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An Interview with Emil Levin

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August 17, 2019 by Ville Raivio

VR: Your age and occupation?

EL: I am 24 years old, and currently I am working on becoming an established influencer in menswear and lifestyle, at the same time I’m a co-founder of Helvin Watches. Being an influencer on social media is quite new for me, but it opens doors to spread my message across a wide audience. I feel that the world could need a face in menswear that is different from what we are used to seeing, and I hope I can contribute to that.

VR: Your educational background?

EL: I studied Social Studies in High school. I was never really the guy to study much, but it did help me find two of my todays biggest interests: philosophy and psychology. I believe there are so many great things to learn today about life and human behaviour, things that can benefit us in our daily life.

VR: Despite having SMA2, you favour tailored clothing instead of more comfortable, stretchy sportswear. What’s your motivation?

EL: My motivation is quite simple, I demand that I shall do my best in every situation in this life, and that includes dressing well. I understand the power of appearance and how it affects people, especially in my situation, where the difference between wearing a suit versus a T-shirt is enormous. People’s reactions to a man in a wheelchair change drastically depending on what you wear, that directly shows how important it is. I also honestly prefer tailored clothing because it feels better, not psychologically only but also physically.

VR: What were your parents’ and siblings’ reactions when you changed your style?

EL: All were positive to it. I suppose it was a sign I was growing up, especially since it was quite a drastic change from my previous style, where T-shirts and baggy jeans were dominating.

VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides apparel?

EL: I have quite a few hobbies that I do almost daily. Playing video games is one of them. I’ve always loved to play games of any kind, and since you only need a minimum of muscle strength to play video games, it is really perfect for me. I get to compete on the same level as others. Reading is also one of my favourite hobbies. To learn is to grow and I always want to keep growing! I am also very interested in art. It’s truly a joy to sit down, relax and paint. I am using a tablet to paint via my computer. It’s quite amazing how technology has come so far as to be able to recreate a realistic feel of painting.

VR: How did you first become interested in clothing, and when did you turn your eyes towards the tailored look?

EL: Clothing has been an interest for me ever since I started High school, it used to be more ”swag” than ”class” for me. However, when I was around 18 I started to watch a lot of Youtubers who showed a more classic sense of style. A style which I had enjoyed for years, mostly thanks to James Bond if I’m going to be honest. It all came together when I joined an FB group made by the famous Youtube channel Real Men Real Style. There I saw how others styled their suits and it inspired me to pursue the classical style myself.

VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of clothing — from books, in-house training, workshops or somewhere else?

EL: I mostly gained my knowledge from observation and through different Youtube channels. With observation I am talking about looking closely how people dress, both in real life but also in fiction, like movies. Real Men Real Style, the Youtube channel, has probably given me most knowledge on how to dress in a classic way.

VR: How would you describe your style?

EL: I would describe it as being elegant with a twist. I like to dress in a way that gives off a strong presence without being flamboyant.

 

VR: Who or what inspires you?

EL: I have many inspirations. Life constantly brings me new people that inspire me. I do, however, have a few people that have inspired me for quite some time. Niccolò Cesari (@niccocesari), Isao Kato (@cento130) and the brothers from @artwoth_brothers are a few guys who I’ve been following on Instagram ever since I started using it, and they have had an impact on my style! One new addition to this list is my friend Giorgio Giangiulio (@giorgiogiangiulio). What all these gents have in common is impeccable style. If we’re talking fiction, James Bond definitely has a spot. But at the end of the day, what inspires me most is the fire in my heart that fuels me so that I can do my best in this blessed life I am given.

VR: What’s your definition of style?

EL: My definition of style is simply: A way of expressing yourself.

 

VR: You recently visited Pitti Uomo for the first time. What expectations did you have before the trip, and what was the reality like?

EL: It was really amazing. I had seen so many photos of it, but most of them were outdoors, which made me believe that everything was outdoors. Was quite surprised when most of it was indoors. What made it so wonderful and what really exceeded my expectations was that everyone was so kind and cheerful. Every person who attends Pitti Uomo has one thing in common: We all like menswear. It was a fantastic experience, one that will be repeated.

VR: Finally, you are also part of the watch company Helvin. What makes this firm different from your competitors?

EL: Indeed I am. Besides our Swiss part movement, we also give away 50% of our profits to research for a cure for SMA. It is something that I am passionate about, not only because I have this disease myself, but also because I know a few people who have and are very much in need of a cure or treatment fast. SMA is a very individual disease, some people can manage quite fine, while others cannot. That’s why it’s important to hurry up the process as much as we can in order to help those people before it’s too late. I am very happy that we at Helvin took this decision.

https://www.instagram.com/mrlevino/


Anatomy of a Kamakura Shirt

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August 9, 2019 by Ville Raivio

Kamakura is a Japanese shirtmaker founded in 1993 by husband and wife Yoshio and Tamiko Sadasue. They began as a small store in the namesake city, Kamakura, and have since expanded into 25 outlets around Japan. The greatest inspiration for the company’s designs and detailing is the all-American Ivy League style of the 1950s, which reached Japan in the ’60s. In 2012, Maker’s Shirt (the formal name of the company) braced itself and crossed an ocean to branch out to the USA. This is all fine and dandy for any company, but the most important points for me, when I read about Kamakura first some 7 years ago, were their Ivy inspiration and price-quality match. Not too many Japanese shirtmakers have successfully reached out to international customers, but Kamakura seems to offer something sweet.

Kamakura uses single-needle stitching, 22 stitches per inch, shell buttons, and take pride in using un-fused collars and cuffs. Chest pockets are sewn askew to appear straight when worn, and sleeves are sewn curved to follow the natural line of the hands. All shirts are made in Japan, though this excludes Kamakura’s Neapolitan lineup which wouldn’t be very Italian if made elsewhere.

The company has a made-to-measure program that allows small changes to stock sizes, and free range with the choice of collar and cuffs. Kamakura offers 11 collar models: Semi-Spread, Open Collar, Spread, Cutaway, Tab, Round, Pinhole, Button-down, One-piece, Straight, and Wing. The last two only on black tie shirts. Cuffs are limited to 3 options, a rounded button version, french cuffs, and a convertible one. Currently the Kamakura web store has 35 pages of shirt models, which makes for some 700 permutations. Few companies have such a range, though this does overwhelm the man who’s unsure.

As for lineups, Kamakura offers casual shirts which are not really meant for tie pairing, vintage Ivy models, Italian cotton models, a laid-back 134-collection, shirtings with 200 or 300 or 400 yarns per square meter, short sleeve models, black tie shirts, oxford cloth button-downs, Indian Suvin cotton shirts, easygoing traveller shirts, Chinese Xinjiang cotton shirts, Neapolitan shirts, even corduroy shirts. The company has grown into ties, bags, coats, trousers, belts and others but the core remains in shirts with a great price-quality deal. The maker has four cuts: a slimmer and regular Tokyo as well as a slimmer and regular New York. The Japanese one is closer to the body in both versions. The webstore delivers to all locations, free of charge for orders over 138USD. The company reimburses part of the customer’s VAT payment as vouchers, though this needs action from the customer as proof must be provided. Kamakura never has sales.

In today’s post I am reviewing a button-down shirt from Kamakura’s regular lineup. The only difference with this one is the fabric as seersucker is rarely used in finer collar shirts. This really is among the most interesting points with Kamakura: their range of models and fabrics is so large that there’s bound to be something for most men, if only the cuts appeal. Regarding the cut, this Tokyo slim fit is definitely among the most form-fitting I have tried, both on the body and sleeves. The closest comparison I can offer is Suitsupply’s extra slim fit.

The chest in size 38 has the usual measurement of 56 cm, but I wager that the front panel has been cut smaller than usual, with more room at the back. This makes the chest fit very close and very clean, though only on a slim body. The sleeve is only 40 cm at the top, 32 cm on the elbow, and 22 cm on the wrist. While I’m at it, I must note that the cuffs fit closer than on any other RTW shirt I’ve tried, at only 20 cm from button to hole. As for the collar, it is 4.4 cm tall with 8.6 cm long points. This is enough to make it stand out, more so with the wonderful collar roll which is only possible thanks to the un-fused construction. The lining is strong but bendy.

Most Kamakura shirts retail for 89 dollars on the web store, but this quickly rises to more than 100 euros after customs duties and VAT are added. All stripes have been carefully matched, a fine feat especially on the sleeve tops as the sleeves have been sewn in an angle. Buttonholes are clean, seams straight, the fabric feels soft and nice. The placket is swell and wide, without fusing. The cuffs have the usual rounded end, but they have also been sewn on in an angle. I’ve rarely seen a similar construction. The buttons are generic.

The only negative point with this shirt is the button attachment, likely all must be sewn on again within the year. The threads are loose and shoddy. Only time will tell how the shirt wears and behaves after a few years of washing, the fabric’s manufacturer is not mentioned and it only has a single-ply thread. Still, all this combines to make a shirt that, in my view, is the best damn price-quality deal I have found so far. It is not the finest in make or fabric or rarity, but offers so much for the price point. It is a very well made shirt with an interesting fabric and a truly slim cut, delivered to the doorstep from Japan in less than two weeks. The Japanese show once again that they must be taken seriously in men’s classic clothing.

http://www.kamakurashirts.net


An Interview with Ken Calder from Aero Clothing

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August 8, 2019 by Ville Raivio

VR: Your age and occupation?

KC: Old enough to know better. Occupation? Chairman and designer at Aero Leather Clothing Limited.

VR: Your educational background?

KC: I went to school in a remote village in Caithness and left school at 15, and moved to London to find fame and fortune. My first job was in Lilywhites, my second in Bally :).

 

VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your clothing enthusiasm)?

KC: I have two children and a wife. My daughter Holly and my son Denny are both heavily involved in the business. My wife, Lydia, and I, have taken a bit of a back seat for the last few years, enjoying being back in the Highlands where I grew up.

VR:  …and your parent’s and siblings’ reactions to style back in the days when your journey began?

KC: I think after seeing me go from working for Bally, to failing to make the grade as a footballer and then spending several years in the music business, my mother was probably delighted to see me have a “proper job”. My first business was called Ruskin, started in 1968, which was high fashion and supplied some of the trendiest customers in London, although my own personal taste was for 1940s clothing, even then. I am an only child, my mother was proud of my progress, in fact she wore a Ruskin midi coat I made her throughout the late ’60s. She became a part of the company, and organised production of our knitwear range, even personally making the cardigan Elton John wore on the sleeve of his first album.

An original A-2 jacket from Aero’s collections

VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides apparel?

KC: Sport. Over the years I was heavily involved in athletics, football and rallying – both my wife and myself were quite successful drivers in the 1990s. I’ve also had a lifelong interest in horse racing and vintage cars, having had various Mk II Jaguars and Healey 3000s, an AC Cobra, a couple of Astons, I always bought older used models. My current car is a re-built 1990 Range Rover that looks better than the day it left the factory. Now, my main hobby is walking with our dog and enjoying a restful semi-retirement.

VR: How did you first become interested in clothing, and when did you turn your eyes towards leather jackets?

KC: As a kid I grew up in hand me downs and ‘jumble sale’ clothes, Tweeds, Fair Isles and “Tackety Boots” which may have given me my love of Vintage. My first real memory of clothing as being more than utilitarian was being the first kid in my village to get a pair of jeans, the kind that had big turn ups…until they were washed once! I remember they caused quite a stir, especially teamed up with my Woolworth’s Baseball Boots, that I started to take note of clothes from that moment on. When I moved to London, I needed to wear a suit and smart clothes to work. Just at the time Italian suits were coming into fashion and they looked so different to everything I’d seen back home, and Carnaby Street was just begining.

My first leather jacket I designed myself, must have been 1963 (?), and I had it made by the legendary John Stephen (of Carnaby Street). When I realised he’d made a dozen or so of the same style to sell in his own shop it occurred to me that I must have an eye for the type of clothes people wanted to buy. After a couple more jackets made by him for me, both of which ended up big sellers in Stephen’s store ‘His Clothes’ I decided to launch my label where I sell could sell my designs to the public myself. It was only in 1969 that I discovered I had a real talent for working with leather (as opposed to cloth, which I still struggle with to this day), my client list from that era is like a who’s who of the top musicians and coolest people on the scene…Anita Pallenberg, Marianne Faithfull, Syd Barrett, The Beatles, The Stones, The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of the topic — from books, in-house training, workshops or somewhere else?

KC: The clothing I sold at Ruskin was very European in tailoring techniques. I’d worked with a very talented tailor called Colin Bennett who schooled me in the fine arts of high-grade tailoring but Ruskin was very much a design group where the group of young folk who worked with us were encouraged to give their input in our designs.

Despite designing and making Suzi Quatro’s icon suit, the rise of Glam Rock and the outfits I was being asked to make by our clientele eventually led to me walking away from the business as I hated the outfits and didn’t enjoy the work. I was no longer happy to put my name on what we were producing, and I came back to Scotland to replenish myself.

Three years later in 1976, in need of money, I was back in London and started a new business, opening a store called the ‘Thrift Shop’, selling only vintage clothing. Within a few months we were bringing vintage clothing from America, primarily leather, and discovered that the leather that was used in America in the mid-20th century was vastly superior to anything used in Europe. Due to the fact that generally the only thing wrong with these jackets were busted zips, torn lining or rotted stitching, I had to get my sewing machine back out to repair them. Immediately I noticed the manufacturing techniques were totally different to the European styles I’d known…also, in my opinion, the American leather making techniques were vastly superior. Consequently, after a few years restoring vintage leathers, I was finally talked into making some new jackets to meet the demand for larger sizes in A-2s which were difficult to find for the modern-sized man.

VR: How would you describe your own style?

KC: It would depend on what year you’re asking about. Very few people I know have gone through so many styles of dress. Currently I’ve got everything from a 1945 Bernard Weatherill Savile Row suit to Lee Jeans and three button shirts. Vintage tweed suits, Fair Isle sweaters and Charlie Chaplin style boots. I love leather jackets, of course.

VR: Who or what inspires you?

KC: Aside from the obvious and aforementioned love of vintage clothing, there are very few individuals that have my total respect. From a fashion and quality production point of view, Ozzie Clark, Campbells of Beauly, and for style Alain Delon, James Stewart, Paul Newman and Cary Grant.

 

VR: What’s your definition of style?

KC: Understated and someone that looks totally comfortable in what they’re wearing, because unless an individual is totally at ease in what they wear, they’ll never carry it off. Whether that’s a Savile Row suit or a pair of old jeans and a t-shirt.

VR: If what I’ve heard is true, then you’ve ripped apart old vintage jackets to see their inner workings. Is this done for faithful reproductions or do you believe leather jackets were just made better before?

KC: As I mentioned previously, this is one of the ways I learned how to produce jackets myself. Today we steer clear of ‘faithful reproductions’ as much as possible, military aside, favouring designs that look as though they were made in the period with no concessions for modern tweaks. The motto at Aero is ‘nothing should leave our factory that wouldn’t have been designed or made after 1959’.

VR: To add to the previous question, how were leather jackets different before our times?

KC: Leather has been used for centuries, but I believe the advent of flying changed design forever. For example, inspiration from the Royal Flying Corps coats led design for a whole decade. In the depression era a new style and cut appeared, clothing became neater and shorter in attempts to minimise the use of raw materials. This brought in clever use of panelling amongst leather makers, culminating in some of the cleverest and most iconic leather jackets of all time. And clothing was made to last, which is probably the biggest difference between then and now…the disposable society we live in.

 

VR: When did you set up Aero Leather and what was the motivation?

KC: The first Aero jacket was an A-2, which was made in 1981. A year or so later we began the development of the Highwayman, within a month or so we had the jacket that is still our best seller 36 years later, and has been copied worldwide ever since.

There wasn’t really a motivation in my mind at the time, the jackets we made were generally larger sizes than we could easily find in vintage models. It took a move back to Scotland in 1984 before Aero really became a full time venture.

VR: How is Aero different from other leather jacket makers?

KC: In 1984, we were probably one of a handful of companies world wide making jackets the way they had been made in the mid-20th century. When we began producing horsehide jackets in 1986, we were the only company in the world using this leather for clothing. It took several years before other makers began to follow our lead.

Although there are now lots of companies doing similar work to Aero, we are probably exclusive in having no production lines. One complete jacket is made by one single machinist. Apart from giving the operator great satisfaction in their days work, it means that jackets which were carefully matched at the cutting stage stay together throughout production, minimising the risk of mismatched panels and the finished garment never exceeding the quality of the poorest link in the production line.

VR: How would you describe the House Style of Aero’s designs?

KC: American casual and utility clothing, styled according to the eras from 1920-1959, and built to last.

 

VR: Do you have a favourite leather and jacket model?

KC: From our current range the 1920s Work Coat is my personal favourite. I find it ideal for most of the bad weather we have in the Scottish Highlands, whilst still having a stylish and unique look. I also have an old A-2 I made for myself 20 odd years ago which has been heavily abused over the years, but still retains its original lining and knits in perfect condition.

VR: Finally, why should Keikari’s readers try you instead of others?

KC: I hope I’ve said enough earlier in the interview to convince any would-be Aero customers to try one of our jackets. We have dozens of customers who own in excess of 20 Aero jackets, so it seems that once bitten, you’re Aero’s forever!

Photos: Aero

http://www.aeroleatherclothing.com


Suitsupply and a new customised service

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August 2, 2019 by Ville Raivio

The Dutch price-quality miracle Suitsupply has recently launched a new version of its customised service. The SS-webstore previously had the option for having clothes made if the right size and suitable cloth were known. These days, the service has sped up from some 4+ weeks into 2-3 weeks and offers more variables. Now the customer may choose his lining from a larger pool, buttons as well, and their cloth selection has been expanded. Most of the fabrics are toned-down workhorses in the shades of blue and gray, for these have the most demand, but for spring and summer happenings there are also light shades in sand and brown, and green. The biggest advantage from this customisation service is, of course, for the established customer who already knows his size and the cut that pleases. The others had best pop in a store to try on various pieces so that the advantage will pile up. A visit is also helpful if one wants to see the web service’s cloths in own hands.

I think the most helpful bit in this new customisation program is the option for separate sizes. The jacket may be good in a particular cut, for example, but the trousers really ought to be looser so that they can be worn on the waist instead of the hips. Or maybe one’s legs are long but the back short, so that a jacket with the short cut with longer trousers is better. The most affordable pieces in this program start at 400 euros, depending on the cloth. Apart from these, there are options for collar shirts, trousers, odd jackets, waistcoats, dinner suits. I would gladly see a similar service in the webstores of other makers as well, for each body is an individual and each customer an individual. Who has things made, gets what he wants. Oddly enough, Suitsupply also offers free returns for customised clothes. For the edification of Keikari’s readers, the company is offering me a free test drive with the service, and I can tell more about it within the coming weeks.

https://eu.suitsupply.com/on/demandware.store/Sites-INT-Site/en_FI/Configurator-Show?type=suit


An Interview with Ian Anderson

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July 24, 2019 by Ville Raivio

VR: Your age and occupation?

IA: I just turned 31. In menswear circles I’m mostly known for running the blog From Squalor to Baller, and I also helped create the brand Lost Monarch, which I just launched with a couple of my good friends.

VR: Your educational background?

IA: I studied structural engineering in college, which led me to California to get my Master’s degree at Stanford. After I graduated I worked as an engineer for a couple of years and completed my license before transitioning to the apparel industry.

VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your style enthusiasm)?

IA: None! My style is purely my own :)

VR: …and your parents and siblings’ reactions back when you were younger?

IA: I wasn’t a good dresser at all when I was young. I liked the idea of dressing well – I wanted to feel the confidence that I assumed would come with it – but I had no idea how to execute on it. These were the early days of the Internet, I lived in a small town, and my father was more of an outdoorsman than a city-slicker, so there was no good way for me to learn the basics of how to dress well.

VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides apparel?

IA: I have always loved playing music, and aside from studying jazz piano in college I also play a lot of guitar and do a good amount of singing. I used to perform regularly in bands and vocal groups before I moved to California but since then I haven’t taken the time to get back into it. I hope to soon though!

VR: How did you first become interested in style, and when did you turn your eyes towards the classics? Why these instead of fashion?

IA: Although I’d always been curious about clothing on a conceptual level, my interest in men’s clothing began in earnest when I was starting graduate school. I was working on my Master’s degree and suddenly realized that I would need a major wardrobe overhaul when I entered the workforce after graduation. I spent a good amount of time learning about clothes and slowly creating a professional wardrobe in order to prepare for life after college. My college-kid thriftiness made me concentrate on buying only the most versatile items that I could find. It also made me focus on quality and getting as much as I could out of every dollar I spent. Now that I’m out of college, I have a bit more flexibility in what I can purchase, but I still find myself drawn to the most basic and pared-down items.

VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of the tailored look — from books, talks with salesmen or somewhere else?

IA: Online resources like Styleforum and blogs were my main source of learning when I first became interested in clothing. As I have gotten more involved in the industry I’ve had the fortune of meeting many professionals with much more knowledge than me, along with visiting factories, tanneries, and other fascinating places. I’m also currently taking coursework in pattern-making, which has given me a whole new perspective on clothing design and production. There have been many times when I thought I understood some aspect of clothing well, only to learn that it was much more complicated that I ever could have imagined.

VR: Why did you decide to set up your blog, and what goals did you set for yourself in the beginning?

IA: I started my blog in 2012 because I needed a creative outlet — I was working as a structural engineer for a large international firm, and doing 50 hours of math every week was really sucking the life out of me. I wanted to give myself a place to write, and since I had become so interested in clothing it seemed like the perfect topic to begin writing about. Much to my surprise, people began reading my blog and so I decided that I would have to start doing a better job of creating content. I bought a good camera, set up a website and a domain, and decided to write articles that I would have liked to read when I was first learning. I’ve never wanted to turn my blog into a full-time project, because I like having the freedom to write whatever I want without having to rely on it for income.

VR: Have you any particular style or cut philosophy behind your own clothing?

IA: My north star for dressing well is context. I know a lot of guys into men’s clothing are very adamant about “dressing for yourself,” but this has never really been important to me. I think that the guys that wear suits to the office when it’s not required at all are more like cosplayers than good dressers. I want to leave the impression of being put together without wearing clothing that intentionally sticks out.

VR: Who or what inspires you?

IA: I never really turned to celebrities or industry people for style inspiration, it just never felt relevant to my lifestyle. My greatest inspiration for my style is my grandfather, who was an East Coast business guy who ended up becoming a Wyoming cowboy. His style always shifted to fit his surroundings and he always looked sharp, whether he was wearing a navy grenadine or a bolo tie.

VR: How would you describe your style?

IA: Simple, unassuming, easygoing. I don’t take a lot of risks with clothing, and I mostly dress to blend in. For me, the joy of clothing comes from nailing the small things and savoring the details rather than creating a strong impression on those around me.

VR: You work on the tech-sector, which is infamous for low standards in dress. How do you manage to follow your style and not stick out too much?

IA: I think the first step is to not conflate informality with lack of style. While I do love formal clothing, it’s still very possible to dress well while also dressing in a casual way. San Francisco also has a long history of denim and workwear (and some of the best stores in the world for those types of products), so that comes into play as well. For me, I try to dress well while also staying within the level of formality of my workplaces (most of the time, at least). This means focusing on small details rather than wearing loud or overly dressy clothing, and learning how to incorporate tailored clothing into a more casual wardrobe.

 

VR: Finally, given your expertise on the subject, how can a man of the 2010s dress with style on the tech-sector?

IA: I think one of the reasons that style-conscious men gravitate toward tailored clothing is because it is so logic-based; all of the rules and principles help someone look pretty good without having to know too much. Casual clothing is more difficult to execute well because there are no strong guidelines – it’s a bit of a no-man’s land and just requires a good eye. For this reason, I think it’s even more critical to keep things simple and not try to take on too much. Pieces like a good pair of jeans, a nice pair of boots or leather sneakers, field jackets and tees are always going to be safe. From those (and other) core pieces, slowly explore other styles and see what works for you. Focus on interesting textures instead of interesting colors, wear your clothing hard, and don’t spend too much time worrying about the little things.

https://fromsqualortoballer.com




Copyright © 2013 Ville Raivio

Only a beautiful life is worth living.


"If John Bull turns around to look at you, you are not well dressed; but either too stiff, too tight, or too fashionable".
~ Beau Brummell