The Summer Suit

In a classic case of getting a taste of one’s own medicine, the Brown in Town Summer Suit has been incorporated into our Custom Collection because it proved so popular with our patrons and has continued to do so since it’s maiden voyage.

You see, the original concept of the Custom Collection was to create a capsule wardrobe for our professional patrons who are required less and less to wear a suit to do battle. Moreover, they are required to accommodate the dreaded ‘smart-casual’ – which leaves us all, myself included, floundering at the threshold of our wardrobes; but help is at hand.

Following a trip to Florence for the bi-annual rag trade faire, Pitti Uomo, earlier this year – before wedding season was in full flow and I was able to spend a day or two with one’s friends and peers – I was enamoured with the style and panache of the old Italian rear guard. Their laissez faire attitude and natty two-piece suit ensembles, accessorised with braces, scarves and full heads of salt and pepper hair, really made an impression on this sartorial traditionalist.

Given my recent love affair with the two-piece suit – see A Change is as Good as a Rest – and with the onset of summer, I thought it a good opportunity to trial a two-piece suit made from cotton twill to create a suit which was less formal than suits made of pure wool and more relaxed looking owing to the drape and natural crease of cotton – not quite as crumpled as linen, but exuding summer in it’s patina and appearance.

Having worn it but a handful of times and each time a patron showing such interest in the suit itself, as opposed the concept of wearing just something that was tailored, it was clear that we had found a go to suit for the suit dodging fraternity, moreover, an ally of the Custom Collection.

But which colour cloth to choose, there are so many! Moreover, there are colours which you will find in cotton that you will not find in pure wool suits. Linen suiting and jacketing cloth comes close, with it’s variety of brighter and also muted shades like khaki, brown, olive green through the colour spectrum to pink and red, as well as black and a plethora of blue hues.

The particular shade of blue I chose, I found at Holland & Sherry and was inspired by one of my favourite sweaters. The contrasting tobacco buttons and stitching were inspired by my favourite summer shoes – a pair of mahogany William monk straps from my shoesmaker of choice Joseph Cheaney & Sons. I also added braces buttons so that I could sport my new bright yellow box cloth braces from Benson & Clegg – which are also selling like hot cakes at the Brown in Town atelier!

So impressed have I been by this rank outsider in one’s armoury, I am having a tobacco one cut as I type. Both colours are available from the Custom Collection and also two different weights. So if you are looking for an easy suit to wear, that can be dressed-up, or down and which is as non-suit as a suit can be, look no further than our cotton twill Summer Suit.


Deep Pockets, Not Deep Pockets

Given the managary of accoutrements we carry these days, one can never have too many pockets; from phones, to wallets, keys to spectacles, sunglasses to lipbalms, they all need a pocket to carry them in. Which is why we have incorporated as many pockets as possible into our suits, moreover, we encourage our customers to use them!

Cigar Pocket

The man who taught me a great many things about design, was also the man who introduced me to the fine art of cigar smoking, a great many years ago. Sir Terence Conran, who once referred to me as a cigar aficionado, always carried with him his favourite cigar; the Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2. I designed our jackets and coats with this in mind, incorporating a cigar-pocket that would hold a robusto sized cigar, whether tubed or not.

Coin Pocket or Cigar Cutter and Lighter Pockets

And what use is a cigar, without a means to prepare it. So in the right hip pocket of our coats and jackets is an internal pocket for such paraphernalia; one for your cigar lighter or matches, the other for one’s cutter, whether scissors or guillotine. This leaves the rest of the pocket clear to carry such things as one’s sunglasses if indeed you have used the external breast pocket for your spectacles!

Internal Breast Pockets with Security Tabs

If the suit is modern man’s coat of armour, then surely the jacket is the male handbag: which is why Brown in Town incorporates as many pockets as is humanly possible into all of our jackets and coats. Our breast pockets come replete with security tabs which button the pocket closed – our ladies jackets have buttoned internal ticket pockets too! The benefit of this design is that the breast pockets will carry both your wallet and or your phone, without spoiling the lines or silhouette of your jacket – the weight is supported by the shoulder when the tab is fastened, thus preventing pulling or tearing at the cloth of the pocket aperture. This also prevents the jacket from swinging open when the pockets are loaded. Moreover, there is no need to overload one’s trouser pockets, which is unsightly, not to mention uncomfortable and puts unnecessary amount of strain on the seams.

Trousers Pockets

And while we may receive two complaints a year with regards the depth of our trousers pockets; that they are too deep, we receive a whole lot more from patrons as pleased as punch that our pockets are deep enough for their needs. This does not mean that you require incredibly deep pockets to avail yourself of a pair of our trousers, nor one of our suits for that matter..


Nothing Is Cool

Listening to our favourite radio DJ Gilles Peterson t’other day, he played a hip hop record by whom I cannot tell you, but the words went along the lines of “you don’t listen to this song because it’s popular and gets radio play”; broadly, the ethos of the antihero i.e. if it’s liked by the many, it cannot be cool.

This ethos was certainly shared the skateboarding fraternity of my youth, as it is many subcultures and undoubtedly still is today. My musical hero Kurt Cobain certainly shared this point of view and became the anti-hero of a generation, with his choice of dress and style of music.

And it was this revelation that helped answer a question I am oft’ asked, “who is Brown in Town’s demographic”, to which I did not have an answer for many years; interestingly, I am never asked this question by our patrons, perhaps they recognise a kindred spirit?

I knew who they were, of course, they were property developers, barristers, graphic designers, skateboarders, drum and bass producers et al, but I could not put a finger on who they were as a demographic. Until now; they are, like me, all suit dodgers: who knew?

You see, before I met my maker, as it were, I was a suit dodging retailer who enjoyed working in London with mid-century modern furniture and dressing in pretty much anything but suits. I think my smartest ensemble was inspired by Michael Caine’s character Agent Palmer in Len Deighton’s Ipcress File i.e. black slacks, a roll-neck, desert boots and a beige macintosh raincoat, but never a suit.

My jumping off point was being informed in no uncertain terms by my American employers at the time, that I would be wearing suits for the duration of my tenure in South East Asia: which was ludicrous as it was the hottest place I’d ever visited, let alone lived! Enter stage left my tailor, Mr Whangsee, who did a roaring trade in suits for the American Embassy chaps. These suits were typically a two piece affair, consisting of three buttoned jacket and trousers with belt loops, double pleats and turn-ups; not my style by a long chalk, even to this suit dodger.

No, if I was to wear suits, I was going to wear suits which mimicked my sartorial heroes; Michael Caine in Get Carter or Steve McQueen in the Thomas Crown Affair, for example. And this ethos, with its petulant “I won’t do what you tell me”  was nothing short of the anti-cool attitude of our youth.

And I believe the same can be said of a great many of our patrons. There is a jumping off point whereby they are able to do something which they would not normally do, but if they are going to do it, they want to do it on their terms and in their way, from suit to nuts, if you’ll pardon the pun.

More often than not their jumping off point is a wedding and if our patrons (whether guys for girls) are going to have to wear a suit (whereas typically they do not wear suits) on their special day, then they are going to wear a suit of their choosing, moreover, design and more often one that has been a guilty pleasure or aspiration.

For many, this suit is a three piece tweed suit, myself included. I love my tweed suits but would not have been seen dead in one back in the day. In a way, it is our rebellion against our rebellion, whether ravers, bankers, barbers, creatives or DJ’s; we are rebelling against not only our (former) selves, but against our subculture and everything which it told us we could not do. We are unleashing our alter-ego, whether we know it or not.

It is an irony that we are now wanting to wear suits, which once represented  the mediocre, the populous, the enemy – the antithesis of the antihero, no?

When I was a lad, a skateboard company called Blockhead, which I’m thrilled to learn still exists, ran an ad campaign in the form a sticker to put on your board, which I think best summed this notion which read..

“Hey, What’s Cool? Oh, Nothing”.

I dedicate this blog to Simon Edwards. One of the best skateboarders of my generation; gone, but never forgotten.


Sink or Swims: Galoshes

I first chanced upon these fabulous galoshes while shooting for the Brown in Town website. Official Brown in Town photographer, Remco Merbis, was sharing with me the body of work of his brand agency Pixillion and my eye was immediately drawn to a bright orange pair – one of my favourite colours!

I remember galoshes from my childhood, but who needs galoshes for Adidas TRX, Bjorn Borg Diadorra or Puma States? But at this stage in my life, having developed a penchant for Joseph Cheaney shoes, my flourishing collection of handmade shoes needed protection from the elements!

Try as I might to acquire a pair, every line of enquiry drew a blank; until we visited the Pitti Uomo fair in January where, to my delight, there was an entire stand filled with Swims goodies!

Not only are Swims galoshes beautifully designed, easy to apply to one’s shoes and incredibly functional – they are waterproof and grippy and they also seem to polish your shoes as you walk in them! Available in a wealth of colours, these essential accoutrements are even more appealing for those of us who wear suits in colours other than blue or grey, but theses are catered for also.

Albeit I own a pair of Joseph Cheaney ‘Tweed’ boots with the rubber Commando Sole, there are only so many ensembles that I will wear these with and my green W. Bill with orange windowpane check, is not one of them. So for just such an ensemble, the camouflage colourway is absolutely perfect!

So, irrespective of your choice of suit colour, there is a pair of galoshes for you, whether black, brown, grey, blue, orange, red or, indeed, camouflage – or lamoulage, as my godson used to say!

This is not to say that you have to be a wearer of suits to warrant owning a pair of our fine galoshes, no, no, no. You could be, as I once was, a suit dodger who just has a penchant for fine handmade shoes, who wants to protect them from the elements; the dirt, the mud or for the property developers among us, building sites.


If You Are Going To Wear A Suit, Wear it With Gusto..!

“A man should look as if he has
bought his clothes with intelligence,
put them on with care
and then forgotten all about them.”

Hardy Amies.

I was asked recently by one of our grooms if I wore suits every day; to which I replied that I thought it important to dress for one’s audience, particularly if that audience are, as I once was, suit dodgers commissioning their first suit at Brown in Town.

While I would love to encourage the myth that Bristol’s local tailor does indeed wear suits everyday, the truth is that a suit is not practical attire for a father of two children under the age of five, who spends his weekends being covered in porridge, mud, snot and, since our son learned to walk and climb, blood.

But, whether it be a three piece tweed suit, a two piece double breasted suit made from an English heritage worsted, or separates of cotton chinos and flannel jacket, what is of the utmost importance is that every suit and ensemble which we make is as comfortable to wear as the clothes which Brown in Town’s patrons arrive in to get measured. If not more so..!

Indeed, there are only so many suits that a man requires in his wardrobe and I prefer to keep those for Monday Best, Tuesday Best, Thursday Best and Friday Best – Wednesday is Daddy Day Care day, in which I do battle wearing chinos and tailored shirts and blazers, the same as I do of a weekend.

However, my own transition from street wear (I once owned Tarantula Distribution which imported skateboard clothing from California), to bespoke suits, to casual bespoke did not happen overnight; it was a journey. In fact, Brown in Town’s Custom Collection of casual bespoke attire, was a reflection of that journey, but was also in response to a need cited by some of our regulars who struggled to buy casual wear off the peg, either because of the offering or choice, or because it simply did not fit. On the occasions when a suit is not required, must we feel that the tone is being lowered by our lack of direction or suitable attire.

Moreover, the warmer weather, which is fast approaching, will no doubt catch the nation unawares and dumbfound us, sartorially speaking. It is one of my personal baines that us Brits, who were once pillars of elegance, struggle to keep it together when it comes to dress during the summer months. I personally take inspiration from our counterparts in sunnier climes and have myself a two piece cotton suit currently on the cutting table to provide a more relaxed ensemble that, I hope, will see me through.

In addition, I have my old faithful, the linen suit. Like no other cloth, linen will almost certainly polarise opinion; you either love the fact that it crumples, or you do not. Surely this is what one must not only appreciate, but adore about this fabulous cloth. Clearly not intended to be worn in a formal setting, it’s palette of pastel shades, creams and electric blues to bottle greens, afford us an opportunity to wear colours which can be incredibly flattering and seldom available in worsted wool suitings and jacketings. There is something about wearing a suit which is supposed to look dishevelled!

For, rather unfairly, the suit has been tarnished with a reputation of being too fussy; on the one hand – think of the suits which were worn during era of Beau Brummel, replete with frilly shirts, knee high boots and melton coats with 100’s of buttons, which even sounds uncomfortable – to ill-fitting off-the-peg suits made of polyester and, ergo, equally uncomfortable on the other. But, as anyone that has had a suit made for them will attest, they are a far cry from the suits which we can buy off-the-peg.

And while I may not dress in suits everyday, I believe it is no less important to take pride in one’s appearance, without sacrificing comfort or one’s personal taste. It has always been necessary for me to feel as comfortable in any suit, whether linen, cotton, cashmere, wool or mohair, the quality of one’s clothes and the cut of one’s jib, should be all that is required to take us from A-Z, in style.

The aforementioned quote from Hardy Amies A-Z of Men’s Fashion, suggests that the clothes which we wear should provide us with enough comfort, style and, ergo, self confidence, that we need not check their appearance in the mirror every five minutes – except, perhaps, to admire one’s new found sartorial freedom..