30 August 2013

How to keep your feet dry in the autumn rain

Autumn is upon us and there is no getting away from the fact that it will rain more than some might like, myself included. One of the biggest challenges with the rainy days is maintaining your style. Any gentleman recognises the importance shoes play to an elegant outfit, but there is nothing more uncomfortable than walking around in damp, wet shoes all day. It's not doing your shoes any good either. Leather soles are much more susceptible to damage and get worn much quicker when wet, and, as I suppose you've noticed, soaked leather soles can also get very slippery.
You always have the option of changing to a pair with rubber soles or you could go all the way and put on rubber boots. Rubber boots, however, are rarely doing your style any favours and is hard to defend unless your walking the fields in the country side. The solution to this problem, as far as I'm concerned, is, of course, galoshes

Modern galoshes do not detract from your outfit but can
be rather stylish. The suit is by Cacharel.
Until a couple of years ago, galoshes had been largely absent for several decades. It is only in the last few years galoshes have become visible in the shoe shops and clothing stores again, and Swims were at the forefront of this revival. The Swims galoshes are made from quality rubber and give you good grip on the wet surface, they are lightweight and, the design will actually compliment your outfit. The unique inner lining ensures low friction when slipping them on and off, and the lining will also serve as insulation and help keep your feet warm in cold weather.
Swims galoshes come in several different colours and for the less adventurous, the black, dark blue or brown are probably the most appropriate. If you want your Swims to make more of an impact, they also come in green, orange and red. Judging from what I've seen, the orange ones seem to be particularly popular. Personally, I went for the black Swims and they have served me well for some years now and they will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. They are practically unbreakable, so buying a pair of Swims is an investment you're likely to do only once. 
For me there is no better protection against the pouring rain and I think galoshes should be part of any gentleman's arsenal against the elements.

A pair of Swims protect you, and your shoes, from the elements. The
shoes are by Barker.

28 August 2013

Take advice from Hardy Amies

ABC of men's fashion by Hardy Amies
A colleague and fellow sartorialist recently lent me this book by Hardy Amies. I am not sure why I wasn't already aware of this book because I really think I should have. It is a lovely read and a book which I think should be essential for any aspiring or seasoned gentleman. 
Hardy Amies' "ABC of Men's Fashion" is vital reading for any gentleman. It was first published in 1964 but the majority of the advice and information presented by Hardy Amies is still valid today. I can almost guarantee you will learn something from this book and it will give you invaluable advice on the art of dressing well. If not, you are incredibly well informed and probably have this book already.

22 August 2013

"I am Dandy", a book I'm looking forward to

I am Dandy is definitely a book I'm looking forward to. It is not yet published and won't be released for another three weeks, on 15th September. Still, by reading the pre-release book description (see below), I am certain this book will be of interest to any gentleman. It's just the kind of book you browse through time and time again, which makes you feel good and you seek inspiration from. It's the perfect gentleman's gift and it will definitely be on my wish list for Christmas, unless I've already bought by then. It can be pre-ordered here.

Book description: 
Even today, men who devote themselves to the finer things in life especially when it comes to fashion mostly arouse suspicion. Vanity is frowned upon and lavish grooming is generally deemed superficial or unmanly. Fortunately, a small but tenacious movement has been defying these social dictates for more than 200 years. Its adherents indulge in their love of quality clothing and accessories not only privately, but also very publically. Photographer Rose Callahan and writer Nathaniel Adams have spent years exploring the fascinating phenomenon of dandyism. They visit contemporary dandies in their homes to document their impeccably designed lives in both words and images. Well-kempt to the tips of their beards and wearing three-pieces suits with flawlessly folded pocket handkerchiefs and supple kid gloves, their protagonists revive the charm of the past and reveal that cultivated idleness can be incredibly hard work. These gallant beaus first came on the scene in eighteenth-century London and Paris, where they supported the livelihoods of many a local tailor. Today s dandies continue to propagate a look characterized by trimmed beards, pomade, velvet slippers, and even a touch of make-up as a shield to mask the darker sides of life. Yet in their carefully composed portraits, Callahan and Adams reveal the cracks in this fa├žade. They describe the sacrifices that many full-time dandies need to make while pursuing their personal aesthetic ideals. A refuge for eccentrics, dandyism has seen a revival in the Anglo-American realm over the last several years. For example, today s distinguished gentlemen can ride their vintage bikes around London during the Tweed Run to show off their authentic outfits or attend the Jazz Age Lawn Party on New York City s Governor s Island to bring the era of the Great Gatsby back to life, if only for a few hours. Now, the phenomenon is again going more international. Known for their Dandy Portraits, the spiffy duo of Callahan and Adams approaches their topic and their protagonists with a keen, yet empathic eye. In this book, they successfully capture the styles, attitudes, and philosophies of contemporary dandyism in all its nuances. (Book description copied from amazon UK)

21 August 2013

My first experience with suits and bespoke tailoring (part 2)

As mentioned at the end of the first instalment of this post, I ventured into the world of bespoke clothing a few years back. It was in 2010 I finally took the step and booked a measuring appointment with a tailor. This was a long time coming and I had spent a significant amount of time searching the internet for a tailor which I could afford and at the same time seemed to produce good quality suits. I had no experience with this at the time and I didn't know anyone who had ever bought a bespoke suit, so I was starting from scratch. During my search I had to sift through quite a few sites claiming to sell bespoke or made to measure suits at very low prices, but when looking closer at what they offered it wasn't too impressive. It was basically companies getting/taking your measurements, and sending it off to some cheap labour country having a suit made from cheap fabrics. I think one should be aware when "bespoke" garments are offered at suspiciously low prices. Anyway, after a while I stumbled upon the web site for the relatively newly established Cad & the Dandy. In short, their philosophy is to make it simple and affordable to to buy bespoke clothes without compromising on the quality of the craftsmanship. This was exactly what I was looking for and I sent them an e-mail booking a measuring appointment.

Cad & the Dandy have shops in three locations in London, in the City, on Savile Row and Canary Wharf, and one shop in New York. I booked an appointment for Savile Row. Now, Cad & the Dandy are located in number 13, right above Richard Anderson. In 2010, they only took appointments on Savile Row two days a week and they were in number 12 on the premises for Chittleborough & Morgan. I was booked in for 2 o'clock on a Saturday and as this was the first time, I was was quite apprehensive and didn't want to be late. As a result I got to Savile Row an hour early to make sure I could find the right place. It wasn't difficult finding number 12, but I didn't know which floor they were on and I was looking for a sign with Cad & the Dandy written on it. Such a sign didn't exist (at least I never found it) and I remember walking up and down Savile Row numerous times to see if I somehow had gone wrong. After a long walk and a some serious pondering, I decided I was were I should be and thought it had to be on the lower ground floor. I descended the stairs and peeked into the tailors shop were I was met by a young gentleman from Cad & the Dandy, immaculately dressed and polite as could be. I was very pleased I had found it and got there on time, and quite excited about being in a Savile Row tailors shop. After some small talk, I had all necessary measurements taken before we started looking at different fabrics. I had already given some thought to what colour and pattern I wanted and it didn't take too long before I decided on a navy fabric with lighter blue pinstripes. What I hadn't considered was the lining, but with a bit of guidance I went for a lovely yellow/gold colour.

I still wear this suit on a regular basis and I am very pleased with it. I love the bright lining, lighting up whenever I open the jacket or lift the pocket flaps. The two top photos show my first bespoke suit. 

My first bespoke suit. A single breasted, two button, navy pinstripe.

How can you not love this lining?

Getting a suit made for me, which fitted me perfectly, was a big step up from the of-the-rack suits I was used to and the feeling of wearing such a suit is unbeatable. It is also quite addictive and when you have gone down the bespoke route, it is very difficult to go back. Instead, you want different suits, different fabrics and designs. So far, I've bought three more suits from Cad & the Dandy, see the photos below.

A three button, single breasted, three piece suit. Slate coloured Prince of Wales
fabric with striped lining. I particularly like the double breasted waistcoat
with the shawl lapel.
Detail of the Prince of Wales pattern and the lining at the back of the waistcoat.
A black suit with red pinstripes and red lining.
A plain blue, single breasted, two button suit with a bright purple lining.

Detail from the inside of the jacket.
I'm sure it won't be too long before I get myself another suit and I might even try out a different tailor. I already have a few options in mind.  

15 August 2013

Burtonwode underwear

Following on from my earlier post about the quality underwear by Hamilton & Hare I have discovered another brand which fits nicely into the category of gentleman's underwear of an above average standard. Burtonwode is the brand by which the Liverpool based artist David Huglin sells men's boxers of his own design. With an emphasis on quality and comfort, the underwear is made from specially softened, 100% cotton fabrics. The five panel construction, an extra panel at the back, avoids the unfortunate positioned mid-seam often found on boxers where less attention has been paid to the comfort improving details. The boxers come in plain colours, like the "Baby blue" one seen in top photo, and different lovely prints like the "Einstein" and "Birds in the bush" seen in the other photos below. All photos are taken from the Burtonwode web site.     
Baby blue


Birds in the bush

14 August 2013

Brass collar stiffeners, a nice touch from Tyrwhitt

I recently bought some shirts from Charles Tyrwhitt and I was very pleased with one of shirt features. This was the first time I bought Tyrwhitt shirts but I have earlier bought several other items, so that the shirts were of top quality came as no surprise. However, when I noticed that the shirts were equipped with brass collar stiffeners I was positively surprised. This is quite uncommon for ready-to-wear shirts and normally an option reserved for bespoke shirts. What is normally included with shirts are plastic stiffeners of varying flexibility. Even quite expensive (£140+) off-the-rack shirts don't have this feature and may even have sewn in stiffeners. Sewn in collar stiffeners are, in my opinion, not a good option. They tend to become permanently bent after a while which takes away the crispness of a proper shirt collar.
Have a look underneath the collar next time you buy a shirt and choose the one with removable stiffeners. With removable collar stiffeners you can always change them if they should break or switch them for a better quality pair if you so wish. Remember, your face sits right atop of your shirt collar and the collar will therefore never go unnoticed.
Back to point of this post. Brass collar stiffeners are included with the Tyrwhitt shirts and I applaud that. Quality is in the details and little things like this is of major importance for the gentleman of style.

Brass collar stiffeners included with Charles Tyrwhitt shirts.

13 August 2013

Ties by CatkinJane

Today I heard about Cathrine Couling and her company CatkinJane for the first time. That in itself is no good reason for a blog post, but I'm a big supporter of craftsmanship and that is what Cathrine stands for. I also believe small businesses like hers enrich society and are worth supporting. 
In her own words, she comes from a family of stitchers with both her mother and grandmother having been involved in tailoring on a private and professional basis. Cathrine carries on this family tradition when producing her own designs from the workroom in her own home. Admittedly, most of her products are aimed at a female audience, but she has a collection of ties which I think could look rather nice with a plain coloured suit and shirt. The floral patterns would bring life to an otherwise calm outfit and if that's what you're after, have a look at the CatkinJane web site. Two examples of her ties are shown below (the photos are taken from the CatkinJane web site). 

11 August 2013

I want this: Gentleman's valets by Sam Brown Furniture

When it comes to furniture, it is a long time since I saw something as beautiful and befitting a gentleman as the gentleman's valets by Sam Brown Furniture. If there was ever an item suitable for inclusion in the "I want this" series it's this.
Sam Brown Furniture is a company creating hand built bespoke furniture for their clients. One of their specialities are gentleman's valets and it was a couple of these that really got me excited about this company. Have a look at the photos below (taken from the Sam Brown web site) and tell me who wouldn't want a clothes valet like this. I find this kind of quality craftsmanship very exciting and definitely worth promoting even though I probably won't be able to commission one in the near future myself. My current living arrangements (a relatively small flat) wouldn't do such a marvellous piece of furniture justice and bespoke furniture is, unfortunately, also not within my budget at the moment. One thing's for certain though, if I were ever to commission bespoke furniture, a gentleman's valet from Sam Brown will be very high up on my list.

10 August 2013

My first experience with suits and bespoke tailoring (part 1)

It's a long time since I first developed an interest in clothes and shoes, and since I was in my early twenties I've been trying to pay particular attention to the way I dress. I am now in my late thirties. I had just started university in Norway when I first began wearing suits on a daily basis. Later I went on to study in both Australia and England. Neither Norway or Australia is known for their sense of style, and even in England, where the sartorial has a stronger position, is it quite rare to see suits at most universities. Needless to say that I was usually the only person in a suit,  with the possible,  but rare, exception of a lecturer. Anyway, I stuck with it because suits make me feel comfortable, and dressing down to conform with the majority is a very dubious exercise. At the time, the knowledge was lacking and many years should pass before I even heard of bespoke tailoring and even longer before I actually owned a piece of bespoke clothing. I also doubt I would have been able to afford it as student budgets rarely leave room investing in bespoke suits. Thus, my suits at that time were always cheap and of varying quality and I'm sure I made dressing mistakes on a regular basis, but you got to start somewhere.
Anyway, I still remember some of my early suits. Two suits in particular have left a lasting impression, but for different reasons. The first one I remember mainly because it had a famous name attached to it. This was an olive green, three piece, Pierre Cardin suit which I had managed to pick up quite cheaply and, although I never said so out loud, there was a certain pride in owning a suit from a famous designer. The other I remember was a darkish grey suit bought at H&M. This was probably the cheapest suit I've ever bought, but also a suit which was worn more extensively than most other suits I've ever owned. My suit collection looks quite differently now and the way I buy my suits have changed significantly but if it hadn't been for these early purchases I wouldn't have been where I am today. Dressing well is not about wearing the most expensive garments but rather to make the best of what you've got and work within the budget available to you. That said, I would encourage all to opt for the best possible quality and move on to better quality clothing as the wardrobe grows. Also, please, don't confuse quality with expensive brands. There is usually a proportionality between price and quality, but in some cases you'll pay a disproportionate amount for the brand rather than the quality of the clothes the brand produces. Pay attention to what you buy and seek out quality without being blinded by the fame or popularity of the brand!
If you are new to buying suits and want to enter at the lower end of the price range, I think I would probably recommend Marks & Spencer. They offer suits and blazers for as little £99. There are many other companies offering suits in the same price range and maybe even cheaper, but the reason I think M&S is a good starting point is that I believe they offer a reasonable quality considering the price. You could, of course, do as I did when looking for my first suit, see what H&M has to offer.
Another option, and in my opinion a better one, is to get a suit of much better quality and design when one of the more upmarket retailers have a sale on. If you're on a budget but have a bit of patience you can really get hold of some fantastic bargains during the end of season sales. You'll be hard pressed to find a suit for £99 but should be able to find a good selection between £170-£250. Brook Taverner and Savile Row Company actually have a sale on right now with some excellent bargains up for grabs. Another retailer which I like very much is Charles Tyrwhitt but, unfortunately, their big sale has just ended (still have some good offers though). I actually managed to pick a few Tyrwhitt bargains a couple of weeks ago. I bought five shirts and a boating blazer, and I must say that very pleased with both the design and quality. From before I have an overcoat from Tyrwhitt which has served me well for several years. A fourth and last retailer I would like to mention is Ted Baker which has a distinctive design which can be very appealing.
When buying clothes online they may not always fit perfectly, but remember you can always have them altered.   

Below I have included three examples from the many suits available from the above mentioned retailers. The first is Prince of Wales check suit from Brook Taverner made from super 130's Italian wool. This suit is now available for £175, priced down from £400. The second is a contrast lapel blazer from Ted Baker retailing for £299. The bottom one is a grey glen check suit available for £349, down from £700. It is possible to buy a decent suit on any budget, just look around and have a bit of patience. The photos are from the respective retailers' web sites.
Grey Prince of Wales check suit from Brook Taverner
Contrast lapel blazer from Ted Baker

Grey glen check suit from Charles Tyrwhitt

Some years ago I took another step up in the world of suits and ventured into the realm of bespoke clothing. That was a step I was somewhat apprehensive about taking and I spent quite some time building up the courage to book an appointment with a tailor. I had always thought bespoke suits were for the selected few, the rich and famous, and I wasn't at all sure if this was something I could do. I couldn't have been more wrong, however, and making that first measuring appointment is one of the best decisions I've made. I'll write more about that in part 2 of this post.

9 August 2013

I want this: Hamilton & Hare boxers

With this post I start a new series on this blog. I often see things I would like to have but, for one reason or another, can't or won't get at the moment. Under the heading "I want this" I will present such things.
The first product I want to present in this series is the underwear made by Hamilton & Hare. Gentlemen's underwear is not something widely discussed and it is rare to see something special in this department. I think Hamilton & Hare is an exception to this and worth a mention here. The company was estblished in 2012 to provide some real quality in the men's underwear market and I think the following sentence from their web site explains why this is a product worth trying out:
"Designed in London using Savile Row suppliers and expertise, our boxers combine a unique tailored cut with fine materials for the most flattering and comfortable fit around."
The boxers' are made from fine cotton fabrics which should make them very comfortable and they are topped off with mother of pearl buttons to add a bit of extra class. They also look lovely and I will definitely get me a pair or two in not too long. The photos below are from the Hamilton & Hare web site.

Boris blue tailored boxer

Boris blue tailored boxer mother of pearl buttons

Pinstripe pink tailored boxer

4 August 2013

Find an altering service you're happy with

There is no doubt that in an ideal world you would get all your clothes tailored to fit you perfectly, but as bespoke garments come at a price, bespoke clothes are, for most people, restricted to a carefully selected set of items. The reality is that a significant amount of your clothes will be bought off the rack and although you'll do your best to seek out the configuration which most closely resembles your size and body shape, it is hardly ever a perfect fit. The most common problem is probably trousers which are too long and most people would get that changed. Very few people walk around with their trouser legs dragging along the ground. When it comes to blazers and suit jackets, my impression is that people are generally less bothered about the perfect fit. The sleeves are often too long, the body of the jacket may be too long and often it is too loose or too tight around the waist. It is the little things that let down a good outfit and a slightly to loose waist or too long sleeves do not leave a good impression and attracts negative attention. That is why it is so important to have your off the rack clothes altered to get the best possible fit for your body. It will never be the same as bespoke garments but imagine how nice it would be if everyone wore clothes that actually fitted them. This brings me to the main point of this post, the importance of finding an altering service you are satisfied with. By this, I mean that you should be slightly critical when looking for a person to alter your clothes. The quality of the work and the expertise of the workers can vary greatly. A tailor mainly working with women's clothing may not have the necessary experience with gentleman's clothes and vice versa. Shop around a bit, talk to the tailors, talk to people, look for reviews online and the most important thing of all, do not hand over your most precious clothes the first time you try a new service. Make sure you find someone who does the work to your satisfaction. Having a tailor you trust will make it easier to have alterations done also to discuss the result you are after.   
Recently I bought a Charles Tyrwhitt boating blazer from their online shop and by following the sizing guidelines, the jacket fitted reasonably well. The only problem was that it was too loose around the waist and I wouldn't have been able to wear it without being very self conscious about it. Needless to say, I had the jacket sown in and, for a very reasonable price, I now have a beautiful blazer I can wear with my head held high.
Having clothes altered is not very expensive and normally you would only need one or two things done. The little money you spend having your clothes fitted is the best money you could ever spend. Few things beat the feeling of wearing perfectly fitting clothes and, at least, it rids you of the discomfort of an ill fitting garment.  

The lining is ready to be opened.

The seam at the back of the jacket has been opened, adjusted and is
 now being resown.

The finished jacket.