Icon series: Cary Grant

On St. George’s Day it seems only right to honour arguably the greatest English style icon of all time: Cary Grant.

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Harrison & Fyfe: The modern gentleman’s collection

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What makes a great men’s brand? In truth there are infinite answers, all of which are subject to opinion. But for me, a great men’s brand will always radiate two things: timeless style and masculinity.

Fashions come and go, often at the expense of retrospective embarrassment; there is hackneyed expression – hindsight is a wonderful thing – which applies here, and it’s true to an extent. But what separates the stylish from the faddish is a more wonderful thing still: foresight. The gentleman who can see past the fashion industry’s spin and identify all that is amaranthine in men’s style will forever be a Well Dressed Man. And the brand that provides the latter of the two will forever be a favourite of mine.

Though it launched only yesterday, I’ve seen enough to convince that Harrison & Fyfe is one of those brands.

Founded in Glasgow on a bedrock of experience in the fine art and design industries, Harrison & Fyfe’s cultural heritage shows. It’s aim is to present “a range of beautiful accessories from the finest independent brands and designers in the world”, it’s definition of ‘the finest’ “based around process, materials, ethos and passion”.

The garish and androgynous has no place here: this is a selection of simple, handsome, masculine products. The highlights of the range include April Look linen pocket squares,  Daniel Wellington watches, Graham Withers ties, and some truly majestic Steve Mono leather briefcases. Even taking a economical route, one would have to travel some 7,000 miles – from Sweden to Lithuania to Madrid and then on to New York – in order to buy those products where they were originally crafted.

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Harrison & Fyfe has made a remarkable first step towards success by its own measure: “to provide the perfect online retail experience for the discerning man”.

It should take encouragement, too, from Tim Little, owner of British shoe label Grenson, who told Esquire magazine’s Big Black Book recently: “I think modern, affluent men are rediscovering the pleasure of buying something that’s well made and has an interesting story.” He’s absolutely correct, meaning that Harrison & Fyfe, with the peculiarity of craft and narrative that comes with its products, will surely be a hit.

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Summer tips: Wear your shorts right

Right on cue, the emergence of the sun is accompanied by the emergence of shorts. It takes a brave man to be a seasonal pioneer of a summer favourite, but that owes more to the awakening of pasty legs from their winter hibernation than the item of clothing itself.

Worn correctly, shorts can be a sartorialist’s best friend: comfortable, low-maintenance and, critically, stylish. The problem is, they’re so often not.

Let’s start with how shorts ought to look.

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Notice how all three examples sit definitively above the knee, the vastus medialis (or ‘teardrop muscle’) clearly on show, without straying into hotpant territory. And that’s the first lesson.

Below you will see how not to wear your shorts. The image on the left may appear almost comical, but it’s a look that will be more popular than you think this summer. Unless you want to look like Sacha Baron Cohen’s Bruno, stay away: remember, the key, as with any outfit, is for people to notice you and not so much your clothes.

If you happen to own a pair of shorts that drop to the knee, but otherwise fit well, don’t be hesitant to roll them up – this can actually add to your look. But if they’re as long as those exhibited below, don’t bother – you’ll end up looking like you’re wearing doughnuts round your thighs by the time they’re hitched to a suitable length.

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How your shorts fit around your thighs is as important as their length. Referring back to the images at the top – let’s call them ‘how to’ – notice that they’re fitted, but not tight. Over the past few seasons, a lot of high street stores, in trying to capture the more expensive tailored look, have ended up making their shorts too skinny. That’s a style best left alone since it creates an illusion of consistency from your calves through your thighs.

On the flip side, following my first tip (i.e. adhering to the correct length), but with a pair of shorts too wide in the thigh, will bear equally dubious results.

Wear your shorts so that they mimic, but don’t hug, your thighs. Leave room to move. Not everyone benefits from a svelte figure but, where possible, all good clothes should compliment the wearer’s frame by outlining and suggesting it tastefully. Shorts are no different.

Finally: wear the right shoes.  Personally, and as readers of this blog will come to find out in time, I’m not a huge fan of sneakers. That said, if they’re simple enough – preferably made from a course canvas – they can work (see the last ‘how to‘ image). Boat shoes do the trick too but – and perhaps I’m being a pedant here – both are little clean-cut for me.

My personal preference is for driving loafers: Tod’s gomminis being my shoe of choice. More grown-up than plimsolls, and softer-textured than boat shoes, the driving loafer should be a staple in your wardrobe.

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“Like ginger ale in my skull”

The past week has been tough. I’ve had sleepless nights; cold sweats have set in; for the first time I can appreciate what the great modern philosopher Tony Soprano meant when he described the feeling of “ginger ale in [his] skull”.

Something bad has happened. Or at least I fear it might. I’m worried that I may have committed a cardinal sin. In actual fact, I’m worried that I may have broken the golden rule of this very blog: have I committed a faux pas that, financially, I cannot afford?

Just over a week ago I dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s on a new made-to-measure, three-piece suit from Suitsupply. I was headstrong, I’ll admit: I opted for grey flannel, despite the run of summer to come; I was insistent on more leg tapering; I even ignored the tailor’s favourite lining in favour of a very simple fabric.

And I’m happy with all of that: London rarely does summer; I have very skinny ankles; and bright, garish, Paul Smith-esque flowers aren’t my cup of chai.

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But had I been too cute? Had I slipped up? Had I made tinder of the style guide when I requested…patch pockets?

Believe me, after the week of deliberation I’ve experienced, even writing that is difficult. I am wincing. If you listen carefully, you will hear the sound of sartorialists in-taking breath in sharp unison. Patch pockets? On a suit? How unkempt.

But there was method to my madness, I assure you.

The look-book I had compiled was inspired by suits of an altogether more demure character. I already have suits that one might describe as “sharp”, with slanted, flapped pockets, and a ticket pocket to boot. What I wanted was something a little more relaxed, dare I say sporty – something that I might be more inclined to wear with a ‘sports’ shoe, suede loafers perhaps.

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And at the time it made perfect sense. The problem is, I rapidly lost my bottle. By the time I arrived home, panic had set in. I decided to sleep on it. And yet I couldn’t sleep, so I took to browsing on-line for more images of patch-pocketed suit jackets instead.

Paranoia set in as my search engine endeavours harvested images of clumpy tweed sports jackets time and again. This was not what I had in mind! The lines of the suit will be ruined! Addicts don’t know pain, I thought. This is pain.

And that’s when I hit bottom.

Dramatic? Maybe. So let’s cut this story short: I decided to call Suitsupply a week later and request a change to straight, flapped pockets instead. Simple. It was the coward’s way out, but then at least I knew the suit would retain a degree of formality.

But here’s the rub: it was too late. What was done, was done. The fabric had been cut. Patch pockets it was then. Two oversized, shabby pockets, looking me in the eye, toying with me; laughing at me.

I felt like I’d just read Act 5, scene 3 of Romeo and Juliet for the first time. Total. Fucking. Melancholy.

But then I had a divine moment, a wave of relief washing over me. I had wanted patch pockets for a reason. I had made a stylistic, creative decision. Patch pockets may not be run-of-the-mill, but then if I had wanted run-of-the-mill, would I have opted for a semi-bespoke solution in the first place?

No, this was a good thing. Suitsupply’s strict rules had wedded me to what was a perfectly reasonable choice after all. Compromise was no longer an option and the temptation to conform was snuffed out there and then. I’m being my own man, and I like it.

So now I play a waiting game. And the ginger ale has all but gone. Whether it’s due to return upon my first fitting, only the pockets can know.

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Suitsupply’s reasonable alternative to Rubinacci

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I wrote recently in praise of Mariano Rubinacci’s stunning pocket squares which are, in my opinion, unrivaled. They’re elegant; they’re iconic; they’re beautiful.

They’re also expensive.

So I’ve tracked down a reasonable alternative: Take a peak at Suitsupply’s Spring/Summer pocket square line.

I’m a huge fan of the Dutch menswear chain; I even have a made-to-measure suit from one of its London stores. Provided you’re into the  Italian Riviera look – and I very much am – the brand is a good, economical substitute for what may well be out of your price range on Savile Row.

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And these three silk/cotton pocket squares – although no match for the vibrancy, colour, and quality of a Rubinacci – should be under serious consideration, given their price: a steal at £25.

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Monsieur London

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Raised in French craftmen families, Thibault and Valentin travelled the world together before starting their company, Monsieur London, in, well, London.

Their shared heritage shows: not only in the quality of the brand’s craft, but in its exotic sourcing.

Take the highlight of the range – its bag collection – hand-stitched in Colombia. The ‘Cartagena Whiskey’ weekender (below) is so luxurious in its finish that it wouldn’t look out of place amongst the beautiful colonial streets of Cartagena itself.

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But there’s more to the brand than fine leather goods. Monsieur London stocks most of the men’s accessories you’d expect: ties, cufflinks, hats, belts, braces, and gloves. The only items that standout as missing are pocket squares and socks.

That said, the brand is looking to extend its collection over the coming years, so one can only assume – and indeed look forward to – these essential items being added to the portfolio. If the rest of Monsieur London‘s line is to be taken as a measure, it’ll be worth the wait.

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(Left to right: ‘Olderfleet Blue‘, ‘Kinbane‘, ‘The Oval‘)
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