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

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Friday, August 29, 2014

There Is A Lot Less To The English Look Than You Might Expect

One of the things I have never really understood is how a great deal of people who subscribe to the 'English' look tend to frown upon satin over twill and in many instances they opt for muted colours over bright ones as a general rule. People who subscribe to this style of dressing tend to also prefer Harris tweeds in earthy colours, a mix of wool and silk in their pocket square with rather subdued art if any; they talk about ancient madder dyes on forums and love vintage photos of men in wool bow ties. I am not trying to make a stereotype but this kind of gentleman does exist and sometimes they find portions of our collections far too bright and perky for their taste.

However, today I thought I should point out something about two materials that we have worked with and that although they seem very different on the website, when you are up close and personal, the difference is not so great. 

Silk Satin

In the top photo you will see a navy mogador satin silk which you will note the tightness of the satin weave. The satin weave, which merely is a technique by which the weft threads go over the warp once and then under for three, renders a brightness merely because there is less space between the threads for light to be lost. This means more light is reflected which is why the silk appears brighter.

Silk satin magnified to highlight the weave which is shown above in a diagram.

Silk Twill

By contrast, silk twill is woven by taking the weft threads over two warp threads and then under two warp threads. Then on the next row you start the same weave technique but one along in the sequence which in turn creates a a kind of groove on the bias. It's not that much of a difference when you see it in a diagram but the impact is quite high on the final outcome. It is merely this change in weave which allows less light to refract from the silk since it is more porous and more light gets lost within these spaces. The entire so called "English" look is merely a function of less light being refracted by the cloth owing to a change in the weave. The colours that are used to dye a silk don't much change between dye houses and although it is possible for finishing techniques to add or subtract lustre from a silk, the quintessential part of it all is owing to the fibre chosen (eg wool versus silk) and then the weaving technique on which it is woven. The great example below is a silk twill in 50 Oz which might lend itself to the so called "English" aesthetic because it was printed in England on silk twill and looks slightly more dusty and subdued than if it had been woven on a satin warp loom in Italy. 

Don't be fooled by those that suggest you don't understand menswear if you don't follow the English look, sometimes it's just a masquerade for the fact that there are more silk print houses in England than there are weavers of silk which is contrasted by the Italians that have more weavers than printers (to my current knowledge).

Silk twill which is woven slightly differently to silk satin but which has a huge effect on how the cloth looks and feels in the hand. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

To Collect Rather Than To Accumulate

One of the arguments some of my friends often make is that spending money on a custom made item of clothing is such a waste of money since you often change your wardrobe frequently. In actual fact since I started Le Noeud Papillon and since the time I have begun writing about menswear on the blog I have found a marked decrease in my annual consumption of clothes.

Part of this I attribute to the time it takes to assemble the right materials and the right craft in order to achieve a particular goal in a custom made project. Unlike a suit or tie off the rack, the process begins firstly with the hunt for the right cloth. Then you start to make a conjecture on what kind of cut or silhouette you are chasing. You might be searching for the right weight for the interlining for a tie to match the weight of the silk. You might investigate the materials you want to line your jacket or the canvas for your chest. Maybe the journey takes you to a button store or a haberdashery looking for thread. Maybe. When you begin the journey to make something you don't know the paths you might take in order to complete it or how someone else might help you along your journey.

So when it comes time to throw something out - well, you are more likely to hold onto it and term it 'collecting' rather than accumulating because throwing it away would be too emotional an experience.

When it comes to Le Noeud Papillon bow ties, we do ask, if you come to that bridge ever, whether it be by your own volition or under duress from your space obsessed partner, do the right thing and pass the bow tie on. There is sure to be someone in your sphere of influence who has not yet had the pleasure to learn how to tie one on.

The bow tie storage box, a limited number of these are available through the Studio. Order yours by contacting us on the web page.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Front Cover Of The Weekend Australian Magazine Featuring Martin Benn (Sepia) And Neil Perry (Rockpool)

This weekend just passed we were featured on the front cover of The Weekend Australian Magazine featuring Neil Perry, chef from Rockpool, and Martin Benn, chef from Sepia restaurant.

In the photo, which was styled by Viva Vayspap, Perry wears our 'Churchill' bow tie in modified butterfly and Benn wears  our 'Julian' bow tie. Ben also sports a black satin silk scarf from Le Noeud Papillon as well as a pocket square and our smoking jacket.

If you want to spice up your black tie, you can follow suit at

Neil Perry and Martin Benn styled by Viva Vayspap for The Weekend Australian Magazine wearing Le Noeud Papillon bow ties. 

There Are Few Better Staples Than A Baby Blue Twill Shirt

Of all the shirting fabrics I run my hands through there are few that compete against one particular baby blue twill I get from Canclini in Italy. Time and time again this particular cloth has stood the test of wearability and durability both for myself and my customers to the point that I always recommend it as the first shirt to make after the staple white has been made. It is the second most needed shirt in a man's wardrobe because it offers the greatest utility and versatility as a shirt both in business and in casual wear. It can be worn with jeans, it can be worn with trousers, it can be worn with a suit, it can be worn with shorts and it can be worn with just about any combination you throw at it. Think of summer time and a bright green field of grass and you are wearing white jeans and a mocha brown pair of chelsea boots. What shirt? The baby blue twill of course. Think of a bone coloured suit and a day at the races. What colour shirt? The baby blue twill of course. Think of the important meeting in the city and you are wearing your most powerful navy suit with a solid coloured tie. What shirt? The baby blue twill of course.

When you have had enough of your ginghams, your spots, your laser prints, your denim, your coupes and your woven jacquard designs, it's always nice to come home to the simple things in life and nothing quite does it for me that this said shirt. Pictured below with our "Trust" bow tie.

To order your own shirts:

A light blue baby twill, one of the most versatile shirting fabrics and to be considered as an absolute staple in any man's wardrobe.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Eccentricity Of Bill Masters Fits The "Contrarian" & "Renegade" Attributes Of The Bow Tie Wearer

Before Bill Masters and Virginia Johnson grappled the science behind sex many women went for years and sometimes a lifetime without experiencing an orgasm and many men knew very little about the clitoris or how to please their lover. That seems to be what I have taken from watching the current series of Masters Of Sex.

I write this not to get tongues wagging nor to be controversial but merely to note that this dynamic duo reshaped the way we looked at and talked about sex in the West and I am chuffed to note Masters was an avid bow tie wearer which has been held as a theme throughout the series. On scouring videos and images on the web for Bill Masters I was pleased to find that the real man was even more of a snappy dresser than his screen character played by Michael Sheen.

In fact, if you want to see someone who is considered not only as a renegade and pioneer in the field of sex but also a contrarian to the status quo in America at the time, look no further than Bill Masters. You can find visual references of Bill Masters wearing long peaked collar shirts with a disproportionate sized skinny bow tie in almost every television interview and photo that can be found on the web. The look is so idiosyncratic that he only just falls short of Winston Churchill or Walter Gropius in terms of iconic bow tie wearers.

If you have not already watched Masters Of Sex, my suggestion is to hop to it. There are few television series if any that can combine sex and science so that you never once feel grubby watching the show - because it's all in the name of science.

The real Bill Masters and Virginia Johnson circa 1960's . Masters wears consistently a skinny batwing bow tie of 4cm

Lizzy Kaplan and Martin Sheen in the current series of Masters Of Sex

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Christopher Schaerf From Double Monk Answers A Few Questions On Shoes

When Andrew Doyle from Timeless Man came to see our Studio and discuss silks and bow ties  I made the remark that I apologised for my fit-out as we were a Studio and not a retail store. I explained to him that I was more about creating new content for the blog in this space than I was about having a chesterfield sofa for my customers. Then I added, 'besides, most of us with a strong internet presence are more smokes screens and mirrors than the genuine retailers'. Andrew then said 'I agree with you about the tailors in general but if there is one business that's ethos and philosophy is backed up by a retail presence to boot, then the only one in Australia that I have met in my travels is Double Monk. They run a great blog and then when  you go to the store, you are even more impressed.' I thought this was the very highest compliment, so I embarked on an interview with one of the co-owners of Double Monk. Here are some interesting tid bits on shoes from Christopher Schaerf of Double Monk in Fitzroy.

The global footwear market is expected to reach $195 billlion dollars by 2015 – why do you think human beings are so consumed by what they put on their feet? What aspects of footwear are you most passionate about?

I would say that the amount of money involved in the footwear market is proportional to the global fashion market in general. If anything I would suggest that men especially are not concerned enough about what they are putting on their feet. Too many guys are happy to invest in their suits, coats and other clothes, but when it comes to their shoes they are more comfortable in the $200-300 bracket. Anyone investing $2000 dollars on a suit ought to be spending at least $1000 on their shoes. The most essential aspect of a good shoe is quality materials and construction (aesthetics are a given). When this is done properly a pair of shoes will reward their owner with decades of comfort. A poor, ill-fitting suit is not necessarily uncomfortable, but a poorly made or ill-fitting shoe causes continual discomfort and pain for its unfortunate owner. At Double Monk we like to say that you should spend as much as you can afford on your shoes and your bed, because if you’re not in one you are in the other.

Most connoisseurs of men’s footwear know the difference between a driving shoe, a loafer, a slipper, an evening pump, a brogue, a monk, a spectator, an Oxford, a Chelsea, a riding boot, a military boot and so on but the layman, and I consider myself a layman, usually can sight the difference but not describe it in words. Can you give us a brief description of the top 10 different shoes you sell at Double Monk and how you like to categorise shoes?

The most common dress shoe is the oxford. This is a shoe with what is called ‘closed’ lacing, which means that the throat of the shoe (where the laces are) completely closes over the tongue of the shoe. A derby, by comparison, has an open lacing where the laces are threaded between two separate pieces of leather. A monk shoe is a slip-on variety that fastens with a buckle; a single monk has one buckle while the double monk (obviously a favourite of ours) has two buckles. Loafers are slip-on shoes that come in two main styles: the penny loafer has a strap across the instep with a slit in it where guys used to store a penny for the phone box; the tassled loafer has tassels where the strap would be on a penny loafer. A chukka boot is an ankle-high derby boot often referred to as a desert boot when made with suede. A chelsea boot is simply an elastic-sided ankle boot. The term brogue refers to shoes where the seams have punched detailing. A quarter brogue only has punching along the toe-cap seam. A half brogue features punching along all or most of the seams as well as (usually) a medallion (or punched design) on the toe-cap itself. A full brogue, also known as a wingtip brogue, is similar to the half brogue, the only difference being that instead of a straight toe-cap it features a distinctive wingtip shaped toe-cap.

There are various different parts of a shoe from the quarters, the vamp, the sole, the heel, the welt, the wing tip, the toe cap and the facing – can you describe each to us and tell us what sort of shoe is defined by each of these aspects? For example, does an Oxford look more becoming with a certain style of vamp?

The upper is the main section of the shoe that covers the foot (apart from the sole). The quarter of the shoe is the rear section of the upper that stretches from the heel to the throat of the shoe; it is reinforced with in extra piece of leather called the counter, which gives the shoe better structural integrity. The vamp is the area between the bottom of the lacing and the toe-cap of the shoe. The toe-cap is the front section of the shoe; it is reinforced with an extra piece of material called the toe puff. The sole is the bottom of the shoe, which can be made of either leather or rubber. The heel of the shoe is at the rear of the sole and can be made of leather, rubber, or a combination of the two. The welt of a shoe is a feature of the Goodyear welting method that we strongly advocate. It is a strip of leather that is sewn to the upper of the shoe. The sole is then sewn onto the welt, rather than being directly sewn to the upper. This method of construction allows the shoe to be resoled again and again, a fact that means Goodyear welted shoes can last for decades.

(Double Monk says that reading our previous post on shoe parts is helpful but not entirely accurate in their opinion - proceed with caution before using it as a reference at your next dinner party .... click here to see that post. )

The subject of whole cuts and single cuts are becoming more and more interesting for those looking at undertaking a bespoke shoe – can you tell us why whole cuts are more expensive and more highly sought after?

The wholecut shoe is a beautiful and minimalist style of oxford that is perfect for formal attire. It requires a great amount of skill to stretch a single piece of leather across a last (the sculpted piece of wood upon which a shoe is shaped and constructed). Having said that, choosing a shoe style is a purely subjective decision and I would certainly not say that a wholecut is a ‘better’ style than a brogue for instance. For anyone considering a bespoke order my only advice would be to go with the style that appeals intuitively to you, rather than what you think is fashionable or sought after. A bespoke shoe should reflect the personal style of its owner.

Whole cut shoes with brogue detail on the toe box

When measuring a foot for a shoe, what aspects of the human foot are the most important to take into account? Can you recommend to our readers a way in which they might best measure themselves at home?

No pair of feet is the same and every style or make of shoe will fit slightly differently. When measuring someone up for a new pair of shoes there are three main areas I take into account. Firstly the length of the foot is key to establishing the general size of shoe required. Secondly, the width of the foot must be taken into account; for a particularly wide or narrow foot we may have to size up or down accordingly. The third aspect to take into account is the instep, which is covered by the tongue and throat of the shoe. Some people have particularly shallow instep, which may require an extra insole, or a high instep that requires a larger size. As you can see there is a great deal to take into account and it is still essential to try on a particular shoe in order to establish one’s ideal fit. This is why we strongly recommend trying on a pair of shoes before you buy them.

Double Monk is famous for it's comprehensive made to order (MTO) and bespoke programme with English shoe makers

The lasts of the rich and famous adorn the English shoe makers walls - from John Lobb to Edward Green and GJ Cleverley, these shoe makers have made for some of the biggest names in business and entertainment. 
So far in your history of trading what is the most unique and perhaps the most desirable shoe you have seen come through the store?

The wealth of options makes that a very difficult one to answer. What I would say is that the most extraordinary shoes that I have seen in the store have come as a result of the Made-to-Order service that we offer. We offer this service with Edward Green, John Lobb, GJ Cleverley and Carmina Shoemaker. The customer has a range of choices that includes leather, colour, style and sole: the combinations are practically infinite. The surcharge varies between $275-$300 for a pair of Made-to-Order shoes, however we consider it a small price to pay for the absolutely stunning results that frequently come through the store.

Are you planning on making any shoes for yourself soon and if so can you tell us about what you might be working on?

The master shoemakers from G.J. Cleverley have visited Double Monk twice thus far. Both Nick and I have commissioned a pair of beautiful double monk shoes in antique burgundy calf. The double monk is obviously a style that is close to our hearts and we eagerly await their completion.

How does someone get familiar with the types of shoes that you guys offer since you don't have a website?

Follow our blog where you can see our work in progress as custom pairs of shoes come in each week ( ) or follow us on Instagram using our handle @dblmnk .

A beautiful store to boot - the young and dynamic team of Double Monk delivers on all fronts both digitally and in a traditional retail space. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Burgundy Velvet Smoking Jacket With Black Quilted Satin Silk Shawl And Traditional Frogging

When a new smoking jacket arrives in from our workroom in Italy I have but an hour with it whilst I check everything off before I dispatch it onto it's final destination. This jacket was off to a customer in Los Angeles and I had but a small window to photograph it's rare beauty. I love to look at smoking jackets. I find I don't wear them that often but I could state at them for hours and I understand why Hollywood has used them to conjure up images of romance or sexuality or higher-living because even though their functional use (smoking) is now frowned upon, their symbolism lives on in people's hearts. 

We custom make these jackets and they take roughly six weeks to produce and are made to measurements supplied. If you would like something similar, don't hesitate to contact us on

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What Are The Different Names For Parts Of A Shoe - A Diagram Of The Anatomy Of A Shoe

Men's shoes are all made differently and, for example, there is a substantial difference in design and components between the shoe above, a wing tipped Oxford, and say a whole cut shoe which has no vamp, no quarter and no wingtip. Needless to say that when you are looking to buy a shoe, it helps to know what all the add ons are and to be able to describe a shoe adequately enough so that you don't go home with something you didn't go searching for. I certainly did not know all the elements of a shoe until recently and, quite frankly, I could tell you that very few staff in Sydney's shoe stores could tell you either. We should all thank our lucky stars for the internet.

Above you will find some common terms that are used to describe shoes. I will give a brief explanation of each.

Heel: Made of leather and sometimes rubber, the heel is a number of layers of leather glued together which forms a raised platform at the rear of the shoe on which the heel of the foot sits.

Vamp: The area of leather between the toe box and the quarters.

Tongue: The leather which protrudes from the throat of the shoe above the laces.

Throat: The area from the vamp to the tongue of the shoe which is concealed by the laces.

Eyelets: The perforated holes which feed the laces through and bind the shoe together.

Laces: Usually made of leather fibres and fed through the eyelets to close the shoes.

Waist: The area between the sole and the heel. In upmarket men's shoes the waist is sometimes bevelled for effect.

Brass nails: In some shoes you will see brass nails in the heel and sometimes in the sole. Sometimes they are used as a function bond the heel to the sole, other times they are used for decorative purposes such as inscribing the logo of the production house.

Wing Tip : A cured piece of leather which covers the toe box and is stitched to the vamp. Another variation of the wingtip is a toe cap which forms a dome at the end of the shoe.

Welt : I labelled this goodyear since this is the most popular way in which the welt is attached to the shoe. There is also another way which is common with the Europeans and this is called the Blake-Rapid method which is slightly more sleek as the sole is attached directly to the shoe.

Welt Stitches: On the sole of the shoe you will be able to see the stitch marks of the shoe where the sole has been attached to the welt.

Toe Box: This is the area where the leather is stretched most tightly across the shoe and where your toes will be sitting if you press down on the the leather. It is also where you get the best effects for mirror shine and some forms of patina.

Out Sole Channel: This is a groove in which the stitches are made between the welt and the sole. The channel protects the stitches from being eroded too quickly so that the shoe does not fall apart.

I hope this is a practical and helpful diagram and if you have any other questions please let me know. As my knowledge is still somewhat limited, I may not be able to answer specific construction questions but I will be able to point you in the right direction to an expert.

Oxford Versus Derby's - What's The Difference?

Coming into spring in Australia you might be tempted to step out and go to the race course during the spring carnival or perhaps you have a wedding to go to. Before you consider purchasing a new shoe, make sure you are getting the right one.

Above you will see two illustrations I made of the most common low cut shoes that you might purchase in a store. The top shoe is a Derby, generally worn for day wear and in the country. The Derby is usually defined by an extended heel in the rear of the shoe, often a greater pitch (the curvature of the concavity of the sole span) and a thicker sole. These shoes are generally worn in the country, for inclement weather and for more casual requirements.

By contrast the Oxford below the Derby is a shoe worn in more formal environments such as the office, out to dinner or to a black tie event. The Oxford is by far the most commonly worn shoe. It is usually defined by a closed heel, a slimmer sole which is lower to the ground and a more tapered toe box. It is also defined by the fact that when you tie up the laces of an Oxford shoe the facing joins together to hide the throat of the shoe.

In both Derby and Oxford shoes additional elements can be added or subtracted to change the look of the shoe which can confuse people. For example, a wing tip or toe cap can be sewn to the shoe with or without brogue detail to add additional dimensions and textures to the shoe as well as a heel cap in the rear.

Largely, in order to determine whether you are purchasing one or the other, it's best to a) ask the shop assistant or website and b) examine whether the throat is open or closed by the laces and c) examine the heel to see whether it is extended. Shoe companies can make Derby's look like Oxfords but generally speaking Oxfords will never look like Derby's.

For my tip in spring racing, look for  an Oxford whole cut in a brown or purple patina to pair with a less than suit but if this rain keeps up, consider a Derby to give yourself some distance between you and the mushy grass.

I hope this helps!


Monday, August 18, 2014

Spelling Errors And Editing On The Fly

I would like to take a moment to apologise to my blog readers for the continual punctuation and grammatical errors you can find within almost every blog post. Because I write this blog continuously and as a side to my existing business I find I am often strapped for time to run spell check before and after I write articles and often I re-read the post before editing anything I find which I believe to be incorrect.

I wish to apologise for any of you who suffer from disjointed passages of text or grammatical errors on this blog and know that I am solely to blame and that with time I hope to figure out a way to ensure this happens far less frequently.

Regards, N

The Double Four In Hand And The Old Bertie - How To Separate Yourself From The Pack

On the weekend I christened my child. As it was on a Sunday at midday I opted for a wide notched lapel navy blue suit which was cut and sewn by Leng Bespoke

As many of you might guess, I am not one to wear ties regularly, in fact, I hardly ever wear a tie, preferring to either have a bow tie for when I go out or to rely on an open necked shirt during the day.

I felt for this particular occasion that wearing a bow tie might send the wrong signal to the priest so I decided to wear an 8cm 50 Oz silk twill tie in light pink and that then got me scouring the web thinking about how I wished to tie it. 

Most gentlemen in Sydney don't experiment with their tie knots. In fact, the only two knots you tend to see are the four in hand and the full windsor. There is an art to tying your tie which has never really made it's way down under and so I trawled You Tube and did some reading and two knots stood out which I will talk about below.

1. The Double Four In Hand

According to some websites the double four in hand is currently having a resurgence because of it's popularity with Italian men who wear it with a certain panache that only an Italian can truly create. The double four in hand is as you would expect, simply taking the front blade of the tie around the rear blade twice instead of once before you slip the knot down through the centre. The thing is, there is a great deal of expertise you require to get it right and I would venture to say that I did not do the knot justice below but it is a reasonable first attempt. If you want to create the ideal knot, or the current 'soup du jour' version of it, you need to allow your fingers to expertly hold the fabric as it is being looped so that you create a generous knot. 

To see a great video on a double four in hand, click here:

2. The Old Bertie Knot

The Old Bertie is a famed knot because some say that whilst it appears to be extremely simple, it is in fact very difficult to master correctly. Once you have it down pat, some say that it makes a knot without peer. Those 'some' include Marc Guyot the famed and notable French tailor, and Hugo Jacomet, one of the most prolific tie wearers, of the revered blog Parisian Gentleman. The knot was said to have been created by "Old Bertie", the Duke of Windsor who later became King Edward VII . Although he was christened Albert Edward, he was affectionately known as Bertie to his family. He was the eldest son and second child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. King Edward VII reigned between 1901 and 1910 and should not be confused with King Edward VIII who abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson. Both Edwards VII and VIII have made significant contributions to menswear. 

The Old Bertie, on first glance, appears to be a half windsor but is actually not. The subtle difference is that the half windsor is wrapped around the rear blade to begin with whereas the Old Bertie is brought up through the V to form a knot before being flicked over to the left hand side and only then is it wrapped around the tie. Small difference, big impact. 

Although I would happily declare myself as a bow tie aficionado, I do not claim to be such a man when it comes to ties and for this reason I am happily rekindling myself to the art of the tie as there are many many more ways to tie a tie as opposed to a bow tie.

To see a half windsor tutorial , click here: 

To see an 'Old Bertie" knot tutorial - click here:

Not the best example, but the beauty of the rose like cylinder knot that forms from the double four-in-hand. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Why Is Everyone Selling Out All Of A Sudden?

It's hard not to notice what has recently been happening to some of the best blogs and menswear sites across the internet - those unique and trusted voices that we kept returning to day after day - are being forced to sell out - trading authenticity and originality for sales and traffic statistics. Most of this is in the name of trying to sell the business down the line to some larger entity.

The saddest part of all is that most of these started as hobbies and out of a genuine desire to communicate ideas about menswear but the moment the traffic drives in sales of product the owners are forced to make a decision as to whether they turn their passion into a full time business. It's understandable that once you create the beast you must feed it every day but I am becoming disenchanted with menswear and menswear blogging as the sphere is changing from one of originality and authenticity into one which is sneaky and somewhat contrived.

Our aim has always been to promote other companies and document menswear trends that had "anything to do with bow ties " whilst promoting our own goods along the way. If you feel we stray from that we'd like to know - so please drop us a line via our website.

Otherwise, we will soldier on and do our best not to sell out.


Friday, August 15, 2014

How To Tie A Bow Tie Instructions " The Australian Way " By Le Noeud Papillon Featuring The Work Of Illustrator Richard Carroll ( Higher Resolution )

For those of you at home who have a printer we place below a higher resolution image which you can print to an A4 page for the " How To Tie A Bow Tie " instructions created by Australian illustrator Richard Carroll . These irreverent "Australiana" instructions should remove anything intimidating about the art of tying your own bow tie. If you struggle at any point with the visuals, feel free to watch two of our older videos below which might give you the added confidence to get you over the line. 

Have a great weekend! 
Click on the image an open in a new browser tab to expand the image size and then download to your desktop. From there you can send the image to your printer.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Not For Everybody But Certainly For Me - Bespoke Shirts Cut With Contrast Bands

Below is a shirt I finished for a customer last week. He got the deal of a lifetime as I just happened to have him drop in on a day when I was feeling extraordinarily generous and he picked up two fabrics that, were he to shop them in one of the better menswear stores in Sydney, he would have paid well over $900.00 AUD per shirt but in a moment of absent-mindedness I charged him only $350.00 per shirt. The first was a Monti 200 2 ply Yorkshire cloth in pink, the other, below, is a blue houndstooth Monti West Indian Sea Island cotton also in a 200 2 ply. They are just beautiful beautiful shirts and they fit him like a glove. We have tried to do shirts for customers over the internet but I must say, only a fitting really gives you the results you want to achieve. Both shirts below were finished with contrasting white collar and cuff with contrasting bands. 

By appointment only. 

How To Make A Patina At Home Using Your Old Shoes And Some Basic Leather Dyes - Rejuvenating Some Below Average Shoes

Some people will say "it's not for me to judge" but really what they are saying is "I am judging it but I am not voicing my opinion". Others believe that the idea of non judgement as some kind of higher seated impartiality in a particular matter is the noblest pursuit. I beg to differ. I think our brains are taught to make value judgements for a reason which is why I like to feel nervous next to the edge of a cliff or why I like to remove my hand when I am too close to a fire.

On that note I wish to add that I really don't like cheap shoes and I am placing a value judgement on the numbers below because it was not only less pleasant an experience in making a patina for these shoes but I could feel as we went along that the shoe just was nowhere near the quality of shoes I have worked with in the past. What astounded me was the quality of the patina that came out the other side which I don't know whether I should take credit for on the workmanship side or whether it could be deduced that poor quality leather makes for a better patina. Time will tell as I need to gather more data. 

Here is what we did with the brogue shoes below which came from an Australian menswear brand as their house label.

1. Brushing the shoes to remove any grit.
2. Acetone to strip the shoes using cotton balls.
3. Brush the shoes again to remove any lint from the cotton balls.
4. Saphir Renovateur for 24 hours to soak the shoes in natural oils.
5. Brush the shoes again.
6. Begin dyeing the shoes using brushes. For the brogue details I used a light blue painted on with a brush. Rubbed off with cotton wool.
7. Using cotton wool and brushes I painted liberally a layer of purple.
8. Using black I created deeper tones along the edge of the upper and sole and then around the toe cap and heel.

This ends the dyeing. Now I went on the finish the shoes.

1. Apply La Cordonnerie Anglais pommade to the shoe in burgundy.
2. Rub into the shoe liberally and allow to dry.
3. Remove the pomade.
4. Apply wax by Saphir with stiff small brush including colours cognac and tobacco.
5. Brush shoes.
6. Begin glacage using neutral wax with a fine cloth and water dispenser.
7. After each layer of glacage allow to dry.
8. Keep repeating until you find yourself getting the beginnings of a mirror shine.

In the end, this was received very well by my cousin who asked for me to perform a patina on these shoes which he considered throwing away. The result was that although I could not remove some indents in the toe cap from significant wearing of the shoe, we were able to create something rather unique and to bring back some life to the shoes, enough so that he will begin using them again. 

In a world where we throw so much away because it looks slightly off colour or perhaps scuffed in a few areas, rejuvenating your shoes in this manner can not only be rewarding in terms of giving your own unique and personal look to a shoe, but it can also keep some money in your back pocket so that you can afford to buy a proper pair of shoes the next time around. 

The materials used in this blog post have been sourced from Exquisite Trimmings in London , Double Monk in Melbourne and A Suitable Wardrobe in San Francisco .

PS: Next week I will show you what I did to a pair of RM Williams boots that were 20 years old and on Friday, after receiving a ruby, brown and black patina, found a brand new home with a stockbroker in Sydney.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Richard Carroll - An Australian Illustrator On The Rise And One Of The Truly Well Dressed Gentlemen In Sydney

Once upon a time I was considering becoming an artist and for a number of months I drew and drew and traced and drew and spent hours of an evening trying to become something of a pencil illustrator. Part of that desire sprung from watching a class mate draw pictures of his horse which was called 'Titian' and they were sublime drawings and I was very envious because I had taste but not a drop of talent in this area. A few years later I approached my high school art teacher Ms. Palmer and asked her whether she thought I ought to continue with my art studies. I asked the age old question to the master "but do I have talent?" to which I got the same response that Nick Nolte's character gives to Rosanna Arquette in that Martin Scorsese classic "Life Lessons" which was part of the movie New York Stories, when he said to her "only you know whether you are an artist". I let go of my dreams that day and I have found other pursuits but when I see people who can draw I am filled with a pang of regret.

The talent of drawing is so unique because it allows someone to express something complex so succinctly. I once saw Ridley Scott on set of the movie Black Hawk Down drawing by hand an emotive story board so that they might shoot the movie accordingly. His drawing skills were superb.

Therefore, I jumped at an opportunity recently to engage with a Sydney based illustrator named Richard Carroll who some of you might have seen on this blog before in our portrait competitions. Richard is affiliated with the store "The Strand Hatters" which is run by his uncle Robert. He is also one of the better dressed gentlemen in Sydney and so I asked him if he could make something tongue in cheek related to the art of tying a bow tie which might give it an Australian flavour. You will see the result below - it has an irreverent Australian charm about it and I look forward to seeing more of Richard's work as he progresses.

What are the constraints when illustrating a cartoon for print and how do you approach the subject matter?

For me a large part of it is taking into account the size that the final illustration will be, I usually work quite a bit larger than the final image with the intention to scale it down for print. It’s important to always keep in mind if the image will be readable at its printed size.

I try and look at any subject subjectively, I like the idea that everything I do has my fingerprint. Sometimes that comes easily, and sometimes its a little harder, its pretty important to me that most of what I make is funny and feels cheekily Australian.

How long does it take you to make an initial sketch after a client briefs you?

 It really depends on the deadline for the project, if the client needs it very quickly then I can usually have initial sketches the same day. But if its a much more open ended timeline then I usually dont give the project preference until I feel really ready to do it.

I think I’m in the same boat as most creative types in that we really need a deadline to push us along.

What is the most alluring aspect of drawing a cartoon – is it more the story or the

For me, and I think probably most cartoonists, the allure is the combination of story and characterisation or maybe more succinctly the idea that characterisation informs the story and vice versa. If a character looks a certain way then the audience will read them differently, the language of signs and images is as important as written language.

Why are some cartoon characters much more easily identifiable than others and what is it a publisher might be looking for in a new character?

Most of the golden age comics and cartoon characters are basically easy to identify and iconic largely because they were the foundation of the genre (or maybe I'm being cynical) but for contemporary print cartoons there isn’t so much characterisation as there used to be. A large segment of new comics and cartoons are rooted in believability and not in caricature and given that my work is mostly caricature maybe I’m up trying to go up creek without a paddle. I guess that publishers are probably looking for something that they haven’t really seen before but that also won't alienate their audience.

Can you tell us what instruments you use to create your work in terms of say rulers, pencils, crayons etc?

I’m always expanding and experimenting what I use to draw with, I just came back from America with a bag full of amazing tools that can’t be bought in Australia, 3 and 4 ply bristol board, hard pencils, sorrel brushes, really opaque ink, kneadable erasers expensive gouache and cheap watercolour. I do most everything by hand, all on the same piece of paper, for me the incidental mistakes made by being confined create a much more interesting drawing than a perfectly composited digital piece.

What is the holy grail for a cartoon illustrator to achieve in terms of work published?

The grail is honestly still probably a New Yorker cover, but largely for me the real end goal is just to get a book professionally published. It’s not an especially fiscal enterprise, but I love physical printed objects and the idea that people around the world could hold and show around something I made is pretty alluring.

Can you tell us who are the most iconic Australian’s that lend themselves to being illustrated as characters?

Probably one of the greatest thing about iconic Australians is that they are all characters by default. There's that long standing Aussie ideal of the underdog and the working class hero, it's such a huge part of our subconscious whether its still vital or not. I’ve always had a lot of time for those larrikins like Bob Hawke and Paul Hogan and Sir Les and there is a certain expected ruggedness in Australian masculinity that is really easy and funny to send up. Also I’ve been going through a spot of bushranger mania, the stories about those guys are so incredible.

An Australian version of 'How To Tie' a bow tie by Richard Carroll for Le Noeud Papillon

What’s next for you?

I'm just putting the finishing touches on the second issue of my short comics anthology “Yeah, Nah” and also a bigger book of my travel strips from a recent 6 month stay in New York. Between organising a launch party for those two books and studying and also doing a little freelance work when i get it pretty much takes up most of my time.

Follow more of Richard Carroll's work below:

Thank You To A Suitable Wardrobe - For Putting Us Nearer To Sotheby's And The Late Duke Of Windsor....

When A Suitable Wardrobe first wrote about what we were doing in 2010 we were just beginning to use the new woven jacquard silks we had sourced with a new mill in Como, Italy. Those silks were taking our bow ties to a whole other level and one of the first shapes we had made in a diamond point, which we named the Mikael, which sadly over time we have taken off the current shapes advertised on the website, was the one sent in this photo to Will Boehlke of A Suitable Wardrobe. The Mikael shape is an unusual one as it takes the form of a scalloped underside with a straight edge on top but then forms a diamond point at the end of the bow. After seeing this photo again this morning I am consider running some merely to see how they now tie as opposed to our other, more traditional looking diamond point shapes that we offer.

The silk Will is wearing is no longer in stock but to my mind it ought to be, so I might considering running some more of this design. Especially when you add in the back drop of Will's penmanship which flavours the article by referencing the late Duke Of Windsor....

Buy our bow ties on A Suitable Wardrobe

Excerpt From:

"The Sotheby's auction catalog of the late Duke of Windsor's closet shows a tie rack with several vertically striped bow ties. I have been looking without success for some of them ever since, which is one of the things that attracted me to the web site of Le Noeud Papillon.

LNP, as I will call them for short, offers a couple dozen bow tie designs that are not lying around in just any neckwear emporium. The company, whose taste is as French as its Australian location is not, does what I consider its best work with fairly formal patterns in combinations of black, white, navy and silver. And though a few of its offerings are too forward for yours truly, most appear to be beautifully executed in shapes that are distinctive without being over the top. 

Shortly after establishing email contact with founder Nicholas Atgemis, the photo's diamond pointed Costa tie in navy Mogador silk with white vertical stripes was winging its way to California. The make of the sample is professional, the silk is heavy and the shape good looking as well as unique in my experience.

Pricing ranges from about $100 USD (the U.S. and Australian dollar are near parity) to as much as $275. Most models are in the $125-$155 range. 

I only have the one data point so far but based on that one experience, Le Noeud Papillon appears to be a bow tie supplier worthy of recommendation."

Will Boehlke sporting a 2010 model Mikael shape Le Noeud Papillon bow tie with a white vertical striped silk on a navy mogador warp - the Mikael shape is a scalloped underside, straight end top side diamond point we offer only as a customer order these days.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Thank You To Higher View Magazine China / Australia For Featuring Our Bow Ties This Month

In a really well written piece by Constantina Pilatos of Higher View Magazine on the subject of bow ties she writes that "today the bow tie is no longer reserved for the gentry and those 'black tie' events" adding that any man "worth his salt will don one and probably has one for all occasions". 

The article also quotes myself as saying that "Men care about the quality of a product and are looking to role models that transcend periods. They want to own a pair of shoes for ten years, or wear a shirt for five seasons. They want to wear down rather than chuck out". 

I think I am very happy to stand by that statement.  Again, thank you to Higher View and especially to Ms Pilatos.  

To see our current silks -

Bow ties from Le Noeud Papillon as featured in Higher View Magazine. Many of these models are still available from

Shop these ties at

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Three I's Of The Business Cycle - Warren Buffet Instructs Oppenheimer Who In Turn Instructs Me

One of the reasons that I am spending more time working on my new product that I have spoken of before is that there comes a day when those that were late to come to the party flood the market with something which was once a very rarefied item - namely, the self-tying bow tie. Sadly last week I was placed in a difficult position where we decided to no longer stock with one store as they were now selling between 6 to 7 brands of bow ties that we could count. It brought to mind two pieces of wisdom what were imparted to me, one by my trusted confidante and internet spy who goes by the pseudonym Carlos Oppenheimer, the other by a retired Sydney businessman.

Of Innovators, Imitators & Idiots

The first was said to me one evening recently. I explained to Oppenheimer that the bow tie market was beginning to look like the Australian grape glut of the late 90's and early 2000's when the price of grapes per tonne dropped from $2000 to $500 . Suddenly many of those that had planted grapes late in the game and weren't committed to the process had to re-evaluate whether they wished to be vignerons. Oppenheimer then said "well my old friend, that reminds me of what Warren Buffet said about the market place and why things come undone. You see, Buffet said that there are three I's which exemplify the 'natural progression' to how good ideas can go belly up. The first I is the for the Innovators, those that see opportunities that others don't. Then come the Imitators who copy what the Innovators have done. Finally, along come the Idiots. The Idiots see what the Innovators have done and what spoils the Imitators have reaped, and through their avarice they manage to undo the very innovations that the Innovators first set out to achieve."

I gather these were not Buffet's exact words but Oppenheimer's delivery was very effective. It also reminded me of another wonderful expression that was imparted to me by another Sydney businessman who said to me "when pygmies cast tall shadows, the day is well and truly over".

I for one certainly do not mind if you choose to refrain from wearing a bow tie whilst the pre-tied and poor quality late comers take over and know that when you are ready to return to the real thing, we will always be here for you. That is of course if Oppenheimer knows what he's talking about. But given he was quoting Warren Buffet, perhaps we should assume he does.

In the meantime, take note of three wonderful pinks we have in stock. One is a 50 Oz silk twill which comes from England (bottom), the second is a pink silk grenadine styled silk (centre) and the final bow is a half merino and cashmere pink wool bow tie with a contrasting cream grosgrain back. All are available on

Not Just An Artisan - Might Become A Great Film Maker Too

I wrote yesterday on Alexander Nurulaeff, the principal of Dandy Shoe Care, on his creative work relating to both new shoes and those being rejuvenated on renewed with a patina. Like many people in this game, Alexander is a man not just with one skill - see below the superb video he has made in conjunction with shoe company  Giacopelli in Italy where they have created a movie based on still photography which documents the making of a shoe in time lapsed photography. This is a very unique video which was produced by Nurulaeff and really, I could not think of anything better to watch over the lunch time break than this video.

Alexander Nurulaeff - Shoes from Alexander Nurulaeff on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Where To Buy Custom Made Wedding Ties In Sydney ?

At dinner last night an Italian friend asked me about our silk braces. Then, as I was explaining what items that we make other than bow ties he said "oh, you do ties, I didn't realise that". 

We do make ties. We make them well. But it's not our core product. We do however make custom made ties for weddings regularly and with the wedding season only a month away I thought I might place a few teasers on the website of ties we can make. Below you will see our half and half ties and our regular ties on a range of silks from pink grenadines to woven motif jacquards and 50 Oz twills. One of each is on the website and you can book an appointment at the Studio if you would like to see our full range of silks. All our silks, except for our 50 Oz silk twills, come from the Como region of Italy. As a general rule they are designed for bow ties but I think it's fair to say they look great as ties too.

Oh, and because life is a series of reinventions we have decided to move away from giving our ties male names and instead we shall name them after Australian towns. When everybody else out there starts copying you it's time to come up with something brand new. If you have a particularly fun name for an Australian town and want us to name one of the next models after it, feel free to leave a comment below.

In the meantime, you can always shop these.

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Quick Chat About Patina With Dandy Shoe Care’s Alexander Nurulaeff

It's very hard to find anyone to do a patina in Australia. Those shoe companies that offer patina in their range very rarely have a stand alone store in Australia and quite often the Australian shoe enthusiast will have to return to Europe or England to have their shoes restored and a new patina applied. More importantly, those said shoe companies are not interested in making a patina for shoes you purchased somewhere else, especially since each house will pride itself on a unique technique. 

There is a gap in the Australian market for a) a customised patina when purchasing shoes and b) restoration of patina or 'reverse patina' which is taking old shoes and stripping them back to perform a patina on them. 

There is however a company in Italy called Dandy Shoe Care which offers you the chance to post off your shoes and have a patina performed on them. Though I am not interested in the 'camouflage' movement in menswear, I know that many of you out there love it and one of the most visually interesting works that Alexander Nurulaeff, principal of Dandy Shoe Car, has performed of recent is a unique camouflage service for leather shoes. Alexander was able to shoot back an email to give me some advice on my amateur weekend pursuit at patina. See what his responses are below but for more information on his service visit his website

Alexander, I am having a terrible time trying to do patina myself. I have stripped the shoe, then sanded the shoe, then dyed the shoe before finishing the shoe but for some reason I am not achieving the kind of ‘old wood’ look that I find on other shoe blog sites. Can you tell me what I might be doing wrong?

One of the reasons why something went wrong with your shoes is that every kind of leather is different. That’s why Dandy Shoe Care’s first step is always to make a ‘diagnosis’ of the type and characteristics of the leather, in order to choose the right techniques and materials suitable for those particular shoes. It’s quite a mission impossible for amateurs.

Alexander, owner of Dandy Shoe Care -
a company that offers patina for just about any shoe

For Australians, as far as I can tell, there is NOT ONE PERSON that can offer a patina service in our country. Do you service people in Australia and if so how can they utilise your service or select the service they want?

There are very few patina specialists in the world, and most of them are in Europe. DSC is the only one that offers a trustful international luxury service for customers from all over the world. To get a patina from DSC is very easy: 1) Send an e-mail with a request, including some pictures of the shoes 2) if the shoes are suitable for DSC treatments, we send an estimate of the cost, 3) the client sends the shoes to DSC, Italy.

I have noticed that camouflage is big at the moment for patina – can you tell me a little about this process?

The Camouflage on luxury dress shoes was created by DSC three years ago, and they’re still very requested. The secret of this success is that it’s a full hand painted Camouflage, and not made out of printed leather; every Camouflage from DSC is unique: there are not two DSC Camouflage alike in the world.

What is the most exciting brand of shoe that you have performed a patina on?

All shoes are a challenge for me; that’s why I really adore what I do, and I always do my best to make a masterpiece.

What are your top three favourite shoe companies in the world?

Sorry, my policy is not to mention any specific shoe company.

Between the methods Blake Rapid and Goodyear Welted shoes, which do you prefer?

I usually prefer Goodyear, but I don’t dislike even some Blake Rapid.

What is your favourite colour for patina in 2014?

Deep Red.

I have a pair of Ivan Crivellaro shoes that are both crocodile and calf leather, what is your favourite mix of skins that can be used on a shoe?

I like canvas+ leather, plain calf+grained calf, plain leather+ suede. They’re a 'must have’ for every  gentleman.