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.”

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.

How To Mirror Shine Shoes in Less Than an Hour – By Kirby Allison

The peak of traditional fashion for men might just well be a proper mirror shine on a fine pair of dress shoes. It sets you apart from other well-dressed individuals by demonstrating the dedication and effort you put into your daily appearance. It is no secret that a proper mirror shine can be, unfortunately, rather time-consuming. You may be looking at a day-long project between applying layer upon layer of polish while waiting for each one to dry.

Thankfully, a great mirror shine doesn’t have to be that exhaustive. With the right tips and know-how, you can achieve a stunning mirror shine on any pair of shoes in less than an hour. Here’s what you will need:

 

Water

Saphir Mirror Gloss Wax Polish

High Shine Chamois or old cotton dress shirt

Fan or blow dryer

Saphir Pate de Luxe Wax Polish

 

 

how to get mirror shine shoes quickly

Using a High-Shine Cotton Chamois, apply Saphir’s Mirror Gloss Polish to your toe caps. Make sure you avoid cracking in the future by not applying any waxes on parts of your shoes that bend or move. Saphir’s Mirror Gloss contains a higher concentration of hard waxes than regular polish, making it indispensable for quick mirror shines. The High Shine Chamois or cotton shirt smoothly applies the polish without any lint or loose threads getting in the way. The high count threading effortlessly glides across the surface of the leather, vastly reducing the amount of effort required to buff it later. Apply a very small amount of water to your chamois whenever you start to feel resistance.

 

how to mirror shine shoes leather

Set your blow-dryer to medium heat and use it on the toe caps of your shoes. This will serve two purposes: it will speed up the drying process and will slightly melt the waxes. Melting the waxes will help the clear up, bringing them closer to that glossy finish. Once your shoes are dry, use a clean portion of your High Shine Chamois or dress shirt to buff the waxes off. Once the waxes are buffed, you are ready for the Pate de Luxe Wax Polish.

 

how to achieve mirror shine shoes hour

Apply Saphir’s Pate de Luxe Wax Polish to your shoes’ toe caps. The Pate de Luxe contains solvents which help further soften the Mirror Gloss, elevating its shine. This will further reduce the number of times you need to apply wax and buff. After applying it, blow dry the toe caps and buff it off with your High Shine Chamois like you did with the mirror gloss.

 

how to mirror shine leather saphir

You are all done! In a short amount of time, with significantly less effort, your shoes will have a stunning shine that elevates your appearance.

 


 

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5 accessories that will make you look like a million bucks

Accessories can make or break an outfit. A perfect fit can be elevated simply by having one additional element of interest introduced by a well-chosen accessory. But on the other hand, accessories can ruin an otherwise fine fit by being overdone, ostentatious or in conflict with one another. “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” Keep that advice from Coco Chanel in mind as I share five accessories that will, in the right contexts and done tastefully, make you look like a million bucks.

Okay, it doesn’t necessarily have to be Swiss, but it should be tastefully designed, and small. Giant diameters ruin what might be otherwise great watches these days. And unless you have Chris Hemsworth’s arms, they don’t really look at home on your wrist (though if you’ve got Chris Hemsworth arms, by all means, wear something proportionally small on your wrist!). When you’re wearing coat and tie, and want to look refined—whether it’s for a wedding, evening out with your significant other, or even just at the office—a small watch looks far more elegant. My personal favorites are Omega’s from the 1960s. My brother generously bought me a 1966 DeVille for my 30th birthday last year, with an off-white face that comes in at 34.5mm across. It’s magnificent.

I realize calling a product meaningful sounds like the worst marketing language, but I only say that because the guys wearing bracelets well are those doing it for a reason and not just because it’s the cool thing to do. When done well, a bracelet communicates a sense of refinement that no other accessory does in exactly the same way (when done poorly, it usually communicates that the wearer is trying too hard).

The ideal bracelet can lend style to an outfit because it’s carefully chosen, and the wearer knows when to wear it. I don’t typically wear a bracelet, but my dad does—and he absolutely nails it. He owns a couple, though one is far and away my favorite; it’s a heavy, solid sterling silver piece with decorative Navajo carvings made by Darin Bill. My dad has loved New Mexico since he was a boy, and Navajo blankets, art, and jewelry have been mainstays for decades in my family. I’d borrow it from time to time, but my wrists are much smaller than his.

Years ago I got a fairly inexpensive belt in snuff suede from Meermin and it changed my life. It sounds like a hyperbole, but seriously, suede as a belt material was a revelation to me. I wear that belt 90% of the time to this day. It looks particularly great with white pants and denim, but I’ll wear it with wool trousers as well. It doesn’t have to be suede, but a belt in a subtly different texture can bring your outfit together in a way you might not immediately think of. Something like alligator leather can improve a dressier fit, while canvas looks great with madras in the summer.

Brooks BrothersGustav Von Aschenbach

Besides just the belt material itself, you can also look for a cool buckle. For instance, I’ve always liked machined flat plaque buckles on a narrow dress belt—they feel very mid-century, and they make me think of my grandpa. I have no meaningful memories of him because he died when I was young, but I know, from what my dad has told me, that he was a very skilled craftsman. He had a fine attention to detail as well as a penchant for design, which he put to use making all kinds of things, usually with a strong mid-century aesthetic. A narrow belt with a machined buckle feels like something he’d have worn—and possibly even made himself.

Sid Mashburn – Tiffany&Co.

This is a super basic pick, but it’s an impeccable choice that really does improve a navy or gray suit. As pocket squares have gone mainstream, many men have been led astray into thinking the more gaudy, loud, bright and matchy, the better. In response, stylish men and forum members have sworn off squares all together. But even those most grieved by the over-saturation of pocket square culture still wear the white TV fold. It’s because it’s a stylish detail that’s not ostentatious. Mine is from J.Crew; it was a gift, and it is monogrammed.

If you’re looking at ways to fold your pocket square perfectly, check out Peter’s guide to folding a pocket square.

J. CrewKent Wang

Not a visible accessory most of the time, but when it is, it ups your class factor by a zillion. The things most men carry around to house their cards and cash are abysmal, awful, ugly, and thick. Don’t be like that. When you pull your wallet out of your breast pocket, a slim card case (or I suppose, a breast pocket wallet if you use bills regularly) makes for a nice indication of your appreciation for elegance—even if it’s not seen by most. It is slim enough that it doesn’t show if your jacket is more fitted in the chest. And even if you don’t have a jacket on it won’t make too big a bulge in your front pants pocket.

La Portegna – Salvatore FerragamoWant Les Essentiel

Style Icons: Jimmy Stewart

I love vintage style, but there are a lot of things that set me apart from other enthusiasts. While many enjoy period hobbies, I definitely don’t swing dance and I don’t watch a lot of old movies. It comes as a shock to some, as the latter is how most people I know came to be involved with vintage menswear. Sure, I may have seen a few of the big name classics, but it’s not something I consider monumental in my personal style journey; that doesn’t mean I haven’t been influenced by them, nor that I’m unfamiliar with them. Screenshots of films, promo shots, and candids of Golden Era actors used to fill my Tumblr. So with that, it’s no surprise that Jimmy Stewart was someone I saw often.

As you may know, Jimmy Stewart was a movie star during the “Golden Age” of Hollywood. Initially, he had attended Princeton studying architecture, but he soon found himself acting in small performers troupes. Eventually, he moved to Los Angeles, encouraged by Henry Fonda, and began his career in Hollywood, starring in almost 30 films until he enlisted in the Air Force during WWII. Stewart currently holds the distinction of holding the highest rank of any other actor who served in the U.S. Military.

For me, the appeal of Jimmy Stewart stems from how natural he makes everything look. I was never a fan of the prim and proper Cary Grant photos (who is loved for his 1950s-1960s style) or the “badass” look of Humphrey Bogart; I always felt more drawn to the candid and lifestyle shots of Stewart. Admittedly, Rear Window and It’s a Wonderful Life are the only Jimmy Stewart films I’ve seen, but I am familiar with his work (and style) through the countless images I see.

One thing in particular that I appreciate is that he had a very classic style. With flannel suits, striped shirts, and the occasional foulard tie, his style is a preview of some of the stuff you can see today. While the suits are cut in the classic Golden Era style (broad shoulders and wide leg pants), it’s not done in a costumey way. The fit is always on point, with a tapered waist and trousers that seldom break, which is a hard contrast to what most people think of when it comes to vintage style. He was sharp for the times without subscribing too much to the trends that we covered before.


During the 1930s and 40s, many actors would wear their own clothes in films. Because of this, men like Stewart were perpetually well dressed, both on and off the camera. One of my favorite outfits of his appears in a photo where Jimmy is sitting on a white fence, in which he wears a wide peak lapel houndstooth tweed jacket with navy trousers and white bucks. It really goes against the common style rules that we abide by today, like combining tweed and summer shoes. He does employ the “sprezza-tie,” with blatant disregard for its length and whether or not the back blade is showing. The entire outfit seems to be slightly ivy in its execution, as other pictures show that he was, in fact, wearing a striped cloth belt.

Another outfit that comes right in time for spring-summer, is Jimmy wearing a gaucho style polo shirt with the same peak lapel jacket. Not only is this cool because it showed that he reused a lot of the same pieces, but it also shows a little bit of the unique, trendy items of the 1930s. Gaucho shirts are largely similar to polo shirts but they featured a deep loop button placket and spearpoint collars; the hems were usually all ribbed. They grew in popularity among Golden Era actors during the late 1930s, and were seen on many stars, including Jimmy Stewart.

Gaucho-style polo and a tweed peak lapel jacket.

Gaucho-style polo and a tweed peak lapel jacket.

This image speaks wonders about Stewart’s style, though it might be a costumer’s idea. In a huge contrast to the well put together Cary Grant, Jimmy wears an unfastened chalkstripe DB suit, with a striped shirt and striped tie. Talk about sprezzatura, right? I remember seeing this years ago being inspired to experiment with triple pattern mixing–even if it’s all stripes. It’s hard to see people do that today, let alone make it look so natural, which made vintage style appeal to me even more today.

Jimmy Stewart in Philadelphia Story

Obviously, there are more great looks from Jimmy Stewart than the three I’ve examined here. It’s all very indicative of classic 1930s-1940s style without getting into the bold or flashy styles of Fred Astaire or George Raft (both of which are inspirations nonetheless). I’ve included a small album of my favorite looks from Jimmy Stewart for you to look at. I think that he was pretty consistent with his look, which you can definitely see in his later years. He may not have the spearpoint collars, but he still rocked the collar bar and the runaway collar until his death in 1997. Honestly, I think a lot of his attire can be used as inspiration today, whether you’re going for a true vintage look or something more contemporary. I certainly look to him quite a bit.

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Tartan Fabrics: History, Tradition, and Holiday Prison

I’ve been feeling very nostalgic about all things Scotland lately. Chalk it up to all the ‘Outlander’ my wife and I have been watching, and our having returned from a holiday there in October. The mention of Scotland conjures up images of the beautiful highlands and wind-swept isles. Its history is one of a charming people who nonetheless possessed rugged, grim resolve, rising in the face of the mighty British Empire time and time again, only to finally be defeated at the Battle of Culloden.

My wife and I walked the grounds of that battlefield. It is a solemn, quiet place for introspection. The subsequent Act of Proscription in 1746 made it illegal to wear “highland clothing,” and so wearing kilts and tartans could have landed you in prison—or worse. The proud clan system was destroyed, and tartans all but disappeared, save for in the lowlands and in the uniforms of the Highland regiments. One of the most popular tartans, Blackwatch, originates from one of those regiments.

Several decades later, after the repeal of the 1746 Dress Act, tartans became officially cataloged and the romanticizing of Highland culture began. While kilts worn as a man’s everyday garment never regained widespread traction, tartans can be found everywhere today. Corporations and individuals can and do design their own signature tartan—think Barbour, Burberry, and even Brooks Brothers.

When my wife and I were planning our trip there, I did a lot of research to make sure we didn’t accidentally offend anybody by wearing a tartan that was off limits to the general public. I learned that as they spread in popularity throughout the world, strict clan associations relaxed. I’d still recommend sticking with universal tartans—of which there are many—out of respect. If you have a true historical connection to a clan which has its own sett (the technical term for the specific pattern of intersecting plaids that make up a tartan), wear it with pride. But like so many other cultural traditions, tartans have become mainstream enough that it is acceptable today to wear any tartan you want for no other reason than that you like the way it looks.

Tartan trousers, shirts, tuxedo jackets and ties are front and center in clothing ads everywhere, especially during the holiday season. Why? Why is December and the “holiday season” the only time tartans—outside of accessories like scarves and ties—are so dominant?

Cultural researcher Brenna Barks speculated that perhaps because tartans were only worn for special occasions in Scotland post-Proscription, here in America descendants of Scottish émigrés forgot it was traditional dress and wore it simply because it was festive. Over time, as those people’s descendants became more American and less Scottish, that just became the norm. Whatever the case, given the democratized nature of tartans today, I find it unfortunate that wearing them except as accessories is so closely linked to holiday attire.

In the same way as madras—said to be the local’s interpretation of regimental tartans worn by Scottish soldiers posted in India using their own colors, and in fabrics appropriate for the climate—is freely worn all summer when the weather calls for it, so I think traditional wool tartan deserves to be worn all autumn and winter.

So I will keep wearing my Blackwatch flannel as long as it’s cold enough out to do so.

Won’t you join me?

In Defense of Structure

Last year in these pages, Mitchell Moss made a strong case for the appeal of soft tailoring. His argument, like his subject, is approachable, laid back, and appealing. In offering a defense of structured tailoring, I’ll try to give the counter-argument without being rigid and inflexible.

What do I mean by structure? In practical terms, I mean a few features of a suit jacket or sport coat that give it shape—particularly shoulder pads, wadding, and chest canvas and padding. Of course, the vast majority of jackets fall in between totally unconstructed and heavily built up. Most good ‘unstructured’ jackets still have a very light canvas layer; they don’t give up on structure entirely. But more abstractly, by structure I am writing about anything that inclines a jacket to shape the wearer as well as the wearer the jacket.

There’s a great old thread on the forum which captures a common trajectory of new menswear enthusiasts:

“You came to SF looking for an answer to a clothing question. You got caught up, and next thing you know, you’re wearing suits, jackets, dress shirts, ties, wingtips, dress pants, etc. Eventually, you come full circle and realize you look like Pee Wee Herman in the real world and decided to tone it down a notch.”

What begins as research for a single suit purchase, for an occasion or a new job, leads to a swelling appetite for everything #menswear. Your new hobby leaves you hopelessly (if not obnoxiously) overdressed. And at this point -it’s true- soft tailoring is a godsend. It takes the formality down a notch. You stop wearing a three-piece to the beach and find some middle ground. Since you never did work for a white shoe law firm, even though you dressed like it, soon enough it’s spalla camicia all week.

But this doesn’t have to be the end of the journey. When you’ve experienced the appeal of soft tailoring, you can go back to structure with a subtler eye. To the newcomer, suits are formal and stiff, and that’s the whole story. Once you know better, you can see the difference between ’80s Armani shoulder pads and the subtle shoulder extension of Liverano. You can feel the difference between the cardboard-like fusing of a cheap suit and the tension of the stiff horsehair chest piece in a Savile Row jacket, which begins equally firm, but molds over time to your body. In short, you start to see structure as a series of nuances and possibilities.

I don’t believe anyone has a single “true” style. Finding a style that suits you is an ongoing process, and the right answer changes as you develop, change jobs or lifestyle. And if there’s no one “authentic” choice, you’re always free to experiment.

If you’ve gone over to wearing soft tailoring for every occasion, here are a few reasons to reconsider:

Structure comes in degrees.

You don’t have to go straight from Isaia or Boglioli to Huntsman. Between the two are the Northern Italian makers like Canali and Pal Zileri, who excel in modest, refined use of structure. While I love Canali’s Kei Jackets, which wear almost like knitwear, a modern Canali mainline suit has subtle shoulder padding which just grazes the body, creating a clean line from neck to shoulder without adding imaginary bulk.

Structure provides balance.

When I ordered a suit from Luxire, I was in conversation with the tailor who was making it. During the fitting process, he observed that one of my shoulders is higher than the other, which is not uncommon—especially for men. Because my suit had shoulder pads, he could balance the jacket by taking one out and sewing in some extra wadding. Wadding is like music in films or seasoning in cooking: if it’s added correctly, you don’t notice it except as an improvement to the shape of the whole.

Structure can also be cool.

When you watch a film like O’Mast it’s easy to recognize a level of bravura and danger in the Naples of Antonio Panico and Renato Ciardi’s childhoods that starchy, high bourgeois London and Paris cannot match. And with it comes unaffected, careless elegance. But while Naples is associated with unstructured tailoring, it’s also where the spalla con rollino is perfected: the rollino highlights the shoulder by rolling excess sleeve into the sleevehead to create a distinctive raised silhouette. Think of Rubinacci, or the Anglo-Italian house cut.

Structure is flair.

While plenty of structured suits aim for stiff formality (as do the military uniforms from which they were derived), Tom Ford’s use of structure is all about sculpting, exploiting and exaggerating the torso to create gravity and sex appeal. Anderson and Sheppard’s drape cut fills out an Olympian chest on any figure. Cifonelli’s iconic cigarette shoulder makes no concession to conformity.

I’m not arguing against soft tailoring. Everything in its time and place. But it’s worth finding the time and place to enjoy the fine balance—and the virtuosity—of structured jackets.


Join the conversation on the forum on the Soft Vs Structured Tailoring thread.

5 Pairs of Shoes You Should Buy for a Classic Casual Wardrobe

It’s a lot of work to explore different brands, silhouettes, aesthetics, and stores, narrowing down what you like most. I’m reminded of Greg from No Man Walks Alone replying to a compliment on his store’s well-curated selection of goods, saying that finding the gems at a show like Pitti is incredibly difficult, requiring lots of patience wading through a nearly unlimited number of booths. Sometimes it’s nice for someone—like Greg—to simply say, “here are the best options. Choose from these.”

In the same spirit, I thought I’d share the five pairs of shoes I think you would be best-served buying—either as a capsule shoe wardrobe or simply as your starting point as you build a larger wardrobe. It goes without saying this advice comes from a point of view that favors versatility with tailoring, denim and chinos as my “what I wore” posts will attest. As a complement to this advice, read my “Versatile shoe” piece from last year. Thankfully there are lots of brands who make each one, so I’ll recommend a maker for each type at different price points for you to consider. In no particular order:

1- Chukka Boots

I wear these most of the time October through April. My chukkas are snuff suede with a Dainite sole so that I never think twice about wearing them if it’s wet out. I hiked Quiraing at the Isle of Skye wearing them, so they’re rugged enough in a pinch. Versatility wise, suede is the best, and with a more pointed toe, you’ll be able to wear them with a sport coat just as easily as with a full workwear fit. A rounder toe would help them match more closely with denim or moleskin pants.

Low price: Meermin (same as mine). Mid: Kent Wang. Mid-High: Sid Mashburn.

 

2- Penny loafers

I wear these most of the time May through September. Mine are—surprise—snuff suede. I walked throughout the cobblestone plazas and streets of Florence, seeing David, visiting the Uffizi Gallery and enjoying Florentine steak in mine. I prefer an elongated toe on these to the rounder ones you might see on a classic Alden, but that’s a personal preference.

Low price: Meermin. Mid-high: Sid Mashburn.

 

3- Longwings or Wingtips

I’ve always loved the brogue, at time shifting my preferred model back and forth between the wingtip silhouette or the long wing silhouette. I’m currently in the long wing camp, but I only own wing tips. Perhaps the grass is always greener. Mine are a pebble grain with Dainite sole, which came with me this past winter during our travels in Scotland. The Dainite sole came in handy for the rugged outdoors. I wore them on our road trip through the highlands, from Glasgow to Glencoe and Fort William, during which we stopped many times to jump out and photograph the scenery. Versatility wise, they can indeed be worn with denim, but really only dark denim. They look great with flannel or tweed trousers.

Low price: Meermin. Mid: Brooks Brothers. Super High Grail: Polo Cordovan.

 

4- Cap-toe Oxfords

You need something to wear dressed up more than just a sportcoat and jeans. For many years I went through that phase where you hate black shoes, and even today I think probably most of us could get away with only dark brown calf cap-toes in this category. But I think around the time Skyfall came out I realized black shoes in a tapered, chiseled toe last can make you look like James Bond – or, more realistically, they can make you feel like you look like James Bond. In any case, dark brown will help you through almost all the time, and it looks great with navy suits, gray suits, the navy blazer with gray trousers look, and almost every other tailored outfit.

Low: Meermin. Mid: Kent Wang. High: Carmina.

 

5- The Wild card

I know I said up front I’d tell you exactly what to buy, but this last one is going to come down to you making a decision for yourself based on your personal taste. It’s the dressed-down-but-contemporary-and-stylish slot, and which one you pick will depend solely on your preferences. For me, it’s a canoe moccasin, which I wear constantly. I walked from the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and all the way to the Spanish Steps in mine. For others, it might be a pair of sleek white sneakers: they look great with jeans, khakis and some brave souls even wear them with tailoring. Other options are Wallabees and desert boots. Instead of prescribing exactly what to get, take stock of your aesthetic preferences and make a choice to help fill out your own individual wardrobe.

My favorite canoe mocs: Oak Street. My favorite white sneaker: Tretorn. My favorite desert boot: J.Crew.


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Peter’s Adventures in Pittiland – Part II

After meeting with 100 Hands, Fok and I made our way back to the Maker Space.  By then the show was over and Aperitivo Hour was in full effect.  After catching up with my good friend and tailor Salvo, I met the other artisans that shared SytleForum’s exhibition. Red and white wine, olives, prosciutto, and mozzarella were being passed around while conversations of the day’s effects were being discussed, and I could finally relax after my 30 hour travel ordeal.  Enjoyable as it was, though, I couldn’t wait to sleep in a proper bed.

“Wait till you see your apartment,” teased Arianna. “You have the best view of Florence.”

She wasn’t exaggerating.  The apartment that Salvo and I shared a panorama of the Arno and Ponte Vecchio, one of the most charming hallmarks of the city.  I could have soaked in the view for hours, but it was already past midnight, and exhaustion got the better of me.  I crashed on the bed in my clothes and fell asleep.

pitti uomo 93 brands trends streetstyle

The next day, well…let’s not dwell on the fact that I left my phone in the cab on the way to Pitti and forgot to finalize my press pass for the show…yeah, that’s a bit embarrassing.  Let’s skip to the show.  I was told the show is big, but when people say Pitti is “big”, they’re downplaying it.  It’s huge.  The show lasts four days because there’s so much to see – 60,000 square meters and 1230 exhibitors. Here are some highlights:

Monitaly

Not classic menswear, but casual clothes for CM guys that are looking for something interesting and unique.  Runs the gamut from trousers acceptable for date night to furry leopard print boots. Yup.

Knit Brary

If you like sweaters, you’ll fall in love with this brand. Based out of Spain, this company produces handmade sweaters with tons of visual interest and texture. One of the cardigans on display used yarns thicker than a pencil. Most are made with baby alpaca, so while not cheap, it’s the kind of cozy softness you can wear all day long, if your partner’s not borrowing it.  Check out their video here.

Carmina

Apparently Tebas, the father of the company, won’t stop making new lasts in his workshop. The latest, named after him, is a wider-than-Forest casual last that can be dressed up but is best represented on a chunky brogue boot. Other new lasts include the dressier Queen’s and Broadway.

La Portegna

When I vacationed in Sicily earlier this year, I scoured the internet for a good pair of espadrilles.  Most are flimsy things that only last as long as your vacation does before they fall apart. If only I had known of La Portegna. Although they do make other types of shoes, their espadrilles are the only ones I know of that have a leather sole, so you can keep wearing them long after you get back from your holiday.

Invertere

Like fellow British coatmakers Mackintosh, the popularity of Intervère began to wane in the late 20th century, but owner Graham Shaw was proudly showing the current line of coats at Pitti, and I’m glad. The company began over 100 years ago as the originators of the reversible gabardine/tweed coat. Mr. Shaw explains this was the reason for the name “Invertere” – a Latin word that can mean “inside out”.  The practical coats are as attractive now  as they ever have been, and if I could chose another travel coat, it’s going to be an Intervère. No US stockists exist now, but hopefully that will change.

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After hours of circling the grounds, ogling the products, and snapping pictures, we headed back across Ponte Vecchio to the StyleForum Maker Space, where Salvo had two jackets and one suit ready for the my fitting. Soon afterward, the guys from Nine Lives Brand (amazing yak jackets) Red Rabbit Trading Co (handmade pre-1920’s southwestern silver jewelry) and Jailbird Leather (belts made by salaried inmates) stopped by to hang and get fitted by Salvo. Because suits and streetwear can be friends. All three companies had a booth at Pitti, and make goods that be dressed both up and down.

Friday came all too quickly. I didn’t see all of the exhibitors, I didn’t see all my friends, I arrived late and was leaving early.  Suffice it to say, I didn’t really plan this well.  After packing my bags and my camera (thanks Leica) I wistfully said goodbye to our underutilized apartment on the Arno.

But that wasn’t the end of Pitti for me.  On my way to the train station I bumped into StyleForum user Steffen Ingwersen AKA @vecchioanseatico, whom I’ve met before, and his friend Mikolaj. After standing on the street chatting for a while, we decided to have lunch before leaving Florence. I got a chance to see some unique accessories Steffen is working on: a striped wool tie made of Fox flannel and pocket squares with prints of his own design. But what struck me most were the yellow carpincho gloves. Unlined and butter soft, I couldn’t resist, and bought a pair as a physical memento of my time at Pitti 93.

It’s always fun meeting StyleForum users, especially by accident; you never know what to expect from their online persona. Usually, though, they end up being regular guys who happen to be into clothes. This happened later on at the train station, when I thought I recognized another StyleForum user.  When I asked, he flashed a sly grin and replied, “I’m the notorious Alan Bee.”

Turns out Okey Onyehbule AKA @Alan Bee is a quite an amicable gent. As a guy with the Herculean build of a Mack Truck, he’s always had difficulty finding suits that fit him off-the-rack.  Now that he has been having success going to Naples for bespoke, he is keen to share his results so that those with similar fit issues can see how to dress.

“I don’t pretend to know everything,” he laughs, “but I do like to share what I’ve learned, which is why I’ve posted some videos.  When other users give me feedback, I take it in stride and try to learn from it.  I’m passionate about it, but I don’t take myself too seriously.  Bespoke is really just an indulgent hobby.”

It’s now my last day in Italy. In a few hours I’ll be picking up my commissions from Salvo, hopping on a plane, and going back to work in construction.  I’ve heard Pitti described as a kind of menswear Mecca for fame seekers or a necessary evil for those in the industry, and while there may be truth in both of those viewpoints, I think there might be another sentiment, one neither romantic nor cynical.

To be sure, those whose livelihood requires Pitti cannot but recognize its importance for business: product is bought, connections are made, bonds are forged, the machine is oiled, and business is set for another six months.  For those of us not in the industry, it’s a different story. We’re basically menswear fans, and Pitti is the draft. Everyone dresses up, shoppers look for products and products look for buyers. It’s exciting, sure; we might have fairly strong opinions about a particular player (cough, Kapernick).  After the draft, the season begins and we watch the players perform on the field.

At the end of the day, though, it’s only a game. Taking a pastime to its logical end doesn’t mean devoting one’s life to it, but the change from fan to fanatic happens pretty often. The common rationale is that if one enjoys something, more of that something translates into more happiness.  Kids do this all the time; ask a child what he wants to eat and he’ll choose pizza and ice cream.

I’ll admit, Pitti is a blast, and I’m excited to watch the rest of the season to see how the clothes play out in real life.  But the end of the day, though, it’s only clothes. I’m actually looking forward to just being home.

pitti uomo 93 brands trends streetstyle

What it Means to Be “Made in Italy”


My Italian has gotten good enough that I can understand pretty much everything the locals say to me. The only words I consistently miss are the English words that they insert into conversation like french fries stuck in a spaghetti carbonara. WTF is “Nike” when it rhymes with “hike”? “Levi’s” when it rhymes with “heavies”? “Ee Red Hot Keelee Pepper?” But one English phrase comes up so often in conversation, at least within the rag trade, that I can pick it up on the first take: “Made In Italy.”

Cosa Vuol Dire “Made In Italy”?

To understand the meaning of “Made In Italy,” you have to go back to the genesis of the Italian nation, in the second half of the 19th century. Before that, Italy was a geographic concept, but not a political or cultural one. There was no real sense of an “Italian people” in the same way as there was already for the Germans, who formed a nation around the same time. Italy became one country not through collaboration, but through conquest by the Piedmont in the far north, which might as well have been Sweden as far as many Italians were concerned. If you think of Italy as a boot, the Piedmont would be the knee. A knee the rest of the peninsula would feel at their throats.

Citizens of the newly formed Italian state had little shared history, so newly-crowned propagandists created one, often relying on Roman iconography. Over the following decades, nationalistic myths hypertrophied into fascism – also largely a Northern phenomenon. Italy’s defeat in World War II broke this fever, but at a huge cost. The War was, for Italy, also a civil war, mostly pitting North against South, breaking open all the fissures that had been plastered over at the nation’s birth.

Two industries recreated Italian identity following the war – the film industry, and the fashion industry. Film helped the country understand its experience with the war and the poverty that followed. Fashion gave Italians a new nationalistic myth. Its appeals were more to the artistic achievements of the Italian Renaissance than the empire-building of the Roman era, and it helped that the industry’s first successes were in Tuscany, birthplace of Michelangelo. The Sala Bianca in the Pitti Palace hosted the first Italian fashion show in 1951, as well as Brioni’s men’s fashion show, famously the first of its kind, in 1952. Italian designers were able to capture something of the uniquely Italian approach to luxury and craft that had eluded the stuffy couturiers and tailors of Paris and Savile Row. As post-war realist film gave way to Fellini’s surrealist fantasies, Marcello Mastroianni became the guy everyone wanted to look, dress, and act like. And he wore Italian suits.

Allure, but Insecure

By 1980, the industry had grown tremendously, but had become something different. It had mostly moved to Milan, the industrial behemoth of the North. And it had begun to shift its focus from brands like Brioni to emerging giants like Armani and Ferre’. It was at this point that the “Made In Italy” campaign began, with the ambitious goal of branding an entire country. As one politico at Pitti’s “Opening Ceremony” said this year,” ‘Made In Italy’ is not just about selling fashion – it’s about selling Italian quality of life.” “Made In Italy” was intended to convey more than just the country of origin, but elegance, sophistication, craftsmanship – as if Leonardo DaVinci himself had blessed every stitch.

The campaign has been a massive success. Armani remains one of the most valuable brands in all of fashion. Gucci, Prada, and Zegna aren’t far behind. The manufacturing infrastructure that supports these brands is now also used by brands from Huntsman to Tom Ford to Ralph Lauren Purple Label, all of which are Made In Italy.

But the future is uncertain. At the Pitti’s Opening Ceremony, politician after politician announced their full support for the Italian fashion industry, for Pitti as a trade show, and their belief in the enduring allure of Italian luxury. Each one pledged a re-investment in “Made In Italy”. Which is what you do when you’re worried that a good idea’s time is running out.

The worries come mostly from China. A decade ago, there were no Chinese factories that could produce an approximation of Italian goods. Even if you stuck a “Made In Italy” label on a Chinese product, it wouldn’t fool anybody who cared enough to know the difference. Today, that’s no longer true. Chinese workers can produce high quality – they just can’t sell it at a high price without the “Made In Italy” label. As a result, there’s a lot of money to be made by someone who can figure out how to get that label on a Chinese product.

The Competition

A few miles outside of Florence is a town called Prato. The Pitti Opening Ceremony panel referenced it a few times as a major player within the Italian fashion industry, as in “Milan, Florence, and Prato.” I had never heard of Prato, and you probably haven’t either. But it is home to about 3,500 workshops that produce clothing, textiles, and accessories. The majority of people working in these workshops are Chinese.

Nor is it the only population of Chinese workers within Italy. There’s even a Chinese neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples that includes garment workshops. Of course, their work gets the “Made In Italy” label – how could it not?

But other products can get the label too, even if only some of the manufacture occurred inside Italian borders. It may not even take very much work on a product within Italy to make it “Made In Italy”. This is because the percentage of Italian work that goes into a product is calculated based on cost, rather than time (which would be difficult to measure anyway). Since wages in Italy are much higher than in China, you could have most of the work done in China for $4.90, pay an Italian $5.10 to put on the finishing touches, and the entire thing can get stamped “Made In Italy.”

It goes without saying that Italians have no monopoly on craftsmanship or design taste. There is no reason a well-trained Chinese person can’t do at least as good a job as an Italian. One way to view this development is that Italians traded for decades on a promise of inherent superiority, and Chinese workers have now proven that promise false. Not only have they become just as good as “Made In Italy,” they have become “Made In Italy.”

But it’s difficult for native-born Italians to be so generous. For one thing, competition from immigrants eats away at Italian wages and profits. Heirs of businesses that span multiple generations worry that they will have to choose between keeping their companies afloat and maintaining the quality and integrity of their product. For another, if customers hear about Chinese workers in Italian factories, the mystique of Leonardo’s blessing seems to lose its luster. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it’s hard to maintain national pride in “Made In Italy” when many of the workers behind it are foreign. So opinions are strong. Companies that dilute “Made In Italy” by employing immigrants or moving production overseas are considered traitors who don’t respect their product or their heritage.

Protecting the Brand

The backlash prompted some political movement in 2010. The Italian government raided factories in Prato and found illegal immigrants working there. It also passed a law restricting further the products that can use the “Made In Italy” label, including creating a new “100% Made In Italy” label that can be used only by products completely made in Italy.

But this is a losing battle. Illegal immigration is difficult to prevent. Italy’s national laws on product labeling are constrained by EU rules, since there is a free trade agreement among all member countries. The new levels of “Made In Italy” only confuse the consumer and sound defensive. Consider this Pitti booth insistently declaring itself “Absolutely Made In Italy”:

Doesn’t exactly instill you with confidence. When they start using intensifying adverbs, you know it’s bad.
The most encouraging development for Italian manufacturing in the past few years is not new regulations, but rising prices elsewhere. Alberto Merola told me that his glove company, Merola, saw some of its private label clients take production to cheaper countries a few years ago, but now many are coming back. “If the workers are good,” he said, “they get paid, no matter where they are.”

Claudio and Stefano Merola

Even if “Made In Italy” is eventually doomed, it can look forward a long and stately decadence. Right now, Italy is still sexy. Pitti has been such a huge success that the Italian government is trying to replicate it with other trade shows – further support for the Milan show, and collaborative shows with the US in New York and with China in Shanghai.

Italy already exports 62% of the clothing it makes. In the end it may be this that finally dilutes the Italian national brand beyond recognition. Many of the Italian brands I spoke to at Pitti were there hoping to attract Asian buyers. At one stand, I was shown a wall of double-breasted plaid waistcoats, complete with watch chains. After some discussion, they brought out from hiding a very nice plain navy overcoat that they planned to show the Italian buyers the following week in Milan. I wonder how many of the chained waistcoats they have to sell before they stop producing the navy overcoats. How much “Italian quality of life” can you sell and still have some left?

-David Isle


This article was originally published on Styleforum.net on Feb. 4, 2015.

The best Christmas gifts for your significant other and for you

That time of year has come again: you need a gift guide to buy a present for the woman in your life. Last January, you resolved to make notes about the things that she seemed really interested in but did not buy. And then at the end of November, you would just pick the best few things, an interesting mix that showed not just that you care and are attentive, but that you also have range and diversity and are full of good taste. But, just like last year (and the year before that, but there is no need to rub it in, I know) you are scrambling now, with under 10 shopping days, for a lifeline.

It’s all good. Styleforum is here to take the stress out of this situation for you. Remember Winston Wolf in Pulp Fiction? Mr. “I fix problems?” So do we, and you won’t even need to get all bloody in the process. But hurry. While, at the time of writing, rush shipping can get all of these to you in time to put them under the tree, wait too long, and you might end up having to write an IOU, which, ime, is usually not well received.

Also, you’ve done some good work this year. You deserve something too. In this gift guide, for each gift we recommend for your sig O, we are recommending something for you. Either drop a hint (a browser opened up prominently to the item in mind is a good bet) or just bypass chance and get it for yourself.


1. Earrings That Make Her Look Like a Golden Age Icon in Her Prime

HERS: Mikimoto Pearl Earrings ($300 and up at Nordstrom)

It’s hard to go wrong with simple, classic, 18 carat gold earrings set with precious stones. The usual names come to mind – Chopard, Harry Winston, Van Cleef & Arpels, lets face it, you are not going to wrong. All you need is a fleeting familiarity with Romantic Comedies (jewelry stores are often strategically seen in them, for the obvious reasons), a credit card, and the ability and willingness to use it. If you want to show a little more imagination, maybe go for a set of pearl earrings from Mikimoto. Pearls have a Golden Age of Hollywood appeal, and yes, while you can get a diamond framed pair for tens of thousands of dollars, you can also get a classic white gold set studs for a relatively affordable price

YOURS: GIIN miniature rose boutonniere ($95 from giin.style)

While I am a few eggnogs in right now and tempted to suggest his and hers matching pearl earrings, I’ll instead suggest a GIIN tie pin made of a miniature rose taken apart carefully by a single artisan in Japan, preserved, and then put back together. At $95 for a pin, you should be able to afford it even if you had gone all in with the $11k diamond accented pearl earrings (https://www.mikimotoamerica.com/categories/earrings/twist-white-south-sea-earrings)


2. (It’s not just any) Scented Candle

HERS: Cire Trudon Josephine Candle

I was a guy who, until he got married, owned only one set of tableware and one plate, all of which I had rescued from the Harvard Law School Cafeteria (hey HLS, if you are thinking of suing me, I’d like to remind you that this article is for entertainment purposes only, and that all resemblances to events and persons are purely incidental). But even I knew that candles would romantic up a place. Cire Trudon is one of the oldest extant candle makers in France, established in 1643. Patronized by both the French Court and then Napoleon Bonaparte, the company has had a few years to figure out how to make scented candles. For her, I recommend the Josephine, named after Napoleon’s first wife and empress (https://www.matchesfashion.com/us/products/Cire-Trudon-Jos%C3%A9phine-scented-candle-1087235). It is a complex scent that opens with lime and bergamot, turns to rose and jasmine, and then has base notes of sandalwood and iris. What you have to understand is that it smells good and looks nice in a glass holder with a gold seal. ($75 at Matches Fashion)

YOURS: Cire Trudon Abd El Kader Candle ($83 at Matches Fashion)

If you are going to do a his and hers matching gift, you may as well do it with fancy candles. It’s a big step above matching sweaters. For you, I might recommend the Abd El Kader candle, the scents of which takes inspiration from Algeria’s coast. That alone might stave off the cold.


3. A Luxurious Silk Robe

HERS: Carine Gilson silk Kimono robe (on sale now at net-a-porter) https://www.net-a-porter.com/us/en/product/962602/carine_gilson/chantilly-lace-appliqued-silk-satin-robe

It won’t always be cold. Summer will come again. Or, you can simply fly somewhere warm. Maybe Brazil. In that case, a silk robe will be the perfect coverup in the morning and at night. Carine Gilson is probably the foremost lingerie maker in the world today, working with elegant silks and delicate laces. This is about as good as it gets.

YOURS: Derek Rose Brindisi silk pajamas ($483 at Matches Fashion)

Hey, you’ll probably have to wear something too.


4. A Luxury Watch.

HERS: Chopard Sport Mini Happy Watch ($7040 at the official Chopard store)
No one needs a watch these days, with exceedingly few exceptions. That makes a quality watch that much more indulgent and luxurious. If you are fortunate enough to be able to do so, I would recommend that you get her a Chopard Happy Watch this Christmas. As you may know, Chopard is a Swiss watchmaker and jeweler known for its whimsy. The Happy watch’s iconic moving diamonds on the face of the watch are an example of this approach. I like the smaller faced “sport mini”. The 30 mm face suits smaller wrists, is elegant and sporty at the same time. With a simple face, and adorned only by the moving diamonds, the watch is both beautiful and unfussy.

YOURS: Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classique Medium ($8640 at the official Jaeger-leCoultre site)

I’ve always liked Jaeger-leCoultre’s Reverso watch, born of impractical solutions to practical problems. Cricket players were finding their watch faces smashed after a vigorous match, so instead of simply taking off their watches like sane people, they instead asked for a watch that could be flipped around so that the face was protected for the duration of the match. Today, there are a variety of JLC Reverso’s. including a duoface, for travelers who can’t be bothered to change the time on their watch. I still like the classique best.


5. Cashmere Loungewear is always a winner

HERS: Arlotta cashmere robe ($450 at Saks Fifth Avenue.)

I have yet to find a woman who does not like the feel of cashmere. Cold winter evenings and mornings alike call for a robe on top of any sleep clothes, and she will appreciate this robe – or at least, my wife does (if and when she wears hers out, I simply get a new one). This is about as failsafe as possible.  Bonus points if you get her cashmere slippers as well.

YOURS: Pendleton “Raven and His Box of Knowledge” Blanket ($295 at Pendleton)

I don’t know about you, but I spend inordinate amounts of time in front of a computer screen. And it gets cold. I also fall in front of the television at night. And when I wake up, my sedentary body feels cold. You get the picture. When you don’t move around, you get cold. In addition to this blanket looking really cool and keeping you warm, you’ll also be helping to support tribal colleges American Indian College Fund (AICF).


6. Iconic Jewelry

HERS: Tiffany Elsa Peretti “bottle” sterling silver necklace ($450 exclusively at Tiffany and Co.)

A lot of people will say that Tiffany’s is so played out. So cliché. After all, who hasn’t seen the blue box? 1) Who cares? It’s Christmas, and you are not that cool. 2) Elsa Peretti was an Italian model who turned to jewelry making. Her designs are full of sensual curves and quite unique. This bottle design is typical and iconic.

 

YOURS: Bottega Veneta Double intrecciato-woven leather bracelet ($350 at Matches Fashion)

Just as iconic Elsa Peretti’s designs is the woven leather of Bottega Veneta.  Too much of it can be ostentatious looking, but a discreet bracelet is just about right.


Bonus tip: Clothing that has numbered sizing is high risk and low reward. Sizing is not only not consistent between brands, but women, like men, hold illusions about their sizing. So just don’t do it unless you embrace the pain.