Team Talk – Steve Knorsch
Our New York MD, Steve Knorsch, talks us through his start in menswear, sartorial differences between New York and London, our new Penthouse location, the joys of houndstooth and his summer suit wish list.
Today is one of those brilliantly, bright spring days that calls for strategic layering. What are you wearing?
Steve: My most recent commission, a bespoke 3-piece houndstooth suit. Having been on my wish list for a very long time, 2022 felt like the year to make it happen. It features a two-button, single breasted peak lapel jacket with 4 1/2” lapels, straight pockets and a ticket pocket. High-waisted trousers with a single inward facing pleat that I like to wear with suspenders, a 2’ inch waistband and turn-ups. The waistcoat is a six button single breasted style.
Coming out of a two year pandemic, this suit represented something of a reawakening, coinciding with our recent relocation to The Penthouse – a larger space in our original location, on W.57th Street. Breathtakingly grand, it reinforced the desire to dress up again and really look the part. Already a firm favorite in my regular closet rotation, proof that great things come to those who wait!
What inspires your personal style?
Steve: For me, inspiration comes in many forms. For my houndstooth suit it was a photo of myself as a toddler, wearing houndstooth trousers, and one of my favorite paintings “Le Cercle de la Rue Royale”, an 1868 group portrait by James Tissot, with two of the subjects wearing houndstooth trousers. Digging further into the cloth’s heritage, I was surprised to find that the oldest known occurrence of the houndstooth pattern is in the form of a cloak (The Gerum Cloak), found in a Swedish peat bog, dating back to 360-100 BC.
Coming from Belgium, we call the houndstooth pattern ‘pied-de-poule’. French for ‘hens-foot’, this is the shape you see in the cloth’s design. Close up it is very noticeable but from afar it’s surprising how muted the pattern becomes to the point that it almost looks like a solid grey suit.
What’s your general approach for putting together an outfit?
Steve: I always dress for the occasion. For work it’s a mix of suits and separates, incorporating a variety of ties and accessories to capitalise on individuality and flair. If I’m going out to a dinner straight after, then I’ll put together a look that will seamlessly cross over from daytime to nighttime.
However, a big consideration here in NY is the weather. Being so changeable, layering often plays a big part. When the temperature drops into the minuses, I’ll start with long-johns and end with heavy overcoat. I think winter is the best season to go for it sartorially, with the variations that three piece suits and layering offer, compared with the milder seasons, when jackets tend to come off and less is more.
Have you noticed a change in men’s dress codes since Covid?
Steve: We had one lockdown here in New York followed by a fairly informal summer. Then what felt like a shift back to formality after Labour Day (first Monday of September). The tie wasn’t there but guys went back to rocking the suits. Pocket squares with no ties was the trend I really noticed. A simple, crisp white silk or linen pocket square in lieu of a tie seemed to signal ‘back to work’.
Does the approach to suit wearing differ between New York and London?
Steve: I’d say there’s a split here between the expat community, who still dress conservatively – Oxford cap toe shoes, two and three piece suits – and the less formal American prep school of dress. It’s the footwear that gives it away. Roughly 75% of my customers wear loafers with their classic suits in navy, medium grey and the occasional glen check.
As well as being MD of Cad & The Dandy in New York, you also curate @thesnobreport on Instagram, which has a cult following. How did this come about?
Steve: I spent 23 years in a sales and marketing roles at corporate firms in Belgium. Being client facing I had to wear a shirt, suit and tie, and always enjoyed dressing the part. Friends, and colleagues would often ask my advice on dressing – do I need a pattern on this suit? what kind of suit is appropriate for this occasion?, etc. which coincided with a time when menswear was coming into its own on social media. I started dabbling with content creation which eventually lead to Instagram and finding a like-minded community, which continues to inspire me.
How did you start working in menswear?
Steve: In 2016 I left the corporate world, took a sabbatical and relocated to the US – a year to discover what I wanted to do. I was in New York and needed a suit for an event so I did a tour of Manhattan’s tailors. I ended up commissioning from P Johnson, and made some good friends there.
This lead to an offer to apprentice and learn the basics of tailoring. I’d always had a passion for both suits and customer relations. I was able to get off ‘the big corporate wheel’, while maintaining one-on-one relationships with customers, which was an aspect of my previous job I had always enjoyed.
A few years later I met James and Ian, founders of Cad and The Dandy, and the rest, as they say, is history……
Have you always loved dressing up?
Steve: Yes, from a young age. Both my parents loved dressing up too, for work and for events. I learned from them that when it rained there was proper attire for that. If it was snowing, there was another ‘dress code’. I became interested in these rules, reading lots of books and articles about them, eventually realising there’s more to clothes than ‘fashion’. Style and menswear evolve while fashion is cyclical. In your 20s, you discover your style, by your 30s you’ve hopefully figured it out. You know the rules and how to break them occasionally.
Were there any style mistakes along the way?
Steve: I went through a bold period when I started really getting into menswear – loud red pinstripes, purple overchecks. It was fun and I don’t regret it, but I learnt that the boldness can be tiring.
The switch from ready-to-wear to bespoke was definitely a learning curve, appreciating that there are more subtle way to express yourself, mostly through your choice of accessories. A beautiful navy suit will last you 10-15 years and is a good investment, but it’s in the accessories that you can really make a statement of style – striped shirt, pop up collar, a statement tie, bold socks. Others notice these subtle details and you get to have fun with the choices, without being stuck with an experimental suit you’ll grow tired of.
Who are your menswear style icons?
Steve: Oh that’s easy – Steve McQueen and Prince Michael of Kent. From morning to night, even in denim and a T shirt, they look impeccable. They always dress the part. They know the rules of dressing properly and they consistently get it right. Their clothes are fitted properly with styles that are very much their own. They wear their clothes, their clothes don’t wear them.
What advice would you give to someone looking to get into the world of menswear?
Steve: Open your eyes. There are so many visual stimuli out there. Start noticing people who’s style you admire and look at the choices, colours and fit as well as the things you are naturally drawn to. Don’t be afraid to get it wrong. And don’t be afraid to ask questions! There are so many interesting people in the menswear sphere, many of whom are happy to engage and converse about these things.
What’s your next bespoke commission?
Steve: Our cloth books are full of inspiration, with new seasonal arrivals being the most exciting. For the summer I’m looking at a solid seersucker suit, as opposed to the traditional striped or chequered kind. I’d also love a herringbone suit. The fact that the inside of the cloth is a different colour to the outside of the cloth gives me endless satisfaction. An unstructured buggy lined suit, that you can flash the inside of, looks beautiful. I’d go for something like this avocado green on the outside with a blue thread running through the inside.
In terms of construction, I like a structured shoulder with a little bit of roping – most guys need the help of structure! Towards spring/summer, a thinner shoulder and no roping gives quite a leisurely feel to a suit – easy to wear with a crew neck and sneakers. With seersucker, for example, I’ll go completely unstructured. That’ll be my ‘high summer in New York’ look.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. We’ll look forward to seeing you at the new showroom very soon!