Carhartt recently released a video for Labor Day that good-naturedly highlights the rookie gaffes of apprentices, and you should watch it, because it’s wonderful. I’ve done at least three or four of these, and as embarrassing as it is, everyone stumbles when taking their first steps, and it’s good practice to laugh at yourself, if not then, at least in retrospect.
I like to think it’s in honor of those who suffered for those benefits we sometimes take for granted that workwear has become such an ingrained part of everyday clothing. From denim to duck cloth, one can hardly walk down a street anywhere in the industrialized world without seeing something that references the hard-wearing togs of the common laborer. Many of the upcoming fall/winter collections include a sweeping variety to choose from, so if you don’t feel like going all-out with hickory-striped coveralls and hi-viz, you’ve got plenty of other options. Here are my favorites for the early season.
Blame it on the subzero winters I spent in New York during my formative 20’s, but few things give me as much comfort as chamois shirts. They took me from the first whispers of the Adirondack fall to the late spring Putnam County bloom, keeping me warm with their brushed flannel softness. Bonus: their wash-n-wearability means you can fill your closet with these hard-wearing shirts and run ’em to the ground. LL Bean is still the OG, but I find their pockets a little strange. Nowadays I prefer the heavier and more modern cut of the Taylor Stitch Yosemite shirt, which I wear everywhere from the jobsite to the campsite.
I don’t really recommend denim shirts; their tight twill weave and starchy fabric is stiff and unnecessary for all but the most rigorous environments. Chambray, on the other hand, is a plain weave that’s much softer against the skin, and more easily incorporated in other styles of dress. I wear mine, a grey one from Taylor Stitch, with a reversible denim/cavalry wool jacket from Evan Kinori (here’s a similar one in hemp), but the beauty of chambray is that it is such a staple that you can wear it with sport coats, leather jackets, peacoats, and probably everything else in your wardrobe. If you don’t already have a chambray shirt, now’s the time to pick one (or two) up for the fall.
White Jeans & Shearling Jackets
I wish Beams Plus had a store in San Francisco; I’d probably spend all my money there. This season has a big Ivy influence, but like most styles, there’s a bit of workwear thrown in for good measure. My favorite is this combo of a shearling coat and white jeans. Most guys shy away from these items because of their penchant for dirt and stains, but this is exactly why they are so great: like an old glove, signs of use only add to their beauty and personality. Similar to black jeans, white (or off-white) jeans go with practically everything, and are arguably easier to pair with than indigo. Top them off with a mouton jacket and suede boots and you’re good to go.
Leave it to Ralph Lauren to make something as derided as the Canadian tuxedo look good. For the upcoming season’s “Wear Your Story” ad campaign, the company tells six individual’s stories of how their favorite denim became so. I can’t tell if what they’re wearing is the actual favorite denim, but it doesn’t matter; what does it that they wear it in a way that seems natural, organic, and unforced. Even if you can’t see yourself in head-to-toe indigo, the lookbook is still inspiring, showing how you can break up the look with tweed sportcoats, duffle jackets, and my all-time favorite, the polo coat.
You don’t have to be a fisherman to look good in a sweater, but a bit of good old salt-of-the-earth ruggedness does help. Unlike a regular plain-woven jumper, part of the draw of fishermen’s sweaters is the ability to tell a story by the weave alone. One of my favorite makers is Inis Meáin, who draw from both natural and cultural influences to create unique designs that favor those who wish to stand out quietly. If I can spend future funds now, I’d grab their Claíochaí sweater, utilizing no less than five types of stitches mimicking the varied patterns of stone walls zigzagging across the Aran Island. StyFo affiliate No Man Walks Alone has it in a deep moss green, which is perfect because I don’t have any sweaters in that color and that’s the only way my wife will allow me another.