Short Words From Mr Ford

I was happy to bear witness to a miracle recently:

An entire weekend of 20º+ sunshine.

In London.

In April.

Though the evenings were reassuringly chilly, the sunshine hours were bizarrely beautiful – cloudless and very, very warm. Having recently unpacked my spring/summer wardrobe, I decided to mark this doubtlessly transitory moment of delight by striding out gleefully in a pair of tailored shorts.

Unfortunately, I got the distinct impression that the majority of the populace either cared a lot less for my pins than I do, or that they were a lot more in-tune with the fashion press than I had imagined, for it was not two weeks before that a certain Tom Ford had ordered the male population of the world to confine the wearing of shorts, irrespective of smartness, to the beach or the tennis court.

tom-ford-shorts

The full quote is a little more prescriptive, dictating that it is the metropolitan environment in which shorts must never be worn;

“A man should never wear shorts in the city. Flip-flops and shorts in the city are never appropriate. Shorts should only be worn on the tennis court or on the beach.”

How this logic applies to ‘cities with beaches’ such as Los Angeles or Rio de Janeiro I do not know, but I do think Mr Ford is correct about flip flops; there is something rather appallingly Dickensian about a pair of blackened feet in a pair of blackened flip-flops. It’s bizarre that metrosexual men should go to the lengths of donning clean clothes, wearing deodorant, trimming eyebrows and moisturising faces only to wander around the dirty piss-stained streets, filthifying their soles in a manky pair of jandles.

However, I don’t think Mr Ford’s assertion about shorts is right. It depends on the shorts, it depends on the legs and it depends on how they are worn. A pair of tailored shorts on a good-looking Spanish model who wears them with a tailored shirt, bow tie and sockless loafers would surely be something to excite, rather than disgust, Mr Ford himself.

The most amusing commentary on his words belonged to the readership of the Mail Online. One reader wittily pointed out that his legs were no less attractive than Mr Ford’s hairy chest, which is frequently exposed, and that in order to avoid hypocrisy he should button-up accordingly. An ill-informed commentator applauded Mr Ford for his comments and was ‘sure Mr Ford’s wife is happy he maintains his dignity.’

Another misguided soul, the most long-winded of all, asserted that it must be Ford’s own lack of confidence affecting his ability to trot along the street in a pair of shorts; the probable truth is not that the short-wearing of Ford and his own circle had driven him to revulsion but that of the teeming non-photogenic pig-white masses.

There is an argument that shorts, because they expose an unnecessary amount of skin, are inelegant in the city; after all, the city is a place of offices, sleek cocktail lounges, smart restaurants, theatres and draconian department store security. However, it is a little selfish for a man of Mr Ford’s position to suggest that the working population, which he has an apparent respect for (‘A gentleman today has to work. People who do not work are so boring and are usually bored…’), cannot make the most of a few days of sunshine, and feel the all-too-absent sun on their legs in a pair of smart linen shorts.

Swaine Adeney Brigg Document Case

sag-briefcase

My lovely and generous wife gave me this beautiful Swaine Adeney Brigg document case for my 40th birthday. After much anticipation, it finally arrived last week (my birthday was in December).

sag-packaging

London’s Swaine Adeney Brigg has been a celebrated maker of equestrian and leather goods since 1750. The company is a Royal Warrant Holder appointed as “Whip and Glovemakers” to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and “Suppliers of Umbrellas” to HRH The Prince of Wales. My Dark London Tan document case was ordered through Sterling & Burke in Washington, DC.

sag-accessories

When my document case arrived last week via FedEx, I opened the box and began to peel back the layers. The entire contents of the box were nicely wrapped in white tissue paper. Below that was a thick layer of bubble wrap. The case itself was inside a burgundy fleece bag that was wrapped in a clear plastic bag. Inside the box I also found a leather name tag, two brass keys, and a tub of SAB leather feed with a soft cloth applicator.

sag-lock

The document case is an exquisite piece of craftsmanship. The brass three-position lock is thick and sturdy. The beautifully tanned leather exudes a heady aroma that fills a room.

sag-pen-holder

I opted for the machine-stitched document case that is about half as expensive as the hand-stitched model; the machine-stitched case is $1,025.00 and the hand-stitched version is $1,975.00. These document cases are also customizable (interior pockets, shoulder strap, hand-stitched handle, etc.) for an additional fee. The case interior has three open sections; I had pockets added for business cards and my fountain pens (that’s a Pelikan pen in the photograph). That custom option added $165.00 to the price tag.

I have wanted a really nice briefcase for a long time, and I am thrilled with this document case. It is a piece that should last the rest of my career and still be worthy of passing down to my son.

Springtime Neckwear

spring-neckwear

As the sun breaks through my window, and the breeze carries the unmistakable spring-fresh air into the room, I am suddenly compelled to remove the woolly burgundy tie from my ensemble and rifle through my tie drawers for a suitable replacement. Settling on a madras, I tied it in the mirror, smiling in the brilliant light. Despite the fact that this seasonal tease was short-lived (it simply poured for the rest of the day), the sunshine had called and I had responded: it was time for spring ties.

Though I possess a number of cheerful and appropriate ties and bow ties for spring, there are two particular styles which I am looking to add to this year’s collection.

Madras Bow Tie

Madras is a favourite material of mine. It has a messy, informal quality which is a perfect foil for crisp blue blazers and white shirts. However, I have never been fond of wearing a great amount of it – madras jackets and trousers are off the agenda as far as I am concerned – but an odd touch of it adds colour and a nabobish character to otherwise uninteresting palettes. Madras bow ties have been Hackett and Ralph Lauren-friendly for a few years now, and I have admired them from afar. I have noted how well they look with a mostly plain and pale palette, for example a khaki suit and a sky blue shirt. The madras fabric is also perfect if your aim is to avoid any of the fuddy-duddy associations with patterned bow ties.

Seersucker Tie

I don’t own much seersucker, but that which I do own gets plenty of use at this time of year, even before the heady summer months. Like madras, it’s a foil for the starch of the rest of an ensemble but unlike madras, rather than adding colour, the pale conservatism of seersucker tones down and complements whatever colour is on display. The texture of seersucker is it’s most important asset; puckered and coarse, it helps balance the swank of pink shirts, grand silk puffs and bright trousers. The seersucker tie is perfect with a navy linen blazer, lilac shirt and green paisley pocket square. Avoid wearing with other seersucker – texture overkill.

Paul Stuart Phineas Cole Spring 2011

phineas-cole-ss

A year ago, my fellow columnist Stephen Pulvirent wrote an interesting piece about Phineas Cole, the fictional ‘errant son’ of the Paul Stuart brand; a jet-setting dandy with a penchant for plaid ties, unmatched pocket squares and loud(ish) suits.

A year on and young Phineas is still as delightfully affected and alternative. The new spring collection (pictured above) is a powerful advancement of arguments for pattern mixing, colour variation and avoiding dullness in suiting.

I recently indicated in an article, an abidance of my own ‘pattern triangle’; patterning no more than two items in the ‘Holy Trinity’ – shirt, tie and pocket square. Cole dumps such fearful thinking in the wastebasket with aplomb. Stripes, checks, paisley – a spice mix of incredible variety. The refreshing thing about him is that he flies in the face of modern ‘fashionable caution’ – a trend that has seen men restrict their wardrobes to plain navy neckties, white linen pocket squares and mid-blue shirts. He is all that is professional and personable about contemporary attire with the added raffishness and creativity of a ‘green carnation’ dandy.

There is a nod to Edwardian formality in the white double-breasted waistcoat look which, as an ensemble, is decidedly out of place; instead of the winking, knowing, Martini-olive-stick chewing nattishness of the others, young Phineas is restrained, conservative and curiously ceremonial – one assumes he is attending a serious, uptown matrimonial function and is being forced to downplay the jazz. Apart from the odd few plain examples, the spring lookbook is a stripe and window-check frenzy, an orgy of pattern; you can imagine such a man rushing into his tailor in January with a Dean & Deluca coffee, driven to unattractive irritation by the awful persistence of winter, demanding swatches of purple plaids.

As an example of having fun with serious clothing, there are few better. The looks are colourful, inventive and artistic but still elegant, presentable and aesthetically logical. The only problem is that such men are rarely taken seriously; Phineas would have a hard time convincing sourpuss venture capitalists that he has a cause other than himself, a calling higher than simply ‘having fun.’ Cole is memorable, certainly and utterly charming but universally liked? Respected as well as loved? It’s difficult to say.

To my eye, the look is still that of a well-dressed boulevardier, in command of colours and cut and wonderfully oblivious to the coughs of derision from elders and betters but to many, he is the personification of an overworked aesthetic fantasy.

Step Outside Of Your Comfort Zone

herring-froswick

These beautiful boots are the latest edition to my wardrobe. You may be thinking this is the wrong time of year to acquire boots, but here in England it’s been known to snow during Wimbledon fortnight. Living in the upper portions of the northern hemisphere anytime is a good time to acquire a pair of boots.

Called the Froswick, they’re a long-wing brogue featuring high grade calf leather with a natural edge and storm welted sole. Ideally suited to those in search of a robust well made country boot, or urbanites hoping to add an English touch to their American work wear look, they’re made by Tricker’s expressly for Herring Shoes.

I’ve been after a solid workman like boot for an age, but couldn’t come to the point of decision. Having test driven these ones all week I couldn’t be happier, and not necessarily for the obvious reasons.

As a kid I was fat and subsequently I’ve spent the better part of my life dieting and gymming – which I hate – simply to maintain an unsatisfactory equilibrium. Everything I buy from suits, shirts, to knits and coats is about making me look slimmer, trimmer, thinner and smaller. This fixation extends to footwear. For example, I predominantly wear loafers as opposed to Oxford’s or Derby’s, and prefer black and brown suede over leather. Both of these things have a slimming effect, black suede in particular makes your feet look smaller.

So to have a boot that provides such a sense of weight and solidity with strong prominent welts is utterly counter-intuitive. And yet I am utterly addicted to these new boots. To give you a sense of what I’m talking about you have only to look at the picture below of fellow Herring Shoes enthusiast, TV presenter and biking best mate of Ewan McGregor, Charley Boorman. Both men are well known here for having ridden their bikes around the world and through Africa in two rather enjoyable TV series, Long Way Round and Long Way Down, both worth watching if you have a chance.

charley-borman

After my recent jeans debacle I went out and bought half a dozen new pairs of slim fit and straight leg chinos and jeans. I hadn’t expected these boots to sit well with my new slim trousering, thinking the visual scale would be all wrong. But, the exact opposite has turned out to be true. While providing something of a contrast, the overall effect is to emphasise the slimness of my legs, while providing balance between the legs and torso, which has the overall effect of deemphasising my size. An unexpected and delightful bonus!

We men are creatures of habit. Sometimes those habits serve us well, but other times they can close doors and limit options.

As Messrs. Boorman and McGregor would no doubt testify, it pays for a man to occasionally step outside of his comfort zone.