Author Archives: Tom James

Tom and Thomas:

A Marriage made in Heaven… or was it somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic?

Either way, Tom James Shirt Making and Thomas Mason Shirt Fabrics are a perfect marriage. World class shirting fabric from the Albini mill in Bergamo, Italy under the Thomas Mason label (England’s most venerable group of mills) made into beautiful shirts by the shirt making artisans of Tom James in the USA, under our exclusive Holland & Sherry 1838 and Bespoke labels, resulting in the most prized and appreciated shirts that you will ever wear. And as you can see from the images below, they present the perfect opportunity to introduce some fresh color into your look this season.

In addition to the new Thomas Mason collection, our entire Holland & Sherry collection is imbued with a British Sensibility. I suggest that you dress up these sophisticated, elegant, and distinguished patterns with a mix of spread collars, French cuffs or two-button cuffs, and no pocket on the front if you can live without it. With or without an appropriate necktie, a few of these shirts will raise your game and command attention!

Click here for the History of Thomas Mason

British-milled Fabric meets Made-in-the-USA Shirt Making = Holland & Sherry 1838 and Holland & Sherry Bespoke, the new Benchmark for the World’s Finest shirts.

Tom James offices just received a new bunch of these fabrics. Get your order in now to energize your look for the coming Spring!

Sartorial Regards,

New Year, New Look? (Part 1)

Ten Sure Ways to Successfully Mix Up your Look

Aaron W. writes: It’s a new year and I’m looking to really change up my look. You know, take it to the next level, as they say. Any thoughts on a few simple ways to get it done without having to re-do my closet?

TomTalks: It may come as no surprise, but I live to answer questions like that. What could be more fun than figuring out a new way to mix up or punch up your style? In this regard, I like to keep things simple and direct. During the month of January I’m going to give you 10 great ways to mix up your look this Spring.
Here are the first three to get you started:

Add a Ticket Pocket to your Jackets

While this trend has been gaining steam over the past few seasons, the ticket or “cash” pocket likely originated in British equestrian and hunting circles so that riders and hunters wouldn’t have to unbutton to access money to pay the toll or tip the gatekeepers while on the hunt. Some would suggest that this additional pocket is a sporting detail and makes the garment less formal than it would be otherwise. Whether or not you will ever actually use it is really not the point. While some designers have been adding them to ready-made suits, the ticket pocket remains mostly a custom detail that adds a modern, distinguished, British accent to any tailored jacket.

Practically, the ticket pocket is good design for the tall man (especially the tall and thin man) for whom the more details the better. Forgetting what I just said earlier about its dubious potential usefulness, I recommend stashing within a small stack of business cards and maybe an extra twenty or a C-note in each one. You never know when you may need to reach in there for it to save the day. Why not have one added to your next custom suit or sport coat?

Go West Young Man!

You’ve been wearing flat front pants for several seasons now. With American/USA Heritage styles continuing to drive fashion, consider evolving your look with the same cut and fit, but a change of pockets. Western pockets make a rugged, old west statement while maintaining a clean, trim look. The western pocket is just one of many available trouser options.

See more great looks in our Custom Gallery.

Stripes are Strong!

Whether a bold contrast or a more subtle complement, striped ties are substantial and trusted.

Note: Striped ties show best on shirts of solid color or muted pattern.

See a full range of fresh tie options.

There you go. Three quick ideas and more to come.

What’s one way that you are mixing up your look this season?

Sartorial Regards,

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Proper Fashion Etiquette for a Formal Event

The rules of fashion etiquette are clear for formal events. Certain terms and events require a certain protocol.

First, some general rules to go by:

  1. Unless you are in a wedding in the USA, it is considered to be in poor taste to wear formal attire before evening, roughly 6 pm. The UK and other regions have their own set of rules for this situation.
  2. If you are wearing a waist coat (vest), the bottom button should be left unbuttoned unless you are wearing it for a white tie event.
  3. You may wear a cummerbund and bow tie or a waist coat and bow tie or satin cravat (necktie). You may wear braces with either a cummerbund or a waistcoat.

  4. The pleats of a cummerbund are to be worn facing up as they were originally designed to hold opera or theater tickets.
  5. Because a double-breasted dinner jacket should be worn closed at all times, you do not need to wear a cummerbund or waistcoat under it.
  6. If at all possible, wear a bow tie that you tie yourself (as opposed to a pre-tied bow tie).

With at least seven categories of formal dress to consider, we will reserve discussion of the two most formal – White Tie and Morning Dress – for another time. For Semi-formal to Black Tie occasions, the following suggestions apply:

  1. Black Tie – Although this is a very formal event, it is not as formal as that of the white tie. A black tuxedo is required (AKA a dinner jacket or “D.J.” in the UK.) A white wing collar or pointed collar shirt is worn with a black bow tie and black cummerbund or black waist coat. Black studs and cuff links would also be worn. The lapel of the dinner jacket should be peak or shawl.
  2. Black Tie Preferred – means that the host prefers black tie, but a dark colored suit and conservative tie is allowable. (The suit is acceptable, but not preferred.) This is when it is also proper (or at least acceptable) to wear a patterned bow tie/cummerbund or patterned bow tie and waist coat. This is a formal event but not as formal as black tie or white tie. You may also consider wearing your White Dinner Jacket provided that you are in a tropical climate, on a cruise, or it is between Memorial Day and Labor Day (Derby Day to Labor Day in the Bluegrass state.) Dinner jackets of other colors and patterns may also be considered. Our recommendation would be that you wear your formal clothing in both the “preferred” and “optional” situations. It shows your respect for the event and your hosts.
  3. Black Tie Optional – Not as strong as “Black Tie Preferred” but the same rules apply.
  4. Black Tie Invited – Not as formal an event as Black Tie Preferred or Black Tie Optional. A dark suit and tie are required or you may choose to wear a tuxedo or white dinner jacket (providing the season and climate are correct.)
  5. Semi- Formal – Historically, this was synonymous with “black tie”. Today this could mean anything from a tuxedo to a dark suit and tie. In a more relaxed setting this could allow for a dressy sport coat with or without a tie depending on local culture or particular setting. If you are unsure of what to wear, it is considered proper to call your host and ask.

Shall we all be “puttin’ on the Ritz” this Winter when the occasion calls for something beyond business as usual? Time to raise our standards, gentlemen.

And in case you need some tips on formal dress, like How to Tie a Bowtie, check out The Virtual Tailor.

Shall We Dress for Dinner?

Formally Speaking: This is no time to relax your Standards

“Shall we dress for dinner?” asked the always stylish and cool Nick Charles (Leading Man in the 1934 Film “The Thin Man”) of his equally charming wife, Nora. In other words, “Shall I wear my tuxedo for dinner tonight, or will the standard suit and tie get the job done?” More often than not, Nora would reply with “Oh, why not?” (Or she just gave Nick ‘the look’ that said in no uncertain terms ‘but of course.’ She probably had a new cocktail dress to break out.)

A common question of a man to his wife for most of the 20th Century, the relative question for today might be (much to the chagrin of modern ‘Nora’) “Should I wear a sport jacket to the restaurant tonight or can I get away without it?” A less frequent but timely question, due to the season, revolves around what to wear when the invitation reads “Black Tie” or “Black Tie Optional.”

Traditionally the response to an invitation reading “Black Tie” was simple. For men it meant a proper dinner jacket and trouser, typically black, of fine worsted wool, with a satin or grosgrain lapel and trouser braid, pleated front shirt with a point or wing collar, black bow tie and cummerbund, and plain toe dress brogue or slip-on shoes, preferably of patent leather.

But as Ray A. Smith recently wrote in The Tux and the Suit Duke It Out, WSJ, October 5, 2011, “With more relaxed dress codes at parties and on the red carpet in recent years, many men have eased into a looser definition of ‘black tie.’ (Beware of ‘looser’ definitions.) The penguin suit with bow tie moved to the back of the closet, and the black suit with straight black tie hit the dance floor.”

While even I, Tom,…, gave in to the trend and have worn a black suit (Duopioni silk, no less) with a regular, albeit dressy, necktie to a formal event during the past few years (Bless me, Father, for I have sinned!), I am happy to report that my shawl collar, mohair blend tuxedo is ready to go and that tuxedo sales are rising sharply this season.

The sartorial tide has turned in favor of the tuxedo and the more classic accoutrements, including a black bow tie that you tie yourself (as if I needed to tell you that). Affirming this trend, entertainers and actors like Brad Pitt and Justin Timberlake, who have tended toward edgier dress in past years for formal occasions, have been spotted wearing classic tuxedos and bow ties this year.

Though the notch lapel dinner jacket dominates the formal offerings at most stores, I prefer the classic panache of a peak lapel or the graceful line of a shawl collar.

Stay tuned for the next post when I elaborate on the ‘Rules’ of formal dress. And in case you need some tips on formal dress, like How to Tie a Bowtie, check out The Virtual Tailor.