Thursday, September 30, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
By Jonathan Lai
Hong Kong's H. Baromon has a small and unassuming storefront in The Galleria at 9 Queen’s Road Central. They do not tour; that is, the company does not send its cutters or tailors out to other cities to accommodate foreign clientele. Clients must visit the shop for measurements and all fittings, which include the basted, forward, and finished bar finish. The entire process takes between 5-7 days from the selection of fabric and preliminary measurements to the delivery of the final garment. This is standard with most Hong Kong tailors, providing one is present for each fitting as soon as the garment arrives at the next stage of development.
The Baromon silhouette is trim and structured, but the jacket still allows room to breathe, with moderate waist suppression and little drape. The round sleeve head that is characteristic of Hong Kong tailoring comes with minimal extension over the shoulder, which is heavily-padded and straight. Armscyes are large. The sleeves have a gentle curve and are neither very narrow nor full. The trousers sit around the natural waist and continue full and straight over some break at the bottom. Lapels have a relatively low, but not anachronistically low gorge.
A lightweight garment in spite of its structure, the jacket never clings. Buttonhole stitching is tight and well-finished. The buttons are of good-quality plastic. Pick stitching is tidy and consistent throughout. The lining, though a different color than was requested, is mated tightly to the edges with mostly machine stitching.
Baromon receives comparisons to Oxxford, the Chicago firm, which is understandable given the conservative and clean silhouette. Of the three tailoring houses reviewed in this series, its style is the most understated. The suit in the photographs was approximately HK10,000 (roughly U.S. $1,300) for a Scabal Super 120s 10 ounce/300 gram worsted in 2008.
H. Baromon Limited
9 Queen’s road Central
Shop 203-204, Second Floor
Telephone: (852) 2523 6845
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Monday, September 27, 2010
MEN OF THE CLOTH 2010 TRAILER from Vicki Vasilopoulos on Vimeo.
The number of master tailors in the world has declined by more than 99% since 1950 and the trend continues. Attempting to preserve some of the richness of that past is the decade-long effort of Vicki Vasilopoulos, whose documentary-in-progress, Men of the Cloth, has a new trailer on FaceBook.
Men of the Cloth is about three world class tailors of Italian heritage: Philadelphia's Joseph Centofanti, Nino Corvato of New York and Brioni's Checchino Fonticoli of Penne, Italy. Well past the retirement age of most men when work began (Centofanti is now is his 90s and the others not all that much younger), the film's release in 2011 will not come too soon for the principal characters.
Many men never experience a hand-made suit for one reason or another, but every man should take the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the craft. After all, as one of the tailors in film says, "The difference between artisanal tailoring and industrial tailoring is like the difference between canned fruit that is ready to eat and an apple that you pick from the tree."
Men of the Cloth itself promises to be another apple.
Visit the Men of the Cloth website and make a contribution to the film's post-production expenses.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
by Jonathan Lai
The tailors of Hong Kong began to make suits for the British during the days of Empire, much like the tailors of Naples. And the decades when Hong Kong was handicapped by lack of access to the best tailor's trimmings are long gone. Today's Hong Kong tailors compete on a world stage with a style that is arguably more distinct than that of Savile Row. Over the course of the coming weeks we will look at the silhouettes and detailing of three of the better known houses: H. Baromon, W.W. Chan and Gordon Yao (the buttonholes in the photo were sewn by Chan, Baromon and Yao respectively looking clockwise from the top).
Baromon, Chan and Yao each have a marked silhouette and characteristic detailing but they share a similar genotype. Clean, close-fitting jackets with a touch of structure, closed quarters and a cupped skirt define the torso. Shoulders have a straight fall with moderate padding on a rounded contour that tapers to a narrow sleeve and trousers come straight with a bit of break as well as a pocket that you never knew you needed.
Our installments will examine suits from Baromon, Chan and Yao that represent, respectively, the first, second and first garments commissioned from each house. The Baromon was made in a week at its storefront in Hong Kong, while the Chan and Yao garments were developed over the course of several months on their regular visits to San Francisco. Each suit is made of 10 ounce/300 gram worsted, and direction was limited to detailing; the subjects of proportion, balance, etc. were left to the discretion of the cutter.
We'll begin with the Boromon suit later this week.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Perhaps the most useful of the wools may be the navy flannel and the nicely mottled solid oxford gray. Pair them with gray or blue jackets, a la Sr. Montezemolo in the photo, but do not limit yourselves to flannel for they are a fine change of pace with worsteds.
Two other checks are sportier and the thought was that they might be worn with tweed as well as woolens. But the sixth may be the most interesting of all. With a mottled brown medallion of some sort (is it a fox's head or not?) on a navy blue ground, it is the kind of tie that you can wear anywhere, with almost anything. But you will need to be fast. There are only a few of each size in each design.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Seaman Schepps of New York.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
If a premature eagerness to return to cool weather clothing identifies a weakness in my wardrobe, it is because we wear mid-weight clothing for most of the year here, especially in summerless years like the current one. In some climates one moves from the light stuff of summer to mid-weights and then on to heavier things, experiencing a bit of a change along the way. Not here. It is a weakness I am not certain how to address, but one soldiers on.
Riding coat length jacket with crescent pockets, chambray shirt, wool challis bowtie, paisley silk pocket square, twill trousers and slipon shoes.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Most trousers are made by sewing machine these days, and there is little wrong with that on the long straight seams. But hand sewing helps trousers to curve better over the, ahem, buttocks, and, for those of us who like these things, makes them more elegant generally. It costs, of course, though Sr. Ambrosi somehow manages to incorporate more handwork than any bespoke tailor of my acquaintance, and does so at a better price.
None of this is useful without fit, and here is where it apparently helps to have been working as a trousermaker since one was twelve years old. Salvatore is perhaps not quite able to measure a man entirely by eye as he says his trousermaker father can but he is awfully good. The first order he made for me was copied from a pair I sent him. They fit beautifully when they arrived, in the shoe-top brushing style that Luciano Barbera calls mid-Atlantic and he has never had a tape measure on me through three subsequent orders.
For more information, contact Ambrosi on Facebook.
Monday, September 20, 2010
End on end shirt by Turnbull & Asser and, below the waist, fox suede oxfords. The green cotton hose with small orange flowers remain discreetly out of sight.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Forget worsted flannel, that pallid imitation made to wear better and weave into lighter weights. The good stuff is 13 ounce/400 gram cloth and heavier so it drapes and keeps the wearer toasty for a walk across town. Have an oxford gray solid, a navy blue with a gray chalk stripe and a brown glen check or, for those that cannot quite bring themselves to wear brown in town, gray with some brown in the weave. That last pattern, by the way, was the favorite of the English kings for that part of the twentieth century when there was a king.
The true flannel devotee of course will not stop with three. There is the air force blue solid, the narrow chalk stripe in charcoal , the houndstooth in gray or brown and the brown spot effect as well as rarer patterns. But six of them is a good number to my mind, for flannel suits are the best suits of all.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
The equation is simple. A silk necktie is slightly better looking paired with a square that provides a contrast of texture and vice versa. With worsted suitings, that is usually the sheen of a silk necktie paired with a linen handkerchief. But in cool weather, a change of pace that adds texture to an ensemble is a pairing of a wool or cashmere necktie with the gleam of a silk square. This is more common with tweed and flannel jacketings but can look great with worsteds as well.
The cashmere necktie wardrobe should consist of perhaps half a dozen choices, starting with gray and navy solids. They should be complemented with combinations in shades of those same two base colors with or without some brown. Stripes are the easiest to find but suiting patterns such as glen checks and houndstooths are perhaps even more desirable given their relative rarity.
Try the cashmere necktie.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
To begin, the striped shirt is juxtaposed against a checked jacket but the patterns are of different scales and work together. And the color of the shirt's stripe is picked up by the jacket's check even though the two are but distant relations rather than immediate family. Needless to say, the white of the shirt ground is enhanced by the pocket square of the same color (after all, the frequency with which white appears in shirts is what led to the ubiquity of the white linen square). The jacket's tan ground stands alone, relating to nothing above the waist (though viewed from afar I would not be surprised to see a pair of tan bluchers on the wearer's feet).
The secret to this combination is the necktie, in what appears to be gray wool or cashmere. Like the jacket's ground, the gray relates to nothing else above the waist, though it tones somewhat with the check. And because it relates to nothing, it gives the ensemble the air of ease that I mention so often.
It may have taken time to assemble the combination in the photo, but the result looks as though it took no time at all.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
One extra wrap makes these knots longer, wider and better able to fill a wider shirt collar like a wide spread, especially with a thinner necktie. Each alternative preserves the four in hand's asymmetry, and the air of nonchalance that is slightly compromised by the regularity of the half and full windsor. The only difference between the two is that the large end of the tie goes through the inner wrap for an Albert and the outer wrap for the Victoria.
Both knots have the secondary benefit of using an extra couple inches of tie length, which, like the windsors, make them useful for ties that might otherwise hang below the waistband.
Add a dimple to either and be ready to face the day.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Clothing for the days that are neither summer nor winter weighs perhaps ten to 12 ounces instead of 14. But it is the patterns that confound me. I think most tweed patterns executed in worsted cloth to keep the weight down lack character, and the ones done in lighter colors for summer wear are pallid compared to the real thing. Flannel designs like glen checks and chalk stripes look better in flannel. Perhaps reflecting a lack of imagination on my part, that leaves little beyond simple twills, herringbones and houndstooths for odd jackets, and conventional patterns for suits. Maybe solaro for a change of pace.
In the end I keep coming back to gabardine for in-between temperatures. A tan suit, another in navy, and odd jackets in gray and in brown do the trick with contrasting trousers. Complement it with a ten ounce pick and pick, a navy birdseye and a pin stripe of some sort for a basic shoulder season wardrobe.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Below the waist, brown suede oxfords of course.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Using seemingly unrelated colors together is a core concept of prep dressing as well as the English style that prep is related to. Such combinations look as though the wearer did not care about this clothes. And, as I have written before and will write again, that should be an objective for each day's ensemble, no matter how long it takes to achieve. After all, since the 17th century the masculine look has derived more from uniforms and the uniformity of black and white evening clothes than it has from the peacock dress that came before. And though green, lilac and navy combinations like the one in the photo are definitely not uniform their carelessness gives much the same impression. And look good at the same time.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
There are also a couple new items on the shoe care front, including the leather-trimmed mahogany shoe care box full of Saphir products in the photo ($275). The box makes it easy to introduce a deserving client or family member to the world's best shoe care products. And check out the new rosewood shoe horn.
Expected this coming week are a later-than-planned shipment of Albert Thurston braces (I only offer braces with hand-sewn ends and that company has but one over-taxed person who can sew them). And there are unlined wool neckties; silk, cashmere and merino scarf designs and still more knitwear on the way too.
Finally, four of E&G Cappelli's lined sixfold necktie silks in summer colors are reduced 40% for clearance. That is a a reduction of $78, which makes some of the world's best ties relatively affordable. There are only a couple of each so interested parties should strike quickly.
I hope to see you at the store.
Posted by Will at 7:00 AM
Friday, September 10, 2010
The Charvet shape is seen less often than the alternatives, perhaps because its width makes it a little more difficult to tie. The key to getting it right is maintaining the width of the vertical part of the knot, as seen on the tied silver bow. And that is one of those things that requires a little practice when there is no rush to be somewhere in time for a curtain, for it requires that the knot is left loose so as not to wrinkle the center of the tie any more than absolutely necessary.
I am still working on perfecting my technique but, once learned, the loose knot makes any bow tie look a little better.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Chatting done, we managed to get my order in for a couple of shirts, including a light blue check in a DJA twill and one from Thomas Mason's gray and wine linen that will sit on my shelves until warmer weather returns next spring. Not that we had any of that this past season. And then we added a couple of the shirtmaker's typical line extensions, those being a pair of gray linen pajamas and a brown moleskin shirt jacket.
Regular readers may recall that I like to wear unlined and unpadded shirt jackets on the weekend. In blue tweed or linen they serve on slightly more formal occasions, like trips to some of our more obscure California wineries that may not have seen an odd jacket since the vines went into the ground. The rest of the time the brown and tan versions suffice for errands such as runs to the car wash.
Joe is unique among the shirtmakers I know in that his tailoring operations give him the ability to work with heavier cloth, unlike others who may literally be unable to sew a 21 ounce moleskin. And this is cost effective for, without padding and lining, a shirt jacket is all machine sewing which does not require the services of a conventional tailor. And that may save a few dollars, which helps pay for the requisite caps and neckerchiefs that are a part of the look. But I digress....
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
In the photo, Bresciani's scarlet silk socks (perhaps the brightest on the planet, courtesy of Kabbaz Kelly) are paired with Edward Green pumps and the trousers from a midnight blue double breasted dinner jacket. Above the waist, a white pleated shirt with turndown collar, a black bow tie in the Charvet shape, a gold and mother of pearl dress set and a white silk pocket square. The entire ensemble was headed for opening night at the San Francisco symphony.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Sunday, September 5, 2010
September in the northern hemisphere is the time to begin the semi-annual chore of having the spring/summer clothing cleaned and pressed before it is bagged and put away for the season, because even invisible dirt can attract moths. You see, 18 months ago I stopped sending my tailored clothing out as the best cleaning service I have been able to find in the San Francisco area was pressing my jacket lapels incorrectly. Collars would no longer lie down properly and lapel rolls came back looking like nothing the tailor who made them had ever imagined. So I stopped.
Of course, one thing led to another and I did not begin sending my stuff out again until this summer. After all, my clothing is bagged for half the year and I would spot clean, steam, and do a little pressing of my own so things looked all right while they were in the active rotation. But after testing RAVE Fabricare on a few items I resolved to rotate my wardrobe through there at the rate of a couple garments a week.
So last week I sent in the first of the fall/winter things, a chalk striped navy flannel that is an old favorite, and I will bet that some readers have already guessed the punch line. I promptly had email from Stu, the CEO of RAVE, letting me know that there was evidence of moth larvae in no fewer than five places (larvae don't necessarily create holes but they do weaken the cloth and create the possibility that holes will appear during cleaning or wear). Lesson learned. I hope the damage is limited to one or two suits but I am not optimistic.
In conclusion, the voice of experience says that every item in the seasonal wardrobe should be first repaired and then cleaned and pressed before it is put away from the season. Deviate at your own risk.
Saturday, September 4, 2010
The season's best tweed cap is on the ASW store shelves as I write. Shaped like the caps worn by the Prince of Wales in the 1930's and made by the capmaker to English royalty, these are satin lined on the inside and John G. Hardy's world-renowned Alsport tweed on the outside. Warm and rain-resistant, they are offered in three colorways: the lovely gun club on a mid-brown ground in the photo, a blue/gray herringbone and a light olive with gold and rust overchecks. Wear them with a scarf and a tweed odd jacket, a shirt jacket or a heavy sweater. And put one of Michael Drake's wool and silk pocket squares in the pocket of the jacket (they are in the new arrivals section of the store). I have but twenty of them and last year they didn't last long.
On a completely different note, we now have what appears to be a working voicemailbox for anyone who would like to submit a clothing-related question that he or she would like answered on a future ASW podcast. Call (800) 578-8605 toll-free from within the United States or +1 (775) 473-9592 from anywhere else in the world, at any time. Press 9 at the prompt to reach the podcast voicemailbox and begin speaking at the tone. Identify yourself, where you are calling from, and ask away. I have to reserve the right to choose those questions that I believe will be the most interesting to listeners but hopefully that will be all of them. We expect to begin podcasting as soon as we get the rest of the reverberation out of the system...
Friday, September 3, 2010
This essay was originally intended to be a review of the reprint of the cult classic Take Ivy (powerHouse Books), about which in the end I can only say that it was not worth my time (I guess that statement does make this a book review, if a brief one).
Perhaps I am jaded as I was at school in the Ivy League shortly after the original was published and it brought those years back when I saw it. But the joy of that experience was the photography and, sadly, the photos in the new edition are underwhelming. In the authors' defense, they did include the Yale University dress code of the time, and a recommended Ivy League wardrobe, both of which seem to me to be useful today (I found myself checking to make certain I had trousers in the requisite colors). But that was all.
Much more worth while in my opinion is the series CLOSE UP AND PRIVATE, the source of the illustration. CLOSE UP is a visual multi-media project by Sergei Sviatchenko that looks to capture the spirit of modern style, a style that in his interpretation has a lot in common with American trad or prep.
UP CLOSE AND PRIVATE is so named because because it represents Sviatchenko's method of getting up close to the clothes so the focus is exclusively on them, and in a way it is making something public that is usually private. At least, it is private everywhere but here at ASW, where no detail is too small.
Check it out.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
I was the only man (on jury duty) who didn't work for the court and who was wearing a suit. Or a tie. Or a dress shirt. There's something really weird going on in our culture, where people seem to have replaced decorating their bodies with clothes with decorating them with tattoos, then wearing as little clothing as possible to show them off -- and it's usually the last people who should be wearing as little clothing as possible.
I've recently gotten into the early years of Dallas again on DVD. While I know it's just a TV show, so I can't say how accurate it is and I'm not old enough to remember, I can't help but notice how most of the men on the show wear suits and ties almost all the time -- and when they're dressed casually, like on a weekend, it's usually in a sports jacket and open-collared dress shirt. I also notice how, whenever a man is working in his office in his shirtsleeves and his secretary buzzes him to say he has a guest, he always gets up and puts his suit jacket on before the person walks in. We've gone in 30 years from men who don't want to be seen in their shirtsleeves to men who don't want to wear shirts with sleeves.
Photo: Horiyoshi III (Yoshihito Nakano)
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
In addition to the cost of labor of course, and that is about 2/3 of the cost of a hand-tailored suit, a cut length of cloth for the typical hand-made suit costs more than most moderately priced ready to wear suits.