I have seen it written that difficult economic times bring a return to conservatism, and the new Gaziano & Girling made to order shoe models shown on their current tour of America seem to reflect that thinking.
When the company launched, the company's classic shoe styles were surrounded by modern designs that dominated perception and to some extent relegated to the background the company's consistent fit, quality construction and, as I have written many times in the past, the best shape of any machine-made shoe in the world.
This year, G&G has listened to feedback from customers and brought us seven new models that principally fill out the line with more variations on the classics, including adelaide brogues, cap toed oxfords and quarter brogues. The top photo shows the new Kensington and the St. James. The photo above this paragraph shows the Westminster.
Just as there tends to be a suspicion that modern abstract painters are not capable of executing realism as well as their predecessors, I have felt that G&G's emphasis on the modern has caused them to be viewed slightly askance by men who were raised on traditional shoes. That is despite shoes like the Rothschild, which I consider the best looking brogue in its class.
To the extent they existed, the new models should help eliminate any such negative perceptions.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
When shirtmaker Joe Hemrajani was last in San Francisco in January, he had ample time to chat for an hour. It was a very enjoyable conversation but I would have liked to have seen more activity. By contrast, I visited Joe again yesterday for a scheduled appointment and there was a client already in the room. I brought two other men with me, and while we were there three others arrived. Best of all, everyone was ordering, so hopefully buyers are returning to a market that was too quiet three months ago. New at myTailor.com
Coincidentally, I arrived back at the office after that visit to find a box from Hemrajani with three shirts for the season. The photo's dark red gingham check with white collar and cuffs is the loud one of the bunch. White collars really open up darker shirt bodies, in my opinion. I do not believe I would wear that pattern with a self collar, but I expect it will be striking as it is.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
A lot of men dislike black and white spectator shoes and generally I number myself among them. They seem to be flashier than their brown and white brethren, and colored for occasions when I wouldn't choose black shoes in the first place.
That said, there is one combination with which black and white specs look very good, and that is the classic in the Esquire illustration: white flannel trousers and a navy serge jacket.
The combination came about roughly a century ago when men on holiday replaced the bottoms of their blue serge suits with the aforementioned white flannels and so re-invented the odd jacket. It is equally appropriate today, in the form of a blazer and odd trousers made from summer cloth.
Black and white spectators shine in that company.
Monday, April 27, 2009
A man should properly be channeling an Italian vibe before he wears a summer suit without socks (that is the very Italian Pier Luigi Loro Piana in the foreground of the photo, with his brother and co-CEO Sergio). But when the occasion is right, and any sunny day in the country might do, the combination of a linen suit and slip-on shoes worn sockless is timeless.
Combine the shoes and suit with a knit necktie and an open weave shirt of cotton voile or one of its opaque modern equivalents. Then find a shady spot and relax.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
I get more questions from men looking for quality cleaning and alterations services than I do of any other kind, and after I mentioned RAVE FabriCARE's Shirts by Mail cleaning service a few weeks ago I thought it useful to provide a review of the company's Jermyn Street shirt service. Five dress shirts were dispatched to Scotsdale, Arizona by FedEx and arrived back in San Francisco about two weeks later. They literally looked as good as new.
Now in my book, the world of $400 and up bespoke shirts has been waiting for someone to take advantage of today's moderately priced air shipping services and offer quality shirt cleaning from a lower cost labor area. That day has arrived. I use what I consider to be the best service in the Bay area and the results, though good, are definitely not up to RAVE's standard. I doubt if better work could be done at home by a dedicated laundress.
This is no same day service because the preliminaries take longer than that. RAVE's process begins by soaking each shirt for 12-24 hours in fluid that loosens oil-based grime from collars and cuffs without the abrasion of scrubbing. Ground-in dirt on the inside of one shirt cuff was completely removed. And the combination of RAVE's soaking process and its quality laundering also means that RAVE's finished shirts are noticeably cleaner and brighter.
Another most impressive technique is that after laundering the shirts are completely pressed by hand. They are folded gently instead of being pressed hard, so there are no creases. They are folded in half for shipping instead of into the usual third, so the entire shirt front is uncreased. And they are sealed in a heavy gauge shirt bag with a "built in" cushion of air so they resist wrinkles until they are taken out to be worn.
All is not perfect of course. Rave's service is priced at about double the cost of my current service, roughly $14 a shirt rather than the $7 I usually pay. Call that a $2,000 a year premium for remote cleaning, which is noticeable. But price is not the real barrier for me. Space is.
You see, RAVE's method of folding means their clean shirts take up twice as much space as the system I use currently, so they simply will not fit into the cabinetry that I use for storage. So much as I might be tempted to redesign my closets, I am going to stick with my current supplier.
But men who have the budget and the space are likely to be very happy that they found RAVE.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
A man's silk necktie and his polished shoes are the two usual light reflecting elements in his dress. The advanced dresser substitutes a matte necktie for a relective one from time to time, and may don light absorbing suede shoes as another change of pace.
One unusual variation on the suede scene is the black suede oxford, as worn by both Cary Grant and Fred Astaire. During the day its light absorbing qualities add a discreet touch of the unexpected.
In the photos, A Suitable Wardrobe's beautifully shaped version of the black suede oxford, as executed by Gaziano & Girling. By special order, $1,050 per pair with metal toe taps and shipped from Nevada so there's never any sales tax. Email will at dynend.com for more information.
Friday, April 24, 2009
The other day brought a box from Chicago's Optimo Hat Company containing a new straw for the coming season. And though the traditional start of that season is still weeks away, the Bay area's recent 85 degree (F) days (30 degrees C) provided ample justification for wearing the pictured straw-colored Milan.
By the way, the name is pronounced as if it were spelled Mylen, with the accent on the first syllable.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
With Cinco de Mayo approaching, men who like their margaritas should buy a bag of limes and check their bar inventory to ensure they are ready to enjoy the holiday. My favorite recipe for the day stays as far away as possible from pre-mixed sweet and sour:
-4 parts agave Tequila (Cuervo 1800 or better)
-4 parts fresh lime juice
-1-4 parts Grand Marnier depending on taste - I like less rather than more
Shake the ingredients with ice to chill and pour into a martini glass that should be free of salt (salt is a custom originally intended I am told to obscure the taste of low quality ingredients). Garnish with lime.
Ice is unnecessary as the drink should be consumed before it has an opportunity to get warm. Enjoy.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Driving shoes, those soft moccasins with the nubs on the heels and soles that wear out after a few minutes walking on a paved surface, are worn by quite a few Southern European men in warm weather these days. It's a trend that has made Todd's founder Diego Della Valle a wealthy man.
Perhaps attracted by that prospect but more likely interested in having his own line of colorful suede shoes that he could wear sockless with suits (I noticed them after spotting a few photos that captured truly amazing combinations, and I do not mean that in a good way), Fiat heir Lapo Elkann started Italia Independent a few years ago, introducing a competing line that is shaped a bit better than Tod's and sells for a few dollars less.
Now when I want a pair of shoes that will wear out quickly, I turn to America's own Belgian Shoes, but men who prefer to emulate Italian fashion may want to check out the Italia Independent offerings which for some reason are not available on that company's web site but can be found online for 230 Euros ex VAT (about $300).
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Spring had hardly begun when we were hit with a couple days of unseasonably warm weather. Mind you, I am not complaining. The temperature brought out a side of the wardrobe that was stored away for the darker months and that is always a good thing.
In the photo, a bespoke fresco jacket and trousers are worn with a blue on white graph check shirt, tan Edward Green oxfords, a Sam Hober Irish poplin necktie, and a Ralph Lauren Purple Label pocket square. Hidden under it all are a pair of cream cotton socks.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Tradition says that a gentleman's jewelry consists of his wedding ring, watch, signet ring, and tie pin with but one exception. And that is his cuff links, the bits of color that by the end of the 19th century had replaced ribbons and bows as the principal method for closing one's shirt cuffs.
Today, the cuff link era appears to be drawing to a close. Except among English men who wear them with their town clothes, shirts around the world tend to be closed by inexpensive buttons. But, like the disappearance of other elegant members of the wardrobe from bow ties to spectator shoes, the rarity of the linked cuff is an opportunity to add a bit of discreet interest to the day's dress.
Photo: Drake's London
Perfectly attractive cuff links do not need to be expensive, for which I submit Exhibit A, the silk knot, which costs hardly more than a button but adds considerably more panache to the shirt cuff. And between the almost free silk knot and the steeply expensive realm of jewelry lies a fertile ground for other styles, such as Drake's sterling and glass examples in the photos.
I like to recommend that men who are visiting a shirtmaker for the first time begin their made to measure shirt wardrobes with a white or light blue dress shirt with turnback cuffs, and further indulge themselves with a starter pair of cuff links. It is an opportunity to add a touch of color to the cuffs.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
A Saturday night driver put his car into a power pole and knocked out electrical service to our rural community last night, making this post quite a bit later than it should have been. But the day was sunny on the coast, ideal for an in-between season jacket of silk and wool.
Odd jacketing for warm weather benefits from patch pockets, as the construction does not require lining to cover the business of conventional pockets inside a coat. And lighter colors, like the jacket worn by the author Gay Talese in this unattributed photo taken on a spring day in Manhattan, are just the thing.
Personally, I prefer a conventional breast pocket as the patch type is considerably smaller and seems to require its own wardrobe of undersized pocket squares. But that's a matter for individual choice.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
A long Hawaiian beach walk in espadrilles last week reminded me how much more practical are the kind with ankle laces to hold them onto the foot, like the ones on the man in the Esquire illustration. But just try and find them without travelling to coastal Spain.
The one source I am aware of is Espadrillesetc.com, which unfortunately has them only in black. Can anyone point me to a pair in cream?
Friday, April 17, 2009
A plain weave worsted, like the one worn by Hugh Laurie in the photo from the Jeeves and Wooster television series, makes the perfect gray suit to my eye.
Smith Woolens has a 15 ounce (450 gram) version of that cloth in its Whole Fleece book, and it calls to me.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Tuesday saw the passing of Maurice Druon, French novelist and member of the Académie française. He was 91.
Druon was best known for his Les Rois Maudits series of historical novels published in the 1950s. More relevant to A Suitable Wardrobe readers, he was always impeccably dressed in a rare style that was perfectly French as well as perfectly appropriate. Note the cape over his vested double breasted.
Brown suit, brown monkstraps, blue shirt and a purple necktie worn in Paris, where a man is not reviled for this kind of city dress.
Welcoming Vladimir Putin to France in a double breasted suit and a shirt with a contrast collar.
Au revoir mon ami.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
With warm weather approaching it's a good time to remind ourselves that every well-dressed man's wardrobe ought to include at least one patterned bow tie.
The keys to bow ties is that they should be hand tied and appear unexpectedly. Wear them every day and a man looks like he's channeling George Will. Wear them not at all and miss an opportunity, for they spice up a cocktail party or gallery opening. Wear them pre-tied and the entire point is lost.
Personally, I like to pair bow ties with a blazer as that has become my less-than-black-tie evening garb, but they work equally well with suits from seersucker to flannel (two button jackets are the weakest choice as they display too much shirt). Witness the young man in the photo.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Notice the man to the left of the Esquire illustration, an exemplar of casual springtime dressing. He's weariing basics: Norwegian slip-on shoes, cotton drill trousers and a medium-weight tweed jacket with a scarf that pulls it all together.
Scarves give the wearer a choice of what to wear beneath them, as tee, polo or dress shirt are just background.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Everyone else in North American may have noticed the new (since June) airline baggage rules for domestic flights but I hadn't been affected by United Airlines luggage-as-profit-center pricing until last week. There is now a fee of $125 per bag for over-weight bags or for a third bag per passenger, increasing to $250 per bag for the fifth, sixth and seventh. If a passenger has an eighth bag it is probably less expensive to fly privately.
We of course carried an extra duffel with our snorkel gear and incurred a fee, reminding us that Federal Express, which is also in the luggage delivery business, would have delivered our duffel for a mere $79.
I have been told that the objective of the new fees is permit the airlines to display the lowest possible fares on the travel shopping sites but I am convinced it is all some strange conspiracy to force us to purchase new luggage. My existing bags are either too small for an extended trip or too large to limit to the fifty pound maximum that begins to incur a fee whenever, that is, the maximum is not seventy pounds. The ideal solution would be to carry the same amount in two smaller bags that I would have to purchase and that reminds me that the last time I was forced to buy luggage it was because the airlines had changed the allowable dimensions for carry-on.
This tangled web is another reason that Virgin Atlantic and Virgin America are doing to United what they initially did to British Air. That is, taking the traffic on the routes they fly.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Just a few minutes from the bustle of Waikiki is an oasis of peace called The Kahala Hotel & Resort. Around 3AM the world fills with the song of hundreds or thousands of birds. Later in the day, guests can play in the lagoon with half a dozen friendly porpoises.
It's a different experience from countryside but definitely one of the most pleasant urban resorts I've encountered. We've been staying here for most of our adult lives.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Habitues of the internet's clothing forums who have never been in Honolulu know of Leather Soul, Hawaii's leading purveyor of classic shoes for men. In just five years, proprietor Thomas Park has built an international reputation selling Alden, Edward Green, Weston, Gaziano & Girling and, most recently, John Lobb from a jewel box of a shop in Waikiki's Royal Hawaiian Center.
Park's customers overwhelmingly choose Alden but the addition of the Lobb line adds what is surely one of the five most sublime machine made shoes in the world, the Vale monkstrap (center left in the photo), to his offerings. $1,590 including lasted shoe trees. And Park's impeccable service is included with every pair.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Among the more interesting retail establishments I have seen recently is a specialty shop called Newt at the Royal, an attractive space in The Royal Hawaiian hotel that is filled with Panama hats and Newt's own make Aloha shirts.
Short-sleeved, square tailed, collared and printed in local motifs, the Aloha shirt has been considered the equivalent of a jacket and necktie in Hawaii since the 1960's . The muted print of the best shirts comes from printing the reverse (inside) side of the cloth. And though the word tradition is not completely appropriate for a custom instituted only fifty years ago, in their role as aloha attire the shirts are worn outside of dark trousers.
Newt's $75 aloha shirts are printed and sewn by the company and can be found only at the firm's two retail locations (the other is in the Hilton Hawaiian Village) as well as online.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Spent the day walking around Waikiki with a friend who inadvertantly took digital movies instead of photos, leaving little to choose from for today's post. But we did browse some interesting shopping that I will try and re-photograph before we leave for the relative quiet of Kahala, including a very nice straw hat and Hawaiian shirt store named Nate's in The Royal Hawaiian hotel.
Linen safari jacket over brown linen trousers, both of 14 ounce cloth, worn with a navy linen shirt and unlined brown spectator slip-ons.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
On the way to a hotel on Waikiki wearing canvas shoes, Sea Island cotton socks, heavy linen trousers, a white Smedley tee and a linen overshirt to provide pockets.
Needless to say, this trip is about as casual as life gets - but even a relaxed man needs pockets. Wallet, Blackberry, eyeglass and sunglass cases, money clip, handkerchief and business cards each require their place to roost. The linen shirt is unlined ten ounce stuff by Scabal.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
The two more common types of linen pocket squares for warm weather are white with a colored edge and colored with a white edge. I prefer the latter style, and the best of these in my opinion are the Alma line from Simonnot-Godard.
Simonnot-Godard has been weaving the highest quality cotton and linen on eighteenth century looms since, well, 1787. Beautiful stuff.
Find them at Alan Flusser, Paul Stuart and The Andover Shop in the United States, Turnbull & Asser in London and Arnys, Marc Guyot and Lanvin in Paris. Or, contact the company's showroom in Brussels by telephone at +32 2 742 01 04.
Monday, April 6, 2009
I am under the impression that the gentleman on the left in the Esquire illustration was one of the last dozen men to wear a necktie in Hawaii, and will be seeing for myself this week. I am packing but a single necktie and have no particular plans to wear it.
Instead of neckties, Hawaii calls for linen, from jackets to shirts to trousers, as well as spectator shoes. Hold the Hawaiian shirts, thank you very much, but I hope to be wearing a lei very soon.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
In the photo, the late French Fauvist painter Raoul Dufy is working with water colors in the sunshine, wearing a white hat, white jacket, tan trousers and what appear to be brown espadrilles.
White linen makes an elegant summer jacket but it shows every bit of dirt. I am confident that if I had a canvas on my lap my clothes would resemble my paint palette in a matter of moments. Mr. Dufy, on the other hand, appears to be immaculate, though we are not told whether he was actually working or simply posing for posterity.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
The brown and black herringbone lambswool and cashmere overcoat project is now weaving. I have contacted the men who had expressed interest. Anyone who thinks they might want to participate please get back to me in the next week as there will be a price increase after the initial order. The final price came in higher than expected but I am honoring my original quotations.
We are also ready to launch the mid-weight checked flannel project. The cloth will be a 1/4" alternating light gray and cream checked flannel woven from lambswool in a light-for-flannel 11 ounce weight that will be suitable for odd trousers or an entire suit. I'm going for the suit.
The finished product will look like the trouser in the illustration and be priced at $125 a meter, plus shipping from San Francisco. Email me if you might like to participate.
Friday, April 3, 2009
In his book The Suit, author Nicholas Antongiavanni discusses dandification, which is the difference between the way a typical man would wear his clothing and the way a dandy might do things. Now I do not strive to be a dandy, but I do prefer my clothing to be interesting in a discreet way. So the tan herringbone has undertones of red, the pockets are patch and flap, and though all of the other elements of the day's dress are light in tone, none of the colors repeat.
Tan Solaro suit out for its second wearing, paired with a light gray linen pocket square with a faint pink stripe, silver grenadine necktie with a brown cast, and a light blue stripe on a white ground shirt. On the feet, brown hose with small pink flowers and chestnut Edward Green punched cap oxfords with toe medallions.
From six feet away all is normal. From three feet, there is more to look at.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
As George Bernard Shaw once observed, England and America are two countries divided by a common language. The same might be said of gentlemen's dress in the two countries. Or, rather, three countries as the United States lies somewere between England and Italy in style and though the three have common clothing roots seems to drift further towards the Italians every year.
The English of course are responsible for the basic architecture of jacket, trousers and necktie and have given us most of the great tailors. Further, English conservatism has kept at least some men true to what were the Rules of the City of London. That is to say, charcoal and navy suits, conservative neckties, a bit of flair in the shirts, and black shoes. Always black shoes.
Two trends led the Italians to predominance in North America. The first was that there was never much of a ready to wear market tailored clothing in England, where large chains specialized instead in made to measure clothing before and after the Second World War. I am not aware of any English brand establishing itself in the American market, however the Italians made a significant investment beginning in the 1980s and did get a foothold.
In addition, it rarely gets truly hot in England and that nation's tailors took a while to grow comfortable with lightweight cloth. That period of discomfort meant further opportunity for the Italians, including designer Massimo Bizzocchi in the photo, who worked successfully to get lightweight clothing accepted in the U.S. With that success came the Italian clothing sense as illustrated by Mr. Bizzochi's brown suit and brown striped shirt. That is a combination one would rarely see in England and then usually on men who prove to be visitors from Milan and points south.
In the United States though, Italian style predominates today, having overwhelmed the Brooks Brothers sack suit as well as the Savile Row silhouette and color palette. Visit any department store, and other than the odd U.S. maker the suits on sale are Italian. And the North American men I know who dress in bespoke clothing, clothing that is overwhelmingly English in make as few of the continental tailors visit the United States, wear it in a way that has more in common with the Italians than English.
Two countries separated by a common dress.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Grounds of ivory or white combined with spring colors such as lime, lilac, sky blue or fuchsia are sunny day neckties. Whether foulards, dots or stripes, in combinations of linen, cotton and silk, sunny day neckties are meant for the lighter colored suits and less structured jackets of the season.
In the photo, a purple and ivory block striped necktie is worn for the first time in 2009. It combines with a light blue end on end shirt with white collar and cuffs, white linen square, a navy semi-solid mid-weight worsted suit and oxblood strap and buckle shoes.