Investing Wisely II: Summer Staples

I often think that summer tailoring gets a poor deal, simply because our summers go in one of two ways. Either, they’re so uncomfortably hot that for many men, dressing in tailoring is not an enticing prospect, or alternatively the sun is conspicuous by its absence for so much of the season that the linen and summer weight wool sits wasting away in the wardrobe and seldom sees the light of day. The other problem of course is that for most relatively northern climates the summer can be an all too brief couple of months, making investing in good, but inevitably expensive summer pieces a low priority.

Nevertheless, this season in particular, I have found myself realising that the content of my summer wardrobe is woefully lacking in a few staple pieces that I know I would be wearing time and again if they were in my possession. I would hate for readers to suffer the same problematical fate, so I thought some recommendations for those staple pieces I am currently both missing and craving might be in order.

A small selection of perhaps three or four affordable pastel linen or lightweight cotton pieces – perhaps a casual linen and cotton blended suit or a blazer and a couple of pairs of trousers make for the ideal foundation for any summer capsule wardrobe, and really don’t have to break the bank. Pure cotton doesn’t always breath terribly well, but its nonetheless extremely versatile – being easy to wear in both spring and on moderate summer days – and if you can find lighter-weight cotton drill trousers they can feel surprisingly soft and airy.

Likewise, there is something undeniably chic and effortless about linen suits in soft pastel colours. Being brave and embracing some relatively unconventional pastel colours for summer casual and occasion wear is something I’ve written about at length before, but I’d highly recommend exploring soft blue, pink, gentle blue-grey or sandy tones to find easily interchangeable pieces (dusty pink and light blue really is a match made in heaven for summer) which speak of one’s confidence as a dresser and which will go anywhere and do anything.

I’ve also recently emphasised the benefits of trying to find some summer pieces cut in a blend of linen and cotton, which is always something to bear in mind – see my previous column here.

Summer jackets should be very lightly structured wherever possible and half-lined. Lightly structured tailoring will still hold its shape, but with a fraction of the density and weight of autumnal and winter garments. Likewise, do not be tempted to ever buy a summer suit destined to be worn in warm weather if it’s fully lined, try to find unlined trousers too. Not only does the lining itself add more weight than you might expect, but it also is more likely than not a synthetic viscose or polyester material which can actively prevent your jacket from breathing and stop air circulating through the garment to keep you cool.

Talking of allowing the garment to breath, for durable summer business dress or formal tailoring, there really is only one cloth to turn to; fresco. Fresco is a summer-weight pure wool (although dressier pieces may be blended with silk or mohair both of which are prized for their lightness and breathability) woven in a fine plainweave, which has an open structure, with miniscule gaps between yarns in the cloth – as can be seen when a fresco is held up to the light. This open structure is simply ideal for allowing the garment to breath, and the open nature of the weave produces a cloth which is less dense than most worsteds – the loss of body means that it has less weight and can be woven very finely to some eight or nine ounces in weight.

Wool also wicks more moisture than either linen or cotton and believe it or not, breathes around fifteen percent more efficiently than even the airiest linen fabrics. It’s the ultimate in comfort suiting, and although a lightweight wool will never be as durable as heavier worsteds worn in autumn and winter, it is by far your most durable option for summer tailoring – making it ideal to weather a few months of commuting and business meetings for a couple of months of the year.

I bought my first fresco jacket only a couple of months ago, and I’ve grown to really love it – it’s very elegant and it feels supremely light and breezy on. I’d highly recommend either formal jackets or business suiting in 8-9oz frescos for the summer months – it’s the best thing there is for hot weather.

The sole other piece that I do happen to have (but which is on its last legs) is the ubiquitous white summer two-piece. Mine is in a very fine 8-9oz linen from Moss Bros – its cheap and cheerful and I changed the buttons to cream horn from white plastic to give the illusion of its being an expensive suit (always worth doing with a high-street suit).

Often I find that linen suiting and trousers are one area of the man’s wardrobe which are really worth economising with, simply because even the most expensive linens can only be worn occasionally and inevitably don’t last more than a couple of summer seasons – so wearing a cheap and floaty plainweave linen and embracing its inevitable tendency to produce a creased, shabby-chic look is perhaps the best way to approach linen suiting. However, if you’ve already got your linen pieces sorted, white or pale-striped seersucker is perhaps the ideal alternative. The Bengal striped pattern that comprises seersucker produces a lovely duality of colour and texture in jackets and suiting and of course makes for a lightweight and breathable cloth – ideal for the transition from spring to summer. It also creases less than a pure linen.

White suiting is one of those things which is often considered a bit of a seventies cliché, but this is easily avoided through opting for a slim, modern cut and keeping lapels a contemporary shape – don’t have them too broad and never wear a black shirt with it. Keep shirting pale and soft under white to help keep the suit looking soft too.

If white isn’t to your taste, avoid a yellowy cream colour because it tends to look dated, and instead try to find a very pale whitish ivory – its a subtle distinction I know but I find it makes the difference between something which looks uninspired and something which has all the versatility and sophistication of a sharp white suit, but which is a little less obvious in colour.

A selection of the above will make for the ideal spring-to-summer capsule wardrobe, and will most likely be all you need for the vast majority of the late-spring and summer months, for those days when the temperature does actually rise.

I’d recommend one other piece however, splash out on a cream or white dinner jacket for dinner dress. I’ve never owned one, but having worn my winter dinner suit to a couple of functions recently, I’ve been seriously hot. I’d kill for a lovely raw silk or white linen dinner jacket. I admit that this piece won’t be an essential for most gentlemen, but it’s nice to treat yourself to something extravagant every now and then. Gieves & Hawkes have got a fabulous ivory raw silk dinner jacket this season and I’d kill for it.

Those are my core suggestions. As I wrote in the previous post, keep shirting simple and if you’re in the mood for expanding your shirting collection, hunt out some linen shirts or soft cotton Oxfords for the warmest days. Loafers, loafers and more loafers are the way to go with shoes; experiment with suede and tassels to mix it up a little.

Investing Wisely I: Constructing a Staple Wardrobe

Finally, after a lengthy break to deal with my Finals my regular column can get back to normal, and for my return to the realm of menswear I thought that it would be nice to address a reader’s question. I was asked recently on my own blog what my recommendations would be for the individual looking to either develop or reconstruct their wardrobe around a number of well-constructed, good quality classic tailored staples. Beneath are my recommendations for just those items.

A dark blue suit will go anywhere and do anything. Aim to find or commission a suit in a mid-weight cloth (I find that ten to eleven ounces works well – possibly twelve) which feels comfortable and reasonably light when worn. Possibly get it half-lined to help keep it airy when worn. This will maximise its use through autumn, winter and into spring and stop you overheating. Mid to light-weight suits are also a blessing on public transport in the warmer months when it starts to get a bit humid. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve optimistically suffered in full-bodied 14oz jackets on the Tube.

A subtle check or stripe may enhance the suit’s interest, but I’d recommend keeping any patterns minimal. If you’re looking to invest in just a couple of staple suits, rather than suits which serve specific functions don’t blow your budget on a garment which is too dressy, nor too business-like. In other words, use your discretion and stay away from turn-back cuffs, shawl collars, shiny cloths and statement chalk-stripes or windowpane checks.

I would recommend adding a waistcoat though if possible, and potentially trying to find something with peaked lapels. The waistcoat can add another dimension cheaply for formal occasions, and a peaked lapel is the perfect way to add some elegance to your business two-piece, without being inappropriately showy at the office.

With this staple in your wardrobe, many individuals would recommend a charcoal or plain grey flannel suit be your next addition. Whilst I quite agree with this, I would also like to make a case that once your blue suit is sorted, there is potential to choose either a grey suit, or indeed a chocolate suit. I have written at length before of the suitability of chocolate as a staple colour for men’s tailoring; its elegant, rich and makes for a very useful addition. As colours palettes go its slightly more distinctive than the usual charcoal, whilst also being completely conventional and versatile in its use.

I would likewise advise you compliment your suiting with the addition of a couple of pairs of good light and mid-grey flannel trousers, to use as tailored separates. Trousers are perhaps the most accessible way to really expand one’s tailored wardrobe and to add some real style to an outfit with a distinguished cut (see my series on getting trousers right from earlier this year).

Grey flannels will go beautifully with your navy suit jacket, should you choose to use it as a blazer, but they’ll also look great with mid-brown brogues or Oxfords (which I’d suggest be your staple shoe of choice – they will go with more than black believe me; any shade of grey, blue or brown is covered) and a lovely knitted jumper of polo neck for the weekends.

Once your wardrobe becomes a little more established, you can play about with different colours (cream flannels are another classic that can work really well with fun coloured knitwear), and a classic mid-weight Prince of Wales check trouser also looks great with either charcoals or navies – or even brown tones, as can be seen here.

Shirting wise, if you’re wearing good tailoring, or even a nice jumper and jeans on the weekends, good quality shirts are really not difficult to find and make a huge difference. Hawes & Curtis and Charles Tyrwhitt offer really excellent, elegant British shirts with a mixture of modern and classic patterns. I’d aim to invest in double-cuffs for business dress and formal wear, and four to five good classic shirts during the sales for the weekends. For both business and pleasure, classic British colours and stripes are timeless and elegant, and will help to create a capsule wardrobe.

Bengal and block stripes, poplins and herringbones should be the order of the day in sky blues, navy and white stripes, pale pinks, lilacs (possibly purple) and I’d also look for a couple of top-quality white shirts in plain poplins. A crisp white shirt looks a treat both with jeans or a full three piece and a plain poplin cloth is light and airy and just as wearable in the heat of summer as it is under a blazer or suit in mid-winter.

Essentially, the message with all of these things is to build up your collection of clothes gradually and give some thought to which staple options are going to make for wise investments and will go with the majority of things in your existing wardrobe. Most importantly of all, keep everything understated and classic until you can afford to splash out on some more eccentric statement pieces. Get the foundations of your wardrobe laid first; two timeless suits, some flannel separates, a good pair of brown shoes, some simple silk ties and some crisp white shirts.

As always, I would recommend following the mantra of really taking the time to shop thoroughly, cleverly and to just buy the best that you can afford when investing in staples. For many people it is simply not possible to spend large amounts on high-end or bespoke suits – but there are a lot of handsome reasonably priced pieces out there by brands like Hackett and Jaeger which can be great investments.

Try to challenge the typical male mentality of disliking shopping, because taking a day to hunt up and down your local high-street or shopping district and doing your research is the way to find those pieces which will serve you the most, for the best price. Being patient and striking on the first few days of the sale season often holds real rewards too, as does shopping in outlet stores. I found a number of Hackett and Gieves & Hawkes suits for around £400.00 in an outlet centre just the other day and £400.00 is about the cheapest you’ll find for a truly good suit nowadays.

Equally, if full-bespoke is not an option, made-to-measure services can be an excellent solution and some firms are offering very reasonably priced services at the moment. Take a look at Cad & the Dandy’s machine made offering, or Ede & Ravenscroft’s personal tailoring service for possibilities. Also see Mr. Chesterfield’s column for a number of recommendations for good made-to-measure options. Having interesting pleated or high-waisted trousers with turn-ups and interesting pocket designs made to measure can cost less than fully priced off the peg trousers, and can lift the quality of your wardrobe magnificently.

Next week, I’m going to continue with this theme, but turn my attention to creating a spring/summer capsule wardrobe on a budget, this is something that has been vexing me recently, so it should make for an interesting discussion.

The Sartorial Season: Introduction to the Series – Ascot

The traditional ‘London Season’, which ran from the month of April throughout the summer till August, is widely perceived to be a dead social calendar. For generations, wealthy families would decamp from their remote country piles and relocate to the capital for its duration. For the long, warm nights of the summer months it was an endless whirl of dinners, parties, races, games, balls and breakfasts. However, its raison d’etre was for a particular form of social maintenance that has ceased to be relevant. Gone is the importance of a debutante’s court presentation; vanished are the hordes of chaperoned, well-born teenagers descending on late night balls. The social necessity of the “right” people being thrown together in order that their dynasties combine through the premature and often unwanted matchmaking of their broods has evaporated.

What remains, however, are the traditional ‘events’ of the Season, the pillars of the calendar that have survived the social revolutions and cultural changes since the decay of the society ‘Season.’ Though most of these events are no longer as important as they once were, they have retained their traditions and have become curiosities of form and taste.

What is particularly interesting about many of these events is that they maintain expectations of social decorum and sartorial expectation. They are still events that, for the most part, enforce dress codes on attendees. With the Royal Opera now accepting of an audience that wears chinos and trainers, smart restaurants waving in t-shirts and jeans, events like Henley and Ascot are places of remarkable sartorial strictness.

The Sartorial Season: Royal Ascot

Out of all the traditional Season events, Royal Ascot is probably the most famous. So called for the regular attendance of the highest members of the British royal family, Ascot was the grandest event of all in the Season’s halcyon days and attended by Dukes, Marquesses, Earls and Viscounts. However, it has latterly acquired a reputation as something of a contradiction with a variety of racegoers complaining of loutish behaviour and provocatively attired young women flashing their ‘bits’ in the Berkshire sun.

Though such a decline is nothing new in Blighty, Ascot is fairly unique. Along with traditional weddings, it is the main reason for the delayed death of the morning tailcoat and top hat, as both are required to enter the Royal Enclosure (although they are optional elsewhere at the event). As such, a huge number of men choose to hire morning dress – even if they do not have access to the Royal Enclosure. While admirable and promising of an excellent spectacle – to see a sea of toppers bobbing around in the English sun – the result is somewhat varied. Many men take the event seriously and are well turned out; others treat it as something of a Monty Python comedic circus and dress as if they were an extra at the Mad Hatters Tea Party.

I have long thought that wearing morning dress properly is actually fairly easy, and can be achieved relatively inexpensively. There are simply a few things which require some serious thought – and strict control.

To avoid looking like the slovenliest racegoer at the course, focus on three things; your trousers, your waistcoat and your accessories.

All the other major elements – tailcoat, shoes and shirt – practically sort themselves out. The only thing to mention about the shoes is not to wear anything (and I mean anything) other than black Oxfords. No cheap winkle pickers, no loafers and no brown.

The trousers are a cause for concern because they seem to be worn so spectacularly badly at Ascot, even by men with access to the finest tailors money can buy. They are often absurdly long, with unsightly folds encasing the ankles and usually worn criminally low, on the hips of the gentleman rather than the waist.

Let’s get one thing straight. It’s not ‘cool’ to wear morning dress trousers like jeans. It doesn’t look James Dean ‘rebellious’, nor is it more comfortable. If you can see your trouser waistband under your waistcoat, it is very simple: you have failed to wear morning dress properly. You don’t look chic, elegant or smart. You look like a naughty schoolboy who has sneaked outside to the bikeshed to have a cigarette and swap sports stickers – but, instead, gets caught fiddling himself outside the girls toilets.

You should wear your trousers as high as is comfortable and there should be virtually no break at the bottom (nor should there be turn ups). To do this, it is best to buy a pair of trousers a couple of inches bigger at the waist than normal to provide a bigger seat for, ahem, undercarriage comfort. This is because, sadly, most trousers now are cut to be worn on the hips rather than the waist. I always buy morning dress trousers a size or two larger and wear them with braces. You can get them adjusted too, but I haven’t bothered so far. With such a high rise trouser, your waistcoat is guaranteed to cover your waistband and spare your blushes. Advice: buy your trousers and spend time making sure they fit. You can always rent the tailcoat.

Secondly, your waistcoat should be short.

I’ll say that again; your waistcoat should be short.

The elongated double or single-breasted waistcoat pattern is simply a bastardisation that is, once more, caused by men wearing trousers on their hips and not their waist. The waistcoat should be worn around the waist – not the hips; the clue is in the name. If you make your trousers sit at the correct height, you should be able to get a short waistcoat (a maximum of one third of your overall height) to cover your waistband. Unfortunately, to do this properly with a double breasted waistcoat you might need a tailor but there are plenty of places that offer single breasted waistcoats in light cottons or linens, suitable for race day.

Lastly, your accessories. Once you have the trouser rise, the short waistcoat and the basic bits and bobs like polished black Oxfords and a white or French collared shirt, you can focus on the fun stuff; the hat, the tie, tie pin, pocket square, boutonniere (go small and subtle) and – potentially – pocket watch.

The top hat is a bit special, so you should spend some time looking for a decent one but even though the black silk ones are still very much the ‘dizzle’, grey felts are actually quite elegant and a hell of a lot cheaper second hand. To make sure it fits, when you put it on you should feel it sit ¾ of the way up your forehead; any lower and you’re the Artful Dodger.

The tie is often recommended to be a silver or grey colour foulard but you can get away with a lot at Ascot. I think a nice stripe goes a long way and provides a slightly sportier edge to the ensemble than a fusty pattern. Buy on eBay (where great ties never die) for great bargains.

The pocket square should be easy to find, but don’t only listen to those who say you simply have to wear white silk or linen. Match it to your shirt block colour, or a stripe in the tie. Silk, linen or cotton are acceptable.

The tie pin can be anything you want but stay away from novelty golf club, tennis racket or Yogi Bear pins. You’ll either look like a provincial or a paedophile. It can be jewelled (costume or real) or using an attractive, semi-precious stone like malachite. Again, eBay (or Etsy for the connoisseurs) is a great resource. Make sure you fasten it to the shirt placket so that the tie has plenty of arch. There’s nothing sadder than a flat tie at Ascot.

Lastly, the timepiece – the question of the pocket watch.

I have one, so would definitely wear one, but I would strongly advise against it if it is an eBay/Alibaba ‘brand new’ £5 pocket watch with a cheap chain. People will fiddle and it will ruin the entire effect of your ensemble if your watch is, to all intents and purposes, a cheap ‘replica.’ The chain is the thing, though; make sure it’s heavy, with interesting links. Buy a fob, too.

The Benefits of a Linen-Cotton Blend

I don’t know about you, but I find spring and summer the trickiest seasons to dress for affordably. I can never quite stomach spending the same amount of cash that I do on autumnal and winter tailoring, because in our climate, most mid-weight garments can be worn a solid eight to nine months of the year. The prospect of spending upwards of four hundred pounds (and often closer to six) on a summer-weight suit that will sit in the wardrobe for nine months of the year is simply not an attractive one. If I ever have the capital to invest in cloths which differ considerably in character and weight for both autumn-winter, spring and summer, I’ll do so, but until then sensible purchases and clever investments must be the way forward.

Nevertheless, its always frustrating when in late spring and summer we do enjoy bouts of warm weather and the wardrobe is devoid of summer suiting – not an ideal scenario. This is a problem much compounded by my love for linen. Although not everyone’s favourite (and certainly not an ideal fabric for regularly worn business suiting), there is something uniquely appealing about the prospect of a relaxed, crisp and featherweight pastel coloured linen two-piece for dapper summer days and evening parties. Of course, the very best quality linens do behave themselves and hold up to regular use quite well, but I just can’t afford expensive linens. Nor can I afford summer suits in equally expensive tropical and summer weight wools and wool-mohair blends – a situation which I’m sure many readers will sympathise with.

Thus, I’m left with only one solution, either face the mania and inevitable rush of hope and subsequent disappointment of trawling the summer sale rails, or to look for suits made in more affordable cotton-linen blends, this being something I’d recommend you to do unreservedly. Besides affordability, there are a number of reasons why I recommend investing in tailored pieces cut in such a fabric. It is, without a doubt the high-street’s answer to expensive bespoke quality cloths and having owned three cotton-linen blend suits, I really do think its offers a great alternative to more expensive materials.

Its not rocket-science – in blended the different fibres, you get the benefit of both in one cloth. Both fibres are highly breathable, absorb a decent amount of moisture and are often fairly open in weave, to allow air to circulate through the garment and keep the wearer cool. Crucially however, the cotton yarns also add a suitable amount of body and crease-resistant properties which keeps the propensity of linen to crease in check. The cloth will never be as smooth or pristine as a pure summer-weight wool, but it behaves a hundred times better than a pure linen, its more durable, useable and responds so much better to pressing or even machine washing in the case of off-the-peg trousers. I wore a cotton-linen blended suit several times a week during the summer terms during Sixth-Form and I still wear that suit today – it comes up as crisp as ever after a light press, and the trousers have been through the washing machine hundreds of times and are no worse off for it.

True, cotton-linen is less luxurious than silk, or even wool-linen blends, but it is a more affordable and undoubtedly more practical decision. Cotton is considerably tougher than silk and both resists and recovers from creases more effectively. In the same vein, when blended with linen, often wool fibres have to be quite dense and thick for the blend to work, which can (particularly when we’re talking about high-street rather than bespoke cloths) result in a rather heavy or dense cloth which loses the qualities of lightness and breathability required of summer tailoring. Cotton linen therefore bests both alternatives in my opinion.

If you look for cotton-linen blends, you’ll find them in most decent high-street retailers. I’d recommend Austin Reed personally, who’s spring-summer collection I often think is rather good; they use lots of good quality Italian woven fabrics when designing pieces for the warmer months, and at sale price they offer excellent value. Jaeger often do the same, and Chester Barrie I believe have some blended cloth jackets which look rather handsome. So, there you have it really – I hope this encourages those of you looking for affordable summer suiting to spend some time browsing – and I hope that you find, as I have, that cotton-linen is a real contender for a cool summer cloth.

The Trouser Department III: Pleats and Pockets

Thus far in this trilogy (part I, part II) we’ve covered the various different elements of the trouser silhouette; comprising leg width, hem line, rise, turn-ups and the possibility of plain hems. Now I’m going to draw all of these elements together (hopefully), through a discussion of the much overlooked subjects of pleats and pockets.

Pleats are a somewhat complex subject, so I’m going to try to keep this concise. As you will doubtless know, there are two types; forward facing, which face into the middle of the trousers; and reverse facing, which face outwards towards the sides of the trouser. You can see examples of both in the photographs of myself below. Pleats can be combined in a number of ways, arranged as either single, or double pleats on either side of the trouser fly to add interest to the trouser itself.

The fundamental consideration with regards pleats is the way in which their shape will influence the shape of your trouser and therefore the silhouette of your body. Pleats of any kind will add extra cloth and fullness to the leg, so will suit larger frames.

They are not however, as is popularly believed, solely the preserve of those of us with large thighs – such as my unfortunate self. In reality, pleats can help to sculpt the figure, but forward and reverse facing pleats tend to do this in different ways. The reverse facing pleat creates a pleat which runs very squarely through the centre of the leg and into the trouser crease. Given the way the pleat is sewn, it has little give and it essentially produces a boxy shape across the front of the trouser, as you can see happening on the trousers of my double-breasted suit below. This shape of pleat compliments boxier cut jackets, and given that it creates a very square, crisp shape, it can juxtapose nicely against a soft trouser cloth (moleskins and corduroys for example) which will often produce softer lines running down the legs, given their soft drape. Alternatively, pair them with very crisp, structured wool (as below) to add some very interesting angular lines to your trousers.

Forward facing pleats are perhaps the rarer style of pleat seen today, despite the fact that for decades forward facing pleats were the ubiquitous choice for tailored trousers, seen repeatedly in sartorial British tailoring periodically between the 30s and the 80s. The forward facing pleat is my personal favourite, and well worth experimenting with, because unlike the boxy shape of a reverse-pleat, forward facing pleats fall outwards from the trouser waistband, draping smoothly over the hips and falling elegantly through the leg. The effect of this is to create the bottom half of an hourglass shape (this shape being the aim of all good tailoring, running downwards from the waist of the wearer; it’s a sophisticated shape and very striking.

In order for pleats to have these desired effects however, I have two key rules for pleated trousers which really are worth bearing in mind. Firstly, pleated trousers ought ideally to be worn with turn-ups, as the focal point turn-ups provide at the bottom of the trouser, balances that of the pleats at the top. Secondly,(and particularly relevant to forward facing pleats) pleated trousers really do benefit from a higher rise, this gives pleats the space to drape properly, and the closer the trousers sit to the waist, the more they can help to define an hour-glass shape running through the body.

A word also must be mentioned about how to ensure that pleated trousers hang neatly. I would suggest that if the trousers are formal, wear them with braces, as these will not only suit the classic style of the trouser, but help keep the waist of the trousers sitting nice and high, without being uncomfortable. Belts can feel terribly tight and constricting around one’s waist, which is a fundamentally more fleshy part of the body than the hips, where your bone structure gives the belt something solid to tighten around.

Many gentlemen are not keen on braces, so if you can’t face wearing them, then try to find or order trousers with waist-adjusters, as more often than not (although they’re traditionally worn with braces) they will do a fine job of keeping your trousers sitting neat and true on their own.

All styles of trouser pockets in simple terms are welt pockets. The welt pocket is simply an opening in the side (or the top) of the trouser, through which the pocket is accessible. The shape of this welted pocket however, can take a number of different forms, which can radically alter the image that your trouser presents. The most common and perhaps understated design is a simple slanted pocket. This will go with most pleat formations and is (by the standards of modern tailoring), the most conventional pocket shape.

However, I would suggest that there is a subtle, yet nonetheless immensely satisfying alternative option for your tailored trousers: the vertically cut welt pocket. Here, as opposed to the opening of the trouser pocket slanting, the pocket runs through the side-seam of the trouser vertically, keeping a clean, neat line through the side of the trouser. This pocket has its genesis in the Edwardian era, but was popularised first and foremost during the 20s and 30s. The reason for this is simple, the pocket runs parallel to trouser pleats, and doesn’t jarr against their shape. The vertical-cut welt pocket is the perfect compliment to pleats; it keeps the trouser looking neat and linear, as well as giving pleats the space to become the focus of the trouser.

Using vertical, as opposed to slanted welt pockets on your trousers is (in my humble opinion) a seriously smart move. It’s a very subtle change from a slanting to vertical opening, but in an understated way it makes a huge difference to the cut of your trouser. The line of the trouser simply looks neater, and the pocket looks cleaner. It works equally well with a flat-fronted or pleated trouser and also gives the impression that you’re simply a confident dresser – choosing something different, understatedly stylish and out of the ordinary, but which also will have no impact upon your comfort, or the functionality of the pocket itself.

I do have two other suggestions for you though. If you’re into retro style, or simply fancy something different (and pleats don’t appeal), then why not opt for either Jodhpur or frog-mouth pockets? These two are similar in design, and essentially are two separate takes on the classic type of pocket found on jeans; as opposed to sitting at the side-seam of the trouser, the frog mouth pocket slants away down the side of the trouser front, whereas the opening of the Jodhpur pocket is slightly higher and runs horizontal to the waistband, as can be seen in the images below.

Both these shapes are highly unusual by today’s trouser-standards and make a very sharp, modern statement. As is the case with the vertical welt pockets, these shapes have their origins in the Edwardian era, and also enjoyed a brief spell of use in the early 1920s, (as can be seen from the Gatsby tailoring on show – which made heavy use of frog-mouth pockets) before becoming the fashionable pocket of choice in the 60s, making them a cool and contemporary feeling option. Note that for obvious reasons of cut, these pockets cannot be cut with pleats, so are there to satisfy the demands of those of you who feel more comfortable in a flat-fronted trouser.

Drawing all this together then, I’ve suggested a number of things to you; formal trousers suit a higher rise than the high-street would have us believe, trouser legs look more elegant if fitted properly, and turn-ups can help balance any trouser and add a touch of panache. The thing to do now, is to experiment! I find old photographs and old fashion plates the ideal source of inspiration to try new trouser styles, as the unusual selection of photographs provided show. The key is just to remember the basic rules; certain pleats do certain things, different pockets will produce different effects, and turn-ups need to be certain lengths to flatter certain figures. Otherwise, the possibilities for a diverse and different trouser wardrobe are quite simply endless!