An Affordable Spring Look
Outerwear tends to be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Depending on your budget, you can get relatively affordable coats and jackets nowadays from Club Monaco, J. Crew, Brooks Brothers, and Ralph Lauren. At the end of every season, they’ll have nice looking designs for about $150-200 (Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren have really good mid-season sales as well). More affordably, there’s Pointer’s chore coat for $87. It looks pretty good if you like workwear.   
For rainy days, I sometimes wear LL Bean’s Trail Model Rain Jacket with jeans, a Shetland sweater, and some LL Bean boots. The shell is made from a waterproof rip stop nylon and the interior seams are taped. The pocket bags are also made of mesh, so that if you store away any wet things, they’ll dry quicker. The best part? It’s $79. Possibly $71 if you wait for one of LL Bean’s occasional 10% off coupons. Additionally, they have a similar jacket this season under their “Signature” line. Although I haven’t handled it, the jacket looks like it comes without a chest logo (which the mainline does, unfortunately, although it’s tonal). I also assume it fits slimmer all around.
In the photo above, I’ve paired my LL Bean rain jacket with an oxford cloth button down shirt from Ascot Chang, a Shetland sweater from O’Connell’s, and a pair of straight legged jeans from 3sixteen. All of these tend to be a bit on the pricey side, but you can find more affordable alternatives at a number of places. Brooks Brothers will have oxford cloth button downs for about $50 during sale season, while Kamakura sells them for about $79 year round. More affordable Shetlands can be had for about $75-100 at Brooks Brothers and LL Bean when they’re on discount (although they don’t always carry them). Lastly, raw selvedge denim jeans can be had for about $89 from our advertiser Gustin, or $82 from Unbranded. Both get regularly recommended in the denim community.
Together, these pieces make for a reasonably classic look, and more importantly, can be had for not too much money. 

An Affordable Spring Look

Outerwear tends to be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Depending on your budget, you can get relatively affordable coats and jackets nowadays from Club Monaco, J. Crew, Brooks Brothers, and Ralph Lauren. At the end of every season, they’ll have nice looking designs for about $150-200 (Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren have really good mid-season sales as well). More affordably, there’s Pointer’s chore coat for $87. It looks pretty good if you like workwear.   

For rainy days, I sometimes wear LL Bean’s Trail Model Rain Jacket with jeans, a Shetland sweater, and some LL Bean boots. The shell is made from a waterproof rip stop nylon and the interior seams are taped. The pocket bags are also made of mesh, so that if you store away any wet things, they’ll dry quicker. The best part? It’s $79. Possibly $71 if you wait for one of LL Bean’s occasional 10% off coupons. Additionally, they have a similar jacket this season under their “Signature” line. Although I haven’t handled it, the jacket looks like it comes without a chest logo (which the mainline does, unfortunately, although it’s tonal). I also assume it fits slimmer all around.

In the photo above, I’ve paired my LL Bean rain jacket with an oxford cloth button down shirt from Ascot Chang, a Shetland sweater from O’Connell’s, and a pair of straight legged jeans from 3sixteen. All of these tend to be a bit on the pricey side, but you can find more affordable alternatives at a number of places. Brooks Brothers will have oxford cloth button downs for about $50 during sale season, while Kamakura sells them for about $79 year round. More affordable Shetlands can be had for about $75-100 at Brooks Brothers and LL Bean when they’re on discount (although they don’t always carry them). Lastly, raw selvedge denim jeans can be had for about $89 from our advertiser Gustin, or $82 from Unbranded. Both get regularly recommended in the denim community.

Together, these pieces make for a reasonably classic look, and more importantly, can be had for not too much money. 

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. 

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.

Barbour Alternatives

Although they’ve become a bit trendy in the last few years, I think there are few better coats for fall than one of Barbour’s waxed cotton jackets. As I mentioned over the weekend, their two most popular models are the Beaufort and Bedale (the Bedale being the shorter of the two). Both have waxed cotton shells, corduroy collars, sewn-in throatlatches, and storm cuffs for added protection against the elements. These look at home in the countryside when you’re out for a stroll, or if you’re in the city going to a flea market. I also just like to wear mine over sweaters whenever the weather is a bit wet and cold.

The problem is that they’re a bit expensive. Full retail runs $375-400, and many people find they have to pay an additional $50-70 to lengthen the sleeves. You can find a second-hand one on eBay for between $150-250, depending on the condition, but sometimes these will come with a musty smell. They can be cleaned, but that service can run you another $75-100, all costs included.

On the upside, there are a number of more affordable alternatives. Here are a few that I found:

  • Orvis: Orvis has a few Barbour-ish looking pieces on sale, including this unwaxed Ventile field jacket, dry waxed canvas field coat, and waxed moto jacket. There are also these dry waxed “heritage” coats, Sandanona jackets, and barn coats (granted, the last one isn’t very Barbour-y, but it’s close enough). Note, Orvis’ outerwear tends to run big, so it might be good to either size down when ordering or stop by your local Orvis shop to try things on first.
  • LL Bean: Like Orvis, LL Bean is another good, classic outfitter for outdoorsmen. One of their most famous garments is their barn coat, and while it’s again not exactly Barbour-ish, it’s somewhat similar. These come in both waxed and unwaxed versions, with the unwaxed one being a bit slimmer fitting (I have one and like it, although I wish it were lined the sleeves). They also have something they call an Upland Field coat, which comes in two versions. This one with orange detailing is on sale.
  • Brooks Brothers: If you’re open to a bit more experimentation, Brooks Brothers has this waxed cotton coat with metal clips.
  • Lands End: Ever the stand-by for affordable clothing, Land’s End has a very Barbour-y looking coat for just under $100. In the past, these fit more like Barbour’s Beaufort than Bedale. 
  • Gap: Gap has a decent looking model this season for $128, though it might be a good idea to stop by one of their stores to first inspect the quality (sources say it’s not actually waxed). They do sales pretty often, so you can probably grab this at 25-50% off if you wait for a coupon code.
  • J Crew: J Crew has a waxed cotton field jacket and barn coat this season. The fabric on the barn coat isn’t as robust as the LL Beans, but on the upside, it fits slimmer than the originals from which it takes inspiration. 
  • Eddie Bauer: Eddie Bauer’s Kettle Mountain StormShed Jacket isn’t inexpensive at $300, but my guess is that you can probably get this at a deep discount if you wait long enough.
  • Filson: This cover cloth weekender coat is unlikely to be discounted much, but it looks nice and Filson’s quality is very good.
  • Debenhams: Savile Row’s Patrick Grant recently did a collaboration line with Debenhams. I haven’t handled any of these pieces, but the Dalston hunting jacket and Renbold quilted jacket (available in olive and navy) look pretty good for the price. Like the ones by Gap, J Crew, and Brooks Brothers, you can expect these to be slim-fitting interpretations of the more utilitarian designs by Barbour, LL Bean, and Orvis.
  • Campbell Cooper: Some of these designs admittedly look a bit iffy, but after some “antiquing,” one StyleForum member made his look pretty good.
  • John Partridge: An old British maker of hunting jackets, only theirs are always made in England (Barbours are sometimes made abroad). The quality is good, but the fit is full. On the upside, you can find these for pretty cheap on eBay. Here are some in navy and brown. You’ll want to get garment measurements before actually ordering. 
  • Hoggs of Fife: Another old British country outfitter. I’m unsure of the sizing, but you can browse some of their jackets at Ardmoor, Scot Web, and Fife Country

1970s Style with the Rugby Shirt

Rigidly reserving things only for their original intended purpose is for the short of sight and narrow of mind. The telephone was originally an instrument of business; what early adopter could foresee that in 2013 a phone would be something you carry in your pocket and use primarily to photograph yourself? Likewise, the rugby shirt, a garment designed for the pitch, over time found new homes on college campuses, in the mountains of California, and eventually in the dresser drawers of thousands of men who wouldn’t know a scrum from shinola.

Origins

The basic, classic rugby is a heavyweight, knit cotton jersey shirt, often with ribbed cuffs, and a placket and collar of white cotton twill, usually fastened with rubber buttons—less likely to tear off during rough play. (This is a sport that considers binding your ears to your head with electrical tape a form of protection.) That contrast collar and placket are largely what differentiate the rugby shirt from any general long-sleeved polo shirt—but reasonable people disagree. Rugby players often prefer a slimmer fit; modern rugby shirts are constructed of synthetic fabric and cut very slim to frustrate potential tacklers looking to grab hold. They’re very similar to current professional soccer jerseys. In its early days in the 19th century, rugby was played at British public (i.e., very much private) schools, and shirts were often striped with “hoops” in the school’s colors to identify teams, hence the bold stripes on many casual rugby shirts.

Although it’s hard to point to a specific moment when the rugby shirt made the leap to casual, nonsport wear, it was probably in the middle of the 20th century, when the game itself experienced a surge in popularity on stateside campuses. Eventually the rugby became a standard item in 1980s L.L. Bean and Land’s End catalogs. In the 2000s, Ralph Lauren named an entire label Rugby (RIP). Overlogoed versions, polluted with embroidery and superfluous stitching, have been common since the second coming of Abercrombie and Fitch.

Chouinard’s Rugby

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard is credited with bringing the rugby shirt to the mountains, where in the 1960s a climbing boom was just beginning to spur the growth of a new industry of gear. Rugby shirts were comfortable and elastic enough for freedom of movement when climbing, and the collar kept heavy climbing ropes, slung across the body, from chafing necks. Plus, the bright, broad stripes looked fantastic. Chouinard began carrying the shirts under his original gear label, Great Pacific Iron Works, as “the most practical shirts we have found for rock climbing.” (The black-and-white image above comes from one of GPIW’s beautiful 1970s catalogs, in which rugby shirts were $12 to $16, or about $50 to $70 today.)

I prefer a plain or striped rugby in the style of Chouinard’s, with the traditional twill collar and ribbed cuffs. For me they’re off-duty wear—I would hesitate to wear one with a sportcoat or real trousers. Heavy corduroys, canvas pants, or denim match the heft of the jersey fabric and are seasonally appropriate in the chilly months when rugby shirts are most often worn.

Sources

Fortunately, well-made rugby shirts are affordable, although fitted versions are less common. Columbia Knit supplied a number of 1980s labels with USA-made rugby shirts, and still makes a nice rugby for as little as $30 (even less if you order a shirt of mixed up remainder fabric). Columbia Knit’s shirts are generously sized and drop shouldered—the shoulder seam will not fall at the edge of your shoulder, but high on your upper arm. Barbarian has a good reputation (I have not handled their shirts, which are made in Canada), and their versions run about $50. Land’s End still sells rugby shirts, but they’re imported, and classified by one reviewer as “roomy and stylish.”  Kent Wang's modified rugby is $85. Ralph Lauren’s custom fit is probably the most reasonably priced, reliably slim fitting option at $100. Of course, it has a Polo pony embroidered on the chest. Gant, which has a line called Rugger, sells a fitted version with a minimal logo.

Rugby shirts are of course fall/winter items and most stores are now just getting fall/winter clothing on the shelves, so expect to see more options soon. In recent years, Archival Clothing, Jack Spade, Brooks Brothers Black Fleece, and Brunello Cucinelli, among others, have offered attractive versions. If you see any particularly great ones on the market, let us know.

-Pete

Camp Mocs

In the last 100 years or so, Americans have invented some of the most classic slip-on shoe styles for men, but they usually start with an idea borrowed from somewhere else. G.H. Bass, for example, invented the classic American penny loafer, but they came up with the idea after having seen moccasin style shoes made and worn by farmers in Norway. Alden, similarly, came up with the tassel loafer when actor Paul Lukas asked if they could make something similar to a pair of tasseled oxfords he picked up in Europe.

Yet another example is the camp moc, which was invented by LL Bean’s founder, Leon Leonwood Bean, in 1936. He came up with a slip on shoe that could be worn out in the wilderness by taking some ideas from Native American moccasins. Like many of his company’s clothes in the mid-century, LL Bean’s camp mocs eventually made their way to college campuses. At that time, many students liked to repurpose outdoor clothes such as parkas, trail mocs, and camp mocs for everyday use. 

LL Bean still makes their camp moc, but I’m afraid it’s not what it used to be. It’s a decent shoe, to be sure, and probably the most affordable one out there at $79. However, the leather quality leaves a lot to be desired.

If you can afford them, you can find better camp mocs from Oak Street Bootmakers, Rancourt, and Quoddy. Rancourt’s has the advantage in being fully made-to-order, so you can customize them however you’d like. Alden also makes a model through their Cape Cod Collection. It’s typically built on a less than ideal driving sole, but Harrison seems to have it available on a leather sole with a stacked heel (less traditional, but nice looking). I also like the ones from Russell Moccasin (Sid Mashburn has better photos) and Eastland’s Made in Maine. Eastland’s Made in Maine collection is significantly better than their mainline (which also has a camp moc), but to be honest, I find them a bit overpriced for their quality. On the upside, they’ve somehow escaped internet hype, so it’s easier to find them on sale and (occasionally) eBay at heavily discounted prices. Their camp moc is a pretty good value if you can find them half off or so, but note that they’re a bit low on the instep.

Two other good makers are Arrow Moccasins and Town View Leather. They’re both small, family-owned operations that make fully handsewn moccasin style shoes. I like them a lot, especially at their modest price point. They give you the option of making your moccasins with a crepe or double leather sole. I have a pair of double leather sole moccasins from Arrow, and like them for short walks and use around the house. Jesse has also taken his for longer walks. The leathers these guys use is thick and supple, and nicely conform to your feet after a few months worth of use. 

At their core, however, camp mocs are meant to be abused and worn down to the ground. Many of the aforementioned brands make camp mocs from higher-quality leathers, which means they’ll last a bit longer and look better with age. However, even the LL Bean ones have a certain charm as they’re falling apart. Buy ones that are right for your budget and feel free to put some hard use into them.

(Photos via Reddit)

An Affordable Rain Jacket

It’s been pretty clear skies here in San Francisco, but friends of mine back east tell me it’s still raining where they are. If the weather is still wet in your town, and you’re in need of an affordable raincoat, let me recommend the best one I know of: LL Bean’s Trail Model Rain Jacket. It’s simple, classic, and works really well if you have a certain American sense of style. You know – khaki chinos, oxford cloth button downs, Shetland sweaters, Bean boots, and the like. This ”Trail Model” jacket is made of rip stop nylon; has adjustable, Velcro cinch cuffs; and even features taped, waterproof seams. It’s great for casual, wet days, and best of all, it’s only $79. 

The Transitional Shirt Jacket

The weather’s still pretty chilly where I live, but in a month’s time, it’ll hit those cool temperatures that’ll remind us summer’s not too far away. If you have a very casual American sense of style, a good garment to rely on for such transitional periods is the shirt jacket. The term “shirt jacket” can be pretty nebulous. I’ve seen Italians use it to refer to things many would just consider outerwear. Here in the States, however, it commonly refers to shirts that fit like jackets, and have a certain outdoorsy, workwearish, lumberjack-y feel. They’re not for everyone, to be sure, but if you want something very casual to wear with jeans and boots, these can be fairly useful on casual nights while strolling through the neighborhood.

The most well known in this field is probably Pendleton’s board shirt, which from my experience fits kind of baggy, but you can have a tailor take in the sides a bit. Filson’s Jac-Shirt is somewhat similar, but is made from a more substantial cloth. For something a bit more “fashionable,” you can consider Apolis, Orlebar Brown, Barbour, and United. Engineered Garments and Woolrich Woolen Mills can also usually be relied on for good options, although this season, I’ve only seen ones made from shinier fabrics (which may or may not suit your style). I also like Aspesi’s many takes on classic military designs. They’re slimmer fitting than what you’d typically find in military surplus store, and while they’re inspired by military garments, they won’t leave you looking like Robert De Niro from the film Taxi Driver.

All of these brands are a bit expensive, but they’ll come down 50% or more by the end of the season. If you’d like something more affordable now, there’s Club Monaco and Penfield. The second is particularly good to check in with every once in a while if you’re on a tight budget and in need of some outerwear.

Another option is to just use a moleskin or chamois shirt as a layering piece. LL Bean’s mainline has a very well priced one, and it fits surprisingly well. I’m a size 36 chest and fit nicely into their extra-small. My only complaint is the tonal buttons, but you can easily swap those out to something more agreeable if you’d like. Filson also seems to have a nice moleskins option, though I’ve never tried it. If you’d like something slimmer, you can try LL Bean Signature’s chamois shirt. The cloth isn’t as heavy or thick as their mainline chamois, and the cut is considerably shorter, but it could give a slightly more fashionable look to someone with a slim build. Epaulet also has a really nice looking moleskin jacket, though I admit I think people should at least give the LL Bean’s moleskin shirt a spin before they jump on a pricier option.

Make Your Own Rain Boots
With spring showers only a month away, it’s worth thinking about what kind of footwear one might need when the weather gets wet. My rainy day shoes of choice are shell cordovan boots. Shell cordovan, which is a leather taken from a horse’s rump, is so dense that it can effectively perform like rubber. I’ve trudged for miles on wet days without any snow or rain seeping in, and with a quick brushing once I get home, my shell boots look even better than the day they came. The only problem is that shell cordovan boots are quite expensive. Even on sale or on eBay, you’re looking at a neighborhood starting price of $500.
The alternative is to pick up a pair of SWIMS galoshes or LL Bean Boots. The upside to SWIMs is that they can be slipped over your normal dress shoes. The downside is that, frankly, sometimes you don’t want to bother with the hassle. LL Bean Boots are less fussy, but they can’t be worn with dressier garments such as suits and sport coats.
A happy medium is learn how to weatherproof the shoes you already own. For suede shoes, I recommend a waterproofing spray, such as this one from Allen Edmonds. Allen Edmonds’ version doesn’t contain any silicone, which is said by some to potentially damage to shoes. Each canister costs about seven bucks and can weatherproof something like five to seven pairs of shoes. I usually give my suede boots two coats before taking them out into the rain 24 hours later. Just be sure to only use this spray on suede shoes, as you can clog up the pores on calf, which would be bad.
For rugged boots, such as hiking boots or workboots, I recommend Obenauf’s Heavy Duty LP or Montana Pitch Blend. I wrote a post last year about how to apply Obenauf’s, which readers might find useful. This thick, greasy cream both nourishes leather and helps keep moisture out. Don’t use it on anything besides rugged boots though. On a pair of dressy calf or shell cordovan shoes, this stuff can ruin your ability to ever get a proper shine.
For regular calf or shell, Steven Taffel at Leffot recommends Alden’s Leather Defender. It performs better than the minimal protection one might be able to give with a wax polish, and it won’t ruin your ability to give your shoes a proper shine. From a quick perusal of the online forums, some even say that it helps prevent the dreaded spotting shell cordovan can develop once it gets wet. That spotting goes away with a quick brushing, but it admittedly can be a bit of a hassle. I’m thinking of picking up some Leather Defender next month and trying it out on my shell boots. You can purchase it by calling Leffot and having them ship a bottle to you, or by going through J Crew’s online shop.
For $7 to $15, these all seem like great options, especially when compared to spending $500+ for shell boots, or even ~$100 for some SWIMs or LL Beans. Just have realistic expectations. Your shoes will be water resistant, but they won’t be waterproof. You can’t jump in any puddles or anything, but with some good preventive care, you can happily take your regular shoes out into the rain.
* Big thanks to Steven for help with this article. His store Leffot, by the way, is my favorite shoe shop in the US. Everyone ought to check out their store in NYC, if not at least their webshop.

Make Your Own Rain Boots

With spring showers only a month away, it’s worth thinking about what kind of footwear one might need when the weather gets wet. My rainy day shoes of choice are shell cordovan boots. Shell cordovan, which is a leather taken from a horse’s rump, is so dense that it can effectively perform like rubber. I’ve trudged for miles on wet days without any snow or rain seeping in, and with a quick brushing once I get home, my shell boots look even better than the day they came. The only problem is that shell cordovan boots are quite expensive. Even on sale or on eBay, you’re looking at a neighborhood starting price of $500.

The alternative is to pick up a pair of SWIMS galoshes or LL Bean Boots. The upside to SWIMs is that they can be slipped over your normal dress shoes. The downside is that, frankly, sometimes you don’t want to bother with the hassle. LL Bean Boots are less fussy, but they can’t be worn with dressier garments such as suits and sport coats.

A happy medium is learn how to weatherproof the shoes you already own. For suede shoes, I recommend a waterproofing spray, such as this one from Allen Edmonds. Allen Edmonds’ version doesn’t contain any silicone, which is said by some to potentially damage to shoes. Each canister costs about seven bucks and can weatherproof something like five to seven pairs of shoes. I usually give my suede boots two coats before taking them out into the rain 24 hours later. Just be sure to only use this spray on suede shoes, as you can clog up the pores on calf, which would be bad.

For rugged boots, such as hiking boots or workboots, I recommend Obenauf’s Heavy Duty LP or Montana Pitch Blend. I wrote a post last year about how to apply Obenauf’s, which readers might find useful. This thick, greasy cream both nourishes leather and helps keep moisture out. Don’t use it on anything besides rugged boots though. On a pair of dressy calf or shell cordovan shoes, this stuff can ruin your ability to ever get a proper shine.

For regular calf or shell, Steven Taffel at Leffot recommends Alden’s Leather Defender. It performs better than the minimal protection one might be able to give with a wax polish, and it won’t ruin your ability to give your shoes a proper shine. From a quick perusal of the online forums, some even say that it helps prevent the dreaded spotting shell cordovan can develop once it gets wet. That spotting goes away with a quick brushing, but it admittedly can be a bit of a hassle. I’m thinking of picking up some Leather Defender next month and trying it out on my shell boots. You can purchase it by calling Leffot and having them ship a bottle to you, or by going through J Crew’s online shop.

For $7 to $15, these all seem like great options, especially when compared to spending $500+ for shell boots, or even ~$100 for some SWIMs or LL Beans. Just have realistic expectations. Your shoes will be water resistant, but they won’t be waterproof. You can’t jump in any puddles or anything, but with some good preventive care, you can happily take your regular shoes out into the rain.

* Big thanks to Steven for help with this article. His store Leffot, by the way, is my favorite shoe shop in the US. Everyone ought to check out their store in NYC, if not at least their webshop.