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In Praise of the Monogram

Why your name has become the last word in discreet luxury.

There’s something distinguished, albeit anachronistic, about being a man of letters: JD Salinger, DH Lawrence, F Scott Fitzgerald… Initials seem so inherently cerebral, smart and timeless. Which is partly why having a monogram embroidered or embossed on elements of your wardrobe is so appealing.

For years, the monogram has been the preserve of the sartorially flamboyant, fusty Jermyn Street tailors and intriguing secondhand finds.

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Now the continental super-brands, as well as some smaller, innovative designers have embraced it: niche, high-end swimwear company MYO have been doing a solid trade in personalised items of late: “We’ve been asked to do everything from family crests to personal messages,” says co-founder Will Fattal.

The simple monogram remains one of the most popular requests — it creates a frisson of emotion around an item, as if it’s been marked out as a future heirloom — even if it’s just a pair of swimming trunks. “It deepens a connection with our brand,” says Fattal.

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The monogram feels as sentimental as it does special. The personal touch is the antithesis of fast fashion. The Rug Company produces the widest range of designer interior pieces of their kind (including designs by Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and Paul Smith), and it’s recently noticed an increase in requests for its monogrammed rug service.

“It’s the ultimate bespoke choice,” says CEO and co-founder Christopher Sharp. “It leaves no doubt that the piece was a special commission.” Similarly, who wouldn’t be happy to receive a monogrammed gift of an Anya Hindmarch made-to-measure wallet? Or a gold-stamped notebook from Smythson?

As Andy Janowski, Smythson’s CEO, says: “In today’s culture of luxury, personalisation is a crucial discerning factor. It’s an expression of individuality. If it’s done discreetly, with style, then it becomes timeless.”

Full story by Mark C O'Flaherty, with photographs by Philip C Haynes, featured in Esquire’s Big Black Book on newsstands now.