Artisan Chic

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For those not inclined to polished looks, preferring the appeal of imperfections rather than divine precision, artisan chic is a classic style reference. Unlike a lot of other rather scruffy clothing, there is a legacy of purpose behind the multitude of pockets in an artisan’s jacket and a story behind the crumpled lapels. The artisan always desired a quiet smartness but the main quality of artisan clothing is a focus on the practicalities for the craft.

I once walked through Positano, looking in the little shoe-making shops, admiring their dedication to their work whilst gazing on rows of half finished shoes in a trancelike state. In one particular establishment, the little cobbler sat on a stool in a three-button linen jacket; underneath was a thick weave waistcoat and a check shirt with a cream tie. I wish I had taken a picture as it would not only have been lovely to display with this article, but it would have shown how much use he was actually getting from his clothing. Wooden handled tools popped out from his breast pocket, little nails were piled inside a small waistcoat pocket. He was an image so lacking in pomp, and yet so stylish in delivery. His personal fashion was likely decades old but so ingenuous. Like the tap-tapping of his honest craft, his clothing was self-explanatory and lacking in pretence and even though I am no skilled craftsman, employing a clothing style dedicated to practicality is something I admire.

The corduroy or linen jacket

The start of every artisan look should be the jacket. It should fit well, but it should avoid folly and fashion; short jackets may be the vogue, but keep the artisan jacket a classic length. Secondly, in terms of colour, browns and greens may be the very ‘usual’ colours for corduroy but the most interesting versions I have seen are in navy and black. These colours are also more appropriate for the coming season as I tend to consider certain browns and greens too autumnal. Linen jackets are more appropriate for warmer times of year and their unstructured shape relaxes all combinations. I like linen jackets in sacking colours and they look excellent with a favourite white shirt.

The useful waistcoat

Another signature garment of the artisan look is a waistcoat with working pockets. Unlike foppish fashion creations, the practical waistcoat is often made from a knitted material, perhaps lambs wool, and the chief characteristics apart from the informal pockets, are the simple lapels and high break. Effectively, it is a sleeveless cardigan with a large number of pockets.

The trousers

One of the things I noticed about the charming chap from Positano was that he, for no particular reason, rolled his trousers up boyishly, displaying his naked ankles. This is a particularly appealing touch and it works with practically any type of trouser, although it’s best to stick with straight and slim leg trousers or reasonably well worn and tired-looking denim.

The shoes

The shoes completing the style should be practical but not bulky; an old looking yet elegantly shaped pair will always trump a brand new pair of ugly blocks. A good colour for the shoes is rich burgundy, like that of a fine old wine and any wear and tear adds character, but the shoes must be well polished and cared for, otherwise the look can descend into tramp chic.


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Winston Chesterfield is an amateur composer, fashion blogger, trained lawyer and style aficionado. He lives in Westminster, London and blogs at www.levraiwinston.com.