Never Under Estimate the Power of a Three Piece Suit

Spring is in the air and in spite the inevitable cold snap, which is as sure to return as the snow which accompanied it last April, it will soon be Summer. But what attire should grooms of the season be considering, particularly if they suffer from the heat?

Well, let’s be honest, we all suffer from the heat when it’s hot do we not, particularly if we are wearing a suit. The obvious choice is surely to wear shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops, but I would imagine that even for suit dodgers like myself, your wedding might present you with an opportunity to own a suit, let alone one that you might actually want to wear!

And who can blame you. I think we all agree that men generally scrub up well in a suit; they slim us, they make us appear taller and afford us an air of elegance, even when they are off-the-peg. But this suit you get to design yourself, with some assistance of course, choosing your own cloth and trim – lining and buttons,  as opposed having them dictated to you by an in-house design team.

Of course, the comfort of a suit is tantamount to the style of a suit, and you’ll not be comfortable if you are too hot. Some of us run hotter than others and whilst some of us break a sweat, others never stop sweating. But it is unlikely that the weight of your suiting cloth will be the cause of your sweating on the Big Day – it will surely be the excitement of it all, no?

But let me ask you a question; if you sweat so much that it might show through your clothes, then surely it is more likely to show through a lightweight cloth, particularly one in summer shades such as powder blue. Would it not be safer to wear a cloth that will stem the flow of the glow, as opposed reveal it to the congregation when you stand to deliver your speech?

Morning dress, which is the traditional modus operandi for weddings, will certainly be made of a cloth heavy enough to do this.  And if you are wearing morning dress, you’ll have no choice but to sport three pieces, regardless of your predisposition to the heat. But I’d proffer that those who have been spared this buffet of monochrome and buff colours and therefore have the choice of what to wear – the desires of their betrothed notwithstanding, of course – will almost all plump for a three piece suit.

Ironic it may be, regardless of the heat that an additional layer will bring to the reception party, three piece suits are unquestionably the suit of choice for grooms. Perhaps not least because they conjure up images of suits worn by some of our favourite sartorial heroes, whether they be David Beckham, Gandi or even Niven. But not to be sniffed at is the fact that, after the formalities, the groom will be able to ditch his coat but remain distinguished from the congregation because he will be sporting his waistcoat and trouser ensemble – ideally in the same cloth/colour, albeit contrasting waistcoats are jaunty, they require a little more consideration to provide the impact of a three piece suit made from one piece of cloth.

For those not amused by the three piece suit, other ensembles are available. For example, there is the classic two piece suit which lends itself to a summer wedding, not least because of the omission of a waistcoat, which can be replaced/accessorised by a pair of braces, if desired. Other accoutrements which should be considered are ties, a pocket square and handkerchiefs, in the event of a tear being shed (typically the boys).

Separates are another consideration. Given the present sartorial revolution, there is no end of inspiration for us between the virtual pages of Pinterest. Another reason for the resurgence of separates I shouldn’t wonder, has been the demise of the suit in certain business environments and the rise of smart casual which, let’s face it, we Brits have struggled to master since we replaced the sporting uniform of flannels (trousers made of flannel), a shirt, tie and  blue brass buttoned blazer with jeans and tee shirt!

Regardless the choice of your outfit or ensemble, it is for many something that requires some thought and more than likely some assistance. Not only is there the cloth with which your suit will be made, there is the colour, the pattern, the texture and the substrate i.e. wool, cotton, linen etc. to choose before weight and the suitability of that weight of cloth for the season/your wedding to consider.

But this is what your tailor will assist you with. For sure some will consider weight before anything else, while others the cut of your jib or indeed the crafting of your suit which are all of utmost importance. But I will leave you with this, if you are to look at your wedding photos for the rest of you life, what will you notice the most; the cut of your jib, or that the colour of the cloth made you look like the morning after your stag and that you are visibly glowing buckets..

And while I take none of these decisions likely, not least the decision to actually commission the making of a suit, it is interesting to note that, given the number of grooms whom I meet that are concerned about how hot a suit might make them feel on their wedding day, the majority will be tying the knot during the height of summer, on a farm, which will invariably have no shade – is it me?

Congratulations!

Caring is Sharing… A word in your Shell-like

“Furnishing a man with a bespoke suit without first giving him instruction as to how to care for it is like being given the keys to a car without first being shown how to drive.. ”

Brown in Town take great pride in educating their patrons in the art of maintaining their wardrobes and as you are in possession of a fine tailored suit from Brown in Town, we wanted to furnish you with a simple and useful guide for keeping it in good order….

Storage

After a day’s wear, we suggest that you hang your suit outside of the wardrobe in order for it to air: wool is a natural fibre, and, as such, will self-clean if afforded the opportunity to breath/aerate. Each piece of your suit should be hung separately to facilitate this process.

Jackets and Overcoats

Your jacket or overcoat should be hung on a moulded hanger which supports the entire shoulder pad. If the hanger supplied with your suit does not do this, invest in a wooden hanger (preferably cedar wood as the dreaded moth does not like cedar wood). However, ensure the hanger is no wider than the width of the shoulders as this will result in ‘points’ at the top of the sleeve head being made by the hangers arms.

Trousers

Trousers should be hung using a traditional trouser clamp hanger  i.e. upside down from the ankles. This facilitates the reshaping of one’s trousers at the knee  as the weight of the waistband and pocket construction pulls them straight – this unfortunately will not work for linen or cotton.

Waistcoats

Waistcoats can be hung on a traditional * wooden hanger, the type you would use for shirts and we suggest hanging them outside of your wardrobe overnight to air – the same goes for jackets too.

* Brown in Town stocks the aforementioned hangers so do please enquire if you are in need.

Brushing

Unless something has been spilled on your suit, or overcoat (see cleaning, below), all that is typically required to keep your suit clean, and in good working order, is a clothes brush and the occasional steaming and pressing (see below). The benefit of brushing one’s suit is to keep the cloth dust and lint free and keep the ‘nap’ (fibres) of a suits cloth raised.

Before you remove your suit at the end of each day, simply brush it with a soft bristled clothes brush i.e. bristles that will not tear at the cloth, but rather massage it. Pay particular attention to the shoulders of your jacket/coat, the elbows, the back and the lapels and front. Trousers should be brushed on the seat, at the knee and the ankles. Waistcoats merely require the front be brushed.

Cleaning

While dry cleaning one’s suit is a sure fire way to get it looking really clean, the chemical process will take it’s toll over time. Therefore, limit the dry cleaning of your suit, only cleaning it if really necessary i.e. something is spilled on it that is still visible 24 hours after the incident (even then your dry cleaner might be able to do a ‘spot clean’).  Whilst a clean suit is obviously better than a stained suit, the chemical process causes the wool ‘nap’ to flatten, lack lustre and eventually become shiny, and, over time, a little stiff.

Steaming and Pressing

Preferable to dry cleaning is steaming and pressing. A service which is provided by your dry cleaner, and one which not only costs less, but is also kinder to your suit and is often all that is required.

Laundering

Suits made of wool, and even, I’d suggest, those made of linen or cotton, should not be machine washed. Shirts, on the other hand, should be machine washed on a cool wash i.e. 30 or 40 degrees, and pressed, before their maiden voyage. That is not to say that shirts cannot be dry cleaned, but the laundering process is what soften the canvassing in the collars and cuffs of a new shirt, making them more comfortable to wear – it also eradicates the folding-creases of a new shirt. Thereafter, do your worst.

Pressing

Shirts can be pressed with a steam iron. The pressing of suits with a steam iron, should be avoided. If you are in a fix, and it is absolutely necessary to press your suit at home, place a tea towel between the iron and the garment being pressed to avoid scorching the cloth.

If you’ve any queries regarding the care of your garments, or otherwise, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Thank you for choosing Brown in Town.

Its a Pitti but….

So, in spite my umming and arring until the 11th hour, Saffron Director finally convinced me to make the pilgrimage to Pitti Uomo for the bi-annual dose of schmoozing and glad-handing. Given the opportunity, she said, she herself would jump at the opportunity to go to Florence and leave the family behind; so we went ahead and booked our flight (well, mine not ‘ours’ – the saucepan lids were not left to fend for themselves I can assure you) to bear witness to the spectacle that is the sartorial equivalent of a mafia wedding, according to my mother – who apparently knows about these things.

Sub-zero temperatures did nothing to stem the large crowds nor the obligatory peacocking, which was in overdrive given the additional accessory of overcoats given the time of year, which peacocks and the cognoscenti alike enjoy draping across their shoulders like gangsters.

The art of people watching comes into it’s own at Pitti and as I am merely a tourist, it is all about absorbing the what and the how of peoples style; whether sartorial or high-fashion. In fact, I have not been so inspired by casual wear as I have since my recent trips to Florence and more recently Naples. There are many reasons for this I am sure, not least that some of the streetwear exhibitors at Pitti include brands that were hugely influential and sought after during my childhood, such as Diadora, Kappa, Ellesse and Moon Boot to name a few. A stroll through the hall of the exhibition hosting the aforementioned brands is like a stroll down memory lane for this South London boy from the 70’s – the era which effectively killed-off the suit. The irony.

But what has become evident to me, is that Italians do not adhere to a rigid code of dress as we Brits do. Here in Blighty, it often appears that we gravitate toward one mode of dress or another i.e. very smart of very cas’(ual): read scruffy.

Those natty Italians, however, do not discriminate between smart and or casual and are seemingly able to wear either not only with ease but also aplomb. Shining examples of this would be one of my sartorial heroes Alessandro Squarzi who owns the shop Fortela in Milan and who wears a suit as well as he does a pair of jeans, a t-shirt and Converse!

And I would make the pilgrimage to Florence just to disembark at my favourite train station, Santa Maria Novella – It’s bauhaus-style architecture juxtaposing so magnificently with the mid-century and medieval architecture found in the rest of the city – and to eat as much of the local delicacy, Fiorentina steak as one’s body will allow – a lot less it transpires, but such is middle age.

The shops, boutiques, wine bars and restaurants are some of the best shop fronts I’ve witnessed anywhere. I would not be surprised if I dedicate most of my picture taking-time to them and the Florentine architecture. Street level emporiums and watering holes housed In three storey historical buildings invite you in through their plate glass frontages, all framed with Crittal-style galvanised steel. Wonderful.

And what of current trends? Well, pleats were in abundance as I anticipated they might be given that on our last tour of duty we bore witness to looser cuts in chinos, some even bearing pleats. And I was pleasantly surprised to see some of the movers and shakers sporting double-pleats in their trousers. Bravo!

We also witnessed first-hand some of the different styles of tailoring between the various regions; the unabashed ease and, dare I say it, dishevelled appearance of Neapolitan tailoring in comparison to the more structured cut and style of Florentine and Milanese tailoring. Of course, each house has their own style but I would say that these regional styles would be the most distinguishable.

My own search for an Italian sartoria (workshop) who can cut a deconstructed Italian coat for Brown in Town to add to our classic English cut, also proved fruitful. It is my desire to offer a choice of cut and construction as we do a choice of accoutrements from our atelier, offering both English and Italian ties, braces and squares.

And it is impossible to attend such an event without feeling like a kid in a candy store when there are so many wonderful products to entice you. Whilst now is not the time, we hope that once we launch our e-commerce platform, we might be able to increase our current offering of accessories to include socks and cufflinks, possibly luggage.

Watch this space..

Ciao, ciao!

*Photo by The Trend Spotter.net

 

Felice Anno Nuovo!

33,000ft was once a place filled with great emotion – I remember reading Bon Voyage messages from my niece and nephews on my flight to my new life overseas back in 2004 and reaching for my handkerchief to stem the flow. But that was before I found what I was looking for..

Now, with a boisterous family in tow and a place to finally call home the only emotion I feel boarding this flight to Pisa is one of excitement as I head to my third Pitti Uomo in Florence.

Naturally, I feel a pang as I will miss my family awfully, though I’ll confess that I am looking forward to sleeping in a bed without my entire family in it! And although the lure of a good night’s sleep or even four nights has obviously contributed, it still took me until Friday night to decide whether or not to make the pilgrimage to the first Pitti Uomo of 2019, call me indecisive. But here we are, taxiing down the runway in flight mode.

Though indecisive I may be, I need no encouragement to put pen to paper, in fact, I am elated for it is such a long time since I have and so much has happened since I did.

Now, 2019 does not only mark a milestone in my career in the tailoring trade – 10 years would you believe – but on the 1st January whilst we were recovering from our New Years festivities – nothing too strenuous, Saffron Darby and I stayed home with good friends Martyn Cross the artist and Lara Cross the artist’s wife, played some records and sang along to Level 42’s Running in the Family (there is video evidence) – there was a Birthday..

Brown in Town turned 5yrs old..!

On January 1st 2014 Saffron Darby and I opened the doors of our own tailoring house. Having moved to Bristol exactly 5yrs earlier on January 1st 2010, to open the first of many studios around the country for A Suit That Fits – and when that suit did not fit so well (sic), we decided to cut another one; our own one. And I’m very pleased that we did.

And whilst the auspiciousness of the first day of a new year has motivated some of my decisions in the past, I confess that my motivation this year was one of rest and recuperation.

And just as I must thank my children, not to mention Early Man on dvd for the lie-in, I must also thank you all for your support and patronage over the years, for without you there would be no Brown in Town.

So as the last leg of my journey carries me down the tracks towards the architecturally splendid Santa Maria Novella train station in Florence, I bid you addio and Felice Anno Nuovo!

See you in a week..

The Romance of Train Travel

It is perhaps not least that I still believe in the romance of train travel, but when faced with a 4 1/2 hour train journey Up North to Huddersfield, I get very excited indeed!

You see, whilst a train may not be taking me off to some far and distant land for sun, sand and the other, it can provide a safe haven from the world outside and some respite to indulge in some of life’s little luxuries; time to put pen to paper, which I enjoy very much, especially over a coffee and a sticky bun. But finding the time to do so has become increasingly difficult. What with wedding suits for brides and grooms, separates and brightly coloured shirts and polos for the jet set and the occasional whistle and flute for city gents; there have not been enough hours in the day of late.

And once the tickets are booked, there is then the consideration of what one might wear for such a journey. Comfort and utility being a priority, of course, I have taken my lead from the golden age of train travel when clothes were a little easier to wear than today’s slim-cuts.

Given the amount of sitting one must do, my incredibly luxurious Fox flannels are perfect, not least because because flannel is very soft and comfortable. Being wool, they are both breathable and cosy, meaning they can be as warm as they are cool. Also, they are cut with a straight leg, as opposed my trademark drainpipe and with a looser seat. This provides a fit with more room at the thigh; perfect for sitting on a train for hours.

Now, because I knew I’d be typing, I decided against cufflinks as they tend to be cumbersome. Moreover, given the shirtings I favour, which traditionally are poplins and oxfords which are not very forgiving, I opted instead for one of our new made-to-measure long sleeve polos from Hubscher. The cotton pique is not only breathable but has more give than my other shirts. And as we will not be entertaining today, I thought we could go sans tie.

And while the weather today may not call for a jacket, I find that the pockets which a jacket affords you are of paramount importance when travelling. Where else would one carry one’s wallet, phone, lip balm, keys, sunglasses? So, we opted for one’s old faithfull summer blazer, which is cut from the recently resurrected Mirage cloth range from Harrisons of Edinburgh, albeit now under the W. Bill banner.

This ensemble Saffron Darby likes to refer to as my Cary Grant look; it’s not all compliments, but we’ll take them where we can get them! And tapping away on our new gold MacBook on the 09:30 to Leeds, with my decaf coffee and aquafaba cake (rustled up by none other than Saffron Darby herself), I am in my element!

Before you know it, we are in the land of looms, alchemists and some of the finest worsteds and woollens know to humanity; Huddersfield. And Huddersfield is home to our new friends from Huddersfield Fine Worsteds who were the consummate hosts and pulled out all the stops for my visit, for which I am most grateful.

We started at the beginning, in the weaving shed, as it is know, seeing their yarns being fed into the looms; the majority of their cloths are woven here with some seasonal collections coming from Italy, such as their iridescent ’Bamboo’ jacketing (yes, actually made from bamboo fibre) and also India for some of their cottons and seersuckers (India were one of the first producers of cotton in the world, and is where our Brown in Town handkerchiefs are made).

Next we headed to their warehouse where all order for the UK and Europe are fulfilled. While you have to appreciate the skill and workmanship that goes into weaving these fine cloths, it is in the warehouse that I get most excited. For it is here that you see the cloths as pieces (approx. 60m lengths) rolled-up and on the shelf and I can see the colours and the patterns and start to imagine them as garments. Once a cloth is earmarked as being desirable, you are then offered the bunch or cards (folders) of the respective cloths – though not to take with you then and there, much to my chagrin! One must wait one’s turn and join the queue to ensure that each bunch is accounted for.

I was also fortunate enough to be shown around the company’s hallowed archive, which, documented in dusty tomes provides a full history of their designs and patterns over the years; the oldest I bore witness to dated back to 1898. But the archive which impressed me the most, was the one which has inspired possibly the greatest sartorial anglophile of recent times; Ralph Lauren. I think he has done more than most to champion British sartorial style, and is regularly photographed for the RL campaigns in Savile Row suits and cloths.

The final part of the puzzle came on day two of our trip, but not before we had sought refreshment and quite possibly the best “ruby” I have ever had the pleasures of eating, not to mention a few ice cold libations – I’m not a lager man, but if you know of a curry house that serves anything other than Cobra or Kingfisher, I’d like to know about it!

The final piece of the puzzle of cloth production took us to W.T Johnson. They are a family owned cloth finishing business, whom, some might argue, are the best in the business. Given time honoured traditions, not to mention the secrecy surrounding some of the processes, finishing is best described as alchemy. These custodians of the dark arts of creating, improving and galvanising the finish of every piece of fine cloth that you are likely every to have worn. The level of detail, the passion and the graft that is involved in taking an entire piece of cloth from a mill and preparing, nay, nurturing it until it is fully fledged and ready to take flight, is remarkable. While I can take little away, what I can inform of you of is that there are two basic things required to ‘finish’ a piece of cloth; water and steam. The former is drawn from Johnson’s own bore hole and, it is suggested, it is the water which is key to transforming a cloth into something that is more than just fit for purpose, but that will last a lifetime.

And while I may now be wearing full regalia; a two piece linen/wool, Oxford shirt inc. tie and cufflinks, I am no less comfortable tapping away on these shiny black keys. And I may not be as fresh as I was yesterday morning, but I am not less happy with my lot; inspired, informed and educated. And I may not have been my turn to entertain today, but I took no less care in my attire for the journey home.

Toot, toot…!