My Signature Look: Erik Mannby

Erik Mannby is a long-time member of Styleforum, and has been a contributor to the Styleforum Journal. He’s now the Editor-in-Chief of Plaza Uomo, which means he’s even more of an Instagram star than he already was. He’s also a genuinely stylish fellow, and a great person to look to for your own inspiration.

-Jasper


When asked about a “signature look,” I really had to think about my go-to’s. Do I have a personal style? In that case, what does it look like? I guess I actually do, and if I would narrow it down, I’d say ‘casual classic,’ with a few signature garments.

I love safari jackets and field jackets in a variety of designs and shapes. Therefore, it feels quite natural that I should include this as a signature garment. I also like high rise trousers, earthy colors, and hats and caps. It’s next to impossible explaining why one likes a certain aesthetic, but I guess the casual take may have something to do with my personality in general. I like comfort and purpose in my everyday wardrobe, but almost always in a classic cut (something that actually increases comfort). The two examples below offer a nice summary of what I would call my ‘signature.’

erik mannby signature look styleforum member inspiration
Picture by Fredrik Sellberg

Here, I’m wearing a safari style jacket in brown linen, that I actually made myself. The sunglasses are by Nividas, the butcher stripe MTM shirt by Shirtonomy, and a green tie with medallions by Spacca Neapolis. The linen/wool pocket square is from X of Pentacles, the watch by Kronaby, the MTM off-white linen trousers by Luxire, and the brown single monks by Carlos Santos for Herring shoes.

erik mannby signature look styleforum member inspiration
Photo by Fredrik Sellberg.

Here, I’m wearing a reproduction of a WWII Khaki Drill Jacket, as worn by the British Army, while the linen newsboy cap is by Stetson. The polo is an Eidos ‘Lupo, and the scarf is a silk/wool pocket square, again by X of Pentacles. The same off-white trousers by Luxire and brown single monks by Carlos Santos for Herring shoes round it all out.


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The Duffel Coat: A Winter Warrior

As is true for so many other staples in the classically-inclined man’s wardrobe, the duffel (or duffle, depending on who you ask) coat has military roots. Supposedly, the coat originally got its name from a Belgian town with the same name, that for centuries has been the production site for a coarse, woolen type of fabric, much like the one used in the duffel coats.

The exact origins of the coat model are somewhat debated. Some say they come from a Polish military frock coat made in the 1820’s, while others claim it wasn’t until John Partridge made the changes to the design that are significant for the coat, that it was actually born.

Whatever the origins, the Royal British Navy started mass producing duffel coats during WWI, since it had some qualities that were great for personnel on deck. It had easy-access buttoning (even when wearing gloves) due to the hemp string and wooden toggles, and it had a hood that sheltered the wearer from harsh weather conditions. Originally, it was cut quite generously to allow for a fully equipped uniform underneath. It did, however, go through some design changes between WWI and WWII, when it became slightly more fitted with a marginally smaller hood, so not to allow sudden bursts of wind to rip it off.

It was the famous General Montgomery, allied commander of the British forces who made the garment iconic. A camel-colored duffel coat and a beret became his signature look. After WWII, the coats were sold as surplus to the general population and gained popularity among a diverse group of people.

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General Montgomery, the man who made the coat iconic

Two business-minded individuals, Harold and Freda Morris, saw great potential for the coat. At the time they were in the gloves and overall manufacturing business. It was only fitting that the new, slightly redesigned duffel coat would be branded “Gloverall.” They made additional changes to the original duffel, such as leather and horn buttoning instead of the hemp string and wood toggle. They also added a fourth buttoning point and flaps to cover the waist pockets, making the coat look slightly less like a surplus garment and a bit more dressed. It still kept its basic, rather square appearance.

Through the 50s and 60s the duffel coat, both the surplus model and the Gloverall adaptation were adopted by several very different groups of (mostly) young people. It was offered in a sea of color options and took on new designs. It was THE coat to own for some of the in crowds at the time.

As I’ve said, the duffel is hardly the only garment with a military history that has found its way into civilian closets. However, the uniqueness of the duffel coat is its wide-ranging appeal to groups as diverse as the British Mods, the Ivy League students in America who came to form the style commonly known as just the ‘Ivy League style,’ and even French intellectuals and political radicals. Moving on from the 60s to present, the duffel coat has been found in many well-dressed and generally cool people’s closets, ranging from Prince Charles to various rock and pop musicians, actors, and new generations of Ivy and Mod enthusiasts.

As someone who found his love for tailored menswear through the love of music and the Mod style, the duffel has always held a special place in my heart. I got my first duffel coat in high school, and have owned several since, from different makers. The latest of which is this green coat from Gloverall, in a mid-length version with four buttoning points.

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Me, in my new green Gloverall duffel coat, worn over a three piece E-F-V suit.

The reason it still holds such an appeal to me is that it makes an aesthetically pleasing clash between business and casual wear. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a casual coat in a very classic sense of the word, but it will still look very cool over a suit, lending the whole ensemble a slight air of Mod sharpness or Ivy League nonchalance. Worn with corduroy or flannel trousers and a roll neck, the coat will give just the right amount of sharpness to a classic casual outfit.

There have been many adaptations of the duffel since John Partridge set the original design. Here’s David Bowie in a version with buttons instead of horn or wooden toggles:

And here’s an advertisement quite obviously targeted towards the “Ivy League style” enthusiasts:

Besides looking good, it’s also one of the most practical winter coats in my opinion. I may not be on the deck of a ship, but as a dog owner, I appreciate the roomy side pockets, the easy buttoning and the hood against chilly winds.

The duffel coat is certainly up there with the field jacket and the trench coat as an iconic garment with a military background, and it will probably keep finding a new audience for many generations to come.


Erik is co-founder of EFV Clothing. You can find him on Instagram at @ErikMannby.

Erik Mannby’s 10 Rules of Style

Erik is one of Styleforum’s best-known and best-dressed members, and you may recognize him from our Pitti Uomo coverage. Here, he breaks down his top ten sartorial rules.


 

 

  1. Always use the four in hand knot.

    I’ve noticed that the false notion of the Windsor knot being more formal still lives on in some lines of business. Here in Sweden it’s especially favored by real estate brokers for some reason. I guess the idea that it’s named after royalty and the fact of its symmetry fool some people. The four in hand is the only knot you ever need to learn. If you need a bigger knot, you can easily just wrap it into a double four in hand. The slight asymmetry is what gives it personality. Also, don’t forget the dimple underneath the knot. Fact is that the duke of Windsor, who the Windsor knot is named after, only used the four in hand knot, but with a thicker lining, thus making it appear slightly more bulky.
  2. Be comfortable.This is the key to looking good. Make sure your clothes fit you well enough to give you freedom of movement. For me this means that I wear trousers with a higher waist. The comfort level this grants has made me completely forgo all dress trousers that don’t reach my natural waist. Also, I wear all my garments cut generously enough to never restrict me. For me, a suit should always be comfortable enough to not be noticed when worn.
  3. Invest in good hats & caps.Relating back to the last point, this is about comfort to me. In the summer time a Panama hat is excellent protection against the sun, and in winter a hat or cap will keep your head warmer. Also, a proper hat generally looks better with tailored clothing than a regular beanie.
  4. Know yourself.This is more important than getting to know any “menswear rules”. This will also relate back to the point about being comfortable. This is what makes you LOOK comfortable. Your way of dressing usually looks its best when it reflects who you are. I see a lot of people wearing what they’ve seen influential or famous people wearing, and it just looks off. Are you a casual or formal person? Do you love colours or different shades of grey? Do you like vintage wear or sprezz, or both? Do you wear suits for work or for your own pleasure? You make up the questions that are relevant to your idea of style. What I’m trying to say is: “You do you”.
  5. Know the history of your garments.Once again, these are MY rules. I generally like to know what the history is behind a certain garment or design trait. I can then chose to wear it with what it was originally meant to be worn with, or if I feel it’s too anachronistic or pointless, completely discard the original rules of wearing it and choose a way that seems more reasonable.

  6. Get to know your colours.Colours can be tricky. There is plenty written on this subject, so I’d suggest you Google this if you want to learn everything about colour wheels – or read Peter’s article on color. I usually visualize colour combinations that I think would be interesting and then try them out in actual outfits. Now, since I am my own boss, I don’t need to care for dress codes, which obviously gives me a greater freedom of messing about with this. If you want some good tips, I’d suggest also looking at old apparel art, as there are usually some really interesting colour combinations to be found.
  7. Contrasts, high or low – do it consistently.Some people prefer high contrast outfits, while other like medium- to low contrast. Personally I love the whole spectrum. A good idea is to do it consistently, though. If you have a low contrast between trousers and jacket, it can look off beat to throw in a pair of shoes in a completely different shade.
  8. Mix your patterns according to size.I make exceptions to almost all of my “rules”, but this is a constant. It just never looks good wearing several garments/accessories that are in close proximity to each other, in a pattern that’s roughly the same size. It creates a disharmony in the total composition that isn’t very appealing. You can stay safe by only wearing one patterned garment, or let the patterns be big/small enough not to get confused with each other. Again, Peter has written a good primer on this subject.
  9. Vintage, budget, premium? Who cares? Aesthetic is king.To me, the end result trumps whatever brand/maker you’re wearing. Of course, crap quality clothes should always be shunned. Today, you can find some of the finest quality clothes available in vintage stores, and a lot of brands offer a great quality/price ratio. I mix and match personally. One of my favorite jackets is a vintage M51 field jacket, I’ll wear it with premium priced clothes, but it still works in my opinion, just because I have a consistent idea of what aesthetics I strive for.
  10. Learn the fundamentals, then wear it as you like.Read Flusser, Roetzel, and other menswear writers. Their books will give you a good idea about some of the conventions that influence how menswear is conceived and worn today. At the same time, be aware that they are just that: conventions. There really are very few “rules” to menswear. Look at it historically and you will see that these ideas change drastically over time. The modern suit is quite young, and when introduced to the masses were considered unorthodox and therefore free to experiment with as on chooses. Now, of course, conventions have set in, and people love to beat each other over the head with this set of conventions that they believe are actual rules. Know what’s what and you’ll be more free to wear it as you see fit.

Erik is co-founder of EFV Clothing. You can find him on Instagram at @ErikMannby.