If you're wearing black tie tonight, and I certainly hope you are, remember to wear a boutonniere. A red carnation is the customary choice.
Though it's said to be a symbol of friendship in the U.S., perhaps a young and very serious looking Prince Michael of Kent is aware that in Germany a yellow rose is a sign of jealousy and infidelity.
Have a great evening!
Monday, December 31, 2007
Friday, December 28, 2007
ASW is honored to be selected as one of Monsieur's "Le Top Ten" in the January issue. According to le magazine de l’Homme élégant:
"Depuis San Francisco, blog sur l'elegance classique. Tres belles illustrations annees 30."
We're also told we were mentioned in the Russian edition of GQ in their January issue, which explains why we've had several hundred visitors a day from that country recently. Welcom.
It's an encouraging way to start the year.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
I might never have considered the combination of bottle green with gray flannel had I not read about it in one of Alan Flusser's early books. But I tried it, liked it, and I've been wearing it ever since. And it seems particularly apropos before Christmas.
It's a combination that benefits from socks that complement the necktie. And semi-brogue shoes. In my opinion, a flannel suit needs either brogueing or the texture of suede to balance the look.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
It is the boning with a deer bone that takes the grease out of the leather - especially out of waxed calf which would not otherwise take the polish. Because of the time needed to clean and polish waxed calf this has lost much of the old popularity it enjoyed when a man had a lot of servants; now that he may perhaps have no more than one - and probably has to clean his own shoes in the bargain - boxcalf has largely taken its place. But this is by no means an unworthy makeshift: it may be so highly polished that to an uninstructed eye, gazing from a distance, boxcalf is hard to distinguish from patent leather."
- Makers of Distinction, by Thomas Girtin
Friday, December 21, 2007
With the onset of winter it can sometimes be necessary to cover your ears to stay warm. As I was recently reminded by a reader, that's hard to do with a homburg or fedora. Which makes it time to reach into the back of your closet for your ambassador hat (like the one in the photo) with the pull-down ear flaps.
The best ambassadors that I know of are made in Canada of water-resistant beaver fur ($385), though they also come in mink. You'll find them at the A Suitable Wardrobe store as well as local hatters.
Living as I do in Northern California my ambassador has had about a decade of rest since its last trip to Switzerland (I try not to travel to cold weather cities between January and March). But I still have a vivid memory of sweat pouring off my head after I spent a few minutes inside a shop without removing it. They're very warm, and that's usually a good thing.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Today's illustration is one of the first Fellow's drawings I ever saw, and the caption puzzled me for years. It said the fellow on the right was wearing a "lord's hat," which made no sense because it looked to my eye like a homburg.
When I saw another reference to the lord's hat recently I was driven to research it. Lo and behold, a lord's hat turns out to be a more casual version of the homburg. Where the homburg's edge is bound with silk, the lord's hat brim is left raw. The brim is still turned up but the unconstrained edge looks more casual. The lord's is also worn pinched, adding to the less formal air.
I'm thinking about midnight blue beaver...
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
In the film The Walker, costume designer Nic Ede has his lead, played by Woody Harrelson, escort the wives of some of Washington's powerful wearing double breasted suits with questionable shirt and tie combinations.
The drama is one of the few released in 2007 with a male actor in a role that might have displayed elegant dress. Unfortunately, Ede's white collar and cuff version of a ten year old monochromatic talk show look is no better than it was the first time around.
Now there's nothing out of line about dark red or lavendar shirts on a fellow playing the role of a male escort. But Harrelson's character would have demonstrated better clothes sense, in my opinion, with more spread to his collars, neckties that relegated the color of his shirt to a secondary element, and paisley pocket squares in unrelated colors.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
This portrait of Juan Carlos I of Spain shows how a dress shirt should peek out from under a jacket. There's half an inch of linen above the jacket collar at the rear, and half an inch at the ends of the sleeves (the photo was shot upwards, so the viewer sees a bit of cufflink that would be out of sight from a normal perspective).
Like his relative the Prince of Wales, Juan Carlos is usually seen in well cut double breasteds. The DB has a bit of the flavor of a military uniform, and evokes more of an aristocratic heritage than a single breasted coat.
Fit for a king.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Business dress that looks good and blends in at the same time. Charcoal suit, light blue end on end shirt with white collar and cuffs, a maroon silk necktie with white houndstooth pattern, and a light blue and white silk and cotton pocket square.
On the feet, black cap toe oxfords. And then patterned hose. They may not be completely discreet but I do have a weakness for them.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Alex's shoes - dozens of pairs, each handmade by Lobb, each with a hand-carved shoetree with Alex's name engraved on a brass plaque - sat in neat rows, brought to gleaming perfection by Benjamin's magic touch. Alex's shirts - hundreds of them, from Sulka, or Knize, or Harvey & Hudson, cream silk, gray sea island cotton, pale-blue and off-white voile, each shirt monogrammed, each one with buttons on the cuffs (Alex hated cufflinks), each handsewn to measure - were stacked in specially made drawers, wrapped in individual cellophane envelopes. Alex's black silk socks, his faintly checkered gray silk ties, the Irish lawn handkerchiefs (double-size, so fine they would float in the air if opened and dropped, delicately embroidered with Alex's initials), the handmade silk undershorts and the starched pique evening shirts, all these things, and much more, were in Benjamin's care.
-Charmed Lives, by Michael Korda
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
I had to smile at GQ's "Everything You Need to Know About Black Tie" in the December issue, which I picked up because the cover promised early photos of Sienna Miller and Jessica Biel (hence the above illustration of a 1927 painting by Christian Schad which I think ties the two topics together, don't you?).
Anyway, back to GQ's story, which was apparently edited by the stylist that dresses Tom Cruise. I first raised an eyebrow at the statement that a cummerbund makes the wearer look like he's headed to the prom. That was followed by an admonition to lose the patent shoes and wear black bluchers instead (they don't actually specify bluchers but the illustration shows a pair). And we're told it's OK to substitute a black suit for a DJ altogether. Finally, they advise blucher-wearing guys everywhere that they should don a chesterfield overcoat with a black velvet collar. As if they're likely to have one of those hanging next to their black suits.
I doubt it was coincidental that less than a week after reading the piece two different readers emailed me asking where they could buy a chesterfield. Now I think every suit-wearing man should own a chesterfield but I fervently hope neither of them was planning to buy one to wear with a black suit and bluchers.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Consider wearing a bow tie to cocktails in the early evening. To me, the look is a bit more interesting than a long tie because a bow evokes evening clothes when it's worn with a dark suit.
Blue flannel chalk stripe suit, dark brown cap toe half boots, white on blue striped shirt with white collar and cuffs, lilac and white cotton pocket square and a bow with lilac flowers on a blue ground.
Monday, December 10, 2007
To my mind, it's no accident that the best dressed men I've known personally are French. After all, the French aristocracy represented the world's most sophisticated luxury goods market for several centuries. The best-dressed Frenchmen might buy their suits on Savile Row, but they stayed home for shoes, shirts and and accessories with a bit more flair than they could find in London. For most of the twentieth century, Paris was perhaps the world's best place to shop for clothing.
Unfortunately for French menswear, clothing became a global game and the initial success of Pierre Cardin and other French designers in U. S. ready to wear didn't last. After the Italians conquered that market, most of the French makers spent several decades consolidating at home with only a few names, including Charvet and Berluti, enjoying international recognition. That is starting to change.
If memory serves me right, a man could still find Cardin in U.S. department stores when a young Marc Guyot (that's Marc in the photo above) began designing his own made to measure suits as a teenager. Influenced by Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief, Fred Astaire in suits by Frederic Scholte, and the late Duke of Windsor, his efforts struck a chord. Friends began asking him to do the same for them and, after a few years, Guyot left law school to enter the world of fashion. In 1995, with no other experience, he opened his first shop in Paris.
Twelve years later, Guyot's Boutique Cape Cod is filled with clothing and shoes of his own design. It's a look that adds a French point of view to the classics of the golden era of men's clothing. "I like my customers to build a base of good taste and then add some rare items or accessories for a final touch," says Guyot. That might mean a seven fold necktie in a classic dot pattern worn under a made to measure cashmere waistcoat with contrast edging and paired with Guyot-designed shoes.
These are not clothes for serious work. Think of them for a gallery opening, a wine tasting, or a walk in the park on a sunny morning. On those occasions, Guyot has few peers.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
"Japan doesn't have any competition in fashion at the moment - it's doing something so different, the way it did with hi-fi. This is fashion thoroughly informed by traditional aesthetics: aji, which might involve fabrics where the incongruity speaks of the congruity of the whole; the idea of sleeves filled with nothing; the idea of colored space, as in the Edo Kabuki."
Friday, December 7, 2007
I'm old enough to remember when it was a pain to negotiate the 300 miles (500 km) between London and Paris. No more. Regular travelers in particular must appreciate the EuroStar schedule inaugurated November 14 that reduces travel time to just a bit over two hours, down from more than three hours when service was inaugurated in 1994. That doesn't include the time passengers save by avoiding the security hassles of air travel, and EuroStar's seats are considerably better too. Even before the new service, the Chunnel train was claiming a 68% share of trips between the two cities.
The faster travel times are the combined result of new high speed track in England and a new London station at St. Pancras (replacing Waterloo, which no longer has EuroStar service).
What the new service will do to the dress of the English and French remains to be seen. A stretch before, it's practical now for a Londoner to take a day off work for a same day journey to buy pointy-toed shoes in Paris. His Parisian colleagues are equally able to buy flamboyant shirts on Jermyn Street. The Business Class-like Leisure Select non-refundable round trip fare is £199 (about $400), and Standard Class is just a bit more than half that.
It all makes me wonder why the United States doesn't do something similar between Washington, New York and Boston. Amtrak's Acela Express service is a start, but cut the transit times in half and there'd be no need for the eight or more commercial flights that are in the air between those cities every hour during the day. That's a lot of kerosene.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
I don't like the half-windsor and the other triangular necktie knots. They're just too regular for me. Instead, give me a slightly asymmetrical four in hand every day. The too-fashionable example in the photo from Robert Talbott is hardly irregular but it's the shape I like. Big enough to fill a cutaway collar but not too big for a tab.
Emulating the late Duke of Windsor, I have my neckties made a bit thicker than normal, so I get a knot about the same size as a half windsor. Or I'll loop the wide end of a ready-made necktie an extra time around the knot to make it a bit larger and shorten the ends at the same time. Either way, the tie hangs just slightly askew, and that degagé air is, in my opinion, the way it should be.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Perry Ercolino is one of only two world class bespoke shoemakers that I'm aware of in America. He's located rather unexpectedly in Bucks County, outside of Philadelphia, but Ercolino's work could as easily originate in London. His monkstrap shoes in particular are special.
Like the London makers, Ercolino uses soles from Germany's Joh. Rendenbach Jr. tannery and his uppers come from Europe's best sources. The raw materials and sixty hours of hand crafting combine to make a finished product priced at $3,600 a pair.
Interestingly, Ercolino also offers handmade shoes on a standard last, a service he calls "Custom Measure." At $2,600 for a pair, it's more expensive than the demi-measure service by Paris' Dmitri Gomez but still good value for men who can get a proper fit that way.
Ercolino's location need not be a barrier as he takes appointments each Wednesday at tailor Leonard Logsdail's Manhattan rooms on East 53rd Street.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
It's not timely, but the photo is too good to waste. Sir Roy Strong is a long-time dandy whose 6x3 double breasted suit, tailored by Blades in 1968, is displayed in the UK's Fashion Museum (he's also a writer, broadcaster, historian, diarist and gardener, former director of The National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria & Albert Museum, and High Bailiff of Westminster Abbey).
In the picture, Strong is dressed for gardening supervision in a double breasted cotton suit and ventilated shoes. It's hard to recommend cotton suits for anything other than July afternoons in the garden - linen is usually a better choice. But Strong definitely looks seasonally appropriate even though none of his clothes are to my taste. Well, maybe the hat.
Monday, December 3, 2007
Complementing last week's essay on the shirt as the centerpiece of the day's clothes, here's an example of the shirt used as as a neutral background.
Tan glen check worsted with an orange overcheck, cream shirt and blue ancient madder necktie with light blue, green and orange paisleys. The pocket square is navy silk and, for someone will surely ask, the shoes are chestnut semi-brogues.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
"The overcoat I inherited from my father, a full-length grey single-breasted, has finally collapsed under the weight of years. I am seeking a new, all-purpose overcoat, as i can only stretch to one this season, which would go as well with black tie as the odd jacket and trouser ensembles that make up most of my day-to-day wardrobe. Which style/colour do you think would work best? "
You're likely to get the most use from another full length oxford gray single breasted.
"I am wearing a silk velvet smoking jacket to an evening event in the near future and I want to wear a cravat under my white shirt. What knot should I choose?
The tied ascot is worn under your open collar shirt so that an inch of silk fills the tie space. Instructions for tieing a an ascot/cravate are here.
"I got a new job today, starting Monday, and from what I understand everyone wears suits. I'm planning on wearing basic navy and charcoal suits, but what about business shoes? I really hate the combination navy and black, and that goes for shoes as well. Would it be totally wrong to wear brown oxfords, chelsea boots (or any other unlaced kind of dress shoe) with navy and grey suits?"
I also prefer brown shoes to black with navy suits but that shouldn't be your first concern. Wear black oxfords the first few days while you get the lay of the land. Your priority should be to establish yourself as a serious player. You can wear brown shoes for decades once you've done that but it's easy to get categorized as a light weight and hard to overcome that first impression.