Thick Flannel Shirts

Over the weekend, Jesse listed this Spring’s Seven “Must Have Or You’ll Die” Essentials. Do you know why? Because he lives in Los Angeles, and in Southern California, the four seasons are: spring, summer, summer with slightly chillier nights (but not by much), and spring with slightly chillier nights (but again, not by much). Dear readers: know that I - as your correspondent in the Bay Area - understand that we’re still solidly in winter. Here in the Bay, it’s still cold enough to need chunky sweaters, heavy coats, and the occasional pair of gloves. 

It’s also useful to have a few thick flannel shirts around. I’ve been wearing mine every once in a while with jeans and a leather jacket, and prefer ones made from heavy, coarse fabrics. My favorite sources so far include:

  • John Lofgren: A highly underrated and underappreciated workwear label. Really nice, thick fabrics made into shirts with slightly short, vintage-y cuts. Available at John Lofgren’s site directly, but also Self Edge and Bench & Loom (although the last two don’t have woven shirts right now).
  • Flat Head: A Japanese workwear label that draws a lot of inspiration from American motorcycle and hot rod subcultures. They have two lines of shirts – the mainline, which is slim and shorter fitting, and Glory Park, which is just a touch bigger. Of all my flannels, these are easily my favorite, but they’re expensive. If you don’t mind the price, they’re available at Self Edge and Rivet & Hide.
  • Five Brother: A genuine workwear label that recently started making slim fitting shirts for the fashion crowd. These are made from vividly colored fabrics with coarse weaves and a dry hand. Of all the companies on this list, Five Brother probably offers the best price to value ratio. You can find them now at Bench & Loom, but in the past, Context and Hickoree’s has also carried them (they will again this fall).
  • Nigel Cabourn: Always a favorite, but his prices are stratospherically high. If it matters, his flannel shirts are sometimes reversible, although the other side of the one I bought is perhaps too “fuzzy” to realistically use. Still, he has some nice subtle detailing that the other brands don’t offer (unique pocket designs, smoke mother-of-pearl buttons, and extra, extra thick fabrics). Available at Nigel Cabourn’s own website or any of his stockists. If you’re not able to afford those retail prices, you’ll have to trawl Yoox and eBay like me.
  • RRL: Ralph Lauren’s ranch inspired sub-label. The fabrics on RRL shirts really run the gamut, but in general, they’re typically a bit flimsier than the aforementioned brands (at least when it comes to fall/ winter shirts). On the upside, they can often be found on deep discount (I bought mine for about $75). These are available at Ralph Lauren’s website, and certain niche stockists such as Unionmade and Frans Boone.

The best part about wearing thick flannel shirts? With designers such as Daiki Suzuki and Heidi Slimane incorporating them into last year’s looks, you can simultaneously feel very “aritansal heritage workwear” and “high fashion au courant.” Plus, Rick Owens wears them! The dream of the 90s is alive in menswear. At least until spring comes for the rest of us. 

LP: Managed to get this Carhartt Jacket from the new Heritage line for this season. They’re not distributing anymore until later this year so if you’re thinking about getting one from the shops do it before they sell out. It’s nice to have the classic Carhartt jacket design in a lighter material ready for spring/summer. Especially in this camo print. No doubt I’ll get some more photos of it soon.


UNIONMADE Harris Tweed Collection

A beautiful lookbook from the team at Unionmade. Snatching a whole heap of Harris Tweed, shipping it from Scotland to be reformed in the USA, the San Francisco store brings in some well known names for this collection. Down jackets, overshirts, totes, blazers, handkerchiefs, ties and vests from the likes of Crescent Down Works, Gitman Vintage, The Hill-side, Golden Bear, Filson and Todd Snyder. 


The Transitional Field Jacket

Now that the weather has warmed up a little, it’s time to put away the heavy coats and break out the transitional jackets – things that are light enough to be worn in the mid-afternoon, but can also be used at night to keep out the chill. One of my favorite options around this time of year is the field jacket. You can wear one with a pair of beat-up jeans, a white t-shirt, and an open flannel for a layered look. For something slightly dressier, try a nice sweater, a pair of micro-cords, and some brown derbies. 

As usual, to find something affordable, you’ll want to search the second-hand market. Etsy is full of vintage options, which you can find by using the search terms M-43, M-51, and M-65 (Pete wrote a great guide on the different models here). You can also browse eBay for names such as APC, Engineered Garments, and Ralph Lauren. They’ve done lots of designer versions in the past. 

For something readily available, consider::

  • Urban Renewal ($50): This in-house Urban Outfitters line is the company’s attempt to up their cool by selling actual vintage items (rather than items that are just made to look vintage). At the moment, they have a couple of military jackets that start at a reasonable $50. You can find vintage Rothcos online for about the same price. 
  • Alpha Industries ($94+): The main producer of the original M-65s. They have regular and slim-fit versions, but even on the slim fit, you’ll want to size down. Remember: these were originally cut to fit over military uniforms.
  • Gap ($98): Another refreshingly affordable option. Some reviewers complain about the cheap zippers, but field jackets look better worn open anyway. 
  • Peter Manning ($178): This company specializes in outfitting shorter men (specifically those under 5′8”). Their field jacket draws more from hunting designs, rather than the military, but the olive version is close enough. Take 20% off your first order by signing up for their email list. 
  • J. Crew ($188): Arguably the best among affordable models, J. Crew has two versions called the Field Mechanic Jacket and Garrison Fatigue. Just don’t pay full price. Almost everything at J. Crew gets discounted by 25-40% at some point. 
  • Fjällräven ($259): Fjällräven’s field jacket is named The Räven, which makes us wonder – how many Fjällräven Rävens would a Fjällräven räven if a Fjällräven Räven could fjäll rävens?
  • Apolis ($288): A lightweight, washed linen option for better breathability. 
  • The Real McCoys ($300+): Japanese repros on the American originals. These pieces start off nice, but really come into their own over time
  • Niche ($335): A Japanese label founded by a former designer at Nepenthes (the umbrella company to Engineered Garments, Needles, and South2 West8). The jacket comes in olive and navy, and you can take 10% off the listed price with the checkout code SF10. 
  • Aspesi ($400+): An Italian specialist in fashionable, civilian versions of military-styled outerwear. With tons of options every season, it’s hard not to find something you’ll like (my jacket, pictured in the first photo above, is from Aspesi). Also available on discount at Yoox
  • Barbour ($429): An army-styled jacket made from Barbour’s famous waxed cotton fabric. The waxed shell and stowaway hood makes this a great option for rainy days. 
  • Engineered Garments ($475): The price of this jacket is a lot easier to swallow when you think of it in terms of cost-per-pocket. Lower still if you think of it in terms of cost-per-pocket-wear. (Life hack: keep taking this jacket on and off throughout the day, and your price-per-pocket-wear will rapidly approach zero).
  • Beams+ ($530): A patchwork jacket that combines American military design with Japanese wabi-sabi. For something similar, check out Needles Rebuild and White Mountaineering.
  • Ten C ($848): Military-styled jackets made from unique, technical fabrics. This line feels really innovative, but also wearable, which makes sense given that the designers came from Stone Island and CP Company. 
  • Visvim ($1,110+): A Japanese label with lots of vintage Americana and Native American influences. You can find them at End, Mr. Porter, and Union, but they’re a bit more affordable if you buy direct from Japan. The downside? It’s harder to make returns once you realize you’re not going to look like Hiroki Nakamura

Donegal Sweaters

We’re on the cusp of sweater weather, and this fall, I’m most looking forward to wearing this grey “Donegal” knit from Inis Meain. I put Donegal in quotes because the sweater wasn’t actually made in Donegal, but rather, it’s reminiscent of the hallmark tweeds that come of that region. Those tweeds have flecks of color, which are allowed to glob onto the yarns in irregular ways. You learn about it in this wonderful video Jesse put together on Molloy & Sons, one of the region’s best mills.  

The nice thing about speckled sweaters is that you can wear them on their own with an oxford cloth shirt or a brushed flannel. I like hardier shirtings in this case because they have a visual weight that feels a bit more at home with such rugged looking knits. By itself, the flecks make the sweater a little more interesting than the smooth, plain-colored merinos you see everywhere else. At the same time, the pattern is also easy to pair with any kind of outerwear. 

This season, it seems everyone is selling a Donegal knit. Here are some you may want to consider, from most to least expensive. 

Over $300

Over $200

  • East Harbour Surplus ($265): A Japanese brand with Italian-made, American-inspired designs. These vintage-y looking cardigans fit really slim, so be sure to size up. 
  • O'Connell’s ($225): My favorite source for Shetlands. Well made stuff that stands up to abuse. Plus, O'Connell’s has a great pedigree that’s hard to beat. 
  • Oliver Spencer ($225): A slightly more interesting look piece. Pair this with more modern looking coats and jackets, and perhaps a slim pair of charcoal trousers.  
  • Epaulet (~$220): A popular brand among menswear enthusiasts. They just released some cabled Donegal sweaters with shawl collars and mocknecks. 
  • Alex Mill ($207): A new label headed by the son of J. Crew’s CEO, Mickey Drexler. Designs tend to be basic, but easy to incorporate into any wardrobe. This black Donegal sweater has a sort of chic look to it. 

Over $100

Under $100