Brown and Beyond

The navy blazer is commonly considered the most versatile kind of sport coat you can own, and for good reason. You can pair with almost any kind of trousers, and if made in the right weight, it can be worn year-round. Or, if your climate is less temperate than ours in California, consider getting something in a mid- to heavyweight wool (like a hopsack weave) for the fall and winter seasons, and then a lighter weight tropical wool for the spring and summer months.

Although this is pretty good, standard advice, I’ve long thought that the most useful color for sport coats is actually brown. Especially for this time of year. Think of dark brown or golden tan corduroys, or any kind of tweed — solid brown Shetlands, fuzzy herringbones or houndstooths, or any of the checks you see in the first photo above (which is of the Duke of Windsor’s closet, who was a very daring and dandy dresser, but also know the value of sedate brown coats). 

In fact, if you don’t want to have a massive wardrobe, you could get along just fine with one or two navy sport coats and a couple more in brown. 

For a little more variety, however, my friend Andrew Yamato recently wrote a good post about fall jackets at A Suitable Wardrobe. As he notes, fall justifies the bringing out of colors such as rusty reds, burnt oranges, slate blues, ochre yellows, and mossy olives. I think olive sport coats are particularly useful in the fall — quiet and conservative enough for men who don’t want to stand out too much, but also a nice deviation from the usual colors most of us wear.

Pair these with ancient madder ties, chunky sweaters, suede shoes, and fuzzy flannel trousers. Ribbed corduroys and cavalry pants will also work well, if you want to expand your wardrobe in that direction. Otherwise, chinos make for a nice three-season, spring-through-fall alternative. Shirts should probably be light blue oxford cloth button downs, not just because they have the right visual weight to hold their own against heavier sport coats, but also because I think they’re the best kind of shirts

(Photos via Mister Crew and A Suitable Wardrobe

Fall Inspiration: Marin County Mountain Biking in the 1970s

Maybe denim and flannel is not the freshest take on what to wear in the fall, but I can’t help but absorb the vibe of the original mountain bikers: a group of (primarily) guys who raced a course called Repack in late 70s Marin a County, California. These photos look like a current retro lookbook for a brand like Levi’s Vintage Clothing or Band of Outsiders: medium wash denim, sawtooth pocket western shirts (with a DIY frayed hem), trucker jackets, cords, boots and vintage (well, NOW they’re vintage) Nikes. Next time you’re thinking of canceling a ride because you can’t find your lightweight merino baselayer, throw on a shredded chamois shirt instead. All the better for sliding under locked fire road gates.

Ben Marks interviewed some of the core players in the Repack scene, including Gary Fisher, whose small partnership with frame builder Tom Ritchey evolved into a dominant player in the mountain bike industry. At the time, most riders were flying downhill on heavy steel Schwinns from the 1940s, reinforced with custom bars and brakes. See also the Rolling Dinosaur archive for more photos from Wende Cragg, who shot it all with her Nikon and 35mm slide film.

-Pete

Casual Cotton Sport Coats for Fall
Many of us think of fabrics in terms of seasons. Lightweight cottons and linens are for spring/ summer; heavy tweeds and flannels are for fall/ winter. This isn’t just about comfort — a way to keep ourselves as cool or warm as we want to be — but also about what these materials express in terms of style. A tweed jacket in the summertime would look odd, even if you didn’t mind how warm it made you feel.
Cotton, however, also happens to be a wonderful material for fall. Think of sport coats made from heavy, rumpled drills or velvety, ribbed corduroys. With the right construction and style, these can have all the sharpness of a tailored jacket, but none of the pretension. 
You can pair cotton sports with any of your more casual items. They go great with plaid shirts worn opened collar and without a tie, like you see on Mr. Francis Ford Coppola above, or with an oxford cloth button down shirt, brushed flannel, or soft chamois. The point is to just get something with a certain kind of visual weight, so that your shirt can hold its own against your thick, rumply sport coat. Pants can be khaki or olive chinos, and shoes can be derbies, loafers, or chukkas. I like suede and pebbled grained materials in these cases, but smoother leathers also work well. Add a heavily textured scarf at the end for good effect. 
Perhaps the best thing about a cotton sport coat is that — much like good leathers and jeans — it can look better with time. The edges will fray, elbows will thin, and the material overall will soften with wear. So long as you get something that fits you well, these are the kind of tailored jackets you can treat like your more casual pieces of outerwear. They’re perfect for the kind of guy who wants to look sharply tailored, but also doesn’t want to look too fussy. 
(Pictured above, Francis Ford Coppola, as shot by Sacha Lenz)

Casual Cotton Sport Coats for Fall

Many of us think of fabrics in terms of seasons. Lightweight cottons and linens are for spring/ summer; heavy tweeds and flannels are for fall/ winter. This isn’t just about comfort — a way to keep ourselves as cool or warm as we want to be — but also about what these materials express in terms of style. A tweed jacket in the summertime would look odd, even if you didn’t mind how warm it made you feel.

Cotton, however, also happens to be a wonderful material for fall. Think of sport coats made from heavy, rumpled drills or velvety, ribbed corduroys. With the right construction and style, these can have all the sharpness of a tailored jacket, but none of the pretension. 

You can pair cotton sports with any of your more casual items. They go great with plaid shirts worn opened collar and without a tie, like you see on Mr. Francis Ford Coppola above, or with an oxford cloth button down shirt, brushed flannel, or soft chamois. The point is to just get something with a certain kind of visual weight, so that your shirt can hold its own against your thick, rumply sport coat. Pants can be khaki or olive chinos, and shoes can be derbies, loafers, or chukkas. I like suede and pebbled grained materials in these cases, but smoother leathers also work well. Add a heavily textured scarf at the end for good effect. 

Perhaps the best thing about a cotton sport coat is that — much like good leathers and jeans — it can look better with time. The edges will fray, elbows will thin, and the material overall will soften with wear. So long as you get something that fits you well, these are the kind of tailored jackets you can treat like your more casual pieces of outerwear. They’re perfect for the kind of guy who wants to look sharply tailored, but also doesn’t want to look too fussy. 

(Pictured above, Francis Ford Coppola, as shot by Sacha Lenz)

Rus in Urbe

In some parts of the world (namely England), it used to be that men’s clothing could be cleaved in half, so that there was a certain style of dress for the country, and certain style for the city. That time has long passed, and most men today have a lot more freedom in how they dress themselves, but even before things became so casual, there was a practice that some describe as “rus in urbe.” The term  means “country in the city,” and it was first coined by the Spanish poet Martial (though obviously not for sartorial purposes). In men’s dress, however, it means wearing clothes originally designed for countryside sporting pursuits, but in town. It was a way for men in the city to pull off a certain casual look, while still staying quite sharp.

It also happens to be a great style for fall. Dressing rus in urbe means relying on certain textures, patterns, and colors. Think prickly tweeds, ribbed corduroys, and velvety moleskins; patterns such as plaids and tattersalls; and colors such as rich browns, dark greens, and deep burgundies. Throw in a pair of country brogues or boots, particularly if they’re in a soft suede or a hard shell cordovan, and give your pants some nice, deep cuffs. You’ll have a great look this season. 

Of course, there’s always a way of taking things too far. I’ve seen men (on the internet anyway) forcibly layering every rustic item they have on their bodies. A tweed jacket is worn awkwardly over a quilted vest, which are then layered on top of a shawl collar cardigan and tweed waistcoat, under which you can see a wool tie and checked shirt. This kind of fifteen-level fall-layering can look incredibly contrived unless you’re posing for a Ralph Lauren ad.

Better, I think, to stick to something a bit simpler, like our friend Voxsartoria, who has a corduroy suit, or our other friend Mark (from The Armoury), who has paired a waxed Barbour jacket with some jeans. Gianni Angelli in the first photo also looks great in just a simple tweed jacket, blue shirt, and some brown corduroys. Rus in urbe doesn’t have to mean looking like you’re off to hunt pheasants on Main Avenue. When done well, it should look quite natural. 

(Images via Milstil, The Sartorialist, Voxsartoria, The Armoury, and Gezza’s Eyes)

Looking Rake-ish

A fall weekend like this one in the Northeast, as chilly as a significant other’s stare when you get yet another tweed jacket back from the tailor, is the perfect time to justify mildly rugged outdoor gear. Because a guy can’t possibly rake leaves for a half an hour then “hike” to a coffee shop without at least a little Gore-Tex. Pictured above is some of my favorite yardwork gear: St. Alfred/Ebbets Field Flannels fitted cap, vintage Class 5 down vest, Engineered Garments hooded zip sweatshirt, Levi’s Vintage Clothing 1947 jeans, Patagonia tech web belt (also a bottle opener), and Danner Mtn Trail boots. Pro tip: if you cuff your pants, shake out accumulated leaf debris before going back inside.

-Pete

Six Great Types of Shirts for Fall

For nearly a century now, the most basic dress shirt for men is a solid white or light-blue button-up, made from 100% cotton, and usually coming in a plain or twill weave. It’s the default choice for dress shirts – something you can rely on year-round to look decent and acceptable, and is very rarely the wrong choice, assuming you’re dressing classically. 

There are times, however, when choosing something a bit different can yield a more harmonious look. Take, for example, the advantage of combining an airy, light-blue linen shirt with a tan cotton sport coat. The two textures are equally casual, and together, they lend a better presentation for summer. Similarly, a fine cotton dress shirt can look puny when set against a hardy Shetland tweed or mid-waled corduroy jacket. Better to pick something with more texture and “weight,” such as these following options, which I think make for excellent fall and winter shirts.

Flannels 

At the top of the list are flannels, which can come in a variety of forms. They can be solid or patterned (if patterned, usually checked), and made from either a softly brushed pure cotton or some kind of wool/ cotton blend. Viyella is particularly famous for their flannel shirtings (the word “shirtings” means “fabrics intended for shirts;” it is not a synonym for the word “shirts”). You can find them at a number of places, such as Dann Online, J. Press, and O’Connell’s. I unfortunately can’t say how any of those fit, but my guess is “traditional.” If you have a custom shirtmaker, they may also carry Viyella fabrics, which you can ask for by name.

Bold cotton plaids

Bold cotton plaids are different from flannels in that they don’t have that soft, brushed quality. They’re smooth like a fine cotton dress shirt, but remain a bit more autumnal through their patterns. Our advertiser Ledbury carries some through their short-run collection (they’ve got more coming down the pipeline, as they’re releasing a new short-run shirt every day this month). Brooks Brothers also has some designs, though mostly in non-iron fabrics, and Gant Rugger might be a good option for younger men. For something more affordable, there’s J. Crew. Just wait for one of their many sales. 

Tattersalls

Tattersalls are symmetrical, thin-lined checks, usually made up of two colors for the lines and a plain-colored background. I find they’re a nice compromise between the dressiness of a standard dress shirt and the casualness of a bold cotton plaid. For something dressier still, you can go for a graph check shirt, which is exactly what it sounds like – a shirt with a pattern that looks like graph paper. Either would do well underneath a tweed or corduroy jacket, and you can find them at places such as Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, and TM Lewin.

Oxford Cloth Button-Downs (aka OCBDs)

OCBDs are versatile enough for year-round wear, but also have the weight and texture necessary to look great underneath fall jackets. What’s not to like? You can read my long-winded series about them here, or just skip to my recommendations.

Chambray

Another good year-round shirt that really comes into its own during the fall and winter seasons. You can find nice high-end options at Self Edge, Rising Sun, and Blue in Green. Mr. Porter also has some designer offerings, and J. Crew is again good for something more affordable (just wait for a sale). My favorite, however, is by Mister Freedom. I appreciate the emphasis they put into beautiful fabrics, and have found mine to age exceptionally well. When choosing one, keep in mind the kind of outerwear you might want to wear. Very casual chambray shirts with extra detailing should be kept with very casual outerwear, rather than traditional sport coats. 

Corduroys

Corduroy shirts are less versatile than any of the above options, but they’re nice to have if you’d like some more variety. Our advertiser Ledbury has one in brown coming out this month (it’s pictured above) and I like that it has a traditional looking collar and lowered second button (good for when you’re wearing the shirt casually and don’t want it buttoned all the way up). For something available now, there’s Michael Bastian, Beams Plus, and LL Bean.

via @ImportantChart
My Favorite Sweatshirt
A year or so ago, I went to the Inspiration show in Long Beach, California, and came across the booth for The Real McCoy’s. McCoy’s is an ironically-named Japanese brand which makes reproduction American clothing. Military leather jackets, sportswear, that sort of thing, mostly mid-centuryish.
A heathered gray sweatshirt I bought from the Gap was on its last legs after an impressive (for the $20 I paid) three-year run, so I was on the lookout, and the Real McCoy’s version caught my eye. When the company’s rep told me they were offering “show pricing” (something like wholesale) for the little bit of stock they had on hand, I bit my lip and bought one.
It still wasn’t cheap, but I haven’t regretted the purchase since. It’s pretty much the Platonic ideal of “sweatshirt.” Both soft and very sturdy, never stretched-out, and handsome as hell. Looks good on, too. I wear the hell out of this thing, and love it every time.
It can be tough to figure out ahead of time what “the right thing” is, but sometimes you nail it. I got lucky, and I’m grateful.

My Favorite Sweatshirt

A year or so ago, I went to the Inspiration show in Long Beach, California, and came across the booth for The Real McCoy’s. McCoy’s is an ironically-named Japanese brand which makes reproduction American clothing. Military leather jackets, sportswear, that sort of thing, mostly mid-centuryish.

A heathered gray sweatshirt I bought from the Gap was on its last legs after an impressive (for the $20 I paid) three-year run, so I was on the lookout, and the Real McCoy’s version caught my eye. When the company’s rep told me they were offering “show pricing” (something like wholesale) for the little bit of stock they had on hand, I bit my lip and bought one.

It still wasn’t cheap, but I haven’t regretted the purchase since. It’s pretty much the Platonic ideal of “sweatshirt.” Both soft and very sturdy, never stretched-out, and handsome as hell. Looks good on, too. I wear the hell out of this thing, and love it every time.

It can be tough to figure out ahead of time what “the right thing” is, but sometimes you nail it. I got lucky, and I’m grateful.

Thoughts on Buying Good Sweaters
The best time to purchase sweaters is at the end of the season, when the fall/ winter stock gets discounted by fifty percent or more. The best time to shop for sweaters, however, is now, so that you can give yourself a few months time to figure out what you want and not be rushed into impulse buys come January. So, if you’re out browsing for sweaters, I’d suggest the following:
Low- to mid-tier purchases: If your budget is limited, I recommend aiming for sweaters made out of lambswool, Shetland, or merino wools. The first two, all things being equal, are harder-wearing. I also think they can often have more visual depth in their texture and color than most, lower-end merinos, which can be useful if you want to wear the sweater without a jacket. The sweater pictured above really shows off the nice lofty nap on lambswool, I think. 
High-end purchases: If your budget is over $350 or so, consider cashmere. The problem with cashmere below this mark – at least at full retail prices – is that they’re often poorly made. Cashmere is expensive, so when a company is selling a cashmere sweater for under $350 or so, it means they’ve likely skimped on the construction. That can mean shorter fibers used for the yarns, which will result in more breakages and pilling, or thin, loosely knitted fabrics, which will lose their shape over time. Better, I think, to stick to lambswool, Shetlands, and merinos, rather than be tricked into the allure of “cheap” cashmere.
Checking for quality: It’s difficult to determine a sweater’s true quality without having actually owned it for a few years. Nothing can substitute for experience. There are a few things, however, that you can do to make an educated guess. On cashmere, try rubbing the fabric between your fingers for a bit, and see if a light, oily residue has been left on your hands. If there is, that means the fabric was treated with a kind of emulsion, and is probably of low quality. On everything else, see if the sweater has been knitted densely, and check the elasticity of the collars and cuffs. It’s difficult to convey online exactly what level of quality to look for – which is why I think you should browse the inventory at a high-end store – but generally, if you think the sweater might lose its shape easily, it probably will.
Altering knits: Ideally, you should buy something that fits perfectly off-the-rack, but some knits can be altered if you have a good alterationist. On sweaters with side seams, I’ve found it’s easy to take in the body without too much trouble. You can read my post on knit alterations here.
Getting rid of pills: Every sweater, no matter what the quality, will pill to some degree. The question is just how much and how quickly. To take care of pills, I recommend using a sweater shaver. I use this one and it works decently well, though there are probably better ones on the market.
Where to buy: I can’t give a full list of every place that stocks good sweaters, but I can make a few suggestions based off of my experiences. On the high end, I really like Inis Meain, Drumohr, Drake’s, John Smedley, and William Lockie (the last of which you can buy through Heather Wallace). For more affordable purchases, I’ve had good experiences with Brooks Brothers, Club Monaco, and Howard Yount. The first two often do significant mark-downs throughout the season, which is when I think you should buy. Club Monaco also gives students an extra 20% off if they can show a student ID in-store or give a university email address online. I’ve picked up their basic v-neck sweaters before for about $45, and find them to be of a good value. 

Thoughts on Buying Good Sweaters

The best time to purchase sweaters is at the end of the season, when the fall/ winter stock gets discounted by fifty percent or more. The best time to shop for sweaters, however, is now, so that you can give yourself a few months time to figure out what you want and not be rushed into impulse buys come January. So, if you’re out browsing for sweaters, I’d suggest the following:

Low- to mid-tier purchases: If your budget is limited, I recommend aiming for sweaters made out of lambswool, Shetland, or merino wools. The first two, all things being equal, are harder-wearing. I also think they can often have more visual depth in their texture and color than most, lower-end merinos, which can be useful if you want to wear the sweater without a jacket. The sweater pictured above really shows off the nice lofty nap on lambswool, I think. 

High-end purchases: If your budget is over $350 or so, consider cashmere. The problem with cashmere below this mark – at least at full retail prices – is that they’re often poorly made. Cashmere is expensive, so when a company is selling a cashmere sweater for under $350 or so, it means they’ve likely skimped on the construction. That can mean shorter fibers used for the yarns, which will result in more breakages and pilling, or thin, loosely knitted fabrics, which will lose their shape over time. Better, I think, to stick to lambswool, Shetlands, and merinos, rather than be tricked into the allure of “cheap” cashmere.

Checking for quality: It’s difficult to determine a sweater’s true quality without having actually owned it for a few years. Nothing can substitute for experience. There are a few things, however, that you can do to make an educated guess. On cashmere, try rubbing the fabric between your fingers for a bit, and see if a light, oily residue has been left on your hands. If there is, that means the fabric was treated with a kind of emulsion, and is probably of low quality. On everything else, see if the sweater has been knitted densely, and check the elasticity of the collars and cuffs. It’s difficult to convey online exactly what level of quality to look for – which is why I think you should browse the inventory at a high-end store – but generally, if you think the sweater might lose its shape easily, it probably will.

Altering knits: Ideally, you should buy something that fits perfectly off-the-rack, but some knits can be altered if you have a good alterationist. On sweaters with side seams, I’ve found it’s easy to take in the body without too much trouble. You can read my post on knit alterations here.

Getting rid of pills: Every sweater, no matter what the quality, will pill to some degree. The question is just how much and how quickly. To take care of pills, I recommend using a sweater shaver. I use this one and it works decently well, though there are probably better ones on the market.

Where to buy: I can’t give a full list of every place that stocks good sweaters, but I can make a few suggestions based off of my experiences. On the high end, I really like Inis Meain, DrumohrDrake’sJohn Smedley, and William Lockie (the last of which you can buy through Heather Wallace). For more affordable purchases, I’ve had good experiences with Brooks Brothers, Club Monaco, and Howard Yount. The first two often do significant mark-downs throughout the season, which is when I think you should buy. Club Monaco also gives students an extra 20% off if they can show a student ID in-store or give a university email address online. I’ve picked up their basic v-neck sweaters before for about $45, and find them to be of a good value. 

Arrow Moccasins: Handmade at an Amazing Price
I just got off the phone with the good people at Arrow Moccasins. They’re a small family company in Hudson, Massachusetts, who hand-make moccasins of every sort. There are traditional laced boots like the ones above, camp mocs, fleece-lined boots, big tall boots and even fur-trapper boots. They even make dog collars and leads.
My wife’s favorite shoes are a pair of their ring boots - but one recently went missing. We think my 15-month-old son may be the culprit. Lately he’s been really into putting things in the trash can. We decided to buy her a pair of double-soled lace boots to make up for it. I’ve already got a pair that I love wearing all fall and winter.
The best part is that these hand-made shoes are exceptionally reasonably priced. The lace boots, outfitted with double soles, are $169 for men and $165 for women. I’ve had no durability issues with the soles (they’re resolable, by the way), but some people prefer crepe rubber soles for city wear - they can do that, too.
Call to order - their number is 978-562-7870. They take a credit card and ship almost anywhere. You can find the full range of their products on their charmingly 1995-ish website.

Arrow Moccasins: Handmade at an Amazing Price

I just got off the phone with the good people at Arrow Moccasins. They’re a small family company in Hudson, Massachusetts, who hand-make moccasins of every sort. There are traditional laced boots like the ones above, camp mocs, fleece-lined boots, big tall boots and even fur-trapper boots. They even make dog collars and leads.

My wife’s favorite shoes are a pair of their ring boots - but one recently went missing. We think my 15-month-old son may be the culprit. Lately he’s been really into putting things in the trash can. We decided to buy her a pair of double-soled lace boots to make up for it. I’ve already got a pair that I love wearing all fall and winter.

The best part is that these hand-made shoes are exceptionally reasonably priced. The lace boots, outfitted with double soles, are $169 for men and $165 for women. I’ve had no durability issues with the soles (they’re resolable, by the way), but some people prefer crepe rubber soles for city wear - they can do that, too.

Call to order - their number is 978-562-7870. They take a credit card and ship almost anywhere. You can find the full range of their products on their charmingly 1995-ish website.