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Details of László Vass shoes

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February 28, 2016 by Ville Raivio

All photos courtesy of Vass shoes.

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A history of tab collar shirts

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February 27, 2016 by Ville Raivio

The tab collar is an eccentric detail that stands out from the rest. A small tab, closed with snaps, a loop or magnets, is sewn between its sides and this bit raises the tie knot upwards. The collar type was born in Great Britain sometime in the 1920s but its inventor has been forgotten by my reference books. The collar gained fame and popularity when the Duke of Windsor (who else?) took a fancy to it. The Duke’s outfits were closely watched by all media and menswear shops grew their selections when the future king was seen wearing something novel. On the shoulders of the young prince, the tab collar travelled across the world on state visits. With him being the most photographed man of the times, tab collars spread to commonwealth and friend state stores in no time, ending up gracing the necks of thousands of others.

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The most common tab collar have sharp, fairly long points, but rounded club collars have also been popular. The popularity of the tabbed collar continued to the 1930s, but waned after these times just to wax again in the ’60s. Frank Sinatra particularly favoured keeping tabs as part of his style and men followed his suit. The tab collar has its uppers and downers. The finer points include the fabric piece that nicely raises the tie and keeps it in place well, no matter how the head turns during the day. At the same time it also keeps the collar points close to the body of the shirt, a look that’s always clean. Still, tabs lose their shape and appeal if worn without a tie, the tab usually calls for a tiny knot and the collar has become rare. Like all rare and thus eccentric things, it attracts attention — not always for the better. Signs of the tab collar’s return have been in the media for a while now. James Bond, for one, has chosen it for his use in the latest films as this collar has long been the darling bud of Tom Ford, the latest Bond stylist.

The Mad Men series, as well, gathered great popularity in America, depicting the crazy years in advertising during the 1960s, and tabs were commonplace clothes during the times and thus in the series. Boardwalk Empire told stories about America’s prohibition years and marched numerous criminals onto screens, doing evil things in stylish shirts. Despite the ramifications of Donald Rumsfeld’s political positions, the fervour of his tab collars cannot be denied. Finally, Suitsupply, a popular young adult clothier, has offered the shirt for several years. While the collar type is still rare, it has better stayed alive in the USA than Europe, which it only visited to be born.


A history of popover shirts

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February 26, 2016 by Ville Raivio

In historical light, we are living an age of a young shirt type. The current one has buttons from the neck down to the hem, but for centuries before this, men’s shirts were simply dragged on. Closure was handled with cords, strings or with the help of a few buttons – in any case, the shirt could not be opened fully. This shirt cut has later on taken the name of popover. It was originally used for formal shirts and humble work garments, but as stiff detachable collars were left out and buttoning moved lower during the early 1900s, popovers became rarer. Thanks to their peculiar shape, they were worn for leisure almost without excetions.

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During the 1960s, the American company GANT became known for shirts whose buttons ran out at the middle of the torso. To dress into them, the shirts had to be popped over the head — and this act gave its name to the shirts. Since then, the company has manufactured or has had made popovers from one year to another, but in random amounts and as part of varying lineups. Ralph Lauren’s company has done likewise, but theirs have popped up so randomly that fans of these shirts have been forced to hunt things down or have them made. Italy’s greatest style icon Gianni Agnelli was a fan of the popover in his off-time and style mavens followed suit, but for some peculiar reason the masses have not taken to popovers. Whatever was left of the shirt’s popularity after the Victorian times was cut off by World War part I and Redux. Afterwards the shirt was most popular in America as part of the Ivy League uniform, in Europe it has mostly died off.

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The popover’s buttoning is shorter, so these models must be cut looser to allow ease of dressing and stripping. If they’re worn loose and over the trousers, however, the hem should be fairly form-fitting, and this adds difficulty for the maker. The length of the placket has been a matter of taste, but most companies have favoured 2-4 buttons. While regular shirts allow buttons to be moved a few cms to make room for changing guts, popovers are intolerant for such manoeuvres. Despite a few limitations, the popover offers any man an eccentric look that has been able to appeal for a few centuries now. Few garments achieve the same.


Einstein in quote

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February 24, 2016 by Ville Raivio

“If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies.”

— Albert Einstein


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.”




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