What to Wear on a 24 Hour trip

The other day I found myself in a familiar stressful situation: I arrived home from work at 6:30 PM and had a plane to catch in less than two hours. And I hadn’t packed yet.  
Crazy, I know; packing procrastination does that to you.  For a dizzying moment, I felt overwhelmed, trying to visualize outfits with my closet content revolving in my mind like a tie organizer.  And then I thought: what if my choices were limited?
My trip wasn’t long – just a little over 24 hours from the time I board the plane to the moment I touch down from my return flight – and it wasn’t as I had to pack for a vacation. I just needed to be comfortable enough for the flight down, an all-day assembly the next day, and the return flight home.
Why waste time fretting over different outfits if I could make one outfit last 24 hours? 
Can one outfit last 24 hours?  

what to wear on 24 hour trip menswear sport coat tailored

Sport Coat: Spier & MacKay

Shirt: Finamore

Pants: Rubinacci

Shoes: Alden

Belt: W. Kleinberg

Pocket Square: Drake’s

Tie: Drake’s

Scarf: Drake’s


Here’s what I chose: 
For sheer flexibility, nothing beats good old gray flannel trousers – mid-grey to be precise. You could wear them from the boardroom to the bedroom and no one would bat an eye. They’re like dress sweats, with a crease and a fly. I grabbed an alligator belt to cinch them up.
A jacket, of course, is a no-brainer. You want to have easily-accessible pockets to stash your boarding pass & ID that you’ll be taking out a million times to show every TSA agent in the airport. Get yourself the right sport coat, one that you can dress up or down, and you can take it anywhere, from meetings to martinis. The all-purpose navy blazer is the obvious choice, but it’s not the only one. I really like this classic tan gunclub from Spier & MacKay. The houndstooth pattern is casual without being crazy, and being a shetland wool tweed, its looser weave makes it feel more like a cozy sweater than a rigid jacket. 
Instead of a blue oxford cloth button-down shirt, which is the fail-safe option, I chose its slightly more stylish cousin, the dark chambray spread collar shirt from Finamore. I like how the darker color and twill weave pair particularly well with tweed jackets. Plus, it’s a fantastic fabric. My wife says it’s denim, but I can’t say that I agree, because then I’d have to explain why I’m recommending a denim shirt to meetings. Just say “chambray” and you’ll stay above reproach.
Everyone always says loafers are a good choice for airports, and for good reason: you can easily slip them on and off at security and in the plane, and they go equally well with dressy or casual outfits. If you have a high instep though, the band on the vamp of traditional penny loafers may cause a bit of discomfort when worn for an extended period of time. That’s why I chose tassel loafers – they generally have no band.  And while I do have cordovan tassels, I grabbed my suede pair from Alden. For sheer shoe comfort, suede tassels are tough to beat, and I find they go well with flannel trousers and tweed jackets.
 
Leaving to catch the plane, 7 PM Friday evening
peter 24 hours same clothes
I wore this on the plane knowing I’d be wearing this not only on the flight down, but at the assembly as well, which meant I had to choose accessories. For ties, you’d be hard pressed to find a one more versatile than a dark solid silk knit. The crunchy, nubby, slightly shiny texture plays well with everything from plain worsted suits to busy sport coats. As I recently gave my navy one away (as a hint to a bro who painfully tries to mix patterns), I opted for a dark green one instead. That, as well as the matte silk/wool square with a large pattern I grabbed to complement it, are both from Drake’s.
 
At the assembly, noon Saturday
After the assembly, I would get rid of the tie and square and exchange them for a scarf. Of course, I could’ve just loosened the tie, but I’m not one of those guys that wear a tie just because. Ties signal a recognition of seriousness or solemnity; don’t dilute their meaning by just wearing them willy-nilly. When the situation calls for it, by all means, tie up and show respect. Otherwise, adorn your neck with a scarf.
For those of you with a penchant for crazy ties but know better, this is your opportunity to give in – a little –  to your ornamentation fixation. This one is from forum member X of Pentacles, and is the perfect pattern and color for a casual scarf; it stuffed easily in my briefcase, along with my tie, square, and an extra pair of unmentionables.  

 

Getting ready to fly home, Saturday evening

 

In retrospect, I think the experiment went well.  I was never uncomfortable in my clothes, and I had everything I needed to be presentable; that much I expected. However, what I didn’t expect was the weightlessness of it all.
All the familiar stresses of travel were gone. Having everything in my briefcase meant there was no luggage to lug around to the check-in counter; not even a carryon to heave and stow in the overhead bin. When I arrived, there was no need to wait by the baggage claim; I just left the terminal and got an Uber. The next morning there was no time spent deciding what to wear because I had packed only one choice. And after the assembly I didn’t need to organize my belongings; I simply picked up my briefcase and left for the airport. In the end, I realized that eliminating options wasn’t restricting – it was liberating. 
Maybe there is something to living a simple life after all.  I should think about that when I order my next suit.

Autumn Style: Odd Flannel Trousers with @Heldentenor

odd flannel trousers

A pair of odd flannel trousers is one of Styleforum’s universal recommendations, and in addition to featuring heavily in WAYWT, flannel is a staff favorite. It’s not hard to see why: it’s soft, warm, and adds lovely visual texture to any outfit, especially if you choose a fabric – as @Heldentor has – that has enough character to stand up to patterns.

Even so, my favorite part of this outfit is the fit of the sport coat. It’s not often (or ever) I see a combination that I think could be simultaneously referred to as “sharp” and “soft,” but I believe this qualifies. “Rumpled elegance” is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot in discussions of menswear, and when referring to tailored clothing it often seems to be used as an excuse for poor fit. In this case, however, I think it’s an apt descriptor largely due to the weight of the fabric (of both jacket and trousers) and the moderately built-up chest and shoulders of the jacket.

Note how comfortable @Heldentenor appears when seated, and how well the fabric hangs. Not only are the proportions impeccable, but the outfit is wonderfully evocative. Of course, that’s partly due to the quality of the photograph and the setting, but everything – from the crisp blue shirt to the patch pockets to the knit tie and lack of pocket square  – suggests comfort, confidence, and an absence of pretension.

This is a great example of how classics and standbys can be styled in a way that’s far from boring, and a wonderful appetizer for the fun of seasonal dress. Hats of to @Heldentenor, and to the rest us – now we now what to aim for.

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The Glorious Flannel Suit

I was eighteen when I saw a flannel suit for the first time, in a $.99 thrift store in a mini mall in Escondido.

It was a double-breasted grey-blue, with a cobalt and ice overcheck.  I was both awestruck and enamored: the fabric was soft, like my favorite sweatshirt that had been washed a million times, and yet here it was cut in Superman’s mold.  Could this be the culmination of the brightest minds in the history of textiles?  Did I finally find a comfortable suit?  Was this the ultimate endpoint in menswear?

Turns out, it was.  And still is.

Flannel didn’t always have ties with fine livery – the New York Times reports its usage as material for lowly chonies.  A little weird, maybe, but now that I think about it, I can’t imagine a more comfy fabric swathed around my loins. Unclickable encyclopedic history claims flannel was being used as far back as the 16th century, and many records point to Wales as the fabric’s birthplace, where it enjoyed a thriving woolen industry.  However, British mills were the ones to spearhead factories with machinery for the carding and spinning of wool.  Documents reveal that as early as 1620 a mill in Wellington by the name of Were and Co. was in business, trading flannel and other cloth to both sides of the English Civil War of 1642-1651.  Later, that company changed its name to Fox Brothers and Company.

Operating continuously since 1772, Fox Brothers is probably the most famous producer of flannel.  Douglas Cordeaux, who serves as Managing Director of the company, describes flannel as the stuff of true connoisseurs.  “Every contemporary menswear wardrobe needs a heavy flannel,” he says.  “It’s a collector’s cloth, for someone who has done their research.”  

Which is true: most of the “flannel” suits sold in department stores are rubbish, made with wimpy weight wool that bears little resemblance to the real deal.  “Classic weight is 12/13 ounces,” says Cordeaux.  “Although we have the Grand Cru of flannel coming in at a substantial 18/19 ounces, proper British cloth.  People often just write it off as too heavy, but actually when it’s cut well with the right balance, it drapes well and is really wearable.  Bespoke suits in this weight are elegant, relevant, and age beautifully.”

Douglas is speaking of woolen flannel, the soft, cozy, fuzzy stuff immortalized by glamorous screen actors and well-known politicians.  Images of Winston Churchill in his navy chalkstripes, the Prince of Wales in his namesake check, Fred Astaire dancing in his light trousers, and Cary Grant in the classic grey suit; all are Fox flannels.  Of the latter, Douglas notes that this is a singular shade.  “’The West of England grey flannel has a particular color, a dulled down warm vintage grey.  Instantly recognizable.”  

Flannel is also known for its “mottled” look, accomplished by using various color threads during the milling process.  This gives flannel a depth unseen in other fabrics, an alluring three-dimensional melange of hue.  This can be seen on worsted flannel, but is especially distinct on the old school woolen stuff, which is a unique fabric unto itself.  The process of making woolen fabric begins with carding, combing the wool in two directions at once with stiff brushes.  Unlike worsted fabric, where long fibers are lined up parallel to create a smooth weave, woolen fabric utilizes short fibers, resulting in a napped, fuzzy cloth – a perfect start for flannel.  Fox’s specific method, however, remains a secret.  “I’d rather keep quiet on our milling process,” Douglas deflects when asked.  “Although eight hours, soft water and a piece of wood play a part.”

Whatever the recipe, it makes something you have to wear something you want to wear. And that is why flannel is the best fabric for a suit.

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