That Japanese-Italian Style

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The term “timeless style” can feel like such a cliché nowadays, but it’s genuinely amazing how little — and how awesome — Yukio Akamine’s style has changed since I first saw him on The Sartorialist nearly ten years ago. Granted, ten years is hardly timeless, but with how quickly fashion moves on the internet, that almost feels like a lifetime ago.

Akamine has described his style as being traditionally British, but I actually think of it as a Japanese-Italian interpretation of British clothes. The fabrics are heavy, but the tailoring — save for a few sharply cut double breasted jackets — mostly looks soft and rounded. The shoulders are unconstructed and sloping, the lapels slightly extended, and the quarters gently curved. His shirt collars also look soft and unfused, and the points are long in a way that you almost only see in Southern Italy nowadays. For casualwear, he seems to favor the kind of slim fitting suede A-1 blousons that Valstar made famous in the 1960s, and like many Italians, pairs them with tailored trousers.

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A Second Wave

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No Man Walks Alone recently convinced Stephan Schneider to re-release his Merino Coat, which was originally part of his FW11 Frozen Waves collection. I’ve been wanting one for years. It’s the stuff of legends, and heavily sought after by style enthusiasts, but frustratingly hard to find.

Schneider, for those unfamiliar, is a Belgian designer with a strong background in textiles, and works not only as a designer for his own label, but also as a professor at one of the fine arts universities in Berlin. His work is a breath of fresh air in men’s fashion, which nowadays seems to operate on two polar ends. There’s the heavy reliance on traditionalism and archival material on the one hand (e.g. traditional tailoring and old-timey workwear), and dark colors and aggressive silhouettes on the other (e.g. gothninja and its increasing number of derivatives).

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Tailor’s Tips


My friend Gianluca, who directed the films O’Mast and I Colori di Antonio, just released a new project in collaboration with Italy’s oldest mill, Vitale Barberis Caonico. Titled Tailor’s Tips, it features VBC’s master tailor, Giovanni Barberis Organista, talking about how he makes a classic Ulster — a heavy piece of English outerwear defined by its half-belted back, patch pockets, and unique collar style. Hard to find off-the-rack nowadays, as fewer and fewer men wear “dress coats” (or dress anything, for that matter). The closest we really get to them in the United States are polo coats, although they don’t really have the same rustic feel. 

In any case, I’m told that this is a twelve-part series, and that a new episode will be released once a month. Just note that you may have to turn on closed captions in the control panel, which will pop up when you hover your mouse over the video (Mr. Organista speaks in Italian). As always, it’s a pleasure to see Gianluca’s work, as he’s one of the few directors doing work on the craft of custom tailoring. 

Neapolitan Chastity Belts

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Napolisumisura was in town this past Friday as part of their US tour, and I stopped by to order some trousers. The ones they made for me last year have been fantastic. The cut is slim, but genuinely not skinny, and the rise is classic without without being fuddy duddy. Plus, the prices are just so attractive. On this last visit, I choose a grey pick-and-pick wool from Dormeuil, a brown moleskin from Holland & Sherry, and two fabrics from the Neapolitan supplier Caccioppoli (the dark blue cotton and tan linen you see below). All will be made with an unnecessary number of buttons – four on the fly and an additional four for closure, giving me a total of eight to contend with when I’m just trying to change in and out of my trousers. I like to think of these as Neapolitan chastity belts. 

For men in San Francisco, there’s a bit of good news. Napolismisura’s founder, Mina, is now traveling to the city with her partner Dino. One of the nice things about Mina is that she’s not afraid to gently push back when she thinks the client is making a mistake. It makes for a much more comfortable process and, I think, better outcomes. In fact, on this last visit, my fittings went so well that I added a new suit to the order – an olive cotton number with a suit jacket designed so it can be worn alone as a sport coat. It’ll be single breasted with a 3/2 roll, but will have patch pockets, a barchetta breast, and a subtle spalla camicia detailing at the sleeveheads to give it the right casual vibe. 

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Brooks Brothers’ Friends & Family Sale

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Brooks Brothers’ mid-season sale has started, coming almost a month earlier than usual. For the moment, you can take 25% off your order with the checkout code FF25. Some notable items I found:

  • Footwear: Brooks’ footwear continues to be the highlight of their inventory. Star picks include these Alden penny loafers in shell cordovan and suede, some very versatile Norwegian split toes, and an absolutely knockout pair of suede cap toe boots (made by Crockett & Jones). Perhaps most notable? Certain models of Edward Greens are included in the promotion.

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Possibly the Best Sport Coat I’ll Ever Own

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I may be speaking too soon — as this jacket is still in transit to me — but this Russell plaid sport coat by Steed may be the best tailored jacket I will ever own. It was inspired by a photo of George Frazier, a writer who started his career as a jazz critic before moving on to more general topics. In 1960, Esquire published his essay titled "The Art of Wearing Clothes," which in my opinion, is one of the best pieces of writing on men’s style that has ever been penned. A must read, if you haven’t already.

Russell plaid is a distinctive check. It’s something like a tan glen plaid, but with the horizontal stripes stripped away, so only the vertical ones remain. For the lateral sections, there are dark, thin lines, typically in plum, brown, or rust orange, which help balance the rest of the pattern. You can find it in the form of a made-to-order hacking jacket at Leonard Logsdail, or in Harrisons and Hardy Minnis’ books if you’re going bespoke. Mine is from Harrisons (Porter & Harding’s Hartwist No. 32137), which is a darker color than the beigey version you’ll find from Hardy.

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Ready-to-Wear, but Hard to Find

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Most of the shoes we buy as style enthusiasts come from England, Italy, and the United States, but other countries have rich shoemaking traditions as well. Japan, for example, has a vibrant community of bespoke cordwainers, who are renowned for their sleek styling and shapely lasts. Certain countries in Central Europe also uphold a long Austro-Hungarian tradition, which includes making a unique style known as the Budapester — a brogued derby with high walls, large medallions, and slightly upturned toes.

In the past few weeks, as fall has been approaching, I’ve been eyeing a few of those Central European makers. They’re not always pretty to look at online, but once you imagine them underneath cavalry twills or corduroys, and paired with a thick and heavy tweed jacket, they suddenly make more sense. They’re country shoes, standing opposite to the slick city oxfords that men wear with business suits, and are great with casualwear (tailored or otherwise).

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The Story of How You Saved Money

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For anyone who doesn’t want to pay bourgeoise money to look proletarian, J. Crew’s Wallace & Barnes sub-line is worth checking out. The line has been around for a few years now, but has surprisingly attracted little attention from the menswear community. Not totally sure why. The pieces have more of a boutique feel than J. Crew’s mainline, are made from considerably better materials, and are supposedly inspired by the vintage pieces that Frank Muytjens and his team routinely collect for their design archive. All things that make other lines appealing, except that Wallace & Barnes doesn’t come with the same price tags. 

Take these two shirts, for example. The first is made from a heavy and thick cotton canvas, and has an interweaving of brown and cream yarns that gives it a unique textured look. The side seams, yoke, and sleeves are all tripled-stitched, and the overall construction has a sturdiness that’s more reminiscent of RRL than J. Crew. The second shirt is an inky-blue, deep indigo-dyed piece, with a white pin dot pattern that has been woven into the fabric (rather than printed on). The subtle variegation in its coloring makes it feel more hand dyed and special — something more like what you’d expect from a niche Japanese label. I picked up both shirts on sale for $35 and $65, respectively. You can hardly drink at a bar in San Francisco these days with that kind of money. 

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The Charm of Tammis Keefe

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I’m not much for the overly cute or quaint, but I find a lot of charm in the work of Tammis Keefe. Keefe was a textile designer in the 20th century, born in Los Angeles in 1913. She worked for a time as a colorist and print designer for the famous Dorothy Liebes, which is where she first became known for her creative illustration style and sharp sense of color. Much of this early work was for architects and interior designers. That is, textiles that would be used in homes and commercial settings.

Sometime in the ‘40s, however, Keefe designed a silk scarf for a friend as a birthday gift. It had “Happy Birthday” written in bold circus letters, and candelabras in purple, blue, and chartreuse. The friend liked it so much that she showed it to Lord & Taylor’s handkerchief buyer, who then showed it to the scarf manufacturer Kimball, who in turn commissioned six designs – each orientated to appeal to a certain type of personality (the antique collector, the musician, the sports fan, etc). The pieces sold out immediately, and happy clients continued to promote her work and commission new art. Between 1944 and 1960, Keefe created hundreds of handkerchief designs, with each one featuring her signature at the corner (a rare thing for textile designers at the time, and even rarer today). 

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The Closest You’ll Get to An RL Archive

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Many brands maintain archives. Doing so allows designers to not have to reinvent the wheel every season. LL Bean Signature, for example, is mostly just a youthful reworking of the LL Bean’s archive, which the company started some decades ago with old items they received from customers. Ralph Lauren also has an archive. It’s apparently located off-site in New Jersey, but access is so limited that few designers from the company are even allowed in. So, fat chance you or I will ever see photos of it pop up somewhere.

The closest we’ll get is this old issue of Free & Easy, which is dedicated to Ralph Lauren. There are interviews with the man himself and his family, some shots of his stores around the world, and a pretty awesome section on vintage things he’s collected over the years (lots of early 20th century military watches, leather jackets, and Navajo jewelry. A couple of old jeeps are thrown in for good measure).

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