Auteur Topic: G. Bruce Boyer voor Cigar Aficionado  (40700 keer gelezen)


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G. Bruce Boyer voor Cigar Aficionado
Gepost op: 30 november 2008 – 12:22:45
On Savile Row
Withstanding Real Estate Developers and Faddish Fashion, London's Legendary Street of Tailors Survives with Its Traditional Stylings Intact

by G. Bruce Boyer


We're just coming out of our slow season--traditionally, January through March--when business isn't overly vibrant," muses Ken Austin of Benson & Clegg Ltd., the renowned London tailoring firm. "But I should say that things are getting back to normal around here. Of course, it goes without saying that we'd all like to see a bit more business. Who wouldn't?"

The Savile Row area tailors have certainly had a spot of bother these past few years. For a start, the South American clientele has dropped by at least 40 percent. "You can put some of that down to the Falklands War," says Norman Halsey, managing director of Anderson & Sheppard Ltd., a legendary firm on Savile Row. "You see, our firm, for example, has had considerable South American business, and political changes in that part of the world affect us greatly."

Then there is the matter of zoning. For more than a decade, real estate developers had tried to have the area rezoned so they could raise the rents. "It all seems to have simmered down considerably since the real estate market fell a few years ago," notes Angus Cundey, who presides at Henry Pool & Co., the Row's oldest tailoring firm.

It has indeed, but the peril was very real. While the Row has continuously bounced back from a variety of fashion threats over the years (Carnaby Street in the '60s and '70s caused a minor furor), the real estate menace caused a panic. Well, perhaps panic is too strong a word for stiff upper lips, but the scare had the Row's tenants asking their customers to write letters of protest to anyone in the government who might listen. Formerly the area had been classified "light industrial," which effectively allowed for lower rents for craftsmen than would have accrued from a more commercial business classification. But in the early '80s, with the economy on the rise, developers and landlords began to clamor for new zoning regulations so higher rents could be charged on Row properties. For the tailors, the "light industrial" zoning was, and is, necessary because the firms must have workrooms on the premises. But with a drastic hike in rents, the tailors wouldn't be able to afford the space. There were rumors of rents increasing tenfold in one fell swoop. If this came to pass, the image--as well as the geographic reality--of Savile Row would cease to exist.

If there's anything more dangerous than getting between a grizzly bear and its cub, it's getting between a land developer and a dollar (or pound, in this case). The threat was particularly detrimental, since being outfitted in London remains one of the good reasons for visiting the city; the custom-clothing industry brings in about $30 million a year to the economy. As it happens, a somewhat stagnant real estate market has helped keep rents in abeyance.

"Rents are down," says Anthony D.R. Holland, chairman of the Holland & Sherry Group, one of the largest woolens firms on the Row and parent company of Kilgour, French & Stanbury. "I should say as much as 60 percent, from roughly £46 per square foot to £18. But the best news is that the Westminster City Council, our zoning authority, has taken a definite position on this issue. They are intent on preserving the character of the Row and very keen to promote tailoring there. [Developers of a] 200-yard-long area on the west side of the street must provide street-level shops and accompanying workrooms for tailors at reasonable rates."

You can rest assured that doesn't mean any down-market stuff like jeans shops. The top floors of the buildings--the council has allowed for new buildings to be one floor higher than the previous three-story restriction--can house other businesses, but the street itself will remain tailor-dominated. "Consequently," adds Holland, "there is considerable optimism. I know woolens sales are very good, so I expect the tailors are doing nicely."

So Savile Row will continue to be the home of tailoring. For 150 years the Row has stood for elegant gentlemen's clothing, characterized by good tailoring, quality cloth, and conservative and serious styling. The cheap and flashy, the vulgar and trendy find little room to maneuver within that august precinct.

Although Savile Row has had great historical importance and tremendous influence, and been a magnet and mecca to both highly skilled practitioners of the art and caring customers, tailoring's "Golden Mile" is surprisingly small. The square-shaped area, located in the center of London's West End, covers perhaps slightly less ground than a California shopping mall, with the Row itself running down the middle. Bordered on the east and west, respectively, by Regent, Old Bond and New Bond streets, on the south by Burlington Gardens (a short street) and Vigo Street, and on the north by Conduit Street, Savile Row is a mere three blocks long, about 20 feet wide and architecturally utilitarian.

At the moment, the aforementioned section on the west side of the Row is in the midst of reconstruction, making that area look more like a war zone than a place for a gentleman to be put in full fig.

Sociologically, the area has a village type of atmosphere. The people who work there know each other; they retire to regular haunts for lunch, gossip, professional and social meetings, and recreations. Their lives are tied to one another, both as rivals and helpmates. It is, in fact, this heady, concentrated atmosphere that largely accounts for the success and influence of the entire enterprise. It's a good medium for breeding ideas, improving technique, sharing resources. Another case, if you will, of the whole being more than the sum of its parts.

Which helps account for the sense of tradition one finds here. "We're all interested in maintaining the quality of our work," says Benson & Clegg's Austin. "This is why we're successful. We don't look to gimmicks or radical fashions. Customers trust us to give them quality, and if a suit is going to last 10 years or more, it should stay in style. My own feeling is that, if someone wants something trendy, he should buy something less expensive."

"Yes, it's the quality," agrees Anderson & Sheppard's Halsey. "We attract fairly conservative customers. The secret and strength of the London tailor is that he sticks to what he knows, and works to improve on that, rather than jumping from one new fad to another. I must also say that we're encouraged to be getting more and more young customers. As soon as they can afford us, that is."

There have been tailors in this neighborhood since at least the middle of the eighteenth century, but not in great concentration. For the next 100 years, the Row was dominated by physicians. The big change began in 1846, when a tailor named James Poole, who had a shop on adjoining Old Burlington Street, died. His son Henry took over the business and decided to enlarge the premises by turning his back workroom--which faced Savile Row--into a new shop front.

The firm of Henry Poole is thus considered the first tailor on the Row. Poole's was so successful that it began both to scare off the medical people--who regarded tailors as commoners--and attract other tailors to the street. Poole's is still there, at number 15, and still a family business after more than a century and a half.

Since that time, the Row has had its ups and downs. Where once a personal introduction was considered de rigueur, business now comes from word of mouth and reputation. The great dandy King Edward VII used his influence and brought his cronies to the Row at the turn of the century. The tailors prospered, only to be cut off from international trade a few years later by the First World War. Edward's grandson, the Duke of Windsor, revived interest in the Row after the war, and helped the tailors attract an influential Hollywood contingent of well-turned-out fellows like Fred Astaire, Gary Cooper, Douglas Fairbanks, Clark Gable and Cary Grant. The Second World War not only brought again a cessation of international customers, but a number of Row premises were bombed out by the German blitz.

In the 1950s and '60s, young men found their fashion influence in, first, American Ivy League styling, and later, the Italian Continental look. In the late '60s and early '70s, the Row's most formidable enemy was only a few short blocks away across Regent Street: The Carnaby Street look--all-velvet suits, flower-print shirts with matching neckties, bell-bottom trousers and platform shoes--garnered the lion's share, albeit short-lived, of London media attention. The designer onslaught has continued the past two decades, perhaps the greatest irony of which is the Ralph Lauren shop on nearby Bond Street, which is doing a brisk business in copying the English styles created a three-minute walk away.

Yet with all this, there are as many tailoring firms on the Row as there have ever been. And perhaps with the Westminster ruling, the fate of the world's greatest tailoring enclave will undergo a renaissance.

Herewith a survey of those estimable firms that cater to the discreet sartorial wishes of the individual. In each case, the clothing is handmade from individually cut patterns, with only the finest cloths. Three fittings are considered customary, and three to six weeks are necessary for completion of a garment. The firms listed are strong in the American market, and representatives make regularly scheduled trips to the United States. Phone for an itinerary.



Anderson & Sheppard Ltd. 30 Savile Row (44-171-734-1420)

Customers included everyone from Rudolph Valentino and Fred Astaire to the current Prince of Wales. A&S does the softest tailoring on the Row, with a somewhat easy silhouette: a high armhole, natural shoulder, soft chest and ample blade. Its suits are the epitome of the drape style as it was invented by the almost mythic Dutch tailor Frederick Scholte in the 1930s. Too much padding and stiffness in a jacket would be considered deplorable, so these suits have a feeling of airy weightlessness. The firm's ideal is shape with comfort. Excellent for single-breasted and double-breasted town suits and sports jackets (of which the firm has a wonderful range of exclusive tweeds at £900--roughly $1,350). An absolutely-proper-in-every-detail camel hair polo coat can be had for £1,730 ($2,600).


Benson & Clegg Ltd. 9 Piccadilly Arcade (44-171-409-2053)

Started in 1937, the firm was a favorite of King George VI. The silhouette is cosmopolitan, neither rigidly structured nor loose; just that bit of subtle shaping for ease and definition. Two-piece suits from £1,000 ($1,500), cashmere sports jackets from £1,500 ($2,250). B&C is particularly good for evening wear, including the most formal white tie and tails (barathea tailcoat and evening trousers, white pique waistcoat), £1,600 ($2,400), which is something of a specialty.


Dege 10 Savile Row (44-171-287-2941

Dege started as a military and equestrian tailor, and the house style partakes of that tradition: a fitted coat with real shape, defined shoulders, suppressed waist and flared skirt. Dege tailoring is expert in country clothes (for men and women), specializing in three-piece shooting suits in traditional British tweeds, £1,600 ($2,400), and riding suits from £1,250 ($1,875). Town suits, with perceptible hacking style, at £1,315 ($1,975), blazers from £940 ($1,410).


Gieves & Hawkes 1 Savile Row (44-171-434-2001)

Housed in a Georgian building at the head of the Row, G&H's home was, throughout much of the nineteenth century, the headquarters of the Royal Geographical Society, frequented by most of the great Victorian explorers. It was here, in the first-floor main room, that the body of David Livingstone lay in state before burial in Westminster Abbey.

Thomas Hawkes had been a military tailor, James Watson Gieves a naval outfitter (between them they dressed both Wellington and Nelson). A mere quarter century ago the two firms merged, combining a total of 210 years tailoring experience, and today, Gieves & Hawkes arguably boasts the most beautiful men's store in London. The firm's custom-made suits (they also do semi-custom and ready-wear) have a moderately shaped silhouette with a nipped waist, a somewhat filled shoulder and a slightly longer jacket. Three-piece suits from £1,900 ($2,850), sports jackets £950 ($1,425), trousers £450 ($675), three-piece tuxedos at £2,000 ($3,000).


Douglas Hayward Ltd. 95 Mount Street (44-171-499-5574)

Hayward's tastefully appointed shop is a few steps across Berkeley Square from the Row itself, just down the street from the Connaught Hotel. An affable manner, a meticulous eye, technical expertise and a rare ability to interpret a customer's sartorial wishes undoubtedly account for his success. Left to his own stylistic insights, he would prefer a soft-shouldered coat with discriminating shaping. Douglas Hayward is a traditionalist with a sense of flair. Suits from £1,400 ($2,100), sports jackets £1,250 ($1,875), dinner suits £1,600 ($2,400).


H. Huntsman & Sons Ltd. 11 Savile Row (44-171-734-7441)

H. Huntsman is an advocate of the "long elegant line," which means the firm attempts to make its customers just a bit taller and thinner: Single-button fronts on single-breasted coats are popular here, with higher gorge and armhole, a smallish shoulder, subtle waist suppression and flair in the skirt. A slightly longer coat length adds to the line. Two-piece suits from £1,800 ($2,700), tweed sports jackets £1,300 ($1,950), cashmere blazers at £2,000 ($3,000).


Kilgour, French & Stanbury 8 Savile Row (44-171-734-6905)

Kilgour, French & Stanbury offers a silhouette somewhat between Anderson & Sheppard and H. Huntsman: modest shaping at the waistline, medium shoulder and perhaps just a hint of skirting. The sort of clothes that Cary Grant might have worn--and did! The firm also incorporates the renowned equestrian/hunting tailor Bernard Weatherill, whose hacking jackets for informal riding at £950 ($1,425) in classic British tweeds are veritable poems of the genre.


Henry Poole and Co. 15 Savile Row (44-171-734-5985)

The original Henry Poole set up shop on the Row in 1846, and the firm has been cutting clothes for Americans since 1851 (J. Pierpont Morgan was a loyal customer). In the nineteenth century, the firm had such a prestigious clientele, including the future King Edward VII (then Prince of Wales), Prince Louis Napoléon, Disraeli, Lord Cardigan, the Czar of Russia and Baron Nathan Meyer Rothschild, that its motto was said to be, "We are Poole's, the rest are merely puddles."

Today, the illustrious tradition of classical moderation in cut continues: a decidedly diplomatic international silhouette, slimming and subtle, as much at home on Bond or Wall Street as on the Ginza. Elegant and understated town suits from £1,286 ($1,929), topcoats £987 ($1,481) in worsted and £1,672 ($2,508) in cashmere, and tuxedo dining suits £1,558 ($2,337) in a perfect 10-ounce mohair-barathea cloth.

G. Bruce Boyer is the author of Eminently Suitable (W.W.Norton, 1990).
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Re: G. Bruce Boyer voor Cigar Aficionado
Reactie #1 Gepost op: 30 november 2008 – 12:23:24
Published November/December 1997

Buttoned Up
While They Don't Come Cheap, Custom-Fit Shirts Can Be a Bargain

By G. Bruce Boyer


Where now is the counterpart of Berry Wall, who once changed his attire at Saratoga Springs 40 times in a day to become known as the 'King of the Dudes,' or of Boston's Mrs. Jack Gardner, who paid Paderewski $3,000 to play at tea time for an elderly friend and herself on condition that the pianist remain concealed behind a screen?" asks Lucius Beebe in his witty chronicle of American wealth between the end of the Civil War and the First World War, The Big Spenders. * I can't tell you where the likes of Mrs. Gardner are, but today's counterparts of the sartorially resplendent Evander Berry Wall can be found at several venues in New York City.

The other day, to give you an instance, I asked Atam Sahmanian of Paris Custom Shirtmakers Inc., about his more prominent customers. "Well, we do have a number of prestigious customers--names I wouldn't want to mention, of course," he diplomatically mused, "but I can tell you that we have a customer who buys 400 shirts every year. I believe he changes his shirt three or four times a day."

Not up to Wall's standards perhaps--he regularly changed his outfit completely six times a day--but not bad. Since Paris charges from $165 to $300 for a shirt, I'll leave you to figure out the sum totals.

The majority of custom-clothing customers are, however, simply men who want a decent wardrobe of well-fitting clothes. They are also men who understand that quality is the best bargain. Quality clothing looks good even when old, while cheap clothes look cheap even when new. A good shirt, properly cared for, can have a life 10 times longer than an ordinary one. Superior shirtmakers still offer hand-laundry service and craftsmanship repairs, and change frayed collars and cuffs for new ones. And a well-fitted shirt is simply more comfortable.

There are several points to consider when buying a good shirt. Start with fabric. Superior cotton, regardless of the type of weave, should always be "two-ply" (2X2), meaning that two yarns have been woven together with two yarns, rather than single yarn. This obviously gives better strength and durability. Now look at thread count (per square inch) of the fabric, called in the trade "denier." The denier of good shirting is 100 or better; the higher the count, the finer the fabric. If the poplin you're looking at is a 140s 2X2, for example, you've got some very nice shirting there. The finer the cotton, the silkier the feel and luster.

Next, consider the pattern. Custom craftsmanship means that an individual paper pattern is created for the exclusive use of the individual customer. This pattern is kept on file against future orders, which means that customers can order new shirts without revisiting the shop, and many do in fact simply phone or fax orders.

The next concern is general construction. Shirt seams have always been done on a sewing machine, and handwork is reserved for setting collars and buttonholes. (Today, in fact, there are machines that arguably sew a buttonhole as well as by hand, so it's not a question of machinery being used--but of how it's used.) Careful seam sewing is single-needle sewing--meaning up one side of the seam and down the other with the same needle--to prevent puckering. Stitches should be small and uniform; better shirtmakers use 20 stitches to the inch or better.

Buttons should be pearl; mother-of-pearl, shell pearl or whatever else they're called, pearl is what is wanted. Not only for the rich look of pearl, but for its toughness. The world here is divided between those who like single (regular) thickness in their buttons and those who prefer double thickness. It is more a matter of taste than anything, although some argue that it is harder for laundries to break the thicker button. The solution is not to change buttons, but laundries.

When it comes to measurements, every shirtmaker will have his own method, but there are a number of crucial numbers. Collars have fronts and backs--since the nape and throat of the neck present different problems--and each must be considered in terms of height, for the sake of comfort and appearance, as well as simple preference. Then the circumference: it's not that this is a difficult measurement per se, but rather again of what looks and feels best.

Then the body of the shirt, working from the top down: width from shoulder point to shoulder point, chest circumference under the arms, chest over the arms at widest point (around the triceps), waist, hips and finally the length preferred (measured from the collar seam to bottom hem).

Sleeves are measured separately, from mid-back to wrist bone; wrists are also measured separately, and account should be made for a thick wristwatch. The interesting thing about sleeves is that they should ideally be an inch or so longer than the actual measurement: the reason is that, if the wrist measurement is done properly, the cuff will sit snug to the wrist and not fall over the hand, while the sleeve itself will have a slight blouse to it that will allow the sleeve to lengthen when the arm moves. In other words, there should be some built-in "give" to the sleeve.

Styling should be preference based on propriety. The simple rule about collars is: the larger the head and neck, the larger the collar. That being a given, we are thrown back on taste and propriety. Half-a-dozen collar styles traditionally have been deemed appropriate to business shirts. From the most casual to the most formal they are: button-down, club, tab (and its variation, the pin), standard or long point, curved, spread and cutaway. Other styles are personal variations. What a custom shirtmaker will be interested in is, if a spread collar is desired, how spread should it be, and how long should the points of the collar be? This is where the give-and-take of discussion with an expert pays off seriously.

Body and sleeve styling are usually a matter of a few simple details. Bottom hems can be curved or straight (usually with side notches); front plackets can be simply turned under or seamed; cuffs can be of the single (barrel) variety or double (French), with several options for each. Good shirtmakers put a button (with a horizontal buttonhole) on the sleeve placket.

Finally, to monogram or not to monogram. Not a pressing issue of the age, but a civilized touch. When they are desired, monograms should be discreetly hand-embroidered on the center top of the pocket if there is a pocket, or slightly below mid-point on the left side of the chest if there is not. A monogram on the left forearm of the sleeve is a more rarefied site.

Where to go? There is, of course, London's Turnbull & Asser, Paris' Charvet and Hong Kong's Takly. But it's not necessary to travel outside the United States to find the loftier levels of the art. Our recommendations follow.



Ascot Chang
7 West 57th Street, New York 10020 (212)759-3333

"We don't prescribe any collar style here," says manager Thomas Yu. "It's not a matter of fashion with us, but what's right for the customer. We build the collar to the customer's individual needs." The firm will even copy the collar of a favorite shirt.

What is fashionable here at the moment are the colors: deep, intense French blues predominate, with "shockingly strong earth tones" (such as terra cotta, grass, lemon, slate, etc.) in an abundant variety of fabrics from end-on-ends and chambrays to silky Egyptian broadcloths and sea islands. More than 2,500 fabric selections are available.

"We put great emphasis," informs Yu, "not only on getting the collar right, but on what we like to call 'body reading': getting the proper shape to the body of the shirt. Our trained fitters consider this something of an art as well as a science. The tape measure can give correct measurements, but only the trained eye can access the perfect silhouette and line of a garment."

Most of Ascot Chang's regulars--about 75 percent of them--prefer button cuffs, which gives them the opportunity to show off the elegant double-thick shell pearl buttons (single thickness if you prefer, of course).

The firm would like a month or so to complete an order (four-shirt minimum). Prices for cotton shirts start at $90 and end at around $500, silk at $130 to $450, tuxedo shirts from $210 to $800.

Geneva Custom Shirts Ltd.
38 West 32nd Street, New York 10001 (212)967-7460

Mike Athanasatos is the amiable and understanding proprietor of Geneva. Nothing is too much trouble for him to make you look as you feel you ought. It is a family business--son Eugene, now at Pace University, will become the business manager upon graduation--that treats you like family.

"Mr. Mike" not only meticulously handcrafts every shirt right there in the shop--you can watch your shirt moving from artisan to artisan as it is finished--but also provides complete laundry and repair service. Even this aspect deserves notice. The shirts are gently washed, hung to drip dry (a dryer would be unthinkable!), then hand-ironed. Customers from all over the country, even his European ones, regularly send their Geneva shirts back to this atelier to be laundered.

The complete custom operation begins with precise fitting and fabric selection from the finest that Italy, England, France and Switzerland have to offer. Particularly prized here is the rare Zendaline cotton, considered the best available: a luxurious 2X2 180s (priced at $225). Fabrics are laundered before they are sewn for a more precise fitting. The first shirt is ready for a fitting in one week to 10 days. Corrections noted, the order (minimum of six first time around) is completed in three weeks.

All the signs of the true art are here: superior Swiss linings, Italian pearl buttons, 22 stitches per inch of single-needle sewing, monograms hand-embroidered. It's no secret that Geneva makes shirts for not a few of the most prestigious retailers and private tailors in the country, as well as a number of high-wattage gentlemen from Paul Newman and Colin Powell to former President Ronald Reagan, Tom Brokaw and basketball superstar Patrick Ewing (who has a 44-inch sleeve measurement). We refrain from revealing the name of the chap who stopped by a while ago and ordered 350 shirts.

Business shirts start at $170, evening shirts at $195.

Alexander Kabbaz
903 Madison Avenue, New York 10021 (212)861-7700

"We try to keep to the Old World traditions here and look for lifelong relationships," says the erudite Alex Kabbaz. Which means that fathers still bring their sons around to introduce them to the craftsmanship of a handmade shirt.

In that tradition, Kabbaz endeavors to please the customer, from the conservative requests of the Rockefellers to the slightly more Edwardian flights of Tom Wolfe. Styling is limited only by the customer's imagination.

"We made dozens of formal shirts for Leonard Bernstein, who went through four or five every time he conducted. He wanted something as lightweight as possible, so I suggested making them with an open back. He was delighted."

As it happens, evening shirts are something of a specialty here--accounting for one out of 15 shirts made--and Kabbaz has the most outstanding collection of bib fronts, more than 150 models.

If necessary, he has been known to meet a customer at 8 a.m., have a sample shirt ready for try-on by 4 p.m. the same day, produce the finished shirt by noon the following day for a final try-on, and make any final adjustments so the shirt can be picked up or mailed the following morning--from start to finish in 48 hours.

Normally, he would prefer three try-ons over a four-week period. It would seem that customers might conceivably take that long to pick their fabrics, since Kabbaz has more than 3,100 fabrics in stock at any one time--broadcloths, voiles, poplins, oxfords, piques and twills predominating.

The price of these fine cottons (and some silks, although one gets the impression Alex Kabbaz considers cottons to be the true métier of a shirtmaker), are based on thread count: the general range is from $325 to the Swiss 200 denier broadcloth at $475, but one can go higher with silks.

Leonard Logsdail
9 East 53rd Street, New York 10022 (212)752-5030

Logsdail caters to those men who prefer the English style of tailoring and accoutering, which makes sense, since he is a Savile Row tailor and shirtmaker who came to Manhattan six years ago.

"What I find that's true both here and in London," he says, "is that men are much more conservative in their suits than in their shirts. We do a great deal of classic gray and blue worsted pinstripes, but tend to follow the Jermyn Street style of bold, colorful stripes in shirtings."

While Logsdail does the measuring and fittings in New York, his workrooms are still in London, where the shirts are made from his individually crafted paper patterns. With the transit time, the shirts take longer to complete--six to eight weeks--than those made in New York, but if it's a London-made shirt that you want, this is The Real Thing.

Left to his own lights in styling, Logsdail would prefer a traditional English spread collar, easy-but-fitted body and double cuff for the high-count poplin town shirtings, although he is perfectly happy to produce a full range of styles, including duplicating a favorite collar. Like other English makers, he has a fine selection of tattersall country shirtings available, to go with that wonderful broth-of-the-heather tweed sports jacket and cashmere tie.

Prices are in the $200 to $300 range (three-shirt minimum), with formal shirts at $300.

Paris Custom Shirtmakers, Inc.
38 West 32nd Street, New York 10001 (212)695-3563

Paris Custom Shirtmakers is called that, logically enough, because the firm had its beginnings in Paris 48 years ago. "My father [Mark] was originally with Charvet, then started his own business, and brought it here 18 years ago," says Atam Sahmanian. (The elder Sahmanian still provides his expertise in the shop.) "We are still very much European-oriented in that we continue to use only fabrics from the best European mills, some of which are exclusive to us." And they still number European royalty among their customers.

The craftsmen here cut and sew an average of 200 to 250 shirts a week. It takes 10 days to make the first sample shirt and another two to three weeks to complete an order. Royal oxford cloth is popular at the moment, but there are at least 2,500 other fabrics from which to choose. Should you want a monogram, it will be handsewn with silk thread.

Paris offers a complete shirt service. Many of its loyal customers have special luggage cases expressly for the purpose of sending their shirts regularly back to Paris for hand laundering and meticulous hand pressing.

Prices range from $165 to $350, with a three-shirt minimum.

430 Park Avenue, New York 10022 (212)980-5200

The name Sulka is synonymous with sophisticated haberdashery. The firm has supplied gentlemen with luxury shirts, neck ties, pajamas and dressing gowns for more than a hundred years.

"At the moment," says Stephen Ostrowski of the firm's custom department, "end-on-end shirting is very popular for business dress, particularly the deeper shades of blue, but we've got end-on-ends in at least 20 different colors." Which gives you some idea of Sulka's commitment to sybaritic shirt-making.

The firm will be happy to offer expert counsel on appropriate collar styles, or to duplicate a favorite. The first shirt takes about six weeks to produce, and another six to complete the four-shirt minimum order. Sulka is particularly inventive, in a thoroughly tasteful way to be sure, when it comes to formal shirting. "We enjoy doing things like vertical stripes on the body and horizontal stripes on the bib," notes Mr. Ostrowski. Even with business shirts, they're unstuffy enough to do different stripes on body, collar and cuffs.

Prices are generally from $225 to $365, with off-the-rack tuxedo shirts at $155 to custom tuxedo shirts from $300 to $400. Branches in London; Paris; Chicago; San Francisco, Beverly Hills and Costa Mesa, California; and Bal Harbour, Florida. *

A frequent contributor to Cigar Aficionado on the subject of fashion, G. Bruce Boyer is the author of Eminently Suitable (W.W. Norton, 1990).
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Re: G. Bruce Boyer voor Cigar Aficionado
Reactie #2 Gepost op: 30 november 2008 – 12:24:24
Published September/October 1997

Coats of Arms
From the Utilarian Apparel of Both War and Peace Comes Classic Outerwear

by G. Bruce Boyer


Topcoats, as is true of most men's fashion of the modern world, had their beginnings in either battle or sport. This has clearly been in evidence for the past several seasons, as men have been wearing their casual coats to town. The Barbour jacket, parka, field coat or shooting coat over pinstripes--all exude a certain blithe nonchalance through mixed media, as it were.

Now, with the renaissance of a dressier business look--chalk-striped flannels, white Windsor-collared shirts and Macclesfield ties--comes the return of the classic overcoat. Or overcoats, we should say. The chesterfield, covert, raglan and polo are all making a resounding comeback. And, despite their elegance, these distinguished coats still have that pervasive sartorial connection with combat or play.

The male wardrobe has always had an outer covering to protect the body or other clothes from the inclemencies. In the Middle Ages that stout garment, the woolen, hooded cloak, kept the wearer warm, whether he was on foot or horseback. Next came the mantle (a hoodless, sleeveless covering), then the cape (a shorter version of the mantle). These outer garments were regularly worn throughout the medieval period in Europe, well into the Renaissance.

By the seventeenth century, however, the overcoat--meaning a fitted outer garment with sleeves and front closure--had begun to emerge. This garment came to be referred to generically as a "greatcoat," since it was both a heavier and a stouter wool than coats worn directly next to the shirt or vest, and was cut larger all the way round. It had a large collar, a fitted chest, a wide skirt that extended below the calf and usually commodious pockets. When the renowned author and lexicographer Dr. Samuel Johnson joined James Boswell in Edinburgh at Boyd's Inn late in the evening of Aug. 14, 1773, to begin their famous tour of the Hebrides, Boswell described the great man's dress:

He wore a full suit of plain brown clothes, with twisted-hair-buttons of the same colour, a large bushy greyish wig, a plain shirt, black worsted stockings, and silver buckles. Upon this tour, when journeying, he wore boots, and a very wide brown cloth great coat, with pockets which might have almost held the two volumes of his folio dictionary; and he carried in his hand a large English oak stick.

--James Boswell, Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides

During the next hundred years, the overcoat would assume a variety of shapes. Some of them are still with us, such as the raglan, the chesterfield and the covert. Others, like the ulster, the paletot, the inverness and the frock coat, have been left to molder in history's closet. This century has seen the addition of the macintosh, the polo and the British warm. All are the children of the greatcoat, but we should make one brief point of nomenclature here. By the turn of the twentieth century, the greatcoat had divided generically into two basic camps. There was a lighter-weight version, which was worn in the spring and fall of the year, and called a topcoat; since the 1940s this has been replaced by the ubiquitous raincoat in its various guises. The heavier version worn during the colder months of the year was called an overcoat. These terms still apply, and are worth keeping, although increasingly they are used interchangeably. Regardless of its weight and generic name, an outer garment must of course be both dolce et utile; it must offer both style and protection. Here are our annotated choices, contemporary versions of the classics, which we think admirably combine practicality with handsomeness:

The original British warm takes its fabric and styling from the greatcoats worn by officers during the First World War. Intended to go over khaki tunic and jodhpurs and be accompanied by high field boots and an officer's cap, the coat was standard-issue British army. There is a rather moving photo of the princes of Wales and York lamentedly contemplating the battle scene at Zeebrugge in 1918, both wearing their regulation British warms (York's was belted, a style that led to the "wrap coats" of civilian fashion that followed). These officers coats were slightly shaped and fell to just above the knee, always double-breasted in style, with six buttons (three of which are buttoned), with peaked lapels and epaulets on the shoulders.

The most characteristic aspect of the British warm is the fabric itself: a heavy, taupe-colored, slightly fleecy melton cloth. The name comes from Melton Mowbray, a town in Leicestershire, England, where this thick, tightly woven, napped cloth was first woven for riding and hunting garments. "The authentic melton cloth weighs in at 34 ounces," the custom tailor Leonard Logsdail informs us, "and perhaps a bit of body-building boot camp is necessary to wear it."

The redoubtable British warm saw duty in the Second World War and is still worn by officers in the British army, with metal regimental buttons. The civilian-adapted model takes woven leather buttons, may dispense with the epaulets and may be worn slightly longer. Wrap coats--the double-breasted versions with a belt--partake of elements from both the British warm and the polo coat.

The chesterfield is the most formal and classic town coat a gentleman can own. It was originally a variation of the basic Victorian frock coat, whose skirt descended straight to the bottom hem--in either a single- or a double-breasted version--but, unlike the frock, had no waist seam. It was named for the sixth Earl of Chesterfield (not the famous fourth earl, who wrote all those instructive letters to his bastard son), a leader of fashion among the Regency dandies who strolled Bond Street in the early years of the nineteenth century. He probably didn't invent the velvet collar--the coat's trademark. But he was certainly a great popularizer of the style, because when he died in 1866 his name had already become common coinage for the garment.

By the turn of the twentieth century, the chesterfield had assumed the classic lines and details it retains today: a full-length (which at the moment means to the calf) usually single-breasted coat with fly-front closure on the single-breasted version, shaped body, velvet collar, center back vent, two side pockets and set-in sleeves. As the dressiest of town coats, it's usually tailored in dark blue, dark gray or black patternless wool or cashmere. Variations, though limited, include patterns of self-striped wool and herringbone tweed in brown, as well as gray and blue. The most popular variation these days is the chesterfield done in fawn (a marled greenish tan) covert or whipcord twill, with either a bottle green or dark chestnut brown velvet collar. The velvet collar cover--whose color is intended to quietly complement rather than contrast with the coat's color--is not only a bit of discreet adornment, but was, in an age when men wore their hair longer, a practical way of dealing with soiled collars: it's easier and cheaper to replace the velvet cover than to dispense with the entire collar.

The covert coat is named for the cloth from which it is made. The term comes from the French couvert, meaning a shady place or thicket, and in English came to mean a hiding place for game birds. Covert cloth is a twill-woven fabric in which a combination of two threads of different tones of the same color are twisted together to form a marled effect--i.e., a slightly mottled look rather than a clear color. The cloth itself is fairly stout, closely woven, and has a certain elasticity--all of which makes for a very resistant and durable material and a very smart-looking, long-wearing garment. It is sometimes waterproofed for additional protection.

While covert cloth can be used for trousers, jackets and a variety of field coats, its most popular use is for topcoats. Originally made as a country outer coat, the classic straight-cut, single-breasted,fly-fronted covert is always fawn-colored, although dressier mid-gray versions are often seen. Characterized by its four rows of stitches on each sleeve cuff and on the bottom hem, which falls no lower than the knee, the classic covert coat has two side pockets and a ticket pocket, and it's acceptable to add a green velvet collar cover for a dressier look.

"The business about the signature stitching on the sleeve cuffs and hem," relates Hugh Holland, the managing director of the famed Savile Row tailoring firm Kilgour, French & Stanbury, "is a good example of how the practicality of one age becomes the stylish form of the next. It was found that, while riding through the scrub and gorse--the covert, as it were--the sleeve cuffs and hem of the jackets would abrade and tear. So this rib stitching was originally both for mending and reinforcement. The stitching then became a sort of badge of bravery: the more rows of stitches a man had, the more aggressive a rider he was thought to be."

The polo coat is one of many items in the masculine wardrobe that derive from the ancient sport brought to the West by British officers stationed in India during the nineteenth century. Among the other items, we might make note of the button-down collared shirt (buttoned down to keep the points from flapping in the face when riding fast), the polo sweater (which we call a turtleneck), the jodhpurs (named for the Maharaja of Jodhpur), chukka boots (a "chukker" is a period of play), the wide surcingle polo belt and the ubiquitous knit polo shirt (which, ironically, was made popular by a French tennis star).

And then there is that most aristo of outer coats: the double-breasted, set-in sleeve, patch-pocketed, half-belted, camel-hair polo coat. Perhaps its appeal derives from its ability to adapt to any mood, to dress up or down, and be equally at home with a chalk-striped flannel suit or a shetland sweater and chinos. Some men are even able to carry off a polo coat with evening wear, but this is a nameless grace that no method can teach.

The polo coat originally started out as a simple camel hair, blanket-like wrap coat--something players threw over their shoulders like a bathrobe while waiting to resume play. As such, it was initially called a wait coat. In the 1920s, when English polo players were first invited to matches on Long Island, the grand deshabille and swagger of these coats didn't go unnoticed, and they were soon seen on Eastern-establishment campuses. By 1930, polo coats outnumbered raccoon at the Yale-Princeton football game--a decided stamp of approval.

In case you were wondering, the camel hair doesn't come from just any old camel: only the bactrian (two-humped) camel native to central and southwest Asia will do. Its delicate underhair perfectly combines warmth, lightness and beauty with luxurious softness.

The raglan finds its origins, along with the balaclava cap and the cardigan sweater, in one of the most pointless of all modern conflicts, the Crimean War. Much of the blame for the mismanaged British campaign is laid at the feet of two principal commanding British officers, lords Raglan and Cardigan. It is one of history's greatest ironies that, after these men had been involved in so much senseless slaughter and destruction, they should be remembered only for what they wore. Huddled cold and exhausted on the inhospitably freezing battleground at Balaclava, Raglan's troops cut holes in their blankets and drew them over their heads to keep warm. Eventually, that shoulderless cape became the slanted swelled-seam, unpadded and easy-fitting shoulder style of a greatcoat bearing his name. His soldiers were probably not amused.

Today, the raglan overcoat is usually seen in both solid-hued and patterned tweed, loden cloth, cashmere or, for topcoat versions, in gabardine. Its shape is not only characterized by the natural, padless shoulder but by a capelike fullness in the body. Pockets may be either set-in slanted or patch; and collars and lapels slightly rounded (called a bal collar, which is short for "Balmacaan," an estate near Inverness, Scotland), notched or peaked. The coat comes with or without a fly front to its single-breasted cut; sleeves take cuffs, straps or button tabs.

A frequent contributor to Cigar Aficionado on the subject of fashion, G. Bruce Boyer is the author of Eminently Suitable (W.W. Norton, 1990).


From Sprezzatura to Sublime: the Duffle and the Vicuña

The duffle coat has, as they say in the music business, spread across the charts and become a crossover hit. The original term, Duffel, refers to a town of that name in Belgium, just south of Antwerp, where a heavy woolen overcoating woven in a twill weave with a thick, spongy nap has been made since the seventeenth century. Since it is both heavy and warm, and need not be made with expensive wool, it came to be used for soldiers' garments, as well as for the bags named for them. The most notable garment made from Duffel cloth was the loose, hooded coat worn by British sailors during the Second World War that Field Marshall Sir Bernard Montgomery made famous as his standard outerwear. As war surplus, this garment (along with khaki trousers and other leftover accoutrements) became popular in the United Kingdom and abroad on college campuses during the 1950s and '60s and was known (and spelled) as the duffle coat.

Now simply called a duffle, this comfy and utilitarian single-breasted coat is enjoying a fashion resurgence, made in its original cloth as well as some finer fabric versions, and even leathers. Characterized by a straight-cut body and an attached hood, patch pockets and toggle closures of wood or horn or even leather, this isn't the sort of coat you'd want to wear with pinstripes, of course. But the English have long worn it as cozy country attire, and the Italians have made it a point of considerable style to wear this casual coat with tweedy tailoring in the studied nonchalant way (the Italian word is sprezzatura) for which they are legendary. With a tweed suit or sports jacket and odd trousers, the duffle coat is as perfectly at ease in town as it is in the country with a turtleneck sweater and corduroys.

The authentic model is unlined wool, with attached hood, patch pockets, shoulder yoke and toggle closures of wood or horn. Originally done in tan and navy blue, the color spectrum is today bounded only by imagination and one's personal sense of propriety, which is just another measure of the coat's enduring appeal.

At the complete other, shall we say ethereal, end of the coat spectrum is the vicuña overcoat. Vicuña clothing of any sort has long been unavailable, because the animals that provide the material were almost hunted to extinction by mid-century, and were saved only by their placement on the Endangered Species List. But due to a controlled breeding program designed to enlarge the Peruvian herds, the vicuña is now a "returning" species, and new techniques now allow the animals to be sheared of their pelts without harm to them. So the future looks bright both for them and for lovers of the world's most luxurious fabric.

The place to go for the world's most luxurious coat is Harrison James, in New York City. "It certainly wouldn't pay anyone to stock such a garment," says the president, Alan Katzman, "but we've made several in our custom shop. We prefer classic town styling in a coat like this, because it's something you'd want to keep for a long time. The fabric is so handsome it speaks for itself, and so simplicity in styling is a virtue." Mr. Katzman would be happy to run up one of these handsome coats for you, in either single- or double-breasted styling, with your choice of black, navy or natural vicuña, in about six weeks' time. It's priced at $35,000.
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Re: G. Bruce Boyer voor Cigar Aficionado
Reactie #3 Gepost op: 30 november 2008 – 12:27:02
Published July/August 1998

Classic Conscious
After Two Decades of Flared, Flowered and Flak, Traditional Styling Is Back in Fashion

By G. Bruce Boyer


We've gone through our experimental stage, as I believe the great social philosopher Marv Albert put it. For the past 20 years or so, men seem to have experimented with a variety of approaches to their wardrobes. From the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, the menswear industry and the men it serves investigated a variety of, what's the word? Ah, yes--looks. There was the post-hippie look (flowered shirts and matching ties with velvet jackets), the quasimilitary look (flak jackets, safari jackets, duck-hunting jackets), the Milanese deconstructed look (just buy it two sizes too large), the casual Friday look (wear dirty jeans to the office on Friday, get downsized on Monday), to name only the most blatant. Then came what the fashion media hailed as the sartorial look. We used to call it international business dress--well-made suit, well-made dress shirt, discreet tie, well-made shoes--but never mind. The point was, is, that men seem either to have grown psychologically tired of experimenting with a number of nebulous roles or they've gone broke trying to change their wardrobes every six months in a vain attempt to keep up.

Keeping up has proved to be both enervating and expensive, a game for those to whom God has given too much money and too little wattage. The various forms of flamboyance seem to be on the wane. Style and quality are once again holding forth, and classic American, British and Italian styling are what one sees in the shops.

Have you noticed all the new shops carrying classic fare that are opening recently? Manhattan is chockablock with them: Thomas Pink (British shirts), Turnbull & Asser (very British shirts), Harrison James (classic Italian tailoring), Jay Kos (Anglo-American with dash), ETRO (Italian preppy), Holland & Holland (British field gear), Beretta Gallery (Italian takes on British field gear), Aquascutum of London (new shop on Madison Avenue), Dormeuil (with British custom tailor Timothy Everest as design director) and the Richard James shop at Bergdorf Goodman Men's Store (trad Brit in bold hues), are joining such British style stalwarts as Dunhill.

It all goes hand in hand with those touchstones of the good life that everyone is saying will be important in the coming years: service, customization, quality, value, simplicity, exclusivity, retrochic stylishness.

So it's quite natural that there should, under the circumstances, be a return to the classics. The term designates traditional British and American clothes of quality. The British part comes in the styling: suits have jackets with subtle shaping, smaller shoulders and details (ticket pockets, side vents, tapered sleeves and throat latches); trousers are trimmer, with quarter-top pockets and swelled seams. The American part comes in the construction. We've always liked our comfort. The classic American styling, which emerged in the late 1930s and came to be called Ivy League because it originated on campus, is our model: natural-shouldered and soft-chested coats, trousers with no pleats or cuffs, soft-rolled button-down shirts, loafers. American dress has always had a casual elegance. Look at Fred Astaire, compared with all those cardboard counts he used as foils in his early films: button-down shirts and suede oxfords versus celluloid collars and spats.

Today, men everywhere have rediscovered comfort. It's something, amusingly enough, that we have been taught most recently by the Italians. Armani and company have been insisting for the past two decades that fabrics should be lighter and more fluid, and construction should be softer. Cheap clothes achieved this by using crepe and oversizing. Better clothes called for the new super cloths and for hand-tailoring.

Accomplished men want their clothes soft and sophisticated. Forget the unyielding interlinings and inch-high shoulder pads, the porridge-thick tweed and iron-stiff serge. Soft construction and luxury fabrics are the order of the day. Less is definitely more in this case: it's taking things out of the garment that calls for expertise. Anyone can make a suit that has shape, if he doesn't care about weight and stiffness. And anyone can make a suit that's soft, if shape and line aren't important. The trick is to do both.

One of the great truisms of fashion is that "if it's good, it will come back--although not in quite the same form." As it happens, there has been a renaissance of 1960s styles, although the 1998 versions are interpreted in fabrics that simply weren't around in the '60s. Let's consider the suit.

"I think there's considerable evidence that men are once again dressing up," notes British tailor Timothy Everest, who has his own tailoring shop in London as well as being the design director for Dormeuil Private Tailoring Service (with branches in Paris and Manhattan). "After all this fuss about 'casual Fridays' and that sort of thing, many young men have discovered suits, and all the dressy accessories that go with them. And what's all the talk about 'third wardrobes' except the realization that men are again thinking about dressing for specific occasions?"

Exactly. Dressing for the occasion is, after all, a decidedly Edwardian concept. Those pre-First World War years gave perhaps exaggerated expression to the notion that a man's attire should be determined by the time of day--witness all the morning coats, dinner jackets and evening dresses. "I like the sense of correctness the Edwardians had," opines Everest. "There was a sense of propriety and restraint that stood them in good stead. There was never the fear of not knowing what to wear for the occasion--it was prescribed. The problem, in my view, is that it all lacked a sense of the individual, the specific personality. I think we should try for the propriety without the restraint."

That's why Everest takes the 1960s, with its slimmer silhouette, as a starting point for his creations, but prefers much lighter-weight fabrics and a more general sense of individual comfort in his garments. Closer-fitting jackets with a higher three-button closure, and trimmer, cuffless trousers are all part of the picture of conservative elegance. But more colorful and lightweight super woolens are the current mode: a dark brown nail's head suit with burnt-orange windowpane over check, worn with a pale-orange broadcloth shirt and woven silk tie, perhaps best typifies the particular blend of elegance and excitement seen in the new proprieties. Not quite British dandy, but it does herald a serious return to the suit as a showpiece.

It's James Bond we're thinking about now. Not Pierce Brosnan's Italian New Man, and certainly not Roger Moore's flared look. No, it's Sean Connery's Bond that rings the bell today. Connery's tailor for the Bond films was London's Anthony Sinclair, who pioneered what came to be known as "The Conduit Cut" (after the address of his Mayfair shop): lightweight fabrics and interior construction, narrow but shaped, single-breasted, three-button jackets, and trim trousers without cuffs. It was comfortable and, for the times, minimalist. All the gimmickry came with the Aston Martin DB5. The clothes were truly modern and revolutionary: lightweight, simple, uncluttered, trim. Those are the lines along which men's classic clothing has evolved, and this is the sort of thing that speaks to our postmodern sensibilities.

Suits are now showing this elegant British look and influence: a slimmer shape with narrower shoulders and higher armholes, longer lines that trace the body with some subtle shaping at the waist and a flare at the skirt. Single-breasted jackets have a slightly higher three-button stance, as do the two-to-button double-breasteds; details include Connery-like ticket pockets, side vents, trimmer sleeves and lapels. Jackets and trousers sit a bit closer to the body than they have for more than a decade, but they have been made more comfortable.

"I think that's really what it's all about today," says Everest. "Clothes today have to be luxurious and comfortable, exciting and elegant, conservative but individual. Men are demanding more now. They travel more, see more, are influenced by more. Making a statement and dressing for the occasion are once again fashionable."


G. Bruce Boyer writes about fashion for Cigar Aficionado.

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Re: G. Bruce Boyer voor Cigar Aficionado
Reactie #4 Gepost op: 30 november 2008 – 12:28:51
Published May/June 1997

The Genuine Article
Getting Down to Basics for a High-Quality Wardrobe

by G. Bruce Boyer


Long gone are the days when an English gentleman would sit with his tailor in the back office and discuss the coming season's wardrobe over a glass of Sherry and a digestive biscuit. And the Parisian no longer takes quite as much pride in his wines as he used to. In the United States, there seems to be a book published every other week on the decline of manners, morals and the quality of dry cleaning.

It isn't tumbril talk to note that style and taste are today almost regarded as character flaws. And tradition has become more a commodity, more a matter of decor, than belief. Even some of the button-down shirts in Brooks Brothers now have stubby little three-inch collar points! Fred Astaire must absolutely be rotating in his grave. The quality of mercy may not be strained, but the quality of quality certainly is!

All the anecdotal evidence suggests that quality is having a hard time of it everywhere, but even in our Age of Not-So-Great Expectations it's still possible to get the real thing. Amid all the shoddy clutter and haste couture, the genuine article can still be found: the proper navy blazer, authentic shell cordovan penny loafers, real khakis of Second World War-quality cotton drill. It isn't easy, since great steaming piles of frighteningly trendy gear have taken over even many of the better stores. But it is possible. We've done the dogged spadework, and here--for the greater purposes of removing doubts--are the results of our spirited off-the-rack sartorial excursion.

The prices listed are approximate; phone for the nearest venue.

The Suit
The basic uniform of the business world is the suit. From the 1890s until the Second World War, the trusty blue serge held sway. Since then, however, gray flannel has been the cloth of choice among the cognescenti. There is a sense of sincerity about gray flannel that seems missing in slicker-looking worsteds. It never looks too sharp or parvenu, never loud or pushy. Good gray flannel has the built-in, old-money look that one associates with tradition and refinement. It's soft and easy, with a touch of depth and texture for interest, rather than being stiff and shiny. And what better foil for accompanying haberdashery and accessories?

Mid- to dark gray flannel is best, with a slight nap and a moderately soft hand. Single- or double-breasted is equally appropriate, but the latter has the edge as being a bit more formal and dressy. Previously, flannels were slightly heavier cloths, ranging from around 12 to 16 ounces, but new technology has allowed for what are called Super flannels, woven of fine merino wool, to produce exquisite fabrics with weights as low as eight ounces. The finest of these cloths are the Super 150s. (The higher the number in Supers, the finer the cloth.) These cloths drape beautifully, retain their shape and can be worn in all but the steamiest weather. ($3,500; Brioni, 212/956-4155)

The Tie
There are a number of classics in the tie repertoire: the resplendent seven-fold, the silk knit, the woven Macclesfield, the redoubtable striped repp. But the classic whose revival we most look forward to enjoying--and it is once again being seen--is the challis tie.

Challis is a featherweight wool that is hand-block printed (originally from natural vegetable dyes) with geometric, paisley or sportif patterns. Occasionally the cloth is fashioned into particularly handsome dinner jackets, but for the most part it goes for neckwear. What is so wonderful about challis is that it ties well--firmness without bulk, for a knot that holds--and its muted colors are not reproducible in any other medium: dark Persian blue, dusky bottle green, burnt orange, rusty reddish browns and tawny yellows predominate. It is the perfect tie with tweeds of all sorts, natty with more casual flannels. ($70; Mariano Rubinacci, 617/407-0600)

The Dress Shirt
Business suits can accept a variety of collar styles, from button-down and tab to long point and rounded club. But surely the best looking is the spread collar: crisp and neat, flattering, adaptable, elegant. Popularized in the 1930s by the Prince of Wales and his brother the Duke of Kent, it's a collar for the man who is known to dress well.

Modeled on the English detachable cutaway collar with its Edwardian sense of propriety, the spread collar's angular, wider than normal point stance has an unmatched dressiness. As such, it is often worn with French cuffs, and accompanied by richly woven Macclesfield neckwear. Often seen in a variety of stripes and checks--sartorially sensitive dressers occasionally opt for horizontal stripes--the spread-collar shirt done in a pure white superior oxford cloth is foolproof and unbeatable. The Italian firm of Borrelli, shirtmakers since 1895, cuts and sews its shirts by hand with extra-thick pearl buttons; the spread collar is meticulously fashioned, the white royal oxford cloth a silky texture, the French cuffs pristine. ($275; Borrelli Shirtmakers, 212/702-0136)

The Summer Suit
A number of lightweight cloths have, over the years, vied for the natty warm-weather vote: linen and silk are elegant, tropical worsted serviceable, seersucker jaunty. But our vote goes to the supremely comfortable and friendly tan cotton suit. Always single-breasted and usually unlined, the cotton shows its sophistication in its simplicity. A poplin weave is often used, but the best cotton for suiting is gabardine, which has the fine twill ridges that make it light of weight and soft of touch, yet strong and durable.

The neutral color accepts any accessory, from oxford cloth button-down to piqué polo and minimalist T-shirt. Of course, it must be the right shade of tan. Not too pale, like what the fellow wore in John O'Hara's short story "The Gentleman in the Tan Suit." Khaki or British tan, with just that hint of dusty yellow, is what's wanted. Unlined for coolness, easily laundered and looking the better for a few wrinkles, the jacket and trousers can easily be "broken up" and worn with other jackets and trousers, making it a decidedly useful item for travel. ($2,950; Kiton, 212/702-0136)

The Blazer
There are four crucial points to consider about the blazer: color, cloth, cut and buttons. A real blazer is navy blue ("Bell-bottom trousers, coat of navy blue," as the Second World War song "Bell-bottom Trousers" goes). Green is perfectly appropriate if you win the Augusta Open, maroon, gold and light blue tend to indicate real estate agents. A single-breasted version is acceptable, but double-breasted is best. Although blazers have been made over the years in everything from stone-washed denim to Fiji silk, the proper alternatives are circumscribed: cashmere, flannel, Super worsted, twill, doeskin flannel, tropical worsted or hopsack. Pocket treatment can vary--flapped, open patch, patch-and-flap and besom are all acceptable--but no yokes, fancy stitching or bi-swing backs please. The blazer is pristine of cut and simplicity itself--except for the buttons.

Blazers are the only sports jackets that take metal buttons: generally gold, silver or brass. Blazer buttons can be intensely individualistic and idiosyncratic, but are usually grouped into four categories: fancy (gilded-and-enameled crests), standard design (a navy anchor or a simple
basket-weave pattern), initialed or plain (often chosen, but not highly recommended because they scratch easily). Ralph Lauren, who is rumored to know a thing or two about classic dress, has combined these elements brilliantly and faithfully in his Purple Label double-breasted blazer: Super 120s merino-and-cashmere fabric, six-button (two-to-button) closure, side vents and handsomely crested buttons, handmade in England. Goes perfectly with flannels, khakis or jeans. ($1,795; Polo/Ralph Lauren, 212/606-2100)

The Khakis
Khakis and jeans have been the great levelers of the American wardrobe, the most democratizing items of clothing ever worn. Everyone, from film star and computer tycoon to dockworker, has a pair of jeans, and knows that Levi's 501s have never been bettered. But what about khakis?

For GIs returning from the Second World War, khakis were the all-purpose trouser; worn with a tweed jacket or a Shetland crewneck and button-down, they became an essential part of the civilian campus uniform. In the turbulent 1960s and '70s khakis were often replaced with jeans, but they held their own and, in the past 20 years, have reemerged as a staple of the wardrobe. These days every designer has his own spin on the genre--so tarted up in some cases that it would make an old Army-Navy store devotee shiver--and no outfitter of sensible clothes would be without a supply.

Genuine old-style khakis are made by Bill Thomas in Reading, Pennsylvania. Bills Khakis, as they are called with genuine simplicity, are the real thing: substantial, eight-and-a-half-ounce 100 percent twill cloth; full cut in the legs, seat and rise, from original Second World War patterns; deep 14-inch drill-cloth pockets; eight stout belt loops. Nothing fancy, just pure quality. Bill does a pleated model with a heavy brass zipper, but the pants that hiked across battlefields and athletic fields are the plain-fronted, button-fly model. These are the most comfortable and durable khakis you can buy. ($85; Bills Khakis, 800-43-KHAKI; Web site:

The Slip on Shoe
The classic slip-on, popular in the United States for well over a half century, is the penny loafer (so called because teenagers in the 1950s put a penny in each slot of the instep strap as a minor fashion statement). The classic model is moccasin style, a comfortable construction in which the top vamp section is sewed to the sides in a U shape. Although a variety of leathers are used, shell cordovan has always been considered the ne plus ultra: soft, supple and extremely durable; over time the patina of genuine shell cordovan only improves its unmatched luster. This leisure handmade moccasin has been made to perfection by the Alden Shoe Co. of Middleboro, Massachusetts--in the original dark oxblood and black--since the early 1950s. This is the original model, and the acknowledged master of the form: flawless in every detail, hand-sewn on the last, true Goodyear welting, vegetable-tanned shell cordovan of rich character. ($400; Alden Shoe Co., 508/947-3926)

The Coat
It was the costume historian James Laver who conceived the theory that all modern men's clothing derives from either war or sport. It's certainly true of outerwear, as the parka, the trench coat, the polo coat, field coat and golf jacket remind us. These are coats that work, and have an added dash of style as well.

What has always been admired in a good, all-around outdoor coat is the combination of functionality and handsomeness. Leave it to the Italians to combine the latest technology with the higher calling of aesthetics to produce the perfect coat. The firm of Loro Piana has created a new generation of fabrics with its Storm System range. Produced from extremely fine, high-quality natural fibers--covert cloths, cashmeres, gabardines--fused to Gore Technologies' windproof and water-resistant barrier, the new line of outer coats repels rain like a duck.

Although Loro Piana designs several different sports-related coats, the most elegant and useful is its thigh-length "Horsey" style: double fastening, with superior zipper and horn buttons, drawstring waist, a dozen exterior and interior lined pockets (including a very convenient cellular phone pocket secreted away inside), a zip-out padded vest that's handsome enough to be worn by itself, storm cuffs, throat latch and tattersall lining. Designed to accommodate the precision of movement dictated by sporting activities, yet relaxed and smart enough for city wear, it is an extremely serviceable garment. ($1,320; Loro Piana, 212/371-2819)

The Sweater
A cashmere turtleneck is a staple of the good life. Incredibly soft and light, cashmere takes color better than any other fiber, producing hues that are at once vibrant and true without being in the least bit harsh. Along with the camel family of fibers (camel, alpaca, vicuña), cashmere is the warmest of fibers in proportion to its weight.

The finest cashmere has traditionally come from the Himalayan regions of India and Mongolia (the area where the little Kashmir goats thrive), and is generally processed in southern Scotland, in the region around Peeblesshire. Some say it's the water that makes Scottish cashmere the best; others attribute its quality to the expertise of the Scots. Whatever the reason, a hand-cabled, four-ply pullover from this neighborhood is definitely the real thing. ($1,295, in 80 colors; Ballantyne Cashmere, 212/736-4228)

G. Bruce Boyer, a frequent contributor to Cigar Aficionado, is the author of Eminently Suitable (W.W. Norton, 1990).

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Re: G. Bruce Boyer voor Cigar Aficionado
Reactie #5 Gepost op: 30 november 2008 – 12:30:33
Published Spring 1996

Dressing to the Nines
Despite the Malling of the Local Haberdasher, High-Quality Men's Specialty Shops Still Thrive

by G. Bruce Boyer


There was a time when every town of respectable size and culture had a reputable haberdasher, tailor and possibly a campus shop. Today, they've been largely replaced by the endlessly vast and interchangeable malls, with their endless and identical Gaps selling their endless duplication of shapeless jogging gear. Ironic really, since you've probably noticed that a lot of athletic clothes actually make some people appear even less athletic than they would in almost any other garb. But let that pass.

The old stores have become in turn pizza parlors, jeans joints and video rental shops. Even the veritable firm of Brooks Brothers, our oldest and most American of men's stores, has, in the saddest story of clothing retailing in the twentieth century, lost its way rather badly, and taken the road most traveled by. If Mary McCarthy were writing about the man in the Brooks Brothers suit today, he'd be the disk-driven equivalent of Muzak.

So, where does one go for a spirited sartorial excursion? Well, the men's specialty store is alive and well, albeit in fewer quarters. "We're really in the midst of a major sociological change," the distingué San Francisco retailer Wilkes Bashford is quick to explain. "Many people are turning away from the cities in favor of rural communities. I've noticed that our rural environs are having a higher and more active cultural life than ever before. And more and more people find they don't have to come to town as often, which means that we have to go to them. We've opened three quality-oriented stores in more rural areas of northern California, stores that have a relaxed urban style combined with a rather sophisticated country sensibility." This is the trend.

Wilkes Bashford is just one of a number of retailers around the country where one can find a good selection of quality brands and private labels, a sense of individual style, the service and integrity of knowledgeable salesmen, and expert tailoring. Places where you can invest wisely and tastefully in clothing. Not many, mind you, but enough. The kind of places where a man can still dress to the nines, and occasionally the tens and elevens, if the need should arise.

To look at it from another perspective, the selection of off-the-rack clothes has never been more varied or tasteful. Nor, need we say, expensive. Every season, it seems, the price of manufacturing increases with the prices of material and labor, and retailers are faced with the dilemma of either raising their prices or cutting their quality. Many, it's no great secret, do both. But fine stores--such as those listed below--never cut quality. And so, prices will continue to escalate. In the stores on our list, suits are priced upwards from $900 and shirts from $75, to give you a rough idea. Half of the stores on our list are in Manhattan, always and still the capital of fashion in the United States. But Boston, Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco can still be counted on to provide elegant assemblage.

In alphabetical order, our choices:

The Andover Shop
127 Main Street, Andover, Massachusetts 01810

Outfitters to students of the Brooks School, Phillips Andover Academy and preppies everywhere, The Andover Shop is the prototypical Eastern Establishment men's store. One of the few remaining authentic examples of the "campus shop," a unique American genre in clothing, The Andover Shop represents conservative, tweedy tailoring at its best. Natural-shouldered, two- and three-button single-breasted coats with center vents are the rule here, all in the most traditional woolens, from heavyweight handwoven Harris Tweed to English tropical worsteds. Accompanied by the proper accoutrements: barber-striped button-downs, London-made silk rep and club neckwear, handwoven Shetland tweed jackets, corduroy patchwork waistcoats, ribbon cinch ring belts, English cricket caps and everything else to warm the ivy-covered cockles. Excellent service, personal and friendly.

Barneys New York
660 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10022

When Barneys opened its uptown store a few years ago, it brought with it three generations of retail savvy (current Chapter 11 difficulties notwithstanding). Superlatives tend to multiply when talking about Barneys. It's not that this is merely the largest clothing store in the United States, but rather it offers the most of the best in menswear: Brioni; Oxxford; Kiton; Garrick Anderson; Kilgour, French & Stanbury; Nick Hilton; Luciano Barbera; Tanner Kroll luggage; the best stock of cologne anywhere; footwear from France, England, Italy and the United States; the most extensive selection of fine silk neckwear, including woven beauties from Charles Hill of London; and exclusive dress shirts by Piatelli and Kilgour, French & Stanbury. Not to mention the designer collections of Armani, Donna Karan, Dolce & Gabbana, Calvin Klein, Issey Miyake and anyone else worth considering.

Bergdorf Goodman Men
745 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10022

A simply beautiful store--neoclassical on the first and second floors with marbled rotunda; sleek and contemporary on the third floor with its lacquered and glass boutiques. Bergdorf Goodman offers the highest quality selections and personal attention: shirts and ties by Charvet, Turnbull & Asser and Ike Behar; very stylish collections of classic Italian-tailored clothing by Antonio Fusco, Mariano Rubinacci, Luciano Barbera and Kiton; the Oxxford collection of superb American-made suits and sports jackets; private-label suits and sports jackets exquisitely custom-tailored by Domenico Spano; sportswear by Joseph Abboud; cashmere sweaters from Gucci; the complete line of Penhaligon toiletries; and exclusive treasures like English luggage, hats and braces. Not to mention a wonderfully appointed small restaurant tucked away on the third floor, which offers perfect lunches and a quiet respite.

Bijan Designer For Men
699 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10022

It is doubtful there is a more expensive men's store in the world. Suits at this writing were priced from $3,950 to $6,000 ($7,500 for a three-piece in English worsted cashmere). "Well," says general manager Alan Katzman, "our customers are accustomed to the best." Indeed, Bijan's international clientele includes not a few heads of state and other celebrities who are very touchy about their image. The ambiance here is California-Mediterranean: all mushroom-toned carpeting and beige-and-white walls, huge antique pots of lush green plants, white-and-gold provincial clothes cabinets, with the occasional large bronze statue and oversized cream suede side chair. And impeccable personal service, like tailoring done in an hour if necessary. Tailoring is classic Italian, handcrafted using the most luxurious fabrics to be had: suits and sports jackets in Donegal-styled cashmere tweed, buttery soft gabardines, crisp but airy linens and Super 150s tropical worsteds, as well as nifty little items like silk trench coats, hand-sewn crocodile slip-ons and featherweight shearling coats.

57 East 57th Street, New York, New York 10022

Often credited with creating the best in modern men's fashion--superbly designed ready-to-wear garments with all the luxury and handwork of custom-made clothing--Brioni is celebrating its 50th anniversary with this new store in Manhattan. Its blond art moderne display cases and shelves are a veritable cornucopia of delectable tailoring and haberdashery. The world's finest cashmere plays a considerable part here: heathery argyle hosiery and crewneck sweaters ($125 and $1,200, respectively), a deftly lightweight cashmere riding coat with bright paisley lining (also done in buttery suede or superfine cotton) and the most luxurious cashmere polo-collared sweater shirt in soft pastels. Business shirts in the finest Italian cottons (priced from $300) are available in a tasteful variety of collar styles. Suits and sport jackets in classic trim silhouette in Super worsteds, featherweight flannels, linen and silk-wool blends are priced from $2,500 (particularly attractive are a range of beautiful cashmere blazers in lush colorations of pale yellow, hunter green, black, navy and rich red).

Alfred Dunhill
450 Park Avenue, New York, New York 10022

Alfred Dunhill's family was in the carriage accessory business when he opened his saddlery in London in 1893. With the advent of the motor car, Alfred Dunhill began supplying accessories and clothing to motorists. In 1907 he added a tobacco shop, and by the 1920s the Alfred Dunhill collection of quality items included lighters, wristwatches and writing instruments--each of which has become a classic of its kind, prized and collected. The firm has been granted the patronage of the British Royal Household. Our concern here is with the full range of menswear introduced in the early 1970s. There are suits with all the serious details of English tailoring, pure cotton dress shirts of impeccable cut and the firm's exclusive silk neckwear. There is also a full range of knitwear, belts and hosiery. The New York store also has the advantage of a custom tailoring department governed by Avery Lucas, one of the most stylish gentlemen we know.

Peter Elliot
1070 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10028

This is one of those small, eclectic shops, European preppy in styling and character, that perfectly reflects its owner's taste. Peter (all his customers seem to become friends) offers whatever he discovers in the way of the unusual and colorful. Last fall he found a woman from an island off the coast of Quebec to knit handsome striped Shetland hose in rich colors of yellow, crimson, hunter green and royal blue. At the moment he's interested in linen button-down shirts in smashing primary colors by Luigi Borrelli (priced at $200); spring-weight cashmere sports jackets hand-tailored in Italy by Isaia in beautiful shades of vanilla, creamy yellow and tobacco brown (matching trousers sold separately); jewel-toned chenille sweaters; Viyella yellow canvas short shooting coats made in England and unique silk knit ties with Art Deco designs. Not to mention the woven elastic belts from France, the Pantherella hosiery from Britain, the brushed cotton plaid sports shirts from Italy, a wonderful selection of enameled cuff links, and suede travel slippers that fit in their own zip pouch. Peter will also be opening a women's shop by the end of the spring.

Scott Hill
100 South Robertson Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90048

Discriminating shoppers from Los Angeles' exclusive residential neighborhoods--Holmby Hills, Pacific Palisades, Brentwood, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills--have discovered Robertson Boulevard, an unhurried, discreet and serene oasis of greenery that seems light-years away from the flash and glitter of Rodeo Drive. Scott Hill's maize-colored villa is cool and quiet, with warm European woods and creamy walls, Persian rugs and overstuffed velvet chairs. This is the relaxed gentleman's Southern California. The clothing collection partakes of this mood with oatmeal linen and taupe twill suits, cognac pebble-grain slip-ons, soft-collared shirting and washed corduroy blousons. The labels are elite European--Vestimenta, Loro Piana, Ermenegildo Zegna, Enrico Isaia, Kiton, Luigi Borrelli--as well as the Donna Karan and Calvin Klein couture collections. A very cultivated sense of style indeed.

Stanley Korshak
500 Crescent Court, Suite 100, Dallas, Texas 75201

With its 1.25 million square feet of office space and 226-room hotel, the grand Crescent Court complex--known simply as The Crescent--in the Arts District area of downtown Dallas offers one of the most beautiful galleries of shops in the world, and the Stanley Korshak store is the jewel in its crown. Its men's department has the ambiance of a London men's club, all dark, polished mahogany walls and cabinetry, cherry wood herringbone floors, Oriental rugs and plush sofas. The shop's reputation rests on having the finest selection of designer clothing in the Southwest: Armani, Sulka, Versace, Ferre, Belvest, Canali and Kiton. Last year, the Italian Trade Commission honored the store with the U'omo Moda Award for the best specialty store in the United States.

Louis, Boston
234 Berkeley Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02116

It is virtually impossible to overpraise Louis. It would be a great store anywhere. It happens to be in the original Boston Museum of Natural History building on Berkeley Street in the historic Back Bay, a block long and four floors high of the world's best clothing. The store also offers valet parking, Cafe Louis (presided over by master chef Michael Schlow), a hair salon and a women's department. Louis is all light and spaciousness: eggshell-tinted walls, pale hardwood floors and high ceilings, brass railings and gallery-style lighting. Here and there one finds the occasional Cognac-colored leather club chair. The shop areas within the store are meant to showcase the best of contemporary international styling: Calvin Klein and Donna Karan, Dolce & Gabbana and Vestimenta, Zegna, Anthony Tarassi, Industria, Dries van Noten, Romeo Gigli and Prada. Shirts by Lorenzini and Luigi Borrelli, shoes by Sutor Mantellassi, Paraboot, Kenneth Cole and others. There is also a "Louie" private-label collection of Neapolitan-styled suits and sports jackets in exceptionally refined fabrics, accompanied by shirts and ties in small antique patterns and sophisticated dusty tones. This is classic, confident, international clothing for the next generation of CEOs.

The Polo/Ralph Lauren Store
867 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10021

Only one name on the label here, that of the master of classic Anglo-American styling. This is decidedly the place to achieve that Duke of Windsor-at-Deauville attitude: windowpane linen and checked crepe suits, doeskin double-breasted blazers, cream-colored gabardine slacks and English-made spectator town shoes, not to mention the perfect oxford button-downs, yards of silk rep ties and shelves of pastel cashmere cable crewnecks. The new Purple Label Collection of very 1930s-styled suits are hand-tailored in England and have broad shoulders, a nipped waist and the important custom detailing. The coordinate dress shirts in the finest imported cottons have small cutaway collars and French cuffs for that real Mayfair/Anthony Eden look. All this is displayed in a setting plus anglais than any English country house could be, complete with ancestral portraits, walnut wainscoting, imposing staircase, the odd crystal chandelier and the overstuffed Edwardian sofa or two. Presumably it's possible to have a nice cuppa between fittings. For those who want to look active, there's the Polo Sport line, with its rubberized nylon sailing jackets, tank tops and cotton cargo pants.

430 Park Avenue, New York, New York 10022

Sulka is still celebrating its 100th anniversary, marked last fall, as a discerning venue here and in Europe for affluent international gentlemen. John Jacob Astor, Douglas Fairbanks, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gary Cooper have been among its devotees. Every item is the finest, from the store's famous jacquard-woven silk neckwear handmade in France to its meticulously tailored Italian, Swiss and English shirting and worsted suits of impeccable mid-Atlantic cut. Of particular interest, a decided benchmark of masculine elegance, is Sulka's range of gentlemen's intimate apparel, for which it is renowned: English silk brocade smoking jackets (priced at $1,500), silk pajamas in herringbone and chevron patterns ($450) and full-length cashmere and silk satin evening robes (from $1,500). This season, Sulka introduces a new line of luxury travel gear: handmade Italian leather weekend bags, carry-ons, suit bags and briefcases. Custom tailor on the premises.

114 East Oak Street, Chicago, Illinois 60611

Last fall marked the 25th anniversary of Chicago's premier designer showcase for men and women. Ultimo introduced the Midwest to such names as Armani, Ferre and Missoni, and today remains in the forefront of designer styling--not the glitz and flash, but the more quiet high style that comes from simplicity and quality. While today the store carries such diverse lines as Issey Miyake, Commes des Garcons, Yamamoto, Robert Freda and Dries van Noten, Ultimo has always leaned toward Italy (which accounts for about 70 percent of the menswear): a full representation of Zegna, Valentino, Gigli and Cerruti, as well as Armani and Ferre. Service is a key consideration here: 22 salespeople and 16 tailors ensure personal attention.

Wilkes Bashford
375 Sutter Street, San Francisco, California 94108

Wilkes Bashford pioneered the upscale designer movement on the West Coast and continues to be the authority for advanced thinking on international polished taste and quality. On the seven floors and 18,000 square feet of selling space (five floors have complimentary bars, the seventh a salon for private shopping and dining), the key gentlemen's resources include the sumptuously tailored suits and sport coats by Brioni, Kiton, Ermenegildo Zegna, Richard Tyler and Dolce & Gabbana, plus the Japanese triumvirate of Issey Miyake, Matsuda and Yohji Yamamoto. Wonderful shoes from Testoni (Italy) and J.M. Weston (France), sportswear from Industria and handmade dress shirts from Luigi Borrelli. There is also Wilkessport, the sophisticated private-label casual sportswear. The sales staff is highly trained to provide world-class service.


Two Special Entries
The Alan Flusser Shop at Saks Fifth Avenue
611 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10022

Edgar Pomeroy Ltd.
2985 Piedmont Road N.E., Atlanta, Georgia 30305

One hesitates to include these two fine shops only because they specialize in very refined, custom-tailored clothing. Both designers, in fact, have a penchant for very urbane suits with lots of drape and distinction. Pomeroy is perhaps the more dandyish and brash, Flusser the more concerned with soft construction and classic flair. But both are noted for their fine ready-to-wear collections of dress shirts (in the high-count 120s two-ply cottons), Italian and English woven silk neckwear and one-of-a-kind accessories. At any particular moment, it's possible to find at the Flusser Shop a wonderful selection of Swiss linen pocket handkerchiefs, a dozen or so beautifully hued Italian cashmere ties or a selection of exquisite French lisle hosiery. Pomeroy may be showing his latest collection of English silk braces, hand-embroidered velvet slippers or imported Macclesfield neckwear. Both designers seek out those unique, tasty, Old World items of clothing craftsmanship that are harder and harder to come by.

G. Bruce Boyer is the author of Eminently Suitable (W.W. Norton, 1990).

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Re: G. Bruce Boyer voor Cigar Aficionado
Reactie #6 Gepost op: 30 november 2008 – 12:37:16
Published Autumn 1996

Woodland Wardrobes
Outdoor Gear Is More Than Just A Fashion Statement; It's A Way To Stay Warm And Dry
by G. Bruce Boyer


The claustrophobic urban congestion gets to all of us. With the roar of traffic droning in our ears and the echoing blink of computer cursors fluttering in our eyes, we trudge along with our briefcase-cum-portable office, stuffed with laptop, cellular phone and calculator, dreaming of the peaceful solitude of a deserted beach at daybreak, or a brisk walk through dew-drenched autumn woods. Squinting down the carbon monoxide-filled concrete canyons, our numb brains have just enough energy to envision the verdant banks of a rippling trout stream, the cool clear water gurgling playfully around our Gore-Tex waders.

"I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky," we mutter (borrowing from poet John Masefield), ashen and hacking, our shirt collar constricting at every step.

Is there any further explanation needed for the flourishing of field and stream sports as never before? According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, more than 15 million people hold hunting licenses and 30 million own fishing licenses in the United States. These traditionally male-dominated sports are rapidly gaining popularity with women as well. Female shotgun target shooters and hunters, for instance, increased 79 percent between 1988 and 1993, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

On the business side, the foundation estimates that hunting and shooting sports annually generate more than $18 billion in economic activity in the United States and support more than 690,000 jobs. According to the American Sportfishing Association, fishing is even more popular: "The popularity of sport fishing has grown steadily over the past several decades to the point that one in four Americans now go fishing each year," according to the Edward Goldstein, the association's acting public affairs director. These anglers spend in excess of $24 billion annually. Of this amount, more than $530 million is spent on camping equipment--$195 million of that on special clothing.

This clothing encompasses a wide spectrum of gear, from custom-made tweed shooting suits and reversible parkas made out of loden (a thick woolen cloth for outerwear), to old khakis and flannel shirts. Once upon a time, when the trout were bigger, a person could get outfitted from his local sporting goods shop, the venerable pages of the L.L. Bean catalogue or that monument to sybaritic sports gear on Manhattan's Madison Avenue, Abercrombie & Fitch. That revered store went the way of all flesh back in 1973 (although its shops in other locations still exist) as did many of the smaller local sporting goods shops, only to be replaced with mega-athletic mall stores whose floor space is predominantly taken up with racks of logo-encrusted T-shirts and piles of hideously over-designed sneakers.

But L.L. Bean is still chugging along, as are half a dozen other fine companies with catalog merchandise. Along with several U.S. purveyors, a number of renowned European shops have recently given a decidedly luxe boost to field and stream accoutering by opening stores in the United States. What these venues have in common is a matchless concern for quality, defined by a wedding of function and style.

Granted that a high proportion of this type of clothing has become very much the fashion cry--everything from loden shooting capes to safari shirts are fair game for designers. But good sporting gear must be made to withstand the rigors of the outdoors. Boots must be comfortable all day long; pockets must actually hold and store items; jacket sleeves must be constructed for both ease of motion and protection from cold and wet; leather belts must be stitched with thread that won't rot; gun patches, bellows pockets, two-way zippers, removable hoods, storm-fly fronts, game pouches, fleece quilting--they're all there for a purpose.

Herewith our choices for the best suppliers of field-proven country clothes with panache. Addresses are those of the main venues in the United States and elsewhere. Prices are approximate and may vary.


165-169 New Bond Street,
London W1Y OAR
725 Fifth Avenue,
New York, New York 10022

Founded in 1781, Asprey remains under the direction of the Asprey family, having expanded from its origins as a manufacturer of fine dressing and writing cases (its first royal warrant as a supplier of traveling cases to Queen Victoria came in 1862) to jewelry, antiques, decorative gifts and tableware, objets d'art, clocks, watches and silver. The firm began offering shotguns and rifles in 1990, with a wide choice of new, used and made-to-measure guns. But it is the sportsman's wardrobe, accessories and gifts that concern us here. Clothing and gifts for the discerning marksman are designed to be practical and elegant. Asprey furnishes tweed jackets (£350/approximately $537) and shooting breeks (short trousers) (£145/$223), check shirts (£40/$61) and wool challis ties (£40/$61), and wonderful "Windstopper" lined sweaters (£135/$207). The firm also has cartridge magazines (250 shell size) in thistlehide leather (at £650/$998), and cartridge bags (at £65/$100 in green canvas, £175/$269 in thistlehide leather), telescopic design shooting sticks with saddle leather seat (£125/$192), beautiful and practical leather-lined wicker cocktail and luncheon hampers (from £1,100/$1,689 to £1,500/$2,303) for those picnics on the downs and leather-bound game books to record the bag (£155/$238). And for the dandies, hand-painted, 18-carat gold game bird cuff links (£1,950/$2,993).


J. Barbour & Sons
Simonside, South Shields, Tyne & Wear,
NE34 9PD, England
55 Meadowbrook Drive, Milford,
New Hampshire 03055

J. Barbour & Sons has been making fine outdoor clothing for a hundred years. Its specialty is its famous green waterproof and thorn-proof country jacket. Designed in 14 models--from a short, waist-length wading jacket to the calf-length "Burghley" overcoat--each is made of fine, long-staple, oil-proofed Egyptian cotton. All seams are double-rolled, zippers are corrosion-proofed and press studs are solid brass. The linings, collars and cuffs are designed for the best protection and lined with quality corduroy, cotton and wool. Available in heavyweight and lightweight versions, jackets are priced from about $275 to $400. Very pre-synthetic. The firm also stocks a selection of canvas field bags, socks and stockings, tweed hats and caps, knitwear and country shirts.


L.L. Bean
Freeport, Maine 04033

L.L. Bean is the grandfather of all sports mail-order catalogs. Started in 1912, the year that L.L. himself invented his now legendary rubber-and-leather Maine hunting boot, the company now publishes five outdoor catalogs--Spring Sporting, Summer Sporting, Winter Sporting, Fly Fishing and Hunting--in addition to its more general seasonal ones. Each catalog's hundred-odd pages is chockablock with products for camping and backpacking, cycling, skiing, hunting and fishing, boating and hiking--everything from kayaks and portable stoves to bike racks, binoculars and balaclavas. Apart from its famous hunting boot, Bean stocks perhaps the largest selection of outdoor footwear available: lightweight canvas-and-leather hikers ($55) and nylon trail-running shoes ($75), several dozen models of sandals and sneakers, and its hand-sewn camp moccasins, introduced in the 1920s (in three models: bluchers, camp mocs and boat mocs, each at $69). The "North Col" hiking boot of Gore-Tex and leather is a poem to rugged practical footwear ($185); Bean's "Aqua Stealth" wading shoes are ideal for mountain streams ($90). You'll also find a full complement of cotton chamois and flannel shirts, canvas duck field coats, insulated waders, whipcord and moleskin shooting trousers, cargo jackets and fishing vests, heavy and reinforced wool sweaters, deerskin gloves, down-filled camouflage parkas, insulated boot socks, Gore-Tex and neoprene waders, a dozen styles of fly vests and everything else for a day by a trout stream or a week in deep woods. Then there's the traditional and genuine split-wicker fishing creel for carrying your catch, complete with leather shoulder harness, latch strap and waist belt ($48).


Beretta Sport
718 Madison Avenue,
New York, New York 10021
317 South Washington Street,
Alexandria, Virginia 22314

Beretta is the world's oldest industrial enterprise: it has been making superior firearms in Italy since the sixteenth century. Bartolomeo Beretta, a contemporary of Leonardo da Vinci, became a master gun-barrel maker; a descendant, Pietro Beretta, made weapons for Napoleon. Today, in addition to the extraordinary guns and rifles, the firm creates a full range of hunting clothes and accessories--marvelous field jackets in water-repellent Rovertex cloth (with or without goose down) with all the authentic details: removable hood, adjustable waist, bellows pockets, zippered game pocket, quilted liners and storm cuffs (from $250 to $575). Beretta also offers extremely durable and handsome shirts in cotton gabardine, fine poplin and pinwale corduroy, with large button-flapped chest pockets (from $60), water-repellent cotton hunting trousers with cargo pockets ($95) and a good basic selection of sport luggage in green resin-coated cotton and tan leather (from $60 for a Dopp shaving kit to $550 for a hunting bag).


812 Thirteenth Avenue,
Sidney, Nebraska 69160

Cabela's chunky 200-page catalog is crammed with selections of duck decoys, binoculars, thermal underwear, plaid wool shirts by Pendleton and Woolrich, the firm's own label flannel-lined and Thinsulate-lined chamois shirts, 18-ounce wool-and-nylon shirts, wool shirts with suede collars and elbow and shoulder patches, and hunting and fishing hats and caps of every conceivable style. Cabela's has the largest collection of camouflage hunting clothing to be found anywhere.


19 Piccadilly,
London W1V OPE

Renowned for its English country clothes of traditional styling and durability, Cordings has been outfitters for gentlemen for more than a century and a half. It stocks a complete range of Grenfell cloth rainwear and Barbour jackets; the justly famous Veldtschoen shoe (it's like a shoe built within a shoe, for maximum protection) made by Crocket and Jones, long considered the best country walking footwear ever made; three-piece tweed shooting suits (jackets £325/$499, waistcoats £145/$223, plus fours--long knickers--£150/$230) and field coats (£395/$606); rubberized cotton mackintoshes--raincoats--short or long (£215 to £395/$330 to $606, respectively); a good selection of cotton-and-wool blend tattersall shirts (£52/$80); heavyweight corduroy and moleskin trousers in some 10 colors (£67/$103); and the Cording leather-lined rubber field boot (£195/$299).


41 East 57th Street,
New York, New York 10022

Marley Hodgson, Ghurka's founder and head designer, created the first Ghurka bag, the now famous khaki cotton twill and saddle leather "No. 1," as a bookbag for his son in 1975. Today the line includes about 200 choice items--the largest selection of the most elegant, yet durable, sportsman's luggage we know of: duffels, overnight bags, knapsacks, field bags, rod and creel cases, garrison bags, hip sacks (priced from $295 to $800); not to mention saddle flasks, camera bags and folding travel alarms. Of special note is the "No. 45 Valet," a veritable hanging closet with half a dozen zippered compartments, detachable vinyl-lined toilet pack, spacious main compartment and several large pockets for shoes, laundry, shirts and other bulky items ($995 in khaki twill). Most items are available in several handsome, natural grain, water-repellent leathers as well as the original twill.


777 Madison Avenue,
New York, New York 10021

Goldpfeil is included here because, since 1856, it has been a premier international leather goods maker. While the firm is perhaps best known among those with a taste for real luxury for its array of superior handmade purses, handbags and wallets, it is to the lightweight travel luggage and smaller personal leather goods that we turn here. The high-quality nylon bags with brass fittings and fine leather trim come in five colors and are the epitome of lightweight travel gear: backpack ($269), weekend carryall with rollers ($461), duffel ($271), garment bag ($767) and toilet kit ($91). Small leather items of a decidedly elegant practicality include a travel flask ($116), double compartment pillbox ($37), manicure kit ($138), stainless steel pocket knife and case ($146), and for those who want to get away but can't completely disconnect, a cellular phone case ($96).

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Re: G. Bruce Boyer voor Cigar Aficionado
Reactie #7 Gepost op: 30 november 2008 – 12:37:50
[deel 2]


Holland & Holland
31-33 Bruton Street,
London W1X 8JS
50 East 57th Street,
New York, New York 10022

"Making the best products is simple," says Alain Drach, chairman of Holland & Holland. "It's merely a matter of refusing to compromise at any stage in their manufacture." That's the kind of thinking that has made Holland & Holland a premier London gun maker since 1835. It holds the royal warrants of the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh, among others. Its shotguns and rifles are meticulously custom-built (clients are measured with a "try gun" at Holland & Holland's shooting grounds, established in 1880), cost the equivalent of a small luxury car and are legitimately considered to be works of art as well as precise sporting guns.

Naturally, a firm with such tradition and expertise takes dressing for the occasion very seriously. Which is why it eventually produced its own range of country clothing: it wanted the best. The apparel, from broth-of-the-heather tweed jackets to handsome loden stalking capes, is the epitome of English sophistication: superior craftsmanship, highest quality fabrics, unsurpassed refinement of design.

The tweeds for the shooting jackets, breeks and field capes (£395/$606, £165/$253 and £425/$652, respectively) are as rugged and beautiful as the Highlands from which they come. Country shoes and boots (priced from £350/$537) are made from the finest calf leathers, "stuffed with oils," as the company succinctly puts it, to ensure they are waterproof; and shooting stockings in the most glorious colors are individually hand-knitted (from £45/$69 to £60/$92). The firm's field jackets are absolute paragons of the form, done in several versions--rubberized or dry wax cotton with snap-in loden lining, bonded tweed, reversible rubberized cotton, and quilted tweed or loden--all with heaps of pockets (£275/$422 to £445/$683). There are also perfect wool challis ties with game designs (£55/$84), tattersall waistcoats (£125/$192), tweed caps and felt hats (£45/$68 and £85/$130) and wonderful marled cashmere sweaters (from £350/$537 to £450/$691). The last word in estate dress.


Hunting World
16 East 53rd Street,
New York, New York 10022

While Hunting World carries a variety of tasteful clothing and accessories from handbags and beautiful silk scarves to wristwatches, it has been best known for three decades for its luggage and safari clothing. Store originator Bob Lee developed the "Battue" fabric during his years in Africa, when he became dissatisfied with other luggage material. Battue is a three-ply nylon fabric with a polyurethane coating, a shock-absorbing foam core and a nylon jersey inner layer; very protective in even the most extreme conditions. There are dozens and dozens of styles, from a small waist pac, tote or mini-pouch ($235, $757 and $500, respectively), to suit pacs, classic duffels and safari bags ($915, $710 and $857). The most extensive selection of quality cotton safari jackets (about a dozen different models, starting at $145) and shirts (from $85), as well as the real thing in a safari hat: impala brown felt with a 3 1/4-inch raw-edged brim and beige pleated puggaree band ($110).


1711 Blue Hills Drive, Box 12000,
Roanoke, Virginia 24012-8001
and 21 other locations throughout the United States and England.

Orvis has been accoutering field-and-stream sportsmen for more than a century, has its own fishing and shooting schools (800/235-9763 for information), and even offers a toll-free help line for technical questions about those sports (800/778-4778). While the firm has recently devoted more of its catalog to women's casual clothing, rustic home furnishings and pet paraphernalia, it still does a nice selection of sporting attire and accessories. Particularly noteworthy is the fine line of "Battenkill" canvas-and-leather kit bags: four sizes of duffels (from $139 to $225), club bags ($195 and $215), garment bags ($195) and Gladstone carryalls ($110), as well as bottle cases, rolling Pullmans, field bags, salt- and freshwater rod cases, camera bags--even a bag for your personal computer--if you must take the office with you! Also available is a range of nine-ounce bull-hide hunting boots and shoes by Gokey: fisherman shoes ($145), snake-proof boots ($395), hiking boots ($155) and camp moccasins ($135).


James Purdey & Sons (Accessories Ltd.)
84 Mount Street,
London W1Y 5HH

Next door to its famous Purdey Gun Shop at 57-58 South Audley Street, James Purdey & Sons has a shop devoted to a wide range of shooting clothes and accessories. Shooting coats come in a variety of fabrics--loden ($400), tweed ($530) and weatherproofed cotton ($210)--and they are everything one could want in craftsmanship and design. The selection of waxed cotton clothing includes shooting coats ($210 for medium weight, $250 for heavyweight), overtrousers ($80), hats ($30 to $134) and overskirts for the ladies ($150). You can also find hunting breeks in tweed, moleskin and corduroy ($110 to $179); a good selection of cloth hats and caps; wonderful rubber boots (including the Vierzon leather-lined, side-zipper model, at $300); gloves and sweaters.


W.C. Russell Moccasin Co.
285 S.W. Franklin Street,
Berlin, Wisconsin 54923-0309

Founded in 1898, the W.C. Russell Moccasin Co. produces more than 50 styles of handmade moccasins, boots and casual shoes--both in stock and made-to-order. Many hunters say that the popular nine-inch "Bird Shooter" is the best lightweight, all-purpose hunting boot ever made: uppers of water-proofed leather, single vamp construction, handsewn toe seams, oak leather midsole and counters, as well as traction rubber soles ($165, made-to-order; $220 in waterproofed French veal--calfskin--leather). The 18-inch snake boots are handsewn works of art in 10-ounce bull-hide leather ($325 made-to-order), as is the kangaroo chukka (double vamp construction, closed gusset, crepe soles, glove leather lined, $166 made-to-order). A variety of comfortable casual camp moccasins with or without soles are also available.


808 Smith Avenue, P.O. Box 2055,
Thomasville, Georgia 31799-2055

Last year, Stafford's celebrated its 50th year as a supplier of hunting and other outdoor apparel and gifts. Clothing includes Lewis Creek shooting jackets and vests, selections of luggage by Filson (22-ounce oil-finished canvas and saddle leather duffels and shooting bags from $85 to $205) and Holland Sport (Latigo saddle leather English field bags, anglers bags, weekend bags and gun cases from $155 to $450). A variety of English-made shooting sticks ($115 to $130), traditional and ranch-style cotton poplin brush trousers with reinforced canvas leg facings ($62 to $69), leather-faced whipcord hunting trousers ($200), poplin shooting shirts with suede gun patches on the shoulder to cushion your shotgun or rifle ($40) and cotton moleskin quilted shooting jackets ($210) are some of the outstanding items. There is also an extensive sportingbooks library.


Swaine Adeney
10 Old Bond Street,
London W1X 3DB

Swaine Adeney has been trading in London since 1750 and has held a royal warrant since it was first granted one by King George III. Suppliers of whips and other riding equipment to 10 successive monarchs, the family-run business now includes riding clothes and kits, casual clothing, gifts and accessories, and its famous umbrellas and canes. The travel umbrella, with detachable handle and tip, is the best of its kind (priced at around £145/$223). A complete selection of the estimable green Wellie country boots (£49/$75), country checked shirts in wool-and-cotton (£65/$100) and soft-as-chamois moleskin shirts (in lovat, fawn and olive, at £79/$121), and hard-wearing corduroy trousers (in dark green, corn and navy, at £81/$125) are some of the more notable items. The firm is also good for those heavy-ribbed, military-styled sweaters with the suede elbow and shoulder patches (£107/$165).


Willis & Geiger
1902 Explorer's Trail,
Reedsburg, Wisconsin 53959

Willis & Geiger first published a catalog just last year, although the firm has been making wonderful outdoor clothing for more than 90 years. It has outfitted such famous sportsmen as Teddy Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway; explorers Sir Edmund Hillary, Charles Lindbergh and Adm. Richard Byrd; and a host of other high-wattage personalities such as generals Douglas MacArthur and Jimmy Doolittle, and actor Clark Gable. The firm's all-time coup is its legendary "Type A-2" brown horsehide flight jacket that it first designed for U.S. Army fighter pilots in the 1930s and which was used extensively during the Second World War. The original and authentic jacket is still available--brass zipper, merino wool waist and cuff ribbing, stitched epaulets and all--at $368 to $388. Recommended for warm-weather wear are the firm's 340-count cotton poplin clothing: bush jackets ($120), trousers ($76), shirts ($66 and $84), fishing vests ($178) and its "Professional Outdoorsman" jackets (with eight very practical pockets, recoil pads, epaulets, bi-swing back--for greater freedom of movement--gusset cuffs and concealed hood, at $188). Cold-weather coats include goose down parkas with waterproof and windproof shells ($278), quail coats with button-out wool linings ($288) and substantial shearling hooded parkas that look like they could take the Arctic in complete composure ($788).

G. Bruce Boyer is the author of Eminently Suitable (W.W. Norton, 1990).


A New Generation of Fabrics

Leave it to the Italians to design the perfect blend of fashion and function. Two of the world's leading textile and clothing manufacturing firms-- Ermenegildo Zegna and Loro Piana--have introduced new fabrics this year, the results of advanced research in material technology.

Zegna has been a world leader in prestigious fabrics for most of this century. Since the 1960s, it has been producing its own line of handsomely tailored clothing and sportswear. This spring the firm introduced its "Yachting" collection of outerwear--from winter to summer--made from a new cloth called Microtene 10.000. A superthin polyester fiber is used to produce a yarn of extraordinary lightness--much finer than silk, a mere kilo of it would stretch around the equator--which means it can be densely compacted, allowing it to be both porous and virtually waterproof.

The fabric has a very pleasing peach-skin feel, the result of an emery-polished finish, and the garments perform exceptionally well in the wet and cold. The various jacket styles are so handsome they can serve admirably as outerwear around town.

The firm of Loro Piana has created another breakthrough cloth. Its truly remarkable patented "Storm System" all-weather fabric guarantees warmth, lightness and protection from wind and rain. Loro Piana used its expertise in spinning, weaving and finishing techniques to exploit the natural thermal properties of the finest cotton, wool and cashmere. Then, working with U.S.-based Gore Technologies, a world leader in the field of synthetic polymers that developed a special microporous membrane for an all-weather lining, Loro Piana created a new generation of outerwear fabrics.

These fabrics have been taken up by such fashionable firms as Faconnable, Brioni, Canali and Armani for raincoats, parkas, sports jackets and other outerwear, as well as a line from Loro Piana that includes riding and field jackets (originally designed for the Italian equestrian team). This is sumptuous, high-performance gear, guaranteed to retain a dry and elegant appearance even in the most challenging weather.



Custom Shooting Suits

If you were thinking of having a nice tweed shooting suit custom made, the chap to see is Leonard Logsdail, an English gentleman and one of the finest tailors on Savile Row, but now practicing his art of bespoke cutting in New York City.

"We used to do tweed shooting suits on a regular basis in London, and I still do several every season over here," says Logsdail. "We prefer what I call 'working tweed,' stout 18-ounce thorn-proof cloth that can stand up to the rigors of the hunt. The second criterion is comfort: we provide bellows pockets, bi-swing back, suede gun patch, throat latch, even an inside hare pocket with a waterproof lining in the jacket if the customer wants. And since the swing of the gun is the most important movement in the field, we want to make sure the back rides free and that the sleeves are slightly longer for breaking in. On the plus fours we can do strap-and-buckle knee fasteners or Velcro, whatever the customer wants."

That kind of attention and perfection, of course, does not come cheaply. Logsdail will want $2,500 for a custom-made, two-piece estate shooting suit, and three fittings to complete it over a six-week period. And, for another $100 or so, he'll add a custom-made flat field cap to complete the outfit.

Leonard Logsdail:
510 Madison Avenue,
New York, New York 10022


cyka blyat


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Re: G. Bruce Boyer voor Cigar Aficionado
Reactie #8 Gepost op: 30 november 2008 – 12:39:06
Published July/August 1997

Flannels, Cashmeres, Wools, Tweeds
Modern Lightweight Fabrics Spur a Luxurious Return to Traditional Styles

by G. Bruce Boyer


"I always had a fondness for tweeds, like my father and grandfather, but I wore mine a trifle more loosely and casually than they."

--The Duke of Windsor, Windsor Revisited

Tweeds, and flannels, and the other cloths of drape and substance. In fact, Windsor liked to wear fall-weight suits all year round. They looked better, tailored better, had more mileage. He had inherited a tweed suit from his father which, with a bit of alteration, the Duke kept going for more than 60 years. That's style.

Those tweeds were a bit heavy and scratchy, though.

"We went to the Riviera in July," says Laura, Duchess of Marlborough (quoted in Suzy Menkes' book, The Windsor Style). "It was fiendishly hot and I was wearing the thinnest of dresses and when we arrived at the villa, the Duke was in full Scottish rig. The first thing I said to him was 'Oh Sir, aren't you terribly hot?' But he didn't seem to notice." With Windsor, style was obviously transcendent.

Style is, as it happens, a word one sees cropping up a great deal in the fashion press--as though it were a trend, akin perhaps to the way the words "classic" or "tradition" are used there--as though it were a commodity, more a matter of decor than piety.

The other word that is now being touted by the fashion press is sartorial. Translation: dressy, with an emphasis on accomplished tailoring. It is fashion's latest about-face to its overzealous advocation of casualness and limp, crepey, pebbly fabrics four or five seasons ago (about a year and a half in human time). What this means is a return to a more precise silhouette and good, traditional suiting fabrics such as flannels and tweeds, twills and worsteds, with more than a nod given to the luxuries of the newer Super merinos, worsted cashmeres and the other sybaritic cloths of high pedigree. The Duke would have thoroughly approved of fashion's return to the fold of taste.

It is, therefore, not so much drastic change in styling that drives men's fashion today, but fabrics. After all, suits are basically a conservative medium of dress and haven't changed radically for decades and decades. As Anne Hollander has noted in her study, Sex and Suits: The Evolution of Modern Dress, "Advances in technology and economic organization during the past two centuries have in fact been bent on preserving the character of men's tailoring and spreading its availability." The rules were established at the end of the eighteenth century: coat, trousers and vest, designed and constructed to produce a uniformly ideal silhouette and image for any man. A slightly wider lapel here, a fractionally narrower trouser leg there, is as much as most of us are willing to tolerate.

Unlike women's hemlines, which seem to go from here to there in a blink, more than a half-inch taken or given anywhere in a man's wardrobe constitutes a revolution. The general thrust in menswear since the beginning of the twentieth century has been to make the basic suit more comfortable: lighter-weight fabrics and construction techniques have reduced stiffness, heaviness and constriction. Men's tailoring today is positively airy compared to what it was before mid-century.

This is all part of a greater movement in the modernization of men's clothing. The initial step was democratization. As the Industrial Revolution and democracy advanced in Europe and the United States, democratic business dress first replaced privileged court and aristocratic dress, then became a standard uniform as well as being uniformly standardized. After the form was set, comfort became the goal.

Tweeds are perhaps the best example of this. They were, at the fin of the last siècle, the great social leveler in dress, worn by kings and subjects, presidents and citizens alike. What is different about tweeds today is that they are no longer the hairy, blanket-like, bullet-proof and scratchy productions they once were. Originally weighing in at 18 to 28 ounces (cloth weight is determined by the square yard), tweeds in traditional patterns and colors are now half that weight.

With a return to a more retro English styling of late, these cloths are perfect for that country house look--when the country house is climate-controlled.

"Mind you," says James Sheed, director of Dormeuil, one of the world's most eminent woolens houses, "for the past several seasons now in Europe, the weights have stabilized as far as consumers are concerned. I would say that 10- to 15-ounce cloths are preferred. And we see that in the United States as well. Our Sportex line of tweeds, which we developed in the 1920s for golfers, originally weighed 22 ounces. Today that same cloth is 14 ounces. The tailoring properties, durability and good looks are still there, but in a more comfortable cloth."

Jay Kos, a decidedly upscale Manhattan haberdasher with a British sense of styling, agrees. "I'm doing mainly tweeds and flannels: flannels for town, and tweeds for country suits. My preferred model is a three-piece suit, done in either a hacking or Norfolk style, in 15-ounce Shetland. We do those in beautifully dusky colors with muted windowpane patterns. They're not the sort of thing to sell to stockbrokers, who are locked into their pinstripes, but we do a brisk business with fellows who can dress with a bit of individuality, like doctors and other professional men. It's the kind of suit that becomes an old friend."

Tweeds are known in the cloth trade as woolens, a category that accounts for the bulkier, loftier and fuzzier wool cloths that also includes twills. The other category of wool cloth is worsteds, which are smoother and more tightly woven, and thus stronger, than woolens. Flannels can be either, depending on how they have been woven.

"Actually, we've increased our offerings in tweed this year, as well as other more substantial cloths like alpaca-wool blends, camel hairs and wool-cashmere blends," says Rod Smith, spokesman for Southwick, one of the United States' most prestigious manufacturers of quality-tailored clothing. "We've always felt that a fall suit should look like a fall suit. This fall we're particularly strong on Irish Donegal tweeds, and neat patterned tweeds such as barleycorns, miniature herringbones and checks. It's a movement back to basics, back to traditional English cloth and styling."

Dougal Munro, president of the renowned British cloth firm of Holland & Sherry Inc., confirms this shift towards more substantially finished cloth, "particularly in more sophisticated suiting for both town and country," he notes. "We do an extensive range of tweeds we call 'Country Elegance.' They're only 11 to 13 ounces, but perform just like the older, heavier cloths which, at 16 and 18 ounces, were too heavy for the American market. These newer, lighter tweeds tailor and drape just as well, and are just as durable."

Holland & Sherry has also taken a renewed interest in Donegals, with an extensive range of 11-ounce tweeds in some 20-odd beautiful colorings, from darkest tobacco brown to palest golden grain, with everything in between from indigo to olive, but with an emphasis on lighter and brighter shades this season.

Flannels are the other resurgent cloths this year. "Being a designer of classic English-styled clothing," says Edgar Pomeroy, Atlanta's flamboyant Anglophiliac custom menswear designer, "I prefer to work with English fabrics that weigh between 10 and 12 ounces in the Super 100s and 120s ranges. They tend to have good drape and a soft hand, and they hold their shape better. I favor the slightly napped surface texture of the woolen flannels and mill-finished worsted flannels. There's nothing quite as elegant as a classic double-breasted, chalk-striped flannel suit for making a noted sartorial statement."

"My customers are happy with 10- to 12-ounce cloth in the fall," agrees Dallas' consummate custom tailor, Chris Despos. "Today, it's possible to have cloths with substance without all the weight and bulk. Not only reduced weight, but increased qualities of fineness, because advanced spinning technology now produces finer and finer yarns.

"The three cloths that I do best with are: one, a Super 120s wool and 15 percent cashmere blend from Isles Textiles; two, a Super 120s and 10 percent cashmere blend from Samuel Lehrer; and three, a Super 120s and 10 percent cashmere blend from Lesser Textiles. Each weighs about 10 ounces and responds beautifully to tailoring. I try to make the finished suit even lighter and more comfortable by using lighter inner linings and less padding in the coat."

There had been a vogue for a few years--started in the 1980s by Armani and company--for crepe- and boucle-type fabrics that had a pebbly, dry, limp hand. They seemed a good medium for the unconstructed casualness of the period because they had overstated surface texture and a very loose weave. But things are decidedly dressier now.

"All those high-twist crepes are on the wane, and the pendulum is swinging back to much more traditional cloths," says New York designer Alan Flusser, owner of his own custom shop at Saks Fifth Avenue and author of the recently published, definitive book on buying men's clothes, Style and the Man (HarperStyle, 1996, $24). "The fashion spirit now is for harder-finished cloths, cloths with more substance that can be tailored better. There's more interest today in dark, dressy clothes in a slightly slimmer silhouette. And if you're wearing solid-colored satin ties and white cutaway-collared dress shirts, you certainly want a more sophisticated suit. And that means good fabrics and good tailoring."

The biggest news these past several seasons has been in the cloths known as "Supers." Super fine wools are a relatively new phenomenon that followed recent advances in technology. Supers are made from what is the world's finest wool: pure-bred merino sheep from Australia and New Zealand grow wool that is supremely soft, silky and fine. The diameter of a strand of Supers-quality merino is less than 20 microns (one millionth of a meter); the smaller the micron number in the designation, the finer the wool. Thus, the first generation of Supers were in the 80s and 90s range of fineness, about 19 microns; newer 110 and 120 Supers are in the range of 18 and 17 microns. What's most noticeable about these cloths is the atypical combination of a soft, buttery texture with great durability and drape.

"Theoretically, you can make Supers of any number in any weight," says Neal Boyarsky, president of Beckenstein Men's Fabrics in New York City, the most prestigious cloth merchant in the United States. "The art comes in getting the right fineness in the right weight. We have now progressed to 140s, 150s and even 170s Supers, which are in the range of 14.5 microns. For fall, we like to combine the higher-quality Supers with cashmere in 12-ounce weights. It makes a superb cloth that reacts well to tailoring and humidity, and retains its shape even though it's incredibly soft. It's one of the most luxurious cloths you can buy."

Dougal Munro agrees about the 170s. "This year we've woven enough 170s for just 240 suit lengths, and I can tell you that it's finer to the touch than worsted spun cashmere. At around $800 a yard, a top tailor--and to whom else would you entrust such a cloth--would have to charge perhaps $10,000 for a suit."

Luxury is, of course, the name of the game. "The better cloths are selling better," says Boyarsky. "We do lambswool and cashmere blends, baby camel hair, silk and cashmere blends at 10 ounces, 130s Supers cashmeres, and 120s Supers cashmere with a touch of vicuna, as well as pure vicuna in both 20-ounce topcoat weight and 12-ounce sports coat weight. The vicuna sells for a neat $3,000 per yard. But my favorite suiting for fall would be a 150s Super-and-cashmere blend at 10 ounces--just perfect for a successful businessman."

The essentials of the tailored wardrobe always follow the dictates of taste and quality. Fine fabrics and classic styling are the best fashion weapons with which to take arms against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Since the Second World War, the textile industry has created new fibers, developed blended fibers and refined existing fibers. Wool still comes from sheep, cashmere from mountain goats and vicuna from a camel's cousin, but the standards of quality today are pushing the luxury properties of these fine fibers higher than ever. On the drawing board are Super 200s woolens, vicuna blends and whisper-weight worsted cashmeres.

In a world in which so much seems to be of the fast-fickle-and-forget-it brand of shoddiness, men's tailoring is actually getting much better.

G. Bruce Boyer, a frequent contributor to Cigar Aficionado, is the author of Eminently Suitable (W.W. Norton, 1990).


Resources for Fine Cloth
Beckenstein Men's Fabrics
121 Orchard Street
New York, NY 10002
(800) 221-2727

21 East 67th Street
New York, NY 10021
(800) 416-4144

Herbert Gladson
200 South Newman Street
Hackensack, NJ 07601
(800) 227-1724

G.R.M. International
6600 West Rogers Circle
Boca Raton, FL 33487
(800) 223-5095

Holland & Sherry Inc.
400 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10017
(800) 223-6385

Isles Textiles
917 Broadway
North Massapequa, NY 11758
(800) 447-7682

Jodek International
222 North Canon Dr. Suite 204
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(800) 325-4668

Samuel Lehrer
3 Quincy Street
Norwalk, CT 06850
(800) 221-2433

Loro Piana
46 East 61st Street
New York, NY 10021
(800) 637-3774

Rosenthal Woolens
706 South Fifth Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(800) 466-1149

Swanson & Frear
Box 31
Mendon, MA 01756
(508) 478-6972

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Re: G. Bruce Boyer voor Cigar Aficionado
Reactie #9 Gepost op: 30 november 2008 – 12:40:40
Published November/December 1998

American Dreams
Think All the Best Clothes Come From Europe? Just Look at These Home-Grown Classics

By G. Bruce Boyer


The contemporary wardrobe of the American male contains a number of classic items that weren't all necessarily invented by us but are clothing styles whose genre we perfected, so to speak--popularized, made our own, and brought to the world anew and in an ideal form. I've chosen these pieces not merely because they're prototypical, the most famous, symbolic or ubiquitous, but also because they are the American fashion statements most popularly embraced by other countries and, as such, have had an international appeal and influence.

Americans' style of dress has, at least since the age of Andrew Jackson, been influenced by considerations of comfort on the one hand and by the impulse for equality on the other. This great "democratization of dress," if you will, is the reason we led the world in both ready-made clothing and sportswear. By the end of the nineteenth century, average Americans had become the best-dressed average people in the world. American clothing erased ethnic origins and blurred social distinctions. It is these two threads that have most decidedly woven the character and determined the course of men's clothing in the twentieth century.

The Seersucker Suit
American seersucker is a cotton version of the silk seersucker worn in the nineteenth century by the British in India. The word itself seems to be a Hindi corruption of a Persian phrase, shir shakkar, which translates as "milk and sugar." This etymology refers to the alternating smooth and rough textures of the stripes, the distinctive feature of the cloth, which is achieved by what is called slack-tension weaving: alternating fibers are held under normal tension, while intervening ones are kept slack to create a pattern of puckered and flat stripes. Seersucker's most distinguishing characteristic is its greatest stylistic virtue as well: it flaunts its rumpled state with aplomb.

It became popular as the perfect cloth for hot, humid climes. In the South, men began to wear seersucker suits in the summer around the turn of the century as a more comfortable alternative to flannel and linen, but they were considered a rather cheap approach to dressing and had little fashion allure until university men began wearing them after the First World War. They were seen at tony country clubs in the '30s and '40s but didn't really catch on with businessmen in the North until the end of the Second World War, as witnessed in a newspaper column written by that great writer and dandy Damon Runyon in July 1945:

I have been wearing coats of the material known as seersucker around New York lately, thereby causing much confusion among my friends. They know that seersucker is very cheap and they cannot reconcile its lowly status in the textile world with the character of Runyon, King of the Dudes. They cannot decide whether I am broke or just setting a new vogue.

Now considered a classic of the warm-weather wardrobe, the only thing about the seersucker suit that's changed--apart from its cachet, of course--is the price. In the '30s, the all-cotton beauty could be had for around $15. Today, the renowned American tailoring firm of Southwick still makes the original--the three-button, soft-shouldered model, with patch-and-flap pockets--for a cool $775.

The Striped Rep Tie
Let's get the nomenclature straight: when striped rep neckwear is discussed, the "rep" refers to the weave in the silk fabric, not to the repetitive pattern of the stripes. Most silk neckwear is produced in only a few weaves: rep (with longitudinal ribs), ottoman (with crosswise ribs), crepe (with a broad range of grained surface effects) and faille (with conspicuous crosswise ribs).

The necktie, of course, has a long history. Roman soldiers apparently wore cloths tied around their necks as protection from the sun, the cold and perhaps the odd sword swipe. The English word cravat is a corruption of the French word for Croatian, and came to be associated with neckwear because Louis XIV employed a troop of Croatian mercenaries who were fond of wearing colored ribbons around their necks. Then there was George "Beau" Brummell, who made his way up in society by dint of his wit and manners, the impeccable cut of his suits and fresh linen, and his ability to tie the most elegant neckband in London. It's not known whether Brummell wore striped neckwear, but in a self-portrait of a dandy named Ferdinand Georg Waldmuller done in 1828--the Beau had fled England a dozen years earlier and was then living in poverty in Calais--the artist is wearing white-and-blue striped neckwear. The American interest in the genre may well date from 1919, when the Duke of Windsor (then Prince of Wales) made his first visit to the United States. Fashion spotters were quick to report on everything he wore, and he was fond of displaying his regimental tie of broad blue-and-red stripes. (He was a former officer of the Grenadier Guards.) The Duke wrote amusingly of some confusion concerning the origins of that particular tie in his book Windsor Revisited:

Once in Washington, a reporter caught up with me and asked me what tie I was wearing. I replied: "The Guard's tie." Not seeming to understand me correctly, he repeated the question. "What kind of a tie?" I answered him again: "The Guard's tie." Misunderstanding my pronunciation he settled for "Gawd's tie." Afterwards he wrote in his column that I had "left this reporter doubtful as to whether the Almighty had actually ever devised a tie of his own."

Striped ties became collegiate favorites (whether they were regimental, club or college colors) in the years immediately following the First World War and have remained so ever since. The Robert Talbott Co. of Carmel, California, is the only U.S. manufacturer that regularly stocks a complete list of "Old School" college rep striped ties. The Ben Silver Collection, a catalogue of fine neckties in Charleston, South Carolina, lists a plethora of rep neckwear woven in England.

The Button-Down Shirt
The story is that, in 1896, John Brooks (the retired president of Brooks Brothers and grandson of its founder, Henry Brooks), while vacationing in England, took in a polo match. Naturally accustomed to observing the finer points and details of dress, he was fascinated to note that the English players wore shirts on which the long collar points were buttoned down to the shirt body at their points. It was explained to him that the buttons kept the points from flapping in the face during the vigorous riding. Brooks immediately went out and bought several of the shirts and shipped them home to his tailors, with instructions to produce the detail and add the style to the Brooks Brothers line.

At Brooks Brothers, the shirt is still referred to as a "polo" collar, and has been so widely imitated that virtually every shirt company does a version of it. Not to worry, as they say: the Brooks button-down has never been successfully duplicated or improved upon. The classic is done in oxford cloth shirting--blue and white are the traditional colors, but yellow and pink have always been favored by the more spirited--with precise 3 3/8-inch collar points and a simple barrel cuff.

This is the kind of thing that can make a guy, as the astute columnist George Frazier noted upon his introduction to famed writer John O'Hara. Charles Fountain tells the story in Another Man's Poison: The Life and Writing of Columnist George Frazier:

One night at Nick's, a jazz club in New York's Greenwich Village and a favorite hangout of O'Hara's, trumpeter Bobby Hackett, a friend of George's from the Boston jazz scene, brought George over to the author's table and introduced him. "Sit down and have a drink," said O'Hara warmly. "You're welcome at my table. You're wearing a Brooks Brothers shirt."

Call them what you will: blue jeans (from Genes, French for Genoa), denims (from the French serge de Nîmes), dungarees (from the Hindi dungri), or Levi's (after Levi Strauss). What we are talking about--whether they're big and baggy or straight and tight--is coarse cotton-twill trousers, dyed indigo blue, with prominent stitching, rear patch pockets and no crease down the leg center.

The fabric is variously said to have originated in Genoa, Nîmes or Bombay. But there is little doubt about who first popularized the product: Levi Strauss, a Bavarian immigrant, dry-goods wholesaler and itinerant peddler extraordinaire. According to the legend, Strauss went West, along with thousands of others who were hoping to profit from the discovery of gold in California in 1848. He took along bolts of heavy canvas from which he intended to sell tenting to the miners. They didn't need tents, he discovered, they needed clothes, particularly thick trousers that could withstand the rigors of mine work.

Strauss quickly found a tailor in San Francisco to turn the coarse cotton tenting into trousers. All of the details we associate with the pants were incorporated during the next several years: the indigo blue color, the copper rivets, the orange stitching; the very shape and silhouette of those early pairs are almost identical to the straight-legged variety worn today. Strauss originated the double arch stitched on the back pockets, the oldest trademark of any American apparel.

The great cult following came in the late 1940s and early '50s, when jeans were taken up by guys who favored the motorcycle look: short black leather jackets, T-shirts, jeans and engineer's boots. Europe discovered jeans during the '60s, and by the '70s a dozen or so companies had joined the prominent three American producers--Levi's, Wrangler and Lee--in bombarding the market. Today, virtually every designer has a line of jeans in his collection, and perhaps hundreds of manufacturers internationally have entered the market, with such a wide range of colors, styles and fabrics that calling such productions "jeans" boggles the body as well as the mind. At Levi Strauss & Co., nine different silhouettes now wear its famous red-tab label, the classic trim-fitted "501" among them. (The others include three loose-fitting models, several relaxed cut models and a "boot cut" version.)

Cowboy Boots
It's one of the great ironies that one of the most utilitarian of outfits evolved, for a short but memorable period at least, into one of the most ornate. Cowboy gear in America developed on the plains and pastures of the Southwest, particularly among those who herded cattle on the open grazing lands of Texas. The colorful period of the "long drives" lasted a mere 30 years or so, from the end of the Civil War to the turn of the century, but it produced the most vibrant, heroic image of our national life: the American cowboy.

Thousands of head of Texas longhorns were driven up the legendary Chisholm Trail from southern Texas to Wichita and Abilene, Kansas. It was a lonely and arduous undertaking, and, from hard experience, the cowboy's clothes were designed to offer protection, if not solace. His wide-brimmed hat and calico bandanna insulated him from the scorching sun and the choking dust, while tough leather gauntlets and chaps (seatless overtrousers of rugged leather) took the assaults of rope, sagebrush and animal bites. The boots, the most expensive aspect of the gear, were a special consideration: heels were high--about two inches, to prevent the rider from slipping in the stirrups--and sharply underslung to dig into the ground while cattle were being roped; arches were high and tight; and toes were pointed, to make getting into the stirrups easier and staying there less fatiguing. The upper part of the boot was cut high and straight, just below the knee, and made of tough leather to protect the leg from horse sweat, cactus needles, snakebite, flailing cow hooves and the dozens of other hazards of life on the range.

The decline of the long-drive cowboys marked the emergence of the rhinestone variety of boots, which were popularized by actors on the stage and screen. Buck Taylor, who acted with the Buffalo Bill Troupe, was the first "King of the Cowboys." Then came the celluloid heroes: William S. Hart, Bronco Billy Anderson, Tom Mix, Tex Ritter and, at the pinnacle of the genre, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. They were responsible for the most picturesque outfits ever worn by Americans: crimson shirts with lavender yokes and ornate cuffs, fancy pocket flaps, and pearl buttons; drainpipe pin-striped trousers with piped pockets and badge-shaped belt loops (the belts themselves of ornately detailed leather with large engraved silver buckles); fancy silk bandannas; wide-brimmed beaver felt hats with turquoise bands; and, of course, boots. Boots designed and made with more detail, artistry and color than were ever worn before or have been worn since: dove gray and citrus yellow, powder blue and orange, peacock blue and emerald green, and all of the most ingenious design. Merely to stitch an ornate monogram was absolute child's play compared with the cherry-red calfskin inlaid with white longhorn-steer heads or the sleek black ostrich hide decorated with climbing roses. Rogers was particularly fond of a pair that was ornamented with red, white and blue spread eagles.

The Leather Flight Jacket
Properly called the "U.S. Army Air Corps A-2 Flight Jacket," this most popular of garments ever issued to aviators was standardized by the U.S. Army in 1931 but found its greatest moments during the Second World War (as seen on Jimmy Doolittle, Flying Tiger commander Clair Chennault, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the crew of the Enola Gay and thousands of other courageous soldiers). The backs of many of these battle jackets that saw action over the skies of the European and Pacific theaters of the war were adorned with hand-painted emblems, maps, names and the occasional pinup queen.

The design was a model of efficiency for duty in the cockpit of a fighter plane. Originally made of strong brown horsehide (now goatskin), with brass zipper and snaps, and a rayon (sometimes silk or cotton) lining, the jacket provided warmth and practicality. It was only waist length (the better for sitting), and the two snap-and-flap patch front pockets were set low (with hand-warmer slits) for easy access. Wool knit ribbing at the waist and cuffs held the jacket tight against the cold and prevented it from snagging on controls, and snaps at the collar points stopped the collar from flapping in the wind.

Perhaps hundreds of variations of this classic--blouson, as it is called today--are now available, but this one is the real thing.

G. Bruce Boyer is the author of Eminently Suitable.
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Re: G. Bruce Boyer voor Cigar Aficionado
Reactie #10 Gepost op: 30 november 2008 – 12:42:13
Published September/October 1998

A Pattern of Excellence
A Half Century After Sparking a New International Look in Menswear, Brioni Is Still at the Forefront of Style and Quality

By G. Bruce Boyer


Today we tend to take it for granted that men can wear pink shirts, grass-green sports jackets or plaid suits with pastel overchecks. We wear suits blended of silk and wool, linen and cotton, silk and cotton; we don silk dinner jackets; perhaps a pastel-hued blouson or safari jacket. And we are very much interested in softer and lighter-weight clothing. But less than 50 years ago these were startingly new concepts--ideas that emerged first out of the Via Barberini shop of Brioni in the 1950s.

Like any idea whose time has come and is well executed--in Brioni's case through the marriage of fine tailoring, innovative styling and sophistication--the new look that Brioni wrought drew a formidable coterie of customers. The firm's clients include a virtual who's who of men of the post-Second World War era: Robert Kennedy, Anthony Quinn, Donald Trump, John Wayne, Clark Gable, Henry Fonda, Richard Burton, Tony Bennett, Jim Belushi, Robert Wagner, Peter Jennings, Johnny Carson, Gary Cooper, Pierce Brosnan (Brioni did his complete wardrobe as James Bond in Golden Eye and Tomorrow Never Dies) and Al Pacino. The relationship between Brioni and its clientele is a symbiotic one to be sure: these impeccable and elegant men gain luster

from the fine, polished hand of Brioni, and in turn greatly contribute to the firm's prestige.

Brioni continues to present its elegant menswear in fashion shows from Stockholm to San Francisco, Dallas to Dusseldorf, and has not forgotten its own heritage. The latest menswear collection from the estimable firm is dedicated to the great Italian man of letters and of taste, Gabriele D'Annunzio. By the time he died at age 74, in 1938, this dramatic and grandiose personality had lived the fullest life imaginable.

Writer of some 50 works of literature--plays, poems and novels--a hypnotic orator, fearless aviator and military adventurer, aesthete, and great prodigious lover (he seems to have favored great actresses, high-society hostesses and the occasional duchess), D'Annunzio has been described as a modern Cyrano de Bergerac. He was, to put it simply, a man known for appreciating the higher and finer things in life.

"D'Annunzio was the great inspiration for this collection," explains Joseph Barrato, chief executive officer of Brioni USA, "because, to me, he was a dandy who epitomized the best of both the Italian and English traditions of elegant dress."

Perhaps inspired by the variety, quality and refinement in D'Annunzio's life, Brioni, long a maker of top-quality tailored clothing, continues to broaden its own horizons, and now produces quality sportswear, formalwear, dress and evening shirts, and other haberdashery such as luxury pajamas, robes, and smoking jackets. The firm is living the life of total quality wardrobe production.

Opulence continues to reign at Brioni this fall, with precious fabrics and dramatic colors much in evidence. This season, the silhouette is slightly redefined, with a decided nod to the modern English dandy. Fabrics--with an emphasis on the cashmeres--are rich in color and subtle in texture. Shades of brown (bronze, raisin and dark black-browns) counterpointed by vivid emerald green, sapphire blue and burgundy. All done in covert cloths, herringbones, twill diagonals, cashmere twists, antique checks and banker's stripes. The more dandified silhouette, meanwhile, is the three-button model with a slightly higher button stance. It has a more bespoke feel because of a slightly narrower shoulder and chest.

We simply take it for granted now, living in the Age of Designer Menswear, that wardrobe styling for men has always been with us. We tend to believe that all clothes, if they are to have any credibility, will bear a logo, a recognizable label, a name imprimatur. A name that implies a certain standard of taste, style and quality.

As it happens, all the defining innovations in menswear in the past half century go back, in one way or another--and usually the route is direct--to Brioni. The bold use of color and texture in fabric, the international approach to silhouette, the emphasis on the telling and meticulous detail, the men's fashion showings, the celebrity customers, the very idea of "name" recognition itself. Brioni not only changed the face of Italian menswear, it helped redefine contemporary luxury.

Almost at mid-century, a war-weary world was poised for change. It had recently witnessed the testing and deployment of the atomic bomb, which both ended an era and ushered in a new one full of controversy and fear. Realism had become the mode in the cinematic arts with films such as Noel Coward's and David Lean's Brief Encounter, Roberto Rosselini's Rome Open City and Billy Wilder's The Lost Weekend enlarging the possibilities of what film could do. Bebop was giving rise to a new form of jazz. Advancements were occuring every day in science and medicine. Perhaps not one of the most important, but one of the most pervasively telling indications of this change would come in the area of men's clothing.

In the decades prior to Brioni's founding, the approaches to buying, making and wearing men's clothes had gone virtually unchanged: gentlemen in Europe and the United States either went to their favorite haberdasher or to a tailor to purchase business attire and sports suitings. Both establishments had been dominated since the previous century by the highly traditional look of the English School emanating from London's Savile Row. In America, Brooks Brothers and several other Madison Avenue retailers, with their Ivy League, natural-shouldered look, broke away from the Row, particularly after the Second World War. In Italy, events were taking place that would have a more far-reaching effect on the future of men's wardrobes. A revolution was in the making.

"The most striking postwar phenomenon in men's fashions has been the emergence of Italy as the world's chief center of sartorial influence," noted GQ in 1959. "Rome has replaced London as a Mecca for the well-dressed." This of course was long after the pertinent revolutionary aesthetics had swept across Italy itself. What had happened between 1945 and 1959 is that a postwar generation of men with new sensibilities had discovered Brioni, and Brioni had discovered them.

It's not stretching things too much to say that Italian tailors, having a history of fine and sumptuous craftsmanship going back to the Renaissance, were among the first to realize that the war had produced a new world in which much of the old provincialism was swept away. Americans were becoming increasingly aware of European culture and style, and an age of modernism and internationalism was about to dawn in menswear. It was a revolution not unlike Christian Dior's "New Look" for women in 1947--except that Dior, it may be argued, was looking backward (to the time of more substantial garments that preceded the pared-down wardrobes of wartime), while the driving forces at Brioni were looking decidedly forward.

In 1945, Nazareno Fonticoli, an innovative master of the fine Italian tradition of custom tailoring, founded the Brioni atelier in Rome with Gaetano Savini, a natural talent for public relations. With a great respect for the classic contribution of Savile Row, but a sure feeling that the English had ignored the new attitudes towards men's clothes, Fonticoli and Savini set about to create their revolution.

It was a historic moment. By the late 1940s, most men had more leisure time, disposable income and access to consumer goods than their fathers had ever dreamed of.

In clothing, the English-influenced "drape" look of the prewar period, with its oversized chest and shoulders, had become something of a caricature of itself. Jackets with enormous shoulder pads and inches of extra fabric in the chest and shoulder blade area began to sag and droop under their own weight. Trousers were being cut higher and higher, wider and wider, until they drowned the shoes and covered the torso halfway up the chest. It was a style particularly exaggerated in the United States as far as it could go by Hollywood heroes in the film noir genre and zoot-suited jazz hipsters. Clearly, the idea of drape styling could go no further.

Fonticoli and Savini began to attack most of the 1930s and 1940s ideas of what a suit should be, to systematically change its very line and expression. They cut away at the heavy silhouette that no longer conformed to the body, drastically reducing the bulk and padding. They seem, in retrospect, to have been among the first to realize that contemporary men, who lived in climate-controlled homes and offices, drove cars, and were slimmer and healthier, didn't want or need yards of heavily stiff and padded clothing.

The thinking was to reflect a thoroughly modern sensibility. Fonticoli and Savini began, in contemporary parlance, to "deconstruct" and completely redesign the garment, to emphasize lightness and trimness. But this was not merely a revolution of line and form. There was a decided movement away from the drab and somber uniformity of traditional business gray worsted toward a whole new liberating palate of brilliant colors and untraditional fabrics.

The silhouette they devised eventually came to be thought of in the United States (although not by them) as the Continental Look, and it swept away both the hyperdrapey style that was so prevalent before the war and the sack-cut look of the Ivy League style that was gaining prominence after the war. The result was a pared-down approach to tailoring, with a dash of flamboyant color and texture for good measure. It was indeed a revolution.

Technically, the Brioni jacket of the 1950s sat closer to the body, shoulders were narrowed and the chest tightened and smoothed. The waist was subtly shaped. The skirt (the part of the jacket from the waist down) sat closer to the hips and was imperceptibly cut away in front in two graceful arcs. Backs were either ventless or had short side vents, sleeves were narrowed, pocket flaps were often eliminated in favor of simple besoms, and a two-button stance was raised slightly to provide a longer line.

Trouser legs were trimmed, pleats and cuffs abandoned, and quarter-top pockets were often substituted for on-seam ones. In effect, Brioni experimented with the whole silhouette and all the details until everything worked together to produce a new harmony of slimness and spareness of silhouette, played off against more vibrant colors and a sense of texture.

It was a reaction to the top-heavy, supermuscular look of the past. There was nothing retro or nostalgic about it. The Brioni approach was clothing for a new age. It made a man look slimmer and younger and more vibrant. How could it miss? The shop on the Via Barberini grew from 10 tailors to 50 in its first decade in business. The Brioni look came to define modernism in menswear.

The vibrancy came from the new look in fabric and color advocated by Brioni. Apart from a few tropical worsteds and summer cottons, most men were still wearing the traditional twills, tweeds and flannels that their fathers and grandfathers had worn, and they were wearing them in the same Victorian suiting shades of dark gray, navy and brown--and in the same weights: even summer suits would weigh in at several pounds. A seersucker sports jacket, blue blazer or tan linen suit were the only exceptions to that somber Anglo-Saxon wardrobe.

"But why shouldn't men be more colorful?" Savini asked. "Why can't a man be elegant without being either dull or foppish? That's what we're interested in." Why, for example, couldn't a man wear a suit of silk shantung, and why couldn't it be in a flattering pastel shade, or rich tobacco brown? Or perhaps a cream-and-chocolate minicheck-houndstooth business suit in a super-lightweight tropical worsted? Why not?

Perhaps you can see where all this was leading. In 1952, Giovanbattista Giorgini organized the First Italian High Fashion Show for the international press and buyers that included men's fashion. Brioni was the first menswear company invited to show a complete collection. On the runway in the beautifully rococo white hall of Florence's Pitti Palace, Brioni made its first presentation. The result was "the great awakening" in menswear. And the name Brioni became international coinage.

Savini made his first foray into the American market with a trip to New York in 1954 to stage the first men's runway fashion show in the United States, to considerable media attention. In the fall of the following year, the firm took the U.S. menswear market by storm with fashion shows in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and New York, as well as the smaller cities of Columbus and Dayton in Ohio, and Minneapolis.

Of the New York show The New York Times commented: "Brioni offered the Columnar Look, which should give men a breather after too many seasons of suits that seemed to compress the chest [a pointed reference to the narrow confines of the Ivy League look]. The Italian's new cut might be considered a postgraduate version of the Ivy Leaguer because it is still tall and slim in concept....Fabrics are superb." The Boston Herald's more regional viewpoint was equally favorable: it found the handsomely colorful blue, red and green sports jackets "wonderfully comfortable and beautifully detailed." In April 1957, invited by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Commerce, Brioni mounted a fashion show at the prestigious Park Lane Hotel in Manhattan. Of its impact Town & Country magazine said Brioni's "influence has changed the whole direction of men's fashions, and whose announcement of a new collection means men's fashion news all over the world." Brioni filled the fashion pages of every newspaper and magazine in the United States.

In retrospect, the Park Lane show had three immediate results: it initiated a furor for Continental styling in the United States; it began the supremacy of the Italians over the English in menswear; and it created the Peacock Revolution of the '60s and '70s and the designer movement that followed in its slipstream, and which is still very much with us.

The Fall 1998 D'Annunzio Collection, representing a spirited sartorial excursion, will undoubtedly be a source of pride and further inspiration for Brioni. Known for its unsurpassed quality and personal service, pursuit of style, perfection of cut and art of fine detailing, Brioni's commitment to making fine hand-tailored men's clothing will continue. For the well-dressed men of the world, however, it may merely represent a slightly smug touchstone of assured sophistication and quality. As it always has done.

G. Bruce Boyer is the author of Eminently Suitable.

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Re: G. Bruce Boyer voor Cigar Aficionado
Reactie #11 Gepost op: 30 november 2008 – 12:44:22
Published March/April 1999

Personal Best
A Slew of Custom Tailoring Choices Adds Up to One Thing: A Suit to Fit Each Individual

By G. Bruce Boyer


Men used to have but one clothing decision: they bought off-the-rack, from a men's or department store, or had suits custom made by a tailor. Today a panorama of personalized clothing options--bench-made, custom-made, made-to-measure and special order--make the choices wider but a bit confusing.

In an effort to clear things up, let's define the terminology.

The term bench-made generally indicates that clothes are made in a shop that has the tailor's name on the door; further, that he is a master tailor (meaning an expert pattern maker, cutter and fitter). The work is done on the premises, an individual pattern is constructed for the exclusive use of each customer, and there is a maximum of handwork.

Most of the same criteria apply to the term custom-made, except that the work is not always done on the premises, and the name above the door is not always that of a master tailor. More often than not, the head of the establishment is someone--such as a designer--whose reputation is based on his taste and who is capable of providing excellent advice.

"Made-to-measure" clothing differs from bench- or custom-made apparel in that tailors use stock patterns that are modified to fit an individual customer. Construction and fabrics of made-to-measure garments may be of very high quality, but, because no individual pattern has to be created, prices can be considerably less.

"Special-order" suits (which we will not cover beyond this point) are made from unaltered stock patterns, but offer a selection of fabrics stocked by the manufacturer and a choice of two or three basic style models. The customer usually pays a premium of 10 percent.

The procedure for the customer is much the same whether the construction is bench-made, custom-made, or made-to-measure. All three processes afford measures of personalization and individuality that are otherwise unavailable.

First, styling--which includes general silhouette and specific details--is discussed. The customer will be asked if he favors a built-up look or a more relaxed one. Italian, English or American interpretations are typical options. Of course, the customer's preferences for fit and feel are also solicited: For example, will the jacket and trousers sit close to the body or have an easier, fuller fit? Does he prefer a higher or lower shoulder? Will the jacket have a soft or firm feel?

The customer chooses the basic form--single- or double-breasted, two-button or three. From there a plethora of details can be ordered. Should the jacket be side, center or unvented? Will the customer prefer flapped, besom, patch or hacking pockets? A ticket pocket perhaps? How many buttons on the sleeve (with working buttonholes, of course)? How many interior pockets? Lapel width or trouser rise may be an issue.

The trousers type must be specified. Will they have pleats or plain front, cuffs or plain bottoms? On-seam or off-seam side pockets, and how many back pockets? A change pocket, a watch pocket? Swelled side seams? Self-supporting waist, belt loops or suspender buttons?

Then there is fabric selection. Any reputable shop will have dozens of swatch books from which to choose hundreds and hundredsof cloths--everything from traditional worsteds, flannels and tweeds to the Super woolens (starting with the Super 80s and going up to the 180s), fine silks, cashmeres, cottons, linens and blends. Lightweight fabrics are those considered to be between 7 and 9 1/2 ounces, medium are between 10 and 13 ounces, and anything over 14 is considered heavy in our climate-controlled age. [See Cigar Aficionado, Summer 1995, for a discussion of fabrics.]

Some tailors will have cloths woven exclusively to their own requirements of weight, pattern and color (often their names will be woven into the selvage--the outside strip of the cloth--as proof of exclusivity). Others simply have an eye for that odd bolt of cloth they know their customers will appreciate.

Finally, the tailor will take the measurements. Here's where the best shine: meticulous measurements make for a suit that fits. Which is why a good tailor will leave nothing to chance. He will want to measure the length of each arm and each leg separately, the chest under and over the arms, the waist above the hips and the seat below them. He will want to measure the shoulders from one side to the other (called "point to point"), and each one from the middle of the back. He will measure the length of the coat that the customer is wearing (only as a rough guide).

The tailor will measure a variety of points on your body that you never thought had anything to do with each other. All these numbers will be recorded in the order book. Your fitter will note, in his own shorthand system, any little problems or idiosyncrasies your body might have: "EP" might stand for erect posture, "LLS" for lower left shoulder. But never mind if your neck is like a corkscrew, your calves protruding, or your back like a dowager's hump. A good tailor is part psychologist, part cosmetic surgeon. With a little nip and tuck of the cloth here, a bit of extra padding there, some slight narrowing of the trouser leg or widening of lapel, veritable miracles can be performed. (A practical note: it's a good idea to wear the same sort of shoes and shirt while being fitted as you'll match with the clothes being made, since this makes measurements more relevant to the way you actually wear your clothes.)

Before departing the shop you will be asked to leave perhaps a 50 percent deposit, and be given an assurance that you'll be called in several weeks' time--say three to six--for a fitting. Bench- and custom-made usually require two or three fittings (the first fitting is merely the shell of a garment), while made-to-measure usually requires only one (for minor alterations, button placement and a few minor details).

During the remaining fitting(s) the garment will be fine-tuned, a quarter-inch chalked off in one place, an eighth added in another, a notation made to ease an armhole just a fraction, or minutely tighten the trouser seat. Button stance will be decided. It's a good idea at this fitting to transfer anything you carry in your pockets to your new clothes, so any adjustments for a bulging wallet or eyeglass case can be made.

The suit should now be properly balanced (each part being where it should be, and sitting correctly) and comfortable. The buttonholes can now be cut and buttons attached. After a final hand-pressing, the suit will be shipped. The record of the measurements (in the form of a paper pattern for bench and custom), tailor's notes for alterations, and perhaps a small swatch of the selected fabric will be filed away for future orders. Figure on six to 10 weeks from order to delivery.

Personalized clothing is a true investment. Treated with respect and proper maintenance, it will more than pay for itself. A cheap suit looks cheap even when it's new; a good one looks great even when it's old.


Adrian Jules 1392 East Ridge Road, Rochester, New York; (716) 342-5886. Arnald Roberti, head of the firm, is very adept at a number of stylish silhouettes, but, if you ask him, he would prefer to see his customers on the dressy side: classic Italian styling with a medium shoulder and some shape. Double-breasted suits are strong here, and 80 percent of his business is in the Super woolens (ranging from the Super 80s to 150s). Custom suits from $1,000; jackets from $750.

Brioni 610 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York; (212) 956-4155.Brioni prides itself on the classic Roman style--square shoulders and slimming shape with subtle waist suppression. Farbrics are luxurious. Custom suits from $3,000; jackets from $2,100.

Cheo Tailors 30 East 60th Street, New York, New York; (212) 980-9838. Cheo, trained on Savile Row, believes the Row's traditional cutting system is the only way to make a first-class suit. Made entirely by hand with the finest materials, the garments have good shape, but are soft and easy. Bench-made suits from $3,000; jackets from $2,200.

Gian DeCaro Sartoria 2025 First Avenue, Seattle, Washington; (206) 448-2812. DeCaro is of the Anglo-Italian school and prefers a slightly shaped coat and full-cut trousers. He likes to do softly constructed jackets in the newer ultralightweight fabrics such as the Super woolens and luxury cottons. Custom suits from $1,900; jackets from $1,500.

Chris Despos 34 East Oak Street, Chicago, Illinois; (312) 944-8833.Classic elegance is the rule here, and Despos's aim is for propriety of proportions. Updated traditional in its best form, crafted in midweight worsteds that have good drape and hold their shape. Bench-made suits from $3,000; jackets from $2,400.

Dormeuil 21 East 67th Street, New York, New York; (212) 396-4444.The tailoring firm (which makes office calls) does custom and made-to-measure clothes with an Anglo-American air (everything in moderation for the executive wardrobe). Dormeuil is also one of the world's great cloth houses and knows as much about fine fabrics as anyone. It's particularly adept at cashmere, silk-and-cashmere blends, worsted cashmere and its exclusive "Pashmina" cloth, considered finer than cashmere. Made-to-measure suits from $1,350; custom from $2,850.

Alfred Dunhill 450 Park Avenue, New York, New York; (212) 735-7543. While Dunhill is an old British firm, it takes an international businessman's approach: not as much shoulder or as high an armhole as the more fashionable looks, but with some suppression at the waist. Its goal is moderation in silhouette and detail. Bench and custom suits from $2,650 and $1,950, jackets starting at $2,100 and $1,435.

William Fioravanti 45 West 57th Street, New York, New York; (212) 355-1540. Fioravanti is the original architect and most respected advocate of the Power Look, an approach for CEOs and other men at the top: square, straight shoulders, and a trim, pristine silhouette for a dynamic appearance. This is real boardroom stuff. Exclusive fabrics. Bench-made suits from $4,250; jackets from $3,700.

The Alan Flusser Custom Shop (at Saks Fifth Avenue) 611 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York; (212) 888-7100. Flusser's house style has a soft, sophisticated silhouette highly thought of by the cognescenti: some body shaping, with a sloped defined shoulder and slim hip; trousers are full-cut and slightly tapered. Reputedly the largest number of exclusive fabrics to be found. Made-to-measure suits and jackets from $1,000 and $800, respectively; custom from $1,895 and $1,295.

Giliberto Designs 142 West 36th Street, New York, New York; (212) 695-4925. Styling here runs to jackets with clearly defined lines and shape. Many customers now choose a three-button (middle button on the natural waist), single-breasted cut, with or without a vest, but the six-button/two-to-button double-breasted is still very much in vogue. Full range of fabrics. Bench suits from $1,800; jackets from $1,200.

Jon Green 903 Madison Avenue, New York, New York; (212) 734-8965. In association with the renowned shirtmaker Alexander Kabbaz, Jon Green prefers the moderate road: subtle shaping, a medium-high shoulder and armhole, a slightly trimmer trouser. Everything is balanced properly, nothing outre. Bench suits from $3,800; jackets from $2,800.

Harrison James 5 West 54th Street, New York, New York; (212) 541-6870. Harrison James is a two-year-old store for men in Manhattan, with a superb ready-to-wear collection of business and sportswear. But it also has a made-to-measure program of clothes with a distinctly international flair. Jackets sit slightly closer to the body and have high armholes, square shoulders and a bit higher button stance. Luxury fabrics are the rule. Suits from $2,750; jackets from $1,895.

Kiton Custom Shop (at Bergdorf Goodman Men's Store) 745 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York; (212) 339-3324. This is the custom shop for the acclaimed Neopolitan firm that specializes in the soft sartorial approach, more of an Italian interpretation of English styling. Never heavy or stiff, the rule here is shape with a light, easy fit: smaller shoulder, subtle waist and a trim hip. All exclusive fabrics. Suits from $3,700.

Leonard Logsdail 9 East 53rd Street, New York, New York; (212) 752-5030. Logsdail is a Savile Row-trained bench tailor who came to New York in 1991 and set up a bespoke firm. He prefers a mid-Atlantic business look, not as stiff as the English, but with a bit more shape than traditional American. A master tailor adept at everything from Norfolk jackets to tail coats. Full range of the best fabrics. Bench suits from $3,800; jackets from $2,800.

Oxxford Custom (at Bergdorf Goodman Men's Store) 745 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York; (212) 339-3323. Oxxford, generally conceded to be the best-made readywear tailored clothing in the United States, has opened a custom shop in the famed Fifth Avenue store. The preferred model has natural shoulders and subtle body shaping, making for a suit that has both style and comfort. An exclusive range of fabrics, including the Super woolens and the highest quality Doupioni silks. Custom suits from $2,600; jackets from $2,000.

Edgar Pomeroy 2985 Piedmont Road NE, Atlanta, Georgia; (404) 365-0405. Pomeroy started his career by designing custom clothes that had a rather brash, high visibility to them. He's moderated a bit and is now content to deliver mere style and taste. Pin-striped suits with odd vests are his favorite, but doeskin blazers, natty tweeds and linens are right up his street. Custom suits from $1,600; jackets from $1,000.

Vincenzo Sanitate 27 West 55th Street, New York, New York; (212) 755-0937. Sanitate can make the most proper business suit. What he enjoys, though, is super lightweight garments: the smallest of shoulder pads and thinnest of interlinings go into his unconstructed jackets and trousers of featherweight Super woolens, shirt-weight linens, and blended cashmeres. Bench suits from $3,500; jackets from $2,350.

Jack Simpson 200 Central Park South, New York, New York; (212) 581-9003. Simpson (who makes office calls) likes a British silhouette--small but slightly extended shoulder, nipped waist, trim hip, and full-cut and tapered trouser--with a soft feel. He's a great believer in suits with vests, even sports jackets with matching vests. With Simpson continually on the lookout for interesting fabrics, there's always something new here. Custom suits from $1,850; worsted cashmere sports jackets $2,140.

Domenico Spano (at Bergdorf Goodman Men's Store) 745 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York; (212) 339-3350. Mimmo Spano's preferences tend towards the elegance of Hollywood in the 1940s: a masculine silhouette, with a higher but soft shoulder, ample chest and waist shaping. He likes double-breasteds to have straight and clean-cut lapels, and either side or ventless backs. A range of fabrics designed by him and woven by Moxon of Hudderfield. Custom suits from $2,000; jackets from $1,450.

Sulka 430 Park Avenue, New York, New York; (212) 980-5200. For more than a hundred years, Sulka has been a name synonymous with elegance and meticulous craftsmanship. Best known for its luxe haberdashery, it has for some time now had a tailoring department on the premises. The look is cosmopolitan and at home in the world at large. Sulka also does a fine line of made-to-measure clothes, crafted in Italy. A range of exclusive fabrics. Bench suits and jackets from $3,800 and $2,500, respectively; made-to-measure from $2,750 and $2,000.

Giacomo Trabalza 723 North La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, California; (310) 652-6396. A craftsman of the Northern Italian school, Trabalza favors the classic look of Milan circa 1940: a decidedly urbane silhouette with an elongated line, accomplished by a slightly longer jacket, peak lapels with a higher lapel gorge, and a moderately high shoulder. He would prefer to do a long-roll lapel with a one-button closure on a single-breasted jacket, but he does two- and three-button fronts as well. Bench suits from $3,000; jackets from $2,200.

Turnbull & Asser 42 East 57th Street, New York, New York; (212) 752-5700. At this U.S. outpost of London's famed Jermyn Street shop, the tailoring is strictly English--garments are made in England and finished here--and traditional: everything in moderation, but with just a hint of flair. A fine selection of wonderful British fabrics, some exclusive. Made-to-measure suits from $1,800; jackets from $1,250.

Ventresca 315 Old York Road, Jenkintown, Pennsylvania; (215) 576-1178. Frank Ventresca is the son of a master tailor (brother Len, also a tailor, has his own shop in nearby Doylestown). He stocks a range of quality and fashionable Italian readywear, but likes a courant international look for his custom business. His customers praise his three-button single-breasted suits with vests, the jackets of which have a moderate shoulder width, square shoulder and some body suppression; the trousers are full-cut. Suits from $1,350; jackets from $1,000.

Ermenegildo Zegna 743 Fifth Ave. New York, New York; (212) 751-3468. Ermenegildo Zegna does two models in made-to-measure: the "Napoli," which is closer to an English silhouette, with a narrower shoulder line; and the "Positano," which has a slightly broader shoulder and fuller body. Suits from $1,600, sports jackets from $1000.

G. Bruce Boyer is the author of Eminently Suitable.

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Re: G. Bruce Boyer voor Cigar Aficionado
Reactie #12 Gepost op: 30 november 2008 – 15:04:31
Published Winter 1996

Tying the Knot
Return of a Classic: The Seven-Fold Tie

By G. Bruce Boyer


Well, I can tell you," says John Haller, vice president at Robert Talbott Inc., the most renowned U.S. tiemaker, "that our more expensive lines of neckwear are selling better than our starting lines."

Which just goes to confirm what I've been thinking lately, namely, that ties are coming back. I base my theory on the ironically commonplace observation that fewer men are forced to wear them. All this business about casual wear at the office has left men with the choice to tie or not to tie, and so neckwear has finally come full circle to where it was some three centuries earlier: an object of pure ornamentation and aesthetic delight.

Since ties need no longer be the symbols of conformity and regimentation, men are free to take real pride in their selections, rather than grumbling and muttering as they sling any old piece of tattered cloth around their necks because it's part of the uniform. Ties become part of that array of little gifts, those affordable luxuries if you will, that bring a satisfaction and repose often denied to the deeper moments of life: a wonderful cigar or fine glass of Port, a handsome pair of cashmere socks, or that wonderful little antique leather photo frame we saw in the shop window the other day. Just the thing to celebrate making it through another frenzied week.

But the surest proof I can muster as evidence that neckwear is gaining in popularity is the recent return of the seven-fold tie. Never heard of it? It is the stuff of legend, the consummation of craftsmanship, the dream of dandies and the pride of collectors of fine menswear everywhere. Let me fill you in a bit on that.

The Edwardian years, from the 1880s to the First World War, were the salad days for bespoke accoutrement: a gentleman would even have his raincoat and umbrella custom-made. Spats and silk top hats were still in vogue, as were walking sticks and boutonnieres. Tailors sewed a loop of thread behind the left lapel buttonhole to hold the stem of the flower securely in place. There were even tiny glass bottles that were filled with water and secured by the loop, to keep the boutonniere fresh. These boutonniere bottles are collector's items today, relics of a lost time.

The matter of neckwear was of particular concern. Had not Oscar Wilde written in The Importance of Being Earnest that "a well-tied tie is the first serious step in life"? There was much more variety and individualism to neckwear then than there is today. There were, of course, cravats (the famous Ascot being only one of a dozen popular styles), bow ties (tied symmetrically and asymmetrically), and literally dozens of ways of knotting a long tie besides the four-in-hand style that is de rigeur today. It was this fertile period that laid the groundwork for the renowned seven-fold.

As early as 1828, the prolific French writer Honoré de Balzac had written, under a nom de plume, a treatise entitled "The Art of Tying the Cravat," which contained lessons on making 32 different knots. Instructive volumes of that type acted as something of a sartorial bridge between the great Regency dandies of the 1810s and '20s and their Edwardian grandsons.

Neckwear, as the earlier nineteenth century had understood it, was a large muslin scarf, folded over several times to form the shape of a band anywhere from four to eight inches high and perhaps three feet long. It was wrapped several times around the neck and knotted in some fashion over the throat. Over the succeeding decades, however, neckwear began to evolve from this thickly folded scarf to a narrow band easily knotted under the smaller, stiff collars that became standard for businessmen's shirting.

To avoid damage due to the inevitable wrinkling as the tie was knotted and unknotted again and again, superior tiemakers relied on the finest silks, turning the fabric in on itself several times to provide stability and resiliency. Experimentation led to the discovery that, if the finest silks were used, folding the fabric in on itself seven times proved the perfect tie: body without bulk, resiliency without stiffness. That meant using a whole square yard of fabric for each tie! The seven-fold became the epitome of the tiemaker's art, fashionable with the celebrated haberdashers of London, Paris and New York in the early years of this century. It wasn't until later, in the 1920s, that tiemakers found a cheaper way to make ties by using smaller strips of material cut on the bias, stitching them together in several sections, and using wool linings to give some added body to flimsier silks.

As cheaper, mechanized methods of producing these section-sewn ties quickly replaced the artisans, and as the price of superior silk increased dramatically over the decades, the seven-fold tie slowly disappeared, vanishing by the late 1940s. Up until a few years ago, it seemed all but forgotten, one of those fashion dinosaurs doomed by an age of McEverything.

But now for the good news: two species of the rara avis, this crown jewel of neck ties, have been found alive and well--one in the United States, the other in Italy.

In the mid-1980s, Robert Talbott Inc. of Carmel, California, decided to revive the seven-fold. It began as a labor of love. Robert Talbott, the company's founder, had been familiar with the seven-fold, and even had a pattern. It had been shown to him back in the 1950s by one of his employees, a woman named Lydia Grayson, who had learned the prestigious seven-fold technique as a teenager working in a Chicago neckwear factory during the late 1920s.

But the project lay dormant as other concerns occupied Talbott. "Then, as I recall," muses company executive John Haller, "back in 1984 Mr. Talbott phoned Mrs. Grayson, who had since retired, and asked her if she remembered how to make the seven-fold. She did indeed, and he convinced her to come out of retirement to train a small staff specifically to hand-craft seven-folds. He had apparently kept this idea about making the world's finest tie in his mind all those years." Talbott, who died in June 1986, lived long enough to see that dream come true.

In Naples, Italy, the acclaimed tailoring firm of Kiton decided several years ago to set aside a section of its factory to hand-production of the seven-fold. "Kiton has a reputation for artisanship in tailoring," says Andrew Tanner, spokesman for the company, "and the firm was interested in reviving this tradition in neckwear, especially since we had a business association with the famed Neapolitan shirtmaking firm of Luigi Borrelli. This area of Italy is renowned for artisans of all sorts, and we were able to find people who knew how to make the tie."

The great irony of making the handsome seven-fold--whether by Robert Talbott or Kiton--is that it is a skill-intensive business, yet utter simplicity itself. The cutter starts with a square yard of finest silk. Talbott favors exclusive silks from a small mill in northern Italy. Unlike other ties, the seven-fold's architecture is devoid of extraneous linings. Instead, the fabric, roughly the equivalent of what would be needed for a woman's blouse, is meticulously hand-folded in on itself--three times on one side, four on the other--the silk creating its own lining as the creases are gently pressed into rolling folds. The back seam is hand-sewn together, and that's it. Simple, of course, as long as you know how to control the folds, how to hand-press them into shape and how to meticulously hand-sew them with invisible stitches so the silhouette will drape and tie perfectly. Piece of cake if you know how to do that.

"At Kiton, we prefer the heavier 40-ounce English twill-printed silks," says Tanner. "This is a special silk purchased from the David Evans Company in Suffolk, the only firm left that does the real 'ancient madder' dyeing process. They use an indigo over-dye that imparts a muted, subtle coloration, which goes well with the slightly chalky hand of the fabric." Whether Italian or English, the silk used in one tie can cost as much as $50.

The other real distinction between the two tiemakers is the way the ends of the ties are finished. Called the large and small aprons, these ends are either hand-rolled and edge-sewn (the Talbott method), or faced with the same material as the tie itself (called "tipping"--Kiton's preferred technique). Talbott aficionados will argue that hand-rolling has a classic simplicity, while fans of Kiton consider tipping a more finished look. This remains purely a matter of taste.

In either case, we are talking about a collectible item in every sense of the word. Only a handful of these beauties are made every year. Talbott restricts its output to a mere 40 ties in each pattern it makes, and produces several dozen patterns per year (ties priced at $175). Kiton's production is slightly larger, with the silks woven and dyed to exclusive designs (priced at $155).

Interestingly, both firms say they are selling more and more ties to younger men, a sure sign that ties are making a comeback. What could be a more golden portent in a tarnished age of dress than that! While Robert Talbott and Kiton stand guard over a nearly bygone era of sophisticated elegance, it's impossible to resist thinking that prodigal taste may be returning to the fold.

A frequent contributor to Cigar Aficionado, G. Bruce Boyer is the author of Eminently Suitable (W.W. Norton, 1990).

For information on where to find the seven-fold tie, call Kiton at (212) 702-0136, extension 12, or Robert Talbott at (800) 747-8778.

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Re: G. Bruce Boyer voor Cigar Aficionado
Reactie #13 Gepost op: 30 november 2008 – 15:07:42
Published January/February 1999

Where There's Smoke ...
The Venerable Old Smoking Jacket Has a Place in the Gentleman's Wardrobe

By G. Bruce Boyer


Not so many years ago, the mention of the smoking jacket conjured up two vivid images: a brace of elderly fin-de-siècle gentlemen reading in their overstuffed easy chairs at the club, or a certain libidinous publisher, entertaining in pajamas at his mansion, pipe clenched in teeth and bunny-costumed ladies on either arm. The garment had become, variously, a curiosity from another age and a symbol of a sybaritic lifestyle.

But like anything that achieves a sublime marriage of form and function, the smoking jacket is back (not that it ever truly left us) as a quite useful part of a gentleman's wardrobe--an item that imparts casual stylishness to the wearer and, of course, protects his other apparel from the residual odors of smoking.

The Edwardian Age was the last period in which men dressed according to the occasion and the time of day with any scrupulousness. Witness all the morning coats, dinner jackets, evening coats, lounge jackets and suits, and day frock coats, not to mention all the special jackets for seaside wear, walking in the country, and a variety of sports. Unsurprising, then, that they would have had a whole range of garments for the popular pastime of smoking.

Today, the smoking jacket should more properly be considered a general, all-purpose, at-home entertaining jacket. With all the apparent choices about what to wear for at-home dinners, there seems to be a lot of confusion. Some men will wear a suit with a casual shirt or sweater in an attempt to soften its demeanor for the evening. Others will fall back on some sort of sports jacket or the trusty blazer. Even the cashmere cardigan has been brought into play.

But if a tuxedo is too formal and a suit too pedestrian, a sweater a bit too casual and a blazer a cliché, what to do? The smoking jacket is the perfect alternative. There's much more styling variety here than supposed. An at-home jacket of this type can first either be a buttoned or a sash style. The buttoned version is coat-shaped, either single-breasted with shawl lapels (usually self-faced) and one-button closure, or double-breasted with one-, two- or three-button closure (usually with braiding, called frogs). It's also ventless, with piped lapels, cuffs and pockets.

The concept of an elegantjacket for entertaining, naturally, has never been lost on the purveyors of better clothing.

"At Sulka we've got over a hundred-year history of making the finest at-home wear," Gary Wasserman, head designer for the firm, proudly states. "In our stores we've always had a separate section dedicated to loungewear. It continues to be an important part of our business, and I must say that smoking jackets have been selling nicely--for both men and women. Women will buy the men's jackets to wear as coats, over everything from party dresses to jeans. Men mostly wear them for personal at-home wear."

"They are at-home wear, of course," agrees Joseph Barrato, chief executive officer of Brioni USA, "but I think they should more properly be presented as an alternative type of formalwear. That way, a man can be made more aware of the possibilities of the garment, that it's really a jacket meant for entertaining."

"Well, what I see is that men like to wear these jackets for at-home dinners and entertaining," says Mr. Leonard Logsdail, a Savile Row tailor now based in New York. "They're comfortable, not as formal as a dinner jacket, and quite distinctive.

"We do them in the traditional cut velvet--most of our customers buy them in bottle green, dark blue or claret red--and in traditional styling: one-button single-breasted, with shawl lapels, frogging on the cuffs and pockets and around the lapels, and ventless. Very traditional."

Logsdail is quite correct to emphasize "traditional" in this context. There's an undeniably retro elegance to a smoking jacket that hearkens back to a time when personal pleasures were taken seriously. What we learn from C. Willett Cunnington's Handbook of English Costume in the 19th Century is that the smoking jacket, which looked exactly as it does today, has been around for 150 years. Well, make that since 1852, since that's the year of Cunningham's first reference to the garment:

"A kind of short robe de chambre, of velvet, cashmere, plush, merino, or printed flannel; lined with bright colors, ornamented with brandenbourgs, olives, or large buttons." --The Gentleman's Magazine.

Brandenbourgs in this case are the braided loop closing (now called frogs), and olives are woven buttons so shaped.

The smoking jacket finds its antecedents in the robes de chambre (dressing gown, robe, housecoat, bathrobe--call it what you will) that wealthy Englishmen imported from the East to wear as at-home outfits.

Penelope Byrde, in The Male Image: Men's Fashion in England 1300-1970, traces this attire to the beginning of the sixteenth century, when trade with the East began to bring luxuries to northern Europe. Tobacco (both Virginian and Turkish), coffee, tea, chocolate, silks and spices were all flowing north. By the mid-seventeenth century, these robes, made of fine silk, were held in such high esteem that it was fashionable to have one's picture painted wearing one. Samuel Pepys, famous for his wonderfully informative diary, was only a civil servant and could not afford one, so he rented one to sit for his portrait:

Thence home and eat one mouthful, and so to Hale's and there sat till almost quite dark upon working my gowne, which I hired to be drawn [in] it--an Indian gown, and I do see all the reason to expect a most excellent picture of it. --Diary, 30 March 1666

This tradition of wearing a comfortable robe at home--usually with a soft dressing cap and Persian slippers--was observed until the 1850s, when the smoking jacket took its place. Smoking, Byrde tells us, became very popular during the Crimean War (1853-1856), when Turkish tobacco became readily available in Europe.

The well-decorated Victorian house now often contained a moking room. This was a convenient place for a gentleman and his friends (males only) to retire for good cigars, brandy, political talk, and perhaps a little risqué banter. The Edwardian novelist and biographer E. F. Benson recalled such an evening at a country house party:

After the hostess and the other ladies had bid goodnight to their husbands, most of the men changed their evening coats for smoking jackets, though one or two did not bother to do this, but went as they were into the smoking room, where presently the others joined them, wearing their braided and frogged habiliments. Lord Buryan made a more complete change and appeared in a suit of ruby-coloured velvet. --As We Are

That Lord Buryan had a complete smoking suit surprises us, but in the second half of the nineteenth century the smoking wardrobe was considerable. To quote costume and social historian Pearl Binder:

Now that [men] had a room to smoke in, the question of what costume to smoke in became of deep concern, and all the fashion-books of the nineteenth century devote pages to fancy designs for smoking-peignoirs for modish gentlemen, smoking-jackets, smoking-waistcoats, smoking slippers, and especially smoking-caps. A smoking-cap was the perfect present for a young lady to embroider for her financé or intimate relation of the male sex, or even for the curate. --The Peacock's Tail

Smoking waistcoats--not to mention the more unusual smoking peignoirs--are no longer with us, but certainly velvet slippers are, as well as smoking caps. "At Turnbull & Asser we still do the traditional velvet smoking cap with tassel to match our velvet smoking jackets," says Gregg de Vaney, chief executive officer of the firm in the United States. This is the same pork-pie design worn by Victorian gentlemen.

The other style of smoking attire, which remains with us, resembles a truncated gown, loosely cut and sashed, with shawl lapels (either self-faced or satin-covered), patch-style pockets and cuffs to match the lapels. Sashes are generally tasseled. This is the style that Robert Talbott specializes in. "With black trousers, fine shirt, and ascot, we find the sash-style smoking jacket is comfortable, practical and beautiful," says Susan Benson, a spokesperson for the firm. "We just made two handsome silk ones for pianist Michael Feinstein. I'm assuming that he'll wear them to perform in, as well as for at-home entertaining."

Once one has decided to take up the practice of wearing the time-honored smoking jacket, the question becomes, how to accessorize it? The simplest way to wear it is as though it were a dinner jacket--that is, with evening trousers (black or midnight blue) and shirt, as well as bow tie. The other possibility is with gray flannel trousers--almost any shade works, but light gray is particularly jaunty--and either an evening shirt and a bow tie or a less formal shirt with a scarf at the neck.

Shoes follow the dinner-jacket model--plain or patent-leather black oxford or slip-on--or the house-slipper model: velvet, tweed or leather thin-soled slippers in any complementary color.

Women wear wonderfully glamorous pajama-style outfits for at-home entertaining. Why can't men add a little sophistication--not to say sexiness--to their wardrobes with a cut-velvet or silk jacket that looks more elegant than a sports coat? *

G. Bruce Boyer is the author of Eminently Suitable.
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Re: G. Bruce Boyer voor Cigar Aficionado
Reactie #14 Gepost op: 30 november 2008 – 15:10:04
Published March/April 1998

Tale of the Tenacious Tassel
With Its 50th Anniversary, a Classic
Shoe Proves It's Not Light in the Loafers

By G. Bruce Boyer


The first few years after the end of the Second World War had all the tumult that transitions tend to evince. Perhaps 1948, with its joyous beginnings and sad endings, was the prototypical postwar year. It seemed that people were more eager than ever to put bloodshed behind them, and the pace of returning to normalcy quickened.

In 1948, the U.S. Congress passed the Marshall Plan, allocating $12 billion for economic aid to Europe, and Harry S Truman was the first newly elected president in 16 years. W. H. Auden won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry with his presciently modern The Age of Anxiety, and T. S. Eliot, author of The Waste Land, the poem that set the literary tone for the first half of the century, was recognized with the Nobel Prize for literature. Alfred Kinsey published his scientific study Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, which began to bridge that wide Victorian chasm between what we said we did and what we really did. Joe Louis retired after defending his title 25 times since 1937, and George Herman "Babe" Ruth, the Sultan of Swat, died. Aficionados of the sport of kings were treated to the only horse to win the triple crown for the next 25 years: Citation (Eddie Arcaro up, in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes).

Several new consumer items that year also indicated that the memory of the war was finally receding and civilian life was roaringly returning: the LP record, the Porsche 356 and the tassel loafer. The record and the Porsche have undergone considerable transformation since then, but the elegant tassel loafer is celebrating its 50th anniversary basically unchanged. A classic from the first.

It's easy to believe that the unflappable tassel loafer was around for much longer, that it might have been a creation of the elegance of the 1930s, as was the moccasin-style slip-on itself. The good old American loafer was really an adaptation of a Norwegian fisherman shoe, which became popular in America between the wars in Europe. It had been introduced in the States in 1936 by the Bass Shoe Co., which called the new style "Weejun," acknowledging its derivation.

By the latter half of the 1940s, this casual shoe had become de rigueur on college campuses across the country and was known as a "penny" loafer, after the fad of putting a copper coin in each of two instep slots. As such it became part of the postwar collegiate uniform of button-down shirts, khaki trousers, tweed sports jackets and Shetland crewneck sweaters. In a very short time, it had come to eclipse its greatest casual campus footwear rival, the saddle oxford.

Just about the time the penny loafer was solidifying its power as BSOC (Big Shoe On Campus), those graduates who had gone from prep school to Ivy League to Wall Street began looking for a comfortable, casual shoe that had a bit more sophistication. They were used to the idea of a comfortable slip-on, but needed something a bit dressier for life in the business world.

At this point in our story, we have specific information and can start naming names. Our first debt of gratitude goes to Paul Lukas. Not particularly well remembered today, in his time Lukas was known to moviegoers of the period as a rather debonair character actor (in such films as The Lady Vanishes and Watch on the Rhine). It seems that Lukas had bought a pair of oxfords in Europe that had little tassels at the ends of the laces. Very jaunty, thought Lukas, and...well, let me quote Robert Clark, vice president and spokesman for the Alden Shoe Co., at this pertinent juncture:

"Lukas took his shoes to New York shoemakers named Farkas & Kovacs, and asked them to make something similar, perhaps with the laces woven through the topline of the shoe. Lukas was pleased with the design Farkas came up with, but didn't like the fit. Then he took one shoe to the New York firm of Lefcourt and the other to Morris Bootmakers in Beverly Hills, asking them each to develop a better version."

Surprisingly, but perhaps not completely coincidentally, both stores brought the request to Alden. Not coincidentally because in 1948 Alden already had a 64-year reputation as one of the best shoemakers in the United States. At the time, the company's president was Arthur Tarlow Sr., a descendant of an original partner whose family had acquired the firm when founder Charles Alden retired in 1931; it remains a family business to this day. But back to Clark's story:

"Tarlow examined the shoe and thought he could come up with a better design. He produced a completely new pattern which incorporated the topside lacing and tassels in a slip-on version on a new, more comfortable last [shoe mold]. So what was originally an oxford was now a sophisticated slip-on, with the leather lace and tassel kept as decoration."

We can assume, then, that Paul Lukas was the first person to wear tassel loafers. But Alden realized there was something to these shoes. There was indeed a market for a shoe that was at the same time comfortable, casual and elegant. All of which has a decidedly contemporary ring to it, I know.

"Alden continued to experiment for another year with the design until they were satisfied," Clark goes on, "and decided to put the shoe into their production line for 1950. They chose the Lefcourt and Morris stores as the retail outfits of distinction to premiere the new shoe. Tarlow knew he was on to something when he got an order from Morris: a customer had ordered 26 pairs the first week the shoes were set out for display! The tassel loafer was an immediate success with the sophisticated tastes of New York and Los Angeles men, and by 1952 these two stores were carrying the shoes in some 20 varieties of color and leather."

In the years that followed, the tassel loafer was introduced to upscale traditional clothing stores around the country. Then, in 1957, Brooks Brothers, at the height of its fame as the Ivy League emporium, approached Alden and expressed an interest to include the shoe in its collection. "Especially for them," Clark explains, "Alden produced a tassel loafer with a distinctive decorative foxing at the back part of the shoe, which remains exclusive to Brooks Brothers." The foxing is the raised stitching on either side of the heel cup. Regular Aldens have a plain heel cup with a strip of leather up the back seam.

While the tassel loafer was made in a variety of colors and leathers--and still is--what we have come to think of as the ne plus ultra is the dark, reddish-brown Cordovan leather model.

The name is from Cordova, or Cordoba, the city in southern Spain thought to have been established by the Carthaginians and long having a reputation for fine leather, just as the central Spanish city of Toledo had the reputation for finely tempered steel sword blades.

Most good leather shoes are made from calfskin. Cordovan leather (its full and proper name is shell Cordovan) comes from the subcutaneous layer of the rump of a horse. Horses are not bred or raised specifically for this purpose (all shoe leather is a by-product of animals raised for different primary purposes). It takes a large work horse to provide two circular pieces of leather (the shells; each shell is sufficient for one pair of shoes), and since we use fewer and fewer work horses, shell Cordovan is very limited and in shorter and shorter supply. Only one tannery in the world provides Cordovan leather to the shoe trade: Horween Leather in Chicago. As it happens, Horween's other claim to fame is that it makes all the leather for National Football League footballs.

Shell Cordovan makes excellent shoe leather because of its superior durability, extraordinary softness and beautiful luster. It is the least porous of leathers, and is characterized by a waxy finish and rich patina that improves with wear and polishing. It has plenty of what you'd call character. "Funnily enough," adds Clark, "in the early part of this century, shell Cordovan was used primarily for razor strops. It was only after the Gillette Company almost put an end to Cordovan tannage through its introduction of the 'Blue Blade' for its safety razor, which needed no stropping, that the leather's suitability for shoes was explored."

High-volume production methods and fancy technology are powerless here. Old-school handwork is what gets the job done. The shells undergo a natural, pure-vegetable tanning process, then they are hand-stained, glazed and finished. Any imperfections disqualify the shell.

Today, Alden makes the legendary tassel loafer in oxblood, black, mahogany brown, whiskey (light) tan and ravello (dark) tan Cordovan (priced at around $375); and in burgundy, black, walnut brown, tan calf and brown suede (at around $245). The black calf version has been Alden's best-selling shoe for the past 40 years. It has become known as the lawyer's shoe, as when George Bush during his presidential campaign with Bill Clinton complained that Clinton was supported by "every lawyer that ever wore a tasseled loafer." And Bush, an Eastern Establishment guy if ever there was one, should know.

The shoe is also very popular in Europe and Japan. In Germany, it sells for twice the price sought in the United States, and in Japan, where there is something of a cult following, limited numbered editions sell out within a day or two for upwards of $750 a pair. "When other manufacturers complain of the closed market of Japan," Clark says with a smile, "I like to tell them that."

What accounts for this legendary status? Well, it's a top-quality, comfortable shoe of elegance and proportion, to be sure. But Bob Clark has come up with what is perhaps the best answer: "It's the versatility. For half a century now it's been an appropriate choice for both the boardroom and the country club. It lends respectability to the army of lawyers and lobbyists who pervade our corridors of power, and serves as a symbol of elegance and the good life for successful professionals and businessmen." And who should know better. *

For the nearest venue contact: Alden Shoe Co., 1 Taunton Street, Middleborough, Massachu-setts 02346. Phone: (800) 325-4252.

G. Bruce Boyer is a frequent contributor to Cigar Aficionado on the subject of fashion.



1 As with any leather, Cordovan shoes should not be subjected to drying heat. Stuff wet shoes with paper and let them dry naturally. Never store shoes near a source of heat.
2 Don't clean with any petroleum products. Harsh chemicals will destroy the leather's luster and ability to take a shine.
3 Wipe off any dirt with a soft, damp cloth before polishing.
4 Don't use a neutral polish, since it will only leave a white film on the Cordovan leather. Use a paste wax--never use liquid polish--of the same color as the shoe finish. Apply in small amounts to avoid build-up, working the paste into the leather. Brush first, finish off with a soft cloth.
5 Rest shoes a day between each wearing. Like suits, footwear should be rotated in the wardrobe.
6 Use a shoe tree that fits the shoe without stretching. Let shoes cool down and dry out a bit before inserting trees.
7 Finally, keep heels and soles in good repair. Practice preventive maintenance to insure longevity. Nothing kills a shoe like uneven wear, which causes stress and strain that eventually destroys the balance of the shoe. --GBB

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