Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Buying casual for the Autumn

I've been buying casual clothes for my Autumn wardrobe and I'm happy to say the non-flashy, discreet-logo-only look is back in. My favourite barometer for this sort of thing is Fat Face; it sells good clothes that wear well, but some seasons it's aimed so squarely at a younger market the rest of us would look ridiculous. This year the gilets and above all tops are available in plain Autumnal colours and are likely to suit a lot of people. My wife says the mustard top I've just bought is less flattering than the darker ones they sell; I couldn't keep wearing navy blue forever, it was getting boring.

Original Henley T-ShirtThat said, the Henley T-shirt (pictured) looks pretty good. I'm not the same shape as the picture of course, which of us is? It covers the unwanted bulges well enough and with a white or off-white tee underneath it I find it hits the look I was after.

(Incidentally when did tee-shirts start sprouting buttons and long sleeves? I was always under the impression they were lightweight short sleeve thingies, I'd recognise this newfangled thing as a "top" - but it's very comfortable so I've bought it in dark green as well).

I hadn't heard of Fat Face seven years or so ago and it's become a welcome new name in the High Street. Another new arrival looks promising; Cornish company Seasalt is starting to sell online and in John Lewis (never knowingly undersold which is relatively easy when you never knowingly sell anything someone else stocks).

This picture is of the company's Neap Tide shirt which looks pretty good; there are also a lot of knitted items, shirts, gilets - everything you need to pretend you're the seafaring type, which I gather from this and Fat Face is the thing to do this year. Everything's available in sizes up to XXL, although as yet I don't know exactly how big that is - bit of a moveable feast, these XLs and XXLs.

The other company I've noticed creeping up on the High Street is Joules, a leisurewear company again. I bought a jumper from them in the summer and it's well made and comfortable but they only go up to XL. I'm clearly overweight but when an XL shirt won't go round you while all the other brands are fine you know someone's cutting their cloth on the slender side.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Watching the watches: Christopher Ward C9 Jumping Hour

I've been playing with the new Christopher Ward C9 Jumping Hour watch. Jumping hour or jump hour watches have a long tradition; it's at least a century old, Cartier made some notable examples in the 1930s and now direct sales organisation Christopher Ward has added a model to its portfolio.

The idea is simple enough; instead of the traditional two-handed clock face you get a traditional minute hand but the hour indicator is static, in some sort of window (see the picture). Every time the hour changes it "jumps" one forward. The complexity is in getting the movement to stay steady in spite of the energy required for this sort of push forward.

The design is therefore unorthodox and that's my first problem with this watch. Call me old fashioned but I like to be able to tell the time at a glance. Look at the one in the picture and your first reaction, if you're like me, is that the time on it is ten to 12 - but it's not, it's 12.50 because everything is past the hour that's on display.

In fact when I woke up the other morning and glanced at it - now remember, it's first thing in the morning, I've just been away and I'm a bit groggy - there's an IX in the window but that doesn't matter, I can just see the hour bit pointing straight up and assume I've slept through the morning and it's something past 12. It was actually 9.15.

I just think the ability to tell the time really quickly is a good thing in a watch. It's kind of why I have one.

You do get used to it, though. On day two I was enjoying working the time out a bit more and on day three it had started to become instinctive, although anyone else looking at the watch to ask the time would have found it a bit of a struggle. My wife and daughter both found the design a bit pointless, to be honest.

I've grown fond of it. Maybe it's a bloke/gadget thing. It's well designed, although the brand badge on the face looks a little tacked on. I'm a sucker for automatics and the customary viewing window on the back to see the Swiss movement, adapted from an ETA 2824, is the usual treat.

It's this movement that explains the price. Keeping it steady with the surge in energy required to make the hour jump isn't easy. That's why this is Christopher Ward's most expensive watch to date at £1150. It's well made and attractive and if you want something a little different then the jumping hour combined with the reliable timekeeping is certainly something to consider. But at that price - and I do accept it's one of the lower-priced Swiss-made jumping hour models around - it's an expensive gloat. At that price point you can start to consider a Tag Heuer from Goldsmiths Jewellers, for example, or for £60 more a Longines; an extra £350 - not a trivial amount I agree - and you're looking at an Omega.

These will be more basic watches of course. They won't be jumping hour models or anything like it. But moving over the £1000 mark means Christopher Ward is starting to edge into the prestige brands' territory. Given the company's overt rejection of celebrity endorsements, heavy marketing budgets and the traditional retail route in general, I do wonder whether it's going to be able to compete there no matter how swish a watch looks or how technically elegant its innards may be.

Monday, 7 November 2011

A foot nibbling frenzy

That headline is of course up there purely to irritate people who like SEO.

So anyway, I was on holiday in Center Parcs the other week and something caught my family's eye - the chance to try this remove-your-dead-skin-by-attacking-it-with-fish thing. These are not my feet in the picture, by the way - I was the noddy on the end of the camera, and it's a phone photo so not all that great artistically, but you get the idea.

Before I tell you much about it, though, let's take a couple of basics into account. The fish are nibbling the dead skin off your feet because this is how they survive - OK, but some less reputable establishments starve them so they nibble more off. This is a bad idea as it is simply cruel. Second, if you're thinking about this, you need to ask how often the water is changed. It's a small tub of liquid so any minor infections anyone before you has had will be transferred. You have to offset this against the fact that the fish will need the water to have matured a bit - they can't survive long in completely fresh water, it needs to have the right chemical balance. Feel free to ask your "therapist" about all of these things and if they're evasive don't give them your money.

The Center Parcs version looked OK so I stuck my feet in, ten quid for ten minutes. Tickly as hell at first, then not unpleasant except for all the kids walking past and pointing, going "eurgh".

And yes, some of the dead skin on my extremities did indeed go away. The woman in charge said I'd need to top up every month or so if I wanted completely soft feet (further research suggests actually a half-hour session is better for a first one, topped up by ten minute bursts once a month). I'm not going to bother - I don't need soft feet particularly and if my family hadn't been doing it I probably wouldn't have bothered even the once. But if softer skin is your thing, subject to all the cautionary stuff above i'd recommend it.

Later that day I had the second men's facial of my life. Last time it made a positive difference. If I'm honest, after the advice and help I've had at The Valet including hot towel shaves every other month or so, it didn't make such an impact this time. I gather I turned up clean, so all the scrubbing and stuff you get in a facial was a little redundant. It's a good idea to take an hour or so of time for yourself occasionally - but another time I think I'll stick with a hot towel shave.