Cool, 50 degree F (10 C) morning and the first post-summer day that I wore a relatively heavy 13 ounce suit like the gray herringbone in the photo.
I've been in ten ouncers for most of the past six months, dropping down to nine ounce cloth on hot days and going up to 11 and 12 ounce stuff on days when the fog brought back memories of the old saw (erroneously attributed to Mark Twain) that a San Francisco summer was the coldest winter he ever spent. But this was my first fall suit-wearing day and, though the weight was fine in the morning and evening, the afternoon sunshine taught me that it's not quite the season for 13 ounce cloth yet.
But that wasn't all. Looking for a contrasting texture, I chose a new necktie in midnight blue Irish poplin. That worked about as well as the suit. Where a satin tie would have reflected light and livened up the look, the poplin was just too drab.
Accompanied by a blue box check shirt, black stitched cap Balmorals, and a white linen pocket square.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
Whenever I see a photo of the very stylish Diego Della Valle, the founder of Tod's shoes, he's wearing a blue suit, a blue shirt, a white linen pocket square and a simple necktie (clicking on the photo will enlarge him considerably). I never tire of the look, which is enhanced here by the suit's windowpane overcheck.
Proof that a man whose coloring is compatible needs nothing more in his closet than a selection of blue suits and appropriate accessories.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Photo: Luciano Barbera
A fresh pair of pajamas is one of the great pleasures of life. If he can afford only one luxury, a man should consider choosing eight or more pair of linen or cotton poplin pajamas so he can don a clean pair each night of the week.
There are silk pajamas of course, but silk wears warm and is not as easy to care for. Reserve it for dressing gowns where odd spots of orange marmalade can be removed with a stain removal product (New York's Madame Paulette offers a good but somewhat pricey one, much like that firm's services generally).
I was once of the opinion that pajamas should be made to measure but I'm no longer so dogmatic. If a man fits relatively well into one of the ready to wear sizes, who is to know? Even the the rest of his household is likely to be too sleepy to notice.
Other than cleanliness, all that's important is that the things are neatly mended, colored conservatively so as not to frighten small children and that the waist elastic does not require constant attention to prevent it from losing its grip. Even ironing is optional.
Wear fresh pajamas.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Lightweight flannel trousers for early autumn, with lime green socks and polished chestnut monks. Another example of how green and gray work well together.
This was one of those rare days when I actually took a reasonable photo in natural light. Wonder of wonders, the colors are true. Note to self: Must do more of it.
Friday, September 26, 2008
The late designer Hardy Amies wrote that a man's suit can be relatively inexpensive but ought to be accompanied by outstanding accessories. Which leads inevitably to this photo of Beatrice Amblard, proprietor of the leather boutique April in Paris. She's taking notes for a credit card case to be made of green stingray with a tan calf interior (that's the calfskin to the rear). The ray's skin, which is also called shagreen, has been sanded smooth so the case won't be a trial to remove from a pocket.
Expect to see a finished product in about six weeks.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Three inch neckties like the cashmere on the left in the photo are the new size for fall on the Drakes London website (that's the larger size on the right). Or, as Michael Drake tells it, "The 8 cm shape is a move on from the classic 9 cm but is not in any way extreme." And he is not alone as Hermes has done the same thing, offering 3" ties as a standard width after a hiatus of decades.
Now necktie widths are supposed to relate to jacket lapels and it has to be stressful for necktie designers to place these width bets. After all, the lapels on the jackets already in men's closets aren't about to change, so a new width has to be evolutionary in order to preserve the market for neckties purchased to go with that glen check that arrived just last spring.
Gentlemen's neckties have ranged from a bit less than three inches to nearly four since World War II, but we haven't seen the narrower end of the range for three decades. And though it took a long time to go from narrow to wide, the collapse in size has taken place in just a few years. Blame the Italians.
Nonetheless, Michael is right. The narrower width is not extreme. I like it. And it gives me justification to take out a couple dozen well-loved three inch ties that have been patiently waiting their turn in the bottom of a drawer downstairs.
8 cm is the new 9 cm.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Out for its final fall comes a lightweight lambswool jacket. It's a shoulder season coat made from ten ounce cloth and unfortunately it's never been quite right. There's a green Shetland herringbone replacement in the works that will arrive, as these things usually do, the day after the weather turns too chill to wear it.
Worn with a brown on white striped shirt with a pinned club collar, a pocket square of dark red and green silk paisley, and an unlined wool necktie.
It's usually hard to see old friends off but I won't be sad to see this one go.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
The last weekend of summer was sunny and cool on the Northern California coast. We stopped at a roadhouse for a late lunch and a photo.
Café Saint Rose, the place that provided the backdrop for the photo, is a fairly typical California country restaurant serving very good rustic food on a side road between two small towns.
Saddle shoes, lightweight natural corduroy trousers (also in yesterday's post as they emerged from the out of season closet), ecru silk shirt, dark red ascot, brown flannel overshirt and a green fedora. I could as easily have been wearing shorts and a tee shirt if I were so inclined. Or a parka. It was one of those days when you saw both and the wearers looked comfortable either way.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Casual trousers for cooler weather? We need only remember two words: corduroy and moleskin. Pair them with tweed jackets, navy blazers or sweaters in colors of the season.
Corduroy of course is velour côtelé, or ribbed cotton velvet. It takes its name from the material used on the jackets of hunting livery worn by the servants of the Kings of France. Both corduroy and moleskin, a brushed cotton, are hard wearing members of the fustian class of cotton fabrics that also includes cotton velvet.
The ridges in corduroy are known as wales and the cloth is made with as few as seven (jumbo) to as many as 16 (needlecord) wales per inch. Usually, though not always, more wales means lighter cloth. Corduroy is generally available in cloth as light as nine ounces and as heavy as 23 ounces and a wardrobe might include different weights for different temperatures. I find needle cord comfortable in temperatures as warm as 75 °F (24 °C) whereas a walk in the 23 ounce jumbo stuff will get me sweating at 50 °F (10 °C).
Try them tieless with long sleeved knitted polo shirts worn with a neckerchief or buttoned at the neck and a pair of suede chukkas.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
"He stood with his back against a mirror, facing the photographer. Above his head on a glass shelf was a vase of overblown peonies, and in his hand he held a cigarette. He was dressed in a silk smoking-jacket with shawl collar, which was tied loosely at the waist, and worn with silk pyjama trousers; both were decorated in a dancing, fuchsia print of girls tossing garlands of flowers into the air or fluttering through space in the arms of a beau. The outfit and print were the work of Karl Lagerfeld. At Jacques' throat was a boisterously large black bow-tie which he wore with a wing-collared white dress shirt."
Saturday, September 20, 2008
It's not always easy to interpret three dimensional shapes in two dimensional photographs but above is a side by side comparison of a W. S. Foster hand made shoe (on the left) and a high quality machine-made shoe. Though each shoe fits the same foot, it's obvious that the hand made shoe is narrower and follows the shape of the foot more closely.
Today's machines just can't make shoes that follow the curves of the feet as well as a person with hand tools and I think it likely that leather shoes will disappear altogether before they do (it's telling that Gaziano & Girling obtained its best-in-category shape on its machine-made offerings not with modern technology but with a century-old machine they located).
The differences in shape are more apparent from the bottom. The machine-made shoe on the left is wider from toe to heel and particularly at the waist, and the upper of course just follows along.
Friday, September 19, 2008
A silk scarf is a good way to complete a tie-less look once the weather begins to turn cool. Not cashmere or wool mind you, but silk. Not quite warm enough for winter nor a fabric to sweat into in the heat of summer, silk is best in shoulder season (this advice also applies to silk suits, odd jackets and sweaters in addition to scarves, in my opinion). The best choices are non-directional patterns like polka dots or paisleys in colors that don't match.
I'd been looking to add another silk scarf to my wardrobe this year and found one yesterday at Drake's London which, by the way, has an expanded line of autumn and winter offerings going up on its web site even as I write. I'll wear the Oyster model, pictured above, with a covert coat and the orange polka dot on navy scarf that it supercedes will assume new duties as a necktie replacement with tweed jackets and sweaters.
Fall is silk scarf season.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Oxblood is an under-appreciated shoe color, and here as requested are Monday's bespoke semi-brogues, worn for the first full day. Navy suits will be their usual, though not exclusive, partner going forward.
The day's clothing also included a blue and white horizontally striped shirt with a white collar and cuffs, a silver grenadine necktie, and a white linen pocket square. I reserve that shirt for dressier occasions like the introduction of a new pair of shoes.
One of the principal things giving the shoes their unique shape is Foster's waist treatment. The waist is about a third narrower on these than it is on my other bespoke shoes and it's definitely a more elegant look.
My thoughts turn now to tan galosh oxfords.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that Michigan outfitter J. L. Powell has linen crew neck sweaters on sale for the very respectable price of $115, as opposed to the regular $298. Available in lime, shannon, dark natural, and orange, they'll be the right weight for a few weeks yet, and again in Spring.
Linen works its magic on shoulder season days, keeping me comfortable when the temperature varies from warm to cool. And the knit stuff doesn't wrinkle or rumple like other linen garments.
Truly casual elegance on sale.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Light brown pebble grain Norwegian bluchers with double soles by Edward Green, about to take their fall constitutional this past weekend. I did wear these once or twice during the season that's ending, unlike the other, darker, Norwegians and the brogues and half boots that came out of storage recently. Away went the summer shoes, to re-appear next May.
Worn with taupe cotton socks with white hoop stripes and dark green cotton drill trousers. Above the waist, a tan silk shirt, gray flannel shirt jacket and a green felt fedora.
Monday, September 15, 2008
There's no question but that bespoke shoes are a luxury. Only a few aficionados will notice the difference between a fine pair of bespoke and a great pair of machine-made shoes on a man's feet. That's unlike, say, bespoke suits where an observer can tell that something special is headed his way from quite a distance. But what a luxury they are.
My luxuries arrived Friday after what seemed like an interminable wait since a fitting this past spring, and I will say that if they age as gracefully as they impressed me upon arrival, they'll be my favorite shoes by far. I'm talking of course about the oxblood semi-brogues in the photos, which were made by London's W.S.Foster and Son.
First impressions, formed on a two mile walk to the shine stand and back, is that they are quite comfortable, to the point where they may actually be a touch large. They are also the lightest of my bespoke shoes by a noticeable amount, and I love the spacious toe box and the way they conform to the shape of my feet.
Oxblood is the new black so far as I'm concerned, and these will immediately join the rotation for wear with navy city suits.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Summer isn't even over but spring has been in the industry's thoughts thanks to Fashion Week in New York. And Ralph Lauren reminds us of a great idea in his Purple Label collection for next year. Yes Johnny, that's a cream-colored, double breasted shawl collared dinner jacket in tropical weight wool with four buttons, self-lapels, and besom pockets.
Personally, I prefer linen over wool, but the onset of fall is a great month to order one for delivery before spring (or a winter cruise for that matter). And if semi-formal affairs are scarce there's no reason not to wear it to dinner at a white tablecloth restaurant.
Dress up for spring!
Saturday, September 13, 2008
The International Animated Film Society - Hollywood has a series of fine illustrations online from the 1932 Vanity Fair magazine titled The Genius of Miguel Covarrubias. In the one above, the last king of Hollyood, Clark Gable, meets the future king of England, Edward, Prince of Wales.
Covarrubias caricatures Edward to near-perfection. Checked suit, brown (suede?) shoes, coke hat, yellow gloves - the only awkward note is that Edward was unlikely to have worn a matching necktie and pocket handkerchief.
Friday, September 12, 2008
I've been thinking about black suede oxfords for about a year, and this photo of Cary Grant is going to force me to test drive a pair.
Oh, I know I've been back and forth on the idea. Suede absorbs rather than reflects light, which means it's not the best shoe for evening and that's when I wear black shoes the most often. And I don't really need another pair of black shoes for day wear, considering that black's at best a once a week proposition with gray suits.
But then there's Cary Grant. And Ian Fleming. And the fact that I never see a pair on anyone else.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Men probably wear solid or melange-colored trousers with odd jackets 99% of the time, and in doing so overlook the opportunity to mix things up a bit in a classic British way. By that I mean tweed trousers, like the ones in the photo from Rudolf Beaufays, a second-hand and vintage clothing establishment in Hamburg, Germany that I can't recommend too highly (the man has timeless taste).
As the photo shows, it's hardly necessary to only pair patterned trousers with navy blazers or gray cardigan sweaters, the safe choices that come first to mind. So long as the patterns are of a different scale, any combination of jacket and trousers that won't scare off the birds is perfectly appropriate for attendance at a casual outing like an American football game.
Next time you're looking to wear something a little different this fall, try checked trousers.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Corduroy comes into its own as the weather turns cooler. A ridged version of cotton velvet commonly used for trousers, it has a certain additional utility for casual suits like the one worn in the photo by the late Duke of Windsor (he wore them in summer, but we have cooler wearing choices for warm weather today).
I think corduroy suits look a bit more elegant than corduroy odd jackets, if only because they're seen less frequently, and they are particularly effective combined with a knotted scarf instead of a necktie. Wear one to taste late harvest wines after the leaves have turned.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
After a week of hot weather the temperature fell ten degrees, and the wind was a harbinger of fall through my tan CrispAire suit.
The photo shows chestnut Edward Green monks with hoop striped sea island socks and the aforementioned trousers. Above the waist, a dark brown on light blue checked shirt, black knit necktie with white dots and a white linen handkerchief in the jacket's breast pocket.
If the weather is like this tomorrow there'll be wool on my feet instead of cotton, and plain weave worsteds on my body.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Men who haunt the cloth merchant sites probably already know that J&J Minnis is discontinuing its Rangoon book of conservatively designed lightweight worsteds. The book includes the usual solids, stripes and glen checks (unfortunately, the photos are much darker than the cloth is in reality).
For those who don't already know, the remaining stock is available for the bargain price of £16 per metre (about $30) ex VAT, or £64 for a typical jacket and trousers length ($120), plus shipping. That's a 70% discount from the former price.
Rangoon is a plain weave tropical weight (8-9 ounces) cloth. I'm not much of a summer worsted fan but most wardrobes should have at least one and, in the opinion of many, Rangoon is as good as the stuff gets.
Order it while you can.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
I was briefly interested when the management of Savile Row's Kilgour online store decided recently that it would begin shipping to the United States. I mean, there are several interesting things on the web site, including Shagreen wallets and hard-to-find knit neckties with pointed ends, and the company went to the trouble to remove value added tax when purchases are shipped to jurisdictions that don't collect it.
Of course, that's all to no avail. It only took a couple of minutes to learn that the company has perhaps the most arrogant shipping policy on the planet. They want £40 (roughly $80) to send a necktie to the United States. Customers that spend more than $500 have the charge reduced to about $50, but who needs four more knit neckties?
It's some of the best sales prevention going and I'll bet they find the response underwhelming.
Posted by Will at 7:00 AM
Friday, September 5, 2008
Voile is a light, gauzy shirting fabric that breathes, making it almost like wearing nothing at all. And of course that's also the problem as it's almost transparent, so the wearer has to choose between exposing his chest -- not always a pretty or appropriate sight -- or wearing an undershirt that defeats the purpose of the exercise. But there are a couple of ways to ameliorate this.
For example, voile has long been used to make the back and sleeves of a formal shirt with collar, cuffs and shirt front made of pique (like the Robert Talbott shirt in the photo) or some other opaque material. That makes for a shirt that wears relatively cool without the problems of voile alone, but it's a strategy that works best for white shirts. Unfortunately, I was hoping to follow this strategy for regular dress shirts and, as you might expect, the dye lots are different from one fabric to another. Indeed, Joe and I looked at swatches for a while before concluding that we were not going to find identical blues for a colored shirt (it may be easier to find two complementary colors altogether but this didn't occur to me until later in the day).
Another common approach to voile modesty is to double the cloth on the front of a dress shirt, an approach I've ruled out as my English shirtmaker's version was prone to bubbling.
The final approach, and the one I elected to try, involves a relatively new double twisted cloth from the Italian mill Tessitura Monti. Twisting Egyptian cotton produces a voile that's a shirting version of fresco suiting. It's wrinkle resistant, allows plenty of air flow, and, in blue, looks likely to preserve the wearer's modesty. If such can be extrapolated from a swatch.
I'll let you know how it stands the heat in about eight weeks, if we still have any. Heat, that is.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Labor Day has come and gone in the United States and that's the start of our switch from summer to fall wardrobes.
Of course, it will remain summer for a couple more weeks, and any switch to heavier fabrics should take place later in the season. This is a time to begin changing palettes instead, replacing cream, light gray and light blue with darker hues. In other words, wear warm weather clothing in navy and chocolate brown, like the suits worn in the photo by Sergio and Pier Luigi Loro Piana of the eponymous textile and luxury goods company.
Shoes should also display a darker palette. White bucks and spectators have had their run, and most tans ought to be replaced by browns and oxblood.
The temperature remains warm but autumn is in the air. The seasonal changeover begins.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
I'm not a fan of cotton suits, since they don't last nearly as long as their wool or linen relations and cost every bit as much to tailor even though the fabric costs less. But they offer good value for summer knockabout suits, which is what I was doing with the one in the photo.
With the suit is an almost-but-not-quite-sport shirt worn with a casual necktie. The pairing isn't seen often, and that makes it an effective "going to a gallery this afternoon" combination in my opinion.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Perhaps we can't all be as well-groomed as Fred Astaire, but it goes without saying that well dressed cannot exist with bad grooming. The tuft of nose hair or dandruff on the jacket collar will ruin a look. An elegant man must be clean and trimmed as well as polished and pressed, with unlacquered fingernails that are short and clean; an attractive scent that's discernable only at very close quarters; and a beard that's shaved as many times a day as necessary.
It's never too early to form good habits. Most men bathe and brush their teeth. It takes only a couple more minutes each day to clean a pair of shoes, steam the wrinkles from the day's jacket and trousers and select a clean shirt.
Complement daily tasks with some scheduled maintenance every week, whether it be a visit to the barber, having spots removed from a jacket, or replacing the run-down heels on a pair of dress shoes.
Before leaving home in the morning, conduct a grooming checklist in front of a full-length mirror. And if you don't own one, make it the next addition to your wardrobe.
Be well groomed.
Monday, September 1, 2008
- A half inch of shirt collar should be exposed above the collar of your jacket.
- You should be able to fit two fingers between your collar and neck when the shirt is buttoned.
- The shoulder seam (the seam between the body and the arm) should be at the end of your shoulder.
- The shirt body should be smooth and unwrinkled across your chest and there should be no pulling at the buttons.
- The cuff should reach the bottom of your thumb when your arms are at your sides, and there should be enough cloth in the sleeve so it remains there when you lift your arms straight in front of you.
- The shirt should remain tucked into your trousers when you lift your arms over your head. This usually requires at least six inches of tail inside the waistband.