Archives for November 2010

Sartorial Love/Hate: Turned Up Denim


Jeans are not trousers. No oxymoron this; jeans are jeans and need to be treated as such. Though a little tailoring wouldn’t go amiss, treating jeans like a pair of wool flannels is an aesthetic mistake. Equally, jeans that are treated like an antique polishing rag are also an error. Cutting holes in a ragged pair is as weird and unwelcome as ironing or pleating, but one of the more common foibles of denim wearers, a practice with strong historic precedence, can also attract the ire of onlookers; turn-ups.

Turn-ups are historically associated with the early decades of the twentieth century when the practice was widely adopted into fashion and became the norm, for a number of decades, in suits and trousers. The original purpose of turning up trousers was to avoid damage; sailors, for example, would turn them up on a wet deck. Clippings of Edward VII wearing turn-ups on his country jaunts gave the style, considered until then an inclination of the working masses, the royal seal of approval: society, and fashion, followed suit.

It wasn’t until the 1950s that denim was accepted as appropriate attire. Until then, the fabric had been worn in the workplace by blue collar employees and had been devoid of any detail of design or shape – most of the original workers jeans were loosely fitting and lacking in any appealing shape. However, many of them were also turned-up; to avoid dragging the hems in the dirt and grime of the working environment and precious little to do with a desire to cut a fashionable figure as most workers were required to pay for their own overalls.

The practice therefore has some stylistic precedent, despite the fact that it is accidental. Strangely, turned-up denim can often look smarter than plain hemmed denim though, for some, that contrast between the outer side and inner side of indigo denim is too distracting and looks affected. The quantity of turn-up seems to be a matter of personal taste although the bigger the turn-up, the more noticeable it is. Personally, anything much above 2 inches and the jeans begin to look comical.

Perhaps due to its working-class origins there is very little dogma on the practice of wearing denim. It was a trend begun by the young for the young; the word ‘proper’ was distasteful to their rebellious vocabulary. As a result, no one seems able to successfully dictate exactly what a pair of jeans should be.

Personally, I think the turn up looks best on slim, straight legs and when it finishes well above the shoe; long, baggy jeans do not suit the style as well.

The Evolution Of The T-Shirt


An odd title for a post you might think. After all, few things rattle Mensflair readers more than the prevalence of T-shirt wearing.  Understandably we tend to regard devotees of the T-shirt as the sorts that evolution left behind.

Now, these last few weeks I took a sartorial sabbatical, owing to a need to a find a new job and prep for an important interview. But, interview over, on Wednesday I got back onside with a preview of British label Jaeger’s spring/summer collection for 2011.

One of the items to catch my attention, other than a beautiful, soft shoulder, summer weight cotton DB jacket was the T-shirt pictured above. Now, except during the height of summer I almost never wear t-shirts, and even then they’re Polo shirts. It’s also fair to say I despair at the state of dress of the majority of modern men.

But what interested me about this T-shirt was both the design and the reasoning behind it. To begin with it was more heavily engineered than your standard T, being a heavier material with better stitching to the collar and armholes. It was also something of a departure for the brand, which hitherto had produced suits, jackets shirts and other more formal attire.


I discussed Jaeger’s new collection with its designer. What’s clear is that they know that for the most part modern men live their lives in T-shirts, so why not upscale it and try to incorporate it into a nicely tailored wardrobe. This particular T was designed to fit seamlessly with many of the jackets for the seasons to come, including the Double Breasted one I have my eye on.  It’s an interesting approach. Instead of lecturing men to dress better, who are quite happy not to listen, why not make better the natural comfortable choice.


Funnily enough I spotted this type of approach in a Sartorialist picture from the summer. I rather like it.

The famously sanguine British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan once remarked that in politics and life you have two choices: you can either ride the wave or swim against the tide. While I might prefer to see men in beautiful shirts and tailored suits and jackets, if it’s a choice between an evolved T-shirt incorporated into good tailoring, or a continuation of dirty white Ts, baggy jeans and trainers that most men reduce themselves to then I’ll take the former.

Six Pairs Of Shoes

A new newspaper recently launched in the UK called ‘i’. This is something of a rare event; the last new quality daily national to hit the news stands was 25 years ago.

I happened across a copy left on the train the other evening; within the style section was an interesting little piece suggestion that a man only need 6 pairs of shoes, and provided he chose the right six pairs he would be covered all social eventualities, from the casual to the formal. An interesting theory I thought.

The six pairs offered up by the writer weren’t to my taste but the categories under which they were offered did interest me; these were: a loafer, a desert boot, a trainer/sneaker, a black oxford, a brogue and a deck shoe.

At first I tried to find fault with this theory. My initial thought was that you could reduce that number by at least one if not two pairs. A good brown oxford could easily substitute for the brogue and loafer. But then there are occasions when a solid brogue is the only shoe that will do, for example, a trip to the country. I personally think that brogues lend themselves to textured clothes like herringbone and tweed or mixes of style like tweed jackets and denim far better than plane brown oxfords do.  As for loafers, well, I don’t own any brown oxfords and certainly wouldn’t feel inclined to give up my loafers – of which I own numerous pairs. I also find loafers far more versatile for wear with both suits and chinos and white button down oxford shirts. In the former case brown oxfords are not informal enough and in the latter too formal.

I also questioned whether you really needed a deck shoe and a trainer. But there have been occasions when I’ve used both. Deck shoes were far more appropriate for quayside lounging and dining out on summer evenings than trainers when I was in NZ last Christmas. Whereas I found trainers/tennis shoes more appropriate for beach walks, particularly if you needed to go inland to make it around the headland. I also questioned the need for a desert boot, but then I merely substituted it for a different type of boot and that still left six pairs.

So I concluded the theory was sound for anybody beginning the process of building their wardrobe, and it fits with previous advice on the matter.

Just for fun here are my six picks.


This Albam Tasselled loafer is my go to shoe. I only wish I’d bought two pairs.


I couldn’t decide whether to go desert boot or not. If I did then this Oliver Sweeney Portland Camel Suede Chukka with its elegant but modern shape appealed. Alternatively, I really love Lodger’s Milner Ibano Brogue waxed boot.


I have to say the Gaziano & Girling ‘Kent’ oxford is my dream black laced oxford. A little beyond my pay grade just now.


The Lodger Bering Almond Brogue has a nice modern shape. It has weight without being overbearing.


The Veja Volley is an ecological choice as well as a stylistic one. Veja sneakers are made with organic cotton and natural latex from Amazonia. Veja canvas organic cotton comes from a cooperative of small producers who work in the Brazilian Northeast.


There are lots of deck shoes out there but I have worn Timberland for years, their deck shoe and lugger. They go on and on and on. For the money you can’t beat Timberland’s 2 eye deck shoes.

Fell free to leave your own six choices in the comments box.

Rare Moment: Galoshes


There are many laughable items in the Wardrobe that Time Forgot; so many in fact that it would be exhausting to list them here. Contraptions of fashion become amusing when they cease to be practical. However, there are inventions which are unfairly maligned and undeservedly forgotten. Galoshes are such an invention. Though invented in an era when soles were porous, galoshes are as useful today as they ever have been. Whoever gets caught in freak downpours, has to shortcut across wet grass or encounters litter-strewn, filthy streets has no doubt experienced more than a little exasperation when shiny new shoes have to bear the brunt of such things.

Rubber soles may be the norm in low to mid-range shoes but high-end shoes, the kind that are truly worth protecting, have leather soles and if worn in very inclement weather can often sustain irreparable damage. I cannot count the number of times I have worn well-polished shoes in the rain and have needed to perform emergency ‘shoe-maintenance’ – stuffing with newspaper, coating with olive oil, shock-and-awe polishing. Despite all this, the shoes are unfortunately never the same; water stains are not characterful, they are simply irritating. A pair of galoshes, however bizarre they seem, will keep the very best shoes dry and protected. If they had a choice, I imagine that elegant shoes would prefer to remain indoors; the rigours of the outside world are no place for fine Russia calf.

Though the idea of a rubber overshoe may sound inelegant and cumbersome, galoshes made to protect shoes from the wet in a metropolitan environment can actually be very discreet. Though most pairs one can find look like Crocs, one manufacturer has managed to produce a slim design that does not distort shoes of a classic last. John Lobb of Paris retail the Balmoral, made by the Norwegian manufacturers Swims, which boasts an elegant heel. The classic designs by Swims themselves, while certainly as practical, are flat bottomed and do not create the same deception as those made for Lobb. Though designed to fit the Lobb lasts, these galoshes do also fit other shoes of similar design.

Of course many will maintain that however elegant a galosh, it ruins the line of a fine bench-made shoe. True. An ideal world would have no need of galoshes – unless they were necessary to wade through champagne. Unfortunately, we live in no such utopia; the streets are as filthy as the fields and the rain will always fall. Fine shoes are prized possessions and should be treated as such.

Is Classic Style A Myth?

At the end of last week’s review of G. Bruce Boyer’s Eminently Suitable I suggested that the current relevance of a twenty-year-old style book is evidence that classic style is timeless. This statement unintentionally sparked an interesting debate between two readers.

“Dave” argues that classic style is not timeless. He believes that “proportion and silhouette are subject to the trends of the era.” He suggests that what we consider classically stylish today has been influenced by fashion-forward dressers like Steve McQueen and Marlon Brando. In his opinion, the only reason that Boyer’s book is still relevant is that it describes business clothing that evolves more slowly than streetwear. He asks that I stop spreading the “classic style is timeless” myth.

On the other hand, “Kai” argues that classic style is timeless. In his opinion, “trends are only important if you are interested in looking trendy.” He argues that “to say that classic style isn’t timeless is to negate the very definition of the word ‘classic’.”

I’m sure you know the proverbial saying about opinions. Well I have one too. But first I think it is important to define our subject matter. What is “classic style?” It could be readily argued that “classic style” is not just about clothing. It may include attitude, personality, manners. Writing a thank you note on personalized stationery with a nice fountain pen is pretty classically stylish. However, when it comes to clothing, I think the first step towards becoming classically stylish is gaining an understanding of your body and what clothing is flattering to your shape and complexion. Consider Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., who wore jackets with built up shoulders to offset his wide head. That was a choice made to flatter his body and had nothing to do with the “trends of the era.” The second step is to learn the style “rules” that have developed over the past century. I do think “Dave” is correct that certain individuals have influenced the evolution of those rules (think brown suede shoes and gray flannel suits). In my opinion, one who has learned to follow those rules and apply them appropriately to his own body will be considered classically stylish regardless of the current trends.

As an example, think about Michael Douglas’ character Gordon Gekko in the 1987 classic, Wall Street. His wardrobe, created by Alan Flusser, is still often hailed as being very stylish. Gordon Gekko could walk into any boardroom today and look perfectly acceptable. On the other hand, think about the power suits of the 1980s. Those suits had a proportion and silhouette that were subject to the trends of the era. Those suits are now outdated. Why? Because they were trendy, not stylish. Look at old pictures of men like Gary Cooper, Frank Sinatra, or Fred Astaire. Their clothing looks more current than those power suits from the 1980s because they knew how to dress to flatter their bodies, and they knew how and when to apply the rules. When I can look at a sixty-year-old photograph of Cary Grant, or an eighty-year-old Esquire illustration, and find sartorial inspiration today I must unequivocally state that classic style is timeless.