15 March 2009

In the Details, for Better or Worse

It's often been said that with menswear "it's all in the details". Certainly this is true. Readers of this blog all know, I'm sure, about things like hooked vents, no darts, the number of buttons on the cuff of a jacket, the direction of the slant of the stripes on a tie, and so on and so on, ad nauseam, as a marks of quality and often origin. But 'the details" aren't always good.

These days, 'trad' or 'preppy' or whatever-you-want- to-call-it is enjoying a minor spell of youth popularity. I'll admit, I own some of these clothes myself. Not because they're trendy, but because, like everything else I've ever purchased, I managed to find them cheap (or should I say, priced at their real value). One thing I've noticed is that they all have silly, contrived details. Two examples:

This shirt from Rugby has made more than a few appearances on this blog. It may be something of a piece of sweatshop junk, but it only cost me a couple of bucks, it's hard wearing and it looks well even when I don't iron it, which can be a handy quality in a shirt when I find myself in a hurry. And say what you will about the brand, if it makes the young'uns think that critter pants and striped ties are cool, it can't be all bad. At least a few of those kids might outgrow it and move on to the real stuff. But:
Down at the tails, it has these silly bits of imitation necktie sewn in, and worst:this silly little guy on the chest relegates this garment firmly in the "sweater shirt" column. Insufferable. I'd like this so much better if it were just plain.

These khakis provide a less egregious example:

Again, sweatshop junk to be sure, but they're cut well, the cloth is sturdy, they were only $5.49, and so on. But again we see the fake neck tie sewn on the inside.

Why do so many of these brands feel the need to add these silly suggestions of the classic repp tie all over everything? Can't a guy just wear an actual striped tie with these things? These kind of details make me feel silly owning these things. I know enough about menswear to feel like a chump when I give in to this sort of ham-fisted attempt at the old university vibe.

The problem is, I can't really afford the good stuff.

The trick is, mixing this junk in selectively, among the good stuff, and keeping your mouth shut. That, plus wearing it with style and confidence, is the key to building An Affordable Wardrobe.


Percy Chatsworth said...

Hmmm, I have noticed this detail in a few of my items of clothing (A striped shirt from American Eagle, for example).

Perhaps these strips of repp ties are placed on Rugby shirts and J. Crew khakis because most people who wear the items won't wear a striped tie with the items.

Putting humour aside, we know that the strips of repp tie stripes are placed in order for the companies to envoke the flavour of Ivy Style. It is all about marketing and branding.

Piffle! Your clothes are the good stuff: Real, practical, non-pretentious clothing which reflects your great taste and style.

Anonymous said...

Why not just get one of those little thread-cutter gizmos and pick that annoying logo off? 15 min. work and you end up with a shirt you like better.

ms. mindless said...

i agree that the little rugby player is pretty terrible. as a j crew enthusiast, i don't mind the j crew details. they often line the women's clothing in interesting prints or bright contrasting colors. for example, i have a rather plain, classic black wool 3/4 length coat that is lined inside in a hot pink floral print with a ruffle trimmed in ribbon at the bottom. no one can see it, but it makes me smile!

Anonymous said...

It's important to learn how to spot quality, mass market brands, if you want to dress affordably.

I wear the most plain Dockers khakis all the time. I pretty much buy them in bulk. They are super cheap and objectively better than most middle market brands. (Not coincidentally, Levis jeans are much the same for me.) Wearing an undershirt by someone other than Hanes or Fruit of the Loom strikes me as just flushing money down the toilet. Etc.

Hell, I bought a pretty nice knit tie at Target last year.

dandy nihilism said...

I feel indulgent for wearing the khakis you have in this post considering I didn't thrift them. They are a great cut and pretty sturdy. The J Crew people sell some suspect khakis though that I bought and returned. The fabric would have been more appropriate in a (shiver) Old Navy.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with you on the shirt from Rugby - you find those silly person/animal motifs on everything these days.

Principal offender in the UK is a brand called Jack Wills - used to have quite a simple 'JW' logo (acceptable under the circumstances), but has now moved to using this ridiculous duck motif. Has coincided with shift to branding everything with hugely overstated 'university sports club' lettering, which quite frankly just looks cheap.

Andrew M. said...

I think people buy those clothes because the fancy contrived details that nobody can see somehow make them feel better about themselves. I struggle dealing with logos on a perfectly good piece of clothing, too. I will shamefully admit that I'm ok with wearing some(e.g. pony, alligator) but not anything like that rugby player. Is that my own form of brand snobbery? I see it as just a matter of what looks better.

Armilyn and David said...

I thought I had gotten my Classic fit Essential Chinos for a steal at $30 just before Christmas until I read your $5.49 price. Damn! I guess I have a Slightly Less Affordable Wardrobe.

Anonymous said...

J. Crew Classic Fit Essential Khakis are hands down my favorite khakis. I can't afford to try Bill's and haven't tried thrifting ( I don't think it would be very successful anyway) so the J. Crew khakis are the best option for me. I don't mind the regular Polo logo, but logos like that rugby player make shirts look cheap to me. The repp stripes on both do seem contrived, though.

Anonymous said...

Ah, caviar tastes on a Cheez Whiz budget! At least you have the eye for quality and the ability to find it a rock-bottom prices.

I hate paying to advertise someone else's product, so I especially despise everything produced by, say, Abercrombie and Fitch. If--and that's a big if--I like the logo, I'll wear it. (The only one I like is Quiksilver, so that's limited to beach wear.) Otherwise, I refuse to buy logo'd garbage in the first place, unless it's a product that is virtually unobtainable without the logo or brand name, such as tennis shoes and sunglasses.

Fortunately, most obnoxious tags are easily removed with a seam ripper. Good luck on getting rid of the awful & pretentious little rugby player without ruining the shirt!

Unknown said...

It's funny that you chose those two brands for this particular post. I happen to be an avid consumer of both brands, but never at retail (there's always deep discounts to be found for the patient). I'm very much on the scrawny side of things, so I prefer to shop here for trad inspired goods because they fit me much better than, say, brooks brothers would. I find that rugby's shirtings are a great value when they go on sale; I just pass over anything that has conspicuous branding. Despite the fact that it is a diffusion brand, it is very difficult to tell the difference between the shirtings used in rugby and any other rl brand. In fact, my gf (who works in the fashion industry) is certain that rl's shirts are all produced by the same mills and factories; the only real difference is branding and marketing (by and large).

Anonymous said...

I'll say one thing on the psuedo-grosgrain. It's often used mass-brand suiting to distinguish potentially confused colors say a charcoal from black or deep navy from black. it's also used in some of the summer suiting to distinguish suiting pieces from regular chinos. as for the logos. i kind of like the rugby guy, it's not as ubiquitous as the pony, etc. and is a bit more playful. the grosgrain bits on shirts can also serve a purpose as well as I was told by someone in merchandising. they're a guide for employee's who may not be terribly good with matching on suggested base colors for matching ties or pocket squares. that logic may not hold everywhere.

we could grow up 2gether said...

always lust after the shirts at Rugby, but im too little to fit into one if them, PITY, what a pity

Zach said...

I'm with Miguel. I really like both brands, and if nothing else, they've lead me to the real stuff by way of looking for Affordable versions of their looks. I realize this comment is on a post a year old, but there's something noble about JCrew re-selling Levis and Barbour instead of just co-opting the designs.
One last thing, Rugby makes the shirts that fit me the best. It's hard to find Brooks Brothers slim, for example at any less that extortion prices. Keep up the good work.