18 March 2010

A Questionable Classic

Menswear is a funny beast. It tends to be at its best when it sticks with a basic set of rules and functions which have been around ever since the dawn of full length pants.Guys who step too far out of these lines may look cool for a year or two, if they're lucky, but are doomed to look silly and dated soon enough. However, I think we can all agree that a healthy knowledge of the rules and a respect for history combined with a willingness to break those rules and challenge that history just so is what differentiates style from rigid conformity.

So let's talk a bit about "the classics".

Dungarees, especially the iconic Levi's 501, are classic. The uppity suit guys may get in a twist about this, but in truth jeans are by now right up there with grey flannels, white oxfords and navy suits in the canon of standards. No getting around it. That's why it's hard these days to consider any well appointed gents wardrobe complete without a pair or two. So what about...


...white jeans? I know your gut reaction to these might be that they scream 1994 at the top of their lungs, but I seem to recall seeing plenty of photos of Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman and others riding motorcycles in dusty white jeans and tan suede dessert boots as far back as the early 1960s (back me up, Selvedge Yard). Downright chiseled and rugged. So where does that leave the slightly overweight young(ish) urban father of two?

Somewhere about here. Just the other day, I stumbled across a pair in my size for $5.99 at the local thrift. I bit. I find they bridge a certain gap. Allow me to explain.

Boston, until the day before yesterday, was in the grip of freezing cold rain blowing sideways for about a week. The flooding of basements was legendary. Then, all of a sudden, Ole Ma Nature comes through with blazing sunshine and a temperature of 70 degrees.

Of course, the streets were over-run with flip-flops and shorts today. It seems people only live in extremes these days. To my mind, however, it was still mid-March, no matter how nice the weather. How does one nod to the weather without jumping the gun? White jeans?


I wore them with my vintage navy varsity style cardigan (you know, like Thom Browne knocked off), and a Brooks Brothers red and white striped oxford...

with just the right amount of fray at the cuffs and collar.

It really was damn nice today, so I finished the whole thing off with penny loafers and some bare ankles.

Wearing white pants before Memorial Day may still be some vague kind of sartorial sin, but I feel like the fact that these are denim, heavy cloth, gets them a pass...or something. Think of it this way: white pants and bare ankles acknowledged the sunshine; denim and a shawl collared cardigan kept it all in perspective.

It's likely too early in time to call white jean a classic. Maybe it's a bit like sainthood in that it requires so many years and miracles before canonization. But don't forget, less than half a century ago loafers without socks was mostly an obnoxious trend amongst the spoiled collegiate youth, not a basic tenet of your father's Summer style.

Just sayin'...

30 comments:

L.A.S said...

I'm on board with white jeans. You killed it with this kit G. Straight up red, white and blue sartorial goodness.

Anonymous said...

White jeans always make me think of Mick Jones in his Big Audio Dynamite days.

Rebecca said...

It's fine by me! I'm beginning to think it's not so much the actual clothing item as the combination of aplomb and confidence and carriage of the person who wears them. (Is aplomb the right word? I didn't look it up to check....it just came to my mind.)

spoozyliciouzz said...

White pants are a classic, no matter what the suit guys say...no better colour to combine with red and blue, and making you feel like summer...it even works with grey and green or yellow. So go for white trousers.

Wyatt said...

501s??? Why is the patch different on the ones you're wearing?

Liberty and In Dependence said...

Amen. I am not big on shorts so I love to don light-colored pants. Doby Gillis sported white jeans. Why can't I?

Paul said...

When I was in high school - white levis, desert boots, OCBD blue was the rig. Still looks great!

Scott Alexander said...

Very nice, refreshing look. Red, white and blue always work.

jeremy said...

Looks, fantastic.

Great look. A rebel like yourself should never subscribe to the white after memorial day crap.

Every time I'm in Italy they have white jeans year round.

Keep it up.

David V said...

1994? Not so much. 1964! Yes. Had then then and want them now.

David V said...

...and had tan desert boots too!
What a stylish 13 year old. Wasn't trying to channel anyone. Just knew what I liked.
Now if I had only understood girls as well.

BlackPlague said...

how could you be against white denim? look how swaggerific you look in them?!

standard/classic/staple item!

Old Trad said...

I'm tempted to say that as long as something is white or navy, it's hard to object.

Wear them in good health.

pasquale said...

G.

when do we switch from felt hats to straw?

Mason said...

Was just telling my lady that white 501s are on my 'acquisitions for summer' list. She set me straight, I'm missing a key accessory I must obtain before I get my pair... a tan.

Michael said...

Sir,

This is an excellent post. I couldn't agree more when you talk about respect for and knowledge of sartorial history and the willingness to challenge those things.

Well-thought, well-executed, and the get-up is killer. Thanks.

Andrew M. said...

I don't know if I'm brave enough for the white jeans. The do look sharp, though. I think they would look pretty bad-ass if they were all dirty as well, as if you ignored the fact that they are white.

Cheers!

The Cordial Churchman said...

The whole thing about how an article of clothing (or any cultural artifact, for that matter) actually gets canonized remains a mystery to me. My best guess is that the best candidates for sainthood are those (to anthropomorphize a bit) who have eight-and-a-half toes on the old path, and one-and-a-half blazing a new trail with a fair amount of indifference to what the people with ten toes on the old path might say.

It seems like a especially radical departure from any tradition might lead tons of people down an exciting new path, only to reach a dead end.

I not a historian of the white jean, but it seems to me that it's got between 7 and 9 toes on the old path, so it doesn't seem ridiculous to me.

theselvedgeyard said...

Dead-on with the white jeans. Rockin' 'em hard.

JP

Laguna Beach Trad said...

Great look. Well done.

Dhr. DeLuxe said...

White 501's: well proper!
If combined with the said tan Clarks, why not sport a piquee tennis shirt like, say, a Fred Perry one? Navy with white sleeve and collar line. Or a bottle green Lacoste...
Very, very Mod/French!

Anonymous said...

Unquestionably, the white 501s are a classic look. I'm vibing '60s Beach Boys as well.
Though I've drawn the line when our good friend Ralph L. usurps actual polo clothing (pretentious unless you really do play polo) let's not forget that the polo shirt is usually worn with a white jean by real polo players, though maybe not 501s. This is an outstanding look.

Young Fogey said...

I dislike the "me, too" comment, but sometimes, it's necessary: it's a great outfit. White jeans can work, and you're showing us how. I particularly like the varsity cardigan in this outfit.

Strangely enough, my wife refuses to be seen in public with me if I'm wearing white ducks, but she says she will deign to accompany me if my legs are clad in white jeans. Go figure.

That being the case, I have decided to purchase a pair, but have one question: how much do the white 501s shrink? I'd like to get the right size the first time, but I know that the ignoramuses at Sears will barely understand my question, much less be able to answer it.

So, Giuseppe, what's the shrinkage factor on the white 501s?

TRVS said...

Yeah, Steve McQueen & don't forget Daniel Craig in Quantum of Solace. . . sold!!

Giuseppe said...

Fogey,

Shrinkage factor equals none. I washed these, and hung them to dry, and they stayed the same. However, remember I bought these used. Shrinkage is most critical in the first few washes.

FIXED BAYONET METAL SOLDIERS said...

Great.Love White Levis. You look good too.

Derek said...

Re: White before Memorial Day/After Remembrance Day

Originally this only referred to wearing white shoes- which I think we should bring it back to that. Europeans wear white pants all winter and look super snazz

http://www.wisegeek.com/why-are-you-not-supposed-to-wear-white-after-labor-day.htm

Anonymous said...

Sockless with white pants is always a homerun look, Very clean look!
I like to do a white pant with black sockless loafers.
Fantastic

David said...

I think that some cool argyle socks would really help the look!

You can find some great ones at http://www.boldsocks.com

superchick said...

two questions , do americans put pennies in their penny loafers anymore and how much do original trad white levis cost in the usa because in europe they are about 150 dollars