AMF Stitching

The decorative stitch along the edge of a jacket's lapel (and occasionally on pockets, sleeve heads, sleeves and side seams) is just that; decorative.  It's an ornamental feature that was originally done by hand by skilled artisans.  The issue with doing the stitch by hand is that, like all hand made attributes, it looks irregular and is often expensive to produce.

American Machine & Foundry is a company that sought a solution to that problem.  Founded in 1900, they made a plethora of goods including bowling centers, atomic reactors, tennis racquets and stitching machines.  The stitch is now synonymous with the company, being referred to as an AMF stitch.

Typically set at 2mm or 6mm from the edge of a seam, the stitch is a sign of a quality garment.  Nowadays, most suits have some AMF (or pick) stitching as it has become a hallmark of tailoring.  Some suit manufacturers choose to omit the stitch which is often referred to as a bluff edge.  We offer all 3 options.  Pictured below are prime examples of our 2mm and 6mm AMF stitch options.

Horn & Bone

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This month we're adding several accessories to our shop.  We've sourced combs, collar stays and shoe horns from the storied Abbeyhorn located 5 hours north of London.  Abbeyhorn has a long and rich history in the trade, having been in business since 1749 and being owned by multiple generations of multiple families.

We opted to start with three core accessories for our clients.  The materials are unparalleled in quality, being made from cow bone and buffalo horn.  You can read about how Abbeyhorn sources their materials here.  The 5 inch comb is compact enough to fit in any dopp kit, being much stronger than a resin comb where teeth can regularly break.  We chose a comb that is dual sided for versatility and appropriately sized for a pocket or briefcase.  Similarly, the shoe horn is 4 inches in length and comes with a strap to be perfect for travel.  Lastly, the collar stays are made of bone and will not warp over time.

All of these accessories are engraved in England and come in our reusable canvas bags.  Each piece is unique, and due to variations in the horn, look different than the next.  Any, or all, of them are great for groomsmen gifts, father's day gifts or as a treat to oneself.

Super Part 2

There exists a history, as old as the United States, regarding sheep farming.  It involves several important figures, but none more famous than John and Elizabeth Macarthur.  This article on the Australian government's website says it all, but it is important to note that there are over 200 breeds of sheep, with the Merino sheep dominating the fine woolen industry.

As you can imagine, in hundreds of years of breeding, there have been many cross breeds produced.  Especially because sheep are a nomadic species and travel well.  But it was the Macarthurs who kept their flocks true blooded in Australia where the species flourished.  Due to their strict breeding habits, we now have fine, superfine and ultra fine wool that are produced from Merino sheep.

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It was their determination and a perfect combination of climate and intelligent farmers that provides fabric mills the ingredients to produce woolen fabric as we know it today.  From Super 100s to Super 220s, there isn't a fabric that doesn't appease the wearer.  As the ultimate performance textile, wool at any fineness has the ability to retain heat as the crimped follicle holds air.

At present, we carry fabrics from these mills with the corresponding Super grades:

  • Super 100 - Holland & Sherry
  • Super 110 - Filarte, Vitale Barberis Canonico, Gladson
  • Super 120 - Guabello
  • Super 130 - Vitale Barberis Canonico, Ariston, Holland & Sherry, Loro Piana
  • Super 140 - Holland & Sherry
  • Super 150 - Vitale Barberis Canonico, Ariston, Guabello, Loro Piana
  • Super 160 - Ariston
  • Super 180 - Hardy Minnis
  • Super 200 - Hardy Minnis

Often times a coarser, thicker fiber is more apropos for suit construction.  The heftier the fabric the better it tailors.  Finer fabrics often show more puckers and wrinkles but because they feel nicer clients are apt to want them.  And so a merino wool with a lower Super number yields a fine handle while also providing a cleaner looking garment.

There is no right or wrong answer in choosing a fabric.  Many of our clients choose fabrics based on color, pattern/weave and budget, but there's always more that meets the eye.  In the hundreds of years of milling woolen textiles fabrics have gotten finer and finer.  Suits in the 1800s were twice as heavy as they are now.

Sheep are wonderful animals that have been around for thousands of years and farmed globally since the 1700s.  The wool textile industry has been around since the 1300s.  They have a huge impact on economies, religion, culture, science and even cuisines around the world.  We encourage our clients to understand what the Super number of a suiting fabric stands for, we also encourage our clients to understand that the history of the woolen industry is similarly important.

Super Part 1

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Often times we get asked, "What's the difference between a Super 110 and, say, a Super 150?"

First, we have to start with what the Super number signifies.  Originally, there were several different ways to measure the fineness of wool.  This study from New Mexico State University does a pretty good job at outlining the beginnings of wool grading.  Before the advent of certain technologies, there was a weight system using big spools of wool called hanks that held 560 yards of yarn.  If a wool fiber was finer, more hanks were produced, eventually yielding a more luxurious cloth.

Nowadays we use the diameter of the wool fiber, a measurement taken in microns (a millionth of a meter), to determine the fineness.  For most of the fine wool in the world, that measurement falls between 12-20 microns, with the vast majority sitting between 15-18.  That measurement is then converted back into the the original Super grading system.

So, a Super 120's yarn equates to 17.5 microns and a Super 150's yarn equates to 16 microns.  It is important to point out that these numbers have no relation to thread count, which pertains to cotton fabrics.  It is also important to point out which mill mills the wool into a textile.  Technically speaking, you can microwave wagyu beef.  Or, it can be prepared by a chef.  Which sounds better?

The unspoken mission of most clients who enjoy the plight of custom clothing is to find a fabric that is fine enough while still remaining durable and cost effective.  Sometimes it's finding a mill that makes fabric you like more than another, regardless of fineness.

A Super 200, 13.5 micron wool fiber produces an incredibly luxurious and expensive fabric.  It is also a fabric that cannot be beaten up.  Typically, the higher the Super number, the less durable the fabric.  A Super 130, 17 micron wool fiber is a wonderfully durable and fine yarn.  However, some clients prefer a Super 120 or a Super 150. 

Which is better?  It depends.  Next time you're in the shop, ask to feel fabrics from each range and see for yourself.

Woolen Knit Ties

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With a sponge-like softness, our knit ties are made in Salerno, Italy from 100% wool.  They offer the most amount of texture and durability you can ask for out of a tie and can be paired perfectly with tweed, corduroy and flannel.  To be worn from Autumn until early Spring, we carry 4 colors of wool knit ties; Chocolate, Steel, Loden & Oat (pictured).  Priced at $65 and sold in store in limited quantities.

Checker

Quite often, a solid sport coat feels odd.  A blazer, while one of the most versatile tailored garments ever invented, can feel stale if worn too frequently.  The idea of a checked sport coat is exciting to most clients.  There isn't a rhyme or reason to why they can work so well, but sometimes its simply that it's not solid colored.  There's depth in plaids, window-panes and checks that solid colored fabrics can't hold a candle to.

The fabric in these pictures has a creamy base when worn with blue jeans or navy trousers.  But paired with cream trousers (above) looks grey.  The colors represented atop the base are a dusty olive and a blue that looks like a laundry detergent.  Easy colors to pair with navy and khaki.  But they're also versatile in regards to shirts and ties.

Upon looking closer, the blue is actually two blues; royal and sky.

Checked fabrics are, simply put, more exciting.  This jacket works with almost any blue shirt and almost any colored pant (black excluded).  Next time you're hunting for a sport coat that adds depth to your wardrobe, ask us for recommendations.

Hacking Pockets

Hacking, or slanted, front pockets on a jacket are typical of country suits.  The angle allowed a horse rider to access the pockets more easily but also kept the items inside the pocket more secure.  As they are indicative of a non-city suit, they tend to add a slightly casual aesthetic to the jacket.

Nowadays, hacking pockets are added to jackets more so because they appeal to the client looking for a customized look.  Rarely are we riding horses whilst wearing a sport coat or suit, so the addition of the angle was more for looks rather than use.

The above suit was made for a restaurant employee, who accesses the pocket very frequently.  Designing the suit for ease of use whilst still looking good was important for the restaurant and the hacking pockets were the only "curveball" to the exterior of the suit.

Slanted pockets tend to do two contrasting things to the silhouette of the wearer.  They can accentuate wide hips as a negative (unless the wearer also had overly wide shoulders, in which case it can help balance out the garment).  Conversely, they can direct the eye towards the middle of the abdomen and make the wearer look taller and slimmer.

Either way, it is an option worth exploring for most clients looking for either a functional or aesthetic feature to their suit or sport coat.

Ply

When referring to "ply," we almost immediately think of toilet paper.  Not to say we shouldn't, as stacking wood or paper denotes a certain amount of plies that we associate with lumber and tissue.

However, a piece of yarn can also be called a ply.  That yarn is then loomed into fabric as we know it.  A single ply fabric made of resilient and high quality wool is a wonderful textile.  But of course that isn't the only way to mill fabric.

A 2-ply (or 3 or 4 etc.) is made by twisting two single ply yarns together to create one yarn.  This has a number of benefits, but the biggest advantage is that the yarns will perpetually want to untwist, which reduces and often eliminates wrinkling.  And because of the way the fabric is milled, the yarns will never actually untwist.  Another advantage is that while the fabric is heftier, the 2-ply construction is a more open weave.  This allows air to pass through the weave and creates a more breathable textile.

Pictured here is a 2-ply, or Fresco, fabric from Ariston.  We used an Olloclip magnifier at 21x to view the individual warps and wefts.  You can see multiple colors twisted into each yarn (cream/tan, grey/black, brown/caramel, royal/dusty blue) which only accents the depth of this particular fabric's color and pattern.

Next time you're in the store, please ask to see the fabric under the magnifier to get a better understanding of how your suit is made.

Patch Pockets

There are few better ways to make a jacket more sportive than adding patch pockets instead of flapped pockets.  Pockets were added to garments in the 1600s and were, of course, practical in nature.  From money to keys to jewelry, pockets were made to hold valuables and everyday items.  Flapped pockets were more secure for suit jackets and sport coats as the flap protected those items.  Patch pockets, however, added a cachet to the garment.  They weren't as secure and thus a bit more dangerous.  They said something about the wearer.  The easy access, the more frequent use, the shape...patch pockets are the sports car of pockets.  More efficient and more rakish.  Quicker and, frankly, better looking.  Sportive pockets for sport coats, we say. 

Blended Fabrics

Wool is a perfect fiber.  It has scales and is crimped, which are two key properties that allows woolen fibers to attach to one another.  Typically, finer wools like Merino have more crimping which allows for a smoother and stronger finish to the fabric.  The crimping also creates pockets in between the fibers which holds air and creates insulation.  Additionally, the fiber isn't hollow, but absorbs up to a third of its weight in water without appearing or feeling wet.  In short, it is the original performance textile.

Much like whisk(e)y, wool is it's own highlight reel.  However, many people would agree that Manhattan's and Old Fashioned's are great cocktails.  To that end, when wool is blended with other textiles magic can be made.

From cotton, silk and linen to mohair, acrylic and cashmere, wool can be blended with a wide variety of other yarns.  Our fabric mills carefully design and combine colors, weaves, techniques and textiles to create fabrics for each season.  The base, however, is almost always wool.

This spring/summer season has plenty of options.  There is linen galore but also browns and sky blue as well as plenty of checks and plaids.  There isn't a wrong way to go, but playing with different fabrics can be exciting to figure out what's best for your wardrobe this summer.

Jacquard

Born into a family of artisans, French weaver Joseph Marie Jacquard was a pioneer in the milling industry.  He wasn't, however, the first of his kind.  His predecessors Basile Bouchon, Jean-Baptiste Falcon & Jacques Vaucanson all advanced the mechanical loom and its processes.

In 1801, Mr. Jacquard previewed his invention of automatically weaving silk textiles into fancy fabric in Paris and within years the "jacquard loom" was sold across Europe.

While knitting only involves one piece of yard, the fabric below resembles that of a cable knit sweater.  The jacquard process involves a complicated system of cards with punched holes that control the warp to weft ratio, raising only certain warps at a time to warrant creating a repeating pattern.

As Napoleon Bonaparte was Emperor in 1805, he granted the patent to the city of Lyon and issued a pension to Jacquard.  It was a step forward in the production of fabrics but also helped pave the way for programming and the invention of computers.

Jacquard fabrics can be wonderful for curtains, dresses and ties.  The Vitale Barberis Canonico fabric below is true in navy color and quite breathable with the open weave.  It is best made as a casual and seasonal blazer.

A letter to grooms from a custom clothier Part 3

{Since being in this business 8 years, I venture to guess I've spoken with 500 grooms at one point or another.  This is a series highlighting those 500 conversations distilled to one.}

 Courtney & Morgan • Photo by  William West Studio

Courtney & Morgan • Photo by William West Studio

In Part 1 of our series, we referenced questioning your style choices based on your decision to wear a suit or tuxedo for your wedding day.  Here, we'll help you answer that basic but major decision.

In 1865, Henry Poole & Co. made a "celestial blue evening coat" for the future King Edward VII.  Poole clientele, including Pierre Lorillard, became familiar with this newly minted 'dinner jacket' and began a shift in evening wear at their club in Tuxedo Park, NY.  Ultimately, it was the facing of the jacket's lapel in silk that originally created the tuxedo as we know it.  After years of tinkering and tweaking did we end up with the traditional styling of a tuxedo that is as follows;

  • Silk (satin or grosgrain) facing on the lapel with the same silk covering the buttons and facing the outer seam of the trousers
  • A peaked lapel or shawl collar was preferred over a notched lapel
  • One button front closure
  • Jetted front pockets (on both the jacket & trousers)
  • Non-vented jacket - vents were added to jackets for the purpose of riding a horse and formal jackets were never worn whilst on horseback {this is the only tradition that has since fallen by the wayside as most jackets, tuxedos included, are vented nowadays}
  • No belt loops or cuffs/turn ups

If you're interested in wearing a traditional tuxedo, following those points should be of the utmost importance.  They highlight what constitutes "black tie" formalwear.  "White tie" often referred to the wearing of a black mess jacket with tails and a low-cut or scoop waistcoat in white that matched the white of the bow tie.  "Morning wear" is an inherently British style, worn at ceremonial functions during the day and consisting of a dove grey striped trouser paired with a tailed morning coat.

Over the past century liberties in formalwear have been taken.  More recently, two button notched lapel tuxedos with long ties show up on the backs of famous actors at the Academy Awards made by fashion houses that are high end yet household names.  Afterwards, more accessible fashion brands duplicate those looks and sell them in department stores, making it seem like a new standard.  This new era of "dinner wear" has created hybrid looks that are predicated on style and comfort and not etiquette and ritual.

The dinner jacket has propelled forward as a staple in the dinner wear category.  It differs from a tuxedo in that the jacket and trouser fabrics do not match.  Typically the trousers from a tuxedo are worn with a dinner jacket, which is made of a fancier fabric (typically a silk, wool/silk or wool/viscose blend).  Off white dinner jackets were some of the first to be popularized, notably on the likes of Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, but hundreds of styles exist in todays world of weddings and fashion. 

Knowing what constitutes a tuxedo may help steer you towards wearing (or choosing not to wear) one.  Most men dream of looking like James Bond, Fred Astaire or Clark Gable at one point or another but it boils down to whether or not you'll look and feel your best at your wedding in a traditionally formal outfit. Regardless of your choice, you can rest assured your fiancé will be just as smitten.

A letter to grooms from a custom clothier Part 2

{Since being in this business 8 years, I venture to guess I've spoken with 500 grooms at one point or another.  This is a series highlighting those 500 conversations distilled to one.}

Neil & Shira • Photo by Ash Carr

Planning a wedding is stressful.  Inevitably, how you approach each step of the process can either add to or remove stress from the adventure.  Having fun helps.  Budgeting helps.  Planning the timeline helps.  There's nothing more stressful than attempting to hit a deadline that's too close for comfort.

Typically, men's custom clothing is made in 3-8 weeks, depending on the clothier.  Our garments take between 3.5-5 weeks.  This is quite different than the world of bridal dresses, where women have to order dresses 6, if not 9, months ahead of time.  So when should you place an order?  10 weeks out from the wedding is good in most cases.  

Problematically, many grooms like to reach a certain weight and then place an order.  If that's in the works, please make those changes to your weight sooner than later as waiting until the last minute makes everyone (bride, groom, tailor) lose sleep.  About 60% of grooms tell me they're going to lose weight.  Maybe 10% of them actually do it.  If you're going to tell your tailor you plan to lose weight, do it.  If not, don't bother saying anything.

Budget.  Weddings are expensive.  However, planning in advance helps.  If you know you'd like to wear a well made custom suit on your wedding day, versus the ill fitting rental, start saving money for it.  The difference between a $200 rental and our opening priced 2 piece suit at $825 is $625.  That means putting away only $52 a month over a 12 month engagement.

Highlight your budget with your clothier.  Let them know where you'd like to spend more money and where you'd like to stretch the budget.  You get to wear your outfit again after the wedding, so it can be advantageous to spend more for nicer fabrics and finishes.

Questions to ask your clothier •

  • How much will everything (clothing, up charges, alterations, accessories) cost?  With tax?
  • What additional services do you offer?
  • Can you ship the finished product(s)?
  • When can we expect everything to be finished?
  • What should I bring with me to the fitting?

Things to tell your clothier •

  • Date & location of the wedding
  • Setting & climate (indoors/outdoors)
  • Special requests from florist or photographer
  • If you're traveling before the wedding

Things to prepare ahead of time •

  • Decide whether you're wearing a blue suit, grey suit or black tuxedo (or something different).
  • Determine what aesthetic, in conjunction with the bride's dress style, your wedding will have.
  • Be prepared to discuss issues you have with clothing you've owned in the past.
  • Know what look you'd like your groomsmen and/or ushers to wear.
  • Feel free to bring a picture and/or swatch of the bride's dress and/or bridesmaid's dresses.

As this can be overwhelming, we recommend grooms come in for a consultation ahead of a fitting to ask questions and get the full run down of our program.  That way there aren't any surprises when it comes down to making decisions.

A letter to grooms from a custom clothier Part 1

{Since being in this business 8 years, I venture to guess I've spoken with 500 grooms at one point or another.  This is a series highlighting those 500 conversations distilled to one.}

Alex & Nina • Photo by Nicodem Creative

There are dozens of way to make you look more like the second best dressed person at your wedding.  Your fiancé gets top billing.  Women have magazines, television shows and a social media platform dedicated to what to wear on their big day.  Men get shit on.  We might have a couple pages in a popular publication in a given year showcasing trends, but that's it.

On your wedding day, you'll have to make a conscious decision on what to put on every part of your body.  "Failing to plan is planning to fail."  So think about what you've enjoyed wearing in the past or that you'd like to wear in the future and write it down.  Save pictures to an album on your phone or computer.  Take a note from the bride and create a Pinterest page.  Whatever you need to do to organize your outfit, do it.  I've heard far too many regret stories from grooms.

Ask yourself a series of questions, predicated on the suit/tuxedo you've already decided to wear.  I start from the floor and go up.  Are you wearing loafers on your wedding day?  Lace ups?  Sneakers?  Opera pumps?  Plain socks?  Funky, patterned ones?  Braces?  Belt?  Cummerbund?  White shirt?  Patterned shirt?  Vest?  Cufflinks?  Watch?  Long tie?  Bow tie?  Pocket square?  Boutonnière?

Are you wearing your glasses?  Shaving your beard?  Aiming for a certain hair style?

The answers to all of those questions comprise your look, and ultimately your style, on your wedding day.  They can compliment your bride (or groom), make you look more or less formal, and even surprise people emotionally.   A lot of friends and family will see you at your wedding and in pictures for a long time afterwards.  It makes sense to be prepared by understanding your personal tastes in relation to current fashion etiquette.

Looking like a million dollars is one thing.  Feeling like a million dollars is another.  For your wedding, it's best to look and feel like a million bucks simultaneously.  When you see a man who has both of those elements, he's best described as "handsome."  And who doesn't want to be handsome?

Holland & Sherry's Dragonfly Fabric

Holland & Sherry is a storied mill of England.  They produce some of the best fabrics on the planet and have an incredibly diverse offering of swatch books.

We recently received the new spring/summer bunches and wanted to highlight one book in particular, the Dragonfly Ultra Lightweight Super 160's Worsted Suiting with AquArrêt®.

We chose to highlight the obvious water resistant quality of the fabric in this picture, however the fabric is also crease resistant.  At 200 grams, it is incredibly light weight and due to the plain weave, also very breathable.

Keep in mind water resistant also means cocktail/wine/blood resistant.  There are innumerable qualities to the Dragonfly collection but the performance aspect is unbeatable for the summer months.

This navy blue narrow split matt check fabric makes a great jacket but an even better suit.  Now available to order in advance of the warmer months.

Milanese Buttonhole

Beginning this January, we will offer the always elegant Milanese buttonhole as a finish on the lapel of our jackets.

Using a thick silk gimp, the raised buttonhole is a sign of craftsmanship as it can only be made by hand.  It has a pliable but structured construction with a slightly glossy look.  In fact, it is traditionally referred to in Italian as "asola lucida" which translates to "glossy buttonhole."

Noted sartorial savant Jeffery Diduch wonderfully explains the details in this post on his blog Tutto Fatto a Mano.

Please note this feature is by request.

Click to expand.

Boulevardier

In the two years we've been open, one of the most frequent questions we're asked is "Where does BLVDier come from?"

A boulevardier is, by definition, a man about town.  It was someone who strolled the streets of Paris, as the first known use of the word was in France circa 1871 and described a worldly and socially conscious man.

However, many people were first introduced to the word by the cocktail of the same name.  It is best explained by Imbibe, but the history surrounding the word went even deeper.  T-Magazine highlights that Erskinne Gwynne, who was the nephew of a Vanderbilt (of railroad fame), started a magazine called The Boulevardier after moving to Paris.  Being a regular at Harry's Bar Paris, Harry not only included an advertisement for Mr. Gwynne's magazine in his 1927 recipe book Barflies and Cocktails, he included the recipe for Mr. Gwynne's favorite drink and dubbed it a "boulevardier."  The recipe doesn't actually fall within the alphabetized listings, but instead falls on page 80 as seen here on the left.  The magazine ad is also shown below.

Next time you're in our shop, ask for the barreled, ready made version from High West.  If you'd like to buy a bottle, go see our friends at Foxtrot on Lake Street.

To try the stirred cocktail in its best form, ask Josh at Maude's Liquor Bar on Randolph to make the one featured on their menu.

Also, as to not be too serious about our name, we found this comic from George Price for your enjoyment.

Hangers

Each and every jacket and suit from BLVDier comes with it's own sized hanger.  Proudly made in Italy in a small town outside Venice, our hangers are made of a wood composite that is incredibly durable.  Finished with brass accents to match our store's decor, the pant bar is flocked to prevent trousers from falling off the hanger.  While jackets and suits come with complimentary hangers, we also sell them separately.

Unstructured

Removing the canvas from an otherwise standard looking sport coat has many advantages.  At first, the coat becomes lighter; about 20% lighter in fact.  Additionally, the jacket takes on characteristics normally reserved for a cardigan.  It has drape and fluidity.  It is softer and cannot be cut quite as close to the body.  It can still be dressed up with a tie and pair of trousers, but ultimately looks better with jeans than the structured version of itself.

Pictured here is an Eremengildo Zegna wool and cashmere herringbone fabric.  The jacket has our rounded "tasca a pignata" pockets, 6mm AMF stitch and mother of pearl buttons.  Sport coats range from $595 - $1295.