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..

The Bristol Vintage Wedding Fair – Sunday 13th March

The Bristol Vintage Wedding Fair has become one of the highlights of our calendar year and it is with great pleasure that we will be returning to exhibit this coming weekend.

The venue, the Clifton Pavilion, is a perfect setting. With it’s art deco architecture and view out over Bristol Zoo Gardens, it is a wonderful place to spend a morning or afternoon perusing the original and unique wares of the stallholders and perhaps, afterwards, to take a stroll around the historical zoo, you might even get a glimpse of the new baby gorilla!

But it is, for the most part, your love and appreciation of all things vintage which makes it such a joy for us exhibitors. We work ourselves into a frenzy preparing and fine tuning our displays for your delectation, because, unlike so many other wedding fair’s, the participants at the Bristol Vintage Wedding Fair enjoy exhibiting as much as you like attending.

So why do you ask, is Brown in Town exhibiting at a vintage wedding fair? Is it because our grooms seem to favour a vintage look for their wedding suits: Is it because they have always hankered after a suit that reminds them of the suits which their grandfather’s wore, most commonly a three piece suit of grey flannel, and in some instances, tweed? Or is it because they want to do something a little bit different? At Brown and Town,  you can bring all your vintage sartorial needs and have them translated for the modern gentleman.

Initially, there will be the question of ensemble: three piece suits have become increasingly popular and are often considered to have vintage appeal, as, historically, not wearing a waistcoat was to be considered “undressed” (King Charles II introduced the waistcoat as a part of correct dress in 1666) – waistcoats are also a great way for the groom to stand apart from his ushers and to accessorize – maybe to wear a family heirloom fob watch – but two piece double breasted suits were almost equally as popular, and are now enjoying something of a renaissance of their own.

Once it has been decided if the groom will be wearing a two piece suit, or three piece suit, the next question is invariably one of cloth and colour. There are myriad cloths and  cloth colours, but those which strike a resounding chord with vintage lovers are tweeds for their autumnal shades.  Brown in Town offer an extensive range of some of the world’s finest cloths and materials from heritage brands such as Harrisons of Edinburgh, Fox Flannels, Porter & Harding and Harris Tweed, to name a few.

Which colour is correct? It is a cloth colour that flatters the betrothed – one that compliments either the wearer’s skin tone, hair colour, eye colour, or more commonly, one’s beard colour!  Assuming the suit colour has not been chosen based on wedding party dress colour or scheme, the reason that it is of the utmost importance that a groom look good in his wedding suit, is that those wedding photos will last for years to come, and wearing a suit colour which compliments the wearer, not just the event, is tantamount.

This will be Brown in Town’s third year exhibiting and we are honoured to be a part of the Bristol Vintage Wedding Fair. Moreover, we’re looking forward to the opportunity to discuss all sartorial needs with the discerning groom and offer advice, not only regarding suits but also shirts, ties, pocket squares, handkerchiefs and even umbrellas to complement your wedding attire!

And with only a few days to go, both myself and Brown in Town mannequin, Douglas (who usually resides in the window of Zip Pin Alterations in Clifton Arcade) are busy preparing our suits for this years event, wanting to be sure that we wear an outfit befitting such a prestigious fair.

We look forward to seeing you there..

A Change is as Good as a Rest

They say that change is as good as a rest; but when that change flies in the face of one’s edicts, it can be a bitter pill to swallow. But, perhaps what we mean by this is that the feeling we experience when we are rested is one of invigoration, which is, ostensibly the feeling encountered following change. Perhaps.

I am not sure of the precise moment when it occurred to me – as these things often do, as a complete picture in my mind – nor the inspiration, but it was toward the end of Summer last when I decided that I would fashion but two new suits for the year ahead, both of which would be two piece suits and both single breasted suits at that.

In fact, scratch that, I’ve remembered precisely when and where was the immaculate conception. My friend the Major was above decks at Bangshanky, having his ears lowered, as you do at the barbers and we were waxing sartorial about his next suit which, unbeknownst to either of us at the time, was to become his wedding suit..!

The cloths under consideration were various PoW’s (Prince of Wales checks) in various shades of grey – perhaps not quite as many as 50, but here at Brown in Town we do like to be comprehensive – but the various colours of window pane over black/grey glen check – which are of course the two checks that the Prince of Wales design is formed of – did not fit the bill on this occasion.

So I disappeared below decks to hunt for the particular shade and pattern which I had in mind. But there are times when, even with the huge selection of some of the finest cloths in the world for suiting, jacketing, vesting, overcoating and shirting which we have in-house, just do not cut the mustard. And so it was, that after some time searching, I conceded that the aforementioned suiting was not something which I had at my fingertips and so I did what we do in such situations; we informed our muse that we would have to go to market to source it. So we did exactly that, we went to market.

Now, the Major is quite possibly the most debonair man I know and the image I had conjured up for his new ensemble was something sophisticated, ergo, the glenurquhart check, being the sophisticated cousin of the Prince of Wales and worn in a style à la Pierce Brosnan – who is perhaps the most debonair man whom I do not know sartorially, but would welcome the opportunity to dress on perhaps one occasion – worn as a two piece, single breasted, two button affair.

Given that we are subterranean most of the time, and given that we do not own a television, nor find the time to read gentleman’s quarterly’s much these days either – two children under four do not afford you much time for anything, least of all sleeping! – we have been known to take inspiration from one’s customers from time to time. And what transpired during my market research for the elusive glen-check, in the elusive shade of grey, was that I developed a penchant for the cloth myself: who knew?! And as for the two piece ensemble, the inspiration which I had had in mind for our muse, stuck with me and I was keen to know if I had reached an age whereby I could dress with a hint of debonair myself..

But as anyone who has joined me upon this sartorial journey will attest, I am an advocate of the three piece suit and only ever wear two piece suits when they are of the double breasted variety. But this vision of a suit which I had conjured up, made sense to me only as a two piece, single breasted suit: what the bloody hell was happening to me?!

Needles to say, that I pained over putting this suit onto the cutting table would be an understatement. In fairness, I labour over putting most of my sartorial ideas onto the cutting table, which perhaps explains why I spend so much of my time exorcising my demons by dressing others – after all, aren’t the best psychotherapists those who, rather than facing their own demons, they exorcise others.

And whilst I may have forgotten its origins when I put the aforementioned suit on this morning, it nonetheless gave rise to a quizzical eyebrow as I considered it’s lack of waistcoat. Moreover, as I considered who it was that we would be entertaining in the studio and what their sartorial requirements would be i.e. three piece tweed suit, morning suit etc. – I believe to dress for one’s audience can oft’ assist our patrons in their getting to where they want to go. A kind of sartorial conductor, if you will.

I had all but forgotten about that rarest of journeys; a journey beyond one’s comfort zone. But there it was, the sartorial seed was unequivocally sewn. And here I sit recounting this tale of sartorial adventure in my new two piece, single breasted glen check suit. And loving every ounce of it.

So, thank you messrs Ross and Brosnan, for it is not important to know the origins of our inspiration, but rather to live by one’s ethos, as opposed one’s edicts.

“Never Say Never”, as they.