After what feels like weeks and weeks of cooler than normal temperatures the warm days of summer have returned. While this great for leisure activities it can make wearing a sport coat or blazer a little challenging. This is the type where my Brooks Brothers Wash ‘n’ Wear blazer gets a lot of action.
Firs off, what is Wash ‘n’ Wear (or Wash and Wear)? Wash ‘n’ Wear fabric is composed of either a poplin, seersucker, or wool blend. While the poly aspect of the fabric seems to fly in the face of the trad ethos it has been included in the canon. The blend has 3 major benefits. It is wears well in warm weather, stays wrinkle free, and it can be machine washed. According to this New York Times (Wash it, Wear, it) article it surfaced around 1953.
Wash ‘n’ Wear fabric was primarily used for suits (based on the second-hand market) which has one thing that has always intrigued me about my blazer. The blazer came to me via the second-hand market, but I had always believed it to be a blazer. I believed this because of its blazer like features (gold buttons, two-button cuffs, patch pockets, swelled edges), but it turns out that I was wrong.
In an email exchange with the previous owner I learned the true origin of the blazer. It was purchased as part of a suit from Brooks Brothers in the early/mid-1990s. At some point the pants shrunk. The owner then converted it to a blazer by adding gold buttons, because it had all the features including the two button cuffs which were his call.
I now know the origin of my blazer, confirmed that trad was alive and well in the 90s, but I did not answer the questions that inspired this post, “Is it standard for cotton blazers to have gold buttons?”
Last summer I picked up a pair of Vans Authentics in white canvas. I have nothing bad to say about the shoe, but it lacked the support that I want in a tennis shoe. This is probably because I grew up in the Nike era of sneakers opposed to Chuck Taylors.
This is summer I purchased a pair of Tretorn Nylites in natural canvas. This shoe has all the pedigree of a Trad sneaker such as being featured in the Official Preppy Handbook (however, they didn’t make Billax’s list), but with sleeker lines and more support than other plain canvas sneakers.
I only have a handful of wears in at this time, but so far so good. The price is right at $65 and they are widely available. However, I have heard that they aren’t what they used to be. To that I say, “What is?”
Knit ties are a great choice for those that want a casual looking tie. Cotton knits are especially casual. Silk knits are also casual, but they are a notch dressier than cotton. Knit ties are easy enough to source in solid colors and stripes pop up here and there. They also won’t break the bank. I have wanted a striped knit tie for a while now, but have yet to find one that speaks to me.
This is where Old College Ties comes into the picture. Old College Ties got their start back in 2011 making up crew ties for Groton School. Since then Old College Ties has helped to revive the rowing tradition of crew ties among a number of schools. You can read more about their history here (Old College Ties).
One of the coolest features of the site is the tie widget (Thanks for the tip Gamm68!). It allows you to make up ties virtually experimenting with colors and stripes. As you can see from the images above I had no trouble whipping up a few ties that I was ready to purchase.
Old College Tie will make up custom ties for your team, club, or event. The minimum order is 20 at $30 per tie which I found to be quite reasonable. Now what club to join…
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.
I 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.
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.
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.
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