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. 

Expensive Things: Not Getting Any Cheaper
For years I’ve put off buying one of J. Press’s “Shaggy Dog” shetland sweaters—the fuzzed, Scotland-made wool crewneck that’s a winter standard at Press, that most glacial of men’s stores. I first handled one in the D.C. Press store in 2006 (I think; that’s when I discovered we had a J. Press here), and even bought one as a gift, but always figured I’d pick one up for myself when I had a little extra cash or when sale season hit.
In the meantime I’ve recommended the sweaters as an unassailable classic—made well and in the traditional country of manufacture, resistant to both chilly fall breezes and trends, even a good value at $165. Well, $165 in 2010. $165 in 2009, too. In 2013? $230. You can pay another $15 for the York Street version, although it’s not immediately clear what that buys you.
Clothing prices are significantly outpacing inflation, with men’s clothing leading the way. Anecdotally, I’ve heard this attributed to raw material price increases (e.g., cotton and wool) and the scarcity and increasing expense of quality manufacturing. The takeaway here isn’t necessarily “buy more now”; it’s risky if not foolish to treat clothing as you would treat a financial investment, although thoughtful consideration of how much value you get out of your clothing can help determine what’s affordable for you. The truth, though, is that what’s not affordable for you now is not rushing to become affordable for you in the near future.
-Pete

Expensive Things: Not Getting Any Cheaper

For years I’ve put off buying one of J. Press’s “Shaggy Dog” shetland sweaters—the fuzzed, Scotland-made wool crewneck that’s a winter standard at Press, that most glacial of men’s stores. I first handled one in the D.C. Press store in 2006 (I think; that’s when I discovered we had a J. Press here), and even bought one as a gift, but always figured I’d pick one up for myself when I had a little extra cash or when sale season hit.

In the meantime I’ve recommended the sweaters as an unassailable classic—made well and in the traditional country of manufacture, resistant to both chilly fall breezes and trends, even a good value at $165. Well, $165 in 2010. $165 in 2009, too. In 2013? $230. You can pay another $15 for the York Street version, although it’s not immediately clear what that buys you.

Clothing prices are significantly outpacing inflation, with men’s clothing leading the way. Anecdotally, I’ve heard this attributed to raw material price increases (e.g., cotton and wool) and the scarcity and increasing expense of quality manufacturing. The takeaway here isn’t necessarily “buy more now”; it’s risky if not foolish to treat clothing as you would treat a financial investment, although thoughtful consideration of how much value you get out of your clothing can help determine what’s affordable for you. The truth, though, is that what’s not affordable for you now is not rushing to become affordable for you in the near future.

-Pete

Flecked Sweaters for Fall

I don’t know if it’s too early to talk about knitwear, but I’ve been thinking about flecked sweaters a lot lately. Sometimes these are called speckled sweaters, sometimes Donegal sweaters, and sometimes even tweed sweaters. Not because they’re actually from Donegal (a county in Ireland), but because the irregular flecks of color on these yarns are reminiscent of the region’s hallmark tweeds.

The nice thing about flecked sweaters is that they can add a bit of visual interest where a solid knit might be too boring. I find this useful when wearing a sweater alone (over a shirt, but without a jacket). There’s just something about a very smooth, plain-colored merino, worn with wool or cotton trousers, that can sometimes feel a bit too uninspired (though, they do work well underneath tailored sport coats).

There are a number of brands with flecked sweaters this fall. At the top of the price pyramid end is Inis Meain, who makes them in a pure cashmere and wool-cashmere blend. Those are available at A Suitable Wardrobe, Barneys New York, Manufactum, and Frans Boone. Inis Meain makes some of my favorite knitwear in the world, and I find their quality to be unsurpassed, but their popularity in Japan and Europe has made them very expensive. If you’re not deterred by the price, Barney’s also has a few half zip sweaters by Fioroni worth considering.

For something a bit more affordable, check out these options by Drumohr, Billy Reid, Saturdays Surf NYC, APC, and Orvis. J Crew also has something on sale through their Wallace & Barnes line, and an extra 25% can be taken off at the moment with the checkout code FALLSTYLE. Perhaps most promising are these Howlin’ by Morrison Shetlands, which come in light grey, charcoal, and red (I really dig the light grey, personally). 

There’s also a range of Irish makers, none of whom I have any direct experience with. If you’re open to giving them a try, a quick Google search will reveal a number of retailers. Maybe start with Aran Sweater Market, Aran Sweater Shop, and Magee. This seller on eBay also has a range of intriguing options starting at $70.

Most affordable of all is J Crew’s mainline. They’ve done a number of these sweaters in the past and you can still find many of them floating around on eBay. J Crew’s knits, from my experience, stretch out pretty easily, but if the price is right, they can be a good buy. This one, for example, is available for $30 (the cut looks pretty boxy though). Mr. Porter also has this blue version brand new for $90. That’ll probably make it to their end-of-season sale, where it’ll be discounted by 50-70%. 

Saving On Heating Bills
I was chatting with my neighbor last weekend, who was lamenting how high her heating bill has gotten this past winter. Just under $200 a month to heat a small three-bedroom apartment (many of us here in the Bay Area have terrible insulation).
I was shocked until I realized I was paying the same two years ago. Lately, however, my heating bill has been around $100 a month. That’s because whenever it gets chilly, I just throw on this thick lambswool cardigan by Ovadia & Sons, which you can see above. I bought it last year on sale from CHCM. The price was $350, which was a lot for me, but I’ve wanted a chunky shawl collar cardigan for some time now, and since I’m unusually skinny, it’s hard to find things in my size. Slightly more fashion-forward brands like Ovadia makes slimmer fitting clothes, which sometimes can work in favor for a guy my size, so I jumped on the sale.
As a result, I’ve been able to use my heater less. Apparently about half as much as my neighbor, who has about the same size apartment as I do. You figure with approximately $200 in savings from December and January’s heating bills, this cardigan will have paid for itself by the end of next winter. 
Obviously, I’m not advising everyone to go out and spend $350 for a cardigan. But I am saying that if you can find some nice warm knitwear, it can be a better expenditure than relying on a heater. This 6-ply lambswool cardigan is so thick that is wears like a jacket. Other knits, which are meant to be worn as layering pieces, aren’t as warm simply because they’re not as thick. If you can find a truly chunky, warm-as-a-down-comforter sweater, it can be worth the investment.
On a budget, however, I recommend Smartwool Long Johns. If you layer their midweight wools underneath a button-up shirt and regular wool or cashmere sweater, you can stay pretty toasty. Campmor always seems to have them on sale for about $50-70. At ~$120 for both the top and bottom garments, these could pay for themselves in one or two months’ time.

Saving On Heating Bills

I was chatting with my neighbor last weekend, who was lamenting how high her heating bill has gotten this past winter. Just under $200 a month to heat a small three-bedroom apartment (many of us here in the Bay Area have terrible insulation).

I was shocked until I realized I was paying the same two years ago. Lately, however, my heating bill has been around $100 a month. That’s because whenever it gets chilly, I just throw on this thick lambswool cardigan by Ovadia & Sons, which you can see above. I bought it last year on sale from CHCM. The price was $350, which was a lot for me, but I’ve wanted a chunky shawl collar cardigan for some time now, and since I’m unusually skinny, it’s hard to find things in my size. Slightly more fashion-forward brands like Ovadia makes slimmer fitting clothes, which sometimes can work in favor for a guy my size, so I jumped on the sale.

As a result, I’ve been able to use my heater less. Apparently about half as much as my neighbor, who has about the same size apartment as I do. You figure with approximately $200 in savings from December and January’s heating bills, this cardigan will have paid for itself by the end of next winter. 

Obviously, I’m not advising everyone to go out and spend $350 for a cardigan. But I am saying that if you can find some nice warm knitwear, it can be a better expenditure than relying on a heater. This 6-ply lambswool cardigan is so thick that is wears like a jacket. Other knits, which are meant to be worn as layering pieces, aren’t as warm simply because they’re not as thick. If you can find a truly chunky, warm-as-a-down-comforter sweater, it can be worth the investment.

On a budget, however, I recommend Smartwool Long Johns. If you layer their midweight wools underneath a button-up shirt and regular wool or cashmere sweater, you can stay pretty toasty. Campmor always seems to have them on sale for about $50-70. At ~$120 for both the top and bottom garments, these could pay for themselves in one or two months’ time.

Where did Cosby sweaters come from? This spectacularly charming designer from The Hague, as it turns out.

(Thanks, Ben!)

“I think youthful people have a long time to live, so they can waste some time on something like that.” Bill Cosby on “Cosby sweaters”

It’s On Sale: Howard Yount sweaters

For the past two winters I’ve enjoyed wearing Howard Yount’s lambswool sweaters. They’re of decent thickness — but not too thick — to keep you warm on milder days and add quite a bit of warmth when layered under a sport coat on colder ones. I wore mine quite frequently in the fall over an OCBD and under a waxed jacket and found they did quite well as transitional clothing. The fit is on the trimmer side, but not so slim that they’re unwearable and the quality has held up after a good amount of wear. 

Howard Yount rarely has sales or discount codes, but right now quite a lot of items from their fall-winter collection are on sale, including these sweaters, which are now $99 (down from $115) in both crewneck and v-neck form. I think they make great additions for a casual wardrobe. 

-Kiyoshi

Shetland Ponies in the Shetlands wearing Shetland knits.
A++. Would view again.
(Thanks, Max!)

Shetland Ponies in the Shetlands wearing Shetland knits.

A++. Would view again.

(Thanks, Max!)

Proper Garment Care
Buying high quality garments, with the assumption that they’re built to last, only means something if you know how to take proper care of your clothes. Stuffing them into overcrowded closets or sending them off to bad dry cleaners will shorten their life considerably. Fortunately, taking care of your clothes doesn’t require much work. You can accomplish it with just a few minutes a day.
For suits and sport coats, dry cleaning twice a year should be sufficient for anything that’s only worn once or twice a week. Sending it in more often than that will shorten the life and ruin the look of a jacket. That’s because most dry cleaners use harsh chemicals and give hard pressings. You can, of course, use a high-quality cleaner that doesn’t employ such methods, but those will cost you more money.
For every day care, brush the dirt out with a soft bristled garment brush. This will prevent them from getting deep into the fabric, where friction can damage the fibers. It’ll also knock out any food bits that may attract moths. You can buy garment brushes from Kent, though sometimes slightly imperfect ones can be had for a bit cheaper on eBay. For something truly nice, Linkson Jack has some brushes backed with oxhorn.
To begin brushing, wipe down any large, unfinished wooden table, and lay your garment down on the surface. A polished table may be too slippery, so if you only have one of those, put your garment on a blanket or strip of felt so it won’t slide about. If this doesn’t work, you can also brush your garment while it’s on a hanger (though I find it’s harder to really bring some pressure to bear on the brush this way). While brushing, use short flicks of the wrist and always brush in the same direction. Never, ever scrub. You can first brush against the nap to remove any dirt, and then down the nap for a smooth finish. Some people even recommend dampening the brush with some water first for a bit of a freshening up, though I’ve never found the need to do this.
For wrinkles, you can let your jackets hang for a day or two. Heavy wools and linens should naturally relax over time. If you still need to sharpen them up, try using a garment steamer, but be careful to stay away from the seams and don’t go too wild with the device. Otherwise, you can ruin the stitching and take out the shape. Afterwards, hang your jacket on a hanger with flared shoulders. The Hanger Project makes the nicest ones I know of. The width and curvature of their shoulders most closely imitate a man’s natural shoulders, which is what you want. If you can’t afford them, however, Wooden Hanger USA sells some very nice options starting at $7.
If your jackets are finely constructed, you may also want to send them in for a hand press once a year or so. This will help restore their shape, which is often what gives a suit its flattering silhouette. Note, a hand press is different from a machine press. Most places will offer the second, even if they advertise it as the first. Machine presses take shape out; hand presses put shape in. If you can’t find someone in your area who can give you this service, you can send your jackets to Rave Fabricare.
For trousers, I recommend a similar treatment. Wools and linens go to the dry cleaner, though perhaps a bit more frequently than jackets since they tend to get dirty quicker. Still, we’re only talking about three or four times a year. You can brush out most of the dirt each day with a garment brush. Casual cotton chinos can be machine washed, though I also send my nicer, dressier cotton trousers to the dry cleaner. That includes dress chinos, moleskins, and corduroys. 
For sweaters, some cotton sweatshirts can be machine washed, but most sweaters will be better served by an at-home hand wash. This is a rather simple process, and Jesse covered the how-to two years ago in this post.
For shirts, pre-treat any stained collars and cuffs with Octagon Bar Soap. Soak your shirt in some water, rub the soap in, and scrub with a fingernail brush. Repeat until you see the dirt rings start fading. Then roll up your wet, soapy shirt and leave it overnight in a plastic bag so that it remains moist. The next day, just launder as usual. Alex Kabbaz, one of America’s best custom shirt makers, recommends Tide’s Unscented Original. I use Ecover, and mix in some Oxiclean if my shirts are extra dirty (as per Jesse’s recommendation). To protect the mother of pearl buttons, I sometimes button my shirts and turn them inside out.
For machine washes, you should always try to use the cold water, gentle cycle, but if you really need to treat stains, hot water for whites and warm water for light colors is often acceptable. Dark colors, however, should always be washed with cold water. After the wash, I strongly recommend hang drying. Machine dryers can take the humidity out of your fabrics, leaving them dull and brittle, which will eventually give them a premature worn-out appearance.
As always, make sure you always consult your garment’s care label for more instructions. They’ll usually at least tell you the bare minimum you have to adhere to.
(Photo from The Trad) 

Proper Garment Care

Buying high quality garments, with the assumption that they’re built to last, only means something if you know how to take proper care of your clothes. Stuffing them into overcrowded closets or sending them off to bad dry cleaners will shorten their life considerably. Fortunately, taking care of your clothes doesn’t require much work. You can accomplish it with just a few minutes a day.

For suits and sport coats, dry cleaning twice a year should be sufficient for anything that’s only worn once or twice a week. Sending it in more often than that will shorten the life and ruin the look of a jacket. That’s because most dry cleaners use harsh chemicals and give hard pressings. You can, of course, use a high-quality cleaner that doesn’t employ such methods, but those will cost you more money.

For every day care, brush the dirt out with a soft bristled garment brush. This will prevent them from getting deep into the fabric, where friction can damage the fibers. It’ll also knock out any food bits that may attract moths. You can buy garment brushes from Kent, though sometimes slightly imperfect ones can be had for a bit cheaper on eBay. For something truly nice, Linkson Jack has some brushes backed with oxhorn.

To begin brushing, wipe down any large, unfinished wooden table, and lay your garment down on the surface. A polished table may be too slippery, so if you only have one of those, put your garment on a blanket or strip of felt so it won’t slide about. If this doesn’t work, you can also brush your garment while it’s on a hanger (though I find it’s harder to really bring some pressure to bear on the brush this way). While brushing, use short flicks of the wrist and always brush in the same direction. Never, ever scrub. You can first brush against the nap to remove any dirt, and then down the nap for a smooth finish. Some people even recommend dampening the brush with some water first for a bit of a freshening up, though I’ve never found the need to do this.

For wrinkles, you can let your jackets hang for a day or two. Heavy wools and linens should naturally relax over time. If you still need to sharpen them up, try using a garment steamer, but be careful to stay away from the seams and don’t go too wild with the device. Otherwise, you can ruin the stitching and take out the shape. Afterwards, hang your jacket on a hanger with flared shoulders. The Hanger Project makes the nicest ones I know of. The width and curvature of their shoulders most closely imitate a man’s natural shoulders, which is what you want. If you can’t afford them, however, Wooden Hanger USA sells some very nice options starting at $7.

If your jackets are finely constructed, you may also want to send them in for a hand press once a year or so. This will help restore their shape, which is often what gives a suit its flattering silhouette. Note, a hand press is different from a machine press. Most places will offer the second, even if they advertise it as the first. Machine presses take shape out; hand presses put shape in. If you can’t find someone in your area who can give you this service, you can send your jackets to Rave Fabricare.

For trousers, I recommend a similar treatment. Wools and linens go to the dry cleaner, though perhaps a bit more frequently than jackets since they tend to get dirty quicker. Still, we’re only talking about three or four times a year. You can brush out most of the dirt each day with a garment brush. Casual cotton chinos can be machine washed, though I also send my nicer, dressier cotton trousers to the dry cleaner. That includes dress chinos, moleskins, and corduroys. 

For sweaters, some cotton sweatshirts can be machine washed, but most sweaters will be better served by an at-home hand wash. This is a rather simple process, and Jesse covered the how-to two years ago in this post.

For shirts, pre-treat any stained collars and cuffs with Octagon Bar Soap. Soak your shirt in some water, rub the soap in, and scrub with a fingernail brush. Repeat until you see the dirt rings start fading. Then roll up your wet, soapy shirt and leave it overnight in a plastic bag so that it remains moist. The next day, just launder as usual. Alex Kabbaz, one of America’s best custom shirt makers, recommends Tide’s Unscented Original. I use Ecover, and mix in some Oxiclean if my shirts are extra dirty (as per Jesse’s recommendation). To protect the mother of pearl buttons, I sometimes button my shirts and turn them inside out.

For machine washes, you should always try to use the cold water, gentle cycle, but if you really need to treat stains, hot water for whites and warm water for light colors is often acceptable. Dark colors, however, should always be washed with cold water. After the wash, I strongly recommend hang drying. Machine dryers can take the humidity out of your fabrics, leaving them dull and brittle, which will eventually give them a premature worn-out appearance.

As always, make sure you always consult your garment’s care label for more instructions. They’ll usually at least tell you the bare minimum you have to adhere to.

(Photo from The Trad

It’s On Sale: Unionmade Goods

The San Francisco-based store, Unionmade, started their semi-annual sale today and one of the most notable things are the wide variety of wool sweaters in an array of hues. Check out the selection of sweaters from Harley of Scotland ($90), Howlin’ by Morrison ($109), S.N.S. Herning ($120) and Beams+ ($131). Any of these would go well over a button-down collared shirt and under a cool-weather casual jacket with jeans and boots. As with all end-of-season sales, sizes available are limited. 

-Kiyoshi