Monday, 21 May 2018

Seen Opticians: Sunglasses from Garrett Leight

I was recently sent some sunglasses for review which I wanted to share with you. Seen are an online opticians based in Manchester. They seem very clued up and stock an excellent range of styles and brands, one of which is Garrett Leight from the USA. Not a company I was aware of, they are excellent quality, comfortable and stylish - ideal for seeking anonymity when the paparazzi are after you.

The man (who is he?) is wearing Garrett Leight Brooks from Seen Opticians & a Dashing Tweeds suit

Have a look to see what else Seen Opticians have to offer. You can browse the whole range by clicking here

Dashing Tweeds

Garrett Leight Brooks Sun from Seen Opticians

The glasses were sent to me for review. I received no compensation for this feature and all views are my own.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

The Royal Wedding: Morning Dress and How to Wear it

So you're going to the Royal Wedding this weekend or to a more lowly one over the spring/summer, or maybe to an event like The Investec Derby or Royal Ascot? The dress code asks for morning dress; what is it and how do you wear it? I've teamed up with ace menswear personal stylist Sarah Gilfillan of SartoriaLab (link below) to find out:

Prince William and Prince Harry in morning dress

Sarah has put together the following advice to which I've added some thoughts: Morning dress is a formal dress code worn in the day, mostly at weddings, seasonal events such as Royal Ascot Races or at events linked to Royalty or government. There are two main variants. The first comprises a black tail coat with striped (or sometimes checked) trousers and a waistcoat. This is strictly not a morning suit, as nothing matches! The second variant is less formal and has coat, trousers and waistcoat in matching grey, making it a true morning suit. While usually a morning suit has a matching waistcoat we don't see why, given its less formal nature, you shouldn't try a subtle pastel or paler grey if you want.

The Royal Family wearing all variations of morning dress, morning suit and morning coat

The coat is generally worn unbuttoned. Get advice on length: the tails should reach the back of the knee, but other factors can come into play, so check the final look in a mirror to ensure the proportions look right. Google 'morning dress' and study the images, what lengths look right, what look wrong? If in doubt, study Prince Charles. Nobody wears morning dress better. This is partly because he's so relaxed in it. The fact that he has an excellent tailor helps too.

Giving away my beautiful daughter at her wedding

Some retailers offer coloured and patterned linings to morning coats. Some (and we agree) feel this is a mistake. The lining shows on the tails and can be overpowering. Stick to black or grey lining.

Prince Charles wears black braiding around the lapels of his black coat in one of the images above (and see the vintage image below of Edward Prince of Wales). This is unusual now, but you may consider it for a different, if rather formal, look.

The trousers are usually cut quite high in the waist to match the elegant waist of the coat. You may need braces (suspenders in US) to keep them up comfortably without altering their shape. Trousers usually don't have turn ups (cuffs) as they don't suit the formal nature of the dress code.

Usually either form of morning dress is acceptable at a wedding, but the close family may all agree to wear one or other variation to achieve some uniformity of appearance. Our experience is that this expectation doesn't generally extend to guests, but check if you're unsure.

Loake Rothschild oxfords, British Belt Co Baker blue braces, TM Lewin shirt


A white shirt is traditional, although a coloured shirt is a little more adventurous (see Prince Charles's above). If you select a coloured shirt, we highly recommend what the Americans call a Winchester shirt: one with a white collar (and sometimes white cuffs as well). This harks back to the days when a removable white collar would be worn on the shirt. In our view, the flash of white at the collar ideally suits the formal nature of the suit. 

The coloured shirt is best in a soft blue, pink or yellow; take care with brighter colours. Stripes and even checks can be worn; but we advise discretion. Pastels and soft hues are best. Make sure your shirt complements, rather than matches, your waistcoat.

A turn-down collar is the usual and best choice. We aren't keen on wing collars, they're not traditional to morning wear and give a period costume appearance. Double cuffs (French cuffs) go with the formal nature of the dress.

Morning dress of yore. The maverick Prince of Wales wears a bow tie and rakish hat; rules are made to be broken


A silk tie is the best choice here. Cravats (and wing collars) run the risk of looking a over-dressed in our view and they aren't part of traditional morning attire. Choose a tie in a discreet colour and pattern that complements shirt and waistcoat. 


The waistcoat is single or double-breasted. For coolness in the summer, try linen. It can match the coat, or a muted plain colour can look very stylish. We caution against being too bold with the colour or design of your waistcoat.


The slip is a white length of material which buttons around the neckline of the waistcoat, giving the impression of two waistcoats worn one over the other (from the days when this was fashionable). Prince Charles wears one in the top right of the second image above. They are rare, but there is some interest in them and they seem to be becoming more common among the sartorially aware.

Top hat

For very formal events a top hat may have to be worn. For weddings and other events it is generally put to one side or dispensed with altogether. Black or grey hats seem to be interchangeable with grey or black morning coats and suits, although arguably a black hat is preferable for the most formal events.

The best top hat will be made of black silk. Such silk polishes up so the hat glows with an intense and beautiful blackness. Sadly such silk is no longer made (and the secrets of its manufacture lost) so you will be looking for a vintage hat costing several hundreds or thousands of pounds if you want one. Otherwise a polished fur felt will be much more affordable and nearly as spectacular.


Black oxfords are the formal shoe of choice. Plain derbies are acceptable. The usual wisdom is that brogues (with punched hole designs) are a bit country and therefore not formal enough. Patent leather is really for evening, not day wear. Please wear good shoes that aren't too estate agent pointy; bad footwear will ruin the look. They should be in good condition and shiny clean. Wear socks to match the trousers.


Cufflinks, a pocket square that complements rather than matches the tie and a tie pin can be worn. As ever, go for minimalist design and soft pastels in any accessory, rather than anything too overpowering. Grey Fox wore a beautiful porcelain buttonhole from Boutonnière London at his daughter's wedding a year or two ago, image below.

General thoughts

If some of our advice sounds a little cautious, remember; if you're at a wedding the photos will be being studied for decades to come. Morning suits have the advantage of looking timeless. If you depart too far from the classic, with extravagant cravats, trendy shoes or bright shirts, those images will lack that timeless classic look.

At other events, part of the fun is being in a uniform enjoying the occasion. Departing too far from the dress code can leave you feeling self-conscious. That's fine if you're an extrovert, feel you want to make some obscure political point or are so sophisticated that you can pull it off with bravado. You can express individuality within the constraints of the dress code in choice of colour, cut (if you're lucky enough to buy bespoke or made to measure) and accessories. Relax and enjoy the event. Try to feel comfortable in your morning dress or you'll look very stiff and awkward.

I know that many readers here are from outside the UK. In general the rules over morning dress are more uniform worldwide than the black tie dress code, but I suggest you do your own research on local variation.

Note: This feature is an updated version of a feature on the same topic posted on the blog in 2016 What I write here is a combination of my thoughts and discussions I've had with David of Grey Fox. The views we express are ours and reflect the occasionally flexible nature of dress codes. Rules are there to be broken, but do so with care! The post is unsponsored.

[GF: If you need help from Sarah on this or any personal styling problem, contact her through her website, SartoriaLab here.]

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Executive Shaving: British-made grooming products

While I don't only talk about British-made products, it's always good to hear about those that are made here. Men's grooming is a growing industry and Executive Shaving make their shaving and other products in the UK where they can.

They sent me a selection of items to try (some pictured above), including a razor which is lathe-turned in Glasgow (the head is German). The shaving cream and balm are made in England, the pre shave oil and soap are made in Scotland, the brush and stand are from India. 

The razor is described as 'medium aggressive' and certainly I found it less so than my usual razor. I'm an experienced double-edged blade user and don't mind risking a few nicks for a close shave. With a more aggressive razor greater concentration and care is needed; although the end-result is superior it is riskier! However, a razor like the 'Braveheart' (pictured below) is ideal for the man who likes to rush his shave in the morning, or for the less experienced and occasional user. A double pass may be needed but the whole experience is less demanding.

Braveheart Safety Razor from Executive Shaving - the handle is lathed in Glasgow

The cream, oils and balms have delicious scents. I'm not a lover of florals but these have a variety of gorgeous soapy, citrussy scents - with the additional benefit of being British-made. I favour using a pre-shave oil as this lays a good foundation for a rich lather and eases the blade over the most stubborn of beards. The products here work well and have become favourites.

The shaving brush has synthetic hair; my preference as I don't like to think of badgers suffering for smooth chin. I find artificial brushes totally effective with the additional advantage that they don't need the careful drying and storage that pure bristle requires. Executive Shaving have a sensibly balanced article on this topic here.

I also had some samples of cologne by Trumpers and other items illustrating the varied selection available online from Executive Shaving.

Links to products sent, more information and prices:

This article was sponsored by Executive Shaving. As ever, all views are mine alone.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Summer Style for Men: Fuller-Cut Pleated Trousers and Over-Shirts

My search for style has drifted towards the classic, tailoring-inspired and somewhat slim in cut. For this summer I'd like to find alternatives to the classic blazer and slim-fitting straight-legged chino. A different jacket shape and trousers cut fuller and higher around the waist and upper leg, tapering to the hem (with turn-ups ideally) will fit the bill. Here's what I've assembled:

A linen look. Over shirt and trousers Massimo Dutti, shoes Edward Green

With the help of friend and ace personal stylist, Sarah of Sartorialab (link below), I tried on many pairs of trousers, eventually settling on a cotton/linen pair from Massimo Dutti. These have pleats, are cut fuller around the thigh and taper to turn-ups at the hem. The waist isn't quite as high as I'd have liked, but otherwise they are a fair fit. This pair was the cheapest I tried and I suspect from previous experience that their quality will match the price. However, they are adequate; so I'm happy. The fuller trouser is a style already established among the sartorially aware, although it will take a while to reach the high street. 

The jacket, a linen over-shirt, is also from Massimo Dutti and represents a change from my usual blazer. It resembles the field coat/combat jacket, making it a stylish alternative to the classic summer jacket. So, with two items (see the image above), I've altered my style without taking too great a step.

Left: Massimo Dutti Limited Edition blue cotton/linen trousers £79.95 Right: unstructured linen overshirt £109

Similar over-shirts are available from Drake's and Private White VC and, although I haven't been able to try them, I offer them as possible British-made alternatives (below). I'd love to be able to work with these brands to wear British products for these features, but sadly they are often unable to help.

Left: Drake's linen overshirt £245 Right: Private White VC safari tropical weave cotton shacket £379

Fuller-cut pleated trousers are rarer than their slim-cut flat-fronted cousins. Here are some alternatives (not all are British-made):

Left: Timothy Everest ivory check pleated pant £169 (made in Portugal)  Right: E Tautz pleated trouser £300

Left: New & Lingwood Ashton trousers £350 Right: Katharine Hamnett brace moleskin trouser £265

A search for style is not going to progress unless we try new styles, brands, shapes and colours. I feel I've made a step here and look forward to wearing these clothes this summer.

Sarah Gilfillan of Sartorialab offers support for men from wardrobe reviews to shopping trips and makeovers. Her advice has always been invaluable to me on my search for style.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

People: Lara Platman, Photographer and Tweed & Land Rover Enthusiast

This is the first of an occasional new series which looks at people whose lives are grey only in the sense that they may or may not have a few grey hairs. I start with photographer Lara Platman, whose book, Harris Tweed: From Land to Street, I enjoyed on my trip to Harris and Lewis at the invitation of The Harris Tweed Authority last year. Lara and I also share a love of old Land Rovers; we both own a series 2a Land Rover.

GF: Please introduce yourself and what you do:

LP: I am photographer and author with four published books (Art Workers Guild, 125 Years, Harris Tweed, from Land to Street, Spirit of Land, the Distilleries of Scotland and Through the Night, the Passion of Motorsport) and work with various editorial lifestyle and photographic outlets and appear regularly on BBC Radio Gloucestershire. I am a Brother of the Art Workers Guild, a committee member of the Guild of Motoring Writers and my photographs can be found in the collections Victoria and Albert Museum, London. I am an ambassador for Leica Camera AG and a Getty Contributor. Blimey that was a mouthful!

I embark on projects that inspire me, that instil a passion in me to complete them for whatever reason, regardless of the financial benefit – which does cause some annoyance to my accountants. I have recently restored my 1964 Land Rover Series 2a and drive her as my daily where each outing is an adventure either under or inside the car (more about her later). I am currently writing a radio drama about a woman racing driver from the 1920’s and along with having a motor racing licence I also just passed my motorbike license, so I suppose I am completely ensconced as a petrol head.

GF: How did you come to be a photographer? What do you photograph?

LP: I trained in photography and Fine Art in Newport under Keith Arnott and Roy Ascott, with visiting tutors such as Martin Parr and Brian Eno. When I left university I assisted Chris Nash and David Gamble to name but a few. Went off to New York to work and ended up welding for the comedians Penn and Teller along with assisting a photographer for Rolling Stone magazine. 

Coming back to London I realised I wanted to get back to my roots of being brought up in dressing rooms (as my parents made theatre costumes), I loved (and still do love it) Dance and Theatre, so set to working at the Royal Opera House amongst the many dance venues in London and supplied newspapers with the shots. Soon after, went to work at Country Life. They sent me on their ‘Out and About’ features, where I was sent to Goodwood Revival and then my photographic life changed. I got the petrol head bug and now photograph people and cars amongst my other commissions. 

I used to shoot with a Nikon FM2 and adored my 85mm f1.4 lens, then was gifted a Hasselblad camera, which allowed me to really find the form of the square photo that I love today, and still shoot with it for books and larger commercial jobs. When digital photography came in in 2008 I had moved from my Nikon FM2 to a Nikon D100 for editorial jobs and I utterly hated it. I thought that my chosen profession was almost doomed, until that was, I discovered a Leica M6 kit in a pawn shop window. Complete with two camera bodies and three lenses, one being a Noctilux 50mm /f1 I suddenly fell back in love. Everyone seemed to have been discarding their film cameras and I scooped this kit up, inside a Billingham Hadley Pro bag, I found a lab to process and scan my film and I got back into the editorial swing of things.

These cameras and lenses dictate how I photograph rather than what I photograph. Although I haven’t photographed any wars, weddings or small children, I probably would shoot anything that my camera lenses allow me to.

GF: Your book Harris Tweed; From Land to Street was the result of seven months on Harris and Lewis - tell us about that.

LP: My first publication was commissioned by The Art Workers Guild, to celebrate their 125th year. I visited 125 artists in their workshops across the United Kingdom and made a photo and wrote down what it is they do and how they are inspired to work on their pieces, rather than their biographies which can all be found on the internet these days, I was more interested and thought that people would be more interested in, how they work and why. I shot this on the square framed Hasselblad and it allowed me to really compose each photo and create a scene I was happy with.

The in-depth study of these artists and craftsmen sparked my interest in weaving, of which some of the Guild members are, which led me to the Harris Tweed publication. I was commissioned to create Harris Tweed, From Land to Street (Quarto Publishing) which looks at the 100th year of the Orb stamp and the industry of Harris Tweed, from the sheep and crofters to the wool sorting, washing and mill workers through to weaving, and finally the cloth produced for upholstery and tailoring. I lived up on Harris for 7 months whilst photographing and writing part of the book, which allowed me to shoot the book by each season, look at how the people on Harris and Lewis live and produce a book that was more than simply a tourist’s account of this historic industry. I lived in a croft and also camped quite a bit. 

Staying up in Harris and Lewis really changed my outlook on how I live as a city dweller and when I returned to London I almost immediately needed to leave again, (I soon put in place an escape route and began the idea of moving to the countryside). I started to understand the whole concept of sustainable existence amongst your surroundings, where as in London my life seemed to be on tap and very needy. Making the Harris Tweed book gave me so much more than just photos and words. There are some photos from this book on my website. Again, these are shot with the Hasselblad and I loved the pace of the camera on tripod with both portrait and landscape. The whole process of using a Polaroid is something that makes me fall in love with every click.

GF: You have just completed restoring an old Land Rover yourself. Tell us more.

From an early age I was always interested in making something from nothing (probably from being brought up with people who made costumes), and my ex boyfriends had Land Rovers. Knowing that I wanted one, I set to on finding one that was fairly decent and affordable. I bought Big Red from photos and went to see it in the dark in the rain and fell in love with her straight away. Little did I know about many of her individualities that needed changing. I started on repairing her chassis - well my wonderful historic car and Land Rover specialist, Adrian Wynn, started changing her chassis - and he suggested I actually give her the whole restoration treatment. 

So that is what I did. There is a whole article on my website about how I restored her. It took me almost 2 years, knowing I would never sell her, I was soon realising that she was costing me a huge amount of my working time…meanwhile, she is my adorable Big Red and I love her more and more each day. Off to find another one now to do the same only this time I will sell the new restoration and always keep Big Red. I have had many offers for her, but no way is she going anywhere.

GF: What dreams and plans do you have for the future?

LP: As you read earlier, I wanted to leave London and live in the countryside, but near to London still. So I moved to the Cotswolds which allows me to pop into London as well as having some space and natural landscapes around me. I was really only trying it out but seven years on, I am still here in the Cotswolds and have really put down roots with buying a plot of land. 

Over the next few years I shall be building my house which will have a garage and darkroom so I will be able to continue my passions of photography and car restoration. I am currently researching different ways to make the house as passive as possible and create a carbon footprint that does not affect the world too much. I am by a mill race so would like to utilise the water in an efficient way. 

My interests as a photographer and journalist, from dance, theatre and art, to automotive may now be moving to architecture, engineering and sustainability… I think being a photographer and journalist allow me to investigate a whole variety of crafts and trades, of world issues and situations, that perhaps I would never have known if I had chosen another trade. In fact, I have no clue as to what trade I would have chosen other than the one I am in.

GF: Anything else you'd like to mention?

Well, I suppose, I would like to say, that now that I am nearing 50 years of age, the photographs that I took in my twenties, might be less technical or well printed (remember we all printed stuff back then) but the subject matter is becoming more and more relevant, so I think I could start to look back at the archives and create a retrospective of sort. I photographed a team of In-Line skaters from Texas to New York, I photographed well established actors and dancers, cityscapes that no longer exist, architectural artistic masterpieces, so perhaps the work from my past might pay for the work in my future? Which in one respect is quite a positive thought.

With many thanks to Lara Platman.

Twitter: @photofeature
Instagram: @photo.feature
All images: Photofeature/ Lara Platman

Read more about her Land Rover on her website.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Edward Sambrook: Menswear Tailoring and Accessories

My favourite aspect of Instagram is meeting people with fascinating lives and careers. One such is Edward (Bertie) Sambrook, a dapper gentleman in his late fifties with a background in tailoring who has recently opened his own Sambrook store in Barnstaple (links below).

Bertie Sambrook in his store with some of his hand-made ties

After a career in the British and Kenyan armies he underwent a tailoring course and worked as a tailor until 2015 when he decided to open his shop. Sambrook told me more:
"Mother taught all of her 5 children to sew and I made some of my own clothes from about eight years old. Whilst serving I continued to design and make "fashion" clothes; mostly for small retailers on a sale or return basis.

On returning to UK from Kenya in 1986 I did a 12 week basic tailoring course in Hackney with a small tailoring business. At the end of the course the owner offered me a job. For the next two years I worked seven day weeks and fourteen hour days for almost no money! The last three hours of every day was tuition from David (the owner & master tailor). I became self employed and got my first commission as a tailor in 1990. I then worked as a tailor in several countries (itchy feet) until I decided to retire in 2015.

My lifelong passion for clothes and the pursuit of global style have given me a good living over the years but retirement didn't suit me so I started "House of Sambrook" a small company that provides style advice, handmade accessories and neckwear. All of my products are made in the UK by artisan craftspeople.

So far (like my tailoring business) all of my customers are referred to me by existing clients but I have now opened the first "Sambrook Essentials" shop in Barnstaple. There will be a corresponding website and mail order of course.

I have a two tier label system: Red label products are made for me by selected craftspeople. Black label products are made exclusively by me.
I firmly believe that fashion is an imposition and style is the response. Most of the advice I give to my clients is based on finding expression through colour, shape, texture and patterns whilst choosing clothing that suits their lifestyle and makes them feel good".
Sambrook now offers a full bespoke service using Fox Brothers fabrics and a bespoke shirt service through a third party shirt maker. Contact through House of Sambrook. Telephone  +44 (0)1271 373446.

You can also follow Bertie Sambrook on Instagram

Monday, 30 April 2018

Community Clothing Co Relaunches Online Store

The sterling efforts of Community Clothing Co to make affordable British-made clothing and to help the revival of British manufacture have had a boost with the launch of their new website. Previously they used eBay as their online store; the clothes can also be bought at Selfridges. 

Community Clothing Co's aims to iron out the peaks and troughs of factory production to make clothing manufacture more viable. The reality is that factories can be rushed off their feet one moment and the next struggling for orders. By making their own range of clothes they allow quiet times to be filled productively.

Lucy Clayton, CEO, says that, "The launch of the new site and webshop marks an important moment for us. We'll be showcasing the people and the places behind the product; really bringing to life the stories behind Community Clothing. We're selling direct to our customers, who know that every purchase helps support our mission to sustain and create skilled UK manufacturing jobs."

While their advertising uses young models only, don't let this put you off. The Community Clothing Co offers a concise but essential range of classic, quality, staple everyday garments for women and men of all ages.  I own a superb pea coat, British-made from Hainsworth cloth, which was a steal at £185.

The range includes jeans (£65), a classic Harrington jacket (£109), cotton twill raincoats (£129), T Shirts (£19), a range of knitwear (from £59), Shirts (£44.95), Chinos (£49), Bretons (£35) and socks (£3.50 and £2.50). Spring 2018 will see the release of new products including Shirt Dresses and Field Jackets. See Community Clothing Co.

This is an unsponsored post. 
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