Splurging on Outerwear and Knitwear

The centerpiece of almost any ensemble tends to be outermost layer. It’s what people see most easily, and what covers up everything else underneath. Which means, if you splurge on outerwear and knitwear, you can often get away with spending little on everything else. 

In the above, my white tees above are from Hanes, which cost $12 a piece, but you can sometimes find them on sale for as little as $2. The shirts are from Ascot Chang, which are admittedly pricey, but you can get good casual shirts at Brooks Brothers for about $50 on sale. For something more affordable, look into Uniqlo or J. Crew. They’ll often have shirts on sale for $25 to $40.

The jeans above are from 3sixteen. I bought them on sale for $125 five years ago, when they retailed for $175. They’re now $225. I think they’re still worth the price, but for a more affordable alternative, try our advertiser Gustin. They have raw, selvedge denim jeans starting at $89.

Next, for shoes, I think it’s worth splurging for a pair of boots. The above are shell cordovan cap toe boots from Brooks Brothers, but you could just as easily swap these out for a pair of calf leather chukkas or bluchers, depending on your style. You can get those new through Meermin for $200 or as little as $125 if you’re willing to go second hand on eBay. For something more affordable, try a simple pair of sneakers. For $70, you can get the German Army Trainers Jesse talked about. For $45, you can get Chuck Taylors at ShoeBuy (where they’re almost always on sale). 

After that, there’s just outerwear and knitwear. If you can’t afford to spend on both, then cut back on sweaters. The grey sweatshirt above is one of my most versatile knits, and it cost me $30 on clearance at J. Crew. Sure, it doesn’t keep its shape as well as more expensive sweatshirts, but a quick wash and dry after every wear solves that problem. This takes a bit of the luster out of the cotton, but sweatshirts look good worn-in anyway. As usual, if you can’t afford to get things made from fine materials, then get things that look better beat-up.

Spending little on everything else can make you feel less guilty about splurging where it counts. For fall, this mostly means outerwear and knitwear.

The shoe on the left is by Converse. Are the other two, by Bob’s and Fila, counterfeits? Converse thinks so, and they’re suing.

The shoe on the left is by Converse. Are the other two, by Bob’s and Fila, counterfeits? Converse thinks so, and they’re suing.

It’s On Sale: (Almost) Everything at Need Supply

Want those on-sale Aldens that Pete talked about yesterday? Well, they’re available at Need Supply, where you can take 20% off your whole order with the checkout code EVERYTHING20. The code works on everything except select items from APC. For footwear alone, check out Common Projects and Alden (two brands that are rarely discounted), as well as Converse, Vans, and Quoddy. You may also want to check out their sale section, where you can stack discounts. 

Pictured above: Alden Indy bootsQuoddy bluchersChuck Taylor high tops, and Common Projects Achilles. Sale will last until the end of tomorrow, June 24th. 

Crepe-Sole Jack Purcells
I’m generally opposed to “classic with a twist.” I say: just go classic, and you know… be the twist you want to see in the world. That said, I’m basically salivating over these Jack Purcells.
They’re a bit dear at $90, and mostly sold out to boot (let us know if you can find a better source than the Converse website), but I just grabbed a pair.

Crepe-Sole Jack Purcells

I’m generally opposed to “classic with a twist.” I say: just go classic, and you know… be the twist you want to see in the world. That said, I’m basically salivating over these Jack Purcells.

They’re a bit dear at $90, and mostly sold out to boot (let us know if you can find a better source than the Converse website), but I just grabbed a pair.

It’s On Sale: Shoes, Shoes, Shoes
Shoe sales are happening everywhere today. 
Shoebuy.com: 30% off your purchase if you use the checkout code EMLFRIENDS14. Included in the stock are some Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars. I wear and love these white hi-tops. Just be sure to size down half-a-size, as they run big (so if you normally wear a 9, take an 8.5).
Sierra Trading Post: Clarks Wallabees available in both the high and low top versions. As usual, you’ll want to apply one of Sierra Trading Post’s daily coupons. You can get them by signing up for their DealFlyer Newsletter (which will give you a different coupon every day) or by checking their Facebook page. Coupons will typically knock about 30-45% off the listed price. 
Ventee Privee: Clarks Wallabees are also available in bigger sizes today at Ventee Privee. If you don’t already have an account, you can use our referral link (note, we get a small kickback when you do). 
East Dane: The selection is a bit limited, but East Dane has Quoddy and Eastland Made in Maine shoes on discount. These Quoddy Kennebec chukkas and Perry boots could be good for fall. 
YCMC: Adidas’ Stan Smiths can be had for $60 with the coupon code 65YEARS. Note, there are other colors available, and the coupon expires today. 
(Above: Chuck Taylor All Stars worn by Team USA at the first ever Olympic basketball game in 1936)

It’s On Sale: Shoes, Shoes, Shoes

Shoe sales are happening everywhere today. 

  • Shoebuy.com: 30% off your purchase if you use the checkout code EMLFRIENDS14. Included in the stock are some Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars. I wear and love these white hi-tops. Just be sure to size down half-a-size, as they run big (so if you normally wear a 9, take an 8.5).
  • Sierra Trading Post: Clarks Wallabees available in both the high and low top versions. As usual, you’ll want to apply one of Sierra Trading Post’s daily coupons. You can get them by signing up for their DealFlyer Newsletter (which will give you a different coupon every day) or by checking their Facebook page. Coupons will typically knock about 30-45% off the listed price. 
  • Ventee Privee: Clarks Wallabees are also available in bigger sizes today at Ventee Privee. If you don’t already have an account, you can use our referral link (note, we get a small kickback when you do). 
  • East Dane: The selection is a bit limited, but East Dane has Quoddy and Eastland Made in Maine shoes on discount. These Quoddy Kennebec chukkas and Perry boots could be good for fall. 
  • YCMC: Adidas’ Stan Smiths can be had for $60 with the coupon code 65YEARS. Note, there are other colors available, and the coupon expires today. 

(Above: Chuck Taylor All Stars worn by Team USA at the first ever Olympic basketball game in 1936)

It’s On Sale: Chuck Taylors and Swaine Adeney Brigg Umbrellas
Two sales just popped up, both only lasting for today:
First, Shoebuy.com has Chuck Taylors All Stars at 25% off. That puts my favorite model, the white high tops you see above, at $37.46. Use the check out code EMLFLASH14 and pay attention to sizing. Most people find they need to size down half a size in Chuck Taylors. So if you regularly wear a 10D, for example, then you’ll want to take a 9.5. 
Second, J. Peterman has Swaine Adeney Brigg umbrellas at 32% off. They’re still expensive, even with the discount, but SAB makes wonderful umbrellas and they have lots of heritage. Use the code INTIME at checkout. 

It’s On Sale: Chuck Taylors and Swaine Adeney Brigg Umbrellas

Two sales just popped up, both only lasting for today:

Five Great Things That Come With A Leather Jacket
I wear sport coats most days of the week, but for the last two years or so, I’ve been breaking it up a bit with leather jackets. In that time, I’ve found leather jackets to have some nice advantages over tailored clothing. 
Shirts
Paul Newman looks great above in his button-up shirt, but for me, a leather jacket really calls for a t-shirt. The good news is that t-shirts can be had for not too much money. Jesse sells Alternative Apparel ones every summer at a wholesale price. They’re soft, finely knitted, and somewhat stretchy. I wear Hanes Beefy Tees myself, which are more stout. I’ve also heard good things about Uniqlo’s t-shirts, although I’ve never tried them.
All of these can be had for less than ten bucks a piece, which means you can get a whole week’s worth for less than the price of a good dress shirt.
Pants
Similarly, jeans can be had for much less than wool trousers. Unbranded and our advertiser Gustin get regularly recommended in the denim community, and they sell raw, selvedge denim options for about $85 a pair. APC New Standards retail for $185, but can sometimes be found on sale. 
The upside to jeans isn’t just their price, however. It’s the material. Denim is an exceptionally tough fabric and can take a lot of abuse. Some guys wear their jeans every day for two years before retiring them. Do that to a pair of grey flannel trousers and they’ll disintegrate in a few months.
Shoes
Shoes are a bit more tricky. With a heavy horsehide or cowhide jacket, you might need something like a chunky boot. With a lighter lambskin or goatskin jacket, however, you can wear canvas sneakers. I often wear this jacket, for example, with white Chuck Taylor high tops, which I bought for $50. There’s no good dress shoe that retails for $50.
Fit
There are few things that can smarten you up more than a sport coat or suit, but they are admittedly difficult to fit. This might be because of their construction: the shoulder pads, wadding, canvassing, haircloth, etc. Add to that the stylistic details (width of the lapel, shape of the quarters, pitch of the arm, height of the gorge, etc.), and you can see how complicated a tailored jacket can get.
On the other hand, leather jackets (and everything that goes with them) have a lot more wiggle room. It’s OK if your jacket doesn’t look like it was perfectly tailored and if your jeans aren’t hemmed to a perfect shivering break. In fact, they shouldn’t look like that anyway. 
Care
Finally, it’s nice to not have to iron a shirt before you go out, worry about whether a dry cleaner will ruin your jacket, or care if some food drips onto your clothes. Everything above – the t-shirt, jeans, sneakers, and jacket – is meant to be worn and beat up. Some items (such as the jeans and sneakers) look better after they’ve been worn in. Others (such as the t-shirt) are cheap enough to easily replace.
Granted, the leather jacket itself can be pretty expensive. You’re either going to spend a lot of money for a new one, or a lot of time searching for something used. On the upside, once you find one you like, there are five great things that come with it. 

Five Great Things That Come With A Leather Jacket

I wear sport coats most days of the week, but for the last two years or so, I’ve been breaking it up a bit with leather jackets. In that time, I’ve found leather jackets to have some nice advantages over tailored clothing. 

Shirts

Paul Newman looks great above in his button-up shirt, but for me, a leather jacket really calls for a t-shirt. The good news is that t-shirts can be had for not too much money. Jesse sells Alternative Apparel ones every summer at a wholesale price. They’re soft, finely knitted, and somewhat stretchy. I wear Hanes Beefy Tees myself, which are more stout. I’ve also heard good things about Uniqlo’s t-shirts, although I’ve never tried them.

All of these can be had for less than ten bucks a piece, which means you can get a whole week’s worth for less than the price of a good dress shirt.

Pants

Similarly, jeans can be had for much less than wool trousers. Unbranded and our advertiser Gustin get regularly recommended in the denim community, and they sell raw, selvedge denim options for about $85 a pair. APC New Standards retail for $185, but can sometimes be found on sale. 

The upside to jeans isn’t just their price, however. It’s the material. Denim is an exceptionally tough fabric and can take a lot of abuse. Some guys wear their jeans every day for two years before retiring them. Do that to a pair of grey flannel trousers and they’ll disintegrate in a few months.

Shoes

Shoes are a bit more tricky. With a heavy horsehide or cowhide jacket, you might need something like a chunky boot. With a lighter lambskin or goatskin jacket, however, you can wear canvas sneakers. I often wear this jacket, for example, with white Chuck Taylor high tops, which I bought for $50. There’s no good dress shoe that retails for $50.

Fit

There are few things that can smarten you up more than a sport coat or suit, but they are admittedly difficult to fit. This might be because of their construction: the shoulder pads, wadding, canvassing, haircloth, etc. Add to that the stylistic details (width of the lapel, shape of the quarters, pitch of the arm, height of the gorge, etc.), and you can see how complicated a tailored jacket can get.

On the other hand, leather jackets (and everything that goes with them) have a lot more wiggle room. It’s OK if your jacket doesn’t look like it was perfectly tailored and if your jeans aren’t hemmed to a perfect shivering break. In fact, they shouldn’t look like that anyway. 

Care

Finally, it’s nice to not have to iron a shirt before you go out, worry about whether a dry cleaner will ruin your jacket, or care if some food drips onto your clothes. Everything above – the t-shirt, jeans, sneakers, and jacket – is meant to be worn and beat up. Some items (such as the jeans and sneakers) look better after they’ve been worn in. Others (such as the t-shirt) are cheap enough to easily replace.

Granted, the leather jacket itself can be pretty expensive. You’re either going to spend a lot of money for a new one, or a lot of time searching for something used. On the upside, once you find one you like, there are five great things that come with it. 

Why Are My Sneakers Fuzzy?
Following yesterday’s post on sneakers, I thought I’d share this great find by GazEtc. If you look at the bottom of your Chuck Taylor All Stars, you’ll notice that certain parts of the sole are fuzzy. The hairs are hard to notice at first, especially if you’ve already worn your shoes, ‘cause your soles will just look like they’ve collected gunk off the street. If you look closer, however, you’ll notice that little hairs are embedded into the rubber.  
Why? GazEtc investigated the patent for Chuck Taylors and found that they’re actually classified as house slippers with fabric bottoms, rather than sneakers with rubber soles. As he explains: 

Since my shoes were made in China, they were subject to an import tariff when they were shipped to the United States. And the import tariff is much lower for shoes with fuzzy fabric soles (like house slippers) than it is for shoes with rubber soles (like sneakers). According to the inventors, changing the shoe material can lower the duty from 37.5% down to just 3%. 
To benefit from a lower tariff, it isn’t necessary to cover the entire sole with fabric. According to the inventors, “a classification may be based on the type of material that is present on 50% or more of the bottom surface.” This explains why the “fabric” fuzz extends mostly around the edges of my shoes, where it can take up a lot of area without interfering too much with the traction of the bare-rubber centers.
So the invention embodied in my shoes is not a technological advancement. It actually seems to be a small step backward in quality. Instead, my shoes embody an advancement in “tariff engineering.” But perhaps, by putting up with a bit of fuzz, I can pay just a bit less for each new pair of sneakers.

You can see the original patent for Chuck Taylors here. The Smithsonian also has an interesting clip about how Marvel went to court to argue that the the X-Men weren’t human in order to get lower tariff rates.

Why Are My Sneakers Fuzzy?

Following yesterday’s post on sneakers, I thought I’d share this great find by GazEtc. If you look at the bottom of your Chuck Taylor All Stars, you’ll notice that certain parts of the sole are fuzzy. The hairs are hard to notice at first, especially if you’ve already worn your shoes, ‘cause your soles will just look like they’ve collected gunk off the street. If you look closer, however, you’ll notice that little hairs are embedded into the rubber.  

Why? GazEtc investigated the patent for Chuck Taylors and found that they’re actually classified as house slippers with fabric bottoms, rather than sneakers with rubber soles. As he explains: 

Since my shoes were made in China, they were subject to an import tariff when they were shipped to the United States. And the import tariff is much lower for shoes with fuzzy fabric soles (like house slippers) than it is for shoes with rubber soles (like sneakers). According to the inventors, changing the shoe material can lower the duty from 37.5% down to just 3%. 

To benefit from a lower tariff, it isn’t necessary to cover the entire sole with fabric. According to the inventors, “a classification may be based on the type of material that is present on 50% or more of the bottom surface.” This explains why the “fabric” fuzz extends mostly around the edges of my shoes, where it can take up a lot of area without interfering too much with the traction of the bare-rubber centers.

So the invention embodied in my shoes is not a technological advancement. It actually seems to be a small step backward in quality. Instead, my shoes embody an advancement in “tariff engineering.” But perhaps, by putting up with a bit of fuzz, I can pay just a bit less for each new pair of sneakers.

You can see the original patent for Chuck Taylors here. The Smithsonian also has an interesting clip about how Marvel went to court to argue that the the X-Men weren’t human in order to get lower tariff rates.

Cheap Shoes That Age Well
Although I wouldn’t call it a “rule” for myself, when I can, I try to buy things that I think will look better with time, rather than worse. That is, after all, why most of us value full grain leather shoes over corrected grain ones. It’s not because they’re cheaper in the long run (because they’re not). It’s because high quality shoes acquire a beautiful worn in look that only good materials and years of wear can impart. Shoes made from corrected grain leather, on the other hand, look terrible new and even worse with time.
Unfortunately, shoes that age well are typically expensive. The exception to this is canvas sneakers, which always look better with a bit of dirt and grass staining. Think:
Converse Chuck Taylors and Jack Purcells
Vans Authentics and Classic Slip-Ons
Superga 1705 and 2750
Sperry Top-Sider’s striped CVOs
Tretorn Nylites
All of these retail for under $75, but can be had for less than $50 if you wait for sales.
The best thing about these shoes isn’t their price, however. It’s their designs. Most have been around for decades and their designs are hard to improve on. Take Maison Martin Margiela’s interpretation of Vans’ slip-ons, for example. The heavier look and feel of leather doesn’t evoke the airiness of summer like canvas, even if the design itself looks more luxurious. Similarly, Nigel Cabourn’s interpretation of Chuck Taylor All Stars has a nice retro feel, but truth be told, I think the standard model today is hard to beat.
You can wear these with any number of spring or summer ensembles. I often wear my Chuck Taylor high tops with a white t-shirt, leather jacket, and pair of jeans, and my Superga 1705s with chinos and a madras shirt. On a cooler spring day, the madras shirt gets swapped out for a sweatshirt and light parka. Neither of these feel like compromises over full grain leather shoes, and they’re appreciably much cheaper. It’s nice that good things don’t always have to be expensive. 

Cheap Shoes That Age Well

Although I wouldn’t call it a “rule” for myself, when I can, I try to buy things that I think will look better with time, rather than worse. That is, after all, why most of us value full grain leather shoes over corrected grain ones. It’s not because they’re cheaper in the long run (because they’re not). It’s because high quality shoes acquire a beautiful worn in look that only good materials and years of wear can impart. Shoes made from corrected grain leather, on the other hand, look terrible new and even worse with time.

Unfortunately, shoes that age well are typically expensive. The exception to this is canvas sneakers, which always look better with a bit of dirt and grass staining. Think:

All of these retail for under $75, but can be had for less than $50 if you wait for sales.

The best thing about these shoes isn’t their price, however. It’s their designs. Most have been around for decades and their designs are hard to improve on. Take Maison Martin Margiela’s interpretation of Vans’ slip-ons, for example. The heavier look and feel of leather doesn’t evoke the airiness of summer like canvas, even if the design itself looks more luxurious. Similarly, Nigel Cabourn’s interpretation of Chuck Taylor All Stars has a nice retro feel, but truth be told, I think the standard model today is hard to beat.

You can wear these with any number of spring or summer ensembles. I often wear my Chuck Taylor high tops with a white t-shirt, leather jacket, and pair of jeans, and my Superga 1705s with chinos and a madras shirt. On a cooler spring day, the madras shirt gets swapped out for a sweatshirt and light parka. Neither of these feel like compromises over full grain leather shoes, and they’re appreciably much cheaper. It’s nice that good things don’t always have to be expensive. 

Q & Answer: What Shoes Should I Bring On Vacation?

Ben writes: This May, my wife and I are honeymooning in Europe for two weeks. I know that I will be doing a heavy amount of walking. Do you have any suggestions for footwear that will allow me to keep pace with my wife without looking like the ugly American?

Packing shoes for a trip - especially one that requires more than one level of formality - is always tough. When I travel, I fight not to bring more than two pairs of shoes, with one of those pairs on my feet. I don’t always win the fight.

I’ve got plenty of dress shoes that are perfectly comfortable, but none that I’d want to walk miles in. So if I’m bringing a pair of dress shoes to make a big presentation or what-have-you, I’m usually looking to compliment them with a “walking shoe.”

Depending on the season and context, that usually boils down to one of two things: a simple sneaker, or a comfortable boot.

I actually own the Grenson chukka boots pictured above, in a slightly darker brown. I find they work great with jeans or khakis, though I obviously wouldn’t wear them with shorts were I headed somewhere hot. In fact, they’re sort of a three-season shoe - fine anytime but summer. Sometimes I’ll substitute the chunkier, hardier Alden Indy Boot for these. Most importantly, I can put in a few miles on these, and be happy to see them the next day.

I also frequently bring sneakers on trips that will involve walking. As usual, I’d say the simpler the better. Above are a classic, the Adidas Samba. I usually wear Common Projects, which are great but expensive. I’m hoping Kent Wang gets in a full size run of his plain white sneaks soon. And of course if it’s summer, there’s stuff like Jack Purcells and Supergas, among others.

Traveling’s really an exercise in building a capsule wardrobe. You want to carry as few pieces as possible, and have as much interchangability as possible. So: keep it simple, and you’ll be fine.