April 30, 2013 by Ville Raivio
VR: Your age and occupation?
UBR: I’m 31 years old and I’m a professor.
VR: Your educational background?
UBR: I have a PhD.
VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your style enthusiasm)? And your parent’s and siblings’ reactions back in the days?
UBR: I have neither spouse nor children. My mother likes that it’s something I care about and shares some of my interest. My father likes to know what I’m working on and will read stuff that I write, but I think considers it a bewildering, if mostly harmless, hobby. I think my brother would be more interested in clothing, but these days he spends 90 hours a week in scrubs.
VR: How did you first become interested in clothing, and when did you turns your eyes towards classics?
UBR: The seeds of my current more serious interest were first sown (sewn?) when I lived in Italy for a year during college. I walked by the Armani store every day on my way from my apartment to the university. At the time, I was really attracted to the way their fabrics draped – they were using fabrics that really nobody else was using at the time, or since, really. The clothes had a relaxed, but sophisticated look, and beautiful neutral colors. That store made me realize that men’s clothing could be truly special. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve changed or because they have, or both, but these days I don’t feel the same way when I walk by Armani storefronts.
VR: How did you find Styleforum, and what has kept you active on the site?
UBR: This is the jacket that got me into StyleForum and #menswear. Two years ago I went on eBay to try and replace a ruined item and started browsing innocently. Next thing I knew I saw a listing for a jacket that looked absolutely stunning. It was used with a BIN for $600 or something like that, which seemed really high to me at the time, given that eBay’ed Armani could be had for less than $100 on occasion. Moreover, I hadn’t even heard of the maker.
So I googled ‘Cesare Attolini’ and, of course, found an SF thread. I bought the jacket and have loved it ever since. I continued to lurk on SF for a month or two, amazed at the amount of time these idiots spent discussing men’s clothing and taking pictures of themselves in bathrooms, never thinking within months I’d be among the most degenerate offenders.
Since then I’ve made some e-friends through the site, so I come back to hang out with them and other like-minded enthusiasts. No longer can a gentleman go lounge around at his tailor’s shop and talk clothes with other clients. Today these matters must be discussed anonymously from your computer when no one is looking.
VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of clothing– from books, in-house training, workshops or somewhere else? Who or what inspires you?
UBR: From observing friends and people on the street, watching movies, reading books. I maintain a sort of menswear bibliography on Styleforum: http://www.
Today there are also many Internet personalities with interest in personal style and excellent writing skills. I’m sure I’m leaving out somebody important, but in particular I’ve learned a lot from Guido Wongolini, Derek Guy, Jesse Thorn, RJMan, Will Boehlke, voxsartoria, and Manton. I am immensely grateful to them for posting their thoughts and experiences, and often responding to my pestering questions.
VR: How would you describe your own dress? Which tailors/RTW makers do you favour?
UBR: I use Napolisumisura and Steed for jackets, trousers, and suits, Geneva Custom Shirts for shirts, Vanda Fine Clothing and EG Cappelli for ties, Carmina and Gaziano and Girling for shoes, Rubinacci and Drakes for pocket squares, Bresciani for socks. As RJMan would say, if it were possible to die from an overdose of Internet-approved brands, I’d have perished many lengths of London Lounge cloth ago.
I’d describe my clothes as comfortable, well loved, and much more expensive than I would like them to be.
VR: What is your definition of style?
UBR: Your style is the difference you make in a room when you’re in it.
VR: Please describe how Ivorytowerstyle was born. How have you been received?
UBR: I wanted to have a personal diary of what I was wearing, seeing, and thinking about regarding clothing. Most of the pictures at the beginning were pretty terrible quality. Eventually I got a little bit of an audience as I improved my photographic skills.
Headless self-portraits can only be so interesting though, so recently I’ve started to focus more on writing articles.
VR: There are thousands of style sages around the world — why should my readers have a look at your texts?
UBR: I really hate self-promotion. But if you’re enjoying this interview, you’ll probably like my site.
VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides apparel?
UBR: I love music of all sorts. I’ve been playing guitar and singing for 20 years now. Only recently did I start worrying about what effect guitar straps might have on the shoulder lines of my jackets.
VR: Over the years you must have learned quite a bit about style. Is there something you wish more men would know? This is great opportunity to make a lasting influence on my younger readers. Most of us aren’t blessed with rakish relatives, which makes learning about style a challenge later in life. All tips and thoughts are valuable.
UBR: Cultivate a strong interest in personal hygiene. This includes cleaning and trimming your finger and toenails. In private.
Be courteous, respectful, and generous to your fellow humans. Nothing (except long, filthy fingernails) is less stylish than snapping at a waiter or salesperson.
Stand up straight.
Look people in the eye when you are speaking with them.
Be able to tell at least five entertaining stories or jokes, at least two of which can be told in polite company, and at least one of which cannot. Write them out and practice in front of a mirror if you have to.
Read. And I don’t mean books on color coordination and jacket construction. Read all of Shakespeare at least once before you even crack open Flusser or Roetzel.
Avoid cliches. Start with your speech and then work from there.
Learn which classic cocktails you like best and order those. Cocktail “menus” are for women. If your “classic cocktail” of choice includes Coke or Red Bull as an ingredient, start over. All of these things are far more important to your style than anything having to do with what you’re wearing. If you act like a gentleman but dress like a slob, people will mostly just assume you have more interesting things to think about than your clothes. If you dress like a gentleman but act like a cad, people will assume you’re insecure and trying to compensate for something. They’ll probably be right.
But I suppose that anyone reading this, especially this far, has some interest in clothing. So I’ll give some advice directed at that audience, and here it is: Be aware of what is driving your interest.
In my observation, most people who have an interest in tailored clothing are motivated by at least one of the following three desires. All of these are stereotypes. Few people will fit exactly into any one of the three categories. Most will fit into all three in some degree.
The first is the desire to achieve other goals, be they professional or social, using clothing. They want to make a good impression, either directly or through the extra confidence they get from wearing nice things. They want to dress appropriately in professional settings so as to advance their career. They want to dress appropriately in social settings so as to show respect to the occasion and their hosts, and to make friends and influence people. This is admirable, and the easiest desire to satisfy. To the vast majority of the general public, even the small share of the public that makes decisions on promotions and party invitations, most suits look the same. A navy Brooks Brothers suit taken to a competent alterations tailor, worn with a white shirt and conservative necktie, will make as good an impression, and give you as much confidence, as clothes ever can. For these people, scouring internet forums and blogs is only going to be counterproductive.
The second desire is to be envied by others. These are the people who crave rankings of clothing brands by “quality” and lists of rules to follow, so that they can feel their own sense of superiority as they work their way up the rankings or down the rules. If the first thing you think of when you buy something new is how much everybody online is going to drool over the pictures you post, then you are possessed by this demon. And it is a demon that lives inside all of us. This is the most insidious of the three desires. It may be appeased by some temporary adulation, but ultimately leads to dissatisfaction and disillusion. If you diagnose this malady in yourself, treat with a shopping moratorium until you feel cured.
The final desire is a genuine appreciation of the history and aesthetics of men’s clothing and quality craftsmanship per se. This is the most noble and most rewarding of the three desires. These enlightened souls can enjoy some of the most beautiful things human hands can produce without being constantly haunted by the idea that someone else might have something better, or that they might be photographed with some disqualifying wrinkle on your sleeve. At its best, the online community deepens and broadens this appreciation.
So my advice is to think about which of these forces is strongest in you and act accordingly. Oh, and always wear nice shoes.
Pictures: © ‘unbelragazzo’