The Internet is a tremendous asset to men that, like me, would otherwise have limited access to world-class clothing. That said, shopping online requires care.
Take, please, the chambray dress shirts I received the other day. I intended to request two of them in light blue, but I specified a fabric number that was no longer valid when I sent the order in. My shirtmaker sent me a confirmation using the name of a not-what-I-wanted color rather than the fabric number, and I didn't notice that it was wrong. So here I sit with two useless-to-me dark blue shirts with a violet cast.
They are useless because in classic dressing the dress shirt is lighter in color than the jacket and necktie it is paired with. That is obviously impractical with these, leaving me nothing to do with them except wear one under a sweater once in a while. I might as well send them directly to charity.
A disappointment like this one is my own fault but whining about it helps me feel better. Order with care.
Friday, July 31, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
It was the end of May when I was measured for an evening shirt with a separate wing collar (see A Formal Shirt Project), and everyone agreed that the project would take a couple of weeks. Well, those weeks stretched into two months, principally, I am told, because master shirtmaker Mr. Mel Gambert wanted to make the collar absolutely perfect and it went through a couple of iterations.
That wait, however, is over and the shirt is apparently winging its way to California even as I write.
A link cuff shirt with a separate wing collar like this one is meant for white tie, though when men had valets the shirt front would have been unbroken by buttonholes as it closed at the back. Still, it would have been worn in the early days of black tie, when the tailor delivered a new single breasted and peaked lapel "casual" dinner jacket but there were only white tie accessories to accompany it. And that is how I will wear mine. More accurately, it is how I will wear it once someone makes me a white pique waistcoat.
Thank you to Lorraine Gambert, who took these photos at Mel Gambert Custom Shirts.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
I thought I should chime in to say that I very much like The London Cut, by which I mean the series of exhibitions promoting Savile Row, though The London Cut, and here I am writing about the style, is not really to my taste. The photo of James Sherwood, author of The London Cut, and here I am writing about the book, is illustrative of the style: a long, shaped jacket with narrow sleeves paired with narrow trousers. There is plenty of tie space that is filled with overly large, for my taste, neckties. The ties in particular may indicate the pending doom of the style as the Italians don't make them that wide any more and they were the principal supplier of four inchers.
Now this is not to disparage Mr. Sherwood by any means. He deserves all the credit in the world for supplying much of the energy required to get Savile Row promoting itself for the first time since the original Henry Poole was attracting the world's royalty to his shop. Indeed, Mr. Sherwood's efforts have been supported by formerly marketing-free firms like Anderson & Sheppard that make a style of clothing that is only loosely (pun intended) related to The London Cut style. But that just gives the The London Cut exhibitions a bit of additional support. Imagine if they had begun this thing fifty years ago - the tailors in and around Naples would be a pale shadow of themselves.
So good luck to them I say. The exhibitions I mean, rather than the style or the book. Not that I wish bad things on either of those. But the exhibitions are definitely worth the time should one pop up in a nearby city.
Just look for The London Cut. No surprise there.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Tailored clothing from one of the better Hong Kong makers is great value. Exact pricing varies with the price of the cloth, but it is fair to say that a suit from W. W. Chan, for example, costs less than half as much as a suit from an English tailor.
Part of this savings is the lower wage earned by a Hong Kong tailor, but that is not the entire difference. Chan's business model is to measure a man and ship him a completed suit without the benefit of a fitting, a practice that may be perfectly adequate for a third or subsequent garment, but risks producing a sub-standard product before the pattern is perfected.
Chan does offer fittings as an extra cost option that adds two to three months to the delivery and a bit more than $200 to the cost of a suit, most of that being return shipping of the garment to Hong Kong for post-fitting alterations. In my opinion, customers should always request this service.
The company delivers the suit to the fitting in a state that is somewhat more complete than what I have been taught to think of as a skeleton baste. The pockets, buttons or lining that are usually present for a forward fitting are missing, but the suit itself is sewn rather than basted.
At my fitting, the jacket's left shoulder extended perhaps an inch beyond the end of my physical shoulder. It was nothing that would not have been fixable later, but easier to change at this stage. Perhaps more importantly, we were able to balance and reduce the amount of drape in the jacket, an improvement that we might not have attempted with a finished suit.
The final product will be considerably better because of the fitting, and the suit will still be a relative bargain. I was happy enough to order a summer odd jacket. With a fitting of course.
Monday, July 27, 2009
A man needs a bit of silk to close his shirt collar. With the passing of time, the negative associations that certain television sitcoms may have given the ascot in the United States have also passed on. That has removed one of the principal objections to neckwear that is other than the conventional four in hand. Indeed, I find that many Americans have never seen an ascot before, and approve of the sight. It makes for a more finished look, one that is very suitable for summer days and rosé d'Anjou.
Wear silk at the neck.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
The very gracious Sterling family of Sonoma County's Iron Horse Vineyards appreciates that mid-day entertaining is best done outdoors. Their 2005 Brut Rosé added still more color to the setting.
Linen is the ideal accompaniment to lunch under the trees, with an ascot or neckerchief to close the neck.
Posted by Will at 8:30 AM
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Regular readers have probably noticed by now that ASW is connected to Twitter, which tweats whenever there is a new post and/or when I have something I think people may want to know about.
ASW is now also linked to a Facebook page (clicking on today's headline will take you to it), which supports additional forms of content. Initially, we are moving most of the links and material from the right hand column of ASW over to Facebook, and that will be followed by more stuff related to dressing with style in the weeks to come. We're not quite finished.
People who wanted to follow ASW on Facebook but are currently following my personal page instead may want to migrate to the new area. It will be the home of photos and video clips that are useful but not related to specific posts, and it supports threaded discussions on topics of interest (something that a blog is useless for).
Anyone can begin following ASW on Twitter by clicking on the boxes to the right. The Facebook link will be along shortly. I hope to see you there.
Friday, July 24, 2009
I write about city this and country that quite a bit, and a reader wrote back asking me to discuss the relevence of city vs. country clothes in a time when a man in a country style tweed jacket may be dressed more formally than the majority of men on the street in a major city. Great question, and the simplest explanation is a single word: color.
Every man, even one whose wardrobe does not extend much past shirts and trousers, looks more natural in colors that are related to his surroundings. Most people, men and women alike, wear lighter colors in the bright light of summer, darker ones in the depths of winter, and black after the sun sets. It makes equal sense to wear greens and browns for a walk in the country, and grays and blues amidst concrete and stone.
Things do not need to get more complicated than color but compounding the city vs country distinction are the application of common sense to different degrees of formality and functionality. City situations tend to be more formal, and city clothes tend to be more formal as well. Country clothing, on the other hand, tends to be more functional, in that much of it is designed for sports.
And so we have Esquire's city man making his case to a jury in a navy suit and black cap toed oxfords. He is in stark contrast to his Apparel Arts cousin who is watching a hunt in a gabardine shooting jacket, checked flannel trousers, and brown shoes.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Trouser bottoms have long varied in width, from the 17" Oxford bags of the thirties to the six inches of the Conduit Cut in the sixties. Today, they range from half a foot to perhaps twice that.
Fashion aside, the width of a man's trouser bottoms should be individually determined by the size of his thighs, so the fall of the trouser is properly scaled. This is of course another reason why tailored clothing should ideally be made for each individual.
There are a number of modern designers whose offerings have deliberately narrow trousers, perhaps most prominently Mr. Tom Ford. Nothing wrong with that, but it helps explain why the ready to wear version of those clothes looks proportionate only on the thin.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
I carried the same leather computer bag on my travels for decades. It is beat up now, but was perfectly serviceable until the day the shoulder strap hardware failed (no doubt due to my propensity for carrying multiple electronic devices and a couple pounds of power conversion hardware just in case my aircraft is forced to land in an unexpected and not completely civilized part of the world). The loss of that $5 part was the first of a series of small challenges that sent me looking at computer bags.
And there is a lot to look at. Hundreds of choices, each at its own price and quality level and all of them outside my area of expertise. I was overwhelmed for an hour or two.
What simplified my search was the decision that I wanted a very good looking bag with padding and just enough room for a laptop and an ebook reader. No more hauling power converters on board - they go in a suitcase now - or stuffing the compartments with books.
Simplification made looking around a lot easier. I quickly came to like the Mulholland Brothers deerskin laptop bag from my friends at San Francisco's On the Fly. It is padded, comfortable to carry, and too small to let me throw in twenty pounds of non-essentials as I am rushing out the door.
Of course, I liked the Mulholland luggage already. Their deerskin is great looking even if it does not yet have the patina it will acquire over time. It doesn't hurt that they had a family ranch not far from my house in Sonoma County. And, last but by no means least, On the Fly made the shopping experience easy for me.
One beat up Hartmann belting leather bag without shoulder strap is now looking for a worthy home.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
It is true that I have been overdoing the sock focus this past week or so, but then I have found happiness in a couple of new styles. The Marcoliani cotton argyles in the photo, for example, are much better quality than other lightweight argyles I have tried in the past. Indeed, they are better quality than the Marcoliani merino argyles, which have a disturbing tendency to come unwoven at the boundaries between colors.
Argyles of course are patterns reminiscent of Scottish tartans that are worn casually. Perfect with odd jackets, most men do not consider them appropriate with suits.
These are worn with tan gabardine trousers. a shirt jacket and an old pair of slip-ons that C&J made for Brooks Brothers about twenty years ago.
Monday, July 20, 2009
It was 105 F (40 C) in Napa Valley yesterday, but there was a breeze and it was pleasant under the trees in linen and fresco. The photo was taken after lunch and the linen has had time to achieve a properly rumpled state.
I wore an old necktie from San Francisco's Cable Car Clothiers that has survived nearly as long as my marriage. It looks remarkably ordinary and was not a particularly well made piece even when new, but I have never seen its combination of dot size and spacing when I have been in a buying mood. So we continue on together.
Light gray Brisa trousers and a jacket from Holland & Sherry's 14 ounce linen are worn with a linen cap and shirt, Edward Green spectator slip-ons and the aforementioned necktie.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Drakes London is having its summer sale. Highlights include assortments of linen and modal summer scarves in various colorways.
Photo: Drakes London The scarves are joined by about a dozen necktie designs in roughly sixty colorways for as little as £55 each (about $90), and a selection of silk squares for women.
Once they are gone, they are gone.
The scarves are joined by about a dozen necktie designs in roughly sixty colorways for as little as £55 each (about $90), and a selection of silk squares for women.
Friday, July 17, 2009
I was initially planning to wear something more casual than navy mohair to the symphony the other night. But the after six starting time called for a white shirt and black shoes, and I thought a bow tie would be appropriate. That led to the suit, and there we have the slippery slope that ended with trousers worn too long.
The need to adjust one's braces to accommodate different trouser lengths is one of the challenges of using different tailors, each with his own pattern. The only reliable solution is to dedicate a pair to each suit, but then a man is stuck with a color that may or may not be in conflict with the rest of his clothes.
And so it goes.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
The theme yesterday was socks and we are sticking with it, influenced as we are by a pair of Bresciani's chiffon weight Sea Island dress socks that arrived the other day.
Perfect for those days when otherwise impeccable men are sweating through their seersucker, these are flat knit, light as a feather, and available in oyster white, dark navy and black at Kabbaz Kelly. $59 a pair (that would be about 42 Euro, and close to an infinite amount per ounce). Sky blue, brown and charcoal to follow later this year.
The pictured white make perfect spectator shoe socks.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
In today's photo the left foot is colored accurately but the socks are washed out and the shoe is somewhat obscured by its own blackness. On the other foot, so to speak, the shoe is washed out by the light but the details are more visible and the coloring of the sock is accurate. Click on the photo for an enlarged view.
Edward Green bespoke made by Tony Gaziano before he left to co-found Gaziano & Girling, these are lightly constructed bluchers for summer wear. They are paired with gray and white patterned socks and the trousers to a mid-gray pick and pick suit.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
I had enough comments and emails about the linen pajama project the other day to convince me that photos of a couple more of the available Italian linen colors would be of interest.
In addition to the sand color in the other day's post, my own selections are cream and french blue. I admit also to being very tempted by this brown, below.
The book is L.W. 2020 and the price for a pair of pajamas made to measure by MyTailor from this material is $398 plus shipping and applicable taxes, if any.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Perhaps the flashiest of traditional shoes, spectators are both beautiful and of limited utility. After all, how many opportunities are there to dress to the nines on a weekend afternoon?
But when the occasion suits, as it did this past weekend, they are unsurpassed paired with cream gabardine trousers and a linen or seersucker jacket.
The pair in the photo are by Edward Green, in chestnut leather and white reversed goatskin.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
I have not held a conventional job for years, and much of the clothing I write about is of marginal utility as work wear. That is because on the job clothes ought to be as close to a uniform as a man's personality will allow, which leaves little to write about. In the photos, the dandy Italian industrialist Luca di Montezemolo illustrates the point with monochromatic perfection.
Gray suit, white shirt and gray necktie in the top photo. Blue suit, white shirt and navy necktie in the bottom. A man should keep it simple so others are focused on what he has to say, not what he is wearing.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
If the safari jacket is the travel equivalent of an extra suitcase for all but the warmest days of summer, the Norfolk jacket is its peer for winter.
Originally a shooting coat, the Norfolk has the same four large front pockets as the safari, which makes it the kind of thing a man could wear on most days of an autumn holiday in the country.
A semi-solid tweed of 16 ounces (500 grams) would be perfect.
Friday, July 10, 2009
I wrote in April (The Shirtmaker Returns) that MyTailor would be making pajamas to measure for me, from nine ounce Irish linen.
Well, the sand-colored prototype pair arrived last month and after two washings (cold water and line dry) they have been proclaimed perfect. The French blue will arrive next.
The point of this project is sleepwear that fits, looks good and lasts at least twice as long as ready to wear pajamas. It is too soon to know about the longevity but MyTailor met the first two criteria with ease.
This design has cream piping on both the jacket and trousers, three jacket pockets, and a trouser waist that closes with a tie because ties last significantly longer than do elastic waistbands.
The Irish linen is heavier than the usual pajama cotton, and the weight will contribute to longevity. The weave of course is open, so they wear cool on top of or beneath bedcovers. And though they rumple over the course of the night, I am perfectly comfortable walking about in them when the plumber arrives earlier than expected.
In summary, a very good start.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
There is a saying that a man's socks should be the same color as his trousers but a bit darker. Well, when no complementary colored hose are available a pair that is the color of the trousers will do. Just. But I prefer to see them somewhat lighter than the trousers rather than darker.
That is because the eye slides over darker socks to focus on the shoes. That same eye stops at lighter colored socks, and focuses on the combination of trousers, socks and shoes. Which ought to be considerably more interesting.
Wear lighter colored socks.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
The inspiration for the chalk striped tropical suit worn around London recently (In the Pink) was this 1937 Esquire illustration.
Chalk stripes are not usually seen on summer suits these days, being generally confined to flannels. The thing about a chalk stripe is that in addition to its extra width compared to a pin stripe, the edges need to be a bit blurry, as anyone who ever saw a line on a chalk board will recognize. That blur is a byproduct of a flannel weave, but harder to pull off on a conventional worsted. The small irregularities of a high twist weave, on the other hand, lend themselves to a similar look.
That said, some may wonder at the idea of wearing a city suit on holiday. To which I reply that no less of an authority than the late Hardy Amies wrote about the disrespect that the tourist costume of shorts, tees and Birkenstocks shows to the inhabitants of the city one is visiting (OK, he never specifically mentioned Birkenstocks). And this does not even take into account the need to look appropriate next to such a well turned out companion.
The suit is dressed down slightly with the brown suede shoes, but the white shirt and dotted necktie would hardly draw a second glance at home or abroad.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
That said, some neglected pockets of style offer consistent opportunities for bargains, if only because there is more supply than demand. Antique cufflinks, for example, can consistently be found for less than the cost of new ones of a similar design.
Along those lines, there seems to be at least one desireable bow tie in Ben Silver's Factory Outlet every season. The once or twice a month bow tie wearer does not need many of them, but a good value like the tie in the photo for $42.50 is, well, a bargain.
Monday, July 6, 2009
Wandering along London's Mount Street in search of lunch the other week, I happened to spy a rainbow of canvas slippers inside the window of Mariano Rubinacci's shop.
Slippers had been one of only two things on a shopping list that readers of Friday's post know has only one item remaining on it now.
The Rubinacci store is a beautiful place that always has more than one thing to tempt the unwary. As a wearer of shirt jackets I was happy to see my taste validated by a rack of unlined versions in interesting fabrics.
A light raglan sleeved topcoat also caught my eye. Lacking a structured collar, raglan sleeved coats can be made to measure with a sewing machine about as well as they can be made by hand. That makes them cost-effective as well as good looking, and these appeared to be made from 14 ounce/420 gram cloth for spring or fall days.
I sometimes wish for a Rubinacci store in Manhattan. But most days I am happy that temptation is half a world away.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Esquire illustrates golf dress as I learned to expect the game would be played in the Northern hemisphere on the first day of July.
The man on the left depicts reality on the Northern California coast today, minus the pipe, but right down to the correctly scaled tweed cap.
Friday, July 3, 2009
There is an ASW post scheduled for Monday that will show a bit of Mariano Rubinacci's Mount Street store in London, the source of the slippers in the photo. But for today, we'll put the cart before the horse and show the slippers themselves, canvas house shoes that could be Belgian Shoes were it not for their leather soles.
The soles of course may be the principal reason to choose the Rubinacci version of these slippers over the Belgians. The price, €280 including VAT or about $350 without, is roughly the same for each, and both makes have a bow on the apron that puts some men into a cold sweat for fear that they might somehow be thought effeminate for wearing shoes like these.
I, on the other hand, have been wearing slippers with little bows on the apron for many years, and have learned to cope with my insecurities. After all, the only people who see the bows are family and house guests. The former are used to my idiosyncracies and the latter are usually too groggy to take in the details of their surroundings.
All that being said, we can return the cart to its customary position.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
I know little or nothing about the cleaning services of New York's Madame Paulette, but the company's Professional Stain Removal Kit is unsurpassed in my experience. The point of on the spot stain removal is that the sooner a stain is removed the less it is likely to cause irreversible damage, and one of Madame Paulette's kits demonstrated this just the other day when it removed a salad dressing spot from the lapel of a jacket.
There are three primary stain groups that attack tailored clothing, those being earth, protein and oil based, and there is a formula designed to remove each of them in each kit. Just tear open the proper envelope, apply the wipe with its embedded formula to the stain, and then treat with the supplied rinse wipe. All the contents are biodegradable and rinse out with water.
Men who value their clothing are likely find the kit a great bargain at $12.50 per, or $50 for five.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Sunny day clothing recently that included suede shoes from Gaziano & Girling, a chalk striped fresco suit by Thomas Mahon, striped shirt by Hemrajani, and a Charvet bow tie.
Pink is perhaps the most complementary color to combine with gray, as light blue is with navy. White in the square, tie, shirt and suit serves to blend the elements together. And medium and dark grays are the best time to wear black shoes.
On that day I was definitely in the pink.