Archives for June 2010

Brand Review: Moss Bros


“Sell only the best stuff, give only the best service.” These were the words of Moses Moses, the founder of Moss Bros, who opened a second hand clothing store in 1851 amongst the cabbage leaves and trodden petals of Covent Garden market. Such a store is anathema to the 21st century’s comprehension of ‘olde worlde’ retailing for when we imagine a past this distant, we imagine only the romantic, novelized circumstances of those at the top and those at the bottom – silks for the former, rags for the latter. The idea that there was a vast and tedious sea of people who were above squalor but beneath bespoke tailoring is rarely considered, and yet these people offered the custom on which countless brands have been built. One of Moses cleverest ideas was the purchase of spare suits from Savile Row which he then sold on in his shop – offering the very best in quality and construction to those that could not ordinarily afford it.

As bespoke tailoring increased in price, demand for alternatives increased and half a century after their father had begun the trade, Arthur and George Moss (anglicised due to the 19th century’s antipathy to Judaism) were employing skilled independent tailors and offering hand-finished ready to wear that combined the knowledge and art of Savile Row with the increasing efficiency of the industrial age. Considering the recent renaissance of tailoring, it seems strange that Moss Bros ever relinquished this combination. From the 1920s, the brothers Moss decided to focus on ready to wear and clothing hire; the company expanded, eventually acquiring Blazer, Dormie and Cecil Gee. Franchise dalliances with Hugo Boss and Canali moved the business further away from its roots as a go-to place for those to whom Savile Row was but a distant dream – the ‘rollercoaster’ 20th century certainly didn’t help but one cannot help but conclude that some wrongs were done which were never righted.

Now, it seems that Moss Bros are going to attempt their own renaissance; recent press reports have heralded their attempt to be a “cut above rivals” by “bringing Savile Row-style tailoring to the high street.” This will be seen as either a result of sensible soul-searching or simply another ‘me too’ reactionary venture like their disastrous ‘Code.’ However, whereas Code was simply a complete misfire – an attempt to cash-in on a trend towards the casual by discarding the immense goodwill that the Moss Bros name carried – this is a move that acknowledges, albeit superficially, the heritage of the group. Although it doesn’t have the Dickensian romance, or the dusty ‘Made in England’ pedigree – the suits will apparently be made in China for £250-£350 and ready in four weeks – their mission should warm the hearts of those who remember Moss Bros as more than an overstocked one-time wedding shop for grooms who couldn’t care less.

The Moss Bros name was far finer than it is now. The awful shopping experience now is a result of messy compromises, ill-judged acquisitions and avaricious expansion. The Covent Garden store is indeed lovely, despite being filled with poor quality product, but the cheap and narrow high street stores up and down the country denigrate the brand to the point of ridicule. Walking into Moss Bros, even amongst my least sartorially aware friends, provokes questions of ‘What the hell do you want in there?’ In my opinion a name rebrand (to Moss Brothers – ‘Bros’ is spoken in rhyme with Moss to unfortunate effect), shop floor presentation and inventory examination are most needed. Admittedly, Moss Bros has never sought to be a grand name – and nor should it now – but they have a chance to shine, legitimately, as a high street brand representing the possibilities of elegance on a budget.

Summer Is Here


There are certain things that to me signify summer has arrived. The weather, obviously, is a pretty big one. But it really hits home when I start to see that favourite clothing combination of mine, the blue cotton jacket with white/off-white cotton trousers (read jeans and chinos). Whether you pick white or off white is, I believe, a matter of location. You’ll rarely see an Englishman in white trousers, whereas on the continent, in my experience, the reverse is so.

A look that seems at once both familiar and current, it is essentially a modern reinterpretation of the blue blazer and white flannels, which was the casual uniform of the yacht club, tennis club and seaside promenade of the 20’s and 30’s. As with its forbear it works by playing with contrast.

As I have mentioned before, I consider contrast an invaluable tool for pulling off the label ‘welled dressed’. In the case of the blue jacket and white/off-white trouser there are various contrasts at work. Firstly, there is the contrast of tone; and while at opposite ends of the spectrum they are in my view more sympathetic and less jarring to the eye than mere black and white combined. Both are cold, clinical colours, which sets up a contrast with the heat and dust of a city summer. There is also the contrast of the formal and the informal as represented by the sobriety of the blue jacket and sporting heritage of white trouser.

A look I adopt without fail, the garments combined have a versatility that belie their obvious simplicity. The base colours provide a perfect ground for almost any colour of shirting, and you can alter the relative formality by merely playing with the extremities. Combining these garments with suede loafers and a tie or pocket square and you’re suitable for an afternoon at Lords Cricket ground and dress down Friday. Alternatively, substitute the loafers for coloured Italian driving mocs and an open collar and you’ve covered alfresco lunches by the river.

The summer time wardrobe leaves me cold, but here is one look I have definitely warmed too.

Cad & The Dandy Full London Bespoke: Fitting


My return visit to Cad & the Dandy for the second fitting was conducted on one of the warmest days of the year. The thought of slipping into a woollen suit, no matter how beautifully made, was unconscionable. I wandered past the Bank of England, the Royal Exchange and the sweaty mass of jacketless City boys into the charming, Dickensian side alley where C&D occupy a small berth. Too small, it would seem, for their current levels of business as they are expanding into another property around the corner to house their alterations operation. The fittings would still be conducted in the current property as the purpose of the acquisition of additional property is to smarten up the experience of visiting C&D.


Smartness isn’t much of an issue when it comes to the product. The last time I had seen my suit, it was a basted, half-made fragment of cobweb strength. I slipped it on and off, appraised the design and was pinned and brushed. The suit I saw this time was markedly different. I recognised the fabric in an instant; the subtlety of flannel is continually arresting. The jacket was now finished and I admired its beauty and construction as it hung there, gleaming in the spot-lit changing area. Fully canvassed and hand stitched, the jacket was something to behold but I was more concerned with how it appeared on my shoulders. The waistcoat had also been finished and the trousers, with double pleats and side adjusters, were making their debut appearance.

One has no reason to fear for one’s trousers here as they are always perfectly made. The waistcoat, next in line for analysis by James, was in need of adjustment. It lacked a little shape under the arms but it was simple work and would be completed, I was informed, in a couple of days. The jacket was splendid; snug, comfortable and beautifully weighted. James, with a rear view, began fiddling with the material; “I think this could be brought in more” he said. Initially I wasn’t sure, but a side view confirmed this. The trouble with looking in a mirror is that it isn’t nearly as accurate as a tailor’s eye.

“Are you happy with it?” asked James as John, who was responsible for the tailoring and the first fitting, wandered in from the glorious day. All the basic requirements were there – the waistcoat was shawl collared and double breasted, the jacket peak lapelled, slant and ticket pocketed and the trousers, cuffed and pleated. And it all fit my peculiar bones very well. I was certainly happy. The real question was, “Am I happier with this suit?” My first Cad & the Dandy suit was my first foray into tailoring. It fits beautifully, is robust and will always hold a special place for me in much the same way that one always remembers, clearly and affectionately, all of one’s ‘firsts.’


I can safely say, having examined them together and worn them in quick succession, that my new suit, the highest category of suit offered by C&D, the ‘Full London Bespoke’, is a noticeably superior product that comes with a noticeably superior price. Am I happier then?  Well, I am certainly impressed. Happiness is impossible to rank so arbitrarily – it will take weeks, months and years to realise exactly how happy I am.

The question for any gentleman venturing to Cad & the Dandy to solve their suiting woes should be whether the ‘Bespoke’, a suit that actually has the right to use the term, is the correct choice for them or whether they should opt for one of the less expensive made-to-measure options. The question, as always, is one of preparedness. If you have a budget and are cautious about spending spondulicks on sartoria, opt for a made-to-measure.  If you would like a suit that gives the rest of the Row a serious run for its money, go all out for the Full London Bespoke.

Driving Me Crazy

Well after a week in London, it finally happened: a day with no rain. And, as you of course know, that means new shoe day. I have a pair of driving loafers I got at the end of last summer during the sales that I have patiently sat on for almost 9 months now, and today was finally the day. They left their box, their dustbags, and their fresh, unsoiled form behind in favor of my feet and some dry asphalt. And I’d like to think they couldn’t be happier – I certainly couldn’t be.

Driving loafers are for me one of the greatest joys of summer dressing. I know you can wear them year round, but to me wearing them with socks feels only one step better than sandals with socks and I just cannot bear it. Some men can’t wait for their bucks, some men for sandals (we won’t even touch on that subject), but for me, the shoe of summer is the driver. Ironically enough, I don’t drive, but now I digress.


The wonderful Ralph Lauren specimen I have unearthed is the one you can see above, although mine are navy rather than black, but sport the same blue and red grosgrain ribbon. Nautical in influence, nautical or urban in function, they are always appropriate, and always comfortable. Slipping out of the house feels like an afternoon in slippers, and when the temperatures soar, less is really more in footwear.

The driving moccasin far predates Mr. Lauren’s models though, taking its heritage back to the not-so-distant 1960s. Italian brand Car Shoe claims to be the original driving moccasin, patented in 1963, and as far as I can find they claim so authentically. These are tough to find outside of Italy, but they are fabulous if you can get them.

Tod’s, probably the company most well known for their driving loafers, also produces sublime examples dating back to the 1970s created by current CEO Diego Della Valle. If you haven’t already read the article regarding Mr. Della Valle in The Rake, I highly recommend you do. He created their famous Gommini sole, with its 133 little round pebbles, and all Tod’s shoes today are still made right in Le Marche, Italy where they always have been.


I was lucky enough to spend a summer living in Le Marche two years ago, and could kick myself for not knowing at the time I was only a half hour or so from the factory. I might just have to visit some old friends and brush up on my Italian.

A Walk On The Wild Side: Archer Adams


If you regularly follow my column (and well done you for persevering) you’ll have noticed that I’m a classic dresser for the most part, but occasionally I like to wander off the reservation in search of originality, diversity, and individuality.

Of course what constitutes these things is a matter of personal taste. My last pick of the Carreducker Half-Cuts was not universally received with enthusiasm.

Of course there are many purveyors of menswear who produce clothes that are different for difference sake and original merely for sake of spectacle.  For me the key test is, are the clothes anchored by classic resonances and the classic virtues of form, function, fit, and material.

Into this category I would put Archer Adams. I met him while searching out Portland General Store aftershaves and lotions – he is thus far the only UK stockist. He also takes the prize for having the most unconventional CV of anybody I’ve met in menswear, having been a political strategist in Washington DC; a songwriter; an artist manager in the music business; a record producers and recording artists.

Archer is a new entrant to the market and on first inspection to say his clothes are rock ‘n’ roll would be an understatement. Archer himself describes his own style as “ new Dandy”, which is as good a label as any. The denim suit I thought was a wonderful idea and beautifully cut, as was the Velvet Crombie I spotted – which is begging to be made in black and worn with a dinner jacket.


Despite their apparently radical colours, quirks and decidedly rock ‘n’ roll aura, I think these clothes are surprisingly easy to dress, and that’s because they are made with care and a respect for tradition. For example, the short jackets are made of Holland & Sherry moleskin and velvet, taking the aesthetic of the classic denim jacket one step further. He has beautiful Aero leather pilots jackets, made in Scotland from horse hide. Before starting his shop Archer spent two years learning about garment construction and manufacture; seeking out suppliers who could make the clothes in the limited edition runs to the standard he desired.  Most, but not all, the clothes are manufactured in the UK, and the cloth for most of his garments is English.

When I visited Archer the shop had just been fitted out and stock was beginning to arrive. After just one season it might be too hard to call but I think we are likely to hear more of Archer Adams over the coming years.