"The master of this domain was Mr. Norman Halsey. He was a man of uncommon good looks, and with his brushed-back silver hair and aquiline nose, he looked a bit like that British actor Ian Richardson. Mr. Halsey was also as beautifully dressed as any man you are going to find on this earth. From the head, his line followed down his waistcoat to a slim waist, long legs, and perfect, thin black-leather shoes. If I had to guess, I would say they were made by Cleverley. He often had a watch chain crossing from pocket to pocket on his waistcoat. A few years after we had gotten to know each other, I suggested that he call me Graydon rather than ‘Mr. Carter.’ ‘Of course, Mr. Carter,’ he replied. On occasion, I would try to get him to make something outside the mould, something a bit dramatic, to which he would say ‘A most daring idea, sir’ and the plan would be quietly dropped. During one fitting, when I felt I had put on a bit of weight, I asked Mr. Halsey if he could cut it so the extra pounds wouldn’t show. ‘We’re only tailors, sir,’ he replied politely, but firmly."
- Graydon Carter on Norman Halsey, once the head salesman, then later the managing director, at Anderson & Sheppard.

"The master of this domain was Mr. Norman Halsey. He was a man of uncommon good looks, and with his brushed-back silver hair and aquiline nose, he looked a bit like that British actor Ian Richardson. Mr. Halsey was also as beautifully dressed as any man you are going to find on this earth. From the head, his line followed down his waistcoat to a slim waist, long legs, and perfect, thin black-leather shoes. If I had to guess, I would say they were made by Cleverley. He often had a watch chain crossing from pocket to pocket on his waistcoat. A few years after we had gotten to know each other, I suggested that he call me Graydon rather than ‘Mr. Carter.’ ‘Of course, Mr. Carter,’ he replied. On occasion, I would try to get him to make something outside the mould, something a bit dramatic, to which he would say ‘A most daring idea, sir’ and the plan would be quietly dropped. During one fitting, when I felt I had put on a bit of weight, I asked Mr. Halsey if he could cut it so the extra pounds wouldn’t show. ‘We’re only tailors, sir,’ he replied politely, but firmly."

- Graydon Carter on Norman Halsey, once the head salesman, then later the managing director, at Anderson & Sheppard.

Understanding a Suit’s Silhouette

It’s common to hear people describe a suit’s silhouette in terms of its nationality. Suits are described as being American, British, or Continental. The first is either a sack or modified sack silhouette; the second said to be built up with military shoulders and have more waist suppression; and the third said to be a bit slimmer and feature “natural shoulders”. This is roughly correct, though it stays truer for some countries than others. Jesse, for example, did a wonderful job of describing the traditional American style of suits a few months ago. His description really works for America because of how large J Press looms in our sartorial history. For a country like Italy, however, it can be a bit more diverse. For example, a Neapolitan jacket can be very different from a Roman one, and some would say that Naples itself is also too heterogeneous to categorize. Thus, it can be useful to break down the silhouette of a suit into parts and not just think of them nationally. By doing so, you can better understand what you like or don’t like about a particular suit, and be better equipped to find one that best fits your personal sense of style.

At the most basic level, a suit’s silhouette can be said to be either structured or soft. A structured suit will be made with a stiffer canvas and have a more built up, padded shoulder. A softer silhouette will, naturally, be made with a softer canvas and have a thinner layer of padding. A related issue, though not exactly the same, is the shoulder’s expression. A shoulder can be roped, natural, or bald. The first will have a prominent ridge at the shoulder seam that runs along the crown of the sleeve. The second will have a very light ridge, but run flat. The third will have a knocked down shoulder seam and very low profile. Jeffery Diduch did a great job of explaining the differences between shoulder expressions here. The takeaway is that while some expressions may be associated with specific styles of construction - for example, the bald shoulder with a softly constructed, unpadded shoulder line - they don’t necessarily have to go together. They’re two separate elements that work in concert with each other to make up what we see as the shoulder, which in turn gives us the impression of a structured or soft silhouette.

The minimally padded, softer silhouette is more popular these days, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should wear it. One of the important lessons taught by Alan Flusser is that we should dress to our body types, not what happens to be fashionable. A friend of mine in San Francisco, for example, has a very round upper chest, as well as round, sloping shoulders with prominent blades. In a soft Neapolitan jacket, he looks like an gorilla, but in something more structured and with a nipped waist, he looks athletic and handsome. As always, it’s best to try both of these styles on and be objective about how you look in each.

The other important aspect to a suit is how lean or full it is. In the most basic sense, this is about how close the suit sits to your body. Unfortunately, the trend of slimmer fitting clothes has led men to be single minded about this subject, but a better understanding is more nuanced. We can think of the suit in three parts - the chest, waist, and skirt (the skirt is simply the part of the jacket that hangs below the waist).

A lean chest will be shallow while a full chest will either be swelled or draped. A swelled chest will be fuller all around and look a bit more sculpted. A draped chest will have large, vertical folds of excess cloth that “drape” along the jacket’s edges, near the armholes. I made a post about drapes and swells at my other blog some time ago, and you can see illustrations of it there. The two often go together, but they don’t have to. You can have a swelled chest, for example, with no drape.

Similar to the chest, the waist can be nipped or left loose, and the skirt can hug the hips or be left a little full. These will create either a leaner or fuller silhouette, depending on how you combine these constructions.

The “lean and clean” look is what men’s fashion magazines have been pushing for years, and probably what has been most popular with men for decades. This silhouette will sit closer to the wearer’s body in all three sections. A fuller silhouette is less popular, but I think unjustly so. I don’t just mean the dartless American sack suits here, either. Anderson & Sheppard, for example, makes a fuller chest that gently billows out a bit. I find the effect more masculine, heroic, and elegant. I once read Michael Alden compare someone’s “lean and clean” suit to an overly skinny runway model that needed more “meat on her bones.” Setting aside my slight discomfort with talking about people’s bodies in this way, his description spoke well to how I feel about these kinds of silhouettes in general. Of course, this is all a matter of personal taste and style, but I find fuller suits to have more depth and elegance, and be infinitely more interesting. Not that everyone should share my taste, of course, but I do think that most men should consider fuller suits more.

Moving on to the last dimension, a suit’s silhouette can either be elongating or widening. There are many aspects to this. An elongating suit will have a lower buttoning point. This will draw longer vertical lines along the suit’s lapel, which in turn will make the wearer look a bit taller. It may also have a higher gorge. A suit’s “gorge” is often conflated with the lapel’s notch, but it’s actually the seam that connects the jacket’s collar to the lapel. More or less the same, but still slightly different. Italians tend to make suits with a higher gorge than their British counterparts, and Neapolitan and Sicilian tailors make them higher still.

A widening silhouette will have wider lapels and perhaps extended shoulders. In today’s single-mindedness about suits, this may sound unappealing, but it’s worth reminding that many Neapolitan suits, which so many people are in love with nowadays, often have widening silhouettes.

In the end, all of these aspects can be combined in a number of ways to create an overall silhouette. One of the most elegantly dressed men I’ve ever met wore a softly constructed suit with a bald shoulder. His jacket had a fuller chest, nipped waist, and tight skirt. His trousers had a slightly higher rise and the legs were fuller than what more “fashionable” men wear today. They were still slim and flattering, however, and they created a nice line going from his jacket to his shoes. What he wore matched not only his body type, but also his personality and character. As a man, he was every bit as elegant as his clothes, and what he wore expressed him as a full human being, not as a clotheshorse.

As you look at pictures of well-dressed men, try dissecting each of these parts. You’ll develop a more refined understanding of suits and become more sensitive to how they can make an impression. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll be better equipped to purchase suits according to your body type and sense of style. Maybe you like lean, structured suits, or maybe you don’t, but you won’t know until you understand how to look for them.

Pictures taken from The Armoury, Permanent Style, The Sartorialist, Mister Crew, Rubinacci Club, and a few others I’ve unfortunately forgotten. This article also owes a lot to Michael Anton’s original article on the same subject at the London Lounge, so many thanks to him for that.

We Got It For Free: Anderson & Sheppard’s A Style is Born

Anderson & Sheppard’s new book, A Style is Born, is being released today. The 296-page volume is special in that it’s part of Anderson & Sheppard’s evolutionary shift, but to understand that, we should start with some history.

The company was founded in 1906, and originally called Anderson & Simmons. It changed to its current name, however, when Mr. Simmons sold his stake to Sidney Horatio Sheppard, a trouser cutter at the firm. Per Anderson, one of the original co-founders, was a Swedish expatriate who learned his trade from an innovative Dutch tailor named Frederick Scholte. Scholte is credited with creating the London cut (also known as the English drape), which is a term that refers to the way a jacket hangs (or “drapes”) from the shoulders. There is more room over the chest and shoulder blades, which results in conspicuous, but graceful, folds of cloth that gently descend from the collarbone. The uppersleeves are built generously, but the armholes are cut high, so that that jacket’s collar never lifts off of the wearer’s neck. The shoulders are also unpadded, which leaves them to slope naturally along the body’s lines. The combination of all these things make the English drape cut extremely comfortable and easy to move around in, but still adheres to many of the basic standards of fit that make a suit well tailored.

This cut was popularized by the Duke of Windsor, who wanted to rebel against his “buttoned up” childhood. The Duke longed for a more comfortable way of dressing - he often found himself removing his coat, ripping off his tie, loosening his collar, and rolling up his sleeves. It was a gesture not just for comfort, but also, in a symbolic sense, freedom. In Scholte, he found the perfect simpatico - a man who would make him a softly constructed jacket that would be as much about comfort as it would be about elegance.

Since the Duke set much of the early- to mid-20th century mens’ fashion trends, his implicit endorsement led to a boom in the cut’s popularity, which reached all the way across the Atlantic. Many Hollywood stars became enamored with the look, and since Per Anderson trained under Scholte, they naturally went to Anderson & Sheppard.

While Per Anderson built the house’s silhouette, his partner, Sidney Horatio Sheppard (better known as SHS), set its tone. In his introduction to the book, David Kamp uses a line from American satirist and Anglophile SJ Peterman. Peterman said of the British: “The expression ‘It’s not done’ pretty well sums up not only the state of mind of the more solvent class, but the attitude of people in shops and businesses.” SHS was apparently an “it’s not done” kind of fellow. He was a schoolmaster’s son, well educated, socially connected, and somewhat of a country squire. He was said to be very autocratic, not one to mix with the tailoring fraternity, and worked hard to build the firm’s reputation, but without making it seemed like the firm sought attention to itself. In fact, this was done to such an extent that the firm seemed almost secretive. While other tailors such as Henry Poole and Kilgour joined associations and guilds, Anderson & Sheppard never joined anything at all. Save for a single advertisement published once in an outdoorsman magazine, the firm also never advertised. SHS eschewed publicity of any sort and thought it was vulgar.

SHS’s reticence and strict sense of propriety filtered down to the staff, and this transmuted into a kind of hardedge severity. Women weren’t allowed into the fitting areas, unless they promised to keep quiet. Cutters were known to storm out of rooms if wives offered a suggestion or critiqued a husband’s suit-in-progress. They also refused to deviate from the house’s famous English-drape style. One cutter, Mr. Hallbury, would respond to such requests by saying, “Are you asking me to make a Rolls-Royce with the front of a Mercedes, sir?” A fierier cutter, Mr. Cameron, would simply show customers the door, saying, “You’re in the wrong shop!”

In 2004, Anda Rowland became Anderson & Sheppard’s vice chairman, and now manages it along with John Hitchcock. She has overseen somewhat of a glasnost there. The famously secretive house, once closed to writers and journalists, is now opening up. There is a website, a blog, and cutters and tailors who don’t mind your paying them a visit in the back rooms. The tailors are much friendlier, and no one is ever thrown out anymore (though they still won’t deviate from their cut). This book, then, is part of that evolution. The handsome photographs give a glimpse into inner workings and everyday details of life at Anderson & Sheppard, from the sturdily woven fabrics to the tailors’ and cutters’ workrooms. There are also sublime archival images of legendary clients of yore, not least of which includes Fred Astaire, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Gary Cooper, and Laurence Oliver. Nearly all of these men are photographed in their natural settings, and the elegance they portray is quite inspiring.

The volume is available for purchase on Amazon’s UK site, and I think it makes for a great addition to any library. It is part fashion history and part social history, and gives a near tactile immersion in one of the best tailoring shops in the world. I strongly recommend getting a copy.

This is Isaiah Berlin in an Anderson & Sheppard suit.
As an academic and a menswear enthusiast, this gives me all sorts of joy.
(This photo, by the way, is said to be in the new Anderson & Sheppard book, which is set to be released this week.)

This is Isaiah Berlin in an Anderson & Sheppard suit.

As an academic and a menswear enthusiast, this gives me all sorts of joy.

(This photo, by the way, is said to be in the new Anderson & Sheppard book, which is set to be released this week.)

Baron Guy de Rothschild, 1980
via Vanity Fair’s “The Dapper Clients of Anderson & Sheppard”
“The minute a man is overdressed, he is badly dressed.” — Charles Bryant, Anderson & Sheppard’s managing director in the ’60s and ’70s. (Taken from this great article about Anderson & Sheppard)
Here’s an old article I’ve been meaning to post. John Hitchcock, the managing director of one of Savile Row’s best tailoring houses, Anderson & Sheppard, talks about the five bespoke items that every man should have in their closet. Assuming, of course, that you’re even the kind of many who would have bespoke items in your closet. Nonetheless, I think it’s a good checklist to have, client of bespoke tailoring or not. 

A navy pinstripe double-breasted suit: A fine navy pinstripe avoids the louder gangster look that some people associate with the double-breasted suit. The double-breasted suit is one of the most flattering garments that a man can wear as it creates a longer line and more defined waist. This hides the stomach and accentuates the chest and shoulders.
A herringbone tweed jacket in brown, blue or gray: Tweed is the easiest and most classic way for a man to bring color into his wardrobe. Depending on the color and pattern, the jacket can be worn in the town or in the country; with gray flannel trousers or with jeans; with a shirt and with a sweater, and throughout autumn and winter. [Good tweeds are] hard wearing and get better with age.
Mid-gray flannel trousers with turn-ups: Gray flannel continues to be a favorite with our customers in the creative industry as it has a relaxed feel. These trousers work with most jackets and even just with a shirt and sweater. Avoid belt loops and choose side tabs or brace buttons and a buttonfly. The width of the turn-ups is important, as it is better not to have any rather than thin ones.
A classic white cotton shirt: Gary Cooper and Cary Grant were champions of the white shirt, as it always looks fresh and elegant. I prefer mine with a semi-cutaway collar, double cuffs and mother-of-pearl buttons. [However] always [get one] without a breast pocket or a button down collar.
A single-breasted Chesterfield-style navy-blue herringbone overcoat with a matching velvet collar: You can put this over whatever you are wearing; even pajamas, and you will instantly look smart. The real tastemakers in the 1920s and ’30s wore theirs very fitted as they knew that the overcoat creates an immediate impression.

Kind of puts my 10 essentials list to shame. Note: that list is more about what personal items I have that get me through a typical day, and was written when the weather was still very cold in the Bay Area. Jesse also wrote two similar lists - The Essential Men’s Wardrobe, and a more personal one here. 

Here’s an old article I’ve been meaning to post. John Hitchcock, the managing director of one of Savile Row’s best tailoring houses, Anderson & Sheppard, talks about the five bespoke items that every man should have in their closet. Assuming, of course, that you’re even the kind of many who would have bespoke items in your closet. Nonetheless, I think it’s a good checklist to have, client of bespoke tailoring or not. 

A navy pinstripe double-breasted suit: A fine navy pinstripe avoids the louder gangster look that some people associate with the double-breasted suit. The double-breasted suit is one of the most flattering garments that a man can wear as it creates a longer line and more defined waist. This hides the stomach and accentuates the chest and shoulders.

A herringbone tweed jacket in brown, blue or gray: Tweed is the easiest and most classic way for a man to bring color into his wardrobe. Depending on the color and pattern, the jacket can be worn in the town or in the country; with gray flannel trousers or with jeans; with a shirt and with a sweater, and throughout autumn and winter. [Good tweeds are] hard wearing and get better with age.

Mid-gray flannel trousers with turn-ups: Gray flannel continues to be a favorite with our customers in the creative industry as it has a relaxed feel. These trousers work with most jackets and even just with a shirt and sweater. Avoid belt loops and choose side tabs or brace buttons and a buttonfly. The width of the turn-ups is important, as it is better not to have any rather than thin ones.

A classic white cotton shirt: Gary Cooper and Cary Grant were champions of the white shirt, as it always looks fresh and elegant. I prefer mine with a semi-cutaway collar, double cuffs and mother-of-pearl buttons. [However] always [get one] without a breast pocket or a button down collar.

A single-breasted Chesterfield-style navy-blue herringbone overcoat with a matching velvet collar: You can put this over whatever you are wearing; even pajamas, and you will instantly look smart. The real tastemakers in the 1920s and ’30s wore theirs very fitted as they knew that the overcoat creates an immediate impression.

Kind of puts my 10 essentials list to shame. Note: that list is more about what personal items I have that get me through a typical day, and was written when the weather was still very cold in the Bay Area. Jesse also wrote two similar lists - The Essential Men’s Wardrobe, and a more personal one here

I recently watched the fascinating and hilarious documentary Public Speaking, about Fran Lebowitz. It made me want to pull out Lebowitz’s two books, Social Studies & Metropolitan Life, which are among the funniest I’ve ever read. (My favorite Amazon review, by the way, begins: “This book is a feeble attempt to promote a philosophy that is  contradictory to conventional judaeo-Christian values and tenets upon  which this country was founded.”)
Lebowitz has a signature look: menswear. She’s typically found in boots, jeans, and a men’s tailored jacket. What I didn’t know until today, though, was that her tailored jackets look so good on her for a reason: she’s a customer of Anderson & Sheppard, the Savile Row tailoring house known for their comfortable, elegant drape aesethetic. Perfect for a classic gentleman, or, it seems, for a lady.

I recently watched the fascinating and hilarious documentary Public Speaking, about Fran Lebowitz. It made me want to pull out Lebowitz’s two books, Social Studies & Metropolitan Life, which are among the funniest I’ve ever read. (My favorite Amazon review, by the way, begins: “This book is a feeble attempt to promote a philosophy that is contradictory to conventional judaeo-Christian values and tenets upon which this country was founded.”)

Lebowitz has a signature look: menswear. She’s typically found in boots, jeans, and a men’s tailored jacket. What I didn’t know until today, though, was that her tailored jackets look so good on her for a reason: she’s a customer of Anderson & Sheppard, the Savile Row tailoring house known for their comfortable, elegant drape aesethetic. Perfect for a classic gentleman, or, it seems, for a lady.

It’s On eBay
Anderson & Sheppard of Savile Row 3-Piece Suit
This suit is so close to fitting me, and yet… so far.  Look at that pattern matching.  Look at that pattern!  Unreal.
Starts at $543, ends Sunday

It’s On eBay

Anderson & Sheppard of Savile Row 3-Piece Suit

This suit is so close to fitting me, and yet… so far.  Look at that pattern matching.  Look at that pattern!  Unreal.

Starts at $543, ends Sunday