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Anatomy of Crownhill shoes

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February 23, 2016 by Ville Raivio

Crownhill Shoes is a Spanish company plying its trade in the budget and value-for-money segments of Goodyear-welted full-leather footwear. According to CEO Fernando Lopez, the company uses 13 artisanal factories to fabricate the models, each one specialized in one type of shoe. Crownhill has its own pattern and last makers. Models are designed, hides selected, leathers cut, uppers lasted and shoes finished in-house in Spain. As for materials, Crownhill uses leathers by Weinheimer from Germany, Haas from France, Degermann from France, D’Annonay from France, ILCEA from Italy, Zonta from Italy, Roux from France, Italhide from Italy and Du Puy from France. Finally, I asked Mr Lopez why a customer should choose his company over others: “We created a super comfortable shoe of the best quality and priced down from other brands that double or triple our retail price. We have channel-stitched soles and a Goodyear-welted construction, competing with more expensive brands.”

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With thousands of factories and companies already battling for customers, reaching for great price-quality deals is a welcome strategy among others. Crownhill’s Premium Grade uses Joh. Rendenbach‘s famed oak-bark tanned leather soles and calfskins from the tanneries mentioned above, but the pairs are priced at 250 euros and come with free courier shipping inside EU borders. They also have double-shanks built from leather and steel inside. As far as lasts go, the Premium Grade’s Faraday is a semi-squared chiseled last, Nelson is a semi-pointed last (between the typical French and English) and Lennon is an English last, semi-rounded and somewhat chiseled at the tip.

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As for values between premium and regular lines, says Mr Lopez: “The difference between the Premium Grade and the Classic Line are plenty of different types of lasts, different patterns, many types of skins and soles, better finishing and we are very exigent about the materials used. The packaging is improved, with the PR’s own green box, including a pair of Italian cotton bags, a shoehorn and a pair of laces. Ensuring the best quality possible.” The company, set up in 2010 to offer Spanish-made value footwear, wanted to hear my thoughts on their make and sent the Montgomery pair made on the Nelson last from the Premium Grade range for Keikari’s anatomical segment.

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The first thing I noted in this Montgomery model was the upper leather. The calfskin is smooth and lustrous even before any polish, with noticeable but small pores, and it springs back quickly after bending. The last feels both higher and wider than average, and the toe is round and high. The welt is trimmed very close and its stitching looks sparse. The heel and toe stiffeners feel sturdy. Upper stitching is tight and straight. In stead of the usual bouncy tassel, this Norwegian loafer has laced leather strips. The lacing quickly came loose but was easily fixed as the strips are not sewn shut.Anatomy_of_Crownhill_shoes_at_Keikari_dot_com10

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The leather lining feels soft enough and sturdy as well. Crownhill’s sock liner is loosely attached, but comes with a full foam insert, something I haven’t found from any other shoemaker tried so far, and they feel cushioned while worn. It’s up to the reader if this bit is pro or con. The Rendenbach soles are not very common in shoes retailing for less than 300 euros, and this nice add comes with a channelled finish along with the JR stamp. The waist is square but trimmed. The shoe trees are generic in finish and material, but fit the last well. Same goes for the shoehorn and bags attached.

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As a whole, I feel Crownhill’s Premium Range is well-made and the materials look and feel swell for the price. If I’d have the power to make changes, I would opt for a more chiseled and close-fitting last as well as remove the foam insert from the sock liner. As such, Crownhill competes with all value-for-money makers over men who appreciate solid construction, the better-made materials as well as value.

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Savile Row and Jermyn Street in pictures

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February 23, 2016 by Ville Raivio

Alamy’s large stock photo collection holds over a thousand more-or-less candid shots of Savile Row, reaching from the 1940s to this, our 2010s. Several famed cutters are shown doing their thing, crafting two-dimensional cloth into 3D-garments that hide the weak points and boost the strong ones. Highly recommended for all tailoring nerds.

Oh, and while you’re at it, do have a look at Alamy’s selection of more than 700 shots from Jermyn Street.

With my thanks to Voxsartoria for the tip.

Savile Row on Alamy

Jermyn Street on Alamy


Why do the Japanese spend so much on clothing?

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February 19, 2016 by Ville Raivio

“For example, why have the Japanese been so interested in fashion — arguably far beyond other cultural fields? As Japanese teens built up their own youth cultures, they always prioritized fashion over music, automobiles, furniture, and cuisine… As a start, urban consumers did not need nice interior goods because no one entertained in their cramped apartments. And between a lack of facilities and little free time from work, sports have not been a major part of adult life. By contrast, fashion worked well with the busy, crowded Tokyo lifestyle… Osamu Shigewatsu explains, ‘Clothes have always had the highest return on investment because, unlike other kinds of culture, they’re seen by others, and the Japanese care a lot about that. Clothes can express personal identity and also act as a communication tool.’

W. David Marx in his fascinating social history book Ametora


Interview with gusvs

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February 18, 2016 by Ville Raivio

VR: Your age and occupation?
gusvs: I’m 41 and work as Business Unit Director at a large industrial company.
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VR: Your educational background?
gusvs: Master of Science in Business Administration, as well as a couple of years at university in Japan.

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VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your tailoring enthusiasm)?
gusvs: Wife and two kids, 6 and 4 years old. Well, they’re all used to it by now. They usually join to visit Liverano & Corcos when we’re in Florence.
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VR: …and your parents and siblings’ reactions back when you were younger?
gusvs: My father has always been dressing in classic menswear, so no big reactions really. I think they all enjoy it, rather.
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VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides classic apparel?
gusvs: Except spending time with my family and friends, I enjoy golf, fishing and music (classical & jazz).
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VR: How did you first become interested in style, and when did you turn your eyes towards the classics? Why these instead of fashion?
gusvs: Well, first of all, my father has always dressed in classic style, so I guess it was sort of natural to me. Then my first job required a suit and tie, so the need was there. I have worked and lived in Japan, and that is where my interest really got more serious. In Japan, classic menswear is all around and anything you like is available. So that’s where it started really.
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VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of the tailored look — from books, talks with salesmen or somewhere else?
gusvs: From books and magazines (especially Men’s Ex which was a great magazine 10 years ago), and from the Internet. I was pretty early on Styleforum back in the days when there were more knowledgeable discussions around tailored clothing.
 
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VR: Have you any particular style or cut philosophy behind your own clothing?
gusvs: My style has definitely changed over the years, but the last years I’ve gone for a less is more-philosophy. I keep it simple and classic.
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VR: I see you are a devoted follower of the eccentric Liverano&Liverano cut. Why does his art of the cloth appeal to you over others?
gusvs: There is something about the overall balance in the Liverano cut which is unique and I find it perfect for my body type. The dartless front combined with rounded quarters and fairly generous lapels create a shape which is soft yet formal enough for a business suit.
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VR: Who or what inspires you?
gusvs: I travel a lot and get inspiration from meeting different people all over the world. In style, I’m greatly inspired by Antonio Liverano and Takahiro Osaki. I also find Kotaro Miyahira to have a great sense of style. This is really key to me: I choose my tailor based on his own style.

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VR: What’s your definition of style?
gusvs: Style is about expressing yourself through what you wear. It is about showing respect towards people around you. And, of course, style has nothing to do with fashion.

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Vr: Finally, Sweden seems to have the most active, largest and varied men’s style scene in Northern Europe. Could you perhaps explain why classic clothing interests so many Swedes?
gusvs: Not sure, but I guess in Scandinavia we have a long history of design – in clothing as well as furniture. There is a lot of textile industry in Sweden still, which I guess is a big reason behind the interest. Also, not unimportant, Swedes are active on internet forums which I think has partly helped spread the iGent bug here.
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https://www.instagram.com/gusvs9/
Photos: The gusvs family album

Boyer on fashion rules

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February 17, 2016 by Ville Raivio

“Most rules about dress turn out to be silly, because fashion, like sin, changes.”

– G. Bruce Boyer I in his interview with StyFo


Some notes on dress at Eton College

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February 10, 2016 by Ville Raivio

“Some notes on dress at Eton College

by an Eton pupil

Dress regulations
It is interesting to note that here were no official school dress regulations at Eton College until the 1960s. Dress was completely governed by fashion and, more importantly, peer pressure – a pressure far greater than any seen today when it comes to sartorial considerations. For example, the often repeated assertion that a boy wore a bumfreezer jacket and Eton collar [at Eton suit] until he reached a particular height is not true. A boy wore the Eton suit until his status within the school and with his peers permitted him to graduate to a tailcoat. A boy who attempted to adopt the tailcoat prematurely would attract ridicule from both his classmates and older boys. In other words, boys remained in bumfreezers until they cut muster with their fellow pupils. As a result, a small and feeble boy might remain in the juvenile Eton suit for most of his school career, however unhappy this might make him feel.

Another point of fact: while Etonians themselves would say they wear ‘tailcoats’, what we in fact wear is a morning coat. In England, a tailcoat per se is generally assumed to be an evening tailcoat, which is cut in above the waist. Another point we have to consider is whether there really is a direct link between the death of King George III in 1820 and the wearing of ‘mourning’ black. In the 1820s, the standard Eton dress was a blue jacket, yellow waistcoat and light trousers. With no official dress regulations, it was the boys who took it upon themselves to die their garments black out of respect and reports say that within a few years the old bright colours had returned. It is only one hundred years later, in 1920, that today’s cut of black tailcoat became standard.

 

Contemporary Eton uniform
The standard uniform is known as ‘School Dress’. It consists of black pin striped trousers, black waistcoat (always worn with the bottom button undone, a style which can most definitely be directly linked to Edward VIII), black tailcoat (as mentioned, this is in fact a morning coat), well polished black shoes, white tunic shirt, cufflinks, Arundel collar and white tie. In addition, boys in ‘College’ (the house for academic scholars, the original pupils at the school) wear gowns.

The unusual collar and tie worn at Eton need a little more explaining. The broad collar named after the school is no longer worn by any of the pupils. The Arundel collar which is now universal is a small gentleman’s collar, attached with studs at front and back. It is starched and very stiff and most boys will own about five. The laundry collects them to wash and restarch once a week from a boy’s house (along with his other washing) using machines that date back almost to the Second World War.

The tie worn with the collar is not strictly a tie at all but a disposable strip of linen about half an inch wide by ten, with a hole punched in the middle. It evolved from a kind of straight bow tie but now it is simply placed over the stud and folded inside the shirt in a unique way which cannot be easily described on paper. Indeed, most of the F-Tits (first year boys) spend their first night at the school in their Dame’s flat (a Dame is a matron at Eton) learning how to put on their shirts. In theory, the ties are replaced when they become soiled. They are bought a dozen at a time and, in practice, once one is down to number twelve it seems to last remarkably longer than the rest.

The ties are easy to misplace in your room and far too frequently you see boys without ties at all. The better beaks (teachers) might put such a miscreant on a ‘dress offence’ (imposed for various infractions of the regulations) which means wearing full school dress all day for three days and signing in at the school office, properly attired, once an hour during free time (Boys are usually permitted to change out of tailcoats for the afternoon during games and free time.)

 

Senior Boys and Masters
There are a number of variations of school dress which distinguish boys in positions of authority. All office holders wear stick ups – that is to say, a wing collar with a white bow tie. The Captains of houses wear a grey waistcoat (often double-breasted) as well as stick ups. The twenty highest academic achievers in B-Block (the final year) form ‘Sixth Form Select’, a prefectorial body. In addition to stick ups, they wear silver buttons with their black waistcoats. There is a second, self-elected prefectorial body, known as Pop or The Eton Society. These elite boys are entitled (by their own authority) to wear black and white spongebag trousers, stick ups, and any colourful waistcoat they desire (and great liberty is taken) also trimming their tailcoats with silk piping.

Several times a year, Sixth Form Select give ‘Speeches’. This is a long-standing tradition when boys select passages of literature – from Latin classics to Shakespeare – to recite before the Provost, Headman and senior boys. Dress for this occassion is the most formal seen at the College. The white shirts and stick ups remain from everyday wear but the tailcoat (which as I have pointed out is really a morning coat) is replaced with an authentic tailcoat, the standard black waistcoat with a low-cut black waistcoat, and the pin striped trousers with plain black breeches and tights. The scholars also wear their gowns. This mish mash of modern white tie and old fashioned royal court dress is unique to these rare occasions at Eton.

Finally, it should be mentioned that the beaks also wear a uniform, consisting of white bow tie, black jacket and striped trousers.

A few years back there was a vote to see whether school dress should be abolished. The boys decided to retain it. It is surprisingly comfortable and a tribute to the benefits of proper tailoring. The school is served by four tailors in the high street who solely supply the 1300 boys and several hundred beaks. Boys take a chit, signed by their Dame, to obtain any items they require, with the cost being added to the end of half (ie. that term’s) bill. I find it sad that there are some boys who neglect to wear the uniform properly, especially given that it is so easy to fix any problems.

The peer pressure is still very evident. Having officially taken over a position of responsibility for the annual Fourth of June celebration, I had to decide whether to wear my stick ups for the first time on the great day. In the end, along with my friends who were in in a similar situation I decided it was best to wait until further towards the end of the half lest we were queried too frequently as to our new dress. And there is also the threat of boys pulling your bow tie undone in the street as a prank before you have learnt to refasten it properly without the aid of a mirror.

It is odd to think that one looks out of place in the environs of Eton College if one is not wearing formal clothing. Indeed, any boy not wearing school dress (for example, because of a sports injury) is likely to be bombarded with so many queries as to why he is improperly attired that he will resort to the anonymity of his tailcoat as soon as he can.

A final note on decorations. Carnations used to be worn on a day to day basis by Pop, but now they are only sported on the Fourth of June. The most popular colours are red and yellow (white being unlucky unless worn at a wedding) but this year I took up the old tradition of dying a carnation an approximation of Eton Blue. The odd boy wears a pocket watch on a chain to his waistcoat, but this is rare nowadays and it takes a strong character to do so since the popular consensus is that this practice is not appropriate.”


A history of the DAKS waistband

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January 26, 2016 by Ville Raivio

DAKS is an English clothier founded by one Simeon Simpson in the London of 1894. The S. Simpson company originally served as tailors, but as industrialisation gained momentum, Simpson decided to hasten the make with the help of new machines, and change course towards tailored off-the-peg clothing. The shop aimed to stand out from the competition with quality over quantity or price alone. The goal supported them and they were able to set up shop all over Great Britain. What makes DAKS interesting is their greatest public offering to men, the DAKS-waistband invented in 1934 by Alexander Simpson, the second son of Simeon. He was a sportsman and found that the braces so common in his times did not bend well in golf or strong striding, and belts only bit into the guts, so a new kind of solution for the upkeep of trousers was called for.

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A. Simpson decided to sew rubbery tabs on the inside waistband of DAKS trousers. The shirt would stay in place against them and trousers against the guts as well. This alone didn’t do the trick, so a tunnel was cut into the waistband and a strong elastic band added inside it. This was attached to buttons at the end of the tunnel ends – and the DAKS waist was born. No more was there need for braces or belts, even though one gained or lost weight. Still, braces could be worn if needed. Simpson believed that he had struck, or rather sewn, into a gold vein and a nice, high price was set for these new kinds of trousers named DAKS. This was a combination of dad and slacks as Alexander was, after all, the son of Simeon and the next link of the family company.

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The waistband model of one James Bond in Live and Let Die

The DAKS waist was at the peak of its popularity in the 1930s-’40s Britain. It was invented at a favourable time as men would become bored with braces during their WWII service, and later favoured belts, a part of their uniform, for their civil wear for convenience, speed and custom. If belts either didn’t excite, the new elastic band waist was just the best thing. After these high times, the DAKS model has become a rare sight in readymade clothing. Likely the manifold forms for belts, so easily changed according to occasion, have intrigued more than the discreet DAKS. Still, thanks to its rubber band, it stays up very well and stretches with movement, and neither does it squueze like braces or belts. Most elastic waists have two or three buttons at the ends of the tunnel. They guarantee upkeep even with weight loss or gain. As their placing can be easily changed, I feel the DAKS model is by far the best and most comfortable solution for the man who craves comfort above all.

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Bond’s very first trousers from Dr. No


Ties and handkerchiefs from Shibumi Berlin

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January 23, 2016 by Ville Raivio

Niels The Notorious and Benedikt The Benedetto from Shibumi sent me a tie and ‘chief to hear my thoughts on the make. I had seen the Italian-made accessories online but hadn’t handled them before, and was interested to see what they offer. To learn more about the company and owners, please have a look at their old Keikari interview.

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The handkerchief is a true Macclesfield print, made in the English city that gave birth and its name to a printing style. An extra large-scale paisley with navy, brown, cream and light blue colours, the piece is on the smaller side of ‘kerchiefs at 30×30 cm. I’m partial to this sizing as the Rubinacciesque blowout accessories make any breast pocket billow and gape in pain. The 70% wool/30% silk mix feels as dry as bones and does not wrinkle. While the edges are nicely and tightly hand rolled, the size of individual stitching is not yet on par with the likes of Vanda or Simonnot-Godard. The weave is very open but not a see-through show when laid next to cloth.

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The tie is on surface a regular workhorse, repp weave with a regimental stripe and slip stitch, a combination of dark green, cream and brown. While the make is 3-fold with a hand-rolled point, the lining is a thicker double wool piece. Digging deeper, the material is indeed what Shibumi calls a super-repp: the weft does not show through. The silk is not as shiny as many repps are. The company offers their ties in two widths, 8 or 9 cm, with a 150 cm default length. A personal touch that enamours me is the flower stitch at the lower and higher part of the blade back. The hand-rolled edges are flatter than those on the handkerchief.

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Looking at their store selection and the make of these samples, I feel Shibumi’s pieces are well-made. There are thousands upon thousands of accessory companies all around, and setting a new one apart from the others has become difficult, especially so as most of them do not own production facilities. Shibumi seems to have chosen the route of surprising materials (Solaro, alpaca grenadine, Fresco wool) or colours like neon coral and electric blue along with artisanal make, and those lovely flowery stitches. The lineup is growing and I hope they keep doing things differently, as done so far, for many years to come.

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Interview with “TweedyProf”

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January 21, 2016 by Ville Raivio

Vr: Your age and occupation?
TP: I’m 45. I am a faculty member at a major research university in the US working on the mind and brain from a theoretical perspective.

 

Vr: Your educational background?
TP: I studied chemistry and biology as an undergraduate, and have a master’s degree and PhD from the University of California, Berkeley.

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VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your clothing enthusiasm)?
TP: My family largely tolerates my interest. My wife generally likes that I am well dressed, but she probably thinks I own too many things and obsess about it. My two kids range from being positive (the youngest) to alarm and embarrassment (the teenager).

 

VR :…and your parents and siblings’ reactions back when you were younger?
TP: I grew up in an evangelical household, so a conservative one. Back in the 80s I aspired to what I suppose now might be called goth: lots of black, Doc Martens, and hair you wouldn’t want to expose to open flames. You can imagine my parent’s reaction. Tailored clothing was something I found much later in life. I’m sure my parents like that aspect of me better now. My younger brother shares some of the same interests though more focused on shoes. He’s recently discovered Vass, but then again, he doesn’t have kids.

 

VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides classic apparel?
TP: I’m a parent!

I try to play classical piano seriously though work and economics have made it difficult to take lessons which I think is essential to keep up one’s technique. I’m also quite fond of traveling, and we’ve lived in Berlin on and off for the past five years, and traveled around Europe quite a bit. There’s just so little time to do as much as one wants.

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VR: How did you first become interested in style, and when did you turn your eyes towards the classics? Why these instead of fashion?
TP: My interest was born about four years ago from a practical problem that many Western faculty members face as university education becomes more like a service industry: How to maintain formality in a informal world?

I mean “formality” as a value, a sense of seriousness and decorum. Formality has an important place in life and certainly in academia. Its loss hinders education.

Here’s an egregious example of what I mean by “the loss of formality”: student emails. I’ve had one too many emails that began with “Hey [first name]” or at one point “Dude, where’s the final?” All propriety had gone to hell—though when tuition is $50,000 a year at many US private universities, that changes how people act.

I won’t expand on why I think this is a problem (hopefully it’s obvious). But how do you respond? I toyed with the idea of going “John Houseman” on my students (from the movie, The Paper Chase), addressing students as “Mr. X” or “Ms. Y” to reintroduce the formality of the student-teacher relation, but that just didn’t feel natural.

Well, then, at least I could look like a proper professor. In that context, “classic menswear” seemed like the right direction. My Styleforum moniker, “Tweedyprof”, when I joined in 2012 was tongue in cheek since I wasn’t that tweedy. It signaled an aspiration.

For me “fashion,” as I’m understanding it (what’s seen on the runway) would not achieve the effect I wanted, to reinforce the seriousness of education, of the classroom context, of having a professor as mentor and not a potential drinking buddy. That said, I do admire those who have a great fashion sense.

 

VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of the tailored look — from books, talks with salesmen or somewhere else?
TP: The beauty of a coat and tie is that it is both liberating and principled. Liberating in its uniformity (It’s a uniform!). But it’s constrained and organized by articulable principles and that’s what I enjoy about proper dress. You have to learn these principles, but once you do, a lot of freedom opens up.

Learning the basic principles isn’t hard. It isn’t rocket science. But it does require an eye for detail, a willingness to think a bit, and good mentors. I tried reading a few books but they didn’t do so much for me and I don’t think I ever finished one. I’ve never read Flusser’s Dressing the Man, what everyone suggests as a starting place. I’m sure it’s useful.

I learned a lot initially from Put this On, but most of what I’ve learned has been through interactions at Styleforum and I think when you are starting out in the English speaking world, it is a great resource. For me, it began with lurking, then posting a few pictures of a MTM shirt and MTM jacket I had done, getting some initial feedback that helped me learn where to look and what to look for. After that, really just following certain threads and observing “fits” from certain members, how they put together a look.

Lots of people influenced me and I can’t name them all so I hope I will be forgiven for omitting many teachers and Forum friends. I have to say, I was and continue to be greatly inspired by the Scandinavian contingent who consistently hit the highs (e.g. members EFV and Pingson, another academic who posts no more, alas, but can be found on Tumblr).

Manton’s good taste thread was often a revelation in the early pages and watching In Stitches progress was eye opening (you should see his early entries in that thread and contrast those with the pictures you’ve posted of him here, a transition that took no more than a year). The thread chronicling Gazman and MaoMao’s bespoke Italian adventures was intimidating and inspiring.

On the side, I’ve talked with Mr. Six, Claghorn, Cezinho, Sprout2 and Sacafotos among others about aspects of tailoring, especially ties. In NYC, I’ve run into folks like Greg Lellouche and Mike Kuhle who have been generous with their time and chatted with me. I also started the Classic Menswear Lounge thread where I hoped to generate more theoretical discussion, though the thread is quiet now that I don’t frequent Styleforum as much. Many of the participants in that thread were important in refining my sense of classic menswear. I’m sure I’m forgetting many people (apologies again).

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VR: Have you any particular style or cut philosophy behind your own clothing?
TP: The most basic things is fit. One has to learn how things should properly fit, on others, but also on the body one has. You can read about fit, I suppose, but learning to see it is crucial. I wouldn’t call it a philosophy or style, but a necessity.

After that: details!

On myself for jackets, I prefer what I suppose might be salient aspects of a Neapolitan cut: broader lapel and more natural shoulder. Alas, I have bumpy shoulders so a soft shoulder is difficult to achieve since I do need some padding to smooth out the bumps. This balance is hard to find in ready to wear jackets though I’ve had good luck with Eidos Napoli.

I don’t wear suits, so having proper odd jacket details is important to me: larger scale patterns and patch pockets. These days, I gravitate more towards the solid end of the spectrum, so donegal or herringbone, something that provides visual detail but resolves to a solid in the distance.

On pants, I prefer a fuller cut, but I don’t cuff. I would prefer to cuff, but having bowed legs, I find a cuff tends to look cluttered given the way the trousers drape at the ankle for me. I’m sure a master bespoke trouser tailor could help, but that’s not in the cards, at least not until the kids graduate from college.

The shirt collar is something that one should attend to carefully but often gets short shrift. The most beautiful tie will be diminished by a crappy collar. I’m a bit obsessive about details here: proper (higher) collar height for my longer neck, soft, unfused points that aren’t too spread (again, to wear with odd jackets) but which roll softly under the jacket’s lapel, and small tie space. For button down shirts, the same features with emphasis on a unique and soft collar roll. I’m still tweaking with my shirts with the maker.

Ties should be well cut so as to knot well and be proportional to one’s collar, torso and jacket (e.g. lapel width). Materials should be seasonally appropriate.

Finally, accessories and matching them matter a lot to me, and with a smaller wardrobe, they provide the field for originality built on a firm foundation of fit. I’ve many thoughts on this, but I won’t bore you with the details.

 

VR: Who or what inspires you?
TP: I don’t have a specific historical figure who inspires me. Much of my inspiration comes from Instagram these days. As I said, the Scandinavian contingent provides a constant reminder of why good tailoring and fit are so crucial (you know who you are!). I also receive much inspiration from the Styleforum colleagues who I mentioned before and who are on Instagram. I tend to follow fewer people mostly because time is precious, and it’s hard to scroll efficiently if you have 100+ people you follow.

Mostly, I’m looking for inspiration, for the use of pattern, texture, and color in unique and tasteful ways, within the bounds of classic principles.

Interview with %22TweedyProf%22_at_Keikari_dot_com4

VR: What’s your definition of style?
TP: I don’t know if one should try to define “style”. You might as well define “consciousness”!

Maybe I can say what I try to do: to find my own place within the space of possibilities that are defined by the “principles” of classic menswear.

There are many places to be free in that space, and looking for your own place is what allows for originality and style. For classic menswear, the most pleasing originality to me is subtle, say finding a way to use a pocket square that both picks up certain elements of a tie but also generates an interesting contrast with it, all while harmonizing with other elements in a look, say the pattern of a jacket, the material of the shoes. Such a fit looks pleasing at a glance but to a trained eye also reveals a skilled play on color, pattern and/or texture.

Subtlety of this sort is often lost on social media where all we spare is a glance. I think it’s wonderful that some men present strident flair and ostentatiousness (think of very loud ties or exploding pocket squares). Why shouldn’t one enjoy one’s clothing? For me, though, I dress for work so the formal and classical are more crucial and originality must be subtler. That doesn’t stop me from enjoying clothes, of course.

Interview with %22TweedyProf%22_at_Keikari_dot_com6

VR: You’ve worked in the American academia for many years. How would you describe the most common outfits for men within the many hallowed halls?
TP: I think the thought in America nowadays is that one should be comfortable but where this means informal. “Informal” then means casual, sometimes to an extreme. This might make me sound too stodgy, but I’m sorry, a professor in shorts and t-shirt teaching a class is an abomination (unless you’re teaching hands-on surfing). Indeed, it’s just disrespectful to the students and to the context. A computer science professor I know once asked me why I “dressed up” for work, to which I responded along the lines of above, to reintroduce some formality to the teaching context. He added: “Oh, so you respect your students.”

Fortunately, the abomination I mentioned is uncommon (maybe more common in California). More typical among men are jeans or khakis and a button down shirt. Ties are really rare in the universities I’ve been at unless you are an administrator. More likely, you’ll have someone with a jacket, sans tie, over an OCBD and khakis or jeans.

Does this make the ivory tower grim style-wise? I suppose if by “style” one includes fit and formality, then perhaps yes. A clean fitting shirt and nicely cut trouser does wonders for such a look, but so often, men don’t pay attention to this. I like the modern academic uniform, but it’s casual, what I wear on weekends. It is not proper work wear for the ivory tower.

That said, I’m of two minds here. I value proper dress in the classroom context. I think a coat and tie are important for male faculty.

But then again, academia is hard, especially at the research level. Faculty positions are difficult to come by and achieved after years of hard work where you pretty much ignore everything else. Once you get your job, and many do not find one or only after years of looking, the pressures are doubled-down and teaching is secondary to doing good research. Many people have families too. So, it becomes an extravagance to focus on clothes.

Indeed, I’m very cognizant that in some way, my dressing up puts me at a disadvantage: it has the danger of making me appear frivolous to my colleagues. At this time in most American universities, classical menswear calls attention to itself. It is no longer mundane but stands out, especially if properly tailored and well cut to one’s body. Oddly, it’s inadvertent peacocking. So, while I think dressing properly, more formally, is important for professors, I’m not sure I would recommend to a junior colleague that they go my route. Or if they did, perhaps I would at least steer them away from the pocket square.

Interview with %22TweedyProf%22_at_Keikari_dot_com5

VR: Has the stereotypical tweeded professor lived on widely, or has he been driven into small pockets on the East Coast?
TP: I think the stereotypical tweedy professor is a myth or a dying breed. I do have a colleague in physics who wears tweed jackets and a bowtie. He looks good—a scientist no less!—but he is not the norm.

That said, there will be variation across universities. I suspect the northeast, with its seasonal changes, might allow for more variety of dress and, possibly, be the last protected lands for the mythical creature of which we speak.

Interview with %22TweedyProf%22_at_Keikari_dot_com7A rare gekkota accessory

 

VR: Is it possible to combine a passion for tailoring with academic credibility in the 2010s, or does shabbiness indeed guarantee authenticity and earnestness?
TP: I think it depends on the field. As I said, I think my dress can actually be a disadvantage, but I work around scientists and engineers for the most part. At this point, I’m tenured and have a body of work people feel is worth taking shots at (which is good; you want to be a target), so this protects me a bit.

Even among humanities faculty, I still stand out though as we move to the humanities and the arts, dress somehow is more tied up with one’s work or the persona that one perhaps cultivates more in those contexts. The drama professors have every reason to look great, though I don’t see them around much so can’t say for sure.

Remember, dress for me concerns aiding teaching, how I present myself to students. For research, it is much less important and as I said, possibly distracting and detrimental. I would much rather have someone come out of one of my talks saying, “He dressed like shit, but wow, what a mind!” than the other way around. Still, I suppose I aspire to “What a mind and what a jacket!”—in that order.

Ok, that’s too boring. My advice to young male faculty? Wear a coat and tie when you are teaching, and if asked by a senior colleague why you are “so dressed up”, just say that you are teaching and that you want to remind students that learning is serious business. You can slowly transition to wearing a coat/tie all week (“Oh, I have office hours” or “There’s a committee meeting”).

Wear a well fitting navy blazer with mid grey or mid brown trousers, to provide contrast with the blazer (not charcoal trousers or dark brown/taupe). A nicely tapered mid-brown blucher or oxford with some broguing, something not aggressively tapered but with a nice line (not too rounded of a toe). For ties: a near solid tie (for spring/summer, a tussah brown silk tie provides enough contrast and texture for an odd jacket), or a subtle herringbone. A good collar on blue oxford cloth for the shirt will finish off the look. Forgo the pocket square initially perhaps, or if you do, then a puff fold with squares that are subtle in color and pattern. You might be surprised that your students appreciate it.

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A history of pyjamas

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January 19, 2016 by Ville Raivio

Pyjamas were originally loose, thin trousers that staid up with the help of a thin cord. Men and women shrouded themselves with these in India, Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The trousers were usually paired with a knee-length tunic, the likes of which are worn as part of the shalwar kameez of today. The pyjama name comes from the Hindi word pair pae jama or pai jama, which mean leg clothing. The common use of pyjamas in Western countries began in the 1900s, but their history dates back to the influences of the British Empire and all the way to the 1600s. Europeans traversed to far-flung countries took them upon themselves as leisure wear, better suited to the climate of Eastern places than the woven woollens of the North.

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Those returning to mother countries brought pyjamas with them during the 1870s at the least, as these were quite rare markers of status and globe trotting in Europe. Pyjamas made up of a shirt with trousers also covered lewdly hairy lower limbs more effectively than the previously popular long nightshirt. This garment, today so comically-looking, did hold back the tide of pyjamas until the 1920s as it was considered warmer in poorly insulated houses. Before the 20th century, at the last, the word pyjamas meant a set of nightwear, both the shirt and trousers. The exotic aura of pyjamas was quickly snuffed out as clothing factories smelled a moneyd novelty, and began making them in great numbers and marketed the garments as modern apparel.

In the 1910s, French fashion houses manufactured pyjamas for daywear as well as sleeping, and their extreme lightness influenced the make of other garments. In a peculiar league of their own were evening pyjamas worn by city madams for informal house suppers. The common cut of men and women’s clothes in the 1920s was narrow, almost genderless, and the era retained the favour of the Tens for pyjamas of many kinds. While men’s nightwear was usually made from cotton or flannel and undecorated, those for women were made from thin, smooth silks and viscose, dressed with lace and embroidery. The male pyjama was very colourful in the ’20s, perhaps to lighten the mood after the dark daywear. The materials and details of pyjamas varied for over half a century until the wild 1970s arrived. The manufacture of unisex pyjama models that began then has stayed with us.

The top of a classic men’s pyjama resembles a collared shirt, but its collar is often round and entirely soft, with cuffed sleeves. The body of the shirt often has a placket to frame the larger buttons. By far the most common cut is loose to make for comfortable sleeping, while a common touch is a contrasting, colourful piping. A breast pocket is the thing to add as most pyjamas have no other pockets. The original drawstring trouser waist is usually replaced with an elastic band. As for materials, woven cottons are durable and smooth on the skin, while plain jerseys stretch like no other, and both of these are defaults. While silks have been more common before, dry-cleaning them is a nuisance and the material wears hot and flimsy. Linen remains the coolest for summer, flannel the warmest for winter, and pyjamas can be varied endlessly with different materials and detailing. A more stylish garment for sleeping has not been invented yet, so pyjamas remain on man’s shoulders still.




Copyright © 2013 Ville Raivio












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