Notes from a Modern Gentleman

The start of a New Year gives us all the opportunity to wipe the slate clean. For Nick Sullivan, the fashion director of US Esquire this has a much more literal meaning. Over the past 20 years Nick has started every January with a new, trusted, and much loved Soho notebook. Here he shares with us how the pages and memories of each new notebook quickly fill up.

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“I am as into gadgetry as the next man ‘Hello Instagram’ but I do like to hold on to a few analog things here and there. Writing things down by hand is becoming a luxury in itself, which is why I never go to far without my Smythson notebook. For years I have bought the same one in the same size, in navy leather with the brand’s distinctive cross-grained texture. First off at their famous Bond Street boutique and latterly at their flagship boutique in Manhattan. Always in January, just before the seasonal men’s fashion shows kick off in Europe, sometimes moments before heading to Newark for the overnight flight to Florence or London.

“Writing things down by hand is becoming a luxury in itself”

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Part of the essence of luxury to me is being able to replace something with the same thing. Continuity is everything. Purchasing my new Smythson notebook has become a ritualistic act, now stretching back nearly two decades. Walking out of their boutique with a perfectly ribboned Nile blue box and opening the pristine mirrored gold-edge pages for the first time on the plane. One book per season provides plenty of space to write up all the shows, scribe copy, jot down quotes, sketch out stories, take down numbers and stash business cards. I’ve found glued-in Polaroids from ancient shoots and even a crisp 10,000 Lira note from before the Euro. Some of my better ideas (and a lot of stupid ones that fortunately never saw the light of day) are preserved, a catalogue of public wins and mercifully private embarrassments.

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“When battery power fails a notebook is always there on standby”

The iPhone may have taken up much of the heavy lifting now but I still make sure to have a notebook to hand. I find I remember things far better, especially information I need later to cook up into fashion stories or features, if I have physically written them down. I still use a wildly impractical fountain pen, mainly because my handwriting is more legible than if I use a Biro or a Sharpie. When battery power fails a notebook is always there on standby. I chose a jacket once solely based on the fact that a Soho notebook fitted perfectly in the pocket. The jacket is long gone but the books remain, a bit battered and rough around the edges. Like me I guess.”

Special thanks to Nick Sullivan, Fashion Director of US Esquire.