As a self-confessed literature buff, I have wanted to write an article about books for a while now. And while it would be nice to compare Brontë’s Jane Eyre with Austen’s Northanger Abbey, it is neither the time nor the place. Hallowe’en is over and this is not a forum for literature students to express their love of Mr. Rochester (or hatred, depending on your views of imprisoning one’s wife in an attic). Thus, my attention turns from the gothic to, you guessed it, menswear. Here at MFM, we are fans of the winter nights, and as they grow darker and much much colder, it means that we have a reason to stay at home and snuggle up with a good book.
While some of you may prefer to delve into Brontë, Austen or E. L. James for that matter (God forgive me for saying the latter’s name in such good company), why not stretch your love for fashion to the library and read just one of our recent favourite books this season. And if you enjoy them that much, why not give one as a gift this Christmas?
5 Books For Your Menswear Library
1) I am Dandy: The Return of the Elegant Gentleman
Nathaniel Adams and Rose Callahan
(Die Gestalten Verlag, 15 Sep 2013, 256 pages)
2013 has been all about tailoring and the resurgence of the Preppy man. In this book, we see a world of men who strive and devote themselves, and their lives, to the finer things in life. With a dash of vanity and a pinch of frivolity, this book pairs lavish photography (Callahan) with clever writing (Adams) to capture the many styles and attitudes held by an increasing number of men today. Contemporary men’s fashion most certainly has its connotations with bespoke tailoring and, quite frankly, the re-born fascination of dandyism, which Adams and Callahan successfully capture not only by vividly explaining how a revival of the past can cultivate innovative 21st-century style, but also a more in-depth exploration behind the flawlessly-folded pocket squares and impeccably-knotted ties.
2) The Perfect Gentleman: The Pursuit of Timeless Elegance and Style in London
James Sherwood and Terence Stamp
(Thames and Hudson Ltd, 5 Nov 2012, 224 pages)
What we call the perfect coffee-table book, this one is easy to dip in and out of as you please (which, we suppose, can apply to both reading and biscuits alike). Are you the man, or know of one, who has everything? Well not quite, as you don’t have this book celebrating the searches of the perfect sartorial detail to accessories and gifts for all. Through the lens of a connoisseur, with a special focus on London and its key stylistic historic periods, it tells the stories of designers and shop-keepers who have not only enhanced luxury menswear but also animated it with their personalities and unique craftsmanship. There is also a very handy reference section which looks at the social and economic levels of London by research hotels, shopping arcades and all of the antiquarians in between. James Sherwood has also written a number of other publications including Savile Row: The Master Tailors of British Bespoke and Fashion and edited the Louis Vuitton guide to London so you know you’re in good hands here!
3) Vintage Menswear: A Collection from the Vintage Showroom
Douglas Gunn and Roy Luckett
(Laurence King, 17 Sep 2012, 304 pages)
The longest on our list, this book has been curated by connoisseurs of all things vintage. Hosting an enormous, one-of-a-kind, collection of rare 20th-century pieces, we see how stylists and fashion designers ‘using the cut and detailing of individual garments’ as inspiration for their own work. Some of you might already be on the ball as this book was published last year. If so, brilliant! But we, admittedly, have just come across it on our reading list (we’re just so busy). The book features the most influential examples of European, American and Asian utilitarian tailoring and design, AND is divided into sportswear, work wear and militaria, covering the globe from vintage French denims to Polar exploration suits (brrr!) Now you too can read about the poles from the comfort of your own home (no fur allowed).
4) Menswear: Vintage People on Photo Postcards
(The Bodleian Library, 3 Oct 2012, 112 pages)
The shortest book on our list (and with lots of pictures!), it does exactly what is says on the tin. This series rejoices the acquisition of Phillips’ archive of over 50,000 photographic postcards dating from the first half of the 20th-century; a period in which, thanks to the medium of photography, ordinary people could afford to own their portraits as well as the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie. With an illuminating foreword by Eric Musgrave, the book is thematically-assembled and offers a variety of accessories on display from ties and gloves to pocket squares, spats and boutonnieres. Who doesn’t love a good boutonniere, eh?
5) The Sea Project
A Global Audience
(Sperry Top-Sider, 13 Sep 2013, 156 pages)
If you want a break from fashion (not that we would know what that was), want to remind yourself of warmer climates or simply don’t have the time to travel to 37 countries across 6 continents, no problemo! There is no need to venture out into the cold this winter if you use this book as your passport. An on-going series of culture-driven projects, the book showcases the love of the ocean which fuels the exploration of surf, sun and soul by the artist in all of us. Inspired by the ‘Passion of the Sea’, these creative initiatives fuse the beauty and power of the ocean to bring the shining sea to you through a diverse and unexpected medium. To all who call the sea their muse, this year’s project takes the form of a fan-submitted, instagram-inspired photography book which comprises of around 10,000 images. Ship ahoy!
As Shakespeare said, ‘It is not the fashion to see the lady the epilogue’ (As You Like It a5s4) which could not be more appropriate as these books, with the exception of the latter, focus and vividly celebrate the world of men’s fashion. From photography and vintage fashion to timeless styles and the present day, I want copies of all of these books in my library.