Wednesday, March 30, 2011
A reader suggested yesterday that I stop wasting his time by describing the weather in my posts, and simply focus on the style, as if style is somehow independent of the weather. That may be true on the catwalk, but, as I wrote, in life a man should dress for the locale, the season, the occasion and the weather in that order.
After all, a wardrobe is supposed to provide a selection of clothing for any likely set of circumstances. Weather varies, and the felt hat chosen for scattered showers is likely to be inadequate for a downpour. Clothing requires context, in my opinion,at least until it becomes homogenous and then there is no point. We can talk about something else.
In the photo, the navy blue flannel double breasted is worn with a red pin striped shirt, white linen pocket square and a silver herringbone necktie.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
The weather was cool to start the week but sunny, finally, and temperatures are expected to climb daily until they are in the 70s Fahrenheit (more than 21 C). So I rather optimistically took a light-weight suit out of storage, planning to wear it later in the week if those dreams do come true, even as I tied the red checked wool bow in the photo to go with my tweed. I hope it will be my last wool tie until autumn unless I have cause to visit the Southern Hemisphere this summer.
Just as a man gets tired of his winter suits before the change of the season, I have to admit that I have had enough of cashmere and wool neckties. I have been wearing little else these past months. Oh, there has been the odd madder of course as well as a grenadine or three, but the matte finish of challis and its peers is so compatible with tweed and flannel that my silk repps and jacquards have for the most part hung in the closet all winter. Now comes their time to shine, literally reflecting the light of spring.
I think of neckties in four groups lately. I like grenadines and silk knits for year-round wear; wool, cashmere, and madder for cool weather; linen, shantung and tussah silk for hot; and my conventional silks are relegated to spring through fall. This has something to do with what seems to be a continually increasing bent toward texture over color in my dress and it is personal rather than any kind of a fashion trend.
All that aside, the time for silk has hopefully now begun.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
There are two men in style in today's photograph as André Churchwell leaves Nashville's historic Union Station Hotel on a fine sunny day with his brother Keith. The hotel began life in 1900 as a passenger terminal for the eight railroads that served the city and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In keeping with the venue, André wears a lightweight tan worsted flannel double breasted suit with a cream rope-stripe by Leonard Logsdail. It is complemented by brown and white spectators and a straw porkpie hat with a white linen band.
Keith is wearing a an ivory silk peak lapelled jacket by Ralph Lauren Purple Label, bespoke dove gray flannel trousers by Alan Flusser and suede slipon shoes from Paul Stuart.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Friday, March 25, 2011
The English playwright Noel Coward was responsible for popularizing the rollneck sweater in the 1920s, something for which he should be celebrated every winter. For the rollneck is a garment like no other, filling as it does the space between necktie and slovenliness. Wear it under a jacket, being careful to avoid the white rollneck under a navy blazer look lest one be mistaken for a character from central casting, or under a piece of outerwear a la Michael Douglas in the photograph.
In cotton or silk, the rollneck may act as a long sleeved undershirt with neck warming capabilities but the design comes into its own in merino wool or, better yet, cashmere. One or two ply versions may suffice with jackets, and the four ply versions are the best of them all when a man will be in and out of doors in cool weather. That makes rollnecks ideal for travel, for unlike a dress shirt they do not require laundry service after every wearing. And since one will not normally be seen twice by the same people while in transit, the same rollneck can be worn for travel during every segment of a trip.
Very handy indeed.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
I don't wear belts, or even own a pair of trousers with belt loops. All of my trousers are worn at the natural waist, which precludes belting them (twentieth century civilian men began wearing belts in the 1920s and trouser rises fell to accommodate them). But, obviously, many men do wear belts so when Charlie Trevor of Equus Leather offered to make ASW a belt to show off his work I took him up on it. And Charlie's belts live up to his reputation. I requested the Kensington model in the photos for a colleague, a contemporary looking hand made bridle leather belt colored in what he describes as Australian nut and with a hand polished solid brass buckle. It will undoubtedly last longer than I will.
It is good to have confirmation of Equus excellent quality which is under-priced at £43.00 (about $70) in the case of the Kensington. If Charlie were selling through department stores his belts would cost at least twice that. Buy one and see for yourself. You may have to pull your belted trousers up a couple times during the course of the day but most likely you do that already.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
I have railed against the practice before but the influence of television is strong so let me repeat myself. Do not wear neatly folded white linen handkerchiefs in your jacket breast pockets. Stuff them in. Display them rumpled and irregular, as if they were employed to wipe spilled champagne from a lady's dress mere moments ago. For an important part of dressing well is to look as though you did not try too hard.
The man in the photo? Edward Molyneux, the first of the great dress designers. With pocket handkerchief worn properly.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
The bi-annual Golden Shears Contest was held in London yesterday. The Gild of Merchant Taylors of the Fraternity of St. John Baptist in the City of London, which supports the competition, is one of the Twelve Great City Livery Companies surviving from the Middle Ages. Their Contest provides young tailors of the future with an opportunity to publicly demonstrate the merits of their work as well as win £4,500 (about $7,500) in prizes. Each entrant makes a tailored outfit that is judged on its technical and stylistic merits by panels of professionals.
The Golden Shears winner, judged best out of eighty entrants, was Yingmei Quan, 29, an apprentice at Savile Row's Welsh & Jefferies. Her winning entry was a woman's coat made in a vintage woven fabric from Scotland teamed with military style slim cut trousers. Ichiro Suzuki, 30, a student at the Royal College of Art while working part-time at Henry Poole, Savile Row, won the Silver Shears.
Part of the resurgence of leadership on Savile Row since perhaps the beginning of the century, the Golden Shears, along with apprenticeship programs at firms like Rubinacci in Naples, are an indication that the craft of tailoring may continue after the post-War generation of practitioners retires. There is nothing comparable in the United States, but then arguably only Chicago's Oxxford could support extensive apprenticeship.
Kudos to the Merchant Taylors.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Nicholas Storey's second book, titled A History of Men's Accessories (Pen and Sword March 2011) but only somewhat about accessories and their history, continues the unusual relationship between title and contents that began with his History of Men's Fashion. That book of course was on men's dress as seen through the glass of the City of London but neither a history nor about fashion. I speculate (I suppose I could ask but guessing is more fun) that someone at his publisher assigns the title before the book is written and then the submitted manuscript is allowed to wander away from the title a bit. Again, as with Mr. Storey's first book, the subtitle, A Short Guide for Men About Town, is a better description of the contents.
All that aside, in the guise of a History Mr. Storey's guide is a worth while smörgåsbord of unique content for men. A third of it is actually about accessories for grooming, scents and dressing generally. Most of that part is quintessentially English and grounded in the 19th century if not earlier, with the periodic exception of a few modern products such as the scent Ormonde Jane. And the third chapter actually does cover slippers, dressing gowns, collars, braces, watches, pens, pins, jewels in general and throws in several pages that may be the best history of the dinner jacket ever written.
The remainder of the book is an eclectic compendium of topics such as London clubs, gambling venues and drinking establishments; advice on wines and foods from caviar to chocolate; gifts for women; manners; tobacco and a comprehensive selection of cocktails that includes a full page on the history of the Vesper Martini. Fine stuff, and accompanied by the author's encouragement that the content should be enjoyed while smoking and drinking.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Even in California it is not yet spring, though last Saturday came very close. And, in honor of those hours of warm sunshine, here is a tan silk Shantung and linen necktie with a navy hairline stripe that is my personal choice for the tie of the coming season.
Tan neckties can be a challenge as it can be difficult to get enough contrast between tie and shirt or jacket. A lighter blue jacket does the trick, as does a white shirt (if a pale complected man is going to wear a white shirt during the day it is best that he does it in spring and summer when he has a little tan on his skin as white will wash out a paler complexion).
And though it is raining as I write, The Old Farmer's Almanac predicts warm and sunny weather beginning this week. Of course, that is still too early to store away the cold weather clothing.
Friday, March 18, 2011
Suits do not need to be formal. Pinstripes have their place, though that place is usually limited to the centers of large urban areas. Elsewhere, and that is most places, the enterprising dresser has the opportunity to extend the scope of the daytime suit, as he should, for the best suits are the informal ones in my opinion. Less uniform and more personal expression, the less formal suit is the sign of the man who thinks about his clothes.
There is no simple definition of a less formal suit, but all of them share some characteristics of that informality. For one thing, the cloth will usually have more pattern, or a less traditional color, like the light gray corduroy suit in progress in the photograph. The cloth will often be anything but worsted wool. Cotton, linen or tweed perhaps. And the details will most likely vary from the ubiquitous two button, flapped pocket business suit - features such as patch pockets or buttons that stand out instead of blending in (though the full belted action back treatment is best left to clothing that will actually be worn for sporting pursuits more rigorous than clubbing).
That is not to say that the less formal suit blends in, for it does not. Where the objective of the business suit is subtlety, the less formal suit should put a twinkle in a lady's eye. It makes a statement.
So give me more of your green herringbone Cheviot. Bring on the tobacco linen and the olive cotton. Suits do not need to be formal.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
I spent half an hour drinking coffee in the lobby of the San Francisco Hilton the other day, leafing through Nicholas Storey's History of Men's Accessories (Pen & Sword Books 2011), which will be reviewed here once I have had the time to actually read it, while noting absently that half the suit-wearing and trade show attending men walking around were wearing deadly dull black suits, and all but one of the rest were in a shade of gray if you were interested.
I was there for a fitting with W. W. Chan, for that is the only reason to ever be in that Hilton when one lives in the area. Patrick Chu and colleague were their normal amenable and impeccably prepared selves, and the to-be-fit blue cashmere and cotton suit closer to perfect than any of their previous efforts. It was close enough to tempt me to forgo a fitting on the Finmeresco blazer that they will bring back with them in July, but I did not yield.
The day being gloomy and the time late afternoon, none of the photography was usable of course, save for the customary shot of a Donegal tweed swatch. This one being one of Porter & Harding's Thornproofs of 560 grams (17 ounces) and what is a man to do with that unless he lives out of doors? The light gray mix in the photo would make a lovely topcoat, or a short cape if one were to stop suppressing his inner Sherlock Holmes, but a jacket would be almost unwearable in a heated space. Were it not for that small detail the pattern would make a perfect suit for the suburbs where I spend the majority of my time these days. And they do make the stuff in a more useable-for-me 14 ounce (420 gram) weight.
Though my mind was set on olive green gabardine for the future when the day began, it was full of gray Donegal as it came to an end.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Brown suede house shoes worn to entertain the other evening, accompanied by gray cotton and silk socks and gray flannel trousers.
The flannels were part of an experiment to get a little utilization out of my smoking jacket, which had hung unworn for several years since it appeared at a New Year's Eve gala at my club. Instead of trying to convince guests to wear black tie to dinner at my home, I elected to treat it as a green velvet blazer by pairing it with a white dress shirt, an ascot and the aforementioned house shoes.
No-one commented on the jacket but the shoes were a hit.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
I wrote a while ago about Canadian hatmaker Leon Drexler and the brown beaver felt lord's hat that proprieter Stephen Temkin is making for me. The hat is delayed a couple of weeks as Stephen was not happy with the brim on the first one, but after a bit of discussion we have selected the dark brown ribbon that will adorn the final version (that is the hat Stephen rejected in the photo).
A lord's hat of course is a homburg with an unbound brim, so it curls a little over time, and two bashes in the front of the crown. The changes make the hat a little more casual, in keeping with the color. And since I am considerably less hip than Stephen's other clients, the brim is a traditional 2 1/2" rather than the narrower version on the Düsseldorf model on his site.
A brown homburg of course is not very traditional in the first place. I will wear this one in urban settings from time to time but it is principally intended for open roof highway driving on sunny spring and fall days.
Hopefully, sartorial paradise will lie at the end of the journey.
Monday, March 14, 2011
The dove gray flannel is from Smith Woolens and the double breasted suit was made by Leonard Logsdail. The hat is a a Chicago, a custom pinched-crown porkpie that was Astaire‘s hat of choice in the 1950’s as well as the style Cary Grant wore late in his career, made by New York's Worth and Worth. The shoes are dark brown suede and the socks are, well, pink with red dots.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
In gabardine, cotton, or linen, every man's closet is better off when it contains a tan suit. Wear it for holiday or travel with a less formal shirt (chambray, a linen solid or even a plaid) and a black or dark blue silk knit necktie, or dress it up for the office with an end on end or voile shirt and foulard tie. Only please stick a white linen handkerchief into your jacket's breast pocket.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Every man should have a couple pair of great house shoes. Not just to wear around the house, though they do come in handy for home entertaining and general lounging about, but for sitting at 40,000 feet for six to twelve hours, shopping for antiques on the weekend, or partying generally in the warmer months.
New on the ASW store are my lightweight, supremely comfortable suede house shoes with contrasting leather piping. Hand-sewn, with a leather lining, leather outsole and a rubber heel, they are meant to be worn sockless, or with silk or cotton socks that complement something above the waist.
My house shoes are offered in whole European sizes 40-46 in a D width (U.S. 7 1/2 to 12 1/2). Choose from ever so slightly dandified black with maroon trim, brown with navy blue and bottle green with black.
I hope to see you on the store.
Friday, March 11, 2011
I like to wear vests for walking or riding outdoors in warmer weather, and that seems timely with warm weather about to appear. Now, by vests in this context I don't mean a conventional waistcoat or a sleeveless piece of knitwear to wear under a jacket, nice as those are, but something sleeveless worn as outerwear. Give me a quilted nylon shell for protection against the wind (sport is probably the only time a man should be seen in man-made materials), a banded collar, a couple of pockets and a light cotton lining to trap some air to keep my torso warm. I'll wear it over a polo in combination with cotton drill trousers or a pair of Ghurka shorts and task-appropriate footwear.
Vests are ideal for golf or shooting as unlike a jacket they do not constrict movement.. Further, they are light enough to fold and stick out of the way if the heat of the day appears. Probably for these reasons the things are sold in every pro shop and sporitng goods store, although emergencies aside those do not always carry the best examples. The better versions are made by people like Barbour in Britain (though like so many things these days Barbour's vests are not necessarily made in Britain) and Husky and Valstar in Italy (despite its place in the pantheon of things worn by members of the British Royal Family, the Husky brand is owned by an Italian firm).
Vests undoubtedly come in all the colors of the rainbow but the nicest ones for sunny weather in my opinion blend into the landscape. That means the same not-so-dark-as-navy blue as a warm weather blazer, shades of olive, and soft yellows like the one in the photo.Without logos of course, or the name of one's club. After all, you already know you are a member.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Speaking of the photo, a lined threefold necktie from E&G Cappelli is worn with a vintage cashmere pocket square, a butcher blue on white striped shirt and a herringbone patterned Shetland jacket with a blue overstripe. Below the waist, dark gray flannel trousers and burgundy monkstraps.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
One of the unsung technical improvements made to menswear has been the improvement in over the calf socks and the subsequent near-disappearance of sock suspenders. Over the calf hose became widely available in the second half of the twentieth century but the early models did not dependably remain over the calf which rather defeated the purpose. That left most men wearing socks that ended around the bottom of the calf and those had to be kept up with suspenders. And, trust me, the sight of a man in his boxer shorts and socks with suspenders ended more than one romantic evening prematurely.
Fortunately, the geniuses who knit high quality hose have figured out how to properly tension socks above the calf to keep them up without elastic assistance. That means that today the only reason to wear socks of any length longer than anklet but shorter than over the calf is for athletic pursuits where a man will be on his feet all the time. He can safely dispense with suspenders then as there will be no opportunity to sit with his legs crossed and so display a bit of forbidden skin, and the shorter sock wears a little cooler for hours of walking around.
Perhaps the last holdout of the suspender had been with evening clothes, as the higher volume cotton and wool over the calf hose were faster to arrive. But there are silks aplenty now. My mid-calf evening socks and the two pair of sock suspenders that I had had since I was in my teens went into the donations bag at the start of this year, and are now gone forever.
Truly, we have seen the last days of the sock suspender.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
I never thought to use skin care products but when I was playing golf three and four days a week my dermatologist, a woman with skin so clear it was like looking into a pool of clear water, told me in no uncertain terms that I needed to start using sunblock and moisturizer every day, twice a day. And since the mother of the woman I dated as a young man had a face that looked like shoe leather from daily golf, I dutifully took her advice.
That was as far as I went in that direction until recently, when a representative of Dermagenics sent me a jar of Men's Mega-Hydrating Anti-Aging Cream, which claims to reduce large pores, fine lines and wrinkles while hydrating the skin and performing other technical miracles. Like other products of its ilk the stuff is not inexpensive - at $85 it is more than four times the cost of the Neutragena moisturizer I have been using - but I thought I might as well try it even though I would still need to apply sunblock. And I have.
The issue with this kind of product of course is that customers have to take it on faith. The consensus opinion from the bit of reading I have done is that there may be some incremental benefit from these creams but a daily application of Vaseline will accomplish much the same thing for a small fraction of the cost (of course, few among us are likely to adopt a bedtime coating of petroleum jelly to our faces each evening - if the stuff that some women coat on their faces before bed is complete justification for a guy to move to a separate bedroom then it is only fair that the reverse should also be true). In other words, after a month of twice a day application any difference between moisturizer A and moisturizer B is usually too subtle to see, though fortunately they are generally absorbed into the skin unlike the aforesaid Vaseline and those masks that the women who sleep in separate bedrooms wear.
But if you do not currently use SPF 30 or stronger sunblock when outdoors, go get some.
Monday, March 7, 2011
Hong Kong's W. W. Chan (that is Patrick, the Hong Kong general manager in the photo) has been my "other" tailor for the past three or four years. And the other tailor plays an important role for my wardrobe. You see, unless a man has such an enormous income as to be oblivious to the not inconsiderable cost of bespoke clothing, he needs more than one. His city clothes should come from one of the best, and his less important clothes can be made by someone competent but less expensive. I am not alone in this practice - Cary Grant for one used Hong Kong with some frequency for the same reason. Trousers are all straight seams, for example, and there should be no externally noticeable difference between a pair of odd trousers from a great name and a pair from a firm of less renown.
At any rate, W. W. Chan has been my source for economical pieces for warm weather and country wear and those make up almost half of my acquisitions each year. The tailoring is good (and keeps getting better), and for many things the prices remain about half of the better known Savile Row houses (the recent substantial increases in the cost of wool have affected everyone equally). But I do wish they would do CMT (Cut-Make-Trim is the tailoring term for making up customer-provided cloth) again.
You see, one of the roles of an "other" tailor is to make up the odds and ends of cloth that the clothing obsessed acquire over the years. That no-longer-available mohair that was remaindered for a quarter of the usual cost per yard needs someone to sew it after all.
Recently, an alternative has presented itself. Mina Adamo of Napoli Su Misura has begun visiting San Francisco in addition to New York, and that firm does do CMT. The prices are a bit more than Chan's, but not too much more. I think I will try them for for a piece or two, and will report on the results.
Sunday, March 6, 2011
The suede shoes are a pretty good sign that he doesn't expect to unfurl his umbrella, but our brown suited man in Nashville is well prepared for anything the weather might bring. His palette is relatively informal, befitting a smaller city with plenty of greenery. There is pattern going on, but neither too many nor too similar in scale. The 3 roll 2 jacket has a ticket pocket to set it apart from the ordinary, if such a word could ever be applied to that check. And though he has obviously spent some time thinking about his clothes, the green hat and red scarf keep the combination from over-coordination.
Truly, a man in style.
Saturday, March 5, 2011
Spring merchandise continues to arrive, and this week finds the ASW store with a small selection of some of the highest quality cotton polos available in the world today. These beautifully knit short-sleeved Pima cotton pullovers are fully fashioned in Scotland from a single piece of cloth that in turn is made from extra long cotton fibers so it is softer, more absorbent and holds its shape. They are logo-free, front and rear, and offered in white, navy or violet.
Wear them on holiday or the weekend with a linen cap, lightweight trousers, a pair of Sloop slipon shoes and a neckerchief. Add a linen vest or overshirt on cool evenings.
I hope to see you on the store.
Friday, March 4, 2011
To answer yesterday's question, the dinner jacket on the gentleman on the left is Purple Label ready to wear while the two to the right were made by Leonard Logsdail. As a number of readers pointed out, the clues are the flaps on the ready to wear jacket's side pockets and its missing lapel buttonhole (if he had tucked his flaps into the pockets he might have gotten away clean).
There was a bit of a trick to the question as quite a few respondents were distracted by the lack of visible shirt cuff and the wing collared shirt on the shawl collared jacket wearing man in the center (Debrett's considers the wing collar to be appropriate only with white tie however I wonder why they would take such a position as when the dinner jacket was first worn it was accompanied by wing collars exclusively - the turndown had not yet been introduced by the then-Prince of Wales). The bow, which several thought pre-tied, is a Charvet and the wearer swears it was tied by hand. These guys take their clothing seriously and I take them at their word.
A pair of Bresciani dress socks will be winging their way to reader Seitelman who was first to respond as well as the first to answer correctly. And, by the way, Carl, you have now seen a midnight blue RTW dinner jacket.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Three Nashville-based physician brothers dressed in midnight blue evening clothes were honored at Atlanta's Trumpet awards at the end of January. Two of them are long-time clients of New York tailor Leonard Logsdail and one of them is wearing ready to wear. Which is it, and why do you think so?
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Astaire taught us that lighter colored socks draw the eye to the ankle even when they are not brightly colored or outrageously patterned, and in the photo a mid-blue pair of pin-striped Bresciani hose does just that.
Worn with a pair of chocolate brown W. S. Foster slip-ons that I do not tire of photographing and a chalk striped suit in navy blue flannel. Above the waist, a discreetly checked light blue on white shirt, gray grenadine necktie and a silk square with blue and gold on a cream ground.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Proving once again that there is nothing really new under the sun, Woody Hochswender noted in GOLF Magazine yesterday that Martin Kaymer was wearing a mysterious bit of neckwear at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship this past Saturday. Hochswender of course is the former style reporter for the New York Times and Senior Editor of Esquire Magazine whose two books on men's style include Men in Style (Rizzoli, 1993), which is on my Twenty Great Clothing Books list. And his eye was good in this case, capturing as it did a look similar to the one Cary Grant wore in To Catch a Thief more than fifty years ago.
The details of Kaymer's scarf are relatively mundane. A $23 piece known as a Black Fly Buff that was designed by a Florida Keys fishing guide, the Buff is made of Coolmax Extreme, a technical fabric designed to screen UV and wick moisture. I might prefer something in silk but Coolmax is probably a better choice for the golf course. And I hope we see more of them.
Thanks to reader J for the tip.
Photo of Martin Kaymer: Robert Beck for Sports Illustrated