At 1.90 meters and blessed with truly movie-star-like good looks, Patrick Grant is a towering testament to the current importance of men’s style. His achievements of the last decade exemplify the renaissance of classic menswear. Creative Director for tailor Norton & Sons, a once flagging stalwart of Savile Row that he acquired and began resuscitating in 2005, Grant also relaunched and directs two other heritage brands that he discovered in the Norton & Sons portfolio. E. Tautz & Sons is a ready-to-wear label that riffs on traditional sartorialism, incorporating contemporary dandyism and references to Grant’s youth. Tautz brought him the Menswear Designer award at the British Fashion Awards in 2010. The other line, Hammond & Co makes stylish suiting in top fabrics available to those on a tighter budget via British clothing retailer Debenhams. I got to meet him the other day in Shanghai and we discussed his latest book on stylish men and drinking whiskey.
He was in Shanghai for a party Chivas Regal was throwing to celebrate the Chivas Made for Gentleman series designed by Grant.
Here is what he told me:
“Style is much more than just what people wear. A lot of the people we celebrate today are men that have no substance behind them. They are beautifully groomed, and beautifully polished but behind the eyes there is nothing – it’s a sort of empty vessel.”
“Style is about your personality and how you live your life. When of the most stylish people aren’t well-groomed – there is almost an inversely proportional relationship between how well-polished men are and how interesting they are – at least with British celebrities.”
“Thankfully I grew up before instagram, cameras on phones and all of that, so all the terrible mistakes I made weren’t recorded. At 15, I wore a bright mustard shirt, a blue and white polka tie, liberty scarf on a panama hat, and a bright red moleskin waistcoat. A few later, I was onto paisley hoodies and massive flairs. This was the era of acid house – the late 1980s. People were wearing hoodies and taking acid. It was fun and you couldn’t do that wearing a waistcoat.”
“I am fed up with all the pictures from Pitti Uomo. It has become a thing that is too much of a “thing”. The same five guys photographed by the same photographers everyday. These guys are photographed every time they step out. Certain guys you can always guarantee will be there.”
“People ask me about the rules of dressing. I think people have to make their own rules, otherwise it all gets a bit dull. There are things that look awful, but I think that is okay.”
“It’s not a natural mode – I grew up in a gray flannel shorts and a blazer and a tie – up till I was 18 and left school. Every day I would wear a jacket and tie. A lot of people in Britain never wear one. In the UK, there is a technical fashion sportswear movement. All of these different modes co-exist.”
“You construct a whole persona around the way you live, the things you say, your manner, everything you do is a construct and the totality is you the person.”
Grant, who recently designed the above packaging for Chivas Regal 12 Year, started appreciating whiskey in his early 20s. “A good friend of mine has a beautiful big house on the edge of nothing in Scotland with no cellphone and internet. We go go out and fish and take day trips on the beach. Her dad doesn’t drink but is always given great whiskey as gifts. We enjoy a bottle, splitting it between three or four of us. We play cards and drink between eleven and three or four. Normally I drink whiskey neat because there is nothing around the house to mix it with, but I enjoy a Chivas old-fashioned.”
His book on the 80 most stylish men in history, which will be appearing in September,includes figures like Alistair Crowley, an occultist, who wears “caftains and runs around the countryside with strange headdresses.” Bowie, Freddy Mercury and Boy George all appear in the book as does I.M. Pei. The book will a manifesto of sorts for a man with a strong notion of what style should be. “We need to celebrate men who are more expressive and hardline, otherwise everything tends to a bland sameness.”