Tight-fitting clothes vs. classic, comfortable tailoring

Here’s my take on the subject of men’s clothes. I realize I’m going against current trends with this view, but thanks to my recent experience with severe back pain, I’ve gained additional insights into the effects that clothes have on our posture, our bodies and ultimately our health. I know and I have seen first-hand how some clothes can provoke back pain and others can relieve it, and that’s what I talk about in this video. I hope it helps you!

Men’s Summer Wear Suggestions

Hot summer weather is here (it’s been here for a month or so) and that means it’s nearly impossible to wear a suit during the day. Here are some suggestions I’ve put together for acceptable summer clothes that will keep you cool and presentable. I’ve also included a few pieces of advice such as how to deal with sweat (bring an extra article of clothing to change if needed), the appropriate length for summer shorts and finally, whether or not it’s acceptable to roll up the sleeves of your shirt.

I hope you find it helpful!

How to pair shoes with pants

While it’s good to have variety in your outfits and to sometimes break the rules when it comes to choosing what you wear, it’s also important to know how things go together. As Picasso used to say, you need to know the rules before you can break them.

With that in mind, I’d like to offer you this video I put together recently, where I give advice on matching your shoes with your pants. In it, I’ll show you how to pair certain shoes with certain pants, what goes together with what and what you should avoid doing.

Enjoy! And here’s that same post on my Facebook page, which I encourage you to like in order to see much, much more content published several times a day.

Classic Solo Handmade Shoes

Late last year, I ordered a pair of handmade shoes from Stefan Burdea, a shoemaker from Bucharest, Romania. I’d like to show them to you now. They’re the Classic Solo model, a beautiful and understated pair of shoes made from a single piece of leather.

Some of you may already know that it’s fairly difficult to make these shoes, as it requires much greater skill from the shoemaker to get it right from a single piece of leather than it is to make them from multiple pieces, which can be fitted much more easily around the boot tree.

I’d like to show these shoes to you now via a video I made (part of my Elegant Gentleman series). I’m happy with them, especially since they meet a very important criteria for me: they’re comfortable to wear for long periods of time. That’s the most important criteria for me when choosing shoes. They have to fit me very well. All other aspects: design, finish, materials, are secondary. Sure, I first pick up a pair of shoes based on how they look, but if they don’t fit me well, I’ll put them right back down on the shelf and move on.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had a pair of handmade shoes made for you, but you should if you get the chance. They’re much more comfortable than machine-made shoes. And because they’re handmade, there’s usually more attention to detail and a higher level of workmanship, as you’ll see from the photos. It’s rewarding to wear shoes that you know were made just for you. Try it sometime!

Bespoke vs. Store-bought Suits

In this video, which is part of The Elegant Gentleman series, I talk about the following topics:

  1. The importance of a proper fit (also known as a cut) for your clothes, which only a good tailor can do. It matters because it not only makes you look good, but it allows for fluctuations in body weight and/or mass. A great suit will hide these changes in your body to a certain point, beyond which it will either start to show them or you’ll start feeling uncomfortable in the clothes, signaling that alterations or a new suit are in order. A poorly cut suit will generally not accommodate fluctuations in body weight, showing them right away, in unflattering ways. This ties into my second point, which is…
  2. The differences between bespoke (custom-made) suits and store-bought suits, one of those differences being a proper fit (discussed above). Bespoke suits fit better, naturally, since they’re made for your body from the start. Store-bought suits will feel like they’re off-the-rack 95% of the time and in my case, 100% of the time. Because my body is of an athletic build, whenever I go to the store to try on a suit, either the coat or the pants won’t fit me and in either case, any alterations that would have to be made are so significant that the suit would no longer look good.
  3. The importance of finding good materials cannot be overstated, since they are the stuff from which suits are made. They cannot be an afterthought. I suggest you go to fabric warehouses in your area (it may take some effort to find them) and pick out materials that you like. Educate yourself on the fibers used in the materials, then on the texture, the colors, the patterns and then you’ll be properly equipped to shop for fabrics. (Or you can find an honest and knowledgeable salesman who’s willing to explain that to you.)
  4. The price of a good suit isn’t set in stone and will vary widely, first based on where you live (larger, more famous cities bring up the price) and second based on what your tailor decides to charge. For example, where I live, in a small town in Southern Transilvania, I can get a good bespoke three-piece suit for about $175 – 250, and that includes the price of the fabrics, buttons and zippers, too. I hear that prices back in the US are somewhere in the area of $750 – 1,500 and there again they’ll vary based on the city and tailor shop.
  5. The one important characteristic that will make a suit much more expensive and rightfully so is whether it is sewn or glued together. You probably cringe when you hear “glued together” but it isn’t as bad as all that. This is also referred to as canvassed vs. fused. Suits have been glued together for decades. Basically, the outer and middle layers of the suit are pressed together with a hot iron and a special coating on the middle layer makes it stick to the outer layer. The lining is usually canvassed (or floating) on all suits. This allows the tailor to shape the suit much easier once it’s been cut, rather than sew it all together to give it its shape, which is laborious, requiring much more skill and time and therefore rendering the suit more expensive. There are actually three levels of quality: there is a fully floating canvassed jacket, a half canvassed jacket (where only the lapels and upper construction around the chest is fused) and a fully fused jacket. My suits are half canvassed, simply because my tailor doesn’t know and isn’t interested in working on fully floating canvassed jackets.

I hope this proves helpful to you! Enjoy!

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.

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.

Textiles, fabrics and cloth

“What a strange power there is in clothing.” ― Isaac Bashevis Singer

Cloth is such a basic part of our lives that most of us don’t give it a second thought as we wear it. We’re concerned mostly with its color and the way it looks, but how did it get that way? How is it made? It has been with us ever since human civilization took root, evolving along with us, meeting our needs along the way, diversifying, becoming stronger, more beautiful and more comfortable along the way.

In this article, I will look at the various kinds of cloth you might see today. I realize that most of you don’t usually see fabrics by themselves, because most of you buy your clothes ready-made — so perhaps this will motivate you to visit a fabrics store, pick some out for yourselves and take it to a tailor to have a suit or a dress made for you.

Cloth

Terminology

  • Textile is a flexible woven material consisting of a network of natural or artificial fibers often referred to as thread or yarn. Textiles are formed by weaving, knitting, crocheting, knotting, or pressing fibres together (felt). 
  • Fabric refers to any material made through weaving, knitting, spreading, crocheting, or bonding that may be used in production of further goods, such as garments.
  • Fabric is measured in units such as mommes (a momme is a number that equals the weight in pounds of a piece of silk if it were sized 45 inches by 100 yards), thread count (a measure of the coarseness or fineness of fabric), ends per inch (e.p.i), and picks per inch (p.p.i).
  • Cloth may be used synonymously with fabric but often refers to a finished piece of fabric used for a specific purpose.
  • Thread usually refers to thinner, individually stronger, more processed fibers, pulled into long strands in factories.
  • Yarn is produced by spinning raw fibers of wool, flax, cotton, or other material to produce long strands. This used to be done manually, although now that practice is being lost as its production has moved into factories. 

In summary, textiles is the general term given to flexible woven materials that can be used for clothing or building or other purposes. Fabrics is the term used for textiles generally meant for wearing. Cloth may or may not be used interchangeably as a synonym for fabrics but most often refers to a finished, processed material specifically used for clothing.

There are four main sources for the fibers used to make textiles: animal (wool, silk), plant (cotton, flax, jute/hemp), mineral (metal, basalt, asbestos, glass fiber) and synthetic/petroleum (nylon, polyester, acrylic).

Animal textiles

Wool refers to the hair of the domestic goat or sheep, which is distinguished from other types of animal hair in that the individual strands are coated with scales and tightly crimped, and the wool as a whole is coated with a wax mixture known as lanolin (wool grease), which is waterproof and (somewhat) dirtproof.

Woollen refers to a bulkier yarn produced from carded, non-parallel fibre, while worsted refers to a finer yarn which is spun from longer fibres which have been combed to be parallel. Wool is commonly used for warm clothing. Cashmere, the hair of the Indian cashmere goat, and mohair, the hair of the North African angora goat, are types of wool known for their softness.

Other animal textiles which are made from hair or fur are alpaca wool, vicuña wool, llama wool, and camel hair, generally used in the production of coats, jackets, ponchos, blankets, and other warm coverings. Angora refers to the long, thick, soft hair of the angora rabbit, not to be confused with the angora goat. Qiviut is the fine inner wool of the muskox.

Silk is an animal textile made from the fibres of the cocoon of the Chinese silkworm which is spun into a smooth fabric. There are two main types of the silk: mulberry silk produced by the Bombyx Mori, and wild silk such as Tussah silk. Silkworm larvae produce the first type if cultivated in habitats with fresh mulberry leaves for consumption, while Tussah silk is produced by silkworms feeding purely on oak leaves. Around four-fifths of the world’s silk production consists of cultivated silk.

Plant textiles

Cotton, flax, jute, hemp, modal and even bamboo fibers are all used for clothing. Pineapple and ramie fibers are also used in clothing, generally with a blend of other fibers such as cotton. Nettles have also been used to make a fiber and fabric very similar to hemp or flax. Fibers from the stalks of plants, such as hemp, flax, and nettles, are also known as “bast” fibers.

Acetate is used to increase the shininess of certain fabrics such as silks, velvets, and taffetas.

Lyocell is a man-made fabric derived from wood pulp. It is often described as a man-made silk equivalent and is a tough fabric which is often blended with other fabrics, such as cotton for example.

Mineral textiles

Stage curtains and fire blankets are made from asbestos and basalt fiber.

Glass fiber is used in the production of spacesuits, ironing boards and mattress covers, ropes and cables, reinforcement fibre for composite materials, insect netting, flame-retardant and protective fabric, soundproof, fireproof, and insulating fibers. Just think, you’re sleeping on glass fibers every night…

Metal fiber, metal foil, and metal wire have a variety of uses, including the production of cloth-of-gold and jewelry.

Synthetic textiles

All synthetic textiles are used primarily in the production of clothing. Polyester fiber is used in all types of clothing, either alone or blended with fibres such as cotton. Aramid fiber is used for flame-retardant clothing, cut-protection, and armor. Acrylic is a fiber used to imitate wools, including cashmere, and is often used in replacement of them. Nylon is a fiber used to imitate silk; it is used in the production of pantyhose. Thicker nylon fibers are used in rope and outdoor clothing.

Spandex (Lycra) is a polyurethane product that can be made tight-fitting without impeding movement. It is used to make activewear, bras, and swimsuits. Olefin fiber is used in activewear, linings, and warm clothing. Olefins are hydrophobic, allowing them to dry quickly. Ingeo is a polylactide fiber blended with other fibers such as cotton and used in clothing. It is more hydrophilic than most other synthetics, allowing it to wick away perspiration. Lurex is a metallic fibre used in clothing embellishment.

Milk proteins have also been used to create synthetic fabric. Milk or casein fiber cloth was developed during World War I in Germany, and further developed in Italy and America during the 1930s. Milk fiber fabric is not very durable and wrinkles easily, but has a pH similar to human skin and possesses anti-bacterial properties. It is marketed as a biodegradable, renewable synthetic fiber.

Carbon fiber is mostly used in composite materials, together with resin, such as carbon fiber reinforced plastic. The fibers are made from polymer chains through carbonization.

My favorite fabrics

Those who know me have heard me speak on this subject quite a bit: I prefer natural fabrics, made from animal or plant textiles. They’ve been around for thousands and thousands of years, have proven their worth, qualities and compatibility with human skin, have become part of our collective cultures and traditions and that’s what attracts me to them.

I love cotton and wool. They’re my favorites. I wear linen in the summer, but I don’t like it too much because it wrinkles a lot, especially when driving. It’s hard to stay elegant when you look like a crumpled piece of paper, so I reserve linen for sheets or shirts, not coats or pants. I also wear silk sometimes, but mostly as scarves in the colder seasons.

I’ll continue to explore different facets of fabrics in future articles so stay tuned. This article and future ones along the same lines are part of my new series, “The Elegant Gentleman“. I invite you to subscribe here and join me on my Facebook Page to stay up to date with the latest news on the project.

My 1899 Elgin Pocket Watch

I wonder how many of you know that I love old watches, not just new ones? I thought I’d put together a video and photo gallery for one of my pocket watches, my biggest one in terms of size and weight: an 1899 Elgin pocket watch.

Here’s the video:

This particular watch was bought in the United States at the turn of the 20th century by an Englishman who then returned to England, where the watch remained in the family until earlier this year, when the nephew of that gentleman, who has relocated to Romania to spend his retirement years here, sold it to me. The man is Laurie Webb, a fine fellow who now runs a pension house in the village of Roandola near Sighisoara, and whom I interviewed for an episode of “Romania Through Their Eyes“.

And here are the photos. Enjoy!

1899 Elgin Pocket Watch 1899 Elgin Pocket Watch 1899 Elgin Pocket Watch 1899 Elgin Pocket Watch 1899 Elgin Pocket Watch

I miss Collier's Weekly

I know Collier’s has been gone for a long time, but when I see stuff like this, or this or this, I can’t help but love it. Maybe we should have more drawings in our magazines, and they should be done with the same classy style and atmosphere. Things are a bit too realistic nowadays. We can always get plenty of reality. We can’t avoid it. It would be nice to open a magazine and get lost in its own little world, where the articles, drawings, photos and yes, even ads are different from all the rest.

Collier’s Weekly

Image Credit: ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive

Such little thought is given these days to good cartoonists. Let’s not forget a good cartoonist made Harper’s Weekly what it was, and great artists gave Collier’s its look. Instead of getting celebrities to do provocative photo shoots on the cover — and to manipulate their looks into something completely artificial — it would be better to feature wonderful art like Collier’s did.

Ad from Collier’s Weekly

Image Credit: ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive

When we think class these days, fashion magazines come to mind. You open them up, and about 80% of those things are ads with lanky, weird-looking models sulking or posing awkwardly/provocatively. There’s very little substance, and very little interesting stuff. True class in a magazine is a style that comes through the page, and it’s about art, layout, colors, copy and yes, atmosphere. It should invite the reader to open it. While it deals with the problems of the world, it should be upbeat and entertain. Maybe I’m off the mark, but from what I’ve seen so far, I really do wish Collier’s could be resurrected, with the same style and panache of its heyday.