About Simon Crompton

Simon Crompton is a journalist and a style enthusiast living in London, who blogs at permanentstyle.blogspot.com. He has too many suits.

Men In Style: The Golden Age Of Fashion From Esquire


This book, which I mentioned in a recent post, is rather an inspiration.

You know how you flick through men’s magazines, hoping against hope that there will be an inspiring fashion shoot of suits, ties and shirts, demonstrating bold colour combinations you hadn’t considered, illustrating textbook use of pattern density and pushing the boundaries for contrast in texture? Styling that encompasses the rich past of menswear yet enervating it with effective modern interpretations?

Well I do. And outside an occasional spread in the Esquire Big Black Book, and slightly more frequent line-ups in The Rake, they are hard to find. Inspiration for me more often comes from runways, blogs like The Sartorialist and men I just see around on the street.

Which is ironic. Because the illustrations from Esquire that are collected in Men in Style are a composite of those inspirations: what men are wearing, slightly idealised, and slightly styled. No one sits quite that nonchalantly assembling his fishing rod, perched on the edge of the desk. But men are wearing wide peaked collars with single-breasted suits. And the pattern combination among check, herringbone, stripe and crocodile is certainly inspirational.

Esquire was some magazine, containing articles and stories by writers like Ernest Hemingway, Dashiell Hammett and John dos Passos. It was progressive, boldly printing a tale by a black author about a romantic multi-racial triangle – at readers’ request. And most importantly, it employed some great illustrators – particularly Laurence Fellows, Leslie Saalburg and Robert Goodman. Each had their strengths, but all could paint texture, cloth and drape extremely well. This was their primary skill – where modern fashion shoots focus on atmosphere at the expense of detail, these illustrations showed the shine of every button and the subtlety of every pattern.

Those were the good old days, you may say. No one would produce that kind of thing now. But when Esquire launched it was entirely unique on the newsstand. As Woody Hochswender says in his introduction, “the conventional wisdom was that men were not interested in fashion, at least not interested enough to be caught dead looking at it in a magazine.” So Arnold Gingrich, the founding editor, sought articles “substantial enough to deodorise the lavender whiff coming from the mere presence of fashion pages.”

Men’s fashion magazines today feature many articles. But you wouldn’t call many of them substantial. If I see another grooming piece telling me how to shave I’ll kill someone. Hemingway it ain’t.

The original Esquire was brave and different. And it launched as the world clambered out of global recession. Coincidence?

Cary Collection: Manhattan Treasure Trove


New Yorkers have mastered the art of living luxuriously in small spaces. Visiting Leonard Logsdail and Stephen Kempson in midtown last week was a good example: you step straight from the elevator into a compact yet very well-appointed tailoring studio, complete with armchairs, drink and racks of cloth. Alan Flusser’s small boutique is similar.

But the “bachelor flat/cum showrooms” of Thomas Cary (as he himself described it to me by email) are something else. As the pictures here amply demonstrate, the four small rooms on the upper-east side are stuffed from floor to ceiling with gentlemen’s collectibles and accoutrements.

From an old Dunhill walking stick with concealed blade to an Asprey catalogue featuring beautiful painted boards; from Christmas cards drawn by Cecil Beaton to vintage velvet slippers. And of course books, mountains and mountains of books. Regular customers include Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger, who have bought items both for display and design inspiration.


I had discovered Thomas while searching for a copy of Men in Style: The Golden Age of Fashion from Esquire by Woody Hochswender. Although only published in 1993 it is now out of print, and is the only collected edition of illustrations from Esquire or Apparel Arts as far as I know. Outside of this volume there are the original editions of both magazines, but they usually only contain a few plates and are much more expensive.

As I was to be in New York, and one seller on AbeBooks.com (Thomas) lived in the city, I thought it would be a good opportunity to check out the book. Little did I know the treasure trove I was discovering.


Thomas also owns several hardback editions of the original Apparel Arts, which are truly beautiful things. The adverts are just as attractive as the features – as those that have seen scanned copies on various style fora can attest. But I didn’t realise that they also include swatches of cloth tacked to the pages. Not big ones, but enough to give a prospective buyer a sense of the weight and handle. If only my pockets were deeper (the set of six is on for $4500).

I did end up with Men in Style though, which I was very happy with. Fans of classic style will be familiar with many of the illustrations, but it is lovely to have them collected and in one’s hands. And doubtless they will provide inspiration for many blog posts in the future.


[Pictures from Tina Barney’s portraits of the showrooms for Nest Magazine in Spring 2000.]

Leffot: A Sign Of US Shoe Trends


In New York this week, and I popped in to see my good friend Steven Taffel, founder of Leffot – far and away the best shoe store in the city. In fact probably anywhere in the US outside Hawaii (the competition there being Leather Soul).

Since Steven and I first met, it’s been interesting to see the growth of both our blogs. While they have very different natures (Steven’s being a commercial venture to create interest in the store), the aim of celebrating classic men’s shoes is the same. And I still find it astonishing that we are unique, two years down the road. There are so few good men’s style blogs outside the US, and so few good commercial blogs by shoe retailers anywhere.

In fact I always say that if I want to browse high-end shoes, the Leffot blog is the first place I go. There will always be more images of shoes from Aubercy, Corthay or Edward Green there than on the companies’ own sites.

One definite trend over the past two years has been the popularity of locally made products in the US, and how that has benefited American shoemakers. Leffot now carries Alden, Rider Boot, Sebago and Wolverine, and the US brands have become the most popular in the store. The Wolverine 1,000 mile shoe is incredibly popular and the first two shipments of the Exclusive JC Indy Boots  (below) from Alden sold out before they could reach the store.


The Wolverine isn’t exactly my style and I’ve never been a big fan of untextured brown cordovan, as the Indy Boots are made from; personally I’d go for the Rider Boot shown below – a made-to-order version in black with a red lining and sole. But you can’t argue with the sales figures.


The Indy Boot is an example of another trend too – of Leffot growing from a simple retailer to a creator of its own products. Long a popular route for made-to-order shoes from Rider, Gaziano & Girling and the like, the Exclusive JC Indy was a special commission for the store named after a customer, Mr JC. The blue Greenwich boot from Alden with ‘water lock’ waxed soles (below) was also an exclusive.

In the future, look out for Leffot commissioning its own exclusive designs, working with some US shoemakers and hopefully going on sale later this year.

(Pictured top: a made-to-order Wilfrid shoe from Corthay.)


The Rules And How To Break Them. No.7


Rule 7: Wear a white linen handkerchief with your suit

Of all the colours and materials available for a pocket handkerchief, white linen is considered the smartest and most formal. Why? Well it’s a question of two factors – complement and contrast.

A silk tie is definitely smarter than a wool or linen one. The shiny lustre of the silk and the way it contrasts with the rougher texture of the suit creates a pleasing distinction. So why isn’t the same true for handkerchiefs? Why isn’t silk smarter than linen?

Because the contrast between silk and wool has already been achieved with the tie. More silk would be too much. Instead, the white linen echoes the sharpness and matte texture of the suit – it complements it.

This is also the reason that a wool handkerchief would be too casual. Yes, it is matte and rough in texture like the suit, but it is not sharp like the suit. It only shares some of the characteristics.

So this is the rule. Or rather, this the reason that men of taste over the ages have most often worn a white linen handkerchief with their wool suit and silk tie. Why it has become convention. Complement and contrast.

So how to break the rule? Well, many men don’t wear a tie every day. If you don’t, there’s no silk to contrast with your suit – which is a pity. So wear a coloured silk handkerchief instead of a linen one when you are tie-less. This is my rule of thumb most of the time, though I will also wear linen when I feel smarter.

Another way that the rule is broken: tweed jackets. Men of style will often say they like silk handkerchiefs with their tweed jackets because of the contrast in texture. But they weren’t saying that about their suit were they? Then it was all about complementing. One reason may be that woollen or casual ties are often worn with tweed. Another may be that the sheer roughness of tweed needs greater silk to balance it. Certainly, a silk handkerchief is often worn when tie-less with tweed.

Having understood why the rule, or convention, is there, it is easy to find creative ways to make use of its wisdom without necessarily following it.

In this case, be aware that all decisions with accessories are about complement and contrast. That is why a white silk handkerchief with a tie always looks a little effete. And it is a good argument for wearing woollen ties or handkerchiefs with modern, shiny worsteds. Just not both, probably.

Consider complement and contrast.

First Fitting With Toby Luper


Having met Toby Luper of Hemingway Tailors, I was invited recently to try his bespoke service. Toby is rather cynical about the number of fittings Savile Row tailors insist on, and bet me he could get the fit right in one (forward) fitting.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I was impressed by the attention to detail Toby showed in analysing my body shape. That impression continued with the fitting this week.

The trousers were a good fit across the waist and shaped beautifully down my lower back, falling in one nice straight line from my bum to the floor. I have a rather pronounced seat, despite being slim, and this can be a hard thing for tailors to get right.

The seat itself was a little tight, as shown by the trouser pockets gaping about an inch. But that was the only alteration needed to the trousers – everything else was perfect.

On the jacket, Toby had discussed previously throwing the balance a little further back, so that there was room to cover by prominent shoulder blades and fall cleanly over my bum. The suit I had been wearing at our first session (an old one of Edward Tam’s) hollowed out a little between the blades and in the small of my back, meaning that the skirt kicked out.

After he had raised the back by around an inch and a half all the way across – from one armhole to the other – he did achieve that clean finish on the back.

There was no sleeve roll at this stage, which meant the sleevehead folded in under the shoulder pad. While this is a little off-putting, the finished effect could be seen by tautening the sleeve. The shoulders were also taken in an eighth of an inch.

The right sleeve appeared a little shorter than the left, so it was lengthened an inch and the left sleeve just half an inch. The waist fit perfectly.

Elsewhere the fronts were fine except for one small detail – it had been made up as a single breasted when I asked for a double. I say small detail because while this will necessitate replacing the fronts entirely, I have confidence in Toby’s attention to figuration and I’m sure the final product will be a very good fit.

It does mean we will require a second fitting; so Toby lost that bet, though on different grounds to those we were really exploring. The truth of Toby’s skill will be seen when the suit is complete and has been worn several times.

In the meantime his passion for hang and drape is undoubted. I’ve tried a few visiting tailors over the years and too many saw the fitting as a time for me to tell them what I disliked, rather than for them to analyse the minutiae of fit.

For those that are interested, I had a nice discussion with Holland & Sherry about their upcoming remnant sale – big reductions on a range of cloths, April 22-23 10am-4pm in the fitting rooms at 9/10 Savile Row. All welcome.