Bringing Sexy Back

I recently read some clickbait nonsense on Buzzfeed. It was so provocatively titled that it reminded me of those appalling articles that are consistently recycled in women’s magazines, promising the reader the priceless secrets to “younger looking skin”, “endless love”, “indestructible self-confidence” and “mind-blowing sex.”

This particular title offered “25 suit hacks that will make any man look instantly sexy.”

Yes, I added the emphasis. I did so because the promise is not only wildly optimistic, it’s also inaccurate and utterly misleading. Further investigation of these hacks also reveals that they are not, for the most part, ‘hacks’ – which are meant to be lesser-known, efficiency-gaining strategies and peculiar techniques – but simply playschool guidance on how to put on clothes properly.

“Oh for crying out loud” I hear you yawn, “It’s Buzzfeed, man!”

That it may be, but in my view, it’s posts like these that infest social media and propagate so-called ‘knowledge’ in place of genuine advice that is less about ‘hacking’, flattery and overpromising and more about how one might work within the constraints of what is real, what is possible and what is not.

Besides, a lot of the advice is just plain wrong.

Exhibit A is Suit Hack 5; “Pinstripes on a suit should be subtle, unless you are going for the Halloween mobster look.”

Right. I imagine Michael Brown (pictured above) from Chittleborough & Morgan only wears his in late October anyway.

Exhibit B is the recommendation of Windsor knots (vile) and Exhibit C is recommending that braces be considered “if you don’t feel like wearing a belt” – and not the other way around.

However, the big problem with this shopping list of ‘hacks’ is that it has nothing to do with making ‘any’ man ‘instantly’ sexier; just how is precisely measuring the width of the tie to match the width of the lapel sexy?

Sexiness is a state of mind, but it’s also a state of body. To a much smaller extent, it’s a state of dress. It’s unfortunate, but if you don’t feel sexy, a suit isn’t going to magically change you, no matter how expensive and skilled a tailor you visit.

And dispensing advice regarding age-old customs of wearing tailoring – buttoning traditions, sleeve length, lapel width – is going to help even less.

For one thing, suits aren’t designed to be sexy. I remember a delicious comment by a fellow subject of the book I Am Dandy, Sean Crowley that decried how everything now was about ‘sexing’ things up. As a fan of traditional, interwar menswear – particularly heavy tweed suits – Sean is determined to keep his wardrobe ‘unsexy.’

However, it is possible to look sexy in a suit, it just has a lot less to do with the fusty customs of formal menswear.

Your body fills your suit – so keep it close to a size and shape you admire

It’s really very simple. If you want to look sexier in a suit, the first step is getting in shape. A suit isn’t a pair of Spanx, it’s not going to hide very much. If you don’t feel sexy out of a suit, chances are you won’t feel sexy in it. It’s possible, even probable, that you look sexier than you feel, but at the end of the day, suits look far better on a healthy man who is in fine physical fettle. It’s hard work, not a hack. Don’t expect miracles.

Go shopping with a girl (or man) who doesn’t find you attractive

This is more of a hack, but it actually works. If you’re clueless about clothing, and want to try on some suits that make you look better in front of someone you find attractive, take out a friend (not a partner) who has no emotional stake in your comfort and happiness beyond friendly familiarity. They’ll be honest with you. It helps if they are a bit of a dresser themselves or they like sharply dressed men. The main thing is that they will not be advising on the minutiae and technical side of the suit but the impression and image it creates; this is where you will find sexiness.

Go sockless in the summertime

Socks are about as sexy as a typewriter. They’re practically unavoidable in the chillier months, but you really don’t need to wear them when it’s 30 degrees outside, even with a suit. If you ensure your summer suits have tapered trousers and finish above your shoes (preferably loafers) with no break, a glimpse of tanned ankle strongly conveys sexuality; it looks breezy and confident and removes any element of stiffness that the suit may create.

Slim trousers and slimmer, shorter jackets

There’s a reason why Tom Ford wants Daniel Craig to hulk out of his suits. Full length suit jackets and wide-leg trousers might be elegant and traditional but they hide almost every element of sexual appeal. If you are attempting to convey greater sexuality with your outfit, go for a slightly tighter fit around the waist, shoulders and legs.

Make sure this isn’t laughably slim; Craig’s jackets are perilously close to looking absurd, so ensure that you can breathe and button the top button without much trouble. Slim down the sleeves if you can, too and wear softer shoulders; they look much more sensual than heavily padded ones.

When the jacket is slightly shorter, you look a bit taller and, some say, younger. Just make sure that your rump is sufficiently covered.

The trouser seat should be comfortable, but try not to go for the whole two-pleat, big-top balloon; slim trousers show your leg shape, which connects the look to your body.

Avoid too much frill

This is tricky to describe, but essentially it’s about crafting a look that is elegant but not overly frilly. I have often experimented in the past with interestingly tied silk scarves, very puffy pocket squares or fussy colour and pattern combinations but this tends to distract from the most obvious window of sexuality: your face. As soon as it starts to look like a bit of a costume, clownishness starts to creep in and you might as well be wearing a big red wig; you may appear ‘cute’ or even, dare I say it, ‘adorable’ but never sexy.


Taliare London

Taliare: From the Latin verb ‘to cut’ and the origin of the word tailor

If you’ve read any of my past articles here or on BespokeMe you might recall me mentioning Erlend Norby.

A lovely guy, originally from Norway, over the years we’ve become good friends and often share a few pints together while discussing the finer points of tailoring. Erlend first studied in Paris as a modelist – someone who cuts and creates a suit. Erlend then went to work as a cutter on Savile Row where he remained for a number of years.

When I met him and first introduced him to readers he had just taken over running my shirt maker Stephan Shirts. While there he began a line of made-to-measure suiting, which was great value and I tested – you can read the reviews here, part 2, part 3 and part 4. At the time I called his service made-to-measure plus. The reason was that Erlend provided a service which went beyond the norm. It wasn’t quite bespoke but very close. Erlend cut the pattern but he didn’t actually make the suits up himself, at that time. But it meant that for just under £600 you got a perfectly cut suit which in reality – whatever other pontificators tell you about hand work etc. – is really the only bit that matters in having a suit made. Without a great pattern cutter able to perfectly translate the curves of your anatomy into a suit you’ve really got nothing – however much hand work, bench sitting or rolls of expensive cloth you employ.

To cut a long story short (too late!), Erlend has now left Stephan Haroutunian Shirts to establish London’s newest bespoke tailoring house, offering his excellent made-to-measure service and a full bespoke service – made here in London.

Erlend told me of his plans last year and it’s great to see a good man’s plans come to fruition. I have to say he’s done a wonderful job and found the perfect little shop in Marylebone, close to some great independent restaurants and bars.

Erlend has also expanded his offering considerably. He still has his basic made-to-measure suits but has now added a made-to-measure with a full floating canvas for £795, not just the ¾ floating for £595 as before. Finally there is a full bespoke service for £2000. In addition to the suits, and building on recent experience, he offers made-to-measure and even bespoke shirts.

With a mix of prices suitable to most pockets and no compromises on the standard this is a great new venture which will please existing customers like myself and delight those new to tailoring. Erlend’s a great guy and nothing is too much trouble. So if you’re contemplating a voyage into tailored clothing – a daunting prospect at first – I suggest a visit to London’s newest tailoring house.


5 Seymour Place




Bulldog & Wasp Launch Event

Dear Men’s Flair Reader,

All work and no play makes…you know the rest.

To celebrate the official launch of my clothing label, Bulldog & Wasp, I’d be delighted if you could join me on Thursday 12th March for an evening of fine clothing, good conversation and discovery.

During the course of the evening not only will you get a chance to see and purchase some of Bulldog & Wasp’s fine shirts and ties (at a 10% discount on the night); we will be hosted by London’s newest tailor, Taliare, who will be showing their new spring summer fabric samples for 2015 from Holland and Sherry. They have agreed to offer a 10% discount on any orders using Holland and Sherry cloth. I’ve also arranged for the local specialist perfumery, Les Senteurs, to host an introduction to the world of scent. They will also be offering a special 10% discount on purchases. All that and you’ll discover a street full of great independent bars, pubs and restaurants. What more could you ask for from a Thursday evening? It promises to be a fun evening and you’ll get to drink my booze. Please brings partners, friends and colleagues.

Now, I know that many Men’s Flair readers live outside of London, indeed, they live all over the world. But for those that can’t make it, and I’m sorry for that, we will be offering a 10% discount on Bulldog & Wasp shirts and ties from Thursday 12th until midnight Sunday 15th March so that everybody can share a little in the good times.

Time & Date: Thursday 12th March, from 7pm.

Location: Taliare, 5 Seymour Place, London, W1H 5BA. Map

I hope you will be able to join us and I look forward to meeting you.

Best wishes,


Bulldog & Wasp

Sartorial Skiing

Winter sports are without doubt the most glamorous thing about the colder months.

When your nose is running, and your pasty, dry skin is occasionally coloured beet red by a cruel northerly wind, the lapping water, linen shirts, Ray Bans, and Negronis of a glamorous July seem as far away as those brightly twinkling winter stars.

Christmas and the New Year yield some champagne-fuelled merriment and excuse for sartorial grandiloquence, but once January aggressively greys out the bright colours of the festive season, glamour recedes and sickness and quiet, indoor living take hold.

But then it comes: “Fancy some skiing?”

Instantly, the mind drifts to the scenery of the mountains, a montage of James Bond, spectacular views, hot tubs, tumblers of whisky and the iridescent mystique of the wonderful, but truly strange, sport of downhill skiing.

It’s not just Bond who goes skiing.

What yachts are to August, chalets are to February. The international jet-set jets down – literally, in their own jets – as near to the pistes as they can manage and fire up the Range Rovers to Verbier, Courcheval and St Moritz.

Of course, there is the other side to skiing; vomit stained salopettes, shots of pear vodka, screaming ski schools and high-altitude hangovers, but much like the burnt out Brits on Benidorm’s beaches; beer cans often follow where champagne leads.

And sadly, when it comes to style, it seems that beer has the greatest influence. I must admit when I last went skiing, I wasn’t particularly critical of the sartorial side of things. There were these ‘things’ you had to wear; ski jackets, salopettes, ski goggles. It wasn’t a fashion show, it was survival; you were trying not to freeze to death, trying desperately not to break your neck.

But a good deal of time has passed. And in the cold light of a London winter it’s plain to see that skiing, glamorous as it might be, is sartorially repugnant.

It’s not just the swish-swish of Gore-Tex shell. Most of the attire, and indeed the brands, associated with skiing recall the frosted-tipped Nineties; meaningless technical terms, sand-coloured Timberland boots, beanies and Oakley sunglasses.

Of course, there are exceptions to this nonsense. It’s all too apparent now that Remo Ruffini’s investment in and continual development of Moncler aimed to conquer all that was wrong with winter sports back in the early Noughties – and take advantage of large swathes of newly rich Russians, booting up in the Alps glamour spots.

Moncler’s aesthetic takes advantage of its own heritage, and that of downhill skiing. When health and safety were two entirely separate words in the English dictionary, ski boots were made of leather and most ‘ski trousers’ had pleats in them, the alpine look was considerably different.

Fair Isle sweaters, chunky roll necks and lambskin mittens presented a tasteful, see-you-back-at-the-lodge casualness to winter sports – believe it or not, it was possible to make it down the mountain without gear that makes you look like you’re about to attempt a moon-landing.

The bizarrely shiny, down-filled jackets started creeping in by the 1960s – a retro aesthetic that Moncler milks to kingdom come – and by the 1970s, the preppy colours and alpine knits had given way to yellow all-in-one ski suits. The less said about the 1980s ski fashions the better (although just to mention that many designs looked like something out of an Empire of the Sun video) and in the early 1990s, a ski outfit looked like a shell suit made out of sherbet candy.

Then, along with the advent of snowboarding, came the straggly haired potheads – and the ‘surfer dude’ brands.

There’s no getting around it, skiwear – like most outdoor wear – is very ugly.

Few aesthetically motivated brands have taken on the challenge of producing gear that is both practical and attractive. One of the only attractive down ski jackets I could find was at Uniqlo; I laugh in the mirror every time I don a pair of salopettes. Where is the design? Where is the elegance? It’s bizarre for a sport classed as one of the most popular for High Net Worth individuals that there aren’t more brands clamoring for the attention of their wallets.

Canada Goose, Moncler and another brand Bogner are the unchallenged kings of the slopes because they embody the sleek, simple chic that so many of the most elegant skiers seek. And in truth, only the latter two brands can claim to have revived a lot of the past glamour of the sport.


Sebastian Ward Review

It’s fair to say that shirts are an addiction of mine.

Some sartorialists choose footwear as their vice, others nearly bankrupt themselves through repeated visits to Savile Row. I have even known one man to be utterly besotted with socks, so much so that he had an entire six drawer chest full of them.

I am pretty attached to ties, I must admit. But shirts are a greater extravagance. I always flit from selecting basic whites and blues – using utility as an excuse – to chasing after French collars, unusual stripes, greens, yellows and pinks.

My collection now has its own, overstuffed cupboard and, due to the hanging arrangements, it is nearly impossible to keep them neatly maintained; a good once over with an iron is always required of a morning.

I was introduced to the pleasures of shirts by my father, who has himself, a formidable collection. He emphasizes the important facets of fine shirting, paying particular attention to collars. He often points out ‘weak collars’ of newsreaders or politicians; curving at the tips, asymmetrical, poor stages for fine tie knots. I have consequently paid enormous attention to collars, ensuring they are starched, stiffened and substantial.

The latter word is certainly one I would use to describe the collar on a Sebastian Ward shirt. There’s something superior and UHNW about this collar, something Dragon’s Den-like. I put it on and instantly felt I was just about to be nasty to someone about their radical idea for dog onesies.

Sebastian Ward is a classic story in modern menswear: a brand borne of frustration.

It was founded by Christopher Berry, a Manhattanite raised the Ivy way, who originally experimented with his design for the perfect shirt on a restored Singer sewing machine. Having encountered kindred spirits, Konrad and Alika, who were sympathetic with his frustrations, they set about producing a design that would combat the mass of ready to wear shirts that are either “too tight-fitting…too short at the tail…or the collars too flimsy.”

The shirt itself is somewhat anti-slim fit. As Christopher states, “It’s ridiculous to believe that a tight and skimpy shirt is going to perform comfortably in our current day and age. Yet, over the years, men have been tricked into thinking that ‘tighter fit’ is synonymous with ‘better fit.’ As a result, functionality and mobility are often limited in modern dress shirts.”

Indeed, everything about the Sebastian Ward shirt speaks of its founder’s frustration with other shirts providing function or form – but not both. The 3.1mm Mother of Pearl buttons are milled to be easy to manipulate through a button hole; the tail is a traditional length to sufficient for the ‘tuck’ when seated; the sleeve length is generous for comfort but the cuff slim.

Like many premium shirt brands, Sebastian Ward use the mighty Lancastrian Thomas Mason’s cotton, which is deliciously smooth. With it’s comfortable fit and high, aristocratic collar band, it feels like a combination of an 18th century lawn shirt and a modern Italian.

If I had to pick a standout feature of this shirt, it would be the collar. For one thing, it’s huge, but not comically so. Secondly, it has a beautiful roll that is majestic with or without a tie.

At $175, this shirt isn’t cheap but then it isn’t designed to be. This is a small brand that caters for a discerning group of men who believe that elegance and comfort should come in the same package. As Christopher states; “The reality remains that athletic men are seeking a flattering, yet practical fit that will reliably stand up to their daily physical requirements.” Having ripped the seams on a shirt with the attractive but impractical description of ‘Extra Slim Fit’, I think I know what he means.