17 April 2009

Keep It Simple, part 2

Keeping one's clothes classic and simple is always a good idea with more formal modes of dress, but it's frequently an even better idea in the casual realm. There are a lot of inherently American combinations which have stood the test of time, but I think my favorite is this:White oxford and blue jeans. Can't be beat. Finished off with boat shoes and a surcingle belt. What better outfit is there for the first really nice day of Spring, spent largely outdoors with the wife and kids.

To me, the key to an outfit like this is the shirt. These days it seems to be all the rage to prattle on about these jeans or those, and which are more "authentic". As far as I'm concerned, jeans are from Levi's, and you wash them when they get dirty. No, the shirts the real thing here.

This kind of thing works best with a really old shirt in heavy oxford cloth. It should be one that used to serve as a dress shirt, but its been washed and worn so many times that it has reached an absurd level of comfort. Worn un-ironed of course, it's heavily frayed collar is unbuttoned:the sleeves rolled in an effort to mask the hole worn through one elbow:And yet its still bright white. I think Ralph Lauren made a lot of money selling this very concept in pre-packaged form to the young-uns, which is all well and good, I suppose. But a hole in your clothes only counts if it's your hole.

Keep it simple: wear a white shirt to death, and then keep wearing it. Just make sure your wife doesn't throw it out when you're not looking.

p.s. since when do Baracuta jackets cost $265? When I was a kid, we all got them for school jackets because they would go on sale at Sears for $10. I also remember them being popular with old men on Social Security. What gives?


Young Fogey said...

Nice classic look.

1. Not washing jeans is disgusting. Going commando and not washing your jeans is, frankly, repulsive--yet I have heard of people who do it.

I'm with you: when I wore jeans, they were Levi's, and I washed them after nearly every wearing. As a kid, I outgrew them before they wore out, and just one of my several pairs from high school finally got tatty when I was in college. (My brothers swiped all the ones I left home during my year abroad--finks!)

2. Baracuta jackets. I never heard them called that--or any--name before, but I know what you're talking about. As a kid and young adult, I had several by an apparently now-defunct manufacturer called Sir Jac. Same design, though: button collar, button pockets, plaid lining. I regret getting rid of mine, though one of them may have been a bit stained. Sure would like to have a new one, regardless of brand.

3. Ratty shirt. Here, you and I diverge. I think they're great for painting, working in the yard, washing the car, and the like, but I'd wear something presentable if leaving the homestead (though I did not always feel thus--I used to wear my father's ratty old former dress shirts when I was in college). At some point, they get recycled into rags--probably sooner for me than for you.

David said...

Thumbs up to everything except for that unbuttoned collar.

To me that suggests that the wearer has no clue about the proper way to wear a button down collar.

Weekend or work day, button that collar and you'll be good to go!

David V said...

Some how, over time, all my surcingle belts have shrunk! I haven't bother to replace them and you've reminded my of why I should. I love grabbing an old, worn, friendly OCBD from the closet on a Saturday morning and tossing it on.

As to the Baracuta...we called them golf jackets when I was a kid. Just this morning ,while walking the dog, I mom and dad would not have spent a lot to get them for us but we had them. How is that?

Anonymous said...

The G9 at sears for $10.00 that was a good deal. You can get ths US version of the Baracuta, a MacGregpr Drizzler for as little as $19.00

It is imported from the UK and they sell the fact McQueen, Sinatra and Elvis wore them

J.Crew is even selling one. I have one I spent 220.00 for and view it as an investment just like my Barbour.

Andrew M. said...

There's no more classic American look than the white oxford with jeans; definitely one of my favorite looks. I agree that simple is what usually works best most of the time. About the Baracuta jacket...I've heard the style called the Harrington jacket. I think the hipsters/fashion crowd have discovered this classic piece(hence the outrageous price)...I fear they will do to it what they have done to the Ray-Ban Wayfarer. Which, I now see in ugly neon colors on every sorority girl on campus. At least we know that we wore it before it was "hip" abd will continue to do so after it fades out of style(most likely next week). Sorry for the rant:)

foolio_iglesias said...

I see men who leave their button down collars unbuttoned all the time.Why?Comfort?I'm not trying to tell men how to wear their clothes,but apparently many of us need help...

Young Fogey said...

On the other hand, we have George F. Will's recent weighing in on jeans. I agree with him.

This is not to criticize you, Giuseppe. However, I believe his basic point is correct. As for me, I do not own any jeans, and have been jeansless for nearly two decades. However, I will buy Levi's when I resume outdoor activities like camping. I might wear them for yardwork--but again, would not wear them off the homestead. Personal preference.

P.S.: I would also button the button-down collars, but then again, I'm fussier than most.

Dhr. DeLuxe said...

I don't mind frayed collars and cuffs, but when there's a tear or a hole in my clothing, I repair it. For several reasons: it prevents the damage getting worse, holes can be draughty or uncomfortable otherwise and can change the fit of the garment, and holes communicate negligence.

IMO a well executed patch, stich, or repair shows the wearer cares for his garment. In the olden days (at least here in Europe) clothes were worn for generations, and mend and re-mend over and over. Examples I've seen in Dutch musea sometimes almost brought a tear to my eyes...)

As for jeans: with all due respect, but are you sure the ones you're wearing are men's jeans? The model looks a bit awkward to me...
I myself like to wear Lee Riders, for nostalgic reasons and the fact they they are much tougher than Levi's. In the late 50's they were the first jeans available in Holland. There was ONE shop in Amsterdam that had them. And the rest is history, as they say.

Anonymous said...

When you get older, please switch to chinos. Nothing more ludicrous than an older man in jeans. Otherwise, perf!

Giuseppe said...

It's amazing what a ruckus a white shirt and a pair of blue jeans can cause!

I spent most of the running around a grassy hill with a toddler. Still, I felt I looked fairly presentable. Should I have worn a blazer and a bowtie?

It's like I said before: dress clothes need their casual counterparts. Nothing can exist without its opposite.

No crime in loosening up when the moment is right, fellas.

Giuseppe said...


of course they're mens jeans. Seriously!

Anonymous said...

I can understand the comments about clean clothing however when it comes to raw denim it's worth the trouble of breaking them in properly (i.e. not washing them for 12 months). I realize this is unacceptable to some and to those I would suggest simply to avoid raw denim. Personally, I am willing to sacrifice a bit for the fit which tends to be impeccable. Case in point, the jeans you are wearing in the photo are a poor fit for you (at least they appear as such). Nothing wrong with Levis; I own several pairs myself. The fact though is that a pair of Levi 501 Stonewashed will never have the wear or fit of a properly broken in pair of APCs for example. You are correct in leaving your collar unbuttoned. If you are not wearing a tie the collar should never be buttoned. I am curious as to where the other commenters learned otherwise.

GK said...

This is off-topic, but you promised canvas shoes. I'm interested in hearing how you fare. As for jeans, George Will's recent comments not-withstanding, jeans have a place in American men's clothing history. They are a work-pant, but much like chinos after WWII, they have become a casual staple. If they don't fit your body-type, fine, but certainly they shouldn't clash with one's "clothing personality">

Giuseppe said...

Jeans should not cost $200 or take one year of wear to become right. Go ask a farmer.

Canvas shoes coming soon.

Young Fogey said...

I generally hate "ditto" comments, but Giuseppe is right.

GK is correct about jeans being a casual classic, but I still wouldn't wear them casually. For me, they're for labor (like working on the house or in the yard) or outdoor activities (like camping). Personal preference; YMMV.

Even so, like George Will, I wish that men would dress like men and not boys, and Giuseppe certainly does that. I think he makes the jeans work because he's wearing a collared shirt and not a T-shirt.

I have to wonder where Anonymous learned that button-down collars remain unbuttoned when you're not wearing a tie. Is he suggesting that I should leave my collar buttons undone on short-sleeved shirts, or my aloha shirts that have them? Worse yet, is he suggesting I wear ties with such shirts? I'm with David: button-down collars should be buttoned down; if not, it just looks sloppy. I think Giuseppe was aiming for casual and relaxed, and he certainly hit the mark. It's just more c & r than some of us posters are comfortable with in our own attire.

Cyclo2000 said...

For jeans I'm a fan of Swedish Company Nudie's product. They cost about the same as 501's in the UK (circa £100) but they fit me better and are very hard wearing. the fact that they're sewn in Italy from Japanese denim (held to be the best currently available) is only a wee plus.
If I had the inclination to wear "authentic denim" I would take myself off to Aero's excellent site and get a pair like these http://www.aeroleatherclothing.com/webapp/aeroleather/servlet/AeroViewPage?page=displayproduct&subcatid=171&prodid=3136
You'll see they also do vintage Lee and Wrangler Bluebell.

The Barracuta jacket you refer to is the G9. It became known as a Harrington in the UK as Rodney Harrington, a character in Peyton Place (one of the earliest American shows to be broadcast in the UK) habitually wore one. The G9 was most famously retailed in Britain by John Simons http://jsimons.website.orange.co.uk/
Recently relaunched as an "authentic product", the G9 commands a price of £125 direct from the manufacturer in it's standard form.

The Cordial Churchman said...

Um, am I the only one who feels like some of you are talking about the TOP button of the shirt, and some of you are talking about the button-down buttons on the collar points?

I'm not going to roll around on the grass with my kids and get grass stains on my chinos, even when I'm 40. Or with my grandkids, if the Lord should bless and tarry, when I'm 60.

David V said...

I believe the Ano. poster mistook the remarks about buttoning the top button of the collar not the button down collar.

Anonymous said...

"Go ask a farmer." I think this sentence sums it up. Jeans are fine for manual labor or for rolling around with your child. But I agree with George Will and others that they should not be considered acceptable everyday wear.

C said...


It's a great look. I wear it all the time (with a few differences that I won't clutter you blog up with).


Anonymous said...

A. Some men wear their collar tips unbottoned because their women want it that way. This is a separate issue from what is correct. I speak from recent experience.

B. George Will is a blowhard who knows nothing about the history of clothing. If he shuns jeans on the (alleged) grounds that most of us don't need the functionality jeans offer, he might as well shun trouser cuffs because most of us don't actually plan to replace worn hems. He might as well shun brogueing on shoes because the holes no longer go all the way through (as they used to) and thus don't allow water to drain out. Yesterday's practical need is the parent of today's fashion convention. One would think that someone like Will, who fancies himself a historian (of baseball, that is), could have contrived to allow this thought to occur to him--were he not being paid to be, every week, a curmudgeon about something or other.

Anonymous said...

Greetings. I am the original anon poster who suggested that collar buttons should never be buttoned unless wearing a tie. The posters that suggested I was referring to the top shirt button are incorrect. I did in fact mean the collar buttons. I wont argue the point but Young Fogey, since you asked, yes I am suggesting you never button your collars unless you are wearing a tie. I am not suggesting you wear a tie with your short sleeved shits (which I am assuming are button up) or your aloha shirts. I would however suggest you immediately stop wearing short sleeve button up and aloha shirts.

Giuseppe said...

Should I also not wear a jacket with a center vent if I'm bot riding a horse? Should I not wear an L.L.Bean Norwegian sweater if I'm not on a fishing expedition? Maybe I shouldn't wear khakis either, since I'm not in the army.

GK said...

Haven't had an LLB Norwegian sweater since high school. Lost it in college. Spent as few years without one. Now they are nowhere to be found. Sad.

Wearing one might keep an unbuttoned collar hidden.

You're right Guiseppe; jeans really did get people in an uproar. Perhaps it's the bad economy.

By the way, Wednesday (in addition to Earth Day and Administrative Professional"s Day...get your secretaries a card guys!) is Denim Day in L.A. It has to do with victim's rights and sexual assault. I will be wearing jeans (to work!) to show support.

Young Fogey said...

Giuseppe is on point to Kurt--and me, I'm afraid.

Anonymous & I will wear our button-downs differently. C'est la mode, et vive la différence!

I believe Kurt has misread George Will's column. It's not strictly about not wearing jeans because we do not need their hard-wearing functionality in daily life; it's more about the expansion of "lowest common denominator" fashion and the loss of the grownup (Diana West has written a book on the topic). The infantilization of our society is itself an instantiation of the leftist program to make everyone "the same" by reducing everyone to the same low level (Kurt Vonnegut drew this trend to its logical conclusion in his short story Harrison Bergeron).

Regardless, there are those of us who, without resorting to invective or ad hominem smears, believe that clothing expresses something deeper than a desire to keep covered. Our choice of clothing expresses how we view a situation and how we view ourselves. Giuseppe regularly dresses like an adult, one with taste and style, so no one should imagine I am aiming this critique at him just because he wore jeans and an unbuttoned collar to play with his son.

Having said that, I agree with Will--and I think at least some of the people who read this blog do as well--that most Americans dress too informally, that their informal attire betrays an overly-casual approach to not only the situations where they are so relaxed--work, school, church, whatever--but that they are so subjugated by our incessant fixation on "youth" that they have lost all the wonders and benefits of acting your age--not the least of which is great clothes.

Mateo said...

Fashion and style are fluid. Jeans worn at the waist with a tucked in shirt are acceptable weekend wear in the modern day. Always will be from now on.

It's the hip-hugger, baggy-fit jeans with an tshirt with a big "OLD NAVY" logo or somesuch that are wrong.

Fashion and style are fluid. Where's your white powdered wig? Oh you don't have one?

Anonymous said...

The part of me that wants to keep arguing with Young Fogey is outvoted by the part that appreciates his gentlemanly style and agrees with him that, whatever exactly Will may be saying, the world does need more grownups.

So, I’ll end my comments with a link to a column by James Lileks, not so much because it takes Will to task as just because it’s on-topic and because Lileks is a great writer whom not everyone here may know. Also, he’s definitely on the side of wanting there to be more grownups.

Young Fogey said...

Thank you for the kind comments, Kurt. I'm glad we can find common ground, even if we disagree on some points.

Could I ask you to post the link to the Lileks column again? It doesn't work--at least not for me.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I must have botched the html. Here's the URL in plaintext:


Anonymous said...

Church, restaurants , functions are no places for jeans, but a beautiful pari of vintage jeans with a quality well worn 100% cotton oxford shirt and a pair of topsiders is appropiate for most of what a gentleman does on the weekend

There is a book by Paul Fussel called Class and I believe that he would concur that the dress shown in this photo is upper class. Providing nothing is (Polyester)

If you wish to go more formal Bill's Kaki's the vintage ones and a polo shirt (without symbols on it) is also appropiate.

I can not wait until Guiseppe posts his fashion advice on how to dress in hot weather.

Anonymous said...

It appears Sir Jac is making a comeback.