Reader Question: Aesthetic Period Purity

“I see in your morning dress you wear fixed turn-down spread collar shirts (albeit with contrast collars). I don’t understand why you insist on wearing an antique silk hat and yet don’t wear detachable wing collars? This is how morning dress is meant to be worn. I’m just saying, if you’re going to be faithful to the original fashion, why not do it properly?”

I received the above comment on my blog recently, on a post about morning dress. The central point that the commentator is making is that in morning dress, I wear what is essentially a relatively modern fashion (fixed, turn-down, spread collars) with something that is antiquated (a Victorian high silk top hat). This brings up all sorts of issues, not least that of aesthetic purism which tends to influence a number of people who believe in doing things by wholes, not halves. However, it also introduces the question of whether the wing collar, the original in the ensemble, should ever have been replaced by the turn-down which is now the ‘Debrett’s default.’

Aesthetic purism is an interesting pursuit, but is not something I necessarily crave or am obeisant to. It is, by its nature, limiting and dogmatic. “Thou shalt not” rings through its commandments; a phrase I have never been particularly fond of. Also, I think it rather unfaithful to the development of menswear to regard it so rigidly. To acknowledge one captured ‘moment in time’ only ignores the fact that past fashions were as fluid as they are today. It has never been a question of ‘what has always been’ ending; starched wing or Imperial collars of the 1880s were a complete departure from the soft shirts of the early 19th century.

My only ruler is aestheticism, whatever the era. Consciously dressing up in entirely period clothing, removing all elements of any developments in fashion, makes me think of that scene in ‘Somewhere in Time’ when Christopher Reeve destroys his time-travelling sojourn with Jane Seymour to the early twentieth century when he glances at a late twentieth century coin from his Edwardian suit. I prefer to take elements and combine them to produce something appealing rather than something ‘old’; age is the incorrect focus.

What I will say is that a detachable wing, Butterfly wing or indeed an Imperial collar would be very appealing with morning dress, and a great improvement on the modern wing collars that are flogged with rented morning dress. This is not due to the fact that ‘everything modern is wrong’ but that there is no better wing collar than a detachable one. It has an elegance due to its starched strength and, when complemented with an arched tie, tie pin, waistcoat and tailcoat, offers a very appealing profile. I can see myself, one day, trying one out, perhaps for my own nuptials – should they ever occur. However, whenever it occurs it will be through self-generated curiosity. ‘Being faithful’ to a fashion of an era has never been a particular priority of mine.

Linkroll: Tumblr Digest, Bond Style, Leather Quality

• Weekly subjective and totally unfair photo digest. (

• Fifty years of bond style. (

• How to examine quality in leather goods. (

• Made by hand:  Federico Polidori. (

• Keeping your feet dry. (

• Cabot Lodge, Jr. and poplin. (

• Mariano’s sweater and the Rubinacci agenda.  (

• Hackett London S/S 2013. (

• A guide to not looking like an idiot as a groomsman. (

• Elia Caliendo: final jacket. (

• Graves/Fullerton watch auction at Sotheby’s New York. (

• Brunello Cucinelli: The overnight bag. (

• The Only Soccer Team That Wears Cucinelli. (

Jubilee Style Icon: Prince Charles

The Queen and Prince Charles

When it comes to popularity, Queen Elizabeth II – who has now been on the throne for more than 60 years – takes some beating. As much as small factions of republicans would like to persuade us that the monarchy is outdated and unwanted, the vast majority (well over 80%) of Her Majesty’s nation approve of her reign. No billion-dollar presidencies seem to be wanted here; no anonymous, small-living head of state. This is not a land people want lorded over by government any more than a land people want lorded over by a tyrant.

The Queen has little power; and that’s a good thing, as far as the people are concerned. What she has is grace of leadership and representation. She has no one to please, no sponsor or democratic lifeline and no political alliance; she speaks for everyone and no one at once.

However, there are concerns that Prince Charles, currently Prince of Wales and the next in line to the throne, will plunge the Windsors back into the dark days of the 1980s and 1990s, when their popularity was at a low. Unlike his quiet, reserved and conspicuously unbiased mother, Charles has been known to let the people know what he thinks about things. In this way, Charles has been decidedly unfashionable.

Politicians over the last 15-20 years have made a precise art out of erasing conviction from their public communication and have followed, more or less, on a path of inclusive neutrality. Not following fashion is Charles’ way. Charles’ approach is all about personal conviction and, especially where his wardrobe is concerned, personal style.

As the standards of dress have crumbled throughout the years, Charles has remained defiant. He refers to his sense of style as ‘timeless’, emphasising his continued use of 20-30 year old suits and repaired shoes. But for those who “don’t get” why Charles is consistently voted by fashionistas and editors alike as one of the world’s best dressed men, you only need to take a look at the photographs from the Jubilee ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral and compare the confident and supremely elegant image of Charles to that of his smartly dressed but significantly outshone sons, Princes William and Harry.

Wearing a long-owned black tailcoat and matching waistcoat (he wore the tailcoat at his marriage to Camilla), Charles is one of the best adverts for Savile Row in the world. Here he is, a future King, in a decades-old number that still looks like it was made yesterday.

However, it is more than the simple perfection of good tailoring. Charles knows how to finish ensembles – probably one of the most criminally under-mentioned observations about his style. There is piping around the tailcoat; there is a pocket watch and chain; there is a tie-pin; there are slips for the waistcoat; there is the most subtle and attractive puff of patterned silk in the pocket and, finally, there is a bright purple buttonhole brightening up the lapel. There are a great many elements, but they all work together beautifully. Charles knows exactly what to do; and he is not afraid to do it.

Brand Review: Pattern of Society

High quality neckwear is not difficult to come by in London. There are certainly masses of lower standard ties – which are still not half as bad as many make out – but there are an equally large number of very fine neckties available from a variety of high-end stores that cater for the high-spending gentleman about town.

However, while quality is not an issue, variety and tastefulness of design certainly is. I can’t remember the number of times I have looked through an elite department store’s vast display of ties, or the abundance at a Jermyn Street boutique only to conclude that the little-used vintage items on eBay that I had my eye on were of superior design. Perhaps it says more about my taste for a bygone aesthetic and dislike of the mode of today, but I cannot fathom spending £75 on a brand new necktie unless I am absolutely in love with it.

Love is an important thing where ties are concerned. There is no rational ‘need’ associated with neckwear. After all, they don’t keep you warm and you will not be arrested if you fail to wear one. When they were worn everyday by everyone, I can imagine they would have been treated in much the same way that underwear and hosiery are today; by careless, and loveless, acquisition.

Ties have become a very optional accessory and therefore an accessory that needs to be of sufficient attraction to merit deployment. Though I am rarely seen without one, I am actually very picky. I was therefore delighted when, after being introduced to a new gentlemen’s accessories company, I discovered that their stock of neckties was both unusual and tasteful.

Pattern Of Society ties

Founded in 2010 by Gisa Klement, Pattern of Society (PoS) focuses on designing, making and selling fine neckties. Unusually, these ties are mostly of fine cotton or virgin wool. PoS has avoided silk, the bling-bling of neckwear, and opted for subtlety and restraint. With this choice, I agree wholeheartedly. The last six or seven ties I have bought have either been of a matte silk, cotton or wool. Satin silk has been like kryptonite for me; it’s too shiny, too I’m-a-generic-politician, too commonplace and intolerably vulgar. My reaction has been to swing to the other side; virgin wool, cashmere and cotton for summer.

PoS have 19 styles of necktie to choose from, each piece handcrafted and assembled with dual inlay padding made from virgin wool and horsehair. PoS are very proud of the use of horsehair, claiming that its unique qualities ensure stability and recovery after wearing, folding and rolling. However, the hair of the horse is not the only quirk the ties possess. PoS also boast a ‘contrast design.’ Cut of two different materials, the end of the tie contrasts with the front. For some this will be an attractive idiosyncrasy; for others, a crass deviation. I myself am undecided, but should you consider it unappealing, it is not an issue that detracts from the product completely as the end can always be fully hidden behind the front.

One of the most charming aspects about the brand is the dedicated page for each tie on the website (It seems website is currently under construction), featuring not only high-resolution photos of the product itself but also three suggestions for combinations featuring the tie. This is a small touch but one that provides important inspiration which can help customers feel more confident of their purchase. I am always amazed at how little is done to offer such guidance, particularly in the field of accessories. A great number of men are crying out for such assistance and it is a real shame that it is not more forthcoming. Bravo to PoS for making the effort.

The tie I selected, the ‘Geeza’, is a classic summer tie in cotton

List of Shirtmakers Selling Fine Dress Shirts

Almost every clothing brand sells dress shirts but they’re not on the list below probably because they’re not well-known as shirtmakers, don’t offer great range of choices, don’t make high quality shirts, are local artisanal makers, or I simply forgot or haven’t heard about them. I’m sure in Italy alone there are dozens more great shirtmaker brands that just haven’t bothered with PR too much or are artisanal makers that don’t crave more business.


Anna Matuozzo –

Ascot Chang –

Barba Napoli –

Budd –

Brioni –

Brunello Cucinelli –

Canali –

Cesare Attolini –


Charvet –

Corneliani –

Davide Cenci –

Emanuele Maffeis –

Emma Willis –

Emmet  –

Finamore –

Fray –

Gitman Bros. –

Hamilton –

Harvie & Hudson –

Hilditch and Key –

Isaia –

J. Hilburn –

Kiton –

Lorenzini –

Loro Piana –

Luciano Barbera –

Luigi Borrelli –

Mazzarelli –

Mastai Ferretti –

Mercer and Sons –

Mimmo Siviglia –

New & Lingwood –

Oxxford –

Pal Zileri –

Ralph Lauren –

Tom Ford –

Thomas Pink –

Truzzi –

Turnbull and Asser –

W H Taylor –