My third book this year, published by Prestel and in bookstores worldwide, is now available. It is called Best of British: The Stories Behind Britain’s Iconic Brands.
The book covers 14 British manufacturers that are over 100 years’ old. From Johnston’s in Scotland to Dent’s gloves in Wiltshire, Lock & Co in London to Corgi in Wales, Best of British documents their stories, new and old.
Readers of Permanent Style can get their own signed copy, dedicated to them, by buying through the website here.(Shipping in time for Christmas!)
Please specify any particular dedication you would like in the notes. (As a default I use something simple, such as ‘For John, best wishes, Simon’.)
I didn’t plan it like this. No one would plan it like this. But it’s just happened that three books have come along at once.
I began writing The Finest Menswear in the World four years ago, but it was only published in September, thanks to the work involved and Thames & Hudson’s timelines.
I began Best of British at the end of 2014, barely a year ago. However much of the groundwork had already been done by the excellent designers Egelnick & Webb and photographer Horst Friedrichs. (Horst is best known for books on various sub-cultures, such as Pride & Glory: The Art of the Rockers Jacket.)
Horst also had to visit all these brands and factories for the first time, whereas I already knew and had covered most of them already on Permanent Style.
And then in May 2015 we decided to publish our own book, Permanent Style 2015. Because we could and because we wanted to. The blog deserved a print edition.
Best of British has been wonderfully fun to produce. Not only were Toby Egelnick and Horst great to work with (a long car journey up to Barbour in Horst’s old VW springs to mind) but the focus on stories meant I could both bury myself in the archive, and interview current employees about their work and experiences.
So at Barbour, we had the origins of the wax jacket on the one hand (sailors had previously used liver oil from fish or tar from the ship itself to waterproof their jackets). And the modern stories of how Barbour jackets are repaired on the other (the day we visited, one customer had sent in a jacket that had been ripped apart by a dachshund. With an apologetic note from the dachshund).
At Lock & Co, we had the repeated commissions of a bicorne hat by Horatio Nelson (one pretty much before each major battle) and Nelson’s descendant today, who rides around London on a bicycle wearing a homburg.
John Smedley are bound up with the industrial revolution. Lewis Leathers has its long wait for a phone number. Corgi has a lovely tale about connecting its new, young workers with the fashion shows of Paris. They are great stories, and often tie in closely with events through British history.
If my previous book, The Finest Menswear in the World, was about product and quality, then Best of British is about brands and provenance.
The book costs £34.99 and is a bigger format than The Finest Menswear. It was a joint project with Horst and design team Egelnick & Webb, and therefore has more photography, less text.
The full list of brands included is:
- John Smedley
- Lewis Leathers
- Lock & Co
- John Lobb Ltd
- James Smith & Sons
- Anderson & Sheppard
- Johnston’s of Elgin
You can buy a signed and personalised copy of the book here:
Personalised copies of The Finest Menswear in the World are also available on that page.
Permanent Style 2015 is still available to buy from the Hanger Project – and they have a dedicated UK site now, so getting copies sent from the UK is easier and simpler.
Perhaps the thing that makes me happiest about writing Permanent Style is when it kindles a love of clothing in readers.
Men come up to me in the street, or at events, with a twinkle in their eye that says they have discovered the pleasures of good clothing. The style; the interest; the daily luxury of something beautiful against the skin.
We have to get dressed every day – there is no choice about that – and clothing matters. It is a huge part of how we are perceived by the people around us. So it makes sense to get dressed with intelligence and with taste.
But clothing is not important.
It does not change the world; it has no moral value. Even as a branch of the arts, fashion is a poor relation.
Clothing is like cooking. You have to eat every day, just like you have to get dressed. Understanding food and cooking well can be creative and absorbing. It is a necessity that can also be a rich, rewarding pleasure.
But cooking, like clothing, is not important. It comes someway down below politics, economics and science in its ability to change people’s lives and improve the world.
And as an art, fashion ranks below literature, music, theatre, film and, well, art.
Clothing can be a wonderful way to express aesthetic concepts. But its movements are largely derivative, products of broader art or culture. It does not have the depth or originality of fiction or poetry; it is unlikely to make us question how we live our lives.
Sometimes the fashion industry seems to forget this. And sometimes, in our neurotic way, do we.
Dress simply, intelligently and well. And don’t take it too seriously.
(Pictured top, Pierre Corthay in his Paris atelier. Not taking anything too seriously.)
The suit was completed a few months ago and we managed to take some photographs last month. But books, polos and events have conspired to get in the way since then.
This, then, my 13oz grey worsted single-breasted suit from Camps de Luca, Paris.
For anyone that’s not familiar with the French tailors, Camps shares many of the attributes of fellow Parisians Cifonelli and Smalto: lightweight canvas and shoulder padding; clean chest (cut close, no drape); pronounced shoulder roping; and absolutely superb finishing.
Camps is also known for its fish-mouth lapels. As you can see in the top image, the lapel is angled up slightly after it meets the collar, closing off that space and creating quite a strong horizontal line.
After the shoulders, this meeting of collar and lapel (the gorge) is one of the most important aspects in the style of a suit, and makes a distinct impact. So what do I think of it on my first Camps suit? I like the way it adds subtle personality, without resorting to the silliness of multi-angled pockets or horizontal stripes. But it also hasn’t won me over; I’m not about to ask any other tailor to cut my lapel in a similar way.
Looking at those shoulders, it is interesting how far around the sleevehead Camps puts it wadding to rope the shoulder. Most only put in roping at the top, creating that focal point at the end of the shoulder that gives width to the physique.
But Camps continues the roping further round, front and back, emphasising the work and leading to an impression of the shoulder almost being separated from the rest of the jacket.
Elsewhere on the style, the jacket is a touch shorter than I would normally have in a suit, and the foreparts (the jacket below the fastened waist button) are relatively open. I like the style of the latter, but may have altered the former. (As with most commissions, I start by asking the tailor to cut their house style, with minimal changes from me.)
Another distinctive aspect of a Camps suit is the folding of the cloth inside the vents. The normally hard line of the side vent is softened by having both sides butting up against each other. I like this principally because it prevents any chance of the seat being exposed when you put your hands in your pockets (which I do a lot).
On that point, there are several making aspects of the suit that I found fascinating – and hadn’t realised before. For example, the pocket bag in the trouser is attached to the fly on the inside. This stops the pocket bagging out too much, as it is constrained by that attachment to the fly. It is no less comfortable to use, but means the pocket keeps its shape.
It is also striking that the front of the trouser is perfectly flat and smooth – yet the fastening is one of the simplest you will find. There are merely two fastening points on the waistband, one on the left and one on the right. It rather undermines the point of complicated fastenings used by the Neapolitans (and Cifonelli).
I’ll post some pictures of these making aspects in a separate post, which will make them easier to illustrate and explain.
As we would expect, the finishing on the suit is first class. The cloth runs all the way around each in-breast pocket, with the lining being hand-sewn down first, then top stitched for decoration. The lapel buttonhole is a small but absolutely perfect Milanese.
And we have the distinctive tear-shaped pocket on the inside hip of the jacket (shown above) with the Camps de Luca name above it. Although the initials under the cuff, which again is a house trade mark, aren’t quite as fine as the work elsewhere.
Those in-breast pockets, by the way, are noticeably high and angled. Only Anderson & Sheppard does them quite as high, and I do like it. Wallets and phones remain in the chest area, and don’t encroach at all on the closely fitting waist. That’s one thing I would certainly ask every other tailor to replicate.
Worn with a burgundy silk tie from Loro Piana, with small and refreshingly widely spaced motifs in white and blue. Deep red works with a mid-grey like this better than any other colour of suit.
Handkerchief from Drake’s. The matte texture of the wool is of course a nice balance to the silk of the tie, and green is a classic colour to pair with red in such accessories, given they are complimentary colours.
Previous posts in this series, with other details on Camps and their work, can be found here:
Photography by Jamie Fergusson @jkf_man
This is the last instalment in our series on looking after suits at home. The first showed how to brush and generally maintain suits, and the second how to press a jacket. You can see them at those links.
It’s been an interesting process filming and then screening these. Thanks for all the messages from people that have tried this out at home. As we I discussed with Richard in the second video, there are some things that will probably be too tricky to attempt at home, such as pressing around the shoulders and sleevehead.
But there is also plenty that can be safely and effectively, particularly eradicating wrinkles in the trousers, small of the back and sleeves. This is where most wrinkling occurs in any case, because they are bent most often and have less structure.
I hope you enjoy this last video. Trousers can of course also be given an effective crease by a trouser press, but anything from the crotch up will need some more dedicated pressing.
As promised last week – when we introduced our latest collaboration, the PS square scarf – here are some step-by-step guides to wearing it.
All images can be enlarged by clicking on them.
The scarves are available to buy, in navy and natural, on the Begg & Co site here. Begg is still offering free shipping.
First, the easiest and probably most versatile option: winding the scarf around once, and tying with a simple over-and-under.
1. Fold in half
2. Place on the neck
3. Cross the ends over
4. Loop the bottom end over the top
5. Tie loosely
6. Tuck in the ends and the point at the back
7. Done (maybe fiddle with a bit in the mirror)
The second option is to wrap the scarf around twice, which creates a thicker band and is therefore warmer and more insulating.
1. Wrap around with point to one side
2. Tie at the side with a simple knot
3. Tuck the knot in. (A bit too cowboy if it sticks out.)
4. Particularly nice for filling in an upturned collar
Among other options are wrapping the scarf around once, but letting the ends hang free. The only disadvantage to this is that the scarf can work loose during the day.
A small ring can also be used to push the two ends through, holding and even decorating the finished look. The size of the ring must be precise, however.
I also find that the scarf works well under a polo-collar sweater, like the John Smedley Dartmoor that we developed (below). It helps keep the collar up under a tailored jacket, and cover the T-shirt underneath.
Scarves available to buy here. They cost £175, with free worldwide shipping.