Rod’s Togs – The Crombie

I was a young lad in short trousers when the brief Suedehead trend hit my town. There was a fella who lived a few doors up from me who had the slightly long-at-the-back spiky haircut known as a ‘blackburn’, and I remember he wore checked shirts, two tone strides, red socks and chunky brogue shoes. The most notable item of his rig was a Crombie-style overcoat with a red spotted handkerchief in the chest pocket. I thought he looked cool, but what did I know? – I was seven!

Coats known as ‘Crombies’ in that period, and their re-emergence during the revival skinhead era of the late seventies-early eighties, more than likely had little to do with the actual Crombie company and were for the most part cheaper knockoffs. They were usually black or dark navy, cut in a Chesterfield style: single breasted, fly fronted, knee length, notch lapels, narrow waists, horizontal flapped pockets, ticket pocket, welted chest pocket, often with a cheap red lining which could be pulled up out of the chest pocket in place of a pocket square. Maybe I was viewing the past with rose tinted glasses but I don’t remember seeing anyone look as cool during my teenage years in the revival era, nor anyone with as good-looking a Crombie-style coat, as the original Suede who lived in my street in the early seventies.

When I went to college in the mid eighties I got a heavyweight calf-length solid medium-grey herringbone weave overcoat for five pounds from a second-hand shop in Sheffield. This saw me through college in the eighties and then was shipped to a resale shop along with a load of other stuff when I found that I’d actually emigrated! The eighties were a time when loads of studenty types wore big second-hand overcoats – maybe something to do with an Echo and the Bunnymen look, with which I wanted no part. When I was suited up I preferred to wear this dark navy blue Crombie coat which I’d inherited from my Dad.

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It’s cut in a more straightforward style without the notable details often associated with Crombie style coats – this one has three exposed buttons, notch lapels and due to the button positioning at some distance from the front edge there’s a slight asymmetric crossover. The pockets are vertical ‘slash’ pockets and there’s no chest pocket

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The provenance of this coat remains a mystery to me.  My Dad used to walk to work and during bad weather wore a Burberry style trench coat. This Crombie coat seems a bit too formal for daily work wear. It seems more suited to wearing over a dinner jacket, but with my Dad being a frugal sort who was not an extravagant spender on his wardrobe I find it hard to believe that he lashed out for such a nice and presumably expensive coat to be worn on the one or two occasions per year when he was in Black Tie. I have no recollection of seeing him wear it so have no idea when or from where it was acquired. I used to wear this in England during winters in the eighties, when getting suited up to go nightclubbing was the norm.
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I don’t have much use for such a heavy coat here in Florida – I have a lighter weight herringbone Chesterfield coat too – but I’m off to frigid Buffalo, New York this week and I’m happy to have this as an option. My Dad was the same height as me but somewhat broader in his advancing years so I did have the side seams slimmed slightly to improve the fit.

I wore this coat once during a visit to see the wonderful Paul Winston of Chipps while I was in New York. He instantly recognised the cloth as Crombie and confirmed my understanding that Crombie was originally a cloth-maker not a coat-maker, and it’s only more recently that the company has taken to constructing the coats for which they have been lending their name for fifty years!

Tipping a hat to the memory of my Dad, I’m also wearing a Tootal-style scarf and 1950s era RAF-issue aviator shades, both also inherited from him!

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Sunglasses – Vintage RAF issue
Coat – Crombie (inherited, provenance unknown)
Scarf – Silk foulard backed with navy wool, label lost!
Strides – Banana Republic Prince of Wales wool flannel
Shoes – Allen Edmonds McNeil shell cordovan longwings

Rod’s Togs – No Tie Black Tie

In a previous post I discussed the influence of Mod style on Black Tie conventions. Here’s another more casual version playing with Black Tie elements. I realise that ‘casual Black Tie’ is an oxymoron and I’m usually in favour of preserving the convention not diluting it, but this was worn recently for a festive house party:

Check out the repetitive skull motif:

Sunglasses – Ray Ban Gatsby Metal Squares
Jacket – Bachrach (velvet!)
Shirt – Thomas Pink French placket pique / marcella bib front
Pocket Square – No name
Cuff links – Robert Talbot
Watch – Pulsar (wafer thin, inherited from my late Dad)
Rings – Silverlust
Strides – J.Crew tuxedo
Socks – Dapper Classics
Shoes – Del Toro (velvet!)

Rod’s Togs – The Nylon Monkey Jacket

The lads over on the Modculture message board were recently discussing a jacket Paul Weller wore during ‘Other Aspects’ – a short documentary film made earlier in 2019 about his performance with a full orchestra at London’s Royal Festival Hall.  It appears to be a traditionally shaped monkey jacket (‘windbreaker’ to any American readers unfamiliar with the term) in navy nylon.

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I’m not sure if this is a common trait among many people of a Mod persuasion or if it’s just me, but sometimes I get fixated on a clothing item and become obsessive about tracking it down. I found out this was from French brand Maison Kitsune and could be had for between $250 to $300.

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Weller looks good in the jacket and it occurred to me that this would be a great item to have for whenever I make it back to England. Visiting in the summer means a light jacket is usually all that’s needed for warmth but the unpredictability of the weather and chances of summer rain would make a nylon showerproof jacket a perfect choice to wear rather than one of my cotton harringtons. I also already own a black MA-1 which I almost never wear as it’s too bulky for most situations and wouldn’t pack easily anyway.

It’s hard to work out from the pictures on the Maison Kitsune and End websites if the jacket has any lining or bulk but it appears this is not the case. Upwards of $250 seems a lot to me for a lightweight unlined windbreaker but I was going to be in New York in December for work which would have given me the chance to visit the Maison Kitsune shop in person and try it on. Unfortunately on the day I had free it was pouring with rain and freezing cold so I didn’t venture out to the shops!

The fixation still didn’t desert me despite not being able to try the jacket on, so I did what I often do when in search of an item or outfit idea from my mind’s eye and took to ebay! And there for the princely sum of $7 and change I found this:

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At that price this seemed like worthy of taking a chance. Made by Brave Soul (a brand I’m not familiar with) it looks black in the ebay photos but the seller confirmed that it has a navy blue showerproof nylon shell and jersey cotton lining.

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It arrived recently and fits me perfectly and is exactly what I was looking for to wear during the unpredictable weather of England. Shipping cost more than the jacket! Did I get a bargain?

Sunglasses – Ray Ban Carbon
Polo – Fred Perry
Jacket – Brave Soul
Strides – Levi’s 511 Commuters
Desert Boots – Clark’s

Rod’s Togs – Checking Twice

I haven’t had this bumfreezer jacket on for a while. A rare department store find from a few years ago – Hugo Boss in Macy’s – and an equally rare three button off the rack.

Worn with my new favourite shades from Oliver Peoples in ‘burgundy bark’ – a very dark red that looks almost black at first glance:

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Sunglasses – Oliver Peoples Jaye
Jacket – Hugo Boss
Shirt – Linea Luomo
Pocket Square – Macy’s
Strides – Relco Sta-Pressts
Chelsea Boots – Arthur Knight

Rod’s Togs – Mustard Knitted Polo

I read a lot of comments about collar size when it comes to knitted polos. The general consensus seems to lean towards larger collars in the face of the current trend of microscopic versions, but my own preference is towards smaller rather than larger and this has kept me away from making purchases from some of the reputable Mod-inspired knitwear brands such as DNA Groove, Art Gallery Clothing and John Smedley.

This polo was flagged by my cyber-pal Rafa on the modculture forum. Some feedback to his posting was that the collar was too small. I welcome these discussions and differences of opinion as I’m happy for followers of Mod style to NOT be monolithic in their views. My view is that if worn open there is more to fold over and it works fine for me. The colours and weight – knitted cotton which is much heavier than summer weight cotton pique – are great for a crisp autumn day!

I mentioned in a previous post that I was bored with blue jeans. I have four pairs of dark blue Selvedge jeans – two Levis and two Uniqlo – and have successfully made it through the summer without wearing any of them but it was inevitable I’d be pulling them out as the weather turned cooler.

Sunglasses – Ray Ban mirror aviators
Polo – Next
Jeans – Uniqlo
Desert Boots – Clark’s
Jacket – Levi’s buffalo leather
Watch – Heuer Autavia

Rod’s Togs – ‘The Cut of Your Jib’

I occasionally take part in the ‘Friday Challenge’ over on Styleforum, in which a theme is decided and participants post pics of their entries. A poll is initiated in which people vote for who did it best. I never win, and never really expect to, but sometimes it’s amusing to put together an outfit for a certain prescribed theme.

Recently my cyber-pal Mr. Knightley chose a challenge for which participants were encouraged to post a pic of a casual outfit depicting ‘the cut of your jib’ – a fair representation of ‘go-to’ casual clothes choices.

My usual away-from-work outfit is linen or polo shirts, linen strides and driving mocs in the heat of summer, and polo shirts, jeans and desert boots or classic adidas trainers in the cooler months.

I’ve become a bit bored with blue jeans, and although I’ll inevitably be dusting them off in the coming weeks, more recently I seem to lean towards white Levis or five pocket cotton strides in different colours. Jacket season is short for me but if the weather is brisk I’ll add a Harrington or tennis jacket. Regular readers may have noticed I often incorporate some aspect of colour or pattern matching. In this case white with red and blue stripes are seen in the polo, trainers and jacket, along with sunglasses with red side arms and custom blue lenses.

Sunglasses – Tag Heuer
Polo – Lacoste
Strides – Levis 511 Commuter
Shoes – adidas Samba World Cup Edition
Jacket – Fred Perry Made In England

Rod’s Togs – The Turtleneck

As the autumn temperatures start to hit the northern hemisphere many people start reaching for their turtlenecks.

It was the late comedian Mitch Hedberg who said that “wearing a turtleneck was like being strangled by a really weak guy, all day!”

Wearing a turtleneck underneath a blazer or a suit cycles in and out of fashion and the look seems to be having a moment right now, but this is nothing new.

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Montgomery Clift in ‘The Defector’ (1966)

Richard Roundtree In ‘Shaft’ (1971)

6F31FEAB-6829-45D4-99B9-FB60C45DE377Roger Moore in ‘Live and Let Die (1973)

Director Sam Mendes stated that ‘Live and Let Die’ was his favourite Bond film which no doubt influenced the costuming of this publicity shot:

5E4AFEC1-2E02-428D-A9C9-7149C3E08B92Daniel Craig in publicity shot for ‘SPECTRE’ (2015)

Perhaps the popularity of turtlenecks in recent years got a boost from my personal hero Sterling Malory Archer and his trademark ‘tactle-neck’ – available in dark black or darker black for $900 each, made from pure Azerbaijani cashmere!

Until recently, if asked I would say the look is OK but it’s not for me. Rarely do I need to dress for colder weather so I thought it was more for people in the northern states or those back in England. But I watched the first series of ‘Pennyworth’ recently – an origin story of Batman’s butler which is set in an alternative universe of England in the sixties. Main character Alfred Pennyworth as played by Jack Banham speaks with a Michael Caine-esque accent and is seen several times wearing a turtleneck under a suit:

I’ve had a couple of events recently which have given me reason to give it a go myself:

Sunglasses – Tom Ford
Suit – J Crew
Dark black wool turtleneck – Uniqlo
Shoes – Robot X George Cox

Sunglasses – Randolph Engineering Elite
Suit – Ben Sherman (Colour is most accurate in the full shot)
Navy jersey cotton turtleneck – Land’s End
Chelsea Boots – Arthur Knight

The Who In Concert

My first time seeing The Who was at Newcastle City Hall in 1981 on the Face Dances tour. At that point bands like The Who and The Stones had been going for almost twenty years which was unprecedented since the dawn of rock n roll – Elvis and Lennon had died and anyone predating them had succumbed to lounge lizard cabaret status, so who knew how much longer they could keep going?

Since then I’ve since seen them at:

New York Madison Square Garden (The Who Tour) 2002
Los Angeles Hollywood Bowl (Endless Wire) 2006
Oakland Arena (Quadrophenia) 2013
Tampa Amelie Arena (The Who Hits 50) 2015

… and again last week at Amelie. I’m happy to say that at each of the above I’ve been accompanied by Dave – one of my oldest mates, proprietor of Rock And Roll Brit blog linked on the home page, and massive fan of The Who having seen them around sixty times.

With Dave and his wife Kate. Anyone fancy a Quadrophenia parka for $325?

Since the lads are in their seventies now we have to make allowances for the slight tapering in energy onstage and in the depth of Roger’s voice but they still put on a good show. I do feel bad for Roger. Having been belting out anthems at the top of his lungs for five decades it can’t be easy to keep up with the legacy that he’s created, meanwhile insipid dullards like James Taylor will be whining out ‘Fire and Rain’ when he’s a hundred years old!

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Anyway this time around they brought a full orchestra which puts an interesting spin on the proceedings. Some songs do well with the accompaniment while others feel a bit softened and blunted of their hard edge. The show began with a medley from Tommy and there was an interlude when the orchestra took a break leaving only the band onstage. Jon Button on bass was barely noticeable and a poor substitute for the excellent Pino Paladino who I think may be presently committed to playing in John Meyer’s band (talking of insipid dullards!). Zak Starkey proves again that he’s the second best Keith Moon Type Drummer In The World.

Pete and Roger did an interesting acoustic version of ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ which may have disappointed some who were expecting this to be the usual show stopper. The orchestra returned to join in on a medley of songs from Quadrophenia, and high moments in the show were a note-for-note rendition of ‘The Rock’ and the big finale of ‘Baba O’Reilly’. This is the first time I’ve seen this performed live with a violinist as the closing solo is usually performed by Roger on harmonica. The young lady first violinist was clearly having the time of her life in front of those who lay claim to being the greatest and loudest rock band in the world, and I doubt that she foresaw having this much fun when she was studying hard at Julliard or wherever!

An unfortunate epilogue to this was a text I received a couple of days later from my mates in Houston who had gone to the show at the Toyota Centre only to have it cancelled after a few songs as Roger’s voice had gone. I’m still not sure if they’ll get a refund or if another date will be added later in the tour.

Alterations – How Much Is Too Much?

                               This                                                Not this!                                                    

In the same way many people today cringe at the thought three button jackets because of the glaring reminder of the shapeless loose ‘fits wear it touches’ tubes of the 1990s, I reserve my own dislike for two button jackets. I get that for certain less than optimal body types, having a low buttoning point and sweeping broad lapels accentuates the chest and shoulders and gives the illusion of narrowing the waist, but to me all I see is the lackluster look of dull politicians … or worse!

This                           Not this                    Definitely not this!

Anyway this is why my jackets are exclusively of the three button variety, which aren’t so easy to come by these days as they have circled back out of fashion. I’ve had reasonable success in adding a third button and button hole to two button jackets, but you have to be sure that the buttoning point is low enough and the chest is roomy enough to accommodate the conversion.

Men’s suits and jackets are sized by chest, and occasionally by length (Regular / Short / Long) but of course sizes vary from maker to maker, and sometimes even within brands.

I frequently sound off about the fact that an off-the-rack (OTR) size 38 Jacket is carefully constructed by manufacturers to fit as many people as possible who are more or less a 38 chest, therefore it’s unlikely to fit anyone perfectly. To people who only need a suit for occasional formal events and who aren’t particularly dedicated to style and fit, close enough is good enough, but there is a huge variance in the body type of people with a 38 chest. What about their shoulders, sleeve pitch, upper arm circumference, arm length, waist circumference, torso length, etc?

The problem is that there’s only so much you can do to make a generically sized, poorly fitting off-the-rack  jacket fit well, without throwing off all proportions. If I’m buying from a bricks and mortar shop I can try a jacket on and judge what may be needed. I accept it’s more than likely that the sleeves will need to be shortened and the waist will need to be nipped, as well as vents closed (my personal quirk) and a fair chance I’ll be adding a third button and button hole. But if more major surgery is required, it’s best to pass, no matter how great a deal it may appear to be or no matter how exclusive or attractive the fabric, colour or pattern. Key aspects of fit are the shoulders and sleeve pitch. Poor shoulder fit can cause unsightly divots at the sleeve head, and poor sleeve pitch (the angle at which the sleeve is attached to the body of the jacket) is responsible for the ripples you see at the back of the upper arm. In either case, adjusting shoulders and removing sleeves usually means major surgery that is expensive and still may not provide the desired outcome.

If I’m buying over the internet and don’t have the opportunity to try a jacket on, it’s not so easy to judge what alterations may be needed. Common advice is to ask for specific measurements but this can still be hazardous.

For some time I’ve been searching for a greenish tweed-like autumn-winter jacket with a rusty orange overcheck, and I finally found one on the Samuel Windsor website. This company has a reputation for offering Goodyear welted shoes at a price that would make one suspicious about quality, and the same could be said about the jacket, but with the discounted price I decided to take a chance. The website offers measurements in chest, waist, shoulders, length and sleeve length which I compared and found that they matched closely to a well-fitting jacket I own, so I ordered my usual 38 regular.

I expected to have to close the vents and add a third button hole, but you can see from the photo above that the fit was below expectation and a long way from optimal. Too broad in chest and waist, too long and broad in the sleeve, the shoulders might just work.  The jacket length is longer than usual for me but acceptable. If I’d tried this jacket on in a shop I would probably have either passed on it, or tried the next size down for comparison. Unfortunately that’s not possible with an internet purchase and there was no smaller size available, so I was left with the option to return the jacket and be on the hook for return postage, or else commit to alterations.

This purchase is thus an apt illustration of the maximum amount work that I would have done on a jacket. It would have been nice to compare with the next size down. I’ve never bought a size 36 jacket before but this 38 was so roomy a 36 might have worked and saved me considerable alteration costs had it been available.

So this jacket had the sleeves narrowed and shortened, a third button and buttonhole were added, side vents were closed and the chest and waist were slimmed at the side seams. It’s still slightly longer than most of my jackets but within range, especially for an autumn-winter jacket. I’m thinking this jacket could do double duty as a travel outfit with my rust wool strides, or made more formal with a tie and heavy chinos.

Side by side you can judge whether the alterations were a success.

Before                                                 After

So even when sizes are published and appear to be close to your ideal, buying online can still be a lottery.

Sunglasses – Garrett Leight Harding
Jacket – Samuel Windsor
Shirt – Tyrwhitt / Popover – Ralph Lauren Polo
Tie – Paul Winston Chipps grenadine Garza fina
Pocket Square – The Tie Bar
Strides – Levi’s K-1 Crammerton / Epaulet
Boots – Tricker’s jodhpurs / Shoes – Allen-Edmonds McNeil (shell)

Rod’s Togs – Tie Conundrum Update

After writing about the problems I had finding a tie to pair up with my tobacco linen suit the issue started to bug me more and more, so I went on a mission to find a better tie.

I’m happy with this one I found. Like the royal blue wool Prince of Wales tie this one is also a Kiton. According to the label it’s 60 percent silk and 40 percent wool but this time in a much lighter fabric with a pleasant textured weave. Not the kind of check I was originally in search of, but a bright enough blue with some sheen to contrast the dry, dusty look of the linen suit, and a rusty check in the tie to reflect the brown of the jacket. I’m happy at last! (It wasn’t anywhere close to $400!)

 

Rod’s Greatest Hits – Tobacco Linen Suit

It’s been a while since I wore this suit – first shown on the blog back in July 2016, recently dusted off for a work trip to Miami:

When I was first putting together this outfit I saw a bright blue Prince of Wales tie in some web shop pictures which I thought would have worked perfectly. Along with the dusty matte finish of the suit jacket and the semi-solid shirt I felt like I needed a patterned tie  in a bright colour to provide an appealing contrast.

Unfortunately that tie was sold out before I could get it and I’ve been on a mission ever since. I first got the light blue linen tie shown below from Proper Cloth. I thought this would work well as it has a subtle rust overcheck which would reflect the suit colour, but this turned out to be sub-optimal as it provided very little contrast with the shirt, in terms of both texture and colour.

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After some time browsing and considering options on eBay, I bought the royal blue tie shown in the outfit pics. Nice colour contrast, and again a rusty brown overcheck so you’d think I’d be happy, right?

Wrong! The tie is 70 percent wool and 30 percent silk, so it’s thick and fuzzy with a matte appearance. Not a great contrast in texture from the dry, dusty linen suit, plus it’s wintery feel is at odds with the remaining summer ensemble. But more than all that, despite the high price paid, it ties a really crappy knot as can be seen.

So my mission to find the perfect tie for this suit will continue and both of these ties will likely end up on eBay when I finally get round to it!

Sunglasses – Garrett Leight Harding
Suit – Suitsupply
Shirt – Tyrwhitt
Tie – Kiton
Pocket Square – Kent Wang
Chelsea Boots – Carmina

A Visit To O’Connell’s

F3FC6F33-5C6C-4789-B07D-CBC379721F13I came across O’Connell’s while browsing around the internet. The shop seems to be held in high regard by admirers of traditional American clothing and / or the Ivy Style. Original Mods of the early sixties drew some of their influences from this style along with those from Europe – southern France and Italy in particular. The two are by no means mutually exclusive but my own general impression is that European trends of the time were in brightly coloured and lightweight fabrics, while the Trad / Ivy style leaned a little more towards heavier fabrics – Donegal and Harris tweeds, Shetland woolen jumpers and heavy cotton chinos. Due to the climate where I live in Florida being closer to Southern Europe than the north eastern USA, my preference skews towards the former but I still have an admiration for the latter.

I’ve been to Buffalo, New York several times this year for work, but it was only recently that I discovered that O’Connell’s was located there. Last week I was back in the city and finished work early, so finding I was only five miles away I drove over to the shop before closing.

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This place is amazing. An unassuming brick frontage on Main Street, and as you enter there are glass cases of cufflinks, wallets and other accessories, but as you venture deeper inside the place is an Aladdin’s cave, packed to the rafters with attractive items.

Manager Bernie informed me that the business is doing well. They have clients ranging from among locals to those driving in from neighboring states, to others who are international purchasers and are happy to fly in to get their tailoring needs met. The shop has an online presence too, although they struggle to get all of their massive inventory online. It was refreshing to hear a positive story from a traditional heritage menswear brand when I’m so used to hearing doom and gloom among retailers. Cone Mills recently closed, which I’m told was the last US maker of high quality denim and well-known supplier of selvedge denim to Levi’s among others. Likewise Hertling was a decades-old maker and supplier of renowned trousers which a recent report on ‘Put This On’ claimed were going to the wall, but a glance at their website suggests that rumours of their demise are premature. Still, it’s nice to know that some one-off retailers in the niche market of menswear have not succumbed to corporate buyouts or been eclipsed by e-trade.

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The variety on show at O’Connell’s is breathtaking. Bernie proudly states that all their jackets are three-button sacks. Some have the lapel pressed to the middle button which I absolutely cannot abide, but many more had a nice roll that could be fastened by the top two or middle button only. No darts! Trousers have watch pockets in the waist band (handy for stashing current car key-fob remotes), eight belt loops and a choice between short, medium and long rise. Most jackets and trousers are available in one-inch size increments to close in on a good fit, and any alterations can be done on the spot in the tailoring workshop upstairs.

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There is a sale at O’Connell’s in January and July. I spotted a few summer weight items (loud tartan strides that wouldn’t look out of place on a golfer from the 1970’s) but most have been stashed to make room for gear for the upcoming cooler weather seasons. Tweed sports jackets were in a variety of colours, patterns, weights and brands – many too heavy for my needs but great to try on.

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There is also a huge collection of trad accessories such as repp striped regimental ties, emblematic cotton surcingle belts, ribbon striped D-ring belts, socks in every colour and pattern – three-quarter or over-the-calf, your choice – along with stacks and stacks of pocket squares, watch straps and even traditional shaving gear from the likes of George Trumper.

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It was closing time and I came away with one pair of Marciano socks! I felt like Pete Townshend in that story of his first ever visit to Carnaby Street. I will definitely make more time for a return visit when I’m next in town, meanwhile I’ll be scouring their web store and putting together a ‘must have’ list.

Rod’s Togs – More Windowpane

This is the third Ted Baker jacket I’ve splashed out for recently, and the second windowpane. This one is in a great medium blue colour with a silvery grey overcheck, in a cool hopsack-textured wool. In the recent Nordstrom’s sale I got the silver grey strides to pair up with it.

Sunglasses – Roka RioTi
Jacket – Ted Baker
Shirt – Tyrwhitt Leno weave
Tie – E. G. Capelli
Pocket Square – Macy’s
Strides – Ted Baker
Chelsea boots – Arthur Knight

Bespoke Wedding Suit – A Cautionary Tale

Recently my wife and I celebrated seven years since we got married. I’m told that the theme of a seven year wedding anniversary is ‘wool’ ( or copper!) so it’s an appropriate time to tell the tale of my wool wedding suit(s).

In preparation for the big day I dreamed of treating myself to having a suit made to my exact specifications. I’m usually a decent fit off the rack, even better with a few tweaks for nipping the waist or getting the sleeves and strides lengths correct, but this was a special indulgence that I was looking forward to for a special occasion.

As a ‘warm-up’ to the big event, I had a suit made-to-measure by Jason at Thick As Thieves (www.thickasthievesla.com). This was my first time using Thick As Thieves. I chose a powder blue-grey wool mohair sharkskin cloth.

My thinking was that if it came out perfect I would wear it at my wedding. If I wasn’t quite happy with it, I had time to choose whether I would get Jason to do another for the wedding with any necessary tweaks made, or else go elsewhere.

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I’ve showcased this suit on the blog a couple of times before. At a very reasonable price and in around six weeks, after sending in my measurements the suit came back and I was very happy with the fit. It was somewhat heavier than I was expecting and would have been hard to wear in the heat and humidity of a daytime beach wedding in Florida in July. Plus I had this nagging compulsion that I really wanted to treat myself to the full bespoke experience. I suppose I was probably looking forward to having a series of photographs taken as the suit took shape, and doubtless had some romantic notions about being measured every which way in front of a three-panel mirror in an oak-panelled room and being asked “On which side does Sir dress?”

I was living in Houston at the time and knew of a small old-fashioned bespoke tailor’s shop not far from where I lived. I tried this fellow out with a couple of basic alterations first and told him of my plans to one day get a suit made. I then had him fix some annoying ripples in my dinner jacket, and then had a Sea Island cotton shirt made bespoke. The only minor issues in all of this was the inclusion of gauntlet buttons on the shirt sleeve placket against my wishes, so this was remedied.

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In retrospect if I did this again I would have requested more tie space on the collar but other than that I was happy enough with the result. The price – around $200 – was similar to the famed Hamilton bespoke shirtmaker located close by, but I believe you have to make a minimum first order of five shirts with them.

So with this tailor having passed the preliminary tests, on to the suit. I picked out my cloth, a silver-grey 7.5 ounce summer weight worsted (80%) and kid mohair (20%) sharkskin from Holland and Sherry, and my tailor got to work.

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I had described to him in great detail how I wanted this suit to look, and showed him several pictures for reference. I asked if he had a bespoke ‘house style‘ and he said not really, his job was in part to be a mind-reader and give the clients exactly what they wanted. I asked him how many fittings I would get and he said as many as it takes to be satisfied.

Some Mods love adding the extra flourishes in a bespoke suit. V-shaped cuts in the side-seams of trousers (with or without buttons added), stepped hems, linked sleeve buttons, gauntlet cuffs, etc. My choices weren’t as flambuoyant as that but I loved being able to add personal touches such as an inner pocket sized exactly for my iPhone, and the extra loop in the waistband to anchor a belt buckle tang.

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Anyone who has looked at this blog will know my preference (obsession?) for three-button jackets. In almost every case this style of jacket fits me best when the top button lands just around my sternum. At the first fitting of the suit jacket the buttoning position seemed to be quite a bit lower than this and when I mentioned this my tailor said not to worry it would be fixed. But at the next fitting the button placing was unchanged and the button holes had already been cut. Too late to change. For the final product the trousers fit perfectly but I was never happy with the jacket. It was too long and all the proportions seemed too low.

As the wedding date approached, wanting things to be perfect this was bugging me more and more so I took it back to have it adjusted, and all the tailor did was reluctantly chop an inch or more off the length. This had the effect of screwing up all the proportions and making the hip pocket flaps look as though they were almost falling off the bottom hems of the jacket. Having since learned more about the bespoke process, if I had my time over I’d have insisted that he re-cut the entire front panels of the jacket to my request. The lesson here is to make sure you have enough time, and enough cloth, to complete these renovations in time if the suit is being commissioned with a special occasion in mind. Better yet, avoid this issue entirely by making it absolutely clear that you don’t want button holes or pockets cut until the forward fittings, and failure to comply will require a remake at the tailor’s cost.

Note poorly proportioned lower quarters – and the sleeve heads are far from perfect too!

Around this time I was travelling to New York frequently for work and with the dis-satisfaction of my bespoke suit wearing heavily on me, as a ‘plan B’ I ended up shelling out for a silver-grey nailhead Jort suit from Suitsupply.

This suit is really cut to roll the lapel to the middle button but I prefer to wear it as a ‘hard three’. Note the Jort’s ‘spalla camicia’ (‘shirt shoulder’) rippling around the sleeve head.

My ever-parsimonious wife-to-be had found two beautiful white dresses at very reasonable prices but couldn’t decide which she liked best, so opted to get both and wear one for the outdoor beach ceremony and the other for the after party. I chose to do likewise with the two suits I’d acquired by default, and ended up wearing the bespoke suit on the beach (pocket flaps tucked in to mitigate the poor proportions) then changed into the off-the-rack Suitsupply suit for later. This worked out OK.

But when the dust had settled it rankled me that I had spent so much on a bespoke suit that was not only far from perfect, it gave me less pleasure to own than a simple off-the-rack Suitsupply suit which was half the price. I have often spoken about the law of diminishing returns when it comes to expenditure on luxury goods – cars, watches, stereo equipment, guitars – and here I was experiencing exactly that myself to my own cost.

I had my seamstress try to improve the look by removing and re-attaching the pocket flaps higher but it was like putting lipstick on a pig, it was never going to be right.

When I moved to Tampa I found a new tailor to take care of my alterations and saw that he had Holland and Sherry swatch books in the shop. On a whim I got him to order me a jacket length in silver-grey sharkskin and sent it off to Jason at Thick as Thieves.

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Having dialled in my measurements with my first order (the powder blue-grey suit) he was happy to do a CMT job on the cloth I provided, and sure enough a few weeks later my perfectly-fitting new jacket arrived. Getting two bolts of fabric to match is a tricky thing and the problem was that my Thick As Thieves jacket was just a hair different in shade than the trousers from my bespoke suit. Maybe not enough to be noticeable, especially in dim light, but enough for me to know.

It’s hard to capture the difference with an iPhone camera but you may be able to see that due to a higher mohair content the bespoke strides have a slightly more metallic sheen to them than the MTM Thick As Thieves jacket.

So all these clothes hung in my wardrobe mostly unworn. When an occasion demanded a slightly flashy non-business suit, such as a wedding, after some contemplation I would usually reach for the Suitsupply Jort nailhead!

We Mods are perfectionists and this whole debacle was like a pebble in my shoe, demanding that I do something about it. The only solution was to throw yet more money at the problem. I eventually contacted the wonderful Fariha at Holland and Sherry in New York, and after going back and forth with sample swatches, she was able to provide me via the ever-patient Nicole at GQ Sports Tailoring in Tampa, with samples that were a perfect match to the fabrics in both my original bespoke suit and the Thick As Thieves jacket. I ordered lengths in both fabrics and sent them off to Jason at Thick As Thieves, and he has made me a jacket to replace the botched bespoke one, which perfectly matches the original bespoke trousers, and a pair of trousers which perfectly match the replacement jacket he made earlier for me. So along with my much-admired nailhead Suitsupply Jort suit, I now have two silver grey sharkskin suits very close in shade. In order to provide some distinction between the two, since the first Jacket had been made ‘straight’ without major distinctive features, I chose to have the other made a bit more flashy in the details (cloth covered buttons, five inch side vents, etc). The original bespoke jacket will get discarded as I have no desire to be reminded of my profligacy, but the moral of this long story to any interested readers is – CAVEAT EMPTOR!

This is Jason’s Thick As Thieves MTM Jacket matched up with the original bespoke trousers. Photos were taken with the jacket fresh out of the box so it still needs the wrinkles to shake out. Notice the sweet lapel roll. I had this made with a loud, bright orange paisley lining, cloth covered buttons and five inch side vents.

This jacket was made by Jason at Thick As Thieves to replace the botched bespoke jacket but the fabric wasn’t quite a perfect match to the trousers so I found the right cloth and had Jason make trousers to match. This fabric has slightly less sheen so could pass for a formal business suit as I did not add any flashy details. It’s hard to capture the very neat detail of the pick stitching with an iPhone camera. Jason picked out a great aqua blue lining.

Sunglasses – Ray Ban B&L Gatsby Metal Squares
Shirt – bespoke
Tie – The Tie Bar
Pocket Square – Bachrach
Socks – Uniqlo
Shoes – Allen-Edmonds captoes