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Posts from the ‘bespoke’ Category

For the Love of Proportions! Ties, Lapels, and Shirt Collars


It’s a simple formula worth knowing:

The widest part of the lapel and the widest part of the tie should be similar in width.

We especially like this illustration by BlackLapel.com :


The next time you wonder why someone looks so good in a suit, note the lapel/tie width ratio and see if it is influencing your positive perception.

HOWEVER, one caveat exists for the man who craves ‘ more lapel ‘ (reminiscent of SNL’s pop culture ‘ more cowbell ‘ catchphrase):

It can be ridiculous to try to match the width of a tie to that of a super-wide lapel, and so the law of diminishing returns applies to just how wide the tie should be. In this case, match tie-width to shirt collar width (being careful to choose a more substantial shirt collar and tie when working with large lapels).

CARRYING THE PROPORTION THEORY EVEN FURTHER

Eyeing the shirt collar before putting on a suit, and choosing a shirt collar width similar to tie width, can be a real help in balancing proportions.

Case in point — media mogul Keith Olbermann is referred to as a master of proportions. Unbeknownst to many, Olbermann is quite a large man…but, his attention to proportions has kept this point fairly mute among the public.

In this GQ photo, we notice Olberman’s consistency in keeping his tie width somewhat similar to his shirt collar width (as his lapels are so expressive that matching tie and shirt collar width with the size of the lapel would be absurd). We also witness on the left, what happens when overall proportion details go wrong. The good news is that with a little education and some attention to what he is wearing, the man on the left can transform his entire appearance.

Olbermann’s shirt collar and tie (widest part of each) measurements are similar. Also note the finer point of how the shirt collar edge is slightly covered by the waistcoat, compared to the free-floating shirt collar on the left.

TIE DILEMMA OF THE KNIT TIE

Knit ties can be quite dapper, but it can be confounding to know how to use them in a suit ensemble. But, when factoring in the proportion formula on matching tie width with the lapel and/or the shirt collar width, suddenly knit ties begin to work better with suits. The problem with knit ties is that most of them are just too skinny, and this fact alone throws off the overall proportions of the suit.

But, once we purge these skinny knit ties, and opt for fuller, wider and more cleverly designed ones, then the proportion problem vanishes, and knit ties become a real viable option to add texture to a suit.

 

The Class Above the Upper Class : The TOP Class

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It is a mad world when the rich and famous are checking into rehab centers and the people of the working class feel anxious about whether they will be able to hold on to the very jobs that they dislike doing. Sometimes the world feels a little upside-down and the unimportant gets confused with the important.  And sometimes we even ask ourselves exactly how the art of dressing-well and finding one’s personal style fits into the grand scheme of things?

We know for sure that it isn’t necessary to find a study or statistics to tell us that it feels good to look good. And it is a bit of a revelation to realize that looking good does not mean being a ‘ natural-born-beauty ‘ as much as it means defining and refining a personal style. And regardless of how rich, handsome, tall or fit a person may be, style does not play favorites, but waits to be embraced by anyone who has the knowledge and will to express him or herself well through behavior, grooming, and clothing.

Some of the most stylish men in history have not been beauties (Winston Churchill, Oscar Wilde, Peter O’Toole or the elegance naturelle de Francois Truffaut). Incredibly, even after some of these men are no longer alive, still their strong sense of personal style emanates  and is remembered and referred to, even to this day.

Many believe that it is the upper class that dresses the best and has the strongest sense of personal style. Notice that this perception can once again, work to everyone’s advantage since even the man from the most humble beginnings can pull himself far above the masses simply through the way he behaves, dresses and grooms himself. And, while a man of royal decent can look and behave as a buffoon, at the same time, a man of meager means can exemplify the meaning of elegance through his actions and through attention to his wardrobe.

Even though the ability for most every person to dress well does ‘ level ‘ the playing field between the wealthy and the working class, strangely, most people do not take advantage of investing in fully developing his or her personal style. Perhaps the goal seems beyond the reach of many, or laziness sets in, or more likely, there is an ignorance of the power that dressing well can bring to our lives. And, the goal to express personal style is typically not to look as if a person is from a certain class, as much as it is to show that a person has class.

Edmond Rostand, who wrote about aristocracy and beauty (or the lack thereof) in the iconic play “Cyrano de Bergerac”,  says this about elegance:

“I have a different idea of elegance. I don’t dress like a fop, it’s true, but my moral grooming is impeccable. I never appear in public with a soiled conscience, a tarnished honor, threadbare scruples, or an insult that I haven’t washed away. I’m always immaculately clean, adorned with independence and frankness. I may not cut a stylish figure, but I hold my soul erect. I wear my deeds as ribbons, my wit is sharper then the finest mustache, and when I walk among men I make truths ring like spurs.” — Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac

And so we agree, that elegance first begins with the character of a person, and only then, is rounded out with grooming and dressing well.

A STUDY IN BEING DISCREET…THE CLASS ABOVE THE UPPER CLASS : THE TOP CLASS

An important distinction can be made between the Upper Class and what author Paul Fussell terms the TOP Class, in his 1983 book entitled “A Guide Through the American Status Systems”.

Those from the upper class often draw attention to themselves through the cars and homes they purchase, the jewelry and clothing that they wear, and the events they attend. In a general sense, members of upper class care very much about the messages they are sending through the possessions that they choose. And although the Upper Class may fail to be discreet at times, still, they seem to exercise discretion in one specific area: they generally prefer older items and antiques over things that are newly produced. They have an appreciation for heritage and tradition in regard to dressing well, and this preference shows up in the things that they own, ranging from vintage cars and watches, to wearing  accessories like antique cuff links, and tie bars and pins, and even tattered clothes (more on that later).

A different group altogether, ranking even higher than the Upper Class is the TOP Class. Members of the TOP class are the uber elite and prefer to remain anonymous while attempting to blend with, instead of stand apart from society. Having a  massive estate with 42 rooms and a butler is an anathema to the TOP elite, since guarding the secret of his or her wealth and retaining privacy are key motives. In short, a life unhampered by the public eye is a constant focus and discretion is of paramount importance. In a strange way, a TOP elite seeks to be emancipated from the chains that his or her wealth has created, and paradoxically begins to identify with the things that really matter in life. Being discreet is preferred to showiness, and there is overall, less of an attachment to things, with the exception of family heirlooms and rare items that generally hold some type of meaning or purpose.

My own experience with a TOP class person has been enlightening. When I knew her, as a fourth generation member of a wealthy family and coming from what we consider ‘old-money’, Margaret lived in a nice but relatively modest home in a very good, but not extraordinary neighborhood. She drove a car that I barely remember and her jewelry consisted of a wedding ring (of what appeared to be just under one carat), a clean, black-banded Timex watch to be worn for everyday, in place of her Cartier, and a strand of her Grandmother’s pearls. She had custom clothes, but also clothes from Land’s End and Ralph Lauren. She was straight forward in her speech, and I found her to be a basically good and genuine person with naturally correct posture and an easy elegance. I also had a glimpse into her character…when she was going through a bad divorce, she was gentle and discussed her feelings honestly, but at the same time, her resolve was impressively strong to work through the difficulty.

And so, it is intriguing to take note of what some may consider TOP class gestures. Here are some nice, specific practices of the elegant, that is usually not written or spoken about explicitly:

1. Frayed Edges on Clothing

To be embraced, is signs of wear on clothing. The upper echelon detests shopping and readily accepts, even prefers, signs of wear on their clothes, including moth holes, small tears, piling and fraying, as this practice of accepting minor defects not only defines the behavior of the class, but also, wearing items that have been “broken in” can feel more natural and comfortable. It is considered a good thing to eschew the image of the parvenue in favor of patching, mending, and sewing worn spots on timeless pieces. One practice that has been relayed to us is the practice of estate owners instructing their valets to wear the owner’s shirt for a while in order to “break in the shirt” so it is more comfortable and in order for the shirt to appear less “new”.

2. Old Things Trump New Things

An antique or family heirloom, or anything with a history or a story, surpasses a newly produced item.

3. The Color of the Carnation

A red flower symbolizes that your mother is still living, while a white flower means your mother is no longer living.

4. Equal amounts of Shirt Collar and Shirt Cuff Showing Beneath a Jacket (with no Proletarian “Prole” Gap).

The amount of shirt collar and shirt sleeve that is shown beneath the jacket (typically around 1/2 inch) should match in area  (e.g., 1/2 inch shirt extending out from beneath the coat collar and 1/2 inch shirt sleeve extending out beneath the coat sleeve). No “prole gap” (collar gap) is imperative, as a gaping area between the coat collar and the shirt is considered a characteristic of the lower class proletarians, who are perceived to have little knowledge about good tailoring.

5. The Tailor’s Label — Hidden inside the Coat Pocket

There was a time when the name of one’s tailor was kept confidential, perhaps to protect a person’s privacy or even to prevent others from copying a look, or more likely to demonstrate discretion. Placing the name of the tailor inside the coat pocket so that the only way to read the tailor’s name is to peek inside the suit jacket pocket is an ultimate gesture, in terms of being discreet.

6. A Handkerchief Inside the Jacket Pocket.

Gentlemen at one time made it a point to carry a handkerchief in the suit coat pocket to handle things on the spot, like cold symptoms, spills, and teardrops.  And, a prepared gentleman equipped with gestures such as this, almost always left a lasting impression.

7. The final shirt buttonhole on a tailored shirt is sewn horizontally

Some swear by the practice of instructing a shirtmaker to sew the final buttonhole of a shirt horizontally instead of vertically in order to help secure the last button in place and as a discreet signal that the shirt is handmade (since no one sees the horizontal buttonhole except the wearer of the shirt and those closest to him).

8. Regimental Ties — Worn with Caution

Regimental ties, whose stripes represent a certain regiment, club, or private school, are only worn to functions associated with the entity that the tie represents. To wear one’s regimental tie to any other venue other than those events associated with what the regimental tie represents, is seen as a need to show off or broadcast a person’s membership. When wearing a striped tie with a suit, stripes should point up towards the right shoulder to avoid indicating that a person belongs to a club of which he has no affiliation (since true regimental ties generally point upwards towards the left shoulder).

9. All Sleeve Cuff Buttons are…Buttoned

To leave a button open on the coat sleeve cuff is not even considered, since quality is assumed with this class, and there would be no reason to announce that your buttons actually work on your coat sleeve.

10. A good watch ‘ peeks out ‘ beneath the shirt sleeve, but is not fully shown

Fully exposing a nice watch underneath a shirt sleeve would be seen as peacocking and as a way to get your watch stolen. Also, thrusting a watch forward  for display when posing for a photograph  is not an option.

11. An aversion to high fashion labels (with the exception of a few favorites specific to the individual)

Old money families steer clear of high fashion flashy labels (associated with “new money”)  but welcome a few personal labels into their wardrobe, some of which can be surprising to others, for example, choosing a black-banded Timex watch to be worn on certain days, in place of a finer watch.

SOME SIDE NOTES

How to participate in a «Toast»

Raise your glass with everyone else, when clinking glasses with an individual, always make quick eye contact with the individual, and…never cross wine or champagne glasses with anyone at the table.

Restrict Compliments since Quality is Assumed

Reserve the amount of compliments given to the elite…quality is assumed and mindless compliments are usually seen as unnecessary flattery that holds little meaning.

While these observations may only skim the surface of some elegant practices generally known within an exclusive subset of the population, the spirit of these subtle gestures come through– and brings some nice insight about being discreet and the some of the intentions behind why we dress the way we do.

Why Do Men Wear Suits? A Turbo Ride Through Time (1450 – 1900)

Several artists throughout history have attempted to capture the essence of a gentleman through oils and photography. Today we pause for a moment to take a look at a few valiant works that portray gentlemen of the times, art ranging from 1450 – 1900. All of the oil artists have aptly entitled each of the paintings below  “Portrait of a Gentleman”.

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1450 – Portrait of a Gentleman by Andrea del Castagno, a landmark Italian portraiture, with the gentleman’s right hand clutching the long end of a hood worn over the shoulder. Source: Wiki Paintings

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1512 – Portrait of a Gentleman by Bartolomeo Venet0 (1502 – 1546), Italy. Veneto is said to inspired by DeVinci

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1555 – Portrait of a Young Gentleman by Tintoretto, whose real name was Jacopo Comin (1518 – 1594). For his notable energy, he was also known as II Furioso, Source: 1st Art Gallery and Wikipedia

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1629 –  Portrait of a Gentleman by Nicolaes Pickenoy (1558-1656), a Dutch Painter of Flemish origin.

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1730 – Portrait of a Gentleman by Vittore Ghislandi (1655 – 1743), who trained in Milan during the post-medieval Baroque period. Source: see below

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1742 – Another Portrait of a Gentleman, by Vittore Ghislandi (1655 – 1743) Source: Web Gallery of Art

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1809 – Portrait of a Gentleman by an unknown artist Source: Lemon Tea and Earwig Biscuits

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1842 – Portrait of a Gentleman by John Ponsford (1790 – 1870)

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1850 (estimated) – Portrait of a Gentleman by William John Wilgus (1819 – 1853), also known for his works of Ichabod Crane and The Headless Horseman Source: Oxford Gallery

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1888 (estimated) – “The Czarevitch”. Nicholas Romanov of Russia (1868-1918), a few years before he ascended the throne in 1894 as Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia Source: J Cosmas Vintage Photography

pog13 Two-gentlemen-seated-carte-de-visite-stavanger-norway

1890s – Carte De Viste, Two Gentleman of Stavanger Source: infomercantile.com

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The Year 1900 – Gentleman Wearing a Top Hat, by Max Platz, Chicago Source: art.com

The 2013 Sartorial Storm (Part I)

written for: Parisian Gentleman

John Hamm dressed for the role of a doctor in 1934 based on the writing of Mikhail Bulgakov set during the Russian Revolution. Could this "look " now be considered irresistible?
John Hamm dressed for the role of a doctor in 1934 set during the Russian Revolution and based on the stories of Mikhail Bulgakov. Could this look now be considered “irresistible”?

 THE MALE ELEGANCE CLIMATE

The male elegance climate appears to be simmering  to a boil lately (compared to a mere five years ago). While we are seeing a boon in men dressing well with a growing penchant for style and quality, at the same time we notice a collapse in the frequency of spotting the quintessential middle management man with scuffed-up shoes and a dilapidated leather belt with belt-hole notches shaped like inverted amebas (of which he seems oddly proud to announce that his belt notches chronicle his weight loss and gain history since 1990… hence you deduce that his belt must be around 13 years old).

These days, it is more likely for a man to feel good about having immaculately polished shoes and to find satisfaction in knowing that a belt is rarely needed with a suit in the first place, since the complete body line of a man looks much better when he opts for trousers designed for no belt, thus avoiding the “cutting of the man in half” visual effect that a belt causes.

This man realizes
This man understands that wearing a belt with a suit can be passé and cut the flow of the total line of a man.

Yet even if men are speeding towards sartorial excellence at an alarming rate, we continue to see the occasional breed of the sartorial counter-culture set fanning the embers of the spirit of the 1980s “casual Friday movement”, perhaps most by those who feel trapped as time-watchers living for 5 o’clock and for the promise of another weekend—leaving us with the impression of a lost ability to feel intrigue for any day except Friday, Saturday and Sunday…with even churches replacing dress standards with the come as you are mindset.

France (even with its obvious population of sartorial-gifted men and women) gives us a more direct example of a diminishing regard for the work week by introducing “Half-Day Fridays “, or more specifically a reduction of the hours in the workweek  from 39 to 35 hours, since the year 2000. At this rate, in the year 2052, we can project an introduction of the  two-hour workday–with  potential daily perks such as Tie-Less Thursdays, Facebook Wednesdays, No Need to Tuck Your Shirt In Tuesdays, and Don’t Bother to Show Up Mondays.

This passive attitude towards how we present ourselves creates a piggy-back effect that biases these same time-watchers towards the belief that the reason dressing casually is better is because it is easier. And, once it is perceived that the daily goal is to make things easier, then the possibility of sartorial glory is lost. And, if a sartorial atheist believes that Monday through Thursday constitute corporate enslavement, forced dress-codes, and a general sense of misery, then we accept that we are unlikely to see a glowing sartorial result within this cultural realm.

However, the incredible point that may be easy to overlook, is that the sartorially-inclined man can use Casual Friday to his advantage as an optimal opportunity to come to work in business-only attire, which causes him be noticed in a way that helps communicate his own unique persona while at the same time, nurturing career advancement potential and boosting the chance for success in his social endeavors.

Not foregoing the necktie on Casual Friday sets this man apart from the others.
Not foregoing the necktie on Casual Friday sets this man apart from the others.

Dress for the job above yours…and rethink casual Friday. Business Insider, 2011

Although many may consider disregarding Casual Fridays to be somewhat hardcore, in actuality, dressing well is a moderate gesture that pays great dividends.


THREE SARTORIAL RENAISSANCE CATALYSTS 

When considering the perpetual turnaround from style nonchalance to style concern, it is curious to consider what is causing the intensifying energy behind this sartorial revival that is winning eager converts by the hour. There are at least three catalysts causing  this resurrection of interest among men in all-things-sartorial:

First, the influence of television shows like Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire, as well as Hollywood movies featuring gangsters and spys no doubt play a pivotal role in the perception reversal from sartorial indifference to sartorial passion that is occurring among men. By simply watching episodes of shows and movies with images of men dressed in fine-tailored clothing causes our minds to take sartorial notes; and put simply, our visual pleasure centers are repetitively rewarded with images of impeccably dressed actors—which eventually results in giving us an impression that dressing well can be…pleasurable.

Sean Connery with Tailor Anthony Sinclair, London. A precursor to the male elegance media rage.
007 Sean Connery with Tailor Anthony Sinclair, London. Sean Connery’s,  fittings  finally offers the masses a peek at the world of bespoke tailoring…and provides a precursor to the current male elegance media rage.
The iconic Michael Kenneth Williams from the HBO television series "Boardwalk Empire".
The iconic Michael Kenneth Williams from the HBO television series “Boardwalk Empire”.
From the 2012 film "This Means War"---In the movie, the leading characters location is traced by a villain through a torn patch of South American vicuna , a relative of the llama shorn every three years and considered to be very rare and luxurious. The scrap of fabric is identified as coming from "Savile Row's finest tailor".  The mystery question of the real-life suit's origin? Chris Pine's suit is Ralph Lauren's Purple Label  and the Brit's Tom Hardy suit is Paul Smith (with a signature narrow lapel and slim leg).
From the 2012 film “This Means War”—In the movie, the leading characters location is traced by a villain through a torn patch of South American vicuna , a relative of the llama shorn every three years and considered to be very rare and luxurious. The scrap of fabric is identified as coming from “Savile Row’s finest tailor”. The mystery question of the real-life suit’s origin? Chris Pine’s suit is Ralph Lauren’s Purple Label and the Brit’s Tom Hardy suit is Paul Smith (with a signature narrow lapel and slim leg).

A second  pop culture influence (as covered in the PG article (A défaut de fin du monde, la fin d’un monde ?) comes from more and more ad campaigns capitalizing on the mesmerization with bespoke tailoring by featuring models in authentic, not so glamorous bespoke tailoring workshops. These campaigns create an awareness that something more exists in the world of style. Perhaps the man who gains a glimpse of the Savile Row tailor’s life in an unexpected print advertisement stops for a moment, and asks himself  “What is that??”. Once this question is posed, many men find themselves on a journey to the sartorial promise land, with the only regret being that they hadn’t started the trip sooner.

Even though for some of us, it can be funny to notice that some of these advertisements greatly exaggerate the quality and origin of many products, we can still appreciate the awareness that is created as themes such as the tailor’s dusty workshop, continues to grow among ad agencies promoting male elegance.  In the same vein, numerous ad campaigns are also promoting men’s style by featuring men who look as if they have stepped into a frame shot from another time era (usually ranging from the mid-1800s up until the 1960s) which brings on a sentiment for hand-tailoring, or at least encourages a sentiment for items that relay the spirit of being hand-tailored.

Corneliani. Yet another ad campaign with subjects photographed with the "dusty workshop tailor-at-work theme."
Corneliani. Yet another ad campaign with subjects photographed with the “dusty workshop tailor-at-work theme.”
Time Era Dressing -- Sans the vest, this man evokes the emotion of the 1940s
Time Era Dressing — Sans the vest, this Pepe Jeans model evokes the emotion of the 1940s
Timothy Everest, tailor to the upper echelon of public figures and celebrities, provides designs that particularly appeal to the more cutting-edge sartorial thinker. Here: The Town Coat, reminiscent of the beloved frock coat from the mid-1800s
Timothy Everest, tailor to the upper echelon of public figures and celebrities, also provides designs for younger brands like Superdry, that particularly appeal to the more cutting-edge sartorial thinker. Here: The Town Coat, reminiscent of the beloved frock coat from the mid-1800s

As fresh as it looks…the town coat is firmly grounded in history, owing a great debt to that forebear, the frock coat. It may surprise many, but back in its mid-19th-century heyday, the frock coat was as “it” as it gets, having come into fashion as a more subdued (and less froufrou) alternative to courtly attire — the Helmut Lang of its day. But by the dawn of the 20th century, it itself had come to personify the calcified rigor of aristocratic European society…NY Times, November, 2011

The third influence may be very familiar to the readers of PG. Men and women alike from a vast array of different backgrounds, who have experienced a sometimes unexplained interest in how men dress, are now writing about their sartorial thoughts, impressions, and experiences. And with the internet in place, these voices are now able to reach the bulk of the world, where like-minded people assimilate in sartorial thought and spirit.

The writers that are rising to acclaim realize that writing about how we dress has as much to do with emotion as it has to do with knowledge. And where there is emotion, there is meaning. This specific element of a writer evoking sentiments, combined with a scholarly approach to dressing well, appears to be fundamental in rallying the interest in male elegance by a growing population of men.

James Sherwood (in a suit perhaps reminiscent of Andrew Ramroop's first suit in 1969?).  Sherwood has gained worldwide respect for writing about bespoke tailoring with emotion, as well as scholarly detail.
A candid shot of James Sherwood (in a bespoke coat by Edward Sexton). Sherwood has gained worldwide respect for writing about bespoke tailoring with emotion, as well as with scholarly detail.

And so, as a man’s attitude sets the stage for the development of his appearance, indeed there seems to be a new awareness among men that time is short—a knowing that living life well each day is infinitely more rewarding than waiting for the perineal Friday to roll around.  Most notably, men in their 20s are recognizing that a striking sartorial style quickly sets them apart from a league of other men who have overlooked the shaking effect of developing an unforgettable persona.

Now we can say with strong certainty, that we have entered a completely new sartorial age–where quality matters and a return to style has become important in people’s lives.

Part II will examine this mass attitude shift and attempt a cultivated way to understand the emotion a man feels as he develops his sartorial persona—as well as how the women around him may perceive and react to him.

SN

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