Ivy Style has a really cool article about the connection between 60s prepsters and batik-printed cotton. You see these once in a while on eBay - I’d love to find one for myself.
Chipp2 Gets Some New Suspenders
Our friend Paul over at Winston Clothiers/ Chipp2 recently added suspenders to his small, but growing, line of men’s accessories. These are made from tastefully striped or solid grosgrain silks, leather fittings, and metal hardware. The price is $42.50, which –- much like the price of his handmade grenadine ties -– is a lot lower than most of his competitors. And, like those ties, these are made in New York City.
Why wear suspenders? Well, a few reasons:
- They’re much more comfortable than belts. Since your waist can expand when you sit, and return to its smaller circumference when you stand, belts are often only comfortable in one of these positions. Suspenders, on the other hand, allow you to have a little extra room at the waistband to accommodate for these changes.
- They’re better at holding up your pants. This might be the best reason. Belted trousers have a tendency to slip down throughout the day, which requires you to constantly adjust them. With suspenders, you can set the desired length, put them on, and never have to bother with them again.
- They help your pants drape better. For whatever reason, I’ve found suspenders help pants drape better, particularly at the back. Even if the pants have been custom made for you, belted trousers often have a bit of bunching below the seat. This issue goes away with suspenders.
There are a few things you need in order to wear suspenders, however. Most obviously, you need the buttons on the inside of your waistband in order to attach the leather bits (these often come standard on high-end trousers, but can be added by a tailor if you don’t have them). You also need something cut with a mid- or high-rise (do not wear suspenders with low-rise pants).
You can order Chipp2’s braces at their website or at their store at 28 West 44th Street in New York City. If you can do the second, I’d highly encourage it. Paul is a wonderful man, and an absolute pleasure to talk to. If you allow him, he’ll tell you all sorts of great stories from the heyday of Ivy Style (his father founded Chipp in the late 1940s, after starting his career at J. Press. In his time, he became famous for his madras jackets and for being one of John F. Kennedy’s tailors. You can read about some of this company history at the blog Ivy Style).
Note: Chipp2 is going to be an advertiser with us next month, but our advertising and editorial processes are separate. Besides, we’ve long written about his business and have always liked what he does.
A Lifetime of Infrequent Wearing
StyleForum member MafooFan – who’s famous on that board for not only his good sense of style, but also his ability to cause controversy – has some simple advice on how men can dress better: build smaller wardrobes. To him, the problem for most men is not that they don’t have the right clothes (though, there’s that), but that when faced with a massive wall of choices, they’re apt to picking the wrong things and looking haphazardly put together. Better, he thinks, to thoughtfully and slowly accumulate things that more or less work together, rather than build a massive wardrobe of clothes one doesn’t really know how to wear.
It’s a nice theory, but not one I’ve ever bought (can you not buy a theory about not buying?), if only because most well dressed men I know of have big wardrobes. Think of historical dandies such as Evander Berry Wall, style icons such as Noel Coward, and contemporary figures such as Luciano Babera. All had wardrobes that were multiple times bigger than most men’s today. I’m not sure any of us could be made to dress more like them if we just limited our choices. Maybe if we adopted one or two personal “uniforms” (like Thom Browne in his signature grey flannel suit), but where’s the fun in that?
No, I believe in big wardrobes. Not just because I think clothes are fun and choosing what to wear should be an enjoyable activity, but also because I think to be truly well dressed, you need to have the right clothes for any kind of weather or social occasion. Instead of five suits or sport coats made from a year-round material, it’s better to have five suited for spring and summer, and five for fall and winter. Instead of having a wardrobe of just tailored clothing, it’s better to have a mix of suits, sport coats, and true-blue casualwear, so that you can be appropriately dressed at the office, dive bars, fancy restaurants, camping trips, holiday parties, sporting games, weddings, etc.
The downside of big wardrobes, however, is that with too many things, nothing gets regular use. And without regular use, it can be difficult to “break-in” clothes so that they look and feel more natural. Think of how much better a tweed jacket looks once the fabric begins to really soften, or how much more handsome an oxford-cloth button-down shirt becomes once the collar starts fraying. It’s this kind of “broken-in” look that makes pre-distressed clothes so popular (even when they feel like poor imitations of the real thing). I’m also reminded of this passage Christian Chensvold once wrote on his blog Ivy Style back in 2009:
I’ve never understood the web’s notorious clotheshorses and their compulsive acquiring. Money is not the issue, as some spend lavishly while others are inveterate thrifters. At some point both must reach a stage of surfeit, when it’s impossible for every item in their wardrobe to be fondly cherished. It’s the difference between having a dog and having a kennel. At some point it’s just variety for its own sake, and at that point are your clothes really an extension of you?
And just because an item is already broken in doesn’t mean it will automatically feel second nature to wear it. Whether it’s an old rep tie or a vintage Harris Tweed, an item new to you is still new, and will take time until you’re wholly unaware of wearing it. But before then the item will not feel like a part of you, but a kind of awkward sartorial prosthesis.
On the upside, check out these suede shoes you see above. They were once owned by the famous Douglas Fairbanks Jr., before being sold off to the writer David Coggins in a massive estate auction three years ago. These were made bespoke for Fairbanks by Henry Maxwell, a 250 year-old English shoemaking firm, and presumably earned this condition through a lifetime of wearing, even if the wearings were infrequent. The condition of these shoes makes me think they were as old and familiar to Fairbanks as some of our most beloved pieces. I can imagine them looking excellent — much better than brand new suede shoes — sitting below a pair of grey woolen flannel trousers and a well-worn tweed jacket.
There’s hope for us clotheshorses yet.
Rugged Ivy: Princeton sophomores after a snowball fight in the winter of 1893
Tailored clothes, rollneck sweaters, and an Ivy league education didn’t seem to civilize this fight any. All three men pictured were sports stars at Princeton; one of them, John P. “Johnny” Poe (center, I think), never graduated, but continued looking for fights—he enlisted in the U.S. Army twice, the National Guard, the Marine Corps, the Nicaraguan army (with whom he first saw action), and then the British army at the outset of World War I, eventually fighting (and dying) in France as a member of the famous Black Watch.
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)
“— Bruce Boyer (via Ivy Style)
I know there are people out there who spend countless hours discussing the correct depth of trouser cuffs and length of coats. But the reality is that dressing well is like writing well: you learn the rules that are fashionable at the time, then you develop your own style by breaking them in order to better accommodate your unique life.
Those who slavishly follow the rules of dress are really just followers of fashion: the fashion of a particular time, past or present.”
“When I was in college, there was a guy famous for wrapping his brand-new Weejuns with duct tape so that it would look as though his soles were already flapping. He also, or so it was said, took brand-new shirts from Brooks Brothers and painstakingly frayed the cuffs with sandpaper. This was at Yale in the late 60’s, during the last wheezing gasp — the final catarrh — of the patrician ethos that held that the ultimate status, the highest social perch, belonged to those who seemingly paid no attention to status. That poor Yalie, with his tape and sandpaper, made the fatal mistake, of course: he cared too much and, worse, was seen to care.”— Charles McGrath on the effort involved in effortless style, 1998.
Christian at Ivy Style has a fascinating retrospective on a formative but largely forgotten American clothier: Rogers Peet.
The OCBD Shirt Series, Part VI: Our Recommendations
After reviewing so many companies, we thought it’d be useful to say which we recommend the most. Obviously much depends on your taste, build, and budget. The great thing about having such a varied market, however, is that there’s almost something for everyone.
If you want something traditional, I recommend either Mercer & Sons or O’Connell’s. Mercer & Sons has a great oxford cloth that’s a bit more variegated in color and nubby in texture than the standard stuff you’d find at Brooks Brothers or J. Press. They also have a fully sized, unlined collar that gives the kind of wrinkly, carefree roll that enthusiasts find so charming. The only problem is that Mercer & Sons’ shirts fit very, very full, so you if you use them, you may have to turn to their made-to-order service. That’s where you can size the body down two and taper it further by two or four inches. To find out if this might work for you, email Mercer and ask for their shirt measurements.
The other exceptional option is O’Connell’s, who has one of the best button down collars I’ve seen. Ethan there tells me that they’re also working on a new model based on mid-century Brooks Brothers designs. That should be released sometime by the end of this year, and we’ll be certain to announce it when it does.
For something slim fitting, I really like Kamakura. They make two fits – a regular cut and a slim fit. I suspect the slim fit is just the regular cut, but with darts in the back. Admittedly, darts look a bit strange to me on an OCBD, but the body of the shirt still fits fairly well, so long as you have a slim stomach. Either way, both the regular and slim fits have great looking collars. See it worn here at Ivy Style.
You may also want to consider Brooks Brothers’ slim and extra-slim fits once they go on sale. I like Kamakura’s shirts better, but on the downside, they never go on sale. Brooks Brothers’ oxfords, on the other hand, regularly get discounted to about $50 a pop.
Conversely, if money is no object, you can check out Harry Stedman, who makes a pretty nice design from a hodgepodge of classic American details. Just note that they fit pretty slim, so if you’re a regular 36, you may want to opt for a 38 or simply a size small.
If you want something dressy, try Ledbury. Theirs isn’t a conventional OCBD like the others we’ve covered here. The fabric is a smoother Thomas Mason cloth that’s somewhat reminiscent of Royal Oxford, and the shirt doesn’t have details such as box pleats or chest pockets. All in all, it’s just a dressier looking shirt, which can be good depending on what you’re going for.
For something affordable, I like Land’s End’s tailored fit oxfords. Their fabric feels better than what Uniqlo and Lands’ End Canvas offers, and the fit isn’t as trendy. Though, depending on your style, Uniqlo and Lands’ End Canvas’ slimmer fits and shorter collars might work better for you. Either way, be sure to wait for sales. Lands’ End oxfords can be had for about $30 or $35, while Uniqlo and Lands’ End Canvas will often be sold for about $20.
Finally, if you want to get something custom made, I can recommend Cottonwork and Ascot Chang from personal experience. Cottonwork, as I’ve noted, does online made to measure, while Ascot Chang does full bespoke. The second tends to have an advantage in terms of executing an ideal fit, but the first will be considerably more affordable. Both do good work, however. You may also want to look into other custom shirtmakers, such as CEGO, Geneva, Anto, Dege & Skinner, and many others. Check StyleForum for recommendations, and perhaps acquaint yourself with the process of buying custom shirts through these posts I wrote last year.