Monthly Archives: January 2012

English Mod Rockers Trying on Chelsea Boots in 1965

Against a landscape of lace-ups, slips on, and monk straps, the Chelsea Boot is beginning to return to prominence.  Chelsea Boots reach back to Victorian-era England where they were originally conceptualized as a riding boot, posing an alternative to knee-high boots that were not necessarily practical. Despite having a much shorter cut, the Chelsea Boot maintained its functionality as a riding boot by having elastic straps on both sides.  The elastic siding was developed in 1837 by Sparkes-Hall, the bootmaker to Queen Elizabeth.  Sparkes-Hall elaborated on Charles Goodyear’s recent discovery of vulcanized rubber, to create a sturdy band that secured the boot tightly around the foot.  The elastic bands stretch from just above the welt to the top of the boot, allowing for easy access and removal, something clearly lacking in traditional riding boots. The straps help contribute to the overall tight look of the boot by eliminating the need for laces, making for a streamlined silhouette.

Chelsea Boots remained a popular style up until World War I when rubber became a scare commodity and production of the boots became an impossibility.  Following both World Wars production resumed and in the 1960’s Chelsea Boots enjoyed a resurgence that was marked by their popularity amongst the young British Mod scene. Mod rockers wore Chelsea Boots for much the same reason why people wear them today, because they work perfectly with tapered trousers.  The sleek look of Chelsea Boots make them great complimentary footwear for narrower pants, as they maintain a clean overall appearance.  Here are some options:

Church's Amberley Boot

Carmina for Epaulet Carver Burgundy Calfskin Chelsea Boot

Crockett & Jones Chelsea Boot

Loake Chelsea Boot

Ralph Lauren Dinsdale Chelsea Boot

Amongst the seemingly never-ending stream of street style photos that came out of Pitti Uomo this year one of the most prevalent looks was the Down Vest/Blazer combination.  The outfit is an interesting blend between two dominant trends in modern menswear – unconstructed, lightweight Italian tailoring and practical heritage inspired outerwear.

This clever, contemporary pairing is ideal for those colder days when you don’t want to sacrifice on style. The look hinges on the ability of the quilted vest ability to compliment the soft shoulder of the blazer, rather than complicate it by adding too much bulk.  Therefore the vest should sit comfortably on your shoulder, not square you out like a refrigerator.  Also consider a solid, no frills vest that will add to the refined look of the blazer instead of clashing with it.  Here are some options:

Eddie Bauer Essential Down Vest

Hartford Suede Vest

Outlier Soft Core Wool Vest

Jack Spade Georgie Quilted Nylon Vest

Isaia Reversible Down Vest

If there’s one thing this winter has proven it’s that even after over a century of business, Barbour jackets have not waned in popularity. The enduring prevalence of Barbour is no surprise as the company perfected their designs long ago and have since continued to create products that live up to their old standards.  One of the most well-known of all Barbour jackets is the Liddesdale,  and while it remains an iconic and very popular piece, it is classic to a fault.  The length of the body and sleeves are a bit too long by today’s standards and the overall cut appears too old-school-British-boxy for most people. The Liddesdale, while a great coat, was in serious need of an update for a younger generation.  This update came when Tokihito Yoshida, a Japanese designer teamed up with Barbour in 2009 to create the Beacon Collection, (also known as Barbour x Tokito) a sprawling line that perfectly combines timeless designs with more contemporary fits.

In my opinion the Sporting Quilt, a riff on Barbour’s classic quilted jacket, is the true gem of the Beacon Collection, taking all the flaws of the Liddesdale and reworking them to create a classic garment with a modern fit.  The Sporting Quilt has a much shorter body length and true-to-fit sleeve length; these revisions along with small design details make for a modern, refined look.  The corduroy collar, suede dual elbow and shooting patches frame the jacket nicely, pulling from Barbour’s traditional details to add a touch of distinction. The jacket is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also weather-ready, with a waxed cotton finish and a thick polyester lining.

Eddie Bauer Skyliner Patent from 1940

Geese don’t get cold.  It is likely that this basic statement is the exact observation that lead to the discovery of down as a material.  Down feathers are actually not the visible feathers on geese or ducks, they are the undercoating beneath this exterior layer that insulate the birds to keep them warm.  This coating is specific to waterfowl and was likely discovered by a curious 14th century farmer who realized that down feathers were the key to keeping these birds warm.  Down is such an effective material because the feathers interlock and come together to create a protective layer that traps heat and blocks out the cold. Initially down was only available to the upper class who used it for their pillows and bedding, but slowly down became more commonplace and was embraced by the masses.

It was only a matter of time before the merits of down were adapted to outerwear and the down jacket was born.  For centuries down filled outerwear was an option, but a flawed one at that. Early down jackets were absurdly puffy and required continuous fluffing as the feathers had a tendency to clump up and sink to the bottom of the jacket.  It wasn’t until the mid 1930’s when Mr. Eddie Bauer was inspired by a bout of hypothermia during a fly fishing trip in Washington state that down was perfected.  During this excursion Bauer was facing hellaciously low temperatures and his wool jacket was simply not cutting it, so Bauer decided to improve upon down to find a way to prevent clumping and create a jacket that could shield the entire body.  With these ideals in mind Bauer created the Skyliner, the world’s first quilted down jacket.  The revolutionary quilting pattern kept the feathers in place, thus insulating the coat evenly throughout.  Subsequently the Skyliner was adopted by the U.S. military thanks to it’s unprecedented warmth and the quilted down jacket was immortalized.  While the patterns may change from jacket to jacket, the principles remain the same and the quilted down jacket still prevails as the epitome of outerwear.

Loro Piana Storm System Jacket

Marni Padded Jacket

Gant by Michael Bastian Moto Parka

Woolrich John Rich & Bros Puffer Coat

Polo Ralph Lauren Yukon Puffa Jacket

In 1974 Anne Michelson, an employee at Eddie Bauer, began making custom down jackets for her friends in Seattle, Washington and Crescent Down Works was born.  At it’s inception CDW’s outerwear wasn’t geared toward fashion, it was about functionality against the brutal northwestern weather.  Michelson was, and still is, an avid outdoors-woman and CDW’s designs were based on her extensive knowledge of the elements, not only from her personal experience, but also from her time at Eddie Bauer.

Slowly the company grew, carving out a niche within the outdoor-world thanks to their goose-down filled jackets that provided insulation against the roughest of climates. The Italians were some of the first to take note of CDW’s products during the big outdoor craze in Italy during the 70’s and 80’s.  The Japanese also took an interest in CDW during the late 80’s, as American made goods became insanely popular amongst Japanese youth.  The brand was also especially popular in America, where the culture grew exponentially everyday.  If you look back in the archives of Backpacker, and other outdoor-centric magazines, they’re peppered with advertisements for Crescent Down Works.  The company was heralded back then because their products were no-nonsense and they simply worked.  But you don’t have to scour ebay or vintage stores to find a quality Crescent Down Works jacket as the company still uses the exact same designs Michelson began with in the 1970’s, right down to hand-written production notes on the sides.

The company has understood what makes a great outerwear from day one, and they apply this to everything from a puffer jacket that could face the tundra, to a slim shirt jacket that is the quintessential layering piece.  The brand keeps their products topical by changing up their palate and patterns, and this season they offer classic colors such as olive and navy, but also capitalize on current trends by adopting orange and a Navajo print.

Whenever Individualized Shirts presents their collection they tape a small American Flag on every tag. For the brand, the flags aren’t some meaningless gimmick they’re a small token that represents the spirit behind their products. John LaResca and George Zimmerman, two Brooks Brothers shirt makers, started Individualized Shirts in Paterson, New Jersey in 1961 with the intention of providing easily accessible custom-fitting shirts. Since that time Individualized has grown into the largest custom shirt maker in the nation, producing all their shirts from a 35,000 square foot factory in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Today, eighty-five percent of their business is custom, making Individualized Shirts the largest custom shirt manufacturer in America, yet over the past couple decades Individualized has also begun to offer an expansive line of off the rack shirting. With such a massive factory and backlog of textiles at their disposal Individualized’s personal brand is best described as what company president Jim Heiser calls “fun stuff.” The collection is experimental at its very core, full of plaids, prints, stripes and other patterns in every possible color combination. But where the brand really thrives is on the consumer’s personal experience of feeling the shirts themselves. Individualized plays with an incredible array fabrics, consistencies and washes, especially for their staple solid colored shirts, to give each garment a unique texture and feel. The brand’s custom background is evident from the moment you put a shirt on. Every cut and detail is carefully considered based upon an extensive understanding of fit that can only come from decades of tailoring experience.

Palmer Trading Company may be headquartered on Sullivan Street amidst the most heavily trafficked shopping district in New York, yet the brand itself is quintessentially New England.  While PTC is already revered for their handsome store and impressive stock, their in house brand has become noteworthy in and of itself.  Palmer stems from Palmer, Massachusetts the hometown of PTC designers, Willy and David, and this northeastern spirit is reflected in the brand’s collections.  The duo keeps as much manufacturing as possible in the northeast and this thoughtful craftsmanship is evident in every stitch and seam of PTC’s pieces.  Palmer’s most recent offering has a strong, dignified look throughout but the two most instantly remarkable pieces are the penny-loafers.  The first features an emerald green, Horween leather body on top of a crepe sole, and has a classic New England prep look to it, but the non-traditional color really elevates the shoe.  The second version is a beefrolled navy blue Chromexcel leather loafer with tan stitching on a white vibram sole.  The sturdy sole and Americana details give this loafer an appropriately rugged northeastern feel.  Palmer’s collection goes much deeper than just footwear, with wallets, belts, and other leather goods all manufactured out of dark, rich leathers that’ll age down to a beautiful worn patina.  Finally, PTC offers a variety of leather and canvas bags, in particular a computer bag that’s functional and lightweight, a surprisingly difficult feat to pull off when making a quality bag.

Utility Canvas began when Hal Grano, a canoe guide, and his wife Jillian Kaufman-Grano, an artist, recognized the common theme in their lives: canvas.  In 1990 the couple moved upstate to the Hudson Valley and began manufacturing practical products out of canvas.  Canvas has a long history as an industrial strength material that is not only durable, but water resistant as well, making it a choice fabric for simple, functional pieces.  Utility Canvas’ collection draws inspiration from European workwear in the 1960’s and 70’s, featuring straightforward, sensible designs that were initially tailored toward working class functionality.  But Utility Canvas’ line is far from basic heritage-wear, as the brand thrives off subtle details to distinguish themselves from standard workwear.  Utility Canvas employs a striking color scheme including oranges and reds, and uses horn buttons, and contrast stitching, and collars to give a modern spin to decade’s old designs.

Bass is a brand in the midst of a fascinating revival.  The company itself is now over one hundred thirty five years old, the Weejuns brand just celebrated their seventy-fifth anniversary, and yet they are still relevant as ever.  While the brand may have sold an immeasurable amount of shoes in between 1876 and today, the basic framework has always remained the same.  The key to Bass’ success is understanding their own products, and how they fit within the contemporary market.  While a pair of Bass Bucks that you can buy today might appear quite similar to the bucks of the late nineteenth century, it is the small changes that make Bass endure as a brand.  Their latest collection is full of these minor tweaks that keep the brand pertinent to a younger generation.  By modifying the sole and body color on their bucks, Bass continues to push the envelope of the resurgence of the “Red Brick Sole” in menswear right now.  The newest Weejuns feature more casual tan and beige hues, as well as contrast midnight blue stitching on the more classic models.  Bass is a great example of a brand that builds on their revered foundation to continuously push themselves and the marketplace.

Camo is infamous for their Annual Poker Game, a spectacle in the center of all the action at Pitti Uomo in which four models sit around a poker table, dressed in all Camo and play a few hands of poker.  This   demonstration is not only a really smart way to show off a collection, in a plaza surrounded by photographers, but also embodies the playful spirit that defines the brand.  Camo’s Autumn/Winter 2012 line, titled the Casino Collection thrives off the details.  Designer Stefano Ughetti utilizes elongated collars, contrast piping and other small design tweaks to place the distinct Camo stamp onto classic garments.

For me, the standouts from this diverse collection were the items that pulled strongest from Italian influences.  Belted Cardigans in a variety of patterns brought the classic casual Italian style to the forefront of the collection.  Ughetti was wearing a navy version that showed how the cardigan drapes to just the right length to appear comfortable, without bordering on femininity.

The double breasted sportcoat seems to be a staple in nearly every collection this year, but Camo modified their version to really separate it from the sea of other DB’s.  Constructed in a deep blue hue, Camo’s double breasted appears almost as a workwear interpretation of this timeless garment. The two by two buttoning style and shorter cut add to the distinct appeal of this sportcoat.

Turtlenecks are notorious for being suffocatingly stiff, but Camo’s version is anything but.  The contrast collar and ribbing break up the typical monotony that characterizes most turtlenecks.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 11,716 other followers