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

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

CHCM - Clearance Sale

I happened to be in the East Village on Monday so I dropped by Sweetu Patel's shop CHCM. As some of you might recall, Sweetu hosted the Drake's sale last year (see here) - while that was a great introduction to the shop, there's really much more to CHCM.

Sweetu curates an eclectic collection of menswear pieces made by some great artisans from around the world. His English sensibilities are on display via products from Crombie, Drake's, and Sunspel. What really caught my eye, though, were some of the pieces made by Niuhans, a Tokyo-based fashion label. There were a pair of grey, flat-front cashmere trousers that really put my Purple Label slacks to shame. The workmanship looked absolutely amazing, and the feel of the fabric was exquisite.

I tend to overlook my casual wardrobe at the expense of my workwear (suits, blazers, slacks, etc.), and, more often than not, my weekend wear is really just what most people would consider business casual. But CHCM is a good place to start revamping the casual wardrobe with well-made clothing in sensible designs that are firmly rooted in a basic color palette (grey, navy, white, etc.)

While I was in the shop, Sweetu was getting ready to put some interesting items on clearance in order to make room for new inventory - including what appeared to be some pretty cool striped blazers from Crombie. It sounded like prices would be reduced 70-80% on certain items, so if you're in the city this weekend, it might be worth checking out. Call the store for more details at 212-673-8601.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Brioni "Prince of Wales" Check

I'd forgotten about this beautiful jacket in a brown country Prince of Wales check that I picked up during the summer. Unfortunately, I've already missed a good portion (if not all) of the Fall season here on the East Coast- which this jacket would have been perfect for. 

I've been looking for a colorful check like this in a nice shade of brown for a while, so I was excited when I came across this jacket, made by Brioni for Neiman Marcus. In addition to the shades of brown, there are hints of red, navy blue, light blue, and orange as well. The buttons are a nice shade of blonde with a darker brown edge, which really stands out against the brown hues of the fabric pattern.

If I recall correctly, the sleeves are a bit long and the waist needs to be let out just a bit - I'm hoping to wear the jacket with some crew or v-neck sweaters, so I'd like more room to accommodate a pull-over of some kind underneath.

I'm hoping to drop the jacket at Wilfred's the week after Thanksgiving. Hopefully, I'll be able to report back soon after that regarding the fit of what is an exquisite piece of clothing. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Walker Slater - The Place To Go In Edinburgh For All Things Tweed

An Uptown Dandy's intrepid European correspondents Jessie Butler and Stephan Torre recently dropped us a line to wax enthusiastic about a wonderful shop in Edinbugrh, Scotland devoted to all things tweed.

Walker Slater seems to have developed  a dedicated following amongst clothing aficionados - most likely due to an eclectic collection of colorful weaves and more conservative solids in their tweed offerings. The price point seems to be competitive, as well.

Ms. Butler was kind of enough to take a few photos - looking at the heavy tweed 3-piece suits in display, I couldn't help but think of the wonderful suits worn by Hugh Laurie's Bertie Wooster. Which really isn't the worst connection for a potential customer to make when looking at your window display.

I Am Dandy @ National Arts Club

Another day, another wonderful event related to Rose Callahan and Nathaniel Adams' excellent book I Am Dandy. This week, the National Arts Club is hosting an exhibit of Mrs. Callahan's images from the book. Last night was the opening reception, but its definitely worth a trip if you're in the city this week.

There's always  a great group of people on hand at the I Am Dandy events, and last night was no different. The photo above was posted by Christian Chensvold to Dandyism.net's Facebook page this morning. From left to right: Dandyism.net's Christian Chensvold and Robert Sacheli with Jake Mueser of Against Nature, G. Bruce Boyer, and yours truly here at An Uptown Dandy.

 I am Dandy

Portraits by photographer ROSE CALLAHAN with writing by NATHANIEL ADAMS
from their new book I am Dandy: The Return of the Elegant Gentleman

 Marquis Gallery
 15 Gramercy Park South
 New York City

Prints available for purchase

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The New York Times Mentions/Recommends The Best Dressed Man In The Room!

I only found out about this a few days ago, so I was still pleasantly surprised to wake up this morning and find a nice mention/recommendation of The Best Dressed Man In The Room in the Sunday edition of The New York Times by Sam Roberts, the Urban Affairs Correspondent. Very exciting! Of course, many thanks to Sam Roberts for taking the time to review the book and publish a few words about it.


From The New York Times:

Outright criminals could also be classy in their own way, as evidenced by "The Best Dressed Man In The Room: A Photographic History of the Sartorially Inclined Goniffs, Gamblers, and Gangsters of the Inter-War Years, 1920-1945."

Daniele Delerme Flores' self-published photo essay offers a glimpse at guys like Harry (Pittsburgh Phil) Strauss, of whom Police Commissioner Lewis J. Valentine said in 1934, well before the stop-and-frisk policing controversy: "Don't be afraid to muss 'em up. Make it disagreeable for them. Drive them out of the city. Teach them to fear arrest. Make them fear you."

He added, for good measure: "Blood should be smeared all over that velvet collar."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Best Dressed Man In The Room - Now Available @ Chartwell Booksellers

I've written about Chartwell Booksellers before (click here) - the great store in midtown Manhattan devoted to all things Winston Churchill (located at 52nd street between Park and Madison). The store's collection of signed first editions of Churchill 's works was already impressive, but Chartwell will now also be carrying signed first editions of The Best Dressed Man In The Room. If you weren't planning on dropping by before, its definitely worth adding to your itinerary now.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

"English Shoemaking At Its Most Refined" - An Interview with Richard Edgecliffe-Johnson, Chairman, Foster & Son/Henry Maxwell Ltd. (Part II)

Foster & Son, the venerable boot and shoemakers, have been producing their exquisite works of art since 1840. Recently, Frank Clune at Foster & Son was kind enough to pass along a few questions to Chairman Richard Edgecliffe-Johnson. Here, then, is second part of  Mr. Edgecliffe-Johnson's responses to my emailed questions, which offer his unique perspective on many topics, including the history of the company, the new MTO service, and the state of the industry (you can find part one here). Once again, many thanks to Mr. Clune and Mr. Edgecliffe-Johnson for their time and consideration.

It seems that you recently discontinued your line of RTW shoes made by Edward Green. If you don't mind me asking, can you tell us who is currently providing shoes for the RTW line? I've seen some references to the 337 last . . .

We have had a long relationship with a number of the Northampton makers and have been commissioning ready to wear shoes since the mid-60’s. Each of the makers works to a Foster & Son standard to produce shoes and boots that we put our name to. The relationship with Edward Green has been excellent and they produce some of the best Goodyear welted shoes in the world. We felt that it was time to take our ready to wear in a slightly different direction, using our own lasts with make-ups that were exclusively Foster’s own, from design, through leathers and patterns to lasts.

The Japanese are certainly much more "into" shoes than the average consumer, and certainly much more than the average US customer. With that in mind, do you ever produce a model with a certain geographic demographic in mind? Do you create models that are exclusive to certain markets?

We have always had a global clientele, and so in Jermyn Street a Japanese ready to wear customer with a size 6 foot can be fitted at the same time as an American with a narrow size 13 and a Nigerian with a wide size 10, so we carry a large range of sizes and fittings and are used to different foot types.

In Japan and the USA we have a very healthy bespoke client base primarily served through our semiannual trunk shows.

We have experimented with this idea for the Japanese ready to wear market, however the typical Foster customer is internationally mobile, and we feel that they should be able to find the same shoe in London as in their home country. In our experience one set of well-designed Foster lasts is the way for us to go.

How would you characterize the state of the British shoe-making
industry today? Where do you see things in 10-15 years?

British shoemaking is enjoying a golden age and undoubtedly that trend is being reinforced by the explosive growth of social networking such as Style Forum. The economic shock we are going through, together with demographic and wealth distribution changes, stimulates changes in social attitudes that are in turn reflected in the design and personal style preferences that are favouring the classic style that we are identified with. So we feel that the high demand for goods with heritage and craftsmanship is likely to be a feature for some time to come, and the future for bespoke work is bright. 

10-15 years is a long time, but Terry Moore tells us that in shoemaking “what goes around, comes around”! So we think that in 15 years’ time the classic English shoe will be proudly worn as it is today. We also think that in a rapidly globalizing World, with massive promotion of relatively uniform products by the Luxury conglomerates, demand for handcrafted goods will increase and be accelerated by access to aspirational internet sites.

 With long training times for the skilled workmanship required, production capacity is likely to grow more slowly than demand. In that scenario, add the unique character of Jermyn Street combined with a genuine English craft heritage, with rents rising and supply limited, sadly our shoes will probably become more expensive.

 Here’s a thought: could tomorrow’s bespoke shoemakers be as well paid as today’s bankers?

As someone who is interested in the heritage and history of some of the great English shoemakers, would you say that "healthy competition" goes hand in hand with "professional admiration" for the product that each company is producing?

 Absolutely! It is amusing to see how our Foster design requirements end up in our competitors’ windows, and un-named Northampton makers peep at our archives looking for ideas, but by the same token we are interested to see their designs to see what might be new, and we exchange ideas about what’s in vogue today as well as getting inspiration from archive sources outside our own records. There are many fine shoemakers in England and the Northampton village is a friendly place with very few secrets. Each manufacturer has its own house style, and because a “factory made” shoe is not made by a machine, but by a skilled human being using a machine, inevitably the shoe comes out with your imprint even if you copied someone else’s design.

 So when you buy a shoe from any maker, you really are buying in to that maker’s heritage, which can’t be faked.

In the case of our Bespoke workshop we are responding to specific requests for unique design elements, and so our focus is on the customer, who has very often done extensive research.

Does Foster & Son travel to the US? Is there a place here that interested customers can try on and/or purchase models?

We travel to the US and take bespoke orders in New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, but through Style Forum we've already had requests to visit Boston and are trying to work this –and maybe other cities- into our travels. Until now we have focused on our bespoke customers there, but envisage giving more support to our ready to wear offering over time. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"English Shoemaking At Its Most Refined" - An Interview with Richard Edgecliffe-Johnson, Chairman, Foster & Son/Henry Maxwell Ltd. (Part I)

Foster & Son, the venerable boot and shoemakers, have been producing their exquisite works of art since 1840. Recently, Frank Clune at Foster & Son was kind enough to pass along a few questions to Chairman Richard Edgecliffe-Johnson. Here, then, are Mr. Edgecliffe-Johnson's responses to my emailed questions, which offer his unique perspective on many topics, including the history of the company, the new MTO service, and the state of the industry. Many thanks to Mr. Clune and Mr. Edgecliffe-Johnson for their time and consideration.

Tell us a little bit about the history of Foster & Son. Was Foster & Son
originally an entirely bespoke operation? Are bespoke shoes made entirely on the premises? When did the company first introduce ready-to-wear shoes?

Foster & Son was founded in 1840 and Henry Maxwell in 1750. Both companies have interesting histories. Foster & Son was always what one would now call a shoemaker, although, as I’m sure you know, the shoe, rather than the ankle-length boot was only widely worn from about 1910 onwards. Foster & Son was an entirely bespoke operation until 1965 when Terry Moore joined us. Our bespoke work is mainly done in our workshop at 83 Jermyn Street and, as is the case with the other London bespoke makers, we have an extended family of highly skilled outworkers.

Henry Maxwell was originally a spurrier and had a long list of military and Royal clients. We’re still looking at the archive to pinpoint the date that Henry Maxwell first started to make boots but we believe that it was around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, though Sassoon suggests 1870 or so.

Can you tell us a bit about how someone from Terry Moore's generation would have been trained to be a shoemaker? How does that differ from the ways in which one of your current apprentices is being trained? Is it a fairly similar process when comparing eras or have things changed

The actual training has hardly changed at all over the last 150 years and the fundamentals haven’t changed since the abandonment of straight lasts during the Regency period, which takes us back 200 years. We don’t use CAD, 3-D modelling or any modern technology and our people have been trained to use traditional tools for last making, clicking and so on, even making our own thread and the traditional pig’s bristle for bottom making. The major innovation of the last century or so has seen the introduction of the specialized electric sewing machine for closing work, replacing foot-powered machines.

It still takes many years to become an accomplished shoemaker, but the training is much more focused these days. Terry Moore trained at another well-known firm in the 1950s and was expected to learn the whole business, so he started in the wood turning factory, then spent his mornings recording details of orders, and afternoons running errands and packing parcels, and then spent a year blacking boots and polishing. Only then was he allowed to start with last alterations, and then last making. He was not allowed to see a customer until he had about 10 years’ training and made his first overseas trip after about 15 years. At Foster & Son we focus on one skill at a time and then the shoemaker branches out into other areas. People learn different skills at different speeds but we reckon you need to dedicate more than 5 years to be truly competent in one area and then you keep on learning.

Tell us about the current offerings available at Foster & Son? Is there essentially one ready-to-wear line available? Or are there tiers of ready-to-wear offerings? Is there an MTO program?

Our flagship offering is of course our fully bespoke service. As more people are looking for something totally unique, we find a lot of demand not only for shoes, ankle boots and long boots, but also other leather goods such as briefcases, portfolios and other articles made to the customer’s specifications.

Some of Foster & Son's offerings on the 337 last.

Our Goodyear welted ready-to-wear line reflects our long tradition of being a top quality house that is also accessible to customers on more limited budgets, so you can actually buy a Foster shoe for £365 and a Henry Maxwell country shoe or ankle boot at a similar price. Then our main bench made collection is constructed to a standard that might be called “hand grade” by other houses, and has a strong following.

Plain toe derbies on the 337 last.

As a bespoke house we are strong believers in the value of a fully bespoke shoe and we have not had a MTO offering for several years, but we have always done our best to accommodate special requests in our ready to wear line. As we introduce our Heritage Collection on a new set of lasts we also plan to include a MTO service. So if you care about shoes but can’t afford bespoke there should be something for you in our Foster & Son or Henry Maxwell offering.

Wingtip tassel loafers.

Recently, Foster & Son established an online presence at Style Forum. What was the motivation behind that effort?

Foster & Son historically has built its business almost entirely on personal recommendation, and has a strong “insider” following, but clearly it makes sense to move with the times. We are a very personal business and have been cautious about social media but we are hugely enthusiastic about our work and feel we have a fascinating story to tell, so Style Forum is an excellent way for us to reach out to a knowledgeable and enthusiastic group of people. We also hope that engaging with a group of this quality will keep us on our toes: there’s nothing healthier than honest feedback!

Based on some of the posts that I've read in your affiliate thread at Style Forum, there seems to be a healthy respect and maintenance of a vintage Foster & Son shoe collection, which is something you don't necessarily see at some of the other English shoemakers. How extensive are the archives? Can a prospective bespoke client have a look for inspiration when contemplating an order?

The archives are quite extensive, with paper records and shoe samples going back to the nineteenth century reflecting the high quality and global reach of the business. It is a challenge to effectively curate the material whilst running a business, but we are gradually turning the archive into a historical narrative. 

The vintage shoe collection is large and is an important historical and aesthetic resource. Some are in delicate condition, but we believe that they should be made available to give pleasure and inspiration rather than being locked away in a museum. We believe that shoe lovers know that the ‘feel’ of a shoe or boot is vitally important and will handle them with respect.

Our collection reflects our design strengths and fashion changes over the years and is very wide ranging, so when commissioning a new pair of shoes there is plenty of inspiration for creating a new twist on an old theme.  

The appeal of burnishing and patina on new shoes seems to have taken on a life of its own in the last few years. Can you tell us about Foster & Son's "fading" process (which looks magnificent, by the way)? Is that a fairly recent innovation? Is it available for all RTW models?

The Foster & Son burnishing process was originally developed in our Workshop a long time ago to replicate the patina acquired by our bespoke samples that had been exposed to sunlight in our South facing window in Duke of York Street before we moved to Jermyn Street in 1965.

Foster & Son's impressive "fading" technique on display.

With the development of our new Heritage collection we felt that it was time to make the fading available to a broader range of customers. Given that leather is a natural product that varies from skin to skin, and you do not want your shoes ruined, this is not a job for the amateur! Each shoe responds differently to the treatment and is therefore unique.

To Be Continued . . .