For the past 10 years, Simon Crompton has been sharing both his personal knowledge and his passion about men’s fashion through his blog “Permanent Style,” as well as authoring two books, Le Snob: Tailoring and Best of British: The Stories Behind Britain’s Iconic Brands. His newest work, The Finest Menswear in the World: The Craftmanship of Luxury (Thames & Hudson) has just been published. It profiles 14 distinguished brands from around the world, ranging from world-renowned companies such as Alfred Dunhill, Kiton and Loro Piana to lesser-known names like Begg & Co and Zilli. MR recently spoke to Crompton about his book and choosing his livelihood.
Q: Were you always a clotheshorse?
A: No, I wasn’t even interested in clothes until later in life. I know most people want to look good or appear sexy, but for me, fashion was more an intellectual pursuit. I was interested in how things go together, why there are rules, etc. I think I could have ended up writing about cars, but it turned out to be menswear.
Q: How did this book come about?
A: In some ways, it grew out of what I had already done through my blogs and my other book. But I really wanted to expand on some of the information I’ve already shared, and share the stories of these brands with the readers, since many of them differ from each other significantly. Plus, there were a few categories I had never done, like denim, which is how a brand like Kaptial from Japan came into play.
Q: What were you trying to accomplish with this book?
A: It was primarily a question of trying to explain to the reader what the idea of quality means, from bottom to top, construction, materials, aesthetics, etc. It’s a great guide for anyone who has the money to buy top-quality goods, But even if you don’t, it will show you how a great suit is made. I really want my readers to come away with a mixture of education, entertainment, and enthusiasm for these kinds of products.
Q: Did you have to spend a lot of time “on the road” for this book?
A: I traveled to almost all the factories we profiled, although I didn’t make it to Hawaii or Japan. I did about three weeks in Switzerland and Italy to cover those companies. Obviously, writing about the brands in London, where I’m based, was easier.
Q: Did you learn anything from doing this book?
A: There was some new information for me, and some of the points I wrote about really hit home, such as how little clarity there is in the market about why things cost what they do. I think I would say I gained some new perspectives.
Q: What is your overall feeling about men and fashion?
A: I spend a lot of time talking to my readers at events, so I may be biased, but I do see a positive change in men’s dressing. I recently did a panel at Pitti Uomo, and I found men are much more interested in quality than before, and people feel this trend is becoming mainstream. I am hoping it will last a long time, and I do think it’s a trend that still has time to peak.