A Guide To A Good Life

Cold weather clothing

I thought I’d do something a little bit different for this topic and publish photos of some of my cold weather clothes. I want to give you some ideas of what to look for in materials and what you can combine in terms of color and texture.

Warm weather may be on the way but now is the time to pick the fabrics out of which you’d like to make your next cold season’s clothes. Chances are it’ll be discounted because they’re making way for the thinner fabrics of summer and besides, you want to take your time and really look around. You should look for the best quality cloth at the best price for your budget. You should only buy fabrics that you’d love to wear. There’s no reason to invest in fabric that you’re not sure about, only to invest even more money and effort afterward in order to make it into a suit and then, as you stand in front of the mirror, come to the realization that you don’t really like it.

Buy only what you fall in love with, find a great tailor, make it into a suit that you’ll love, and that way you’ll ensure that you’ve got an outfit you can wear for years to come, one that will make you feel good every time you put it on.

All of my cold weather outfits feature thick wool fabrics, just like these. I love to look for interesting colors and textures. Underneath, I love to wear thick cotton shirts, sometimes with a white cotton t-shirt underneath the shirt, for extra warmth. And I like to wear a tie, not necessarily to make the outfit more formal, and this is a little secret… I do it because it keeps me warmer. The tie causes the shirt collar to close up tightly around my neck, keeping the warmth generated by my body inside the shirt. And the tie acts as a sort of scarf, wrapped around the base of my neck and draped down my chest. It really works, it keeps me warmer in winter. Try it for yourselves and you’ll see what I mean.

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A Guide To A Good Life

A brief history of clothes

17th-century-clothes

“Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than to merely keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us.” ― Virginia Woolf, Orlando

Clothing may have been around for hundreds of thousands of years, with some scientists proposing that it may have been in use even more than 650,000 years ago, though most agree that the first fabric uses occurred about 100,000 years ago.

These theories are based on studies of the human body louse, which according to genetic studies, diverged from its ancestor, the head louse, about 107,000 years ago. I hope you weren’t eating your lunch when you read that…

Flax fibers seem to have been the first used for textiles and fabrics, around 8,000 BC, with cotton following around 5,000 – 4,000 BC and wool around 3,000 BC. Starting around 6,000 BC, other fibers such as rush, reed, palm and papyrus were used together with flax (linen) to make ropes and other textiles. Silk also saw its introduction as a fabric around 4,000 BC, in China. Bark and hemp fibers were discovered to have been used in Japan around 5,500 BC.

The Silk Route, which began in 114 BC during the Han Dynasty, is credited in large part with the development of the great civilizations of China, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, the Indian subcontinent and Rome, and thus helped to lay the foundations for the modern world. You wouldn’t normally think cloth can have such an incredible impact, but it did.

Dress in classical antiquity favored wide, unsewn lengths of fabric, pinned and draped to the body in various ways. When I look at depictions of clothing from the civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome, there are common traits: it was made to suit the weather, covering more of the body where it was colder and less of the body where it was warmer, becoming more ornate for the aristocratic classes or for those where certain articles of clothing were symbolic of power, such as those in certain government or religious functions. The fabrics commonly used for these clothes were linen, wool and cotton. The Egyptians used flax (linen) almost exclusively, while the Greeks favored linen and wool and the Romans used mostly wool, though they also used other fibers, such as hemp, linen and small amounts of silk or cotton (which were imported and more expensive). For more info on clothing in the ancient world, you may consult this page.

Clothing in antiquity

We owe the development of richly dyed, woven, patterned and embroidered fabrics to Byzantium and early medieval Europe. During the high middle ages, the development and dyeing of wool was developed more and more, and we began to see a clear differentiation between wool as outerwear and linen as innerwear. We all know that wool cannot be washed and dried without shrinking, which makes it unsuitable for garments that are washed often, like innerwear. That’s where linen works very well, as it also breathes quite easily. Cotton and silk were still being imported and therefore reserved for ornamentation, not as the main materials.

Byzantine clothes

We have the Crusades to thank for the diversification of textiles in Europe and soon afterward, for the emergence of fashion, which historians agree occurred in the mid 14th century. You wouldn’t normally think of the Crusades as a tool for the development of fashion, but there it is, war has a way of opening up new trade routes and new ways of life. I think of these unexpected developments as turdflowers springing up from… well, you know what…

From that time onward, clothes began to change in Europe at a pace unheard of in other places in the world, where styles remained the same for centuries while the Europeans began changing them every year. This is also the period when straight seams and draped garments began to be replaced with what were the beginnings of tailoring, such as curved seams, lacing and buttons.

Medieval clothing

We began to see national variations in clothing during the 15th century. This is also when silk and velvet began to be used more prominently. During the 17th century, we find the origins of the three-piece suit — as the coat, waistcoat and breeches (pants, trousers) began to be made of the same cloth. The fellow in this illustration is not wearing a new-fangled three-piece suit, he prefers the foppish look.

18th century fashion

In the 18th century, fabric production began to be mechanized, but clothing was still being made by hand, as the complicated machines that cut and sew suits and dresses nowadays didn’t exist yet. In the 19th century, sewing machines were invented. We saw the introduction of synthetic fibers during the 20th century, and from the start of the 20th century going forward, we have seen the gradual decline of bespoke tailoring in favor of mass-produced clothes, most of them from synthetic fibers.

suit-factory

Good things have also occurred during this last century. As a result of mechanization and automation, fabrics have become much more affordable and there’s an incredible variety now, as manufacturers constantly experiment with threads, textures, colors and treatments. Clothes have also become much more affordable, and even though they’re made by machines, advancements in computer modeling and the collective data on human measurements gathered over the centuries make it much more likely for you to find an off-the-rack outfit that fits your body nicely now, rather than a few decades ago.

An off-the-rack suit

One of the goals of my project, “The Elegant Gentleman“, is to show the benefits of natural fibers and of custom-made clothes to those who are willing to listen. Natural fibers are simply better for the body and are renewable, as the sheep will grow wool every year and the cotton and flax will spring up as long as they’re well-tended, while clothes made to your measurements, to your body, will always fit, wear and look better than something you pick off the rack at the store. These two things are immutable.

For more information on the history of clothing, I invite you to check out these pages:

Make sure to also read my article on the various types of fibers that go into the making of textiles, fabrics and cloth.

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A Guide To A Good Life

Have great shoes? Use a cobbler.

If you like and buy quality leather shoes (over $100 or more), and if after you’ve worn them for some time, they need repairs (sole or heel repairs or restitching) don’t throw them away. Find and use the services of a good cobbler (a shoe repairman) to breathe new life into them.

A cobbler repairs shoes. A great cobbler can make old shoes look new again and can even repair a shoe’s sole so well that you’d never know it was replaced. Good cobblers are few and far between, but they’re the only ones that can help you, so it’s worth it to find them.

In this video, I talk about how I repaired three pairs of shoes.

There’s also a great video from Put This On, a web series about dressing well, where shoes and shoe repairs are discussed (found it thanks to Sheldon Schwartz). It’s a great video that teaches you how quality leather shoes are made and how they can be repaired. It will also show you how to shop for good shoes.

Enjoy!

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Lists

Videos about photography

I thought I’d share a few of my favorite videos about photography with you. The first video is called “Miniature Earth”, and the photos used in it are really powerful.

This next video took two years to make. It’s called “Koya Moments”, and chronicles the changing weather, light and seasons over Edinburgh, Scotland.

Dove put out a video showing the transition that takes place in makeup and Photoshop to make a model look good. It’s pretty sad really, to see that beauty is not only skin-deep but also quite elusive.

I believe this time lapse video was done by a French director, who drove across America with a friend of his in a convertible.

This is a beautiful time lapse video of the 2006 Reno Balloon Race:

Here’s how a typical fashion photo shoot takes place. The subject of this shoot is Martin Scorsese.

Holger Eilhard, a fellow photographer, put together this great time lapse video of one of the Berlin gates. It’s a whole day, from dawn to dusk.

These are a couple of the “take a photo every day” projects:

This is a humorous look at the rise of a photographer. He’s a Nikon guy and I shoot Canon, but I won’t hold that against him… 🙂

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