Archives for October 2010

Wall Street II


This week the long awaited Wall Street II: Money Never Sleeps hit the big screen. With Michael Douglas reprising the role of anti-hero Gordon Gekko, the ruthless, street-fighting financier, it promises much. As the original remains one of my favourite films I sincerely hope it delivers.

The original Wall Street defined a decade, Thatcherism and Raganomics both. For years strutting peacocks in the city expounded “lunch is for wimps” and bought the line “greed is good”. It celebrated and legitimised an attitude on Wall Street, and within the Square Mile here in the UK, which some argue we’re now paying for.

But beyond that third rate university lecturer’s socio-economic analysis, one thing is undeniable, by god it was a stylish film. Gekko’s wardrobe was of course designed by Alan Flusser, doing for him and his reputation what The Great Gatsby did for Ralph Lauren. Of course he didn’t create the look, it’s hallmarks of braces, white collar and cuff shirts, pinstripe suits in dark colours was a part of the culture of the Square Mile long before the film. But he certainly summed it up, captured it for posterity, and in the guise of Gekko breathed new life into it, making it – for want of a better word – accessible.

From what I’ve seen, this latest film has a new and very definite look, one that retailers have been quick to pick up on.  Back in June I got an Autumn/Winter collection preview from distinguished family owned tailors – and one of my favourite outfitters – Ede & Ravenscroft. I was hoping to provide pictures before now, but as it happens, the launch of Wall Street II has made this very apt. Their Boardroom Collection pays homage to Gekko’s new look, the keystone of which is the single breasted suit with double breasted waistcoat. I have to say that this has long been one of my favourite styles of suiting, and far from easy to get – off the peg anyways. While the new film doesn’t invent the look or the suit, it seems more than likely that we will see more of it; which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your point of view.

Sequels never quite fulfil the hype or the expectation, but for those of us interested in matters sartorial, I suspect this film is likely to generate discussion.

Book Review: Style & The Man


Alan Flusser recently released an updated and abridged version of his Style and the Man.  The book was originally published in 1996 and included now-outdated advice on specific locations to purchase men’s clothing and accessories around the world.  The shopping guide has been eliminated from this new version and what remains has been updated for 2010.  The stated purpose of the book is to offer the male clothing shopper “some insight into how to discern the stylishly classic from the provisionally fashionable.”

The book is so small (5 x 8 inches and 137 pages) that I was prepared to be disappointed.  In contrast, one of my favorite style books, Flusser’s Dressing the Man, is 8 ½ x 11 inches and 308 pages.  I really enjoy the multitude of photographs and old Esquire illustrations in Dressing the Man; on the other hand, Style & the Man has just a few black line illustrations.  Notwithstanding this shortcoming, I was pleasantly surprised about the volume of good advice that is packed into this little book.

The book contains eight chapters on tailored clothing, dress shirts, shoes, neckwear, accessories, formal wear, custom-made clothes, and traveling with your wardrobe.  In the first chapter on tailored clothing Flusser gives advice on the fit (specific to different body types), fabric and quality of the suit.  The chapter on dress shirts continues with advice on fit, fabric and quality.  The chapter on footware includes a discussion on fit and quality of dress shoes, and a section on hosiery etiquette.  The chapter on neckwear gives advice on how to judge the value of a tie as well as how to wear a tie.  Flusser dispenses advice on such diverse topics as belts, braces, handkerchiefs, and jewelry in the chapter on accessories.  In the formal wear chapter, Flusser gives very detailed and specific advice about the ritual surrounding the way that formal wear is supposed to be worn.  As the presence of a chapter on custom-made clothes might hint, most of the advice in the book pertains to shopping for ready-to-wear clothing.  In this short chapter Flusser discusses the advantages of custom clothing over ready-to-wear  apparel.  The final chapter contains advice on packing your wardrobe for wrinkle-free travel.

If I had to choose between Dressing the Man and Style & the Man, I would choose the former.  But Style & the Man is an excellent supplement to the larger tome.  I picked up my copy of Style & the Man from for about ten dollars.  At that price it’s hard to go wrong.

Why Tailors Should Dominate Fashion Week


If London ever needed a reminder of how it lags behind the fashion powerhouses of Milan and Paris, the departure of the most influential names before the close of fashion week was surely it. Before the curtain had even been raised on the men’s show, most of the international editors were on a plane to northern Italy. It must have been a sore moment for those who had spent the year planning their shows; as much as Matthew Williamson might protest that the geographical location of a show is an irrelevance due to the internationality of the internet, fashion is all about priorities and realising you are not one of them is like an arrow through the heart.

The British Fashion Council has worked tirelessly to raise the profile of British designers, to present the creative forces of London’s fashion graduates, but so far their efforts have been in vain; London is still perceived to be an also-ran in the world of fashion. Irrespective of the cache of institutions like Central St. Martins and the excellence of training received in places like Savile Row, there are more than a few sniggers of pity and derision when the fashion world prepares for a September week at Somerset House. Compared with the Parisian and Milanese houses, London is lightweight; Burberry is coveted but is largely a glorified rainwear brand, Vivienne Westwood is talented and creative but simply doesn’t have the influence or market share. If fashion was about trump cards, London would fold early.

Where it can, and should, develop is in the arena of men’s fashion, particularly tailoring. For one thing, there is nothing in the world to match Savile Row. Ozwald Boateng’s glittering show at the Odeon in Leicester Square epitomised the brilliant fusion that can occur when the best tailoring meets idiosyncratic creativity; the best men’s clothing, whether from Paris, Milan or Timbuktu is made according to such simple principles of tailoring that Savile Row cutters acknowledge them in their sleep: shape, silhouette and quality.

Boateng, well respected in both Paris and Milan, is one of the best ambassadors for not only the Row but British men’s fashion. E.Tautz are also beginning to flex their flannel covered muscles in front of an international audience that is clearly doubtful of the value that British institutions can add to the global fashion machine. I have always believed that true craftsmen hold the key to all possibilities in the fashion world; McQueen might have ended his career, and his life, on the high of haute couture but he began it as a cutter on the Row.

Until now London’s tailoring community has quietly attended to business; shuttling tailors to Dubai, New York, Auckland, Bora-Bora and Peru, carrying the British name far and wide. They might think they don’t need to “do” fashion but the power their name carries would give London the ability to punch above her current weight.

Shirt Pockets


I’ve recently been wrestling with the issue of shirt pockets.

There does seem to be something of a transatlantic divide on this issue. Reading most of the forum chit chat, Uncle Sam’s men seem in the majority to favour breast pockets, while Europeans and particularly Englishmen abstain. Like many things in the world of menswear there is a certain amount of silliness and snobbery to endure on the issue – in the main focussed against those that favour the pocket.

There appears to be no hard and fast rule on the matter, although the shirts evolution from its simple linen origin was certainly minus pocket. The innovation of a pocket is widely attributed to Brooks Brothers when they first added one to their button down shirt in 1960s, although the button down itself dates back to 1896. Since Brooks Brothers’ innovation many illustrious British shirt makers have followed suit, despite the hostility, currently placing breast pockets on their single cuff shirts, presumably regarding them as less formal and more sporty.

Personally, I cannot abide pockets on shirts. The first reason, in terms of ready to wear shirts, is I’m yet to find a pocket set at the right level on shirt front. Either too high or too low, too close to the shoulder or too near the waist, the aesthetic has never quite work for me. I’ve also found that they serve no useful purpose. Sunglasses should either be on your face or can just as easily be tucked down the front of the shirt, supported by the second button. Under a jacket it’s pointless to place anything in the pocket as you’ll destroy the lines of your jacket, not to mention the fact you have better suited pockets for carrying kit, in which case what do you need a shirt pocket for? And on a purely aesthetic note, I much prefer the crisp clean look of an uncluttered shirt front in both its formal or casual form.

This directly relates to starting my own label, a project I’m slowly working towards. As I made clear recently, I want to offer a small range of formal and semi-formal shirts. First on the list is a true soft roll collar, button down oxford. Authenticity matters, and given the expectation that such a shirt should have a pocket do I make good on my goal or back my own instincts…