Archives for June 2010

Old Hat


I recently wrote that I was off to Royal Ascot this year and in need of morning tails. In fact I’ve hired the jacket and trouser but what I looking to buy was a double breasted buff waistcoat. In just such a circumstance many London men head to David Saxby’s shop Old Hat.

A wonderful vintage emporium located in Fulham, just across Putney Bridge, it’s renowned for high quality vintage evening dress and formal wear. They also have an unrivalled collection of vintage Savile Row Tweed jackets and suits. I’m a fan of vintage and own just one Savile Row suit. It fits me like no other garment I own, and comes courtesy of Old Hat.

It always amazes me just how many men known of Old Hat, and how many who still don’t. For one thing the shop is beloved by the men who frequent it, and it doesn’t attract your average vintage crowd. Many aren’t by nature what you’d call thrifters. But there is something about Old Hat which means once you step inside its hard not to find yourself coming back. For most men that first experience starts with morning tails. In fact enter the premises on any Saturday between May and September and you’d find it hard to move for grooms to be, best-men pending and other honoured guest.

But Old Hat is more than just a great place to go to get around a potentially expensive social life. If anything it’s a celebration of classic dressing, an age of craft and quality. Supplying everything from stiff collars to riding boots, Old Hat is about the vision and dedication of one man with an extraordinary love of clothes, the legendary David Saxby. To many he will need little introduction, being the sartorial agony uncle on that wonderfully English, wonderfully eccentric publication The Chap magazine.

Sadly when it came to my double breasted waistcoat Old Hat had already been cleaned out by Ascot goers, but any excuse to visit Old Hat should be indulged.

Stylish Beach Towels


“Aaah!” the gentleman exhales with relief “beach life!” He lays himself on the golden sand, glistening from his brief dip in the chilly, turquoise waters, the sound of which he now conceals with a carefully selected playlist, largely populated with Bob Marley favourites. The sun bakes his skin and he smiles, in genuine satisfaction; by the time of his return to a cloudy mother nation, he will be able to crack smiles and admiring glances when wearing his distinctive and punchy tangerine summer shirt. All the appurtenances of a sophisticated hedonist are at his disposal; iPod, award winning literature, chilled caipirinha. His life is so well accessorised, he even begins to contemplate the thought that he might (shush!)…have too much?

This bourgeois thought does not trouble his sandy head for too long before he remembers that he is lying on one of those feeble, overwashed, crusty room towels that hotels so perversely cherish (“Please do not take towels from your bathroom for the beach”); small, uncomfortable and barely absorbent, it’s also a rather disturbing off-white which makes it look as though it has been stuck in the pool’s drainage system for the past fortnight. Our gentleman had assumed, like many others, that a private beach and large pool area automatically indicated a supply of towels to rival that of Champneys. Admittedly, a good hotel should provide all linens and towels throughout a stay – one should not have to waste clothing space with lumps of spongy cotton. However, for the gentleman of distinguished taste a decent towel is an essential accessory when ‘swimmy’ and ‘beachy’ frolics are in the offing.

The beach towel that a gentleman selects says as much about him as his linen shirt, wristwatch or patterned swimshorts. At the chilly introduction of evening, he can be seen sipping mojitos on the shore, his beach towel wrapped tightly around him, as though it were his family standard keeping him warm. A beach towel is a companion; as comforting as it is essential.

First and foremost, it must be of a sufficient size and quality. Small and fluffless beach towels are heinous. Cotton terrycloth is the only option for a material; stay well away from cheap microfiber towels.  Secondly, colour must be considered carefully. Plain white towels, while versatile, are likely to be mistaken as hotel owned and you might have a hard time convincing Fabrizio the pool guy that your own property is mixed up in the mass of soggy suncream n’ sweat soaked cotton that fills a vat of used towels. In fact, anything too ‘plain’ and your towel might be mistaken for an oversized bathmat – pattern is the key to the classic beach towel.

Avoid the vulgarity of advertising your brand allegiance to the helicopters that swirl above; there is no brand display more pathetic than a gigantic name printed across a beach towel. The opportunity of purchasing a towel is an opportunity to express yourself in a way you might be disinclined to with clothing; after all you do not, technically, wear a towel. It is something you lounge on, wipe sunglasses on, cosy up with on the terrace whilst watching the sun set. It belongs on holiday, not at the pub with your drinking mates. Therefore, a little pattern, a little colour, a little design – the sort of thing a gentleman only admits to liking in pillow talk – is perfectly acceptable.

On My Soap Box: Cutesy Ties

To avoid repeating things already said I recently flick through some past articles by fellow columnists.

I was particularly struck by Winston’s harangue of men who wear Printed T-shirts. I have some sympathy for his point of view, but it would be hypocritical of me to fully endorse his stance given I have previously championed, and still do, London based

However, it did bring to the surface my own latent hatred for one item of clothing in particular. No, not those jeans which require your arse to be hanging out over the waistband and the belt ratchet around your thighs to stop them meeting your ankles. No, my own personal loathing is for a garment which many men may already have sitting in their wardrobe.

I’m speaking of cutesy printed ties with animals, plants and all manner of childlike crap upon them; the sort frequently offered up by Hermes, Thomas Pink and most notably Vineyard Vines.


I’ve always thought of a tie as part tool and part expression of personality. The problem I have is that as a tool to building a look I just don’t get the aesthetic, even from a distance. As an expression of personality I’m even more perplexed, just what exactly is it you’re trying to say: I’m a child at heart, I like hippos, I’m wacky, my wife buys my ties!

Even as an act of rebellion I’m sceptical that it works. If you care not about fashion, style or dress why not simply wear plain black or blue ties. You can’t get much simpler. Ultimately such an excuse is a lie given that these ties are for the most part brightly coloured, and you must possess some interest in clothes to able to match with anything.

I have wondered, given the success of Vineyard Vines in particular, whether there was some cultural significance that I was missing.


There is a respectable tradition in the UK of sporting motifs on ties, intimately bound up in British class consciousness. Typically, patterns incorporate stags, foxes, pheasants, fish and horses, all highlighting country pursuits, and natural accessories to tweeds and country clothing. Good examples of these can be found at the excellent A. Hume with their Atkinsons Irish Poplin, Farlows, Roderick Charles and London’s Polistas.

While this latter illustration is an aesthetic I can appreciate, it isn’t one I necessarily practice; and I’m willing to accept that to those living beyond the shores of England it may seem as baffling as Vineyard Vines is to me. But fundamentally, I struggle to understand why a grown man would do such a thing to himself.

No More Excuses


I cannot help but feel utter dismay when a chap provides a feeble excuse. For one thing, chaps who do nothing but excuse themselves are generally excused the courtesy of being referred to as a gentleman; a gentleman is not a soppy avoidance artiste, a blamer, a finger pointer or a self-indulgent weeper. In relation to clothing, this ‘I am excused’ culture is particularly annoying. For every man who ticks me off for being an overdressed popinjay there is some hand-wringing beetle-browed whiner who complains that I am simply genetically fortunate to be able to wear the clothes I do. These persons then point out that I am thinner than they are, younger than they are, healthier than they are, luckier than they are – ad nauseum. The problem is not that they are anything they claim (without a shred of evidence). The problem is that they are unwilling to look at themselves as anything else.

‘I’m old now. Nothing looks good on me.’

Men are fortunate in that as they age, they can often become even more attractive than they were in their youth. George Clooney is a splendid example of this. Buying clothing to make you look younger is not an exercise of copying exactly what younger people are wearing; the ‘trendy’ middle-aged chap will lack dignity and his adherence to fashion will not cause him to ‘lose years’ – it will give the impression that he lacks conviction and self-belief, which for a man in this prime of life is rather tragic.

To look younger in delivery rather than fashion is the key. He should purchase one or two buttoned suits, staying away from fuddy duddy double-breasted blazers, and he should avoid ‘comfortable’ footwear in favour of smart and sleek kickers from good manufacturers such as Church’s or Crockett & Jones – there is nothing more aging than a pair of shoes bought for ‘bunion relief.’ Blue shirts are fantastic in stripping years; especially crisp royal and cornflower blues and cutaway or spread collars are the most youthful and optimistic. Playful little touches such as a matching pocket square or bright red socks will give a man an air of light-hearted distinction, which is certainly attractive.

‘I’m too fat to care or look good in clothes.’

Using stripes is one of the most effective methods of illusory svelte-ness; the eye follows the stripes down the body, rather than across it which makes a chap seem taller and, consequently, slimmer and wearing waistcoats with suits actually helps contain and conceal girth; there is no visible overspill as the belt line is hidden.

Also, keep trousers straight fitting with no pleats; ‘double pleats’ have a tendency to make a man look fatter in thigh. Shoes should be as slim as possible, and wear a lot of black and navy blue – such dark tones are famous for their slimming effect. Overall, a man should try to keep his clothes ‘fitted’. Baggy clothes worn over bodily bulk has the effect of increasing girth. Finally, keeping outerwear long, dark and tailored covers awkward areas which might be revealed when wearing sporty, short fitting outer jackets.

‘I’ve got no one to dress for anymore.’

I think those in relationships tend to lose a little vanity and they care less about keeping abreast of style changes. Although a cosy marriage can mean that a loving wife appreciates you equally in pyjamas as in white tie and tails, this philosophy is obsolete when the partnership comes crashing down. It is important in this circumstance to start paying attention to your self once more. Though many people might never marry again, as far as the world is concerned you are ‘back on the market’. I would suggest an avoidance of ‘comfort clothing’; the sort of tatty, worn items that were perfect for a Sunday afternoon during the heady days of connubial bliss. It is important to reignite a little self-admiration, so sticking to classics and concentrating on fit and colour is paramount. Well fitting and well-matched clothes suit almost anyone that wears them and, to give your look a little boost, try wearing bright, eye-catching colours and patterns. However, overdoing this can be disastrous; excessive patterning and colour looks desperate, which is extremely unattractive. I think one must look sleek and well-coordinated and yet surprisingly cheerful.

Mogador Ties


The weekend just gone was a bank holiday here in the UK, which means a 3 day weekend. Normally that would mean taking the girlfriend away, or at least some kind of expedition. However, having rocked a fat one Friday night I really wasn’t up for anything adventurous. So what does a chap do when feeling a little worse for wear? He surfs the net for ties of course.

In particular I was looking for Mogador ties. Two things became apparent very quickly; firstly, they were thin on the ground – so thin I struggled to find a picture. Secondly, many retailers didn’t even seem sure what Mogador was, often confusing it with poplin.

First things first, both Poplin and Mogador have a slightly ribbed weave, and both are made by weaving two different materials together. In the case of Poplin, a silk warp is shot through with a wool weft. And I should say that what we are really talking about is Irish Poplin, as made famous by Atkinsons, as opposed to shirting Poplin which is pure cotton. Mogador fabric is a mix of silk yarn in the warp, and finest cotton in the weft. The name is derived from a port in Morocco from where this cloth originates.

In both cases you are using the silk to provide vibrant colour and the wool or cotton with its thicker more ridged threads to provide a solidity which in my view creates a beautiful hand. In addition colours are vibrant and rich but they don’t have the shine of pure silk weaves.

Now, most people advocate Irish Poplin for summer, but being a fan of the qualities of cotton ties I personally rather like Mogador for spring and summer. Their dull shine, but richness of colour (an attribute of the cotton), light weight and rigidity make them ideal pairings with cotton or linen suiting and set up an even better contrast with that other warm weather fabric, Mohair.

And now you know how I spend my spare time, it’s a wonder I’m not single.