A vintage Corbin madras jacket -- Guess which one! -- and two linen-silk numbers from Southwick.
Spending time down in the basement office here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold this Friday afternoon after enjoying a popsicle with my son The Young Master who concluded his kindergarten year of school with a half-day. It has, moreover, been several weeks since the last style post of any consequence has appeared here, so I thought that I would share three loosely related snippets now.
I finally found a new tailor, who really seems (pun unintended) to know his stuff when it comes to menswear. Originally from Vietnam, the proprietor of Unique Tailors and Cleaners has run his shop for 17 years above, of all places, the local Meijer's supermarket! The shop is bright, clean, and busy with lots of customers and the various items they bring to the shop hanging in neat rows right behind the counter. Best of all, turn-around is at right about a week although the shop offers to address very simple jobs rapidly while you shop for groceries downstairs. As an interesting aside, the owner told me last week that he not only did clothing alterations in Vietnam, but he also made men's clothing. So, my suspicion is that he really knows what he is doing. I will not hesitate to take a couple of recently acquired suits to him for a few more complicated alterations later in the summer.
For now, I had the sleeves shorted and inch or so on the three jackets pictured at the top of this post. Two of them are linen-silk blends by Southwick, and the cotton Madras number is a vintage piece by Corbin that is almost like wearing nothing thanks to very lightweight material and just enough lining inside to slip on and off comfortably. Best of all, this is one of the tamer madras tartans I have come across, so I snatched it up on Ebay, for a song incidentally, when I saw it a month or so ago. Besides thrift/chatrity shops, Ebay is also a very useful place for finding gently used, and sometimes even new with tags, male attire in the classic vein.
The secret to wearing Madras jackets seems to be that you keep everything else absolutely plain, so probably a summer weight mid- or light blue blue cotton shirt and either pale gray, or light khaki dress chinos, and a white linen or cotton pocket handkerchief with this. I'll freak out my new students a few times, I am sure, with this jacket once the fall semester begins at the end of August. In the meantime, I picked up my jackets and dropped off three pairs of gabardine dress pants that have always been about an inch too long, and the waist on two pairs needs to be let out a bit. I am interested to see how the owner of Unique Tailor and Cleaners does with this somewhat more involved process.
My maternal grandfather's horsehair shoebrushes that I continue to use myself.
Finally, even if you are not a spitshine/glase enthusiast when it comes to your leather dress shoes, it's always a good idea to give them the quick once over in the mornings when you dress, and again when you undress in the evenings, with horsehair shoe brushes. It keeps a nice sheen on the leather and sole edges besides keeping the welts dust free, something that is a pet peeve of mine. These brushes once belonged to my maternal grandfather, and date from the early 1950s. He used them five or six days a week during his working life until I became a teenager in the late 1970s and earned weekly allowance/pocket money by, among other things, using these same brushes to keep Granddaddy's footwear presentable.
Granddaddy took another sales job after retiring in 1981, something to do that would get him out of the house, and continued to dress well in suits or sports jackets with odd pants and a necktie. At about that time, I was a young teenager in need of spending money as slightly older friends began driving, and we went out to do things after school or on weekends. Seeing an opportunity for both of us, Granddaddy suggested that I keep his several pairs of dress shoes presentable with a good shine once a week. He later chuckled and told me that the men he met always used to ask just how he got his shoes to look so good. The secret was, of course, his mercenary grandson!
Anyway, Granddaddy finally presented his shoe brushes to me in 1998, or '99, shortly before he and my grandmother moved for the last time, and I have used them almost everyday since then, at least during the days from the end of August to the start of May each year when I dress for professional activities on campus. Summers at home are, as I have written previously, a lot less formal with chino shorts, short-sleeved madras or polo shirts, and leather dock-siders.
But back to dress shoes and shoeshines. While there is something very relaxing about shining your shoes, as well as the science behind it, a light treatment of leather balm once every week or two and a good buffing with brushes like these will impart a nice sheen to your dress shoes, keep them looking more than presentable, and without the process taking too much time.