Archive for November, 2014

O’Connell’s Shetland Review

After years of lust and months of anticipation I finally own my first O’Connell’s Shetland. With the temps still unseasonably (read unreasonably) cold I have had the chance to put my new sweater to good use. Here are my overall thoughts.

I will start with the pros. First things first this sweater has all the right details. When talking about Shetlands this means two things. One, the sweater is made in Scotland. Two, it has saddle shoulders. Check and check.
OC Shetland 2Where this sweater really shines is in the quality of the wool from which it was made. When I opened the package I was immediately reminded of a Woolrich sweater that I owned well over a decade ago. First, it was the smell of the wool that took me back. Then it was the feel. When I picked up the sweater it had a rustic feel that I used to associate with Shetlands. For comparison, only my Spirit of Shetland sweater has this same texture while my modern Brooks Brothers Shetlands are much softer. The smell and feel of the O’Connell’s Shetland reminded my that I was wearing a Shetland in a good way.

Now for the downside. Which is the sizing simply, because it is confusing. The sweater comes in chest sizes (38, 40, etc.).  O’Connell’s ask that you order up from your chest size. This is where I find that it gets confusing. I range from a 36-38 depending on the maker/cut. At O’Connell’s I wear a 36 and at Brooks Brothers a 37/38 depending on the cut. So what size do I order?
OConnells ShetlandAfter much debate I ordered a size 38. I would call it a true small. After my first wear I was concerned that it was a little snug especially in the armhole. The worst kind of too small. The kind where if I ordered a size larger it would be too big. I remembered feeling similarly about one of my Brooks sweaters when I first purchased it and that it stretched out after a couple wears. I was patient and now it feels just about perfect.

Did the O’Connell’s Shetland live up to its hype? It did. It has all of the right details that I wanted and none of the extras that I didn’t want. However, at $165 it is not a cheap sweater, but my other two options (Brooks Brothers and Polo Ralph Lauren) were both $125 and both of these Shetlands had add-ons that I did not want (logos or elbow patches). In short, this is the Shetland for those who know what they want and know what that is worth to them. The only real question is which color do I get next year?

Terrible Weather & Horrible Protestant Hats

I started this week off having lots of ideas for this today’s post, but it seems that Mother Nature had her own ideas. A combination of single digit temperatures, me not being ready to brave such temps yet, and being sick for the last two days resulted in me taking zero pictures (On a positive note, I did get to wear cords ad a Shetland every day.) this week. One morning this week as I was gearing up to face the morning’s frigid air with my hat, gloves, and scarf I thought back to P.J. O’Rourke’s essay “Horrible Protestant Hats.” I have included the essay below. I hope that you enjoy it.

 Horrible Protestant Hats by P.J. O’Rourke

Getting ready to go outdoors on a drizzly afternoon, I donned a trench coat, picked up an umbrella and deposited a canvas rain hat on my head. My girlfriend, a Roman Catholic, began to laugh and point. “Oh!” she said. “What a horrible Protestant hat!” I looked in the mirror. True, the porkpie-style Brooks Brothers rain hat with the brim turned down on all sides does give one the look of . . . well, a poorly matched part sticking out of a recalled American car. It set me thinking.

Protestants do wear terrible hats, especially well-off, adult male Protestants whom we usually call WASPs. They wear woven-vegetable-matter summer hats with madras hatbands. These look like hospital gifts that died at the florist’s. They wear “Irish” tweed hats no self-respecting Irishman would put on his plow horse. They wear herringbone wool caps that can give a bank president the semblance of a rioting English coal miner. Old artsy WASPs wear embarrassing berets. Middle-aged WASPs who’ve just gotten a divorce and a sports car wear dopey suede touring caps with a snap on the brim. Then there are the fur astrakhans worn by lawyers who, I guess, want their clients to think they run a gulag on the side.

Beyond city limits the situation is worse. Where I live in New England, the summer people give evidence that slouch hats cause feeblemindedness in adults. Panama hats produce a different effect — imbecility combined with moral turpitude. And there is no polite phrase in English for what a vacationing executive from Boston looks like in a Greek fisherman’s cap.

Getting anywhere near the water seems to produce WASP hat lunacy. Fly fishermen wear astonishing things on their heads and always decorate them with dozens of dry flies as though at any minute they might dip their very skulls into the torrent and land giant trout with their necks. It’s hard to look more stupid than a deep-sea fisherman does in his swordbill cap. Hard, but not impossible. This is accomplished by the ordinary Kennebunk cruiser hat, which is nothing but the cap from a child’s sailor suit with its brim yanked down over eyes, ears and sometimes nose. Worn thus it resembles nothing so much as a white cotton condom for the brain. Boat hats, indeed, run the gamut of foolery starting with the simple watch cap, making its wearers seem only unlettered, and winding up with the enormous yellow rubber sou’wester foul-weather chapeau, in which even George Bush would look like a drunk cartoon character doing a tuna-fish ad.

Snow and other frozen forms of water produce no improvement. If there is anything — vassalage, Bolshevism, purdah — more deleterious to the spirit of human dignity than the knit ski cap, I have not heard of it. Professional circus clowns, medieval court jesters, Trans-Carpathian village idiots, any one of them would balk at wearing a five-foot-long purple, green, red, pink and orange cranial sock with a pom-pon on the end. And even this is not so bad as what a WASP will wear in the winter when not on the ski slopes. Then, he shovels the walk in a vinyl-brimmed plaid cap with earflaps that tie up over the head — what must be the worst hat on earth.

I am only half Protestant, but my closet shelf reveals a disgusting Moose River canoeing hat, an idiotic Florida Keys bonefishing hat with brims at both ends, several crownless tennis visors that make me look like an Olympic contestant in double-entry bookkeeping and a plethora of the ubiquitous ad-emblazoned baseball caps that show I have been renting out frontal lobe space to Purolator, Firestone and the Kittery, Maine, 1978 Jubilee Days. And let’s not discuss the International Signal orange dunce cap I wear to go bird shooting.

Now it’s true, other ethnic groups also wear unusual headgear. Blacks, Orthodox Jews, Irish archbishops and Italian steelworkers are just a few. But the Stetsons of Harlem’s 125th Street are intentionally outrageous, yarmulkes are items of religious faith, and so forth. WASPs wear their hats in all seriousness, without spiritual reasons or historical traditions for doing so, and not a single one of their bizarre toppers would be any help if an I-beam fell on it. Nonetheless, a WASP will tell you his hat is functional. I believe that whenever anyone uses the word “functional” he’s in the first sentence of a lame excuse. The real reason WASPs wear goofy hats is that goofy-hat wearing satisfies a deep-seated need. In gin-and-tonic veritas, give a WASP six drinks and he’ll always put something silly on his head — a lamp shade, ladies’ underwear, an L.L. Bean dog bed, you name it. In more sober and inhibited moments he’ll make do with an Australian bush hat, a tam-o’-shanter or the Texan monstrosity all WASPs affect when they get within telexing distance of a cow.

Until the end of the Eisenhower era, WASPs wore wonderful haberdashery. They went about in perfectly blocked and creased homburgs, jaunty straw boaters, majestic opera hats and substantial bowlers. A gentleman would sooner wear two-tone shoes to a diplomatic reception than appear in public without a proper hat. Then something happened.

Adult male Protestants of the better-off kind are a prominent social group. They make up a large percentage of our business executives, politicians and educators. Maybe it’s no accident that the rise of the silly hat has coincided with the decline of business ethics, the rise of functional illiteracy and the general decline of the U.S. as a world power. The head is symbolic of reason, discipline, good sense and self-mastery. Putting on the back of it a fuzzy green Tyrolean hat decorated with a tuft of deer means trouble. Our native aristocracy, those among us with greatest advantages, the best resources and the broadest opportunities to do good have decided to abrogate all civilized responsibilities, give free play to the id and run around acting like a bunch of. . . .

Wait a minute! Down by the dock — I just saw a WASP with a pitcher of martinis trying to put a fedora on his dog!

Who Gets It? Ben Silver Does.

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 university 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 University 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 world out there, but don’t forget – if it gets too tough simply reach for a bloody.