It’s funny the things you suddenly realise you don’t know. As I made clear on Bespokeme this week, I’m on the hunt for new scents, having tired slightly of my current signature. The one thing I have learned is that it’s a whole other world out there, with its blogging enthusiasts as passionate and as dedicated to detail as those of us enthralled by tailoring and style.

However, the first bit of basic knowledge I’ve now got under my belt is why one scent might last a day while others merely a few hours. As a smoker – no I haven’t managed to quit yet – this happens to be an obsession of mine. Additionally, I really don’t see the point of unburdening my wallet on expensive scents that last but a few hours.

There are certain anatomical factors that determine how long a scent lasts. They take to people’s skin type differently, so there is a certain amount of luck involved. You can weight the odds in your favour by layering products, such as using the same scented body wash, deodorant and moisturiser. Alternatively put some on a comb or brush and run it through your hair – it absorbs the moisture better than skin. The other factor is the strength of scent you pick, and this was the bit on which I was a little hazy – or rather, I had hitherto met with success purely by dumb luck.

I may be entirely alone in my ignorance but just in case, you have five types of scent; Aftershave, Cologne, Eau de Toilette (EDT), Eau de Parfum and Parfum. The name is a guide to the percentage of essential oils in a mixture, and the higher the concentration of essential oils, amongst other things, the longer the scent is likely to last.

Aftershave: This is the weakest of the bunch. Typically containing 1-3% concentration of oils you can expect it to last roughly 2-3 hours. It will often contain other ingredients, like Aloe, designed to help sooth the skin after shaving.

Cologne: Typically a 2-5% concentration these will last a little longer, but not much more and it is advised that you use them like an invigorating spray. They are also better for the skin after shaving than EDT’s and EDP’s. Now this is were it gets tricky; apparently many scents labelled Colognes are in fact Eau de Toilette’s; many but not all.

Eau de Toilette (EDT): Scents in this group apparently work best if you place them on pulse points. In fact owing to the higher concentration of oils some advise avoiding the face all together –especially after shaving. A concentration of 4-8% they should last 6-8 hours.

Eau de Parfum (EDP): Also works well if placed on the pulse points. Some advise spraying it into the air and stepping into the scent cloud. A concentration of 8-15%, sometimes higher, and will last all day –certainly that’s what I’ve found with Ormonde Man. These are quite hard to find and you pay a premium for them.

Parfum: In men’s scents this is like hens teeth and even harder to find than EDP’s.

What I have realised is the more I read the less I know – which I think is a song lyric. More work.

Don’t Polish With Too Much Water


Polishing leather shoes up to a brilliant shine is an extremely enjoyable pastime.

Nathan Brown over at Lodger always says that one of the problems with being an entrepreneur is that he never gets the time to sit down and polish his shoes any more. George Glasgow at Cleverley has complained to me of the same thing. Lodger’s store manager Clement has the opposite problem: he spends all his time polishing shoes but never his own, just the ones on Lodger’s shelves.

Personally I like to spend a good half an hour over a pair while the wife is watching something atrocious on the telly. It is meditative, engaging and rewarding.

I think it’s rewarding for two reasons. First, with no other piece of clothing does maintenance actually improve the item. It just puts brakes on a natural decline. Brushing your suit only returns it to the state it was that morning. The same with ironing a shirt or repairing a button. The best you can do is get back to zero.

Polishing your shoes is more akin to wearing a canvassed suit and feeling it mould to your body, or indeed wearing in the upper of a shoe. Except that, with polishing, greater effort is rewarded with greater results. Not only is it a positive activity, it is one you can control.

The second reason is the wonderful aesthetic experience. After you’ve applied the first layer of polish, and then returned with more polish and a touch of water, you can see each circle of your finger produce a swirl of brightness, getting more intense and reflective with each repetition. It is as if your fingers are coaxing out pure light.

But don’t apply too much water. Just a dab of it the first time and only occasional top-ups later on. The cloth remains damp for a while, and too much water can soak into the leather and make it hard to carry on polishing. This is particularly true on thinner or more flexible sections, such as the bridge and instep. The toe and heel, being more rigid and reinforced by internal pieces of leather, can take a lot more.

For each layer on the toe and heel (don’t do more than one layer elsewhere), carry on working in the polish until the surface is super-smooth, like glass. Until your little swirls make no perceptible difference to the surface. Then take a tiny bit more polish, and repeat. Don’t stop until you can tell the time on your watch in it.

‘Relocation relocation’ is on TV. I’m off to fetch my Cleverleys.

Finding A Sponge And Press


Most men destroy their suits by having them dry-cleaned too often. That much is uncontroversial. A high-street dry cleaner will stick your suit in a large drum, soak it with chemicals that spread the dirt around more than they get rid of it, and then put it in a big industrial press – which will stamp it flat, ruining any curve in the shoulders, chest canvas or lapels.

The chemicals wear away the cloth, shortening its life. The press forces a three-dimensional object to become 2D.

Much better is a sponge and press. This has to be done by hand and involves someone lightly sponging the suit before pressing it with a steam iron. The lining has to be done first, and makes a surprising difference to how comfortable the suit is. Then the pockets. Finally the outside is pressed – in small sections and rolling the lapels, chest and shoulders. A wooden mould is often used in the sleeve to retain its shape.

This is what a Savile Row tailor will do for its clients every few months, often as part of the service. It can make a suit look and feel like new.

For some gentlemen, this is all that is ever required. I remember David Gale at Turnbull & Asser telling me with great animation that “first, you only ever need a sponge-and-press, and second, it should always be free”.

For most, dry cleaning is still required, it just has to be kept to a minimum. Some have everything dry cleaned once a year, before it goes into storage for the season. Others keep it for extreme situations, such as a bad stain. I try to dry clean as little as I can – and I don’t feel it’s required that often when the suits are in consistent rotation.

But they could certainly do with a regular sponge and press. Which is where we hit a snag. There are very few, if any, dry cleaners with a spotless (sorry) reputation for hand pressing. I’ve had the shape of more than one suit ruined by a supposedly high-end cleaner.

So I’m conducting an experiment. I am collecting recommendations for companies, individuals and dry cleaners that offer a sponge and press, and trialling each one in turn. (Tell me if you have a recommendation.)

This week I tried Stephen Haughton, a professional valet who spends most of his time working with VIP clients. He has their keys, takes their suits (and shoes) when they’re away and returns them before the client returns. Some have so many they wouldn’t notice if the suits weren’t returned.

Stephen sponged and pressed a grey flannel suit of mine and returned it within a couple of days. I then took it to my tailor to get their verdict on the job – which was very good. The shape was excellent and, for want of a better phrase, it felt like new. It did.

The service cost £19.95. That includes securing any loose buttons and threads. If it was heavily soiled, ripped or had silk lapels it would have been £25.

Stephen does pick up from businesses as well as people’s homes, and has worked with tailors in the past including Kilgour and Welsh & Jeffries. If I use him in the future, I will probably leave a few suits at Graham Browne and have him pick them up from there. Stephen can be contacted at: stephenhaughton at aol dot com.

Next time I’ll give an old suit to a ‘good’ dry cleaner.

John Lobb: When You Polish Suede

Store managers see some funny things. For every customer that has saved up for six months to afford his first pair of luxury shoes, there is one that orders three more pairs of the black oxfords he already owns. The first will take half an hour of advice and reassurance. The second wants to be in and out in 10 minutes.

It is fair to say that the second group is also more likely to know less about their shoes, particularly as regards maintenance. Andreas Kuschel, store manager of John Lobb (Paris) on London’s Jermyn Street, has seen quite a few odd requests along these lines. But the best was probably the gentleman that brought in a pair of suede Lobbs that he had tried to polish. He looked bemused. Why wouldn’t you try and polish suede?

Kuschel deals with oily stains that customers get on their shoes all the time – salad dressing, ink, even oil itself. But this was something different. “I took them down to the repairs department and told them to try everything they could,” he says. “There was nothing to lose really, so they could really experiment.”

Eventually, the boffins found a solution. An oil-based eraser, much like the lighter one used to rub away scuffs or stains on Nubuck, was found to do the job. “I was amazed, they were pretty much as good as new,” says Kuschel.

Another discovery I made during a recent conversation with Andreas was that Lobb will insert tongue pads into your shoes for a charge of £30. As regular readers will be aware, I have a particular problem with shoes becoming too big over time as the leather stretches, as my low instep means that after a year or so the shoes completely lace-up and lose grip. Given that Lobb uses “one the best upper-repairers in the country” to unstitch the tongue, insert a pad and sew it back up again – so the addition is almost invisible – I think £30 is pretty good. It’s a much better solution than an insole.

In other Lobb-related developments, the company has just launched its new overshoes or galoshes, referred to as the Balmoral (traditionally a shoe that has that same long, horizontal stitch down the side of the shoe). Although many shops sell overshoes, and similar ones to these were previously available from Swims (which made the Lobb designs), this model is designed to particularly fit the Lobb lasts and comes in an attractive Lobb yellow.


The Virtues of Wardrobe Maintenance

I recently wrote a rather lengthy article for my blog focusing on my belief that when times aren’t so good, people tend to go for the classics. When every cent counts, a wardrobe based on longevity and timeless style often wins out over flash and of-the-moment fashion.

Focusing on the classics, like a well cut single-breasted grey suit, is a smart investment that will last for years and fit the bill for most any business situation.

But investing in classic suits, solid dress shirts, dressy chinos and quality footwear is only half the battle. The other half is properly looking after your pricey investments. Keeping your clothes in great shape takes a little work but that effort will keep everything in runway shape for a long time.

Though the natural aging of fabric and leather and wearing down of cuffs and elbows are normal, it should be held off as long as possible. Doing so allows your possessions to keep their appeal while still developing the character that makes you want to keep them around for years to come.

Here are a few basics that will help your cherished clothes last longer while still looking great.

Hang up you clothing and invest in sturdy wood hangers. Using a solid and well sized hanger (suit hangers for suits, slimmer hangers for shirts) will add years to your clothing and help protect your garments from snags, wrinkles and stains. When you get home after a long day at work, change right away and either hang up your work clothes or toss them in the laundry/dry cleaning bin. Make a point to keep you closet in order too, so no crowding. Garments need room to breathe and space to air out. In most cases, wrinkles will work themselves out in between wearings. An impromptu steaming can help too – just hang your day’s outfit next to the shower.

Most suits and sport coats only need to be dry-cleaned once a year. Delicate fabrics and linens may need more attention, but on the whole brushing your garments with a clothing brush will remove most dust and dirt. Spot cleaning can address minor stains and help avoid unnecessary trips to the cleaners. If your suit is looking a little too lived in, go ahead and take it in for a pressing only. It will look refreshed without being unnecessarily exposed to damaging dry cleaning chemicals.

Though some people insist on dry cleaning their dress shirts, I prefer to launder them at home. When it comes to home laundering, cold water is usually best but always look for the care tag first. Iron on a slightly cooler setting and lay off the starch. If you are still compelled to use it, starch only those areas that can get a little unruly, like the cuffs, collars and plackets. If you regularly send your shirts off to the cleaners, pass on the starch there as well. Commercial presses do a fine job of working out wrinkles without the need for extra chemicals.

Nowhere else does the concept of “investment clothing” hold forth than with footwear. A good pair of quality business shoes can easily cost several hundred dollars. Custom shoes quickly reach into the thousands. Though a sharp hit up front, good shoes will always being in style and when properly cared for, can last a lifetime. Though they may seem an extravagance, custom shoes will also help keep your feet healthy, so it behooves you to keep them in top notch shape.

In addition to protecting your dress shoes’ leather by keeping them polished, make sure to always use shoe trees. There are many variations, but the best are full-sized and made from untreated cedar. The shoe tree will absorb moisture and help maintain your shoe’s shape. Fancy varnished trees are fine too – the kind with heavy brass knobs or pull rings – in fact I’m looking for some myself.

Be careful to not overuse your good shoes. Don’t wear the same pair day after day; they need to rest and dry out. At the end of the day, give your shoes a quick brush down, insert the trees, and give them a few days off. Should you get stuck in a rainstorm or have to tramp through snow, do not try to dry out your shoes quickly; it can permanently damage your fine footwear. Stuff them with newspaper, set them in a room-temperature place and leave them alone. Change the paper if it gets damp but don’t rush the process. Also, make sure to brush off road salts or dirt immediately. Once the leather has air dried, insert your shoes trees and give them a good polish and waxing to recondition the leather.

I don’t view this as work; quite the opposite in fact. To me, looking after my clothes is a pleasure and since I put real thought into my wardrobe, taking care of it all is a happy ritual.