Weekly Roundup | Northampton Shoemaking Revival, Makati Speakeasy Scene, Whiskey Stones

Northampton’s Traditional Shoemaking Revival (Wall Street Journal)
“”Go around to any department store in Tokyo and you will see a plethora of shoes made in Northampton,” says William Church of Joseph Cheaney and Sons. Tokyo is the company’s biggest foreign market. Overall exports have gone from 15 percent in sales to 35 percent in four years; staffing levels have increased 30 percent in the same time frame. Meanwhile, John Lobb’s most recent store openings were in Tokyo and Shanghai. Dr. Martens, another brand with a long history in Northamptonshire, has brought back its apprentice program and speaks of a “reawakening of interest” in English-made products.”

Untrueisms V (A Suitable Wardrobe)
“In truth, bespoke is simply another word for custom.  That is, there’s no fixed or legal definition of bespoke, as the true bespoke tailors of Savile Row found out recently when they lost a legal battle to prevent a new shop on the Row from calling its stock special clothing bespoke.  (A stock special is essentially a garment made to order using ready to wear patterns, such as, say, having a shirtmaker put a 15.5” collar on the body it usually uses for a size 16 shirt.)  Makers with integrity and informed customers usually use bespoke to mean an item of clothing made specially to the measurements and specifications of the customer, using a pattern individually created specifically for that customer and his or her dimensions.  Ergo, bespoke should not mean existing clothing that is altered to fit the customer, or clothing made from a block size pattern that is tweaked to reflect a few details of the customer’s fit.  Because of the difficulty of doing this right, many companies selling clothing want to appropriate the term “bespoke” to describe what they do.  There’s no law against it, but it’s misleading to anyone who thinks of bespoke in the terms that clothing enthusiasts do.”

American-inspired fashion (How To Spend It)
“After all the hyperbole about London being the epicentre of the menswear universe, it might seem ironic that the inspiration for much of this spring’s casualwear hails from across the Atlantic. Previously used to describe such things as the beards, banjos and bluegrass of the alternative country-music scene, Americana – the catch-all term that has come to include everything culturally evocative of the Americas – influences a raft of menswear labels, from Bottega Veneta to Louis Vuitton.”

Behind Closed Doors: Pepper’s Guide to Makati’s Speakeasy Scene (Pepper.ph)
“Manila’s speakeasies still adhere to the same rule, applying the same guideline to its patrons’ behavior, but for different reasons. The city’s speakeasies are a haven away from the loud, obnoxious club music that many have grown tired of. They try to keep the background noise low,  allowing for free flowing conversation between guests over quality cocktails.

Today, we’ll tell you all about 6 different speakeasies that Makati has to offer. We hope this’ll make it easier for you to decide which are the best spots for a Friday nightcap, a barkada reunion, or a hot date over drinks.”

Whiskey Stone Reviews and Comparisons (Cool Material)
“While better than some rocks from the yard, most whiskey stones do little to nothing. Buy them if you want your drink to look cool but not necessarily be cool. If you are looking for a way to keep your scotch a bit colder without watering it down, we found Balls of Steel and Steel Ice to be the best of the bunch. Not only did they drop the temperature of the bourbon a significant amount (over 20 degrees each), but they kept it from coming back to room temperature for over an hour. To get the quickest chill, nothing tops an ice cube or two in your glass, but for a dilution solution, steel beats rock, and Steel Ice or Balls of Steel are the way to go.”

Ettinger London Mini Wallet via onlyBrown

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I’ve been meaning to replace the wallet I’ve been using for the last three years but haven’t decided on what I wanted next. So when Kelvin of onlyBrown, an online store of men’s accessories based in Singapore, offered to let me review one of their small leather goods I took this as an opportunity to replace my current wallet. My current wallet is small so wider bills had to be folded three times and it wasn’t good for holding many bills. The wallet I am looking for should accommodate wider bills while still having a relatively small footprint. I looked around their catalog and found the Ettinger London mini wallet in navy. Based on the dimensions it was the size I was looking for and had more than enough card slots and compartments. Continue Reading

Weekly Roundup | Japanese Craftsmen in Italy and France, Bespoke Tour of Paris

Acquired tastes (Monocle)
“Inspired by a creative affinity for the country, a band of Japanese craftsmen have set up shop in Italy. Monocle speaks to a shoemaker, glass artist and tailor about embracing the techniques and traditions of their foreign muse.”

A Selfie from Paris (A Suitable Wardrobe)
“Although the jacket in the picture was not made for me, it shows that Mr. Suzuki’s style resembles that of his master Smalto, with a fishmouth notch lapel, one of the trademark features of traditional French bespoke. What I was actually more curious about was the rigidity of the Suzuki construction. While you might expect something stiffer from Savile Row and something softer from Naples, French bespoke can range anywhere from very stiff to very soft. Mr. Suzuki’s jackets fall somewhere in the middle of the range — he told me that he uses a canvass of intermediate stiffness for most of his French clients. But he quickly added that he also has many clients in his home country of Japan, where the smaller chests of Japanese men require him to use a softer construction for the jackets to look elegant on them. Therefore, he claims that he is also accustomed to working with lighter canvases, even of the super-light variety, called ‘black’ canvass in the trade.”

One fine day: A bespoke tour of Paris (Essence London)
“Located just off the Champs Elysées, Rue Marbeuf is mostly known for its designer brands, such as Zilli and Kiton. At the start of the street, however, two of France’s foremost bespoke ateliers are hidden away on the first floor: Cifonelli and Berluti.”

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Wear (Put This On)
“For certain shoes, however you want this kind of “damage” to appear. It gives them character and makes them more lived-in. This gets back to a very fundamental idea that nothing looks good when it’s too new or too stiff. That doesn’t just go for certain styles of footwear – it goes for things such as tweed jackets, briefcases, and almost all kinds of outerwear. It’s perhaps for this reason why there are stories about how Fred Astaire used to throw his new bespoke suits up against the wall before wearing them, and how Charlie Davidson of The Andover Shop won’t even wear a new jacket until it’s been sitting on a hanger for a year.”

Twenty Things You Should Never Say To Your Tailor (Ivory Tower Style)
“20. It’s ok, I’m going to lose 10 pounds.
19. This looks great. I can’t wait to have a cheaper tailor copy it.
18. Why is there a discount for cash?
17. Is there an upcharge for a three-breasted suit?
16. Don’t worry, it’s ok, I read Fred Astaire did this to all his new suits.
15. You really should raise your prices.”

Orazio Luciano Manila Trunk Show March 22-23, 2014

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Orazio Luciano offers a range of high quality formal and casual garments in line with a strong lineage in the traditional handcrafted tailoring of the Neapolitan tailoring school. Led by Orazio Luciano, master tailor of more than forty years, the family-owned firm has long turned out exquisite ready-to-wear pieces that are particularly notable for their soft construction and appealing high-end fabrics. Continue Reading

Randolph Engineering Aviator Sunglasses

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This is part of a series that features items bought from the U.S. using Globe’s GCASH American Express Virtual Pay and shipped to the Philippines using the freight forwarding service My Shopping Box. For more information click here.

I have always liked the look of Aviator sunglasses but I’m not happy with the brands available in the Philippines. I looked elsewhere and discovered Randolph Engineering, an eyewear manufacturer based in Randolph, Massachusetts, known for supplying the United States military. They won their first contract in 1977 and in 1982 became the prime contractor for the U.S. Department of Defense supplying all branches of the U.S. military. All their eyewear is manufactured in the U.S. to military specifications with each solder joint having a lifetime replacement guarantee. Continue Reading

Video: Elegance in an Age of Crisis, Part 2: His

This video explores the key themes of “Elegance in an Age of Crisis”, an exhibition about 1930s style at the Museum of Fashion Institute of Technology that runs between February 7 to April 19, 2014. Part two of the video features menswear writer G. Bruce Boyer, Savile Row tailor Stephen Hitchcock, Luca Rubinacci of London House, and Massimiliano Attolini of Cesare Attolini discussing men’s clothing and bespoke tailoring of that era.

Weekly Roundup | Private White V.C., Collars For Ties, Branded Origin

Talking Manchester and Menswear | Private White V.C. (A Continuous Lean)
“As far as menswear is concerned, the British invented most of it, the suit, the overcoat, the sports jacket, the button down, the polo the wingtip brogue, the chino, etc. Many styles have been adopted by the rest of the world but as Brits we can be quietly confident with our status.

The global woven cotton trade was also founded in Manchester with Lancashire mills doing the weaving. These mills still weave our wool and cotton, and we make it up. We are the very last factory to operate like this, we are the holy grail. A heritage as powerful as this needs to be treated with respect, it needs to be nurtured, fed and moved into the sun at certain times, I like to embrace heritage, but introduce any useful and relevant technology, I call this “Techno-Retro.”

Collars Just For Tie Wearing (Put This On)
“Medium length points are great for casual and formal settings, so if you don’t wear a tie often, or don’t want an excessively large wardrobe, they’re a great style to stick to. If you do wear ties often, however, or don’t mind spending a bit extra on clothes, try a fuller collar. They can admittedly look a bit too aggressive on first sight, but once you throw on a tailored jacket and put on some neckwear, you’ll notice they can give much more appealing proportions.”

Untrueisms III (A Suitable Wardrobe)
“While it’s true that there are good tanneries in France or Italy, not all leather from a particular place is the same.  Nor is it clear whether the originator of the untrueism above means to refer, say, to leather from French tanneries like the Tanneries du Puy or, instead, to the source of the raw material, the “French alpine calf” that a few brands refer to the way that Ricardo Montalban referred to the (meaningless) “rich Corinthian leather” of the 1970s Chrysler Cordoba.  But as anyone who’s tried a mediocre Champagne from France, a mediocre shirt from Jermyn Street, or a mediocre Parmesan from Italy knows, origin, especially branded origin, does not determine quality.  There are other sources of quality leather besides France and Italy, including certain German sources (IIRC) as well as English tanners like Stead or (a favorite #appallinglyvulgar name) Crack & Sons.”

The Appeal of Japanese Simplicity (Die, Workwear!)
“The key is to not think of nylon as a “cheap” material, or get hung up on price, but rather to think of design as a whole and how often you’ll use the case. Nylon here makes for a wonderful casual fabric. It weighs much less than leather or cotton canvas, which is useful if you have to schlep your belongings for several miles. It’s also more water resistant and keeps to a fairly casual sensibility – great if you, like me, are often trying to make sure you don’t look too formal or stiff. And while I hate to invoke the utterly hackneyed “think of this as cost per use” adage, it’s true that the price is considerably less painful once you find yourself reaching for a Porter bag every day. Plus, these things are just so handsomely designed. They have the same pared down simplicity that make other Japanese products, such as those from Muji and Uniqlo, forever appealing, but are made to a high-quality standard.”

The Luxury Shave at Felipe and Sons Barberdashery

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Felipe and Sons Barberdashery is the newest establishment in Manila that brings together a barber shop and haberdasher under one roof. Marco, one of the partners behind the capital’s latest “man cave”, invited me to try their “Luxury Shave”. I take my shaving routine seriously so when I heard about this offering I wanted to experience it for myself. Now this is not your average early morning shave that takes less than 10 minutes to finish. The Luxury Shave takes at least 60 minutes to complete and is equal parts pampering and shaving.

Continue Reading

Weekly Roundup | William Abraham Socks, Business of Private Labeling

William Abraham – Innovative, Luxury Socks (Permanent Style)
“I have tried four of the different designs, concentrating on the interesting material mixes. The silk/cashmere mixes are sumptuous to wear, particularly the 50/50 ratio. They feel like the most luxurious wool you could possibly have against the skin. And I’m also glad that the 100% silk functions so well. It is no more sheer than some thin cottons, and breathes fantastically. ”

The Business of Private Labelling (The Shoe Snob Blog)
“The real problem at hand is not the factories. They don’t have a police to hold them accountable for making shoes that all look the same and might be a copy of another’s. The people to be held accountable are the new designers that come onto the scene simply to make shoes that look like other’s but do so at a cheaper price in order to undercut the competition. This is the problem and what people should do to stop it is not support those brands. If you do, then it only becomes more acceptable. It’s easy to make a cheap copy but it’s not easy to be a designer of integrity that attempts to do things differently without reinventing the wheel while still maintaining a manner of classicism, quality and uniqueness. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.”

Untrueisms II (A Suitable Wardrobe)
“Today, however, our audience’s attention and indifference are far more difficult to predict. For the moment, fashionable suits are indeed too tight. Their prevalence, however, means that our audience likely takes them for granted, to the extent it would not rubberneck anyone wearing a suit. Even dressing in the too fashionable “sprezz” style (of garish accessories billowing, artfully unbuttoned, or intentionally carelessly tied) has become common enough that it may not draw a second glance. Although stiffness is still a bad word in #menswear, today it’s difficult to imagine how it could draw attention since most onlookers in the street wouldn’t seem inclined or capable of judging clothing stiffness or fit.”

Understanding Alterations: Suits and Sport Coats (No Man Walks Alone)
“However, you’re generally safe if you make sure the shoulders, chest, and length fit you well, and the collar doesn’t stand too far from your neck. Your jacket’s shoulders should terminate near your body’s natural shoulders, and there should be no divots or pulling at the upper part of the sleeves. The lapels shouldn’t sit too far from the body, either because the chest is too baggy or because the lapels are buckling from the chest being too tight. The length should also generally bisect your body about halfway between your jacket’s collar and the floor. The hem can be taken up a little, if needed, but if you go too far, you’ll throw off the “balance,” where the bottom-most button and pockets can look too close to the hem.”

Lessons in Wardrobe Building

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In the last three years of my #menswear journey I’ve learned a lot about how to build my wardrobe from both personal experience and those who are much farther ahead. I have summarized these into bite-sized pieces for those starting to put more effort into dressing better or those clueless on how to move forward. Think of these lessons as a practical guide to wardrobe building.

1. Build your wardrobe around the places you frequent and lifestyle you lead.

I live in the city, spend most of my time in an office, occasionally visit a nice restaurant or bar and attend social gatherings – in short, urban and cosmopolitan. I’ve built my wardrobe around that notion and it keeps my spending focused. This means I have more dress and sport shirts than polo shirts, more chinos than jeans, and more dress shoes than sneakers. Dress according to where you go and what you do most often, and add items to your wardrobe that will help you fit in.

2. You don’t become well-dressed overnight.

Men’s magazines like to prescribe the “top 10 items a man should have in his wardrobe”. They make it sound easy and effortless but it couldn’t be farther from the truth. It takes real courage to dress better and get over the fear of being ridiculed by peers. It takes time to find out what look/brand/tailor/fit works and what doesn’t. It’s not just about wearing a suit but rather being confident and comfortable in one. These things don’t happen overnight so take it one step at a time, slowly but surely. Continue Reading