My first experience with the negroni was on my honeymoon, long ago in 1999, in Riomaggiore, the southernmost town of the Cinque Terre in the Italian Riviera. The town is squashed in a precipitous, narrow valley that pours into the sea, like a confetti-colored shovel diving into the blue, and the main street is right in the middle, cutting the town in half, terracing downward. On this street, in a random bar, we asked the man behind the counter for an Italian cocktail. The man replied there was only one, and poured us each a negroni. It was the first of several that night, and countless since then. To this day it remains my favorite drink.
For years only a handful of bartenders knew what a negroni was, which stupefied me at first, and I was forced to order a Godfather, which like the movie was about as close to the Italian experience as you could get in America at the time. With the launch of Negroni Week in 2013 by none other than the Campari company itself, however, the ruddy libation was suddenly thrust into the zeitgeist, to the point that nowadays it seems like everyone has one in hand, which is perfectly fine by me.
Matt Hranek likes negronis too – a bit – and recently threw a party in Harry’s Bar in Florence to celebrate it, along with the release of his magazine WMBrown. In doing so, he called on his friend Douglas Cordeaux of Fox Brothers clothmakers in England to help him find a suitable tweed to cover a trunk that disguised a portable bar. After seeing various fabric remnants that didn’t quite tickle his fancy, Douglas suggested they mill one, and Matt sent him pictures of negronis as inspiration. Douglas replied with some CAD drawings of plaids, one of which stopped Matt dead in his tracks.
“I asked him if we could mill 50 meters of the stuff and announce it at the party,” Matt recalls. “Douglas agreed, we covered the trunk in the negroni tweed, made swatches, and it sold out.”
“The tweed is based on an archive Fox Brothers design, in a different scale,” explains Douglas. “It has to be the cloth of the last decade – it really hit a mood. Launching it at Harry’s Bar was the perfect culmination of this collaboration with Wellington, New York, and Florence.”
This is not one of those muted plaids that appeals to those afraid to embrace a little riotousness. It reminds me of an old Esquire article from 1939 entitled “Summer Cum Loud” (not kidding). The copy was accompanied by a Lawrence Fellows illustration of a young man in a plaid jacket so loud the writer warns it can “be heard clear across the campus.” Still, the writer argues that since the kids have taken plaid to their bosoms, so should you, dear reader, and why not? There’s nothing quite like a bold plaid, with all its right angles, orderly checks, and ostentatious scale that tastefully throws a middle finger to polite society.
To me, this plaid called for something more casual than a sports coat, so I asked Akshat and Varvara of 100 Hands to help modify their traveler jacket using the negroni tweed. This particular model is a favorite of mine. Normally without any padding, canvassing, or lining, the intent is to allow the fabric itself to take control, rather than giving it any artificial shaping. Whereas the basic process of hand drawing the pattern, individually hand cutting each fabric, pattern matching, and hand attaching of most parts of the body is the same for a jacket as a shirt, there are some key differences. For example, the cutter for traveler jacket is different, as is the person who attaches the sleeves, since the pattern is cut from a sport jacket perspective, especially in the shoulders and armhole. This leads to a cleaner drape of the jacket despite having no structure added.
We settled on a six pocket front: two open patch pockets on the chest, and two flapped hip patch pockets with a side entry as handwarmers. The back would be self-belted to button adjusters on the side, with an inverted pleat to facilitate movement. To say this would be a busy jacket would be an understatement, and yet the result is so clean, it actually looks more subdued than a sports coat would. To start, the plaid simply goes up and down the front, as there are no lapels to break up the lines. Additionally, the pattern matching is so well executed that at a distance, you would be forgiven for overlooking the pockets; they are practically invisible.
“Pattern matching is an integral part of what we do,” explains Akshat. “It might get ignored often, but it is a reflection of the work we put into a garment. If we care about things which are viewed as less important, imagine how much care we put for things which are valuable.” Indeed, as visually pleasing as pattern matching is, it’s the smaller things – the stitch count and the level of finishing – that really make 100 Hands’ shirts and jackets stand out.
When Matt saw it, he was impressed. “I’m totally copying this,” he admitted. “We’re doing a summer version of this with Fox Brothers, called the ‘Sbagliato’, in a lighter weight and smaller pattern, so don’t be surprised if you see this at the next Pitti.” Which, when you think about it, only makes sense: the only thing better than having a negroni is having another one soon after.
This is not a sponsored article. The writer received the items for free in exchange for an honest review. To read Styleforum’s review policy, please click here.