Thursday, January 31, 2013

Field Jacket: Unlikely Beginnings

Most everyone loves a field jacket. J.Crew makes a nice one, Fjallraven makes a nice waxed one that I own, Alpha Industries has made the civilian M-65 forever. They are utilitarian, stylish and hell, they make you look cool.
Oban - this is the one I have (well, the model I have).

This is the J.Crew Garrison Fatigue Jacket, being worn by some, like, model dude.

The good old Alpha Industries M-65. What up.

Would you believe these jackets, these iconic pieces of menswear, actually can trace their existence to this coat?

It's the M-41 field jacket! Oh snap!

The M-41 field jacket (a reproduction above) was issued to US military personnel in the early days of World War II (any guesses what the 41 stands for? That's right, year), and a outright success it wasn't. Sure, it had hand warmer pockets, but made of cotton and lined with wool, despite the wind flap guarded zipper, it wasn't warm. And you couldn't carry shit with it. It looked cool, which was why soldiers liked it, and if you weren't in the front, that would be cool. Paratroopers were issued their own uniform, the M42, and if you've seen Band of Brothers, you know what that looks like. It looks like this:

M42 - Look, pockets!

This could carry your gear. Worn through Normandy, by Market Garden in September 1944, paratroopers, and everyone else, began wearing the M-43 field jacket. Which had buttons instead of a zipper, but otherwise looked much like what everyone thinks a field jacket should look like these days.
M-43: There are buttons under that flap. That's what She said.

The M-51 was the M-43, but with a zipper:

M-51, this one being a reproduction that US Wings sells

And after this was the M-65, which everyone knows. Thus ends the lecture! Well, if you want some extra credit, here are more pictures of my M-41 (which has moved on since those pics were taken):

Monday, January 28, 2013

Only Now Did I Discover Nau Clothing

I thank my good friend Mark for any and all awareness of Nau. Why it took me 6 months after he first mentioned them to actually look 'em up is anyone's guess. Sufficient punishment has been the winter I've gone through without a proper coat, something a quick look at their website could have long ago alleviated.

Nau describes their aesthetic as "sustainable urban + outdoor apparel". If you break those down to individual pieces, you quickly see they achieve each. Their slim, unfussy designs, bereft of unnecessary edifice has an sleek look that is sophisticated without taking any utilitarian elements away from a design. Each piece has a litany of design features which make a compelling case for outdoor use. There are other brands which combine these two elements, but what really sets Nau apart is their dedication to sustainability. Peruse their "business unusual" section of the site, and you'll quickly see it's not simple lip-service to environmental concerns. They explain what fabrics they use and why, what type of shipping they prefer to use, where they manufacture, what standards those manufacturers must adhere to, and so forth.

All of that would be so much window dressing - but they also deliver the goods:

Synfill Sweater - $100

Rheostat Jacket - $255

Succinct Trench - $280

Each of these jackets (and there are many more on their site which are also lovely) has a full featured list of technical specs - waterproof, compressible, utilizing a multitude of insulating methods, yet each jacket looks clean, minimal, modern - yet classic. Do yourself a favor, upgrade your seasonable apparel at Nau Clothing.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Taylor Stitch, Let Me Into Your Pants

Maybe it's the fact that the last two days in Chicago have inspired many a Hoth joke (tip of the cap to all your Empire Strikes Back, SW Ep 5 nerds out there), but of late I have been preoccupied with how one goes about dressing in a thoughtful and stylish manner during cold snaps. 

I've gotten a lot of miles out of a pair of flannel-lined J.Crew khakis, but what about when I'm not commuting to work (don't get me started about a jeans-less dress code), how do I stay warm then? I think Taylor Stitch has provided me with an answer, and something new to crush on, to boot: flannel-lined jeans. Behold: 

Flannel Lined 13 oz. Denim
Flannel Lined Interior
These lovely jeans have been produced as part of a special project, Taylor Stitch for Solitary ArtsSolitary Arts is a skate company which makes it's products - boards, hard goods - in California. Flowing from passion for skateboarding, their functional, yet artistic expression blends nicely with Taylor Stitch, who most of us know primarily for their excellent shirting. At $128, their jeans are a steal. Snatch a pair up today; I bet they'd go great with a pair of Vans and a skateboard. Just saying.

Friday, January 18, 2013

No Cure for Summertime Shoes

Terrible, God-awful pun. I know this. But I also know fresh kicks for the warmer months is one of the few (to my mind) perks of being forced to sweat for months on end. The last few summers, I've always had a pair of Converse Purcell's around. I love 'em - they're versatile and comfortable, and I love that even the black canvas ones come with the light blue bottom, cause some years they don't.

I still love you, Purcell!

But lately, I've been feeling Vans a great deal, too. Definitely more west coast, more casual, but just as versatile. Last summer I picked up a pair of Old Skools. I love them and wear them still - in fact they are on my feet now as I type, having aged into near slipper comfort.

Hi good looking.

This year, however, I have my eye on these bad boys. I heard the angels sing.

Era 59 in black suede with camo accents. The camouflage, though my wife would probably disagree, is very subtly done, and the suede gives it a more refined appearance. However they are sold out at DQM. Sad. But I wait, and I hope, that they will be back in stock soon! (UPDATE - As of January 30, they are available at Urban Outfitters; get them for $55. Thanks Vans customer service for misleading me.)

But if not, you can build your own, in Canvas (and minus the heel accent, which is a feature unique to the Era 59). It's a distant second, but I might pull the trigger. Design your own custom shoes for summer here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

NATO Watch Straps

If you're anything like me, the months of January and February are the most brutal. Brutal in the sense that even if you like cold weather (as I do), there's little sunlight. Brutal in the sense that the Holidays are past. Other than some vague notion of spring, and maybe (MAYBE) Valentine's Day, there's not much to look forward to. And brutal in the sense that those same Holidays likely rode off with your money and vacation time.

Kind of grim, isn't it? Well, don't fret. One of my favorite things is, in these relatively cash-strapped times, to gear up on accessories. You have a watch, right? Go get some NATO watch straps. These straps are easy to swap, secure your watch even if one pin breaks, and can help add a little something to your ensemble. All this for very little money. You may remember this photo from my Best of 2012 posts:

That's a NATO watch strap. I ordered the one above from, but you can find them almost anywhere on the web. One place I just discovered, and will be ordering from next time is Crown and Buckle. They have over 100 nylon NATO watch straps, all for $12 a piece. That can easily be one lunch out in Chicago. If you want a leather NATO watch strap, one which might dress up your otherwise utilitarian watch, they are all of $16 a piece. So maybe a lunch and a half. Crazy. Do yourself a favor and check out their site, and pick out a few to swap out on your wrist this late winter into spring. Below are some of my favorites from their site:

"Bond" style - he wore one like the above in Goldfinger

"Coffee" brown leather

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Spring Sunglasses and Aviator Love

Maybe it's to escape the doldrums of the second act of winter. Maybe it's the anticipation of spring. Maybe it's the unseasonably warm weather Chicago is experiencing (as I type it's 52 degrees; not usual for the 11th of January around here). Whatever the impetus, I'm starting to think about warmer temperatures, and how that might affect my wardrobe. 

While I love my Ray-Ban Wayfarers (see my top ten list of 2012), sometimes the idea of thick acrylic gripping the sides of my head just makes me sweat. So for this upcoming spring and summer, I plan on slipping on some metal framed sunglasses to help shield my eyes from the bright sun, or a painful hangover. Don't judge.

I've always been drawn to aviator styles; a quick peruse of my blog will illuminate any number of reasons for this. But the most straightforward answer is this - they are timelessly cool. This season, I'm drawn to the more modern, post-Korean War shape modern pilots still wear. Don't let Top Gun fool you into thinking those big teardrop lensed glasses are still standard issue. The style I'm referring to is called, officially, the "Flight Goggle 58" - and three brands make them: American Optical, Randolph Engineering and Ray-Ban, although they all have differing names for the sunglasses.

American Optical - Original Pilot

Randolph Engineering - Aviator

Ray-Ban Caravan

True, there are a few cosmetic differences. Namely, the bridge on the Ray-Ban's is smaller than on either the American Optical (AO) or Randolph Engineering (RE) versions. Setting that aside, the other difference is this - both AO and RE were actually manufactured for the U.S. Military. And both are made in the U.S.A. Currently, Randolph Engineering has the contract from the government. But AO was the original contract winner in the 1950's. And Neil Armstrong wore his AE's on the moon. THE MOON. Also, American Optical sunglasses are cheaper by a country mile. Okay, that's imprecise. They are half the price of RE's, or Ray-Bans.

Which is why this summer I'll be wearing American Optical Original Pilots. USA made, OG credentials, and they were worn on the moon.

The eagle has landed.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Selvage for the Masses

A couple years ago, I made a post which, in hindsight, I'm slightly embarrassed by. It was to tout cheap selvage at the Gap. Untraceable, unremarkable selvage, made in China, most likely, nothing with much character to speak up, except for a silly blue rivet. The price, was, I believe $88, and I paid $66. And this was 2009 money. Why, they'd probably be regularly $90 today!

To sum up, I was blogging about jeans - at the Gap. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Gustin, however, seems to have come up with a concept worth blogging about. They are going to take Cone Mills (from North Carolina) redline selvage denim, manufacture them in San Francisco (one my my favorite cities in the country, but that's another story), and charge their wholesale price of...wait for it...$81!

This video explains:

Check out the detailed pictures below from their Kickstarter page:

Left to Right - 1.5 years old, 6 months old, brand spanking new

I am very excited by what this could mean - jeans that are U.S. assembled and made of U.S sourced fabric at such a low price point - so to that end, I'll be putting my money where my mouth (and blog) is, so stay tuned for posts regarding fit and finish!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Gingham Style

Full disclosure: I hate that I played it easy and wrote a Gangham Style pun. Fortunately, I've never heard the song, so I can only base my disdain for it, and my pun, on the reactions of others.

However, I love, unreservedly love, gingham shirting. To some, the snarky, the unimaginative, they'll tell you that you look like this:
In case you were wondering, yes, I've had people say I looked like a picnic table.
They are wrong.

What I like about gingham is very similar to what I like about denim. Both fabrics are not dyed after being woven. Instead, the color comes from the warp thread. Usually the weft fabric is uncolored (in denim) or white (in gingham). Unlike denim, there is no right side to gingham fabric.

With the exception of formal business functions, Gingham is very versatile. It makes great western shirts:

Dress shirts:

In dark colors:

Or light:

With a tie:

In short, it goes with everything, works with almost every occasion, and adds a bit of complexity to any outfit. Looking for gingham? Here are a few places I like to get them:
This is just a small list. Gingham - it's everywhere!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Everybody's Whiskey for the Weekend

I love whiskey.  It's the first interest that brought Jake and I together. When we got married 2 1/2 years after we met, all of our tables were named after our favorite whiskeys (Basil Hayden, Sazerac Rye, Elmer T. Lee, etc.).  During the "great compromise of 2010" - he wanted a cat, I wanted a dog, we got one of each.  Now we have our cat, Templeton and our dog, Rye.  We won the "special achiever's" award at Templeton Rye's Shoes and Cue 2011. I also hosted the whiskey tasting for the Boardwalk Empire Premiere event in Chicago (See pic below).

Boardwalk Empire Premiere: Whiskey Tasting (I'm in the Middle and Jake is on the right)
Clearly you see where I am going with this - other than the occasional hangover, we go together with whiskey like peas and carrots.  Our families, knowing us well, often give us interesting and special whiskeys. This Christmas, we were fortunate enough to receive a bottle of Middle West Spirits OYO Michelone Reserve Bourbon from my brother and sister in law.

Hailing from Columbus, Ohio, OYO Michelone Reserve Bourbon is a great and distinctive addition to any home bar.  If you are like me and you like a drink before you take your shoes off Monday-Friday, it is a fantastic option.  A blend - it contains Kentucky bourbon and OYO's 100% wheat whiskey. OYO's whiskey is Ohio's first 100% wheat whiskey in over a century. The result is exceptionally smooth, with nuances of caramel and light smokey oak. In fact, the only complaint I have is it took both Jake and I almost 5 minutes to cut through the wax seal on the bottle - that's a lot of work!

Middle West Spirits describes themselves as "Central Ohio’s first micro-distillery. It produces high-quality, artisanal spirits using only the best ingredients sourced from farms across Ohio." Brady Konya and Ryan Lang are certainly giving me yet another reason to visit Columbus.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

First Crush of the New Year - Outlier

This one has been lurking for a long while, but it's finally blossomed to a full-fledged menswear crush status. I don't care who knows it, either. I say it loud: I love Outlier Tailored Performance clothing. I mean, Just look at this jacket:

What I love about Outlier can be distilled into just three points:
  1. They make their clothes in the USA - New York City, to be specific.
  2. They use innovative, performance fabrics with desirable properties such as water resistance, yet breathe well and  have good stain resistance, 
  3. They use classic, well-loved templates for their clothing. Nothing looks too technical.
Focusing on lean silhouettes, they create tough clothing that moves with you, clothes that can suffer a rainstorm or steamy commute.

There's just one problem for someone like me - I'm not skinny enough to wear a lot of their styles! Most slim fit pants are too slim for me (as an example, J.Crew "classic" fit chinos fit me slim; so do Uniqlo vintage chinos, though they are listed as "regular fit"). But I think I couild swing a few of their pants, Specifically:


Garments like these really speak to my aesthetic - traditional, but with a functional yet edgy look to them. And built to take hell, too. Hopefully this year I'll have the chance to give them hell, myself!