New Year Sartorial Resolutions

They don’t have the best reputation but, contrary to popular belief, New Year resolutions aren’t there to be broken. They are the thoughts of an organised mind, the intentions of our better selves.

I recently set myself some sartorial resolutions that I mean to use as goals for the next 12 months. I hope to abide by at least two of them.

Buy a decent trilby

Oh it wasn’t fair. There was Rufus Sewell, with a pencil moustache, late 1930s tailoring and a magnificently proportioned trilby that neither drowned nor fattened his face. The brim snapped down rakishly, the band and bow beautifully thin. It looked both substantial and lightweight, luxurious and useful. It was a marvellous hat. The sort of hat that wardrobe departments spend a fortnight searching for and then parade in front of the cast to approving applause. The sad thing is, it made me realise the inferiority of my own trilbies. I resolved immediately to avail myself of the services of Messrs Bates or Lock.

Buy a new umbrella

My dear old metal-shaft, whangee handled brolly has seen better days. Since it was purchased seven years ago, it has received a battering. Not just from the elements, but from extended and often overly exuberant use. “I’m amazed you haven’t lost it” say some “I’m surprised it hasn’t broken” say others, but then this is the test of a proper umbrella; costly enough not to forget that you own it and strong enough to withstand rough use. The shaft is bent. The end, which got stuck in a drain grate over four years ago, is dented and misshapen and the canopy is thinning and flimsy. Still, at £15 it represents a fantastic investment. Most friends I know who purchased throw-in-the-bag mini-umbrellas have had to replace them several times in the last couple of years through loss or damage. A visit to James Smith & Sons is on the cards.

Unclutter shoe collection and wardrobe

My wardrobe and shoe collection is a glorious mess. They represent the unhealthy congestion of a West End club on a Saturday night; as soon as one item goes out, another item goes in. Each garment, each shoe, wedged between two others, cries out for space. The sad thing is, more space is quite impossible. Uncluttering is a rather empty resolution as I make it every year, but this year, with the additions I am planning, wardrobe management is not only desirable but also vital. I have finally reached the point of change. The easiest way to administer this change is to order the items by use and then split the collection at the item you would be most reluctant to lose. The key: Be ruthless.

Linkroll: Ski Jumping, Wholecut Shoes, Bresciani…

• Ski jumping fashion from 1961. (muffyaldrich.com)

• Saint Crispin’s seamless wholecut shoes. (leffot.com)

• Interview with Massimiliano Bresciani, luxury socks maker. (claymoor.blogspot.com)

• Haunting memories of a delicate wool. (asuitablewardrobe.dynend.com)

• Cold weather golf attire. (ivy-style.com)

• Christmas ensemble with T.M. Lewin. (thedronesclub.nu)

• Orley Holiday Collection 2012 knit ties. (therakeonline.com)

• R.M. Williams Chelsea boots. (wax-wane.com)

• New Year’s Eve bow tie. (getkempt.com)

• A year’s worth of posts in dressing like a grownup. (dresslikeagrownup.blogspot.com)

• How a felt hat is made. (permanentstyle.co.uk)

• Steamers can ruin your tailored clothes. (putthison.com)

Linkroll: Rubinacci Suit, Bow Ties, Cleverley…

• Rubinacci suit reputation. (the-journal-of-style.com)

• Who says bow ties are not practical. (asuitablewardrobe.dynend.com)

• Cleverley bespoke shoes. (dandyportraits.blogspot.com)

• Christys’ hats. (permanentstyle.co.uk)

• Real people wear shiny black shoes. (putthison.com)

• 2001: A Space Odyssey and Hardy Amies. (clothesonfilm.com)

• An intro to overcoats. (mrlapel.blogspot.com)

• Lock & Co. caps for winter. (dieworkwear.com)

• Sean Connery trouser break. (esquire.com)

• ‘A Christmas Roast’ of trad bloggers. (yankee-whisky-papa.blogspot.com)

• Textured flannel. (suitology.wordpress.com)

• The spectator shoe color dilemmas. (styleanderror.co.uk)

• A visit to Michael Andrews Bespoke. (modernfellows.com)

There is No Greater Catalyst for Temptation Than a Price Reduction

Though many would seek absolution by claiming that “everyone” falls foul of the invitation to spend when the item in question has a perceived utility that increases in direct proportion to the level of discount, I am troubled by the fact that the afflicted, including myself, may be less numerous than I hoped.

The big problem with sales is that they deceive us into believing we are better off buying more with less than less with more. As a man who dislikes monotony, I am particularly seduced by the idea of adding quantity to my wardrobe. However, there are some things that I have learned from my extensive, and often disappointing, experiences when it comes to seasonal reductions.

Always buy shoes

The greatest value I have extracted from sales is in buying decent shoes. Some of the smallest higher end outlets, Cleverley and New & Lingwood being excellent examples, have reductions up to 50% off their stock. However, department stores are also good places to secure high quality shoes for a bargain price. Selfridges and Harrods offer a range of mid to high end English and Italian shoe brands for at least 30% reduction, which increases towards the end of the sale period.

Look out for high quality ties and pocket squares

I am a sucker for bargain vintage eBay ties, but the winter sales are one of the best opportunities to purchase a higher standard of tie and pocket square in classic shades and patterns. Out of sale time, the prices are rather forbidding – and, frankly, offputting – but come January, they begin to represent good value, particularly at venerable retailers like Drakes and Ralph Lauren.

Create a most-wanted list

One winter sale, I walked out without a clue what I wanted to find and ended up carting back more than 10 items. I have used a couple of these regularly, but a lot of the other things ended up being stored, or thrown, away. On another occasion, financial penury forced me to write a list of ‘must haves’ that limited my search and spend, resulting in purchases that have seen far greater utility. Opening your mind isn’t always helpful, and distracts you from the items you need the most.

Don’t shop alone

I’ve never been one to advocate shopping with others but sale shopping alone can be problematic, particularly given the length of dressing room queues and the potential lack of mirrors. The other thing that a companion gives you is some relief from the intensive consumerism, which is essential if you are to maintain mental stamina for the challenge. Just make sure to invite someone who knows you well enough to know what you would and wouldn’t wear.

Last Minute Stocking Fillers

Christmas is only a few days away but you have just enough time to order some last minute gifts if pounding the pavements has so far proved fruitless. So here are a few of my last minute suggestions.

Socks

Seriously, I’m one of those odd fellers who really doesn’t mind socks as a gift, provided they’re the right socks of course. Indeed, over the last year I’ve become something of a sock obsessive. But, the first thing to understand is that there are dress socks for pairing with suits and then there are weekend socks. Understand that and you’re well on your way to being considered a well dressed man, for it is the devil in the detail that makes the look. So many men ignore these little details, understandably concentrating on the big ticket items. So help out your fellow man with the following:

Dress Socks from Jackson Edison, Rome

Amongst the many contributions Italy has made to the world of menswear it’s generally acknowledged that they make the finest hosiery. It may seem extravagant to import your socks from Rome, but hey it’s Christmas and this latest find is an opportunity too good to pass up.

I first discovered Jackson and Edison and their excellent dress socks on my last trip to Rome.  Available in below the knee, mid calf and below the calf and spun from Scottish yarns, their elegant dress socks are made from 100% Mercerised Cotton which makes them both strong and slightly sheer. The process of mercerisation also allows for a wonderful array of rich colours to suit any look and taste. If you go for the knee length versions, as I did, the large elasticated tops mean they stay taut without exposing hairy white shin when you sit cross legged. At just 17.50 Euros for three pairs this equates to unbelievable value for a product of this type.

Weekend socks from The Oxford Socks Company  

While the Italians are acknowledged as sock experts the British, sadly, are the opposite. The Oxford Socks Company is a new UK independent label looking to redress the balance. Again offering very good value they have some beautiful coloured socks all made in England from British yarns.  No sweatshop sweat socks here.

Etre gloves

The gifts I most appreciate are those that scratch a particular itch. Falling into that category are Etre woollen gloves, a pair of which I recently acquired. Twice a week I have a lengthy commute from London to my other office in Cambridge. The climate control in the train carriages is usually set to frosty and this time of year travelling each way in the dark only adds to the chill. To pass the time I’ll often answer e-mails on my Blackberry or surf the net on my Galaxy Note. In a clash of old world and new, hitherto this has meant taking my gloves off, brrrrr! Etre, a London based design agency and the commuter’s friend, have solved that problem by creating two sets of woollen gloves, one pair index finger and thumb-less and the other a full glove with contactwoven fingertips. Manufactured in Scotland at a family-run mill, they’re a very reasonable £40 a pair and available in a variety of colours and patterns; a clever and stylish way to solve a 21st century problem.  And if your intended recipient has slightly richer tastes why not treat them to Etre’s hand stitched Hairsheep (Cabretta) leather versions of the finger and thumb-less gloves.

Distinctive Washing Powder for Men

A bottle of aftershave is standard issue Christmas gift giving but why not come at it from a different angle. A new product from a recent British start-up, Distinctive Washing Powder is a designer label safe washing powder for men with base notes of amber and sandalwood.   I’m always looking for that little added extra to incorporate into my wardrobe and this is an interesting idea which could add that extra effortless touch.

I may not have another opportunity to say it so, Merry Christmas and a Happy and prosperous New Year.