There aren’t very many books about men's clothes that are worth reading, but Hardy Amies managed to write two of them. They’re both re-published this autumn, to coincide with the re-launch of the Hardy Amies brand under new ownership, after last year’s well-publicised bankruptcy.
ABC of Men’s Fashion is an unerringly entertaining gallop through almost every aspect of men’s appearance. While some of the entries are showing their age - the book was written in 1964 - most remain spot on. The information on offer is a mixture of factual stuff useful to anyone interested in clothes, and Amies’ formidable opinions, for example: “Sandals are hell,” and “All short sleeves look ghastly.” It’s all served in easily digestible, but intelligent, bite size chunks.
Amies' other book, The Englishman’s Suit is something between a history of the suit and a manifesto for the future of style. Written in 1994 the first part of this endeavour is useful and interesting, while the second is less successful. Because he worked in the world of fashion Amies was unable to get over the idea that men’s clothes ought to ‘progress’, which he believed involved raising the buttoning point on suit jackets until they fastened under the chin – the way Chairman Mao liked them. This major error of judgement can’t help but colour one’s view of Amies’ opinions, which is a shame because 90% of the book is superb.
ABC of Men’s Fashion, £9.99 (V&A Publishing) and The Englishman’s Suit, £10 (Quartet Books) are out now