One of my favorite ways to waste time is browsing through militaria and surplus shops online. These days, your average Army-Navy store doesn’t have much actual surplus, but there are still some shops on the web which cater to enthusiasts and sell both actual old stuff and careful reproductions.

A few choice items I’ve run across lately (L to R, top to bottom), besides my old favorites, Gurkha shorts:

Ghurka Trousers

The older I get, the more I’ve come to accept that I have a fairly boring sense of personal style. Shetland sweaters with button down shirts and chinos; soft shouldered sport coats with flat fronted wool trousers and blue dress shirts; and more recently, white t-shirts, dark leather jackets, and a pair of really worn jeans. Every once in a while, however, I get the urge to experiment more. This past week, I’ve been thinking about Ghurka trousers for summer.

Ghurka trousers come from that period of history when the British occupied North Africa and India - a time that left a very uncomfortable political legacy, but seems to be a continual source of style inspiration for books, movies, and clothing. They’re typically high waisted, made from a heavy cotton drill, and characterized by a unique self-belting design. That belted rigging allowed British officers to easily cinch their trousers as they lost weight — an issue I definitely haven’t experienced as I’ve entered my 30s. Still, I find their unique style very appealing. They draw to mind all those beautiful safari images in old Banana Republic catalogs, before Banana Republic was bought out by The Gap.

A couple of weeks ago, StyleForum member TTO posted a photo of himself in some Ghurka trousers, which reminded me of a very military-inspired look Five once posted at Superfuture, which in turn reminded me of a photo of Ralph Fiennes in Anderson & Sheppard’s vanity book. Granted, none of these are looks I could see myself wearing, but these photos do inspire. 

Ghurka pants have been offered in the past by Japanese workwear brands such as Engineered Garments and Haversack, as well as American “dad outfitters” such as J. Peterman and JL Powell. Pete also wrote about them when he covered Whillas and Gunn for StyleForum, and I’ve seen old Ralph Lauren versions on eBay. Some of these are still being offered; some not. I noticed that J. Peterman, for example, still sells theirs.

TTO tells me he’s tried the ones from Silverman’s and What Price Glory. The Silvermans are simpler and less cluttered, as they have no extra pockets or button-down belt loops. They’re also sturdier in their fabric and stitching. The downside is that they’re rather short (measuring a ~29.5” inseam on a pair of 36” waisted trousers). This is probably historically correct, as British officers most likely wore these with gaiters and boots, but they might be too short for the modern style enthusiast. What Price Glory’s pants are longer, but they come with a bit more detailing, which may or may not be to people’s taste.

The other option are Ghurka shorts, which Jesse has written extensively about. Engineered Garments and Go Fujito have made versions of them in the past, and styled them in ways I wish I was cool enough to pull off.

(Photos via Giant Beard, Five, and To the Manner Born)

The Chunky Turtleneck

A friend of mine recently asked me if I knew of a good source for chunky turtlenecks, which reminded of how much I like wearing mine. The one I bought is a cream-colored cable knit with a thickly ribbed, fold down collar. I think it pairs well with heavy outerwear pieces, such as duffle coats, waxed cotton jackets, and pea coats. Ideally, you would wear it when it’s bitterly cold outside, so that it’s more of a functional garment than just a fashion piece.

The best chunky turtleneck I know of is made by Inis Meain, a traditional knitwear maker based on one of the Aran Islands outside the coast of Ireland. Their sweaters are exceptional, but admittedly also very expensive. You can purchase one of their Aran turtleneck designs from Axel’s. For other options in this price tier, consider the offerings by Malo, Sandro, and E. Tautz. Note that Barney’s and Mr. Porter will hold 75%+ off sales at the end of the season (though, that’ll still leave many of those pieces in the “very-expensive” range).

For something more affordable, there’s S.E.H. Kelly’s moss-stitch knit and Ralph Lauren’s cable knit (the latter of the two is having a pretty big sale right now, incidentally, but unfortunately not on that sweater). Fisherman Out of Ireland also has a cabled and ribbed turtleneck available for $150, which you can buy from them through email. I’ve never handled any of their products, but reviews online seem to be good.

Finally, for lack of a better descriptor, there are slightly more rugged options that stay true to the sweater’s workwear origins. Orvis, North Sea Clothing Company, Nigel Cabourn, Aero Leathers, What Price Glory, and Freeman’s Sporting Club may have better bets if you’re likely to wear your turtleneck with things such as jeans and workwear jackets.

A word of caution before you proceed: though Tom Junod once had a great article in GQ about how his father religiously believed that turtlenecks were the most flattering thing a man can wear, I think they really should only be worn by men with defined jawlines. It doesn’t have to be model-esque, but a man with a weak jawline or flabby chin will only look worse when a turtleneck covers up whatever little definition he has. Best to be honest with yourself before you splurge on an expensive sweater. 

Speaking of the military recreationists at What Price Glory, I’m enamored of this heavy wool cardigan. At $75, you can hardly go wrong.

Speaking of the military recreationists at What Price Glory, I’m enamored of this heavy wool cardigan. At $75, you can hardly go wrong.

This beautiful turtleneck is the Mariner Sweater by Freeman’s Sporting Club. It’s 88% shetland, 12% cashmere, which sounds nice for the neck. The description helpfully offers “THIS IS NOT A FASHION SWEATER!” and “THIS IS A WINTER TOOL!” Actually, while I might disagree with the former statement, I agree with its sentiment - this looks like a very, very high quality piece, and while it may be fashionable, it’s a genuinely classic style. The Freeman’s pieces I have do not scrimp on quality, and this looks to be no exception. I should hope not, for $387.
If you like the idea of a sweater like this, but can’t afford the chunk of change it costs, try this reproduction WWII Submariner Sweater from What Price Glory? It’s all wool, and they have a good rep, but it isn’t knit in New York City. That said, it does cost more than $300 less.
Either way, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. After all, this is A WINTER TOOL.
via Selectism

This beautiful turtleneck is the Mariner Sweater by Freeman’s Sporting Club. It’s 88% shetland, 12% cashmere, which sounds nice for the neck. The description helpfully offers “THIS IS NOT A FASHION SWEATER!” and “THIS IS A WINTER TOOL!” Actually, while I might disagree with the former statement, I agree with its sentiment - this looks like a very, very high quality piece, and while it may be fashionable, it’s a genuinely classic style. The Freeman’s pieces I have do not scrimp on quality, and this looks to be no exception. I should hope not, for $387.

If you like the idea of a sweater like this, but can’t afford the chunk of change it costs, try this reproduction WWII Submariner Sweater from What Price Glory? It’s all wool, and they have a good rep, but it isn’t knit in New York City. That said, it does cost more than $300 less.

Either way, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. After all, this is A WINTER TOOL.

via Selectism

I was reminded today by a mention in Valet of What Price Glory, a really remarkable military surplus and reproduction shop that caters to militaria nerds.  I first learned of it through one of my favorite blogs, Hollister Hovey, when she put together a great collection of items from the site a few months ago.

I started browsing the site and was inspired to make a little collection of my own.  You can see it online, from the Submarine Sweater to the amazing rain cape.  Do some browsing of your own, and you’ll find some remarkable stuff at very reasonable prices.  Remember that the proportions of military gear tend to be generous relative to current fashion, so things may need a nip and tuck to be au courant, but this is tough stuff to find at any price, much less at prices so affordable.