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Monthly Archives: December 2011

The Genuine Horween Stamp

While not technically a fabric, Shell Cordovan Leather is certainly a material worthy of recognition.  The production process for Cordovan stems from a centuries old technique that originated in Córdoba, Spain.  Horween is the one of the most well known manufacturers of Shell Cordovan in the United States providing leather to Alden and Wolverine.  The method is extraordinarily time consuming, however the end result is an exceptionally beautiful and desirable product.  The raw product for Cordovan comes from the firm muscular area on a horse’s hindquarters, which is where the term “Shell” originates.  This material is cut into irregular ovals that first undergo a natural vegetable tanning process which gives Shell Cordovan its signature color.  After being tanned the leather is meticulously stained and cured by hand over several months.  This intensive treatment process is what gives the leather its trademark texture, as the leather is carefully cared for in order to ensure the right consistency.  Finally, the leather is shaved and hand polished to give an overall glossy finish to the material.

Given the use of rare horse hide (vs bovine) and the six month production process, Cordovan is one of the most expensive leathers on the market. Yet, the extra price paid is worth it for the appearance and quality of a pair of genuine Shell Cordovan shoes.  For this reason, some of the most revered shoe manufacturers utilize Shell Cordovan. And rightfully so –  the look of this finely crafted leather out shines lower-end leathers, and makes for a shoe that will endure year after year.

Alden

Alden Burgundy Shell Cordovan Chukka

Alden Burgundy Shell Cordovan Longwing

Alden Black Shell Cordovan Plain Toe

Carmina for Epaulet

Carmina for Epaulet Fitzgerald Shortwing Chestnut Shell Cordovan

Carmina for Epaulet Double Monk Saddle Shell Cordovan

Bass Weejun

Bass Weejun Black Larkin Shoe

Bass Weejun Burgundy Layton Shoe

Wolverine

Wolverine Shell Cordovan 1,000 Mile Boots

Ovadia & Sons Walking Coat

To some, the word ‘flannel’ instantly conjures up images of nineties grunge legends wearing loose fitting shirts and looking dirty enough to live up to their genre’s name. In actuality the fabric goes much farther back than that. Flannel is a nearly six hundred year old fabric that should be recognized more for it’s functional merits than for it’s association with Kurt Cobain. Flannel was first fabricated in sixteenth century Wales out of dense wool yarns from local sheep. Initially, it was primarily worn by Welsh farmers because its thick construction allowed them to work in any conditions. As flannel’s cold-combatting reputation grew it was quickly adopted throughout Germany, France, and many other European nations.

Overtime, as territories and trade routes expanded, flannel arrived in America where it became popular among woodsmen, lumberjacks, and other outdoor workers in the Northern United States. Flannel remained a staple in northern blue collar wardrobes for decades, during which time brands such as Woolrich and Pendleton manufactured legendary goods in flannel patterns. In the mid twentieth century flannel took on a more dignified persona, as the gray flannel suit became a cornerstone of the business man’s wardrobe. The straightforward look of gray flannel perfectly reflected the professionalism that reigned during this era.

Epaulet Tapered Rudy Cargo Trouser Light Grey Flannel

Then, in the late twentieth century flannel was embraced by counterculture movements within the northwest because of its popularity amongst the outdoors community. The prevalence of plaid flannel in this region made the clothes cheap and accessible – ideal for grunge rockers who wanted to appear unpretentious, and didn’t want to spend too much time or money on their clothes while still wearing something functional.

The days of flannel existing primarily on opposite ends of the spectrum; as either ill-fitting and careless, or as a fabric reserved for gray suits, are long gone. In the modern context, flannel has been widely utilized by designers as it is a timeless textile that is ideal for winter garments. The wool construction, and seasonal patterns and textures make flannel a perfect fabric for any winter garment, which is certainly reflected in this season’s collections.

Ovadia & Sons

Ovadia & Sons Heather Brown Lambswool Flannel Trouser

Ovadia & Sons Pistachio Lambswool Trouser

Epaulet

Epaulet Grey Flannel Buttondown

Epaulet Grey Flannel Buttondown

Gitman Bros. Vintage

Gitman Bros. Vintage Portuguese Flannel

Gitman Bros. Vintage Portuguese Flannel

Gitman Bros. Vintage Portuguese Flannel

Ian Velardi

Ian Velardi Sportcoat

Mackintosh

Mackintosh Duncan Fox Wool Flannel Coat

Gant Rugger

Gant Rugger Plaid Flannel Shirt

Alexander Olch

Alexander Olch

Epaulet Moleskin Walt Trouser Detail

Despite it’s name, Moleskin is actually not made from the hides of burrowing animals.  In reality moleskin is produced by weaving cotton yarns together to create a thick, durable material.  The name stems from the textile’s velvety soft finish that feels nearly identical to an actual mole’s skin.  This trademark texture is created by shearing the piling of the woven fabric down to a smooth finish.  While the feel of Moleskin is what gave it it’s name, it is the sturdy weave that makes Moleskin such a durable fabric.
Moleskin was initially used for making British factory worker’s garments because the fabric was so tightly woven that any debris or scrap would simply glide right off the surface of their clothes.  For these same reasons Moleskin still resonates today as a choice fabric during the winter.  Moleskin is heralded for being nearly windproof as the taut construction prevents any wind from permeating through.  Best of all the raised texture of the fabric makes it’s easy to simply brush off snow or spills, thus maintaining the distinct look of the garment without much effort.

Traditionally, Moleskin has mainly been used for pants.  But today the advantages of Moleskin have become more widespread and has recently been utilized for jackets, shirts, and other garments.  For this winter many companies offer a wide variety of Moleskin products that would be a great addition to a winter wardrobe.

L.B.M. 1911

L.B.M. 1911 Moleskin Jacket

L.B.M. 1911 Moleskin Jacket

L.B.M. 1911 Moleskin Jacket

Epaulet

Epaulet Cutaway Collar Moleskin Overshirt

Epaulet Slim Walt Moleskin Trousers

Epaulet Slim Walt Moleskin Trousers

Epaulet Slim Walt Moleskin Trousers

Epaulet Slim Walt Moleskin Trousers

Epaulet Slim Walt Moleskin Trousers

Thom Browne

Thom Browne Three Button Moleskin Blazer

Patrick Ervell

Patrick Ervell Army Field Coat

The line between dressing with Southwestern influence and simply looking like you’re wearing a Cowboy costume can be paper thin.  Choosing to wear a vest, hat or any other western-inspired garment can make you appear nothing less than cartoonish without properly balancing the rest of an outfit.  Despite this, there’s a good reason why Western films of the 60’s and 70’s still influence style today.  These films found the equilibrium between distinct western pieces and more modern garments. Here are three kits based on timeless Westerns that show how to add Southwestern touches to an outfit, without looking like an out of place cowboy.

Paul Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Boraslino Hat, Billy Reid Rustin Sportcoat, ts(s) Cotton and Wool Twill Shank Button Down, Epaulet Slim Walt Trouser Olive Moleskin, Epaulet Brown Chromexcel Double Prong Belt, Wolverine 1000 Mile Boot

Ernest Borgnine in The Wild Bunch

Lock & Co Hatters Rabbit-Felt FedoraFilson Mackinaw Wool Vest, Gant Rugger Chambray Button Down, Billy Reid Jack Corduroy PantsTanner Goods Standard BeltAlden for Epaulet Natural Chromexcel Tanker Boot

John Wayne in True Grit

Lanvin Rabbit-Felt FedoraFilson Dry Finish Tin Cloth Ranch Jacket, Hamilton 1883 Texas Shirt, Loro Piana Classic Cotton-Blend ChinosAlden for Epaulet Indy Boot, Woolrich John Rich & Bros Striped Scarf

Despite being born and raised in Japan, Yuki Matsuda of Yuketen, has an enviable understanding of American style.  In the 1970’s, prototypical American brands found a new market amongst the Japanese youth culture that respected and valued the all American aesthetic.  Companies such as Ralph Lauren, Levis, Red Wing, and other quintessential brands became highly desirable in Japan, leading to the creation of many “American lifestyle” stores that sold strictly American made products.  Yuki Matsuda like many of his peers, imersed himself within this philosophy of well-crafted western design. At age fifteen hr began working at one of these “American lifestyle” stores where he continued to learn about the elements and techniques that constitute classic and functional American design.
Yuki Matsuda (Image Courtesy Inventory Magazine)
With a vast understanding and appreciation for an era of American manufacturing that seems to be forgotten by most, Matsuda came to America in the late 1980’s and founded Yuketen.  Matsuda established the company on a philosophy of craftsmanship and quality, emulating the design principles that he had learned growing up from the America companies he loved.  Using these ideals as a template, Matsuda began manufacturing footwear that is hand sewn by a small team of skilled craftsmen.  Each pair takes between 96 and 120 hours to fabricate and most of the construction is done by a single worker.
Matsuda not only adopted classic American made standards of production – he also pulled many of his designs from traditional American footwear.  Yuketen’s collections are directly inspired by timeless pieces from throughout the nation, such as the Native American influenced Ring Boot, the Southwestern style Short Pull Boot, and Country Ranger Moc, Maine Hunting Boot, and the Eastern Inspired Boat Shoe and Oxford (below).  By placing so much care into the conception and production of their goods, Yuketen creates a product that pays tribute to American heritage and lasts for years – just like the brands that Matsuda surrounded himself with as a young man.

Ring Boot

Short Pull Boot

Country Ranger Moc

Maine Hunting Boot

Boat Shoe

Johnson Oxford Shoe

In the quest to stand out against the muted scenery of winter, dynamic and vibrant patterns are essential as they combat the gloomy hues of winter and elevate a cold weather wardrobe.  One such pattern that has been utilized in many recent collections is the Navajo Blanket print.  The colorful modernist aesthetic of the Navajo Blanket print has made it a prominent pattern for many designers this season, but the print itself has a history that is centuries old.

In the late seventh century Pueblo Indians that were fleeing Spanish Conquistadors sought refuge in Navajo communities peppered throughout the southwest.  Legend has it that it was the Pueblo who taught the Navajo the distinct weaving pattern that has come to define Navajo Blankets for over two hundred years.  While Navajo had traditionally constructed their clothing from cotton, the Spanish introduced sheep, and with them, wool to the region upon their arrival.  The breed of sheep that the Spanish brought over were particularly well suited to the southwestern climate and produced a thick, long wool that helped to give Navajo Blankets their trademark warmth.

The Navajo pulled the color palette for their blankets directly from the hues that surrounded them.  In using the earthy tones that filled their scenery the Navajo perfectly captured the essence of Southwestern America within a garment.  As trading routes to the Southwest opened up and the rest of the nation began to have greater access to Native American cultures, the desire for items, such as Navajo Blankets, that were quintessentially Southwestern increased substantially.  This demand has continued to rise consistently throughout the decades and continues today.  Thanks to the distinct look of the blankets as well as their functionality in keeping the wearer warm, the Navajo Blanket pattern has always remained relevant.  This season though many more designers have employed the pattern and featured it in their collections thus giving more modern notoriety to a traditional pattern.  Here are a few applications that will help break up the all too common monotony of winter outfits.

Ralph Lauren

Beacon Shirt

Beacon Shirt Detail

40/60 Parka

Knitted Sweater

 Filson

Waxed Cotton Padded Jacket

Waxed Cotton Padded Jacket Detail

Waxed Cotton Padded Coat

Golden Bear

Ukiah Jacket

Monterey Jacket

Visvim

Sculpture Coverall Jacket

Sculpture Coverall Jacket Detail

Pendleton

Cody Vest

The Hillside

Blanket Lining Stripe Scarf

Blanket Lining Stripe Necktie

A spy’s gotta be prepared for any situation, so here’s three sets I made over on my Svpply to show how to stay sharp no matter what the circumstances.

Shipley & Halmos Tuxedo Blazer and Trousers, Ami Tuxedo Bib Shirt, Alexander Olch “The Webster” Bow Tie, John Lobb City II Leather Oxfords, Zippo Lighter

Burberry Prosrum Classic Trench Coat, Gitman Vintage Oxford Shirt, Epaulet Slim Walt Cargo Trousers, Alden for Epaulet Whiskey Shell Cordovan Longwing, Michael Bastian for Randolph Engineering Aviator II, Libero Ferrero Thompson Bag

John Smedley Belvoir Rollneck Sweater, Incotex Slim Leg Cotton Blend Chinos, Common Projects Achilles Leather Low Top Sneakers, Wigman Black Watch Cap, Mulberry Cashmere-Lined Leather Gloves, Rolex Daytona

There is no spy image more prolific than that of James Bond sitting at a poker table, cigarette dangling off his lip, drink in front of him, cards in hand, and dressed impeccably in a perfect black tuxedo.  Tuxedos are the natural choice for any secret agent – instantly designating it’s wearer as the best dressed man in the room thus demanding the due respect that a spy deserves. And if you’ve watched any Bond film, you know, the slim fit of a tux ensures maximum mystique and agility, without having excess fabric hinder his actions or style.
While it is highly unlikely that the average man will have to preform perilous, clandestine activities, the tuxedo certainly deserves a place within any man’s wardrobe.  In a modern era where far too many men loosely interpret the term “formal,” the tuxedo is a statement. Showing up to an event, such as the most formal of holiday parties, in a tuxedo makes a man appear like Bond – smart, thoughtful, and confident. While the dramatic look of a tuxedo has fallen out of fashion as of late, thanks largely to the high cost of a well made tux, there are a fair amount of contemporary brands that produce a quality product at an accessible price point.
J. Crew Ludlow Tuxedo Suit – As the most easily attainable option out there, the Ludlow Tux is also one of the most traditional offerings available.  J. Crew constructed a classic two button, dual pocket jacket, with satin lapels, and a double back vent on a wool body.  This understated design is ideal for any man simply looking for a timeless tuxedo that looks great without being too flashy.
Ami Wool Tuxedo Suit – With this suit Ami has redefined what constitutes a tuxedo.  Forgoing the traditional pitch black tone of most tuxedos, Ami opted instead for a deep navy hue that is slightly less intense.  Continuing the more moderate feel of the tuxedo, Ami went with a softer structure instead of the rigid tailoring that normally defines tuxes.  This soft structure gives the garment a more relaxed fit that makes the suit appropriate in a wide variety of situations.  Relaxed doesn’t necessarily mean sloppy here as this suit maintains a slim silhouette that can still certainly appear dressy when it needs to be.
Brooks Brothers 1818 One Button Fitzgerald Tuxedo – This is the tuxedo that Jay Gatsby would have worn.  It is clean and sleek through and through, without any distracting details.  This tuxedo does what every good suit should do, complimenting the wearer, not distracting from them.  One button front, narrow lapels, satin covered buttons.  The features of this tuxedo simply blend in to this jacket, thus creating a garment that draws attention to the wearer not the clothes.  High arm holes and slim fitting trousers bring the garment close around the wearer’s body, giving a streamlined, trim fit.
Set in 1973 London, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy tells the tale of one Mi6 agent’s search for a Russian spy hiding amidst a handful of British operatives.  As a character driven film, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, pulls much of it’s dark and ominous tone from the actors themselves.  Therefore, costume designer Jacqueline Durran had to thoughtfully construct the wardrobes to effectively convey the severity of the situation that the agent’s found themselves in.
Durran clearly drew inspiration from Savile Row, located just a few blocks from the Piccadilly Circus where much of the film takes place.  With centuries of tailoring tradition to draw upon, the costumes were built around the basic framework of a three piece suit in a slim silhouette.  This look helped the characters appear serious and smart; looking clean and crisp even while performing devious deeds.  On top of this straightforward blueprint, Durran used patterns, colors, and details to distinguish and dignify each specific character, adding complexity and mystique.  The older, more experienced operatives wore ties in basic, deeper hues, expressing seniority and due respect.  Meanwhile, younger agents appeared in bold patterned shirts and ties, and more bombastic suits with wide, peak lapels.
Breaking from this pattern was the character Ricki Tarr, arguably the most intriguing character in the mix. Tarr appears as the young, intelligent, rebel so he is, fittingly, never seen in a suit; serving as a distinct foil to his counterparts. Instead, Tarr shaped the character in pieces such as a Barracuta G-9 Jacket, and Converse Jack Purcells.  Dad jeans and longer hair rounded out Tarr’s ‘casual man of mystery’ style.
Over all it is the details that encapsulate and solidify the brooding feel of the film. Be it the knee-length trenches that capture a hazy London afternoon, leather gloves that convey an impending crime, or the bottle of scotch a character carries en route to a clandestine meeting Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy exemplifies the old adage: it is the finishing touches that truly make the man.
Initially conceptualized as the ideal footwear for rock climbers during their excursions through mountainous terrain, the mountaineering boot has found new meaning within the context of the urban jungle, thanks to it’s all weather endurance.  The mountaineering boot was designed originally to withstand anything that an adventurer may face in the wilderness.  The boots feature a sturdy upper to keep the wearers foot intact and prevent falls.  This upper is typically constructed from rigid leather and coupled with a sturdy sole to enable the wearer to navigate with stability on uneven terrain.  The body of the shoe is defined by the metal eyelets that nicely complement the leather surface and help keep the boot snug. The heavy duty eyelets that extend out onto the toe of the boot ensure that traction is never lost. Finally, it is the heavy insulation that have kept mountaineering boots a staple with backpackers. Feet are one of the most vulnerable places for the cold to creep in so these quality materials and ample insulation work to prevent frostbite.
Obviously, with all the adventuring based features crammed into one piece, mountaineering boots have not always been the most attractive of footwear.  Over the years the mountaineering boot gained a reputation as a terrific option not just for the outdoors, but for colder conditions in general.  While many brands, such as Dunham in the ad above, have shifted away from boot production over the years, several companies have adapted the shape and given it a more streamlined look solidifying the mountaineering boot’s place as a great contemporary piece of winter weather footwear.
Zlin – Utilizing a defunct army boot factory in the Czech Republic as their headquarters, Zlin offers a no-nonsense take on the mountaineering boot.  Constructed from a gorgeous golden hued Italian leather, the Climbing II Boot is built more for a city street than a hiking path, but it will still do its job against cold, wet and windy conditions.  The dark leather back tab and blood red laces add complexity to the boot and draw attention without being abrasive.
Danner – Establishing a boot company in 1932, during the middle of Great Depression, is a bold move, but it spelled great success for Charles Danner.  By placing craftsmanship and quality above all else Danner was able to produce products that not only weathered through the Great Depression but also have endured for decades.  Danner still manufactures boots to the same standards upon which the company was founded nearly eight decades ago and their Mountain Trail Boots are a direct reflection of this.  About as sleek as boots can be, the Mountain Trail offers a clean profile and dodge the chunky look that plagues a lot of winter footwear.  Details such as leather lining and a Vibram Gumlite sole add distinction and practically to the boot.
Diemme – Based out of the Montebelluna region of Italy, where over fifty percent of the world’s mountaineering boots are produced, Diemme has drawn from their environment to create an incredible product.  Founded in 1992 by brothers Maico and Dennis Signor, both of which grew up working at boot factories learning their craft, Diemme adheres to the same standards that have made their region famous since the late 19th century.  Each pair is handmade by craftsman, including the Signor brothers who still work on the factory floor, and utilizes the finest of materials.  The Roccia Vet Boot is fabricated from one hundred percent leather and features a contrasting cream colored Vibram sole that is sewn on by hand.  The D-Ring eyelets give off a rugged feel that will help the boot last for years.  Finally, the all leather lining and minimal construction kept the weight of the boot down, protecting the wearer’s feet without being encumbering.
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