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Who Gets It? Ben Silver Does.

Ben Silver

When people learn that I have a blog it often leads to a discussion about the style that I blog about. Generally, I will say something like, “It is about traditional American style. They look at me puzzled. I say, think boring preppy. They get a better idea.” The conversation almost always ends up with me providing a few examples of companies that I think “get it.” Lately I have tried to find the best example of a company that not only understands the traditional American audience, but that can style the clothes for this audience as well. So who does get it?
Ben Silver Styling

Companies that Get it

  1. O’Connell’s Clothing
  2. J.Press
  3. Ben Silver
  4. The Andover Shop
  5. Brooks Brothers

As you can see from my who’s who llist of the Trad world above there are quite a few companies that cater to this audience, but that’s only one part of this challenge. Next, the company must have a website that is reflective of their offerings (this knocks out the Andover Shop). Then, the website has to feature real people in the clothes. Just laying a tie over a shirt is not going to cut it (There goes O’Connell’s and J.Press).
Ben Silver Harris Tweed Multi Color Broken Bone JacketBen Silver VestThe last two standing are Brooks Brothers and Ben Silver. You would think that Brooks Brothers might be the favorite, or at least make it competitive, but they don’t. Their audience is too wide and their offerings too vast. The result is a vast array of styles worn in primarily ill-fitting fashion. This is most likely due to the sheer volume of styling that was required.
Ben Silver Russet and Wheat Herringbone Harris Tweed Sport CoatBen Silver Harris Tweed Multi Color Broken Bone JacketBen Silver wins. They get it. The clothing here is presented in a way that is authentic to the style and the day. From now on Ben Silver is where I will send a friend or acquaintance when they want to see a current example of the look. For more, 7ou can browse through the Ben Silver Fall 2014 online catalog here: Ben Silver Fall 2014 and visit the Ben Silver website.

Tactility – the secret pleasure of Textures

This post was written by Billax. Billax is not only one of my style role models, but a friend and a man that was Trad back when it was called Ivy League.

Fit, coordination, patterns, and textures are key elements in presenting a well put together outfit to the world. Of course, a well put together look pleases the man who creates it, too. Textures play a special role in my outfits since I am largely colorblind. That doesn’t mean the world is shades of gray to me, it means that colors I think are magenta turns out to be Forest Green or a shirt I think is yellow turns out to be orange. It’s awful, but I have good help! I’ve come to believe that a deficiency in one of the senses, heightens the others. In my case, tactility, the sense of touch has became very sensitive. I don’t just SEE textures, I am carried away by touching them. Just running my hand across an LL Bean rough Shetland sweater mentally transports me to the forests, the hills, limestone outcroppings, and fields of the Kettle Moraine of my beloved Wisconsin…

Textures 1.2
… even though I’m almost always in North Carolina or California. In fact, were I offered fully accurate color vision in return for giving up enhanced tactility, I’d decline the trade.*

I’ve contended in an earlier article that their are four sub-styles of the Ivy League Look. You can read that article at:

In the country flavor of Ivy I contend that textures are at their most developed and most interesting and it’s clear that I’m primarily a country style Ivy guy! Sure, I like the hand of Cashmere, but smooth as it is, it’s not top of list. That rough Shetland sweater resonates with me. Sure, I wear the other three forms of the Ivy look as situations and events require, but if nothin’s on my schedule for the day, in the Fall you’ll likely find me in corduroys, an LL Bean Field Coat, a Chambray shirt, rough Shetland crew neck sweater, and the rest of that country outfit!

Here, then, are some of favorite textures from my closet:
Sam Hober Lambswool TieSam Hober Lambswool tie
Sam Hober Grenadine Silk tieSam Hober Grenadine Silk tie
Textures 4Brooks Brothers Camel Hair Sport coat

Textures 5Scottish Merino Wool ribbed sweater of multiple yarn colors.

Textures 6“Donegal Mist” hand-woven cloth in a sport coat. The composition of the cloth is 60% wool 35% alpaca and 5% Cashmere. Note the VERY long strands of Alpaca, which when seen in the right light gives these jackets their famous “aura” or “halo.” The wonderful complexity of “hand” in this cloth is unrivaled in my opinion.

Textures  7Orvis 6 button country cotton moleskin vest
Textures 8Brooks Brothers Donegal tweed. Handwoven cloth with flecks of colorful home-dyed wool inserted into the wool on the loom
Textures 9J. Press Cavalry Twill trousers
Textures 10LL Bean Rough Shetland Crew neck
Textures 11LL Bean Lambswool V-neck sweater with Saddle Shoulders
Textures  12Brooks Brothers 5 pocket Narrow Wale Corduroy trousers
Textures 13Sam Hober Chalk hand Ancient Madder pocket square
Textures  14Orvis Goatskin suede Harringtron jacket
WigWam ElPineWigwam wool socks. The creamy sock is the Husky athletic sock and the marled brown, tan, and gray sock is a heavier Ragg wool named the El-Pine. Note the individual fibers at the edge of each sock.

Textures  16Andover Shop Shetland Shaggy Dog cable-knit sweater
Textures 16O’Connell’s Scottish Shetland cable-knit sweater
Textures  18Brooks Brothers Seersucker button-down casual shirt
Textures  19Royal Silk raw silk pocket square
Textures  20Andover Shop sweater of 80% Baby Alpaca and 20% Wool
Textures  21J. Press Whipcord trousers

* The sense of touch for cloth or fabric is called “hand” in the textile industry. Academic studies done for the textile industry repeatedly demonstrate that practice in judging the hand of a fabric is highly accurate and repeatable over time. One such academic paper can be seen here.

Invasion of the Preppies


This morning I woke up to the first day of snow. Still adjusting to the cold temps I spent my afternoon holed up in the library flipping through old yearbooks. I focused on the ’80s, an era that I haven’t dedicated much time to posting about, but I was motivated by some ’70s/’80s pics from HTJ. As I was scanning a 1982 Wittenberg yearbook I came upon a page containing a short write up titled, “Invasion of the Preppies.” I couldn’t resist sharing.

Invasion of the Preppies

In case you haven’t noticed (and you must be blind not to have noticed), the Preppy look has returned to Wittenberg. Certainly there were preps here before, but with the conservative outcome of the 1980 elections, it has become almost a patriotic symbol to wear the well-known alligator over one’s heart. The Izods, Oxford Cloth shirts, straight leg pants, penny loafers, and neat, short hair all parts of the total prep image. These fashions are not limited to the humanities departments as one might think: topsiders and Izods have been spotted in the chem lab and art building.
80s Girl in Button Down Polo shirt

Of course in our nation of free choice not everyone has jumped on the prep bandwagon. Some anti-preps have gone far as to wear buttons with slogans such as, “Save the alligator, shoot a preppy.” Anti-preppy joke books question the intelligence of the average prep. Example: Why do preppies put their initials on everything they own? Answer: They can’t remember their own names.
80s Preppy College guy in shetland sweater
College girl in shetland sweater 1

Any true prep will not lower himself to respond to these taunts. Rather, he will continue prepping in his or her unobtrusive little way. Have courage all you Missys and Tiffys and Kips. It’s an awesome words out there, but don’t forget – if it gets too tough simply reach for a bloody.


The Patchwork Repp Tie


We are all familiar with patchwork ties, sport coats, trousers, and shirts that are made up of Madras and even though it is not as common we have all seen patchwork items made from tweed and tartans as well. There is another patchwork item that I have only seen a handful of times.

The first time that I saw a patchwork Repp tie (pictured below) it took me a few moments to figure out what it was that I was looking at. It was difficult to recognize the striped Repp ties when the stripes were arranged in random patchwork fashion. Once I was able to make out what I was looking at I was intrigued.
Patchwork Repp Tie YRR

Fast forward to last week when I spotted a patchwork Repp tie over at Polo Ralph Lauren (see here). Uncle Ralph’s patchwork Repp tie is not strictly made of striped ties. It also includes a few pieces of an emblematic tie. The tie is a bit slim, but it is still wearable at 3” (I find 3.25” perfect for myself). It is also a bit expensive. This patchwork tie sports a price tag of $165.
PRL Patchwork Repp Tie  2014

I know that patchwork items are not for everyone. They fall into the category of clothing coined by Tom Wolfe in his 1976 article for Esquire entitled “Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine,” as “go to hell” or simply GTH. GTH clothing can be polarizing and this tie is no different, but when I saw a version being offered up by Polo Ralph Lauren this season I thought that it was well worth discussing. Now comes the question, would you wear it?

Another Menswear Shop Closes: Roger Stevens


A few weeks ago veteran Ask Andy Trad member CMDC posted about another independent menswear shop closing its doors. I have been doing some research on various menswear shops of the past so his post really resonated with me. I followed up with CMDC about this post and he was kind enough to provide a write for us about his.

Roger Stevens is located in the lobby of the Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee. The Pfister is Milwaukee’s finest hotel and is one of those old, historic, elegant gems that each major city has but that aren’t being built anymore. When I was an undergrad in Milwaukee during the early ’90s, I had neither the sensibility nor the cash to shop there. So, I never visited the store in its heyday. Milwaukee is, as most would guess, a very blue collar town so I’ve never associated it with fine dressing although there obviously is a clientele that has kept the store doing well over the years. The patrons of the Pfister have also been a key element of the store’s success.
Roger Stevens Store Front

I get back to Milwaukee a couple of times per year and, as I’ve become more dedicated to dressing well, I’ve always intended to stop in. With the announcement of the store’s impending closing–and the significant markdowns–I made it a point to visit when I was in Milwaukee a few weeks back. Roger Stevens is–and clearly was–the type of store we clothing enthusiasts wish was still the standard. Even though their stock has been getting cleared out and everything was 50% off, the staff approached me and the other customers in the store as if it was business as usual. To give a sense of their offerings, the main brands were Samuelsohn, Southwick, Bills, Seaward and Stearn, Gitman Bros, and Zanella. They used to offer Allen Edmonds as well, which one would expect. So, mostly TNSIL favorites with a tiny smattering of the more fashion forward.
Roger Stevens StoreRoger Stevens TiesWhile there was much to tempt me, I didn’t want to totally break the bank. In the end, there was a Southwick 3/2 sack tweed sportcoat that I simply couldn’t leave behind. The price was very good and I’m always a sucker for bold tweed patterns. I rounded out my purchase with a really nice Ancient Madder tie. I had a really nice conversation with the saleswoman who helped me about the store, its closing, and the Milwaukee menswear scene. The honest truth is that there’s not much left in Milwaukee, especially downtown. There is a Brooks Brothers at one of the suburban malls as well as Harley’s on Milwaukee’s east side which offers a much more fashion forward, heavily Italian, line.
Made for Roger StevensSo, another fine menswear store is no more. While Roger Stevens’ closing isn’t attributable to the rise of business casual or the economic downturn, it is gone nonetheless. I really wish I had been able to make more than one visit. You can read more about Roger Stevens and its closing here: Menswear store Roger Stevens closing after 37 years