About Aleksandar Cvetkovic

Aleksandar Cvetkovic is a full time student at Oxford University. He is also a self confessed dandy, tailoring enthusiast and connoisseur, looking to build a career in the menswear industry upon graduation. He blogs at thestudenttailor.blogspot.co.uk.

Sir Plus’s Stunning Surplus

Sir Plus is what’s known in colloquial terms as ‘a clever one’. Even the name of the company is clever. Its clever because the spelling of said name alludes both to that which is classically British; the honour of knighthood – a concept which brings with it associations of integrity and reliability – and also that which is surplus to requirements. Using that which is surplus to requirements is Sir Plus’s business and damn good they are at it too. The firm was the brainchild of the ever excitable Henry Hales – an ambitious and business savvy graduate with a penchant for the sartorial, who started the process of producing and retailing top quality British boxer shorts from recycled materials a couple of years ago. The firm has since grown to produce luxury British products with both ethical integrity and real quality of manufacture.

Initially however, things looked rather tricky. Hales quickly discovered that the cost of printing high quality cloths for his boxers was prohibitive. Undeterred, Hales used his initiative and began scouting for top-quality surplus off-cuts and individual cut-lengths of cloth, which could be employed in the creation of Sir Plus’s quintessentially British undergarments. Hence the firm’s obsession with ‘cabbage’, this being the industry’s slang for surplus off-cuts of cloth. All Sir Plus’s cloths are ‘cabbage’ – pieces lovingly sourced from heritage rich tailors and fabric dealers in the UK and the tailoring capitals of Europe, a strategy which minimises waste within the luxury menswear industry and which creates truly original and quirky products in the process. The brand currently produces boxer shorts, scarves, pocket squares, waistcoats and some rather splendid Nehru jackets.

All Sir Plus products are made in the UK – an admirable and brave decision given the expense that this often incurs. Rest assured however, the quality of Sir Plus’s products truly does shine through. The sky blue linen double-breasted waistcoat pictured is a Sir Plus piece. The Irish linen ‘cabbage’ from which the waistcoat is fashioned is dense, tightly woven and has real body. The ivory lining compliments the warm, light blue beautifully and likewise feels substantial and crisp, as do the cream buttons and piping. I also very much like the eight by eight closure, and sweeping full-darts not often seen. The waistcoat is unusually long, but this allows for the waistcoat to sit cleanly over the waistbands of even the lowest cut modern trousers – this practicality being something I’m sure many readers will welcome. All in all, its a lovely thing – and its appeal is helped in no small measure by the fact that its been handmade in Britain.

Holly Purchase, Sir Plus’s PR & Marketing Manager makes the point perfectly: ‘Customers can feel a real pride in wearing British garments which contribute to the creation of a uniquely British wardrobe. In addition to the benefits of buying and wearing high quality garments that are made in the UK, customers lessen environmental impact and contribute positively to our economy’.

There can be no doubt then, that behind Sir Plus’s attractive eccentricity, (for anyone doubting this – please do see the rather witty video below) lies an engaging obsession for creating products which are both truly original, luxurious and quintessentially British.



Summer Linen: The Stuff of Legend

Linen, a cloth which truly does have its own unique allure. My own personal love affair with the stuff started long before I became interested in sartorial menswear; I remember distinctly that I used to don some bizarre linen chinos in my early teens during the summer in an attempt to look edgy, matched with ghastly lumberjack checked shirts of the sort that appeals to confused and rebellious adolescents.

Today, with several years of engagement in sartorial style under my belt, I wear linen rather differently, but the underling appeal of linen cloths for summer has not changed. It is perhaps the quintessential summer cloth, at once debonair and dishevelled. There’s just something about a well-worn linen suit that conjures a highly romanticised view of tailored dress; a blend of Brideshead Revisited, the French Riviera, Expressionist painter and early twentieth century Bohemian, good quality linen tailoring creates an image of a man who offers the epitome of nonchalant, characterful and expressive summer style.

Although I have written previously on the benefits of cotton and linen blends (this being something that I entirely stand by), in the heat of July and August when the heat is at its most intense, there are only two adequate options for tailored clothing; the lightest wool frescos of seven woven to eight ounces in weight, or similarly lightweight, open-weave linens.

Linens have perhaps the greatest variation in quality of all commonly used tailoring fabrics, but in my experience, although more expensive and tightly woven linens press and launder better than cheaper variants, the tendency to crease incessantly during use remains the same regardless. That’s just how linen behaves. For this reason, linen tends not to make for durable business dress – it doesn’t remain crisp enough to provide a professional appearance suited to most business environments and quite obviously linen suits are not ideal for long-term commuting.

This tendency to crease, combined with its floatiness, is however what gives linen its irresistible rakish charm for casual summer dress. Cut in a two piece suit it makes for a highly chic and relaxed lounge suit for summer soirees, and should be your quintessential port of call for luxurious holidays and impromptu weekend getaways. Likewise, there should be no end to your collection of linen blazers tucked away in the wardrobe for balmy summer days.

Linen gives the opportunity to wear something which offers a great variety of colour and texture. Smooth linen and silk blended twill makes for luxurious suits, chunky linen herringbones or coarse basketweaves offer great mid-summer jacketing cloths and for the hottest climate, a pair of unlined plainweave linen trousers (such as those I’m wearing below) are the ultimate in convenient summer tailoring: light, airy and breathable. I wear such trousers all the time and they’re so comfortable in the heat they may as well be shorts.

Similarly, there’s a real argument for suggesting that casual linen shirting provides the ultimate in chic holiday or even slick weekend style, matched with chinos or even (as I prefer) the aforementioned unlined linen trousers. Although the crumpled structure of linen is not something that will appeal to everyone, there is something effortless in its delightful floatiness that lends movement and a sense of breeziness to linen garments. Loosely cut shirts work particularly well, this being something I only just discovered as of a few weeks ago – having only ever really worn lightweight cotton poplins and oxfords in spring and summer – a decision I now regret, given how effortlessly dapper my linen shirting is proving to be.

Indeed, wearing linen garments slightly more loosely than you might otherwise is the best way to channel this sense of suavity, given linen’s floaty structure. If you don’t give the cloth the room to drape and float a little, the effect is lost. Avoid narrow or close-cut linen trousers like the plague for this reason, ensure that the legs drape spaciously and wear with turn-ups to add a little weight to the trouser bottoms to aid their elegant ebb and flow around your ankles as your swagger down the seafront.

I’d likewise suggest that with the exception of formal morning dress waistcoats (which are often cut in linen to save on weight and density in the summer sun), don’t bother with investing in waistcoats cut from linen; the cloth simply rides up and creases terribly following the natural shape of the torso, because it has no room to flow or drape around the chest and waist. Opt for generously proportioned half-lined and lightly structured summer blazers and trousers for the most comfortable ensembles.

That’s all there is to it really. Linen is a real luxury to wear in the summer and its a luxury which is distinctly affordable. Throw a linen suit on in the morning with an open collar and swan around town all afternoon long. Its cool (in more ways than one), comfortable and supremely chic.


Style Icon: Michael Caine

Generally, I’m not a big one for individual style icons; I tend to prefer examining the features of specific historical periods or trends when it comes to dressing. Michael Caine however, is an exception. I grew up watching classic retro films with my father, and upon discovering Michael Caine’s films of the 60s and 70s fell in love with his debonair gravitas – and the impact of his suits.

His dress sense taught me two things. Firstly, wherever possible, invest in the classics and put your own subtle twist on them. Secondly, if you want to dress in a truly timeless fashion, it has to be kept simple. In all of his tailored roles, garments are classic and the colour palette minimal and understated; but he never fails to look the sharp English gentleman. He somehow never looks conscious of wearing a suit and tie – pulling off perhaps the greatest trick of all for the wearer of fine suits – exuding relaxed and effortless elegance. One only has to watch the first twenty minutes of ‘The Italian Job’ to get a sense of what I mean. Caine strolls through the film with a jocular swagger, part the character’s and part his own. You can sense he feels comfortable in suiting and this adds in large part to the appeal of his style.

Another reason that his tailored style exhibited in films of the 60s and 70s remains so appealing today is that his suits were ahead of their time in terms of cut and shape; he deliberately seems to avoid trends and sticks with classic shapes. The result is a truly timeless look.

His blue three piece suit in ‘Get Carter’ is the ideal example. Cut with a well-proportioned notched lapel – not too slim, not too wide – which avoided the short-lived 70s trend for huge, deeply bellied lapels with low gorges. The cut of the jacket is perfectly fitted to modern proportions, not too slim and with no excess drape and the five button single breasted waistcoat adds just enough gravitas, whilst also remaining a very simple cut. Finished with a pale blue shirt – which again avoids standing too tall as was the fashion for 70s shirt collars, and a plain black silk tie – of a quite obviously superior silk, the ensemble is about as simple as it gets and allows the quality and cut of the suit itself to shine through.

Note also his jet black trenchcoat by Aquascutum, cut in a model which the firm still produces today – with the black tie working with the black trenchcoat when worn, keeping the look dark and mean – as befitted the character. Furthermore, because these were his own clothes, and he wasn’t forced into an off-the-peg suit from a film wardrobe procured especially for the film, Caine looks as effortless as he does anywhere else, whilst also bringing a fair bit of menace to his role as a gangster – a prowling Jaguar in a black trenchcoat. Steve Mcqueen pulled off a similar trick in the Thomas Crowne affair, having his suits made weeks before the show, he wore them everywhere for a fortnight before filming started to break them in and get comfortable in high-end tailoring.

Michael Caine’s affinity with tailoring is obvious, given his many years of faithful patronage of London tailors Douglas Hayward, as well as a couple of houses on Savile Row. Also charming is that in many of his films, Caine’s tailor is credited alongside the cast and production team. Hayward was a true celebrity tailors of the time, and remains one of the most fashionable tailors in London.

Douglas Hayward himself was one of the fathers of those suits which possessed the unique understated elegance that characterised the best tailoring of the 60s and 70s. Douglas Hayward was also James Coburn, Lawrence Olivier and Roger Moore’s tailor of choice, amongst many other celebrities and for all of them, produced classically proportioned and effortlessly dapper garments.

It’s also telling that in one of Caine’s earlier films the importance of a good suit is stressed from the very opening. As Charlie Croker emerges from prison in ‘The Italian Job’ and steps into his car, almost Caine’s first words are ‘take me to my tailor’. Some fifty years later, Michael Caine remains a tailoring icon – as the head of the Kingsman Agency in ‘Kingsman the Secret Service’, to be released this October. Caine plays a senior spy in the film whose cover is that he’s supposedly a tailor, and the film is set to be a very dapper affair indeed.

There is just something to be said for a man (whether he celebrity or not) who understands the classics and that in order to look truly stylish, one must not affect to be stylish, but must simply feel relaxed in his clothes. Michael Caine understands both, and this has always showed in his effortless personal style.

The London Sock Company: Seriously Smart Socks

A couple of weeks ago, I found something waiting for me in my pigeonhole that I had been looking forward to for days, a package of socks from the luxury gentlemen’s hosiers, the London Sock Company. The socks in question have intrigued me for some time. Not only is the London Sock Company offering a superior quality product at a distinctly affordable price, but its doing things in a rather distinctive manner.

Ryan Palmer is a humble co-captain of the company’s ship, claiming the company’s ethos is simple: ‘Our focus from the outset has been to create the best quality products available, whilst making it simple to own and enjoy them’. This is indisputable: the socks in question are simply great.

I bought pairs in navy, turquoise and pink and have worn each pair several times since receiving them. They are considerably more comfortable than a number of other high-end socks I own, including some pure cashmere numbers and socks retailed by a company on Savile Row. Each presents a very vivid colour making them distinctly fun to wear, they stay up around my calves all day long without the need to be hitched-up every twenty paces and more importantly, the vivid colour and shape of the socks is retained between wears and washes. The perfectly woven ribbing of the socks is also an indicator of their quality, requiring time and precision to weave tightly and neatly. The mixing of a classic calf-length ribbed sock with a bold, distinctly modern range of colours speaks perfectly of the company’s ethos – to provide something that is classically sartorial, but which is also inspired by modern times.

If the product is inspired, so is the concept behind the business. As Ryan explains: ‘the inspiration for the London Sock Company began when we saw a picture of five stylish, elegant and rather well-to-do Victorian gentleman. Each hailed from a different corner of the British Empire, but were captured together in a unique image dated to 1883’. It seems that each of these men were wearing rather fine examples of luxurious Victorian hosiery. ‘The aim is simply to serve the true gentlemen among us; helping to achieve the style and elegance of that famous Victorian era, with a modern twist’. Evidently, innovation is an important part of the London Sock Company’s process: ‘The Victorians were famous for innovation and so the London Sock Company has one stylish foot firmly in the twenty-first century.’ This definitely shows.

The first obvious indicator of this innovation is in the production process of the socks themselves. Despite being made by a family-run artisan workshop in Portugal, using specially imported Italian machines which produce socks with the body, natural stretch and softness of a traditional garment, effort is made to ensure that the seams and structure of each sock is as meticulous and invisible both to touch and feel as is technologically possible. Their first range of socks is produced using the highest quality Scottish Lisle cotton, which takes its name from a milling process made famous in Victorian times in Scotland, whereby the chemical structure of the cotton is actively enhanced. The result is a luxurious fiber which is cleaner, more durable and which takes dye better, producing cotton yarns which are exceptionally rich in colour.

Also innovatory is the evident value placed upon ethical production by the company. Firstly, the current range of socks is being expanded through collaborations with up-and-coming young fashion designers including a collaboration with London College of Fashion, offering young talent an opportunity to work in the industry, on a project where they can be recognised and rewarded for their contribution. Secondly, the London Sock Company donates hundreds of pairs of socks per year to London’s homeless as the first phase of their ‘Pull Your Socks Up’ campaign, supporting a number of homelessness charities in the process. Again, Ryan’s explanation is simple: ‘It’s not something we really shout about, but pulling your socks up is one of the first things you do each day. Doing good things is important to us and when we pull our socks up, we’re reminded to do something each day that makes a difference, even if it’s small. People are sometimes surprised that a new, luxury clothing brand has a strong social ethos from day one, but it’s just something we wanted to do’.

Equally smart is the means by which customers can access the socks in question. In addition to their online shop, customers can also sign-up to a supremely convenient ‘Sock Club’ to have a set number of pairs delivered every month through their letterbox, ensuring that there will always be the requisite pair of superior quality socks in one’s wardrobe when needed. If that isn’t both the height of convenience and seriously smart customer service, I don’t know what is.

I had one final question for Ryan; clashing socks, yes or no? His answer – both. ‘Socks offer a subtle way of expressing your personality. If you like wearing clashing colours or even odd socks, then do it and enjoy expressing yourself. Socks are a subtle touch, but when you sit down in your business meeting or even on a date, people will notice and take note’. A valuable and much over-looked point. When one bears this in mind, the commitment of the London Sock Company to producing socks of the finest quality becomes all the more appealing for the dapper gentleman. I can attest that their socks are very satisfying to both wear and own, and well worth investing in for a sleek and sturdy finish to one’s ensemble. I highly recommend them.

Images credit: Rui Jorge

Summer Dinner Suiting

Summer dinner suiting poses an interesting wealth of possibilities and given that I will be partaking in my final formal dinner as an Oxford undergraduate next week, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying exploring some potential ways to spice up my dinner suit for the occasion. With this in mind, this late 30s fashion plate is rather intriguing. Depicted, as you can see, are a pair of extremely dapper and technically correct yet nonetheless distinctive dinner suits, which present unusual possibilities for distinctive summer dinner suiting.

Let us deal with the suit on the right first, as its the more conventional of the two. Here we find a shawl collared, cream dinner jacket, cut with a relatively natural, but broad shoulder, a heavily expressed chest and slim sleeves; a very elegant combination. The jacket is cut as a four by four double-breasted (the top two buttons can be seen, but the bottom two are evidently obscured by the wearer’s stance with broad peaked lapels, faced in cream satin as is conventional. Conventional lightweight black trousers finish the ensemble. Cream dinner jackets for warmer climes seem to have fallen out of favour in recent years, but this illustration attests to the elegance of the look. Not only is cream a practical choice because it remains cooler than dark cloths in the heat, it is a distinguished choice and cream dinner jackets traditionally offer the opportunity to experiment with cloth choices. Linen or linen and mohair blends, tropical weight wools or even raw silks are all options for a cream dinner jacket; featherweight, breathable, luxurious and distinctly different to conventional black Barathea, they offer the opportunity to really stand out from the crowd.

So too does the possibility of wearing a double-breasted dinner jacket. Although you might initially think that this is an illogical choice for summer, but if cut in lightweight, breathable cloths then the issue of extra wrap and extra weight should be negated. A double-breasted dinner suit can be the perfect way to make a slightly different statement; the look was first popularised in the late 30s/early 40s providing the opportunity to channel some classical elegance if one so desires and it is just that little bit different to the relatively common and potentially hum-drum single breasted two-piece dinner suit.

The suit on the left, takes a more unusual low two by two double-breasted shape, cut in a French navy Barathea or possibly a tonic wool or wool and mohair blend. The lapels are cut with a low gorge, gentle belly and a very broad shape. They make a real statement, helped by the welcome addition of a red carnation. Evidently, the suit is intended to be a statement piece. Although it is common to see dinner suits cut in a very dark navy as opposed to a black, French blue is (in my experience) unheard of. In this respect, this suit could easily be considered incorrect or a dinner dress faux-pas. It is saved however, by a technically correct cut; with satin faced lapels, faced buttons and pocket bindings. I’d suggest that this suit presents a welcome innovation for summer. The colour remains dark, but is more summery in tone and a more practical choice than black, which will absorb more heat than blue.

Both gentlemen wear the full-cut, heavily draped trousers of the era, something which can easily be modernised with a slightly slimmer cut or more tapered leg. Note that it is not correct to wear turn-ups with dinner trousers. It is thought that the addition of a turn-up is too business like and spoils the clean line of the trouser for formal evening dress. A single strip of silk is worn down the side seam of the trousers for black tie, a pair of satin strips being reserved for dress trousers worn with a tailcoat.

Buttons are faced in satin, as are lapels. A dinner suit traditionally also has the pocket binding and outer side-seams of the trousers faced in satin too. Both dinner suits are cut with horizontal bound hip-pockets, rather than jetted pockets (pockets with flaps). This is technically the correct pocket formation for dinner suits and has its roots in the genesis of the dinner jacket as a form smoking jacket – the lack of flaps allows for the wearer to rest his pipe, tobacco or indeed his hands in the pockets with ease, allowing one to be as relaxed as possible in what was originally a relatively informal garment.

Both are wearing a deeply pointed spread collar on their dinner shirts, this being something which I’d recommend. Winged collars are best kept for wearing with evening tailcoats and heavily starched dress shirts. I personally feel that they can look a little antiquated with modern dinner suits and many modern off-the-peg winged collar dinner shirts lack the structure and starch to retain their proper rigid shape. The particularly deep collars on display in this illustration are of course of their era, but nonetheless look rather sharp, and the modern equivalent classic Windsor collar, with no cut-away shape is the best option for dinner dress today. It will close over your tie, and allow it to sit correctly, poking out from the centre of the collar on each side. Cut away collars show too much of the bow-tie as it sits around the neck. It is also worth noting that both these dinner shirts have their plackets covered, for a cleaner appearance.

The gentleman on the left is wearing a slim, rectangular batwing bow-tie, whereas the gentleman on the right is wearing the more conventional hourglass shape. There is no right or wrong here, just a couple of different possibilities. The batwing bow tie is certainly more retro and produces a more angular shape which will compliment some silhouettes better than others, so I’d suggest simply experimenting with one if you’re intrigued.