What does a pocket square say about a man, is he wearing it to look a bit rakish or is wearing for the sole purpose of brightening up a rather drab suit or sports jacket, maybe he is hinting that bubbling under the surface lies a man who thinks that the addition of a boldly patterned pocket will allow him to look a little bit more suave, whilst attempting to cut a more dashing figure. Why are they so popular I have no idea, although, I suspect they are worn in a vain effort to make one standout from the crowd. Pocket squares are everywhere and are worn with style and panache by everyone from fictitious characters like James Bond and Don Draper) to original style warriors such David Niven or Frank Sinatra (sadly I am not seeing to many being sported by gentlemen from the north east of England. Normally made from silk, linen or light weight cotton, a pocket square belongs in the top pocket of a smart jacket; it is not a handkerchief and is there only for show, so please keep it well away from those nasal passages. They come in vast array of colours and may either plain or patterned and can be folded in a range of various shapes. As I have pointed in previous blogs the Italian and French male revel in sporting this type of clothing accessory whereas the English tend adopt a more conservative approach, so where do we purchase these decorative items, they can found anywhere from Marks and Spencer to Turnbull and Asser and like any item of clothing being discussed by The Frozen Northerner which one you chose is all about the amount disposable cash you have in your pocket. There are some real beauties out there by companies such as Drakes, Rubinacci, Calabrese 1924, Exquisite Trimmings hell, if even The Shoe Snob is getting in on the act, all of these firms make outstanding products but The Frozen Northerner’s personal favourite is Georgina Von Etzdorf, who once upon a time made a dazzling array of pocket squares. Unfortunately this noted textile designer has not produced pocket squares for a number of years which is hugely disappointing; you may find the odd one on E-Bay or maybe Etsy, but good luck with that one. No matter which one you select chose it carefully and it should enhance your ensemble, showing that given the right opportunity, you are always trying to become a little bit more stylish.
The Frozen Northerner has been a bit lazy over the festive period and it is high time I got back in the groove, so where to start. It is well documented that The Frozen Northerner is only really comfortable wearing button down collared shirts, (mainly Brooks Brothers). The Americans are extremely comfortable wearing this type of shirt either with or without a suit; the English and certainly the Italians tend to regard the wearing of a button down shirt with a suit as a bit of sartorial misdemeanour. As I rarely wear a suit this not really an issue for me but, there are certain occasions that demand that I wear a suit so I will normally wear a shirt with a forward point or spread collar rather than one my beloved button downs. With regard to shirting if you are looking for something little bit on the expensive side you should go to a great heritage brand like Turnbull and Asser who have fabulous shop on Jermyn Street or amble further along to the current darling of shirt making, Emma Willis, alternatively you may be into Italian labels then perhaps something by Marol or Fray. Although all of the aforementioned brands are superb and would be a worthy addition to anyone’s wardrobe the truth is that The Frozen Northerner simply cannot afford to shop at any of these outstanding establishments. Fear not, if like me you are constantly working on budget then look no further than these three excellent establishments, Hawes and Curtis, T.M. Lewin and Charles Tyrwhitt, all three companies make formal shirts to a high standard offering extraordinary value for money. Which one is the best is hard to say but, having tried all three brands I have to say that I personally prefer Hawes and Curtis to the two other brands, which is not to cast aspersions on the Lewin and Tyrwhitt brands which are both very good. Unlike T.M. Lewin, Hawes and Curtis and Charles Tyrwhitt do not have a stores in Newcastle which is a huge disappointment; I firmly believe that these they would benefit from having shops in the north east of England but like a lot of companies based in London it would appear that opening a in this part of country is a bad idea which is pity as I am sure that they would both prove to be very successful, T M Lewin do have a shop in Newcastle that does well so it is pretty much a no brainer that the other two should follow suit. Everyone keeps telling me to dress smartly, so come you two help the Geordie male improve his attire and open a couple of shops up here.
When I first started blogging The Frozen Northerner visited various sites in search of inspiration on the topics I was most interested in, one site that immediately caught my attention was The Tweed Pig http://www.thetweedpig.com/ it had a wide range of interesting articles that I admired one which championed the purchase of Donegal tweed overcoat, further research led me to the The Grey Fox’s blog http://www.greyfoxblog.com and piece on must have overcoats, it was written by Sarah Gilfillan who explored a wide range of overcoats ranging from highly affordable offerings by Marks and Spencer all the way to some very expensive unaffordable offerings by Dashing Tweeds and E Tautz somewhere in the middle was Cordings Donegal Tweed overcoat which according to the knowledgeable Gilfillan is “The Daddy of all Donegal Overcoats”. Barely off the train on my latest visit to London I headed straight to this bastion of country attire to check out this must have item. Now owned by legendary guitarist Eric Clapton, Cordings was founded in 1839 and I would suspect that it hasn’t changed that much over the years, with its wood panelled interior Cordings has a very traditional feel and has that smell of a bygone era which is just the way I like it. With its helpful and experienced staff I was duly informed that this latest version of their popular Follifoot Donegal Coat is proving highly popular with current racing fraternity. Whether or not this was typical Cordings sales pitch I have no idea but enough of the small talk, let’s cut to the chase and talk about the coat, made in England from100% Irish Donegal wool the Bark Follifoot Donegal Coat is a fully lined coat featuring traditional raglan sleeve and jetted front pockets. Trying it on top of my jacket I was surprised at how light this coat felt, the question now was I going to purchase it, personally I see this coat as a thing of rare beauty that should be purchased immediately and in the case of The Frozen Northerner it was purchased instantly, the coat itself is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship that will probably last for generations provided that it is lovingly looked after, there may be better overcoats out there which is fine but I wouldn’t swap the Bark Follifoot for any other overcoat. Wearing it make me feel little bit like Michael Corleone when he is standing outside the hospital with Enzo the baker, trying to protect his bullet ridden father from a further assassination attempt from his sworn enemy Virgil Sollozzo. However, I am digressing from the star of the show which the coat, although I dread the thought of snow throughout the winter I do hope it is cold enough to give any excuse to wear Cordings Bark Follifoot Donegal Coat, because it really does have the wow factor.
In blog notes 42 I argued that when it comes to polo shirts it is impossible for the frozen northerner to look beyond Lacoste or Fred Perry and in particular the Fred Perry that was made in collaboration with Nigel Cabourn. The alternative to these classics are wide and varied and has led me to Ralph Lauren’s flagship store on Bond Street to explore Ralph’s purple label polo shirt. The famed Mr Lauren has under his umbrella a range of labels such as the aforementioned Purple Label, Polo Ralph Lauren, Big & Tall as well Polo Tennis and Golf and a few more. Each line of clothing is supposed to share the vision of Ralph which probably reflected by the exasperating price range of his Purple Label which is regarded as a more luxurious line of clothing which, in all essence means more expensive. Purple Label products all have that famed Made in Italy tag which is guaranteed to send the price through the roof, so let’s see what we made of the purple label polo shirt. The first thing I noticed was that logo features an embroidered purple label pony which is different to that of their more iconic logo, furthermore it features mother of pearl buttons and is knit from two-ply long-staple cotton which the company argues aids colour retention. I cannot argue with quality of this shirt which is very good, but the price is exorbitant and that’s the rub, do you really want to pay that much for a polo shirt, who will wear it, well, it will probably be worn by people on the French and Italian Riviera and ivy leaguers heading for the Hamptons, but will it be worn in those summer hotspots of Whitley Bay and Tynemouth absolutely no chance in God’s creation, would I swap my Lacoste’s and Fred Perry’s for Ralph’s purple label pony, probably not, but that is not going to stop me lusting after one.
In the early 1980’s the frozen northerner spent most of his summer holidays on the Costa Del Sol, the main objectives of these holidays were to obtain the perfect tan and drink copious amounts of San Miguel, both of which were normally achieved. When the frozen northerner returned home he had to have in his possession at least one brand new polo shirt, normally it would a classic Lacoste, but for our intrepid traveller there was another polo shirt that had to be purchased and that was the Ellesse polo shirt. These polo shirts may have been standard issue in the Metropolis but in the darkest north east of England they were nigh on impossible to find. During this period of time there were few pretenders around trying to steal the crown that had been worn effortlessly by Lacoste since the beginning of time; they mainly came from Italy and included the aforementioned Ellesse, as well as makes such as Fila and Tacchini (I tend to think the iconic Fred Perry was on the backburner at this time but please correct me if I am wrong). Walking down South Parade in Whitley Bay on any Saturday night you were indeed swimming with crocodiles, there were that many men wearing Lacoste so, wearing Ellesse made you a bit different which, I suppose was the aim of the game. Founded in Perugia in 1959 by Leonardo Servadio the brand name Ellesse derives from the initials of original owner L S, with its easy identifiable tennis ball logo Ellesse sportswear was worn with distinction mainly by famous tennis players such as Boris Becker, Mats Wilander and Chris Evert, they may have looked good but you weren’t go to buy the shirt because of these players you were going to buy it because of one man Guillermero Vilas. The big serving Argentinian left hander, looked more like a member of Menotti world cup squad than a tennis player, with his long flowing locks he would easily have fitted in perfectly into a forwardline that included Luque and Kempes but chose tennis instead. The “young bull of the pampas” always looked great in Ellesse especially at the French Open at Roland Garros, on the clay which was his preferred surface, you were never going to look as good as him but it didn’t stop you dreaming. Sadly, Ellesse was taken over by in 1994 by the Pentland group, an investment that was bad for all parties concerned, the company slipped into decline which saw Ellesse gradually lose its place in highly competitive polo shirt market which was rather tragic. Now with the release of its heritage line, Ellesse is trying to make a comeback, I doubt it will make it back to those glorious days of the early 80,s there is just too much competition around producing a better product (stand up Fred Perry) I would love them to do well, but without Vilas they are going to struggle get back to the top.
The north east of England is awash with knitwear by Lacoste, Ralph Lauren and Gant, nothing wrong with that but, the frozen northerner would argue that there are two British businesses, John Smedley and Alan Paine, that are somewhat shamefully overlooked in this region, this is an embarrassment because both firms produce beautiful knitwear, so much so that they must be championed by yours truly. John Smedley has been around for a long time, founded in 1784 this Derbyshire based company has over the years turned out an unrivalled range of magnificent knitwear. Using cashmere, extra fine merino wool and Sea Island cotton in their products, their merchandise is always of the highest quality, which has led to them gaining a notable reputation around the world. The company has always stayed true to their beliefs, resisting the temptation to diversify into other areas of the clothing industry, they have quite often cleverly combined with various other British companies such as Pretty Green and Rouleur to create some really interesting pieces of work. Although John Smedley figures highly on the frozen northerner’s clothing list, I have to say that I love Alan Paine knitwear with the same reverence; despite the fact they have over the last few years expanded into country clothing which I do not agree with, however, I am sure they have made this move to benefit the firm. Alan Paine came into knitwear game much later than John Smedley having been established in 1907 nonetheless, they quickly built a reputation as purveyors of fine knitwear; their products were so popular that George Mallory even took some to Nepal in his failed attempt to conquer Everest in 1924. Finding these goods locally may prove difficult, although Fenwick’s in Newcastle have a small John Smedley franchise with a limited selection, as do Jules B in Jesmond. Finding Alan Paine knitwear in the north east is even harder but Palmers in Jesmond is a probably your best bet, (but if know of more shops stocking these products please let me know). Last year John Smedley opened a new flagship store on Jermyn Street in London which is very nice, but lacks the intimacy of their smaller Brook Street store which I much prefer. Alan Paine have only one shop to my knowledge which is in Rome, however, there are a few independent retailers around the country that stock their wares, you can use the internet to purchase these items of clothing but as I have reported in previous blogs this is no way to buy clothes. So with spring just around the corner start thinking about knitwear and think about John Smedley and Alan Paine.
January is going to be cold and for the frozen northerner it is the most miserable month of the year, you are going to need something to cheer you up after the Christmas holidays, so why not invest in pair of Thomas Riemer gloves. These gloves are beautifully and lovingly crafted by a company that was started in Vienna around about 1845 and is now one of the oldest glove makers still in existence. For some reason that is unbeknown to me this is the first time I spoken about a product made by a Austrian company, but given the quality of this product it will hopefully not be the last, the sheer excellence of these gloves, bought for me as a Christmas gift by my wife the Contessa Di La Proctero demands that they be talked about. Now I realise I may be doing a disservice to outstanding British makers of gloves such as Dents, but I really love the Riemer suede gloves, cashmere lined they are a peach of a product, that should be on display every time you venture outside during the winter months. Thomas Riemer also produces a wide range of leather gloves, but in my opinion their suede gloves are much classier and should be seen as an essential component of your wardrobe. Today Thomas Riemar, has stayed true to its roots and still conducts its business out of its Viennese workshop although, some of their products are now make in Italy and Hungary. The company claims that it targets only the finest materials for it products which is a statement that I find hard to disagree with. Purchasing them on the high street may be difficult but do not despair as online retailers such as www.exquisitetrimmings.com have a wide range of their products, winter may be here, but these gloves will warm your hands up very nicely.