Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What to wear: The suede driving loafers for under $60

Driving loafers, particularly suede ones, have become this correspondent’s footwear of choice.
Whether worn with shorts, chinos or denim jeans, driving loafers almost always look smart.
PHOTO courtesy of Lands' End.

In years past, Lands’ End carried driving loafers in brown suede, light brown leather and black leather that were often on sale for under $70. With proper care, as in not wearing every day, the driving loafers would last about a year. With heavy use — say every day of the week, as was the case for this correspondent during a semester at graduate school — it was about six months before the soles gave out.

Sure, the driving loafers from Lands’ End weren’t the best, but there wasn’t much difference between them and nearly identical ones from more expensive brands that were priced at well over $150. In fact, the same factory in Brazil or China probably makes most of the driving loafers on the market with only slight differences in quality or style for each brand.

Unfortunately, Lands’ End stopped selling its driving loafers last year. That left this correspondent, as well as countless others, scrambling to find a suitable replacement earlier this summer.

Cole Haan’s Grant loafer was the closest comparable shoe, but the price ($168 then, now $102.19; available here) was considerably higher than Lands’ End.

However, Cole Haan is a decent department store shoe, or so this correspondent thought.

It’s not that they weren’t uncomfortable. Far from it, actually. Cole Haan makes very, very comfortable shoes. Rather, the quality was really poor. So much so that the driving loafers fell apart within three months of wearing them for three, perhaps four, days a week.

That’s simply unacceptable, by any quality control measure.

This correspondent was hesitant to spend a couple hundred bucks after the Cole Haan experience. After all, this is the second decade of the 21st century. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of stores selling shoes on the internet. There had to be something out there, right?

That something ended up being the brown suede driving loafers (pictured below) made in China and sold by Happy Shop, a small, previously unknown Chinese merchant on Amazon.

PHOTO courtesy of Happy Shop.

The reviews of not only the driving loafers, but also the seller were positive. Some customers even said the driving loafers were identical to very famous brands, which is quite possible considering there can’t be many factories in China making driving loafers.
The best part was the price. Under $60 ($59.98 to be precise; available here) with free shipping and coverage under Amazon’s customer satisfaction protection policies. Talk about a bargain, even if they only last six months.

Happy Shop promptly shipped the order via the postal service with a delivery window of 12-22 business days, though this correspondent’s new driving loafers arrived in less than two weeks.

While it’s too early to pass judgment on Happy Shop’s quality, first impressions are very favorable.

Several additional styles and colors are offered, which means this correspondent will likely become a repeat customer of Happy Shop.

In the meantime, stay tuned for ongoing reports about how the driving loafers are holding up.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What brand is that?


While wearing the custom shirt from Cottonwork (pictured above) without a jacket the other day, a fellow approached and asked me what brand made the shirt, as he had "never seen that logo before."

Of course, the green embroidered "DGL" is no logo. It's a monogram with the three letters being the initials of this correspondent's names.

It took a little bit of explaining, but the fellow seemed to finally get it.

Friday, August 22, 2014

All things considered: Tommy Hilfiger's made in Italy blazer

A couple of days ago many #menswear voices were fawning over a new blazer from Tommy Hilfiger that is made in Italy.

The best part, many of these voices claimed, was its price: Under $400 — $395 to be precise (available here).

PHOTO courtesy of Tommy Hilfiger.

It is understandable why many are excited over this offering. The attention to details — three-roll-two lapel, patch pockets, soft shoulders, surgeon's cuffs, hook vent — is impressive, the cloth comes an Italian mill with a lot of provenance, the blazer isn't made in some oriental sweatshop and the price is better than J. Crew.

Quality is unknown, which is a really big deal. Just because it's made in Italy (or made in America for that matter) doesn't make it the best.

Three hundred and ninety-five dollars may be affordable, but that is still a lot of money, especially when one could commission a made-to-measure or made-to-order blazer that will fit way better for not much more money.

Speaking of fit, this blazer is only available in limited sizes. This means it won't fit most discerning gentlemen, unless a lot of money is spent on alterations at a competent tailor.

It's about the details for Magee's new tweed sport jacket

One of the just-released for autumn sport jackets that caught was the wonderful Donegal tweed jacket (pictured below) from Magee.

PHOTOS courtesy of Magee.

Magee really focused on the details — side vents, elbow patches, hacking pockets, purple over-check and the two-color melton under-collar — when it came this sport jacket (350 euros or $464; available here).

However, one particular detail stands out: The purple contrasting above the hacking pockets.

This is meant to compliment both the elbow patches and the over-check in the tweed’s pattern, but it may be a bit too much for some.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

New book on boating blazers


The momentum is growing around a new coffee table book on boating blazers.

You may recall told you about "Rowing Blazers" last year. Back then, the book by Jack Carlson, who collaborated with #menswear personality F.E. Castleberry, was mostly a concept. That's not the case now.

"Rowing Blazers" has been available across the pond since early summer, when Carlson launched the book with a fancy party at Ralph Lauren's London store.

Since then, the book — full of #menswear porn — has received considerable attention in magazines, blogs and other outlets, including the U.K.'s Daily Mail newspaper. Now "Rowing Blazers" is available here in America.

No announcement has been made yet, but sources tell Carlson is working on launch parties in New York and Washington. Boston would seem likely too.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Think tartan when commissioning a jacket for fall

The time is now to commission a custom sport jacket for autumn and winter.

Whether it is made-to-measure or bespoke, you should begin planning what to wear when temperatures require tweed to be pulled from the back of the closest sometime in October or early November, depending on where you live. After all, the last thing you want is to wait and then find out that nothing can be delivered before Christmas.

The tartan jacket pictured below caught’s attention as perfect sartorial inspiration for a custom sport jacket, especially if you already have a few standard tweed jackets and want something a little bit more playful. You might even call this a go-to-hell jacket.

PHOTO courtesy of Polo Ralph Lauren.

While you can buy this sport jacket from Polo Ralph Lauren ($895; available here), you will pay a significant sum for something that wasn't even made for you.

And if you do use this as inspiration for a commission, here are some stylistic considerations:
  • Hacking pockets.
  • Ticket pocket.
  • Patch pockets.
  • Side vents.
  • Partial lining (especially important if being worn inside).
  • Surgeon’s cuffs.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The best of the new Lands' End

If you are like this correspondent then you receive a lot of catalogues in the mail.

Lands’ End, Restoration Hardware, J. Crew, J. Press, Sierra Trading Post and Brooks Brothers. Heck, even an occasional Jos. A. Bank mailer arrives. For many, this is junk mail. For others, catalogues are style porn.

And the newest catalogue from Lands’ End didn’t fail to satisfy to one’s cravings for style porn.

In fact, it stood out as a radical departure from Lands’ End traditional — some might even say ho-hum — offerings of the past.

This is more J. Crew-meets-Banana Republic than the Lands’ End clothes worn by your father. You know those pleated super-short shorts of the 1980s worn by Clark Griswold in the cult classic film “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” 

Among the new offerings that caught’s attention:

PHOTOS courtesy of Lands' End.

At $198 (available here), the sport jacket pictured above, available in both herringbone and Glen plaid, is priced right for those who cannot afford bespoke or made-to-measure but don’t want to sacrifice style. The price gets even better because Lands’ End runs frequent promotions of 25% or 30%, meaning the $198 price should drop even further by the time the temperature drops enough to make wearing it practical.

Sure, the jacket’s cloth could be improved, as the wool and nylon blend is a bit disappointing from a quality perspective. However, at under $200 you aren’t going to get cloth with a lot of  provenance from a well-established Scottish or Italian mill.

While you can still get a heck of deal on made in America jeans from Canvas, the more youth-oriented Lands’ End brand, the new slim-fit jeans ($59; available here) come in what Lands’ End calls “deep sea blue,” “rough seas” and “night seas.”

Best of all you can personalize the leather patch on the waistband. Enough with advertising the brand of the jeans you are wearing, unless of course a big-name brand is paying you to do so. Just about anything, including your initials, can be etched onto the patch — making these jeans truly yours and yours alone — for only $6.