Peter Zottolo

About Peter Zottolo

Peter works in construction, but has an extensive collection of custom suits which he gets so that he can wear suits on the weekend. Even though he lives in San Francisco, he has never used the word "impact" as a verb. He writes about classic menswear and is one fedora away from being a complete dork.

Black Tie Time

Back in the day, Esquire magazine stalwartly carried the torch of classic black tie. One of my favorite writers of that era, John Berendt, grew up in Syracuse, New York, not far from one of the first appearances of the tuxedo. Almost immediately after graduating from Harvard, he became an associate editor of Esquire from 1961 to 1969 and continued to contribute from 1982 to 1994, when his book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was published. Many of his columns begrudgingly acknowledge trends while scornfully piss on what he calls “atrocities.” A particularly funny one is when he took umbrage with some of the spirited choices his contemporaries passed off as acceptable black tie. After observing that the first two public exhibitions of Henry Poole’s dinner jacket in America caused quite a stir, he wrote:

“I mention these two episodes…to make the point that, historically, there has never been much tolerance for individual touches when it comes to formal attire. And properly so–if not for the sake of tradition, than because for some reason the classic model is almost always debased rather than improved by innovation….But in a perverse sort of way we can be grateful to them because of what they reveal about the wearer’s level of taste.”

Classics: The Tuxedo, from Esquire, January 1983

For about 100 years, the classic black tie model has remained more or less the same, and is fairly straightforward: the suit itself can be black or midnight blue wool. As for the jacket, the most formal is single breasted peak lapel, and happens to be the most flattering one. Your shirt, which is always white, should be the quintessential marcella bib with two or three studs. A wing collar would have been the first choice a century ago, but nowadays a soft turndown collar has become the norm. Pleated shirts are fine, but I find they go better with peak lapels in a double breasted jacket or shawl collars in either configuration. A notch collar is acceptable, but has the tendency to look more waiter than waited on. Your bow tie, which should never be pre-tied and always in front of your shirt collar, can be in either black silk satin or grosgrain. Ideally the same material should be repeated in the lapel facings, buttons, and a single stripe down the trouser’s outside seam. Your waist should be covered by a double breasted jacket, a formal black waistcoat, or a cummerbund that matches your tie. Shoes are black oxfords or opera pumps in patent leather, although either in properly shined calf leather is a fine alternative. Hosiery is black silk.

Once you have a tuxedo in any of the above, you can start to go crazy – a little – for less ceremonious affairs. An easy way to do this is by simply swapping the top. An off-white jacket is a fine choice for daytime or if you happen to find yourself on a boat. On informal occasions, such as a party in someone’s home, a velvet smoking jacket in deep jewel tones is a louche option, or plaid if you’re feeling particularly festive. In these cases, lapels should never be notched, and facings can be in black silk or in the same color and material as the jacket, depending on how shiny you wish to be. If you feel especially casual, you can swap your courtly footwear for slippers in silk or velvet in black.

There are other options, of course, but listed above are already a dozen or so that will take you everywhere from the opera to the stag party. With the proviso that you have them all already and are exceptionally popular with a calendar bursting with fancy engagements, just don’t. Unless you’re Andy57.

Andy Poupart is a self-professed romantic that loves black tie more than anyone I know. His job, like most of us, doesn’t pit him against secret agents or nefarious megalomaniacs, but if it did, he’d be ready for the part. His black tie closet includes:

  • Straight-ahead, classic, by-the-book, black, peak lapel, grosgrain facings, single-breasted dinner jacket, with matching trousers, cummerbund, and U-front waistcoat
  • Midnight blue, shawl lapel, midnight blue satin silk facings, single breasted jacket, with matching trousers, cummerbund, and U-front waistcoat
  • Ivory, self-faced, double-breasted shawl lapel jacket
  • Deep bottle green velvet, black grosgrain facings and cuffs, shawl lapel, single breasted jacket
  • Thai silk, red, self-faced, peak lapel, single breasted jacket

To accompany these, he has socks in black and midnight blue silk, two shirts each in white and ivory, all with soft turndown collars and marcella fronts, several sets of studs and links, a butterfly and diamond point bowtie in black grosgrain, another in black mogodor, a fourth in midnight blue satin silk, and black patent leather oxfords. If that sounds like overkill, be assured Andy has worn every piece in his armory many times over, and has his eyes set on a few more. “I keep thinking about a burgundy double-breasted jacket in a fantastic wool/silk velvet,” he grins.

Although all of his outfits are excellent, Andy reckons his favorite is the ivory dinner jacket. “I designed it after Humphrey Bogart’s in Casablanca. When I wear it, I’m a 1940s gun-runner, one step ahead of the bad guys, with places to go and things to do that you can’t be any part of, but we’ll always have Paris. Oh, and a martini in one hand.”

“I know that all sounds silly, but I don’t care,” he states. “It’s how I can express the side my personality that I want to portray. I think that when we get dressed, in any sort of clothes, we are telling a story about ourselves, how we wish to appear to the world. When I wear black tie, I feel I’m presenting the best me.”

I have to catch up to Andy – I’ve got a few black tie rigs myself, but alas, no velvet yet.

You can wait until the invitation requests it, or you can do like Andy and where it wherever you want. To be honest, even a black trash bag is better than not trying at all, but as long as you’re trying, you might as well do it right. To that end, try your best to follow John Berendt’s sage words:

“My advice is to stick with the classic unless you happen to have a tailor with the prescience of a Henry Poole. And the odds are you do not.”

For what is probably the biggest, most awesomest collection of classic black tie, check out Voxsartoria’s blog. But you knew that.

Know when to wear what: Vox

GIIN Elevated Essentials – Boxer Briefs REVIEW

giin boxer briefs review

“The way it supports, you’ve never felt anything like it.”

Frank and I were chatting during l’ora dell’ aperitivo in Florence at the StyleForum Maker Space. It was the final evening before the final day, when vendors leave the Pitti booths after the sun sets and talk shop with those they’ve met throughout the day over a cup of something viscous. Frank’s company, Giin, is perhaps better known for their lapel hole object d’arte flowers, but his side gig – men’s underwear and undershirts – intrigued me, since I’ve never given either one more than a passing thought.

“Sell it to me,” I challenged, to which he said the opening line. “You see how I’m cupping this glass of chardonnay?  That’s the kind of support I’m talking about. It’s there, but natural.” I was a little incredulous – natural wouldn’t describe anything I’ve tried that’s made for down there. Frank must have read my face because he immediately responded with another angle: “You can wash and wear them the next day.”

Now that was something that struck a chord with me. The practical usefulness of something that could withstand a sweaty, pick-and-shovel day in the field and be ready for tomorrow might prove applicable for vacation as well.  “All right,” I nodded. “I’ll take a pair and put them to the test at work. Then I’ll take them on my next vacation in Turkey. We’ll see how they perform.”

He chuckled. “I’ve already tested them in Singapore. If they can handle those summers, Turkey will be a cakewalk.”

Frank ended up sending me a week’s worth, “just in case,” he writes, which I tell my wife in the event that she refuses to touch a person who hasn’t changed their underwear after a day. The fabric is fantastically soft, made from a mix of high twist cotton, polyester, and Lycra that Frank says took extensive trial and error to perfect. I put them on in preparation for running power in the crawl space in the Tenderloin’s Salerno Hotel lobby – a sweatbox if there ever was one – and the first thing I notice is the second-skin snugness. Boxers, these ain’t, but after a few minutes, they stretched to the point where I didn’t notice any snugness, and – perhaps disconcertingly – I didn’t notice them at all, meaning I had to remind myself that I’m actually wearing underwear. Part of the reason is the fabric, some magical hybrid of high-twist cotton, polyester, and lycra that is featherweight and silky smooth that was developed in-house. Also, there is a not a single stitch anywhere; instead, the seams are bonded with a thermoplastic film called Bemis that Frank swears by. “Throw them in the dryer if you want,” he challenged. “The fabric will wear out before the adhesive does.” The result is a low-profile non-abrasive pair of chonies that you forget about almost as soon as you put them on.

Up in the stuffy 100-year-old crawlspace, I twisted, contorted, and twisted my day pulling MC home runs over ductwork, underwater pipes, and carefully stepping on black iron supports, and not once did the underwear bind, ride up, or fall down. At home, I finished the daylight with a perspire pool of a Shawn T workout, hopped in the shower and per Frank’s instructions, washed with soap and water, hung to dry overnight, and put on a new pair.

The next day I did the exact same thing – work and workout – except instead of grabbing a new pair, I reached for yesterday’s and did the sniff test. To my amazement, they smelled not just clean, but laundered. No trace of yesterday’s funk at all. Nonetheless, since my olfactory senses have been dulled from years of construction inhalation, I handed them to my bloodhound-nosed wife for confirmation. She took a pair of tongs, held them six inches from her face, and took a deep breath. Her eyes widened.

“Impressive. If anything…” she pursed her lips. “I smell a hint of EO body wash.” And with her blessing, they were green-lit for Turkey.

giin boxers review

Bringing underwear on vacation is always a gamble: what if you’re nowhere near a place to do your laundry? You’re better off throwing them in a nuclear waste disposal and buying a new pair than risk repacking them and spreading the odor to the rest of your luggage. But if Giin underwear is truly wash-and-wear…

In short, the underwear wasn’t compatible with the whirlwind ten-day Turkey tour. We did have a shower every night, but since we departed for a different city every morning, there wasn’t enough time for the underwear to completely dry in the hotel before repacking them. However, we bookended our trip with several days before and after in Istanbul, and had three straight days on a boat; in these instances, the every-other-day rotation worked fine. Not surprisingly, the fabric handled the Turkish heat with aplomb, never once feeling clammy or uncomfortable. Additionally, they come in mid-grey and nude, giving them ninja levels of invisibility underneath white pants or shorts. Because even if your aloha shirt is shamelessly crass, at least your unmentionables are modest.

I don’t know of any other real-life stress test to put Giin underwear under, but I’ll bet that they can take whatever can be thrown at them. More than that, they are easily the most there-yet-not-there pair I own, equally comfortable and imperceptible. Just wash, allow to dry for 24 hours, and you’re good to go.

And if you’re wondering about support, just think of Frank holding a glass of chardonnay.


Read the review of GIIN’s seamless undershirts here.
You can purchase GIIN’s underwear on the official website.
Check out the Official Affiliate Thread and join the discussion on the forum.

This is not a sponsored article; to read Styleforum’s review policy, please click here.

18 East: A Chat with Antonio Ciongoli About His Travel-Inspired New Project

Antonio likes Italian, but now he wants you to try something Indian. Other options include Japanese, Irish, or North African, because, for him, each place offers something interesting.
We’re chatting in La Cumbre, one of the restaurants in San Francisco that claims to be the birthplace of the Mission-style burrito, and Antonio is all smiles.
“Man, you guys have it good. There’s probably a million places to get Mexican food out here. I love it.”  We’re talking about Antonio’s new project, 18 East, which was born, in part, from his visit to Rajasthan a few years ago. He was struck by the various patterns and silhouettes that, while commonplace there, are relatively unused by Western designers. Inspired by his visit, he designed a handful of clothing for his subsequent collections for Eidos, but it wasn’t enough.
“I loved my time at Eidos, but there was so much I couldn’t do,” he recalls. “For one thing, there are so many artisans all over the world, but with Eidos, I could only use their Italian factories. Not that they weren’t great – their knitwear is simply amazing – but they just can’t recreate what we saw in India. In Jaipur, there are huge indigo fields as far as the eye can see where they hand-dip and then air-dry garments. No factory in Italy can do that.”  
“Besides, the idea of massive two-season collections doesn’t make sense to me,” he continues. “There’s the stuff I’d do for Eidos, and then the exclusives for various vendors, like Barney’s and Bloomingdales – literally hundreds of pieces, all at the same time. Guys aren’t looking for polo coats in September – they’re looking for transitional pieces.” With 18 East, Antonio is able to focus on a few dozen pieces seasonal-appropriate every couple months. “I’d rather do a few unique pieces that I’m really excited about, rather than producing an item just to check off a list.”
While it’s true that the items from this drop are influenced by the textiles he saw in India & Nepal, they are not simple imitations. The next day I go to Unionmade to check out the clothes in person, and I’m impressed with just how wearable everything is. Sure, there’s a uniqueness to them – the hand-blocked prints and intricate woven patches, especially – but nothing is so far out that would make the wearer self-conscious. “I didn’t want to create a line that would alienate people,” Antonio says while sipping a beer at the store. He then points to the corduroy sherpa coat hanging on a mannequin. “Take this jacket, for example. It’s my favorite from the collection. It reminds me of something you’d see at a Vermont head shop.”

18 East "Charlotte" sherpa travel vest and belter corduroy rancher coat.

18 East “Charlotte” sherpa travel vest and belted corduroy rancher coat.

Online, I immediately was drawn to the red pajamas (inspired by Steve McQueen’s character in Bullitt) and made a b-line over to them on the rack.  Unfortunately, photos and words can’t do them justice – they really are special.  In two seconds they were off the rack and bagged at the counter, and I wore them that night.  They’re a little different, but the muted color and repeating kalamkari and bagru patterns provide just the right amount of visual interest, and I’ve found they go well under sweaters and jackets.

18 East "Julian" Vintage pajama created with kalamkari - a traditional block-printing method.

18 East “Julian” Vintage pajama created with kalamkari – a traditional block-printing method.

I also picked up the tie-waist cardigan. Made from a donegal-style yarn of sheep’s wool and yak, Antonio chose to use a basketweave to fashion this kimono-style sweater, giving it an insane amount of depth and texture. “That cardigan was a happy accident,” he recounts as I try it on. “We first made it without the placket, and the ends curled up in a funky way.  Then someone attached this placket from the inside, and it just fell perfectly.”
Prices are reasonable, and the general silhouette of the clothes, while loose, is far from baggy.  As a reference, I’m 5’8” and 160lbs, and I took a small in everything and felt comfortable. This first drop had nominal sizing information on the 18East website (e.g. “This garment is oversized”) and it took me a couple tries to find the best size for me in person. Future collections will have measurements to minimize confusion and help get a better idea of how each garment fits. It’s a departure from his much-beloved suiting at Eidos, and for the time being, Antonio isn’t planning on introducing any tailored clothing at all.

18 East "Hima" chainstitch crewneck and "Nomad" tie waist cardigan.

18 East “Hima” chainstitch crewneck and “Nomad” tie waist cardigan.

“Don’t wear any of these clothes with a tie,” he chuckles. “Matching tops and bottoms, though, that’s something I’d like to explore a little in the future.” He shows me pictures from a photoshoot he did earlier in the week with Marco (@KamoteJoe on the forum) wearing pants and a shirt in matching fabrics. “You see this often in India, and it looks fantastic. You’ll see something like this later on. Don’t get me wrong – an Italian suit is great, but it’s not the only suit there is.”
While it may be an obvious statement that there is wearable fashion everywhere, it’s another thing entirely to incorporate global influences in a way that doesn’t come off as ethnic appropriation. From Antonio’s collections, you get the feeling that if Antonio wasn’t in fashion, he’d be a chef, finding inspiration in local flavors around the world.
“But what is local?” he asks back at the restaurant, and it’s a good question. The Mission burrito, stuffed to cylindrical hugeness with equal amounts of beans, rice, and meat, is undeniably San Franciscan, but has origins elsewhere. Ditto for cioppino, chop suey, sourdough, Irish coffee…the list goes on. Like many international cities, the Bay Area readily embraces foreign tastes and incorporates them often into their dishes, because how boring would it be to eat the same thing over and over again?
“I couldn’t agree more,” Antonio says between bites. “As much as I love the pizza in Napoli, I love Philly pizza just as much. As long as it’s good, does it matter where it comes from?”

Photos courtesy of 18East and Ian Anderson
Discuss 18 East with other Styleforum members on this thread.

Fall 2018 Menswear Trends

I always get excited about fall clothes. Perhaps it’s the fact that the additional layers allow one to express oneself in subtle whispers that rival the boldest aloha shirt, but perhaps I’m romanticizing it just a bit. It helps that the coldest it ever gets in San Francisco is a laughable 40℉ (about 5℃), so I can enjoy the clothes without having to suffer too much discomfort. Yes, that’s an admission of guilt.

This season, designers seem to have pillaged from various styles of modern fashion. Of course, this is nothing new, but it seems especially apparent this time around. Therefore, each designer will have a throwback song or album that I feel encapsulates it.  A little reductive, yes; but think of it as your shopping soundtrack to get you in the mood and help you decide what look best fits your style.  Ready?  Here we go.

Classic Menswear

Collection: Drake’s 

Song: The Innocence Mission – That Was Another Country

 

Ah, 1995. I had just moved to upstate New York, and getting ready to experience my first deciduous autumn as a Southern California boy. As soon as the first chill happened, I was surrounded by new sights, and not just of the trees: khakis, cords, chunky sweaters, scarves, and big jackets. Suddenly the stifling temperatures of summer eased to allow the real fun to start, when you can play in a rugby shirt without dying of heat exhaustion, and as your sweat cooled in the dusky late afternoon air, you’d start the barbecue with crispy fallen leaves while sipping on a Red Hook; after dinner, you’d borrow someone’s roll neck (everybody had at least one) to watch the sun set over the fiery hills of the Adirondacks, and the Innocence Mission would play in the background, and everyone would be smiling.

Drake’s pulls from such happy, loose-fitting, carefree mid-90s nostalgia but makes it modern by keeping the pants moderately trim and jacket lapel gorge above the pectorals. Nothing is offensive, everything looks comfortable, and you’d feel completely fine if everyone in the world dressed more or less the same way (“Oh, you have a cable sweater in periwinkle? Mine is in moss. Let’s swap!”).

In less capable hands, such a decision can get old quick (sorry, J Crew), but the creative genius of Drake’s is taking classic themes and curating a selection that incorporates contemporary tweaks, unimpeachable fabrics, and flattering patterns that prevents it from sliding into stale insignificance. Their tweed raglan and corduroy belted overcoat are particular standouts, but basically, anything is a sure pick. Seriously, they could do this for the next 100 years, and it would still look great.

Shop for the new stuff here.

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Collection: Brooks Brothers

Song: The Dandy Warhols – Every Day Should Be A Holiday

When Brooks Brothers revealed its Fall 2018 show at Pitti last winter, everyone was a little bemused. Why was one of the longest-running outfitters of US presidents headlining opening night at one of the peacocky-est shows of the year for its 200th anniversary? No one really had a clear answer, except for the fact that now an Italian is running the show (Claudio del Vecchio is the current President and CEO), and instead of recalling the best of its storied history, many of the looks were uneven, with never-off-the-runway oddities like tucking in suit jackets into pants. Yes, you read that right. You can see a brief video overview of the show here.

Despite that, the best looks were actually distinct and non-chalant, like louche double-breasted suits worn open, three-button jackets worn with the collar up, and Chelsea boots. Much of the capsule drew from 60s British and American rock and roll archetypes, which made onlookers wonder if they were actually watching a Brooks Brothers or Burberry show. Who influenced who? Does it matter, as long as it’s done well?

Similarly, on The Dandy Warhols album Come Down, never has an American band sounded so British so well, especially on the seventh track, Every Day Should Be a Holiday.  It’s got groovy reverb, a sweet guitar hook, a touch of electro, and just the right amount of oohs and aahs that make it one of the best Britpop songs, even though it hails from Portland. Go figure.

Online picks: purple donegal crewneckpatchwork crewneck

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Collection: Corneliani 

Song: Cranberries sing the Carpenters who sing Richard Chamberlain who sing Burt Bacharach – Close to You

Corneliani is one of those brands that doesn’t get the love it deserves. The company has been around for decades, and besides producing for its own label, it has made clothing for Karl Lagerfeld, Krizia, and Trussardi, among others. Despite this, one thing you can count on for Corneliani is their unobjectionable, consonant stylishness. When they were making for Ralph Lauren from 1998 to 2016 there were no less than five Polo models at any given time (more than a dozen, if you count two- and three-button models, tuxedos, and double breasteds) but you always knew it was a Corneliani. If you liked how they fit, you could be fairly confident that you’d like their other stuff. This season shares the same DNA, and whereas nothing is revolutionary, they’re up-to-date pieces that anyone can wear and look great. My favorites are the belted raglan overcoat (taken from their archives) and their no-brainer combinations of gray, navy, and camel, in colors that complement practically everyone. Really, you can’t go wrong with anything they’ve made over the past 10 years.

I kind of think of Burt Bacharach as the Corneliani of the music world, and I mean that in the best way possible. In addition to writing songs for himself, he’s written for countless others: Perry Como, Dionne Warwick, Tom Jones, Rod Stewart, Elvis Costello, etc – not to mention all the songs he’s written for the screen. The thing about a Burt Bacharach song is no matter who sings it, or how, you know it’s a Burt Bacharach song, and even though it may not be particularly groundbreaking, it always – always – sounds great. For crying out loud, even the Library of Congress says there’s a thing called a “Bacharach sound”. Nowhere is this more apparent than when, in 1994, the Cranberries cover the Carpenters’ “Close To You” of 1970, which was itself a cover of the same song sung by Richard Chamberlain in 1963, which was written by Bacharach. Honestly, I can’t decide which one I like the best, and if someone were to redo it again today, I’d probably like that one too.

Click here to find a stockist

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Classic Menswear / Streetwear

Collection: Giorgio Armani

Song: Giorgio Moroder – Chase

I swear, one of these days, we’ll all be dressing in Armani, and wondering why we didn’t make the jump earlier. This season includes a few suits, mostly in an 8-to-6 (!) double-breasted configuration, which looks a little adolescent as a suit but positively virile as a velvet blazer. Most of his collection for Fall/Winter 2018 is filled with what the designer does best: soft drapey goodness, taking patterns that we already know, deconstructing them, and recreating them in fantastic fabrics that you’d want to lounge all day in.

Nothing in the runway would be confused for conservative business dress, but if your work environment allows it, you’d be hard pressed to find cooler threads. This collection, like many of his, has a retro-futuristic tenor, not unlike listening to Chase from Giorgio Moroder. The synthesizer he became so closely associated with is admittedly dated, yet sounds like it hails from a future of warp speed and molecular transport, like something we’d wear if the robot apocalypse happened and we all lived in climate-controlled spaceships, wore cashmere velvet suits, animal fur, and band collar shirts, which would be perfectly fine to me.

Stores around the world, but their online shop has quite a bit of selection as well.

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Collection: Margaret Howell

Song: Siouxsie & the Banshees – Slowdive

For someone who has been designing for almost half a century, Margaret Howell still manages to remain current.  Her secret?  “You never tire of good designs,” according to a GQ interview  Indeed, a quick perusal of her collections – over a hundred of them – and you’d think they’re indistinguishable. Upon closer inspection, however, you’ll notice subtle changes over the years, like an unhurried widening or narrowing of a trouser leg or a slight increase or decrease in trouser rise. In other words: different, but same.

Siouxsie Sioux has more or less been doing the same thing, for almost the same amount of time. The music is always dramatic and moody, her voice alluring and passionate. Even though her sound hasn’t changed in decades, every song is very uniquely her. This is not to say that she’s stuck in a rut, but rather reflects someone who is confident in their style. Just listen to Slowdive from Siouxsie & the Banshees.  Made all the way back in 1983, it inspired one of the best bands of all time (yes, that Slowdive) and perhaps predictably, was later covered by LCD Soundsystem.  Try and tell me those thumping beats and purring vocals come from a demure, equivocating artist.

Margaret Howell style hasn’t changed much either, and yet the little changes she does do are what continuously make her collections so compelling. In a world where bold statement pieces get all the love, keeping the same roster of old standbys seems like a sure path to irrelevance, but the Howell deftly modifies them just enough to keep them fresh. Unlike clothes that scream individuality with conspicuous, exaggerated designs, Howell’s clothes are for those who prefer subtly unique takes on classic clothes. Think of it as streetwear for those that like menswear.

Their online shop is based in the UK, but some items are at Mr Porter.

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Streetwear

Collection: 45R

Song: The Stone Roses – Fool’s Gold

45R (formerly RPM) never ceases to trigger the “buy now” muscle in my index finger when browsing, and fortunately, the ridiculous prices of most of the pieces keep me from clicking myself into debt.  For those of you unfamiliar with Japanese fashion, it can often be described as maximalist fashion – way over the top.  While for some reason it looks great on their models, it is admittedly not for everybody, nor everywhere, but when you’re in the mood, brands like Kapital delivers. For the rest of us, there’s 45R.

It’s not that it’s any less interesting, per se; much, if not all, of their collection is completely exclusive to them, including the fabric.  The talent of the company lies in taking something that you’d never wear and making it wearable. It helps that most of the items are in easy-to-wear shades of indigo, brown, and gray.  Take the stripe hoodie below as an example.   For crying out loud, that’s a rug fabric, and yet somehow it looks like something I can incorporate into my wardrobe without a second thought.  But the prices, oh the prices – this one will set you back a seizure-inducing $624.  My recommendation: save up and get one piece and pair it with all your other boring clothes.

You can purchase directly from their site, but if you’re lucky enough to live near the few stores they have in US, definitely drop by, as most of their items need to be seen and handled in person to fully appreciate them.

Scrolling through the lookbook, you can pick up a funky undercurrent; the clothes seem to boogie when worn. Even if it’s not your bag, the comfortable ease and eye-catching motifs from cultures around the world resonate with anyone with even half a pulse, which reminds me of the 1989 baggy Madchester anthem from the Stone Roses, Fool’s Gold. Starting from the first cymbal taps, this is one of those addictive, slow-burning jams that you never tire of, even after the end of its nine-plus minutes.  Boasting arguably the grooviest bass line and drum beat ever produced, its alternatively funky and psychedelic wah-wah guitar effects and hushed vocals boast more than enough feel-good vibes to make the most wooden wallflower jump on the dancefloor and commence the head bobbin’.

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Sicilian Tailoring

When Vittorio Palmisciano was 11 years old, he starting helping a friend of his father’s at a tailoring shop in his spare time after school.  His mother already knew how to sew trousers and shirts for his father; the trade seemed logical. But it took him a long time to open his own sartoria in Catania.
“There’s a saying in Italy,” he begins. “Impara l’arte e mettila da parte. I worked with several tailors in my youth. There’s a lot to learn. First, you master straight seams, then curved ones, then important parts of the jacket like the collar and shoulders. You can’t master everything in a few years. I didn’t start my own business until I was 27.” Now, almost 40 years later, he admits he’s still learning. “But I like the suit I made for you. Send me another picture of it when you get the chance.”
 
A brown fresco suit from Vittorio Palmisciano in various stages


Drafting the pattern for a straight-to-finish (no fittings) sport coat
The final product

Grey fresco suit, straight-to-finish (no fittings)
The final product

At a cafe in Palermo, Guido Davi and I are engrossed in caffè and conversation. As a child, Guido would accompany his father to the sartoria and help.  When Guido was in his 20s, he started working with his father full time.
“It takes years just to master a buttonhole,” he explains. “My father was truly un sarto maestro – he had 60 years of experience. My father wouldn’t let me cut a pattern for a suit for the first seven years. These guys that say they are tailors after a couple years…” he puts his thumb and fingers together and shakes it up and down in that quintessential Italian way. “They are not tailors.”
Salvo Ioco works at I Sarti Italiani, a Sicilian tailoring house, as designer, fitter, and operates the day-to-day activities and projects. The laboratorio employs about 10 tailors, each doing several jobs in various stations and with different machines. “We have sewing machines that our tailors use for straight seams,” Salvo says as we walk among the workers, “but certain parts are only done by hand using needle and thread, like attaching the sleeves to the armhole and stitching the canvassing to the chestpiece.” Although he takes the lead in most of the projects and lends a hand in the construction from time to time, Salvo is quick to deflect. “We’re a team. There are tailors, office workers, and those who deal directly with the clients.  Everybody has an important role in the sartoria. Together they have over a hundred years of experience,” he proudly says. “They are very good at what they do.”

The sartoria has been an integral part of Italian culture for parts of three centuries, faithfully passed on from one generation to the next. Originally transferred to Italy via Britain, Italy’s jacket differs in at least one aspect: canvassing. Guido, who has worked for a designer on Savile Row, comments: “The jacket in London descends from the uniform, which is very elegant but generally uses stiff canvass to create more angular chest and shoulders. Italian tailors took the British jacket and mellowed it.”
Vittorio concurs: “I have a client from London, where the style is more rigid compared to what we do here,” he says. “Not any more or less comfortable, but definitely softer.”   
After being imported to Italy, regional subtleties began to manifest themselves. Sicily’s style developed more or less at the same time as Naples and both share similar characteristics: a clean body, high armholes, open quarters, and soft canvassing. Differences may exist, but if so, they are very small.
“I’d say our jackets are usually less substantial than that of Napoli,” declares Guido. “But not by much. Sometimes not at all.”  Not only do Sicilian tailors favor light fabric (at least two have called my 10oz fresco “winter cloth”), but they also use lighter canvassing.
“The Sicilian summer is deathly hot,” Salvo says as he waves his hands. “You want the lightest jacket possible.”  
To put things in prospective: whereas British tailors may use several layers of horsehair cloth from top to bottom, most Sicilian tailoring houses and tailors typically use just one layer in the chest and shoulderscrine di cavallo – enough to give a suit its shape, but keep the weight down. The rest of the canvassing is far lighter. Pelo di cammello (camel hair cloth) is layered along with the crine and comes in various weights. The lightest is tela, which has a consistency similar to linen. All of these together are used to give shape to the jacket. 
“It’s like reinforced concrete,” describes Franco, Salvo’s father and the founder of I Sarti Italiani. “Without rebar inside, it won’t retain its shape. It’s necessary to give the jacket its form and structure, but it shouldn’t be so heavy that you notice it.”

Many think that a lean chest and narrow, rounded shoulders are part and parcel of the southern Italian style, but it would be more accurate to say they are currently di moda (a trend)A full chest does exist: Guido, for example, calls drape cannello but says it’s also called piega (“a fold”). Elsewhere in Sicily it’s known as lama (“a blade”), and strangely enough, drappeggio. As for extended shoulders, tailors are intimately familiar with them. In truth, one need only give a cursory look at Detective Montalbano – one of Italy’s most popular series and set in Sicily – to dismiss any notions of their scarcity. Like all trends, they may very well swing back into fashion.
Another notable difference between Britain and Italy is the method in which suits are produced. Whereas larger tailoring houses that employ many tailors exist in Italy, they are uncommon. Mostly you find the hole-in-the-wall family-run sartoria, with one tailor doing most of the work. The advantages to smaller shops, the theory goes, is that there is less chance of miscommunication if the same person takes your measurements, makes the pattern, cuts it, sews it, and fits it on you. In my experience I’ve found this to be true – sometimes. Vittorio once made an entire suit just based on my previous measurements and a few messages on WhatsApp. When it arrived at my home in San Francisco, it fit perfectly.  
Speaking of his experience on Savile Row, Guido remarks: “Their way is different. They have one person who is the pattern maker, another who is the cutter, still another who is the fitter. Then there is a trouser maker, a separate vest maker…there is a specialist in every area. And they do it exceptionally well – very precise. In Italy though, a tailor is a tailor. You do it all.” 
This doesn’t mean that he always does; currently, his mother and brother help him. “But If I need to make pants, I can. A jacket, a vest, an overcoat…everything. That is a true tailor.”
Noteworthy is the fact that the word for the job of cutter or fitter in Italian is virtually unheard of in Italy.  Only sarto.
 
Guido Davi’s work in various stages

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For well over a century, the general population of Italy had one – maybe two – nice suits made from the local sartoria, designated for church or festive occasions. As the suits for church started to show signs of wear they became suits for the field, another suit was commissioned, and so on. Before mass-produced suits became the norm, local tailors were in constant demand in Italy. Things are much different now.
“In the old days,” Guido recalls, “there used to be, without exaggerating, one tailor on every block.” Now there remains only a handful in Palermo, and he notes that the average age of a tailor in the city is in the 70s, as it is in most of Italy.  When asked about the future of tailoring in Italy, he shrugs.
Boh.  Something has to change.”
He’s not talking about demand; there’s plenty of that. The resurgence of interest in artisans has grown the client list of many tailors. Some have even raised their prices, something they haven’t done in over ten years. He’s talking about the continuation of the craft by the next generation, and it doesn’t look good.
Most trades in the United States have a program that provides classroom instruction and connects the students with contractors so that the majority of their training is working on-the-job alongside a journeyman; I followed such a program by the IBEW to become a Union Electrician. Apprentices are paid a percentage of the wages of a master tradesman based on their time in the field. The reasoning is that an apprentice’s output is a fraction of that of a journeyman, especially at the beginning. As their speed progresses and expertise grows, so does their salary, and when they have enough experience to become a journeyman and pass the state test, they are certified in their trade and can demand a full wage. Thus the continued availability of qualified craftsmen and women is secured, without being an economic burden on either the teacher or the trainee. Everyone benefits.
Such a program doesn’t exist in Italy. On the contrary, the law stipulates that everyone working a particular trade must earn equal salary, regardless of their experience. This means that master tailors have to pay an apprentice the full wage of another master tailor, not a percentage. Since becoming a master tailor takes at least five years – taking on an apprentice is an expenditure they can’t afford, and so the craft is dying out.
“It didn’t used to be that way,” Guido clarifies, “But since the change, hardly anyone has taken on an apprentice. If they do, there is an agreement sotto tavola but they risk getting a fine.” He then tells the story of a fellow tailor who was fined more than 15000 euro for doing so, despite having paid the apprentice a commensurate salary.
A few tailoring schools do exist, but they focus more on teaching theory than real-world field experience. “I have kids that come to me after graduating from these schools,” Guido relates, “but I have to turn them away because they have no technical skill. It’s sad, but they’re really no better than anyone else.”
Vittorio agrees. “These schools last two, maybe three years,” he remarks, “and they don’t even cut a suit. It’s better to get experience first, and then go to school.”
Salvo contends the law has to change to allow programs similar to the ones in the States, and then deliberates for a moment. “Everything happens slowly in Italy,” he says finally. “I don’t see change happening anytime soon. But how else are we going to be able to afford training apprentices?”
All the tailors I talked to learned their trade when they were still young, either because their parents made them or they themselves were interested. Guido, though, has no children to whom he can pass on the trade. Vittorio does have children, but when asked about them, he sighs. “It’s hard work. I have to work eight, ten, sometimes 12 hours hunched over.  They don’t want to do that.” When I ask him whether he thinks children or parents are to blame, he pauses to reflect. “I don’t know, but if kids do anything now, it’s just school. That’s fine, but what if you can’t find a job in the field you spent so much time studying for?  You need a skill that you can fall back on.  Like I said: impara l’arte e mettila da parte.”

In his sartoria, Guido shows me the various stages of a suit as its being made. The first one has all the tell-tale marks of the first fitting: no sleeves, collar, and uncovered lapels.  
“Did you notice there are no pockets?”  He asks.  I didn’t before, but now the detail screams at me. 
“A first-time client will always have the prima prova like this,” he says as he points. “You must see how the jacket fits the client before the pockets; a returning customer can skip this step. And when the pockets are put in, a good tailor will put the pouch behind the canvas. This is very important. It’s more difficult and time-consuming, but when you put something in it – like a pocket square or sunglasses – the jacket lays more flat.” Then he smiles. “I have just told you a tailor’s secret.”
Salvo concedes that his experience is relatively shallow. “Because of my age, I’m always looking to others to better myself,” he says. “There is an indispensable coalition of tailors that I can learn from, and I only stand to benefit from their experience. When I meet another sarto who doesn’t mind sharing his knowledge, I take advantage of it.”
 
First fitting of a corduroy suit from I Sarti Italiani
Final product
Another suit from I Sarti Italiani in summer tweed from Die, Workwear!
It’s true, you do learn from your mistakes,” Vittorio observes. “But I had guidance, too. I worked for fifteen years with different tailors before starting my own sartoria. They would share their experiences, I’d get together with them for coffee to talk shop, and sometimes I’d cut open a pair of trousers so I could see how they were made.
Really, tailors learn – no, steal – from each other. And after you’ve mastered the basics, you need to have a little imagination and make everything that you learned your own, with your own sartoria. Hopefully, you can pass that on to the next generation.”

Take a Summer Vacation from Your Usual Wardrobe

Depending on what one does for work, most of us live day-in, day-out in the same clothes, and frankly, it can get a little boring.  Even if one adds items for social occasions, sport, and loungewear, unless one is looking to draw attention to oneself, you’re generally limited to what is practical and acceptable for whatever society you live in.  But traveling, especially to another country and culture, opens up opportunities to do as the Romans do in an environment and setting free from dress codes or OSHA requirements.  Why not take advantage of it?

If old Esquire articles are any indication, resort wear was practically born on vacation, simultaneously in the Riviera, the Far East, Africa, the Caribbean, and Brazil – everywhere that Americans and Brits would go on holiday.  Once away from home, travelers were free to incorporate local dress in a manner that would otherwise be considered outlandish and were encouraged to do so liberally; bold prints and vivid colors might be garish in the boardroom, but they fit in perfectly well amongst the tropical flora and fauna.  Rough-textured and wrinkled fabrics might not inspire confidence when meeting clients downtown, but in 100 degree weather and 100% humidity you’d be mad to consider anything else.   Sandals, espadrilles, and loafers were the preferred footwear, because who wants to be troubled with laces on vacation?

In such an environment, a suit almost seemed silly, but for occasions that did require it, suiting options were white, tan, peach, yellow; anything but dark worsted.  Since most of one’s vacation time would be spent in less formal settings, the majority of the suggested outfits offered were much more casual, and some were fairly avant garde, especially given the time: a Mexican poncho in terry cloth, a diaphanous shirt in silk mesh, a pith helmet, and matching beach-jacket-and-shorts combo in madras.  Loose fits, open weaves, and indigenous motifs were choice favorites.

How well-heeled socialites of the time would become willing – if only on holiday – to trade bow ties for bush shirts is a mystery.  Or did they secretly love sarongs all along?  Who knows, but many items that were introduced as “resort wear” eventually made their way from the elite to the masses.  The jippi-jappa hat, for example, was a straw hat typically worn by plantation laborers in Jamaica and adopted by vacationers in Nassau.  The happi coat was a westernized version of the Japanese hanten shirt, described as a “short sleeved, sawed off kimono”; originally worn by summertime workers in the field, its loose, belted fit and open sleeves offered breezy comfort with just the right amount of international panache when lazing about under the umbrella.

Some of these looks were reinterpreted in the 90s, but in contrast with the heavy and dry cloths of the past, new weaves lightened up the fabrics and gave them a drapey, luxe feel.  roomy trousers, easy-fitting band collar shirts, and softly constructed and unlined jackets in various shades of white or muted hues of earthy colors are perfect for leisure pursuits among the sandstone and faded whitewash of the Mediterranean.  Say what you will about “fit”, but there’s nothing that’ll kill your chill quicker than constricting clothes.

In fact, many designers have been resurrecting this louche look for the last few years in their collections.  My favorites for summer resort-hopping are the ones that capture a hint of that vacation vibe without going overboard. 

If you’re just dipping your toes into vacation wear, stick with the basics – shirts, trousers, and shoes – and choose casual fabrics in light or summery colors.  Look for telltale signs of do-nothingness: rayon camp shirts with collars meant to be worn open, drawstring linen easy pants that accommodate overindulgence, and slip-on espadrilles. 

You don’t have to go all-out baggy everything; an easy way to incorporate loose fits is by playing with proportions: roomy trousers with a more fitted top, or a slightly oversized shirt with classic-fitting shorts. 

Much inspiration can be taken from Antonio Ciongoli’s tenure when he was the creative lead of Eidos.  During my last few vacations near the sand and sea of Sicily, I found myself constantly reaching for his gauzy, wide-legged trousers and loosely belted jackets in breezy, textured fabrics.

I love Charlie’s wardrobe choices (@sebastianmcfox on StyleForum and Instagram) from when he was in Italy this summer.  For dressier occasions under the Tuscan sun he wore a nubby linen green jacket, white polo shirt, tan Panama hat, khaki cotton trousers and brown loafers.  For a wedding he wore a tobacco linen suit, tasteful light blue shirt, black grenadine tie, and white pocket square.  His more casual outfits consisted of just one print, usually a camp collar shirt or striped tee, and safari jackets in linen and cotton, easy pants, and white sneakers.  Everything looks comfortable, relaxed, and stylish.  In other words: perfect vacation wear.

For someone who enjoys clothes, you can’t do much better than a vacation as an excuse to expand your wardrobe.  Or at the very least, attempt to.  Not only will you look cool, you’ll wear cool as well, and besides, it’s great fun.  Embrace the batik.

Pics from Esquire, Urban Composition, and Sebastian McFox.

100 Hands Shirts Review

As soon as Fok saw me, he told me to turn around.
“Drop your bags off, we’ve got an appointment.”
A three-hour flight delay in San Francisco caused me to miss my connecting flight in London, forcing me to spend the night at a local generic Double Hilton Marri-Stay and take the next flight to Milan at 7am the next morning. From there I hopped on a train to Florence, and by the time I arrived at the StyleForum Maker Space, I had been traveling for over 24 hours. All I wanted was a cold drink and a warm bed, but as we were already late to our appointment, off we went.
“Did you bring a camera?” Fok asked as we wove through the cobblestone streets. “We should take pictures. I’m really excited about it. Is this the right street? I thought it was right around the corner…”. Around and around we went until we found ourselves in front of a modern-looking palazzo in a narrow alley. On the doorbell was the name 100 HANDS, written in fine cursive.
“You’re going to like Varvara,” Fok said as he pressed the doorbell. “She’s the sweetest person ever.” And then she opened the door, a petite young woman, with light brown hair parted to one side, greeting us with a kind smile. “Please come in.  We’ve been expecting you.”
Up to this point, I had only seen pictures of 100 Hands’ shirts online, accompanied with interesting, if unclear, descriptions of their construction: threadless and invisible stitching mechanics? What does that even mean?  
Once inside, Varvara introduced us to her husband Akshat, a tall young man from India with curly dark hair and gracious manners. “I’m so sorry,” he began as he shook my hand, “but I’m presently with another client. Please, have a coffee, and Varvara will show you one of our shirts.”
And what shirts they were.
Varvara pulled out what seemed to be an ordinary shirt with a box check pattern, but a closer inspection would reveal much. As an example, the box checks of the shirts line up practically everywhere – collar points, sleeves, shoulders, under the arm, and 360 degrees around the body. There is no way this can be done by a machine, and the result is a marvel to see. 
 
Pattern matching awesomeness (click below to start videos):

Another detail that sets their shirts apart is that instead of simply folding over the bottom of the shirt and running it through a sewing machine, the hem is hand rolled and stitched. The result is not unlike the edges of similarly crafted pocket squares, except the rolls are smaller and the stitching is more dense, making the stitching comparatively discreet; thus the term invisible stitching.
Indeed, the amount of hand stitching per inch is incredible – roughly 25 per inch, about three times than what you’d normally see on a shirt – but what is more striking is the way in which it’s done.  “When a thread breaks, we don’t simply tie a knot and continue,” Varvara explained.  “We pull it out and start all over. This is what we mean when we say threadless stitching. It’s just a single thread along a seam. That way, when you wash your shirt over and over, there is less chance of the shirt coming apart.”

Over a later email conversation, Varvara admitted the market speech can muddy the method. “But we feel the most important aspect of our work is the patience and precision of it.  We do use machines for some steps, but the majority of the undertaking is done by hand, and doing so takes time.” The time-intensive shirtmaking process passes through no less than 50 pairs of hands (thus the name). Simon Crompton of A Permanent Style has written extensively of the superb craftsmanship and exceptional working conditions of the over 100 people who work there. Although the atelier has existed for over 20 years and had made shirts for Savile Row tailors and haute couture maisons in France, the brand itself was established in 2014 and has enjoyed quite a bit of success since then, outgrowing the factory in the city of Amritsar and relocating to the neighboring countryside.
Photos courtesy of 100 Hands

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Another peculiar adornment found on each shirt are what Varvara calls their “one-of-a-kind” buttonholes. Put simply, they are not sewn, but embroidered: fine silk thread is worked around and up to the slice. In contrast, traditionally a slice is made in the fabric and then thread is brought around the cut edges to form a buttonhole. 100 Hands’ decorative method, which takes about 45 minutes per buttonhole, is borrowed from India’s own textile culture. Compared to other makers, the results are much cleaner and far less bulky. Here’s a few pics, plus a link to a 100MB picture Varvara sent me that you can zoom in on for full menswear geek gawking:

Besides being able to choose the collar, fabric, and finishes for a shirt, some may benefit from a custom shirt for a better fit.  For example, most OTR shirts are cut with higher, square shoulders; doing so can accommodate more body types.  The downside to this “democratic fit” is when you have more sloped shoulders, as the excess fabric can bunch in sloppy folds around the chest. Customization and fittings can adjust the pattern for these and other individual peculiarities for a cleaner fit while still being comfortable.
Speaking of customization: in addition to seasonal offerings, 100 Hands has access to nearly 400 fabrics from Italy and Japan, such as Canclini, Monti, Loro Piana, SicTess, Albiata and Albini. There are five different interlinings options for the collar, 12 different types of buttons, and the embroidery initials – sewn by hand – can be done in three different fonts.  Moreover, there are two levels of handwork, the Black and Gold Line. Both have the pattern drawn and cut by hand, handfusing and pattern matching, but the Gold Line contains far more: hand-embroidered buttonholes, handsewn side and bottom seams, shoulder, and sleeve placket.
After describing the work involved in making a shirt, Akshat fit Fok and me for a shirt each. I chose a plain white oxford cloth to go with light tans and blues that I’ll be wearing come warmer weather. Fok chose a denim shirt to wear, I assume, in the rough factory environment of his home office.

After taking our measurements, Akshat brought out prototypes for casual outerwear they have in store for the future, including a field and shirt jacket in slubby navy linen. No word on when these will be available, but I’m excited for the shirt jacket in particular – with a barchetta breast pocket, flapped patch hip pockets, and buttoned sleeves, it makes for a compelling choice when a sport coat might be considered too dressy. Meaning, I’ll probably be wearing it everywhere in California.
L’ora di aperitivo was upon us, so we said our goodbyes to Akshat and Varvara to meet up with Arianna at the StyleForum Makers’ Space. While making a wrong turn or two, Fok reflected on our visit with 100 Hands.
“I never wear dress shirts,” he mused. “I mean, look at me. I’m wearing beat up 18oz denim, a  worn in leather Type 3 jacket over a dirty tee shirt, and old sneakers.”  He paused for a beat, then chuckled to himself. “Those are some amazing shirts. I’m going to find an occasion to wear that shirt,” he vowed.
“Does that mean we’re coming to Pitti next year?” I asked. Fok stopped. “You never take pictures; how are you going to prove you ever wore the shirt?”  
“You make a valid point,” Fok conceded as he began walking again. “I could just buy a camera, but I’d miss the cobblestones and pasta. And cheese. And salame. And…I keep getting lost. Just wait till you see your apartment, it overlooks the Arno. Is this our street? I need a glass of wine…”
Later on, in San Francisco, the shirt arrived neatly packed in a box within a green canvas “suitcase” with a wooden button. I chose a Capri collar, unique in that both the collar and points are constructed in one piece so that it can be worn either buttoned with a tie or casually open. The result is not only one of the best fitting shirts I own (despite all the cannoli and gelato I’d been eating) but also one of the most versatile. For all those times you go from meetings to dining or vice versa, the collar handles both with ease and looks great doing so.  
Unboxing video: 

So much handwork does come at a price – $350 and up – but you’ll be getting more than similarly priced options from better known brands, such as Kiton and Charvet. All three do have a measure of hand stitching, but the sheer amount of intricate, precise handwork of a 100 Hands shirt frankly dwarfs most others and is one of, if not the defining characteristic, something Varvara and Akshat are very proud of. And then there’s longevity.
Mark Boutilier of San Francisco, who wears dress shirts far more often than I do, has had his shirts from 100 Hands for over a year. “I have shirts from various high-end makers,” he says, “and the Black Line not only has finer stitching and finishing, but has held up better after wearing and washing. Others have had stitching come loose, buttons unravelling, but not 100 Hands. I’m really impressed, and would highly recommend anyone to give them a try.” He did lament, however, the lack of availability for their MTM program in the US, which wasn’t available at the time. But that has recently changed.
“People have been requesting our MTM service via Instagram and email,” Varvara relates, “So we decided to begin to tap the US market that way.” My friend Tom was one of the first.
“I contacted Akshat, and he was very accommodating,” he began. “He offered for me to simply send in a good fitting shirt, but I decided that would be too much hassle, and sent him measurements instead. I also sent him photographs, and he was able to diagnose my biggest fit issues stemming from a forward posture.”
And the results? “Quite good for a first attempt,” Tom reports. “They hit the measurement specs perfectly and adjusted for my stance. My guess is that with one more iteration, we’ll be golden.”

Maiden voyage of Tom’s shirt from 100 Hands

Maiden voyage of Tom’s shirt from 100 Hands

While my own shirt seemed fine by my eye, Varvara was able to detect a few problems. “The upper front placket under the collar could use some attention,” she noted. Otherwise, maybe the biceps need slimming? I guess my guns are more like pea shooters.
Currently their showroom is in Amsterdam and while they do trunk shows in various cities (London, Hannover, and Stockholm, to name a few) and their shirts can be found in several shops online and in-store (the Rake and Linnégatan in Sweden, for example), there is presently just one place to see 100 Hands shirts in person in the US, and that is at Carroll & Co in Beverly Hills. Tom and others have had success with the remote MTM program, but since Ill be going back to Florence for Pitti next January, I think I’ll make an appointment to see them in person to catch up. Maybe get another shirt or two.
To contact 100 Hands, email them at info@100hands.nl or varvara@100hands.nl

This is not a sponsored article; to read Styleforum’s review policy, please click here.


Loungewear in Classic Menswear

In 1878, an unnamed New York Times correspondent was asked “How do you travel in the Eastern seas?” and decided to answer with his pen rather than his mouth, describing in great detail his sea voyages from San Francisco eastward across the Pacific.
Peppered among his experiences with steamers and train lines are his thoughts on the hot climate from Hong Kong all the way south to India, inescapable even in the evening, which he compares to “the temperature of the fiery furnace built by Nebuchadnezzar for the occupation of those who fell under his displeasure.”
Due to the intense heat, the nightshirt, commonplace in Western cultures then – and still today – was nowhere to be seen on steamships in the East. Instead, the “traveler may be found, almost invariably, in pajamasThese are nothing more nor less than a coat and drawers, both of them loose and of light material. The latter are gathered at the waist by a string; the former buttons down the front to its termination at the hips. The suit may be of muslin, jeans, light flannel, or pongee silk.”  
This may not have been the first time pajamas were introduced to the American public, but soon they took over by storm.  In 1885, another article from the Times removed the italics and related that Kaskel & Kaskel’s haberdashery in New York had “nightshirts prepared with beautifully embroidered fronts, though pajamas are decidedly the robes de nuit at the present day.” By 1900, the Times lamented that “since the Spanish War everybody is wearing pajamas. The nightrobe seems to have gone completely out of existence.
Over a century has passed since, but the desire for comfortable clothes to kick back in around the house still exists.  Most, though, balk at the idea of proper loungewear. Why spend money on clothes no one will see you in?- the reasoning goes. And that is the reason for $10 sweats from the sale bin. Others believe that it’s too hot to wear anything to bed, but they’re missing the point: pajamas, like all loungewear, were meant to be worn around the house, not in bed. The original intention was to show a little decency to our surprise guests, neighbors, and our own children, and if you can do so with style, why not?
One of the more popular modern figures who donned loungewear was the fictitious Sherlock Holmes. Twenty years ago Jaymie of Berkeley lent me a tome containing the entire canon written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which I voraciously devoured. Among the many descriptions of Holmes was him in his dressing gown, which is not so odd per se, only in the way he wore it. Doyle describes the usual process:

He took off his coat and waistcoat, put on a large blue dressing-gown, and then wandered about the room collecting pillows from his bed, and cushions from the sofa and armchairs. With these, he constructed a sort of Eastern divan, upon which he perched himself cross-legged, with an ounce of shag tobacco and a box of matches laid out in front of him.

Still in shirt and tie, Holmes typically would slip into a robe at home to unwind, ponder over the day’s clues, and hopefully solve the mystery. More than a dozen times the robe is mentioned in the original stories: the detective could be found “lounging upon the sofa in a purple dressing-gown”, “lounging about his sitting-room in his dressing-gown,” and so on. When Watson or other characters would arrive at his flat, the fully-clothed yet comfortably relaxed Holmes could see to their needs without suffering embarrassment.

While Doyle only described the robe in color and Paget’s sketches of it were relatively featureless, it was American actor William Gillette who really brought it to life. Over the course of the over 1,300 times he portrayed Holmes on stage in both the U.S. and England, Gillette could be seen in a lavishly elegant robe of heavy silk brocade with a quilted shawl collar. If Gillette’s dressing gown is your bag, Baturina Homewear in Hamburg, Germany makes these in sumptuous quilted velvet, silk, or a combination of the two. Prices aren’t cheap, but they look well-made, are fully customizable, and if reviews on Etsy are any indication, they fit the bill.

 

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Whereas coat and tie revolve around fit and streetwear often portrays a mood, loungewear is all about comfort. That said, while style is a distant second, a little bit of it wouldn’t hurt, and there are plenty of ways to lounge with more refinement than sweats. I like how Erik (EFV) of Stockholm comes home from work and changes into a comfy cardigan and house slippers, or dresses up the slippers with a short silk damask robe for entertaining guests. For the cold mornings, he has a longer wool plaid dressing gown with silk piping, with which he pairs his velvet slippers from Larusmiani–chosen, he says, “for their sleek appearance. I love slippers, but like to look as good as possible for my wife.” 
loungewear menswear larusmiani slippers leather
For traditional loungewear that won’t make you look terribly precious, it’s hard to beat the classic PJs-and-robe combo.  Bay Area bud Derek Guy has an enviable combo from Ascot Chang which he finds helps to fend off the morning chill. Gerry Nelson of Melbourne only recently purchased his PJ-and-robe combo and can’t be happier. “All these years, I’d been wearing a t-shirt and sweatpants to bed,” he explains. “That was OK but I’d been wanting something a little more appropriate, and when I found this woolen robe from Derek Rose on eBay, I bit the bullet and got it. I wear it with pajamas and slippers and suddenly, I’m Cary Grant or Spencer Tracy. Not only is it comfortable, it looks great. I actually feel properly dressed all the time now.”

My own loungewear was driven by several factors:  1) we have a no-shoe policy in our house, 2) people drop by all the time, and 3) I needed something to wear when we stayed at friends’ homes while traveling. Traditional western pajamas and robes didn’t appeal to me at all, even though I think they look great on other people. Plus, I tend to run hot, and everything seemed too heavy. After all, options in loungewear are rather limited, so I resigned myself to wearing fleece shorts and t-shirts. And then came Antonio Ciongoli.

In 2013, Antonio co-founded Eidos and was its creative director for five years. One of my favorite pieces he made was a long, loose, shawl-collared cardigan with a medallion motif. Only 10 were ever made.  In the Eidos thread, Antonio explains:

“The knit jacquard pattern is based on traditional Rajasthani indigo textiles that are block printed by hand in the Ajrak style. We spun together four different colors of cotton yarn (navy with black and cream with ecru) to give the pattern a subtle depth of texture.  You really need to see it up close to appreciate how beautiful it is. The garment is knit full but light and layers easily over a tee shirt or pajamas around the house.”

 

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He wasn’t kidding – the fabric has an understated richness and is easily one of the softest pieces of clothing I own. I love cardigans for general comfort, but Antonio’s pattern gives the garment a bit of sophisticated élan. Similar to the fancy brocade of William Gillette’s dressing gown which distinguishes it from a simple bathrobe, the jacquard pattern elevates an ordinary cardigan to something special. You go ahead and drop cash on expensive PJs, but for my money, it might as well be something I actually wouldn’t mind being seen in.

After I posted a picture on Instagram of the Ajrak cardigan with linen pants, Antonio commented, “you need some Agy pants.”  According to what he posted in the Eidos thread at the time of their release, “…it’s my personal favorite silhouette from the season. While on a two-week inspiration and development trip I took to Rajasthan, India…Agyesh was wearing traditional Patiala pajama pants basically every day and…I loved how they looked. I was determined to make them work for the collection, so when I got back to Italy, I sat down with our knitwear supplier to reimagine them as lounge pants…the end result is the most comfortable sweats you’ve ever worn in your life.”

Similar to the Times correspondent, I was intrigued by these pajama pants, “loose and of light material,” so I took Antonio at his word and purchased a pair from Mohawk General Store in a slub loopback terry sweatshirting that was turned inside out for optimum texture. After wearing them at home for almost a month straight, I can say with little hesitation that they are the most surprising purchase I’ve made in a long time. The drawstring pulls the 40” of waist material to create flattering diagonal pleats that give these pajamas a refined shape while being airy, comfortable, and cool.  
Slippers were probably the hardest thing to find since many are either far too warm or far too fancy for my blood. I used to have a pair of wool slippers from J. Crew that were so dense they made my feet sweat, and ended up never wearing them. I liked the look of velvet slippers but all the ones I saw had leather soles, which seemed incongruous with loungewear, at least for me. Then I remembered that Gerry had a pair from Eidos that Antonio designed with Christian Kimber of Australia, the La Casetta House Slipper. They ticked all the boxes I was looking for: slim profile, casual tweed material, and rubber sole. After much searching, I finally found some stock at Coachman Clothiers of Knoxville, Tennessee. The material is breathable and the rubber sole provides just the right amount of warmth and cushion for Bay Area wood floors. For those interested, Antonio says he plans to produce pajamas as Creative Director for 18 East.

Loungewear is a funny thing. I’ve read that it increases productivity for those who work from home, and though I’m not convinced (neither is this guy), I’d be lying if I said they have no effect at all, at least for me. Like all clothes, loungewear can serve multiple purposes, not just practical. Sweats are comfortable, but so is a toga. If you care to be presentable as well, consider upping your loungewear game, and if you’re looking for an excuse, throw a pajama party. 
Of course, you may not care at all; anyone can wear whatever they want around the house. When asked what she wore to bed, Marilyn Monroe famously answered, “Chanel No. 5.”  Rawr.  

Then again, she died alone, so there’s that.

 

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A Focus on Evan Kinori and Fashion Revolution

The Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh was home to five factories, part of the country’s famed garment industry; it was the second largest factory in the world. Zara, H&M, Gap, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, and numerous other brands were being made by 3.6 million people in Bangladesh, to the tune of $21 billion in exports in 2012, nearly 12% of the GCP.  Roughly 90% of those exports landed in the United States, because producing in Bangladesh was so cheap: minimum wage there was $37 a month, four times less than that of China. No wonder everyone wanted their clothes made there.  Business was booming, and everything was humming along smoothly.
And then the roof caved in. Literally.
On April 24, 2013, the building collapsed, killing 1,100 people and injuring another 2,438. Most of these were garment workers, and most of those were young women.
All accidents are tragic, but this one is especially so because it could have been avoided; it almost was.
The morning before the collapse, an engineer deemed the building unsafe and recommended its evacuation. A government official hurried to the site, had a meeting with the engineer, and changed the verdict, declaring the building safe. The bank in the building sent its workers home, but garment worker management told them to come back to work the next day or risk losing their jobs. They did, and some of them never returned home to their families.  The engineer tried to escape the country but was caught and arrested at the border.
 
Shortly after this, Fashion Revolution began. For one week in April, they urge consumers who buy clothes – basically everybody – to participate in their #whomademyclothes campaign, building awareness of the many hands that produce the garments we wear. At the same time, brands, producers, and stores are encouraged to be transparent and honor those workers. Part of the point is to encourage ethical production through changing consumer practices. 
 
San Francisco has a long history in the garment industry (think Levi’s), and there are events April 22-29 throughout the city. In an effort to promote American-designed and American-made clothes, and in the spirit of a movement that demands transparency in this oversaturated and poorly regulated industry, I wanted to chat with local designer Evan Kinori, so I made an appointment to stop by his studio in Hayes Valley.

I first met Evan at a maker event in SOMA about six years ago. Nestled in between a leather specialist and candle maker, Evan had his wares that I had seen on his Tumblr, back when Tumblr was a thing. One of them was a reversible jacket that was one of the coolest things I’d seen, and it continues to be one of my favorite pieces of outerwear. A testament to Evan’s sense of style is the fact that it appeals to practically everyone; through the years, I’ve been asked about it on the street and the job site. 

Evan recalls: “This was the third jacket I had come up with while in school. I was studying pattern making and was really eager to bring my ideas to life but the curriculum only taught womenswear. Even so, I was very anxious to make the garments I was envisioning. The thing that I really began to fixate on was how when most elements are removed, a garment can be much more transcendent and speak to more people. 
“I had found this amazing British brand, SEH Kelly, that had made a reversible shirt and it had really sparked my brain. I loved the idea of giving people options. From there, I just came up with the shapes I like and the way I wanted it to look and feel: timeless, smooth, but wearable on a daily basis. To me, the design retains the simple essentials of a men’s jacket but doesn’t appear too rigid or utilitarian, nor too dressy or blazer-esque.
“The denim is nice weight, 12 oz Japanese selvedge that I thought was the right shade of indigo to be paired with the greenish grey cavalry twill wool that I had got a bolt of at an estate sale. I love the idea of wool and denim, one side being the more rugged and tolerant side for messing about, and the other being a little more dressy for when the time calls for it. they are complimentary weights, not overly rigid, but enough to make the jacket feel substantial.”

Of the many things that stand out about this garment is the fabrication – after years of abuse, the jacket shows no signs of ever falling apart. Evan explains: “The entire jacket was sewn on a single needle Juki DDL 555 lockstitch industrial machine, with the buttonholes being sewn with a Reece keyhole machine. Lockstitch construction is just unbreakable. When you pair it with tight stitch counts, that garment will surely last long enough for your grandchildren to fight over it.”  When the buttons started to crack or the button stitching began to unravel, Evan added buttonholes to the other side and kick press buttons, which will never break or come loose, on both sides, for free.

The belief that clothes are meant to last and can be repaired, instead of tossed and replaced, is one that the Fashion Revolution is trying to instill in the mind of modern customers. The fact that Evan himself took care of my jacket, free of charge, is an almost radical concept if we think of the current state of the fashion industry, where we hardly ever get to interact with the designers or the makers of the pieces we wear. 
 
Currently, Evan’s stock can be found in a handful of shops in New York, LA, Antwerp, Belgium, Japan, and South Korea. In San Francisco, you can find his stuff at Reliquary or make an appointment to visit his studio. 
It’s nice to see Evan’s growth from that booth six years ago, but he’s in no rush.
“I’m pretty particular about where my stuff goes,” he says. “I have to fit in, not just with the other brands, but the shop itself. When I go in, I listen to the music, talk to the owners, and see if we think along the same lines. It’s not just about selling the product.”

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When asked about his clothing style, Evan shrugs and says, “I like to make garments people don’t have to worry about styling. I don’t want people to feel like they have to buy everything, even though all the pieces go together.”
His Instagram feed has a certain feel to it – I’d call it relaxed menswear –  with models showcasing his garments head-to-toe. Similar to Kapital and Engineered Garments, but without the randomness.
Quality is high, with taped seams and leather backed kick press buttons. Details are thoughtfully executed, such as lower chest pockets to facilitate use and flaps with hidden button closures. Personally, I’ve found his garments easy to pair with what I currently have in my closet. Silhouettes are easy and familiar, with focus on practicality and texture.
I ended up purchasing another three-pocket jacket in an amazing cotton/linen/wool/hemp yarn dyed blanket cloth tweed. While mostly black, it has white and grey vertical broken stripes that pairs perfectly with a white button-down, black jeans, and white sneakers for when I don’t feel like thinking about color.
He’s got something in the pipeline that I’m really excited about, including the three-pocket jacket in a casentino cloth (!) and a longer coat in a large gray herringbone.

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Time was that Evan himself made every garment himself, like my reversible jacket from six years ago. Nowadays Evan outsources the sewing either to LA or San Francisco, depending on the garment, so he can focus on designing.
For the guy into classic menswear, you can’t do much better with Evan’s garments; they are all California designed and made, which means you can do your part in supporting local talent and industry.

Evan Kinori’s clothing can be purchased online or at these stockists.