Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Japanese Style

The Japanese have a flair for improving anything. Take the gentlemen's suit. A creation of British tailors, the suit is a mainstay in gentlemen clothing all over the world. The Japanese business community is no different, and have taken to this style very well. The traditional suit is the de facto standard in business wear in Japan. The Kanji name for suit is subero, an phonetic translation of the origin of the Englishman's suit - Savile Row.

But as is typical of the Japanese, they have created improvements to the suit - whether by innovations of Japanese tailors, or demand to other tailoring traditional countries like Italy to produce what they need to take the British Suit to the next level.

Homes and offices in England at the turn of the century were largely unheated. With this as a backdrop it is easy to understand why traditional English material like flannel, tweeds are heavy and warm. In contrast, offices and homes in Japan, especially in large metropolitan areas like Tokyo is rather controlled - heating in winter, air conditioning in summer is a given. As a result, the heavy(starting at weights like 14/15 oz up to 20 oz for suiting) suiting material favoured by the British are not in high demand. Rather, thinner and lighter material are favoured. Typically 9 oz but sometimes up to 11 oz is popular. Also looser weaves like those in fresco (a loosely woven, gauze like material which is wonderfully cooling to wear as it allows air to circulate freely) is popular, as are half lined and quarter lined suits in lieu of fully lined ones.

I feature 2 gentlemen I met recently in a trip to Dresden, Germany. One is Matsuyama Takeshi, a gentleman of great style, and finese. Matsuyama-san writes on a freelance basis for a number of Japanese magazines on style and watches.

A lovely jacket, made of mohair and ultra thin...unlined, made like a shirt. Tie is made by a Florence atelier and true 8 fold, unlined. Very cool and also cool looking.

The other gentleman is a watch publication journalist. I apologise for not getting his name.

Starting at the top...a Montecristi Panama Ultimo hat looks great perched on his head. Buff colored linen coat, with huge patched, cargo pockets. The coat looked like its half or quarter lined. The nonchalance of the pocket square, taking the colour cue from the blue shirt, but not matching. Trousers of the same hue, but lighter, completes this completely degage look. Very cool.

Note Louis Vuitton tote which houses his camera equipment. Is this a new trend for men to carry large versions of what used to be ladies handbags? I also saw another gentleman carrying a Hermes Birkin Manbag elsewhere.

Shoes are Paraboot, complete with red laces and red socks.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Carmina Oxford Boots

Received this pair of boots last week...after a few months of waiting since ordering them.

This is a special order in limited edition made possible by The London Lounge. Available only to Lounge members and only in cordovan, this boot is lasted on the Robert last.

The boot is unusual in a few counts. Oxford (closed laced) boots are quite rare...the only RTW example I know of is made by Edward Green. Secondly, a pair made out of cordovan, is even more rare. Cordovan is a membrane from the hind of a horse, makes an especially tough, and beautiful leather for shoes.

At first glance, the elegance and formality afforded by the Oxford design would seem to clash not go well with usually thicker, heavier cordovan. But this boot pulls it off very well...thanks to the combined design genius of Michael Alden (supremo at The London Lounge) and Carmina.

The boot turned out to be very elegant, and beautiful. As is typical of shoes and boots coming from the Spanish workshops of Carmina, the finish was very fine. The cordovan was heavily impregnated with fat, as can be seen as the whitish residue on the surface, and wax-like look. Rubbing it vigrously with a clean polish cloth would heat the cordovan and bring the fat to a high gloss shine.

Cordovan shine is different from that of calf...the analogy I used to explain to a friend who is an accomplished architect made him instantly understand was the parallel between the shine of granite and marble. Cordovan is like granite. The shine comes from within...there seems to be a thin membrane wax covering the surface. Whilst calf leather's shine seems superficial, skin deep.

The boot is also hand welted. The usual welts in a normal high quality bench made shoes and boot are Goodyear welted. The Goodyear machine, invented by son of Charles Goodyear (who invented the process to vulcanise rubber and created the tyre giant of the same name). This was a great invention in the industralisation of cordwaining. The Goodyear machine looks like a huge sewing machine, and does a similar job...attaching by even, sturdy stitches the welt to the upper. This reduced the skill level required in welting, and introduced mass produced, high quality shoes.

Even very high quality shoes and boots made RTW by John Lobb Paris or Edward Green in Northampton are Goodyear welted. Usually hand welting is reserved for bespoke shoes and boots. Hand welting results in a finer welt, and this translates to a more comfortable fit.

I typically wear the Philadelphia last on Carmina 9.5E, and Miguel Font, the Director of the Paris store, recommended 9.5E on the Robert. At first wearing the boot seemed a bit tight at the instep, but quite comfortable. I think it was a good call by Miguel on the size. In comparison, Robert is slightly longer than the Philadelphia, and typically wearers would order half a size smaller. For reference I wear 9.5E on the Edward Green 202 last.