Our columnist is renowned as one of the world’s most inspiring dandies; and he says wintertime can combine flair with practicality, whether your February is spent in Mayfair, Moscow or Manila
To be unique, you don’t have to be fashionable; you just have to build your own style. It is your profile, your message to the world. It isn’t about wearing the most glamorous clothing, it is about making your own mark and you shouldn’t be afraid of asking for inspiration if you need it.
In winter, heavy cloths, unlined, are always a good bet. Colours appear much warmer because the materials – cashmere, wool and heavy tweeds – give a deeper tone.
Pick your colour palette carefully. Black and brown are a very gentlemanly combination look at these guys. Red, green and mustard yellow worn during the day give a rural impression. Colour will almost always make you feel a little happier. I tend to prefer darker colours in the winter for the city, but lighter colours do look good when skiing. It brings a countryside ambience to the slopes.
I have recently created ‘Dandy Pashminas’. Closed, you just see a dash of colour, but when you open them up you see a cartoon of ‘La Toilette du Dandy’, an image I discovered in a vintage book of my father’s from the thirties. It captures the dandies as they are primping and preparing. Only you know what’s inside your scarf, it’s your secret. I like to parody fashion, which is why I created the ‘Happy Skull’ pashminas, a play on the reams of skull motifs that emerge from designers’ studios. We don’t use characters like Superman; we are tailors, not a fashion brand.
Winter shoes can be difficult. This season, I was inspired by Knickerbocker shoes, but tried to create something warm. The shoes have a formal shape, so I used tweeds in grey, green and brown, with a splash of colour on the inside. They have a thicker sole than our winter shoes and double canvas to protect from the rain. They are not boots. They are the sort of shoe worn by a gentleman who walks a few paces from the car to the restaurant, or from the hotel to the meeting room.
I personally don’t like carrying an umbrella, so I replace it with a flannel hat. People have a tendency to think they are oldfashioned, but with a little colour they can be made more modern. Forest green, tobacco or blue are popular with younger customers and it’s better than a baseball cap. There’s something quintessentially English about it.
I noticed that whenever men arrive at a dinner or at their friend’s home, the first thing they do is remove their coat. They feel constrained by it. It is stiff, you can’t stretch your arms – it isn’t comfortable. If they are wearing a jumper, they keep it on. However, if you remove the lining from the coat and use softer materials, it changes how you behave in the coat. It won’t only be the man that notices; any woman he is accompanying will also feel the difference when she touches his arm.
There is a misconception that work clothes mean you must be conventional. I created a Korean style jacket pullover in cashmere for my friend with a painted silk Thai lining. You can be smart and retain your individuality and humour. I’m always wary of a customer who arrives in the store and asks for the most fashionable item. It may well be a red jacket, but there’s no guarantee that it will suit them. They might look like a clown. If it doesn’t look good, I won’t sell it to them. They may not like, or be used to hearing no but it shouldn’t be about fashion. It needs to be about you, what you feel comfortable in. That’s when you receive admiring looks, in summer or winter.