08 February 2013

The Path to Truth

This sweater is from the now defunct Rugby Ralph Lauren, available last Fall. It looks nice, was likely made in China, probably cost $200 on sale, and would likely not fit anyone larger than a 32 waist/38 chest.
I found this one yesterday at a local thrift shop for $4.99. It's old, as if we needed more proof that anything Rugby did well was really just to knock off something that was already good.
It's from Lands' End, was made in Scotland, likely never cost anything near $200, and fits a grown man of average size. Add Maine Hunting Shoes and dungarees.

The nerdy menswear corner of the internet is and has been all abuzz for some time over the demise of the Rugby Ralph Lauren line. I was going to try to avoid the topic, but when I found this sweater yesterday, something about it occurred to me that needs saying.

For some guys, especially the young, rail thin and fashionably conscious, Rugby and brands like it were a godsend. "Preppy" stuff has been all the jam these last few years, and this was a chance to combine that trend with the other all too prevalent trend of wearing clothes much too tight.

For some other guys, it was a joke, a cartoon. It was nothing more than an overpriced cheaply made knock-off of a manner of dress they had held near and dear all their lives, in direct opposition to fashion and trends. It was in its way infuriating to see this anti-fashion become so...fashionable. It made stuffy types feel the same way hipsters do when the world at large finally discovers the band they've been listening to for years.

Praise and complaints abounded. The menswear community being what it is, anonymous guys couldn't help but scream about it one way or the other. That's what I call successful marketing. Makes me wonder why they pulled the plug.

Personally, I could do without it. I'm in my mid thirties, and so is my waist size. I like to dress like a grown-up, and much of what Rugby offered was to young and skinny for me. Some of it was great, most of it, like the sweater above, could be found in its better form elsewhere for less money with a little thrifty perseverance. But I am glad that these brands exist.

Young people are generally silly.They have yet to figure themselves out completely. In the past, matters of dress were learned from a boys father. My generation and the one that followed have come of age largely without the benefit of this kind of fatherly guidance. I am a lucky exception, but many of my fathers generation are responsible for the laxness of rules and manners that we are living with today. Brands like Rugby are more likely to lead a young man to the better version of itself down the line than say t-shirts and sweatpants. What do I care if it was kind of silly? If Ralph and J. Crew want to deck out a whole generation of guys on penny loafers, bow ties and Nantucket reds, how can that be all bad? It's better than a lot of the options out there, and there's nothing wrong with this stuff being "cool", even if its only for a while. Eventually, these kids will grow up, and so will there taste. They won't be afraid to wear a coat and tie, and they'll know the difference one day between the good stuff and the junk.

Besides, it has been nice not be looked at like I'm some kind of weirdo these last few years.


Matt Stokes said...

One thing about Rugby (I never wore the clothes but liked much of it) was that it indeed fit a skinnier frame. To be honest, it is not easy to find "trad" clothing that fits a short, thinner frame, especially if you don't want to look like a balloon. I'm not sorry to see them go, but their emphasis on "fit" seemed to be a decent thing.

maven said...

Nice essay.

Looks like that sweater should come in handy up your way this weekend!

Roger v.d. Velde said...

Agreed on the price hike upon fashion clothing ripped off from regular old classics, but I think there's something that probably needs saying on the flip side of this issue:

A 32 inch waist in a man over thirty has only become abnormal because too many people carry excess weight. A 38 chest on a man is perhaps a little below average nowadays, but not as unusual as all that. This idea that American 'proper men' are all barrel-chested bears and the 38-40 waistline is part of it, is just reassuring alternative language for explaining away fat bodies.

My waistline is thicker than it was when I was 25, but at 37 years-old it hovers between 32-33; it has been bigger, but it didn't need to be and it wasn't because I 'got older' or 'matured'. I can't fit into all the clothes produced for the 18-25 market, but I can fit into at least half, especially garments that expand, like a sweater.

Giuseppe said...

I hardly consider a 36 waist and 42 chest abnormal or obese.

kwk said...

My waist is 32 inches and I am 6'2" and 155 pounds. I really can't see any male having a waist less than 32 inches.

Roger v.d. Velde said...

You're quite right, it's neither abnormal nor necessarily obese, but there are way too many people who are too fat complaining about tight clothing.

Anonymous said...

Well said. I'm one of those skinny young guys (at least for a few more years) and I enjoyed what Rugby brought to the 18-25 crowd. I really only ever bought their stuff on sale of course, but they did have a few items that were unique but still fit in to the whole theme (a lot of their accessories being examples of this).

Apparently, the idea was popular enough to catch on with J. Press and Brooks to debut similarly styled younger oriented collections. Of course, only time will tell if they will last since, as many have noted, the problem with these collections is that their target audience is not always able to afford the full priced wares.

Sure I've got plenty of the "old guard" in my closet (Brooks, Press, RL, LL Bean, etc.), but the thing is, honestly my Rugby items fit pretty well into the collection. Futhermore, they made the prep/ivy/trad thing fun. What might have otherwise been unapproachable to younger guys/gals because of the perceived stuffiness was readily approachable in a store like Rugby because of the younger, more laid back, atmosphere.

I understand the older crowd being affronted by such actions, but the fact that these bastions of Americana think it wise to spend a large amount of money catering to the younger crowds also speaks to wise business on their part. The regular crowd of the proper men's shops aren't getting any younger and these businesses know they need to get the attention of the younger generation to have any hope of surviving for the decades to come.

Roger v.d. Velde said...

Well kwk you've met him tonight because until very recently mine was 30-31 whilst weighing the same or 5 pounds heavier than you .

Giuseppe said...

You must be awfully tall if you can distribute 180 lbs over a 31 inch waist.

Young Fogey said...


What planet are you on? In college, my waist was 29"; through my 30s it was 30"; and now, at ten pounds overweight in my 40s, it's 31".

Does my height of 5'7" disqualify me from being a man (or "male," as you put it)?


Right on track, as usual.

I prefer older movies to modern dreck, and when you watch them, you notice things that are different from the modern day. Looking at the people, you see that while there were some character actors who were overweight, most of those in the background were not only better dressed than people now, but they were also much more slender.

Not to mention the numerous reports of epidemic levels of obesity in America.

Roger v.d. Velde said...

Or maybe the weight is somewhere other than my mid-section and backside?
The average white Dutchman is over 6'2" and the most commonly sold trouser waistband (not of youths) is between 32-34.

I realise this doesn't reflect the situation everywhere, but in the U.S. based menswear blogosphere like e.g. Styleforum there is a plethora of people complaining about the silhouette of what is commonly European inspired clothing as 'too tight' and insisting that it is not catering to a real man's physique when the reality is that is just doesn't cater to portly men.

C.L. Young said...

I really liked Rugby but could not justify paying high prices on dress shirts that I could have made for me by a tailor (complete with monogram).

I really liked the accessories (ties, cufflinks, belts and wallets). Especially the silk necktie wallets! Ralphie's necktie skills harken back to the day when neck ties were his "bread and butter" and beginning.

As for the skinnier fit, Rugby pants fit me as though they were custom tailored (I wear a 33 waist x 32)...but the price was hard to stomach. It's hard to find 33 waist pants so I usually buy 34 waist which is okay since my weight fluctuates + or - 5 pounds more or less from my usual weight.

Hopefully I will be able to catch some Rugby on the rebound at the thrift stores when the tears dry up and everybody moves on to the next "new" thing. He did have some very retro pieces that would otherwise be hard to come by lest one searches high and low.

Last, Giuseppe, that sweater is perfect! Man, you are the master of the art of the thrift! I would really put that in my heavy rotation...wear it with some cords and a turtleneck (old school 1980's style). I simply love it!

Stay warm, have a glass (or two) of your favorite scotch, and play some jazz (on vinyl, of course!)while the blizzard plays out.

Alex said...

As a young person who's been lured in to "trad" and similar philosophies by the likes of Rugby and J. Crew, this blog post resonates. In the few years since beginning to take an interest, I feel I've already learned so much. I lament the structure of my American Eagle shirt collars; I am dismayed feeling for the floating canvas in my H&M blazer (it just ain't there!). I'm young, I've bought plenty of quick fashion, but I'm already aware of so many mistakes I've made (thanks in large part to blogs like these!) and I feel I'm way ahead of my peers. I've even seen a few clomping around in hunting shoes or fret about button stance, as I've shared my new knowledge. Your thesis may very well be correct, if you ask me!

Ian said...

Man, I got really down recently about my waist hitting 32"...Away from confession corner I agree that sizing and also jacket cut are out of control. So short! So tight! All that pulling around the top button when fastened. That is not cool!

BlueTrain said...

While I watch old movies a lot, I hate to generalize about how people used to look, because it's too easy to pick and choose you examples. However, when I think of my relatives, it becomes difficult.

My uncles on my mother's side of the family (all boys except for my mother) were all fairly tall and fairly thin--mostly--and they all smoked a lot. None lived to be very old except for their mother, who was tiny )and did not smoke). But on my father's side, everyone was stocky and not quite so tall. No one was small. So what conclusions can one make?

My father used to wear a suit all day on Sunday, although I hated wearing that thick grey flannel outfit that I only wore to church. The rest of the week he drove a truck, all six days. He was not a fashion model in any sense of the word.

Andy said...

As somebody who, at 40, is one of the "rail thin" guys you seem to have an issue with, and I was a fervent collector of Rugby, right up until the closure of its Website.

I understand where you're coming from about price being American, but believe me, paying US$59.99 for a dress shirt is pittance compared to the US$250 it costs for a lesser quality shirt in my country.

Rugby to me epitomised everything I was after in a label. The traditional styling you talk about, but with a bit of wit, extremely reasonable pricing from my point of view, and wonderfully cut clothing for people like me whose chest is larger than their waist.(Apparently, from your post, not having a waistline like one's nineteen year old self disqualifies somebody from dressing well.)

There are some cases where a suit jacket looked like it was made to measure, so their fit model must be my long lost sibling ...

I will miss Rugby, but won't miss them getting a significant amount of money from me every season!

Just a tip: There are more people in the world than people whose calorie consumption is excessive.

Giuseppe said...

When did I take issue with thin guys?

Gordo said...

It's stunning to see Land's End had sweaters made in Scotland. I'd even bet with real Scottish wool. LE has jumped the shark. Quality, oh how I miss thee.

Anonymous said...

I must have caught their only less than trim piece. My only Rugby purchase was a lambswool cardigan (with actual leather buttons).

I normally fall between medium and large (42 chest, 33 waist) and I was concerned about a little shrinkage down the road, so I got the large. It's too large for me and I like the style so much I'm considering an attempt to shrink it a little. I would guess it's also too loose for Giuseppe from the measurements he gave.

BlueTrain said...

Why do people push up the sleeves of their sweaters? When I was in college, you could actually buy very nice lambswool short sleeved sweaters, which seems very strange, looking back 40 years.

tintin said...

A reason a lotta Brit men are rail thin is because they have no ass hence their love of side vents. I had a 29" waist in the army and my ass in a side vented jacket looked like I was setting a table for dinner

Giuseppe said...

I push my sleeves up when I wash the dishes.

Giuseppe said...

It takes a damn good tailor to make side vents work for me too, on account of my being a big fat American.

Christopher Redgate said...

Being of a thinner build, a fan of traditional clothing, and just past the 30 year mark it's not the slim cut or the "cool/uncool" factor that bothers me about clothes from the likes of Rugby or J Crew, it's the uncomfortably low rise of their pants and the lack of a long enough tail on their shirts. Keeping anything tucked in becomes a constant battle throughut the course of the day, and I refuse to wear an untucked shirt unless it was cut straight across to be worn that way.

www.oneupgolf.co.uk said...

I really like this style of sweater. A perfect color for boys which suits on their personality.