Eric Musgrave

“Just ask Eric”

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Harris Tweed coats for one man and his dog

Monday, February 1st, 2016

In search of a new winter coat, I decided it was time for something in Harris Tweed. As it turned out, my dog Jimmy the lurcher got a new coat to match mine too, courtesy of bespoke tailor Timothy Everest and the talented team at his atelier in Elder Street, Spitalfields. IMG_1380

Tim and I have long been mates and I was pleased he wrote the foreword to the second edition of Sharp Suits. Handling the design and cutting for my bespoke jacket was Fred Neiddu, who had created my grey flannel suit when working at Meyer & Mortimer on Sackville Street.

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For this project we devised a hybrid of a jacket and coat, taking elements from a trad country field coat and the bellows pockets from a 1960 combat jacket of mine. One of the joys of bespoke tailoring is creating something unique.

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We were using a bottle green Harris Tweed from the Harris Tweed Hebrides mill as the main cloth, augmented by a lichen-coloured version that would be used for highlights, such as the under collar and the underflaps and vents of the bellows pockets. I had visited the mill in 2012, so I was particularly pleased get some of the excellent cloth at long last, courtesy of creative director Mark Hogarth.

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It is hard to exaggerate just how much work goes on in a bespoke jacket that is not seen in the finished item, but a lot of it was on show at the first fitting stage.

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Tim popped in to check on progress. I was very pleased with how this garment developed. Comfortable, practical, really warm and unique. With the yellowy Harris Tweed left over Fred made me a cap. With the rest he was going to make me a vest, but I decided instead that Jimmy the lurcher should have a matching coat. Like mine, Jimmy’s was made by Annika Caswell, expert coat maker at Timothy Everest, who put an amazing amount of love and attention to this unusual order – just look at the quilted lining.

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In town or in country, Jimmy and I make a smart couple, even if I say so myself.

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Tartan trews for eveningwear

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

These tartan trews are my current favourite option for eveningwear.   Tartan trews i

Made-to-measure for me by my pal Grant Mitchell at Cooper & Mackenzie in Dundee, they are cut in what’s known as Formal Argyll Styling. We did all the measurements over email. (Other options from this excellent menswear independent include Standard Waist for more relaxed occasions, Fishtail and Military styles, not to mention tartan breeks for retro-golfers).

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The tartan is a Mitchell Old Colour pattern, in an 11.5oz 100% pure new wool supplied by Strathmore in Forfar. (The cloth merchant has about 400 tartan patterns on offer if you don’t like this one, which is also very close to both the Russell and Galbraith tartans).

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Advised by the knowledgeable and dapper Mr Mitchell, I went for one of his leather belts and an appropriately Caledonian buckle. The made-to-measure trews cost £199, the belt and buckle £25 each.

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I have given the trews several runouts at black-tie events, wearing them with my DB jacket from Gieves & Hawkes. I am pleased to be inspiring the younger generation in the ways of the plaid trousers, as seen here on my former Drapers colleague Luke Todd.

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Sean O’Flynn bespoke dress shirt

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

One garment that caused me problems over recent years is the dress shirt.

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I attend a lot of black-tie events – here I am with Matalan founder John Hargreaves at the Drapers Awards in November 2015 when he received his Lifetime Achievement Award – and I want to look good and feel comfortable. The problem I found was that having a big neck (17.5ins) but having a body that is not so big, I’d end up with a hugely baggy shirt, often with arms that were too long.

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To sort out the issue, I went to see my friend Sean O’Flynn, one of the best-known bespoke shirtmakers in the West End. It was a good decision. We decided on a classic white cotton style with marcella front, collar and cuffs, to be closed with three shirts studs and buttons, and to be worn with cufflinks.

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Sean took the required measurements, including chest, waist, neck, shoulder and arms (length and circumference). It took only a few minutes.

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I have been very pleased with the result. The plain cotton and the finely textured marcella, both from the Albini mills in Italy, are very comfortable to wear. The fit, which is snug but not restrictive, is excellent. The only alteration needed was the addition of an extra button near the waistline to accommodate my middle-aged spread.

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Sean O’Flynn charges about £330 for a dress shirt like this, which is a serious investment, but one that makes sense to get exactly what you want. And that is the idea of bespoke making.

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Begg of Scotland colourful cashmere scarf

Saturday, January 16th, 2016

The cold snap has given me plenty of opportunity to wear my latest cashmere Wispy scarf from Begg of Scotland.Begg multicoloured ii

The piece includes 10 colours which means the scarf can be worn with a lot of different outfits.

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Here I wear it with a lambswool sweater from Drake’s. The scarf costs around £230.

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David Bowie 1947-2016

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

Lucky are those that got to see the mammoth David Bowie retrospective at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2013. It was an extraordinary walk-through the man’s life and career and a delight for those of us who had long admired his personal style.

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The Ziggy Stardust / Kansai Yamamoto era clothes were not the sort I’d rush to wear, but the one-time jazz saxophonist from Beckenham never lost his love of smart suits, many of which were included in the show.  DSC00249 DSC00259 DSC00251

When in 2008-09 I was writing Sharp Suits, my history of men’s tailoring, I was struggling to find a modern hero of the suit until the penny dropped and I realised that Bowie was the perfect man. From the early 1970s until the end, he wore them well and I included an impressive quintet of his distinctive looks in the book.

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It is odd to think that David Bowie has left us, just three days after his 69th birthday. What a legacy. What a back catalogue. What memories he has given us. And in this last photo, I can reveal that this is the nearest I ever got to the great man – miles away from the stage at the Milton Keynes Bowl for the Serious Moonlight tour in early July 1983. Thanks for everything, David.

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Marc Bolland bows to the inevitable

Friday, January 8th, 2016

Marks & Spencer CEO Marc Bolland hung on for two years longer than I predicted. Interviewed by Jeff Randall on Sky News in July 2013, I asserted that the Dutchman would exit M&S by spring 2014.DSC02013

By then he had overseen eight consecutive seasons of decline in fashion sales. Since then there have been another seven quarters of decline and only one that showed a tiny increase. DSC02012

His successor Steve Rowe, an M&S lifer of 25 years, has his work cut out. Good luck to him.

(PS Apologies for the poor quality of the clip).

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Made-in-UK shoes by Swift and Co

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

Richard Swift is a man on a mission to bring footwear manufacturing back to Burnley in east Lancashire. His Swift & Co brand is using new technology to produce shoes that combine classic looks with the high level of comfort usually associated with trainers. The video on his site tells the story very  well.

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I met Richard – a third-generation shoe man – at the annual awards ceremony for the trade charity Footwear Friends, at which he picked up two prizes, one for innovation and one for export potential.

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The main difference in the construction is the sole and footbed, which combines a EVA sole with a natural rubber footbed. There is no inner sole in the classic sense. The result is a lightweight, supportive and very comfortable base. The production methods are novel, with no nasty glues involved.DSC02011

Due to the almost constant rain since Richard Swift sent me this trial pair of “Lancaster” boots just before Christmas, I have worn them only once. The lightness of the boots and the softness underfoot takes some getting used to, but I like the effect. The suede boots retail for about £165; the leather options will be slightly more expensive.

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With pleasing branding and its commitment to new technology, Swift & Co is a very interesting addition to the list of Made-in-UK producers. I wish Richard and his colleagues well.

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The Westbury oxford from Foster and Son

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

I do like classic English formal shoes, so I was pleased to add to my collection a pair of Westbury oxfords from Foster & Son at 83 Jermyn Street.

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Made in Northamptonshire, this classic punch cap oxford is an updated version of a style that Foster has been selling since the 1960s.

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I went for an 81/2 in a F fitting but next time I will try a slightly wider last as I find this just a tad tight after a long day’s wearing. Rest assured I don’t wear the black antique calf with a brown suit, as my photos may suggest. I just happened to be wearing it when I picked up the shoes, which cost £475.DSC03337

 

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For Him on the goggle box

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

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My appearance on ITV2’s programme FHM: The Last of the Lads’ Mags on January 4 went to form. One hour of filmed interview was reduced to about 20 seconds on screen.

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At least I was able to explain that in its early days as For Him (the first seasonal issue appeared in spring 1985) it was decidely a style mag – hence our opening feature was about building a classic wardrobe.  DSC02004

Back then, the team would have approved of the Magee 1866 linen suit and John Smedley polo shirt I wore for my appearance. Coincidentally, both brands were advertisers in those early issues 30 years ago.

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The production company Hungry Bear Media also got my credit slightly wrong. As stated on screen, I was editor of For Him in 1985-1986 , during which time I edited the first three issues (Spring Summer 85, Autumn Winter 85, Spring Summer 86) but I also returned to edit the six bi-monthly issues published in 1990.

The first of those issues was the one featuring Phil Collins on the cover. This image was heavily criticised on the prog – agreed, he is no matinee idol – but the edition sold well. But sadly we didn’t get near the 150 million albums that the drummer has flogged around the world in his career.

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For Him on ITV2 tonight

Monday, January 4th, 2016

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On ITV2 at 9pm tonight (January 4 2016) a documentary, FHM: The Last of the Lads’ Mags, will follow the production of the last issue of the magazine which started life in spring 1985 as For Him, with me as the editor.

I did these first three issues, then returned to edit the six issues of 1990. See here and here for my earlier posts on For Him. Launched as a sophisticated style mag, it flourished as a raucous lads’ mag once Emap acquired it in the early 1990s from founder Chris Astridge.

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