Alternatives to J. Press’ Shaggy Dogs
Pete’s post yesterday reminded me of how much I also regret not buying those Shaggy Dog sweaters when they were “just” $160. On sale, that price occasionally dropped to $108, but fat chance you’ll see them go that low now. At this point, you can expect a sale price of around $172.50 with J. Press’ usual 25%-off discount, which is north of what they used to sell for at full retail just a few years ago. 
There are some alternatives though. The now defunct Ralph Lauren Rugby line used to make brushed Shetlands, and every once in a while, you’ll see them still floating around eBay for between $50 and $110. The sweater isn’t as thick and densely knitted as J. Press’, but it fits slimmer and has smaller armholes (the second of which I really appreciate). It also has sueded elbow patches, but I imagine those can be carefully removed with a seam ripper if they’re not to your liking. 
Howlin’ of Morrison also has a model towards the end of this page. I really like their Shetlands (this particular piece looks fantastic), but find their brushed version a bit thin (from memory, slightly thinner than even Rugby’s). On the upside, they also fit slimmer than Press’, which might be good for some builds. 
Other options include these pieces by Edifice x Present, Present, William Fox & Sons, Drake’s, John Tulloch, and Neighbour. Of those, I’ve only handled Neighbour’s, which are, again, thinner but potentially better fitting. Some of the prices here aren’t that much cheaper than what J. Press is asking, but it’s nice to have options when sale season comes. I also think there’s a potential for the York Street version to go on deeper discount than J. Press’ mainline stuff, but only time will tell. 
Lastly, MKI also used to carry some last year, but they’ve since sold out. Might be worth keeping an eye on their webstore to see if they’ll restock. 

Alternatives to J. Press’ Shaggy Dogs

Pete’s post yesterday reminded me of how much I also regret not buying those Shaggy Dog sweaters when they were “just” $160. On sale, that price occasionally dropped to $108, but fat chance you’ll see them go that low now. At this point, you can expect a sale price of around $172.50 with J. Press’ usual 25%-off discount, which is north of what they used to sell for at full retail just a few years ago. 

There are some alternatives though. The now defunct Ralph Lauren Rugby line used to make brushed Shetlands, and every once in a while, you’ll see them still floating around eBay for between $50 and $110. The sweater isn’t as thick and densely knitted as J. Press’, but it fits slimmer and has smaller armholes (the second of which I really appreciate). It also has sueded elbow patches, but I imagine those can be carefully removed with a seam ripper if they’re not to your liking. 

Howlin’ of Morrison also has a model towards the end of this page. I really like their Shetlands (this particular piece looks fantastic), but find their brushed version a bit thin (from memory, slightly thinner than even Rugby’s). On the upside, they also fit slimmer than Press’, which might be good for some builds. 

Other options include these pieces by Edifice x Present, Present, William Fox & SonsDrake’s, John Tulloch, and Neighbour. Of those, I’ve only handled Neighbour’s, which are, again, thinner but potentially better fitting. Some of the prices here aren’t that much cheaper than what J. Press is asking, but it’s nice to have options when sale season comes. I also think there’s a potential for the York Street version to go on deeper discount than J. Press’ mainline stuff, but only time will tell. 

Lastly, MKI also used to carry some last year, but they’ve since sold out. Might be worth keeping an eye on their webstore to see if they’ll restock. 

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

It’s On (Final) Sale: Rugby
As you might have heard, Ralph Lauren is shutting down their Rugby line. It’s a shame to see it go, however, the remaining stock online just underwent another round of deep discounts. If you use code TAKEOFF20, then you’ll get an additional 20% off all items on sale. 
Admittedly, it’s slim pickings right now, but if you’re looking for Shetland crewneck sweaters (in colors and neutrals), they’ve been reduced to $33.59. Keep in mind, however, all items are final sale. 
-Kiyoshi

It’s On (Final) Sale: Rugby

As you might have heard, Ralph Lauren is shutting down their Rugby line. It’s a shame to see it go, however, the remaining stock online just underwent another round of deep discounts. If you use code TAKEOFF20, then you’ll get an additional 20% off all items on sale. 

Admittedly, it’s slim pickings right now, but if you’re looking for Shetland crewneck sweaters (in colors and neutrals), they’ve been reduced to $33.59. Keep in mind, however, all items are final sale. 

-Kiyoshi

It’s on Sale: Brooks Brothers, Rugby, L.L.Bean, Allen Edmonds

There’s a few sales going on today that you’ll want to check out, so here’s a mini roundup:

Brooks Brothers: All tailored clothing is 30% off, including suits, sport coats and trousers

Rugby Ralph Lauren: The Friends & Family sale starts today and you can get 30% off everything with code 4FAMILY. Don’t forget to check out their sale section to see where you can stack the discount code. Sale ends December 11.

L.L.Bean: Not a huge discount, but you can get 10% off their mainline and Signature line with code JOY10. Plus, there’s free shipping. Sale ends December 12.

Allen Edmonds: Several styles of shoes are on sale at around 30% to 50% off. The best looking pair of the selection is the Westchester penny loafer, in my opinion, on sale for $197. 

-Kiyoshi

Rugby’s Brushed Shetlands

Ralph Lauren announced last week that they plan to discontinue Rugby after this season. I admit many of Rugby’s offerings were a bit overstylized for my taste, but one thing I’ll miss is their affordable brushed Shetland sweaters. The original brushed Shetlands were invented by Irving Press of J. Press fame. At the time, Mr. Press had a close relationship with the principal of Drumohr, one of the more renowned knitwear manufacturers in Scotland, and together, they devised a way to make J. Press’ Shetlands more distinctive by brushing them until they achieved the kind of slightly hairy look you see above. Charming, comfortable, and infinitely stylish, these are wonderful sweaters to wear on lazy days when you don’t want to iron a shirt and put on a necktie.

Rugby’s brushed Shetlands retail for about $100, which isn’t exactly “cheap.” They do, however, often go on sale. In fact, right now they’re $70, with an additional 20% off if you use the check out code INSIDERFALL (the sale ends today). They fit slim, though not enough to size up, and feature sueded leather elbow patches. I haven’t tried myself, but I imagine you can take those patches off with a seam ripper if they’re not to your liking.

Other brushed Shetlands on the market include, of course, J. Press’ original, which is made a bit nicer and denser than Rugby’s. It retails for considerably more at $195, but sometimes you can catch them off-season for about $108. They’re currently about $150 with the coupon code PSNOV12. For other sources still, there’s Edifice at Present London and Drake’s. If you’re willing to order from Japan, there are also sellers stocking Peter Blance and John Tulloch. You may need to use a Japanese proxy for those, however.

Still, as you can see, while all these are nice, none of them are as affordable as the ~$50 version from Rugby. I’ve always thought these were a nice way for people to score a charming sweater without breaking the bank. They will be missed. 

(Photos by Billax)

Shawl Collar Cardigans

As legend has it, the original cardigan was invented for Lieutenant General James Brudenell, the Seventh Earl of Cardigan. He wanted a sweater that he could put on without ruining his perfectly coiffed hair. So, the front was cut open, buttons put in, and voilà – we have the cardigan sweater. How the shawl collar – a detail originally designed for the Victorian smoking jacket – got mixed in is unclear. Perhaps it’s because both were considered at-home pieces for lounge and leisure. Who knows.

In any case, shawl collar cardigans make for great autumnal sweaters. The elongated line of the collar nicely frames the face while the body of the knit keeps the wearer comfortable and warm. Today, you can get these from a number of companies, and they range from the stratospherically priced to the reasonably affordable.

I’ll start with the stratospherically priced. Even if we’re not able to afford them, they’re fun to look at (and talk about). These tend to be knitted in Scotland and made from multi-ply wool, cashmere, lambswool, or camelhair yarns. Multi-ply means that multiple plies are twisted together to form a thicker, stronger yarn. This gives the sweater more warmth and durability. The yarns are also usually made from longer animal fibers, which means there are fewer weak points that can break and result in pilling. Finally, the weaves tend to be denser and tighter, which helps ensure that the sweater will keep its shape for years to come. The result, while expensive, is something that’s incredibly chunky, plush, and warm. Wear one of these on a chilly morning and you’ll be immediately be impressed with the quality. 

You can find such cardigans at a number of traditional American clothiers. Ben Silver, O’Connell’s, Kabbaz-Kelly, and Paul Stuart have exceptionally nice ones. From Europe, there’s Drake’s, Berk, Johnstons of Elgin, and Peter Johnston. Ovadia & Sons also makes a nice, thick lambswool one that’s suitable for someone wanting a slimmer fit. All of these tend to be expensive, but some will go on sale at the end of the season. In fact, Ben Silver has some at 50% off now.

For something more affordable, check out J Crew, Rugby, Brooks Brothers, Gant, Land’s End, Orvis, and Save Khaki (one of which is on Gilt). These tend to be thinner than the ones mentioned above, and will likely have cheap, plastic buttons instead of animal horn. You can swap out the buttons yourself, however, for about $30-50. Finally, you may want to consider the options at Northern Watters, White of Hawick, and Black Sheep. I have no personal experience with their products, but nice things have been said about them across the various menswear forums. And although their websites aren’t terribly appealing, it’s important to separate out marketing hype from quality of clothing. They may just be the right middle point between the over-priced, under-delivered “fashion brands,” and the superlative, but incredibly expensive, Scottish knits. 

We Got It For Free: Kent Wang’s Rugby
Rugbys can be to fall what polos are to summer. I’ve been looking for a good one for a while now, but I’ve never been able to find one that works. Most rugbys have floppy collars and elasticized cuffs, and I want one with button cuffs and a reinforced spread collar. My ideal is basically a slightly sharper version of a traditional rugby that I can wear with casual wool trousers and chukka boots (as pictured above).
Many companies have made ones that come close. Earlier this year, Brooks Brothers had a promising model, but it wasn’t slim enough. Zanone, a division of Slowear, sells something similar, but the collar wasn’t spread. I also once saw a perfect rugby by Orian, but it was too expensive for me.
Luckily, Kent Wang recently sent me one of his in navy. I’m fairly impressed with it. The fit is slim, like his polos, and the quality is quite good. There are also very thick mother-of-pearl buttons, which give an appreciable level of detailing that you often don’t find in stores nowadays. Most importantly, there are button cuffs and a reinforced spread collar. This is basically the sharper version of a traditional rugby that I’ve been looking for.
The only problem I found is that the cuffs are a bit too small. The sleeves start off normal but then taper to about a 8.5” cuff, which is about an inch smaller than my other shirts. The tighter cuff means that the sleeve is a bit tight starting around the elbow and my watch won’t fit underneath.
I talked to Kent about it and he said that this only seem to be an issue with the mediums and that the other sizes have bigger cuffs. He’s also doing another production run in November and will have the cuffs adjusted then. You may want to check back in November, or if you want one immediately, you can buy one now and mainly wear it with rolled up sleeves (assuming you wear a medium). Either way, Kent is sending me one of his new ones and I will report back when I get it. If it fits well, I think this will be my ideal rugby. It’s a bit sharper looking than others and can be worn with any number of casual pants this fall (corduroys, moleskins, chinos, jeans, casual wool trousers, etc). If you pair it with one of the "in-between" shoes that Jesse talked about, this can be a reliable go-to ensemble that’s casual, but still sharp.

We Got It For Free: Kent Wang’s Rugby

Rugbys can be to fall what polos are to summer. I’ve been looking for a good one for a while now, but I’ve never been able to find one that works. Most rugbys have floppy collars and elasticized cuffs, and I want one with button cuffs and a reinforced spread collar. My ideal is basically a slightly sharper version of a traditional rugby that I can wear with casual wool trousers and chukka boots (as pictured above).

Many companies have made ones that come close. Earlier this year, Brooks Brothers had a promising model, but it wasn’t slim enough. Zanone, a division of Slowear, sells something similar, but the collar wasn’t spread. I also once saw a perfect rugby by Orian, but it was too expensive for me.

Luckily, Kent Wang recently sent me one of his in navy. I’m fairly impressed with it. The fit is slim, like his polos, and the quality is quite good. There are also very thick mother-of-pearl buttons, which give an appreciable level of detailing that you often don’t find in stores nowadays. Most importantly, there are button cuffs and a reinforced spread collar. This is basically the sharper version of a traditional rugby that I’ve been looking for.

The only problem I found is that the cuffs are a bit too small. The sleeves start off normal but then taper to about a 8.5” cuff, which is about an inch smaller than my other shirts. The tighter cuff means that the sleeve is a bit tight starting around the elbow and my watch won’t fit underneath.

I talked to Kent about it and he said that this only seem to be an issue with the mediums and that the other sizes have bigger cuffs. He’s also doing another production run in November and will have the cuffs adjusted then. You may want to check back in November, or if you want one immediately, you can buy one now and mainly wear it with rolled up sleeves (assuming you wear a medium). Either way, Kent is sending me one of his new ones and I will report back when I get it. If it fits well, I think this will be my ideal rugby. It’s a bit sharper looking than others and can be worn with any number of casual pants this fall (corduroys, moleskins, chinos, jeans, casual wool trousers, etc). If you pair it with one of the "in-between" shoes that Jesse talked about, this can be a reliable go-to ensemble that’s casual, but still sharp.

A Complete Guide to Getting Chinos This Summer

Chinos have a bit of a circutous history. They began as part of the British Army’s standard uniform starting around the 1840s. By the end of the 19th century, American troops stationed in the Philippines began wearing them. They remained associated with the military for another hundred years, until 1942, when the US Navy approved that they could be worn off-duty. Since then, they’ve been incredibly popular with the public. I think the civilian trend largely took off when James Dean began wearing them. That was during a time when much of the public looked towards Hollywood for sartorial direction, and ever since then, the popularity of chinos has been buoyed by big marketing campaigns from companies such as The Gap. 

The great thing about chinos is that, like jeans, they look better with age. In fact, one of the best looks, in my opinion, is a pair of really worn down chinos with a sports coat, oxford cloth button down shirt, and pair of brown loafers. The more worn down and beat up the chinos, the more stylish this look becomes. When the pants are too new, the look can be a bit stiff. As such, I recommend that you wear your chinos with a bit of a rumple and avoid creasing the front of the legs. Creases on chinos add fifteen years to your age and can make you look like the type that irons your underwear. Wear them as casually as you can and invite the fraying that comes. If you want, you can also roll up the the legs a bit, which Gilt Manual recently gave some really good tips for

So if you’re on the market for chinos, where can you turn? Here are some options. Note that in the interest of sizing information, I’ve included what I wear for most of these. I’m a size 32 in most pants, but sometimes have to size down depending on the cut. It’s probably also worth mentioning that I have an Asian booty that’s flatter than a flapjack, so take that into account when gauging whether my reviews will be helpful for you.

  • Uniqlo Vintage chino ($50): Uniqlo’s Vintage fit chino is a nice slim cut model with mid-century details - watch pocket, decent hardware, and a slight herringbonish finish. Unfortunately, they also have a low rise, which makes them not as good for tucking in shirts. Still, for $50, they’re not bad, and if you’re in New York City, you can pick one up at any of their stores. Uniqlo should also have a website up at some point, but details on the drop date are fuzzy. I wear a 32 in these. 
  • Brooks Brothers Milano Fit chinos ($95): Brooks has a popular slim fit chino. They’re a bit tapered, which make them good for slim men, but not much so for heavier guys (tapered pants can emphasize your waistline). The material is a smooth plain-weave, which gives them an “office” feel. I prefer slightly rougher twill models, personally, but it’s a matter of taste. Unfortunately, Brooks only has a terrible peach colored version left, but they’ll restock their other colors soon, so just keep an eye out. If you catch them at the beginning of their sales, you can nab one for as little as $60, but otherwise they’re about $100. I find these fit pretty true-to-size. I wear a 32 in these, but can also size down to 30 for a slightly slimmer fit. 
  • Rugby university chinos ($70): Rugby’s University model fits very well if you size down. Whereas I’m normally a 32 in most pants, I wear a 31 in Rugby’s. They’re slim and have a rise that just hits the waist. They have a slightly worn finish, which means the colors are a bit faded and the edges are very, very slightly distressed. Nothing really noticeable, but it’s there. 
  • Bill’s Khakis M3 chinos ($67): Bill’s Khakis has three models, but only the M3 is anything that’s remotely close to wearable. Even then, you’ll have to get these slightly tapered. That job shouldn’t run you more than $20, however. So why buy something that doesn’t immediately fit well off the rack? Because these are some of the best chinos you can have after some alterations, and when Sierra Trading Post has them for $65, they’re a steal. They’re superbly constructed and made from a traditional soft twill fabric that’s free of any pre-distressing. They also feature deep pockets (a detail many brands are cutting back on) and have a rise that actually sits on my waist (not “just hits it”). The slightly higher rise will allow you to tuck in your shirt without making your torso look unnaturally big. I recommend sizing down a bit, but not too much. I wear a 31 in Bill’s Khakis. 
  • Ralph Lauren Preston chinos ($75): These are a lot like Bill’s Khakis - great construction, but not terribly slim (these are “grown up” chinos in a very real sense). However, like Bill’s, they hold a lot of potential. They have a slightly higher rise than Bill’s, which I like, but the pockets aren’t as deep. You’ll need to size down quite a bit to get these to fit right. I go down as far as 30 personally. 
  • J Crew chinos ($60-70): I’m not crazy about most of J Crew’s stuff, but I think they’re worth talking about since almost everyone has a J Crew store near them. J Crew has a few different models, but I’ll only speak of the Urban Slim Fit and Bowery. The Urban Slim Fit doesn’t work at all on me, but I could see them fitting well on someone with a lot of junk in the trunk. The Bowery is much better - pretty decent slim fit, even though the construction is clearly more mass market. The price isn’t bad, however, especially given how often J Crew holds sales. You could probably snag these for $40 if you waited for the right opportunity. If you do, I recommend sizing down. I wear a 30 in the Bowery. 
  • RRL Officer Chino ($185): RRL, a Ralph Lauren brand, has has a pair of selvedge twill chinos that wears like selvedge dehim jeans. They’re meant to be worn as such, too - wear them hard and don’t wash them often. Soon you’ll see fades like you would with selvedge jeans (though obviously more subtle because of the fabric). They also have nice details, such as double canvas waistband (which makes them sturdier) and a button fly (which won’t give you a weenie tent like zipper flys do). The fit is a lot slimmer, however, than other models you’ll read about here. Part of this is just the style, but part of it is also to get the fading you want. The cut is definitely not for everyone, but if you’re used to wearing slim selvedge denim jeans, then you might want to consider these. Size down and expect a little stretching (I wear a 31). You can buy them in most Ralph Lauren stores, but if you’re not close to one, you can phone an order in. RRL is also going to get a website up sometime next month, I hear. 
  • Left Field ($198): The nice folks at Left Field sent me a free pair of these to try on. They’re a slightly more workwear version of traditional chinos. The belt loops are big enough to accommodate belts meant for jeans; the stitching is slightly more rugged; and the pants have a slight “work pant” feel. Like with most workwear/ heritage brands, the quality here is heavily in the details. There is a chain-stitched waistband, Corozo button fly, and Japanese chambray pocket bags. The fabric for the pants themselves are a ringspun cotton Japanese twill. I could see these working well for someone who has a Americana/ heritage sensibility. I recommend going true-to-size on these, but note that they fit slightly big in the seat, so you should probably have something more than my non-existent Asian booty if you want to wear these well. 
  • Unis ($228): I know what you’re already thinking. $228 for chinos!? Part of the reason why these are so expensive is because they’re made in the USA (as Eunice Lee explained to someone in the comments section of Well-Spent). As a political economist, I’ll admit, I don’t care for these kind of “Made in the USA” appeals. For me, I just care about fit, styling, and quality, and all these counts, Unis’ Gio chinos are pretty nice. They’re slim without being overly so, have the perfect rise, and feature nice details such as a button fly and Corozo buttons. They have an unwashed version if you need something dressy, as well as a garment dyed rumpled version if you want something casual. I wear a 32 in these, but could also easily do a 30. If money is less of an object for you, I would definitely recommend these. 
  • Others: There are other highly celebrated chinos. Howard Yount and Albam come to mind, but I don’t have any experience with either of them. Incotex and Mabitex are also a favorite for many people, including me, but the fit, styling, and finish on them vary so much that it’s not possible to write a generalizable review. You can find them in the Buying and Selling section of Styleforum, eBay, Yoox, and Gilt. A word of warning on those, however - buying them can sometimes be a gamble since they vary so much. Caveat emptor

Lastly, for those who might be wondering: what’s the difference between chinos and khakis? For pedants, chino is the Spanish word for Chinese. The original material for these pants was a Chinese twill cotton, so they were colloquially called chinos. Khaki is the Hinidi word for “dust.” The original chinos, worn by the British Army, were dyed in a mulberry juice that gave it a yellowish drab shade, now known as “khaki.” Thus, the correct term for these pants is chinos, and khaki the sandy tan color they most often come in. But that’s pedantry; for the most part, the two words are interchangeable.

(photos by pocketsquareguy, The Sartorialist, and J Crew)