04 October 2011

Casual but Smart: Black and Brown (and Tan and White)

October is here and we've finally had some Fall weather just cool enough to comfortably wear some slightly heavier stuff. In the past, I've been known to dive in too quickly, going into full blast tweed mode too soon. Today, for a day of knocking around Harvard Square with temps in the low 60s, some sun, some rain, this vintage black melton wool jacket was just right:
This black jacket is a good casual piece, despite it's being black in color, rendered in soft melton wool (which I was calling flannel until I realizee my mistake) with open patch pockets and zero shoulder pads (seriously, no shoulder pads at all). Some of you may remember it as one of my many button changing projects. The tie is a vintage 1980s Chaps Ralph Lauren tie found new with tags for $1.99. Black ties can be very dressy, but the tan stripes bring it down a notch, as well as making it compatible with...
...a dressier pair of khaki pants, charcoal cotton socks ($19.50/ package of three pair at Lands' End) and ...gasp!...brown loafers. Brown shoes with a black jacket?! Scandalous?! No, of course not, this is only clothes we're talking about. Remember, though I may be wearing a coat and tie, I'm wearing them by choice for a day of casual activities, including visits to such places as the coffee house, record store and church thrift shop. If you want to appear casual in a coat and tie, it helps if your outfit is not an essay in arcane rules but rather a study in well appointed comfort...within reason, of course.
A brown Donegal Tweed cap with flecks of black, gold and purple (hard to see in the photo) brings it all together.

Knockaround clothes for grown-ups, not pyjamas in public.


Yankee-Whisky-Papa said...

Amen, Brother.

Young Fogey said...

You look great, of course.

But I still wouldn't mix black and brown, simply because those colors don't work together—to my eye, of course. YMMV, they say, and yours clearly does. In the end, it's a matter of rules ("don't mix black and brown"), and this is a rule which can be broken, as long as you know that you are breaking it and know how to break it and still look good.

Which you do.

"Knockaround clothes for grown-ups, not pyjamas in public."

Indeed, sir, indeed!

Unknown said...

I'm very glad to know what that wool is called. I have a navy blue jacket in the same fabric. Interestingly enough, it also has no shoulder padding, patch pockets, and needed a change of buttons before I really fell in love with it. It's probably my favorite jacket. I love the look and feel of minimal padding.

WSTKS-FM Worldwide said...

Another sharp looking ensemble! The loafers were a superb touch.

Ran across a load of like-new Hart Shaffner Marx suits in our local thrift store today for just $14.99 each. Sadly, they were either all slightly too large/long, or just too much like the navy and charcoal gray suits I have already. Rats! Ah well, a guy can dream. . .

Best Regards,

Ulrich von B.

Bryce said...

"No, of course not, this is only clothes we're talking about."

I really feel like you can't use that excuse when you yourself get worked up about clothes on a pretty consistent basis. :)

NCJack said...

Lookin' smart! I also have no beef with black blazers, or black slacks with, e.g., a brown tweed jacket, think the contrast pops nicely,

Anonymous said...

My question about this is that your outfit here is not actually casual. Maybe it would have been in the 1920s, but not today. I would bet that everyone who saw you wearing this believed that you were dressed formally.

This is part of a broader problem with some of these men's fashion sites. These kinds of outfits are not, in fact, how grown-ups dress in our society today. Fashion is a social convention, and like all social conventions, it changes with time. Claiming that this is how grown-ups dress would be like pointing at an art deco building and saying this is where grown-ups work, or pointing to Colin Firth in The King's Speech and saying this is how grown-ups talk. Your pointing to a particular moment in time and claiming it as an absolute normative point.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with spending a long time putting together this kind of outfit, but you shouldn't claim normative status for your fashion choices, especially when only a small subculture of "young fogey" retro men's wear enthusiasts would recognize them as appropriate.

Giuseppe said...


I'd actually be the last person to claim anything I do is "normal".

Casual is a misused term...it means not formal, which none of this is. The simple fact that many grown people have no qualms with roaming the streets un-bathed and in bed clothes shouldn't mean that we're left without the choice of preserving a sense of respect for ourselves and others.

Social conventions do change with time, and fashion is cyclical. In a few years, this stuff may not seem so arcane, if only for a moment.

Young Fogey said...

Anon 1:42,

We who dress well are aware that the way we dress is not typical for much of America. We are making a statement: it is possible, even desirable, to dress nicely on a daily basis. We reap the benefits of our sartorial diligence in both how we feel and how we are treated by others.

We recognize the status quo, and are rebelling against it.

Incidentally, there are still situations in which adult men wear jackets and ties, or suits and ties, and it is unacceptable not to be dressed like that. Unfortunately, not everyone recognizes those situations, and some men end up looking like slobs as a result.