Once Upon a Time….

Atlantic City, January 1920…  The Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibited the manufacturing, sale and consumption of alcohol and, in the process, gave rise to a new wave of organized crime led by “gentlemen” wearing luxurious, impeccably accessorized wardrobes…  The Roaring Twenties, improbably, a platform of men’s fashion today!

For those with a flair for fashion and not really amazed by most popular TV shows nowadays, following the life of a historical sartorialist is pure eye candy.  Add sex, gangsters, dandies, revelers, moonshine runners, gunplay and racketeering, and you have an exceptional show: “Boardwalk Empire.”

As you can tell by now, we are obsessed with clothing…  Custom clothing, to be exact.  And immediately after watching the first show, we knew Sir Thompson was one of us.  Praise is due to John Dunn, custom designer of the show’s suits, for transporting us back in time.  A time that experienced probably the most changes in everyday life, especially fashion, that, with help of technological development, facilitated the introduction of new fabrics and closures.  Natural fabrics like cotton and wool were the most predominant of the era, with silk still being highly desirable and still yet highly unattainable.  What was not unattainable was the impeccably tailored gangster look.  These gentlemen did not hold anything back (if you watch the show, you know what “anything” means) as far as fashion.  We were blown away by colors, patterns and accessories of the highly fashionable time.

We are sure the real life Enoch Johnson (whom “Nucky” Thompson is based on), knew one should never compromise their style, and that a very well-suited man can literally reach for the stars.  His TV proxy, Mr. Thompson, being the central character of the show, is a vivid example of what power means in terms of fashion…  The power suit, completely mastered!

We cannot fail to recognize the construction of the suit, which is extraordinary.  Leaving the long jacket on morning suits and tail coats behind and adapting a shorter, higher-waisted and smaller lapelled suit.  The pants were also more tailored, although not tapered, and also shortened, providing some socks picking and began to be cuffed at the bottom.  A sumptuous three-piece suit was a gentleman’s must.

Accessorizing was also a must, and the gentlemen of the ’20s were masters in this department.  Handkerchiefs, cufflinks, platinum watch chains, shirts with collar pins, top hats/homburg (obviously only for the upper class gents), two toned wingtips and pattern combinations that will leave many of us allured.

In short, the sartorial gentleman of the 1920s, which “Boardwalk Empire” almost worships, was a gentleman who was fearless in his dress, displaying some of the most fantastical combination of colors and style possible while laying the groundwork for all of the beautiful colors and fashions we wear today.

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Fashion Back Then

Since the beginning of time, man has relied on clothing for numerous reasons.  Cavemen used fur to protect themselves from inclement winter conditions.  Much further ahead in time, there was the doublet, a snug, fitted and buttoned jacket with minimal stitching and a quilted lining (“doubling”) that originated from under armor wear who’s main purpose was to add warmth.

We browsed back in time and found some important garments from different eras along with their purpose and meaning.  Some of them are still part of trends or the everyday fashion of today.  Some others were left behind, thank God, like the cod piece: in the 14th century, men wore two separate leg hose over linen drawers, leaving a man’s genitals covered only by a thin layer of linen.  The codpiece covered this gap.  …Well, it still does exist in some way, as the protective cup in the jockstrap.

Many of these items appeared and were, at the time, stylish, but their main purpose was usually functional, like the ruff (a detacheable colar and cuffs that could themselves be laundered separately, preventing the jacket from getting soiled).

During Elizabethan times, a Sumptuary Clothing Law controlled and specified social structure.  English Sumptuary Laws governing the clothing that Elizabethans wore were well known by all of the English people.  Penalties for violating such laws could be harsh: fines, the loss of property, title and even life (hello, Fashion Police).

Further back, Roman clothes separated the social castes of the Empire.  Slaves, merchants, nobility and Roman Senators could all be easily identified at a distance by their clothing.  Even before that, Egyptians also had a flair for fashion, but the most attention on dress for both men and women was reserved for decorative collars and headdress.

Men’s fashions through the years have been highly influenced by military models.  Changes in the European male silhouette were frequently forged in the theatres of European wars, where gentleman had the opportunity to make notes of foreign styles: an example is the “Steinkirk” cravat or necktie.  Another European example is the frock coat, a knee-length men’s coat that was characterized by a larger chest circumference and smaller waist circumference.  The bottom of the coat, extending from the waistline, resembled that of a flowing skirt.  A frock coat was first seen during the Napoleonic Wars. The Austro-Hungarian and German army officers would wear them during military operations to keep warm and protect their uniforms.  It became more popular and viewed as a fashion statement amongst non-military men during both the Victorian and Edwardian periods. A double-breasted style topped by peak lapels would be worn in a more formal setting, whereas, a single-breasted version with notch lapels would be seen in an informal one.  Could this be one of the causes of today’s common notion that peak lapels are directly associated with a tuxedo or dinner jacket while notches are associated with a suit? It might just be, however, in our world of custom suit design, we like to leave the choice of whether or not to override these traditional views to the individual’s discretion.

In early 1900, King Edward VII aparently grew so rotund that he was unable to fasten the last button of his waistcoat and jacket.  To not offend the king, those associated with him started doing the same.  The custom then gradually spread the world ’round, or so the legend goes.

King Charles II, another noble to be, was known to have a flair for fashion and sported cufflinks regularly, quickly influencing public opinion on this new clothing accessory.  A fashionable and elegant way to fasten their cuffs, earlier fastened by a string.

Trends started and spread widely, and a generation of very well-suited men arised in mid-18th century England.  These men were known as “maccaronis.”  Later on, a similar movement referred to the male taking such pride in dressing as dandy as possible.

During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Beau Brummell was a model of this movement, claiming to take up to five hours getting dressed.  He also changed men’s fashion in England.  He established the mode of men wearing understated but fitted and beautifully cut clothes adorned with an elaborately knotted cravat.  Brummell is also credited with introducing the modern men’s suit.

So, as we said, fashion back then was mainly functional (well, not to Brummell, at least) and a way to establish social status (silk was only sold to the rich).  But that makes us think that we probably have not evolved much from such methods.  It’s just now a matter of labels: Cartier, Loubotin, Aston Martin, Hermes, and, of course, custom clothing.

Bon Voyage

This is for you, dear traveler.  Who has breakfast in one city and dinner in another, who goes to multiple countries in a week, who has mastered the security check.  …Packing!  Hopefully, you’ve done it so much you have it all figured out already (or some amazing woman is doing the inevitable chore for you).

Packing is one of those things that we all wish could just be done (maybe by some travel fairy, or something), and by the time we check into our hotel room, all would be there nicely unpacked.  And of course, the same scenario coming back home, too!  Well, dreams, dreams…  In the meantime, and while some superior power takes care of your luggage, here are some tips we thought might come in handy the next time you get to go miles high.

  • You must own a Fantastic luggage set, period!  Fantastic equals sturdy, high quality and stylish.
  • Dress comfortably, but dress up.  One of the beauties of custom clothing is being able to specify higher thread counts on fabric.  These are a long flight’s best friends.
  • Always dress for first class even if, unfortunately, you have a coach ticket.  Ragged clothes won’t get you an upgrade, ever.
  • Pack garments that can be worn more than one time.  Did someone say “navy blazer”?
  • Tissue paper, tissue paper…  It allows clothes to slide, not rub, to prevent deep creasing.  A cleaners or garbage bag works, too!
  • Your toiletry bag and other bulky stuff should be placed in the bottom of your suitcase where it is most stable.  Remember to put liquids in plastic bags (we love Ziplock).
  • For your toiletry bag, nowadays, you are able to get pretty much everything in a travel size or buy a travel size container pack.  This is the major reason for slow downs in airport security, so be prepared!
  • When traveling with more than one suitcase, make sure your toiletry bag is in your carry-on, along with one outfit.  The worst thing is having nothing to pick up at the baggage carousel.
  • The bag that came in the shoe box is exactly for when you travel.  You don’t want your shoe polish to rub off on your clothes.  A good tip is also to stuff your socks inside your shoes or even your ties.  Also, wear your heaviest pair and pack the lightest.
  • If you want to pack really, really light, cordovan shoes go well with everything.
  • The best way to pack belts: lie straight along the inner circumference of your suitcase.
  • When folding your suit jacket, turn it inside out.  The lining, now on the outside, will protect the suit from wrinkling.
  • Shirts and sweaters (especially cashmere): stack face-up on top of one another, arms spread.  Fold the bottom half under the top half, making sure the horizontal fold is below the belt line.  Place tissue paper in-between.
  • Pants: fold at the crease and drape lengthwise in your suitcase, legs hanging over one end.  Place shirts and sweaters on top of the pants and fold the pant legs back over the shirts and sweaters, creating an envelope effect.
  • Always have a mini first aid kit, especially when traveling overseas.  The most you should have in this little bag is heartburn and indigestion medicine for any type of emergency…  You never know!

Safe travels!

A White Canvas

These are classic pieces.  Completely trend-free, definitely part of your sartorial foundation.  But why are they so frowned upon?  We are talking about whites, beiges and that entire neutral spectrum on the lighter side.

So, the next time you think of these lighter shades of neutrals as plain and boring or too complicated, think again.  You might be just experiencing a lot of creativity.  Neutrals are to a sartorial guy what a white canvas is for a painter.  Are they complicated?  No way, neutrals are the easiest way, not just to put together, but to acquire that super chic look all year-round.  If you’re still not convinced, think of those bright colors and hard-to-do accessories, which is exactly what neutrals are for.

Can you think of a style icon that is known for wearing loads of color?  If you were told to go to your closet and assemble your coolest outfit, would it be colorful?  Is “effortless” the reason why we love it?  Dress in shades of neutrals.  It may not be a dynamic look, but it is sophisticated.

Start by mixing your neutrals: for example, the darker ones with the lighter ones and then move up to different shades of one color, then, finally, add texture to that mix.  Hopefully by summer, you’ll be ready for that super stylish white suit.

Don’t be afraid, here are some good tips on wearing neutrals.

Keep your whites spotless and in good condition (skip the trip to the dry cleaners when possible, this just adds to the yellowish look and obviously shortens the life of your garment).  We prefer hand washing.

If you’re wearing more than one item that’s the same color, make sure they are either exactly the same color, or clearly different shades of the same color.  Nearly the same but not quite is not a good look, as it looks like you’ve tried to match exactly and failed.

Since neutrals are soft and easy on the eyes, all-neutral ensembles can read a bit bland.  A great way to spice ‘em up is to add a variety of textures: leather, wool, tweed, rough linen, smooth cotton.  Pieces with pick-stitching and other 3D detailing also add textural interest.

And finally, it can be messy out there.  This is magical and worth keeping in your bag at all times: a Tide pen!

Grooming 101

Okay, gentlemen, you can lie and hide it.  You can pretend to leave everything as you found it.  But when you borrow your girls’ products, you must accept that that scrub is really nice and that lotion was probably made in heaven, which means you will probably end up in dire straights indeed if she knows you were using it ($$$)!  So, for the sake of your relationship and your skin, lets give you a rundown of what you should buy and you should religiously put on.  And for those of you who are single and don’t know what you are missing, prepare to have your world changed.

Guys, let’s face it, it is pretty rough out there.  Pollution, damaging UV rays, dry winter air or extra hours in the sun in summer…  Our face and our body gets it all.  We have to take care.  You may not think it is manly.  Call it whatever you want, but you need a special soap for your face.  A moisturizer, a scrub to get rid of the dead skin and dirt that accumulates and clogs your pores.  You’ll need a trimmer, a manicure, a pedicure…

We’re getting ahead of ourselves now.  Let’s not fall behind here, men’s grooming is as ancient as the Pyramids.  In many cultures throughout history, males have aimed to look impressive as part of a ritual or for religious ceremonies.  Even in nature, some species’ males are the more adorned of the two genders, like the peacock feather train and the beyond masculine lion’s mane.

The removal of hair has been a ritual of many civilizations.  For the Greeks, being smooth meant being civilized.  Ancient Egyptian priests shaved their bodies every day as a sign of purity for the gods.  And in Roman times, the first hair removal of a young male marked the beginning of his manhood and adulthood.  So why are you even thinking about this?  Even during the Elizabethan Era, men’s grooming reached a peak with rosemary water for the hair and sage for teeth whitening.  Let’s get back on the wagon, here!  After all, didn’t we come up with our own thing called being “metrosexual”?  What it’s really called is taking care of yourself, and you should do it all the time!

What you should always have:

Face wash.

Our face looses plenty of moisture every time we shave, so we should have a special soap for it.  One that leaves skin clean but feeling comfortable and ready for a comfortable shave.  Our pick: Clinique Skin Supplies for Men Liquid Face Wash.

Shaving brush.

This is the beginning of a great shave.  It’s also a great exfoliator.  So you kill two birds with one stone.  Our pick: Truefitt & Hill Silvertip Badger Style Medium.

Shaving kit.

Please, please find out your skin type, it will make a huge difference.  We talked in our shaving blog about how you should stay away from designer brands and lots of chemicals.  Choose oils and vitamin-based products.  Our pick: The Art of Shaving Full-Size Kit Unscented.

Razor.

Multi-blade, safety or straight razor, whichever you prefer.  Great quality matters most here.  Our pick: Gillette ProGlide Power Razor.

Face moisturizer.

Do not forget this one, it’s not just for women!  You should be more conscious of the damaging sun rays, even in winter.  Our Pick: Truefitt & Hill Advanced Facial Moisturizer (contains UVA protection and powerful anti-aging ingredients).

Eyes.

This is like a magic wand to erase that happy hour that was extended until the wee hours.  You will love it!  Our pick: Clinique Skin Supplies for Men Anti-Fatigue Cooling Eye Gel.

Smile!

A beautiful smile is the best accessory you will ever have!  Take care of it!  Our pick: Sonicare Diamond Clean Rechargeable Sonic Toothbrush (Consider this the Aston Martin of toothbrushes, with great plaque removal, gum health improvement and whiter teeth).  Bonus points: keep those lips moisturized and protected from inclement weather.  Our pick: Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm, SPF 25.

Body wash.

You need this in your bathroom, gym or travel bag for body and hair thoroughly cleansed and reinvigorated.  Our pick: L’Occitane Cade Reinvigorating Shower Gel (with moisturizing shea butter, sandalwood, immortelle and rosemary; essential oils create a purifying zing).

Scrub.

After the gym, a long day at work and all the contamination of a big city, it’s time to scrub.  You should really do this at least twice a week.  It helps remove dead skin and clean residue out of your pores while soothing your tired muscles.  Our pick: Jack Black Performance Remedy Body Rehab Scrub & Muscle Soak.

Sponge.

That loofah?  You can throw it out!  It’s a breeding ground for bacteria.  Choose instead a mesh sponge which you should always wash once a week.  Or, alternatively, a bath brush (the ones for a dry scrub outside of the tub).

Lotion.

You should have a good body and foot lotion.  Face it, dry, rough skin is not appealing on anyone.  Our pick: L’Occitane Shea Butter Foot Cream & L’Occitane Shea Butter Body Lotion.

Clipper.

We are not cavemen anymore!  Groom your back and chest, please (underarms are optional).  If you still have doubts, ladies approve a million percent.  They love a clean guy.  Our pick: the best all-in-one Norelco Rechargeable Cordless Grooming Kit (it includes an ear, eyebrow and nose trimmer).

Ear, eyebrow, nose hair trimmer.

Yes you heard it right.  We are not suggesting waxing or threading, but de-congesting your eyebrows is a good thing (no unibrows).  Nothing should be coming out of your nose and ears, trim trim trim.

Men’s grooming set.

You can’t live without this, even if you religiously do your manicure and pedicure, which we applaud you for.  You never know when you’ll need a refresher and be out of range of such luxuries, so keep one handy.  Our pick: Zamberg 6-piece Men’s Grooming Set (includes fingernail and toenail clipper, a slanted tweezer and a nail file).

And please, never forget to wear a great cologne.

Now, keep an eye out.  She might just start to “borrow” from you!

The Next Step: Accessories

We’ve been talking about your wardrobe and reinforced our opinion multiple times on how it should be timeless, classic and harmonious, where every single piece can almost always be paired with another.

Hopefully, the foundation to your wardrobe is very strong, and now you are ready to build a distinguished look.  One that sets you apart, one that turns heads, open doors and closes deals.  This is done with a great wardrobe complimented by great accessories.  It’s all about making a statement.  Whether you are a more conservative sort or more fashion-forward, these are the pieces a successful man like you should own.

There will always be something you just want, like a Bottega Veneta woven leather iPad case, or something you should have, like a fantastic Meisterstück Classique Ballpoint Pen by Montblanc.  But for now, we will guide to some essential accessories.

Cuff links
The easiest, most subtle way (or not, think bejeweled ones) to adorn your shirt and show some style. If you want to take baby steps into the fantastic world of accessories, these should be among those first tiny moves.  Thanks to France’s King Louis XIV, who actually took the initiative on this fantastic accessory way back in the 18th Century.

Pocket squares
Just as with cuff links, go very minimal but with a ton of attitude.  Pockets squares are just as stylish when, in fact, just a portion of the fabric is actually showing.  We suggest that you start with the classic white with maybe a colored trim, and once you are comfortable and know the rules of wearing them properly, you move on to different folds and unlimited colors and patterns.  Rule #1 of pocket squares: they should never match your tie!

Sunglasses
Aviators, in particular, are the perfect shape for all face types (and they look just as great with your suit as with your jeans and other casual wear).  Choose highly polarized ones to protect your eyes from damaging UV rays.

Neck wear
Ascots, cravats, bow ties, seven-fold ties…  Did someone say “tres chic?”  If you are on the market for seriously turning heads, this is right for you.  A bit more complex than the wardrobe basics, yet there’s a huge payoff!

Tuxedo studs set
An essential to your black tie affair wardrobe.  You should have your own set, period!  With so many choices of metals and of precious and semi-precious stones, you will surely find one that matches your personality.

Watches
A really great watch is something not to be overlooked.  If you are not going to inherit a Rolex or Vacheron Constantin from grandpa, we suggest you start looking to make an investment.  A great watch is probably among one of the most sophisticated accessories you will ever have.  Find one that compliments your lifestyle (diving, sailing, exploring, hiking some high mountain, or just trotting around some stylish European city looking like the stylish man you are).  They truly do have watches for all occasions!  And this is a great way to start your foray into haute horlogerie: the stainless-steel Oyster Perpetual Explorer by Rolex.

Briefcases
Think luxurious leather.  Functional (not high school, no backpacks), yet demur and stylish.

Duffel bags/gym bags
Don’t let one of these ever ruin your outfit.  Pick it wisely, just as carefully as you would a new suit.  Stay away from canvas, as that might dress down your great outfit.  Go for better quality, as it means a longer life for your bag.

Wallets/money clips
Whichever kind you prefer, but always stay in the best of tastes.  We love this kind of wallet, in particular: super slim and soft, with enough room for the things that really need to be in your wallet.  A perfect example of the kind of wallet we dream of is the Hermes wallet in Havana evergrain calfskin.

Umbrellas

And, last, but certainly not least, a good umbrella for those rainy days.  It will always be in style, not to mention super clever, to have a great umbrella.  Just make sure it’s a high-quality one, sturdy enough to protect your other accessories on rainy days.