The Finishing Touches
Improve your accessories game with MR PORTER’s seven-step plan for head-to-toe perfection
It’s often said that style is all in the details. Unlike many things that are “often said”, this is true. But no one ever specifies why, or how. The truth is that, as much as the fun aspect of getting dressed in the morning is choosing which shirt to match with which jacket or whether this check goes with that stripe or whether it’s a jeans or chinos day, a little accessory really goes a long way when it comes to creating an overall effect. What’s more, while menswear accessories have been on the scarce side in the past couple of decades, there seems to be a gathering momentum for the category as we reach the middle of the 2010s, spearheaded by specialist brands such as WANT Les Essentiels de la Vie (for small bags and tech accessories), Common Projects and Mr. Hare (for shoes), and Larose (for exquisitely made hats with contemporary styling). Add to that the fact that more established luxury houses, such as Loewe, Dunhill and Marni are continually upping their offering in the accessories category and you have an almost overwhelming selection of ways to upgrade your style, from head to toe. To guide you through the jungle of options, here are MR PORTER’s recommendations in the seven key categories most worth exploring.
How to explain the rise of the backpack, formerly the sole reserve of schoolboys, skateboarders and the dubious and unwashed folk that you find growing on the walls of hostels in registered gap year destinations? Perhaps it’s due to the increasing influence of sportswear on international menswear designers. Perhaps it’s because everyone’s cycling everywhere in a brave attempt to tone the thighs and can squeeze into a pair of Saint Laurent jeans. Perhaps (and to be honest, this is the most likely) it’s because life has become such a relentless, churning liveblog of everyday minutiae that the fingers and thumbs need to be free 24/7 to tap away at touchscreen devices. Or, perhaps we’re reading a little too much into this. Looking at this particularly pleasing, aerodynamic example from Mr Alexander Wang at Balenciaga – which has the sharp geometry and precise detailing of a jet or supercar – you get the feeling that the backpack as an urban staple needs little justification. Wear it with a smart casual city look, on days when you find yourself multitasking. Just try not to overthink it.
THE TIE CLIP
You may not currently have one of these in your sartorial arsenal, but a tie clip may one day save you a lot of trouble. If, for example, you eat a lot of soup. Or shred a lot of paper. Or own cats or have strong children. In short, it’s a fixer for a fixer – where the tie was originally designed to hide the buttons on a shirt, the clip became a necessary addition to stop it flapping around and interacting with the above dangerous objects/ creatures. But more than that, a tie clip in the 21st century suggests that you’re a man of particular fastidiousness, the kind of person who exercises taste, restraint and flair in everything he does. And, yes, maybe also the kind of person who is grieving about Mad Men going off the air. This particularly elegant example from Dunhill has the added attraction of an onyx insert, which gives it an element of uniqueness as well as making it particularly good for picking out black accents within your outfit. Keep it beautifully restrained by wearing with a black tie and grey suit, and watch as the style plaudits roll in.
“Excuse me, have you got the time?” “Yes, one second.” [Much fumbling in pocket for phone.] It’s an unsightly spectacle that repeats and repeats on the sombre streets of our towns and cities. But you can avoid it by getting a watch that you’re not only willing to whip out in front of strangers but proud to brandish on your wrist. And for this purpose, few purchases come more highly recommended than Bremont’s timeless SOLO/ WH automatic watch. With its Swiss-made automatic self-winding movement, hardened steel case and scratch-resistant open case back (through which you can see the movement), it’s a piece of the utmost quality, designed and assembled, as are all Bremont watches, in the UK. But what makes it particularly appropriate for upping the stakes in your day-to-day outfits is its subtle, unobtrusive aesthetic, inspired by the utilitarian pieces worn by British pilots in the 1940s.
No one is ever going to turn you away from their home/ office/ restaurant/ club for wearing a pair of black Derbies. But equally, few are likely to glance down at your feet, gasp, look back up into your eyes and say “Black Derbies! You maverick!” That is unless, of course, you get them from a designer who is something of a maverick himself, namely one Mr Marc Hare. The cult London-based footwear maestro – whose products typically mix impressive craftsmanship with a dash of irreverent wit – has put his all into this season’s “Bernard” Derbies, which are intended to be as dependable as they are stylish. Beautifully simple, with minimal detailing and a not-entirely-formal rounded toecap, they achieve the rare feat of improving upon the seemingly unimprovable. Plus, happily for denizens of inhospitable climes, they also come with a rubber boot sole which means they won’t get ruined in the rain.
If you’re in regular employment, it’s part of the general contract of existence that you can clock off when it hits five or six o’clock on Friday. Do not, however, make the mistake of extending this courtesy to your accessories. They have no rights, no union, and no debilitating awareness of their own exploitation, so, yes, they should be working the weekend too. Particularly the bags you pack for taking off for a couple of days. MR PORTER’s unsuspecting employee of the month for March in this category is this superlative holdall from Loewe, a brand that has been producing leather goods since 1846 and – as anyone who has laid their hands on one of its products will know – has learnt a fair few things in the process. Not only are Loewe leathers among the most tactile and soft on the market, the latest collection of bags has added appeal in the application of the house’s sinuous quadruple “L” monogram as an embossed texture. Seldom will you find a bag so adaptable, reliable and easy on the eye. Plus, it won’t talk back in the yearly review. Just watch out for head-hunters.
THE DOCUMENT HOLDER
Most of the time, things are better when they are simplified. Take the iPad, for example, an object that replaces the computer’s many buttons, shortcuts and processes with a single, swipeable surface. Unfortunately though, even these simple things can themselves pile up. One minute you’re calmly tapping through Dezeen (or your favourite design porn site) in your Vitra chair, thinking you have that “quietly tasteful” thing all wrapped up, the next you’re on the commute juggling a notepad, mobile, headphones and Kindle alongside your tablet. You thought you were the pinnacle of noughties digital Zen. You’ve ended up in a bit of a mess, with 17 USB cables and two Mophies. This is why you need some sort of bag and, if we’re sticking with the simple theme, it needs to be a document holder. WANT Les Essentiels de la Vie, a brand whose raison d’être is supplying the items that you didn’t know you needed, has a particularly stylish proposition in this department for spring, comprising a hinged leather folder with two A4-size zip pockets that clip together with poppers. Thanks to this flexible design, it’s big enough to wrap around a laptop but will also work to hold change, notebooks, tablets or anything else you care to throw in the pockets. Its pleasing raffia design in a chevron pattern perhaps won’t pass the rigour of the more extreme essentialists out there. But let’s face it – sometimes things just aren’t that simple, so you might as well enjoy them.
Granted, not everyone is a hat person. But how do you know until you try? For all those interested in taking the plunge for spring 2015 (perhaps convinced by Burberry Prorsum, Saint Laurent or Undercover), as well as already devoted hat-wearers on the lookout for the ultimate headgear, this rabbit-felt hat from Larose could be the ticket. Handmade and supremely soft, it’s a classic fedora style with a subtle twist, namely the zip-pocket on the crown. Replacing the traditional silk headband (in which, in times of yore, members of the press would stuff their credentials), this detail lends the piece a rock’n’roll edge, allowing it to be worn as easily with skinny jeans and a spread-collar shirt as with smart or casual tailoring. Place it on your head, as the final flourish of your top-to-tail look, and embark on a voyage of self-discovery… (NB, this week’s guide to wearing a hat could also help here.)