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.
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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!)
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!
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.
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?
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.
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!
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The history bit:
The use of the poppy was inspired by the World War I poem In Flanders Fields. It refers to the many poppies that were the first flowers to grow in the churned-up earth of soldiers’ graves in Flanders, a region of Europe that overlies parts of Belgium, France, and the Netherlands. Canadian physician and Lt Col. John McCrae is understood to have written it on 3 May 1915 after witnessing the death of his friend (a fellow soldier) the day before.
Inspired by the poem, American teacher Moina Bell Michael went on to sell silk poppies to friends to raise money for the ex-service community. By 1920 the poppy was proclaimed the national emblem of remembrance in the US, and in the UK. Ever since it has been adopted by an ever increasing community, and last year it is said Britons bought over 26m. A Royal British Legion team of about 50 people—most of them disabled former British military personnel—work all year round to make millions of poppies at a factory in Richmond, England.
In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the poppies have two red petals, a green paper leaf and are mounted on a green plastic stem. In Scotland the poppies are curled and have four petals with no leaf.
Where to wear them:
The poppy is a ‘must’ at this time of year and people are all too ready to pass comment on how to wear them. Some people say left, as it’s worn over the heart. Others say only the Queen and Royal Family are allowed to wear a poppy on the right, which surely can’t be true. Then there is the school of thought that says men should wear theirs on the left and women on the right, as is the traditional custom with a badge or brooch. There are even opinions on the correct position of the green leaf. That it should be pointing at 11 o’clock so as to recognise the importance of the eleventh hour. The Royal British Legion spokesman says there is no right or wrong side “other than to wear it with pride”. That’s good enough for me.
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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 has very much arrived, 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?
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Some seven decades after it was used as Winston Churchill’s tactical hub, The Cabinet War Rooms were once again buzzing with people. But how very different it was this time around.
What an extraordinary setting and a brilliant one at that to host Savile Row, which demonstrated why it remains the godfather of destinations to have a suit made.
In association with The Woolmark Company and Chivas Regal, 7th January 2014 saw Savile Row taking a bow as part of London Collections: Men.
Now an established date in the diary, London Collections: Men has really established itself in the fashion diary. And not only in the fashion diary. In the diaries of Sir Michael Gambon, John Standing, David Furnish, AA Gill, Oliver Cotton, Jonah Hauer-King and Kenneth Cranham to name but a few. They sat around the briefing table that played host to Churchill, Vice-Admiral Louis Mountbatten, and the heads of the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force. What was even more remarkable was to see Sir Elton John arrive to join in. Then to pass comment on that, was Lulu!
As we travelled through the endless historic corridors, each room and passage way was awash with other models wearing clothes from the houses. All wool and in earthy colours to fit in well with the surroundings.
To commemorate the 100 year anniversary in August 2014 of the beginning of The First World War, and in the same year, the 70th Anniversary since the D-Day landings, this was a fitting tribute.
What a historic place and a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
Over and out.
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Choosing a jacket style, whether it is a casual, sporting, or suit is straight forward. Going the bespoke route is a whole load easier still because you have the benefit of your tailor giving you his or her expertise – ensuring you go for the best style to suit you.
A Savile Row tailor will have a ‘house style’ and my fundamental advice on this is to go with it. If you find you are asking for things that are fighting against the house cut, then you are probably in the wrong tailor. The point is to select the tailor and the house cut that you like and work from there.
Single or Double?
SB suit jackets and blazers typically have two or three buttons and a notch lapel.
Two buttons usually channels the lapels to a lower point which gives you a better line. In a suit it also makes for better visibility of your shirt and tie. 3 buttons (kept high) is still popular, but…
If you’re very tall it has a tendency to make you look very tubular, and if you’re very short it can make you look as if you are likely to explode out of it!) Therefore 2 button is a safe and stylish decision.
From the 1930s onwards, peaked lapels, often on a single button jacket, have been variably in fashion, and this is now a classic, though slightly unusual, look. The width of the lapels is one of the most changeable aspects of the jacket, and narrow peak lapels on single-breasted jackets became popular during the 2000s. It’s very ‘fashionable’ so if you want something timeless that transcends fashion then you’d do yourself a favour by not employing it. I really like a generous lapel.
What you are looking to achieve is a symmetry or balance from the width of your shoulders, to the width of the lapel, to the width of the tie.
The DB refers to a coat or jacket with wide, overlapping front flaps and two parallel columns of buttons or snaps. In most modern double-breasted coats, one column of buttons is decorative, while the other functional. The other buttons, placed on the outside edge of the coat breast, are either decorative (non-functional) or functional, allowing the overlap to fasten reversibly, right lapel over left lapel. To strengthen the fastening, a functional inner-button, called the jigger, is usually added to parallel-fasten the over-lapped layers together from the inside. The DB originated from the naval reefer jacket and is a formal two piece where there is no need to have a waistcoat.
There are little in the way of benefits of having a DB over an SB other than to say it might be a fraction warmer as you have essentially two layers covering your torso. The rest is down to personal style and taste. In recent years we have seen a return to their popularity. DBs have become more fitted and embraced a sleeker look. This, a difference to the era they were popular in during the mid-1930s until the late 1950s, and again from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s.
‘You’ve got to pick a pocket or two…’
Straight or slanting?
Straight is more classic and slanting is more sporty. As much as I’ve had both, I like straight pockets on both my suits and sports jackets.
Outside ticket pocket or not?
As with all pockets, if they have a practical purpose for you then use them / have them. If they don’t, then don’t. The ticket pocket was and is exactly what it says on the tin – a pocket used to carry your train ticket. I like them because I use them.
Two are the norm and not only gives you a better continued back line but also gives you easy access to your trouser pockets. The single vent was born through riding on horse back, with the notion that the back of the jacket would splay and fall nicely either side of the horse’s back. I’m not a fan. Likewise no vents should be reserved for formalwear only in my opinion.
In breast pockets and ticket pockets all hold a practical purpose for me so I have them and use them. Just don’t make the mistake of loading them up like a child trying to fill up his entire mouth with a whole packet of wine gums. It will change the look of the jacket, and won’t look great.
And there you have it… Simple.
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