“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..

The Finest Cloths Known to Humanity: A Road Trip to Lear Brown and Dunsford

As a matter of course, we like to visit our suppliers once a year, to say thank you for services rendered and to take a look at what’s new. Last Friday, we took a drive down the M5 and visited cloth merchants Lear Brown and Dunsford in Exeter, to do just that – and what an exciting day we had to boot!

Located just at the end of the M5, not only is Lear Brown and Dunsford easily accessible for Brown in Town, it is also central to a number of Brown in Town’s patrons and so we took the opportunity to conduct some fitting appointments in LBD’s boardroom (thank you Carole), replete with historic tomes featuring some of the original cloths which formed the foundations of the Lear Brown and Dunsford business.

Founded in 1895, Lear Brown and Dunsford are the largest family owned cloth merchant in the country and are to many tailors from Savile Row to Brown in Town, a one stop shop for the finest cloths known to humanity.

Following the acquisition of some of our most renowned cloth mills and merchants, they have kept the age old tradition of weaving alive, not only in Huddersfield (England’s weaving mecca) but also further afield in Edinburgh (Porter & Harding) and also North Wales (W. Bill).

Harrisons of Edinburgh – founded in 1863 by one George Harrison, they would be the most renowned of all the cloths which LBD supply and, ergo, is the banner under which LBD now trades. And, if you are looking for a suiting cloth that is a little different, I can highly recommend Harrisons Frontier plain weave in 11oz.

Porter & Harding – also north of the border, P&H are responsible for commissioning the Harris Tweed which Brown in Town’s patrons have been enjoying so much this past year including Brown in Town muse, Jack Bevan of The Ethicurean.

H. Lesser & Sons of London – are purveyors of not only LBD’s most popular suiting cloths, but have a reputation for some of the finest quality suitings in the industry.

Pederson & Becker – whose cloths include the wonderful ‘Fine Classics’, which Brown in Town used for the suits of Bonhams auctioneers at last years Goodwood Revival, is now produced under the LBD name.

Smith Woollens – founded in 1921 by Herbert Smith and Claude Graham, was one of very few merchants to have offices and a warehouse spitting distance from Savile Row and continues to be one of the most sought after cloths in the industry.

W. Bill – with over 150 years of tweed and cashmere weaving under it’s hip-adjusters, LBD have not only acquired a stalwart of British tailoring but are offering new cloths to boot. Together with a re-brand – which just happens to be our favourite logo and colourway – W. Bill fills a gap in Brown in Town’s range with a lightweight, soft-handle cloth full of vibrant colour and pattern which we look forward to sharing with our patrons in due course.

And there is something quite romantic about conducting a fitting at the merchant’s who have provided the cloth used for the garments in-hand and all of those fitted that day were intrigued to see the cloths literally at our fingertips and Brown in Town were subsequently commissioned to make a waistcoat from the new W.Bill ‘Phoenix’ range of patterned 11oz cloths, not to mention a three piece in W.Bill’s 11oz ‘Super Fleece’. Super!

We also had the privilege of meeting fourth generation owner, James Dunsford. And, like the rest of the team at LBD, he extended a very warm welcome and was very supportive of Brown in Town’s sartorial efforts.

We were also treated to a tour a of the warehouse and introduced to new cloths and historical classics alike; imagine, if you will, visiting a tailor who, instead of keeping his cloths in bunches and books, kept the entire piece (60m) rolled and displayed on a shelf for all to see! Among some of the gems was some Irish Donegal tweed from W. Bill, as worn by Dr. Who and some used for the remake of The Great Gatsby, no less!

And as if this wasn’t enough excitement enough for one day, the highlight would have to be setting eyes on the most exquisite oatmeal coloured woollen cloth from W. Bill, which, I think we might be fashioning into a three piece for this years Goodwood Revival..

Vroom, vroom..!