Style is a journey, not a destination..
Something has got me very excited. Very excited indeed. So excited, in fact, that I have had trouble sleeping. And no, it is not my nocturnal Son!
Like my Son though, I am a creature of habit. But all of those habits have stemmed from something which was once upon a time new and which we had discovered. Recently we have discovered that we like to travel overseas in order to recharge the old batteries; while the weather this Summer has been outstanding, it is not much use to those of us that work in a subterranean, windowless environment! Perhaps this is why trips to sunnier climbs really get my mercury rising. Our trips to the Algarve, Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast have both been the source of enormous inspiration, not to mention good sources of serotonin.
Since my first trip to Florence for the Pitti Uomo men’s fashion fair, this now annual pilgrimage ticks both the aforementioned boxes. Indeed, I believe it was during this trip that I was encouraged to adopt the two-piece suit as addendum to my exclusively three-piece wardrobe. And not only do I shop better when abroad, I am also more receptive to those things which are not common to me at home in Blighty.
There is a lot to be inspired by in Florence, starting with it’s central train station Santa Maria Novella, which has the most sublime architecture, and attention to detail such as the matching fonts above every kiosk. Not to mention the facades of their beautiful boutique shops, which line cobble streets and have remained unchanged since the cobbles were laid. If you have not been, might I suggest that you do.
And it is as if this renaissance architecture set the stage for what has become my greatest inspiration in terms of men’s style at and around Pitti this time around. Now, perhaps because it was the Summer edition of Pitti, but certainly those who stood out to me, had adopted a more casual style, more relaxed. While jackets remained neatly cut, albeit in the ubiquitous deconstructed style which lends itself to a Summer wardrobe, trousers and in particular chinos, were much more generously cut than they have been in a while.
I was intrigued to say the least. But before I’d had the chance to consider how I might dip my toe in the water, I chanced upon an Aladdin’s cave selling Italian made chinos in this new looser cut (some too loose for my svelte frame, regrettably). In fairness, it was the fabulous collection of Tin Tin paraphernalia such as T-Shirts, figurines, comics and books etc. which actually enticed me into the store in the first instance – have just started watching an old box set of The Amazing Adventures of Tin Tin with my children, which they love.
Given it was my last day at Pitti and I had a train to catch, I was not afforded as much browsing time as I’d have liked but 20 mins later I was the proud owner of a pair of Devore chinos, generously cut at the seat and with single knife-pleats. Now, pleats are something which I have shied away from in chinos since my first attempt some years ago. But the generous cut seams to make more sense of the pleats than today’s slim-fit chinos. They are also long enough for me to roll them up several times at the ankle, which give them the allure of historical seaside attire, sans the knotted handkerchief!
And with few exceptions, shoes were worn sans socks. Or so I thought until I was informed that there is an invisible sock which is made with Italian men in mind and which are which are invisible when worn with their loafers – who knew? Not me that’s for sure. I myself was a casualty. While my feet may survive an entire day sans socks in Bristol, the heat and cobble streets in Florence got the better of me, managing a mere 20 mins in Florence before I was bruised and bleeding! Canvas daps and Belgian Loafers were popular among the cognoscenti, which looked a lot softer than my Cheaney’s.
I would imagine that the weather has played a part in this sartorial shift, but I believe the seed was sewn when I opted for a more generous cut in my Fox Flannels which I had made at the end of last year. Notwithstanding the straight leg-cut, which affords the wearer more drape behind the thigh, I also cut the seat an inch bigger than usual. These trousers are about as comfortable as they can be, short of increasing the position of the waistband to the navel: Following a commission from a friend of Brown in Town, who requested a pair of trousers inspired by Oxford Bags, I was reminded yet again that high waisted trousers worn at the navel afford the wearer the most comfortable position and ergo the most comfortable trousers. Just think; no slipping down, no binding or digging into your hips as hipsters do and no cutting you in half when you sit down. Heaven.
In fact, I must confess that it is perhaps Mr Carney’s double pleats that have got me most excited of all. For his Oxford Bags-inspired white flannels, from Fox Brothers, naturally, were so exquisite I have been seduced! And while we may not be adopting the higher waistband (preferring my trousers to sit just above my hip bones), nor the wide ankle (I’ll stick with a narrower ankle for now), I proffer that we all know that the day is coming..
The other catalyst for this retro-style is almost certainly the new long sleeve polo shirts which we now offer as part of our made-to-measure shirt range. Tucked in, the long sleeve polo with it’s choice of knitted collar and cuff or the more tailored two-piece collar (also available as a button-down for the preppy’s among us) and single button cuff, inspires something of the Cary Grant in one’s ensemble – or so I am informed by the Memsahib.
But what to wear on one’s feet? I’m not much for canvas shoes, though that will probably change over time. And Saffron Darby has vetoed the Belgian loafer. So, we have sought inspiration from The Talented Mr Ripley, which is set in Italy in the 1950’s and appeals not only to my renaissance tastes, but is indicative of the style which I saw in Florence. After weeks of painful deliberation (my feet still scarred by the abuse they sustained) I have decided to plump for a pair of Bass Weejuns from G.H. Bass & Co. who are purveyors of the Penny Loafer.
I actually owned a pair of burgundy Penny Loafers in my early teens when the 1950’s style was all the rage and we shopped at Flip in Covent Garden for our jeans, chinos and bowling or gas station shirts and Shelly’s for our Shoes; I thought they were/I was the bees knees. But this time around we are opting for black as they will also go well with the cloths of some new trousers which we are working on just now.
First up was a pair of off-white 9oz flannels from Fox Brothers Queens Award collection (now in short supply) and a pair of ginger 12oz linen slacks from W. Bill. Both have been cut more generously on the seat and feature a button-fly. Both feature double pleats; the flannel’s English and the linen’s Continental, naturally.
So, be bold and follow your instincts even if they fly in the face of what you believe to be right and fitting. And remember to allow a little colour into your wardrobe this Autumn even if you did not during the Summer months. Oh, and get out more, the Vitamin D will do you good!
All the best,