Tuxedo Suits which were originally created by Henry Poole and Co. – The first Bespoke Tailor and father of Savile Row- appears to be more popular today than the topcoat although both have been around for almost the same amount of time. The Topcoat – that practical piece of outerwear- is the closest connection the modern man has to the supreme elegance of Edwardian and Victorian Tailcoats. Why is the topcoat then not as common a sight as tuxedo suits in today’s time?
This apparently was not always the case. During most of the 19th century in England, the morning coat was standard attire for a gentleman outside of formal occasions and hence more commonly used than Tuxedo Suits. It was single-breasted, finished just above the knee and was made of a wool that, although heavy by modern standards, was not considered the ultimate protection from the elements.
Unlike tuxedo suits, the modern topcoat certainly has echoes in both morning and frock coats. It is interesting to notice how close the topcoat is even to the original late 17th-century suit. This ultimate ancestor of the male bespoke suit became popular during the late 17th century when Charles II returned to England. It comprised a long waistcoat, knew breeches and mid-length coat in the same material.
Of course, there are many ways in which these bespoke coats differ from a modern topcoat and definitely bear no resemblance to the tuxedo suits. Some tailcoats, such as the dress coat, are actually cut square across the waist and don’t fasten in the middle; the morning coat is tapered similarly but sharply at the waist (reflecting its origin as a riding attire). But the most stylish topcoats are also, one could argue, one-or two-button affairs with a similar swish to the skirt, unlike the tuxedo which is strictly one-button.
However, the sharp cut of a topcoat, just like tuxedo suits, certainly connotes glamour. It is the mark of the Man About Town. It swaggers and commands attention. It is old Hollywood with the likes of Fred Astaire in Top Hat or Gary Cooper in just about anything. Fred Astaire, especially wore many things in Top Hat (including a rather fetching and flowing cape) but he is best known for the morning coat that flew behind him as he danced and sang ‘Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails’, surrounded by a similarly clothed backing troupe. Gary Cooper, meanwhile, had a predilection for peak lapel coats with a fly front. Never was he seen with a tuxedo or a dinner suit or anything with even a slight resemblance to a shawl lapel. He is pictured in such a model several times over the years, most famously with Mexican actress Lupe Velez in 1929. And while such a coat has the ability to fasten three or even four buttons for warmth, it is most flattering buttoned to a single, central button and allowed to flow from the waist. The single waist button gives any garment – jacket, topcoat or tuxedo jacket – a fulcrum on which to fix the lapels and begin the long sweep of the foreparts.
The fact that most topcoats and dinner jackets are cut with one waist button and either a peak or a shawl lapel, put them on the formal end of the menswear spectrum – a view that goes back to those original tailcoats. For when the morning coat was originally introduced, in the middle of the 19th century, it was commonly found with both peaked and notched lapels. This was a time when it was considered relatively informal, or half dress, with the frock coat being the most formal option. Gradually, the morning coat replaced the frock coat and was worn almost exclusively with peaked lapels.
The same has happened in reverse with tuxedo suits in the 20th century. More and more are now made with the shawl lapel as men consider them less and less formal (or we have to presume they do, given how willing they are to wear cheap rental tuxedos). One more reason, perhaps, to hold on to the swagger of the topcoat over and above tuxedo suits.
The term ‘topcoat’ has not been used consistently over the years, unlike tuxedo suits which have always had a constant definition. In fact, it dropped out of use entirely at one point and has often been conflated with the overcoat in the nomenclature. We can define it in contrast to the overcoat, as the outer layer that is both shorter and lighter in weight. It finishes on or just above the knew and adds warmth and protection from the elements, but without the bulk of an overcoat. Partly for that reason, it is usually single breasted.
Defining it thus, by virtue of its weight, length, and use helps to understand why the topcoat is so inherently stylish compared to tuxedo suits. It is appealing because it is so versatile. It can be sporty as a blazer over knitwear and jeans or elegant with a suit and tie. Today, the style and range of can be quite vast but the recognizable elements of the close waist and flowing tails are always there. Such is the appeal of the 19th-century tailcoats angular lines and flattering proportions that it has survived, in form if not in name, as every gentleman’s go-to coat.
The workroom where the Master Shoemaker brings Handmade shoes into existence has air that is thick with the rich smell of the finest hides money can buy which hang around the room in a splendid display of chromatic exuberance. At the far end of the room, standing at one end of a rustic wooden workbench is a Handmade shoemaker who is everything one wants a Gaelic artisan to be in appearance is eyeing up a calf hide in rich maroon spread out before him. Actually, the handmade shoemaker is poring over it, his intense resolve crevicing his forehead, the way an aerial sea patroller might survey a coastline for sharks. The handmade shoemaker, having decided he has spotted every flaw and assessed how to work around the defects to maximum effect; he takes his blade and begins creating what will become the uppers of a discerning customer’s next pair of handmade shoes.
The skilled artisan of handmade shoes is key partly because the way you cut the leather determines how much you waste but much more importantly his work also decides the quality of components you have to work with later. The handmade shoemaker needs to be able to spot the defects and cut around them. Any slight defect such as insect bites, wrinkles, scratches where the animal has rubbed against barbed wire will soon become obvious when the patina is applied to the leather. The hawk-eyed handmade shoemaker is also required to pick out veins that are a fraction-of-a-millimeter thick because using any of these will make the leather weaker making it split when the bottom is attached. The handmade shoes need to be made by cutting the leather around them.
The hide which is subjected to such critical scrutiny will make no more than two pairs of shoes. In the case of crocodile skin, two skins are required to make one pair of handmade shoes partly because you need to use the softer, supplier part of the hide with larger scales in the center. It is well known that in handmade shoes if you see smaller scales it means the company has used lower quality side parts of the crocodile and also because the scales need to match given that crocodile skins are like human fingerprints in terms of individuality. This is an extremely tricky matter of value judgment. It means that only one-third of the animal skin purchased will end up as a pair of handmade shoes. It is definitely a costly decision, but it is where the reputation of the company rests on.
Handmade shoes tend to come in clean, narrow versions of classic shapes and are often spruced up by subtle sole engravings, bright piping, or rich patinas in sapphire, olive or dark blue. A common sight in the workroom is a handmade shoemaker armed with special pliers manipulating a lining and leather upper around a last, assessing the tension and pressure with frowning, obsessional vigor, occasionally blasting the leather with a blow heater to make it more malleable before reworking it further. Watching the handmade shoemaker, it feels like eternity before he finally decides to apply the upper evenly using tacks, which serve a similar purpose to baste stitching in bespoke tailoring. If he stretches the leather even a fraction too much before tacking, the upper’s being off center will be noticeable to the discerning customer.
At the patina stage, where the handmade shoes are given the beautiful chromatic finishes that will enable connoisseurs that will recognize the shoes as being distinctly handmade as the colors are brushed on with the loving, ultra-alert sedulousness of an artist applying oil to a canvas. Every artisan of handmade shoes including the one who applies the final touch of detail carries out his role as if the overall quality of the pair of handmade shoes depended on his professional excellence. A place where these children of the Eye known as hand-made shoes breeds passion of excellence with the community encouraging artisanal culture, making one feel pride and a quiet sense of confidence when wearing a pair of handmade shoes.
The custom blazer has long been a divisive garment. In 1800’s, the Lady Margaret Boat Club, the rowing club of St. John’s college in Cambridge, caused quite a stir in the university’s undergraduate community. Like most upper-crust sporting establishments of the time, a uniform was a compulsion, but unlike many dreary buttoned-up uniforms of the early 19th century, the members of the Lady Margaret Boat Club opted to tailor their jackets slightly short in length and in a shocking bright crimson flannel. The rationale behind this remains unclear, but one suspects that the case may be, these bright boating bespoke coats came to be known as Blazers, such was their vivacity. The trend caught on like a blazing fire because some 60 years later a priggish letter submitted to The Daily News queried the identity of the custom blazer, stating: “A Blazer is the red flannel boating jacket worn by the Lady Margaret, St. John’s College, Cambridge, Boat Club. When I was at Cambridge it meant that and nothing else. It seems that a custom-tailored Blazer now means a colored flannel jacket, whether for cricket, tennis, boating or seaside wear.”
Indeed, by the 1890’s the term Blazer was commonly used in reference to all those things, but additionally it had come to be associated with the dark-navy, brass-buttoned, double-breasted ‘reefer coats’ the Royal Navy distributed to sailors to wear when reefing the sails on deck in poor weather conditions. The use of the term was also compounded by the uniforms of the crew of H.M.S Blazer, who was known for wearing bright blue and white striped coats, not dissimilar to collegiate boating blazers, prior to the standardization of the Navy’s uniform.
It is a little-known and often overlooked fact that the early 20th century a custom blazer was a hybrid born of three different dissecting garments; the reefer coat, the colorful sports jackets that were considered appropriate active wear during the 19th century, and the collegiate boating blazer. Precisely how the three came to be molded into one is unknown, but it is clear that the custom blazer’s origin is of the elitist, associated with uniformity, prestige and social exclusivity.
Though it persists in this form, Knights & Lords Bespoke Tailors feel it is high time to acknowledge the democratization of the tailored blazer that has taken place is luxury menswear. Almost out of nowhere the blazer has shrugged off its stuffy and hitherto rather narrow parameters to become a garment that defies definition or any form of a narrow set of rules. As dress codes have softened over the past three years, the custom blazer has become the best barometer for the way in which men’s style is changing.
However, if the blazer has morphed into something more fluid, what is it that has allowed it to evolve? The answer is simple as explained by Ashish & Pawan of the highly venerated bespoke tailoring house Knights & Lords. It is simply a matter of taste. It is something that is easier to sense than to define and hence cannot be confined to the rule of the law. After all, all blazers are sports jackets but not all sports jackets are blazers. All we can agree on is the fact that it is a tailored coat. What kind of tailored coat it may be is something completely dependent on the taste of the wearer.
With this in mind, perhaps the key to the contemporary custom tailored blazer’s success is its softness of aesthetic. It is this relaxation in terms of the cut and construction of a tailored coat that is underpinning the blazer’s evolution. However, according to Ashish & Pawan of Knights & Lords, the texture of a blazer is now as important as its cut: “You can dress up or dress down a tailored garment with texture, and the blazer is no different. A classic fine worsted is timeless and quite formal, but if you can find a cloth with a bit of natural sheen then you are looking at more of an evening blazer or cocktail coat. Cut your blazer in a soft new boucle weave or wool-silk hopsack for a chic, contemporary look. Colors like a forest green or tobacco brown suit a modern blazer as much as the traditional navy.” This sums up the inherent hybrid nature of the custom blazer, literally presenting it as the ultimate sartorial chameleon, alluding to its versatility and capacity to move between different environments and social contexts.
It is quite a feat, and it goes some way to demonstrating how the bespoke custom blazer has transformed itself from the buttoned-up jacket of the establishment. At last, it is no longer the preserve of the stuffy elite or the conformist, but an elegant garment of unwavering sophistication, a tool for sartorial self-expression and the ultimate contemporary wardrobe staple. For those who wish to throw their gloves at the feet of traditionalism and yet remain thoroughly sartorial in appearance, this new generation of unorthodox custom blazers is the answer to a prayer.
The quality of every pair of handmade shoes by Knights & Lords is assured as each benefit from six weeks of meticulous hand craftsmanship, finishing, and inspection. These handmade shoes are crafted only from premium leathers sourced from tanneries that use the finest time-honored treatments, thus guaranteeing each pair of handmade shoes’ superb quality. Every pair of handmade shoes is cut from a single piece of full grain leather to ensure that the shoes are identical both in quality and the way they fit on the feet.
In addition to the fine quality of materials used in these handmade men shoes, the wealth of experience and attention to detail that goes in constructing a pair of handmade shoes means that, with care, they will not only last a lifetime but become even more comfortable and elegant with age. While one can have their handmade shoes polished professionally, the satisfaction of looking after your own handmade shoes is something that we at Knights & Lords recommend. Here are some tips from Ashish & Pawan of Knights & Lords which are simple procedures one must follow to appreciate your shoes to the fullest.
1) Always use a shoehorn – it will help in keeping your handmade shoes in perfect shape
2) Walk your new handmade shoes in gradually, wearing them only for a few hours in dry conditions during the first few days. This will allow the leather to soften and better fit the shape of your foot.
3) Rotate your pair of handmade shoes so they can dry out properly and breathe.
4) Always use shoetrees – they keep your handmade shoes in their optimum shape and help to remove creases.
Nourishing and Polishing – Prior to polishing dust over your bespoke handmade shoes with a brush and clean the stitches with a welt brush. Choose a jar of shoe cream specially made for handmade shoes which are slightly lighter in color than your handmade shoes if you wish to preserve its original shade or a slightly darker shade if you wish to deepen the original color of your handmade shoes. Using a clean cloth wrapped around two fingers held together; apply the cream sparingly with a circular motion. Progressively work the shoe cream into the leather and use a welt brush to make sure it has penetrated the welt. Once the cream has dried, polish it off with a soft brush until the desired luster has been achieved.
Waxing and Glazing – In addition to the regular use of cream, Knights & Lords recommends that you also occasionally use a wax polish. It gives your handmade shoes both, a wear-resistant coating and a more intensely gleaming patina, especially to the toe and heel. The wax should be applied to your shoes in a similar fashion to the cream, though more sparingly and with a lighter touch, using a slightly damp cotton cloth to achieve a brilliant, glazed effect. Give the final touch, preferably whilst wearing your handmade shoes, with a soft cotton cloth.
Sole Replacing – Your handmade shoes are exceptionally robust. When, eventually, they require re-soling, just bring them to Knights & Lords. We will carry out a full inspection of your bespoke shoes, undertaking the re-soling. The entire sole, welt and insole will be removed and replaced with new ones. Your shoes will then be expertly re-polished and returned to you as near to new as possible.
Taking care of your handmade shoes is the best way to reach a calm and meditative state of mind as it requires the modest use of intellect while appreciating the beauty, craftsmanship, and naturalness of your handmade men shoes. It is indeed a way leading to the tower of inner engineering, a realm that exists within a dimension of your mind which is beyond space and time, a place of eternal bliss.
What is the one single most important element that differentiates a Bespoke suit from one that is off-the-peg or made to measure? Apart from being handmade from wool clothes with absolute precision and perfection, the main difference between a Bespoke suit from one that is made to measure is canvassing.
A Bespoke Suit has a woolen layer of canvas that is hand stitched to the suit fabric with a web of interlocking stitches. The canvas gives more form to the clothes and ensures it maintains its curves by draping over you in a manner that will never look plain and flat over your body. The canvas also gives your lapel a rolled look whilst flowing well with your body without falling flat on it. Hand-rolled lapels are therefore one of the most significant features of Bespoke Suits which is unattainable on made to measure ones.
The web of interlocking stitches on the canvas making it one with the suit is done in a manner which resembles the clockwork movement of a watch. This level of handwork alone takes close to 50 hours as it needs to be done with a single thread continuous stitch without any broken cuts or pieces. If the thread breaks while doing it at any point, the entire thing needs to be opened up and the bespoke tailor needs to start all over again as it’s important that with every movement of the person’s body, the canvas layer and the threads move along with you giving absolute ease and flexibility of movement while wearing the suit. This entire process is one that is skipped altogether in a made to measure suits.
Additionally, the inclusion of horse hair in the canvas gives it the ability to grip the overlying clothes and aids in the natural movement of the suit in synchronization with the body. The canvas is made of wool which has a natural memory feature. As your suit gets older and the canvas threads become loose, the suit with the canvas will start taking the shape of your body and fit you better with time. This is in stark contrast to what can be achieved in made to measure clothing as made to measure suits will never be able to fit you better with time due to the layer of canvas that is missing on the inside.
The canvas also increases the life of your Bespoke Suit as the clothes and fabric never interact with your body directly due to the layer of canvas in between. A bespoke tailor treats the canvas of a bespoke suit similarly as an artist would treat their canvas for a painting. In both cases, it provides to be the fundamental step that is the platform which leads us into creating a unique masterpiece of perfection. It is also a silent elixir of life which keeps your suit in form, keeps your cloth fresh and makes sure the suit eventually takes the shape of your body and remains in that shape unlike those of made to measure suits. It is due to the memory feature and the extended life of Bespoke Suit that suits have gained the status of an inheritance piece which gets passed on to future generations. A value that can only be seen in bespoke suits and not in made to measure clothing.
With the shape and form of the previous owner, it is believed the inner qualities and personality of the previous owner also gets transferred to the new bearer. The canvass, therefore, is the soul of a Bespoke suit making it alive, fresh and immortal.
A History of Bespoke Suit Tailoring – The Drape Cut Method
The Eye of Bespoke, the source of guidance and inspiration for Bespoke Tailors with illuminated minds since the early 1900’s, was initially referred to by Federick Scholte of the legendary bespoke tailoring house Anderson & Sheppard in Savile Row, London. It came to Federick Scholte when he was trying a different kind of cut for the bespoke suit of King Edward the VIII who ruled from 1919-1959. King Edward was of fairly rotund physique and wanted a bespoke suit with a cut that made him appear slimmer without compromising on comfort. Federick Scholte, being a highly respected master in the craft of tailoring, took up the challenge despite being confused on how to achieve it.
However, he had the belief that anything and everything is possible as his mind had broken the self-created barriers and boundaries of the dimensions of reality. Over the years, mastering the craft of tailoring and bringing bespoke suits from his imagination into existence had made a deep shift in his inner dimensions, allowing him to balance his inner self with the outer world in perfect harmony. Once the balance was struck, he laid down the fabric before himself and with closed eyes, shifted his focus to the eye center which he referred to as the Eye of Bespoke. This meditative state along with his inner and outer balance would then be perfectly aligned with the Eye of Bespoke which could enable him to tap into the universal bank of knowledge and allow its energy to freely flow through him and around him, making anything and everything in his mind with regards to the suit he was tailoring, manifest into the physical dimension of his reality. This is how he brought into existence the Drape Cut method of suit making.
The Drape cut method of suit tailoring involved cutting against the grain of the fabric allowing the diagonal stretch ability of wool to drape over the curves of your body. This along with the combination of a fuller chest and the torso nipped in at a singular point in addition to a slightly flared hip gives a slimmer looking silhouette from the sides. A significantly larger sleeve-head is eased into a smaller arm-hole through a micro-pleating effect done by hand to give immense ease of arm movement. This makes the Drape Cut method of suit tailoring absolutely perfect for someone looking to achieve the right balance between aesthetics and comfort. The problem is that the shoulder and chest proportions are a very peculiar calculation that changes with every body type. This means that there isn’t and cannot be a perfect formula to achieve the Drape Cut which made it very difficult for Federick Scholte at the time to teach it to any of his students. Moreover, he was known to tailor suits using this revolutionary cut by mapping the initial suit pattern directly on the fabric. He never needed to make a paper pattern first, which is something that bespoke tailors even with the highest level of skill and confidence could not achieve, as the entire fabric would go waste if there was even the smallest mistake in calculating the proportions.
The only way one could master the drape cut method of suit tailoring was by seeking guidance from the Eye of Bespoke which would guide the bespoke tailor with the exact proportions pertaining to the specific suit pattern that was being cut for the client. It is therefore natural for any bespoke tailor who uses the Drape Cut method of suit tailoring to seek guidance from the All Seeing Eye of Bespoke and cut the suit pattern directly on the fabric in the same way as Federick Scholte.
Mastering Bespoke Tailoring – The Four Dimensions of Your Mind
It was also noted that a bespoke suit which was in tune with the Eye of Bespoke had the ability to redesign the wearers inner architecture in a manner that made it possible for him to re-shape his life in any which way he wanted, helping them to come closer to reaching their full potential in life. This was further believed due the long list of clients of Federick Scholte and Henry Poole which include almost everyone who has left their footprint behind such as Mayor De Rothschild, Napoleon Bonaparte and King Edward among many others. For a bespoke tailor to be able to tailor suits which are in tune with the Eye of Bespoke, they would first need to master all the four dimensions of their mind.
The first dimension is intellect – the logical dimension of thought. Once you have successfully directed your intellect to dedicatedly master the craft of tailoring you move on to the next dimension which is memory. Whatever you start learning has to be stored in your memory which includes but is not limited to the brain. Memory runs throughout your entire body. Your body remembers exactly how your forefathers looked and some part of it can be found on you even today which means every cell in your body has a phenomenal memory capacity that runs right up to the beginning of existence. Once the craft of tailoring becomes part of this memory, the ability to tailor suits becomes part of one’s second nature which would not be too different from minor tasks such as eating food or drinking water. Once the craft of bespoke suit tailoring becomes part of that memory, you move on to the next dimension which is intelligence.
Intelligence is very different from intellect which is only pertaining to the brain. Intelligence runs through the entire cosmos including you. Every cell in your body has the intelligence of how to make a piece of bread that you just ate, become a part of your body within minutes. The entire cosmos has an inherent intelligence which allows it to run its daily functions of life. The craft of suit tailoring needs to enter the inherent intelligence of the bespoke tailor which will propel him to the last dimension which is identity. Once the craft of suit tailoring has become a part of the basic intelligence, which is the same way the entire cosmos is run, his intelligence gets linked to the universal intelligence of the cosmos allowing one to tap into the collective intelligence of your archetype of suit tailoring accumulated over centuries of collective experience of bespoke tailors. Identifying and recognizing this supreme intelligence and universal bank of knowledge is what Federick Scholte called The Eye of Bespoke. One then simply becomes a channel through which energies of The Eye of Bespoke or any other archetype one identifies with can freely flow throughout the four dimensions of the mind. Things that are otherwise beyond comprehension of the physical brain or mental self can then be brought into existence.
A Bespoke suit that is tailored to be completely aligned and in tune with the Eye of Bespoke will then work on the same four dimensions of the mind, as your perception of yourself has now changed with what you could only imagine you look like with what you now really look like once you wear the bespoke suit. You can see, touch, feel and identify with what was previously only a figment of your imagination.
Something your physical mind could not have deemed possible. This will allow your mind to break through the shackles of your self-created boundaries and open your Eye of Bespoke. Once you have opened your Eye of Bespoke, you shall see and experience the same shift in your inner dimensions as your bespoke tailor who felt it while tailoring the suit. Its precision and perfection will work on all four dimensions of your mind making you achieve precision and perfection in all your actions in life. You will become one with the universal intelligence or the Eye of Bespoke allowing its energy to flow freely through the four dimensions of your illuminated mind, guiding you with the knowledge of how to manifest your thoughts into the physical dimension of your reality. Thus, an open Eye of Bespoke is the first step towards the inner engineering which will enable you to re-shape your life in any which way you desire.