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)

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)

At-Home Repairs

Not nearly as cool as Jesse’s repair, but following his post, I thought I’d share these photos from StyleForum member Ghost01. These were recently posted in a thread dedicated to RRL, which as many people know, is Ralph Lauren’s workwear line. RRL was set up in 1993, and is heavily inspired by Ralph Lauren’s private ranch, which he runs with his wife Ricky (hence the name RRL). That means lots of American workwear inspired by country and vintage clothing. You can see the ranch in an interview Oprah once did with Ralph Lauren and his family. (Warning: it’s beautiful). 

Anyway, Ghost01 had an RRL shirt and a pair of jeans that were falling apart. The elbow on the shirt had worn through and there was a hole in the back pocket of the jeans from where his wallet is usually kept. His solution? Patch up both holes, at home using his own sewing skills, with an old RRL pocket square that he had laying around. I think the results look pretty great - a practical solution that’s also in keeping with RRL’s aesthetic. 

The top photo is of Ghost01 in an RRL jacket. That piece hasn’t been repaired, but I’m posting it because I think all three pieces - the jacket, the newly repaired shirt, and the newly repaired jeans - go together quite nicely for a casual look. 

The Advantage of Unusual Designs in Pocket Squares

Like with ties, I find it’s easy to acquire more pocket square than you need. This is true for almost any accessory, really. As I mentioned before, accessories tend to be easier to size right, are relatively more affordable, and can satisfy that urge to buy something new. Before you know it, you have dozens of ties and pocket squares, and not nearly enough sport coats or suits to justify your collection.

In my time wearing pocket squares, I’ve come to realize that I mostly rely on just three types. The first is clean white linen, which I like to wear with everything except tweeds. Then there are madder silks, which I find to be useful in the fall and winter months. For some reason, those are a bit hard to find (especially in soft, muted colors), but Ralph Lauren sometimes stocks them.

Then there’s the third category, which I think is the most useful – squares with large, intricate designs of the kind that you’d never see in ties. The advantage of these is that you never run the risk of looking like you bought your tie and pocket square as part of a matching set (which you should never do, by the way). With a big, bold pattern – as opposed to something like pin dots – you can always be sure that your square will stand on its own, but still harmonize with whatever else you’re wearing through some complementary color. Plus, if you find something with the right square, you can get a bit more versatility by simply turning the square a bit here or there to show off the colors you want. That’s much hard to do if every inch of your square is essentially the same repeating pattern.

In recent years, the number of places where you can buy such squares has exploded. There are the standards, of course, in the form of Drake’s and Rubinacci, both of which produce beautiful pieces. You can purchase those directly through each brand’s shops, or through various online retailers such as No Man Walks Alone, A Suitable Wardrobe, Exquisite Trimmings, Malford of London, Mr. Porter, and our advertiser The Hanger Project. There are also a number of other operations worth considering:

Put This On: The first is of course our pocket square shop. Jesse finds vintage and deadstock fabrics from online sellers and thrift shops, and then has them handmade into pocket squares through a tailor in Los Angeles. That means having the edges handrolled with a nice plump edge, rather than something machined and flat.
Vanda Fine Clothing: Run by the newlywed couple Diana and Gerald, these two produce excellent high-end ties and pocket squares – all hand sewn by them in their workshop in Singapore. Recently, they came out with a series of Chinese zodiac squares, which add a bit of personalization for the wearer.
Ikire Jones: Ikire Jones is a relatively new company run by a finalist in one of Esquire’s “Best Dressed Real Man” competitions. The designer, Wale Oyejide, is a bold dresser with a strong sense of color. Whether you’re a conservative dresser such as myself, or more daring, I think his pocket squares are quite useful. I reviewed them here.
Christian Kimber: Christian has some refreshingly modern designs with abstracted shapes made to look like famous landmarks. At the moment, there are squares representing London, Melbourne, and Florence, but more cities will be released sometime this year.
P. Johnson Tailors: Like Christian Kimber, P. Johnson also produces designs with a slightly more modern sensibility. Their squares tend to have large swaths of color, so you might want to think about how you normally fold your square, lest you look like you’re wearing something that’s one solid color.
Kent Wang: Always a good source for more affordable options, Kent has printed more unique looking pocket squares in the last year. The only thing to watch out for is the size. I find that squares smaller than 15” x 15” feel a bit too insubstantial, although your taste may differ.

(Photos above by The SartorialistChristian KimberRubinacciMalford of LondonVanda Fine Clothing, and us)

Maybe overreacting to the controversy about the brand’s made-in-China 2012 Olympic uniforms, Ralph Lauren and co. went all YOU-ESS-AY YOU-ESS-AY YOU-ESS-AY on this year’s models. This shawl collar sweater will be worn for the opening ceremonies (it’s made, indeed, in USA) and is available to non-athletes for $595. WAIT A MINUTE, I ONLY COUNT 45 STARS. I bet one of the stars left out was the one for my home state. 
-Pete

Maybe overreacting to the controversy about the brand’s made-in-China 2012 Olympic uniforms, Ralph Lauren and co. went all YOU-ESS-AY YOU-ESS-AY YOU-ESS-AY on this year’s models. This shawl collar sweater will be worn for the opening ceremonies (it’s made, indeed, in USA) and is available to non-athletes for $595. WAIT A MINUTE, I ONLY COUNT 45 STARS. I bet one of the stars left out was the one for my home state.

-Pete

It’s On Sale: Shirts
Want some shirts? There are a ton of places right now with deep discounts.
The new Amazon-owned e-tailer East Dane has Gant Rugger shirts starting at $37.50. The fit tends to be a bit more hip, and perhaps better suited to younger customers, but they’re of good quality. 
More traditionally, there’s Brooks Brothers, where there are mainline shirts starting at $40 and Black Fleece shirts starting at $70. 
Ralph Lauren also has a promotion going on right now, where you can save $20, $50, or $150 depending on how much you spend. The promotion applies to their sale section, where there are shirts for as low as $25 or so. Probably good to avoid stuff with the pony logo on the chest, and note that “classic fit” is their traditionally cut model, while “custom fit” is their slim version. Folks interested in workwear might also want to check out the RRL section.
Similarly, Macy’s has a bunch of Ralph Lauren shirts on sale. Unfortunately, the site doesn’t state whether each model is “classic” or “custom” fit, but there are some handsome options. I think this looks pretty good. 
J. Crew is offering an extra 40% off final sale items with the code FUNSALE. Included are some of their shirts, though you have to hunt around. 
TM Lewin, always a good go-to for business appropriate shirts, is offering four shirts for $128, and clearance models for $32 each. Shipping is free, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better deal if you wear a traditional coat and tie. 
(Pictured above: A plaid Ralph Lauren shirt)

It’s On Sale: Shirts

Want some shirts? There are a ton of places right now with deep discounts.

  • The new Amazon-owned e-tailer East Dane has Gant Rugger shirts starting at $37.50. The fit tends to be a bit more hip, and perhaps better suited to younger customers, but they’re of good quality. 
  • More traditionally, there’s Brooks Brothers, where there are mainline shirts starting at $40 and Black Fleece shirts starting at $70. 
  • Ralph Lauren also has a promotion going on right now, where you can save $20, $50, or $150 depending on how much you spend. The promotion applies to their sale section, where there are shirts for as low as $25 or so. Probably good to avoid stuff with the pony logo on the chest, and note that “classic fit” is their traditionally cut model, while “custom fit” is their slim version. Folks interested in workwear might also want to check out the RRL section.
  • Similarly, Macy’s has a bunch of Ralph Lauren shirts on sale. Unfortunately, the site doesn’t state whether each model is “classic” or “custom” fit, but there are some handsome options. I think this looks pretty good. 
  • J. Crew is offering an extra 40% off final sale items with the code FUNSALE. Included are some of their shirts, though you have to hunt around. 
  • TM Lewin, always a good go-to for business appropriate shirts, is offering four shirts for $128, and clearance models for $32 each. Shipping is free, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better deal if you wear a traditional coat and tie. 

(Pictured above: A plaid Ralph Lauren shirt)

Improvements at John Doe

John Doe recently loaned me a pair of their latest oxfords so I could check out the improvements they made since my last review. The shoes arrived last month, and they’re indeed much better. The new leathers are sourced from a different tannery, and feel much more supple and natural than their previous materials. The linings are also better attached, so there’s no more bubbling from an uneven application of glue. Additionally, the stitching is straighter, and without the punched brogue decorations, there are fewer places for something to go wrong. All in all, it seems they’ve upgraded their materials, tightened up their quality control, and are better at working with their factories.

I think readers will find there’s still a significant jump in quality as you go from these to brands such as Allen EdmondsLoake, and Meermin, but those will range anywhere from $200 to $350 at full retail. There are, of course, things such as Allen Edmonds’ factory seconds and the companies that Loake privately produces for (such as Charles Tyrwhitt), and those will sometimes go on sale, but none will match the very competitive price of John Doe at ~$150. For people with a hard budget of ~$150 or less, there are really only a few options.

The first, of course, is to go second hand, which you can get through thrift stores (using Jesse’s very useful thrifting guide) or our eBay roundups. I really like Ralph Lauren and Jesse likes Florsheim, but Allen Edmonds, Loake, and Brooks Brothers are also good names to search for. Just be discerning, as not all shoes from these companies are worth buying.

If you’re not comfortable with buying used shoes, then there’s suede, where you can “by-pass” the manufacturer’s need to cut back on quality materials. In comparison to “regular” leathers, the difference between low- and high-quality suede will be much smaller. Whereas corrected grain leathers can develop unsightly “cracks” over time, low-quality suede can stay pretty consistent if you know how to take care of it.

Outside of that, there are a number of shoe companies who sell products very similar to John Doe. The difference? John Doe uses a Goodyear welting method to attach their soles, instead of gluing them on like other manufacturers. This allows you to more easily resole your shoes over and over again, which can extend the life of your shoes considerably (assuming you take care of the uppers). That translates to better value for your money and less junk in landfills. I think everyone can applaud that.

Real People: Wearing One Label

If I had to stick to one clothing brand my entire life, it would undoubtedly be Ralph Lauren. From its mainstream Blue Label to its contemporary Black Label to its old timey RRL, you can get almost anything you want from just one brand. Plus, the company just designs such great clothes.

Julien from the Netherlands wears Polo Ralph Lauren and RRL almost exclusively. For winter, he layers things such as chunky, patterned sweaters underneath work jackets and leather jackets. Workwear chinos and cargo pants get broken out often, but so does the occasional pair of corduroys. On his feet are rugged workboots, which look like they’ve been taken care of, but also have the scuffing and patina necessary to make them look not too new.

Of course, it helps that he has a great looking beard and a dog the size of a small bear, and that he lives in what appears to be paradise (that’s Rotterdam, by the way). This past year, I’ve been buying an unusual amount of RRL for a guy who has a blog called Die, Workwear!, but given that I’m a skinny, hairless grad student living with a whiny cat in the yuppie part of Oakland, I doubt I look half as good.

In any case, Julien is an oil painter and a maker of watchstraps. If you’re interested in checking out his work, you can visit his website.

Polo Coats

Despite what people say, it doesn’t get that cold in San Francisco, at least not compared to places where it actually snows. Still, that doesn’t stop me from wanting a polo coat every year. Polo coats are long, loose fitting coats originally worn by polo players in England. Early versions were often simple wrap styles - something like a robe, I suppose - but the cut eventually evolved into the more detailed version we think of today. The defining characteristics? Certainly flapped patch pockets, which mark the coat as somewhat casual; a double breasted closure to keep the wearer warm; a loose, half-belt at the back (known as a martingale); traditionally an Ulster collar (the thing you see in the first photo above, with the almost horizontal notch), though peak lapels have also become common; and of course that golden tan color that so nicely complements the browns, blues, and grays most of us wear.

Though the coat originated in England, the double-breasted style really developed in the US, where retailers such as Brooks Brothers popularized it in the 1920s. It soon became associated with prep schools and “Ivy style” - that distinctive, American style of dress that involves tweed jackets, penny loafers, and Shetland sweaters. With the ups and downs of Ivy style, so went polo coats. They fell into obscurity in the ‘70s or so, but had a revival in the ‘80s. You see the coat much less today, but that’s true of all traditional outerwear. With fewer people wearing tailored clothing comes fewer customers of “dress coats.”

I like the idea of having one if only because the polo coat stands out as one of the few coats you can wear both formally and casually. By formally and casually, I don’t mean the extremes, of course - tuxedos on one end, jeans and flip flops on the other (is this guy wearing one in his boxers?). I mean that it’s something you can wear with a suit in most industries, or with a sport coat and a pair of wool trousers if you’re going out to a really nice restaurant. Compare that to coats that are much more formal, such as Chesterfields, or ones that are too casual, such as many of the sportswear styles you commonly see today.  

Where to Get One

Unfortunately, like all good dress coats, polos are expensive, even more so than your standard piece of outerwear (which can already be pretty pricey). For new and off-the-rack, you’re looking at about $1,000 to $1,500. If you have that kind of money, you can find some handsome ones at places such as O’Connell’s, Ben Silver, Brooks Brothers, and Ralph Lauren. If you can afford bespoke, some tailors can make you one for about the price of a suit. For traveling outfits that visit the United States, that price ranges anywhere from $2,500 to $6,000.

That’s a lot of money. On the upside, heavy coats such as polos hold up really well over the years, which means if you’re patient, you can find one on eBay or at your local thrift store for pennies on the dollar. Jesse wrote a great thrifting guide you can use for this. I’m not as experienced as he is in thrifting, but even in my few trips, I’ve seen some nice dress coats selling for about $100 or $200. Set aside a little extra money for alterations and cleaning, and you can have a very nice garment on your hands.  

A note from Jesse: I bought my own polo coat, which is from the 1930s, for $35 on eBay. Not a tailor on Savile Row wasn’t pawing at it when I wore it to our shoot there last year. There’s a decent overcoat right now in a quarter of the thrift stores in America, and with some patience, there are plenty on eBay as well.

Oh, and one other note: the good folks at Howard Yount have a shorter, lighter (and more lightly constructed) version of the polo coat at $899. Thanks to NickelCobalt for the tip.)

It’s On Sale: Ralph Lauren Anorak

Ralph Lauren’s anorak this season is on sale for $118 at Lord & Taylor with the discount code BIG. If sizes run out there, you can also pick it up for at Macy’s for $134 if you use the discount code TXTCLB. Not a bad pick-up given the price of outerwear these days.

Getting a Good Leather Jacket
Once you become interested in clothes, it’s not hard to buy more than you need. In the past two years or so, I’ve acquired eight leather jackets. Most get worn on some semi-regular basis (OK, semi-semi-regular), but none get broken out as much as this leather A-2 you see above. In fact, I could get rid of all my other casual jackets and be satisfied with wearing just this one. 
When shopping for a leather jacket, I’ve found it’s good to pay attention to a few factors:
Materials: Most leather jackets are made from lambskin, goatskin, cowhide, or horsehide. Generally speaking, the first two will be lighter and thinner than the second two. Lambskin is exceptionally soft, pliable, and comfortable to wear, but it’s also most prone to tearing. Goatskin is a bit tougher and more pebbled in its texture. Neither, however, is as tough as cowhide or horsehide, which might require a circular saw to break open. The tradeoff is that cowhide and horsehide are very stiff and heavy, though that might suit certain styles more. It all depends on what you want out your garment and how you want it to look. Want something to wear to an overheated wine bar? Lambskin is a great material. Want something to fight a bear in? Cowhide and horsehide are good bets.
Insulation: Like with all garments, leather jackets are often made with seasons in mind. Spring/ summer pieces often have thin, breathable linings, or on rare occasions, they may come without any lining at all. Fall/ winter jackets, on the other hand, are often quilted or insulated. If you live in a temperate climate, like me, it may be good to err on the spring/ summer side, as you can always layer with a piece of knitwear. My A-2 pictured above, for example, has unique, open-weave cotton lining, and for cold days, I just pair it with a grey sweatshirt. 
Style and color: I hesitate to recommend a style or color, as that gets into such subjective territory. You should just get what you like best. That said, I find myself wearing mid- to darkish browns most, and tans least. And from the few leather jacket threads I follow on various clothing forums, it seems that many men get a lot of use out of their A-2s. Whether that style suits you, of course, is a personal call.
It may be important, however, to think of leather jackets not just in terms of their most basic styles (e.g. A-1s, A-2s, motos, etc.), but also their sensibility. An A-1 from a luxury fashion house, for example, will look very different than one from a vintage reproduction company. Just compare this Ralph Lauren Purple Label piece to something similar from Good Wear Leather to see what I mean. It’s not just a difference in materials (a “luxury” piece will often be made from a fine lambskin, while a tougher, “authentic” version will be made from goatskin or horsehide), but also a difference in the cut and detailing. When shopping for a jacket, pay attention to these differences, and think about what kind of clothes you’ll be wearing your new jacket with. Maybe you want something from a very avant garde designer, or luxury Italian label, or a workwear company. That choice alone should narrow the field considerably. 

Getting a Good Leather Jacket

Once you become interested in clothes, it’s not hard to buy more than you need. In the past two years or so, I’ve acquired eight leather jackets. Most get worn on some semi-regular basis (OK, semi-semi-regular), but none get broken out as much as this leather A-2 you see above. In fact, I could get rid of all my other casual jackets and be satisfied with wearing just this one. 

When shopping for a leather jacket, I’ve found it’s good to pay attention to a few factors:

Materials: Most leather jackets are made from lambskin, goatskin, cowhide, or horsehide. Generally speaking, the first two will be lighter and thinner than the second two. Lambskin is exceptionally soft, pliable, and comfortable to wear, but it’s also most prone to tearing. Goatskin is a bit tougher and more pebbled in its texture. Neither, however, is as tough as cowhide or horsehide, which might require a circular saw to break open. The tradeoff is that cowhide and horsehide are very stiff and heavy, though that might suit certain styles more. It all depends on what you want out your garment and how you want it to look. Want something to wear to an overheated wine bar? Lambskin is a great material. Want something to fight a bear in? Cowhide and horsehide are good bets.

Insulation: Like with all garments, leather jackets are often made with seasons in mind. Spring/ summer pieces often have thin, breathable linings, or on rare occasions, they may come without any lining at all. Fall/ winter jackets, on the other hand, are often quilted or insulated. If you live in a temperate climate, like me, it may be good to err on the spring/ summer side, as you can always layer with a piece of knitwear. My A-2 pictured above, for example, has unique, open-weave cotton lining, and for cold days, I just pair it with a grey sweatshirt. 

Style and color: I hesitate to recommend a style or color, as that gets into such subjective territory. You should just get what you like best. That said, I find myself wearing mid- to darkish browns most, and tans least. And from the few leather jacket threads I follow on various clothing forums, it seems that many men get a lot of use out of their A-2s. Whether that style suits you, of course, is a personal call.

It may be important, however, to think of leather jackets not just in terms of their most basic styles (e.g. A-1s, A-2s, motos, etc.), but also their sensibility. An A-1 from a luxury fashion house, for example, will look very different than one from a vintage reproduction company. Just compare this Ralph Lauren Purple Label piece to something similar from Good Wear Leather to see what I mean. It’s not just a difference in materials (a “luxury” piece will often be made from a fine lambskin, while a tougher, “authentic” version will be made from goatskin or horsehide), but also a difference in the cut and detailing. When shopping for a jacket, pay attention to these differences, and think about what kind of clothes you’ll be wearing your new jacket with. Maybe you want something from a very avant garde designer, or luxury Italian label, or a workwear company. That choice alone should narrow the field considerably.