Since starting this website I’ve looked at countless hundreds of trad outfits. Some on regular guys posted on the web, some in catalogs and magazines, and some on gents I’ve met around the fair city of New York.
But one outfit has stood out above all the others, and though it’s been three years since I “saw” it — in my mind’s eye that is, which I’ll soon explain — I haven’t forgotten it, since it embodies what for me is a perfect approach to dressing.
The outfit is special because it’s composed not of garments captured by a camera, but of words. Specifically, these words:
Tonight was Nathaniel’s final shot at Diana, he reckoned, and to prepare for it he spent a good portion of his summer’s earnings on charcoal-gray tropical worsted trousers, a white crash linen jacket (whatever “crash” linen was meant to be), and a sporty blue canvas belt spruced up with sailboats and anchors. He asked one of the Griggses’ housekeepers to iron his best broadcloth shirt, and she gave him the business, laughed and asked who was the lucky lady? He waxed and buffed his Bass Weejuns. He chose a skinny bleeding madras tie (he knew what “bleeding” was, and would soon know better) …
The passage comes from Geoffrey’s Wolff’s novel “The Final Club,” which is set at Princeton in the late 1950s. I wrote about it here a few years ago, and now that summer is here, the above passage popped into my mind once again.
This outfit, which the character wears to a summer dance at the country club, represents everything I love about the Ivy League Look. The fixed parameters honor tradition, yet since style is primarily determined by each individual’s attitude, presence and charisma, there’s plenty of room for personal idiosyncracies within the genre.
I think the reason why this passage resonates so much with me is because outfit speaks to all the disparate elements of my personality with a great intermingling of harmony and contrast.
Nathaniel’s white “crash linen” jacket (obviously purchased at J. Press, which used the term “crash” linen for a linen and Dacron blend) provides a dandyish elegance. This is tempered by the understatement and correctness of his conventional (presumably buttondown) shirt and his charcoal tropical worsteds. His penny loafers provide a youthful, casual sportiness, the perfect counterpoint to the jacket’s elegance.
Two all-important accessories then provide festive dashes perfectly suited to the occasion of a country club dance: summery madras tie and whimsical belt.
And as long as you don’t work in law or finance, you might be able to get away with this formula even at the office. Yesterday I wore a seersucker jacket with charcoal tropical worsteds, white buttondown, navy club tie, Irish linen pocket square, penny loafers, and a blue rope belt from Kiel James Patrick.
So when you’ve got to get dressed for a big night this summer, try this recipe. Above is a white three-button, patch-pocket linen jacket from Ralph Lauren via Mr. Porter.
Blue pinpoint from Brooks Brothers:
Madras tie also from Brooks:
Nautical needlepoint belt from Smathers & Branson:
And the Kenwood model penny loafer from Allen Edmonds:
I can’t remember if Nathaniel gets the girl wearing this outfit, but I’m sure you will. — CC