On a workday afternoon, Samrat Som, 35, meets us at home in slim-fit dark Gas jeans and a royal blue and white shirt with patchwork prints. So that takes care of my opening question on what the creative director of Louis Philippe wears to work.
Collector’s edition: Som collects vintage sneakers, chooses ties from a textile designer’s perspective, doesn’t like watches with very large dials, and wears black belts only when he’s bored with brown. Photographs: Hemant Mishra / Mint
Over the next 3 hours, as Som, a textile designer by training, shows off his collection of retro sneakers and uses terms such as “coffee bean” and “dusty pink” to describe colour, it becomes increasingly clear that he’s more “creative” than “director”. Edited excerpts:
So this is what you wear to work. What would you wear to a high-level meeting?
It all depends on the message I want to get across. It would probably be a shirt with a self-woven texture and a classic cut-away collar. I could also wear a tiny, very light print, maybe a really light classic check, with jeans or smart cotton trousers in khaki, grey or coffee, topped with a navy or grey jacket. Shoes would be formal—wing-tip brogue derbys or Oxfords—and I’d also have a pocket square complementing the whole outfit. Ditto for the socks—for me, socks and pocket squares are the new tie and don’t come in the way as much. I am fussy about belts. I like working tans or dark tans with most things and wear black only when I’m slightly bored with the browns.
Do you wear suits a lot?
I don’t often wear suits, but I have two favourites at the moment: a two-button light grey pure cotton suit and a khaki silk-wool suit. Both are from Louis Philippe’s Luxure range. I could dress absolutely formal in the grey suit with a light textured shirt and a mauve or purple tie with minimum patterning, but I would wear a coffee-bean suede belt and shoes—thereby roughing up the ensemble a little. As a designer, one gets away with a lot.
How would you describe your sense of style?
Classic with a sporty twist. I’ll wear anything as long as I wear the clothes and the clothes don’t wear me. So I wouldn’t think anything of wearing a suit with flat trainers or a linen suit with Kolhapuri chappals. I’m not that into brands.
Where do you find shops to suit your style?
I can shop anywhere, from vintage stores and designer sample sales at the East End in London to multi-brand stores with a point of view—like Colette in Paris, 10 Corso Como in Milan—and designer stores like Paul Smith. I also like shopping at The Collective in Bangalore. For shoes, I like small multi-brand stores in the Raval and Barri Gotic areas of Barcelona.
You collect shoes, is that right?
Not shoes in general, I collect retro sneakers, like old Adidas re-issues, Tigers, etc. At one time I used to buy basic plimsolls and personalize them—now, for want of time, I’m happy just funking up the laces.
Do you collect anything else?
Ties, though that’s more from a textile designer’s perspective than anything else, since I hardly wear them. I have several hand-painted silk ties, cotton batik ones from Thailand, ties in wool, knitted cotton and silk, some with contrasting front and back, some with engineered motifs.
But right now I like the classics, especially dots, checks and stripes, worn in a very preppy way: a four-in-hand knot (a simple or schoolboy knot) with the lengths of both the tails pretty much the same; I don’t like the affectation of wearing the back-tail long. I’d wear them with smaller, softer collars, button-down or tabbed—almost in a sportswear sort of way, rather than formal. I also find myself preferring lighter fabrics and silk prints these days over the heavy jacquards that make the knot big. This winter, I would also wear them under chunky knit vests or with cardigans.
What are the five wardrobe staples that you buy in bulk?
Pocket squares—Anokhi is a favourite stop. Socks, whenever I find the right patterns and colours—they could be pink, or purple too—at Paul Smith or H&M or Altea or Duchamp. Round-neck T-shirts are something I can never have enough of, especially from SuperDry, RaRe and Brooklyn Industries. A current favourite brand is Scotch & Soda. I also wear a lot of what I make in the LP sportswear range because I like the graphics. Boxer shorts, which I pick up from Hartford Hommes in Paris and Anokhi. And also belts, which I end up buying with alarming regularity.
What’s the one wardrobe moment you won’t repeat in a hurry?
About five years ago, I saw fabric in a colour between strawberry and dusty pink in a mill, and had a pair of pants stitched for myself. I think I considered it a challenge to see what I would wear them with and where. I wouldn’t wear something now just to prove a point, even to myself. Though I’d still wear red or yellow trousers, or even a paisley printed linen pair.
Code breaker: Som, whose style is classic with a sporty twist, says pocket squares are the new tie.
What are your three fail-safe tips for office wear?
One, always dress up. You can always say you have something important afterwards; you can always take off something. Two, go for quality. Always. And take care of it. And three, mix navy clothing with brown/tan/cherry leather. Much more striking than black leather.
What’s the most common mistake men make while shopping for clothes?
Seventy to eighty per cent of men buy shirts a size too large. Also, they shop mostly on weekends, while wearing the wrong kind of shoes for the trousers they buy.
What would be your advice to them?
Do know the rules before you break them. Do find a shirt that fits you right at the collar—there shouldn’t be more than a finger’s space between the collar and your neck—and at the sleeves. Never wear a shirt sleeve short, even if you’re not wearing a jacket. Do find a jacket that fits you on the shoulder instead of jutting out, and fits you around the waist instead of hanging loose. Never ever wear a jacket with trousers in a similar colour if it isn’t part of the same suit. Go for contrast. Navy with light grey or khaki, black with grey or even stripes. Do get the trouser length corrected so that there’s only one break in the line as it falls. It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing a business suit or a shawl-collared tux. If they aren’t fitted well and well-made, you may as well wear a T-shirt and jeans.
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