’90s Ralph Lauren

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The ’90s seem to have come back, with Elle Italia doing a fashion spread on the decade and Hedi Slimane designing this year’s Saint Laurent Paris collections around grunge. While I admit to liking the rock revival, my mind has been drifting to more familiar territory. Namely, ’90s Ralph Lauren.

Unfortunately, everything Ralph Lauren designed twenty years ago fits like a sail, which means it’s all unwearable unless you have a size 42 chest or larger. I did, however, recently manage to pick up this shirt, which is re-release of an Indian head chambray he made long ago. This time, however, the cut is much slimmer (a bit more like the “custom fit” shirts in his modern Polo label), so on really hot days, when the temperatures are too high for a jacket, I’ve been wearing it open with a white Barns t-shirt, Oak Street Bootmakers chukkas, and 3sixteen jeans. It’s probably my favorite casual shirt as of late, if only for nostalgic reasons. 

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Margiela and Common Projects Sale

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Oki-Ni is having a 20% off sale, with the discount given at checkout if you punch in the code BANKHOL20. Included are the popular Common Projects Achilles you see above. The low top versions are a bit limited in sizes, but I think the mid tops look better anyway. There are also Maison Martin Margiela’s German Army Trainers, in basic black and white colorways, as well as my favorite leather jacket as of late, this black lambskin 5-zip

If you’re outside of the European Union, you can knock another ~20% off by emailing Oki-Ni after you order and asking them to refund for VAT. 

Summer Plaids

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I’m not one for loud colors, but I have a soft spot for madras shirts in the summer. Madras is a lightweight, airy woven cotton, which typically comes in bold and beautiful patterns. The fabric takes its name from the Indian city where it originated, but it’s been long considered an American classic for its associations with Ivy Style. As the story goes, a fabric importer named William Jacobson went to India in the late 1950s to procure some fabrics, and subsequently sold about 10,000 yards of madras to Brooks Brothers. He neglected to mention, however, that the mill warned him the fabric would bleed in the wash, so Brooks had a problem when customers came back furious about how their new clothes ruined their laundry. Rather than recall the garments, Brooks spun around and marketed their stock of madras as that “miraculous handwoven fabric from India” that was “guaranteed to bleed.” Americans have been in love with the cloth ever since.

It’s hard to find actual bleeding madras these days, as everything is made to be colorfast. Friends of mine who do research in India tell me that bleeding madras is still available there, but the fabric is rarely made for export. The only exception I know is Atlantis Fabrics, but their stock of bleeding madras (at least that part which they’re willing to sell to the public) is limited, and the qualities are highly variable. On some stocks, for example, you can have whole sections of stripes missing on a check, or unusual stains of unknown origin. Plus, Atlantis seems to be harder and harder to work with these days. Years ago, I could buy fabrics from them at about $5 a yard, but nowadays, they have higher minimums, higher prices, and requirements for wire transfers (which add to the cost). The other source for good madras is Rosen & Chadick, but while their shirtings are of higher quality, I’ve never heard of them stocking anything that bleeds.

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The Burrito of Shoes

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Everyone wants the best, but what’s considered “best” is often very subjective. Here’s a pair of camp mocs, for example, from W.C. Russell Moccasin Company – a Wisconsin-based shoe firm that has been making moccasins and boots for outdoorsy folks since 1898. The color on these is a bit flat and the creasing a bit rough. And while Russell Moccasin usually makes shoes from full grain leather, these are made from top-grain, which is the bottom-half of a hide once it’s been split. The upside to top grain is that it doesn’t have any of the blemishes and scars that might be on full grain, but the downside is that it also doesn’t feel as rich and supple. And since the fibers in top grain aren’t as tightly intertwined, the leather can seem a bit airy. You can see Dave Muson of Saddleback Leathers explain it in this video.

Still, I love these mocs. The color has this perfect pitch of reddish brown, which somehow feels more classic and American to me than the usual dark browns and tans such shoes come in. The leather, while not as rich as my Quoddy and Oak Street Bootmaker mocs, also feels better suited for going out to a sports bar on a hot summer afternoon. And if provenance still means anything, I like that these are made by a 116 year-old heritage company with an utterly unpretentious website. Ordering from them feels like ordering from those mail-in catalogs in the ‘90s, where you’d send in a check or well-hidden cash along with a scribbled out form.

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Everything Old is New Again

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As it goes with fashion, everything old is new again. This time literally and figuratively, as I’ve come around to being less apprehensive about pre-distressed clothes. Pre-washed denim, for example, has a nice sky blue that’s difficult to achieve with raw denim, and the lighter color goes excellently with canvas sneakers in the summertime. I’ve also recently been wearing this heavily washed chambray shirt from Chimala. The problem with most chambrays is that they’re too much of a mid-blue, like this, which makes wearing them with jeans difficult. This chambray, on the other hand, goes great with jeans and a field jacket when the weather gets cold, and can be worn alone with a t-shirt and denim when the temperatures near 90, like they did yesterday.

Strangely, heavily washed chambray shirts don’t seem to be easy to find. There’s this Chimala (which is available at J. Crew and Unionmade), an RRL, and a slightly dressier version by Acne. If you’re willing to go a bit darker, however, a world of options opens up. Barney’s has an especially large range this season. There’s also this heavily washed denim shirt from The Jean Shop. It’s too thick to wear as anything but a shirt jacket, but it works well as one if you size down.

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Coming Back to Alden

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What happened to the Internet’s obsession with Alden? It was just a few years ago when you couldn’t get through a day’s worth of blog reading without coming across a post gushing about the New England shoe brand. Today, you rarely see the company’s name mentioned, and most people seem to have moved on to other things (obscure Japanese shoemakers and rare sneakers, mostly).

Meanwhile, I’ve been finding myself coming back to Alden. True, their lasts aren’t the sleekest and the shoes can look a bit clunky, but sometimes a heftier looking shoe is what’s needed to go with a pair of jeans or some tweed trousers. Plus, they have a distinct American sensibility that really appeals. 

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Brooks Brothers’ Mid-Season Sale Starts


Brooks Brothers’ mid-season sale, known as their Friends and Family sale, starts today. Take 25% off your full order with the checkout code FF25. Some notables I found include:

Shoes: Shell cordovan and Edward Green models are excluded from the sale, but everything else in the footwear section is eligible. I like these Algonquin split toes, Alden-made suede bluchers (boring on first sight, but exceedingly versatile), Alden-made suede penny loafers, and tie loafers in brown suede and calf. They also have some basic Superga sneakers for summer. 

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A Special Tee

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The poor and humble t-shirt – too often reviled by men in coats and ties, and too often relied on by men who don’t know their own coat size – is simultaneously the most under and overrated piece of clothing in history. Personally, I think a t-shirt can look quite good if it’s cut well and wearer is trim. Granted, it works best layered underneath a jacket, rather than worn alone, but what kind of shirt doesn’t?

For a long time now, I’ve bought mine from Hanes. Their Beefy T model is slim, stout, and unbeatably cheap. You can get them for about $5 directly from Hanes, or $2 at Sierra Trading Post (provided you have a DealFlyer coupon and wear a size 36 jacket). I also like The Flat Head’s plain white tees, which are made from a thicker fabric and have triple stitching at the collar. This makes them less likely to stretch out over time, which has always been my main complaint about Hanes, but at $110 apiece, I’ve found them to be a hard purchase to justify.

Recently, I found what’s now my new favorite source for t-shirts. Barns, a Japanese label, makes them in loopwheeled constructions and basic, solid colors. Loopwheeling, for those unfamiliar, is an old knitting process where a garment’s body is knitted to shape (like a tube), so there’s no need for side seams. Since the process is slow and there’s no mechanical tension, the resulting fabric gets all of its texture and softness form the naturally relaxed yarns.

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Frank Clegg Leatherworks

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I’m often quietly rooting for Frank Clegg. I bought my first bag from him years ago, when he was doing Lotuff & Clegg with Joe Lotuff. The two have split up now, but in the short time they worked together, Frank designed and produced all of the products. The bag I bought from him was his “Classic English Briefcase,” which you can see in the first few photos below. It was originally sent to me on loan, so I could do a review of it at Put This On, but the bag was so impressive that I asked if I could purchase it outright. The public relations company at the time kindly agreed, and gave it to me at a small discount since the bag had been used as a media sample. 

Despite getting it in used condition, it’s held up beautifully for me. The pebbled grained leather doesn’t scratch easily, and it’s retained the same beautiful deep color as the day I got it. The construction still feels very solid with the brass buckles, rivets, and clips, and despite stuffing this full of heavy books for years and lugging things around for miles, none of the stitching shows any sign of failure. I’ve been so impressed with the briefcase, in fact, that I’ve since bought a couple more of Frank’s bags (at full price) to give as gifts.

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New Inis Meain Sweaters

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It feels strange to write about fall and winter knitwear in the middle of spring, but with some new Inis Meain models up on their webstore, it’s hard to not get excited. All of my sweaters from them have been exceptional. They’re remarkably soft, but hardly pill, and are so densely knitted that you never have to worry about them losing their shape. My oldest Inis Meain sweater is probably about six years old now. That’s not a terribly long time for a good garment, but with proper care, it looks just as good as the day I bought it.

Included in the new batch are some flecked “Donegal” sweaters that are made to resemble Irish tweeds. These were available for a brief season a few years ago, but were then replaced with a set of really expensive cashmere sweaters. The merino-cashmere blends are priced much more affordably, thankfully, and presumably have the thickness that such a design requires anyway. There are also some buttoned mock-neck Arans with handsome cabling designs, as well as a moss stitch Gansey sweater with a buttoned shoulder. I imagine the second might be useful for layering underneath a boring coat.

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