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Monthly Archives: November 2011

Sailors in Pea Coats

No one can argue that the Pea Coat ranks among the most classic garments ever designed.  First donned by European sailors in the 18th century, the Pea Coat got it’s name from Pilot Cloth, the material that the coat was constructed from.  This was later shortened to P-Cloth, which lead to naming the piece, the P-Coat.  Pilot Cloth was a thick fabric that was utilized because of it’s durability and warmth, two critical criteria for sailors in need of a garment that could withstand anything the elements had to offer.

During the early 20th century the Pea Coat was adopted by the United States Navy cementing it’s place in history as the classic nautical jacket. Chosen for it’s practical, effective design, it was an ideal choice for the midshipmen that required protection above all else.  US Naval Pea Coats are constructed from thirty ounce wool, and feature a high collar that could be popped up to block the treacherous winds that were ever-present on the high seas.  Eight navy blue buttons, detailed with signature anchors, allow the jacket to be sealed tight around the body to ensure warmth.

The standard Navy issue Pea Coats are still available on Ebay and various vintage stores, however, they can be outdated in both fit and details so many companies have updated the design with modern touches.

Woolrich Woolen Mills for example remained incredibly close to the original blueprint that has worked for centuries, but added two angular breast pockets that give the basic front a more contemporary look.

A.P.C. has kept the body intact while focusing more on the collar by adding a black Sherling wool collar lining for additional warmth around the neck where the wearer is most susceptible to getting cold.

Billy Reid also modified the collar by cutting down the height, adding peak lapels and leather details where the collar meets the body of the coat.  They’ve also slimmed down the body of the coat, added breast pockets, and cropped the length resulting in a more modern fit.

Gant Rugger went in a different direction by extending the length of the coat, opting for additional coverage and warmth, alluding to the long overcoats of the past.

It is often the simplest of garments that last the longest, and the Pea Coat is no exception. Whether standard issue or a modern interpretation the Pea Coat is a versatile classic that can fit a variety of body shapes and look good in nearly any occasion.

Founded in North-West France in 1889 in the sleepy seaside town that bears the same name, Saint James has created the quintessential nautical sweater for over a century.  Their iconic boat neck nautical sweater is one of those rare pieces that has endured year after year, decade after decade without any major modifications.

The Breton sweater is first and foremost a functional piece, designed specifically for the fishermen that made their living on the rivers that bordered the community.  The constantly fluctuating temperatures that the fishermen faced out on the water called for a garment that could keep them warm but also not be so cumbersome that it would impact their work.  Saint James found the solution by creating a sweater spun from one-hundred percent wool sourced from the local community.  The signature metallic buttons on the left side of the collar are further evidence of the thought put into the sweater.  The fisherman had to be able to throw the sweater on and off quickly without interrupting their work, so by adding the four buttons Saint James ensured they would be able to do so without ruining the integrity of the collar.

The understated design and effectiveness of the piece make it a great seasonal choice that remains relevant centuries later. While the Breton was produced first and foremost for the fishing community,  it was adopted by Pablo PicassoAndy Warhol, and Jean Seberg in the 1960’s and 70’s, solidifying the sweater’s place within the modern fashion landscape. Since it’s inception Saint James has produced a subtle, functional garment that worked as well in the late 1800’s as it does today.

As a company that generally stays fairly reserved in their approach to design, Our Legacy has always thrived on the quality of their garments. For over five years co-founders Cristopher Nying and Jockum Hallin have taken classic, no-frills designs and executed them to perfection. In doing so Our Legacy has gained a reputation as a go-to brand for durable products that will endure year after year, and still remain relevant even in a constantly evolving marketplace. Their latest collection, titled “Impressions,” stays true to the philosophy that has guided Our Legacy for years, and takes a progressive step that brings the brand into new territory. Nying and Jockum have created a collection with incredible depth, covering everything from ball caps and tee-shirts, all the way up to dinner coats and suiting, exemplifying Our Legacy’s ability to produce great products all across the spectrum of design. Below are a few highlights, and you can see the entire collection here.

Shellid Jacket. This waxed cotton shell functions perfectly as a practical yet clean top layer complete with four pockets to stash all your winter accouterments. The removable Melton wool lining not only provides ample warmth, but could also work as a standalone piece during less frigid days, thereby making this parka two pieces in one. Touches such as an extended length, and contrast buttons add to the beauty of this garment, solidifying the Shellid as not only a functional option but a thoughtfully designed one as well.
Boiled Shawl Collar Cardigan. Woven from Italian wool this sweater is as thick as chain mail and can help you withstand the most frigid days of winter. The solid construction and deep navy hue make this piece a great extra layer that is compatible with almost any outfit. While shawl collars definitely seem to be having a moment,this garment stands out thanks to it’s high rise collar that will help block the wind just as a scarf would.
1950’s Ethnic Arrow Shirt. This season Our Legacy has taken their blueprint for making a great fitting no-nonsense shirt and elaborated on it with playful patterns. While many companies tend to stick to the plaids that define most winter collections, Our Legacy has supplemented their line of shirts with non-traditional prints such as the Ethnic Arrow. Featuring an understated yet detailed look this design adds color and character without being abrasive or distracting. As a bold, non-traditional cold weather print, this shirt perfectly breaks up the monotony of a winter wardrobe.

Thanksgiving is first and foremost a time for stuffing your face, but as you indulge in your first home cooked meal in 8 months, you should look good and feel comfortable, too.
Start with a strong a strong top layer, such as this Gant by Michael Bastian Cardinal Sweater, a bold statement at the dining room table. You’ll look confident, and at the very least it will be a handy conversation starter between you and awkward Uncle Joe. Pair the sweater with a basic oxford button down to keep your upper half nice and tidy. When it comes to pants opt for a pair of khakis in a slim cut, they’ll give you a clean line and will be forgiving of that third helping of stuffing.

In selecting shoes, comfort is key, as you’ll certainly want a pair that you can easily kick off after dinner. Tan loafers are a great option – comfortable and casual without appearing too informal.  Finally, accessories. Socks can be an over looked item, but since you’ll probably be spending a good portion of your day with your shoes off, take care in choosing a pair with a great pattern or color like the fair isle option above- they’re both seasonal and bold.  Don’t forget a watch, it’ll show thoughtfulness, maturity and help you determine when it’s an appropriate time to slip into a blissful food coma.

Founded in early 2008 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, Epaulet has quickly risen to success much larger than their two brick and mortar stores.  In three short years co founders Adele Berne and Michael Kuhle have made a name for themselves due to their strong online presence and impressive brand roster that includes GantMonitalyOur Legacy, and Alden.  While the brands that they stock have granted Epaulet a considerable amount of notoriety, it is their own in house label that really sets them apart from other stores.  Epaulet’s ability to create a wide range of products at the highest level of quality is unmatched by any other shop.  By consistently producing top of the line goods and staying up with current trends Epaulet has placed themselves in a league of their own.

From the top down Epaulet’s current line offers all a man needs to outfit his wardrobe. The Daltrey Sportcoat is a collaborative piece made by Southwick of Massachusetts from three different Harris Tweed Patterns; navy marl, oatmeal herringbone, and a gray-green basket weave.  The tweeds come together perfectly in a patchwork of beautifully muted colors, with a blend of several different textures giving the sportcoat a strong dynamic look.  Details such as goat-suede elbow patches and undercollar, patch pockets, and a three-two roll are evident of the thought and care put into the garment by Southwick and Michael Kuhle.  As a solid tweed coat, this piece is perfect for the season while still packing an unprecedented amount of character.
Utilizing the vibrant patterns that Liberty of London is known for, Epaulet has created five classic shirts with an updated modern cut.  As the centerpiece of an outfit, the floral and paisley based patterns are eye-catching and work perfectly when paired with more understated pieces.  Available in both point collars and spread collars, with a double-darted back to ensure a slim fit, and finished off with a shortened length, these shirts are incredibly versatile and could easily work in either formal or more casual situations.
In keeping up with current trends while still creating a great product, Epaulet have updated their well known trousers by adding cargo pockets on the sides. The slim tapered cut exemplifies the level of care Epaulet puts into their products as they ensure the pockets don’t flare out like the cargo pants you had back in middle school. Constructed in a grey winter weight flannel these trousers are ideal for the season as they are thick enough for even the coldest days while still remaining playfully modern.
Epaulet’s collection of footwear includes a wide variety of styles handcrafted in Maine. A particular standout from the current line is the Penobscot Penny Loafer in Western Print, crafted from Chromexcel leather in a beefroll shape and stamped with an beautifully understated floral pattern.  Another noteworthy model is theSomerset Ranger Moc, a four eyelet take on a classic shape complete with a Vibram sole and available in a wide range of colors.  As proof that Epaulet is constantly producing new product, they will be debuting a new line of footwear with Carmina in a couple weeks that is sure to feature some incredibly desirable pieces.

Epaulet’s penchant for producing incredible products across the entire spectrum of design, from sportcoats all the way down to footwear has elevated them into the upper echelon of stores that not only carry quality garments, but also constantly produce pieces that are both contemporary and expertly crafted.

Thanks to Mike and Adele for being so nice and for letting me stop by to snap some photos of the shop.

In 1985 Sid Mashburn, a twenty-five year old designer from Mississippi began working at a two year old New Jersey based retailer called J. Crew.  Both Mashburn and J. Crew would move on to become key players in fashion in years to come, but in the mid eighties they were simply two fresh faced entities trying to make a name for themselves in menswear.  Mashburn wasted no time and quickly began designing pieces that would help to define J. Crew’s aesthetic for years to come.  One of the first pieces that Mashburn designed was the Barn Jacket, which is, in my opinion, the quintessential fall coat.

Inspired by a classic hunting jacket shape, the Barn Jacket does it’s job in a perfectly no nonsense manner.  The simple front, water repellent shell, and dual angled pocket design give it clean, functional look without any fuss. Details such as a corduroy collar, wooden buttons, and muted colors make the coat mesh perfectly with the seasonal landscape.

For J. Crew the Barn Jacket represents the American heritage vibe that was so crucial to their early development.  Long before the trend’s latest resurgence, J. Crew was producing traditionally inspired garments that worked without ego or pretense.  The Barn Jacket was a representation of this, a well constructed jacket that was understated enough to work in almost any outfit, and at an incredibly low price point of only eighty-eight dollars.

The Barn Jacket is also a vital piece in the story of Sid Mashburn as a designer.  It’s remarkable  to look at what Mashburn has created today with his own menswear store in Atlanta and reflect on that by looking at the Barn Jacket from his early days. Even as a young man without much experience Mashburn was still able to design a piece that has endured for decades, a true testament to his dexterity as a menswear designer. We can see where Mashburn began, with a piece of classically inspired American design and trace how he has stayed true to that while still constantly reshaping his own approach to design.

Mashburn and J. Crew were certainly not the first to do a modern take on classic designs, but with the Barn Jacket they succeeded in creating a garment that took a step forward by alluding back to classic designs, therefore leaving a legacy as a great piece of design.

Unfortunately, the Barn Jacket is no longer in production at J. Crew, but vintage pieces can be found on Ebay and Etsy.

It is on those particularly frigid mornings of winter that a man’s dedication to style is tested the most.  We all know the temptation to throw on anything that will keep you warm – regardless of fit or style – is highest on days that the temperature is lowest. Enter the shirt jacket: An ideal option to effectively balance warmth, style and comfort with little effort. A vastly underutilized cold weather option, the shirt jacket is comfortably worn over almost any base layer and slim enough to fit under a heavy winter coat.

L.L. Bean Signature 1933 Chamois Cloth Shirt: First appearing nearly eighty years ago, this over shirt is still relevant today thanks to its simple flannel construction. It’s a versatile layer that is thick enough to add a little extra warmth and thanks to L.L. Bean Signature’s revamped cut, this shirt now has a more modern, tailored fit than it’s predecessors, eliminating any excess bulk.

ts(s) Stone Washed Army Shirt: This lighter weight option is an American military inspired piece by a Japanese company notorious for great design. It features an unlined cotton construction that, when coupled with a darker top layer this shirt, adds brevity without being bulky.

Ralph Lauren Beacon Shirt: With such a vibrant pattern, this shirt could easily earn a spot as a signature piece in your winter wardrobe. Traditional finishes such as dual chest pockets and wooden buttons give the jacket a classic woodsy feel that compliments the loudness of the navajo print.  Worn with subtler pieces this shirt jacket easily elevates an outfit by adding color and character.

Taylor Supply CPO Jacket: In just a few short years Taylor Supply has quickly made a name for themselves thanks to their constantly well crafted, well designed garments. This is evidenced perfectly in their Navy inspired shirt jacket. This one has some stand out details such as plush pockets and a Japanese cotton lining, but remains true to the no frills design that has made the shirt jacket a staple for decades.

South Willard by Crescent Design Works Down Shirt Jacket: Despite being made by an LA based brand, this shirt jacket is an ideal choice even in the most frigid east coast storms.  The 60/40 filling is crafted to perfection by Crescent Design Works and thick enough to ensure warmth. Plus, it is cut slim making it an effective insulating layer without being too puffy.

During my brief stint in Pennsylvania one of my favorite things to do was to take a trip up to the small town of Woolrich, PA.  No matter what the season was as I drove along the Evergreen lined Main Street up to the Factory Store, it always felt like fall.  For nearly two hundred years this same rustic American feel has helped to define Woolrich’s designs, and it continues through today in Woolrich Woolen Mills Fall/Winter 2011 Collection.  Designer Mark McNairy has created a collection that simultaneously pulls from the past and takes a giant step forward.  By taking classic designs and incorporating his own unique touches McNairy has put a fresh spin on timeless garments.

Navy and Wine Montgomery Toggle Coat.  Featuring an offset three-toggle closure, and patterned with thick stripes this coat boldly stands out against a sea of other bland outerwear. The extended length and wool construction ensure warmth into the thick of winter.

Four Hands Parka. Functioning as a final piece for Daiki Suzuki (the outgoing designer of WWM) and a first piece for McNairy (as incoming designer,) this collaboration is one of the best parkas on the market, living proof that sometimes two heads are better than one. The clean silhouette and hook-and-bar construction make for a modern look, and the thick construction and coyote fur hood provide the warmth expected from a parka.

The Para Boot. It’s no surprise that McNairy,  known first as a shoe designer, would include some footwear in his WWM collection.  This boot is a seven-eyelet take on a Derby Brogue, constructed in pebbled leather and Melton Wool.  Finished off with details such as waxed laces and a Goodyear welt on a stacked wood sole, this sturdy boot will last for years.

The collection also includes well-constructed essentials such as a vestpeacoat, and scarves; all featuring McNairy’s signature touches.  These pieces and the rest of the collection are available now at Park and Bond,Mr. Porter, and several brick-and-mortar stockists.

Following a fall that seemed to have lasted all of three days, it appears that winter has arrived.  And with each subsequent drop in the temperature the necessity to layer increases that much more.  The true key to layering is a quality foundation.  A thick base layer will go a long way on those particularly frigid mornings.  Shawl collar sweaters are an especially great option because the raised collar will help to keep your neck warm when the wind really cuts through.

Gant Rugger offers a basic three-button pullover that is simple and effective.  Constructed in a lightweight material, this sweater doesn’t add too much bulk to your outfit but will still go a long way in keeping the cold out.  The clean design and solid navy color match with pretty much anything, so you can easily toss it on to any outfit.

For a more dynamic option, Howlin’ by Morrison produce a wool Fair Isle pullover that is as thick as it is striking.  The Fair Isle pattern effortlessly adds color to otherwise drab winter outfits, while the one hundred percent wool construction ensures that you’ll be kept warm even on the coldest of days.

An even heavier alternative is Ovadia & Sons shawl collar cardigan.  Made in Scotland from six-ply lambs wool, this sweater is so thick it’s practically as warm as a jacket by itself.  Two patch pockets and horned buttons give the cardigan a very classic seasonal look that will compliment almost any outfit, making this sweater a great investment piece that you’ll get use from for years to come.

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