Tuesday, January 31, 2012
The first coat in most men's dress coat wardrobes tends to be a raincoat, either single breasted or the double breasted trench (to the left and right respectively in the illustration) made from tan, khaki or beige fabric in recollection of the first world war's fields of mud that were responsible for their popularity. Knee length or a little below, either is typically worn in the wet and as a windbreaker rather than for protection from the cold, though the addition of a zip-in wool liner lets them function as a topcoat. And they are British in origin of course, since that country's frequent rains created the demand in the first place.
Around 1830 Mackintosh was arguably the first major English brand to introduce what we would consider a raincoat. Its rubber coating and taped seams kept rain off the wearer, but steamed up inside because the fabric did not breathe so that vapor could escape. In 1853, Aquascutum developed waterproof wool that did breathe, dramatically improving the wearer's comfort in its coats. Still later, Burberry, the third great raincoat brand, developed its cotton gabardine, another water-resistant yet breathable fabric. In 1914 Burberry was commissioned by the English War Office to develop what became the trench coat, and by the end of the war the trench had become optional officer's dress in the British Army. Many veterans kept the coats after they returned to civilian life and they became fashionable for both men and women They were always purchased ready to wear, even by men who had the rest of their wardrobes made for themselves, as the coat construction process does not lend itself to the skills of the tailor.
Today, a quality raincoat like Burberry's Prorsum classic cotton trench is still most likely made by one of the three aforementioned brands. It is still usually seen in tan, khaki or beige, though some individualists have theirs in navy. It is sometimes seen in above the knee lengths for greater convenience in a car, despite the wet trousers and lessened elegance that accompany this particular innovation. And it is still purchased ready to wear.
Monday, January 30, 2012
I know of only a couple men in the United States who wear suits with big plaids from time to time. That is no surprise. Originally meant to blend into the countryside for shooting and other outdoor activities, they are worn away from the office (in some places they were once known as racetrack suits, as in something to be worn to the horse races). And, with the general decline in suit-wearing, suits for casual pursuits are not the kind of thing likely to find a large market at the local department or high street store.
Large plaids are nonetheless something for the advanced dresser to consider. Because they are not offered at that local department store they are unlikely to be seen on every block along Fifth Avenue. And, despite the strength of their patterns, they do not stand out as much as might be feared because the pattern elements meld together from even a few feet away.
Note how the various patterns blend into a semi-solid in the first photograph taken from a distance of eight feet (the bordeaux wool socks would normally be hidden from sight). In the closer shot, the suit, ancient madder necktie, and silk square are considerably more obvious.
Sunday, January 29, 2012
In 1973, divers off England's Plymouth Sound found the wreck of the Catharina von Flensburg, an eighteenth century brigantine that sank in 1786 with a cargo of reindeer hides. They had been cured in baths of rye or oat flour and yeast, hand embossed before being soaked in wood liquor and finally hand curried and soaked in seal oil and birch tan oil. The result is a unique finish that cannot be replicated.
Though covered with mud for centuries, the hides proved to be water resistant and still very serviceable. Bundles have been periodically brought to the surface and sold by the divers who discovered them. They are dried, cleaned and sorted in a small workshop in Cornwall where some are made into attaché cases, belts and other leathergoods on the spot. Others are sent to London to be made into shoes in London by bespoke shoemakers G. J. Cleverley .
There is some question as to how long the supplies of hide will be available. I have heard it estimated that half of them still lie in the mud of the seabed, but the diver who was given rights to them has retired and there is no successor in sight. For now, Cleverley continues to deliver a small supply of products from two hundred year old Russian leather.
Saturday, January 28, 2012
Socks should also complement a day's ensemble. Consider the three sock drawers of three mythical (though I know each of them) men. The first is full of navy socks in wool and cotton (navy being a bit less of a black hole than black). A pair for each day is about right, plus a couple of spares (throw in a pair or two of black silk for evening wear). Easy to choose each morning and particularly awkward with light gray trousers. Comparable to a closet containing nothing but navy worsteds.
The well dressed man's sock drawer should at least mirror his suits and odd trousers. For example:
-2 brown (tan in summer)
The third drawer, my personal preference, adds some less than obtrusive pattern:
-dark gray with a black clock pattern
-navy birdseye, navy with a gray clock pattern
-silver ribbed, mid-gray birdseye and mid-gray with dark gray pinstripes
-brown ribbed, beige heather mix
And into that same drawer might go an extra pair of prune.
In the photo, mid-gray flannel colored Bresciani socks worn with gray flannel trousers and black suede shoes (the combination of flannel and suede is every bit as good as that of flannel and a grenadine necktie). The combination is quite a bit better looking than navy would have been, in my opinion, though a birdseye might have been even better.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
While we were discussing clothing acquisition yesterday, I realized that a twenty-first century interpretation of Mr. Waugh's budget allocations could suffice to build a well-rounded wardrobe for the five day a week suit-wearing man over a period of five years, independent of his budget. And by that I mean that, as I have written several times in the past, a man can do a lot worse than to make himself a list of what he needs each year and compare that to his budget to determine how much he can spend on each item. It is a process that is just as effective for thrifted clothing as it is for hand-made bespoke stuff.
The objective of a clothing budget ought to be to stock the closet so that it offers reasonable variety and enough of a rotation so that the contents do not wear out prematurely. Further, most of us live in temperate areas where a selection of clothing is required for both warm weather and cold so the quantity of suits and odd jackets should be adequate for each season.
Once the budget has been in place for half a decade, it should produce a wardrobe consisting of at least:
-Six cold weather suits
-Six warm weather suits
-Six pair of shoes
-One raincoat with zip-in lining
-Two odd jackets and trousers for each season
Acquiring this list means purchasing three items of tailored clothing and a pair of shoes each year. In one of the years there will be an extra pair of shoes. In two others, an extra suit or odd jacket. In those years, no dress shirts are purchased in order to keep expenses roughly level. In the other two years, the budget is filled out with half a dozen shirts.
Allocating funds to each item is fairly simple. Take the annual budget and divide by five. Spend that amount on each suit, odd jacket and trousers, pair of shoes (that might be a tad high on the shoes but most men need to spend more than they do on their footwear) or the year's shirts and neckties.
Few of us will approach the late Baron de Rede's shoe collection in the photo but with a little planning we can all have well rounded wardrobes.
The following piece, "Beau Brummels on £60 a Year," was written by author Evelyn Waugh (Brideshead Revisited) in 1929. The strategy remains valid today.
Of course, there is really only one way of being perfectly dressed - that is, to be grossly rich. You may have exquisite discrimination and the elegance of a gigolo, but you can never rival the millionaire if he has even the faintest inclination towards smartness. He orders suits as you order collars, by the dozen. His valet wears them for the first three days so that they never look new, and confiscates them after three months so that they never look old. He basks in a perpetual high noon of bland magnificence.
It is useless to compete against him. If your object in choosing your clothes is to give an impression of wealth, you had far better adopt a pose of reckless dowdiness and spend your money in maintaining under a hat green and mildewed with age a cigar of fabulous proportions. If, however, you have no intention of deceit, but simply, for some reason, happen to like being well dressed, it is essential to have at least two tailors.
There are about a dozen first-rate tailors in London whose names you may always see quoted by the purveyors of ‘mis-fit’ clothing. Below them are about a hundred rather expensive eminently respectable unobtrusive shops in fashionable streets, where your uncles have bought their clothes since undergraduate days. Below them are several hundreds of quite cheap very busy little shops in the City and business quarters. The secret of being well dressed on a moderate income is to choose one of the first-rate and and one of the third-rate tailors and maintain a happy balance between them.
There are some things, an evening tail-coat for instance, which only a first-rate tailor can make. On the other hand, the difference between a pair of white flannel trousers costing five guineas in Savile Row or George Street and one costing two guineas in the Strand is practically negligible. The same applies to almost all country clothes. It is not necessary or particularly desirable that these, except of course the riding breeches, should be obtrusively well cut.
The chief disadvantage of small tailors is that they usually have such a very depressing selection of patterns. It is a good plan to buy all your tweeds direct from the mills in Scotland and to have them made up. Another disadvantage of the small tailor is that he never knows what is fashionable. At least once every eighteen months you should spend fifteen guineas in getting a suit in Savile Row, which will serve as a model for him.
It is never wise to allow any one except a first-rate tailor to attempt a double-breasted waistcoat; in some mysterious way this apparently simple garment is invariably a failure except in expert hands. But you can safely leave all trousers which are not part of a suit, even evening trousers, which ought, in any case, to be made of a rather heavier material than the coat, to our less expensive shop. The most magnificent-looking traveling coat I ever saw had been made up for four guineas from the owner’s own stuff by the second -best tailor in a cathedral town.
It is usually an economy to buy your hosiery at an expensive shop. It is essential that evening shirts and waistcoats should be made to your measure; cheap ties betray their origin in a very short time.
There is only one completely satisfactory sort of handkerchief - the thick squares of red and white cotton in which workmen carry their dinners. Socks wear out just as quickly whatever their quality, and are the one part of a man’s wardrobe which ought never to attract attention. Expensive shoes are a perfectly sound investment, particularly if you keep six or seven pairs and always put them on trees when they are not in use.
Waugh goes on to calculate that by using a mix of the great and the merely good a man could be well tailored for the sum of £60 a year in 1929 money. Converting the cost of a Savile Row suit in 1929, some 13 pounds and change, to the current price lets us estimate that Waugh's proposed purchases (a couple bespoke suits, shoes, accessories, country clothes and fractions of outerwear and evening wear) could be made today for roughly £9,000 (about $14,000) a year.
$14,000 is of course still a contemporary millionaire's budget, or that of a man who makes a priority of his clothing, but when Waugh was advising his readers how to look like Brummels without the resources of the 'grossly rich' he was referring to his own upper middle class struggles to look good in the company of people with Mitt Romney's sort of income. And that can be done for $14,000 a year.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
A link-cuffed and signet ring wearing T. S. Eliot, the naturalized English poet and playwright known for The Wasteland, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and other modernist things is shown in the photo (probably taken before the second world war) wearing a heavy worsted suit which I will guess weighs in at 18 ounces (540 grams). That would make a topcoat today but was once a standard English suiting.
Worsteds of that weight predated central heating and passed from the scene as homes and offices grew warmer. Indeed, the 16 ounce (480 gram) suit is about as heavy as a man can comfortably wear for hours indoors in a place like New York where the steam heat is always turned up, and 13 ounces (400 grams) is more common. But the best cloth of those weights makes for clothing that is comfortable and lasts decades.
The move to Super wool qualities has done much to cause these weights to go on life support. Not too long ago, good quality wool from an entire fleece averaged about a Super 80s, where the Super number refers to the width of the wool fibers (higher numbers represent finer fibers). Then came demand from mills in emerging countries weaving cloth in great volume for lower end ready to wear, whose indicator of quality became the Super number. These Supers are in turn woven into suits that are lighter in weight and less expensive because they use less wool. The result is that most of what was once suiting quality wool has had the finer fibers sorted and as I understand it what remains is less than satisfactory for tailored clothing. So it is relatively easy to make more fragile lightweight cloth and much more difficult to weave heavier stuff with a nice hand. My one suit from Smith Woolens now sold out 15 ounce (450 gram) Whole Fleece has a lovely feel without being in any way Super, but only five or so years after it was offered Smith can no longer replicate it.
This is obscure stuff of course, that matters only to those few who understand that heavier cloth drapes better, wrinkles less and is warmer in the cold while remaining comfortable indoors. Cloth for summer is easier than ever to obtain, but the best worsteds for winter may rarely be seen again.
Mr. Eliot would have found that a bleak prospect.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
We have the weather for 14 and 16 ounce (420-480 gram) woolen flannel only a couple months of the year here, but it is unquestionably my favorite suiting. When it is cold, wearing a flannel suit has the positive characteristics of being wrapped in a blanket. Its only negative to my mind is that it takes an extra day of rest after wearing and that can make it less practical than worsteds for airline travel.
Woolen flannel is not the only type of course. The stuff is also woven as a worsted, which makes it amenable to weights under 13 ounces (400 grams). I think of worsted flannels as a compromise though, with all the negative implications of the term. While worsteds do not require the rest of their woolen relations, they also lack texture, not to mention most of the mottling that gives flannel its surface interest. And that same smoother surface means worsteds are also not as warm, which might be OK if one is trying to wear a nine ounce (270 gram) flannel on a sunny day. Personally, in those circumstances I would rather wear gabardine or something else that is meant for warmer temperatures, and save my flannels for the cold.
In the photo, a flannel suit by Thomas Mahon, grenadine necktie from the ASW store and a square from Ralph Lauren.
Monday, January 23, 2012
Someone on Style Forum asked how many solid navy suits other people have and when I went through my closet in my head I was surprised at how few there are. That's partly because I prefer patterns that will blend over solids (see More On Blended Dressing), but it is principally because I wear a lot more gray than blue. Indeed, I tend to reserve navy for the evening, sticking to gray (and tan to a lesser extent) for day wear. In this I am unlike most of the men I know who pay attention to their clothes and wear a lot of blue.
Now that I think about it, I wear gray instinctively, light to mid-gray in particular, because it complements my coloring. There is a bit of gray in what remains of my hair these days, unlike those same clothing friends who tend to have shocks of dark hair that complements navy. And that is how clothing should be. Every man should have a little gray and a little navy in his wardrobe, for there are occasions when only one or the other will be ideal, but once that is accomplished he should acquire the things that work for him rather than heedlessly following recommendations that he needs so much of this and so much of that.
In the photo, a lot of gray, livened up to a very small extent with burgundy monkstraps.
Posted by Will at 7:38 AM
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Dressing is not an isolated art. The principles which govern coat, tie, and shoes, at least the most fundamental among them, are not specifically about clothes at all. Things like proportion, color combinations, craft-value, etc. can be found elsewhere and for the clothes-minded man applied back to what lies in his closet.
I could recount a few hundred anecdotes of style-education, but instead I will restrict myself to a few recommended pieces of reading and inspiration.
Food is a good place to start. Think about it for a minute - how is food typically presented? You usually get a solid white or off-white plate, with something centrally presented and peripherally adorned. Not a far cry from the effect of shirt, tie, and accessories. This might sound sort of weird at first, but looking through haute cuisine cookbooks is a great way to get a sense of balance, restraint, and how to make various elements of your kit pop against others. The Lever House Cookbook is a particular favorite of mine. Just do not go around telling people that my white shirt, green tie, orange pochette combination was inspired by a lamb chop with herb frittata and piquillo vinaigrette.
My next recommendation is a little more obvious. I do not think anyone would argue with you if you told them that color appeared other places than in clothing. Eve Ashcraft's book The Right Color is a masterclass in balancing the bold and the reticent to get exactly the right feel you're looking for. I am not saying you need to breakfast in a cerulean lounge with lemon accents and eggshell trim, but you could take a powerful blue suit and offset it with more subtle partners.
Ashcraft is particularly good at taking colors we might deem too much and making them look just right. A great lesson for all of us. It really is a book as much about theory as interior design.
Finally, we can look to architecture. There is no easy book recommendation here, though Assouline's offerings in this department are pretty solid. Generally speaking, it is not lessons in color I take from buildings, but instead suggestions of form. When you are dealing with objects hundreds of meters high, the ability for something a foot or two wide to still be subtle is miraculous. Thinking about how shapes are elongated, where the broadest parts of skyscrapers are, and how lines of various shapes and sizes craftily guide the eye to just the right place is a productive exercise.
Saturday, January 21, 2012
I know of few domestic sources for these bows. My first came from Charvet in Paris twenty years ago and I have been wearing them ever since. The ties in the photos are of course at the ASW store.
Friday, January 20, 2012
One of the trends at Pitti Uomo this year was another revival of Casentino cloth (available in the United States from Jodek International). A coating used in Tuscany since the 15th century for riding and hunting outerwear, Casentino cloth is inexpensive, rough, water resistant and warm. The roughness that distinguishes the stuff was once achieved by brushing the wool with a stone. Machinery is used today but the effect is the same.
Casentino is usually seen as an orange Ulster styled overcoat with a green lining and sometimes a fox collar on men, and green with an orange lining on women, though this is not set in stone. Audrey Hepburn wore the orange in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
The video (in Italian) shows the process used to make it.
Posted by Will at 7:42 AM
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Spectacular bow tie, no? The trouble is the context - a jacket that is not powerful enough to stand up to it and frame the ensemble. Individually, shirt, tie and jacket are each beautiful in their own way, and they have complementary colors. Worn together though, the coat's light color means the observer's eye stops on the tie rather than the wearer's face.
There is an art to composition of the day's clothing. The individual elements must fit of course. They need to be well made, from good cloth. And then they have to work together so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The same shirt and tie worn with a dark blazer, for example, would blend together so that none of the individual elements dominate the look.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Maestro Luciano Barbera demonstrates that the pocket square need not relate to anything else in an ensemble. I might quibble that a chalk striped flannel suit is not an ideal choice for evening, but his juxtaposition of a green paisley square next to a white shirt, pink necktie and pink boutonniere is inspired.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
I was an exponent for a while (and still backslide from time to time) but have come to believe that brightly colored socks are just too twentieth century. I prefer the way that a non-disruptive difference in pattern and color between socks and trousers is visually interesting without shocking the observer.
Monday, January 16, 2012
There are a couple bespoke tailors in Florence but only one of them has an international reputation. That of course is Liverano & Liverano, the firm whose principal distinguishing characteristic is a suit with a short jacket featuring perhaps the world's most open quarters that requires seventy hours to make (compared to perhaps thirty hours for a Savile Row firm and forty for a Neapolitan suit, with Liverano's pricing proportionate to the Neapolitans) because it is sewn almost completely by hand. The back seam of the jackets may be sewn by machine but it is a mystery how this is accomplished. There are no sewing machines in sight.
Some portion of Liverano's reputation is due to Mark Cho of The Armoury, a tailoring customer whose store supports Antonio Liverano's three visits to Hong Kong each year (I walked by Liverano three times last week and Mr. Cho was visible twice as I passed). Antonio also visits Japan but not the United States. That is he in the photo, which also illustrates a typical Liverano coat.
The Liverano shop has a small retail section in front, a fitting room, and then several workrooms strung in a circle around the rear. The neckties are sewn locally, and they are a good choice for the clothing lover's souvenir of Florence.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Saturday, January 14, 2012
The general preference for belts has relegated braces to the evening, for, thankfully, most men seem to recognize that a belt looks completely out of place with a dinner jacket. This is borne out by sales, as the white moiré Thurston braces that were worn by Daniel Craig as James Bond several years ago come close to outselling all other styles added together these days (and we are re-stocked with those at the store as well).
Once safely married, many men who try braces for the first time are forever after unhappy with their belts. They begin by sewing buttons on to the waistband of their belted trousers, perhaps having the empty loops removed by an alterations tailor. From there they usually migrate to higher waisted trousers, which have a better fall from the natural waist. And since no two tailors make trousers of the same length, the final step is the acquisition of one pair of braces for each suit, so that no adjustment is required to make one's trousers hang perfectly down to the shoes.
Braces being underwear, no color coordination is required with the rest of the day's clothes unless, like the television host Mr. Larry King, a man removes his jacket in public. That said, the aforementioned bottle green boxcloth works particularly well with tweed as well as gray flannel.
Friday, January 13, 2012
Polite society went through a period in the nineteenth century when hands were always gloved. We have no cause to do that any longer of course, nor to change our gloves several times during the day as the great dandies of the past were wont to do. But still, several pair are desireable for wear in cool weather. The well-dressed man's dress glove wardrobe might contain black for evening (during the day black gloves are like black suits - fairly common but far from ideal), gray suede for day wear, and peccary for the country. Another classic, the yellow chamois gloves that were worn by 19th century gentlemen, is fast becoming extinct. Merola, the fine glovemakers based in Rome, is for example no longer able to obtain suitable deerskin.
In Mr. Merola's shop, the glovemaking process has not changed significantly for a hundred years. It begins with a craftsman who stretches the skins and then hand cuts the leather. The shaped pieces are passed on to a seamstress who hand sews the gussets on the side of each finger and places the thumb pieces in their opening before sewing them to the body of the glove (the hand sewing helps Merola's gloves to conform particularly well to the fingers compared to other makers). If the gloves will be lined they are passed on to a liner who inserts the silk or cashmere and anchors it by stitching it to a narrow piece of leather on the edge of the glove. Finally, each pair is shaped on electrically heated hand forms. Merola repeats this sequence of events about 20,000 times annually.
Personally, I prefer unlined gloves for walking about, however silk lining is a good choice when the gloves will routinely be worn in mild to freezing temperatures. Cashmere is still warmer, for even colder days, but is all but unwearable above freezing. If I lived somewhere cold I might want a second, cashmere lined version of each of my gloves. Fortunately, that is not necessary.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Based in Milan, the 150 year-old Maglia Umbrella Company is one of three companies still making umbrellas entirely by hand, and it supplies the other two with parts, making Francesco arguably the dean of the world's remaining umbrella makers. But whether he is or is not is less important than his umbrellas. And those are deserving of attention, being beautifully made from traditional materials. I ended up ordering one with a whangee (bamboo) handle like the one in the top photo and a midnight blue cover (this despite my statement of a year ago that only black was appropriate for a man's umbrella). The other famous handle is one of Malacca, that being a brown cane from Malaysia, but the dark chestnut with the rind still on is also quite good looking.
The one drawback to whangee is that unlike the hardwoods it does not lend itself to a one piece umbrella shaft, but that is not a drawback when it is used for a travel umbrella. Unlike those short things that women carry, the classic travel umbrella looks like any other. The secret is shown in the second photo - it is made in three parts, with a tip and a handle that unscrew so that the pieces fit in a not terribly large suitcase.
And that is an umbrella for travel.
Monday, January 9, 2012
Much of the world's menswear business will be spending a few days in a WIFI impaired Florence this week, including yours truly, who will be going minus the new flannel suit I had hoped to wear in the unlikely event that one of the several dozen photographers that hang around the show would want to take my picture. Alas, the suit will arrive the day after I depart. Fortunately, there are other things I can wear.
Sunday, January 8, 2012
OK, I should begin this by stating that I am aware that only a modest proportion of the men who flee south for some portion of the winter will have occasion to wear a necktie while they are there. Indeed, I wore one recently only because there was a major family occasion that called for it. But for that tie-wearing few I have a few choice words: tussah, shantung, mogador and linen.
Stylishness on sunny warm weather days calls for a different kind of necktie, one that is both brighter and lighter in color and perhaps lighter weight than its cold weather relations. Light grounds replace dark - the cream stripe on navy necktie of winter becomes a navy stripe on cream. Mogadors come into play because the cotton in their weave lends itself to brighter colors than pure silk. And the summer equivalent of the textured wool or cashmere necktie is a nubby silk, either shantung or tussah, linen, or silk and linen that complements cotton, linen, mohair and silk jacketings.
Fortunately, neckties acquired to dress up a trip to warmer climes are equally if not even more useful when summer comes again.
In the photograph, a navy blue mohair and wool suit, gray on white pin-striped shirt, navy textured silk Shantung necktie, and a white linen pocket square.
Saturday, January 7, 2012
There are two dozen great new spring/summer season silk shantung, jacquard, mogador and grenadine neckties by Drake's London on the ASW store now (I believe we are the first to be offering these, just in time for northern hemisphere inhabitants who plan to flee South for a mid-winter break). Look for them in the New Arrivals category. And then take a look at my complementary pocket squares.
silk belts for casual trousers may also be worth a look.
Friday, January 6, 2012
Many men buy nothing but cotton socks, which is perfectly reasonable for those who wear nothing but cotton trousers. After all, merino wool costs a few dollars more per pair than high quality cotton and wool's texture never seems quite right to me under khakis or even Sea Island cotton trousers.
That said, the suit-wearing man should usually be donning wool socks year-round. Wool socks do a better job of keeping feet warm in cold weather, and cool in hot weather. This is because wool socks are much superior at wicking water, keeping feet dry and regulating their temperature. All else being equal when it is warm cotton-encased feet will get hotter and sweatier, and when it is cold, they will get colder.
I emphasized weight in the previous paragraph because much of the common perception regarding wool vs. cotton has less to do with the properties of each and more to do with the tendency for wool socks to be woven heavier than cotton. But weight really has little to do with one vs. the other. Hosiery makers like Bresciani offer lighter weight wool for office wear as well as heavier socks for outside activities. They also offer lightweight cotton socks for hot weather, and heavier versions for cooler temperatures.
Another widely accepted but incorrect knock on wool is that it itches and cotton does not. Far be it from me to deny that there may be a pair or two of Cheviot wool socks on a store shelf somewhere and those will undoubtedly be scratchy. But the best wool socks these days are made from merino, and feel almost like cashmere. Advantage wool.
Technical points aside, notice how the socks in the photograph have the same slight nubbiness as the trouser fabric. Wool socks simply look better with wool trousers.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
A friend asked where he might find a safety pin styled gold shirt collar pin the other day, a la Mr Pacino in Godfather III, and I was unable to be of help. My former source carries nothing but gold filled and gold plated pins these days due to the escalating price of that metal, and a Google search turned up nothing useful.
The collar pin of course arches the necktie knot like a tab collar, and is usually worn with a rounded club collar or one with straight points like the shirt in the photo. I personally find collars with pre-sewn holes undesirable, which rules out collar bars, and, besides, a gold safety pin does elegant double duty as a tie clip with knitted silk neckties. The principal objection I hear to the pins is that they put holes in the shirt collar, but the holes close up after laundering. I have never done damage to one of my club collared shirts.
Now at the current stratospheric price of gold a 14 kt collar pin might set one back as much as several good neckties but that is a problem to be faced only after locating a supplier to begin with. Any readers have sources?
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Posted by Will at 7:00 AM
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
New Year's Eve is one of the two best nights of the year at the San Francisco Symphony in my opinion. The concert and dancers are splendid. Afterwards the stage becomes a (very crowded) dance floor, fulfilling the basic human need to celebrate in groups. And the balloons, horns and other props add to a good time.
The night is also one of the handful of San Francisco occasions when black tie is plentiful. And in that regard, my only regret was that I had sent the dress shirt that I wore to a local cleaner and the cuffs came back creased. Sending things to Rave Fabricare in Scottsdale is a little more work but they press more carefully, folding softly and packing in a vacuum bag so that cuffs and shirt-front are perfect. Picky men take note.
Carping aside, New Year celebrations are such a good time that they require two days for full recovery. A belated happy new year to all of you.
Monday, January 2, 2012
For no particular reason, I was idly counting patterned vs. solid suits the other day and found I had three solids for every pattern in my closet. Not exactly an earth-shaking revelation I suppose, but they say that every man's wardrobe comes to reflect his individual style and mine is fairly simple these days.
Solid and semi-solid colored suits of course should be the foundation of the starter wardrobe, since they are less likely to elicit "He's wearing that suit again" thoughts among those inclined to be unkind. As the closet fills, stripes and checks can come to occupy more and more of the space, particularly while the intermediate dresser is going through his experimental stage. Every man who thinks about his clothes has a period when four patterns become the norm, but that rarely lasts. He may not adopt Cary Grant's monochromatic look but with experience comes simplicity.
The simpler approach is one or two patterns above the waist, using texture and color so, taken as a whole, the effect is nonchalant. In the photo, a navy nailhead suit is paired with a gray on white striped shirt, a white linen pocket square and a pink and olive block striped necktie by Drake's London.
Sunday, January 1, 2012
One way to judge what readers liked best from A Suitable Wardrobe in 2011 is to look at the posts that drew the most comments. Herewith, the top five.