Vestis Legis

Primogenitus. Curator. Vancouver. Halifax. Lex. Menswear. Coffee. @vestislegis
Barristers Only. The Barrister’s Lounge. The Law Courts. Vancouver, British Columbia.

Barristers Only. The Barrister’s Lounge. The Law Courts. Vancouver, British Columbia.

Antique Elephants

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 first rate.

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. 

15-year-old single malt. One of only 480. Tobermory, Isle of Mull. Founded as the Ledaig Distillery by John Sinclair in 1797. Became an early casualty of the Depression and closed in 1930. Restored in 1972.  Specially selected and bottled for the Vancouver Club. The benefits of membership.

15-year-old single malt. One of only 480. Tobermory, Isle of Mull. Founded as the Ledaig Distillery by John Sinclair in 1797. Became an early casualty of the Depression and closed in 1930. Restored in 1972.  Specially selected and bottled for the Vancouver Club. The benefits of membership.

A cigar box full of pocket squares

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. 

Frank Clegg’s English Briefcase may just be the sexiest thing I own

This beautiful briefcase arrived at my office this afternoon. I must say right off the bat that I am fortunate enough to have an employer that provides an allowance for these sort of things - otherwise a bag of this quality would have to wait for a few more years.

I am not sure how I first came across Clegg’s products, but no doubt it was an ad or review somewhere in the menswear blogosphere. For those of you who don’t know, Frank Clegg Leatherworks is based in Fall River, Massachusetts, and since the 70’s he has been producing fine American leathergoods of unparalleled quality. Although such a claim comes across as a little tired to those of us who fill our days browsing the online boutiques of cottage-industry artisans and other purveyors of high quality goods, I really feel like Frank can back it up.

Before I dove head-first into this purchase I picked up the phone and called the Frank Clegg Leatherworks store. Frank picked up the phone. And we talked, and talked. And talked.

We talked American Briefcases v. English Briefcases. We talked about how his leathers are finished, how they age, how they should be cared for, and how they’d stand up to the Vancouver climate. Frank had no problem shipping out here, he threw in some leather cream samples (enough to do the whole bag), and walked me through how I should apply the treatment.

While I think the real test for a briefcase of this nature, and certainly of this pedigree, is the test of time - I can offer some preliminary observations.

The smell, the feel, and the weight are everything you’d expect. Aside from the solid brass hardware, the bag is literally all leather: no liners, no fillers. In the photo above of the back of the bag you can even make out the faint natural grains in the leather. As someone who spends a fair amount of time around briefcases I can tell you that these trappings of craftsmanship are not common.

Your average briefcase, much like a department store “leather” women’s handbag, is made from some sort of bonded or corrected-grain leather veneer, with a liner made of some synthetic cloth, and likely some plasticky pen holders. Poor quality leather breaks down rather quickly: it cracks and peels. Worse, some bonded leathers refuse to show any sign of wear, so they remain rigid and glossy despite being scuffed and nicked. In either scenario after a few weeks of chambers appearances, poorly made briefcases show their stripes. 

In theory this English Briefcase should only get better with age. The leather should develop some real character, garner the occasional compliment in the registry lineup, and dependably tote around pithy applications. I’ll just have to wait a couple years to find out.

A pretty girl. Springtime. Stanley Park, Vancouver. Masi road bike. Driftwood. 

A pretty girl. Springtime. Stanley Park, Vancouver. Masi road bike. Driftwood. 

You’ve got to be kidding me - tie one on?

I’m normally a big Brooky Bros fan, but this specimen here - lifted from the “New Arrivals” section of their website, is in particularly poor taste. The website describes the shirt as a “graphic crew tee” with “tie one on” oh-so-cleverly screened on the back.

I am at a loss to figure out what segment of the menswear market finds themselves in a Brooks Brothers, and also has a few slots that need filling on their graphic crewneck t-shirt roster.

I know that Brooks Brothers has tried in the past to introduce more casual, youthful and “urban” aspects to their various lines - but I believe this is the low watermark.

I can grudgingly accept Brooks Brothers wading into the plebian, high-traffic world, of polos and hoodies, embossed with generic sports team logos, punctuated with meaningless dates, and faded crests. That sort of stuff is junk, and probably done better by high-street favourites like American Eagle and Banana Republic. But the “tie one on” tee is lower still on the sacred menswear totem. This olive coloured monstrosity is nothing short of a novelty t-shirt, chasing after misplaced irony, or feigned laughter.

Stranger still is that you’d need to spend almost $40 bucks to tie this one on, whereas the classic black & white tuxedo t-shirt can usually be had for a meager $10 in the nearest tourist district.

Disappointed. 

Sippy Cup

For as long as I can remember I have been buying coffees “to go”, but for years I was drinking them all wrong.

I wish I could say I’ve been a faithful observer of getting my coffees “to go” in a reusable travel mug. Travel mugs are good for the environment, good for your wallet, and good for the coffee (they keep coffee hotter for longer). However my travel mugs are never with me when I need them, and honestly sometimes I just want to walk somewhere drinking a coffee, and then be done with it. Carrying an empty travel mug around with you all day can be rather inconvenient.

For what its worth if I am going to sit in the cafe and enjoy my coffee, I always ask for it in a “for here” mug.

I also enjoy good coffee. I’ll walk further, and spend a little more to get a cup I am really  going to enjoy. But good coffee was not meant to be enjoyed in a waxed paper cup, strained through a thin and disposable plastic lid.

My good friend Douglas Roop brought this to my attention some years ago. He thought it peculiar, and indeed a little offensive, that I would seek out a nice cup of coffee, only to drink it through a plastic hole like an infant.

Wikipedia defines “Sippy Cup” as a spill-proof drinking cup designed for toddlers. 

I have since cleaned up my act. Once I have arrived at my destination with my coffee “to go”, I set it down, take off the lid, and sip it like an adult.

This is civilized. This is (closer) to how coffee was meant to be enjoyed. With the lid off you actually smell the coffee before you taste it. You and can see and feel the steam coming off the surface, and see the oily surface of a dark roast swirling around.

This is fundamental. 

A selection of influential texts: legal history, cigars, menswear, etiquette. The syllabus to my weekends.

A selection of influential texts: legal history, cigars, menswear, etiquette. The syllabus to my weekends.

A Weekend Wax Job

Left to my own devices on a recent weekend, I decided to re-wax my old Barbour Beaufort. With my girlfriend and roommates out of town I had the apartment to myself, so what better way to pass a sunny Saturday afternoon then with thornproof Barbour waxed dressing and a cask-aged Manhattan?

I bought my first Barbour several years ago, used on eBay for about fifty quid. I’ve since bought another this way. I highly recommend it. Used Barbours, in great shape, can be had on the British eBay at considerable savings - so long as you’re willing to put in the labour re-waxing these aged beauties.

The process is deceivingly simple; as long as you follow a few simple steps it’s hard to screw up.

You can see how faded the jacket looks after a season or two of wear without being properly waxed. While the patina of faded olive may look nice, the light almost-khaki coloured patches are spots where the wax dressing is completely worn off, and thus the durability and waterproofing of the jacket has been compromised. Furthermore a dried-out Barbour will rip and fray, the wax dressing keeps the fabric moist and resilient to things like… thorns.

I’ve read various blogs on how to wax a Barbour, and while most of the information in the blogosphere is good it tends to make the process sound more complex than it really is. The blogs also tend to skim over the fact that your hands will get very waxy undertaking this project, and it takes a little elbow grease.

First and foremost you need an open space, preferably a large table that you can move around easily. Spread the jacket out on newspaper, and give it a quick brush down to remove any chunks of mud or dust. Don’t use soap or water. Ever.

Next you need to pull out your handy tin of Barbour waxed dressing. There may be other brands that do the same job - I don’t really know, but this tin cost me twelve quid a couple years ago, and it does the job properly, so not worth messing around with imitators.

At this point you may want to grab your cocktail or single malt of choice.

To turn the wax into a liquid drop it in a pot of boiling water. Within a couple minutes it will turn clear and runny. Pull it out, throw it on a coaster near your jacket.

I use disposable sponges to apply the waxed dressing. They’re good because they can absorb some wax, but also don’t have too much surface area, and they are disposable.

Now the trick to applying the wax is to dab a little on to the sponge, then one section at a time apply it to your jacket. Map out a plan of attack so you don’t miss any spots. Avoid the temptation to just start painting your jacket all willy-nilly. Go one sleeve at a time, then one front panel at a time, and when you’re content you’ve got the whole front of the jacket coated, stand down for five minutes, refresh your drink, and then start on the back.

You want to do more than just lather the jacket; you need to really rub it in. Pay special attention to seams, and creases, and high friction places. If you wear a backpack, or throw a bag over your shoulder frequently when wearing your jacket the shoulder areas are likely in need of a heavy coating.

Don’t worry too much about getting the wax in the buttons or zippers, it will rub off with everyday wear.

Finally hang the jacket up, not only to let it breathe, but also so you can give it a final 360 degree inspection. The wax should still be relatively soft, especially if you’re in a warm apartment, so you can move around any clumps, or touch-up any spots you missed. If you are looking for a factory quality finish take a blow dryer to the jacket, this will ensure an even and smooth looking sheen to the jacket, and will break up any wax stuck in seems or grooves.

First couple wears will be waxy, so be sure to take it out for a spin when you wont be sitting down on fabric covered seats. Enjoy.