Phineas Cole: the dandy at Paul Stuart
I still have the first catalogue for Phineas Cole, picked up when the new line launched at US store Paul Stuart in 2007. It has come a long way since then.
Phineas Cole was designed as a slimmer, brighter, more daring cousin to Paul Stuart. Although those elements certainly remain, New York men (it is only carried in that branch still) have become such enthusiastic fans that the colourful suits on the first floor are surrounded by navys and greys – guys want to wear Phineas Cole to a standard office job too.
The Phineas Cole block is characterised by a higher armhole, higher gorge, softer shoulder and sharp cutaway. The jackets are normally unlined – the edges bound in beautiful green or rust – and the trousers are unpleated, with side straps. Common but not universal style elements include a peak lapel, one-button front and hacking pockets.
This style and shape are what Phineas Cole customers want from their pinstripe suits. But the most interesting element for me is the colour and texture of the more unusual pieces, particularly for Autumn/Winter. I kept that catalogue from 2007 for its inspirational and unique combinations. A/W 2012 will be no different.
Ralph Auriemma, designer of the Phineas Cole line, explained the main themes running through it: “There is a grey story that includes large plaids and big herringbones, plus a set of tweeds and a colourful series of jackets that really encapsulate the Phineas Cole aesthetic.
“The ties that accompany the grey suits are dark and Deco-inspired, drawing on my personal collection of prints from the period. We also shot some of the tweeds with lovely bright corduroy ties.”
Among my favourites is an exploded tweed (top) that displays all the beautiful colours usually so hidden in a classic tweed. And an overcoat-weight grey herringbone given greater expression by the light canvas and unlined construction (above). Plus the suitings usually come with a double-breasted waistcoat, in case anyone were in any doubt about the dandy nature of the Phineas Cole customer.
“I remember it used to be hard to sell those on the shop floor,” says Auriemma. “Then we stopped pushing them and just photographer them in the catalogue instead. Now people can’t get enough of them - it’s the look you get with that big sweeping DB lapel under a jacket.”
Innovations are smaller in the trousers, but nonetheless there. The standard chinos are a cashmere/cotton mix. For hotter climes it’s a linen/cotton mix. Some have oversized belt loops running down into the trouser, mimicking an old riding costume. The flannel trousers for winter have suede side-straps (above) and – perhaps the most extreme – suede patches on the inside of the knees. I know breeches are fashionable for women, but will men buy these? “There’s certainly a customer out there,” says Auriemma.
Apparently it is approaching wedding season in New York, so upstairs there is a display of three takes on black tie. One is an ultra-classic, peaked-lapel job; but another is a black-linen Nehru jacket with a polka-dotted Ascot. Both hide the cream of the crop behind them – a shimmering combination in white, silver and cream (above, right). It features an embroidered silver, DB waistcoat. Until the wedding display was put up, in place of the cream jacket was a long flowing dressing gown, delightfully opulent over that DB silver.
The dressing gowns are another feature of Phineas Cole: they broaden even further the choice of accessories and add-ons that Paul Stuart is already famous for. The variety of braces is enhanced with versions in suiting cloth; the range of belts is widened with several old and complicated buckle styles; the dressing gowns (peaked lapel for Phineas) come in a plethora of worsteds.
There are many stores I love in New York, from the Rhinelander Mansion to the gorgeous ground floor of Bergdorfs. But Paul Stuart consistently offers the greatest opportunity of sartorial discovery for visiting foreigners. From the wealth of handkerchiefs to the vintage cufflinks. It’s good to see Phineas Cole become a permanent facet in that glorious jewell.
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