On St. George’s Day it seems only right to honour arguably the greatest English style icon of all time: Cary Grant.
On St. George’s Day it seems only right to honour arguably the greatest English style icon of all time: Cary Grant.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.Olderfleet Blue‘, ‘Kinbane‘, ‘The Oval‘) @SSymposium
If you want to turn out like the gentleman shown here (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?) without breaking the bank on Savile Row, here are five good tips when looking for an off-the-rack suit on the high street.
1. Sacks are for potatoes – not well dressed men
There are many measurements to consider when finding a suit jacket that fits, but you must make sure you concentrate on these three at the very least: the chest, the waist, and the shoulders.
Given the way in which suit jackets are sized – that is to say, chest size-by-length – even the most clueless buyer will be fleetingly aware that the chest is an important area. Amazing, then, that so many still get it wrong. It’s quite simple, really: make sure your lapels lay against your chest when the jacket is buttoned, not too tight, but certainly with no gaping space.
Similarly, the way your jacket fits around your waist is paramount. Getting this measurement right can be the difference between looking like a true flâneur of Naples and a miserly bouncer on the doorstep of a grim nightclub in Stoke.
Italian suits are world-renowned, so let’s look to pasta for inspiration: A poorly-fitted jacket will make you look square, creating parallel lines of your torso – think ravioli. What you really want is to be closer to farfalle (that’s the bow shape to you and I) – pinched at the waist, with the correct amount of suppression to emphasise the broadness of your shoulders. This may take some alteration (which can be done at a modest cost) but be warned: go too tight and the fabric will pull at the button when fastened, creating a stretched look.
Speaking of shoulders, this is the third key measurement to consider. Too wide and your jacket will slump half way down your deltoids, creating a divot where the arms meets the shoulder pad; too narrow and the fabric will gather and look unsightly across your shoulder blades. Aim for a smooth transition between the corner of the shoulder and the sleeve.
2. Avoid a short jacket like the plague
I’ve noticed that a lot of high street suits come with disproportionately short jackets. Of course, if you’re on the short side, you will take a short jacket, but proportion is key: the sleeves should never be as long as the jacket itself; heaven forbid they are longer.
But the latter is not as uncommon as you might think. Frankly, it’s a disastrous look, creating a pear shape where one does not exist, often accentuating the backside and thighs of even the slimmest gentleman.
Opt instead for a jacket that covers your backside fully – this will usually leave at least three inches between the bottom of your sleeve (which should fall no lower than your wrist bone) and the bottom of the jacket. Critically, this will make you look slimmer and taller – and that’s good news for all of us.
3. The 80s have been and gone. Get your leg tailored
Off-the-rack needn’t mean you have to look like MC Hammer in parachute pants. Not being able to afford bespoke tailoring is one thing; shunning alteration is just negligent. And cheap.
Length is important: never have more than a single break in the front crease; you can forget having one at all at the back. I appreciate not everyone likes to pair their suits with penny loafers and bare ankles, but neither should the bottom of your trousers resemble accordions.
Tapering is also key. A lot of modern high street stores, particularly those aimed at younger men, are guilty of ‘over-skinnifying’ their suit trousers. Look elsewhere; nobody wants to see your package, and the skin-tight-around-the-thigh look is best left to to cyclists.
Instead, get your trousers tapered so that they mimic the shape of your leg closely, but never quite hug. Pay special attention to the ankle area: too little tapering and you’ll have excessive movement when you walk; too much and you’ll sail perilously close to carrot territory.
4. Less is more. To paraphrase Cary Grant, let them see you, not the suit
The temptation when buying a suit is to get as much bang for your buck as possible. I’m talking fancy, bordered lapels, bright and brilliant buttons, and stand-out print.
The truth is, these can look cheap when done on a budget. Bold fabrics might look great when done by Gieves & Hawkes, not so much when your suit costs less than a tenth of the price.
Simplicity is key. Subtle, textured fabrics, in classic colours work best. Make sure the lapel style isn’t too thin. And forget gimmicks like black edging around pockets.
If you pride yourself on eccentricity, make up for it with your tie and pocket square. But as far as the suit goes, take Cary Grant’s advice.
5. You’ve got your suit – don’t fall at the last hurdle
Ok. You’ve got your suit. It fits well. You opted against that bold plaid print. Don’t mess it up now with a cheap, skinny tie, or clumpy shoes.
Accessories are key to looking good in a suit. Shoes arguably most of all. Don’t scrimp and save – you’ll end up going through three or four pairs of poorly made shoes when you could have forked out a bit extra for a quality pair that will last. If Church’s are out of your price range, drop down a tier and try Loake – their 747 Oxfords are value for money at £145.00.
Ties and pocket squares are where you can fully express yourself. An advantage of having a plain suit is that you can opt for bold patterned ties and wild pocket squares, but don’t match the two – it’s a dated look. Try contrasting colours. Just be careful not to resemble a bad acid trip.
Why not consider a bespoke shirt? They’re not as expensive as you might think and will help to maintain the clean-line look. Finicky shirts, for example, offer a bespoke product for as little as £64.95.
And finally, avoid belts if you can. A belt looks great with a sports jackets and chinos, but they’re not for suits. They interrupt the flow and add lumps and bumps where they shouldn’t.
I confess: I love pocket squares. I’m head-over-heels crazy for them. Paisley, polka dot, or plain; presidential, puff, or peaked – wearing a pocket square is the pinnacle of sartorial craft, adding a dazzling flash of colour to an otherwise demure outfit, or gently tying together a bold get-up.
But can a pocket square be too intricate? After all, no matter what fold you opt for, even the most eccentric will only display a suggestion of the square’s overall print.
The Mariano Rubinacci shown here is a great example. (In fact, it’s worth looking at the entire collection here.) Beautiful, as a word, is inadequate to describe this piece, ‘Real Sito Di Capodimonte‘ – an unmitigated a work of art.
But at €70.00 before VAT, is the investment justified?
Yes. There’s no denying that your company will miss out on the full show, unless of course you remove the square for ‘practical reasons’ (seriously, who mops up a spill with a €70.00 rag?) But the beauty of such a piece is that it can be manipulated in so many ways.
The combinations, in terms of colour and presentation, are almost limitless, depending on the fold. Hell, you could even use the black edging in a presidential fold for a formal occasion (though you’d be a brave man to turn up to a black tie event with a horse and crown popping out of your breast pocket!)
For me, then, pocket-square-meets-art is genius and I’ll be making sure there’s at least one in my wardrobe for a day at the races this summer. Geometric patterns may still rule your staple collection, but having a wild card in reserve never hurt.
Starting a blog is tough, isn’t it? I don’t necessarily mean getting a blog off the ground; cultivating a readership, that sort of thing. (Though, to be sure, that’s more difficult still.) What I mean to say is starting a post; starting your first post.
So here is mine. And that, above, is how I started.
This clumsy collection of words is testament to my neurosis, or at least compulsion to rake over the details again and again. And then some. And that, in a roundabout way, is sort of what I’m doing here in the blogosphere. Only I’m not so much concerned with words as I am with style – which is just another means of expressing oneself, so I suppose you could say an extension of the written word. (See what I mean.)
Ultimately, my problem is that I couple an expensive taste for fashion with a relatively low-paid job; when I volunteer to part with £300 for a pair of shoes, the decision I make is not taken as lightly as it might by those in the Square Mile or Lincoln’s Inn.
And so the process goes: inspiration, deliberation, symposium. Inspiration because what is fashion but a social construction to be admired, mimicked, and developed? Deliberation because, to put it bluntly, I can’t afford to fuck up with a faux pas. And symposium because I wish discuss. With you.
So that is my raison d’être. Make of it what you will. I’ll be sharing my favourite images, items, and inspirations. I hope there will be at least a few who care to hold a symposium.