Hanging in the Balance

After a suits colour, which I take very seriously indeed, I consider balance and proportion to be the most important elements of a fine suit. In fact, I have often argued that, if the fit of a suit is good then one could have their suit fashioned from their favourite (insert favourite childhood hero or movie here..) duvet cover!

But why? Because of balance.

The current trend for cropped jackets, or bum freezers as they are known in the industry has, in fairness, gone on much longer than I had anticipated. But I still say that it makes the very tall look ridiculous as it accentuates the length of the leg still further. Conversely, it does not make the vertically challenged among us appear taller; it just reveals a vertically challenged man endeavouring to make his legs look longer!

Given the majority of the suits which Brown in Town makes are wedding suits – which are in turn immortalised in wedding photos – that the suits look as good on the Big Day and forever more, is as important as the groom not letting the bride down in the wedding photos by choosing the wrong colour suit!

While the wedding dress may (or may not) be hermetically sealed after the big day and consigned to the attic, the wedding suit will be worn again and again. And, though the average cost of a wedding suit is a fraction of the cost of the wedding dress, this may not always be the case. Regardless, the groom, unlike the bride, must be seen to be investing in a timeless classic so as to ensure maximum value is redeemed from such a financial outlay. But whether for wedding or for work, Brown in Town likes to ensure that the suit can be used beyond the maiden voyage, which requires it to look as good on the wearer on the Big Day as it does every time it is worn on the trading floor or at friends weddings.

We achieve this firstly by ensuring that the colour of the cloth is flattering of the wearer i.e. not a colour which washes them out, and secondly by ensuring the overall silhouette of the suit is a flattering one. Not only is the suit cut using the wearers measurements, but also incorporating the figurations of their frame i.e. sloping shoulder v’s square shoulders into the pattern to ensure a good fit. This, together with consideration of balance between the top and the bottom e.g. the jacket and the trousers.

This used to be governed by the length of one’s jacket being cut to the top of the thigh, so as not to reveal one’s bottom! Other sartorial litmus tests abound, such as the hem of the jacket falling into the palm of one’s hand when arms are at rest by one’s side, but your tailor will most likely wax lyrical about these sartorial etiquettes whilst measuring you. And this is not to say that cut is not important, but let’s assume that this would be one of the reasons for utilising the services of a tailor to fashion our suits, shirts, jackets and trousers.

When I am measuring someone for a suit, I will consider what length of jacket is going to be most flattering; just as I  do the length and cut of their trousers. For example, if the wearer desires a slimmer cut in his trousers, the cutter makes a beeline from the seat of the trousers (typically the widest part of the pattern) to the knee, as opposed the ankle. This eradicated some of the drape behind the thigh: but be warned, if you are blessed with rugby or cyclists thighs, ergo weightlifters quads, you will find your trousers sticking to your legs when you stand!

This does not mean that I am against the slimline cut of the modern suit, far from it. My own sartorial inspirations come from the suits which were worn by my heroes both on the silver screen and also TV during the 1960’s; think Michael Caine in the Italian Job or cult tv show U.N.C.L.E. And I would suggest that the style of this era had a profound effect on Savile Row, not only in the cut of the suits, but also in the cutters who were inspired to pursue a career in tailoring – my own sartorial hero, Dougie Hayward, was a South London lad like me who was unable to secure a position on Savile Row owing to his Sarf’ London lilt, and so opened up on Mount St. The rest is history.

Not that Savile Row would admit to being inspired by Italian tailoring, but just look at the changes which came about during the era of the Mod; brightly coloured iridescent two-tone, mohair suits, sharply cut with drainpipe trousers and worn by young men with pixie boots! Love it or loathe it, this style most certainly had a an affect on the traditional Savile Row suit and is probably the greatest influence on modern tailoring, and which still abounds today.

And whilst I may be inspired by our sartorial past I am certainly not hindered by it. Ergo, nor do I believe that tailoring is the place for imitating current trends if those trends do not afford the wearer a garment which is flattering – these experiments are best conducted in a fitting room on the the High St.

By all means be inspired by what the movers and the shakers are wearing, but consider how you will look in the same get-up. No more would you have me cut your trousers too short if they made you look ridiculous (nor too long for that matter), than you would have me cut your jacket too short if afforded you the same.

I think Dunhill said it best in one of their campaigns; “Trousers are made in three lengths: too short, too long, and just right”.

Hear, hear..

Take me to my tailor..!

When I first had the idea of Brown in Town, aside the desire for a well stocked atelier of pocket squares, ties and umbrellas etc. I considered how best to broach that subject which hitherto, tailors are oft’ embarrassed to i.e. the cost of Sirs or Madams finery..

Moreover, and as part of the service which we consider part and parcel of being a patron of Brown in Town, I was keen to offer the most agreeable payment terms. Initially, we sought to meet our Customers half way by requesting a deposit of 50% the total cost of their order that we might go to market and procure the cloth and trim they had requested (bespoke); the balance being settled at the first fitting. We still offer this service to this day.

But in the tradition of Savile Row tailors, I was keen also to offer our patrons the option to have an account whereby one pay a monthly subscription and, when the need arises, they commission a new tailored suit, shirt, jacket, blazer, slacks, chinos, shorts or what have you, which, providing the account is in good order, we would make – the balance of which would be paid at the first fitting, in the same way, if agreeable.

Sadly, the idea fell on deaf ears when I approached the private banks on the Square who were my neighbours, who were more interested in the assets of a business, as opposed the proposition the business offered its Customers.

But just recently we have had a slew of requests from both our regulars and new Customers alike, interested in resurrecting this method of doing business with one’s tailor.

So, for our Customers who may be time deficient but are not prepared to sacrifice on style, Brown in Town now offer the option of having an account whereby a deposit, if applicable followed by monthly installments can be made towards their ongoing sartorial requirements.

In turn, we will of course continue to offer our outfitting service to include making recommendations on all sartorial requirements one might have. Sound good?

Enquire within..

Birthday Blog: Things What I Have Learned

I turn 45 today. And for the first time in many years I feel like celebrating my Birthday!

And what better way to kick-start the day I thought, than to put pen to paper! For I have learned that writing is my catharsis. So I thought I’d share just a few of the things which I have gleaned in my 45yrs on planet earth – though there are probably many things which I have learned at 33,000ft, like how emotional I become when in flight, but these are not tears of sadness, only joy!

Many of the things which I have learned I have read in magazines – I LOVE magazines; from the Surf and BMX magazines which I consumed in the 1970’s to the Skateboard magazines of the 1980’s and my current favourite Monocle Magazine; which keeps me up to speed with my former ex-pat life and it’s take on architecture, global affairs and style.

But the greatest lessons which I have learned have been through trial and error. And of those, perhaps the most pertinent lesson learned is that I should never say never, as I invariably, I will fall foul of my own hardline – Brown in Town takes it’s name from the sartorial turn of phrase “never brown in town”.

This would certainly be the case where my recent penchant for two-piece suits is concerned, as I am historically a three-piece man and vowed I would never wear a two-piece unless it was of the double-breasted variety. Indeed, there was a time when I said that I would never be a suit wearer.. Who Knew?!

From a young age it was quite clear that I wanted to dress in my own way, irrespective of what others were doing; not always the right choice I hasten to add. Which might explain my penchant for sartoria so late in life – I managed to be a suit dodger until I was in my mid-thirties, at which time I was introduced ‘to my tailor’ and the rest is history.

And though I may have joined the suit wearing masses, to my peers and certainly my family, I am still the odd-one-out. Buy it transpired that I enjoy being the odd-one-out. This came to me when I lived overseas where I felt at ease being the only Farang or Guilo in an otherwise South-East Asian community. Even being a white face in an otherwise Jamaican South London community appealed to me. I tell you this; the brothers knew a good suit when they saw one!

I have also learned that while my fellow man may have invented a great many wonderful things, mother nature can still compete; I walked to work this morning on my own two legs quicker than I would have got here by car, and while enjoying the sunshine to boot!

And Man may have made Gore-Tex to wick away heat in the summer sun, but linen suits can absorb 20% of their own weight in moisture; the man from Del Monte he say yay! Moreover, while a blend of manmade fibres can offer a crease-resistant suit, a relatively new cloth from the Smith Woollens mill offers crease a resistant cloth which coils a 4th yarn of wool around the other 3 yarns, causing it to spring back into shape: vivre la mother nature!

And contrary to popular opinion, the current trend for cropped jackets does nothing for the vertically challenged among us; for instead of giving the wearer the illusion of longer legs it actually reveals a short guy trying to make his legs look longer! In fact, it is the longer jacket which elongates the frame and provides a more elegant silhouette. The exception to the above would be the sports jacket, which I typically cut shorter as I have learned that it provides better balance and proportion in an ensemble which generally includes chinos or jeans, which have a shallower rise and, ergo look better with the hem of one’s jacket being inline with the top of the inside leg.

And as the name our tailoring house would suggest, one of our favourite lessons learned is that if you look good in a certain colour, then wear it. The caveat to this being that you must look good in the colour which you want to wear –  men in particular have a habit of making their fashion choices in the same way they choose the colour of their cars i.e. they go for their favourite colour.

But if your favourite colour is purple, we suggest save the purple for the lining of your jacket or your braces, tie or even socks but not the suit itself! Unless of course your name is Prince.. RIP.

So enjoy the sunshine on my Birthday and many happy returns to my fellow Taureans! And remember; legends are born in May, so they say..!

Shirt Collars: Pressing Times

The original idea for the name given to the Brown in Town blog, the Advisory, came to me as these things often do, at 33,000ft. We were flying to New Zealand to see my Sis’ and her wonderful family,  when a light bulb went off; what if I could reach a wider audience than my London customer base by cataloguing the sartorial advice which I dispense day-to-day and share it via a blog or some such.

But over the next couple of years, the Advisory became something much more than just sartorial advice. Within two years, Brown in Town had been born and we had the opportunity not only to offer sartorial advice but also dress those who sought sartorial council.

And here at Brown in Town HQ, there are many topics which are discussed but the one which has risen above all others of late is the age old dilemma of how to prevent one’s shirt collars from curling, either inwards or outwards. We have all seen them; collars which curl up and collars which curl down which I had always believed was caused by the collars wingtip being sucked into the cavity beyond the collar bone, or being spat out by it.

And whilst I was of the opinion that it is our own collar bones which dictate whether or not it is necessary that we wear collar bones, it has come to my attention that the pressing of one’s shirt may also play a part..

Now, most dress shirts are supplied by the shirt maker with collar bones. And, whether rigid or pliable their purpose is to prevent this happening. But whether or not you sport plastic, bone, titanium or sterling silver collar bones, they appear to do just so much in the fight against a curling collar – if anything, I think this encourages the collars tip to become dog eared beyond the point which they are supported by the collar bone.

Much as I love the beauty of a beautiful pair of horn or, dare I say it, ivory collar bones; I don’t actually own a pair. The disposable one’s which we supply with our Brown in Town shirts I do exactly that with; dispose of them. For, having laundered and pressed my own shirts since I began wearing tailored shirts, I learned that I don’t actually need them. My collars sit flat against me, neither curling inwards or outwards.

I have always lived in areas where the water is not particularly soft – in fact it is downright hard here in Bristol and also in London before that – and I have long since taken the precautionary measure of not only pressing my shirt collars first, but pressing them on the reverse. Because this prevents the entire shirt being ruined if one is unfortunate enough to experience the expunging of scale and water from the steam iron, when we depress the steam button!

For it would appear that, by pressing one’s shirt collar first on the back, then the front it stabilises the canvas within the collar. Thus preventing it curling one way or t’other. However, if we find that this does not cause the collar to sit flat against our own collar bones when worn, then I suggest holding the collar at the button or button hole, depending which side you are pressing, with the iron in your other hand press the tip of the collar whilst lifting the the area already pressed upwards, then vice versa – this is similar to the method of making paper chains, whereby we curl strips of paper with the edge of a pair of scissors. See video here.. 

The effect this should have is to cause the tip of the collars to curl up slightly, so that when the shirt is worn, the collar will sit flat against the body and not curl any further, in either direction.

Try it, you might be surprised how effective it is!

New Year, New Custom Collection

It used to be, way back when, that I could set my watch by the annual wedding season – enquiries come early in January following the Christmas break when groom is likely interrogated by both sides of his family about progress with finding himself a wedding suit! Measuring would then start in February/March for the May/June weddings and whilst conducting these fittings we conduct the next wave of consultations for the August/September weddings. But add to that the odd shotgun wedding and now January weddings, instead of the end of the year being a time to reflect, take stock and get excited about the year ahead, it was Christmas Eve before I finally got the first of the new Custom Collection pieces onto the cutting table!

So, what is in store this year..

Well, owing to the success of our Summer Suit, we will finally be launching the tobacco Summer Suit to accompany last years blue incarnation – those who follow us via Social Media will have had a preview last year – but you’ll see it in all it’s glory on our website this Summer. Whereas the first incarnation was cut from Holland & Sherry’s fantastic 11oz Classic Cottons range and in the most vivid of blues, the second coming will be cut in Brisbane Moss’ 9oz Cotton Drill – which drapes and handles a little more like a classic chino cotton, as opposed Holland & Sherry’s which drapes more like wool i.e. it does not crease like a classic chino cotton does. Both have their merits so choose wisely.

And, owing to the incredibly positive feedback from my associates – namely the girls at the salon – whenever I wear separates, we thought we’d push the boat out and endeavour to wear separates during the course of the working week; quelle horreur, I hear you cry! But we have become increasingly inspired by the preppy look of our peers at some of my favourite tailors, outfitters and haberdashers, so we are going to experiment with a more preppy look this year that is natty and perhaps a little rakish.

So, to complement our Custom Collection chinos, we are introducing a pair of mid-grey worsteds to complement our blazers and jackets. This ensemble will mean that it can be worn in a more formal setting, where chinos may be too casual. I have to say that these slacks are among the most comfortable which I have worn. They are cut from an 11oz worsted twill from Harrisons of Edinburgh. And this particular shade of grey has been a sartorial stalwart since the 1930’s when flannel ruled supreme, all the way through to the 1980’s when the informal wardrobe consisted of grey flannel trousers and blue blazers. But there will be no brass buttons here, just fine tailoring inspired by our sartorial past, not hindered by it.

The most successful piece for me personally was our flannel blazer. Cut from a b.e.a.u.tiful 14oz Wellington Check flannel jacketing from Fox Brothers, it not only contained many of ‘my colours’, as it were (increasingly grey and fawn as I get older and fairer/greyer) it has provided warmth and utility during the Autumn and Winter months. If you have never tried it, there is something incredibly luxurious in the handle and and the wearing of flannel that has to be experienced to be appreciated. So we will continue in this fashion with another flannel blazer, this time cut from Holland & Sherry’s Dandy range, in order to continue our appreciation for authentic cloths and pieces which provide the wearer investment in our iconic heritage mills and brands, not to mention garments which are incredibly versatile, functional and hardwearing.

2017 will also see the introduction of a tweed jacket; our first would you believe?! We have chosen the Abraham Moon mill for this cloth, with whom Brown in Town has not worked before but their cloths are synonymous with heritage brands such as Toast and Jack Wills. They have some wonderful tweeds, as well as lambswool jacketings in their collection and we are very excited, not to mention a little proud to be working with them and following in the footsteps of our creative director Saffron Darby, who worked closely with them for many years in her capacity as Senior Designer at Toast.

We will likely add a summer jacket to the collection, when the time is right. Presently I am thinking a seersucker, but more of that when the ice has thawed..!

Finally, but perhaps the most exciting of all, Brown in Town will be launching it’s first item of outerwear. Still in the R and D stages at present, it will take it’s inspiration from my own Belstaff heritage motorcycle jacket which has stood me in good stead during our Winter walks, as it fits perfectly over my blazers and jackets and is a go to when my Covert Coat is too long for the occasion. The Belstaff is not what I would consider to be sartorial, so I sought inspiration from the Norfolk Jacket, which was invariably the precursor to today’s Field Coat – a boxy jacket, traditionally used for stalking and shooting. The Norfolk was cut from heavier and harder wearing cloths, invariably tweed and featured a sewn on belt which buttoned at the front, which gave it a more fitted and tailored aesthetic.

We have chosen to use Abraham Moon’s 18oz overcoating in a green khaki. Famed for it’s use as a ‘Greatcoat’ cloth and used since the 15th Century by the military for keeping troops warm and dry, owing dense felted wool construction. Our version of these two classics will take the most sartorial  elements of their utilitarian designs to provide a go-to item of outerwear.

We have had lots of fun designing the latest offering from our Custom Collection and we look forward to sharing it with you in due course. We hope that the start to your New Year has been as exciting as ours and we hope to see you at our Bristol studio or London outpost soon..