Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Happy in Hats: Caps, Trilbies, Homburgs, Fedoras, Panamas

I've only recently begun to wear a hat regularly. By a hat I mean a trilby, panama or cap. I'd previously worn woolly hats in cold weather, but nothing more stylish. Given that my search for style is nearly six years old, this seems a delayed discovery and I thought I'd share with you some of the hats I've tried, most of which are made here in the UK. Links are at the end of the feature.


I used to shy away from caps, seeing them as old man's wear. Now, of course, I am an old man so it doesn't matter any more and, in any event (sadly), most older men seem to have turned to the less-stylish baseball cap. The cap I wear here is a parkin corduroy cap from Kempadoo Millar, made in Yorkshire. Try a linen cap for warmer conditions and a tweed for chiller days.

Kempadoo Millar's Parkin corduroy cap, made in Yorkshire

Fedoras homburgs and trilbys

The fedora and trilby are similar, with pinched crowns, but the trilby has a narrower brim. The homburg as a stiffer, upturned brim. In general, the broader you are, the wider brim you should choose so that the hat stays in proportion to what's underneath it (you). Here I wear a selection of hats from Tom Smarte, Laird Hatters and Christys'. The latter manufacture for themselves and others in Oxfordshire and have been making hats since 1773 through eight generations. 

Tom Smarte Hats are now sourcing more of their hats in the UK

Laird Hatters support British manufacture

Christys' Hatters have a factory in Oxfordshire

I'd intended to include a hat from Lock & Co but they wouldn't lend one. This was disappointing, as they were happy to be involved in my collaboration with Investec on this link where, in the top video, you can see me wearing a selection of their hats, including the lovely brown fedora which I'd hoped to show you more closely here. Don't let this stop you exploring the oldest hat shop in the country where the sales staff are delightful and very helpful (link below).


The best are made in South America and this one is from Pachacuti, a brand worth supporting, for reasons I give below. The Hampton hat I wear here is made in Ecuador and the bespoke jacquard silk band is made in Devon.

Pachacuti Hats are sustainably and ethically made in Ecuador

Here's how they describe themselves of their website:
"Pachacuti was founded in 1992 by Carry Somers [ed. who was inspired to act after the Rana Plaza factory disaster], with a clear vision to preserve traditional artisanal skills in the Andes through combining high quality, environmentally-friendly materials with Fair Trade working practices. Our mission is to source ethically and locally throughout the supply chain to the benefit of communities and the preservation of traditional craftsmanship.
We work to empower rural women in Ecuador who are socially, economically and geographically marginalised, yet our products are sold in some of the foremost luxury stores around the world. It is our aim to provide an example within the fashion industry that a brand can create beautiful collections whilst still adhering to the highest social and environmental standards".
Conclusion and Links

If you don't wear a hat, why not give one a go? Try several and ask advice from the hatter on the best style for your build and face shape. There's a hat to wear in all weather conditions and I've enjoyed exploring headwear for this feature.

Tom Smarte (all types)
Lairds Hatters (all types)
Christys (all types)
Pachacuti (panamas)
Lock & Co (all types)

Other hatters to try (although I have no experience of them) are Bates Hatters and Patey hats (mainly equestrian and formal). Marks & Spencer sell a good selection of panama hats and (a little birdie tells me) they will be stocking British-made hats soon.

If you have a favourite hatter,  or are a hatter that I've missed out, please add a comment below.

Note: The images of Laird Hatters hats were taken during a photoshoot for The Chap magazine and are used with permission. Please note that this feature is unsponsored. Several of the brands provided hats for me to wear. All views expressed are mine alone. 

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Henley Royal Regatta with Bremont Watches

I had a wonderful day at Henley Royal Regatta as a guest of Bremont Watches who are now an official timing partner to the event, among the first official partners that Henley has ever had (Hackett Menswear being another). For Bremont this is a logical step, as they have offices and manufacturing facilities in Henley and they also know how to time things like rowing races take.

We saw some of Bremont's collection in their stand. Their watches seem to have become cleaner in design recently, which I approve of. They had made special a edition wristwatch and stop watch to mark their involvement with the event. The wristwatch pictured below is typical of this more elegant approach. There's not really space to go into this here, but maybe I'll have a chance to look at Bremont's watches at a future point - meanwhile see the Bremont website.

Although their watches are not yet fully made in the UK, we were told by co-founder Nick English that some parts are made in Henley and that the aim is to have a British-made movement in due course. It's many years since watches were made in volume in the UK (Smiths watches were the last - see my feature here). I hope to bring you more news of this, but don't hold your collective breaths; these things take years to develop. Bremont is committed to UK manufacture with apprentice programmes and manufacturing being developed in Henley - an exciting story.

Anyway, back to the rowing. Err... well I didn't see much. I rowed at school so enjoy the sport. Sadly my school, Shrewsbury, had been knocked out of their competition the previous day by a minor school called Eton College, so I wasn't able to see the old school rowing, but at least I was able to dust off the old school tie to add to my outfit. Henley is one of the best places of the English summer season to see traditional British menswear style - that shabby yet highly stylish approach to dressing that works so well that the Italians call sprezzatura. The rowing blazers take the prize of course and I was sorry I didn't have a blazer from my rowing days to show off.

All in all, a wonderful day with the usual interesting mix of bloggers, journalists and lovely PR people to chat to. Many thanks Bremont.

Friday, 14 July 2017

The Investec Derby: Sporting Style in the Sun

My appointment as one of Investec's Style and Fashion Consultants came to glorious culmination when I went to Epsom with my wife as Investec's guests to see the 238th running of this magnificent race. I'd had great fun working with Investec for the last few months during which time I'd selected three British menswear brands to work with (an interesting experience in itself and which taught me much) and made two videos to offer sartorial advice to men attending the Investec Derby. These appear on the Investec Derby website and can be seen here.

If you haven't been to the Investec Derby you should make a point of going next year. As a venue for a sporting and social spectacle you can't beat the Epsom Downs. The gently rolling chalk hill overlooks the whole of London to the north east and the gentle wooded Surrey hills to the south and west. When the sun shines (as it did) the scene comes alive. The bright green ribbon of the track is almost swamped by the tens of thousands who come to enjoy the racing, food, fair and the entertainment. Her Majesty The Queen, resplendent in a yellow outfit, is surrounded by all manner of her subjects, from travellers selling sprigs of lucky heather, to lords in shiny silk tops hats and tails. Young women totter around on high heels and impossible hats, young men look uncomfortable in their tight suits and ties.

And this year the Derby itself was won by 40 to 1 outsider, Wings of Eagles, who lived up to his name, swooping home to the screams of an excited crowd. The investec Derby is an unforgettable day out for anyone. 

I was a guest of Investec. 

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Acassi: Tweed & Leather Bags Made in England

Acassi (link below) is a British brand making bags for men. Launched in 2016 by founder Julie Paisley, it uses British made and sourced materials, including Harris tweed, high quality leathers and solid brass hardware. 

Julie abandoned her career as a photographic stylist after a holiday to Harris in The Outer Hebrides opened her eyes to the beauty and craftsmanship of Harris tweed and she decided to make bags incorporating this colourful and iconic cloth. Determined to develop a brand of her own, rather than other people's, she worked on blending colours of tweed with high quality leathers. She visualised her brand being British made, using the best quality leathers in amazing colours. She designed her first bag and Acassi was born.

Julie was determined to manufacture in the UK and she told me:
"It is important to me that the manufacturing of my products remains in the UK, keeping alive traditional skills, supporting British manufacturing and very importantly to me being able to control the ethical side of my brand. To help preserve the traditional heritage of UK Industries, to avoid the ‘Fast Fashion’ of today and to ensure the makers of my products have safe working conditions".
The bags are beautifully made; the leather soft and the Harris tweed full of colour on the Marton Messenger which I've been road testing. Inside is roomy, with plenty of nooks and crannies for your belongings. Priced from £465, these are high quality pieces of British leather work.

To see more information and to buy Julie's bags, visit her website here.

This feature is unsponsored. I was sent a bag for review. All views are my own.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Mintel Menswear Report 2017 - Older Men and Clothes Shopping

The Mintel Menswear Report 2017 was published recently and it covered some of the issues I write about here and elsewhere. The fashion industry tends to ignore the older man as a market, despite the size and affluence of the demographic. The report contains some interesting insights.

The report suggests that some older men aren't interested in buying clothes and I wonder if this is why brands don't think of them as a possible market. Why try to sell to a disinterested demographic? I think the situation is more complex. It's chicken and egg: I'm convinced that many older men show no interest in clothes shopping because the industry ignores them. If all a man sees is menswear adverts showing models in their twenties, they're going to assume that there's nothing there for them. The report shows that many older men say that advertising should reflect the age of the consumer.

Robert DeNiro in Zegna advertising

I know of no other market in which sales people don't attempt to sell to a fully accessible group simply because they think it won't buy from them. Some simple sales techniques could change all that. Businesses should show an interest in the older man; using older models would be a start. They don't need to worry that they'll have to start selling elastic-waisted trousers and Velcro-closure shoes to older men. If my postbag is anything to go by, there are many older men out there keen to show that style is not the preserve of the young. A little encouragement will go a long way.

There were a couple of surprises for me in the report. The high incidence of obesity (see below) among older men surprises me, but sadly it's a trend in all ages. The fact that 18% of men 55+ haven't bought clothes for themselves in the last 12 months is perhaps unsurprising given the point I've just made. I've little doubt that ageism lies behind the menswear industry's myopia, let's hope that changes soon.

I was pleased to see some mention of brands who've used older models (below).

Mark Hammill Rag & Bone Fall '17

Mintel have kindly sent me some relevant excerpts from their report and I quote what they sent me here in full:

"How can the sector encourage purchasing among older males?

The facts:

Older men aged 65+ stand out as being in the best financial situation, with 60% describing their finances as healthy.

The ONS [Office for National Statistics] predicts a 10.6% growth in the number of men aged 55 and above between 2016 and 2021.

Older men are more likely to need plus-sized clothing, with 79% of males aged 45-54 classified as overweight or obese.

The implications:

Older men aged 55+ remain the least keen clothes shoppers, with 18% not having bought clothes for themselves in the last 12 months. As the male population ages, retailers need to focus on encouraging older men to take a greater interest in their appearance and what they wear.

Men aged 55+ are most likely to shop at M&S, Primark and Asda. Older men shop around a lot less than younger men do and tend to be more brand loyal, shopping at one or two retailers in-store and one retailer online.

Older men see consistent sizes as the area they would most like improved at the retailers they shop at, with 39% of over-55s agreeing with this. Men who shop for clothes at M&S or Sainsbury’s are most interested in these retailers selling more consistent sizes across different brands and better fitting garments. 

Over three fifths (63%) of male shoppers agree that models in retailers’ ad campaigns should reflect the age of their customers, rising to almost seven in ten (68%) of Baby Boomers aged 52-70.

As Mintel’s Serving the Underserved identifies, consumers who have been underrepresented in the past are getting a greater voice. Several brands and retailers have been responding to this trend by using a more diverse range of models of different ages, sizes and ethnicities. Among those using older models in their menswear campaigns are Rag & Bone’s Fall 2017 imagery which starred 65-year-old Mark Hamill who is known for his role as Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars films. Actor Robert De Niro is the face of designer menswear brand, Ermenegildo Zegna’s spring 2017 campaign, and Calvin Klein’s new underwear campaign which launched in March 2017 features the 43-year-old star of the Oscar-winning Moonlight film.

Further statistics:

27% of men aged 45+ said they would like to see higher quality clothes (stitching, fabric quality) in stores 

24% of men aged 45+ said they would like to see seasonal clothing that can be worn whatever the weather in stores 

17% of 45+ said they would like to see better fitting clothes in stores (eg that flatter your shape) 

15% of men aged 45-54 agree that social media sites are a good way of getting inspiration on which clothes to buy, as do 10% of those aged 55+ 

63% of male clothes-shoppers say that models in retailers’ advertising campaigns should reflect the age of their customers, rising to 72% of those aged 65+".

With many thanks to Mintel for these data.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Hemingsworth: Made in Britain for the Stylish Traveller

Hemingsworth is a British-made brand that started late last year with a collection of beautifully made swimming shorts and which now has plans to extend the range to provide all that the stylish gentleman needs to travel the world. Jackets followed the shorts, with new colourways appearing next year, which I hope to preview soon (as ever, keep an eye on my Instagram).

The swimming shorts have done well, lauded by the menswear press and seen on many well-known gents like Richard Branson and Daniel Craig. The reason must lie in the sheer quality of the product. All are made in London and feature a 29-piece pattern with 17 hand finished stages. Details like adjustable waistband buckles keep the fit perfect before and after that large lunch. These are no ordinary swimming shorts. 

I look forward to seeing how the range develops, with trousers due in the future to match jackets and shorts, we will have the option of travel suits with either long or short bottom halves. All the products can be made to measure, and their quality of construction makes this a logical option if the standards sizes aren't for you. For more information and to buy, see Hemingsworth.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

IWC's Mk XVIII Homage to the Historic Mk XI Military Pilot's Watch

A favourite in my vintage watch collecting days was my IWC Mk XI, sadly sold a few years ago. Introduced in 1948, these were high quality pilot's watches, designed to be accurate enough to be used as navigational chronometers (in the days when aircraft were navigated by sextant), to be immune to the magnetic influences of an aeroplane and to have adequate water resistance. Minimalist in design, these were, in my view, among the most attractive military watches ever designed. Sadly, collectors agree and good examples can cost over £6000.

The 1948 IWC Mk XI (left) and its modern tribute Mk XVIII (right)

IWC have continued their heritage of producing pilot's watches (see more about them here) in the Mk XVIII and they've now added a limited edition homage to the Mk XI (or Mk 11) to this range. IWC kindly asked me to take part in a photoshoot launch of the new watch at Harrods, London, where the watch will be exclusively available for three months before going on wider release. 

While a true copy of the MK XI would be interesting, this is a tribute watch and not a pastiche. It's realistically been updated for the modern wearer. It's 40mm in diameter (the original was 36mm), has an automatic movement (the original was hand-wound) and a date (none on the Mk XI). The homage is an attractive, practical and high quality timepiece.

The new: the IWC Mk XVIII homage to the Mk XI (below)

An original 1948 IWC Mk XI pilot's watch

Watch aficionados call watches designed as practical timepieces 'tool watches' as they are made to be used for a specific purpose, rather than simply as a decorative object that happens to tell the time. The Mk XVIII homage is very much a tool watch, with (like its Mk XI predecessor) good magnetic and water resistance (it has a screw-down crown like a diver's watch). It's not rated formally as a chronometer, but the example I've been using keeps almost perfect time. 

The dial keeps the look of the original and even the luminous markers have that creamy colour of a vintage watch. The squared ended hour hand, pointed minute hand, matt black dial and triangle in place of the 12 are all true to the Mk XI. The watch comes on a quality grey/green NATO-style leather-backed textile strap. The durable design and minimalist black dial make this watch very adaptable and it could be worn with a suit for work or with shorts on the beach.

Other brands are delving into their archives as they recognise the popularity of vintage wristwatch designs. IWC were ahead of this trend and they make highly wearable and useful watches. I'll be very sad when I have to give my Mk XVIII back. 

Priced at £3790 in a limited edition of 1948 pieces, click here to see more about the Mk XVIII Tribute to the Mk XI Pilot's watch. Available exclusively at Harrods until end September 2017. 

My old Mk XI can be seen below - I wish I still had it!

Images Grey Fox Blog

This is a collaboration with IWC.
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