Ah, spring. It has a special way of keeping us guessing.
Near-freezing in the morning. Up to the high 50s by lunch. And then right back down to nippy, just in time for the evening commute.
Luckily, this hand-dyed herringbone down vest by Blue Blue Japan that’s just made the transpacific voyage to SF’s Unionmade is one of the better solutions. Lacking that synthetic sheen that so often plagues quilted vests, it’ll prove a handsome weapon in your arsenal to stave off that early-spring chill. Here’s what else you need to know.
The Story: Blue Blue, a Japanese brand founded in 1990 on the love of indigo and denim craftsmanship, continues their Japanese-interpreted Americana streak by using “natural materials and natural [blue] dyes that are related with traditional Japanese aesthetics and the beautiful four seasons of Japan.” In this case, those natural materials are cotton, but Blue Blue has been known to dabble with “rice-paper yarn” (the mere concept of which leaves us speechless).
Who to Channel: Robert Redford surveying the beauty of his Utah estate with his morning coffee; David Beckham walking the streets of London, avoiding puddles and paparazzi; a stylish urban lumberjack in need of brachial mobility.
When to Wear It: An early-spring day when the temperature is such that your overcoat seems like overkill, but wearing your blazer au naturel would leave you a bit too exposed to the wind.
Degree of Difficulty: Easier than you might think. If it’s warm enough, the down filling should handily fulfill all of your outerwear needs. If you need to add a layer of removable warmth to your cottony spring blazer, though, you could up the degree of difficulty by either wearing it like a waistcoat or going full Wooster and just watching as the flashbulbs go crazy.
Sure, an old retired pair of jeans will do in a pinch, but there comes a point in the life of any piece of clothing when it’s been run too ragged to be of service (but hey, now you’ve got something authentically broken-in to wear fashionably).
The answer: something tougher than the workwear-inspired stuff that’s been floating around the Internet for the past few years now. We’re talking about real workwear. Stuff you don’t have to worry about beating up, because it was made for it—and because the price didn’t have the overseas shipping from a small artisan workshop in Japan built into it. We’re not guaranteeing all of this stuff will fit the same way, but you’ll be happy to have that extra give in your pants’ rise when kneeling down to change the spool in your edger.
Introducing Kempt’s March Madness bracket, wherein we pit the most iconic college basketball coaches against one another in an attempt to finally nail down who’s the most stylish of them all.
As you’d expect, it takes more than just sporting a pocket square or one nice blazer every so often to be named one of the most stylish college coaches of all time—everyone looks at least halfway decent in a suit and tie.
We were looking for coaches with a distinct through-line of personal style—and since most of these guys spent decades and multiple trend cycles on the sidelines, it usually came down to one iconic item they’d never given up. John Wooden’s thick-rimmed glasses, Bob Knight’s red sweaters or even Jerry Tarkanian’s “chew towel”—that sort of thing. Even if the pattern or cut of their sport jacket changed, that item didn’t. Which meant a guy like Jim Boeheim just missed the cut, because you might not even recognize his surgeon-cuffed look of today as the same guy who wore this in the 1970s. (Also just missing the cut: Gary Williams and his signature sweatiness.)
But there were plenty to choose from, and we just managed to cut the field down to the Sweet 16—which is where we’ll begin today, and continue to narrow down as the week progresses.
Every year around this time, the pantheon of fine menswear purveyors sets up shop in a warehouse deep in the hinterlands of Manhattan. And every year around this time, we trek downtown to check it out. Since most brands show clothes that won’t be available for about six months—and because the show is enormous—we decided the best thing to do was break it down, using our patented scientific formula.
Lately, a lot of #menswear ink has been spilled over the down vest—especially regarding the relatively novel idea of wearing one under your suit jacket or blazer. Aside from bringing up some fit issues, it reminded us of the original under-blazer vest, usually knit in an argyle or fair isle pattern (like this one). Donning an armless sweater can be treacherous waters—not helped by the fact that its most recent champion was one Rick Santorum. Luckily, we’re here to help with this handy guide:
The down vest has been experiencing a renaissance—in many forms—but we’re most interested in the old-fashioned armless outwear version. And this new waxed-cotton down vest from Archival Clothing is exactly that. Here’s what else you need to know about it.
The Story: The nostalgic outdoorsmen at Archival Clothing got together with Seattle’s coziness experts at Crescent Down Works to insulate this waxed-cotton vest—even the pockets are stuffed with down to keep your hands extra warm—and Centralia Knitting Mills for the worsted-wool rib collar.
Who to Channel: Steve McQueen dirt-biking on a crisp fall morning; Sidney Poitier in Shoot To Kill; Marty McFly; not the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
When to Wear It: Chopping firewood, on morning commutes that might require reaching for a subway straphanger or on trips back to the future.
Degree of Difficulty: Medium. If you’re feeling adventurous, layer it over a jean jacket—or, if you’re at Pitti Uomo, over your suit jacket—otherwise, throw it over a thick flannel shirt or sweater.
The not-so-puffy down vest seems to be having a moment. (The weather could possibly have something to do with that.)
And just in time for any autumnal escapades, the newest arrival of Whillas & Gunn outerwear has landed at Smith + Butler with the Kingsford Smith Vest ready for action. It runs the gamut from outerwear (with its diamond-quilted waxed cotton) to waistcoat-ish (with adjustable side-pulls). And a knitted shawl collar that’s more useful than the typical floppy fabrics of most vests.
The Armory Show started up this week, with hundreds of galleries piling into two piers on Manhattan’s western edge. It’s the closest you’ll find to a pop-up MoMA—and more importantly, it has nearly every variety of gentlemanly style you could want, from British Museum trads and disheveled artists to the Harajuku avant-garde. (Also, every conceivable hairstyle.) We stopped by yesterday with camera in hand to document the splendor. Check it out below.
The trade show/blogger convention known as Capsule has come and gone, and apart from a few stand-outs (which you’ll be hearing about in the weeks to come), it was a blur of handsomeness: plaid after plaid, camo after camo, and more good ideas than we’ve ever seen in one place.
So we thought we’d pass on the menswear headrush in the best way we know how—lots and lots of photos.