A BBC documentary on one of the most popular, classic, and influential garments of all time: Levis’ 501 jeans. Well worth a watch.
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.
Levis’ 1947 501s
Most high-end jeans on the market today are some version of a semi-low rise, slim-fit cut. I actually like that kind of cut, and wear a slim, straight-legged pair myself, but folks who want something with a higher rise and fuller leg may want to consider the 1947 model of Levis’ classic 501s.
The 501s, as many folks will know, is one of the most classic jeans ever designed, but throughout its history, it’s gone through a number of iterations (some of them being very differently styled than the others). The 1947 edition was the first one produced after the end of WWII, and as a result, featured details that were previously lost due to national cutbacks in the effort to win the war. The watch pockets were made with rivets, for example, and the back pockets had arcuates (those double needle, “bat wing” stitches). It was also made with a classic slim-straight cut - slimmer than the company’s current version of the 501, but with a bit more room in the leg than many slim-fit jeans today.
You can find the 1947 model through Levis’ Vintage Clothing, a sub-line of Levis that specializes in vintage reproductions. Retail price is pretty expensive, coming in at ~$250, but sometimes you can find them on sale (Vente Privee had them earlier this year with prices starting at $55, but that was an anomaly). You can also hunt for a pair on eBay, where they typically go for ~$150-175.
Other good options to consider include 3sixteen’s CS-100x, which is based on the 1947 501s. That one is made with the company’s signature 14.5 oz raw selvedge denim, which is woven exclusively for them by a mill in Japan. From my experience, their denim fades well, and has the added bonus of being flannel-soft inside when you first get them (though, the denim itself is still rigid and tough). Japanese denim brand Sugar Cane also has a repro, simply called the 1947, as well as two models called the Hawaii and Okinawa. Those are cut just like the 1947, but feature crazier denim and detailing.
Real People: A Light Palette for Summer Denim
In the summer swelter of the mid-Atlantic, I try to hang in there with jeans but eventually succumb and put on a pair of shorts. I enjoy the comfort of shorts and even like a lot of styles (fatigue shorts!), but I try to dress to my advantages and pants are more flattering on me, and they keep the mosquitoes at bay.
These shots from Kyle in New York (left, with hat) and Tom in Toronto show that heavily washed denim (a.k.a. dad jeans) and a lighter overall color palette can make for more interesting warm weather wear than the default cotton shorts and a tshirt or polo. Tom’s shirt jacket is an ideal summer layer (at least in Canada) and his vintage Levi’s (Not LVC or big E or anything, just plain old old Levi’s) are an underrated blue the shade of a June sky. The lower contrast among the pieces suits the season, and there’s nothing left to the mosquitoes.
The jeans Kyle is wearing are more heavily distressed in a way I’d like my raw jeans to get, but they always fall to pieces before they make it. They’re a defense of predistressed denim, or maybe just washing your jeans. Like Tom, he’s wearing several interesting items but only one strong pattern. Both Kyle and Tom stick with lighter colors that won’t absorb as much light or emit as much heat as darker tones, and so are more likely to be comfortable in direct sunlight, although Kyle relaxes victoriously in the shade of a backyard patio.
The danger with heavily washed jeans of course is the “full dad”—avoid wearing them with shapeless polo shirts and walking shoes, comfy as that might sound. Simple white canvas sneakers like Tom’s chucks are ideal, or suede shoes in the vicinity of tan.
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).
Levis Vintage Clothing and Levis Made & Crafted Sample Sale
If you’re in New York, don’t miss the LVC / Made & Crafted sale. It’s tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday in New York, and from what the Choosy Beggar tells us, it’s usually quite an extravaganza. They’ve got all the details here.
It’s On Sale: J. Crew’s Third-Party Brands
J. Crew is offering 25% off orders over $150 or 30% off orders over $250, as well as free shipping, when you use the coupon code WINTER.
This normally wouldn’t be that interesting since J. Crew offers 25-30% discount coupons frequently, but this time, it appears you can apply it to their third-party brands (something they rarely allow). Perhaps they’ll take these off later today, but for the moment, that yields the following deals:
Take a look at their "In Good Company" section for more deals.
One of my favorite casualwear brands, Levi’s Vintage Clothing, is on sale at Vente-Privee, the flash sale site operated by American Express. Discounts are very large. If you need an invite, we’ve got one.
For $50 You Can Buy …
Following on my “style for college students" post, I thought I’d suggest some "under $50" options that I think would work well for students. Above is what I sometimes wear on weekends if I have errands to run, but I think it can also work for someone in college.
The best thing about everything here is that nothing requires much maintenance. I know most college students don’t have time to iron their clothes, polish their shoes, or do any of the other recommendable things for clothing care. The stuff you see above are all items you can throw on, not pay too much attention to, and not worry if things get stained. These are the kind of clothes that look better beat up than brand new anyway. Pretty much ideal if you sleep in libraries, go to parties where cheap beer is often spilled, and don’t even own an iron.
Style for College Students
There’s no kind way to put this: college students are some of the worst dressed people in America. I say that as man who has spent the last eleven years on college campuses – four as an undergraduate, two as a researcher, and five as a graduate student. This has been at three universities, but with many visits to other schools throughout the years.
To be sure, students are in a uniquely hard bind. They’re broke, very busy, and have little time for gainful employment. Not having a lot of time or money doesn’t lend itself well to picking up nice things. Plus, as a graduate student instructor, I’d rather see students spend more time on their studies than worry about what they should wear.
Still, dressing well in college isn’t that hard. Especially when the bar is set so low. So, in an effort to help students smarten up, I’ve come up with some tips.
Focus on Smart, Mid-quality Basics
The downside to being a student is that you’re broke, but the upside is that you can have a complete wardrobe with very few pieces. No need to worry about having separate weekend and weekday wardrobes; it’s just off to class and libraries for you. So, focus on buying mid-quality, versatile basics. Don’t go for anything too nice. Whether you’re getting straight-As or barely passing class, your lifestyle in college will be mostly rough on clothes and probably not very hygienic. Get things like decent jeans that can take a beating, or thicker merino sweaters, not thin cashmere-blends. Build your wardrobe off grays, blues, and browns, so things can easily coordinate without you needing to have to put in too much thought.
The best way to not look like a college slob is to not dress like a college slob. Instead of graphic t-shirts, pick solid colors tees. Better still, try to wear shirts with collars, as they’ll help frame your face. Plaid flannels for fall, colorful madras for summer, and stripes year-round will help make those button-up shirts look less like office-attire. Long sleeve polos can also work, so long as they don’t look too fratty (I like Kent Wang’s).
Instead of ratty or pre-distressed jeans, pick up a solid pair of dark, raw denim jeans that fit well. Levis is relatively cheap and easy. Maybe add a pair of chinos and corduroys too, so you have other things to wear.
Instead of college-branded sweatshirts, get merino sweaters. Club Monaco’s are pretty good on sale (they also offer a student discount year-round, which you can stack on top of sale prices). Cardigans can also work in theory, but they’re much harder to fit well than a simple crew- or v-neck sweater.
Instead of flip-flops and running shoes, get camp mocs, boat shoes, plimsolls, or desert boots. Clarks desert boots are a particularly good option if you’re on a student budget. You don’t have to put too much care into them besides applying some Obenauf’s LP for the beeswaxed versions or waterproof spray for suede, and the crepe soles will be comfortable for long-walks. Jesse has some other suggestions here as well.
Finally, there’s no alternative to cargo shorts, sweatpants, or basketball shorts. You just have to stop wearing those (unless, you know, you’re exercising or playing basketball).
I know this site is often about sport coats and ties, but unless you’re a member of the Model United Nations or College Republicans, I encourage you to not wear ties as a college student. There are some campuses where this is normal, and you’ll know when you’re at one, but for everywhere else, you’ll just look out of place and over-dressed. For many campuses, sport coats may also make you stick out in a bad way.
If you really want to wear a sport coat, tweeds and corduroys can look a bit more natural on a college campus. For everyone else, I encourage reaching for more causal options. A vintage peacoat can be had for $50-75 through eBay, Vintage Trends, or a local thrift store. You can use this guide to help date your peacoat finds. For something new, check Fidelity.
There are also some go-to brands for decent, cheap(ish) outerwear. LL Bean Signature, Land’s End Canvas, and J Crew can be workable once they have their end-of-the-season sales (when things will be discounted 50-75%). J Crew also has a student discount, but only for in-store purchases. Additionally, Land’s End mainline is probably be less well-suited for a younger person, but this oilcloth jacket might be a good Barbour alternative. It can be had for under $100 if you wait for the right coupon codes. You can read Broke & Bespoke for a review. Lastly, Ben Sherman’s Harringtons can also be had through eBay for about $80.
And the Standard Advice
Add to this the standard advice.
(Photo by John Morgan)