Gentleman readers of The Review, a discerning and stylish audience I’ll wager, will encounter few of the sartorial uncertainties of this midlife clothes horse. Not for you the awkwardness of those ‘how do I stand so the tailor can measure me’ moments; none of that ‘what do I say to the barber after the “I’ll have a short back and sides and leave a bit at the front to gel” intro’; and I do not have to check back with you to deduce that you are unlikely to have blushed and hurried through Duty Free when the staff ask you if you would like any help as you finger a 100ml bottle of Balenciaga Florabotanica while trying to remember if that is what you bought your loved one on your last business trip to the Middle East.
You, dear reader, will, I am certain, stride confidently through your men’s style journey sporting crisp, elegantly fitted French cuff white shirts, wearing the finest selvedge jeans from Japan (or West Wales), enjoying hot towel shaves and strolling with diffidence into gatherings aplenty in a haze of colognes appropriate for the occasion, be it Summer or Winter, daytime or evening.
This is not always so with this particular ‘Man Who Would be Stylish’. It is therefore with some trepidation that I invite you to join me on a slightly embarrassing journey (for me) through myriad style choices that present themselves, often confusingly. Accompany me, if you will, as I wander (a little clumsily to start with) through a self-imposed journey to improve my grip on the nuances of grown up men’s style. No tittering at the back, that man; this explorer might have been an early version of you; he might be a colleague, a friend in need. Take heed and use your attuned sartorial knowledge to help those less fortunate. Along the way, who knows, there might even be a nod in the direction of clothes, shoes and accessories to enhance (yet further, of course) your effortless stylishness.
Where should we start? Perhaps as I stretch a little further than is immediately comfortable to grasp the baton passed by Bristol’s Local Tailor, I should begin at the beginning. Which naturally brings me swiftly to the inestimably dapper David Minns, that aforementioned purveyor of the pinstripe, and my own most recent adventure in bespoke tailoring. There is a very strong chance that this initial foray may well push me to the front of the class as something of a tailor’s dummy. But – nevertheless – let us explore what it takes to make a silk purse for this particular sow’s ear.
As Brown in Town once pointed out, a tailor’s customers can most often be categorised as bridegrooms or businessmen. With a bespoke suit being seen by many to be the most indulgent of pleasures, a luxury too far until that special day, it is most often the run up to a gentleman’s nuptials that see him desperately searching out a tailor who can be trusted to deliver the delicate balance between the size of your purse and your desire for ‘fits like a glove’ elegance? For the occasional sartorialist, daunting choices start to dance in front of you more wildly than an inebriated uncle at the aforementioned wedding.
How do you know what to ask for? What cloth, what weight, what personal touches to make it truly yours? Serendipity played its part in pairing me with Brown in Town; my own induction into the bespoke Hall of … well, if not Fame, at least a Haul of Very Fine Cloth, took place in the Cigar Humidor at the Bristol Hotel de Vin. Those who know ’my Tailor’ (as I now cheekily claim him to be) will realise that this was a most appropriate rendezvous as David Minns is most often to be found with Havana smoke billowing from under a jauntily angled hat brim.
Over the course of a 90-minute consultation, Brown in Town took me on a carefully guided sartorial tour through myriad choices, leaving me confidently personalising my three piece suit with peaked lapels, bold lining but a necessarily modest, neutral back to the waistcoat (you only have to think of the challenge of matching shirt choices with the eye-catching orange of the suit lining to appreciate the value of a gentle nudge in the right direction) and subtle coloured stitching around working buttonholes; why wouldn’t you?
Ticket pockets, cigar tube pockets, a fabric heavy enough to feel substantial, light enough to leave you floating … so much to ponder, but these are the personal touches that elevate the suit and leave your fellow guests discretely seeking out the name of ‘your’ tailor.
Tailoring Tips … gentlemen readers of The Review clearly need no advice from this particular style novice – but if you are inducting less confident colleagues and friends into the corridors of bespoke suiting, a few ‘Fs’ comes to mind:
Fabric The trick, undoubtedly, is to find a weight of cloth that will allow you to wear the suit for as much of the year as possible and yet will drape as well as the heavier cloths. As much by luck as judgement, I arrived at a mid-weight wool/cashmere blend by Loro Piana, the Italian fabric and luxury goods manufacturer. Notwithstanding the cashmere blend, the suit retains a very British matt look and finish.
Fit Do not fall into the trap of treating this bespoke suit purchase like other parts of the ‘boy shopping’ repertoire. This is not something to give the once over to online, buzz into the store at lunchtime and try it on with the wrong shirt. Take your time; take as many fittings as you need to nail the shape for you. When it is perfect, you have a template to return to for your next suit.
Fat It makes sense to reach an optimal body shape before subjecting yourself to the tailor’s tape. That said, there is no point in honing a finely chiselled physique for the wedding of the year if that body shape represents too weighty a challenge for ongoing maintenance.
Fashion Whilst that statement suit has you ‘schmoking’ like The Mask as you slide across the dance floor to upstage the bridegroom, it may not withstand the sartorial scrutiny of the upcoming Autumn/Winter season. Pick cautiously.
Footwear Naturally, there is little point in styling the body and soul, if it looks as if you have been shod by the apprentice blacksmith. But perhaps that is the next leg of the journey to travel together …
So, if “style is a journey and not a destination”, I have my ticket, I am standing on the platform and I am just waiting for my exceedingly dapper fellow travellers to finish their chilled Moretti beers and join me before the train departs. Perhaps you might care to join me on the sartorial journey ahead.