It would be easy to ignore the difference between fully fashioned and normal T-shirts or polos. There aren’t many around, and the distinction is subtle. But good examples of the former create a very distinctive look.
Ninety-nine per cent of T-shirts are made out of pieces that have been cut from a larger sheet of knitted cotton. No matter what type of cotton is used, therefore, they are always going to feel and wear in a different way to a fully fashioned T-shirt.
You know how a lightweight sweater feels? How the seams have a greater rigidity, but the material itself can stretch more, yet hold a shape? That’s how a fully fashioned T-shirt – like those made by John Smedley (shown above) feels.
I’ve worn Smedley’s polo shirts for a while. The prime reason is their formality, or smartness. A regular polo shirt is fine with shorts and trainers, for a more casual look (I recommend Orlebar Brown), but a fully fashioned polo can actually look dressy – with leather loafers and smart chinos, for instance, or even with a light hopsack blazer.
Smedley has three cotton varieties, of which I wear Adrian (the slimmer fit).
T-shirts, in many instances, aren’t meant to look dressy. But they can be very useful for wear under knitwear. Layering knitwear looks great in the winter, but isn’t really an option in the summer. Wear a fully fashioned T-shirt under a cotton shawl-collar cardigan, however, and the result is much cooler and equally as smart: the neckline immediately elevates it above regular T-shirts.
Last year, Smedley also introduced a fully fashioned T-shirt in pure silk (the Nice), which is beautiful to wear. It looks similar to cotton, with a touch more lustre. But it feels very different on. True luxury in a T-shirt.
Smedley, by the way, are making some efforts to improve their website. You can now filter garments by many more things, such as slim fits and sleeve length, both from the top menu and on a page list.
It still has its bugs, but if you use a maker like that as a supplier of so many basics in your wardrobe (as I do), these things are significant. Smedley are also offering a discount on social media at the moment: using code FF2015 for 20% off until May 1.
On a recent post someone actually asked if I was sponsored by Smedley, given I write about them so much. It’s probably worth saying that no, Smedley do not pay for any coverage. And neither does anyone else.
Unlike a depressingly large number of menswear sites today, no one can pay for space on Permanent Style. You can advertise, but that’s it. I like that clarity – in what I read as well as what I write.
We received the first few copies of Permanent Style 2015 yesterday, and they look fantastic! They’re thick, they’re substantial, and the production is beautiful.
Relief, pleasure, excitement: all bundled into one.
The official launch of the book will be next Wednesday, the 29th, in Milan. Vitale Barberis Canonico, who kindly sponsored it, will be holding an event at their new exhibition space below A Caraceni – 16 Via Fatebenefratelli.
If any Permanent Style readers would like to come, there are 10 places available. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve one: it would be great to see you there. There will also be an event in London (and probably Beijing) though, so there will be other chances.
Permanent Style 2015 will be limited to 2000 copies, and each is individually numbered. (Although I really wish I’d considered how long it takes to hand-number 2000 books. Clue: it’s a really long time.)
The books will be available to buy online soon after the launch, and there will be distribution from both the UK and US – cutting down on shipping rates.
It is also being stocked in small numbers by the shops of those included, so you should be able to see a copy whether you live in Melbourne, Madrid, Florence, Beijing, New York, Hong Kong, London or Paris.
Thanks again everyone. This is what a labour of love looks like.
UPDATE. A few people have asked about how and where the book will be available, so to clarify:
- It will be available to buy primarily online, through Permanent Style and the Hanger Project (who are doing all the delivery and fulfilment)
- It will also be stocked in around 20 shops worldwide, as mentioned above. A full list will be published next week. Thanks
Last year I interviewed Tony Gaziano for this video, created by Essence Lifestyle (the questions were deliberately removed to create a single narration).
It was interesting talking to Tony in more detail about his early days – beginning on the design side, and then moving into construction because he felt he could “elaborate more on the design through knowledge of the product rather than just drawing pictures”.
Then onto Edward Green, learning how to make shoes; meeting Dean, as an outworker working for him; and the first bespoke offering, funded by deposits from those wonderful Japanese.
Last September I did a post rounding up small brands that I had tried, but weren’t quite good enough to recommend with a full write-up.
It went down well, and seems like a good vehicle to mention some of the dozens of start-ups that contact me every month.
I would emphasise that these brands weren’t quite right. They often have good ideas, and may well go on to develop a great product. They’re just not there yet.
And the vast majority I never even try – because as far as I can tell they have no USP, or they’re just not suited to Permanent Style. Into the former camp fall 20 or more guys who promise to “revolutionise” made-to-measure shirts online. Into the latter fall bizarre outfits like Comfyballs. I just cannot seem to unsubscribe from their emails, no matter how hard I try.
Vocier is a strong starting point. A luggage company launched by two young German guys I met last year, it has created a genuinely innovative approach to packing suits.
Their core product, the C38, is a suitcase that is designed to wrap a suit carrier around a central compartment of shoes and other clothing. There are some other nice touches, such as a wash bag accessible from the outside, but it is this wrapping that’s key.
We all know it is hard folds that create creases. That’s why you should fold jackets or trousers around each other, or around knitwear, so the fold is rounded and softened. The C38 does this for you, by wrapping the suit section around everything else.
The only problem is that the central section becomes rather fiddly. It has to be loose, yet attached by straps to the main body. Fitting it back in is not easy. Overall, the make is also not good enough to recommend on Permanent Style – though a luxury version is apparently coming.
The C38 has done well since it launched, and won various design awards. But at the moment I would say it is not intuitive enough to recommend.
There is rather less of note to say about Simon & Me, although their aesthetic looked initially interesting.
A small shop in Berlin, it aims to strip back the branding and superficial decoration of products such as T-shirts, bracelets, combs and bags. Unfortunately, the things underneath that branding have nothing that unusual about them. Unlike the other things we discuss on Permanent Style, there is nothing in the craft or design that sets them apart. They are simple, and functional, but we aim rather higher than that.
As previously mentioned, many small companies go into leather goods, for several reasons: there are simple production requirements, it is easy to innovate, there is no need for sizing, items can appeal to men and women, and there is still a good number of leather factories in Italy and Eastern Europe to work with, leading to small minimums.
Moreca, based in Ukraine, has a number of interesting products. Its Bifold (pictured top), a stripped-back wallet design with slit pockets, is superficially more interesting than all of the wallets that are launched on Kickstarter every year. I tried the Bifold, however, and the leather is too thick to be functional. It requires two poppers to keep it closed, and wouldn’t fit in a pair of jeans, let alone a jacket pocket.
More interesting are the Lunch Bag and Grocery Bag – simple leather versions of the paper bags commonly used in the US. These too are made in a thick leather, but I’ve been trying one for a couple of movocnths and it does soften up. Just bear in mind that it will be a while before it looks like the images on the website. (And it could probably do with a something to keep the top rolled down.)
A shaving-kit-by-post business. Unlike Cornerstone, which we mentioned last time, The Personal Barber aims to switch men to the traditional wet shave, by regularly sending safety razors and a selection of soaps.
I don’t particularly like safety razors, but I know others that use them a lot. My critique of this service is that cheap razor blades are not hard to find – unlike the Mach 3s of this world, which are certainly easy and effective but are ludicrously overpriced. Overall, the product is also not high-end enough, offering a synthetic shaving brush for example (it’s worth paying the extra for badger).
These are the first pictures from our first Permanent Style dinner, which was co-hosted with Essence Lifestyle on Monday at Club Cafe Royal – part of a series we are creating called The Gathering.
It was a really lovely event, bringing together some of our favourite people from around the UK, with a particular focus on young turks doing great things in the world of crafted menswear.
Community, or coming together, was the key theme – as it has been at other recent events. It was interesting seeing Alice Walsh of Alice Made This talking shop with James Deakin of Deakin & Francis, for example. Both make cufflinks and other men’s accessories, but in completely different ways with completely different aesthetics. I believe a visit to the historic Deakin & Francis facility was arranged.
It was nice to hear some of the cutters say how much they liked seeing each other. Davide Taub of Gieves & Hawkes and Michael Browne of Chittleborough & Morgan, for example, get on very well and have a lot in common. But even though they work a few doors apart, they’ve only spoken a handful of times and never at such length.
It turned out that Sophie Gordon of Kilgour and Claire Barrett of embroiders Hawthorne & Heaney went to school together, but hadn’t seen each other in four years. Even Luke (Carby, photographer) had a connection there.
It may be a small world, but everyone is either sitting in a basement or flying back and forth to Italy.
Everyone enjoyed answering your questions by the way – thanks for sending those in. You will see the responses in the official film, which will be ready in a couple of weeks.
The attendees were:
- Michael Browne, Chittleborough & Morgan
- Euan Denholm, Edward Green
- Elizabeth Radcliffe, Levi’s
- Alice Walsh, Alice Made This
- James Deakin, Deakin & Francis
- Thomas Brunschwig, Gaziano & Girling
- Claire Barrett, Hawthorne & Heaney
- Davide Taub, Gieves & Hawkes
- Sophie Gordon, Kilgour
- James Priestley, Drake’s, Mackintosh and Joshua Ellis
- Daniel Wegan, Gaziano & Girling
- Adam Rogers, freelance illustrator and tailor
- Oliver Trenchard, Anderson & Sheppard
Plus of course myself, Luke Carby and the guys from Essence Lifestyle, who co-hosted the evening. Credit goes to the them for the photography.