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Mr Porter's Glossary of Men's Style


A pattern, most commonly used on ties and scarves, which has its origins in traditional Iranian and Indian design. The pattern resembles a twisted teardrop and the name denotes the Scottish town of Paisley, where multicoloured paisley shawls were woven in the 19th century. Although a defining feature of 1960s counter-culture, paisley patterns are now considered rather traditional, but they are making a comeback.

Panama Hat

Authentic Panama hats are, confusingly, woven in Ecuador (they have been since the early 19th century) from fibres of Carludovica Palmata - better known as the Toquilla plant. The term has come to refer to any pale-coloured summer hat woven from vegetable fibres or leaves. The Panama has become an icon of well-heeled summer style and can be seen on sartorially savvy heads from Bermuda to Brighton.


From indigenous people of the Arctic to Quadrophenia, by way of the US military and then indie bands, the parka has proved itself to be more than just a practical winter coat. Its name is the sole word in English derived from Nenets, the language spoken in the Arctic north of Russia close to where the parka originated. Typically made from caribou or sealskin and trimmed with fur, the hooded Inuit jacket is the model for today's parkas, which first came to prominence in the 1950s when the US military adopted the style. Read more about the parka

Patent Leather

A method of permanently giving leather an extremely shiny finish. This originally relied on a linseed-oil lacquer but is now often achieved by covering the leather with a synthetic coating.

Sir Paul Smith hoped to become a racing cyclist, but in a twist of fate an accident ended the dream ("I went up to junior and then up to senior and then ran into a car," Sir Paul jokes) and the designer fell in with the local art school crowd while he was recovering. Cycling's loss turned out to be fashion's gain, as the young Mr Smith would go on to build one of the most commercially successful fashion brands, as well as bringing about a significant shift in attitudes towards men's style, with his use of colour and print, and enduring "classic with a twist" approach. Having moved in with Ms Pauline Denyer (now his wife) in 1967, Sir Paul opened a small shop in his native Nottingham, UK, selling clothes by cutting-edge brands such as Kenzo and Katharine Hamnett. Supported by Ms Denyer, who taught fashion part time, Sir Paul began designing his own clothes and selling them in the shop, too. The rest is history. By 1976 Paul Smith clothes were being shown in Paris, and by the late 1980s Sir Paul's approach of updating classic men's clothes with contemporary cuts and unexpected details, such as vibrantly coloured linings, had become a much-imitated fashion mainstay.

Today, Sir Paul's collections continue to demonstrate his love of classic English tailoring and eye for proportion and detail, combined with his genuine sense of humour and appreciation of the quirky and unexpected.

"I ended up designing clothes that I wanted to wear myself and felt good in. Well-made, good quality, simple cut, interesting fabric, easy to wear. No nonsense clothing"
Sir Paul Smith
Paul Smith London

Paul Smith London is the classic tailoring line from highly acclaimed British designer Sir Paul Smith. Look out for immaculately cut suits and jackets, and crisp shirts in bold colours and patterns.


The peacoat has an unexpectedly long history - the Oxford English Dictionary records a mention from 1717 - even though the origin of the name is uncertain. It's likely to stem from the Dutch name pijjakker, or be an abbreviation of pilot's jacket. Peacoat and pea jacket are interchangeable and refer to a simple but incredibly useful garment: a short, double-breasted wool jacket that buttons up to the collar. With naval origins, the peacoat is most often seen in navy blue, and is also sometimes called a "reefer" or "officer's coat". Click here to read more about peacoats

A kind of leather with a deeply embossed pebble-like surface.


The name Persol is derived from the Italian per il sole, which means "for the sun". The brand was founded in 1917 in Turin, initially producing eyewear for military pilots and racing drivers. Today, the label is well known for its durable, stylish sunglasses, worn by adventurers and movie stars alike. Look out for the iconic collapsible frames, which fold for ease of storage and transport.

Pierre Hardy

Mr Pierre Hardy studied fine arts at the prestigious École Normale Supérieure in Paris before taking his first role designing shoes for Christian Dior in 1987. Since then, Mr Hardy has designed shoes for Hermès and Balenciaga, and launched his own brand in 1999. Pierre Hardy shoes are renowned for their almost architectural designs, which combine strong elements of geometry and colour with immaculate quality and construction.

Pink House Mustique

Based on the most exclusive of the Caribbean islands, Pink House Mustique's beachwear comes in uplifting patterns and sun-washed shades that bring to mind the island's turquoise sea and white sands, while the fast-drying material ensures the shorts are practical as well as stylish.

A trimming attached to a seam or an edge, often - but not always - in a contrasting colour.

A shirt fabric with small raised dots on the surface. It is most commonly used on the front and cuffs of men's tuxedo shirts (in white), and for polo shirts.

An extra strip of fabric sewn on to the button-front and the sleeve closures of men's shirts.

Folds sewn into fabric to allow room for movement. The word is most closely associated with the folds sewn into trousers at the top of the leg (so trousers are pleated or flat fronted) but shirts can also have pleats under the shoulders at the back. Trouser pleats can either be forward facing (towards the centre) or reverse (outward facing). Forward pleats are the traditional British kind, but reverse pleats, which are favoured by Italian designers, have almost taken over the world.

A ply yarn is comprised of at least two other yarns woven together. So a triple-ply yarn, for example, is a single thread that actually comprises of three separate, intertwined threads. Material woven from ply yarns is often thicker and more durable, although they can also be used to weave sheer fabrics. If the ply yarn is made up of different coloured threads, a marled cloth is produced.

Pocket Square

Pocket squares are popular once again; it's now largely unremarkable to have a piece of cotton, linen or silk adorning your suit's breast pocket. Read more about pocket squares, including folding instructions and rules for wearing them

Patch pockets are made from a separate piece of cloth sewn on to the garment - back pockets on jeans are always patch pockets. They give a jacket an informal feel.

Flap pockets are the norm for hip pockets on a jacket but, traditionally, dinner jackets have jetted pockets, which don't have flaps but are trimmed around the opening.

A ticket pocket is a small pocket on a jacket that sits above the right hip pocket, a bellows pocket is a patch pocket with a gusset so that it can expand, most common on shooting jackets, and a poacher pocket is a pocket hidden inside an outdoor jacket with enough room to carry an illicitly caught hare or trout.

A knitting technique that creates an open weave, often with a decorative pattern. In menswear it is most often used to add textured accents to sweaters. Above, a band of pointelle knitting is seen around the cuff of a sweater.

The French have always had a particular knack for revolution, and following in this grand tradition, in 1933 a young, Paris-based tennis champion called Mr René Lacoste took a pair of scissors to the traditional, restrictive long-sleeved shirt and tie, which was what tennis players wore on the court at that time. The polo shirt was born. His liberating design - a lightweight, short-sleeved T-shirt with a buttoned collar - caught on and soon the sporting masses, golf and polo included, adopted the look. Nearly 80 years on the polo shirt is a wardrobe staple beyond the playing field, and is available in every colour and configuration, usually made of cotton piqué, which is lightly textured and therefore more breathable, or classic jersey, which has a relaxed feel. Read more about the polo shirts.

A summer-weight fabric used in men's casual trousers and shirts.

Private White V.C.

Private Jack White V.C. was awarded the Victoria Cross, the UK's highest military honour, during WWI. He also founded a clothing factory in Manchester, England, which has endured over the years and now produces a signature line bearing the founder's name, and conveying his spirit. Read more about Private White V.C.

Paul Smith

Paul Smith's diffusion line, PS by Paul Smith, perfectly captures the designer's quintessentially British sense of style, but with less formality than the mainline collection. The bright knitwear and beautifully cut patterned shirts are ideal components of a smart, individual weekend wardrobe.

The loose fabric that gathers on a shoe when one's trousers are too long in the leg; trousers need only break once before they reach the shoe.

A style of dressing that takes its inspiration from late 1970s bands such as The Damned, the Ramones and the Sex Pistols (whose look owed a lot to impresario Mr Malcolm McLaren). Torn clothing, safety pins, skinny jeans, leather jackets and T-shirts featuring anti-authoritarian slogans are all part of the look.