While the former British Foreign Secretary is often remembered as a stylish gentleman, his impact on popular fashion has gone largely unnoticed. In the fashion forecast from the Summer 1936 issue of Apparel Arts (Volume VI, Number IV) printed below, Captain Eden's status as a global trendsetter almost seems to be on par with the then-Prince of Wales.
Captain Eden's White Waistcoat
When any individual is as much photographed and as frequently newsreeled as Capt. Anthony Eden, British Foreign Secretary, and in addition possesses as excellent taste as does Captain Eden, the combination of those two factors is bound to place him in the fashion limelight. As an example of Captain Eden's influence on dress, mention need only be made of the black Homburg hat which he has done so much to popularize. And the same stimulus which he gave to the black Homburg is also being exerted by him now on behalf of another important fashion - the white linen single breasted waistcoat with small collar. Captain Eden, of course, is not alone in favoring this fashion, which he wears in London during the spring and summer, inasmuch as many young Londoners also wear the white waistcoat. But it is Captain Eden's sponsorship of the fashion which makes it assume importance as a distinctly promising item for the spring and summer months. Some well dressed men in this country also wear the light weight linen waistcoat for business during the summer, and with this backlog of acceptance it is likely that Captain Eden's endorsement of the fashion will carry it to more widespread popularity.
One of my favorite outfits this winter has been my Ralph Lauren Purple Label three-piece suit. It has peak lapels, two buttons and double-vents with a subtle charcoal glen plaid check. I've been wearing it ever since I saw George Raft wearing something similar in Night After Night with Mae West.
Well, to be honest, its really been my favorite suit since at least 2007, which I hope will persuade you that I didn't just jump on the recent single-breasted peak lapel band-wagon (see Suit Supply, etc.). I try to give the suit a more casual air by pairing it with a jaunty blue check shirt from Ede & Ravenscroft or Kiton, and a bright seven-fold from Borrelli or some type of print from Drake's. Other times, I'll try a solid blue shirt with a solid cashmere tie from Holland and Holland or an unlined version, also from Ralph Lauren's Purple Label.
To finish off the look, I've been pairing the outfit with a pair of bluchers from Edward Green for Ralph Lauren's Purple Label. Named the Braylon, the shoes appear to be modeled after Edward Green's own Cardiff, with the main difference being the lack of a medallion on the Ralph Lauren model. The dark oak calf leather allows the shoes to blend seamlessly into the entire ensemble. As always, the burnishing along the toe box and back quarters is second to none and really gives the shoes some pop.
Of course, sartorial sticklers will curse me for a fool for even suggesting that a pair of open laced shoes be worn in broad daylight with a three-piece suit. And I don't mind (really, I don't). And I do occasionally pair the suit with my Edward Green Falkirks in antique chestnut, so I'm not an entirely unapologetic heathen. . .
I actually purchased the shoes some time ago at the Rhinelander Mansion on 72nd and Madison Avenue here in New York City. I usually post pictures before I take my recent additions out into the wild, but in this case I completely forgot to photograph the Braylons. Having had the opportunity to actually wear the shoes in advance of my post, I am happy to report that the 888 last fits true to size and has a very comfortable toe box. I believe the blucher style, with its open laced look, is also less restricting on the top of my foot and seems to be just a touch more forgiving than my Falkirks with their closed laced configuration on the 82 last. In addition, the Braylons also fit snugly around the heel.
Sadly, my last few forays to the Mansion have led me to believe that Ralph Lauren has either severely reduced their Edward Green stock or simply discontinued the relationship altogether. Initially, I thought the relatively recent move away from the 89 last to the 888 pointed to a healthy collaboration and (somewhat logical) evolution in Ralph Lauren's approach to the company's relationship with Edward Green. But perhaps I spoke too soon - or perhaps I'm speaking too soon now . . . In any event, if anyone has seen Edward Green shoes on display recently at a Ralph Lauren near you, please be kind enough to share the news and allay my fears.
Aficionados of the men's trade magazine Apparel Arts will already know just how highly sought after the original issues are. Prices range in value anywhere from $150 to $500 per issue, depending on condition and vintage. Published beginning in 1931, Apparel Arts eventually morphed into GQ by the late 1950's - with the over-sized, hardcover issues from the 1930s apparently commanding the highest prices.
In 1991, the Italian clothing conglomerate Gruppo GFT published a 3-volume set which reproduced some of the original writing and artwork featured in Apparel Arts. The first book in the set also features original essays on the golden age of men's style from writers such as G. Bruce Boyer, among others. Unfortunately, these contributions are in Italian - and, I'm sorry to admit, my knowledge of that language is essentially zero.
Some of the exquisite reprinted artwork from Lawrence Fellows.
My understanding, after speaking with Mr. Boyer and others on this subject, is that the 3-volume set was never actually produced for sale. A small set of anywhere from 500 to 1000 copies were printed and distributed to friends, customers, clients, etc. Which perhaps explains why this set might be even harder to find than original issues of Apparel Arts.
I recently made the acquaintance of a rare books collector who owns a complete set of Apparel Arts issues, among many other scarce books and magazines including this 3-volume set. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately for my wallet, this collector also has duplicates of some of these rare pieces, and he has been quite generous and gracious in his willingness to part with some of these treasures. And so it came to be that, after searching high and low for some time, I am now the proud owner of what appears to be a pristine 3-volume set.
The first volume is essentially a compilation of some of Apparel Arts' greatest hits, so to speak. The second volume focuses on an article whose subject is the men's store of the future, as imagined from the vantage point of the 1930s. That being said, the artistic renditions bear a striking resemblance to the Barneys Flagship store on Fifth Avenue. Finally, the third volume is a reproduction of the 1934 Summer issue.
The reprinted Apparel Arts pages are quite well done, to be sure - the colors, in particular, are quite vibrant. There are also pull-out full spread pages that are beautiful to behold. About the only negative that I can think of is that the original issues included actual fabric swatches with certain advertisements. And it really is quite amazing to feel the texture of the suit or overcoat fabric, even after 80 years or so. But I don't mean to nitpick - this 3-volume set is an amazing artistic accomplishment unto itself.
One of the oversized pull-out pages featuring more sartorially inclined artwork.
. . .and here is the second half of my interview with Chay Cooper, Product Director at Alfred Sargent.
The Japanese are obviously much more "into" shoes than the average consumer here in the US; with that in mind, would you say that there is a targeted effort at Alfred Sargent to produce shoes that are geared towards one market versus another? As a result, are there models that might be only available in one particular market?
We are lucky to have a great company we distribute via into Japan - they have superb staff who are very talented and know what it best for that market. Sometimes we do make models purely for Japan on their recommendation or at the request of their clients. We do give strong consideration to whichever market we are working with as taste does vary along with Last choice.
How would you characterize the state of the British shoemaking industry today? Where do you see it in 10-15 years? Are the fiscal realities such that a next generation of craftsmen will be able to generate a liveable wage?
There seems to have been an resurgence in recent years. I think people still value items that are hand crafted and made in England. I hope the trend continues. I'm proud to be from Northamptonshire where the best shoes in the world are made.
Where Alfred Sargent is based in Rushden, Northamptonshire, there used to be over 60 factories making shoes. Our town is small with an population of roughly 35,000 people so at one stage almost everyone worked in the shoe trade or at the very least had a family member who did.
With the demise of some of these makers a lot of shoemakers re-trained into other sectors and there is a skill shortage evident in comparison to when I first started working. It is harder now to find skilled shoemakers, so we made the decision to train people under Paul Sargent's guidance and this decision has paid dividends for us. I think training as a shoemaker now, demonstrating a passion for making shoes and becoming multi-skilled would stand someone in good stead for the coming years as all factories would welcome a talented shoemaker to their ranks.
As someone who is keenly interested in the heritage and history behind some of the great English shoemakers, is there a fine line between healthy competition and professional admiration for the product being put out by your "competitors"?
I think competition is a healthy thing, I admire Crockett & Jones for what they have achieved and Edward Green make some beautifully classic shoes too. I believe there is room for us all in the market. If anything competition pushes us to improve on what we offer which shall mean that English shoes keep getting better.
I have to say there are details on the Handgrade models which seem to have a lot in common with Gaziano & Girling's ready to wear shoes. Is there a reason behind the similarities?
The Fiddleback waist done correctly is an unique look and as both feature this it is easy to draw a comparison. We used to make the Gaziano & Girling shoes for them in our factory so that continues the story also I guess. I think they are noticeably different, mainly in terms of design and Lasts, but also that in terms of making when we designed AS Handgrade we incorporated more hand work.
You keep a busy travel schedule here in the US. Can interested customers try on and purchase models from either the Exclusive and Handgrade lines at one of your trunk shows?
Trunk shows are limited only by the client's imagination really, that's what I enjoy about them. Leffot's clients always choose great combinations and we are excited to make them back at the factory. Usually it is only AS Handgrade that can be ordered at trunk shows.
Obviously, Alfred Sargent shoes are also available at retailers here in the US, including Leffot here in NYC, but are there any plans for an Alfred Sargent brick & mortar shop in the US in the near future?
No, we plan to continue supporting the retailers. We have a US representative and hope to be opening more accounts soon.
The gentlemen at Drake's of London are always a joy to chat with, and even though I dropped by their booth unannounced at the MRket trade show on the final day, this time was no different. Sweetu Patel, owner of C'H'C'M', the men's clothing shop which hosted the recent Drake's pop-up sale, also happened to be there, and it was nice to see him again as well.
As a aside, I happened to be wearing the cashmere/silk chocolate brown blazer that I purchased at the sale that day, as it was just back from the tailors. I thought the fit was spot-on - although I did have to size up to a 44R, from my normal 42R size - but as the jacket came with working button-holes, the sleeves needed to be taken up from the shoulder. I thought it came out quite well, and those purveyors of fine English silks agreed. It is, of course, entirely possible that they were just being nice again . . .
But enough about me! I managed to take a few pictures of some of the new offerings from Drake's on display at the show. As always, the silk prints are gorgeous, the pocket squares are stunning, and the checked woolen ties are delicious. Enjoy!