Photographed in New York, NY
Photographed in New York, NY
Image via Justin Chung for Tretorn
Noteworthy: Saint James tee, painter's khaki (with cuff), alligator watch strap, Tretorn Nylites. Nylites are the canvas sneaker the 80s prep-set grew up in. Introduced in 1967, the Swedish sneaker was regarded as the first luxury sport shoe. Today, its classic silhouette is still as relevant as it was 40 years ago.
As gentlemen, we adhere to a basic uniform. And why shouldn't we? Our adolescence is inundated with uniformed institutions: prep school, team sports, part time jobs, church. It's only a matter of time before we push against those very foundations erected to mold us into men. While some act out in the face of authority figures, on fellow classmates, or by skipping class altogether, others opt for a more passive aggressive rebellion—that of the sartorial kind. They toy with the details of the very uniform itself, such as the frivolous sock—ditching them entirely.
Function should illuminate form. The longevity of the men's uniform hinges on this very principle. Losing your socks isn't as much a betrayal of this precept as one might think. Come the cool of autumn, it's your ankles that actually keep you cool amid the umpteen layers of wool, cotton, and cashmere preppies run around in. On a commission last fall to photograph Alan Flusser, he mused I was the best dressed photographer he had ever met. "You should wear some socks though," he admonished. I listened. After all, the man wrote the book on style...several of them actually. I ducked into Brooks Brothers that very day and walked out in a pair. My implicit compliance lasted all of one day.
With pants, socks come off as deliberately thoughtful. And while colorful, offbeat socks non-verbally communicate its wearer doesn’t take himself too seriously, they should never be confused for a go-to-hell disposition. Just as there is no go-to-hell shirt, so too for the sock. Bare ankles firmly whisper, "I don’t give a damn." And that statement is all the more punctuated with pants that look like you outgrew them last year.
"Socks, wear them only to weddings...and then, well only if it’s your own.”
—Rand, Making the Grade (1984)
There’s a nonchalance about it—a passive rebellion to the uniform you’ve graduated to for the office, weddings, black tie affairs, Sunday best, et al. The more formal the occasion the more blatant the indifference. Ankles are the go-to-hell sock.
*previously written for of Rogues & Gentlemen.
“Hotchkiss and Yale man Gerald Murphy—artist, F. Scott Fitzgerald muse, and heir to Mark Cross—first discovered the jaunty appeal of the striped sailor top. Summering in Cap d’Antibes in 1923, he wore his Marseilles market find so well that soon such fellow beachcombers as Pablo Picasso and Coco Chanel were sporting them, too. Then came devoted Americaphile the Duke of Windsor, who wore his even during his brief reign as king of England while yachting with soon-to-be-twice-divorced girlfriend Wallis in 1937. After World War Two, the striped top went through its rebellious phase, worn by the likes of Jean Seberg, Andy Warhol, and Joan Baez before settling down as favored prep unisex garment during the 1970s. Its next incarnation, embodying fashion with a capital F, came courtesy of Jean Paul Gualtier. With its navy-on-cream stripes, the iconic Breton fisherman’s sweater is as significant a part of the French clothing vocabulary as the beret.”
—Caroline Rennolds Milbank, True Prep
Saint James has been spinning some of the world’s finest knits out of their Normandy, France based factory since 1889, but they are best known for their authentic Breton stripe sweaters. Though they are offered in wool (best suited for the fall/winter), opt for cotton come summer; they are more akin to heavy weight knit tees and are perfect layered or alone.
If you’ve ever met me, you wouldn’t take me for a guy who spends $800 on shoes. And you'd be right. I drive a 25 year-old Bimmer, wear a $35 watch, and avoid ATM fees like synthetic fabrics. Frugal? You could say that.
There is this pomp and circumstance about a benchmade tassel loafer that distinctly says, "I care." Perhaps it's the ornamented aura they induce when you slip them on; or the Goodyear-welted construction and double leather sole; or the full calfskin lining for comfort and longevity (because let’s face it, I’ll rarely be wearing socks). Maybe it's the fact that they're crafted with Chicago's Horween cordovan (arguably the best cordovan in the world today); or that they're kept on a shoe form far longer than today’s standard; or it could easily be the over 200 separate operations spanning eight weeks.
Though the tassel silhouette’s emergence in the 1950s gave way to gradual acceptance by the East-coast prep culture, Crockett & Jones has been crafting shoes in Northampton since 1879. Now in its fifth generation, it remains a family business that also makes shoes, like these, for the likes of Ralph Lauren. These loafers just feel well made. Their grade is a thing of beauty. I'll typically walk a mile in another man's shoes in lieu of buying new; however, I fell in with these at a deal I just couldn’t walk away from.