Monday, September 26, 2011

It's Broke, So Let's Fix It pt 2

The weather gave me a serious head fake on the morning of the day I was planning to take pictures of the sapphire blue suit I took for alterations and adjustments about 3 weeks ago. The day started off overcast with a slight chill in the air. The perfect weather to counter with a trevira wool suit. My glee, however, would be shortlived if not fleeting because as the morning wore on it started getting warmer and warmer, and by midday I was somewhat discouraged to continue with the 'photoshoot' because a spring sunset isn't easy on the body either. Now imagine me in a trevira wool suit taking pictures and sweating profusely. By late afternoon, around four o'clock the weather had reverted to the slight chill. I seized the opportunity. I proceeded to bust out a few shirts, ties, socks and accessories to complement the suit. As the rest of the pictures will evince, sapphire blue is an incredibly amiable colour that allows for endless combinations.

A caveat: if I cut a gaunt figure it's because of weight loss underpinned by a semblance of a salubrious lifestyle. I started this year on an unhealthy, overweight 94kg. My best, slimmest pair of jeans were strangling the life out of my waist and thighs, I needed a self imposed intervention. So, what did I do? I hit the road; jogging almost everyday a distance of about 10 - 11km. In July, I went back to the gym and when I weighed myself I was at the lowest I can ever remember; I was at a very light 85kg. How did I lose that much weight? It has been a combination of jogging, playing basketball twice a week, and somewhat watching what I eat. I've just recently gone back to the gym, just to build on my light, slim frame and push my weight back to the ideal, 88 - 90kg.

Now to the suit. I've got to hand it to the gentlemen at Soli Omar Tailors, they know their stuff. Yunus is always helpful, patient and engaging. Whenever I visit, I always ask for him because he and I have a wonderful rapport. Another helpful individual is Mohamed, the owner's son. He is always on hand to lend some advice and also school me on aspects of tailoring and his family's business. I really appreciate how they allow me to stretch their service to me and indulgences, even though some of them are whimsical or wishful thinking.

This was a total surprise to me. When I explained my wish for double vents to be inserted in this ventless jacket, the answer was an immutable "no". One vent was possible, but two? I was pretty much reaching. Imagine my surprise when they unfolded the jacket and two vents had been inserted. I was over the moon. Once more Soli Omar Tailors proved to me that 'there aint no problem that they can't fix'.

Apart from having the jacket taken in on the sides, I also had the sleeves shortened. The trousers came out perfectly as well. The length was reduced which resulted in one break. The bottom was also reduced. I'm sure the above image shows all this.

A closer look at the jacket evinces tightly pressed lapels. The top button was removed to effect a two button stance. No time for a boxy, stuffy 3-roll-2. The top button hole was stitched shut with a thread of the same hue. God bless them. Now how did they go the extra mile? Both lapels were stitched on the underside against the jacket just to keep the lapels in place and the 2 button stance constant and totally negate the semblance of a 3-roll-2. I also appluad them for doing this without me having thought of it. I surmise the reason being a story I once relayed to them about another jacket which was pared down to two buttons, after a visit to a dry cleaners, and after firm instructions not to roll the lapel back to a 3 button stance because the top button had been removed; when I received the suit back from the dry cleaners it had been rolled and pressed back to a 3 button stance even though the top button was missing. Even after strict instructions not to do so. I had even showed them what I was talking about. What followed was a vituperative jab at their customer service and how unhappy I was. Their attempts at redoing the jacket and remedying the situation did nothing to mollify me. I've never been back.

I like this button stance because it aggrandizes a deep V in the jacket, the lapels are wider and, it is a throwback to the 80s when the top button hit right at the navel.

I think the best complementary footwear in this context, especially taking into consideration the accessories; a green tie, green checked pocket square, would be ox-blood or chestnut brown shoes. I guess I can start preparing for next winter now and get a pair.

This was a first in many things. First time I'm wearing this embroidered check shirt with a tie. I also had it taken in on the sides and sleeves. A genuine silk pocket handkerchief pilfered from my father's wardrobe. I was instantly drawn to the quality, texture and feel of this handkerchief. When I popped into my breast pocket it just stood steadfast in the pocket, with a slight but ebulient overflow to the outside. I somewhat always have a challenge with pocket squares that don't hold firmly in place, they always slip and disappear into the pocket. This silken one was a breath of fresh air and a new experience. I will definitely be looking at acquiring more quality pocket squares and handkerchiefs. I just won't be breaking the bank though.

These yellow silk knots were a deft touch. It was the first time wearing them since receiving them as a gift from my brother. I finally got to put them to good use, they are incredibly serviceable.

The work done on this suit was quite extensive but worth it, especially in terms of the cost as well. I paid only R175 for the jacket and R50 for the pants. I would be remiss if I didn't thank the gentlemen at Soli Omar Tailors for their commitment and dedication, and for always assisting me with a smile. I can definitely vouch for them because the work of their hands is meticulous, thorough and immaculate. If you're looking for their exact location it is 331 Monty Naicker str (formerly Pine str) Durban. For further info you can also call them on 031 3055856.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

What Is An Inseam?

There's no special reason, I just thought you should know.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

What's In A Name, Really?

Paul Smith Blue Tonal Multi Stripe Knit Tie R950/ $106/ £69.00

I've had a whole week to think about this; the cost of men's clothing. And this thought was prompted by a Paul Smith knit tie I saw in a local magazine. For the life of me, I can't seem to justify paying R950 for a tie, even if it's by a revered and vaunted designer. There are a lot of important things in the world and a knit tie that costs almost half of my monthly grocery is not one of them. This is not an indictment of high end men's clothes because there is a place for them in society. However what is more important, a presentable look or a name brand look?

The average gentleman probably can't afford items like this knit tie. Therefore alternatives are essential. And in a South African context alternatives abound. I happen to fall in the alternatives collective particularly because of my income bracket and, what I can and cannot afford. I read so much on the internet, people's personal testimonies, on how they go about buying name brand clothes at dirt cheap prices. They look for sales, end-of-season sales, clearance sales, closing down sales, etc. These scenarios might make a difference in a monetary sense, however, I feel that in the South African context it doesn't apply and is not pragmatic. For instance if the pictured Paul Smith tie is slashed by 50% that is still too much money for the average South African gentleman to spend on a tie. I know I wouldn't.

The difference between the name brand, designer stuff and the alternatives I am talking about is quality. More often than not brand name clothing is made with high quality materials. This accounts for the high price, however, it's almost always worth it because the clothing is likely to last. An alternative or garment of lesser quality can also last just as long if it is taken care of meticulously. Back to the point about quality; quality is the key determinant on anything, men's clothing notwithstanding. The quality aspect manifests in the design of a garment, usually they are unique, and more special than non brand name garments. Special attention to detail is also a factor; buttons, trimmings, lining, etc, while non brand name garments lack precision and detail. This renders them plain and boring. What sets us apart in South Africa and the rest of the sartorial world is that attention to detail is neither make or break. Whether your garment has special fittings and trimmings, people will most probably not notice. So, why the fuss when style is both personal and subjective?

To support my explication above, I often look at the window displays of high end men's stores such as Levisons, Hugo Boss, Grays, and a host of others and I see that attention to detail is not really important. For me, any of the aforementioned men's stores and their ilk, when it comes to attention to detail, I expect for at least their jackets to have working cuffs. Believe me, I always check for this minor, seemingly inconsequential detail and I never find it. Now, where is the quality in that, when an off-the-rack Hugo Boss jacket is egregiously lacking in a simple sartorial detail that is standard in the design world? These are some of the things that make me stick to my guns in as far as the alternatives are concerned, people wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a R500 and a R1500 suit.

In conclusion let me proffer three tips on how to navigate the world of brand and non brand name shopping:

1. Try to strike a balance between cheap and brand name garments. Know which garments you can compromise on when it pertains to price but not necessarily quality; under shirts, underwear, socks, coats. I feel that there is a plethora of these garments; cheap but with good quality. Only a fool would ignore end of season, clearance, closing down sales, since they are a gold mine for unearthing brand name and good quality garments. So utilise them.

2. Don't pay an exorbitant price for a garment if there is a cheaper, almost as good, option available. My best fitting pair of jeans is a light blue pair by Watsons. I bought these jeans for R20, and these are the jeans I use as a prototype for all other measurements for jeans I buy. Don't focus all your energy on brand name clothing, as long as it fits, looks presentable and the price is right, then go for it.

3. Factory shops, factory shops, factory shops. I can't say enough about this concept of stores, particularly, because they are a cornerstone of the textile industry in South Africa. In terms of men's clothing this is a rarely explored domain. I would encourage any gentleman looking for quality men's clothes to look in the direction of factory shops because you're likely to find more than a fair share.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Laid Back Footwear

You know, in the about me section of this blog I deliberately describe myself as 'given to nostalgia'. That's because, to and for me, nostalgia isn't inconsequential nor ephemera. To keep my memory bank replenished I always draw on my past, especially childhood memories. Not because I'm wistful, but because I know where I come from, I'm glad that, through it all, I'm still here, and I know where I want to go. I, therefore, would be remiss if I talked about espadrilles without mentioning the TV series that first hipped me to these shoes. Does anyone remember Tropical Heat, from the early 90s, starring Rob Stewart? I was only but a freshman in high school when it first aired. This man, Nick Slaughter, the private detective character played by Stewart, was perenially cool. His slicked back hair tied into a pony tail, the hawaii shirts with 2 to 3 buttons undone, the ever present shorts. And, finally, the espadrilles. They definitely caught my eye. At times I would try to replicate this look with my own clothes and I'd always come close except for the shoe department. I didn't own espadrilles, I didn't even know they were called espadrilles. All I knew was Nick Slaughter looked incredibly laid back, cool, natural and effortless. And it had to be the shoes.

This Paez espadrille is the perfect complement to any summer outfit you might have in mind. It's so affordable as well, going at R350 a pair. What redounds to me most about this particular one is the multicolour scheme its got going on. It really gives you endless possibilities in terms of what to pair it with. Of course not going towards clown territory, but keeping it styish and tasteful.

I remember a day, not long ago, at the gym some dude working out in a pair of white Lacoste espadrilles. I couldn't help it but shake my head. These are slightly pricey, going for R650 a pair. Obtainable at any Spitz or Levinsons stores. For something inexpensive and stylish then I would also recommend a pair of espadrilles from Mr. Price. They retail for R79.99, and are worth it. With espadrilles the colours tend to be bright and lively without demanding attention, and the playful patterns are able to draw a surprising variety from such a no-frills canvas. If you're looking for footwear that'll unleash ample creativity within certain boundaries, then espadrilles are a great place to start.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ballers At Fashion Week

I don't like this. I don't like this one bit. If the current Collective Bargaining Agreement talks between the National Basketball Association, team owners and the players' union, don't work out, then I am filled with a sense of foreboding. I see some hungry days ahead. If there is no headway by October then I am going to have a listless November because that's when the NBA season is scheduled to start. ESPN is incredibly boring right now. I'm a lover of sports but some are just inaccessible in the way they are presented and played. Take American football, for instance, too many stops and starts, therefore the lack of flow in the game cuts my attention span by like 3 and a half quarters. I enjoyed the US Open, last week. Local football has, for me, made a resurgence in the minds and hearts of South Africans. That means this season has plenty in store, for us, its supporters. I don't have time for fishing, poker, NASCAR (in fact, any kind of car racing).

Amar'e Stoudemire

So, while it seems that baksetball players will be taking an extended break from their jobs, a few of the style conscious ones have been making appearances at this year's Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week. One thing is for sure, these guys are redefining the way big men should dress. Paying particular attention to the cardinal rules of proportion and fit. Browse with me.

LeBron James

Dwyane Wade

Shawn Marion

Chris Bosh

Carmelo Anthony

Kris Humphries

Images taken from Wire Images and Getty Images.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Black and Navy Blue

No other combination of colours throws me into ambivalence and trepidation like black and blue. Navy blue, to be exact. A black suit and a navy blue tie to be more precise. At first glance they seem incompatible, especially because the navy blue tie tends to be obscured by the black suit. To the style novice the pairing of these two colours can be an expirential exercise steeped in aesthetic and visual mendaciousness.  A lack in confidence can render it a sartorial aberration. However as dull and incompatible the combination may appear to be, there are ways to make it work, and give it a dégagé look.

First, pattern mixing

The more patterns you mix, the less offhanded the combination will look. It even speaks volumes about your style if you're going to mix patterns that don't belong in the same family.

Secondly, a shirt can allow for greater experimentation. Think about the myriad colours black and navy can be effortlessly combined with. Pink, purple, lavender, blue, etc, if you in any way find yourself in a state of flummox, then a white shirt is your best and safest option. Any tie you wear with any combination or pattern of blue will look good against a back-drop of a white shirt.

This combination needn't be difficult to pull off, all you need is practical know-how and loads of confidence. Especially in the given context of black and navy blue being amiable colours. Conversely, I find the combination of a navy blue suit and a black tie, quite addling. But that's another post for another day.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Let The Freebie Guide You

Before I substantiate on what I mean by the title to this post, there is a caveat: I am not a freebie person. I don’t go out looking for freebies, I don’t go out of my way for a freebie. Think about those times when in the company of a multitude of people, your attention captivated by one particular person, and said individual tosses a freebie into the crowd. You guessed right, I’m not one to go after the trinket, or what have you, in order to fulfil some personal fantasy involving the aforementioned individual. So, those items being tossed into the crowd, I can’t really go for that. What about when rappers make it rain? Like Jay-Z, Bun-B and Pimp C did in the ‘Big Pimpin’ video? Um, I’ve never experienced that, and I don’t think a South African rapper could be that profligate. It’s never going to happen. I digress.

In the world of marketing media and mass production of consumer goods, product companies have teamed up with print companies in order to advertise and promote their products. Think of when you open an issue of your favourite men’s magazine and enclosed inside the plastic covering is a product geared towards men. That product is meant to plant a seed in your mind. Of course you’re meant to use it. And after using it you make an informed choice to go and purchase it because it appealed to you; the power of suggestion. Over the past couple of months I have used said products, found inside magazine packaging, and have found that they led me to buying the real thing not too long after. And these have been good investments.

In a previous post I spoke about Carolina Herrera’s new CH Men, and how I purchased and started using it, especially because I find that it is very compatible with spring. Another product I am excited about, which has me going on a whole new journey, is the Revitalising Face Gel for men by Nivea. This means I am starting on a face and skin care regimen quite soon. My steps are gradual but very calculated and informed. And nothing does the calculating and informing for me, like the freebies. At times, I find generic stuff like deodorant, roll-on, etc, and I never make the mistake of dismissing or throwing them away because they are handy as ever. The deodorant, for instance, is in my sports toiletry bag. After playing some ball, and hitting the showers, it’s then that I use it.

And GQ magazine is the biggest proprietor of such marketing campaigns. When it comes to fragrances I don’t think I can ever find myself addled for choice, because GQ magazine is sometimes replete with fragrance advertisements. You know the ones with a quarter of the page folded and when you lift up the folded part the scent of the fragrance is redolent on the page. That’s the power of suggestion. From that little whiff you are informed about the choices you have as a consumer. You’re spoilt for choice and your starting point now becomes a vantage point.

This month’s Destiny Man magazine has come out on a strong marketing drive. Enclosed inside the plastic covering with the magazine is a beautiful, hard cover note book. The kind I am going to use to jot down Bible verses. However, this isn’t any ordinary notebook; it’s got an elastic band to hold down pages, Audi insignia to denote some sort of joint venture between the publishers and Audi and, the whole book is replete with quotes on every page. This is a freebie you don’t want to let slip away.

In essence all I’m saying is, there is something in each and every freebie you find enclosed in a magazine, newspaper, or whatever packaging. To some they may be inconsequential. To others they may be the introduction to a whole new way of living.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Five Spring Essentials For Men

Gentlemen, spring is upon us and it seems to have totally diminished the cold weather from the past three months. The mornings and evenings, however, still have that residual, lingering chill that connotes a winter that just won’t go away. During the day it’s straight up warm accompanied by that musty humidity that coerces you to take a midday shower, if necessary. To counter the heat and humidity you need some season/ climate appropriate essentials that will ease you into spring and transition mellifluously into summer. The way I see it these are some of the items you need in rotation, now that it’s spring:

Light-weight cardigan

The cold isn’t exactly out yet, especially in the early mornings and evenings. So, to keep the slight chill away and your upper body warm, a bright, light-weight cardigan should do the trick. Bright colours such as aqua, turquoise, fuchsia, magenta, lavender, yellow, etc, will evoke the air of spring, and this will exude in your dress code. Pastel colours will be more apt for summer.

 In my humble opinion, a cardigan works better than a v-neck cardigan, because your body and immediate temperature can be regulated by buttoning or unbuttoning the cardigan. If it gets a little stuffy then opening the cardigan will suffice. There is no need to take the whole thing off because this creates more baggage. When the slight, breezy chill makes a return, then buttoning the cardigan will restore you to warmth. This type of cardigan is made of light wool or a wool-cotton mix, and can be dressed for work, with a tie, and over a button-down shirt over the weekend.

A new fragrance
Nothing says new season, a fresh start, lighter dressing, the old has gone, the new has come, than a new fragrance. A fresh, sweet and curious scent. Something like Carolina Herrera’s new, CH Men. This cologne has singlehandedly relegated my winter fragrance, which I used to wear deep into spring as well, to the back of the closet because this fragrance, CH Men, pretty much blew me away.

It’s supplanted the old fragrance I use in winter and will be a mainstay for years to come.I’m not adept at describing things; therefore I can’t really describe what this scent is like. All I can say, like Mary J. Blige, is that it is sweet and fresh, and the slight citrusy scent has a wonderful and incredible lingering effect. If you’re looking for a head turner, nostril glommer; then this is the fragrance for you.

Canvas sneaker

This is nothing new, every stylish gent out there knows that when it’s spring the boots are locked away and the lighter, softer shoes make a comeback; like canvas sneakers. In this case I would like to plead a case for the navy blue Converse All Star Chuck Taylor lo’s. All the walking in the concrete jungle can be done in these sneaks. Soft, easy, flexible, comfortable and stylish, it doesn’t get better than that. Not forgetting

that these sneakers are a great addition to weekend wear, because in this colour they coordinate well and complement a variety of clothing combinations. They are my pick for spring 2011, over and above, say…navy blue Jack Purcell’s. I like Chuck Taylor’s because they are slimmer and stand more to the ground than Purcell’s.

Brighter Chinos

The first time I ever heard the word Nantucket was on Mase’s ‘24 hours to live’, featuring Black Rob, Puff Daddy, DMX and The Lox. Jadakiss, on his verse, says:

Yo, yo, if I had 24 hours to kick the bucket,
I'd probably eat some fried chicken, and drink in Nantucket

Only in subsequent years did I learn that Nantucket is an island south of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Only after going on this sartorial journey have I learnt that there is a shade of chinos, in a faded red, pink and salmon, etc, that are known as nantucket reds.

Photo: Courtesy of Murray's Toggery Shop

Believe me, these chinos, in this shade are not garish, but rather classic style. And spring affords you the opportunity to be bold and outgoing in nantucket reds. The greatest complement of nantucket reds is a white shirt or golf shirt. Brown boat shoes seal the deal. I’m sure if you scour Durban thoroughly, or even the country, you can find this classic staple.

The shirt in giant gingham

If you’re reader of Perfect Gentleman SA, first, let me say, “Thank You.” Secondly, you know of my penchant to get things right, to name them correctly, so that I speak about them aptly, with confidence. Therefore, it’s no mystery that this shirt has been a mystery to me for years.

Its pattern is a throwback to the 80s, however it goes back to the future with its modern design; regular fit-a tailored cut with a made to measure feel. It can also most certainly be dressed up, as the image evinces. For a more weather appropriate shirt then the slub cotton shirt in giant gingham is for you.

This one by J. Crew is made of slub cotton, which entails rustic tones, a secret wash and a sanded feel to make it look like it’s been owned forever, and very spring appropriate.

I hope this information guides you in making the correct sartorial pieces in this especially tricky transitional period. For now, happy spring to you all.

                                PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Moccasins vs Loafers

It's always right to know what you're talking about, be it any subject. And there is no time, to learn something 'new', like the present. I remember a time when the differences between brogues and wingtips addled me. As the title suggests, I hope to outline, both concisely and correctly, the differences between moccasins and loafers. I have always wondered what the distinctions between the aforementioned shoes are, because they seem to be one and the same thing. But they're not. Let's start with moccasins.

The provenance of moccasins is traced back to Native Americans who fashioned their own moccasins (usually in a boot design) primarily for hunting purposes. Made from deerskin and a rubber sole, the shoes made for stealth like movement during hunting. Over time moccasin design has evolved, and embraced soft leather, consisting of a sole and sides made of one piece of leather, stitched together at the top. The primary distinguishing feature of moccasins is that they do not have a heel. There might be what appears to be a semblance of a heel but that is just something for decorative purposes. For example, Tod's moccasins come with multiple studs on the sole, these have become a trademark of Tod's. Berluti have a model of moccasin with a bearfoot print on the sole. The shoe has no heel except for the slightly raised bearfoot print which doesn't function like or as a heel. One indubitable fact is that moccasins are hugely popular in South Africa.

Loafers on the other hand, ironically as well, are simply constructed shoes that base their style on the moccasin. Loafers, therefore, are low leather slip-on shoes that resemble a moccasin. The primary distinguishing feature of a loafer is that it has a distinct heel. Loafer design and styles have also evolved over the years incorporating tassels, kilties, embellishments, bows, bow laces, chains and metal bits.

The most popular loafer to date has got to be the horse-bit loafer by Gucci. Although a variety of designs by different brands have emerged, with their own metal bits, the Gucci horse-bit loafer remains a firm favourite.

I hope this post was to your benefit as much as it was mine. Knowing the distinction between moccasins and loafers guarantees that you can both wear and talk about them with aplomb.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

It's Broke, So Let's Fix It

If you read this blog then you already know of my ambivalence for three button suits. I say ambivalent because some three button suits I'm inclined to like and, others I dislike outright. The high button stance, short lapel, boxy and stuffy kind I dislike. The softer, 3-roll-2 is definitely something I like. However, being in South Africa has placed me at a disadvantage because I've never come across a 3-roll-2 jacket.

This three button, sapphire blue suit, in trevira wool, is going to face the proverbial chop of being pared down to two buttons. The pants will be altered at the waist, thigh, knee and bottom opening. The legnth of the pants as well. The sides on the jacket will be taken in and a single, middle vent inserted at the back. What I have learnt with this sizing and proportion issue is that I now know my exact or approximate measurements. From sleeve length to the trouser in-seam to my neck size, I have a fairly good idea what my measurements are. I couldn't of done it, however, without the assistance of the gentlemen at Soli Omar Tailors. 

This particular suit is in a slightly coarse and weighty wool. Therefore, I will probably wear it on those chilly spring days. It will get a good run next winter, though. What I relish most are the endless possibilities, in terms of colour scheme combinations, I am going to try. With the sapphire blue being the canvass.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.