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,

It’s a Pitti, But Someone Has To Do It

The end of any year is oft’ a heady time, as we endeavour to tie up loose ends and clear the decks ahead of Christmas.

Often referred to as the silly season, it encourages pandemonium as people scrabble to meet deadlines – or false deadlines as a friend recently described them – and draw a line under one’s achievements and challenges, milestones and anniversaries and births and deaths – and, sadly, I encountered more than my fair share of the latter in 2015.

But with each new year comes fresh challenge and, if we are lucky, a feeling of renewed vigour; think of New Year resolutions which we are motivated to commit to, inspired by our shortcomings, or our desire to improve upon something which we feel we could do better.

My own personal resolution is ‘to be in the moment‘, something which I heard Kim Ingleby speak about at the TedX Talks event at Bristol’s Colston Hall last year and which is a state of mind I have long since strived for.

My professional resolution has been to seek the assistance of a PA; something which I have been encouraged to do by one’s peers who have reaped the reward of having their time freed up to enable them to drive their businesses and focus on those things which they are most suited to; their strongest suits, if you’d pardon the pun.

In my case it will afford me the opportunity to focus not only on the future of Brown in Town, but enable me to be more creative in our campaigns – which, whilst I enjoy every element of their creation, take me no small amount of time and energy I can assure you – whilst continuing to meet with our customers to discuss their sartorial requirements and facilitate their ideas for fantastic suits or shirts, jackets, slacks and overcoats etc.

But, more poignantly, I will be able to keep in touch with our patrons. Some have been with me for many years and I am rarely able to join them at the bar and wax lyrical about the order of things, or, indeed the style of the day, because in two short years, Brown in Town has become that busy. Incredible, but true.

So, having found the answer to our prayers in the form of our Claire – Brown in Town’s saving grace and Queen of organisation – I am ready to seize the moment, which has begun with a trip to Florence to witness the sartorial powerhouse which is the Pitti Uomo faire.

Were inspiration of a sartorial kind ever needed, then the movers and shakers at the bi-annual Pitti Faire certainly provide it and provide it in spades. From Italy’s master tailors, to Savile Row, everyone and anyone who is passionate about their craft is represented.

I am also looking forward to catching up with artisans whose handcrafted products we stock in our own atelier, for example Fox Umbrellas and also my shoemaker of choice Cheaney & Sons. I also hope to meet one’s tailoring peers from across the water, such as Pironne Massimo and also closer to home, Savile Row’s belle of the ball, Richard James.

But the Holy Grail of the trip is none other than the indispensable pocket square. Some of the best pocket squares in the world are made in Italy using the finest silks, batistes, cottons and linens and since the demise of our local pocket square supplier, we are on the hunt for a worthy successor. I am keen to stock elegant squares featuring timeless designs and patterns, such as polka dot, paisley, floral and simple bordered designs; simple and timeless.

And while there are new projects which Saffron Darby and I are keen to embark upon this New Year, they are going to have to wait just a few more days.. It’s a Pitti, but someone has to do it!

All the best, look forward to seeing you in 2016.

Building A Quality Wardrobe

The modern gentleman has become increasingly aware that aesthetics are an important part of who he is and if you are reading this article, there is a good chance that you yourself are no longer satisfied with making-do when it comes to the image you choose to present to the world, whether that is at the office, date night or out with the kids on the weekend; something we hear a lot at Brown in Town.

Dressing well for the various engagements in our lives calls for a cohesive blend of style and functionality; while we all want to look smart wherever we go we also have need for our clothes to bode well with us in the different settings we find ourselves in. For instance having a smart pair of trousers or slacks that are appropriate for work, but can withstand a cycle-sprint to the studio of a morning or the mad dash to our pour-over coffee emporia of choice for one’s morning brew.

Building a quality wardrobe starts with finding your staple pieces, consider these to be the core of your clothing arsenal. These will vary from person to person but for most men (I dare say all men) a well made suit is a no-brainer. Regardless of whether you wear a suit to work or not, there will undoubtedly come a time when one of life’s occasions calls for one.

Likewise, it is also important to consider what you need from the rest of your wardrobe; do you need the majority of your garments to be very formal or are you going for a more smart-casual look?

After finding a starting point for your clothing capsule, the next step is to build upon it. Sounds simple enough, but it was a challenge Brown in Town faced when we created the Custom Collection, for example, we thought it important to create pieces that complement each other and that are interchangeable, just like working wardrobe full of suits, shirts and ties.

For example, The new Custom Collection flannel jacket, made from Fox Brothers glen check consisting both yellow and russet checks, works great with the putty-coloured khaki chinos but also amazing with our new grey slacks, which makes for an easy transition from day to evening when time is of the essence.

When looking for new clothes it is also good to remember to think quality over quantity. The aim is to find clothes that you love and that will last. When we wear our clothes often in a variety of different ways we are inadvertently informing others that we value our wardrobe and put the time and effort into its upkeep. Brown In Town have some great accessories in our atelier that can help you maintain great condition of your key pieces; real bristle clothes brushes for keeping the nap of one’s cloth raised and dust and lint free and also trouser clamp hangers for suspending one’s trousers upside down and from the ankles in order to reshape the whilst they hang.

Endeavouring to build our individual wardrobes is unequivocally a process that takes time, energy and, of course, resources. But with a committed spirit and help from those who we trust to craft the sartorial story that is our personal style, we can enhance the image we present to those who we cross paths with while functioning well in our environment.

Until next time..