A Fine Man Once Said:

"Part of the 10 million I spent on gambling, part of it on booze, and part of it on women. The rest I spent foolishly."

- George Raft

Thursday, October 31, 2013

"Through These Portals Pass The Best Dressed Men In The World"

An excerpt from Volume One of the Gruppo GFT 3-volume set on Apparel Arts, which was most likely originally printed in the early to mid-1930s (before the Prince of Wales became Edward VIII or the Duke of Windsor):

"Nowhere else in the world are there as many fine - one might almost say superfine - men's apparel shops as are to be found packed side by side in that section London known as the West End. Here tailors crowd shirtmakers, shirtmakers crowd hatters and hatters crowd bootmakers - but with the dignity of century-old establishments, rich in prestige.

And the men who patronize these shops are no less pre-eminent as wearers of clothing than are the shops themselves as clothing purveyors. Through such stories streets as Old and New Bond, Conduit and Dover, pass men whose leadership in the world of fashion is second only to that of their most famous member, the Prince of Wales. 

Chief symbol of the prestige of the shops pictured on this and the opposite page is the fact that scarcely a one of them but possesses a Royal Warrant from the King, the Prince of Wales or some other member of British or Continental royalty. To be able to say that the Prince of Wales trades at your shop is to be able to say that you are in a position to purvey the exact clothes which he wears. And to Englishmen, as to Americans, that is saying a great deal.

 . . . Certainly, a shop like Tremlett's on Conduit Street, the birthplace of the necktie which bears its name, has something which money cannot buy. And the same thing can be said for Maxwell's the famous bootmakers, or Izod's, who specialize in fabulous furnishings."

The excerpted text included images of about two dozen store fronts of some of the more well-known haberdashers and shoe-makers of the day. While some names, such as Swaine and Adeney, Huntsman, Hilditch & Key, and Turnbull & Asser have continued to build upon their proud reputations, many of the other names have long since vanished. While Sulka persevered into the 21st century, I'm not sure what became of names like Winter & Tracy, Tremlett, Dare and Dolphin, or Morgan and Ball.

If any readers know the stories behind these once-proud British institutions, I'd certainly love to hear them.

[Also, with apologies in advance for my terrible photography]

Monday, October 28, 2013

Wildsmith's Covent: The Return of the Modified Wingtip

As many of you already know, Chay Cooper, together with the gentlemen from Cad and the Dandy, have resurrected the Wildsmith name. With the shoes really just beginning to hit the market, now seems like a good time to take a closer look at the Wildsmith brand.

Chay was kind enough to send me a pair of the Covent model in mahogany to review. As I'm a fan of the modified wingtip, or u-tip, I was looking forward to seeing the Covent in person.

On the one hand, the modified wingtip is fairly rare - not too many companies include the style in their offerings - so I think its a nice addition to Wildsmith's catalog of available models. Edward Green's discontinued Windsor (see here) is probably the most famous model, although that company recently added the u-tip Weymouth to its catalog (I'm not sure if EG currently offers a u-tip derby as well). Other than that, Vass has offered a u-tip model, but there really aren't that many examples out there.

Of course, on the other hand, the modified wingtip is a tricky design to master - to my eye, the proportions, particularly at the throat between the toe box and the lacing, need to be just right because the u-tip attracts so much attention because of its unique design. Chay and Wildsmith have proven themselves up to the challenge with the Covent, and have succeeded in crafting a classic, substantial-looking English derby.

Right out of the shipping box, I was impressed by the package that I received. Included with each pair of shoes is a tin of English beeswax for polishing.

Stamped with the Wildsmith logo, the wax was made at an English honey farm.

In addition to the tin of wax, a small shoe horn embossed with the Wildsmith name is also included with your shoes. For an additional fee, lasted shoe trees can be included with your shoes. The trees that I received were double-barreled with dark wood, almost black,  with brass metalware and a curved white plaque affixed with the company's name. Needless to say, I thought the packaging was well-done - I think customers will be suitably impressed.

Then, of course, there are the shoes. I really don't think its much of a stretch to say that Wildsmith customers are going to be very pleased with the finishing on these shoes. At approximately the GBP 400 price point, one would be hard-pressed to name a comparable shoe that shows off the same level of craftsmanship and attention to detail.

The work on the soles is impressive. The slightly bevelled waist looks closer in appearance to Edward Green RTW shoes than Crockett & Jones' handgrade line (which are closer in price to Wildsmith's models). To be clear, these shoes are not meant to "compete" with the bespoke market, or even that top tier currently occupied by Lobb, Edward Green, or Gaziano & Girling. But they'll certainly give companies like Crockett & Jones, Carmina, and Alden a run for their money.

Finally, the uppers are also well-done. the mahogany leather color has a lovely hue to it, and the subtle burnishing works well with the exquisite broguing patterns. The overall symmetry of the shoe is subtle but distinct. The square-toed 283 last works well with the modified wingtip, and I would describe the silhouette  of the Covent as sleek yet elegant. The narrowed waist of the sole is offset by the width at the ball of the foot - the effect, combined with the open lace design of the derby, is a very comfortable shoe that looks narrow but is actually quite generous width-wise. At the same time, that narrowness at the waist seems to give the shoe a more snug fit (which I like) towards the heel of the foot.

All in all, an excellent example of a modified wingtip derby. If you don't already own one, the Wildsmith Covent would make an excellent addition to your shoe collection.

For more information on Wildsmith's offerings, you can visit the company's website here.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ivory Tower Style's Review of The Best Dressed Man In The Room

David Isle has been doing some great writing on men's style and men's clothing at his blog Ivory Tower Style, at Style Forum, as well as for No Man Walks Alone. I've definitely become a fan of his work, which usually offers an interesting point of view and is always a pleasure to read. So I'm grateful that he could take the time to post his thoughts on The Best Dressed Man In The Room. You can read his full review at Ivory Tower Style here, or at Style Forum here.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Suitable Wardrobe's Review of The Best Dressed Man In The Room

I've been an admirer of Reginald-Jerome de Mans writing since his posts in the early days of Style Forum (his thread on cool eBay items is still an SF lynch-pin). More recently, his work has been featured at Will Boehlke's A Suitable Wardrobe - his alternative style icon piece on Roger Moore remains a personal favorite. So I was doubly excited to read his kind words for The Best Dressed Man In The Room. You can read his review for A Suitable Wardrobe here.

For links to purchase the standard, deluxe, or iBooks versions of The Best Dressed Man In The Room, click here.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I Am Dandy

As I mentioned in a previous post, I purchased a copy of I Am Dandy last week at the NYC launch party for the new book from Rose Callahan and Nathaniel Adams. Having had a chance to look through the entire book, I thought I'd take the time to give my thoughts and impressions.

To begin with, the book is certainly a worthy addition to any library on men's style and, more specifically, the personal interpretation of style and how that can differ from one subject to the next. Nathaniel Adams' writing style flows very easily and is a pleasure to read. His essays or profiles complement Rose Callahan's beautiful images perfectly. In my opinion, however, her wonderful photography is the real strength of the book. The coffee-table sized book is substantial, but the enlarged images are really quite striking - the colors are vibrant and the clothing on display really commands your attention.

Keith Churchwell, 
one of the elegantly attired gentleman featured in I Am Dandy

I have commented elsewhere on the variety of "dandies" captured in this book. Some of the subjects are a bit too costumey for my liking, but at the end of the day the real joy that these people derive from the act of clothing themselves is undeniable. And part of what keeps the book interesting from start to finish is the eclectic variety that you see on display from one page to the next.

The authors, Rose Callahan & Nathaniel Adams

At the same time, there were also enough proponents of classic men's style featured in I Am Dandy to more than satisfy me. The Churchwell Brothers, G. Bruce Boyer, Nick Wooster, Nick Sullivan, Christian Chensvold, Ed Hayes, Gay Talese were highlights of the book for me - the photos were fantastic and the profiles really provide a better sense of what dressing actually means to these people, and exactly how it came to have that meaning for this unique group of individuals.

All in all, a great book - one that I'd definitely recommend it to anyone with a passion for clothing.

Monday, October 14, 2013

An Uptown Dandy at I Am Dandy's NYC Launch Party

An Uptown Dandy: On line to meet the authors.

Well, that's a mouthful! Anyway, I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to the NYC launch party for the amazing new book I Am Dandy, by Rose Callahan and Natty Adams. The event was held at Bergdorf Goodman's new second floor  - a fantastic new showroom space for Brioni's tailored clothing.

It was a wonderful evening -  I tried to get my copy signed by as many of the dandies in the book as possible, but it seems that I may have missed a few too. But the drinks were flavorful, the dates wrapped in bacon were tasty, and the dandies were colorful. So what more could you ask for?

For more photos from the event and a calendar of future events related to the book, click here.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Passaggio Cravatte Ties - In A Class By Themselves

Gianni Cerutti, the co-owner of Passaggio Cravatte, was kind enough to send me a few ties to review for An Uptown Dandy. I used the standard ordering procedure, which is to say that Gianni began by sending me dozens of fabric images to choose from. Once I'd selected the fabrics, Gianni let me know which tie configurations  (three fold, six fold, seven fold, etc.) were available based on the amount of fabric remaining for my selections.

With that in mind, I selected two vintage fabrics - and as it turned out, the photos really didn't do them justice. The first was a vintage grenadine (Gianni referred to it as "garza") in navy with a red and gold square pattern. Gianni used that fabric to make a tie in the "authentic" 1900s seven fold style, with the tie untipped with hand-rolled edges. The second was a beautiful vintage red silk that we decided would be best in a "standard" three fold.

I then provided preferred length and width measurements for each tie - the blue grenadine seven fold would be 9.5 cm wide while the red three fold would be 9 cm. Gianni took about two weeks to make the ties to the specifications that we discussed. Two days after notifying me that the ties were ready, they arrived at my door.

To put it simply, these ties are true works of art. I'm not entirely sure what is the most impressive feature of Gianni's work. The ties are made entirely by hand - the hand-rolled edges are beautiful - which is certainly impressive. Personally, however, I was really very impressed with the vintage silks that were used. The navy blue grenadine and red silk print were both luxurious to the touch and, as it turned out, both made a fine knot.

Both ties were unlined - my initial concern was that this might affect the knot in a negative way. But I liked the lightweight feel of the tie in general and the knot in particular. There is an airiness to the structure that is hard to describe. But I wore the blue grenadine on an 80 degree day here in New York City, with a linen suit, so the lightness of the unlined seven fold grenadine seemed to complement the linen perfectly.

All in all, I would have to say that Passaggio Cravatte's bespoke ties compare very favorably to the lined seven folds that I have purchased previously from Borrelli, Kiton, and Brioni. The level of handwork is unparalleled, while the stock of vintage fabrics available to choose from is equally impressive. Those two factors, coupled with the length, width, fabric, and configuration options available via the company's bespoke operation, moves Passaggio Cravatte into the upper echelon of Italian tie-makers.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Golden Age of Style & Vice - The Rake Recommends TBDMITR

Many thanks to Simon Crompton, Nick Scott and The Rake for helping to get the word out about The Best Dressed Man In The Room! Simon's post on The Rake's online site, titled "The Golden Age of Style & Vice," is a short summary of the book, why it's relevant today, and where you can purchase it. Of course, you can also read more about the sartorially inclined goniffs, gamblers, and gangsters of the inter-war years in the October issue of The Rake - an article that I wrote on the same subject will be featured in that issue, so keep an eye out for it!


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Lost New York - The Old Penn Station

Sometimes on my way home in the evenings, I find myself waiting for my track announcement at Penn Station in the Amtrak area. The columns there feature photographs of the old Penn Station, which are sad to look at when you consider how terrible the new station is.

As someone once said, when you entered the old Penn Station, you felt like a king entering the city. Now, you feel like a rat scurrying through the subterranean tunnels of the "new" station.

Anyway, it would be nice to come and go into the city everyday through what appears to have been a magnificent structure in its day.