It's said that some unfortunate people never take their rose-colored glasses off, but everyone wears these spectacles occasionally.
Man returns from the car wash wearing saddle shoes, green corduroy trousers, a linen sweater and a green fedora with his rose colored glasses.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
-Gay Talese in Vanity Fair
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, whose Caraceni double breasted suits I greatly admire, appears in public dressed in jeans and running shoes. He attempts a save with an odd jacket and a pocket square.
The shoes are not, shall we say, to my taste but the choice of square is a good one for the setting.
Friday, March 28, 2008
I don't know if Juliet Polcsa, costume designer for most of HBO's "The Sopranos," did the clothes for this ensemble photo taken near the end of the series run. Whoever dressed James Gandolfini (lower right) had a wonderful eye. It's just so wrong, in so many ways.
From the unpleasantly aqua poplin shirt to the matching tie and pocket square, Tony paints a perfect picture of how not to look upwardly mobile. Look, shudder, and learn.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
My wife clipped a list of ten things a man should do to keep his health a while ago and I was happy to see that eight of them were already habits. One of the two suggestions that weren't already part of my life was a recommendation to drink tea each afternoon. So I decided to switch my afternoon espresso to tea.
I started with a mug of Earl Gray taken with a little milk and found that it was giving me a terrific caffeine buzz. And I'm a guy that can drink a double espresso immediately before taking a nap. Moreover, Earl Gray is a black tea, which doesn't claim the same health benefits as green. That called for a little more experimentation, and I settled on the Ginger Peach variety of something called Daily Green Tea from The Republic of Tea.
The background to this is that for years researchers were puzzled by the fact that the French have a lower incidence of heart disease than Americans despite a fattier diet. The answer was found in their red wine consumption. Red wine contains a compound that limits the negative effects of smoking and a fatty diet and green tea is rich in the same compounds, called catechin polyphenols. Powerful anti-oxidants, they appear to inhibit the growth of cancer cells and kill them without harming healthy tissue. They also seem to be effective at lowering cholesterol levels and inhibiting the formation of abnormal blood clots which are a leading cause of heart attacks and stroke.
In 2006, researchers at Yale published a review article that looked at more than 100 studies on the health benefits of green tea. They pointed to what they called an "Asian paradox," which refers to lower rates of heart disease and cancer in Asia despite high rates of smoking and theorized that the 1.2 liters of green tea that is consumed by many Asians each day have an effect similar to the consumption of red wine by the French.
So green tea in the afternoon and red wine in the evening make sense to me. Next we need a study showing the health benefits of champagne for breakfast.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Until the 1940s, spats, boxcloth or linen shoe covers that extended up the lower part of the leg, were worn over black oxfords as part of the ensemble that comprised formal day wear. Spats were colored white, tan, black or, best of all, gray, giving the wearer the look of a fabric-topped shoe or boot. Sadly, spats were a bother to wear.
Spat wearing began to decline nearly a century ago when formal day wear itself began to be replaced with lounge suits, but the look of spats has never died out entirely. A few very elegant men commission two-tone boots or shoes that provide the look of spats without the bother. That's the origin of the cloth topped button boot as well as the suede and calf galosh oxford like the bespoke versions from John Lobb Ltd. in the photos.
Today I am happy to announce a collaboration between A Suitable Wardrobe and shoemaker Gaziano & Girling that brings back the sophisticated look of the two tone galosh, without the expense of bespoke shoes. Brilliantly executed in gray suede and black calf on G&G's traditional round last, I call it A Suitable City Shoe.
The City Shoe will cost $1,000 (£500) without shoe trees, plus shipping. Delivery will be approximately five months after order and any man who might like to obtain a pair should contact me by email. I'll have more information and photos next week.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Spring and Fall are when I seem to pull out my odd vests. A vest provides another way to vary the look of a jacket and trousers. It also adds a layer of warmth that extends the wearability of a light-weight jacket into cool weather, and a mid-weight into cold weather.
In the photo, I'm wearing a linen odd vest with a fresco odd jacket. The day is windy on the coast and that wind whistles right through the fresco. In combination the two are perfect for the conditions.
As I've written before, a vest requires trousers that will stay up without a belt as a visible belt buckle under a vest is a sin comparable to showing bare skin above your socks when you cross your legs. Don't do it.
But do consider the versatility of an odd vest with your odd jacket.
Monday, March 24, 2008
It takes a certain mindset to deliberately out-dress the people around you. After all, "Who does he think he is" is a more common reaction than "I wish I dressed like that." So dressing well and dandyism, which if we throw out the literary pretensions boils down to Johnny Depp dressing to attract attention, both require a healthy dose of ego.
Now it's easy enough to pose as an individual so long as a man is in school, but during adulthood it's not the best strategy for success when one is working with other people. And since a dandy avoids being thought common at all costs, dandyism tends to be one of those life choices that are practical only if one is independently wealthy. Perhaps the minimum is independence combined with an income from an individualistic pursuit such as writing or performing, and in that case some dress-related notoriety is just good marketing.
The majority of men do not fit into those categories and are left with the option of dressing well. And in our culture, that means dressing so as not to stand out. Clothes should fit and be sober in coloring without drawing attention to the wearer. That's been my philosophy for most of my life.
Recently, Dandyism.net asked its readers to choose the better dandy and offered as options two "micro-celebrities," myself and Nicholas Antongiavanni, author of The Suit. We were interesting choices, as to the best of my knowledge neither of us has ever intended to be other than merely well dressed. In my case, they selected photos from my web site, which were shot for my consulting business to be the antithesis of dandy.
But in the spirit of the thing I offer today's photo, where I dressed as I might if I wanted to attract attention. And indeed, judging by the heads that turned on the street that day, I succeeded.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
There are still occasions for semi-formal day wear, and Easter Sunday in a large city can be one of them. The others are weddings, some diplomatic functions and the occasional funeral.
I think a black jacket and checked trousers are among the most attractive things a man can wear. Unfortunately, in an age when the American President-elect doesn't dress formally for his inauguration, formal and semi-formal day wear is usually seen only on hotel managers and the customer-facing staff of very old-fashioned English banks.
Oh well. Spring is in the air. Happy Easter!
Saturday, March 22, 2008
San Francisco's Nob Hill has a new club, fittingly called Le Club, at 1250 Jones. It's a comfortable but not very large space: poker lounge, bar, small (36 seat) dining room and a billiard room. The size constraints are probably good as there's no parking. On the other hand, customers can bring their dogs.
The opening brought out some men in suits but a larger group in jeans and open necked shirts. Not a single velvet jacket to add a bit of ton. The concept of evening clothes, any kind of evening clothes, could stand to be re-introduced here. In my opinion, martinis and jeans just don't go together.
Le Club has potential if owners Todd Traina and Gina Milano (above) can inspire the male customers to step it up a couple of notches.
Photographs are courtesy of Drew Altizer Photography. © Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Friday, March 21, 2008
There's a new fibre in town, and it's name is Qiviuk (pronounced key-vee-ook). Rarer than pashmina and more legal than shahtoosh (which isn't legal at all), Qiviuk is the inner down of the Canadian Arctic Muskox. I didn't find any numbers but the fibres are said to be half the diameter of merino (which would make it noticeably softer than cashmere) and eight times warmer.
The muskox is a ripe-smelling Pleistocene era contemporary of the wooly mammoth that's alive and thriving today. Their survival through the last ice age was largely due to a combination of their isolation in the far North, and their remarkable coat. They are shielded from the minus 50 degree C temperatures by a combination of an outer layer of guard hair that grows up to 24 inches long and an inner layer of down.
Because of their shaggy coats, muskoxen appear to be massive animals when in fact they are mere 400-800 pounders that are closely related to sheep and rarely grow more than chest high to a human. In May, when the arctic temperature begins to rise, muskoxen shed their inner coats, and the tundra becomes littered with the fleece. About 3,000 kilograms of Qiviuk are collected by the area's Inuvialuit people each season, which is not very much and one of the reasons Qiviuk is three to four times more expensive than cashmere.
Qiviuk garments are available directly from Qiviuk Boutique stores in Canada, and from resellers. Traditionally designed earth toned knitwear (scarves and sweaters) made from the stuff retails for between $350 and $6,000.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
I emptied a bottle of Hermes Eau d'Orange Verte scent recently, and set out to replace it with something that lasts more than a couple of hours after application. My search involved about a dozen trial sizes from the ladies at The Perfumed Court, and in due time I settled on Creed's Original Vetiver. OV is bergamot, ginger and mandarin with middle notes of vetiver, iris and sandalwood that dries down to musk and ambergris. The better half approved.
When I went to buy a bottle, I found it online at the usual places. Bergdorf Goodman. Nieman Marcus. Discounted at Amazon and a dozen other outlets for less than $120 for four ounces (120ml). And then I noticed it at Costco. Costco! The warehouse store chain. Which admits that it "is not an 'authorized' dealer of the merchandise."
I wonder whether Olivier Creed thinks having his products in Costco helps or hurts his brand but that's not really the point. I didn't plan to smell myself coming and going so we're back to square one.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
It's nearly the end of the Fall/Winter season and I need a change. Which is another way of saying that I'm tired of the clothes in my rotation.
Now, this doesn't necessarily make a lot of sense. Some of the clothes I'm bored with have been worn hardly at all. But I'm tired of looking at them, and new neckties don't help.
By that I mean that the best way I've found to stave off ennui is to add a couple of neckties and/or pocket squares periodically. Ironically, when a man stops wearing neckties he gives up the most cost-effective way to add new choices to his wardrobe.
But new neckties haven't been enough lately. So I'm thinking about the stuff that's put away for the season. Remembering how good it felt to wear a linen suit in the tropics in January. And peering into the storage bags to see what strikes me as appropriate for April.
As thought translates into action, I'm starting to take out Spring and summer clothes before, strictly speaking, the temperature warrants it. It's still too cool for tropical weights but 10 ounce worsteds are wearable, which means they can replace my warmest flannels.
The summer things and a few acquisitions will delay the onset of boredom until one day this coming August. That's roughly when I'll find myself wishing for a cool rainy day that will let me wear some tweed.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Simon Bolzoni, the Terry Moore-trained lastmaker at bespoke London shoemaker W.S.Foster, was in San Francisco recently and took the time to measure me for a new pair of shoes. Moore is only in the shop part-time these days, and the people he's taught over the past decade are doing most of the work.
Simon is one of four Foster workers that are the heart of the firm's march forward into a new generation of shoemaking. It's a small group and so is the entire craft - I doubt if 200 people in the world make their living at bespoke shoemaking any longer. Foster itself is one of five bespoke makers remaining in London, down from more than fifty after the Second World War.
Simon uses the methods that helped Terry Moore earn his reputation as the best lastmaker in England. He certainly took more measurements, and asked more questions about my feet, than any of the others who have measured me for bespoke shoes in the past.
The outcome of this effort will be a pair of oxblood colored semi-brogues (the design of the caramel colored pair in the photo) with the slightly chiseled toe that's Foster's house style (the toe on the pair on the left in the photo). Oxblood is the dark wine hue that's the default color for Alden's cordovans.
The craftsmanship and quality of materials that go into a pair of bespoke shoes means that they last indefinitely with proper care. If I last that long, my shoes should still be going strong about the time Simon begins training his own successor.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Tieless day wear for a sunny Saturday. A completely buttoned polo shirt is a finished-at-the-neck look that's the warmer weather alternative to a turtleneck or mock tee.
The shoe and socks combination here is a bit foppish, but other than that it's just a California tuxedo (defined as chinos and a blazer). Remove the jacket, change the shoes and it's ready for the golf course.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
I have always thought that a man's shoes should have leather soles and heels; yet as I peruse the shoe catalogs I see lots of sole configurations.
Can you share your thoughts on when each is appropriate?
Simple really. A man's dress shoes should always have leather soles. The single sole is for ordinary use in town. The double sole makes for a sturdier looking shoe and is often found on boots and bluchers. Double soles help keep feet dry in the wet and provide an extra layer of protection on rougher surfaces where the wearer might encounter stones.
Rubber soles are for wear in work situations where skid control is important, a category that includes places like medical offices, and for country and holiday walking. This applies to microbark and crepe soles as well as formed soles such as Dainite, Ridgeway and commando soles.
The photo is from an out of print Edward Green catalog and shows double soled Country shoe models.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
In London and in New York the workmanship in each case will be identical; painstaking, expert handcraft performed by an ancient guild whose numbers are shrinking alarmingly in a mechanized world of cheapness and shoddy. The product from Hong Kong will be as skillfully cut and designed as the other two, since Fenwick or any other Hong Kong bespoke tailor will undertake to duplicate any suit that you wish them to use for a model, but the findings, that is to say the stuff inside the pockets, the thread with which the garments are sewn and the buttons attached, the lining, unless you specify a high grade silk at a small extra charge, and the coarse materials used to stiffen shoulders and lapels will be of quality inferior to that used by reputable men's tailors in New York and London."
- The Big Spenders by Lucius Beebe
Friday, March 14, 2008
More important than silhouette. More important than the quality of the construction. The thing everyone can afford but also, if casual observation holds true, the easiest to get wrong. And that's the fit of a jacket, which should stay where it's supposed to even when it's in an awkward position like the one on Luca di Montezemolo as he points out the body curve on a new Maserati Quattroporte.
Starting from the top, the jacket collar should hug the rear of the shirt collar at all times.
The jacket shoulder should end at the edge of the shoulders, and the armholes should begin no more than an inch below the armpit. High armholes help a jacket to ride properly through a range of motion.
The position of the jacket's buttoning point should be at the natural waist or half an inch below it to keep it from bunching up when the wearer is seated.
The jacket should also be large enough to button without strain - but not too large. There should be no more than three inches of space between the button and the chest.
Jacket lapels should fall straight down the chest without buckling or pulling away from the chest in any other way and the jacket back should not have horizontal creases anywhere along its length. If a coat does buckle or crease it is usually too small, and that's not a correctible problem.
Finally, the sleeves should show half an inch of shirt cuff when the arms are hanging straight down.
A jacket doesn't have to come from Rome's Caraceni Sartoria to fit properly. Do your jackets fit?
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Sometimes I want to kick myself. You see, about two years ago I spotted some Scabal tropical worsted similar to the cloth of the suit on the yachtsman in the illustration. A black, gray and white pinstripe that appeared light gray from a distance, I thought it would make a single breasted summer suit that would look great with spectator shoes. But, since that was not much of a priority at the time, I didn't acquire it.
Of course, when I thought to get it this month it was sold out. The moral of this tale is when you find yourself thinking about something repeatedly, you'd better find a way to get it. For you may not pass that way again.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Andrew Hudson of Harvie & Hudson was in San Francisco this week for his semi-annual visit. His ancestor George Frederick Hudson began the shirtmaker in partnership with Thomas George Harvie three generations ago. The firm is the only remaining Jermyn Street bespoke shirtmaker still owned solely by the founding families.
Harvie & Hudson tends to work principally with English shirting mills like Acorn. The made to measure shirts which are the heart of their business shirts are cut by hand and sewn by machine. And though they can make just about any style that a customer desires, most of their shirts are double cuffed and spread collared.
English makers focus on shirt and necktie colorways that complement the City's gray and blue suits, so their offerings tend towards pink and lilac. And then there's the collaboration with the silk weavers, a practice that's a specialty of Jermyn Street. Once they've chosen shirt patterns for the season, H&H commissions neckties that match their colors exactly, something that can only be done with woven ties. With a woven tie, threads of the precise color can be selected. Printed neckties, on the other hand, cannot be printed with color accuracy.
Conservative suits, black shoes and brightly colored shirts with matching neckties. That's English style the Harvie & Hudson way.
I'm wearing a gray flannel suit and quarter brogue shoes today, just as Gianni Agnelli did in this photo. A flannel suit falls between tweed and worsteds on the texture scale and needs a bit of visual interest in the shoes for balance. That interest can be either brogueing or suede in my opinion. I like semi-brogues and quarter brogues for the task as I find full brogues too heavy looking for the city, reserving them for tweeds.
Quarter brogues have a plain toe with a straight row of punches across the cap, another row around the laces, and a heel counter. Semi-brogues, which I think are equally appropriate with flannel, also have a straight row of punches at the toe and around the laces. They have a medallion on the toe, but no heel counter.
The surface interest of flannel makes it, with linen, one of my two favorite suitings. Wear either of them with shoes that complement the look.
Monday, March 10, 2008
As the original copywriter for this illustration pointed out, you'd expect a man in a gray striped suit, black hat and black shoes to be wearing a gray or a black coat. But, rather than do something so over-used, the well-dressed man often opts for the slightly unexpected.
In this case, the unexpected is a brown tweed overcoat. Conservative enough for town and just a bit out of the ordinary, it's brown as the new black.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Once the snow disappears, a pair of ankle high suede chukkas serves well on the weekend. It (the weekend, that is) is also the opportunity for mid-calf socks in colors and patterns.
I'm wearing chukkas today with dark green cotton drill trousers, a tan silk shirt and a cream linen sweater. And yellow socks, for consistency with the illustration.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Shoemakers Gaziano & Girling, who are embarking on a visit to the United States, introduced a series of new models while they were in Japan last month. The most interesting of the shoes, to me at least, was this balmoral oxford that they call the Warwick. I'll have more to say about it in a couple of weeks.
The most important part of their line extension was the addition of several models of boots. The Canterbury, shown above, is a classic looking dress boot. The design lends itself to a calf bottom and suede upper and I expect we'll be seeing more of that combination on our city streets by this coming Autumn.
Compared to the other Northampton makers, G&G's heel and waist treatments look more like what you might see on a London bespoke shoe. And they offer bespoke as well of course, which is probably why their machine-made shoes have it and the others don't.
Pricing begins at £470 ex VAT ($950), without trees, and delivery takes about five months from the time of order.
Friday, March 7, 2008
As a reader reminded me, it may still be cold in much of the country but in just a couple of weeks Easter will mark the start of seersucker suit season in the southern United States. It's a uniquely American suit, and one that lends itself to pairings with other items that tend to be more common in the States than elsewhere, from white bucks to madras neckties. And, since it's spring, don't forget to wear color.
Around the foot, color can come from a pair of hoop striped hose, or even some polka dots. Accompany the socks with a pair of white bucks, or brown and white spectators if the occasion is a weekend or the race track. In a business setting, turn down the volume with a pair of light tan oxfords like the ones in the photo.
At the neck, seersucker is often seen with a bowtie, in either silk or madras. Madras four in hands work well, as do silk knits and polka dotted silks with spots just a bit smaller than a dime - this is no time for too much discretion.
I believe that a man's shirt should be lighter than his suit, so I pair my seersucker with white shirts, or pale pastels. Depending on the color of the suit, cream, pale blue, gray, pink, and peach shirts can all play very satisfactory roles.
And then there's trouser support, which should be striped in my opinion. Whether barathea braces or surcingle belt, a little more color never hurt seersucker.
Unfortunately, for most of us it will be several more weeks before the weather warrants seersucker accompaniments.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Checked suit, striped shirt and paisley madder pocket square make three patterns (I don't count the oxford weave of the necktie and you shouldn't either). Click on the photos to see them enlarged.
And argyle socks make four.
The key to pattern mixing is to keep the scale of the patterns different so they don't conflict with each other. This particular mix might be a bit much for an office but I was headed for an afternoon art exhibit where some complexity is not out of place.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
I have to admit that I picked this photo up somewhere on Style Forum, neglected to note the source, and now I have no idea how to credit it. I hope the subject of the photo will identify himself because I think he's showing men with high contrast coloring a good way to accessorize a gray suit.
Lower contrast skin and hair would look washed out in this combination but a white shirt and a gray suit make an outstanding pairing for men with dark hair. Here the gray wool necktie adds texture, and the brown oxfords and bitter red socks contribute some discreet color. Very nicely done. The fireplace, bar and dog are gilt on the lily.
Monday, March 3, 2008
I wouldn't normally do a post with a picture of shoes two days in a row, but that's the way it's worked out. Yesterday felt like Spring and Spring means tan shoes.
You see, storage dictates that I rotate suits and shoes as the seasons change. This weekend, two pair of dark brown shoes got replaced with tan in the active rotation, so they can be worn with warm weather's lighter colored suits. And next week I'll put another pair of dark brown into storage and bring out a pair of chestnut.
The same goes for suits. I'm starting to put away my heaviest winter weight things and bring out one or two mid-weights each week.
Whether a man has one closet or several of them, there are a couple principles for seasonal rotation. Items that aren't going to be worn for several months should be repaired, cleaned and either boxed or bagged until they are needed again. That way, when they it's time to wear them they should need nothing more than a touch of steam or polish.
One trip to the shine stand and the Cardiffs in the photo were back in business below a pair of mid-weight gray flannels and a navy odd jacket.
So the happy day arrives and you've probably guessed the rest. In the box was a nice looking pair of dark brown Malvern brogues. That might not have been all that bad but I already own a pair of those and I was expecting my shoes back.
So, after enough correspondance to establish that the company had no idea what happened to my shoes, or who the fellow is that got a pair of cap toes instead of the shoes he sent in for reconditioning, we are making an exchange. I am returning the brogues, along with the tag with my name on it that must have been put on the shoes when they arrived at the factory. And Edward Green are sending me a new pair of shoes.
So in the last year that's one pair of casuals that arrived without the toe medallion, a pair of two-tone casuals that wasn't quite what I ordered, and now this. That's three less than satisfactory experiences out of six transactions, a remarkable record that's been my experience for roughly three years. They are very good about taking care of problems but I cannot even imagine how much this kind of error rate must cost the company.
Sunday, March 2, 2008
Both Anton and Flusser write that odd jackets and trousers cut short guys in half. I am 5' 7" and assume that in addition to the contrast in materials and colors, the busy details and patterns of odd jackets would harm my look. Does this mean I should never wear odd jackets?
Look at the photo of David Niven (the same shot that appeared in Flusser's most recent book). He's able to wear that odd jacket successfully because there's not as much contrast between jacket and trousers as the writers you mention usually recommend. Niven of course was fairly thin. A heavier man of moderate height might want to stay away from large checks on his jackets and choose something like a tan solid instead.
You should also consider casual suits instead of odd jackets to help accentuate the vertical. For example, a cotton poplin or a seersucker suit can can go to the same functions as a blazer and the vertical lines of the seersucker in particular will give you a taller look.
Saturday, March 1, 2008
"A strong case can be built by any perceptive historian for the derby and not the Stetson as the authentic hat of the Old West. The Stetson was almost unknown outside the Texas ranges until it was popularized around the turn of the century by Remington, but a short time spent in any photographic file of the Old West from Chicago to San Francisco in the '70s, '80s and '90s, including those regions where firearms were conspicuous and the stagecoach had not yet been supplanted by the steam cars, will show the hard crowned derby in florid and almost universal abundance."
-The Provocative Pen of Lucius Beebe, Esq.
When I think of London bespoke shoemaker W.S. Foster & Son I think of superb coloring and shapes that are sheer perfection, like the tasseled casuals in the photo. So I'm happy that, after a year of persuasion and some abject begging by yours truly, Foster's Spring visit to the United States will for the first time extend west of Chicago. Lastmaker Simon Bolzoni will be visiting the following cities on his trip:
Thursday 28th February to Saturday 1st March 9.00am – 6.00pm
Special late night Thursday 9.00am – 8pm
Intercontinental The Barclay 111 East 48th St Tel: 212 755 5900
Monday 3rd to Wednesday 5th March 9.00am – 6.00pm
University Club of Washington, 1135 16th St. (NW) Tel: 202 862 8800
Friday 7th – Saturday 8th March 9.00am - 6.00pm
University Club of Chicago, 76 East Monroe St Tel: 312 726 2840
Monday 10th – Tuesday 11th March 9.00am – 6.00pm
The Fairmont Hotel, One Nob Hill Tel: 415 772 5000
Foster's traditional shoe designs are priced from £1,400 (about $2,800) a pair. That's ruinously expensive of course but, to borrow a phrase, you do get two shoes. I hope you'll join me in welcoming them to the West Coast.