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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Five tips for buying a suit on the high street

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Pocket square-meets-art: Genius or waste?

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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.

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Inspiration. Deliberation. Symposium.

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.

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