I’ve recently had the most wonderful weekend in London. When it comes to treating oneself to the good things in life, the big smoke never fails to deliver.
Jumping off the tube at Green Park, my first port of call was Davidoff on St. James’s Street, two minutes walk from the Ritz. To me, their humidor room is an oasis of peace and tranquility away from the hustle and bustle. An experience enriched further by the wonderful aroma of the finest Cuban and Dominican cigars, laid out beautifully in boxes and bundles of palm bark. Ten minutes later I left with a little bag of joy and next on the hit list was Fortnum and Mason to pick up a belated wedding present from my brother.
Ludicrously tiny lifts aside, Fortnum’s is one hell of a department store. Rich in heritage, offering outstanding quality and service and the perfect place to do serious damage to your credit card (or trust fund). One set of La Guiole steak-knives and a Riedel wine decanter later (thanks Edward!) it was off to Piccadilly Arcade and my favourite shoe shop – Jeffery-West.
I’ve already waxed lyrical about these wonderful shoes in a previous blog and after only a few moments perusing the new designs, fell in love with a rather dashing pair of Marriott brougue gibsons. The deal was done and I left with a box tucked under my arm and a big smile on my face. Imelda Marcos, eat your heart out.
And last but not least it was off to perhaps one of my favourite shops in London –Turnbull & Asser on Jermyn Street.
Established in 1885 they are shirt-makers by Royal Appointment to The Prince of Wales and when it comes to buying shirts and ties are one of my firm favourites. The gentleman pictured above is Mr. Charles O’Reilly, the newest addition to their ranks.
Whilst a bespoke suit is the perfect canvas that frames your body and enhances your physique and stature, I believe it is the addition of colour and detailing via shirts, neckwear and accessories that really tells the world who you are and what you stand for. Putting the right combination of colours, patterns, textures and shapes together is an artform and ultimately will either make or break an outfit.
The advice I give to clients when choosing a cloth in the early days of building up their wardrobe is to keep it simple. A plain charcoal grey or dark blue worsted cloth is going to be far more flexible than a cloth with a heavy pattern and numerous colours. Charles Saatchi only ever wore black suits with a white shirt – he is well known for his love of minimalism and I would agree in part with the maxim that “less is more.”
Keep the suit subtle and let your tie (and accessories) do the talking. I love ties, simply adore them and consider them to be one of the most important items in a gentleman’s armory.
When it comes to quality, the best ties of today are made of 100% pure silk, although cashmere and wool ties will compliment flannel and tweed in the winter. It is worth pointing out that despite the “pure silk” label on many, most ties in fact have an interlining (inside the tie) often made of cotton which gives the tie its weight and substance.
The most expensive ties are “Seven-fold ties” and these do not have an interlining – the makers just start with a large piece of silk and fold it seven times to create the finished product. The only problem I have with them on a personal level is that they can appear a little bulky and so I tend to prefer something that gives a lighter feel with less volume.
The best ties in the world are “hand finished” which means the three pieces of material that are put together to make the tie are cut and sewn by hand. Legends include Marinella in Naples who provide bespoke ties for an incredible client list. They also sell “off the peg” ties (also handmade) and I am chuffed to say use an English company to make these up for them.
Other premiership players include Charvet in Paris (no website – Place Vendome – +33-1-4260 3070), and one of my own personal favourites Hermes.
When it comes to choosing a tie for your outfit, who am I to say what is right and wrong? What works ‘best’ is very subjective and is somewhat dependant on the occasion and level of formality you wish to achieve. Saying that, I thought I’d put forward a few suggestions that I believe are useful.
1) A crisp, white shirt with double cuffs is the old faithful. It is sharp, elegant, denotes a professional image and provides a clean backdrop to show off and enhance the colour(s) of your tie.
2) The most elegant patterns for ties are solids, stripes, spots and discreet geometric patterns. If you do spot someone wearing a tie printed with animals, words, obvious logo’s, crazy shapes and god forbid….. Cartoon characters, do the man a favour and chop it off.
3) Keep the number of colours down to an absolute minimum. If your suit is of a plain cloth and quite subtle, then a splash of colour and a pattern on the tie will lift the ensemble. If you have on a pin-strip or check, keep the tie very simple, perhaps in a colour or shade that picks out a colour in the cloth of the suit, or, compliments it. As a rule of thumb, any more than 3 colours in an outfit and, unless you know what you are doing, you could be asking for trouble.
So there you go – not exactly rocket science. After what has been a wonderful dose of retail therapy and good times with friends, it’s time to crack on in a bid to pay for all my indulgencies.
So go forth my friend, and be prepared to spend a little more than you should on your neckwear. After your shoes, it is the thing that says most about you, and a crumpled piece of polyester incorporating a small soup stain is not, in the words of Del boy, “bonnet de douche.”