Be A Rogue Like The Big Bad Wolf

cinderella-and-other-storieMy two-year-old daughter has a book called Cinderella and Other Stories, by Stephen Tucker and Nick Sharratt. Reading it to her yesterday, I noticed that Sharratt (the illustrator) dresses the Big Bad Wolf in a purple suit with yellow windowpane check, yellow bowtie and tan-and-cream spectator shoes. The implication, whether conscious or not on Sharratt’s part, is that this is a figure of ill repute. Only the roguish dress in such an ostentatious way.

That feeling about loud clothes can be seen throughout the development of menswear. The Duke of Windsor, when Prince of Wales, favoured checks more than his contemporaries (hence his popularisation of a variation on the glen plaid) and took to wearing spectator shoes. The latter were deemed by his father, George V, to be the footwear of a bounder and a cad.

His father, Edward VII, also pioneered clothing that was stronger as well as more comfortable. He favoured tweed suits for the races, rather than formal daywear, and took to wearing velvet jackets as well. Interestingly, though, Edward VII quickly dropped the latter when they were popularised by Oscar Wilde and became associated with homosexuality. The Duke of Windsor, by contrast, continued to wear suede shoes despite their associations with homosexuality.

Bounders, cads, rakes and rogues are often those that have stepped outside society’s ideas on respectability. This is communicated through clothes as much as through their actions or the company they keep. Indeed the nickname for suede shoes used to be brothel creepers, suggesting one place these men liked to hang out. And the American term for spectators is co-respondents, after a figure in an infamous divorce case.

So there has always been this association between loud clothes and roguish characters. (Golf clothes and the ‘go-to-hell’ leisure wear of American upper castes might be seen as a deliberate casting off of respectability for a certain period.)

One thing I find interesting is that throughout this history of innovation, the trend towards comfort has always been accompanied by one of personal expression. Colours, patterns and contrast are a deliberate step outside the norm in order to become more individual.

What’s depressing about menswear today is that the two trends have become divorced. Comfort has lost its twin, expression. Jeans, chinos and trainers are not the result of any individuality. A suit is more individual in most parts of the US or UK.

Perhaps not a purple checked suit. But men need to be a little more rakish now and again.

Fishy And Polo: A Picture Update

I haven’t been good at posting pictures recently, so here’s an attempt to make up for it. Here we have images of the polo coat that has been documented in detail over the past few months, but of which I never posted a final image, and of the ‘fishy’ suit I commissioned most recently from Graham Browne. This was my first suit with braces (so with a fish-tail back) as well as featuring a fish-mouth lapel.

The fish-mouth lapel has a narrower gorge (the gap between lapel and collar), with the lapel angling upwards like a peak model but at neither the same angle nor to the same length. It is seen as a nice compromise between a notch and peak, though glancing around the various off-the-peg suits out there you will notice there are many variations on the notch, both in size and angle.


There are essentially two variables – the angle of the seam between lapel and collar, and the size of the gorge. If the seam is more horizontal, the lapel is flatter and sticks out more, achieving some of the broadening effects of a peak. Many modern suits give the impression of a higher gorge simply by changing the angle of the seam. If the size of the gorge is bigger, both collar and lapel are pushed apart. This dates a suit from the 1980s as much as the height of the gorge.

Of course, the notch lapel is defined by the angle of the seam continuing in a straight line along the lapel. A peak and fish-mouth lapel both angle upwards, to a greater or lesser extent.


I like the braces – the trousers certainly hang better at the front and the waist is larger and more comfortable. However, I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to having something around my shoulders. The next commission (Minnis mid-grey flannel with patch pockets) will switch back to normal trousers. And this may even be altered to that style eventually.


I couldn’t be happier with the polo coat, though I am reconsidering the choice not to have turn-back cuffs. The style probably suits it better, but the camelhair is so heavy that I feel tired just at the thought of it.


The back of the coat, which featured so heavily in the pieces on its design and construction, is shown here in two different settings – mid and tight. As I am wearing a suit and cardigan underneath, the tight setting (close-up shot) is a little too tight for easy movement here. It would be used if I were just wearing a sweater.


Thanks to Dan ‘the trews’ for photography

A Jewel In Vienna: Wilhelm Jungmann Und Neffe


A recent trip to Vienna for a Central & Eastern Europe Finance Forum (don’t ask) was enlivened by the discovery of Wilhelm Jungmann und Neffe. A men’s outfitter of the first order, it has been supplying accessories, cloth and tailoring services to central European gentlemen for over 125 years.

I didn’t hold out much hope when I strode out from the Hilton Vienna into the clear, crisp sunshine. A break from lawyers, some nice architecture and perhaps a quick coffee in a square-side café. Any retail interest would likely be restricted to small shops stocking Zegna suits, Falke socks and re-branded Drake’s ties.

The problem with living in London is that there’s precious little you can’t buy there. Paris is good, there’s always discoveries to be made in Milan, Naples or Rome; but that’s about it in Europe. Vienna, at first, seemed to be living up to my expectations – one shop with nothing of any quality, another with some Pantherella socks on sale.

Then, in the grand setting of Albertina platz, I saw the windows of Wilhelm Jungmann und Neffe. Good window displays are always a welcome sign. Someone inside clearly has a sense of colour, as well as taste. Among my favourites are Bergdorf Goodman, Turnbull & Asser and – surprisingly the most consistent for colour – Hackett. Now I’ll add WJN to the list.

Yellow umbrellas with tan wooden handles. Camel-coloured jackets and cashmere ties in subtle brown checks. Suitings in pale grey with delicately placed gold paisley handkerchiefs. A themed and inspiring window – and there were three more.


WJN is best known locally for its fabrics, which are imported from England, Italy and locally in Austria. Several bespoke tailors operating in Prague, Bratislava and Budapest visit the shop in order to cater to clients, rather than there being a dedicated tailor on site.

But I was most taken with the accessories. The cashmere scarves and shawls came in 15-20 colours and a similar number of patterns, from the basic to the funky. The staff were particularly proud of two recent acquisitions – one Italian double-sided scarf picked up in Pitti and another design commissioned from some locally in Austria.


Most of all, this is a personally edited and locally sourced collection, which is what makes it worth visiting for someone from London, Milan or Paris. The madder ties, for example, are made by a company just outside Vienna. The store manager said it was the only one still making madder outside England.

I didn’t buy one of those ties and I regret it now. Perhaps I’ll find another CEE Finance Forum.

Where The Brace Buttons Should Be

I recently received my first braced suit. That is, one designed to be worn with braces, featuring a high waist and fish-tail back.

When I first wore the suit it seemed that the front two pairs of buttons were a little too far round to the side. They were more on my hip than under my stomach, with the consequence that the braces felt like they would fall off my shoulder constantly. But then I’ve never worn braces before, so I didn’t know whether that was normal.

braces-drakesAfter a day viewing collections, and so trying on quite a few suits, I decided something had to be wrong. Every time I took off my jacket one or the other of the braces would slip off and have to be re-hung. Not exactly elegant.

Returning to my tailor, he explained that there were two standard settings for the buttons position. One, most often used in the military, is to have the rear of the two buttons sitting on the side seam of the trousers. This ensures that seam, often decorated on military dress trousers and so a point of focus, stays taut and straight.

The second is to have the foremost of the two buttons sitting on the crease in the front of the trousers, keeping that taut at the slight expense of the side seam. This is required on pleated trousers, where the way that the pleats hang is key. On flat-fronted trousers it matters less, especially as few men these days bother to maintain the crease.

On both options the distance between the buttons in a pair is the same. And as it is the rear button that sits on the side seam in one option and the front button that secures the pleat in the other, the difference between the two positions is not great. But it is noticeable.

The other advantage of the first position is that the braces cannot be seen when a man’s jacket is open. Unless he has his hands in his pockets and pushes the foreparts way back, the braces remain hidden. It was for this reason that my tailor went with the first position, as I had never worn braces before and seemed a little self-conscious about it.

He forgot to ask me what I preferred, though, or to take into account my sloping shoulders. The latter means my braces need a little more purchase than the average man.

So the buttons were moved. And now I know the next time I order a braced suit.

[Pictured, the braces in question, from Drake’s.]

Bespoke Shoes At Cleverley: Part 2


In the first part of this series, I described the measuring process for having a first pair of bespoke shoes made at GJ Cleverley. The second step, though of course it takes place in the same session, is deciding which material and model of shoe you would like.

Unless a client wants something very extraordinary, the design options are presented around the racks of Cleverley’s ready-to-wear and semi-bespoke shoes. Everything from a whole cut to a toe cap to a wing tip (not to mention casual, monk or derby), with every fraction of brogue in between. Here a quarter brogue is a toe cap with brogueing on almost every seam, but no medallion on the toe. A medallion makes it a half brogue and a wing-tip into a full brogue.

Clients of George Glasgow’s at Cleverley have even requested one or two thistles to be brogued onto the heel of the shoe in the past, in order to make it more individual. But that’s a lot of holes in one shoe.

Most important in designing a brogue is to keep the patterns balanced. Don’t insist on broguing on the vamp and the counters, perhaps with a thistle, yet nothing across the toe.

I already knew I was going with a deep-brown shoe, as I wear that colour more than black and I want these shoes to be as adaptable as possible. My other pair of dark-brown shoes are half brogues, so this design will be cleaner.

I asked Mr Glasgow if he could think of any combination of lines, medallions and brogued seams that have never been commissioned before. (These are bespoke shoes after all.) He looked through the window briefly, as if running each permutation through his head. Then said no.

In the end I went for a clean toe and one brogued seam, running below the laces and finishing at the welt just in the middle of the waist. As you would have on a brogue, but without any decoration at toe or heel. It was the same design as a Cleverley balmoral on display, except with the seam pulled down half way. I’ve never been a fan of balmoral shoes (boots are a different story) – the horizontal line lacks movement to my eye.


Next, the choice of leather. Two bunches “of the brown family” were brought out, including kudu (as a general terrm for deer), hogskin and crocodile, as well as calf in a variety of grains. There were two dark browns, one of them cordovan. While I’ve never had cordovan shoes, Mr Glasgow was against the choice, suggesting that ungrained cordovan can look a little plastic and believing its thickness was more suited to country shoes.


On to soles. How thick do I want the sole? I have no idea – just like I had no idea how long the rise was on my trousers until I had bespoke suits made. Here having models on display is crucial. I pointed and George nodded.

The size of the welt? It can be cut very tight against the upper, leave a little room or be wide enough that it is invisible from a top-view, visible elsewhere. I went for the latter. Apparently people also vary the size of the welt around the shoe, with some preferring it to jut out slightly more at the toe – perhaps to give an impression of length. I skipped that.

Then finally there is the lining. Cleverley has quite a selection of different colours and this strikes me as a nice way to make a bespoke shoe your own, while keeping the outside conservative. I’ve never been a fan of bright suit linings, but then no one will see the inside of your shoes. Except your wife and the airport security guard.

The most popular lining options are red on a black shoe and racing green on a brown. The book was elsewhere so I’ll decide at a later stage. But bright yellow looks good in my head…

Next: the making of the last