My Journey into Blogging | A Massive Thanks to my '&FRIENDS' Contributing Authors

It seems a lifetime away from 2013 when I launched my menswear brand Hawkins & Shepherd and starting writing blog posts about shirts, fabrics and what knot to wear with your shirts. In 2014 I launched my eponymous Men's Lifestyle Blog. Back then, to begin with I was looking to drive more traffic to my menswear label, but it soon came apparent that the blog was developing into something separate and deserved its own platform. More and more people were coming to me for advice and I wanted to provide a place for people that wanted to enhance their style. 

It has been a major learning curve moving from my previous career which I was the Global Head of IT Communications & Networking for a major privately owned commodities trading house to starting up my own shirt label and subsequently men's lifestyle blog. Back then when I was building my previous career, I had no clue what a blog was and would have laughed at you if you suggested that I would give up a career that I've spent 15 years perfecting on a gamble for a better lifestyle; but that's exactly what I did. Some friends laughed, some suggested it wouldn't work, some were just worried for me but in most cases they were supportive. All of these reactions are forever indented into my memories which I call upon for inspiration and to make myself even more dedicated to succeed.

One thing I do miss about working for someone else is the holiday pay, the sick pay, actually the consistent pay in general - oh and the odd hangover day when you're on the clock getting paid but not really there mentally! Starting Hawking & Shepherd, not only took a lot of capital but also a hell of a lot of my hours and I think there is a massive misconception about life being greener when self-employed and now I know that to be correct. Since 2013, I've put every single penny that the business makes back into it, to help it grow, improve and to have the best chance of success in the long-term. It's really hard and have so much respect for anyone who has made a successful change in career or launched their own brand.  

Mid-way through 2017 I was thinking of ways to turn my self-titled blog into more of an online magazine, an encyclopedia of everything men's lifestyle. It was then that I decided to seek out other writers and journalists to contribute to carlthompson.co.uk and to help them launch themselves to a possibly difference audience to what they would usually come in contact with. The relationship had to be beneficial to all parties and we have achieved that. I wanted to take this opportunity at the start of 2018 to say a massive thanks to these writers who have contributed to the success of 2017 in which we've seen an increase of unique visitors by 85.8% compared to the previous year.

Unfortuently my budget doesn't stretch to have them all employed full-time. So I'm sure they will not mind if I did a shout out to each of them and say to feel free to contact them if you require unique content, copy-writing, event coverage etc.

Peter Brooker is a Professional Freelancer & Copywriter with SEO experience. Founder & Editor of Human Research. Lifestyle Editor & Podcast host for Menswear Style. Fashion Editor for The Essential Journal. He has interviewed leading ambassadors, athletes, celebrities, actors including David Gandy, Daniel Sturridge, Paul Weller, Evander Holyfield, Sir Steve Redgrave, David Haye, George Foreman, Dita Von Teese, Idris Elba, Jamie Redknapp, Sir Roger Moore and Stephen Hendry. Oh in case anyone is still reading he also writes for Viz and is unbeaten at crazy golf. 

Originally from Cornwall, Holly has two main passions in life: history and gin. With a degree in history and over 7 years of knowledge working in the gin industry, she now writes about both. Holly creates food recipes for artisan spirits companies and is always on the search to try and experiment with new flavours. You can follow her on Twitter @HollyHarwood and on Instagram @HollyHWood.

Patrick McAleenan is a freelance journalist, PR and Personal Trainer, based in London. He is a regular contributor to Telegraph Men, Metro, Attitude magazine and other high profile publications. He was a Stonewall Awards 2014 Journalist of the Year nominee and is currently writing his first work of fiction. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @ontheptrain

Suzanne Bernie is the founder and Managing Director of Coathanger. Based in one of the fashion capitals of the World, London; Suzanne is a leading fashion stylist who helps clients develop a better relationship with their wardrobe and how they express themselves with fashion. With over 20 years of experience in the fashion industry and having founded Coathanger in 2002, Suzanne and her team of personal stylist’s aim to help people step out of their comfort zones and develop a whole new outlook on the role fashion plays in our everyday lives.

...and to the newest member signed up for 2018, I'm incredibly excited to introduce to you Christopher Modoo...

Christopher Modoo is the "Urbane Outfitter". With over 25 years experience in men's fashion he is an expert on style and etiquette.Having worked in all aspects of menswear from shop floor to senior creative, Christopher is now a freelance stylist and is working on launching his own label. As well as fashion, Christopher is a keen fan of the cinema and enjoys travel. He is married and lives in Hampton Court.

Get stylish up top - 5 best winter hats for men

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Hats in general can be hard to pull off. Whether you’re looking for pure warmth or a bit more attitude, when the temperatures drop, make sure you have something stylish up top. From classic to more vibrant designs, no matter what your look and budget, here are some of the best on offer for autumn/winter 2017.

Hats exclusively illustrated by Joseph Larkowsky (@josayhef)

 

Beanie

Beanies bypass all rules of hat-wearing. The knit style has a simple, universal quality that makes it look just right on anyone. Plus, it keeps your head warm, disguises bad hair days, and adds an easy detail to every outfit. Our pick is from Drake’s, the British menswear haberdasher, founded in 1977 and built around Mr Michael Drake's philosophy of 'relaxed elegance.' Their blue Donegal Merino Wool version is spun with vibrant orange, red and green merino yarns.

Available at www.mrporter.com £55

 

Trilby

While most of us can carry off a hat of some kind, not everyone can pull off a trilby. If you can, good for you and we recommend you go for a bold colour to bring a bit of stylish drama to winter days. The trilby hat’s name, sometimes also known as the ‘brown hat’ in Britain, comes from a play. During the stage adaptation of George du Maurier’s 1894 novel Trilby, performed in London, a hat of this style was worn and so the trendy trilby hat was born. Our favourite is Paul Smith’s cobalt blue trilby with a black grosgrain headband complete with feather.

Available at www.paulsmith.com £135

 

Bobble hat

The humble knitted bobble hat is very much in vogue and the joy of a great bobble hat is in its simplicity. It’s warm, cosy and easy to throw on with any outfit, and the more colourful the better. We couldn’t help but go for Burberry’s cashmere-wool beanie in a bright Fair Isle pattern. The design fits snugly with a turnback hem, and is topped with a playful pom-pom.

Available from uk.burberry.com £150

 

Flat cap

Yes, the flat cap can have a little Oliver Twist energy to it, but when braving the winter temperatures with your collar turned up, it's really "dapper British gentleman" that comes out most and who wouldn’t want that compliment? The main thing to remember when styling a flat cap is that they’re not like beanies. When you wear a flat cap it takes centre stage, and the rest of your outfit needs to be built up around it. We love the effortless style of Barbour’s Moons tweed cap from the renowned British mill, Abraham Moon & Sons.

Available from www.barbour.com £37.95

 

Trapper

If the weather starts hitting arctic temperatures, the biggest drawback of the other styles is their incomplete coverage: the lower part of the ears is left bare, as are the cheeks and chin. Looking to stay extra warm this season? Go for the (faux) fur-trimmed trapper, or ushanka, achapka or “Elmer Fudd” (after the iconic Loony Tunes character), which solves the problem by adding two flexible flaps, one on each side. Our cosiest choice is the navy ‘BEARDY’ from Ted Baker with its soft faux fur lining and branded detailing.

Available at www.tedbaker.com £45

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Geared Up: Fitbit Ionic Review

Can it compete with the Apple Watch? That was the question on everyone’s lips at the recent European launch of the new Fitbit Ionic. Approximately 100 of us (press and influencers) were flown out for Majorca for 24 hours of high and low impact activity to test out Fitbit’s first step into the smartwatch market.  

We know that the Apple Watch is a juggernaut, having accounted for 80% of smartwatch sales last year so it’s no surprise that Fitbit’s latest product, the Fitbit Ionic, is clearly designed to go head-to-head with Apple. Having never owned or used an Apple Watch it’s difficult for me to compare, so this review is solely based on the characteristics of the Ionic.

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Design

The design of the Ionic is striking and unique, with a stylish, premium feel to it with a choice of three straps (classic, leather or sport). The watch screen is vibrant and colourful and easy to read even in sunlight. You can choose from a variety of watch faces within the Fitbit app, and there are currently lots of eye-catching choices. Personalisation isn’t possible yet.

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The Fitbit Ionic is a comfortable fit on the wrist and very light; so much so that you'll instantly notice how lightweight this feels on your wrist. As someone who has rarely worn a watch, I quickly adapted to wearing it while working out and throughout the day. It’s also waterproof, so you can take this in the shower or even go swimming with it.

I love the raise–to-wake feature on the touchscreen, even if it is a little slow at times. A quick raise/flick of the wrist and you van have a clear look at your stats during a workout or spin cycle.

Features

The Ionic features the heart rate tracker, which according to the company is even more accurate than on other Fitbits thanks to new algorithms and a design that means it sits much closer to the skin.

It’s suitable for running, cycling, swimming, weights and much more and comes with in-built workouts that you can follow on the watch. There’s built-in GPS and being able to look through your data after you’ve been on a long run or ride is a great feature. For running, the new automatic pause option is quite brilliant, which notices, for example, when you’ve stopped to cross at some traffic lights. It pauses your workout, then restart when you begin exercising again. That’s ‘smart’.

There are tailored workouts to show you exactly what to do, and every time you complete one you can supply feedback so Fitbit Coach can work out whether you need something easier or harder next time.

You can also upload music to the Fitbit Ionic, with 2.5GB of free space at your disposal, which allows for around 300 songs. The big plus to this is being able to listen to music on the go without having to take your phone to the gym or on a run but it’s irritating that you can’t integrate with some of the most popular streaming services, such as Spotify or Apple Music.

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Fitbit has also included mobile payments on the Ionic through its own service called ‘Fitbit Pay’ which will (it’s still to launch) allow you to use NFC to pay on contactless terminals with your wrist. Fitbit is partnering with Visa, American Express and Mastercard for this feature and ultimately it will be a useful extra way of being able to make payments when you’re out exercising.

Apps 

The Fitbit Ionic works alongside the Fitbit app on your phone, which is compatible with most modern iOS, Android and Windows Phone devices. Right now it’s unclear what third-party options will be included in the future – it’s only Fitbit services for now and the Strava and Starbucks Card apps. At launch, everything on the Ionic App Gallery is free.

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Performance

The Fitbit Ionic’s battery lasts an impressive four and five days with limited usage. If you’re going to be working out a lot with the watch it’ll be a lot less, and the battery gets hit especially hard when using GPS.

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Verdict

I use it every day and on the whole find it very impressive, but as someone who hasn’t used another smartwatch, I have nothing else to compare it with. Now quite iconic yet, but definitely worth a look.

The Fitbit Ionic is priced at £299.00 https://www.fitbit.com/uk/shop/ionic

Dublin – in 24 hours

From its centuries-old pubs to its Georgian architecture to the stately Trinity College at its centre, the city of Dublin has a glorious sense of history and the ideal destination for a whirlwind trip that never feels too rushed.

Dublin city is so compact that it's possible to see all the main sights and get in a few sneaky pints in less than 24 hours so, skip the whirlwind, hop-on, hop-off tour bus, and check out our must-sees and dos in Dublin over 24 hours that mix food with music, history with literature and the touristy with the not-so-touristy.

Travel:

Dublin Airport (DUB) is situated 10km north of the city. The Aircoach operates between the airport and the city centre 24 hours a day, and a journey to O'Connell Street will take about 25 minutes. Tickets can be bought for €7/€12 (adult single/return) at the Aircoach stop outside the door, but cheaper deals can be found online.

Sleep:

If budget is not problem (it’s just one night after all) the perfectly located 5 star Merrion Hotel (Upper Merrion St., Dublin 2) should be top of your list. This glorious hotel opens into a series of period drawing rooms fragranced by turf fires and adorned with Ireland's largest collection of private art. Spacious and light-filled Garden Wings to the rear enclose a meditative half-acre quadrangle of fountains and manicured greenery. The rooms are beautiful and on the stylish side of opulent and the hotel is also home to Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Ireland’s only two-star Michelin restaurant. Prices for double rooms vary from €328 a night to €1,450.

Eat:

Dublin has a booming culinary scene and has a number of well-established fine dining venues such as Chapter One and Trocadero, but for atmosphere and authenticity, we opted for Winding Stair for dinner on Day 1 (breakfast was coffee and freshly made scones in the charming surrounds of The Pepper Pot in the bustling Powerscourt Centre). Formerly a famous bookshop, in 2006 Winding Chair reopened as a home for old-fashioned Irish cooking. Think cider braised pork cheeks, whiskey cured salmons, excellent cheeseboards, and a good range of craft beers and smart wine list. Brunch on Day 2 was in the buzzy surrounds of Coppinger Row which emphasises the flavours and colours of the Mediterranean. It's strong on vibrant, imaginative salads and fishy options such as a Black Pudding salad, and Dressed Crab and Crayfish. It also has a stellar list of gin cocktails to take you from brunch, through lunch and onto boarding time.

Drink:

A pint of “the black stuff” is still required drinking on any trip to Dublin. The enormous Guinness Storehouse museum (admission, 18 euros), set amid the cobbled streets and imposing buildings of the St. James’s Gate brewery, explains how the stout is made and gives the history of the company. Don’t leave without enjoying a pint of the good stuff on the top floor Gravity Bar, where the 360-degree view of Dublin is worth lingering over. Tourist trip done, you can’t miss out on some traditional Irish music at The Brazen Head, Dublin's oldest pub, which opened in 1198! A band plays every night and their Sunday session (3.30pm – 6.30pm) gives you the opportunity to sing a tune yourself!

Do:

Few cities wear history on its sleeve like Dublin does. The Historical Walking Tour has been acclaimed as a must-do tour for any visitor to Dublin. In just over 2 hours the award-winning and entertaining walking tour, conducted by history graduates of Trinity College Dublin and the National University of Dublin, explores the main features of Irish history – Dublin’s development, the influence of the American and French Revolutions, the Potato Famine, the Great War and the 1916 Rising, the War of Independence, the Northern conflict and Ireland today.  

Instagram:

Get a ‘behind bars’ shot (without the conviction) at Kilmainham Gaol.

For more information, visit http://www.discoverireland.ie

National Rum Day: 5 Best Rum Cocktails and Bars

It's National Rum Day today, and it's the perfect excuse to indulge in a Dark ’n’ Stormy, Piña Colada or to shake things up with a rum punch.

The spirit, which is made from sugar cane juice or produced as a byproduct of molasses, is enjoying a surge in popularity globally. While often associated with the Caribbean and its pirates, rum actually originated in Papua New Guinea, making its way to the Caribbean later. Did you know that the Philippines was the second largest producer of rum globally? We didn’t either.

To celebrate, we’re giving you 5 of our favourite rum cocktails from our 5 favourite rum brands (some of which are new to the game) and 5 of the best rum bars in London. So, in no particular order:

5 delicious rum cocktails to try on National Rum Day

Don Papa Rum

Don Papa Rum, AKA 'The Don', is a small batch premium Rum. It's distilled, aged and blended in the foothills of Mount Kanlaon, on the Island of Negros Occidental in the Philippines. This light amber coloured Rum has light, fruity aromas and a very smooth, rich flavour. It tastes of vanilla, honey and candied fruits. The bottle is also a work of art.

Darker Don – the Don’s homage to one of the classics.

4 parts Don Papa Rum
1 part fresh lime juice
Ginger beer
Mix over ice into a highball glass
Garnish – fresh bunch of mint

Don Papa Rum is available in Majestic stores nationwide and online at 31Dover.com. RRP: £31.75 (70cl) ABV: 40%

 

Aluna Coconut Rum

A new player in the spirits world, Aluna is a high altitude rum from Guatemala made with virgin sugar cane honey ('miel de caña') which results in a lighter, smoother and naturally sweeter rum with significantly less sugar than competitor brands. This is married with selected Caribbean rums for a little heat and structure.

Aluna Colada - a lighter non-frozen alternative to the classic Piña Colada. 

1 part Aluna Coconut
3 parts pineapple juice
Freshly squeezed lime juice
Shaken with cubed ice and strained into a tall glass
Garnish - wedge of pineapple or coconut and pineapple leaves

Aluna Coconut is available in Harvey Nichols stores nationwide and online at 31Dover.com RRP: £24.95 (70cl) ABV: 35%

 

The Duppy Share

The Duppy Share is a blend of a 3-year-old Jamaican rum from the Worthy Park distillery and a 5-year-old Barbados rum from the Foursquare distillery. The Jamaican rum provides a big, bold and punchy flavour that is great at cutting through strong flavours such as lime and ginger. It’s smooth, soft and rounded.

The Duppy House Punch (serves 15) - the official rum punch at this year’s Notting HiIl Carnival.

700ml The Duppy Share
1.5L Old Jamaica Ginger Beer
1L Cawston Press Cloudy Apple Juice
Fresh Limes
Angostura Bitters

Mix the Rum, Apple and Ginger in a punch bowl, add in fresh limes with a squeeze and serve over plenty of ice. Add a dash of Angostura Bitters to finish.

Duppy Share is available in Sainsbury’s stores nationwide and online at sainsburys.co.uk RRP: £26.00 (70cl) ABV: 40%

 

FAIR Rum

FAIR Rum is produced using only Fair Trade Certified sugar cane from Belize, grown using organic and sustainable farming methods. It is then aged in American oak barrels, before being shipped to Cognac to be bottled. The rum is aromatic with spicy notes and a long finish.

The FAIR Mai Tai - the tropical and fruity original

3/4 oz FAIR
1 1/2 oz white rum
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz orange curacao
1/2 oz Orgeat syrup
Shake all the ingredients and pour into a rocks glass over crushed ice
Garnish – fresh berries and a sprig of mint

FAIR is available from The Whiskey Exchange at thewhiskyexchange.com RRP: £35.25 (70cl) ABV: 35%

 

El Dorado 12 Year Old

El Dorado 12 Year Old Demerara Rum is a blend of three stills – two columns (including the world’s only wooden Coffey still) and a unique double wooden pot still. Rich amber in colour. A super attractive nose packed with aromas of sugar, honey, banana, toffee, raisin and sultanas.  Ripe, rich and balanced flavours attend with sweetness, after which the finish is delightful, elegant and dry.

El Dorado Old Fashioned a classic.

60ml El Dorado 12 Year Old
1 teaspoon of Demerara sugar
2 dashes of The Bitter Truth Old Time Aromatic Bitters
Stir sugar and bitters into a tumbler or rocks glass and then add cubed ice, followed by the El Dorado 12 Year Old and stir until the sugar has dissolved
Garnish - a twist of orange zest and a few grates of nutmeg

El Dorado 12 Year Old is available in Marks and Spencer stores nationwide and online at marksandspencer.com RRP: £36.00 (70cl) ABV 40%

 

5 OF LONDON’S BEST RUM BARS

The Artesian

Artesian, at The Langham hotel, was crowned the winner of The World’s 50 Best Bars awards in 2016 for the fourth year in a row. Their dedication to rum is clear from a 50-strong list. Their new cocktail menu, based on the theme of ‘Perception’ features the earthy yet refreshing ‘Mind Your Step’, a rich and fruity mix of Ron Zacapa 23 Rum, Heron aged Pisco, tropical sour sop & orange blossom served in a broken glass, something you would not expect to find amidst the casual opulence of The Langham, garnished with edible shards. Sounds magnificent. 

1C Portland Place London, W1B 1JA; Artesian

 

Merchant House

Set within the winding lanes of London’s Bow Street, Merchant House has one of London’s most comprehensive premium rum collections, with over 350 different types of rum and gin on the menu. One of the most popular serves is their take on the Rum Old Fashioned and as this classic takes a few minutes to stir down, they offer a complimentary beer while you wait. Nice.

13 Well Court, The City, London EC4M 9DN; Merchant House

 

Cottons Rhum Shack

Their Notting Hill restaurant plays homage to all things Caribbean with its bright and colourful theme spreading through to its vibrant cocktails and is the current Guinnesss World Records Award winner with 372 different types of rums! Cottons Rhum Shack, in Camden, Notting Hill, Shoreditch and Vauxhall opening soon, serves up some of the capital’s most spectacular rum cocktails. Two of their most popular serves are the Killer Doppi and Cottons Rum Punch.

57-159 Notting Hill Gate, London W11 3LF; Cottons Rhum Shack 

 

Trailer Happiness

Head down to this hidden tiki basement bar on Portobello Road — it's like walking into a 70s living room, with wood panel walls, patterned rugs and shabby curtains. Wear your flares. They’re back in season. The rum-heavy cocktail list is outrageous and flamboyantly tiki with lots of umbrellas and drinks served in coconuts. Their Old Fashioned is a knockout!

177 Portobello Rd. London W11 2DY; Trailer Happiness

 

Trader Vic’s

Victor J. Bergeron, otherwise known as Trader Vic, is said to have created the first ever Mai Tai cocktail at this bar back in 1944, so it’s the perfect place to stop for a drink on National Rum Day. You can still order the original Mai Tai on its menu today, but if you don't fancy that there are still plenty of rum punches, grogs and modern cocktails on the list. A truly original rum destination.

22 Park Lane, Mayfair, London W1K 1BE; Trader Vic's