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My top 10 books

29 November 2012

Below is a list of my favourite books on menswear, just in time for Christmas, in rough order. There are some noble exclusions, including Eric Musgrave, Bernard Roetzel and Nicholas Storey, but my aim was to list the 10 books that I have enjoyed the most and found the most consistently useful over the years.

I have not been immodest enough to put my own first book, Le Snob: Tailoring, on the list. Although without the scope of most works here, I like to think others would recommend it as a useful pocket-sized guide to tailoring.

Not all of the books below are in print, but most can be found second hand.

1 Dressing the Man – Alan Flusser

The original and still the best. It is what inspired me to explore tailoring, and its guides to suiting and the basics of bespoke are unparalleled. If it lacks anything, it is in the treatment of casual clothing, but it is still always my first recommendation.

2 Elegance – Bruce Boyer

Bruce is my favourite writer on menswear. He has an irritating habit of anticipating my thoughts and putting them onto paper with more wit and eloquence than I can ever hope for. Elegance is structured as a series of chapters on classic items of menswear, from the trench coat to polyester, and concentrates on the origins and development of the various pieces.

3 Savile Row – James Sherwood

With Savile Row, James produced the book that the street and its inhabitants have always deserved. Meticulously researched and beautifully illustrated, it is a must for any fan of English tailoring. Again, it is mostly about history and the historical clients of the firms, rather than aspects of style.

4 Bespoke, Savile Row Ripped and Smoothed – Richard Anderson

The only book that gives an insight into what it is like to work on Savile Row. Richard’s autobiography is very personal and consistently entertaining, but most importantly gives a unique insight into the Row behind closed doors.

5 The Englishman’s Suit – Hardy Amies

Perhaps Bruce is my favourite living writer. Hardy Amies wrote some wonderful things on menswear, and despite the popularity of ‘ABC of Men’s Fashion’, which I also recommend, this is my favourite work of his. His style is peripatetic, passionate and personal – as if you were enjoying a rambling talk in front of a fire.

6 Esquire’s Encyclopedia of 20th Century Men’s Fashions – OE Schoeffler and William Gale

A comprehensive reference manual, only published once I believe and ever since then much-borrowed from libraries and hunted down by menswear enthusiasts. Its focus is historical, but it remains a unique source for anyone involved in the industry.

7 Eminently Suitable – Bruce Boyer

As with Elegance, this is a collection of articles written for Town and Country while Bruce was its men’s fashion editor. It is more practical than the earlier work, including an explanation of what clothing suits which body type (though lacking illustrations) and the best chapter on sprezzatura, or nonchalance, you will find anywhere.

8 A History of Men’s Fashion – Farid Chenoune

This is particularly good for its French perspective. Every other history of menswear seems to be written by an American or an Englishman, so the discussions here of how fashions evolved on the streets of Paris are insightful. Its only disadvantage is a tendency to wander off into social history.

9 Handmade Shoes for Men – Lazlo Vass

Although not extensive, this is the best book available on how welted shoes are made and the intricacies of the various techniques. Well illustrated, with a little potted history of footwear as well.

10 The Handbook of Style – Esquire

The Handbook is as much about casual wear as tailoring, but it is the best of the populist guides put out by magazines in the US and UK. If you like the practical sections (grey paper, lots of sketches) in the Esquire Big Black Book, this is the book for you.