Shetland Sweaters for Fall

There was some confusion after my post yesterday on Shaggy Dogs, where some readers were unsure what’s the difference between Shaggys and what’s commonly referred to as “Shetland sweaters.” Simply: Shaggy Dogs are just one of the many types of Shetlands that exist, and not all Shetlands are shaggy.

What’s a Shetland Sweater?

Shetlands get their name from the Shetland Islands, which are located halfway to Norway off the north coast of Scotland. Due to the region’s harsh conditions, the sheep there produce a sturdy, lightweight, long staple wool fiber, which is typically plucked instead of shorn. This wool is made into a very sturdy fabric, which is then turned into garments. Woven Shetlands are relatively rare, and when you see them, they’re usually in sport coats. Much more common are knitted fabrics, which are used for sweaters.

Shetland sweaters were originally made by peasant women on the islands, and came with a strong, smoked herring smell because of the way the wool would absorb domestic odors. It’s said that on damp days, the smell would become unbearable. These early sweaters were often knitted with distinctive patterns that were developed on the island over a period of centuries, but over time, they mainly came in one of four forms: plain, cabled, Fair Isle, or brushed (J. Press invented the hairy, brushed version, and they called it their “Shaggy Dog”). Thus, the term “Shetland sweater” – while formally referring to a very specific knit – now simply just means any sweater that’s made from that hardy, slightly itchy Shetland wool (brushed or not).

Where To Get A Good, Plain-Knit Shetland

Shaggys are certainly distinctive, but almost anyone with a classic sense of dress can wear a plain-knit Shetland. I particularly like mine with chinos or corduroys, and layer them over thick oxford-cloth button-down shirts. They’re more casual than your typical merino or cashmere sweater (the kind you find in almost any store), but dressy enough to wear underneath a sport coat. Plus, I think guys just look awesome in them. Evidence is above.

If you’re looking for a plain version, let me recommend who I think sells the best: O’Connell’s. They’re expensive at $165 (and never go on sale), but they’re the Goldilocks of Shetlands. Not as thick as Bill’s Khakis, and not as thin as Brooks Brothers’, they’re just right. The Andover Shop also has something similar, but I favor O’Connell’s saddle shoulder design. If you get one, I recommend sizing up from your sport coat size. They should also be restocking on sizes in a couple of weeks, and getting in a few new colors.

Other good, traditional Shetlands can be found at Cable Car Clothiers and Ben Silver, while slimmer interpretations can be had through Howlin’ of Morrison, Albam, and Norse Projects. There’s also Harley of Scotland (available through Bahles and Neighbour), Peter Blance, and Fisherman Out of Ireland, but I have no firsthand experience with those. Made-to-measure versions can be bought through Spirit of Shetland. If you go custom just remember: it’s better to err on the size of full than small, as you can slim a sweater down, but you can’t add material where there isn’t any.

(Photos via Heavy Tweed Jacket)

The Simplest Casual Look
Although I enjoy wearing tailored clothes on weekdays, I dress pretty casually on weekends. Lately, that’s meant dark blue jeans with a clean white t-shirt and a nice, brown leather jacket. For shoes, I wear either sneakers or boots, and if it’s cold outside, I layer with a heathered grey sweatshirt. I find it’s one of the simplest, easiest looks you can put together, and depending on your lifestyle, very well suited to casual weekend activities with friends.
For jeans, I really like 3sixteen’s SL-100x model. It’s a slim straight-legged cut made from a medium-weight selvedge denim that doesn’t bag as easily as other brands’. I’ve also been admiring their premium 3sixteen+ line, as well as Flat Heads 3009s and Iron Heart 634s. Those are made from unsanforized denim, which Kiya at Self Edge tells us will yield more interesting fades over time (without the need to forgo washing, thankfully). For something more affordable, check out Albam, Gustin, and Uniqlo’s Made in Japan offerings.
For the t-shirt, I stick to a pretty basic Hanes’ Beefy-T (I get the one with a chest pocket). It has a stoutness that I think works well with this kind of look, and it can be easily found on sale for about $6. Jesse has also recommended Costco’s Kirkland t-shirts for this sort of thing. For something thinner and stretchier, check out Alternative Apparel, which Jesse does bulk orders on every summer, and American Apparel. Levis also has a nice model that’s in between the toughness of Hanes and the fineness of the last two brands.
Finally, there’s the leather jacket. These can get astoundingly expensive, but it’s worth buying the best you can afford. Just as you can get away with a pair of cheap chinos and dress shirt if you have a really nice fitting sport coat, you can skimp on the jeans and t-shirt if you have a really beautiful leather jacket. 
Some of the best makers here include Good Wear Leather, Bill Kelso, The Real McCoys, Eastman, and Aero. These brands specialize in making reproductions of vintage flight jackets, and they make them as tough as the originals. Temple of Jawnz is also a favorite among style enthusiasts. They’re sadly closing up shop in a month, but are doing one last call for custom orders. 
The price points for any of these is pretty expensive. We’re talking $750 to $1,500 for a jacket, and some even have waiting lists that stretch back a year. As usual, a more affordable option would be trawling eBay and vintage stores, but what you save in money, you’ll spend in time. You could also go for a similarly rugged jacket style, but one not made from leather. One of my favorite stores, Bench & Loom, has some really handsome pieces, and they’re holding a 20% off sale with the code SPRING20. The code is good for both sweaters and outerwear, with some brands being excluded (Mister Freedom, Schott NYC, Buzz Rickson, and The Real McCoys).

The Simplest Casual Look

Although I enjoy wearing tailored clothes on weekdays, I dress pretty casually on weekends. Lately, that’s meant dark blue jeans with a clean white t-shirt and a nice, brown leather jacket. For shoes, I wear either sneakers or boots, and if it’s cold outside, I layer with a heathered grey sweatshirt. I find it’s one of the simplest, easiest looks you can put together, and depending on your lifestyle, very well suited to casual weekend activities with friends.

For jeans, I really like 3sixteen’s SL-100x model. It’s a slim straight-legged cut made from a medium-weight selvedge denim that doesn’t bag as easily as other brands’. I’ve also been admiring their premium 3sixteen+ line, as well as Flat Heads 3009s and Iron Heart 634s. Those are made from unsanforized denim, which Kiya at Self Edge tells us will yield more interesting fades over time (without the need to forgo washing, thankfully). For something more affordable, check out Albam, Gustin, and Uniqlo’s Made in Japan offerings.

For the t-shirt, I stick to a pretty basic Hanes’ Beefy-T (I get the one with a chest pocket). It has a stoutness that I think works well with this kind of look, and it can be easily found on sale for about $6. Jesse has also recommended Costco’s Kirkland t-shirts for this sort of thing. For something thinner and stretchier, check out Alternative Apparel, which Jesse does bulk orders on every summer, and American Apparel. Levis also has a nice model that’s in between the toughness of Hanes and the fineness of the last two brands.

Finally, there’s the leather jacket. These can get astoundingly expensive, but it’s worth buying the best you can afford. Just as you can get away with a pair of cheap chinos and dress shirt if you have a really nice fitting sport coat, you can skimp on the jeans and t-shirt if you have a really beautiful leather jacket. 

Some of the best makers here include Good Wear Leather, Bill Kelso, The Real McCoys, Eastman, and Aero. These brands specialize in making reproductions of vintage flight jackets, and they make them as tough as the originals. Temple of Jawnz is also a favorite among style enthusiasts. They’re sadly closing up shop in a month, but are doing one last call for custom orders

The price points for any of these is pretty expensive. We’re talking $750 to $1,500 for a jacket, and some even have waiting lists that stretch back a year. As usual, a more affordable option would be trawling eBay and vintage stores, but what you save in money, you’ll spend in time. You could also go for a similarly rugged jacket style, but one not made from leather. One of my favorite stores, Bench & Loom, has some really handsome pieces, and they’re holding a 20% off sale with the code SPRING20. The code is good for both sweaters and outerwear, with some brands being excluded (Mister Freedom, Schott NYC, Buzz Rickson, and The Real McCoys).

A Complete Guide to Getting Chinos This Summer

Chinos have a bit of a circutous history. They began as part of the British Army’s standard uniform starting around the 1840s. By the end of the 19th century, American troops stationed in the Philippines began wearing them. They remained associated with the military for another hundred years, until 1942, when the US Navy approved that they could be worn off-duty. Since then, they’ve been incredibly popular with the public. I think the civilian trend largely took off when James Dean began wearing them. That was during a time when much of the public looked towards Hollywood for sartorial direction, and ever since then, the popularity of chinos has been buoyed by big marketing campaigns from companies such as The Gap. 

The great thing about chinos is that, like jeans, they look better with age. In fact, one of the best looks, in my opinion, is a pair of really worn down chinos with a sports coat, oxford cloth button down shirt, and pair of brown loafers. The more worn down and beat up the chinos, the more stylish this look becomes. When the pants are too new, the look can be a bit stiff. As such, I recommend that you wear your chinos with a bit of a rumple and avoid creasing the front of the legs. Creases on chinos add fifteen years to your age and can make you look like the type that irons your underwear. Wear them as casually as you can and invite the fraying that comes. If you want, you can also roll up the the legs a bit, which Gilt Manual recently gave some really good tips for

So if you’re on the market for chinos, where can you turn? Here are some options. Note that in the interest of sizing information, I’ve included what I wear for most of these. I’m a size 32 in most pants, but sometimes have to size down depending on the cut. It’s probably also worth mentioning that I have an Asian booty that’s flatter than a flapjack, so take that into account when gauging whether my reviews will be helpful for you.

  • Uniqlo Vintage chino ($50): Uniqlo’s Vintage fit chino is a nice slim cut model with mid-century details - watch pocket, decent hardware, and a slight herringbonish finish. Unfortunately, they also have a low rise, which makes them not as good for tucking in shirts. Still, for $50, they’re not bad, and if you’re in New York City, you can pick one up at any of their stores. Uniqlo should also have a website up at some point, but details on the drop date are fuzzy. I wear a 32 in these. 
  • Brooks Brothers Milano Fit chinos ($95): Brooks has a popular slim fit chino. They’re a bit tapered, which make them good for slim men, but not much so for heavier guys (tapered pants can emphasize your waistline). The material is a smooth plain-weave, which gives them an “office” feel. I prefer slightly rougher twill models, personally, but it’s a matter of taste. Unfortunately, Brooks only has a terrible peach colored version left, but they’ll restock their other colors soon, so just keep an eye out. If you catch them at the beginning of their sales, you can nab one for as little as $60, but otherwise they’re about $100. I find these fit pretty true-to-size. I wear a 32 in these, but can also size down to 30 for a slightly slimmer fit. 
  • Rugby university chinos ($70): Rugby’s University model fits very well if you size down. Whereas I’m normally a 32 in most pants, I wear a 31 in Rugby’s. They’re slim and have a rise that just hits the waist. They have a slightly worn finish, which means the colors are a bit faded and the edges are very, very slightly distressed. Nothing really noticeable, but it’s there. 
  • Bill’s Khakis M3 chinos ($67): Bill’s Khakis has three models, but only the M3 is anything that’s remotely close to wearable. Even then, you’ll have to get these slightly tapered. That job shouldn’t run you more than $20, however. So why buy something that doesn’t immediately fit well off the rack? Because these are some of the best chinos you can have after some alterations, and when Sierra Trading Post has them for $65, they’re a steal. They’re superbly constructed and made from a traditional soft twill fabric that’s free of any pre-distressing. They also feature deep pockets (a detail many brands are cutting back on) and have a rise that actually sits on my waist (not “just hits it”). The slightly higher rise will allow you to tuck in your shirt without making your torso look unnaturally big. I recommend sizing down a bit, but not too much. I wear a 31 in Bill’s Khakis. 
  • Ralph Lauren Preston chinos ($75): These are a lot like Bill’s Khakis - great construction, but not terribly slim (these are “grown up” chinos in a very real sense). However, like Bill’s, they hold a lot of potential. They have a slightly higher rise than Bill’s, which I like, but the pockets aren’t as deep. You’ll need to size down quite a bit to get these to fit right. I go down as far as 30 personally. 
  • J Crew chinos ($60-70): I’m not crazy about most of J Crew’s stuff, but I think they’re worth talking about since almost everyone has a J Crew store near them. J Crew has a few different models, but I’ll only speak of the Urban Slim Fit and Bowery. The Urban Slim Fit doesn’t work at all on me, but I could see them fitting well on someone with a lot of junk in the trunk. The Bowery is much better - pretty decent slim fit, even though the construction is clearly more mass market. The price isn’t bad, however, especially given how often J Crew holds sales. You could probably snag these for $40 if you waited for the right opportunity. If you do, I recommend sizing down. I wear a 30 in the Bowery. 
  • RRL Officer Chino ($185): RRL, a Ralph Lauren brand, has has a pair of selvedge twill chinos that wears like selvedge dehim jeans. They’re meant to be worn as such, too - wear them hard and don’t wash them often. Soon you’ll see fades like you would with selvedge jeans (though obviously more subtle because of the fabric). They also have nice details, such as double canvas waistband (which makes them sturdier) and a button fly (which won’t give you a weenie tent like zipper flys do). The fit is a lot slimmer, however, than other models you’ll read about here. Part of this is just the style, but part of it is also to get the fading you want. The cut is definitely not for everyone, but if you’re used to wearing slim selvedge denim jeans, then you might want to consider these. Size down and expect a little stretching (I wear a 31). You can buy them in most Ralph Lauren stores, but if you’re not close to one, you can phone an order in. RRL is also going to get a website up sometime next month, I hear. 
  • Left Field ($198): The nice folks at Left Field sent me a free pair of these to try on. They’re a slightly more workwear version of traditional chinos. The belt loops are big enough to accommodate belts meant for jeans; the stitching is slightly more rugged; and the pants have a slight “work pant” feel. Like with most workwear/ heritage brands, the quality here is heavily in the details. There is a chain-stitched waistband, Corozo button fly, and Japanese chambray pocket bags. The fabric for the pants themselves are a ringspun cotton Japanese twill. I could see these working well for someone who has a Americana/ heritage sensibility. I recommend going true-to-size on these, but note that they fit slightly big in the seat, so you should probably have something more than my non-existent Asian booty if you want to wear these well. 
  • Unis ($228): I know what you’re already thinking. $228 for chinos!? Part of the reason why these are so expensive is because they’re made in the USA (as Eunice Lee explained to someone in the comments section of Well-Spent). As a political economist, I’ll admit, I don’t care for these kind of “Made in the USA” appeals. For me, I just care about fit, styling, and quality, and all these counts, Unis’ Gio chinos are pretty nice. They’re slim without being overly so, have the perfect rise, and feature nice details such as a button fly and Corozo buttons. They have an unwashed version if you need something dressy, as well as a garment dyed rumpled version if you want something casual. I wear a 32 in these, but could also easily do a 30. If money is less of an object for you, I would definitely recommend these. 
  • Others: There are other highly celebrated chinos. Howard Yount and Albam come to mind, but I don’t have any experience with either of them. Incotex and Mabitex are also a favorite for many people, including me, but the fit, styling, and finish on them vary so much that it’s not possible to write a generalizable review. You can find them in the Buying and Selling section of Styleforum, eBay, Yoox, and Gilt. A word of warning on those, however - buying them can sometimes be a gamble since they vary so much. Caveat emptor

Lastly, for those who might be wondering: what’s the difference between chinos and khakis? For pedants, chino is the Spanish word for Chinese. The original material for these pants was a Chinese twill cotton, so they were colloquially called chinos. Khaki is the Hinidi word for “dust.” The original chinos, worn by the British Army, were dyed in a mulberry juice that gave it a yellowish drab shade, now known as “khaki.” Thus, the correct term for these pants is chinos, and khaki the sandy tan color they most often come in. But that’s pedantry; for the most part, the two words are interchangeable.

(photos by pocketsquareguy, The Sartorialist, and J Crew)