Sunday, 30 September 2012

Designing Bond's Look

An nice little featurette here on designing James Bond's look. I was particularly interested in the first bit about the turn-back cuff, something I'd not noticed in the old films, but which is an unusual suit feature that I have on one of my suits.



A nice mention of Anthony Sinclair, Connery's original tailor, who still make suits today with the original 'conduit cut' style, and also how he came to end up wearing Brioni.

A little thin on real detail, but still well worth a watch.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Royal Warrant Round-up

Last week's post about Penhaligon's reminded me of an interesting aspect of choosing a supplier: the Royal Warrant. Described (by the Royal Warrant-holders Association, to be fair) as the 'Peerage of Trade', it is the stamp of approval by one of the three senior royals (The Queen, Prince Phillip, or Prince Charles) and therefore seen as the ultimate product endorsement by many retailers.

Of course, it's only a mark of quality or taste insofar as you assume that the Royals are supremely aware of quality and arbiters of taste. We might point out that companies as diverse as Coca Cola, DHL, and Carphone Warehouse all have Royal Warrants (though some choose not to display them, depending on how they believe it will be viewed by their target market).

All the same, I still believe that most Royal Warrant-holders are legitimately somewhere close to the best in their particular field and, if nothing else, it may give some satisfaction when your own tastes align with those of the Royal Family. Penhaligon's is one, of course, but here are a few more suppliers who get not only the Royal Warrant but also the highly prestigious St James Style Seal of Approval.

Ede and Ravenscroft
Still my favourite source of most things non-bespoke, although their tendency not to produce their beautiful short-run seasonal suits and jackets in sufficiently small chest sizes does mean that I mostly restrict myself to shirts, trousers, ties, pocket squares and various other odds and ends. The shops are beautiful, the staff are generally excellent, and the quality is terrific.


Ede & Ravenscroft actually hold their warrants (all three) as Robe Makers, which is their speciality. They are still the premier supplier for not only academic and court gowns and robes, but for the more obscure pieces of finery sometimes needed by Royalty and the Peerage.

Tanqueray
Probably my favourite gin. Gordon's (also a warrant-holder) is terrific, and a little cheaper, but Tanqueray makes a slightly better martini and is still cheap enough to put in a gin and tonic. And, if you're feeling flush (or its on offer) you can spring for Tanqueray no. 10 which makes a still better martini albeit, at 47% abv, a slightly more lethal one.

Loake Shoemakers
Arguably the cheapest of what I'd consider the 'real' English shoe manufacturers, even pipping Barker to the post, Loake manufacturer an incredibly wide range of proper classic Goodyear-Welted shoes, along with a few more modern options, and sell most of them for less than £150 a pair. That is the way to my heart, and clearly it is the way to Her Majesty's heart as well.

Paxton and Whitfield
Churchill supposedly once said "A gentleman buys his hats at Locks, his shoes at Lobbs, his shirts at Harvey and Hudson, his suits at Huntsman and his cheese at Paxton & Whitfield". Three of those five hold Royal Warrants, and Paxton & Whitfield is one of them. Of course, in reality, I mostly buy cheese from supermarkets but, for dinner parties or other special occasions you simply cannot beat the expertise, range and quality of Paxton and Whitfield. And nothing quite makes Christmas-time feel Christmassy like joining the long queue at the Jermyn Street store to pick up some cheese to take back for the family.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Answering the questions I never get asked: part 2

Back at the beginning of last year (goodness me... so long?) I noted that the Google searches that lead people to my blog also occasionally suggest questions that people are curious about but my blog is failing to answer. Back then, I decided to answer a few that particularly interested me in this post, and I have decided to do the same again now. So here we go. These are all Google searches that have landed people on my blog.

Are brown brogues acceptable for an interview
Good question! I could write a whole post on interview clothes (and probably will soon) but, in answer to your specific question, I'd say it depends on the job and what you plan to wear them with. If you think the interview demands a business suit, and that's what you'll be wearing, then I would suggest that brown brogues are a risky choice. You might well disagree with restrictive rules about not wearing brown shoes with a suit and, if so, I'd say that on your first day at your new job you should feel free to flout convention and express your individuality. A job interview, however, is not the time - wear black Oxfords if you have them and, if you don't, then buy some.

That said, I increasingly don't wear suits to job interviews. I always used to, but the reality is that my profession simply doesn't expect or require it, and most 'interviews' now take the form of relatively informal chats before reaching a mutual agreement on a role. The key is showing that you can look presentable when needed, and that you respect the process and the interviewer, and I can achieve that with a smart jacket and chinos. Under those circumstances, well-polished brown brogues are absolutely ideal.

Can a black old top hat be refitted
Yes, within reason, although it may not be cheap. I would recommend Lock & Co.

Can I wear double breasted waistcoat with lounge suit
Oh definitely - I think this looks absolutely terrific. I assuming this means a waistcoat that matches the suit, though. Odd waistcoats with lounge suits are controversial enough without going overboard.



Can you wear a waistcoat that doesn't match
I actually seem to have loads of people Googling this or similar questions, such as 'can I wear a grey waistcoat with a blue suit' or 'can I wear a plain grey waistcoat with a grey checked suit'. Ok, so I do understand the temptation - you've realised that three-piece suits look unbelievably awesome and glamorous but, even now they're popular, relatively few cheaper stores sell them and, besides, you already have as many suits as you can afford, so can you pick up and odd waistcoat and use it?

You can, if you do it judiciously. I wrote a post some time ago about this, and I stand by my views. Nevertheless, it's a tough look to pull off well, and if you really want the full effect of a three-piece suit then there's no substitute for just biting the bullet and buying one.

Advice for artillery officer
Keep your head down and come home safe.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Top 5 accessories you (may) need to own

Many thanks to one of my readers for suggesting this post. I hope it is somewhat useful.

Listing the top five accessories you 'need' is somewhat harder than my previous post. Most of the ones I can think of you could easily get through life without, and none are quite as broadly useful as a blue blazer, for example. All the same, I would suggest that any man who wants to at least have the capacity to be seriously well-dressed needs to own most of these.

Cufflinks
Sure, you don't have to wear cufflinks and, if you never wear a suit, then you can probably get away with only ever wearing button-cuff shirts. Indeed, I am not personally a fan of wearing double-cuffed shirts with casual jackets, but that may just be me. All the same, it's generally considered smarter to wear cufflinks with a suit and, more importantly, it is one of the very few opportunities men have to wear a bit of jewellery.

The options are limitless - gold ovals are classic, perhaps engraved with your initials or a club or family emblem. I personally prefer the type with a front and back linked by a chain, as it looks far smarter, although I'll admit that the 'bar and swivel' type are easier to put on.

Other cufflinks with jewels, coloured enamel or other decoration are also options depending on your taste. Having something a bit showy is fine, but simpler is generally better.

Aside from that, simple silk knots are a cheap option available in an almost infinite variety of colours. They have the advantage of hardly being cufflinks at all, which may appeal to men who wear a suit all the time for work and prefer to avoid the added formality of metal cufflinks on a daily basis.


Braces
Or suspenders, for my American readers. Fewer and fewer men seem to wear braces, but I consider them almost vital for wearing suit trousers properly. I personally think that belts are pretty much unacceptable with a suit, despite their ubiquity these days, and it really requires braces to get suit trousers hanging comfortable at the right height without being uncomfortably cinched around the waist.

I favour the heavy boxcloth braces with leather attachments from Albert Thurston, but colourful silk ones are also an option and, since they should rarely be visible, you can feel free to go fairly wild.

Watch
I wasn't completely sure about including a watch on this list. If you like wearing watches then, no doubt, you already own one. If you don't like wearing watches then I wouldn't suggest that you rush out and buy one simply on the basis of this post. All the same, I love watches for all sorts of reasons, not least their ability to simultaneously enhance an outfit and enable a man to tell the time without fishing in a pocket for his smart phone. These alone make wearing a watch something a stylish man ought to seriously consider.

As to the type, I wouldn't presume to dictate to you on something so personal. My own preference is for watches that are as simple as possible, with the minimum of additional dials and buttons, and I slightly favour leather straps. You don't have to share my taste, but I would recommend avoiding overly 'sporty' or chunky watches with a suit. You may think they hint at a secret life of extreme sports, but I would suggest they hint at having never grown up. Unnecessarily fully-featured watches are equally problematic - the manufacturer may imagine it's a positive that their watch is designed to help solo pilots circumnavigate the globe but, unless you actually own an aircraft, such a watch is more likely to make you look deluded while also failing to fit properly under your shirt cuff.

Ok, so I would presume to dictate to you on something so personal. Sorry.

Belt(s)
Yes, I think you should wear braces with your suits, and yes a belt does very little for trousers worn at the natural waist, but the time has long since passed where odd trousers were made with side adjusters or worn very far above the hip, so a belt is both a necessary and potentially very attractive part of the wardrobe.

Every man really needs a good, solid, brown leather belt. Avoid the hell out of fancy buckles, particularly anything with logos or images. A belt like this will go well with brown shoes to wear with chinos or other odd trousers. You may also want a black belt, although I would suggest that the occasions when you will wear black shoes with odd trousers are probably fewer. 

Aside from that, a couple of more casual belts can also be worthwhile, particularly to wear with tailored shorts or just to make a change in more relaxed outfits. I'm a big fan of stripy canvas belts, which generally end with leather attachments and a brass buckle. Smart Turnout do this sort of thing in school and regimental colours which is fun, though probably not strictly necessary.

Pocket Squares
Pocket squares, which for a long time seemed to be seen as the preserve of slightly 'dandified' men, are making a pleasing resurgence. It might be the Mad Men effect, or just a general enthusiasm for (albeit generally rather distorted) formal style. 

I love them for the opportunity to add another bit of colour to an outfit, and because of the small amount of additional care they show that you've taken. If appropriately selected with a careful eye, to compliment or contrast with the ensemble of shirt, tie and jacket, they complete an outfit in a way that makes their absence start to seem almost striking.

I personally favour an carelessly style with a mere half-inch showing in unstudied peaks or waves, but a neater line or triangle fold can look extremely smart, particularly with a plain white pocket square. The secret is to show neither too much or too little, and certainly to avoid great mounds of silk flowing from your top pocket. A variety of colours, patterns and materials are available, and if you start to build up a collection you'll always have the right thing for the occasion, whether it's a dark green paisley cotton square to wear with a tweed jacket, or a spotted silk one to tuck into your most sober business suit.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Scent: Penhaligon's Sartorial

Penhaligon's is easily my favourite source of cologne, shower gel and so forth. It's a little on the pricey side but the beautiful old stores, outstanding service and unusual products make it more than worthwhile. Unlike almost all of their competitors, Penhaligon's don't create new scents based on trend analysis, figuring out what is popular and then making something to suit. Instead, they develop their own ideas, exploring a concept and producing a result so good that people will buy it regardless of whether or not it is currently 'on-trend'. The fabulously '20s Juniper Sling is a good example of this, and makes you smell slightly like a gin martini. In a good way.

Perhaps of particular interest to my readers, though, will be the 'Sartorial' scent. Inspired, they say, by the smell of the cutting-room at famous Savile Row tailors Norton & Sons, it is said to be the 'scent of Savile Row'.
It's not that you necessarily want to smell like a tailors cutting room (although I can certainly think of worse things) but this is a terrific men's scent in its own right. Subtle and waxy, it strikes me as a the perfect thing to wear as autumn sets in.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Shoes: Loafers

Brown brogues may be, in my view, amongst the most versatile and practical of shoes, but loafers have a special place in my heart. Comfortable, sleek and relaxed, they offer a diversity of style and a range of decorative potential that particularly appeals to me.

All through the summer, loafers are the ideal thing to go with chinos or linen suits and can even be worn sockless. Even as autumn approaches, though, they're a great staple for everyday wear with a jacket and flannels. I'll happily even wear the suede Eton loafers with tweed, although I'll admit they're not best suited to wearing in wet weather...
The tassel loafers are a slightly bolder choice, and have seen their fair share of friendly mockery, but I love them. There's some satisfaction to be had from wearing something just a touch more showy on your feet, I find.
As I've said before, brogues and oxfords are a great staple, but loafers are just a bit more fun, and well worth owning to give your wardrobe some added flexibility.