In the final part of this often controversial series we will be covering the Harrington jacket, the desert boot and the scoop neck t-shirt. For those of you that haven’t been following this series, take a quick look back at part 1 & part 2, as well as the original article that sparked them; A Fashion Debate – Style Overload?
Something that is perfectly clear from the comments left on the previous articles is that whether an item is over worn or overloaded will, without question, divide opinion. This quite neatly highlights a point that I have been talking about for a while now – namely that fashion and/or style is a completely subjective topic. Everyone has different tastes and this reflects in the way they dress and their attitudes towards others and the way they dress (a good example being the black trouser/brown shoe debate currently circling the forums).
It dictates our style choices, it affects where we shop and it affects how we shop; fashion is NOT clear cut. It is important to stress however, that it is impossible to argue that either side is completely wrong. Certainly, we can all conform to particular conventions – those of the sartorially perfected gentleman being foremost – and we can have our own preconceptions, but it can never be said that whatever you choose to wear is totally incorrect. It is HOW you wear, not WHAT you wear.
Many of you have also voiced your opinion that chinos are starting to become over worn; arguably very true, but I would reply that in much the same way as the brogue, jeans or the humble trench coat, the chino is an item above our simple and fickle fashion musings. They are timeless, classic, wonderfully versatile and will always be with us, whether you like it or not.
The Harrington Jacket
I will admit now that I have quite a soft spot for the Harrington and will do as much as is within my power to encourage people to buy one of the originals from Baracuta. However, I shall be putting my overarching bias aside for this segment so as to be as objective as possible.
The Harrington is an item that I wouldn’t have previously called over worn but after it was suggested to be so by our own Matt Allinson in the initial debate I have noticed them being worn more and more and increasingly in much the same ways. In particular I see a great majority of cheap imported ‘vintage’ examples; please note, these are just wrong.
Obviously, now that winter is scratching at our doors they are slowly disappearing but they do still appear and the case is clear, to wear a Harrington might well require a little bit more thought. They offer a great alternative to the ubiquitous leather and denim jackets, so I don’t think it’s fair to ignore them.
The first thing I will cover is my reasoning for including sunglasses; as I write this the sun is streaming through my window and numerous is the day I have left the house devoid of my trusty clubmasters only to regret it soon afterwards. The winter sunshine can be surprisingly bright and unexpected, but with that out of the way, we’ll crack straight on.
Despite the slightly undesirable stereotypes that you could associate with the Harrington jacket, it is undeniably versatile. If you cast aside the Gallaghers and Jonny white lightening on a street corner it can work in many looks. For the more casual looks that rely less on Mod heritage (as shown in look 2) jacket colour is less important, but the more subtle the colour the easier it is to wear and sticking to the original cotton varieties is always the way to go.
An on trend roll neck gives us a good base from which to work from. Try a slightly bolder colour to stand out from the darker jacket but I would avoid going all out with brightness, the Harrington is about more often than not about subtlety. Depending on thickness, you could get away with just the roll neck but if yours is a little on the thin side you could always try a knitwear on knitwear look; a roll neck under a fine knit jumper; a very good way to play with texture.
Some simple slim fit stone chinos will give you more scope for colour with your roll neck and keep the outfit looking sharp and refined. Keep your footwear bang up to date with a pair of brogue boots.
Whilst trends come and go there are some looks that will always stay with us. By using classic pieces that create sleek, clean and crisp outfits, the Mod influenced style remains an image that nearly all of us can take inspiration from or fall back on. It indulges our love of tailoring and heritage fabrics but still lets us mix things up with more modern patterns and quirky detailing. For the true Mod look, the Harrington jacket is a key item.
Now, you certainly wouldn’t usually find your friendly neighbourhood Mod wandering around in jeans, so they can be left in the wardrobe – for this look we want something more refined and smart. I’ve developed quite a liking for grey wool trousers recently and much to my delight they are really rather easy to incorporate into a look inspired by the Mod culture of the 60s. A herringbone or wool mix pair will stand up to the dropping temperatures and keep to the tailored brief. It would be worth suggesting at this point that when you buy your trousers think about getting a shorter leg, this way you can flash the sartorial ankle without ruining their lines with an unsightly turn up – just a thought.
For the feet we must of course go with the Mod staple – the traditional and ever so stylish penny loafer – tasselled or not. A good quality pair of loafers in leather are more suitable for our unpredictable weather and don’t be afraid to use them in alternative outfits; from smartening up the more casual t-shirt and leather jacket or adding a bit of individuality whilst erring on the formal. Should you have the cut of your trousers right, a pair of coloured socks will inject a bit of life to brighten up the entire look.
A shirt or polo is a must here and the top button should always be done up. A modern or slightly more daring pattern would work very well; scouring vintage and charity shops might throw up some surprisingly apt items that will give you a unique step up and add much needed flair.
Personally I think the best Harrington’s are in the original ‘natural’ creamy beige colour; they are by far the most iconic and arguably the most versatile. Finish off with a smart holdall or briefcase and your outfit is done.
The Desert Boot
Another item that I had previously not really thought over worn, the desert boot is perhaps still an outside choice for this series; it might have something to do with where you live. What I would say is that they seem to have been adopted by everyone’s favourite sub culture, the hipster.
Tight roll ups on the trousers, some kind of shirt and an American Apparel hoodie with the drawstrings tied up seems to be the order of the day (at least down in Brighton) and we certainly wouldn’t want to be associated with the ever expanding group that wants to avoid becoming an ever expanding mainstream group – which, when we think about, does arguably make us all hipsters.
Regardless of this, the desert boot is still a classic and timeless item; they have the heritage, they have the look and they still deserve a place in our wardrobes. They fill the gap between trainer and shoe – helping those newer to fashion develop their looks, and those already fully involved maintain theirs.
Hipster avoidance tactic number one is to focus on the heritage trend. The desert boot itself has a great history; from its humble introduction into western culture during WW2, to its adoption by the Mods during the 60s and 70s. Sticking to neutral shades of boot is the best way to ensure you make a versatile addition to your wardrobe, as with so many shoes tan, black and navy will work best but you could always try a burgundy or deep green should you wish to stand out from the crowd.
Slim jeans will keep your outfit looking sharper, more defined and will better compliment a modern take on the heritage trend (chinos or cords might well tip the balance in favour of the landed gentry, rather than sartorial genius). Team with a gingham shirt for added flair – you could always use a plain colour or alternative pattern, but I think gingham gives the heritage trend a real edge.
Of course, no heritage look would be complete without some form of tweed or wool blazer. Grey, brown or green would work well and depending on your personal preference a structured or unstructured jacket will help to smarten up or casual down the overall appearance. More often than not it is the details in a jacket or blazer that really sets it apart.
Accessories will complete this look; a paisley pocket square will inject a bit of quirkiness and a satchel will hold all your belongings neatly and keep the look generally more casual – perfect for those winter day shopping trips to pick out Christmas decorations (which all men love so much).
This look builds on a slightly chunkier style of desert boot that will be much more appropriate for when the days turn chillier; sticking with darker colours will also keep them more practical as they will show less dirt and grime. Try pairing with some heritage inspired cords for immediate individuality and a mixture of texture. Slimmer cuts will help them retain a more modern look and feel, whilst a slightly more daring shade could well push your outfit to a whole new level – a deep green, red or maybe even a purple would inject some amazing colour and interest without pushing things too far.
Adding a touch of preppyness – whilst avoiding the clichés – with a long sleeved polo is a good alternative to a shirt or plain tee, giving the whole look a more casual image. If you’ve opted for coloured trousers try to keep the upper half more muted and simple. A ‘grown up’ duffle coat is a great alternative to the standard outwear items sported by a large proportion of males and they will work well in an outfit such as this. Plain colours will keep your jacket versatile and unless you are fully embracing the coloured outerwear trend you would be better off playing it safe.
A woolly hat and some Fair Isle gloves will finish off this playful, relaxed, comfortable and inspired look to aplomb. The desert boot doesn’t have to make you look like a hipster.
Desert Boot Picks
Low/Scoop Neck T-Shirts
Arguably one of the most prominent items in the love or hate debate; some just can’t get over JLS whilst others like the way they completely change the appearance of other items and make such a big difference to an outfit with so little effort. Whether you like them or not however, they are here to stay.
There is definitely a general agreement within the fashion community that too much he-vage is simply vulgar, insensible and quite frankly ridiculous. However, by avoiding the stereotypes; wearing with other over worn items for example and being sensible about how low we go, there are definitely ways of wearing a scoop neck tee that are more acceptable in the eyes of the wider population.
In much the same way as the checked shirt, the scoop neck tee is commonly associated with the lads about town; worn in exactly the same way, by nearly everyone you see and often in conjunction with many other over worn items. I’m afraid there isn’t a prize for guessing which brand seems to be worst affected by this popularity. However, in my personal opinion a sensible scoop can be a very versatile addition to a man’s wardrobe; it adds an edge to a carefully considered outfit that a standard crew or V neck would be unable to give.
Of course, it would be sensible to introduce some sartorially inclined restrictions. A scoop that reaches down to your navel is of course unacceptable – if your nipples fall out you just embarrass yourself. Should your outfit require a more refined aesthetic, go for a more structured V neck and leave your more outrageous neck lines at home.
Lastly – and this is something of personal preference – I can never understand a man’s chest that is clearly unnaturally smooth. Surely if we are all striving towards being the MAN, then a baby smooth chest is perhaps the wrong way to go about it. (Obviously I don’t want to come over as having a dig, this is personal preference, and I just don’t understand it.)
As I said before, I think we can all recognise the scoop neck stereotypes, and we probably all know someone that dresses like one – but that doesn’t mean we can’t play with those preconceptions. The scoop neck is just another example of easy fashion, so it should therefore be very easy to wear and incorporate into your outfits. I can see nothing wrong with skirting the realms of fashion conformity to pull off a look that actually works; being individual, exciting AND socially acceptable.
Winter is the season for layering; being creative with your clothes to ensure the maximum amount of warmth with the best sartorial outcome. What we have with this look is an exercise in layering.
I wanted to start this LookBook with the T-shirt that, in my opinion, defines this scoop neck craze – and to show you that they can work in the style conscious man’s wardrobe. Having a drop neck tee as a base layer will get your outfit off to a good start, as you can use it to add a blast of colour or have it anchor the rest of an outfit by sticking to a darker shade. The lower neck line will also elongate your neck, accentuate your height and should you have pecs of the Gods, you can probably show them off too.
Throw on a shirt over the top for your second layer, as this will give you the flexibility to dress up or dress down depending on situation or temperature. Over all of this wear a thick knit cardigan. Shawl collars will keep things refined and sensible, and if you’ve gone for colour underneath, stick to muted on top.
Chinos and military style boots have become a much maligned combination in recent months (thank you JLS) but with a simple change of footwear and chino colour, we can instantly create an image that is a long way from undesirable. If you like your standard chinos, go for a lighter stone pair, the majority of people wearing them will go darker; you could always mix in your coloured pairs should it take your fancy. Instead of military boots go for a worker style or – as in this case – a development of the deck shoe. If you’re feeling really brave, try taking some Brogue boots down the modern route and wear them with trousers tucked in.
The great thing about T-shirts of any kind is their versatility. They can be almost any colour, pattern, shape or style that you could want and they are one of the easiest items in your wardrobe to wear – perfectly at home dressed down with your suit or simply being thrown on to nip to the shop.
With this look, I wanted to take a casual approach to tailoring. A clean low V-neck T-shirt is a good choice in this type of outfit, as a more unstructured neck line would detract from the smarter image of a jacket or blazer. A muted but still colourful shade of tee is a good way to add individuality and subtle colour. A double breasted blazer is very on trend, with a simple grey or navy version being the easiest to wear.
A casual outfit gives you a great deal more scope to play with suit separates. Switching different suit trousers with blazers is an easy way to inject some vibrancy and make the most of what you already have, whilst it also suggests a little fashion daring – as it is quite hard to get right. In this look the deep red will complement the lighter grey of the blazer and the soft brown of the T-shirt; this could also be done with a navy and grey or grey and black combination very easily.
Finish off with a pair of quirky brogues, a simple folded pocket square and a tote bag for a clean, classic and refined look that gets the best out of your wardrobe.
Low/Scoop Neck T-Shirts
Whether you agree with every item in this series of articles is up to you; there might be other items that you consider to be more over worn or you might think that the items shown aren’t in fact over worn. Either way I hope that the message we have been pushing throughout has remained. Regardless of association, stereotype or popularity, it really is HOW you wear not WHAT you wear.
Now! It’s time for you guys to have your say:
- Have you been tempted to accept these items back into your wardrobe?
- Are these looks something you feel you could pull off?
- Do you agree with the ideas I have put forward? Can you suggest your own?
- How do YOU wear these over worn items?
- Would you agree that it is HOW you wear, not WHAT you wear?
Let me know in the comments below.