I was at another wedding last night. A classy affair held at a century-old mansion tucked away on the northwest corner of the University of British Columbia campus. Weddings monopolized a significant portion of my weekends last summer, and this year has been no different. Apparently I am at that age.
Although I don’t profess to know much about weddings, I do have an appreciation for many of the elements of a good wedding: tradition, ceremony, gifting, public speaking, and open bars. For the bride and groom, and their immediate family, the wedding is always going to be more meaningful than its constituent parts. But for the rest of us, the spectators, a wedding is most enjoyable when these disparate elements come together to make a memorable evening. While that may be a trite observation, the volume of books and magazines written about the subject suggests that despite how common they are - most people don’t know where to begin when it comes to participating in a wedding.
I had the good fortune of being the best man at several of these aforementioned weddings, and on each occasion I was required to deliberate on what is the appropriate gift for my friend, the groom. As the best man you want your gift to the groom to be something that you can be proud of, something that conveys deliberate thought, and rises to the occasion. It’s not going to be a toaster that you wrap and place on the table at the back of room alongside the gifts from the in-laws. It’s not going to be an envelope of cash you sheepishly place in a basket with the rest.
Your gift needs to have gravitas.
It should be the kind of gift that is delivered over scotch the night before, or bleary eyed at brunch on the day of. It doesn’t have to be particularly expensive, but your best friend is only going to get married a couple of times, so you want whatever you select to be of substance.
I am of the firm view that monogrammed sterling silver cufflinks will more often than not be the correct choice.
A simple oval or rectangular cufflink, unobscured by superfluous gemstones or etching is the classic choice. Even with initials etched into their face, sterling silver cufflinks remain tastefully understated - barely discernible to the unaccustomed, while conveying an air of subtle sophistication to those who take notice. They are the kind of detail that only the wearer, and those with a keen eye, get to appreciate. Even if the groom does not wear a suit or double-cuffed shirt with any frequency, he will recognize that this is the kind of gift designed to mark an occasion. He may not yet own any monogrammed clothing or accessories, and if that is so then he will appreciate that you spent time and money acquiring these cufflinks for him, and that you know in the years and decades that follow he will have occasion to wear them. Alternatively if the groom is a regular wearer of cufflinks then all the more reason for him to enjoy this particular pair, purchased and monogrammed to commemorate the occasion.
Cufflinks have a rich, albeit fading, history of being used as gifts to commemorate significant occasions. In medieval times cufflinks were made almost exclusively as items to commemorate royal weddings and other affairs of state. The custom of using cufflinks as a gift or a keepsake has been so widely practiced that in some circles it is said that a man should never buy his own cufflinks. I’m not sure I agree with that sentiment entirely. If that were true I wouldn’t have many pairs to choose from in the mornings.
What I can agree with is that gifted, and personalized, sterling cufflinks do fall into that fetishized, and jealousy guarded group of “heirloom quality” #menswear accessories. Unless lost or stolen it is a safe bet that some day the gifted cufflinks will end up as a cherished possession of the groom’s son or daughter, grandson or granddaughter.
Above are my late grandfather’s cufflinks. Gifted to him by my grandmother, and more recently gifted to me.
If you’re fortunate enough to work in a profession where suits and collared shirts are still expected five days (or more) a week, then you need a proper wardrobe in your office.
Consider it a trophy case of sorts for the safe keeping of your painstakingly acquired suits, ties, shirts and shoes. For the iGent crowd who go to work in sneakers and jeans, or work exclusively from home (or not at all) this is obviously less of a concern. For the rest of us however, having a selection of work attire kept neatly in the office year-round will prolong the life of the clothing, provide greater flexibility in coming to or leaving the office, and lend a little gravitas to what may be an otherwise unremarkable workspace.
If your daily commute involves any combination of walking, public transit or bicycling, the wear on your shoes and suits from the elements will wreak havoc on them over time. If you live in a particularly rainy or cold climate the wet and salt exacerbates this process. Even the most cautious gentleman finds it next to impossible to walk a short distance to the office through rain (or even a wet parking garage) and not arrive at his desk to find light mud splatter on the back of his suit pants.
Wet leather soles, mud splattered pants, crowded subway cars - your business dress can be spared these realities of the daily commute if at the end of each workday you return them to their wardrobe. This leaves you free to make the trek home, to the gym, or wherever else life takes you without subjecting your suits to inclement weather, or spilled coffee from the commuter pressed against you on the bus.
Keeping a stocked wardrobe in your office also gives you peace of mind in the event that your workday throws you a curve ball. With clean shirts and a selection of neckwear on hand, a red wine spill at lunch, or a surprise chambers appearance in the afternoon, are challenges that can be met with ease.
Of course there will always be evenings out with clients, or in the corporate suite, where you head home for the night with your suit still on, and tie firmly fastened. Any imbalance this creates between your office wardrobe, and your home closet, can be remedied at the weekend. The equilibrium need not be perfect, the office wardrobe must always remain an object of convenience and not become a tedious balancing act.
I commissioned this wardrobe from a local cabinet maker for many of the same reasons men go to bespoke suits makers - I was unsatisfied with what was readily available in the marketplace. Like a department store suit, wardrobes from most retailers look pretty from afar, but on closer examination are far from good.
Glossy advertisements and cleverly accessorized showrooms are designed to convince you that particle board and plywood are acceptable mediums to construct furniture designed for daily use. Anyone who has ever owned anything from Ikea or Pottery Barn knows this not to be the case. The wardrobe offerings from the high street retailers seem to come with superfluous “features” like plastic partitions and sliding shelves, or glass and metal components that I suppose are meant to be chic.
Wardrobes should be basic in design, their purpose being to offer a dark, dry and breathable place to store your clothing between uses. They should be enclosed to keep out dust, and spacious enough to allow suits and sport coats to hang naturally. Shelving for shoes, belts and clothes brushes is also useful - but should be minimal so as to avoid the temptation of turning your otherwise useful wardrobe into a repository for all of your #menswear paraphernalia. For example if you start keeping shoe polish and cologne in your wardrobe it is only a matter of time before your suits and shirts start to smell like a wretched combination of them both.
If the hatstand in your office is groaning under the weight of one-too-many suits, and your dry-cleaning hangs awkwardly off the hook on the back of your office door, than do the right thing and invest in a wardrobe.
My wardrobe featured here is made from African Mahogany. It is about 6’ tall, 2’ deep and about 2’6” wide.
If you spend enough time reading Flusser, Crompton, Chensvold and the like, you can’t help but pick up random bits of relatively useless #menswear trivia.
I say “relatively useless” because while having a working knowledge of Edward VII’s fashion sense doesn’t usually come in handy, and knowing what part of the suit jacket the “gorge” is rarely takes you very far with the ladies - such teachings are not entirely without merit.
In a general sense a fulsome understanding of the history, function and manufacture of clothing informs one’s sense of style, and provides for better purchasing decisions. But more specifically, in some circles such trumpery can double as a party trick.
I found myself in just such a situation the other weekend at a wedding in Ottawa. The groom, a military officer, was wearing the regimental tie of the Governor General’s Foot Guards, a ceremonial guard that stands watch over Parliament and Rideau Hall. Above is the current Governor General, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, wearing the very same tie.
Over a scotch at the reception, and without knowing the significance of the tie at the time, I complimented the groom on his regimental colours. He was surprised, and more than a little impressed, that I was able to distinguish his otherwise ordinary red & navy repp tie. I confessed that it was an educated guess and told the groom my secret: traditional English regimental and school ties contain stripes that descend from left to right (some say this is a nod to the left-over-right fastening of men’s jackets). You rarely see them worn in North America.
On American made (designed) repp ties the stripes run the opposite way, descending from right to left. Brooks Brothers explains that when it introduced the repp tie to Americans it wanted to be sure their designs could be distinguished from the English regimentals, lest an American on business in London find himself in hot water for parading around in a tie to which he has no business wearing.
To illustrate the difference, above you can see a Brooks Brothers tie laying beside the Governor General’s regimental tie.
For me, these sort of subtle details - where history and fashion intersect, are the real gems of #menswear.
In the spring of 2007 my college roommate from Boston introduced me to the Tea Partay video. It changed my life.
I realize not everyone has the privilege of being able to point to the defining moment in their life (or in my case a viral advertising campaign) that had such a profound impact on their very identity that they were never the same afterwards. I suppose I’m lucky that my “moment” involved topsiders, cable-knit sweater vests, pastel coloured polos, and alcoholic malt beverages that came in flavours like lemon, peach and of course raspberry. Granted, the P-Unit wasn’t for everyone – but those geezers will snicker at just about anything.
For me the Tea Partay was a new way forward - a road map to a lifestyle I hadn’t previously known I wanted. That summer, and again the following spring, I would travel down to New England to gorge on the trappings of my new self. Ironically I was never able to obtain any Smirnoff Raw Tea.
In the years that have passed since college, filling my plate with Tea Partay trimmings has been pretty straightforward. The chinos, the merino sweaters, and the private clubs have all come my way pretty easily. Getting a chocolate lab was a little more difficult. This only leaves taking up residence in New Hampshire or Vermont as my final obstacle to achieving Tea Partay nirvana.
Once I acquired my chocolate lab I knew I had to set her up, make sure she was looking right and earning the respect of all the other bitches on the block. That meant a Barbour waxed dog coat – something that would match my Beaufort to wear on our long walks on the beach. She’s now pretty much a canine Muffy Aldrich.
I’ll be the first to admit that before I got young Scotia I thought jackets for dogs were a pretty dumb idea. Maybe they still are. I doubt very much her little Barbour keeps her “warm”, but the waxed cotton does keep her back dry, which makes drying her off at the end of a rainy Vancouver outing that much easier.
In the latter part of 2013 I found myself acquiring wool ties almost exclusively – and I don’t foresee that trend abating in 2014. I suppose it is natural to be drawn to warmer fabrics, in more subdued colours, in the fall and winter months - but for me I think it is more than that.
Wool ties have an inviting and complex texture to them that is lacking in their repp silk brethren. By working with a considerably more muted palette, wool ties convey rich colours with a depth that is at the very least different than silk, and for my money more pleasant. The traditional nature of wool ties, both in their colouring and styling is no doubt owed to their pedigree as a “weekend” tie – put to best use in the countryside, on the hunt, or in the study. Though historically viewed as more causal than silk, and not typically featured in the English gentry’s city wardrobe, when you consider how much brown is being worn in town these days, I’d venture that it is safe to knot-up a wool tie in even the most conservative of workplaces.
The truth is that a lot of silk ties look cheap. Cheap silk ties look too shiny, too glossy, or too chunky to be taken seriously. Today everyone wears a tie that reads “100% silk” or “all silk” or some other descriptor that is really of no assistance in determining the value of the tie. Cheap ties look terrible. Also only the finest ties in the world are actually made of nothing but silk. At the very least the interlining of the “100% silk” tie is made of a material other than silk, and in most cases the tipping and thread will be as well.
Because wool ties remain somewhat of novelty, only worn by those in the #menswear game, or those geezers too old for the game entirely, they remain somewhat of an unadulterated product – and thus less likely to look like they came from Nordstrom Rack, even if in fact that’s where you got them. They also continue to be manufactured, by and large, in conservative patterns and colours, rather than in garish hues with obnoxious designs. This means that unlike some of those Tommy Hilfiger ties in your closet, they won’t look terribly dated after only a couple seasons.
Like the silk grenadine, the wool tie will never dislodge the silk repps from the lofty heights of workplace hegemony, but in 2014 I’m going to try and let them make a run at it.
I appreciate the ambiance of #menswear shoppes as much – or more – than the next guy. From the well-curated window display that draws you in off the street, to the mise en scène created within by the fixtures and the cultural artifacts strewn about on shelves and tables, it all comes together to reassure the customer that they’ve come to the right place.
The storefront provides the “feel” that must match the “look” that the label sells. The Filson flagship store in Seattle for example is stylized as some sort of hunting cabin – complete with fireplace and mounted moose head. Purveyors to the shirt-and-tie crowd tend be a little more refined in their “visual merchandising” opting for quilted leather wingbacks over rocking chairs, and towering bookcases over hunting trophies. Much like the clothing they sell – some merchants do this better than others.
For as long as I can remember law reporters have been a staple prop in just about every #menswear store of the trad or Ivy set. You can see them featured prominently in this image lifted from the J Press website, they’re also featured in the photo at the top of this post. I consider this incredibly interesting.
Though window displays and chino colours change with the season, these trusty bound sets of judicial opinions apparently never go out of style.
I really enjoy printed reporters. Although as a lawyer I rarely actually refer to them (almost everything is available online), and most law firms are now binning decades worth of these costly relics, I suppose there is something romantic about these sequentially numbered and uniform texts, with brightly coloured bands around their spines, that gives them a timeless aesthetic. But surely young men who share my sentiment represent a rather small sect of the #menswear market?
Furthermore I find it hard to believe that the legal crowd remains (if it ever was) the target market of so many brands and shoppes. Brooks Brothers must dress just as many bankers, doctors and consultants as they do lawyers. Yet year after year Brooks Brothers , J Press and even Banana Republic (to name a few) include law reporters in their advertisements and in-store displays.
Yes, lawyers and judges are habitual wearers of suits, ties, tweeds and cufflinks. Nevertheless I don’t think the #menswear public holds up the legal profession as a beacon of all that is right and proper with traditional dress. Though every now and then a legal drama does grace the airwaves (most recently USA Network’s Suits)that leads the masses to believe that all attorneys are charismatic and well-dressed individuals who spend much of their time just hanging out and looking crispy - for better or worse this is not actually true.
My guess is that legal reporters are a popular muse of merchandisers not because the profession they are affiliated with is particularly rakish, but because of the larger concepts they represent: establishment, tradition, conservative values, and higher learning. The fact that their existence in actual law offices is somewhat anachronistic I suppose only reinforces their symbolism. If you’re in the market for a navy blazer, an oxford cloth button-down, or a decent pair of brogues I’d wager that at least a couple of the aforementioned characteristics appeal to you.
(In the photo above you can see that instead of repurposing actual reporters destined for the landfill, Banana Republic decided to commission entire sets of fake books for their displays. A merchandising initiative as contrived and empty as the pages in the B.R. Reports.)
Interior decorators and set designers appropriated the legal reporter decades ago and turned these rather boring and utilitarian objects into vogue furnishings. Indeed, the sight of neat rows of reporters lining the shelves of Victorian-era homes, and the offices of the rich and powerful in movies and television has made them cliché – a visual shorthand for an enviable lifestyle enjoyed by the privileged. Deserved or not, the learned texts of other professions have not received such adoration from artists and designers, which is why this American Federal Reporter is in a Vancouver Brooks Brothers window and not an old edition of Gray’s Anatomy.
Much has been written on the importance of buying well made goods, especially wardrobe workhorses like suits and shoes. Indeed, it’s likely that too much has been written on this one aspect of #menswear alone.
While it is of unquestionable importance to seek out quality in whatever accoutrements you require, the conscientious consumer must turn his mind to secondary considerations like customer service and brand warranties if he is to avoid disappointment with his purchases down the road. This couldn’t be truer in our era of ecommerce. I’d wager that most #menswear enthusiasts now do at least some of their shopping online, and whether that’s on eBay or through established online businesses - it comes with inherent risks. One of those risks is that the vendor won’t service or otherwise stand behind the product they sell you should a problem develop.
Of course one could encounter this problem when dealing with a brick-and-mortar retailer, but in my experience retailers physically rooted in a community are more responsive to the needs of their clientele. If you purchase a pair of shoes from the haberdasher downtown, and you return to the shoppe some time later bringing a latent defect in the shoe’s construction to the attention of the shoppe’s manager, it would be unusual not to receive some sort of compensation. Had you purchased the same shoes, with the same defect, online you may not be so lucky.
I recently had an experience that made me reflect on these and other concerns. A couple years ago now I bought a pair of Loake boots online. I purchased them “new” and in box, but from an eBay retailer based in the UK. Despite my best efforts looking after them, and even resoling them, a nasty hole developed in the upper of one of the boots. Though I had gotten good use out of them I expected more from this historic Northhamptonshire boot maker. With no “store” to return them to I had only the brand’s reputation to lean on for assistance. Accordingly I boxed them up, and sent them back to the factory.
I had no receipt. No warranty card. I couldn’t even say I bought them from an “authorized dealer”. My only currency was a thoughtfully written letter. The approach was simple and straightforward: I explained that I had thoroughly enjoyed wearing the boots, but had hoped to get more than two years use out of them.
Several weeks after I sent off my package I received an email from a gentleman at Loake named Oliver who was sympathetic to my troubles, and agreed that my boots must have been defective. He offered to replace them with a new pair. No further questions asked. No further charges. Now this is how a company stands behind its products.
My experience with Loake was a very tangible example of the enduring benefits of buying from bona fide #menswear brands. Could I have found Chelsea boots online for less than I paid for my Loakes? Sure, but had those down-market boots worn out prematurely I doubt even the most eloquent letter writing campaign would have generated a replacement pair. This unhappy occurrence would then result in me buying two pairs of poor quality boots, when I should have just bought a proper pair in the first instance. In this latter scenario the high street brand isn’t such a bargain after all.
As was recently observed over at A Suitable Wardrobe, #menswear fungibility is a myth. We pay more for products from reputable and established #menswear brands because they are better or different from the cut-rate competition. Cynics will always say that the discerning consumer needlessly pays more just for “the brand” – but if paying for “the brand” means that years after I make my purchase “the brand” will continue to provide me with prompt, courteous and in this case generous customer service, I think “the brand” is a pretty good long-term value.
So as tempting as it may be when you’re cruising eBay to zero-in on the most competitively priced version of the shoe, bag or jacket you desire – it is always worth a pause to consider what recourse you’d have if the article is defective or otherwise doesn’t live up to your expectations.
Since the turn of the twentieth century ready to wear suits have been designed and produced according to a sizing formula that averages various measurements of the male anatomy to deliver “proportioned” suits that should fit most men with a 38, 40, 42 etc. inch chest. As trousers make up one half of a “suit”, they too are sized and proportioned to fall into this generic and comprehensive measurement system. This should not be news to anyone who has ever bought a suit.
The “drop” is the difference between a suit’s chest measurement and the waist measurement of the accompanying trousers. The standard drop is 6”. This means that a suit sold as a 42R is going to come paired with pants proportioned to fit a man with a 36” waist. Think about that.
According to Dr. Oz a waistline of greater than 35” is heading into unhealthy territory, yet pants of that rather generous cut are paired with a jacket of pretty standard size. I realize that Dr. Oz is not the final say on what is or is not healthy, but apparently he has the stones to tell his fan-base of Americans who love day time television that their 36”+ waistlines are killing them - so he must be able to back that up. If you’re ever hard pressed to cite a single fact or statistic that conclusively demonstrates that suits are designed with slightly overweight (and not particularly athletic) geezers in mind, the “standard 6” drop” would be it.
Though some brands offer “slim fit” models where the drop is 7” (like this suit from Jack Victor) or even 8”, these are few and far between. The Milano fit from Brooks Brothers for example, the legendary suit-makers “slimmest fitting suit” adheres to a 6” drop. Such a shame.
The truth is that for healthy, active young men, our drop is going to be greater than 6”, and more like 8”-10”. If you’re tall, go to the gym, or just have good genes your broad shoulders will require a 40” jacket or greater, but you’d never dream of wearing suit pants with a 34” waist.
This creates a dichotomy for the aforementioned group between a suit’s off-the-peg drop and their actual drop. This gap, if not properly addressed by a competent tailor, can result in billowy-ass trousers lacking all indicia of taper or break. By “addressed” I don’t mean merely having the department store tailor, or the dry cleaner around the corner, take-in the waist on the offending trouser. Yes, that may bring the waist more in-line with a proper fit but it doesn’t actually address the drop problem.
As discussed above the pants of a 42R suit have been cut to accommodate a man whose butt, quads and calves require a 36” waist. So if one purchases a 42R suit, but their actual drop is 8” and they get the waist of the trousers taken in to accommodate their 32” waist – but they go no further with the tailoring – their suit pants are going to look ridiculous flapping in the wind around their skinny legs. I hate to beat up on Congressman Ryan - but these choice photos illustrate my point nicely.
Being mindful of the drop means getting your tailor to take-in the seat, and re-adjust the taper of the trousers, as well as taking in the waist so that the silhouette remains proportional and flattering, and you’re left with a slight break on your shoes.
Yes, ready to wear suits rarely fit well of the rack – tailoring is required; the #menswear blogosphere established this long ago. Unfortunately considerably less has been written about just what exactly needs to be tailored and why.
By keeping the drop in mind the next time you find yourself trying on suits, and by remembering that in all likelihood the pants you’re about to slip on were cut with a much larger man in mind than you, you can approach your tailor with confidence later, explaining that extra attention need to be paid to your new trousers.
I’ve written here before on my respect and appreciation for the traditions and conventions of the Canadian bar. Like the substantive law of the country, the dress code for barristers in our superior courts is part of a legal tradition shared across the Commonwealth.
Although in most Canadian provinces judges and lawyers stopped wearing wigs in the 19th century, the requirement for barristers and justices of the superior courts to conduct trials and appeals in white winged collar shirts, tabs (two strips of linen about 5” long by 1” wide hanging down the front of the neck), black waistcoats, grey morning dress striped trousers, and robes remains in force. Female barristers often wear skirts made of the same morning dress striped wool instead of trousers.
The history of the barrister’s robe goes back to medieval times when it was common for men “of learning” to wear gowns or tunics. Up until the Tudor period barristers’ gowns were done up in the front and made of brightly coloured fabrics. Gradually more sombre colours became popular and by 1600 members of the Inns of Court were strictly appearing in black gowns.
The robes worn by barristers today, with their pleated shoulders and three-quarter length sleeves adorned with buttons came about in the latter part of the 17th century.
The history of other aspects of the barrister’s robe is less clear. For example the triangular piece of cloth draped over the left shoulder of the robe that is split into two prongs on one end has an obscure past. One theory dictates that this stylized feature of the robe is a holdover from the “mourning hood” worn by members of the bar after the passing of King Charles II in 1685. The other, more colourful theory holds that originally the cloth strip was for clients to discretely place coins into as payment for their barrister’s service (one slot for gold coins, the other for silver). At one time barristers were not openly paid for their services, so if a client were to literally pay his barrister behind their back it would preserve the barrister’s dignity and the client could expect his barrister’s advocacy not to be compromised if his ex gratia payment was modest.
Like the barrister’s robe, the tabs worn around the barrister’s neck took their modern form around 1680. Though some historians suggest the two rectangular pieces of cloth were supposed to represent the tablet of Moses, more likely they were no more than a fashionable “sign of learning”, as doctors and clergyman also wore them at the time.
Despite centuries of (albeit limited) demand, finding quality barrister’s attire can still be a challenge - especially for women. Though pleased with the waistcoat and robes she had made in Vancouver, my girlfriend was not satisfied with her first winged collar court shirt. Despite being custom made, both the material and the fit were not to her liking.
In advance of a multi-week trial where several court shirts would be required, she decided to commission a set from the Brooks Brothers custom shirt program. Needless to say I was incredibly jealous, but I don’t do enough trial work to justify such an order.
Although the Brooks Brothers’ shirts were more expensive than the Vancouver-made shirt, they are quite lovely and she is hoping the wrinkle-free cotton and the consistent sizing will make the investment worthwhile. Unfortunately, and as is often the case at the criminal bar, the trial she ordered the shirts for was adjourned so she hasn’t had a chance to put them through their paces.
Court shirts will probably never be big business for an American clothier like Brooks Brothers, but if they were ever in need of a niche market to expand into, Barrister’s attire has more than enough history, tradition, and panache to make it worthwhile.
Scavenging your way through thrift stores and consignment shoppes for secondhand clothing can be a rewarding and self-affirming activity for #menswear enthusiasts. Others, like recording artist Macklemore describe thrifting as, “savin’ my money and I’m hella happy that’s a bargain, bitch.” Whatever your reasons are, if you’re smart about it vintage shopping can pay serious dividends.
I say that thrift shopping can be rewarding because in addition to being able to snap up everyday items at a fraction of their retail price, from time to time you can stumble across rare or unusual vintage pieces that simply aren’t available “new”.
I also consider thrift shopping to be a self-affirming exercise because as #menswear enthusiasts we consider ourselves to have something akin to “insider information” on fit, style and quality. Accordingly, when you roll out of a Salvation Army with a tweed sport coat you paid $12 for, you feel like a champ because the hours you spent on the blogosphere arriving at the conclusion that an undarted, 3-2 role lapel, hook vented jacket is worth having just paid off.
Unfortunately we don’t all live in San Francisco, New York or any other meccas of #menswear that come to mind. I live in Vancouver for example – somewhat of a hinterland for classic #menswear, and the “trad” lifestyle generally. Put simply, my trips to the secondhand shoppes aren’t quite as fruitful as our friend over at Broke and Bespoke who shamelessly flaunts his weekly hauls of tweed jackets (he picks them up by the half-dozen I gather) and Etro ties that he gets for the price of a cup of coffee.
Indeed, for the rest of us vintage shopping is a grind; you can’t remember the last time you actually found anything nice, but the faint memory that it did happen once keeps you coming back. Thrifting is trickle-down economics: if the gentlemen at the top of the top of the food chain in your area don’t dress particularly well, there’s little chance that their cast-offs that end up in your local used clothing store will be worth purchasing.
The body of literature available in the blogosphere advising on thrift shopping is voluminous, with posts by PutThisOn and Broke and Bespoke coming to mind as particularly informative. Nevertheless, on the topic of sourcing used sport coats and suit jackets I volunteer three further observations:
1) When you pick a jacket off the rack your primary focus should be on the jacket’s length, and how it fits you across the shoulders. This applies to purchasing jackets “new” as well. These are the two “gatekeeper” criteria, and it’s binary system – either the jacket fits across the shoulders, and is the right length for you, or it isn’t. It’s a matter of yes or no – there is no “sort of” for these crucial jacket dimensions.
Block from your mind fabric, colour, brand and other considerations until you have arrived at this simple “yes or no” conclusion. If the answer is yes then you may pass Go and contemplate what further work needs to be done to improve the overall fit of the jacket.
If the answer is no then put the jacket back. No amount of tailoring is going to make your size 40 shoulders fit naturally into a 38 jacket – no matter how beautiful it is. Likewise if you’re a 40 regular, don’t buy the 40 tall.
A smooth and natural fit across the shoulders of any jacket is fundamental: too tight and you’ll see weird ridges, too big and the jacket will sag. Neither look is flattering, and neither can be cured by tailoring. Attempting to adjust the length of a jacket will throw off its “balance” and is not advisable. I suppose a tailor could try and let out the bottom of a jacket by an inch or so, or take it in by the same margin, but my old tailor refused to do this for me on more than one occasion.
Jackets are designed with proportions in mind like the distance between hemlines and pockets, and the jacket buttons and your waistline. If you attempt to change these ratios the “balance” will get offset and won’t look quite right.
2) If you’ve found a jacket that fits you across the shoulders, and the length is right for your torso, your next consideration is sleeve length.
I don’t think I’ve ever tried on a jacket that I haven’t needed to take out at least a half inch on the sleeve.
This is where you need to be careful when looking at jackets made of materials other than wool. Wool (worsted or otherwise) is an ideal fabric for jackets because it doesn’t crease or fade as easily as other materials. Cotton on the other hand will crease along the cuff, and may be more prone to fading.
The photo above is a good example what does this mean for a vintage shopper. I bought this jacket thinking I’d have no problem taking the sleeves out. I was wrong. That crease isn’t going anywhere. If I went ahead and had the sleeves taken out anyway I’d be left with ridiculous looking slightly discoloured rings around my cuffs. Terribly unbecoming.
With wool on the other hand, like in the photo below, the problem isn’t as pronounced.
At the very least before you leave the store with your new jacket pull the end of the sleeve open a little to take a look at the difference in colour between the exposed fabric, and the fabric tucked underneath, and consider whether there is a crease separating the two that’s too rigid for a steam iron to press out.
3) When buying used clothing you don’t get the benefit of a marketing campaign, a salesperson, or running commentary on the blogosphere to inform you of the quality - instead you have to rely on your instincts and brand reputation.
When in doubt over the bona fides of a garment, try focusing your attention on evaluating the workmanship of the little details. This is a trick my old tailor got me on to. How are the labels sewn on? How are the buttonholes finished? What are the seams like in the places no one gets to see? While not necessarily determinative of a well-made garment, the level of care put into the lesser aspects of the jacket is a pretty good indicator of what sort of price point the garment was manufactured for.
As you can see from the label on this Saks suit, no one in quality control at that factory cared how the labels were cut or sewn. Makes you wonder what else they didn’t care about on that run of suits.
Every aspect of a mass-produced garment has a dollar value attached to it. If a suit manufacturer bidding on a contract needs to cut costs – the quality of buttons used, or whether or not the lapel buttonhole will be functional – are easy ways to shave off a few dollars per unit. Individually these minor irregularities or shortcomings may not be noticeable, but when examined in aggregate they can leave you with the conclusion that the jacket you’re holding was made on the cheap.
With the girlfriend out of town this evening, and the apartment to myself, I had the pleasure of catching up on some reading, some long overdue shoe polishing, and some solo drinking. Not a bad Wednesday evening indeed.
My malt of choice? Glenkinchie 12. My book? The Vancouver Club: First Century 1889-1989.
My evening of solitude allowed me to reflect on the immense pleasure I derive from the simpler, albeit finer, things in life. Give me something interesting to read, a neat whisky and some classical music on the radio and I couldn’t be happier. Granted these are all rather bourgeois pleasures – not unlike an admiration of #menswear.
I think there is an undeniable, although by no means absolute, nexus between having an interest in dressing well and having an interest living well. Of course the allocation of scarce resources dictates to varying degrees how well one’s interest in dressing and living well gets to be played out – but the interest, the fascination, the appreciation, is usually there.
Having said all of that I was somewhat surprised by the January 23, 2013 post on Permanent Style. I realize that January was some months ago now, but so rarely do I find myself at odds with our learned brother Simon Crompton that his thesis is worth discussing. “I find bizarre” he wrote, “the assumption that because I pursue refinement in clothing I will be interested in the best cigars, hotels or opera.”
Frankly I would have assumed Simon appreciated vintage mechanical movements, well made cocktails and smooth-drawing Cubans. To pursue refinement in #menswear to the degree that he does, and not let that passion for aesthetic beauty, tradition, occasion, and history spillover into the other arenas of life seems inconsistent.
To be fair, smoking and drinking are both vices that Mr. Crompton may abstain from generally, and if that is the case there is certainly nothing wrong with that. However if we assume that he does enjoy the occasional mixed drink, and takes the occasional trip abroad, I just can’t picture him sipping a rum and coke in a bespoke suit at a Best Western.
How does one espouse the values of buying well-made, well-designed garments, but then fill their flat with furniture made from particleboard, and artwork from Tesco? How do you connect with merchants and makers of cloth on the level that Crompton does, only to let that passion for understanding fall to the wayside when it comes to other facets of personal expression? It doesn’t add up.
#menswear is a gateway drug.
Bowties go with scotch like Friday morning tee times go with private club lunches.
After finishing law school, but before I started articles, I made a trip down to Boston, MA to visit an old roommate from undergrad. Between the beer and the baseball I made a special effort that week to visit an Allen Edmonds shop to get fitted for a proper set of shoes – walnut Strands. It proved to be a wise decision.
Since then I’ve purchased several more pairs of Allen Eddies on eBay – all “lightly used” and all at a fraction of the cost of new shoes. Prior to my Boston trip I would have never considered buying shoes online, but now that I’m familiar with the brand’s sizing I browse and order with confidence.
In the #menswear blogosphere I don’t think there is an article of clothing that is as rigoursly evaluated for its “value” as shoes. Countless digital inches of column width have been devoted to articles, blog posts and reader comments discussing and dissecting whether it is worth “paying more” for quality footwear. Interestingly this is at odds with the prevailing #menswear dogma that aesthetic appeal is in itself valuable, and therefore it is perfectly reasonable to pay more for a nice shirt, tie, or pair of shoes simply because it looks better.
Strangely there exists a chorus of cynics who paradoxically frequent websites like Permanent Style and Put This On yet still demand something akin to an actuarial report on the cost, lifespan, and maintenance fees associated with full grain, Goodyear welted footwear to justify their purchase over down-market models. While that level of analysis may seem excessive, the philosopher kings of #menswear who relentlessly champion the value of good shoes almost ask for it.
A new pair of Allen Eddies will set you back about $345. A similarly styled pair of shoes from Aldo, or a like brand, will cost you only $135.
So how do the proponents of quality footwear beat that $210 spread (assuming, for arguments sake, that it is not sufficient to leave it at “the more expensive shoes just plain look better”)?
I think based on my experience with buying both new, and used, Allen Edmonds I can answer that question.
Well-made shoes hold their value: Admittedly that is a weird statement. I don’t think most men shop for clothing with resale value in mind, and there are some guys that would never in a million years buy shoes from a dead guy. Nevertheless a few minutes on eBay will reveal a tremendous volume of used leather shoes selling for hundreds of dollars. More often than not these shoes are several years old, being sold long after they are available in stores or featured in advertisements. This speaks of the intrinsic value of properly built shoes.
The costs associated with manufacturing well-made shoes makes the business practice of dumping countless models on the market every season, with the expectation of deeply discounting them only months later, untenable. Goodyear welted shoes are built to last and are sold with a consumer in mind who will look after them. For these reasons Goodyear welted shoes tend to be conservatively styled; therefore they are a better value proposition over the long term.
I purchased my McAllisters on eBay for about $80. I’d be shocked if a worn pair of Aldos from a couple years ago had any value whatsoever.
Aging: Cheap shoes suffer from rapid aesthetic depreciation. Footwear crafted of dubious “leather”, rubber, and glue will never look as good as the day they were purchased. It may take a year or two, or as short as a couple months, but the veneer of a corrected grain leather will wear away or crack, glued seams will become unglued, and rubber soles will part ways with their synthetic uppers.
Although I have no idea how old my McAllisters were when they came into my possession (the McAllister was reintroduced in 2009), they nevertheless looked quite handsome. The creases in the leather from the miles they’d already travelled added to the appearance of an already commanding shoe.
The quality of the leather used to make a shoe will be the single biggest indicator of how a shoe ages: how it responds to the elements, to regular wear, and to the occasional or frequent polishing. While it may be a stretch to say that high quality shoes “only get better with age”, it’s certainly safe to say they age gracefully.
Recrafting: Leather soles do eventually need to be replaced, that is just the nature of the beast. How many years you get out of a pair of soles depends largely on personal variables. Leather soles wear quicker when wet, so that should be avoided whenever possible.
I wore my McAllisters for a full year before sending them to the Allen Edmonds factory for a “recrafting”. I opted for the “standard” package which set me back $125 (+ $15 extra for return shipping to Canada) and it included new soles, heels, and reconditioning of the uppers.
I was impressed with the recrafting experience. The form was easy to print off and fill out, and the shoes came back in about four weeks time looking practically brand new, and smelling of polish. The richness to the oxblood colouring of the uppers had been completely restored, and the shoes were buffed to a brilliant shine. They felt fantastic too. One doesn’t notice the wearing down of soles over time, until the sole gets so thin your feet are regularly getting cold and damp. Putting my McAllisters back on with thick full soles returned a firmness to the shoe, and a snug fit that had been missing for sometime (and having been purchased used, likely I never fully got to experience).
Based on the condition of the soles of my Strands, I’m expecting 2-3 years of regular wear on these shoes before another resoling.
Could you resole and recondition lesser quality shoes? Maybe. I’m sure most strip-mall cobblers could come up with some combination of glue and polish to prolong the shoes’ slow death, but they certainly wouldn’t be able to return them in “like new” condition.
So where does that leave us?
In a nutshell I consider the “recrafting” process a very good value, which underlines the merit of investing in good shoes, new or used. For $140 dollars I was able to return an $80 pair of eBay shoes to their former $345 glory. Even if these new soles only last me two more years, for $220 ($80 purchase price, plus $140 recrafting) I’ll have enjoyed three years (one year on original soles, two years on the new soles) of wear out of a very nice shoe, at an amortized cost of only $73.30 a year. Now that is a cost/wear ratio that cheap shoes just can’t compete with.
This past Saturday was unseasonably pleasant here in Vancouver, so I decided to venture out to Main St. to pay a visit to my favourite antique shop - The Source.
The Source is a decidedly British affair, focusing its business on the unconventional trifecta of darts, hardware (hinges, knobs, hooks etc.) and vintage pub paraphernalia. Rounding out the inventory is a healthy variety of goodies from English estate sales that includes plenty of artwork (horse and hound type stuff, caricatures of old judges and politicians, country landscapes), out of date encyclopedias and law reports, and lamps and bookcases.
In my humble opinion, The Source is to vintage pub fixtures what Bobby from Boston is to vintage #menswear. Granted I don’t think “vintage pub fixtures” is a particularly competitive field.
Anglophile or not The Source is definitely worth a visit if you find yourself in downtown Vancouver and you’re in the market for a little bit of Old World charm to take back to your flat.
I’m particularly keen on the pub signs; all of them are hand painted, and most of them are carved out of wood, weighing several hundred pounds. The sheer size and weight of these beauties makes it hard to imagine actually acquiring one for any purpose other than hanging it outside your garage-turned-tavern. Fortunately mixed in amongst the wooden signs are a few considerably lighter sheet metal signs like ol’ King George II here.
Once fitted inside a wooden frame I think The George would make for a rather interesting piece of original artwork – and certainly a conversation piece.
There’s no question that the presence of these antique signs in Vancouver is the byproduct of a shrinking pub landscape in the UK. According to a staffer at The Source, Britain’s losses become Vancouver’s gains by way of shipping containers that The Source receives directly from the UK on a regular basis. Apparently defunct pubs in the UK are unable or unwilling to sell their signage domestically, so the only market for these gems is overseas.
You won’t find them in the online catalog, but anyone who received a gift card, tie, or pocket square over the Holidays is familiar with this sturdy blue and yellow striped elastic band - courtesy of Brooky Bros.
Even if you haven’t received much by way of gifts recently, all it takes is one bender of binging on clearance-priced neckware to riddle your desk with blue elastic bands.
Though it was easy enough for me to recycle the cardboard boxes, binning the chunky elastic bands seemed wasteful. So after weeks of these stylized ‘bands hanging around my office I started using them in lieu of regular large elastic bands.
The legal profession often relies on elastic bands to keep stacks of authorities organized and documents in their respective folders. The BB #10 elastic band actually works really well.
Is this a brilliant example of a #menswear byproduct repurposed for sweet trad office style? Will we ever see elastic bands in ancient madder? Or is all of this a little too Martha Stewart? It’s probably the latter.
These are exciting days over at Vestis Legis – Bookster Tweed is now offering a lounge jacket.
Maxminimus got me onto Bookster back in the fall with a favourable review of their trousers, and I’ve been biding my time ever since, waiting for a suitable 3/2 roll lapel option to materialize. While their hacking jacket is certainly a beautiful specimen, and no doubt lovely for country pursuits, the rigid shoulders and somewhat stuffy button/lapel configurations don’t lend themselves to everyday wear -at least not in the city, by gentlemen under the age of 50.
Tweed is so hot right now. No longer the stoic domain of the academy and the sport-shooting crowd, even Walmart has staked a claim. I’d say tweed has never been hotter – but that probably wouldn’t be true. My guess is one would need to consult Christian Chensvold for a proper placement of 2013 on the all time tweed popularity bell curve. Nevertheless a walk through H&M or Top Man will confirm that tweed jackets are being pushed on the masses.
While it makes sense that this hardwearing and versatile fabric is enjoying a high street renaissance, I think this only makes it more crucial that those in the know flex in well-made jackets, cut from cloth a little more exciting than your (quite literally) run of the mill herringbone tweed. Too many geezers are drinking coffee in two-button Harris knock-offs with leather elbow patches. It can be tough to take some days.
I’m about to make a £380 wager that says Bookster has the fix.
Bookster opened its doors in 2003 initially as an online retailer of vintage tweed clothing. In 2007 this Gloucestershire-based business started offering made-to-order tweed jackets and suits for city and country wear.
What sets Bookster apart from most retailers is that they take incredible pride in who make their garments, where they are made, and what they’re made of. Very few labels are willing or able to do that. Brands are quick to point out which of their pieces are “Made in America” (or England or Italy etc.), or if a certain jacket is made with Harris Tweed you’ll certainly see that prominently displayed in the copy, but by and large these selected items are the exception to the rule. The rule of course is that you’ll never see the country of origin listed beside a garment on a company website, at best you’ll see “imported” – a useless euphemism for third world construction. As for the quality or maker of the fabric itself, that information is typically neglected as well.
Bookster garments however are made entirely in Britain, by a second generation family-run tailoring outfit, using only cloths from top British manufacturers such as Johnston’s of Elgin, Porter & Harding, and some small specialty producers. That’s pretty hard to beat.
I also like that Bookster got its start by sourcing and selling high-end vintage tweed items. I think that kind of pedigree is indicative of a company that appreciates classic English tailoring.
You do have to pay for the fabric samples, but as you can see this is a worthwhile step, and the swatches are generous. The swatches aren’t uniform in size because they’re cut by hand on site. I know this because I called Bookster to order these swatches, and the lovely English woman on the phone informed me of when the “sample lady” would next be in.
The options available to customize their jackets are numerous (button, pocket and vent configurations mostly), but not overwhelming or excessive.
I think it is also worth noting that ”made-to-order” is something different than “made-to-measure”. As you can see from the Bookster online order form Bookster has a standard pattern for their jackets, available in a variety of sizes, and you place your order based on that model. You make the jacket yours by picking the fabric, buttons and pockets – maybe asking for longer sleeves if need be – but the cut of the jacket remains more or less the same. I find that reassuring. If Bookster were a made-to-measure operation, and I were asked to input a variety of measurements without speaking to the cutter, I think the odds of a well fitting jacket showing up in the post some weeks later would be slim.
Coming in at a little under $600, the Bookster jacket will be priced comparatively to similar offerings by outfits such as Brooks Brothers and J Crew. While both of those brands make a nice jacket, their seasonal tweed offerings tend to be pretty basic and are almost always “imported.” I say reject the tweed du jour.
If you’re like me and your appetite for street cred draws you towards details like real horn buttons and exotic tweeds like multi-fleck blue Donegal, or green thornproof patterns – then I think Bookster is an online gamble worth taking. At the very least you know you’ll be getting the highest quality tweed, cut and sewn in England. But maybe I’m wrong and I’ll find out the hard way in 7-9 weeks.
Because my last post was about a brand I wasn’t particularly happy with, I thought I would follow up with a post about a brand I am quite impressed with: Tellason. They make beautiful jeans.
I bought two pairs of raw selvedge denim jeans from this San Francisco based company almost two years ago – and this past December I treated myself to two more.
After two years of consistent wear, these jeans have undergone an impressive transformation from their former crisp and uniform condition. Looking at my well-worn Tellasons beside the new ones it’s hard to believe they’re the same product, but I think that’s the magic of raw denim.
The casual observer would probably be surprised to learn that all jeans start their lives as raw denim garments. Raw denim, or dry denim, is the term applied to denim that hasn’t been washed or treated after it was dyed during production. Raw denim jeans owe their dark and stiff appearance to the fact that after being cut and sewn they are left in this state of nature. Pre-washed, pre-distressed jeans destined for the high street on the other hand are subjected to various washes, stains, and abrasives to arrive on retailer’s shelves feeling broken in, and looking slightly worn. Because raw denim jeans haven’t been subjected to any of the foregoing, the purchaser receives a clean slate where their lifestyle, habits and adventures alone will determine the look and feel of their jeans – not the fashion trends du jour.
The malleable nature of raw denim isn’t necessarily a plus for everyone. Jeans that are purchased pre-washed and faded provide the consumer with a fit and “look” that is reliable and unlikely to change dramatically with washing or time. Raw denim jeans after their first wash may shrink, or the excess dye that has been clinging to the fabric for months (or in my case years) may rinse out in unexpected ways. I say it’s a small price to pay for jeans that will last for years, and will only look and wear better with each passing season. Whereas conventional jeans with contrived whiskering will always be identifiable as jeans bought at a certain time, or from a certain brand, raw denim jeans that whisker organically defy such categorization.
More to the point for #menswear enthusiasts is that “raw denim” jeans have taken on a secondary meaning: quality and simplicity. Though there are budget-priced raw denim jeans, like offerings from Levi’s and Cheap Monday, most raw denim jean brands tend to be made in small batches from heavy weight denim (12oz or better), with high quality zippers and rivets. Raw denim jeans in my experience are often minimalist in their design, forgoing over-styled back pockets, and superfluous details, for basic, timeless styles.
Tellason excels on both of these fronts. Sourcing denim primarily from Greensboro, North Carolina based Cone Denim, as well as Japanese producers, Tellason’s California-made jeans feature a genuine leather patch, chain stitching, and reinforced back pockets to prevent your wallet from wearing through. They’ll cost you $200 or so a pop, but it’s money well invested in a hardwearing garment that you can count on for years to come. For more on the cost of domestic jean production I recommend this Wall Street Journal article.
I should also add that I’ve experienced great customer service from Tellason. After a year of rigorous wear the crotches in both of my jeans blew out. When I brought this to Tellason’s attention they invited me to ship them down to their factory, and they repaired them quite brilliantly – free of charge. It’s such a nice bonus when quality production is matched up with lasting customer service.
I ordered a suit from Indochino shortly before I started my first office job as a summer student at a law firm. A friend of mine who worked at a bank put me up to it. I blame him for this.
It wasn’t my first suit, but I was still quite green in the #menswear game at the time, and obviously a little naive. At the time I was probably the target Indochino market: a young man raised by GQ to know that “fit”, thin lapels, and “bespoke features” like novelty liners and surgeon’s cuffs are important - yet not savvy enough to understand the importance of construction or quality textiles.
After dutifully measuring each other according to Indochino’s online instructions we each ordered a suit. If memory serves me correct my colleague went with a navy two-piece, and I ordered a charcoal three-piece. Our suits were about $400 each.
Neither of our suits fit when they arrived.
The Blogosphere is filled with similar accounts of poorly fitting Indochino suits. In fairness, I’ve also read a handful of Internet postings by customers who were happy with the way their suit fit out of the box.
I sent my suit back, as Indochino invites you to do if the sizing isn’t right, but the fit of the re-made suit wasn’t much better. The jacket fit ok, but the pants remained much too tight. For my money ok isn’t good enough for a jacket that’s supposed to be made to my measurements.
I took the suit to my tailor. I could always count on Radd to shoot straight with me. As a student I was always taking vintage finds or sale items to him that were several sizes too big and asking him to work miracles. Without fail he’d grill me on how much I paid for the garments I brought into his shop, lecture me on their makeup, and then insist the “balance” of the item would be all wrong if he carried out my instructions. Occasionally he’d applaud me on the pieces I brought in for him to work on, but more often than not I’d get a finger wagging for wasting my money.
He was particularly disappointed in me when I brought in this offering from Indochino.
There was nothing he could do about the pants – not enough material to work with he said. The liner he figured wouldn’t last me the summer. Radd routinely works on, and sells, department store quality suits. So when he criticized the makeup of my Indochino suit he wasn’t holding it up against a $1500 suit, he was comparing it to the $500-$600 suits he sells in his shop.
Nevertheless I wore the suit that summer, and even into the following school year – tight pants and all.
I can’t say exactly when I stopped wearing my Indochino suit, but as I dug it out of the back of my closet this week to put it with the rest of my old work clothes going to the Working Gear Clothing Society, I am sure glad I did.
Simply put the suit just looked cheap – and lifeless. These photos don’t do my dissatisfaction justice. From the materials, to the construction, to how it wore – I was never confident in that suit.
The wool itself was probably my biggest complaint. Although advertised as super 120s, the Chinese wool (or wherever it came from), felt greasy and contained imperfections you wouldn’t see in a comparatively priced department store suit.
The stitching holding the liner in place was sloppy, and after one summer of use was already showing signs of wear along the seams.
Although the suit wasn’t stuffed with rigid shoulder pads or an overbearing fused canvas, the drape of the jacket never sat well with me.
In short the Indochino suit has since served as my low-water mark for evaluating quality and value. I can say with authority that if you want to spend $400 on a suit, a department store or outlet mall suit will almost certainly be better put together, and cut from better cloth than one from Indochino.
When you think about it, $400 for a suit isn’t even that cheap. High street suit retailers have sales with such frequency these days that it is not uncommon to see suits regularly priced at much more than $400 available at that price. So from a pragmatic point of view when comparing the quality of an Indochino suit it’s artificial to limit the comparison to other suits regularly priced at $400.
Yes, the Brooks Brothers “346” outlet mall special won’t come with a bright metallic liner, functional button holes on the sleeves or a ticket pocket. But it will last you more than one summer at the office, and taken to a flesh-and-blood tailor will fit you just as well or better than what Indochino has to offer.
On my return to the office today I was surprised to receive a late Christmas gift from one my colleagues: a Kent clothes brush.
A clothes (or suit) brush is an accessory I had long coveted, but had been unable to source in Vancouver. Although the clothes brush is bandied about on the Blogosphere as an unquestionable staple of male existence, in reality they’re a little anachronistic. The truth is that most men treat their suits and jackets rather poorly, either neglecting to clean them entirely, or dry cleaning them into shapeless oblivion. When you consider that a man’s suit collection is almost certainly the most expensive aspect of his wardrobe, it really is astonishing the way most guys treat them: stuffing them into suitcases when traveling and letting them languish on wire hangers week in and week out.
Men wear suits, in the workplace or otherwise, to look good and to look professional. Regardless of how much money you spend on your suits, keeping them clean and looking sharp should be a priority. Otherwise you look neither professional nor well dressed - and where does that leave you?Letting your suit jackets lose their shape, or the fabric lose its lustre from an abundance, or total absence, of cleaning isn’t a good decision for your career or your cheque book.
As I made my rounds to some of Vancouver’s more reputable suit dealers this fall in search of a clothes brush, the best most salesmen could offer me was a lint roller. I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised by this. Nevertheless it is tragic that shops in Vancouver can trade as purveyors in the arena of #menswear, and sell thousand dollar suits, yet through ignorance or indifference don’t stock relatively inexpensive brushes. I suspect this is a state of affairs that exists beyond the city limits of Vancouver. Granted, as someone who didn’t own a clothes brush until today I suppose my indignation should be somewhat tempered.
Dry cleaning is indeed the most effective way to get dirt and stains out of a suit. However it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the chemicals used in the dry cleaning process will over time break down the natural fibres in the wool and canvas of a suit, and the crude two dimensional pressing that accompanies dry cleaning will eventually affect the shape of the jacket. Unless you’re consistently spilling food and drink on yourself, you shouldn’t be dry cleaning a suit more than twice a year.
The good news is that most dirt and dust, along with minor wrinkles, can be easily brushed away. Do this after every wear and you’ll extend the life of your suits considerably. A regular brushing whisks away crumbs and mud and whatever else you’ve picked up during your workday before it gets a chance to be ground deep into the fibres. Regular brushing is also supposed to prevent that nasty shine that well worn suit pants can develop.
I gave my suit jacket a brisk brushing this morning and I was legitimately impressed with the difference it made. If you wear your suits on a regular basis you gradually stop noticing the settling of little fibres and hairs on your jackets and trousers that have accumulated since their last cleaning. A few passes with the brush will breathe life back into the fabric.
Though I don’t doubt that there are many makers of proper clothes brushes, GB Kent & Sons Ltd. (or Kent Brushes as they are more commonly known) have set the the standard for an affordable workhorse of a brush. They’ve been making brushes since 1777, using only natural boar bristle, and have been recognized for their excellence in this field by the granting of various Royal Warrants under nine different reigns.
So buy a clothes brush, and use it often. When the wrinkles in your suits become too much, take them to a reputable cleaner for a proper pressing. This will keep your suits looking better - longer, and pare down your dry cleaning bill considerably. You’ll also be able to look down on your peers who don’t practice this time honoured #menswear tradition.
There’s a dark side to the authentocracy that is #menswear. It’s a crowded marketplace of ideas, products and brands and everyone’s jostling for position – constantly having their bona fides evaluated. It’s sartorial Darwinism. It’s survival of the crispiest.
Nothing in #menswear is authentic enough, well made enough, or classic enough. Your luggage is not heirloom quality enough, and your shirting is not American-made enough. In short we’re always hungry, always hunting, always searching for something more. This isn’t a bad thing.
The guardians of #menswear, like the students of Socrates, engage in a constant dialogue in pursuit of the ideal form of authenticity. Searching in vain for a physical manifestation of true authenticity, a nebulous concept not easily defined or explained. Traditional, original, genuine – adjectives #menswear enthusiasts aimlessly sprinkle into their Christmas wish-lists and product reviews without a true consensus on what any of it means. I think this is because the disciples of #menswear are romantics by nature, and perhaps historical revisionists to some degree as well, idealizing bygone eras, fashions and techniques.
But get too far down the rabbit hole and you can end up like these geezers, steezed-out in the middle of the wilderness reading books and holding vintage magnifying glasses. Nothing wrong with that really – could be one hell of an afternoon - I just think they’ve taken the pursuit of an “authentic” experience a little too far. They’ve had too much of the #menswear Kool-Aid.
We know the holidays are a time for indulgence – more free time to cruise the Blogosphere, more dinner parties to dress up for, more Internet sales. Even the air is crisp this time of year.
Just remember these two chaps when you’re stuffing your online shopping cart on Boxing Day: too much of the #menswear Kool-Aid and you too could wind up passed out on a log in a misty ravine while your pal in yellow slacks regales you with a passage from his favourite book.
‘Tis the season for holiday Gift Guides, and it always strikes me as odd that DIY pocket squares are omitted from even the most reputable #menswear lists. I’d say a homemade pocket square, hand-cut from a meaningfully select textile is a pretty sweet - Christmas or otherwise - gift idea.
They’re inexpensive to make (the only material cost is the fabric), and they can be gifted individually or bundled together for a more substantial present. Also, in case the Blogosphere has managed to convince you otherwise, pocket squares are in fact as easy to make as they look. Assuming you put even a little thought into selecting the fabric, and minimal effort into finishing the edges, they’re an attractive and creative keepsake. In a nutshell they’re a unique gift for those hard-to-shop-for gentlemen on your list.
Though sourcing, cutting and finishing silk or another fine/expensive material is probably best left to the professionals, linen or wool is readily available at any fabric store, and is easy to work with.
The three wool squares pictured above are the traditional tartans of the three largest Atlantic Provinces: Nova Scotia (blue), New Brunswick (green) and Newfoundland (red). Good luck finding a sexier tartan than the Nova Scotian. I picked up a metre of each at a fabric store in Ottawa, and if memory serves me correct each metre of cloth made about a dozen 13” x 13” squares. A good measuring tape, a sharp pair of scissors, and a steady hand is all you need to cut your cloth into squares. Finishing the edges is a little trickier.
I suppose I could have finished them by hand, but if that were the case I’d probably still be working on them. Fortunately an experienced seamstress with a sewing machine offered to finish the edges for me. I realize that most people probably aren’t so lucky. However I would expect that for a modest sum a professional seamstress or a tailor could finish your edges for you. I would think a shopping centre dry cleaner that offers “5 minute alterations” could probably knock off a couple dozen pocket squares quickly, and on the cheap.
I thought a bundle of traditional tartan pocket squares were a fitting Christmas gift because they compliment winter tweeds well. Admittedly, they’re a little “heavy” for worsted wool. For my next batch I’ll probably go for something a little lighter, maybe with some interesting deadstock fabric.
If you’re stuck for gift ideas, this is the kind of project you could start this coming weekend and still have them folded and neatly tucked into stockings by the 24th. Good luck.
A month or so ago Valetmag.com did a piece titled The Essential Leather Glossary.
I used to really enjoy Valet, but unfortunately over the past year it has become so sponsor driven that it’s almost devoid of any product-neutral content. Valet is still worth keeping on (or adding to) your favourites menu though, it’s useful for trend spotting, and Valet does a decent job curating publications like GQ, Esquire and other more mainstream medias that #menswear snobs might not otherwise bother with.
So to Valet’s credit I thought the leather glossary was a good idea. A lot of terms get thrown around in the blogosphere, and not everyone is familiar with the nomenclature. But #menswear enthusiast or not, everyone appreciates leather goods. Unfortunately not all “leather” is created equal, and the waters are further muddied by a myriad of terms, grades and styles that can and do mislead unsuspecting consumers.
So while Valet’s Essential Leather Glossary was a good start I thought I’d lean on Wikipedia and Google to flush the list out a little.
Sourcing your next leather belt, boots or sofa is really not that much different than any other product: a deal too good to be true, likely is. Products made out of full grain leather have fixed material costs that can’t be avoided. If you’re spending less than $200 on a pair or shoes, or say $50 bucks on a belt, you aren’t getting “real” leather. It’s like they teach us in 1L - caveat emptor.
[Above is a Tommy Hilifiger belt I got years ago. It’s aged nicely.]
Think those shoes or wallet you just bought that are stamped “genuine leather” are made entirely of leather? Wrong. Although I have no idea who investigates or enforces clothing labeling practices, it’s worth knowing that manufacturers of leather articles are “allowed” to construct a product that is traded as “genuine leather” even though it contains some non-leather components, provided the incorporation on non-leather materials does not exceed specific levels.
For example the European Commission Directive 94/11 on “footwear labeling” states that the upper, lining, or sole of a shoe can be labelled “genuine leather” so long as 80% of the surface area is in fact made of leather. If the standard in Europe is 80%, dare I speculate what the standard is in China?
Ever have a belt or watch strap split open on you, revealing a gooey or foamy interior? Yet that same article was stamped “leather”, “genuine leather” or “real leather”? I’ve included a couple photos in this post of a watch strap and belt I own, both stampled “genuine leather” and in both cases you can see where they will, or have, split apart.
So long as the outer layer, and lining of the belt/strap are made of leather, a manufacturer can fill the space between these two strips with other materials provided “no other materials compromise more than 50% of the surface area”, and still call their product “genuine leather”. Confusing eh? I haven’t investigated further to determine how surface area is calculated, and it’s really beside the point: when purchasing leather products trust your instincts, and research the brands, because you sure as hell can’t trust labels.
Bridle Leather (very good) -Vegetable tanned cowhide used for making equestrian equipment. Bridle leather refers to the way that a piece of leather (full grain cow hide) is finished at the tannery. Bridle leather has both the flesh and grain side of the leather stuffed with greases and finished with wax. Because this is a labour intensive and expensive process only the best grades of leather are selected for this treatment. Bridle leather is also made in comparatively fewer tanneries.
Full Grain Leather - Leather that has not been corrected in any way with sanding or buffing, beyond the original hair removal. This allows the natural markings, imperfections and character of the leather to show through. The grain remains allowing the fiber strength and durability. The grain also has breathability, resulting in less moisture from prolonged contact. Rather than wearing out, it will develop a patina over time (see my Tommy Hilfiger belt above for example). High quality leather furniture and footwear are often made from full-grain leather. Because full grain leathers must be cleaner hides to start with, full grain leather is always more expensive than its corrected or split cousins. Belts, watch straps, and most shoes should ideally be made of full grain leather.
Top-grain Leather - Is the most common type of leather used in high-end leather products, and is the second-highest quality (second to full grain that is). It has had the “split” layer separated away, making it thinner and more pliable than full-grain. Its surface has been sanded and a finish coat added which results in a colder, plastic feel with less breathability, and it will not develop a natural patina. So long as the finish remains unbroken, top grain leather has greater stain resistance than full grain leather.
Nubuck - A leather where the surface has been buffed and brushed to create a soft, velvety effect. While suede is created from the flesh (inner) side of a hide, nubuck is created using the grain (outer) side, making it stronger.
Oxblood - A dark, reddish-brown colour used to dye leather, and is used often for cordovan.
Patina - The rich, worn-in hue or lustre that develops in a quality piece of leather over time with age and wear.
Shearling - Sheepskin or lambskins that have been tanned with the wool intact (think nice leather slippers).
Vegetable Tanning - A method of hide tanning which utilizes materials from organic materials such as bark, instead of the traditional chemicals. Vegetable tanned leather is stiffer than traditionally-tanned leather, and gets darker from your body’s natural oils the more you use it. Bridle leather will typically be vegetable tanned.
Nappa - Soft, full grain leather made from unsplit sheep or lambskin. It is usually tanned with alum and chromium salts and dyed throughout the whole piece.
Glove Leather - Lambskin or other very soft, high quality leathers typically used for gloves. High-end English shoes will typically be lined with glove leather.
Calfskin - A high quality, fine grained leather made from the skins of young cattle.
Cordovan - Also known as “shell cordovan,” this leather is made from the firm shell portion of a horse (read: the butt). Cordovan has a characteristic finish, and is very durable.
Grain - A term used to describe the natural characteristics of an unprocessed hide, such as its texture, wrinkles and markings.
Suede - A finish (not technically a type of leather) where the top surface of the hide has been removed by abrasion and then brushed to create a soft, fuzzy feel. Also known as buffed leather, similar to nubuck.
Corrected-grain leather - Any leather that has had an artificial grain applied to its surface. Taking hides that do not meet the high standards for full grain use, the imperfections are sanded off and an artificial grain is impressed into the surface, and then dressed up with stains or dyes. Most corrected-grain leather is dyed with a strong pigment to further obscure any imperfections, and hide the corrections. The artificial grain embossed on the leather will often be “pebbled” or take on the appearance of an exotic skin like alligator.
Split leather - Leather created from the fibrous part of the hide left once the top-grain of the rawhide has been separated from the hide. During the splitting operation, the top-grain and drop split are separated. The drop split can be further split (thickness allowing) into a middle split and a flesh split. Split leather then has an artificial layer applied to the surface of the split and is embossed with a leather grain (bycast leather). Splits are also used to create suede. The strongest suedes are usually made from grain splits (that have the grain completely removed) or from the flesh split that has been shaved to the correct
Patent Leather - Leather where one surface has been covered with a flexible, waterproof film which has a lustrous mirror-like surface. This coating was formerly built up by the application of various varnishes and lacquers using linseed oil. The original process was developed in New Jersey, by inventor Seth Boyden in 1818. Today, patent leather usually has a plastic coating. Not crispy.
Reconstituted leather - Composed of up to 90% leather fibres (often scrap from leather tanneries or leather workshops) bonded together with some form of plastic binder to create a look and feel similar to that of leather at a fraction of the cost. The resulting material is not as durable as real leather and is recommended for use only if the product will be used infrequently. This is shit.
Bonded Leather - Most often found in shitty upholstery. Bonded leather is generally a vinyl or polyurethane surface that contains about 17% leather fiber in its backing material. This plastic material is then stamped to give it a leather-like texture.
Bycast Leather - A split leather with a layer of polyurethane applied to the surface and then embossed. Bycast was originally made for the shoe industry and recently was adopted by the furniture industry. The original formula created by Bayer was strong but expensive. The result is a plastic material that is slightly stiffer but cheaper than top-grain leather but has a much more consistent texture. Because its surface is completely covered in plastic, is easier to clean and maintain. Your shitty co-worker’s shoes are probably made of bycast leather.
For my money there’s no better way to round out a Sunday evening than with a stiff drink, a tin of polish, and couple pairs of broken-in Goodyear welted shoes. In my case Allen Edmonds.
There’s something extremely satisfying about brushing off the nicks and soot from the previous week’s travels, and then buffing them back up to their previous lustre. Well patinated shoes aren’t something you can buy off the shelf; it’s a character in the leather that’s slowly acquired over months and years of wear, and layers of creams, waxes, and polishes.
With the exception of shoes reserved for the most formal of occasions, all leather shoes look better after they’ve seen a few miles.
Buy good shoes. Take good care of them. They’ll last forever. They’ll look awesome.
Yes, that’s the siren song of the #menswear blogosphere, but it’s also true. Wear nice shoes, and no one notice’s your shitty suit. Wear shitty shoes, and no one notices that crispy Kiton you picked up in Naples during Yacht Week.
I’m not saying we all need to have Lobbs or Gazianos on our feet, just that at the very least self-respecting men should strive to wear welted calfskins, made by craftsmen.
Nothing says “I don’t get it” like wearing rubber-soled, bonded leather, bluchers. Extra points if they’re square-toed.
I don’t care if you are on a student’s budget. Take your clothing budget. Cut it in half. Now take one of those halves, and buy some decent shoes.
Allen Edmonds, Meermin, and Loake to name a few are well made, use full-grain leathers, and can be had on a budget. Buying new still too much? Go on eBay - buy shoes off dead guys. I do. And stick to oxfords for the workplace, broguing optional.
Oxford v. Blucher? Don’t know the difference? Get yourself sorted. Start with Wikipedia.
There is no excuse to be the guy in the elevator with the shitty department store slip-ons. Yah, the sexy assistant who got off two floors ago noticed - but more importantly the dude who sits in the corner office you covet noticed. And judged accordingly.
A further thought on maintenance: leather soles need to be treated with respect.
Wear them every other day at the most, and keep cedar shoe trees in them between wears. Shoe trees are great for odour control, maintaining shape, and wicking up moisture. Wet leather soles unfortunately break down rather quickly. If your shoes ever get really wet, which will happen, let them dry on their sides, naturally - don’t rush them with heat. This is fundamental.
This fall I discovered a brilliant BBC Four series titled “Savile Row” which I’ve been shamelessly gorging myself on via Youtube. “Savile Row” is something of hybrid between a documentary and reality television. The series follows a handful of tailors and cutters from the Row as they narrate their dying trade’s struggle with high street competition and a dwindling customer base. You can check it out here.
Although the series is a few years old, if you’re not familiar with Savile Row, or English bespoke suit making in general, it’s definitely required watching. With the explosion of internet-based “tailors” offering “custom made” suits, and “bespoke” entering the #menswear vernacular as a throw-away label to be freely exploited, the consequence of knowing the history and workings of the Row has never been greater.
Recently my girlfriend floated the idea of trip to Scotland in the spring to see a friend of hers from college. My understanding is that although Glasgow would be our ultimate destination – I’d get to spend a couple days in and around London first. Naturally this has got the Row on my mind.
There are approximately twenty tailors operating on Savile Row proper, and countless others who have set up shop just off the hallowed strip. Though from the curb it may be hard to distinguish one tailor from his neighbour, each outpost of bespoke suit making has a history, expertise, and subtle style uniquely theirs.
An article I read recently on The Rake about Dege & Skinner reminded me that before anyone gets serious about making their first bespoke purchase they had better do their homework.
Dege & Skinner was founded in 1865, and is one of the oldest firms still trading on the Row, holding the royal warrants of HM The Queen, HM The Sultan of Oman and HM The King of Bahrain. Known for its military and equestrian pedigree (military tailoring is 25% of the firm’s business), and as the master of bespoke ceremonial uniform, Dege & Skinner fitted the Princes William and Harry in dress uniforms for a Royal Portrait in 2009.
Royalty aside, it is quite rare for a firm on the Row to disclose its client list. While to North American audiences this rather reclusive practice may invite criticisms of squandered marketing opportunities, the client’s of Savile Row appreciate the discretion. When your work speaks for itself, and your business has spanned more than a century, word of mouth is a form of advertising that no marketing campaign could ever mirror.
Despite the best efforts of the modest and conservative tailors on the Row, occasionally the prying eyes of #menswear do get a glimpse of which celebrities frequent which tailors – in some cases to the chagrin of the firm’s I am sure.
At a recent sale of Michael Jackson’s estate it came to light that he was a Dege & Skinner man. Apparently Dege’s military pedigree and Michael’s passion for epaulettes was a natural pairing.
In the picture above we see Michael in a Dege jacket, speaking with the King of Bahrain (who awarded Dege & Skinner with a royal warrant). One has to wonder if they found time to talk about anything other than #menswear.
The Dege cut is not known for being distinctive, not like Anderson & Sheppard, Huntsman or Kilgour – firm’s whose suits are said to be cut with subtle but signature lines that are detectable by those in the know.
Like all the historic Savile Row tailoring workshops, Dege is now populated by an army of young men and women drawn to the trade by a renewed understanding that a nation’s economy stands or falls by its ability to manufacture.
The emphasis on recruiting, training and retaining the top skilled labour is pronounced at Dege. To put the bona fides of Savile Row tailor in perspective, to become a military tailor or cutter at Dege & Skinner it takes three to five years’ learning under a master, and then a further five years experience to get to the top tier.
Apprentices are willing to commit this kind of time for many of the same reasons that customers are willing to commit thousands of pounds: because the history of Savile Row says these loyalties are not misplaced. The success and longevity of firms like Dege & Skinner speaks to the enduring quality of their craftsmanship and the calibre of their employees. It would be a difficult task indeed to find clothiers anywhere in the world who have traded out of the same shop, using the same methods, for as long as the tailors of the Row have.
In 2011 Dege & Skinner signed a 15-year lease on No. 10 Savile Row reassuring #menswear enthusiast that recession or not this pillar of the bespoke trade isn’t moving off the Row anytime soon.
Dege may not equal Henry Poole’s full house of 40 Royal Warrants, nor occupy the coveted address of Gieves & Hawkes at No. 1 Savile Row, but if you’re in the market for an understated but sublime English bespoke tailoring experience, one worthy of pop stars and kings, then I understand Dege to be worthwhile port of call. I know I for one will be darkening their doorstep in the spring.
With the latest James Bond installment, Skyfall, hitting theatres in North America this coming Friday, I thought it would be worthwhile to pay homeage to the character that has given #menswear so much.
Although we didn’t realize it at the time, for most young men James Bond movies were our first exposure to the concept of “dressing well” - to being “debonair”. Though as boys we sat down to watch a Bond flick to see car chases and gunplay, we couldn’t escape the conclusion hat 007 was suave guy, who knew how to handle himself in a shirt and tie. Even at that age it wasn’t a big leap to connect dressing well, and carrying yourself with some confidence, to excelling at your job and talking to beautiful and exotic women. That such an impression can be made on young men who don’t yet fully appreciate what it means to be well dressed, and that this sentiment can be conveyed without trademarked logos or explicit references to clothing labels, is a testament to the Bond franchise, and likely a nod to the timelessness of #menswear.
Today I think most men find it hard to walk away from watching a Bond film without thinking about upping their sartorial game. Bond’s style is traditional, conservative and above all masculine, which it what makes it so relatable. 007’s wardrobe is built around well made, and properly tailored suits, shoes and jackets. Nothing more. Bond makes wearing a suit look desirable, attractive, and for lack of a better word “cool.” Seeing 007 wrestle a Russian secret agent, evade capture in a speedboat chase, and share a martini with a stunning woman - all in the same suit - is a message to the masses that suits are more than just stuffy office-wear.
Though the 20th century has had other sharply dressed heroes who have made the transition to the silver screen - Gatbsy and Holmes to name but two - neither of these fictional gentleman have inspired men the same way. The recent Sherlock Holmes movies starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law are a fine example of this. Though Holmes and Watson are unquestionably well dressed throughout these recent Hollywood Blockbusters - their fashions come across slightly affected or cumbersome for many; it is unlikely generations of young men will ever adapt puffy shirts, capes, or three-piece tweed suits for their evening wear. I think the same could be said for the upcoming release of the new Gatsby movie. I don’t doubt the blogosphere will be exploding with discussion over the Brooks Brothers styled outfits, but it is unlikely that bowties and tophats will become widely accepted in the New Year.
For these reasons Vestis Legis recommends Matt Spaiser’s tireless efforts curating the suits of James Bond. Fabrics, tailors, buttons and lapels – The Suits of James Bond is a blog with some real substance. It’s worth checking out for inspiration, or cheer nostalgia.
It wasn’t so long ago that law firm letterhead would contain the name of every lawyer in the firm. Though today such layouts are less common, I always take notice of the modern firms that still adhere to this traditional - almost anachronistic - way of doing business. I’ve always thought the practice makes sense: it’s good to know exactly who you are dealing with when you receive any sort or formal correspondence. Putting the names of all the lawyers acting for you, or against you, out in the open is a great way for all concerned to spot potential conflicts, or potential allies.
I was doing some document review the other day when I came across some correspondence from Vancouver’s now defunct firm of Russell & DuMoulin, pictured above. The size and detail of the Russell & DuMoulin letterhead was so impressive I couldn’t help but take a picture (with a regulation size highlighter nearby for scale). As you can see it took almost the entire width of the paper, and about 1/4 of its length, just to list everyone. It’s hard not to be impressed perusing the generous register.
It’s also worth noting that this letter is not an artifact from the legal dark ages, it was written in 1989. I’m not sure why the formal, and rather detailed, letterhead went out of fashion: it’s possible that it was simply a creature of a law society requirement that went extinct when the rule was relaxed; maybe it was nothing more than a conservative form of marketing that has fallen out fashion; or perhaps the lengthy and proud masthead was a casuality of the modern era of national and international law firm mergers. In 2000 Russell & DuMoulin merged with Toronto and Quebec (Montreal and Quebec City) based Fasken Martineau to become the now 770 lawyer-strong Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP. I realize 770 names might be masthead overkill.
Nevertheless, for those firms still small enough to manage it, the traditional legal masthead is a trapping of the profession that’s worth honouring.
Heraldry is really awesome. Above is the Coat of Arms for British Columbia. Commit this to memory.
According to the Governor General’s website heraldry began as an “emblematic form of individual identification” for 12th century European knights. When suited and booted in full sets of plate-mail knights were understandably hard to tell apart. This was an unhappy state of affairs for the more stylish of these noble champions. The steezy solution? Shields painted with coats of arms.
When the monarchs realized that “coats of arms” were going to be the next big thing, they took control of the official granting and use of coats of arms, and in the process transformed armorial bearings into a recognized and orderly system of honours and bloodlines. Crispy.
Heralds — court officials who also acted as diplomats — were responsible for curating heraldry within a monarch’s jurisdiction.
Unlike many Canadian traditions that are expressly French or English in their origins, heraldry is a practice that was brought to Canada by both founding nations in the late 15th and early 16th centuries.
Until heraldry was patriated to Canada, Canadians who wished to acquire arms from a lawfully established authority under the Crown were obliged to apply to one of Her Majesty’s two heraldic offices in the United Kingdom: the College of Arms in London or the Court of the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh.
In 1947, the Letters Patent defining the authority of the Governor General expressly authorized the Governor General to exercise all the prerogatives, powers and authorities that His Majesty George VI held as King of Canada.
On June 4, 1988 then Governor General Jeanne Sauvé authorized the creation of the Canadian Heraldic Authority, making Canada the first Commonwealth country to patriate the practice of this ancient authority. This was made possible by new Letters Patent, signed by Her Majesty on the advice of Her Canadian Privy Council, which authorized and empowered “the Governor General of Canada to exercise or provide for the exercise of all powers and authorities lawfully belonging to Her Majesty as Queen of Canada in respect of the granting of armorial bearings in Canada”.
Wondering how to get a heritage-inspired modern classic for yourself? Yah, me too. Canadian citizens or corporate bodies desiring to be granted armorial bearings by lawful authority must send to the Chief Herald of Canada a letter stating the wish "to receive armorial bearings from the Canadian Crown under the powers exercised by the Governor General."
Requests for new arms or registrations of existing arms take the form of a “petition” addressed to the Chief Herald of Canada, who must assess and approve the request before a warrant for the grant can be signed by the Herald Chancellor or the Deputy Herald Chancellor.
A herald then works with the petitioner to create a design, which is then rendered artistically by an artist assigned by the Authority. Completed grant or registration documents are recorded in the Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada, and the notice of the grant or registration is published in the Canada Gazette.
In total the process takes about 12-14 months to complete, and will cost you between $2000-$3500. I can’t think of a better investment.
Back then, if a gentleman reached, it was for the weapon. Now gentleman are reaching just to get their cards.
Handing out your business card should be a pleasure. It should be a smooth and casual interaction, something that can be done quickly if the conversation is abruptly ended, or subtly if you find yourself in a situation where talking shop is frowned upon.
Keeping your cards in pristine condition and readily accessible is fundamental. This means not keeping them in your wallet, money clip, or business card case.
While these vehicles work for transporting your cards from the office to the reception, or keeping them on your person for those unexpected occasions when presenting your card is required - they are less than ideal for full-on networking events.
Keeping your cards tucked away in a case or wallet draws attention to the exchange: it puts the natural flow of the conversation on hold, and eye contact is broken. This awkwardness, however slight, is exacerbated if the recipient takes your cue and starts digging for his or her cards. A tightly stuffed wallet or money clip only adds to the agony as you try and pluck out a single card to hand over.
Worse, and I’ve seen this, is after you make the grand gesture to reach for your cards - putting the social interaction on ice - you discover to your embarrassment that you left your business card case at the office, or you gave your last card to Johnny Accountant over at the oyster bar.
"So", you say, "why can’t I keep them in the large pocket inside my suit jacket?" The short answer of course is that in a pinch you can, but for two very practical reasons you shouldn’t.
Think about the last time you tried pulling anything small out of the bottom of your inside pocket - you probably had to really reach. Those inside pockets are deep - deep enough for pens, cellphones and gum packages. The reach for your business cards should be slight, not like a magician reaching into a top hat for a rabbit.
Indeed, all that digging and cell phone shuffling throughout the night is going to leave your cards dog-eared and bent, or stuck inside your pack of Dentyne Ice. This is not a good scene.
Salvation can be found in the conveniently placed, and thoughtfully designed “card pocket” on the inside left of some suit jackets. The Hugo Boss suit pictured above, while perfectly acceptable in other respects, lacks this crucial design feature.
If your suits have them - and you’ve never noticed them before - start using them. If your suits don’t, next time you’re shopping consider this feature - especially with custom jackets.
The card pocket is wide and shallow and sits just above your hip. This positioning allows for easy and very casual access. Cards loosely put in this pocket can be drawn and produced quickly without breaking your stride. Think about reaching for your card like you’re drawing on your sidearm.
Keeping your cards here as a matter of course is a good “set it and forget it” policy. While all manner of technology, cigar tubes and brochures may move in and out of your main jacket pocket throughout the evening, knowing your business cards are safe and ready to be called on in a moment’s notice will keep you one step ahead of the next guy. In real life you don’t always get ten paces worth of notice before you need to draw on your cards.
Undoubtedly this is a “little thing”, hardly worth mention in some circles. But in my experience it is the culmination of countless “little things” that separate the suave and charismatic operators from the clumsy and average.
A couple weekends ago a dear friend of mine celebrated his call to the bar with friends and family at a local watering hole. We’re privileged in Vancouver to enjoy a tightly-knit legal community, especially amongst the junior ranks, and this becomes especially apparent at call parties.
It was obvious though, from the moment I stepped into the room, that my friend was celebrating his admission to our noble profession by doing more than throwing a mere party; that very day he also decided to purchase his first sport coat – his admission into the slightly less exclusive, but no less sophisticated, brotherhood of #menswear.
Wearing a suit for work everyday and dressing well are not equivalents. For most, the suits they drag themselves to the office in every morning are no more than uniforms; mandatory articles of clothing that they have no great affinity for, and will be haphazardly thrown back on the hanger from whence they came as soon as 5:00 rolls around. #menswear though is something more.
So much has been written elsewhere on the blogosphere about the significance of dressing well that I need not repeat it here, save for a few thoughts.
It’s a trite observation to note that there is more to clothing than simple function and aesthetics. Clothing is probably the most obvious, immediate and accessible way that we represent ourselves to others. As Jesse Thorn wrote on Put This On, “when you dress, you are making a statement; not a fashion statement, but a statement of identity.” When you choose to put on a jacket and tie, you are signifying to others that you take the occasion seriously, whatever that occasion may be. If you choose to make sure that your jacket fits properly, that your tie is tied properly, and your shirt matches all of the above – the message you send is that much stronger.
When people observe the way we dress, whether they are friends, co-workers, or complete strangers they are going to interpret what they see. They are interpreting the signals our wardrobe’s emit. Those signals may read “I am to be respected, I am successful, I take myself seriously” alternatively they can read “I don’t give a fuck, I don’t know any better, I’m lazy.” In some demographics, and in some professions maybe none of this matters. But I suggest that if you’re an upwardly mobile young man you’d rather come across as the former, rather than the latter.
Thorn observes that “the language of clothing is as complex as the spoken word, but ignorance of it is no excuse.” Are ironic t-shirts and board shorts easier? Sure. Can the respect of your peers be earned in other ways? Of course. But why not afford yourself every opportunity to make a better first impression, and a better lasting impression?
No one leaves a cocktail party (certainly not women) remarking to their friend about the guy “with the really clever slogan on his t-shirt” or the “really original Canucks logo on his baseball cap.” What does stick with people, men and women alike, is the gentleman who looked really sharp. People attribute positive characteristics to well dressed people, it’s human nature.
Dressing well is in many respects a lot like observing good manners or being a good host: it doesn’t have to cost you very much, but it will bring you considerable returns.
Ultimately dressing well comes down to effort. So many people hide behind “cost” or “not knowing what to buy” or a misplaced resistance to “conformity” as excuses for dressing poorly. Dressing well is not prohibitively expensive, and there is considerably less “conformity” in wearing a logo-less blazer than a t-shirt emblazoned with a trademark.
So long as one is willing to put in the effort to seek out sales, utilize ebay, or shop second hand, good clothing can be had at any budget. The price of a few graphic t-shirts, baseball caps, and high-street jeans (the crutches of the poorly dressed) is not that different than an oxford shirt and pair of chinos. The difference is that t-shirts don’t have to be ironed, and baggy jeans don’t need to fit well.
The moral of this story is that my friend’s new sport coat genuinely looked good on him, and our friends took notice.
Men’s suit jackets, sport coats, and blazers are designed to flatter men by broadening the shoulders, squaring the chest, and narrowing the silhouette. By throwing a sport coat over his button-up shirt and jeans, and ditching the sneakers for a pair of boots, my friend was saying “I’m a lawyer now”. Welcome to the brotherhood Bill.
Nothing marks excellence and superior quality quite like a Royal Warrant of Appointment. If you aren’t familiar take note: the unmistakable mark of a Royal Warrant on bottle, suit or label is the surest way to guarantee that the contents of what you’re about to purchase is well worth your money.
Since the Middle Ages tradesmen who have acted as suppliers of goods and services to the Sovereign have received formal recognition for meeting the Sovereign’s exacting standards. In short, the receiving of a Royal Warrant is something of a peerage for the trades: it’s a centuries old practice that rewards worthy tradesmen with a title that lets consumers know their product is of the highest calibre.
Currently there are about 850 privileged tradesmen who have earned the right to display the Royal Arms along with the words “By Appointment” on their product, packaging or advertising.
Royal Warrants are currently granted by Her Majesty The Queen, who has two Royal Arms (one used in Scotland), His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh. Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother was also a grantor of Warrants; Warrants granted by her were retained for five years from her death (until 2007).
Royal Warrants are granted at the discretion of the grantors to companies who have regularly supplied products or services to their houses for a period of at least five years. Each grantor can grant one Warrant to one supplier per industry, though one supplier can receive more than one Warrant. Barbour for example, a maker of waxed canvas jackets, holds Warrants from all three grantors. The holders of Royal Warrants are thus as diverse as the trades that the Royal family employs. While some Royal Warrant holders and their respective products may be intuitive: Twinings (tea), Laphroaig (scotch), Lea & Perrins (Worcestershire sauce), other industries like opticians (Boots) and ironmongery (NLS Fabrications) are a little more esoteric. In any case Royal Warrant holders truly represent a broad cross-section of trade and industry.
Although Royal Warrants are largely associated with brands, they are actually awarded to a named individual who must be the Chief Executive Officer, Managing Director, Sole Proprietor or the holder of a senior management appointment with direct access to the Board of Directors. This person, the grantee, is personally responsible for ensuring the Royal Warrant is used correctly.
A Royal Warrant is initially granted for a period of five years, after which it comes up for review by the Royal Household Tradesmen’s Warrants Committee. Some Warrants have been renewed for over 200 years. However Warrants are just as likely not to be renewed if the quality or supply for the product or service is insufficient, as far as the relevant Royal Household is concerned. A Warrant may be cancelled at any time and is automatically reviewed if the grantee dies, leaves the business, or if the firm goes bankrupt or is sold.
The next time you’re at the liquor store, the cobbler or your tailor keep an eye out for products proudly displaying a Royal Warrant, you’ll be happy you did.
I was suit shopping with a friend a couple weekends ago when we were introduced to the Brooks Brothers Special Order program. In our case my friend wanted a Milano suit (Brooks Brothers slimmest cut, with natural shoulders) in grey or charcoal. The problem was Milano suits only come in navy blue. Salvation came in the form of the Brooks Brothers Special Order program. The Special Order program allows the customer to select a model of suit currently in production, and modify it with a selection of premium fabrics, liners, and details not found on suits regularly stocked.
Made-to-measure this is not; the purchaser is still limited to standard sizing, but at least he has the option of ordering his jacket and pants in sizes that are not necessarily paired together (a 40R suit traditionally comes with 34 waist pants for example).
Though the thought of a tone-on-tone paisley liner in your new Brooks Brothers suit certainly helps close the deal, the real value in the Special Order program is the better fabrics. You pay a premium for a Special Order suit, but the better wool makes the upgrade an investment rather than a mere indulgence in flashy bemberg.
How a suit holds together over time, how it creases when you sit, how it breathes, and how it hangs when you stand is largely determined by the quality of wool it’s cut from. Yes, the construction of the suit is important too (floating or fused canvas? Natural or padded shoulders?) but for those of us who buy off the peg – quality of wool is probably the single biggest indicator of the calibre of a suit. When paying a little extra for better wool is an option, it’s always worth doing.
But how do you evaluate the quality of wool a suit is made from? The simplest answer to this question is to trust your senses: handling the suit thoroughly, and inspecting it closely for defects in the weaving are good first steps.
Good worsted wool should be soft, consistent in texture, and smooth. While good wool will have some natural oils in it, under no circumstances should wool feel greasy. Some manufacturers will dress-up poorer quality wool with chemicals to give it a uniform sheen, and cover up defects. These chemicals will break down over time, and leave you disappointed with a second-rate product. After being crumpled in your hand, a sleeve should fall naturally back into place. The wool should also have a natural elasticity, rebounding quickly from a slight tug.
A close examination of the wool itself will also tell you a lot about the craftsmanship that went into the manufacturing of the fabric. A tailor of mine used to remind me of this whenever I brought him in a suit jacket to alter. Although more apparent on patterned materials, wool that has been cheaply woven will be riddled with slight imperfections: missing or raised threads, miss-coloured threads, or threads that are knotted, broken or woven out of sync. While these imperfections are rarely so egregious as to attract the ire of the casual observer, they are indicative of a poorly woven fabric that was likely sourced for a cheaply made suit.
A superficial examination of fabric will only take you so far: you must also consult the label. It is here where you are likely to see the familiar label “Super 100s” or “S120s” or something of the like. I hear that on Savile Row you can find Super 250s. But what does this mean? And is it a reliable indicator of quality?
Answering this question involves a little bit of historical understanding, but the short answer is “no”.
Nearly all the suiting-grade wool produced today comes from Australia, and to a lesser degree New Zealand and Tasmania. But Australia does not have a large weaving industry. For over 150 years the fleece of Australian sheep has been spun into yarn, and that yarn spun into cloth, in factories in England and Italy.
The City of Huddersfield, Yorkshire, was formerly the epicentre of the world’s wool trade. Here, in the mid-19th century before modern grading technology could measure the width of a single thread of yarn, the “fineness” of wool was judged by how much yarn could be spun out of one pound of the stuff. The finer the fibres the more “hanks” (a spool totaling 560 yards of yarn) could be spun out of a single pound of wool. Thus a “60s” count wool meant that one pound of the yarn could yield 60 hanks. The higher the count number, the finer the wool. Finer wool is softer, silkier, lighter, and of course proportionately harder to source.
Various parts of the sheep, and indeed different breeds of sheep, produce fleece of different quality. Spainish sheep (merinos) in the early years of wool production produced the finest fibres in the world, their undercoats could produce wool as fine as 70s and 80s. Not content, Australian growers eager to break into the Savile Row market (who demanded the finest wools available) relied on selective breeding practices to produce generations of sheep with undercoats that were finer still than the 70s and 80s counts that had long dominated the high-end wool market.
During this period fibre count numbers were strictly an industry measuring stick that the average consumer would never encounter. This changed in the 1960s when Joseph Lumb & Sons – perhaps the most famous spinners of the day – introduced to Savile Row the 100s count wool and branded it “Lumb’s Huddersfield Super 100s.” The choice of the adjective Super proved to be such a powerful marketing tool that the suiting world has never looked back. The introduction of the Super 100s wool was to #menswear what the four-minute mile was to track and field: it was not only ground breaking event, but also a new industry standard.
By the early 1990s, “Super” 120s had become the industry standard fabric for a decent high-end suit, with 150s available for those with expensive tastes. Today the most exclusive brands don’t work with anything below 150s and are more likely to use 180s.
It’s worth noting that “hanks” are no longer used to grade wool destined for commercial use. Raw wool is now evaluated using industry standards related to the thickness of the natural fibres, as measured in microns under a microscope. This system is unquestionably more accurate than its predecessor, but nevertheless the measurements are still scaled in the traditional way. For example any raw wool measured to be finer than 18.5 microns is said to be at least “100s Grade”.
The rise of the Supers however has been controversial. Thread count was never meant to be an exact science, instead it was shorthand for wool merchants to sort fabrics without close examination. Indeed until recently even good cloth labeled as 90s might have had a smattering of thicker 60s or 70s unavoidably mixed in. I suspect that even today, despite improved sorting and grading technology, wools out of less reputable mills are likely several counts courser then they advertise.
Like everything you read on a label, be skeptical: if it seems too good to be true it probably is. Good wool is expensive. Comparatively few sheep can produce especially fine wool. So when you’re talking about wool finer than 150s you are talking about a true luxury product. If the made-to-measure suit you’re looking at online is advertising that it’s made of 120s wool, but costs less than $500, I don’t know what you’re getting but its not 120s wool.
Ultimately there is more to wool than fibre diameter. The length of the fibres, the amount and quality of lanolin and natural oil present in the fabric, as well the strength and consistency of the weave itself are all integral to the quality of the finished product. Another consideration is warmth and wear and tear. The finer the fabric, the lighter the suit. The finer the fabric the quicker the suit may wear. While these aren’t significant considerations for most consumers buying in the 100s - 120s range, if you start looking at 150s or finer it can start to be an issue.
The moral of the story is this: trust your instincts when shopping for a new suit, and don’t get too caught up in the numbers game.
Superfluous? Maybe. But nothing shows off your gentleman bona fides quite like old-boy armbands.
Although you’ve probably never seen anyone actually wearing them, you may have come across them before in movies or old pictures of bartenders, bankers or accountants.
Armbands came into fashion in the mid-1800s as more men started to wear button-up shirts but few could afford to have them properly fitted. A button-up shirt “off the peg” in the 19th century would be sized only around the collar, with the expectation that the rest of the garment would be covered in a jacket or waistcoat - so fit around the sleeves and torso was of little importance. Armbands were relied on to “hold up” sleeves that were too long, essentially giving the illusion that the sleeves were shorter (and thus more fitted) than they actually were.
Bankers and bartenders were particularly reliant on armbands to keep the cuffs of their shirts our of the ink wells and liquor spills. On hot, or especially busy days, when men took off their jackets and rolled up their sleeves, armbands played the additional role keeping otherwise unmanageable folds of sleeve neatly held in place. It is this latter role that I think armbands are still suited for.
Though today everyone can afford dress shirts that are at least roughly sized to their arm length, not all dress shirts are designed to be rolled up. Shirts with French cuffs are an obvious example of this problem: they look brilliant when held firmly in place by a set of cufflinks, but quickly become unruly if you try to remove the cufflinks and roll them up to engross yourself in a project (or lunch).
But even the standard barrel-cuffed shirts, if the sleeve placket lacks a button, can be difficult to roll up. In the photo above I am wearing a Brooks Brothers shirt (pictured in detail below) that lacks a button on the sleeve placket. While for everyday wear this is perfectly acceptable, when trying to roll-up one’s sleeves this can be problematic.
A nicely rolled sleeve is all about tension, and a button on the sleeve placket (see photo below) allows you to manipulate that tension. A tightly rolled-up sleeve not only looks better, but it will stay in place. If you’re unable to get any tension between your arm and your shirt when you’re rolling up your sleeve, it will inevitably come unrolled, or worse you’ll have to keep folding until you’re up over your elbow, and then you’ll just look awkward.
The solution? Armbands. Don’t be turned off by their decidedly non-bourgeois background, since at least Prohibition armbands have been earning their #menswear stripes by not only being a practical accessory, but also an accessory with a story.
Likely they’ll never be part of your daily ensemble, but if you’re digging in for a long evening of doc-review, they may come in handy.
I haven’t always invested in nice things. In some arenas (suits) it was because I couldn’t afford any better than department store quality, but in others (belts) it was because I didn’t know better.
The #menswear universe is all about quality, about investing in well made items that last as long - or longer - than the wearer. This “craftsmanship above all else” mentality is pressed on #menswear enthusiasts through countless cliches and aphorisms: the most expensive item in your wardrobe is the one you never wear; invest in classic items and they’ll never go out of style; if you buy quality in the first place you won’t have to replace it every couple seasons. Only recently have I really started to understand the vernacular.
I think the problem most young men face when outfitting themselves for campus life or the workplace for the first time, is that they actually have no idea what “quality” means. If prior to their dive into the heady world of oxbloods and chinos the shelf-life of their t-shirts and tennis shoes was a couple semesters, then of course they’ve never turned their minds to the question of “how will this______ look in a couple years?” In short most young men don’t actually know it means to have well-made clothing.
The unhappy result of not understanding the difference between well made accessories and department store fodder is showcased in the photo above. This Perry Ellis belt probably cost me $30.00. Sitting on a hook in the store I am sure I thought to myself that this looks just as good as every other belt here, and at a fraction of the price.
I wore the belt above a couple times a week for last the year. Now it is literally falling apart, revealing a gooey and synthetic interior. This is what not buying quality accessories looks like. Even the holes in the belt I rarely use are cracking open. Paradoxically the rest of the belt is just as stiff and shiny as the day I bought it - which is another knock against it. A belt made of actual leather will age and slowly contour to the wearer’s body, picking up some character along the way from nicks and scratches.
I spent $100 to replace this department store belt for a properly made one. I went with an Allen Edmonds belt: made in America, out of real leather.
The moral of the story is this: if you wear a suit every day, you will likely wear a belt every day, so invest in a belt that will last. I do mean invest. I expect that with time my new belt will become softer and more pliable, and like all well made and cared for leather products will only look better over time.
Perhaps at first blush spending $100 on a belt seems a little rich, but if the alternative is spending $30 on a new belt every year (that will never look or feel as good as a nicely worn in one) then you are much worse off in the long run. Buying cheaply made goods, only to watch them fall apart, is not a satisfying feeling. It’s not good for the environment, and it probably didn’t look that good in the first place anyway.
A black or brown leather belt is a workhorse in any wardrobe. It gets almost daily wear, and it will never go out of style. When your current “leather” belt splits on you, do the right thing and replace it with a belt you can be proud of. That is fundamental.
I was in Ottawa this past week for a wedding, and found myself with a couple hours to kill one afternoon. One of the perks of Vancouver Club membership is access to all of its affiliated clubs the world over - and quite a perk it is.
The Rideau Club is conveniently located at 99 Bank St. in downtown Ottawa, in an otherwise unremarkable office tower. However I realized my experience here would be anything but unremarkable as soon as it dawned on me that one of the building’s five elevators was reserved strictly for accessing the Club on the 15th floor. Indeed, it is as peculiar as it is satisfying to enter an elevator in a rather large building where the only button is for the 15th floor.
The moment you step off the elevator you forget that you are in an office building. Although the Rideau Club’s original stand-alone location was lost in a fire in the latter part of the last century, the layout and decoration of their current location creates a comforting warmth of history and tradition. The halls are lined with artifacts and leather wingbacks, and the walls graced with paintings of significant people and places.
With only a couple hours to spare I did not waste any time heading straight for the bar - past a handful of meeting rooms named after former Prime Ministers. After getting sorted out with a scotch and some small talk I retired to the reading room for a perusal of the local papers.
While the size of the Club’s book collection is unremarkable, the quality and the nature of their holdings is rather unique. The two largest categories of books adorning the walls were under the headings “Books About Our Members” and “Books Written By Our Members”. Need anything else be said about the bona fides of the Rideau Club?
I am a big fan of books on procedure - I realize that is probably not a unique trait amongst lawyers. The Canadian Honours System lived up to its billing. In my short time at the Club I did not have enough time to do this wonderful book justice; perhaps I’ll be able to return to it someday. I would recommend it for anyone interested not just in commonwealth military history, but also the history of Canadian civilian honours, politics, and governmental procedure.
In summary my time at the Rideau Club was a sheer pleasure, and I hope my schedule will permit me to come back soon.
Anyone who has spent time traveling between cities knows the feeling of craving some downtime when out and about, and having no where to turn. While a coffee shop may do in a pinch, they can often be crowded and noisy, and lacking in comfortable chairs. The Rideau Club offered me a chance to put my feet up and enjoy some light reading in a quiet and hospitable atmosphere. I left relaxed, and a dare I say a little more cultured. I don’t think I could have asked for more.
I had the privilege of spending a weekend in Sechelt, British Columbia earlier this summer. As far as weekend retreat destinations go, Sechelt is hard to beat. Clocking in at only 2.5 hours outside of Vancouver - including a lovely ferry ride, Sechelt is far enough outside of the city to feel remote, yet close enough to make the journey at 5:00 on a Friday.
Our accommodations were first rate: on the water, in a bungalow teeming with character. The food, the views, and the company were all brilliant.
This was the kind of place that you hope, if you play your cards right, you too can own someday.
My elephant heads were actually purchased in the town of Gibsons, about 20 minutes outside of Sechelt. The woman at the antique shop told me that a friend of hers brought them back from India. They aren’t perfectly symmetrical, each one slightly different than the other, but I think I like that better.
I had commissioned a custom wardrobe for my office earlier this summer, and I asked the gentleman sourcing the wood and drawing up the plans to let me worry about the hardware. These unique and sturdy handles were exactly what I was hoping I would find; a detail to add some subtle flare to what will otherwise be a rather conservative piece of office furniture.
As lovely as they are to look at, storing and displaying your collection of pocket squares can actually be frustrating. Unlike ties, which lend themselves to hangers, or hooks, pocket squares are notoriously difficult to store - silk ones especially. Pocket squares don’t stack easily, and if left spread out on a flat surface can get swept away, collect dust, or get lost.
What’s more, I think a collection of pocket squares (even a modest one) is worthy of display. They come in such a variety of colours, textures and patterns that they are pleasing to the eye and often invite conversation.
Like much of my professional wardrobe I keep my pocket squares in my office. The benefits of keeping a stock of shirts, ties and ‘squares at the office are numerous - with ease of pairing or switching any combination of the three on short notice being one of them.
After trying various shelving units and basket options without satisfaction, I settled on an old cigar box as my receptacle of choice to store my pocket square collection. I thought this was rather Martha Stewart of me.
A 25 count cigar box (in my case Fonseca of Cuba) is small enough to sit nicely on a desk or shelf, but deep enough to handle at least ten ‘squares and still be able to close. If your collection is particularly volumious I’d recommend tracking down a 50 count box.
If you aren’t a cigar smoker yourself, and therefore don’t have old boxes kicking around your flat, they can be easily had at a local cigar shop for $5-$10. I’ve seen them at vintage shoppes as well. Be sure to scope out reputable, Cuban brands, as this will ensure your new cigar box is made of Cuban cedar, and likely lined with beautiful and historic artwork.
While I recommend bookending your cigar box pocket square display with volumes of Halsbury’s or old case law reporters, this isn’t strictly necessary.