Couture Comment: Men’s Style and Fashion – Conversation with a Business Growth Manager

One of the many joys I experience writing for Eclipse Magazine’s Couture Comment, is the amazing people I meet along the enlightening journey of fashion. 

The conversations as to a person’s style, the shaping of their influences, translated into clothing I find intriguing.

Clive Jelf is a Business Growth Manager for Building Legacies, an enterprise growth programme that supports London-based small businesses; he also happens to be my Business Mentor. Aside from his astute business acumen, from my first meeting with Clive, I was drawn to his impeccable innate style and fashion. A herringbone wool overcoat, fine knit ‘V’ neck jersey jumper, shirt and patterned tie, tailored trousers and boots. Here was a look where nothing was left to chance; the designer in me just had to know more, so I was thrilled when he agreed to be interviewed.

Men’s fashion and style has seen an enormous upsurge in the past 20 years, from the City Business Suit, shirt and tie, to the relaxed blazer and jeans, shirt no tie, no socks; to leisure wear designer tracksuits, and now a mélange of leisure wear, casual, and smart clothing. The resurgence of the tailored three-piece suit, waistcoat, jacket, trousers, combined with men’s grooming, has the fashion industry sitting up, paying attention to this new breed of gentleman that is not defined by age, culture or status.

I start by asking Clive if he always had a fascination with clothes, along with his early influences.  The ‘yes’ came as no surprise, however the influence of music from The Clash, spray-painted clothes with thought provoking messaging, to the Zoot suits of 1950s as worn by the Windrush Generation, piqued my curiosity to his dress sensibilities, which at the time consisted of military combat clothing – in particular an M53 American army jacket, army shirt with combat trousers –these were his uniform of style. His appreciation for vintage-style cut suits of the ’40s/’50s would be translated into modernday fabric later on, coupled with retro styled tops Italian cut.

On the other hand he recalls his Grandfather’s gentleman’s style of dressing; he would always wear a suit. This was an era where mass productions men’s shirts were a standard cut and fit, in particular this applied to sleeve lengths… you may not think this is a big deal, however without armbands (which were the norm) to reduce the length of the sleeve, you would be left with the shirt sleeve protruding from your jacket, which was not the done thing!

As the conversation moved towards horseracing, I had to ask if he had attended any racing events. Newmarket 2019 Clive donned a light blue linen suit, shirt, tie and boots, footwear he believe ties in a whole look; definitely suited and booted then. Another question turns to men’s fashion today; Clive commented that he is pleased to see the re-emergence of tailoring, having suits handmade, and paying homage to the craftsmanship of male and female tailors. Moving away from mass production, ethically mindful the role fast fashion plays in cheap labour, alongside environmental impact. As a Business Growth Manager, when working with fashion businesses, he encourages them to factor in ‘greener’ elements to their business model.

Fast forward to the predicament of working from home during lockdown, did his style of dress change? The main difference was not wearing a tie every day, however he does wear cravats. Whilst he felt his look was more relaxed, ‘professionalism’ is always at the forefront of his attire for webinars and meetings.

To close I asked about individual quirks that distinguish his style of dressing, I was not surprised to learn he is an avid collector of cufflinks, tie pins and watches.

The cufflinks were evident, as on the day of our interview he sported vintage topaz coloured cufflinks with intricate cut edge detailing, blue tie, worn under a blue and white ‘V’ neck tank top.  ‘Clothes doth maketh the man’; it certainly helped me to gain a deeper understanding of men’s fashion alongside their thinking behind the clothes.

Clive concludes with a quote from Malcolm McClaren: “It’s better to be a flamboyant failure than any kind of benign success.”

Thank you Clive!

Email: [email protected]

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