It’s On Sale: LL Bean Signature’s Barn Coat

LL Bean Signature’s barn coat is on sale right now for $149. It’s a bit more robust than the barn coat offered by J. Crew this season, but like the J. Crew version, it’s slimmer fitting than the traditional models you might find in vintage stores or through LL Bean’s mainline. I picked one up last year in dark green, and wear it on occasion with heavy wool sweaters. Free shipping and the ability to return the item any time I’m not satisfied with it are nice bonuses from LL Bean. 

Q & Answer: Where Should I Buy A Tuxedo?

Jason asks: I wanted to ask your opinion on J. Crew Ludlow tuxedos.  I live in Tribeca and often walk by the Ludlow shop on Hudson and like the look of their tuxedos displayed in the store front window.  I was also considering going to Brooks Brothers for a tux. Can you help?

Here’s the thing about tuxedos: they’re expensive, and unless you go to a lot of charity galas, you won’t end up wearing them a lot. Heck - I’m going to a film premiere tonight, and I’m told I should show up in a suit. So if you want the expenditure to be a reasonable one, you’ll need to buy something that you’ll feel as happy wearing ten years from now as today.

One of the J. Crew Ludlow tuxedos is the lower picture above. It’s fun. If I were a young guy from a CW show going to the Emmys, it might be the perfect thing. But in five years, the stuff that seemed fun (like the low-waisted pants, double vents and super-narrow lapels) will seem dated. The six or eight hundred bucks it’ll cost is a lot for one or two wearings.

So I’d recommend going one of two ways. The first is to go classic. Here in the States, if you’re talking about going to a store and buying off the rack, that really means Polo or Brooks Brothers. Both have great options like the one on the mannequin above that will look as classic in 2035 as they do now - if there’s still black tie at all then. Both will also be a bit more expensive than J. Crew, though I think they’re also a little better in terms of quality-to-price ratio.

The budget option is to go vintage. This takes shopping time and patience, but you can save a lot of money. As long as you’re comfortable looking distinctive, an older tux can look just as great as a new one. We’re talking pre-70s here, mostly. Show up in slim late-50s lapels and you won’t look dated, you’ll look retro, and that makes all the difference. Almost all black tie events are at least in part about enjoying yourself, so there’s no need to worry about not looking uber-conservative - there are no black-tie funerals. My own tuxedo was purchased at a Goodwill for $40, and it dates to the mid-30s. Looks as sharp now as it ever did.

Where To Look First for a Suit (Part One)

Far and away, the most common question I get in my inbox is: “Where should I go to buy a suit, given my budget is X?” I usually try to stay away from such questions, as too much depends on the person’s specific needs. Where are you planning to wear the suit? What kind of styles do you like? What kind of climate do you live in? All these make it difficult to recommend something over email.

However, I’ve always thought it’d be helpful to have a list of recommendations for a broader audience. Something that’s painted with big, broad brushes. So, I reached out to some friends to see what they’d suggest, given different budgets, and added a few ideas myself. Of course, you might go to these stores and find nothing works for you, but at least you have a list of where you might want to look first.

For a budget of ~$500 and under

  • Suit Supply: A pretty good first stop. They have a wide range of styles to fit different tastes and body types. Jackets will typically be half-canvassed, and be made from fabrics sourced from respectable mills. Their lookbook styling is a bit fashion forward, but once you actually check out their stuff in person, you can usually find some reasonably classic designs.
  • Land’s End: Not the greatest in terms of construction, but impressive in terms of price. Check out their “tailored fit” and wait for one of their many sales.   

For a budget between ~$500 and ~$1,000

  • Brooks Brothers: Brooks Brothers has 25% off sales pretty regularly, and sometimes you can knock an additional 15% off by opening up a Brooks Brothers credit card (some sales associates won’t let you stack these discounts, but most will). That should bring the price down to under $1,000. Their newest cut, the Milano, is perhaps too trendy to recommend, but they have three good “classic” models. From slimmest to fullest, they go: Fitzgerald, Regent, and Madison. Note, you can sometimes also catch their premium Golden Fleece line on Rue La La for just under $500.
  • J. Crew: Their Ludlow series can be a good starting point for many men. Just watch out for the models with razor-thin lapels, which might look dated in a few years. 
  • Howard Yount: Very respectable half-canvassed suits that are, again, made from nice fabrics. They’re also styled fairly well.
  • Proper Suit: Made-to-measure suits for prices starting at $750. You can see our friend The Silentist review them here. If you go, bring along your best fitting jacket and trousers, so you can say what you like and don’t like.
  • Southwick: Classic American styled suits that start at $1,000 or so. You can find them at O’Connell’s or any number of classic American clothiers. They also have made-to-measure for around $1,200, give or take, depending on the fabric. A good option for someone with truly classic tastes.
  • Lardini: Terrible name, but nice Italian suits. Full retail price is north of $1,000, but you can easily find them on sale. Just check places like Yoox (and ignore Yoox’s terrible styling).
  • Benjamin: Great fabric, full-canvas construction, and nice detailing (e.g. discrete pick stitching). Their cuts are slightly fashion forward, but still office appropriate. Our friend This Fits owns their Classico and Napoli models and likes them a lot.

Come back tomorrow, when we’ll cover suits in the four-digit range.

(Special thanks to La Casuarina, A Bit of Color, This Fits, Ivory Tower Style, Réginald-Jérôme de Mans, and Breathnaigh for their help with this article. Also, credit to Suit Supply and Brooks Brothers for the two images above.)

It’s On Sale: Barn Coats
As much as I try to make affordable recommendations on here, some categories are just hard. For example, unless you’re willing to go second hand, well-made shoes are difficult to find for less than ~$175. It can also be difficult to buy suits, jackets, and coats unless you’re willing to drop some money. 
At the moment, however, there are a couple of barn coats on sale. Barn coats are single-breasted coats used for casual, weekend country wear (hence the word “barn”). The shell is typically made from a sturdy cotton canvas, the collar from leather or corduroy, and the sides are built with capacious pockets so you have room for almost anything you’d want to carry. Good versions will also come with a quilted or wool liner, so you can be warm in cold climates. 
The most famous maker of barn coats might be LL Bean, who still sells them today for $119 and up. Reasonably affordable for the kind of coat you’re getting, and they age very well. They do fit kind of roomy, however, so if you want something a bit more “fashionable,” you can turn to the LL Bean Signature’s interpretation (which I own). That one is on sale for $199 and fits slightly slimmer. A more affordable version still is available at J. Crew right now for about $83 (just use the code FALLSALE at checkout). It’s also slim fitting, but the material isn’t as robust as what LL Bean offers. Still, not a bad coat for under $100 if you’re just aiming for style. 
Wear these with corduroys or jeans for a rustic, New England look. They’re a decent alternative for those who can’t afford something like a $350+ waxed cotton Barbour jacket. 
(Pictured above: A vintage LL Bean barn coat found by Thrift Store Preppy for $25)

It’s On Sale: Barn Coats

As much as I try to make affordable recommendations on here, some categories are just hard. For example, unless you’re willing to go second hand, well-made shoes are difficult to find for less than ~$175. It can also be difficult to buy suits, jackets, and coats unless you’re willing to drop some money. 

At the moment, however, there are a couple of barn coats on sale. Barn coats are single-breasted coats used for casual, weekend country wear (hence the word “barn”). The shell is typically made from a sturdy cotton canvas, the collar from leather or corduroy, and the sides are built with capacious pockets so you have room for almost anything you’d want to carry. Good versions will also come with a quilted or wool liner, so you can be warm in cold climates. 

The most famous maker of barn coats might be LL Bean, who still sells them today for $119 and up. Reasonably affordable for the kind of coat you’re getting, and they age very well. They do fit kind of roomy, however, so if you want something a bit more “fashionable,” you can turn to the LL Bean Signature’s interpretation (which I own). That one is on sale for $199 and fits slightly slimmer. A more affordable version still is available at J. Crew right now for about $83 (just use the code FALLSALE at checkout). It’s also slim fitting, but the material isn’t as robust as what LL Bean offers. Still, not a bad coat for under $100 if you’re just aiming for style. 

Wear these with corduroys or jeans for a rustic, New England look. They’re a decent alternative for those who can’t afford something like a $350+ waxed cotton Barbour jacket. 

(Pictured above: A vintage LL Bean barn coat found by Thrift Store Preppy for $25)

Six Great Types of Shirts for Fall

For nearly a century now, the most basic dress shirt for men is a solid white or light-blue button-up, made from 100% cotton, and usually coming in a plain or twill weave. It’s the default choice for dress shirts – something you can rely on year-round to look decent and acceptable, and is very rarely the wrong choice, assuming you’re dressing classically. 

There are times, however, when choosing something a bit different can yield a more harmonious look. Take, for example, the advantage of combining an airy, light-blue linen shirt with a tan cotton sport coat. The two textures are equally casual, and together, they lend a better presentation for summer. Similarly, a fine cotton dress shirt can look puny when set against a hardy Shetland tweed or mid-waled corduroy jacket. Better to pick something with more texture and “weight,” such as these following options, which I think make for excellent fall and winter shirts.

Flannels 

At the top of the list are flannels, which can come in a variety of forms. They can be solid or patterned (if patterned, usually checked), and made from either a softly brushed pure cotton or some kind of wool/ cotton blend. Viyella is particularly famous for their flannel shirtings (the word “shirtings” means “fabrics intended for shirts;” it is not a synonym for the word “shirts”). You can find them at a number of places, such as Dann Online, J. Press, and O’Connell’s. I unfortunately can’t say how any of those fit, but my guess is “traditional.” If you have a custom shirtmaker, they may also carry Viyella fabrics, which you can ask for by name.

Bold cotton plaids

Bold cotton plaids are different from flannels in that they don’t have that soft, brushed quality. They’re smooth like a fine cotton dress shirt, but remain a bit more autumnal through their patterns. Our advertiser Ledbury carries some through their short-run collection (they’ve got more coming down the pipeline, as they’re releasing a new short-run shirt every day this month). Brooks Brothers also has some designs, though mostly in non-iron fabrics, and Gant Rugger might be a good option for younger men. For something more affordable, there’s J. Crew. Just wait for one of their many sales. 

Tattersalls

Tattersalls are symmetrical, thin-lined checks, usually made up of two colors for the lines and a plain-colored background. I find they’re a nice compromise between the dressiness of a standard dress shirt and the casualness of a bold cotton plaid. For something dressier still, you can go for a graph check shirt, which is exactly what it sounds like – a shirt with a pattern that looks like graph paper. Either would do well underneath a tweed or corduroy jacket, and you can find them at places such as Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, and TM Lewin.

Oxford Cloth Button-Downs (aka OCBDs)

OCBDs are versatile enough for year-round wear, but also have the weight and texture necessary to look great underneath fall jackets. What’s not to like? You can read my long-winded series about them here, or just skip to my recommendations.

Chambray

Another good year-round shirt that really comes into its own during the fall and winter seasons. You can find nice high-end options at Self Edge, Rising Sun, and Blue in Green. Mr. Porter also has some designer offerings, and J. Crew is again good for something more affordable (just wait for a sale). My favorite, however, is by Mister Freedom. I appreciate the emphasis they put into beautiful fabrics, and have found mine to age exceptionally well. When choosing one, keep in mind the kind of outerwear you might want to wear. Very casual chambray shirts with extra detailing should be kept with very casual outerwear, rather than traditional sport coats. 

Corduroys

Corduroy shirts are less versatile than any of the above options, but they’re nice to have if you’d like some more variety. Our advertiser Ledbury has one in brown coming out this month (it’s pictured above) and I like that it has a traditional looking collar and lowered second button (good for when you’re wearing the shirt casually and don’t want it buttoned all the way up). For something available now, there’s Michael Bastian, Beams Plus, and LL Bean.

It’s On Sale: J Crew Storewide

J. Crew is offering a 25%-off discount with the checkout code INSTYLE25. This normally wouldn’t be special enough to mention since they’re always offering ~25% off discounts, but this time, the code applies to literally everything in their webstore. That includes third party brands such as Alden, Barbour, Alfred Sargent, Quoddy, Ray Ban, Nanamica, Chimala, Drake’s, etc. It even applies to the third-party stuff that’s already been discounted in their sale section

Free shipping is also given on all orders over $175. Not sure when the code expires, but it’s certainly active now cause I just used it to buy those red soled Quoddy boots you see above. 

It’s On Sale: Swim Shorts

My favorite brand for swim shorts - Orlebar Brown - just started their end-of-season sale. Included is a range of sweatshirts, polos, and outerwear, as well as their swim trunks, for which they’re most known. Their trunks are excellently made, and come with nice details such as adjustable side tabs (which eliminate the need for an elasticized waistband), but they’re also very expensive. Full retail is around $250, plus taxes and shipping when applicable. 

At the moment, however, certain colors in their Bulldog model (which is their mid-length short) have been discounted to $70-125. The forest green pair you see above is one of the $70 offerings. There’s also the shorter Setter model, which ranges from $85-115 (perhaps a nicer cut if you have a very athletic build). I bought a pair of the Bulldogs for myself some years ago, and have been very happy with them. 

For something more affordable, J. Crew has a bunch of models on sale, with prices starting as low as $25.

Of course, it’s probably too late in the year to really get much wear out of these, but you know … summer will come again. 

Addendum: Whoops, the old link didn’t seem to bring people to the sale. It’s been since fixed. 

The Occasional Henley

So lately, I’ve been wearing this outfit pretty often on weekends – a white t-shirt, brown leather jacket, pair of raw jeans, and either sneakers or brown leather boots. It’s an incredibly simple thing to put together and requires very little maintenance. No ironing, no dry cleaning, and no worrying if I’ll stain my t-shirts (as they’re quite cheap to replace).

Wearing the same thing often can be a bit boring though, so sometimes I’ve been swapping out the white t-shirt for a henley. Henleys are pullover shirts with rounded collars and short, buttoned plackets at the front. In the mid-century, they were sometimes know as Wallace Beery because of their association with the 20th-century actor, who was sometimes seen wearing the style on-screen. Some men understandably feel that henleys look too much like long underwear, while others who are old enough to remember the 1990s might think they’re a bit too “Eddie Bauer.” However, if worn with the right kind of clothes, I think they can look pretty good. I wear mine with jeans and leather jackets, but in the photos above, you can see Fok from StyleForum wearing his alone, and Brett from Viberg Boots wearing one underneath a cardigan.

You can find henleys at any number of places. Wings + Horns, RRL, Archival Clothing, Schiesser Revival, and Reigning Champ make them almost every season. Certain stores, such as Blue in Green, Unionmade, and Cultizm also have wide selections, and now that J Crew carries Homespun Knitwear, there should be a decent version in almost every American mall. Additionally, folks looking for a deal might want to visit Bench & Loom. They have a ton of great stuff on clearance right now (though not everything is listed in their sale section, so you’ll want to click around). Included are some henleys starting at $56

Mine are designed by Nigel Cabourn and made by Merz b. Schwanen. They have some vintage-reproduction detailing that I really like, but this particular model is hard to find nowadays (it’s from an old season). Retail is expensive, but like with everything, if you wait for the right sale or scour eBay, you can pick one up for a fraction of the price (I paid about $100-125 for mine). Merz b. Schwanen also makes a wide range of henleys that they’ve designed (here’s one on sale).

I admit, I don’t wear my henleys often, but it’s nice to have a little variety in the dresser drawer when I want to (slightly) deviate from my weekend uniform. 

Real People: Stealth Style

"Stealth wealth" is a complicated term. Essentially it refers to expensive things that aren’t aggressively, obviously expensive. Taking a positive view, in clothing, that can mean clothes and accessories that are special in some way, but not flashy, a combination that many of us consider desirable. On the other hand, it can mean stuff that the rich buy so they can wink knowingly at other rich people without looking like dicks. Less desirable.

Jesse’s recent post on packing for travel reminded me of the ways that these sorts of items can work well. Not that everything Jesse packed is expensive; but like many of us, he’s carefully selected unusual and, yeah, sometimes expensive items (the A-1 jacket, LVC denim) that are special in ways not obvious to everyone. Most people who meet Jesse on his trip will see a guy in an oxford shirt, leather jacket, and jeans. 

Lenny in Richmond makes a similar case in his consistently interesting (but generally normal!) clothing. In all of these photos, he’s wearing jeans, a button-up shirt, and boots (and holding a hot beverage). The color palettes are neutral grays, blues, browns, and olives. The fits are super consistent—the shirt waists hit at the same spot, the jeans are a flattering straight leg. But Lenny mixes J. Crew shirts, which fit him well, with covertly great vintage stuff, pieces from Engineered Garments, Japanese denim, and Visvim footwear, all of which you won’t find at the mall, or even online in some cases. These brands use unusual materials, arcane construction methods, and unorthodox design to produce relatively small runs of items that in the end don’t draw a lot of attention. Not a bad thing. The interesting aspects of this stuff are either subtle—an extra pocket here, exotic leather there—or reveal themselves over time, like the fading of indigo denim. Everything looks comfortable and broken in, and Lenny looks relaxed, knowing his wardrobe is stealthily awesome.

I understand that wearing such items can invite accusations of snobbery, not entirely unfounded. E.g., why buy a $500 pair of boots when the $100 pair looks and performs much the same? Of course there are diminishing returns the more you choose to spend. But once you’ve built a reliable wardrobe in a value-conscious way (this is how I like to think I filled my closet), you’ll likely want to keep your clothing interesting to yourself, and choosing more refined versions of the stuff you already like is one way to do so.

-Pete

It’s On Sale: Mr. Porter

Mr. Porter is one of the best collections of menswear available online, but the full retail prices for designer clothes can be staggering. In their seasonal sales, the Mr. Porter folks mark stuff down 30-50%, and that’s when things start to get really interesting. Of course, even at 50% off Maison Martin Margiela is expensive, but we can dream, right?

Above, left to right, top to bottom, a few favorites:

Drake’s Striped Grenadine Tie

Drake’s Pocket Square

LVC 1960s Star Shirt

Row Two

Incotex Slim Wool Trousers

Woolrich Woolen Mills Madras Shirt

Belstaff Motorcycle Jacket

Row Three

Billy Reid Cable-Knit Sweater

Maison Martin Margiela Silk Bomber

J. Crew Madras Shirt