As a person interested in art, I have always taken a keen interest in painting. When I was a young boy, painting was all around me; my grandfather, who lived near to us, was an artist who would constantly draw and paint things. I was taken to galleries and picture shows, was given pencils and brushes, in the hope that I would find inspiration in the things I saw.
Abstract art was something that did not appeal to me. As a child, I was interested in the figurative; an artists representation of something tangible. One particular thing I remember was the delicate way in which some artists represented clothing; the beautiful textures of lace and silk, the lush velvets and harsh sacking. They were often so accurately reproduced on canvas, so carefully combined. When I revisited the National Gallery recently to look at some of my favourite pieces, I realised that texture was one of the things I appreciated most in painting. Even a collection of simple cotton, linen and jute was a rich cocktail of weaves.
Clothing texture is something that is often overlooked when shopping for an outfit. This is a great pity as texture is as important in clothing as colour, and in fact, in tone on tone outfits, can be the defining quality. The satin or silk faced lapel and the cotton pique of an evening outfit are at opposite ends of the texture scale and yet their juxtaposition works very well indeed. It’s the same for woollen jackets trimmed with velvet and wearing woollen ties with fine cotton – opposites attract.
A lot of men’s clothing on the market is manufactured in similar texture materials. Merino wool jumpers, woollen jackets, woollen scarves; cotton shirts, cotton trousers and cotton socks. Materials of texture like silk, velvet and linen are marginalised and yet they can lift a quite ordinary outfit if used correctly.
We are fortunate in the world of today to have huge quantities of the world’s materials available to us. Cashmere, once a whispered luxury is now overflowing from outfitters such as GAP. Artificial materials, mocking the skins of endangered and protected species, are being improved and consequently expanding the texture base available to the 21st century fashion buyer.
Though a luxury material, the modern manufacture using polyester instead of fine cotton or silk, has meant that velvet has slipped down a few rungs on the luxury ladder; no longer is it seen as an exclusive fabric. However, men have been wearing velvet jackets for over 200 years. Velvet was worn by fashionable rakes such as Sir Lumley Skeffington, and its rare and pleasing appearance gave the wearer a touch of mythic grandeur. I own a velvet blazer from Zara and adore wearing it with cotton jumpers and silk scarves; the mix of textures is the main reason for my favour of this look. Pictured are two velvet creations from Gucci. Note how well the blue velvet jacket contrasts against the thick weave of the jumper underneath.
I love silk. The fantastic thing about this fabric is that there is more than one way it can be made, more than one texture effect to be had. Slub silk and shantung silk is the ‘rough’ stuff, and Favourbrook make some fantastic pocket squares in a slub fabric, great to contrast with a dark blue suit. Smoother silk is great for scarves and cravats (yes, cravats), and this always adds refinement to an outfit. Again the contrast can be stunning; a polka dot silk scarf with a cloth cap.