Thursday, June 30, 2011
The basic summer suit has changed very little since Sean Connery wore it to play James Bond in 1962's Dr. No. Single breasted, partially lined and made from a light gray tropical weight worsted or high twist cloth, it still looks good with Bond's white and light blue shirts, black and navy blue knit or grenadine neckties, and black slip-on shoes (if we were to change anything it might be to trade those in for a pair of dark brown).
There is no white linen handkerchief in the breast pocket of the jacket in the photo, but there should be in yours.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Collecting things is a hit or miss business. I had been thinking about a pair of shell and gold Trianon cufflinks for some months now, and when I finally decided to pull the trigger the other day found they had been sold just a few days before. That disappointment followed shortly after an eBay auction of an out of print book I had been seeking for years, where no sooner had I paid for the thing than the seller announced that he had sold it offline and no longer had it available.
At any rate, that is why when RJ announced that he would be in Paris this week with just enough free time to sneak into the local Hilditch & Key where, stuck in a drawer known only to a few, there were a couple Dame à la licorne themed scarves (similar to the tapestry in the photograph) that Hilditch had printed years ago in a blend of cashmere and silk that will likely never be seen again, there was no hesitation. And he reports that he has acquired the goods, though I will not celebrate until the package arrives safely.
This is a hit or miss business, but one out of three is not bad.
Posted by Will at 7:37 AM
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
I stumbled a few days ago upon the work of Rose Callahan, a Brooklyn-based photographer with an eye for menswear whose recent activity includes assignments shooting legendary and not so legendary New Yorkers. Her The Dandy Portraits tends towards the vintage but is well worth a look.
The jackets hang in the closet of author Gay Talese.
Posted by Will at 7:00 AM
Monday, June 27, 2011
Fresco and its relations are excellent warm weather choices for the city and for business travel but, in my opinion, linen is the only cloth for less formal tailored clothing that will be worn in the heat. Whether suits, odd jackets or trousers, linen breathes and wicks away moisture. Indeed, my principal complaint about it is that the heavier Irish linen is not offered in anything but solid colors as the limits of navy, mid-blue, white, cream, tan and brown are reached fairly quickly.
Linen rumples of course, at least the heavy stuff does, and to a greater extent than any other fabric requires ironing or steam after every wearing. Maintaining an unrumpled appearance is a matter of changing it mid-day and again for evening.
In the photo, a white linen safari style jacket is paired with blue linen trousers, a voile shirt and an ascot.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
He is wearing a linen suit with his white shirt and pocket square in the photo, however when he is not riding bronze turtles Walbolt's everyday look combines the shirt and square with an Italian odd jacket and a pair of trousers from his collection of classic Levis.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
New on the ASW store this week is Dermagenics' Purifying Smart Cleanser ($35), a soap and sulfates-free hypoallergenic cleanser. Used instead of facial soap it will soften and smooth wrinkles, dissipate under-eye puffiness and visibly improve skin tone.
The Dermagenics line will be joined by several more best in class grooming lines in July, including wet shaving products and fragrances.
Friday, June 24, 2011
In his books, Alan Flusser is one of the proponents of harmony in mens' dress (harmony being the philosophy that individual items should not stand out from the rest of the day's clothing). An apparent contradiction to the theory of harmony comes each summer, when the American prep style of dressing adds brightly colored and often patterned trousers and shorts to the mix. Or does it?
I have written before about the art of blending pieces together so that the ensemble becomes more than the sum of its parts. And, in the photo, Flusser uses three bright elements - red trousers, spotlessly white shirt and madras jacket - to balance each other so that none of them stands out.
Cacophany? I think not.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
The fragrance house of Creed has introduced Royal-Oud, a woody oriental scent that is the newest member of the Creed family and one that appears likely to join Green Irish Tweed as its most popular.
The official Royal-Oud scent pyramid features spicy fresh top notes of lemon, pink pepper and bergamot; a heart of angelica, bitter green galbanum and Lebanese cedar and a base of oud, sandalwood and musk. That means when first applied it smells of fresh cedar and spices and later develops tones of vetiver and sandalwood. One reviewer called it a re-imagining of Creed's Bois du Portugal with oud added in, and most men will find that to be a very good thing.
Like other Creed scents, Royal-Oud has good sillage and longevity, and just a hint of something metallic that should not be there.
$300 at Creed's online boutique.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
A day's clothing should be in harmony, meaning each item should relate to the others. This is not simply a matter of matching colors or patterns, since, for example, contrasting colors can harmonize much more effectively than matching ones by setting each other off.
The way to achieve harmony is to see that no one item of clothing stands out by itself, in color, texture or cut. That does not mean that one's clothes have to be dull. For example, Luca Rubinacci of the eponymous Neapolitan clothing firm sometimes achieves harmony by combining several otherwise stand-out items, each of which loses its impact in the company of its equally loud peers.
On the other hand, in the second photo another highly publicized Italian menswear purveyor, Lapo Elkann, fails to achieve harmony despite the blended tones of his attire because the lapels on his jacket are so large as to command the eye.
Neither color nor texture nor cut should stand out in your dress.
Monday, June 20, 2011
In the photograph, the late Robert Kennedy is wearing a shirt with link cuffs, the single fold cuffs from white tie that close with cufflinks instead of buttons. The look is cleaner than that of a turnback cuff.
The complication to the relatively rare link cuff has to do with the internal construction. According to Alex Kabbaz of Kabbaz Kelly, the cuff's interlining should be stiffer than it is for a button cuff since it must support the weight of a metal cufflink. A French cuff of course has the assistance of an additional fold of cloth for that purpose.
Ask your shirtmaker if he offers the style.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
As usual, the women attending the San Francisco Symphony last week were generally well dressed, and by that I mean most of them were wearing evening-appropriate clothing with a scarf or jacket that said they had dressed for the occasion. Not so most of the men, who with few exceptions had obviously changed their clothes, which unfortunately meant throwing a tan odd jacket over an open necked shirt and slipping on a pair of unpolished casual shoes.
It is the exceptions that I wish to praise, the men who made an effort to wear a dark suit or odd jacket and polished black shoes. Their clothing may or may not have been expensive, for that is not important. It was situationally appropriate and rewarded the glance of their neighbors.
Always make an effort to dress for the occasion. Those around you may not say so aloud, but they thank you for it.
Friday, June 17, 2011
Thursday, June 16, 2011
I recently began wearing linen odd trousers again for the season and was reminded how the Whirlpool Fabric Freshener (WFF) has changed my life for the better. I purchased one more than three years ago and, unlike almost any other under $200 device with moving parts that I can think of, continue to use it every week in warm weather. I originally hoped it would be a general purpose steamer, but that proved not to be the case. It does a poor job of getting the wrinkles out of cotton polos after washing, which was one of the original objectives, and I will not put jackets in it for fear of popping a seam. It does however do one thing very well. Insert two pair of wrinkled linen trousers and remove two pair of perfectly wearable pants twenty minutes later.
Linen trousers of course are a casual wear staple in warm weather but the challenge is how to deal with the creasing and rumples. After one wearing, and certainly no more than two, they are a mess and pre-Whirlpool my choices were to have them dry cleaned or to spend ten minutes going over them with a steamer. Neither is much fun two or three times a week. As I said, the WFF changed that, and it has now performed faithfully for three entire seasons without a glitch.
Highly recommended for men who wear linen trousers and can afford the space for a one dimensional gadget. It sells for about $175 at various online outlets and more than pays for itself every year.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Proper summer jackets have patch pockets, meaning the pockets are sewn onto the outside of the jacket like the ones in the illustration. They may have flaps or they may be unflapped but there they are, for in a proper summer jacket there is nowhere to hang them on the inside of the coat.
You see, those non-patch pockets on 99% of the suits walking by you on the street are attached to the lining inside the jacket. That is as it should be, except that linings wear hot, and proper summer jackets have as little lining as possible. Not enough to hang a pocket, that is for certain.
The secret to staying cool in the heat is the permeability of the cloth, for air flow is cooling and the most effective summer fabrics cause a man to look down to check that he still has his clothing when a breeze pops up, for the air feels as though it is flowing unhindered past his skin. Lining is an air blocker, and more of it than a bit in the shoulders is a convenience for the tailor rather than the customer (sleeve lining is controversial since it does make a coat easier to put on and off, however if you show me a summer jacket with lined sleeves I will show you a man who has sweated through his shirt sleeves).
It is in the making of summer jackets that one separates wheat from chaff, tailoring-wise. I am unable to convince two of my three tailors to make anything much less than a half lined jacket, for lining hides the unfinished interior of a coat and they do not want to take the time to clean up the seams that is required for a proper summer jacket (one would think they would simply have a surcharge for the work, but there must not be enough demand for them to pay attention). Fortunately, I live in a place that rarely gets hot, so it is less of an issue than it would be if I spent summers in Manhattan.
Summer jackets have patch pockets.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
There was supposed to be a length of mid-weight black and white cloth on hold for me at Scabal this past Spring, the last of a bolt that was meant to become an odd jacket for spring and fall wear in the city. Gray, and gray is the product of black and white from a distance, is a good base color for casual wear on city streets in my opinion and I had been thinking about something with leather buttons and patch pockets. Alas, when the lads at Thomas Mahon's went to collect that cloth it was nowhere to be found, which sent us scrambling for some air force blue flannel so they had a suit to work on. The city jacket project went on hold.
Three months have passed since then and autumn grows near in tailoring terms, by which I mean that an order placed this summer may still be delivered this year but only just. And though the search has continued, finding the right cloth is not easy. The target weight of 12 ounces/360 grams is too light for real tweed, and worsted copies of most tweed patterns tend to leave me longing for the original. I may come round to a barleycorn in W. Bill's lambswool that reminds me of a jacket Astaire had in his wardrobe, but I am not there yet.
It would be too heavy to wear in sunny spring and fall, however the front runner in my thoughts is currently the light gray Harris tweed herringbone in the photo. Harris of course is a 15 ounce/450 gram wool jacketing for cool weather that is hand woven using local wool in homes on the isles of Scotland's Outer Hebrides. The color certainly complements oxford gray flannel trousers, and it is equally certain that the good people of Harris and its neighbors can use the work after the mismanagement of Harris tweed marketing that sent demand plummeting in recent years. It is of course difficult to contemplate cool weather cloth when the weather outside is mild and the memory still fresh of an unexpectedly warm day not too long ago when a Shetland jacket had the sweat pouring off my brow. Still, W. W. Chan is on their way here in a few weeks and decisions must be made.
Monday, June 13, 2011
Personally, I prefer casual suits to odd jackets most of the time, but separates are every bit as appropriate for apricot salad and grilled trout at the Lark Creek Tavern in Marin County on a Sunday afternoon. The camera phone did not resolve the lilac houndstooth in the necktie that is worn with an ecru cotton shirt and a gray checked silk pocket square. The light blue 3 roll 2 odd jacket is a blend of silk, linen and cotton. Below the waist are tan Cleverley slip-ons, gray cotton socks and cream linen trousers.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
One of the lesser reasons to wear a jacket even in summer is that a man needs a place to put his walking around stuff. There does not tend to be as much of that as a lady carries of course, since we are spared the need for a makeup bag. But though the virtual disappearance of smoking means the lighter and cigar or cigarette case are usually left at home, there are still quite a few things. My own fairly ordinary list of items was recently inventoried by the institution to which I was committed:
All of this requires eight pockets, two in the trousers and five in the jacket. That means that not just any jacket will do either. Those activewear things designed by someone who thinks that a man can get by with one interior pocket do not make the grade. I specify four interior jacket pockets alone most of the time these days - the extra storage makes space for a second wallet with travel documents when I am on the road.
None of this addresses the inevitable question of what to leave out or what to do when a jacket will not be worn. Unless at a resort or other place where all I need is a room key, my own answer is nothing - I carry all of it in a bag - but others will have their own solutions.
What's in your pockets?
Posted by Will at 10:35 AM
Saturday, June 11, 2011
He may not care to admit it aloud but Dad is not 26 any longer Bunkie, and that pair of Chuck Taylor Converse high tops you had in mind for his Father’s Day gift may never find their way out of his closet. Camo cargo shorts are unlikely to be a hit either.
This Father’s Day, consider instead that turnabout is fair play. Take the opportunity to tastefully repay your old man for those holidays when there were pajamas or underwear under the tree instead of the latest version of Grand Theft Auto. Buy him a very conservative necktie. Throw in a couple pair of comfortable navy blue socks that fit his feet perfectly, and top the package off with a package of the world’s finest white linen handkerchiefs.
The ASW store will make sure your payback arrives in time.
Monday, June 6, 2011
Most essential summer kit can, indeed should, be worn together at times, which makes the photographer's job simpler:
-Tan linen double breasted jacket
-Black silk knit necktie with white dots
-White dress shirt
-White cotton ducks
-Unlined white bucks with red rubber soles
There are a few more items needed to make up the ten that comprise all modern lists of essentials of course, but fortunately they complement the jacket as well.
-Pale gray fresco trousers
-Khaki colored Ghurkha shorts
-White polo shirt
-Lightweight brown Norwegian slipons
Should anyone be in need of an eleventh item I will submit a tan linen safari jacket.
Pack the extras in a duffel with toilet kit, socks, underwear, bathing suit, an extra white shirt and a supply of white linen handkerchiefs and you are good to go.
Sunday, June 5, 2011
A reader asked for examples of the shirtings in blue, gray and tan that I suggested the other day, and here are six of them. When the objective is conservative business dress, there should normally be no more than two patterns in the combinations, so when the shirts are patterned, either the necktie or the jacket should be a solid or semi-solid. The swatches are DJ Anderson shirtings that can be combined with suits and neckties as suggested.
Light blue shirt, gray suit and brown grenadine necktie.
Gray on white striped shirt, tan suit and navy knit necktie.
Tan on white striped shirt, navy suit and gray necktie.
Navy on white stripe, gray suit and navy oxford necktie.
Gray on white checked shirt, navy suit and dark gray grenadine necktie.
Tan semi-solid shirt, navy suit and gray necktie.
And that is business dressing with a minimum of fuss.
Saturday, June 4, 2011
Give the gift of shoe care for Father's Day from the ASW store. It has taken me six months to acquire a supply of beautifully constructed shoe care kits in rosewood stained beech with silver fittings and trimmed with chocolate leather. The Groom box contains a selection of Saphir shoe care essentials, including six brushes, a shoe horn, Renovateur, suede cleaner and two tins of wax polish (the Renovateur, suede cleaner and waxes are standard Saphir products private labelled for the maker of the box).
And if Dad is not a shoe polishing kind of guy unless you do it for him, there is also the usual wide variety of sure to please neckties, handkerchiefs and socks.
Friday, June 3, 2011
White calf you see exists only to make either shoe a little less expensive to sell and significantly easier to maintain, giving up as it does the contrast between shiny leather and matte suede that is the essence of the combination. That concession in turn says all the wrong things about the wearer's priorities. Far better to give up the two-toned look all together, for a shoe made entirely from unlined white or ivory suede, ideally with a red rubber or brown crepe sole, is handsome and seasonally apropriate as well as an uncompromising choice that is significantly easier to maintain.
The white parts must be suede.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
In today's podcast, master shirtmaker Alex Kabbaz of Kabbaz Kelly & Sons talks about dress shirts. Kabbaz, who rather famously made shirts for Michael Douglas in the original version of the movie Wall Street and continues to make perfectly fitting shirts for some of New York's best dressed inhabitants, shares his expertise on the whys, wheres, hows and whats of shirts and shirtmaking. Click on the player below to listen to it.
There is still more about shirtmaking in my new post on Forbes Lifestyle. Click here to read it.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Once a man has the minimum ten or twelve dress shirts that he needs, his wardrobe benefits from a little thought about how his collection should grow. His basic wardrobe of course has a couple of white, a couple of pacific blue on white candy stripes, perhaps four blue solids, a gray and/or an ecru solid depending on his coloring and a burgundy candy stripe (candy stripes are suggested as they can be worn successfully with pin striped jackets).
Past that dozen, which should be in medium-weight cloth such as end on end, the wardrobe should grow to encompass heavier and lighter weights for better temperature control, and more patterns to enable a wider variety of looks. That means broadcloth and nailheads for cool weather and voiles and high twist weaves for summer. For the patterns, add a couple other stripes and some checks to the mix.
The most wardrobe flexibility is achieved with semi-solids and simpler patterns in a palette that has blues from pale through periwinkle to navy, blues on white grounds, grays on white grounds (solid gray is difficult with many complexions), tan, and tan on white grounds. Choosing a shirt, jacket and necktie from each color and limiting the combination to no more than two patterns produces consistently excellent looks with a minimum of fuss while spreading wear across the entire rotation.
There is no upper limit to the shirt wardrobe of course, but cotton ideally requires several days of rest after each wearing and one shirt for each day of the month is a reasonable middle ground.