A Week Of Extremes: Salvatore Ambrosi And Weadmire.net

salvatore-ambrosi

Last week was a bit of mixed bag.

I was hoping to provide a post on Salvatore Ambrois. If you’re one of those fellows who frequents the London Lounge Salvatore will need little introduction. However, until a few months ago I hadn’t heard of him, but he joined BespokeMe’s Facebook Group and a little research later I soon discovered that Salvatore was something of a legend. He and his father are regarded as amongst the finest bespoke trouser makers in the world, if not the finest.

Based in Naples, like most tailors Salvatore travels to Europe and America to meet clients. Last week he was due in London, and having received notice via Facebook I thought I’d go and interview him. Unfortunately Facebook is the primary means of dealing with Salvatore and for all it’s benefits it’s not the best way to organise a rendezvous. But, I went with the flow. You guessed it; I got the right hotel but no Salvatore. So, until I can catch up with him on his next visit this video will have to suffice by way of introduction.

sa-weadmire-design-fullimag

Last week I took delivery of a T-shirt from Weadmire.net, a company based in the East End of London I mentioned before Christmas. Not exactly high end bespoke tailoring, nonetheless if you wear T-shirts I reckon these guys provide some of the most innovative designs going. This stems from Theo Stegers desire to provide T-shirts that mean something to the people that wear them. As the name suggests, this means things and people we admire.

I needed a gift for an Aussie mate who lives in T-shirts. Theo and his chaps did a one off design featuring cricketer David Boon. The design even features Boons legendary 1989 Ashes series record for drinking 52 cans of beer on one flight from Oz to London. My mate was over the moon with the design, and so it seems was Theo and his team. The T-shirt, inspired by my idea, is now available to the public. I suspect this is the closest I’ll ever come to being an influence upon the fashion industry.

Don’t Polish With Too Much Water

the-polished-shoes

Polishing leather shoes up to a brilliant shine is an extremely enjoyable pastime.

Nathan Brown over at Lodger always says that one of the problems with being an entrepreneur is that he never gets the time to sit down and polish his shoes any more. George Glasgow at Cleverley has complained to me of the same thing. Lodger’s store manager Clement has the opposite problem: he spends all his time polishing shoes but never his own, just the ones on Lodger’s shelves.

Personally I like to spend a good half an hour over a pair while the wife is watching something atrocious on the telly. It is meditative, engaging and rewarding.

I think it’s rewarding for two reasons. First, with no other piece of clothing does maintenance actually improve the item. It just puts brakes on a natural decline. Brushing your suit only returns it to the state it was that morning. The same with ironing a shirt or repairing a button. The best you can do is get back to zero.

Polishing your shoes is more akin to wearing a canvassed suit and feeling it mould to your body, or indeed wearing in the upper of a shoe. Except that, with polishing, greater effort is rewarded with greater results. Not only is it a positive activity, it is one you can control.

The second reason is the wonderful aesthetic experience. After you’ve applied the first layer of polish, and then returned with more polish and a touch of water, you can see each circle of your finger produce a swirl of brightness, getting more intense and reflective with each repetition. It is as if your fingers are coaxing out pure light.

But don’t apply too much water. Just a dab of it the first time and only occasional top-ups later on. The cloth remains damp for a while, and too much water can soak into the leather and make it hard to carry on polishing. This is particularly true on thinner or more flexible sections, such as the bridge and instep. The toe and heel, being more rigid and reinforced by internal pieces of leather, can take a lot more.

For each layer on the toe and heel (don’t do more than one layer elsewhere), carry on working in the polish until the surface is super-smooth, like glass. Until your little swirls make no perceptible difference to the surface. Then take a tiny bit more polish, and repeat. Don’t stop until you can tell the time on your watch in it.

‘Relocation relocation’ is on TV. I’m off to fetch my Cleverleys.

Three More Tips On Ties

This post refers to ‘three more tips’ because way back in April 2008 I wrote a post called Two Tips on Ties. I think the alliteration rather pleased me at the time.

That was a discussion about the best way to get a nice dimple in a tie knot. And it does work: you just have to create a memory of the fold in the tie’s lining (assuming it is lined).

This post is about getting your tie to stand upright in the collar, arching out from the neck to create a flattering curve. The three tips are: keep it at the top of the collar band, tighten it horizontally and make sure it remains central.

None of these will keep your tie at its proud, priapic best all day long. No matter how well tied, or how great the quality, no silk necktie will stay in its ideal position permanently. It will need occasional adjustment. But the alternative is a tie bar or pin, which rather stifles the silk in my opinion. Rather, let it hang and adjust when needed.

nixon-tie

The first tip: make sure that the neck of your tie is at the top of the collar band of your shirt. While most ties won’t be much narrower than the shirt collar, making sure it is right at the top will make a surprising difference to the curve of the tie. Once the knot is tied, you can check this by tucking one finger in each side of the collar and pushing the tie up. This is most important on high collars, and is easiest with spread collars.

Second tip: when you tighten the tie, do it horizontally, parallel to the ground. Lift up the rear blade and push the knot flat into the collar. The initial angle will subside after a while, but it still makes a perceptible difference.

Third tip: make sure the top of the knot is central in the collar gap. Because a four-in-hand knot (assuming that’s what you’re using – you should) is always skewed to one side, the bottom of the knot will not be central if the top is. The tie will come out of the knot slightly to one side. Some men, not realising this, keep the tie central and the top of knot slightly under one side of the collar. As it is therefore slightly constricted, the knot will often pull slightly away from the collar or not curve as it could.

Three tips on ties.

Proportions, Loafing And McNairy

We all know that you can play with the cut and styling of clothes to even out your proportions and compensate for mother natures shortcomings. Colours, patterns, styles of jacket, lapel types, collars,  are all the familiar tools, and in case of doubt refer to Nicholas Antongiavanni’s ‘The Suit’.

When considering proportion an item often overlooked are shoes. Whether you’re slight of build or quite hefty you’ll always do better to go for a bigger weightier shoe. For the most part that means Good Year Welted – which tends to provide a thinker and wider sole than Blake construction – and for best results go brogues or monks.

Unfortunately, I’ve always been a loafers man, and having put on a bit of timber recently they’ve tended to look a bit twee. However, this week I stumbled across the loafer I’ve been looking for, at least for casual pairings.

Mark McNairy will be pretty familiar to readers of Inventory, A Continuous Lean and those interested in the American Work Wear and Ivy League revivals that have gathered pace in the last 18 months.

For anybody unfamiliar with his name, in 2005 McNairy was hired by blue blooded, Ivy League outfitters J. Press, and was tasked with updating certain Lines.

While remaining creative director for J. Press, McNairy has undertaken a number of successful collaborations as well as launching a number of his own brands, including an English/US hybrid footwear label called Red Brick Sole. McNairy then takes US inspired designs like saddle shoes and bucks and has them made up by Sanders in Northampton, meaning you get the tradition and quality of English shoe making and of course Good Year Welting. What ties the range together is the Red Brick Sole which firmly plants them back in the Ivy League camp.

red-brick-sole-penny-loafer

The McNairy Penny Loafers in Brown army grain leather is my choice, and the combination of robust leather and contrast sole should provide the weight I’m looking for. Not easy to find in the UK I’ll be purchasing mine through Swedish based Trés Bien – a trusted source and a useful supplier of Church’s shoes, for those based in continental Europe.

Cocktail Cuffs

cocktail-cuff

In Japan they’re known as the James Bond cuff; the Italians refer to them as Portofino; and the English –if they refer to them at all- call them the Cocktail Cuff or the Turnback.

You really won’t find very much written about cocktails cuffs, and even less in support. The best Hardy Amies can muster in his ‘ABC of Men’s Fashion’ is to say;

“one must recognise and condone the constant tendency towards simplification, and if the job of joining up four bits of shirt seems rather fiddly in the morning, you can strike a reasonable appearance with the single cuff of double thickness…”

Nicholas Antongiavanni, in his enjoyable and rather useful book ‘The Suit’ says even less:

“There are two kinds [of cuffs], button (or “barrel”) and French. (“Cocktail” or “Bond” cuffs, a clumsy attempt to combine the two, are too pretentious to be elegant.)”

I find this statement a curious one given that the double cuff requires an item of jewellery, which is by its nature showy.

It’s no easier a job to find the exact history of the Cocktail Cuff either. Three variations make the rounds, two sound reasonable and one could well be the nonsense of my own imagination.

The first, and most repeated, is that it was created by Turnbull and Asser and later adopted first by Sean Connery and later Roger Moore in their portrayals of James Bond, hence the term James Bond cuff. That last bit is true. The second, less well known story, is that it was the creation of London’s esteemed bespoke shirt maker Frank Foster (www.frankfostershirts.com), who is still in business (www.esquire.co.uk) and whose shop is located in Pall Mall. The third story is that it was created for David Niven by Ede & Ravenscroft, but as I can’t remember the source for this information it’s probably BS.

Now, I’ve always had a soft spot for cocktail cuffs; and while originally intended for dress shirts (hence Cocktail Cuff) it’s also acceptable for formal shirts.

There is something wonderfully fraudulent about them. You get the weight and aesthetic of a normal double cuff without the ultra conservatism of double cuffs. To that end they work particularly well with odd jackets and trousers, particularly in bold patterns. They’re right, but not.