Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Grooming: Geo F Trumpers

I've changed hairdresser recently and started visiting Geo F Trumpers, at their new premises on Duke of York street. They, like the other inhabitants of the Piccadilly end of Jermyn Street, have been forced to move while the Crown Estate conducts extensive work on their building. I never had my hair cut at the old shop but have, of course, visited it. Like many of the older Jermyn Street stores, it felt like stepping back in time, and not surprisingly as it probably hadn't changed much in a century. Sadly, this is a feeling that the new store, for all its beautiful interior, cannot replicate. Indeed, even when Trumpers returns to its old premises in a few years, as it intends to, I can't help but feel that something of its character will have been lost forever.

Nevertheless, the important elements of the Trumpers experience remain. The products are the best quality available, all beautifully packaged and displayed, while the staff are unfailingly knowledgable and courteous. Upstairs, the barbers work in a pleasantly quiet room that, despite feeling incongruously brand-new, has been decorated in a traditional style and, presumably, with as many of the old furnishings as could reasonably be used. Like Taylors, and other Gent's hairdressers in St James, Trumpers offer a full range of services that place it somewhere between the comfortably masculine environment of a traditional barber's shop, and the luxury and pampering of a spa. It's a very agreeable balance, and the ability to choose between popping in for a 20 minute haircut, or spending an entire morning on a trim, a shave, a facial and a head massage is a pleasant one.

Friday, 13 August 2010

101 easy ways to dress better. No 12: Proper dress shirts

I was inspired in this post by Kurt of Cultural Offering. He asked me to comment on the 'atrocity' that is a short-sleeved dress shirt. I am only too happy to oblige a loyal reader but, to try and disguise the rant that this might otherwise become, I thought I would address the question of what a proper dress shirt ought to be. I am looking, by and large, at those shirts designed to be worn with a suit or, at least, a jacket, since a certain amount more flexibility is possible with shirts worn casually. Although I might still draw the line at short-sleeved dress shirts.

Image from Turnbull and Asser

A proper dress shirt may be made out of any one of any number of materials, depending on taste and season. It may have any of a number of collar styles. There are even a fairly large number of options available in the cuff, although the majority of them are not to my taste. There are, however, two things on which I am dogmatic. Firstly, a proper dress shirt does not have a breast pocket. Secondly, and far more importantly, no dress shirt has short sleeves.

Why, you may ask, have I taken so strongly against two practical innovations? A breast pocket gives men somewhere to keep their pen or, if they are Don Draper, their cigarettes. Short sleeves, meanwhile, allow them to keep cool in the summer. Sadly, however, it is often the practical innovations that must be resisted the most. There is little that is, or should be, overtly practical about the well-dressed gentleman's outfit. It ought to speak of a traditional outlook combined with modern good taste and good tailoring to create a look that is no more prey to adjustments in the name of practicality than to changes in the name of fashion.

Sadly, a man who too obviously compromises his dress to make his life easier or more comfortable runs the risk of not being taken seriously. If you are hot, roll up your sleeves and, if you find you have nowhere to put your pen, then keep your jacket on. There are plenty of pockets in that.

Saturday, 7 August 2010


I was reading, yesterday, about Sir Walter Scott; a man who perhaps did more than anyone to create the Victorian and late Georgian obsession with an idealised version of Scotland. It was this obsession that led to the  building of Balmoral in 1853, a sort of fairy-tale Scottish castle decorated with tartan and moose heads in an odd highland pastiche that would be incredibly naff if it were done by anyone other than the Royal Family. Perhaps it still is, but a century and a half of use has softened the effect and made its artificiality less jarring.

All of this is by way of an introduction to my real topic, which is the wearing of kilts. Like building fairytale castles, kilt-wearing south of the border was popularised by the Victorian gentry who developed a sudden interest in noisily declaring a Scottish heritage. Unlike building fairytale castles, of course, almost anyone can wear a kilt and many people do with little or no meaningful Scottish connection. Kilts can be worn, with slight variations in the outfit, to white tie or black tie events, and to formal day events, and they tend to look extremely smart. Most highland outfits involve a waistcoat which, as you know, I think is almost always an improvement. In any case, the wearers usually take more care over their appearance than the average man in a tux, and they add considerably to the general variety of formal-wear at an event.

Image From Kinloch Anderson

Kilt styles, and their accompanying jackets and accessories, vary enormously and there are plenty of different options, perhaps even more than with black or white tie. I don't know nearly enough about them to attempt to explain them all; if you are unsure then taking the advice of a good Scottish tailor will be key. So long as you wear the appropriate version of highland evening wear, you should be able to be correctly dressed at any event. However, you may still wonder; should you wear one? Are you entitled to?

There aren't really any hard and fast rules. I have heard it said that a real Scotsman never wears a kilt south of the border, but this strikes me as a rule rarely observed and is, in any case, without any particular justification that I can see. Ultimately, it is up to you whether you feel you could justify yourself if, at a party, someone were to ask you why you were wearing traditional highland wear. Especially if the person who asked you happened to be a genuine Scottish Laird. If you are comfortable with your own reasons for wearing a kilt then go for it, but do bear in mind that if the only thing people can remember about you at the end of an evening is that you were in a kilt, then you are definitely doing something wrong.