Suits

Every man should have at least one. (I’ve spoken on this topic before, but it bears repeating.)

I can already hear the moans: “I never need to wear one! Why should I own a suit?” and “I hate them?!They’re uncomfortable!” and “I won’t work for a company which insists on men wearing a suit!” and so on, ad nauseam.

Don’t care. There’s something about wearing a decent suit which not only makes a man look good, but feel good — provided, of course, that you feel comfortable wearing one in the first place. (And if you don’t feel comfortable wearing a suit, you should become so, by wearing a decent suit until you do.)

“I never go anywhere that requires me to wear a suit!” Then it’s time you upgraded your choice of places to visit.

Here’s the thing: men look good in a well-tailored, stylish suit. It almost doesn’t matter if your body shape is not like a movie star’s, because if the suit is designed properly, it will hide your shortcomings better than any other type of clothing. (And if you don’t care what you look like, or subscribe to the idiot notion that looks shouldn’t matter, then you need to grow the fuck up — because appearance matters, and always has.)

Here’s another thing: women like a man in a suit. You only have to see the female reaction to Mad Men‘s Don Draper and Roger Sterling for proof. Another manifestation is when a women says, “Man! You sure clean up good!”, because believe me, that’s a statement of admiration despite the ungrammatical choice of words. (What it means, by the way, is that she’s looking at you with new eyes — and likes what she sees.) For better or worse, people will always take you more seriously when you’re well-dressed, and a good suit will always leave a favorable impression.

I won’t even go into the topic of the importance of wearing a suit when applying for a job, because that’s self-evident.

As for color, it’s simple: dark and muted, grey or blue (charcoal or navy-blue, for the uninitiated). And it should be fashionable. Men are blessed with the fact that suits’ fashions don’t change from year to year, but they do change from decade to decade, which is at least as often as you should buy a new one.

And lastly, there’s a very good reason to have at least one suit handy: there will come a time when you absolutely have to have one. It might be a funeral, a restaurant with a dress code (and spare me the gripe that you’ll never go to a place that has a dress code — once again, grow the fuck up), or maybe there’ll just be a time when you have to impress somebody.

Here’s a little scenario for you all to chew on. Imagine that you achieve something of importance: you saved someone’s life, you donated a large sum of money to a charity, you won a sporting competition, whatever. Let’s say that a consequence of this achievement is that you’re invited to the state capitol so that the Governor can shake your hand.

Let’s be clear about this: you can’t go in jeans and a fucking t-shirt, because that shows immense disrespect to the person who wants to honor you. You’ll need to wear a decent suit.

A suit is like a gun: you hardly ever need one, but when you do, you’ll need it really badly. So have that suit handy, and every so often, wear it out to dinner or some social event. You’ll be amazed at the reaction. The old truism still applies when it comes to going out:  men wear suits; boys wear casual clothes. (In an old Cary Grant movie, a flashback made the 40-year-old Grant look like a teenager just by dressing him in casual clothes; when coming back to the present day, he wore suits — and matured instantly.)

Oh, and one last thing: colored shirts, no matter what the fashion magazines say, are for pimps and parvenu yuppies. The proper shirt color is white, with maybe a tiny pinstripe if you’re adventurous. (I have a number of identical “dress” shirts, all with a red pinstripe, because I once saw a good deal at Marshall Field and snagged a dozen. Good, discreetly-tailored shirts never go out of fashion.) And have half a dozen decent ties — not from WalMart or Target — at your disposal; once again, discreet “rep” ties with diagonal stripes never go out of fashion, ditto monocolored silk ones. And FFS: get a decent pair of black lace-up shoes to go with your suit, and keep them polished.

Take a look at the pics below: there’s barely a woman alive who wouldn’t respond positively to a man dressed like that — and if she doesn’t, she probably isn’t worth bothering with.

And the Governor would be equally impressed.

Fashion Stakes

As my Longtime Readers all know: like a doomed moth to a searing flame, I’m helplessly drawn to the spectacle of women dressing up to attend horse racing events. (I just can’t help myself, Doctor, please help me — no, don’t.)

Anyway, a couple of races have gone by and I was too busy Ubering to do them justice, but now that the weekend is upon me, I’m ready to rock and roll.

As British horse races go, Cheltenham is about as different from Aintree as single malt Scotch is to moonshine — they both contain the same basic ingredient, but…

So this year at Cheltenham was pretty much the same as it’s always been:

And even when the booze flowed, it wasn’t at all Aintree-like:

And of course, my latest obsession object of desire would-be girlfriend Carol Vorderman put in an appearance:

The men also looked quite dapper, especially ex-Top Gear Token Dwarf Richard Hammond (with wife Mindy):

…and even his partner-in-crime, the usually-disheveled Jeremy Clarkson (with his latest Irish squeeze) did his best:

…although recently-fired-from-Top-Gear Chris Evans failed dismally:

(Don’t even get me started on all the fashion faux pas in just that one outfit…)

The ladies, in general, looked quite lovely (with lots of un-PC fur, worn quite unashamedly):

This was in steep contrast to their Australian cousins at some race in Oz, who showed the class for which Strine women are famous:

But wait! How did this vision of pulchritude get in through the gates?

Ah yes, of course [sigh]:

Ugh.

Ladies: if you want to be thought of as classy (at least for a first impression), you need to cover up your cutaneous mutilation with clothing such as worn by cycling gold medalist Victoria Pendleton:

The last time I looked, even the pretty Olympienne has a tiny one on her inner forearm [deeper sigh]. But in her earlier days:

I’ll never understand the self-mutilation thing.

Anyway, speaking of regrettable decisions: Aintree’s coming up soon, which means… Train Smash Women!   One can only hope they do as well as they did last year.

Watch this space.

Back Then

Before I was born — hell, before my father was born — women dressed in the fashion of the day without regard to what it actually looked like. (Yeah, not much has changed.) Here’s one example, from the Roaring Twenties:

Of course, while that was what women wore in public, in private was a whole ‘nother story, as they say. Here, for your delectation, is a series of pictures of some of the Ziegfeld Girls of the era — most of whom were physically tiny, by the way — dressed (or rather, partly-dressed) in some private fashions.

This all came about when I was looking for some reference pics for a novel I’m working on — I needed to describe how a female character dressed back in the day, and suddenly, as so often happens on Teh Intarwebz, I ended up looking at these.

I’ll get back to the research any day, now…


Dramatis personae, from the top:
Adrienne Ames
Jean Ackerman
Olive Brady
Madge Bellamy
Lillian Bond

Temperature & Climate

From Comments under yesterday’s post:

I’m curious about how you feel about Cornwall as regards temperature and climate.
You’re from South Africa via Texas most recently and I think of you as a hot place guy. Does Cornwall feel cold to you? I see someone in shirtsleeves in the 4th photo down and that’s how I “feel” the UK, as a warm-ish place, even in November.

To answer the easy question first: no, Cornwall doesn’t feel cold to me. Remember that I lived in Chicago for over a decade, so I know what “cold” is. It can get quite chilly in Cornwall when the wind blows (which is quite often), but the Gulf Stream stops the wind from the biting cold of, say, those coming in off the North Sea (which are dreadful). The only reason I put on a coat at all is in case it starts to rain; otherwise I’d be walking around if not in shirtsleeves, just a henley or similar long-sleeved tee shirt. When it rains, that’s another story — but then once again, having just come south from Scotland’s freezing rain, Cornwall in the rain is chilly rather than icy. (This may change in January, of course, but sadly I won’t be here to see it.)

Although I used to live in Johannesburg and now live in Texas, I’m not a hot-weather kind of guy. In fact, the only thing* which gets me down about Texas is the heat. Johannesburg has a different kind of heat, of course: even though the daily summer high is around 90-95°F, the relative humidity is 5% — whereas in Texas, a 95°F day generally means 90% humidity, which I frankly find unbearable.

The travel writer Bill Bryson loves it Over Here, by the way. He describes it as a climate that really only requires one type of clothing, which can be worn pretty much all year round (with layers added or subtracted as needed, and a rain jacket and winter coat the only other accessories).

I agree absolutely. Right now, the indoor temperature in the cottage is 68°F, which I find pleasantly cool (and the only reason I’m wearing slippers is that the stone flooring is icy cold underfoot). Outside, the temperature at 10:30am local is about 54°F on its way up to 57°F, and tonight’s low is predicted to be 52°F. When I went out for fish & chips last night, I wore only sweatpants, a henley and a fleece waistcoat called a gilet** (pronounced “jhillay”), and I was quite comfortable.

Actually, I’m a cool weather kind of guy. And if it’s raining and a little chilly, that’s certainly the weather in which I prefer to travel, especially in Britishland and Yurp: the tourists are few and the inclement weather keeps the streets clear of lots of people. When I was in Bath back in sunny August, the place was knee-deep in people — place looked and sounded like a combination of Beijing, Bakersfield and Bucharest at midday — whereas when I went back to Bath a week or so ago, with the seasonal damp and chilly air, the place was comparatively deserted and most accents in the street were Somerset. (And the steak ‘n kidney pies and hot sticky-toffee puddings were all the tastier. Nom nom nom.)

So I’m loving this climate, while I can. In ten days’ time I’ll be exploring the south of France with Longtime Friend and Former Drummer Knob (who lives there), so it’s probably not going to be like this, more’s the pity. But later I’ll be back in Britishland — to be specific, London — in time for Christmas and New Year’s Eve, where apparently it’s going to be one of the coldest winters in memory.

Can’t wait.


*also the lack of scenery in Texas, but that’s not relevant here.

** the gilet is probably the only item of clothing which I’d regard as absolutely indispensable Over Here. It can be worn as an outer garment or under a coat or rainjacket, and it’s one of the few items where one should never skimp on price. On the advice of Mr. Free Market, I paid about $30 for my Jack Pyke, which isn’t regarded as top-of-the-line by the people who know about such things — see here for an example of a “good” one — and I haven’t looked back since.

Come to think of it, when I get back to Texas, I’ll put up a post of essential clothing when traveling in Yurp during the fall and winter.

Well-Suited

From Reader Jason R. comes this intriguing question:

You have spoken at length about how to spend money on watches and etcetera. I have been champing at the bit to ask you, sir, if you hit the Powerball: where does one buy the finest of suits?

Now that is an interesting question. Right off the bat, I don’t want to hear from people who are only going to wear jeans and wife-beater t-shirts for the rest of their lives, nor do I wish to hear about how suits are an outdated institution blah blah blah. Mr. R. wants to hear about suits, and I will address that issue with two options, bearing in mind that with Powerball winnings, cost is not an issue; but style and quality are.

Golden Rule: forget off-the-peg / ready-to-wear, unless you have to wear a suit in the next month or so. It’s to a tailor you’ll be going.

Option 1:  Go to a style capital, and have the suits made (you’ll need at least four, along with dinner attire — a tuxedo, in the American idiom). Your choices will include:

Milan, if you have the figure to wear Italian designs — i.e. not fat like me. Milan sets so many fashion trends, it’s silly to go anywhere else, if you want to be fashionable.  By the way, Italian suits are so well made that you might be able to find something off-the-peg which will work, but I’d still go to Caraceni first. Be aware that Italian suit designs go out of fashion more quickly than the “classic” designs; if you want something of that nature, you’ll need to go to

London (Savile Row or Jermyn Street) for the British cut: timeless and almost immediately recognizable — but you’ll need to find something to do in London for a couple weeks, because those Brit tailors are slow. One caveat: Brits don’t do summer suits that well, simply because they don’t need them that much; the Italians do, so you may do well to split your trips, as it were.

New York will be fine, if you’re okay with American-style suits (the eponymous TV show Suits is coincidentally an excellent example of the look). Barney’s used to be the place to go, but I’m not sure if that’s true anymore. (My NY Readers may be able to help.)

Option 2: go to Hong Kong, and have a dozen suits made for the same price as four would cost you in any of the above cities. Seriously: anyone who knows anything about buying good suits either goes or has gone to Hong Kong. They will have all the latest fashion patterns, and all the different cloth weights and types on display; picking out the fabric(s) will take you almost as long as it takes them to make the suit. You’ll only need about three days to get a dozen suits. Hankow Road will give you Willie Cheng or Sam’s (the celebrity tailor). Mr. FM, who has all his suits made in HK, cautions against getting your shirts made there because for some reason, HK tailors never give you a long enough tail — which means your shirt is always coming out. Stick with the guys in Jermyn Street.

Addendum: you’ll need shoes. Forget American formal shoes like Johnston & Murphy, unless you want to look like the parvenus lawyers in Suits. (I’m not dissing J&M, by the way: I own two pairs, and love them. But if you want to match your exquisite suits with equally-exquisite shoes…)

Once again, Milan will be your friend — nobody makes stylish shoes quite like the Italians. However, if you really want to follow the example of Sterling Archer (and you should), you should have your shoes made for you by a cordwainer (old fart’s term for shoemaker). If you don’t want to go to Milan and visit Stivelaria Savoia, or you’d prefer a more classical style of shoe, I would like to suggest a place somewhat off the beaten track: Vienna, and the place to go there is Ludwig Reiter. (Warning: if you follow that link and read about “welting”, you may never buy shoes off the shelf again.)

If you’d prefer a more British style, then John Lobb in London will give you whatever you need. I’ve been there, could never afford their prices (see below). I love their description of how shoes are made.

All bespoke shoemakers will measure your foot and make a wooden last of it; then, whenever you need new shoes, you just call them and they’ll make you a new pair, or several new pairs, according to your style selection. The initial consultation and measurement will take ages, but subsequent pairs will be made quite quickly. In most cases, you’ll be allocated an individual within the company who will be responsible for all your shoes thereafter.

You’ll need an assist from Powerball, by the way: Savoia, Lobb and Reiter shoes can cost anywhere from $2,000 – $8,000 a pair. But they’ll last forever, and never go out of fashion. I have a copy of Reiter half-boots which cost close to $800; I’m still wearing them, twelve years later, and they still look wonderful. (Those are available in Vienna’s Kärtnerstrasse — a very bad place to shop if you have no impulse control.)

Now… where did I put that EuroMillions ticket?