Camel Hair – The Crisp Side of Fall

Shot by Matt Smith

Fall is made in the fabrics.  Burnt orange donegals, sage green herringbone tweeds, ivory colored cashmeres, dark grey lambswools.  These are the textiles that spring to mind when we think of fall, the many textures and hues that mirror the rich fall landscape.  Coming from the brighter yet simpler summer palate we are quick to jump on these dynamic fabrics, searching for something a bit more dramatic than the flat textiles that we have been wearing for the past dew of months.  As a result though, we tend to forget that amongst a sea of the bold and the complex, it’s often the most understated pieces that stand out the strongest.

Case in point, one of fall’s most classic, yet recently underutilized fabrics: Camel Hair.  Camel Hair is harvested during the warmer months as camels begin to shed their soft undercoat, which is then woven into a textile with a nice natural sheen to it and the attractive characteristic of being warm without packing too much excess bulk.  Commonly used to produce overcoats, sportcoats, and blazers, Camel Hair became a favorite of the Anglo-American set that bridged the gap between urban trad and English-countryside.  One of the most famous of all Camel Hair jackets is the Polo Coat, an ankle length, double breasted top coat with dual flap pockets, and of course that signature golden-yellow tint.

The height of the Polo Coat also represented the heyday of Camel Hair, that early through midcentury period when everyone seemed to be taking their cues from Ivy Leaguers and the Duke of Windsor alike.  After a while though these past icons started to fizzle out, replaced by newcomers that leaned more towards the radical.  Suddenly Camel Hair was just too bland, affixed with a stigma of stuffy that it hasn’t really been able to shake.  Yet I propose a new perspective on camel hair, one that doesn’t instantly make you think of old guys at New England country clubs.  To me camel hair is sort of like the American response to Cucinelli’s familiar neutral color scheme.  Much the same way Cucinelli’s beiges and earth tones mirror his environment, Camel Hair is a reflection on our surroundings, a crisp yet familiar color that echoes the sharp fall air.  While most fall fabrics tend to lean towards statement pieces, Camel Hair is easy to pair, working just as well with jeans, as with a pair of grey trousers.  Complimenting an outfit not by complicating things, a reminder that fall doesn’t always have to be so dramatic.

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  1. Thank you for reminding me with your wonderful post that I need a camel hair overcoat this fall!

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