Shetland Sweaters for Fall

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

What’s a Shetland Sweater?

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

Shetland sweaters were originally made by peasant women on the islands, and came with a strong, smoked herring smell because of the way the wool would absorb domestic odors.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

Where To Get A Good, Plain-Knit Shetland

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

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

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

(Photos via Heavy Tweed Jacket)

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide
This portion of our Black Tie Guide dabbles in some luxurious indulgences that some would consider optional. You might not necessarily need them immediately, but consider them things to upgrade as you build your tuxedo ensemble.
Part 5: Hosiery, Sock Garters & Braces
Black tie might be the only time wearing black socks can be considered acceptable. Formal hose should be over-the-calf, as mid-calf socks tend to slouch and expose your bare skin, which looks bad. 
In terms of material, the preference is for silk, which has a sense of refinement and sheen that compliments the silk piping of the trouser and shine of the shoes. 
Socks made of 100% silk do have trouble staying up on their own and can require the use of sock garters. If you’d rather dispense with having to wear those, then you’ll probably opt for the also-cheaper silk socks blended with nylon, which are more common to find.
The cheapest silk socks I’ve found come from Brooks Brothers, for around $40. You can also get pairs from Kabbaz-Kelly & Sons made by Marcoliani and Bresciani, who also have pure 100% silk hose. A Suitable Wardrobe’s Store also has pure silk hose for $55. 
If you need sock garters, then you can either search eBay U.K. or go with Brooks Brothers or Cable Car Clothiers, which has them for $38 and $45, respectively.
In regards to braces (commonly called “suspenders”), these are a great way to keep your trousers up and any pair of pants can have buttons added to the waistband to attach the braces. Remember: proper braces fasten using buttons, not alligator-clips.
Braces should be kept simple and discrete, avoiding the temptation of being flashy with bright colors or patterns (you shouldn’t be removing your jacket anyway). Go for solid black or white. I prefer white as it blends together better with the white shirt, but some might like the contrast of black. 
Braces should also be sized properly so the metal adjusters are on the bottom toward the waist, not high on the chest. 
As for where to buy, braces made by Albert Thurston come highly regarded and they actually seem to be very competitively priced at $75 at A Suitable Wardrobe’s Store in ivory barathea and both black and white moiré. 
The one thing I want to point out about the items mentioned in this part is that they’re probably not necessary for the most basic of tuxedo ensembles. If you pants are sized correctly to your waist, you can forgo braces. Cheaper socks can be found by going with cotton or wool options from the same high-end makers. For instance, Howard Yount carries several black over-the-calf options from their own private-label and from Marcoliani. 
-Kiyoshi

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide

This portion of our Black Tie Guide dabbles in some luxurious indulgences that some would consider optional. You might not necessarily need them immediately, but consider them things to upgrade as you build your tuxedo ensemble.

Part 5: Hosiery, Sock Garters & Braces

Black tie might be the only time wearing black socks can be considered acceptable. Formal hose should be over-the-calf, as mid-calf socks tend to slouch and expose your bare skin, which looks bad. 

In terms of material, the preference is for silk, which has a sense of refinement and sheen that compliments the silk piping of the trouser and shine of the shoes. 

Socks made of 100% silk do have trouble staying up on their own and can require the use of sock garters. If you’d rather dispense with having to wear those, then you’ll probably opt for the also-cheaper silk socks blended with nylon, which are more common to find.

The cheapest silk socks I’ve found come from Brooks Brothers, for around $40. You can also get pairs from Kabbaz-Kelly & Sons made by Marcoliani and Bresciani, who also have pure 100% silk hose. A Suitable Wardrobe’s Store also has pure silk hose for $55. 

If you need sock garters, then you can either search eBay U.K. or go with Brooks Brothers or Cable Car Clothiers, which has them for $38 and $45, respectively.

In regards to braces (commonly called “suspenders”), these are a great way to keep your trousers up and any pair of pants can have buttons added to the waistband to attach the braces. Remember: proper braces fasten using buttons, not alligator-clips.

Braces should be kept simple and discrete, avoiding the temptation of being flashy with bright colors or patterns (you shouldn’t be removing your jacket anyway). Go for solid black or white. I prefer white as it blends together better with the white shirt, but some might like the contrast of black. 

Braces should also be sized properly so the metal adjusters are on the bottom toward the waist, not high on the chest. 

As for where to buy, braces made by Albert Thurston come highly regarded and they actually seem to be very competitively priced at $75 at A Suitable Wardrobe’s Store in ivory barathea and both black and white moiré. 

The one thing I want to point out about the items mentioned in this part is that they’re probably not necessary for the most basic of tuxedo ensembles. If you pants are sized correctly to your waist, you can forgo braces. Cheaper socks can be found by going with cotton or wool options from the same high-end makers. For instance, Howard Yount carries several black over-the-calf options from their own private-label and from Marcoliani. 

-Kiyoshi

SF Gate has a nice article on Cable Car Clothiers. I live in Oakland, which is just east of San Francisco, and but whenever I’m in the city and within a five block radius of Cable Car Clothiers, I make a point to stop by. Admittedly, I’ve only bought one thing from them (a small horn comb), but only because I’m not able to afford most of what they sell. It’s a beautiful shop to check out, however, especially if you appreciate classic American style. I look forward to seeing their new location. 

SF Gate has a nice article on Cable Car Clothiers. I live in Oakland, which is just east of San Francisco, and but whenever I’m in the city and within a five block radius of Cable Car Clothiers, I make a point to stop by. Admittedly, I’ve only bought one thing from them (a small horn comb), but only because I’m not able to afford most of what they sell. It’s a beautiful shop to check out, however, especially if you appreciate classic American style. I look forward to seeing their new location. 

Shetland Sweaters for Fall

I have mixed feelings about Shetland sweaters. On the one hand, they’re itchy, scratchy, and not the most refined looking of knits. They neither have the softness of cashmere nor the smoothness of merino. On the other hand, that’s what makes them charming. As one member at Ask Andy once unironically (but hilariously), put it, “merino is too ‘metrosexual.’” A rather ridiculous statement, but point taken – these are not fashionable sweaters; they’re frumpy.

But sometimes a little frumpy is good. With a pair of dark green, wide-wale corduroys and reddish-brown shell cordovan tassel loafers, what could be more appropriate than a navy or mid-grey Shetland wool sweater? It has a classic American-trad/ schoolboy charm. To protect yourself from the scratchiness, you can layer it over an oxford cloth button down shirt. Those are the kind that belong underneath these sweaters anyway.

There are a number of places to pick up a Shetland. The best are from O’Connell’s and The Andover Shop. I slightly favor O’Connell’s because it has the more traditional form of a saddle shoulder, but both are top notch in terms of quality. There are other good Scottish ones at Cable Car Clothiers and Ben Silver, as well as an American made Shetland from Bill’s Khakis, which you can read more about at Ivy Style

For something more affordable, consider LL Bean and Brooks Brothers. If you’re an unusual size and need something custom made, try Spirit of Shetland. They’ll knit you a custom Shetland if you tell them the chest size your best fitting sweater. Like with most MTM clothing, I advise erring on the side of fullness rather than slimness. Remember that you can always wear a sweater if it’s slightly full (these are meant to be a bit frumpy anyway), but you’ll never wear a sweater if it’s too tight.

Should you pick one of these up and find that they’re too itchy, consider brushed Shetlands, which have that charming uneven loft that J Press made famous. There are also lambswool sweaters. They look similar to Shetlands in that they’re more textured than merino and harder wearing than cashmere, but they’re not as itchy. You may still need to layer them over a shirt, but at least your loved ones won’t be afraid to hug you. 

Cable Car Clothiers, Summer 1983 (at Heavy Tweed Jacket)
Q & A: Where to Shop For Men’s Clothes in San Francisco?
Chris writes from Germany: Next month, I’ll be in California for vacation and would like to get some recommendations for stores and boutiques in San Francisco that sell unique and classy clothes like the ones you cover in your blog.  I would be thrilled if you guys could offer some suggestions.
It just so happens that I’m a native of the ‘Sco, and I’d be happy to help you out.  San Francisco’s one of the best shopping cities in the world, and there are a wealth of choices.
Let’s start with new casual clothes.  The denim-only store Self Edge opened its first outlet in San Francisco some years ago.  If you’re interested in jeans, it’s probably the best store in the world.  Be aware, though, that you’ll be spending a few hundred bucks.
MAC, which stands for Modern Appealing Clothing, is probably the best store in the city for contemporary designer casual clothes.  If you’re the kind of guy who buys Maison Martin Margiela or Rick Owens, it’s a must-visit - you can find in Hayes Valley, a couple of blocks from City Hall.  Even if you’re not the designer type, it’s worth browsing.  Prices are, as you might expect, quite high.  Saks Fifth Avenue and Barney’s, both of which are off Union Square, are also great sources for that sort of thing.  Also worth checking out is Unionmade, which opened quite recently and offers authentic and “authentic” clothing for people who are really into, you know, craft and heritage and that kind of stuff.
If you’re looking for something a bit classier, there are options there, as well.  The classic is the men’s clothier Wilkes Bashford.  The owner, Wilkes, was forced to sell a year or two ago, but it was to sympathetic buyers, and he remains at the head of the operation.  It’s as luxurious a menswear store as exists in the world.  Wilkes is good friends with the former mayor (and famous dandy) Willie Brown Jr., and has outfitted him for many years.  Wilkes is, again, downtown near Union Square.
A little further downtown, you can find Cable Car Clothiers, one of the last true traditional menswear stores on the West Coast.  If you’re looking for a Sherlock Holmes hat, sold without irony, this is the place to visit.  They also sell British-made umbrellas and American-made suits and everything else that was as classic in 1945 as it was in 1965 as it was in 1985 as it is today.  Again, you won’t save money shopping here, but it’s a truly magical place.  It’s also not too far from the Alden Store, on Sutter, where they can show you the full line of Alden shoes for men.
If you’re interested in spending a little less, there are a lot of options there, as well.  I’m fond of many thrift stores in San Francisco, but I’m a little hesitant to blow up my spots.  I’ll say that the Town School Clothes Closet is full of wonderful things which are a bit overpriced, but prices come down during regular sales.  I’ve always enjoyed thrifting in the Mission, where I grew up, but if you head to the Fillmore, you’ll find more treasures.  That’s where rich people live, you see.  If you really want to get crazy, check out the Goodwill As-Is Store, South of Market, where you can literally fight people as you go through piles of clothes on long, narrow tables in what amounts to a dungeon of savings.
There’s plenty of vintage in San Francisco, as well.  I’ve been a customer at Clothes Contact, on Valencia at 16th, since they opened… 20 years ago, maybe?  I remember buying a bandleader jacket there because I thought it made me look like Michael Jackson.  (While you’re in the Mission, say hi to my friends Lan and Lino at the amazing vintage furniture and housewares store The Apartment).  La Rosa is the best of the vintage stores on Haight Street, and it’s also right nearby Amoeba Records.
It’s tough to find good men’s consignment, but Goodbyes does it better than any other store I’ve run across.  Quality goods, reasonable prices, and sometimes even helpful sales staff.  (One lady is super-mean, but mostly they’re very nice.)  You can also check out Jeremy’s, which has a stock that’s split between store liquidations and consignments.  A little pricier and often a little lower-quality, but also a little less fussy.
Hopefully that’s enough to fill your time.  
If I might offer some unsolicited tourist advice: many San Francisco tourist traps are great.  Cable cars, for example, are still cool to me.  Riding a bike in Golden Gate Park is wonderful.  Alcatraz is pretty neat, too.  Fisherman’s Wharf, though, is fucking awful.  Don’t go there.  If you do, skip everything except The Musee Mechanique, at Pier 45.

Q & A: Where to Shop For Men’s Clothes in San Francisco?

Chris writes from Germany: Next month, I’ll be in California for vacation and would like to get some recommendations for stores and boutiques in San Francisco that sell unique and classy clothes like the ones you cover in your blog.  I would be thrilled if you guys could offer some suggestions.

It just so happens that I’m a native of the ‘Sco, and I’d be happy to help you out.  San Francisco’s one of the best shopping cities in the world, and there are a wealth of choices.

Let’s start with new casual clothes.  The denim-only store Self Edge opened its first outlet in San Francisco some years ago.  If you’re interested in jeans, it’s probably the best store in the world.  Be aware, though, that you’ll be spending a few hundred bucks.

MAC, which stands for Modern Appealing Clothing, is probably the best store in the city for contemporary designer casual clothes.  If you’re the kind of guy who buys Maison Martin Margiela or Rick Owens, it’s a must-visit - you can find in Hayes Valley, a couple of blocks from City Hall.  Even if you’re not the designer type, it’s worth browsing.  Prices are, as you might expect, quite high.  Saks Fifth Avenue and Barney’s, both of which are off Union Square, are also great sources for that sort of thing.  Also worth checking out is Unionmade, which opened quite recently and offers authentic and “authentic” clothing for people who are really into, you know, craft and heritage and that kind of stuff.

If you’re looking for something a bit classier, there are options there, as well.  The classic is the men’s clothier Wilkes Bashford.  The owner, Wilkes, was forced to sell a year or two ago, but it was to sympathetic buyers, and he remains at the head of the operation.  It’s as luxurious a menswear store as exists in the world.  Wilkes is good friends with the former mayor (and famous dandy) Willie Brown Jr., and has outfitted him for many years.  Wilkes is, again, downtown near Union Square.

A little further downtown, you can find Cable Car Clothiers, one of the last true traditional menswear stores on the West Coast.  If you’re looking for a Sherlock Holmes hat, sold without irony, this is the place to visit.  They also sell British-made umbrellas and American-made suits and everything else that was as classic in 1945 as it was in 1965 as it was in 1985 as it is today.  Again, you won’t save money shopping here, but it’s a truly magical place.  It’s also not too far from the Alden Store, on Sutter, where they can show you the full line of Alden shoes for men.

If you’re interested in spending a little less, there are a lot of options there, as well.  I’m fond of many thrift stores in San Francisco, but I’m a little hesitant to blow up my spots.  I’ll say that the Town School Clothes Closet is full of wonderful things which are a bit overpriced, but prices come down during regular sales.  I’ve always enjoyed thrifting in the Mission, where I grew up, but if you head to the Fillmore, you’ll find more treasures.  That’s where rich people live, you see.  If you really want to get crazy, check out the Goodwill As-Is Store, South of Market, where you can literally fight people as you go through piles of clothes on long, narrow tables in what amounts to a dungeon of savings.

There’s plenty of vintage in San Francisco, as well.  I’ve been a customer at Clothes Contact, on Valencia at 16th, since they opened… 20 years ago, maybe?  I remember buying a bandleader jacket there because I thought it made me look like Michael Jackson.  (While you’re in the Mission, say hi to my friends Lan and Lino at the amazing vintage furniture and housewares store The Apartment).  La Rosa is the best of the vintage stores on Haight Street, and it’s also right nearby Amoeba Records.

It’s tough to find good men’s consignment, but Goodbyes does it better than any other store I’ve run across.  Quality goods, reasonable prices, and sometimes even helpful sales staff.  (One lady is super-mean, but mostly they’re very nice.)  You can also check out Jeremy’s, which has a stock that’s split between store liquidations and consignments.  A little pricier and often a little lower-quality, but also a little less fussy.

Hopefully that’s enough to fill your time. 

If I might offer some unsolicited tourist advice: many San Francisco tourist traps are great.  Cable cars, for example, are still cool to me.  Riding a bike in Golden Gate Park is wonderful.  Alcatraz is pretty neat, too.  Fisherman’s Wharf, though, is fucking awful.  Don’t go there.  If you do, skip everything except The Musee Mechanique, at Pier 45.

It’s On Sale
Filson Pullman Suitcase
This is the case I carry when I travel.  Fits a week’s worth of clothes easily, including shoes, and is sized for carry-on.  Note that it has no wheels, however, if that’s your thing.
$259 from $370 at Cable Car Clothiers (price will change in-cart)

It’s On Sale

Filson Pullman Suitcase

This is the case I carry when I travel.  Fits a week’s worth of clothes easily, including shoes, and is sized for carry-on.  Note that it has no wheels, however, if that’s your thing.

$259 from $370 at Cable Car Clothiers (price will change in-cart)

It’s On eBay
Vintage Postcard: San Francisco’s Cable Car Clothiers
If you live in San Francisco, and you’ve never visited Cable Car Clothiers, you owe yourself a visit.  It’s a traditional men’s store.  Extremely traditional.  So traditional that nothing in it would look out of place in the 1960s.  Barely anything would look out of place in 1931, except for the odd narrow lapel.  It’s expensive, but you don’t have to buy anything.  You can buy some over-the-calf socks or a beautiful umbrella if you want.
Buy It Now for $5

It’s On eBay

Vintage Postcard: San Francisco’s Cable Car Clothiers

If you live in San Francisco, and you’ve never visited Cable Car Clothiers, you owe yourself a visit.  It’s a traditional men’s store.  Extremely traditional.  So traditional that nothing in it would look out of place in the 1960s.  Barely anything would look out of place in 1931, except for the odd narrow lapel.  It’s expensive, but you don’t have to buy anything.  You can buy some over-the-calf socks or a beautiful umbrella if you want.

Buy It Now for $5