I was lucky enough to pick up this silk scarf from Barney’s. I’d been debating on getting it for a while, but it sold out online. On a whim, I decided to contact their customer service department, who managed to track the last one in their inventory down to their Beverly Hills store. A sales rep there was kind enough to find it in their store, ring it up and mail it to me.
Silk scarves have been on my mind for quite a while now. Admittedly, I first noticed them on Roger Sterling in the past season of “Mad Men” and thought it complimented the suit and overcoat look rather nicely. I don’t think it’d look coherent with more casual pieces, like waxed jackets, peacoats and duffle coats, but its smooth vibrancy contrasts quite well against heavy wool and cashmere coats while mimicking the sheen on your necktie.
Unsurprisingly, they can be quite expensive, especially so if you want one that’s backed with wool or cashmere as well. I also preferred to find one around 65” to 70” in length and around 12” wide. You can go shorter, but you’d have to wear it mainly as a muffler, which restricts how you can tie it around your neck.
As for where to buy, you best bet would be stopping in at a “trad” retail store. I recall Cable Car Clothiers in San Francisco having a great selection in stock when I visited in a paisley and medallion prints.
Drake’s London seems to have the widest variety of prints and types, ranging from silk in a tubular construction to an ancient madder and cashmere reversible scarf that looks phenomenal. Different stores stock different items, so you’ll want to poke around if that’s in your budget (or even if you want to drool over .JPEG files).
Should you get a silk scarf instead of one made of cashmere or wool? Probably not. Your run-of-the-mill wool and cashmere scarves will be much more versatile and still work with tailored overcoats — and will be quite warm. But if you’re looking for something a bit more luxurious and you find yourself wearing suits daily, it’s hard to argue against having a silk scarf as part of your wardrobe.
I’ve compiled a roundup of silk scarves below, but I didn’t show all the colors an variations the different brands and retailers have available. The prices vary quite wildly and I suppose it’s just a matter of what your tastes and budget happens to be.
One of the most under-appreciated details on a necktie is the bar tack. I’ve had neckties that I’ve paid a hefty sum for that lacked a decent bar tack and came undone after a few wears, which is a moment of disappointment when you think back to how much the tie cost. It’s a tiny detail, unnoticed by so many — wearers and manufacturers alike — but I happen to enjoy the tactile feel of a well-sewn one.
Louis Walton's bar tacks are impressive, as you can see above. I consider it on par with those found on Vanda Fine Clothing's and Panta Clothing's neckties. It's better than the bar tacks found on Drake's London and Polo Ralph Lauren, in my opinion. It's the first thing I noticed when I received a review necktie, handmade by owner Gregory Walton (he named the company after his father) in San Francisco.
"I started making ties because I realized the things I liked were very expensive and I felt that with practice I could make something just as nice as the things in the shops I liked," Gregory said. "In my family it has been a practice to learn to make the things or do the services we like."
Gregory’s been sewing neckties since 2008 and initially gave them away as gifts until a friend asked him to design a line of ties and pocket squares for his shop.
The tie Gregory sent me is this navy Japanese cotton with white flowers in a six-fold design. The tie is lightly lined and untipped, two details I particularly enjoy. It also features a hand-sewn slip-stitch to allow the tie to recover after being worn.
I asked Gregory about some of the technical challenges of learning how to sew ties by hand, and unsurprisingly he said it’s not easy. One of his mentors taught him how to make patterns for shirts and trousers, which helped him develop his own patterns for neckties.
"There is still a measure of trial and error involved because I make each tie with the client in mind," Gregory said. "Therefore, the shape and length of each tie is different depending on the size and preferences of the client. I am constantly learning and trying different things."
Another challenge is sourcing fabric and thread, because they’re not available at just any fabric store, often needing to be sourced from mills directly. Finding good fabric is extremely important to him because it affects how the tie drapes and knots.
While the design and pattern of the fabric is originally what caught my eye (I’m always a sucker for navy ties), the light cotton actually goes nicely with a variety of summer and warm-weather jackets and the “neat” flower pattern gives just enough visual variety to break up an ensemble of solids. I liked it in particular against a light blue linen shirt and a white linen-cotton jacket.
If you’ve been following the Louis Walton tumblr, you’ll notice that Gregory’s also been expanding his skillset into leather goods, including belts and keyholders. If you took a look, you’ll see they look damn impressive.
"I am very excited to be branching into leather work and find it o be very rewarding," Gregory said. "I am starting with small pieces like keyholders and wallets, and I hope to offer larger items like briefcases and bags for men next year. I do everything by hand and it leads to pieces that are very strong and structured, while still being soft and pliable."
Gregory also mentioned he’s working on outerwear pieces with a local tailor to be offered as made-to-measure items.
It should also be noted that Gregory’s training under Beatrice Amblard of April In Paris fame. For those who don’t know, Amblard is a former Hermes artisan that now has her own label designing custom leather accessories in San Francisco.
A few weeks ago, a representative from Navali contacted me about reviewing their canvas bags. Now, I’ve already got a canvas briefcase I’m rather happy with, but it’s not perfect and could use some improvements. So, I figured it’d be interesting to see what Navali offered for a casual briefcase versus the one I already used.
The first thing I look for in a briefcase is if it can actually carry my stuff. And I do tend to carry quite a bit with me (although, thankfully, I don’t have to carry things like paper files or huge thick notebooks). I typically use my briefcase for carrying at minimum these things:
My 13” Macbook Pro (in a custom-made leather slipcase)
My power adaptor
My short umbrella
Pens, notepad, business cards
Fujifilm X10 camera (sometimes)
Light jacket (sometimes)
The Navali “helmsman” briefcase actually carries these items way better than my Filson 256. The two side pouches work extremely well to carry the X10 camera in one pouch and the power adaptor in the other. They snap closed with magnetic snaps that make it really easy to get into them. As you can also see, there’s some small flat pouches sewn on the front. Perfect for a transit card, pens or even a cellphone.:
On the interior of the main pouch area, the briefcase has a lot of room for a laptop and then some. There’s a divided off area with snaps to place a laptop (inside a sleeve), however, it’s worth noting that this area is completely unpadded. You’ll want to make sure you place your laptop in a protective case of some sort. There’s also a zip compartment on the front interior of the bag that’d best for placing loose items like pens, coins and business cards. There’s also two slip pouches along the interior that are probably good for holding notepads or a checkbook.
As you can see, I managed to fit a Barbour Liddesdale and a short umbrella in the main area. You could easily cram an overnight’s change of clothing in the main compartment. Maybe even a full weekend’s worth of clothing if you didn’t bring your laptop. There’s also a keyring on the inside, which is a nice place to put a spare set of keys in your bag.
I also appreciated that on the bottom of the bag that Navali placed a strip of leather along the base. This will give the bag’s canvas bottom protection as you constantly set it down. This is another feature that’s lacking on the Filson 256 that I wish they’d have included. The only improvement I’d make beyond this would be placing four brass studs — one in each corner — so you could set the bag upright on a flat surface. Regardless, leather on the base is a nice touch.
While we’re talking about leather, I have to say that the leather quality does feel rather nice. It’s smooth and doesn’t feel “rough” to handle. The bag handles are actually way more comfortable to use than the Filson 256’s bridle leather straps. The rounded construction feels much more nicer in the hand.
I also want to give Navali some points for very discrete branding. You’ll notice the strip of leather that’s between the handle’s sides in the photo above, shaped like a naval signaling flag: that’s it. On the interior is a blue label with their name on it, but the branding is done nicely and isn’t obvious. I’m a fan of that.
I do have criticisms, however, on this briefcase. The most noticeable one is the shoulder strap. The strap itself is actually super comfortable to wear and wide enough to stay on your shoulder. My gripe isn’t with the shoulder strap itself, but the fact that you cannot remove it. Also, because of the design of the top zipper closure of the briefcase, you cannot shove the strap inside the briefcase when not in use.
Now, the shoulder strap is attached really well and I don’t think anyone will have to worry about it failing on you. And if you’re the type of person who always wants the shoulder strap on your briefcase, then this is a non-issue for you. But it’s worth pointing out for those who want the option to remove it. I spoke with the Navali representative about this and was told that in future models they’re looking at having the shoulder strap removable. So, that’s something to look for in the future.
Another mild criticism I have about the briefcase is that the back has no “magazine” pocket — an open-ended pocket along the outside to shove a newspaper or magazine in and have easy access to while commuting. I use mine all the time on my Filson 256 and think it’d be a no-brainer addition to this briefcase. Then again, if you’re the kind of person who spends all your time on the iPhone on your commute, this is another non-issue.
In terms of construction, I found it to be very well made. The canvas is durable but lighter and has a softness to it — kind of a “washed” feeling. This is a complete contrast to the stiff canvas feel of the Filson 256. I know some people like the idea of “breaking in” their Filson, but it does make it tougher to get that “flexibility” from the canvas walls. If you’re looking to avoid that and want to be able to stuff your bag full immediately, then the Navali might be more up your alley.
I would also warn against using this bag in a downpour (hence why I always carry an umbrella), as the canvas isn’t exactly waterproof. Granted, most briefcases aren’t waterproof (unless you get a waxed canvas), but it’s something you should know.
So, what’s my final verdict? I think the Navali briefcase is a good value. It’s $104.99 on their site, which is less than half the cost of a Filson 256 and way cheaper than a lot of other designer canvas bags.
The bag’s probably best suited for those of you in a business-casual environment. While I wouldn’t recommend this bag if your job requires you wear a suit and tie to work each day, I would say that it’s probably going to fit in most work environments nowadays where the dress code tops out at a sport coat and jeans.
The bag’s plenty durable for trips and has enough room to carry most of what you’d really want to hang off your shoulder. Navali also has a weekender bag ($124.99) that I think is worth taking a look at and twotypes of messenger bags, a satchel and a rucksack. They’re aiming to sell directly to the consumer rather than sell wholesale to retailers, which means you can get their products without any of the markup.
If your budget is around $100, Navali ought to be a maker your look into for a bag.
And, look, a contest: Navali’s Facebook page is holding a trivia contest and giving away a free card-case wallet. All you have to do is “like” their page and answer the question correctly (seriously, not that hard). So, go check it out and enter to win a one.
Tonight marks the first presidential debate for the 2012 general election and it’s a time when partisans should be encouraged to show their affiliation. Now, there’s a lot of crass and tasteless ways to do this through clothing (just take a look at the junk on Zazzle, CafePress or even eBay), but for those looking for the love of politics and menswear, I’ve put together this guide.
Menswear startup looking for digital ad consultant
A Chicago menswear startup is looking for a temporary, part-time consultant to help them with setting up their digital ad buys and working with referral networks. Yes, this is a paid opportunity.
Process would involve advising on ad creatives, A-B testing, placements and configuration of campaigns, optimization based on performance of campaigns. Show up, tell them how to set things up and run it on their own and you get paid — simple.
If you’ve got a background or interest in menswear online retail ad campaigns that’s awesome, but not necessary if you’ve done campaign setups in the past. Bonus points if you’re in Chicago, however, it’s not entirely necessary, either.
If this sounds like the moonlight mercenary gig you’d be interested in doing, then e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll pass your information along and put you in touch.
(P.S.: This job opportunity is not the company I work for, in case you were wondering.)