Archives for May 2012

Linkroll: Madras, Chic, Charvet…

• Madras will be known as ‘Bill Murray fabric’ from now on. (

• Great definition of ‘chic’ from 1910 article. (

• In praise of Charvet. (

• The Ray-Ban Wayfarer.  (

• The cream waistcoat. (

• Combining small patterns. (

• Warm days, light greys. (

• Alan Flusser. (

• Top shelf teaser of thrifted goodies. (

• Steve Mcqueen goes shopping. (

• Summer look: American style, Italian ease. (

• On the value of things. (

• Vintage warm-weather black tie. (

Short on Price, Long on Value

I think most will agree that I have a bit of a thing for bargains, although there is considerable dispute about what a bargain actually is. For instance, there are those who consider a pair of bespoke shoes from Cleverley to be stupendously expensive, and those who consider them ‘excellent value.’

Worth is generally subjective, and there are many items of clothing that – at both ends of the price spectrum – can represent either a fortunate steal or a lavish waste.

I have fair experience with both, and the delight when one realises the former is only equalled by the disappointment with the latter; there is nothing worse than purchasing an item only to find it months or even years later, crumpled and dusty at the bottom of the wardrobe, sad and forgotten.

I recently found a jumper that I must have worn on only a couple of occasions that, while relatively inexpensive as a purchase, is actually something of an absurd extravagance – and one which often comes when one purchases something because it is cheap, rather than because it is worth having.

However, it is possible to keep your nerve and find a combination of economy and worth in the marketplace, and it is especially worthwhile when the prospected utility of the item is limited by forces outside of human control; in this case, the British weather.

I have slowly been amassing a collection of cotton shorts as the pairs from my youth are of a strange cut and/or style and have had to be condemned. I now own some of stone blue linen, seersucker, white and mustard but I have looked to add to this collection without spending significant sums of cash; there’s nothing sadder than a pair of designer shorts on a glum Englishman who stares from his window at the driving rain outside.

H&M shorts

After some indifferent searching, I found a pair that fit the bill. There are those who would scoff at items purchased from the famous, pile ‘em high Swedish clothing colossus H&M. Any money spent at the store, they would argue, is wasted. I am not so dismissive. In fact, I have been something of a cheerleader for the store, simply because some items of clothing represent, what I would consider to be, a bargain.

Case in point; this pair of smart, 100% cotton shorts bought for £7.99. Most of the cheap to mid-range high street stores like TopMan, Zara and Uniqlo have been retailing cotton shorts at between £20 and £35 – not a bad price, considering the recent spike in the cost of cotton – but, at the lower range, more than double the cost of those from H&M.

“There has to be something wrong with them”, the most practical and non-brand focused gentleman would be excused for saying, but he would be wrong. In comparison to other more expensive shorts I own, they are perhaps a little less refined when it comes to the stitching, but this is not immediately noticeable. Crucially, they don’t look like they’re going to fall apart after a couple of summers.

For such an item, I would expect to pay up to £18, but here they were priced at less than half that amount – and not even part of a promotion. I purchased a khaki pair but may well return for a pair of bright green or blue.

Zuckerberg and the ‘Disrespectful’ Hoodie


Facebook’s upcoming IPO looks set to be the listing event of the year. In the tech world, it is easily the most anticipated public offering since Google back in 2004, when Facebook was but a tiny, Harvard-only online network. Analysts are divided over the $96bn valuation, with some suggesting this is an extravagant price in any market, let alone that of 2012, while others have stated that people said the same of Google – which is now almost ten times its 2004 listing value. However, that’s not all that divides them. Some are concerned about boy-genius Mark Zuckerberg’s business nous, his extravagant billion-dollar purchase of Instagram and, most curiously of all, his personal style which has, in some quarters, been charitably referred to as ‘informal’ and ‘relaxed’ and in other quarters, decried as ‘slovenly’ and, worst of all, ‘disrespectful.’

The Zuckerberg motif is that of a hoodie-wearing social network wizard, a denim-and-trainers Daddy Warbucks: a Silicon Valley success story and sartorial stereotype. The investor motif is that of a bespoke suit wearing, bespectacled-and-balding businessman: the Wall Street success story – and, yet again, sartorial stereotype. The objections raised on behalf of the latter group against the sartorial demeanour of the former are indicative of the diversity of the modern business world. The ‘uniform’ of the City of London has always held a fascination for those not connected with it; why do people wear suits to work when they can’t wait to get out of them at home? Why do people strangle themselves with ties and then loosen them as soon as they step into the lift at the end of the day, breathing a heavy sigh?

The answer, of course, is that they are expected to. Most people wear to work not what they want, but what they are required to wear. Though even the business world is now more casual, many companies (including my own) stipulate that a suit and tie must be worn at all client meetings. The majority are dissatisfied with this circumstance. I have yet to meet someone in the work environment as enthusiastic about smartness of dress as I. Colleagues sit there in suits as though in strait jackets; uncomfortable, grim of face, pulling at their tie knots, wishing they were at home in their hooded jumper and jeans. They gaze out of the window and dream of the day they can do a Zuckerberg; walk into a meeting of suits wearing – in true mid-life crisis style – a printed t-shirt and a pair of All Stars, kick back in the Chairman’s chair and rabble on about their vision for the future.

Sadly for them, most will never reach such giddy heights. However they cannot, and should not, fail to see that as they are playing a role with which they are uncomfortable, wearing clothes to work which do not reflect their character or their interests, their assumption that Zuckerberg’s collegiate wardrobe is entirely the whim of a California-based twenty-something billionaire is presumptuous. Facebook is a product of a different kind of businessman, but it is still a product. Zuckerberg introduced himself as an Ivy League, frat-house whiz kid wearing precisely what he wanted to wear. This has become his uniform. He is as imprisoned in that as a lowly clerk in his polyester suit and clip-on tie.

Should Zuckerberg put on a suit for the investors? He has done recently, and he looked dreadful. However, even if he looked magnificent, that isn’t really what the investors are in it to buy. Zuckerberg isn’t a style icon and Facebook isn’t a suit and tie company. It’s a young company; a company for the future. It even has its own agenda for how it will change the future. Conforming to the ancient uniform of the investment world’s coterie is merely deferential. I will always encourage people to take an interest in clothing, cultivate it and develop their own personal style but the crucial thing about style is that it has to be just that – personal. Putting on something the old-timers recognise is not going to fool any of them; Zuckerberg and Facebook are one, and the product investors are clamouring to buy isn’t being sold short because the young chief hasn’t played dress-up. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Brand Review: Rimowa

“Look at that” I exclaimed “what beautiful luggage!” I was walking with a friend past Claridge’s hotel, where a few smart black cars had just regurgitated, with the help of liveried doormen, a mountain of bags, suitcases and suit carriers onto the pavement at the entrance. The luggage was a mixture of mid-blue, red, khaki and army green with brown and tan leather straps, covered in peeling stickers and travel labels, and there it was; sat at the little-changed entrance to an Art Deco palace. It was a moment lost in time.

My friend was somewhat nonplussed. Did he not appreciate beautiful luggage? “I don’t like that sort of stuff” he mumbled, staring at his shoes “makes you look like a colonial.” What then, would be his luggage of choice “I’ve always preferred those German, aluminium cases” he said “Really sleek. James Bond luggage.”

Bond? German luggage? Surely not.

However, knowing the aesthetics of the famous Rimowa brand, I found it difficult to disagree with him.

Rimowa: Luggage Brand

Though the original company was established in 1898, Rimowa’s signature aluminium grooved suitcases did not appear until 1937. In fact, the decision to use this unconventional material in luggage manufacture was the result not of ingenuity but of an unfortunate accident and improvisation. The story goes that sometime in the 1930s, Richard Morszeck and his father Paul’s luggage factory in Cologne suffered a conflagration; all the materials that had been used to make classical luggage (wooden construction) were lost. All that remained was aluminium.

Though originally a classic 19th century luggage company, Rimowa is very much the luggage marque of the mid-20th century. The iconic aluminium cases are of the aviation age; Globe Trotter cases, despite their lightness, belong to the age of the ocean liner. Touching a grooved Rimowa case is like touching the cold fuselage of a 1940s aircraft. Unsurprising, considering that they are made from aircraft aluminium, the same material that clad the famous Junkers planes.

Aesthetically, they seem to possess both the romance of early flight and the minimalist cool of modern travel. They also look terribly serious, industrial and almost scientific, like they contain things of consequence, things worth protecting. Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on how paranoid you are about luggage-handling theft.

Since the early days of flight when Rimowa’s light and in-theme luggage captured the imagination of enthusiastic air pioneers, Rimowa has moved on. Over two thirds of its global sales come from their newer, lighter and stronger polycarbonate cases (the Salsa, Bolero and Limbo ranges). Though of an improved specification and extraordinarily popular, they are not as aesthetically appealing as the aluminium cases which come in three ranges; Topas, Silver Integral and Classic Flight.

Rimowa salsa classic

The Silver Integral is an aluminium case with a modern edge. The Topas was first introduced in the 1950s, and therefore has retro appeal, but it isn’t as romantic as the Classic Flight which betrays none of the improvements that have been made to the Topas and instead boasts delightful details like polished corners and leather handles. If anything was to rival my admiration for the likes of Globe Trotter and Alstermo Bruk, I think I have found it.

White Tie Evening

White tie evening wear

“I’ve just got an invitation through the mail…”

It’s not often that one gets the chance to wear white tie these days. Even in the days of Irving Berlin’s Top Hat, the fourth decade of the twentieth century, its rare use was cause for particular celebration. A recent invitation to a themed birthday party seemed to cry out for tails and as I gathered my thoughts on the topic, I realised that in order to achieve the highest elegance possible, there are vital considerations.

The shirt and collar

For the shirt, many will plump for a pleat or Marcella front wing collared shirt. This will require plenty of starch as a considerable amount of shirt front is on display. A floppy shirt is a no-go for white tie.

However, the best option is still a detachable collar with a stiff-fronted tunic; no amount of starch can recreate the unimpeachable elegance of this look. Thanks to Darcy Clothing, washable versions of both are available, so inconvenience of laundry is no longer an excuse.

The collar should always be a turn-up collar, although it does not necessarily need to be a standard wing collar; a detachable Imperial or Butterfly collar, despite being ‘day collars’, are also acceptable. Any shirt should be worn with studs rather than buttons.

The bow tie

Like any other bow tie, the white bow should be a self-tie; not even children should wear clip-ons. However, it should also be non-adjustable as it is worn with a turned-up collar and the band is visible. Seeing a lumpy adjustable clip is simply unacceptable.

The waistcoat  

The cut of the waistcoat is of the highest importance. A waistcoat cut too low (as the picture on the right illustrates) looks absurd. Fred’s expression says it all. The high cut of the tailcoat demands an equivalent, not a competing cut.

Despite conventional wisdom that the standard cotton Marcella is the required material for the bow and waistcoat, it does have its critics, most notably Francis Bown who writes; “There is something about its puckered surface which irritates me.”

I don’t necessarily believe that white Marcella is essential for the waistcoat or bow. I have seen, and admired, moiré silk and plain stiff cotton waistcoats and bows in ivory and bone.

And finally…

A buttonhole (a single flower, stem hidden) should complete the outfit. A red carnation looks particularly fine.