Dapper Classics

Socks are one of the most often overlooked parts of a man’s wardrobe. For my money, they offer one of the highest satisfaction to cost ratios of any item in a man’s closet. Providing a sudden and jocund splash of color, they can enliven even the most soporific of outfits.

Until recently, finding a good pair of American made dress socks was a challenging proposition. Troubled by the dearth of American made men’s hosiery, father and son Fred and Harrison Rich set out to fill that gap in the marketplace. They partnered with a mill in North Carolina and, in 2011, began to produce socks under the Dapper Classics moniker.

If you have even minor interests in dandyism, Dapper Classics are an exceptional option. The company offers socks in a rainbow of colors (from the traditional to the fauvist), in a panoply of patterns and in a rich cornucopia of well thought out designs.

Dapper Classics had been on my radar screen for a while. I had taken note, both of its commitment to American manufacturing and of the enticing appearance of its products. Last month, on a trip to New Orleans, I stopped in a store in the French Quarter. There, to my great surprise and excitement, was a basket of Dapper Classics socks. As you can see in the photos below, I selected an over-the-calf model in navy with green anchor motifs.

IMG_3526

IMG_3544

I like where Dapper Classics is headed. In 2014, the company added neckwear and trousers–both made in the USA–to its product line. A pair of trousers in a mid blue hopsack are calling out to me; I may eventually have to give in to that siren song.

I’d love to see Dapper Classics branch out even further, while still holding firm to its commitment to American manufacturing. I think, over time, it could give Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers a serious run for their money.

Peter Millar

In general terms, I like Peter Millar’s aesthetic. Its clothing is well designed, with a strong root in the classics. But so much of what it sells is produced overseas–mostly in China, from what I’ve seen. I do have a pair of the company’s made in Italy wide wale cords, but those seem to be the exception.

So I was surprised to encounter this: a pair of blue and pink socks (perfect for pairing with white linen trousers), made in the USA. It’s the first American made product I’ve come across from Peter Millar. I’m not sure if it’s an anomaly or if it’s an indication of more American made things to come.

IMG_3618

The Life Span of the Man’s Dress Shirt

I read once (where, however, I cannot remember), that it is best to think of dress shirts as essentially disposable. For when a collar or cuff frays beyond the point where the shirt is reasonably wearable, when sweat stains elude even the most crafty of cleaners, too much emotional attachment to a shirt can tax the soul.

Of all the items in a man’s dress wardrobe (with the exception of footwear), the shirt takes the most abuse. It sits closest to the skin, so it’s subject to sweat and oil from the skin. It’s a de facto bib, catching splatters from all manner of meals.

According to the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute, the average life expectancy for a man’s dress shirt is somewhere between 35 and 50 washes. However, I expect my shirts to last at least twice as long. That’s largely because I wash all my shirts at home (avoiding the abuse common at commercial laundries), hanging them all to dry.

Consider this Hamilton dress shirt. It’s from my original order with Hamilton (completed more than 7 1/2 years ago). It’s nearing 100 wearings, a figure that owes as much to Hamilton’s craftsmanship as it does my washing habits. And it’s still going strong, with no end in sight for its wearability.

IMG_3640

IMG_3646
Seven-and-a-half years later, and still going strong

Boyfriend Shirt: Jack Spade Oxford

It’s a long and honored tradition in traditional circles: women appropriating items from a man’s wardrobe. In fact, in articulating six fundamentals for women’s dressing, the Official Preppy Handbook placed “Men’s clothes” at the top of the list:

Either actual garments from the man’s wardrobe (button-down shirts, Shetland sweaters, anything from L.L. Nean) or near imitations. The blue blazer, the khaki skirt, and the gray suit are the cornerstones of the female Prep’s wardrobe.

Given Frannie’s needs for a few more collared shirts to round out her wardrobe, we picked up a man’s button-down from Jack Spade. While many of Jack Spade’s products are manufactured overseas, several of the company’s oxford shirts are made in the United States by Southwick. It’s fairly slim fitting, so a man’s size small was perfect for Frannie.

IMG_3625

IMG_3628

IMG_3626

IMG_3632

IMG_3633

In the common parlance, it’s known as the boyfriend shirt–although the shirt itself may have less than amorous origins (acquired as a hand-me-down from a father or brother or even purchased new).

Vintage L.L. Bean Chamois Cloth Shirt

We’ve bemoaned, many a time on these pages, L.L. Bean’s squandering of its once proud legacy. L.L. Bean was one of the pioneers in the creation of a uniquely American look, but virtually everything it sells is now produced overseas, in largely unsavory locations beset by labor, environmental and human rights abuses.

This is why, when we encounter vintage made in the USA L.L. Bean clothing in thrift stores, our hearts quiver with nostalgia. A few days back, we picked up this chamois cloth shirt. It will be perfect for Frannie as she braves Virginia autumn and winter, ideal for layering over an oxford or turtleneck.

IMG_3616

IMG_3615

IMG_3614

As the Official Preppy Handbook once opined: “The casual wardrobe should include some L.L. Bean chamois shirts–the cotton flannel that gets better with each washing.” While we can no longer endorse this position, given that the shirts are no longer manufactured domestically, we can heartily recommend picking up one of the old made in the USA models if you happen upon one.

llbean1960

Jack Donnelly

Earlier this year, we received a query from one of our readers, asking if we’d had an opportunity to sample the Jack Donnelly khakis. We had not at that point, but we made a mental note to add them to our wish list.

When I went searching for a pair of slim cut khakis, I first gave Bills Khakis a try. We’re mighty fond of Bills in these precincts, so I tried on a pair of their M3 trousers (the slimmest of their three cuts). The results were not inspiring. The low rise did not flatter my middle aged body, and I resolved to stick with the middle of their three fits, the M2, whose dimensions are much more sympathetic to my shape.

So I turned to Jack Donnelly. Like Bills Khakis, Jack Donnelly offers three distinct fits. And like Bills, Jack Donnelly manufactures its trousers in the United States.

But before I pulled the trigger, I dropped Jack Donnelly an e-mail, inquiring about the rise measurement on the slim cut trousers. The response was heartening. The trousers, even in their slimmest iterations, feature a generous 12″ inch rise.

A Brief History

The khaki trouser is not an American invention. That distinction belongs, as it does with much of our classic clothing, to the British. By the time of the Second Boer War, khaki had become firmly ensconced in British military culture. Other armies followed suit, and by World War II, the khaki trouser was an indispensable part of an American solider’s uniform.

17-British-troops-at-Belmont
British soldiers in their khaki uniforms

But its true cultural ascendancy owes much to the G.I. Bill. In the war’s aftermath, millions of veterans filled college classrooms across the country, and their military khakis were pressed into civilian service.

Over time, the khaki trouser became one of the pillars of the Ivy League look. And while the jeans-centric hippie culture of the late 1960s and early 1970s  dimmed the khaki’s cultural luster, by the early 1980s, on the strength of the Official Preppy Handbook, khakis had come roaring back.

Jack Donnelly

Made in the American south, Jack Donnelly’s khakis are some of the finest khakis we’ve ever had the privilege of wearing. They come in three fits (original, hybrid and slim), six colors and two weights. They’re similar to Bill’s in many ways (strength of construction, durability of fabric), and, in truth, it would be hard to choose between the two, but in the slim fit category, Jack Donnelly  has the edge because of its aforementioned higher rise.

IMG_3601

IMG_3600

IMG_3584

Unlike Bills, they are sold online exclusively. They run $105. For those reared on cheap, foreign-made Dockers, the price might seem a bit deer. But I can assure you that these are worth every penny.

Here are the details: curtained waistband, metal zipper, 8.5 ounce cotton twill, unfinished bottoms allowing you to have cuffs added (at least 1.75 inches please).

 

New Balance Redux

A few months ago, we wrote about New Balance, which makes about one-quarter of its shoes in the United States. Recently,  Frannie and I needed new exercise shoes, so to New Balance we turned. Here are our new shoes, both pairs made in the USA.

IMG_3582

IMG_3583

 

Misty Harbor Field Jacket

Despite the ubiquity of summer heat, the Northern Hemisphere is already beginning its gradual tilt away from the sun. That means that in a few months, a chill will once again appear in the air. The leaves will assemble into a reverie of color. And jackets–except for those of us in more northerly latitudes–will end their hibernation.

One of the most venerable of those is the trusty field jacket. The field jacket has its antecedents, as with many examples of classic clothing, in military usage.

For years, it was the jacket of choice for outdoor pursuits, hunting in particular. Often made of waterproofed cotton, it contains generous front pockets for ammunition and small game and reinforced shoulders to minimize wear from firearms.

The L.L. Bean version is definitive–a classic so ensconced in the pantheon of American style that it noted a mention in the Official Preppy Handbook. For years, Bean produced that model in the United States, but, like so much of the company’s current product line, it’s no longer made by American hands.

Yesterday, while visiting some of the local thrift stores, Frannie and I found a vintage woman’s Misty Harbor field jacket. By the label, which confirms its domestic provenance, it appears to be from the 1960s, or perhaps the early 70s. But its look is timeless.

IMG_3567

 

IMG_3565

IMG_3568

The details are spot on: raglan sleeves, generous outside snap game pockets, waterproof fabric. Although it lacks the reinforced shoulders of the truly classic field jacket, I’ve always found that detail a little superfluous for someone who isn’t hoisting a shotgun or rifle.

IMG_3571

IMG_3577

From what I’ve managed to discern, Misty Harbor no longer seems like much of a going concern, if it still exists at all. Regardless, this jacket is a wonderful piece, and despite its age, I’m confident that it will give Frannie many years of use.