Archives for June 2010

The Power Of Three


I was recently asked by an inquisitive young man whether I followed the three colour rule. Remembering vaguely an argument I had pursued some time ago with an acquaintance about a similar issue, I calmly asked what three colour rule he was referring to. Surprised at my apparent lack of knowledge he chivvied me on; “You know, that you shouldn’t wear more than three colours at any one time. No?” I nodded and changed the subject. I did so because I do not care to talk about ‘rules’ of clothing for any length of time. The red mist can so easily descend as I rage about restrictions on creativity, the shortness of life and the inanity of sartorial red tape. On this particular issue however, I was intrigued.

Three is a peculiarly bewitching number in our culture and the concept of trinity is one which pervades religion and myth. The second-hand wisdom from the young man gave me pause however as his words were not an encouragement to embrace three colours but merely never to exceed that number. By this logic, two colours and even one single colour are as acceptable as three. The trinity holds no special significance by this standard. However, there are a number of examples of similar rules which exist in certain cultures. The Congolese Sapeurs seem more intent on combining three colours than shying away from exceeding three, although some suggest that many of them combine as little as one or two distinct colours; dark pink shoes with a light pink suit and a dark pink tie suggest one colour palette, not two.

It is by this logic that the young man might have been deceived into believing I was a subscriber as I was wearing a dark green tie, light green and grey striped shirt and light green and white striped pocket square with a blue jacket and white trousers. To his eyes, I was only wearing green, blue and white (although I was also wearing chestnut coloured shoes, do these not count?) I probably conform to this ‘rule’ more than I know. It is far from intentional as I am not a sartorial bible-basher or self-flagellator; the rule of three makes aesthetic sense in many circumstances but to follow it entirely for the sake that it is a ‘rule’ is to strait-jacket oneself.

It is simply too arbitrary; outfits with four or five different colours can be as elegant, sometimes more so, than outfits which never break beyond three. And to consider that the rule, in the modern lexicon, has veered from the power of trinity to a rather timid “Ok, so no more than three, probably best with two” tremble means that the future, by the strength of what this young man was suggesting, is not bright but instead, quite literally, rather dull. Go forth and colour your world.

On My Soapbox: Summer Footwear

I’ve said it many times, but I am really not a fan of summer fashions. Sadly, most men seem to regard summer as an opportunity to forgo all sartorial standards by donning grotty shorts and assorted dirty collarless T-shirts.

Two items of summer apparel I’d single out for pent-up ire and vented spleen are sandals and flip-flops (jandals/ thongs if you’re antipodean). Both items seem to have become acceptable street wear, and now that designer labels have jumped on the band wagon they seem set to remain so.


I just don’t understand the appeal of these items. For starters, next to the male member there is no less attractive part of the human anatomy than feet – even more so in the case of men. I’m not much keener on female feet, but at least, for the most part, they come without hairy toes. And unlike we men, women will often beautify their toe nails, which although not a vast improvement is nonetheless an improvement on nature. So why anybody would want to put their feet on display is beyond me.

In a bid not to appear unsporting while in NZ last Christmas, when forced by my girlfriend’s family to wear flip-flops I reluctantly relented. I quickly realised that far from missing out on a new level of summer-time comfort and practicality these pieces of footwear were anything but. Not only did the bit between your toes irritate, but anything approaching a greater rate of acceleration than an old man’s shuffle and likely as not the thing would fly off your foot – gracefully arcing across the sky before decapitating some unsuspecting passer by. This was unless you curled your toes as you walked. Unpleasant aesthetic aside, sandals may be more practical but judging by some designs not that much more.

Obviously I’m not advocating socks and shoes in summer, but it is possible to be comfortable without sacrificing your dignity.

Fellow columnist Stephen Pulvirent recently advocated the Italian driving moc, a sound choice. However, I have relatively flat arches so prefer a little more structure. In that case I’d take a serious look at Italian loafers. London based Fin’s and Shipton & Heneage offer an eminently affordable range to a reasonable standard. In the case of Fin’s, they offer a limited edition Amalfi collection combining nubuck and linen.


My own personal default setting is the boat shoe. The brands Sebago, Redwing and Timberland are excellent choices in my view, with offerings in nubuck, leather and suede to play with. Online retailer ASOS do a very affordable range. However, wishing the shoes to be as light and as aerated as possible I’m tempted to invest an offering from the daddy of all boat shoe makers, a canvass Sperry Topsiders. Versatility personified they sit as well with shorts as they do chinos and cotton jacket.

Whatever the time of year, many men live in training shoes. Not normally a shoe I’d advocate, but it is possible to incorporate these into the summertime wardrobe provided you pick the right style. I’m not talking Nike Air or other over staked brightly coloured offerings but of course canvass pumps. These ought to be plain white in my view and two offerings that caught my eye are the classic Superga Cotu and Albam’s new Gourmet Tre C. Either will sit well with white jeans, easy cut linen trousers and light khakis, while being more than suitable for shorts.

There are of course Espadrilles. But don’t even get me started on those…

Ralph Lauren Wimbledon Collection


It may seem odd to some that one of the most noticeable symbols of the most high profile racquet sports tournament in the world is a polo pony. Ralph Lauren, celebrating its fifth year of kitting out the court at Wimbledon, would contend that the eponymous logo is not a representation of the sport it depicts but merely a recognisable icon of its own brand, a brand which has dominated the high American aesthetic for decades; a multi-billion dollar behemoth that reincarnates, rather spectacularly, an improbable Gatsby-esque existence.

Ralph Lauren likes spectacles and spectacular people, so it was scarcely surprising that they had secured the services of flame-haired tennis champion Boris Becker who struts his considerable stuff in Lauren labelled attire as brand ambassador. As part of his duties, Boris recently conducted a Legends Clinic, held at Dukes Meadows in Chiswick, West London broadcast live on Having acquired a formidable bank of knowledge from his successful career, the still-fit Boris eased through the gears whilst simultaneously offering a level of garrulity and wit rarely seen in the television studio, let alone on the tennis court.

Boris appeared on court in a pair of plain white shorts, polo shirt and cable cardigan, sporting a strange pair of socks that looked more like bandages. The cable cardigan was the stand out item; trimmed with navy and yellow, it looked like a heritage piece from the era of Fred Perry. Underneath was a creamy white polo with a varsity style green and yellow chevron and an alarmingly enormous polo player logo, which now seems to be the default for Lauren’s polo shirts. This year’s aesthetic for Wimbledon is much the same as last year’s offering; Merchant-Ivory costumes covered in antiqued insignia. It’s a formula that works well – the derivative but handsome garments appeal to the aesthete, the logos and branding to the fanboys.

Boris told me, enthusiastically, that Ralph Lauren is a perfect fit for Wimbledon; “It’s things like the cardigan, you know?” he said smiling “Heritage things; that’s what I love about it.” Asking him to compare his former sponsors Fila and Ellesse to Ralph Lauren, Boris said diplomatically that Fila and Ellesse were good for sportswear, whereas “Ralph Lauren is completely different.” Such a generic comment, from a man of great conversational art, indicated he did not want to get too drawn into yah-boo-sucks commentary on brands, which for a brand ambassador was refreshingly diplomatic.

I think Boris is right. Ralph Lauren is the perfect partner for Wimbledon. Whether they like it or not, they are both brands which complement the other perfectly; Lauren leans on associations with ancient tournaments to give credence to the heritage aestheticism and Wimbledon, though never lacking in glamour, finds comfort in clinging to an official sponsor grander than Slazenger. The collection itself is simply a wistful man’s fantasy of how Wimbledon should be; a cross between Strangers on a Train and Brideshead Revisited. It’s probably too perfect in conceit, particularly when compared to the hideous dross that is paraded by the court athletes themselves, and some of it is more caricature than character. However, it’s still another warm and poetic reminder of our own heritage – something Ralph Lauren has managed to perfect.

The Other Retro Luggage Brands


“Oh what’s it called?” the man asks smiling, turning to his Vogue reading wife as they stand somewhat disconsolately awaiting their luggage on the carousel, seeing a bright red case with brown leather straps and corner caps – the veritable sore thumb of modern luggage – drift past. They were sure they’d seen the name somewhere; horses came into mind for some reason. “You know darling, everyone’s got one. Kate Moss, Sophie Dahl. Even the Queen. Something about trotting.?” Although this couple, seemingly well acquainted with such vaunted, marketed and yet strangely obscure brands may be correct, that this elegant crimson retro case is manufactured by the esteemed Mayfair based brand Globe Trotter, they may very well be wrong.

If you were looking for colonial luggage, your thoughts would naturally stray to the self-consciously retrospective emporiums in the environs of Piccadilly; the sort of places that have polo sticks and pith helmets in the window displays. London, formerly the colonial capital of the mighty British Empire, is a predictable starting point to purchase the luggage of Churchill and Maugham and Globe Trotter is, rightly, at the top of this list. It has the pedigree and the patented technology – as well as the world famous and much admired aesthetic.

However, though it is light, strong and airport friendly, some balk at paying such high prices for ‘papier mache’ cases. When a friend of mine looked over some of the cases in Harrods he asked, incredulous; “Isn’t it even leather?” Indeed it is not, for Globe Trotter believe leather is impractical and adds unnecessary weight. Upper Case on the other hand ( considers that “leather delivers a sense of indulgence and luxury that no other material surpasses.”

Established a mere 5 years ago, Upper Case is one of those curious brands that seem to have been born of a frustration with the declining aesthetics of the modern world. “Our vision” they explain “was to bring back the elegance and luxury of travel from years gone by.” It used to be available in Fortnum & Mason and I had the privilege to examine it a few years ago. Though not as heavy as you would imagine, it is certainly not as light as Globe Trotter; a decent size suitcase comes in at 6.3kg. Their ‘Sophisticated’ model is well made, attractively lined and, like Globe Trotter, will age well – cases like these always look better after a few journeys. In addition, there are 10 colour combinations and, crucially, an Upper Case can be yours for less than a Globe Trotter although the largest case offered is only 68cm in length – the biggest Globe Trotter is 83cm.

We now leave London for Stockholm and Alstermo Bruk (, a 200 year old Swedish luggage maker who have been offering their Globe Trotter-alike ‘Atlas’ model for over 100 years. Unlike Upper Case, Bruk has a pedigree similar to Globe Trotter. Wood framed, with its own registered AMO Fiber, Bruk is easily mistaken for Globe Trotter. However, unlike the British brand, Bruk throws in the attractive leather strapping for free and the cases are wider and also slightly cheaper. Though not stocked outside Sweden, they are available to purchase online in a range of tasteful colours.

Reader’s Question: Where To Hire Quality

“I recently read an article of yours on regarding dress for Ascot, and thought you could help me with a little bit of a problem I have.

I live in NYC, and am coming back over to London for a friend’s wedding soon.  The dress I require is a morning suit.  The only choice I have found here in NY is one of exceptionally poor quality and since your article referenced renting a morning suit, I wondered if you have any suggestions of where I might look in London for a high quality choice.

Any help/insight you could provide would be amazingly useful.

Thanks so much


Dear Steven,

Thanks you for your e-mail, happy to help if I can.

First up, one man’s tat is another man’s treasure, so in reference to ‘quality’ I’ll try my best.


I’d certainly try Neal and Palmer in the Piccadilly Arcade. Without wishing to burden you with the obvious, ‘quality’ is a factor of cost. High grade cloth will wear quickly requiring replacement sooner. As business models go, this makes providing hire suits at a price most can afford pretty difficult. But if you’re prepared to spend the money these guys are worth a punt. I’ve not hired from them myself, at £175 for their top of the line premium quality morning suits I can’t afford to, but I always admire their beautiful waistcoats every time I pass, and have been meaning to follow this up with a review. They do have cheaper ranges to hire – a light weight wool morning suit for £99.

A beautiful shop, they offer bespoke and made to measure services, off the peg retail and hire. In all they’re the complete deal. I skimped on the cost of hiring my suit because I wanted to buy a double breasted waistcoat, but otherwise I’d have certainly given them a look.


Next up is the default recommendation. For me this is Moss Bros, which may elicit moans from some, but I’ll explain my choice. To begin with, their normal black herringbone morning coat is the traditional 12-14oz pure wool jacket that most retailers sell. Indeed, Moss Bros sell it new themselves. In my experience it’s more than enough to pass muster. The other reason is fit. Firstly, it’s not a bad fit for an off the peg garment – and I know this because I used to sell them. Secondly, and few people know this, because they have such a huge stock of various ages, if you find your hire jacket a little loose you should ask the assistant for an older one. After a few dry cleans the cloth shrinks a little thereby providing a slightly closer fitting garment –particularly handy if you normally find off the peg a little big. This small amount of shrinkage can often make a difference. Unfortunately, the trousers aren’t pure wool, BUT, they do come in odd and even lengths, which isn’t always so in the case of smaller firms. Finally, waistcoats are also available in various lengths, from extra long to extra short. I suppose what I’m saying here is that ‘quality’ is a matter of fit rather than mere cloth. However, if cloth is your consideration and you’re after something more akin to super 100’s, they also carry a lightweight pure wool jacket for hire called the Royal Ascot. I tried the retail version over the weekend when I was hunting for a double breasted waistcoat and I thought it was pretty swift. Available in selected stores it has been designed specifically for the event. Although, I don’t know whether the same trick about asking for an older stock jacket still applies. I’d use either the Regent Street branch or Covent Garden.

There may well be others out there, but these are two I’d happily put my own money on. I hope this helps you out.