Sunday, October 31, 2010
James Sherwood's Bespoke: The Men's Style of Savile Row is a 5 1/2 pound (2.5 kilo) coffee-table sized book and that is all the better to show off the wonderful photography. A mixture of the familiar, some rarely-seen older shots and contemporary work by Guy Hills and others, Bespoke is a visual treat. And, oh yes, it also continues the Row's recent efforts to market itself with the story of the usual tailoring subjects, from Ede & Ravenscroft to Timothy Everest.
Though there is a two-page spread on the making of a suit, Bespoke is about style, tailors and the men who wear, or wore, the clothes rather than the making of them or how to dress well. And, after decades of "how to dress" books, that is a mildly refreshing change. It is in this case better to see a photo of a model wearing a contemporary Anderson & Sheppard smoking jacket embroidered spectacularly by London's Hand & Lock than to be told once again that the smoking is worn only at home or at one's club.
The book's 256 pages are organized into sections, each providing read-it-already information on subjects ranging from royal customers to film star customers and accompanied by profiles of several of the tailors that best represent the topic (I hadn't heard of two of the firms mentioned but Terry Haste and John Kent may be on the outs as they are not). Of course, it would be virtually impossible to write completely original material when a significant fraction of the firms involved in the project have already published books about themselves and the material is well presented.
Carrying a $65 list price (already discounted to $40.95 on Amazon) in the United States, Bespoke should be part of the library of everyone interested in classic men's clothing. Immediately following its purchase, the most dedicated followers of style will no doubt be inquiring about smoking jacket embroidery by Hand & Lock.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Cashmere comes naturally in tones of mid-grey, cafe au lait and a dirty cream and the ASW pullovers are offered in those same colorways: gray flannel, natural and cream. That means that the colors are purer, and with proper care should literally last for more than one generation without fading. Wear them on holiday or the weekend with a tweed cap, chambray shirt, moleskin trousers, chukka boots and a neckerchief.
The pullovers are not all by any means. There are pure silk sized-to-fit over the calf (no sock suspenders required) hose for dressy occasions in black, midnight blue and burgundy, a navy cashmere scarf that reverses to dark green ancient madder silk and a new shipment of the Fair Isle sleeveless vests that sold out quickly in most sizes after they arrived in August. With more yet to come...
Friday, October 29, 2010
Posted by Will at 7:23 AM
Thursday, October 28, 2010
D. José María Reille is President of the Tailor's Club in Madrid, an organization of 25 of Spanish tailoring's leading lights, as well as one of the city's best regarded practitioners. And that is no mean feat. The best Spanish tailoring is of the highest quality, something that is most visible in the dress of the Spanish royal family.
Reille's suits run 2,000 to 3,000 euros (US $2,700-$4,200), less expensive than prices for London's best and considerably better than the New York shops. Like the tailors of Naples, the tailors of Madrid also invest 25-50% more time in each garment. That means more handwork and generally better detailing in each piece.
In the photos, a gentleman with the nom de plume of El Aristocrata is fitted by Reille for a suit of Harrisons of Edinburgh Premier Cru worsted weighing 11 ounces/330grams. It is comprised of a single breasted jacket and a double breasted vest. Much of the detailing is not visible in the photos of course but for example, the vest has two tabs that button it to the trousers so that it rides on the body without exposing the shirt.
From my limited experience with Madrid tailoring, the only thing holding back that city's practitioners from greater acceptance on a larger stage is that, like most Neapolitans, they do not travel to their customers. But in an era where men who prefer bespoke clothing increasingly are forced to travel to obtain it anyway, Madrid's relatively easy air access is likely to help it grow in tailoring importance.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Perhaps the most esoteric product I have seen announced but nonetheless one that combines two items on many a man's fantasy wish list is the Ferrari-specific in-car cigar humidor that is a joint effort of Cohiba, the Cuban cigar brand, and the car-maker.
Tested to require no installation on the F430 and 599GTB, and visually compatible from the rubber tire bumpers on the sides to the similarly styled included cigar pouch, the Ferrari in-car humidor was presumeably some product manager's good idea of how to get a little publicity because I doubt if many of them have been sold (for one thing, in the United States at least Ferraris are usually red or sometimes black but rarely yellow - Lamborghinis are yellow).
Of course, U.S. ideas about Ferrari color are fairly irrelevent to this particular offering as the inclusion of a dozen Cohiba Siglo VI cigars means the humidor package is illegal here. But at Ferrari stores outside the USA the price is the currency equivalent of $885 including those Siglos which which would cost a quarter of that price separately. The car is about $500,000 extra.
Truly a gift for the man who has everything, including citizenship in another country.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
WingTip, On the Fly's member-only club in San Francisco, is hosting a launch party for Wolverine's limited edition 721LTD Horween Shell Cordovan 1,000 Mile Boot tonight from 5-8PM at 560 Sacramento Street (between Sansome & Montgomery).
In addition to Wolverine unveiling the boots, the event is catered; Russell's Rye Reserve will be hosting a rye tasting; and KeaLani from A Shine & Co. will be doing complimentary boot shines.
Wolverine, the American work boot manufacture founded in 1883, is releasing the 721LTD as part of its 1000 Mile collection (boots purported to last the wearer 1000 walking miles). The $725 721LTD is made in the USA of Horween color 8 shell cordovan and limited to 1,000 hand-numbered pairs that are packaged with basswood shoe trees and a certificate of authenticity. The shaft and tongue are unlined shell, which is softer and suppler around the ankle and instep.
Disclosure: I will be the man standing near the rye tasting station for much of the evening.
Block stripe neckties are relatively easy to wear with patterned jackets - the one in the photo even pairs well with the notoriously difficult to complement London Lounge gun club tweed that I have been struggling to mate with anything more complicated than a midnight blue sold (see for example the less than completely succssful combination here).
Still settling on the shoulders 14 ounce/420 gram Donegal tweed jacket by W. Bill tailored by W. W. Chan, light blue Simonnot-Godard voile shirt made by Hemrajani and block stripe necktie by E&G Cappelli. The square is Michael Drake's.
Monday, October 25, 2010
The rains arrived in Northern California the other day, bringing cool weather and a photo I used a year ago with them. That meant that flannel trouser days had begun and, frankly, if cool weather must come then nicely mottled woolen flannel trousers are one of the good things that come with it (worsted versions have their place but they don't tend to have the same look).
Woolen flannel weights begin around twelve ounces, or 360 grams and thirteen ounces/390 grams is the norm. The readily available stuff that I know of goes up to Holland & Sherry's 17 ounce/510 gram cloth, with plenty of choices in the sweet spot at the middle of that range. Between the weight and the uncut surface of the cloth, outdoor temperatures for woolen trousers probably top around sixty degrees (about 16 Celsius) but that leaves plenty of days to wear them. Have them in light gray, mid-gray, dark gray, cream and brown to complement all types of cool weather jackets and add a pair in a soft green if you can find the cloth.
Now of those colors the mid-gray is probably the most useful and cream the most neglected. I believe it was Alan Flusser who wrote that if a man is considering a new jacket and cannot see gray flannel trousers complementing it then he should look for another jacket, and that is true enough. But gray flannel is over-used with the navy blazer. Try wearing cream instead a time or two and be pleasantly surprised (Dormeuil has a version, as does Holland & Sherry).
That said, it is raining again today and I shall be wearing flannel trousers.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
It may not last quite as long as the alternatives, but in my opinion crepe soles make for the most comfortable shoes a man can wear. Attach them to a pair of suede chukka boots or a chunky pair of bluchers and there is nothing better for walking around on holiday or weekends in the fall and early spring.
I say fall and early spring because crepe does not like bitter cold or excessive heat. Crepe soles are made from sheets of rubber called Plantation crepe, which gets rigid in the first case and sticky in the second. Either condition is easily fixable but neither is found on rainy 50 degree days (about 10 degrees Celsius) when crepe's traction in the wet is most appreciated.
When the season's first pair of moleskin trousers comes out of the closet, remember the crepe-soled chukkas.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Several new scarves have arrived at the ASW store, including Michael Drake's wool and silk Mogul print in two colorways. There are also a new lambswool Fair Isle design that complements my Fair Isle sleeveless slipover (and there is a new shipment of those expected next week that includes both medium and extra-large sizes), a couple of windowpane checks woven in a very fine Merino wool and an outstanding fringed flannel-gray cashmere that reverses to madder-printed silk.
And thank you to everyone who participated in the Simonnot-Godard and Cappelli special orders. Both were much better received than I ever expected.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Wool neckties complement cool weather jackets like the Donegal tweed in the photo. Pair them with a silk square to get some contrast in texture as well as some sheen.
Donegal tweed of course is the stuff from Ireland with semi-random flecks of color adding interest to an otherwise plain twill or herringbone weave. Most of it is mechanically loomed by Magee of Donegal (mechanically loomed versions are also available from cloth merchants Scabal and Holland & Sherry among others, though those might also have originated at Magee as it is apparently responsible for about 85% of the total yardage produced), and is characterized by a relatively smooth, regular weave. There is also hand loomed Donegal available from W. Bill, Kevin and Howlin, and individual weavers in cottages that is softer and has more loft. The hand loomed stuff tailors into a slightly more interesting jacket but may be too loosely woven for trousers. The machine loomed cloth is intended for suits and coats.
14 ounce/420 gram Donegal tweed jacket by W. Bill tailored by W. W. Chan and light blue nailhead shirt by Hemrajani. Both the cashmere necktie and the silk square are by Michael Drake.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Two ladies in the workshop of Finollo, the Genoa, Italy haberdasher that may be the most expensive shirtmaker in Europe but is certainly one of the best, embroider otherwise solid-colored neckties to order. It takes about twenty minutes to add a sailboat, a ladybug or yachting flags with the wearer's initials.
The ties are made by hand, with a very thin lining and no keeper of any kind. The embroidery is done with cotton thread.
Like Charvet in Paris, another great haberdasher, Finollo is too secure to bother with a web site. Stop at via Roma 38 the next time you head for Portofino, or ask a friend to go there for you. One did for me.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
"Wanna know if a man is well dressed? Look down." So said the late George Frazier, author of The Art of Wearing Clothes, the 1960 article in Esquire that may have been the best thing ever written about mens' clothing. In today's ten minute podcast, shoe care professional Kealani Lada talks about how to keep leather shoes looking good for those times when people are going to be looking at them.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Thomas Mahon is the next English tailor to visit San Francisco in October. He makes double breasteds for me (I like the shoulders) and came bearing a mid-gray 9 1/2 ounce Lesser to fit for next Spring, But first we started with a look at the charcoal 14 ounce hopsack that he sent to me last week (see his post on English Cut). Of course its arrival was another case of summer returning full force so I could only bear to have it on for a minute, long enough to tell that though my weight has not changed it may have redistributed itself somewhat as the coat needs a little more room across the chest. The right trouser leg is also a smidge too long, so the whole thing is going back for adjustment. It is a lovely suit and will hopefully return before we are too far into 2011, but that remains to be seen given the pending change in Thomas' life.
You see, Thomas is soon to be a father for the first time, which the fathers reading this know means he will not be getting any sleep for several months. I do not know how to judge the odds as to whether his backlog of work is going to reduce or increase when this occurs but my suit is hostage.
With the dark gray suit looked at, Thomas marked up the light gray (2010 somehow got to be a big year for solid grays in the order book of my life). I should see that suit in the spring and if that season is anything like the version we had this past year temperatures will be too cool to wear it. The thought was truly disturbing. And, if there is not already enough gray in my life, next in the pipeline is a black and cream check of an odd jacket that must inevitably look gray from a distance.
The photos alas were taken in a small artificially lit room without a flash.
Monday, October 18, 2010
These patterns are mostly the influence of the Scots, if you will, and for several reasons. The first is Scotland's influence on British style, stemming from the evolution of the black and white shepherd's plaid into the broad range of tweed designs intended to blend into the Scottish countryside. And, secondly, it is cold in Scotland so those patterns tend to be worn in the fall and winter. Finally, though I do not know what they do in India and China these days, the best textiles have always been woven in colder climates with pure and very cold water with which to finish the cloth. And so the mills weaving suiting cloth in Britain tended to be located in Scotland.
Now I grant you that the patterns in most business suits are more subdued than today's herringbone, but that has as much to do with the "nothing too bold or it might not sell" inclination of the large retailer as it does the understandable desire of the businessperson to dress in clothes that will not get in the way of concluding a business transaction. But that should not rule out the chalk stripe or the glen check, and away from the office there is no reason to limit one's choices.
For fall is patterned.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
LNP, as I will call them for short, offers a couple dozen bow tie designs that are not lying around in just any neckwear emporium. The company, whose taste is as French as its Australian location is not, does what I consider its best work with fairly formal patterns in combinations of black, white, navy and silver. And though a few of its offerings are too forward for yours truly, most appear to be beautifully executed in shapes that are distinctive without being over the top.
Shortly after establishing email contact with founder Nicholas Atgemis, the photo's diamond pointed Costa tie in navy Mogador silk with white vertical stripes was winging its way to California. The make of the sample is professional, the silk is heavy and the shape good looking as well as unique in my experience.
Pricing ranges from about $100 USD (the U.S. and Australian dollar are near parity) to as much as $275. Most models are in the $125-$155 range.
I only have the one data point so far but based on that one experience, Le Noeud Papillon appears to be a bow tie supplier worthy of recommendation.
Friday, October 15, 2010
At close range the coat is a black and brown herringbone that will be worn with a fedora in milder weather and an Astrakhan Ambassador when it is cold. Now the question becomes whether to choose silver or black for the fur. What do you think?
Thursday, October 14, 2010
With no adjustments required on the suit, we spent a few minutes looking unsuccessfully for a light gray gabardine heavier than nine ounces (too wrinkle-prone) and some 13 ounce white cashmere for a waistcoat that I could wear with the checked gray flannel that will be for next Fall.
Single breasted suit with double breasted waistcoat by Davies & Son worn with Michael Drake's mid-blue grenadine necktie and a DJA shirting by Joe Hemrajani. The pocket square was in the jacket I wore to the fitting.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
As ASW store shoppers know, I also began offering lengths of the "chambray" shirting on the store this past summer. And then in an unexpected turn of events, a customer wrote to tell me that the cloth I had sent him was not the Simonnot-Godard chambray he had purchased a couple of years ago. "Uh oh" says I and lo and behold, after several emails digging into the background of this discrepancy Benjamin offered to send me a sample of his chambray.
And so the photo shows two swatches of the real Simonnot-Godard chambray atop a length of the voile from the same maker that I have been calling chambray. The real thing has a somewhat more open weave and an ever so slightly rougher hand than the voile; indeed, had I been given the choice of one or the other I would have taken the voile despite of or perhaps because of its lack of typical voile characteristics like light weight and translucency. But it is definitely a different weave.
From Simonnot-Godard's point of view of course this is all perfectly understandable. They make the best handkerchiefs in the world, and offer on the side one type of shirting to their good handkerchief customers who want something a little different (can't blame them as they probably get ten times the money for a square centimeter of handkerchief that they do for the same amount of shirting). A while back, they decided that they like the voile weave better than the chambray and so they switched what they keep on hand.
A clear case of lost in translation if I ever saw one.
I am by the way going to have them weave a length of the original chambray in light blue if the customer who knows the difference still wants some. Given the minimum involved I will have quite a bit left over so should anyone else want a shirt length or six, please send me email.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
The most common ready to wear man's suit style is notch lapelled, with a two button front and side pockets with flaps. That is roughly mid-way along the jacket formality scale.
Generally, the closer a jacket's styling is to that of men's evening clothes, the more formal it is (as we will see later, cloth is significantly less of a factor). That places a single breasted jacket with a single button, peak lapels and jetted pockets without flaps at the top of the formality pyramid.
By this logic, a double breasted suit jacket with the same detailing is not quite as formal as a single breasted, for double breasted dinner jackets were introduced as less formal versions of their single breasted forebears.
Descending the formality scale, notched lapels on a single breasted jacket are less formal then peak. From there, the more complex the detailing the more casual the effect. So flapped pockets are less formal than flapless and patch side pockets even less so; add a patch breast pocket and formality declines further. Put flaps on those patches and we are as casual as casual can be.
Something similar holds true for other stuff. More buttons are less formal than fewer. Swelled lapel seams are less formal than plain, and features that originated in hunting jackets such as belts and shoulder pleats are the least formal of all.
All of this leads up to the conclusion that details are more important to a jacket's formality than cloth because it was not uncommon for pre-War style leaders to combine less formal cloth with more formal details in their city suits (though never the reverse). In the illustration, the late British Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden walks through the Place Vendôme wearing a suit of relatively formal design made of a fairly informal checked flannel cloth.
If not proof, then certainly a strong indication that jacket formality is principally in the details.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Click on the player to listen to the interview.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
The stitching on the cashmere cable-knit rollneck.
And the neck detailing on the jersey vee-neck pullover.
But there is more to life than just photos and so there should be a new stock of the Fair Isle vests arriving late next week as well as cable-stitched Scottish cashmere crew necks and Astrakhan Ambassador hats. Not to mention new scarves, sock designs, unlined cashmere neckties, pocket squares and more...
Friday, October 8, 2010
As places to cut and sew go, there can be few better.
Posted by Will at 7:00 AM
Thursday, October 7, 2010
George Glasgow of bespoke shoemaker G.J. Cleverley & Co has said more than once that there are no new shoe styles, merely newly recycled ones. By that standard there are half a dozen freshly resurrected reasons to visit the Cleverley trunk show while it is in the United States this season.
The company is visiting cities in the United States through the end of October. Details are on the web site.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
And then there are the shoes, which after the usual year's wait have to be re-made when one of them is too long despite two previous fittings. They were ordered 18 months ago, delivered in their first iteration six months ago, and ready for fitting in November. That means it will be spring at best before they are ready for wear. Two years, if all goes well.
Of course, having things made takes longer when one is unable to travel and needs to wait for the makers to visit. And so I am reminded once again that the visiting artisan process, whether cordwainer, tailor or other craft, works much better when the customer visits the artisan at least half the time instead of waiting passively for his or her periodic local appearances.
Bespoke takes effort on the part of the customer as well as the part of the maker.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Felt hats are useful things and I would wear them more often if they were suited for travel in cold climes. Sadly, there is just no infrastructure around for their support. A felt hat placed in an airplane's overhead compartment is unlikely to survive the experience and hat boxes are a lot to lug around (the packable fur Astrakhan has a distinct advantage for winter travel, being formal enough to wear with a suit).
At home, felts are worn principally for shade while driving with the top open as well as to stay dry in a light rain. We do have plenty of rain here in the Bay area, heavy as well as light, and its time is just a month away. Even so, hat wearing is anything but a daily occurrence. Three felts seem to provide enough variety for once or twice a week donning: I rotate a porkpie, a small fedora that was supposed to be a cavalier and a homburg that is looking as though its best days are behind it.
And so I am thinking about a replacement, a lord's hat in black, or midnight blue beaver if Optimo Hat Company has the felt. The lord's hat, a version of the homburg with pinches and an unbound brim, looks like the hat on the right in the Fellow's illustration, one of his better-known works that helped popularize the wearing of a light sweater as a vest under a suit in this country.
The thing about the color is that midnight blue is more handsome in my opinion, but a black hat would better accompany the black and brown herringbone overcoat that Peter Harvey is making for me. On the other hand, the coat is too heavy to wear in California, and there is that question as to whether the hat would accompany us on trips (the coat and I, that is).
It remains a matter to be resolved.
Monday, October 4, 2010
By Jonathan Lai
Chan's finish level is excellent, and has been elevated in recent years. The pick stitching on the garment is neater, cleaner and more abundant than in either the Baromon or Yao garments. Chan suits also come standard with horn buttons, whereas the other houses use plastic exclusively. The level of quality and an amiable compliance with even the most outlandish requests are good reasons to see Chan, though those who wish to supply their own cloth for CMT (cut make trim) should look elsewhere as the house does not accept third-party cloth.
W.W. Chan Limited
A2, 2/F., Burlington House
94 Nathan Road
Kowloon, Hong Kong
Telephone: (852) 2366 9738
Sunday, October 3, 2010
The following are some French web sites that RJ finds interesting. Use Google Translate as necessary.
-Artisans’ collective un jour un artisan featuring Mary Beyer, one of the last traditional glovemakers in France.
-Depot Vente - Paris Luxe is one of the better vintage shops in Paris and also ships internationally.
-Galierie - Arte et Design is another artisans’ site featuring leathergoods maker Beynat & Janniaux.
-Ultiman Paris offers vintage cufflinks and accessories.
-Bespoke cufflink-maker Rosset et Gaulejac.
-Leathergoods makers Duret Paris.
-Shagreen products by Jacques Robin at Cuirs d'Ocean.
-Leather games maker and bespoke shoemakers Deuce.
-Chapal Paris, motoring leathers.
The photo is a scan from the Sotheby's catalog for the 1998 auction of the posessions of the late British dandy Bunny Roger. Today, the same auction might well be on the world wide web.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
That situation changed after I was introduced to better quality hosiery. I think it must have been a couple pair of cashmere socks, purchased at what seemed then to be great cost, that were returned to me in a no longer wearable condition. After one wearing. It was then that I learned that quality socks, particularly the over the calf version that need some tension around the calf to be wearable without sock garters, don't survive rough laundering. On the other hand they last indefinitely when washed on the delicate cycle in cold water and dried on a line. So I began washing them myself.
One thing leading to another, when I polled people about the ASW store this summer regarding what they wanted to see on the store, the most requested item was socks. That happened to be top of my list as well, so no further encouragement was necessary. And this week, the first of them have arrived.
I will be adding more patterns and more colors over the remainder of 2010 and into next year, but one thing will never change. And that is cold water wash, line dry.
Friday, October 1, 2010
Hong Kong tailor Gordon Yao (no website) strikes an unexpected balance between the conservatism of Baromon and W. W. Chan’s more progressive approach to tailoring. Yao cuts a lightweight jacket with a looser, more relaxed silhouette that is not only comfortable, but appropriate for the strictest of business environments. The chest comes with some drape, a counterpoint to the straight, extended shoulders that sit on a formidable block of padding. Sleeves and legs are relaxed and relatively full. The default waist treatment is less suppressed than the other tailors provide, but has a fuller aesthetic that is consistent with the rest of the silhouette.
Beautiful buttonholes and hand stitching are not reasons to see Gordon Yao. Instead, he uses his good eye for what will complement a customer’s body to deliver a lightweight, non-constrictive machine-made suit for less than $800 plus cloth (a price roughly comparable to the other two when cloth is included), dispensing recommendations regarding style and design with gusto at every step along the way. And since Baromon does not travel and Chan does not accept cloth from customers, prospective clients in search of a Hong Kong tailor to realize their CMT experiments on tour may find him the best and only choice.
Yao tours the United States each June and November, accompanying shirtmaker Ascot Chang. On tour, he takes measurements of one’s best-fitting garment and of the client. Digital photographs provide a third reference point for virtual consultations between trips. No fittings are offered on tour, however, so clients must take a leap of faith from measurement to delivery unless they conveniently find themselves in Hong Kong between tour dates. While the standard battery of fittings and appointments are naturally available at the company’s storefront, the results from exclusively on-tour interaction is impressive given the margin of error, but not perfect - the sleeves on my suit were delivered three quarters of an inch too long, a condition that awaits my next trip to Hong Kong for adjustment.
Gordon Yao & Co.
Shop 116, The Royal Garden Hotel
69 Mody Road
Kowloon, Hong Kong
Telephone: (852) 2730 1545