We hold some truths to be self-evident. Among them: There are certain items that every man, from punk rocker to real-estate agent, requires in order to successfully and stylishly face the season at hand. “Essentials,” one might call them. Facing the prospect of springtime, as we currently are, one of those essentials is undoubtedly a well-fitting, impeccably detailed, office-to-evening navy blazer.
Keep reading to see what puts a Ted Baker blazer a cut above many of its contemporaries.
While we’re still teetering in the fog between fall and winter, a sturdy sportcoat can do double-duty as your 9-to-5 workhorse, as well as your top layer to and from the office—just flip the collar up and throw on a scarf and/or knit cap when you leave the building. Here are a few editor’s picks that will see you through ’til parka season:
1. Thrill of the Hunt. Peak lapels and a coat-like, full-button front set this sportcoat apart from the pack, while a timeless windowpane plaid grounds it firmly in menswear tradition. Shop:Rag & Bone ‘St. Regis’ Sportcoat
2. Mid-Century Modern. If you read your GQs, you’re well-acquainted with the rise of “geezer style.” Here’s a nubby plaid your dad’s dad might have worn—in a trim fit that’s ready for 2014. Shop:Vince Wool-Blend Blazer
3. Mixed Media. A literal remix of tailoring traditions, this patchwork of pinstripes and plaids is more than the sum of its parts. Wearing it is easy—just pair with simple solids. Shop: Junya Watanabe Patchwork Blazer
Last week, Men’s Shop Daily had the distinct pleasure of catching up with Marcus Wainwright (left) and David Neville, co-founders of Rag & Bone, at their in-store appearance at Nordstrom Bellevue Square, near our Seattle headquarters.
Below, the two British designers—who met in boarding school in England, before starting Rag & Bone more than ten years ago in New York—discuss their fashion baptism in rural Kentucky, smashing guitars, and style advice that every man should swear by.
MEN’S SHOP DAILY: Welcome to Seattle. Have you been out here before?
DAVID NEVILLE OF RAG & BONE: “We’ve been a few times, but only ever to see the people at Nordstrom. It’s worth the trip. It’s an amazing company.”
MSD: That’s great to hear—what makes you say that?
NEVILLE: “I think that when you look at the history, and the legacy of how it was started, and what it is now…I’ve actually read [Bruce Nordstrom's] book, Leave It Better than You Found It. The fact that it’s still run by the family, and the approach to customer service, and differentiating themselves as a store…The success that’s bred is kind of amazing. It’s 130 stores in America. I should be like a spokesperson.” [Laughs.]
MSD: You’ve noted the photography of August Sander as an inspiration for your Fall ’13 men’s collection. What drew you to his work, and are there any favorite photographs that stick in your minds?
MARCUS WAINWRIGHT OF RAG & BONE: “I’ve got a lot of his photography. I like photography—I collect [it] and like taking pictures myself. Part of it is just the subject matter—apart from the photographs themselves, the clothes are really cool, and very relevant to Rag & Bone. We do a lot of workwear, we do a lot of tailoring, and the August Sander pictures capture a lot of people working—and he captures them in a period where people were working in suits. If you look at the early pictures of rag-and-bone men, after the Second World War, they’re working day-to-day in tailored clothing. There’s no T-shirts, there’s no just shirt-and-jeans. And there’s a sort of beauty in that handmade clothing that’s been disheveled and rumpled and rained on and worked in.
“So the subject matter of the pictures is amazing. There’s a German aspect to it, which is pretty cool—it’s quite sort of different from the English stuff; it’s less sort of ‘dandy.’ There’s an amazing picture of a baker…and one in particular of a guy in a street in the most beautiful coat, which we made a sort of version of, which closed the show. It’s just great photography.”
MSD: Does Michael Pitt [the actor in Rag & Bone's fall campaign] have the best hair in Hollywood?
NEVILLE: “We were actually a little bit worried about his hair in a couple of the pictures—it just looks a little bit too sort of retro, kind of Johnny Cash, which wasn’t really the reference, you know. But he’s a cool dude.”
WAINWRIGHT: “He does have good hair.”
NEVILLE: “We had fun. He was awesome. He came to the shoot really sort of enthused, and there’s an amazing moment where he smashes his guitar in the middle of 6th Avenue. That was his idea, and it was fairly impromptu—it wasn’t staged or anything. It was cool content to just be able to create.”
[Seattle band Campfire OK played a killer set at our in-store
event—decked out in Rag & Bone, of course.]
MSD: When the two of you first decided to start a clothing company, you visited a legendary denim factory in Kentucky. What was that experience like, and what did you learn there?
WAINWRIGHT: “It was the birth of Rag & Bone in many ways. It was a very old denim factory in Tompkinsville, Kentucky. It had been a massive factory at one point, but everything had shifted—been bought or invested in by a Mexican company, and a lot of denim [production] had moved to Mexico. So it basically shut down most of it, and it was just sort of 60 people, as a sample room for the Mexican production—but it was the best sewers and pant-makers that they had.
“It was an amazing place with 50 years of knowledge about how to make proper jeans. It was an incredible place to go to, when you had no experience in fashion at all, and never really been to a factory to speak of, and you were sort of baptized into the fashion and sewing world by these women who were in their 60s, sewing jeans all day, proper salt-of-the-earth ladies from Kentucky—in a dry county, so there’s no booze. It’s rural Kentucky, and they take great pride in their work, and they’re just lovely people. They taught us the meaning of quality and authenticity and the value of that history of craftsmanship—and the value of that experience, and how easy it is for that to disappear.
“They were the last of 3,000. They shut down within two or three years of us working with them. The ladies who’d been sewing their whole lives went to work in the local outboard motor factory, or Walmart, or waiting tables. Never to sew again. The American-invented and American-owned skill of sewing jeans just disappeared from that factory forever, and it’s happened across this country. And that’s sad. So I think our company has a lot to thank that experience—to thank them—for what they taught us about the importance of maintaining that, and not just shipping everything to a factory that’s chosen based purely on price.”
MSD: If you could give male readers one style tip for Fall 2013, what would it be?
NEVILLE: “Don’t try too hard. Do what feels right; what you feel comfortable in. Menswear should never really feel like you’re trying to make a fashion statement. I think that can go desperately wrong. You should just be wearing what you feel comfortable in—and what your wife tells you you should be wearing is maybe a good tip.” [Laughs.]
WAINWRIGHT: “Guys should take pride in their appearance. I think when guys go wrong it’s when they try too hard or they don’t try hard enough. And you get a guy who just doesn’t think about it, and buys a pair of ill-fitting, cheap jeans and a cheap shirt. There’s a lot of inherent beauty in clothes, and clothes can make you feel great, and I think clothes are worth investing in. It’s worth buying the perfect leather jacket, for example, because it’s something that will be with you forever. It may seem like a lot of money, but it’s worth it, and it makes you feel good. And I think it’s important that you take pride in your appearance.”
MSD: What’s changed, since you founded Rag & Bone in 2002, in your approach to designing menswear?
WAINWRIGHT: “Not a lot. Menswear doesn’t change much anyway. We’ve been through periods of being more or less adventurous with men’s design, and we learned a lesson as men’s designers, quite quickly, that if you go too far out of the box, guys don’t get it. Girls are way braver—and way more willing to take a risk. You couldn’t get a guy into a white, leopard-print jacket, for example. But that looks cool on you [nodding to our female video producer in the room]. You’ve got to reference things that a guy is familiar with, whether he’s conscious of it, or subconsciously, something he’s seen in a movie, or seen his dad wear, or seen in photographs. That’s what menswear is really about: beautiful fabric, and detail, and making clothes that guys are familiar with—but at the same time, pushing it gently forward in terms of design, and the fashion part of it.”
MSD: After growing up in England, you’ve both lived and worked in New York for more than ten years. What do you appreciate about each place you’ve called home?
NEVILLE: “New York City is an amazing place. The energy of the city is intoxicating, and it’s very different to London in that regard. We thank New York for really giving us the platform to start our company—not just from a practical standpoint, but also from an entrepreneurial sort of enthusiasm, which I don’t think you find in many places in the world. We’ve been in New York a long time, and we feel sort of like adopted New Yorkers now, so that’s great. We miss London, miss our friends, miss the pubs…but I think both of us are very happy where we are, and don’t really have any intention of moving back.”
MSD: Do you visit London often?
NEVILLE: “We have a store in London now, which is exciting—and I think made our parents quite proud.”
— — —
In Their Own Words. Here’s a short clip of Rag & Bone founders Marcus Wainwright and David Neville, filmed before their personal appearance at Bellevue Square Nordstrom last week:
Inspired by our new Summer Suiting Guide, we decided to apply our five favorite looks to real-life situations. You know, the important ones—when T-shirts and shorts simply won’t cut it. Here’s how to look your best this summer, when the stakes are as high as the temperature.
1. SUMMER IN THE CITY. We were about to suggest this kit for the warm-weather “morale-booster” benevolent bosses often pencil in around now—but seriously, this is what most of us should wear to work all summer long. Lightweight blazer + clean-cut jeans + a pop of color = business casual done right.
Beverage of Choice: Local microbrews, if your workplace knows how to plan a party. Otherwise: Sparkling cider it is.
Pro Tip: See that buttonhole on your jacket lapel? It does in fact serve a purpose. Drop in a lapel pin for extra style points.
2. BRUNCH DATE. Breakfast in baggy sweats is for amateurs. Play your cards right—with a shirt that buttons, shoes that aren’t sneakers, and a “third piece” (i.e., a vest, blazer or cardigan) to tie it all together—and that special someone you’re meeting for breakfast might stick around for dinner, too.
Beverage of Choice: Bloody Mary—or black coffee, depending on how the previous night unfolded.
Pro Tip: Skip the tie if you so choose…Unless your brunch date is your mom on Mother’s Day, in which case it’s a nice touch.
3. YACHT CLUB. The blazer-with-shorts look is everywhere as of late—but we can’t think of a scenario it’s more befitting than a classy affair on the water. Don’t own a boat (or have a friend or father-in-law who does)? The same rig would be spot-on for a dinner date at a high-end seafood spot.
4. KENTUCKY DERBY. “The fastest two minutes in sports” is this Saturday. Whether you’re Louisville-bound, or just looking for an excuse to sip whisky on your friend’s party-ready patio—be sure to channel your inner Southern gent with dandified finishing touches and flashes of go-to-hell color.
5. OUTDOOR WEDDING. The last thing summer-wedding attire should be is stuffy, so ditch dark colors in favor of lightweight seersucker (shown) or cotton khaki. The punchy red tie above could prove a bit much; opt for a bow tie in subtler hues if you prefer not to upstage the man of the hour.
Beverage of Choice: Champagne, if you’re wooing bridesmaids. The champagne of beers, if you’re chilling with the groomsmen.
Pro Tip: Beach wedding? Skip the shoes but keep the suit. Just because the groom’s uncle is wearing a Hawaiian shirt, doesn’t make it right.
Near the top of said list is a Bold Blazer. The only rule: It should be seasonally lightweight, to keep you looking sharp without breaking a sweat. From there, how you define ‘bold’ is up to you. Check out a few favorites below, ranging from a little bold to a lot. [Shown above, L-R: Jil Sander | Hugo Boss]
1. A New Shade of Blue. Navy is classic any time of year—but we’re seeing lots of options for subtly exploring the frosty end of the spectrum: from rich royal blue, to dusty powder blue, to vivid cyan.
Shown, L-R: John W. Nordstrom | Hugo Boss linen/wool | Hugo Boss cotton
2. Notice a Pattern. Loud, madras-plaid jackets of the ‘go-to-hell’ variety (above center) have been a preppy staple for decades. Calm the concept down with a tone-on-tone plaid (left), or take it a step further with unconventional geometry (like the hexagon print at right).
Shown, L-R: Hugo Boss | John W. Nordstrom | Jil Sander
3. Put It in Neutral. Bold doesn’t have to mean bright. Confident touches like (from left) trim peak lapels, brightened-up tints, and subtle texture can make even go-to neutrals feel new for spring.
Shown, L-R: Dolce&Gabbana | Hugo Boss | Armani Collezioni
4. High Voltage. If you’re all-in with this whole ‘spring’ thing, bold blazers are materializing in electrified neons from a variety of brands—including our own John W. Nordstrom label (center).
Shown, L-R: Dsquared2 | John W. Nordstrom | Jil Sander
If the forecast here in Seattle is any indication, it’s high time to pull that parka, trench or topcoat out from the back of your closet. As important as your outer layer is, once you walk into the office, it’s what’s underneath that really counts. Here are a few of our favorite sportcoats this season (also pictured above), in warm, wintery fabrics and patterns:
Our new lineup of GQ Selects goes live today. First up, a festive blazer gets new legs outside the holiday party circuit. In fact, as GQ Creative Director Jim Moore suggests below, you can even throw it on over your most casual staples, for a day spent shopping for gifts or an eggnog-soaked night on the town.
Gant Rugger Tartan Plaid Blazer. “As Frank Ocean proves in our December issue, a sportcoat is essential to every guy’s wardrobe, young or old. This one from Gant Rugger reimagines the stodgy tartan plaid with a tailored blazer that looks stellar over a hoodie (as shown on Ocean), or just about any combo in your closet that isn’t a shirt and tie.” —Jim Moore, GQ Creative Director (shop this item)
(shop the trends: proud plaid | red)
Band of Outsiders Slim-Fit Classic Chinos. “Scott Sternberg’s genius is to take familiar items of American sportswear and reissue them in fresh ways. These chinos nod to the garment’s military and prep ancestry while offering a distinctly modern cut.” —Jim Moore, GQ Creative Director (shop this item)
We mentioned it the other day: Our Seattle offices are rife with well-dressed gents. The photos here capture our Men’s Tailored Clothing buying team, looking even sharper than usual, thanks to the most dapper accessory known to man: a moustache.
In support of Movember, an annual, month-long movement to raise funds and awareness for men’s health, these hirsute heroes (along with millions more, worldwide) have embraced the challenge of leaving their upper lips unshorn ’til December. Support their brave efforts by making a donation at their team page, learn more at the official Movember website, stay tuned to Men’s Shop Daily for a status update on their ‘staches later this month…And dress like a Nordstrom Men’s Buyer using the links below.
Here’s an downtown-outdoorsman take on the layering technique that GQ advocates in this month’s issue. With fall layers that fit this well, you can pile them on and stay warm without your winter coat for a few more weeks.
Todd Snyder Herringbone Sportcoat. “A wool herringbone sportcoat is a tried-and-true fall staple, but what separates Snyder’s from the others is that the designer removed the lining, eliminating extraneous bulk for a clean fit. What remains is a smart option for these crisp autumn days, and a handsome sportcoat once the temperature really dips.” —Jim Moore, GQ Creative Director (shop this item)
Todd Snyder Sweater Vest. “The sweater vest is something guys usually think of as nerdy, but several designers are reinventing this geek-style icon into a cool layering piece for fall. One of our favorites comes from Todd Snyder, who crafted his with a two-tone Fair Isle pattern in a trim fit that’s a home run under any tweed suit or jacket.” —Jim Moore, GQ Creative Director (shop this item)
Victorinox Swiss Army® ‘Original’ Chronograph Watch. “We’re really loving the pilot-style watches that are updates to classic chronographs. Victorinox, a company that knows a thing or two about handsome military-inspired timepieces, has created one that retains the trappings of the original, like a stainless-steel case and nylon strap, but renders it in of-the-moment shades of grey. It manages to be both elegant and tough, which means it will work as well with a classic wool suit as it would a hoodie.” —Jim Moore, GQ Creative Director (shop this item)
This week, we have exclusive photos our NPG friends shot while attending Milano Unica—an international textile fair in Italy where Europe’s most venerated mills convene to show their wares—and Ideabiella, an invite-only show-within-the-show, reserved for the cream of the fine-fabric crop.
Check out the pics below (courtesy of Erica in NPG)—and shop some Nordstrom-exclusive favorites, featuring fine European fabrics, at the bottom of this post.
Visiting Loro Piana—renowned for fine cashmere for six generations.
Reviewing our JWN tech packs, with lining colors and construction notes.
Ryan, NPG Men’s Clothing Design Director, hard at work.