Last week, the editors of GQ posted a story showing how they dressed for digital fashion week. I was surprised and relieved to find that many of their outfits nowadays are just as casual and comfort-driven as mine. At the beginning of this lockdown, I mostly stayed at home wearing old jeans and plaid flannel shirts. After a while, I started burrowing into the back of my closet to pull out forgotten Camoshita shirts and Chimala chambrays, trying to find new ways to wear old items. Still, with nowhere to go, it’s been a challenge to really make an effort. As writer John Paul Brammer humorously tweeted: “OK, so it turns out I was in fact dressing up for other people and not ‘myself.’”
Even on lockdown, however, I’ve been shopping here and there. Sometimes it’s for practical things to make life at home a bit more comfortable. Sometimes it’s to purchase things on the hope that one day this pandemic will end and we’ll dress up again. Other times, I bought something just to support stores I want to see survive. It’s been hard to hear about how many businesses are struggling, but I’ve been emotionally buoyed by Simon Crompton’s suggestion that quality makers will survive because people care.
If you’re in a position to shop these days, I encourage you to shop small, shop responsibly, and shop at places you love. Here are some things I’ve purchased this season. Maybe you’ll find something you love too.
Two Casual Ring Jacket Suits
For the first time in their ten year history, The Armoury has discounted all of their Ring Jacket tailoring by 20%. Store co-founder Mark Cho has described their Model 3 suits and sport coats as the store’s “introductory products.” I imagine that’s because the Model 3 fits and flatters such a wide range of body types — trying one on immediately lures you deeper into the store. It’s a softly constructed coat with no padding, just a lightweight chest canvas that extends through the shoulder. The silhouette is soft and casual, but smart enough for the office. It’s also classic without being fusty. Made with a slightly extended shoulder line, a bit of drape in the chest, and a little wadding in the sleevehead, it gives many men the illusion of a more athletic V-shaped figure. For fully canvassed coats, cut and sewn in Japan using high-quality materials, they’re an impressive value at $1,600 for suits and $1,100 for sport coats. With the promotion, that puts them around $1,280 and $880, respectively. Note, The Armoury’s Ring Jacket models are exclusive to them and wear quite differently than Ring Jacket’s 184 model, which is the one you more commonly see elsewhere.
After seeing Mark Cho wearing the olive wool-mohair suit shown above, I knew I had to buy one. Mohair is a shoulder season cloth woven from the hair of the angora goat. It has a slight sheen that’s considered disreputable in conservative circles. Spinners typically blend mohair with wool to tame it, but I appreciate the barely-there glare for the same reasons why I like Jacques Marie Mage eyewear and Western shirts. Mohair suits look great in the evening with white shirts and black tassel loafers. In dimly lit restaurants and bars, they catch the light in an appealing way. This one at The Armoury comes in an exceptionally handsome shade of green — a deep olive mixed with a healthy dose of grey to make it more easily wearable. The color reminds me of sober business suits men wore in the 1960s, but can be casually worn today for almost any evening occasion.
With some coaxing from friends, I also bought this navy tonal seersucker suit. Friends of mine who own something similar say they wear navy seersucker suits with white dress shirts, long-sleeved polos, and blank Sunspel tees. They pair them with mid-brown loafers or all-white Common Projects — a get-up they say is perfect for brunches and summer weddings. I like that navy seersucker has texture but doesn’t look overly preppy. Being a wool-silk blend, this also won’t fade as easily as navy cotton. You can see how the suit looks on Sam Hine, Jim Parker, and Mark Cho. While the olive wool-mohair suit would be perfect for evenings, this navy seersucker would be good for daytime wear.
Lastly, I’m happy to mention that The Armoury recently used my “summer tweed” for their safari jackets. As some readers may remember, I organized a re-run of my summer tweed last year. The cloth is called so because it looks like your favorite Donegals, but the weave is open and airy enough for summer. The Armoury’s safari jackets are made in Hong Kong by Ascot Chang (who I use and recommend for custom shirts). They’re a great alternative to a sport coat for men who like a more tailored aesthetic. I recommend wearing one with an oxford button-up, jeans or chinos, and some floppy, unlined chukkas. You can see Mark wearing the jacket on Instagram.
My New Favorite Pair of Shorts
When Harrison Ford landed at the esteemed Cannes Film Festival in 1982, he wore a pair of navy shorts with a navy wool sweater. While few of us look as good as a young Ford, shorts can make for an ideal stay-at-home outfit. When paired with a knitted top, such as a jersey cotton tee, polo, or even a sweater, the combo can feel oddly sporty. It’s also stretchy and comfortable enough for long afternoon naps on the couch.
This season, I bought a pair of Save Khaki’s corduroy shorts in faded yellow and Freenote Cloth’s deck shorts in olive green. The ones from Save Khaki are lightweight and comfortable, as well as a good value for the price. However, I’ve noticed that the interior is starting to pill from just light use. The Freenote Cloth shorts, on the other hand, are indestructible. Their curved pockets are inspired by USN deck jackets, but I find these mostly look like the kind of fatigue shorts you see on California beach boulevards and at small-venue punk shows. The pockets have snap button fasteners inside that sometimes clack when you move, but I don’t mind.
Far and away, my favorite shorts this season are from Joyce. They’re vaguely reminiscent of Patagonia’s iconic 5” Baggies, which Emilia Patrarca perfectly described in her article at The Cut: “What differentiates Baggies from other shorts is their silhouette. The nylon fabric gives them a sort of stiffness, meaning they flare outward and float elegantly around your leg, instead of rubbing up against it […]. The hem slopes downward toward your crotch, as opposed to cutting straight across, which helps give someone like me the illusion of thigh muscles. And their five-inch inseam is the perfect length: short but not too short. (“Barely there” is not my thing.) All in all, I find them flattering, which is not something you can say about a lot of hiking shorts.”
Joyce’s shorts are similarly baggy and beautiful. I picked up a pair in a soft rayon-viscose blend (the best material they used this season) and heavier, rougher linen-hemp (nice, but not as soft and airy). The size small is best for a 30 waist, I think. I wear them with long-sleeved tees, camp-collar rayon shirts, and linen button-ups. They pair well with leather sandals, such as huaraches. The long drawstring cord looks good untied and helps make these shorts look a little more stylish when worn. I hope they reintroduce them next year in new materials.
A Few T-Shirts for Lounging
Wallace & Barnes’ tubular-knit t-shirts — which are entirely cut, sewn, and garment-dyed in Los Angeles — are a fantastic value at $50 (and often on sale for $25 or so). They combine the vintage detailing that you get from boutique brands with the reliable cut and sizing that’s more common among mass-market retailers. My only complaint is that they put the garment’s care tag on the inside of the collar, which can feel itchy against the neck. However, you can remove it with a seam ripper.
I also really like Imogene + Willie’s t-shirts. They feature DIY-styled graphics that make me feel cooler than I am. These look great underneath vintage denim trucker jackets, chore coats, and leather bombers, as well as paired with raw denim jeans or olive fatigues (my uniform nowadays when getting groceries). I bought one of the “House Arrest” black tees because there’s a cat on it. I like cats. I also recommend sizing up.
Christian Kimber Long-Sleeved Polo
I love the look of a long-sleeve polo layered underneath a sport coat. A polo doesn’t need to be ironed like a dress shirt. At the same time, it has many of the things that make a dress shirt look good when worn underneath a tailored jacket: a bit of cuff that peeks out from the jacket’s sleeves and a collar that frames the face. For guys who like to dress down their tailored clothing, a polo is also one of the least self-conscious ways to do so.
For years, I’ve been looking for a long-sleeved navy polo that I can wear with sport coats in tan, dark brown, and green. However, navy polos often make me feel like I’m working at Best Buy, especially when the knit is worn with tan chinos. So I was happy to come across this one from Christian Kimber. Made from soft Italian jersey cotton, it has a mélange of colors that helps separate it from the navy polos you see everywhere else. I like the cut of the collar and the deep placket. The fabric feels slightly dry and stiff at first, but it softens up nicely after the first washing. Christian stressed to me that this item should be hung to dry, and not put through a machine dryer.
Casual RRL Shirts for Perpetual Weekends
For what now feels like a perpetual weekend (or maybe it’s a workweek), I bought one of these RRL pink flannel shirts. The two-pocket chest, boxy cut, and splayed camp collar somehow make this feel like a flannel you’d wear at a summer camp, rather than a lumberyard. The sun-faded pink and soft white colors also pair beautifully with blue (the color of workwear). On sale at the moment for $99, I think it’s a great value. You can see more photos of it at Tenue de Nîmes.
I also caved and bought one of these viscose-blended shirts. Inspired by 1950s Aloha shirts, this one features a turn-of-the-century Southwestern print that looks terrific when layered under a denim trucker or tan canvas ranch jacket. I love the camp collar and coconut shell buttons. I also appreciate that this has at the soft, silky hand of rayon, but is machine washable. Rayon, which is made from a wood pulp fiber, can sometimes pill in the wash. This viscose-linen blend, however, has held up just fine for me.
A Cheerful Morning Mug
Human Made is a Japanese streetwear label by A Bathing Ape creator Nigo (his warehouse of rare collectibles, by the way, is amazing). Last year, they released a duck-shaped mug, which might be my favorite mug ever. This year, they released another version shaped like a polar bear.
This bear-shaped mug isn’t as comfortable to hold. The handle is a bit short and stout, and it sticks out in this slightly awkward, 90-degree angle (as opposed to the 45-degree bend on the duck mug, which hooks onto your index finger). Still, I love it. It’s goofy and fun, holds my Aeropress coffee, and cheers me up in the morning. It’s hard to be mad when you’re looking at this smirking bear’s face. You can find it at Mr. Porter and Self Edge. I’ve been drinking out of mine while writing with a Pilot Custom 823 fountain pen and Public Supply embossed journal (the paper isn’t as good as Rhodia or Leuchtturm, but it’s plenty fine for non-flex nibs).
Caps to Keep Hair in Check
In these days of temporarily shuttered barbershops and salons, baseball caps have become my only wardrobe essential. I can’t leave home without one, as my hair is just too long, and I sometimes even wear one at home to keep my hair out of my face. I mostly wear Papa Nui’s canoe caps, which is a short-billed, four-panel cap that sits closer to the head than most baseball caps. In staple colors such as olive and navy, these jungle cloth caps pair well with workwear and most Americana. I also like that the company is connected to a community I enjoy supporting. Papa Nui is a workwear obsessive who’s been writing about men’s style since the days of Blogspot. These caps were made with help from Stevenson Overall Co, and are available at Self Edge. In the past, Papa Nui has also collaborated with Bryceland’s and W’menswear. If you’ve ever found yourself admiring clothes from these brands, you’d most likely be happy with the vintage styling and silhouette of these canoe caps.
I also bought one of Drake’s new faux club caps, which feature the logos of totally fictional organizations (e.g., Haberdasher Horticultural Society and Chard Racquets Club). Made with a gently curved bill and a soft, unstructured crown, I find these fit somewhere between hip dad caps and the sort of baseball caps you find at Ebbets Field Flannels (which sit a little higher on the head thanks to that buckram reinforcement). The silhouette and styling make these pair well with the kinds of casual clothing you find at J. Crew, Sid Mashburn, and of course, Drake’s.
Lastly, for something more directional, check out the revived Quaker Marine Supply. Since their founding in 1949, fishermen have favored Quaker’s Swordfish for wearing out on the waters. The bill is long — about 50% longer than the standard baseball cap — but that means it offers better sun protection. I enjoy the unusual, long bill silhouette for adding a bit of charm and character to a workwear outfit. You can wear it with the kind of clothes you can find at Wooden Sleepers, who carries this cap in waxed canvas and cotton twills. (Tip: The hats are a little cheaper if you purchase them with gift cards.)
Raw Silk Bandanas
I also love these raw silk bandanas from Eco Raw Studio in Cincinnati, Ohio. The company is a small, one-woman studio that’s owned and operated by Sonja Thams. She does all the sourcing, dyeing, and printing. Each raw silk bandana is dyed in wholly natural materials — plants, leaves, and roots — which results in beautiful colors such as marigold yellow and fern green. I wear these at home to hold back my hair. While raw silk has a nubby texture, these are surprisingly much more comfortable against the skin than woven cotton bandanas. They’re softer, stretchier, and lay down better at the back of the head (whereas cotton bandanas can give you “ears”). Their new classic bandana print is inspired by vintage patterns. If you’re the kind of guy who likes to wear a bandana around your neck as an accessory (which I think can sometimes look good), Eco Raw Studio’s terracotta and sage gray bandanas pair well with workwear.
Since these are wholly made from raw silk, you’ll want to gently wash them by hand, or throw them into a delicates bag and wash them on the gentle cycle. They can’t just be tossed into the wash like normal cotton bandanas. And since they’ve been dyed using natural materials, you should expect some fading after a while. Natural dyes are less stable than most synthetic dyes, but I think that’s also part of their charm. I’m hoping that Sonja comes out with more bandana designs and colors, so I can purchase more.
My Best Purchase So Far
Finally, no purchase for me has been better for improving life at home than this Droll Yankee Bird Feeder. The feeder has been a small oasis of happiness and respite from the constant barrage of bad news. I get to hear the continuous chirping of chickadees outside. I can see them flickering past my window. The presence of birds makes my time outside a lot more enjoyable. There’s something very calming about being able to type in my garden and look up every once in a while to see birds just feet away from me. With birdseed being so dirt cheap, this is a refreshingly affordable pleasure.
From reading about bird feeders online, I learned that such feeders should always be within a certain distance from a window — either within 3 feet or farther than 30 feet. Otherwise, fast-flying birds can kill themselves by flying into windowpanes (not so relaxing for you and even less so for the bird). There are dozens of guides online on how to shop for and set up a bird feeder. Since I hang mine in a tree, I opted for one without the spinning wheel designed to throw off squirrels (figured that’s not so nice to squirrels). However, if I were to purchase again, I would get one with a small tray underneath to catch the seeds picky birds throw out. Also, consider getting some cleaning tools, such as this Droll Yankee brush and Microbe-Lift cleaning spray. Bird feeders should be cleaned every so often to prevent them from spreading disease.
— BBC Springwatch (@BBCSpringwatch) July 26, 2020