Archives for February 2010

Spring Things


For the northern hemisphere, this winter has been a singularly long and cold one; snowstorms, biting winds, city shutdowns and days off school. The Bing Crosby fantasy of the ‘magic’ of snowfall wore rather thin in the December blizzards and there were certainly no punters in Starbucks, as they cupped their lattes between their frozen hands, singing along with Ella to the pollyanna winter classic ‘Let it Snow!’

Dark and bleak, with only the light of the festive season to warm hearts, this winter’s end cannot come soon enough.

Spring is around the corner. Soon the heavy overcoats, scarves, woolly hats and gloves will be locked away until the year end. The flowers will appear and the cold grip will cease. I like to begin each spring with a few new purchases, so thrilled will I be that I can rise each morning without fear of frostbite. After the monotony of wrapping up merely to chill the bones, the novelty will rejuvenate my somewhat jaded interest in composition.

Spring Tie

My choice of spring tie would have to be a Liberty print cotton paisley. Unlike my winter ties, all of a somewhat sombre style, my new tie purchase for spring will shout sunshine and songbirds. It’s rather flowery but this is hardly an inappropriate fashion for the coming season. Worn with a blue peaked lapel suit, a cornflower blue shirt and some brown wholecuts it will convey a sense of floral fun.

Spring Shirt

My choice of spring shirt would have to be the yolky yellow that has recently caught my eye in Lewin’s on Jermyn Street. Although about as subtle as a stretch pink Hummer, it can be pared down to a respectable level with clever choices of tie and suit. Darker is dignified in this case – a dark suit and dark tie (but not black) will calm the effect that such a strong and noticeable shirt will have on the populace. It will also look wonderful later on in the year with a summer tan, blue blazer and white trousers.

Spring Shoes

Loafers are perfect for spring. I have been rather taken by the idea of a pair of classic Gucci loafers with the classic metal bar decoration. I saw the promotional and on-set photography of the upcoming Oliver Stone film ‘Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps’ and noticed that Shia LaBeouf, rather stylishly attired, sported a pair. I had long doubted their versatility and their aesthetic but the photographs of Mr LaBeouf wearing them with suits and casual outfits, with equal flair, convinced me. Somewhat retro, with the right look – and the right cut of trouser – they convey a cool chic.

Harvie & Hudson


H&H is one of those fine English outfitters that every chap should have in his back pocket. Perhaps best known for their bespoke shirts which are still cut on the premises, they are the last of the Jermyn Street shirt makers still owned by the founding family. Bold butchers stripes are a trademark, as is the white collar and cuff shirt –which is my preference for something classic and bold.

I’ll confess I have a shirt maker and so haven’t bought either their bespoke or ready to wear shirts. But here is a nice little article by Will on his blog ‘A Suitable Wardrobe’.

Where I find them useful is in supplying everything else, from Covert coats to boxer shorts. And I have to say I love their kit. If you’re looking for no-nonsense old school, classic clothing at a fair price and of good quality they’re the guys. A good example is their lambswool jumpers, a couple of which I bought on Saturday. Under a £100 for two, they’re 2 ply, soft but substantial and made in Scotland. As someone who sports more of a  family-pack than a six-pack one of the things I particularly like about Harvey & Hudson is that their clothing is classic cut, so I don’t have to worry about sizing.

I’m sure that some would be put off by the dowdy exterior and interiors to the shops. It would be fair to say that remodelling hasn’t been high on the agenda. But the staff are approachable and courteous – particularly the old boys – and if  the image of a shop is the sort of thing that matters to you, then you’re free to go to flashier establishments and pay more for a lot less.

That said, after years of inactivity there appears to be movement at H&H, not only have they redesigned the website to give it a fresher look, they have also introduced a line of slim fit shirts to their ready to wear range. I was also interested to learn that they have teamed up with that other Jermyn Street icon, Taylor of Old Bond Street, and begun offering a barbers and grooming service in a new establishment in the City.

Speaking for myself, Jermyn Street really wouldn’t be the same place without them.

Bespoke Shoes At Cleverley: Part 1

“The time has come, the walrus said,
To talk of many things.
Of shoes and ships and sealing wax,
Of cabbages and kings.”

No plans yet to write about cabbages. But it is certainly time to talk about bespoke shoes. I set an appointment last week to go see George Glasgow at GJ Cleverley to be measured for my first pair. Rather as I did previously with suiting, expect a series of posts here on every stage of the process.

There’s something rather charming about being measured for shoes. At Cleverley the first stage is to stand on two facing pages of a book, so that your feet can be traced onto the paper. It feels rather odd standing on a book to begin with, but doing so in your socks in The Royal Arcade, while a man such as Mr Glasgow runs a pencil around your toes, is even more peculiar. Still, here stood stars of stage and screen alike – not to mention royalty.


When the shoemaker is tracing your foot the key is to keep the pencil upright. The smallest change in angle will mean a millimetre difference on the last, which can be the difference between comfort and pain.


He will also sweep around your instep, with the pencil at 45 degrees, in order to indicate the height of your arches. Looking back through the Cleverley measuring book, there is a substantial difference here between men. Some, like myself, have almost an inch in difference between the outline and the inside of the arch. (“Healthy and strong,” Mr Glasgow called it. He’s such a tease.) Others have merely a few millimetres. They will require greater support inside the shoe, and the waist will not be able to cut in quite as far underneath.

The length of your foot is also measured. At Cleverley this is done with a wooden rule dating back to 1928. It still looks in pretty good shape – no doubt due to the substantial brass fittings at the joint. While this length is a good guide for the shape of your last, it will always be made 1½ sizes longer than the measurement, to allow for your big toe rolling forward as you put your weight on the ball of your foot.

(As an aside, this difference is only one size on a slip-on shoe. It has no natural mechanism to tighten onto your foot, unless the model includes elastic at the sides, so the fit has to be tighter.)


Next the circumference of various points is measured. First your joints – between the base of your big and little toe. Then just behind the joints, to give an indication of how quickly the foot narrows. Next around your instep – roughly where the top of the laces would be. And finally from that same point on the top of the foot to the back of your heel.

The thing that struck me as these measurements were being taken was their consistentcy. At each point my right foot was 10-and-something inches, while my left was usually 9-and-something. Height just replaces width as you move towards the back of the foot.

It also put into numbers what I already knew, that my right foot is almost a half size smaller than my left, but significantly wider. While the first is very common, the latter together with a narrow heel makes me a good candidate for bespoke.

Finally, Mr Glasgow ran his hands over my ashamedly hot (not to say sweaty) feet. He was looking for any bumps or peculiarities, such as hammer toes, swollen joints (most common on the big and little toes) and spur bones around the heel.

Many of these are caused by men wearing ill-fitting shoes for much of their lives – or shoes that have not properly been worn in or maintained. Mr Glasgow found no such oddities, most likely because I am too young for my feet to have distorted much.

As a final point, some shoemakers insist on measuring a man’s feet at a particular point in the day. Your feet grow in size notably as you walk on them and keep them encased. Cleverly does not consider this significant, not even noting the time the measurements were taken. For Mr Glasgow the natural give of the leather is sufficient to cope with the daily fluctuation.

Next: styles and designs

Old School Scoundrel: Terry-Thomas


Terry-Thomas was a gifted comedic writer, comic actor, raconteur, ladies man, television pioneer and film star. A man of infinite cheek and charm; when in Hollywood he compiled a form guide of leading starlets breasts. Dining with Pablo Picasso he enquired of the artist; “does anybody ever say to you, can I have a word in your eye?”

But beyond these accomplishments, the fruity voice and rich vocabulary he was a true sartorialist. Despite all appearances Terry-Thomas, or Thomas Terry Hoar Stevens as he was christened, was born into a lower middle class family in the London suburb of North Finchley.

The phrase “dress for the job you want not the job you’ve got” could have been created for Terry-Thomas, although he dressed not just for a job but for a new life. Desperate to outdistance the humdrum middle-class life of his parents, clothes become an essential part of his escape kit.

His attention to detail and single-minded pursuit of distinction through dress no matter the circumstances are examples any student of style would do well to ape.

For his first job as a junior transport clerk at Smithfield Meat Market he turned up wearing a taupe double breasted suit and green pork pie hat, sporting a clove carnation and cigarette holder, two items that would latter become trademarks of his wardrobe. Known by his colleagues as the man in the carpet slippers, because of his predilection for suede shoes, in an environment of grey and blood stained aprons he cut a peculiarly compelling figure. It was here that he also developed his knack for jokes and comic capering.

In 1942 Terry-Thomas received what he described characteristically as; “a cunningly worded invitation to join the Army”.  Yet even the strictures of service life didn’t stop him, much to the occasional annoyance of superiors. Though not an officer himself, he continued to sport brown suede shoes with his Khakis  – a colour reserved for officers – and even sought out former tailors to make his own type of bespoke battle dress. Entering the forces entertainment corps he readopted his cigarette holder and cut such a dash he was regularly saluted as an officer.

When fame and money finally came his way the lessons were well learned, and he was able to give them full expression. A founding member of London’s Waistcoat Club he amassed a collection of 80 bespoke suits, 22 dinner jackets and tail suits and 150 waistcoats. Of this last garment he had every conceivable material and wore them religiously. Top pockets on suits were cut 7 inches long to accommodate his cigarette holders and he even had his boxer shorts made bespoke. He never left the house without a clove carnation, even if he were “slipping out to the pub”.

The only time TT was unable to pursue this life long cause was towards the end of his innings when Parkinson’s disease tragically and slowly robbed him of his wit, his money and eventually his beloved wardrobe.

If you’re tempted to read more on loves, life and wardrobe of Terry-Thomas then I can heartily recommend Graham McCann’s entertaining biography entitled ‘Bounder!’.

Segun Adelaja: A Tailor In An Emporium

Segun Adelaja knows the industry. The day we met we ended up talking for a long time about the expansion of small brands like Berluti, their raw materials and supply chains. About what happens when a small company is bought out and how you manage quality in the midst of rapid expansion. His shoes are made by an ex-Berluti maker, so perhaps there is some bias there, but he freely admits to owning pairs himself – indeed to owning almost every brand of shoes.

It’s hard to stop talking to Segun (She-gun), actually.

And I suppose that theme runs though his shop and his products. He’s tucked away at the back of the Quadrant Arcade (off Regent Street), his shop is unpretentious – not to say sparse – and his website hasn’t been updated in quite a while. There’s nothing wrong with it, but the press articles are from 2002 and still reflect the time when he was more of a visiting tailor and shirtmaker. The Collections section has been “coming soon” for a long time.

Segun is more about word of mouth. Not that he’s understated in person, but such is the community of Nigerian (his native land), English and other customers from across Europe that he has never really explored marketing or the internet.

Although his origins are as a visiting tailor, today Segun is more of a host to an severely edited emporium. He is the only outlet for Lorenzo Villoresi (of Florence) fragrances in the UK. He is one of very few places that stock Gallo socks (Edward Green sometimes carries a couple of pairs). And he commissions his own designs in large holdalls from Swaine Adeney & Brigg.


Shirts, trousers and jackets, on the other hand, are made to his own designs in Italy. And I have to say it was the made-to-order nature of the trousers that grabbed my attention. They are beautifully made, with hand-sewn trouser curtain and notched waistband, as well as nice design touches like side straps in a variety of colours, widths and materials.

But most importantly, they are all adjusted free of charge. You can have the seat smaller or bigger, change the rise, alter the waist or the hips, as well as adjusting either the length or width of the legs. The legs are made deliberately wide so they can be taken in – I had mine adjusted from 28cm to 22cm across the bottom.

Segun has the eye of the tailor still, explaining to me how he thinks it necessary to lower the rise if a man has a large belly, or raise it if he has a large bum. And with the mind of a tailor it just seems unacceptable that someone would walk out with trousers that don’t fit him. The price, around £180, doesn’t change no matter what you want. Even ordering an entirely custom pair isn’t much more.

I was never sure where to get trousers before. It seems extravagant to have my tailor make them – the figuration is not difficult. But ready-to-wear trousers are too far the other way, never really fitting. This seems like a nice compromise.