The Perfect Coat for a 'Perfect Land'

Before Gary Newbold was the founder of outerwear company English Utopia, based in North Yorkshire, he was the lead designer at Barbour. And before that he was a professional cyclist, living in France and competing for the British national cycling team. But before any of that he was a student of Early Modern History at the University of York, and it’s from this time in his life that he draws his inspiration for English Utopia. At the University of York, Newbold studied the writings of A. L. Morton, Christopher Hill, Eric Hobsbawm, and other historians who documented the aspirational dreams of English commoners in that matinal era between the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Modern era. Dreams of a just “commonwealth,” where the land was held not by a few lords, but by the many, and where every man was his own master. 

For Newbold, this is what the English countryside is all about. A place for anyone to find the peace and the solitude--or community--they seek. A place right down the road, even for city-dwellers. Rather than contriving a name that spoke to inauthentic heritage—say Smith & Jones—Newbold wanted one that got at this promise of the British countryside. The title from one of A. L. Morton’s histories did nicely.

With the country coat we’re stocking this season from English Utopia you too can be one step closer to the idyllic English countryside. In a brown check wool with quilted lining and suede details, you’ll stay stylish and warm.  Available in the store and on our website.

 

See you soon,

DW

 

Our Favorite Cashmere Sweater

What’s so great about cashmere? It’s warm, it’s soft, and it can be worn against the skin, but if you don’t have a favorite cashmere sweater, it can be difficult to explain what’s so great about them. Hopefully this may give you an idea:

Our favorite cashmere sweater comes from Pashmere, a small Italian company in Perugia, up in the mountains of central Italy. There, the Rosso family has produced high quality knitwear since 1965, and from beginning to end, at each stage the making of their sweaters is a labor-intensive and highly personal affair.

The cashmere they source from the Himalayas is only the finest grade--pashmina, hence the company name. It is knitted on a restored traditional loom by skilled craftsmen Riccardo and Ugo, before it is passed on to Marinella, Anna, Colombina, and Giuseppina, who work the linking machines, assembling the yards of knitted fabric into chests and sleeves.

Then its on to Patrizia, Ornella, and Giusy, who manually finish the sweaters, turning them into the polished pieces we expect when we think of a sweater.

Rita and Laura are responsible for the pigmentation of the sweaters, immersing them in traditional vegetable dyes before rinsing them with natural soap.

Finally, Catia and Antonia steam and press them into shape. The end result is a woolen good that is both sophisticated and durable, an artisanal work in its own right.

 

Why not make this year’s Christmas sweater a little more personal?

 

 

See you soon,


DW

 

Sprezzatura

They do it in New York. They do it in London and Berlin. And they do it in Italy. Milan, Florence, Rome, Naples: this Fall men are wearing quilted vests over their suit jackets.

Although quilting is an old style of clothing making, the modern quilted vest was an innovation of the 1960s, invented by an American expat living in England. An item which quickly gained popularity among the genteel English country set, it was picked up by the Italians.

It took a man of true style--sprezzatura, or casual elegance, as the Italians say--to begin wearing his quilted vest not under, but over, his suit jacket. Gianni Agnelli, the CEO of Fiat from 1966 to 1996, who introduced us to so many hallmarks of Italian style--the unbuttoned button-down collar, the loafer or boot with a suit, the unbuttoned surgeons’ cuffs on a jacket--was that man.

Agnelli’s style was based on expedience--he famously wore his watch OVER his shirt cuff so he did not waste time pulling his shirtsleeve up. The quilted vest was the perfect insulation for his visits to the shop floor, layering against the chill while keeping his arms unconstricted. The casual mix of sporty and sophisticated shocked his compatriots at first, but soon they were following his example.

Our vests come from Waterville, a small Italian company in Sequals, a little town between Venice and the Alps. Layered over a Southwick jacket or Samuelsohn suit, they are the perfect thing for keeping out this late Autumn chill, with a touch of sophistication.

 

See you soon,

 

DW

 

Traditional French Walking Shoe

Fall. The season of changing colors, crunching leaves, and first frosts. The season we New Englanders supposedly look forward to for nine months of the year. It is a time when you want to feel the cool air on your cheek and the warm sun on your brow. A time to go for a walk. And walk we Mainers do--down roads, through woods, along shores, up mountains.  At David Wood, of course, our thoughts are always on style and we have traditionally advocated a New England shoe for our New England pastime. An Alden chukka boot, made in Massachusetts, for support. Or a Rancourt moccasin, made in Maine, for comfort. But this year we have something different. A traditional walking shoe from Paraboot--a French shoe-maker with a pedigree going back a century.

Why Paraboot? It is not just the elegant simplicity of design or the soft chesnut color of the leather, perfect to match the brown and orange hues this time of year. It is the structure--an extra-durable, extra-flexible European method of making a shoe called the Norwegian stitch. Picture a shoe. It has the leather part on top, called the “upper.” Then there’s the “insole,” the part of the sole touching your foot, and a separate “outsole,” the part of the sole touching the ground.

There are two typical ways of assembling these pieces, both named for Massachusetts inventors of the 19th century: the Blake Stitch and the Goodyear Welt. The Blake Stitch, which Rancourt uses, is simple: a single, vertical stitch attaches these three pieces together. It is light and flexible, but perceived as less durable. The Goodyear Welt, used by Alden, stitches these three pieces together through an additional layer called the “welt,” giving the shoe greater durability and improved resistance to the elements. Paraboot’s Norwegian Stitch incorporates both methods: a horizontal stitch attaches the insole to the upper and welt, while a vertical stitch attaches the outsole to the upper and welt. It keeps the shoe comfortable, while ensuring extreme durability and an almost totally waterproof wear. Combined with Paraboot’s signature deep-lug rubber sole for additional friction, it may just be the perfect walking shoe.

We think you will find these shoes designed for an Autumn in the Ardennes just as well suited to Fall in Maine.

See you soon,

DW

WHAT IS A CLASSIC?

My theory (as it relates to men’s clothing) is that a style of clothing—or a specific item of clothing—only becomes a classic if the elements of design are pleasing to the eye and, functionally, the garment works.

This is true of shirts made from madras AND specifically “Bleeding Madras”.

I am talking about the madras that all the “cool” guys were wearing back in the 1960’s. Hand loomed in India, they were dyed in such a way that the colors blended together and didn’t fade away, creating a unique and beautiful patina, like an old favorite wallet or a brass bell. The demise of bleeding madras occurred only because the dyes were deemed environmentally unsafe. Authentic bleeding madras has not been available for more than forty-five years.

Three months ago we got a call from a gentlemen named Aleck who remembered bleeding madras, loved it, and had taken on the challenge of duplicating a madras fabric that was environmentally safe and possessed the same character as the original. Environmentally safe dyes were already available. All that was missing was the dyers and weavers who remembered the process.

It was a long search, but ultimately he found a village in India with one elder who did.

This is where we come in. Having discovered a means to source the fabric, our friend had no idea how to turn the fabric into a shirt. He knew the original Madras shirts were made by Gant in New Haven, so made in New England was another requirement. Fond of Portland, Aleck contacted us. We—as you can probably tell—were excited as he was and off the order went to our friend Bob at New England Shirt in Fall River, MA.

We received the initial shipment of yardage in July. By August we were offering the first bleeding madras shirt for sale in over four decades. I am old enough to remember the character and comfort of this shirt (a silky hand), and I felt we had the “Real McCoy”. We sold them out in four days.

The three patterns below are in production in India. The handlooms can only produce 4-6 yards a day. It is a slow process, but we should have the new fabric by mid-October. We are taking pre-orders for an anticipated delivery of mid-November. The cut will be slightly trimmer than the original but with the same “Ivy” detail of the original: button-down, with a third button on the back of the collar, locker loop, and a full box pleat in the back. $175 in sizes Small-2X.

See you soon,

DW

Hertling Trouser

We recently made a quick trip down to Hertling Trouser in Brooklyn to put together a cutting of our (soon to be famous) lapeled “Charlie” vests. This is Andy (master tailor) laying out the pattern and details. Andy was very excited about the inside cell phone pocket we designed for this recent cutting. Now you will have a total of five pockets (four outside and one inside) to put stuff. And hopefully a pocket square in the top left outside pocket. Stay tuned.

See you soon,

DW

Pattern Mix Part I

One of our customers, let's call him Joe, inspired my first Blog about mixing patterns. This may be a store record; I count six patterns if you include the vertical pattern of the corduroy jacket. A striped tie is always a good compliment to a check shirt. The size of the Faire Isle patterned sweater is different enough in scale to both the shirt and the tie. The small dot pattern of the scarf (the Churchill dot) pairs well with almost any patterns. Good show, Joe!

Hobbies

We are continually impressed (and humbled) with the hobbyist skills of some of our customers. This is an example of one customer's passion for restoring antique automobiles, a 1926 Marmon D74 Dual Ignition (there are only a few left and probably none as well restored). The shop is meticulously maintained and equipped.

See you soon,

DW

 

A few words about style.

Why dress in a stylish way? 1. To be visually pleasing to the people who look at you and 2. The sense of well-being when you achieve a personal style that is in harmony with who you are. 

Frank Sinatra sums it up when he admonishes Bing Crosby in the song You've Either Got Or You Haven't Got Style: “Some people dress like they want to get dressed, you just get dressed to get dressed".

Yes it is easier for some than others BUT we can all achieve a personal style if the desire is there and the effort made.

 

See you soon,

 

DW

 

Dress well from a small space

 
 

This is the first Blog entry on our new website. We intend to edit these carefully, both in frequency and content. Most will be about our philosophy that it is not the size of the wardrobe, but about the "effectiveness" of the wardrobe. Our belief in clothes that fit, function and remain stylish throughout the life of the garment. Occasionally we will talk about how to take care of an "effective" wardrobe. Sometimes we will talk about things that we like and don't sell. Even clothing. And from time to time, we will speak about the companies we keep. The manufacturers we have developed long-standing relationships with that allow us to offer products that reflect our style and commitment to quality.

 

See you soon,

DW