Archives for August 2012

Linkroll: Hackett, Ovadia & Son, Sartorialist…

• Hackett Autumn/Winter collection 2012 lookbook (

• Ovadia & Sons Fall/Winter 2012 editorial. (

• The Sartorialist dinner, Florence. (

• Beady/stringy wrist thing. (

• Ghurka Cavalier II No. 97 for Park & Bond. (

• An afternoon with Sid Mashburn. (

• Capsule history of the American “sack” suit. (

• Exploring United Arrows – the knowledge of Kamoshita. (

• Green corduroys for fall. (

• How to become a shoe designer. (

• Established clothing brands and the Internet. (

• Richard Anderson launches first line of ready-to-wear. (

• Everything you ever needed to know about black tie. (

• Drake’s Autumn/Winter 2012 teaser. (

• The St Crispin’s fit system. (

• Interview with Laszlo Vass. (

• Pherrow’s 466 raw selvedge jeans – one year, second wash. (

Letting It Go

After being informed that someone has placed a bid on an item of clothing that has been hanging in my wardrobe for the better part of three years I feel a pang of nostalgia, and a bizarre sense of regret. Do I really want to let it go? I haven’t really used it and no, I won’t use it much in future but what will the sale yield? The price of a London cocktail and two inches of space. Maybe I should cancel the sale and just keep it stored away. “What for?” my practically-minded girlfriend would probably ask, utterly perplexed. Posterity, I suppose.

A dear friend once told me that I was far too sentimental. Whereas most only find it difficult to part with heavily-used, much-loved items, my attachment to inanimate objects extends to the unused and the unloved. It is a peculiarity of my character that surprises even me. Whilst there is no doubt that I have inherited the blood of a collector, I have also inherited a sepia-toned nostalgia for a land-of-might-have-been.
Unworn shoes, pristine jackets and perfectly folded jumpers gather dust in the dark and unrewarding netherworld of storage, awaiting a destiny long delayed.

Being sentimental about unused clothing is perfectly silly, particularly as there are far more significant things in the world to mourn. However, it is not really the garment itself to which I become attached but the intangible, irreplaceable remembrance that it provides. An afternoon, a dinner out, laughter, friends, love and disappointment; even when that memory is still vivid, the sale of its souvenirs makes me ponderous and indulgently sentimental.

It is because of this that I am amazed at those who find it so easy to trade-in their wardrobes. I am certainly foolish in clinging to wool and leather in the way that one might cling to a neglected child before their departure for college, but what is it that makes it so easy for people to part with that which they once loved? Where are the memories of hours of searching, the glances in the mirror, the excited waiting in line? Why not cherish the perfume of a dangerous fling, the rain from a summer cloud? What becomes of these words:  “I wore this to graduation”; “I fell in love in this suit.”

Personally, I blame fast-fashion. I use the stores which supply it, and benefit from its popularity, but I am aghast at the way in which it has transformed our consumption of clothing to something representing a roadside diner; cheap, perfunctory and lacking in sentiment. My own consumption of things I rarely wear is as much a part of it, but my reluctance to part with something I own feels natural. In many ways, I don’t like buying to replace. It makes me feel dirty and unfaithful; unfaithful not to the object itself but to my own memory. A memory in which that object has had a part.

A Man and His Technology

Is a smart phone a menswear accessory?

It’s an interesting question. It’s as necessary as any other item we allow a well dressed man: cufflinks, pen, wallet, watch, lighter, cigarette case. Take your pick.

What links those other items is that they have a basic functionality at their heart. That needfulness has seen them increasingly embellished and redesigned to fit elegantly into a man’s wardrobe.

Perhaps the question should be why shouldn’t some sartorial principles apply to mobiles and smart phones?

In matters of dress the golden rule is that a man should wear his clothes not vice versa. It strikes me that as mobiles, smart phones, tablets and their like increasingly become a part of our daily lives, and our wardrobe, they ought to conform to the same principle. Yet increasingly we allow these things to impose themselves upon us, and we willingly cater for them by buying kit that enables us to haul them around the country.

I’ve only written one post here before on the impact of technology on a man’s dress.  Well, in one of those random, wonderful quirks of fate the people at Samsung also saw that post. As a result I was invited to join them as their guest for three days of Olympic fun and games to test out the Galaxy Note smart phone.

I already have a Blackberry and I despair of the bloody thing. Reading off it is a lesson in eye strain and the buttons are so small that you inevitably push more than one at a time. Though small it’s also thick and heavy, and from what I can tell these tedious features apply to the breed as a whole. Not for me the low slung head and shuffling gait of the compulsive street texter, tweeter and mobile fiddler. I just find it almost impossible to feel any affinity for them.

But I’ve had the Galaxy Note for the best part of three weeks now and it’s the first bit of technology to genuinely impress me. I’ve actually warmed to it, and curiously I gain the same sort of aesthetic pride and pleasure that I get from using my Yard-O-Lead pen or wearing the cufflinks my grandfather gave me. I honestly feel it augments my dress rather than impinging upon it, whilst delivering genuine, practical, mobile functionality as opposed to the illusion of it.

On paper the Samsung Note is an extremely impressive piece of kit.  With a 5.3 inch HD screen and a built in stylus, the Samsung Galaxy Note is a cross between a smart phone and a tablet. Powered by a dual-core 1.4GHz processor & 64GB of memory, it also has an 8 megapixel camera with 1080p HD video recording for all-round media prowess. I use the term ‘on paper’ to provide an air of expert authority. I actually have little idea what any of that means except to say that it’s fast , has a vast number of genuinely useful functions for work and play and a large crystal clear screen I can actually read from, which also allows for buttons large enough for my fingers.

The thing I do least with a mobile device is make calls. Mostly I answer e-mails, read the news and surf. So why do most firms continue to design these things as though phone calls were their primary function?

The Galaxy Note turns all that on its head. For example, the built in stylus (4inches of pure joy) combined with the S Pen holder kit means I can write memos, annotate and edit photos for later reference in my look-book files, do it all on the go and upload it to my website. When I go out to interview retailers and craftspeople I can leave every other bit of kit behind. Genuine hands free mobile living.

But the most wonderful thing is the way it naturally suits my formal and semi-formal wardrobe. About the same size as a coat wallet only thinner, thanks to the even weight distribution over a larger frame the Galaxy Note fits into the inside jacket pocket of my suit without bagging the lining or distorting the silhouette. In terms of the smart phone arms race that’s as revolutionary a step forward as the wrist watch was to the pocket watch.

Now all I’m waiting for is the Yard-O-Lead Galaxy S Pen.

The Silver Lining to Summer’s End

The month of August is quickly fading away. The depressing march to the howling winter will soon begin, away from careless innocence and onwards to hard reality. However, this change in the seasons is not mourned by all. Most sartorialists I know abhor the summer as the discomfort that has to be endured in the heat not only stands in the way of their own aesthetic ideals, but also brings out what they consider to be the worst in their fellow man. Often maximalists, these sartorialists are restricted by temperature to reducing their normal wardrobe and are forced to take to wearing ‘ungentlemanly’ things like shorts and open-necked shirts.

Personally, I adore the summer. It is the one season in the year when I feel younger; messing about in the sea, spending enormous amounts of time outside, leading an active, sporty lifestyle, taking trips abroad. Youth returns in those sweaty months; the sun shines and life doesn’t seem as bad as it does in the dark days of December. The fact that I have to wear less clothing, and more practical clothing, does not dampen my enjoyment of the season.

However, whilst I do not agree with the heat-haters on that score, I do concur that the warm weather does bring out some of the most vile and undeserving fashions from our fellow man. In that sense, if there is one positive (for me) from the dismantling of summer it is that we will not be subjected to them for too much longer.

Shorts that aren’t short

One of the most frustrating sights of the summer is of a fully grown man wearing shorts that aren’t actually short. Falling well past his knees, they reveal about 20cm of lower calf. What, pray, is the point? The most important consideration about shorts is that they should be well-proportioned; shorts that descend almost to the ankle are poorly proportioned, and they simply end up looking like excessively short trousers. They also make the wearer look like he wears cast-offs from his teenage son. If you want to wear shorts, wear something that hits the knee but does not go past it.

Sport sandals

I have never understood why people seem to equate walking around historic sites in a city to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Enormous mountaineering rucksacks with aluminium water bottles jangling from the straps, multi-pocketed shorts – presumably containing all necessary survival gear for a journey from the hotel to the museum – and worst of all, sports sandals. Velcro strapped, with some ridiculous faux-Incan name and design on the label, they are not only unnecessary for such adventures they are also hideously ugly. What’s wrong with leather sandals?

Branded t-shirts

One of the blessings of autumn, and especially winter, is that the most vulgar, branded clothing is packed away for another year – fortunately, no one has yet had the stupidity to sew furry lettering onto an overcoat. However, in summer the walking billboards are everywhere. Abercrombie this, Hollister that; summertime is an exhibition of insecurity. The shame of it is that it is not only chronically self-doubting teenagers who feel the need to don a $100 t-shirt in order to feel ‘part of the moment’; men of 45-50 years who should be world-weary and reasoned, strut down the street with ‘A&F’ plastered across their chests. What are they trying to prove?

Five Years Go in a Blink

I don’t particularly like birthdays. Any reminders of aging are to be avoided as far as I am concerned as age is simply a depressing reminder of mortality and the fading of youth. However, it struck me recently that there was one ‘birthday’ which I had thus far neglected, one anniversary I had not yet celebrated. My column, Ruffs, Cuffs and Farthingales was now five years old.

My first article for Mensflair was published on the 10th August 2007. I had just returned from a pleasant holiday in the Balearics and, in the excited and optimistic manner of Herbert Pocket, was set to “look about” for opportunities and prospects. Lehman Brothers still existed, the world was not yet in financial ruin and I had just celebrated my last year of studying. Though half a decade is small beer in comparison with other columns – Selfridge’s famous Callisthenes column ran for 27 years – I am rather happy that I have been able to contribute so much for so long.

Looking back is the customary activity of birthdays. As the future is uncertain, the past provides heavy monument to the efforts expended and experience earned. The years have flown. I was a rather naive 24 years of age when I was first asked to write for Mensflair. A keen sartorialist and blogger, I was excited but somewhat apprehensive about contributing. In brief moments of self-doubt, I found myself asking the same question repeatedly; “Will I have something worthwhile to say?”

I believe that the most important ingredient in contributing is sincerity; speaking to the world in a manner faithful to your own understanding. The second most important ingredient, as far as I am concerned, is observation. A man can stand on a soapbox and shout his truths from the depths of his soul, but with his eyes shut and his ears closed he gains nothing but the echo of his own monotone.

I am fortunate to say that I have learned an inestimable amount from my five year exploration. From other contributors, from readers, from the grand halls of commerce and the fusty boutiques of craft, from the beauty of nature and the tragic splendour of a turbulent world. When I started writing, I believed that style was democratic, not aristocratic. I stood by the notion that a man can be as bonnie as a billionaire if he applied the right amount of thought, inspiration and care to his costume. I applied this argument through my own experience as a living-scratching ex-student with little to spend on his wardrobe.

By comparison, I can now spend relatively freely without worry. However, I choose not to. It is hard to say decisively whether this is because of my experience in buying the best I could, but not the best to be had or whether my weekly sermons had galvanised my own beliefs. I think the latter has had a significant effect. Whatever the reason, I am satisfied, if surprised, with my own constancy and believe that sartorial resourcefulness will be my abiding mantra for the foreseeable future.

Thank you all for reading. Here’s to the next five years.