Linkson Jack: The Benefits of Bespoke Ties

I was fortunate enough to receive an eagerly awaited parcel a few days ago, my first two bespoke ties. Having a bespoke tie made is a completely new experience for me, and not something that I’ve been able to afford before, nor is it an experience I’ve really considered. I am pleased to report however, that having trialled the process for the first time, I am a complete and utter convert.

The ties were cut by an up-and-coming menswear name with which you may be familiar; Linkson Jack, who have been recently heralded by the Rake Magazine amongst others, for offering a really rather beautiful product. The ties in question can be seen below, a pair of classic navy and rich purple silk grenadine ties. I also purchased one of the fine linen handkerchiefs which sports a cherry red and blue print, to contrast against the navy tie.

These Italian woven silk grenadines are some of Linkson Jack’s staples, but the latest Autumn/Winter selection sees the brand offering its classic grenadine ties alongside a diverse range of preppy striped, paisley and patterned and woven pieces, all manufactured from the most exclusive silk, linen and wool cloths available.

Since I came across the brand a few months ago, the thing that has fascinated me most about Linkson Jack, is the company’s approach; their accessories have a distinctly preppy, modern and casual feel, but all of Linkson Jack’s products exhibit a fastidious and minute attention to detail, that one more readily associates with luxury prestige formalwear. It is distinctly refreshing to find a gentleman’s outfitter offering something very modern and cool which nonetheless feels like it has had centuries worth of sartorial care and attention poured into it.

This is perhaps due to Linkson Jack’s fastidious sourcing of suppliers, materials and manufacturers. The majority of the firm’s ties are handmade in Italy by Arcuri Cravatte, whilst its handkerchiefs are hand-printed and rolled in France by Simonnot-Godard, both names with real weight in luxury menswear. Arcuri is acknowledged as a company comprised of true master craftsmen producing beautiful pieces in small, limited runs, or indeed one-off pieces for Linkson Jack’s bespoke customers. Linkson Jack’s ties are therefore measured, cut, stretched and shaped, tacked, stitched and lightly pressed exclusively by expert hands, and it shows.

All too often, I am asked the question, why bespoke? I think that most people would agree that this question applies particularly to something subtle like a tie. Prior to having these ties made, I was asking myself the same question. With shoes, or a suit, the answer is relatively simple and the visible difference is obvious.

Well, Linkson Jack make it abundantly clear that the art of crafting a tie, is not as simple as you might think, and that the benefits are also very easily discernable: “our bespoke tie service makes it possible for you to specify the precise length and width of your tie, whether you would like it lined or unlined, or with three, five or six folds.” I can confirm that such attention to detail pays off for Linkson Jack, my ties are delicate, cut in a beautiful silk cloth, knot perfectly, and are exactly what I had in my head when I designed them, and of course, such a result is seldom found when one buys a tie off-the-peg.

Having reflected upon this, when one considers Linkson Jack’s approach to the craftsmanship of their ties, the reality of the choice available becomes abundantly apparent. Think about it, not all ties have to be the same shape, width or thickness, ties can be made in a number of different ways using different weights of cloth, different folds, or linings. They can be tipped or un-tipped. Linkson Jack makes a point of offering this comprehensive variety of options, again, much like a bespoke suit. Furthermore, the price is distinctly competitive. Starting at £75.00, a Linkson Jack tie is approximately the same price as most Jermyn Street mass-manufactured ties. Drakes’ bespoke ties start at nearly double the cost of Linkson Jack’s.

The most important thing to add is that given the personal nature of the bespoke experience, my new ties are exactly what I wanted; slim-bladed, unlined, untipped, easy-to-wear preppy silk ties for smart-casual dress. And to find an affordable service, producing unique and quite simply exquisitely crafted ties on a made-to-order basis, is a real revelation. I would recommend Linkson Jack’s accessories unreservedly; they really are a cut-above.

My thanks to Francesca Moore for her photographic skills.

Tailor4Less Review

A short while ago, I conducted an interview with Andreu Fernandez, of the internet tailor Tailor4Less.

Bearing in mind how important reviews are for readers, I decided to take the chance to get a midnight blue wool three-piece with a double-breasted waistcoat.

The process

The first step in the Tailor4Less online suit-builder is to choose the style of suit you want; 2 piece or 3 piece, style of lapel, number of buttons and pockets, vents, double/single breasted, waistcoat style (single and double-breasted available), pleats and turn-ups.

I went for a ticket pocket (slanted pockets are not available on the builder), turn-ups, single pleats and a six-button DB waistcoat.

The second step is choosing the fabric. I personally don’t think choosing the fabric after the suit style is a bad thing; you have an idea of the kind of colour you want to begin with, anyway and then apply the actual cloth to the design you have created.

It is possible to order samples. They are £1 a sample, although this includes delivery. You can order up to 8 samples at a time.

I chose one of the cheapest fabrics, a Midnight Blue 100% wool which is £199 for a three-piece. There are a number of ‘mostly’ wool fabrics available in this price range (with 10-20% terylene) and some positively garish 100% polyester fabrics. It goes without saying that the better the fabric, the higher the price.

It’s then possible to add ‘accents’ – extras which, on the face of it, are entirely unnecessary; a garish lining colour, embroidered monograms, neck lining and elbow patches. Needless to say, I declined to add any of these.

Once you add your suit to your ‘shopping cart’ – Amazon-type phraseology which feels too greasily commercial for tailoring – it is then time to enter your measurements. There are two options; Option A is simply entering your weight and height so that the tailors can guesstimate your size. Irrespective of the inexpensiveness of the suit, I would never advise this.

Option B requires ten measurements and takes between 5 and 10 minutes to complete. It is best to do it with another person as some measurements are tricky to manage alone.

After these are complete, you make the purchase, enter shipping details and create an account where your measurements are stored. Shipping takes approximately 3-5 weeks, which is very fast.

The product

The suit was delivered in a small box the size of a large laptop case. The suit inside was folded into a plastic bag.

It’s a fractionally disappointing way in which to receive a made-to-measure suit, wrapped up in a brown cardboard box. Much like a fixer-upper house you just can’t wait to renovate, I felt the urge to steam out the creases and accessorise.

The fabric, which I was nervous about, does look rather cheap. Admittedly, not ordering samples was a mistake and I would advise anyone nervous or picky about fabrics to do so; it’s well worth the meagre £1 you pay.

However, I was prepared to look past the error and examine the suit’s construction.

The jacket lapels are thinner than I would like, but there is little choice on this in the suit builder. It is worth noting that after ordering, Tailor4Less employees – based in Spain – get in touch and communicate any additional requests to the tailors, who are based in Shanghai.

I requested a shawl collar on my DB waistcoat and provided a picture of the waistcoat design I wanted. I was asked exactly how long and wide these lapels should be, which sounds irritating but is actually reassuring. I am sure that I could have asked for wider jacket lapels in the same communication.

The buttons were of a bluish tinge and matched the suit colour but I later purchased dark horn buttons, which are more of a subtle contrast.

Overall, the construction seemed to be of reasonable quality, and equivalent to the price-level, although there were a few stray threads and the ticket pocket flap was ever so slightly not parallel to the pocket below.

The fit

It is fair to say that the suit looks far better on than it does on the rack, mostly due to the fabric.

The proportions are bang on, and I’m glad I specified the length of the waistcoat in communications as a lot of them are cut far too long these days.

One thing I really like about the fit is that the jacket sits open very well; the two sides don’t swing back like many other jackets do, including MTM.

Also, I am glad I selected slim-fit trousers as anything fuller would have been completely out of proportion.

The only major issue with the fit is with the shoulders. You can see from the side-on pictures that they are positioned slightly off and crease across the top, even when I am standing still, not moving my arm.

Another minor issue is that the waistcoat sits slightly too wide on my shoulders, resulting in disagreeable amounts of shirt between waistcoat edge and collar.

The trousers, as ever, are fine and are of exactly the length and width I prefer; no break and a slight taper.

Fit: 8 out of 10 – the creased shoulders are disappointing, but overall I was very impressed with the way the suit fit me. I must admit, I was not expecting it for the price.

Fabric: 6 out of 10 – two words; Order Samples. It’s not enough to see fabric photos and 3D mock ups. Fabric was even slightly faded and worn in places.

Service: 8 out of 10 – fast delivery and good communication.

Quality of finish: 7.5 out of 10 – a reasonably good standard of finish for the price, although it could be improved; incorrectly sewed holes on the waistcoat hadn’t been steamed out.

Overall satisfaction: 7.5 out of 10 – this feels like very good value. If I had ordered fabric samples, I might have chosen another fabric, but I would say this suit is easily worth the money. It doesn’t feel flimsy or cheap in construction and fit and is highly recommended for those looking to get a respectable looking, fitted-suit on a tight budget.

Sales Shopping Shortlist

“I’m soon to go sales shopping in London. However, I’m pretty new to things sartorial and I have no idea what I’m meant to look for, particularly which shops are best for bargains. You seem to know your way around the shops and streets – can you recommend anything to me? I don’t think my girlfriend will have the patience to rummage through every shop!”

There’s no way around it; sales shopping is pretty vile. The stores are unpleasantly busy, browsing is a chore as stock presentation is deprioritized and, particularly in London, the sheer range of emporiums can terrify.

For the benefit of the above reader (and indeed all readers interested in shopping in the capital) I have compiled a list of my most useful sales stores in London’s shopping district. Most of these stores have healthy 30-50% reductions which often escalate to 75% before the end of January.

Zara

Where:

Zara has branches all over central London, but not every store carries the same inventory and some stores are far more comprehensive than others. The best stores to check are the largest ones. The Regent Street branch, the branch at the top of New Bond Street and, for those less keen on West End throng, Brompton Road next to Harrods.

What for:

I tend to restrict my Zara winter-sale search to slim cords and jeans (as they fit very well), the occasional overcoat or trenchcoat and casual jackets and blazers. Their current off-the-rack jacket block is, in my opinion, nigh on perfect – there is a nice shape at the waist, they’re not TopMan tight and the jacket cuts in beautifully on the back.

Uniqlo

Where:

Uniqlo’s London flagship is on Oxford Street opposite John Lewis. It is vast and slightly confusing in terms of layout; most of the menswear is on the lower ground floor but there are often a few menswear offers amongst the womenswear on the ground floor.

What for:

Uniqlo is a very useful brand for basics (I get my rather unattractive but entirely functional gym gear from here) and knitwear. In the sale, their merino cardigans – elegantly thin enough to be combined with a suit – are excellent value, as are some of their thicker lambswool cardigans, for more casual wear. There is a rainbow of colours to choose from.

New & Lingwood

Where:

New & Lingwood’s London store is on Jermyn Street, in the Piccadilly Arcade, opposite the statue of Beau Brummell.

What for:

New & Lingwood’s English shoes are the big draw as they are excellent value in the sale. The selection of sales shoes are visible through the window but they are all laid out on the first floor. Reductions are typically 35-50%.

New & Lingwood also has a first rate selection of dressing gowns, unusual outerwear and a glut of subtly and wildly patterned silk scarves. Expect reductions of at least 50% by early January.

TM Lewin, Charles Tyrwhitt, Hawes & Curtis

Where:

All on Jermyn Street, although all have smaller branches on Regent Street.

What for:

Jermyn Street’s big three shirt retailers – in terms of volume – always have offers on throughout the year. However, their seasonal sale deals are much better, as multibuys are replaced with single shirt offers.

Also, the accessories sale in these stores (particularly Tyrwhitt and Lewin) is excellent with silk pocket squares and ties often half price or less.

Massimo Dutti

Where:

Massimo Dutti has several branches in central London. The best are on Regent Street, Oxford Street and Brompton Road. The Regent Street branch is the only one offering made-to-measure tailoring, although it’s doubtful you’ll get much service in the high-sale period.

What for:

Most Massimo Dutti ready to wear is very good quality and therefore, very good value during the 30-50% sale. I don’t tend to buy blazers or knitwear here as they are too big for my frame, but I really like the pocket squares, ties, scarves and socks they have here as the product quality is above that of sister brand, Zara.

And stores I tend to avoid…

H&M

Although H&M might have the odd thing of interest like an odd waistcoat or jumper, I am not keen on the block for their jackets; no shape to the waist and a poor fit. It’s also outrageously busy and the sale stock is incredibly untidy and cramped together in a corner of the store.

Other Jermyn Street shirtmakers

I’ve nothing against Turnbull & Asser, Hilditch & Key and Harvie & Hudson but their sales, still aggressively priced, do not stand a chance against the tide of red-stickered stock available elsewhere on Jermyn Street.

Dragon Inside Suit Review

A short while ago, I conducted an interview with Bobby Miloev, one of the founders of internet tailoring firm Dragon Inside. There followed an opportunity to review the product and so I decided to take the chance to get a mid-grey wool pinstripe single-breasted three-piece with a U-cut waistcoat.

The process

The first requirement is to choose the fabric for the suit. I was pleased that Dragon Inside not only send you swatches of all fabrics but that you are also able to choose based on photographs of a made-up suit. This was far more reassuring than some tailoring websites, which simply offer an image of the fabric, by which it is impossible to gauge actual tone, texture or how it appears in the context of a whole suit.

After choosing the fabric, you choose the style of suit you want; lapel, vents, double/single breasted, jacket lining and waistcoat style (single and double-breasted available). You can also select ‘additional options’ including pick stitching, flower loop, functional lapel buttonhole (rather surprising), pockets, waistcoat back fabric, belt loops, turn-ups and braces buttons.

I went for the usual slanted pockets with a ticket pocket, flower loop, braces buttons, turn-ups and – not an option but available on request – single pleats.

After this, it’s time to enter the measurements of a suit that fits you well (I used a bespoke as a guide), as well as bodily measurements. Usefully, there’s a pictured guide for each measurement, so it’s fairly foolproof.

Manufacture is fairly fast as delivery doesn’t take longer than 3-4 weeks.

The product

The suit was delivered in a sturdy box, which was surprisingly small but in no way crushing the product inside.

I was pleased by the cut of the U-shaped waistcoat, as it was not too severe, and the canvas rolled nicely between the fingers. Checking that all my preferences were in place, I reviewed the construction carefully.

The lapels were slightly asymmetrical (see pictures), although I largely corrected this by securing the lapels in place with pins and steaming them. From the folds, I could detect that it had possibly occurred in transit as the lapel was upturned when it was removed from the box.

The trousers, as usual, fit very well indeed; there’s something so marvelous about a pair of tailored trousers. The inside waistband featured a rubber stay-grip for shirts – something which should be included on all trousers – and the turn-ups were of an acceptable size.

The buttons were, however, rather dark for me so I changed them to smoked mother of pearl (after the photo shoot).

The fit

All in all, the suit fits me well. The jacket feels snug under the arms and doesn’t constrict when I secure the top button. It cuts in nicely at the waist and there is no fabric stress on the shoulders. There is slight rippling of fabric across the center of the suit when it is fastened but I actually prefer a little rippling in tailoring as the no-ripples aesthetic comes across to me as stiff and lacking in sprezzatura.

The proportions of the suit are excellent, and perfect for someone of my stature; I much prefer shorter suit jackets, as no matter how well-cut a longer jacket might be, it simply drowns me. Traditionalists will scoff at the fact that the bottom of the jacket does not drop into my palms but this is a rule I tend to ignore completely.

The first issue with the suit is that the way that I ‘dress’ means that there is a subtle but visible bulging in the crotch of the trousers. Unfortunate but, considering the format of the tailoring, quite expected; it’s annoying that this can only be corrected on the second suit order, but it is admittedly difficult to broach such an intimate and delicate matter via the internet.

The second issue with the suit is that there is an ever so slight bagginess in the body of the waistcoat at armpit height(see pictures) which results in large ripples. I prefer my waistcoat to have some characterful ripples, but usually due to overall tightness and not looseness in one particular place. Therefore, I will take the waistcoat to a London tailor to be adjusted accordingly. Admittedly, my taste for tight waistcoats isn’t uncommon but I have had the same problem at first fittings for fully bespoke suits.

Fit: 8.5 out of 10 – comfortable and stylish but needing some tweaks to waistcoat and trousers.

Fabric: 8.5 out of 10 – a high-quality Super 100s English wool.

Service: 9 out of 10 – quick turnaround and good contact throughout; Dragon Inside got in touch to get a better photograph of me wearing a suit to judge proportion.

Quality of finish: 8.5 out of 10 – a good standard of finish to buttonholes and stitching, pattern-matching and lining.

Overall satisfaction: 8.5 out of 10 – a high-quality product from Dragon Inside that looks and feels good. A few minor niggles, most of which are easily corrected. For the cost of the suit, it represents excellent value.

Internet Tailoring Series: Interview with Bobby Miloev of Dragon Inside

Let’s face it. Internet tailoring is like a lottery draw held in the middle of a soggy minefield during an electrical storm: if something can go wrong, it probably will.

Taking your own measurements, sending them off to a faceless organisation on the other side of the world, draining your accounts and praying for the best never does sound like much fun. There are so many questions: how good could the fit be without any (basted) fittings? What if the pattern makers get my wonky shoulder wrong? What if the fabric doesn’t look as good in the flesh as online? What if it’s a scam?

You’re uncertain. You doubt them. I hear you; which is why I will be interviewing a series of these firms to get the individual lowdown on their product and service.

For the first interview, I caught up with Bobby Miloev of Dragon Inside.

What is the Dragon Inside story and what are Dragon Inside seeking to achieve in tailoring?

Dragon Inside is a custom menswear brand that was launched in 2012. Our basic philosophy is that getting a well fitting tailored suit online should be an easy, enjoyable experience, without any compromise of the service or the materials used for the suit.

What fabrics are used to make a Dragon Inside suit?

We only work with wools from traditional UK and Italian mills. Alfred Brown in the UK has been a great partner – when you combine the traditions of the Yorkshire weaving industry with state-of-the-art looms, the results are great. Comero is a traditional Biella mill, which we are also very happy to work with. We just added a flannel by Vitale Barberis Canonico and we are working on a couple of other interesting collections with mills in Italy and the UK. We are proud of our fabrics, and we even have a free sampling service (and a paid express sampling option), so our customers know exactly what they are getting.

How would you compare a Dragon Inside suit to one from a traditional tailor on Savile Row?

Compared to the traditional bespoke (Savile Row) experience, our suits are much more affordable, without making a compromise on the materials or the construction. We strive to deliver the best experience possible, and we discuss each order with our clients before we cut the wool. But if you enjoy the ritual of fittings and if you like to be able to have a cup of coffee with your tailor, and you do not mind paying the mark up & the additional costs associated with retail, the bricks-and-mortar traditional tailors may still have an advantage.

How would you say you are different from other internet tailors?

While there are several popular internet tailoring companies – some of whom have a very good product – none of them work exclusively with fabric woven in UK & Italian mills. They also generally employ a half-canvas construction (which is cheaper and easier to use), while we use a full-construction for all orders, this results in better drape and better durability.

Most importantly, we review and discuss the measurements with our customers carefully, in order to make sure that the fit is right. Other online tailors try to minimize their costs by limiting the communication with the customer to web-forms and email. A common complaint with online tailors is that they leave their pattern makers guessing and making adjustments based on their experience and gut feeling. Our customers can call us or ask us anything through live chat, and we always exchange at least a couple of emails before we get started with the first order of any customer, in order to make sure we are designing the right pattern for him. This reduces the number of first-time orders that need to be altered or remade, saving our customers time and trouble. We use digital patterns, so all repeat orders are a breeze – you can reorder with just a couple of clicks.

We are also the only company to ask for three of photos in the self-measurement process (which only takes 15 minutes and is guided by videos) – this is optional, but very informative. Our pattern makers take the time to look at the posture and the shape of the shoulder of the customer and adjust the pattern accordingly. Still, if there is any issue with the fit (which may happen on first time orders), we offer a $75 / € 60 tailoring credit and free remakes.

Could you tell me what personalisation is possible on Dragon Inside suits?

We have quite a few customization options:

The jacket options include the number of buttons (1/2/3 or double breasted), the vents (1 / 2 / ventless), the lapels (notch / peak / shawl collar), the lining, pick stitching, functional sleeve buttons (surgeon’s cuffs – even of first time orders), functional boutonniere and flower loop, pocket options (slanted / ticket pocket).

– We have 4 waistcoat styles (including single, double breasted and lapels)

– We have a half-lined option for all suit orders. It’s getting a bit chilly in Europe and the USA, but our customers in Australia seem to appreciate it.

– The standard pants options include the number of back pockets, pleats, turn-ups and suspender buttons. Side-adjusters are not standard, but we do add them on request.

Where are Dragon Inside suits made?

We are based in Sofia (Bulgaria), where there is a lot of talent in the field of textiles and tailoring and plenty of businesses producing for bigger brands. This also helps with the deliveries to our European customers – EU customs can be rather nasty, so ordering a suit from one of competitors based in Asia sometimes turns to a trip to customs hell, with exorbitant charges of VAT and duties. Still, most of our customers are based in the US, where guys are more open to getting a suit tailored online.