The New Sobriety?

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In the Put This On article about the rise and fall of early 21st-century neo-prep, I was quoted saying that perhaps the next stage will be a rediscovering of the sober side of the trad-Ivy-preppy genre. After all, “all fashion ends in excess,” as the old adage goes, and once this stage has been reached it’s usually time to hit the reset button.

During the interview, the quote was given in the context of a particular brand, one largely off the Tradsville radar, but which we’ve mentioned here a couple of times.

The brand is Ralph Lauren-owned Club Monaco.

A month or two ago, as spring items were filling retailers, our Millennial Fogey suggested I take a fresh look at Club Monaco’s men’s flagship in the Flatiron district. I was surprised at what I saw there, and spent a long time with the store manager. It’s finally the right time to share my findings.

Club Monaco has significantly upped the number of its Ivy-inspired suits and sportcoats. A couple of seasons ago there may have just been a few models, but in the store I lost count at about a dozen. The jackets all had at least a couple of the following attributes: unpadded shoulder, hook vent, two-button cuff, 3/2 button stance, patch/flap pockets, and undarted chest. Several models had all of those details.

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Shaping of the jackets is provided via side darts below the armhole. But there are no chest darts on many of the models. They’re made in the USA, at the Southwick factory, as I recall. Many are priced at a reasonable $575, and are even more attainable when they go 30 percent off. The fabrics are typically in restrained shades of blue and gray.

If you’re a younger guy or on the short side, you might want to take a look at these.

As for sizing, by now it should be obvious that you should not judge cut and fit by a retailer’s marketing images. The size and length chosen for the models may not be the size you would choose for yourself. That said, in keeping with current fashion, the jackets are cut on the short side. Long sizes are available, but they would translate to a regular. And if you normally take a short, then you’d likely be fine with a regular.

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According to the manager, the number of offerings in these styles was increased for the simple fact that they have sold well. Maybe it’s the sign of a new kind of heyday. As recently discussed on our Facebook page, during the ’50s and ’60s, Ivy would have exerted a broader fashion influence without many wearers being aware of it. I’m not sure if the average customer of Club Monaco knows what tailoring style hook vents, 3/2 rolls and two-button cuffs are associated with. It’s also foolish, of course, to predict any kind of resurgent influence of 1960s sober Ivy. But regardless, I think what Club Monaco is doing is rather unique among mainstream fashion retailers. — CC

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28 Comments on "The New Sobriety?"

  1. The phrase “Polo Ralph Lauren-owned” is slightly off, or just out of date. They’ve done a corporate re-branding and it’s now just Ralph Lauren. The name Polo is now just one of their brands and no longer part of the name of the corporation as a whole.

  2. Christian | May 18, 2015 at 12:52 pm |

    There were other things to react to in the piece, but I appreciate your pointing out this error, which has been fixed.

  3. You know, it was a lot easier to resist when I didn’t know there were long sizes available.

  4. MythReindeer | May 18, 2015 at 1:08 pm |

    Perhaps being made by Southwick implies this sort of thing, but were you able to form an opinion on the quality of construction, etc.? Also, given that the coat body is cut short, how long are the sleeves? I wonder if there is a limit on how much a sleeve can be shortened–a concern for the shorter-armed like me.

  5. Rear view of jacket indicates that jacket is too snug. Hook vent should hang straight, not pulled to one side

  6. Christian | May 18, 2015 at 1:25 pm |

    Again I’d caution evaluating fit based on the retailer’s photos.

  7. That’s not even Harris Tweed and at regular price it is $750? I would have thought Southwick could do better than that. For tweed it makes more sense to thrift them. I have found two Harris Tweed sport coats with sewn pockets and pristine button holes for 7.99 each. My other 10 HTs were about the same price, are in fantastic condition and trad in cut. Including dry cleaning that’s just over $200 for all.

  8. Christian | May 18, 2015 at 3:21 pm |

    Each of us has his own priorities and dealbreakers. I for example like a slightly slimmer lapel, so thrifting doesn’t usually work, as I’d have to go all the way back to the ’60s, at which point the garment is half a century old and probably looks it.

  9. Let us remember that the return of any Trad details is quite a reason to rejoice.

    Thrifting will not be an option forever. The well will one day run dry.

  10. Fading Fast | May 18, 2015 at 3:52 pm |

    Great piece which will now encourage me to walk into and not past the Club Monaco on 57th Street.

    My quibble (because it is all about me) is that I’m a 40L, so its 40L will be what a traditional 40R fits like. I don’t mind the skinnier lapels or a trimmer fit as it fits my frame better that way (I’m 6’1″, 150lbs.) and feels very mid-’60s to me – and I want to move (a bit) with the times – but the length seems off as it hits above the bottom of the butt and that, to me, is just aesthetically off.

    I wonder if over time, it won’t look that way. I know many from the Ivy Era and many of its fans today argue that there is a timeless “correctness” to the length of Ivy sport and suit jackets – and I tend to agree – but maybe if today’s shorter cuts become the norm for enough years, then we will no longer see those lengths as wrong. I think, ultimately, the outcome of the jacket length debate will conclude that the Ivy era had “settled” on the aesthetically right length – but I’m open to being proven wrong.

    My aforementioned cavil aside: a 3/2 roll, center hook vent, no darts in the front, no padding and a two-button cuff sleeve is a pretty impressive set of Ivy details for today. Nice to see.

  11. In the past couple of months, I’ve picked up a couple of these jackets (the sale prices can be quite appealing). One sack jacket in plaid wool, and a gray/white seersucker (part of a suit). The detailing is definitely very Ivy, not preppy. All the usual hallmarks, as Christian notes. The fabrics are in accord with the price point, nothing to write home about, but not embarrassing.

    For the purists here, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anything this authentic to the Ivy aesthetic at a better price. I don’t doubt that more accuracy can be had for more money, but certainly not for cheaper.

  12. barnaby I’m fairly certain that is Harris Tweed, they had a similar one a couple seasons ago that was marked as such.

    Good stuff. Size up and enjoy.

  13. Thanks for the interesting information. I’ve walked by a Club Monaco from time to time and assumed they sold expensive junk. Glad to see that these jackets are not junk, but still I doubt that they’d be for me. I suspect that even if I tried on a Long, the proportions would still not look right to me, but of course I’d have to go into the store and try them on to know for sure. And actually I’m not tempted to do that.

    I think it likely that the short jackets are a passing fad just as very narrow ties and very wide ties have been passing fads from time to time over the years.

  14. Bags' Groove | May 19, 2015 at 2:53 am |

    Ted, if you could lay your hands on a Keydge jacket, i think you’d like the price point even more. i’m sure it hurts for dyed-in-the-wool (if you’ll excuse) Trads to accept that a Frenchman could produce something so veritable, but, mes chers amis, he has.

  15. Nosterpater | May 19, 2015 at 5:08 am |

    All I can see is that the jacket and the sleeves are too short, and the hook vent is crooked because the jacket is cut too tight or the model is wearing one size too small. Nice tweed on the first jacket, though.

  16. Engelbrekt | May 19, 2015 at 5:57 am |

    Bags’ Groove, I now know where I am going to buy my next jacket. Thank you!

    If you have more information on how to source ivy style clothing from EC retailers, please don’t hesitate to share it with your fellow Europeans.

  17. Mitchell S. | May 19, 2015 at 7:46 am |

    “Long sizes…would translate to a regular.”-I beg to differ. The difference between a 40R and a 40L is about one inch in the overall length and about 1.5″ in the sleeves. Also, there is a two-inch difference in the rise of the suit pants in a 40L versus a 40R. Likewise, a 40S would not translate into a 40R. The sleeves would be too long and the rise would be longer.

  18. What a waste of fabric or lack of it.

  19. Bags' Groove | May 19, 2015 at 8:58 am |

    @Engelbrekt
    Only retailer I know is John Simons in London. If your French is up to scratch you can buy from Keydge online, but chancy with sizing. The model on their uninspiring site has today’s obligatory Charlie Chaplin look, but from experience I know just how nice the jackets are when bought to fit properly.

  20. Bags’ Groove
    I checked out the Simmon site, the Keydge jackets have no lining at all, not even the arms. I love the styling, patch & flap hip and patch chest pockets, center vent, welted edges and functional sleeve buttons. I could live with no lining if the tweed was healthy, but the sleeve cuffs are finished like the bottoms of 501s.

  21. I always give Club Monaco a look. Like PRL, they occasionally have some good stuff. However, someone pointed out to me that all of the Club Monaco jackets are fully lined. Even on the summer coats which is weird. Also, their Southwick jackets are the most sober thing that they sell.

    MAC & Bags, Press sells Keydge jackets under the Casual Jacket tab on their site.

  22. The real revolution that is needed is the come back to a regular,normal sizing; the end of the age of short & skimpy.

  23. @ Carmelo

    These things ebb and flow. I seriously doubt we will be seeing short jackets within five years.

  24. Bags' Groove | May 19, 2015 at 12:03 pm |

    MAC, I’m no Trad, so a lack of lining or sleeves finished like 501 bottoms worry me not. The jackets are easy to wear, and the working sleeve buttons delight.

  25. Engelbrekt | May 19, 2015 at 3:51 pm |

    I use to buy shetland sweaters direct from the woollen mill. Especially Laurence Odie Knitwear Ltd has proved to be really helpful in this matter. It is simply the only way to get hold of sweaters with the right details where I live.

  26. HSC Alumnus | May 19, 2015 at 5:26 pm |

    I have the blue Harris Tweed from last winter, which on sale was down in the $350 range.

    I will agree, from first hand, that jacket length is essentially L=R, R=S. I wear 40S, got 40R, and took up the sleeves. It is virtually identical now in length and proportion to a 40S Brooks 1818 Sack Blazer which I think is supposed to be Madison fit, but who knows anymore.

    What is nice about Club Monaco is also suit pants are separates- to eliminate the issue of rise etc.

    Beyond that, I think these coats are essentially the Southwick Cambridge jacket, maybe a tad different.

    I also have an Southwick made- as opposed to Italian- Brooks Cambridge suit from a couple of years ago- almost same jacket. Likewise, I have a Brooks Own Make suit- very similar to Club Monaco, but strangely slimmer arms.

    Again, all slight variations of the Southwick house model called Cambridge. And on sale, pretty good stuff.

  27. Working sleeve buttons on any RTW garment strike me as silly. They mae sleeve length alterations—which are almost always an important and need alteration—much more difficult. They are a cool detail for sure, but they also strike met as a bit poser-ish when used something that isn’t tailor-made.

  28. @OCBD

    One of the jackets I got is unlined (except for sleeves, obviously), one has a full lining. It varies.

    @Andy
    The sleeve buttons aren’t functional.

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