Hi! Is there a puffer vest that you all recommend? Maybe a couple of different brands? I know you recommended Duvetica a few years ago. Are they still your #1? Other brands? Thank you! —Chris
A: Thanks so much for the question, Chris. We could go on forever about puffer vests as they're a wardrobe staple.
One warning before we list some options: these best suit taller, thinner MBs. If you're carrying a little extra bulk in your torso, the last thing you want to do is add bulk to your torso while the rest of your body keeps the same thickness. You will just look fatter.
With that caveat, we have three rules on puffer vests. They must:
1. Be filled with down. Goose is better than duck. 2. Have a collar (but not a hood) 3. Have some sort of elastic, whether it's the armholes or the waist. Both is better.
Here are a few for your consideration.
Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Vest. $49.99.
If you are merely puffer vest-curious and want to see if they're for you, by far the best gateway is Uniqlo's Ultra Light Down Vest. At just 50 bucks there is no better overall value. Uniqlo fits true to size but this is cut larger. Size one down. Gamefacing like the model is not allowed. Hey kid, you're in a $50 vest.
Aspesi Slim RE Down Gilet. $312 (from $520).
If we had to pick one puffer vest, this is it. Minimal, oozes quality, and has all the features: goose down, adjustable elastic hem, lycra armholes, zip pockets, and an interior zip pocket. Probably because Aspesi is based just a few miles from the Alps, these are packed with feathers and target US cocktail zone 5 and higher. If you are in a warmer cocktail zone it's likely overkill. Has long since replaced Duvetica as our top pick. Aspesi vests fit true to size.
Polo Packable Water-Repellent Down Vest. $169.
We're not normally one for logos but this polo player is retro, iconic, and lacks legibility. A better choice for warmer cocktail zones — or traveling to them — as it's lightweight enough to pack into itself. What's with the gamefacing? Again, not allowed, even at $169. Polo is a shade big. For our Polo puffer vests we go one size down.
We've been looking for something like this since we grew out of Moon Boots 30 years ago, and Rossignol has nailed it with these lightweight, sporty, sneakerized après ski booties.
For those of us in Climate/Cocktail Zone 6, they fill the stylish foul-weather footwear chasm that exists between 6" of snow — when we pull out the Sorel Pacs — and a mere dusting. In fact, we like these so much they're an instant MBHOF candidate, paired here with current MBHOF member, the Makers and Riders M1Z jeans.
This is our outdoor uniform for the next 6 months (including après ski).
NB: These run really small. Order at least 1 size up, and if you're borderline, 1.5.
UPDATE 12/23/2021: Days after this post Rossignol went out of stock on most sizes (and there weren't a lot of options at other retailers). We emailed customer service and over a month later got a response: "We will not be receiving more of the Après Ski boot for this season, but will have them again next season with some new colorways." We'll post about these again when they become available, right after we purchase lifetime supplies.
4. Pro Mark 9-Layer Apron Chaps. When you're 30 miles from the nearest hospital, the last thing you need is to rip open your femoral artery. These chaps' 9 layers of cut-retardant material can prevent that, have a handy front pocket, and add an additional layer of warmth.
5. Wells Lamont Winter Weather Work Gloves. We've been through a bunch of winter work gloves and these are the warmest, most rugged we've found. 4.5/5 at Amazon with over 1000 reviews. Runs about 2 sizes small (that's the reason for most of the negative reviews). Made in Ethiopia!
6. Carolina Steel Toe Work Boots (Model CA7503). Red Wing gets all the glory, but for actual work Carolina is better. Great for all sorts of labor beyond lumberjacking, especially when your toes are at risk from being crushed or cut off. Made in USA (and they never let you forget it). Carolina runs one size small.
7. Stihl MS 261 C-M. If there is a single piece of advice you take away from this site — besides, say, proper sleeve-rolling technique — it's this: never, ever buy any hardware or tools or machinery labeled "homeowner." Or even "farm & ranch." Always buy pro gear. It's more but always less expensive. This Stihl saw is light and powerful and could last your lifetime.
1. Naked & Famous Snow Pant Denim. "Trump Skis in Jeans" is a popular bumper sticker out here. He only wishes he could be so stylish! We've raved about Naked & Famous's Snow Pant Denim for a decade, or about as long as they've stopped making them. Please join our quixotic effort to get Naked & Famous to resume production, and send them a note.
2. Valentino Ski Jacket. This purchase resulted in a confirmation call from American Express, and we said, "Yes, sir. Thanks for asking. Signature pieces are worth this expense." Valentino is currently owned by the Qatari royal family — where they're probably 1500 miles from the nearest ski resort — but got some excellent consulting, packing it with down, a high collar, knit cuffs, and left-breast lift-pass pocket.
3. Wigens Bear Claw Gloves. Part of our Biking to Work in Arctic Conditions collection, these are also great for skiing. Every ride up the chair people ask, "Where did you get those?!" Wigens has stopped making them, and instead inexplicably focused their business on newsboy caps, so they're available only on eBay.
4. K2 Mambas Yes, Hart's F17 Fusion are the bump ski standard, but we were unable to resist the '70s colorblock styling on the K2 Mamba "bump killers." (Also they are half the price.) Compared to either the Hart or the K2, today's all-mountain, wide-waisted skis feel like you've strapped on a pair of 2x4s.
5. Bollé 711s Unless it's snowing, we're part of the 1% who still prefer sunglasses over goggles. Our favorites are these Bolle 711s with sideshields, designed for glacier mountaineering. They're just $75 and available at the official MB eyewear outfitter, Allyn Scura.
Q: Hi MB. Based on your recommendation, I recently got a Woolrich White Label Quilted Mill Shirt Jacket. I love it. Thanks. What are some great (and relatively inexpensive) scarves that you'd recommend to go with it? Thanks! —Chris
A: Glad you like that jacket as much as we do.
As for winter scarves, we have one hard and fast rule: must be mostly cashmere. It's the only thing soft enough we allow draped around our necks, besides the the drunk temp at the office Christmas party.
As for colors and patterns, we've had great luck pattern-matching all kinds of outerwear with Missoni's funky stripes. And in the case of this this jacket, it's irresistible going high-low, pairing a workwear jacket designed in Pennsylvania with a cashmere scarf designed in Lombardy, Italy.
But you asked for "relatively inexpensive."
One glance at YOOX, and you can play it safe with a solid grey scarf from Arte Cashmere ($67), or if you're feeling slightly more adventurous, there's a beginner plaid-plaid matching opportunity with more Arte Cashmere in black or khaki.
Q: Hello MB, I am moving to Norway and I need a raincoat. Any recommendations? I'm looking for something lightweight and affordable. I'll also be bringing along my Mobster Galoshes (thanks for that tip)! —Jay
A: Jay, we're glad you like the Mobster galoshes. They're on our "All-Time Favorites" list … which only exists in our minds right now, but which we will someday publish when we think of a catchier name for it.
The Mobsters are made by Swims, which is based in Oslo, so let's keep things simple: Buy more Swims! Norwegian rain is probably not all that much different than American rain, but why take that chance? Get something by the locals.
Of course, Swims gear is actually manufactured in China, because Donald Trump is not President of Norway (yet). But it is engineered in Norway, where they are such experts in shitty weather they don't even call the piece we're going to recommend to you a "rain jacket," because any jacket you plan on wearing more than once a year in Norway better be able to hand the rain.
Don't believe us? Oslo gets 161 days of rain a year. Bergen, Norway's second largest city, gets 240! Seattle, only 150.
(No, you didn't just accidentally land on weather.com. But honestly, stopping making such a big deal about all the rain you get, Seattle. Compared to Bergen, you're a desert paradise.)
Okay, back to our recommendation. Take a look at the Genève, described as a "sporty, all-weather, all-day, all-seasons, all-purpose jacket." Which we suspect is the Old Norse way of saying "raincoat."
If you need technical proof, here are its specs: "20.000 g/sqm/24h, 20.000 hydrostatic water column." Yup, raincoat.
We don't own The Geneve — yet — but if we ever find ourselves living in a place that gets more than 150 days of rain a year, it will be high on our purchase list. And every piece of Swims outwear we do own has been a terrific investment.
So buy with confidence, and good luck on your exciting new adventure.
Q: I'm looking for a versatile, high-quality, lightweight jacket that will impress me every time I put it on. Also, I live in Silicon Valley and only need some degree of wind/water protection. Any suggestions or guidance would be appreciated. —Sean
A: In a place where a disproportionate number of car doors open on the y-axis, we especially like the vaguely Steve McQueen-inspired Geox windbreaker we recommended late last year. It gets a disproportionate number of positive comments, and it's just 69 bucks.
We've kept our eyes peeled since you asked the question a month ago, and also suggest considering this equally sporty Jil Sander bomber ($252) or this Columbo-lite Belstaff peacoat ($222). Like the Geox, both are deeply discounted and available in a range of sizes, which is an almost irresistible contrarian "buy" signal that we rarely regret acting upon.
(Sale prices good through tomorrow — 3/30 — so hurry.)
Q: I recently bought a peacoat - dark navy, well fitted, none of those goofy epaulettes or anything like that. I say it's a timeless classic but my girlfriend says they're out of style. Who's right? —Peter
A: Peter your GF is so spectacularly wrong we're gravely concerned about any sartorial advice you may have taken from her.
Would Tom Ford be asking $4,950 for his peacoat take if he thought they were out of style?
We're big fans too, because the garment adheres to at least 3 key MB principles:
1. Principle of Anglophilia
It originated in the British Royal Navy.
2. Principle of Archaism
It's been a standard part of the United States Navy uniform since 1881.
3. Principle of Organic Materials
The definitive Naval Clothing Factory peacoat is 100% wool, with corduroy-lined pockets (cotton).
You nailed a few of our peacoat requirements (i.e. navy, flair-less, slim fit), and hopefully our most important one: a Three Days of the Condor Collar. You need to be able to stand it up tall like Redford.
Style blog consensus favors the Billy Reid "Bond" version ($695; pictured upper left), but the anemic collar is in desperate need of growth hormone, and is a disqualifying feature. For others who might be in the peacoat market, first check the local military surplus, and if you're flush consider this gorgeous Maison Margiela option.
A clear sign that plaid is comfortably post-peak enough to start wearing again? Robert Redford, purveyor of the Sundance Catalog, is practically giving you the shirt off his back in the wake of this holiday season, with a 50 percent additional discount on a garment already marked down from $295 to $234.99. Price in the cart: $117 and change.
A few years ago, we started chopping down trees to fuel our living-room hearth while enjoying our nightly Magnificent Bastard cocktail. This year, we've both upped our drinking and made a pledge to go beyond aesthetic fires to actual home-heating. Our goal is to cut our monthly electric bill so drastically at least one coal-miner will be forced into early retirement.
That means we're doing more felling and bucking than ever. So while we already own one Quilted Mill Shirt Jacket, it's time for another. Especially since Mr. Redford is currently dispensing them on such favorable terms we half-suspect we're being set up for some con. But all that Bulleit and Laphroaig is making us reckless so we're clicking the "Add to Bag" button. Let's just hope the only sting involved here, is the sting we'll be taking out of those cold January afternoons when we're wearing our new shirt jacket and splitting and stacking the day's bounty.
NB: Woolrich is sized large. If you are in between sizes order one down.
The 20 percent discount on this Todd Snyder topcoat may not seem like much of a deal by 2017 standards. But winter is coming — meteorologically and metaphorically. And we love the way this coat looks cozy enough for, say, a young Shelly Winters to sprawl on, while maintaining a cosmopolitan sleekness that will look right at home on the streets of Manhattan during the next polar vortex. Regularly $2598, now $1999 — the perfect price to usher in the year ahead!
Q: I used to follow you guys religiously until the content dropped off a few years back. I assumed it was due to you solving all the world's problems and too many MB cocktails. Glad to see that is over.
Anyhow, now that's it's winter: camel overcoats. What's your take? — Josh
A: Josh, glad to have you back.
Once the first snowflake flies our outerwear is almost exclusively filled with goose feathers, yet we do admire the traditional camel overcoat because it adheres to some core MB principles:
Al Gore and Leo DiCaprio are going to have to take a lot more trans-oceanic plane trips before they manage to put a dent in the bone-bruising chill that greets us every morning in Minneapolis this time of year. But while there's nothing we can do to avoid the snow, sleet, and ice, we can avoid the even-worse-than-usual traffic and parking-space hunts that come with them. How? By continuing to ride our bikes to work, even in the face of sub-zero temperatures.
How do we pull this off without looking like we're about to engage in some heavy breathing with a couple of broad-shouldered Scandinavian beauties at the Winsport Olympic Luge Track? We lay out our strategy below.
2. Nannini "TT" Goggles. Made for motorcyclists but adopted by cyclists looking for a stylish way to keep your eyelids from freezing shut.
TORSO & LEGS
3. Smartwool Baselayer underneath a 8 Wool Turtleneck. A baselayer under a jacket is all we usually need in anything above 10°F but it was -6°F this morning so we layered with a wool turtleneck. 8 makes a stylish one, with value.
4. Love Moschino Long Down Puffer. Down blazer-style jackets and some days even down shirts work for Minneapolis winter commuting. But not this neo-Polar Vortex shit. At anything below 0°F we pull out the long down puffer. Jack Frost may nip at your nose, but first he nips at your toes, then, surprisingly, your ass. Having goose feather coverage back there helps prevent his bite.
5. Smartwool Baselayer underneath Naked and Famous Snowpant Denim. Naked and Famous is responsible for some of the most important innovations in the history of denim, like scratch and sniff raspberry scented jeans. But their all-time best effort is the discontinued Snowpant Denim, a deep indigo wash treated with a waterproof and wind-resistant coating, and lined in comfy fleece. Look for them on eBay and try to grab them before we do.
6. Wigens Bear Claw Gloves The synthetic lobster claw gloves you see most winter commuters wearing are neither a warmth nor a dexterity match for these Swedish leather and fur marvels. Unfortunately Wigens seems to have stopped making them. Set up an eBay alert.
Minnesota-based 45NRTH makes the popular Wölvhammer commuter boot, but they're nearly as heavy as a pair of Pacs, only rated to 0°F, and don't abide by our un-gear aesthetic. After several years of trial and error we've concocted a 4-step footwear solution that's fairly lightweight and can hold up to a 45 minute commute at -20°F.
Darn Tough Hunting Socks. Not all wool socks are created equal. We've tried a dozen different brands and Darn Tough are the best. Made in Vermont.
While we're not about to revive our Monday Morning Quarterback feature — that was like doing two-a-days before the Collective Bargaining Agreement — we will occasionally highlight highs and lows from the NFL post-game press conferences.
Loser: He's in his fourth year in the league and Andrew Luck still has no clue on how to deal with a zone blitz nor a post-game presser. Son, you're never going to win a Super Bowl looking like a worse-dressed version of the Geico caveman.
Winner: Tom Brady threw two 4th quarter TDs in a win over the Jets, but both of those touchdowns pale in comparison to this MVP-level display of trench collar artful dishevelment. This is how you do it.
Our annual pilgrimage to Lambeau is expected to be colder than we were expecting, with a high of just 52 and low near 40. So we're getting dressed. (As always, check Pourcast to determine what cocktail to be consuming at any day and any time at any place around the globe.)
1. Pants. The best 5-pocket corduroy pants we've ever worn are Uniqlo's Slim Fit Corduroy Jeans. Indeed, you have to be slim and fit to wear these, but as the product description says, they do in fact "create slender, fashionable lines," work during the week, and have the versatility to play on Sundays. We're wearing them in off white. A tremendous value at just $39.90. They're vanity sized about 1 inch in the waist (so size down).
2. Belt. A critical element of our understated fandom gameplan is our own Game Day Belt. Made from the same Horween leather that's used to make the official NFL footballs, and constructed right here in the Twin Cities. Fits perfectly true to size.
3. Shirt. Five years ago we all got this Red Jacket long sleeve anti-jersey and they're still playing in the league. Yes, there is some legibility on the back, but it's the name of perhaps our favorite Packer and MB archetype Paul Hornung, famous less for his football than for his womanizing, drinking, and gambling. Fits true to size. (Lots of other options available from Mike Ditka to Johnny Unitas.)
4. Shoes. Sneakers and exposed ankles are usually the play call for mid-October Packer games, but given the forecast we're audibling into ankle boots. Since our all-time favorite TST chukkas have seemingly gone the way of Peyton Manning's arm strength, we're substituting them for these Joyks with beautiful thick white rubber whitewalls. (We may additionally substitute free-agent white laces.) Fits fractionally small.
5. Vest. We have a thing — bordering on fetish — for goose-down puffer vests. 313, Montecore, and Marville provide the best value, but if you have the cash Duvetica is the way to go. This version — along with a Hall of Fame headbuzz — will stiff-arm the dramatic post-game cool-down, and the blue-and-gold color combo is a subtle, tasteful nod to the Packer throwback jerseys (which the team will be wearing on Sunday). We always size down one for puffer vests, and this is no exception.
It's Week 3 of Monday Morning Quarterback, a feature that combines our love of chronic traumatic encephalopathy-inducing bloodsport (aka, the NFL) with our passion for style.
Each week we break down the postgame press conference film and pick the best and worst-performing quarterbacks from around the league. We take their actual Passer Rating, multiply it by the proprietary Magnificent Bastard Dresser Rating, to arrive at their Total Magnificent Bastard Quarterback Rating.
Mike Glennon has added reading Monday Morning Quarterback to his game-day preparation. Two consecutive weeks with large jacketgapes split wide to his right, he's clearly seen a tailor to tighten his collar coverage.
Just two weeks removed from winning MB Player of the Week honors as an NFL quarterback disguised as a professor, Palmer is hit for a big loss, with the age-inappropriate tandem of hoodie and skully each recording half a sack.
Manning could've dressed like Tom Brady on his best day and still been well down the MMQB rankings due to his comically bad performance against the Seahawks. Layering is an MB principle, but that value (3) should never be exceeded by the number of interceptions (5). Nor should the number of quarter-zip mock sweaters (1) ever exceed TD passes (0).
Q: very happy to see that you guys are back to a regular posting schedule, and it couldn't have come at a better time for me because i'm in need of some black boots and need your advice.
i'm a public defender, and i need black footwear that'll look good with a suit, but i also want something that i can wear with jeans. and i live in alaska, so i need boots to trudge through the snow. the hydrogen-1 brand you recently endorsed would've worked, but they don't have boots available in my size. i'm about to pull the trigger on these frye chukkas, but wanted your input first —Preston
An Alaskan winter will be like felony assault on those Frye boots. There is only one boot we know of that can pull the triple duty you desire — biz, cash, sludge — and it's the Prada 'New Tolbak' Chelsea boot, a dressier version of the Novo we've previously recommended.
Unless you’re on the take, though, we suspect they may be a bit pricey for your employee-of-the-state budget.
What we propose instead is to take custody of these terrific Swims 'Mobster Boot' Overshoes. They're $149, but completely vacate the elements, and feature a soft, insulating lining that buffs your shoes while you walk.
As for the shoes getting buffed, with the Mobsters in defense you can court the much larger (but still small) quantity of low-cut shoes that sit on the biz-cash knife's edge we're always looking for, like the Hydrogen-1s, and just about anything from their more expensive predecessor, Common Projects. (FWIW, the new Hydrogen-1 collection, available in a wide range of sizes, is here.)
This way, you'll have boots when there is snow to trudge through, and shoes for those rare Alaskan days when there isn't.
Q: I was all set to pick up a pair of the MB-approved Kombi Captain Freedom gloves for a ski trip in Jackson Hole, when I discovered that the folks at Kombi have altered the design. (new one here: http://www.snowshack.com/detail/SNW+KB-30324+L). It's like New England getting rid of the Pat Patriot helmet. Some things just don't make sense. Nonetheless, the gloves are still pretty sweet. Do you approve? —Andrew
A: What's worse? New England getting rid of Pat Patriot or Tampa Bay abandoning the winking pirate Bucco Bruce? We say the latter by a nautical mile.
At any rate, we were completely joking about wearing the Kombi Captain Freedom gloves for skiing. (Though we weren't joking at all about wearing the Naked and Famous Snowpant Denim; they are terrific for banging bumps.)
What we're wearing this year is Wigens bearclaw gloves (bottom). Made in Sweden, these not only protect your fingers from Jack Frost, they also double as part of a Halloween costume if you're dressed as a black bear. 100% goat leather plus 100% rabbit on the outside, the only problem with these is they're too warm.
Q: Hey MB. I also went into an alcohol-fueled spending spree after the devastating loss to the Giants. I did my damage at Mr. Porter's sale, but I have a question about the fit of those Aspesi down jackets. What size did you order? I am 5'10" about 170, 33 waist. I want to replace my rotting Patagonia down jacket, but I wasn't sure what size to order of the Aspesi on The Corner. All that is left is a Large. Any advice?
A: Like most Italian brands, Aspesi fits small. Their XL pushes it for us, but we're all quite a big bigger than you, so our strong hunch is the large Aspesi down jacket will fit you perfectly and be a significant upgrade over anything Patagonia, rotting or not.
If you want to take it up even another notch, get into Z Zegna. Slip it on and you'll agree that the additional $202 was totally worth it. (Zegna fits much more traditional American.)
Q: Winter is upon us, and I've developed a case of "color matching doubts and anxiety".
— Black pea coat with denim?
— Dark blue sweater with black pea coat?
— Brown sweater with black jeans?
All these look OK in my mind, but I've heard there are rules. Generally, how to wear black other than with black? Please help clear my mind. —Shane
A: Black and blue are a natural pairing, so wear #1 and #2 with confidence. We would never try #3, not because it can't work, but because we don't own a pair of black jeans, primarily to avoid ever looking like anything resembling Justin Theroux. (We don't care if he's plowing The Hottest Woman of All-Time. 40-year-old in a Siouxsie and the Banshees T? Even money says this dude's never even been to a show.)
Anyhow, if you're still suffering from color matching doubts and anxiety after reading this we recommend avoiding black entirely and opting instead for charcoal grey for the outerwear and blue for the jeans. Both of those go with anything.
When a pair of galoshes is the year's best purchase, it could be argued that 2011 was a pretty lousy year for gear. Either that or Swims' "Mobster Boot" Overshoes are that good.
Whether you wear Chuck Ts or wing Ts to work, these protect them from rain, snow, sleet, (and even hail!), keep your feet warm, and they pair as nicely with a pair of denim as pair of wool trousers. They even have a reflective square on the heel for inclement cycling, which is what we've adopted them for. $149 is not cheap for something that may cost more than the shoes you're trying to protect, but they're totally worth it.
Ninety-nine percent of the time, we favor a senseless lack of utility in the stuff we furnish our lives with, but sometimes you just need a sweatshirt that doubles as a kitchen utensil. As the marketing copy for this windproof, spill-resistant hoodie explains, it's treated with Omni-Shield advanced repellency and perfect for "beer drinking and bro-in' down with your BFFs" because it features "a built-in bottle opener that is always on hand." It also comes with pockets that are "strategically designed" for holding beer bottles.
We're not sure what these are for — when you're in bro-in' down mode, constant contact between your beer and your hand is a given. Other than that, though, we love this thing and think they ought to come in six-packs, so we could have one for every party night of the week. (We take Wednesdays off to catch up on Sons of Guns.)
Q: Thanks for your style advice for attending sportingevents. I will be attending an epic playoff game in Chicago this weekend. Any tips for a MB in training when attending (outdoor) winter sporting events? I don't want to do the snowmobile suit or work coverall look and some of our midwest neighbors are wont to do. Or, is it a conflict of interest to even provide advice to a Bears fan? --Ryan
A: Your squad is 3.5 point dogs at home, against the #6 seed ... have you thought about wearing a Packers' jersey?
If that's too extreme, we recommend a fairly conservative approach. With good seats running between $1000 to $2000 on StubHub, you're probably shelling out a lot just to be there. With that in mind, do you really want to blow even more cash on a jacket there's a strong chance you'll only associate with depressing memories of Aaron Rodgers doing the Championship Belt in your house? Take Jennifer Aniston's lead and go with a Spiewak snorkel parka. It's as warm as it is cheap.
Q: I don't normally shop at Zara, but I've found some decent pieces in their collections. I've been looking at their faux leather motorcycle jackets. In your eyes, are they a worthwhile investment? --A Bastard Striving To Be Magnificent (Manny)
A: We are not familiar with Zara, but unless you drive a motorcycle, we don't even recommend real leather motorcycle jackets. And if you do drive a motorcycle, why get a fake leather jacket? That's like screwing Sophia Loren, then activating an e-cigarette instead of lighting up a Marlboro.
Q: I'm about to pull the trigger on a pea coat from AllSaints. Have you come across this coat in your considerable pea coat research? --Mark
A: Despite its bona fide Anglo roots, AllSaints is not really on our radar since a visit to the Lincoln Road store last year. Their Singer sewing-machined storefronts are easily the best retail facade going, and the interior fixturing is nearly as appealing, however in our experience the clothes themselves do not fulfill on expectations. While we totally get and even endorse a neutral palette, AllSaints has pushed it too far, into Children of Men and even darker, dingier Orwellian dystopia territory. With skulls.
Having said all that, don't let us discourage you. The pea coat you have your eye on certainly looks like it's worth a try, especially since it's on sale and shipping is free.
We've previously endorsed Moncler puffy coats, now we're extending the endorsement to the Moncler puffy shirt. While not suited for either ascents of K2 or the bizcash office, this will work great for weekend errands, chopping wood, and Vail's back bowls in March.
Q: I finally got around to ordering the Spiewak McKenzie Peacoat you recommended in 2008. Naturally it has shoulder straps, which you've since informed us are post-peak. However as virtually all peacoats I've ever seen have shoulder straps is it really worth while getting a tailor to remove them? --Tadgh
A: We've finely-tuned a lot of clothing that's raised both our tailor's eyebrows, like shortening a t-shirt hem by 1", narrowing a tie by 1/2", and, yes, having epaulets removed. But if epaulets are ever OK in a mid-term election year such as this one, it's on a pea coat, military-themed outerwear that's a wardrobe basic. If you're not convinced, rather than spending money on epaulet removal, stick it in your closet until 2012 when they will be sewn back on everything.
Q: As a poor college student, what does MB suggest I wear for when it's raining out? I know you recommend a Mackintosh Coat but those a little too expensive for a student's budget. -Peter
A: Muji Welder Raincoat Freecut. It looks like Prada and it's $12.75. But that's not even the best part. Whether you've got long arms or short, long torso or short, it doesn't matter; just grab a scissors and cut along the dotted lines on the hem and sleeves. (Scissors not included.)
UPDATE: Peter, here's what not to wear when it's raining: Sun Mountain Rainflex jackets and pants. Americans at the Ryder Cup had to abandon this permeable rain gear in favor of nonpourous ProQuip outerwear available at the merchandise tent.
Typically it's the criminals from the 1970s who are remembered for their style (top). But what about the other side of the law? No, we're not talking about that sloppy undercover hippie, Serpico. We mean the men in uniform. Sure, corruption, urban blight, and a host of other ills turned the Big Apple into a mugger's paradise in those days. But when the thin blue line got so damn thin it looked like a Photoshop ruler guide, there was one thing keeping the world's greatest city from turning into utter chaos, and it wasn't Charles Bronson's Fu Manchu. It was the sleek, no-nonsense style of the NYPD's wool jackets.
Spiewak made them then, and now Spiewak's bringing them back -- this time for civilians. So put away your buffalo plaid and get into some real workwear -- this 26 ounce wool melton jacket with corozo dome buttons, a badge tab, and four front pockets. (That's two for your ammo and two for your bribes.) Sorry Paul Bunyan, but there's nothing more authentically American than a 1970s cop shaking down a bookie on a freezing winter morning in the Bronx.
Q: As light jacket season is upon us in the Midwest I have seen several poorly plagiarized examples of the classic British Harrington jacket. I was hoping you could say a few words about the merits of purchasing the genuine article: the Baracuta G9 Harrington (preferably slim fit). Unlike many readers of this fine blog, I do not need to ask whether this is MB, as it simply is. But I think it is important to highlight a company that still makes many of its garments in England and has never strayed from its core business. This classic will never go out of style. --Steven
A: Steven, not much to add here, except that Steve McQueen is combining Persols with his Baracuta. No doubt one of the "poorly plagiarized" examples you mention refers to the $109 L.L. Bean "Signature" Canvas Jacket we recommended to our dads a couple of weeks ago. (Hey, their 401Ks are in the tank.)
Q: Looks like ol' Leon Leonwood Bean has teamed up with Alex Carleton, a designer with an MB-endorsed pedigree, and launched the new L.L. Bean Signature line today. I'm sure you've seen the hype in the magazines and on the world wide internerd as nothing seems to escape your discriminating gaze. Here is my two parter. 1) Is the L.L. Bean signature line bastardly, magnificent, or both in any way, shape, or form? 2) If so which pieces should an aspiring MB spring for? --Bub
A: Bub, in form, the Signature line certainly represents a departure from L.L. Bean's traditional products, which generally feature the tailored fit of a dropcloth.
Indeed, our dads, who are the only people we know who shop at L.L. Bean, are going to have to go on a diet. Signature features fitted shirts and low-rise pants, and frankly, if you've seen our dads, you know that's not going to work unless they drop a few pounds. They're going to look great in the Canvas Jacket, but we're going to pass ourselves. We prefer Carleton's work when he's not being haunted by the ghost of mail order past.
Thanks for the tip on How to Make it in America, I'm really enjoying it. Any idea where to find a jacket similar to the grey one Ben wears in the first episode? --Sean S.
A: The tip on HTMIIA came from fellow reader Sean Z. The jacket you refer to has a very Varvatos-esque vibe, and he showed up in Episode 2. It will be tough to find anything in herringbone tweed this time of year, but if you're looking for a similar silhouette for spring and have a grand, try this John Varvatos convertible jacket. Neiman Marcus will even throw in free shipping.
A: The Canadians are as good at outerwear as they are at hockey. Er, they're really good at outerwear!
Canada Goose is great as long as you choose wisely. Because their stuff is engineered for arctic conditions, it can quickly make you look like the Michelin Man. Also be wary of the logo patch, which especially if you're the gentle, caring type, will quickly have people mistaking you for a volunteer waterfowl rescuer.
Our favorite from last season was the Calgary, but good luck finding one.
Q: Any tips for a camel hair coat (tan?) for winter wear? I'm looking for an alternative to urban-type coats and would like something more classic. Or is it too old-fogey classic?! --Gerald
A: We checked traditionalist sites Ralph Lauren, Pendleton, Brooks Brothers, and J. Press, and couldn't find a single camel hair coat. Gerald, this is a sign, either to abandon the idea or double down with this $2300 trench from J. L. Powell (originally $4950).
A: Lou, even with your apparent youthful looks and strapping bod, as you can see from the chart below, you're pushing it. Not to mention, if you're going to go moto make it leather and not polyester (principle of organic matarials).
Q: Winter is upon us and I was wondering what is a MB winter coat? I'm talking for below zero, snowy conditions. I figure puffy, bubble coats and bright colored ski jackets are out. So what is a MB to do when it gets really cold and you have to go out? --Jon G.
A: Puffy coats are definitely not out. Moncler made some of the earliest versions, and the Italians deemed them worthy for the initial ascent of K2 in 1954.
However, if you don't have an extra $900-$1000 lying around we really, really like the Spiewak N3B Snorkel Parka (also developed in the '50s) and it's just $164.95. Yeah, it is a little overkill for your garden-variety winter weather, but a good defense when Jack Frost is nipping at your nose like a pit bull trained by Michael Vick.
Q: I purchased this coat from Banana Republic. The only thing I don't like about it is the lack of vents in the back. Is this something I could trust in the hands of my tailor to remedy? Or is it too risky? --Matt
A: A tailor can easily do it. While he's adding vents, have him subtract the epaulets. Military was MB in 2007, passable in 2008, post-peak in 2009.
Q: Toggle coats, yes or no? I've never found one that doesn't make me look huge. Now I'm just thinking this is the MB's way of telling me to stop looking. --Kyle
We've never been a fan of toggle coats, but not because they make us look huge. It's because when we see one, it invariably reminds of a front door with seven deadbolts on it. It's as if the wearer is worried that someone is going to break into his coat and steal his sweater. These overfortified coats are everywhere this season, but you can safely avoid.
Q: I would hope that you are continuing your search for the perfect peacoat this year. It is a bit early in the season, but have you found any potential candidates? Price is not a factor. --Aaron
A: Aaron, if you haven't noticed, as a result of the economy, most fall 2009 collections suck pretty hard, and peacoats are no exception. There is one standout, though, and it's this John Varvatos Star USA suede model. A real statement piece. The only bummer is that the collar is faux fur (principle of organic materials).
Q: Ok here is my question. I am looking for a winter coat but I don't want something insulated because I tend to wear a lot of wool and cashmere sweaters. Essentially I am looking for something waterproof but longer than a ski jacket but not a full length trench but still long enough to cover a sport coat. Am I SOL? --Josh
A: Anything else? Does it have to come in black and be made in Scotland? Well in that case you're in luck! Try the classic Mackintosh. Yeah, it's $813 but it will stay in style as long as you're alive.
Following the Spiewak outerwear tip, I dug up some crazy deals at 6pm.com. Including that snorkel parka at $80.50! Now the dilemma is *which one*?!? (or, at those prices, two?) --Andy
A: Unless you live above 45° N, an MB only needs one snorkel parka. (Incidentally, we're at 44° N and change here in Pulaski, WI.) If you insist on buying two pieces of outerwear, make the 2nd one this McClary Field Jacket in charcoal.
Q: It's starting to get pretty chilly here in PA, and I've been looking into getting a new winter jacket for some time, but I'm not really sure as to what brand. So, what would an MB recommend for a college student, preferably within the $300 price range? --Mike
A: Mike, if you've been reading for a while you've seen "MB Deals of the Week" on a Helmut Lang Blizzard Coat and a Rogues Gallery Snorkel Jacket, both in your price range. If you don't like those then we're going to go into broken record mode: currently the best outerwear value on the market is Spiewak, plain and simple. Check out their new fall line at their new site, and you can actually order a few styles at Nordstrom. You'll stay warm and still have enough bread left over to throw a pretty decent kegger.
Via men.style.com we have the first look at Thom Browne's new, less expensive "red/white/blue" line available in Spring 2010. We think it's perfect for the hazmat handler who wants to look more like a drum majorette.
Q: Fall season is upon us, and I really need to get a leather jacket. Recently, GQdid a piece on popular leather jackets for the upcoming season but I wasn't sold on any of them. Where can I get a timeless leather jacket that won't break the bank? How about this one from Banana Republic? --Christopher
A: We weren't sold on them either, Christopher, and we're not really sold on that BR jacket (bottom) you're suggesting, either. It's just one epaulette away from Members Only.
Unfortunately, Arthur Fonzerelli's most lasting cultural influence was irreparable damage to the leather motorcycle jacket. He's basically the sun, and that BR jacket is the equivalent of wearing Icarus's wax and feathers. And we all know how that turned out.
For the super Type-A toolbag who's not satisfied with merely wearing one ugly jacket at a time, here's D&G's Colorblock Ski Jacket. It's like they took three really ugly ski jackets, added a really ugly couch, and threw them into a blender. Then, they took the resulting garment and shot it up with collagen and Botox until it achieved the grotesque puffiness of Joan Rivers' cheeks. Voila, a jacket so hideous even Helen Keller would hate it.
Regular readers know we're pretty big John Varvatos fans. His strongest suit is perhaps outerwear, like this olive green herringbone four pocket work jacket, now on sale at bloomingdales.com. You can wear this in fall and early spring, and we can virtually guarantee it will become your favorite jacket. (Order one size larger than normal.)
Here are five things you need once the snow melts, and you have about $2K burning a hole in your pocket:
1. Khaki Trench
The khaki trench doesn't just protect you from the elements, when left unbuttoned all that fabric can create the illusion of a man of action, intrigue, and dramatic flair, even if you work in a cubicle. And it goes with everything (except, of course, khakis). To avoid looking like Inspector Clouseau, choose one without a belt and all those cluttering loops, like this Tiger of Sweden version.
2. Lightweight Cashmere V-Neck Sweater
The average April temperature at our Pulaski, Wisconsin offices is just 48 degrees, so this Lono Piana sweater is practically a necessity. No matter where you live, toss it over a rumpled, washed white shirt with denim, or under a blazer and you're suddenly oozing casual elegance.
3. White Pants
Conventional wisdom holds that unless you're a rock star or live in South Beach, white pants are strictly a Memorial Day to Labor Day thing. As we've said before, baloney. By the time your favorite team has gone through a couple of pitching rotations, you can start rotating in white pants. This season, Gucci's 5-pocket denim are especially inspired, and at $595 they better be.
4. Gingham Shirt
Nothing signals longer days, warmer weather, and bugs quite like a gingham shirt. Fear not, this ain't your granddad's Sunday brunch gingham shirt. It's a classic interpreted with a couple of twists by Domenico Dolce & Stefano Gabbana.
5. Walking Umbrella
So you're rocking a few of the items above and it starts to rain. Don't veer toolbag with one of those $5.99 popups or a contrast-panel Titleist better suited for a shower on the 15th green. Paul Smith has you covered much more stylishly with his signature stripe trimmed, chestnut-handled version.
Q: I will soon be moving to Seattle after having lived all my life in sunny Florida. I am not well equipped for the weather, and was hoping you could recommend appropriate overcoat and footwear options (I cringe at the thought of exposing leather shoes to that much moisture). Would you consider a raincoat too plebian? --Alex
A: Hey Alex, kind of a good-news/bad-news scenario, eh? You just reduced your melanoma risk by 100%, but elevated your risk of SAD by at least that much. For the latter, up here in northern Wisconsin we've discovered heavy doses of alcohol usually does the trick. And it sure beats chemotherapy. Anyhow, we digress...
Footwear: Rubber-soled leather shoes will hold up well. Camper is an affordable all-time MB favorite. Depending on your relocation package, also consider Prada (a bunch of new options now at Saks). Just stay away from suede, or keep a suede brush in your laptop bag at all times. Also consider just strapping on some Swims over your existing footwear, and put all your money towards:
Outerwear: Two words: Mackintosh Coat. Your move has provided you with an opportunity to wear this iconic outerwear a lot. Yeah, they're expensive, but a Mackintosh coat is one of those rare pieces that you can wear for a lifetime because it will never go out of style. Go for the original (left, $813.00), or the slightly updated J. Crew version (right, $800.00).
Most importantly, follow Dan Rather and Humphrey Bogart's lead and be sure to turn up the collar.
Q: What does the MB have to say about trench coats for short guys? I'm around 5'6" and looking for a new coat for the winter. --Don
A: Follow the example set by the indomitable Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther cartoons. The Pink Panther is about 6' tall, so Clouseau has to come in at around 4' (including the hat), and he goes with a shorter trench that ends above the knee.
Q: Need a good black winter coat. Got any favorites? --Tripp
A: Tripp, your email comes from Duke University, so we'll assume you're at least somewhat on a college guy's budget, and it ain't like Durham gets that nippy even in January. Anyhow, Spiewak always provides great value. For the price ($132.00) we sure like their McKenzie Coat. For a little more dough, this season Banana Republic has a surprisingly good peacoat. If you've been saving up your beer money, for whatever reason, Diesel makes Dean's List.
Q: Alright, I've been looking for a bastardly leather jacket for a while. Motorcycle inspired without being too Joey Ramone. Found some really nice and really expensive ones from the likes of Rick Owens and Burberry among others. Of course the ones I really like are the most expensive. Any suggestions for a nearly as cool but not nearly as pricey option? --keska
A: "The ones I really like are the most expensive." Funny how that works when you're an MB. It's our burden.
Anyhow, we don't really have an answer you're going to like. If you want to get into a motorcycle-inspired leather jacket and don't want to veer into Aurthur Fonzarelli territory, you'll have to pay.
A: Great silhouette. Nice price. Model has collar properly turned up. We endorse this purchase, Matt, but only if you are > 6' 0" and fairly svelte. Otherwise you may be headed into herringbone bathrobe territory.
Q: Fall and winter are looming on the horizon and the need to stay warm is quickly becoming a concern. What is your opinion on "The North Face" craze? Past peak? I hope not since I own several of their jackets for casual/ski wear and still love them. --Matt
A: Matt, is there a resale shop near you?
North Face fleece violates at least three MB principles:
1. Principle of organic materials. 2. Principle of no logos. 3. Principle of not looking like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Q: I am saddened to think that I will see two great things become extinct in my lifetime: the internal combustion engine and neckties. Richard Whitbread, marketing manager of Tie Rack, said: "Since the doom and gloom (bad economy) set in, sales of ties have picked up. We have seen a 10 percent increase in sales over the last quarter. When people start to be more concerned about their jobs, they start to smarten up. Also a lot of people are looking for jobs at the moment." What he forgets to mention is that necktie sales are 15% of what they were 15 years ago. That's such a huge decline, it leads me to believe that hasty Father's Day gifts and funerals make up the bulk of necktie purchases. In your opinion. will neckties go the way of knickers? --Eric
A: We'd expect the increase in tie sales to continue. Also incoming for Fall 2008: flannel suits, long topcoats, hats of all shapes and sizes, and general black-and-whiteness.
Some of the MB staff are headed to the NFC Championship Game this weekend, and given Sunday's forecast in Green Bay (inset) this Spiewak parka is going to come in handy. Along with a few fur-lined cheeseheads.
Q: Dear MB: I like to think of myself as an MB in training and the one thing that I want for Christmas is a new coat. Preferably one as MB-like as possible.
Does this Three Quarter Coat from Banana qualify? Or should I go the moleskin route? I need your guidance! —Chauncy
A: Well, given the two choices, go with the wool/cashmere option. The moleskin version looks like something ol' granddad would wear (if he were still alive). Chauncy, we gotta tell ya: on a lark we ordered a couple of coats from Banana this season and were appalled by both the quality and the completely un-MB-like fit. Use Banana only for the basics, like this wonderful pair of cashmere socks.
Check it: Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf declares states of emergency in style with this natty fabric-buttoned military jacket. Who needs elections and all that democracy bullshit when you're rocking it to this extent?
That's Dan Rather's quote from this clip sent to us by reader William Schroeder, which shows Mr. Rather debating for 19 minutes and 42 seconds about whether to wear a coat, and if so, whether the collar should be turned up or down.
These are big decisions.
In a previous post we were down on popping collars up, but that was specifically for polo shirts. Here, Mr. Rather is correct. What you see him struggling with in the video is achieving the correct amount of artful dishevelment, as demonstrated by Mr. Bogart (aka MB) is "that scene" from Casablanca.
The quintessential MB style is defined as "modern twists on the classics," and 3.1 Phillip Lim captures that beautifully with this epauletted take on the "Pennsylvania Tuxedo." Versatile too: you can shoot squirrels in this thing in the afternoon, then wear it out for a night on the town.
We'd written off Michael Kors for good after his douchebag-r-riffic Project Runway performance, (and the fact that he actually designed this shirt), but we're considering letting him back into our brand universe if he continues making clothes like this: a contender for Perfect Peacoat.
In the world according to Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, you're out this fall if you don't have either shearling or fur or some other animal carcass snuggling your neck. Magnificent Bastards the world 'round heartily agree. They've both gone completely mad for fall 2007 with some ridiculously good-looking (and ridiculously expensive) coats; our favorite being the grey plaid coat with shearling collar. Worth embezzling from your employer for.
2 oz scotch
1 oz sweet vermouth
dash of bitters (your choice, your mood)
Fill rocks glass with ice. Pour in scotch, vermouth, bitters. Stir. Garnish, if you must, with a lemon twist.