Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Brands: Alfred Dunhill Gifting


Here is a short video showcasing British luxury menswear brand, Alfred Dunhill's, season's gift guide. The main theme is centred on leather and some of the accessories that are at a gentleman's disposal. I think it's a useful theme considering myriad uses of leather. The versatility, variety, quality and innovation behind leather should be lauded because it is durable, stylish and, as the video suggests, very elegant. For more information on Alfred Dunhill's gifting guide you can click on this link. I hope you enjoy this snippet!

                                           PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Pick of the Week: Lucky Brand Men's Blue Reynolds Solid Linen Shirt

This is a timely pick of the week because style conscious gentlemen are looking for a way o stay stylishly cool in this unbearable heat. This is a starting point: the blue Reynolds solid linen shirt by Lucky Brand. Lucky Brand also has a presence in South Africa therefore I'm sure you'll find this or something similar in their in-store catalogue. The only way to dress presentably and stylishly this summer or during the hot months is by wearing light, breathable fabrics. Layering becomes bearable as well because the layers are light.

This particular shirt is probably a safe choice. It's solid, light blue and in a tailored fit. It makes it easier to wear with a casual suit or a pair of chinos, jeans or shorts. Linen is just that versatile and allows for a lot of experimentation. All those outdoor summer events; this is the kin of shirt to wear.

This shirt boasts a fine textured finish, a spread collar and button-up placket. It also has a single button-flap chest pocket, and this is in keeping with its casual design. It is still available from Runway Sale and priced down to R429 from R950. I'd say it's a bargain considering the time of the year we are in, a gent can afford to splurge.
PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Style: The Olive Green Linen Suit

Tough, that's all I can say. Plain, old tough. I'm referring to this hue of green. I bought this suit last year with the intention of giving it a good run this summer. It is an olive green linen suit. At the time I had myriad combinations in mind, however, in reality I really purchased it because it was on sale. After a few alterations these are the results. I have to agree with the colour and image experts that olive colours don't complement gents with dark complexions. I think this point is wonderfully illustrated in these images. Olive is tough to pull; even more so olive green.

This suit is fairly conservative in terms of its styling; it doesn't have that casualness that is a feature of linen suits. Features such as patch pockets, a half-lined or unlined jacket, and double vents would give this suit that Italian flair which would make it perfect for those outdoor summer soirees. The jacket features a single vent, jetted pockets with flaps, and is fully lined. The single vent is not comfortable nor aesthetically pleasing, the jetted pockets give it a conservative touch even though it ought to be a casual suit, and the full lining makes it unbearably hot. I tried it with a golfer/ polo and my arms were sweating profusely while rubbing against the polyester lining. All these factors render this jacket unsuitable for regular wear this summer. I am mulling the idea of taking it to my tailor and having the lining removed. After some consultation I will make a decision.

I decided to pair it with this yellow and blue paisley tie and linen pocket square with yellow trimming. These dark brown spectator shoes were also getting some mileage for the first time. The overall suit fits well and this was achieved after alterations. I had the jacket taken in at the waist and the trousers were shortened, since they were slightly long. I also had the hem narrowed to 15 1/2 inches and the waist was a whopping size 40; bringing it down to size 34 or 35 was nearly impossible, so I opted for the best alteration as possible and to further size it down I had a single pleat inserted. I also had turn-ups inserted. And for a linen trouser, even though pleats might seem unconventional, I say the pleats justify the turn-ups.

I also tried wearing the suit as separates and I was a lot more comfortable with the outcomes. A pair of light blue denim jeans, a yellow golfer/ polo and white sneakers is just one of the myriad combinations I can try with the suit. The polo really gives me endless options.

A polo with a semblance of a sturdy collar will always hold up well under a jacket. In fact, the polo collar will hold its own. I think the image below evinces this point quite clearly. Green and yellow, a combination that's tried, tested, and fail proof.

If the jacket holds up well as a separate, I thought the trousers would as well. On a Saturday dentist run, I decided to try the trousers with a pink and white, candy striped, short sleeve shirt, and white sneakers. This was definitely not over-dressed for the weekend, especially out of the house. Apart from the suit working well as separates, I'm impressed with the fact that it responds and works very well with bright and pastel colours. Maybe as a suit it's run out of options but as separates it's giving me endless options. When it comes to a suit, its usefulness is in its versatility. 

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Brands: #PavFestive

It's competition time once again and the one and only Pavilion Shopping Mall in Durban is giving shoppers a unique chance to play the #SantaSlide game in order to get a chance to win a voucher which is redeemable at any of the participating stores or can be used to buy something else at another store. All you need to do is click this link which will reveal the #SantaSlide comprising 25 blocks representing each of the prizes which can be redeemed with a voucher. You can then click on the 'Let's Play' block with the Pav mascot reindeer and it will then move you to a block which will reveal a product from one of the stores at the Pavilion. You have the option to share the product by suggesting and sending it to someone else or you can pass and opt for another block. It's fairly easy and straight forward and I will be sharing a store and product with you on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Let's Play.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Style: White Multiplied By Two (or more)

What are your thoughts on white garments, particularly when it comes to purchasing them? I surmise that out of all the colours one finds on the colour spectrum, no colour is more pervasive and ubiquitous like white. Everyone has a white item; car, house, shirt, underwear, sunglasses and whatever else. Therefore, one can argue that the colour white is almost mandatory is some way, shape or form. With this post I want to focus on white clothing for gents and how I buy it. From childhood we are somewhat bombarded and in turn enamored with white; our christening is in white, our school shirts are white, and as we grow older we find that white has certain symbolic meanings. For the last decade or so it seems you haven't lived until you've attended a white party, which have seen no abate in their popularity. You have the frowned upon white shoes and next to every little black dress you have 'every' woman's dream dress, a white wedding gown. I've become drawn to the colour because of its versatility and just how much it enhances my wardrobe.

White is also a delicate colour, hard to clean, cantankerous at best and incredibly laborious, therefore, proper wear and care is important. Ever since embarking on this style journey I have always gravitated away from white clothing simply because of the characteristics I have listed above. The only white I have had in my closet are shirts (which are standard), under garments, and T-shirts (what's a hip-hop head without a XXXXXL tee?). However, when I started thinking about what I was missing out on in terms of other types of white clothing I started of thinking of buying them in pairs as opposed to a single piece. This is a theme that runs in my wardrobe for most of my white garments. Whenever I buy white clothing I buy it in pairs or in a short space of time if the item is slightly pricey. I do this simply because white clothes wear, tear, and soil easily; as well as the fact that it always helps having another one as back-up. Those are probably the reasons why I buy white garments in twos or more.

The picture above is a microcosm of the white garments in my wardrobe. When I purchased the Aeropostale golfer/ polo on the left, I decided to buy two of the same thing, simply because I wanted to have it easy if and when I wanted to wear a white golfer. The shirt on the extreme right is light, 100% cotton by Brooksfield. It was very inexpensive, purchased at the now closed down Menz Wearhouse. I bought it in 2009, and for some reason I decided to buy two because I liked the fact that it was double cuffed especially for such a light garment. This shirt is ideal for summer. The middle shirt, is a standard, semi-spread white shirt by Trenery. It is a barrel cuff and is ideal as a business shirt. Whereas I have other white shirts I wear casually, I don't wear the Trenery casually. It was issued to me at my sport gig on TV and when we entered the 2014 season, I once again asked for a white shirt because the brightness of a white shirt can never be restored once it's been worn. The last garment I wish to highlight is the white trouser. Sure, I've had and worn white trousers before, like back in std 1, but this is the first time I'm making a conscious decision to make forays into white trouser territory. I'm intrigued by them and I can't believe at the infinite combinations that I can try. I also like the fact that I can wear white trousers in winter, in fact throughout the whole year. It was a no-brainer that I buy two of these trousers because they are made of linen, soft and I had them altered to my exact specifications. 

I've said this before and I'll say it again, the best way to preserve white sneakers is to have more than two pairs in your rotation, in that way you minimise wear and tear, as well as any kind of soiling. The wonderful thing about white sneakers is that they now differ in terms of design, texture and materials between summer and winter. In summer, they are slim throughout, even the sole. In winter, they are thicker with a contrast colour rubbery sole.

Wearing them with care is absolutely important, just because I have two or more of the same thing that is not license to be reckless. However, it's reassuring knowing that I have back-up, which allows for greater use and long lasting care.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Brands: McCullagh & Bothwell

A few months ago I paid a visit to menswear outfitter situated in Hyde Park Corner Mall in Sandton. From the window displays alone I was drawn because this store appeared to be a confluence of brand superiority and consistent quality. Upon closer inspection it became clear that a few of the clothing brands I have come to know through the internet are readily available at this store. For some native Joburgers it seems that buying quality clothing needn't be an online hassle because McCullagh & Bothwell is the place to source them. The window displays, in keeping with the season, are superbly and stylishly executed and presented. I visited during winter and the store was decorated with Harris Tweed jackets, Brax chinos, Gant knitwear, and Loake footwear. A kid in a candy shop applied aptly in this context.

When I initially contacted their customer service via email I received a response from Mickey Walker who is a direct descendant of one of the founders of this establishment. Established in 1896 in Kimberley, the operation opened its first doors in Johannesburg between 1906 and 1912. Since those days the company has always been a leading men's outfitter because of image conscious gentlemen who were very much attuned to brands as well. The Walker family fits into the history of McCullagh & Bothwell through Isaiah Walker who was the brother-in-law to Samuel Bothwell, one of the original founders, along with Isaiah McCullagh. When Samuel Bothwell passed away in 1924 the Walker family took over the reins and continued the success of the company. In 1954 Robert Walker became a partner in the business, thus establishing and cementing the Walker name and presence in the history of McCullagh and Bothwell. 

One of my goals for this interview was to understand why imported clothing is so expensive, especially menswear. Mickey explained that this all has to do with the foreign exchange rate, but, also offered the more plausible explanation of the tax imposed on clothing and textiles. For clothing and textiles from the European Union, a 20% tax is levied, and countries outside of the EU it can go as high 45%. These taxes are also mandated by the World Trade Organisation. 

It became apparent that one can't engage in international business without having an understanding of world economics and how these impact on the domestic economy. This is why my next question was about China, it's presence in South Africa and the impact on the local economy. I was very open with Mickey about my reservations regarding Chinese made and imported goods. I was especially skeptical about the quality and workmanship of these goods. His response was that China is influencing the clothing and textile industries because of its presence, market share, and competitiveness. Because Chinese made clothes and textiles are cheap to produce many other international brands are looking for cheaper ways of producing clothing in other economies where the labour is cheap but quality is not compromised. He highlighted the fact that because this was direct competition for China, this was forcing the clothing and textile industry in China to focus more on quality as opposed to quantity. He cited a few examples like; Eton shirts are now made in Estonia and not Sweden, as the normal customer would think, Thomas Pink has manufacturing operations in Bangladesh and India, and Gant is produced in Portugal. This is driven by the need for cheaper labour but sustainable quality.

I'm familiar with brands such as Barbour, Loake, Derek Rose, Polo, Pringle, Rockport, Viyella, and a host of others but to be able to see, touch and feel them first hand was a pleasurable experience. Imagine my excitement when I saw Pantherella hosiery, Eton shirts, Dormeuil, Brax, and others I'd never heard of, Breuer, Dalmine, Eden Park, Alan Paine, and Turrau. It was like the internet coming to life.

Front end of the store

Silk pocketsquares

Various branded winter hosiery

Mickey and I chopping it up.

Here is an interesting twist to McCullagh and Bothwell, they also supply school wear and this has been a part of the operations since the establishment of the Johannesburg business in the 1920s. They supply approximately 150 schools in South Africa and the list features illustrious schools such as Hilton College, Potch Boys and Girls high, Kingsmead College, Crawford schools, King Edward VII, and Sacred Heart College.

They are also the sole licensed distributors of Loake footwear. Mickey regaled me with stories of how he'd visited the manufacturing plant in the UK in order to learn about the history and traditions of Loake. The shoes are Goodyear welted and seeing this firsthand is an enlightening experience because the distinguishing features are visible as well as the quality and craftsmanship.

Gant knitwear

Brax chinos

Casual trousers 

I asked Mickey about their clientele and he explained that it is mostly gentlemen who are over 50 years in age, well traveled, are conscious of quality menswear brands and can differentiate between them. That's why if you factor in all the costs that are involved in the crafting, manufacturing and importing of a garment, you'll understand why a V-neck sweater can cost R8000 at McCullagh & Bothwell. He also emphasised the need for in-store staff to be trained in menswear especially organisational culture so that there isn't a gap or communication barrier between the customer and the sales representative. That's why their staff go on a full training course and refresher courses are also a regular. One aspect of customer service that Mickey taught me was the immediate after sales interaction. After wrapping up the customer's purchase you don't hand it over the counter, you come out and around the counter and then hand it to the customer. These are the nuances of the customer experience which enhance and add a personal touch. Some relationships with customers go way back and are so firmly established that the company has a house-call service. Any new seasonal stock is wrapped up and couriered to a customer's home, the customer will browse through the garments, pick what they like, keep it, send back the rest, and then the store bills them later. These kinds of relationships are not built overnight because they're reciprocal, founded on mutual trust and consistency.

End of season sale items

Panama and an original hat stretcher

Heritage wall featuring Sam Bothwell, Robert Walker and photos taken from the early years and newspaper clippings.

Cross section of a Loake cap-toe brogue.

When I visited McCullagh & Bothwell they were getting ready for the suMMer launch on SepteMber 1st; I enjoyed my visit and the discussions we had and this cast the menswear landscape in a totally different light. A positive, encouraging and one which is full of potential. There are three branches: Hyde Park Corner, Fourways Crossing Shopping Centre, and a schoolwear outlet located at Sacred Heart College.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Pick of the Week: Ellesse Sadeler Tee's

It might be rainy, but, it's that sizzling and simmering summer rain. The morning's might be cool but the mercury starts rising by 9am and by midday it's full on heat. Even if it's an overcast day the heat and the sun's rays find a way to protrude to give us a foretaste what's to come in summer. For me, no music video is relevant and apt like Carl Thomas's 'Summer Rain', do you remember that? So how do counter the heat in a stylish but extremely casual manner? You dress up in this turquoise or navy blue striped tee with a chest pocket by Ellesse available at Runway Sale

Both these tees give you casually dressed up or dressed down options. The electric blue tee (I think it's turquoise) is very suitable to be paired with a navy blue cotton or linen suit and then accessorised with tan loafers or beige espadrilles. The navy blue tee would look good paired with a khaki cotton or linen suit complemented with white sneakers. There is a variety of combinations...they seem infinite. You can break up the khaki or navy suit and pair them with the tees, using both the pants or jackets as the foundation pieces. Ultimately, these tees require creativity and a keen eye if they're going to live up to their versatile potential. It's up to the discerning gent to realise this potential and experiment accordingly. This Italian brand which is venerated for casual wear is crafting affordable but stylish casual pieces, and these tees are no different; they are affordably priced at R139. Now, go forth into summer because there are no excuses for looking shabby.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.