Paul Stuart, I Knew You When . . .

Discussion in 'Andy's Fashion Forum' started by Flanderian, Feb 20, 2019.

  1. Flanderian

    Flanderian Connoisseur

    United States
    New Jersey
    The retailer Paul Stuart was once my sartorial lodestone and mentor. In the '80's and '90's they possessed an aesthetic which often combined dazzling innovation in the selection of colors, patterns, and materials wielded with rock-solid, sure-handed Ivy League tastefulness. While not having been inexpensive for a long time, it wasn't about the so-called "luxury" market and certainly wasn't very interested in fashion.

    I haven't been there in a long time, so I know any such comparison is a little unfair, but seeing what they put forward in their advertising now, much has changed. And for those who are currently fond of this retailer, I am glad you still are. :) But I truly miss my Paul Stuart. :(

    I've kept and still enjoy perusing old Paul Stuart catalogs as I prepare to sleep. And while again enjoying their 1990 Fall catalog, I was struck by all that is now gone. I came upon a page of shirt and tie pairings that I am going to share just because they were so beautiful and creative. Sadly, I can't provide the photos, so a description will have to suffice.

    First, let's understand what is being shown and described: for some, shirts and ties automatically only mean rather formal ensembles intended for business or more formal special occasions. And while they certainly can mean that, they can also function as a basis for smart, but relaxed casual wear. And that realization, or actually the fuller understanding of that is how they often had been worn in the '30's and '40's, continued to be expressed in some of Paul Stuart's offerings. So what is being described here are shirts and ties intended for more casual sporting/country venues. But all were available in a full range of dress shirt sizing.

    The first pairing is an example of iconic traditional forms rendered in a fresh and innovative way. Specifically it is a medium tattersall pattern shirt in Italian cotton and a knit tie. But what a shirt and what a tie! The shirt has a soft spread collar and a flapped chest pocket. On a white ground the colors are plum, aqua and periwinkle blue. The knit tie is Fair Isle cashmere that is predominantly wine with camel and hunter green.

    The second is the same style of shirt, only this cloth is paisley! Yes, paisley! But what a paisley! A medium-sized paisley figure in olive/plum/pine on a wine ground. And despite it's unusual nature, pair it with a darker, earthy tweed, and it can be remarkable. What tie? A herringbone wool/silk stripe woven with a cinnamon colored warp. The stripe is camel and cinnamon, the ground color is cocoa.

    The last is a smaller tattersall pattern shirt of Swiss cotton in the same style, done in green and rust on a white ground. Worn with it is another cinnamon warp tie, but in silk, with both a jacquard woven paisley and square on an azure ground.

    Note that these are all traditional forms. That's the syntax, but what a dazzlingly gorgeous vocabulary. It's sartorial jazz.

    Good luck finding it at your Men's Wearhouse! :D

    Sadly, good luck finding it at Paul Stuart. :(
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2019
    127.72 MHz, cosmotoast and Matt S like this.
  2. 89826

    89826 Active Member with Corp. Privileges

    United States
    Santa Monica
    You have tantalized us. Take some cellphone pictures and post them.
  3. UteLawyer

    UteLawyer New Member

    United States
    Salt Lake City
    I rather like the clothing posted on their website, but I can't afford any of it. I would love too see the classic catalogs you have, though.
  4. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast Connoisseur

    United States
    New York
    Paul Stuart, today, does kinda operate in its own universe. Its style is hard to pinpoint as it uses the classics (including a lot of Ivy) as a jumping off point, but jump far it does. However, it still seems, at least loosely, tethered to traditional men's attire in a way that fashion brands like Burberry, Calvin Klein or Bottega Veneta are not.

    You can buy a lot of classic attire at Paul Stuart - all well made and all very expensive. Maybe its clothes are worth it, if you have the budget, as the clothes are meaningfully better made than, say, Brooks Brothers. Much of Stuart's offering is in the same quality and price category as Polo Purple label - very well made / very expensive, but Purple Label still (usually) plays in a more classic sandbox.

    And when Stuart goes "fashiony" it still feels more sincere than a full-on fashion brand as you don't get the feeling it designed its clothes for a runway show or to attract media attention; instead, its more outre' offerings seem genuinely designed for customers looking for well-made clothes with a noticeable verve, but ones that are still recognizable as - almost - classic men's attire.

    The few items I have from Paul Stuart come from its sales (done semi-annually, like old-school retail) and I have nothing but great things to say about their quality. Those items add a nice "that's not an ordinary item, but it's not crazy or inconsistent with my traditional men's wardrobe" pop to my outfits.

    In a world where companies seem to get bigger and homogenized (I'm talking to you Brooks Brothers), I'm just glad Paul Stuart has been able to - seemingly - thrive in its own unique way.
    peterc and TheBarbaron like this.
  5. SG_67

    SG_67 Connoisseur

    United States
    Next time I’m in Paul Stuart I need to take some pics.

    They really do carry a lot of very classic styles. The catalogues tend to skew a bit more edgy, but once inside, one is treated to a feast for the eyes.

    The visuals and overall presentation really complements the quality of their offerings. The colors are always seasonal and for those among us who put together an outfit the way artists put together colors and patterns on canvas to create a particular visual, the in store experience offers that.

    Surely their style has changed over the decades but at their core, they still offer a classic selection with flare without totally succumbing to fads and trends.
  6. Flanderian

    Flanderian Connoisseur

    United States
    New Jersey
    You present a more nuanced and complete picture of the contemporary Stuart. And that's what I alluded to when I said my critique was at least partially unfair relying upon impressions gained from afar. Further, I detest the general contemporary cut of tailored clothing for the American market, and Paul Stuart is no worse than others, and likely better than many in that regard.

    But as to its underpinning still being Ivy League and traditional American forms compared to what it was 25 or 35 years ago, I'll have to take your word, as too much of what I see isn't, as it's looked to Europe for its aesthetic rather than simply quality sources of manufacture.

    Not visiting, I have to rely upon what I see, and if that's not representative, it is still the image they wish to offer the public, and very different from that which they once chose. And while I'm sure there are items that are still both traditional, yet fresh and innovative, I've seen others that Cliff Grodd would have taken out and burned. ;)
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2019
  7. FLMike

    FLMike Connoisseur

    United States
    West Coast
  8. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast Connoisseur

    United States
    New York
    You and SG_67 hit on a big part of it as the catalogues and advertising emphasize the unconventional / taking-a-chance / more-aggressive offerings. While the stores, obviously, have all of those items, they also have the 15.5/34 white cotton dress shirt, the navy polo shirt, the basic grey suit, the tan corduroys, the maroon pullover sweater, etc. To be sure, those items will be of high quality - with a price to match (and maybe something a touch different than how BB does it) - but for those who want high-end traditional clothes, Stuart still offers many classics.
  9. upr_crust

    upr_crust Connoisseur

    United States
    New York
    New York
    I have read, with some bemusement, this thread, since I am a relatively steady customer of Stuart's in the present tense. Stuart's offerings have always had a distinctive look, and I must confess that I have, during their private sales, walked out with some of their "edgier" items. (I originally said that I was the trash collector, removing from the store those things that otherwise would not sell, but more recently, I have softened this, stating that I merely buy those items which the other clients of Paul Stuart's had not the imagination to buy. The sales help somehow found this a much more pleasing turn of phrase.)

    The offerings of Paul Stuart are expensive, but less so than RLPL in most cases - there is certainly a higher price/value ratio to Paul Stuart's goods at full price than RLPL (I occasionally practice having sticker shock at Ralph's mansion on East 72nd St.). It is a similar aesthetic - a reworking of classic British tailoring, with updated fabrics and, often, brighter colors.
  10. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast Connoisseur

    United States
    New York
    You might be the trash collector, but I am the bottom feeder at the sales - buying the $90 socks for $45 while still thinking I'm paying too much or the $400 sweater for $150 and feeling like Willie Sutton.

    I think you are right - and my first post wrong - in that Paul Stuart, overall, is less expensive at full price than Polo Purple label. While some Stuart stuff is as expensive as Purple, many/most items are not. I'm a pretty big Polo fan (Blue label is where my budget stops), but I think Paul Stuart does a bit of a better job in the same space - its stuff feels less reverse engineered to get on the fashion industry's radar - than Polo Purple label.
    icky thump likes this.

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