The Founts of Uman
Studious of elegance and ease,
myself alone I seek to please.
A culture of style and a passion for dressing up have always been the basis of a true gentleman’s relentless pursuit of the ideal wardrobe. Arising from a more or less accentuated natural inclination, this passion is a spontaneous movement to excel and stand out from others. For some men, dressing up – or the need to always appear at their best – is based on self-esteem and becomes a source of subtle pleasure. However, a specific form of culture is required to successfully achieve such a worthwhile goal. This means understanding the evolution of man’s style and being aware of its traditions and certain of its techniques.
While conscious of the limits of such an exercise in interpreting what is primarily an intimate and personal sentiment, uman intends to build the logical foundation for the ideal sartorial wardrobe of the Modern Rich. Here the suit and the jacket play a pivotal role.
The uman wardrobe encompasses three major components that are characterized by different sources of inspiration:
I) The lounge suit –the modern, tailored, multifunctional, and international suit in its daytime, evening, formal, and ceremonial versions– is the basic item of the sartorial wardrobe. While from one perspective it may appear simply utilitarian and uninspired, the lounge suit can instead be the most culturally defined and aesthetically developed item in a man’s wardrobe. As we have seen, the lounge suit has in fact been “perfected”; it needs only to be interpreted using the most appropriate materials and colours.
The effectiveness of the lounge suit’s basic styles can be enhanced – primarily through an emphasis on quality, fit, and details –but its power should not be diluted by an obsessive number of variations and combinations, or by too many ornaments and contrasts, which are in fact, almost always mere “expedients”. In this context, the maxim “less is more” has never been more appropriate. Therefore, uman offers a version of the tailored suit that enhances the purity of sartorial style, to be matched with timeless fabrics of the tailoring tradition.
II) Founded on venerable traditions and imbued with perennial appeal and charm, another component of the uman wardrobe includes a few culturally specific styles that were designed for particular occasions and communities but have now become collective and collectible. Some of these styles were developed in Europe, for example, the British Smoking and Norfolk jackets, the Spanish Teba, and the Austrian Tracht; while others were developed in a wider variety of cultures, for example, the Chinese Tang jacket, the Cuban Guayabera, the Indian Sherwani, or the Japanese Kimono.
All of these styles can represent an essential part of the refined and inquisitive gentleman’s wardrobe. A gentleman, like a true collector, uses these styles to express his broad knowledge and interests, as well as his open-mindedness. The Duke of Windsor’s wardrobe, for example, included some Tyrolean jackets crafted by Austrian tailors, and Baron de Montesquiou loved to wear preciously embroidered Japanese kimonos when lingering in his gardens.
The Modern Rich tend not to be conformist due to a certain form of worldliness that is associated with travel and the appreciation of culture and tradition. They will want to know about the origins and functions of their favourite styles, the etiquette tied to their uses, and then have them produced in their most classical forms by the best bespoke tailors in the specific regions of the world.
By providing and sharing information amongst the Modern Rich community, uman will assist them in this journey of understanding, this quest for the niches of sartorial culture.
III) The final component of the ideal wardrobe is the most original, innovative and eclectic. It is made up of one-of-a-kind, focused elements that derive from the three primary founts that have constantly nourished man’s style with ideas and trends.
For simplicity’s sake, let us give each of these “families” of styles an emblematic name that captures its origin and spirit: Sports, Discovery, and Passions.
Uman will explore these wellsprings of sartorial inspiration, to derive new jacket styles that will give an elegant and accomplished form to some of the forces that drive the Modern Rich, enhancing his flamboyant, solipsistic, playful, romantic, adventurous, or even decadent moods.
Sports have always been one of the main inspirations of a gentleman’s elegance, so much so that they have also influenced his formal and urban styles of dress. While, on the one hand, the equestrian world provided the model for the exemplary lounge suit, certain accessories that originated in the parallel world of polo are now vital elements of every wardrobe, including the eponymous shirt, as well as the button-down shirt.
Both military and civil maritime uniforms have been at the origin of basic and dynamic styles, such as the Reefer and the Blazer jackets, which then migrated to the nautical sports. Shooting and hunting provided other rich models for functional details; such as, special pockets for bullets and prey, bellows and slits that allow freer movement, leather patches to protect from a gun’s recoil, to name but a few. The “Norfolk jacket” is just one legendary model of this kind. It was also adopted by the world of golf and then it became part of “resort apparel”, where it underwent additional modifications, before receding from view.
In time, however a gradual decline of style in the dress code of sports in general was observed (except perhaps in fencing, horseback hunting, and cricket). The extreme professionalization of athletic games, together with the pervasive practice of sponsorship, ultimately generated a wide gap between the wardrobes of practitioners and that of spectators. The most unfortunate result of this gradual loss of traditional refinement was the disappearance of the jacket itself in favour of the plain shirt or sweater, or of the more technical blousons and windbreakers. The revival of more traditional forms of competition, based on less extreme rules, with classic or period formulas, now requires a parallel return to elegance, while still maintaining certain modern technical developments and satisfying one’s need for utility and comfort.
Uman “Sport” outerwear styles will not only improve on today’s standards of quality and elegance, but subtle details that make explicit reference to their glorious progenitors will express their own pedigree. These styles will show a man’s practice and passion for a particular sport, to be used for exercise as well as in pre-or-après situations.
Unlike most fashion designers who copy the past or draw upon some exaggerated detail, when faced with such a vast and varied wealth of style, uman will follow this rather difficult but yet rewarding conceptual path.
Discovery (1). Since the age of Rome, when new frontiers were opened up, boundaries abated and contact with other civilizations expanded, European society has been fascinated by the more “exotic and adventurous” elements of style.
However, except for the use of newly introduced fibres (like silk or cashmere) and of certain textile patterns (like madras or paisley), none of these stylistic influences left a permanent impression on western men’s costume. Even the “Nehru collar”, which is often referred to as an example of “fusion”, has its direct precedents in the European military and ecclesiastical garments.
Likewise, the “ethnic inspiration” that often animates the catwalk is primarily a seasonal phenomenon, mostly limited to the realm of women’s fashion.
However, due to their practicality and aesthetic appeal, certain styles arouse an interest that reaches far beyond their exotic aura and their local culture.
This is what keeps these styles vital and inspires uman to create contemporary clothes for the Modern Rich, whose global lifestyle and knowledge of the world allow them to appreciate such suggestions better than ever. No longer seen as the imposition erga omnes of a single socio-cultural model, a new understating of the “globality” is now centred on the discovery and revalorization of many local contexts.
Rather than being a mix of different things or the product of mere fantasy, each of uman’s Discovery garments will always be consistent with the original historical, cultural, and geographic background to which it refers. These features identify the ancestry of each uman’s styles and increases their ethos. However, they should be regarded as interpretations according to a European “cultural code”, and not mere reproductions – albeit modernized – of those foreign styles. While cognoscenti all over the world will recognize the “quotations” introduced in the different models, uman Discovery garments will also rely on an appreciation of increased functionality and technological advancement to render them more generally appropriate and useful to the international wearer.
Since European style has already perfected formalwear, these uman garments will be just as appropriate and elegant for dressing up other specific occasions, such as travel, leisure, home, and resort.
Passions. In just one generation, a gentleman’s other interests have become multi-faceted, as well as correspondingly complex and overly specialized.
To practice what used to simply be called “hobbies” today requires true passion and as much devotion and time as man’s so-called primary interests (working, studying, social relations, sports).
Moreover, while in the past these passions used to provide just entertainment, now they are an integral part of the variegated and complex personality of the Modern Rich.
As a “renaissance man”, the Modern Rich man accomplishes many different things. He is no longer excited about the mere fact of owning luxury objects and his passions are not merely attributes of his power and improving status. No mere dilettante, the Modern Rich strives to achieve the required know-how and skills that surround the complex and refined factors which stimulate his fantasy and his taste; his worldview is not simply defined by specialists but by his own peers, who are all particularly interested in excellence.
Not only have we seen a shift from the status symbols to the more sophisticated status skills, we are developing towards what I would name the age of the passions of stature.
However, the Modern Rich does not stop here: he also wants to innovate, and to prove his own abilities.
And clothing – in fact, the art of dressing up a passion – is precisely the sphere where he finds ample space to be himself.
Among the multiple interests that are available to the Modern Rich, one can begin with the more widespread, which are also those that offer most opportunities to socialize. “Gardening”, for example, in its symbiotic relation with nature, has evoked the ideal of living for many since classical times. From the Tuscan estate to the English country house, from an overtly social event such as the Chelsea Flower Show to Nero Wolfe’s ideal and very private orchid greenhouse in the heart of Manhattan, fantasy has multiplied places and occasions to display an elegance à propos.
The automotive world presents other instances to cater to style, from sport driving to collectorship, to the concours d’elegance with their exclusive rituals and noble appointments, at Pebble Beach, Goodwood, Mille Miglia.
As the bearers of ideas and experiences and, above all, thanks to their inherent enthusiasm, the pro-active role of the Modern Rich in this worthy and stimulating journey is fundamental. Which leads to one final note on the spirit that animates the mature and modern quest for style.
A true gentleman’s sartorial personality is rational and measured as well as original. This personality is above the rules, not outside of them; it is self-confident, but not arrogant; playful and ironic, but never rude. It is what at another point in time and in a given historical context was defined as “dandyism” (2). However, whereas the dandy takes transgression as a rule, the gentleman lives his maverick spirit (3) as an expression of a superior tailoring culture. In this respect, he should not be seen as extravagant, although at times he is surprising and unique.
Furthermore, while the dandy simply embraces fashion and trends, often championing their extreme forms, the maverick builds his own style through an independent and self-sufficient process. And while designers pursue an abstract inspiration, detached from the practical sphere, the maverick constructs a wardrobe for actual use and aims his creative effort at a free interpretation of the self, in which every detail counts, however minimal it may at first appear.
Being uman means going beyond mere “correctness” or generic “impeccability” and enter the domain of pure experimentation. Such person will manage to express his tailoring exuberance by finding the interstices among the codified occasions where no pre-established code exists. But if he doesn’t find the perfect occasion or a grand event for his idea or ideal, he creates his own – and he will do so for himself if need be!
1) Webster’s dictionary defines “discovery” as the act, process, or an instance of gaining knowledge of or ascertaining the existence of something previously unknown or unrecognized.
2) The Oxford dictionary defines a “dandy” as a man unduly concerned with a stylish and fashionable appearance.
3) The “maverick”, as defined by the Cambridge dictionary, is a spirited person who thinks and acts independently;
he is someone who is prone to behave in unexpected, untraditional ways.