May 28, 2013 by Ville Raivio
’38, owner of Panta Clothing, undergraduate degree in Mathematics and Social Sciences. I am married and we have two young boys, my spouse is part of the business and my boys could not care less about clothing. My siblings care in so far as I give them free clothing I’ve probably been dressing up since grammar school. I was required to wear a uniform (collared shirt/tie/odd jacket) from 6th grade right through high school, so you start looking for ways to stand out from everyone else. I remember when Tommy Hilfiger first came out, he did these amazing oxford cloth button-down collared shirts. The cloth was so beefy, the collar buttonhole and the gauntlet buttonhole were stitched in a different color (green, IIRC). I loved those things, I must have had my mom buy me a dozen or so. Girls loved the shirts and that was also a big part of dressing up for me, how to get a teenage girl to notice you over the other hundred guys wearing the same uniform you were.
I don’t really think of myself as being knowledgeable on clothing. I’ve never been one to study the intricacies of hopsack versus fresco or historical modes of men’s dress. What I do know has mostly come from simple trial and error. I guess I would describe my dress as boring with the occasional loud item. My clothes have to be a part of my daily, busy routine. Once I put something on, I can’t spend time thinking about it or fussing with it throughout the day. I mostly wear my ties and pants, I just started making jackets/suits/shirts, and I have been wearing Dinkelacker shoes with everything from jeans to suits as they are very comfortable, unique, and have a style that is all their own.
In classic menswear, the difference between makers really comes down to quality and taste. A tie is a tie, a suit is a suit, and no one is reinventing the wheel. Unfortunately, I think some makers (and menswear enthusiasts) see this as a reason to “reimagine” menswear and it results in things like camouflage double monk shoes. We like to think that at Panta we have a good, classic taste level. We use the best raw materials, solid construction and make clothing that accentuates your taste, rather than overpowering you. I think you are well-dressed when people notice you, but don’t necessarily notice any one item in your outfit, if that makes any sense. Too many guys are over accessorizing now and feel that every single item they wear in an outfit needs to be “interesting”. We don’t sell romance, fancy packaging or trends, just solid clothing.
The company was born in the middle of the financial crash. My wife had just gotten laid off and my financial job was in question, so I told her, “I have a great idea, let’s take our retirement money, manufacture and sell high-end clothing during the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression, it’s a no brainer!” We’ve been received well since the beginning, but I’ll be the first to admit that we have made mistakes. The quality in the beginning was not as good as I wanted it to be, we were trying to appeal to all tastes, etc. I am very happy where we are right now. We are slowly growing the brand, getting things right, narrowing our focus rather than trying to appeal to everyone, and committed to working with manufacturers that are not simply out to maximize profit with no regard to their worker’s welfare.
[My hobbies include] Animal husbandry, medieval torture devices and the musical stylings of William Shatner. I simply wish more men would just shop for themselves. We live in a world where most grown up men have a significant other buy their clothing for them. [As for tips,] this is a bit tough, or at least tougher than one thinks. Like anything else, you need to have an understanding of the basics, a foundation. Solid navy/grey suits, solid blue/white shirts, small patterned and solid ties, etc. But there is a difference between being well-dressed and being stylish. When you read most clothing forums/blogs, eventually you’ll see the names of Agnelli, the Duke of Windsor and Cary Grant mentioned as great dressers. Yet, as all three of them were very different men, they all dressed very differently. The Duke wore many patterned suits/sportcoats. He was a man that did not have a “boss” or anyone to answer to. There was no office to attend, no clients to see. Agnelli was an industrialist/playboy. His clothing, while mostly solids, was worn with a panache (watch over the shirt, etc) befitting a jet setter such as himself. Grant, as a Hollywood star, wore a button-down collar, French cuff shirts with double breasted suits, a general “go to hell” kind of look.
What reactions would these gentlemen receive from today’s clothing forums? Probably not a good one. The Duke would be seen as an overwrought Dandy. Agnelli would be thoroughly ridiculed for wearing the watch on top of his sleeve. Cary Grant would probably be tarred and feathered for wearing a button-down collar French cuff shirt with a double-breasted suit. I bring these three gentlemen up because they represent what I think is the best lesson in dressing that anyone can learn. Dress for who you are and for your situation. Agnelli would never wear what the Duke wore. The Duke would have renounced the throne if he had to wear a button down collar shirt with one of his DB’s. In that same light, not everyone can or should wear the latest out of Pitti. Or the latest trend on the forums. Or dress from a book. Or dress like the Duke/Agnelli/Grant. That’s not organic. You may be well dressed but you will not be stylish.
While it is comforting to think that 1+2=3, dressing stylishly does not follow that equation. You read on the forums people talking about color charts, microscopic differences in textures, the correct angle of your pocket square and I think to myself, how much time did the Agnellis of the world spend on getting the perfect tie knot, or perfecting their pocket square placement or worry about how much handstitching was in their suits? So classic men’s clothing is in this bizarre place right now where everyone pays tribute to the “Gods” (Agnelli et al) by doing the exact opposite of what the gods would do, trying to get style from a book or the internet.
Sorry for being longwinded, I’ll try and get off my soapbox and summarize everything. Your best lesson on dressing well will come from trial and error. Don’t sweat the little stuff, the perfect tie knot, perfect pocket square, perfect shoe shine should not be your goal. It’s not so much about the parts as it is about the whole. Your goal should be an outfit that is first and foremost comfortable, secondly well-fitting, and lastly, one that reflects who you are. You should never wear anything that requires “fussing” over the course of the day. Think about how many less women Agnelli would have romanced if he spent his time worrying about his tie knot or whether he was showing enough pocket square.’
Pictures: © Panta