Donegal Sweaters

We’re on the cusp of sweater weather, and this fall, I’m most looking forward to wearing this grey "Donegal" knit from Inis Meain. I put Donegal in quotes because the sweater wasn’t actually made in Donegal, but rather, it’s reminiscent of the hallmark tweeds that come of that region. Those tweeds have flecks of color, which are allowed to glob onto the yarns in irregular ways. You learn about it in this wonderful video Jesse put together on Molloy & Sons, one of the region’s best mills.  

The nice thing about speckled sweaters is that you can wear them on their own with an oxford cloth shirt or a brushed flannel. I like hardier shirtings in this case because they have a visual weight that feels a bit more at home with such rugged looking knits. By itself, the flecks make the sweater a little more interesting than the smooth, plain-colored merinos you see everywhere else. At the same time, the pattern is also easy to pair with any kind of outerwear. 

This season, it seems everyone is selling a Donegal knit. Here are some you may want to consider, from most to least expensive. 

Over $300

Over $200

  • East Harbour Surplus ($265): A Japanese brand with Italian-made, American-inspired designs. These vintage-y looking cardigans fit really slim, so be sure to size up. 
  • O’Connell’s ($225): My favorite source for Shetlands. Well made stuff that stands up to abuse. Plus, O’Connell’s has a great pedigree that’s hard to beat. 
  • Oliver Spencer ($225): A slightly more interesting look piece. Pair this with more modern looking coats and jackets, and perhaps a slim pair of charcoal trousers.  
  • Epaulet (~$220): A popular brand among menswear enthusiasts. They just released some cabled Donegal sweaters with shawl collars and mocknecks. 
  • Alex Mill ($207): A new label headed by the son of J. Crew’s CEO, Mickey Drexler. Designs tend to be basic, but easy to incorporate into any wardrobe. This black Donegal sweater has a sort of chic look to it. 

Over $100

Under $100

It’s on Sale: Tricker’s Shoes and Boots at Frans Boone
One of my favorite web shops, Frans Boone, has discounted its line of Tricker’s makeups by 50 percent with the code SUMMER50, putting many shoes and boots in the $250-$300 range (cordovan $450-$500), including shipping to the United States. Tricker’s are sturdy British shoes and the models Frans Boone carries take full advantage of that, with uppers in scotch grain like the brogues pictured above, or “repello” suede, a treated, water resistant suede, as well as Dainite or Vibram rubber soles—perfect for the upcoming fall weather in the United States.
Two things to note: sizes are quite limited (one or two per model), and orders to the United States may incur brokerage fees from UPS (i.e., you may owe the UPS driver a small check when he shows up to deliver your shoes).
-Pete

It’s on Sale: Tricker’s Shoes and Boots at Frans Boone

One of my favorite web shops, Frans Boone, has discounted its line of Tricker’s makeups by 50 percent with the code SUMMER50, putting many shoes and boots in the $250-$300 range (cordovan $450-$500), including shipping to the United States. Tricker’s are sturdy British shoes and the models Frans Boone carries take full advantage of that, with uppers in scotch grain like the brogues pictured above, or “repello” suede, a treated, water resistant suede, as well as Dainite or Vibram rubber soles—perfect for the upcoming fall weather in the United States.

Two things to note: sizes are quite limited (one or two per model), and orders to the United States may incur brokerage fees from UPS (i.e., you may owe the UPS driver a small check when he shows up to deliver your shoes).

-Pete

Thick Flannel Shirts
Over the weekend, Jesse listed this Spring’s Seven “Must Have Or You’ll Die” Essentials. Do you know why? Because he lives in Los Angeles, and in Southern California, the four seasons are: spring, summer, summer with slightly chillier nights (but not by much), and spring with slightly chillier nights (but again, not by much). Dear readers: know that I - as your correspondent in the Bay Area - understand that we’re still solidly in winter. Here in the Bay, it’s still cold enough to need chunky sweaters, heavy coats, and the occasional pair of gloves. 
It’s also useful to have a few thick flannel shirts around. I’ve been wearing mine every once in a while with jeans and a leather jacket, and prefer ones made from heavy, coarse fabrics. My favorite sources so far include:
John Lofgren: A highly underrated and underappreciated workwear label. Really nice, thick fabrics made into shirts with slightly short, vintage-y cuts. Available at John Lofgren’s site directly, but also Self Edge and Bench & Loom (although the last two don’t have woven shirts right now).
Flat Head: A Japanese workwear label that draws a lot of inspiration from American motorcycle and hot rod subcultures. They have two lines of shirts – the mainline, which is slim and shorter fitting, and Glory Park, which is just a touch bigger. Of all my flannels, these are easily my favorite, but they’re expensive. If you don’t mind the price, they’re available at Self Edge and Rivet & Hide.
Five Brother: A genuine workwear label that recently started making slim fitting shirts for the fashion crowd. These are made from vividly colored fabrics with coarse weaves and a dry hand. Of all the companies on this list, Five Brother probably offers the best price to value ratio. You can find them now at Bench & Loom, but in the past, Context and Hickoree’s has also carried them (they will again this fall).
Nigel Cabourn: Always a favorite, but his prices are stratospherically high. If it matters, his flannel shirts are sometimes reversible, although the other side of the one I bought is perhaps too “fuzzy” to realistically use. Still, he has some nice subtle detailing that the other brands don’t offer (unique pocket designs, smoke mother-of-pearl buttons, and extra, extra thick fabrics). Available at Nigel Cabourn’s own website or any of his stockists. If you’re not able to afford those retail prices, you’ll have to trawl Yoox and eBay like me.
RRL: Ralph Lauren’s ranch inspired sub-label. The fabrics on RRL shirts really run the gamut, but in general, they’re typically a bit flimsier than the aforementioned brands (at least when it comes to fall/ winter shirts). On the upside, they can often be found on deep discount (I bought mine for about $75). These are available at Ralph Lauren’s website, and certain niche stockists such as Unionmade and Frans Boone.
The best part about wearing thick flannel shirts? With designers such as Daiki Suzuki and Heidi Slimane incorporating them into last year’s looks, you can simultaneously feel very “aritansal heritage workwear” and “high fashion au courant.” Plus, Rick Owens wears them! The dream of the 90s is alive in menswear. At least until spring comes for the rest of us. 

Thick Flannel Shirts

Over the weekend, Jesse listed this Spring’s Seven “Must Have Or You’ll Die” Essentials. Do you know why? Because he lives in Los Angeles, and in Southern California, the four seasons are: spring, summer, summer with slightly chillier nights (but not by much), and spring with slightly chillier nights (but again, not by much). Dear readers: know that I - as your correspondent in the Bay Area - understand that we’re still solidly in winter. Here in the Bay, it’s still cold enough to need chunky sweaters, heavy coats, and the occasional pair of gloves. 

It’s also useful to have a few thick flannel shirts around. I’ve been wearing mine every once in a while with jeans and a leather jacket, and prefer ones made from heavy, coarse fabrics. My favorite sources so far include:

  • John Lofgren: A highly underrated and underappreciated workwear label. Really nice, thick fabrics made into shirts with slightly short, vintage-y cuts. Available at John Lofgren’s site directly, but also Self Edge and Bench & Loom (although the last two don’t have woven shirts right now).
  • Flat Head: A Japanese workwear label that draws a lot of inspiration from American motorcycle and hot rod subcultures. They have two lines of shirts – the mainline, which is slim and shorter fitting, and Glory Park, which is just a touch bigger. Of all my flannels, these are easily my favorite, but they’re expensive. If you don’t mind the price, they’re available at Self Edge and Rivet & Hide.
  • Five Brother: A genuine workwear label that recently started making slim fitting shirts for the fashion crowd. These are made from vividly colored fabrics with coarse weaves and a dry hand. Of all the companies on this list, Five Brother probably offers the best price to value ratio. You can find them now at Bench & Loom, but in the past, Context and Hickoree’s has also carried them (they will again this fall).
  • Nigel Cabourn: Always a favorite, but his prices are stratospherically high. If it matters, his flannel shirts are sometimes reversible, although the other side of the one I bought is perhaps too “fuzzy” to realistically use. Still, he has some nice subtle detailing that the other brands don’t offer (unique pocket designs, smoke mother-of-pearl buttons, and extra, extra thick fabrics). Available at Nigel Cabourn’s own website or any of his stockists. If you’re not able to afford those retail prices, you’ll have to trawl Yoox and eBay like me.
  • RRL: Ralph Lauren’s ranch inspired sub-label. The fabrics on RRL shirts really run the gamut, but in general, they’re typically a bit flimsier than the aforementioned brands (at least when it comes to fall/ winter shirts). On the upside, they can often be found on deep discount (I bought mine for about $75). These are available at Ralph Lauren’s website, and certain niche stockists such as Unionmade and Frans Boone.

The best part about wearing thick flannel shirts? With designers such as Daiki Suzuki and Heidi Slimane incorporating them into last year’s looks, you can simultaneously feel very “aritansal heritage workwear” and “high fashion au courant.” Plus, Rick Owens wears them! The dream of the 90s is alive in menswear. At least until spring comes for the rest of us. 

Flecked Sweaters for Fall

I don’t know if it’s too early to talk about knitwear, but I’ve been thinking about flecked sweaters a lot lately. Sometimes these are called speckled sweaters, sometimes Donegal sweaters, and sometimes even tweed sweaters. Not because they’re actually from Donegal (a county in Ireland), but because the irregular flecks of color on these yarns are reminiscent of the region’s hallmark tweeds.

The nice thing about flecked sweaters is that they can add a bit of visual interest where a solid knit might be too boring. I find this useful when wearing a sweater alone (over a shirt, but without a jacket). There’s just something about a very smooth, plain-colored merino, worn with wool or cotton trousers, that can sometimes feel a bit too uninspired (though, they do work well underneath tailored sport coats).

There are a number of brands with flecked sweaters this fall. At the top of the price pyramid end is Inis Meain, who makes them in a pure cashmere and wool-cashmere blend. Those are available at A Suitable Wardrobe, Barneys New York, Manufactum, and Frans Boone. Inis Meain makes some of my favorite knitwear in the world, and I find their quality to be unsurpassed, but their popularity in Japan and Europe has made them very expensive. If you’re not deterred by the price, Barney’s also has a few half zip sweaters by Fioroni worth considering.

For something a bit more affordable, check out these options by Drumohr, Billy Reid, Saturdays Surf NYC, APC, and Orvis. J Crew also has something on sale through their Wallace & Barnes line, and an extra 25% can be taken off at the moment with the checkout code FALLSTYLE. Perhaps most promising are these Howlin’ by Morrison Shetlands, which come in light grey, charcoal, and red (I really dig the light grey, personally). 

There’s also a range of Irish makers, none of whom I have any direct experience with. If you’re open to giving them a try, a quick Google search will reveal a number of retailers. Maybe start with Aran Sweater Market, Aran Sweater Shop, and Magee. This seller on eBay also has a range of intriguing options starting at $70.

Most affordable of all is J Crew’s mainline. They’ve done a number of these sweaters in the past and you can still find many of them floating around on eBay. J Crew’s knits, from my experience, stretch out pretty easily, but if the price is right, they can be a good buy. This one, for example, is available for $30 (the cut looks pretty boxy though). Mr. Porter also has this blue version brand new for $90. That’ll probably make it to their end-of-season sale, where it’ll be discounted by 50-70%.