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  1. On the Cutting Table

    A great deal of our time over the past few months has been dedicated to morning dress. Customers in their hundreds (if not thousands) have descended upon our little sartorial outpost in Chelsea to dress themselves for Royal Ascot. Evident from the fact that the first of these focus on Bespoke posts in March was about morning dress, our bespoke clients too have been commissioning many morning wear pieces.

    With Ascot now here, our finishers are busy with the fine details of their work: sewing button-holes, hand-stitching lapels, and ensuring every part of the garment is crafted perfectly.One of the more interesting items to come across the cutting table in preparation for Ascot is the waistcoat pictured above.

    The official Ascot dress code states that, in addition to morning dress, overseas visitors may wear traditional national dress, and those serving in the military may wear dress uniforms.

    A tartan waistcoat is a superb blending of Scottish national dress and morning dress, bringing a Caledonian flair to traditional, formal day wear. This one is traditionally cut with a wide wrap and sweeping peak lapels.

    What better way to showcase one’s individual taste than to commission a waistcoat that will stand out in a sea of buffs, greys, blues, and yellows? And what better way to showcase Oliver Brown’s bespoke style than to create a piece that is at once bold, traditional and elegant?

  2. Oliver Brown Style Files: Kristian Ferner Robson

    With Ascot upon us, it is fitting that this month’s style files turn to Oliver Brown’s proprietor, Kristian Robson, to find out more about the personality behind the brand’s style and success.

    1. What is your first fashion memory?
    I remember working in my family’s clothing store at a young age and being strongly influenced by how my uncle worked with customers.

    2. What is the most stylish item you own?
    An Oliver Brown bespoke suit made by our head-tailor Juan Carlos. Perhaps I’m a bit biased, but I think our bespoke clothing is the most stylish available today.

    3. And your most valuable item?
    My father’s silk top hat. Besides the fact that it’s a very fine hat, the sentimental value is enormous.

    4. What is the one look you wish you could pull off?
    A seersucker suit. I wear linen quite a lot in the summer, but I’ve never tried seersucker. Maybe an idea for our summer ’19 collection.

    5. What is the one item that nobody should wear?
    Poorly fitting morning dress. I always, for instance, advise people to wear braces to avoid a gap between trousers and waistcoat. It’s a different style of dress than what we wear day-to-day now, and you have to wear your trousers a bit higher to avoid a gap that shows your shirt.

    6. What are your thoughts on accessories?
    Very important for finishing an outfit. A tie, pocket square, or cufflinks can all be ways to show individual style.

    7. Who would you say is the most stylish man to ever have lived?
    My uncle Christian Robson (not to be confused with me!). He always looked effortlessly stylish.

    8. What is the one item you can’t live without?
    A watch—I don’t particularly collect them, but I’d be lost without one.

    9. What do you like best about your job?
    I never grow tired of selling and working with customers. It’s the most crucial, and for me enjoyable, part of the trade.

    10. How do you feel about the industry?
    It's an exciting time to be a part of the bespoke world.

    11. If you weren’t in a fashion industry, what would you be doing?
    If I weren’t in fashion, I would want to be involved in some aspect of horse racing. I’ve always enjoyed every aspect of the sport.

  3. Focus On: Lightweight Morning Coat with Shawl Collar and Gauntlet Cuff

    Not so many years ago, almost all men wore a jacket (and indeed a hat, but that is a matter for a different blog post) on a daily basis. Clothing, then as now, existed for practical purposes—the staving off of cold, protection against the perils of one’s work, etc.—and as a symbol of wealth or status as with regards to military uniforms or ceremonial attire.

    Many of the details of tailoring today evolved from this spectrum of form versus function. For instance, an apocryphal origin tale for buttons on jacket sleeves is that Lord Nelson had them added in order to keep his midshipmen from wiping their noses on their sleeves. Sleeves could thus be rolled up in order to keep uniforms looking pristine. Decorative cuff buttons became similar to the pips of military rank—indeed uniforms during World War One showed an officers rank on the sleeves—and continue to be used by regiments and clubs to distinguish membership. Whatever the origins, ‘working cuffs’ began very much for that their name suggests as a way to roll up one’s sleeves, literally, without having to remove one’s jacket.

    A cuffed sleeve is a slightly different feature. It has an extra length of fabric folded back over the arm. This was popular in the Edwardian era, as a feature of formalwear (most notable on frock coats as pictured above), but is now rarely seen, which makes it an especially unique way to add a touch of the unordinary to one’s clothing.

    Shawl collars differ from peak or notch lapels by having an uninterrupted, rounded line from down the shape of the lapel. This type of collar was first incorporated on smoking jackets that evolved from the 17th century robe de chambre, or dressing gown. As goods from the Far East began to flow into Europe via the great seventeenth-century trade route known as the Silk Road, spices, tobacco, coffee, and silk became highly-coveted possessions of the wealthy and powerful. Long, silk damasque gowns were worn as an outward sign of one’s status, or as recorded by Samuel Pepy’s in his diary, they were hired to give the illusion of status. By the nineteenth-century, these robes evolved to a short-fitting jacket, worn over evening clothes as a form of protection from falling ash from cigars, earning the name ‘smoking jackets’.

    The illustrious Dennis Price is pictured here from the film Kind Hearts and Coronets wearing a smoking jacket with a wide, quilted shawl collar. Owing to its relation to a dressing gown, this type of collar was initially viewed as less formal than a peak lapel (used on tailcoats and frock coats) or notch lapels (used on sporting jackets and tweeds). However, today this type of collar is equally as popular as its counterparts and is employed on many types of garments.

    Oliver Brown’s coordinating grey morning suit is an attractive alternative to the black morning coat, which can similarly be worn to race meetings, and formal weddings and funerals. Classically cut, the morning coat is crafted from pure wool worsted and finished with four button working cuffs. Designed with the customary addition of a secret tailcoat pocket, and available in short, regular and long fittings. Originally made for notable customer Mr Beresford, the shawl collar and gauntlet cuff has been incorporated into the style of the spring and summer 2018 Morningwear collection.

  4. Stable Talk: Behind the Scenes at Herridge and Everleigh Racing Stables

    Horse racing has occurred in Britain since Roman times. While the components of the sport have varied (obstacles, particular breeds, and distances have been added or altered), the main premise remains the same: that of judging the fastest horse and most skilled riders together in competition. In 1750, the formation of The Jockey Club by a group of gentleman who shared a passion for horse racing formalised the now internationally renowned Rules of Racing. The ‘sport of Kings’ is firmly a part of the English sporting and social calendar to this day. Owners, breeders, trainers, jockeys, and the horses themselves achieve, from time-to-time, legendary status, and indeed, all thoroughbred horses today can trace their foundation back to English sires of the 17th/18th centuries.

    Those who do not normally take an interest in horse racing emerge to watch the thunderous displays at Britain’s most addicting events of the sporting calendar: Cheltenham, The Epsom Derby, The Grand National, and of course, Royal Ascot. However, for some small part of the country, horse racing is a daily part of life. The trainers who coach the horse and jockeys toil daily to provide the first-class displays we watch at meets around the world. At Herridge and Everleigh stables, in a quiet part of Wiltshire, Richard Hannon and his team are no exception.

    The Hannons have been based there since 1968, and Richard Hannon is a third-generation trainer with a sterling, and prize-winning, pedigree. With over one hundred and fifty horses to be exercised every morning, dozens of entries to be made, owners to be contacted, jockeys to book, visitors to be entertained, horses to be saddled at the races and around seventy five staff, the training groups operate at a constant gallop.

    With the most prestigious week of horse racing in the world nearly upon us, the stables are as lively as ever. Last year, ‘Barney Roy’ won the St James’s Palace Stakes over ‘Churchill’, gaining satisfaction on a long-standing rivalry and providing one of the largest wins for Hannon’s career.

    This year Hannon’s first chance at victory comes on day one of the Royal Meeting when ‘Oh This is Us’ will be running in the Queen Anne Stakes. With a total of seven wins in 25 runs over the course of two years, this 5-year-old charger is a assured start to this trainer’s entries at this year’s Ascot.

    At Oliver Brown, we will certainly be watching with bated breath to see if ‘Oh This is Us’ is a winner.

  5. The Gentlemen’s Etiquette Guide to the Royal Enclosure by Oliver Brown

    Since its beginnings during the reign of Queen Anne in 1711, Royal Ascot has remained one of the world’s most prestigious events in the racing calendar. Oliver Brown are delighted to be appointed, for the second consecutive year, an Official Licensee.

    Beau Brummel, the nineteenth-century style icon, first dictated a dress code for the Royal Enclosure, when he stated that ‘men of style should always be simply but elegantly dressed’. Although fashions have come and gone in the nearly two-hundred years hence, the foundations of the dress code remain the same.

    With Royal Ascot just around the corner, it is our pleasure to impart our definitive etiquette advice and gentleman’s sartorial dos and don’ts, courtesy of Oliver Brown’s proprietor Kristian Ferner Robson.

    DO…

    • Wear black or grey morning dress.
    • Wear a single or double breasted waistcoat. When wearing a single breasted waistcoat, ensure the bottom button is left undone. When wearing a double breasted waistcoat, you can button all the way up.
    • Show ¾ inch of cuff.
    • Ensure your jacket tail is ½ an inch above the back of the knee.
    • Wear your top hat flat on the head.
    • Wear black shoes. Loafers, lace ups and tassel loafers are acceptable.
    • Wear braces so your trousers are above your hips, buttons or clips are fine to use however buttons are preferable.
    • Try different colours however remember, if you have a brighter tie or pocket square, then you should keep your waistcoat subtle and vice versa.
    • Gentlemen may remove top hats within a restaurant, a private box, a private club or that facility’s terrace, balcony or garden.
    • Tie a Windsor knot in your silk tie.
    • Your waistcoat should be flush or below the top of your trousers – you shouldn’t be able to see your shirt untucked.

    DON’T…

    • Wear a customised top hat (with, for example, coloured ribbons or bands) – these are NOT permitted in the Royal Enclosure.
    • Wear your top hat tilted.
    • Place your top hat on its crown when taken off.
    • Wear shoes without socks.
    • Wear a cravat.
    • Wear sunglasses.
    • Reshape or stretch your top hat.
    • Remove your jacket within the Royal Enclosure.
    • Have a gap between waistcoat and trousers.
    • Wear brown shoes.
    • Wear a wing collar shirt.
  6. 5 Things to do in June

    1. Glyndebourne—Performances now until August:

    There’s a lot to enjoy at Glyndebourne, Britian’s greatest outdoor classical music festival, so don’t forget to leave yourself enough time to see it all. The gardens open two hours before the start of the performance giving you ample opportunity to see everything on offer, including one of the most beautiful landscapes in Britain and 12 acres of gardens.

    The stage at Glyndebourne extends far beyond the opera house. You’re welcome to bring your own picnic, which, along with the innovative and striking art and exhibitions, is all part and parcel of a Festival visit. This year you can enjoy Erté at Glyndebourne – an exhibition in the Archive Gallery of influential Art Deco artist Erté’s original costumes and set designs from the 1980 production of Der Rosenkavalier.

    2. Trooping the Colour—Saturday 9 June:

    The custom of Trooping the Colour dates back to the time of Charles II in the 17th. Century when the Colours of a regiment were used as a rallying point in battle and were therefore trooped in front of the soldiers every day to make sure that every man could recognise those of his own regiment. The first traceable mention of The Sovereign's Birthday being 'kept' by the Grenadier Guards is in 1748 and again, after George III became King in 1760, it was ordered that parades should mark the King's Birthday. From the accession of George IV, this became an annual event.

    This impressive display of pageantry is now held on the occasion of the Queen's Official Birthday. It takes place in June each year to celebrate the official Birthday of the Sovereign and is carried out by her personal troops, the Household Division, on Horse Guards Parade, with the Queen herself attending and taking the salute.

    3. Open Garden Squares weekend—9th-10th June:

    For one very special weekend this June, over 200 green spaces – many usually closed to the public – will open their gates for public enjoyment and discovery. With the purchase of a Weekend ticket, you can explore London's urban gardens, and enjoy a host of activities and experiences for all the family.

    For more information on gardens open near you, have a look at the organisation’s website here.

    4. Taste of London—13th-17th June:

    Discover a tantalising selection of London’s top restaurants at the Taste of London festival in Regent’s Park.

    For five summer days every year, the park in central London is transformed into a foodie wonderland as 40 of London's best restaurants gather to show off the hottest dishes from their extensive menus.

    Plus, watch live cooking demonstrations, meet some of the capital’s leading chefs, participate in masterclasses and shop at more than 200 food and drink stalls.

    5. Royal Ascot—19th-23rd June:

    The Royal Meeting’s spectacular heritage, unlike any other and hardly needing an introduction at Oliver Brown, has made the event anticipated and revered the world over. From the arrival of the Royal Procession at 2pm sharp to the communal singing around the Bandstand, with six top-class races between, each of the five days is unforgettable. A choice of four enclosures each with an individual character or numerous hospitality packages allow you to curate your own truly special occasion.

    For further information please visit the official website, and shop our Royal Ascot collection here.

  7. How We're Supporting the Injured Jockeys Fund Ahead of Royal Ascot

    We are delighted to announce that we will be donating 5% of profits from the sale of all accessories from our Royal Ascot Collection to the Injured Jockeys Fund. This initiative has been launched to support the lives of injured jockeys and their families.

    Proprietor Kristian Ferner Robson designed the collection, which includes British-made woven silk braces and pure silk ties in collaboration with Royal Ascot to encapsulate the unique charm and sartorial elegance of the world’s most prestigious race meeting.

    Kristian Ferner Robson said of the initiative; “Oliver Brown is privileged to be supporting the Injured Jockeys Fund, to help raise funds for this deserved charity which provides invaluable support to those at the heart of the racing world.”

    Juliet Slot, Chief Commercial Officer, Ascot Racecourse said of the initiative; “We proudly support the valuable work of the Injured Jockeys Fund, both at Ascot Racedays and for the duration of Royal Ascot. In 2017 we raised more than £20,000 through initiatives such as donating £1 from every Fine Dining cover sold and inviting IJF tipsters to entertain and educate racegoers during their day at the races. Oliver Brown’s initiative to further raise funds and awareness complements our own work with the IJF and we whole-heartedly support the campaign.”

    The Injured Jockeys Fund’s Paul Taplin said of the initiative; “The ‘Injured Jockeys Fund’ is delighted that Oliver Brown and Royal Ascot have chosen to donate and kindly support us in this new, innovative way. Oliver Brown and Royal Ascot are synonymous with fashion and style, setting the tone for British racing”

    The collection will be on sale online, in our flagship store located at 75 Lower Sloane Street, London, as well as at Ascot Racecourse within the Ascot Shops located in the Royal Enclosure and Queen Anne Enclosure for all five days of Royal Ascot, and within the Cedar Tree and Parade Ring Shops for the remainder of the Flat season.

    The initiative will launch 1st June 2018 and run throughout the summer flat racing season until 31st August 2018.

  8. Shop Stories: Ascot Window and the Chelsea Flower Show

    While walking down Lower Sloane Street this week, I have been reminded of Sebastian Flytes’s supplication in Brideshead Revisited when he said ‘if it could only be like this always—always summer’. There is a changed atmosphere in Chelsea as hordes of horticulturalists and tourists flock to the Royal Hospital to witness dazzling and creative displays of floral abundance, and the weather has responded as well. Golden rays of sunlight have been dancing on the storefronts that are decorated in communion with the Flower Show, and revellers have donned their Panama hats and linens without a care for that old rule of ‘no brown in town’ or recognition that we are in London, not the French Riviera. One might easily imagine that all of the boat race parties and garden parties and picnics of the summer have been rolled into one festival, and we at Oliver Brown, do not ever wish for it to end.

    The languid mood of summer may have infected our moods with a desire to be outside whiling away the hours, but we have not allowed ourselves to be distracted from the roaring trade happening within-doors as we count down the days to Royal Ascot. Our shelves are radiant with the offerings of our Spring and Summer collection: old favourites such as linen suits, daringly-coloured cotton trousers, an entire room dedicated to morning wear; new products such as linen gilets, unlined cashmere-cotton jackets, and fine silk ties; and, as ever, the world’s largest collection of antique silk top hats.

    Our front windows reflect the mood of the Royal Borough. A waterfall of antique hat boxes and silk hats are studded with flowers and other morning dress accessories. Crowning this display is our temporary mascot whom we’ve nicknamed ‘Eclipse’ after the historic racehorse who is famed for being in the pedigree of most modern thoroughbreds. ‘Eclipse first, and the rest nowhere’, the saying went.

    Well, we like to imagine much the same here. As the leading supplier of morning wear and top hats to the attendees of the Royal Enclosure, these weeks of May and June are as thrilling as that description of Opening Day in My Fair Lady: ‘pulses rushing, faces flushing, heartbeats speed up…’. We’ll no doubt be ready for a bit of summer respite once the final hoof-falls have sounded, but for now—we’ll ‘maintain an exhausting pace’, springing forward, enjoying every moment of the race.

  9. Father’s Day: Favourite Picks From a Gentleman Blogger

    St Joseph, Nutritor Domini, is celebrated on 19 March for being the ‘putative’ father of Christ. Since the 14th century, this feast day has expanded its reach to the celebration of fatherhood in general. Indeed, many catholic countries continue to celebrate the Festa del Papà on this date, but like many things, this changed in England with King Henry VIII. Nowadays, we celebrate our Paters, those who remain with us and those who have gone before, on the third Sunday in June.

    It is all too easy to let this holiday slip by with only the customary tie or pair of socks offered up as a dedication to our fathers, but why not make this year that little bit more special? Below are five recommendations from the Oliver Brown range certain to show Dad that he’s appreciated:

    Boxer Shorts

    Enjoy the comfort of our new Spring Summer ’18 range of boxer shorts, an example shown here in a playful penguin design. Made from 100% cotton, and at only £22.50, these are the perfect choice for flexible comfort. All our boxer shorts are made using the same quality cotton fabric that we use to make our shirts.

    View our full range here: https://www.oliverbrown.org.uk/mens/boxer-shorts

    Cufflinks

    Saddle up for Royal Ascot, the Grand National, or a day at Aintree with these beautiful blue and brown, hand-enamelled horse and jockey cufflinks. For horse owners, race goers, and gambling enthusiasts, these sporty, sterling silver cufflinks are the perfect gift.

    Horse and jockey cufflinks £260. View our full range of cufflinks here: https://www.oliverbrown.org.uk/accessories/mens-accessories/cufflinks-and-collars

    Books

    Whatever your chosen quarry, in Between the Coverts you will find a host of unusual facts and observations as well as a few surprises along the way. The author’s sound advice also covers topics including choosing your gun and cartridges, how best to look after your equipment, basic etiquette if you are a guest, hints for safe shooting, and even suggestions for storing game.

    View our full range of books here: https://www.oliverbrown.org.uk/accessories/shooting-and-hunting/books-and-cards

    Washbags

    Crafted from fully lined durable suede leather with trimmings in dark brown Italian leather, this washbag is made to travel the world. And it should, because the leather details will develop a richer patina the more you use it.

    View our full range of washbags (and other luggage) here: https://www.oliverbrown.org.uk/accessories/mens-accessories/luggage

    Giftcards

    Oliver Brown Gentleman's Outfitters

    Suitable for any occasion, a gift card can be used for any item or service in-store. Provide the unique and luxurious experience of a bespoke shirt, starting at £ 200. Oliver Brown bespoke shirts adhere to the time-honoured Jermyn Street methods. Hand-cut in London by our experienced seamstresses, your shirt will be sewn with 18 stitches per inch for durability and finished with cross-stitched mother of pearl buttons. Choose from our array of cloths in different weights, textures and patterns from the world’s foremost mills, including the finest Sea Island and Egyptian cottons. Our in-house tailor will guide you through cloth selection, together with the design of the fit, collar and cuffs.

    Gift vouchers available here: https://www.oliverbrown.org.uk/gift-vouchers

  10. Top Hat Top Tips: Ensure You Are Race Day Ready

    Top hats came into fashion for the well-to-do in the late 18th century. They were first made of beaver fur, but later when silk plush, sometimes called hatter’s plush, was developed, this lighter, shimmering cloth took pride of place in the world of millinery. Although new plush has not been produced since the 1960s, top hats are very much in demand for Ascot, garden parties, and weddings.

    So to prepare you for the social season ahead, we’ve compiled the following list of top tips for wearing a top hat:

    Top hats should be worn flat from back to front, which means pulling the brim lower over the forehead than one might be accustomed to wearing other hats. Normally, they should also be straight side-to-side, but for the rakes out there can be at a jaunty angle (angle calculated with a positive correlation to race winnings and bottles of pop consumed). Exempli gratia:

    While ladies are allowed to wear hats indoors, a gentleman should always remove his hat. When hats were more common, other rules of etiquette applied: a gentleman should remove his hat when greeting a lady, etc. However, these rules are no longer compulsory.

    When you are able to remove your hat, remember not to place it on its crown (the top of the hat). Antique top hats are surprisingly robust, but if the silk wears away, it cannot be replaced. The edges of the crown are most vulnerable for wear.

    Most importantly, look after your hat. Most antique hats have already lasted generations and have probably had multiple owners. With proper care, they will be treasured heirlooms for many years to come. We have a full explanation of how to care for your hat here.

    If you have any questions about how to choose a hat, etiquette, care, refurbishment, or are interested in purchasing a hat for, please feel contact us at Oliver Brown or stop by our Lower Sloane Street shop.

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