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: http://wearingtheivyleaguelooksince1958.blogspot.com/2014/08/the-4cs-of-tnsil-ive-long-sought.html

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.
http://www.ktu.lt/lt/mokslas/zurnalai/medz/medz0-86/253-257%20psl.pdf

Invasion of the Preppies

Invasion

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.

-Cuffy

The Patchwork Repp Tie

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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

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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

There’s a New Loafer in Town

Weejuns

I made my foray into the world of respectable penny loafers last week when I purchased a pair of Allen Edmonds Cavanaugh penny loafers. This loafer is not one of their classic models. In fact, it has only been around for a few months, but it does pay tribute to what I consider the most classic penny loafer which is the Bass Weejun. Cavanaugh Penny Loafers                                               Allen Edmonds Cavanaugh Penny Loafer (above)

I have been in need of a decent pair of penny loafers for a while now. Decent meaning something other than Bass Weejuns which are not very high quality, but they do make up for their lackluster construction with a great silhouette at a great price. Plus, they fit me like a glove (You can never overlook fit!). Weejun

There are three features that the Weejun has taught me to look for in a loafer:

  • The Pinch – I am not a fan of beef rolls, I think they look too bulky and I think that full straps look too sleek, but the pinch strap closure looks just right to me.
  • A Boxy Toe – The boxy shape is why they work so well with chinos. It is a casual loafer.
  • The Strap and the Cutout on the Strap –  The Weejun has almost a crescent moon shape cutout and bottom of the strap comes to a point in the middle. I am not that picky about the strap and cutout, but I do pay attention to it.

The Allen Edmonds Cavanaugh ($275, but currently on sale for $195) has all of these features. It also comes in burnished brown. I reach for my tan loafers more often than my burgundy ones. I think that by selecting dark brown I will get a lot of day-to-day use out of them like I do my tan loafers, but unlike my tan loafers I can pair these with grey wool trousers. This is important, because they will be my nicest loafers. My only critique is that I could do without the stitching on the toe box on either side of the cutout and yes, I wish it had the crescent moon cutout.

The Alternatives: More Pinch Penny Loafers:

Alden LHSAlden Leisure Handsewn Moccasin (LHS)  ($518) – Great shape and amazing quality. I would love to have this loafer, but it is outside of my price range. My only critique is that I wish the strap extended a touch further down the side. Patriot Penny LoafersAllen Edmonds Patriot ($385, but currently on sale for $327.25) – I almost purchased the Patriot, but that was before the Cavanaugh was released. The Patriot is a bit too sleek for me which is why I was on the fence about it for so long. It might just be the slightly elongated toe box combined with the more refined stitching, but it just looks a little off (especially with chinos). I do think that the Patriot makes an excellent loafer to pair with grey wool slacks. Cole Han Pinch PennyCole Han Pinch Penny ($198) – This shoe has a great silhouette, but the wrinkling or pulling around the toe box is a “moccasin-ish” for this type of loafer. I liked the price point, but I was concerned that they would be lacking in quality.

Rancourt ($300-$400?)- I have seen a pair of  Rancourt pinch pennies, but they don’t have a pair on their website. I am ashamed to say that I have yet to get to give them a try. It is long overdue. Price is the only reason that I selected the Cavanaughs instead of approaching Rancourt.

I must not be the only one interested in the Cavanaugh. I ordered my pair the first day of the Rediscover America sale and when I went to check out online it said that they would be ready in four weeks. I called the closest store hoping that they would have them in stock, but no such luck. For now I will just impatiently await their arrival hoping that that they fit and fit well.