BespokeMe.
              The Online Directory and Magazine Tailored to London Men
 
   
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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Notice board: Click here for the New BespokeMe


Click Here to be taken to the new face of BespokeMe

If you haven’t seen it yet, and if you’re reading this you probably haven’t, there's a new face for BespokeMe at www.bespokeme.com

Blogger has served us well, but there are things I want to do with the site that just aren’t possible in its current location. It’s a bit of a gamble, but ultimately the move to a new blog provider will allow me to provide you with a website that’s more useful, more enjoyable and more closely aligned to our aims and objectives – which can only be a good thing. So, reset your favourites to:

http://www.bespokeme.com/

The new layout provides for an easier read combined with bigger, more detailed pictures and quicker access to past articles and reviews. The Directory will be along shortly as will a post code finder and mapping system. The old site (you’re reading it now) will be here for a while yet –as I have to tell everybody who is linked in to us about the new address, but I won’t be putting up any new posts.

However, we’ll be reusing the site for an interesting new project to be added on to BespokeMe –and I’m quite excited about it. So, if you’re one of our treasured readers living abroad, or you’re the jet setting type, start thinking about your favourite bars, shops and places of interest.

Oh, and if you have any comments on the new site and layout for the directory by all means let us know, before it’s too late. Ultimately BespokeMe is only as useful to you as you want it to be.

So, if you don’t want to miss out remember to reset your favourites to
www.bespokeme.com .

See you on the other side.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Best in Show: Mr Hare’s Spring and Summer 2010 Collection
Mr Hare SS10: These are actually a Whole Cut with broguing

On Wednesday, by kind invitation of Mr Hare –whose rakish loafers I heaped praise upon recently- I found myself at London Fashion Week’s Fashion East Menswear Exhibition. Located at Somerset House, the exhibition was a chance to see the 2010 Spring and Summer collections from some of Britain’s hottest new fashion designers –allegedly.

Outside Somerset House

In a sea of dross and exhibitionist crap was an oasis of beauty, creativity, craftsmanship and pure style, which was Mr Hare’s 2010 collection. I have to say I can’t wait for these beautiful offerings to go on sale next year. Below is a sneak preview of what you’ll see in selected retailers next SS10. Not the definitive collection (I hope to put that up at a later date) just a few of my favourites, and something for you to think about.


Mr Hare SS10: King Tubby, a flat soled, blue suede Blucher

There are some designers who excite the fashion world, which by it’s nature craves newness and oddity for it’s own sake, and whose results are fleeting. Then there are those who inspired by history and old fashioned values attract the label of stylish. Then there is that rare and special group in the middle, who are able to produce designs which possess both newness and style all at once. They excite devotees in either camp; Mr Hare is just such a designer.


Mr Hare SS10: Sir Jablonsky

I love the idea of a blue loafer for the summer. For some reason I look at these and think long, hot summer evenings, a veranda and a tall drink. Worn sockless, with a plain white linen shirt and rolled up denim.


Mr Hare SS10: Victor Boa

These were the star turn for me. I'm a loafer's man by nature, and there was nothing I didn't like about these; whether it be the subtle broguing, the Edwardian slipper-esk form, the contrast of tan upper and white tassel or the elegant shaping of the heel.

You can see the ful collection at Mr Hare's Blog.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Little Something Special: Tim Little Whole Cut Shoe


The shoe above is the product of London’s own Tim Little, an independent shoe designer based on Chelsea’s King’s Road. Established in 1997, Tim has acquired an impressive list of celebrity endorsements, and produces some beautiful shoes. He has both ready to wear and a bespoke service. He’s high on my list of ‘to interview’ once the new site is launched.

I think these whole-cuts are beautiful. Available in dark brown and black, I’d personally go with these rich tan versions. They are single sole and made of aniline tan French calf leather. Without going into too much detail, treating the leather in aniline makes the leather soft and supple, as well as breathable.

The Dark Brown Whole Cut

The simplest things are often the hardest things to do. That is certainly the case with whole-cuts. The single seam (at the back) means that the whole shoe has to be made from a single, unblemished piece of leather. This is difficulty enough, but any scratch or careless cut during construction means the whole shoe is written off. You should always expect to pay a premium for whole-cut shoes, but these are a very fair price.

Most of the toilers and scribblers on matters of men’s fashion will probably tell you that brogues are the must have footwear item this season; I think whole-cuts are a perfect and much neglected alternative. An Englishman’s shoes absolutely define him; his class, his aspirations and his personality. Defining yourself with a whole-cut from some one like Tim Little isn’t a bad way to go.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Full Monty: Baron’s of Piccadilly Duffle Coat


The Duffle Coat was a favourite item of fiery British Commander, Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, or ‘Monty’ as he was affectionately known. They’ve become a popular choice in recent years, and represent a less conspicuous alternative to a Pea Coat in my view. The name duffle comes from the Belgian town of Duffle, which once upon a time produced a very heavy cloth ideal for winter use. A good one should be weighty enough to keep out the cold, and the one at Baron’s is just that. Available in the traditional camel as well as blue, sizes are limited so hurry. But for £189 it’s worth considering if you’re in the market for one.

Sadly the shop is closing down owing to the Crown Estates decision to redevelop the building –turning it into office space and units for yet more tedious chain retailers no doubt. Baron’s has been located in Piccadilly since 1963, and it is like stepping back in time. If you think ‘Grace Brothers’ you won’t be far off the mark. Sales assistants still refer to each other as Mr. Upon entering you’ll be greeted by the floor manager who will ask what you’re looking for and then pass you to the relevant sales assistant. If you purchase an item the assistant writes out a paper docket and escorts you to the cashier at the rear of the store, who will take your money from behind a glass screen. It really is a wonderfully odd experience.


I may sound slightly flippant about Barons but I actually really like it. It’ a useful resource for hard to find or classic items, that can so easily be incorporated into a modern wardrobe, provided you have some imagination and a little style. Plenty of reasonably priced suiting and their in-house tailors are very good. I bought a suit there years ago, not only has it served me well it was tailored to fit beautifully. They will be a sad loss, and another lost link to a more genteel age.

Source:

Baron’s
210 Piccadilly,
Mayfair
London, W1J 9HE

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Monday, September 14, 2009

All at Sea

Apologies for the scarcity of posts. It seems that Grease and Monkey did want their families back after all, and so wisely decided to hand over the new BespokeMe blog. As such I've been spending my time uploading photos and posts. Sadly that hasn't left much time to write new posts. So I must ask for your patience. I'll try and get something up in the next day or two.

Added to this, despite it being the Parliamentary recess I'm accompanying the boss to the Southampton Boat Show on Thursday. Actually, I'm rather looking forward to this; it should provide some wonderful photos. If you fancy a day by the water tickets are still available. It runs until 20th September and you can book online. By far the easiest way to get there is by train, with a regular service leaving London Waterloo daily, and whisking you to Southampton Central in less than an hour and half.

Typical, you wait and wait and when the moment comes you find yourself all at sea.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cuffed Mischief: Alexander McQueen Ottone Cufflinks

Photo: Alexander McQueen Ottone Cufflinks, Oki-ni

As you may have noticed, I am not much bothered by designer labels. But just occasionally I see something that turns my head, and not always for explicable reasons. These Alexander McQueen cufflinks from Oki-ni fit that bill. Even better, they are currently on sale. My preference is for the silver versions above, but they also come in gold metal. Unlike most, for want of a better word, novelty links these have the proper chain link as opposed to bolts –which never look elegant in my view. The eyes are diamante.

Every season I write a list of bits I want to augment my wardrobe. I rarely ever purchase everything on the list; bills invariably take precedents. But I’ve been looking for that little something to update my black tie apparel. The skull has preppy overtones –largely as a result of being part of the emblem for Yale’s Skull and Bones Society- which suits black tie. Personally, I think there is something of the vagabond about them, which is why they work for me.

I’m not sure I’d have paid full price for them, but at a snip they might just be that bit of something different for your cuffs.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Renaissance Men: Armbands vs The Buttonhole
Some friends and I were carousing in The Speaker recently, when we started discussing the merits of pocket handkerchiefs (pocket squares if you’re American). It was one of those pointless, yet deep, conversations men are inclined towards when blotto. Anyway, the upshot was that all of us liked pocket squares –and a few of us wore them- but owing to a Mad Men inspired renaissance we all thought they had become too conspicuous. This prompted a search for some alternative detail that might set us apart and afford some individuality.

Two schools of thought emerged.



The first, and most popular choice, was a return to the button hole. I have seen it done well, as with our man here on the Sartorialist. But pulling it off is difficult, and requires a certain chutzpah, as perfectly demonstrated by Mr Terry Thomas (above).

This solution has certain logistical problems also; namely, finding a florist to supply one to you daily. There is also the issue of cost; and finally, the danger that you might look like you were going to a wedding. Not ideal.


Photo: The Sting, Universal Pictures

My choice, and I was a lone voice, was for the armband, like those sported by Mr Redford from the movie ‘The Sting’. By their nature subtle and discrete, and even when you’ve taken your jacket off armbands permeate purpose, as opposed to being merely decorative. Aesthetically, armbands accentuate the biceps by both drawing attention to them and allowing the cloth to billow.

The counter argument was that by having your shirts made you didn’t need them because your sleeve lengths should be exact.

However, if you have shirts made of English cotton then it won’t be pre-washed and therefore pre-shrunk. This means that, unlike Italian cotton, it shrinks to a greater degree. Therefore, it makes sense to have your sleeves cut longer. Personally I find that even pre-washed cotton shrinks over time and always ask my shirt maker to cut them longer, or buy the longer sleeve lengths off the shelf.

There are plenty of places to pick up armbands but our friend Mike at Bromleys has them for £7.83. If you side with my friends and go for the buttonhole, then, for now at least, you're on your own.

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Monday, September 07, 2009

Motor Racing at Crystal Palace

Photo: Getty Images

We all have a moan about London; the tube strikes, the decline in civility, not to mention the increasingly dirty streets. Just occasionally we’d do well to remember what an amazing city it is, and was.

Now part of the metropolitan sprawl in the late 1930s Crystal Palace Park was the setting for motor sport; first motorcycles, and later in 1937 the London Grand Prix.

Photo: Getty Images

You can read about the history of motor racing at Crystal Palace here. Alternatively watch the action from the 1964 race meeting.

Photo: Getty Images

From the age of the gentleman racer; (left to right) Dick Seaman, Prince Birabongse 'Bira' Bhandudej Bhanubandh of Siam and Count Trossi. I found these wonderful photos on the BBC Website, and you can see more here.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

What the Papers Say: Marked Men, Steve’s Appeal, The Old School Tie and It’s In The Jeans

What caught our eye from the mainstream media and the blogosphere. For an alternative Sunday read.


Photo: Gap, Easy Fit Washed Denim

New York Times: I found this while rooting through the ephemera section of Ivy-Style. An expose on the growing appeal of Steve McQueen as a style icon. You can also visit the official McQueen website for a pictorial demo.

BBC Magazine: A couple of articles here. The first is on the ever evolving school tie knot. It seems some schools are in a funk over their students subversive tie knots. There are far more combinations than one suspected –our preferred method was a four in hand using the thin end of the tie. The other article assesses a recent trend for bankers to forgo their pin and chalk stripes in favour of less conspicuous attire. Could it be that if you wear stripes you’re a marked man. A useful warning, after all who wants to be harangued by a bunch of students moaning about how the taxes they don’t pay have propped up your bank.

A Suitable Wardrobe: Will reviews a new book by Eric Musgrave entitled ‘Sharp Suits’. Sounds like a useful tomb and maybe worth having on the bookshelf for inspiration.

MensFlair: I don’t normally read Winston Chesterfield’s columns –well not in their entirety. Normally too windy, this one I found interesting. He discusses the decline of GAP compared to the likes of Zara. I’m a fan of GAP regarding their clothes as a reasonably priced, reasonably well made blank canvass with which to do things. In particular, I think their Easy Fit jeans a god send, –I certainly wouldn’t buy anybody else’s.

Men.Style: A useful guide on how to dress to suit your shape. Most men’s books on style and clothing give the same tips, but this guide has pretty pictures.

Esquire US: I always prefer to read US Esquire to our own offering. Here they give tips on the five key items to sort out your weekend wardrobe. One day someone will explain to me the virtue of a Tote bag –am I the only person who thinks they look like a large woman’s handbag!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Adding Texture: Cordings Wool Waistcoats

Photo: Cordings, Charcoal Grey Wool Waistcoat

I spotted this elegant offering from London’s Cordings a couple of weeks ago and it’s been on my mind for a while. Retailers are releasing their autumn and winter collections and most have a waistcoat or two to offer. But this is the finest version I’ve yet seen. In terms of materials it’s nothing remarkable. There is no overt styling either. However, this classic simplicity makes it stand out for me. Unlike lesser offerings it has the proper finish, including mother of pearl buttons and wedge waistband as opposed to a straight one. This last detail provides a more elegant finish. Fashioned from pure merino wool, it’s also very practical.

The end of summer for me means the end of the Parliamentary recess, and that means discarding the mufty in favour of suits. I’ve set myself the task of adding more texture to my business attire this season. I think this charcoal grey version will help do that perfectly -whether I'm wearing grey, blue, striped or checked suits. Although I think it would be an equally useful bit of kit paired with denim and a pair of solid Grenson brogues.

I’ve always regarded it as a sign of a chaps sartorial maturity if he add a little texture to his business dress. It’s a simple trick that adds depth and variation, and one the best dressed learn quickly.

Adding texture...



Sources:

Suit: Prince of Wales Check Vintage Bespoke from Old Hat (London)

Waistcoat: Marino Wool Waistcoat from Cordings of Piccadilly

Shirt: Semi-spread collar from the White Shirt Company (London)

Tie: Black silk knit tie from Woods of Shropshire

Shoes: Black Suede Whisky & Women Loafer from Tim Little of London

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

New Links: Beyond the M25

Apologies for the scarcity of posts recently, Westie and I disappeared to the country for the bank holiday weekend.

Continuing on from the last post, I have some more links to add to the Directory. This batch comprises those stockists beyond the M25, whether that be online only retailers, those situated in far flung parts of the UK or abroad. I’ve either previously highlighted them explicitly or we’ve posted pictures of their stock. I’ve also included a few blogs that deserve a listing.

Outfitters:



Orvis

Oki-ni

http://www.oki-ni.com/

Shoes:


Only Redwing (New Sister site to Hobson, as recommended by one of our readers)
http://www.onlyredwing.com/index.php

Hobson (A useful source for Chatham Deck Shoes)
http://www.hobsonshoes.co.uk/index.php

Sports Kit:
http://www.toffs.com/page/home

Accessories:

The Jewel Box (a source for Tootal Scarves)
http://www.thejewelbox-shop.com/en/mensvintageaccessories

Vintage LCD
http://www.vintagelcd.com/

Broderick (The only seller yet found of collar pins)
http://www.collarpins.com/collar-pins/index.htm


Blogs of Note:

Ivy Style
http://www.ivy-style.com/

Men’sFlair
http://www.mensflair.com/

Industribolaget
http://industribolaget.blogg.se/

An Affordable Wardrobe
http://anaffordablewardrobe.blogspot.com/

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

New Links: The London List

I realised the other day that I've been neglecting the Directory. While I diligently write up my finds and present them to you of an evening, by the time I’m done it’s often too late, and I’m too tired, to go mindlessly groping around in the HTML bowels of Blogger.

Looking back I realise I’ve found and highlighted quite a bit, and 90 percent of it is located in London –which is what we set out to do. It’s easy to lose track and I thought, therefore, it might be worth reminding old readers and showing new ones just what we’ve come up with. Looking at my list I’m not sure I’ll do them all in one night.

As a blog dedicated to the London man it makes sense to start with those suppliers based in London.

Shoes:

Classic Redwing Boots (also run and owned by American Classic, an impressive range) http://www.classicredwingshoes.co.uk/

Shofolk

Outfitters:

American Classics

Albam

Folk and Shofolk

Accessories:

Smart Turnout

Sports Kit:

T-Shirts:

Connection Clothing

Dining Out:

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Deck Shoe Is For Life Not Just The Summer: Timberland Customable Desk Shoes and Lugger
The agony of choice: Timberland's impressive custom service

I spotted this the other day and have to say I was deeply impressed. I’ve also had quite a bit of fun concocting my ideal boat shoe. A new service from Timberland online you can now customise both their deck shoe and the 3 eye lugger for only about £30 more than the standard price. It’s actually a very impressive set up as the range of choices includes everything from the basics, like the colour and combinations of leather and newbuck, to the types of metal used on the eyelets. You can even have them monogrammed and determine the colour of the insole. Whatever your heart may desire you can make it happen, which for £110 for the deck and £140 for the lugger is exceptional value.

No self respecting Englishman is without a deck shoes or lugger in his wardrobe, it is the default casual shoe. This summer has made colour a key trend. Timberland’s custom service gives you a chance to create something personal and original as well as remain right on trend. What’s more you get Timberland’s exceptional build quality, which many brands just can’t compete with. Get your design right and you can create something that feels right for you, for the season, and will let you set a dash for years to come.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Notice Board: Npower Cricket in the Park

The ECB and sponsors of Cricket Npower have teamed up to deliver the open air viewing for the Saturday and Sunday of the Oval test in Regents Park. With the series level at 1-1 and England on the up it couldn’t be more exciting. You can get all the details from the website, and I’ll hopefully be going down with High Roller. If you remember the open air festivities in 2005 it should be worth it. There is no cost and if all goes to plan the atmosphere ought to be electric.

See you there.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Rakish and Rare: Mr Hare Tasselled Loafer


Photo: Mr Hare

Like all good English males of my class I have the standard issue suede loafer, they are almost uniform. But as you may have realised my tastes are varied and I rarely enjoy being one of the herd. Sometimes one yearns for something a bit special, and to break out of the mould.

Which is why these beauties may appeal to you as much as they do to me. I have to say they’re one of the most beautiful pairs of shoes I’ve yet seen, combing an elegant shape with variety of texture, and subtle detailing –notice the off-centre positioning of the tassel. Their creator states that it provides a rakish quality, and I would have to concur. Visually it works in much the same way as a slightly crooked tie, providing what the Italians call Sprezzatura (stylish nonchalance, and studied carelessness). I see these paired with an immaculately tailored three piece suit.

The man behind the brand is almost as unusual as his shoes.

They are the product of new London based designer (and Arsenal supporter) Mr Hare. You probably haven't heard of him, I only discovered him recently, but he has garnered quite a bit of positive internet chatter, particularly amongst bloggers. Modestly immodest, his blog is strangely compelling, and yet at the same time he is a strangely elusive character. In not one of the few interviews he's thus far done will you find mention of his name. His back story is also interesting, and just the sort of thing I like to hear. Describing himself as “Just a man with a passion for shoes who feels let down by a shoe industry that doesn't really seem to care”, I have an affinity for the guy already. I love rebels and those that do things because they feel the status quo just isn’t good enough.That's always something that has personally driven me.

What also emerges is a genuine love of quality, which in an age where style so readily eclipsing substance is reassuring. His shoes are blaked constructed, which is the favoured method of build for the Italian shoemakers. It particularly suits dryer climates. You can read more in the interview with Steve from Style Salvage.

Sadly the chances of buying a pair are slim. Hr Hare shoes are hard to come by anyway, at present Oki-ni is the only stockist that can deliver to the UK. With regard the Mr.Genet loafer, according to Hr Hare’s website they are yet to be picked up by a retailer, but one can hope and wait. After all, everyman deserves the chance to put a little rakishness in his wardrobe.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tool Up: The Valet Box

Photo: Andersons of Durham, The Valet Box

Like most people I work hard for my money. Investing limited funds in a good quality wardrobe requires I keep everything in tip top nic. Of course it’s one thing to have all the right kit, it’s entirely another to look after it properly.

This is never more so important than in the case of shoes. Buy good quality shoes, treat them kindly and your journey together will last a lifetime. Fail to do so and you might as well cut a whole in your pocket.

Of course if you have several pairs of shoes it’s possible to build up quite a collection of waxes, sprays, brushes and cloths. Well a good workman always looks after his tools, and this Valet Box provides a rather elegant solution at a rather reasonable price. I think there is something wonderfully purposeful about possessing such an item, if not a little old school. Not too large or cumbersome it should fit into even the humblest abode. I found it on Andersons of Durham’s website, which I’ve linked to several times previously as a useful and competitively priced online source for solid Northamptonshire shoe makers.

Back to the box. Not only do you get the mahogany box, but it comes filled with all the tools of your trade. Sadly elbow grease is not included.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dog's Bollocks Online: Adam of London


Photo: Adam of London

I’m pleased to say that Adam Shener has finally taken Adam of London online. In fact I’ve been meaning to highlight this one for quite a while, but I’m a bit annoyed with Adam and was in no hurry to do the guy any favours.

The site offers the full range of his beautifully tailored suits as well as shirts, ties and overcoats. In addition to that, for those whose Modishness is a way of life, the site even boasts a forum and social network with which you can share photos and comments. This in itself makes for interesting viewing and is worth checking out. As is Adam’s list of choice tracks which you can listen to via a handy online media player.

I don’t need to go into great detail about Adam Shener’s suits, I’ve said it all before -here. Although with the Adam of London cut my advice would be to try and visit the shop first and then order subsequent items online.

On some of the websites pages you may notice the wording and layout of a lot of the text is very similar to my review. When Adam and his guys were putting the site together he asked if he could use my review and some of my photos. I was naturally happy to oblige, and initially flattered. Sadly I didn’t realise just how they were going to use them. Without acknowledgment or even that basic internet courtesy -a link- it doesn’t necessarily make me look good. But rest assured BespokeMe doesn’t reproduce other peoples’ press releases or buy their bullshit.

A welcome addition to the internet and one well worth checking out, the written material is pretty good too...

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

What the Papers Say: Glen Check, The Power of Thomas Crown, Interview With A Duffer and One For The Albam
What caught our eye from the mainstream media and the blogosphere, for an alternative Sunday read.





Esquire: Interesting little piece from their bespoke column providing a history of the Glen Check, or Prince of Wales check as it’s more commonly known. I just love knowing crap like this. One for the knowledge bank.

The Rake: A rather interesting article on the enduring influence on men’s style of 1968 Steve McQueen film The Thomas Crown Affair. This is a newish publication produced just 6 times a year. $30 an issue or $130 for a year's subscription it aims to be one of those hyper elitist magazines. But whereas most turn out to be pretentious dross, and soon die a death, this one does at least show promise. Its mission statement certainly strikes a cord with me, but at only four issues old it might be too soon to say. One day some driven genius will create a magazine so elitist there won’t be anybody qualified enough to write it, or perfect enough to read it.

The BBC: There is an ever grow breed of farty, sweaty, grot filled Englishmen for whom even the merest formality when it comes to dressing is too much to ask. Sadly the new Speaker of the House of Commons has decided to join their swelling ranks; presumably out of some misguided sense of modernity and at oneness with the ordinary people. God save us from the relentless march of the ordinary.


Industribolaget: This blog is one of my daily reads; well it would be if I could understand a word of it. It’s all in Polish (Swedish, I've just been told), but don’t let that put you off. As a look book it’s quite useful. The chap has a good eye.

Selectism: A couple of interesting interviews; the first is with Marco Cairns, one of the creators behind The Duffer of St. George; and the second with James Shaw one of the co-founders of Albam. Both are London based labels one having already met with great commercial success, and the other certainly on the way to it. I find articles like this fascinating, partly because I am a natural historian, and find personal and commercial history just as interesting as any other kind. Interviews like this also give a clue as to what you’re buying into. Almost all though show the power of having a dream, and that the road to making such dreams real is often haphazard. Something reassuring in that, particularly for one who is currently toying with the idea of producing his own clothes as I am.
Saturday, August 15, 2009

How to: Tell A Tartan From Check

Because there are some things a chap ought to know...



Check or Tartan?

While fiddling with the last post I made the mistake of wondering what the difference was between a check and a Tartan. Given the prevalence of both for shirting options this season, and the cultural connotations it seemed relevant. And of course having asked the question I had to answer it –which was no mean feat.

The logical place to start seemed the Scottish Register of Tartans Act 2008 (yes, there is such a thing), which defines Tartan thus;

“For the purposes of this Act, a tartan is a design which is capable of being wovenconsisting of two or more alternating coloured stripes which combine vertically andhorizontally to form a repeated chequered pattern”.

That leaves as much unsaid as it clarifies, and for good reason it seems.


I contacted Keith Lumsden of the Scottish Tartans World Register, which was established in to catalogue all the various Tartans in the world. He made the point that “they [Tartans and Checks] over lap, so a definition would limit there use in one direction or another. There are tartans called checks that one would consider tartans, such as Burberry Check. And there are tartans called checks such as Burns Heritage Check and Buccleuch Check/Haig that look like checks. I see it as more to do with what the cultural use of the textile design will be. There may also be marketing reason to call the design a check. People have hang ups about who may use a tartan thus Burberry called theirs a check”. He also pointed out that a large area of checks is the "Estate Tweeds/Checks". These are not tartans, although some could be used as such. It is their function that stops them being called tartans.

However, Matthew Newsome, Director of the Scottish Tartans Museum, believes there is a correct definition; “Technically, the difference between a "check" and a "tartan" is that the tartan will contain half tones, or third colours, where the colours blend, and the check will just have colour next to colour with no blending. That's the technical difference”. This would certainly help get around the problem of Estate Checks and even defining Gingham.


The Scottish Tartans Museum is a curious group based in the States, so perhaps not the first port of call for a definition of Tartan. But as any student of British imperial history will know, there is nothing more relentless than an American with a cause. These guys probably now more than most Scottish experts, taking their heritage very seriously.

Matthew expands on the point made by Keith Lumsden: “in common parlance, "check" is often used to refer to a tartan of very simple design. For instance, if someone asked, "What does the Rob Roy tartan look like?" the likely answer would be, "It's a simple red and black check," even though that is not technically correct”.

Simply put, many people mistakenly refer to any and all tartans as "checks" even if the tartan is not characteristically simple in design, and the most prolific offenders are those in the fashion industry. The key seems to be whether the use of two or more threads and the weave generate half tones of colour; if they do then whether the clothing label refers to it as a check or not it is most likely a Tartan. The only reason to avoid the use of the term Tartan is cultural and psychological.

So what have we learnt? Not a lot, other than by neglect or design you probably own some Tartan.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Catwalk Capital: Flash the Tartan


I’ve often thought Tartan transcended its basic Scottish roots. Given the long, interconnected and previously bloody history of England and Scotland, its adoption is as much an act of subversion against the English establishment –and good form- as it is a celebration of Scottish ancestry. This of course explains its popularity amongst subcultures without Scottish connection. What would a Mods Harrington be without its tartan lining, or the world of American Ivy League and prep without the Tartan Blazer; and if you think of punk you most likely think of tartan trousers and braces. Whether Scottish or not, to wear it not only adds colour and depth to a look, but is a personal statement of independence.

Unless you’re a jock, or Rod Stewart, it’s best to keep your Tartan to a mere flash –less is more. I am an Englishman, and proud to be so, and devoutly practice what I preach. My preferred method of use is a pocket square, or the inexpensive cotton tie (below), picked up from vintage shop Retromania, in Pimlico.

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Vintage Digital: Vintage LCD and PockeCalculatorShow.com
The Casio AE-11W an 80s classic

The watch above is a Casio AE-11W and when I was kid it was the watch to have. I thought then, as I do now, that it was a great piece of design. Sadly, my own went walk about many years ago, but I’ve had it in mind for the last few months and have being trying to track one down. In the age of ipods, iphones and digital cameras it’s easy to forget just what digital watches represented in their day. Indeed, they might seem almost naff now, but then they were the white heat of technology in miniature.

Now, I have high quality, old fashioned analogue watches, but what I’m looking for is a bit of casual retro. There are plenty of new digital watches about, including rereleased versions of the classics. But I reckon if you’re going to go digital then go retro and buy yourself the genuine article.

The fact that this particular watch has been so hard to come by only seems to drive me on. I never did know when I was beaten. And that’s probably a very good thing, certainly in this case.

In my search I came across this interesting website, network and forum called Pocketcalculatorshow.com. It describes itself as a discussion forum for digital watch nerds and has a few items for sale as well as pictures of long gone tech. Well, I’m not a nerd but where it’s useful is posting wanted notices in the Forum. I did just that and within an hour someone got back to me. The person in question, called Adam, has just launched a website called Vintage LCD which sells vintage digital watches and parts. Although the example on offer isn’t quite what I’m after it’s close enough for now.

So if you fancy a bit of vintage digital you can save yourself some time and effort with VintageLCD and Pocketcalculatorshow.com

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Jewel Box: Vintage Tootal Scarves

Tootal Scarf from The Jewel Box

An odd time to bring up Tootal scarves I know, but today I was contacted by Carol who wanted to introduce herself, and highlight the Tootal and Sammy scarves she’d added to her stock. And some nice examples she has found too.


Tootal from The Jewel Box

Her website’s called The Jewel Box, and is a specialist seller or vintage jewellery, silk and hand bags, which clues you into the fact that its main market is women. However, as a source of Tootal scarves it’s worth remembering. Prices seem competitive and Carol supplies all the measurements and some detailed photos.

I wouldn't normally recommend something without testing it first. But I've had a thorough look through the site, and you can even read about Carol on her blog, so nothing to worry about here.

Tootal Scarf from The Jewel Box

You may recall I’ve highlighted Tootal a couple of times, and you can re-read our ‘history of’ here. Suffice to say, bold paisleys are Tootal’s signature design, which is why I rather like these subtler alternatives. Solid, unfussy and masculine in tone, while retaining that Tootal vibrancy of colour, any one of these three would sit as comfortably under a Covert Coat as they would a Harrington.


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Monday, August 03, 2009

Notice Board: The Great British Beer Festival, 4th -8th August

My pint of choice

Despite the fading of our imperial glory, there is still one area were we rein supreme, the brewing of beer. If you doubt me I advise a trip Down Under, or worse still to America. Despite being capable of putting a man on the moon our cousins across the pond can’t put water and hops together, in any meaningful sense, for love nor money.

Tomorrow is the start of the Great British Beer Festival at Earls Court, and provides a chance to sample some of this Sceptred Isle’s liquid gold. Running until Saturday, with over 450 beers to sample not to mention tutorials, live music and food, tickets start from £8 and are available on the door. If you want to you can pre-book your tickets. Beers are available by the pint, half pint and third of a pint. If you want more details the website gives you all you need, including booking service and times for tutorials. You can even print off lists of beers to try and take it with you, should the spirit be willing but the memory wanting.

I was hoping to go down there on Thursday and exercise the laughing gear. Sadly I’ve come down with a dose of something, and while I’m fully persuaded of the restorative powers of hops and water when brewed by a master it doesn’t seem fair on everybody else.

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Sunday, August 02, 2009

Catwalk Capital: The Short Mac

With little evidence to the contrary, it would seem that the English summer is all but over. Certainly, yesterday’s rain made me think of raincoats.

The short raincoat is something worth thinking about for the season ahead. The standard three-quarter length coat really only suits formal wear, but short versions work well with anything.

The autumn and winter collections aren’t out yet, but it’s something I will be looking to find.


The Decline and Fall of the English Summer ...


Hat: Mistral Cotton Hat at Lock & Co

Jacket: Barbour Oxford Hardy Jacket at Barbour (on Sale)

Shirt: Seven Continents Flight Shirt at Orvis

Jeans: Twill Jeans (made in England) at Cordings

Belt: Velo-re Belt at www.velo-re.com

Boots: Fracap Japan Mountaineering Boots at Oki-ni (only available at Oki-ni in the UK)

Bag: Jeremy Stripy at Ally Capellino

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Previous Posts
Notice board: Click here for the New BespokeMe
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The Full Monty: Baron’s of Piccadilly Duffle Coat
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Cuffed Mischief: Alexander McQueen Ottone Cufflink...
Renaissance Men: Armbands vs The Buttonhole
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