Accessories Clothing Services

I’m trying out The Chapar’s Personal Clothing delivery service for men

Screenshot 2013-10-25 at 18.46.01

This week I was at the Great British Entrepreneurial Awards nomination shortlist reception. Held at 250 Bishopsgate in the centre of the Square Mile (and sponsored, no less, by Bizcrowd), I was there to give a little speech of welcome and to meet the gathered entrepreneurs.

I was blown away by the talent in the room. I don’t envy the judges having to make their decisions from the shortlisted companies. There were entrepreneurs from almost every industry. One pair I bumped into were Sam and Joe Middleton from personal stylist service, The Chapar. I was immediately intrigued as Sam introduced the concept: Wouldn’t it be great if someone who knew what they were talking about sent you a trunk every month containing clothes custom selected for you? Further, wouldn’t it be great if this basic service was free of charge — and that you just pay for any items you’d like to keep, sending the others back?

Yeah. I liked the sound of that.

I’ve heard of similar services in America that I’ve always wanted to try out. So I didn’t waste any time taking Sam’s card and promising to sign-up the next day.

I did sign up. But then I panicked at the online form. I panicked because I don’t really know my style. I don’t necessarily have one. Am I preppy? Or am I smart casual? That depends, you see. It almost depends what office I’m in. If I’m in the City, then I’m probably going to don a tip-top-super-hot pinstripe. If I’m working out in Angel, then I’m usually in relaxed ‘chinos-n-trainers’ look. I then hadn’t heard of half the brands they’d put up on the form to help give The Chapar’s stylists a bit of a hint.

I phoned the number on The Chapar’s website to ask for some advice. The call was answered by a delightfully sounding Chelsea. I explained that I loved the concept but didn’t feel qualified to complete the online form, nor did I feel it was appropriate for me to complete a phone style assessment with one of The Chapar’s personal stylists. This, I explained, is because I am married.

Some men like to retain their own individual sense of style and jealously guard their wardrobe. I’m not one of those people. I outsource that to my wife. This is why I married her. She knows and I’m fine with that. The last thing I want to do is go and buy something and then bring it back home and have her stare at me with the, “What were you thinking?” look. Far more efficient, I think, to have her talk to The Chapar’s personal stylist.

Chelsea — to her credit — didn’t laugh. She said that would be no problem.

My wife duly phoned up and had a chat, I think, with another of The Chapar’s team (a lady called Hannah). I haven’t had the time to ask about the experience as it’s been a busy week however I can say that my wife appeared content.

I think we’re both waiting with baited breath now.

I clicked the ‘send me a trunk’ button and a few hours later I had an email telling me that my trunk had been dispatched, along with a UPS reference. Nice.

I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

I am very impressed by the simplicity and ease of use. The team, too, well, the one’s I’ve been exposed to (Hannah and Chelsea) appeared highly capable. Chelsea sounded fashionable on the phone.

Now then. How will that translate to 36-year-old me?

Before I ordered the trunk, there was a helpful series of checkboxes asking if I needed anything in particular. Chinos, jackets, that sort of thing. Rather useful that. I didn’t know what to put. I didn’t want to leave the form blank so I clicked a few boxes.

I can’t wait.

Bring it on.

You can try out The Chapar for just £1 (required to verify your credit card). There are no other charges unless you’d like to purchase some of the items you’ve been sent. I would imagine it’s possible to receive a whole trunk, look through the items and return them all — free of charge. That would be pretty boring though.

The ability to try on clothes easily and without the hassle of sales assistants shoving things in your face strikes me as a key benefit. I reckon there’s a high likelihood that I’ll probably want to keep some things. The experimentation possibilities are likely to help me buy more, I’m sure. For example, it’s likely that I’d never reach for a particular jacket or item of clothing if I saw it on a shelf in a shop. But if you’ve sent it to me… I’ll at least consider it. And then you’ll have my wife sitting next to me with a glass of wine appraising it all. In a relaxed manner.

Interesting, very interesting.

I’ll let you know how I get on.

In the meantime if you’d like to give it a go, get yourself over to and let me know how you get on.

Accessories Cufflinks Highly Recommended

Your child’s handprint impression on your cufflinks


I’ve been having a browse around for some really good cufflinks in our continuing Cufflinks series. I came across this ones recently and was thoroughly surprised and delighted. At first, I thought they were simply featuring standard handprints meant to remind you of your children. However when I visited the Gift Wrapped & Gorgeous website, I found that they’re entirely custom!

That’s right! You can get your child’s handprint impression on some cufflinks! As you can see on the image above, each cufflink has the child’s name and their handprint. If you’ve two children, you can opt for one imprint on each cufflink (more expensive) or you can simply opt for the default — the same imprint on both.

The cufflinks are Silver (plated, I assume?) and of course, there’s a bit of homework involved: Rebecca from Handprintz will send you a “non messy” (good) kit to easily take the handprint. Return that to her and she’ll produce the resulting cufflinks.

I absolutely love it!

You should allow 28 days for the whole process — that’s understandable.

I reckon this is one of those gifts that’s nigh on 100% perfect for a wife to give her husband [partner/etc] because it’s the sort of thing that can be done during the day when they’re at work — so it’s a real, super surprise. On the other hand, it’s something that you can instigate directly.

I would imagine that these are both eye catching and touching — suitable to accompany a high-powered pinstripe in the Square Mile or during a relaxed weekend.

The total cost all-in? £130.

Visit the Gift Wrapped & Gorgeous website’s Handprintz entry for more information and ordering details.

Accessories Technology

Is Thule’s Gauntlet Sleeve the sexiest MacBook Air case?

I think it could well be.

I’ve got a MacBook Air 11″ that I use religiously, especially when I’m abroad. I don’t have a case for it per se. Instead I stick it into one of my suitcase pockets. Not good, I know. It’s asking for trouble. So I’ve been on the lookout for something decent to protect my Air in transit for a little while.

I might just be sold on Thule’s fantastic looking Gauntlet Sleeve:

The Gauntlet is stitch-free. Seams are heat-welded and there’s an extra fold inside to provide water-resistance. The interior is lined with soft nylex to avoid scratches. If you bought the 13″ MacBook Air, don’t worry, there’s a Gauntlet for that too.

You can pick one of these up at the Apple Store for £39.95 (link). A perfect gift — but, really, I think this is actually something that’s more likely to be purchased by the owner. I’m giving serious consideration to it.

Accessories Must Have Wine

Vinturi: The fastest way to aerate red wine

If you’re in to red wine then this is one of those must haves, especially if you enjoy experimenting with powerful vintages that definitely need a bit of time to breathe.

It’s an arse if you get it wrong. Most good reds usually need half an hour or an hour or so to properly ‘breathe’. The difference in terms of bouquet, flavour and finish between open and 60 minutes later is often quite palpable. But what if a friend pops over? Or if you need to deploy another bottle of red right now? Vinturi is your friend. Let’s have a look at it:

To aerate your wine you simply pour directly from the bottle through the Vinturi Aerator directly into the glass. Job done. It’s ready to drink.

I love it. I think I’ll need to get one.

Here’s what Vinturi delivers:

Better bouquet: Sample the nose of the wine. You’ll appreciate the subtle aromatic differences and the full aroma of the wine. Vinturi allows wine to release its intended aromas.
Enhanced flavours: Take a sip. Vinturi aerated wine tastes better, richer and more expensive as well as more flavoursome with better mouthfeel.
Smoother finish: Vinturi aeration is very effective at softening tannins resulting in a much more pleasant finish. Any bitterness or bad aftertaste is reduced or eliminated.

And the science bit? I’m glad you asked.

The design applies Bernoulli’s principle, which states that as the speed of a moving fluid increases, the pressure within the fluid decreases. When wine is poured in the Vinturi, its design creates an increase in the wine’s velocity and a decrease in its pressure. This pressure difference draws in air, which is mixed with wine for perfect aeration.

There you go.

The Vinturi Aerator retails at £39.95 although if you shop around you’ll probably find it slightly cheaper. This is most certainly ‘job done’ for any of your wine-loving friends given Christmas is coming up.

Here’s the Amazon link:

Accessories Technology

Clear your Christmas List for Bang & Olufsen

Hello to the team at Bang & Olufsen.

I have a confession to make in this regard. I walked past the Bang & Olufsen shop almost every weekend for about a year when I lived in Marlow, Buckinghamshire. I walked straight past. I didn’t go in.

This is because a) I didn’t want to be tempted and b) I had the wee man (Archie) in the buggy and didn’t think he’d appreciate having to watch me stare at technology for hours.

So Hello to Bang & Olufsen — especially the team at the company’s Glasgow Merchant City store. (By the way, I do recommend checking out their gallery demonstrating the installation of Scotland’s biggest TV — in a room that, if you ask me, really should be a lot bigger). They’ve put together a rather handy Christmas Wish List for tech lovers.

You know what’s coming, right?

Yes. A litany of gorgeous looking, super-expensive technology.

First up? They recommend BeoSound 8. This is precisely what you need if you’ve been thinking about getting a speaker dock for your iPad, iPod or iPhone. Here’s the science bit:

It’s conical speaker eliminates internal resonances and also creates a sleek and unobtrusive design which will suit any room in the home.

I’d buy one. Speaking of which, it’s retailing for £935. Now let’s have a picture of it:

BeoSound 8 in yellow

Next up, the team recommend the BeoCom 2 as “a conversation piece”. I like what they did there — the BeoCom is a phone. But, yes — this is Bang & Olufsen we’re talking about so it’s It’s crafted from a single piece of aluminium, sits naturally in your hand and the gentle curve matches your face. Useful and stylish. £735. I think I need a few of these.

Let’s have a photo of that:

BeoCom 2

I would really like to check out the next gizmo on the list: The BeoTime Alarm Clock. It will, the team at Glasgow reliably state, transform your traditional morning ritual into an extraordinary experience. It’s got a built-in motion sensor along with subtle automatic backlighting. I do very much like the look of this sitting on the bedside table. £299. Here’s the photo (in-situ):


Next, the team list the highly reasonable £105 Form 2 headphones. I’ll just do a link for this one as I’d like to move over to BeoVision now.


BeoVision looks to be the ultimate for me. It’s the last item on the list.

First though, seriously — watch this introductory video:

Now I’ve bought the concept, what’s the BeoVision 4 all about? Well it comes in two sizes: 85″ and 103″.

I automatically want the 103″, obviously.

I won’t bore you with the specs except to quote the BeoVision introductory paragraph:

In BeoVision 4, Bang & Olufsen’s advanced picture engines are combined with the best Full HD 3D plasma screens in 85 or 103 inches, to achieve a phenomenal viewing experience. No ordinary plasma screen can beat BeoVision 4 in terms of long term picture quality. All plasmas degrade with time, but BeoVision 4 has the remedy – in the form of Automatic Colour Management, a unique system that compensates for the effects of aging. A tiny built-in camera serves as your in-house technician, checking your screen after every 100 hours of use and adjusting the colour balance accordingly

Ah I think I need a BeoVision. With my existing setup I can’t tell you how flipping annoying it is having to arse around with the picture/contrast settings every time I want to watch something properly. And then trying to choose between LIVE or SURROUND or ROCK or whatever audio profiles, none of which really seem that good. I won’t admit to you just how embarrassing my existing solution is. It’s shocking. It’s about a billion miles from BeoVision. Suffice to say I had to augment the sound on my existing TV with a set of JBL Creature III speakers.

Besides offering a Full HD 3D “phenomenal viewing experience”, what’s the retail price for the BeoVision then? Care to hazard a guess? Well, I think you’d need to make a choice between either a full spec Range Rover or the BeoVision 4 103″ model.

The 85″ BeoVision 4 is £52,150.

The 103″ BeoVision 4 is £82,085.

This is how it should look in your house:

BeoVision 4

Very, very nice.

Accessories Chap Who Has Everything Technology

Bring some country flair to your sooped-up technology with this Tweed iPad Case

I thought I’d go for a long title on this one.

It’s de rigueur nowadays to have a decent case for your iPad. Those cheap, black rubbish plastic monstrosity shouldn’t be allowed. Either keep your iPad naked or get a decent case.

And if you’d like to bring a bit of a traditional contrast to your iPad, then this is precisely what you need: The Tweed Case from the Unique Boutique company!

Because you need a proper case for your iPad

It’s handmade so delivery time is a minimum of 4-weeks. For the purists reading, I’m not sure if it’s Harris Tweed, Donegal Tweed or perhaps standard tweed. I’ll get on to Unique Boutique and find out.

This is precisely the sort of thing that wives might consider giving to their husbands-who-have-everything (particularly if they’re not that into Fish & Chips). But I also reckon this is a smart gift for chaps to give other chaps. It’s a safe one, isn’t it? You can’t go wrong, even if you don’t-really-know-them-that-much. If they don’t have an iPad, then you’re flattering them by presuming they do. If they have an iPad, the chances are they’ve got a rubbish cover (or non at all). Just, make sure the chap doesn’t work for RIM or Motorola, makers of the iPad rivals.

Now then, the cost? Well, it’s not at all crazy. Handmade? I was thinking this might well be one of those half-the-price-of-the-iPad style covers. But no. It’s a highly reasonable £75.

I have to point out that I haven’t seen or held one in the flesh but from the photos — I’ve included a close-up photo of the stitching below — it does look very good quality.

Purchase at Unique Boutique.

Accessories Chap Who Has Everything

Fish ‘n’ Chips Case: A useful, practical indulgence!

Right then, we’ve all had this problem now and again I’m sure: You find yourself in one of the smarter village High Streets surrounded by 16th Century tumbledown cottages that you remember seeing for sale in excess of £1m in Country Life. There’s the occasional Knight Frank sign. There are one or two super-gastro pubs. Bentley Continental GTs everywhere. Oh, and Range Rovers.

You decide to pop to the very smart chip shop for a traditional Fish & Chips. But wait, what’s missing? I’ll tell you! It’s a critical requirement for any right thinking gentleman: The Fish ‘n’ Chips case.

This does look utterly gorgeous.

Have a look, first of all, then I’ll explain:

Because you've got everything else -- and sometimes the chip shop doesn't have any wooden forks left

So as you can see, it’s a nicely sized case that looks like it will sit perfectly on your shoulders. It’s described as the ultimate indulgence and although I can’t disagree with that statement, the utilitarian in me does see a use for it. Inside the handmade lined rosewood case, you’ll find two important additions to elevate the standard gastro-Fish & Chip experience: A hip flask and a fork.

But, of course, it’s not just a standard hip flask. No. This one is hand-glazed ceramic. The fork? Silver.

And you know what, eating Fish & Chips without a fork is a little bit annoying. Forks are the way ahead — but I do find those wooden ones that most chip shops offer a little bit temporary. So the fork, genius.

As for the flask, fill it with your favourite tipple.

I can think of about 4 people in my immediate circle who would love this. One chap I can positively guarantee would manufacture opportunities to actually use this Fish ‘n’ Chips case at least twice a month. Above anything, I think he’d really appreciate the way the case sits on his tweed blazer.

Given the case is handmade and the flask is hand-glazed, there’s an 8 week lead time for any orders.

And the damage? £1,400.

I’m definitely filing this under ‘for the chap who has everything’ because I’m pretty confident, he doesn’t yet have one of these.

The case retailer, The Unique Boutique Company, has a wide array of other goods that you should take a look at. I’ve signed up to their newsletter. I’m delighted I’ve found them. Plus it looks like they do a nice line in hampers too. (That’s something else I need to look at soon.)


Plantronics Audio 648 headset: I’m pretty impressed

Often I just want the decision made for me.

I don’t want to have to think.

I’ve been having problems with headsets for quite a while. Whenever anyone’s suggested a Skype call, I’ve either declined politely or accepted with grim awareness that the rubbish headset I’ve got will screw things up. A long time ago I paid £35 (or something like that) for a plastic Gigaware headset in Dixons. I think it was one of the Dixons Taxfree shops at London Heathrow. I was desperate, I needed to be able to use Skype when I was abroad and,… boom, these were the ONLY pair in stock at the time.

They do work.

Just, not very well.

Indeed, every 30-45 minutes, they would stop working. My audio would significantly distort at this point and then I’d start getting folk interrupting me during the call telling me they can’t hear me very well.

Eventually I realised that if I removed the Gigaware USB plug, then put it in again, everything would be fine. Which moved me to a rather ludicrous “I’ll be back in just a moment” interruption every 30-odd minutes, whenever I’m on a Skype call. Ridiculous I know. Just… it’s what you do, right? I haven’t had time to go and figure out a better option.

When I’ve asked around, no one seemed to have a definitive recommendation. No one could name a particular brand of headset. So I’ve just delayed the purchase.

Until last week. I finally gave in and invested a bit of time to find a decent headset.

The answer?

Well, I just went to and clicked on their Accessories page. I then clicked into Headsets and started shopping. Frankly I just looked for the most expensive one. I was pretty enamoured with the Everyman Freetalk Wireless but then I thought, “Do I actually need wireless?”

I decided no. So I looked around for some wired USB headsets…

I’ve known the Plantronics brand for quite a while. They have a good reputation as far as I am aware so I perused Skype’s offering in detail. My reasoning was simple: Skype know about headsets for VOIP. They’ll have reviewed a few of them and, you know, weeded out the dross.

I settled on the Platronics Audio 648 model because they were available via Amazon Prime immediately. I also liked the fact that they were Skype certified — again, I don’t want to have to think. They’re the behind-the-head style which suited me fine. I really didn’t care whether it was over-the-head or behind-the-head.

Oh and yes, sorry Skype. I didn’t want to take a chance with your online fulfilment services. I ordered via Amazon and the 648s arrived right-away. (My recent policy, the subject of another post, is to always buy through Amazon Prime where possible to avoid any exceptions whatsoever).

I’m pleased to say that I used the 648s in anger (i.e. properly) to record one of the 361 Degrees podcasts at the weekend. I’m delighted to report that they’re incredibly comfortable, the audio fidelity appears fantastic. They seem particularly good with voice. I have been listening to music with them as well, but that was *not* the primary use case — it’s all about voice. Ben and Rafe (my other podcasting buddies) sounded super-clear. And I didn’t have to remove the USB plug during the call either.

One negative: Getting into the packaging was a flipping arse. I’m embarrassed to point out that I actually cut one of my fingers opening it. I don’t know why folk don’t just make super-easy packaging nowadays. I was seriously annoyed but that experience. Thanks for that, Plantronics. You’d think those chaps would know how to manufacture some easy to open packaging, eh?