11 March 2010

How I Roll

So, this is the 300th post of An Affordable Wardrobe. I'll be damned.

For days I figured I should come up with something profound to write about, maybe a lengthy and thoughtful article about some completely esoteric aspect of the meaning of our clothes. A real smarty-pants article, no pictures even. Then I thought, nah, just keep going. So I think I will.

When discussing the iconic button down collar, menswear geeks like to get into deep discussions of the "roll" of said collar. For the un-initiated, a brief explanation: A classic American (style) button down collar has the buttons placed in just such a way that the collars points will not lay flat. This is referred to as "roll". You may think this is a mistake, but you'd be wrong. The more "roll" the better. It's the perfect combination of Yankee conservatism and an inherently American casual-ness. You know, the abstract concept upon which our boy Ralph built an empire of epic proportion. Some of you may remember that I picked up a couple of shirts in the cheaper-than-dirt sale section of landsend.com a while back. One of them was this "classic oxford", in classic blue. It has been discussed ad nauseam how Brooks Brothers invented (or more likely imported and marketed) the button down collar around the turn of the 20th century. It has also been discussed ad nauseaum that no other collar has had quite the "roll" of a Brooks Brothers Makers shirt from the glory days of the company, say 1960-1985-ish. But I gotta tell ya, this Lands End jobby is pretty spot-on, no?

And just look at how it wrinkles after 14 hours of wear, just like a real shirt. "No-Iron" cotton is an outright abomination, and must be avoided at all costs.

That tie called my name yesterday. It's knit, not a knobby knit like everyone is used to, but a soft, smooth knit. A good friend told me it looked like it should be a sock, which I of course interpreted as a giant compliment. Anyway, I don't think there is any denying the strength of this tie with a recently acquired flannel blazer and some classic cavalry twill pants.

100% wool, made in (what?) Italy? Let's recap:

A classic blue oxford button down, from a classic American retailer, made in Indonesia.

A classic navy blazer, with some whimsy about it, made in the U.S.A., albeit at least 30 years ago.

An undeniably American preppy tie, made in Italy.

A classic pair of British style cavalry twill pants, by the inherently American company Brooks Brothers, made in Canada.

I mention all this because I had some idea of expounding on the discussion of "Made in America" that has been going around of late. Conor recently wrote thoughtfully on the subject, and was kind enough to point us to others who did as well. But...

I bought all these things, save the shirt, second hand, from charity run stores. At what point in a garments history does it become more important how one came by it than its point of origin? And the shirt, though not domestically produced, is well made, cheap, and has a great looking collar.

See? Now I went and opened up a big fat can of worms. I'll save that long winded dissertation for another time, when my thoughts have been collected and I've got the gumption. In the meantime, feel free to share your own thoughts, readers.


Anonymous said...

There's no roll like the roll of the long departed, much missed Sero.

mistermidwester said...

Huge congratulations on the 300th post. I haven't been reading since the start, but I have gone back through the archives and mostly caught up.

I won't even get into your question of sources and origins, but I do tend to think that you basically just have to go with what works.

Like you, I prefer second-hand clothes. Regardless of where they came from, I like to feel that there's some sort of provenance with that textile (some more than others, but I certainly wonder about the story behind nearly every piece), and I'm just taking the handoff and adding my own chapter.

Congrats again.

Scott Alexander said...

I'd expect nothing less for your 300th post. Smart, simple, stylish. Congrats, G!


Young Fogey said...

Italy is known for its tie-making, especially the knits. See, for example, here.

My cashmere knit tie, also courtesy of Lands End, was made in Italy.

So I don't see anything unusual about that wonderful tie of yours, as preppy as it may be.

P.S.: Congratulations! Long may you blog!

spoozyliciouzz said...

Congratulations on your 300th post...it was as inspirational and entertaining as the foregoing 299....and i must compliment you on you wardrobe choice of today. What a shirt/tie/blazer combo...

Rebecca said...

Congratulations! I'm never disappointed when I come to your blog. Today is no exception. For me, I'm in the "more important how one came by it than its point of origin" camp.

Personally, it is not only more IMPORTANT--it is more INTERESTING, more ADVENTUROUS, more CHALLENGING, more SATISFYING...and the list could go on and on.

L.A.S said...

Congrats on the 300th post G. You are one of the best dressed cats on the interwebs and that's a lot better than a dissertation.

OCBD said...

Non c'รจ niente a dire...except that that is certainly a magnificent roll!

I haven't been as lucky as you with the roll of LE collars, even if the length of their collar points is only millimetrically shorter than the BB collar...which always produces a perfect roll. I think it's because the height of the back of the BB collar (and collar band) are shorter than the LE version. That might affect the collar lying slightly lower and thus produces a better roll.

Unknown said...

CONGRATULATIONS! Another great post. The tie is to die for. I had one back in England made by M&S. My wife hates it and I threw it away. Oh well...

Bluenose said...

Congratulations, Giuseppe. 300 posts and you'd be hard pressed to find a dud. Though I'm not one of the thriftin' kind, I appreciate your efforts and success. You thrift for the rest of us.

For the aficionados of these things, as you and I are, the collar roll is a subject of serious consideration and worthy of the academic thought which you have given it. I confess to a seemingly endless search for the perfect roll whether that is tied or unbuttoned. Your Le looks great. My first LE BD was bought, a la Giuseppe, at a street stall in Hong Kong.

I offer my thoughts as a contribution to your dissertation. Mercer is the best of contemporary makers. Button placement and collar length result in a respectable and reliable roll when tied and a suitable one if unbuttoned though a tad higher top chest button would improve that particular effect. Nit picking, I know, but that's what us serious collar scholars do.

I have many BBs and the roll is fine though unspectacular. The old Gants with the heroic roll where you could see half the tie under the collar remain the ideal and I have not seen their like in decades. That doesn't mean I won't keep looking.

Thanks, Giuseppe, and – to paraphrase Neil Young – long may you blog.

Old School said...


Have you ever come across a Mercer oxford during your thrifting?
Or do Mercer owners never part with them?


Anonymous said...

Congrats on 300! You're the guy who inspired a lot of us to start our own blogs. Keep doing what your doing, you always do it so well.

NCJack said...

Full Kudos to you sir. You got me started thrifting, and while I haven't made any true "Giuseppe" scores (except my first one, a pair of C&J captoes for $12) I've built a really nice cool weather wardrobe for about $250 total.

Long may you wave.

C said...

Congrats on 300 G. One of the best.

And thanks for the shout out. I kind of regret that post because of how much crap it stirred up. Also, it got me a crap-ton of views, which is good but 25 comments is too much for me to keep up with.

Christina, Esq. said...

I love that tie, a vintage classic. Though I understand your point about avoiding the 'Non-Iron' shirts, picture how hopelessly rumpled a 20-something new lawyer looks at the end of a 14 hour day in the office in his regular cotton button down, when he's called into a partner's office to be scolded for missing the comma in a brief, and then has the added dilemma of looking as if he fell asleep while at work? Sometimes Non-Iron is a necessity.


The Cordial Churchman said...


Happy 300th. It's been perhaps 14 months since I began reading AAW, and while your delightful wit hasn't changed a bit, you've really become a better writer in the last year. Your prose is more elegant and your cadence more graceful, though you for that you haven't forfeited any of your punchy, no-nonsense, swagger.

(This also helps you get away with the occasional apostrophe error; you're almost too cool for precise punctuation.)

I think your pictures are improving in quality, too.

Here's to a bona fide writer--a budding master of the here's-how-to-be-cool blog genre.


Giuseppe said...

Shucks, Churchy.

Pigtown*Design said...

You go! 300 is brilliant. It's hard work blogging and you've done an excellent job!

Schorsch said...

Can the roll be changed/improved by moving the buttons? I have a few cheapcheapcheap shirts that I might experiment on, if this isn't a quixotic quest.