And that's the best way to do it, in my opinion.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
And that's the best way to do it, in my opinion.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Shetland odd jacket with a striped twill shirt, Irish poplin necktie, gray flannel trousers and saddle shoes on a holiday Friday in the country.
The Shetland is made from a 10.5 ounce tweed that's an eight month weight for Northern California temperatures. The throat latch lets the neck button closed in a light rain.
Friday, November 28, 2008
A young man wrote the other day that he never finds an occasion to wear a suit, and feels awkward when he does as the people around him don't wear them.
To that I say that a man is who he is, and his clothing should reflect it. For the majority of men have never dressed well and to do so is going to be uncomfortable for a week or two. But, after feeling conspicuous for that little while, the suit-wearer realizes that no-one else is looking askance. And his appearance is so much better.
In this 1990 photo, the 81 year old Douglas Fairbanks Jr. poses with Jeff Goldblum and Tommy Tune. Though none of the three is an actor of the first rank, Fairbanks is remembered as one of the very best-dressed men of his generation. The others, closer to us in time, are rarely thought of at all.
Wear a suit.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Since today is a holiday in the United States, I'd appreciate it if about 300 of you would donate 10-12 minutes of your free time to take my Blog Reader Project survey. The information is of interest to our advertisers, and those are the people that enable me to keep posting.
The survey is conducted by SurveyMonkey.com for a project funded and organized by Blogads.com, which sells advertising for 1500 leading American blogs.
Once enough people have replied, I'll post a summery of the aggregate information we collect so anyone interested can see what you say about yourselves. We learned some interesting things last year and there are a lot more of you this year.
Thank you for your support.
Posted by Will at 7:00 AM
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
In the first half of the twentieth century, the influential American etiquette author Emily Post considered the term "gentleman" to mean a man with a superior standard of behavior. The word "gentle", originally meaning that a man came from a good family if not outright nobility, came to be associated with the standard of manners expected from that elevated origin. Later, the term was extended to include any man of good, courteous conduct.
Unfortunately, in recent years the term gentleman has been diluted further, so that it now is used to refer to males who are members of certain drinking clubs that offer lap dances by minimally clothed females but altogether lack manners. And a man's poor manners can be a serious impediment in his life, for, like appropriate dress, good manners serve as a social lubricant.
Now bad manners may not get a man murdered outright, though I've brightened more than one evening with the thought of what I'd like to do to the boor across the table from me, but they are likely to limit his interactions to his peers in what were once thought of as the lower social orders. And, depending on his choice of career, that can be a serious impediment to his success.
In my opinion, every man will benefit from reflection on the state of his manners, and, if his self-examination finds them wanting, from an effort to improve them. For each of us is responsible for the quality of life of those around us.
Be a gentleman.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
There was a discussion recently on Style Forum about groupthink among we gentlemen of the interweb and spotted knit neckties are certainly an example of my own participation in herd behavior.
I'd worn maroon, black and navy knit solids for years, but after seeing a couple of posts of men wearing the dotted versions I jumped in the pool. I'm almost ashamed to admit that now I have three, with the two latest pictured here. The white one is for wear with a navy summer mohair suit, and the brown for tweed jackets (I've a pair of brown cotton socks with small pink dots to match).
Knit ties are ideal for travel as they are more resistant to rude treatment than conventional silks. The dotted versions are simply conventional knits that have had dots hand sewn across the surface in a contrasting color. And, at least until recently, a man was far less likely to see a dotted knit coming down the sidewalk at him.
Now of course they're popular and I should probably place mine in storage for a couple of years.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Flannel suits can be dressed up or down depending on accessories, and a knitted sweater is always less formal than a vest that matches the jacket.
In the LIFE magazine photo from 1955 that was apparently inverted when it was scanned (and thanks to Tony V. who pointed me to the archive), the late Duke of Windsor stands in the garden of his country house wearing a chalk striped flannel suit with a v-necked (and probably armless) sweater, a wool necktie and, further reducing formality, black slip-on shoes.
It's fine to try this one at home.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
A reader asked for some information on slippers, which of course are bedroom footwear that may be worn in other parts of the house. Now if a man has a lot of time on his hands, he can think of foot coverings as a series of concentric rings that extend out from the bedroom, with slippers at the center. Slip-on casuals, which were once considered house shoes by men who lived in castles, are the next ring, and laced shoes worn outside are furthest from the center. But we're here to talk about slippers though we're not going to be comprehensive because a man need only care about a couple types.
Extending across several rings is the Albert slipper, named after Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Queen Victoria's consort. A velvet slipper with a leather sole and quilted silk lining, it is worn about the house, particularly with black tie, as well as anywhere that smoking jackets are appropriate. Alberts are offered by all the major English shoemakers as well as a couple companies that specialize in them exclusively.
Lesser slippers tend to be of moccasin construction, where a single piece of the slipper's material simply extends under the foot. The pictured version is one half a dozen versions that were originally designed by Henri Bendell in the 1940's and are sold to this day as Belgian Shoes (no, they don't give me shoes to write this but they should) and, according to Alan Flusser in one of his older books that I'm not going to spend the time looking for, the leopard version is the one to get. To which I will add, if they will not be seen in public.
And that's the best way to treat soleless slippers. They'll give many years of service if they're worn on carpeting but a dozen blocks on city sidewalks will be the death of them.
Keep them near the bedroom.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
It may have been the influence of too many lobster rolls eaten during a trip to Florida last week, but of all the gift ideas I've seen this year, perhaps the most unique concept has been Catch A Piece of Maine. The idea is that one gives the company $2,995 and receives the use of a dedicated lobster trap for a year, along with the shared services of a lobsterman and Federal Express (there are lesser packages available but to me they lack the excessiveness of the annual plan).
During that year's weekly fishing trips, the lobsterman apparently notes everything caught in the trap and records the data into an online database. Customers access their data online, where they can view their trap’s performance and schedule shipments with the click of a mouse. The goodies are shipped by air wherever the lobster owner instructs.
For the money, one is guaranteed a minimum of 52 1.5 lb. lobsters as well as 13 lbs. of clams, 13 lbs. of mussels, and 52 desserts. I'm not certain if there's an upper limit.
Of course, one could go to the grocery store and buy lobsters when the mood strikes. But I give the lobstermen credit for a proactive initiative that's missing only a live video stream of the lobster trap so the customer can watch as the unwary crustaceans scurry inside.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
A good way to liven up otherwise conservative worsteds is to combine them with the slightly unexpected, like this burgundy wool challis bow tie worn with a dark blue nailhead worsted DB.
Here, the matte finish of the tie calls for the sheen of a silk pocket square, reversing the usual city combination of silk necktie and linen square.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
It's not always easy to find interesting accessories to wear on the weekend but a horsehair belt can be a stylish way to add western dash to city denim.
Personally, I prefer the more conservative varieties but horsehair belts can be made bespoke from hitched or braided hair in a variety of western patterns that are combined with beads, leather and buckles for looks that are limited only by the imagination of the designer.
As with any eye-catching accessory, the key to successful integration is restraint. Horsehair on the streets of New York is statement enough and in my opinion the wearer should save his cowboy boots for a dude ranch.
Find them online at western stores like Ebert, Colorado's 6k Tack Shop, home to the belt in the photo.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
I had a request the other day to write about the Italian menswear tradition, which is difficult for me to do. For there are a number of important threads of Italian influence in the well dressed man of the world's clothing but I don't think of them as forming a tradition in the sense that the passeggiata on the piazza is a tradition. But I do have a few observations about the difference between British and Italian style.
First and foremost, Italian style is about dressing to look good. Turning the ladies' heads is part of the game. This is radically different from British style, which has historically been about dressing to fit in. At its best, Italian style borrows tradition from the British and makes it look more attractive.
Often that look is softer and lighter as well, for the Italians are the masters at making lightweight suits that remain relatively unrumpled in the warmest weather. They may have been driven to learn by their warmer climate, and it may have been the British who taught the tailors of Naples how to cut cloth in the 19th century, but in this area the pupils have surpassed the masters. And Carlo Barbera in particular has built upon this advantage by pioneering the weaving of lightweight worsteds for Brioni and others, though I've never been convinced of the usefulness of that stuff.
In my experience, most of the best respected Italian tailors sew Italian-influenced British designs using British cloth. The differences are at the margin and in the combinations. Italian style is a bit more shaped, a little more casual and easy going, and often slightly more colorful.
If British style is a pinstriped suit worn with black oxfords, a shirt with turnback cuffs and a polka dot silk necktie, then Italian style is a two piece double breasted, worn with dark brown shoes, a shirt with button cuffs and a cashmere necktie. Both styles use the white linen pocket square for business dress, but the Britisher's is neatly folded while the Italian's is arranged in his pocket.
Then again, consider Italian style icon Luca di Montezemolo in the photograph. Maybe there's not that much difference after all. Aside from the leather bracelets.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Fall's best socks are the argyle, the diamond pattern that was first seen when an anonymous Scotsman cut his tartan blanket on the bias to use as a foot covering. Argyles became popular with knicker-wearing golfers in the twentieth century and have never looked back.
Today's argyles are an informal sock, not quite formal enough to wear with conservative suits but a perfectly appropriate bit of color year-round with odd jackets and sports clothing. Stick with the over the calf version.
Choose the usual seasonal colors for autumn. The pair in the photo complements flannel, corduroy and moleskin trousers.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
HRH Prince Charles demonstrates how to utilize an untucked scarf to fill a jacket opening when there's no necktie. A length of cashmere keeps the chest warm and the centers the viewer's eye on the wearer's face.
Most readers will want to use this technique with an odd jacket rather than a Chitrali Cloak from the Pakistani tribal areas. Said cloak costs but £30 ($45), which is unusually good value for twelve yards of hand loomed lambs' wool, however the low cost is no doubt related to the 340 mile trip from Islamabad that's required to reach the town where they are made. Fortunately, the royal publicity means we can probably expect to find the garments in the J. Peterman catalog next season.
Still, for now tweed jackets are considerably simpler to obtain. Cashmere scarves may be found at the same sources.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
After a week of praise for tweed, we return to earth. The blue palette in the photo of Lamborghini CEO Stefan Winkelmann is typical of worsted dressing, in Mr. Winkelmann's case enlivened only by the some of the tallest shirt collars in the western world.
The limited work week palette means we must use other elements to maintain interest in appropriate dress during the work week. Shirt collars aside, there are only so many ways to wear a blue or gray suit with black shoes, blue shirt, white linen handkerchief and a necktie with a blue or gray ground. And that's why texture is so important.
As another auto magnate, the late Gianni Agnelli, taught us, knit silk, linen and cashmere neckties add visual variety without straying from the appropriate.
That's how to come back to worsteds.
Friday, November 14, 2008
I've written many times before that the breast pocket on the left hand side of a man's jacket should always be filled with a pocket square. And when the textured, colorful look of tweed jacketing calls for a more sophisticated visual than can be provided by simple white linen, it's time for silk, particularly paisley silk like the one from Drake's London in the photo.
The kidney-shaped paisley is one of the world's familiar patterns. It originated in Persia, but its western name is taken from the Scottish town of Paisley which became the best-known producer of the design in the early 19th century. That may be because the inhabitants of Paisley did the best job of complementing tweed, the standard outerwear of the area. They definitely are credited with printing five color patterns at a time when the competition made do with two, and that's a good start.
Personally, I think that multi-colored paisley makes the best silk squares. The complex designs let a man look refined and easy going about his dress at the same time, with squares that have grounds that relate to nothing else that he's wearing and multi-colored patterns that may complement shirt, necktie, jacket or all three.
I wrote earlier this week about madder and tartan, two neckties that also complement tweed. Add a paisley square to either one, and enjoy.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
It's just good practice to mix patterns on the weekend, especially gray days without quite enough light to photograph well. Here, a green broken herringbone tweed is overchecked in red, orange and blue. It's combined with a pink and blue checked shirt worn pinned, a burgundy on brown club necktie, and a silk paisley pocket square with a blue ground.
Tweed dressing and pattern mixing go hand in hand. And the act of working off one's urges for complex combinations makes work day dressing in simpler patterns that much easier to accomplish.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
In color theory, colors across from each other on a color wheel are visual complements. The combinations, such as orange and blue, are useful additions to the gentleman's palette, and the autumnal pairing of magenta and green is to me among the more interesting of them.
Here, dark red Sloop tassel slip-ons from SW1 are combined with dark green Marcoliani socks and a pair of lightweight corduroy trousers for the weekend.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
When a man needs a necktie that looks great with tweed, he could do worse than to consider wool tartan and madder silk neckties like the versions from Drake's London in the photo. Perhaps not these precise patterns mind you, since I saw them first and have them on order, but something similar.
Tartans and tweed were both popularized in Scotland, so it's no wonder they go together. Of course, if a man is to wear a tartan properly, he should confine himself to patterns that are not reserved for a family or organization that he doesn't belong to. The Black Watch, Caledonian, Hunting Stewart, and Jacobite tartans, for example, are wearable by anyone who likes the pattern these days. They are usually executed in wool, but I've seen versions in cotton madras, Irish poplin and other materials so it's just a matter of looking around for the proper combination.
And if the tartan's a bit too Scottish for a man who may have been born elsewhere, there's always the madder necktie. Madder is the tweed jacket necktie of America's Eastern universities, to the extent that anyone at an American university still wears neckties. A special gum silk is processed into muted neckties with green, chocolate, medium blue, and yellow grounds and a chalk hand that's similar to fine suede. The stuff used to be called ancient madder, but after a couple of chemical process changes to make production more environmentally sound, the ancient part of the name was dropped. Fortunately, the makers didn't try to name it modern madder.
Madder and tartan. Real tweed wearers will have neckties from both.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Tom Wolfe and film stars aside, most successful men do not need to attract attention, and that may be why so many of them dress with increasing discretion over the years.
Discretion in dress is not to be confused with drabness. The drably dressed man is seen and immediately forgotton. His well dressed counterpart makes his point with one memorable element that elevates the tone without drawing stares.
In the photo, the late Duke of Windsor is dressed discreetly in a dark suit, white shirt and solid silver necktie. Nonetheless, the observer's eye sees tasseled loafers under the suit, and that makes all the difference.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
I was leafing through Bernhard Roetzel's book Gentleman last week and stopped to admire the corduroy suit in the cover photo. Now, I've been admiring that suit for years but I've always been of two minds about it, and corduroy suits generally.
First, of course, they can be pretty good looking on a cool weather weekend or holiday paired with bluchers, a checked shirt and a country necktie, though anything less than 15 ounce corduroy is going to wrinkle relatively easily. Rumples aside, the late Duke of Windsor was photographed many times wearing lightweight needlecord corduroy suits in Florida's winters for example and he was by no means the only one.
No, the knock I've always had about corduroy is purely economic. As my tailor said to me years ago, it costs just as much to make a corduroy jacket as a wool one, but the corduroy will last less than half as long. But that argument applies equally well to seersucker suits so I guess I'm going to drop my objection.
Maybe next year.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
It's always useful to find ways to do more with less, and one way to reduce the cost of a wardrobe, particularly early on, is to minimize the cost of accessories. By this I don't mean the price of the items but the number of shoes, shirts and neckties needed to provide variety.
The usual advice is that a man should begin with gray and and blue suits. Left unsaid is that the cost of a suit is significantly increased when a man must buy entirely new shirts, ties, squares and shoes to accessorize it correctly.
In the early stages of wardrobe building, and this can occur after a significant weight change as well as early in a career, it can be considerably more cost-effective to begin with suits of a single color. Acquire, for example, a gray semi-solid and a charcoal pinstripe in spring and fall weights before expanding into navy or brown. Build a collection of accessories that complement those gray suits, and consider suits of another color only after acquiring a complete set of accessories for the gray ones.
So the man who chooses gray as his first base color may put six gray suits in his closet, complemented by at least three pair of black dress shoes, a dozen shirts in ecru, pink and light blue, and a collection of complementary neckties and pocket squares. Done correctly, everything in his wardrobe will complement everything else, giving him a wide variety of looks.
The opposite approach is more limiting. When the same shirts and ties must complement three navy suits and three gray, each suit may have only two well-accessorized looks. Repetition will make the ensembles more memorable, and that's the opposite of the goal.
Photo: The Luxe Chronicles
As an example of this technique worn by a man whose finances are virtually unlimited, consider Deigo della Valle of Tod's. He's always photographed in a navy suit, black shoes, solid shirt and a simple necktie with a white handkerchief. The variety in his looks comes from alternating single and double breasted jackets, and from rotating tan, blue and silver neckwear.
There's a lesson there about doing more with less.
Friday, November 7, 2008
The photo depicts the first 21st century wearing of one of the last of my Sulka neckties, a black satin model that recently saw the light of day after many years in storage. With stores in London, Paris, New York, Chicago and San Francisco that I can recall, Sulka may have been the world's best chain of men's haberdashers before years of mismanagement finally killed it about ten years ago.
The tie is worn with a pink checked shirt, a glen check tweed suit and a Purple Label pocket square.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
A tattersall is a regularly spaced plaid, usually a 1/2" rectangle that's a little taller than it is wide, combining two dark colored lines on a light ground. The pattern was named after Tattersall's, a London horse market founded in 1766 where blankets with the design were in common use.
That makes a tattersall waistcoat useful for more than one kind of hunting.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Navy wool serge suit, grape pencil stripe on white shirt, brown oxford weave necktie and a navy, purple and gold paisley silk pocket square.
Not a completely successful color reproduction as we were experimenting with light but the eclectic combination comes through and that's the point.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
I learned about Cheo from one of Alan Flusser's books in the 1980's. And the first I saw of his clothes they were worn by G. Bruce Boyer, the always stylish clothing writer. As these things go, those were two pretty good recommendations.
Cheo has been making Savile Row styled men's tailored clothing in Manhattan for nearly thirty years. His house style is a natural shouldered cut with drape, and he doesn't deviate, carefully screening prospective customers for the ones who will appreciate his silhouette.
During our conversation, Cheo pointed to the overcoat samples he had on display and observed that too many men make do with raincoats all winter so he always recommends a proper coat to a new customer. His usual suggestion is the pictured covert coat, a city interpretation of the classic that's double breasted as well as minus the signature stitching at the hem and on the pocket flaps and sleeves. Cheo's make is excellent and his elegantly realized velvet collar has a contrasting texture without a color change.
I never did establish the exact price of Cheo's covert but he was shaking his head affirmatively when I asked if it wasn't around $4,000. So call it that, for a sublime interpretation of a classic coat.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Tucked away on 48th Street is one of my favorite stops in Manhattan, Alan Flusser Custom. Flusser was resident that day, dressed in the highly personal fashion that's been his signature the past few years. His look combined worn jeans, a checked shirt, tartan necktie and an Austrian loden style jacket.
The highlight of the collection for me was a raincoat. Held in the photo by the store's Mark Rykken, the Mackintosh is the original waterproof, named after its Scottish inventor Charles Macintosh. First sold in 1824 and made out of rubberized fabric, the Flusser version is available in three colors including a very stylish banana yellow. It can be made to order, with a choice of corduroy collars and tartan wool linings for $1,395.
Oddly, the company and the coat are spelled with a k, but the inventor's name does not have one. Nonetheless, it's a very stylish Mac.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
It's been milder the past few days but the low point of my trip to New York last week occured when I exited the terminal building at JFK into near-freezing temperatures with wind, spitting rain and about a hundred people ahead of me in line for a taxi. Fortunately, I'd packed a tweed topcoat or I might not have survived the experience. Tweed sheds moderate amounts of rain and that makes it an effective covering in anything short of a torrential downpour.
The following day was warmer and my luncheon companions and I made do with 14 ounce flannel suits (I wonder how often three heavy flannels occur without prearrangement at the same table in Manhattan). But in my wanderings around the city I spotted two best of class coats that I'll be reporting on tomorrow and the next day.
Coat season has begun.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
He might have worn a neckerchief but given the amount of splattered paint it seems about right to me.