Friday, March 11, 2016

Brands: Louis ii Shirt Maker

Customer satisfaction is at the heart of the customer service experience in any industry. Now, what do you get when you have a style conscious gentleman, an old world bespoke suit and shirt tailor, and a glaring gap in the market? You get none other than Louis ii Shirt Maker. This is a partnership between two gentlemen that goes back many years. In days gone by the founder of Louis ii Shirts, David Elton, was still a client of bespoke suit and shirt maker Louis Gwatkin. When Gwatkin retired from the bespoke tailoring business, David lost touch with the old man because he had 'disappeared'.

This was pretty much the genesis of Louis ii because David didn't have a trusted shirt maker anymore and the Jermyn Street merchants he purchased from while living in London had become too expensive, owing to the currency rate. Long story short; David decided to track down Gwatkin, and when he eventually found him, in Cape Town, he propositioned him about starting a shirt making business. His initial advances were declined, however, a little while later Gwatkin agreed and thus Louis ii Shirt Maker was born. Not long ago I was offered a shirt for review by the company and after scrutinising their website, I came to an agonising decision and settled on the Sky Blue Striped shirt.

I can honestly say that this is probably the best shirt I have. Simply because all my shirts are off-the-rack. With Louis ii Shirts you get a combination of bespoke and made to measure. You choose a shirt that you like (they offer a range of patterns and styles), choose a cuff style (single or double cuff) and then input your neck size. Through some email interaction I was also able to send them my sleeve length as well, so that the whole shirt making process would be complete before the start. The neck size that I chose was 39cm. I have been doing a lot of road running, just 10-12km, and I have burned some fat and lost some weight. So the neck size wasn't just a gamble or estimate because I knew that anything higher would be an ill-fit. I was slightly apprehensive when the shirt arrived (in a beautiful rectangular box replete with a thank you note, product description and David's business card), because I anticipated a problem with the sleeve length. Well, the above picture shows everything about this shirt and as you can see there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. I was aghast at the sleeve length and how it came out. 

The sleeves hit just at the base of the thumb and this allows for the proverbial two inches of cuff to show under a jacket. It is a placket front and also features a red square tag which is a Louis ii Shirts trademark.

This shirt has a few peculiar features which harken back to the old world of tailoring. It's also the right fit through the body especially from the chest to the hips; there is absolutely no unnecessary extra material and bagginess. The features I am talking about are the fuller/ classic fit and the extra long tail. There is a reason why the tail is this long; it's because it's meant to be tucked at all times. If you start wearing it out then you'll start looking like you're wearing a sleep shirt. Now how's that for harkening back to the old days? The extra long tail is a practical and relevant feature because it's meant to keep the shirt tucked in regardless of any kinds of movement.

More features of the old school are the chest pocket, this means that the Louis ii Shirts company still believe in men's clothes being practical. A two button cuff ensures that the fit around the wrist can accommodate those who like wearing watches or have slim wrists. Another quality mark of good handwork on a garment is the pattern. This is an awning stripe shirt, and when you look closely at the detail on the breast pocket you can see that not a single stripe is out of line. That's the mark of a quality shirt. This means that the company takes times and effort in the construction of their shirts. Everyone plays a pivotal role, the head cutter and seamstresses, in the process.

I just had to try it with a tie and I experimented with two different knots. The orange tie was a four-in-hand knot, which I think came out okay. If only I had pushed the knot more into the point spread. The knot on the right is a half-windsor. Long time readers of this blog will know that I am not fond of this knot but over time and considering its usefulness, I have slowly gravitated towards it. I think the half-windsor is better suited to the shirt and the collar style. The collar is full spread and this allows for the shirt to be worn with an open neck under a jacket as well.

 A close-up of the fit throughout the upper body and how the neck-tie knots compare. The shirt is made of two-fold long staple Egyptian cotton and finished with Mother of pearl buttons. There are removable collar stays and I was also wonderfully surprised by another pair of Mother of pearl collar stays. For me, this is a solid garment which would complement any style conscious gent who is given to quality. This is a proudly South African garment I am very proud of and will enjoy wearing.

This shirt retails at R2300 including VAT and it is a product I would definitely spend on given the variety of styles and patterns on offer. The Louis ii Shirts company will definitely find a home in many gentlemen's closets simply because of their dedication to quality and expert handwork. As a temporary measure these shirts are available only in South Africa.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Style: The Khaki Linen Suit

This is probably my favourite suit at the moment; because it's linen and the lightest in colour I have. Khaki linen has been in menswear for decades and this can be attributed to its casual vibe inherent in its colour and fabric. I bought this suit at the same time as the olive green one I have profiled before but it's taken me almost a year to wear it because after I had some alterations done to the trousers I gained some weight and I just couldn't bear altering them again. Per chance I tried on the trousers a few weeks ago and they fit perfectly. From the waist to the seat, on the thighs and through the leg, they are perfect. So much so that I can wear them without a belt. What I love most about this colour and fabric is that it is very summer appropriate. Even though we might be easing out of summer, it is  still an essential on non-work days. I can't think of wearing a wool suit because it just wouldn't be as practical as this linen suit. In Durban's heat and humidity no other fabric performs better than linen.

I have worn this suit for the past three weekends, in different combinations, and I really feel like it wears well. I have been able to overlook a few imperfections and that's a sacrifice I've been willing to make for an off-the-rack suit. While the trousers were in storage I did manage to wear the jacket a few times because I didn't have that many fit issues with it. The jacket has a more than usual high button stance and at times it feels like a three button jacket. I had the sleeves let out because they were quite short and I also had it taken in on the sides just to give it a little bit of shape. I have never been happy with the low armhole and this is something I couldn't do anything about. I have to live with that it and that is one of the losses one has to take when buying a suit off-the-rack.

A light blue gingham shirt and a navy blue pin-dot neck-tie, accessorised with a navy check pocket square and slim tie bar round out the upper body look. Note how everything is in proportion, the jacket lapel, the neck-tie, and the shirt collar. 

I had a single pleat inserted in the trousers because the waist was quite big when I first got them. This also explains why I inserted turn-ups. It is a menswear rule pleats need turn-ups; conversely no pleats require no turn-ups. This is a rule that can be broken however because the overall aesthetic has to be taken into consideration. Since I am a high-waisted man, I am considering removing the turn-ups because I am forced to wear the trousers low on the waist. When I wear them high, the trousers look extremely cropped. I am very comfortable with my trousers on my waist as opposed to my hips.

 A few other notable take-aways: The jacket is fully lined and this adds more heft which is counter practical because linen is supposed to be a light fabric. I would've preferred the sleeves and the upper back/ shoulder blades to be lined because this would make the jacket more breathable and lighter. The trousers are not fully lined because the lining runs to just above the knee. This allows the crotch and buttocks to be covered and the rest of the trouser to be breathable. This feature should've been consistent with the jacket as well and, unfortunately, that's the price you pay for off-the-rack. I am, however, very happy with this suit and its seasonal nature allows me to look comfortable and weather appropriate.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.