Saphir & A Fine Pair of Shoes

So, I mentioned in my Shoe Care article the other day that I was waiting on a order from A Fine Pair of Shoes. Well, that got here this morning. I ordered three tins of Saphir Medaille D’Or shoe polish (black, brown, and neutral), some new shoe laces, and a horsehair brush. I have heard great things about the Saphir range, and was looking forward to getting the polish, and I can honestly say that I love it.

50polish2_grande

The polish smells quite strongly of turpentine, and while it isn’t unpleasant, I recomend using it in a well ventilated area. As to how well it works, the only word I can think of to describe it is “fantastic”. The shine I achieved on my shoes is far superior to what I am used to getting from other products, and it took half the polish and time. I honestly cannot recommend this product enough. The polish costs about $6.50 per 50 ml tin, which is cheaper than I have seen it at other places. Postage brings the price up closer to $10 dollars per tin (at least for my order, postage prices vary), which is still overall cheaper than some places. I can honestly say that I love this brand, and can’t wait to use some of it’s other products.

As to A Fine Pair of Shoes, they have just gained themselves a new return customer. Their prices are great, and, in a lot of cases, better than most alternatives. Their service is good, and delivery times are great. As a matter of fact, I just bought a pair of shoe trees from them as well. I highly recomend that you take a look around their website. Keep in mind that prices and postage depend on where you live, and that while I think their prices are good, postage and taxes may have them cost a bit more for someone else. If you like in the UK they have free shipping on orders over £30 ($50~) and on orders over £300 ($500~) for the rest of the world (on packages under 5kg). Like I said, I highly recommend that you check them out.

*all dollar values are Australian Dollars

Advertisements

Shoe Care

In honor of Shoe Shine Sunday, I have decided to redo my post on shining your shoes. This article will hopefully be a bit more detailed, and not as rushed as I think the last one was; so, here it is.

Shoes make the man. It is physically impossible to look good in a pair of cheap, dull, and scuffed shoes; and if you’ve spent more than $300 on a pair of shoes, why would you want to try. A good pair of shoes, properly cared for, can last decades, so a good shoe care routine is a must for someone who understands the value of things, and doesn’t just buy a new pair of shoes every time their current ones start to look old. With that in mind, take a look at this video; ignoring the horrible background music, it provides a great basic overview of the process.

Basic Shoe Care

As important as shining your shoes is, there are other thing that are vital to extending their life. First, use shoe trees.

Shoe Trees

Image courtesy of A Fine Pair of Shoes

There is often some debate as to the necessity of shoe trees, but I find them invaluable, and really, if you are going be spending $200+ on a pair of shoes, you are going to do everything you can to make them last. Take a look at this article over on The Shoe Snob for some more information on shoe trees. To use them, take your shoes off, and put the trees in. It’s as simple as that. Leave the trees in until the shoes are completely dry, usually a day or so. If you have a pair of trees for each pair of shoes, then you can leave them in as long as you like, but once the shoes are dry, they really don’t do much; if you only have one pair of shoe trees, leave them in until your shoes dry, usually about a day or so, and rotate them into the next pair. This leads into the next tip, never wear the same pair of shoes on consecutive days.

Your shoes will last much longer if you don’t wear the same pair every day (that’s just simple maths, if you wear the shoes half as much, they will last twice as long). This gives you shoes time to rest and dry between wearings. Next, always use a shoehorn when putting on your shoe.

SAPHIR ZEBU SHOEHORN

Saphir Zebu Shoehorn

Your shoehorn doesn’t have to be anything fancy, and in a pinch, you can use the end of your belt; just make sure you use one, otherwise you will damage the heel of your shoe. Stick your toes into the shoe, and put the shoehorn into the shoe behind your heel. This will guide your foot into the shoe, and stop you from damaging the back of the shoe. Next, make sure you brush the shoe when you put it on, to remove any dust that may have built up, and give it a quick buff. Do the same when you take the shoes off and put them away. Store the shoes in cloth bags to keep away any dust.  If you do these things, you have automatically greatly increased the lifespan of your shoes, before you even polish them.

Shining Your Shoes

Step 1: Gather your materials

You will need:

Shoes

This one is pretty obvious

Conditioner

Leather is a skin, and like your skin, it needs a good conditioner. Do a bit of research and find one you like. I have heard a lot of good things about Saphir Renovateur; it is rather expensive, but a little goes a long way, and it is apparently quite good.

Polish

The polish you use is mostly matter of personal preference. Kiwi is a decent brand, and probably one of the most common, and the one I currently use, but I am awaiting a shipment of Saphir Medaille D’Or, which I am quite looking forward to using, having heard nothing but good things about it. Take a look around, and find one that suits your needs best. Try to match the colour of the polish to your shoes as closely as you can, or use a neutral polish, otherwise you will end up changing the colour of the shoe. If you are polishing black shoes however, you can give them a coat of dark blue polish towards the end, for the same reason that midnight blue is an acceptable alternative to a black dinner suit; under most lighting, dark blue can look blacker than black. This will take the shine on your black shoes to another level.

Brush

A decent horsehair buffing brush is essential. Ideally, you will have one for each colour of polish you use, so there is no cross contamination of colours. You will also need brushes for applying the polish.

Cloth

You will need cloths for applying polish, and for buffing the shoe. An old t-shirt is perfect for cutting up into polish rags.

Water

Water is used to bring out a mirror finish in the shine

Edge dressing

Optional, but highly recommended. Use the dressing on the shoe edge to maintain and repair the leather.

Step 2: Clean your shoes

Use you cleaning brush to remove any dust and dirt from the shoe. It’s also a good idea to remove the old layers of polish. I recommend something like Saphir Renovateur, which is a cleaner and conditioner.

DSCF2851

After cleaning, before polish.

Step 3: Condition the shoes

Leather is skin, and like your skin, it needs a good conditioner. Use something like a saddle soap, Mink Oil Renovator by The Shoe Snob, or Saphir Renovateur. Rub the conditioner into the leather, and let it dry for 10-20 minutes.

Step 4: First Coat

Using your applicator brush, liberally apply a coat of polish to the entire shoe. If you have it, I recommend a cream polish for this first coat, and a wax polish for the rest. Cream nourishes the leather better than wax, white wax provides a much greater shine.

layer 1

Let this coat dry for 10-15 minutes, then brush off the excess with you horsehair brush.

Step 5: More Polish

Wrap you polish cloth around your first two fingers, and apply a small amount of polish to the shoe, using small circles. Focus on the areas of the shoe that don’t bend i.e. the heel and toe. Polish on areas that bend will dry and crack easily. Repeat this with a drop of water, and continue until a shine develops. Repeat this step until you are satisfied with the shine. I like to put a movie on in the background while I work, sometimes two, depending on the shine I am trying to build.

 Video by The Shoe Snob

DSCF2871

This took about 30-40 minutes for the one shoe. It looks better in person, but a bad camera and poor lighting reduce the quality.

Step 6: Clean

Take a cloth (nylon hosiery works very well), and rub the shoe to remove any dust and excess polish that may otherwise end up on your trousers. Heat and moisture help bring out the shine best, so I like to breathe hot air onto the shoe as I do this.

Video by Mr Porter

Most of the links in this article take you to Kirby Allison’s Hanger Project, a company that I wholeheartedly support. They are a bit on the pricy side, but from what I have heard they are excellent quality. I haven’t had a chance to buy anything from them yet, but all the products look fantastic, and I definitely agree with what they are doing. I also link to A Fine Pair of Shoes, who I am awaiting an order from (should be here in the next couple of days). I don’t have much to say about them yet, but they do have a good range of reasonably priced shoe care items, and their shipping to Australia is relatively cheap.

A Man’s Guide to Buying his First Suit

Living on the Sunshine Coast, not many men wear suits on a regular basis, so it stands to reason that not a lot of men (comparatively) actually own a suit. It makes sense then, that one of the most common types of customers I had at Myer was a man looking to buy his first suit. This is the guide for that man; everything a man needs to know about buying his first suit.  For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to limit this article to buying a suit off the rack, and not bespoke; although most of the same principles apply, there are a few more options when buying bespoke, and your tailor should be able to walk you through the process. If you have the option, and the money, my recommendation is most definitely to have your first suit tailor-made for you, but for everyone else, this is what you need to know. Although this guide applies to most reasons you could have for buying a suit, it is perhaps geared towards purchasing an everyday work suit, rather than a suit that would only be worn on rare occasions.

Fit

suit jacket

Original image be T.M Lewin, edited by me

  1. The fit in the shoulders is perhaps the most important; all other areas can be altered without too much difficulty, but if the jacket doesn’t fit in the shoulders, you are usually better off just buying a new jacket. The end of the jacket shoulders should meet with the end of your shoulders. Minimal padding is best; a natural sloping with a little bit of padding in the shoulders looks much better than unnaturally squared shoulders.
  2. With your jacket closed, and nothing in the pockets, insert you palm, facing in, between your jacket and your shirt, and make a fist. This should make the jacket pull and become snug. If you can’t make a fist, then your jacket is probably too tight; if there is enough room in your jacket to house a family of raccoons, then it is too loose. If ‘X’ shaped ripples form in the jacket when it is buttoned, then it is too tight .  Suppressing or letting out the waist is a simple tailoring job, and one that a majority of men will need done to an off the rack jacket.
  3. Jacket sleeves should extend to your wrist bone, and show 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch of shirt cuff, which should end at the base of your thumb, where your wrist meets your hand. Most men either wear their jacket sleeves too long, of their shirt sleeves too short; don’t be one of them
  4. Your collar should lie flat against your shirt collar, which should protrude about 1/2″ above the jacket collar. The lapels should lie flat against your body.
  5. As a general rule of thumb, your jacket should reach around the knuckle of your thumb when you have your hands by your sides. This changes depending on your height, but in general, a jacket should be long enough to cover your seat (your bottom). There is a saying that a good suit jacket is like a good lawyer:  It should always cover your arse.
Trousers

Original image by J.Hilburn, edited by me

      1. Trousers should sit on your waist, not your hips. A belt should be an accessory, not a necessity; you should be able to comfortably fit two fingers between your trousers and your body, and your trousers should be able to hold themselves up.  If you’re on the shorter side, have your tailor remove the belt loops, and add buttons for braces (suspenders). A belt breaks your body in half, and makes you look shorter, and braces remove the need for a belt altogether. Never wear a belt and braces together, and if your trousers have belt loops, use them or lose them.
      2.  Your trousers should end just above the heel of your shoe, with a slight break in the fabric at the front (where the fabric folds, therefore “breaking” the otherwise straight line)
      3. Your trousers should end just above the heel of your shoe, and cover about 3/4 of the laces. Cuffing your trousers adds weight to the bottom, and helps them hang straighter. Be careful cuffing your trousers if you are on the shorter side, as too large a cuff can make you appear even shorter. Cuffs should be about 11/4″ for shorter men and 15/8″for taller men, but that is just a general guide as each case is different. When in doubt, ask for a professional opinion. For more information of cuffs, check out this post on Real Men Real Style

Fabric

Your first suit should be made out of a plain worsted wool. You want the fabric to be in the range of 90’s to 110’s (the s number determining the fineness of the fabric i.e the higher the s number, the finer the wool), any lower and the wool will most likely be too coarse, too much higher and the wool can become too fine for an everyday suit; if the wool is too fine it will experience wear quicker. If the suit is only going to be worn very rarely, then by all means, look for something in the range of 130s and higher, depending on your preference.  Tweed is a lovely fabric, but is quite heavy, and is usually suited towards more casual winter suits; the same applies to flannel. Linen suits are fine for the summer, but wrinkle and stain easily. As far as man-made fibres go, I am a purist, and will never recommend them, but you will often find lower end suits made from either polyester, or wool/polyester blends. The blends are usually cheaper than the pure wool suits, and are not likely to wrinkle as easily, but also don’t breathe very well. Medium weight worsted wool will work all year round, and is definitely your best bet.

Fabric

Colour

Charcoal grey or navy blue are really your only two options for your first suit. There are some who will argue that black is also an option, but I am not one of them. Black is an option for those who look good in one, but I personally wouldn’t recommend one for business wear, and definitely not as your first suit; it is nowhere near as versatile as charcoal or navy. For a great video on whether you should by a black suit, look here. Charcoal grey is dark enough that it is suitable for all occasions, from weddings to funerals, making it only slightly more versatile that navy blue, but go with the one you look better in. For more information of suit colours, check out this video on Real Men Real Style

charcoal

Suit by T.M. Lewin

navy

Suit by T.M. Lewin

Style

For your first suit, I would recommend two buttons, and a notched lapel, like the jackets above. The two button jacket looks good on almost everybody, but the deep v shape is especially good at making you look taller, which is great if you happen to be on the shorter side. Three button suits are great on taller men who don’t want to look too lanky. As much as I love the double-breasted jacket, I would recommend avoiding it for your first suit, and especially if you are on the heavy side; the extra fabric can make you look even bigger. Conversely, they are great for the smaller man looking to add a bit of bulk to his body. Double breasted suits should only have peaked lapels (pictured below), or shawl lapels, if it is a dinner jacket. Avoid one button suits  for business wear, as they lean towards being a fashion piece, but your dinner jacket (unless double-breasted) should have one button.

3 button

3 Button suit by T.M Lewin

double

Double-Breasted suit by Charles Tyrwhitt

 Keep in mind that under no circumstances are you to ever button the bottom button on a single breasted suit. Ever. On a two button suit, you always button the top button while standing, and undo it when sitting. On a three button suit you sometimes button the top button (depending on the jacket. In the one pictured above, where the lapel rolls over the button, you would not button it. If the button lies flat, button it), always button the middle button, and never the bottom. Ever. This is referred to as the ‘Sometimes, Always, Never’ rule. Sometimes the top, always the middle, and never the bottom. Ever

Pockets

pockets

Image courtesy of Mr.Porter

Jetted pockets are the most formal, and are the only ones that should be found on a dinner jacket. Flap pockets are the next best thing, and are the most common. They are constructed in the same manner as jetted pockets, except with a flap; so if you want, you are able to simply tuck the flap into the pocket.  The ticket pocket is usually seen on sports jackets or bespoke jackets, and as the name suggest, is used for holding things like ticket stubs. The patch pocket is the least formal, and typically only found on casual jackets. Your breast pocket should only be used to hold your handkerchief or pocket square, and in general you should never place bulky objects in any of your pockets; in addition to looking odd, they can damage the fabric. Carry things like keys and your phone in your briefcase, or some other bag.

Other

Your jacket should have a functioning boutonniere, with a thread on the reverse of the lapel to hold a flower stem. It is a simple alteration for a tailor to add either of these. Have a look at Real Men Real Style for a great article on boutonnieres.

Working buttons on your sleeve cuff is a good thing, but can be dangerous on off the rack suits. If the sleeves aren’t the right length for you, you will need a tailor that is willing to take apart the shoulder to alter them. This can sometimes be costly, and is much more difficult than altering non-functioning cuffs. On the other hand, it is a relatively simple process to add working buttons to a sleeve, and they are a nice feature to have.

Well, that’s it. I hope you found this guide helpful, but keep in mind that it is only a guide, and not a be all, end all list of instructions. There is a lot more information out there if you are interested, and I definitely recommend you head over to Real Men Real Style and have a look. You may have noticed that I link to it several times, but that is because it is an invaluable resource, an one that every man should be subscribed to. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them; I am always happy to get feedback.

New Shirts – Charles Tyrwhitt

I recently decided that I need more shirts, and, because I’m not made of money, I decided to go with what is quickly becoming my favourite company – Charles Tyrwhitt. Now, C.T have a somewhat mixed rep online, but I like them; their shirts are excellent for the price, with the lower end ones costing about $35 on sale, and I quite like their suits (all their suits have working buttons on the cuff, more on this later), and I’m saving for another pair of their shoes. Certainly, if money was no issue, I would probably shop somewhere else, but their price to quality ratio is excellent, and certainly better than anything within 100km of where I live. So, without further ado, let’s get on with the review.

I bought two shirts in this batch, and as most of my other shirts are either solid or striped, I decided to go with checks, which I quite like.

The one on the right is the Lilac and Blue Check Slim Fit Shirt, and the one on the left is the Sky Textured Check Slim Fit Shirt.

DSCF4467

 

As far as quality goes, the shirts are quite solid, certainly not the best in the world, but for what amounts to about $40 each, they are quite good, and better than anything you will find on the Sunshine Coast for a similar price, or even twice the price. Both shirts have double cuffs (as do all my shirts), split yokes, classic collars, are 100% cotton, and come with brass collar stays; another thing I like about Charles Tyrwhitt is that all their shirts come with complimentary brass collar stays, unlike some companies who only give out plastic ones. The buttons are plastic, which is to be expected for the price, and I will most likely replace them with Mother of Pearl at some point, and the collars are fused, which I prefer to non-fused, for the crisper look. Their shirts (at least the ones I have seen) don’t have gauntlet buttons, which isn’t a bad thing, so long as your sleeves are the proper length, and don’t bunch up and open the gauntlet; you don’t want the sleeve to open and show your arm. The sleeves are a good length on me, so I don’t think I will need to have them altered, or a gauntlet button added. I also rarely wear a shirt without a jacket, so accidentally showing part of my arm is never an issue.

DSCF4462

The patterns don’t quite line up on the front, but I’m not too concerned

DSCF4461

The slim fit shirts fit me quite nicely, but are considered quite generous by most. There are no darts in the shirt, which you will find in the extra slim fit, and there are two pleats in the back. I think the fit is comparable to my T.M Lewin slim fit shirts that have had the darts removed. If you are reasonably fit or skinny, the extra slim fit will probably fit you better, but when in doubt, they do have a size guide on the website.

To sum up, Charles Tyrwhitt shirts are good, solid shirts, and well worth the price, especially if you buy them on sale. Overall, I will give these particular shirts a 4/5 for price, and 4/5 for quality. There are some minor issues, but nothing I am particularly concerned with, and I would definitely recommend Charles Tyrwhitt shirts to anyone looking for a good solid quality shirt for a reasonable price.