Only Brown

Founded in June 2011, by Kelvin Cheong, Only Brown is an online purveyor of men’s fine leather accessories.  Mr. Cheong distaste for the praise of black accessories led him to compile a collection of quality items from around the world in a myriad of shades of brown from dark to light and in between, and distribute them from his Singaporean headquarters.

I am proponent of brown, yes, even in town.  The number of brown shoes, belts, trousers and pretty much anything else you could think of outnumbers that of anything black in my collection.  Black is great for evening affairs of grandeur and gravitas, but it can be harsh and uninviting in most cases and has no life of its own.  Brown is the antithesis of black.  Brown comes in many hues and shades and carries a life of its own exclusive to the owner.  This is the only purveyor of fine leather accessories I’m aware of that is built solely on offering products in a certain color.

Recently I’ve had the fortunate of conversing with Kelvin about his offerings and philosophy on style and he very graciously offered to have me try one of his products.  Kelvin offers products small and large from travel accessories to lifestyle accoutrements.  At the time of our meeting I was fixated on acquiring another belt.  At the time I had just finished creating my first bespoke belt and was in the mood for another.  While I chose something subtle and somber in my last belt, this time I was in the mood for something more playful.  I decided on the brogue leather belt by Leyva.  Leyva is a Spanish owned and operated company founded 1960 by Antonio Leyva.  Leyva creates some of the most beautiful belts in the world and was recognized with the Alas award in 2008 for its track record of success.

Just coming off a bespoke purchase I was able to specify my own size belt.  This time I had to go back to standard sizing and was a bit hesitant about the fit.  However, the 32 turned out to be a bit snugger than my Hickey Freeman chocolate brown suede belt in the same size.  I can only imagine that the difference exists because of the epidemic of obesity in this country compared to our European counterparts.  The belt itself is fashioned in 100% cow hide with a matte polished brass buckle and the signature brogueing around the whole of the belt.  It also features a slight contrast stitch running lengthwise along the brogueing detail.  The leather is soft and supple and is elegantly stamped with the Leyva crest.

Upon receiving it the belt is beautifully packaged and presented with care and holds its true color compared to what is shown online.  My biggest concern other than the fit was if I had shoes to properly compliment the belt or vice versa.  The color is listed as ‘whiskey’ by but I would’ve called it butterscotch.  At least those are the color cap toe oxfords I wear with it.  It is most certainly a summer/warm weather belt choice.  I’d be hard pressed to reach for this in the winter when my suede or hard wearing bridle belt in burgundy would be better suited for flannels, tweeds, and Shetlands.  However, I did get a few good wears out of it with my linen trousers, pop over shirt and Italian driving loafers.  I’m sure this will be my belt of choice for many sunny days to come whether they are right here in DC or in some foreign playground of which the layman would not be able to pronounce the name.

Introducing Equus Leather or How I ‘Made’ my First ‘Bespoke’ Belt

Equus Leather is owned and operated by Charlie Trevor and Dawn McCormack in the Northumberland region of the UK. Charlie manages the leatherwork and Dawn handles photography and the business administration. Charlie has been producing leather and bridle work since 1995 and his products can be found all over the world from Europe, to the US to the Middle and Far East and Australia.

Fortunately, I had the opportunity to work with Charlie to build a custom bridle leather belt.  This was my first belt made and cut to my specifications and working with Charlie was a delight. Charlie explained the selection and cutting process step by step and offered recommendations for color, width, buckles etc. We agreed on a bridle leather belt in Australian Nut which looks brown in artificial light but in natural light has a distinguishing Burgundy finish. My belt has no stitching and or raised edges, which is available but the process takes considerably more time and effort and increases the cost of the belt while simultaneously decreasing the formality of it.

We cut a 1 and 1/4 width which is standard for a dress belt but with seven holes when most mass produced belts come with only five.  We chose a West End buckle in Satin finish which to complete the belt. Since the last belt I acquired had a shiny buckle we chose a matte finish on this piece.  We also cut the belt to a specific length to ensure the best fit. When fitting a belt the common knowledge is to wear a belt two sizes larger than your waist size or the size of your trousers.  Of course, if you’re going to go all out I recommend no belt loops at all, but side tabs on all of your trousers just seems pretentious.

So, if you wear a 30 trouser you should most likely be wearing a 32 belt.  However, as it so happens many men wear their belts to large and end up buckling the belt on the last hole which is ghastly. You should never buckle your belt on the last hole and in reality it shouldn’t have to reach further than the second to last hole. Unfortunately, many men like me are in between sizes and it can be difficult to properly achieve this without cutting the belt exactly to specifications. In steps Charlie who cut a 31.5 length which suits me perfectly.

Prior to our working together I was not aware of the all the properties of bridle leather. Fortunately, Charlie is an expert. Bridle Leather refers to the way that a piece of leather (cow hide) is finished at the tannery. It is used in saddlery for horses and is typically expected to last for 10 or more years of use. It has both the Flesh and Grain side of the leather stuffed with greases and finished with wax. This is generally a labor intensive process, and thus expensive. Only the best grades of leather are treated in this manner.  It would be uneconomic to treat poor quality leather in this way. Today, few tanneries produce good bridle leather. Equus only utilizes leather from J & E Sedgwick  and J & FJ Baker who are widely known to produce the best bridle leather in the world.

There are three major characteristics of bridle leather.

1. It must have good depth of color and be attractive to look at while aging well and it must not have natural imperfections that weaken the leather.

2. It is expected to be smooth, comfortable and flexible to handle.

3. It is expected to be both strong and durable.

All Equus hardware is made from a solid metal, such as brass, stainless steel, nickel or sterling silver. Charlie does not use plated fittings that inevitably rust over time. All hardware is sourced from Walsall or Birmingham in England and is engineered for the purpose intended. All but one of the belt buckles goes through a polishing process that produces either an exceptionally high gloss finish or a satin finish, depending on requirements. The majority of the buckles used are actually harness buckles and include the West End which was my personal choice.  I’ve worn the belt both in casual and semi-formal occasions for work. I’m sure it will continue to wear in well. I just hope my waist does the same.

Introducing | Luxire Custom Shirts

Luxire shirts is an online custom shirtmaker headed by Arnaud Rosseau, Parisian and founding partner of Avacci Telagio, the parent company of Luxire headquartered in New Jersey with factories in England and India.  I first learned of Luxire shirts through my friend Andy Gilchrist of Ask Andy About Clothes but it was not until Luxire contacted me directly that I had the opportunity to wear their product.

The initial contact from Luxire was polite and unassuming from a man or woman (I don’t know which) by the name of Ashish Arya.  From the initial contact until the post of this writing I have never had a customer service experience such as this one.  It seemed as though Ashish never slept and my emails were answered (by a breathing human being) within a matter of minutes; truly a delight in this day and age of automated and belated service.

Ashish explained the measuring process which is similar to many of the online shirtmakers offering both standard sizing and up to nine body measurements encompassing every aspect of the anatomy of a shirt including bicep, bottom hem, chest, waist, yoke, sleeve, length, cuff and neck.

Luxire offers over 100 fabric choices extending from standard 2 ply medium weight Oxford weaves to the “warzone” Oxford which can hold up under 240 plus washings, to superfine “zero gravity” 240s lightweight cotton from the Italian Zambiatti mill. We chose our shirt in a lightweight summer chambray in a deep ocean blue.

After selecting the fabric, there are a limited number of style selections available.  I’ve personally seen many more options available from other online MTO shirtmakers like Modern Tailor or Cottonwork, but more options are not always better options.  Luxire keeps it simple with color, cuff, back, pocket, and placket options.  None of the fancy interlinings and such.  Fortunately they do offer the option of lined or unlined collars and cuffs.  I’ve become accustomed to the soft collar option and a soft collar certainly wears lighter and more comfortable during the heat of the summer.

Luxire boasts a quick turnaround time and they hold true to it.  My shirt arrived in less than a week which is the fastest I’ve experienced.  Many times with fast service the quality can be subpar but I’ve found Luxire to be formidable in comparison to my other shirts which took several weeks to arrive.

Unfortunately, upon arrival the shirt did not fit.  It was too small, too tight, and to short all around.  The only thing that did fit was the collar.  I contacted Ashish post haste to state the problem.  Ashish was disappointed and offered to correct the issue right away.  We went back to the drawing board with the measurements and worked together to ensure the second shirt would be much improved.

To my dismay Luxire has halted selling the chambray fabric the second shirt they sent came in a mid weight Oxford which is their best seller.  I selected a spread collar with barrel cuffs, no placket, and MOP buttons.  Simple and easy.  This time the shipping took a few days longer but I chalk that up to the shirt having to be remade.  This time the fit was much improved.  Along with Luxire’s MTO experience they also offer more detailed services in which you can create your own shirt specific to your details.  I think next time I will widen the width on the yoke a bit and ask for a longer collar.  While the points of the collar meet the shirt nicely under my jacket, I’ve been experimenting with the idea of wearing longer collar points which can enhance and frame your face tenfold over the skimpy shrunken collars many men wear today.

Each Luxire shirt arrives with a collection of stainless steel collar stays, and price pints range from $59 for Oxfords and plain weaves to $199 for zero gravity featherweight cottons and are shipped within 5 business days.  While the selection of fabrics and styles are more limited than I’ve seen in the past, the customer service and willingness to correct mistakes at an affordable price point compared to off the rack shirting, Luxire makes a strong case to be the next addition to your shirt wardrobe.

Introducing Wardson & Co.

By now my readers should know my obsession with socks – make that good socks – and I’ve recently come across another provider of quality hosiery. Wardson and Co is an e-commerce shop with roots in Spain offering a small range of socks, wraps, and foulards AKA scarves. Edson Eguer is the proprietor of W & Co and is proud of the fact that he has been able to establish partnerships with Spanish manufactures with 150 years of experience to their credit.

The majority of W & Co products are made with natural materials of wool, linen, cotton and bamboo. The wraps are made up in a towel-matching look in solids and stripes with fringed edges which give them a casual feel. They would be best used as an extra covering or small blanket for the lady on a beach date or on a chilly summer evening. The foulards are 100% wool with frayed edges and are specially dyed for an individualized look. These would be best used at the turn of the fall on casual days or weekends.

Now we come to the matter at hand. The socks come in three offerings, for businesswinter and casual. I presume that the winter socks could be worn for business as well. The business and winter socks come in over-the-calf and mid lengths. My preference is obviously for over the calf. The business socks come with a wide rib or smooth finish. They are made up of 100% Scottish woven wool and only come in solid blue, black, gray or navy. In fact these are the only colorway offerings across the board.

The winter sock comes in 100% wool with a thin rib finish in over-the-calf or mid. The causal socks are a bit more technical with a mix of Merino wool, poly, elastane etc., and only come in mid or short ankle lengths, again in blue, gray, brown or black. Unfortunately, most of the socks I received I won’t be wearing until the cooler months as they are wools and darker colors which I’m avoiding at the moment during this heat wave. However, I’ll be sure to keep you posted on how they wash and wear with time.

Edson does have plans to make the jump from Europe to the States and offer his product on a full scale. However, these things take time and he wants to be sure he has his ducks in a row first. I don’t blame him.

– Grant Harris (Image Granted, LLC)

Review: Made-to-Measure Shirt from Solosso

I’ve had the pleasure of wearing several made-to-measure (MTM) shirts in my sartorial journey. My most recent experience came by the way of the online shirtmaker Solosso. Solosso is a Swiss owned Singaporean company (don’t ask me how that came about) founded in 2009. They take pride in creating environmentally friendly and socially responsible stylishly tailored custom dress shirts at an affordable price. I’ve taken the time to bring you the details.


The product
: Solosso shirts are made from premium two-ply Egyptian cottons and linens. All the other usual high-quality shirt features are there as well: pattern matching, mother-of-pearl buttons, single needle stitching, split yokes, removable stainless steel collar stays and gussets. Shirts are handmade in Bangkok, Thailand under the supervision of one single tailor for each garment.

Shirt Models
: Solosso offers four different shirt models. Business for the office, casual for the country, elegant for formal attire and design from scratch for those looking to make something of their own.

Pricing: Solosso shirts start at a mere $89 and go up to $149 depending on fabric selection.

Design: A slew of options beginning with four different collar selections from button down to the wide spread English cutaway. Two collar button options. Three cut options in slim, regular, or loose. Three placket options in regular, French, or hidden. Five chest pocket options. Four short sleeve options. Three cuff options from single button to double cuffs. Three cuff shape options in rounded, angled, or squared. Three pleat choices including none, box, and side. Three bottom cut choices in straight, rounded, or enhanced for extra tucking security. And last but not least a single or split yoke option which allows for easy pattern matching for striped or checked fabrics and molds to the wearer’s body over time.



Personalization: Three monogram script options with eight locations in a bevy of colors. Contrast collar and cuff options. Inner collar and cuff contrast color and design choices including flowers, polka dots, and solids.

Measurements: Customers have the option of measuring themselves, sending in measurements of their favorite shirt, choosing from standard sizing, or mailing their favorite shirt to have the sizing duplicated.

My shirt
: I choose to design my shirt from scratch in a white Twill cotton with a cutaway collar with one button, two button angled cuff, single French placket, no pocket, side pleats, enhanced tail, blocked monogram on the left stomach in light blue, blue flowers inside collar, solid light blue inside cuffs, with my own specific measurements.





The good: The ordering process was clean and simple with loads of personalization options and I like the fact that they offer linen shirting when most online shops don’t. My shirt arrived within two weeks which is an exceptional turnaround time. The presentation was great. A discrete box embossed with the Solosso logo. Packaged expertly with a personalized note and shiny stainless steel collar stays. Sturdy construction but a soft feel and light sheen will make it a joy to wear. The dressy fabric will make it office appropriate, while the contrast inner collar and cuffs will make it easy to transition to a night on the town.

The bad: It shrunk a bit. I washed this shirt intentionally to test the degree of shrinkage. After the fact it definitely felt like it shrunk more than what’s comfortable but after ironing and wearing it seemed OK. The collar was a bit big. This is common in custom shirting to allow for fabric shrinkage and physical expansion over time. However, this felt a bit more than normal.

Bottom line
: For a new company offering the fabrics and options they have and with the stellar customer service, turnaround time, price point and overall quality; I highly recommend Solosso for the gentlemen just introducing themselves to the MTM world of shirts.

– Grant Harris (Image Granted, LLC)