Wednesday, November 30, 2011
I have written before that I think flannel is the best cloth for cool weather suitings, a belief that has if anything become more strongly held over the years. The classic flannel pattern is the glen check, the cloth of the English kings, but a man could do a lot worse than to complement that check with a flannel chalk stripe, mid-gray solid, and air force blue solid in his closet. In other words, if he is going to have six suits for the cold, he might start with two worsteds and make the next four woolen flannel (the only drawback to the stuff is that it takes two days of rest after a wearing so it should not be introduced into a wardrobe until there are at least two other suits already in the rotation).
Woolen flannel is a good choice because it feels soft to the skin, its surface traps air so it wears warm in the cold, and its mottled finish adds visual interest. None of these characteristics is present to the same extent in the increasingly common worsted versions of flannel, whose only virtues are that it is a bit sturdier, may be woven lighter, and wears cooler (that latter may defeat the point in winter but has some advantages in shoulder season). Woolen flannels come in weights as heavy as 22 ounces (660 grams) for coatings and as light as twelve ounces (360 grams) but are generally 13 or 14 ounces (390 to 420 grams) these days, while the worsted stuff is commonly 11 ounces (330 grams) with examples as flimsy as 8 (240 grams). Still, there are better cloths for spring and summer, though none, as I wrote to begin, for winter. Find the best of it in England, at Fox Flannel or Huddersfield's J&J Minnis.
In the photo, 15 ounce (450 gram) overchecked gray flannel from Fox is worn with a knitted cashmere necktie and a silk square.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
It was just two weeks ago that Henry Poole was in town, bringing with them the opportunity to paw through the cloth books. Well, Hong Kong's W. W. Chan arrived this week, the last but for one of the autumnal visits by the tailors that I follow, and that provided the opporunity to consider mid-weight jacketings for this coming spring. I had been thinking about the herringbone in the photo for a shoulder season suit, but on further review gave up on the idea as the pattern is simply too discreet, a problem I have with just about everything in Harrison's Glorious Twelfth book.
I did spend more time with John Hardy's wool and silk offerings and there might be another summer jacketing in there if any cloth remains in four months but that is no help for spring and fall. That same company's Sandringham book of cashmere with 15% silk had a couple of interesting patterns but 8 1/2 ounce (250 gram) cashmere may be the worst of two worlds: too warm for the heat and too light to drape and resist wrinkles.
That said, Hardy's Luxury Cashmere Jacketings is worth a look for shoulder season. At ten ounces (300 grams) it has more heft than Sandringham, and the beefy glen checks like the one in the photo are a good choice for travel between city and country.
In the end I walked away with nothing more than a pair of mid-gray trousers from Minnis' 15 ounce (450 gram) fresco that should be able to withstand six hours in an airplane seat without showing any wrinkles.
Monday, November 28, 2011
Saturday suit-wearing is overkill for washing the car or raking the yard but, like black tie, it rewards going out of one's way to find occasions for it. Weekend-appropriate suits can be as business-like as a glen check for lunch in the city with friends or something completely informal such as corduroy that can be worn with a rollneck sweater to a football game (American or otherwise). They tell the world that the wearer is not working, something that cannot be said for most other clothing.
In the photo, an old tweed suit worn with a wool necktie, nailhead shirt, silk square and suede semi-brogues.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
This past week I had the pleasure of a visit to Kent, Haste & Lachter. Even though their shop just off Piccadilly is a recent addition to the Savile Row periphery, the individuals concerned are legendary figures woven into the fabric of that famed street. The purpose of my visit was for a chat with Terry Haste to discuss his house style and whilst chatting it was lovely to witness the banter between the three, considering these gents have been working together for decades (on and off) they are clearly still enjoying each others company as well as their work.
John Kent, Terry Haste and Stephen Lachter (from left to right, Haste, Lachter and Kent in the photo) met whilst working for Hawes & Curtis in the 70's, Kent and Haste as tailors and Lachter as shirtmaker. They've been dressing the great and the good from various locations ever since. Mr Haste went on to run Huntsman via Tommy Nutter and Hackett before moving to Berkshire and operating solo for a couple of days per week out of Holland & Sherry. In his distinguished career Haste has dressed rock royalty from George & Ringo to Mick Jagger and Elton John whilst his former mentor and now business partner Kent has dressed actual royalty, namely HRH The Duke of Edinburgh which has afforded the firm an official royal warrant.
Haste considers his house style to consist of s sharp shoulder line, eschewing the soft shoulder approach of Anderson & Shepherd for example, cut closer to the chest reminiscent of the Huntsman style and avoiding the hourglass shape with a soft overall silhouette. Below the waist Haste favours a slimmer cut but observes that the customers preference and fashion often dictates this. Two hole buttons are also a signature and bespoke starts from £2500 (approximately $3,858). Discussions and plans are already underway for a RTW collection but nothing is concrete at this stage.
Spending a short time with Terry and his partners was a pleasure and an education, they display as much enthusiasm for their craft now as they must have done all those years ago when they first started. We discussed the industry and how things change. Tailoring was once seen as a trade for which you had to serve a 10 year apprenticeship, now it's seen for some as a way into the fashion industry with people using a couple of years service to enhance their credentials and move on. Also, the trio looked at a couple of sites on the Row when they first decided to open and it became apparent that the landlords didn't want traditional tailors moving in, which is most worrying. Still they are in good company just around the corner so their clientele of rock stars, royalty, bankers, art and antique dealers won't have to look too hard to find them. And that is a good thing as there is no web site to help them out.
Kent, Haste & Lachter
7 Sackville Street, London
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Go somewhere warm this holiday season, and take one or two of my linen sweaters with you. As you know, linen is the ideal material for temperate climes. It wears warmer when the weather is cool and cooler when the temperature is warm, making a linen sweater a perfect choice for temperatures between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 27 degrees Celsius).
The ASW store is featuring a buff colored crewneck and a navy pub jacket for the coming holiday season. The crewneck will manage your temperature from bar to beach, while the pub jacket acts as an informal version of a navy blazer. And I am for the first time offering both in a new XXXL size with a 48” chest in addition to my usual medium, large, XL and XXL sizes.
See you on the store.
Friday, November 25, 2011
Many men have turned against the cummerbund these days, thinking it another useless complication to the entire process of dressing for the evening. The photo, a crop of one of Hanneli Mustaparta's taken at a Tom Ford event, illustrates the unfortunate consequences of a low rise trouser worn without a waist covering.
The sin of exposed shirt front, often compounded by a garish belt buckle, can be avoided with high rise trousers if a cummerbund is just too much to bear. But cover your waist.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
The late actor David Niven of Pink Panther and Around the World in 80 Days fame is, in the photograph, wearing two objects worthy of emulation. The first is his cream colored gabardine trousers, something so rarely seen that they stimulate frequent and generally positive comment while complementing a variety of jackets. The other is his even rarer double breasted tweed.
In my opinion, double breasted tweed adds interest to wardrobes comprised overwhelmingly of single breasted coats. DBs are usually either suits or blazers these days, so an odd jacket version displays a certain command of the language, as it were (they are less interesting in a wardrobe that is mainly double breasted, as a man needs some opportunity to wear his collection of waistcoats and sweaters and SB odd jackets are the better opportunity for those).
The holiday season is perhaps the best time to wear odd jackets during the year, tending as it does to offer daytime social occasions that are just the right level of formality for them. And though it is almost certainly too late to add either cream colored trousers or DB odd jackets in time for this year's gatherings, they might be just the thing for your 2012 wardrobe.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Kealani Lada, the lady who usually maintained my shoes these past couple of years, moved to New York this week to run the A Shine & Co stands at JFK (Terminal 3). Stop in and say hello if you are passing through.
A new generation is shining the brogues now.
Monday, November 21, 2011
When cooler temperatures and scattered showers arrive but a raincoat would be overkill, the combination of a tweed cap or beaver felt hat and a tweed jacket will keep a body dry. Tightly woven tweed is so water resistant that a man can substitute a tweed topcoat for a raincoat in anything short of a torrential downpour.
In the photo, a beaver felt fedora is paired with a gun club jacket, twill shirt, cashmere necktie, silk square, flannel trousers and suede ankle boots. I would have added gloves and a scarf had conditions warranted.
Wear tweed when it sprinkles.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
The Roman senators wore black shoes, and until sometime in the the late 19th or early twentieth century so did every boot or shoe-wearing man in England. There was a reason that polish was called boot black in those days after all. But once brown shoes were introduced and began to be worn in the English countryside, there was no turning back. Color had come to shoes.
Today, the conservative man continues to wear black shoes with his business garb. But the technology to color shoes was invented for the fairer sex, and experimental men have been using it in their shoe closets. In the top photograph, a pair of midnight blue elastic sided slipons at the fitting stage. They are so dark that they are visibly blue only in bright light. That is not however true of the pair in the second photo.
Now that the Rubicon has been crossed of course, there is no telling where we may be headed. Parisian makers like Corthay have been using color for some time now. And according to George Glasgow at G. J. Cleverley & Co,, nearly a third of the shoes ordered by their Singapore customers this year were blue.
Green may be next.
Photos: G. J. Cleverley & Co.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
ASW store received its winter delivery of Astrakhan hats this past week. Made in Canada from the skins of young Persian lambs, the Astrakhan Ambassador is the perfect cold weather dress hat. It looks great with an overcoat and a suit, packs flat for travel and keeps the head warm in subzero temperatures when ordinary fedoras are useless (it was a favorite of Soviet Politburo members fifty years ago and those were men who knew how to dress for cold weather). Don't even think about wearing it unless the temperature is below freezing.
P. S. The Ambassador is worn tilted to one side of the head or the other.
P. S. The Ambassador is worn tilted to one side of the head or the other.
Friday, November 18, 2011
It's no secret that while the perennially trend-setting Duke of Windsor loved his Scholte coats, he opted to have his trousers made across the pond in New York City. Word is he favored the lower-rise, sometimes pleat-free American cut over the traditional British style with its double pleats and high natural waist. He wasn't alone, and the twentieth century (with the exception of a small blip in the 1980s) saw men's trousers get lower, slimmer, and flatter.
That's not all bad, but I want to stand up for the high-waisted British trouser. I'm talking about a trouser with two pleats (regular or forward-facing), a wider leg, side-straps instead of belt loops, that sits on the natural waist, and almost always carries a hefty turn-up. The classic.
I'm in my early twenties, and I can't remember a time when the major magazines weren't preaching the gospel of slim trousers with flat fronts. Nothing else will do for the style-conscious man. Or so they have said. But I finally picked up some British-cut brown flannels and might like them better than any other trousers in my closet.
Just like asserting that the one, two, or three button coat must reign supreme, it's a shame to denounce the full, pleated trouser outright. A tailor I spoke with recently told me that in his forty years of suggesting clients try pleated trousers, he's never had a single customer switch back to flat fronts after taking pleats for a spin. I think I'm now one of the converted.
Not only does is a proper British trouser more comfortable, but it wears better and keeps a flattering shape longer. We all know what happens when a pair of wool trousers that are tight in the seat begin to stretch - the wearer gets the dreaded "diaper butt" and end up with cloth flapping about under his posterior. A trouser that drapes straight down off your backside, rather than hugging it, not only creates a cleaner line, but it does not deform the trouser every time the wearer sits down.
The same benefits accrue in front. The pleats give the crease some room to breathe, and creases lasting longer and stay sharper. And the wearer does not have to *ahem* "adjust himself" when he sits down, as the higher rise combined with the pleats keeps everything moving as it should.
So before following the herd and assuming trousers should be flat and low, give the high waisted trouser a try. The Duke was right about most thing sartorials, but I'm going to have to disagree with him on this one. Pull them up, tighten the side-tabs, and let the pleats do the rest.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Perhaps the second best thing about a clothing hobby is the time spent with the cloth that will become one's clothes. A man starts with a vague idea about what his wardrobe needs, and then goes looking for cloth to turn it into reality. Along the way there are detours, disappointments and surprises.
I was looking for warm weather clothing this season and found more pleasant surprises than disappointments for a change. There was the unexpected gray windowpane from H. Lesser's 9/10 bunch in Beverly Hills, as well as gray and cream lengths of John G. Hardy's discontinued Rangoon fresco in Singapore. And, though silk odd jacketings are becoming rare, I was able to reserve a piece of John Hardy's rapidly vanishing Ascot wool and silk blend (in the top photo).
Simon Cundey of Henry Poole spent the early part of his career working for a mill, and is one of the more articulate men on Savile Row when it comes to cloth. He helped me settle on a Smith Woolens mohair and wool for a shawl collared double breasted dinner jacket, and also introduced me to Huddersfield's Groves and Lindley, an obscure mill that makes the very nice 9 1/2 - 10 ounce silk, mohair, linen and Super 120s wool blend in the second photo. That last one will have to wait for a while though. Once again I have more cloth than money.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
G. Bruce Boyer and Maria Cooper Janis were feted at Leffot, the shoe store in Manhattan, earlier this week. Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist hosted a book signing party for the co-authors of Gary Cooper: Enduring Style, which will be officially available November 29.
Boyer, seen here with another expert, is the dean of English language menswear writers and his 1990 book Eminently Suitable should be on the shelves of anyone with a serious interest in classic men's clothing.
Photos: Rose Callahan
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Powerful neckties need to be blended into their surroundings so as not to overwhelm the rest of the day's clothing. In the photograph, the black and buff in the necktie mix with the black and white in the shirt, while the dark blue of the jacket absorbs enough light to tone down what is on its own a rather bright piece of silk.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Everything old is new again. The harrowing experiences of the past three years of economic uncertainty have reminded us of the values of the classic, of quality and heritage brands and makers. So we are told, and so we were told during the last crises in 2001. Will it last? As before, likely only as long as it takes the inexorable tide of fashion to wash back out again. And each time, this tide carries away a little bit of knowledge, of quality, it erodes the essence of what it holds dear. However, the formerly evergreen woolen Harris Tweed really has undergone a renewal against the backdrop of our reeling world. Lara Platman’s new book Harris Tweed: From Land to Street illustrates what remains of a menswear staple whose continued existence once seemed as bulletproof, unyielding and predictable as the material itself.
Most of my life I associated Harris Tweed with the drab, rough and harsh, in a kaleidoscope of colors, all of them the drab colors . The hoary, hairy sportcoat of a middle school English teacher, stinking with decades of spilt coffee and faculty meeting sweat. The century-old iconic orb label that identifies authentic Harris Tweed, handwoven on the islands of Harris and Lewis off the coast of Scotland, proudly stitched into the linings of forgettable dull sportcoats in the sorts of frightening forgotten men’s stores whose salesmen are nearly as old. Dull of cut, dull of appearance, dull of construction. Taken for granted. Tweed as a whole, Donegals and Shetlands and Cheviots in their random motleys of homespun did know a resurgence of interest in the last decade, particularly with the development of British designers such as Richard James and Vivienne Westwood carrying out a rediscovery of traditional materials and the re-emergence of interest in bespoke tailoring with, for instance, the mad seasonal patterns at Huntsman and Richard Anderson in the van.
Platman makes clear that her book is intended to provide a contemporary record of “photographic portraits” of the people and places now making Harris Tweed, not to provide a definitive history of the material. As such, the book tells its story mainly through its photographs of the different people now involved in handweaving Harris Tweed, each of them bringing a different personal history to this narrative: time spent off the island, interests in engineering or art school or simply in the unassuming routine of weaving that occupies free hours of retirement.
Platman provides a brief history of the origins of Harris Tweed, including the profile-raising move by Lady Dunmore in the mid-nineteenth century to outfit her servants in Harris Tweed livery. Harris Tweed’s true origins are in the essence of cottage industries and homespun, the need in rural communities to make one’s own cloth from bits of yarn and to make it last. Traditionally, hand weavers worked on single-width looms in sheds next to their houses; once Harris Tweed became an industry mills provided them with the yarn, historically made from sheep living on the islands, and the weavers returned to them woven cloth for finishing and sale. The “street” part of the title manifests in a few pages towards the end describing contemporary designers who have appropriated Harris Tweed in their collections. And she points out that Harris Tweed has outgrown the harshness of its earlier reputation: double-width looms allow faster, looser, and thus softer and lighter cloth, often made from a different breed of sheep than the original animals whose fleece went into Harris Tweed. Colors can be more varied: Platman mentions one designer seeking inspiration from the colors of Indian pickles in his supermarket, certainly as British an inspiration as the legendary country colors that led to many an estate tweed. All this occurs as postmodern atavists discover the joys of the original stuff, the incredibly stiff and rough fabric, sometimes seemingly an inch thick, at first glance as drab and sludgy as Giorgio Armani’s design palette, but over time, so much time, durably winking with so many other points of color.
Platman doesn’t dwell on the recent events that led Harris Tweed’s fate to hang, as it were, by a single thread: as mills gradually closed one by one, the number of weavers declined and supply bottlenecked. A providential white knight who took over one of the last remaining mills nearly delivered Harris Tweed a coup de grâce in cutting production from 8,000 patterns to just four, according to Savile Row Style magazine, and it took new investors and the efforts of a few dedicated industry professionals to come in and ensure the survival of the two other remaining mills on Harris and Lewis. The number of weavers is now on the upswing. One such industry supporter, Patrick Grant, the owner of Savile Row tailor Norton & Sons, writes an emotional foreword to this book.
Harris Tweed: From Land to Street’s lavish photographs suggest parallels between Harris Tweed and the isles from which it hails: rugged as their windlashed coasts, subtly colored as their fields of heather, timeless as their standing stones. This timelessness may be illusory: we know the lives recorded in these evocative portraits may be as precarious as the ways of life in more developed areas, teetering between being overrun by the dross or simply being washed away by the tide. Savor the book with a dram of Ardbeg Corryvreckan and a whisper of ice, and you may hear the isles whisper to you.
-Réginald-Jérôme de Mans
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Four patterns: herringbone tweed jacket with an overstripe, windowpane checked cotton shirt, flannel necktie, wool and silk paisley scarf with dots and ancient madder silk paisley pocket square. Worn with oxford gray flannel trousers, brown suede chukkas, blue-gray socks and a gray fedora.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
ASW store this week that will enhance the look of everything from Harris tweed jackets to chesterfield topcoats. They include a contrast spot reversible wool and silk, two spectacular new ancient madders in different sizes, a re-issue of the vintage skier print of two years ago, and a re-stock of our fringed silk evening scarves.
There are only a couple of each of these, so if one catches your eye don’t think about it for too long. The only way these scarves will disappoint is if you miss out.
There are only a couple of each of these, so if one catches your eye don’t think about it for too long. The only way these scarves will disappoint is if you miss out.
Friday, November 11, 2011
In one of those rare coincidences that make life marginally more interesting than it would be otherwise, I have been working my way through Glenn O'Brien's book (he writes the Style Guy column for GQ), How to Be a Man: A Guide to Style and Behavior for the Modern ... (there may be more to the title but that is all that fits in the allotted space on my Kindle software), and, while researching a piece on contemporary black tie, came across the photo of Mr. O'Brien (right) with artist Rob Pruitt at the Guggenheim's 2010 Art Awards. Pruitt is immaculately turned out, but O'Brien you may notice is wearing a striped bow tie.
In his book's section on dressing formally, he makes the point that "Black tie means you have to wear a tie. And it should be black. Duh."
And so my question for the Style Guy is, is a tie with white stripes black?
Photo: Roger Kisby
Thursday, November 10, 2011
We see men dressed entirely in shades of blue with some frequency, but other complementary colored ensembles can be equally effective. For example, the pocket square pattern in the photograph is a little too small but I was otherwise happy with this combination of buff, tan, brown, red and just a bit of black the other day (I was happier still when the square was replaced with a black and white checked silk that afternoon).
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
The team from shoemaker Foster & Son completed their USA visit this week. Emma Lakin and Jon Spencer spent a few days in San Francisco, arriving without anything for yours truly, who will apparently have to wait until 2012 for his Norwegian slipons.
New this trip was a sample pair of bespoke kiltied golf spikes. In days gone by, kilties (that leather flap over the laces) served two purposes. They kept the top of the shoe dry, which meant that the rain was less likely to leak in, and, since men often had two or more in different colors, could be used to harmonize with different clothing on different days.
I was even more interested in a pair of spectator shoes in buckskin and calf. Every maker I know tells me that their dwindling supply of buckskin is essentially impossible to replenish these days (I immediately invite them to take some of the deer that regularly eat the plantings around my house but they must need a different sort of hide as no-one has taken me up on the invitation yet). Real buckskin has more texture than reversed goatskin and is much softer and more lxurious than Nubuck, making the stuff another one of the justifications, if that word can properly be applied to this indulgence, for bespoke shoes.
Monday, November 7, 2011
Sunday, November 6, 2011
An odd vest adds variety to a suit on days when a man can show a little more flair than he might normally. Linen is my favorite cloth for spring and fall waistcoatings, and cashmere, challis, and tattersall, like the vest in the photo, for winter.
In the photo, a gray flannel suit (the experienced eye will know the maker by the button point) worn with a striped twill shirt, a knitted cashmere necktie, silk square, cordovan boots and the aforementioned cream tattersall vest.
Friday, November 4, 2011
City dwellers need gray odd jackets to complement their navy blazers fall through spring. Gray, or black and white that appears gray at a distance, looks better than brown in the evening, making it a more useful choice. Gray herringbone from the Isles of Harris, Lewis, Uist and Barra in the Outer Hebrides is the classic cloth for cold weather, and something in a 10-12 ounce (300-360 gram) cashmere or lambswool complements it for spring and fall. Either of them are worn effectively with flannel trousers, oxford cloth shirts in the traditional panoply of colors and silk paisley pocket squares.
By the way, this pairing of gray jackets with navy blazers fails in summer. Gray is not the best color for sunshine, and light blue works better.
In the photograph, a jacket from W. Bill's 10-11 ounce (300-330 gram) Lamlana in a black and white barleycorn weave, at the basted fitting stage.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
There is a twenty mile (32 kilometer) stretch of highway between my house and the main highway to San Francisco that is inhabited principally by livestock, so naturally that is where I had my first tire failure of the twenty-first century the other day. Thankfully, said failure occurred by one of AT&T's rare cell towers in that area, so the inconvenience was limited to an hour with nothing to do but read and take photographs.
Navy flannel suit with pearl chalkstripes, a blue on white windowpane check shirt, navy cashmere necktie, paisley silk pocket square, silver hose and black cap toe oxfords. Perfect clothing for waiting until someone else can change the tire.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
I am told that cloth merchant J&J Minnis has decided to end production of its Crown Classic collection, a range of 11 1/2-12 ounce (330-350 gram) business suitings in super 100s wool worsted and cashmere. The current stock is on clearance, offered for what was described to me to £20 per metre but on the Minnis site appears instead to be £24 per metre. Either way, that is a reduction on the order of 60% and worth a look. In addition to the usual pinstripes and solids, there are somewhat harder to find birdseyes, pick and pick and other traditional patterns.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
It is probably only coincidence but I have been seeing a lot more blazers this year. In the photos, two blazer-clad members of Vanity Fair's best-dressed list demonstrate how they wear it.
H.S.H. Prince Heinrich von und zu Fürstenberg, to the left in the top photo, pairs his gold buttoned version with a semi-solid necktie and light gray trousers.
As does Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter.
The ubiquitous, and easy to wear, blazer. Just add a blue or gray necktie.