July 8, 2014 by Ville Raivio
J. Barbour and Sons is Great Britain. It would be pointless to list the company’s three royal warrants, vast selection and many well-designed clothes as all of these are mentioned time and again elsewhere. No, these will not be mentioned at all. I first learned of the maker, founded in 1894, from Herr Roetzel’s style Bibel around a decade ago, but it took quite a while before curiosity got the better of me.
Strong zipper with studded storm fly front and hidden pocket
The Barbour Beaufort is a thigh-length wax cotton coat designed for wear at all times. Now, I could say jacket, but the model is clearly intended for all outdoors instead of smart indoor occasions, and this is the word I will stick with. The coat is still made in England from Barbour’s signature thornproof Sylkoil fabric, a tightly-woven long staple cotton coated with a combination of wax and oil.
“YKK on your zipper”
The cotton itself is rather thin and smooth, but the wax layer protects the wearer from rain, snow, wind, muck and all other elements apart from cold or heat. The design also has Raglan sleeves for comfy wear and rounded look.
…with open rivets
I find the coat itself much too warm for +20°C and much too cold for anything less 0°C, but the model can always be worn unzipped or zipped up with a separate Barbour lining. The coat has a clean metal zipper inside just for the lining, which is not offered gratis. Barbour’s Classic cut is sail-like, and the coat will fit above any usual layer of lard well. The company also offers a year’s guarantee against any defects in make.
Moleskin pocket and riveting armpits
Wind cuffs for warmth and health
This still leaves plenty of room for layering underneath, so the Beaufort can be worn in winter. The coat is not made for dashing looks but versatility and utility. The fabric has a…funky smell and leaks wax when new. Best avoid wearing it with light-coloured clothing and anything that needs dry cleaning for the first months.
Now for the design:
- the 6½ cm high corduroy collar is soft and warm, and can be turned up and closed with a throat latch hidden underneath — it also has studs for a separate Barbour hood
- the brass(?) metal zipper is large, easy to use and has a nice shine
- a studded storm fly front covers the zipper for added protection
- the coat has no breast pockets, but one large moleskin lining pocket under the zipper flap
- two cavernous bellow pockets can be closed with snaps, and both have two open rivets at the bottom so that wet inserted things will drip out
- three open rivets below armpits allow wind to cool the wearer
- two large hand-warmer pockets are made from warm and tough moleskin cotton
- Velcro-fastening wind cuffs seal out draughts
- a humongous game pocket behind the butt has two-way metal zipper entry
- while the locker loop is small, it is strengthened with a heavy-duty one on top
- the green Barbour tartan is woven from thick cotton for lining inside the coat and pockets
- a clean, seamless back repels rain and snow
Then a few stupid points:
- the sleeves have no extra fabric whatsoever for lengthening
- the back has no vent for comfortable wear
- visible logo
- the coat is very long in all sizes
- a small breast pocket and coin pocket would be welcome
- the large stitching is plain rough and ugly
I simply cannot understand why the model has no vent. Adding one would offer great comfort and would be but a slight hindrance to rain cover. Still, the Beaufort is one of the finest readymade coats ever created. It’s an infinitely versatile, protective, timeless-looking and well-thought out addition to any man’s casual dressing. Some rudeboys follow Roetzel’s words and wear theirs with a suit. They shall not be sung of. Barbour will.
July 4, 2014 by Ville Raivio
Julien Scavini is a French tailor who practised architecture in his previous life before picking up the trade of the cloth. His excellent blog, Stiff Collar, was born in September 2009 during his time as a journeyman apprentice tailor. The site is in French and much will be lost in translation if the reader has no grasp of the language, but I’d like to highlight a few intriguing points that will make any reader’s visit worth the while. Scavini has shared around 500 Apparel Arts, Esquire and Herrenmagazin scans collected from various sources, and though one link to a large zip-file is not working, the other is fine and dandy indeed.
He has also illustrated the many ways to cut lapels, highlighting the small differences between French tailors or more or less repute. Stiff Collar aims to explain the rules behind the ways classic clothing is crafted, worn and used, and the writer’s exclusive illustrations alone are worth a look. Scavini might just be the only French tailor who has shared his learning extensively with the rest of the Internet. The archives go back five years worth of interesting points and highlights.
July 3, 2014 by Ville Raivio
June 29, 2014 by Ville Raivio
The Balmacaan is a long, loose-fitting single-breasted coat, usually styled with the triad of fly front, short bal collar and Raglan sleeves. The model is named after an estate in Inverness, Scotland, and created for protection rather than rakish good looks. The clothes chronicler Alan Flusser tells us that the model comes from the coats once worn by the Prussian army. The purpose of Raglan sleeves in this case is to improve the coat’s waterproof qualities, as this construction has the sleeve cut and attached to the collar. The more common set-in sleeve leaves a straight seam on top of each shoulder, and from this seam moisture is more apt to seep inside, when the crooked Raglan makes rain drip better to ground.
Woollen 1950s Balmacaan with leather buttons
Thanks to its loose cut, the Balmacaan will fit nicely over several layers of clothes and movement is unhindered. The coat usually has a clean, rain-proof fly front and often comes with hacking pockets with buttons. It can be cut and made from any fabric available, but the densely woven and impregnated gabardine is among the finest in wind and rain. Woollens and worsteds, in turn, keep one warmer in chilly climes.
A 1930s version in windowpane wool
The Balmacaan’s collar is rounded, at least 8 cm high and short-pointed. It can be handily turned up for protection in the wind, and most models have a button below the collar for closing. The traditional and protective coat reaches the knees, fashion cuts have shorter hems. The cuffs have no buttons, but some versions have sleeve straps for added comfort and looks. The back has one vent for comfy wear.
A contemporary Balmacaan with loose, understated cut
Woollen Balmacaans usually sport a chest canvas for comfort and form, but true rain coats are typically unstructured and very light. Some makers offer belts that hug the waist and guarantee a nice silhouette in any storm. The coat’s name is Gaelic, but the Joneses have shortened it to bal, which also serves as the name of the collar.
Sleeve straps and hacking pockets with buttons
The word itself is rarely used in 2014 as all rain coats can be handily called rain mac(k)s. This name comes from Charles Macintosh, who developed the very first rubbery rain proof fabrics in the first decades of the 19th century. Still, it’s useful to know the Balmacaan because this model is among the oldest coats still in use. This piece of clothing is simple, eminently functional and timeless proof against all climates. It can be made from any fabric, which guarantees nearly endless variation. As long as one wants protection in style, the humble Balmacaan is topical.
The bal collar in its element
Photos: original uploaders
June 27, 2014 by Ville Raivio
“Mr. Fairbanks’s eye for strong, but un-obvious combinations of colour was apparent in his clear-blue shirt striped and collared in white, canary-yellow wide tie, teal-blue and magenta sari-silk pocket handkerchief, and red carnation in the lapel of his slate-grey suit.
* * *
[Says Fairbanks:] ‘The most important thing is that the suit be well cut. Then it needn’t be particularly new or even particularly well pressed. It will always hang properly. I make my suits last for years. The other day, I took one that’s, oh, eight years old, in to be altered — have the lapels narrowed and the trousers taken in. I go to Stovel&Mason in Old Burlington Street where I’ve trained the cutter to what I like, and he never commits the classic fault of London tailors — leaving too much fullness in the seat of the trousers.
For sports things, I go to Huntsman, in Savile Row, but in any case I’m rather conservative about suits. Being an actor, I plan my clothes rather more. No one in public life can afford to overstep. One has a responsibility, and before I get anything new, I brood about it, try it out on my wife and daughters, and perhaps on someone in the Club. Once the suit is settled, then the only thing is shoes and linen. I usually wear proper shoes except when I’m travelling, then I wear [polished tan loafers] because they’re so comfortable on planes. Otherwise, I go to Maxwell’s in Dover Street, and I always have shoes with elastic sides. I’ve been having them made since shortly after the war, and I don’t even own any lace-ups any longer.
I suppose I spend more on shirts than on anything else, and I’m not so conservative about them. Mainly they’re from Turnbull&Asser. Beyond Turnbull, I go, oh, all over. I might buy something at Sulka here, in Paris at Charvet. I would rather buy in London than any place, though, because London is to men what Paris is to women. It’s a town that’s set up for it. You find a variety. In Rome or Paris or New York there are two or three top tailors or shirtmakers; in London there are fifty-two all over the joint. I never buy ties because I have so many. The other day a man came up to me and said, “You’re really right up to the minute, wearing a wide tie.” I said, “No, I’ve had this one since 1932″.
When it comes to combinations of patters and colours, my wife tells me that I run to reds and blues, but I assure you that it’s not conscious. I do like blues, and yellows, but not beige or tan. Combining the patters and colours is simply a question of getting a contrast. With a striped suit, I wouldn’t wear a striped shirt. With a striped shirt I would wear a plain woven tie in a much deeper or brighter colour. The thing to keep in mind really is that the shirt, tie, and suit can’t look all the same in colour or scale of pattern, and, of course, not to be self-conscious about combinations. The one thing that I am especially conscious of is combining ties and pocket handkerchiefs. I avoid matching them at all costs. The pocket handkerchief should be coloured and patterned, but not matching the tie. Better to have it related, or even entirely unrelated, so long as they don’t look wrong together.’”
~ D.F. Jr. in Vogue, August 15, 1966
June 26, 2014 by Ville Raivio
“Like most men, I dress to please myself. For any heterosexual male this is inextricably linked with the ability to attract the fairer sex. And women — even if they know nothing about single-button fishtail cuffs or matched pocket jettings — have an incredible eye for proportion. That is because genetically encoded in them is the ability to quickly identify the fittest mates through unconscious rapid calculation to seek perfection in proportions between breadth of shoulder, chest relative to waist, and length of leg relative to torso. In every instance, when donning one of my bespoke garments, the collective reaction of the female audience was one of arched eyebrow puzzlement. The words ‘This is our house style, sir’ rang in my ears, to which the retort, ‘Your house style should be adopted as a way to preserve male virginity forever,’ formed on my lips.
In comparison, slipping on a Tom Ford blazer literally made the formerly insouciant ladyfolk go weak in the knees and their pink parts behave like frightened puffer fish.”
~ Wei Koh in The Rake, issue 10, volume 4
June 26, 2014 by Ville Raivio
As cut by Cifonelli
It is debatable whether Cifonelli’s sharp and angular notch model can be termed as Parisian; theirs is a notch not as sharp or deep as the likes of CdL and Smalto’s. The Parisian designer Marc Guyot has also favoured Parisian lapels in his readymade and made to measure jackets, though the points are shorter still. The late but not forgotten Arnys offered Parisian models for the discerning few, with an upwards-pointing and short gorge. André Guillerme-Guilson, David Diagne and Marc di Fiore cut Parisian lapels with somewhat thinner collars. Wicket offers yet another, slim Parisian lapel in their moderately-priced readymade range. In formality, the Parisian lapel centres somewhere between the peak and notch lapel — perhaps not in best use in white or black tie.
The CdL look
While the notch lapel, peak lapel, shawl lapel and throat latch lapel are more or less seen in films, advertisements and the media, the Parisian lapel is a rare sight outside of France. French tailoring houses have clients all over the world, though; once the reader has seen and read of le cran Parisien, he is likely to recognise one. I have never seen the detail offered by non-French manufacturers or tailors, but I’m sure there’s a few to go around. Please let me know of them in the comments or by email, and I will update this title accordingly. The Parisian lapel is still as beautiful as it was in the ’50s, and a uniquely French touch.
With the kind assistance of Julien de Luca and Julien Scavini.
Photos: Marc Guyot, Cifonelli, Camps de Luca
June 24, 2014 by Ville Raivio
The newest chapter in my journey in Austro-Hungarian shoemaking was assisted by SourceCulture, the only webstore with stock pairs from Rozsnyai Shoes. The order: made to measure black nubuck hippo leather chukka boots from Rozsnyai. They feature 360-degree storm welts with a combined, white hand-sewn stitching, Vibram Eton rubber soles (similar to Dainite, but better in grip and durability), elongated almondy round chisel toe, rounded chukka style with black calf piping, clean and seamless back, dark purple lining, three hidden eyelets. The hide is CITES-certified and made from the grain part, lightly sanded for a nice, soft nubuck finish.
Two house style features come to boot: a full, separate sock liner with cork bottom and gimped edges, and extended leather heel stiffeners that reach out almost to the vamp. Not quite arch supports but close and lovely. Continuing the pleasant fit of a previous austerity pair, the boots contour very well indeed. Most readymade boots have more room around the ankle than necessary, and my bulbous left Os cuineiforme II (or pinky toe) has proved troublesome in the past. Removing the bugger would be a unique option, but true MTM averts such thoughts. It’s a funny thing still; around a year ago I used to think that I had a few well-fitting pairs.
Hippo leather is an interesting new acquaintance. While the striated surface interest gives a rough and coarse look, the hide is extremely flexible and soft to touch. Scars and rough spots vary from animal to animal — the hippo that lives on in this boot form bears marks from battles lost and won. Unlike reverse calf and other bovine suedes, hippo has no nap to brush. My Finn in London, the cordwainer Teemu-Pekka Leppänen from Cleverley, tells me that hippo is a very tough, durable and comfortable leather. Time will tell how it ages. The Internet, in turn, informs me that hippo hides are around 3 cm thick on average but some parts, like the butt, measure 5 cm. Coupled with a hefty layer of fat, the hippopotamus has an armour of skin like few others.
The leather is split to some 2mm thickness for use in footwear. Returning to the boots; while the uppers are glove-soft and light, the soles provide sturdy heft that makes the pair feel like regular boots. White stitching gives added contrast to an otherwise matte, almost devoid-of-light leather, and a study in purple decorates the lining. I plan to wear them with some nice, dark corduroys and moleskins in rain, ice, dung, dirt and melancholy Finnish winter gloom for the next decades to come.
June 20, 2014 by Ville Raivio
June 17, 2014 by Ville Raivio
Alexander Kabbaz is on a mission. Apart from draping the necks and backs of men of ample means, he wants to educate those who enjoy learning. The chosen method is digital, the given name Sartorial Excellence News and the content excellent. These thorough primers shed some nice light on the fineries, details and differences between fibers, makers, fabrics, shirts, socks and the Ethos of the artisan.
Copyright © 2013 Ville Raivio