Archives for April 2012

Links: Slippers, Vintage, T-shirt…

• Mickey Rourke’s bespoke slippers. (

• On vintage. (

• Finally, a real t-shirt. (

• Chaps to stage radical protest on Savile Row.  (

• A visit to Wolsey. (

• Marc Guyot Paris: new shop, new shoe. (

• Fixing a pull on a silk Tie. (

• Dressing for a weekend night out. (

• Bond goes slim-fit. (

• Aquascutum: shielding a brand from financial storms. (

Don’t Neglect Morning Suit Trousers

The morning suit, though a type of formal dress used on special occasions today, is very much an ensemble of the past. In its fullest splendour, when a gleaming top hat is the crowning accessory, it is a silhouette of the late-Victorian era, a visual symbol of the 19th century. The emblematic nature of its aesthetic both attracts and repels; traditionalists relish its deployment, modernists recoil from its antiquity. And though it has been modernised (shirt collars have changed, the cravat is now a tie), it still retains the crucial elements of the original; the waistcoat, tailcoat and trousers.

Of these, the tailcoat is the most mentioned. In fact, the entire outfit often goes by the simple reference ‘tails.’ Since short jackets became the standard everyday dress, the morning suit and white tie tailcoats have acquired a touch of curiosity; when fashion changed, they remained – rocks of formality against a tide of increasing informality. The waistcoat, once an essential and rather dull element of the ensemble, has become the ‘event’ piece, a novelty which has encouraged ever more outrageous colours and patterns.

The trousers, perhaps because they are entirely familiar, seem to be the most neglected element of the morning suit. In my recent article on the ‘Horrors of the exposed waistband’, I focused on the rise and wearing position of morning suit trousers; that they are commonly, and in my view mistakenly, worn like other trousers, particularly jeans. However, it is not only this but also the cut of the trouser leg and the break on the trousers that affects a rather slovenly look that is anathema to the heritage of the ensemble.

As heritage is what the look is all about, I turned to examples of morning dress as worn by those most familiar with its requirements; Ascot race goers from the early 20th century. The one thing that struck me about the beauty of the tailoring was not the elegant cut of the tailcoats or the high-cut of the waistcoats but the immaculately shaped trousers and the lack of a break.

Properly tailored trousers seem to be underrated by most. It is the tailored torso that seems to impress. However, poorly fitting trousers can ruin the appeal of a perfectly tailored coat and vest; this is about completing a look and there are no better examples than those above. The left photographs are from the Edwardian era, identifiable by the women’s spectacular hats; the tailcoat is close-fitting, the trousers are slim. The photographs on the right are from the 1920s and 30s; the tailcoat cut is similar, and though the trousers are fuller they are elegantly cut.

My own plan is to take a pair of double-pleated wool chalkstripes to the tailors to engineer a no-break finish and increase the tapering on the lower leg in an attempt to create the elegant finish exemplified by these gentlemen of history.

Sartorial Love/Hate: White Loafers

“What, like Don Johnson?” they asked barely concealing their mirth, as I indicated my intention of pursuing a pair of white loafers for the summer. “No” I responded, wearily “not like Don Johnson.”

White loafers are an unusual sartorial prospect. Whenever I have mentioned them, people repeat the word ‘white’ in an emphatically inquisitive manner, as though I had misspoken, as if I had announced my intention to purchase aluminium boxer shorts or a pastry necktie. White, the cleanest tone of all, and often referred to as the colour of the Gods, is sensibly considered one of the worst possible colours for footwear, but I have always been attracted to using laced versions, and various off-whites and creams, when wearing white trousers.

It always seemed such a shame to me, to end a beautifully crisp white cotton trouser with a brown shoe. Tans are more tolerable, as are many co-respondents, but a white shoe provides the only truly perfect finish.

The white loafer, however, is a different proposition altogether. Firstly because I tend to wear short-cut trousers (no break) with loafers, and secondly because I see the white loafer as a punctuation shoe, rather than a continuation shoe: I envision using a pair with some slim rolled-up khaki chinos, or a pair of seersucker shorts on a summer’s day.

The image of white loafers is, however, somewhat dubious. Beyond their associations with dated 1980s television series and Martini-Rosso adverts, they seem to have a distinctly tacky connection to hairy Lotharios, open-shirted greaseballs and cheap Mediterranean nightclubs. They are worn with overly long jeans, capacious linen trousers, with Dolce & Gabbana t-shirts, chunky watches and cheap jewellery. Like Don Johnson? Very much so. The aesthetic toolkit might be disagreeable, but the hard product is a fine one and should be rescued from the company it currently keeps.

When I discovered a pair of white calf leather loafers by Grenson, I saw none of these unsavoury connections. They were simply white penny loafers; the perfect thing for slipping on during a summer’s evening, for lounging by the dock and sipping G&Ts.
However, some friends weren’t quite so taken. “Really?” they squinted at the tiny photos on my phone “But, they look like hospital shoes.”

The problem with them is that they do not strike many people as being particularly smart, in addition to being absurdly impractical. The shock-white has a training shoe aesthetic – despite the possibilities of a more attractive last – and the eye is often drawn rather helplessly to any flaws or marks on the white surface; for any man with a fetish for clean, highly-polished shoes, maintenance would be dashed tricky.

A Bit of Thought

“I have spent most of my time worrying about things that have never happened”. Mark Twain

Every man’s pain threshold is different. As is his tolerance of ridicule, or as the quote above aptly reminds us the fear of ridicule.

That threshold may come as low on the scale as pink shirts, alternatively it might be bowties, spectators or a lime green cotton jacket. I suspect that you like me have at some point demurred from purchasing some item of apparel on account of what others might say; and no doubt with seemingly good cause.

After all, it was the daddy of all us clothes horses, Beau Brummell, who said “if John Bull turns around to look at you, you are not well dressed”.

Of course there are two problems with this philosophy. Firstly, rigid adherence to this rule would have deprived us of all the great dressers, most from the late Duke of Windsor to Agnelli and Carry Grant were innovators. The second problem is that living your life according to what others may think strikes me as a particularly timid existence.

That’s not to say I don’t suffer from a failing of nerve from time to time in matters of dress. But my method of overcoming it is really quite simple, I think about it.

Obvious I know. But, I don’t mean a quick 10 minute ponder while I’m waiting in the queue to pay for said item. I mean I’ll spend anything from 1 to 6 months considering the item. I’ll imagine myself wearing it in every conceivable connotation and any and all settings. I did this before buying my most recent purchase.

I’m a smoker and like Terry Thomas before me I can’t abide nutmeg fingers or the smell of cigarettes on my hands. The obvious solution, other than quitting smoking, is a cigarette holder. But this bit of kit is somewhat old fashioned and can look both effete and just plain pretentious. As such you can’t help but stick out like a sore thumb and not necessarily in a good way. So you can understand my reluctance to buy one. But I resolved to have one and spent the last twelve months thinking about myself with one to the point where it seemed odd to me that I should be without it. Having found a holder I liked and of the right size I went for it. I now can’t imagine smoking without it. More to the point, because it feels natural I use it in a perfectly natural manner and in doing so I draw less attention to myself in the process.

When I decided to start wearing bowties I went through much the same extended thought process and given that the purchase was not time sensitive it was time well spent.

This all seems obvious but I think I’ll sign off with one final quote from Mark Twain that seems most apt;

“A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval”.

Travel Accessories: The Travel Shaving Kit


It is often the case that as a man gets older; his tolerance for the inconveniences of travel wears dangerously thin. I remember seeing a middle-aged gentleman at Heathrow Airport practically begging the somewhat aloof staff behind the check-in counter to give him an upgrade because of his loyalty status, even if it meant that his wife and children – who stood by looking detached and utterly miserable – would have to travel ‘in the back.’

Though not all are as selfish as this, it can seem strange to many that they ever endured the unpleasantness of student travel; the tents, the dirt, the non-air-conditioned rooms, the cheap airlines and – worst of all – the rucksack living. As a gentleman watches his four pieces of priority luggage scuttle around a carousel and wanders out to be greeted by his luxury hotel’s ebullient chauffeur, he must wonder how he ever enjoyed the life of a flip-flop wearing gap-year stowaway and, perhaps, descend into a moment of melancholia that he was once so happy with so little.

Such sadness is often fleeting however, and the pang of it can be assuaged by knowing that he has never before been better prepared for the rudiments of globetrotting, despite the fact that what he once considered luxury is now necessity. As he has matured, the man of style has added to his domestic environment the accoutrements of his success. When he travels, he must leave these behind. Some are fortunate enough to be able to carry with them all that they need; a few are even more fortunate that they have everything they need waiting for them at their destination. However, it is fair to say that most will have the most ideal set-up at home and will have to take second-best when they travel. This is particularly true for those who prefer a luxurious, badger-brush shave with a weighty and significant razor.

I used to think the travel shaving kit was a gimmick. The classic ‘one for home, one for travel’ marketing ploy. However, while a separate kit might not be utterly essential, the convenience of the shaving ‘travel tool-bag’ – particularly one which can be transported without the contents being damaged – is very appealing. The ideal of any grooming kit is to experience the same product abroad as at home. I don’t like shaving foam; shaving with a real badger brush and hard soap is my domestic experience and I am very reluctant to switch. The travel shaving kit from Edwin Jagger not only keeps your travel razor and brush together in a stiff, protective leather case, it also enables you to carry your elegant domestic grooming regime all around the world; the pure badger brush and Mach III (or Fusion) razor are both in gleaming nickel, belying their ‘take me anywhere’ utility and, when combined with the Edwin Jagger travel shaving soap, provides the user with a sense of home-from-home luxury not seen since the days of the portable drinks cabinet.