockets, Macclesfield necktie, striped shirt with white collar and cuffs and black oxfords. But the trousers! Black and white checked Cheviot, probably of 14-15 ounce cloth. Cheviot is a breed of sheep whose lustrous wool is woven into crisp cloth with an open structure that holds and reflects dye colourings well and wears cooler than its weight.
I have always considered the stroller to be one of the less appreciated parts of men's dress. It doesn't turn heads like the more formal morning coat. Worn in the double breasted version, a stroller doesn't require a light gray vest either, which I believe dates the look considerably. To the man on the street it's just a black jacket with loud trousers. To those in the know it's another way to honor the past in a reasonably up to date way.
I've worn a stroller for about fifteen years but have been frustrated by the trouser choices available. It's not hard to find what are called cashmere stripes, but I'd never seen a proper check. Until last week, when I found a source for black and white shepherd's check like the cloth in the drawing. I have a sample of it in hand - if you'd like a couple of meters, let me know.
Sunday, April 1, 2007
"Do you have any advice on removing stubborn wrinkles from neckties? I have a number of ties (from respected makers) that seem permanently "scrunched" after being untied. I've heard that some roll them after a wear, others may steam--might it have to do with the interlinings?"
Try steaming them from the back (that way if you get a water spot on the tie it's not visible).
As you wrote, some men swear by rolling them. Unfortunately, it's never done anything noticeable for me.
"What types of wool pants would you buy for year-round wear? I think tropical wool wrinkles and wears, and am aware of various weights, but since I am forced to buy most of my clothes online, it is often hard to guage seasonal wearability."
There's nothing that's really suitable for year-round wear in a temperate climate The closest you might get would be to wear tropicals under a coat in the winter, however your legs will be cold and tropical weight cloth doesn't wear as well as the heavier stuff.
Compromises that are suitable for most of the year include gabardine. The RTW fabric sold at sources like Ben Silver is fine for all but the hottest weather. Not ideal for freezing temperatures, but better than a tropical.
Consider also medium weight twills like whipcord and cavalry twill. The stuff wears like iron and the weights you are likely to find are going to wear warmer than gabardine but still be nine month cloth.
To the left is a photo of some of the late Duke of Windsor's odd trousers. It has nothing to do with the question, but I couldn't find anything else that did either.