It’s on Sale: Brooks Brothers Black Fleece

Brooks Brothers’ Thom Browne-designed Black Fleece line is on flash sale. Discounts vary but some are quite deep. Black Fleece’s house style is sort of trad caricature, and its narrow lapels and cropped cuts seem to be aging quickly right now, but these remain very, very nice clothes. Button-down oxfords at around $60 (from $200) and at least one suit at under $300 are highlights to me. Ties are quite nice, too; unfortunately, I didn’t see any of Black Fleece’s excellent dress shoes.

-Pete

Finally, a Chance to Mention Supreme at Put This On
New York skate shop turned ultra-hyped line of clothing and accessories Supreme collaborates every season with other brands, some that make immediate sense (Vans, Neighborhood) and some that you gotta wonder about, like Wise brand snacks and, now, Brooks Brothers. Next week, Supreme will be selling a custom-lining seersucker suit in Brooks’ Fitzgerald cut, which has narrower lapels and a slimmer cut than Brooks’ classic offerings. (Supreme-buying trads are sure to be disappointed that it’s not a traditional sack silhouette.)
Supreme may in fact be the Brooks Brothers of the streetwear world. It started in New York, everyone agrees it was better back in the day, and the best thing about it now are the shoes.
-Pete

Finally, a Chance to Mention Supreme at Put This On

New York skate shop turned ultra-hyped line of clothing and accessories Supreme collaborates every season with other brands, some that make immediate sense (Vans, Neighborhood) and some that you gotta wonder about, like Wise brand snacks and, now, Brooks Brothers. Next week, Supreme will be selling a custom-lining seersucker suit in Brooks’ Fitzgerald cut, which has narrower lapels and a slimmer cut than Brooks’ classic offerings. (Supreme-buying trads are sure to be disappointed that it’s not a traditional sack silhouette.)

Supreme may in fact be the Brooks Brothers of the streetwear world. It started in New York, everyone agrees it was better back in the day, and the best thing about it now are the shoes.

-Pete

Real People: Dressing Down a Suit

Open any men’s fashion magazine nowadays and you can read about the 101 ways to dress down a suit. The problem is, the suit is more often than not a sober looking garment, so when you try to “dress it down,” it can be like painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa. A safer way to dress down a suit is to simply get a more casual suit. Instead of one made from a smooth, worsted wool, try something in cotton, linen, corduroy, or even tweed. That way, your suit is inherently more casual, and you won’t have to awkwardly try to pull back its formality with some unusual accessory.

That does require buying a separate suit for casual occasions, however, which can get expensive (especially once you factor in seasonal fabrics). If you want to try to dress down a standard business suit, try pairing one with a softly colored pastel shirt, perhaps something in pink, lavender, or sea green. Any of those will be more casual than your standard solid whites or light blues, and can help both soften the edge of a suit while also enlivening its look. If need be, you can dress it down further with some casual footwear, such as tassel loafers or something made from suede. Our friend Niyi in New York City shows how well can look above.

You can get pastel colored shirts at any number of places these days. Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers are good starts, so long as you stay away from the ones with embroidered logos. Our advertiser Ledbury has a lime green one in their “short run shirts” section until the end of today. If you want something custom made, I can recommend Ascot Chang. They have offices in New York City and Los Angeles, although they also tour throughout the United States to meet clients (I meet them in San Francisco twice a year). They do great work, but being bespoke, they are a bit pricey. For something more affordable, but custom, there’s Cottonwork and our advertiser Proper Cloth. For something affordable, but ready to wear, there’s TM Lewin and Thin Red Line.

The Saint Laurent Paris store in Chicago was recently hit with a smash-and-grab robbery and lost about $100,000 worth of merchandise. After I mentioned it on Twitter, my friend CrimsonSox shared with me this story you see above. Apparently, in 1964, a Brooks Brothers store lost about $200,000 worth of merchandise after some thieves jimmied open a window. 
Accounting for inflation, that’s about $1.5 million today. 

The Saint Laurent Paris store in Chicago was recently hit with a smash-and-grab robbery and lost about $100,000 worth of merchandise. After I mentioned it on Twitter, my friend CrimsonSox shared with me this story you see above. Apparently, in 1964, a Brooks Brothers store lost about $200,000 worth of merchandise after some thieves jimmied open a window. 

Accounting for inflation, that’s about $1.5 million today. 

An Affordable Spring Look
Outerwear tends to be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Depending on your budget, you can get relatively affordable coats and jackets nowadays from Club Monaco, J. Crew, Brooks Brothers, and Ralph Lauren. At the end of every season, they’ll have nice looking designs for about $150-200 (Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren have really good mid-season sales as well). More affordably, there’s Pointer’s chore coat for $87. It looks pretty good if you like workwear.   
For rainy days, I sometimes wear LL Bean’s Trail Model Rain Jacket with jeans, a Shetland sweater, and some LL Bean boots. The shell is made from a waterproof rip stop nylon and the interior seams are taped. The pocket bags are also made of mesh, so that if you store away any wet things, they’ll dry quicker. The best part? It’s $79. Possibly $71 if you wait for one of LL Bean’s occasional 10% off coupons. Additionally, they have a similar jacket this season under their “Signature” line. Although I haven’t handled it, the jacket looks like it comes without a chest logo (which the mainline does, unfortunately, although it’s tonal). I also assume it fits slimmer all around.
In the photo above, I’ve paired my LL Bean rain jacket with an oxford cloth button down shirt from Ascot Chang, a Shetland sweater from O’Connell’s, and a pair of straight legged jeans from 3sixteen. All of these tend to be a bit on the pricey side, but you can find more affordable alternatives at a number of places. Brooks Brothers will have oxford cloth button downs for about $50 during sale season, while Kamakura sells them for about $79 year round. More affordable Shetlands can be had for about $75-100 at Brooks Brothers and LL Bean when they’re on discount (although they don’t always carry them). Lastly, raw selvedge denim jeans can be had for about $89 from our advertiser Gustin, or $82 from Unbranded. Both get regularly recommended in the denim community.
Together, these pieces make for a reasonably classic look, and more importantly, can be had for not too much money. 

An Affordable Spring Look

Outerwear tends to be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Depending on your budget, you can get relatively affordable coats and jackets nowadays from Club Monaco, J. Crew, Brooks Brothers, and Ralph Lauren. At the end of every season, they’ll have nice looking designs for about $150-200 (Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren have really good mid-season sales as well). More affordably, there’s Pointer’s chore coat for $87. It looks pretty good if you like workwear.   

For rainy days, I sometimes wear LL Bean’s Trail Model Rain Jacket with jeans, a Shetland sweater, and some LL Bean boots. The shell is made from a waterproof rip stop nylon and the interior seams are taped. The pocket bags are also made of mesh, so that if you store away any wet things, they’ll dry quicker. The best part? It’s $79. Possibly $71 if you wait for one of LL Bean’s occasional 10% off coupons. Additionally, they have a similar jacket this season under their “Signature” line. Although I haven’t handled it, the jacket looks like it comes without a chest logo (which the mainline does, unfortunately, although it’s tonal). I also assume it fits slimmer all around.

In the photo above, I’ve paired my LL Bean rain jacket with an oxford cloth button down shirt from Ascot Chang, a Shetland sweater from O’Connell’s, and a pair of straight legged jeans from 3sixteen. All of these tend to be a bit on the pricey side, but you can find more affordable alternatives at a number of places. Brooks Brothers will have oxford cloth button downs for about $50 during sale season, while Kamakura sells them for about $79 year round. More affordable Shetlands can be had for about $75-100 at Brooks Brothers and LL Bean when they’re on discount (although they don’t always carry them). Lastly, raw selvedge denim jeans can be had for about $89 from our advertiser Gustin, or $82 from Unbranded. Both get regularly recommended in the denim community.

Together, these pieces make for a reasonably classic look, and more importantly, can be had for not too much money. 

How Much Should You Spend on Dress Shoes?
One of the questions I frequently get in my inbox is: “I’m looking to buy a better pair of dress shoes, and only have X to spend. Should I save up for something better, or is so-and-so brand OK?” Like with many questions we get, a lot depends on the person asking.  
It’s worth noting, however, that in footwear (like in everything), there are serious diminishing returns after a certain point. Very roughly speaking, that point tends to be around $350 at full retail, although what’s sold at full retail can be had for less with smart shopping (eBay, factory seconds, seasonal sales, thrift stores, etc).
The Unfortunate Reality of Diminishing Returns
There are a number of things that go into the construction of a good shoe, but the two biggest are: the quality of the leather used and how the soles have been attached. Jesse did a great job in describing the difference between corrected grain and full grain leathers here. It’s also worth noting that even among full-grain leathers, there can be differences in quality. Additionally, most well made shoes will have their shoes attached through a Goodyear or Blake stitching process. Jesse reviewed some of these in the second episode of our video series, and you can read more about each technique here. The short of it is: with a sole that’s been stitched on, rather than glued, you can more easily resole your shoes, which means you don’t have to bin them when the bottoms wear out.
In the past, the “entry price” for good (dress) shoes tended to be around $350. These were usually from Allen Edmonds, Ralph Lauren, and Brooks Brothers, although not everything from these brands were worth buying. There were also some European names such as Herring and Loake’s 1880 line.
After this, you get marginally better constructions, but the differences become smaller and smaller (perhaps a leather insole vs. a fiberboard insole, or a sole that’s been attached by hand rather than machine, or slightly better leathers used for the uppers). Largely, as you move up from the $350 MSRP mark, you’re paying for design. A $1,250 pair of Edward Greens won’t last you 4x longer than a $350 pair from Allen Edmonds, but to many, they’re shaped and finished more handsomely.
The Emergence of a More Competitive Market
The good news is that the market has gotten a lot more competitive in the last five years, and the cost/ benefit curve has smoothed out considerably. Today, there are companies such as Beckett Simonon, John Doe, and Jack Erwin below the $200 price mark (the last of which I was particularly impressed by). Just a hair over $200 is Meermin, which I still think is one of the best values for (relatively) affordable footwear. They have a “Classic” line for about $200 (but with customs and duties, you might pay around $230) and a higher end “Linea Maestro” line for about $300 starting. And at the $350 mark, there’s more than Allen Edmonds and Loake’s 1880 these days. Paul Evans, Kent Wang, and Howard Yount are all good companies to look into.
The question of how much should you spend isn’t about what’s “good” in the footwear market, it’s about what’s “good enough” for you. For dress shoes, the only real criteria are: quality full-grain leather uppers and some kind of stitched on sole. Much of the rest is about aesthetics and personal preference.
(Photo: Crockett & Jones’ Whitehall oxfords at Ben Silver)

How Much Should You Spend on Dress Shoes?

One of the questions I frequently get in my inbox is: “I’m looking to buy a better pair of dress shoes, and only have X to spend. Should I save up for something better, or is so-and-so brand OK?” Like with many questions we get, a lot depends on the person asking. 

It’s worth noting, however, that in footwear (like in everything), there are serious diminishing returns after a certain point. Very roughly speaking, that point tends to be around $350 at full retail, although what’s sold at full retail can be had for less with smart shopping (eBay, factory seconds, seasonal sales, thrift stores, etc).

The Unfortunate Reality of Diminishing Returns

There are a number of things that go into the construction of a good shoe, but the two biggest are: the quality of the leather used and how the soles have been attached. Jesse did a great job in describing the difference between corrected grain and full grain leathers here. It’s also worth noting that even among full-grain leathers, there can be differences in quality. Additionally, most well made shoes will have their shoes attached through a Goodyear or Blake stitching process. Jesse reviewed some of these in the second episode of our video series, and you can read more about each technique here. The short of it is: with a sole that’s been stitched on, rather than glued, you can more easily resole your shoes, which means you don’t have to bin them when the bottoms wear out.

In the past, the “entry price” for good (dress) shoes tended to be around $350. These were usually from Allen Edmonds, Ralph Lauren, and Brooks Brothers, although not everything from these brands were worth buying. There were also some European names such as Herring and Loake’s 1880 line.

After this, you get marginally better constructions, but the differences become smaller and smaller (perhaps a leather insole vs. a fiberboard insole, or a sole that’s been attached by hand rather than machine, or slightly better leathers used for the uppers). Largely, as you move up from the $350 MSRP mark, you’re paying for design. A $1,250 pair of Edward Greens won’t last you 4x longer than a $350 pair from Allen Edmonds, but to many, they’re shaped and finished more handsomely.

The Emergence of a More Competitive Market

The good news is that the market has gotten a lot more competitive in the last five years, and the cost/ benefit curve has smoothed out considerably. Today, there are companies such as Beckett Simonon, John Doe, and Jack Erwin below the $200 price mark (the last of which I was particularly impressed by). Just a hair over $200 is Meermin, which I still think is one of the best values for (relatively) affordable footwear. They have a “Classic” line for about $200 (but with customs and duties, you might pay around $230) and a higher end “Linea Maestro” line for about $300 starting. And at the $350 mark, there’s more than Allen Edmonds and Loake’s 1880 these days. Paul Evans, Kent Wang, and Howard Yount are all good companies to look into.

The question of how much should you spend isn’t about what’s “good” in the footwear market, it’s about what’s “good enough” for you. For dress shoes, the only real criteria are: quality full-grain leather uppers and some kind of stitched on sole. Much of the rest is about aesthetics and personal preference.

(Photo: Crockett & Jones’ Whitehall oxfords at Ben Silver)

Motoring Style

Despite having no motorcycle of my own — or even my own car, for that matter — I’ve been really into leather motorcycle jackets lately. Above are two photos from one of my favorite StyleForum members, CrimsonSox. He has a knowledge of classic men’s clothing that’s not matched by many people.

The first photo is from Vanity Fair, and shows a version of a motoring outfit in 1907 (check out the goggles). I imagine this was probably worn in open top cars, but one of the interesting things I recently learned was that motorcyclists at the beginning of the 20th century wore a coat and tie when they rode. Something perhaps not too different from this. Some men had leather jackets custom made for them (mostly styled after aviation jackets, such as the A1), but the idea that you really needed serious protective gear (i.e. a real, dedicated motorcycle jacket) didn’t come until the 1930s or 1940s, when motorcycle performance started improving and more men rode them. 

Anyway, the second photo is of a Brooks Brothers store in 1915. Apparently the second floor was used for their “motor clothing department” (clothes to be worn on motorcycles or open-top unheated cars).The first paragraph reads:

We have a complete assortment of everything in the way of clothing, furnishings, and accessories for automobile use, and are prepared to furnish anything in this line in the fashions now practically settled, and deemed correct, many of them being of our own exclusive design.

The idea that you could walk into Brooks Brothers in 1915 and buy a motorcycle jacket — one that was “in the fashions now practically settled, and deemed correct” — is just really, really awesome to me. 

Oh, and Voxsartoria has an even higher resolution image of that second photo. 

(Photos via CrimsonSox’s Twitter)

Building an Affordable Neckwear Collection
If you want to build a necktie wardrobe for not too much money, there’s no better place to start than eBay. At any given time, there are hundreds of silk repps floating around that site, many available for only $10 to $20 a piece. Striped silk repp ties, as I’ve mentioned, are exceptionally useful because you can wear them with either sport coats or suits, whereas some ties are too casual to wear with one, or too formal to wear with the other. 
To find them, just search eBay for well-regarded American brands such as Ben Silver, Brooks Brothers, J. Press, and Paul Stuart. Seaward & Stearn and Atkinsons are also good names to look out for, although they’re usually available at lower quantities. E. Marinella and Drake’s are undeniably exceptional, but typically sell at much higher prices. Ralph Lauren can also be nice, although he carries such a wide range of lines - each made to different qualities - that it can be hard to find what’s well made. If you care to sort through it all, just look for the blue Polo label or the high-end Purple Label. 
The only problem with shopping on eBay is that it can be difficult to discern a tie’s condition. Most sellers can tell if there’s a pull or stain in the silk, but this is hardly the only damage that can occur. If a tie has been sent to the dry cleaners, for example, the silk will have likely lost its luster, and if it’s been wrongly ironed, you’ll see an impression of the tie’s folds pressed into the front blade. The slip stitch that goes up the back spine might also be loose or even broken from improper yanking, and the neck area might be faded or overly worn, making the tie’s knot a slightly lighter color than the rest of the body. Worst of all is if the previous owner never let his tie rest after each day’s wear, but instead kept it knotted, so that he wouldn’t ever have to retie it again. This will ruin the interlining inside, making it difficult for you to ever get a good dimple. It’s rare that you’ll come across a seller who knows how to look for these kinds of defects. 
Still, for $10-15, not much is lost if you get a bad piece, and even if the tie doesn’t come in the most perfect condition, this might not be a bad thing. The men who wear silk repp ties best are often wearing pieces that are ten or twenty years old, and their ties have a sort of worn-in quality that makes them more appealing than things that look too new or pristine. Set aside $100 or so and stick to dark colors (e.g. burgundy, forest green, brown, and navy), and you’ll have a pretty good starting collection in no time. 
(Photo via Oxford Cloth Button Down)

Building an Affordable Neckwear Collection

If you want to build a necktie wardrobe for not too much money, there’s no better place to start than eBay. At any given time, there are hundreds of silk repps floating around that site, many available for only $10 to $20 a piece. Striped silk repp ties, as I’ve mentioned, are exceptionally useful because you can wear them with either sport coats or suits, whereas some ties are too casual to wear with one, or too formal to wear with the other. 

To find them, just search eBay for well-regarded American brands such as Ben Silver, Brooks Brothers, J. Press, and Paul Stuart. Seaward & Stearn and Atkinsons are also good names to look out for, although they’re usually available at lower quantities. E. Marinella and Drake’s are undeniably exceptional, but typically sell at much higher prices. Ralph Lauren can also be nice, although he carries such a wide range of lines - each made to different qualities - that it can be hard to find what’s well made. If you care to sort through it all, just look for the blue Polo label or the high-end Purple Label. 

The only problem with shopping on eBay is that it can be difficult to discern a tie’s condition. Most sellers can tell if there’s a pull or stain in the silk, but this is hardly the only damage that can occur. If a tie has been sent to the dry cleaners, for example, the silk will have likely lost its luster, and if it’s been wrongly ironed, you’ll see an impression of the tie’s folds pressed into the front blade. The slip stitch that goes up the back spine might also be loose or even broken from improper yanking, and the neck area might be faded or overly worn, making the tie’s knot a slightly lighter color than the rest of the body. Worst of all is if the previous owner never let his tie rest after each day’s wear, but instead kept it knotted, so that he wouldn’t ever have to retie it again. This will ruin the interlining inside, making it difficult for you to ever get a good dimple. It’s rare that you’ll come across a seller who knows how to look for these kinds of defects. 

Still, for $10-15, not much is lost if you get a bad piece, and even if the tie doesn’t come in the most perfect condition, this might not be a bad thing. The men who wear silk repp ties best are often wearing pieces that are ten or twenty years old, and their ties have a sort of worn-in quality that makes them more appealing than things that look too new or pristine. Set aside $100 or so and stick to dark colors (e.g. burgundy, forest green, brown, and navy), and you’ll have a pretty good starting collection in no time. 

(Photo via Oxford Cloth Button Down)

Tartans + Shetlands + Waxed Jackets
I don’t reblog much, but couldn’t help myself with this one. I admit, I’ve experimented a lot when it comes to clothing, and still like to try new things, but I’ll forever love classic American style.
Above is a tartan shirt, a green Shetland sweater, and a waxed cotton Barbour coat. I think O’Connell’s Shetlands are some of the best around, but they cost $165. If you don’t mind the price, I highly recommend them. Otherwise, you can get Shetlands from these other brands or on eBay. Barbours are also pretty easy to find on eBay UK. Yes, some will be pretty beat up, but that’s a good thing with these kinds of coats. If they come with a musty smell, you can get them cleaned through New England Waterproofers. If the idea of wearing a used waxed coat seems gross to you, and you don’t want to pay for a new Barbour, you can try these alternatives. Lastly, tartan shirts can be bought through companies such as O’Connell’s, Brooks Brothers, J. Press, Ralph Lauren, and our advertiser Ledbury. If you prefer custom-made shirts, you can get tartan fabrics pretty affordably through Acorn and give them to your tailor. 
It’s not a terribly new or original look, and it’s hardly “cutting edge” when it comes to fashion, but it’s great, genuinely classic, and pretty easy to put together. In an interview at Ivy Style, Bruce Boyer once said: “I’ve gone through different phases and trends and tried things, but I always keep coming back to a kind of Anglo-American look.” I often feel the same way. 
(Photo via glengarrysportingclub)

Tartans + Shetlands + Waxed Jackets

I don’t reblog much, but couldn’t help myself with this one. I admit, I’ve experimented a lot when it comes to clothing, and still like to try new things, but I’ll forever love classic American style.

Above is a tartan shirt, a green Shetland sweater, and a waxed cotton Barbour coat. I think O’Connell’s Shetlands are some of the best around, but they cost $165. If you don’t mind the price, I highly recommend them. Otherwise, you can get Shetlands from these other brands or on eBay. Barbours are also pretty easy to find on eBay UK. Yes, some will be pretty beat up, but that’s a good thing with these kinds of coats. If they come with a musty smell, you can get them cleaned through New England Waterproofers. If the idea of wearing a used waxed coat seems gross to you, and you don’t want to pay for a new Barbour, you can try these alternatives. Lastly, tartan shirts can be bought through companies such as O’Connell’s, Brooks Brothers, J. Press, Ralph Lauren, and our advertiser Ledbury. If you prefer custom-made shirts, you can get tartan fabrics pretty affordably through Acorn and give them to your tailor. 

It’s not a terribly new or original look, and it’s hardly “cutting edge” when it comes to fashion, but it’s great, genuinely classic, and pretty easy to put together. In an interview at Ivy Style, Bruce Boyer once said: “I’ve gone through different phases and trends and tried things, but I always keep coming back to a kind of Anglo-American look.” I often feel the same way. 

(Photo via glengarrysportingclub)

It’s On Sale: Shirts
Want some shirts? There are a ton of places right now with deep discounts.
The new Amazon-owned e-tailer East Dane has Gant Rugger shirts starting at $37.50. The fit tends to be a bit more hip, and perhaps better suited to younger customers, but they’re of good quality. 
More traditionally, there’s Brooks Brothers, where there are mainline shirts starting at $40 and Black Fleece shirts starting at $70. 
Ralph Lauren also has a promotion going on right now, where you can save $20, $50, or $150 depending on how much you spend. The promotion applies to their sale section, where there are shirts for as low as $25 or so. Probably good to avoid stuff with the pony logo on the chest, and note that “classic fit” is their traditionally cut model, while “custom fit” is their slim version. Folks interested in workwear might also want to check out the RRL section.
Similarly, Macy’s has a bunch of Ralph Lauren shirts on sale. Unfortunately, the site doesn’t state whether each model is “classic” or “custom” fit, but there are some handsome options. I think this looks pretty good. 
J. Crew is offering an extra 40% off final sale items with the code FUNSALE. Included are some of their shirts, though you have to hunt around. 
TM Lewin, always a good go-to for business appropriate shirts, is offering four shirts for $128, and clearance models for $32 each. Shipping is free, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better deal if you wear a traditional coat and tie. 
(Pictured above: A plaid Ralph Lauren shirt)

It’s On Sale: Shirts

Want some shirts? There are a ton of places right now with deep discounts.

  • The new Amazon-owned e-tailer East Dane has Gant Rugger shirts starting at $37.50. The fit tends to be a bit more hip, and perhaps better suited to younger customers, but they’re of good quality. 
  • More traditionally, there’s Brooks Brothers, where there are mainline shirts starting at $40 and Black Fleece shirts starting at $70. 
  • Ralph Lauren also has a promotion going on right now, where you can save $20, $50, or $150 depending on how much you spend. The promotion applies to their sale section, where there are shirts for as low as $25 or so. Probably good to avoid stuff with the pony logo on the chest, and note that “classic fit” is their traditionally cut model, while “custom fit” is their slim version. Folks interested in workwear might also want to check out the RRL section.
  • Similarly, Macy’s has a bunch of Ralph Lauren shirts on sale. Unfortunately, the site doesn’t state whether each model is “classic” or “custom” fit, but there are some handsome options. I think this looks pretty good. 
  • J. Crew is offering an extra 40% off final sale items with the code FUNSALE. Included are some of their shirts, though you have to hunt around. 
  • TM Lewin, always a good go-to for business appropriate shirts, is offering four shirts for $128, and clearance models for $32 each. Shipping is free, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better deal if you wear a traditional coat and tie. 

(Pictured above: A plaid Ralph Lauren shirt)