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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Hugo Jacomet - An Interview 3 Months In The Making

Paris in the summer is a very frantic affair - I once referred to it as similar to when the circus comes to town. For those critical weeks in June and July everything is helter skelter - an itinerary filled with appointments, catch-ups, must-sees and discoveries. The usual dialogue is 'they just got into town and want to know if we can do dinner on Thursday', 'you can't take them there, they're coming all the way from London to see us' or 'I read about this place on a blog written by this Swedish guy'. The circus is Paris, with all it's tricks out on display to catch you off guard as you are walking through the subway or dazzle your eyes as you walk past a window display. This summer I was there very briefly and I had two acts that I wanted to catch up with. The first was Angelo Flaccavento who was so busy that we passed like ships in the night as he went to one fashion event after another. The second was Hugo Jacomet, who was in and out of town as I was in and out of town. I came very close to meeting him as I waited on the Rue Marbeuf, hovering around Berluti and Cifonelli waiting for 3pm to arrive. It was my fault, I had arrived half an hour early hoping to get in early but it was not my lucky day. Hugo was arriving late from his previous appointment and was delayed in traffic. The only two appointments I had tried to orchestrate were gone and I was stuck holding a big camera on the Rue Marbeuf with nothing to shoot. The suits of Cifonelli would have to wait. To finally meet a fellow blogger would also have to wait. Of all the bloggers I had wanted to meet I could put them on one hand, just on the digits in fact. They were: Will Boehlke, Simon Crompton, Angelo Flaccavento, Hugo Jacomet . These were the blog writers, not photojournalists. In the end, Hugo was kind enough to do an interview by email. And so, without further ado, I would like you to meet Hugo Jacomet below and I hope that Australian men will start to log onto his Parisian Gentleman blog to learn about the finer things that our friends in continental Europe do. 

How important is neckwear for a suit? In Australia during the summer, and in my trip to Europe recently, I find more and more men not wearing a tie to work. Are we trending towards open or closed collars and what are some of the options you might suggest to a man considering his options for neckwear in the heat of summer?

Well, besides the problem of summer heat, I think that this "trend" of not wearing neckwear even at work first comes directly from this stupid invention of "casual friday". This habit is becoming almost a rule, specifically in the USA where even high level executives want to show that they are "cool", which is, in my opinion, a pure marketing invention of the button-down shirt sellers like Brooks Brothers in NYC. I'm a big advocate of neckwear because I think that a man's attire without proper neckwear is loosing maybe half of its impact and beauty. I always wear ties, no matter how hot the weather is, because with a very light sea island cotton shirt, a tie can also be very light to wear. Moreover, the summer period is a great one for neckwear as it allows us to play more with flashy colors and patterns. And of course, a bow tie is even lighter to wear, if it's properly tied of course. On the other hand, we also witness a great come back of the "cravats" (neckerchiefs) but one more time, this kind of neckwear involves a great education on how to tie it, otherwise it can become an actual disaster. 

Hugo Jacomet

Hugo Jacomet, left, and to the right, shoe maker Pierre Corthay

Between Paris and Milan could you sum up the key differences between men’s fashion? My experience is that Frenchmen dress down, whilst Milanese dress up. Does this observation hold true to you too and if yes, could you expand upon the cultural origins of this phenomenon?

Well this is quite a complex question on which I've been writing a lot since years. To make it short and simple I think you should first extend your analyze to England also, as France is, in my opinion, the 3rd country for men's style, far behind England and Italy. In England the key words are "understatement" and "tradition". You don't dress to show how nice your new suit is, but, on the contrary, to stick to long-lasting gentlemen tradition. On Savile Row, there's a famous proverb which states that "if somebody congratulates you for your suit, it means that your tailor has done a bad work". Of course this understatement obsession also brings its excesses and rigid rules such as "no brown in town" or the "morning suit" tradition. In one word, the English dress mainly to follow the norm and the traditions. In Italy, it's the exact contrary. Italian have an obsessional need to show up, to express their personality with clothes, to break as much rules as possible and mainly to attract attention as much as they can. I've seen in this country absolute wonders but also absolute vulgarity. But what I like the most with italian, is that they are not afraid of making all the experiments possible to "shine" in public. On the contrary english just want to follow the rules as much as they can. France is somewhere in the middle of these two behaviors, but most likely closer to the British tradition of discreet and understated garments.

When it comes to shirts, can you tell us what you look for in terms of cloth, cut, collar, cuff and detail?

Well as I mainly wear bespoke shirts, I've been trying a lot of different things. Can you believe that I have more than 200 shirts ? For example I have been one the very few gentlemen worldwide to re-introduce horizontal striped shirts in my wardrobe. These shirts are so nice, specifically with white collar and cuffs, but you have to be "able" to wear them as it's quite unusual. You also have to be quite "fitted" as horizontal stripes have a very bad effect on overweighted gentlemen. I also love to break some rules like, for example, mixing gingham pattern (which are normally rather casual) with contrasted collar and cuff (which are, on the contrary, much more formal). I even went further by asking my shirt maker for tab collars on these shirts. I've never seen shirts like this outside of my own wardrobe and I LOVE them so much. In terms of fabrics, i have no special preference as you can find very nice ones in poplin, oxford, sea island etc. Concerning collars I prefer the two extremes : either  HUGE ones (up to 9,5 cm) because I want them to gently slide under the jacket lapels or VERY SMALL english tab ones because they bring your attire elsewhere… and are very interesting for small and stiff knots. One last things that might surprise you : I NEVER wear cufflinks and I prefer from far simple barrel cuffs with 2 buttons. Maybe it's because I think that with my quite uncommon face (with long white hair), I need to understate in terms of accessories….

Hugo Jacomet with shoe blogger Justin Fitzpatrick

Hugo, you are one of the great knot tiers of your generation, can you tell us how you get that perfect knot and do you have a video that could show the normal man how to tie his knot in a similar vein? Of all the knots you know, which is your favourite?

I am often asked on the controversial subject of tie knots in general and on my favorite knot in particular. Here is what I consider to be THE most interesting, becoming and practical… but not the easiest to achieve : the Old Bertie. Why ?  Because It is more substantial than a four-in-hand yet provides equal possibilities for symmetry AND It is less symmetrical than a Windsor while providing nearly equal hold.
Hence, for me it is THE perfect knot that will also thrill seekers of arches and perfect dimples. What else could you ask for?

When it comes to double breasted, are there a particular set of rules one must follow? Do you believe that double breasted is for a certain type of person? If yes, could you expand upon that for us?

For almost two years, PG has been advocating for a full force return of the double-breasted suit gentlemen's closets, and to convince them to try the very elegant and flattering DB suit.In one of the last edition of The Rake, Bruce G. Boyer, who i consider the safest author in terms of taste and interpretation of masculine elegance, decidedly grabs the bull by the horns to put an end to a number of misconceptions and rules restricting these splendid suits to certain body shapes.Without getting into all the details, Mr. Boyer explains that no gentleman should fear the double-breasted suit because of his body shape, and that “if you like it, wear it”! The only restriction ri would however add pertains to the quality of the cut. Indeed, if one item of the masculine garments should never suffer approximate cutting, it is the double breasted suit. When not properly fitted, it can quickly lead to visual disaster. Meanwhile, as the interest of ready-to-wear labels for this type of suit seems to be gaining momentum, it is undoubtedly becoming possible (with a good tailor, but except in high-end houses, especially not the shop tailor), to adjust the line and fitting of your suit. In reality, only men with exceptionally wide hips ought to avoid the double-breasted suit. So, for once, go ahead and bypass the so-called rules barring a little bit of extra-weight to venture with this type of cut, and let your eyes (for the line) and feel (for comfort and stance) do the judging when you don your first double-breasted suit. This strong return of the DB suit calls for a few pointers that will help you decipher the various ways of wearing it. Here again, contrary to widespread belief, very many models of double breasted suits exist, although all were not created equal. What differentiates them is most often the number of buttons and, most importantly, the number of so-called functioning buttons. Personally, I have a strong preference for the classic 6 on 2 button stance, with 2 functioning buttons out of 6.

They say ‘God is in the detail’, so in terms of suiting, what are the details you must have when ordering a suit?

Well, this is a never-ending question because, as I'm in the bespoke world since years, I can't even remember all the details i've been asking for ! I can only give you some examples : for example i always ask my tailor for a notch with an embroidered arrow at the bottom of my trousers in order to pay tribute to my bespoke shoes patinas. I also always ask for piped pockets on my Db suits instead of the "normal" flaps ones, because I've noticed it has a wonderful slimming effect. And of course i most often go for one button jackets as i think they are the most elegant ones. 

Can you reduce Parisian menswear shopping to two or three key arrondisements and give our readers a brief description of a few streets and stores that they might stop into?

In the "Rue Marbeuf" and around the Champs Elysées you will find the finest shops for men : Cifonelli, Attolini (in a multi-brand store), Kiton, Brioni, Tom Ford. Around the "Place Vendome" you find Corthay shoes, Charvet shirts and ties and Moynat trunks and bags. And on the "boulevard st germain", you'll find the amazing Ralph Lauren flagship. Probably one of the most impressive men's store in the world with Pierre Degand's place in Brussels of course !

Hugo the mentor

Everyone who lives or travels to Paris has what they call ‘my Paris’. Can you tell us a little about your Paris, where you like to take a stroll, where you might take a coffee and where we might find you in the evening?

Most of my favorite places are in the 5th arrondissement (the "quartier latin") I love the "Caveau des Oubliettes" a very small jazz/funk club which is located in the former jails of Paris. I also love, in the same area, the Loubnane restaurant which is the best libanese restaurant in the world. I cherish the restaurant of Hélène Darroze which was the first woman to be award 2 stars in the Michelin guide. In fact, I love the real genuine and authentic places and I avoid as much as I can the "trendy" and "fashionable" places. I'm NOT a jet setter even if my notoriety brings me to some awful cocktails from time to time, but I try to avoid them as much as I can. I love the simple and genuine places.

Hugo's son Greg, carrying the tradition of well dressed men by wearing Cifonelli with just the right amount of cuff showing.


  1. I wonder why he never wears a pocket square.

  2. The best dressed man in history was Louis XVI that dude dazzled silver-white and blue sash- not even Brummell was that cool.

  3. He doesn't wear pocket square neither belt or watch.