In the immortal words of Chas & Dave: “Rabbit bunny yup yup yup/Rabbit bunny jabber yup yup yup.” Yup, it’s Easter, which happens to be one of my favourite times of the year, and not just because my birthday falls within its purview, and therefore the ovoid-shaped chocolate treats come even thicker and faster. It’s also because it’s the time when we throw caution to the (hangover from March) winds and dodge the (April) showers in our seesawing-temperature-spectrum-appropriate spring-into-summer ensembles. This year I’ll be taking the trans-seasonal air in our Windsor blue three-button blazer, which hits the bullseye in more ways than its texture, and I’ll team it with one of our in-every-sense-brilliant white pique cotton polo shirts and a pair of our red selvedge jeans, plus a pair of our Shoe Snob’s snazzy denim/brown calf Wedgwood boots, making me Riviera-ready, whether we’re talking Tenby, St Tropez, or, indeed, the Tropics. Hot and cross? Not me. But I’ll definitely have another bun, thanks.
I recently spoke on a panel at Bermondsey’s always a-la-mode Fashion & Textile Museum (you might recall their definitive Tommy Nutter exhibition, that we were heavily involved in, a few years ago), on How To Wear Trainers. I was alongside Tim Walker, curator of a display on Walsh trainers, and the former NME journalist and youth-subculture authority Paolo Hewitt. Walsh trainers are interesting – they’re a quintessentially British brand who’ve been making trainers since 1961 for fell runners and rugby league players, and whose retro stylings render them highly covetable. While Paolo talked about trainers’ inexorable rise from athletic accessory to style statement, Tim and I discussed the importance of provenance – we both felt that we’re serving a clued-up community who crave time-honoured craft alongside modern individuality, which, along with our respective brand’s back-stories (Walsh working from a factory in Bolton, myself from a once-derelict house in once-unfashionable Spitalfields), help foster that sense of idiosyncratic, and even dogged Britishness. I think it’s particularly relevant at a time when, for young audiences, practically all references are studied – how could they not be, with practically any piece of information available at the press of a carriage-return? – but also, therefore, very informed. And before you ask, yes, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to wear trainers with a suit. As long as it’s the right pair of no-nonsense trainers (Walsh’s Lostock black-on-blacks in nappa leather, for instance) and the right suit (stripes and checks, no; simple, well-cut greys and navys, yes).
People are always asking me about my inspirations. I usually reply, in my most lubricious tone, “Come up and see my mood boards sometime.” Designers are always refracting the things they encounter – a colour combination seen in the street, the cut of a military jacket glimpsed in a history book – through their own magpie sensibilities, and incorporating them into single pieces or themes on which to base a collection. Robert Leach knows a thing or two about this slightly voodoo process – he was a stylist/journalist for the likes of i-D in its early days, and now lectures on fashion at the University of Westminster and central Saint Martins – and he lays a bunch of menswear practitioners’ mind games bare in The Fashion Resource Book: Men. You’ll find out how the likes of Kim Jones (for Louis Vuitton), Nigel Cabourn, and, ahem, my good self come up with our goods, and there are also where-did-they-come-from case studies of now-archetypal garments like the pea coat and biker jacket. It’s all manna for menswear anoraks like myself (though, alas, the anorak is one of the few iconic staples it fails to anatomise).
Ah, grenadine. A loosely-woven silken wonder and probably my favourite thing beginning with “g” and ending with “ine,” gaberdine being that bit rough-and-readier, and gasoline being one of the less endearing Americanisms. We’re celebrating this feted fabric with a new range of ties in the TE shop, in a textured navy knit – woven for us in the foothills of the Italian Dolomites, since you ask - and patterned with polka dots, diamonds, and – as seen in the pic – a spring-appropriate chain of daisies. Teamed with our navy windowpane check jacket and our blue check shirt with contrast collar and cuffs, I think it sets up a rather lively dynamic, and is a timely reminder – in today’s sea of crumpled open collars – that a well-judged tie can really pull an outfit together. What better reason do you need to join the grenadine guards?
It happens to be held at my end of London, a short paddle from Richmond, and the annual Oxford v Cambridge challenge launches The Season, that parade of alfresco jollies stretching through spring and summer. This year’s race is the 160th, making it one of the world’s oldest sporting events; Cambridge currently lead 81-77, with one dead heat (in 1877) and one double sinking (in 1912).
To wear: Blue for the blues, of course. I’d recommend our navy check blazer for a more formal look, or how about our navy check wool bomber jacket – keep it zipped to support Oxford (the dark blues) or flash the iridescent lining to support Cambridge (the light blues).
It’s been a little while coming – 48 years, to be exact – but I think this weekend’s 72nd Goodwood Members Meeting will have been worth the wait. It’s a belated follow-on to the 71 club meetings held at Goodwood in the 50s and 60s for members of the British Automobile Racing Club, and the “re-boot” is being run exclusively for members of the Goodwood Road Racing Club (GRRC) and guests. As ever, Lord March is celebrating English traditions, with the action divided into school-style house rivalries; renowned racers Emanuele Pirro, Jochen Mass, Anthony Reid and Nicolas Minassian are the “house captains,” and there’ll be as many as 30 turbocharged Formula One cars involved, including the Toleman TG184 as driven by Ayrton Senna at Monaco in 1984, and an MP4/2-TAG on loan from McLaren, of the kind Niki Lauda swept to the 1984 F1 title in. The long-tail Le Mans cars of the 70s and 80s and the Group B rally cars of the mid-80s will also be celebrated, and I’ll be wearing my go-faster stripes in a bid to earn extra housepoints away from the track in the tug-of-war and egg-and-spoon races.
Join me at The Fashion and Textile Museum on 3rd April where I’ll be discussing ‘How To Wear Trainers’. I’ll be addressing the increasing importance of authentic values in design, sourcing and production.
Do you remember a mid-80s film called The Shooting Party? A bunch of grandees (James Mason, John Gielgud, Edward Fox) gather on a Hertfordshire estate to blast away at pheasants on the eve of World War 1, blithely unaware that the world’s about to turn upside-down? Well, this new bespoke jacket we’ve created would have looked perfect on Fox’s irascible-but-impeccable Lord Gilbert Hartlip, who’s determined to prove he’s the best shot – it would look perfect with a Beretta 686 Silver Pigeon 1 Deluxe (or similar) tucked into the crook of its elbow. It’s a Caccioppoli 310-gram Scottish green tweed, with what I like to think of as a “moorland mix” of red, orange, blue and brown over-checks. It’s cut in a traditional military service dress style for that ramrod-straight bearing, with large “bellows” pockets (for storing your cartridges and any more petite birds you’ve bagged – the odd wild duck, say), along with a soft blue melton undercollar (to keep the pre-sunrise rime at bay) and a secret hip pocket (ideally situated and proportioned for that hunting necessity, the amply-apportioned hip flask). As Lord Gilbert himself might have said: Yoicks! This one’s un-beater-ble.
The history of how the J.FitzPatrick Footwear range came to be all started with the simplistic yet bold idea of seeing more men across the world wearing better shoes. That is the short version and the long version follows.
Growing up in Seattle, Wa (USA), Justin FitzPatrick was immersed in a culture where lack of pride for one’s footwear was more than evident. As Justin had always been passionate about footwear, even from a young age, seeing this day in and day out affected him. He knew that his city was not the only one that suffered from this and vowed to somehow change the minds of men. Having this bold yet achievable goal, Justin knew that he somehow not only needed to become a voice in the shoe industry but also start his own footwear range that he could thus supply to the men of the world.
Having studied Entrepreneurship with a focus in Marketing at the University of Washington, upon graduation Justin created a 5 year plan to learn everything there was to learn about shoes in order to gain the knowledge that one needs to become an authority on footwear as well as the skill set to create and maintain a successful range of footwear. In those 5 years Justin knew that he needed to understand through and through the retail, manufacturing and design side of the footwear industry. Soon enough he would tackle them, one by one.
After working for 2 years on the shoe floor of Nordstrom’s flagship store in Downtown Seattle, Justin soon found himself an apprenticeship to study shoemaking in Florence, Italy for the late legendary bespoke shoemaker, Mr. Stefano Bemer. With an opportunity of a lifetime ahead of him, Justin quickly cashed out his pension (at 24), took what little savings he had, packed his life up and just moved to Italy where he knew neither the language nor anyone outside of the people that made the apprenticeship happen.
Having spent a year in Italy, Justin learned the art of handmade, bespoke shoemaking as well as the art of artisanal shoe shining (something that would prove beneficial for the future). It was also in Italy that Justin met his bride to be. However, after 1 year and having spent all of his money Justin needed to go back home. He then found himself in a year of back-and-forth between Seattle and Europe doing what he could in order to see his girlfriend as well as continuing his quest to achieve his goals. It was during this year of downtime that Justin decided to start his world-wide read blog, The Shoe Snob and thus become that authority on footwear by sharing all of his knowledge on shoes and by offering his sometimes crass yet very honest opinions on the industry itself.
After having married his girlfriend, Justin soon found himself living in Brighton, UK (one hour south of London). Still hungry to learn before truly attempting his shoe line, Justin knew that he needed to be around someone that could further mentor him. This for him was a no-brainer as he had always admired Gaziano & Girling ever since their launch in 2006. Justin immediately contacted Tony & Dean in the hopes to work for them and further his knowledge. While Tony & Dean were keen to help Justin where they could, the unforeseeable problem became the impossibility of commuting 6 hours, day in and day out without a wage (as his skill set still needed improvement on the making side of things before being paid). Needing to pay his bills, Justin soon realised that he needed to find work and that this arrangement would not work out in realistic terms. But he wanted to stay close to them in order to continue to quench his thirst for knowledge.
A few weeks later Justin was made aware of a position at Gieves & Hawkes, No. 1 Savile Row. It was a position for a military-grade shoe shining expert. Having learnt this trade while learning how to make shoes Justin knew that it was not only something that he could do, but also a way into the world that he needed to be in, in order to start making a name for himself in London. Justin quickly took the position and started his adventure in shoe shining.
Living in Brighton but commuting to London, Justin found himself with 2 hours of down time each day as he was on the train. It was then that he started to knock out shoe designs on plain white paper and with a pencil, in order to build a portfolio/collection of shoes. With no prior abilities in design it took a little while for Justin to get the proportions of a shoe right, but after a bit of practice he slowly but surely got around to designing upwards of 50 models.
Needing to understand more about patterns and lasts, Justin asked his friend Tony Gaziano, whom he greatly admired as one of the best pattern and last makers of the world, for guidance. Tony was kind enough to take Justin under his wing and teach him what he could in a very short period of time. Not only did Tony give Justin immeasurable amounts of invaluable knowledge but he also made Justin a bespoke last from his (Justin’s) own feet that he would later use to base his RTW lasts off of. With this Justin finally felt it time to find a factory that could turn his designs in a reality.
By this time Justin and his wife had not only moved to London but The Shoe Snob Blog and his reputation as an artisanal shoe polisher was gaining momentum, which meant that Justin was now being talked about within the shoe industry. This integral fact led to Justin meeting someone whom would offer to introduce him to a factory that could potentially makes his shoes. Knowing the capabilities of the factory Justin accepted the kind offer to be introduced, went to this factory in Spain and began making the samples to what would be his first collection.
After having spent nearly a year and a half working on this first collection and convincing Gieves & Hawkes to allow him to sell his shoes at their No1 Savile Row location, Justin was finally ready to realise his dreams and launch his first collection of footwear. And thus he did.
After 7 years from the day Justin vowed to launch his own shoe line, his dreams finally came to reality in March 2013 and to this day he continues to strive for the greater goal of seeing more men across the world wearing better shoes whether they are his or someone else’s.
(The J.FitzPatrick Footwear collection can be currently found at Timothy Everest at 32 Elder St. London, E1)