Capital of Style

If you consider yourself to be at all in the know concerning fashion, you’ll be well aware that Savile Row has become internationally famous as- and even a byword for- fine tailoring, Savile Row might look like an unassuming English street, but it hosts secrets and ghosts – some of the tailor’s premises being rumoured to be haunted –  in fact, making it quintessentially English.

The street itself may be a small and strip-like thoroughfare in Mayfair, but it boasts an unparalleled range of some of the finest tailors in the world. The street was created in the 1730s as part of the vast Burlington Estate, and is named after the Duke of Burlington’s wife, Lady Dorothy Savile. Savile Row was originally a street of doctor’s surgeries, which is why tailors set up there, as the surgeons could afford to pay for their services.

Over the years, it hasn’t only been the place to go for the well-dressed man around town, but has attracted an international clientele, such is its mythic draw.

While such luminaries as Winston Churchill. Charlie Chaplin and Horatio Nelson patronised the row, Nelson’s nemesis Napoleon ordered so many clothes from the Row that he worked up a fearsome debt. To this day, everyone from Jude Law to Benedict Cumberbatch is using the Row’s services. However, just across Piccadilly in St James’s is another street of equal sartorial quality, Jermyn Street.

This is signalled by the statue of the first great English dandy, Beau Brummell, In its early days Jermyn Street was more residential than commercial,  a bustling scene of houses, lodgings, hotels, taverns and schools, dominated by the beautiful Church of St. James’s designed by Sir Christopher Wren. Indeed, over the years, the street has been home to such luminaries as Sir Isaac Newton; William Pitt; Sir Walter Scott; the poet Thomas Gray; and creator of Vanity Fair, W. M. Thackeray.

In its over 300-year history Jermyn Street has always retained its distinctive character, whether in the ambience of the street, the services it offers, the shops and businesses and the people who own and run them. Of course, fashion and businesses come and go, but much of the original essence of Jermyn Street lingers on, to still provide a quintessentially English experience. Indeed, Jermyn Street arguably provides a superior shopping experience than Savile Row, due to its wide variety of shops, some selling at more realistic pricdes. Here you can find such classic English shirtmakers as Turnbull & Asser,  New & Lingwood, Huntsman and Charles Tyrwhitt, as well as some of the best shoemakers in the country, including Edward Green.

Jermyn Street is a delight to visit, with its excellent restaurants, such as Wilton’s serving up classic British food, or Rowly’s, which has been praised as serving “the best steak and chips in the land.”

Of course, we’re not all lucky enough to be able to jet off to London to indulge in fine tailoring. Instead, you could take advantage of Charles Tyrwhitt’s excellent online service, to bring the finest English tailoring delivered to your door, with extra savings available through Groupon.

https://www.groupon.co.uk/discount-codes/shops/ctshirts.co.uk

 

Fine and Dandy

Britain has a long, honourable tradition of dandies, men who both take great pride in and pay much attention to their appearance. The first, and arguably best of these colourful characters was George Bryan Brummell, better known by his nickname Beau.

No less an ego than Byron said of him, “There are three great men of our age: myself, Napoleon and Brummell. But of we three, the greatest of all is Brummell”.

No longer was sophistication to be signified by wrapping oneself in furs and silks; he was the first person to advocate that masculine elegance is best expressed by neutrally coloured clothes cut with the precision for which Savile Row would become famous. Not for Beau Brummell the fripperies of perfume or jewellery, both of which he abjured, but rather the search for an elegance of line and cultivation of cleanliness, the latter being more of an achievement in the squalour of Regency London. He would stress the masculine physique by avoiding the billowy, decorated tunics of the past to wear a more contemporary dress shirt, tailored for his body and accessorised by a cravat, which he spent time on developing increasingly intricate and elaborate knots for.

Stewart Granger as Beau Brummell

Brummell rejected the use of breeches and stockings, and instead introduced full-length formal trousers with matching or contrasting jackets, ideally a darker jacket worn over a lighter shirt.

Essentially, Brummell introduced what we now know as the suit to men’s fashion. Exceptionally well-fitting, because hand-tailored bespoke suits, to be precise.

This was a new aesthetic, stressing that less Is more, which would affect the future of men’s fashion to this day – when was the last time you saw a man wearing a periwig, which was the style Brummell was railing against? And rail Brummell did, sitting in the window of his London club sneering at the fops on parade outside, dressed in the fashions of the French.

It should be remembered that at this point, Britain was fighting the French in the Napoleonic Wars, so polishing his shoes with champagne was maybe more of a diss to the French than a sign of decadence.

James Purefoy as Beau Brummell

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Brummell’s life is that he achieved such fame and  influence by becoming the first British person to be famous simply for being famous – a proto celebrity as it were – while not being an aristocrat.

Which is not to imply that he came from the lower orders – the son of  a politician, he enjoyed the privilege of an Eton education.

He used his style, good looks and intelligence to break through the ranks of the aristocracy, and even befriend and influence the Prince Regent, the future King George VI.

However, while he sought to rival, and even outdo the aristocracy in their wardrobes, they had one thing he didn’t – loads of money.

Having run up substantial tailor’s bills, he fled to France, living in exile until he was caught and forced to work in debtor’s prison. He would die there of syphilis, another reckoning of accounts for his previous lifestyle, at the age of 61.

He is still remembered to this day, and commemorated by a statue in Jermyn Street, one of the tailoring centres of London.

Shoe Smarts

One of the most important parts of a man’s wardrobe is his footwear – indeed, since we spend so much of the day on our feet, and our posture is so important for our general health, our shoes may well be the most important part of our wardrobe.

Shoes are also important if we want to make an impression – we all know what trainers are, but what are the different types of smart shoe available?

Your questions will be answered here.

Oxfords

Oxfords are the smartest shoe a man can wear – fact. They owe their name to the popularity they gained at Oxford University in the 19th century, where students rebelled against wearing knee-high and ankle-length boots by wearing the low-cut Oxford. However, the shoe actually originates from the Celtic parts of the UK, Scotland and Ireland, as hinted at by the name Balmorals given to a type of seamless Oxford, distinguished by its M-shaped toe cap.

Oxfords are the most formal type of footwear you can own, and the standard, whether for black tie events, weddings or funerals. They should be worn with smart trousers – they do NOT go with jeans. Black and brown are the most common colours, their neutrality making them extremely versatile. Black shoes will match well with any colour of suit, provided you wear black socks. Brown shoes will go with pretty much any colour of sock, but cannot be worn with a black suit, unless you want to be detained by the fashion police. The contrast break in colour between the suit and the shoes will completely destroy the illusion of sophistication you’re trying to create.

As sober and restrained as the Oxford is, there are many variants which can be rung on the classic design. The plain toe is the simplest, arguably the most elegant, and the best for very formal events.

Cap toe Oxfords

The cap toe Oxford is the most common smart shoe in the UK, worn in offices everywhere, and named for its extra piece of leather stitched over the toe.

Wing tip Oxfords

Wing tip Oxfords are a smart but less formal alternative, which take advantage of broguing, the practice of perforating and pinking the leather for decorative effect. This was another technique imported from Scotland and Ireland, where the perforations could drain water that came with working in a damp climate.  Some mistake brogues for Oxfords; in fact, some brogues are just a type of Oxford, and wing tips are a type of brogue, with their pointed toe and distinctive extensions running along the midsole.

The Brogue

However, not all brogues are Oxfords – some are in fact Derbies. There is one crucial difference between the Oxford and the Derby, and that’s in their lacing systems. A Derby has an open lacing system, while the Oxford’s is closed, making it more streamlined and sleeker. Derbies originated  to accommodate – and are more suitable for – gentlemen with broader feet.

The Derby

OK – so that’s the lowdown on smart shoes. Now you have no excuse for not looking your best at formal occasions!

 

 

True British Style

British men are a byword for style the world over, and have been since the swinging sixties, when London became the style capital of the world. British men are uniquely lucky in that we have both our immaculate tradition of tailoring to draw on, coupled with our rich heritage of street styles and subcultures. Britannia is still cool, and the world’s eyes are still on us.

How best to rock the British style, you may well ask? Here are five tips to help you make the most of your personal style.

Wear One Tailored Piece – British men look good in a suit, but that doesn’t mean we have to wear them 24/7. Why not mix up your wardrobe by wearing just one tailored item – such as a jacket, or a well-cut pair of trousers – that fits you perfectly? Then, the rest will take care of itself.

 Mix and Match – Don’t be scared to be eclectic – that tailored jacket could go perfectly with a pair of jeans. Play with juxtapositions of colour and pattern, such as coloured shirts against tweeds, and play with your accessories – polka dot socks or an electric blue scarf will make you stand out.

Dress With a Feminine Twist – British dandies have been playing with gender fluidity for decades, with rock stars such as Keith Richards and David Bowie, and comedians who think they’re rock stars, from Russell Brand to Noel Fielding mastering a new style of heterosexual camp. Wearing clothes cut from traditionally feminine fabrics, or even a traditionally feminine cut, whether velvet jackets or silk scarves, make a dynamic contrast when paired with classically masculine clothes – and ladies love the look.

How to Dress Well – Great British Eccentric, George Melly

Stand Out – But Not Too Much – In Paris, people dress kind of samey, and outdo each other through the quality of their clothing, the elegance of the cut and the quality of the fabric. In Britain, you can stand out by embracing your individual style, All of the tips we’ve given you above should help you find – and express – yourself, in fashion. Run riot, but within reason. You want to look like an individual, possibly a great English eccentric – not a children’s TV presenter.

How NOT to Dress – Timmy Mallett, who scarred so many of our childhoods

So that’s our guide to dressing in the best of British style – above all, have fun with it.

How To Choose a Dress Shirt

While menswear is not as prone to the natural evolution and cyclical nature of the fashion industry as women’s fashion, men’s fashion still evolves, and there are some sartorial classics that stand the test of time.

Shirts, for one, have never attained such popularity and importance in a man’s wardrobe as at present; if suits, jackets, overcoats, and shoes have traditionally taken centre ground, , shirts were often relegated to the background – no more. We’re going to present you with our guide to the well-made shirt.

Fabric

 Fabrics are the core element of a high-quality shirt, and are immediately appreciated by the wearer. An easy method to check the quality of a shirt is how well the pattern of a checked shirts is lined up at a few critical seams. If it is well done, then you will probably find all the other hallmarks of a good shirt. The following areas should be matched perfectly:

  1. shoulder to sleeve
  2. pocket (if is has any)
  3. split yoke
  4. sleeve to sleeve placket
  5. shirt fronts and front placket
  6. Of course you can match the pattern on the side seams as well, though this is not seen very often

Matching the fabric pattern in all these areas demands great skill from the manufacturer.

Pattern Development

Once you have a shirt that fits you perfectly, you come to expect the same fit and workmanship for all future shirts. However, as you may have experienced yourself, consistency is not always a priority of lower end labels. Even for experienced tailors, it can be difficult to produce the exact same fit time and time again, since high end shirt manufacturing  requires so many manual steps, and humans do things ever so slightly differently each time.

To deliver the best of both worlds, most shirt manufacturers rely on carefully developed patterns that are used every time that particular model is produced. Body patterns are cut from thick paper, whereas collars and cuffs may be made out of  metal to ensure absolute accuracy.

Stitch density, as well as consistency, is a reliable way to judge the workmanship of a shirt. Tightly woven fabric should have a very high density of stitches, which results in an elegant look and durability.

The Collar

The collar is the most striking feature on a shirt, since it is usually visible at all times. Therefore, it is crucial to choose the right collar for your face and wardrobe. One thing to aim for is perfect symmetry between collar points: both ends should sit exactly at the same distance from the centre of the collar — this is easily perceived on a striped shirt, for instance, where the two points should sit exactly over the same stripe.

Shirts have certainly come a long way since their evolution from undergarment to fashion statement, If you’re seeking a quality shirt to impress, follow the tips above and you can’t go wrong.

 

 

Get Shirty

When it comes to building a shirt collection, you want a few different styles to hand so you’ve got one for every occasion. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got to splurge your cash on a whole wardrobe full of them – there are basically five different styles of shirt, two of which – the Oxford and the dress shirt – are absolutely mandatory components of any man’s wardrobe.

Shirts are versatile, and can fit any outfit from a smart suit to summer beachwear. We’ll shows you how to make your choice of shirt fit your outfit.

The Dress Shirt

The dress shirt is the most formal shirt – essentially worn with a suit or in business casual settings, they can be distinguished by their collars, which can be spread (or Windsor) collars, point (straight or small) collars, or detachable collars.

What makes the dress shirt different from the Oxford shirt is its fit and its finish. It’s usually a slimmer fit, with a more structured finish, a little shorter in length, but with a longer back. This is because the dress shirt should be tucked into trousers, so you neither want excess material hanging,  nor to come untucked when you’re  bending over.

The Grandad Collar Shirt

The grandad shirt may have been associated with Irish and Northern labourers in the first half of the twentieth century, then with Indian President Nehru and the Beatles in the second, but the collarless shirt is back in style in the twenty first. Traditionally made from flannel, brush cotton or Irish linen and traditionally only have four buttons. Their current incarnation often has four buttons, but the collarless effect still makes a striking addition to any outfit.

The Oxford Shirt

The oxford shirt should need no introduction, with its long history dating back to 19th century Scotland. Thanks to its strong fabric and comfortable fit, but it would find cult status amongst Ivy League students in the 1950s, becoming a staple of the preppy style.

The oxford shirt was a trailblazer in blurring the lines between smart and casual in menswear, making it the vital shirt that everyone owns, as you really can wear it anywhere, for any occasion. The oxford shirt can be as smart – with a smart suit and shoes,  or as casual – paired with jeans and trainers – as you want.

Checked Shirt

The hipster’s default dress mode, and the perfect way to smuggle some colour into your ensemble. Like everything about hipsters, it’s not original; the checked shirt first appeared in the 16th century, but would end up being banned in Britain in 1746 in the aftermath of the Scottish Rebellion, due to its links with clan tartans.

Now they’re unbanned and ubiquitous; thick flannel shirts are the thing for keeping cosy in winter, while looser lightweight checked shirts are perfect for the summer months.

Denim Shirt

An American classic with a bit of history, the denim shirt was manufactured by Levi Strauss when dressing hardworking miners and prospectors in the California Gold Rush. Levi Strauss would become more famous for his jeans, but the denim shirt has stood the test of time. Do you dare to wear double denim though?

As you can see, the shirt’s had a long and rich history, so you should make a place for some in your wardrobe.