Archives for December 2010

Old Favourite: The Shawl Collar Cardigan


There are clothes that keep you warm and then, there are clothes that keep you happy. The shawl-collared cardigan is the latter. In times of extreme temperature, our first thoughts are of comfort; a dark, icy cold weekend inspires little more creativity in us than a well-stacked roaring fire, a pair of velvet slippers and a peaty single malt in a crystal glass the weight of small chest of drawers. We are lazier in such conditions, bearish and weak; we lack the brilliance that we exhibited on the first days of spring, we lack the heady joie de vivre of July. Driven to warmth, governed by central heating and hot beverages, we seek to enclose ourselves within a cotton-wool world of fluffy scarves, enormous jumpers and furry hats.

All the old favourites come out at such a time; the big scarf that still reeks of cologne from last year, the various leather gloves and, of course, the shawl collar cardigan.

It must be that beautiful, luxuriant roll of collar that nestles around the nape of the neck, insulating tender skin from the elements. Or perhaps it’s the easy, wear-with-anything style? And what about those elegant woven leather buttons that you play with as the fire-crackles and the ice fractures in the whisky glass? Whatever it is that titillates the wearer so, the shawl collar cardigan is a thing of glorious comfort and unexpected elegance; thrown over a shirt for a visit to the postbox or worn on a chilly evening out with a bow tie and a pair of grey flannels, the shawl collar cardigan is a superb friend.

It is one of those items in classic wardrobes that no one pays much attention to; Astaire wore them, as did Gable, Cooper, Rex Harrison and many others. When worn, they spoke primarily of comfort, but that charming shawl was always a sweet affectation of formality that welcomed the silk ties and sharp-collared shirts with which it was worn. As thick as a fisherman’s jumper, the real McCoy of shawl collared cardigans was often navy or grey and was a replacement for the more formal suit jacket in informal environments – the original ‘flaking out’ garment.

There are mocked versions of the classic shawl collar cardigan, many of which use thinner, inferior fabrics, resulting in a lack of structure which flattens the shawl; the glory of the cardigan is that gorgeous roll. One of the best examples is made by Ede & Ravenscroft and is featured in their current season Weekend Collection. Beautifully structured with a wonderfully chunky shawl collar, it is available in navy blue and light grey and, when folded is so substantial that it takes up almost the full depth of a drawer; a cosy, comforting and elegant garment to enjoy for many winters to come.

A Few Accessory Sources

In my last post I mentioned that I was considering both the cravat (Ascot) and a grey wool tie – a must have for the weekend wardrobe.

The cost of ties, socks, pocket squares and their like can quickly add up as you try to assemble your look. When you’ve splashed your cash on the big ticket items ignoring those little details, or at least putting off their purchase, is perfectly understandable. And yet the devil is in the detail.

Making a seasonal list can help with this – yes I’m banging on about lists again. This is the ‘core wardrobe’ principle; you buy only those things which already compliment items in your existing wardrobe. However, if you’re contemplating more radical alterations to your look this doesn’t really help. And of course the unexpected can happen, as in my own case when I decided to go down the route of jean jackets and plaid shirts.

Whether you’re travelling the same road as me or a different path here are a few sources I highly recommend for those all important accessories – independent retailers all.



The Cordial Churchman: American based, I briefly mentioned this one before. I just love what she (Ellie LaVeer Stager) is doing. Handmade ties and bow ties in some wonderful fabrics. I’m not quite ready for Madras bows but I’m thinking of picking up a velvet bow tie for a Black Tie dinner in Rome next January. Prices are really reasonable and I love the idea of having something handmade.


Fine and Dandy Shop: Another US based company this is an excellent source for old school style accessories – neckerchiefs, sock suspenders, tie pins, pocket squares etc. Well worth checking out, as is their look-book blog – some great pictures for inspiration.


Dandy Store: French website this, with some really beautiful wool ties and socks. My grey tie money may well go this way. Prices are reasonable, but as a small business they don’t have unlimited stock.

A. Sauvage: This is a recently launched London based label selling luxury off the peg tailoring with modern cuts but classic styling. Whatever your thoughts on the prices for these off the peg bits, he is producing some lovely wool ties at affordable prices. I really fancy one of his wool ties which suit almost any type of clothing or style. Available from This is very much one to watch.

Bromleys: This web based business is run by a lovely feller by the name of Michael Campy, who I had the pleasure of interviewing a few years ago. Very much classic bit of kit, from collar bars to cravats. Based in Leeds, England, Michael has considerable experience in the tailoring world having been a trouser maker before setting up his business. He delivers all over the world.

Bespoke Morning Dress Part 3


More than a month ago, my brother put all his eggs into one basket and jumped off the dock. It was an autumn wedding, unusual but not unheard of, and despite being out of season, neither he nor his bride could have asked for a better send-off as they embarked on their new adventure in life, together as man and wife. Without a doubt, the main sartorial focus of the day was the bride – it always is, even when they look like meringue explosions – but this attention was entirely deserved; the men tipped their hats as a show of reverence to an elegant, Grace Kelly-esque lace-dominated creation, with a huge lace train, as it passed by.

However, the men of the groom’s party were not outdone; the groom informed me many moons ago that he wanted to be the equal of his bride on his wedding day, not a fawning servant in a rented outfit. Bespoke and distinct was the order of the day. Morning dress was always the choice but not the usual garden variety, black jacket and spongebag trouser affair. Instead, a navy herringbone wool was chosen for the jacket, and a navy and white houndstooth wool for the trousers. The jacket was to have grosgrain piping around the lapels and the hem, and the double-breasted dove grey waistcoats would be cut shorter.

The ushers were dressed similarly but wore the standard black jacket, striped trousers and single breasted instead of double breasted waistcoat. Ties were chosen over a traditional pinned-cravat(Ascot) – viewed as fuddy duddy – and the shirts were all varieties of blue with a contrasting white collar. Pins were worn in the ties – the groom’s was a blue topaz and gold antique – and the buttonholes were a single carnation. The men of the groom’s party also wore antique silk top hats.

One of the most outstanding and arresting features of the groom’s own morning dress was the grosgrain piping which lined the lapels and hem; it added a further soupcon of formality to the jacket and the lines, shining in the light, framed the shirt, tie and waistcoat beautifully. Russell at Graham Browne was sufficiently pleased that they were noted as the team at work on the piping had gone to considerable trouble; when it was first done, Russell was dissatisfied and ordered the piping be removed and redone; “The look on his face when I told him” he recalled, laughing “he wasn’t happy!”

Despite causing such temporary misery, the creations are entirely unique – which is the whole point of bespoke clothing – and will be loved and worn by their owners for years to come. Much like his lucky bride, the groom had a vision of his own wedding day. Fortunately, he was also able to realise it.