12 January 2015

Taking A Step Back

New Year. New Wardrobe? No thanks, I'd rather just make this one even better. 

The first few days of January are usually accompanied by grand plans to change our lives for the better, to work out more (or simply just start a few days a week), to eat more healthily (or maybe just one less slice of cake a week), to learn something new and exciting (or possibly improving a skill we already have), but that energy never seems to last. Taking time for reflection, whenever or wherever, is vital though. I guess the best way to approach these things is with a more structured approach, otherwise you risk simply talking into the wind (...which always struck me as an odd phrase, because screaming your hopes and desires into the wind seems quite fun).

Anyway, I thought it would be good to take a step back and assess the current state of my wardrobe and the direction in which I would like to develop it in the coming year and beyond. I have decided to write a basic overview of where I am at now and how I think I would like to focus my future efforts. As you will see the basic framework of my wardrobe is slowly getting there, and although it may seem simple and small (both of which it is), it has taken about four years to get to this stage. Overall I would say I am happy with my wardrobe, and although certain areas need work, it is slowly but surely taking on a shape that I feel is coherent and balanced. Whether or not I feel it expresses some sense of "me" is besides the point, but what I do know is that wearing these clothes just feels right for now. Quiet luxury. Whatever the hell that's supposed to mean.


Outerwear: I currently own three pieces of outerwear - a black wool Chesterfield coat from Muji, a black single breasted cotton long coat from Yohji, and a black cotton moleskin Le Laboureur work jacket (the newer cotton/polyester versions might wear softer to begin with, but I far prefer breaking the jacket in myself). Spring and Summer are therefore well covered, but it is Autumn and Winter that really need some work because the Muji coat is now a bit too misshapen and ragged looking. I would actually like to replace it with two different coats - a long wool Yohji coat (basically a Winter version of my cotton coat) and a waterproof (or at least water resistant) black parka coat. One works for smarter occasions, while the other is better suited to those days when you just want to go out into the rain or snow wrapped up tight in a blanket. 

Shirts: It took me two years of searching, feeling fabrics, trying on shirts and moving around in them before I bought a single white shirt. Within the period of six months following that purchase I had two more shirts from the same designer - one black, one collarless white with subtle grey pinstriping. Measure twice, cut once. In exploring all the available options for a single white shirt, I unconsciously found myself evaluating multiple shirts from various designers, expanding the intended research merely because it was usually right there on the rail next to what I was specifically there to study.

I tried on shirt after shirt and found almost consistently that those by Ann Demeulemeester felt right. I have relatively narrow shoulders, a long slim torso and long slim arms. I have tended to struggle with sleeve length, with most shirts stopping short of my wrists. The slim cut and long arms of the Ann shirts I tried on felt right from the get go, but I made sure to explore as many other options as I possibly could before returning to them, just to make sure it was not simply love for the designer clouding my judgement.

Indeed many will probably wonder why I do not own Yohji shirts, and the simple truth is that I have not actually had enough experience with trying on that many Yohji shirts in a size 3. The majority I have handled have been a size 2, and although technically translating to my 46 size, given my height, the proportions do not work out and everything comes up short. Going forward I will definitely explore the option of larger size Yohji shirts than I have previously handled, because whilst the fit has been off, the garments themselves are undeniably beautiful, in terms of fabric and construction, as well as the actual design.

Two options that I had considered were Comme des Garçons and Issey Miyake. The issue I had with the majority of Comme shirts I tried on was that the sleeves were a touch too short, however I have only really had experience with the Shirt line and older Homme Plus collections. I think I may have to explore more recent Homme Plus collections to see how sizing is, as well as potentially trying to size up on Black line pieces to see how they feel. With respects to the Issey, again the issue is sizing - size 2 or 3 look comically shrunk, despite the neckline and body width actually being spot on. I feel I may have to venture into larger sizes to find the balance I require - I do not particularly care for a "fitting" collar given the aesthetic direction of my wardrobe and the oversize quality of many of the garments.  

T-shirts: I have written about these two Issey Miyake t-shirts previously (click here), but to summarise, I found the size that felt right and bought them. The white longsleeve is a size 4 (L) and the black longsleeve is a size 6 (XXL). Both are made from a pure cotton that feels even more fantastic after a number of washes. Just a word of caution - the white versions shrink slightly on first wash, which none of the other colours seem to do (I actually had a discussion with an SA at the London store about this). Although this has not really changed the oversize fit I went for, it is definitely something to be aware of. My plan is purchase two more, one white, one black, and that will be my longsleeve t-shirts complete.

When it comes to short sleeve t-shirts however, the jury is still out. I would like two in black and two in white. The process is not necessarily as easy as getting the short sleeve version of the longsleeves, because the entire shape and fit is different, and there is a specific cut I require. I like a relatively wide neckline, and one that scoops gently without looking too rounded or stretched. In terms of sleeves, I like them on the longer side, but they have to fall gracefully rather than sticking out stiffly at an angle as heavier cottons and more traditional cuts are wont to do on my body. The primary consideration at this point in time is Comme, however I am still investigating.

Knitwear: Yohji. Simple. I like my jumpers with a nice relaxed neckline, a wide body and loose sleeves (none of my Yohji jumpers have tight elasticated wrists). I have however been considering some black additions from John Smedley for more formal occasions, because it is always nice to have a smarter option. I have also been looking at the lambswool crew neck jumpers from Gloverall, mainly because of the fold back sleeves, which remind me of the jumpers I used to wear as a child (there is something comforting in that detail of a folded back sleeve that is indescribable).  

Trousers: Yohji again. The size 2 trousers actually have a 38 inch waist with a drawstring and the length is perfect for a thin single or double cuff. The ones I was wearing when taking these photographs are a size LL (XL/5), again with a 38 inch waist that I cinch in with a belt, and with enough length to roll a few times to balance the width of the trousers and allow for the wool to fall nicely. For days where the cold is just a little too much I have some thick wool Umit Benan black flannels, which are built like a tank and can take just about anything you throw at them without looking any worse for wear. I do actually wish Umit was stocked more widely, just to be able to try more pieces on, because from the work I have seen, the fit and finish is immaculate (I also think he ought to take over at Armani when the time comes, provided Pilati has not been offered a couture house by then).   

Innerwear: The vests that I currently wear are from Muji, and although the fit of the body is nice, as with most things Muji, they come up a touch too short for my liking. I far prefer something with a decent length to be able to tuck into my trousers, although given that the majority of my Yohji trousers are worn around my natural waistline (no doubt a shock to jeans wearers out there), the shorter vests do not pose a functional problem at present. I do however own a Comme undershirt that has a beautiful fit, and alongside purchasing another in white, I think I may slowly replace the Muji vests with Comme offerings. I had thought of buying some Ann vests, but the pricing is a bit too steep to justify unless I wear them like tanktops or with my shirts unbuttoned (and where the latter is concerned in Summer, I tend to prefer wearing the Comme undershirt). I am also on the lookout for black long johns manufactured under ethical conditions and preferably made using natural fibres.  

Underwear: I had two people ask me whether I include underwear and socks in my archive, to which the answer is a resounding yes. Small changes in the design of underwear over the years seem to fly under the radar, but they can actually be thoroughly drastic (a pair of Calvins today are just as different to those made over a decade ago as a pair of Levis 501 in the same time period, even though most people consider both an unchanging icon). When it comes to underwear I dislike branded waistbands, so these organic cotton trunks from John Lewis fit the bill nicely. In the space of a year the fabric composition of the waistband has already changed slightly so that the interior of the band has a more pronounced pile, whilst the exterior of the band is more densely woven - a small change that actually makes them far more comfortable to wear. 

I used to wear Muji trunks but I find the leg a touch too loose in comparison to these, and I definitely prefer the slightly more streamline fit of these. As far as socks go, I usually wear Muji cotton blend socks, either in black or charcoal grey (albeit with the odd red sock thrown in for good measure). I used to purchase underwear and socks from Uniqlo, but reports of poor labour conditions and major ethical concerns have had me looking elsewhere. Indeed I used to own quite a few different pieces from Uniqlo, but I have made the decision going ahead not to buy anything from them anymore.  

Shoes: I own a pair of modern Dr Martens boots that were made in Thailand, and beyond the poorer quality in comparison to my deadstock 1980s Dr Martens (the extent of which was actually a surprise to me), the toebox feels a touch too inelegant for my build. I think I would rather invest in something along the lines of a pair of Red Wing Beckmans in black, a pair of Marsell boots with a decent commando sole, or some George Cox black monkey boots with a wedge sole and low key stitching. The 1980s Dr Martens shoes are however fantastic, and I plan on wearing them for years to come.

The Clarks Desert London shoes are comfortable and look great, but alongside the Converses, I think they are merely a stop gap as it currently stands. The quality of both leaves me wanting and I would rather wear something a little more interesting. Once both are irreparable I will probably replace both with a single pair of low cut black suede Ann Demeulemeester trainers (none of that shiny leather banding or weird dip dye, I want the classic all black suede). 

I love my Yohji Superstars, and the Birkenstock Bostons are my slippers of choice.

Additions: At this point there are two major pieces missing from my wardrobe, the two extremes if you will - a suit and some sweats. As far as the suit goes I think I may end up buying one from Comme des Garçons Homme Deux, which tend to be more conservatively designed, just so that I have something a little more understated than a full black Yohji suit (although that is definitely on the list as a future purchase).

Where the sweats are concerned, I have been looking for around three years now for the heavyweight black cotton drop crotch sweatpants with the poplin skirted overlay from Rick Owens, but all I seem to find are the thin jersey versions. I may just buy a pair of all black drop crotch Y-3 sweatpants or something similar. I am still considering all my options for the sweatshirt but I do know that I want a plain black sweatshirt with a slim fit and slightly longer sleeve and body length than usual. I had considered trying to find a black sweatshirt from the first Silent by Damir Doma collection (when he was still using organic cotton...and the designs were actually good), but finding one in unworn condition at this point in time will be close to impossible.


My wardrobe still needs work and it is a constantly evolving project, but I am happy with where it is right now and the direction in which it is heading. Hopefully this year will see even more improvements, not just in terms of my wardrobe, but overall in life, and I really do wish you all the same.  



  1. I enjoy reading the nuances of your wardrobe. I think the yohji sneakers are beautiful.

  2. Hi Syed,

    Really enjoyed your musings on this one; I definitely need to overhaul my wardrobe too although I can't feature some of my items for fear of losing face! "Quiet luxury" will soon catch on I'm sure...

    Ben | http://www.twentyfirstcenturygent.com/

  3. You start off the post with a killer line. I enjoyed reading about how it's all going. Shame about the quality of the modern DMs, have you ever tried the newer Made in England range? Not for me but my gf seems to favor them. Underwear is so hard to get right, when you'd think it was simple. I guess it's simple if you're not that fussed. Turns out I am.

    Buckets & Spades