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Interview with Al Castiel III

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June 27, 2016 by Ville Raivio

VR: Your age and occupation?
AC: I’m a twenty-two-year-old University student and I currently intern in the bespoke department at Paul Stuart in New York City. I’m also a contributing writer for Ivy Style, and do freelance writing for other online menswear sites/blogs in addition to my own, Regattas and Repp Ties. I previously worked in sales at Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren, as well as being a campus representative for Social Primer.

 

VR: Your educational background?
AC: I am a rising fourth year student at Boston University pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Sciences.

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VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your style enthusiasm)?
AC: I’m far from having a spouse or children, but women I have previously been in relationships with have appreciated my sense of style and passion for things sartorial.

 

VR: …and your parents and siblings’ reactions back when you were younger?
AC: I don’t have any siblings, but my parents always encouraged me to dress in a manner that I enjoyed, even if it was more formal than that of my peers.

 

VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides apparel?
AC: Besides clothing, my greatest passion is music; I play drums, piano, and guitar, and used to play the drums professionally in a band during High School. I’m also an avid skier, and try to take at least one ski trip every year. I play squash and tennis recreationally, and used to row competitively as well.

Some of my more “adventurous” hobbies include scuba diving and riding motorcycles (of the sport/racing variety). I also love to travel.

 

VR: How did you first become interested in style, and when did you turn your eyes towards the classics?
AC: My father was my one of my earliest style influences. Him giving me his old GQ magazines at thirteen years old got me interested in men’s style and fashion.

When I first arrived on campus for my first day of secondary school, I was overwhelmed with the sea of upperclassmen in Lacoste polos, Sperry Top Siders, penny loafers, madras trousers, repp ties, Nantucket reds, oxford shirts, and the like. I thought to myself, “I want to look like that”. What I didn’t realize at the time was that my father had been wearing Ralph Lauren and tassel loafers for well over twenty years prior.

So, I suppose you can say that prep school was the driving force that turned me towards classic style. The beauty of it was that my schoolmates were just dressing as their fathers did, and their fathers before them too.

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VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of the tailored look — from books, talks with salesmen or somewhere else?
AC: Reading anything tailoring related that I could—from Alan Flusser and Bruce Boyer’s books to various blogs online has been a great source of information for me over the years. Ralph Lauren was one of my earliest introductions to tailored clothing. Working in the clothing business for the past several years has also helped me grow my tailoring knowledge base. Visiting many of the great tailoring houses of Savile Row and talking with the head cutters during the brief time I lived in London was a great learning experience as well.

 

VR: How would you describe your personal style?
AC: I would say my personal style is heavily rooted in timeless American menswear, or what some people call “preppy”, with a strong British influence. I also admire many of the great Italian tailoring houses as well. I definitely have a bit of a “dandy” streak as well.

 

VR: Which tailors or RTW makers do you favour and why?
AC: My primary tailors are The Andover Shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They’ve been making my clothes for the past few years now. The legendary Charlie Davidson and Larry Mahoney’s impeccable tastes and discerning eyes have guided me to commission some truly beautiful pieces. Like myself, they subscribe to an American version of the quintessential British look, or the Anglo-American look if you will. I’ve also had many items made for me by Luxire. I can’t say enough great things about them. They are always willing to fulfill even the most obscure tailoring requests.

I am also a big fan of Paul Stuart’s custom garments made in New York as well as Miller’s Oath (both bespoke and ready-to-wear). As far as Savile Row tailors go, Steven Hitchcock, Anderson&Sheppard, Henry Poole, and H. Huntsman&Sons all make beautiful bespoke garments that are considered some of the best in the world. I’m also a big fan of Rubinacci in Italy.

Looking to ready-to-wear, I really love Paul Stuart and Ralph Lauren’s offerings, in addition to Kamakura Shirts out of Japan. Ben Silver in Charleston and Sid Mashburn make an incredible garment too. As far as shirts and shoes go, there are so many companies that I enjoy that I’m afraid I’ll leave a lot out if I name any.

Though, you can never go wrong with a Brooks Brothers oxford cloth button-down shirt.

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VR: Have you any particular style or cut philosophy behind your items?
AC: While I appreciate more “structured” tailors like H. Huntsman&Sons or Gieves&Hawkes, I am a strong proponent of “soft tailoring”, or natural-shouldered garments. I like to have a balance between being too conservative or too trendy, while still remaining timeless. The goal is to be able to wear the same suit fifteen years from now and look current. However, since I’m a sIimmer guy of a rather average height, I prefer to have my trousers made rather differently than the traditionally cut ones you see in the “drape” style of tailoring. I always opt for a plain front trouser with a slim leg, tapered at the knee with very little to no break, and a cuff. Side vents are essential for me on suit jackets and sport coats, as they provide the most comfort and are additionally the most flattering vent option a man can utilize. Surgeon’s cuffs, pick stitching, hacking pockets, and ticket pockets are favorites of mine (I actually use the ticket pocket for my subway card), but I don’t have all of these options on every single one of my garments. I believe that to be well-dressed, one needs to have variety in their wardrobe.

I have a few other style quirks, like wearing Hermès ties, braces with braided silk ends, Alden tassel loafers, or cutaway collar shirts. Additionally, I rarely wear belts unless I’m in shorts, jeans, or khakis. I prefer side tabs with buckles for a cleaner, more streamlined look. Moreover, unless I’m in a professional setting or the temperature is under 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees Celsius), I’ll eschew socks.

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VR: When did you set up your own blog, and what was the motivation?
AC: The summer after my senior year of High School, right before entering University in 2013, I thought that blogging would be a fun way to occupy my free time. Over the past few years it has become far more than a way to kill time, but a labor of love.

After years of reading great blogs like (the long gone) Prepidemic, Unabashedly Prep, K. Cooper Ray’s (who would later become my boss) Social Primer (the blog would become the launching point for his neckwear brand), The Trad, Maxminimus, Ivy Inspired, GQ McGee, and many others, I figured I might as well try my hand at blogging too. I always thought that there were plenty of people out there that have the potential to dress impeccably and want to do so, but don’t always have the right guidance. That’s where I figured I could help out. My goal was — and is — to help others get a bit of inspiration from what they see on my site and cultivate their own personal style, gain some sartorial wisdom, and not feel the need to be subject to trends.

 

VR: Who or what inspires you?
AC: I’m truly blessed to know some of my own style icons personally. Charlie Davidson, Bruce Boyer, and Mark Rykken have all taught me incredible amounts and have driven me to learn as much as I can about clothing. I’m proud to say that I have many stylish friends that continually inspire me as well. Additionally, observing well-dressed men on the street and taking cues from the greats like Fred Astaire, Gianni Agnelli, Cary Grant, Prince Charles, and many others is another form of inspiration for me. I also love to get sartorial inspiration from watching classic films.

 

VR: What’s your definition of style?
AC: Style isn’t just about being knowledgeable about clothing. One can be extremely educated about clothes and have absolutely no style, and vice versa. Good taste and an eye for details are essential. It’s about being comfortable in your clothes and always looking at ease in them, whether in pajamas, or in white tie. When people ask me about the difference between style and fashion, I like to tell them that style is a reflection of who you are, and fashion is a reflection of others telling you who to be.

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VR: Finally, how would you describe the dress of the American East Coast universities ?
AC: Severely lacking overall, but with potential. A lot of guys out there are starting to dress up for class a bit more in button-downs, loafers, khakis, etc. Rather unfortunately, this is still a proportionally small amount of students. However, it’s great that fewer and fewer people (almost none these days) are wearing sweats or pajamas to class, at least at my University.

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"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