Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Article #2 - Behind the brand: Burberry

Introduction: Burberry
Inspired by a totally fascinating and comprehensive look into the history of the pinnacle of a gentleman’s attire – “The perfect suit” – I thought I would research one of England’s finest exports of chic and classic clothing. This article is designed to inform you, succinctly but in plentiful detail, of the origins of Burberry and its mercurial rise to the catwalk of London, Paris and Milan. No matter your preconceptions, or the misguided labels given to the brand, Burberry is one of the finest houses of fashion in the world, designed by the distinguished Christopher Bailey no less.
In recent years, Burberry, with its iconic red, black and camel check, has become a must-have fashion brand. The check itself became a fashion item in the 1960s when it was used on umbrellas, luggage and scarves. Fortunately, it has moved away from an affiliation with football hooligans which, for some people, tarnished its reputation. Yet mere associations do not have the power to entangle themselves in the mind of the designers. Thus, the quality and innovative detailing that are such a hallmark of all designer labels has not depreciated as a result. In supplement to that, those fortunate enough to wear such quality, bear a part of Burberry’s incredible history. The rest of us can start zealously saving in eager anticipation of buying a true timeless item from Burberry, and subsequently, being the subjects of envious eyes from many.
Burberry Look Book
The Burberry Men's Look Book
The History: Burberry
Burberry was founded in 1856 when 21-year-old Thomas Burberry, a former draper’s apprentice, opened his own store in the small town of Basingstoke in Hampshire, England. The company did not make the flying start that one might expect from a name currently worth approximately $1.7billion. By 1870, the business had established itself as one that focused on outdoors attire. Ten years later, within the outerwear collection he assembled and designed, Mr Burberry introduced the gabardine – a hardwearing, water-resistant yet breathable fabric, in which the yarn is waterproofed before weaving. Such a material has been worn by Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Peter Sellers in The Pink Panther. More recently, this distinctive jacket has been worn by the likes of Douglas Booth, in the iconic trench coat style – an in-depth article on the model’s sense of style can be read here.
Burberry was the original name of the company, but that soon switched to Burberrys, after many customers from around the world began calling it Burberrys of London. This is still visible on many older Burberry products. The eminence of the company kept growing, and as it did so, the name began appearing more and more frequently across southern England. In 1891, Burberry opened a shop in the Haymarket. This still exists today and until recently was the site of Burberry’s corporate headquarters.
In 1901, the Burberry Equestrian Knight Logo was developed. The Latin word ‘prorsum’ – meaning forwards - was introduced to the logo. This is how the fashion label came to exist, and is the same Burberry Prorsum found at London Fashion Week and the major fashion weeks across the globe. In later years, Burberry was awarded a Royal Warrant by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and subsequently a second Royal Warrant was granted in 1989 by HRH The Prince of Wales. This seal of royal approval is evidence, if you needed any, that Burberry has a foothold as sturdy as any other fashion label in the world.
  • Burberry White Classic Polo Top
  • Burberry Prorsum Slim Collar Shirt
  • Burberry Brit Finch Quilted Jacket
  • Burberry Brit Unsworth Slim Fit Chinos
  • burberry brit Cotton blazer
  • Burberry London Canbury Leather Aviator Jacket
  • BURBERRY LONDON Ellerby t–shirt
  • BURBERRY PRORSUM Fleck tweed jacket
  • Burberry Black Nylon Buckley Tote Bag
  • Burberry London Kennet Knitted Cashmere Tie
  • Burberry Burberry Classic Watch
  • BURBERRYMen’s Grey Chronograph Watch
Moving onto a different topic somewhat, there has been a lot written recently on FashionBeans about distinguishing your character and personal style by either following trends, or donning more archetypal sartorial elegance. Certainly either approach speaks volumes of your character, but one cannot mock another for choosing the other option. By sticking to timeless pieces, you can save yourself a considerable amount of money in the long run. On the other hand, with this mind-set you are consequently in danger of falling behind the forward-thinking character that typifies the fashion world.
Admittedly, in any walk of life you have to take note of the past to make any sensible decision that affects the future, but that is a debate for another time. For now, take a look at the origins of the most distinguished items of outerwear a gentleman can own; the Trench. I must warn you however that it might have your lust for a Burberry trench coat reach dangerous levels.
The Trench
The history of the iconic trench coat anchors itself in the early twentieth century. In 1914, Burberry was commissioned by the War Office to adapt its officer’s coat so as to accommodate the equipment of the infantry soldier. Many of today’s contemporary trench coats still retain key features of the design created for the soldiers in conflict. These include the epaulettes, storms flap on one shoulder, belt cuffs and ‘D rings’ on the belt for attaching equipment. Trench coats then became regulation dress during WWI.
After the war, the innate sense of style we Brits are born with made us realise the brilliant originality of the trench, andhow its practicality combines with style to an unrivalled extent. The iconic Burberry check that is synonymous with the label was created in the 1920s; it was used as a lining in its trench coats, a feature that is still present in the modern-day trench. As a result of such flourishing success and demand for the trench coat, Burberry announced last year that it was to launch a custom trench service in 2011 – featuring over 12 million options for customers who want to own a true one off piece that no-one else would have. To find out more visit the official website:
Now it may seem bizarre to be writing about a jacket designed primarily to be worn in the harsher elements in the winter, yet the summer sales are still going and you can still purchase a classic piece at up to 70% off. Conversely, there are trench coats styles that are created using lightweight materials and have cropped finish, allowing them to be worn all year round, come rain or shine.
That being said, most trench coats are available in neutral colours for the simple reason that it is a timeless garment and should not be subject to the years when red is the new blue (now), or heaven forbid, luminous green is the new red. As a result, it would be sensible to stick to navy, camel, stone, khaki or black so you can continue to wear the trench for many years to come.
  • Burberry Navy Packable Trench Coat
  • Burberry Stone Packable Trench Coat
  • Burberry Black Classic Double Breasted Trench Coat
  • Burberry Brit Britton Showerproof Trench Coat
  • burberry prorsum Classic belted mac
  • BURBERRY LONDON Britton double–breasted trench coat

The Art Of The Trench
The website was launched in 2009, and it is a photo-sharing collage of real people sporting the iconic Burberry trench coat. Art of the Trench has images submitted from professional fashion photographers, street style photographers and the general public themselves; all of which (in a collaboration with Facebook) can upload images, share and ‘like’ their favourites.
It includes a particularly amazing collection of photos from Scott Schuman at The Sartorialist. Burberry describes the site as ‘a living document of the trench coat and the people who wear it’.
Click the screen shot below and take a browse though an eclectic mix of fashion inspiration and history:
The Art Of The Trench Website by Burberry
Shopping Vintage Burberry
Although Burberry is a premium brand, and priced like it, there are alternative ways in which you can get your hands on one of their sought after garments. eBay is a great choice for vintage and second hand pieces (for all brands), and if you get lucky, you can snap up a trench coat at less than a quarter of the current going price. Here are a selection of Burberry trenches on sale right now:
  • BURBERRY Vtg Belted Trench Coat/Rain Mac/Jacket
  • BURBERRY men's double-breasted trench coat
  • Mens Classic BURBERRY Trench Coat
  • Burberry Prorsum BN Double Breasted Trench Coat

The Alternatives
It is almost blasphemous including other brands when you mention the history and craftsmanship behind a Burberry trench, but we have to cater to all budgets and the trench coat is such a classic piece that everyone reading this should own one. Here are some current models from high-street to mid-priced, all of which would look great in your ever expanding wardrobe.
Note: Remember that as it is a timeless piece, try to invest as much as you can reasonably afford (considering your circumstances), as this is a piece that will never go out of date and will look just as good 10 years from now with a bit of love and care:
  • Khaki Crop DB Belted Mac
  • Grey Cotton Belted 3/4 Trench
Debate on how to wear
I will not be delving too deep into how to wear the trench coat today, as our editor-in-chief will be showing you just that with his upcoming look book documenting the versatility of the item and how it can be successfully worn in both autumn/winter and spring/summer.
Today though I would like you all to consider after purchasing a trench, what are you going to do with the belt? Do you tie it or leave it undone? Leaving it undone exposes the belt to the possibility of being trapped in the tube door, so is tucking the belt into the pockets acceptable? Purists, citing the trench coats military origins, insist on buckling – but should you buckle in front or behind?
Let us know exactly how you prefer to wear your trench in the comments below…
I hope the price of a real Burberry trench coat does not conjure greed, though I would not blame you if such passion caused you to demand a bonus next Monday for the most novel reason. Hopefully though, your desperation has quelled by some much more affordable alternatives on the high street.
Personally, I will continue my quest to acquire an antique from eBay or ASOS Vintage; though I might have to refer a number of people to this article when they read Burberrys on the label.
I hope you enjoyed the look into the background of this classic British fashion house, and you are inspired to obtain a piece of Burberry’s marvellous history.

Monday, 18 July 2011

My article on American Vintage style

Today we are going to take a look at American vintage style, and the influence it still has on many men’s fashion trends and ‘looks’ today. First off, it is important you understand what I am labelling as American vintage. For the purpose of this article we are going to consider it as the style donned by our friends across the pond in the 1950s.
Post World War II, America and the Soviet Union emerged as the two major world superpowers. Though many nations resented America’s influence, they had little power to stop it. At the time, American movies, fashions, and consumer products were traded across the globe; with many embracing them into their lives.
Fashion in the West progressed from the neutral, trim and “proper” dress of the 1940s to the rebellious nature of the 1950s. After the nightmare of the Second World War, many people preferred the safety of conformism; looking and acting like everyone else, so as to feel comfortable in the way they presented themselves. Yet this concept of security eroded as rations and constraints from the war-time era were lifted – resulting in the birth of the teenager generation. Of course, teenagers were in existence before that, this is indisputable, but back then teenagers’ style began to resemble that of their peers instead of their elders.
American Vintage Look Book
American Vintage Look Book
Style Breakdown
A number of factors led to this mirroring of fashion across the pond, some of which I will be discussing in detail a little bit later on. Although we are going to be concentrating on 3 major influences and trends today, there are certain items of clothing, fabrics, and accessories that are the backbone of a wardrobe influenced by this iconic era. The images scattered throughout demonstrate this perfectly, but so it is clear for everyone I will list what I consider to be the key items of 1950s American fashion:
  • Denim (both shirts, jackets and trousers)
  • Boots (cowboy or lace-up)
  • Leather jacket
  • Tailored blazers
  • Impressive hair
Madras (fabric)
Madras may be a fabric many of you have never heard of, but the concept of the material is essential for pulling off the 1950s look. Its origin can be traced back to the Indian city of Madras (now called Chennai), where traditional Indian Madras fabrics were coloured with vegetable dyes. The nature of these dyes caused unstable patterns which would – somewhat intentionally – fade and merge after repeated washes, causing a distinctive and constantly-evolving look as time progressed. As fate would have it, Madras is a lighter material more suitable for the summer months than the vintage corduroys and wools on show in winter. In the 21st century, most Madras is now designed to be colourfast, although it still has the unique patterns, and is a breathable and lightweight fabric – just like its predecessors.
Madras has long had ‘Preppy’ connotations, and is even referenced in S.E. Hinton’s novel, The Outsiders (1965), as being preferred by the rich kids. This is where the connection with America can be made, and it is a material that can still be seen in abundance each year in true American clothing collections such as Ralph Lauren, J. Crew, Abercrombie & Fitch and Banana Republic.
  • Ralph Lauren Bleeker Madras Short
  • Custom-Fit Madras Plaid Shirt
  • Russell Madras Sport Coat
  • J.Crew Morton Madras Cotton Shirt
  • J.Crew Madras Cotton Tie
  • J.Crew Cervantes Madras Plaid Shirt
  • J.Crew Madras Cotton Tie
  • Banana Republic Cotton orange madras plaid short
  • Banana Republic Soft-Wash olive madras shirt
Considering everyone has their own tastes and opinions (and isn’t the world a more vibrant place for it?), today I am going to be breaking down 3 of the key trends/looks that developed from the exporting of American products. Hopefully all of you will be able to take away some inspiration and little touches which will influence your current, modern day looks.
Rock ‘n’ Roll
Thanks to Elvis and the Everly Brothers, the birth of rock ‘n’ roll had some very charismatic people fronting such entertainment, appealing to people across the Globe, never mind just here in England. The dancing that evolved as a result of the music led to a certain style that became synonymous with rock ‘n’ roll, and thereby a hit on streets up and down the country as the music was shipped across the Atlantic.
Dark wash jeans, black lace-up boots (hopefully you will already have this item to accommodate the current military trend), a white t-shirt and a leather jacket was the staple look for every rock ‘n’ roller. Think John Travolta in Grease; he typifies this look. Side tracking just a little bit, the affectionate term ‘Teddy Boy’ was given to those rebellious teenagers that toyed with socially respected clothing (suede crepe shoes) by combining it with wide blazers and huge hair. This was a look that was created by the Brit’s, and for that we can be proud, if only for the rebellious nature of those that were so intent on looking and feeling good.
When we think of the key items in reproducing rock ‘n’ roll inspired outfits, we can see that most of them have become timeless pieces that every male should have in their wardrobe; white tees are a basic staple, dark wash jeans have the ability to adapt to any current or future trends, whilst a leather jacket has become the outerwear of choice for men who want to ‘toughen up’ a look in an instant or create something slightly more edgy. Even black lace boots are dominating most current fashion trends throughout the year these days. The rock ‘n’ roll look is definitely one that can be used for men of all ages as a casual, easy to wear, everyday outfit – which has even be endorsed by the majority of women in Joseph Aaron’s article on what women want.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Look Book
Rock n Roll Inspired Look Book
Perhaps the 2 key aspects of rock ‘n’ roll style that have heavily influenced men’s fashion in 2011 are the blazers and hair cuts. Although the Teddy boys were known more for their overly wide blazers, this smartening up of the traditional rock ‘n’ roll look can be seen on the catwalks, and the streets of major cities worldwide right now. Men’s fashion has steadily become more refined, and the blazer now takes pride of place within wardrobes of males all over the globe. Although the fit has become slimmer, we are seeing a rise in popularity of a modern Teddy Boy look, playing with the smart/casual boundaries on a daily basis. Blazers with tees, blazers with jeans, blazers with trainers and boots have all become the norm and we only need to look back a couple of generations to see how they were juxtaposing edgy rock pieces with more formal attire to create a whole new individual look for themselves.
The popular hair cut for men right now has to be The Quiff and big hair in general. Robert has already broken down the rise of the style for FashionBeans here, but it is not hard to see where this style originated from in the past. Just take a look at the look book above and notice how big hair was seen on everyone from Elvis, to the Teddy Boys and John Travolta in Grease. Elvis in particular influenced a Rockabilly era – one of the earliest forms of rock ‘n’ roll which mixed Rock and Country music together – an era that was defined by their big slicked back hair (coined the Pompadour), edgy rock ‘n’ roll clothing and usually tattoos. Can you see any similarities with today?
The hairstyle itself may have been modified slightly for 2011; softer styling products are being used, a matte finish is the preference, and the back and sides have become shorter and more pronounced – but the essence of true rock ‘n’ roll style is there for all to see. This is the perfect hair cut to pair with your basic white tee and leather jacket combination.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Inspired
  • Scorch Jacket
  • Maison Martin Margiela Leather Biker Jacket
  • Recluse Biker Jacket
  • AAA Cream Knitted Tee-Shirt
  • ASOS Short Sleeve Deep V Neck T-Shirt
  • Remedy Jacket
  • Musket Iggy
  • Black Spray On Skinny Jeans
  • H By Hudson Yorke Leather Strap Suede Boots
  • Dr. Martens Black 1460 Vintage 8 Eyelet Boots
  • Rick Owens Anthem Men's Lace Up Hi-Top Trainers

Ivy League College

What separates the Ivy League College style and more general American dress at the time are only very minor details,but such specifics gave them a more elegant and refined look over their peers. The Ivy League style dominated the American male dress code from 1955 to 1965, and was said to have originated on college campuses (hence its relation to Ivy League schools). Democratic, chic and relaxed, the Ivy look has held such an impact that modern day designers such as Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani and many others, emulate the Ivy style with just a few contemporary tweaks.
In the 1950s, dark hues – blacks, navy blues and charcoal greys – were often the colour of the single breasted, two button Ivy blazers, promoting a simple and understated look. Small fashionable alterations that were less obvious were also evident in the Ivy League blazer. At the time it was the standard that the average American owned blazers with the absence of a vent. However, the Ivy League incorporated a single cut vent into their jackets, which gave them an identity separate from mainstream cultural fashion at the time.
True Ivy League style jackets are generally difficult to get hold of, although if you are lucky you can pick up vintage examples on eBay or opt for a more modernised take through the latest one vent high street collections. The vintage jackets will not be a slim-cut like you will no doubt own at the moment, however you can quite easily take them to a local tailor, in order to create a one off item that is bang up to date in terms of fit.
Some impressive names bore the Ivy look; from the button-down hip of Paul Newman and the sharp suits of Jean Paul Belmondo, to the preppy elegance of the Kennedy brothers (see Paul McGregor’s related JFK inspired style article). A common factor for all of these household names was the faith in the true cool of the Ivy look. By piecing together your existing clothes (an integral part of one’s wardrobe is for it to be flexible and accommodating), and purchasing some vintage class, in this day and age there is no reason why you cannot look just as indie-vidual.
Ivy League Look Book
American Ivy League Look Book
Ivy League Inspired
  • A.P.C. Red Plaid Madras Cotton Shirt
The Cowboy Look

The Cowboy look has always been the epitome of manliness and has a very rugged aesthetic. The key item that cowboys are renowned for is denim; whether that be shirts, trousers or jackets. Denim was perfect material for the manual work cowboys completed on a daily basis, whilst its hard wearing nature endeared itself to the great outdoors. We all know that jeans are an integral part of any successful male wardrobe, so there is no need to emphasise this to the fashionable readership of this site. However, the cowboy look is still very prominent today, and there is inspiration to be taken for our modern day outfits.
Fundamental to any cowboy is the hat and tough leather or suede boots with stirrups. However, neither England’s urban environment nor the moor’s of the north require such specialised accessories. Nevertheless, the high street offers some great alternatives that are far more appropriate for our culture. Boots have become a major player within the footwear market over the past couple of years, and are now considered an essential for most men. You can take inspiration from the cowboys of old by looking for distressed leather and suede varieties. Both add an extra dimension to your typical outdoorsy boots that are popular at the moment – whilst neither will restrict you in terms of your favourite style. You could invest in an amazing Chelsea style boot in a suede ala Ed Westwick below [middle row right], or something much more cowboy like, such as a brown distressed leather version [bottom row right].
The key point is that you don’t have to actually wear cowboy boots in this day and age in order to take inspiration from the era. Picking styles, materials and finishes are all ways you can integrate this style into current modern looks that have evolved since the 50s.
In addition to the boots, cowboys often wear boot-cut jeans that give them a little bit more flexibility. Here at FashionBeans we stress that the fit of your clothing is paramount to successful style, which is why the cut and silhouette created by the slim double denim combinations showcased on the Dolce & Gabbana runways [below top row] is much more appealing to the modern male; portraying an image of someone who knows how to dress.
Cowboy Inspired Look Book
Cowboy Inspired Look Book
Double denim is recognised as integral to Cowboy influenced style. It is hard to pull off, and many have failed, but thatdoesn’t mean it should be disregarded in your current wardrobe. In fact, due to the amount of variation, washes and styles we have available to us these days, it means it is much easier to create a look that has the rugged, manly connotations a Cowboy conjures up, whilst still looking great. Take a look above at how Usher, Pharrell and Ed Westwick have brought the look bang up to date.
Usher [bottom row middle] has utilised accessories such as a trilby and pocket square to take inspiration from the cowboy era whilst at the same time hitting trends that are current and fresh. Ed Westwick [middle row right] has combined a double denim outfit with an essential Breton stripe tee, again just bringing the look into the 21st century and hitting the current nautical trend at the same time. Pharrell [bottom row left] has managed to pull off the most modern and edgy take on the look; combining a light wash pair of jeans with red trainers, whilst opting for an asymmetric denim jacket and wayfarer glasses. An up to date and cool casual look which can be thrown on in an instant.
The Zara look book outfits [middle row left & centre] show that this is not a style that is just restricted to autumn/winter either. Denim shorts with denim shirts or jackets can work if you get the tones right and make sure you utilise other layers to break up the outfit correctly.
With all of these elements combined, you might even be rivalling the sophisticated ruggedness of a certain Robert Redford.
Modern Inspired Clothing
Another key accessory in this whole inspired look is the brown leather belt. They came with garish belt buckles, but the modern fashion take would be to look out for versions with detailing on the belt itself (such as studs or brass buttons) or belts with larger but understated buckles:
  • Cheap Monday Santiago Washed Denim Shirt
  • Washed Grey Vintage Slim Jeans
  • Jean Shop Brown Leather Belt
  • Frank Wright Navajo Workboots
  • Blunt Boot
  • Gucci Side Zip Leather Boots
  • Mens denim jacket
  • Lee Mid Stone Western Shirt
  • Level Belt
  • Distressed Denim Western
  • ASOS Slim Fit Jeans
  • ASOS Bleach Slim Fit Jeans


What seems to be clear is that those stylish men of the 50s not only personify timeless style, but step out of the zone of conformity, starting new trends that can now be admired decades later. This juxtaposition of setting and following trends is a rare skill, but it is one that can be refined, after all, Steve McQueen was not born with Persol aviators!