Real shopping: Style Police - Men in black

You can blame Tom Ford at Gucci for the fact that colours are taboo in this autumn's wardrobe for the well-dressed male, says JAMES SHERWOOD

Style Police had the mother of all hangovers after the FHM Menswear awards this week. It wasn't the red wine with vodka stinger chasers. And nor was it the loud thud of host Gail Porter's jokes limping helplessly towards the emergency exit. No, what struck Style Police forcibly was the massed ranks of black- clad men suited and booted for the menswear awards of the year.

This season, women get to wear colours more exotic than the hothouse in Kew Gardens. Men, meanwhile, will not be seduced by colour for autumn/winter 99. And amen to that.

As the various movers, shakers and loungers of the British menswear industry demonstrated at the FHM Awards, the black suit and cashmere sweater uniform is hotter than Adam Rickitts' underpants.

We all wake up after a particularly wild party with a list of apologies longer than the Domesday Book and the Bible put together. Well, we owe an apology to Gucci's Tom Ford. Instead of praising you enormously like we should, Tom, Style Police has all too often had a giggle at Mr Ford's expense. But Tom Ford is essentially the inventor of contemporary menswear's sharp urban uniform: single-breasted black jacket and cigarette-slim flat front pants, luxe black cashmere sweater or crisp white shirt open to the abs, silver-tab black leather Gucci belt, black leather loafers or side-zipped black leather ankle boots.

"So what else is new?" I hear you drawl. "Is that the best that we can do for the boys in Y2K?" Well, in a word, yes. Every woman you've ever tried to schmooze will tell you every man looks cute in a black tuxedo. That's why even the man with a face like a robber's dog can cop off at a black tie ball.

The black suit, monotone top and sharp accessories are the contemporary urban man's answer to black tie. Tom Ford's simple message for men is neat, groomed, luxe and restrained, and nobody does it better.

The two powerhouse designer menswear labels, Gucci and Prada, have done more than you know for British menswear. Practically every international designer worth his Malibu mansion has launched a diffusion range: a cheaper, more accessible line such as Prada Sport, Helmut Lang Jeans or CK1.

So God bless the British high street because they've been inspired to raise their game. If designers can reach down with diffusion lines, ergo high street stores can aim high with an elite collection of special pieces a little bit pricier than mainline.

These quality "Infusion Lines" by the high street stores will bring British menswear into Y2K. Principles for Men launches "Collection" on 1 September in selected stores. Collection is an inspired, interpretation of Gucci's luxe contemporary menswear uniform. It is the Style Police discovery of 1999.

How to wear it

Monotone is a simple but deceptively strict story to put together. Wearing black, white and grey is as soothingly repetitive as Ravel's Bolero. But if you get just one element wrong it will stand out like a duck whistle at the crescendo of the aforementioned music.

Cheap works for white pieces like the classic M&S tight white tee or a classic Gap white shirt. But the black and grey cornerstones of the winter wardrobe have to be luxe, luxe, luxe. The black single breasted jacket is looking correct again after a couple of seasons in remission. Ditto the charcoal grey flat front pant. The accessories have to be beautifully maintained and all black.

Where to buy it

Everything, and we mean everything, you need for autumn/winter is waiting behind minimalist smoked glass divides in Principles for Men Collection stores.

You have to have the basic black fine wool suit with a little bit of lycra in the weave to give it Nineties stretch. You have to have the wool and cashmere flat front charcoal or black pants (pounds 50). Collection's black leather Harrington zip front jacket is a steal for pounds 175.

Now Style Police expects numerous bottles of Jack Daniels flooding the office in grateful thanks for discovering what certainly must be the buy of the year: Collection's black or charcoal grey 100 per cent cashmere V- neck sweater which weighs in at pounds 60. You want more? Try the Gucciesque silver tab black leather belt for pounds 18.

Finally, with the obscenely huge savings you've just made by shopping at Collection, Style Police now wants you to go to Gucci and treat yourself to a shiny new pair of black leather loafers. Go on. You need them because you're weak.

Address book

Gucci: 0171 629 2716.

Principles For Men Collection: 0800 731 8286.

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<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
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