Saturday, 12 April 2014

Keeping in Touch

Keen readers may have noticed that a good month into the revision period, with just under a month to go before my examinations hit, I've been struggling somewhat to keep my menswear writing flowing as regularly as usual. I'm missing it dreadfully, but unfortunately my degree and examinations must come first. Given that I haven't posted in a while however, I thought a short piece informing readers of what's happening behind the scenes at Student Tailor HQ might be in order.

Well, as I just mentioned, the main news at the moment is that I've got just under month before I have to sit some seventeen and a half hours worth of exams on medieval and Anglo-Saxon literature (with a bit of archaeology thrown in for good measure) and around two months to go until my university experience ends and I graduate. Once exams are over I'll be producing a few pieces offering my closing thoughts on how Oxford's exceptionally smart, preppy style has influenced my own dress sense, and how my time at University has moulded my approach to fashion and style, before I leave.

Then, comes the summer and the time for me to attack both job hunting and my long term aims to develop the blog and my regular columns as respected reviewing platforms, and to develop my profile as an involved and committed part of the tailoring and men's style scene. It's going to be an exciting time and I'm very much looking forward to taking you all on that journey with me; we're talking more analytical insights into the industry, more insight into brands behind the scenes, more product reviews, factory visits and as ever, the usual compliment of whimsical bibblings and style advice. More to come on these developments post-exams.

As far as the employment front goes, I currently am hoping to have something lined up come the Autumn, although if there are any individuals in the industry reading this who would like to give me the opportunity to prove that I am committed to being a tremendous asset to either a menswear retail company or alternatively in luxury lifestyle journalism then now would be a very welcome time to hear from you!

But, to return to the present, those of you (if indeed there are any of you) who are missing the regular dose of 'studenty-tailoringy' thoughts, might I suggest that you keep checking my other writing spaces and columns on a regular basis? I'm still writing pieces regularly for Mensflair and the chaps at The Code of the Gentleman have received a number of contributions from me recently, not all of which have been published as yet. Likewise, in order to keep both readers and myself at least partially satiated with matters relating to gentlemen's style, I'm posting little nuggets of tailoring related thoughts and analysis on my Facebook Page, Twitter Feed and Tumblr, so please do follow and keep an eye on those - I aim to post at least one item of interest on each of those platforms daily.

That's all there is to offer at the moment really, I hope that this post has reassured readers that I am as committed as ever to Thoughts of a 'Student Tailor' and I'm itching to get back to writing regularly come the end of May. In the meantime, wish me luck in my Finals eh?

Kindest regards to all,


Thursday, 3 April 2014

The Driving Force II: Mr Christopher Modoo

Let me introduce you to Mr. Christopher Modoo, Creative and Buying Manager at Chester Barrie, who's work in transforming the brand's tailoring (and casualwear collections) in recent years, has led to Chester Barrie's fast becoming one of the most desirable names in luxury British tailoring. Chris was kind enough to invite me to his Savile Row office, which adjoins the company's flagship store at No. 19, so that we could chat about his style, his influences, and what it is that drives him to create such impeccable British clothing.

Despite a passion for tailored clothing from a very young age, Chris's route into fine tailoring was an unusual one: 'It was never a career option, no one picked it for me - the first few years of my working life were spent as an unhappy, overdressed bank clerk'. Clearly, something had to be done. After only a few months in the bank, he accepted a job in Selfridges' accounts department solely for the 40% clothing discount. A few months in, he realised that 'I could get the same basic salary and clothing discount, plus commission on the sales floor'. Chris went straight into the men's shirting department and a year later at the age of 21, he was asked to take on the role of Thomas Pink's Selfridges Concession Manager..

After some years working as a manager with Thomas Pink, Chris moved to Ede & Ravenscroft, taking on the task of developing the brand's then brand new 'Personal Tailoring' service, no small feat as it turned out. In addition to adding this string to his bow, working in such a formal house has given Chris an expert eye and understanding of British formalwear. 'I've always been passionate about formalwear, I loved learning about its etiquette, conventions and history. I have respect for French tailors, Italian tailors, American tailors - they all have their own strengths, but the British just do formalwear so well'.

Clearly, Modoo knows what he's talking about: 'I got to style formalwear for the Royal Household, I used to go to Windsor every year, I've dressed most of the Orders of Chivalry in morning dress, I've provided clothing for academic awards and OBE ceremonies at Buckingham Palace. When you see formalwear worn in that environment, you see how its done at its best, worn in a comfortable way - you see how it really works'.

Having moved on from his successes at Ede & Ravenscroft, over the last few years at Chester Barrie, Chris has worked in buying and designing the company's handsome off-the-peg collections, a role in the company which has been highly informed by his extensive, personal experience with bespoke tailoring. Shortly after taking his job at Selfridges, Chris started to have things made, and very quickly gained a comprehensive technical understanding of the art of tailoring, and an eye not only for what worked well and what didn't, but what worked well with style. 'I tried everything; over-accessorising, too much use of colour, huge peaked lapels, high gorges, low gorges, double-breasted waistcoats, turn-back cuffs on everything, trouser waists too high, trouser waists too low, trousers without pockets... don't try that!'

With this in mind, as we talk through the cut and shape of a Chester Barrie jacket, Chris waxes lyrical about his own personal philosophy of designing a tailored garment. 'Its all about balance. All the garments we design have to balance perfectly; I look at a jacket block and I know that if I want big peaked lapels on it, then the shoulders need to be strong to carry them, and the pocket jets need to be in proportion.'

Modoo with a line of exquisitely styled Chester Barrie models at the company's A/W 14 London Collections: Men presentation back in January.

Indeed, between Chris and his co-designer, the venerable Edward Sexton (who acts as Tailoring Consultant for the brand) everything is meticulously crafted, measured and tested. Lapel gorges, pocket shapes, the fullness of the chest, the strength of the shoulder, the suppression of the waist and the rise and drape of the trouser. This is a philosophy of precision which informs everything Modoo designs. 'Its all about mixing colours and textures, shirts and ties also need to balance against suits - not just in terms of shape - but also stylistically. Just mixing it up a little bit using pops of colour to add some creativity - always in good taste.'

Talking of good taste, we get onto Chris's own personal style influences. 'My father was a huge influence on my dress - he was a Mod. The Mods were truly fastidious. Every element in their dress was considered, it wasn't just about throwing on an expensive suit. He always cared about his clothes. He taught me to look after my own clothing and value personal pride in appearance. He was so fussy he used to wear starched collars'. In keeping with his young love for tailoring, Chris also thoroughly enjoyed dressing formally for sixth form: 'Sixth Form was also an important time for me - we had to wear suits - and the most exciting part of the day was deciding what to wear'.

The conversation turns to Savile Row itself and Modoo is filled with nothing but optimism, 'I'm a huge fan of Savile Row and its a good time to be on the Row right now. Savile Row has become a part of London fashion - the decision for Savile Row to exhibit at 'London Collections: Men' was brave, but an excellent move'. He does however, have a word or two to say about the broader London tailoring scene. 'Savile Row is the pinnacle of English tailoring, and so it should be, but I'd like to see a London tailoring scene that isn't marginalised by Savile Row. There are so many good city tailors, and presenting a united front to the customer would help make the tailoring market seem less niche'.

Having sat in conversation with him for over an hour, evidently Chris understands his business, and understands the need for Savile Row to continually develop and evolve. Likewise, dressed in his impeccable royal blue suit, with a crisp white tab-collar shirt, perfectly standing slim checked silk tie, and subtly contrasting paisley pocket-handkerchief, Modoo truly understands fine tailoring and understands British style. 

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Sartorial Flair, A Case Study

Given that revision inevitably brings with it article after article of heavily discursive pieces of Middle English scholarship, I can't quite bring myself to produce an equally discursive, abstract discussion of what the sartorial concept of 'flair' constitutes. We'll have to save that for another time. I would like however, to briefly discuss the photograph beneath that I found the other day. Keen followers of the Student Tailor's Facebook Page may have noticed this photograph was posted a few days ago, but since I first found it, Its lodged itself into the sartorially obsessed part of my consciousness, so I think it warrants further discussion.

The gentlemen in question is quite obviously His Royal Highness The Duke of Windsor, looking as elegant as ever, dressed in a rather interesting tailored ensemble. His Royal Highness was (and in tailoring circles still is) one of the great fashion icons of his day; renowned for his love of bold, heavily milled cloths and tweeds, elegant yet unusual cuts of jacket and trouser and beautifully finished tailored ensembles.

This particular outfit is a fine example of just why the Duke was so famous. The silhouette of the jacket is sartorial, yet striking, with unusually angular slim notched lapels and the angles in the notches of each lapel draw attention to the strong line of the jacket's shoulder. The sleeves are attractively slim in cut (something only ever achievable in bespoke tailoring - because slim sleeves are not practical on mass-produced jackets which must fit every shape) and likewise so is the jacket running through the waist. The line down each side seam is lovely and clean and the chest has clearly been built up using lots of structure in typical English fashion. Even so, it is cut close to body, and doesn't have more fullness in it than it needs. The angle of the breast stand pocket opening runs parallel to the downward slant on the left hand side lapel and the tall, close collar lends the jacket a further distinguished air.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this jacket is the button stance. The two coat buttons sit above and below the waist, rather than having the top button on the waist, and the lapels have evidently been designed to be worn rolled to the lower button. The lovely long roll of the lapel is a further indication of the quality of craftsmanship achieved in the jacket, and the lovely thickness of cloth and depth of construction used.

The jacket is coupled with a smart, tightly knotted tie in a half-Windsor knot (naturally), and a deep v-neck jumper which gives the tie plenty of space to make a statement. Equally, the steep lines of the jumper's break echo the lines of the jacket's lapels. The pockets on the jacket are very sharply slanted - almost too much so - but they nonetheless produce a very striking effect and the Duke naturally adds extra style by tucking the pocket flaps in to reveal the very crisp pocket bindings. The resultant bound pockets make for a dapper and distinctive touch. So too is the decision to add a chunky turn-up at the bottom of the trousers and to ensure that the trousers are hemmed at a length which allows the turn-ups sit neatly in a horizontal line across the top of the shoe. The trouser leg also has lovely proportions; its cut straight through the leg, but close to the thigh, which ensures that the trouser has body without being baggy, its also nice to see a flat-fronted trouser with a leg that doesn't taper at all - its a rather distinctive shape.

I may not have answered precisely what constitutes 'flair' in this article, but I'd suggest that the Duke is as fine an example of a gentleman who knows how to dress with flair as there has ever been. On paper, there's nothing terribly inspired about a fairly coarse tweed blazer and some separate flannel trousers - that's a bog-standard affair, but the Duke demonstrates how to wear them with panache - he offers the very essence of dressing with flair. 

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Pattern Presicison

Fellow fashionista and menswear blogger Victorianizer has brought this rather interesting series of vintage fashion illustrations to my attention.

What you see below, are a sample of sheets from a pattern for a German 1920s double-breasted lounge suit. The long flared skirt, suppressed waist, expressed chest and close wrap of the four by four closure makes for an extremely elegant cut as you can see, but I thought these images would give us a rare opportunity to look closely a draft of a pattern and to explore how the form of the body is negotiated by the tailor's eye.

The two terms expression and suppression which I use above may not be familiar to you. There are a number of ways in which I could explain these two concepts, but I often find that the most helpful way to think of the two, are as opposing techniques. A tailor will construct different parts of the garment in different ways. Sometimes structure will be added, like the chest canvass or shoulder pads. This is expression, whereby a part of the body is 'expressed' or enhanced creating a fuller chest or stronger shoulder for example. Other parts of the suit will 'suppress' the body, creating a narrow or slimmer waist for example. This will be achieved by sculpting shape into the garment without using any underlying structure; through the use of darting, shaping seams, stretching and working the cloth. One technique tends to add shape by building structure into the garment, and the other is structure-less.

It was the emergence of the lounge suit in the early years of the 20th century which really saw tailors experimenting with form-fitting garments for the first time. The tailcoat, Epsom coats and frock coats of the Victorian era did not have to use structure in the same way given their long, looser shape and in many cases, the quality of cloth was so coarse that there was only a limited amount a tailor could hope to do with it. The 20s and 30s therefore marked a golden era for men's tailoring, the lounge suit was in, popular and cloth weaving technology had improved greatly in a relatively short space of time. The result was increased experimentation in shaping a garment.

The emphasis on an almost exaggerated silhouette can been very clearly in the pattern below. Take note of the huge amount of darting and segmentation of a number of cloth panels to work the cloth into shape around the waist in both the jacket and around the seat of the trousers. Note also the focus on a closeness of fit. There isn't much fullness in the chest, the shoulder line is clean and slim, the jacket's waist is suppressed very strongly and the chest expressed (structured to add body) clearly. The collar is cut close to sit neatly against a 20s statement starched shirt collar.

Note also the emphasis on symmetry and design, whoever produced this pattern was good - they thought through the aesthetics, as well as the practical construction of the garment. There are two buttonholes on the lapels and two buttons on each cuff to match the four fastening buttons on the jacket breast. The darts visible on the front of the jacket are cut long and deep to really add a lot of curvature in the chest. They're cut long because not only is the skirt long, but the jacket breaks high - note how unlike most modern double-breasted suits, this suit's bottom set of buttons fasten on the waist - not the top set, raising the fastening up onto the chest. The darts also run into the inside edge of the coat's horizontal jetted pockets, the jets of which are suitably chunky to suit the long line of the coat. In line with the jacket's high break, the waist is set a little higher, and features a lot of quite sharp suppression; it tapers deeply around the wearer's waist.

To achieve a sharp, high-set hourglass waist like this, the excess cloth that feeds through into the coat's skirt and quarters must be eased through gently, and you can see from the way that the jacket's side panels are designed to flare strongly that there is a real emphasis on draping the skirt neatly.

The vent is cut right up to the small of the back (again in 20s fashion), with a view to draping the heavy skirt more elegantly over the seat of the trousers at the rear. This also aids accessibility into the trouser pockets, which are higher than on a modern trouser, given that the trouser pattern reveals (again in 20s style) that the rise on these trousers is high and the trouser is designed to sit around the natural waist of the wearer. The trousers also feature darts running into the waistband, which creates a little fullness in the thigh of the trouser leg to comfortably accommodate larger leg shapes if need's be.

Sometimes, there's a real delight in taking the time to go back to basics and think through a piece of tailoring design at its most fundamental. I hope that this makes for interesting contemplation for you too. 

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Double Breasted Dogstooth III: The Review

Here it is, the long awaited arrival of my latest bespoke suit by London tailor's the Cad & the Dandy. With the final suit here, you can get a sense of what was spoken about in the two earlier posts in the series, when I talked through the central elements of the suit's design. The finished suit has a modern, sharp quality (a pleasant surprise to me as it happens - I thought it'd look more traditional) whilst still maintain some features more readily associated with the signature 1930s aesthetic that I like to maintain in my clothes; extremely broad, sharp peaked lapels with a nice rounded belly, straight cut jetted pockets, a deep-cut single rear vent, turn-back cuffs, high waisted trousers with pleats, vertical cut welt pockets, and finished with chunky 2" turn-ups (designed specifically to match the width of the pocket jets and turn-back cuffs).

I made a number of gambles in this project and I'm pleased to say that they have paid-off, I am thrilled with the suit, both its cut and its quality. I specified whopping great lapels at 4.5" wide (this was the widest that the Cad & the Dandy would let me have them) with a high 2.5" gorge. The effect, I feel is very impressive and sharp, whilst still maintaining something of a Jazz-Age quality (helped by the dual buttonholes on each lapel which were factored into the design). I am also very pleased with the decision to cut the suit with turn-back cuffs to add a dressy quality (when dressed up, this makes a wonderful second cocktail suit alongside my chocolate number) and I'm also pleased that I kept the pockets simple, to prevent the suit from becoming too busy. I'm also very pleased with the decision to opt for a chunkier 2" turn-up than my usual 1.5" on the trousers, and that I opted for a single reverse facing pleat. I'm not usual a fan of either of these features, but the boxy quality they produce compliments the double-breasted cut of the coat.

Where I am most happy is the choice of cloth. As you will know, this suit was a somewhat snap decision on my part and I didn't design or plan it as thoroughly as I normally do before I place an order. Nonetheless, the decision to run with Dugdale's solid, dependable English worsted was a very satisfying one, the suit drapes well, feels solid without being too heavy or constricting and I love the pattern. The use of dark navy as opposed to black in the dogstooth, in my opinion, creates a softer, yet more distinctive pattern and is an inspired move by Dugdale's. I also supplied a pure purple silk satin fabric which I bought cheaply on holiday in Marrakesh to be used as the lining. Initially, I was terrified that it would clash, but I think you'll agree that the effect is rather lovely. The quality of this lining, and the fact that its very breathable, has made this suit extremely comfortable to wear, the dogstooth cloth itself is a heavy 14oz, but having worn it several times since I collected it a few weeks ago, I have not overheated once.

This being my third suit, my pattern is so perfect by now, that the forward fitting became the collection fitting, hence the reason that there are no photographs of a forward fitting to show you! I actually walked out of the shop that day, after the rear-vent setting had been tweaked slightly whilst I was still there, to help it sit more neatly, this being the only alteration necessary. The Cad & the Dandy turned the suit around for me within an hour, whilst allowing me to sit, browse some new swatches and enjoy a cup of coffee - their service was uncompromisingly helpful and efficient. My only tiny complaint, is that although the fit of the sleeve is excellent and feels like its been pitched perfectly, there is a tiny bit of excess in the rear of the sleevehead around the top of my shoulder, which creates a tiny bit of creasing when my arms are relaxed, which is not ideal - I had this on my first half-hand made blue suit, but not my second chocolate suit, so hopefully we'll be able to correct this on my next order. In all other respects, the fit is simply marvellous. the sleeves are nice and slim, the chest is cut full with a strong hourglass waist and there is a nice strong line to the shoulder and the lovely high roped sleevehead that I like on my suits. The suit drapes beautifully around my middle with no pulling and sits neatly through my back; no mean feat due to its strong curvature.

I also must point out that the Cad & the Dandy were extremely accommodating throughout; I set a very tight completion date on the suit (in order to wear it to a wedding) and the company pulled out all the stops to ensure that it would be ready in time, the whole service was extremely fast for a bespoke suit (from placing the order to the final fitting) and always I would highly recommend the Cad & the Dandy for their impressive service. They take their business very seriously, and in my experience always strive to live up to their identity as a luxury London tailors - they certainly do appreciate the value of providing a high standard of customer service - I always feel valued when I go in there.

Overall then, I can attest to yet another very enjoyable and satisfying experience with the Cad & the Dandy, and to the quality of their product. I have written about this before, but I would like to re-emphasise that there is, in my opinion, relatively little which separates the Cad & the Dandy from other more expensive London tailors. It is true, that more expensive or exclusive tailors offer more fittings, and can refine the finer points of the fit, beyond that which is feasible for the kind of price that the Cad & the Dandy offer. There is no point pretending that this is the same kind of bespoke suit that Huntsman or Norton & Sons produce, but it is nonetheless a suit of impressive quality, and the real worth of the Cad & the Dandy is in its extremely impressive value for money. I do not know of anywhere else where you can get a fully canvassed bespoke suit which fits very closely, with a hand-padded chest, lapels and hand-set sleeves (as well as all the other elements of hand-work expected of a British bespoke suit) for under £1000.00. I always leave the Cad & the Dandy feeling extremely special, and like I have an extremely precious piece of clothing in my possession, which a lot of care and skill has gone into and that, I think, is the essence of the bespoke experience.

Please note that I will offering a different, comprehensive review of all of the products I have had made by the Cad & the Dandy on Mensflair within the next couple of weeks. The aim of this column will be to share my experiences with the Cad & the Dandy and offer some tips to ensure that you get the best out of your own bespoke experience.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Ways to Wear Corduroy

Corduroy's a funny thing. In my experience, people either love it, or hate it. Furthermore, those who hate it would never even consider wearing it and this is a real shame. For this reason, I thought that it might be worth producing a piece wherein you can find some suggestions on how to wear it in a modern, accessible and attractive fashion. The danger with corduroy perhaps, is that its synonymous with old fashion 'fuddy-duddy' dress. This, I feel, is an unfair association. Corduroy is a deeply tradition cloth it is true, but it comes in many different colours, weights and thicknesses, which make it extremely versatile and easy to wear in a number of different ways - both traditional and modern.

Let's begin with the name, 'corduroy'. This has its origins in the French 'cord du Roi' (or 'cord of kings' - hence my ever so witty title)... It is unknown whether this is due to the cloth's historical association with a French monarch, or whether the name is simply derived from some kind of French folk tale. The 'cord' element of the cloth is fairly obvious, the cloth takes the form of a series of vertical stripes, woven into a cotton canvass by weaving tufts of very soft, fine and glossy cotton fibres into the fabric, between the plain 'channels' of the base canvass. The density of these tufted fibres creates the jacket's pile. The 'pile' (a term that you'll hear applied to velvet cloths too) refers to the thickness of these soft and glossy cotton tufts. The denser and thicker the tufts, the finer the pile.

The other important thing to get your head around when it comes to corduroy is the 'wale'. The wale refers to the width of the individual cords of the cloth, and the higher the number of the 'wale' the more cords can be fitted into the length of an inch. Thicker, more traditional cords associated with countrywear, will measure in at around 8 wale, whereas a more modern 'needlecord' will generally be around 12 to 14 wale. Due to the thickness of corduroy cloths, they'll often weigh in as quite heavy, between 14 and 16 ounces. Corduroy is essentially a slightly more rigid and durable form of velvet and this of course makes it more wearable. It will require less maintenance - most corduroys are machine washable - and more easily steamed or pressed on their reverse than velvet. Some corduroys can be very luxurious, blending in silk or even cashmere (again, the same principle follows with velvet) but given that corduroy is often chosen for its durability over other cotton cloths, more expensive cloth mixes tend to be reserved for velvets.

My first principle for you to absorb here. The higher the wale of the corduroy, the finer it is and the more modern and fashionable it looks. The second rule of corduroy clothing, is to keep everything slim. The third, is that its versatile; corduroy is not solely the preserve of the casual trouser. Having said that however, corduroy trousers are most certainly a good place to start, being perhaps the most ubiquitous use of corduroy today. I tend to wear cords over jeans, because I find them fundamentally more comfortable and as you will have gleaned from this blog, I don't go in much for casual denim. I'd suggest that to prevent yourself from falling into the baggy-trouser trap, keep the wale fine (wearing 'cord' or 'baby-cord' as opposed to chunkier corduroy) as the slimmer stripes on finer cords look more modern in themselves. Similarly, keep the cut of the trouser slim and fitted, with a relatively low, modern rise. For more on getting the trouser silhouette right, see my latest Mensflair column on the subject. When I say slim, I really mean that the legs of the trousers should be as fitted as possible for a neat, clean line through the leg - I don't expect you to pack yourself into skinny-fit cords. My own legs here are a good example; anything but slim, but the cords I'm wearing were tapered by an alterations tailor to slim the legs down.

In a similar vein, corduroy and tweed are (let's face it) a classic combination, but again, there's a way to do it right. Obey the rules set out above: slim legs, a casual, soft fine wale cord with a contemporary rise (for a chino-like trouser) solid, smart-casual boots (these plain, whole-cut Jodhpur boots are a suitably contemporary choice) teamed with rolled-up hems on your trousers keep the look modern and debonair. If you're not rolling up your trousers, then I'd suggest keeping the hem's plain (as on the lighter blue trousers above), as the soft, textured nature of corduroy, and the fact that it'll almost certainly be thrown through a washing machine a couple of times a week, means that the cloth tends not to do formal turn-ups very well.

With bright colours in mind, I have another suggestion. To get the best out of a corduroy blazer, keep the wale very fine, look for a good quality cloth and pick a rich colour. There's nothing more dull than a predictable brown or beige cord jacket that gets worn to death, but corduroys come in such a wealth of colours that giving some bolder options a try really can make for a wonderful centre piece of your smart-casual wardrobe. I wear this jacket a lot, and it will go anywhere and do anything; its relaxed in terms of the informal colour and cloth, but its highly structured and the cloth is beautifully wear-resistant. Thus, it's formal enough to sit alongside tailored trousers for the office, and again, the colour gives the jacket a hint of fun, suitable for dressy dinner or drinks events too. For pure casualwear, there is also something very reassuring about a fine baby-cord shirt, its soft, comfortable and something about just feels luxurious, yet very easy to wear. Many high-street retailers offer a couple of options each season, and they can make for an excellent change to classic cotton shirting fabrics. The forest green option with a casual button-down collar shown above, lends itself to a casual ensemble, with its acid-washed cloth and unstructured collar and cuffs.

That's essentially all there is to it - my suggestions for modern corduroy pieces. Experiment with bright and unusual colours, use fine wale cloths and keep everything fitted and slim - simple really.

Monday, 17 February 2014

When a Tailor Says No...

I attended a wedding last weekend, and at the reception was introduced (amongst many delightful people) to a gentleman with whom I predictably began to talk tailoring. We were talking about what makes brands (particularly menswear brands) feel truly special to us, and one of the many interesting points made by the other party, is that he likes to be dressed (and I gather have suits made) by some friends of his at Hackett, because the staff there are confident enough to say 'no' to his requests when they don't think he's right.

Image courtesy of Cad & the Dandy

This is something we agree is extremely special, and it leads me to a shopping recommendation - when you first visit a tailor or a menswear shop, do not be afraid to pose questions and make suggestions specifically in order to test how the staff react. Every salesman aims to accommodate his customer and ultimately to sell their product, but should a salesman advise against certain things - this often is an indicator of real expertise and integrity - a sure sign that you'll receive the best service by staff who really understand what works for their customers.

This is hugely important with menswear, because, as the gentleman I was chatting too put it 'it gives you the confidence to walk out in style, knowing what you're wearing is right' and I don't believe that you can put a price on that. With the best will in the world, even the most obsessive customers (myself included) can come up with a wealth of ideas and inspirations for how we would like to dress, but barely any customer can claim to be an expert. Finding a service which can offer true expertise, and the confidence to say 'no' to a customer when something isn't right, rather than just make an easy sale, is therefore a real boon.

The basted fitting of my latest suit, review coming soon...

For the gentleman I was chatting with, the latest 'no' was a refusal by his tailor at Hackett to slim down his trousers more so than he already had. The tailor did not wish to spoil the line of the trousers by making them too skinny, and the trousers had already been slimmed down (and rightly so - take a look at my latest Mensflair column for a view on this) by him already. I myself find that my tailors politely say 'no' and direct me to alternative ideas on a frequent basis, and it has helped me to learn about what works and what doesn't.

The first time I walked in there, I ordered a three piece, and requested that the waistcoat have full-darts - the answer came back that I didn't need them, as full-darts are a means to enable waistcoat to sit on fuller figures, and so half darts it was. Similarly, the trouser pleats I asked for would look better as twin pleats, rather than single. On my latest suit (a review is coming soon to here and I requested 5" lapels - thankfully I was beaten down to 4.5". It seems then, that luxury menswear is one of those few remaining industries, where you really can't put a price on expert advice, and it is a real privilege to find an outfitter who is prepared to say 'no' in order to offer a service with true integrity and get things right.