They can and are used for everything from horse grooming to attending the races which is why I think of Barbour's Beaufort as the perfect barn coat. Rain or shine, the Beaufort is at home out back with its pockets full of shotgun shells and equally appropriate for a long day of browsing too many antique shops. And they're more democratic than you might think - they sold me one and I don't own a single Land Rover.
The Beaufort features a waxed cotton shell, a turn-up corduroy collar and cotton lining with a snap-closed throat and storm cuffs for protection against the elements. The snap-front conceals a wallet pocket and a full-width rear game pocket with side zips, and two front bellows pockets and two moleskin-lined hand-warmer-pockets provide plenty of stowage.
Like too few good things, the Beaufort is even relatively affordable. I've seen them for less than $275, a bargain in this age of depreciated greenbacks. Mine needs re-waxing, and now that Spring is showing itself in California I will send it out so it's ready for next year.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
When the product manager for Kimberly-Clark's new SHINE TO GO shoe polisher asked me to write about it, I warned him that I'd hold it to a high standard. So when a package of the patented all-in-one applicator and buffer arrived, I arranged for the shoe care professionals at San Francisco's A Shine & Co to give me an expert opinion.
SHINE TO GO is a nice concept that's simple to use. Each package contains an applicator that's designed to quickly shine one pair of shoes. Just apply the "real cream polish" with one side and buff with the other.
I put "real cream polish" in quotes because there's no ingredients list on the package or the web site and that's a significant negative. A lot of convenience products contain silicone, which makes shoes look shiny at first but you really don't want to bring that stuff near leather that you care about. Which is why we tried it on a pair of shoes that are used to teach people how to shine. The photo above shows polish going on. Once applied, we waited a minute for the liquid to dry on all parts of the shoe.
The second photo shows buffing (more buffing than any home user is likely to apply) that unfortunately didn't fill in scuff marks like real polish should. When the buffing was done, the result was a cloudy, streaky shine. It wouldn't be enough on shoes that really needed polish, and we didn't think it would do justice to well kept ones. For emergency touch-ups of shoes in between those two points, maybe. If there's no silicone in it.
Bottom line: A SHINE TO GO is a good idea but a flawed implementation. Granted, it's a convenience product. But I agree with the opinion of the professionals: men that care about their shoes shouldn't settle for for anything less than the protection and beauty of a real shoe shine. It's just not that hard to do yourself when there's no shine stand handy.
Pretty much - I wear flannel in the fall almost exclusively. I find the mottled weave more interesting than most worsteds. Of course there are minor negatives. You may need a couple extra pair, as flannel should be rested two days after a wearing rather than just one, and they don't wear as well but in my opinion those defects are more than offset by the superior looks of a great flannel.
In spring, flannel trousers are progressively less desireable as the weather warms up. I have a pair in light (for flannel) ten ounce wool and they are not for temperatures much above 70 degrees (f) in my opinion.
I am entering into the business world and inherited some of my father's beautiful Oxxford clothing that fits me perfectly. However, all of the pants are pleated and it seems like that style has been phased out. Can I still wear them?
If you hang around here long enough you'll get tired of hearing that there is a difference between fashion and style. Fashion is for the fair sex, and shouldn't affect you unless you're dressing to go clubbing.
Savile Row still overwhelmingly prefers the pleated trouser, and for good reason. Pleats are more attractive on more men than flat fronts. Wear yours in good health.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Personally, I don't like belted trousers. They ride too low under a jacket for my taste and the buckle is distracting to the eye. But I did wear them as a young man, most men wear them today and some of those men have asked about them. So I have a few thoughts to share.
First, belts should complement your shoes. That means black calf shoes should be accompanied by a black calf belt. A man doesn't have to match his browns precisely, but when he wears brown shoes his belt should be brown. And I believe that if one is going to the trouble to wear burgundy or suede shoes, one should go to the trouble to wear a burgundy or suede belt.
That said, the most important thing I ever learned about belts was that the same people that make shoes offer them, in the same shades of leather as their shoes. You have to look - makers from Alden to Edward Green don't make much of their belt making. But the expedient way to have belts that complement your shoes is to buy them where you buy those shoes. Provided, that is, that you shop at factory stores. For some reason, many department stores don't seem to buy belts from the same places they get their shoes. But then, who would want pink alligator belts anyway?
Belts from their shoemakers will be all most men require in their lifetimes, but some always want more. And, in the case of belts, that leads inexorably to the skins of various reptiles, flightless birds, and certain denizens of the sea. Leathers from these creatures is turned into lovely straps in a plethora of colors by skilled artisans such as Hermes or San Francisco's April in Paris (source of the belt in the photo), and the straps themselves may be combined with buckles that cost as as if they were made from solid gold. Probably because some of them are.
I've never understood the fascination with alligator or crocodile belts, particularly since many of the men that wear them think shoes from the same material too flashy. Which of course, makes it more difficult to find shoes that complement that stingray creation around your waist. But, in a world where logos are the easy substitute for good taste, I don't call that a sin.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Last week a reader sent me a link to a great piece of writing that pops up now and then. GQ published a piece called My Father's Fashion Tips in the December, 1996 issue. Written by Tom Junod, it was nominated for a National Magazine Award, and if you haven't read it you'll be glad you followed the link.
One of the fashion tips in the article is a paen to the turtleneck, a sweater that, if it isn't the most flattering thing a man can wear, is certainly among them. I don't find much occasion to wear them where I live - it's rarely cool enough - but I own a couple of cashmere versions that get brought out two or three days each year.
And when it's cool enough to warrant having cloth up to your chin, the turtleneck is a finished look that attracts the eye in much the same way that a necktie does. I wear an oatmeal version with country suits and odd jackets, and a gray with city suits in business casual situations.
The sweater in the photo is from Jonathan, the friendly cashmere specialist at Four in Hand.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
"In '49 and the early 1850's ... San Francisco enjoyed a labor shortage of acute proportions. Every able-bodied man had headed for the Mother Lode diggings and the few women who had come out from the East were not the washwoman type. The heathen Chinee had not yet been imported from Canton to beoome the universal laundryman and getting a ruffled shirt washed and starched was next to impossible. In this pass, the pioneers hit upon an ingenious solution.... Since buying new shirts and sundries was cheaper than hiring a washwoman at $100 a day, the Argonauts let their personal laundry accumulate for twelve months and then sent it out in a clipper ship bound for China where it could be washed and ironed for next to nothing. It came back a year later, and for some time it was established California practice to send laundry across the Pacific and get it back next year."
-The Big Spenders by Lucius Beebe
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Several buttons too far actually. Not content with the decoration provided by his cuff, Yann Debelle de Montby of Berluti has five buttons on his jacket sleeve, and leaves three of them open. I think this crosses the line separating venial sins from mortal ones.
Aside from the unforgiveable, his look would be fairly classic. I can forgive the silver headed cane in a man who is obviously trying too hard and his combination of blue suit, white shirt and silver tie is one of my personal favorites - I wore a navy suit and silver blue twill necktie yesterday with a shirt that had a gray twill body and white collar and cuffs.
I wonder if he has met Snoop Dogg.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Spring and rain are synonymous in my book, and rain calls for boots. Cordovan boots to be precise, with double soles. Boots keep the ankles dry, the thicker soles keep the uppers further off the ground, and cordovan, the skin from the rump of a horse, sheds water like a duck (if that doesn't make sense read it again - it took me a minute and I wrote it). The first photo is a pair of Alden's commissioned by Leather Soul.
Cordovan boots are available from makers such as Alden, Carmina and Vass in different styles and a range of price points. The boot in the photo above is a design commissioned from Carmina by the London Lounge.
Perhaps the only negative to boots is that they take a few seconds longer to lace up than do oxfords. Speed lacers at the boot top (those metal things at the top of the Carminas) are a bit easier.
Consider a pair of half boots for the coming season.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
The Norfolk jacket was arguably the "casual" coat that re-started the mode of trousers that complemented, but did not match, the jacket. Of course, men's clothing has gone back and forth from matching to complementing since the first dandy invented pantaloons shortly after discovering fire. But we owe the current era to this, the first modern sport coat.
The principal feature of the Norfolk is the shoulder construction that made it easier to raise a gun to bear on a bird. And this same feature is the principal reason we see so few of them today. The action back and half belt make it more complex to sew, which translates to more expensive to make. Which in turn means it won't be found on many retail racks.
Still, a man wearing one won't see himself coming and going. And he can dress it down with moleskins or dress it up with gabardines like the man in the illustration. Because his trousers don't have to match.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
As a student, there is little of your good taste that I can put into practice on a daily basis. I need hardly tell you that a full dress suit would be out of place on campus, particularly in the very poorly attired faculty of music. Is there any advice you can give to a younger audience on looking trimmed and elegant but not so out of place so as to be denounced as a "bourgeois pig" by one's peers? Oh, and if it takes into account a student budget, that, too, would be greatly appreciated!
Is Charlie Watts bourgeois? He dresses well enough to be in the Best Dressed Hall of Fame. And many other musicians dress well today across the spectrum from classical to pop. Music provides an environment where a man can wear great clothing without worrying about keeping everything muted so as not to offend.
Musicians or not, my advice to young men is to buy neutrals first so you can wear them frequently while your wardrobe is limited. Invest in one or two signature pieces, such as a great scarf, for when you want to add brio. And don't be afraid of vintage clothing.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
"My late husband, David, and Fred Astaire went to the same little Italian tailor in Beverly Hills, up on Little Santa Monica. One day David came in to pick up a new suit, and there was Fred. The tailor comes out of the back room with Fred's new suit on a hanger and hands it to Fred. Fred takes the suit off the hanger, rolls it up, and throws it against the wall. David said, 'What are you doing?' And Fred answered, 'The way to wear clothes is to tell them who's boss in the beginning. Then they fit you.'"
-Danvi Janssen quoted in Fred Astaire: his friends talk, by Sarah Giles
Thursday, February 14, 2008
I've never understood the automakers' conspiracy against coats and hats. After all, automaker executives at least theoretically go out into the outside world, and you'd think they'd need coats in a Detroit winter. And hats - perhaps the most important reason my father stopped wearing hats was that there wasn't enough headroom to wear his hat while he drove. But, as I wrote yesterday, fifty years later there's still no place to store a coat or a hat in the passenger compartment of an automobile.
Compounding the problem, now that cars have good temperature control it's difficult to ride in them with a coat on. So we're forced to stand in the cold and remove our coat before we get into our cars (I usually put mine in the trunk). And then go out into the cold to put our coats on again. It's such fun in a cold driving rain or a snow storm!
Of course, there's absolutely no reason that coat wearers should have to suffer like this. The photos are of the passenger compartment of a Maybach, a luxury sedan that is to Mercedes as Lexus is to Toyota. For the price of a small airplane it offers every conceivable option, including a pull-out drink service cart. But you won't find a place to store a coat while you ride unless you commission something bespoke.
Why the conspiracy against coats?
Our spring comes earlier than some, and by evening yesterday the temperature was perfect for a topcoat. As you know, topcoats are not as warm as overcoats. They are made from lighter cloth than their winter counter-parts, and are typically shorter which incidently lets them better accommodate autombile travel (and why has no-one built coat storage into autombiles, I ask - but that is for another time). And they are ideally tweed. The topcoats that is, not the automobiles.
What tweed provides us besides water shedding properties and warmth is a wide variety of patterns, and the illustration shows a couple of nicely bold choices. I believe that at least one coat in every man's wardrobe should be something other than a solid. Keep your solid colored cashmeres and vicunas (well, perhaps you could send me the vicunas). Wear a patterned coat in Spring.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
I am inspired by plaids today. After retiring some of the flashier items on my shirt shelves, I realized I'd gone too far. My city shirt wardrobe is currently weighted too heavily towards semi-solid shirts and simple stripes, an oversight that will be remedied with plaid shirts made from these Thomas Mason fabrics.
Now just a few men wear plaid shirts and perhaps others may think themselves not quite bold enough to make a plaid statement. But boldness is not really necessary. One trick that helps de-emphasize the complexity of a large check like the swatches in the photo is to combine them with a white collar and cuffs. Worn with a double breasted suit or single breasted with a waistcoat, there's only a peak of pattern setting off the necktie.
Yes indeed, fourth and fifth from the top will be just the ticket for the spring sunshine.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
After looking at dozens of photographs of dinner jackets last week for the San Francisco Ballet post, it occurs to me that many of the men would have benefited from a touch of red.
Boutonniere, pocket square, hose or in the pattern on a waistcoat, a touch of red (or purple, for that matter) adds just the right amount of color to otherwise unadorned black tie.
Monotony is less of a problem with white tie (not that many of us have much occasion to wear it) because a man can, and should, wear his medals with white tie. But black tie can be so, well, black.
So try a touch of red. But please, not the bowtie. That should never be colored.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Perhaps a majority of the world's best dressed men prefer the large blade of their necktie to emerge undimpled from the knot, like the late Gianni Agnelli in the photograph.
The undimpled necktie was yet another of the style trends spread by observers of the late Duke of Windsor, who never dimpled his. It's a bit more difficult to achieve, and one that is helped by a thick lining in the tie itself.
Do you dimple?
Sunday, February 10, 2008
I thought readers would be interested in this photo of the W. S. Foster workroom in London where their bespoke shoes (and hand bags) are made by hand. Apprentices typically spend the first year or two polishing, like the woman to the left, and you can see the lasts for the active customer jobs hanging under the center table
Saturday, February 9, 2008
I acquired these Edward Green oxfords at Brooks Brothers about twenty years ago. Labeled Peal, they're actually Chelseas on EG's 202 last. They were the beginning of my affair with that company's footwear and I've probably added two pair each year ever since.
As the oldest shoes in my rotation currently, they're proof that good shoes can last indefinitely when they are maintained. They were re-made at the factory once but are otherwise holding up nicely.
Friday, February 8, 2008
The recent Diamond Jubille of the San Francisco ballet was as formal as affairs usually get in the United States. The black-tie event and fundraiser included a $1,000 per seat (and up) dinner in City Hall, a performance by America’s oldest professional ballet company, and a party after the performance. There were more than a thousand people seated for dinner and three thousand at the ballet itself.
The attendees included hundreds of formally dressed women but only a few men turned out in white tie. They got my vote for best dressed.
A large contingent wore classic black tie. A few men, like the gentleman in the photo, dressed it up in appropriate fashion.
And of course, too many attendees wore ordinary suits, some without so much as a necktie. But they were better dressed than a few others, whose quest to be different didn't earn them any style points.
I will not grace this site with their photos but among the worst dressed was one man whose dinner jacket sleeves fell to his knuckles. Most people noticed only his orange four in hand necktie.
Worst of all was the dinner jacket accompanied by a gray and black four in hand and matching vest. They were worn above black vinyl trousers. The horror.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
Next, go to Alden and buy a pair of black 907 oxfords, a pair of brown slip-ons, and a pair of brown oxfords with some light brogueing. Your bill will be about $1,500. For that you'll get appropriate shoes for most occasions and you shouldn't need to wear the same pair two days in a row. If you need belts, get them now, in the same colors as the shoes.
After that, go to a shirtmaker and order six to ten dress shirts. If you wait until MyTailor comes to town you'll get good quality for less than $150 apiece. You'll want two white and six blue (royal oxford, end on end, broadcloth, bankers stripe, and something lightweight). Thrill yourself with two in other colors. :-) Do not buy off the rack. Get started with shirts that fit now and you'll wear them for the rest of your life.
Finally, go to Sam Hober online and order a solid blue oxford necktie, a black grenadine, a gray Irish poplin, and at least three others of your choice for $80 apiece. Get more if you will wear them daily. And buy a package of three white linen handkerchiefs somewhere for $50 for your breast pocket even if you won't wear them to the office.
You'll also need some socks and underwear. You should have at least five blue, not black, over the calf hose in cotton and five more in wool.
This list is probably $5-6,000 with tax and shipping. If you want to spend a bit more, add a tan single breasted raincoat with a zip-out lining from Burberry or Aquascutum.
Next year, repeat the process with warm weather clothing.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Readers may think I'm fairly random at times, and today is the epitome of randomness. I've had the above illustration since before I began writing ASW, and I've never found a reason to use it. But it's a great image with some great clothes, and it's one of the few remaining that I haven't posted. So today's the day.
The popularity of derby style hats on the men is of course because the original derby was a hard shell hat that would help break a fall from horseback. And, if they're not poseurs, the men wearing jodhpurs will be riding hard a bit later in the day.
The countryside is also the original domain of the glen check suit, and there's a particularly nice version on the fourth figure from the left edge. I prefer a large black on white check unadorned with colored overchecks, just like the one he's wearing. There's also a paddock style jacket on the man in the upper right, standing on the coach for a better view.
Exchange the riding breeches for trousers, replace the riding boots with brown suede chukkas and these clothes would look better than most of the odd jacket and trouser combinations we see on today's streets.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
A reader suggested that I might enjoy the writings of Lucius Beebe, one of the twentieth century's great newspaper columnists. The man knows what I'll like.
The Provocative Pen of Lucius Beebe is an edited collection of Beebe's columns for the San Francisco Chronicle in the 1960's. Beebe was a gourmand, boulevardier and dandy of note whose tastes are reflected in his writing. He loved London and was a regular customer of John Lobb. His clothes were by Henry Poole, "tailored of sixteen- and eighteen-ounce hard worsteds and sharkskins."
Writing of his first trip across the Atlantic, he relates some of the facts of life that he learned on the voyage: "gentlemen wear shawl collar dinner jackets, peaked lapels are for musicians; only show-offs drink more than one bottle of champagne for breakfast." On land, he travelled by train (he wrote a dozen or more books on railroading), in a private railcar.
Highly recommended. I was able to find two other books of Beebe's columns on Alibris and they are both on order.
Monday, February 4, 2008
Young men should replace clothes before they outgrow them. Wait too long and they end up looking like the gentleman in the photo from Men's Style, who is wearing a suit that's apparently been in his wardrobe since before he left for college.
He has a good color sense though, doesn't he?
Sunday, February 3, 2008
"In the trade from India to the West, textiles were essential. Madras, pajama, and the Kashmir shawl travelled the route that, for the British, came to define richness or, by acronym, posh: Port Outward, Starboard Home. Khaki was derived from the yellow-saffron dust that inflected the naively white uniforms of the colonials and shrewdly became their regulation color. Even today, "khaki" is strictly a color in the United Kingdom and "chinos" designate the pants. The color and the cotton trousers made their voyage to France, England, America, and around the world, even arriving in one country a shade darker than another (notably the preference for a darker, salade-Nicoise-tinged khaki in France.)"
-Richard Martin in Khaki: Cut From The Original Cloth
Saturday, February 2, 2008
Because I've never remembered to have my shirtmaker adjust the circumference of the left cuff on my button cuff shirts (I only wear them a day or two a week), reading my watch is always a bother. The tight cuff means it's difficult to see the watch face, but it's just large enough to feel sloppy if the watch is worn Agnelli style like the gentleman in the photo. And I find the watch over shirt look a little affected, in an "I thought about this" kind of way.
Is it just me?
Friday, February 1, 2008
Along with the many benefits of bespoke clothing comes the ability to drive one's self into a metaphorical ditch. And Winston Churchill, whose more obvious eccentricity was his liking for jumpsuits of his own design, does it again in the photo.
Look closely at Churchill's shoes and you'll see zippers where there are usually shoe laces. Any man needing an incentive to never let himself get to the point where he can no longer lace his own shoes should post this photo next to his treadmill. Those are some really ugly oxfords.
Surely some young assistant could have been assigned to lace him up. Roosevelt's shoes are conventional and he couldn't bend over unaided either.