Casual meets Classic – The Evolution of My Wardrobe Incorporating Casual Outerwear

Wearing casual outerwear with more tailored, classic menswear has quickly become one of my favorite styles. In this article, I want to give some insights into how I built my current outerwear collection, along with what styles I plan to add in the future. I’ll also touch on some of the basic principles I use when pulling outfits together, and finally, I will provide some guidance on what items I feel pair best when incorporating casual outerwear into your wardrobe.

Building My Casual Outerwear Collection

At the beginning of 2017, I owned only two pieces of outwear: a lightweight bomber jacket for spring, and a heavier jacket for winter. I made it my mission in 2017 to focus on adding quality, casual outerwear pieces to my wardrobe. I’d first like to review the process I used when choosing these items, in addition to how I pair them with work attire.

When it comes to choosing outerwear, versatility is the name of the game for me. I have a fairly tight clothing budget so I carefully consider how much use I am likely to get out of an item before deciding to pull the trigger. When starting my outerwear search, I turned to Instagram for inspiration, searching hashtags like #styleforum, #mnswr #ptoman, as well as a few of my favorite accounts such as @stylejournaldaily, @drakesdiary, and @sartorialviking. With my research in hand, I was able to narrow down a few styles I felt could be dressed up or down with relative ease. I found myself gravitating towards field jackets, chore coats, safari jackets, and classic waxed 2 pocket jackets like the Barbour Beaufort. I quickly realized that a combo of these casual styles in staple colors would be versatile enough to wear with a ton of looks – everything from trousers and a tie during the week to jeans and a tee on weekends.

I remember first trying to find field jackets and suede bomber jackets, the latter of which I have still yet to get in my hands. I searched relentlessly through the Styleforum buy & sell section looking for anything that may fit the build. There were pieces like the Eidos “Ragosta” and suede bombers from Valstar that were perfect but out of my budget. As my search continued, about a year ago I posted a wanted ad looking for any that might be sitting in people closets not being used. When that failed, I realized that it was probably for the best considering the price point; then, I turned to eBay to see what more affordable options I could find. After stalking Luxe Swap eBay listings for weeks on end I ended up bidding on and winning a couple amazing field jackets: a navy from Brunello Cucinelli and an unlined tan cotton by Aspesi. A short while later, I added a vintage Private White VC “Squaddie” waxed wool jacket (also from eBay) and a few used Epaulet field jackets off of Grailed.

The last style I wanted to add to my wardrobe was a classic chore coat, and this one took me a few tries to get right. After trying out a few brands and having to return or sell them due to fit issues, Epaulet released their updated chore coat design called the “Doyle”. I quickly snatched up one in olive duck canvas and it became one of my favorite pieces in my closet. I have since added two more “Doyle” jackets, one in an indigo dyed cotton sashiko fabric and another in banana yellow wool.

Future Acquisitions

Looking into 2018, I do have some additional outerwear items on my wish list. These items will be ones that can further bridge the gap between casual and classic menswear as I transition to more tailored items.

A field jacket like the Eidos “Ragosta” in a navy Donegal fabric is first on my list pending budget. I’d also like to pick up a slightly more tailored piece of outerwear like a raglan topcoat or belted coat but in a casual patterned cloth, such as a herringbone or houndstooth. I will be keeping a close eye on Styleforum affiliate Spier & Mackay as they hinted at adding some patterned topcoats to their line this fall. Epaulet also took to Instagram to preview plans for an updated version of their field jacket, which I am very excited to see finalized. Lastly, I am looking forward to what Private White VC does in 2018; they sold off a lot of their current 2017 inventory, which I can only hope means big things are coming.

Putting it all Together – How to Blend Casual Outerwear and Classic Menswear

The one challenge I have found with casual outwear is that you can never really get the pieces to work all that well with suits or full formal attire – unless the former is very casual in cut and fabric. With this, I like to stick to layering casual outerwear over unstructured sport coats and textured fabrics and accessories. These are the kinds of items I have found incorporate easily into an outfit with a casual jacket: oxford shirts, flannel or cotton trousers, denim, tweed or cotton sport coats, and knit or shantung ties.

When it comes to building an outfit that includes casual outerwear, I like to start from the ground up. I first choose my trousers as I have less variety to choose from at the moment and therefore need to build my outfits around them. I have a wide variety of shirts so I typically select this piece based on my plan for layering/outerwear that day. For example, if I am planning to wear a bold cardigan I may opt for a simple white or light blue shirt. However, without the sweater, I would likely choose a striped shirt to make more of a statement. Getting comfortable pairing items in my wardrobe took practice and experimentation while I got a feel for what I liked and what would work well with my personal style. After pairing outfits like this for many months it has become second nature, which is great because a couple years ago this process could be rather daunting at times!

Finishing Touches

When choosing a tie I’ll look at my chosen shirt and cardigan, or lack of a cardigan, for guidance. My current collection of ties is quite casual, including lots of soft fabrics, knits, slubby shantung, and grenadines. From there, I will select my footwear and outerwear last. I’d like to say I have some sort of method to my madness here, but in all honesty, both items get chosen almost exclusively based on the weather that day. I’ve built a strong base of versatile items in both categories and will likely go into much more detail on my footwear collection at another time. Like other areas of my wardrobe, my footwear collection falls on the casual end of the spectrum (i.e. I do not own any balmoral shoes or anything in black). When it comes to the weather, if it’s wet or raining outside I’ll typically grab a waxed jacket like my Private White VC “Squaddie” jacket and functional footwear with rubber soles. When it’s dry out, which is about 4 months of the year in Calgary, Alberta, anything goes in my eye! As mentioned above, with my outerwear pieces being quite versatile, the last factor I consider is what piece would contrast best with my chosen trousers. My favorite casual outerwear as of late is the olive duck canvas “Doyle” jacket from Epaulet.

Why Blend Casual & Classic Pieces?

Pairing casual outerwear with classic pieces gives you a chance to experiment with textures and more saturated colors. It’s also a great way to spice up your business casual attire. Don’t be afraid to pair up some less conservative color palettes and outerwear that you may have written off as exclusively casual. If you try something similar out and are on Instagram I’d love to see – tag me (@burzanblog) in your pictures so I can check out how you guys style your casual outfits.

For more inspiration, you can browse the What Are You Wearing Today – Classic Menswear, Casual Style thread on the forum.

Chelsea Boots for All the People

Just to catch you up if you’ve been living under a rock for the last year or so, the Chelsea boot, with it’s characteristic double elastic gores, has been the footwear du jour.  Without fear of jumping on the bandwagon really late, I’m going to endorse them.

Kanye is probably to thank for the popularity of the style for some younger and some more Kanye influenced wearers, and Common Projects should probably be on their knees, thanking Yeezus for putting their lightweight, crepe soled version (in the sand color) on waiting lists for the entire FW15 season.

Putting aside debates about Kanye’s cultural significance, chelsea boots have been a staple in closets of well-dressed men (and women) since the Victorian era, when they were made for the Queen herself before eventually finding their way into men’s closets. Now, they are perhaps best remembers as a staple in the UK’s mod scene in the 1960s, which has seen something of a revival as of late. They also gave birth to the the pointy-toed, Cuban-heeled Beatle Boot variation, but weather with low heels or high, the easy on-off comfort has made the chelsea beloved of the sleek ‘n trim streetwear set – led by you-know-who. They’re a natural extension of the skinny side-zip that has been quite popular for several years, and most makers streetwear makers are pursuing similarly streamlined silhouettes.

On the other end of the style spectrum, Blundstone’s rugged (guaranteed for life!) snub-toed, thick-soled version of the style has been a staple among Australia’s outdoors-minded set since the Victorian era as well. While not exactly elegant, that was never the purpose – and if elegance is what you desire, you can still find plenty of classic shapes from brands such as Alfred Sargent, Carmina, and others. Guidi, beloved of every dark-goth-romantic-bohemian-ninja, also makes an object-dyed chelsea boot, should you wish to trade your well-heeled Victorian footwear mores for a rougher look.

So, at this very odd intersection in menswear history, outdoorsmen, dandies, gothy-ninjas, and of course Kanye fans, are all endorsing the same style of boot.

My pick of the bunch is Epaulet’s Chelsea. That’s because it’s a lot more versatile than other examples. Epaulet’s quality and construction have always been top-notch, and the leather on this pair is a lustrous steerhide that achieves the improbably feat of going with everything. In addition, the last is neither Blundstone-blobby or Yeezy-narrow, so you can wear them with jeans or casual trousers. Plus, crepe soles are really, really comfortable. These were initially a pre-order, but there are a few pairs still available on Epaulet’s website. Although I own a pair in “sand suede,” I think this “Cuoro Como” model is a fantastic buy for anyone looking for a comfortable, stylish boot. They’re only $325, too – which is a really good deal.

You can find your own pair here.

 

Sunday Styles: Knit ‘n Easy

outfit-grid-9b

Speaking of knit ties, let’s take a look at an easy way to embrace some color and texture for fall. Tweed sport coats pair wonderfully with knit neckwear, and a simple oxford stripe shirt with easy-wearing trousers and shoes is a simple way to look great. In this case, the green of the knit tie is subdued without being boring, and picks up the texture of the jacket.

1. Grey Tweed Sport Coat, Kent Wang

2. Drake’s Knit Tie, Gentlemen’s Footwear

3. Oxford Stripe Shirt, Epaulet

4. Rota Trousers, No Man Walks Alone

5. Warwick Single Monk, Allen Edmonds

6. Robert Jensen Pocket Square, Khaki’s of Carmel

Pitti Uomo: A Buyer’s Perspective

Mr. Kuhle goes to Firenze.

 

At this point you guys have probably read a hundred Pitti Uomo recaps. But I figured that I’m chime in with somewhat a different perspective: what it’s like to visit as a buyer, and a first-time Pitti attendant at that.

It’s huge.

Good lord. I’ve been to plenty of trade shows in my time, but never on this scale. Pitti Uomo is held in Florence’s Fortezza da Basso, a sprawling fortress complex that dates back to 1534. Without stopping, it would probably take at least 40 minutes just to walk the perimeter of the show. I’ve been to men’s shows before in NYC, Vegas, Germany, and Spain, but this one dwarfs them all.

The old main drag at Pitti.

You need to stay focused.

Trade shows are all about meeting people and putting names to faces. Most of my time is taken up with appointments for brands I already carry–for example, an Alden buy might take 2 hours, Southwick might take 90 minutes, etc. If you’re investing the time and money to fly to Italy, then you really need to make that investment worth it. That means getting there at the opening bell, keeping things tight and focused, and really trying to balance time spent in meetings with time spent looking for new brands and product. Pitti was the most difficult time-management in buying that I’ve ever dealt with.

The hardest items to buy, focuswise? Ties. Buying ties and scarves is hard as hell. There’s hundreds of fabrics and hundreds of designs in several colors apiece. Best to grab a strong-ass coffee and some water to stay well hydrated for those tie appointments.

Add a fresh bunch of Italian paisley... Scarf swatches.

Buying and attending are different experiences.

Before I went to Pitti, I had a cool idea. I would bring along my 1950s Leica M3 and shoot dazzling photos. Oh yeah; I got the lens cleaned and adjusted beforehand. I would make an entire photo gallery of 35mm pics of the “Pitti scene.” I’d have dozens of photographs of incredibly dapper Japanese guys and an overview of all my rounds there.

Wrong.

I had two and a half days at the show. The first day I spent 9 straight hours in the basement of one building, just moving from vendor to vendor. I didn’t get outside until dark and didn’t shoot a single photo with the Leica. Believe me, I was pretty envious of the #menswear Tumblr crew and the many pictures of them hanging out in the main square. When you’re buying at Pitti, you never really have time to appreciate all of the peacockery and happenings going on there. You obsessively look at product and slam a panini for lunch. Not that I’m complaining. An entire day of looking at shoes and sportcoats is a pretty damn good day for me. But buyers never really get to shoot street style photos and ogle the Brunello Cucinelli booth (unless you carry his line in your store).

Check ch-check check check check it out. Shirt swatches.

Pitti is a great resource for manufacturing.

There’s nothing better than talking with people who make things. There’s no BS, no showroom hustling, and no guy-who-just-got-the-account-6-days-ago-and-knows-jack-shit-about-what-he’s-selling. Meeting with manufacturers is a joy for me and it’s one of the best parts of my job. And Pitti is absolutely filled with small-scale manufacturers. I’m talking incredible artisan companies that you’d never find outside of Europe. There’s a robust domestic market in Europe in general and Italy in particular, so Pitti is dotted with small firms that just serve local shops and designers. You’d never know about them unless you go there, and you won’t find them there unless you really put the work into it. But I found a bunch of great stuff, and hopefully all of these contacts will bear some serious fruit come fall 2012.

Mike and team Carmina.

Knit samples.

Florence is pretty ace.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Florence a few times before, and it’s a gorgeous city. In terms of trade show cities, it’s pretty close to the top of the heap. I love Cirque du Soleil shows and dinner buffets as much as the next man (editor’s note: Mike’s opinion on Cirque du Soleil is his own and does not reflect ours), but Florence has it all over Las Vegas. And the Fortezza da Basso will put a serious hurting on the Jacob Javits Center. It’s an inspiring place to visit, and touring the excellent menswear shops in the city will definitely put you in the right frame of mind. Of course, I don’t even have to mention how great the food, wine, and coffee is. It’s a small city, so you’ll run into friends and contacts easily. Overall, I had a wonderful time, and I’d whole-heartedly recommend Pitti Uomo to any other menswear buyers interested in expanding their assortment with some really unique collections and pieces.

The Arno.

Photos courtesy Mike Kuhle.