Archives for March 2011

Rare Moment: White Patterned Pocket Square


Some call it the ‘dollop of whipped cream’, others consider it the only sensible option for a suit’s top pocket but all would be willing to acknowledge that the plain white pocket square is the most common adornment of its type. Even if a gentleman is wearing a blue shirt, pink tie and a grey suit the safest, and most predictable, choice of top pocket accessory is a simple white cotton, linen or silk hank.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, plain white handkerchiefs are easy to find whereas a close relation, the white patterned pocket square, is very difficult to source. Usually silk, though sometimes of linen and cotton, the classic white-patterned handkerchief may have a regular paisley or polka dot pattern but, importantly, has an expansive white or creamy-white background which suggests ‘total white’ from  a reasonable distance; in fact, observers on the other side of the street may believe that the gentleman has selected a plain pocket square.

However, closer inspection reveals a less ‘dollopy’ choice for the top pocket; whereas a puff of plain white, particularly against a darker background, can be a distracting diversion a patterned white hank can soften the impact. The eye is drawn to the darker elements dotted around the white canvas which complement the overall background. It has a greater subtlety whilst still retaining the crisp freshness of a plain white.

Another advantage of the lesser-spotted patterned-white square is that it adds a point of interest to paler jackets worn in the warmer months; light blue and khaki jackets, particularly in linens and cottons, need a lush, luxurious foil but not one which will ruin the palette; a plain white is an acceptable choice but a patterned white square suggests greater sophistry.

Though I am an ardent supporter of experimentalism, the Pyramid of Pattern (illustrated above) is always on my mind: when both shirt and tie are patterned, the pocket square should be plain. You can replace any item with the other in the pyramid and the wisdom still applies; i.e. when tie and pocket square are both patterned, the shirt should be plain and, of course, when shirt and pocket square are both patterned, the tie should be plain. In a few situations, a patterned shirt, tie and pocket square work but to my eye it looks a little ‘too much.’

Ideally, a plain white pocket square would require a patterned tie and shirt for the correct aesthetic balance, whereas a patterned white pocket square would best suit either a plain tie or shirt in the Pyramid. As most men tend to favour plain shirts, such an accessory could prove extremely useful.

A Stylish Movie: American Gigolo


American Gigolo (1980) stars Richard Gere as Julian Kay, an escort for wealthy women who is framed for the murder of one of his clients and the theft of her precious jewels. The movie was written and directed by Paul Schrader (of Taxi Driver fame) and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer.

American Gigolo is often listed among the top style movies of all time. The movie burst on the scene at the end of the bell-bottom disco era and stood as a preview of the narcissistic and hedonistic decade that followed. It is also the movie that introduced the world to the Armani suit and propelled Giorgio Armani, who created Gere’s wardrobe, to instant stardom.

The movie’s focus on luxury clothing becomes immediately obvious when one of the first scenes has Gere trying on tailored clothing in a high-end men’s store. Gere’s wardrobe includes soft, unstructured suits in silk, linen and Italian cotton. In a complete departure from the style of the 70s, Gere wears small collars, narrow ties, skinny belts and surprisingly high-waisted trousers. The movie ushered in slim Italian clothing as the style for the 80s and influenced the dress of an entire generation of men.

One scene that epitomizes the self-absorption and greed of the decade has Gere pulling out clothing from his immense closet and hyper-organized drawers. He then obsesses over the details of each outfit as he lays out Armani shirts, knit ties and jackets on his bed.

One casual outfit that I found to be particularly interesting included light blue jeans with a ribbon belt, a pale blue shirt, an unbuttoned double-breasted gray jacket with patch pockets and brown boots.

Unfortunately, where the movie shines in style, it lacks in substance. Most of the movie is an excuse to watch Gere (who is very fit and tan) dress and undress, and cruise around town in a Mercedes convertible. It does not even become apparent that the movie is a murder mystery until the first hour is past. Nevertheless, the movie includes some good music and provides a window to a now-bygone era of indulgence and excess.

Beau Ideal: Have You Seen These Glasses?


As the advertiser is wont to say, ‘there are some things that money can’t buy.’ When I bought my beloved dark tortoiseshell Wayfarers from Ray-Ban, I had conducted a parallel search for another pair of Wayfarers; the yellow tortoise. Enquiries in even the most vaunted of department stores, including ‘the world’s best department store’ Selfridges & Co, led to embarrassed smiles from staff, furtive gazing at computer screens and the inevitable comments and excuses; ‘current season’, ‘all stock is out’ as well as a feeble attempt at placating an unsatisfied customer with a pair of rather childish bright yellow frames. The conclusion? No money in the world could buy the glasses that I knew had certainly existed but were, for some reason, no longer available.

The idea of the yellow tortoise frames first appealed to me when I watched the splendidly costumed Catch Me If You Can, when a slick-haired Leonardo DiCaprio lurked in a motor car outside an airport wearing a short-sleeved button-down sky blue shirt and a pair of Wayfarer-shaped sunnies in yellowy-tortoise.

Though I have always been a fan of the dark-tortoise Wayfarer, the yellow were happier, more fun. They had a distinctly vintage appeal, reminiscent not only of the original 1950s frames but also the round-frame lenses worn by colonials in Egypt. Though I reasoned that the darker tortoise frames were more versatile – think ‘pool to premiere’ – the yellow were distinctly a daytime, casual frame.

After thousands of searches on eBay and Google, I found a pair of frames in the classic Wayfarer shape at Revolve Clothing that happened to be, painfully, out of stock. The style corresponded closely to that which I had previously seen on a gentleman dashing quickly through the Regent Street crowds one sunny afternoon last year, so I was convinced I had found the pair but, due to the lack of available stock, the ‘beau ideal’ was unachievable. Even the Vintage Frames Shop, recommended by my close friend Barima, offered nothing.

The likelihood was that the glasses were out of production; Luxottica had pulled the plug. The problem was that the paucity of results in the second-hand market clearly indicated they were dearly cherished: something I both hated and admired in the same transient thought.

Disappointingly, an enquiry email to Luxottica did not even generate a default reply. Though initially surprised, dispirited and deflated I have not given up in the search. After all, the hardest won prize is often the most treasured.

The Duffle Bag

A number of stylish examples of male clothing and accessories can trace their humble origins to the military. One such item is the useful and ubiquitous duffle bag.

The first recorded use of the term “duffle bag” is credited to the poet E. E. Cummings who used it in a letter he wrote in 1917 while working in France as an ambulance driver during WWI. The bags take their name from Duffel, a town in the Belgian province of Antwerp, where the thick cloth used to make the bags originated.

Many designers have produced their own interpretation of the basic military carryall. Below I will examine a variety of versions, from rugged to lavish, that would be useful for most weekend excursions.


Filson, first opened in 1897 as C.C. Filson’s Pioneer Alaska Clothing and Blanket Manufacturers, produces great outdoor clothes and accessories. Their small duffle bag ($225.00) is made of heavy water-repellant cloth available in brown, otter green and tan. The bag sports leather trimming and a brass zipper.


Temple Bags offers the Re-Purposed Canvas Weekend Duffle Bag ($349.00) made from recycled WWII military laundry bags. Temple Bags adds saddle leather handles, a removable strap and khaki twill lining.


The Saddleback Leather Co. duffle bag ($537.00) is offered in four colors of waterproof full grain boot leather: carbon black, chestnut, dark coffee brown and tobacco brown. The bags feature industrial marine-grade thread and hidden nylon reinforcing straps. Saddleback Leather offers a 100 year warranty.


Brooks England offers high quality leather bicycle saddles and bags including the Hampstead Holdall (€320.00) made of water-resistant cotton fabric and vegetable tanned leather. It is designed to be worn over the shoulder or attached to the rear rack of a bicycle.


Ettinger has designed and crafted luxury leather goods since 1934. Their Cotswold Weekend Bag (₤468.00) is made of cotton drill and trimmed in waxy leather. It is available is five color combinations including olive/Havana, sand/Havana, ivory/Havana, navy/black, and black/black.


Glaser Designs sells leather goods directly from their San Francisco, CA, studio. Their week-end size leather duffel ($715.00) is available with many custom options.


The ultimate over-priced duffle bag is the Louis Vuitton Waterproof Keepall 55 ($2,450.00) made of monogrammed waterproof canvas.

Herdwyck British Tweed Bags by CHERCHBI

Over the weekend I popped in to see my shirt maker Erlend at Stephan Haroutunian Shirts – now shortened to Stephan Shirts, presumably because no one can pronounce the surname. It is a bit of a mouthful.

One of the nice things about what I do is that many of the people who run the independent menswear retailers I highlight eventually become friends. A shopping trip often results in a pleasurable few hours chewing the cud.

On this particular visit Erlend told me of a new client he’d recently taken on by the name of Adam Atkinson, who turns out to be a rather interesting fellow.

Adam is the founder of CHERCHBI which began in 2007 with an idea to make bags using wool from the ancient rare-breed Herdwick. As it turns out the fleece is considered almost worthless and is most often burned. Apparently, Herdwicks have a 1,000-year heritage and a reputation as Britain’s hardiest mountain sheep. It took four years of trial and error and nine weave trials to create Herdwyck No.10, the distinctive pure wool fleece which when bonded with cotton and natural rubber forms the basis of these distinctive bags. That beautifully rich colourway and waterproof textured cloth is the result of this distinctive fleece.


Adam displayed the collection recently at Pitt Uomo and according to the website it officially launches this Autumn – although you can currently buy their bags online.

What I’ve so far seen, and all I’ve read, I’m really impressed. The wonderfully organic look to the bags, provided by that distinctive fleece, is backed up with an extraordinary attention to detail and British craftsmanship. Cow hides are sourced from Northern Ireland, which are then pit-tanned using vegetable tannins. The traditional English leather work is done by Joseph Clayton of Chesterfield, Derbyshire. In fact, all the manufacturing is done in Britain, right down to the brass metal wear which is cast in England. The only exception to this being the zips, which are Swiss-made Riri zips –unfortunately there are no UK zip makers left. I love all this detail.

The designs are simple and practical, but then with that distinctive fleece anything more would be a distraction. They have a robust, organic feel which makes them an entirely adult option which adds character and texture to your look.

This is one to watch, and proves that you should always make friends with your tailor.