Thursday, 22 November 2012

Preparing for Winter 2: Gloves

The second in my round of 'buying things I need every year, and think about buying every year, and never quite sort out' came in the form of a pair of very nice Paul Smith gloves.
I don't buy a lot of clothes from Paul Smith. Although I like the quality and some of the style, I prefer more straightforward and classic colours, patterns and cuts. I couldn't resist the gloves though - made from very soft, very dark brown leather with a thin wool lining, they're exactly the thing for the increasingly chilly but not quite 'brass-monkey' weather that heralds the run-up to Christmas. People who particularly like wearing gloves can always go for an unlined pair, but my personal view is that if it's not cold enough to justify a wool lining then it's not worth wearing something that makes it impossible to use a smart phone or fish change out of my pocket.


I personally like very dark brown gloves as a fairly all-purpose option. Black is fine, and can look smart with a suit when you are (presumably) wearing black shoes, although I personally think it's a little less elegant than brown. If you have more than one pair, then grey is a traditional but increasingly uncommon possibility for day-wear.

The slimmer and better-fitting your gloves are the better, of course (and the easier it is to do that fishing for change) and the ideal is to get them custom-made. I've never done so, but it's not outrageously expensive from places such as Walker Slater, and also gives you complete flexibility in your choice of colour, leather, and lining. Wool is comfortable and straightforward, fur is fantastic but too warm for all but the coldest days in London, and silk is lovely but generally more expensive.

It's having the choice that's nice, of course, and that inevitably is wear trouble begins. Now that I have one pair, I immediately start to realise all the other pairs I really need...

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Mr Cameron and White Tie mishaps

Poor Mr Cameron seems to have suffered a slight white tie wardrobe malfunction at last night's Lord Mayor's Banquet. I don't especially wish to post pictures of the PMs chest on this blog so, if you wish to see for yourself, you shall have to visit the Guardian, which has no such compunctions.

As far as I can tell, what happened is that he has used a type of stud designed for shirts so stiffly starched that it is impossible to push the stud through, and so they must in fact be inserted from either side and screwed together. Perhaps his are an old family set and the threads are worn, but it seems that several have come undone at once, which is highly unfortunate.

Ah well, such are the perils of wearing a wardrobe that requires you to be screwed in to your shirt, but at least he made the effort and generally looked jolly smart.

Still, those of you with an eye for correct formal attire will no doubt notice that he has committed the classic white tie sin of wearing a waistcoat that extends well below the bottom of his tailcoat.


Of course, he's hardly the first man to have this problem. The difficulty arises because the coat must be short, coming to barely below the ribcage, and the waistcoat must (obviously) cover the waistband of the trousers. Therefore, one is left with two options: either the trousers must come to somewhere around your navel, which is correct but unpopular these days, or the waistcoat must extend below the tailcoat. Finding sufficiently high-waisted trousers is all the more difficult if, like the PM, you hire your white tie. Mr Cameron gets his from Buckleigh in Chelsea which is, I am sure, a step up on Moss Bros but no doubt has likewise given up on trying to talk the modern customer into wearing trousers that sit a good half a foot higher than those he is used to.

It's a shame, and Mr Cameron of all people could surely justify buying his own evening suit and having it properly fitted. Even Gordon Brown, he of the baggy suits, eventually shelled out £3,000 (of his own money) on his own. That said, he probably didn't get as much use out of it as he'd hoped, so perhaps Mr Cameron is still hedging his bets.
The moral of the story? Buy evening wear that fits, and be sure that your studs are up to the task before you step infront of the national press.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Style icon: Patrick Bateman

Ok, so he's either an extremely sick and evil man or (more likely, in my view) has a very sick imagination, but it's hard to be interested in clothes and ignore the fact that the protagonist of Bret Easton Ellis's famous book is utterly obsessed by what he, and everyone else around him, is wearing. The beginning of every chapter reads like one of those strange 'what am I wearing today' threads on the more naval-gazing clothing forums and, not only that, but he and his friends obsess about the minutiae of how to wear certain items of clothing in a way that cannot help to attract the interest of a blogger like myself.

"Is it proper to wear tasseled loafers with a business suit?"
"The tasseled loafer is traditionally a casual shoe...[but] as long as it's either black or cordovan it's ok."

"There are definitely dos and don'ts ... of wearing a bold-striped shirt. A bold stripe calls for solid-coloured or discreetly patterned suits and ties."

And so on, and so on.


I'm not sure the film really does justice to the range of his wardrobe and, in particular, the way he carefully chooses exactly the right thing to wear for each event. To a U2 concert, it's "a wool jacket with wool flannel trousers, a cotton shirt, a cashmere V-neck sweater and a silk tie". I'm not sure anyone dresses like that to see bands anymore, but it would certainly do for an evening at the theatre or at a classical concert. For a day in the office, perhaps a more formal lool: "a mini-houndstooth-check wool suit with pleated trousers by Hugo Boss, a silk tie... a cotton broad-cloth shirt by Joseph Abboud, and shoes from Brooks Brothers".

Of course, Bateman's real problem is the same as some other well-dressed men I've come accross: he's enthralled (to an unhealthy degree) by details, by labels, and by what other people are wearing. There's no indication of any real flair, style or enthusiasm. But perhaps that's not surprising; he is, after all, a psychopath, desperately trying to fit in.

If we can learn anything from Patrick, it's that. Stop worrying about 'the rules', stop obsessing over every component of each day's outfit and where you bought it from, and stop worrying how other people see you. 

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Closing of Ralph Lauren Rugby

The always excellent 'Boxing the Compass' blog has drawn my attention to the fact that Ralph Lauren Rugby is closing, with an amusingly mocking take on the brand. I'm not a huge fan myself; while I quite like the preppy look, and occasionally veer a little in that direction with my outfits, I'd prefer to construct the style myself from decent clothes made without necessarily any conscious preppy intention than to buy it, fully formed and largely falsified, from a single store. I think I only own one item of clothing from there - a nice-fitting pair of chinos that have nevertheless largely fallen apart within a year.

I'm not quite sure what's inspired Ralph Lauren to do this - supposedly they want to focus on their own brand, and on accessories. That may be no bad thing, they actually make terrific suits and other clothes, but seem often to be overshadowed by weirdly stylised spin-off brands that feel more like costumiers than clothes-shops.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Preparing for Winter 1 - Boots

For the last two Autumn/Winter periods, I've spent an inordinate amount of time wanting, looking for, an ultimately not buying a pair of brown brogue boots.

On the one hand, they are exactly what I need. A little warmer, a little chunkier and a little more suitable for wet (or even snowy weather) than normal shoes and yet (if well chosen) able to pass for a pair of casual, but perfectly smart, brogues when your trousers cover the ankle section.

The trouble has always been finding the right pair. It's important that they basically have the shape and style of a normal pair of brown brogues, so anything overly chunky was out. On the other hand, ideally I feel it needs to have rubber soles since it is at least in part a practical purchase. Colour, too, becomes tricky when, of the half-dozen or so shoemakers I would consider buying from, each may only make one or two varieties of boot, and some offer none.

And so time passed, and I never bought a pair. Finally, though, I have bitten the bullet and gone for what is very nearly my perfect pair of brown brogue boots.


They're made by Crockett & Jones, and are a neat and smart pair of open-laced boots with a classic full-brogue that, when I am wearing trouser, are barely distinguishable from many shoes. The colour is beautiful - a properly dark almost mahogany tone that I've taken years trying to polish into my other brogues. If they have a flaw, it's that they are not rubber-soled. Crockett & Jones do offer it, but it required returning them to the manufacturer and paying an extra £60. The money isn't so much of a problem, but the wait was. Deferred gratification has never been my strong point. I shall wear them as they are and, when they need resoling, will probably have them changed at that point.


They're warm, comfortable and beautiful - form and function combined, which is always nice, particularly if you enjoy walking for miles around London as much as I do. Although largely designed for country wear, they're perfectly acceptable to wear with pretty much anything you might wear brown brogues with. I particularly like them with one of my pairs of fairly casual, but brightly coloured corduroy trousers. At the same time, they could certainly be worn with a tweed suit and possible with other very soft, casual or light-coloured suits.