Once Bitten, Forever Smitten

Last week I had the unfortunate duty of laying an old friend (too young to die) to rest. Not only was Simon an incredible athlete and skateboarder, he brought a smile to many faces over the years, not least his wonderful family who now have a huge void where Simon’s beaming face once was. May you rest in peace old boy..

Like so many friends that we grow up with, we lose touch over the years as our lives take us down different paths, but it was nice to see some familiar faces and reminisce about the good ol’ days when we were footloose and fancy free.

Our reunion, as it was, also afforded me an opportunity to wax sartorial with one of my fellow skateboarders about his own sartorial journey which I’ve watched unfold with great pleasure on Facebook. Steve was also an exceptional skateboarder, with a fun sense of style who I’ve wanted to quiz for some time about his recent induction into the world of bespoke tailoring and how he had come to embark upon the journey.

It transpires that, in the old fashioned way, Steve was introduced to his tailor by his sister who used to work alongside the in-house tailor of John Lewis in London. Upon leaving John Lewis, he set-up shop in Reading where Steve makes the pilgrimage whenever he wants something made – I should point out that Steve lives in south London so Reading is quite some distance, but when you have found your man, it is worthwhile and you are unlikely ever to take your customer elsewhere.

So confident is this chap that once a customer has tried his services they will never stray from his path, he purports to make them their first suit at a loss, safe in the knowledge he’ll have a customer for life. Savvy.

While Brown in Town may not offer the first garment we make for our customers at a loss, I have always been of the volition that if you take care of your customers and their needs before your own, they will be with you for life – looking out for tomorrow, if you will.

However, I am oft’ surprised by the limited view that people have of a traditional tailor in terms of what it is that he makes i.e. that a tailor makes suits only and not much else. Given that suits would be the reason that 80% of our customers knock on our door, I suppose this is, perhaps, fair enough. But did you know, for example, that Brown in Town makes more shirts than it does trousers?

Given that Brown in Town have been dressing many of our patrons for many years, I often take for granted that it is understood just how much of a man’s wardrobe we can make – but this would be a folly.

Tailors will make for you pretty much anything that requires a needle and thread, for example, overcoats of varying styles and lengths i.e. a single breasted Crombie style, or double breasted reefer. Suits of two or three pieces (the third piece being a waistcoat or vest, not an extra pair of trousers). Single breasted jackets or double breasted jackets. Trousers or slacks (albeit an Americanism I often use the term slacks to define casual trousers like chinos or traditional style trousers worn as separates as with a jacket of a different colour and/or cloth). Shorts to smarten-up an otherwise casual ensemble, giving the wearer the opportunity to choose a colour which is flattering of their skin tone – not necessarily a consideration for trousers, but above all to ensure a comfortable-jib with a flattering silhouette – I have historically favoured a double continental-pleat (facing outwards as opposed the English pleat which faces inwards which I prefer in trousers) and a turn-up. Shirts for both work and play – often it is the cuff that defines one style from t’other i.e. double-cuffs are more often worn for work and single-cuffs on casual shirts. Also, casual shirts are often worn without a tie and, ergo, have a collar which reflects this, for example the Kent collar which has wingtips closer together and which do not disappear beneath one’s jacket lapels when worn unfastened – as a cutaway shirt collar would.

We also make tailored shorts for the summer months as well as overcoats for the winter ones. It is perhaps little known, but it makes sense does it not. Broadly, any garment made using a pattern, where the various pieces are stitched together with a seam and an inlay that can be both taken-in, or let out, is an item of clothing which can be tailor made.

And just as our own personal style is refined over the years, so can your tailor made garment’s if you afford your tailor the opportunity to make more than just your business duds, or your wedding suit.

For those who appreciate the luxury of having something made and made to their own specifications, using their own measurements, once is never enough – and why should it be – and why should you stop at having just your suits made..

So, before you have need of a new linen or seersucker jacket for summer, or short sleeve shirts for your hols, or even a pair of chinos that won’t cut you in half, look to your clothier of choice and enquire if they can’t rustle you up something unique, made just for you, and in the comfort of their studio and their good company.

With thanks,

 

“You Have To Make Them Feel Good, Before You Can Make Them Look Good..”

It has come to something when the photographer asks you if he is dressed appropriately for the shoot which he is about to conduct: I have always been of the volition it is one’s responsibility to provide sartorial inspiration and solace, not strike fear at the heart of one’s cohorts!

Lee ‘Magpie’ Smith had been commissioned to take some candid photographs of me – I’m no fan of having my picture taken, as official Brown in Town photographer Remco Merbis will attest; that is to say, I do not like seeing myself in pictures. However, I realise that it is a necessary evil and so prefer candid photography over the staged sort.

So, what better opportunity to catch me off-guard, as it were, than to observe me in one of my natural habitats, enjoying a lunch at  The Ethicurean restaurant.

And, given that we were at The Ethicurean for the inaugural Diners Club luncheon, this not only afforded our lens the opportunity to capture me off guard, but also to capture this wonderful event where like-minded souls met to break bread over a glass or two of wine in Wrington’s most picturesque Barley Wood Walled Garden.

The best of Bristol, not to mention Wales, were represented; from restaurateurs, vintners, distillers, mixologists, photographers – in fact both of the lenses who are responsible for making me look good were in attendance – Google gurus, DJ’s and even the prolific blogger and omnipresent social media commentator who is Bookends and Bin Ends.

To my chagrin, it soon became apparent that our photographer was not alone in his quandary about what to wear to this wonderful occasion, as many of the table made apologies for their appearance. But if ever there were a perfect opportunity to wax sartorial, then doing so over a couple bottles of wine and a good meal would certainly be it! In the words Mount St.’s most famous tailor, Douglas Hayward “You have to make them feel good, before you can make them look good..”.

What did impress me was that some of the chaps in attendance had made use of various items which they’d had tailored by Brown in Town and were mixing and matching, as opposed wearing the entire suit, which I’ve often found is a wonderful way in which to discover new ensembles e.g. tailored chino jackets with contrasting untailored chinos or tailored suit trousers with Smedley style knitted polo shirts for a Jazz or Mod appeal. The key is both how you wear it and how you complete the look. The same rules which should be adopted regardless whether for casual or formal attire.

Most importantly, one should feel completely at ease in what one is wearing; whether it be a kaftan, a pair of shorts and a t-shirt or a three piece suit; you should look as comfortable as you feel, or not, as the case may be. Some men have this laissez-faire style and have it in spades. They will most likely never have use for a tailor as they can throw anything on and look effortlessly cool – our photographer would certainly fall into this category. 

However, for the rest of us, following a few simple guidelines will ensure that we do not look like a dog’s dinner;

Flattery Will Get You Everywhere
Most of us have what colourists refer to as base colours. These are more often than not muted tones which form the backdrop for the rest of our ensemble and it is important to ensure that this colour, whichever colour that may be, is flattering against one’s skin tone, or hair colour or even eye colour. More recently an additional consideration or reference has been the colour of a man’s beard, which abound in Bristol and also Shoreditch – this has no bearing on the reasons why Brown in Town choose to conduct their business in these hirsute places, but certainly in my experience, the bearded fellow is invariably a discerning fellow.

Keep it Simple
Use no more than two colours for the main garment; obviously a suit should have the same colour trousers and jacket but if wearing separates the jacket and trousers should be colours which work well together, for example a blue blazer with khaki coloured chinos or grey coloured flannels or worsted trousers. This will give an overall consistency to the ensemble which is easy on the eye and, above all, flattering of the wearer.

A Little Colour
Try not to introduce more than one additional accent colour to the outfit, whether that be a pair of brightly coloured socks or a tie, a belt – hence your shoes and belt ought to be the same colour if not shade, so as not to add an additional colour to one’s ensemble and thus detract from the overall effect. 

Shoes should be of a colour which either match, or offer a complimentary contrasting colour to, the trousers i.e. dark brown or tan shoes with navy blue trousers or khaki chinos, or black shoes with navy blue or black or grey trousers. There are of course exceptions to the rule i.e. brown brogue shoes with grey trousers can look good together but ensure there is an element of black in the broguing, for example, that is cohesive and ties the two colours together. Tan shoes and grey trousers is a contrast too far..  Continue reading

Any Colour, As Long as It’s Your Colour

Given the clement weather of late, the thoughts of those of us who are sartorially inclined naturally turn to our wardrobes and, invariably, the distinct lack of summer clothes in them, in particular, summer suits.

The most popular of all summer suits is, of course, the linen suit. However, it is popular for reasons that are perhaps not as obvious as we might think; whilst the cliched linen suit has always been a lighter shade of ivory or beige which you’d think is good for reflecting the sun and it’s heat, the real reason the linen suit is good in the heat is that linen flax, which is what the cloth is woven from, can absorb more than 20% of it’s own weight in moisture – mother natures very own Gore-Tex, if you will.

Historically, linen suits were made and worn in natural shades, but they are now produced in the most wonderful array of vibrant colours; from white to tan, from inky navy blue to sky blue, from pink to bright red, from sage green to bottle green and everything in between and all of which lend themselves to suits which are ideal for the summer months; when we throw caution to the wind and feel inclined to dress in brighter colours.

However, this poses the million dollar question: which colour is the right colour for us..?

In fact, it was whilst waxing sartorial about this very topic with one of Brown in Town’s new patrons, a journalist no less, who had quite the keenest sense of style of any journalist I’ve ever met – you’d think they were all well turned out in a Clarke Kent kind of way wouldn’t you, but this could not be further from the truth, regrettably – which caused him to enquire how I dressed the men on our books; what was my modus operandi. To which I responded that, having ascertained the application of a suit (or chosen garment), my next line of enquiry, or consideration, are the colours which can be worn by the wearer, or, rather, the colours which one should NOT wear.

To which our muse responded with a question which no-one else has ever posed before; why do I choose to dress men in this way, why do I focus on the colour of a man’s suit first, and not the cut of his jib, or the design of his suit?

So I thought for a minute and I recalled an experience I had had early on in my career when attempting my first ‘summer suit’ and learned a lesson which I live by to this day and which I endeavour to instill in all of our patrons: just because you can have anything, does not mean that you should!

For I learned that whilst blue is a good colour for me, sky blue is most certainly not. I gave no thought to the fact that, albeit I can wear navy blue well, sky blue would react with one’s particular shade of pallid and make me look as anemic as a microwave chip. Not the look I was going for, as you might imagine.

So why did I choose sky blue: because our friends at Richard James on Savile Row had a beautiful bright blue suit made of mohair and wool from Delfino (mohair having a microscopic weave is a great suiting cloth for the summer months) and I thought how beautiful it looked and how it looked the very picture of summer. Which it did; on the rail in the Richard James concession in Selfridges.

For all of it’s benefits, the shortcoming of bespoke tailoring, particularly when one is uninitiated, is having to select the cloth for one’s suit from a book (known as a ‘bunch’) as opposed from a rail of suits

which are ready made and on display in various colours and in a range of sizes; which you can try on for size and also for colour. There is nothing like trying on a suit to ascertain if it’s colour is right for you.

In fact, I use this off-the-rail analogy when offering advice to those embarking upon the bespoke journey for the first time: when commissioning your first tailor made suit, choose a cloth (and a design, for that matter) not dissimilar to that which you would be comfortable buying off-the-rail. Pay it safe in other words. There will always a be another opportunity to have another made once you’ve had time to consider what might be nice to experiment with the next time around.

And so I made it my raison d’etre to impart the wisdom which I gleaned from this experience to one’s patrons and do my level best to prevent any one them from making the same mistake that I had. Of course, you can only lead a horse to water. Moreover, if a groom comes to Brown in Town for morning dress, then we shall make him morning dress, whether or not black, dove grey and stripes look flattering on him.

However, if the world is indeed your oyster, and one is only interested in having a suit made that you will take great pride in wearing, and not one that you won’t, our advice is to choose any colour, as long as it’s your colour.

Enjoy your Summer..

Michael: Man About Town

With each passing day, Brown in Town finds it’s feet further and further under the table of hospitality at Bangshanky; we have a desk, with drawer, no less. We have a collection of beautiful handcrafted carpenters tools chests; now home to our pins, our Kent clothes brush and scissors.

We have adorned each and every hook with a bunch of the best of British cloth (we also have a book of Italian cloths and with Summer approaching we should, perhaps, carry more). We have a hanging rail full of beautifully tailored suits and a wall-mounted mirror with spot lighting – the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of dressing my patrons in front of.

In fact, the only thing our ‘comes complete’ studio was missing, was a mannequin, or two. “What of Douglas” I hear you cry. Well, visitors to Clifton Arcade, or indeed Zip Pin alterations, will know that Douglas is currently on tour and has taken pride of place in the window at the tailor’s tailor. Which meant that the window of our new studio was devoid of a shining example of our work.

So, without further ado, won’t you join me in welcoming ‘Michael’ – so named after Michael Caine, my sartorial hero – to the fold; you’ll see him in the window of 76 Colston St. – home of Bangshanky.

Which leaves but one mannequin, the one who keeps our patrons company below ground, in our studio. So, if our first mannequin was named after Douglas Hayward (tailor of one’s sartorial hero) and our second after Michael Caine himself; after whom should we name the third.. Answers on a postcard, please.

May we take this opportunity to wish all of our patrons and friends a very happy Easter..

Pearls of Wisdom

Our customers often wax lyrical about the luxuriousness of our fine shirts; the cut, and, ergo, fit, as well as the 100% Egyptian cotton shirtings that we offer, being what makes a good shirt, well, good.

My theory is, this often revelatory experience is as a result of a shirt being in direct contact with one’s skin, whereas, one’s suit (jacket and trousers), is not. Albeit a well-fitted suit receives the highest praise in terms of transforming our appearance, it is the fit of a well-fitting shirt which is most tangible and also forms the foundation of a perfect ensemble – no use having a well-tailored suit and an ill-fitting shirt..

Having had my shirts tailor made for many years, I not only enjoy the same impeccable fit in all of my shirts – I run 6 shirts during the week and 3 for weekends – but I also have developed a style for both my work shirts; semi cutaway collar, double cuff with a rounded cut-away at the top, plain fronted and, depending on the shirting colour and pattern itself, a contrasting white collar and cuff and my casual shirts; Kent collar, either button down or no, and occasionally with a placket if I want the shirt to look preppy, all of which I rarely deviate from as it’s a style which works well for me and is a style which I still enjoy, and, ergo, have not felt the need to revise – some may call me a creature of habit.

However, it was not so long ago I had my own revelation when I had a shirt made which featured mother of pearl buttons – and b.e.a.utiful they are too! Not only is mother of pearl used for it’s inherent strength – not that I’ve ever broken a shirt button made of any other material which we use, I hasten to add, and neither have our customers – but their inherent natural beauty is something to behold. They are also more delicate to the touch, which in itself feels luxurious. However, it is the kaleidoscope of colours which appear on the reverse of the buttons which I find most appealing.

So, being a recent convert myself to the luxury of having mother of pearl buttons on all of my shirts, I can quite understand the euphoria of one of Brown in Town’s most eminent customers upon seeing his new shirt, replete with mother of pearl buttons, whilst conducting his shirt fitting this week. I was removing the double-sided buttons from his cuff, by way of demonstration as to how useful these, typically disposable, buttons are as a cufflink back-up, for emergencies, when he noticed the rainbow of colours that the mother of pearl buttons surrendered and commented how beautiful they were.

Quite rightly, he proffered that they were far too beautiful to dispose of and I had to agree. And so, in order that we might share our enjoyment of one of lifes little luxuries with all of our patrons, we have decided that all Brown in Town shirts from our 2 fold ranges of shirtings; Cavendish, Hanover and Grosvenor, will be adorned with mother of pearl buttons – mother of pearl buttons will also be available on our Portman range of shirtings for a small surcharge.

We look forward to providing you a little of mother natures luxury upon your next shirt order.

Enjoy..