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  • Preppy: The college style that's still going strong

    First published in 1980: The Official Preppy Handbook was an international bestseller

    Three decades ago, a small, paperback book entitled 'The Official Preppy Handbook' was published in the United States. Inside it's plaid-printed covers, one could learn all those essential rules of prep culture, including how to dress, where to shop and all the places to be seen. It's editor, Lisa Birnbach, intended the book as a tongue-in-cheek advice guide - little did she expect that it would become an international bestseller, notching up sales figures of 1.3 million and acting as a bible to all those who coveted the perfect preppy lifestyle.

    As any true prep knows, a colourful collection of ties is essential.

    'The Official Preppy Handbook' turned out to be such a huge hit that now a follow up is being launched. 'True Prep', co-written by Birnbach and Chip Kidd, a successful book designer and fan of the original volume, outlines the rules of being a prep in the modern world, dealing with everything from new technology to the preppy gay scene.

    True Prep motto: You can never have too many stripes in your wardrobe.

    Of course, one of the most important aspects in attaining 'True Prep' status, and one which receives a lot of attention in both books, is the fashion element. For men the essential items include polo shirts, chinos, blazers, loafers, brogues and lots of accessories, the brighter the better. In terms of design, we're talking classic shapes, stripes, monograms, argyle prints and almost anything made out of Madras fabric. Quality it also key: as Birnbach puts it in her original book: 'Everything in the wardrobe should be well made. Fine fabrics and sound construction are taken for granted...Preppy clothes are built to last'.

    All sentiments we strongly agree with - take a look at the Smart Turnout collection to get the preppy style for yourself!

  • Twenty20 Top Five

    Congratulations to England on their fantastic Twenty20 victory!

    England cricketers celebrate their World Cup success.

    In a fantastic day for English cricket, the team achieved a seven-wicket defeat over Australia, and ended their 35-year wait for a one-day World Cup triumph. Obviously, this goes straight to number one in our list of top Twenty20 matches, but which others have had us gripped over the past decade?

    13th June 2005 – The first Twenty20 cricket match between England and Australia was played at the Hampshire Rose Bowl. England beat Australia by 100 runs, breaking the record for winning by the largest margin in a game of Twenty20

    15th January 2006 – A record crowd of 39,874 flooded to The Gabba stadium in Australia to watch the Ozzies claim a resounding victory over South Africa. ‘Man of the Match’ Damien Martyn helped Australia clinch the win with an impressive 96 runs.

    16th February 2006 – An incredibly exciting match was played between New Zealand and the West Indies. The teams tied on runs at 126 a piece, with the New Zealanders finally stealing the game 3-0 in the tie-break bowl out.

    14th September 2007 – Sri Lanka smashed England’s previous record by beating Kenya with a margin of 172 runs. They also gained the highest team score in the 20 overs, racking up 260/6.

    On the subject of cricket, we were very excited to see our classic cricket jumpers featured in Esquire’s Big Black Book for Spring/Summer 2010. The seasonal style bible, featuring all that's current in men’s fashion, also included a pair of Smart Turnout’s stripy socks – we must say we are very impressed with their taste!

    The Smart Turnout cricket jumper - lightweight, stylish and versatile. The perfect way to celebrate England's World Cup victory? We think so.

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  • The Bow Tie: A brief history

    Good news for all bow tie lovers – New York Times fashion guru David Colman is reporting a major comeback on the fashion scene as the bow tie once again tops the style stakes for men.

    Fashion designer Tom Ford has helped to reignite the bow tie\'s style credentials.

    Oddly enough for an item regarded as wholly decorative, the bow tie originates from functional clothing worn during the Roman period. At this time, orators would wear neck cloths, ensuring they kept their vocal chords warm and therefore optimizing their ability to make speeches.

    Additionally, early neck cloths offered a form of protection to soldiers, who wrapped them round so many times that they could provide a barrier against sword thrusts. These neckerchiefs served an additional function during warfare, by identifying on which side of the battle the soldier was fighting.

    King Louis XIV was clearly a fan of elaborate neckwear.

    It was in the 17th century that the neck cloth really took hold as a fashion item, although it still retained an element of functionality. Croatian soldiers used the cloth to tie together their open shirts when, in celebration of their hard-fought victory over Turkey, they visited Paris in 1660. The soldiers were presented as glorious heroes to Louis XIV, a monarch well known for his eye toward personal adornment, and the sophisticated French were enchanted by the dashing appearance of the soldiers. The ‘Cravat’, named after the French word for ‘Croat’, was adopted as a novel neck accessory, and quickly became all the rage in Paris.

    Beau Brummel, one of the leaders of English Regency fashion and famous for his flamboyant cravats. Beau Brummel, one of the leaders of English Regency fashion and famous for his flamboyant cravats.

    The French Revolution (1789) took the Cravat to extravagant new heights. The fashion dandies of the time, the‘Incroyable’, wore enormous neck clothes – so large they even extended over the mouth. For the Romantics of the 19th century, neckwear became the most important feature of male attire, and was regarded almost as an art form. In 1828, H. Le Blanc published ‘The Art of Tying your Cravat’, showing 30 different ways to fashionably fasten the accessory.

    Later in the 19th century, the collar became a more important focus of male dress, causing the tie to take on subtler forms, such as a crisp tailored bow with a wide flat knot. This was the birth of the modern bow tie, which played an important role through the 20th century, both as a form of military and formal attire (Churchill was an avid wearer), and for more tongue in cheek fashion statements (the New Romantics of the 1980s).

    Today the bow tie is available in a huge array of designs – from the conservative and tailored to the dazzling and flamboyant - but it has retained the element of elegance, sophistication and distinctiveness that has helped it to develop and flourish over the past 1000 years.

    Smart Turnout 100% Silk Bow Tie Smart Turnout 100% Silk Bow Tie

    Click to view the full range of Smart Turnout Bow Ties

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