The Casual Style Guide - A Conversation with Simon Crompton on Permanent Style's Latest Book

The Casual Style Guide - A Conversation with Simon Crompton on Permanent Style's Latest Book

Seven years after the publication of The Style Guide, Permanent Style’s Simon Crompton and street style photographer Jamie Ferguson have teamed up yet again to bring us their new book – The Casual Style Guide. Adopting a similar format to its more formal predecessor, The Casual Style Guide contains over 200 pages of perceptive street style imagery paired with snippets of commentary to provide sartorial insights that seamlessly merge expert analysis with personal reflections. This time however the focus is on the art of dressing casually, which is something that Simon and Jamie clearly believe (and have now proven) should come without compromise. After selling out on Permanent Style’s website in less than two weeks the book is currently being re-printed for an ever-growing waitlist. Until then, it can only be found at select stockists such as Dick’s Edinburgh. So before we become the next outlet to sell out of his book we decided to give Simon a call to discuss his latest work, covering a variety of topics including the origin of The Casual Style Guide, working together with Jamie and what makes them such a good team, and (surprisingly) why he doesn’t consider himself to be a natural entrepreneur.

Simon Crompton & Jamie Ferguson

With seven books now under Crompton’s belt I started our call by asking him how his Style Guides fit in with the rest of his works. He explained that while all of his books are about menswear in one way or another each one explores a different segment of the industry, with the Style Guides providing their own unique angle from which to view the vast and intricate world of menswear. Best of British, for example, covers the rich heritage and traditions of English manufacturing and tailoring while Bespoke Style provides a hands-on analysis of bespoke suiting, highlighting some of the finest suit makers in the world and the high-level craftsmanship that’s required to properly build a suit from scratch. (And that’s just two examples.) The Style Guides however focus on just that – style. They’re books that shine a spotlight on dressing rather than clothing and reveal how one’s personality and knowledge can be conveyed through the thoughtful combination of clothing.

There are a few things that make these Style Guides so hard to put down, and the first is the layout. On one page is a striking street style image courtesy of Jamie and on the other is a brief commentary on why that particular outfit makes stylistic sense, often being no more than just a single sentence. The brevity of the text allows for the images to speak largely for themselves, yet it provides just enough information to lead the reader in the right direction without telling them exactly what to do and how to do it. Like food for thought, rather than an instruction manual. During our call, Simon likened this format to social media – simply an image with a short, snappy caption. It made perfect sense and quickly explained why these books are so easy to consume.

The Casual Style Guide by Permanent Style
A look inside The Casual Style Guide.

Second, these books seem to have an uncanny ability to attract menswear aficionados of every level, offering equal value to both the novice reader and the seasoned expert. To the former they can serve as literal guides to discovering new or better ways to dress for everyday casual life, while to the latter the expertly curated content can simply be enjoyed, having and deserving the ability to capture the attention and admiration of menswear’s highest ranks, many of whom are featured in these books themselves.

However, a major way in which The Casual Style Guide differs from the original is that it contains commentary from both Simon and Jamie, whereas the original featured commentary solely from Simon. This, Crompton believes, provides the reader with a more complete and balanced insight into each outfit presented within the book. Elaborating on this, Simon explained how he and Jamie actually observe menswear quite differently, with Simon having an eagle-eye for more objective aspects of an outfit’s anatomy, such as color pairings and fabric choices, while Jamie’s expertise lies more in the intangible – things like attitude, vibes, and sprezzatura, an Italian term referring to how someone wears something rather than what they’re wearing. The duo’s contrasting tones contribute to this harmony as well – professionally technical from Simon and humorously playful from Jamie. It’s a highly successful collaborative partnership to say the least, but business aside Simon was sure to add that meeting people like Jamie is one of the best parts of his job, emphasizing the importance, value, and excitement of discussing a shared interest with someone who’s views on the matter are different from his own.

At some point toward the end of our call Simon briefly touched on the idea of legacy, citing that publications on style don’t always age particularly well and that he hopes his contributions to menswear and style will retain a level of permanency over time. Relatively speaking this is an easier goal to achieve when discussing the subject matter that Simon is best known for, such as bespoke tailoring and luxury formalwear, which are often deeply rooted in tradition. But as soon as the dress code starts to relax and the objectivity of craftsmanship becomes overshadowed by the subjectivity of style then this task can become increasingly difficult, even when you have someone as talented as Jamie behind the lens (who Simon praised for his distinct ability to capture timeless outfits, even when they’re casual.) This is perhaps part of the reason why The Casual Style Guide wasn’t created sooner. Because despite how much he’s accomplished over the years, Simon admitted that he doesn’t actually consider himself to be a natural entrepreneur, citing his tendency to be somewhat risk-averse. There’s a career’s worth of accomplishments and accolades to dispel that claim, but despite its validity circumstance seemed to make the call for him when the world was suddenly faced with Covid-19 and the need for suiting temporarily evaporated, making the ability to promote casual style less of an option and more of a necessity. As a result, he and Jamie decided to create The Casual Style Guide, which now, years after the pandemic has ended and suits are being worn again, has still been met with resounding success – a testament to both Simon and Jamie’s expertise and proof that there was never really any risk involved at all. Even still, the decision to write a book on casual style should not be viewed as a shift in Permanent Style’s focus but rather a broadening of their coverage and expertise. Because what the book really does is show that the same rules of timelessness, elegance and quality surrounding formal attire can also still apply to casual dressing.

Written by Joe Strider