Real People: Intent vs. Practice

Nearly every piece of clothing we own was designed as part of someone’s vision, whether that vision was personal or creative or focus-grouped for impact on the mass market; prep pastiche, minimalist performance, louche Italian cafewear, what have you. Those visions are are articulated through runway shows, catalog photography, in-store merchandising, astroturf marketing; whatever. It’s tempting to buy into these visions entirely, and acquire a lot of one line (or vintage era, or subcultural dress code) in order to be coherent. These unified worldviews can also be intimidating, sometimes intentionally so, implying that a certain level of commitment is required to wear, for example, a designer leather jacket.

I think that’s unrealistic and ridiculous.

Brian in DC provides a good example of building a coherent wardrobe from seemingly disparate sources. He wears some relatively accessible basics (like Uniqlo and Steven Alan), with more unusual, special items, like his Rick Owens leather jacket or a wool Veronique Branquinho coat (Branquinho’s label hasn’t made menswear in a few years). He doesn’t shy away from heritage-influenced brands either, like Nigel Cabourn or Folk. Runway shows don’t usually say “comfortably understated” to me, but Brian’s photos do. It helps that Brian seems to know what he likes: quiet colors, refined fabrics, mixed textures, and fitted but not tight silhouettes. The outfits pictured above are a template for modern casual wear, and Brian’s approach of finding what works for him from perhaps unexpected sources is a model for filling and refreshing your closet.

-Pete

Staying Warm at Home
I recently moved into a new apartment, and like most homes in the Bay Area, the insulation is terrible. Heat leaks through the windows and drafts come in from under the doors. It doesn’t get too cold here in the Bay, but it can get pretty dang chilly.
Rather than run my heating bill up, I often just rely on some simple at-home layering. Wool long johns can be put underneath a pair of pajamas to give some extra warmth, and a wool sweater can be thrown over whatever else I might wear at home. My favorite long johns are by Smartwool, who produces them in both light- and mid-weights (I prefer the latter). You can usually find them on sale at Camp Mor, Sierra Trading Post, or REI. Icebreakers is also pretty nice, though from my experience less warm than Smartwool, and I’ve heard good things about Uniqlo’s Heattech.
For sweaters, cashmere is obviously the warmest, but unless you’re going second-hand, the good stuff can be exorbitantly expensive. Cotton is pretty useless since it doesn’t retain heat all that well. Best, I think, are really thick sweaters made from lambswool or merino, which will have the kind of loft necessary to keep you comfortable. I personally wear a chunky, 6-ply lambswool cardigan from Ovadia and Sons (they’re having a sale right now, but sadly this season’s cardigan is not included). There similar pieces by Scott & Charters, Ben Silver, O’Connell’s, and Inverallan (the last of which Pete recently wrote about). Of course, you don’t have to wear a cardigan. Any style will do, so long as the sweater is thick.
In the mornings, I usually wear a pair of long johns and some pajamas, but once I come home at night, I’m usually in a pair of jeans, some at-home slippers, a button up shirt, and my chunky cardigan. It’s cheaper in the long-run than running the heater, more environmentally friendly, and frankly a good excuse to buy nice clothing.
And for those of us with significant others, sometimes excuses are necessary. 

Staying Warm at Home

I recently moved into a new apartment, and like most homes in the Bay Area, the insulation is terrible. Heat leaks through the windows and drafts come in from under the doors. It doesn’t get too cold here in the Bay, but it can get pretty dang chilly.

Rather than run my heating bill up, I often just rely on some simple at-home layering. Wool long johns can be put underneath a pair of pajamas to give some extra warmth, and a wool sweater can be thrown over whatever else I might wear at home. My favorite long johns are by Smartwool, who produces them in both light- and mid-weights (I prefer the latter). You can usually find them on sale at Camp MorSierra Trading Post, or REI. Icebreakers is also pretty nice, though from my experience less warm than Smartwool, and I’ve heard good things about Uniqlo’s Heattech.

For sweaters, cashmere is obviously the warmest, but unless you’re going second-hand, the good stuff can be exorbitantly expensive. Cotton is pretty useless since it doesn’t retain heat all that well. Best, I think, are really thick sweaters made from lambswool or merino, which will have the kind of loft necessary to keep you comfortable. I personally wear a chunky, 6-ply lambswool cardigan from Ovadia and Sons (they’re having a sale right now, but sadly this season’s cardigan is not included). There similar pieces by Scott & Charters, Ben Silver, O’Connell’s, and Inverallan (the last of which Pete recently wrote about). Of course, you don’t have to wear a cardigan. Any style will do, so long as the sweater is thick.

In the mornings, I usually wear a pair of long johns and some pajamas, but once I come home at night, I’m usually in a pair of jeans, some at-home slippers, a button up shirt, and my chunky cardigan. It’s cheaper in the long-run than running the heater, more environmentally friendly, and frankly a good excuse to buy nice clothing.

And for those of us with significant others, sometimes excuses are necessary. 

Getting a Good Grey Sweatshirt
Every fall season, I can’t seem to stop myself from buying more sweaters, but the one I keep coming back to, year after year, is my reliable grey sweatshirt. For casual use with chinos and jeans, I can’t think of anything better. It’s low-maintenance, sporty, and if the fit is right, can look pretty great.
My favorite sweatshirts are made by Japanese companies such as Buzz Rickson, The Real McCoys, and Strike Gold. These brands specialize in mid-century reproductions, and often use older production techniques (these techniques don’t lend any special advantage, they’re just neat if you care about such things). They’re also thicker and denser than most other sweatshirts on the market. You can find them at them at Self Edge, Blue in Green, Superdenim, and Bench & Loom.
Other really great companies include Archival Clothing, WTAPs, Levis Vintage Clothing, Sunspel, Reigning Champ, Battenwear, Loopwheeler, RRL, and Velva Sheen. Many of these will have their own unique selling points. Archival Clothing, for example, has theirs made in Portland, Oregon by the old-school American manufacturer Columbiaknit, while Levis Vintage Clothing often draws from Levis’ extensive in-house archive. These models tend to be quite expensive, however, so if you want something more affordable, check out Champion, American Giant, Land’s End, Uniqlo, and J. Crew. The last three hold sales pretty often, so you can knock the price down further if you exercise some patience.
Naturally, many people may be wondering what’s the difference between a ~$150 sweatshirt and something that you can find for ~$50. Some of this will be in the detailing, such as some having loopwheeled constructions (which again, are just old ways of making these garments). Some of this will be in the quality of the materials. My Buzz Rickson sweatshirt, for example, is nice and dense, and doesn’t stretch out as easily as the one I bought from J. Crew. It also has a “vintage” fit that I like, which is slightly boxy and short. I think it goes well with the kind of boots, jeans, and jackets I like to wear. 
In the end, however, you just need to find something that fits you well, and works for your budget. Not all sweatshirts have to be dumpy, and not all nice ones have to cost an arm and a leg. If you find that your sweatshirt stretches out easily, just throw it in the wash and put it in the dryer after each wear. It should shrink back to shape. The color might dull from being in the dryer so much, but … it’s a sweatshirt. These look better beat up. 

Getting a Good Grey Sweatshirt

Every fall season, I can’t seem to stop myself from buying more sweaters, but the one I keep coming back to, year after year, is my reliable grey sweatshirt. For casual use with chinos and jeans, I can’t think of anything better. It’s low-maintenance, sporty, and if the fit is right, can look pretty great.

My favorite sweatshirts are made by Japanese companies such as Buzz Rickson, The Real McCoys, and Strike Gold. These brands specialize in mid-century reproductions, and often use older production techniques (these techniques don’t lend any special advantage, they’re just neat if you care about such things). They’re also thicker and denser than most other sweatshirts on the market. You can find them at them at Self Edge, Blue in Green, Superdenim, and Bench & Loom.

Other really great companies include Archival Clothing, WTAPs, Levis Vintage Clothing, Sunspel, Reigning Champ, Battenwear, Loopwheeler, RRL, and Velva Sheen. Many of these will have their own unique selling points. Archival Clothing, for example, has theirs made in Portland, Oregon by the old-school American manufacturer Columbiaknit, while Levis Vintage Clothing often draws from Levis’ extensive in-house archive. These models tend to be quite expensive, however, so if you want something more affordable, check out Champion, American Giant, Land’s EndUniqlo, and J. Crew. The last three hold sales pretty often, so you can knock the price down further if you exercise some patience.

Naturally, many people may be wondering what’s the difference between a ~$150 sweatshirt and something that you can find for ~$50. Some of this will be in the detailing, such as some having loopwheeled constructions (which again, are just old ways of making these garments). Some of this will be in the quality of the materials. My Buzz Rickson sweatshirt, for example, is nice and dense, and doesn’t stretch out as easily as the one I bought from J. Crew. It also has a “vintage” fit that I like, which is slightly boxy and short. I think it goes well with the kind of boots, jeans, and jackets I like to wear. 

In the end, however, you just need to find something that fits you well, and works for your budget. Not all sweatshirts have to be dumpy, and not all nice ones have to cost an arm and a leg. If you find that your sweatshirt stretches out easily, just throw it in the wash and put it in the dryer after each wear. It should shrink back to shape. The color might dull from being in the dryer so much, but … it’s a sweatshirt. These look better beat up. 

Lunch with the FT eats with Tadashi Yanai, owner of Fast Retailing and Uniqlo. It’s a slightly surprising interview in which both the FT editor, David Pilling, and Yanai are uncommonly frank. They discuss labor practices, Uniqlo’s potentially self-dectructive ubiquity, and globalization. 
“‘Some European people tend to believe that these labourers are being exploited and deprived of their human rights and that, therefore, what they need is a strong union,’ he says, waving away imaginary agitators. ‘But in my opinion, unless each one of those labourers and all the people in Bangladesh can stand on their own feet they will have no future.’”
-Pete

Lunch with the FT eats with Tadashi Yanai, owner of Fast Retailing and Uniqlo. It’s a slightly surprising interview in which both the FT editor, David Pilling, and Yanai are uncommonly frank. They discuss labor practices, Uniqlo’s potentially self-dectructive ubiquity, and globalization.

“‘Some European people tend to believe that these labourers are being exploited and deprived of their human rights and that, therefore, what they need is a strong union,’ he says, waving away imaginary agitators. ‘But in my opinion, unless each one of those labourers and all the people in Bangladesh can stand on their own feet they will have no future.’”

-Pete

Hanes Crew Socks
As I’ve gotten older and my style has matured, I’ve found that my choices in socks have become really basic. For dress trousers and chinos, I usually wear solid navy over-the-calf socks made from either cotton or wool blends (cotton if it’s hot; wool otherwise). I really like the ones from Marcoliani and Dapper Classics, but Bresciani is also nice (though, from my experience, some of their patterned socks are a bit more delicate than other brands’). For something more affordable, you can get Pantherellas at 35-40% off using one of Sierra Trading Post’s DealFlyer coupons, or just pick up some basic Gold Toes.
Dress socks are a bit strange to wear with jeans though, so for those times, I wear simple, grey, cotton crew socks. In the past, I’ve bought mine from Uniqlo and Land’s End. I like Uniqlo’s slightly more “retro” designs, but like Jesse, have found Land’s End to hold up a bit better (Uniqlo’s are cheaper, but they tend to fuzz up in the wash).
On a whim earlier this year, I picked up some of these basic grey crew socks from Hanes. They often run 25%-off promotional specials if you buy over a certain amount, which made these socks, coupled with some much needed white Beefy Tees, cheap enough to try.
I’ve been wearing them pretty hard and consistently this past summer, and I’m really impressed with how well they’ve held up. No fuzzing, no loss in elasticity, and they stay up on my leg for the most part throughout the day. Best of all, they cost less than $2 a pair. These are nice affordable basics in the most reasonable definition of affordable. That’s much appreciated given how expensive other “affordable basics” are nowadays.

Hanes Crew Socks

As I’ve gotten older and my style has matured, I’ve found that my choices in socks have become really basic. For dress trousers and chinos, I usually wear solid navy over-the-calf socks made from either cotton or wool blends (cotton if it’s hot; wool otherwise). I really like the ones from Marcoliani and Dapper Classics, but Bresciani is also nice (though, from my experience, some of their patterned socks are a bit more delicate than other brands’). For something more affordable, you can get Pantherellas at 35-40% off using one of Sierra Trading Post’s DealFlyer coupons, or just pick up some basic Gold Toes.

Dress socks are a bit strange to wear with jeans though, so for those times, I wear simple, grey, cotton crew socks. In the past, I’ve bought mine from Uniqlo and Land’s End. I like Uniqlo’s slightly more “retro” designs, but like Jesse, have found Land’s End to hold up a bit better (Uniqlo’s are cheaper, but they tend to fuzz up in the wash).

On a whim earlier this year, I picked up some of these basic grey crew socks from Hanes. They often run 25%-off promotional specials if you buy over a certain amount, which made these socks, coupled with some much needed white Beefy Tees, cheap enough to try.

I’ve been wearing them pretty hard and consistently this past summer, and I’m really impressed with how well they’ve held up. No fuzzing, no loss in elasticity, and they stay up on my leg for the most part throughout the day. Best of all, they cost less than $2 a pair. These are nice affordable basics in the most reasonable definition of affordable. That’s much appreciated given how expensive other “affordable basics” are nowadays.

The Simplest Casual Look
Although I enjoy wearing tailored clothes on weekdays, I dress pretty casually on weekends. Lately, that’s meant dark blue jeans with a clean white t-shirt and a nice, brown leather jacket. For shoes, I wear either sneakers or boots, and if it’s cold outside, I layer with a heathered grey sweatshirt. I find it’s one of the simplest, easiest looks you can put together, and depending on your lifestyle, very well suited to casual weekend activities with friends.
For jeans, I really like 3sixteen’s SL-100x model. It’s a slim straight-legged cut made from a medium-weight selvedge denim that doesn’t bag as easily as other brands’. I’ve also been admiring their premium 3sixteen+ line, as well as Flat Heads 3009s and Iron Heart 634s. Those are made from unsanforized denim, which Kiya at Self Edge tells us will yield more interesting fades over time (without the need to forgo washing, thankfully). For something more affordable, check out Albam, Gustin, and Uniqlo’s Made in Japan offerings.
For the t-shirt, I stick to a pretty basic Hanes’ Beefy-T (I get the one with a chest pocket). It has a stoutness that I think works well with this kind of look, and it can be easily found on sale for about $6. Jesse has also recommended Costco’s Kirkland t-shirts for this sort of thing. For something thinner and stretchier, check out Alternative Apparel, which Jesse does bulk orders on every summer, and American Apparel. Levis also has a nice model that’s in between the toughness of Hanes and the fineness of the last two brands.
Finally, there’s the leather jacket. These can get astoundingly expensive, but it’s worth buying the best you can afford. Just as you can get away with a pair of cheap chinos and dress shirt if you have a really nice fitting sport coat, you can skimp on the jeans and t-shirt if you have a really beautiful leather jacket. 
Some of the best makers here include Good Wear Leather, Bill Kelso, The Real McCoys, Eastman, and Aero. These brands specialize in making reproductions of vintage flight jackets, and they make them as tough as the originals. Temple of Jawnz is also a favorite among style enthusiasts. They’re sadly closing up shop in a month, but are doing one last call for custom orders. 
The price points for any of these is pretty expensive. We’re talking $750 to $1,500 for a jacket, and some even have waiting lists that stretch back a year. As usual, a more affordable option would be trawling eBay and vintage stores, but what you save in money, you’ll spend in time. You could also go for a similarly rugged jacket style, but one not made from leather. One of my favorite stores, Bench & Loom, has some really handsome pieces, and they’re holding a 20% off sale with the code SPRING20. The code is good for both sweaters and outerwear, with some brands being excluded (Mister Freedom, Schott NYC, Buzz Rickson, and The Real McCoys).

The Simplest Casual Look

Although I enjoy wearing tailored clothes on weekdays, I dress pretty casually on weekends. Lately, that’s meant dark blue jeans with a clean white t-shirt and a nice, brown leather jacket. For shoes, I wear either sneakers or boots, and if it’s cold outside, I layer with a heathered grey sweatshirt. I find it’s one of the simplest, easiest looks you can put together, and depending on your lifestyle, very well suited to casual weekend activities with friends.

For jeans, I really like 3sixteen’s SL-100x model. It’s a slim straight-legged cut made from a medium-weight selvedge denim that doesn’t bag as easily as other brands’. I’ve also been admiring their premium 3sixteen+ line, as well as Flat Heads 3009s and Iron Heart 634s. Those are made from unsanforized denim, which Kiya at Self Edge tells us will yield more interesting fades over time (without the need to forgo washing, thankfully). For something more affordable, check out Albam, Gustin, and Uniqlo’s Made in Japan offerings.

For the t-shirt, I stick to a pretty basic Hanes’ Beefy-T (I get the one with a chest pocket). It has a stoutness that I think works well with this kind of look, and it can be easily found on sale for about $6. Jesse has also recommended Costco’s Kirkland t-shirts for this sort of thing. For something thinner and stretchier, check out Alternative Apparel, which Jesse does bulk orders on every summer, and American Apparel. Levis also has a nice model that’s in between the toughness of Hanes and the fineness of the last two brands.

Finally, there’s the leather jacket. These can get astoundingly expensive, but it’s worth buying the best you can afford. Just as you can get away with a pair of cheap chinos and dress shirt if you have a really nice fitting sport coat, you can skimp on the jeans and t-shirt if you have a really beautiful leather jacket. 

Some of the best makers here include Good Wear Leather, Bill Kelso, The Real McCoys, Eastman, and Aero. These brands specialize in making reproductions of vintage flight jackets, and they make them as tough as the originals. Temple of Jawnz is also a favorite among style enthusiasts. They’re sadly closing up shop in a month, but are doing one last call for custom orders

The price points for any of these is pretty expensive. We’re talking $750 to $1,500 for a jacket, and some even have waiting lists that stretch back a year. As usual, a more affordable option would be trawling eBay and vintage stores, but what you save in money, you’ll spend in time. You could also go for a similarly rugged jacket style, but one not made from leather. One of my favorite stores, Bench & Loom, has some really handsome pieces, and they’re holding a 20% off sale with the code SPRING20. The code is good for both sweaters and outerwear, with some brands being excluded (Mister Freedom, Schott NYC, Buzz Rickson, and The Real McCoys).

Four Socks for Summer

For much of the year, I rely on navy wool over-the-calf socks. As many readers will know, I favor over-the-calfs because they stay up on your leg, thus ensuring your bare calves won’t be exposed when you sit down. I also find navy is a slightly more interesting color than black, and can be successfully paired with almost any kind of trouser.

In the summer months, however, long wool socks can wear a bit too warm, so I turn to other options. The first are still navy over-the-calfs, but instead of wool, I’ve come to really appreciate the highly breathable cotton ones sold by Dapper Classics. They sent me a few pairs for free last year and I’m really pleased with how well they’ve held up. Like with many high-end socks, however, I’ve found that solid colors hold up much better than patterns. For whatever reason, high end patterned socks seem to fuzz up and fall apart more easily in the wash. Still, their solid navy is made with a very durable, breathable weave, and you can feel the air whiff by when you put these on and wiggle your feet.

Another popular option is no-show socks, which Jesse has written about before. They’re essentially a short cotton sock that allows you get the look of being sockless without actually having to be so. In addition to the ones Jesse named, 2(x)ist also just released a collection of no-show socks. I have no experience with them, though I’m told they have a rubber grip at the heel that helps prevent slippage. Jesse also reviewed the Mocc Socks he named in his original article, and liked them.

I tried no-show socks a couple of years ago and sadly found they just didn’t work for me. Mine had rubber grips as well, but they still kept slipping off. So I’ve turned to terry cloth insoles from Aldos, which you can slip into your shoes whenever you want to go sockless. If your feet get sweaty easily, sprinkle in a little Gold Bond powder to keep them cool and dry. 

Finally, summer being what it is, I like to wear sneakers a bit more often on the weekends. Dress socks are a bit weird with sneakers, so I pair mine with more casual cotton socks. Like Jesse, mine are from Lands’ End and Uniqlo. I’ve found the ones from Lands’ End hold up a bit better, though I like Uniqlo’s designs (mine are these in grey). Get whichever ones you like best, though I recommend staying away from the white ones. Those just look too much like athletic tube socks, which in my opinion, should be worn only when you’re exercising.  

The OCBD Shirt Series, Part VI: Our Recommendations
After reviewing so many companies, we thought it’d be useful to say which we recommend the most. Obviously much depends on your taste, build, and budget. The great thing about having such a varied market, however, is that there’s almost something for everyone. 
If you want something traditional, I recommend either Mercer & Sons or O’Connell’s. Mercer & Sons has a great oxford cloth that’s a bit more variegated in color and nubby in texture than the standard stuff you’d find at Brooks Brothers or J. Press. They also have a fully sized, unlined collar that gives the kind of wrinkly, carefree roll that enthusiasts find so charming. The only problem is that Mercer & Sons’ shirts fit very, very full, so you if you use them, you may have to turn to their made-to-order service. That’s where you can size the body down two and taper it further by two or four inches. To find out if this might work for you, email Mercer and ask for their shirt measurements.
The other exceptional option is O’Connell’s, who has one of the best button down collars I’ve seen. Ethan there tells me that they’re also working on a new model based on mid-century Brooks Brothers designs. That should be released sometime by the end of this year, and we’ll be certain to announce it when it does.
For something slim fitting, I really like Kamakura. They make two fits – a regular cut and a slim fit. I suspect the slim fit is just the regular cut, but with darts in the back. Admittedly, darts look a bit strange to me on an OCBD, but the body of the shirt still fits fairly well, so long as you have a slim stomach. Either way, both the regular and slim fits have great looking collars. See it worn here at Ivy Style.
You may also want to consider Brooks Brothers’ slim and extra-slim fits once they go on sale. I like Kamakura’s shirts better, but on the downside, they never go on sale. Brooks Brothers’ oxfords, on the other hand, regularly get discounted to about $50 a pop.
Conversely, if money is no object, you can check out Harry Stedman, who makes a pretty nice design from a hodgepodge of classic American details. Just note that they fit pretty slim, so if you’re a regular 36, you may want to opt for a 38 or simply a size small.  
If you want something dressy, try Ledbury. Theirs isn’t a conventional OCBD like the others we’ve covered here. The fabric is a smoother Thomas Mason cloth that’s somewhat reminiscent of Royal Oxford, and the shirt doesn’t have details such as box pleats or chest pockets. All in all, it’s just a dressier looking shirt, which can be good depending on what you’re going for. 
For something affordable, I like Land’s End’s tailored fit oxfords. Their fabric feels better than what Uniqlo and Lands’ End Canvas offers, and the fit isn’t as trendy. Though, depending on your style, Uniqlo and Lands’ End Canvas’ slimmer fits and shorter collars might work better for you. Either way, be sure to wait for sales. Lands’ End oxfords can be had for about $30 or $35, while Uniqlo and Lands’ End Canvas will often be sold for about $20.
Finally, if you want to get something custom made, I can recommend Cottonwork and Ascot Chang from personal experience. Cottonwork, as I’ve noted, does online made to measure, while Ascot Chang does full bespoke. The second tends to have an advantage in terms of executing an ideal fit, but the first will be considerably more affordable. Both do good work, however. You may also want to look into other custom shirtmakers, such as CEGO, Geneva, Anto, Dege & Skinner, and many others. Check StyleForum for recommendations, and perhaps acquaint yourself with the process of buying custom shirts through these posts I wrote last year. 

The OCBD Shirt Series, Part VI: Our Recommendations

After reviewing so many companies, we thought it’d be useful to say which we recommend the most. Obviously much depends on your taste, build, and budget. The great thing about having such a varied market, however, is that there’s almost something for everyone. 

If you want something traditional, I recommend either Mercer & Sons or O’Connell’s. Mercer & Sons has a great oxford cloth that’s a bit more variegated in color and nubby in texture than the standard stuff you’d find at Brooks Brothers or J. Press. They also have a fully sized, unlined collar that gives the kind of wrinkly, carefree roll that enthusiasts find so charming. The only problem is that Mercer & Sons’ shirts fit very, very full, so you if you use them, you may have to turn to their made-to-order service. That’s where you can size the body down two and taper it further by two or four inches. To find out if this might work for you, email Mercer and ask for their shirt measurements.

The other exceptional option is O’Connell’s, who has one of the best button down collars I’ve seen. Ethan there tells me that they’re also working on a new model based on mid-century Brooks Brothers designs. That should be released sometime by the end of this year, and we’ll be certain to announce it when it does.

For something slim fitting, I really like Kamakura. They make two fits – a regular cut and a slim fit. I suspect the slim fit is just the regular cut, but with darts in the back. Admittedly, darts look a bit strange to me on an OCBD, but the body of the shirt still fits fairly well, so long as you have a slim stomach. Either way, both the regular and slim fits have great looking collars. See it worn here at Ivy Style.

You may also want to consider Brooks Brothers’ slim and extra-slim fits once they go on sale. I like Kamakura’s shirts better, but on the downside, they never go on sale. Brooks Brothers’ oxfords, on the other hand, regularly get discounted to about $50 a pop.

Conversely, if money is no object, you can check out Harry Stedman, who makes a pretty nice design from a hodgepodge of classic American details. Just note that they fit pretty slim, so if you’re a regular 36, you may want to opt for a 38 or simply a size small.  

If you want something dressy, try Ledbury. Theirs isn’t a conventional OCBD like the others we’ve covered here. The fabric is a smoother Thomas Mason cloth that’s somewhat reminiscent of Royal Oxford, and the shirt doesn’t have details such as box pleats or chest pockets. All in all, it’s just a dressier looking shirt, which can be good depending on what you’re going for. 

For something affordable, I like Land’s End’s tailored fit oxfords. Their fabric feels better than what Uniqlo and Lands’ End Canvas offers, and the fit isn’t as trendy. Though, depending on your style, Uniqlo and Lands’ End Canvas’ slimmer fits and shorter collars might work better for you. Either way, be sure to wait for sales. Lands’ End oxfords can be had for about $30 or $35, while Uniqlo and Lands’ End Canvas will often be sold for about $20.

Finally, if you want to get something custom made, I can recommend Cottonwork and Ascot Chang from personal experience. Cottonwork, as I’ve noted, does online made to measure, while Ascot Chang does full bespoke. The second tends to have an advantage in terms of executing an ideal fit, but the first will be considerably more affordable. Both do good work, however. You may also want to look into other custom shirtmakers, such as CEGO, Geneva, Anto, Dege & Skinner, and many others. Check StyleForum for recommendations, and perhaps acquaint yourself with the process of buying custom shirts through these posts I wrote last year

Keeping Summer Simple

I don’t love shorts, but I wear them. Why? The truth is that I’m a San Francisco guy living in Los Angeles. My internal thermostat can handle temperatures from about 55 to 80, so when the weatherman says “high of 91” and I don’t have a meeting or a reason to wear something fancy, I reach for a pair of shorts. It’s tough to admit, but it’s true.

When it’s genuinely hot outside, I work hard to keep things simple and lightweight. Above is the kind of outfit I’m talking about. The shirt’s from J. Crew - right now they’re full retail, $89.50 (!), but I didn’t pay more than $30 for any of the linen in my closet. I usually buy them in-store late in the summer, when they’ve been marked down a couple times. When I see some plain white linen that works well for me, and it’s $23 a pop, I buy a few. I’ve got a couple with something going on, and a couple more in white and light blue solid. Perfect for every occasion.

The shorts are by Uniqlo, and they’re $30. These aren’t world beaters, quality-wise, but they’ll get you through a summer or two. Focus on basics - khaki is of course number one, but white’s surprisingly easy to wear when it’s genuinely summer out. Navy blue’s pretty useful, too.

The shoes are plain plimsolls - traditional canvas sneakers. I actually bought this pair a few weeks ago right after posting about them here, they’re Keds. Thirty five bucks out the door (though there are only a couple sizes left now). Plain white and navy are workhorses for summer sneakers. If they get dirty, don’t sweat it. If they get gross and ratty, replace them. Besides Keds, we like to recommend Converse and Superga. Keep those feet fresh with no-show socks like these.

There are other options, of course. I love the madras shorts and shirts from Lands’ End, for example. I’m a big ghurka shorts man, and if it’s really summery and I’m not walking too far, I wear espadrilles. But frankly, with a simple, coordinated outfit like this, you’ll have 99% of the other chumps beat. Heck, just by covering your toes you’ll have 90% beat. And trust me: no one wants to see your toes.

The OCBD Shirt Series, Part IV: The Reviews

We continue today with four more reviews of oxford cloth button downs. Again, basic features and measurements are given, so you can more objectively compare these shirts against each other. You can check part III of this series for our first set of reviews. 

Lands’ End Tailored Fit Hyde Park Oxford

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Size: 15 x 32

Retail price: $49

Features: Curved chest pocket; split yoke; seven-button front; box pleat at the back with a locker loop; collar made with a lightweight floating interlining

Measurements: Chest 20.75”; Waist 19”; Shoulders 18.25”; Length 32”; Collar tip 6.75cm

Impressions: Lands’ End’s clothes are often described on the menswear blogosphere as very full fitting and needing a lot of alterations. That hasn’t been my experience. At least for their “tailored fits,” I’ve found that their shirts and pants fit pretty slim. They’re not as slim as fashion-forward brands, but when you compare them to classic silhouettes, they’re decidedly slim nonetheless. 

Their tailored fit oxfords are no different. The body measurements compare well to yesterday’s slim fitting Kamakura, but here the armholes are a bit bigger. The collar tips are also shorter – too short to produce any roll, unfortunately, even when the collar is worn without a necktie. Additionally, while the oxford cloth they use is quite soft, it’s a bit flat and boring in its color, and less nubby in texture. If Lands’ End produced something with a more traditionally sized collar and used a fabric with more contrasting weft and warp yarns (to produce a bit more visual depth), I’d be a bigger fan. Still, $49 isn’t bad as a price, and aside from the bigger armholes, the body itself fits pretty well. Something to consider if you’re on a budget and don’t plan to wear this with a tie.

Ledbury’s Classic Fit Blue Oxford

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Size: 15

Retail price: $125

Features: No chest pocket; seven-button front; slightly lowered second button on the placket; side pleats on the back; off-centered button on the sleeve cuff; collar made with a lightweight fused interlining

Measurements: Chest 21”; Waist 20.25”; Shoulders 18”; Length 31.5”; Collar tip 7.5cm

Impressions: Our advertiser Ledbury also makes an OCBD, but theirs is a much different animal than the others we’re reviewing. To start, they’re using an oxford cloth from Thomas Mason. It has a very slight, almost imperceptible sheen, and feels much dressier than other oxfords. It somewhat reminds me of Royal Oxford, which is an oxford cloth you commonly see in Italy, but Ledbury’s is more subdued. Their design also doesn’t have a chest pocket at the front or box pleat at the back. All in all, it just feels like a much dressier oxford cloth button down. If you want something dressier and a touch more modern, Ledbury would be a good option. The one they sent me is in the classic fit, but they have a slimmer fitting version as well.

Harry Stedman

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Size: Blue sized small; green sized 36

Retail price: £100-£124 for non-EU customers (~$150-189)

Features: On the blue, there’s a six-button front; box pleat and locker loop at the back; button at the back of the collar; no sleeve gauntlet buttons, and no chest pocket. On the green, there’s a seven-button front; box pleat with no locker loop at the back; button at the back of the collar; a flapped chest pocket at the front; and no sleeve gauntlet buttons.

Measurements: On the blue: Chest 20.25”; Waist 18.25”; Shoulders 17.5”; Length 30”; Collar tip 7.5cm. On the green: Chest 20”; Waist 18.25”; Shoulders 16.5”; Length 30”; Collar tip 7.5cm

Impressions: UK-based Harry Stedman sent me two of their oxfords to review. The green oxford is sized by chest, and fits slimmer than the alpha sized blue oxford. Both fit very slim, however.

Each shirt has a hodgepodge of classic American details – flapped chest pockets (J. Press), locker loops (Gant), and yes, even a fully unlined collars (Brooks Brothers). I favor unlined collars – as they can be more carefree and comfortable – but Harry Stedman’s is perhaps a bit too short to take advantage of their construction. Unlike Mercer & Son’s, who has a much fuller collar, Harry Stedman’s collar leafs measure 7.5cm. It’s enough to produce a bit of a roll, but is still perhaps best worn without a tie.

I do wish these had more traditional proportions and came sized by collar and sleeve, but if you want a more fashion forward shirt, and have the money to spend, Harry Stedman’s would be something to consider.

Uniqlo’s Slim Fit Long Sleeved Oxford

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Size: Small

Retail price: $30

Features: Curved chest pocket; seven-button front; collar constructed with a lightweight floating interlining

Measurements: Chest 20.25”; Waist 18.25”; Shoulders 17”; Length 29”; Collar tip 6.5cm

Impressions: Uniqlo’s OCBD has the hallmarks of fast fashion. The fabric isn’t that great, the stitching is a bit rough, and the silhouette is very trendy. The shirt hugs close to the body (so much so that it feels like second skin) and it’s too short to properly tuck. The collar is also the shortest we’ve come across, so when you button it down, you get something closer to this instead of this.

Still, it’s $30, and currently on sale for $20. If you’re a student, on a tight budget, and are around people who wear trendier clothes, this could be the right buy for the time being. The shirt is difficult to tuck in and the collar is too skimpy to wear with a tie, but you may be unlikely to do either anyway. If these seem right or you, consider Lands’ End Canvas. A few years ago, those used to be discounted to ~$17 on clearance, which is about how much I think they’re worth, but I’m unsure if that’s still the case. 

On Monday, we’ll review our last set of shirts, which of course will include Brooks Brothers’ contemporary line.