Welcome back to the Gentleman’s Gazette! In today’s interview, I speak to Aleksandar Cvetkovic from Britain, who is a young, stylish gentleman writer who knows how to dress like a Young English Gentleman On A Budget. Aleks, welcome to the interview!
Aleksandar Cvetkovic: Thank you so much for having me! This is really cool, this is awesome! I’m glad to be here.
Sven Raphael Schneider: Fantastic, you could make time. So just to give a little introduction to our viewers, you are a young lad who loves literature, art, and craftsmanship. Just tell us more about yourself.
AC: Gosh! I mean, yes, I’m 22 years old. I live in Hertfordshire, which is just north of London. I work in London, and as you say, I do love literature, I love reading, I love theater and drama, but my main passion as you say is a classic style. I’ve never really figured out where it came from, interestingly.
SRS: Funny. Well. Let’s figure it out today!
AC: Let’s do that. I can’t put my finger on it. Well, I’ve always been passionate since I was a lot younger, I should say. I’ve been passionate about how things are made and things that have a genuine kind of artistry and a genuine beauty about them because I think those things are quite rare. When you find them, you do know. I guess many people watching will know that it’s a really special feeling when you discover something that someone has actually put a bit of themselves into crafting and creating. Sometimes you come across things, whether it be a tie or a suit or a pair of shoes, and you just know that it’s more than the sum of its parts. It’s more than some cloth that’s been worked with a nylon and needle; it ‘s more than a few pieces of leather that have been stitched together. You get a sense of the person behind. I think that’s special, and that’s what I, as much as possible, what I like to write about.
SRS: So you mentioned writing, so you started originally with a blog and so how did you get into blogging, like how did that evolve?
AC: Again, loses track of how all these things happen. I started a blog called the STUDENT TAILOR in my first year in University, the summer of my first year which off the top my head, I think is 2011 at that point so a few years ago.
SRS: So, how old were you then?
AC: I was, again, you’re testing me. I think I was 18, and that may or may not add up. I’m hopeless at math that’s why I’m a writer.
SRS: (laughs) Don’t worry about it. That’s alright.
AC: I was around 17 or 18, and I had been becoming increasingly interested in men’s style and in tailoring in particular, and I just decided I wanted to do something to be more involved, I wanted to find a way of learning more and connecting with different craftspeople. I was studying English Literature at Uni, and I was doing a hell of a lot of writing for my academic work, for essays and all the rest of it and I kind of thought, I might as well do a bit more about something I enjoy and just see what happens. I’ve never done any creative writing or any journalistic writing but I just got on Google Blogger, and that was the first Student tailor Mark one. Just a basic little blogger platform with some awful photography on it and my scribblings and it kind of went from there. I’ve changed the name since so it’s now called THE SARTORIAL JOURNAL. When it was the Student Tailor, I always felt a little bit awkward because I wasn’t actually a tailor.
SRS: Exactly, like that would be the first association I would have like you’re an aspiring tailor, or you’re learning the craft of tailoring, but that was never actually what you did. You were at a University studying literature, right?
AC: Yes, indeed. It was a sticking point but it kind of works. I wanted to learn about the craft anyway, and I thought it was nice to sort of give a hint of the fact that I was a student.
SRS: Absolutely, which now changed hence the name change, I suppose.
AC: Yeah and it got to the point where I sort of been a graduate for six months and I thought “This can’t go on, it’s got to change.”
SRS: How would you describe your profession today? You can also walk us through university and what you did there and how you became what you are today?
AC: Okay, well at the moment, I am very very lucky, very privileged to be a part of The Rake magazine, part of the team, part of the rake’s editorial team. I got that, I guess through the blog because obviously I started the blog during my first year at university and it was just intended to be as I said sort of a way of connecting with different brands and I had my first kind of experience in buying good shirts or looking at good clothes and learning about what made good clothes. I wrote it up, I wrote it up and the blog slowly grew as I went through university, and I put more and more time into it and I’m fortunate that the people picking up on it on social media got bigger and bigger and so forth and I got to the point where I had some really good relationships with a couple of brands on Savile Row and one of which was Chester Barrie, and interestingly, this is Chester Barrie that I’m wearing. I got to know the designer Chris Modoo very well. He’s a great guy, and he invited me along to his London collection’s Men’s show that was exhibiting spring/summer ’14, I believe.
SRS: So fairly recently.
AC: Fairly recent and at the show, I was kind of, I think that was the second London Collection’s Men show that I’ve ever been to, I was completely inexperienced, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and I couldn’t quite figure out what I wanted to be and I never planned on being a journalist, at all which is a funny thing.
SRS: That is funny, indeed. So is that what you would call yourself right now? A journalist?
AC: Yeah, that what I’m trying to be, anyway. I’m trying to.
SRS: Well, I think you’re quite well. What do you think is the current state of men’s print journalism?
AC: Yeah, that’s an interesting one. Again, I guess, cos I’ve only been in the industry 20 months, so I have a lot of different thoughts on this. I can never quite figure out which way it is.
SRS: Walk us through, that’s interesting.
AC: The interesting thing is, my personal view is that although print media, generally speaking, is often, one way or another struggling, I think that you know, the fact that we’re sitting here talking about classic style, and a passion for things that have good quality and integrity means that a beautiful print media, there will always be a market for it. I think it gets to the point where a magazine in itself, just as an object, becomes a very appealing thing.
SRS: Like a tactile feeling.
AC: I would say this cos I’m biased, but it’s slightly different between reading something on your Kindle and the touch and feel of a beautiful book that you’ve had for years, you’ve read 5 times and that you know back to front and that you really love. There’s something about a really beautifully constructed and put together magazine that has inherent quality, and I think guys that appreciate quality will always want to have that and so, I’m not too worried, yeah, I’m not too worried for us.
SRS: So, what would be your advise for people who are maybe at a university, in college and they’re about to graduate and they have a passion and they’d like to find work in that field similar to you but would you have some advice for them?
AC: You know, no one’s ever asked me that, so that’s an interesting one. I would say one thing I’ve learned to do and still learning to do is take your time, first of all.
SRS: What do you mean by that?
AC: Well, if you feel that you need to take 6 months to see whether you could make a go of something or you feel that you need to take 6 months just to, I don’t know, get some experience or to explore different things or to explore the industry that you think you’re going in to, take that time. I remember being in my last year at university and it was completely drummed into us, you have to get this grade, you have to get this grade, or you won’t be employed, you have to get this grade! And I realized since I came out that if your academic degree doesn’t necessarily go according to planned, it’s not the end of the world. There’s always a way through but sometimes that means just stepping back a little bit, taking time to re-assess, taking time to plan and also, this will be my second piece of advice. Take some time to put yourself out there because if I didn’t have my blog and if I didn’t commit to just trying to meet people for my own enjoyment, I won’t be sat here today, talking to you.
SRS: I think that’s a very good piece of advice, put yourself out there, and a blog is a very good instrument to do so because it’s relatively affordable and I think the biggest challenge there is probably consistency and persistence. Wouldn’t you say?
AC: I agree. Just keep on going, keep on going, keep trying to meet people, keep trying to communicate with people, keep trying to engage with people and don’t be put off because there are always people that do not want to communicate with you, there will always be stumbling blocks. Particularly, blogging, it’s so hard to grow your following and it really takes a lot of time and a lot of effort and you kind of have to treat it like a part-time job as well as whatever else you’re doing.If you just keep going, it does pay dividends.
SRS: Lately, especially in the online world, there are like many blogs out there, more and more that talk about bespoke and sometimes, it’s not very transparent of what the material relationship is, you know sometimes people get suits free and in return they write about it. Sometimes, they get paid to write about stuff, so what’s your take on that whole sponsored posts? How do you make that work?
AC: I think it’s a gray area.It’s not something I’ve ever done. Personally, I don’t think that that, it’s not really for me to say but I think, it’s important that one is reviewing an experience and reviewing a suit and reviewing a tailor in a completely unbiased fashion. You know, some bloggers have arrangements with craftspeople and write about them regularly or whatever, whatever. Even if they are having a suit made for cost price or for whatever, they’re still honest and they’re doing that because they’re genuinely passionate about the tailor’s work, that’s fine. The tricky thing is knowing when someone is literally just sort of plugging someone because it’s free.
SRS: I think it’s a matter of disclosure, right? I firmly believe that somebody can give you a free suit and pay you $5000 to write about it, and you can still be very honest for integrity. The question is, should it be disclosed, what was going on? Or should it not be disclosed? I think online sometimes and even in print, it’s just not disclosed then it becomes awkward in a way because you just don’t know what it is. The reader can make up their mind what they think. Once you’ve built a reputation and people either trust you, or they don’t, but I still think it’s helpful if people can actually see what the basis is of it. I think in Europe, the whole online game is just so new that there are no regulations, and there’s a big gray, area.
AC: Yeah, I’d agree. A gray area’s probably the best way of describing it. The flip side of it is, it’s very easy to condemn someone and just dismiss their views because they’ve come to an arrangement with a craftsperson but actually, a lot of the time, it’s still perfectly valid. They’re writing with integrity; they ‘re writing what they honestly believe, and it’s just a kind of the nature, the way it works but it’s difficult to know who those people are and then we might not be that person, so I think actually, you’re right. It does come down to disclosure, I suppose.
SRS: The next question I have here on my list, where did you draw inspiration from in the way you dress?
AC: Right. Now this is, sort of trying to figure out where this interest in men’s wear comes from. As I’ve mentioned briefly earlier, I love art deco men’s wear, I love the 1910s, 20s, 30s. i connect with that period because when you look at the history of tailoring and of classic style, really, it’s coming out of the 1890s, men start to experiment with suit for the first time and people start perceiving the suit as a uniform and they start looking at it and going to know what I’m going to have that mad checked fabric, I’m going to put a turn up on my trousers and I’m going to wear pleats, and the legs are going to get bigger, I want big shoulders and big lapels, and guys start expressing their personality through clothing for the first time, I think. That’s my personal take on it, I just think that kind of social liberation in relation to tailoring is really powerful and really exciting. My favorite thing to look at is 1930s fashion place, by a mile. My Pinterest is just full of old illustrations because the men just look immaculate, and guys are having fun with their clothes and that’s just a really cool thing.
SRS: Yeah, there’s so much different things to do and you’re like “Oh, I like this outfit!” and I’ve seen sometimes people taking 1930s fashion illustrations and trying to create that same look, same shirt, same tie, same suit which is actually rather difficult because finding the right fabrics and patterns is difficult.
AC: The key I think is to take the essence of the style and just sharpen it up a little bit for the modern age, that’s what I try to do generally. Maybe keep the architectural lines on the suit but just opt for a different fabric or keep the shirt underneath a little bit simple, I think there are ways around it.
SRS: You’re not striving for a vintage look, you’re looking for a 2016 look with 1930s influence, is that right?
AC: Awesome, yeah!
SRS: Similar to the way I do it. I don’t want to look like a period costume and it’s more like, I want to have my style, and I just draw inspiration from them.
AC: Take the essence of it. That’s what I find, yeah!
SRS: You’re British. So, what would be your definition of the English gentleman?
AC: Now I find this, the concept of the gentleman an interesting one because I think there are a lot of people that see it as something quite antiquated, and I think that the notion of the gentleman is more relevant than ever in today’s society. Interestingly, it’s not about the way he dresses, I think a lot of people, equate gentlemanliness with what they’re wearing and actually, more than ever, I think it’s an attitude, it’s about displaying intellect and tolerance and generosity and common courtesy, and all these values that I think can be really easily lost in just the hustle and bustle of modern life. I mean, getting on the tube everyday, is just so frustrating, and it’s very, very easy just to turn into an absolute rottweiler and just hate everyone around you and be anti-social and really rude and I find myself consciously trying to actually just understand that everyone else in that carriage is also going to work and is also shattered and is also in a bad mood. It’s about going that extra mile to think about where you’re at in the environment you’re in. That’s what a gentleman I think ought to be doing in today’s world.
SRS: Great definition! It’s way beyond the clothes, it’s all about the mindset, and I think, you know definitions are different for each person, so I just wanted to hear your take on it.
AC: Again, the flipside of that is, of course, the clothes are or could be an important element because another thing that I think a gentleman has to have is self-respect. If you don’t have respect for yourself then fundamentally, I think it becomes more difficult to respect others. Having self-respect is presenting oneself in a certain way and that’s the value of taking care of your appearance and appreciating quality and of dressing in a dignified fashion and dressing in a tailored fashion, that’s sort of about having a positive self-image and respect for yourself, and that’s where the clothes come into it, for me, personally.
SRS: Alright, that’s a good take. If you would have to define your style in one sentence or few words, how would you break it down?
AC: Attempting to be raised a sharp and almost inevitably failing.
AC: Trying to be sharp and then I end up adding a flower or a pochette that’s too much or wear a bright paisley tie, more than sharp, monochromatic style that I aspire to. I never quite manage it.
SRS: Well, you know the result can still be great. Maybe it’s not what you pictured…
AC: I’m stuck in the 30s. I don’t think I’m ever going to leave, that’s it!
SRS: Who would you say are your style icons? Are they also 1930s people or are they modern day people? What would you say?
AC: I tend to find actually a great source of inspiration in vintage material and in vintage illustrations and archives, that’s where I go to first. There are a lot of men that stand out for me. I love jazz music so the old jazz musicians and big band leaders, the Ratpack’s an obvious one, a lot of musicians of the 60s, guys that are connected to the world of jazz inevitably have really cool sense of personal style. I also have to say, I absolutely adore Michael Caine in the 60s the young Michael Cane. The original Get Carter‘s one of my favorite movies and I just think that blue three piece that he wears, that with the shotgun, that’s what it’s all about.
SRS: Let’s get back to the fashion illustrations because I’m on the same page with you. I love fashion illustrations, and I think they can be very helpful even in today’s day and age so do you just refer to any 1930s illustrations or do you have like, the cutter and tailor, do you have specific magazines?
AC: One of the things I said to myself I was going to start doing this year but I haven’t done is actually just building up my own little archive of old materials for myself, I haven’t done that. I use Pinterest a lot, and I find a lot of cool stuff on Pinterest, I love the old KUPPENHEIMER images, I think those illustrations capture a real sense of romance. I love the exaggerated lines on the suit, the long coats and the really kind of chesty suits and the poise of the lapels and the warm colors, they’re my absolute favorite.
SRS: What are your style pet peeves?
AC: Tie knots. Yours is beautiful.
SRS: (laughs) Thank you. Anything else would’ve stopped the interview right now.
AC: Honestly, so many guys wear a tie everyday, and it’s this big, huge, loose unshapely thing that isn’t up against the collar, and it has no poise or shape to it at all, and I think guys often miss the fact that a know, it has to be tight, you have to really pull that tight and really get a nice, small, neat, clean knot that sits on your collar properly, and I just don’t know how after so may hundreds of years wearing neckties, men haven’t got it yet. It drives me mad.
SRS: So do you personally like the smaller tie knots, ties with like thin interlinings, Prince Charles wears it a lot. Is that the look you go for or more…
AC: I don’t like them too small, but I like ties to make Four in hand knot with one tie dimple. Two dimples is also wonderful, just some dimples, any dimples but I tend to wear one cos I like to have that symmetry there, and it just needs to be a relatively, neat, tight knot. A proper knot, not just a loose things that’s been folded together. Doesn’t have to be tiny, just needs to be tight.
SRS: That’s great advice and because I made a lot of videos, not just how to make tie knots but how to get a dimple in your tie reliably every single time because people don’t know sometimes, and it happens to be there once and not the other time and if you know how to do it, it’s not that difficult.
AC: Yeah, Indeed.
AC: Flannel, I like the softness of it.I like the luxury of a flannel.
AC: Necktie. A little bit more contemporary.
SRS: Belt or suspenders?
AC: Always braces, never belt.
SRS: Barrel cuff or French cuff?
AC: French cuff.
SRS: Undershirt or no undershirt?
AC: No undershirts for me.
SRS: Off the rack or custom?
AC: Depends. Good ready to wear over bad made to measure.
SRS: Okay, that’s a very good hint or tip. Bespoke always seems glorious but if it’s done not so well or if you don’t stand the right way, the result can actually be quite terrible.
AC: Yeah, you got to be careful where you go.
SRS: Exactly, I would totally agree. So what can we expect to see from The Sartorial Journal in the next few years?
AC: I would love to have a big relaunch, and I would like to improve the quality of my photography, and I would like to keep telling the same kind of stories. I’ve got this big list of ideas that I have in the back of my head, and I make note whenevr I come up with an idea for an article, I note it down.
SRS: That’s good you should write them down, so It’s easier…
AC: There are a lot of tailors that I want to visit. the blog is almost only focused on British men’s wear to date and over the last couple of years, I’ve got to know quite a lot of French and Italian brands so I would like to bring that to the blog and start telling their stories, as well.
SRS: Just expand a little bit more. Where do you see yourself by the time you’re 30?
AC: I have no idea.
SRS: That’s good, that’s totally fine.
AC: I want to keep doing what I’m doing. I want to keep telling the stories across people in what capacity I’ll be doing that, who knows?
SRS: Okay, well, Thank you so much, Aleks, for a wonderful interview. I really enjoyed it and thanks for joining us.
AC: Welcome and I have to thank you because it’s been a real pleasure to be able to share these views and it’s a pleasure to be involved, it’s very much appreciated.