Monday, October 18, 2010

The Guernsey Sweater

While there is no lack of classic sweaters, one of my favorites is still the Guernsey (named for, and coming from, the Bailiwick of Guernsey, one of the English Channel Islands).  This sweater was introduced to me by a friend who grew up on Herm, another of the Channel Islands.

Some of the great  features include a very tight weave (five ply yarn), distinctive shoulder stitching, and side vents.  It is a long sweater.  The length combined with the densely woven wool is formidable against the cold winds off the ocean.  And there is no front or back designation, to even out the wear and tear. 

This is a unisex item.  Back in the 80's one of our friends was regularly seen in one of his many Guernsey sweaters with khaki shorts on those chilly summer mornings on the Maine coast.

Our most recent Guernsey sweater came from The Royal Male.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Clothes Loved New and Old

Clothes should last for a very long time.  This necessarily means that they will be used for different purposes throughout their lives. Here are some examples for oxfords, khakis, belts and a few other items.

New: Business Casual and Out with Friends
Items start in this category.  Fresh out of their packages, they have sharp creases and an ironed sheen. 

Gently Worn:  Errands and Daily Life
The cuffs are starting to fray.  There may be small, subtle spots.

Heavily Worn:  Yard work
Items have holes, both from use and sometimes from moths. Patches can be evident.  They are often rumpled.

This approach should not cover all items of course (much of what is required for a summer wedding or a night out in the city will never be worn years later on trips to the composter).  But this approach also applies to areas as disparate as cars and furnishings. 

This perspective resolves many paradoxes, including
  • A frugality combined with an appreciation of more expensive items, and 
  • Why well-off people embrace and expect the use of well-worn items.
One Can:
  • Buy well made things to begin with. 
  • Buy classic and timeless styles.
  • Have two or all three uses in mind when making a purchase.  
  • Combine flattering and comfortable.
  • When in public, never have too many new items nor too many old.  
  • Always keep items clean.  Patch or mend where possible.  
  • Keep the three categories separate in shelves or closets.
The Prep Aesthetic has gone through some interesting permutations.  From one perspective:
  • It started off as a secret wardrobe of a successful club of people.
  • It was then "outed" and became appealing to those wanting to appear successful and in the club.
  • It then became mainstreamed, popularized, increasingly symbolic, and therefore knocked-off.
  • Finally it became out-of-style, with predictable but short-lived subsequent resurgences.
But from my perspective, finding clothes that are as close to timeless as possible, flattering and well made, then taking care of them and wearing them as long as possible, will never go out of style.  (And to a lesser degree, photographs of someone wearing Preppy clothes will never look wildly dated.) I am willing to put more effort towards finding the right clothes initially so that I don't have to think each day what to wear.