Saturday, February 28, 2009
Years before he became James Bond, Daniel Craig played physicist Werner Heisenberg in the play Copenhagen, later adapted for television by the BBC and KCET Los Angeles.
Craig's dress is neither Brioni nor Tom Ford. He is wearing a 1940's style suit in a three button jacket rolled to the top and a V neck sweater.
The cloth is lighter now but it is a sign of the glacial pace at which men's clothing evolves that some men are buying suits of that same cut today.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
The Cucinelli website shows us a pleasant setting for more tan and gray. The only disconcerting element will be the hard-to-remove grass stains on the white trousers.
Try tan with gray this spring.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Suits are expensive. A young man who expects that he will need to wear suits later in his career should begin building his wardrobe before he needs it so he will not be faced with purchasing too many at any single time.
Every man should own the basic charcoal and navy solid suits in a medium weight wool when he enters the work force. And then the clock begins ticking. In most professions, he will have several years when business casual dress suffices most of the time, before he finds himself in client-facing positions that require him to dress more formally.
Suits wear comfortably within a range of thirty degrees F (half that in Centigrade), and a man should ideally have at least one suit for each day of the week that he wears one, times two seasons if necessary for his climate. And he should add a sixth suit for each season if he is suited every day. This means the young man has three or four years to acquire as many as ten more suits.
Assuming he lives in a temperate climate, begins with two mid-weight suits and acquires ten more, I suggest our man first purchase two more mid-weight suits, and then two for the season (spring or fall) that his mid-weights are least suitable. Once he has six, he should alternate spring and fall suits after that until he reaches his targeted dozen.
Suit acquisition is a career long routine. It requires about three suits a year to stay ahead of wear and tear, and, like the young George Hamilton in the photo, men in the public eye may feel the need for half a dozen or even more of them annually.
That is how the tailors stay busy.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
In 1992, the Italian weaver Cotonificio Albini SPA purchased three failing British shirting brands. The best known of these was Thomas Mason. The prize, based strictly on the quality of the cloth, was David & John Anderson.
Joe Hemrajani of MyTailor.com was kind enough to send me a slim volume published by Albini in 2007. A lavishly illustrated re-issue of a 1952 David & John Anderson company history, it gives an overview of cotton weaving and concludes with a dozen large glued-in swatches from that weaver's product line.
Founded in 1822, David & John Anderson made itself into one of the two highest quality cotton weavers in the world (the other being Alumo). Under Albini ownership, the starting quality of the company's cotton shirting has continued to improve, with the majority of its production 2x2 200s count or better today. Woven from Giza 45 (the best Egyptian cotton), Sea Island cotton, and the finest linen flax from Normandy, DJA fabrics are strong and ultra light with very clean patterns.
MyTailor charges about a $100 per shirt premium for DJ&A cloth compared to the well regarded Thomas Mason Gold Line (TMG is principally 2x2 140s which is still significantly better quality than ordinary shirtings). In other words, none of this cloth is going to scratch a man's neck when he wears it.
Touch it and be hooked.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Most men carry two or three leather accessories, including their wallet, on their person. These small pleasures should be selected with the same care that a man takes with his clothing. And just as a man's luggage should ideally not be entirely the same design, each accessory should complement the others without matching precisely.
Leather accessories are one of the few items where high quality items are available from local makers in a number of major cities. The photo shows two pieces by Beatrice Amblard, proprietor of San Francisco's April in Paris: a case for eight credit cards in green stingray and tan calf, and a key case in the same calf. The square design lets the wallet be carried in a side jacket pocket and keys, of course, should be carried in a case because they will otherwise wear out trouser pockets prematurely.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
The closer one gets to the source, the longer the lead times for projects. This Spring I'm planning to ask my tailor to make an overcoat for next autumn and that means I needed to commission the cloth this winter.
I'm commissioning my own cloth because it is becoming difficult to find warm winter cloth these days. The standard is now about 18 ounces, or what used to be considered topcoat weight, and that's not heavy enough for exposure to temperatures below freezing.
The photo is of a beautiful 22/23 ounce black and brown wool and cashmere herringbone flannel that will eventually become that coat (flannel wears warmer than worsted, so it is twice better than topcoat cloth). The pattern is roughly to scale in the photo, though the brown is a both a little brighter and a little narrower than it is in life due to the lighting.
In a few months there will be 30 meters of this cloth, enough for myself and five other men, and it will be a relative bargain compared to the prices of the major cloth merchants for comparable weight and quality. If any readers are interested in joining this project, send me an email.
Friday, February 20, 2009
After a week of delay, the Gaziano & Girling shoe shipment was released from Purgatory. In it, a pair of Bordeaux colored monkstraps, pictured here after three coats of oxblood polish by my friends at A Shine & Co.
The monks complete this past year's indulgence in maroon shoes to wear with blue suits. The socks are Marcoliani Circos in gray and lilac. They don't match my trousers but they do complement the gray and purple cashmere necktie.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
It is difficult to find knitwear to wear over a shirt and under a jacket because most of what is out there is less than ideal. For one thing, proper knitwear should be relatively light lest the wearer be overly warm indoors. Single ply is best, and certainly no more than two ply. For another, it should be sleeveless for the same reason (like a vest, the sweater is to keep the torso warm and add some additional color and texture to the ensemble). That leaves us with three choices, the vee neck, the cardigan and the crew, only two of them ever seen.
The crew is not a practical choice as to my knowledge no-one on this earth makes a sleeveless version even though there would be a nice market for them. For the closed neck would let men go tieless if they so chose, and many men would.
Whether four in hand, bow tie or ascot, both the cardigan and the vee neck really require silk to finish the look of the neck. Open collars and jackets are less than ideal, George Clooney notwithstanding. The best designs have a deeper vee, keeping the body warm but displaying an ample amount of necktie.
Within these limitations a variety of materials will do. Cashmere is wonderful of course, as are the modern combinations of silk, linen and wool in various proportions, alpaca and merino. Just avoid sleeves if you can.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
It may be winter outside but spring clothing is popping up everywhere I turn. And men who are looking for an inexpensive seasonal wardrobe refresh should consider picking up a necktie or two with a white ground, like the one worn by actor George Hamilton in the photo.
Neckties with a strong white element are traditional summer wear, and they combine well with warm weather's paler shirts and lighter colored suits. Hamilton has chosen a charcoal suit and a white shirt, but his necktie would be equally at home next to a tan suit and a white or gray patterned shirt.
That said, I do want to be clear that I do not recommend that a man's sun tan matches his shoes.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Strap and buckle shoes are on my mind this week. Due to a comedy of errors, a certain brown-trucked delivery service is holding several pair of Gaziano & Girling shoes that I'm responsible for, closely guarded by recordings that say "We are experiencing exceptionally heavy call volumes. Please continue to hold." As if the six months from order to shipment wasn't long enough already.
When they are actually in a man's wardrobe instead of an anonymous warehouse, the closed-with-a-buckle monkstrap is a good choice for a fifth or, better yet, sixth pair of dress shoes. Easy on and off, they are a fine pairing with a suit in the suburbs or for casual days downtown and they also provide good service on the weekend. And, unlike most types of slip-ons, they can be ordered with confidence in the same size that a man takes for his derbys and oxfords.
Now the monk is an open quarters design, and so technically not formal enough for the most formal of suits. But in these times when flip flops are worn to visit the White House, few of us will assign mental demerits when we see a pair under pin striped trousers. Particularly versions in colors such as chestnut or oxblood like the shoes that I fear I'll be seeing on the feet of brown uniformed men around town if the shipment is not released from its Purgatory soon.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
I prefer to wear linked cuffs in town. I think links are better looking as well as faster to don than a couple of buttons on my shirt cuffs. But there's a trick to it.
I was wearing a double sided pair the other day, which is to say a model like the link in the photo that had decoration for both sides of the cuff, and a colleague asked how I got by without a valet to help me dress.
Now it is fairly obvious that both sides of a man's cuff are visible and ought to be dressed. Two identical or similar decorations are required, joined by a short bar or length of chain. There's no need for single sided links with mechanical gizmos or for a second party to be involved in putting them in for (and here's the trick) a man's shirt cuffs should be sized to slide over his hand with the link already in place.
And that's all there is to it.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Some time last Fall I posted a second annual reader questionnaire that some 800 of you took the time to fill out. Sadly, as these Internet things sometimes go, the sponsoring company seems to have disappeared, without ever building a link that would let me see the data.
So I spent some time looking for a replacement source of information and found an advertiser-supported site that collects site demographics. Like so much of life, the site represents a tradeoff. It is not as detailed as the reader surveys, but readers do not have to spend time filling out questionaires either. Most importantly, I can see the data, which I had promised to share.
I'm proud that A Suitable Wardrobe is read around the world. 29,000 readers visited roughly 100,000 times in January. 59% of the readers were from the United States, and 41% were from elsewhere, with the largest part of those, 9% of the visitors, coming from the United Kingdom. Taken as a whole, Western Europe is by far the largest readership cluster outside the United States.
Roughly 12,000 ASW readers visit regularly, making 85% of the visits. A hard core 2% are here more frequently than every day, and god bless you every one.
62% of the readers are male, which leaves 38% who are either here by accident or because they know a male whose dress could use a change for the better. 77% are college educated and 70% of you are older than age 35. Perhaps most interesting, 87% of you have no children at home, which may explain how you can make classic men's clothing a priority in your life.
Finally, the domains displayed by the third of you who read ASW on office computers are overwhelmingly from organizations that still respect the suit: government offices, consulting firms, and finance organizations. Surprisingly, there are a lot of university domains as well.
I hope these dry statistics are as interesting to you as they are to me, and I welcome your feedback on how to make the site more interesting and useful to you generally. I'll do my best to be responsive.
Posted by Will at 7:00 AM
Friday, February 13, 2009
Before women routinely wore trousers, the late actress, singer and performer Marlene Dietrich had a penchant for them, most notably from Knize of Vienna. In the photo she is a business casual pioneer, pairing her jacket and trousers with a knit turtleneck.
It's an ageless look for people of either sex.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
The automatic response when one man asks another what color socks he should wear is that they should be similar to his trousers, so as to provide an uninterrupted visual line to his shoes. But rules are made to be toyed with, and one way to demonstrate a proper dégagé, or casual, air when circumstances call for it is to wear hose that relate to little or nothing else in the ensemble, like our man in the Esquire illustration.
Of course, the thing behind all this is that well dressed men are supposed to carefully plan the day's clothes so that it looks as though no thought went into the combination, and that the happy result is mere chance. This is not easy stuff. I for one instinctively reach for things that match too much of the time, but I've found that the simplest way to look properly careless is to make certain that my pocket squares and my socks look as though they were chosen at random.
Wearing socks that relate to nothing else on one's body that day opens a variety of possibilities. On the most pin striped of days a bold man can still don a pair of wine colored hose. And the sky's the limit the rest of the time. Orange with red dots anyone?
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
I see too many blue suits that are so dark they might as well be (shudder) black. Worn during the day, dark navy is less than complementary to most complexions. A slightly lighter shade works better for the vast majority of men (those that were called Autumns excepted). It looks recognizably blue in sunlight.
In the photo, author Tom Wolfe is captured by a reader as he leaves the funeral of William F. Buckley Jr. last year. His suit and overcoat are, in my opinion, the right shade of navy.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
There is a good discussion going on over at the London Lounge regarding why a few men make the effort to wear tailored clothing when it's not required of them. Of course, few is the accurate description, for, Hollywood depictions aside, even in its heyday tailored clothing was limited to a small fraction of the population.
I spent fifteen minutes looking at the Grammy Awards last night and it was very noticeable that there is no standard of dress for men in the United States. A time traveler from fifty years ago may have wondered about the cosmetic surgery scars but he or she would have found the women's dresses recognizeable. I doubt whether the same thought would have applied to much of what the men were wearing.
Without a standard, we are free to either ignore our clothing or make as much of it as we can. If there is one thing that I hope A Suitable Wardrobe accomplishes it is to encourage others to make the most of theirs and have fun doing it. Life is too short for chinos and tee shirts.
In the photo, an Irish poplin necktie is combined with a light blue royal oxford shirt, and a tan glen check suit. The red and green wool paisley pocket square would not be my usual choice but I wore it because it put a smile on my face.
Which happens to be the conclusion of the participants in the forum discussion. They dress for the pleasure it gives them, as all men should.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
According to a man who should know, flannel, soft woven wool with a distinctively mottled face, was invented in the 18th century to meet the requirements of continental European armies that were seeking a snag resistant uniform cloth. Three hundred years later, the stuff remains to my mind the best choice for winter suitings when it is woven from merino yarns or a mixture of wool and cashmere.
Flannel wears warm and has usually been woven to about 400 grams in weight, making it a cloth for freezing climates (there are newer, hybrid worsted versions of 310 grams or lighter that wear considerably cooler). The classic weaves are gray and navy solids, chalk stripes on gray or navy grounds, simple windowpane checks, black on white houndstooth, and of course the glen checks popularized by the Kings of England, in black and white, grays, or tans and browns.
Men who wear tailored clothing could do worse than to have a winter rotation of half a dozen flannel suits in their closets.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Formal shirts for white tie have single cuffs closed with a link instead of the turnbacked French versions we usually associate with links. They are an interesting change of pace on a white shirt for day wear, in my opinion, as seen in the photo of the late Bobby Kennedy.
Think of linked cuffs the next time a white shirt purchase is on your horizon.
Friday, February 6, 2009
I did a post a while back about the Italian tv journalist and critic Philippe Daverio, who seemed to be working on becoming a dandy. He's apparently moved on to dressing for pure attention getting. The individual elements have some merit but there's just too much going on in this ensemble.
For all the attention he is obviously paying to his dress, the collar of that jacket could do a much better job of following the back of his neck.
In the final photo, Daverio's might have made the color of his suit work, as British journalist Nick Foulkes does with his own bright choices, but only if it fit him perfectly. It does not.
A case of the proper road not taken, much like my journeys through England this week.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
It was after hours by the time I met Peter Harvey for a hasty fitting the other day. He was on his way to Tokyo but was kind enough to sneak me in to mark up my patch and flap pocketed tan Solaro suit (if you click to enlarge the photo, the Solaro's distinctive red undertones are clearly visible). The trousers were perfect but the jacket needed several adjustments that should be finished by the time spring comes to Northern California.
Peter is now operating Fallan and Harvey as a brand within Davies & Son on Savile Row. His daughter is no longer working with him but that appears to be the only change to his operations other than the address. I left him a length of Shetland jacketing that will become another paddock style jacket with crescent pockets for this coming fall.
Tomorrow it's back into the car for a trip to the West of England.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Despite a considerable hullabaloo on the evening news, roads in England were remarkably clear on Tuesday and I made my way down to London. Unfortunately it was late afternoon when I arrived and though I didn't have as much time as I'd have liked I did get to spend an hour with scarf and tiemaker Michael Drake.
Drake's of London distinguishes themselves by making their wares to a higher standard, from the process they use for printing silk neckties to their hand construction.
The company had just returned from launching their spring offerings in the United States and there were many delights on display, from the first striped silk grenadine neckties I'd ever seen to these wool pocket squares that resurrect a Drake's design of a decade ago. As it happens, I've been acquiring these as I've come across them for several years, and when they are released this coming July I will be able to complete my collection.
Scarves are as much as half of Drake's business in the fall season, and there were an overwhelming number of choices. The wools and cashmeres with a different pattern on each side are particularly noteworthy.
I leave you with a photo of a fraction of the company's necktie offerings for the coming season.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
I find myself stuck in my hotel today following one of Britain's worst snowfalls of the past 18 years overnight. That's not a terrible thing. It means that instead of six hours of driving and a visit to a tweed mill, I spent the day reading an old James Bond novel at Sharrow Bay Country House, a hotel on a lake that's conveniently attached to a one Michelin star restaurant. There's not much to do other than read and walk in the snow, but I am unlikely to go hungry.
I arrived last night after a ten hour flight and four hour car trip ready to practice what I've found to be one of the more reliable ways to adjust to the time change. After a quick shower it was time for cocktails, wine with dinner and cognac afterwards in my room where I slept soundly the night through. And this morning I am adjusted.
If memory serves me right, dinner consisted of foie gras with black pudding, plaice in mushroom sauce, a sorbet, lamb served roasted and braised, and a lemon baked Alaska. I am faced with a similar prospect for this evening (the Stilton souffle looks good) and an early bed time before my drive to London in the morning.
But if there are more travel advisories for tomorrow, I may have to stay over. No sense risking life and limb when the kitchen is this good.
Monday, February 2, 2009
The clothing genius of Gianni Agnelli lies not in the relatively radical cut of his suit. Rather, it is the combination of light grays in his necktie and jacket at a time when a man's business dress was typically a charcoal suit with a white shirt and a charcoal tie. In other words, an even more monochromatic combination than Agnelli's brother is wearing in the photo.
As the photo illustrates, complex color combinations are not necessary for an elegant look. Fit, styling and texture are more than enough.
Though I wish he was wearing a pocket square.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
A Pennsylvania reader sent me photos of his meticulously organized closet a while ago and I thought I'd share them.
Good show! My own shirts are kept folded on shelves as I don't have the bar space to keep them hung.
He's fortunate to have space and electricity for his trouser press in his closet. Mine are out in sitting rooms and my steamers either in a laundry or a sitting room.
I also keep some of my shoes on the floor, though I plan to add shelves in my out of season closet this year. Shoes don't get as dusty when they have a roof over their head.
Overall, among the better clothes storage spaces that I've seen.