Archives for March 2011

Cad & The Dandy Bespoke: Coming of Age


Last year I had a suit made by Cad & The Dandy Bespoke. A blue chalk stripe English wool flannel, it was my first full bespoke venture having already sampled their earlier, and still excellent, made-to-measure service.

James Sleater, co-founder of Cad & The Dandy, was very keen for me to begin wearing it on completion, as was I; unfortunately, London was in the middle of a summer heatwave and the idea of wearing a wool suit in a sweaty city was unconscionable. Aside from trying it on in the bedroom a few times, the suit remained untouched until the autumn.

Having now worn it 30-odd times, I revisited the wisdom of James and head tailor John; though their view was that an immediate reaction and review was essential, it’s as important, if not more so, how I feel about it in time.

As the months passed, I became conscious of how the suit began to be deployed with increasing frequency; for a man who craves and respects variety above all things, my tendency to wear it twice within a week was both worrying and telling. Much like my childhood enthusiasm for ‘bangers n’ mash Tuesdays’, I began to look forward to ‘Blue Chalk stripe day’ with relish.

What seemed so deliciously absurd was that something so elegant could be the most comfortable thing I have ever worn. In one instance, so comfortable and untroubled was I that I felt decidedly slouchy; a social occasion at one of the Houses of Parliament demanded the finest threads and yet I wandered around with apparent casualness as if dressed in pyjamas and a dressing gown. Only the pictures from the evening confirmed that I was, in fact, in my blue flannel chalk stripe.

Comfort and elegance are rare sartorial companions; it is no wonder that bespoke suiting is so prized and celebrated. However, it is more than a mere physical sensation. A colleague at work recently told me that the most important asset of his few bespoke suits was that he could “throw one of them on in the dark” and not have to “worry about the way I look.” Considering this peace of mind alone, he believes he has achieved a return on his investment; my suit from Cad & The Dandy, coming up to a year old, keeps on paying back.

Summer List Pt 2: Two Tone Penny Loafers


Away from the office my normal summer attire consists of chinos, white oxford button down shirts and deck shoes. Should I wish to dress these basic items up I simply add a navy, cotton, soft shoulder, buggy lined jacket.

On the one hand my choices are the pinnacle of simplicity, humdrum you might say. On the other hand, given the tatty t-shirt and shorts wearing age we inhabit, you could think of it as being relatively formal – it certainly is when I compare it to the majority of my friends and colleagues.

I have an image of summer style which, being weak to the forces of nostalgia, hovers around the idea of the 1930’s and the Riviera. Recognisable keystones of the look are off-white linen suits and trousers most commonly paired with a white shirt. Of course these elements are similar in tone – if not in material – to my current summer garb, which is in part why I wear them. But they do lack the sophistication which embodied the era.

The problem is that if I go down that 30s road too far I’m in danger of looking like an extra in search of a film set.

As much as I’ve admired this look, and the era, its formality is for the most part out of place in our own time, except perhaps in some work environments or the most formal of social occasions.

I’ve long held the view that one of the benchmarks of being considered ‘well dressed’ is the ability to dress appropriately to your age and your environment. It’s easy to admire men like the Duke of Windsor for their beautiful clothes and exquisite taste, but I often wonder how they’d fair now. Whether we like it or not we live in a very much more casual age.

Of course one shouldn’t dress for the satisfaction of other people, but I think the key is to carry over a sense of that era without necessarily replicating all the elements. To achieve this I’m looking to an item I’ve not yet mentioned, the two tone Penny Loafer. An item of footwear remembered for its association with the Duke of Windsor they embody the era. Rarely seen on the street – in fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody wear a pair – worn with or without socks I think they’d set just the right tone and raise the game of my conservative summer wardrobe.

I’ve thought about them for several summers now, but lacked the courage of my convictions. This year they’re going on the list.

Carry On


Women, in the States at least, are blessed with the functional advantage of it being socially acceptable to carry a handbag. Now that’s not to say I haven’t been known from time to time to take a small briefcase places where business is the last thing on my mind, but there you have it. Generally when most gents leave the house, they need some combination of phone, cards, cash, and keys. Other paraphernalia for a leisurely life, such as pens, notepads, cigarettes, lighters, &c. are a whole other can of worms, so let’s stick to the basics for now.

Most guys carry around a leather billfold they’ve had for years, have beat to hell, and would part with sooner than their first-born child. For most men though, this once slim contraption is the size of a cornerstone. Unless anxieties concerning the structural integrity of buildings and your possible obligation to aid in such a crisis at a moment’s notice are a daily problem, loose the brick. I’m not suggesting we throw the billfold out the window altogether, rather I’m simply suggesting that no pair of trousers, no jacket, and not anything else for that matter, looks more elegant when you drop a 5 pound weight in it.

Personally, I’m a big fan of the cardholder/money clip tag-team. A nice, slim cardholder keeps a credit card, debit card, identification, and a business card or two safe and sound with room to spare. When I suggested to my father that he slim down his cash-clod, he wanted to know what to do with all the gift-cards, membership cards, and other accessories of modern plastic-mania. It’s pretty simple really: if you’re going to someplace that needs those things, pull them out of a small file-box and put them in your wallet. If you don’t need them, don’t carry them. Ostensibly, you might need any number of things at any given moment, but you don’t take a screwdriver to dinner, do you? Augment that with a money clip, one of the most simple devices in a gent’s arsenal. Literally a piece of metal that holds money together. Simple.

Keys and phones are a bit more complicated. I, presumably like most people, hate getting jabbed in the thigh or chest with a key when I move funny. Most of the major luxury brands make a little zip pouch with clips to keep your keys in, but I must confess the jabbing hasn’t gotten that bad yet. Yet.

Generally, if I don’t have sharp keys in the pocket also, I just take my phone as it is. Rubber bumpers and plastic monstrosities just make the biggest, heaviest thing in your pocket even heavier. And yes, that big heavy mess is just a few ounces. I know. Otherwise, I have a thin, cloth slipcase just to prevent scratches. Less bulk and better lines. Can’t complain about that, can you?

The Summer List: Sunglasses


Yes, I’m banging on about lists again.

You see, the last few years I’ve had less disposable income than at any other time in my working life, but I’ve acquired more clothes, of better quality and more complementary to one another than at any other time; all by virtue of taking the time to compile my little lists.

It may not feel like it but summer is on its way. Naturally I’ve begun to compile my list of summer essentials. Whether it is filling gaps or replacing kit that is no longer fit for purpose I usually start by compiling my ‘dream list’. This usually bears little resemblance to my financial means. I then whittle this down to the essentials, kit which will last for years to come and represents an investment.

Two items have thus far survived the initial whittling process. The first is a pucker pair of bins.

I’ve always hesitated at investing real money in a proper pair of sunglasses in the past. Firstly, I don’t trust myself not to lose them, and secondly, I think a lot of the ‘labels’ today offer not very much for an awful lot of money.

I mean, look at Ray-Ban Wayfarers, a prime example of taking something that ain’t broke and then fixing it. Instead of leaving this classic alone, new pairs have Ray-Ban written across the lens! Who asked them to do that? Why take a classic and ruin it with cheap clumsy branding. Of course, for many the label is all that matters. A fool and their money are soon departed.

And so for years I’ve been content to wear cheaper Wayfarer-style sunglasses from a reliable source with good UV protection at next to no cost.

But when London based Lee Yule contacted me to introduce his website Loveiwear, I kinda new this would be my cup of tea.  Via his Shoreditch showroom, commercial website and blog, Lee preaches the gospel of great design and individuality in the form of vintage sunglasses and frames. His blog has become a daily addiction of mine.

Lee and I seem to be kindred spirits, after 15 years in the business, which included helping to launch Police sunglasses in the UK, he became disheartened with the way people get taken for a ride by the big manufacturers; who produce cheap frames, stick on a well known name and charge high prices for them. According to Lee the 50s to early 90s was something of a golden age and this is his focus for his business. That said, he’s begun to stock a few of the interesting new independents that have come to the fore, reprising many of the old school values.

Sunglasses are one of those items of apparel, much like cufflinks, watches and pens which can quickly become an obsession. And like all obsessions it’s the rare and unusual that excites most. In particular it’s his collection of 1950’s frames that most interests me (as pictured above left).

When you think about it, sunglasses play a huge part in the iconography of great dressers, whether from the worlds of film or music.

I’ve decided it’s time I took this accessory a little more seriously, I believe it will be time and money well spent.

In my next post I’ll talk about the second item on the list.

The Versatility Of The Navy Blazer


If you’re a young chap in your twenties you might very well be slowly working your way up the corporate ladder. If so, chances are you’re in the process of acquiring a decent, respectable work wardrobe. You’ve probably already got at least one navy and a couple of grey suits, and if you’ve followed the advice given by my fellow Men’s Flair columnists you’ll have invested in a few pairs of shoes (black and brown) as well. But have you delved into the world of the navy blazer? If you haven’t, consider doing so this coming spring: there are a few items of clothing that are more versatile.

To be quite honest with you I was rather apprehensive about buying a navy blazer. They conjured up not-too-pleasant childhood images of silver-haired alcoholic windbags who propped up the members’ bar in my local golf club. In addition, the traditional brass buttons, which are a key feature on many traditional navy blazers, drew far too much attention to themselves for my liking. So, when I did eventually take the plunge I opted for an entirely unstructured cotton affair with horn buttons. It gets me smartly through the stifling humidity of Tokyo summers without suffering the inconvenience of death from heat exhaustion.

Grey trousers make natural partners for navy blazers. Their sobriety allows you to go mental with other parts of your outfit, or opt for a simple white-shirt-navy-tie combination that is truly timeless. A more contemporary look that I quite like is to pair a navy blazer with cargo pants or khakis. The key to pulling this one off is to find a pair that are as smart as any other pair of trousers in your wardrobe. The undisputed king of the smart-cargos-navy-blazer combo has to be Brunello Cucinelli. His wares effortlessly manage to blur the line between smart and casual clothing.