Finally got my tweed coat tailored and wore it today. The wonderful thing about tweed is how the fibers let you experiment with a bunch of colors to go with it, no matter what the dominant color appears to be.
If you really want to find out some in-depth information about this delightful fabric, then I highly recommend watching the three-part BBC Harris Tweed series that Put This On linked to on StyleForum. (The Saville Row series is good, too.)
Basically, coming out of the 1990s, the Harris Tweed industry was in serious financial trouble and in 2006, a businessman came and bought the factory that produced (at the time) 95% of the fabric. He was seen as a savior, however, he dramatically changed the industry for the worst with his own vision of what Harris Tweed should be.
Brian Haggas reduced the number of Harris Tweed patterns from 8,000 to four — yes, as in “1, 2, 3, 4” — patterns. Additionally, he refused to sell fabric to anyone. Instead, he decided that he would produce jackets in China and sell only one cut in those four colors. After producing 75,000 jackets, he stopped production of the fabric altogether, laid off everyone and nearly 70,000 of those jackets are still sitting in a warehouse to be sold.
Obviously, this drove Saville Row and other tailors across the world mad and the demand for fabric shifted orders to two smaller factories and a handful of other independent weavers on the island.
If you want to learn more details about the whole saga, then I suggest you watch the series as you’ll learn quite a bit and meet some of the people who not only produce this fabric, but also those who love it.
Yesterday, Chicago weathermen were predicting the “worst storm in 70 years,” so heading out this morning I grabbed my raincoat. As it turns out, the city (at least where I live and along my commute) didn’t see much rain or those rumored 60 mph winds. Not a big deal — I love this mackintosh-style coat.
The coat is a London Fog “Maincoat” from back when the brand was still manufacturing in the United States. I’m having a tough time dating it, as I picked it up in a thrift store for under $10. It needed the cuffs lengthened and a cleaning, but it’s been a solid and cheap investment.
There’s nothing fancy about the mack. It has hidden buttons and a collar button for when things “get real” in the Windy City. Long enough to keep your sport coat covered and tough enough to keep you dry.
Other “Maincoat”-line coats have zip-out lining to take you from fall, through winter and into spring again. Sadly, it doesn’t appear that London Fog produces these coats anymore. The brand’s website doesn’t even have men’s styles and searches for retailers show no such jackets.
From this forum post at Ask Andy About Clothes, it doesn’t even look like the brand is worth purchasing anymore from retailers. The brand name was bought by Iconix Brands Inc., which licenses the name to retailers, who can produce garments anywhere and in any way they want and slap the label on it.
"Maincoats" used to be made in Baltimore, Maryland, before moving to Connecticut. The founder died in 1999 and in 2006 Iconix bought the brand. This forum thread at Film Noir Buff has a few more details, which also gets into the brand’s non-London roots, despite its name.
Regardless, you can still find these coats in rather plentiful supply at many thrift stores. For those of us without Burberry money, these coats are great alternatives that have a classic look and extensive utility.
I assume you’re here (by way of Put This On), which means that it’s highly probable you dig blogs about men’s style. If so, then please give these other Tumblrs a look, who I think do a nifty job blogging about the topic (among other things).
The brogues, desert boots and quickstrike high-tops not only have me manic-fantasy-banging every well-dressed dude on the F BECAUSE IT IS ALL SO GODDAMN GOOD but the fact that so many are suddenly well shod plus the prevalence of hard-bottoms straight CRIPPLES my ability to tell how rich anyone is. And that is fucking my game up major.
Yeah, you’re going to want to read the whole thing.
Also: Glad to see The Awl expanding its stable of sites once again.
Starting November 1st (Monday, my favorite day of the week), I’m going to dress to my absolute best effort. No hoodies and baggy “it’s Friday, I’m hungover, and have to re-publish blogs” outfits. I bought LOAFERS, for chrissakes.
Of course, this is something I fully endorse — all day, every day. Should be interesting to see the results on his blog (oh, and he wants you to submit photos, too, Chicagoans).
I was thinking about what would be a simple checklist for guys looking to “dress nicely” every day. Off the top of my head:
Wear nice shoes.
Wear a sport coat or blazer.
Wear a tie.
Wear clothes that fit properly.
Wear a detail that distinguishes to you (ie: watch straps, cufflinks, pocket squares, socks, etc.).
My friend wrote me an e-mail this weekend, lamenting the amount of time he was spending ironing his shirts:
I spent a good part of this weekend out buying clothes and a large fraction of today ironing said clothes.
So far I like the idea of dressing nicely but find the time required for preparation nearly intolerable (namely ironing). Let’s face it, even “non-iron” shirts need some time under the iron if you want them to look crisp when you put them on.
Does your patience simply rival that of Job’s when it comes to ironing dress shirts etc. or is there some working man’s secret that I am missing or do you just take everything to the dry cleaners and get it pressed there?
The short answer is that I avoid ironing my shirts as much as possible by wearing layers.
While you should make sure that your shirt doesn’t look like it spent a week on the bottom of your hamper, I don’t spend much time giving my shirts more than a once over with an iron after doing laundry. I also hang them up immediately on hangers after they come out of the dryer.
If a shirt has a few wrinkles from wearing them previously, I’ll hang them up in the bathroom while taking a shower to let the steam work out the wrinkles.
I tend to also wear my shirts several times before tossing them into the laundry cycle, usually when I see sweat rings around the collar or I know I’ve definitely put some offensive odor into them that day.
What I refuse to do is take my shirts to a dry cleaner, simply because the chemicals used in the process will ruin the shirt over time much quicker than if you used conventional washers and dryers. Also, this gets absurdly expensive and you have to build a larger wardrobe to account for the time your shirts are out of commission.
I’ve also noticed that shirts with patterns (gingham, university stripes, checks) tend to hide wrinkles better than solid-colored shirts.
But the hands-down, sure-fire way to solve the wrinkled shirt problem is to layer something over your dress shirt.
Frankly, I’m not a fan of the dress shirt and trousers only look (especially if you’re tucking your shirt in). It’s not a very flattering look for most people. Unless your shirt and pants are fitted immaculately, you will get some blousing where the shirt meets the pants just from natural movement throughout the day. Most people look “lumpy” like this and it creates a focal point on the whole ass/crotch/waist area of your body (and if you’re sporting some post-collegiate beer abs like me, that’s definitely not a good thing).
Ideally, I’d say you want to refocus people’s attention toward your “V” area of your face, neck and upper-middle chest, even if you’re not doing to be rocking neckties to work. And if you’re looking to hide those pesky wrinkles on your dress shirt, then layering helps dramatically.
I understand a sport coat or blazer isn’t for everyone, but here’s a few ideas:
V-neck sweater vest
You can get each of these in a variety of fabrics (wool, cotton, tweed, cashmere, etc.), at every different pricepoint, and plenty of colors and patterns to work with your wardrobe. Even better? You will never need to iron these items. At most, you’ll only need to hang them up during a shower to steam them.
With any of these options, at most you’ll only have to iron your sleeves and the “V” area around the neck. Best of all, each of them adds a slimming look to your torso and visual complexity.
Personally, I solve the ironing problem by wearing sport coats and blazers. If you want to go more casual, get a deconstructed cotton chino jacket. If you want to go more formal, find a wool one.
One limiting factor facing my friend is the local year-round warm weather. If you’re up against this kind of situation, where sweaters might not be your best friend, then I’d suggest cotton, seersucker, linen and tropical-weight wool jackets.
Breaking with the often-given advice to avoid black blazers, especially before 5 p.m., I wore one today — double-breasted, no less. It’s a heavier wool fabric, suited well for fall and winter and a trip to the tailor turned it into something great.
These photos are terrible (taken by yours truly), but it also has a ticket pocket and the buttons have this old Viking-type ship detailing on them.
I went clean and simple on the rest. White shirt, black silk tie, charcoal wool flannel slacks and black wingtips. And since this was such a heavy neutral outfit, I decided to add some color with a red square and red socks.
I admit, it looks a bit aggressive to wear this during the day, but to hell with it. Besides, I feel like the volume’s turned up to 11 for wearing this out tonight.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Lands’ End and right now they’re running a promotion to take an extra 20% off all their overstocks and fall sale items and free shipping to boot (promo code “EXTRAFALL" with PIN code "5298”).
But what really caught my eye are the silk-knit ties (handmade in Italy!) that will run you either $11.99 (light emerald, light purple, kelly green) or $23.99 (medium red). These typically go for $49.99, so I consider that a steal. In fact, I just stole three of them.
Before you ask, I’m not sure if the discount applies to Lands’ End Canvas (I tried applying the discount with only a LEC item in my cart and it didn’t add it). The sale ends Monday, October 18.
(EDIT: Thanks to graemewa for pointing out the PIN code was wrong originally. Edited now with correct code.)
I realize it’s fall, but for some reason I’ve been thinking a bit about chambray sport coats. Part of me gets excited, because it’s different. Another part of me questions whether I’d be personally comfortable wearing it and pulling it off.
But maybe it’s your thing? If so, then here are a few options worth considering. Since we’ve left the summer season, a few are even on sale now.
1.) Polo Ralph Lauren: $149.99 (on sale, save an additional 25% with code RLGIVE2010): This jacket received a decent amount of buzz around the blogosphere. It’s nicely unstructured, patch pockets with flaps and the white buttons give it a summer touch. Sadly, if you’re not a size 40R, then you’re out of luck snagging this at this price.
2.) Brooks Brothers, $149.00 (on sale): If you’re looking for a more structured jacket, flap pockets and a somewhat darker chambray coloring, then this might be up your alley. Also, quite a few more sizes to choose from (39R, 41L, 42L, 46L remain).
3.) Albam, $220.95: For those of you looking for a really casual look with chambray, this could be an alternative. The detailing may or may not be your thing, with some interesting stitching on the sleeves and a neck button along the lapel. You will have to ship this one over from the United Kingdom, however.
4.) Tommy Hilfiger, $52.99 (on sale): This is from the newer trim fit line at Macy’s, but it’s hard to tell how well it fits. Nothing really stands out about this jacket, but the price is certainly low enough, although the sizes still available are limited.
Yes, you’re reading that right. 10 dollars and 90 cents! With the recent influx of UK stores coming to Chicago.. I really hope that this city gets Japanese based, UNIQLO. I wear a ton of black/white/gray so these would fit perfectly into my wardrobe. With my luck they’re probably sold out but does anyone in NYC want to help me get my hands on all 3 of these?!
I’ve heard you can call up the NYC store and order merchandise from them that they’ll ship to you. Worth a shot.
Review: Brooks Brothers Extra Slim Fit Oxford Dress Shirt
After ordering the incorrect sleeve length (more on that in a bit), returns/exchanges, waiting for the FedEx guy to come and a bunch of really unrelated issues, I finally got a chance to do an hands-on review of the much buzzed about Brooks Brothers Extra Slim Fit Oxford Dress Shirt.
In a nutshell: I like it, but with some reservations.
First up, the positives. The fabric feels great and is probably the nicest oxford I’ve worn so far. It looks great, too.
The fit is definitely slim and the armholes are high. Given my frame and prior issues with finding ready-to-wear shirts that don’t have massive bunching when tucked or arms that turn into windsails, this shirt does the best job so far.
As for my reservations, they’re more like warnings when you’re deciding on what size to buy.
I typically wear a 15.5 neck and 34/35 arm. Because of my experience with all-cotton, must-iron shirts shrinking on me, I prefer to buy 35” arm lengths. (For reference, I’m 5’11” and 150 lbs.) However, in this particular fit, I had to size down in the arm to 34” and probably should have sized up to 16” in the neck.
The 35” arm length’s cuffs came up almost up to my thumbnail. I figured even with shrinking, it’d be too long. After a washing/drying cycle, the 34” worked out perfectly.
For the neck, it almost shrank too much, making it a bit of a tighter fit than I’d like. Hence my suggestion to go up half-an-inch neckwise.
The oxford has a box pleat in the back and a one-piece yolk. This is a bit disappointing, to be honest. Also, the sleeves don’t have a gauntlet button, which even a lot of the cheaper-made RTW shirts have. I found this to be a surprising lack for a shirt Brooks Brothers intends to charge nearly $80 for.
The overall shirt length could be longer. I feel like it’s a compromise length to work both tucked in and tucked out. I actually link the fit of it looks better untucked as you can see in the photo below.
So, despite all these complaints and such, I’m a fan of the shirt. It’s comfortable (as long as I don’t button the top button) and works great for a weekend, non-work shirt to wear casually.
I don’t think I’ll be looking to the BB ESF line for dress shirts to wear with a tie, however, given the length of the shirt. For those, I’ll still be turning to the Nordstrom Smartcare Trim Fit line, which are a bit more roomy, but longer.
But if you’re of a shorter torso, or looking for a shirt you can wear tucked out, I’d give these a look.
Take it to the alternationist: blazer & sport coat
Last week I took a few items to some local alterationists to be used at guinea pigs to see if paying cheaper prices would result in similar or diminished quality worksmanship than my tailor.
So, how’d the local dry cleaners do? Frankly, when it came to altering my flannel navy blazer and flannel grey sport coat, they did great! The cost for each came under what I would’ve paid at my tailor. The operations done were relatively simple: taking in the sides of the jackets to have them more tapered to my frame.
Considering I got both for under $5 each, I’m happy with the purchase and outcome. I’ll be using both as fall/winter wardrobe staples. From now on, I’ll be taking a good amount of thrift-store purchases to the alterationist around the corner, who had the lowest price.
The lesson: consider giving your local alterationists a go for some of your tailoring needs. Just use a “test” item first that you’re not too emotionally attached to.
(Sorry for the lack of before/after photos. I simply forgot. But I’ve got another tweed jacket I’ll be taking in soon and will be sure to get comparison pictures.)
It’s definitely time for warmer fabrics, namely wool. Virgin wool flannel navy blazer, grey flannel slacks, wool scarf, cashmere sweater vest. I just got the blazer back from the alterationist this weekend and it fits great — just in time, too.