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.

Roll up, Roll up: For The Chosen Wedding Fair, Sunday 21st February

By now, the majority of grooms are acutely aware of the old adage that they they are only in attendance  to make up numbers and that it is, in no uncertain terms, the bride’s special day. And yet it is refreshing that I meet an increasing number of grooms who have been afforded some portion of the kitty to invest in what may be the only luxury no groom should be denied; to wear a tailor made suit on the most important day of his life!

And the vintage lovers know better than most that the best looking suits are those which our forefathers wore on their wedding day; invariably a three piece suit made of grey flannel or a tweed of some description. It is little wonder that such suits have stood the test of time, given they would have been tailor made and, ergo, would not have had the inlay trimmed out as off-the-rail garments do, meaning that they can be altered both by being taken-in or let-out, to suit the subsequent keeper.

However, the nature of bespoke tailoring is that a suit is tailored to fit the individual who has commissioned the suit and for whom the cloth is said to be ’bespoken for’. So, while we may be fortunate enough to find a suit which either fits first time, or can be tailored to fit future wearers, we may not be so lucky, or, indeed, unlucky, enough to have the same shape and proportions as the previous wearer – tailor made suits are not just a some of their made-to-measure parts, but are fashioned to the contours and shape of the customer.

Finding just the right colour, pattern and weight of cloth which we’re hoping to wear on what should be the best day of our lives, however, can also prove to be time consuming and disappointing. Moreover, it can often prove difficult to find a suit which has not had the life dry-cleaned out of it, which is not itchy, which does not lack lustre or which is not moth-eaten and not a little stale.

But, owing to the sartorial revolution of the past 10 years or so, British tailoring has been enjoying something of a renaissance and tailoring abounds, as do our wonderful cloth mills and merchants from Scotland to Huddersfield and even right on our doorstep here in the South West, which is home to none other than Fox Brothers\, makers of the some of the world’s finest flannel, and also Harrisons, H. Lesser and Porter & Harding to name but a few of the heritage brands housed under one roof at Lear Browne and Dunsford in Exeter.

So, if you are allowed just one luxury on your wedding day, please do seek us out at the Chosen Wedding Fair on Sunday 20th February, at Bristol’s Paintworks.

All the best…!


Commissioning a New Suit

Investing in a suit is no different to investing in anything else which one might invest in, ergo, before we part with our money, we seek advice.

Even if we have a very clear idea of what it is we want from our investment, it is important to be candid about our desires and/or requirements, so that those who are providing us the service can make informed suggestions and recommendations to us. After all, they not only have access to key information which is what we want in order to make an informed decision, but, moreover, they have had similar conversations, with people in similar situations to ourselves, so are well versed in fielding such lines of enquiry.

I received one such enquiry last night at a Salmanazar supper - the Oxford dictionary describes a Salmanazar as a bottle twelve times the standard size - 12 persons charged with bringing a vinous curiosity to the dinner and asked to wax lyrical about its origins - if you've never taken part in one, may I encourage you to do so, they are a vinous delight!

Anyway, as is oft' the case, once your peers catch wind of your trade, their attention is immediately turned to the state of their wardrobe, the demise of their tailor or their ever increasing, or decreasing (ahem) waistline. But among all of the requests for business cards and contact details, there is always one such enquiry which stands out in the crowd, a genuine need to solve a genuine sartorial dilemma.

In this particular instance, the sartorial requirement was for a suit which the wearer, who was 'prone to 'destroying suits', could wear during site meetings on the factory floor of his steel works. Citing the environment as the reason for the incumbent wear and tear I enquired what in particular was causing the damage to his suits. But aside the odd oil stain, which surely must be part and parcel of being on the factory floor, and in my mind not of sartorial concern but rather a badge of honour, it transpired that what had effected his previous suit was actually caused not by his steel works, but by poor workmanship on the one hand and quite possibly from trousers which were too long on the other.

Needless to say, I now feel obliged to make this, rather debonair chap, a well fitting suit which will stand the test of time. So before you visit your tailor, take a moment if you will to watch this video of yours truly in the hot seat - I particularly like the jazz score which Milk for Tea have used as the backing track for our consultation. I hope it will give you some insight as to the sorts of questions which may be asked of one another in order to get the tailored suit, shirt, jacket, slacks, overcoat etc. of your dreams!

All the best,