Any interest in some comfortable leather soled and leopard printed reverse goat (suede) slippers for this coming fall at $395 a pair if they were in the ASW store? What about black and cream zebra printed reverse goat? Either should compare favorably to canvas slippers in similar patterns.
Email me or post a comment.
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Friday, July 30, 2010
At the beginning of the twentieth century, no man of quality would have been seen without a walking stick any more than he would have been without a hat. The practice continued among well-dressed men until it virtually disappeared in the 1970s. Today, as you know, hats are rare and the walking stick virtually extinct on the street.
Classic cane styles include crooked Malacca for city day wear, ivory trimmed ebony for evening and knobbed blackthorn for the country. Those are the three that I have currently, and I hope to find examples of bamboo and one or two others eventually. Great versions of anything are difficult to find but canes are readily available at antique dealers and on eBay, and should be collected in advance of need. When one can no longer walk unaided it is rather late to begin shopping.
Of course, it is a brave man that carries a stick when healthy, though they can serve to give the disapproving a good thrashing. For self-defense was the secondary function of the cane after swords were banned in most jurisdictions (wielders should review the Beginners Guide to Using the Cane and related publications). But all it takes is a convincing limp to warrant carrying one.
A stick is just dandy. If you've twisted your ankle.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Yesterday I wrote about throwing a pair of trunks into the tote in case the opportunity for a swim presented itself. That caused me to realize that I had never posted about swimwear, which was surprising considering that I regularly complain to myself that there is nothing new to write about. So. Swimwear. Simple really.
Swimwear is like underwear. There are a couple of styles and comfort, both physical and psychological, should take precedence. On the one hand we have the brief, offered by Speedo and others. It is, well, brief, and as such principally suited for the man who still imagines himself competing in the hundred meter breaststroke in school.
And on the other hand, there is the trunk, a category into which fall both the conventional swim suit and its cousin the board short. Board shorts are swim trunks for men who fancy themselves as wave riders, which means they wear swim trunks that cover the knees. That makes them perhaps not as good looking as conventional length trunks but better suited for kneeling on fiberglass surfaces.
Once the other options have been considered the choice comes down to conventional length trunks, as most of us knew it would eventurally. Cut a couple inches above the knee, they should be made of a quick drying cloth like polyamid. Look for a cotton mesh lining that will function like an athletic supporter as well as a pocket or two for the key (swimmers inevitably find themselves needing a place to put a key, whether to a hotel room or a locker containing the rest of the day's possessions).
There is, finally, the question of color and pattern. I admit that for much of my life I was a believer in quiet trunks, thinking the St. Tropez style of makers like Vilebrequin and its imitators a bit too flamboyant. My view is different now. In use, those wild colors and patterns are lost in the vivid surroundings of a beach. And they complement a tan, so I say go for it.
But get a tan first.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
A man can never have too many dark blue neckties. Solid blue, that is, like the one worn by the late Richard Merkin in the photograph. Indeed, if we were allowed only one color, dark blue in all its varieties would suffice. Midnight blue satin for evening. Navy blue cashmere for day wear in the fall. Navy blue silk shantung for summer. And the weaves: oxford, grenadine, knit, repp and poplin to name but a few. The weaves provide pattern without resorting to pattern.
Dark blue neckties complement jackets from blue through gray to tan and brown. In one shade or another they complement complexions of every type, and they are always correct.
Give me a dozen dark blue neckties and I will need no others.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
The ideal summer day trip has no agenda. It requires little more than a good companion or several, lunch reservations, a vaguely attractive secondary destination (wineries always qualify) and a selection of supplies.
Of course, standards must be maintained. Wear a lightweight linen jacket; a straw hat; a polo or a tee shirt; linen, fresco or cotton trousers; and a pair of unlined shoes. Socks are not required. And, just in case, throw a linen sweater into the soft sided bag that holds the day's possibilities.
A capacious tote bag to me is an important contributor to the day. A towel and swim trunks allow for a dip if opportunity presents itself. A book or other reading material gives permission for an hour under a tree. And the corkscrew means that party members other than the designated driver can maintain their mood throughout.
In Sonoma County, the Russian River Valley's Westside Road affords all these possibilities and more. A convertible top is optional.
Monday, July 26, 2010
I had put my brown cotton suit aside to await fall but since I need to visit my alterations tailor tomorrow I am wearing it into town so I can have the brace buttons moved. They need to be an inch closer to the center of the trousers so the braces will hang straight. For an ensemble I am shamelessly copying today's illustration: brown and white spectator shoes, white shirt, white linen pocket square, and a black knit necktie.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Style is not easy. It is about much more than clothes; indeed, quality clothing adds to style but is hardly the most important part of it.
Real style takes time. More time than money, though money can reduce the amount of time style requires. Patronizing a tailor with great taste who will not let you out the door in anything that is less than perfect makes attaining style a lot easier. It is not necesssary though, for, as I wrote, style is not just about quality clothing.
For one thing, style requires clothes that fit. Modest quality perfectly tailored wins points over trousers that are too tight any day. Fit is not hard, but it takes trips to the alterations tailor to ensure that everything is just so. And it takes discipline because all is lost if a man's weight varies by ten pounds in either direction.
Clothes that fit are hardly stylish if they hang in the closet most of the time. Style takes the effort to dress stylishly every day, without excuse.
Style takes maintenance too. Shoes that are shined and clothes that are pressed for starters. Stuff that takes hours every week.
Style takes a bit of taste as well, for style is understated. Style is a quiet necktie, for example, like the one Cary Grant is wearing in the photo. Grant had style.
Fitted, perfectly maintained and understated clothing has to be accompanied by good grooming too. Unkept hair and nails bitten to the quick are hardly stylish.
Finally, in my opinion, style takes manners. A smile of greeting and a firm handclasp complement our good impression of a man. We are usually too busy looking for the exit to appreciate the dress of someone obnoxious.
Style is not easy, but it is worth while.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
It is no secret that some of the great dressers of the past wore watered silk boutonnieres when the real thing was unavailable. Frankly, silk holds up better than the real thing over the course of a long day.
The ASW store is currently offering miniature carnations in dark red, the classic color for the bloom in a lapel. A package of three is $20 including shipping. Or, for the remainder of July I will include one flower at no charge with each non-sale item purchased from the store.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Linen scarves are not for temperatures in the mid-nineties (34 C) as they were in Manhattan the other day, but Barbera USA had the irresistable beauty in the photo on display. It was less flamboyant worn folded in half lengthwise, however even in an air conditioned room that was just too warm.
In my opinion, the recent popularity of scarves, neckerchiefs and the like for casual dress is a reaction to the decline of the necktie. Like the tie, a scarf draws the eye to the face where it belongs. Further, it cleans up the messiness of an open-necked shirt and adds some complexity to an ensemble. As decoration it is not for most offices, but the rest of the time a scarf adds a little fun.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
In the photo, New York's Alan Flusser Custom Shop reminds us that navy blue and gold pair nicely with gray flannel. Not everyone has the coloring to wear yellow close to his face - I certainly do not - but men with blonde hair and/or peach-toned skin will like the way a yellow shirt makes them look.
To my way of thinking, the shirt and, to a lesser extent, the tie have a greater impact on the suitability of an ensemble to an individual than does his suit. Suit colors are virtually set in stone, with the permissible options generally being the relative darkness or light of a man's blues and grays. Men with high contrast complexions look better in darker tones and low contrast complexions benefit from lighter colors but that is most of it.
The shirt, on the other hand, is closer to the face and amenable, for better or worse, to a near-infinity of colors and patterns. When it complements the color of the skin or the eyes, observers are left with a positive impression, and usually without knowing why. The wrong choice, on the other hand, has the opposite effect. The white shirt, which washes out most low contrast complexions, is probably the most common mistake.
Choose the right shirt.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
When Spring comes round again, as it hopefully will, expect Michael Drake to be offering shantung silk and dotted silk grenadine neckties as well as more colorful scarves and pocket squares.
Scarves in particular continue to gain popularity. Outside of Italy that is, for it seems everyone there is already wearing them.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Monday, July 19, 2010
Out and about in a pair of Sloop slipons in mid-brown water buffalo and beige reversed goatskin, worn with brown and white checked socks and a tan linen suit. Above the waist, one of Michael Drake's crunchy silk knit neckties in navy blue with light blue dots, a white linen pocket square and a light blue linen shirt.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
A small slice of summer is on sale at the A Suitable Wardrobe store for a few weeks. Take a look at the Reduced for Clearance category for a selection of seasonal items that are reduced 40% while they last. There are neckties, a summer scarf, cotton handkerchiefs and a few magnificent linen cardigan sweaters that will never be seen again.
The mid-brown water buffalo Sloops have finally arrived as well, along with a stock of larger sizes in all three colorways. Orders from today on will ship Tuesday even though there may be an out of stock message until they are checked into the store next week. Now if only the ox cart carrying all that Simonnot-Godard shirting would show up...
Thursday, July 15, 2010
It was time to replace an old straw hat this summer and I elected to try the services of Brent Black's The Panama Hat Company, the Hawaii-based firm with perhaps the largest share of the Montecristi hat market.
Mr. Black's hat was impeccable and quickly delivered but his service had a few things that could stand improvement. For one, I live in a building with a door person, but I was forced to go to the post office to pick up my hat since a third-party signature was not acceptable. This despite the fact that everyone else in the world seems happy to ship packages containing much more expensive items without that inconvenience.
Then, the hat was delivered in a specially constructed shipping box instead of a hat box that could be used for storage, which meant I had to beg a box from another hatmaker. Most makers ship a hatbox inside a standard box.
Least pleasant of all, when I suggested to Mr. Black that his competitors do things a bit more conveniently, I received a rather defensive response offering to take the hat back if I didn't like it.
A great hat but a less than great experience.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Lining a jacket with patterned silk scarves is something some men do once. The result is often stunning, but generally lacks an audience other than oneself. It is probably best reserved for the dinner jacket, an otherwise unadorned background for an occasional flash of color.
Men without a ready source of scarves have an alternative in the Vienna firm of BusinessPunks, which offers a series of original artwork printed on sets of ready-to-sew Bemberg lining pieces that sell to tailors for the significantly more affordable price of €195 including VAT (about $220 without VAT).
Line your jackets with art.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
The process of figuring out how to wear new clothes can be as simple as the choice of a necktie but sometimes it is just the opposite. Besides being a bit too small somehow, the coat in question does not get along with darker trousers, and in combination with cream trousers seems to disdain dark shoes. That in turn creates a small dilemma as it has a silken gleam that is intended for evening. The thought process continues.
Tan slipons, cream linen trousers, a white cotton shirt, white linen pocket square, mid-blue silk bow tie and the aforementioned difficult to classify blue and white odd jacket.
Monday, July 12, 2010
It is hardly a normal state of affairs when a man's relationship with his shoe factory becomes a notable pleasure in his life but that is where this shoe thing of mine has gone. In the past it had always been easy to imagine a dozen or more desireable pairs of shoes, however my lust was kept in check by the hideous cost of bespoke. That limitation is now removed. Even with the premium for a single pair, a shoe factory turns out samples for nominal prices in expectation that larger orders will follow. At last I can think of realizing black leather and dark brown suede saddle shoes. And dirty bucks with red rubber soles. To name only two.
In the photo, leopard printed reversed goatskin for a sample pair of slippers that are underway this week. They might also look good in zebra. More self-discipline is required....
Sunday, July 11, 2010
The Japanese are well-known for their black suits, and of course their name for the suit is a Japanese pronunciation of Savile Row. Well, some genius in BMW marketing made this connection and that company has elected to introduce a special edition mini into the Japanese market called the Savile Row. Naturally, it is painted black.
According to autoblog there will be 100 of these made and they will list for ¥3,100,000 ($35,028 U.S.). That's a premium of about ¥400,000 ($4,519 U.S.) over the standard Mini, or about the cost of a bespoke suit. Cute.
Thanks to car-lover Aaron for sending me the link.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Shoes should be polished and conditioned weekly, or at least a couple times each month. For men that wear a pair only once or twice a month, that means after every wearing.
Polishing shoes is a relatively mindless task that takes about fifteen minutes for a pair. And since each pair should be resting for about half the time it takes to do the polishing, it is more effective to do two pair at a time instead of one. That means something more than an hour for a week's shoes. Clark Gable, the former king of Hollywood, used to shine his on Saturday mornings.
Home polishing should begin with a good brushing followed by an application of a conditioner like Saphir Renovateur, part of what is probably the best line of shoe care products in the world (that's a can of Saphir wax on the workbench of Dimitri Gomez, the great Parisian bespoke cordwainer, in the photo). Let those shoes sit for a couple minutes while you condition the other pair and then brush them both briskly once again.
Post conditioning, apply the appropriate color cream to the shoes. It is not necessary that the colors are an exact match. Creams (and waxes) that are darker than the shoe will over time create an antique effect while lighter colors will preserve the original finish. But one coat of a reasonably similar color rarely makes a visible difference.
Apply cream to your alternate pair for a couple of minutes while the layer on the first pair hazes over. Then, return to the first pair with your horsehair brush and brush along the sides and across the top of each shoe. Once you have brushed, apply another coat of cream and again allow it to haze over while you brush the other shoes.
Now apply a coat of wax polish (this is the stuff that imparts the shine), and do the same to the alternate pair while the first sits. Then brush again.
Finally, apply one more coat of conditioner and allow each pair to dry while you brush the other. Buff each with a cloth and you have conditioned and polished two pairs of shoes.
Look for Saphir shoe care products at the ASW store whenever the steamship finally arrives.
Friday, July 9, 2010
The tans of the season are a good foil for lighter blues. In the photo, a teal, navy and white Cappelli necktie complements a tan jacket, a navy, white and pale yellow striped shirt and a paisley square with some teal blue in the pattern.
Below the waist, mid-blue houndstooth patterned socks pick up the necktie, and caramel Cleverley slipons add variety to the day's tans.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
According to Stephen Horwath's book Henry Poole, Founders of Savile Row (Bene Factum Publishing, 2003), "Part of the point of the traditional Savile Row suit was that it was so smart, and so well made, that it was almost unnoticeable." He states further that World War I destroyed most of a generation of English males, leaving a relatively small pool of bachelors who were happy to dress unnoticeably because they did not need to compete for the attention of prospective partners.
After 1945 there were once again about as many men as women in the UK, which forced the men to be more noticeable if they wished to attract attention. This led to inroads in the English menswear market, first by the French and then the Italians - two countries where menswear exists in large part to support the pursuit of, shall we say, companionship - to the point that English suits are the exception among younger men in the UK today. Just as they are in the rest of the world.
Fortunately for the tailors of the Row, once partnered a certain strata of those same English males, and similar men from other nations, become less concerned with the opinions of those partners in a variety of personal matters. I am for example a customer of not one but three Savile Row-trained tailors. I am also smoking a Macanudo as I write this, and no thoughtful man is likely to adopt the cigar as a habit until he is firmly mated. Thus, I indirectly lend support to Horwath's notion.
Whether the story is true or not, the pursuit of attention in dress remains alien to most Englishmen outside of entertainment-related pursuits. The clothes lend themselves to established men in the professions rather than habitués of the smartest clubs. The eye registers that they look good, and fifteen minutes later has forgotten all about them.
Which is after all as it should be.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Learning a craft known only to a few has never been easy. I know a woman who has been seeking an apprenticeship with a bespoke shoemaker for years now, without success. The alternative is to teach yourself, the path chosen by Philadelphia's Andrew Wrigley. The forty year old Wrigley, who received his MFA from the University of Delaware in 2001, has spent the past year using published sources, videos, and periodic critiques by experts (Perry Ercolino, the world-class Pennsylvania shoemaker, has been gracious with his time) to learn to make English styled shoes by hand (the two works in the photo are both his).
Wrigley still has much to learn of course, and the going is slow. A recent pair of his shoes took eighty-five hours to make, compared to the roughly forty hours required for a pair by the London bespoke makers with whom I am familiar, and though the design is very good, as you would expect from someone with his background, the make of the shoes is not to London standards yet.
The time required to become a cordwainer, and the minimal compensation offered to apprentices during the early years, is perhaps the principal reason crafts like these have been dying out. Traditionally, most practitioners started learning their craft in their teens. The few who went on to become masters spent fifteen or more years doing so, though strictly speaking much of that time is probably more necessary for maturation than it is for achieving technical mastery.
It would be a tragedy if the great crafts disappear, in my opinion. Rich societies generally have enough people who value beauty to support the costs of making things by hand, and the expert practitioners of these arts today make a living at least comparable to white collar professionals. It is encouraging to see an artist like Wrigley enter the field and find the information he needs to learn without having to spend years as an apprentice. If he succeeds, perhaps others will follow in his footsteps. I certainly hope so.
Monday, July 5, 2010
A hat wearing man probably wants three or four dressy straws in his closet for summer. That is fewer than he might feel necessary for cool weather, but then there are more hat colors in common usage during that latter time of year. For the sunshine he need consider principally shades ranging from the Montecristi Panama's ivory to the yellow tan of the Milan braid.
That said, men should not overlook the relatively inexpensive boater. London's Lock & Co. has one of lacquered plaited straw for a comparatively affordable £115.00 (about $175) and, despite the tradition of a century ago when men would throw theirs away at the end of each season, mine has given me good service for at least five years on golf courses as well as city streets without showing any stress.
Worn with a tropical wool suit in the world's most subtle white pindot, a linen shirt with a small houndstooth pattern, a linen necktie, linen pocket square and suede shoes. The tie looks too wide to my eyes these days but changing that will have to wait for spring.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Given that the sun began shining here in Northern California only two weeks ago, it is hard for me to believe that autumnal clothing will enter the stores this month. I have to admit that fall is my favorite season despite my indifference to American football, and that is because of the palette and the textures.
I would have been happy pretending that summer will last forever, as it comes close to doing here those years that it begins in April as it ought. But I was reminded of the coming season by the best photo of a fall item that I have seen in 2010. The pictured merino wool Fair Isle sleeveless pullover from Ireland's Inis Meáin Knitting Company is almost enough to warrant a trip to some spot in the southern hemisphere where a tweed jacket and said knitwear could pair happily with gray flannel trousers and a glass of single malt.
If we wait long enough, everything becomes new again, and it appears as though Fair Isle knitwear will be coming back into its own this year, in versions with a nicer hand than the traditional woolens. Not that popularity matters all that much with the classics.
I love this piece, and they are making one with my name on it. Metaphorically speaking, that is.
And now, let us return to the regularly scheduled days of summer.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
When you are undecided about what to give on a special occasion, consider an A Suitable Wardrobe store gift certificate. Offered in $50 increments and useable in whole or part indefinitely, the ASW certificate is valid online an instant after it is purchased. And the buyer or buyer's designee will receive a handsome physical certificate a few days later in the mail.
An ASW gift certificate is a great way to give a new pair of tan Sloop slipon shoes or a length of Simonnot-Godard shirting. Stocks of both should arrive next week at the store. As always, I hope to see you there.