Category Archives: Luxury Living

The best fitting Sweater you will ever wear!

imageWhen I was a college student, a girlfriend of mine, who would later become my fiance, and then not (just think of all the handmade clothing I could be wearing…other than my Oxxford suits of course), knitted me a sweater. Not before or since then has someone made me a sweater. It was a substantial piece of clothing, made from heavy wool yarns with a zipper in the front (which made it a Cardigan.) Designed for genuinely cold weather – a sweater you might wear instead of a winter coat – it got limited use. My mother has the sweater now, which is appropriate since she and my former have remained lifelong friends.

The first “sweaters” were heavy, dark blue pullovers worn before and after athletic contests in the 1890’s in the USA.  Knitwear for the upper body had been around long before that, but not by that name.  Some form of a sweater- type garment can be traced back at least as far as the 15th Century around the English Channel islands of Guernsey and Jersey.  More recently, in the 19th century, the wives of Irish fisherman and sailors began to knit some of the early pullover, cable knit sweaters, aka Fisherman’s sweaters.  The heavy wool yarns they were knit from helped keep the fisherman warm, even when wet, thanks to the dual nature of wool fibers: a hydrophobic exterior (water repellant) and a hygroscopic interior (able to absorb about one third of its own weight in water.)  Later sweater innovations – the Cardigan and the Raglan – are credited to the functional desires of British admiralty.

My favorite sweater this winter has been a dark gray, button-up cardigan, with a mock neck and patch pockets. The sweater is wool, but it has a soft cotton lining so it’s comfortable over either long or short sleeved shirts. It’s my version of a Mr. Rogers sweater, my near constant companion when at home this winter. The fact that a cardigan doesn’t have to be put on and taken off over-my-head is a plus. Not to mention that Sinatra and Hogan both enjoyed the casual elegance of a cardigan from time to time when an extra layer was required.

imageI also enjoy the look and functional ease of a simple zip-mock sweater. A medium gray cashmere version has been my most versatile layer for several years running. I take it everywhere I go this time of year. Relatively fine and lightweight, it is easy to pack and provides just enough warmth when the weather is crisp, but not bitterly cold. The ability to wear it zipped down or up adds to its appeal and comfort.

imageThe V-neck sweaters in my closet also get a lot of play.  I have a purple high-V-neck that works well with several of my Fall/Winter sport jackets.  V-neck sweaters are designed to be worn with a collared shirt, whether that be the turn down collar of a cut-and-sewn dress or sport shirt, or the softer knit collar of a polo shirt. The high-V can be worn with a tie, but they work especially well as a layering piece over a dress or sport shirt and under your favorite sport coats.

Crew neck and Turtleneck (aka Roll neck) are the two other most common pullover styles.  Turtleneck wearing is on the upswing, whether in beefier knits like the ones Hemingway favored, or the finer versions that the Beatnicks, Beatles, and James Coburn as Derek Flint popularized.

A final style to mention is the polo collar sweater.  You would hard pressed to find a more comfortable piece of clothing for the upper body than either a long or short sleeved sweater, knit from either our 85/15 cashmere/silk blend or our 100% Pima cotton.  The polo collar lends itself well as a stand alone piece to be worn as a shirt.   Truth be told, a sweater or, more accurately, a knit shirt, made in any of our available styles with either the cashmere/silk blend or the Pima cotton are light and cool enough to wear all Spring and even Summer in most climates.  The breatheability and performance of both fabrics are sensational.

imageI have found that the sweaters I enjoy the most are those that fit great both in the body and the sleeve length. I’m a relatively standard size, but for a lot of people there is always some compromise with fit: Either the sleeves fit well, but the body of the sweater is too long or too short; or it fits the shoulders but has way too much or not enough room at the waist. For those who struggle with any sort of sweater fit issues, Tom James has an awesome solution for your dilemma: the Custom Sweater.

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The measurements for your custom shirts are the basis for your custom sweater, so the process is very easy. In addition, your preferred front and back body length are measured so that you get precisely the length you need and prefer for your torso.

Not unlike custom clothing and shirts, fit is not the only advantage to having a sweater custom made.  You also get to pick from four different fabrics: 100% cashmere, merino wool, cashmere/silk blend, or Pima cotton.  The cashmere knit is 12 gauge, and all of the others are 16  gauge – the perfect weight and structure for layering.  Ten great colors are offered in each fabric. Even better, you can choose from among seven style options for men and six style options for women.  As this part of our business continues to grow, more options will be made available.

For now though, what better way to add a few simple, elegant, and versatile layering pieces than to have them made to your preferences.  Sure, they cost more than off-the-shelf, but they are the kind of garments that will become like a best friend.  Hard to put a price on that.

Take your style Up a notch with Robert Graham

imageNormal, Status-quo, timid and safe are not words used to describe the clothing and accessories from Robert Graham or the people who wear them.  People who wear clothing and accessories from Robert Graham see themselves as a-cut-above, not a-cut-out.

There are something like 7 billion people in the world today.  It’s easier to get lost in a sea of sameness than it is to stand apart from the crowd.  I recently started working with a guy who is the “middle” of three brothers.  Part of his interest in custom suits, custom jackets, and custom shirts is a much larger selection of cloth and the opportunity to make them more personal…not so much the same as what his brothers are wearing.  In effect, what he said to me was that he loves his brothers, but that they don’t need to show up at meetings and events looking too much like the three musketeers.

Part of the genius of the Robert Graham brand is that it offers a range of expression – the option to turn the volume up just a little, or to crank it up so that the neighbors at the end of the block can hear it too.  You can take just a step away from the ordinary, or you can stand on a platform….so to speak.

The vehicles employed to create space and distance are color and pattern, and the artful combination of the two, along with embellishment, whimsy, fun, and a full dose of eccentricity.  Some of their pieces exhibit a burst of color while many items differentiate with subtle, but colorful detail.  In case you didn’t catch it, the RG brand is not just about being a-cut-above or standing out.  It’s also about having fun, risk taking, and living life to the fullest with no holding back.

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New this season from Robert Graham (RG) is denim.  In keeping with everything else they do, the RG denim is of great quality and styled to fit the lower body like their shirts fit the upper body.  Embellishments on the RG jeans are mostly on the inside.  We also like their cotton chinos, which provide embellishment with a single contrasting belt loop and button hole.


A great new piece this season from RG is their un-constructed, melange knit, cotton blazer.  Something super comfortable and cool to throw on when you want/need another layer for comfort or a more tailored look.  Done in a medium shade of gray, you can wear this blazer with just about anything.


Last but not least is a new piece of outerwear.  Similar in length to a blazer, this jacket is made from a nylon tech fabric and is loaded with functionality.  The moss color exterior is easy to wear and versatile and the rust interior provides that distinguishing difference.

For more details on ways to take your style up a notch or two this season, visit 12 Essentials.


Living Well: A Custom suit made from Merino wool from Cloudy Bay

imageI was reading about wine, while drinking a little wine (as I am prone to do,) and I was reminded about the lingering pleasure found in a mouthful of sauvignon blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand.  More than 60% of the wine produced in New Zealand comes from that region.  Among the many fine producers,  Cloudy Bay Vineyards,  located in Blenheim, about 8 miles from Cloudy Bay, is one of the better known wineries on the island.

Bob Campbell wrote about the 2012 vintage in Gourmet Traveller,  “After all these years, Cloudy Bay has still got it. It’s encouraging to know that the brand is not merely resting on its laurels. Beautifully harmonious sauvignon blanc with a mix imageof grapefruit, gooseberry and capsicum contrasting with riper tropical and tree fruit characters while the acidity and sweetness are perfectly balanced. The net effect is an elegant and moderately complex wine that delivers power with great subtlety.”

Kind of makes you want to take a sip, doesn’t it?  Well, as much as I enjoy the sauvignon blanc varietal, there is more to the region near Cloudy Bay than just beautiful vistas, rows of grapes, and tasting rooms.  There are also rolling pastures that boast lush vegetation, fertile soil, and a temperate climate, making it the ideal habitat for Merino sheep, and the inspiration for a new suit cloth, for a custom suit, that can be encapsulated in a single word: “sublime.”

A custom suit, tailored from one of the more then forty patterns in the exclusive and “sublime” Cloudy Bay Super 140’s Merino wool collection by Holland & Sherry will cost you a pretty penny more than a bottle or even a case of Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc, but rather than drink it up, you can wear it and enjoy it any day of the year for seasons to come.


Merino sheep were first introduced to New Zealand in 1773 by British explorer James Cook.  That venture didn’t work so well, but in 1814, Samuel Marsden re-introduced Merino sheep to New Zealand and from that time forward they have thrived on the islands, producing among the finest of all wool fibers.

The Cloudy Bay region of New Zealand is located in the north east of the South Island, south of the Marlborough sounds.  Named by Captain Cook in 1770, the bay itself connects the Tasman Sea to the South Pacific Ocean.  The Cloudy Bay Collection of cloth is woven in both warp and weft direction by 2 ply yarns and is constructed of a 2/2 twill weave.  It is a full-bodied cloth with bloom and a luxurious, sleek handle.

The color and pattern choices range from classic mid-gray solid to a slate blue alternate stripe, a series of completely amazing shadow stripes and reverse plaids, six colors of birdseye, and plaids with mirrored window panes. Any cloth from the Cloudy Bay collection will form an amazing foundation for a custom suit – your next suit.  How you style a custom suit is up to you.  Yeah, you should see them!

To see and feel the Cloudy Bay collection, or any of the more than 40 other cloth collections offered this season, please contact your local Tom James professional.

Cashmere: Practical Luxury

FullSizeRenderSometime about the middle of October, when I felt the first hint of a chill that Fall weather brings, I reached for a cashmere sweater.  I wear my gray zip mock cashmere sweater the most.  In fact I’m wearing it right now.  It amazes me how good it still looks knowing how often and under what conditions Its been worn.

Mind you, I harbor no ill feelings toward clothing knit from cotton or wool.  I own and enjoy several items of each.  But cashmere.  Well, it’s just a cut above in so many ways.  I could list all of the reasons why, but the cleaning lady in Seinfeld, The Red Dot episode, tells it so well.



OK, so anyone who knows what cashmere is and has ever felt something made from cashmere probably loves cashmere.  Given the option, most would prefer cashmere, including George Costanza from Seinfeld, The Apology episode….

George: “Ho ho ho ho! I can’t wait for Hanke to come crawling back to me.”
Jerry: “Still with the neck hole?”
George: “Still upset. Very upset.”
Elaine: “What neck hole?”
George: “Remember that New Year’s party he threw a few years ago? He had that
very drafty apartment, you know, I think on Ninth Avenue.”
Elaine, becoming bored: “Faster.”
George: “I asked if I could borrow a sweater.”
Jerry: “A cashmere sweater.”
George: “I said preferably cashmere, for warmth. So in front of the whole
party, he says, ‘No. I don’t want you stretching out the neck hole.'”
Elaine: “Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!”
George: “Oh, yeah, sure, laugh it up. Everybody else did!”
Elaine: “Well, it’s funny. I mean, you have a big head. Or is it ’cause of
your neck?”
Jerry: “No, I think the head does most of the stretching.”
George: “Regardless. I had to walk around for the rest of the party in some
cheap Metlife windbreaker. Now, it is payback time.”

19501Cashmere is prized for it’s warmth.   Even a very lightweight cashmere sweater can keep you warm because of it’s unmatched ability to trap air.  But it’s expensive, right?  Yes it is.  And for good reason.   For one, the soft, downy fleece is hand combed each Spring from the Kel goats that live high in the mountains of Inner Mongolia and nearby regions.  So it’s not exactly like picking an apple from your tree in the backyard.  In addition to that, each goat only provides a few ounces of the really fine fibers that live beneath the coarser exterior.  As a result, the annual output from at least three of those goats is required for just one average size cashmere sweater.

But I implore you to look beyond the price tag and consider the long term benefits.  The simple truth is that excellent quality cashmere is surprisingly practical.   Sure cashmere costs more to buy, but it costs less to own and wear.   A quality cashmere knit is relatively more expensive than a similar item made from other fibers, but it will out last cotton by a mile and even a really good wool sweater will lose it’s luster sooner than cashmere.  Like many a fine red wine, when properly cared for, cashmere improves with age for a very long time.  More to the point, cotton and wool, no matter what the quality, will never rival the soft look and feel of cashmere.

HS002  cashmere throws

That fact holds true whether it be a sweater, a jacket or coat, scarf or shawl, or even a throw blanket for the sofa.  Cashmere shawls were so popular among the elite of Europe between 1780 to 1880 that the period was often referred to as “the shawl years.”   For many women a cashmere shawl is immensely practical.  Especially in drafty theaters, when dining outdoors, or when traveling.

Note: Most cashmere knits have labels that suggest dry cleaning when necessary. While a good choice for multi-colored pieces, a better choice in most cases for solid color items is to hand or machine wash in water with a small amount of mild detergent. Then lay flat to dry on a white towel. Do not twist or wring.

I’m getting my mother a cashmere shawl or sweater for Christmas this year.  Maybe both.  She’s always wanted a cashmere sweater and it’s high time she gets it.  Who will you give the gift of cashmere to this year?