Panama Hats

Hat photo

Slip, slop, slap say the Australians. The sun as we all know is a powerful force, and wearing a hat is a smart move both on a practical and stylish level.

The Panama hat is to summer what strawberries are to Wimbledon or Pimms to Henley. It transcends the years and is the epitome of Britishness. However, Panama hats originally came from Ecuador rather than Panama as the name suggests.

In the 19th century during the construction of the Panama Canal the workforce started using Panama hats as protection from the sun. This is where the name first started to take hold and has never been changed.

Panamas are woven from the toquilla plant. Otherwise known as the Carludovica palmate, this is not in fact a true palm. Its leaves are different to the extent that it does not develop a woody trunk. Cultivated in central America to Bolivia, it is soft, flexible and durable – the perfect characteristics to weave a Panama hat from.

These hats can take over a week to weave, and for the very fine Panamas this process can take up to five months to weave.

Where to get them?

While there seems to be something rather authentic about buying your Panama hat abroad, London plays host to a number of places that promise the best. Notably Locke & Co on St James’ Street, (as always, and for all types of hats), and Bates on Jermyn Street. Both are a delight to visit.

Size?

This is important not least for comfort, but also for the way it will sit on your head. Too small for your head and you will have a hat resembling something that JR Ewing might have worn. Too big and you’ll look like you’re wearing your father’s when you were a child.

Get advice is the advice here. When you are buying from a luxury retailer, you are paying for the service as well as the product.

How do you pack them?

Firstly, if you have a one that does roll up, make sure you roll them and not fold them. They might be flexible but if you scrunch them up in your bag, you will damage the weave, leading it to crack.

If you are travelling then roll them up, as soon as you’ve reached your destination, unroll it. The longer you leave it rolled the harder it is to regain the shape. If the hat is one that does not naturally roll, then the best thing to do is stuff the hat with your underwear and socks until it fills the head. Turn the hat upside down and put it in your suitcase with other soft yet supportive clothes around it. This is the best way to getting the hat from A to B while maintaining its shape as well as possible.

REMEMBER that the straw is brittle, so in order to manipulate it you need to humidify it. Whether you are at home or in a hotel room, you would have the tools. Steam from an iron or a boiling kettle will help soften the straw and reshape it. It also helps in reshaping it the other end.

Panama hats will have “the pinch” which is the point at the top of the crown that you grab to place the hat on your head and take it off again. Don’t pinch it too much as it is the first point on the hat that is most likely to crack. Ideally its best to pick the hat up by the brim or by cupping the crown in the palm of your hand.

Stuck in the summer rain?

Remember that it is a summer hat that has the purpose of protecting you from the sun. It isn’t a rain hat, but as we know, we all get caught out once in a while!

With too much moisture, the hat will loose shape. Mould the hat back to its original shape as best you can and let it dry naturally. If the brim is badly misshapen you can give it a very quick iron on a very low heat. However, please do not make the mistake that you can iron at a higher heat and until the hat is dry. If you do that you’ll take the damp cloth away and discover some impressive burn marks to savour. While everything cools down and dries out place it on an upside down bowl from the kitchen!

Dirt

Being the colour that it is, a Panama will show any dirt that it picks up. To clean it, try to clean it off with a dry cloth. If that doesn’t work, then try a moist cloth or wipe but no soap. This should do the trick, but while you’re doing it make sure you don’t rub it too much – again that would damage the hat.

If all this sounds like a nightmare to maintain, well it’s not. What it is, is worth it and a staple for summer!

Collar Club

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Forget your film, contact lense, or magazine subscription,  Collar Club is a new way to manage your shirt wardrobe. How does it work?

They send through a shirt to try. Once you’ve tried it, you return it within 5 days. For the record: The off-the-shelf shirts come in slim or tailored. ‘Slim’ is as the name suggests and ‘tailored’ is for a more classic fit. Perhaps calling this cut ‘tailored’ is a little misunderstood. You can choose your cuff style and where your cuff sits, thanks to a number of sleeve length options. A step up from this and you arrive into the world of made-to-order where more options are at your disposal. This comes with a minimum order of five shirts, but also an ability to personalise.
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For a monthly fee of £30/month or £60/month you can get a five or ten shirts respectively over the course of a year. All quite helpful in a world of budgeting!

Holiday Feet

Our feet are so important and we are so often judged by what we put on them. At work it remains quite straightforward. We need a good shoe, well made, kept in good condition and clean. Alas, for some this becomes a bit of a challenge and with good intentions they can let down a good impression.

Clearly when we get away the stakes aren’t quite so high, and for that reason its not something to get worked up about. In fact David Cameron has experienced two summers worth of press reporting on him “not wearing the right thing” on holiday. But at this time, here’s an opportunity to have a look at what’s out there. Flip-flops verses espadrilles verses moccasins?

 

Flip-flops

So called because of the way they sound when you walk in them. These are super casual. The Dalai Lama of Tibet is a frequent wearer of flip-flops and has met with several US presidents including George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

A summer shoe it most certainly is, but if you are familiar with the village of Savile Row in London, you’ll know that many of the Abercrombie and Fitch staff can be seen pounding the streets in flip-flops whatever the weather or season. It’s just ‘what they do’, and yes, it does look ridiculous in November in the pouring rain. Flip-flops aren’t the most stable of shoe and will promise little support, more so are the cause of many a tumble. Reportedly, there are 200,000 flip-flop related injuries every year. Yikes. But having said this they are the perfect shoe for the beach. Getting sand in your shoes is annoying and uncomfortable but you can manage the problem with flip-flops. Sand can also be very hot to walk on so you need to save your soles!

They are a simple idea, and being such a low cost it is extraordinary to think that, again reportedly, that flip-flops are a $20 billion industry.

 

Espadrilles

The term espadrille is French and comes from the word in the Occitan language, which originates from “espardenya” in Catalan.  In Catalan is meant a type of shoes made with “espart”, the Catalan name for “eparto”. This is a tough and wiry Mediterranean grass used in making rope.

The oldest, most primitive form of espadrilles go as far back as 4000 years ago. With a canvas upper, and toe and vamp cut in one piece, the sides are seamed to a roped sole.

Espadrilles are not that forgiving on the feet because a traditional pair has quite a hard sole. Not ideal for a long walk. That said, there is something rustic yet sophisticated about them.

 

Moccasins

These shoes protect the foot but continue to allow the wearer to feel the ground. In its early days the Plains Indians wore a hard-sole moccasin because of the rock terrain they inhabited. While the eastern Indian tribes wore soft-sole moccasins because they were more accustomed with walking on softer more leafy ground. The moccasin as we know it today originally came from the county of Shopshire and eventually evolved into being more of a hard soled shoe used often by farming communities.

The Moccasin is a staple pair of shoes through out the year for a gent. They can be worn with socks as long as you are wearing trousers. The very moment you put a pair of shorts on, put away your socks. They are an absolute ‘no no’, and combined will kill instantly any sense of style you might have. It’s rather like wearing socks with sandals. If you do, don’t. Something to also consider for the more fashion aware is to gently roll your trousers a so they have a short turn-up.

Moccasins are brown so you would do well to team it up with a brown belt. The ‘slip-ons’ are highly practical. The more casual varieties tend to be softer on the foot, while the more formal might have leather.

 

CASE STUDY:

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My favourite shoe this summer, one that is as stylish as it is easy-going: My pair of TOMS. The product and brand story are utterly worth supporting.

Founded in 2006 by a native Texan Blake Mycokie, he set about establish a brand after a trip to Argentina where he saw extreme poverty and health conditions, as well as children walking without shoes. Recognising the traditional Argentine alpargata shoe as revolutionary solution, he went on to reinvent the shoe and take it to the US market. What is so remarkable is that Blake made a commitment to match every pair of TOMS purchased with a new pair given to a child in need.

One for One was born. I was so overwhelmed by the spirit of the South American people, especially those who had so little,” Mycoskie said. “And I was instantly struck with the desire – the responsibility – to do more.”

Before TOMS, Blake, a native of Texas who always had an entrepreneurial spirit, started five businesses. His first was a successful campus laundry service, which he later sold. Between business ventures, Blake competed in the CBS primetime series, The Amazing Race. With his sister, Paige, Blake traveled the world and came within minutes of winning the $1 million dollar grand prize.

TOMS-logo-with-mission

During its first year in business, TOMS sold 10,000 pairs of shoes. Blake returned to Argentina later that year with family and friends and gave back to the children who had first inspired him. Thanks to supporters, TOMS gave the One Millionth pair of new shoes to a child in need in September 2010. TOMS now gives in over 50 countries and works with charitable partners in the field who incorporate shoes into their health, education, hygiene, and community development programs.

The shoes themselves are soft on the foot and are extremely comfortable to wear. They are rather like a more established espadrille but offer far more support and comfort. These days, with the company having grown immensely, there is so much choice of colour and style that you might choose to have several pairs on the go to ring the changes on your feet. Two that are particularly smart are a classic pair in navy blue, along with a beige pair in a basket weave (new this season). These are a wise purchase not only for stylish reasons but also because of the support you will be giving directly to the poverty stricken children who receive a pair because of your purchase.

 

Follow James at: www.twitter.com/MrJamesField

www.jamesfield.com

 

What to wear in the Summer

hot-weather

There’s something rather British about talking about the weather. If we’re not complaining that it’s too cold and wet, and how we wish we could ditch this country and live a better life in the sun,  chances are by the summer we’re complaining that it’s far to hot! Why are we never satisfied?!

What to wear in this heat can lead to you wishing for nothing more than shorts and a T shirt. But they’re not always an option so here are a few thoughts on the materials you should pick.

Summer is about to arrive, but with business being so international and taking place in so many different climates, your wardrobe needs to be flexible and capable of dealing with all settings.

The idea of wearing wool in the summer might sound like an oddity because it’s something we all associate with the autumn and winter months. It’s true. But in fact a lightweight wool suit is a cooler option than a cotton suit because  it’s more pourous. It’s rather like the concept of having a cup of tea on a hot day. It might sound like the wrong thing to do, but in fact it helps to cool you down.

It remains a fact that the heavier the material the better a suit will hang. Having said that, there has to be an element of practicality based on you life style. Perhaps you have to travel a lot? Perhaps you find yourself working in hot climates? Or perhaps you don’t mind having a suit a little heavier because you know you generally operate in environments with good air conditioning?

 

Summer Cloths

 

So to material…

 

Light weight wools

If a suit is made with a light weight merino wool it has a great ability to draw moisture away from the body and regulate your temperature. A natural product generated by over 70 million merino sheep each year in Australia, it is worn by us at very weights throughout the year. We all sweat, and the key is to be wearing a cloth that allows you to breath. Merino wool is able to absorb 35% of its own weight in water. In reality this means it can absorb the moisture from your skin and evaporate most effectively. Keep it light and it will do its best to keep you cooler.

 

Gabardine

Gabardine was invented in 1879 by Thomas Burberry who was the founder of the Burberry fashion house in Basingstoke and patented in 1888. The original fabric was waterproofed before weaving and was made from worsted wool before being tightly woven ready for use. Gabardine saw great popularity in the 1950s particularly in the production of jackets, trousers and suits. These days a Gabardine is a great option in the light colours. Cream, fawn, khaki, or light blues and greys are popular summer colours, and being a wool it also allows for good ventilation. A quick point to make on colour at this point: the lighter the colour that you are wearing, the less it will absorb the heat from the sunlight.

 

Cottons

Unlike wool, cotton is a plant. The plant is native to tropical and subtropical regions around the world including the Americas, Africa and India. The greatest diversity of wild cotton species is found in Mexico, followed by Australia and Africa. It is used for so many different purposes, but for the summer wardrobe, a jacket or pair of trousers. Perhaps surprisingly, if you were to compare wool and cotton at the same weight – cotton will only hold 24% of its own weight in moisture. The point being that it can takes less moisture away from the body, leading to more sweat being left on the skin and you feeling warmer. It is also worth noting that cotton is more informal that anything wool.

 

Linen

Linen creases. Obviously. Having said that, many people love the idea of a linen jacket but hate the idea of it creasing. It will and does, and while it will look fantastic when it is brand new and after a lot of wear, the in between stages will crease in abundance. Buy into though, and you’ll have a jacket or suit that is the epitome of summer. It breaths and will keep you cool. It also ages extremely well, and out of any cloth looks better and feels softer the older it gets. As with any cloth, the heavier linen will drape better (the way it hangs on your body) than anything lighter. It is casual, and if you’re looking for a smart casual approach then it will fit the bill.

Linen is a cloth made from the fibres of the flax plant and is very labour intensive to manufacture, it is an expensive commodity, is produced in relatively small quantities, and is highly valued for its exceptional coolness and freshness. In Ancient Egypt it was often used as currency. Egyptian mummies were wrapped in linen because it was seen as a symbol of purity and a display of wealth. In those days it would be woven from hand spun yarns which were very fine for their day, but coarse compared to today’s standards.

 

Mohair

This is a cloth that is such a good traveller. It is certainly a good summer cloth because it is light weight as well as for its moisture winking abilities, but do bear in mind that it will be a little warmer to wear than wool. For that reason it is often mixed with a light weight wool. It is considered a luxury fibre in the same way cashmere and silk are. One of the fundamental differences is that it comes from a goat. It is durable and resilient, naturally elastic and crease resistant. The first and last of these make it a thoroughly good choice if you are a businessman who needs a suit that travels well. It will keep its shape when you step off the plane.

These days, South Africa is the largest mohair producer in the world, with the majority of South African mohair being produced in the Eastern Cape.

 

Fresco

This means ‘Fresh’ – which is exactly what we all want to feel a suit in the summer. The two points immediately noticeable are its coarseness and how porous it is. It is fair to say you will find this cloth more through a tailor than in a ready to wear shop, but for summer, it’s worth exploring. The multiple yarn has a high twist which allows for an open weave and highly breathable cloth. Indeed, this is probably the cloth with the best performance in the heat. What it is not is smooth to touch which the mohair is, so be prepared for a different feel. But wearing a suit in the blazing sun, your concern will lie with how cool you feel and how it keeps its shape.

 

Follow James at: www.twitter.com/MrJamesField

 

www.jamesfield.com

 

Packing your suitcase and travelling

Suit Case

We all travel from A to B the whole time. For business or pleasure, from short journeys to long journeys, from over nights to weeks away – getting our clothes around is a challenge and doing it without creasing is even harder! Let’s be frank, your clothes will crease in transit but there are ways to minimise the effects. One of the first things to make sure is that you have a decent travel case. If you are a flyer and need to check your luggage in, you would be wise to buy a case that has a hard shell. Luggage handlers are notorious for the way they move bags and cases around, but also it will stop any further disruptions to its contents. Also be aware of the restrictions you may need to know about for your hand luggage. Some carriers have changed their parameters so make sure you are in the know. You don’t want to turn up to the airport and have a ‘situation’ of your hands!

Before you put anything into anything – do two things: check the weather for your destination and draw up a list of the items you will need. This will really help you minimise taking items that you don’t need to take. When you have them laid out, firstly make sure they are fully dry and put them on your bed so you can see what you are dealing with. 

It’s really important to make sure all your fresh laundry for the trip is dry. Leaving washing until the last minute is not a good idea because you don’t want to have to pack damp close. With your shirts especially, they should be dried naturally so don’t put them in a drier. Why? Because tumble driers not only cause shrinkage to the shirts but can lead to further damage to the collar tips as they churn round and help make the buttons more brittle.

With everything you are about to pack, bar your underwear, it is worth giving it a quick iron. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but what it does is minimise the problem once you arrive and unpack.

How do I pack a suit?

If you won’t want creases then the simple truth is don’t pack them and carry them in a suit carrier, keep them on a hanger and unfolded. However if they are destined for the suitcase, pack them like this and make sure they at the bottom of your suit case to avoid them moving around in transit:

  • Firstly, fold the suit jacket completely inside out so that all the lining in showing and even the shoulders have been popped inside out.
  • Secondly, fold the jacket in half down the centre back seam.
  • Finally, fold the jacket again from the collar to the tail.

Trousers

Press them then roll them. Once you have a crease pressed down the front of them, tightly roll the legs up tightly from the bottoms to the top.

Unpacking your suit

As soon as you are able to, unpack your case. Remove your suit and hang it on a hanger. If you reach the hotel and have a shower on arrival, then place the jacket and trousers on separate hangers and put them in the bathroom. The room will be hot and damp which will help the cloth hang out.

Shirts

As mentioned, before you travel it is worth giving them an iron. They are notoriously the hardest clothes to keep crease free but the best way to give them any chance of surviving is to fold them with dry cleaning bags positioned in between the layers of your folding, making sure that all buttons are done up. The collar should be turned up and not down. When you arrive, again, unpack and hang the shirts out as soon as you can.

If you are making use of a hotel laundry facilities, remember that chances are they won’t value your shirts to the same degree you do. They will be washed and dried (drying unnaturally not being good for the cotton). They will then have them pressed on machines that are likely to be on and very hot for the majority of the day resulting in too much heat being applied to the collar. This leads to a shortening of the shirt’s life. It is often practical and necessary to use the services available but consider the point.

Ties

These are simple. Roll them up and put them inside your shoes. They are better stored in that way. There are various retailers offering very attractive tie cases in leather but on a practical level that is just another accessory you don’t need to take with you.

When you arrive unroll the ties and let them hang out. If they need a hand, boil the hotel kettle in your room, and taking care, put some steam into a tie to soften it. When it’s still warm put it straight on a flat surface and press and tap it flat with your hand. Even better would be to hover above a tie getting steam into the silk.

Never iron your tie. Doing so will flatten the lustre, it will making it more shiny up the shaft – helping define the interlining and will lose its plumpness.

Hats

Notoriously tricky to keep in good shape, you are better off carrying it. In a suitcase it is better to store it upside down and pack other items around it to secure it. Then fill the head space with t shirts and other soft items. This will help a hat travel reasonably well.

When you arrive at your destination your hat can be rescued by the tools you will find in your hotel room. All you need is the kettle again. Simply use the steam to soften the straw, remould it and allow to cool and dry out.

Shoes

Depending on the purpose of your trip away, consider the shoes you will actually need and ditch the ‘would be nice to haves’. Shoes are not only a difficult shape and size for a suitcase, but too many of them will add to the weight of your case. It is worth considering this if you are party to a weight restriction for your flight. Pack what you need, not what you might need.

 

Royal Ascot – Men’s dress code

Racing

Horse racing is a sport that has a long history with records indicating its presence in the ancient Greek Olympics in 648 BC. In the Roman Empire, chariot and mounted horse racing were major industries. “The Sport of Kings” gained its name after being so popular with both royalty and aristocrats. As expected, with such a sociable preoccupation became grounds for fashion to become an extremely important part of the day out. Clothes, to this day, indicate social status whether we like it or not, and with going racing there is a uniform to be worn.

Whether you are off to The Derby or Royal Ascot it is worth visiting the meeting website to determine the dress code. There is nothing more embarrassing than getting it wrong!

The Investec Derby at Epsom

For men attending the Ladies’ Day and the Queen’s Stand, the official line states that gentlemen must attend wearing a jacket, collar and tie. Jeans, shorts, denim or trainers are not acceptable. For the Derby Day the Queen’s stand requires you to be dressed in full morning dress – this can either be black or grey. The other necessity is that of a top hat. Indeed, this is obligatory, so you won’t be fully dressed without it.

If such functions are becoming a regular occurrence for you, you might consider purchasing a morning suit. If not then you can always go down the hiring route where you can buy into a short term lease. With regard to the bowler hat, again you can hire, or pay a visit to the best hatters in London, James Locke & Co. There is no better place.

If you are spending your day in the Duchess’ Stands a suit will be required. Certainly if your destination is to the hospitality area you should be wearing a shirt, tie and jacket.

With general admission to the Grandstand for both days, gents are encouraged to dress smartly so you won’t get far if you appear in sportswear, sleeveless vests and shorts.

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Royal Ascot

Pronounced, “Ascut” by those who know.

Again, fashion at such an event tends to be reported on just as much as the racing, so it’s important to understand what is required. Instructions for The Royal Enclosure state the following:

Gentlemen are kindly reminded that it is a requirement to wear either black or grey morning dress which must include:

  • A waistcoat and tie (no cravats)
  • A black or grey top hat
  • Black shoes

A gentleman may remove his top hat within a restaurant, a private box, a private club or that facility’s terrace, balcony or garden.  Hats may also be removed within any enclosed external seating area within the Royal Enclosure Garden.

The customisation of top hats (with, for example, coloured ribbons or bands) is not permitted in the Royal Enclosure.

For the Grandstand you will be required to wear a suit. With a less formal atmosphere, the Silver Ring at Royal Ascot is a separate admission area that does not provide access to the Parade Ring or the main Grandstand. The Silver Ring still provides an excellent position to watch the Royal Procession and the racing action. Whilst they encourage race goers to wear smart clothes, no formal dress code applies except that bare chests are not allowed… You have been warned!

For more information on the dresscode for Royal Ascot, visit: https://www.ascot.co.uk/royal-ascot-style-guide-2015

A day at the races is a huge amount of fun, but please note the importance of being dressed appropriately. There are also other racing events such as Cheltenham, Chepstow, Sandown, Lingfield, and Goodwood, and the advice is to check with the meeting’s website to insure you are aware of the dress code that is required.

Morning dress

If you have just got engaged, firstly congratulations, secondly your new wife-to-be may already be in wedding planning mode so with this in mind if you are unclear on what wedding attire to wear on your wedding day here’s a guide to the perfect dress code for the Groom… And yes, it’s worth thinking about it now.

If you are in the forces then the chances are your preference lies with your regiments dress. Likewise, if you are from Scottish decent then Highland wear might be on the menu. But for the rest of us, there is the following to think about:

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MORNING SUIT BY ANDERSON AND SHEPPARD

MORNING DRESS

The name originated from the practice of gentlemen in the nineteenth century riding a horse in the morning with a cutaway front single-breasted morning coat. This has since become the traditional attire for a traditional wedding day. It is also a necessity that morning dress is worn to certain equestrian events such as Royal Ascot and the Derby. You will also find in as school uniform at Eton College.

While tradition might indicate that this should only be worn in the morning this isn’t so. It is perfectly acceptable to dress up until around 5pm, but after that the scenario should be different.

To hire or to buy?

If the wedding dress code is morning suit and you are thinking shall I hire or buy, think about buying. If you have arrived at the age where wedding days become part of the furniture you only need a couple of dates in the diary to justify the purchase.

The morning coat

The morning coat will always be single breasted and be fastened with a single button at the front. It should have a peak lapel, like a dinner jacket, and have tails that should sit just at the back of the knee. If you are buying ready to wear make sure the sleeve length is showing 1/4 inch of cuff for those photos to come. It is the cheapest of all alterations and worth doing. If bespoke is an option, you will do well with choosing a fine herringbone black worsted cloth which is about 10/11oz in weight. Your tailor will know the one from the cloth supplier ‘Smiths Woollens’ as being one of the best. Not too light but not too heavy that it causes any overheating!

Morning Coats

MORNING COAT BLACK HERRINGBONE

The waist coat

The waist coat for this form of dress can be single or double breasted. Double breast with its peak label is always a winner. So smart and works as a favourable contrast to the single breasted morning coat. The main colours to go for are light greys, buff (a pale yellow) or a duck egg blue. All very classic and smart.

Waistcoats

CLASSIC WAISTCOAT OPTIONS

The trousers

Morning trousers are grey and black striped, and to avoid any shirt poking out between your waist coat and your trouser waist, are better served up as being cut for braces (i.e. they are fishtail cut and go up at the back). In fact, here is a general note for wearing a waist coat in general: Make sure that your trousers sit high enough so as to avoid seeing any shirt in between. It is a cardinal sin if you get this wrong – whatever dress code you are wearing.

Morning Trousers

STRIPED MORNING TROUSER WORSTED WOOL

Pick a Pic and Pic?

The alternative to the three separates is to have all one colour, and that colour is grey. It’s known as Pic and Pic or shark skin.

PicnPicCloth

PIC’N’PIC OR SHARK SKIN GREY WORSTED WOOL

THE LOUNGE SUIT

These days if you are not in the immediate wedding party or the invite don’t state it, a “lounge suit” is a good option.  To clarify – the lounge suit is a classic suit. It could be a work suit, one in navy or grey, but if you’re the proud owner of suits that have pin stripes the width of a train track, it’s best to leave those for those business meetings when you want to portray a bit of oomph! During the summer months think “light” – both in terms of fabric and colours. Go for a light weight wool suit, or perhaps a linen or cotton, if you’re in the right climate. If your suit is navy, team it up with pastel pinks or blues or the rock solid white shirt. It’s a wedding, so keep it muted, light and fresh. Be appropriate.

ACCESSORIES

You can make any look appear to be more expensive than it is by wearing good accessories well. A quality shirt, tie and pocket square will make all the difference. Top hats are worn on occasion at a wedding with morning suits but these days it is a rarity.

YOUR questions, MY answers

Questions-and-Answers_C0077_032_c01_l

I wanted to take a moment to answer some of your questions. Keep them coming! (james@jamesfield.com)

Q:      Can you talk me through what kind of jacket a man should opt for according to his body shape?

A:        There is one thing that is vital – that the jacket fits – whatever body size you are.  With bespoke even those with a bigger frame can have good shape to their jackets, and there lies the talent of a good cutter. There is nothing worse than a suit that is too small. Some men feel that by having clothes tighter they are more streamline. This is rarely the case. By wearing something that is too small the wearer will in fact look bigger in it. For those who are taller and thinner a 2 button is better than a three button as this gives the wearer a better line into the waist. A three button can lead to looking a bit tubular which isn’t a good look. If you are buying ready to wear, while it might be more difficult to tick all the boxes, try to bear in mind as much as possible when buying.

Q:        Are there any tricks to the details of a jacket – the lapel, the pockets, and the vents – that can add the illusion of height or slimness?

A:        A jacket with a slim lapel won’t do any favours for a guy who is bigger. The art of a well fitted suit is the idea of proportion. Lapels should complement the width of shoulder. The jacket should be at the correct length – to cover your seat. Too long and you shorten your legs, too short and again it throws the proportion and balance. Having two vents is advisable for two reasons: Firstly it is practical and gives you good access to your trouser pockets. But most importantly it helps give the back of the jacket a good shape. From the shoulders the shapes comes into the waist and then out again. Naturally this emphasises a smaller waist. A single vent was often employed for hunting wear and would be on clothes worn on horseback. These days, worn on every day garments it can flair open so is not as flattering.

Q:        Are there any tips for patterns that complement a silhouette?

A:        What should men look out for or be wary of? If you are a smaller frame avoid wider stripes and big checks. Additionally the opposite can be said too. If you are of a bigger frame, avoid smaller stripes and checks. By having a pattern that is too small it just makes you seem bigger – not helping to insure a good sense of proportion again. The stripes can certainly make their wearer appear taller for the simple reason that they draw attention up and down – emphasising the length of your silhouette.

Q:        What advice would you give on cuff and trouser length with regard to complementing a man’s shape?

 A:        If you are shorter then consider not having turn ups as this draws a line at the shoe, emphasising the end of the line and a shorter leg. Also keeping a trouser higher on the waist as opposed to a low rise will give length to it. It is also key to make sure both elements (jacket and trouser) start and finish at the right point. Again, yes, the secret lies with a good sense of proportion.

Do you have any tips on accessories that can work to your advantage? For example, tie width, texture, placement of a pocket square etc.? 

A:        Pocket squares have seen a good resurgence over the last 5/6 years. How you place it, either ‘peaked’, ‘flat’ or as the ‘puff’ (my favourite) is up to you. Your tie width should be complimentary to the width of your lapel, which is turn should be complementary to the width of your shoulders. These are 3 key elements to achieving a good sense of proportion. Also adding a pinch to your tie and wearing a good set of cufflinks will demonstrate you have a solid awareness of style. Just remember: Style isn’t about standing out, it‘s about looking outstanding without trying to be.

Why go Bespoke?

Firstly, bespoke comes with a warning. It is incredibly addictive. If you have spent years buying off the peg, unless you are extremely lucky, the chances are there is probably something that isn’t quite right. It might be the width or length of your sleeves. It might be the length of the jacket. It might be that the jacket collar doesn’t sit flush on the neck. Whatever that is (perhaps all of the above) bespoke will iron it out. We are all made differently so it is little wonder that something that is manufactured to a template figure (ready to wear) will not fit you like a glove. And it is that tag that bespoke aims to achieve. Once you’ve tried it, you will find it very difficult to go back.

So to the facts: Buying bespoke will lead you into an experience that begins from the moment you arrive at your tailor and continues well after you have picked your suit up. It is a relationship as much as a transaction and at each stage of the process you will encounter specialists who have worked in their particular field for many years. Enjoy the experience in both the people you are working with and the process you are about to undertake.

Before you are even measured you’ll be advised in depth on all things cloth. It will be determined what the purpose of your suit is, the climate you’ll be wearing it in, and fundamentally how you need it to perform – whether that be good for travelling, on stage, or in the office etc.

In Savile Row tailoring you will have cutters and tailors. The difference? Cutters are the guys who will measure you up, cut you a pattern and the clothes you are ordering. A tailor is the man or woman who takes what has been cut and puts it together. There is immense skill in both professions, but it is your cutter who you will spend time with. The level of specialism insures that not only are they a master at what they do, but their sole aim is to make that garment look the best it can on you. The finished result aiming to be something exceptional. While the cloth and the making of your clothes will deliver quality construction, it is the cutting that will make it fit like a glove.

The ‘coat’, as it is referred to in bespoke circles, and trousers will be the result of some 27 measurements taken by your cutters. Most people will either be ‘off right’ or ‘off left’ which means one shoulder is sloping lower than the other. Perfectly natural and more often than not the result of which side you’ve been carrying those bags all your life! If this is not considered it can throw the jacket off and can change the way a jacket will feel and fit. The shoulders are so important to get right as everything hangs from them. Body shapes vary to such a degree that every aspect of your shape is considered to insure the most flattering result. The width of your shoulders will be determined, and your lapel will then be determined as a result of that. The important point is to achieve a sense of balance. Bespoke is a world that gives you room where you need it and shape where you don’t.

The same for the trousers: How and where they sit on the waist, what line they have (whether straight or tapered), and to what degree. Looking at the measurements might look like the enigma code, but to your cutter it is ‘you’ on paper.

Approximately 50 man hours will go into the making of every bespoke suit. Once your cutter cuts your pattern and garments they are handed to your tailor to begin the process that is the epitome of being hand made. Bespoke insures attention to detail like no other. Sleeves and every button hole are put in and finished by hand. Why does that make a difference? Because it is done to precision and made to last for as long as you care for it.

The bespoke experience continues with aftercare. With generous inlay in every garment there is room to adjust should work lunches take their toll! Keeping the cloth in good working order is also vital for the longevity of the suit. Sponge and Pressing is a cleaning technique that through the use of steam and brushing helps to revitalise the wool to its former glory.

There are many companies who offer you personal tailoring services – all no doubt promising the best service known to man and a fit that will surpass all expectation. Some are based online, and if going down that route, always arrange an appointment to meet with one of their consultants to be measured. It is a dangerous thing to tap in your own measurements in the comfort of your armchair at home. It might cost you a little more to do that, but it’s better than costing you the value of a suit that doesn’t fit!

So there is ‘made to order’, ‘made to measure’ and ‘bespoke’ – but what is the difference?

Made to Order – This is a process where you will be able to choose within restricted parameters on the design and fit of your clothes. It will be the cheapest of the three options and is certainly a step up from ready-to-wear, if you’re not lucky enough to have that fit you.

Made to Measure – This level of personal tailoring will be largely achieved by the use of blocks but combining this with the tweaks you may be looking for. This option will give you a good finish that although predefined to a large extent will give you a sound fit while still being cut and made in the factory. There are some offers that will talk about being ‘cut by hand’ or ‘finished by hand’ but largely speaking these will be done by machine.

Bespoke – This is the ultimate. It may come with a price tag, but it will be unique to you, cut specifically for you, and made and finished by hand. Once you try it, you will understand what a difference it makes. Every little nuance of your body shape is considered through a thorough sequence of measurements.

To conclude, a bespoke suit won’t shout and scream, it will say what it has to, and be flattering without explaining why.

 

Follow James at: www.twitter.com/MrJamesField

www.jamesfield.com

 

Your Wardrobe’s New Year Revolution

2015 New Year celebration

 

2015. A year yet defined, but soon enough the talk will be all about those New Year’s resolutions. Quit smoking. Quit drinking. Exercise more. Eat less. Learn something new. Now, I’m not going to sit here tapping away telling you how to do or why you should do any of those things, but what I will say is that it’s always a good opportunity at this time to do a bit of wardrobe maintenance. A wardrobe “New Year’s Revolution” if you will. (Sorry!)

Christmas Gifts

The Father Christmas jumper, the book that is neither interesting nor funny, and the socks that are the colour you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Can you take them back?

  • Many retailers will offer an exchange (most likely) or in a very few cases a refund. In fact, only expect a refund if your item is faulty. Yours chances or success with a returning item are greatly improved by having a receipt or a gift receipt. At this time of year you will find that many retailers extend the returns period to accommodate you, but if you turn up in March don’t expect an easy ride!
  • It goes without saying that goods need to be in mint condition with the original packaging. And if you reckon you can return underpants , you’ll be lucky!

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Buying in the sales

With the lure of percentage signs, and so much ‘money off’ that it makes out they are practically giving the stuff away, Sale time is tempting. But bear in mind the following:

  • Sales will advertise as selling at discounts “Up to …. %.” This means that not everything on sale will be at the full discount, so don’t expect that.
  • Secondly, ask yourself, “If it wasn’t in the sale, would I buy it?” You may have a bit more pocket money in your back pocket, but so many people make the mistake of buying what they don’t need because it’s ‘good value’.
  • Thirdly, bear in mind what stock is being offered. If you’re buying shirts for instance, you are unlikely to find classic colours because they sell well and aren’t seasonal. Retailers will be moving on stock that is from the last season. So expect offerings to be seasonal and more fashion focused.

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Throwing and sorting

There is never time to open up your wardrobe and have a good sort out. Us guys spend most of the year grabbing stuff out of it without giving its contents a proper look.

  • If you are buying something new, consider throwing something out. Simple. More so, if you are replacing something, then there is no reason on this earth why you’d keep the old one. Agreed?

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Dry Cleaning

Back to work with a clean suit will put you in a better frame of mind for when you start again in January. Nothing worse than starting a new year with some of the Christmas party still on your lapel, or sweat curtsy of that outrageous dance routine you pulled out of the bag.

  • Just a word on Dry Cleaning:  Don’t do it too often. The spirits used in the process cause damage to the fibres of a suit, changing colour and fullness. Sponge and Pressing is a good cure for an everyday spruce.

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Shoe Repairs

Do you need to get your work shoes re-heeled and re-soled? Firstly, if you have bought a good quality shoe in the first place, then you are less likely to have to buy a new pair as often.

  • If you need repairs – get a new leather sole put on the shoe, followed by a very thin layer of rubber sole. Not only does this give you more grip on the streets, but the rubber is a cheap replacement job and minimises the necessity for having the leather soles replaced every time.
  • As I say time and time again – if you buy expensive shoes, they will be with you for years.

Happy New Year to one and all!

Follow James at: www.twitter.com/MrJamesField

www.jamesfield.com