Fading Fast

Connoisseur
I found the following defense of approach appealing. It is by Simon Crompton, whose blog Permanent Style is one I find congenial, and supportive of the attitudes expressed by many in AAAC forums. Here it is:

https://www.permanentstyle.com/2020/12/what-brands-do-we-cover-and-why.html
Interesting. Thought this was well said:

There are no gimmicks. No jackets with a notch lapel on one side and a peak on the other. No exaggerated fits, with shoulder seams at your elbow or waistbands round the thighs. Even ‘heritage’ styles are treated with suspicion: gurkha trousers or spectator shoes must prove they can look modern, and not like costume.
My aim, and the aim of Permanent Style, is to look simply well-dressed. And so the brands we cover must be dressing a modern man. Not an eccentric or a menswear insider.

For what he appears to be trying to do, his arguments are sound and I applaud him. That said, I have no issue with many brands that would qualify as "cheap" (and in ways are) by his criteria as long as you understand what you are buying and why.

J.Crew, Old Navy, Uniqlo, Alex Mills and others put our some well-made-for-the-money updated classics that can serve several roles in one's wardrobe. If I'm running errands in bad weather, going to a dive bar, tossing a football around Central Park with friends or doing some light maintenance work outside, I prefer to have clothes that I worry less about, but are still pretty classic in style and well-made for the cost.

The funny thing is, I buy these clothes for the above reasons, but have found some of them to be outright enjoyable and well-made. I have some classic-in-style Old Navy sneakers that cost me around $15 (don't remember exactly) that I've worn for years and even have gotten compliments on. My J.Crew sport coats (some cost $100 on sale) have held up very well (I've own some for twenty years now) and have a pretty Trad look, but I'm comfortable tossing them in the overhead bin of an airplane or having then scrunched up on a crowded bar coatrack, for example.

Again, I agree with what the gentleman is doing and respect his approach for his blog, just noting that in my life, I don't want a wardrobe of only the brands that fit his criteria. I know clothes aren't to be babied, but I don't want to wear my Purple Label sport coat to a bar wear it might end up shoved into the corner of a booth (and then sat on by someone) or play a very casual game of touch football in $100+ Bills Khakis when $20+ Old Navy's will do fine and still look pretty good.
 

drpeter

Super Member
I fully agree with your statement, Faders. Your points are quite well made.

Not all of our clothes need to be bespoke or expensive or immaculately tailored. After all, one of the main ways in which I acquire quality clothing is through vintage and thrift shopping. I rarely buy brand new items any more, not least because I don't care for the styles and cut of many items of modern clothing. And in fact, Crompton, too, likes vintage items, and purchases them from time to time.

But quality, especially in terms of wearing well, is for me, quite important. Many of the brands you mention do produce good inexpensive items that wear well. It's possible to buy superb clothing at throwaway prices and my thrifting finds this summer are a good example of this principle. As for Bill's Khakis, most of the 50 plus pairs I own have been found through online sources, eBay, etc. I think I paid $150 for each of my first two pairs bought directly from their website back in the nineties. I don't think I have paid more than $50 for another pair of Bill's Khakis since then! Not even new ones with tags.

LOL, these days, a dressing gown and pajamas seem to be the articles of clothing I wear a lot! And of course, old nicely-worn khakis, soft OCBDs, comfortable Birkenstocks or loafers.

Lastly, your story about jackets in bars reminded me of an interview I watched some years ago with the late great actor Peter O'Toole. He lived something of a wild life, and he described having a beloved leather jacket that over the years became covered with every stain imaginable, including "blood, Guinness, scotch and Cornflakes". Well, he finally decided to send the jacket to the cleaners. They sent the jacket back with a note pinned to it: "It distresses us to return work which is not perfect". O'Toole said that that was exactly what he wanted on his tombstone. Marvellous, isn't it? The old boy told good stories.
 

katon

Super Member
I think location matters more than the author believes, but I can see the difficulty, as it collapses the number of choices down regardless of style.

Clothes are made by people, even our egalitarian off-the-rack Trad style, industrialized through the power of machinery. The difference is just that the unit of thought is the factory rather than the tailor.

When there is no thought given about location, about a particular tailor or a particular factory, clothes become more of an abstract, something you dream up and then contract out to the cloud. The unit of thought becomes the designer working alone in a "Field of Dreams" sort of way, and as the designers themselves are contracted out, all that is left is a set of marketing principles. I don't think classic clothes can be made like that. The author William Gibson called this the "Tommy Hilfiger event horizon". :)

That doesn't exclude any country, it just means using the factory as the unit of thought, not "Made in Imported".
 

drpeter

Super Member
Interesting observations, katon.

I think what Crompton meant was that location would not be a deal-breaker. This meant being open to locations other than the traditional Western countries that used to make suits, jackets, trousers, etc., before outsourcing and Asian manufacture. However, quality could still be monitored better. Crompton has written about One Hundred Hands, the Indian shirtmaker in the Punjab who provides high-quality shirts at prices that are below English or Italian tailoring establishments. It would still not be at the price level of mass-produced clothes, but a step in the right direction.

In another thread, I have also mentioned attempts by Peter Mahon, a Savile Row tailor, to train skilled and experienced Indian tailors in making clothes to his exacting specs. The cost of manufacture would be less than in England and the savings could be passed on to a customer who would have a high quality suit at a decent price.

Your idea of clothes becoming an abstract concept is intriguing. It made me think of teams of designers who work together in an atelier or workshop designing bodies for cars. I have watched programs that show the Italian auto body design houses (Pininfarina, for example, or Ghia or MV Agusta for motorcycles) employing designers from many locations (Italy, Japan, France) and assembling a team that works on a vehicle. In principle, a similar clothes design team could put together classic clothes in this fashion, provided one takes the definition of classic clothing away from rigid definitions and create new styles that have the potential for becoming classic.

If such designs can be made in large quantities then one could supply quality clothes to more people at reasonable prices. Meanwhile, there will always be shops like O'Connell's or J Press to cater to those attached to a frozen-in-time Trad style. Side note: The clothes that Crompton himself promotes are not Trad. They contain elements from various style genres, and he combines them in new ways in concert with his tailors. I find that an interesting approach, even though I may not choose those particular elements or combinations myself.

I think finding an optimal tradeoff point between cost on the one hand, and quality on the other is the key to this game. This is strictly personal and not extended to manufacturing at all, but my solution is to find vintage pieces in thrift shops. The range can be surprising. I just picked up two well-tailored sports jackets with a very unusual 90-degree gorge between lapel and collar, both carrying the label of a men's shop here in Wisconsin, from about forty years ago. At $9 each, it was not a high price to pay to see how I would like wearing them. I rather like them although from a strictly Trad perspective it would be appalling, LOL. Well, why not?
 
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