Archives for December 2007

Dangerous Trends

As everyone knows, not all trends are for everyone, and some trends prove to be for no one. When a trend is too innovative or ‘out-there,’ it’s usually an indication of a short life span. Witness such expired trends as destroyed jeans, 80’s neon colored fabrics, underwear as outerwear, and the list continues almost infinitely.

Other trends, however, are somewhere in the middle between completely wearable and outrageous. I call them dangerous trends because when not worn correctly, they can end up looking horribly wrong and laughable. It takes a certain type of person who is advanced in their style of dressing and is adept at experimenting with clothes.

Fur hat

Fur has been making a subtly growing comeback both among men whose goal is to be deviously provocative as well as avant-garde hipsters. While fur coats are still a long way from being acceptable to the mainstream, fur accessories seem to be undergoing resurgence in popularity. After Gucci’s Fall/Winter 2007 collection included fur accented and even three-quarter length fur coats, other designers have followed suit. Hats and scarves make for opulently warm and luxurious pieces, and can even look good when worn the right way and by the right person. The danger, coming not only from being attacked by PETA supporters, is also inherent in that you can easily look like an eccentric throwback from Stalin’s Russia or Daniel Boone.

Metallic blazer

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb in saying that this does not look good on anyone. Not only has not enough time passed since the 70’s to make this new or interesting, but the overall fashion-forwardness of it makes it too risqué for most people to wear. My theory for the existence of this trend is that after metallic handbags for women were such a hit over the summer, designers had a surplus of material they didn’t want to waste.

Slim collar

The thin-collared shirt is a style that had disappeared for a time and has now been reincarnated as the preferred shirt of hipsters (after plaid, of course). The problem with these shirts is that the collar can give a certain look of impotency, in contrast to a high collar, which can make the wearer look powerful and commanding. Therefore, it’s best not to wear them in place of a tradition shirt for any formal or even moderately dressy occasion.

White jeans for winter

White pants for winter are another sartorially tricky item to pull off. Everyone knows the dictum about not wearing white after Labor Day, but this is really an outdated and baseless rule. There are a few basic guidelines to effectively wearing this trend and not causing stares or raised eyebrows. First, white pants should never be worn when it’s gray or raining outside for the simple reason that it looks indecent and flashy. By contrast, on a sunny day, white pants can give you a ‘mod’ look when worn with black ankle boots and a striped sweater.

Stocking Filers: Gift Suggestions for Men

A well-filled trouser is a sign of prosperity, but what of a well-filled stocking? Though Christmas offers an enticing mélange of good spirits, plenty of good plonk, gorgeously rich vapours from the kitchen and mountains of gifts, it can often be the small things that make your Christmas truly wonderful. The small, unexcitingly wrapped, rather flat looking package can be everything you had no idea you wanted; a little trinket or bijou perhaps, something that sparkles merrily, a dash of luxurious fabric. Similarly, the Teutonic tradition of placing empty stockings on the fireplace, though a matter of form and custom nowadays, can offer the discerning gentleman of style a surprise such as an accessory du jour, wrapped unassumingly in what is essentially an old sock.

Stocking fillers are a wonderful idea for the modish man and, though the popularity of stockings has waned, there are plenty of gleaming objects of the required size. Here are some suggestions:


Some elegant cufflinks will always be a sure-fire hit, and keeping abreast of the gentleman’s collection will give you a good idea of what he needs, and also, what he likes. Some men will only buy humorous or contemporary designs for themselves; patriotic flags, hot and cold taps and the like, so this is a fabulous opportunity to buy them something rather more classic and less tongue in cheek. Similarly, men who adorn their cuffs in Deco glory and Victoriana may be offered something a little more current.


A high-quality necktie in a luxurious fabric makes a lovely stocking filler. Avoid choosing run-of-the-mill plains; everyone wears patternless ties these days, so try and introduce a little fun and flair.

Cashmere socks

An extravagance for our poor feet, cashmere socks are the last word in leg luxury. It’s a real treat to unwrap a pair, knowing the delicious comfort when we slip them onto our feet on an especially cold and brutal day. The legendary sock manufacturer Pantherella has a great range of cashmere socks. Alternative and bright colours like red and blue make them individual and are therefore more likely to be used sparingly, justly so, on very special occasions.

Card holder

A man cannot do with loose cards and notes, and by no means should a man of taste and style go half-measure where currency retention is concerned. Launer’s of London have been making leathergoods for 60 years and the Queen is one apparently satisfied customer. Royal warrants, in the matter of everyday goods such as these, are rarely bestowed and therefore a Launer wallet makes a right royally elegant and classically stylish addition to the stocking.


Another sparkling gift, the tie-clip is once more a happy favourite for well dressed men. The dash of gleaming silver against woven silk makes an ordinary outfit quite extraordinary; tie jewellery really does accentuate the smart attire of the wearer. With such items, it is prudent to select quality rather than quantity. Therefore, choose a classic and sturdy design that will complement almost any colour of necktie and shirt. All pictured tie-clips are available from

Razor from Trumper’s of Curzon Street

Trumper’s have been shaving the great and the good at their barber shop on Curzon Street, Mayfair since 1875. They’ve held warrants aplenty from approving monarchs and the barbers’ skill with a blade is renowned. However, unless you happen to live within easy reach of W1, there really is no joy. Having said that, you can shave off a piece of the Trumper’s action with a splendid safety razor. They use universally available Gillette blades and the handles are well-built, ergonomic and attractive.

ABC of Men’s Fashion by Hardy Amies

It’s a relief to see more and more information is being made available to the inquisitive style devotee. Magazines, blogs, television programmes; there’s a mass of information out there. Not all of it is reliable, some of it is misleading, and there’s an amount of it which is downright nonsense. Hardy Amies little jewel of a book however, is not nonsense. It’s quite brilliant; consistently useful and very entertaining. It’s not ‘light reading’ – this isn’t a coffee table volume to be picked up, laughed at and then forgotten. There’s some very serious and valuable advice from Amies, the Queen’s clothier himself, and it deserves some sober consideration.

Upgrade Your Down Jacket

When a wool or even cashmere topcoat won’t suffice against the biting cold, it may be time to pull out the strongest weapon in your arsenal—the down puffer jacket. While a puffer jacket can neither match the refinement nor the tailored look of an overcoat, it provides the best protection against almost all of nature’s most cruel manifestations.

To some, the puffer jacket is an abominable and ridiculous article of clothing that should only be worn by mountain climbers and young school children. A few years ago, they would have been quite justified in their conviction. People were faced with either an incarnation of the Michelin Man costume or some heinous, oversized coat that absolutely could not be worn if one needed to be taken seriously.

Luckily, winter wear pioneers like Moncler provide an alternative that has literally given a new shape and perspective on men’s down jackets, transforming them into stylish and luxurious items that both look and feel great. Known especially for their shiny body and opulently soft material, they are the gold standard when it comes to heavy-duty winter jackets.

This Moncler jacket is great for a variety of reasons. First off, it’s cut close to the body meaning that you won’t look like the Pillsbury doughboy. It also incorporates one of the biggest crossover trends for men and women this season, which is the patent leather-look the shiny veneer gives off. Slipping on a Moncler jacket is like the intensified feeling of comfort you have when you first wake up in the morning and would give anything to stay in bed. The material is so plush and luxurious that you’ll wish it were winter longer.

If you aren’t interested in spending nearly a month’s rent for the real deal, you can buy a similar looking substitute from North Face ($249). While it doesn’t have the same attention to style and detail, North Face is known for their high-quality insulation, meaning it will serve its primary purpose: keeping you warm well into the negative digits.

This jacket from Lacoste ($295) is a little wide across, but its glossy finish, which mimics the Moncler look, adds redeeming style value. One important feature it has though is the cinch cord at the bottom hem of the coat that allows for a more fitted appearance.

For the best equilibrium buy between price and quality and if you live in New York City, check out Uniqlo in SoHo, which has a good selection of puffer jackets for around $130.

The best way to look stylish while wearing a down jacket anywhere besides the ski slope is to embrace the inherent bulkiness and offset it by wearing a long scarf that comes down through the bottom of the coat to elongate your body. Wearing a great pair of boots will also add flair to an outfit otherwise muted by the weather.

Lapo Elkann: Creative (or Affected) Dresser

It must be difficult being the wild, party loving younger son of a family very much in the public eye. The elder, the heir, courts responsibility from an earlier age; the family guides them, history sets fine examples and though a great weight is set upon their shoulders, their path is clear and pre-defined. Younger sons, though they may be part heirs, are not given this sort of mollycoddling. Second sons like Prince Harry are privileged, yes; the third in line to the throne never wants for a thing, but just what is expected of him?

The Agnelli family are the Italians royals’. They are photographed, interviewed, fawned over and worshipped as surrogates for the vacant throne. Though the Prince of Naples and the Duke of Aosta may fight out their pretensions to the kingdom of Italy, Hello!, OK! and the “stalkarazzi” only seem interested in what the people want, and an insight, whether welcome or unwelcome, into one of the most glamorous and privileged Italian dynasties is, ironically, what the people want the most.

One member of the family, a younger son as it happens, is currently the media’s target of choice. Agnelli by blood, but not by name, Lapo Elkann is becoming an increasingly recognisable chap on the transatlantic chichi charity circuit. Ciao-ing everyone in Cipriani from Mary-Kate Olsen to Donald Trump, the enigmatic New York born Italian has also made a name for himself as a man of style. Though he is criticised by some for mocking his grandfather Gianni’s true style in an over-affected way, Elkann’s approach is actually rather more sophisticated than an alleged raid of old Agnelli’s wardrobe.

His elder brother, John Elkann, who is tipped to become head of the Fiat group, is certainly well-dressed but not in a noticeable way. His clothing, like his so-far-so-good life, is sober. Lapo is wilder; his risky choices in clothing mirror his high-octane reputation for drugs (he survived an overdose of cocaine in 2005 that put him into a coma), dating numerous MAWs (model/actress/whatever) and pursuing a vigorous enjoyment of life that is standard form for third generation scions.

His interesting blend of hand-me-down suits, tailored jackets, retro sports clothing and natty accessories is actually quite original. I can fully understand why Vogue saw fit to drape the prestigious accolade of Most Stylish Man over this stallion’s shoulders; combining double-breasted suits with Bikkembergs and using a piece of tying rope as a belt is somewhat revolutionary and though his experimentation produces mixed results, I applaud his efforts.

One thing affirming his innovative approach is the inability to pin-down or label one designer or one icon of his influence. Some men dress like window displays from Bond Street; borrowing everything from one designer and reproducing a look. What I like about Elkann is that he IS his look. He is impossible to pigeon-hole and that makes him all the more appealing.

I also like the curious duplicity of his wardrobe. Sometimes, he masquerades as the obedient offspring; stiff collars, styled hair and pinstripes, then suddenly he is the billionaire-to-be hellraiser; insolent tennis shoes, plush pashminas, stubbing out cigars in his grandfathers suits. ‘Tut-tut’ indeed.

Apart from his little foray into design with überfashion designers DSquared, or his updating of the Fiat brand (his suggestions to return to retro, including the reinstatement of the 1930s badge, were fantastically successful), Elkann has been quiet in his artistic pushes. However, something tells me that a man with so many ideas for his own form must have more creativity up his sleeve.

One Thing: L.L.Bean Canvas Totes

As many of you know, I have written a fair amount about men’s bags. To me, there really is no issue about it anymore; guys need some kind of bag to hold all their stuff – wallets, Blackberry, mobile phone, notebooks, etc.

I also have a lifelong appreciation for designs that respect or pay homage to a product’s utilitarian roots. Classic and traditional styles have always done that. The hallmark of true preppy-ness is the re-purposing of utilitarian items for everyday life; foul weather gear is now a fashion statement, prep school ties and jackets appearing in the office, and the steamer trunk great uncle Dan’s used at Yale is now a snazzy coffee table at the beach house. You get the idea.

A classic example of this approach to life – utilitarian yet stylish – is the canvas tote bag. The most famous version of this functional workhorse is made by L.L. Bean. In fact, L.L. Bean literally invented the canvas tote bag category. The original version of the bag was created as an ice carrier (back in the day when block ice was used to keep foods fresh in the ice box).

From these humble beginnings, the bag quickly became recognized for its simple yet elegant functionality. L.L. Bean started to offer the canvas tote in a smaller version and called it the “boat & tote.” It was perfect for lugging around sailing and boating items and the more abuse it suffered the better it looked. So began the preppy affinity for this multipurpose wonder.

As The Official Preppy Handbook pointed out, every New England family probably has several of these lying around the house. In some ways, these canvas totes are a sort of status symbol. The fact that you really need to know what these bags represent – where to get them, the history, even the perceived lifestyle they imply – makes them recognized and desirable.

The L.L. Bean canvas tote bag has been liberally copied by many competitors. The general design of the bag has even been reinterpreted by suppliers to some Manhattan brokerage houses and white shoe law firms. Their logoed bags, given as employee gifts or awards, have become New York chic collector items. Go figure.

It is not uncommon to see these bags on the Metro commuting to work with their owners. They are neutrally appealing and bring a bit of the outdoors to the office without being at all kitschy. The midsized L.L. Bean version is perfectly proportioned to hold everyday stuff along with lunch or a morning bagel, leaving your fancy Gucci or Hermes brief bag to deal with file folders and the New York Times.