Archives for January 2012

The Age of Innocence


It’s fascinating how life alters your perceptions; how the endurance of aging can erode convictions of childhood, how dearly held truths lost their shine, embrittle and blow away in the uncaring winds of experience.

I used to believe I would never do things that I do now; I used to believe in things I would now heartily denounce. Sweepingly, this is referred to as growing up; maturation; the loss of innocence.

However, I believe innocence is not what I have lost but what I have acquired. When once I considered myself ‘too cool’ to act in a certain way, I now consider myself insufficiently ‘cool’ not to be myself. There is definitely an adult rejection of ‘coolness’ for its own sake; as we grow old, the fads of youth appear laughable, the proponents of its culture credulous and the proprietors of its wares as cynical opportunists.

There is a warm comfort in declaring myself ‘uncool.’ Whereas once such a phrase would have forced me into self-inflicted isolation, it now affords me contentment in my chosen existence. Teenage years are, to me, temporary yet ugly cysts on the sphere of life. Teenagers are susceptible to influence from every source except that which understands and cares for them the most. Teens are unhappy, narcissistic, paranoid and, crucially, pathologically insecure. A recent examination of my teenage wardrobe illustrated to me how unrecognisable a person I was in that seven year period that some people, bizarrely, recall as the zenith of their life.

Every external influence was there: clothing with insignia, brand names crudely emblazoned on sweatshirts; incongruous trends bought whimsically in the company of an approving female. Every external influence that is, except two of the greatest significance; the influence of a mother who studied textile design, produced her own patterns and directed her own shows whilst at fashion college and the influence of a father whose formidable collection of suits and shirts clearly directed, genetically, my late disposition for acquisition and variety of ensemble.

My own teenage collection paid homage to an idol I no longer recognised. Initially, I was disappointed in my own inconstancy; to have built on such sand at one time surely means I am capable of doing so again. Such questions are not trivial. I think the ultimate happiness of continual self-improvement can only be achieved when we are true to our own selves.

However, I was happy to recognise earlier scribbling from my pre-teen years that was more recognisable; tales of top hats, bow ties and even the wide-eyed imaginings of a tailor’s shop. It made me realise that we are not always ourselves, indeed there are long periods of estrangement, but that our true characters always lurk beneath the superficiality of other’s influence.

What a Pitti!


“Pitti Uomo” as the hackneyed phrase goes “is to menswear what Paris fashion week is to womenswear.” A bold statement, and not an untrue one; there is no doubt that the great (and the greatest) as well as the good of international menswear are all to be seen lurking around a chilly Florence, chatting on iPhones, sipping espresso and admiring the spectacle. Jeremy Hackett, Luca Rubinacci and a host of other Sartorialist favourites strut around the magnificent Tuscan city from show to show, brightening each piazza with their dazzling attire.

The coverage of this glut of plumage-presentation is as prodigious as the sheer numbers that pour out of the grey, winter-lit buildings in the most astonishing array of seasonal (and unseasonal) male clothing. Scott Schumann and other photographers’ coverage of Pitti is the National Geographic of menswear; buyers, business owners, tycoons, tailors, shirtmakers, shoemakers and artisans are all captured together through the lens in this tiny habitat. Indeed, the coverage of Pitti peacocks is almost as important to the organisers as the event itself, with PittiImmagine commissioning their own photography of the various species spotted.

The reason for their congregation is actually rather dull; stands exhibit wares that you have already seen before, shows introduce you to fashions you already know. This is perhaps why their mere appearance provokes more interest from the long-lensed street snappers who wait patiently with their D3s or their 1D for an orange checked suit or a fur collar to appear, squinting into the sun. The beauty of the photographers’ position is the intoxicating concentration of experimentation, colour and style that so often evades them in other localities. This is a seasonal feeding; they know the location and they return hungrily year after year.

For all the spectacular creativity on display, you can’t help but get the idea that a good many of the fine species swaggering across the cobbles of Florence are self-consciously on display; their aesthetics refined, intensified and even exaggerated as though they are part of some mating ritual with the lens. There is no shame in this, it is only unfortunate that natural instincts are thrown aside for the benefit of the camera. Others may disagree and cheer that the only thing cast aside are their inhibitions. However you analyse it, they compete for the lens as no prey would compete for the jaws of a predator. The beneficiary of this surreal feast is, of course, the blog devotee; the devourer of sartorial ideas.

Where else would we get the idea for matching our trousers to our buttons?

Links: Pitti, more Pitti, Parisian Gentleman…


• It’s Pitti Uomo again, the unofficial men’s street fashion show. (;

• Pitti Uomo report about the actual fair. (

• The Parisian Gentleman – Hugo Jacomet. (

• The style of Boardwalk Empire. (

• Gary Cooper style. (

• Brown in town. (

• The glove wardrobe. (

Reader Question: Classic Style at the Workplace with Business Casual Dress Code

I am graduating college in 6 months, have had a few unpaid internships, and all of a sudden find myself with the chance at an incredible job.  I have read a few of your articles on suits on a budget, I especially liked the one on maximum shirt and tie combo (, but I had a couple of questions.

1. How much does classic style differ from region to region?  I’m hoping to work in Silicon Valley and from my experience, the atmosphere is much more relaxed.  Ties are uncommon, jeans with a buttondown shirt is very common.  Keeping in mind a recent graduate’s budget, how can I straddle the line and look laid back but not sloppy, and not overdressed/classic?

2. Operating in this internship and the interview process, I have found myself in a variety of situations.  I have been invited to dinner, afternoon family tea, breakfast/lunch, as well as a semi-touristic visit to the city.  I always visit the site to understand what is best to wear, but how do I make the transition from a sloppy, sports memorabilia-wearing college student, to a Silicon Valley professional on a budget?


Dear Graduate,

First let me thank you for your e-mail and congratulate you on your exciting new position. I thought I’d answer this question in two parts. Part 1 will cover a few general principles which should help you. In the second part we will cover the ‘core wardrobe’ concept and I’ll list those key items I’d buy if I were in your position.

1. Find a look that works for you, and if you can a role model or two

The essence of your question, as I see it, is how can I dress well when the environment I work in has a relaxed view of business dress? This is a problem that many men face, particularly if they work in the creative industries, though not an insurmountable one. Sadly, from what I observe on the Tube each day most men make a complete hash of it. They don’t look well dressed and casual, merely scruffy.

I’ve always defined classics as items of clothing and looks that flatter the wearer and all those who subsequently adopt them. This is why they stand the test of time and translate the world over. While regional variation is a factor, it’s not so big a factor as you might think. While an English suit is different from an Italian suit they are still fundamentally the same thing. The devil lies in the detail of construction and silhouette.

I guess my first bit of advice is don’t get hung up on any one idea of classic dressing. If I asked you to list some classic dressers I’d bet that it would be dominated by men whose principle mode of dress is formal, suited and booted. But in my view Steve McQueen is one of the great all time classic casual dressers, managing to look good, comfortable and at ease all at once. Except in a few film roles, like the iconic Thomas Crown Affair, the man almost never wore a suit. His ubiquitous Baracuta G9 ( Harrington jacket) is in some circles, including my own, considered a classic. But there is nothing formal or flash about a Harrington. The same can be said of button down shirts, chinos and even jeans; but they are classics and can be made to work to wonders. This brings me neatly to my next point.

2. Remember the three F’s: Fit, Fit and Fit

What really sets apart one man from another in terms of dress is the fit of the clothes he wears. If your clothes fit properly they will flatter you and you will always look smarter that the man who ignores this; that applies whether you’re in the same type of clothing as the man next to you or you’re in jeans and a shirt and he’s in a suit. Poorly fitting clothes no matter their cost or type never look good. This lesson is true whether you’re skin and bone or a hefty unit. An example of this in my case is jeans. I freely admit I buy Gap jeans. I’ve tried designer label pairs but they are usually too short in the drop and too tight around the seat and crotch. That’s not to say Gap’s are always perfect in every other regard. But I can get that fixed and do so. I’ll have them shortened and hemmed and will even get the legs tailored either from the knee down or mid thigh depending on how sharp I want them to look. Whatever you buy take the time and make the effort to get it altered by a good alterations tailor. In my case this always pays a dividend over and above anything I might achieve by spending more money on the jeans in the first place. As it happens the cost including alterations works out cheaper.

The only exception to this rule is when it comes to jacket shoulders. Few things look as cheap as an overly large jacket shoulder. They are a nightmare to fix so you’d be better advised to simply return the garment to the rack. If necessary find a different label to buy your jackets from.

3. Don’t be too proud

Money is no bar to dressing well. Indeed, as the point above also highlights, it can sometimes be a hindrance if it inclines you to believe that simply by spending money on clothes the job is done.

Find clothes that fit and require the minimum of corrective surgery no matter what the retailer. There is a lot of snobbery concerning clothing and it’s easy to get caught up in it. Find retailers that work for you and stick to them regardless of the conventional wisdom. And that can include vintage and second hand outlets. It doesn’t matter how you acquire what you need to acquire, only that you acquire it. While these days I have my suits, jackets, and trousers made for me that wasn’t always the case. But even when I was a low paid Researcher I still had a lovely wardrobe of bespoke suits because I cheated. Mine were vintage suits, some from Savile Row, but they fitted far better than any off the peg suit I could afford. Of course your wardrobe requirements are unlikely to extend to Savile Row suits but you get the point.

4. The Devil is in the detail

The reason for picking some of the pictures above was to illustrate this very point. You can still dress casually and look laidback and comfortable without being sloppy, and it’s the details that make a difference. If we look at Steve McQueen it’s the sunglasses and Tartan lining of his G9 which raises the game. On the chap in the middle photo it’s the belt which ties the look together whilst adding a touch of personality and interest. In the far right hand picture the use of suede and the coloured socks add luxuriance and interest to a pair of ordinary ecru jeans and in the bottom left hand picture it’s not the yellow mac that makes the look but the tie which at once raises the game. In each case a subtle detail uses contrast to make a statement and develop the look beyond the humdrum constituent parts.

These rules apply no matter the type of clothing or the size and shape of the body in them. In the next post I’ll provide a few specific examples of what would work as a core wardrobe for someone on a low budget and working in a casual dress environment.

Sartorial Stereotypes: Hats

The Brown Trilby


“I have eight-five with the gentleman at the back. Do I have eight-six?” the auctioneer declares to a fidgety and disinterested Sotheby’s floor that is largely comprised of non-bidders who have stopped in for a spot of observation.

A collector and auction room regular, the Brown Trilby Man sits at the back of the room – bow tied, waistcoated – awaiting a superior offer, quietly confident that his only competition, a telephone bidder, will inform his appointed agent that he is no longer interested. He brushes off his coffee-ground coloured Bates trilby with conclusive delicacy as the auctioneer draws the bidding to a close. As he looks around the room, he sees no other serious collectors of note and congratulates himself on making an inspection of the object before bidding, knowing that the item in question is actually rarer and more valuable than the estimates.

A supercilious smile on his face, he stands up in his Edward Green brogues holding his horn-handled umbrella and walks back to his Marylebone flat where he is greeted by Arthur, a tubby Himalayan. He locks his recent acquisition away in a Japanned chest-on-stand; it will only be displayed when fellow collectors and dealers come to call.

The Designer Beanie


The Designer Beanie Man brushes past two in-the-way, middle-aged out-of-towners who are loitering at the entrance to a Bond Street emporium. As he does so, he abruptly ends their frivolous commentary on the geography of the street and provokes one to whisper too conspicuously “Oh he was handsome…like a movie star!”

The Designer Beanie Man is indeed very good-looking, although he is not an actor. After a brief stint of modelling, he moved into advertising when he began an affair with a planner at Saatchi who gave him an easy job in her office so she and her friends could flirt and wink at him as he brought them their coffee. Proving more adept at creativity and planning than expected, he rose quickly and came to be admired by a number of the directors.

Now on the other side of the camera, photography has become a hobby through which he meets many of his elegant girlfriends. He dresses in a slick and expensive fashion – fashion being the operative word – and wears simple and elegant overcoats with skinny trousers and Chelsea boots from Christian Dior. He has a collection of designer beanies which he uses to cover his thick hair but is careful not to hide his million-dollar visage.

The Karakul


An enormous car growls outside a glittering Mayfair palace hotel, a liveried doorman hurries to open the rear left door, out of which a silk suited leg appears, shod in bespoke wholecuts. Cigar ash drops on the pavement and the Karakul Man, sunglassed, stogie-sucking and wearing an astrakhan collared cashmere overcoat, looks blankly at the hotel staff who flash him wasted smiles.

It is said he once worked for Howard Hughes in Las Vegas, until the famous hotel-living recluse fired him for his suspected connections to organised crime. His Karakul is cocked Jinnah-style on his grey head, its charcoal tone contrasting splendidly with his unplaceable tan.

The manager of the hotel welcomes him in to a glittering marble lobby and instead of making his way to the desk, as is the expectation of other guests, strides into the bar where a young, attractive woman rises to her feet and heralds his appearance with a frantic shaking of her multi-bangled wrists. Though boasting a small but well-groomed entourage, no one communicates with the Karakul Man who stares back blankly at his bangled companion as she giggles through one tedious story after another. Sensing impatience, two tall, dark and Bluetoothed men throw anxious looks across the bar as the Karakul Man rises with his young female companion, holding her firmly by the elbow and makes his way to the elevator.