SECTION SEWN: VINTAGE MENSWEAR

Vintage Menswear: A Collection from The Vintage Showroom by Douglas Gunn & Roy Luckett

Curated by Douglas Gunn and Roy Luckett, proprietors of Seven Dials’ Vintage Showroom, this book is an essential purchase for any vintage #menswear and outerwear enthusiast. The book collates an impressive collection of early to mid-twentieth century garb divided into three sections: Sports & Leisure, Military, and Workwear.

There are some amazing pieces here to peruse and they’re all taken from the authors’ vast archive of vintage garments situated in their Notting Hill and Covent Garden showrooms. The pair started the Vintage Showroom in 2007 and it now provides an indispensable resource for fashion designers, stylists, and other creative teams.

RAF Mountain Rescue Service Cold Weather Parka

Globe Manufacturing Fireman’s Jacket

Indian Army Paratrooper’s Smock

Any Cabourn enthusiasts will spot many garments here referenced by Nigel (some faithfully reproduced). Snow smocks, RAF Parkas, and Fireman coats are all here and even the inspiration behind Nigel’s Viberg ‘Arrow’ boots gets a fascinating spread which details the meaning of the arrow (an icon used to denote ‘Government Property’).

Broad Arrow Prisoner’s Trousers and Boots

Belstaff Trailmaster Motorcycle Jacket

Detail from a Bespoke Tweed Jacket and Waistcoat

Handmade Peasant’s Boro Jacket. I particularly liked this as it reminded me of the kind of fabric Post O’alls often use.

Every item featured is outlined and detailed and most feature a brief historical background and raison d’être. It’s the visual reference that’s the main draw though. Every garment is lovingly documented with nice large imagery to pore over and examine. A highly recommended read.

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SAPHIR MÉDAILLE D’OR RENOVATEUR

Saphir Médaille d’Or Renovateur

I was recommended this product for Cordovan shoes when I visited NYC’s Leffot last May. Up until then I’d been reluctant to use any products on Cordovan; just a slightly damp cloth and lots of elbow grease. There’s a great fear with Cordovan that you can ruin the surface with normal polishes as they cover up it’s natural lustre. This stuff however is perfect. The mink oil feeds and conditions the leather and brings out the shine of the surface with half the effort of buffing without product. And the shine lasts just as long.

Saphir also produce a specific Cordovan cream which I’m curious to try although I’d only ever buy the colourless version. That said, when I quizzed the guys at Leffot about any other products (even Alden’s own Cordovan Paste) they reassured me that Saphir Renovateur was all I’d need, and it seems to have done the trick so far.

I also use Renovateur on calfskin shoes, though it doesn’t quite bring the shine up on this type of leather like ordinary polish, it does help condition it to keep it supple and healthy.

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WARDROBE STALWARTS

I thought I’d start this year by making a post about a subject closest to the heart of this blog: enduring quality. Tried and tested clothing. The majority of the garments featured have been worn week in, week out in the autumn and winter months for the best part of six years.

The pieces here are what I’d regard as ‘timeless’; a term thrown around far too frequently in the menswear field in the last few years. It’s hard to find contemporary makers that will deliver on that word, but the brands featured here I feel have offered it over the course of their existence. For me, ‘timeless’ is about the right size of lapel. The right depth of collar. The right cut of shirt to suit the style of shirt. The right choice of materials to suit the piece. The fit that is fitted. Not skinny. Not baggy. The pattern that is always relevant. The right width of tie. Never too far in fashion, but never too far out. ‘Timeless’ walks the line.

Many of the items below are still made today in varying forms. Many have been developed and improved upon since I purchased mine. Which is another quality I love of the brands featured here. No dramatic changes or redevelopments, but incremental improvements and tinkering, each season, all in the pursuit of making something better; not more fashionable.

So I guess think of this as a tried and tested recommendation list. I’d love to know people out there are getting the same amount of joy out of this garb as I have over the years.

Engineered Garments Charcoal Melton Wool Bedford Jacket, FW07

Engineered Garments Bedford Jacket
I purchased this on holiday in NYC in 2007 and it has scarcely been off my back since. I own two other Bedford jackets for Summer, but I’ve never bought another for Winter as this is so versatile. It can be dressed up or down: super casual and warm with a hoody underneath or nicely formal with a shirt and tie. With four patch pockets on the front, a single vent, and useful internal pockets, it’s one of Engineered Garments most practical, but simple jackets. The Melton wool on this version – a fabric Daiki Suzuki is always revisiting – is such a forgiving and durable cloth that it is yet to show any real signs of wear. This one is also special for me as he included leather elbow patches on this version, which to my mind, he hasn’t done since on this model of jacket. Daiki has produced some outstanding jackets for both Engineered Garments and Woolrich Woollen Mills, but I regard this as one of his finest moments. There are new versions every season and some are in the sales now.

Nigel Cabourn Authentic Four Pocket Vest

Nigel Cabourn Authentic Four Pocket Vest
This is perhaps my most worn garment over Autumn and Winter. It was included in Nigel Cabourn’s first Limited Edition collection and has consistently reappeared in the authentic line since, although in many different materials and colours. Along with his Cameraman jacket I’d also say it’s one his most copied pieces. It’s an extremely useful layer that can look as good with a plaid Workshirt as it can with a BD Oxford shirt and tie. Superdenim currently have some of the latest versions on sale here.

Engineered Garments Workshirt in Blue Plaid, FW07

Engineered Garments Workshirt
Arguably the cornerstone of Engineered Garments shirting and perhaps Daiki’s most referential piece, this shirt features every season in many different materials and patterns and always in a selection of chambray. The fit can change slightly depending on material and season, but it always features the same tough chain stitch construction, pockets based on a vintage Reliance Big Yank Cigarette Pocket shirt, and the iconic use of an odd cat’s eye button for the last fastening on the placket. Another nice detail is the choice of contrasting colour for the placket trim. This particular shirt was the first Engineered Garments piece I ever bought and it’s probably seen more wear than any other item in this list as its worn all year round. It has accompanied me on many hikes as well as day to day wear too. It’s robust and tough and after nearly six years it’s showing no signs of wear, tears, or fraying. It just gets comfier.

Engineered Garments Workaday 19th Century BD Shirt in Red Stripe Oxford Cloth

Engineered Garments Workaday 19th Century BD Shirt
The Engineered Garments 19th Century BD shirt is my absolute favourite shirt. It’s pattern is taken from a vintage Gitman shirt and is very similar in style to a modern Gitman shirt, but with the addition of large curved overlapping plackets; a detail that really sets it apart. Daiki exercises some of his more playful fabric choices on this piece from season to season in the main E.G. line. You can read in further detail about this shirt here. The one pictured here is from the Workaday line and is made in classic Oxford stripe. As with many items here it gets dressed up and down. Casually, it looks great untucked, showing off the odd plackets; formally, it looks great tucked in as the curved placket stops the shirt from splaying open at the waist line. It’s all about the details with this piece.

Engineered Garments Workaday Olive Reversed Sateen Fatigue Pant

Engineered Garments Workaday Fatigue Pants
These are a pretty new addition to my wardrobe, but have already become a regular wear for me. These are fairly loose fitting and in a great colour. They’re always in the Workaday line and feature each season in the E.G. mainline, but in differing cuts and fabrics. The fabric here is reverse sateen and is nice and hard wearing. These are a great alternative to regular jeans, trousers, and chinos, but their simplicity also keeps them nicely away from the combat pant. I like to often wear these with a shirt and tie for that ‘business up top, but me legs are already in the weekend’ look.

Daiki Suzuki designed Woolrich Woollen Mills Chambray Upland BD Shirt, FW07

Woolrich Woollen Mills Upland BD Shirt
Sadly, this is the only garment here that’s no longer readily available although a few keep popping up on Yoox at good prices. This was Daiki’s second attempt at this shirt; the first version (which I have, but don’t wear nearly as much) didn’t feature the iconic billowing chest pocket that this version has and was made in a heavier, but less appealing chambray. For me this shirt epitomised Daiki’s approach to his WWM collections: outdoor pursuits meets the classic and wearable. Reinforced shoulder detailing and elbows give this a hardy feel, while the button down collar makes it feels a touch more classic, striking a nice balance between casually smart and relaxed workwear. Along with the Workshirt here, this is my most heavily worn and washed shirt as it’s another great garment for all year round. It’s wearing nicely now with the chambray fading like denim around the collars and cuffs. I’d certainly recommend trying to get your hands on one as it will do you proud for many years.

Nigel Cabourn Authentic Mackintosh and Harris Tweed Cameraman Jacket and US Clip Jacket

Nigel Cabourn Mainline U.S. Clip Jacket (pictured right)
A constant in the Nigel Cabourn Mainline collection (made in Japan), I struggle to recommend this due to it’s absurd overpricing, but it’s worth hunting around for one in the sales and on eBay because it is an incredibly constructed super versatile piece. I managed to pick up a half price sample version in Present some years ago and it’s proved to be an indispensable layering piece ever since. Based on a U.S Gym/training jacket it features a breast pocket and two hand pockets. This simple and useful jacket is given that Cabourn twist with the addition of the metal clip fastenings that have become somewhat of a signature for Nigel. Versions have definitely improved since I purchased mine with a higher grade clip fastening now on the jacket (same as the Cameraman jacket). There’s many replicas of this jacket around (most notably Heritage Research’s USN clip jacket), but if you’re going to buy one, don’t get the poor man’s version, hunt around for Cabourn. It’s worth the time.

Nigel Cabourn Authentic Cameraman Jacket (pictured left)
I’m yet to see a parka I love more than Nigel Cabourn’s iconic and mighty Cameraman Jacket. I was first shown it in Oi Polloi years ago and I was utterly blown away by the details. The jacket features a marriage of two of Britain’s most celebrated and cherished fabrics – Mackintosh and Harris Tweed – and includes Nigel’s signature clip fastening on the upper portion. Appearing every season in the Authentic line since it was launched as part of the Limited Edition collection, this is quite possibly the most copied jacket of the last decade of menswear. Many have had a pop, but all have completely failed to understand what makes this jacket: the quality materials and the build. It doesn’t feel like you’re putting on a jacket; the Mackintosh makes it feel like you’re getting into a protective shell. It’s featured in other fabrics down the years including summer versions in Beeswax cotton and linen. If you’re going to get one, please don’t buy them at the extortionate full price. They always make it to the sales every season. You may have noted I have a problem with Nigel’s pricing. While his clothes are among some of the most exceptionally constructed I have seen, they are not worth the money – unless you’re having a completely bespoke suit made to your own specifications by a team of highly skilled individuals – no clothes are! Hit the sales for this stuff.

A.P.C. New (& Old) Standards

A.P.C. New (& Old) Standards
Like fine wine, you can go crazy with denim. But my own sensibilities do not carry me far enough into that world and I’m happy not to go there, because quite frankly; I can’t taste the difference. Denim is the work horse of the casual man’s wardrobe and in my opinion should be purchased, worn, and washed as such. I currently have four pairs of New Standards in rotation. Photographed here is my latest pair and my second pair, now a good five years old. All four still get regular wear. These jeans are decent denim, at a decent price. Simple and classic, they remain an amazing colour throughout their tenure; from their bluey grey beginnings to their stone washed end. And I can’t argue with half a decade (plus) of constant wear. All still going strong.

Steven Alan Tie in Woolrich Plaid, FW07

Steven Alan Woolrich Plaid Tie
I probably wouldn’t buy a Steven Alan tie anymore as I deem them a little too slim nowadays, but this purchase from a few years ago is just about my most worn tie and I still wear it with monotonous regularity. And it’s all down to the material. The Woolrich fabric used on this tie is just about the most versatile plaid I’ve seen as it seems to be able to slot into just about any outfit with ease. I buy ties from Engineered Garments and Drakes now as the quality and shape is perfect, but I wanted to include this piece as its just been so good down the years. Subtle pattern and texture is what I’ve looked for in a tie ever since I realised exactly why I like this one so much.

Tricker’s Espresso Stow Boot in Scotch Grain Calfskin

Trickers Stow Boots
The classic English country boot; Tricker’s Stow. This is a colour that goes with just about everything, a commando sole that will tackle just about anything, in a style that looks appropriate just about anywhere. The scotch grain adds an aesthetic hardiness to the already tough calfskin and does well to hide many creases that would be showing up a lot more prominently on smooth leather. Going on four years with a lot of wear these need a minimal amount of looking after as this colour and finish seems to hold its shine so well. If I had to reduce my shoe collection down to one choice for winter, this would be that choice. I’d always visit Richard at The Shoe Healer for my Tricker’s these days. Even at full price these are worth every penny.

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NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION

I will be a better blogger in 2013!

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AUTUMN ALDENAC

Alden Snuff Suede Flex-welt Chukka.

Autumn tipped up this year in a wonderful mood. Plenty of colour, mild temperatures, some crispy mornings, and a bit of rain to remind you Winter will soon be kicking in to action. Winter is a no-brainer clothing wise. As is Summer. But Autumn and Spring provide good measure of a gent’s wardrobe. Fluctuating temperatures and weather conditions require a versatile approach. With that in mind I fancied adding a bit of suede to proceedings this season, but something a bit lighter and more streamlined than my typical choice. The majority of my shoe collection consists of chunky English derbies and American moccasins. I was after something a little easier going with a colour that would work across a number of outfits.

Alden’s Water-lock Flex-welt sole.

My search brought me to Alden’s Snuff Suede Chukkas, one of Alden’s most renowned styles. I’ve best seen the suede on these described as ‘buttery’ and I don’t think I can find a better adjective to suit the hand of this material. It’s so soft and supple, it’s like sticking your feet in a pair of Rabbit’s ears. And as these things are unlined they are comfier than slippers.


Based on that description they don’t sound too suitable for Autumn, but the thing that attracted me most to this model was Alden’s special Water-lock Flex-Welt sole. Despite the low profile of the sole, it’s made for wet weather as the leather is specially treated – all the water and moisture is removed and replaced with oils, making it not only very supple, but incredibly water resistant. The oils also give the sole a much better grip than a traditional leather sole, meaning no more impromptu ice skating when out in the rain. All this combined with a stunning colour that seems to change between a chocolate milkshake and a red setter in different lights makes for an extremely versatile shoe for Autumn. You can find this style at a number of places, but I picked mine up at Sweden’s finest: Tres Bien Shop.

Alden’s with Beams Plus and APC New Standards.

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HENRY & FRANK

Some of the awesome new Nigel Cabourn Limited Edition 2 (Scott’s Last Expedition) line is starting to show up in stores and Coggles have my two choice pieces in stock: the Frank Debenham Seaman Coat and the Henry R. Bowers Deck Jacket – the former in white being my favourite. The tonal oiled cotton details on the wool Deck Jacket are what set it apart for me, especially it’s continuation over the shoulders down the rear of the jacket. This is going to be perfect for winter when I take my Arctic Wolves on their early morning strolls around Blackheath.

Nigel Cabourn Limited Edition 2: Scott’s Last Expedition – Henry R Bowers Deck Jacket in White.

Nigel Cabourn Limited Edition 2: Scott’s Last Expedition – Henry R Bowers Deck Jacket in Army Green.

Nigel Cabourn Limited Edition 2: Scott’s Last Expedition – Frank Debenham Seaman Coat in Army Green.

 

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GOLDEN GARB Nº4: DAVID HOCKNEY

David Hockney – A master of colour, pattern, and quiet English eccentricity.

David Hockney has always been a hero of mine. I first saw his work at Salts Mill in Bradford around the age of 13. Among the overpowering scent of Lillies was an eclectic body of work ranging from the exquisitely observed and masterfully drawn, to the naively and graphically painted, via boundary pushing photo montages. Here was an artist who could seemingly do it all, who attacked every medium with creative vigour and excitement.

The thing that I fell in love with most about Hockney’s work is that once you’ve witnessed his incredible technical ability you know from that point on anything you see is exactly how he wanted you to see it. If a painting is childishly executed it’s because that’s how he wanted to convey it to you. His work is a total window into his imagination because he can realise his imagination physically. He isn’t capped by his ability. Experiencing the work at Salts Mill and my introduction to pop art at that age definitely helped form my own graphic eye and helped set the course for an interest in graphic design.

In later years as my interest in clothing and dressing has grown I’ve been inspired by another example of Hockney’s creative eye; his wardrobe. On his person Hockney wears clothes that are totally in tune with his art. In his prime his combinations of clothing were a saturated version of everyday colours and patterns. A pin stripe, but a super pinstripe. Not a soft blue but a candy pink. Normal, but the exaggerated version of it. In the 60s and 70s this approach was supercharged.

For me, his dress sense was in its prime in the eighties. He’d hit his stride. Long gone were the days of the try hard 70s, where proving your sartorial expertise and taste was to wear everything at once. No need to peacock anymore in the 80s. The glasses were still statemental and iconic, but more refined than the chunky rims that had overlapped his face in the sixties and seventies when he was developing his voice and identity. The classic British sartorial eccentricity is displayed in my favourite picture of him that leads this article – red socks and patterned slippers start the party while up top horizontal and vertical stripes put him at risk of looking like an optical illusion. The pastel blue cardigan could be one colour too many, but Hockney’s relaxed confidence puts it all at ease. An outfit that feels ‘thrown on’ by someone with a great instinct for colour and pattern. Effortless.

On to his later years and the harsh frames have been sacked, but my memory of them puts them on his face regardless. The power of such an iconic look. As an old man with nothing left to prove there’s little need to try too hard anymore. Echoes of his sartorial flair are present in carnation button holes and patterned braces, but there’s no time to worry himself too much about dressing when there’s so much painting to do and new techniques to embrace before his age catches up with him. Painting in fine suits has rarely looked more comfortable.

One of the reasons I like Hockney’s wardrobe and dress sense so much is that its always reflected him and where he is in his life. He dresses to suit his age and experience without ever losing his sartorial flair. It’s an outward reflection of his personality by an artist who’s always worn his imagination on his sleeve.

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KEEPING CASH IN HORSE’S ASS

A custom made wallet by Hellbrand in Horween Color #8 Cordovan

It’s taken a while to get around to posting this, but here is a stunning wallet given to me by my wife for my 30th birthday made in my favourite material (you guessed it!) Horween Cordovan Color #8. She commissioned Hellbrand Leatherworks in California to make it.

Hellbrand Leatherworks began life in 2006 when Ed Ratanun, one of Hellbrand’s founders, disappointed with the quality of modern luxury leather goods, decided to take it upon himself to create leather products with enduring quality made the old fashioned way; by hand, with hard-won skills, and with the highest quality leathers. Learning his skills from master leatherworker Jarvis Hellbrand, Ed started to create leather goods ranging from wallets, watch straps, and sunglasses cases to briefcases and messenger bags.

The pieces are all made with Horween leathers either using their hard wearing and weatherproof Chromexcel leathers or their super tough Cordovan. Emma (my wife) commissioned Ed to make this wallet and could spec everything from thread colour to internal leathers. Ed’s customer service was absolutely outstanding, even sending progress shots as the wallet was being made.

Keeping it simple and purely Cordovan was definitely the way to go and the contrast stitching is a beautiful touch. Thank you Emma for such a perfect gift and thanks to Ed for such fine craftsmanship. I’m looking forward to many years of use from it.

Work in progress photos from Ed.

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SECTION SEWN: ALASTAIR MORTON & EDINBURGH WEAVERS

Alastair Morton & Edinburgh Weavers by Lesley Jackson

Here are three books I’ve been enjoying over the last few weeks and I wanted to share with you. The first is Alastair Morton & Edinburgh Weavers by Lesley Jackson, a book I spotted not long ago in Margaret Howell’s Wigmore St Store (but purchased at a realistic price from Amazon).

The book is a huge retrospective of the Edinburgh Weavers iconic textiles work drawing mainly from the V&A’s extensive archive and it features a vast collection of Alastair Morton’s artworks and textile designs as well as work from the artists he commissioned as Edinburgh Weavers art director including; Lucienne Day, Barbara Hepworth, Elisabeth Frink, and Ben Nicholson to name but a few.

 

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SECTION SEWN: MARGARET HOWELL HOUSES

Margaret Howell Houses

As the wife and I are hopefully going to be purchasing our first flat very soon, I’ve become obsessed with interiors again and my first port of call for inspiration was Margaret Howell Houses. I’ve seen it around for a while, but only recently had the impetus to buy it from eBay due to my changing circumstances and the opportunity to put some of the inspiration in to practise.

Eames, Vitsoe, and Alvar Aalto are recurring themes throughout, but all work perfectly amongst the many different settings Margaret finds herself in. I was surprised how far back some of these photos go, with some of the shots having been taken in the mid nineties. As you’d expect, everything in here is completely timeless (apart from Margaret’s jeans) and a great guide for how to put together an interior that’s homely and understated yet full of personality. When I get in to my new flat I’m gonna parquet like it’s 1999.

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