To The Manor Born

As the nights draw in, and the year to a close, the family Darby Minns look forward to a well deserved break ahead of the Christmas rush, albeit, not before we’ve celebrated Saffron Darby’s birthday with a Studio 54 themed party this weekend: come to think of it, one wonders if our week away might not be break-enough?!

And while Bristol’s local tailor was hoping for an opportunity to break-out one’s Speedos (they were all the rage when I lived in Brasil and last had access to a swimming pool, don’t you know) and soak up some mediterranean sunshine, alas, the memsahib is understandably concerned for the welfare of our saucepan lids given the nasties which are doing the rounds at present and so we are all set for a stay-cation.

So it’s off to the 14 acres of walled garden which is Woolley Grange in Bradford on Avon, for some fresh air, country walks, log fires, not to mention partaking of some fine wines and as much game as one can eat in a week! And well you may ask how we are to enjoy so many extra curricular pursuits with our offspring in tow; because Luxury Family Hotels, which owns Woolley Grange, will provide not only 2 hours of creche each day, but also a baby-listening service of an evening so that we can dine alone, and in peace.. eureka!

Of course, there will be plenty of activities for the ankle biters; an indoor swimming pool, a cinema and gardens, which I cannot wait to explore with my brood. In fact, just focusing on them without distractions is always a pleasure in itself. But let us be frank, what I am really looking forward to is to dressing for each and every occasion that present itself, just consider the possibilities: tweeds for roaming the grounds, (double breasted) blazer and flannels for dining, Speedos for swimming – obvs’, kaftan for evening wear and, if I can get it passed Saffron Darby, the brown velvet dinner suit which has been commissioned especially for her birthday celebrations this weekend – you never know when one might be afforded the opportunity to enjoy a cigar of an evening while in such splendid surroundings!

Brown in Town has enjoyed it’s inaugural years trading immensely and has received some wonderful commissions and forged some fantastic relationships with it’s patrons. We will be raising a glass, or two, to all of you from the armchair in front of the fire at Woolley Grange and we hope that you will join us in a toast to more of the same as we look ahead to the silly season, which will entail, I’m sure,  even more wedding suit commissions, not to mention a handful of dinner dinner suits, and of course, the New Year, when I will be measuring an old friend visiting from Spain and fitting motor racing legend John Surtees, no less.

So, while we are away, wrap up warm, for it is getting colder. And if you cannot do that, then feel free to commission Brown in Town to make for you an overcoat upon our return.


Overcoats: The Winter Warmer

While many of my customers clearly have a direct line to God, or indeed Michael Fish depending on who you trust to predict the weather, and have ordered their overcoats early this season, a great many more feel that with the cold wet weather so suddenly upon us, they have missed the boat; but they’d be wrong!

You see, while we enjoy an ever increasing number of Indian summers – whereby many of us are wearing shirtsleeves into November – it would be naive to think that we will endure a shorter winter; one that begins in the middle of November but is all said and done come Christmas, but this is how many of us think.

But fear not! For irrespective of our optimism, or indeed naivety, the cold winter months will linger on regardless – and if these past five years which I have spent in Bristol are anything to go by, then the inclement weather will last way beyond Crimble and most likely until Spring I shouldn’t wonder.

And those only just redeeming their overcoats from the the depths of their wardrobes, only to discover they’ve been moth-eaten, or have become a little tight under the arms, will, perhaps, be encouraged by the fact that Bristol’s local tailor only recently gave heed to his own sartorial requirements and put the first Brown in Town covert coat onto the cutting table.

Ever since my days in the City have I admired the style of the older city gents in their covert coats. With it’s green brown whipcord cloth and it’s contrasting brown velvet collar – I think that winter encourages a little luxury in our clothes to better fight off the winter chill – there are few overcoats as iconic and which represent traditional British tailoring quite so well.

Other styles of overcoat do exist, of course; the peacoat, for instance, is particularly popular at present and Brown in Town are only too happy to put their hand to this style, or any other style for that matter. But the other popular style of overcoat which includes a contrasting collar is, of course, the ‘Arthur Daley‘, as it is known affectionately to fans of George Cole’s character in the 1980’s TV show Minder. His camel coloured wool overcoat with it’s contrasting dark brown collar is as synonymous with Arthur Daley, as it is with city gents. I once had the opportunity to buy some real camel hair for just such an overcoat but I passed on the opportunity and shortly after it was lost in a fire at London cloth merchants Crescent Trading in the east end of London – if ever I have looked gift horse in the mouth, this was it, and more’s the pity.

The traditional covert coat had slanted hip pockets and a ticket pocket, which is perhaps more rakish in it’s appeal, but I like to make good use of my overcoats hip pockets and, ergo, prefer to have straight hip pockets as these I find less cumbersome when inserting one’s hands with a thumb-cocked over the front edge of the pocket, a la Prince Charles. I’m also experimenting with a slightly longer cut to provide a little more swish and sway which I think brings the coat to life when strolling about town.

So fear not if you are feeling the nip of winter and have yet to answer the call of your own sartorial requirements; be encouraged that if you’ve not yet commissioned the overcoat of your dreams, there is still time!

Image courtesy of the incredibly talented Nick Veez.

Remember, remember; grow your mo’ for Movember!

While all and sundry were celebrating Halloween last night, the team from what must be the most popular charity in Bristol, given the number of moustaches per head: ‘Movember’ were celebrating the launch of this years campaign to raise awareness for men’s health.

While Movember’s primary focus has been prostate cancer, which affects an inordinate number of us chaps each year, and more than is necessary I shouldn’t wonder as a result of us not discussing our health in the name of machismo, and more’s the pity, they champion a raft of male health concerns.

But Movember laughs in the face adversity, and asks us to grow a moustache in the name of raising awareness, whilst having fun at the same time! Given the high number of lounge suits and wedding suits which Brown in Town has made for our patrons and grooms alike this year, whereby their moustache, or indeed beard, was a key factor in the selection of cloth colour, it comes as no surprise to Bristol’s local tailor, nor I’m sure, to the hirsute of this fine city, that Bristol is one of the greatest supporters of Movember.

This year, Movember’s new livery is in one’s favourite colour of orange: at least two of my suits are lined in this exciting autumnal colour, which brings a smile to my face each morning I put them on! And if you fear that your whiskers are not worthy of the cause, think again: Movember are not looking for the best Mo’, on the contrary, they are looking for the best mo’ that you can grow – or not as the case may be for those not blessed in the hirsute department.

For it is the taking part which is all important, and, ergo, the growing of the mo’, irrespective how impressive, is what raises money. Friends and family will donate to the cause, and, I’m sure, donate in the hope that you do not become too attached to the ol’ hairy lip, and see that it is shaved off at the end of the month!

On your marks, get set, Mo’..

Say It With Flowers

I’m not suggesting for one minute that a woman requires flowers every week; it is, after all, the thought that counts. But I do think that it is important for a man to have some understanding of how to buy flowers, as and when the need arises.

While I may be no authority on the subject, my local florist, Tilly Tomlinson Flowers, informs me that I am in the minority when it comes to selecting my own flowers for inclusion in the bunches of flowers and posies which I create for my good lady: I ought to point out at this juncture that I’m not a fan of the flouncy bouquet. I find traditional bouquets too gauche, and wrapped in too much garish translucent wrapping paper, preferring instead a posy-like bunch of flowers that is less ostentatious, particularly when wrapped in plain (brown) or coloured craft paper of which I have long since been a fan. I find this type of arrangement more architecturally pleasing to the eye, but, most of all, less cumbersome; tall flower arrangements thrash on the floor when I’m walking home at speed, late from the humidor! Posies on the other hand, are easy to carry, and also easy to sit in my Brompton bicycle’s front pannier bag, E.T. style.

And it is a mark of a good florist who allows you to be creative, who engages you in a conversation pertaining to the reason for your floral requirements e.g. anniversary, thank you or white flag etc. and who describes the different flowers available, and,  moreover makes subtle suggestion. For, if you are not naturally gifted in selecting the colours which are right for the occasion, and that is not to say that white is not the correct colour of flowers to purchase if you are in the dog house, some consideration of the season, or your good ladies favourite colours etc. is a good place to start when looking for inspiration.

But for those of you who are not fortunate enough to have an accommodating and sympathetic florist on your doorstep, with whom you have a good rapport, and with whom you can discuss your floral requirements, you may want to enlist the services of The Real Flower Company, who will be only too happy to discuss the particular occasion with you, and make suggestion on which flowers might be fitting.

And by way of assisting you in this floral quagmire, please allow me to shine some light on the end of this process at which to begin. The stems, as they are known in the trade, are, I would suggest, the place to start when creating your floral arrangement. And whether you go for scented roses – a rarity these days but for which The Real Flower Company are famed – or a selection of other English grown flowers, you can quite quickly put together an arrangement utilising the colours found within your chosen flower’s petals. For example; if you select my personal favourite, the aptly named cafe latte rose, there are, within each petal, shades of pink, flesh tones and coffee tones which are perfect for pairing with a bouquet’s herbs and foliage i.e. the greenery which fills-out the bunch, such as eucalyptus, for example. This is, for me, a tried and tested method for experimenting with colour, and one which I use in the selection of lining’s for a gentleman’s suit, and also jackets and overcoats, as well as shoes. And whereas you would expect the lining of your jacket to be but a single colour, you will more than likely find two fillers are provided for each flower you select, but be prepared to be guided by the experts once you have the initial floral selection made.

And whilst I was of the volition that the transport of one’s flowers was only a consideration for Bristol’s local tailor, it would seem that The Real Flower Co. have sought to improve upon even the design of the oft’ overlooked packaging of their delightful flowers, by means of a re-usable hat box; genius! Which means that you receive their flowers, the one’s that you selected, and not those selected by a third party, are delivered safely to your door, or those of your wife, memsahib, lover or mistress. And if you would prefer to hand-pick your own flowers, then you can visit The Real Flower Co. at Selfridges, London, or at their HQ in Petersfield, by appointment.

I do hope that she appreciates them..

3pc Italian lightweight flannel suit

A Load of Old Flannel

As I furnish one of my customers with a hot toddy, courtesy of our hosts at the Hoxton Hotel, I am made acutely aware that we are knocking on the door of winter‘s discontent: and no one is more discontented than our British summer, who, until hurricane Bertha swept through the nation, I was convinced was set to become an Indian summer!
Not that I’m complaining, on the contrary. Without wanting to sound like a curmudgeon, though I fear that I will, I must confess that I seldom enjoy the scorching hot summer days that we enjoyed this summer. You see, I am of the volition that, summer, and, ergo, sunshine, are best enjoyed poolside and not walking to one’s studio, getting increasingly hotter with every stride, eventually lighting up like a bulb upon arrival at one’s destination when the air cooling ceases. Of course, there are of course pursuits which are best enjoyed when the weather is fine, for example bicycle rides from Bristol to Bath along the old railway. However, with the arrival of Rubin Sonny at the beginning of Summer, I’ve failed to embark upon a single excursion thus far!
But enough of how little I was able to make use of my tailored linen shorts this summer (or indeed, Speedos): we must now turn our attentions to the inclement weather we face, and the greatest winter warmer of all: flannel!
Given the centrally heated environment which we now live in, a good 11 – 13oz English worsted wool suit would probably see you straight; and there’s a lot to choose from, of varying weaves and handles, colours and patterns.
However, flannel, which is probably the most traditional English cloth that ever was, with perhaps the exception of tweed, has been a wardrobe staple for generations. Just consider, if you will, the chalk stripes of Sir Winston Churchill, the double breasted navy blue suits of Bristol’s own Cary Grant and the dancing pants of Fred Astaire; all flannel, all English made – these particular cloth were all produced by Fox Flannel in Somerset. Brown in Town also offer flannels from Harrisons of Edinburgh, Holland and Sherry and W. Bill.
And testament to this suiting stalwart is the fact that, without question, if ever a groom commissions me to make him a traditional, or indeed a vintage (very popular with grooms these days) looking suit, it will, almost without question, be a three piece suit made of flannel. In fairness, we probably receive as many commissions for wedding suits made of tweed, but grooms are often deterred by tweeds autumnal colours, or herringbone patterns, or indeed it’s course nature or indeed weight and instead opt for flannel.
Now, it is a fact that you will not wear a more comfortable suit than one made of flannel – the process of ‘roughing’ the surface until it’s nap is raised and it’s ‘handle’ soft to the touch – which gives the wearer the feeling of being ensconced in a soft, comforting, woollen blanket. And if the weight of the typical English flannel cloth i.e. upwards of 13oz is of concern, I encourage you to feel the handle of our Loro Piana and Vitale Barberis flannels from Italy, which is a lighter weight 9oz, and incredibly soft to the touch.
But if you hanker after a bit of English tradition, and you, perhaps, like, or, moreover, long, to dress like your sartorial heroes, or emanate the sartorial style of your forefathers, or just want to walk to work in sub zero temperatures feeling like you are wearing your duvet, look no further than flannel.
And so, without further ado, may I introduce you to the stiff upper lip of British sartoria, albeit a lip that has just been daubed with lip balm; the flannel suit!