o'connell's-clothing

February 21, 2016: From last Fall, an Andover Shop number in olive with pumpkin and rust pane, and an O'Connell’s bat-shaped silk print bow in rust with olive, blue, yellow, and black. Pocket square from Fine and Dandy in Hell’s Kitchen. Pale blue shirt, gray flannel trousers, and Alden tassels not shown.

5

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

3

Q & Answer: How to Wear Seersucker

David asks: I really want to wear a seersucker suit this spring, but I’m not sure how to pull it off. Any suggestions for how to make it look good?

Seersucker suits are an American classic, but you rarely see them around anymore. That’s partly because fewer and fewer men wear tailored clothes outside of work, so navy and dark grey suits remain, while casual suits are less common. It’s also because seersucker was originally established in the pre-air-conditioning era, when having something lightweight, cool-wearing, and easy-to-wash was as much about practicality as it was about style. 

These days, men are more likely to wear shorts and t-shirts when it’s hot, but you can still turn to seersucker for a sharper, more tailored look. Here are some suggestions, in descending order of preppy-ness: 

  • Go Unabashedly Prep: Believe it or not, seersucker suits were originally considered a poor-man’s alternative to linen. Sometime after the First World War, college men started to wear them, which is how they eventually became part of the preppy canon. If you go to things like garden parties, consider following Trent Lott’s style advice: pair a seersucker suit with pastel ties, white bucks, and cucumber sandwiches.
  • Go Bashfully Prep: A seersucker suit will always look preppy, but you can take some of the edge off by swapping pastel ties out for something darker, and trading white bucks for something less bright. Try a navy tie with dirty bucks or tan calf bluchers. Or tone the suit down further with a long-sleeved polo and casual loafers. 
  • Try Navy: If you can find one, a navy seersucker suit can be a nice alternative to the traditional blue and white. Here’s an exceptional double-breasted example on Savile Row tailor Michael Browne.
  • Break It Up: For an even more casual look, break the suit up into separates. You can wear a seersucker jacket with linen, cotton, or gabardine trousers in cream or tan (I like The Armoury’s Ring Jacket model for these purposes, since the jacket has patch pockets). Seersucker trousers can also be worn with a navy sport coat, as Voxsartoria has done here
  • Ease Into It: If you’re not yet ready for a seersucker jacket, consider a seersucker shirt. They can add some nice texture to a solid-colored sport coat. This season, you can find seersucker shirts from Brooks Brothers, Gitman Vintage, Aspesi, and Freeman’s Sporting Club. No Man Walks Alone also has some handsome short-sleeve options from Monitaly and Portuguese Flannel (although, those should be worn sans sport coat). For something custom, consider our sponsor Proper Cloth
  • For the Truly Timid: If all the above still scares you, try a seersucker tie. O’Connell’s has some traditional four-in-hands, J. Press has some bow ties, and A Suitable Wardrobe has seersucker striped ties without the crinkles. The last should be wearable even for the shyest of men.  

(photos via The Armoury, VoxsartoriaNeoRetro Style)

Pincord: This season’s most versatile suit.

You may be asking yourself how you’re going to get through the rest of the summer without sweating the small stuff. Or you might just be asking yourself how you’re going to make it through the rest of the summer without sweating period.

It is easy to see that for the gentlemen that prefers to be all buttoned-up the summer can be one of the most difficult seasons to navigate.

We found the answer in what we believe could be one of the most versatile fabrics for summer suiting: pincord. Now before you scoff at us and throw around words like seersucker and poplin, hear us out. The genius of a pincord suit is that by splitting up the garments (suit, sportcoat or as a trouser) it can carry you through a season of events and gathering.

But first, what is pincord? Just as it sounds pincord is part of the corduroy family, only with a much finer wale. Wale being the unit of measurement used for the width of the cord the lower the wale the wider the cord. A pincord will measure 16 or more wales, making it the finest cord you can get. Our pincord suit falls in over 25 wales making it one of the finest pincords available.

If all this talk of corduroy has you sweating, don’t worry, we aren’t referring to those thick heavy cords that you are used to wearing in the winter.

Stay with us as we explain how a pincord suit can work in three different ways, in different situations with varying degrees of formality.

AS A SUIT

Let’s start with taking care of that wedding invitation for August that’s stuck to your refrigerator door. While the fabric may feel a bit informal, it still is a suit, and with the right touches this can be the perfect option for the majority of your summer weddings. The key is adding garments that help elevate the look. We indulged our more decadent side by starting with a white Sea Island Cotton button down. We could (and maybe will) write a whole blog on Sea Island Cotton, but that’s for another time. Just know if this fabric was a car a Sea Island Cotton Shirt would be a Bugatti convertible. Breezy, Sporty, and made with intention. Since there is something innately Southern about a pincord suit we went with a bow tie instead of tie, bright green to keep things festive. A pair of limited edition Trafalgar “Take a Dip” braces to keep your trousers up on the dance floor and a white silk pocket square to keep things light and airy. Finally, we couldn’t think of a better time to break out your white bucks and dress white socks.

AS A SPORT COAT

Work

You’ll hardly ever hear us recommending wearing a suit coat as a sport coat. However, on a hot day when you’re headed to the office, breaking this rule and breaking up a pinpoint suit can save you from breaking a sweat. Our goal here was to find garments that matched the breathability of the suit. We went with O’Connell’s Loro Piana cotton twills in classic khaki. The smoothness of this cotton gabardine is almost unbelievable, woven from long staple Loro Piana cotton it is bound to bring a new dimension to the tried and true khaki. A pink pinpoint oxford cloth button down adds a bit of color but remains appropriate for corporate functions and a bicycle club tie for those that choose to brave the morning commute. We’ve seen a big increase in attention directed toward lighter tan colored shoes, because of this we went with a classic single monk-strap in walnut by Allen Edmonds that seems to work incredibly well with the walnut color.

PLAY

Summer is the season of dinners on the patio of your favorite restaurant, walks along the water, and garden parties. While it may be easy to focus on comfort instead of style when it is hot, we still like to think that if you are going out you should be put together. You won’t see us around town in t-shirts and jeans, we also like to think that restaurants still require you to wear a jacket. We know that last bit isn’t true, but it is a nice thought. Luckily with the right fabrics the idea of staying cool and the notion of remaining put together can live in perfect harmony. When you’re headed out a pincord coat will be what you turn to when you want to look refined but not over dressed. Throw it on top of a white pima-cotton polo and a pair of navy cotton gabardine trousers and it’s ready, set, and go. Keep your footwear classic with a burgundy penny loafer and cool with a Sea Island Cotton sock.

JUST THE PANTS

If you read our “restaurants should require jackets” comment above and thought “boy, are they old fashioned!” Let us clarify, we acknowledge that there are many occasions that don’t call for a jacket. Maybe you’re out for lunch, or strolling around town on an extra hot day. A navy polo and your pincord suit trousers will be the most casual option available to you. We added a bit of our own personal flare with a Smathers & Branson hand-done needlepoint belt, no surprise that our pick is a buffalo. Since a summertime adventure may lead to a long walk, a pair of Quoddy canoe shoes in cinnamon driftwood will keep your feet from feeling sore.

Now, we acknowledge that pincord could possibly be a new concept for some men. It’s not a suit that most will have in their arsenal, but we believe that there is a spot in every closet for a pincord suit. You may only turn to it on days where the heat becomes too much, or when you grow tired of the classic greys, navys and tans. However you choose to wear yours, we promise it will become a summer staple.

Follow us on instagram at Oconnellsclothing and Oconnellswomensfor more tips, tricks, and inspiration.

4

Expanding a Shirt Wardrobe in the Summertime

Luciano Barbera once said that while you can have too many clothes, you can never have too many shirts. “Shirts are quick to wash and easy to store. Plus, they look great. A man should own as many shirts as he wishes –- the more the better.”

I don’t know if I would go that far, but having more shirts does allow you to play around a bit with a tailored wardrobe. Solid and striped shirts in your basic colors (white and light blue) are great mainstays, but having a few causal options can let you get some versatility out of what you already own. For summer, I like the following:

  • Madras: A lightweight, plain weave cotton that’s known for it’s bright and bold plaids. By tradition, these used to be dyed with vegetable dyes that would bleed in the wash, which in turn would give the shirts a distinctive, blurred look. Today, madras is almost always colorfast (meaning they don’t bleed or fade), which is perhaps lamentable, but I find they still go excellently under cotton or linen sport coats, or even worn on their own with a pair of chinos and some plimsolls. You can find them at O’Connell’s, J. Press, Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren, and J. Crew.
  • Linen: I love the look of wrinkled linen, as it adds a casual, carefree touch to clothes that make them look more lived in. Plus, the plant fiber is just so lightweight and breathable, making it ideal on hot days. With the breeze blowing through, you’d hardly known you were wearing a shirt at all. You can find them at Brooks Brothers, J. Crew, and Ledbury. Our advertiser Proper Cloth also can make you something custom from their cotton/ linen blends – which will have the breathability of linen, but won’t wrinkle as much.
  • A dressy chambray: This one is admittedly hard to find. A long time ago, some guys at StyleForum became enamored with a distinctive chambray from the French weaver Simonnot Godard. It had the right mix of white and blue threads to make it a chambray, but was dressy enough to wear with tailored clothing (so not like the workwear chambrays you see everywhere else). At some point, it was found that the cloth has a small percentage of polyester in it, so traditionalists quickly abandoned their stock. I personally still love the fabric, and count it as one of my favorite shirtings. It’s unique without being loud, and something you can wear to the office or outside of it. Today, the closest you can find to those original Simonnot Godard chambrays is this shirt from Ledbury (which is 100% cotton). Otherwise, you can try searching around for various end-on-ends, which is a kind of weave that sometimes yields a vaguely similar look.
  • A washed chambray: More the workwear variety, and perhaps something that’s better in the fall with tweed jackets. In the summer though, I’ve found light blue chambrays to go excellently with casual clothes (leather jackets, chinos, and such). Just find something that’s light enough in color to look like a regular light blue shirt, but has a bit of ruggedness to it so that it’s casual. I like the ones from Chimala and RRL, although the prices are admittedly very dear. For something much more affordable, check out this shirt from Everlane

Layering Cold Weather Textures

Winter isn’t just a good time for layering – it’s also the best season for textures. In the spring and summer months, the most textured thing you can wear is maybe a slubby linen jacket or raw silk tie. Once the temperatures drop though, a whole world of prickly tweeds, fuzzy flannels, and brushed cottons opens up. Relying on textures can be a nice way to make a subtle statement if you’re not crazy about wearing brash colors and bold details. 

Lately, I’ve been wearing the combination above for an easy go-to casual outfit:

  • Waxed Cotton Jackets: Keeps the rain off your back and looks better with wear. Just be sure to store these in garment bags, as the wax can transfer to other clothes in your closet. For options, see Barbour, Beretta, Hoggs of Fife, LL Bean, and our advertiser Private White VC.
  • Aran Sweater: For a truly texture-heavy knit, try a cabled Aran. Hand-loomed or hand-knitted ones will have more visual depth, although machine-made ones will be more affordable. Find them at Aran Sweater Market, O’Maille, Peter Scott, O’Connell’sLL Bean, and Inis Meain.
  • Oxford-Cloth Button-Down: A more natural pairing with prickly Shetland sweaters and cabled Arans than your average, smoothly-woven poplin. Like Pete, I’m a fan of Brooks Brothers, J. Press, and Kamakura. Also excellent: Michael Spencer (same Brooks Brothers cut, but made with a nicer, unlined collar and produced in the USA); O’Connell’s (traditional cut, excellent collar), Mercer (amazing collar, but body fits full); Ledbury (for a slightly lowered second button); Proper Cloth (good for made-to-measure); and Land’s End (best in value, especially when on sale). 
  • Suede Boots: Pebble-grained leathers would also work here, although I favor the softer look of suede. Just spray your suede boots with a waterproofer in the wintertime to protect them from the elements. For relatively affordable options, see Meermin, Loake, and Rancourt. For something a bit higher-end, there’s Heschung, Carmina, Alden, and Vass. You can also custom-order almost any design you want through Enzo Bonafe. They’re a small, Italian workshop for custom, handwelted shoes. 
  • Textured Pants: With a texture-heavy ensemble like the above, you may want to opt for a heavier pair of pants – something with a bit more visual heft to hold its own against your sweater and jacket. Denim, moleskins, and corduroys will be a bit better than your standard pair of office chinos. See 3sixteen, Levis Vintage Clothing, Stevenson, and our advertiser Gustin for jeans; then Howard Yount, Epaulet, Dapper Classics, and Rota for anything dressier. 

(Pictured above: Barbour Bedale in olive; deadstock Glenshee Woollens Aran sweater from O’Connell’s; oxford-cloth button-down shirt from Ascot Chang; MTO Edward Green Galway boots from Skoaktiebolaget)

7

Srs BDness: Comparing Seven Button-Down Collars

StyleForum member BIllax has a nice comparison of seven different button-down collars. By seeing different shirts on the same person, wearing the same tie, you get a much better sense of how these collars look when worn. 

To the untrained eye, everything here will look the same – two flaps secured with mother-of-pearl buttons – but for trad enthusiasts, the subtle ways in which the collar rolls is everything. In order of appearance: Mercer (my favorite), The Knottery, J. Press, Brooks Brothers, Land’s End, O’Connell’s, and Kamakura. If you click on the photos, you’ll see the images are captioned. 

For more on button-downs, check the six-part series I wrote three years ago

Since we are closed tomorrow we are celebrating Flag Day today. How will you show your pride for your country and your flag tomorrow?

“When Freedom, from her mountain height,
Unfurled her standard to the air,
She tore the azure robe of night,
And set the stars of glory there;
She mingled with its gorgeous dyes
The milky baldric of the skies,
And striped its pure, celestial white
With streakings of the morning light;
Then, from his mansion in the sun,
She called her eagle bearer down,
And gave into his mighty hand,
The symbol of her chosen land.“

“The American Flag” - Joseph Rodman Drake

It brings us great displeasure to be the bearers of bad news however it’s time we remind those reading that soon we will be saying farewell to summer and greeting fall. The fading of the summer season brings with it a sense of melancholy, but not to worry, because this is balanced with the excitement for the seasonal transitions from poplins, linens and madras to wools, flannels and tweeds. If you haven’t made a trip to visit us in person yet our stacks of corduroys grow foolishly tall, a masterpiece of both textile and human engineering.

This has all of us at O’Connell’s thinking about how we can best ready ourselves for the fall. Sartorially this comes down to having the right garments at your disposal that work for the ending of summer as it blurs with the beginning of fall.

For some this may seem like a conversation that is coming too soon, but as the boy scouts say it’s always better to “be prepared.” We have put plenty of thought into this subject and have generated a list of garments that we believe will get the job done.

1: The Chukka Boot:
We won’t find ourselves presented with many more opportunities to set sail on the waters of Lake Erie as the weather cools. What you are more likely to find us doing is family in-tow navigating through the maze of apple orchards, pumpkin vines and sometimes mud that is September and October in Western New York. So the first thing we switch out are our boat shoes and sandals in favor of something a little sturdier. And when a shoe is not enough but a boot is too much we turn to the Chukka.

There are three distinct characteristics of a Chukka that make it our recommendation: It’s of ankle height, unlined, and has two or three eyelets. The first two make it a boot that your foot can breathe in the last gives it a lighter appearance.

Our Pick: Quoody’s Kennebec Chukka: Brown Chromexcel with a Vibram sole.
– Chomexcel is the original pull-up leather; a highly processed leather that has been in use for over a hundred years.

2: Wool Gabardine Trousers:
Something we’ve noticed over the past decades is that the world of textiles and fabrics is full of “buzz” words. Catchy names that are created in order to convince the customer that the garment they are holding deserves a place in their wardrobe. Long before haberdashers were using terms like “ultrasuede” and “acid washed” the original sport fabric was wool gabardine.

However as other fabrics have come and gone in fashion, and others we recommend avoiding completely, gabardine has become the “go to” for gentleman looking for a fabric that can be worn with abandon. Taking it’s name from the cloaks worn in the Middle Ages, gabardine is a tough tightly woven fabric, typically made from wool.

The first man to reach the South Pole wore gabardine on his voyage which leads us to believe that you’ll have no trouble on your morning commute. Good enough for Antarctica, good enough for the highway.

Our Pick: O’Connell’s Plain Front Wool Prunelle Gabardine Trousers in Medium Grey

3: Irish poplin neckwear:
If there was a neckwear fabric that signified the merging and changing of the seasons it would most certainly be Irish Poplin. Made notable by Lord Mayor of Dublin Richard Atkinson whose Irish Poplin was held in such high-esteem that in 1837 Queen Victoria granted Atkinson a Royal Warrant. A Royal Warrant meant that Atkinson could advertise that he supplied goods to the royal family.

What is Irish Poplin? Irish Poplin is a fabric that is created by weaving together silk and wool. More specifically for those fabric aficionados out there, a silk warp covering a wool weft. The silk acts to smooth out the heavy texture of the wool while the wool reduces the sheen of the silk creating a fabric that is neither here nor there. Suitable for all seasons but perfect for weather that is also neither here nor there.

Our Pick: Atkinson’s Irish Poplin Stripes.

4: A lightweight wool sport coat:
One benefit to the advent of colder weather is that we can begin to wear our favorite sport coats without overheating. Pair that with the fact that as we move from cotton to wool the textiles we wear become much richer and this becomes the item on our list that we are most jazzed up about. The two elements that you will want to pay close attention to are color and texture.

Color: We may or may not do it consciously but as the colors of the seasons change in nature so do the colors of the clothing that we wear. So look around and take your ques from the world around you. The bright greens and floral colors of our gardens will be replaced with the warm reds, yellows, and oranges of fall foliage alongside the browns of an earth preparing for hibernation. Opt for darker colors with rich notes.

Our Picks For Color: O’Connell’s Super 120’s Wool District Check

Texture: Along with colors the textures that we take ques from also change. Look for a lightweight wool fabric with a noticeable weave. Take note that tweeds are not your only option. There is a whole world of basket weaves, cheviot, and twill out there waiting for you.

Our Pick For Texture: H. Freeman Super 100’s Wool Hopsack in Navy

Bonus Pick: A great pair of slippers:

It goes without saying that comfort is key and that the weather we will be facing will try desperately to prevent our comfort. Sorry for the dramatics here, but we are writing from Buffalo, New York where winters are known to be long and cold. Since we are posted in a city that gives us some authority to speak on being cold, we know the first thing to get cold as the weather chills are our feet. Luckily this is an easy fix, a shearling lined slipper will prevent you from starting and ending your day with cold feet.

Our pick: Draper of Glastonbury Anton Slipper in Nut

Follow us on instagram at Oconnellsclothing and Oconnellswomens for more tips, tricks, and inspiration.

3

Hands-On with Brooks Brothers’ New OCBDs

Brooks Brothers announced last month that they’re now returning to their original oxford-cloth button-down collar design – taking out that floating interlining they’ve been stuffing into their collars since the 1990s and going back to their softer, unlined models. It might seem like a small detail, but for many enthusiasts, those lined collars have been a source of a lot of contention. While I agree with Pete and think the old models were still pretty great, unlined collars also have a special place in my heart. A bit more carefree and relaxed, they have a kind of roll that hasn’t been seen on a Brooks shirt in nearly two decades.  

Eager to check out the new styles, I ordered a few last week along with the older models for comparison. Here’s how they stack up. 

The Big Improvements

  • Collar: Definitely a huge improvement. Without that floating interlining, the new collars are now softer and more comfortable to wear. More importantly, they exhibit a nicer roll. Big plus.
  • Cuffs: The newly unlined cuffs are also more comfortable to wear, especially when rolled up. 
  • Buttons: A nice upgrade from the old plastic buttons to mother-of-pearl.

Smaller Details

  • Plackets: The front placket (which is that part of the shirt that holds the buttonholes) is now unlined. A nice touch, but not really noticeable when worn. Additionally, the sleeve plackets are a bit shorter, which I like.
  • Cuff Button: It could have been a manufacturing variance, but on my two samples, the sleeve buttons were placed a little closer to the top of the cuff. I actually prefer the old design, but it’s a small detail.
  • Hem: The hem now curves up higher on the side and is finished with a side gusset. It’s a nice stylistic touch, but again, pretty minor.

The Disappointments

  • Chest pocket: Older men will rejoice at Brooks removing the chest pocket, as that’s how they used to make their shirts prior to the 1960s. Personally, as a guy in his mid-30s, pocketless OCBDs just look wrong to me. Aren’t these supposed to be semi-casual?
  • Price: The price! Despite these being made with less material, the price has jumped from $95 to $140. And soon you won’t even be able to get the $95 versions anymore, as they’re being discontinued (although some are still floating around on their website). 

The Verdict?

The new Brooks OCBD is definitely a huge improvement, but I’m not sure the market is made better off with the price jump. The old shirts were a great option for men on tighter budgets, especially since they routinely went on sale for ~$50. Sure, Brooks still carries their more affordable Red Fleece model, but that has a stubby collar and doesn’t really work with neckties. The one ray of hope? If Brooks continues to include their OCBDs in their sales, they’ll be available for about $100. Not as cheap as before, but a bit less than $140.

Personally, I’ll still be supporting the smaller makers – partly because they’re family owned businesses, and partly because they feel more trad to me nowadays than Brooks itself. Three options to consider:

  • O’Connell’s: A small NY clothier with a fantastic selection of traditional American clothes: Shetland sweaters, bleeding madras shirts, and soft shouldered tweeds. Their OCBDs fit a bit more traditional, but in a good way.
  • Michael Spencer: Made-to-order OBCDs at the same price other makers charge for ready-to-wear. Spencer’s shirts fit similar to Brooks Brothers, but allow for more customization (get chest pockets!). Some of their fabrics are also heftier and heartier than Brooks’, which I prefer. 
  • Mercer & Sons: Mercer makes the best collars around, and since we wrote about them a few years ago, they now also offer a slightly slimmer fit. It takes a bit of fiddling around with options, but their shirts can now be slimmed down an additional four inches – making them just as trim as Brook Brothers’ regular slim fits.