March 22, 2014 by Ville Raivio
If there is no such thing as shirt store porn, let this little post give a name to a series. Claude Truong-Ngoc has shared a few dozen beautiful shots from the store that has no comparison in range of shirtings, and Wikimedia Commons has it all — bolt after bolt, collar after another.
March 21, 2014 by Ville Raivio
Shetland wool is the harvested and treated wool grown by sheep of the same name. This tiny landrace creature has been bred within the distant, hardy Shetland Islands, where the locals have tended sheep for their meat, fine wool and use in grazing. Oceanic climate, understated British temperatures and meek Flora have edified Shetland sheep into a tough and heavily woollen race. While not golden, their fleece has been used in the making of Fair Isle knitwear, lace shawls, export goods and tweed cloths for many years. So many sources tout the local extra fine shawls that I must join in on the shout: after all, these can be pulled through a ring, whether that of the missus or mistress, with ease.
In 2011, Shetland wool became the first inedible Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) goods from The United Kingdom. Breeders keep proud check of the local wool’s production and quality. To be granted the approval and stamp of wool merchants, Shetland wool must be soft, longish, very fine and wavy. A wide range of colours and fleece shapes are part of the breed’s natural makeup. While they handle the home islands’ climate well, Shetland sheep have been exported to many locations around the world, and they thrive in calm climates.
Shetland wool is warm, strong, soft, durable and the finest any British sheep breed produces. Official colours number 11 and shades 30, of which pure white, black and reddish brown are the most common. The Isles’ knitters favour undyed wool. White was very common before for ease of dyeing, but interest in undyed Shetland wool has risen. If the buyer favours these eleven colours, the breeder will make higher sums from rarer natural fleece. Many of them have names of few syllables after the Shetlandic dialect, and run like a moss-covered stream through the ear — emsket, musket, shaela, moorit, mioget.
Among style aficionados, one Shetland item rules them all: the colourful crewneck jumper with saddle shoulders and more or less nubby surface interest, a product of brushing quite like that on flannel. This carefree icon of Ivy League style is a nice and warm, durable and sprightly addition to any wardrobe. An examplary piece is the Shaggy Dog model from J. Press, with an inflated price but a solid reputation. Another item is Shetland tweed, which can do no wrong in any piece of clothing. The small and gutsy sheep grows miracles.
Second photo: Ben Silver
March 19, 2014 by Ville Raivio
VR: Your age and occupation?
JR: 27 years this spring, working in finance.
VR: Your educational background?
JR: Master’s degree in accounting.
VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your style enthusiasm)?
JR: When you love all things beautiful it becomes something of a lifestyle that affects everything. My girlfriend’s gotten used to it by now though, so I suppose it’s a part of both of our lives.
VR:…and your parent’s and siblings’ reactions back in the days?
JR: It’s been a very long time since I lived at home, but they were always supportive whatever I did.
VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides apparel?
JR: Having done sports daily since I was only a few years old, I spend quite a bit of my free time among physical activities. Gym, ice hockey, alpine skiing, football, badminton and running. Whatever time I have left after work and my daily sports time, I usually spend among style related matters.
VR: How did you first become interested in clothes, and when did you turn your eyes towards classic clothing? Why these instead of fashion pieces?
JR: I’ve always found aesthetics important, and therefore have always paid attention to what I was wearing. Previously a lot more fashion-minded, I started leaning towards more classic style and menswear about four years ago. I think the main reason for this change was that I had started favoring pieces that last longer and still look good years after purchasing them. Gradually my style started getting closer to what we could call the menswear scene, both its classic and street style influenced ends. That said, I think still today my style retains something different to many other enthusiasts. As I put it to my friend once, I wear mostly Italian clothing but my style isn’t that Italian.
VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of apparel – from books, in-house training, workshops or somewhere else?
JR: At first, most of my information came from internet forums such as Keikari and Styleforum, but later on I’ve mostly stopped reading forums. I would say the internet in general has the ability to teach you almost anything, and when it comes to the technical side of style it can certainly give you all the information you might need.
M-65 field jacket
VR: When did you decide to set up The Nordic Fit and what’s your motivation for the blog? How do you select the content?
JR: I started the site when I was living in the US in 2011. At first it was a bit of an experiment, but after a while I started having a more clear idea on how I wanted to develop the concept. Over 2013 I made some additional efforts to shaping The Nordic Fit into a site that would combine a presentable and professional layout, stylish pictures and interesting content. I usually don’t write about items I don’t like or recommend, so the goods presented on the site in some way represent my own taste. I find the internet is full of blogs that just reblog pictures, so I try to write at least some input into my every published post. When I have more spare time, I do like to write more informative articles as well.
VR: How would you describe your own dress? Which RTW makers and tailors do you favour?
JR: Like I said, I wear mostly Italian clothes, but my style isn’t really all that Italian. I prefer my style quite simple and clean, if you will. Lots of plain colors that are livened up with textures instead of wild patterns. Furthermore, I find fit to be very important and this is perhaps where the Italians have most influenced me. I strongly think that soft and natural lines flatter a man’s profile the most, provided he isn’t very skinny. I also like my fit quite slim, but not overly tight.
I like most Italian manufacturers for suits and jackets. SuitSupply sometimes offers good bang for the buck as well, if their fits happen to work for you. I’m usually prepared to spend quite a lot into alterations, and would like to stress how important a skilled tailor is. When I shop for RTW items, I’m usually prioritizing material, quality and proportions. As nothing is gonna fit you right off the rack anyway, I don’t pay too much attention to things that can be fixed later on.
Lately I’ve started investing more into different MTO products though and will keep doing so, mostly because I’ve found it increasingly hard to find suitable RTW products.
VR: Who or what inspires you?
JR: I think my biggest inspiration comes from the daily weather, but also my surroundings in general. Often it can be a very little thing like seeing a picture of New York or something. On some mornings though, it’s just a matter of throwing some stuff on before leaving for work.
VR: What is your definition of style?
JR: When talking about style in clothing context, I would say style is timeless, yet modern. Some things remain the same despite the latest trends, but as everything, style changes gradually.
VR: Is there something you wish more men would know about dressing well?
JR: Perhaps the most important thing is to avoid impulse buys and too specialized items. Build your wardrobe with patience and invest into quality. Before every purchase, consider if this is something that is going to last over time. Avoid sales.
Photos: The Nordic Fit
March 17, 2014 by Ville Raivio
I’ve written this before but here it goes again: The Sartorialist was a treasure trove of inspiration back in the days. The Linos, the Lucas, the Lapos and all those Pitti Uomo guys as well as the many anonymous faces on big city streets had style. Going through the archives also came up with a little something by GBB for TS, a favourite sentence of one writer, a very cordial, very British spoken word.
March 16, 2014 by Ville Raivio
Playboy’s February issue, 1954, had BB’s Ivy look pinned down like no other. When reading a few chosen Ivy sites and forums of today, it seems that not much at all has changed.
“The Brooks Brothers Look is not merely a look — it’s a religion.”
March 15, 2014 by Ville Raivio
“The so-called ‘Windsor knot’ in the tie was adopted in America at a later date. It was I believe regulation wear for G.I.s during the war, when American college boys adopted it too. But in fact I was in no way responsible for this. The knot to which the Americans gave my name was a double knot in a narrow tie–a ‘Slim Jim’ as it was sometimes called. It is true that I myself have always preferred a large knot, as looking better than a small one, so during the nineteen-twenties I devised, in conclave with Mr. Sandford, a tie always of the broad variety which was reinforced by an extra thickness of material to produce this effect. As far as I know this particular fashion has never been followed in America or elsewhere.”
~ Duke of Windsor in A Family Album
March 15, 2014 by Ville Raivio
Ville: Your age and occupation?
Francesco: I am 28 years old, and I am a shoemaker.
Florin: I am 37 years old, and I am a shoemaker.
Ville: Your educational background?
Francesco: I have a master’s degree in Law, finished as I was learning the gentle craft.
Florin: I’m a certified master shoemaker, with a diploma from the cordwainer school in ClujNapoca.
Ville: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your shoe enthusiasm)? And your parents and siblings’ reactions back when you were younger?
Francesco: I come from a family of lawyers and judges, so when I said to my mother that I wanted to become a fullfledged shoemaker she was somewhat perplexed, to say the least. My father was always supportive, remembering me that my grandfather had the same passion for artisanal crafts: despite his profession, he learned by himself clay sculpture and clockmaking (!). Now, my parents own two pairs of F&F shoes each. I have a girlfriend, and she is cordially hated by all her female friends, since she has a shoemaker boyfriend and she doesn’t like shoes so much…
Florin: My family was always very supportive: when I was a little kid I could not decide if I
wanted to be a car mechanic or a shoemaker, and my father told me that the shoemaking way was the best, since not everyone owns a car, but every man in the world needs shoes. It was so good a suggestion that my brother also became a shoemaker! My wife married me when I was starting my profession and has been always happy and supportive of my professional choice.
Ville: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides shoemaking?
Francesco: I like listening to music, of all genres (I have an enormous CD collection) and I was an avid reader until my leisure time was considerably shrinked by my profession.
Florin: I’ve liked fishing since I was a young boy, and I’m trying to teach it to my business partner.
Francesco: I can say my interest came with my upbringing. Since I was a kid, I’ve never worn sneakers except when playing sports; I’ve always worn leather shoes and I’ve seen that, as I grew older, my favourite styles were all but disappearing. The oxfords and balmoral boots I bought when I was 15 were almost non-existant when I was 22. So, I decided to discover what I could find to save something I liked so much. Speaking of fashion, I think that the idea of jettisoning an entire wardrobe every year because it’s not “fashionable” is complete madness: good clothes and good shoes, if well made and well-designed, will be always look like beautiful objects.
Florin: My family owns a small tannery, where everything was made in the old ways. You could say that I lived and breathed leather since I was a little kid; so, when I had to decide what to do, my father casually suggested that I try to join a cordwainer school and learn how to make shoes in the traditional Eastern-European way. I passed the entrance exam and my voyage started from there. Classic design is the real benchmark of innovation: we will always have a rubber for erasing the old fashion, but also a pencil for creating new classics.
Ville: How have you gathered your knowledge of The Gentle Craft – from books, in-house training, workshops or somewhere else?
Francesco: My father always said that succesful knowledge starts from theory; so I began to acquire different shoemaking manuals, from the historical ones (thanks to the american site, The Crispin Colloquy) to modern books on patternmaking and style. In the meantime I started to practice the traditional methods of wax polishing. After I felt a bit more comfortable with the theoretical aspects, I started to search everywhere in Rome for the last masters of traditional shoemaking, hoping to acquire information on the field. I was quite lucky, since a lot of them were growing old and didn’t want to let their art disappear. After I felt sure enough I went to London, to polish my skills and to acquire even more knowledge on the hand-welting techniques. I learned at a really hectic pace, but all that practice was quite fun. When I felt ready, I found my business partner and decided to open a new shoemaking workshop in Rome.
Florin: I started by attending the cordwainer school in ClujNapoca when I was 16 years old. The course was four years long and started from the basics: the differences between leathers, then patternmaking, lastmaking, clicking, closing and all the techniques to build a shoe from start to finish. Probably my generation was the last to learn the traditional methods and techniques of Eastern Europe. The courses put a lot of emphasis on practice: the apprentices started their day with a bowl of bent nails and they had to straighten them again (by hammer and hand) before even touching leather. After I passed the final exams with flying colours I went to various workshops and factories to work; there I began to absorb international styles from different houses. That was the moment when I started to think about a last of my own design, that would incorporate all the styles with my personal touch. And the rest, as they always say, is history.
Ville: How would you describe your own dress? Have you any favourite clothes makers?
Francesco & Florin: Our style is actually quite similar. Modern artisans are often seen and
photographed with sartorial quality clothing, in an ethereal, surgically clean environment: but sincewe personally do all the work, we prefer a sportier style. In our lab we always wear jeans and shirts under the apron and we wear a pair of our own shoes. On weekends we gravitate to dressier combinations of jackets and pants.
We don’t like the modern Italianish style; since we were young, the narrow pants
and the tight, almost exploding jackets were stuff made for the nouveauriches of the roman outskirts. We prefer the traditional sartorial styles, with defined volumes and quality cloths. In the last years we’ve grew fond of vintage shops and markets, where you can find everything you like (with a bit of eye and a bit of luck).
Ville: Please tell us how your company F&F was born, and what goals you set for yourself in the beginning. How have you been received so far?
Francesco & Florin: We met eachother in the same italian laboratory, and after a while we
started thinking about the state of traditional Roman shoemaking. There was a distinctive air of tiredness, in all the old and retiring masters and in their shoes. We decided to become associates and open our own lab, before the old ways of shoemaking were forgotten, and from our initials F&F was born. Our objective was and remains quite simple: to build the best traditional shoes, with the best materials and the best techniques, with our four hands and our tools. The response has been positive: all our clients return every now and then, for new shoes and professional shine. Some have even become friends.
Francesco & Florin: We try to follow the guidelines of the old Roman style as it was made famous in the 1940s and ’50s by masters Gatto and Laudadio. It’s a conservative style, based on robust, masculine last that needed only a bit of flair to come to the 21st century combination of understatement and perfect finishing details, with a little bit of modern touches (smaller heels, fiddleback waists). Again, we try to avoid the flash of the Italianish industrial style, with their long, narrow, goofylike lasts.
Francesco: I have a burning passion for the different combinations of colors and materials;
therefore I love the models that lend themselves to be realized in this way. The old balmoral
oxford, for example, can become unique if you realize it in leather and cloth, or in two different leathers, or in the same leather with different colour melanges. For example, the last shoe I made for myself is a combination of hand painted calf and lizard.
I don’t have a single favourite leather, since I think that every shoe model is naturally inclined to be made with its perfect leather. An officer derby, made with a light, feminine suede, looks out of place; likewise, a classic Roman loafer, with its tight lines and soft chiseled toe, becomes clownish if you make it in cordovan…
Florin: My absolute favourite is the rarest of all, the seamless wholecut shoe. When I was at school it was considered the hardest shoe to make; if you think about it, it’s the perfect marriage of craft and design. You start from a flat piece of leather and you have to mold it into a three-dimensional, beautiful shape, without any external help. No lines, no pattern, only hand-eye coordination and experience. Regarding leathers, I’ve always loved box calf; today it’s seen as dull, even boring, but a really good box calf can acquire the same nuances of the modern, softest aniline calf. The key resides in the added bonus of superior resistance.
Ville: There are dozens of cordwainers in Italy alone – why should my readers visit you?
Francesco: About ten years ago, the Neapolitan gentleman Giancarlo Maresca wrote a few
prophetic lines about the future of the artisanal crafts: he said that the new generation of young artisans would trade some of their ability for a new style of customer relationship, given that their future clients would not understand the full implications of some lost styles and techniques anymore. As I see it now, time has shown Mr. Maresca’s conclusions to be true. This kind of approach, unfortunately, hides the fact that the client doesn’t understand why you’re changing the old ways, he feels that something is not as it’s supposed to be. When we opened, we decided to follow the traditional ways and techniques because they’re the best ones to accomodate the clients’ requests, not simply to appeal to the “vintage for the sake of it” crowd.
For example, a lot of clients come and lament about the lack of arch support in their mass
produced shoes. When they try our models, they find them more comfortable and supportive: usually they don’t know and don’t care about handskived leather counters, leather insoles and their clear advantage over carboard insoles and synthetic counters, but they feel the superiority of our work.
Florin: The best traditional labs were created and maintained by a single artisan, maybe with a few apprentices. If the same hand follows all the building phases, the possibility of mishaps and incomprensions is reduced to almost nothing, and every error can be corrected with the right solution. Our lab is among the few ones in Italy which can realize a pair of shoes from start to finish in-house: there are no external clickers or closers, no other hand touches our work. The client is followed in every step (no pun intended) by the same guys who took his measures and drew his pattern, so he can trust that no problems will arise because of some external worker error.
Ville: What is your definition of a good shoe?
Francesco & Florin: this is quite a difficult question. The simplest way to answer would be “the most comfortable for the foot that will wear it”, but it’s too simplicistic for a response. The shoe cannot be reduced to a “glove for the foot”, exactly like a good suit is not just a tool to protect yourself from weather conditions. A gentleman wears his shoes with the feeling that he’s showing the foundations of his being, the element that sets apart his person from the rest and, at the same time, strengthens his gait and forms a synthesises of the taste needed in a life of walking. Henceforth, the good shoe is the most comfortable, with a distinctive (but never flashy) style, and the one which will pleasantly grow old with its owner.
Ville: Who or what inspires you?
Francesco & Florin: It’s quite easy to find inspiration, when you live in the city of Rome. All you need is a sunny day, and a walk between the old monuments and the villas can fill you with enough sensations and views to build an entire collection.
Ville: Is there something you wish more men would know about the current state of shoemaking in Italy? This is a useful chance to share the lore and have a lasting effect on my readers.
Francesco: From an external point of view, Italy still looks like the artisanal paradise that it was in the last century: we still have some of the best shoemakers in the world, but the real world looks a bit different from what you can read about in fashion magazines and blogs. There are no more than a few dozens of artisanal shoemakers left, and despite a renewed popularity in the traditional crafts, their number is not increasing. Shoemaking can be very pleasant and satisfactory, but it remains a hard, physical work; the majority of fashion school students don’t want to get their hands dirty, so the few who like this craft try to become stylists, maybe patternmakers, but they don’t even think about building their designs with their own hands. We are trying to build some more interest for the gentle art: in fact, we’ve done a small documentary, in which we share our views of our craft, with a private foundation, which will deliver it to the schools here in Rome.
Florin: The real problem is that it’s becoming more and more difficult to learn the craft. Most of the old masters don’t want to share their knowledge, and the few school courses are oriented to an industrial style teaching method: it’s still possible to learn patternmaking, but handlasting and welting techniques are being slowly forgotten. If you remove the Florentine masters and their apprenticeships from the equation, you’ll discover that almost all the actual italian shoemakers come from shoemaking families, or learned the craft abroad or from manuals and practice. In fact we are thinking about offering shoemaking courses as soon as we can organize them well.
Photos: Stefano Mazzoni
March 6, 2014 by Ville Raivio
March 5, 2014 by Ville Raivio
“The appearance, deportment and dress of a gentleman consist perhaps more in the absence of certain offences against good taste, and in careful avoidance of vulgarities and exaggerations of any kind, however generally they may be the fashion of the day, than in the adherence to any rules which can be exactly laid down. A gentleman does not indulge in careless, self-indulgent, lounging ways, such as lolling in armchairs, or on sofas, slouching in his gait, or placing himself in unbecoming attitudes, with his hands in his pockets, or in any position in which he appears to consult more the idle ease of the moment than the maintenance of the decorum which is characteristic of a polished gentleman. In dress, with scrupulous attention to neatness and good taste, he will never give in to the unfortunately loose and slang style which predominates at the present day. He will borrow nothing from the fashions of the groom or the gamekeeper, and whilst avoiding the frivolity and foolish vanity of dandyism, will take care that his clothes are of the best quality, well-made, and suitable to his rank and position…
To all these particulars the Prince of Wales must necessarily pay more attention than anyone else. His deportment will be more watched, his dress more criticized. There are many habits and practices and much in dress which might be quite natural and unobjectionable for these gentlemen at their own homes and in their ordinary life, which would form dangerous examples for the Prince of Wales to copy, and Her Majesty and His Royal Highness would wish them in all their habits to have regard to these consequences, and without any formality or stiffness of manner, to remember both in deportment and in dress that they are in attendance on the eldest son of the Queen.”
~ Albert, Prince Consort in his guide for PoW’s servants
March 5, 2014 by Ville Raivio
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