Bow Ties Sydney, Australia - Le Noeud Papillon - Specialists In Self Tying Bow Ties

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Friday, July 12, 2013

A Charming Interview - Will Boehlke From A Suitable Wardrobe - One Of America's Great Menswear Blogs

Will Boehlke is one of two pieces of press we received during the teething stages of our business that were instrumental in the success of our business coming to life and being internationally recognised. The other was the Wall Street Journal. As opposed to print media, Will Boehlke is a man more immersed in digital content. His blog, A Suitable Wardrobe, has an average daily readership of 10,000 who come from all four corners of the globe. Will writes about worldwide issues relating to men’s wardrobes but his blog extends to wines, travel and craftsmanship, with contributing writers adding additional dimensions to the content. He is possibly one of the few bloggers who has a universal appeal despite being considered one of the more conservative observers of menswear. Will, thank you for being interviewed by LNP.

Will, can you tell us about some of the most interesting people you have met in the world of  tailored menswear in the past five years?

I most enjoy people who are as obsessed as I am, and those are generally not in the clothing business. The most interesting is probably RJ, the clothing-articulate weekly contributor to ASW, though I have never actually met him in person.  I have tried several times but he always finds a reason to avoid me. Slippery devil.

I also very much enjoy a friend who is an attorney in Los Angeles. He lives in a six bedroom house and every closet is filled with his tailored clothing. As is half the garage. I can relate to that.

What would you consider is the greatest obstacle to men wearing more refined and elegant clothes?

They have been brainwashed to think that clothes don’t matter, and fast fashion made in China to be worn a couple of times and thrown away is all they need. Women, who could demand more from their men, are apparently happy with that. I am always amazed by the number of women I see that are dressed for evening in Las Vegas and accompanied by a guy wearing dirty denim and a shirt worn out of his trousers.

I would describe your style as Old World Elegance – how would you be inclined to describe your style and those that read A Suitable Wardrobe?

I think of myself as wearing classic style, and ASW’s readers are either doing the same or aspiring to.

In the last two weeks I have had two Englishmen make snooty comments on our products. One said that he was far too conservative to wear our bow ties, the other saw me in an elevator and a woman complimented my lemon trousers to which he guffawed “I could never wear anything like that, I am too conservative!”  What is your opinion of the English and are you in agreement with them on their values when it comes to style? How might this differ with American conservatism?

I once read that the English became the most conservative dressers in the West after World War I when as you know an entire generation of men was lost. The survivors did not need to do anything to attract women. That said, personally I like what Michael Drake called English with an Italian sensibility, which is an ever so slightly edgier version.

American dress was most influenced by the English. Wealthy American men used to go to London for their clothes (some still do) just as their women went to Paris. That became diluted after the Italians took over ready to wear to the largest extent. Most Americans who spend money on their clothes wear Italian style. The rest wear sloppily made cotton and polyester that is as far from style as I can imagine.

The principal American contribution to style has been the prep or Ivy look originated by university students and co-opted by Ralph Lauren.

"The suit is made in Naples Italy from a special weaving of J&J Minnis Rangoon,
a tropical wool, done for a man in Singapore".  See More At A Suitable Wardrobe Blog

"This suit was made in the lake district of England.
It’s a 12 ounce gabardine, also by Minnis if I recall correctly."
See more at Will Boehlke's Blog - A Suitable Wardrobe

Every time I watch an American CIA film or something which involves intellectual Americans I see a huge amount of exposed button down collars in light blue cotton. Is there a reason that a portion of American’s are avid button down collar people? Here in Australia the trend does not seem to be as strong. Is there a cultural reflection of why this is a trend?

The button down came from India by way of England. It is very popular here thanks to the combination of Brooks Brothers which, for many years though no longer, made the iconic ready to wear version, and to preppy dress which made it the standard.

Wool! You know an awful lot about wool and I am quite certain you have seen a lot more bunches than the average Joe. Can you recommend for us 4 bunches of brands we may or may not know and the kinds of weaves and weights that stand out to you?

I like cloth made as it was before the development of the Supers, and before ready to wear retailers trying to reduce their inventories convinced men that they needed only one weight of clothing year round. I dress for the weather. I stay warm in 13 ounce/420 gram flannel in the winter and cool in 10 ounce/300 gram fresco in the summer (fresco is made to let air pass through it and on a breezy San Francisco day I can find myself looking down to make certain that I am still wearing trousers).

I like J&J Minnis for its fresco and its flannel as well as the flannel from Fox Brothers. Lovat Mill in Scotland makes some of the world’s best tweeds. The trouble is you have to have your clothes made to wear cloth like this.

The world is constantly evolving and as a result, things that were once considered important, like a necktie, seem to be less important than they once were, especially in Sydney where there is a more relaxed approach to business. What institutions are we losing and what saddens you the most about the evolution of menswear?

Barring the collapse of civilization, I honestly believe that people will wear little or nothing in the not terribly distant future. Clothing evolved to protect us from the weather, and to keep women from being attacked. As our control over the environment increases we won’t need the former, and as we become more civilized we won’t fear the latter. In my lifetime we have already seen a huge change in university educated men’s attitudes towards women based on co-habiting with them in their college dorms.

Of all the nooks and crannies in menswear production that you have explored in the last 5 years, what would be your biggest Eureka moment of both your business and the blog?

I don’t know that I have ever had a Eureka moment. I do what what I do because I like meeting and getting to know the artisans who make clothes by hand and the other clothing hobbyists who obsess over it. For example, I had lunch at the Travelers Club in Paris a couple of weeks ago with two men who are as crazy about this stuff as I am. I learned a great deal about Parisian bespoke from them, had a civilized lunch in a room full of men wearing suits (even pocket squares!) and enjoyed a game of snooker with a cigar accompaniment. Life has few better things to offer.

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