Tailoring for travelling: tough, comfortable, plain
In our recent articles on menswear destinations in Rome, a couple of readers asked about the outfit I was wearing for beating around the hot city.
The individual pieces should be pretty familiar:
- cotton double-breasted jacket from Ferdinando Caraceni in Milan
- high-twist trousers in the Ascot two-ply wool from Drapers
- unlined Belgravias from Edward Green, in dark-brown (mink) suede
The reason they were chosen, however, is to do with travel and work - working travel.
All of the clothes had to be able to put up with a good amount of abuse. They were sat in while flying, they were worn two days out of four, and they received neither a press, a steam or even a brush along the way.
The cotton jacket is particularly good in this regard. A vintage cloth that Nicoletta at Ferdinando Caraceni picked out from their archive, it is a little coarse, densely woven and tough.
It doesn’t rumple in the way a lighter weight cotton would do, nor wrinkle like linen. It’s strong enough that you can wear it every day, and use the pockets perhaps a hundred times a day, to retrieve pen, wallet, phone, again and again.
Dense cotton is not as cool as lightweight linen or wool/silk/linen, but neither would be this tough. I choose it for a working trip like this because it’s reliable, and I never have to think about it.
The jacket’s other advantage is that it’s clearly smart, but not business-y. And while it clearly has some style, it’s fairly plain - the kind of thing people are unlikely to notice at the expense of you or your questions.
Plain clothes are also easier to add items to - a tie, a handkerchief, a knit - when circumstances dictate.
High-twist trousers are a bit of a no-brainer. They’re the best material for retaining shape, and for dealing with a similar kind of abuse to the jacket.
Ideally though, these would be the Drapers four-ply rather than two. The slightly heavier weight wouldn’t matter in terms of coolness, and I’m a little scared of wearing this pair through eventually, even though they’re hard-wearing. I just wear them that much.
Perhaps I should have a pair made in the four ply. These ones were made the lovely Nicola Cornacchia and family, and they are nicely fitted. But the make could be a bit better and I’d prefer a slightly higher rise too.
One to think about in February or March next year perhaps, for spring and summer.
The shoes aren’t especially tough, really. Suede is a little delicate (except when it comes to rain) and these don’t have rubber soles or even a double leather sole.
But the most important thing in a travel shoe is probably comfort. There’s nothing worse than being in pain when you’re trying to walk around city, inevitably a little late for the appointment, inevitably a little lost.
And unless trainers are an option, your feet are always going to get tired. It’s pain, blisters and so on, that are the killer - especially when it’s hot and your feet swell.
It’s actually surprising these Belgravias are so much more comfortable than the lined version.
After all, there’s still a lining around the heel, under the toe, and around the topline. The latter is required on the Belgravia (unlike, for example, the Piccadilly) because of its braided leather looping in and out of the shoe. This needs to be covered up.
So the only part of the shoe that’s actually unlined is the lower half of the two sides, from the arch to the joints. This clearly makes a difference, but there are other little differences, such as a lighter sole, which perhaps make as much difference as the fact they’re ‘unlined’.
I should also say a quick word about the socks, as I seem to wear only two colours of long sock these days, ever.
They are the dark-taupe cotton model from Anderson & Sheppard (pictured) and the normal taupe.
They’re very well-made socks of course. Fine mercerised cotton, hand linked, stay up well: luxury pieces suited to bespoke tailoring. You can get the same from Bresciani, Mazarin or Pantherella.
The thing that separates these is the colours. The fact they’re both described as taupe could seem limiting, but actually the dark taupe goes well with pretty much every dark trouser: charcoal, grey, navy, dark brown. And the taupe goes with almost every light one: beige, khaki, olive, white, cream.
They’re harmonious, but they also don’t match, so they also provide some (subtle) interest.
On the subject of white or cream trousers, I used to wear them with a very similar sock, but in retrospect that was too stark. Something like taupe or beige is better, even if it theoretically lengthens the leg less.
So, versatility of taupe socks. A small thing, but I guess worth highlighting if you’re the kind of person that doesn’t need more than a couple of pairs of really fine socks.
I feel like there must be more of those today. People that still love tailoring, but realistically only wear it a couple of days a week.
In terms of travel, the advantage of those versatile taupes is that they can easily cover more than one pair of trousers. Just in case you change what you’re going to wear one day, or get a hole in one (in a bad way).
Photography: Milad Abedi
P.S. Yes, all but one of the cuff buttons are undone in the third image. But no, I still don't generally advocate wearing jackets like this. I had merely undone them to show someone the work on the inside of the (unlined) sleeves