Thursday, 7 April 2011

Shine One On

Elegant slubbing, courtesy of Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in The Godfather

   For one shining moment last year, I owned a light grey slubbed Shantung silk suit for spring and summer; as is customary in my collection, it was double breasted, Roman made, from the 1980s (the period most associated in my mind with the Suits With Runs Look) and formerly owned by my father. And then "formerly" became "presently," so I wait for either old age or senility to make it mine once again. "This kind of suit, my son," he intoned, "is not yet for you." I don't think this was said because he perceives a lack of gravitas in my make-up; I think he just remembered that it still fits him. And unlike him, my arms are long enough for my fingertips to graze my knees, so there is that...

   I believe that each summer suiting choice, particularly Dupioni and Shantung silk, mohair and cotton, is a beautiful and unique snowflake; a catholicon to all that may feel particularly rote and lifeless about warm wools. Silks have a galvanising aspect when tailored, imputing colours with texture and hypnotic iridescence at their most beautiful (Shantung being the more flamboyant, slubbier and occasionally rougher take compared to Dupioni); mohair distinguishes itself with its sheen, crispness, lightness of wearing and valuable versatility (particularly the ones that look slightly pearlescent in various lights - see also this excellent article by good pal Winston C);  cotton and its endearingly wrinkly aspects create the most relaxed tailoring of all. I, like others, also recognise the considerable charm of linen, the most rumpled of all, and its warm weather boons to even the heavy sweaters amongst us all. But I am ultimately a texture addict, not to mention one who often, like Sixth Doctor Colin Baker, dresses like "an explosion in a rainbow factory;" this is a tendency that silk clothing enables very, very easily and is the exact reason I plan to acquire a new (or new-old) one of my own when fortune and funds permit. Mohair is my second choice and I have recently viewed a number of vintage Savile Row examples that might still be mine if anything can be done about the sleeves (I'd also enjoy seeing some from China). It is to marvel at the unique fabric designs that the 1960s and 1970s produced for summerwear

Two examples that may possibly be silk-blends (or just shiny), courtesy of Robert De Niro's character Sam "Ace" Rothstein in the undeniably excellent Casino. Note the iconic Ultra Goliath eyeframes

   When I commented on Roger Moore's Cyril Castle-created Dupioni suit at The Suits of James Bond today, I initially considered that I wanted a very light grey version for myself (steel blue, light or rust brown, burgundy, forest green and off white also loom large), since that sort of icy look is quite the head-turner on very bright days. I have never thought such a colour to really suit me, despite owning a patch pocketed version in ramie from good old Junya Watanabe that I love, but in a slightly shinier form, my mind's eye makes it look rather becoming. It can also handle many accessory colourings and with my skin tone, a Mr. Fish-inspired presentation of a matching white or bone-coloured shirt and necktie feels more than possible. A silk trifecta formed from the three main ensemble components also seems ridiculously appealing

Moore's first 007 Dupioni number, dark grey and double breasted, as seen in Live and Let Die, via The Suits of James Bond

   Of course, it is worth recalling that lightweight silks are vulnerable to stains, crotch rot and the accidental snags caused by the fingers and rings of an amorous partner, so those who are also tempted may wish to blend. Wool, linen, cashmere and cotton mixes, as well as heavier silks have much to offer; they can sacrifice some of the breathability, but done well, style always remains

 The Modern Jazz Quartet in mohair suits for The Cocktail Age

   London is bright again. Let's shine one on for the summer

Prince Charles in Dupioni silk suiting


David Toms said...

Have never tried it myself and now I am tempted after the examples you have shown

Barima said...

Then I'm doing my job for once

Best as always,


Mxolisi Ngonelo said...


Notwithstandinding your suggestions and the suits, I saw Heat for the first time this week and it was explosive. I thoroughly enjoyed it. De Niro does his thing so much so that Pacino has to live up to the standard and vice versa.

I need to see Casino as well. Another that was recommended to me was Godfather. I don't know which betwene the two stars Joe Pesci in a scene where he stabs someone with a pencil.

With my aversion to anything shiny firmly in place, I can't wait for you to showcase this particular suit once you have acquired it.


Barima said...

I've recently rewatched Casino; Pesci uses a pen. Each of those films is a classic of the genre, though you may be confusing The Godfather with Goodfellas in Pesci's Unstable Thug Canon. He's such a national treasure

I saw what might be the perfect single breasted Dupioni suit today; the only flaws being that I want less blue suits and I don't yet know if it fits. But with the pedigree of one of Paris's best houses behind it, the tailoring is first rate. It's penny-saving time

All best,