Dimitri Gomez is one of a handful of the world's best bespoke shoe makers. He works by himself in a space within the Crockett & Jones store in Paris.
Gomez is one of the few makers who makes a fitting shoe (the black shoe in the photo) before he begins work on the final product. The fitting shoe is open, so he can see exactly how foot and shoe are interacting.
A man who obviously enjoys his work with exotic skins, Dimitri is holding a pair of golf shoes in blue stingray and white antelope which, sadly, are considerably more expensive than the regular bespoke quality calf offerings. The other pair is crocodile.
Bespoke shoes begin at €2500 including VAT (about $3,100 ex VAT for visitors from outside the EU). When he has time, Gomez will also hand make shoes to existing patterns on standard lasts for €1200 (about $1,500 ex VAT). To my mind that latter option may be the best shoe value in Europe.
Orders require four to six months as well as a minimum of two further visits to Paris, for fitting and then pick-up of the final product. Packing and shipping services are not available. Dimitri would rather make another pair of shoes than take time to ship a pair he has already made, and who can blame him?
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
The front sidewalk of Marc Guyot's Cape Cod Shop in Paris is a pleasant place to spend an hour smoking a cigar in the sun. The scenery is always the same and yet ever different - women in summer clothing and the occasional well dressed male.
Inside, Goyot's store is beautiful as if by accident. It is a small space that has been crammed with cloth and clothing from top to bottom until there is room for just one customer at a time. To find the neckties, move two boxes of scarves. To reach the socks, push a stack of shoe boxes aside.
The Cape Cod Shop sells accessories, shoes and made to measure clothing of Guyot's own design. Much of the stock consists of bolt after bolt of shirting, tweed and worsted.
Waiting for Guyot is worth the time.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Small spoils of travel from a week on the road. There is a wine micro-dot necktie around my neck, a sized (no buckle in the back) black grosgain bow tie in my bag, and a silk madras four in hand, navy with maroon bow tie and three Irish linen hanks on the bed.
Both bow ties have what I think of as the Charvet shape, unlike the butterfly style usually seen in the United States. They may be a bit more difficult to tie but I prefer the look.
The handkerchiefs, from Drakes London, are bigger and heavier than anything I have found elsewhere. The size means offer more possibilities in a breast pocket and the weight helps them remain in place.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
I had the pleasure of an afternoon meeting with Michael Drake of the eponymous necktie and scarf maker the other day, to select ties for the spring 2010 season. Selections are made from samples that are woven in lengths of nine or ten colorways of the same pattern. The striped silk grenadines and silk shantungs, both rarely seen, will be of interest to men who love clothing.
We talked as we worked, and I learned that Italian retailers will be offering still narrower goods next year, the majority seven centimeters (2 3/4") wide (that is down from eight centimeters this year and nine cm or 3 1/2 inches just a year or two ago).
I also ordered a couple styles of silk scarves for this coming fall when the ASW shopping site will be fully operational. It will offer just a few of of the pictured scarf, depicting white skiers on a navy background. Later in the year, they'll be joined by madras printed linen and dotted modal and cashmere scarves for spring.
Friday, June 26, 2009
On a day that thankfully gave me an opportunity to catch up on my sleep, I had an appointment with Peter Harvey, who now has the Fallan & Harvey name on the shingle at Davies & Sons on Savile Row.
I dropped off a jacket for a collar adjustment and picked up another, a brown 14 ounce (420 gram) Shetland herringbone with blue and gold overchecks that I am unlikely to wear before next November. Usually I try to have clothes for the start of the season but that did not work this time.
More importantly, Peter had my brown tweed suit ready for forward fitting. The cloth, by Lovat Mill, is a 15 ounce (450 gram) glen check with a maroon overcheck that when complete will be a three button single breasted jacket with a double breasted waistcoat. It will be my second suit in this style and we have cloth set aside for a third, a gray from Smith's 15 ounce Whole Fleece book, next year.
In between the brown tweed and the gray worsted will come a sage green covert coat with a sage velvet collar that will hopefully be ready in October.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
I paid a visit to shoemaker W.S. Foster & Sons the other day in search of a mid-brown leather for a pair of oxfords, and departed unfulfilled but happy.
I had been corresponding with Foster's Miss Emma Lakin about a particular tone that I had seen on some shoes made for Charlie Watts but it was not available at this time. While we talked, I perused actor George Hamilton's last.
The wear on the bottom is from the nails used to hold the upper on to the last as each pair of shoes is made. The Hamilton last has seen quite a bit of use.
Bespoke customers generally have two lasts, or at least the customers that get both slip-ons and laced shoes from their makers do as each of these styles requires its own for a proper fit.
I will be a two last customer at Foster's after deciding that the rare piece of dark brown Freudenberg leather that Ms. Lakin was so enthusiastic about would be a more useful part of my wardrobe as a slip-on shoe. And so we agreed on a model I had admired in the past: a cap toe with two curved lines of brogueing that is formal enough to wear with suits.
Since it requires a new last, the slip-on, which is the shoe in the lower left of the photo, will also require a fitting. That means I shall see my shoes some time in 2010.
Perhaps Mr. Hamilton will find further use for his last while I wait.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
The clothing of a mason working on Hadrian's Wall in Britain around 100 A.D. Cloak, tunic, braccae (breeches) extending to mid-calf, and leather sandals.
Fifteen hundred years later, the dress of a gentleman. The sandals are now closed shoes, the cape is a tailored jacket, the leg coverings have become full-length trousers, and there is a hat.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
When I think of Scotland what comes to mind are its great natural beauty, whiskey, and tweed. We had all three on Monday.
For the day's car trip I am wearing a bespoke cap whose generous shape was designed by Michael Alden of the London Lounge. It is paired with bespoke cords that I have cut identically to my dress trousers, a Smedley polo, slip-on shoes and an unlined safari jacket of heavy cotton drill.
One of the objectives for the trip was to commission a 60 metre piece of 15 ounce/450 gram black and antique white Cheviot suiting with a large herringbone. I had been looking for suitable cloth for more than a year without success and here I am discussing the pattern with the mill that will be weaving a sample.
Once the sample has been approved, the cloth will be woven on this or a similar machine, and then sent to Huddersfield for finishing. The process takes ten to twelve weeks.
Leaving the mill, we set out for Edinburgh. Tomorrow, London.
Monday, June 22, 2009
The blue-gray Finmeresco again (Finmeresco is a high twist 11 ounce/330 gram cloth from Smith Woolens that is ideal for the mild San Francisco climate). Thomas Mahon is marking up the shoulders. He always cuts them a bit wide and adjusts them at the forward fitting because he does not leave extra cloth inside the shoulders and once it is gone it cannot be put back again.
Thomas cuts in his office and uses outworkers scattered from Cumbria to London for the sewing. On the table is a double breasted dinner jacket in Lesser's midnight blue 12 ounce barathea that should be finished by the end of August. It will have black grosgrain trimmings.
We slept in the next morning and by noon it was past time to head North into Scotland.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
San Francisco to London was about twelve hours Saturday, followed by five hours of driving to Warwick Hall in Cumbria. By the time we arrived my linen shirt, pristine before we departed, was stained by some of the half dozen shots of espresso that kept me awake on the road.
We arrived at our destination early Saturday evening. Warwick Hall, on the River Eden, is an English country house where Thomas Mahon has his work space. Our host and hostess were out of town but Thomas was kind enough to greet us and we had a pleasant dinner with he and his fiancée.
The next morning began with a walk along the river followed by fittings. Thomas had made fixes to a fresco coat that had been in process for a while, brought a DB dinner jacket to a forward fitting stage and to my surprise had a blued gray Finmeresco suit as well. I had not expected to see that one before October.
Our work done for the day, we retired to a pub in a nearby town for a pint before heading out to tour the sights.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Off again, this time to Scotland, London and Paris, where I plan to visit a plethora of mills, tailors, shoemakers and haberdashers.
And the photo? I will be having lunch with designer Marc Guyot whose tan and white ensemble is the subject.
Friday, June 19, 2009
After my recent post on the Royal Henley Regatta to be held the first week of July, reader W. Holmes was kind enough to contribute photographs of Trinity College Boat Club attire from his time at Oxford University. I immediately noticed that the combination of jacket, hat and club tie is considerably more complex than the straw boater that was the only dress item needed to join the now-defunct annual crew-related riot known as Skimmer when I was at university.
I like the now almost-extinct-on-civilian-clothing use of piping (the white edging) on the jacket. I have seen it applied several ways and in my opinion, this is how piping should be done for visual balance - pocket tops, sleeve ends and jacket edges.
The hats on the ladies at Royal Ascot and the blazers at Royal Henley are for me the distinctive dress of the English social season.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
We do not have much need for true summer suits here in the Bay area. If we have two days a year of New York style heat, that is fortunately about all of it unless one leaves the City. And I could probably count the number of suit wearing men outside of the City on my fingers.
That aside, when I visit Mr. Thomas Mahon in Cumbria next week one of the topics will be another warmer weather suit, this one a double breasted in a light gray Finmeresco cloth from Smith's Woolens. Finmeresco is a high twist weave like the chalk stripe fresco from J&J Minnis in the photograph, where the visible weave means the cloth is more permeable to air and so wears cooler than any worsted no matter how lightweight. That weave, which gives the cloth a bit of a rustic air that some dislike, means it also resists wrinkling.
Now I have nothing against lightweight worsteds and I even own a couple, but the heart of a summer wardrobe should, in my opinion, be high twist cloth of this sort. The light gray commission will be my sixth, and on the seventh day I will wear worsted. Or linen, depending on the occasion.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
If I could have only one pair of cuff links, they would be similar to the vintage double sided 14 karat gold pair in the photo.
I generally prefer linked cuffs when I am wearing a suit, and, as a class, discreetly sized gold links have considerable advantages over the alternatives. They do not tarnish, they look good with suits and shirts of any color, and, when purchased without a retail markup as most things vintage can be, they should always hold enough value to be exchanged for a meal if worst ever came to worst.
Discretion is paramount of course if a man is looking for one pair and one pair only. Conspicuous sizes and those with gems, enamel or noteworthy designs do not work as an only pair. Small geometric shapes with or without a little etching are best.
It is easy to spend more but the careful shopper may find vintage choices for less than $300. eBay is a good place to look.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Monday, June 15, 2009
Summer is in full swing in most of the northern hemisphere (the city of Chicago, which has had its coldest June since records have been kept, being a conspicuous exception). That means it is time to praise the linen cap, which shades the eyes and protects the scalp from the sun without adding noticeably to a man's body temperature.
To my mind, linen caps should be a semi-solid or solid color, and those are the colors of the best linen suits: cream, mustard, and French blue. Light blue will also do in a pinch. Find them ready to wear online at sellers such as Hartford York, or send capmaker Lawrence & Foster half a metre of 14 ounce (full width) linen for one, or 60 cm for two. Two caps at a time is a particularly good idea with the lighter colors.
Wear a cap with any clothing that falls between gardening garb on one end of the spectrum and a suit on the other. British painter David Hockney has the right idea.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
I spent a morning walking around parts of lower Manhattan this past week, and the highlight of those hours was a visit to The High Line, New York's new $150,000,000 park in the air whose first segment, between Gansevoort St. in the Meat Market and W. 20th St. in Chelsea, opened a few days ago.
The High Line is an old segment of elevated New York Central railroad tracks that has been renovated into a three-stories-high park, and it is a glorious walk through views and plantings. With grand stairways at Gansevoort, 14th, 16th, 18th and 20th Sts., the park is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The Gansevoort entrance is conveniently located just a block from Massimo Bizzocchi's retail store on 14th street.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Steven Taffel of Leffot, on Christopher Street in Manhattan, has assembled what is probably the best collection of shoe brands offered for sale in the Eastern United States, with hard to find delights like Corthay and Aubercy complementing better known names such as Alden and Edward Green.
Leffot is a small jewel box of a store. Taffel displays half a dozen styles from each brand on a long table in the center of the well lit retail space.
In an era of retail giants it is satisfying to see the increasingly rare specialty store that offers high quality goods from relatively low volume producers.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
I am making a quick trip to Manhattan this week and noticed that it is raining hard there, which gives me occasion to remind men of the very practical plus four or plus eight trouser, worn for golf in the photo by the late Duke of Windsor when he was Prince of Wales.
Here in California, the combination of plus four and socks means that the legs stay warm, which is always a consideration in our fifty degree (10 degree C) weather. And that warmth is gained without getting one's trousers all muddy, leaving only the hose for the laundry.
Now I was a little hesitant when I first donned a pair of corduroy plus fours one cold autumnal day. But the members of my foursome are used to my occasional experiments in dress and, once they compared their mud covered legs (it is almost a rite of manhood to play golf in shorts here no matter what the weather) to my mud covered socks, they grudgingly admitted that I might have a point.
André 3000's Benjamin Bixby Spring 2009 collection includes some classic looking plus fours that should be available at Barneys in New York.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
While the event is open to the public, the more prestigious viewing locations have dress codes. The Stewards' Enclosure is the best known of these, and there men are required to wear a "lounge suit, blazer and flannels, or evening dress, and a tie". Unfortunately, it is also quite crowded and drinking is not permitted in the locations from which one can see racing. An invitation to the Remenham Club is a more flexible option.
Those men unable to attend can still dress in Henley style: white flannel trousers, a blue blazer worn with a necktie and a boater or a panama hat.
Monday, June 8, 2009
I noticed that the summer dinner jackets on offer by one of this country's larger retailers have peaked lapels this year, and thought I had better remind those few men contemplating the purchase of a new jacket that if one is going to wear the white it is best when shawl lapelled.
Peak lapels you see are descended from white tie and are the more formal style for evening. Shawl lapels are descended from the less formal smoking jacket, though that is less important than the fact that the style looks considerably more graceful with a soft turndown collar shirt than does the peak.
Now there are those that argue that the white dinner jacket should only be seen on cruises, if then, but I find it easier to wear these summer days than its darker counterpart. Without the black jacket's silk facings on its lapels it attracts less undesireable attention in venues where the typical dress is considerably less formal, such as any casino in Las Vegas. Pit bosses, on the other hand, definitely notice.
Accept no substitutes.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Men may still wear blazers and regimental neckties in some yacht club that I have never visited, but, except for a few whose idea of a boat is something with a helipad, the gentleman sailor wears utilitarian stuff that his grandfather would recognize.
That's because, despite all the change that technology has brought, generally for the better, to clothing in other active sports, sailing clothes have not been much affected. Unlike the man in the Esquire illustration, the casual sailor may have a couple waterproof and zippered pockets on his sailing shorts or trousers but otherwise the best models continue to be made from natural materials, and the best colors are a natural palette of tan, blue and yellow.
The principal change has come to sailing jackets, where oilskin and rubber have been replaced by water repellent mixtures of nylon and polyester that breathe. But they are still made in yellow, and passengers who came along expecting to bathe in the sun are still dismayed when they find they need to put them on.
Boats berthed on the San Francisco side of the bay usually give their guests a taste of the sea when they sail to lunch in Tiburon. Once behind the shelter of the headlands though, the sun usually shines, the the jackets come off, and there is a race to see who gets to sit at the bow.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
A month is a reasonable interval between daytime bow tie appearances in my opinion, and it's that time again. A blazer and a bow feel just right for a cocktail and a cigar on a late Friday afternoon and will keep on working into the evening at all but the most formal affairs.
Here, the smaller form factor of the bow tie gives me license to wear colors that I would never consider in a four in hand necktie. The lime, purple and orange Robert Talbott bow is worn with a checked navy and white shirt, a navy blazer and a Holland & Holland pocket square in tan, light blue and green. The combination was paired with olive gabardine trousers, brown suede slip-on shoes and an Optimo Panama hat.
Friday, June 5, 2009
The photo shows a tried and true combination of a navy suit, red on white striped shirt and a silver necktie.
Paired with navy suits, silver neckties are as close to an automatically successful pairing as one is going to find. In my opinion, most wardrobes should include a silver herringbone like the tie in the photo, and a silver grenadine. The sheen of the herringbone sets off worsted suits and the texture of the grenadine complements flannels.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
I met a customer at the San Francisco alterations tailor I work with the other day. Franz took a look at my friend, noticed that his jacket lining was hanging down in back, and immediately asked him for his coat so he could fix it. That is the kind of attitude a man needs in his alterations tailor.
We were at Franz Custom Tailors (166 Geary Street) because I have clothes for customers made in New York and fitted in either New York or San Francisco. We needed the sleeve length adjusted on a new jacket, sleeve buttonholes sewn, and, surprisingly, the quarters opened a bit. All these things Franz does very well.
To my mind, the best alterations tailors should be completely competent to make a jacket. Not cut the cloth mind you, but they should be able to perform most if not all of the operations required to make one. That said, I prefer that they make no claim to be a custom tailor, as I think the two are oil and water. If a tailor wants to make suits, he should make suits and forget about making alterations.
Finding an alterations tailor is not a difficult task even in the relatively tailor-free zone that is the United States of America. Go to the best men's store in the area and ask where they send their alterations when they are too busy to handle them all in-house. If they speak well of a place, pay that firm a visit. Here, first impressions count. The premises should be clean and organized, or the work will not be.
That established, talk to the proprietor. A tailor does not have to be a friend but he or she should listen well, communicate clearly, and volunteer a price and a completion date for each job in advance. I may not be representative but I see Franz several times each month, and those little things matter.