Archive for December, 2016

The Past & The Future of the L.L. Bean Anorak

The anorak made its way into the Trad cannon via Ivy Style as documented in the famed book Take Ivy. It was one of the lucky items to transcend the Ivy era and found itself perhaps even more popular among the 70’s prep crowd (The Late 70s Prep Look) . The anorak continues to weave in and out of mainstream popularity, but it has found a home for itself in the world of traditional American clothing. That about sums what I know about the anorak, but luckily for us we have a guest poster Kel Rhoads who knows his stuff and is going to give us a history lesson on the L.L. Bean Anorak (and a sneak peak at their 2017 anorak).

anorak-ivy-style-3LL Bean, established purveyor of traditional clothing, has offered an anorak for over 70 years—although not continuously. For the past several years, if you wanted a traditional Bean anorak, you had to scour the used market. Fortunately, that’s about to change. A new Bean anorak will be released in early 2017. Given our interest in the garment, an LL Bean employee sent us an exclusive photograph of the upcoming model. We’ll show it to you in a bit, but first, let’s put the new anorak in its historical context.

The original “annoraaq” was designed by the Inuit as a heavy, fur-lined, hooded pullover jacket. No openings to the front, with drawstrings at hood, cuffs, and waist, helped the jacket ward off wind, water, and freezing temperatures encountered by polar hunters. The garment was strictly and efficiently functional. As is often the case, the garment’s spartan practicality provided the foundation for its evolution into versatile, and sometimes even fashionable, outerwear—for even the non-polar inclined.
To our knowledge, there have been four previous generations of the Bean anorak, with the 2017 model ushering in the fifth. The first generation served soldiers in WWII and was available into the 1960s as “Bean’s Labrador Parka,” either cotton or 60/40, with a distinctively alien, two-pocketed, low-hem cut. Today these are valued by collectors.
LL Bean Labrador AnorakLL Bean Labrador ParkaThe second generation ushered in “Bean’s Anorak,” which had the familiar modern windbreaker look we recognize today. We suspect the second generation was offered throughout the 1970s and 1980s. They were made of slick, lightweight (2.5 oz./yard) nylon and had parallel seams on the chest. The elastic wrist bands on most of these vintage ‘raks have relaxed and need replacement, but otherwise they are still durable, functional garments—and still the lightest and most packable of any Bean anorak.
Bean’s third generation was produced in the 1990s and was broadly popular, even earning its own advertising spreads in outdoor magazines. These anoraks were redesigned in softer Supplex nylon with a cotton-y feel, and the seams on the chest evolved into a slenderizing keystone shape. That, along with an elastic waist drawstring, meant wearers could advertise a trim, athletic figure beneath. These were known as the “Mountain Classic Anorak” in solid colors, and the “Alpine Classic” or “Aztec” in flamboyant color-block variants. We aren’t certain if the third generation made it into the 21st century, but there was a many-years-long hiatus where Bean anoraks were no longer offered.
mountain-classic-anorakPopular demand caught up with Bean in 2012, when they reintroduced a fourth variant for just two years. They again called it the “Mountain Classic Anorak,” made of an even softer Supplex than previously. In many ways, however, the 2012 reissued Mountain Classic was more like the second-generation Bean’s Anorak with straight chest seams and vintage leather cord keepers at the hood. Bean also cut the fourth generation model considerably larger in the trunk, yielding a less athletic but comfortably drapey (some say tent-like) shape.
That brings us to the just-introduced fifth generation Bean anorak, called the “Mountain Classic Color Block Anorak” — although we’ve been assured one color scheme will be a sober black-on-black. Studying the photograph, it appears the anorak has gone back to a slimmer cut, possibly longer, and with a longer chest zipper. Its color-block style harkens back to the “Alpine” and “Aztec” designs of the 1990s, but less rambunctiously so. Bean has also revived their “Sunrise over Katahdin” label (which appeared in 1987) and placed it prominently on the chest. We have no idea how long Bean will offer the new 5th-gen, but we’re told they’ll debut in the Spring of 2017.
ll-bean-anorak-2017Modern windbreaker-style anoraks are favorites of travelers. There’s a cost of having to wriggle into a pullover that gives half the ventilation of a zip-up jacket. But the benefits are many: a streamlined front that doesn’t snag on pack straps, superior weather resistance, a long and lightweight barrier that wards off the grime of public transportation. And then there’s that magnificent kangaroo pocket. For the urban traveler, its great advantage is rapid deployment and concealment of valuables. While others are fumbling with wallets, packs and purses, the anorak’d traveler faces the vending machine, unzips, pays, and stashes change and receipt back into the pocket in seconds. By the time he or she turns away, everything’s zipped and secure, to be sorted out later. Pick-pockets hate anoraks!

Duffle Days

I love my Duffle coat. It strikes the perfect balance between casual and formal. I can wear it over a blazer, tweed sport coat, or simply a Shetland sweater and they will all look great. What I don’t love about my duffle is that it is not all that warm. I was reminded of this as I just experienced a few days with temperatures in the single digits. It might be time for a new Duffle.
Duffle My current coat is from Lands’ End. I purchased for somewhere around $100 on sale so I was not expecting too much. It is essentially a wool blanket. It is unlined which makes putting it on over a sport coat a bit of a challenge. However, I believe that the iconic Gloverall Duffle is constructed the same way. Overall the jacket has performed and held up much better than I had anticipated.

I have not made any decisions on which duffle will be my next, but I do have a few contenders. When it comes to price nothing seems to beat L.L. Bean’s Duffle (which they spell Duffel)which is currently on sale for $219, but the reviews are not encouraging. I tried on Brooks Brothers version and there was lots to like. It felt warm and had lined sleeves. It also has a zipper closure that I am on the fence about. While it will definitely help to keep you warmer it made the toggle closure obsolete. O’Connell’s has several Gloverall models to choose from including the classic and an updated model.

Luckily for me I am in no rush to get a replacement. The nice part about that is off-season sales. The other nice part is I get to consider what attributes are truly important to me. I think that this highlights one of the core challenges to those that like traditional clothing which is how to balance tradition with contemporary comfort. Let’s call it the battle of function, form, and the Trad.

1. Brooks Brothers Duffle Coat $698 (Currently on sale for $523.50)

2. O’Connell’s Clothing – Gloverall Original Duffle Coat $650
3. O’Connell’s Clothing – Gloverall Mid-length Duffle Coat – Navy with Blackwatch interior $650

4. L.L. Bean – Sterlingwear of Boston Authentic Wool Duffel Coat $299 (Currently on sale of $219)




Early Christmas

I thought that I could, but it turns out that I can’t go a week without posting something. I had every intention of not posting a blog this week. I am still playing catch up after having the norovirus for a week (it started on Thanksgiving day). Then, I celebrated Christmas over the weekend with out of town family. All of that to say that I am out of my routine, but I wanted to assure everyone that I am doing well. Last thing, if you have not started prepping for Christmas consider this your friendly reminder to do so. It is closing in quickly! Merry Christmas!

A Trad Experiment: The Beard

Some of you may have noticed stuff growing on my face if you clicked on my Instagram link last week. That stuff is now almost what I would call a full-fledged beard. While I won’t be attempting to answer the existential question that is, “”Are beards trad?” I will be exploring how a beard impacts a trad.

img_1025My first observation is that you may want to use time off, holiday time, or simply Movember to develop your beard. Depending on the speed of your facial hair it could take around 4 weeks until you have escaped the five o’clock shadow and scruff look. These are in my opinion the harder facial hair options for a trad to pull off. In an effort to curb my pre-beard time in public I started it the week prior to Thanksgiving using the holiday week to grow my beard in private.

My second observation is that if you are anything like me most people will love your beard. Being like me in this instance only means that you are clean cut the majority of the time. I shave everyday for work and my hair is well maintained. This can lead to a “Richie Cunningham” sort of vibe so when the beard starts to come in it seems to turn everything on its head. All I know is that if you are the kind of guy that gets chided for your buttoned-down ways is that people will probably react positively to your beard.

My last observation is on how a beard will effect your appearance. On the weekend I often wear chinos with an untucked OCBD or flannel shirt. Since I have grown out my beard I have learned that this is a no-no. Pre-beard I went with the untucked look to signal that I am off work and that I have casual side. Now that I have a beard I have found it almost necessary to tuck my shirt in when casually dressed to signal that yes I do have a beard, but I am still the same well put together guy. In short, the beard requires that you stay on top of your grooming.

I hope that my foray into the bearded life has been helpful to you all. It has been an interesting experience for me. It is only the second time that I have had a beard in my adult life. For those of you wondering I do not plan on keeping the beard long term. For those of you that read this blog and have had a beard what tips can you share with us?