Polo Anyone…?!

I wouldn’t say that I was your typical polo shirt wearer, but when the weather calls for it or we are on the continent, nothing speaks of summer to me like a Lacoste polo shirt, particularly a white one. Whilst it is a shame that mine remains in the wardrobe for most of the year, it does give me something to look forward to through the winter months. I remain a fan of the crocodile since I first discovered Lacoste at the tender age of 9yrs old, when I was at my most fashion conscious. Historically, however, like most cottons they shrink after the first wash so they are never long enough second outing or thereafter, resembling a crop top on some wearers. So they have never formed part of my wardrobe lexicon.

That was until I saw a picture of JFK wearing a long sleeve, grey cotton pique polo and khaki’s relaxing on the deck of a yacht; only the latter had appealed to me until that time, now all of a sudden, both did! Thus followed and intense search for the aforementioned polo, which lead me to Brooks Brothers, the American preppy outfitters. To the best of my knowledge, it was Brooks who had made those sported by JFK. While I was not taken with the buttoning single cuff design, I did rather like it’s pointed placket. And to my surprise, Brooks they still make that very design, but they are now only available in bold stripes and resemble an old school rugby shirt. Not the look I was hoping to achieve. 

Foregoing my desire for the original Brook Brothers design of pointed placket, which no one else I could find offered, I continued my search for grey long sleeve polos, which lead me to J. Crew, who are my American outfitter of choice. To my delight they were able to provide me with a very similar grey cotton pique, long sleeve polo – albeit with a square placket but it does nothing to detract from the shirts appeal. I have patronised J. Crew since discovering their first foray into bricks and mortar in the UK, on Lambs Conduit St. in London. I now make good use of their basics such as chinos, belts, shorts, swimmers and the like.

So far, so good. But upon receipt, it was clear that I was no match for an American medium, so swapped them for a small. With regards proportion i.e. sleeve and back length, they are not far off, but they are too loose in the torso. Still, good for weekends spent playing with the saucepan lids. But nothing more.

However, following a chance encounter with with an old friend from the rag trade, I was informed of the Swiss shirtmaker whom they now work for, who have been making exquisite shirts for five generations. Keen to show me their wears, we met at our London outpost, The Hoxton Hotel to thumb some shirtings and see what was on offer. Amongst their rather fine offering of exquisite 2ply Swiss and Italian shirtings including Panama, Poplin, Fil-a-Fil, dobby and flannel to name but a few, there was an entire bunch dedicated to pique cottons for polo shirts – I couldn’t believe my luck!

Itching to give one a try, I commissioned a long sleeve polo in navy, believing it to be a more versatile colour to use for work, but using my own shirt measurements which I hoped would provide me the length and fit I desire. Less than 5 wks later, the shirt was finished. And I could not be more happy with the results; really good fit, great handle and wonderful shade of navy blue with subtly contrasting dark blue buttons. And as for the obligatory laundering test; she passed with flying colours!

When I had originally researched the long sleeve polo that JKF had worn, I was not a fan of the single button cuff. But this, among other design details such as more formal shirt collars including button down collars, are something which we can also offer; some of which we are now in the process of prototyping, courtesy of our Swiss counterparts. 

In the meantime, the original Brown in Town long sleeve polo featuring the classic design of knitted cuffs and collar has received some glowing compliments and are now available, together with your choice of customisations, to order by appointment. 

I hope that you will enjoy yours as much as I have mine; polo anyone..?! 

Yes Chef..!


I am oft’ asked who is Brown in Town’s demographic. Aside a great many grooms for whom we make a great many wedding suits, not to mention a fair number number of City Gents and a handful of high-fliers, coming up through the ranks are those most lauded of creatures whose profile has enjoyed a meteoric rise these last few decades; the Chef!

My own appreciation of good food, not to mention fine wines, is quite possibly associated with my appreciation of the finer things in life; good design, fine cigars and of course nice clothes. And one of the things which I became very good at during my tenure overseas was dining out. Southeast Asia, South America, China and Hong Kong all had wonderful restaurants with great service and fantastic food and drink. In fact, I dined out EVERYDAY for three years. I cooked dinner at home only ONCE – cooking for one is just not very inspiring.

And perhaps inspiration is the reason behind my appreciation of restaurant culture. For I am not only interested in the food and the drink, although they play a huge part: the entire dining experience is tantamount to exquisite cooking and superlative wines. Ambience, architecture, design, presentation, pairing of not only food with wine but crockery with cutlery and even napkins – each one must be executed with consideration and consideration of the others. They all bring something to the table. Pun intended.

Upon my return to Blighty I took a break from retail and joined one of my best friends at the restaurant where he was head chef, The Gun in London’s Docklands. I was his maître d. We worked hard and we played hard. Perhaps too hard. But what I came to appreciate about the hospitality game was that it is very much like retail: they are both service industries but where a fabulous product plays a part in the overall experience. And while for some of its protagonists it is supporting another passion, there are those for whom it is a means to an end. For me, it is the latter.

While the high street groans and large retailers fill their shops with products which none of their staff understand, nor have any interest in concerning themselves with, independent retailers are enjoying brisk trade delivering a product they believe in and take great pride in sharing and enthusing over with likeminded people.

So it may well have something to do with my affinity with the hospitality industry, or it may have something to do with my dining habits, but I am delighted to have have become tailor to some of the owners, head chefs, maître d’s not to mention sommeliers of some my favourite haunts in London and Bristol such as Wallfish Bistro, Bel Air House, The Rummer HotelHotel du Vin, The Glass Boat, The Quality Chop House, The Hoxton HotelThe Ethicurean, Hyde & Co., Café Murano, Rick Stein, SalonCasamia, Bar Buvette, Merchants Tavern and of course Terence Conran to name but a few. In fact, it is Sir Terence who has introduced me to many of the things which I love, not to mention played a part in the launch of my retail career.

And so it should come as no great surprise that many of these friends and cohorts have become patrons of Brown in Town over the years, as I have become a patron of theirs. In particular, when I am staying in London, where I enjoy dining out at the many wonderful restaurants in the vicinity of The Hoxton Hotel.

In fact, it is to a chef that we owe a debt of gratitude for our wonderful outpost in London’s Shoreditch. Shaun Searley, who is head chef of The Quality Chop House in Farringdon, was only available to be measured for his wedding suit before service on a Friday and in the vicinity of his restaurant. But, as you can imagine, living in Bristol with two saucepan lids does not such an appointment make!

So, in the interests of providing a good service, we took a room at The Hoxton Hotel in Shoreditch and responded with a resounding “yes Chef!” – Shaun’s betrothed might also once also have been my boss at The Gun, but this had nothing to do with our decision!

Bon appetit..

Setting One’s Intention For The Year Ahead..

Before the month is up, might I start by wishing you all a very Happy New Year full of health, wealth and happiness! Traditionally I’d have put pen to paper before now, but I spent the first week of The New Year measuring grooms: it would appear that grooms have finally taken heed of what I have been telling them all these years; The Time is Now!

Christmas you see, is the time when grooms are likely to be quizzed regarding their wedding suit or attire for the impending Big Day. In some cases, it is not only the attire of the groom but also his groomsmen, for no bride wants those Herbert’s to let the side down on the big day.

But, as fate would have it, following a rather successful and busy Chosen Wedding Fair in October (held at Bristol’s Paintworks) we filled our books up to and including the last week of December, which also cleared us out of our most hallowed of appointments, the evening slot! Apologies to all of those whom we could not squeeze-in until the New Year as a result of this windfall.

So, what does 2018 have in store. Well, for me personally, in order to keep mind, body and soul in check, I have taken up yoga.. again! It is something I discovered whilst living in South Beach, Miami and regularly practiced when living in Hong Kong. With the Brown in Town being as busy as it is and with home being as busy as two children under the ago of six are, it has been difficult to maintain. But the Hatha class on a Monday night appears to have done the trick.

The search for new premises continues and both my barber (Neil) and I are excited about the prospect of a joint venture offering both hairdressing and tailoring, where our customers can enjoy having not only their ears lowered, but also their hems – although these days I prefer to shorten those!

In the meantime, the new Brown in Town e-commerce website is under construction and when it launches will offer those who are unable to visit the shop, or our outpost London, the opportunity to procure something online without having to make an appointment.
Speaking of which, London shows no signs of slowing and sometimes has us setting off a day early to attend to the sartorial requirements of our close friends at Meekins & Co. However, whilst we may be making a few more home and office visits than we have done in the past, suitors please note that the following prerequisites must be observed; a parking space for the Brown in Tan Van and if an evening appointment is required, a humidor stocked with cigars and a bed for the night – pool not a necessity but nothing like starting the day with a dip, eh?!

Now, as we are still making very good use of last years Custom Collection jackets and slacks, I was not intending to design any additional items for this year, but the desire to explore colour not to mention temptation, has gotten the better of me.

I have been inspired by cloths from some of our most celebrated mills of late. For example, Fox Brothers have launched two new bunches (ranges); one named Heritage which celebrates a smattering of patterns resurrected from their 1938 – 1940 archive and the other is some uncharacteristically lightweight jacketings under the aptly named Somerset Jacketings (the Fox mill is our most local mill based in Wellington in Somerset).

Dugdale Bros. in Huddersfield are offering one of my favourite cloths of the moment in the form of cavalry twills in the most wonderful autumnal colours to include a caramel, chocolate brown and also dark green – my accent colour for 2018 by the way. In addition, they have some gaberdines available in some very bright hues and primaries notwithstanding some real Irish linens and some rather flamboyant silk & linen jacketings and gaberdines for the Summer months – here’s hoping this year’s will be more reliable than last year – the Brompton didn’t even get a look in last year; either too hot or too wet!

Our relationship with Abraham Moon goes from strength to strength given the desire of our grooms to wear a full three piece suit on their wedding day, which is invariably at the height of summer on a farm and with no shade!

To facilitate this, Moons offer tweeds which weigh in at a mere 10/11oz, which, given most shooting tweeds start at 14oz, is quite the proposition. That said, I have and will always maintain that the best colour for a groom to wear to a wedding is the colour which is most flattering, whether that be a 10oz tweed’esque, or a 22oz brown donegal!

And last but by no means least, after three years of customisation the Brown in Tan Van looks set to be given it’s official launch inclusive of livery very soon.. Watch this space.

As always, if you or your loved ones have any sartorial requirements, do feel free to enquire within.

All the best,

 

David.. Ommmmmmm

Dress Up Friday..!

As another corporate behemoth banishes the suit from it’s workplace, we consider whether dressing down is in fact another arcane attempt to be down with the kids.. YAWN! Or whether the tail is in fact wagging the dog.

For whilst HR teams across the country are no doubt pandering to the needs of an increasingly creative marketing team, who hold much sway these days as they are driving the business towards new business – good job someone is – if what we are trying to do is increase productivity, then surely enforcement of any kind hinders creativity?

Had ‘Dress Down Friday’ and the ensuing casually attired days of the week been rolled out following the death of the suit in the late 70’s, when Liverpool played away in Germany and came back with an entirely new and rather sporty wardrobe full of Tachinni tracksuits, I would have understood it. But to roll it out 10yrs into this current sartorial renaissance seems like madness?!

Any why? Because men in particular are no closer to being able to dress themselves, whether in a suit – and some struggle at that, let’s be honest – or otherwise then or now, and this is supposed to improve our wellbeing, and ergo our productivity and/or appearance in-front of our clients?

Let’s consider the choices; ill-fitting chinos and jeans – with or without holes never a good look at work. Add a casual shirt that has not been worn since shirts were last in fashion either in the workplace or on the highstreet; stripes of varying widths and colours and frayed and yellowing collars, most of which are cutaway collars which do not look quite as good when worn without a tie: no ties, the new order! Smarten-up this travesty (haha) by donning a jacket, which, given the current ‘trend’ (see that marketing team; ‘on-trend’?!) will be either too short (known in the trade as a bum-freezer) or too wide in the shoulders; fits-where-it-touches as they say. Not a good look. But perhaps allowing us to wear what we want, as opposed what they want, is what is required in this day and age? Within reason, naturally.

For gone are the days of reaching into the wardrobe for a clean shirt and then suit and shoes to match. But, for those who have been left floundering at the threshold of their wardrobes wondering what to pull out first; dishevelled shirt, ill-fitting chinos, bum-freezer jacket, odd socks etc. fear not! For here at Brown in Town, your battle cry was heard long ago and we have been crafting a capsule collection of sartorial ideas, which we call the Custom Collection, that are designed to fit you as well as your tailored suit and shirt did – and this shirt can be worn with or without a tie, and it stays tucked in, all day. Notwithstanding chinos and worsteds that not only fit you at your waist, as opposed your hips, but that stay up! Good, eh?!

Moreover, we are happy to provide shoes from Joseph Cheaney & Sons, which will match and not clash with your trousers. And provide hosiery advice to boot – knee length, naturally. No more odd socks!

To top it all, we have designed three sport coats, jackets, blazers – call them what you will – which will take you from Spring to Fall. And while we believe that a casual coat or jacket should be cut shorter than a suit’s is, we also believe they should be cut proportionately to one’s height and also trousers.

So, if we are all agreed that the image we want to portray is a professional one, then let us also agree that enforcing one particular dress code at the expense of another is as forward thinking as enforcing a dress code at all, that many may not be comfortable in. Any more than we are in our own skins.

But if that is too loose a framework and too arduous an undertaking to manage on a daily basis, then how about ‘Dress Up Friday’ when we can dare to be bold, pull up our (knee length) socks and put on the style, eh John?! Surely then, we give the workforce as a whole, as it exists today, the opportunity to shine and feel comfortable in their own clothes, if not their skin, and if only for one day a week. Radical, I know. But think about it..

A Change Is As Good As A Rest

As the nights begin to draw in and the temperature begins to drop, my hopes of an Indian Summer fade. That said, Tuesday of this week was incredibly warm, so much so that I set-off on the school run wearing only shirt sleeves – perhaps an informed decision based on the knowledge that by the time I had raced across the park I would be a sweaty mess. Or, perhaps I had realised an opportunity to collect one’s seersucker from the local dry cleaners – given the inclement weather of late, I thought it a safe bet to surrender one’s summer attire for cleaning before it is retired until the Spring. Although seemingly only to refresh it in time for Autumn?!

 This years version of Summer has had it’s highlights, reaching some absolutely balmy temperatures at times which were perfect for road testing this summer addition to our Custom Collection. But alas, what it has not afforded us is the countless opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors come the weekends, as we did last year. In stark contrast to last years many road trips, and in spite our eagerness to give the newly painted Brown in Town camper a spin, we only managed three trips and it rained each and every time! Talk about unpredictable.

But given the balmy weather we enjoyed earlier in the week, perhaps our autumn will be unpredictable too. And if that is the case, then I am relieved that for once, I will be prepared!

I am typically late in organising my seasonal wardrobe – not to mention late to most engagements it has to be said – but I took the opportunity just before Christmas last to design the new Custom Collection in it’s entirety, so as to be ahead of the game. Which means that I am now the proud owner of a rather elegant tweed jacket, perfect for the season – at least you’d have thought.

Now, I say elegant for several reasons. For one, this jacket is unlined. This means you see the wonderful autumnally coloured cloth throughout, because there is no lining inside. And because the seams inside are not covered, they must be taped – to prevent them fraying – in a colour of your choice. This is a painstaking task, which is why, ironically, the cost of an unlined jacket is greater than that of a lined jacket. Now you know.

I must confess that it’s being an unlined jacket was not intentional but what a beautiful mistake to have made, as David Bowie used to say, because now I have a jacket which can beat off a chill, but is not too warm, as traditional tweed jackets can be. Typically offered in weights upwards of 14oz so as to provide warmth and protection from the elements when participating in outdoor pursuits, this coarse but very wearable shetland tweed from Abraham Moon weighs in at just 11oz, so is perfect for this changing of the seasons when 14oz is perhaps too heavy and overcoats overkill.

Given Brown in Town’s association with tweed, it might come as a bit of a surprise that this would be our first tweed jacket under the label. And contrary to tweed’s association with country life, the inspiration for ours was much more urban. I wanted to make a jacket that could be worn with both our Custom Collection chinos and grey worsteds.

And not only is this our first foray into creating a tweed jacket, it is also our first showcase of a completely hand-finished garment. Those that appreciate the figure hugging nature of our full canvas, will enjoy the incredibly soft handle of this jacket’s hand-quilted canvas, not to mention the artisanal nature of a hand-finished garment; the generous roped shoulders may not suit all tastes. You have been warned.

But I wouldn’t say that I am looking forward to a long winter, but like many Englishman, I find Autumn attire much easier than Summer attire to master. So as one season gives way to the next, let us take solace in change being as good as a rest.

Here’s to the unpredictability of Engish weather..