Wednesday, 29 July 2015

How to buy a suit that fits: featuring a Marks & Spencer suit

We buy suits to show ourselves off to our best advantage in our work, social or casual lives. Unless the suit we buy fits, we have wasted our money. Unfortunately many are bought without consideration of proper fit, so, in collaboration with Marks & Spencer, I've put together a guide to buying a well-fitting suit.

A suit that fits well looks and feels good - suit Autograph at M&S £199

To achieve the perfect fit you will need to buy a bespoke or made to measure suit. However, by following these guidelines you can buy a well-fitting off-the-peg product. 

The one I wear here costs £199 from Marks & Spencer's Autograph range. Made from soft and beautifully textured pure wool cloth, it's a bit of a bargain. I wouldn't claim the fit to be perfect, it's marginally large across the shoulders and the sleeves are a touch long and full, but the suit is off the peg unaltered and could be mistaken for a more expensive product. 

Buying the well fitting suit:

1. Know your chest, waist and leg length. The advantage of buying in store is that there will (generally) be staff who can advise and measure you. Select your suit on the basis of these measurements. When trying on the suit, stand in a relaxed and natural way.

2. Try on the jacket. It should fit comfortably and snugly across the shoulders; check the arm and body lengths (see below). The shoulder seam should be at the point where your shoulder drops to the upper arm, if the seam hangs beyond the shoulder tip, the shoulders are too large and the jacket will look out of proportion, even appearing to swamp the wearer.

Button the jacket using the middle button of three, or top button of two; never use the bottom button. It should button easily, without being too tight, or so loose that the front flaps around.

The jacket should fit snugly across shoulders and chest, the top of the sleeve at the fall of the shoulder

This jacket length is traditional, but is more elegant than the cropped modern style.
It's nicely waisted in shape. The arm length here is acceptable, if very slightly long (see below)

Ideally sleeve length allows a small amount of shirt cuff to show

3. Try on the trousers which should fit neatly around waist and backside. Too tight is unsightly and uncomfortable, too loose and there is an excess of cloth flapping around. For a traditionally cut suit, the trousers would break (fold slightly) above the shoe. A more modern, slimmer cut, trouser would have minimal break, reaching the very top of the shoe and no further.  The trousers I wear here take a middle course, cut slightly shorter than traditional, but without being as short as an extremely modern style.  

A good leg length. Too long and the whole suit will look ill-fitting

4. You will be very lucky if an off-the-peg suit fits you perfectly. If the suit supplier cannot alter it for you, most high streets have alterations tailors who will adjust leg and sleeve length and waist sizes. Other alterations can be done, to chest, shoulders etc, but are generally more major, expensive and less worthwhile. It's best to try another suit if too many significant alterations are needed. 

5. Wearing the suit. Stay relaxed. Imagine you're wearing jeans and jumper. If you think 'formal' you will look stiff and unnatural. The more you wear a suit, the more you will relax into it and you will look better as a result.

If you're not confident selecting ties and shirts, use a plain white or pale blue shirt, a knitted silk or polka dot tie in a contrasting colour and a pocket square that complements the tie, without matching it. As you get more adventurous, try other combinations. In general the best look will always involve minimal pattern and colour. 

To browse the Marks & Spencer range of suits click here. The ties, shirts, shoes and pocket squares shown are also from M&S.

Relax in your suit, going tieless is fine for smart casual

This feature was prepared in collaboration with Marks & Spencer.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Life in Squares: Bloomsbury Group menswear style inspiration

The new BBC series Life in Squares, starting Monday 27th July, takes another look at the already microscopically examined lives of the Bloomsbury Set including Duncan Grant, Leonard and Virginia Woolf, Clive and Vanessa Bell, Maynard Keynes and others. With it artistic characters, gay and straight sex and bucolic Sussex landscapes, this is a topic bound to grip its audience. 

The cast of Life in Squares, BBC. Their clothes have a modern workwear feel to them.

I was struck by the mens's costumes. With a crumpled,  comfortable workwear/corduroy/vintage feel, such clothes have strongly influenced current menswear styles. Relaxed tweed suits, cotton twill, waistcoats, stout boots, luxuriant beards, occasional nudity and hats sums up the style.

So, you want to recreate Bloomsbury style? Here are a few ideas:

For suppliers see below

Suppliers from top left clockwise:

SEH Kelly strip herringbone linen jacket
Albam Montmartre blazer
Private White VC cord workwear jacket
Joseph Cheaney & Co Barnes II walnut and burgundy elastic boots
Universal Works suit pant, navy Lancashire twill
Triplstitched sky candy stripe buttondown shirt
James Norton as Duncan Grant in the BBC series Life in Squares
Cravat Club Axel cravat

Also try:

Thomas Farthing (for tweeds)
Sir Plus Clothing (waistcoats)
Drake's for silk Paisley ties and classic knitwear
Pantherella (for British-made socks)

And of course you can scour your local charity/thrift and vintage clothing shops for that genuine early twentieth century style.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Albam leather belts: made in London

I was sent a leather belt recently by Albam, a British brand I've been meaning to cover for some time and hope to look at  in more detail in future. The belts are hand-crafted in London using traditional leather working techniques. Made from vegetable tanned cowhide, they come in various colours which will mature with age, as the best leathers do. 

Mine is beautifully made and will no doubt last for decades, improving in looks as it ages. The belts come in a variety of sizes and are limited in availability. £99 from Albam.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Shorts suits: are you man enough? Suits from Universal Works

I try to be adventurous on the blog, often pushing my comfort envelope in my search for style. Shorts suits tend not to get a good press, so I thought I'd rise to this challenge to see what the fuss is about. After some preliminary nerves (a sixty-year old in shorts) we had good time photographing this feature, appropriate for clothes associated with summer sun and fun. I'm grateful to Universal Works, who supplied the suits, Sarah Gilfillan of Sartoria Lab, who styled it, and Nick Maroudias, who not only did the photography, but was persuaded to model as well (links below).

Universal Works blue woven Ikat jacket and shorts & khaki twill jacket and shorts

Comfortable, stylish (possibly), fun (certainly) and ideal for travel and work in the sun, I have to admit to being a convert. See Universal Works for their jacket and matching shorts combinations. For other suppliers, see below. 

With many thanks to:
Nick Maroudias, photographer
Sarah Gilifillan, of Sartoria Lab, personal stylist

Grey Fox's accessories:
Sunglasses - Oliver Peoples
Shoes - Clarks
Seersucker shirt - Portuguese Flannel
Socks - Pantherella

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Sam Brown leather goods handmade in England

I met Antony Todd of Sam Brown Leather recently and was impressed by the range and quality of his leather goods and belts, many with bespoke silver buckles. 

Anthony told me more about his bespoke leather service. "I am hugely motivated by domestic product and anything that smacks tradition and quality presses all my buttons so, whatever I was going to use was going to come form the UK. The resulting thorough search threw up a tannery in the Midlands who had been producing highest quality vegetable drum dyed hides since the 1800's. Samples were sent and I was blown away by the quality". 

"At this stage, which was maybe 18 months ago, it dawned on me that we could be missing a trick and that by sand casting classic alloys for the buckles and using contemporary finishes on the leather, I could create something that would hit the market at a great price. So I made a wax and cast brass, copper and pewter in both a vintage and a slightly polished finish, sewed them with Londonderry Irish Linen thread to hand cut straps and have not really looked back. When I say hand cut I mean hand cut by me using only traditional tools and materials, no machines involved whatsoever!"

"The authentic nature of my work has been well accepted and I now have two other skilled leather workers who help me. I still take commissions for sterling silver buckles which start at about £165.00 for a classic suit belt but, the business is now dominated by the alloy buckles and in particular the edge dye belts which start at £59.00. The website is a great tool not only showcasing our product, which has now expanded to include small leather goods but also enabling my clients to create their own combinations and once again, I seem to be taking more bespoke orders than anything else".

For more information, see Sam Brown Leather.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Kirk Originals sunglasses and opticals

Kirk Originals design their eyewear in the UK and it's made in the Jura region of France using fine Italian acetates. Relaunched last year, Kirk Originals was seen on the likes of Oasis, Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkins in the early nineties. Much of the collection has a retro feel and, under new ownership, it's rediscovering its original purpose in interpreting vintage styles for modern wear.

Image Grey Fox

I wear the Genoa sunglasses above, with a smoky grey frame and charcoal lenses, £255. Optical frames are also available (as below), all in a wide range of shapes and colours.

Image Kirk Originals

The acetate frames are priced around £250 and metal styles around £290. See Kirk Originals

Monday, 13 July 2015

Vilebrequin: stylish swimwear for the holidays

For your holiday swimwear you need shorts with impact. The bright prints of Vilebrequin are bright, full of visual puns and humour and fun to wear. Vilebrequin was founded in the seventies in St Tropez and has become associated with the colourful and glamourous side of travel - the silver beaches and azure waters that represent relaxation after months of hard work and the horrors of air travel.

Here are some of my favourite designs:

For information on the full Vilebrequin range click here.