Scotch Whisky: The Water of Life

In a movie, whenever a bottle of the ‘really good stuff’ is called for, it would likely be a bottle of whisky. Probably rare and exorbitantly expensive, and someone will probably remark on its age. Served up in a short tumbler glass with a few ice cubes, it might be downed in one go, prompting a grimace and then perhaps a remark on how fine it was. And then the action sequence can begin.

“It would be a sin to spill any.” A fine scotch whisky plays a part in this scene from the 2014 film Kingsman: The Secret Service. From www.scotchcinema.com

“It would be a sin to spill any.” A fine scotch whisky plays a part in this scene from the 2014 film Kingsman: The Secret Service. From www.scotchcinema.com.

The term ‘whisky’ can refer to quite a broad range of drinks. (In fact, the spelling of the word itself is a sticking point, depending exactly on where the drink comes from.) At its most general, a whisky is an alcoholic drink made by the distillation of a fermented grain mash.

The chances are, though, if one is talking about the ‘good stuff,’ one would be referring to a specific style of whisky made from malted barley and aged in oak barrels. It would also be made in Scotland: Scotch whisky, sometimes known simply as ‘scotch.’

Distillation, and the consumption of the alcoholic result, is an ancient practice of many civilizations. The Scottish relationship to whisky goes back hundreds of years, at least, with records from as early as the 15th century suggest that distilling was an established practice in the region. The next couple of centuries would also see taxation and legislation of the whisky industry, and a consequent rise of underground production. 1823 saw the passing of the Excise Act, which made fully above-board distilleries a more attractive option, and ushered in the whisky industry that we know today. Indeed, most of the distilleries that are operating today were founded in the 19th century (and are popular with and welcoming to tourists). Today, the production of whisky is codified in the Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009, which is aimed at preserving its authenticity.

The Ardbeg distillery, founded in 1815. From Flickr.

The Ardbeg distillery, founded in 1815, and still operating today. From Flickr.

So, what goes into a whisky bottle? It starts at a distillery; a particular distillery will produce a whisky that is either a ‘single malt’ or a ‘single grain’—‘single’ because it comes from that distillery alone, and ‘malt’ or ‘grain’ denotes whether it was made with only malted barley or had other grains added to it. Single malt and single grain whiskies can be final products on their own, or two or more can be mixed to form a blended whisky.

Single malt whiskies are considered to be the flagship upper echelon of the whisky world. Their bottles invariably bear the names of their distilleries of origin and can be exotic appellations—Glenfiddich, Talisker, Glenmorangie, Ardbeg. The age of the whisky will also likely be prominently displayed.

To be clear, a single malt whisky is still a mixture. Whiskies are not generally taken straight from a cask and bottled (it does happen, but rarely, as a ‘single cask’) but are rather assembled—the technical term is ‘vatted’—from multiple casks from that distillery. The job of the Master Blender is to ensure that a particular whisky line stays consistent from year to year. This means that the age printed on the label is not the actual age of the whisky—instead, it refers to the minimum age of that particular combination, and in fact could consist of older whiskies.

The ‘good stuff’ is almost invariably a single malt, to be enjoyed neat, or perhaps with a splash of water. Anything further would be sacrilege. If you hear about a bottle of whisky being sold for over a hundred thousand pounds, it would probably be a single malt.

From Flickr.

From Flickr.

And then you have the blended whiskies. They consist of the majority of whisky sales by far (up to 80 or 90 percent, even), and include household names such as Johnnie Walker, Chivas Regal, and Ballantine’s.  The common perception is that these are inferior, attractive only because of their lower price point and usually end up mixed in a cocktail. This is not necessarily the case, however—after all, blends are made up of single malt and grain whiskies, and would only be as good (and as expensive) as its ingredients. It is a Master Blender who concocts this too, and with a blend he or she would have even more to work with. Great blends can be enjoyed the same as a single malt.

Single malts still maintain their air of superiority, however. Some of this is undoubtedly due to elitism and snobbery—which, we must concede, is an unavoidable aspect of a pastime such as this. Nothing says ‘I have more money than you’ than buying an obscenely expensive bottle off the shelf and draining it in a single night.

Of course, you could actually, you know, like drinking whisky. If you are up for a rich, complex, sophisticated drink rooted in history and tradition, and a palate that you are willing to mature, then perhaps scotch whisky is for you.

And besides, partaking in a little bit of snobbery can be fun. Perhaps one day you might find yourself unusually sharply dressed, in an establishment full of warm mahogany and rich leather. You could approach the bar, and confidently order a 30-year single malt. You could sip it, give a little half-smile of restrained appreciation and exhale: “I say, sir. That is damn good stuff.” Who wouldn’t want to be prepared for that?

Until next time,

Henry Signature
 

The Art of the Traditional Shave

 

FOR MANY modern men, shaving is a daily activity. While some would use an electric razor, most would reach for the archetypal modern shaving tool: the disposable or cartridge razor. It would be a lightweight plastic implement—a slender handle with a rectangular-shaped head fixed probably fitted with several blades. The entire thing could be disposable, or the head would be detachable and could be replaced.

The Gillette Mach 3, a typical modern cartridge razor. From Wikipedia Commons.
The Gillette Mach 3, a typical modern cartridge razor. From Wikipedia Commons.

 

While these particular razors are relatively recent abstractions, hair removal is not, and has been performed since antiquity. Ancient peoples had various (rather uncomfortable-sounding) methods of hair removal, including clam shells, shark teeth and sharpened flint. Razors made of copper and gold have been found in Egyptian tombs dating back thousands of years. Razors were introduced to the Roman Empire at around the 6th century BC, and were the fashion for a time. Alexander the Great demanded his soldiers shave, contrasting with the Greeks’ prior appreciation for beards.

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A bronze razor from Ancient Egypt.  From Wikipedia Commons.

 

The old-timey razor that most of us are (possibly vaguely) aware of, however, is the straight razor. Widespread and made in large numbers by the 17th century, the design and manufacturing of the straight razor originated in Sheffield, England—a town made famous by its steel industry. The straight razor is essentially a single-edged and extremely sharp blade that could be folded away when not in use. During their reign they were the shaving implement, and ranged from simple and functional tools to elegant and intricately decorated personal accessories.

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A collection of earth 20th century straight razors.  From Blade Gathering.

 

Compared to today’s conveniences, the straight razor is more demanding both in terms of maintenance and use. To ensure the absolute keenness of the edge, the razor needs to be stropped frequently, and honed once in a while. This necessary upkeep itself is a bit of an art-form, as is the actual wielding of a straight razor—navigating the contours of the face and jaw with a woefully sharp blade is definitely a learned skill, and one that need be learned well lest painful mishaps occur. That they are also known as cut-throat razors is perhaps unsurprising.

It would be easier, then, to let another more experienced pair of hands handle the blade, and indeed this is what the barber used to be known for. Along with styling the scalp hair, shaving used to be one of their core offerings, and the handling of a straight razor was the fundament of the barber’s trade. This is not so much the case for a barber today, though it is still quite possible to find a purveyor of the traditional wet shave.

Naturally, then, we would begin looking for easier and quicker solutions. By the mid-19th century, the idea was mooted of placing the blade perpendicular to the razor handle, and having some sort of guard to prevent the blade from slicing too deep. The idea did not really gain traction, however, until the turn of the century, when King Camp Gillette developed the disposable razor blade, eliminating the need for constant sharpening.

This, then are the two key points of the safety razor: because of the guard, it was much easier to use that the straight razor, and changeable blades meant it required practically no maintenance. On the strength of these traits (and Gillette’s adroit manufacturing, managing and marketing practices), the safety razor quickly rose to become the dominant shaving tool of the early 20th century.

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A classic model of safety razor with accompanying blade.  From Flickr.

 

The archetypal safety razor is an all-metal affair, chunky and heavy to our modern sensibilities. The head will disassemble in some way to facilitate the removal and installation of the razor blade, or it might open up with a twist mechanism. The typical razor blade itself is an iconic image that lives on today: a rectangular sliver of metal with the corners cut out, and a curious keyhole-like cutout along the midline which formed the anchor points. It is sharp on both sides of its length, allowing the user to flip to each side when it was convenient, and is the reason traditional safety razors are sometimes known as double-edged razors.

The demise of the safety razor, like the straight razor before it, came with even more convenience and ease of use. Disposable razors began appearing by the 1960s, cheap plastic things with fixes blades. Cartridge razors soon followed, improving on the aspects of the safety razor. With blades being embedded in plastic cartridges that made it even harder to cut oneself during handling or shaving, and being easier and faster to change. The following decades offered various additions (some outlandish, some less so) such as multiple blades, lubricating strips, pivoting heads and even vibrating handles.

So the cartridge razor may have relegated the straight and safety razors away from dominant use, but they live on in more than just memories. As with other anachronisms that have survived into the 21st century, traditional shaving tools have a small but enthusiastic following. In fact, sales have been increasing of late. Safety razors and supplies are easy enough to acquire through retailers such as Amazon, or any number of specialty sellers. Old names such as the venerable Merkur are still manufacturing quality razors, along with newer brands such as Edwin Jagger. Taylor of Old Bond Street still sell shaving supplies out of their store on Jermyn Street, London. There is also, of course, the thriving market for still-perfectly-usable vintage razors.

There are some practical reasons for adopting a more traditional shaving method. Proponents of the safety razor tend to find that it is kinder to their skin. Different brands of blades have different characters as well—some are sharper, some are smoother—as do different razors, which can be more aggressive or less so. Finding just the right combination for one’s particular skin and hair could just be the solution to razor bumps or burn.

Of course, hand-in-hand with old-style shaving is old-style skin preparation. Instead of foam or gel from a can, traditional shaving creams and soaps come in tubes or tubs. It is worked into a lather using a shaving brush, which is generally made with bristles of badger or boar hair. The ideal lather is thick and rich, not too dry and not too wet, and many find that it protects the skin better than a spray can alternative.

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Safety razor, shaving brush, and a tub of shaving soap.  From Flickr.

 

There is also the cost factor to consider. Cartridge razors may be cheaper to get started with, but the cost of each cartridge can add up quickly. Razor blades, by comparison, last for a comparative number of shaves, and are far cheaper—potentially by a factor of 10 or more. The environmental cost is also lower, as blades are easier to recycle than their plastic cartridge counterparts. The razors themselves are also hardy things that could last a lifetime (or even longer, as anyone using a vintage razor will attest to). Straight razors, of course, generate no waste by themselves, and can last just as long if maintained well.

And then, of course, some just like the idea of traditional shaving. A good safety razor is a solid and well-constructed thing, heavy and substantial. A good straight razor is a finely-crafted precision tool. The shaving process might take longer and demand more care and skill, but can turn a daily inconvenience into a thoughtful and enjoyable ritual. In the fast-paced modern world, sometimes it’s nice to slow down and stay in touch with a few of the elegant things of the past. Old-fashioned, maybe, but some things never go out of style.

With best wishes as always,

Henry Signature

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Ever wonder what Jack Dempsey carries in his coat pocket?

WHERE do fountain pens belong in today’s world? In the corners of department stores, dusted off only when buying a fancy gift? Or perhaps in the jacket pocket of a high-flying executive, until an expensive toy is needed to be shown off?

From The Fountain Pen Community

It wasn’t an incomprehensible time ago that fountain pens were ubiquitous. The late 19th century saw the start of the mass-produced fountain pen. Unlike its predecessors, it successfully mated the ink supply with the writing implement proper. It was a self-contained gestalt tool—the founding of the modern pen as we know it. By the early 20th century, it was indispensable in the workplace and the home.

The Sheaffer Snorkel: possibly the most complex fountain pen ever made. From The Fountain Pen Community.

The fountain pen’s base design principles have changed little. A reservoir of ink lead to the feed, on top of which sat the nib. Everything would be wrapped up in an ergonomic body of some sort—the earliest fountain pens were made of ebonite, a type of hard rubber, before plastics came to be.

It is the simple-yet-complex relationship of these three parts that gives the fountain pen its magic. The ink reservoir is be refillable; initially it was disassembled and ink dropped in with a pipette, but these quickly gave way to creative and sometimes amusingly complicated self-filling systems. The feed is perhaps the most complex part of a fountain pen, an arrangement of channels and fins that allow ink into the nib and air into the reservoir—this air-exchange mechanism is essential, and an incomplete understanding of the physics involved was one of the reasons the fountain pen was not developed earlier. The nib was historically cut from alloys of gold, necessary to resist corrosion from ink. The tip, the part that would touch the paper, was made from iridium—an ultra-hard metal that would not wear down. The slit would conduct the ink to the paper through capillary action—the ink is literally sucked into the paper upon the lightest of contact.

Being the part of the pen that touches the paper, it is the nib that is the defining characteristic of a fountain pen. The ideal nib glides smoothly across the paper while giving just a hint of feedback, and leaves a rich, wet line. The qualities of this line are endlessly variable, depending on the qualities of the nib. The tip can be ground to make a line as thin or thick as you like, or even one that varies. Italic- and stub-shaped nibs are popular with those looking to showcase their calligraphy, or simply to add flair to everyday handwriting. The tines can be as stiff as a nail, giving a constant line, or they can flex with pressure, allowing artful control of line width. A fountain pen user could potentially customise a pen to fit their exact needs. Some maintain that constant use over the years even morphs a nib to fit your own peculiar style.

Pelikan Souverän M600: Pen on Cap

It’s these sorts of traits that separate the fountain pen from its more contemporary successors—namely, the now-pervasive ballpoint pen. It was some time in the 1960s that ballpoint pens became practical and cheap enough to ensure their dominance. The fundamental difference between the two is that the former was made to be lasting; the ballpoint pen was not.

Yes, ballpoints can be refilled, but it’s just not the same when you’re discarding the entire mechanism each time—the equivalents of the reservoir, the feed and the nib all go in the bin. A fountain pen can be reused with zero waste—save for the ink bottle. A good pen might even last a lifetime.

Of course, there’s a reason fountain pens fell from favour. Practical reasons for using them over ballpoints are very few indeed. One such reason is that the lighter pressure and lower angle required from their use can benefit those with hand problems such as arthritis. Some think that using a fountain pen trains you out of bad writing habits. Beyond that…well, they’re more expensive, they’re easier to damage, the ink tends to be less permanent and more prone to feathering and bleeding, a poorly-set-up nib can render the writing experience horrendous, and there’s the ever-present fear of leaking (though for a quality pen, this is a rare occurrence).

In return, however, you get personality and character. Unlike a ballpoint or rollerball, a fountain pen requires a definite level of operation, of hands-on involvement. The interplay of the ink and the pen and the paper can be a quirky and sensitive relationship. Getting the combination of all three just right is a process that can be aggravating, but also appeal to the tinkerer. And then there are the ink colours, far more than just blue and black—or even red and green and purple. Ink specialists Diamine alone have over a hundred shades in their catalogue.

So, where does a fountain pen belong today? As with many anachronistic diversions, fountain pens today have a small but enthusiastic following—and not just collectors of antiques, but everyday users. There is an active second-hand market for vintage pens, the tough and workmanlike things they were created to be. As for manufacturers, many of the old names are gone, but fountain pens never stopped being produced.

Some of the great American companies that spearheaded the fountain pen revolution—Waterman, Parker and Sheaffer—are still around, though their offerings are a little tepid compared to their heyday; a time when they were trying to outdo each other with the most outlandish filling system. Montblanc, famous for their Meisterstück pens that were first released in 1924, are a well-known luxury brand. Pelikan, makers of one of the first piston-fillers in 1929, are known for their exquisite piston-fillers today.

Newer designs have also made an impact. Two of Lamy’s most well-known pens are the Lamy 2000 (released in 1966) and the Safari (released in 1980). Newer manufacturers such as TWSBI and Edison Pen Co were formed within the last decade. Nostalgia may not the only reason to get into fountain pens. In fact, over in recent times, sales of fountain pens have been increasing.

A modern fountain pen isn’t drastically different. Improvements in corrosion resistance means that steel nibs are now widespread. Cartridge/converter fillings systems are by far the most common—these accept either disposable pre-filled cartridges (which are largely shunned by enthusiasts) or a small detachable piston reservoir called a converter. Higher-end pens are more likely to have a gold nib and a more traditional pistol-filled setup.

They come in their own numerous options. If transparent blue is your thing, there’s a pen out there for you, as there is if you’re looking for vintage tortoiseshell with art deco inlays. They can be as cheap as a pound apiece, or you can spend hundreds on a handcrafted one-of-a-kind lacquer pen from Japan.

The fountain pen holds an attraction to someone looking for something a little less forgettable. There’s an elegance to be found in craftsmanship made to last. They’re a little old-fashioned, perhaps, but some things never go out of style.

Until next time,

Henry Signature

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London Hotels Series: Threadneedles Hotel

Dome at night

Here on the Henry Herbert Style Blog, we’ve written about hotel bars as recommended to us by friends and customers who have been kind enough to share their experience.  We felt it was a shame to limit our explorations to just the bar, when often the stylish establishment within which the bar was housed, typically had much more to offer than an excellent cocktail.

As such, this is the first in a series of our explorations of London hotels, London being the home base of Henry Herbert tailors and the Savile Row by Scooter service.  We’ll be asking all of our friends and customers, especially those passing through from other parts of the world to share with us their best, most memorable, or most unique hotel experiences and recommendations from the capital – and for those who are visiting Henry Herbert’s London headquarters, or  passing through the city, may this be a friendly guide for some of the capital’s most remarkable hotels.

The Threadneedles Hotel is one such that caught our eye for several reasons.  The location, in London’s Square Mile, is today a modern hotel but has a strong heritage – having revived a space that was formerly the head offices of the London, City and Midland bank from the 1880s, neighbouring the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange.

The revival of a historical name or location, as well as the blend of the traditional and contemporary sat well with us and reminded us a little of the history behind Henry Herbert tailors – resurrecting the name of the gentleman one master of the royal wardrobe to King Charles I and II, and intended to continue the tradition of fine English tailoring with a modern twist in the form of the Savile Row by Scooter service.  In fact, guests at Threadneedles Hotel can experience this service for themselves, by making an appointment with a Henry Herbert tailor to be measured up for bespoke suits and shirts made from the finest English and Scottish fabrics.  Our tailors will visit you at the hotel, bringing all required tools of the trade, and help guests navigate the 2,000+ fabric choices available.

We were also taken, we have to admit, by the tailoring reference in the hotel’s name, suggesting that the street after which the hotel is named, was the home of a needle work shop, or perhaps inspired by the Merchant Tailors’ coat of arms at the Guildhall which incorporates three needles.

With an afternoon tea inspired by great Britons, two of whom have featured on the Henry Herbert style blog – Winston Churchill and John Lennon –  we thought the Threadneedles was a fitting first addition to our series of London hotel profiles.

 

Threadneedles old -HSBC 2 Threadneedles old -HSBC 3
If you would like to share your favourite London hotel with us, drop us a line at henry@henryherbert.com
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Valentine’s Day Gifts For Him

It is not too late to take advantage of our top Valentine’s Day gifts for him – just in time for delivery before this weekend.

For the winter sports enthusiast

1) Googles with heads up display

For the techie snow sports enthusiast, it doesn’t get better than this pair of goggles by Smith.  An in-goggle heads up display will give you location, altitude, weather data as well as track your runs, show you jump analysis, and help manage your music playlist.  By the way, even sans high technology, the googles come with easily interchangeable lenses to accommodate both low light and bright light conditions.

Smith googles

2) Sharpen up apres ski style

Our top tip for looking sharp apres ski? A bespoke sports jacket (vouchers available).  Although most resorts run towards the more casual end, it never hurts to look and feel good to top off a long day on the slopes, snow park, or off piste.  Layer with some of our favourite merino wool products to stay comfortable and temperature regulated between the chilly outdoors and warm bars.

image2For hidden ways to look good

3) Shirt stays

What exactly are shirt stays, you may be wondering.   They are a gentleman’s hidden way of ensuring that his shirt stays neatly tucked in all day.  An elasticated brace clips the bottom of your shirt hem to the top of your socks – ensuring shirts stay down and socks stay up.  Try these from Sharp & Dapper.

sharp-dapper-collection-2015-shirt-stays-05_340aa257-1886-4603-9b18-bcbfb3f9eda8_1024x1024

For those keen on things that move or fly by remote control

4) Mini drone

Well nigh indestructible (and believe us, we have tried) they are built to be buffered and land the right way up no matter how carelessly they’re flown.  This pocket sized gadget will delight both adults and children alike.  This particular model is especially easy to control for first time fliers, we have found.

microdrone-black

5)  A droid.  Yes, a droid.

Missed out on gifting or receiving BB-8 over Christmas?  Valentine’s day is another fantastic opportunity.  Sphero or its big brother BB-8 is the modern day remote control car with added personality.  Developed by the company behind the actual BB-8 in The Force Awakens, these gyroscopic spheres are marvellous fun.  Sphero is a robotic ball that you control with finger movements on your iPad.  Sphero’s polycarbonate shell is fairly hardy and comes with 2 ramps that you can launch it off or do tricks with depending on your finger dexterity.  Meanwhile,  BB-8, a step up from Sphero looks exactly like the droid in the film – you can even send it off to patrol independently.  Make like Princess Leia and record messages and pleas for help or for a cup of tea which will project back on your iPad.  These ARE the droids you are looking for!

bb-8

 

For more Valentine’s Day gift ideas, check out our previous post on Valentine’s Day gifts for him.

 

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Top 5 Merino Wool Products – It’s Ski Season!

It’s ski season, so we thought we’d share a few of our top merino wool products that may come in useful both on the slopes and apres ski.   As fans of natural fibres, we don’t just love wool in our bespoke suits, and merino wool is one of the most versatile and useful fabrics to don during the winter.

1) Socks

Toes see lower circulation and we often forget to keep feet warm and comfortable – especially if you’re breaking in a new pair of shoes after your existing pair have been worn down over the winter so far.  Also given we know that british winters include torrential rain or melted slush which can get feet wet your best bet is to swap cotton socks for merino wool – which are faster drying and sill retain their insulating quality when wet!  The Wool Company have a range of suit friendly merino wool blend socks in classic black, as do Marks & Spencer.

2)  Base layer

We’ve lauded the sweat wicking, temperature regulating properties of merino wool and why it is one of the best fabrics you can wear next to your skin in our articles about fabric choice, and layering- so it may come at no surprise that base layers make our shortlist of top 5 merino wool products.  There are lots of options available from outdoor stores like Cotswolds Outdoors.  These base layers are especially good if you’re planning on engaging with any winter sports (hiking, cross country skiing, downhill skiing, snowmobiling, Northern Lights gazing, sledging etc) – but also will layer invisibly under your bespoke suit.   Get your foundations right and keep warm with a merino wool base layer.  Helly Hanson do many and are a mainstay for skiing, but cold water surf company Finisterre has a suprisingly large selection in all kinds of colours and styles – they are presentable enough to wear on their own too, not just hidden under suits and other layers.

Eddy base layer by Finisterre

Eddy base layer by Finisterre

3) Fleece jacket

A great mid layer if very cold, or something to throw on over your sports jacket for a more casual look instead of a bespoke overcoat.  You might think that fleece jackets tend to be solely made from synthetic fibres – not so – Icebreaker have a range of soft, anti stink merino wool brushed fleece jackets in designs that work well for casual wear too.

4) Sweater

Sweaters layer nicely under a bespoke suit or sports jacket, perfectly acceptable during winter.  Also looks good on its own or over a shirt (very handy to hide the odd wrinkle – or unfortunate coffee stain – it happens to the best of us, although for how to get rid of the stain more permanently  may we recommend Jeeves or some of the techniques in this video…)  This old favourite is a staple in our casual winter wardrobe, and pairs very well with a sports jacket for apres ski style.

5) Scarf / gloves / hat

Cold air has a remarkable knack for getting in anywhere to thieve warmth.  We find it helpful to seal off any gaps.  It’s easy to forget that cuffs and collar openings invite unwanted cold breezes. As such keeping a scarf and gloves – in merino wool, naturally, can come in very handy.  A soft merino wool scarf is also less likely to irritate skin round the neck and chin area that may already be sensitive from shaving and the cold.  Soft and thin wool gloves that still insulate fingers means you won’t lose as much dexterity than say, wearing leather gloves. Go for ones with smartphone compatible finger pads if like us you need to be connected on the go at all times.  They say we lose half our body heat through our heads.  Stop the leak with the British merino wool “Tumet” beanie by Finisterre.

vb558688_tumet_beanie_anthracite_u_static

What to wear for Apres Ski?

Most ski resorts are very casual but that is no reason to blunt your style.  Our top tip for a stylish apres ski look – and something that would perfectly finish of all of the above (socks, base layers, sweater, accessories like scarves and gloves) would be a trusty bespoke sports jacket.

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Combat the Cold – Part 2, Layering With a Waistcoat

After a balmy run up to Christmas and warm start to the new year (where we saw a few confused daffodils come out), it is finally starting to feel like a proper winter.  Temperatures have dropped dramatically and we’re really starting to feel the chill.

At Henry Herbert, there are three things we always keep in mind to combat the cold: fabric, layering and outerwear.  The three go hand in hand to keep you toasty.  In Combat the Cold Part 1 – Choosing the right Fabric, we discussed fabric choices to help insulate you against the winter chill.  In Part 2, we will discuss the art of layering.

Layering is where the three piece suit comes into its own

3 piece

It is not always the case that the thickest, bulkiest jumper is the warmest option.  You might be able to achieve the same, if not better effect by selecting a few thin layers in a better fabric.  Layering also traps warm air between the various layering/clothing items creating a natural insulating effect.  And could come in handy when going in and out from the streets to the overly warm London Underground, or when having to deal with over-enthusiastic central heating.

Keeping the torso (where key organs are situated) and chest area warm is also key to avoiding a chill. Nothing is better suited to this than a chic bespoke waistcoat – worn not just for style, but for practical reasons during such wintery conditions.  So now is definitely the time to break out your three piece suit, and wear it in all its glory.  The addition of a wool waistcoat is a fantastic, practical – and if we may add, stylish – way to add a layer whilst keeping the formality and sleek lines of a tailored bespoke suit.  Unlike a jumper or two, a waistcoat can add warmth without restricting the use of your arms, or bunching up awkwardly underneath jacket sleeves.

If you have a Henry Herbert two piece suit, and the same fabric is still in production, adding a bespoke waistcoat to the ensemble to make it a three-piece suit is a stylish solution to see you through the winter months, as well as offering you more sartorial combinations to play with.  Recently, we have seen a number of extremely unique waistcoat commissions, where our customers have wanted a unique design not just for a wedding, but for use in any number of formal and casual occasions, with or without the accompanying suit jacket.

 

 

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Bespoke Suit Fabric to Combat the Cold – Part 1

After a balmy run up to Christmas and warm start to the new year (where we saw a few confused daffodils emerge), it is finally starting to feel like a proper winter.  Temperatures have dropped dramatically and we’re really starting to feel the chill.

At Henry Herbert, there are three things we always keep in mind to combat the cold: fabric, layering and outerwear.  The three go hand in hand to keep you toasty.  Below we address part 1 of our three-part series where we share how to Combat the Cold.

Choose a natural wool fabric for your bespoke suit

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Now is the time to dry clean and store your cotton summer suits (may we recommend Jeeves).  British winters, as we know, unfortunately tend to be both cold, and wet.  Cotton when wet, is a particularly poor insulator – if anything, it acts to conduct heat away from your body, and retain moisture close to your skin (hence the chill factor), and is not quick drying.  Meanwhile, wool fibres trap tiny pockets of air between them, helping to insulate you. Wool also wicks or pulls moisture away from your skin to keep you dry.  This effect both keeps you warm during the winter, and can keep you cool in warmer situations by helping evaporate sweat more quickly.  This is why you will often see merino wool being described as having “temperature regulating” properties.  Finally, wool also retains its insulating properties much better than cotton when wet, and as an added bonus, wool is generally more hard wearing and is more resistant to dirt and oil stains than other fabrics like cotton.

It is therefore not a surprise that wool is fabric of choice for most bespoke suits intended for wear year round, but especially during the colder months.  A mid to heavy weight 12-13oz fabric would typically be excellent for year round use except in the warmest months.  However you could even choose a weight upward of that (14-15oz) for added warmth.  We would also recommend thinking about a  Harris tweed suit – tweed is a moisture resistant, very durable fabric which is why it is the fabric of choice for outdoor use e.g in shooting suits. However, we have seen the use of more refined tweed cloth intended for bespoke suits, adapted for city use to great effect.

The technology and fabric utilised by base layers intended for skiing can also be invisibly adpated underneath your bespoke suit. If you tend to wear a cotton t-shirt under your shirt, swap that out for a thin merino wool t-shirt or borrow a base layer from your ski gear for invisible, added warmth whilst staying chic and tailored on the outside.  The fabric next to the skin, in such cold conditions, should wick sweat away as well as keep you warm.  Stay tuned for  Combat the Cold Part 2 – Layering With a Waistcoat. and Part 3 – Bespoke Overcoats.

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New year, new you…?

It is week 2 of the new year.  You came back recharged and revitalised, but have been back at work for a week and a half, and you’ve already a) lost your holiday vibe, and b) lost track of those new year resolutions.  Post the holidays, and suffering from what we at Henry Herbert term as the “Festive Food Coma”, it is natural for us to make fitness/detox related New Year’s resolutions – in an attempt to shift the little bit of, shall we say “excess baggage” that may have accumulated over the holidays.  Luckily for us at HH headquarters, mince pies only come about once a year.

If you do fall into this category, here are a few fun gadgets, tips and tricks that we will be trying to help keep us on track.

1) Spook up your run – Zombies, Run App!

Running can be boring, and laborious.  When faced with a choice of warm pub or cold outdoor run, we know which we’d pick.  We were brainstorming ways to spice up our running resolutions, and stumbled upon the Zombies, Run app.  You plug in your headphones and listen to music, and your mission, have to outrun zombies and pick up supplies as you dash to a safe haven.  We find the concept that a horde of zombies   is chasing after us motivation enough.  Don’t quite know what we mean? Watch Zombieland to get in the groove.  You’ll be setting new speed records in no time.

Zombies, Run!

2) New year, new kicks

If, like us, you haven’t been on run for a while, your footwear is likely in need of an update.  Upon inspection, ours (dragged out from the depths of some store cupboard) were frayed, sole treads bare and had all the cushioning of a deflated ballon.  Stores like Runner’s Need will conduct sophisticate posture and gait analysis, and recommend a specialist running shoe to suit.  But if like us, you’re not quite ready to invest just yet, then we think a pair of Nike/Asics/Brooks will get us going just fine.

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3) Get a gadget

We all like to see how far we’ve come.  One of the best ways of tracking progress, is a simple app or three downloaded to our smartphones.  We here Nike has a decent GPS running app.  Garmin (of the navigation device fame) has one of the top GPS watches, which our runner friends swear by.  Fitbit and Jawbone both have stylish and understated activity tracker wristbands which can be programmed to remind you to get moving if you’re sat behind your desk for too long.  As an added bonus some of these can also monitor your heart rate.  We don’t need any more reasons to indulge in a new gadget.

Garmin GPS

4) Don’t forget the rest of the gear

As much as we would like to conduct every activity in a bespoke suit, we think there is a place for good old shorts and a t-shirt – likely better suited for a sweaty run.    We hear Nike make some of the most flourescent tops (best for roadside running on dark winter evenings), and that Lululemon tops and shorts cannot be beaten for comfort.

5) Buddy up

The good news is, you’re not the only one making new years resolutions.  A quick poll of customers, friends and colleagues found that many similar intentions.  We are planning on turning our running/tennis/squash sessions into a social catch up, not to mention having someone to compete against can come in handy.

If all else fails…and you need results in a hurry…

Try the Henry Herbert alterations service.  Most Henry Herbert bespoke suits can be let out by several inches – or taken in, if your New Year resolutions have been particularly effective.  Contact us for an appointment – visit us at one of our Savile Row or Gray’s Inn Road locations, alternatively we can come to you with our Savile Row by Scooter service.

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Henry Herbert Alterations Service

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Men’s Fragrances

Bespoke tailoring instantly conjures up an image that suggests sophistication and style. Whether you’re wearing a classic handmade dinner suit tuxedo or distinctive traditional inspired three-piece suit it goes without saying that you’ll require the essential accessories to perfectly finish off the ensemble. This includes scent.

Limited Edition

The way a man smells lingers on the mind of every woman (and man) who gets a tantalising whiff of the exquisite and expensive aroma. Many fashion houses have their own unique formulas that are beautifully packaged up and introduced as an entry level purchase option for individuals wanting to flaunt style at an affordable price.
Whilst most fragrance brands look to hook potential buyers with limited edition scents that are pocket friendly, one Italian tailoring house has opted to create a buzz for another reason. Brioni’s self-titled, limited-run fragrance has a hefty £215 price tag! The buttery cognac coloured fragrance is packaged in a chunky, squat and square sculptured bottle that complements the label’s range of accessories and furniture.

Brioni’s aim was to package expensive so that it looks like it smells. Brioni features 100 notes that combine to create a dominating rich fragrance that highlights zingy citrus, smoky tones, musk, saffron, Sicilian lemon, leather and cashmere. In essence, it is designed to smell like the classic bespoke suit.
The Smell of Success

For men who aspire to look, and smell, the business careful consideration must be given to the finishing touches. Prestigious fragrance houses specialise in creating personalised bespoke scent that reflects personality, elegance and individual style. Master perfumer Oliver Creed creates “the favoured scent of the world’s most powerful, refined and attractive gentlemen.” His fragrances are bottled up and bought by the Hollywood A-List with a price tag to match – a bespoke formula can set you back a cool £10,000.

Creed’s fragrances are made with natural products that are by definition expensive. Incorporating synthetic products enables him to create a range that is a lower-grade version, without compromising too much on quality. Mass production is not on the agenda.

Aroma Appeal

Fragrance is a powerful tool that can alter mood and influence image instantly. Bespoke tailoring complements elegant sensory blends that create olfactory magnificence. In the same way you wouldn’t spoil the effect of a sophisticated handmade suit by wearing a crumpled shirt and scuffed shoes, your fragrance choice reflects the overall image and style that you wish to create. Perfectly matching fragrance to fashion has long been the pursuit of the rich, powerful and famous and bespoke garments provide the ideal introduction to upgrading your scent palette and collection.

Top 5 Expensive Fragrances

• The most expensive bottle of men’s fragrance in the world is Clive Christian No.1 Perfume for Men – retailing at £1,528.

Clive Christian No.1 – Imperial Majesty Edition Perfume is packaged in a customised bottle and priced $215.00 (or £140,000). His regular edition fragrances are a more reasonable $865 (£562).

Tom Ford has a range of sophisticated Eau de Parfums in the £142-£330 price pocket.

• If you prefer a citrus based fragrance try Annick Goutal’s Eau D’Hadrien, which supposedly smells like the Tuscan sun and costs a few quid short of £1,000.

• If you’re happy to share your unisex fragrance Caron’s Poivre has been around since 1954 and still shifts units despite the $2,000 (£1,300) tag.

Scotch Whisky

BESPOKE tailoring and Scotch whisky are considered to be true partners in style. The sophisticated refinement of a handmade suit is perfectly matched by the provenance of the daringly flavoursome, grain-based amber liquid. Both deliver premium quality with a heritage stamp attached.

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Substance and Style

The Scotch Whisky Association was set up in order to protect the whisky trade from imitation. It fights producers seeking to pass off their product as authentic Scotch. In terms of heritage, class and fashion Scotch whisky is the premium product. Bespoke tailoring also has standards that reflect the same level of craftsmanship, refinement and quality, and the Savile Row Bespoke Association (SRBA) is made up of member tailors with an agreed code of practice. The Association was founded in 2004 to protect and develop the art of authentic bespoke Savile Row tailoring.

Deluxe style is appreciated by the discerning palette and admired from afar. It is created by craftsmanship that shares values and skills that are centuries old. David Beckman’s Haig Club single grain whisky TV advert may have elevated the amber liquid, for new audience awareness, but the style and image still ooze the sophisticated bespoke charm of centuries.

Modern Interpretations

Blended whisky is the biggest selling variant of Scotch, although the popularity of single malts has continued to increase over the years. In comparison, Savile Row tailors have altered and tweaked their services to deliver all of your sartorial expectations. Whether you want to invest in a classic handmade suit, with complementary bespoke shirt and accessories, or simply long to wear a tailored suit that makes you look your very best the heritage tailoring establishments are ready to meet your needs.

Personal taste is reflective in the style of clothing you wear and the lifestyle you choose. According to drink experts and uber cool style influencers drinking wood-spiced whisky is currently ultra hip. Sipping your tipple, whilst wearing an elegant handmade suit is obviously a few notches higher up the style gauge.

Bespoke Tailoring and Scotch Whisky

Whisky is the hot hipster drink that is fast attracting new connoisseurs. Whether you appreciate the elegance of vintage malt, triple distilled single malt or a voluptuous spicy finish character blend, whisky is always fragrant and mysterious.

  • A full-bodied artisan Scotch whisky is rather like a bespoke three-piece tweed suit. The highest quality and finest craftsmanship is echoed in the finished product and garment.
  • Masculine style is epitomised by sophisticated bespoke dressing and mirrored by rich and distinctive amber blends.
  • Bespoke tailoring inspires appreciation of the finer things in life, like vintage malt whisky and James Bond cars.
  • Blended whisky impressively complements signature tailoring – which includes bespoke, made-to-measure and ready-to-wear garments that smartly bridge the gap between traditional individually crafted wear and off-the-peg suits.
  • The discerning modern gentleman appreciates craftsmanship, authenticity and value. This is why he chooses bespoke tailoring and opts for premium brands of Scotch whisky as his off duty tipple.
  • Prime marketing investment has focused awareness of whisky brands, particularly around seasonal gifting periods. In much the same way, bespoke tailoring enjoys renewed interest whenever fashion and film trends highlight sophisticated style and glamour. You only have to think James Bond, Mad Men or Kingsman: The Secret Service to identify the influential fashion trend.

Politicians & Suits

Tailored Suits Ed Miliband David Cameron Nick Clegg

 

IF, as it is considered, clothes make the man British politicians appear to be busy reflecting a message that contradicts the meaning of their profession. The old-fashioned, stuffy & traditional pin-stripe attire worn by generations of politicians has long been replaced with a more casual off duty approach to dressing. Although this implies unity with the people it does little in the way of earning respect for authority from the public. Whilst donning a handmade suit doesn’t instantly transform the nation’s views and opinions, wearing bespoke tailoring with confidence creates a more favourable and positive impression.

Public Engagement

Bespoke tailoring skillfully transforms body image, dressing confidence and the way in which other people perceive you. What it cannot do is alter posture, attitude and the ability to do the job. To genuinely look the part a politician must understand how to perfectly accessorise and present the bespoke suit. A handmade shirt, elegantly knotted silk tie in a refined but understated stripe design, exquisite cufflinks and handmade mirror polished shoes help to unite politician and bespoke attire so that they become sophistication personified. Without the confident attitude, street savvy mindset and charismatic personality to carry off a polished professional look a politician is simply a man in a posh suit.

As celebrities well know, to engage with an audience you must look, feel and think like a superstar. Whilst politicians are unlikely to scale such grand heights media attention is always gravitating in their direction. To appeal to the masses, in a role that should command respect, sharp and smart tailoring becomes essential workwear. We as the public, unfortunately, judge by appearance and unless politicians dress like they mean serious business we’re not interested in listening to what they have to say.

Status & Stature

Fashion and style are two independent statements that reflect an individual’s personality and appearance. In positions of power and influence it is important to present a sense of style and panache, simply because this is what we all aspire to possess. The way in which leaders dress is also reflective of the level to which the public feels valued. Scruffy dressing influences the audience to look elsewhere for direction and leadership.

Fashion is fleeting and rarely makes a lasting impression. For this reason alone bespoke tailoring remains the dressing option of choice for those individuals who want to project sophistication, charisma, power, knowledge and status – whatever the profession. Politicians like Nick Clegg and George Osbourne, for example, are trying too hard to be something they are not. Whilst a smart bespoke suit can make you look like someone who commands attention, authority and respect it is personal style that transforms perception. Today’s politicians lack the requirement of individual style and project an image that contradicts the reality. To look like a leader you need to think and act like one before slipping on a handmade suit to complete the picture.

In the political arena politicians must know their way around the fashion industry. Casual dressing should be reserved for off duty occasions when there is no camera in sight. Bespoke tailoring gives value and stature to your personality and when combined with accessories, and valuable fashion tips, it is simply the only way to go. To inspire like a true leader a politician must be prepared to stand out from the crowd.