Summertime, And the Linen is Easy..

While there are many of us still awaiting the arrival of that fickle mistress, the British Spring, this being  Blighty, summer may arrive, as it so often does, like a swarm of locusts, completely without warning. One day we are pulling galoshes over our Cheaney shoes and popping our Fox umbrellas amid a deluge, the next we are rifling through our wardrobes for a linen suit!

But what if your wardrobe is devoid of this staple of the English summer: t-shirts and board shorts? I think we can do better than that.

So what are the rules of engagement for this old rear guard?

Firstly, it is not a prerequisite that you add  linen to your wardrobe. There are other cloths woven with a plain or panama weave (made up of on yarn in the warp – vertical – and one in the weft – horizontal) which is mesh-like and designed to let heat escape better than a twill weave – which, to all intents and purposes, is designed to trap air against us and keep us warm.

But linen fibre, or flax as it is known before it is processed, is able to absorb 35% of it’s own weight in water, and then release it – Gore-Tex eat your heart out!

So, for those whose attire is not dictated by peer group or one’s chosen field or industry, it is with the onset of the clement weather that we must ask ourselves: to linen or not to linen. And, typically, the first question asked by those taking the plunge is, will it crease? To which the answer is almost invariably yes.

But, there are different degrees of creasing, depending on whether or not the linen is mixed with other fibres.. But more about that later.

Personally, whilst I appreciate the summer-feel of a linen suit, it is actually it’s inherent creasing which I have a penchant for. Call it the renegade within me, or the eccentric Englishman abroad, but, providing the suit is cut to perfection, and the colour is complementary to the wearer, it is the slightly dishevelled appearance of a linen suit which I find most appealing.

But once the decision has been made, then, as with all things Brown in Town we must first consider colour. The colour of one’s suit, is oft’ dictated by application i.e. it is unlikely you will wear a tan linen suit to your place of work if the address incorporates the word ‘chambers’; unless of course you are a partner, it is a Friday, and you are hosting a reception for clients in the afternoon of the last day of the working week and Pimms is being served. If you get my drift.

So, given that linen is available in myriad colours, it is possible to have a linen suit made in a colour that is perfect for you. Leaving considerations of skin tone and hair colour aside, perhaps it would be wise to consider what colour your chosen footwear will be as this will almost certainly have an influence  on your choice of cloth colour.

Now, I did once hear of a linen cloth used by Richard James of Savile Row that was mixed with polyester that prevented creasing almost entirely. However, I have it on good authority from Brown in Town’s local cloth merchant Lear Browne & Dunsford that this cloth is no longer available. So, may I introduce you to Harrisons of Edinburgh’s Mersolair linen, which is a mix of mohair and linen – the mohair providing the crease-resistant properties –  and which, given the mottled palette of it’s summery colours, more easily compliments the rest of one’s ensemble.

And, if you would like Brown in Town’s assistance through this sartorial quagmire, please feel free to get in touch.

Enjoy the Summer, whether dishevelled or otherwise!

Dress For A Party Everyday, And The Party Will Come To You!

Seldom am I inspired merely by the picture of a person that I have never met, nor know anything about. But, that is exactly the case where Steve Edge was concerned..

The photograph in question was taken by photographer Remco Merbis, also owner of Pixillion creative digital agency in Bristol. Remco shot the Brown in Town’s website and it was on Remco’s blog that I came across this effervescent character.

Lord Shoreditch (as Steve is known affectionately), self professed philosopher, madman and wanderer is founder of Edge Design in London’s Shoreditch. Something of a renaissance man himself, I felt an affinity even before we had met – given that I have a monthly residency at The Hoxton Hotel, I thought it would be rude not to pay my respects at the temple of Edge Design and so asked our mutual friend to facilitate a meeting.

In one of the photographs taken by Remco, Lord Edge is wearing a stunningly beautiful Dries Van Noten jacquard overcoat with thick black horn rimmed glasses and a shock of white hair, framed by a tightly wound scarf. Like any human being with a penchant for fine clothing, I initially thought this a great ensemble handpicked for a photoshoot, but it quickly became clear that Lord Edge possesses more than just Sunday Best, as photos on this website attest; oxblood brogues, Oxford bags, tweeds, 3 piece suits, double breasted suits and all manner of flamboyant dress abound.

Edge Design HQ did not disappoint, replete with mid century modern classics such as Panton, Bruere and Eames, it is immediately evident that Steve’s eye for design and good taste reaches far beyond schmutter.

But it is the schmutter, and moreover, Lord Edge’s own inimitable sense of style which is intrinsic to Edges unique philosophy; “Dress For A Party Everyday, And The Party Will Come To You”.

In other words, don’t save the best until last as you may never be afforded the opportunity to wear it.

Now, whilst Bristol’s local tailor is an advocate of dressing up and dressing for an occasion, I am oft informed by our patrons of their dismay at the demise of the occasion to which to wear their beloved suits (casual dress, or mufti, is increasingly the refrain of the English work place). And, whilst dinner suits used to enjoy an outing at least once or twice a year, there is less and less occasion, ney, requirement, for tux these days also, and more’s the pity I hear them cry.

Fortunately, a large portion of Brown in Town’s commissions come from grooms, who, having been given the nod by the memsahib, revel in the opportunity afforded them to have a bespoke suit (and more often than not a shirt and tie too) made for the big day. And almost without exception, the suit design favoured by grooms, who often times are experiencing the luxury, the benefits, and, dare I say it, the occasion of having a suit made for the first time, is the three piece suit – it’s classic, and/or vintage appeal most often cited as the reason for it’s popularity.

Now, we are not wishing that anyone has the occasion to have to commission more than one wedding suit in their lifetime in order to satiate their desire for bespoke finery, but if you are looking for an opportunity to wear your heart on your sleeve, then look no further; wear your wedding suit to work, your tweeds to the pub, your favourite sports jacket and shirt combo to the supermarket, your brightest pocket square, favourite tie and your bestest shoes, and dress everyday as if you were going to a party. The party will surely come to you

The BLT

Many many moons ago, and fresh off the boat at what was the greatest port of this fair land, I was approached by a cad of a man that professed to own a magazine – it transpired that he did, in fact, own a magazine.

The magazine in question was, and still is, the inspirational and stylish publication The Review. And, ever since our chance encounter, and under the pseudonym of ‘The BLT‘ (see what they did there) I have, as such, been a contributing member of the editorial team.

Now, whilst I may bear a strong resemblance to The BLT, it must be pointed out that this is merely coincidental and that all sartorial musings, anecdotes and fancies are those of The BLT, and his alone.

I leave you this week with the latest edition of this magnificent publication, enjoy.

The Fox Umbrella: Like cloth, it’s all in the handle

Aside my own, the first umbrella I can remember, or at least the one worth remembering, was a whangee handled Fox umbrella which was the property of a patron of The Only Running Footman in London’s Mayfair.

I was working behind the bar at the time, and he arrived one day wielding this magnificent piece of handcrafted workmanship, and, what I recall was that the handle seemed of great girth, and that I found it, well, wieldy.

I invested in my own Fox umbrella, also a whangee handled model the handle of which was not quite so cumbersome, some time prior to this during a stint overseas where I had experienced my first monsoon whilst living in Bangkok.

It was evident that the umbrellas on offer were not up to the task as the streets were strewn with the all too familiar detritus of umbrellas turned inside-out, destroyed by strong winds,and then discarded – which is almost as inexcusable an act as a product not up to the task for which it was designed.

Given my newfound penchant for bespoke tailoring (I had 4 or 5 tailors all striving to afford me the English 1960’s aesthetic with mixed results) I returned to Blitey feeling resplendent in my tailored suits, replete with my Steed-like Fox umbrella; I’m not sure that there has ever been a better advertisement for the British 60’s aesthetic, or, indeed, for the umbrella than that of The Avengers’ John Steed – obviously Purdy was quite an inspiration too, but let’s not get distracted!

I have patronised but a few heritage brands over the year; from Mulberry bags and Anthony Haines ties to Calvin Klein underwear. My ethos is simply; if the shoe fits, why complicate things.

Fox was the first umbrella I ever purchased, and will continue to be the only umbrella I ever use. And not that one need invest in more than one but given that I live in the wettest city in England, I am loathe to relinquish my GT9 for some long overdue servicing until I have another to protect me from the elements, so I’m treating myself to a hickory solid stick to tide me over. As you do..

So, if, like me, you believe in affording yourself the luxury of everlasting style in the form of bespoke tailoring and the other essentials provided by handcrafted accoutrements, like Fox umbrellas, please enquire within. And, in case you were wondering, the whangee handles of our GT9 umbrellas are the perfect fit!

Brown in Town: Never?

Whilst we are oft’ reminded that one should never wear brown in town; the mild indiscretion of wearing one’s country tweeds into town or brown shoes with a blue suit. However, it is met with some degree of irreverence where we at Brown in Town are concerned, as you might have gathered from our name.

You see, whilst we revere the time honoured traditions of sartorial etiquette, let us not forget that so many of these foibles of fashion were either started by a roguish dandy, or, chanced upon by the great and the good: generally royalty, for example;

The Turn-up
Attributed to King Edward VII who quite sensibly rolled-up his trousers to avoid them getting wet whilst taking a stroll around his estate.

Trouser Creases
Apparently pressed into a pair of trousers by Edward VII’s housekeeper, in error – trousers, were worn with no crease prior to this, and prior to that we were wearing hosiery.. yes, tights!

Unfastened Waistcoat Bottom Button
Again, Edward VII, who, following a banquet, unfastened bottom button to relieve the pressure the last button of his (straight bottomed) waistcoat was asserting on his (rather corpulent) stomach; bear in mind that at this time, all waistcoats were straight bottomed, whether single breasted or double breasted, and, like today’s waistcoats were worn to the waistband of our trousers but our trousers were worn at our natural waist i.e. on the belly button!

Brown Shoes, Blue Suit
And it was Edward VII’s grandson, Edward VIII, who, we are informed, was the first to put paid to the notion that one should never wear brown shoes with a blue suit, as it was this sartorially inspirational monarch who sported brown suede (brogue, I believe) shoes with his blue suit, leaving his peers and family aghast – his relationship with his father, George V, was strained at the best of times, but one can only imagine what Edward’s sartorial experimentation did for his standing as the future aire to the throne in his father eyes.

I can certainly relate to the parental concerns, being, as I am, now a father and consider on a weekly basis the torment I put my own father through with the myriad different looks, styles and phases which I flaunted at every occasion; from punk to b-boy, to hippy and with varying degrees of sartorial incorrectness, nay, gay abandon – the jet-black hair and the padlock and chain around my next (to which I lost the key), being particularly memorable, as I recall.

And, for our part, Brown in Town, as the name might suggest, will not dissuade you from wearing brown in town, though we might inform you of it’s origins (which I have had to do since our inception, and more than I thought I would have to..).

Neither will we openly encourage you to wear brown shoes with a blue suit, unless of course your shoes are beautifully made, and the particular shade of brown compliments your suit, beautifully.

And, if like so many of our grooms, you hanker after a tweed suit for your wedding day, and, providing you appreciate that tweed is a heavy cloth, and, ergo, might make you a little warmer than 9Oz – 13Oz suiting cloth, and, that the elder statesmen within your family may frown upon you, and, providing you take our advice on cloth colour, then Brown in Town are only going to encourage you to do so!

Best of luck, it’s a minefield out there..