A cloudy May, usually summer here in the Bay area, ended with a little sunshine. That meant lighter weight clothing, finally. It has after all been a month since the warm weather stuff came out of storage so that it could hang unused.
Black and white houndstooth tropical weight suit worn on the weekend with a tan chambray shirt. The bow tie and pocket square have similar colors but very different patterns. Below the waist, fox suede semi-brogues and, out of doors, a brown linen cap.
Monday, May 31, 2010
Sunday, May 30, 2010
I have for many years considered black loafers to be a shoe without a purpose. Black is for laced oxfords to wear with suits, and formal shoes for evening clothes. But every authority I am aware of considers the usual version - Norwegian slipons like the pair in the photo - too casual to wear with a suit, a position with which I agree completely and, one famous photo of Cary Grant wearing them with a dinner jacket aside, far too informal for dinner clothes. Further, since well-dressed men wear brown shoes with casual clothing during the day, they do not have a role before evening.
So where has that left black casuals? Relegated to occasional evening wear with a blazer perhaps, or the black trouser/white polo shirt combination that I like for informal entertaining at home. But even the latter would not happen often, at least where I live, as black Belgian shoes are more comfortable and look better to my eye. So I have not found enough opportunities to wear them to warrant space in my closet.
Recently, W. S. Foster has changed my mind about the utility of black casuals with a couple of models that I would wear with gray worsted during the day, those being versions of the slipon in the second photo. They are not the only maker either. The other day I was given a sample pair of plain banded slipons by SW1, maker of the Sloop, that tempt me to try them on the street before six o'clock. So perhaps I have been wrong in my thinking all these years.
Black Norwegians though? Never.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
It has been a busy week at the store these past few days as I am trying to get things caught up before heading to Italy. My Sloop loafers got loaded onto the site along with new stocks of braces and linen crewneck sweaters, a new silk neckerchief and several silk pocket squares.
The navy silk paisley in today's photo, which does not begin to do it justice, is probably the most beautiful square I have offered thus far. In life, the colors are deeper and richer, proving once again the inadequacy of my photography.
I will be headed to the Pitti Uomo menswear show in Florence later this month where I hope to find the material for an outstanding series of new ASW posts as well as a new product line or two for the store. Before departure, I would appreciate hearing from you what else you would might like to see on the store, ideally outstanding items that are difficult to find even in Mahattan.
So email me please, using the Contact form on my home page, or add a comment. There are two neckties for the men with the best or most interesting ideas. The decision process will be completely arbitrary and the winners will be announced here on June 12.
Friday, May 28, 2010
May 15 was the official beginning of straw hat season in North America, and the imminent return of sunshine to the Bay area means that it is finally time to don my favorite style of hat, that being the Montecristi Panama.
Perhaps the best thing about the Panama is that there is no such thing. What I mean by that is not that the hat is actually made in Ecuador, though it is, but that there is no single hat style that represents the Panama any more than there is a single style of felt hat. And so we have the basic fedora like the one in the photo, a dozen derivatives of that same fedora, the Optimo (my own favorite), the plantation hat, and others including straw versions of the Coke and the Homburg (the style I would get if I could justify another straw).
Now all these styles come in a variety of quality levels, with prices that go into the stratosphere. The thousands (in any currency) asked for the better versions are quite understandable given that Panama quality is based on the fineness of the weave, and the finest hats can take the weaver months of work. Fortunately, above a certain point the weave of a hat is discernable only at very close range and, for most men, middle of the road quality is quite good enough.
Determining middle of the road quality is of course a problem for there is no generally accepted rating system for Panamas but there is a lot of marketing hype. And so, for me, the reliable way to acquire a Panama, should I decide that I cannot live without that Homburg just as an example, is to trust in the taste and experience of a reliable seller. Two of those to my mind are Chicago's Optimo Hats and Hawaii's Brent Black (I am an Optimo customer but have never used Mr. Black).
Whatever the source, the Panama may be the one universally accepted hat, meaning it can be worn by virtually anyone with just about any (men's) clothing, from casual to evening clothes, and usually without so much as a hint of costume. To my mind that makes it sort of a baseball cap for grownups.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
There are those who wear their pocket handkerchiefs to pick up a color in their necktie, but I think it looks less studied to complement either the shirt or some part of the pattern of the jacket. Those two criteria tend to favor the color white, which is usually present in one or the other. And since silk neckties should ideally have a drier complement for that same less studied purpose, the white linen handkerchief finds its way into worsted breast pockets more often than any other choice. Shinier silken squares should ideally be reserved for days when they can accompany a knit, grenadine, cashmere or other sheenless necktie.
Linen is better than the cotton alternative for a display handkerchief because it has enough body to remain upright in a pocket all day long (that same body makes it somewhat less effective for the other purpose to which handkerchiefs tend to be put until it has been washed enough to soften considerably, and by that time it is of course less effective for display).
Remaining upright is important, for the linen handkerchief should be worn with its points up. Forget about the tv fold, that refuge of the insecure. Displaying a handkerchief's points implies that it has been stuffed carelessly into the pocket, in keeping with the unstudied look that, to paraphrase the late dandy Douglas Fairbanks Jr., often takes considerable time to actually accomplish.
Points up please.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
So many old Apparel Arts and Esquire illustrations are set at one racetrack or another that it is probably no coincidence that America's adoption of less formal dress after 1970 paralleled the decline of horse racing and its replacement by NASCAR.
Racetracks were a venue for less formal suits of the kind in the illustration, with bigger patterns and more vivid colorings than their business dress siblings. It is a clothing role that is usually played today by the odd jacket, and the suiting alternative presents men with a bit of the dandy in them another way to complement their brown suede or spectator shoes.
Corduroy suits are probably the most accessible alternative to the odd jacket for cooler weather, along with lighter cottons for the warmer months. Neither is terribly expensive as these things go, and either looks good outside of the office. The key to suiting as an odd jacket alternative is that the coloration should be more casual than it is for a suit meant for the office. Think about rust-colored corduroy for one season and perhaps British khaki with its distinctive yellow tint for warmer weather.
Thinking of a new odd jacket? Consider a suit.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
In the making of a shoe, the leather is stretched over a last, a form that represents the customer's foot, either the foot of an individual for bespoke shoes, or the abstraction of a group of individuals in the case of ready to wear footwear.
Each bespoke shoe customer has at least one last (men who have ordered both laced and slip-on shoes usually have a separate last for each), and last storage for a bespoke maker like John Lobb Ltd. of London, whose last room is photographed, can literally come to occupy more space than the area given to making the shoes.
I was reminded that a shoe requires a last when I was contacted by a Philadelphia man who has been teaching himself to make shoes by hand. We discussed my becoming his first customer, and I am perfectly willing to pay to have him make a pair of shoes for me but I do not want to add measurement risk to what would be a transaction fraught with it. The man is classicly trained artist who has made a few pairs of shoes, which means he has experience at clicking, closing and finishing but has not spent years measuring shoes for a proper fit or learning last-making generally. And that stuff does take years.
So thinks I, I have lasts at three different makers and surely one of them will lend me my last for the good cause of helping out an artisan in training. And we will be finding that out over the coming weeks.
The issue of who owns the last is similar to that of who owns the pattern in bespoke tailoring. I am not an attorney but it is my understanding that the maker owns the last or pattern normally, however if the customer paid for it specifically then the customer has a case that he owns it in the absence of a contract that says otherwise. And goodness knows, I have never seen a contract associated with a bespoke shoe order. That said, I have known these gentlemen for years and talk of contracts should be unnecessary.
In any case, the emails are going out this week, and we will await the reaction. For the last truly must come first.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
There is a frequently neglected wardrobe that falls between pin stripes and chinos or city and country. Clothes for museum visits, Sunday concerts in the park and al fresco lunches, for example, ought to be better quality than the weekend's chinos and golf shirts and more interesting than charcoal work wear. The in-between wardrobe is elegant but neither casual nor solemn.
Now an in-between wardrobe for most men does not need to be large, for most men do not spend much of their time at daytime socializing. A pair of brown slipons, a few pair of good quality trousers in linen, gabardine or flannel, dress shirts with button cuffs and bolder patterns, a light cashmere sweater to throw over the shoulders and an odd jacket or two will do the trick. This type of jacket in particular is an area in which the Italians excel, with their citified but casual styles in lightweight cloth. Tan linen and black and white checked coats are perennially good choices.
An important thing to remember when assembling an in-between wardrobe is that this is not country clothing. Shetland sweaters, heavy corduroy trousers and Scotch-grained shoes have their place but the company of friends in town is not it. Seek out instead things that please the eye to look at and the fingers to touch so that the in-between wardrobe is as enjoyable an experience as the activities to which you wear it.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
It was 18 months ago that I first wrote about the Sloop, nicely shaped leather soled loafers with the look of a boat shoe, after The Sartorialist photographed Luca Rubinacci wearing a pair. The maker, a Milanese venture called SW1, closed its retail doors during the recession and the design has been virtually unavailable since then. That was too unfortunate a situation to be allowed to continue, so this week A Suitable Wardrobe is re-introducing the Sloop in two colorways at the online haberdashery.
Lightweight, the Sloop is relaxed, with laces that tie and untie. They are as easy to wear with shorts or chinos as they are comfortable under a blazer or cotton suit. And they look just as at home scuffed up in Mahattan Beach as they do freshly polished in the Hamptons.
The Sloop will initially be available in dark brown calf suede or polished dark brown calf for $475 a pair including shipping. Mid-brown water buffalo (shown in the photo) will follow later this summer because, frankly, some guys are going to decide that one color is just not enough.
I understand that the concern most men have about buying shoes online is whether or not they will fit, and I assure you that ASW will do everything it can to get customers into the right size. If the fit is not right, I will send you another pair and pay the return shipping on the originals. And do it over again if necessary. Just be careful to wear them on carpet during the try-on so the soles are not scuffed.
Getting products loaded on to the store is time-consuming and my Sloops may not be photographed and on the site until the middle of the week. In the meantime, email me with questions or to reserve a pair.
Friday, May 21, 2010
The photo shows a side view of a pair of 14 ounce/420 gram cotton trousers by Neapolitan maker Salvatore Ambrosi that were delivered this week after a month spent in the maze of two postal systems, U.S. Customs, the Easter holiday and the Icelandic ash cloud (there is a second package with the other part of the order still missing but we have little choice other than to trust it will arrive eventually).
No matter the style, the most important element in the fit of a trouser is that it has a clean line, falling unrippled to the bottoms unless interrupted intentionally by a break. And I have to give Salvatore credit as he has approached perfection in that regard without a fitting. True, he saw me in San Francisco last year before making the trousers in the photo but he never took a measurement, having copied and then improved upon a pair by another maker that I sent him.
Trousers with a near-perfect fall, worn with one of Michael Drake's single ply cashmere polos and Gaziano & Girling elastic sided slipons. A flannel shirt jacket completed the look.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
It is odd how the blazer exists in a no-man's land of formality between the lounge suit and the odd jacket, but there it is. Too casual for the suited office and too formal much of the rest of the time, the gilt-buttoned jacket comes into its own at sporting events and afternoon parties on the weekend paired with tan or cream trousers, chestnut shoes, a checked shirt and a casual necktie. And it is equally useful for cocktails and other late day occasions when accessorized somewhat differently with mid-gray trousers, a white shirt and black shoes.
Blazers come in both single and double breasted forms, and strangely enough the two have no common heritage. Single breasted is the more common version, which makes it safer but less interesting at the same time. Derived from the nineteenth century rowing club jacket the single breasted can be livened up a bit with an odd waistcoat such as a patterned tattersall in cool weather or a cream linen in warm.
Then there is the double breasted like the blazer in the photo. A descendent of the naval reefer jacket it is most often tailored, like its single breasted relation, from dark navy blue wool serge or hopsack. The double breasted is somewhat riskier to wear, having been tainted, in America at least, by the same situation comedies that convinced more than one generation that the ascot is worn only by ne'er do wells and villains. But that risk also means that the DB is better appreciated when worn properly.
Now not all navy blue jackets are blazers and the difference is the buttons. Navy jackets have an unfortunate tendency to look like a mismatched part of a suit unless accompanied by brown or metal buttons. And brown buttoned coats are technically odd jackets rather than blazers, though that is a fine distinction. The buttons on a true blazer are brass, silver or gilt. They are usually plain or with a subtle pattern, with the double breasted benefiting, in my opinion, from buttons with an anchor or other nautical theme in keeping with its heritage.
So that then is the blazer. It should probably not be the first odd jacket in a wardrobe. Tweed for example is useful more often and a suit will do on the remaining occasions when the blazer would be an option. But it certainly has a place as the second or third jacket in a season's wardrobe. Just don't wear it double breasted with an ascot.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
While thinking about slipon shoes this week I was reminded of Berluti's iconic Warhol, an Italian-made shoe with a Parisian sensibility. The Berluti link does not offer much as the web site is down for a redesign, but the local Barney's had a pair convenient to the Apple store where I was headed anyway.
Berluti is known for its idiosyncratic designs as well as its excellent finishes. Fortunately, the Warhol manages to avoid the extreme look of some of that firm's offerings while remaining just edgy enough to be a nice pairing with cotton (I cannot bring myself to say denim) trousers and a blazer at anything goes, see and be seen occasions like film festivals in the south of France. There it would be too conservative for Lapo but perhaps not out of place as an outlier in George Hamilton's wardrobe.
$1,400 at Barney's stores in the United States, the only distribution I am aware of other than the Berluti stores in New York and the major European cities. That is pricey of course but, as the saying goes, you do get two shoes.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
There is an art to tieing a neckerchief, but it is an easy art to acquire. Follow the steps to fold a 27" square of cotton or silk into a band and then twist the band tightly. Place it around the neck and tie in a square knot, letting the ends dangle freely inside or outside the shirt collar. And that is all there is to it.
The properly tied neckerchief, like the one worn by HRH Prince Charles, shows just three or four inches of flared ends at the throat (though unlike the Prince's, it is usually worn under a shirt). Those men who show a foot of silk dangling from their neck are wearing 36" squares rather than neckerchiefs, and tieing them less discreetly than they might. But that is a subject for another post.
Photo: Time Graham/Getty Images
Sunday, May 16, 2010
There were several well-dressed men at the Vanity Fair and Gucci Party Honoring Martin Scorsese at the Hotel Du Cap Eden Roc this past Saturday. In fact, I believe I saw four in what was otherwise a sea of over-long trousers, shirt sleeves, jacket sleeves and neckties. A couple of Italian film producers in impeccable evening clothes and the guest of honor tied for second place, but one man stood out. George Hamilton.
Yes, some might quibble with Hamilton's choice of a striped suit for evening, but everything he is wearing fits, is shaped well and is in good taste. This at a party where there were shirts unbuttoned to the navel (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), a white dinner jacket with black lapels (Tommy Hilfiger), and Lapo Elkann. The ladies were stunning though.
Thank you Mr. Hamilton.
I wore laced oxfords almost exclusively until recently. These days, with my studio in a small California town, I find myself wearing slipon shoes a couple days a week. I am not entirely alone in that among suit-wearing men either; though slipons are but a quarter of the production of the two bespoke makers I queried that is a larger number than I would have guessed.
Yesterday I saw a pair that caught my eye, a simple new machine-made design by Northampton's Gaziano & Girling. I did not think to get the name of the model, so I have them stored in my mental cupboard as the unknown slipon. Hopefully the description will suffice for ordering a pair, should that prove necessary.
The late Duke of Windsor wore shoes like these, in black and brown calf versions with cream buckskin aprons. I have it on good authority by the way, from the maker's mouth as it were, that his were not bespoke either. Unlike him, I am thinking of tan calf as bespoke quality skins in the lighter leathers are difficult to impossible to find these days and tan is wearable in many sunny day situations where spectators would be over the top.
I can make a case that a man should have slipons made to different standards. There are the wear-them-sockless-for-a-summer shoes that are abused for a season or two and then replaced. And then there are finer versions, intended to be worn year after year with odd jackets and casual suits. At approximately $1,100 a pair including shoe trees these fall into that latter camp, and for men who already know their size the best place to acquire them is Bespoke England in the UK.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Since opening the ASW store I have had repeated requests for neckerchiefs, a hard to find necktie alternative that is less formal than the ascot and less obvious than either a scarf or the larger silk square I have offered since January.
The first neckerchief to arrive at the store is a 27" cotton square woven in Italy to Michael Drake's specifications and exclusive to A Suitable Wardrobe. Just fold it into a band, twist it tightly and tie with a square knot. Let the ends dangle free either outside or inside the shirt collar.
Look for three or four silken versions to follow over the course of the coming week.
Friday, May 14, 2010
It turns out that the temperature falls to near-freezing at 5,500 feet (1,675 meters) in Southern California in mid-May, a fact that it never occurred to me to check when I packed summer clothes for a visit to the UCLA conference center in said mountains last week. After all, I have lived in California for half of my life. What was there to check?
My host for the occasion was Jesse Thorn, co-host of the blog Put This On among other accomplishments, and a man appropriately dressed for the temperature in a corduroy suit. I on the other hand am only marginally warm enough at mid-day in lightweight gabardine trousers and a linen shirt jacket.
Always check the weather in advance. As if you needed me to tell you that.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Henry Poole's ash-delayed spring trunk show reached San Francisco this week, bringing with it a couple of small delights. The firm often seems to offer a diversion or two from its tailoring and this season it is cashmere sweaters and some very nice Japanese-made leathergoods.
Poole customers may recall that the company was offering made to measure Scottish cashmere knits a year or two ago. The 2010 offerings are not quite as traditional - I saw a lightweight single ply pullover that is better suited for wear under a jacket than the usual two and four ply stuff.
More interesting to me were the bridle leather wallets, made for Poole by a firm that does work for Hermes. The quality of the make was excellent and the pricing reasonable as these things go at £110 ($162.50) for a coat wallet and £125 ($185) for a fatter version designed to hold a checkbook. I was taken by the very elegant dark green and black color combination.
The wallets are available for purchase on the firm's web site. There is no sign of the knitwear.
Posted by Will at 8:00 AM
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
When I lamented the virtual disappearance of embroidered clocks on men's hose last year, Alex Kabbaz of Kabbaz-Kelly noticed. This was a good thing. Mr. Kabbaz probably sells as many expensive socks as anyone in the world and when he speaks, as the saying goes, sockmakers listen. We corresponded a time or two about color palettes and I sat back to await the results this fall (it takes about a year for such projects to move from conception to reality).
Now the original embroidered clock was a pattern comprised of two lines of embroidery at an angle that followed the shape of the foot and looked rather like the hands of a clock. Hence the name. But it turned out that the modern Italian sockmakers do not have patterns for said embroidery in their archives. That is not completely surprising as the designs pre-date the founding of those companies (one wonders where the archives of the former makers of embroidered socks have gone). I was nonetheless surprised when I saw photos of the samples of their modern interpretation.
Yes dear reader, the modern interpretation of the embroidered clock is, well, the embroidered clock. Proving once again that the reinvention of the classics is a path strewn with surprises.
Modern classic or passing fancy? Only, ahem, time will tell.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Miss Emma Lakin of shoemaker W. S. Foster and Son is visiting San Francisco this week, beginning that firm's spring tour of the United States. She brought with her a pair of wonderfully patinated elastic-sided slipon shoes that began their lives as black in color but are now a sort of variegated sepia.
This particular finish was arrived at accidentally once upon a time, when a pair of black bespoke samples was left in the shop window for many years. Foster offers it intentionally today, for £350 ($500) per pair. Sadly, the shoes cost extra.
Many men have turned away from black shoes in favor of brown, a color that gets richer over the years. Foster's patination, which unfortunately does not occur naturally unless one has a shop window and can afford to wait a decade or two, is the one exception I know of. It is not so basic black.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Today's Apparel Arts image combines three items that have been on my mind lately, those being cream colored trousers, a glen checked odd jacket with a predominance of black or gray in the pattern, and a scarf worn instead of a necktie.
Now odd jackets should not normally be city garb, but we do need something to throw on for afternoons spent escorting out of town visitors to the museums. This one is of interest because both the color scheme and the pattern suit it for urban wear better than the predominantly brown coats that are most commonly seen. For gray and blue are city colors as you know, while brown and green are better in the country. And a large glen check that is almost but not quite a suit pattern reinforces that urban look. Look for it in a mid-weight worsted with some cashmere in the blend.
Then there are the cream colored trousers, a shade often overlooked by men accustomed to gray. Cream below the waist complements similar shades above it, and the infrequency with which it is seen these days give it an advantage. I am promised a pair of 17 ounce/500 gram cream colored flannels by trousermaker Salvatore Ambrosi, though some combination of the Italian postal service, Icelandic ash and the Easter holiday have apparently destined them to arrive when it is no longer cool enough to wear them. Holland & Sherry makes the cloth, which hangs straight as an arrow due to its weight.
Finally there is the scarf worn instead of a necktie, a touch that is seen about half the time on models showing the new looks of the Italian designers this season. Men who fear the necktie is too stodgy for their off duty time should consider the scarf. It closes the neck and, like the neckerchief or ascot, makes for the kind of finished appearance that suits the man who pays attention to his clothing.
Three items for your consideration for cool spring and warm fall, and perhaps fresher today than they were 75 years ago.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Friday, May 7, 2010
Apropos of nothing, my favorite shirtmaker Joe Hemrajani was talking about patterns the other day (he has dispensed with paper patterns in favor of a CAD system that cuts shirt pieces mechanically, improving consistency) and mentioned that so many customers are spending so much time at their computers that they have begun to stoop forward. To compensate for that, shoulders on his shirts are being cut to provide for a forward curve to the seam as it progresses towards the arms from the neck.
The top photo shows normal posture. The bottom shows what happens to that posture after hours of reaching towards a keyboard. And this forward slant to the shoulders creates wrinkles in the cloth, particularly near the armholes, that are prevented with properly cut cloth. It is the kind of measurement detail that requires an experienced eye, which is why I always recommend that men are measured by a professional and get those measurements perfected before they begin ordering shirts online.
Thanks to Joe for being kind enough to pose.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
I wrote last year that I liked Bresciani's cotton socks. That was the first time the firm came onto my radar, and my thoughts turned to them again this spring in anticipation of warm weather.
Well, great minds must have been thinking alike because I received a package from said firm the other day containing three pairs of socks and a card suggesting that I might write about them. Now such bold approaches are rarely effective, most particularly the ones from junior public relations people who offer me tee shirts printed with obscure sayings. But I had just purchased the striped socks in the top photo and was contemplating a pair of silk evening hose in scarlet (who could not be predisposed to think positive things about a men's hose maker that offers scarlet silk evening socks? And in an over the calf length that may not require sock suspenders!). So after I opened the package I resolved to give Bresciani its reward.
There may well be other even more obscure sock makers whose products I would appreciate if they were called to my attention, but Bresciani has in a short time achieved a place in my sock drawers that is surpasses Marcoliani, another Italian maker but one that has never sent me unsolicited socks. The company needs only another million or two men of similar mind to achieve its rightful place in the world.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
While I was in Manhattan last week I stopped by to see Paul Winston at Winston Tailors (no web site but he also offers specialty items for dog fanciers at Chipp2) and gaze at his tussah silk jacketings. Tussah is a relatively inexpensive plain weave silk from wild silkworms that is even nubbier than shantung, and Winston may be the one tailoring shop in the western world that has it in a variety of colors (the raspberry is nice). I have been pondering the cream for a shawl collared one button dinner jacket.
The major thing holding me back is the non-trivial obstacle that I would have nowhere to wear a cream dinner jacket. Further, I cannot think of occasions I could begin attending for the purpose unless I was to convince my better half that we should begin taking Caribbean cruises. Or open a casino in North Africa.
$1500 for an odd jacket made to measure.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
They cost nearly as much as a bespoke Savile Row suit and require a year of waiting but once a man's shoe wardrobe includes the basics, bespoke shoes may offer the most pleasure of any class of item in his closet.
Now compared to other made-for-the-wearer items, bespoke shoes arguably offer the poorest financial return on investment. Shirts of fine cloth and impeccable fit need cost no more than their ready to wear cousins and today's best quality tailored clothing often costs more than its bespoke counterpart. But hand made shoes on a custom last are more than double the cost of the best of their machine-made relations, and though the fit is often better it does not tend to be massively so unless one has a foot that needs attentions unavailable from mass produced alternatives.
Where the quality of a bespoke suit may be noticeable a city block away, the character of a bespoke shoe is usually visible only when viewed from within six feet. The handwork of their making is invisible yet, up close, it becomes obvious how their shape follows the curve of the foot. Their color is richer, their style often one of a kind and, in brown at least, their shading unobtainable by conventional means.
Ars est celare artem. In dress as in the rest of life it is art to conceal art.
In the photo, a pair of slip-on shoes by George Cleverley at the first fitting.
Monday, May 3, 2010
There are no good suitings for hot weather. Really. The English inventors of the suit did not face much heat over the course of their summer and accordingly did little to take it into account despite their experience in India. What we have available to us today are really suitings for the sea shore - cloths for 80 degree (27C) days with a breeze. When temperatures exceed 90F (32C) men can only sweat, or flee into an air conditioned environment.
Men considering warm weather suitings should begin by first throwing out a bit of the conventional wisdom. Dupioni silk is not a summer suiting. A ten ounce/300 gram tightly woven cloth, it wears warm and, like gabardine, is better suited to spring and early fall.
There are perhaps five cloth choices that do provide service on warm-but-not-hot summer days. Three of them are better choices for the workplace and the first is the most obvious: lightweight (7-8 ounce or 210-240 gram) tropical worsteds. These are light but not all that cool-wearing as their weaves do not allow much air ciculation. They also wrinkle too much for my taste but, nonetheless, they have their place. The best include H. Lesser's Tropicals and Smith Woolens' Gilt Twist.
The word twist leads us to a class of cloth that is to my mind the best hot weather choice. These are the high twist weaves that are woven to resist wrinkling and allow air circulation (this really works - I was wearing a pair of high twist trousers in a breeze the other day and had to look down to reassure myself that I still had them on). The slight downside to these is a moderately rough hand to the weave. Minnis fresco and Smith's Finmeresco are two excellent examples, with the Smith's considerably smoother to the touch.
The third choice are blends of mohair and wool, which are sometimes woven in a high twist weave as well. Mohair wicks away perspiration but gives cloth a bit of a sheen that can be offputting to some men. I prefer it for evening suits and dinner clothes. Harrison's Cape Kid, an 8 ounce/240 gram blend of 60% Summer Kid Mohair and 40% Super 100 wool, is a world class offering if a bit too lightweight for my taste.
Those three more formal cloths are joined by linen, which also wicks perspiration well but has a tendency to rumple, and cotton, which can be lightweight but creases easily. Either is effective for less formal occasions but leaves something to be desired in an office, though striped cotton seersucker and olive cotton poplin suits are American staples.
And those are the best of a poor lot when the weather is hot.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Several of America's better tailors offer bespoke shirts that are actually made in Geneva Custom Shirt's 32nd Street workroom in Manhattan. Men who live in or travel to New York (there were both in our party) and are more concerned with their appearance than the decor of their shirtmaker take the elevator a few floors above street level where owner Mike Athanasatos and his staff give shape to cotton fabrics.
Athanasatos measures each customer himself to begin the shirtmaking process. Once the cloth is selected, it is washed to minimize uneven shrinkage (pre-washing is a characteristic that distinguishes the better maker as their shirts may actually fit when delivered instead of requiring a couple of launderings to settle in). A cardboard pattern is made and the shirt pieces cut by hand. They are washed again before being sewn together, and then the completed shirt is washed once more. After hand ironing it is ready for the customer.
Among the ways a man can judge the quality of his shirt is whether the collar lies flat during wear without shirt stays to hold it in place. Unlike many custom shirtmakers, Geneva does not use prefabricated collars, and its collar points do not curl. I need say no more.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
The reception given to the photo of Alan Flusser here the other day made me hesitant to share my Manhattan souvenir, a pair of Belgian Shoes Mr. Casual in fuzzy leopard. Flusser wrote about them in, I believe, the first Style and the Man and I have wanted a pair ever since (they complement, if that is the word, pajamas of any color). The problem was that whenever I inquired they were out of stock and had a six month backlog.
I stopped in the Belgian Shoes store on east 55th the other day and, lo and behold, there was inventory on hand. Blame the Great Recession. Or Mr. Flusser. He may be inured to it by now.