Working from home doesn’t exactly encourage you to do things normal working folks do — like “take a shower” and “wear pants”. However, once I make the effort to appear like a functional member of the outside world, I’ve found myself reaching for the same items from my wardrobe every day.
This isn’t a far departure from my uniform experiment from a while ago. The selvedge raw denim jeans and the blue OCBD shirt have reappeared. As far as I’m concerned, these items can be worn for three seasons of the year, taking time off for summer (during which I substitute in linen shirts and linen-cotton trousers).
But with the cooler weather, I’ve been grabbing one of five wool sweaters from a cedar chest my parents gave to me as a birthday gift. It’s a combination of two v-neck lambswool sweaters from Howard Yount, a shawl-collared chunky-knit cardigan and two L.L.Bean crewnecks that I’ve become fond of lately for their warmth and quality.
When I leave the apartment to grab lunch at the Italian grocer, I’ve thrown on my vintage Barbour Beaufort that I rewaxed myself at the beginning of the season (a tremendous pain in the ass if you’ve never done it before). The jacket’s pockets carry all the stuff I need with me and the game pocket in the back can stow stuff while you’re at a bar — like gloves, a knit hat and scarf. I’ve even put a portable umbrella in there once.
Footwear has been a pair of ranger moccasins with Vibram soles, which have been insanely comfortable to wear and perfect for slightly rainy days. Otherwise, I’m still reaching for the Clarks desert boots, but I imagine L.L.Bean Boots will be making an appearance once snow becomes an issue.
I suppose ”country” attire of both American and British influences inspired my desire to swing toward a more casual wardrobe — basically the kind of stuff that ends up on Thornproof. While I particularly like the look of tailored clothing in the spring and summer, I don’t have the same affection for it in the colder months.
A tailored jacket in the cooler months means a tailored overcoat and every time you go out you have to find a place to stash that heavy thing if there’s no coat check (and we all know there’s no coat check at dive bars). Dress shoes are quickly rendered useless unless you choose to constantly wear overshoes or willing to buy at least two pairs of dress boots with Dainite soles for traction. Rock salt and sludge become enemies of flannel trousers.
I might be overthinking it all, of course, and I certainly keep some cold-weather tailored clothing on hand, but it’s the exception for my daily wardrobe — not the rule. I really do prefer to wear workwear at this time of year, especially since I don’t work in an office.
My one gripe would be that it doesn’t offer much of an opportunity to wear a necktie. I think ties look awkward under v-necks, are impractical under crewnecks and if I’m wearing a shawl-collared cardigan at home, there’s not much need for a tie.
It’s relatively simple and takes zero real thought in the morning (or early afternoon) when getting dressed. It will look rather appropriate for most instances and you can dress it up with a nicer pair of tweed trousers if you’d like. But let’s face it: In the sea of black North Face fleece zip-ups that seems to reappear each winter, you probably won’t need to go to such lengths.
If you live in a place that has a “real” winter, then I think that owning several sweaters for layering is a fairly essential wardrobe consideration, especially so if you’re wearing blazers or sport coats.
Of course, I was woefully neglectful of having them in my wardrobe for quite some time. I spent most of the fall looking at options and debating how much I wanted to spend and from whom I wanted to buy them from. I teetered back and forth between fabric types (merino wool, lambswool, cashmere, cashmere-wool blends, etc.).
But I always came back to one option and finally got around to buying two v-neck lambswool sweaters from Howard Yount.
The verdict: I shouldn’t have waited so long — and neither should you if they fit your budget and wardrobe needs. The price of $99 is extremely fair.
The fabric quality feels substantial. I don’t feel like it’s something I have to treat with gloved hands like cashmere, but I don’t feel like it’s lacking in superb softness either.
The fit is trim to the body (I’m a 38”-chest and ordered a size small) and hugs the chest nicely if you want to layer it under a jacket.
And, yes, they’re warm. I bought the burgundy and heather grey sweaters — and I really want to buy several more.
So, how do I plan on wearing them? Here’s two examples.
The burgundy looks great against a navy blazer and grey trousers. I’ve put it over a ecru OCBD and a wool-knit tie from The Knottery. This is a nice, conservative color scheme that can go just about anywhere.
For my grey sweater, I put it over a blue university stripe OCBD and with a polka-dot blue tie. White denim? Sure, why not? And a mossy green cashmere sport coat on top. It almost feels a bit monochrome and a bit out of season until you get a closer look at the textures. I think of it as a lighter, brighter contrast to all the super dark, black and grey colors you see worn in winter (seriously, does everyone have to have a black wool or nylon coat?) that is slightly more casual.
I’m a big fan of military surplus stores to find casual pieces for my wardrobe. I don’t wear “casual” stuff very often, so I prefer that they be cheap and hard-wearing if possible.
Typically, when it comes to outerwear, military surplus stores do the trick. I’ve previously posted about some spring-summer military surplus outerwear I picked up, and I returned to my local Army-Navy Sales store in Chicago to get some cold-weather gear.
First up was finding a M-65 field jacket. This has been copied a lot by other brands and designers and reinterpreted for slimmer fits recently (and the price has been increased accordingly), but I’m going to make the argument for the original.
While I can understand the temptation of a sleeker M-65-styled coat, I actually prefer mine a bit larger so I can wear a sport coat or blazer underneath. Admittedly, this look is ripped from Josh Peskowitz at Park & Bond, but I’ve tweaked it a bit.
I went with navy chinos instead of khaki to avoid looking too military with the coat zipped up. I also added an OCBD instead of a spread collar to keep it more casual. I did stick with dark chocolate suede shoes though.
But the above look would actually be somewhat rare for me. This look below is more likely. A chunky knit shawl-collared cardigan over a casual, tie-less button-down shirt. I picked the red gingham to break through with some color amid all the neutral tones.
The jacket goes rather easily with denim and the chelsea boots make this an outfit you can throw on in a hurry to get out the door to run errands and still not look sloppy.
I wasn’t expecting to pick up this next piece, but I stumbled across this navy acrylic sweater. It has a great texture and a henley-styled buttoning that lets you put it over an OCBD and still let your necktie peak through.
It’s casual, but could easily be worn in a business casual work environment with some flannel trousers and loafers as I’ve done here. Chinos would work well, too, with some chukka boots.
Want to layer it up? Throw on a tweed jacket. This is fairly basic and would obviously work well for when temperatures outside aren’t quite cold enough for an overcoat, but still cold enough you want some bit of warmth.
I prefer to add a silk square with tweed, just to offset the textures. It helps if you make the dominant colors of your square the minor, highlight colors in the jacket (in this case, gold and blue).
While you could purchase this stuff online, I find that sizing is almost impossible to determine without trying them on. The jacket I got is a “medium-long”, so its length covered my blazers. The sweater is a 38-40 medium, but rather form fitting.
The prices are definitely attractive — at least to me. $70 for the jacket and $25 for the sweater. If you don’t live in a major urban city, you might very well be able to get similar items cheaper. I’d recommend taking a trip to your local army surplus store and seeing what they have in stock.