Archives for August 2010

A Stylish Movie: To Catch A Thief


To Catch a Thief (1955) is an Alfred Hitchcock classic starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. Grant plays the roll of John Robie, a jewel thief nicknamed “The Cat” who has retired to the French Riviera. Following a series of jewel thefts in the area, Robie becomes the prime suspect and must prove his innocence by catching the thief.

To Catch a Thief is full of great clothing. Even the cops wear double-breasted suits. The movie was nominated for the 1955 Academy Award for costume design. While watching the movie, I paid particular attention to Grant’s wardrobe.

The movie opens with Grant in a round-necked pullover with blue and white horizontal stripes, a red and white polka dot silk around his throat, a pair of gray wool pleated trousers, brown loafers and light gray socks. I noticed a minor continuity error a few scenes later; Grant was in the same outfit sans socks.

Later in the movie Grants wears an outfit with similar elements. He pairs a heather-gray pullover with light-gray pants. The silk at his neck appears to be a paisley pattern of dark fall colors like rust, navy and dark green. His hair is sleek and shiny. Maybe Brylcreem?

One notable scene supports the assertion that a gentleman should carry two handkerchiefs. The first is for display in the jacket’s breast pocket, and the second is for personal hygiene (one for showin’ and one for blowin’). After a passionate kiss between Grant and Grace Kelly, Grant uses a white handkerchief produced from the trouser pocket of his tuxedo to wipe the lipstick from his lips. Meanwhile, a white pocket square appears angled jauntily in the breast pocket of his shawl-collared tuxedo jacket.

In my favorite outfit from the movie, Grant wears a light bluish-gray jacket with patch pockets and gold buttons. Interestingly, the jacket sports only two sleeve buttons. Also of dubious note is the fact that in one scene Grant fastens all three of the jacket’s buttons. The jacket is paired with light gray pants, a white dress shirt with button-down collars, a navy cravat with small white dots, and brown tassel loafers.

For some classic sartorial inspiration I recommend you watch To Catch a Thief.

Lasting Luxury

lodger som

We all known how flooded the market is with supposed “luxury goods” and “quality bespoke such-and-such,” but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what sorts of things set apart the proverbial wheat from the chaff. To be honest, a lot of what I’ve been able to identify falls pretty simply into two categories: intensive craftsmanship and true creativity/individuality. The brands and products that combine a love of craft and quality with a unique aesthetic that sets them apart from the pack (even if these differences are subtle or just markers of the aforementioned craft) are the brands I find myself continuously gravitating towards time and time again.

A perfect example of this combination for me is the Shoe of the Month program over at Lodger Footwear on Clifford Street, London. Their standard offerings are mouthwatering, don’t get me wrong, but I find the creativity present in each new month’s offering exciting and engaging in a totally different way. To step back for a moment, the shoe of the month program is just what it sounds like – Lodger releases a limited edition shoe each month that is only available for order during that month, and is then never offered again.

While this month’s shoe is a loafer in two special colors, both beautiful in their own right, some months have been really unique and amazing. The combination suede and leather Jodphur boot offered this past February was definitely one of the highlights for me, taking a traditional Jodphur off the polo pitch and into the city – while it would also look great in the country, I’m sure, this boot just screams “Brown in Town” to me. Maybe it’s the sleek lines and crossed strap…or maybe just the fact that I wish I had a pair and don’t spend much time in the country.

Another vintage-inspired favorite was the tennis shoe offered last summer, which might be the best summer shoe I have ever laid eyes on. And the best (or quite possibly the worst) part of it all is that I can’t have either of these offerings; after their month is up, no wad of cash can get them reproduced. This idea of luxury that is somewhat impulsive, if a month can be considered impulsive, intrigues me and makes me smile as I think about it.

The list of unique offerings goes on, striped canvas, two-tone desert boots, blue suede brogues, and paprika slip-ons all represented. The foundation for all of this though is ultimately quality and craft. This isn’t about plunking down 100 pounds for the month’s hottest fast fashion, but rather investing in something that will age with you and become more rare and unique over time – almost like a fine wine or something similar. Hand clicking, hand painting, beveled waists, and beautifully polished soles are just the basics. So next time a brand says they are producing “luxury bespoke super duper extra rare quality life-time assured” goods, give it a good think.

The Season Ahead – A Jean Jacket


We’re half way through August and I’m already planning things in September and October. It’s safe to say summer is done; and so it’s natural that at the moment I’m looking to the season ahead and planning what items of clothing will be added to inventory.

There are two considerations in my own case. The first is that I spend less and less time in an office these days, and sadly as such a suit has become less and less a requirement. Almost as much of my time requires a more casual wardrobe, smart enough to be presentable when I turn up at a shop, tailors or the like, but nevertheless informal and comfortable for hiking around town. Indeed, in many cases a suit would give out entirely the wrong vibe.

The second consideration is simplicity. As I mentioned recently in my recent post on shirt and tie combinations, I’m attempting something which is long overdue; paring down my wardrobe to some key simple looks and core items.

The photos above, which come courtesy of The Sartorialist, are taken from an exhaustive archive of looks and kit I have captured online and filed for future use. The key element, and where my mind is circling, is the jean jacket.

To begin with I have a thing for short jacketing that cuts off at the hip/waist at the moment. My feeling is that while such jacketing looks good on the slim, it also helps those with a little heft around the middle. Longer garments in this latter case tend to accentuate the belly –in part by providing a sort of hooping effect- while the short jacket resting on the hip de-emphasises the torso and lengthens the leg, producing a seemingly taller slimmer silhouette.

The current trend for Trad/American work wear provides a useful frame work for dressing the jacket up and down –particularly so in the case of jean jackets. A suitable mix with crewneck T-shirts and neckerchief for the ultra low key, or soft collar shirt and knitted silk ties with squared ends resting at the waist for an edgy semi-formal approach.

Our friend in the picture on the right highlights added versatility by dressing the jacket with more formal trousers – in his case slim cut flannels – and the potential for layering. I’m not sure I’d layer it with a Covert Coat (although I have thought about it), but a raglan sleeve raincoat, straight cut and three quarter raincoat with a blue polka dot silk scarf and we’re in business.

The other virtue of the jean jacket is that it responds well to any colour of shirting and, as the chap on the left demonstrates, particularly well with chinos. This is the final element. While I’m not only pairing down my shirting choices I’m also considering abandoning jeans in favour of British Khaki chinos. But that’s another post…

David Beckham Footballer, Model, Icon…Designer


A marketable name is one of the great commodities of the modern world. Names are bought like property; propped up, squeezed of their use and then traded on. The market for perfume is a perfect example. Celebrities who wouldn’t know a bass note from a bass guitar team up with people who do to produce their ‘signature’ scent; the product is invariably awful, the margins are invariably huge.

There is something so nauseatingly sweet and shiny about that word; ‘celebrity.’ It seems forever sprinkled with glitter. The Beckham family, who owe much of their wealth to the professional success and consistent marketability of the patriarch, are of particular interest to all ‘celebrigorgers’; they begin salivating at the sight of pink neon headlines like ‘Victoria in Crisis’, licking their lips at the prospect of ‘Exclusive Pics of Beck’s Holiday Yacht.’ And it is because of this hunger, this constant need of the masses to be updated of events in their world that Mr and Mrs Beckham continue to be a marketable product.

Mr Beckham has long ceased to be much of a marketable product in the world of professional football. As a living football icon, he is unparalleled but he’d be lucky to rejoin a competitive European league. He is old, has been performing very averagely of late and is no longer hunted by the grand clubs of Italy, England or Spain. Fortunately, he has found a side career as a clothes horse, brand ambassador and extraordinarily well-paid model and now it seems he wants a cut of the creation too; that’s right folks, David Beckham is launching his very own menswear collection.

Dismissed him already? Well, that’s to be expected. Many women have dismissed his wife’s ability to design women’s clothes and have predicted her label to flop, so it is likely the same prediction will be made about her husband, especially considering that Mr Beckham’s collection will be produced in conjunction with his wife’s new label. Why use him? Firstly, he is a household name in Europe, certainly and he has a popular following in football-mad Asia too. He’s better known now stateside, although the nation’s lack of interest in ‘soccer’ means plenty of Americans will be unaware of his existence.

Secondly? The man does actually have an eye for style, and manages to make other famous and supposedly ‘stylish’ sportsmen look distinctly average; if Tom Brady is ‘stylish’ then Beckham is Beau Brummell. He loves tailoring too, and is keen on an array of vintage styles, particularly the baker boy flat cap and the three-piece suit. The designers will no doubt have their own ideas, but Beckham will have to be the muse for their work if the brand is to have any legitimacy and those hired to perform that work will be relieved that the multi-tattooed multi-millionaire can actually dress.

I fully expect expensive fabrics to be used (expect almost everything to be in cashmere), and the suits, considering the way he wears them, may well have a decent cut; consequently, I also expect the prices to reflect this. This is where the problem may lie; too high a price, and the products will bomb.



Khaki was never manufactured to stand out. It comes from an Indian word meaning “dust coloured”; fabrics in this shade were first produced as camouflage for the British Indian Army regiments by a British textile firm in the 1870s. The colour of light clay, the Brits found that khaki was extraordinarily useful and variations on the colour and the textile it was dyed on still exist in the forces today. Khaki drill played its part in the Boer War, the Spanish American war and both World Wars and is usually the first thing anyone thinks of when you utter the words ‘El Alamein.’

It is perhaps appropriate that khaki is considered to be the first ‘practical’ colouring for the modern army. When it was used in southern Africa, the Zulu wars that had ended a decade before had seen scarlet tunics with brass buttons and Pickelhaube style white pith helmets with gold chinchains and shining capstars – acceptable for the Battlefield of Waterloo but completely outdated in world of modern warfare. Blending into the background had become not only a strategy but a priority.

Suitably, the modern ‘khaki’ trouser is the premier choice for the gentleman ill-inclined to fuss or show-off with his clothing. As the Tommies in Tobruk were indistinguishable from the landscape, so is the weekend shopper at Wal Mart. While it bounces in and out of trend, it never scoops up much attention. The man who shies away from the world rests his eyes on a pair happily as he traverses the terrifyingly open terrain of the local clothing store. Where casual clothing is concerned, khaki is always a safe choice, a refuge; social camouflage.

However, khaki trousers should be the start, and not the end, of an ensemble. Popularly paired with white or blue polo shirts and white trainers (eurgh), khaki trousers are capable of a great deal more; pink shirts, blue blazers, suede shoes, the list is endless.

The other problem is that they are commonly worn baggily and saggily, weighed down by wallets, coins, phones and small guide books; no matter what a man wears, denim or Dormeuil, he should always strive to maintain a good silhouette.

And while they are certainly appropriate for casual wear, they are not unheard of at formal functions; I remember an American gentleman at a summer wedding I once attended, quite the most elegant man there, in a navy blazer, blue end-on-end shirt, Madras bow tie, spectators and khaki chinos. The bow tie and blazer were a nod to formality, the spectators added the fun and the khakis added a cool, contrasting masculinity.