Fashion Interviews Lifestyle

Sundry Style with Simon Crompton: “my aim in life is simply to look well dressed”

Next up on Sundry Style, interviews featuring prominent stylish folk, we catch up with Simon Crompton. Educated at Trinity College, Oxford, Simon is a British journalist with a history in editing finance, banking, and law magazines. He is the author of several books on men’s style and is also the founder of Permanent Style; a popular online magazine trusted for its honest, analytical approach to quality menswear. He lives in London with his wife and two children.

Trinity was wonderful and some of the best years of my life. I met my wife there who was in the year below me doing Portuguese and French. We met the summer of my second year. She was the producer on the lawns play, and I did a rather poor role in the play itself.

a nicely cut pair of cream linen trousers

I think I represented the college in eight or nine different sports. I only played twice for the croquet team. It was dominated by people [who] took it very seriously and knocked most of the fun out of it. Always physicists for some reason. [If I were to go back and play croquet again], I’d probably wear a nicely cut pair of cream linen trousers, espadrilles possibly, and then a nice shirt- I’m not sure if I’d wear anything over the shirt. Maybe a nice panama hat to finish off the outfit, that you could push back on your head when you’re ready to take a shot. It seems quite practical if it’s sunny out.

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I remember clearly when I got my first pair of espadrilles. I was 19, on holiday in Spain, and bought a pair from a local market. Dusty and unceremoniously wrapped with an elastic band, they were bought as a cheap alternative to the flip-flops that were giving me blisters.  I wore them every day for the rest of the holiday. Even at that age, I appreciated the elegance of wearing something that covered my bony toes. You could also stand on the backs, and so slip them on like as a sandal. They were cool and comfy. In fact, it was the comfort underfoot that really got to me. There’s something deeply pleasurable about walking on the coiled rope that makes up their sole. It moves against your feet, almost massaging them. And crunches in a satisfying manner.  That rope makes them terrible with water. The key mistake most people seemed to make was the wear them to the beach and get them near the sea. The rope hardens, and they’re never the same again.  That might seem hopelessly impractical in a holiday shoe, when you could be close to a pool or the sea every day. But it takes little effort to take them off before they get wet. And if you’re not prepared to invest that amount of effort, you’ll struggle with almost any good-looking clothes.  bought a second pair of espadrilles the following year, avoided getting them wet, and they lasted another five summers.  People talk about espadrilles as a throw-away item, and certainly the rope sole will gradually fray at the edges. But all you need to do is trim them with a pair of scissors, and they’ll be pretty much as good as new.  One thing the rope is certainly bad for is walking on concrete, or tarmac. Basically, wearing in town. This is where the versions sold more commonly in cities today, with thin rubber soles on the bottom, are more practical – and perhaps represent a second category of espadrille.  I don’t mind these soles, though I still prefer a simple rope sole on holiday. I want that crunch under foot as I walk out to the terrace on a cool morning to have breakfast. Read about my favourite brands of espadrille on Permanent Style today Photography @jamesholborow of me in @drakesdiary

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I was president of the PPE society in Trinity, but largely because I don’t think anyone else wanted to do it. Most of the role seemed to be welcoming slightly dodgy ex-Conservative ministers to the college for dinner. We had to give a shuffling, stumbling speech and they had a nice big dinner with lots of port afterwards. Which is not too bad, but it didn’t feel like a particularly active, academic society in that sense.

I’d encourage people to buy fewer clothes, buy better quality clothes

One of the principles behind Permanent Style has always been to buy the best you can afford. And I think as a student that’s particularly important, because your money is so precious that it’s really got to go a long way. Therefore, I’d encourage people to buy fewer clothes, buy better quality clothes that will last a long time and age really well.

I’ve often said that my aim in life is simply to look well dressed and nothing more. I think if someone looks at you and says he looks well dressed without going, “he’s wearing that jacket,” then I think you’re along the right lines.

Under most definitions I’m not a gentleman

One of my favourite posts is “I am not a Gentleman”, because under the definition of what most people talk about as being a gentleman I don’t subscribe to. I don’t own a car, I’d never hope to if I don’t have to; I do like whiskey, but I probably prefer wine most of the time; I don’t smoke cigars, I’ve tried many times but they’re not really for me. So, under most definitions I’m not a gentleman, and yet I’d like to think that most of the original concepts that lie behind being a gentleman I certainly embody.

I’m not much of a cook. I like food but I’m certainly not a foodie and I don’t spend much money on restaurants. I find that more interesting in a way because in some ways I’m a bit like somebody else might be about clothes; largely ignorant about it because of time, because of the fact that I’ve always worked. But I would like to know more about it. If I had an unending amount of time, there’s no end of things I’d like to know more about. Hopefully I’m helping a lot of other people do that about clothes.

Osian Williams

Osian reads English at Trinity, and is in his second year. He holds the Guinness World Record for being the oldest 20 year old in the world.