Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Drake's - a silk tie is made in London

My hunt for style had uncovered many manufacturers making menswear in Britain, but I'm always excited to discover those making in my home-town, London. Drake's is a menswear business I've been aware of for a while. I have one of their superb Fair Isle sweaters and have often visited their website to drool over scarves, knitwear, ties and pocket squares of an exquisite beauty and design.

Ties and colour at Drake's Haberdasher Street factory in London

I was invited to visit their London atelier in the appropriately-named Haberdasher Street in Clerkenwell, East London, a few weeks ago. There I was offered a bespoke tie and watched as skilled crafts people made a silk tie from a beautiful Macclesfield-made ancient madder. I followed the tie around the workshop, from cutter to machinist to pressing and final checking, chatting to the workers. As with all factories I visit, the pride in their skills and the final product is palpable. 

The cutter starts on my tie

The products Drake's make are the result not only of these workers' skills, but of fabrics of outstanding quality and of design skills that take their menswear to a level that all UK manufacturers should aim for. Essentially classic, their menswear is contemporary in style, making it ideal for the older man looking for something special.

I'll be writing about Drake's AW14 collection in a future post. You too can have a bespoke tie made, or select from the off the peg range. See Drake's website for more information or to buy online.

The machinist starts on the tie and then moves to other workers further assembly and stitching

Checking symmetry and angles

The labels are stitched on before final checking and packing

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Pampeano polo belts

Pampeano supplies polo equipment and has its roots in the Argentine, home of outstanding leather goods. Their polo belts are made from finest vegetable-tanned leather and hand-stitched with a variety of colourful designs - there are 16 to choose from - with 6 different lengths and two widths.

Getting nicely worn-in on a pair of my more battered raw denim jeans

The belts look good on a pair of denims, shorts or chinos, or even on your polo whites if you're playing a few chukkas. Like all good leather products (and, indeed, like Grey Fox readers everywhere), they improve in appearance with age. To purchase, or find out more, see the Pampeano website.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Open - a new and affordable menswear label

A new menswear label, a child of JD Sports, will be with us from September. OPEN will offer reasonably-priced clothes aimed at the man who hasn't yet reached the venerable status of a grey fox, but with enough classic staples to make it worth a visit by the older man in search of style. 

After forty years of age, the middle-aged man becomes used to digging a little deeper for suitable menswear. Open has much to offer that's of interest, with casuals including a tweed jacket, tartan shirts and traditional-style knitwear.

Typical prices - a t-shirt at £10, blazer £50, parka £40 and jeans £35 and knitwear £25 - suggest throwaway style; but I had an impression of reasonable quality when I saw the range recently. Time and use will test durability. I worry about ethics and sustainability when brands sell so cheaply, but recognise that many of us don't have the budget to buy expensive, higher quality clothes. If you are in that bracket, you'll find some very attractive casual clothes at Open. See the Open website here.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Style for the older man: the unstructured jacket & the rise of smart comfortable wear

The rise of British manufacture has revived skills which are bringing shapes and styles to menswear which have roots in a long heritage. Tailoring has long British traditions in producing formal suits, jackets, blazers. These are all structured garments with lining, internal canvas pieces and a construction that makes them formal and shaped in appearance.

Older man style: an unstructured jacket allows me to wear a suit, but feel comfortable, as if in jumper and jeans

But another style of jacket has been revived in the last few years. It's unstructured, unlined or semi-lined, and comfortable, with soft shoulders, patch pockets and even (as mine above) shirt-style cuffs. It's generally cheaper than a tailored jacket because it has its roots in the working coats that used to be turned out for engine drivers, bus conductors, mechanics, road repair and factory workers.

Workers needed to wear a garment that was cheap to produce and allowed freedom of movement while looking reasonably smart (this was a time when men, however humble, still took pride in their appearance). These characteristics are exactly what younger, middle-aged or older men are now looking for in their search for smart but comfortable casual wear.

The rise in popularity of this style coincides with the deformalisation (if that's a word) of menswear. Men now wear suits for both semi-formal and casual wear, encouraged by the comfort that an unstructured jacket brings. I find I now throw on my Oliver Spencer linen/cotton mix suit (pictured above), with its unlined jacket, as readily as I might a cotton jumper and pair of chinos - and I feel just as relaxed. 

Such styles are available from many menswear labels that design and/or manufacture in the UK including -

Old Town
Private White V.C.
S.E.H. Kelly 
Universal Works
Oliver Spencer and others.

Try them and you'll find a coat jacket that's immediately comfortable. The tailoring won't be as sharp or the fit as snappy as a structured and lined tailored jacket - but that's the strength of a garment that is fuelling the rise in comfortable, smart casual menswear.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Where are the stylish older men? Internet dating - the woman's viewpoint Part 1

Internet dating is now big. But, despite its growth, I've been hearing a lot from woman friends of their disappointment at the poor efforts made by older men when dating. As a representative of the man over forty, I decided to find out more. What is the woman's experience? Where are men going wrong? What advice can be given to the older man looking to date successfully?

It's important that a man, younger or older, makes an effort with appearance when dating (Image Ste Johnson)

This e-mail is typical of the comments I've had from women of forty or more -
At the ripe old age of 44 - and with three small children -  I recently decided to dip my toe into the murky waters of internet dating. 

I was anxious and excited at the same time but there seemed to be a rather depressing recurring theme online. Most of the men I fancied were a good ten years younger than me. They were the ones who stood out from the crowd - presenting themselves with a decent haircut, a smart shirt or cool t-shirt,  some kind of "style" that said they still cared about their appearance. I wasn't specifically looking for someone who worked in fashion, or who was even particularly fashionable, but the men in my age bracket seemed to be stuck in some kind of sartorial rut. 

So I chatted to my other single forty-something friends about it and it seemed to be a common problem. Where are all the stylish single 40-something men? How difficult can it be to purchase a decent pair of straight-leg jeans, a grey or navy t-shirt or sweatshirt and a smart pair of trainers? This is not cutting edge fashion - it's just a smart, simple, casual and classic look that is easy to achieve whether it's from Top Man or Liberty. 

Do men reach a certain age and give up on looking after themselves? I would have thought most single men would be trying to make the most their looks especially as let's face it, with internet dating, you have one chance to make a good first impression and whether you agree with it or not, it's going to be based on your profile photos first and foremost. 
I discussed these matters with Grey Fox contributor, Sarah Gilfillan and she agreed to carry out a survey of women over 40 (contacted through Twitter, Facebook or social contacts) who've tried internet dating. We wanted to see what view they took of the men they met - were they trying hard enough? What could they do better? Is there any advice we can give here on Grey Fox?

'With internet dating you have one chance to make a good impression'

We'll give you the results of the survey, and some advice, later this week. Meanwhile, please let us have your thoughts and experiences, either by commenting below or by e-mailing greyfoxblogATgmailDOTcom.

NOTE: I'd like to thank Ste Johnson for his permission to use the images in this Internet Dating series. To see more of his wonderful work visit his website here.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Hackett - genuine horn-rimmed specs reviving the retro style

Horn-rimmed glasses, made originally either from horn or tortoiseshell, became popular in the early twentieth century. They're now usually reproduced in plastic, but Hackett have designed these genuine buffalo and rams' horn spectacles frames for release in January 2015. I couldn't resist them and am grateful to Hackett for allowing us a preview.

Carefully crafted from real horn, each piece is chosen to ensure a good balance of colour and grain within the natural material. Riveted hinges are used, mitred joints meet seamlessly with fronts and temples are sculpted to allow natural give and comfort. There are four styles in six colours, from light tan and browns to deep rich blacks and greys.

Close inspection shows those interesting little variations that you get from the hand-crafting of natural materials - and no two are the same - these are clearly not plastic reproductions. For more information, contact Hackett.

I wear vintage-style tortoiseshell-effect specs myself and reckon that the retro feel suits both the younger and older man, looking good either with sunglasses or optical prescription lenses. What do you think? What styles of glasses so you prefer?

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Vulnerable men get suited & booted with suit swap campaign at House of Fraser

Men in the UK are being asked to surrender their old suits for a good cause. Whether they are a little tighter than they used to be or it’s just time for an upgrade, they can donate their unwanted threads at House of Fraser stores as part of the Suited & Booted campaign. The donated suits will go to vulnerable men, kitting them out in style for job interviews, while customers will receive a £100 voucher to spend in store. 

Upgrade that old suit (image Grey Fox)

Launched in 2012, Suited & Booted is a London-based charity that works with vulnerable, unemployed and low-income men to provide suitable clothing, advice and mentoring for interviews. Men are referred to Suited & Booted by other charitable projects and organisations including, Job Centre Plus, NHS, Careers Development Group, Social Services. Suited & Booted help over 1,000 disadvantaged men each year with clothing, advice and mentoring for interviews. Please visit: www.suitedbootedcentre.org.uk

The Suited & Booted campaign at House of Fraser runs from 18th August to 13th September at all 58 formal wear stores, including outlets. The £100 voucher is redeemable on all full price suits and must be used in store (not redeemable online). See House of Fraser for your nearest store.