Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Auction of Dege & Skinner made safari suit for Valentino

On 30th November, Bonhams in New York will be auctioning a safari suit made by tailors Dege & Skinner of Savile Row for Rudolph Valentino, the Italian-born American actor and star of silent films, who became a sex symbol of the 1920s, before his untimely death in 1926, aged just 31. The suit will be auctioned in a movie memorabilia sale. 

Rudolph Valentino

Dege & Skinner tell me that they were asked to verify the suit as genuine. They were able to do this as they had sewed (as they still do) a label into the suit recording the customer's name and date of despatch to them. The label records that it was made in 1923, the coat was cut by Dege & Skinner's current chairman’s father, Tim Skinner in their workshop, then located on Conduit Street. The riding breeches would have been made by the celebrated A.J. Hosford.

Dege & Skinner are, of course, one of only a couple of family-owned tailors left in Savile Row. They are Royal Warrant holders and continue to dress Hollywood stars and leading actors with timeless style and supreme elegance. Readers may recall that they recently made me a suit from cloth which I designed with Johnstons of Elgin (click here for the story).

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Dating in mid-life by Rebecca Perkins

I've tackled the topic of dating on the blog before. We think of online dating as something younger men do, but the proliferation of dating services for older people suggests that it's popular with all ages. I want to introduce you to a dating service that provides a full package, dating profile, photographs and much-needed advice to those unsure how to proceed. Hey Saturday is run by Saskia Nelson, photographer. She works with Rebecca Perkins, a dating profile expert, author and lifestyle coach. They help men and women create effective profiles and photographs for online dating (links at the end of this feature).

Rebecca Perkins and Saskia Nelson of Hey Saturday

I invited Saskia and Rebecca to tell us about their service and they offered to photograph me as if I were a client seeking a partner. The feature is illustrated with some of these images to give you an idea of a profile image (not because I'm dating!). I really enjoyed working with Saskia and Rebecca and can only suggest that you try this excellent dating service. I asked Rebecca to give some general advice to those who are dating in middle age and after:

Success online dating for the midlife man by Rebecca Perkins

So, you've got to mid-life and it's possible that online dating wasn't part of your life plan. But you're here and you can either put on your elasticated waist trousers and sweatshirt and settle down for old age or you can embrace the change, have some fun as well as learn a bit about yourself. Grey Fox writes about his search for style as he got older and how it gave him an enhanced sense of self. The work I do with men and women is all about improving self esteem and reinventing midlife so when he invited me to write about dating in midlife I was delighted.
"Get some great photos for your dating profile. Nothing screams can't be bothered more than a blurry selfie taken in the bathroom".
Online dating can feel both terrifying and exciting. You’ve no doubt heard plenty of horror stories from both male and female friends. Have you heard about the great successes too? Here's what I've learned during my time online dating in midlife: 

Use it as a time to get to know yourself a bit better. Know what's important to you in life. Spend some time thinking about your values, the things that act as your guide in life - integrity, open-mindedness, honesty, family… believe me it makes online dating much easier when you know what you’re looking for.

Image of Grey Fox by Saskia Nelson of Hey Saturday

Get used to feeling uncomfortable. Online dating for the first time can feel very uncomfortable. We often hide behind a lot of old beliefs being fearful of showing any vulnerability. Remember that we're all in the same boat and the moment you can be open and honest the easier it becomes.

Use good quality photographs for your dating profile. Nothing screams can't be bothered more than a blurry selfie taken in the bathroom. No one will take you seriously if you've not made some effort to get some decent portraits. Hey Saturday is a niche dating photography business and we understand the need for the best photos.

"Style is so much more than what clothes you wear, it's about becoming comfortable in your own skin, wearing the clothes that make you feel great about yourself". 

Do what makes you confident. What do you love doing? Do more of it. Divorce and the fall out can really knock our confidence and self esteem and it’s easy to slip into a closed off world where we feel ‘safe’. Taking steps out of our comfort zone is really important. Remember the things you loved to do and start getting busy again. Running, wood carving, furniture restoration, cycling, mountain biking…. whatever gives you a buzz make time for it every week.

Write a stand-out dating profile. I've read too many cliché ridden profiles in my time, believe me! You will be noticed among all the other profiles out there if you've made the effort. 

Image of Grey Fox by Saskia Nelson of Hey Saturday

My credo for an effective profile is 'show don't tell'. We all know that you've got a good sense of humour and that you like walking the dog or curling up with a glass of Merlot with the latest Indie film on Netflix.... but you can do so much better than that. A dating profile is your press release, it's your chance to show potential matches you on your very best day. You want to be saying, ‘hell yeah, I’d date me’ about your profile! I love working with clients to help them create their very own irresistible dating profile.

Style is so much more than what clothes you wear, it's about becoming comfortable in your own skin, wearing the clothes that make you feel great about yourself. I know from personal experience that when I'm wearing clothes, shoes, jewellery that makes me happy and feel good about myself I know I'm going to perform better, I'm going to feel more successful in life. The same goes for what you think and say about yourself. Do you speak nicely about yourself or do you give yourself a hard time?

Image of Grey Fox by Saskia Nelson of Hey Saturday

Give yourself the best chance of success. Make the effort now even before you’ve registered online by doing the things I’ve suggested. I know how daunting it can feel but it’s so well worth putting in the effort now. Do you need to get in shape? Lose a little weight around the middle? Could you do with a shopping trip to sort out your wardrobe? Could you do with spending a couple of sessions with a coach to sort out your self talk? Do you need to book yourself a session with a photographer? This is all about highlighting you, the new midlife version of you. Isn’t it worth it?


Note by Grey Fox: This is an unsponsored feature. I invited Hey Saturday to write for the blog because I receive many comments from older women who are dating online that often men make little effort. This feature is not only for them, but for anyone contemplating dating: like anything in life,  you need to work at it.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Staying Fit after Forty

Once past forty keeping fit becomes even more important as the metabolism slows and muscle bulk reduces. I asked Bill Byrne, co-founder of sportswear brand, Iffley Road, to suggest how the older man, for whom time can be at a premium, can keep healthy.

Bill Byrne: Rio 2016 was remarkable not just for Team GB’s remarkable medal haul but for the age of some of the competitors. Nick Skelton’s equestrian gold at 58 makes him the UK’s oldest gold medallist since 1908. Evergreen Jo Pavey toed the line for the 10k, and her fifth Olympic games, just shy of 43. Indeed the average age of Olympians has risen by almost two years since Seoul in 1988.

While most of us don’t aspire to such sporting prowess there is no reason why we shouldn’t maintain great fitness levels as we age. Here are six key things to consider. 

Integrate exercise into your lifestyle

If your time is taken up by family and work, it’s easy to feel you don’t have time to exercise. We need to find creative ways to redress the balance. One of the best ways of fitting exercise into your day is to combine it with part of your commute. You don’t have to walk, run or cycle the whole way - you can always travel part of the way and complete the journey under your own steam. (Just make sure you organise your wardrobe so you don’t end up without socks or worse still underpants at work!) 

If this doesn’t work, consider getting up earlier or setting aside a lunch-break for a workout once or twice a week. It’s better than leaving it until the evening because exercise actually makes people more alert. Half the battle is just establishing the habit.

Strength and conditioning

As we grow older muscle mass starts diminishing, starting in our 30s and accelerating from around 50. A regular strength and conditioning regime is therefore important. You don’t need much in the way of equipment, just a few free weights. We’d recommend a few sessions with a personal trainer to learn how to do the exercises correctly.

A sensible diet

A gradual slowing of the metabolism from our mid 30s exacerbates the effect of poor diet. Sensible eating is all about common sense and establishing good habits, rather than an unsustainable “hair shirt” approach. Aim for a good balance of protein, fibre and carbs. Keep an eye on portion size. Err towards lighter choices if work involves a lot of entertaining. 

As a footnote, we were delighted see Men’s Health latest list of new super foods includes black pudding, Stichelton cheese and IPA. 

Gradual change

Regime change should be gradual. When increasing running mileage increase by no more than 10% per week. Similarly in the gym start with a session that is challenging but appropriate for your current fitness level and increase intensity and duration slowly over time.

Goal setting

The best way to stay motivated, and therefore adopt a sustainable fitness regime, is to set goals. Ideally every training session should have objectives – recording these in a training log or diary is a real help. 

It’s also always great to have an event on the horizon – something to train for. Possibly not Tokyo 2020, but why not the 2017 London Marathon? 

Bill Byrne is a co-founder of British running wear brand Iffley Road. He claims no medical expertise; his advice is based on over 30 years running. 

Iffley Road makes running gear that looks sharp and feels wonderful to wear but doesn’t compromise on technical performance. Available at 

[Note: Grey Fox received no compensation for this post. Its content and the views in it are those of Bill Byrne and Iffley Road].

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Grey Fox Blog on Instagram

I've been taking a much-needed short break from the blog, but have been working hard in the background and will be back very soon with features on outdoor clothing, dating and the usual posts on style for men of maturity and taste. 

Meanwhile, you can always follow me on Instagram, where I usually post several times a day. Over the last few months I've been delighted to have been named as an Instagram account to follow by the FT's How to Spend It, Shortlist and others. You will find me at GreyFoxBlog.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Autumn: essentials for a man's wardrobe in a season of transition

Autumn is the most beautiful season: warm colours in the foliage, weather that's not too hot or cold and the mellow mists trapping the fresh scents of nature. But the changing weather presents problems when it comes to deciding what to wear. Will it be mild or chilly, damp or dry? Tweed may be too hot, linen and cotton too cold. A lined jacket or mac too warm, while a thin cotton jacket may be too cold. 

Autumn means the uncertainty of changing weather (image Grey Fox)

One answer is carrying layers. And if you're a reader in the Southern Hemisphere about the enter Spring - the same applies. Here I select a range of clothes for layering at various price points.

An lightweight and extra fine merino jumper from Uniqlo

A visit to the town or country often requires a bag for the laptop and newspaper. Keep a corner free for stuffing in a light extra-fine jumper (above), thin gilet or wind- or water-proof top and put them on as the weather changes. 

Lightweight Dublin gilet from Lavenham fits under a jacket or blazer to provide a warm layer

A lightweight gilet (above) can fit under a sports or suit jacket, but can easily be taken off and squashed into a brief case when it gets too warm. An unlined mac (below) can be carried easily in case of emergency

Collared neck unpadded mac with Stormwear from Marks & Spencer

Another option is to take advantage of technical fabrics for everyday jackets. A Ventile blazer (below) works as a formal or casual jacket, but will keep off a rain shower as you dash home or between office meetings.

Ventile Combat Travel blazer from Private White VC

Of course, an umbrella is another way of carrying a protective layer (below).

Denim umbrella from London Undercover

Or a light silk scarf (below) will take off the chill as you wait at the station for the delayed train home.

Hidden Curiosities silk scarf from Cravat Club

Finally, a coat for more casual and country wear that has become a firm favourite for my walks with #blogdog Harry is this lightly-padded waxed Nowton jacket (below) with button closure from Lavenham. It's made in England and light enough for wear on those milder days when rain is threatened.

Nowton waxed and lightly-quilted jacket from Lavenham AW16

If you have any favourite items of menswear for the transitional seasons, please get in touch or comment below.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Campbell Cole Simple Collection: British made leather accessories

Campbell Cole's products are infused with a minimalist, high quality design ethic that always leaves me totally impressed. I've featured their British-made products here before. The products in the Simple Collection are made from Italian vegetable tanned leather and develop a patina of age, looking better and better as they're used. 

I've used one of their key wraps for a few years and it's never let me down - as well as looking good. The Simple A5 pouch, leather on one side and suede on the other, either slips inside a brief case or can be used to carry all those little objects (keys, wallet, passport, phone) that would otherwise ruin the carefully tailored lines of one's jacket or trousers.

I'm in awe of this young enterprise. They've never compromised on their pursuit of the highest quality and design. If these objects were embossed with other certain international high-luxury fashion names they would cost several times as much and wouldn't be as good quality (and probably be made in Asia). There are other pouches, wallets and holder in the Simple range. Go to Campbell Cole to find out more.

I was sent some of these objects for review. I've received no compensation for this feature and the views expressed are entirely my own.

Monday, 26 September 2016

The SuitsGreyFox Project 2: Designing the Cloth

In the first blog post on the SuitsGreyFox Project I explained how I'd been invited to design a cloth with Johnstons of Elgin. Famous for their cashmere, merino and lambswool cloths, their mill in Elgin takes raw fibre and dyes, spins and weaves it: all these operations are carried out in the same factory. I'll cover manufacture in the next part of this series; but how is a cloth designed?

Johnstons work with household name international fashion houses and play a large part in producing some iconic designs. Working with their design team I firstly had a look at Johnston of Elgin's wonderful archive, a room full of ancient and fragile leather-bound books containing samples of cloths woven in the mill since Victorian times.

In the Johnston of Elgin archive

Leafing through the books I looked for elements of design that I liked; colours, checks, texture, patterns. I had in mind a Prince of Wales check, and it was lucky I had this idea as a start - without it I would have been overcome by the huge variety of possibilities.

A check with a soft blue overcheck caught my eye

I was taken with a grey check and found a sample with a subtle, soft broad blue overcheck. It seemed to me that this may add a slightly different element to the final design. I also went though more modern and contemporary designs for further inspiration, aided by Brian Hinnigan, Design & Sales Director at Johnstons.

Looking though the collection with Brian Hinnigan, Design & sales Director

Over the next few weeks Brian worked on the design elements I specified and sent me various CAD printouts, showing the possibilities of pattern and colour using the colour library of some 6,500 hues. I considered a range of palettes from brownish red to grey. Brian advised me that a pure cashmere cloth wouldn't have the durability necessary for a suit, so we planned for a cashmere/merino mix. I'll say more about that in Part 3 of this series when I describe the manufacture of the cloth. 

CAD printouts showing some of the design possibilites

After some discussion and tinkering with colours and design elements we ended up with several possibilities. At this stage a section blanket was woven. This exciting stage of the process produces a section of cloth into which all the design options are printed in squares. The blanket was cut up and sent to me for a final decision.

The cut-up section blanket showing the design options

Selecting a final design for weaving was hard, but not impossible. I knew that I wanted a wearable design, useful and durable enough for town or country use, so charcoal/grey with a blue overcheck were the colours of choice. I also wanted a design that was different and had some impact: not enough to make me feel self-conscious wearing the suit, but enough to make a statement. This was the design that I selected:

Throughout I found that Brian and the design team had an uncanny ability to interpret what I was after. I had a reasonably clear picture in my head of what the cloth might look like. The final product is exactly what I had in mind.

In the next part of this feature I'll tell you more about the cloth, its construction and how it was woven.

See more at Johnstons of Elgin. The suit was tailored by Dege & Skinner (this will be featured in part 4 of this series).

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