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.
Bespoke Suit Wearing Etiquette
Wearing a Suit is very different from wearing a “bespoke” Suit. When you enter the realm of bespoke tailoring and decide to start wearing a bespoke suit, you take the responsibility of keeping the bespoke tradition alive left behind by the nobles of the yesteryears who believed that only wearing a bespoke suit can make one achieve their full potential in life. These gentlemen who left their mark on the face of the world were known to believe that men were meant to be sublime and that achieving anything was possible as long as you had the knowledge to dress for it. You were meant to dress not like who you are, but who you want to be. Sartorial knowledge was not only considered the stepping stone of success but the power which could propel you to become one with the forces of nature, allowing you to change and shape your life in any way you wanted. If you aspire to reaching the epitome of sartorial elegance, it is absolutely necessary to follow the basic bespoke suit wearing etiquettes which will build the foundation for you and put you on the road to arriving at your destined door of unknown pleasures in life. Below are ten basic bespoke suit wearing etiquettes one absolutely must follow when wearing Bespoke Suits:
1- In a single breasted two button bespoke suit, always fasten the top button and leave the lower button undone. The same rule applies for a Vest, leave the last button undone.
Reason: Back in the 1900’s King Edward VII was a fairly healthy Gentleman and was not able to button up his lower button due to his rotund physique. Everyone around him did the same in his presence out of respect for him as to not make him feel inferior. Since then fashion has evolved but it still remains to be an unsaid rule for every Gentleman wearing a two button single breasted bespoke suit to leave the last button undone.
2- Always unbutton your bespoke suit jacket when you sit down unless it is a Double Breasted bespoke suit.
Reason: A double breasted bespoke suit has enough buttons done up to give the bespoke suit jacket a reasonable amount of support when you sit down. However, if you sit down without unbuttoning your single breast bespoke suit jacket, you run the risk of ruining its form and construction apart from looking very sloppy. In the Gentleman’s world, it is the equivalent of dropping your jacket on the floor and stepping on it. In a double breasted bespoke suit your buttons would remain done up all the time as it would float about in a very haphazard manner and look inappropriate if not done up.
3- Always ensure that your bespoke suit tailor keeps the length of your trouser such that the front just kisses the top of the shoe and the back comes mid way behind the shoe.
Reason: A well tailored bespoke suit trouser will never have too much of a ripple in the front as it looks sloppy and neither should it be too short so as to show your socks when you walk as it’s not a good visual. The trick here is to have the bottom done at an angle so it has only one break in the front and is slightly longer at the back to cover half the shoe. This will make it look smooth and straight in the front and will also never show your socks when you walk.
4- Always choose a proper peak lapel when getting a Double Breasted bespoke suit.
Reason: The Double Breasted bespoke suit which is of English origin is till date chosen by many Royals and Heads of state as their ultimate gentlemen’s armour as it gives a powerful impression when wearing it. A Gentleman always respects tradition and ever lasting style. It is an absolute must that a double breasted bespoke suit is always worn with a Peak lapel just the way others who have changed the world and left their footprint behind have worn it.
5- The bottom of your tie should just kiss the top of your belt when wearing a bespoke suit.
Reason: A famous Gentleman named Oscar Wilde once said “A well tied tie is the first serious step in life.” To show that you are serious you should make sure the length of your tie is such that it doesn’t cover your belt and neither should it be so short that it makes you look disproportionate. It should just touch the belt so that the people looking at you can realize the care you have taken to do up your tie while you look your impeccable best in your bespoke suit.
6- The collar ends should never show from your bespoke suit.
Reason: if your collar ends show from your bespoke suit jacket, it means that enough care has not been taken by your bespoke tailor to craft your bespoke suits which will eventually become an extension of your personality and a companion for life. The collar of your shirt should be broad and wide enough so that the collar points do not pop out from the lapel of your Coat. A Gentleman would immediately see how sloppy this can make you look if not taken care of in the most appropriate manner.
7- Never match your tie and your pocket square when wearing bespoke suits
Reason: If you match your tie and pocket square it tells others that you do not put enough time and thought to the way you dress by going for the most obvious decision, which also reflects on your character and gives people the impression that your decisions in life are made hastily. Make sure your tie and pocket square complement each other by belonging to the same family of colors but do not match it exactly. Matching your tie and pocket square steals away the flair. Its almost as bad as matching your suit and your shirt to the same color which showcases a reflection of your personality in the poorest manner possible.
8- Your belt and shoes should always match whenever you wear bespoke suits.
Reason: Since your belt and shoes are placed far apart from each other, when you match then it makes everything go in harmony with each other and gives you a more complete look when wearing your Bespoke Suit.
9- Shirt sleeves should always show from your bespoke suit jacket.
Reason: Make sure at least 1 to 2 centimeters of your shirt sleeves show from your bespoke suit jacket. It is one of the first signs of a well tailored bespoke suit and is one of the most elementary and basic rules to follow in the realm of bespoke tailoring.
10- Always remember to practice with utmost care the mannerisms, ideology and qualities of a true Gentleman when wearing a bespoke suit.
Reason: Back in the days, only true Gentlemen wore bespoke suits and it was a given that a person wearing a bespoke suit was a thorough Gentleman. Both went hand-in-hand in a manner that neither one can be complete in its truest sense without the other. It is for this reason that timeless elegance is enjoyed only by people who wear bespoke suits as being a Gentleman never goes out of style!