Sources: Linkson Jack

There are a number of things I enjoy about my involvement with Mensflair. First amongst those is the fact it’s written by enthusiasts for enthusiasts. I personally claim no special knowledge in matters sartorial just an interest in sharing thoughts, ideas and the things I learn, and an enjoyment of seeing what response that generates. I learn as much from the comments as I do writing the posts.

Another thing I enjoy is the people I get to meet off the back of my writing, which just occasionally enables me to help out a budding new independent retailer, a guy just like us who is trying to turn his passion into a working business. Linkson Jack is just such a guy and I’m pleased to announce he has just launched his own retail website sporting some beautiful kit, ranging from bespoke boxes and fine Onoto fountain pens to some beautiful wool ties, grenadine ties and horn accessories.

I first encountered Linkson well over a year ago when we met to discuss his idea for a business. As someone who is also going about setting up his own micro-label we had much to discuss. In fact we had quite a bit more in common. Born in St Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean, he like me studied History and Politics at the University of London before working as a Parliamentary researcher at the House of Commons. Whereas I stayed in the House, he went on to found the Social Mobility Foundation, an established charity that helps to prepare bright, non-privileged students for admission to top universities and employment in the major professions and top businesses. Since our first meeting we’ve kept in regular touch.

There is something particularly satisfying about meeting people in those early stages of a dream and then seeing that dream become reality. As you know I’m walking that same path myself (more on that in my next post) and until you try it you never quite understand the monumental effort required to get things going.

My first impressions are that Linkson has done a first class job assembling a nice range of high quality and crafted menswear accessories. I know he took some time to track down less common manufacturers and craftspeople. Former Mensflair writer Simon Crompton over at Permanent Style has already written a nice review of Linkson’s bespoke boxes which is worth a read.

For my own part I’m most excited by those brands I’ve never encountered before. So while I’m taken by his wool and cashmere grey ties (something I’m told are selling like hot cakes across all retailers thanks to tit-lit phenomenon Fifty Shades of Grey), it’s his range of fine fountain pens that caught my eye.

According to Linkson, Onoto pens were started in 1905 by Thomas De La Rue and Co Ltd (printers of the British £ notes and commonwealth stamps). They became one of the most famous British fountain pen brands in the world used by Winston Churchill, Field Marshal Haig, Florence Nightingale and Queen Mary. The brand lay dormant for 46 years and was brought back to life in 2004 by businessman James Boddy.

Continuing the tradition of producing high quality fountains pen in a distinctly British style, all Onoto pens are hand-made in England by qualified jewellers. That ticks just about every one of my boxes.

As a favour to me for readers of Mensflair and BespokeMe Linkson Jack has generously set up a discount coupon offering 20% on all orders over £30 (excluding bespoke boxes and fountain pens).  UK sales tax of 20% will also be deducted at checkout for shoppers outside of the EU, after adding your shipping address. Simply type in the code NOV20% or BESPOKEME at the checkout.

Aside from being a genuinely nice guy who deserves to do well, I’m confident Linksons enthusiasm for classic men’s style and unapologetic love of beautiful things will take him far. I genuinely wish him well.

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.

In Defence of Black Jackets and Suits

Flick through the bulk of the literature on men’s dress and you’ll find little or nothing said in favour of black jacketing and suit – even with regard to evening wear you have the midnight blue brigade to contend with.

In the world of female clothing black is a necessity. You’d think similar rules would apply to men, but they don’t. The most common complaints against black include:

-the colour is just too overwhelming, too stark and too severe especially for suits;

-the contrast between skin and suit can be too great;

-you’re limited as to what shirts and ties sit with any harmony;

-black cloth can look cheap, unless it’s of the highest quality and inclined to reflect light as in the case of mohair and velvet or absorb it like Barathea.

So it seems that, as a rule, midnight blue is about as dark as a man is recommended to go. This advice I’d been content to follow and hadn’t felt deprived for doing so.

However, my antipathy changed not so long ago when I took a punt on a black, 1960s, unlined Hopsack J. Press blazer from An Affordable Wardrobe. Despite limited expectations and considerable doubts it has proved as versatile and necessary an item as any blue blazer. And it hasn’t proved half as difficult to match as all the advice had led me to assume.

So let’s begin by looking at shirts. While stark in contrast there is a place for white shirts particularly if you keep the collar soft and buttoned down to soften the look. Using this look for dress down Fridays I’ll combine my black jacket with grey wool and grey ground ties as well as black knits. However, I’m quite pale in complexion and my hair is going grey so cream and off-white works much better for me. If I wish to add more warmth and colour then pale pink and violet shirts work well. If anything the black jacketing gives these colours greater vibrancy. More conventionally, pale blue turned out to be a natural fit, and blue with a white collar and cuff adds a preppy note. As a rule if you have tanned skin you’ll find the process of combining colours just that little bit easier but I’ve managed perfectly well so don’t let the short comings of your tan put you off.

With regards to trousers, if we’re talking off-duty dressing then khaki in the form of chinos combined with white shirts and dark brown suede loafers has become my favourite combination – again, ideal for dress down Fridays. Related to that, I’ve always found black and brown an effective colour combination, particularly if it comes in the form of brown trousers or footwear. For those who want colour try burnt orange and cornflower yellow. These overripe versions of orange and yellow help avoid too stark a contrast between the black jacket and trousers. Last but by no means least, you shouldn’t overlook indigo denim.

For semi-formal partnering we have a classic pairing in the form of grey trousers, and black jacketing will take almost any shade bar the darkest. I have found that the more texture to the cloth of the trousers the better the combination works with the jacket. This is because it breaks up the blocks of colour by adding depth and contrast which makes the black jacket and the overall look far less austere and imposing. Flannel or worsted woollens in light to mid grey have proved my favourite combination.

Turning to the issues of accessories, and I’m counting shoes as well as ties here, I’ve said much already. But stick to muted and overripe colours with dark grounds and depending on your shirt choice you might want to give brown a try. I suspect like me, however, you’ll more often than not use black knitted silk or ties with black grounds. If you want splashes of bright colour then pocket squares are sufficient to add a dash without dominating your look.

On the matter of footwear black is the obvious choice, although my favourite by a country mile has been dark brown suede, particularly when combined with khaki chinos.

This is far from the definitive list of what does and doesn’t work with regards to black jacketing and suits, but the point is black has greater potential than the accepted wisdom would lead you to presume.

Photos: Exquisite Trimmings, Down East and Out , Guerreisms, Pure Evil, Bespokenn, This Fits.

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”.

Cream and Off-White Shirts


Last weekend I decided to pay a visit to my friend Erlend at Stephan Shirts. He’s kindly been advising me on my button down shirt project. But there was another reason for popping into 95 Moore Park Road, Fulham. That reason is pictured above, the cream/off-white shirt in the foreground.

Having rationalised and simplified my shirt collection over recent months in favour of white, blue, Bengal stripes and the odd pink I’ve managed to completely neglect this most useful colour.

Obviously, cream and off-white sits sympathetically with browns, greens and the earthier colours contained in classic tweeds. But as a shirting its usefulness goes beyond that.

Firstly, if you’re pale skinned or you have grey hair, as I do, you might want to consider cream and off-white as an alternative to plain white shirts. Whereas white shirting can often reinforce that pale paler, cream and off-white provide a little reflected colour and an element of warmth to your look. Funnily enough it also works in the opposite way. A heavy tan or five o’clock shadow can be deemphasised by use of cream and off-white shirting, whereas pure brilliant white shirts simply emphasise these traits by making the contrast of colours appear starker than they need be.

In a very similar vein cream and off-white are a nice alternative to pale blue shirts, which when combined with solid grey and navy suits can look a little cold.

For those unsure about combining colours, I would add that cream and off-white shirtings are about as versatile an option as you could wish for. It combines with navy and grey, and all the variations thereon. Indeed some blues, like petrol blue for example, can sometimes benefit from being toned down a bit. That tonal balance likewise applies to bright ties and bold patterns which become gentler on the eye. However, with regard to patterned ties, avoid combining patterns with white in them as next to cream and off-white it merely makes the shirt look grubby. You might also extend that rule to Prince of Wales check cloth where the ground is white and chalk stripes, for the same reason. Other than those two caveats, you’ll find cream and off-white worthy editions to your shirt collection.