Where To Look First for a Suit (Part One)

Far and away, the most common question I get in my inbox is: “Where should I go to buy a suit, given my budget is X?” I usually try to stay away from such questions, as too much depends on the person’s specific needs. Where are you planning to wear the suit? What kind of styles do you like? What kind of climate do you live in? All these make it difficult to recommend something over email.

However, I’ve always thought it’d be helpful to have a list of recommendations for a broader audience. Something that’s painted with big, broad brushes. So, I reached out to some friends to see what they’d suggest, given different budgets, and added a few ideas myself. Of course, you might go to these stores and find nothing works for you, but at least you have a list of where you might want to look first.

For a budget of ~$500 and under

  • Suit Supply: A pretty good first stop. They have a wide range of styles to fit different tastes and body types. Jackets will typically be half-canvassed, and be made from fabrics sourced from respectable mills. Their lookbook styling is a bit fashion forward, but once you actually check out their stuff in person, you can usually find some reasonably classic designs.
  • Land’s End: Not the greatest in terms of construction, but impressive in terms of price. Check out their “tailored fit” and wait for one of their many sales.   

For a budget between ~$500 and ~$1,000

  • Brooks Brothers: Brooks Brothers has 25% off sales pretty regularly, and sometimes you can knock an additional 15% off by opening up a Brooks Brothers credit card (some sales associates won’t let you stack these discounts, but most will). That should bring the price down to under $1,000. Their newest cut, the Milano, is perhaps too trendy to recommend, but they have three good “classic” models. From slimmest to fullest, they go: Fitzgerald, Regent, and Madison. Note, you can sometimes also catch their premium Golden Fleece line on Rue La La for just under $500.
  • J. Crew: Their Ludlow series can be a good starting point for many men. Just watch out for the models with razor-thin lapels, which might look dated in a few years. 
  • Howard Yount: Very respectable half-canvassed suits that are, again, made from nice fabrics. They’re also styled fairly well.
  • Proper Suit: Made-to-measure suits for prices starting at $750. You can see our friend The Silentist review them here. If you go, bring along your best fitting jacket and trousers, so you can say what you like and don’t like.
  • Southwick: Classic American styled suits that start at $1,000 or so. You can find them at O’Connell’s or any number of classic American clothiers. They also have made-to-measure for around $1,200, give or take, depending on the fabric. A good option for someone with truly classic tastes.
  • Lardini: Terrible name, but nice Italian suits. Full retail price is north of $1,000, but you can easily find them on sale. Just check places like Yoox (and ignore Yoox’s terrible styling).
  • Benjamin: Great fabric, full-canvas construction, and nice detailing (e.g. discrete pick stitching). Their cuts are slightly fashion forward, but still office appropriate. Our friend This Fits owns their Classico and Napoli models and likes them a lot.

Come back tomorrow, when we’ll cover suits in the four-digit range.

(Special thanks to La Casuarina, A Bit of Color, This Fits, Ivory Tower Style, Réginald-Jérôme de Mans, and Breathnaigh for their help with this article. Also, credit to Suit Supply and Brooks Brothers for the two images above.)

Ramon Puig: La Casa de las Guayaberas

I was in Miami last week, and rather than visit South Beach, I thought I’d take my half-day of free time and go on a hunt for a guayabera. Thanks to a tip from Image Granted, I made my way from my hotel to Ramon Puig, one of the most respected guayabera shops in the world.

If you’re not familiar with the shirt, the guayabera is a pleated, button-down shirt with four front pockets. It’s often worn with short sleeves, though a long-sleeve version is worn in the tropics for business and formal occasions. It’s most associated with Cuba, though you can find it throughout the Caribbean and Latin America, and a sister shirt, the Barong Tagalog, is worn in the Philippines. You can basically find a version of the shirt anywhere tropical trade traveled in the 19th century - even Africa. The name is purportedly derived from the guava plantation workers (guayaberos) who wore them originally, though that’s in much dispute.

The guayabera, like the Aloha shirt, is perfectly suited for tropical weather. It’s also a genuine classic, a garment that blends form and function close to seamlessly. These days you’re much more likely to find American-style dress on younger folks in the third world, but like the Aloha shirt, the guayabera has made a comeback on the strength of cultural pride.

At Ramon Puig, the style is traditional, conservative and distinctly Cuban, but there are racks upon racks of shirts in a dizzying variety of fabrics and colors. There are only two styles: long sleeve and short, but when you multiply those by regular and long sizes, then numerous fabric levels, then colors in each fabric, you get a store filled to the brim. Prices range from $40 for the basic poly-cotton blend shirts to $140 for Irish linen.

Besides all this, there’s also a custom operation. Sr. Puig died a few years ago, but there’s still a tailor making shirts that run upwards of $500 each in a shop in the back. I was lucky enough to fit comfortably in a size medium-tall (be sure to size down one for a slimmer fit if that’s your preference), and walked out with a souvenir I couldn’t get anywhere else.

What A Clown Taught Me About Dressing
Or: How Not To Be A Lonely Nerd In A Fedora
I’ll admit it here and now: I went to theater school. School of the Arts in San Francisco, specifically. It was a public school; auditions to get in, academics in the morning, arts in the afternoon. I was an actor.
Part of my training was a class in physical theater taught by a clown named Jeff Raz (pictured above in full clown garb). Jeff now runs a school for clowning - he’s an expert in Commedia dell’arte and a veteran of the Pickle Family Circus, one of the world’s first “alternative” circuses. He taught us a lot of lessons that I later used in my comedy career, as you might imagine, but there was one in particular that I think about when dressing all the time.
Here it is, put simply: before you can vary, you must demonstrate mastery.
I’ll give you an example. A clown walks on stage with five pies. He throws them in the air, and they land all over, including his face. Not very funny.
But if the same clown walks on stage, juggles them succesfully for a while, then they fall on his face, that’s funny.
Both punchlines are the same. The difference is a demonstration of mastery. You can break the pattern once you have established the pattern. Surprise grows only from consistency.
What does that have to do with dress?
Every day, those of us who chose to dress conscientiously, and especially those of us who are passionate about clothing, push the limits of dress. It may be dressing a little more formally than those who surround us. It may be a particularly outre element from a designer collection. It might simply be eschewing cargo shorts and flip flops at the fraternity house.
So what’s the difference between Michael Alden wearing a hat and the Lonely Nerds in Fedoras tumblr? Why can Thom Browne show men in business skirts? Demonstrated mastery.
I wrote recently about the point of distinction: the element of difference that demonstrates that you have control over your dress. Dressing works the other way, too. If you have an established pattern of dressing well, whether over time or within a single outfit (say a suit that fits exceptionally, sharp quality shoes and the perfect sober shirt), you can add an unusual element and it will reinforce rather than destroy your aesthetic.
But fail to demonstrate mastery? Take swings in the dark? Pile wildness on wildness without qualification?
You’ll end up looking like a clown.

What A Clown Taught Me About Dressing

Or: How Not To Be A Lonely Nerd In A Fedora

I’ll admit it here and now: I went to theater school. School of the Arts in San Francisco, specifically. It was a public school; auditions to get in, academics in the morning, arts in the afternoon. I was an actor.

Part of my training was a class in physical theater taught by a clown named Jeff Raz (pictured above in full clown garb). Jeff now runs a school for clowning - he’s an expert in Commedia dell’arte and a veteran of the Pickle Family Circus, one of the world’s first “alternative” circuses. He taught us a lot of lessons that I later used in my comedy career, as you might imagine, but there was one in particular that I think about when dressing all the time.

Here it is, put simply: before you can vary, you must demonstrate mastery.

I’ll give you an example. A clown walks on stage with five pies. He throws them in the air, and they land all over, including his face. Not very funny.

But if the same clown walks on stage, juggles them succesfully for a while, then they fall on his face, that’s funny.

Both punchlines are the same. The difference is a demonstration of mastery. You can break the pattern once you have established the pattern. Surprise grows only from consistency.

What does that have to do with dress?

Every day, those of us who chose to dress conscientiously, and especially those of us who are passionate about clothing, push the limits of dress. It may be dressing a little more formally than those who surround us. It may be a particularly outre element from a designer collection. It might simply be eschewing cargo shorts and flip flops at the fraternity house.

So what’s the difference between Michael Alden wearing a hat and the Lonely Nerds in Fedoras tumblr? Why can Thom Browne show men in business skirts? Demonstrated mastery.

I wrote recently about the point of distinction: the element of difference that demonstrates that you have control over your dress. Dressing works the other way, too. If you have an established pattern of dressing well, whether over time or within a single outfit (say a suit that fits exceptionally, sharp quality shoes and the perfect sober shirt), you can add an unusual element and it will reinforce rather than destroy your aesthetic.

But fail to demonstrate mastery? Take swings in the dark? Pile wildness on wildness without qualification?

You’ll end up looking like a clown.

The Point of Distinction

Here at Put This On, we’re all about encouraging a simple, classic aesthetic. You won’t find Ed Hardy t-shirts or Versace suits here. But what makes a simply constructed outfit something special? I call it a “point of distinction.”

It’s an idea I first read expressed by my friend MistahWong, who’s one of the best-dressed men I know. The principle is simple. One’s style should be impeccable. Fit should be inarguable. So on and so forth. But there should be something about your outfit that says “this isn’t generic, this is me.”

Back when MistahWong was wearing business suits for work, he wore almost exclusively solid navy and gray with white shirts. Perfect fit, conservative cuts. Heavy black or burgundy longwings. But he also wore casual silk knit ties. Or, as above, a felt flower in his lapel. A simple point of distinction.

Above is what I’m wearing on a cool morning in Southern California. Literally a white t-shirt, khakis, and a black chamois shirt. Add some bold sneakers and sunglasses and you have distinction.

Accessories, of course, are the easiest choice. I find that adding the glasses above (which are made by the California maker Kala) to an otherwise very conservative outfit works well. I’ll sometimes add a vintage stickpin to my lapel. There are trendy choices, like colored laces or bracelets, though those have run their course to some extent. The goal isn’t necessarily to be outrageous, but simply to demonstrate that you care.

It’s easy to pile wild choice on top of wild choice, or conversely to make nothing but down-the-middle clothing decisions. To choose to demonstrate understated mastery and nonetheless show distinction is much more difficult.

More Military Surplus: Leathers
Last week’s field jacket roundup addressed primarily cotton field jackets, omitting some other massively influential categories of military outerwear—today we’ll look at U.S. military leather jackets. These jackets are sort of the culture to the field jackets’ counterculture; they were and are expensive items designed and manufactured for airmen operating in the demanding conditions of early aircraft, which were short on creature comforts. The primary source of the badass, Brando school of leather jacket is motorcycle culture rather than the military.
A-1
Years in service: 1927-1931
The A-1 flying jacket is the original pilot’s leather jacket. The Army Air Forces spec’d it in olive/brown capeskin (lambskin; lighter weight than many leathers), and finished the jacket with knit woolen fabric at the collar, cuffs, and hem; it buttoned closed and has buttons on both the collar and hem (casually, it’s most often worn collar up, with a couple buttons undone at the neck and hem). The A-1 was only used for a few years before being replaced by the more familiar A-2, and finding vintage versions of the A-1 is virtually impossible; the supply is too low and the demand too great. It was cut a little slimmer than later leathers; although modern versions are flattering on a lot of people, it looks best on the fairly slim. Maybe because it’s not as ubiquitous as subsequent military issue leathers, it seems more refined, and in recent years A-1-inspired jackets in suede, like this one from Temple of Jawnz/John Coppidge have gotten a lot of attention. With no vintage market and no large-volume manufacturer of reproductions, a good A-1 doesn’t come cheap. True-to-spec capeskin repros are available from Eastman Leathers in the UK (pictured is a jacket Eastman made for YMC), and Hickorees just released a beautiful two-tone horsehide version. You can also keep an eye out for similarly styled blouson jackets from Valstar, which at least cost hundreds rather than thousands of dollars.

A-2
Years in service: 1931-1940s
The A-2 was the U.S. fighter pilots’ jacket of World War II. Thousands were issued, and there are many, many A-2 jackets out there, both vintage military, vintage civilian use, and new. The jacket’s design eliminates the buttons and knit collar of the A-1 in favor of a shirt-style leather collar and zip closure covered by a storm flap. There are passants on the shoulders and knit trim at the cuffs and hem. Most vintage A-2 jackets are very dark brown, and different contractors made them from different hides, mostly horse or goat. The A-2 is one of few clothing items that can legitimately be called iconic; for many it is the leather jacket. Although the A-2 looks great on most men regardless of age or fitness, a good deal of reproduction or imitation jackets, especially from the 1980s, are cut large and will be baggy on thinner guys, so be wary of tagged sizing on any used/vintage jackets. Old vintage A-2s actually run small. By virtue of its popularity, the A-2 is also so unobjectionable, it can border on boring; but a well-cut A-2 is a great entry point into leather jackets. Pictured is a version from Good Wear, which reproduces jackets down to the details of specific WWII contractors’ specs, which varied a lot. Schott, which made A-2s during WWII, has a solid  version in its Perfecto line (not all Schott A-2s are made to this standard).

G-1
Years in service: 1940s to present day
The G-1 started as the Navy version of the Army A-2, but while the Army version sometimes includes a detachable fur collar, the mouton (sheepskin) collar is standard on the G-1. The G-1 also omits passants and the storm flap and features button-through pockets rather than snap pockets. Particularly since its starring role in Top Gun, The G-1 is one of the most commonly reproduced jackets on the market, so there are many G-1-style jackets out there. Likewise, the jacket has had a long military service history with many contractors, so details can vary some from jacket to jacket. The originals and many current civilian versions use genuine sheepskin for the collar, but many if not most use synthetic fur. Vintage models abound, and new civilian versions are available from Alpha and Schott, with widely varying specs (look at the collar on that Schott). Beware patched, plasticky-leather versions from the immediate post-Maverick-and-Goose era. Personally, I prefer the G-1’s furriness to the A-2’s minimalism, but taste in leather jackets is subjective; many people favor motorcycle-derived leather jackets to these military versions.

Sheepskin jackets
Years in service: 1930s to 1945
Although all of these are indeed flight jackets, most of them were too lightweight for cockpit-wear at the high altitudes, and in fact both the A-1 and A-2 specs refer to them as summer jackets. Heavy, unshorn sheepskin jackets were designed to keep B-17 and fighter pilots warm in unpressurized aircraft flying at altitude over Europe. The B-3 and ANJ-4 were sometimes even worn over A-2s for maximum warmth. These jackets were expensive to make and were phased out in favor of cloth, pile-lined jackets after World War II. Sheepskin jackets are bulkier and a little longer than the lighter weight jackets, and their heavyweight sheepskin will keep someone on the ground warm in almost any climate. Originals verge on impractical; B-3s have for instance just one pocket. The relative luxury of the materials means you still see high-end designer takes on the B-3 and its British equivalent, the dashing Irvin jacket; Burberry recently made exaggerated versions. For less interpretative versions, you’re looking at the usual suspects: Eastman, Schott, and Alpha.
-Pete

More Military Surplus: Leathers

Last week’s field jacket roundup addressed primarily cotton field jackets, omitting some other massively influential categories of military outerwear—today we’ll look at U.S. military leather jackets. These jackets are sort of the culture to the field jackets’ counterculture; they were and are expensive items designed and manufactured for airmen operating in the demanding conditions of early aircraft, which were short on creature comforts. The primary source of the badass, Brando school of leather jacket is motorcycle culture rather than the military.

A-1

Years in service: 1927-1931

The A-1 flying jacket is the original pilot’s leather jacket. The Army Air Forces spec’d it in olive/brown capeskin (lambskin; lighter weight than many leathers), and finished the jacket with knit woolen fabric at the collar, cuffs, and hem; it buttoned closed and has buttons on both the collar and hem (casually, it’s most often worn collar up, with a couple buttons undone at the neck and hem). The A-1 was only used for a few years before being replaced by the more familiar A-2, and finding vintage versions of the A-1 is virtually impossible; the supply is too low and the demand too great. It was cut a little slimmer than later leathers; although modern versions are flattering on a lot of people, it looks best on the fairly slim. Maybe because it’s not as ubiquitous as subsequent military issue leathers, it seems more refined, and in recent years A-1-inspired jackets in suede, like this one from Temple of Jawnz/John Coppidge have gotten a lot of attention. With no vintage market and no large-volume manufacturer of reproductions, a good A-1 doesn’t come cheap. True-to-spec capeskin repros are available from Eastman Leathers in the UK (pictured is a jacket Eastman made for YMC), and Hickorees just released a beautiful two-tone horsehide version. You can also keep an eye out for similarly styled blouson jackets from Valstar, which at least cost hundreds rather than thousands of dollars.

A-2

Years in service: 1931-1940s

The A-2 was the U.S. fighter pilots’ jacket of World War II. Thousands were issued, and there are many, many A-2 jackets out there, both vintage military, vintage civilian use, and new. The jacket’s design eliminates the buttons and knit collar of the A-1 in favor of a shirt-style leather collar and zip closure covered by a storm flap. There are passants on the shoulders and knit trim at the cuffs and hem. Most vintage A-2 jackets are very dark brown, and different contractors made them from different hides, mostly horse or goat. The A-2 is one of few clothing items that can legitimately be called iconic; for many it is the leather jacket. Although the A-2 looks great on most men regardless of age or fitness, a good deal of reproduction or imitation jackets, especially from the 1980s, are cut large and will be baggy on thinner guys, so be wary of tagged sizing on any used/vintage jackets. Old vintage A-2s actually run small. By virtue of its popularity, the A-2 is also so unobjectionable, it can border on boring; but a well-cut A-2 is a great entry point into leather jackets. Pictured is a version from Good Wear, which reproduces jackets down to the details of specific WWII contractors’ specs, which varied a lot. Schott, which made A-2s during WWII, has a solid version in its Perfecto line (not all Schott A-2s are made to this standard).

G-1

Years in service: 1940s to present day

The G-1 started as the Navy version of the Army A-2, but while the Army version sometimes includes a detachable fur collar, the mouton (sheepskin) collar is standard on the G-1. The G-1 also omits passants and the storm flap and features button-through pockets rather than snap pockets. Particularly since its starring role in Top Gun, The G-1 is one of the most commonly reproduced jackets on the market, so there are many G-1-style jackets out there. Likewise, the jacket has had a long military service history with many contractors, so details can vary some from jacket to jacket. The originals and many current civilian versions use genuine sheepskin for the collar, but many if not most use synthetic fur. Vintage models abound, and new civilian versions are available from Alpha and Schott, with widely varying specs (look at the collar on that Schott). Beware patched, plasticky-leather versions from the immediate post-Maverick-and-Goose era. Personally, I prefer the G-1’s furriness to the A-2’s minimalism, but taste in leather jackets is subjective; many people favor motorcycle-derived leather jackets to these military versions.

Sheepskin jackets

Years in service: 1930s to 1945

Although all of these are indeed flight jackets, most of them were too lightweight for cockpit-wear at the high altitudes, and in fact both the A-1 and A-2 specs refer to them as summer jackets. Heavy, unshorn sheepskin jackets were designed to keep B-17 and fighter pilots warm in unpressurized aircraft flying at altitude over Europe. The B-3 and ANJ-4 were sometimes even worn over A-2s for maximum warmth. These jackets were expensive to make and were phased out in favor of cloth, pile-lined jackets after World War II. Sheepskin jackets are bulkier and a little longer than the lighter weight jackets, and their heavyweight sheepskin will keep someone on the ground warm in almost any climate. Originals verge on impractical; B-3s have for instance just one pocket. The relative luxury of the materials means you still see high-end designer takes on the B-3 and its British equivalent, the dashing Irvin jacket; Burberry recently made exaggerated versions. For less interpretative versions, you’re looking at the usual suspects: Eastman, Schott, and Alpha.

-Pete

Field Guide to Field Jackets
In the last couple weeks at Put This On we’ve set up midcentury utility- and sportswear as ideal for easy, versatile, and durable casual clothing—check out Jesse’s take on the gray sweatshirt and Derek’s post on Levi’s 1947 model 501s. I didn’t want to leave out the third pillar of a wardrobe based on repurposed gear: military surplus. Specifically, jackets. I’m focusing today on non-leather jackets; I’ll get to leathers later this week.
MA-1
Years in service: 1950s to 1980s
A nylon, synthetic-fill, knit-collared jacket developed for the pilots of modern jet aircraft, the MA-1 has been a civilian favorite for decades. MA-1s are lightweight, warm, and usually cheap. Replacing older, leather flight jackets, the mil-spec models changed some over the years—modifying fabrics, adding pocket flaps and bright orange lining—but the cropped, almost turtle shell silhouette has remained. MA-1s became popular with punk rock kids and skinheads in the 1970s and early 1980s, and the complex subcultural connotations have made them a prime source for designer and high-street-shop interpretations from Helmut Lang, J. Crew (women’s, in this case), and many others. This Third Looks feature on the history of the jacket goes into more detail. They tend to run roomy in the chest and shoulders compared to most civilian outerwear, and give even waifish wearers the appearance a hulking upper body. Writer William Gibson is semi-obsessed with the MA-1; shown above is a meticulously detailed version he worked on with Buzz Rickson.

M-43
Years in service: 1943 to 1950s
Introduced late in World War II, the M-43 was a durable uniform for soldiers in the field that evolved from pre-WWII uniforms, which seem closer to modern “dress” clothes than battlewear. (Many jackets are designated by the year they entered general service; in this case, 1943.) The jacket from the M-1943 uniform has real lapels rather than a shirt-style or stand-up collar like later field uniforms—I hesitate to say you could wear a tie with it in a modern context, but it would be less out of place than with an M-65. The M-43 was the first uniform to use tightly woven olive drab cotton sateen rather than lighter, less weatherproof fabrics. At the Front, a shop that specializes in supplying re-enactors with accurate representations of period uniforms, has a history page with deep details on the M-43. They also sell a repro version; I can’t personally vouch for the quality, but ATF is clearly serious about their mission. They’re of course available vintage.

M-51
Years in service: 1951 to 1960s
The M-51 field jacket was made from the same cotton sateen as the classic field trousers/fatigue pants.  The jacket had a shirt style collar that took an attachable hood, and closed with buttons and a zipper (older field jackets used buttons only). Although not as popular as the similar and ubiquitous Vietnam-era M-65, the 51 is a great jacket and a clear evolutionary marker between older field jackets, which look almost Edwardian, and modern BDUs. Orvis currently sells a nylon version; Schott has a lightweight take; I prefer vintage.

M-51 fishtail
Years in service: 1951 to 1960s
Searching for M-51 field jackets can be confused by the predominance of the M-51 fishtail parka, perhaps the ideal case study of a mil-spec garment adapted by a subculture—in this case, mods. These hooded, cotton sateen jackets were designed with an elongated back ending in two points (hence fishtail), intended to be fastened to the front of the jacket when worn to provide additional protection against the elements. Of course, no one does that; it seems more complicated than it’s worth. But it helps that the parkas, worn long, fit over sharp suits and protected Vespa-riding mods from road splash. Since the 60s peak of mod music and style, the fishtail parka has endured, and designer versions like Raf Simons’ above abound. Vintage models can get pricy as there’s a lot of demand, but new civilian takes are widely available. (Other fishtail parkas exist, but the M-51 is generally considered the go-to model.)

M-65
Years in service: 1965 through the 1970s
The M-65 was the field jacket of the Vietnam war, and in part because casual wear of military garb spiked in the post-war 1970s, it’s pretty much the jacket you’re thinking of when you think “wearing a surplus Army jacket.” It’s the Travis Bickle jacket and the Lindsay Weir jacket. Serpico wore one. It has roomy front pockets, a hood that stows in the stand-up collar, and shoulder passants. The M-65 zips closed and its cuffs can be adjusted with velcro. Like many of these field jackets, M-65s are cut large to accommodate liners, so if you’re buying vintage you can often afford to buy a size down, although you risk short arms. Alpha was the primary contractor making M-65s when they were issued, and they still make a decent version today. I really like the M-65-influenced field coats that Patrik Ervell has been designing for a few seasons; in moleskin or wool, they are more refined in fabric and cut than more faithful repros, and they’re pretty expensive. Like anything else though, they can occasionally appear on ebay or discount sites.

N-3B
Years in service: 1959 to 2000s
The distinctively fur-trimmed N3B parka (or snorkel parka) is likely the warmest of the surplus jackets. The original parkas were intended for wear in prohibitively cold conditions, and are longer and heavier than most other jackets listed here. They have slant packets at the chest and flap pockets lower on the coat, and a panel that fastens with loops across the zipper to keep out wind. Most modern versions use synthetic fur around the hood. Vintage versions aren’t quite as in demand as fishtail parks, and so aren’t as expensive as one might think (although vintage fur can be, frankly, gross).

F2
Years in service: 1980s and 1990s
This French jacket is the only non-U.S.-originated piece on my list. It started popping up more in a civilian context in the mid 2000s when people were looking for a more fitted milsurp jacket than they had in the past. Hedi Slimane designed an F2-style jacket for Dior Homme in 2005. Widely available in European surplus shops, it was also a rarity in the United States, adding to its appeal here. F2s have pointed lapels that arguably look best turned up, two vertical zip pockets on the chest near the buttoned closure, and two lower flapped pockets. The hem and cuffs are trimmed with some elastic, which can wear out on heavily worn models. Vintage models are sized by chest size and generic lengths (i.e., short, medium, long), and they definitely fit smaller than U.S. jackets in parallel sizes. Brands like APC regularly make versions of the F2, their sizes are more reliable.
Shopping for jackets
Almost all of these jackets are available vintage (e.g., previously issued to and worn by the military), new civilian (e.g., Alpha’s slim fit models), or designer (e.g., the Raf Simons fishtail parkas). Your best choice depends on what you value in a jacket:
Vintage models can be cheap, well-made, and full of character (and sometimes cigarette smoke) but condition and fit are widely variable.
New civilian models often fit well and reliably, but construction and materials are sometimes not as strong as the originals on which they’re based. If you want your military jacket made in the United States, few jackets in this category are.
Designers interpret originals in interesting ways, and such models can be made to very high standards, but they’re expensive. And more refined fabrics can also be fragile relative to military surplus.
If you’re shopping vintage, a few things to keep in mind:
These jackets have been made for actual military use, but also specifically for civilian use for decades. So vintage does not necessarily mean made to military specifications.
Some vintage jackets retain patches and insignia from previous owners, and wearing genuine military patches as a civilian is controversial, especially among veterans.
Most of these pieces weren’t designed to be worn with jeans and a tshirt; they were supposed to be worn as part of an ensemble issued for specific deployments. Because they were meant to fit over or under other layers, vintage pieces can be tough to size. Check measurements and for best results be a little more flexible on fit than you would be for a sportcoat.
High prices often mark an item high in demand by collectors, who know what details mark rare or desirable jackets. Collectors sometimes seek specific pieces from specific contracts between the U.S. military and manufacturers. For normal wear you don’t need to be that picky.
You should be able to find a decent condition version of any of these jackets for under $100.
-Pete

Field Guide to Field Jackets

In the last couple weeks at Put This On we’ve set up midcentury utility- and sportswear as ideal for easy, versatile, and durable casual clothing—check out Jesse’s take on the gray sweatshirt and Derek’s post on Levi’s 1947 model 501s. I didn’t want to leave out the third pillar of a wardrobe based on repurposed gear: military surplus. Specifically, jackets. I’m focusing today on non-leather jackets; I’ll get to leathers later this week.

MA-1

Years in service: 1950s to 1980s

A nylon, synthetic-fill, knit-collared jacket developed for the pilots of modern jet aircraft, the MA-1 has been a civilian favorite for decades. MA-1s are lightweight, warm, and usually cheap. Replacing older, leather flight jackets, the mil-spec models changed some over the years—modifying fabrics, adding pocket flaps and bright orange lining—but the cropped, almost turtle shell silhouette has remained. MA-1s became popular with punk rock kids and skinheads in the 1970s and early 1980s, and the complex subcultural connotations have made them a prime source for designer and high-street-shop interpretations from Helmut Lang, J. Crew (women’s, in this case), and many others. This Third Looks feature on the history of the jacket goes into more detail. They tend to run roomy in the chest and shoulders compared to most civilian outerwear, and give even waifish wearers the appearance a hulking upper body. Writer William Gibson is semi-obsessed with the MA-1; shown above is a meticulously detailed version he worked on with Buzz Rickson.

M-43

Years in service: 1943 to 1950s

Introduced late in World War II, the M-43 was a durable uniform for soldiers in the field that evolved from pre-WWII uniforms, which seem closer to modern “dress” clothes than battlewear. (Many jackets are designated by the year they entered general service; in this case, 1943.) The jacket from the M-1943 uniform has real lapels rather than a shirt-style or stand-up collar like later field uniforms—I hesitate to say you could wear a tie with it in a modern context, but it would be less out of place than with an M-65. The M-43 was the first uniform to use tightly woven olive drab cotton sateen rather than lighter, less weatherproof fabrics. At the Front, a shop that specializes in supplying re-enactors with accurate representations of period uniforms, has a history page with deep details on the M-43. They also sell a repro version; I can’t personally vouch for the quality, but ATF is clearly serious about their mission. They’re of course available vintage.

M-51

Years in service: 1951 to 1960s

The M-51 field jacket was made from the same cotton sateen as the classic field trousers/fatigue pants.  The jacket had a shirt style collar that took an attachable hood, and closed with buttons and a zipper (older field jackets used buttons only). Although not as popular as the similar and ubiquitous Vietnam-era M-65, the 51 is a great jacket and a clear evolutionary marker between older field jackets, which look almost Edwardian, and modern BDUs. Orvis currently sells a nylon version; Schott has a lightweight take; I prefer vintage.

M-51 fishtail

Years in service: 1951 to 1960s

Searching for M-51 field jackets can be confused by the predominance of the M-51 fishtail parka, perhaps the ideal case study of a mil-spec garment adapted by a subculture—in this case, mods. These hooded, cotton sateen jackets were designed with an elongated back ending in two points (hence fishtail), intended to be fastened to the front of the jacket when worn to provide additional protection against the elements. Of course, no one does that; it seems more complicated than it’s worth. But it helps that the parkas, worn long, fit over sharp suits and protected Vespa-riding mods from road splash. Since the 60s peak of mod music and style, the fishtail parka has endured, and designer versions like Raf Simons’ above abound. Vintage models can get pricy as there’s a lot of demand, but new civilian takes are widely available. (Other fishtail parkas exist, but the M-51 is generally considered the go-to model.)

M-65

Years in service: 1965 through the 1970s

The M-65 was the field jacket of the Vietnam war, and in part because casual wear of military garb spiked in the post-war 1970s, it’s pretty much the jacket you’re thinking of when you think “wearing a surplus Army jacket.” It’s the Travis Bickle jacket and the Lindsay Weir jacket. Serpico wore one. It has roomy front pockets, a hood that stows in the stand-up collar, and shoulder passants. The M-65 zips closed and its cuffs can be adjusted with velcro. Like many of these field jackets, M-65s are cut large to accommodate liners, so if you’re buying vintage you can often afford to buy a size down, although you risk short arms. Alpha was the primary contractor making M-65s when they were issued, and they still make a decent version today. I really like the M-65-influenced field coats that Patrik Ervell has been designing for a few seasons; in moleskin or wool, they are more refined in fabric and cut than more faithful repros, and they’re pretty expensive. Like anything else though, they can occasionally appear on ebay or discount sites.

N-3B

Years in service: 1959 to 2000s

The distinctively fur-trimmed N3B parka (or snorkel parka) is likely the warmest of the surplus jackets. The original parkas were intended for wear in prohibitively cold conditions, and are longer and heavier than most other jackets listed here. They have slant packets at the chest and flap pockets lower on the coat, and a panel that fastens with loops across the zipper to keep out wind. Most modern versions use synthetic fur around the hood. Vintage versions aren’t quite as in demand as fishtail parks, and so aren’t as expensive as one might think (although vintage fur can be, frankly, gross).

F2

Years in service: 1980s and 1990s

This French jacket is the only non-U.S.-originated piece on my list. It started popping up more in a civilian context in the mid 2000s when people were looking for a more fitted milsurp jacket than they had in the past. Hedi Slimane designed an F2-style jacket for Dior Homme in 2005. Widely available in European surplus shops, it was also a rarity in the United States, adding to its appeal here. F2s have pointed lapels that arguably look best turned up, two vertical zip pockets on the chest near the buttoned closure, and two lower flapped pockets. The hem and cuffs are trimmed with some elastic, which can wear out on heavily worn models. Vintage models are sized by chest size and generic lengths (i.e., short, medium, long), and they definitely fit smaller than U.S. jackets in parallel sizes. Brands like APC regularly make versions of the F2, their sizes are more reliable.

Shopping for jackets

Almost all of these jackets are available vintage (e.g., previously issued to and worn by the military), new civilian (e.g., Alpha’s slim fit models), or designer (e.g., the Raf Simons fishtail parkas). Your best choice depends on what you value in a jacket:

  • Vintage models can be cheap, well-made, and full of character (and sometimes cigarette smoke) but condition and fit are widely variable.
  • New civilian models often fit well and reliably, but construction and materials are sometimes not as strong as the originals on which they’re based. If you want your military jacket made in the United States, few jackets in this category are.
  • Designers interpret originals in interesting ways, and such models can be made to very high standards, but they’re expensive. And more refined fabrics can also be fragile relative to military surplus.

If you’re shopping vintage, a few things to keep in mind:

  • These jackets have been made for actual military use, but also specifically for civilian use for decades. So vintage does not necessarily mean made to military specifications.
  • Some vintage jackets retain patches and insignia from previous owners, and wearing genuine military patches as a civilian is controversial, especially among veterans.
  • Most of these pieces weren’t designed to be worn with jeans and a tshirt; they were supposed to be worn as part of an ensemble issued for specific deployments. Because they were meant to fit over or under other layers, vintage pieces can be tough to size. Check measurements and for best results be a little more flexible on fit than you would be for a sportcoat.
  • High prices often mark an item high in demand by collectors, who know what details mark rare or desirable jackets. Collectors sometimes seek specific pieces from specific contracts between the U.S. military and manufacturers. For normal wear you don’t need to be that picky.
  • You should be able to find a decent condition version of any of these jackets for under $100.

-Pete

Clothes & the Quiet Movie TheaterHow To Gain Super Powers With Your Clothing Alone 
—
At the Movies with Anil Dash
At least in my quiet corner of the internet, all anyone’s talking about today is superblogger Anil Dash, and his defense of people talking during movies. Or maybe his assault on authorial intent and the film-going experience. Or maybe something else entirely. I’m fascinated by the debate Anil has generated, and it’s got me thinking about clothes.
A Quick Summary
Yes, Anil Dash says that maybe movie theater shushers and “put that phone away”-ers and the like are over-reacting. But he isn’t just saying that.
Dash’s article argues, essentially, for cultural sensitivity. Specifically, it argues for sensitivity towards the differing expectations people have about behavior in movie theaters. He recognizes that patterns of behavior - like being quiet rather than vocal and excited in a movie theater - are cultural constructions. They aren’t a Jesus’ words in red-style matter of Truth, but rather a loose agreement between a group of people that can vary quite widely even within that group. Add in people from outside the group, and you get a lot of trouble.
The tricky bit, of course, is that each of us take our own assumptions to be “normal.” For some people, for example, eating pork is a disgusting act. For some people, the pig is the perfect food. Each thinks their own idea is a natural Truth that reflects the obvious way of the world.
Dash uses the example of filmgoers in India, his ancestral homeland. Anil writes: “Indian folks get up, talk to each other, answer phone calls, see what snacks there are to eat, arrange marriages for their children, spontaneously break out in song and fall asleep. And that’s during weddings!”
Dash’s argument isn’t that all movie theaters should be like Indian weddings. He’s all for the Alamo Drafthouses of the world, where shared cultural standards support quiet and contemplative viewing. But he further argues that given the huge portion of people - in the US and elsewhere - who prefer their movie going raucous, maybe some of the shushers should shut up with the shushing.
The Uneven Playing Field
There’s one further layer to this thing, as well: power. The truth is that here in the United States, folks like me (moneyed, white, male) have power every which-a-way. Economic power, political power, and most importantly cultural power. These things add up to something called cultural hegemony. That’s the combination of that power with “norms” that privilege the cultural expectations of the powerful over those of the less-powerful.
In this case, roughly speaking: rich people and white people are more likely to expect quiet theaters. Poor people and brown people are more likely to expect a lively atmosphere. A billion Indians, apparently, “do not give a damn about what’s on the screen.” White people think they’re normal, and because they have power, they’re rarely confronted with other people’s ideas of normalcy. 
Of course there are also capital-t Truths in the film-going experience somewhere. It’s fun to laugh with others for all humans, I think. The filmmaker has some kind of intent, whether you value it or not. That kind of thing. But most of the film-going experience is personal, informed by culture, not about some natural law. So Anil asks us to think about those things when we sit down to watch Pacific Rim. (Which you should, by the way; really fun movie.)
All of this brings us, finally, to clothes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Sometimes folks email me asking why I defend, say, people sagging their pants, when I so clearly prefer to wear a coat and tie. Or why I believe so strongly in men wearing a suit to attend a wedding, when it’s what’s in your heart and prayers that counts. Basically, they ask why I seem to love traditional clothing so much, but so vociferously defend people’s choices that defy it. (Except square toed shoes, pretty sure the Higher Power is with me on those being awful.)
The Power & Value of Cultural Tradition
Clothing is an almost purely cultural construct. There may be a few Truth inputs in clothes - like a biological attraction to men who look like they can reproduce well, a need to protect the body from the elements, maybe a brain chemical preference for color combinations from nature - but everything else is, for lack of a better phrase, “made up.”
There is some value to this. In fact, I’ve written here defending this value.
The clothes you wear can communicate a message only if you and those you interact with have a shared grammar. That grammar is a shared culture. I see tuxedo, I think: formal. I see flip-flops, I think: eww gross. (Maybe the second one isn’t as good of an example, but you get the drift.) Clothes aren’t quite a language, they’re not specific enough, especially in a place full of immigrants like my home country. Maybe clothes are more of a trade language, like Swahili. Everyone comes to it a little differently, but you can usually get your point across.
The clothes you wear, when worn according to cultural tradition, can also create beauty. An aesthetic framework like, say, the traditions of menswear, helps us organize and process what we see, and makes beauty happen in our brains. It’s like a sonnet - the form gives power to the content.
Those are wonderful values of a shared system of clothing. A Swahili of how we dress. Great stuff.
Hegemony & You
But “traditional menswear” also has its roots in hegemony. It’s about the cultural values of the great European powers, especially England. It’s about wealth and white people. It carries that with it no matter where it goes.
So the question then is: when you dress that way, what are you wearing? And when someone else doesn’t, what do you do with that?
You Can Have Super Powers
Here’s my suggestion: getting dressed is a deeply personal act. Personal in that it reflects our most intimate values, but also our personal relationship with the world.
If we can understand that, it gives us two super powers.
The first is the power to make our own choices about how we present ourselves in the world. To use what’s useful about all these cultural values and traditions and so on, and leave aside what isn’t. For each of us. Personally.
The second is the power to be empathetic towards others’ decisions. To understand that the truth as seen through our eyes isn’t absolute, it’s reflective of our values. And that other people have different inputs and may come to different conclusions.
Getting dressed is different for all of us. “Traditional Menswear” has different value to Andre 3000, or to Ralph Lauren, or to Hardy Amies, or to me, or to my colleague Derek, who wasn’t even born in the West. But if we can approach the subject with sensitivity and empathy, we will dress better, and be better men.

Clothes & the Quiet Movie Theater
How To Gain Super Powers With Your Clothing Alone


At the Movies with Anil Dash

At least in my quiet corner of the internet, all anyone’s talking about today is superblogger Anil Dash, and his defense of people talking during movies. Or maybe his assault on authorial intent and the film-going experience. Or maybe something else entirely. I’m fascinated by the debate Anil has generated, and it’s got me thinking about clothes.

A Quick Summary

Yes, Anil Dash says that maybe movie theater shushers and “put that phone away”-ers and the like are over-reacting. But he isn’t just saying that.

Dash’s article argues, essentially, for cultural sensitivity. Specifically, it argues for sensitivity towards the differing expectations people have about behavior in movie theaters. He recognizes that patterns of behavior - like being quiet rather than vocal and excited in a movie theater - are cultural constructions. They aren’t a Jesus’ words in red-style matter of Truth, but rather a loose agreement between a group of people that can vary quite widely even within that group. Add in people from outside the group, and you get a lot of trouble.

The tricky bit, of course, is that each of us take our own assumptions to be “normal.” For some people, for example, eating pork is a disgusting act. For some people, the pig is the perfect food. Each thinks their own idea is a natural Truth that reflects the obvious way of the world.

Dash uses the example of filmgoers in India, his ancestral homeland. Anil writes: “Indian folks get up, talk to each other, answer phone calls, see what snacks there are to eat, arrange marriages for their children, spontaneously break out in song and fall asleep. And that’s during weddings!”

Dash’s argument isn’t that all movie theaters should be like Indian weddings. He’s all for the Alamo Drafthouses of the world, where shared cultural standards support quiet and contemplative viewing. But he further argues that given the huge portion of people - in the US and elsewhere - who prefer their movie going raucous, maybe some of the shushers should shut up with the shushing.

The Uneven Playing Field

There’s one further layer to this thing, as well: power. The truth is that here in the United States, folks like me (moneyed, white, male) have power every which-a-way. Economic power, political power, and most importantly cultural power. These things add up to something called cultural hegemony. That’s the combination of that power with “norms” that privilege the cultural expectations of the powerful over those of the less-powerful.

In this case, roughly speaking: rich people and white people are more likely to expect quiet theaters. Poor people and brown people are more likely to expect a lively atmosphere. A billion Indians, apparently, “do not give a damn about what’s on the screen.” White people think they’re normal, and because they have power, they’re rarely confronted with other people’s ideas of normalcy. 

Of course there are also capital-t Truths in the film-going experience somewhere. It’s fun to laugh with others for all humans, I think. The filmmaker has some kind of intent, whether you value it or not. That kind of thing. But most of the film-going experience is personal, informed by culture, not about some natural law. So Anil asks us to think about those things when we sit down to watch Pacific Rim. (Which you should, by the way; really fun movie.)

All of this brings us, finally, to clothes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Sometimes folks email me asking why I defend, say, people sagging their pants, when I so clearly prefer to wear a coat and tie. Or why I believe so strongly in men wearing a suit to attend a wedding, when it’s what’s in your heart and prayers that counts. Basically, they ask why I seem to love traditional clothing so much, but so vociferously defend people’s choices that defy it. (Except square toed shoes, pretty sure the Higher Power is with me on those being awful.)

The Power & Value of Cultural Tradition

Clothing is an almost purely cultural construct. There may be a few Truth inputs in clothes - like a biological attraction to men who look like they can reproduce well, a need to protect the body from the elements, maybe a brain chemical preference for color combinations from nature - but everything else is, for lack of a better phrase, “made up.”

There is some value to this. In fact, I’ve written here defending this value.

The clothes you wear can communicate a message only if you and those you interact with have a shared grammar. That grammar is a shared culture. I see tuxedo, I think: formal. I see flip-flops, I think: eww gross. (Maybe the second one isn’t as good of an example, but you get the drift.) Clothes aren’t quite a language, they’re not specific enough, especially in a place full of immigrants like my home country. Maybe clothes are more of a trade language, like Swahili. Everyone comes to it a little differently, but you can usually get your point across.

The clothes you wear, when worn according to cultural tradition, can also create beauty. An aesthetic framework like, say, the traditions of menswear, helps us organize and process what we see, and makes beauty happen in our brains. It’s like a sonnet - the form gives power to the content.

Those are wonderful values of a shared system of clothing. A Swahili of how we dress. Great stuff.

Hegemony & You

But “traditional menswear” also has its roots in hegemony. It’s about the cultural values of the great European powers, especially England. It’s about wealth and white people. It carries that with it no matter where it goes.

So the question then is: when you dress that way, what are you wearing? And when someone else doesn’t, what do you do with that?

You Can Have Super Powers

Here’s my suggestion: getting dressed is a deeply personal act. Personal in that it reflects our most intimate values, but also our personal relationship with the world.

If we can understand that, it gives us two super powers.

The first is the power to make our own choices about how we present ourselves in the world. To use what’s useful about all these cultural values and traditions and so on, and leave aside what isn’t. For each of us. Personally.

The second is the power to be empathetic towards others’ decisions. To understand that the truth as seen through our eyes isn’t absolute, it’s reflective of our values. And that other people have different inputs and may come to different conclusions.

Getting dressed is different for all of us. “Traditional Menswear” has different value to Andre 3000, or to Ralph Lauren, or to Hardy Amies, or to me, or to my colleague Derek, who wasn’t even born in the West. But if we can approach the subject with sensitivity and empathy, we will dress better, and be better men.

When You Need It NOW! (You Shoulda Got It THEN!)
A huge portion of the emails I get at Put This On are about men who NEED IT NOW! They’ve just been invited to a black tie gala, they’re headed to a summer wedding this weekend, they have a state funeral to attend, they finally got a job interview with the firm they’ve been targeting. So they want to know: how can they save money and buy something great today?
The truth is: it’s impossible. You can go to Barney’s or Nordstrom or Brooks Brothers, beg for on-the-spot alterations, and walk out with something that works, but let me assure you: you will pay full price. And I’ll add that if you don’t live within easy access of those stores, you may well be plum out of luck.
So the solution is pretty simple: be prepared. Not for every eventuality, but for the few that you’re almost certain to encounter.
If you have black dress shoes, a solid gray suit, a white shirt and both a navy and black tie, you’re all set for almost any eventuality. A wedding, a funeral, a job interview.
These should be conservative, and fit. You can thrift them, eBay them, buy them on sale or buy them at full price. But if you’re a grown man, you will need these things. Often on short notice.
If your lifestyle means black tie is a regular occurrence - say once a year or more - then a black tie rig is worth owning as well. Give yourself the time you need to find exactly what you want at the price you want to pay, but do it now, not later.
Great-Uncles don’t die on your schedule, and once-in-a-lifetime job interviews don’t happen right when you expect them. So be prepared.

When You Need It NOW! (You Shoulda Got It THEN!)

A huge portion of the emails I get at Put This On are about men who NEED IT NOW! They’ve just been invited to a black tie gala, they’re headed to a summer wedding this weekend, they have a state funeral to attend, they finally got a job interview with the firm they’ve been targeting. So they want to know: how can they save money and buy something great today?

The truth is: it’s impossible. You can go to Barney’s or Nordstrom or Brooks Brothers, beg for on-the-spot alterations, and walk out with something that works, but let me assure you: you will pay full price. And I’ll add that if you don’t live within easy access of those stores, you may well be plum out of luck.

So the solution is pretty simple: be prepared. Not for every eventuality, but for the few that you’re almost certain to encounter.

If you have black dress shoes, a solid gray suit, a white shirt and both a navy and black tie, you’re all set for almost any eventuality. A wedding, a funeral, a job interview.

These should be conservative, and fit. You can thrift them, eBay them, buy them on sale or buy them at full price. But if you’re a grown man, you will need these things. Often on short notice.

If your lifestyle means black tie is a regular occurrence - say once a year or more - then a black tie rig is worth owning as well. Give yourself the time you need to find exactly what you want at the price you want to pay, but do it now, not later.

Great-Uncles don’t die on your schedule, and once-in-a-lifetime job interviews don’t happen right when you expect them. So be prepared.

A Course in Advanced Tie Knots
Here is all you need to know about “advanced” tie knots: they are useless and you shouldn’t wear them.
Above is the absurdly dumb “Eldredge Knot,” but it’s far from the only offender. Rarely does a week go by where I don’t end up with an email about Pratt knots or Winchester knots or Dubble Bubble knots or some other goofy stuff.
Here’s a summary of useful tie knots:
The Four in Hand
The old around-around-behind-over-through. The classic four in hand knot is simple, easy to tie, holds a dimple well, and is appropriate for any situation. It is slightly asymmetrical, which is desirable. It is more flattering to most men, more relaxed and more distinctive. Really the only time this knot isn’t suitable is with a very skinny, insubstantial tie.
The Double Four in Hand
This is the four in hand knot with an added wrap-around, as seen in this video by our friend GW. Useful if you are shorter and need to use up some extra length from an off-the-rack tie, or if you prefer a slightly fuller knot. I use it once in a while to give more structure to the knot of a knit tie.
The Half Windsor
If you’re one of those people who insists on symmetry, go ahead and use the half Windsor (or the Pratt, I guess). Just know that none of the Windsors ever wore the Windsor, half or otherwise. They wear the four in hand for the reasons outlined above. And look better because of it. (The full Windsor should be the exclusive province of Donald Trump and former NFL stars and other people whose goal is to look like a jerk.)
Everything Else
Is silly bullshit.

A Course in Advanced Tie Knots

Here is all you need to know about “advanced” tie knots: they are useless and you shouldn’t wear them.

Above is the absurdly dumb “Eldredge Knot,” but it’s far from the only offender. Rarely does a week go by where I don’t end up with an email about Pratt knots or Winchester knots or Dubble Bubble knots or some other goofy stuff.

Here’s a summary of useful tie knots:

The Four in Hand

The old around-around-behind-over-through. The classic four in hand knot is simple, easy to tie, holds a dimple well, and is appropriate for any situation. It is slightly asymmetrical, which is desirable. It is more flattering to most men, more relaxed and more distinctive. Really the only time this knot isn’t suitable is with a very skinny, insubstantial tie.

The Double Four in Hand

This is the four in hand knot with an added wrap-around, as seen in this video by our friend GW. Useful if you are shorter and need to use up some extra length from an off-the-rack tie, or if you prefer a slightly fuller knot. I use it once in a while to give more structure to the knot of a knit tie.

The Half Windsor

If you’re one of those people who insists on symmetry, go ahead and use the half Windsor (or the Pratt, I guess). Just know that none of the Windsors ever wore the Windsor, half or otherwise. They wear the four in hand for the reasons outlined above. And look better because of it. (The full Windsor should be the exclusive province of Donald Trump and former NFL stars and other people whose goal is to look like a jerk.)

Everything Else

Is silly bullshit.

Buying Vegan
Every once in a while, I’ll get an email from a reader who – whether for ethical, religious, or some other reason – has decided to abstain from animal products, but still wants a set of professional clothes for certain occasions. They’ll often ask if I have suggestions on where they can shop.
The answer is not easy. Many suits and sport coats will use animal hair for the canvas, and even if they’re fused, they’ll likely have a chest piece made from horsehair or camelhair. These are the things that give the jacket its structure. I suppose you could have one custom made, but this can be prohibitively expensive depending on your budget.
Ties are a bit easier. Cotton is your best option, as it will lack the sheen in unnatural materials, but like with tailored jackets, you’ll want to keep in mind that many well-made options will often have wool or wool blended materials inside. A sales associate probably can’t tell you the material make-up of a tie’s interlining, so you may either want to buy from a company such as this one, or see if you can get something custom made by Sam Hober or Vanda Fine Clothing.
For shoes, the four most popular retailers are Vegan Essentials, Moo Shoes, Pangea, and Vegetarian Shoes. Admittedly, much of what they sell, at least in the “dress shoes” department, is not terribly attractive. There are somewhat better options at Novacas, Ethical Wares, Vegan Chic, Vegan Wares, and No Harm. The last one seems to have the most wearable designs of all, including the simple brown cap toe oxfords you see above. In general, however, vegan shoes seem to be much better on the casual end of the spectrum. For example, I think these chukkas, minimalistic sneakers, and work boots don’t look too bad.
Another option is to go second-hand, but that obviously doesn’t divorce you from the primary market (in other words, buying second-hand leather shoes can still affect the primary demand for leather). Plus, if you’re against wearing animal products for religious reasons, something being second-hand may not matter to you.
One thing to consider is that if you’re trying to minimize harm to animals for ethical reasons, buying “vegan shoes” may not be a clear best option. Vegan shoes are made from petroleum-based synthetic leathers, and will last you maybe one to three years with regular wear. Well-made leather shoes, on the other hand, are usually made from vegetable tanned leathers and can last for decades (literally) if properly taken care of. I’m not at all prepared to say which has a lower environmental impact, or how that impact would translate to animal welfare, but it’s something to consider.
Update: A friend of ours recommend this model by Sanders. Not all Sanders shoes are vegan (in fact, few of them are), but if you can find them, they seem to be one of the best options available. 
(Pictured above: No Harm’s cap toe oxfords)

Buying Vegan

Every once in a while, I’ll get an email from a reader who – whether for ethical, religious, or some other reason – has decided to abstain from animal products, but still wants a set of professional clothes for certain occasions. They’ll often ask if I have suggestions on where they can shop.

The answer is not easy. Many suits and sport coats will use animal hair for the canvas, and even if they’re fused, they’ll likely have a chest piece made from horsehair or camelhair. These are the things that give the jacket its structure. I suppose you could have one custom made, but this can be prohibitively expensive depending on your budget.

Ties are a bit easier. Cotton is your best option, as it will lack the sheen in unnatural materials, but like with tailored jackets, you’ll want to keep in mind that many well-made options will often have wool or wool blended materials inside. A sales associate probably can’t tell you the material make-up of a tie’s interlining, so you may either want to buy from a company such as this one, or see if you can get something custom made by Sam Hober or Vanda Fine Clothing.

For shoes, the four most popular retailers are Vegan Essentials, Moo Shoes, Pangea, and Vegetarian Shoes. Admittedly, much of what they sell, at least in the “dress shoes” department, is not terribly attractive. There are somewhat better options at Novacas, Ethical Wares, Vegan Chic, Vegan Wares, and No Harm. The last one seems to have the most wearable designs of all, including the simple brown cap toe oxfords you see above. In general, however, vegan shoes seem to be much better on the casual end of the spectrum. For example, I think these chukkas, minimalistic sneakers, and work boots don’t look too bad.

Another option is to go second-hand, but that obviously doesn’t divorce you from the primary market (in other words, buying second-hand leather shoes can still affect the primary demand for leather). Plus, if you’re against wearing animal products for religious reasons, something being second-hand may not matter to you.

One thing to consider is that if you’re trying to minimize harm to animals for ethical reasons, buying “vegan shoes” may not be a clear best option. Vegan shoes are made from petroleum-based synthetic leathers, and will last you maybe one to three years with regular wear. Well-made leather shoes, on the other hand, are usually made from vegetable tanned leathers and can last for decades (literally) if properly taken care of. I’m not at all prepared to say which has a lower environmental impact, or how that impact would translate to animal welfare, but it’s something to consider.

Update: A friend of ours recommend this model by Sanders. Not all Sanders shoes are vegan (in fact, few of them are), but if you can find them, they seem to be one of the best options available. 

(Pictured above: No Harm’s cap toe oxfords)