The Latest: Monday 01 September 2014

In Praise Of Limitations

We might all think we'd like to have an unlimited wardrobe budget, or thousands of square feet of living space, but consider for a moment the creative solutions inspired by limitations vs. the "writer's block" that often comes with a completely clean sheet of paper. Some of our favourite recent works of art and architecture are responses to limitations, whether chosen or externally imposed:

Specht Harpman Architects recently renovated a tiny 425-square-foot loft (in, of course, New York) that through hidden storage, a cantilevered bedroom and many wise design decisions somehow becomes an airy, modern, inviting space.

The instrumentation of the British hard rock duo Royal Blood is limited to drums and bass—all harmonic content coming from a human voice and a (mostly) monophonic instrument. The challenge of producing a wall of glorious noise from what most would consider half of a band is achieved through clever signal processing and arrangements that utilize the gamut of the available frequencies and the full multitasking abilities of the players.

The over-the-top McKinley Spaces renovation of a 19th Century London house clearly knew no financial boundaries, but you have to appreciate the stubbornness behind retaining the tiny garage and adapting it to accommodate two highly impractical sports cars.

Sometimes limitations are self-imposed, sometimes they are necessitated by budget or some other intrusion of reality. Either way, try to make it your first instinct to embrace rather than circumvent them. You might be surprised by the creativity it brings out in you.
28.aug.2014 culture design style
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Mailbag: I'm on a boat

An anonymous reader writes: "I'm going to be on a small yacht for an afternoon social occasion, any practical advice on what to wear? I know, no navy blazer with gold buttons." Answer: The biggest mistake people make isn't so much about appearance but in underestimating the chill when they get out on the water and the wind picks up. So ideally you'll have an outer layer that you can add or remove as needed—a t-shirt with a cardigan or other sweater, a polo or rugby with a lightweight jacket, etc. Khakis always work. Bring a cotton or linen scarf. And while boat/deck shoes are specifically designed for this situation, they're still kind of awkward faux-prep affectations. Better to go with canvas slip-ons or sneakers (for casual events) or rubber-soled driving mocs (if slightly dressier).
25.aug.2014 mail style
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L.B.M. 1911 F/W 2014 | Buy

Apropos of last week's post on unlined coats for fall and winter, the L.B.M. 1911 F/W lookbook demonstrates their mastery of this design, as minimally lined jackets in all varieties form the bulk of this very strong collection. Besides single and double-breasted blazers in patterns ranging from solids to borderline FU, the book also includes an equally unlined tan overcoat and an extremely comfy-looking fuzzy peacoat. Viewing the highlights here on Unrefinery is recommended as the Luigi Bianchi Mantova website loads at a glacial pace and attempting to navigate it is excruciating.
21.aug.2014 style
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Narendra Modi is killin' it.

The Wall Street Journal asks Is Modi India's Best-Dressed Prime Minister Ever? And without being qualified to answer the question, we will observe that the prime minister demonstrates that the principles of good design can be deployed to great success whether you wear suits and shirts or vests and kurtas. The article contains some great tidbits from his tailor about his choice of warm colours and use of Italian wool in traditional Indian clothes. A tweedy brown jacket that is well tailored looks great and works with a red pocket square no matter the type of collar or sartorial tradition that its form reflects.

All he really has left to do is work in some bleeding Madras. Show some love for Chennai, man.
18.aug.2014 style
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Unlined for fall and winter

When you think of an unlined, minimally structured blazer, you probably picture a cotton, linen or tropical wool summer coat designed to allow maximum ventilation and minimal heat retention. But fall and winter unlined jackets are made as well, typically in wools and cashmeres, to suit slightly different purposes. Temperature control is still an asset, albeit in this case primarily to avoid overheating when worn with multiple layers, but the reduced structure also simply makes the garment more comfortable—in the absence of layers of canvassing or shoulder pads it feels more like wearing a cardigan than a coat. Shown: Lardini from eHaberdasher.
14.aug.2014 style
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Time to order your fall shirts | Buy

Custom shirts can take 4-6 weeks from order to delivery, so now's the time to choose your fabrics and update your measurements for any additions to your fall wardrobe. An important thing to remember about shirts for autumn is that generally you see less of them—you're going to layer them under solid-coloured cardigans, corduroy blazers, and your cotton or canvas lightweight chore coats. For that reason, although it's always great to have some classic brown and tan and purple ginghams and tattersals, consider mixing in some more complex patterns—and/or warmer colours like red, orange and green—that will be quieted by the layers you'll wear over them. Shown: seasonal picks from MyTailor (top) and Luxire (bottom).
11.aug.2014 style
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Mailbag: Leather Jackets | Buy

Reader v (whom we picture wearing a Guy Fawkes mask) asks: "How do you feel about leather jackets? including, but not limited to the classic motorcycle jacket (when not on a motorcycle)." Answer: It's kind of remarkable that in 6 years of doing this, our only comment on leather jackets was a post about a character in a series of insurance commercials. Right, moving on: There are a few varieties even within "classic motorcycle jacket". The heavy, armour-like lapel + collar style you see on Marlon Brando in The Wild One (upper left) is always wearable if you're actually on a bike but as a style element it really ran its course with punk rock in the 1980s. A timeless alternative is the Belstaff Trailmaster (upper right) and its various imitators. And if it suits your style you might try the café racer silhouette, which is lighter weight and more closely fitted; shown here in models by Hugo Boss (left) and Levis Made & Crafted (right). Note that the images we picked are all colours other than black. Nothing wrong with it but everyone has a black leather jacket. If it works with your wardrobe, consider motoring off the beaten path.
04.aug.2014 mail style
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Achetez le Vetra | Buy

A recent sale feature on This Fits reminded us of the greatness that is Vetra, a storied Parisian brand that has produced honest, simple workwear and military clothing since 1927 and to this day still manufactures everything in France. The brand's output ranges from caps to shorts to shirts and trousers, but their signature pieces are a series of unlined chore coats and casual blazers rendered in heavy cotton twills that make for great lightweight spring and fall outerwear. Most include a handy interior pocket, which is a nice utilitarian touch on an unlined item, and a fit that is a lot more flattering than you'd expect based on the boxy-looking photos above. Materials, despite being heavy and durable, are soft and comfortable, and they come in beautiful colours—favourites are the "postman blue" shown upper left, a sort of deep royal that they call "navy", and an overdyed brown with a rich texture. A nice collection can be found at Present.
28.jul.2014 style
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Blue On Blue All Summer

A lot of us, it seems, pare our summer palettes down to blues, whites and the tan-to-brown spectrum. Classic nautical. Easy to safely combine, which is particularly welcome during the travel months when you want everything in your bag to work with everything else. It is possible to make the palette a little more interesting, though, by mixing navy and a medium blue. As is the case with most lower-contrast combinations it's a bit more sophisticated, and requires enough disparity in brightness so make it clear that one fabric isn't a faded version of the other.
21.jul.2014 style
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Have some custom trousers made. | Buy

Shirtmaking is the most popular segment of the custom clothing industry for good reason—a woven shirt is closely fitted to a complex, moving shape; has relatively little give; and alterations to it are essentially unidirectional. While the drape of trousers is a little more forgiving and off-the-rack pants are generally much easier to alter than shirts, there are some very good reasons besides fit for having a pair custom-made.
  1. You have a special function in mind. You may not think cargo pockets belong on wool trousers, but if you travel a lot, you can't beat having these generously sized and conveniently located pockets for comfortable access to your phone and passport even when seated.
  2. You appreciate small details. When trousers are designed for a mass market they have to appeal to a wide group, and the safe bet is to make them with belt loops and a zippered fly. If you're a fan of classic menswear you might take the opportunity to add side adjusters, a unique button closure, a special type of lining or pocket style. You're the one who's going to wear them. Might as well get exactly what you want.
  3. You simply can't find what you want. Go ahead and try to find off-the-peg white cotton twill trousers that will hold a crease and are completely opaque. We'll wait. Give up? Luxire will make you a pair with a lightweight cotton lining that adds both opacity and heat mitigation. They're in India. They know about this sort of thing.
Shown: custom Luxire dress cargos in Dugdale Tweed.
18.jul.2014 style
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