21 Design Classics

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21 Design Classics

Words by Mr Tom M Ford

26 February 2015

In addition to the Zippo lighter and Swiss Army Knife, let our sartorially obsessed team show you the timeless designs they currently covet .

“An impenetrable confusion of forms, colours and noises” is how Mr Dieter Rams assessed the world in the late 1980s. We are not sure whether the minimalist master was referring to the vocal stylings of Wham!, but we do know that his reaction was to create his now-famous 10 commandments for “good” design. This manifesto called for “less, but better”, and objects that “avoid being fashionable and therefore never appear antiquated” – laying a blueprint for such design classics as his 606 Universal Shelving System and Braun Quartz Alarm Clock. For this week’s staff picks, we wondered which clothes were crafted with a similar principle in mind. What pieces on MR PORTER say “less, but better”? Although not as averse to “trends” as the minimalist Mr Rams, and eager to keep hold of the less practical items in their wardrobe – our team have picked out the items of clothing they associate most with a truly classic design. While there may always be a time for a paisley pocket square, or a pair of Raf Simons sneakers – the likes of Mackintosh or a pair of Steve McQueen sunglasses are truly evergreen – timeless style you can rely on. Invest in these pieces and some complementary items, below.

“The Hoover. The Escalator. Granola(!). All are former brand names that have become so iconic that they’re used in everyday language to betoken the archetype. The same applies to Mackintosh – formerly the name for a rubberised raincoat invented by Scotsman Mr Charles Macintosh in the mid-1800s and now a word used by most people to describe any kind of waterproof coat. But the nice thing about the (actual) Mackintosh coat is that it has aged well – today it remains as simple, utilitarian and sturdy as it was when The Beatles referenced it in ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’.

“The Loro Piana sweater is a timeless piece in a super-premium fabric. This will be lightweight under the Mackintosh and, thanks to its inherent, well, silkiness, it be easier to pull on and off. As for Incotex – there’s something reassuring about a brand that exists solely to execute one product in many impeccable ways. These trousers have that sharp cut which you always associate with Italian tailoring and are thoroughly adaptable to different outfits.”

“Again a great contemporary option on a knit from Mr Alexandre Mattiussi at Ami. It just feels current and I love the scale of the knit and the pocket detail in what is not an obvious colourway. Hits the spot.

“When it comes to classic clothing, Levi’s has the last word. While the menswear denim market seems to be outgrowing any other sector of menswear, you can always count on a timeless piece from the masters. I’m feeling a bit of a workwear moment coming on, so I wanted to try this great Filson field jacket. I feel as if I may still be wearing this while I walk the dog in 20 years’ time.”

“An American classic by an American visionary – Mr Thom Browne’s ability to turn the familiarity of a uniform, or in this instance a humble sweatshirt, into the realm of important design, is the true mark of a genius at work.

“Refined to perfection through its impeccable details and carefully honed fit, Jil Sander – for whom Mr Rodolfo Paglialunga just unveiled his first collection – has created a white shirt that represents clarity and conviction in its design. Simple, chic and useful. And Loewe is proving popular with our customers at the moment – for good reason.”

“Sunglass frames go in and out of style and there are only a select few that never date. Persol 714s top that list. They became an instant icon in Mr Steve McQueen’s 1968 The Thomas Crown Affair and have remained so ever since. The frame is made from a single piece of acetate, broken at three points for the hinges, so that it is foldable. This means that when the sun goes in you can easily stash them in a pocket rather than carelessly bequeath them to the back seat of a taxi.

“Tonally, the honeyed tortoiseshell shades would pair harmoniously with two more instantly recognisable accessories: Bottega Veneta has made a signature of this ‘intrecciato’ criss-cross leather, while Tod’s has done likewise with its woven leather bracelets.”

“If for some inexplicable reason I had to survive with only one coat in my wardrobe, this single-breasted Burberry Prorsum trench would be it. Iconic and British, it can be dressed up as easily as it can be dressed down – making it appropriate for all seasons. Burberry has made arguably the first and definitely the finest trench coat out there. Considering Mr Adam Welch’s claim that the mac is the category killer, a dreaded wet-wear pose-off at the local pub may be in the offing.

“This classic design from Mulberry will just keep on getting better as it elegantly ages – instantly recognisable but wonderfully understated. As will this perfect Brooks England perch. Like the trench coat – it’s a British classic made by craftsman from the finest materials. Once ‘broken in’, it’ll be a comfortable companion whether you’re out on a club run, touring Europe or just pottering around town.”

“Many years ago I went to interview Ms Olga Berluti at her shop on the Rue de Sèvres. She sized me up (and I don't mean with a measuring device) and had me try on a pair of the Andy Loafers (which might have been called Warhols back then). The shoes tipped me forward a bit, taking some pressure off my lower back, and the squared-off tongue was a subtle yet elegant point of difference from a traditional penny loafer.

“The Andy is actually a fairly versatile dress shoe. It would work equally well with a Canali Super 130 suit or a pair of cotton twill trousers from Blue Blue Japan, which look like jeans but feel like chinos.”

“If this isn’t a design classic, I don’t know what is. The original Perfecto leather jacket by Schott NYC, as worn by Mr Marlon Brando in The Wild One, has spawned a million imitators. This one from Alexander McQueen’s diffusion line, McQ, hits that sweet spot between cool minimalism (see: Acne Studios, Balenciaga) and full-on bells and whistles (see: Saint Laurent, Givenchy). Plus, it has a fancy orange lining, which reminds me of another personal favourite, the Alpha Industries MA-1 flight jacket. Want.

“You have to be careful with a Perfecto. Add a white T-shirt, Levi’s 501s and Converse, and, boom, you’re Danny Zuko from Grease. Add drainpipe jeans and a band T-shirt, and you’re the fifth member of The Ramones. Add a leather cap and a moustache, and you don’t want to know what happens. Sidestep these issues with a crisp white shirt and a grey zip-up hoodie.”