Monday, January 31, 2011
Sunday, January 30, 2011
At any rate, what are usually called year-round suits are anything but. Too cool for winter and too warm for summer, mid-weight suits are generally made from 10 ounce/300 gram or lighter cloth, a reasonable weight for 3-6 months of the year depending on the local climate.The rest of the time they leave a man's legs too cold beneath his overcoat, or force him to remove his jacket in the heat of a New York subway (admittedly, sometimes even the lightest of suits are too warm for that environment). And mid-weights are unfortunately some of the least interesting suits a guy can have as well, being worsted wool generally. Some might be blended with a bit of mohair but woolen flannel and tweed cannot be woven as mid-weight cloth.
I do not know any of these year-round suit men so I can only imagine that they are new to bespoke tailoring and looking for something that will give them a lot of wear. Mid-weight suits will do that, in fact I have written before that they should be the first suits in a man's wardrobe. But they ought to be joined by lighter weight suitings for the heat, and heavier suitings for the cold as quickly as budget allows.
So order some flannels. There is no such thing as a year-round suit.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Men of average height can forget that those taller and smaller can have trouble finding quality clothing that fits them off the rack, and one of those less-thought-about fit areas is over the calf hose where a tall man's long lower leg can, for example, turn ordinary socks into too-short irritants that constantly fall down (this, and the problems faced by shorter men are the principal reason that mid-calf socks still sell with some regularity).
That said, men who do not fit into standard sizes can have socks made to measure, and the purpose of today's post is to ascertain whether there might be interest in perfectly fitting and beautifully knit socks when the minimum order is 24 of a color in good quality wool for $600. In other words, a fairly complete dress wardrobe consisting of two dozen navy and two dozen gray with contrasting clocks, or some similarly discreet pattern, would be $1,200. Cold water wash and line dry for years of wear.
Made to measure socks are based on the length of a man's foot measured from his heel to the tip of his toes, and the height he requires from the floor to the top of the elastic.
There is a lead time of 4-6 weeks including time in transit, and if there is reasonable interest I will automate the entire process and make made to measure socks available every day on the ASW store.
Please use the contact form to email expressions of interest should you have them.
Friday, January 28, 2011
Perhaps influenced by President Obama's State of the Union address the other day, the driver from DHL who brought the photo's chocolate brown W. S. Foster casual semi-brogues shoes to my door asked why I did not just get shoes made in the "good old U.S.A." Loathe to get into a politically charged discussion after the mess I apparently made of Wednesday's Stone post, I mumbled something incomprehensible and signed his receipt as hastily as possible.
I suppose I should not get too excited about the second coming (no, this is not a religious post either) of shoes that were ordered two years ago. They fit, and that is a relief, but then bespoke shoes are supposed to fit and usually do.
It was the usually do part that was the thing with these. One of them, I believe it was the left but am too lazy to go back and look, originally arrived a quarter of an inch too long, which is Not A Good Thing for a slipon. The good folks at Foster's took them back and re-made them of course (I am told the originals are offered for sale in Foster's Jermyn Street store at a huge discount that might make them interesting to anyone who wears a Euro 41 1/2, UK 8 1/2 or US 9). My part in the matter was the most difficult - I sat and waited for most of another year - but that is over now.
The intervening time brought one small benefit and that is the new-to-Foster's oversized box that the shoes were packed in. It is designed to be labelled and then presumably to sit on a shelf waiting for its contents to be called upon. It is nice to know that I could use it that way if I wanted but my shoe shelves are packed too tightly to fit the box.
The important thing is that they fit!
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Pocket squares with complex patterns, like Rubinacci's design in the photo, are not only beautiful to look at but can be arranged so that the visible portion of the silk in a breast pocket complements a wider variety of clothing than one might expect.
It was still frigid in New York the last time I looked but San Francisco and Naples have been enjoying an early spring, with sunshine encouraging lighter colors. In the photo, a green oxford necktie is paired with a light blue royal oxford cloth shirt, my mid-weight tan glen check and the Capodimonte square whose azure, gold, green and white tells of spring.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Perhaps tired of too many obscure posts about neckties, a reader sent me a link the other day to Roger Stones' 2010 Best and Worst Dressed list. Stone, a controversial conservative political consultant in the United States, is pictured online looking fairly well dressed himself, save for the unfortunate half inch of air space between his jacket collar and the back of his neck. Not that I am being critical, mind you. I will leave it to he who has never published a photo of himself with his trousers puddled around his ankles to cast the first stone before joining in the fun.
At any rate, Mr. Stone's politics may differ from my own but his taste in dress appears similar. He expresses admiration for Charlie Watts as well as HRH Prince Charles and Alan Flusser (none of them Republicans so far as I know). We can pick nits regarding some of the rest, but I have been among those who complain that the pickings are slim among public figures these dark days and Stone has included a representative sampling of the usual as well as some less well-known exemplars. The musician Wynton Marsalis, for example, deserves more attention than he usually receives.
Truly, great style has no ideology.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
In the photo, a dark navy knit tie is worn with a blue serge suit and a lilac end on end shirt. Lilac is an under-appreciated color that in my opinion does a better job of complementing navy blue than the more commonly seen pink. Save the pink to wear with black ties and gray suits.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Perhaps my favorite neckties are those made from silk grenadine. Grenadine is a woven silk that makes a finer, and so more formal, version of a knit tie. Most of the world's grenadine is made by an Italian mill, Fermo Fossati, where old shuttle looms weave stuff that literally cannot be made with modern high-speed equipment.
To my surprise, I learned recently that Fossati weaves two types of grenadine, the more common being the honeycomb patterned Garza Grossa in the first photo that is used for neckties by makers including Michael Drake and Sam Hober (David Hober provided the formal names for the two weaves).
The other weave, Grenadine Garza Fina, is finer, and more suitable for patterned neckties than the Grossa. It also makes an interesting solid tie on its own - still textured but more mannered than the larger weave.
And that is the second type of grenadine.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Regular readers know that I like a shirt jacket instead of an odd jacket on weekend days when I will not be wearing a necktie. Unlike odd jackets, shirt jackets are not usually lined, and that means they do not wear quite warm enough for cool days, even the ones made from 14 ounce/400 gram tweed. Adding a scarf does not do the trick either, for the chill comes right through the jacketing when that is all there is to protect the wearer. The usual solution is a sweater of course, but, especially since some feel the shirt jacket is unorthodox to begin with, an odd vest may be a more original way to compound one's heresy.
In the photo, a waistcoat from W. Bill's 14 ounce/400 gram tattersall is worn with a royal oxford cloth shirt, gray flannel trousers and a Shetland shirt jacket. Below the waist, brown kiltied slipon shoes and argyle socks. A paisley neckerchief completes the day's clothing.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Marty Robbins, who wrote the 1957 song about white sport coats and pink carnations, might have been proud this week for pink carnations of watered silk newly abound at the ASW store, together with their white relations. They are just in time for prom and evening wedding boutonnieres respectively, joining the dark red versions that have been popular among ASW store customers these past six months. In Accessories.
Pink carnations may not be the first harbingers of spring in the real world but they are at the store. A few new Cappelli neckties have arrived, to be followed by some of Michael Drake's knits and then masses of new things for the season over the coming weeks.
I hope to see you at the store.
Friday, January 21, 2011
The tan and maroon on a black ground madder necktie in the photograph is surely the oldest in my active rotation, dating as it does to the late Mark Cross chain of leathergoods stores that the Sara Lee Corporation purchased and then closed down in 1997 after coming to the brilliant realization that said chain had nothing at all to do with cheesecakes and breakfast pastries. That was a rather ignominous end to a great name but it did leave me with a thirty year-old necktie that I still enjoy.
I like that particular paisley with dark gray suits that complement the black ground. It is paired with an ecru shirt, a tan and cream silk square, maroon hose with clocks and dark brown oxfords. And the aforesaid dark gray hopsack where, to my dismay, the jacket button appears to be pulling just a bit despite the fact that the coat only arrived back from the tailor the other day after a several month visit to have that very problem addressed. But we will get it squared away eventually.
Neckties of course grow narrower and wider over the years. I have found it useful to set aside a drawer in some out of the way space and there roll up the best examples of each no longer fashionable width to await their inevitable return to currency. I have a supply of 7 cm (2 3/4") and 9.5 cm (3 3/4") widths should I ever need them again, which unfortunately is more than I can say for the Mark Cross stores.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
The two collections arrived without context. There was nothing to explain the thinking that put them in front of me shortly after I brushed the snow from my overcoat. Perhaps the publishers expected that I would enjoy a metaphorical respite from the cold. It just seemed strange, though I will admit that I saw a man wearing shorts beneath his parka yesterday. But polo shirts? Brrr. It can only be a sign that the seasons will be changing.
That said, I also spoke with Stephen Temkin of Toronto, the entrepreneur behind Leon Drexler, a newish hatmaker there, and we agreed that he would make me a brown Lord's Hat, a version of the homburg most recently popularized fifty years ago by Lord Anthony Eden (the hat-wearing gentleman in the photo). My friend Francesco was wearing a vintage homburg in the Milanese rain the other day and looked great. The challenge for Mr. Temkin of course is to finish the hat before the end of the season so that it can be worn once or twice before the straws come out.
And he does not seem to have much time. For the arrival of those catalogs surely meant that the end of winter is imminent.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
There are many tailors in Naples, most of them cutting too Neapolitan a style for my taste (too tight and too short). There is fine work coming out of Rubinacci of course, but, to paraphrase the late Arnold Gingrich, founder of Esquire magazine, I like to order too many things each year to pay those prices. And then there is Gennaro Solito, open collared on a Saturday in the photo, whose tailoring combines a moderate version of the informal Neapolitan look, excellent quality and moderate pricing. It is no coincidence that necktie makers Maurizio Marinella and Michael Drake are both clients.
The Solito workrooms are in a separate apartment. In the public showroom he cuts his conservative, soft shouldered coats at the table in the photo. He will make jacket and trousers, or only the jacket, collaborating with the trousermaking Ambrosis who are perhaps 200 yards (180 meters) away.
Jacket and trousers are about 1,800 Euros ($2,400) plus cloth.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Before the serious business of dining at All'Antico Ristoro Di Cambi in Florence last week came the serious business of reviewing the autumn/winter menu for Drakes London. And it was definitely hungry work - simply browsing the necktie, scarf and pocket square offerings took several hours.
Among the house specialties once again are silk and wool squares in sizes for pocket and neck, with new patterns as well as familiar ones. They are joined by a large assortment of madders and an oversized paisley scarf that is one of the larger pieces of silk I have ever seen off of a bolt.
Turning the page, there were almost as many cashmere and woolen neckties to choose from as there were pasta shapes later in the evening, including the black and cream suiting patterns at the lower left in the photo.
It all made for a very satisfying meal, as did the food later on.
Monday, January 17, 2011
Richard Kew, the man in the photograph, was reigning at his Albert Thurston stand at Pitti Uomo the other day. Thurston is of course the king of the bracemakers left in the world and it is always a pleasure to meet the people behind the things one has been wearing for lo these many years.
Richard re-assured me that even though there is only one person remaining on his staff that is qualified to hand stitch the buttonholes on the covered ends of the traditionally constructed braces that I insist on ordering, they will continue to be available indefinitely. So no compromise is required, as of yet anyway.
That is a good thing because in addition to the warm glow one gets from wearing something that is made as well as it can be, only those traditionally made braces are available with white ends. The others come in either black or brown and, since the ends on a pair of braces should be the same general color as one's shoes, that means each of those lesser pair is qualified to do only half the duty of the somewhat more expensive white ones. For the white may be worn with both colors, which makes it one of those good situations where a wardrobe of the better made versions is actually less costly as fewer pair are required.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
The trip home is a long one, involving as it does the train back to Milan, a flight to Paris and then the haul to San Francisco. I will be the guy wearing a blue tweed suit, black Edward Green slip-on shoes, a checked shirt, a grenadine necktie and the Rubinacci pocket square that is the immediate souvenir of the trip. Later there will be plenty of others, including dozens of knit ties, suede gloves, leather belts, shoe shine kits, canvas slippers and who knows what else that will be arriving over the coming months.
And I will wear a scarf.
Friday, January 14, 2011
You can tell quite a bit from a walk through the workshop of a tailoring firm. The best firms have well lit spaces, a good proportion of younger staff in training so that there is the possibility that they will be able to maintain standards when the last of the post-war generation of tailors retires, and interesting work in progress. The Neapolitan version of Rubinacci qualifies on all three counts. The rooms are bright, the staff is a mixture of young and old, and, most interesting of all, there is a wide variety of clothing underway.
On the rack next to Mariano Rubinacci in the photograph is a camel hair polo coat made properly, with mailbox patch pockets. There is a blazer with solid - not plated - gold buttons in progress in the next room, and and a navy jacket being lined with silk scarves in a third. Perhaps most impressively, the room full of trousermakers has no sewing machines, something that I have seen only once before.
The quality is obvious.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Most of my living clothing idols are of Italian origin, Charlie Watts being the conspicuous exception, and that says quite a bit about classic men's clothing as most of them were British a decade or two ago. The idols, that is. There might even have been an American or two. But, leaving that discussion aside, Luciano Barbera has always been at or near the top of my list. And here we were, discussing the sad decline in our golf games a day or two ago.
The Barbera clothing line is going through a return to its roots as it were, which is a good thing to see because anybody can make milquetoast stuff that tries to be all things to all people. To Barbera, that means more shirt jackets (some readers will instantly understand my connection) for casual wear, paired with chalk striped vests underneath, as well as patterned faux tweed jackets. In keeping with the man's interests, his things for golf are as good as anything in the world for that purpose.
Worth a look. And, by the way, pitching and putting are the keys to scoring respectably when the ball no longer goes as far as it once did.
Posted by Will at 1:34 PM
Ambrosi's ready to wear line will initially be in stores in Asia in 2012. It promises the Ambrosi styling, including button flies and contrast colored waistbands, at a considerable savings from bespoke, though no prices have been set as of this time.
Bespoke Ambrosi trousers are currently available from the atelier in Naples as well as by appointment during Salvatore's visits to the major cities of the world.
The original version of this post stated that Ambrosi's standard handwork was 17% of the total. This was an error. The correct number is 70% of the stitches in a pair of trousers.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Sunday, January 9, 2011
I packed badly for this trip, leaving too much to lug through Paris-Charles de Gaulle without benefit of a porter. Resolving not to pay over-weight baggage charges I limited myself to one 50 pound suitcase for a week, which meant that my camera travelled in its own carry-on along with a topcoat and an over-stuffed computer bag. And of course it is too warm to wear the coat so it all has to be carried.
The bag was over-stuffed due to the recent addition of noise cancelling headphones to supplement the earbuds I usually carry. On my last trip I was unable to hear the repartee between Grant and Hepburn in Charade (one of the five best movies of all time in my book) due to ambient noise, but in fixing that problem I created another. The case for the headphones is too large for the bag, forcing me to wrestle the thing closed each each time I have to put my seat back up for landing.
And then I had forgotten to have AT&T enable international roaming on my phone, and of course that meant I could not call them or access the internet until I got to my hotel in Milan. One chat session, two calls and thirty minutes later I was back in business. The hotel where I am staying probably made its revenue goal for the month on the surcharge on those calls.
Best of all, some really unclear on the concept Italian anti-terrorism law prevents my laptop from connecting to my mail server directly the way I usually do it so I have to use a web browser interface (just as I assume the not at all inconvenienced bad guys do). That one took a special trip down to the hotel's business center. At least I was able to use the time to re-charge that now-working phone since I brought the wrong electrical gizmo for it and have three devices and my camera sharing one power converter.
But, hey, that is all behind me, including the 100 euro ($130) cab ride into the center of the city (can you tell I had not flown into Milan before?) and today I hope to see a sock maker, a knitted necktie maker, a jeweler and my shoe-loving friend Francesco of SW1 before catching the train to Florence this afternoon (that is the Milan station, one of the more beautiful in the world, in the photo).
Hopefully it will be sunny enough for photography and I will have a hand free with which to take them.
Friday, January 7, 2011
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Swims you see are to the best of my knowledge the only rubber overshoe that comes in colors other than black, including burgundy, brown, dark green and the orange in the photo among others. Not that I have any desire for orange overshoes mind you but I find black particularly unappealing when it is dirty and overshoes are always playing around in the mud and slush.
$100 (£65) a pair or a bit more depending on the retailer. Green ones for me, I think.
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Henry Ford once described his Model T as available in any color so long as it was black, and much the same can be said for the canopy of a man's umbrella. Oh, there are colored canopies available, and some of them are even appropriate for golf (though I have never understood how to reconcile the golf umbrella with the prohibition against carrying umbrellas in the country). They can also be very nice when carried by a female, umbrellas with colored canopies that is, but for a man anything other than black is A Step Too Far.
I think that the black umbrella does make aesthetic sense, since umbrellas are carried only in the city. The black canopy complements city clothing in gray and blue, and is consistent with the color of the sky when it rains which keeps it in line with the good practice of wearing or carrying things with a palette that complements the environs and the season.
Now when it comes to choosing an umbrella, there are only a few choices, those being the inexpensive sort that blow out at the first gust of wind and the expensive kind from one of the handful of renowned makers (among them Thomas Brigg and James Smith in London and Talarico in Naples) that will usually survive two or three gusts before turning themselves inside out (the exception being the ten rib umbrella, a design so strong that it threatens to lift the person carrying it a la Mary Poppins).
Ten ribs or eight, the other thing that determines the sturdiness of an umbrella is whether the shaft is a single piece or not. Umbrellas made from a single piece of wood are as strong as a walking stick and can be used as one. Unfortunately, that construction precludes two of what are considered the best types of handles, those being Malacca and whangee.
Since all canopies are black save for those carried by the unfortunate patrons of certain Italian umbrella shops that shall remain nameless here, the principal way to differentiate one umbrella from another has been the handle and, to a lesser extent, the shaft. Various hardwoods are used along with the occasional silver plate but the aforesaid Malacca and whangee are usually considered the crème de la crème. Whangee is nothing more than the root of a type of bamboo, and very distinctive looking indeed, while Malacca is a species of rattan that has been referred to as the King of Canes (the handle of the umbrella in the photo is Malacca). Unfortunately neither of them is useful for the umbrella shaft and all umbrellas with Malacca or whangee handles have separate shafts, which slightly weakens the construction proving once again that nothing is perfect.
These meanderings would be incomplete without mentioning that in certain very strict circles the umbrella is carried but never unfurled, a prohibition that strikes me as somewhat unclear on the concept. But then few things about the umbrella are entirely logical (see, for example, How to Carry an Umbrella).
Just be certain your canopy is black.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Our first example, the late Porfirio Rubirosa, was a diplomat, polo player, auto racer, womanizer and my secret boyhood hero. He is clad in a well-cut morning coat for his marriage to Doris Duke, a woman who if she was not the richest woman in the world was in the running. Rubirosa exited the marriage after a year with the photograph, alimony, a fishing fleet, several sports cars, a converted B-25 bomber, and a 17th Century house in Paris (he did not do quite as well from a later marriage to the heiress Barbara Hutton but then that one only lasted a few months). Choose formal day wear for marriage in a cathedral even when the bride to be is not an heiress.
The second photo features the late Melchor Gastón Ferrer, the actor, director and producer who had the good fortune to be married to film star Audrey Hepburn, whom Hubert de Givenchy helped become one of the best dressed women in the world, for fourteen years. Ferrer is elegant in nothing more complex than a blue suit, white shirt and silver tie. And, much as I like formal day wear, most men would do well to emulate him, at least those whose ceremonies will not be in cathedrals.
Morning coat or suit will live on in the photographs. Men planning Spring nuptials should commission one or the other.
Monday, January 3, 2011
It was March of last year when Charlie Trotter of Equus Leather wrote me about his bespoke bridle leather belts. He makes belts by hand, using the same techniques that sufficed for hundreds of years before the invention of machinery, and prices them well below what they would sell for in a department store (from £33, or about $50, to £120, or roughly $185).
Not being a belt-wearing guy I have not tried them, but I did wait to see what people thought about his work. Well, the word on the 'net is very good. Those who do wear them should find Equus worth a look.
Sunday, January 2, 2011
Some of Mr. Cappelli's wool challis neckties arrived the other day, including my own choice for the season. That being, if it is not evident, a hound and pheasant print that reminds me of walking the fields of Northern Illinois years ago, shotgun in the crook of my arm.
Challis being as light as it is, Cappelli lined these ties all the way to the tip, unlike his treatment of heavier cloth. The treatment makes for a medium weight tie that drapes well and ties a lovely four in hand. It is worn worn with one of my old tweed suits, a royal oxford shirt, tattersall print cotton and linen square and, below the waist, suede half boots. And that is as close as I will come to birding in the new year.
Saturday, January 1, 2011
I resolve to be a better provider of clothing and accessories in 2011 and have made a couple of changes to support that resolution.
First, there is a modest increase in the store's minimum order, to $25. That is because I have reduced prices on my Saphir shoe care products. The effect is that you need to buy two items or more at a time - a wax and a cream, or a Reno and an Omni - but you will save some money. And all my prices still include ground shipping in the continental United States as well as California sales tax.
Second, I am going to be offering a lot more of the world's best socks beginning in February, including more designs, more colorways and more stock on hand. And to make them more affordable I am now offering discounts for quantity purchases - purchase six pair at a time and receive a 5% discount at checkout. Or, purchase twelve pairs at a time and receive a 10% discount at checkout. They don't have to be identical either - mix and match to your heart's content.
Finally, half a dozen new items have been added to the store's Going, Going Gone section with 30% reductions. First come, first served.
In closing, 2010 was the ASW store's first year and it exceeded all my expectations. I very much appreciate the encouragement and support I received and wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2011.