Archive for June, 2015

Patchwork Madras, York Street, and Aristotle

With summer now officially in full effect I have been adding a few new casual shirts to the line-up. First up is a patchwork madras button-front shirt from J.Press. Well not actually J.Press, but York Street. You are probably just as surprised reading that as I was when I purchased it.

York Street has a bad rap and I am not saying that it is undeserved. The clothes are tight, short, and often odd looking which is generally the exact opposite of what I want. Especially when we are talking tailored clothing. Casual clothing is a little different. It does not require the same amount of detail.
York Street Patchwork MadrasI saw this short-sleeved patchwork madras shirt at York St. and immediately liked it…from far away. I zoomed in on the shirt examining each piece of madras. I didn’t really like any of them. I zoomed back out and once again I liked it. What I learned about patchwork madras during this exercise is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The main reason that I added a new casual shirt to the rotation is golf. I have found that short-sleeved button front shirts in summer fabrics are often much cooler than the ubiquitous polo. The space between the buttons provides ventilation and if you choose a lightweight fabric it adds to the airy feel.

If you are looking for a casual shirt I suggest giving a short-sleeved button-front shirt a try. It is a nice alternative to a polo. You could also use this opportunity to explore brands that would not make the cut in the office such as York St., Gant, Red Fleece, or even something like the J.Crew.

If you are considering a patchwork madras remember that you do not need to like every patch. You just need to like the way they all look together. For those of you wondering about sizing my York Street medium shirt fits like my medium from PRL. My next project will be removing the branding from the shirt.

The Pursuit of the Perfect Pair of Chinos: Update

The Uniform

Christian from Ivy-Style recently blogged about his Full Rise, Narrow Leg: The Ivy Style Khaki Project. This immediately reminded me of my search for collegiate cut chinos which are also known for their full rise and narrow leg. More importantly it reminded me that I owe you all an update.
Perfect Chino Search

After experimenting with so many pairs of chinos I actually kind of gave up. Well not so much gave as  took a break. During my search for collegiate cut chinos I ordered a few pair of J.Crew Essential Chinos in Classic fit to wear while the others were being altered. In the end I was content with the J.Crew chinos.

I have been wearing these J.Crew chinos for years. They are far from perfect, but the rise is ok for me and the leg opening is 7.75” on a 29 waist (this is one of my biggest challenges) with a 29” inseam. I have made one change that had a good impact. I have stopped washing and drying my chinos on hot. I think that this has helped to add a little more rise and overall volume to this set of chinos compared with my older ones.
The Perfect Chinos

Are the J.Crew classic fit chinos the perfect chino? No, they are not. Are they as cool as the pair pictured above? No way. Do they work for now? Yes, they fit decent enough and it is great to stop thinking about how much better they could be. Do I still want to taper them a quarter inch? You know that I do.

While I may have fought off my urge for collegiate cut trousers for the moment I am very interested in seeing how Christian’s project turns out. Maybe they will be the ones?

For those of you that have not read about my search for collegiate cut chinos you can find links below.

Collegiate Cut Chinos Part 1

Collegiate Cut Chinos Part 2

Collegiate Cut Chinos Part 3

Collegiate Cut Chinos Part 4

J.Press: Made in China

J.Press has been serving the soft-shouldered crowd since 1902, but lately their S.Cohen made jackets have been hurting the reputation when it comes to soft-shouldered tailoring. That is why my ears perked up when I heard rumblings of new “imported” suits at J.Press with much softer shoulders the  their S.Cohen offerings.

Right about this time our man Ensiferous showed (He helped me out with my waistcoat post.) one of these Chinese made suits off. I reached out to Ensiferous for a review of this suit and luckily for us he was happy to oblige!

Ensiferous will take it from here,

The J. Press “Pressclusive Suit in Australian Worsted Peppin Merino wool, imported.”
J.Press Made in China Suit

In my opinion, the last word in the description, “Imported”, is the only contentious part of this J. Press suit, though one might debate that the price of $795 is questionable as well.

But there is no question that this suit has the right details:

*An actual 3/2 lapel roll with some “bloom”, rather than flat-pressed lapels. And the lapel width is classic; neither skinny nor wide, at just under 3.5″
Shoulder Pinch J.Press

*Shoulders that are neither overly wide, nor overly padded. (See shoulder pinch image.) While not yet perfect, this is a minor revolution in what could be a return to the the jacket outline that is a figurative grail for men who seek the natural shoulder style.

*A very good curvilinear cut of the jacket’s break line from the gorge down the lapels, and through the quarters. (Suggested reading: Billax on the subject: The two pairs of Ogee curves in the Ivy League look) A key to this is the perfectly balanced, classic Ivy League 3-button spacing, which avoids the regrettable deep-vee break line.

J.Press Suit

*Flat front trousers with sufficient rise, 8 belt loops, a good waistband, and lined to the knee.

*The jacket has an undarted front (technically is side darted) and has a single hook vent.

Significant is the improvement over the S. Cohen sourced J. Press jackets which had very dated shoulders. And dated in a bad way, as in 1989. This suit is more worthy of the Press TNSIL pedigree. On the production tag inside a trouser back pocket is printed “Onward Kashiyama Co. LTD”, and I think that someone there might actually be listening to us, or has studied some dusty old images of the greatest era of mens clothing design in history, the United States circa ’50 to ’65.
Dark Navy J.Press Suit

The navy fabric is very dark, almost a black-navy. Understandably, some might not like it, but I find it acceptable since most of my other navy suits are slightly lighter and this darker shade allows me to have a wider range of navy blue available. The fabric itself is very comfortable, but tends to wrinkle more than the Loro Piana equivalent.

For me, the suit runs a bit roomy, so I sized down 1″ in the chest compared to the Brooks Brothers Madison fit. The trousers were fine at the waist, but too roomy and in need of trimming down in the seat & thighs. I had them tapered to a 7.75″ leg opening.
J.Press trousers

But only on sale does this suit make economic sense to me. Both having the same full price, it competes with O’Connell’s H. Freeman worsted navy suit, which is fully canvassed and made in the USA. So the Press import is even tougher to justify knowing that it is Chinese made. But the J. Press fits me better than the H. Freeman. (Oddly, vintage H. Freeman & Sons fit me, but not the new H. Freeman)

The combination of its attributes make for a suit that I consider overall to be the most evocative of the mid-century Ivy boom years that I can buy new. Excellent condition old suits from the TNSIL heyday are very hard to come across, but this suit is like finding a vintage new-old-stock Ivy League suit from 1958.

But all that said, it is ultimately just a mid-level utility suit (and the J. Press base level suit) with the requisite details. Those who require only high quality suits of the best materials and construction would likely not consider this suit anyway, but those who seek out the minutiae of the Ivy League style might give it a try.  –Ensiferous

Initially I was very excited that Press had moved production away from S.Cohen, but this is not the case. Ensiferous’s suit was purchased sometime around 2013. He reported that he tried to buy another of these suits recently and it was made in Thailand. It also fit larger. He passed.

This probably isn’t the most useful info if you have to purchase from J.Press over the internet. It does make taking a shot at something marked “Imported” a little more tempting. If you are in driving range of a brick & mortar or will be in the future this is definitely an additional reason to visit. Just look for the made in China tag along with the sales tag.

Lean Garments: Pre-Order Popovers

It seems that popovers all are the rage again this summer. I previously published my top popover picks (Top of the Pops), but last week this popover from Lean Garments popped up on my radar. Blue OCBD PopoverIf you aren’t familiar with Lean Garments they are a new company out of Finland headed up by two 20-year old engineering students. They started with the goal of making an “affordable OCBD with proper unlined collar roll and other details for our friends here at university campus”. Their OCBD features an unlined 3.5” Collar and sells for $32. The drawback is alpha sizing, but if the sizing works for you that is quite a deal.

After tackling a Chambray shirt they are now rolling out a Popover OCBD (Available in blue and white) for $35. The popover appears to have the same collar length of the OCBD. They are long sleeved with a flap pocket, rear box pleat and a rounded short hem that was made to be worn untucked. I dig the white popover. There will be quibbles about the dimensions I am sure. I have my own, but at least they provide a detailed measurement chart (Popover sizing) to save us from complete disappointment and frustration.

It looks like I waited too long to post this and they now only have a handful more pre-orders. Their limited supply is a common complaint. In fact, it is the only complaint that I have heard apart from the alpha sized OCBDs.

In their defense, Lean Garments started as a student project (not sure where it stands now) and even at their young age they have learned what many other brands still have not which is that it is always better to leave the people wanting more. This is a brand to keep your eye on as they continue to roll out classic casual pieces at a great detail-to-dollar ratio.