Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Layering for Sweater Weather

Depending on where you live in the lower 48 (or perhaps most of the year in the 49th), chilly weather can mean anything from a t-shirt with a light sweater to a down jacket on top of multiple layers. In the southeast, where the winter climate tends to be schizophrenic and can shift from a comfortable 61 degrees to a freezing 30 degrees in less than a week, it is important to know your layering options to prepare for the worst. Here are a few examples for your inspiration.

*For additional warmth, add a base layer such as a V-Neck undershirt (which hides from view) or a Thermal.

Two Layers:

OCBD under a Long Sleeve Polo
This is an easy look for a brisk day. It's also rather rare and very trad, a throwback to the layering exploration of the 1980s. But unlike our preppy forebearers, you should never pop the polo collar. Ever. Same with an OCBD under a short sleeve polo, or a long sleeve polo under an OCBD. It just won't look as good as in the picture above. I like wearing a tattersall underneath to finish this casual sporty look.

OCBD under a Long Sleeve Rugby
I played rugby in my freshman year. And by "play", I mean attended a practice. And by "attend", I mean tossed a ball a few times before realizing my skinny 150lb frame (at the time) would get crushed. But it's a fun sport to watch and I'll throw on a Rugby jersey and wear it as a light sweater during my Weekend Warrior moments. Authenticity is extremely important to me, so I would rather wear a jersey from Canterbury of New Zealand than from RL Rugby, even if this rugby shirt is from Canterbury's fashion line. Minor detail but underneath is a university red stripe which goes with the collegiate texture of the sport.

T-Shirt under a Shawl Cardigan
Big fan of the shawl cardigan sweater. It screams luxury, especially this white cable knit. Can be worn dressed up for a formal day or dressed down for a sleepy afternoon. To casual-fy the outfit, I'd wear a neutral crew t-shirt such as this heather gray Hanes shirt. Pair the combo with a nice sport watch, slim chinos, and loafers the next time you sail down Venice.

OCBD under a Shetland Crewneck Sweater
LL Bean is on God Tier in the prep hierarchy, and my recent pick up of this sky blue shetland and my experience attaining it confirms that for me. First off, the crewneck shetland is a staple tradly item. This one was an affordable $40 full price for the 2011 winter season, cheap enough to be sold out by the end of the year. I must've been a few days late, as the sweater was marked down to $30 but my size was gone and the popular sky blue had already sold out. So I emailed customer support and a nice woman wrote a personable message referring me to their retail location in Mansfield, MA where there was one last sweater in stock. I immediately called and ordered from another helpful sales associate. For added kicks, I was able to stack my $10 promotional card from my last Bean purchase to end up paying only $20 for the sweater. Free shipping included directly from the store. Rule #10 in action. Fun stuff.

I have a solid yellow RL OCBD underneath for a very early Easter palate.

*As of this post date, the shetland sweater is back on the LL Bean website for full price in limited colors, including the sky blue. The small and medium sizes are already sold out haha.

Ringer T-Shirt under a Shawl Sweater
I like ringer shirts as a base layer and have a few in my portfolio. The ringed neck acts as a visual cue to break up the plainess. Wear a ringer to casual-fy relatively formal clothing such as this shawl.

Ringer T-Shirt under a Tennis Cable Knit Sweater
Same as the lesson above, this ringer tee balances out the opulent sweater.

Short Sleeve Polo under a 1/4 Zip Sweater
Here I don't mind popping the sweater collar. Don't double pop the polo.

Long Sleeve Polo under a V-Neck Sweater
The button down shirt under a v-neck is easy, so for a different take you can use a polo instead. This polo and sweater are made out of light cotton which worked well for a mild late Autumn day. As seen before, I really liked this modernistic violet and sand color combo.

Gingham OCBD under a Collared Sweater
Similar to wearing a button down under a polo. I'd recommend an OCBD in these types of ensembles because it helps keep the collar up to balance the sweater collar laying down.

Three Layers:

OCBD under a Fair Isle Crewneck Sweater with Bomber Jacket
The jacket has a quilted lining which helps keep me toasty. Both the Bomber and Fair Isle were passed down from my Grandfather.

"The Rule of 3"
Let's say you go for a tie optional outfit for a formal occasion. A button down shirt and a jacket without the tie will always looks odd in non-casual settings (some would argue in all settings, but we'll save that for another time). So an appropriate response is to abide by the Rule of 3, where that third item unites the first two. Trip from A Trip Down South explains it very well. A light v-neck sweater adequately replaces a tie, as does a vest. A festive color like bright red or green can spruce your look up for a holiday party.

Four Layers:

By your fourth layer you are probably talking about an overcoat. The important rule pertaining to an overcoat is that it should always be longer than your sportcoat or blazer. Longer the coat the more formal. But keep it above the knees and leave the dragging Harry Potter cloaks in your dad's closet.

As usual, keep the blazer or suit jacket underneath buttoned when standing up. The overcoat can be worn both ways (I keep it buttoned outside, unbuttoned when inside).

This is a Brooks Brothers rain coat and is my only proper overcoat at the moment. I've worn it during a few chilly evenings but the removable quilted lining keeps it adequately warm, as does the rest of the layers.

Notice the sleeve length. Many overcoats tend to be too long and end half way past your hand. Ideally you want to be able to see the sum of layers at your wrist, meaning you may want to keep your overcoat sleeves a tad bit short.

Going along with that, all layered outfits should have the underneath layer peeking at the wrist (unless it is short sleeve). For multiple layers, pyramid each of the skins on top of each other, giving way to the one below it. The visual cues at the wrists help complete the layering look.

Lastly, I haven't focused on winter accessories but you should invest in beanies, scarves, gloves, etc. as needed. Wool and cashmere are safe bets with fabric depending on the occasion.

Monday, January 9, 2012


The fogey gentlemen across the pond gave us Yankees a lot to be thankful for in our style. Anything trad and its preppy offspring have very strong Anglo-Saxon roots. They gave us desert boots, trench coats, brougues, spread collars, Ralph's marketing (polo anyone?) and so on. You name it and the English were there first.

The imagery of the Country Gentleman is my favorite. Stallions grazing behind decades-aged logged fencing. Rolling misty hills with plumes of smoke bellowing out of the cabin. Fox hunting with Barbours, Wellingtons, vintage William Powell 12 gauges, and your trusty lab retriever. Once you've caught and eaten your game, host your mates with glasses of Scotch in your flannel-lined library and talk about Parliament. I dunno....maybe its better to watch than to read.

Since its best served on a frosty day, I associate the Country Gentleman with late Fall and Winter. Tattersall is a favorite cloth pattern for the British hunters, whom they refer it as Check pattern, and a natural cold weather brother to the warmer Gingham. Whereas Gingham conjures up picnic tables and straw hats, Tattersall suggests a rustic country feel. The namesake is based on Tattersall's, an auctioneer of race horses established in 1766 and based in London. Blankets with regularly spaced warp and weft stripes, usually in alternating colors, were placed on the horses to keep them warm and presentable. Tattersall, which may also be synonymous with Windowpane along with Check, is now widely used and enjoyed by all.

Trust the Brits for their original Tattersall shirts. The button-down collar is an American style, so many of the English brands will offer spread or point collars with only a minor selection of button-downs. I like the affordable Charles Tyrwhitt, ourdoorsy Barbour, and the classic Cordings. If you must buy 'Murrican, besides the usual like Brooks and Land's End, O'Connell's in-house brand makes a pricey but quality shirt. Vineyard Vines offers many variations of Tattersalls as well, if you can get over the fratty whale logo.

Two brands I highly recommend include Orvis, America's premier outdoorman's brand, which makes a fine Tattersall. Orvis has widely-spaced box designs with alternating colors that are distinctive and beautiful. You can see me wear my Orvis Tattersall in my most recent pictorial article. Here would be my two picks from the 2011 F/W season (which were sold out online by November).

The second is Viyella, which is named after the fabric blend first woven in England in the late 19th century and is known as the first branded fabric in the world. The fabric consists of 80% cotton and 20% wool, which helps keep you warm but breathable when you're duck hunting in the fields. So in essence, with its English roots and practicality, this is the Tattersall you should look for. Viyella branded shirts tend to be expensive and can be purchased at Orvis and the like, but I found mine (vintage, made in USA...why USA and not the UK? Because it was probably cheaper for outsourcing haha) on eBay for $15. Viyella has had a storied history and is now owned by upmarket English retailer Austin Reed.

Whether it be from Viyella, Orvis, or Target, I recommend a Tattersall in a golden tan or yellow swatch with alternating earthy tones like burgundy, orange, and green. Imagine all of the clothing combos you can pair with the subtle lines. These Autumn colors go perfectly with the country side or an outdoor sport. Wear it as a base layer under a crewneck shetland and topped with a quilt or hunting jacket and you are set to tend to the estate.

My current collection of Tattersalls.
From top to bottom:
Viyella alternating hunter green, dark blue, and burgundy on dark tan
Brooks Brothers Black Fleece mini navy check on white
Orvis large alternating sky blue, violet, green, and orange on tan
Brooks Brothers James tattersall pattern navy and sky blue on white
Brooks Brothers alternating light brown, dark brown, and blue on light tan
Ralph Lauren alternating windowpane yellow and blue on white
Brooks Brothers navy on white

Close up of the Viyella logo.

Since we're on the topic of winter fabrics, here are a few of my others. Personally I am not a huge fan of plaid, tartan, and flannel patterns because I instantly think of Al from Home Improvement. But don't let me prevent you from pulling out your inner Ted Bundy when you're chopping down firewood.
From top to bottom:
Brooks Brothers multi check
Gap plaid
Brooks Brothers black watch tartan (green is faint due to lighting)
Faconnable paintbrush (made in USA)

I also have a vintage Pendleton flannel passed down from my grandfather. Doesn't get worn very much but it's a nice memento to simpler times.