When I told my boyfriend I was thinking of writing about Paul Smith, he exclaimed, “When I think fashion for the metrosexual, I think Paul Smith,” with a crazed glint in his eyes. Personally when I think Paul Smith, I think sartorial dandyism, which is just about everything I look for in eye candy. So evidently, today’s icon is something for everyone! Read on, I hope you’ll enjoy!
In 1961, Smith left school at 15 aspiring to become a racing cyclist. That is, until his father forced him to work at a clothing warehouse. For his first two years there, Smith never developed any real interest in his job besides being able to cycle to and fro. It was only at the expense of a cycling accident that Smith decided to consider other career options.
Following his accident, Smith spent six months in a hospital making friends with people who would eventually influence him to decide he enjoyed artful creativity.
The stars seemed to align with this decision. He was soon spotted by Lincroft Kilgour chairman Harold Tillman, who essentially groomed his bespoke tailoring talent. By day, Smith would sell suits. By night, he took evening classes to study how to make them. Somewhere between this busy schedule, he met Pauline Denyer, a fashion teacher he would swiftly fall in love with, marry and under her advisement, start his own shop (Yes, Paul Smith’s wife is Pauline Smith).
In 1970, after only three years of his initial break, Smith opened his first shop in 10 Byard Lane, Nottingham. It measured a measly 24 square feet, and was only opened twice a week so he could spend the remaining five working to pay the rent. But thanks to his evening classes, Smith had already developed a signature cut. Incidentally it’s the same aesthetic he continues to uphold today – the refined posture and elegance in shrunken silhouettes. With that, his menswear business became a thundering success.
By 1976, the Paul Smith label had already made it’s debut on Parisian fashion weeks. Over three decades, Smith gradually expanded international business growth to find that men all over the world identified with his penchant for classic tailoring with a distinct twist of eclectic personality. His success clearly lies behind enabling men to buy classic tailoring designs (which makes for high commercial value) with a subtle pinch of individuality.
Over the years, Smith’s namesake brand has become synonymous with masculine sartorialism. While he currently holds 12 different collections that span everything from women apparel to furniture and china, his menswear lines are iconic for perpetually emulating the new urban dandy.
Just in case you’re unfamiliar with the term, a dandy refers to a man who prioritizes refined language, leisurely hobbies and his physical appearance (that’s often masked with a nonchalant feel). A man who is both physically and intellectually conscious. It was revolutionary in the 1790s, but today, you can consider someone like Chuck Bass as a modern dandy.
Paul Smith’s dandyism walks a fine line between metrosexual and sartorial. Even if it ups a man’s homo level, it certainly ups his sophistication and substance along with it. And somehow, Smith has managed to make the average straight man comfortable with that – so much so that he’s even managed to make them covet man bags!
So much so that his designs now define British menswear.
And of course, Paul Smith is also renowned for his patented stripey pattern.
In many ways, this print is as iconically British as the Union Jack.
What I personally love most about Paul Smith is his ability to consistently project his brand philosophy within every product – everything is classic with a twist, a trait we’ve come to adore about urban British fashion.
And has released a few products in conjunction with this World Cup.
I love his personal take on footie fandom – there’s something very garish about wearing a jersey or blatantly sporting your team’s colours!
In 2000, Paul Smith was very much deservedly knighted by Queen Elizabeth II as a menswear icon. In singlehandedly translating British spirit into fashion wares, in spotlighting British menswear on a global scale, and in universally catering fashion for the hetero, homo and metrosexual, Smith is nothing short of iconic in my books.
But enough with my raving, what do you think of Paul Smith?
[Photo Credits: mashkulture, newdandyism, btoffice, fototiller, nascentman, theballast, nymag, nuvomagazine, julesb, hypebeast, kitmeout, mynexthandbag, hughhales, richardnicolson, nikkishell, gq, selectism, wwf, eatmedaily]