Sincerity, Manners and Individuality in the New Millenium

By Film Noir Buff

“Rock should be heavy enough for the boys and sweet enough for the girls.”
-Josh Homme, Queens of the Stone Age

And the same can be said of men’s clothing; at least the clothes that concern me. The civilized sort, the tailored sort, the dandiacal sort that make both men and women gaze on with admiration.

In the last decade, Western men have experienced the sort of social pressure and tests that would normally take a century. Out of the almost victorious jaws of Casual Friday and, indeed, what seemed like the end of this garment once and for all, the suit has resurrected itself, phoenix like, via its own versatility of design. The Founders would be proud.

Initially, this versatility gave rise to the uni-purpose black suit (which is making a comeback!) and orphaned suit jacket paired with jeans. Subsequently, Millennials adopted the suit as a symbol of both personal expression and self reliance in a time where every institution fails them.

In fact in recent memory, there seem to have never been so many suits worn in New York City in a very long time. Additionally, bow ties are also seen everywhere. One might ask, is this a sign of the sartorial apocalypse? I think not, rather more of a counterrevolution for tailored clothing against the sans culottes of urban gear.

Why is this suit renaissance taking place?

Men as hierarchical figures have been rocked to their foundations by the recent global fiscal traumas.

Additionally, there are parallels between this time and Beau Brummell’s where everything is called into question including a man’s self-worth. A Millenial might well ask, how can a man demonstrate high value today? Indeed, there seems a renewed interest in those finer touchstones of wit, manners and good form. It smacks of Regency England when to be a gentleman was the ne plus ultra of male inspiration.

Brummell’s time was a reaction to the confusing social upsets caused by The French Revolution which rendered heredity and noble titles less important than style and grace.

Similarly, In this post Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers world where toxic debt, governmental austerity and rampant unemployment continue to dog our global markets while both terrorism and monthly national revolutions make paranoia and insecurity our daily companions, it is no wonder that we search for visual, tangible signs of strength and success.

But, what sort of hero can save us from those suffocating monsters created by the relentless fracking of our new millennium?

Enter the dandy. When a man’s worth seems to be how he presents himself, the dandy returns to demand the best from both form and function. Never before have looks been more important for men; especially young men. Now that there is this newly awakened desire amongst men to look good, to appear well groomed, prosperous and refined what are the dimensions of that look and where can they be found?

Bad taste can be summarized as what everyone else wears. Good taste is of course what I wear and what I suggest you should wear. Good taste dictates that colors, patterns and textures for shirt fabrics are executed in a manner that suggests the wearer is the best sort of person. And how does a man identify that sort of fabric if he is not “To the manor born”? He saves time and energy by buying from a company which has already captured gentlemanly lightning in a bottle.

That’s why I like Acorn fabrics for shirts.

Indeed, shirts are very central to your look. A man should acquire suits and jackets that form a personal color palette but there probably should be some limitation to the range of colors he chooses from. Shirts, however, can be a great deal more varied and can drastically influence the mood of a given outfit.

From Brummell onward the English have set the tone for what gentlemanly comportment should be for a man’s shirt when worn with a dark suit. Generally but with some exceptions, shirts should be pale in tone. Additionally, a man’s shirt is not only pale but also limited to certain colors, primarily blue, white, and pink or some combination of these shades.

Other colors such as purple, red, brown, green, orange and yellow do play a part in shirts, however it is crucial to control yarn shade and more carefully integrate the color into a design in a manner which the colors pink, white and blue are not nearly as subject to.

But why should English shirt taste be the guiding light for men who have never been to England? The English concern with uniforms, with propriety and with male dignity has rendered their shirt tastes the best in a world where men currently strive to present themselves competent, engaging and refined.

Acorn Fabrics make top quality goods and they apply just the right amount of finish; to be sure, a very small amount of finish. The English like a matte look to their tailored wools and expect their shirts to complement that look.

Acorn’s fabrics are robust and hard wearing but always feel soft and pampering against the skin. Acorn puts a lot of thought and energy into what they receive from the last few English weaving mills. They make a relieving variety of fabric types for the demanding variety of affairs a gentleman might find on his schedule.

Acorns yarn colors and textures are always correct for the best and most important type of men. Everything a man could need for business, for casual, for summer and for winter. There is not a single fabric pattern or color that a serious man cannot use for some part of his wardrobe.

In their English restraint, one would be hard pressed to find an Acorn fabric that does not look well with a tie. They have formal fabrics like voile and pique for wear with black tie. Additionally, many of their fabrics have multiple uses. For instance, their tartans can make a preppy button down, a short sleeved shirt or a pleated tuxedo shirt.

Acorn cover the basics such a solids, and simple patterns well but also provide enough pattern variety and color interest to keep shirt choices fun. Renowned for their Grassmere range of superfine 160s 2×2 ply which are cool and silky next to the skin, their Cambridge and Bamboo ranges are also amazing for summer wear. Their new Burneside 300 range is silky enough to wear with a suit and beefy enough to wear with a sports jacket. The Hampton range of plaids is well designed and contemporary, and yet also seem like classics.

It is amazing that the firm could produce so many conservative fabrics that also double for designer inspirations or current gentlemanly vogue, such as their white on white cottons. Today’s white business shirt is often anything but plainly smooth in texture and Acorn offers many types of pique weave and jacquard pattern as well as a royal pinpoint 100s 2×2. Their prince 120s 2×2 ply twill doesn’t seem to the naked eye like anything extraordinary but it is heaven to wear.

My only complaint about Acorn is that their ranges are often too small and could literally be either doubled or tripled in selection. They also have a tendency to retire popular or unique patterns rater quickly.

From Chris at Acorn:

How we go about producing what we do.

Firstly, we’ve got to like it! I know this sounds simple, but if I really don’t like it – I can’t get behind it. I may not always be right and that’s why I ask not only Dad and James but also I ask advice from yourself and also from my staff. At the end of the day, though, I give the “yay” or “nay”. We do also look at our customer base and try to design a collection that appeals to our desired end-user.

It is crucial that what we design can actually be made by our mills. I’ve seen thousands of designs over the years that looked fantastic but were not possible for us to re-produce. This may have been due to yarn colour availability or simply limitations in the looms that we work on. When designing, I have always got the strengths of the various mills that we use, firmly at the front of my mind.

I also have to work from a colour palette of stock yarn colours. Special colours can be dyed but there are large minimums for dyeing yarn and the process to arrive at the correct colour
Is time consuming. By contrast, working with stock colours means that generally they are ready to use and that I know how they will look which makes designing patterns more successful.

From time to time, yarn colours become discontinued and we have to create a new stock colour – this can lead to creating some fabrics where the colour of the finished fabric is not quite right. This also means that we have gradually developed a range of “house” colours that we use in our ranges, such as AP butcher, red, black, coral, purple, sky. It is also the reason why in some ranges, pink is absent because the pink dyed did not produce a perfect colour but one with an unwanted hue.

The size of the design is also important. The way we show our fabrics means that the size of the design can’t be too large as the repeat does not show in the range card. (Perhaps now that the range cards are “virtual”, larger patterns can be explored? ed.)

Popular ranges tend to lend themselves to expansion, while slowly selling ranges often prompt scrutiny which often leads to a redevelopment of the range. Oxford, for example, is selling well and its yarns are readily available in an array of colours, thus I can create designs without too many limiting factors.

Width has to be considered. Minimums in the wider width are reducing whilst it is becoming increasingly difficult to weave small runs in the narrow width.

Last but not least is fashion. Although we are not cutting edge, more classic – we have to be aware of trends because a diluted version does filter down from the catwalks to our customers; usually several seasons behind. Further, Designers of all sorts love the quality of our products and buy some of our fabrics by the roll to showcase their season offerings.

In conclusion:

As we can observe above, there are thousands of designs they could produce but do not both because of the limitations of the English mills and because those designs are not for the English gentleman. Thus are traditions preserved with both belt AND suspenders. Every other shirt cloth merchant is coming up with the latest and greatest in design While Acorn is preserving the soul of what it is to present the gentlemanly ideal.

One comment, or rather observation I have come to realize about style for men. Men want to look like gentlemen when they dress up and many also want to be unique. I see men dressed all over NYC in shirt patterns where they seemingly attempted to wear a shirt no one else has. Usually the shirt is a catastrophe because just being different doesn’t ensure its aesthetic success.

Although occasionally a unique shirt can work, to be too unique can be as odd as dressing too generically. In the case of a purely unique shirt, one runs the risk of looking like an oddball or a bargain basement denizen.

In the case of always wearing a very commonly chosen shirt one runs the risk of not being noticeable at all, rather like a shadowy, faceless clerk. It is more advisable to be part of a certain tribe of well dressed, well heeled, talented men. It’s quite hard to write about what visually makes a gentleman’s clothes but I have always known it when I see it and Acorn’s shirt fabrics express that look better than I ever could.

Acorn’s phenomenal website is a visual treat:


Lumbs Golden Bale Cloth

By Film Noir Buff

What is Lumb’s Golden Bale and where does cloth made from it rank on the list of men’s suiting?

Think Sir Arnold Robinson and Sir Humphrey Appleby sipping scotch in green leather arm chairs and discussing how to preserve the world’s tranquility. Think Balance of power. Think wealth and influence combined with English, democratic modesty. That is Lumbs Golden Bale cloth.

In decades past, It was mostly made by H. Lesser and the quality became synonymous with Lesser’s retro matte cloth finish. The wool itself comes from… well, this link explains it perfectly:

When Harrisons of Edinburgh bought H. Lesser, thus combining my two favorite cloth merchants, the question in the minds of the cloth cognoscenti was whether they could and would maintain both the historical quality and look. There was indeed some trepidation about whether the young bucks at Harrisons could maintain that Dickensian Tellson’s Bank feeling that Lesser cloth always lent UK Bankers and Solicitors.

Well heeled men everywhere can now rest assured that Harrisons has indeed exceeded all expectations. The quality is improved and the original look of the fabric is not only preserved but enhanced- plus Lesser que Lesser – so to speak. Let the tailoring begin!

What do you get when you buy Lumbs Golden Bale? You get visual buttery softness combined with subcutaneous toughness. Like a high tensile steel, this material is malleable without any brittleness.

The more you wear the fabric, the softer it looks and feels, yet still retains the shape of its first day from the tailors. In fact, the more you wear Lumbs Golden Bale, the better it looks; developing, as it were, a patina. That is because the quality of the fibers and the weave provide multiple layers of beauty.

This is the everlasting gobstopper of suits. It will probably never wear out and you will one day be forced to give it away or leave it to your descendants. How’s that for Old Boy thrift?

My one complaint is that they need more patterns! Apparently the global turn down produced an aversion to the banker look. However, for those of us who have earned their stripes, we would like a better selection.

For the rest, there is a generous variety of solid shades, pick and picks, bird’s eye and small Prince of Wales checks in 7-8oz tropical weight, 11-12 oz business weight, 13oz Old Boy weight and a small series of worsted flannels which are vastly superior to the original Lesser version.

From the good fabric merchants of Harrisons:

Since the introduction of what are commonly known today as bunches, there have been few partnerships like the one enjoyed between H Lesser and Lumb’s Golden Bale.

H lesser & Sons was one of the original Merchants invited to become members of the select club that were deemed worthy enough to supply cloth of this quality.

The criterion for membership was a simple one, a reputation for providing the trade with cloth of the very highest standard; standards that are fundamental to the reputation of H Lesser.

Lumb’s Golden Bale is the Flagship bunch for H Lesser cloths; the component fleeces are still handpicked and inspected by the some of the most experience buyers in Huddersfield.

We still insist on the highest levels of production, from the spinning into yarn, right though the weaving process, and onto the final finishing.

Lumb’s Golden Bale epitomizes everything that H Lesser has stood for all these years, and will continue to do so for many years to come.


Mohair, the Casual Power Suit

By Film Noir Buff

Mohair is sharp, mohair is elegant, mohair is formal, mohair is young at heart.

Harrisons Cape Kid mohair fabric is awesome. It is not your father’s mohair which was stiff and thick and brittle. This mohair has flow to the fabric and it is sleek and supple. At 60% summer kid mohair and 40% merino wool content, the fabric’s luster is beautiful. Featured here, a mid-blue single breasted, peak lapel suit that takes belt loops. Because this is a minimalist’s sort of suit, it has a one button jacket fastening.

A more typical color is a mid grey to charcoal (even black) solid. In its Cape Kid Mohair range, Harrisons offers many different shades of brown, beige, grey, blue and blue-grey.

Mohair is known for it’s ability to take dye colors exceptionally well. Irrespective of the color one selects, due to the manner in which its straight fibers reflect light, mohair combines that slight sheen and sparkle, like silk, with the comfort of wool that makes the fabric appropriate for both city and night life.

Worn with a white shirt, a Van Buck Limited Edition tie (even sans necktie) and black shoes it is genteel evening formality. Shoes must be plain looking, no brogues, with either a chisel toe or toe cap; black Chelsea boots seem especially appropriate.

Worn with brown suede shoes and a pastel abstract print shirt it becomes Lounge lizard chic; very cool. The jacket worn separately with jeans and a blue shirt with a grenadine, knit silk or a soft cashmere tie is an amazing half-dress Friday look.

The midnight blue version makes a smashing dinner jacket.

In an age where men are trying to express their individuality and still remain respectable, this fabric delivers. My favorite cloth merchant, Harrisons Of Edinburgh is fast becoming friend to both dandiacal expression and serious professional all around the world.

Made for me by master tailor Nino Corvato of New York City. Nino makes a suit in the American natural shouldered tradition but gives the jacket an English chest and waist suppression, then completes the masterpiece by finishing it to Italian standards of perfection. His suits are supple, soft and lightweight but the construction is both robust and hard wearing.

From Harrisons of Edinburgh on their Cape kid Mohair:

“Always had a special place in hearts of the English – from the Beatles to the James Bond films of the 1960’s – mohair has always been a bit Holywood.

It’s a favourite amongst tailors, and also the discerning client who knows his cloth and understands that a mohair is a must have in his wardrobe.

Cape Kid is made using Summer Kid mohair – which means that the Mohair Goats are cropped in summer, when the climate is hottest and therefore the fiber will be at its finest.

This creates two problems – firstly there is a shorter season for cropping the goats, which consequently means that whatever is produced is very expensive.

Mohair would not be the first choice for a client having his first bespoke suit – it’s a fabric you learn to love – it’s a dressing up suit, a going to a party suit, but one can feel just at home in it at the office.

It has a certain sparkle to it, a certain life of its own – it works well with brighter shirts and shoes of any colour – its place in fashion is secure…”

Mohair is quite crease resistant thus remember not to over press it and stay out of the rain which can cause the fabric to wrinkle.

Comment [1]

The Importance of not being earnest

By Film Noir Buff

Clothing for work and for play.

Glorious twelfth:

Glorious Twelfth is a pleasure to wear. Light on the shoulders and yet sturdily constructed. It can be a bit warm and is more appropriate for Fall/Winter to midway through Spring.

The color palette used in the Glorious Twelfth range is amazing. This fabric has a very matte finish with a wee bit of sparkle from the fully spun yarns used; which gives the fabric both life and loft.

On the gentility meter, I would give this a ten out of ten. The wearer will not want to remove their jacket.

Chosen here, a blue with red and wine check to use at work on casual days; even with jeans. If you wear a lot of shirts with pink and red in them, this particular fabric gives an opportunity to have fun with those colors.

Placed here with a Paris Custom shirt made from Acorn Fabric’s Grange fabrics but it could be equally at home with either a turtle neck sweater or a polo shirt.

Glorious Twelfth fabric will coordinate well with corduroys, flannels, wool (or cotton) gabardine trousers and jeans. Paired here with light grey flannel trousers. Smith and Co. make this beautiful 9oz flannel in four shades of grey which have that refined flannel look but are mercifully cool for those who must endure the inferno that is central heating.

It would be possible to make a suit out of this fabric for those who want an unusual, Edwardian look but the pants may neither last long nor breathe well.

In the Glorious Twelfth range, there are a wide variety of shades and patterns available in brown, green, grey and navy. Hopefully the next release of this range will see more city choices in blues and greys. Glorious twelfth is equally at home in the city, suburbs or the country.

Glorious twelfth is a versatile fabric. It works both for a casual day at the office, and just about any other day-time recreation where a jacket feels right. This one is worn to all day corporate outings, and both old boy and hip bars/restaurants in NYC. It looks great with a tie or bow tie and even the occasional cravat.

This lime green neck tie is from the very English furnishings house, Van Buck and the cufflinks are by the evil genius, Chris Parry.

The belt is by Equus leather and combines manly construction with enough refinement to wear with either a suit or a jacket.


Harrisons Sunbeam is a very open weave, more appropriate for spring and summer or whenever or wherever it is warm. It would be a perfect jacket for use in the tropics. Despite its porous weave, the fabric is very strongly woven. Its twenty percent silk content provides additional strength and a hint of sparkle that makes it exciting for wear casually without making it inappropriate for an office situation.

Harrisons have produced another winner and this cloth is and will continue to be popular. In 2012, a second series of Sunbeam will be released which will include some bright new colours – Lilac,bright pink,light blues & a bottle green.

Sunbeam works with tropical worsted wool, mohair (and mohair blend), cotton gabardine, light weight denim jeans, linen and linen blend trousers.

This striped version is a contemporary look taken to its logical conclusion. What started out as orphaned suit jackets rescued from thrift shops and worn with jeans or khakis is now available as specialty cloths. These specialty cloths look like suit stripes from a distance but upon closer inspection are not. A dandy interpretation of a bohemian creation.

Placed here with another Paris Custom shirt from Acorn’s Grange DU Blue fabric and a spotted tie from Van Buck. Van Buck ties are assembled from excellent ingredients and make a proper English knot.

A vanity lining done up by Harrisons of Edinburgh for yours truly. Cufflinks hand enameled by MP Levene of London. Jeans by Nino Corvato made from denim sourced at Premium Denim Outlet in Los Angeles.

The belt is from Equus Leather in a midnight blue colour. The leopard buckle is by Patrick Mavros of London. Both Equus Leather and Patrick Mavros worked together seamlessly to have this buckle fitted to my specifications and were gracious about my request throughout the entire process.

Sunbeam cloth is a testament that Harrisons of Edinburgh are expert at making strides in fabric designs, colors and patterns that still guarantee that the wearer, no matter how flamboyant their choice, will possess a confident level of dignity.

Master tailor Nino Corvato in New York City made these jackets and he is a great admirer of both Sunbeam and Glorious Twelfth fabrics, recommending them to his customers for tasteful, durable clothing. For a conservative person like Mr. Corvato, that is a rave.

Bespoke shoes by the incomparable Gaziano and Girling, UK.

Espresso brown calf Adelaides are smart both for a suit and for an odd jacket. This is a shoe color the English love because it is confused for black at first glance. Purposefully photographed under burgundy wool to make them look more brown; against the pavement they are much blacker.

The pebble grained Kudu (some sort of antelope-like creature) lace ups are soft and comfortable, perfect with anything from jeans and a leather jacket to flannels and a navy blazer.

Paris Custom Shirtmakers Inc
38 W 32nd St # 603, New York, NY 10001-3884

Nino Corvato Designer Inc
420 Madison Avenue # 406
New York, NY 10017-1176

Comment [2]

How Checkered Hippo and I saved the Universe for Democracy

By Film Noir Buff

Checkered Hippo is one of the few remaining items from a delightfully misspent youth. Won at an amusement park for accurately throwing balls at a target, I learned that I had good hand eye coordination.

However, at the time, my only reward for both range and accuracy was this tacky, brightly colored little fellow who clashed with the interior of my parents car.

How he has survived so long, I cannot tell you. I think because he made a good bean bag pillow or, more likely, because every superhero needs a trusty side kick.

What I can tell you is that Checkered Hippo was my constant companion. We fought the pillow-like henchmen of evil masterminds together.

We flew bar stool star fighters through asteroid fields to avoid pursuing Imperial star-sofas. We explored brave new worlds cleverly disguised by aliens to resemble my basement or yard all filled with wondrous, and sometimes rather dusty, creatures in them.

We saved Earth on more occasions than I care to relate. I called my first girl leaning on him, we attended school together… and he is with me still.

In their legendary 350 count silk, Vanners have immortalized my hero, if not in marble, then in high quality silk. The ties are reassurance that when we need him most, he will return and save us.

Checkered Hippo is now well passed his prime. As a matter of fact, I dare not even have him cleaned for fear I will make a ghost of him. He leeks Styrofoam pebbles from taking one too many blaster shots for me. His failing eyes replaced with special sensors designed by a great intergalactic scientist that make him better than before. And although his exploits and movements are whittled to a remnant of his former glory, truer friend hath no man.

My poor checkered Hippo as he appears today with special sensors for eyes and nostrils and with a mostly missing tongue. Decayed splendour, indeed.

Additionally, I no longer receive approving smiles from passers by when I carry him under my arm. Apparently, the world is too preoccupied to remember his many fine services. How then could I keep his memory alive without exposing him to the disintegrating rays of a public which no longer values superheroes?

Like many superheroes, one wears their badge of sincerity on their chest; bold and brave. Thus, a necktie is the proper commemoration:

A little preliminary artwork courtesy of both Michael Drake (Accessories store linked below) and the amazing design talent from the weavers at Vanners silks.

Choosing colorways from a blanket supplied by Vanners Silks. Vanners know how to treat a venerable hero like royalty.

Here he is, brilliant, bold and proud. The magnificent checkered Hippo of old. You can see being a superhero has its benefits. Now all that he and I need fear is an errant flick of salad dressing.

Comment [2]

Van Buck stylish accessories

By Film Noir Buff

Van Buck make furnishings and accessories; ties, bows, cummerbunds & pocket squares.

Would you select a necktie because it was higher quality or rather, because it was acceptable in the circles you worked in? Often the tie’s pattern and colors can be fanciful as long as its shape and design create an acceptable knot. The English like a certain type of look to their knots and consider most others to be a signal of the outsider. That is why it is a relief that firms like Van Buck still exist who create ties that combine both luxury and proper construction.

Men in the UK do not generally have to wear ties and when they do decide to wear one, they want a unique, quality product that denotes their individuality. Van Buck’s vision is to provide them with just that.

Firm Name origins: The current managing director’s father was named Peter, a European investor supplied the “Van” bit and Tim Buckman (a partner) led to the original company name of Pierre (French for Peter”) Van Buck which was shortened verbally to Van Buck.

The trick to looking smart is to complement your outfit in a way that looks both effortless and accidental.

Van Buck’s managing director maintains:

“My Father once told me ‘that over dressed you can go anywhere, under dressed you can’t’- this still holds extremely true today. Take a ‘Black Tie’ do, still to this day most people believe that this mean a Black Bow tie, this is so far from the truth, unless it stipulates on the invite ‘strictly Black Tie’ then any colour, design goes. The wilder the better!

Take sporting/leisure time, this is very much a varied umbrella of styles. If you’ve been invited to go shooting, then Harris Tweeds, Plus fours or moleskin trousers, checked shirts, plain wool or silk shooting motif ties, Barbour coats with either Barker Chelsea boots or Brogues is the norm.

But if invited to watch Football/Soccer in the Directors box or hospitality, then wear dark suits, white, grey or black shirts with plain or semi-plain silk ties and black Italian shoes. The Rugby guys tend to wear navy /grey suits with gingham check shirts and a club silk tie or small motif tie.

A City Gent is always recognizable by the double cuff shirt, probably the single most distinguished item of clothing next to the bold tie.”

UK black tie vogue combines “Old Boy” propriety with dandiacal shock.

Van Buck have their own factory which can make anything necktie and necktie related. They use a Liba machine (from a German design) that matches a wool lining to the silk shell cloth to precision and makes a great approximation of a hand stitch. It allows Van Buck to control their own production and delivery schedules.

Rich but sumptuous silk weaves in true, heraldic colors, often on a black background, are highly sought after by UK professionals to spike their dark suits and brighten up overcast weather.

Their flagship series are the Limited Edition ties which carry the boldest patterns and the boldest color combinations for maximum impact in City circles. They are a more vibrant creation than Duchamp and certainly more exclusive as they only produce 100 of each design. When the company first started out the idea was to retain quality with originality, using heavy, rich woven handle silk. Their ties (limited edition and otherwise) are often longer than the average commercial tie to allow for a larger knot to be done up.

Details of the Munro spun weave which makes for a fine quality wool tie; alluring to the eye.

Beautifully colored Scottish lambswool ties expressly made to go with tattersall shirts (which is why the ties are all solids), These are appropriate for country shooting and hunting guys for up north and in Scotland. The wool ties are often Munro spun which is a term given to the type of weave when producing Lambs wool in Scotland. They are a mixture of two colours in one design; the result of a very fine weave.

Rugby chic. A simple, elegant look befitting a “Ruffians game played by gentlemen.”

Club stripes that go with flannels/blazer and crisp white shirt. These ties are done in a satin weft stripe; the ground color is done in a matte finish. This is a public school and rugby game style which is very popular and produces a fresh, clean look, similar to Hacket or Jack Wills

UK Footballer style. Reminiscent of American gangster styles from the 1960s. It echoes the saying “A gentleman’s game played by ruffians.”

On the other hand, The football/soccer look is more black or dark grey suit, dark shirt and dark (often skinny at the moment ) ties, which they sell mostly in black on black weaves. A charcoal suit (Often in mohair), brown Italian style shoes, white shirt and charcoal grey tie.

Classic dots which never go out of fashion. Large and medium dots. The dark backgrounds are most popular. All in jacquard woven silk to give a depth of design.

This pattern will always be with us. Darker backgrounds are more staid; the brighter ones are nattier.

Twenty five shades of plain satin ties offered mainly for weddings! They make them to order and there are no minimums, whether you require a tie with a matching handkerchief or a self-tie cravat.

Nice, neat necktie designs in golds, reds, pinks, purples, sky blues; all for the “City” look.

Van Buck feels there will be a resurgence in double breasted suits which require ties, and this hasn’t been the case for 20 years.

Double cuffs are a sign of being a professional. Van Buck goes for the professional market whether it is Banking, advertising, law, architecture or medicine.

From its start in 1976, this family run business is something of a sartorial renaissance for the younger set who want to dress smartly. Van Buck provides them with tasteful, updated accouterments with which to both fit in and stand out.

The younger guys love to wear a pair of jeans, brown Barker shoes, dark striped jacket and double cuff shirt; It’s a weekend in the city look (Also called “Half-Dress”). Even if it’s a bit much, they would even go to the pub in this outfit because they love clothes.

Colored enamel cufflinks with a bit of detail. Pantone colors on the enamels are matched to color selections for the ties. A solid push through bar is expensive to make but both smart and easy to put through shirt cuffs.

Van Buck’s opinion on smartly dressed vs smartest dressed:

Smart: Navy suit with thin chalk stripe quite close together, plain shirt and pink tie with neat design.

Smartest: Bold stripe suit, pocket hanky and tie that will provoke interest. Might even wear a suit in a slightly lighter shade to a Londoner’s typical darkest-dark background color.

From Brummell’s time, the evolution of the UK gentleman has produced a great look that straddles office, club and evenings out.

Thus Van Buck both preserves and enhances the English spirit and tradition with regards to smart furnishings that make a chap feel like he can overcome any obstacles a dreary day might throw in his path. There should be a dozen firms in England like Van Buck; thankfully there is at least one.

Comment [4]

Striped for Action

By Film Noir Buff

The Suit is a bit like tournament armor these days; the sort of armor worn by medieval gentlemen at jousts. However, no man wants to wear bulky metal. And, although we all dream of being a super hero, we likewise cannot wear colorful tights to the office. For one thing, it would blow our secret identities.

But still, we want to play the hero; humble and yet admired for our good manners and tastes.

I recently had a suit made up in Harrisons of Edinburgh’s super 180s fabric. I wore it for several months and have some observations.

Typical FNB jousting panoply. Suit fabric and lining are Harrisons made up by Corvato Custom Designs (NYC). Shirt fabric is Acorn of Cumbria made up by Paris Custom Shirts (NYC). Tie is Van Buck, pocket hankerchief by Harvie and Hudson and cufflinks by M.P. Levene.

It is a light, soft cloth with some sturdiness to it. It has twenty (20) percent cashmere in it which gives it a slightly milled finish. That milled finish gives the cloth some surface interest and more depth than a super 180s normally has. I do not know that there is another 180s cloth on the market with this unique look.

The cloth itself is light on the shoulder and as soft as a cashmere sweater but still exhibits both strength and robustness. No seams have burst, no signs of piling or stretching in the “stress” areas at all.

This strength and robustness is not just because the suit was lovingly pieced together by master tailor Nino Corvato of New York City but also because Harrisons prides itself on producing “proper cloth” even when luxury fibers are involved (Their Multi-Millionaire cashmere suiting wears like steel.)

The results are finer and softer cloths with steel-like properties which entice even the denizens of London’s city who normally prefer heavier, harder cloths.

Showing off the soft “milled finish” caused by the cashmere content. Harrisons are very good at designing cloths which meld English traditions with the needs of the contemporary man of manners.

I did not find the cloth expensive and believe it represents a good value. The cloth is so comfortable to wear that I never want to take the jacket off.

My only complaint is that the range needs more stripe selections because at the moment there is only one white beaded stripe in a charcoal, midnight blue and black. The rest of the collection are solids with either a plain, sharkskin or self herringbone pattern in greys, navies and blacks. My hope is that the range will expand to include patterns.

There you have it. Now, when you storm into a conference room, you can assure yourself the tensile protection of armor combined with the flowing form fit of a super hero’s costume. You will be at once invulnerable, genteel, just, honorable and ready for anything the baddies can throw at you. However, I would still suggest caution around ink cartridges.

This combination will whip any man into shape.

Harrisons have a website now where you can see swatches of their cloths. Most of the swatches have been true to shade on my monitor.

Comment [1]

Dandy Ink

By Film Noir Buff

This monogram is for those who “Think pink”.

Why do I start so many essays with a question?

Let’s jump into this, there isn’t any time to waste. Sartorial principles are changing quickly, are you changing with them?

“Casual shirts allow for more expression such as a grey letter surrounded by a black circle.”

From the start of the new millennium we have had a seemingly uninterrupted sequence of national, nay global disasters from actual Tsunamis to financial ones, from a new type of war to a new type of president.

Further signs of the apocalypse include professional sports teams winning championships for the first time ever. Admit it, how many of you checked the heavens for a giant rogue meteor for months after the Red Sox won their first in 86 years?

But, unlike the upheavals of the 1960s and 70s we seem to sit as if a nation of theater patrons watching the tragic-comic film of our planet. Rather like the Mystery Science Theater 3000 format, we are catatonic voyeurs on a space craft hurtling towards a whimpering end. And what “B” movie do we view on the screen?

Huge social rifts taking place, conventions and social norms altering, viewpoints disappearing and new ones springing up.

What was once rock solid, is now no more. Enter the dandy. No, not me…the inner dandy in all of us. The inner dandy is that need to assert one’s individuality and sense of control, success and bonhomie. Oh, and faith in ourselves— when faith in just about everything else is shaken.

Navy blue monograms for work shirts. This one sits best on the pale stripes.

Take the shirt monogram, there was a time when, for the most part, it was gauche. Of course, there were exceptions. If you had custom shirts made up and the initials were small, handmade and placed discretely on the left abdomen or the nipple, then it was alright; if the monograms were free, then they were a coup! The machine made ones were always considered plastic; and if you put them on your collar or cuff—shockingly low brow!

I remember seeing an Irish trader come to meet some of his trader friends. He had his initials machine sewn in some Gothic font on his collar; bright red on white cotton. He was quite arrogant too, this wrong-side-of-the-tracks dandy. I was astonished that he was so brazen, so unconscious of his faux pas in all his be-mulleted splendor. I subconsciously categorized him as the sort that wore nylon Speedo underwear, hardly “People like us”, as we used to say.

White monogram on white linen keeps it light and summery.

Although I still react negatively towards people who wear monograms on their cuffs and/or collars (especially those runic, middle earth fonts), this does not mean that they are not part of the smart dresser’s arsenal.

Fred Astaire, is pictured wearing his initials on his shirt’s forearm and while this may make a good photograph for a sartorial immortal, most people would think you repaired damage to your shirt.

Some can suffer temperature changes from seeing monograms on another man’s shirt. Other men say, they don’t need monograms because they know who they are. Yet others justify getting monograms only because they are in an out-of-sight spot on the shirt’s tails which serve to help identify at a commercial laundry.

This Oxford shirt gets a purple monogram in between the stripes.

Then there is the currency trader who wears four watch cufflinks at once; each one of his French cuffs has two rows of buttonholes and under each is the monogram of one of the four city names he trades in. Cool, eclectic, sartorially mad—I love it.

Still other men get fonts so small, they are hard to see in low contrast or matching colors; which rather obviates the effort. It seems somewhat ironic that the humble monogram triggers so many reactions and justifications which the high priced sports car rarely does.

Is the monogram a window to the ego? Is it a brash or tacky advertisement? Or is it simply a decorative way to more deeply enjoy clothes? The answer may lie within the state of society. Perhaps when things were stable and established, the monogram’s presence and absence told a lot about the wearer’s background but during a time of upset, who mans the watch tower of propriety? And do we even care what they think anymore?

Tailored clothes are now a luxury. They are no longer bought simply for the rigors of the office but also for self assertion. Medieval knights knew well the difference between the heavy unadorned battle armor and the light, decorative tournament armor. Tailored clothes are today’s tournament armor; the panoply of the intelligentsia. And monograms are heraldic devices on that armor.

Monograms are part of the current whimsy. Perhaps, as hinted at By Jeremy Hackett in his book “Mr. Classic”, tattoos are now so common on skin that adorning one’s clothing is a comparatively trivial decision.

The English like white for casual shirts. This “Cambridge” cotton by Acorn fabrics is a three ply that breathes.

Since the new millennium began, American professional shirt choices have changed radically. Solid white and blue no longer reign supreme. Instead, quite colorful and patterned shirts are often worn to the office which means that monograms are not immediately noticeable. As a result, monograms are feasible in both stronger colors and larger, more ornate styles.

The current monogram etiquette permits a variety of sizes, fonts, initial or initials, letters, pictograms, placement and colors all subject to individual tastes. However, even within this celebration of the self, some guidelines should be kept in mind. These are the author’s opinions:

Size: Too large and you distract, too small and you waste your money.

Font: Simple is good, too ornate can look like a designer logo.

Color: Up to the wearer but unless carefully chosen, matching colors to the shirt background can look like repaired damage. Instead, complimentary or contrasting colors will do nicely. Sometimes more than one color can work but this is a complex subject the author has every intention of chickening out of discussing here.

For work, monograms should be simpler and smaller but this is more of a guideline than a bright line rule.

Decorative doo dads around the initials like a circle/diamond or a ring of dots/stars can be very smart but again too ornate just looks like a mess.

Images, animals or symbols, whether heraldic or fanciful, should be outlines to avoid looking like mass produced logos.

A monogram should be clear and simple. Handwork should be chosen over machine.

Now, some things change, some things go in and out of style and still others never change much at all. There is no guarantee that monograms will still be acceptable in five years time but it is ill advised to live one’s life worrying that you might regret a sartorial choice at some point in the future. Let our motto be: “Live, drink and be dandy, for tomorrow we buy.”

Our monograms are our dandy livery, a modern badge of our aristocratic, if apocryphal, lineage. They announce to the world that we are individuals of quality and merit.

Why do I start so many essays with a question? Because I want you to think and arrive at your own conclusions.

Comment [3]

The Shoe Fits: Custom shoe maker Tony Gaziano discusses the past, present and future of fine mens’ shoes.

By Film Noir Buff

The most popular styles in the market remain the classic semi conservative styles; full brogues, oxfords, semi brogues, Norwegian derby’s etc…

These are styles that have been popular since the 1940’s and continue to be the foundation shoes of most well dressed men. However, there also exists a need to edit the traditional shoe styles. Even the most conservative men become bored with the same shoes. These slight edits make the shoe look different but maintain the essence of the original style.

Light brown brogues are perfect for summer. They go well with medium to light wool suits and any shade of silk, cotton or linen suit.

Some companies edit shoe styles too much and transform them into a niche item that only a small proportion of the market understand or want. Although this is acceptable because it is good to offer variety in the market, unfortunately, it also creates many varying opinions of what is right and wrong with regard to shoe choices. We live in a world where opinions are black and white but lifestyles are endless shades of grey. No one shoe is suitable for every type of person or occasion

I believe that every style on the market today has its place; the bigger issue is whether these shoes are over priced for the quality they represent. I estimate that only fifty percent of the shoes on the market actually deliver quality equal to the price. In fact, many of the best names on the market are actually the ones who deliver least.

Bottom view of a spectator shoe in progress.

Homemade shot of the author’s cap toe in all its unblemished, custom glory.


You can ask many industry people about the quality and types of leather used in high grade shoes today, and most will reflexively state “It’s not as good as it used to be”. In my opinion, this comment and observation is not founded in fact. Some craftsmen will tell you that, due to intense farming and force feeding of calves, the quality of the leather skins are inferior to what was made twenty or thirty years ago. However, I myself have been working with leather for twenty years and I know the reason that the quality of leather for high-end shoes is actually better now than it has ever been.

Compared to fifty years ago, the number of quality shoe makers in existence is almost none. In the early 1900s, there were well over one hundred quality shoe manufactures in Northampton, now there are less than a half dozen. However, the shoe factories of today have much stricter quality control systems than ever before because the customers and store buyers are more educated in the technical aspects.

Thus although the great mass of shoe leather may not be the quality it once was, it must be pointed out that today only the best-of-the-best is used for top grade shoe construction, and with so few manufacturers, the very best skins are actually more easily obtained today than in the past.


These days, customers are so demanding that the product must be perfect to justify the high prices. Quality drives the market more than style. Many shoe customers are fed up with paying lot of money for overpriced, poor quality products

Crust leathers are very popular these days because customers like the variation in colour tones from light to dark. Crust or “antique” leathers are only a recent development. In actual fact the antique leather idea was developed by observing the way that the sun bleached old aniline leather shoes made many years ago and forgotten in shop windows. The skins used to make antique leathers are “naked” which means they have no finish on them; a bit like wood that hasn’t been painted. Naked skins have to be absolutely perfect because when you antique them, every imperfection is exposed.

In contrast to antique leathers, the aniline leathers (from high shine, consistent coloured skins) are older fashioned and hide most imperfections. Neither antique nor aniline leather is superior. It is simply a matter of customer preference.

Top view of the same pair. Black aniline calf.

For now, decorations, such as toe medallions, on shoes are being kept quite understated. The gold and silver horse-bits (Gucci shoes) and flashy buckles are a thing of the past. That is not to say they will not return because these details tend to go full cycle.

While it is craftsmen who possess the talent and the skill to make shoes, the customer drives the style and the quality forward. This situation is in stark contrast to the shoe business in the 1940’s-1960’s when a company designed shoes in a vacuum and then made and delivered its product with arrogance. Further, if the customer had a complaint he would quite possibly be told to go elsewhere.

Although the customer currently drives the market, good shoemakers use what they learn from customers and combine their ideas with our own innovations to make shoes even more attractive.

Beginnings of a custom shoe. Another pair for the author being made from the bottom up.

Bear in mind that is almost impossible to develop a design that is truly original because everything has been done. And, even if a designer does manage to create something original, it is often so off-the-wall that few customers will buy it.

I like to think that we re-design the classics in a more contemporary way. For example, take the classic cap toe oxford like the Edward Green “Chelsea” or our own Oxford style.

Every traditional manufacturer has one of these exact shoes in their collection, but we have designed ours to look quite different with less detailing and more elegant lines.

Here the shoes are a little bit further along. An interesting view of the leather layering deployed for a cap toe.

Gaziano and Girling believe our interpretation treats this style as the shoe it deserves to be rather than the functional, dowdy, boring style that many people believe it is meant to be. The point is that you don’t need to change the ingredients to make the shoe look better, simply tweak slightly what you already have.

Most businessmen and admirers of clothes actually prefer the classics, something that they can easily use in their wardrobe with their pinstripe, charcoal grey or black suits. It is true that men also get bored of buying the same old styles and although they want to buy something different it cannot veer too far away from the styles they already have.

Just before the heels and soles go on, we get a last look at the stititching and all the work that goes into it.

Thus, the new style has to fit within the boundaries of their existing, understated wardrobe. This is the opening for the talented style editor; by refreshing the classic shoe styles that suit a semi-conservative wardrobe it is possible to keep men excited about shoes.

Although style editing sounds easy, it is a difficult line to walk. If one is too conservative, the shoe designs will not be enticing enough, however, if the design boundaries are stretched too far, a shoe maker’s brand risks a loss of identity.

Almost done. A quick smoke break before making the owner well heeled.

At the moment there is a pretty good balance between Gaziano & Girling, Edward Green and John Lobb. Edward Green are very classic; John Lobb are slightly more innovative, and Gaziano & Girling fills the void between them. This status quo could go on indefinitely and everybody live in sweet harmony but I have a feeling that another shoe maker will come in and upset the balance. The Market has room for more tasteful, quality shoes and, as far as I am concerned, the more the merrier.

Ready to pair with an aggressively striped suit and begin taking names and kicking…

Gaziano and Girling Approach to shoes:

When we design shoes, we analyze our customer base in terms of the variety of both work and casual lifestyles that they lead; lawyer, trader, doctor, business-owner, Board members of charitable foundations, etc.. And look at how their dress can vary.

Even though these jobs are all quite conservative in terms of how the men dress, the variation in age and location around the world can still create a considerable variety in dress styles. A place like New York City can pose its own complexities because the lifestyle variations in a multicultural city can be quite vast. However, a good shoemaker adapts.

Crocodile isn’t for everyone but if you get a pair, make sure they have the proper bite only a snappy specimen like this can deliver.

We also discuss with our tailoring friends the colour of fabric customers are ordering from Savile Row, then we try to put a range together that will fit into most customers wardrobes. The aim is to develop styles and colours that can easily be worn with all suits, and, additionally, some shoes that are versatile enough to wear both with a business suit and casually with jeans.

I have found over the years that within these areas there are many people that will say a shoe is either too classic or too fashion orientated. Thus, I try to respond to this by producing a shoe that is straight down the middle, a shoe that will appeal to both younger and older lawyer, doctor, business owner etc ..

If I cannot accomplish that in a single shoe, then I will certainly cover it within a range of shoes. If you look at our range of shoes, you will notice that some of the styles are neither old nor new fangled, rather they have the look of a fresh, new shoe but the characteristics of a classic; optimally, this design approach appeals to a broader range of people.

Each pair comes with its own custom shoe tree in stained wood.

I want our business to cover nearly everybody’s taste, and as a result of that we will be introducing a small fashion area, separate from the main range, sometime in the future.
For example – if you walk into a department store you have all ranges or merchandise, I would like that too, so that we could have our classics as the main ranges, then country shoes, slippers, leisurewear and fashion as side lines.

In the near future, we will broaden our range by adding specification slippers, using Loro Piana fabrics to try and combine a Savile Row feature with English footwear. I think you may be seeing a bit more of fabric and leather combinations.

Suede and calf combinations also seem to be more popular for shoes, although they have to be executed perfectly or they look cheap and/or outrageous. For now, we will continue to concentrate on making classic shoe styles with a twist.

We will also produce bespoke bags and belts. Although this is not our field of expertise, we have many contacts and can incorporate some of our hand techniques into those products to give us an original look.

Shoe Wardrobes; Quality vs. Style:

Every man who has any respect for his wardrobe should have at least five pairs of quality shoes; never wear the same pair twice in the same week. This will give the shoe time to recover from wear and promote longevity. Additionally, shoes trees are absolutely essential to keep the shoes looking nice. If you cannot polish a shoe properly, then you should find a local guy who can. One should also know how to remove all the polish off of the leather and then condition it.

It’s always the quality rather than the shoe design that catches my eye. I can look round at the shoes sold in Barney’s, Bergdorf’s, Ralph Lauren, Corthay etc…, and they all look like the same shoes at a glance. However, I can spot a pair of John Lobb Paris, Dmitri Gomez, or any other good bespoke shoe on a customer’s feet. It’s like with suits, sometimes you see a guy on the street that looks really good, and you think, why? The answer is often quality, not style.

When people talk about style, it always creates the most fascinating debate about which style is correct? Is that stylish? Will that style suit me? The truth is that, if the quality and fit of the product is top notch, it is intrinsically stylish.1 Many designers make this mistake, instead of concentrating on both materials and the skill of shoe making, they over load the shoes with detail; believing that this is the way forward. Ironically, this simply makes the shoe decadent which in turn detracts from any sense of style. Style is seldom far from simplicity.

Antique finishes are more popular than ever before. They provide variety for fans of brown shoes. Hopefully, they steer clear of town.

Colour matching also catches my eye. When the gentleman has a sense of how to match leather colour with cloth, especially when it is not colour combinations I would use myself, his talent earns my instant respect, even if he is a casual passerby.

Recent changes I have seen that are of interest tend to be technical innovations. For example, boot loops. We changed ours to elastic placed inside the boot instead of fabric on top of the boot; outside loops interfere with trouser hems.

And, we are always looking out for better polishing techniques, as well as different styles of broguing and new hand sewing techniques.

We make shoes for writers, actors, journalists, sultans, lords but what a lot of people do not realize is that we make for orthopedic customers too, guys with no toes, guys with calipers, even guys who have a prosthetic, and we make it round their plastic leg etc…2

Medallion punching close up on a toe cap. Courtesy of Hong Kong based shoe connoisseur, Luk-Cha.

Problem Leathers and shoes:

Cordovan! It’s big in the USA but used for all the wrong reasons. It has a treatment on top of it which in my mind makes it look like rubber, and it cannot breathe that well either. Cordovan is 3 to 4 mm thick which causes countless headaches to shoemakers. Cordovan also looks too rustic for everyday shoes. But customers keep ordering it in oxfords and full brogues. If it is suitable for anything, it would be a chukka boot or plain derby with a rubber sole, and that’s it.

Snakes skins are also a bit of a pain, they are normally so thin that you have to re-enforce them with stronger leather.

Moaccasins are hard to make, it’s a completely different style of shoe making, and I’m quite happy to leave that to the Italians and the Spanish.

Sexy side view of the arch and waist. Custom made shoes are designed with the idea in mind to make the foot more pleasant to look at.

Some rubber soles are also problematic, even the famous dainite is a royal pain; especially in bespoke when the last or foot is narrow, to avoid stitching in the tread on the bottom, we have to stitch the sole incredibly wide around the edge of the shoe

Because we value quality above all else, our goal is to reintroduce uniform quality to English shoemaking For example:-

We only want to make 100 pairs of bespoke each year, cleverly makes 400-500 pairs and John Lobb near 1,000 ( well they were before the credit crunch anyway) the result of this is that both their quality and service are taxed. What we want to do is create a G&G bespoke club. Once this level is achieved we can then concentrate solely on the development of the RTW side of the business, and again we have an end production quantity in mind that will be easily achievable so that quality can be maintained

Appendix A. Trends to look out for from all shoe makers:

Softer shaped lasts rather than aggressive pointed toes, chisel toes etc.

Sole detailing will be more concentrated upon.

Boots, with wool linings and Norwegian welts for next winter seasons.

Shrunken cow hides which give shoes a heavy, natural grain effect.

Tailored fabrics used in slippers.

Lighter weight calf skins to produce increasingly more refined shoes.

Re-introductions of some old style leathers, like Kudu suede, shrunken grains, and willow calf prints.

The Algonquin is a prennial shoe style. Some men wear it to work, other with jeans, yet others split the difference and wear them with a sports jacket. This pair, again courtesy of Hong Kong based shoe connoisseur, Luk-Cha.

Appendix B. Styles for occasions:

Plain toe oxford, cap toed oxford, Albert slip-on shoes – used for formal evening wear, weddings, funerals, dinner parties etc…

Full brogue, semi brogue, any shoe with half broguing – perfect business shoe

Derby shoe of any kind – weekend shoes

The above suitability is a traditional English way to wear shoes, but these days with the colour variations all styles can be more flexible.

Another black calf shoe picture. Some men never tire of this style and color.


Tan, navy, green leather – Jeans

Chestnut, mid brown, dark brown, Burgundy leather- grey, brown suit trouser or jeans

Black leather – navy and black suit trousers

This is what would suit English taste, obviously in Italy this would change, and because the U.S. market flits between these two markets, theirs is a hybrid dress code.
However, although I like to experiment with clothes and shoes, I personally would never break the above colour rules.

First spin on a sunny day; this pair are headed for the office. Brand new custom shoes will give you good posture, balance and traction. The soles perfectly grip the asphalt.

Tony and Dean make beautiful, comfortable custom made shoes and can be contacted at:

1 Ed. Note: When a man shops for shoes, he makes comparisons between different makes and models. However, once he selects a pair and wears them, these comparisons are lost on those who observe his outfit. Unless the style, color or leather is remarkable; the only observations that will be made are the quality of the leather and construction. Mens’ shoe styles are quite limited, at least within circles considered genteel.

Small deviations which make a shoe unique are often more important to the wearer than the viewer. After quality and fit, the largest concern is the effect on the viewer. A person should rarely notice your shoes (unless you are a dancer) and when they do notice, they should be pleasantly lulled by what they see.

In a world where some men exercise a lot of concern over toning down shirts, suits and ties, his real act of restraint should lie in picking rather plain shoes.

2 Ed. Note: To the best of my knowledge, Tony has not yet made a pair of shoes for anyone’s pet dog.

Comment [1]

Ivy in London

By Alex Roest

Although the story of how the Ivy League style fared in the British capital is inextricably bound with that of the early 60s Modernists it’s also to do with that British preference for some cultivated eccentricity. After all it’s just a handful of enthusiasts still sporting the natural shoulder style these days in Britain, purchasing their beloved gear through the internet mostly, apart from the obligatory visit to J. Simons in Covent Garden every once in a while that is.

How it all began remains a bit of a mystery (legend has it that the influence of GI’s during and after the second world war was a starting point) whilst apparently the biggest influence came via films such as e.g. Sweet Smell of Success, Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Love With The Proper Stranger. This soft American style people noticed via the flicks obviously didn’t just appeal to certain clued up kids, it also spoke volumes to young adults with a somewhat broader outlook one might even call metropolitan. The attitude was very much geared towards New York City anyway i.e. it was all about travel and wider horizons and building a secret world of your own. So what you did when donning those Ivy League clothes was basically that you broke away from what your parents wore in a nice and subtle way and simultaneously distanced yourself thoroughly from the teenage fashion crowd.

The often mentioned fusing of IL with continental styles was in fact no more than a phase Modernists would go through. There was an element of going with a certain style for a period and then moving on. Afterwards people went their separate ways, some of them in search for a more unified look and concentrating on Americana and the IL style in particular. Moving away from the Mod thing meant concentrating on having a more solid suit style created via bespoke tailoring (probably mixing and matching that with things like Arrow shirts from Austin’s and shoes from Raoul and later Saxone loafers). Hence losing the flash element of trying to outdo one another that had been prevalent in previous years. The hair varied from short to a grown out college-boy with a high-ish parting. Of course it wasn’t like everybody with a good sense of style was inevitably involved with being modern anyway as there were always those who wanted to stay clear of fads. In many cases people would be music lovers in the true sense of the word though i.e. they tended to have a liking for what they regarded as ‘the real thing’, so the sounds would preferably be somewhat obscure. You wanted to avoid what was seen as ‘common taste’ one could argue.

One of London’s original Ivy fans sporting a suede zipper jacket with a knit collar most of his cohorts were sporting as well at the time (‘67/’68).

Early Modernists have always stressed the importance of jazz album covers but it’s very likely a slightly overrated factor when viewed within a wider scope. One could think of the young professionals shops like Austin’s and Cecil Gee would have been aiming at in this respect for instance. Those people would very likely have been more interested in the fashion shoots that appeared in e.g. Esquire magazine, making it another wonderful source of inspiration through the 60s until the early 70s. Lots of shoots seemed to be entirely IL based although not in terms of colour and context and of course the adverts were great. The standout amongst these was for Gant shirts. A full page spread with four separate photos showing the details : button-down collar, locker loop, third collar button etc. Another source was the TV series The Naked City, the tweed overcoats worn by the NY cops in the series being a good example of that. The Andy Williams and Perry Como TV shows are also worth a mention.

So the overlapping aesthetic (of being cool ) might be the preference for standing out, albeit not in a showy way. The fact that you had the clothes and no one else did was total one-upmanship to begin with. Obviously the TNSIL style was very typical and decidedly un-British, so it was pretty exotic in that ‘grass is always greener’ fashion we’ve come across in ‘The French Cut’ essay, too. Soft shoulders, no waist suppression, the hooked vent and even the use of different materials when compared to the traditional British choices made it all look subtly and wonderfully subversive in those people’s eyes. The look was still very conservative and unthreatening in a way, but the interesting thing is that the people adopting it in London would not necessarily fit that description.

Part of the appeal of the Ivy League style in England has to do with a certain playing with the language of conservatism. Those who had adopted the style wanted something as easily wearable and acceptable as classic English style, but something more interesting than that. Something less obvious than just a ‘straight’ blazer or tweed jacket. Something more creative even, perhaps.

And so in that way they could fly under the radar – They could be themselves, yet not stick out like a sore thumb.

- Passing for straight in the nine-to-five world whilst still being ultra hip to those who could recognise the code of their clothes.

The look also appealed to a lot of people in the creative industries where it was seen as truly modern and all about moving ahead. It was a very ‘Professional’ style for all the new progressive professions: Graphic Designers, Advertising Executives, Commercial Artists and even Fine Artists took up the style.

It was American & America was to be the future. Democratic, Meritocratic, and always moving on. Well… that was the dream back then anyway.

That the English wearers of the style were progressives there is no doubt. No true English Conservative would wear Ivy in England. The English have their own Conservative wardrobe and supporters are in fact a bit suspicious of foreign styles.

So the perception of the Conservatism of the Ivy style in England is in a way a con-trick perpetrated on those who can’t ‘read’ clothes.

The subtlety of the playing with the expectations of what a suit wearer is like in England that the Ivy style allows you over there goes way over the heads of most people.

The main shop to import traditional American clothes into the UK was Austin’s on Shaftesbury Avenue. By today’s standards it was a rather dowdy place, the interior not unlike the J. Press shops however. Dark wood, rows of suits on rails, glass topped display cases and a couple of Jewish salesmen.

Alistair Findlay (original London Ivy-ist)- I was introduced to the Ivy style by a couple of faces called Roger Westcott and Mick Bowman from Edmonton, North London. I felt at the time that this was what I’d been searching for and that it was completely right for me ; a kind of epiphany, if you like. Smart, unobtrusive, different, slightly subversive and hip. This must have been 1961 and I shopped at Austin’s regularly until the mid 70s. During the early days I once overheard the manager, being rather more abrasive than his more avuncular colleague, saying to a somewhat doubtful customer : “The material’s crap, but look at the fit.”

Most of the stock came from the US, although some of it was made in Canada. The suits, jackets and trousers were from anonymous makers but the shirts included Arrow and Enro, the latter being the better quality, more expensive brand. As a matter of fact The Rolling Stones’ drummer Charlie Watts was there every Friday night, Georgie Fame and Eric Clapton were also customers.

Alistair Findlay wearing an Austin’s own label Shetland tweed jacket, mtm trousers from Glicker, a tailor in Hendon, NW London, an Arrow (US) ocbd with black knitted tie, Clarks desert boots. Raincoat is a black fly-fronted single-breasted Burberry.

Obviously obscure black sounds were important to many in those days because of the very fact they were being imported. This attitude applied as much to the records as it did to the clothes. So the black and white photographs on the backs of records sleeves played a significant role still. It was pretty hard to piece together all the clues to work out what the clothes actually were though- the picture were so small. Shirts were button-down but high collared, ties were slim and often knitted and equally slim were the shoulders on the jackets of the musicians. They would have this lack of definition about them, these jackets just hung on the wearers and they had this deliberate slouch on them that just oozed an effortless cool. Copies of Town, Esquire and Down Beat magazines helped to bring the details into focus.

Another thing that helped (especially when considering the fact that places like Austin’s, Cecil Gee and later The Ivy Shop were never cheap to purchase from) when we’re talking imported clothes is when you had family living in the US, or one could have friends bringing back stuff from business trips. In turn, people who lived there would be interested in English threads so swapping certain items would be an interesting option as well. Shops like Brooks Brothers were of course also pretty expensive so when you (or an acquaintance for that matter) eventually visited the US you could always get decent lookalikes of what they sold in little side street places as the look was still common across the board until the early 70s.

More close to home, as mentioned before, The Ivy Shop in Richmond catered for the people who stuck to the idea that something wasn’t style when one could spot it easily. The alleged notion that some of the older, smarter dressers who went there were somehow leading the way in a fashion sense is pretty questionable though. The slightly conservative (and at the age of 16 still tribal) kids who purchased their shoes and shirts from The Ivy Shop were in fact worlds apart from the more sophisticated dressers I’d say. Who would any self respecting ‘geezer’ into the style want to emulate but an abstract image of the ‘all American’ guy ? Basically what one wanted was to just look good and attract the opposite sex (assuming you were also ‘straight’ in that respect, which of course isn’t always the case in real life). Now this may probably sound to gross a statement, but it does capture an attitude towards which no one really is a stranger, simple as that. Mature, clever or cool would all be fitting adjectives whatsoever. The 842 Ivy League haircut is being worn with a solid coloured cardigan or a sleeveless V-neck and a high collared button-down shirt. Blue jeans (minimal turn-ups optional) or Sta-Prest trousers are worn slightly short and cut close. Socks are always dark (not white); red is cool, dark is usual. Solid coloured suit jackets may also be worn with jeans or Sta-Prest. Heavy longwing American brogues are the preferred shoe, then smoothies and only then loafers.

The simplicity of the haircut in combination with an outfit such as described above kept on resonating with people of all vintages interested in classic style, ever since the ‘Boom Years’. Its basic message is that one comes across as pretty casual when dressed up and still nice and smart when dressed down, but always in a relaxed manner. Of course The Look is far from prominent these days but there will always be a hardcore of Ivy fans consisting of clothing savvy ex-Mods, Jazz Buffs and Hipsters alike. The most important factor, however, is that the style transcends borders and has an everlasting appeal on those in search of ‘something smart but a little more interesting’.

Alex Roest

Thanks to Alistair, Chris, Jim, Mark and Patrick.

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