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CPO Season

I will be honest with you. I really didn’t know what a CPO shirt was. I kinda knew what they looked like, but that was about it. I couldn’t for instance tell you the difference between a CPO and a shirt jacket. Not only did I not know that much about the origin of  CPO shirts. I wasn’t a big fan either.

Now I do know a little about the CPO shirt. The CPO shirt was developed by the Navy in the 1930s as a layering piece for cold-weather work. While CPO stands for Chief Petty Officer these shirt-jackets were not widely worn throughout the Navy. While most of my CPO shirts are chamois the originals were wool-flannel. The original also had a single scalloped flap pocket on the breast, but there have been multiple iterations of the CPO shirt with the double front pocket being the most common.

Like most things trad and ivy these shirts became popular post WWII. I am not saying that they were not a popular during the heyday,but I always associate them with late 70’s/early 80’s rugged prep look similar to 60/40 parkas. This could be because I can remember that era and was not around for the heyday.

You can count me as a fan of the CPO shirt these days. I have learned the value of the CPO shirt this past year. I now have 4 different CPO shirts. I have a red chamois version from J.Crew, a vintage navy wool-cotton one from Brooks Brothers (with a button-down collar), a navy chamois from Woolrich, and natural colored chamois from J.Crew.

My current favorite is the vintage Brooks shirt and it even got its own blog post. It is a lot thinner than my others but being a wool blend it offers a great warmth to weight ratio. However I love them all and each has there time and place.

I wear CPO shirts pretty frequently now. How do I wear them? I like to wear them over a tucked in OCBD  on casual Friday. On a Saturday or Sunday I might just throw it over a tee or a henley. Sometimes I wear them buttoned but most of the time I don’t. They have been great for me during the winter adding a layer of warmth while offering up a little texture and color. Its also nice to have mid-layer option other than sweaters and sweatshirts. And as to what is the difference between most shirt jackets and CPO shirts? The answer is nothing.

Woolrich Chamois CPO ShirtIMG_8219IMG_0812

Back looking like Me

Fresh off of a blogger’s vacay I thought that pics were more important than words. I have gone through some life transitions in 2018 and one of the current results is that I am not wearing ties or sport coats at work. On the flipside I have moved to a larger city where I am learning that I can wear almost anything and not stick out. Anything here includes sport coats (cue me at the museum of art ). So while I may not wear ties and such to work at the moment. I see opportunity. To be continued. IMG_5998IMG_6808IMG_7636IMG_4750IMG_6775IMG_7222IMG_4335IMG_5872

Upcoming Sweater Project

Time for a teaser. I currently have a handful of sweaters in need of repair. I would blame it on the sweaters if it were not clear that I am at fault as they all suffer the same injury and there is but one cure. They need elbow patches.
These holes definitely tell a story. The story is about how I sit at my desk. My right hand is holding a mouse 99% of the time. My left elbow resting or rather bracing against my desk. It is interesting how our posture not only effects our body, but also our clothing. I may need to revisit my desk posture to insure that I am doing minimal damage to both.

A quick internet search shows me that adding elbow patches is not a difficult task. However, I have misjudged more than one menswear project in life or maybe just underestimated my disinterest actually doing alterations. Either way I thought that it would be smart if I reached out to see if anyone had any advice. If you have been down this road before please let me know!

On the Map

While John Simons has definitely been on the map for the Ivy set in London it was not on my radar as a shopping option. That is until my recent popover purchase.

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Since my original purchase (see here) I have grabbed a few more of their own brand shirts. The reason is their amazing madras fabric that is gauzy and cool along with the patterns that they were doing them up in. The tartan-ish madras featured above was the tipping point. It was just too good for me to resist and I am so glad that I did not. I also picked up another madras popover and  the gingham popover seen below.

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I will say that my purchases did not come without some challenges. My first popover actually came as the button-front version instead of the popover. I sent a few emails that were met with no reply which was frustrating. I understand that this does not inspire confidence, but I want to be honest. As a side note, I have heard that they are great over the phone. A call seemed like a hassle to me and I ended up just keeping the button-front. Internet shopping is not without its pitfalls.

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Sizing is also a little challenging. Challenging is not the right word. What I found is that the sizing is not consistent. It was consistent among the exact same product type but not type to type. Luckily for them I am used to this as very few shops are consistent in this area. Luckily for me everything fit good enough.

Despite all of these issues they have succeeded in making a fan out of me. The products spoke for themselves. The madras fabric is some of the best I have ever touched, I love their patterns, and even their labels are cool.

For My Trads on a Budget

When I went full on Trad it was a pretty affordable style. Outside of the 3/2 sack blazer, sport coat, and suit you could find the essentials with all of the desired details moderately priced everywhere from Lands End to L.L. Bean  to J.Crew and beyond. Even Brooks Brothers OCBD, the gold standard of OCBDs was $50 cheaper only 2 years ago and even cheaper than that on discount. However, with the proliferation of non-iron clothing, shrinking collars, and skin-tight fits has made finding the essentials with the correct details at a moderate price difficult if not impossible.

I wanted to offer my help to Trads on a budget by putting together a small list of more affordable essential pieces. While these offerings may have some shortcomings such as non-iron finishes and smaller collars they can still help to create the look and can serve as an gateway to higher priced items. I have started with the OCBD, chinos, and penny loafers.
The Perfect Chinos

OCBD
There is no better place to start than the OCBD. The blue OCBD is the classic piece of trad wear that is most well known for helping to create the ever desirable collar roll (read more about collar roll here). Collar roll will be the hardest thing to get in an OCBD for under $100. Even of the OCBDs that I posted below I am hesitant to suggest that you may be able to achieve a nice collar roll. I have heard others say that it is possible from the L.L. Bean and the Stafford oxford. I know from experience the current Lands End OCBD will not produce a great roll, but it does not have a no-iron finish like the other 2. However, most people don’t need to wear ties which so wearing one of the OCBDs is not a big deal and even if you do wear a tie they will work until you can save up (or find thriting) one that does.

L.L. Bean OCBD – $44.95

JCPenney Stafford OCBD – $40 (on sale for $19.99)

Lands End Hyde Park OCBD – $49.95
The Ivy Look Slim ChinosChinos
I don’t have any specific recommendations here. What I suggest that you look for are chinos that are not no-iron, are not pleated (flat-front), and either have a cuff or have enough material to be cuffed. The reason that I suggest the above is that the casual looking chino is very much apart of the Ivy League and trad look. Chinos with a no-iron finish can often look shiny or dressy which does work as well it appears too polished. Don’t worry though with a good pressing your must-iron chinos will look great with a blazer or tweed. I wear J.Crew 1040 Essential chinos, but you can find other like them at the Gap, Old Navy, and even Lands’ End (their non-iron chinos aren’t too shiny). Most important is that your chinos fit and are not puddled up at your shoe and stuck at your shin.
Penny Loafer in PrintPenny Loafer
This is the easiest category for me to make suggestions. I narrowed it down to 2. First, is the Bass Outlet. You can even access this online. Bass penny loafers have a great shape so much so that I wear them to this day. They are also very light which works well for my feet. On the downside they are not made up of the best materials. My second suggestion is to occasionally scour Allen Edmond’s Shoe Bank website. This where they sell their seconds and discontinued items. There are often great deals to be had.

Bass Outlet Penny Loafers – $79-89

Allen Edmonds Shoe Bank

This post should be read in conjunction with last week’s post on fit, proportion, and silhouette. Together these posts will help those on a budget put together a very trad looking thread without maxing out their credit cards. I thought this was an important subject to cover as one of the reasons that favored this style of dress was its availability and affordability. Some of that has changed over time, but my recommendation of the style has not. If you have any affordable items that you would like to suggest please do as I know many readers are eager to hear and learn from you all!