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men's jacket

Review: Norrøna oslo Insulated Parka

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Review: Norrøna oslo Insulated Parka

This winter, I wear-tested Norrøna’s oslo Insulated Parka ($699) around New York City as part of Clean Clothes, a series by the folks at Highsnobiety on sustainable clothing. This cold-weather jacket is made with as much recycled content as one can cram into a serious winter coat. How does a racecar move when it’s designed like a Prius? Read my full review here.

Special thanks to Bryan Luna (@bryanluna.co) for the photos.

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Highsnobiety: Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Buying a Winter Coat This Season

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Highsnobiety: Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Buying a Winter Coat This Season

In my latest for Highsnobiety, I put together a complete part-by-part breakdown of the technology behind your winter coat, then gave my choices for 2017's best outerwear. Make some coffee, put on music, and put the phone face-down - when I said "complete," I meant it. This one's a longer read than normal.

Still interested? Click here for the full guide, and by all means, enjoy. This piece more than others was a true labor of love, and I hope it shows.

 

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Accidental James Blake Album Cover

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Accidental James Blake Album Cover

This week's featured outfit: black chinos, wool overcoat, and the Greats Royale "Black Friday." I built this look around the monochrome contrast within the shoes, keeping my shirt as simple as possible to highlight their features. Then, I chose cotton chinos over jeans to play up the luxury connotation of the shoes' black-white-cream colorway. Finally, I threw on a wool overcoat (in this case, a charcoal grey Lands' End duffel) to better balance the outfit's proportions. It's hard to stand north of six feet without owning extended-length everything. 

Lands' End / Uniqlo / Uniqlo / Greats 

Lands' End / Uniqlo / Uniqlo / Greats 

Long story short, I accidentally dressed like a James Blake album cover. And I'm damn proud of it.

To a whole generation of #internetfashion dweebs, James Blake is one inspirational dude. He may not have the style-cetric stage presence of anyone prefixed A$AP, but his music helped popularize the electro-alternative sound that now burns white hot in many of the same "culture" circles that fashion forums orbit. In my mind, music, fashion, and art are three slices of a congruent whole; an interlocked triumvirate, each part symbiotically necessary to create a complete aesthetic experience. 

Greats Royale "Black Friday" detail

Greats Royale "Black Friday" detail

It's the same reason why fashion shows play music rather than a talk track bleating "Look! Clothes!" - it's also, more relevantly, why Blake's music is in an inextricable feature of the same cultural loop as fashion brands like adidas Originals, TopShop, and Alexander Wang.    

James Blake, if you're reading this: "Take A Fall for Me" singlehandedly reignited my love for music. I still get chills hearing it in Hi-Fi.

Lands' End / Uniqlo / Uniqlo / Greats

Lands' End / Uniqlo / Uniqlo / Greats

Also, good call on the whole "stare wistfully in overcoats" thing. I have not yet gathered enough wist to be full enough for the intended effect, but the look is A+ regardless. While it may take me an album release or two to really nail the vibe, considering how often I YouTube "Retrograde" when walking through fog, I like to think there's potential. Until then, however, accidental album cover will have to do.  

 

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9 Moncler Alternatives to Fit Every Budget

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9 Moncler Alternatives to Fit Every Budget

When Eddie Bauer invented the goose down sweater, he imagined an innovative solution to a life-threatening problem: if bulky wool outerwear left him sweaty (and vulnerable to frost) in freezing cold, then a light insulator would reduce exertion and fight hypothermia in the process. The first “Skyliner” goose down sweater (unveiled in 1936) would keep outdoorsmen like Bauer from literally dying.

Fast forward 80 years, and the humble goose down sweater has taken on second life as a luxury fashion accessory, largely due to the success of one brand: Moncler.

While the Franco-Italian ski brand began life in 1952, it wasn’t until its 2003 relaunch that Moncler’s influence truly began to spread. That year, Italian entrepreneur Remo Ruffini set Moncler on a decade’s long collision course with the world of fashion and luxury – when the brand listed on the Italian stock market in 2013, it had debuted high fashion collections (Gamme Rouge and Gamme Bleu), opened stores worldwide, and for many, turned the utilitarian down sweater into a luxury must-have.

Moncler jackets now meet a need of a different kind: without them, style-conscious men and women all over the globe might literally die.

Shame about the price tag, then. For those who love the quilted look and sleek silhouette of a Moncler jacket (but may not have the $1000+ to shell out on some feathers and nylon), here are 9 stylish alternatives:

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$ - Watches Hotline Bling Video Once

Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Parka - $79.90

 

Kicking off this list: an affordable, lightweight down jacket from Japanese brand Uniqlo. Continuing the brand’s focus on “LifeWear” (accessible, high-quality garments designed to improve the wearer’s life), this specific piece promises featherweight warmth in a sleek, weather-resistant package that even retains the vinylized look of a Moncler Maya sweater. Just, you know, at 5% of the price. If you’re looking for the highest value-per-dollar without compromising looks, the Ultra Light Down Parka is your next purchase. Shop the full range on Uniqlo’s website here.   

 

Eddie Bauer CirrusLite Down Jacket - $99.00

A light down jacket from the name that started it all, the CirrusLite is a DWR-coated nylon zip-up stuffed with 650 fill goose down. If that sounds like a mouthful, just remember this: it’s a fully-fledged down jacket packed with outdoors functionality, but with a price tag still in the double-digits. While it may not have the street-ready styling of the Uniqlo parka, the CirrusLite bites back with pure functionality. If your weekend adventures ever take you outside city limits, the CirrusLite is a perfect companion. See more on Eddie Bauer’s web store here.  

 

Columbia Flash Forward Jacket - $119.99

The most technical option at this price point, Columbia’s Flash Forward jacket is made from water-resistant polyester and filled with the same 650 fill goose down as the CirrusLite. While it may be the most aesthetically “outdoors” of the cheap down jacket, don’t let the matte finish and chest branding turn you off. The Flash Forward is, ounce-for-ounce, the most capable down jacket in this range. If you’re looking for the storied functionality that made Moncler a supplier to the French Olympic team, Columbia’s Flash Forward is a handsome – and super warm – light down jacket. Besides, are details really worth ten times the price? You’re probably buying it in black anyways. Shop the Flash Forward in colors of all sorts here.    

 

$$ - We’re Not Goosing Around, Mother Ducker

MKI Hooded Down Jacket - $249.00

The truest Moncler alternative on this list, in terms of both looks and silhouette. MKI’s Hooded Down Jacket features a laminated polyamide shell, which is both utilitarian (added weather resistance) and shamelessly stylish (high-shine nylon is a Moncler code trait). If you’re craving the look of the Moncler Maya jacket but also like making your rent, shop the MKI Hooded Down Jacket at END. Clothing here.

 

Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody - $279.00

California-based outdoors brand Patagonia has long straddled the line between lifestyle brand and outdoors innovator. While their world-famous down sweater is certainly no slouch for aesthetics, underneath all that minimal design lies some truly powerful materials science. To keep it short: eco-friendly recycled nylon; 800 fill goose down insulation; and it all weight less than one pound. For under $300, the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody is the strongest technical piece on this list. Check out the full line on Patagonia’s website here.

 

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer - $350.00

Now we’re talking. Mountain Hardwear’s “Ghost Whisperer” hooded jacket isn’t just the most hardcore outdoors option on this list – it’s also, coincidentally, a Moncler lookalike. Weighing in at a mere 8 ounces, the Ghost Whisperer is the definition of “ultralight,” yet also retains the vinylized looks of its weightier luxury cousins. Plus, it’s stuffed with 800 fill goose down. “Hardcore,” indeed. If you live anywhere north of the snowline and have room in your budget, this is your jacket.

Shop a selection of colors (including Drake-approved bright red) at REI.com here.

 

$$$ - Are These Feathers Made of Gold

Arc’teryx Cerium SV Hoody - $525.00

 

 

There are two types of winter people: those who own an Arc’teryx jacket, and those who want to. Vancouver’s own Arc’teryx Equipment is to the outdoors industry what Ferrari is to motorsports: storied, innovative, and dear Lord expensive. That’s without even talking about their Veilance high fashion line. Yet, as the firm that introduced waterproof zippers, GORE-TEX Pro shell, and countless other now-standard groundbreakers to the apparel industry, it’s hard to say an Arc’teryx price tag isn’t justified. Case in point: the Cerium SV hoody. Streamlined design, composite construction, and 850 fill goose down insulation. If you ski, this is your jacket.

Check out the Cerium SV at Arc’teryx’s own webstore here.

 

Canada Goose Hybridge Hoody - $575.00

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That other Canadian outdoors firm. Best known for their pricy parkas, Toronto-based Canada Goose has recently expanded into other lines of gear, bringing its same ethos of quality and utility to everything from shells to down jackets. Coming in just a hair lighter than the Cerium SV (in exchange for some weather-resistance, due to its lack of composite down), the Canada Goose Hybridge Hoody is an 800 fill zip-up best suited to apres-ski rather than backcountry slopes. That said, considering Goose’s luxury pedigree, the Hybridge is perhaps the truest Moncler cognate on the market – and for half the price of a Maya jacket, to boot.

See more about the Hybridge on Canada Goose's own site here.

 

Stone Island Leather Down Jacket - $2625.00

 

 

No one does luxury like the Italians. Since 1982, Massimo Osti and Carlo Rivetti’s label “Stone Island” has been on the forefront of fabric research, making their famous “compass patch” synonymous with both quality and creativity.

Price-sensitivity, however, didn’t quite make the cut. That’ll be one (1) trust fund, please.

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Do you own any of the Moncler alternatives listed? Any I missed? Leave a comment below or on my Facebook here to start the conversation. 

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How to Think About Style (pt II): Context, Inside and Out

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How to Think About Style (pt II): Context, Inside and Out

This is Part II of my new series “How to Think About Style”, a weekly serial written with the purpose of helping you develop an authentic personal style. My goal: supply you with the framework necessary to express your personality through fashion.

New to the series? Check out Part I (Fit) and Part III (Color) at the links above.

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In the last installment of this series, we discussed clothing fit, the single most fundamental element of building personal style. This week, we’ll unpack a concept that isn’t foundational to developing your style framework. Well, unless you’d like the end result to be taken seriously.

If you set out to become “well-dressed” rather than “that fashion friend”, let’s discuss context.

“Context” describes the way your fashion choices interact with – and are amplified by - both your environment and the rest of your outfit. In the same way that understanding fit helps you internally develop your personal style, understanding context will help develop how others perceive that style. It’s the classic “office email” paradox: how do you authentically express yourself if you’re acting for the benefit of other people? Turns out, it’s pretty easy. It just takes thought.

At its root, context is consideration. The target of your consideration is twofold: what your peers expect, and what they’d actively reject. These upper/lower bounds set the dimensions for one specific opportunity to express your personal style. Every individual clothing choice you make (from your shoes to your tie to your python-skin snapback) will have to play within these boundaries, or the effect is lost.

The expression of the man on the left is a wonderful visualization of what "losing the effect" feels like. Even at Pitti, context counts.

The expression of the man on the left is a wonderful visualization of what "losing the effect" feels like. Even at Pitti, context counts.

My favorite example of context in action is the fall college recruiting season. For many, this is their big shot at the dream internship that will likely translate to a full-time offer. With the stakes this high, the bell-curve of what hundreds of undergrads think constitutes “business casual” is worryingly broad. A single career fair line will range from polo shirts (gasp!) to three-piece suits (groan).

I feel safe using photos from MSU's career fairs because I assume they're good sports. And if they're not, my couch is safely locked inside.

I feel safe using photos from MSU's career fairs because I assume they're good sports. And if they're not, my couch is safely locked inside.

Here’s the fun part: the examples above are viable given the right environmental context.

If you’re applying for product dev at a tech startup, showing up in a suit would likely be rejected by your peers. However, something that recognizes you put effort forwards in a non-traditional way makes you just “one of the guys.” By the same notion, Goldman would laugh you out of line if you even wore short sleeves. And as long as that clothing itself fits, your effort to make it fit a certain context will be rewarded with a positive reaction from the intended party. Remember: it's harder to change your environment than your trousers. 

"As long as that clothing itself fits, your effort to make it fit a certain context will be rewarded with a positive reaction from the intended party. Remember: it's harder to change your environment than your trousers."

"As long as that clothing itself fits, your effort to make it fit a certain context will be rewarded with a positive reaction from the intended party. Remember: it's harder to change your environment than your trousers."

For a vast, vast majority, a simple knowledge of environmental context will satisfy their “consideration” process and deliver a desired productive result. That vast majority also never develops a personal style. The truth is, there’s a wealth of contextual consideration that lies within your outfit – and it is this second sort that allows your personal style to show in even the most rigid environmental contexts.

That is why I consider both aspects of context crucially important to building a personal style. Empathy without personality turns you into a mouthpiece of others rather than a self-reliant individual. In other words: a parrot.

Context considerations within outfits are a function of dozens of different variables, each more dizzyingly arcane than the last. However, these added dimensions only further refine the style you present. Of course, there are diminishing returns: by considering enough intraoutfit factors, you could theoretically nitpick any outfit back onto the hanger. For simplicity, I tend to cut it off at the following five:

1.       Material. Whether it’s historical familiarity or objective aesthetic qualities (ex. drape, sheen, etc.) playing a determining role, certain material combinations just work better than others. To paint in broad strokes: think organic vs. synthetic. If you’re wearing all cotton, a high-tech nylon sneaker tends to look out of place whereas a traditional suede runner looks right at home. Ditto goes for spandex yoga pants and leather tennis shoes. This is #1 for a reason: it is both the most commonly-flouted fashion advice and also the easiest to adapt. Extreme examples include your cousin who wore running shoes and a dress shirt to graduation.

Wool/cotton/cotton/leather/rubber.

Wool/cotton/cotton/leather/rubber.

Cotton/cotton/cotton/cotton/cotton/cotton/nylon tensile and plasicized foam.

Cotton/cotton/cotton/cotton/cotton/cotton/nylon tensile and plasicized foam.

2.       Gauge. The finer a fabric, the more formal it is perceived. The opposite is true with thicker weaves. This is as close as the fashion world gets to a universal principle: across material, fabric, and environment, higher thread count implies formality. Just think about the sort of sweater you’d wear to a Christmas party vs. a gallery opening. If you’re dressing casually, stick to broader weaves like oxford cloth and cotton jersey. They make you look more nonchalant and less fussy, even if you just read a whole paragraph learning about fabric gauge.

Thicker, textured knits evoke informality (Lemaire FW 2014)

Thicker, textured knits evoke informality (Lemaire FW 2014)

Smoother fabrics typically signal formality (Valentino FW 2014)

Smoother fabrics typically signal formality (Valentino FW 2014)

3.       Detailing. On casual clothes, detailing can take an infinite number of forms. As a general rule, details are like colors: unless you’re Alessandro Michele of Gucci, quality over quantity. Make sure a motif introduced through a clothing detail is reflected in the rest of the outfit, or you’ll lose the effect and just look sloppy (ex. distressed denim with a spotless fine-weave dress shirt, a single zipper that for some reason is now cool to include on shirt hems with literally no other zippers anywhere else). Use them scarcely and intentionally or else you’ll muddle the effect. Perhaps worse: you’ll be forced to buy a motorcycle to vindicate your moto denim. If done right, however, the effect is immaculate. 

The textbook example of the power of detailing, and one of my favorite outfiss of all time. Zippers are functional and kept to outerwear. Pockets are same general size and volume. Chunky white cotton drawstrings match the laces without imitating them. (photo:  @thisistheodore )

The textbook example of the power of detailing, and one of my favorite outfiss of all time. Zippers are functional and kept to outerwear. Pockets are same general size and volume. Chunky white cotton drawstrings match the laces without imitating them. (photo: @thisistheodore)

On formal clothing, however, the details are more environmentally-dependent and should be tailored to an event’s dress code. For example, on a scale from officewear to black tie, button-down collars are considered more casual than spread collars than classic collars than wing/tuxedo collars. The same principle applies to button cuffs vs. French cuffs.

4.       Lines. Lay a garment down and look at the arrangement of seams, lines, and details. You’ll likely notice a number of aligned features – a pocket parallel to a seam here, a placket with exposed stitching on both sides there. Each alignment creates what’s called an “implied line.” There’s nothing physically drawn to connect the two, but your mind sees them as related since they’re neatly in line. 

Ultra-minimal selections from APC's Spring 2014 womens collection.

Ultra-minimal selections from APC's Spring 2014 womens collection.

Returning to my broad strokes to extend this art/drawing metaphor: the more implied lines a garment has, the more busy (and therefore more casual) it appears. Extreme examples include Biggie’s notorious Coogi sweater and Junya Watanabe’s famous patchwork denim. If you crave minimalist clothing with few implied lines, look up Scandinavian fashion brands like Norse Projects, Eytys, CMMN SWDN, and L’Homme Rouge. Northern Europe is allergic to excess.  

Junya Watanabe x Levi's Denim Jacket

Junya Watanabe x Levi's Denim Jacket

Norse Projects Mens Fall 2016

Norse Projects Mens Fall 2016

5.       Brand. As much as the Soc 102 student in all of us desperately grovels that “brands don’t matter,” they simply do. It’s not a specifically-modern condition, either – the world’s first true “brands” date as far back as 1 A.D. In the two millennia since, visual markings used to imbue a product with storytelling (then charge a premium for it) have only become more widespread. That storytelling bit is important: in many ways, what you’re doing through developing a personal style is finding a way to authentically express yourself to the world. And if you're going to tell the world a story about yourself, it goes without saying that you probably want that story to make sense.

That doesn’t mean you have to leave the house a walking billboard – more that you should try to keep multiple visibly-branded pieces in the same outfit remotely related. Brands alone won't carry the day, but if you heed the above advice, this is a final cherry on top.

Branding alone cannot carry an outfit. The only relation between pieces here is that Supreme and YEEZY are both #coolkid streetwear brands. Otherwise, this outfit makes no sense.

Branding alone cannot carry an outfit. The only relation between pieces here is that Supreme and YEEZY are both #coolkid streetwear brands. Otherwise, this outfit makes no sense.

In layman's terms: if you’re going to rock a Swoosh logo crewneck, it’d be wise to build the effect by choosing shoes from another design-driven performance brand. Sperry and Adidas have as much in common as, well… Y-3 and boat shoes. (Note: this only applies to visibly-branded pieces. If the garment is unbranded, just think about the other context lessons and go from there. Ex. one of my favorite techwear fits of all times pulls in a Gap hoodie.)

We’ll cover color palettes and variations in a future post, so for now, just focus on the structural variations above. Keeping these 5 considerations in mind as you assemble outfits will only make the final product that much stronger. While these may seem unnecessary and esoteric, just remember the words of your elementary English teacher: in real life, spelling counts. Details matter; ergo, do the details. Only then will you truly reap the rewards.

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Hopefully this post has left you with a more thorough understanding of outfit context, both environmental and internal alike. As opposed to last time’s discussion of fit, this article tended to lean towards the relative while still emphasizing some supposedly-objective rules, especially in the last section. While it may seem contradictory to build a case against hard-coded contexts in one breath only to give you definite rules in the next, I’ll leave you with the following guidance:

 

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” 
–Pablo Picasso

 

Fashion rules aren’t Newtonian physics – more like generally-accepted suggestions that dictate most behavior surrounding contexts. If you didn’t first learn about material combinations and dress codes, your modifications to these rules would push the envelope too far and face rejection. Instead, armed with knowledge, you’re now able to riff on – rather than shatter - established fashion choices. In other words, tastefully and authentically display your personal style without being dismissed by your peers for doing so. How many parrots can do that?

As always, thank you for reading. If you have comments or feedback, feel free to leave them below or on my Facebook page here. Next time, we'll cover color palettes, and why playing with matches may still burn you. Of course, if you'd like a refresher on the series so far, click here to check out Part I: How Clothing Fits

 

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WAYWT 6/24/2016

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WAYWT 6/24/2016

This week's featured outfit: a belated "Happy Birthday" to the N64, which turned 20 years old this Thursday. I had no idea about the N64versary when I got this N64 Coaches Jacket from Agora Clothing, so a part of me believes it's all fate. What else could explain this jacket?

Agora Clothing/Uniqlo/Uniqlo/Vans/Ray-Ban (photo credit: Kristen Lovely)

Agora Clothing/Uniqlo/Uniqlo/Vans/Ray-Ban (photo credit: Kristen Lovely)

For one, outerwear in the summer - oof. For two, it's a walking meme. Google "vaporwave aesthetic" and see what I mean. And for that golden bonus, rule-of-three finishing moment: it's a piece so ridiculous in concept and execution that I can't help but love to wear it. 

Agora Clothing/Uniqlo/Uniqlo/Vans/Ray-Ban (photo credit: Kristen Lovely)

Agora Clothing/Uniqlo/Uniqlo/Vans/Ray-Ban (photo credit: Kristen Lovely)

The logo; the garbled kanji characters; the streetwear silhouette. All of it. The whole is much greater than the sum of its parts, especially for people my age. Seriously, it's a peacock tail for the generation that grew up glued to Mario Kart. And judging by the reactions I got wearing the N64 coach around SoHo, NYC earlier this week - the smiles, the stares, a sarcastic "what are thooooose" followed by a genuine "where can I buy one?" - even twenty years later, the N64 has staying power. 

With a coach this awesome and a whole neighborhood to explore, I did the only sensible thing I could: spend all day inside. 15 years earlier, I was playing video games while I did it. In the present, I'm shopping for vintage clothes with video games still on my mind.

Agora Clothing/Uniqlo/Uniqlo/Vans/Ray-Ban (photo credit: Kristen Lovely)

Agora Clothing/Uniqlo/Uniqlo/Vans/Ray-Ban (photo credit: Kristen Lovely)

Eh, old habits die hard. 

To the N64: thanks for the memories. To Agora Clothing: thanks for the nostalgia. 

 

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WAYWT 4/29/2016

WAYWT 4/29/2016

Navy blue and Michigan pride for graduation weekend. A crewneck sweatshirt layered under an anorak is my favorite all-weather spring ensemble: the athletic cut, versatile fabrics, and lack of a second hood (as compared to other sweatshirts) makes for a slice of the nautical Northeast wherever you may go.

LL Bean/Champion x Michigan/Uniqlo/LL Bean (photo credit:  Christina Oh )

LL Bean/Champion x Michigan/Uniqlo/LL Bean (photo credit: Christina Oh)

With classes done, it's time to go find my own port of call - even if today, that's right off the Diag.

LL Bean/Champion x Michigan/Uniqlo/LL Bean (photo credit:  Christina Oh )

LL Bean/Champion x Michigan/Uniqlo/LL Bean (photo credit: Christina Oh)

Shoe details: LL Bean Signature Jackman Blucher Mocs (photo credit:  Christina Oh )

Shoe details: LL Bean Signature Jackman Blucher Mocs (photo credit: Christina Oh)

Speaking of graduation: congratulations to the Class of 2016 on their momentous achievement! Tomorrow, 6500 Wolverines begin their own journeys into that wonderously scary "real world." I couldn't be prouder to have shared half their Michigan experience. A special shoutout to my favorite member of this year's class: my sister Stephanie, who earned her Honors Thesis and will progress on to Med School next year after she officially graduates this Saturday. Congratulations, Steph, and Forever Go Blue.

 

A Complete Visual Guide to Spring Jackets

A Complete Visual Guide to Spring Jackets

Flowers are blooming, St. Patrick’s Day is over, and that still-hidden Easter egg is starting to smell. All over the Northern Hemisphere, spring has sprung!

The transition between Winter and Summer is defined by many things: snowmelt, pastel colors, and above all else, irrational weather patterns. Dressing for spring is a delicate act that’s both fun and frustrating. On the positive, once-covered skin gets its first Vitamin D in months! On the negative, wide daily temperature ranges and unpredictable weather means a seemingly-contradictory set of wardrobe traits.

The right spring dress is light, breathable, and ideally bright; however, it must also be weather-proof and versatile. After all, that seersucker shirt won't do much to keep you dry when clouds gather. As for stretching your cold-weather garments, I’d seriously think twice before you don a down parka in May. Asking double-duty from your winter coat will leave you schvitzing on a 60-degree afternoon, or one step from goth ninja when it’s 40 and foggy.

Picking the right spring jacket, then, is as much features comparison as it is a personal style choice. Over the next few lines, I’ll walk you through 12 popular jacket archetypes all suited for longer days and sunny afternoons. Each is lightweight and offers varying degrees of weather protection, from “partly cloudy” to “hydrophobic.” Simply read about each, consider your budget, then select the jacket that best fits your needs. Outerwear ahoy.

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Anorak

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In the modern era, “anorak” refers to a lightweight, hooded pullover jacket typically associated with nautical pursuits. Most anorak jackets are made of cotton-nylon blends, then treated with a DWR (“durable water repellent” – think RainX for your jacket) coating to resist weather. This fabric/coating combination will keep you dry during pop-up drizzles, but will quickly “wet out” (or become saturated) in anything longer than 30 minute exposures. I probably wouldn’t pack an anorak for your trip to the Amazon.

As a fashion piece, however, anoraks are second to none. Pullovers provide a visually-interesting silhouette with the added benefit of simpler chest lines than a full-zip alternative. Fjallraven’s High Coast Wind Anorak (above) is my favorite in the segment for its sleek lines and minimal detailing. However, all that sleekness does come with a cost. The traditional pullover anorak sacrifices exterior features for packability. My LL Bean Maritime Anorak, for example, has but three pockets, of which exactly zero are easily-accessible. That being said, it looks phenomenal - which makes it even more tragic that it was discontinued like last year come on L.L Bean take my money.  

My recommendations: Land's End Outrigger Anorak ($), Fjallraven High Coast Wind Anorak ($$), Brattenwear Scout Anorak ($$$)

 

Light Technical Jacket

While anoraks may have been designed for wet climates, these are the first proper rain jackets on our list. “Light technical jackets”, as I’ll refer to them, are defined by a simple formula: nylon exterior fabric, DWR coating, and a 2.5L polyurethane laminate inside to resist whatever water gets through the outside. Whereas the cotton-nylon jackets on this list are potentially compromised by an afternoon shower, light technical jackets are designed for rain exposure. Patagonia’s Torrentshell, for example, will take a full 30-45 minutes of concentrated rain before saturation. Unless you’ve got a reason to be outside and the motivation to stay there, light technical jackets will be more than enough weatherproofing for your daily use.

All this technology doesn’t look half bad, either. Gone are the days of the oversized yellow slicker: modern light tech jackets are trim, athletic, and generally minimal. Streetwear forums gravitate to The North Face’s Venture jacket for its flat front and high-contrast (but unobtrusive) branding. If you have the budget, get the DYNE Life Runner Jacket (above). It was designed by Christopher Bevans, an MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellow, and is as close to “art meets science” as a light jacket will ever get. You can probably tell that I want one.

My recommendations: LL Bean Trail Model ($), The North Face Venture ($), Patagonia Torrentshell ($$), DYNE Runner Jacket ($$$)

 

GORE-TEX Hardshell

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GORE-TEX Hardshells are the Ford Raptor of outerwear: you may never test the full extent of its abilities, and yes, that Honda Fit would’ve been lighter on your wallet… but god damn is this thing fun to own. GORE-TEX is the brand name for a family of textiles imbued with waterproof membranes that are distributed by W.L. Gore & Associates, widely considered the most influential textile innovator of the twentieth century. A GORE-TEX membrane works by exploiting the pressure gradient between you and the inside of your jacket. On the outside of the jacket, a tightly-knit face fabric backed by a PTFE membrane (think 8 billion micropores per square-inch) prevents water from entering. On the inside, the pressure difference between your body’s sweaty microclimate and the outside world pulls your sweat towards – and almost through - the microporous membrane. However, because your sweat droplets are larger than the membrane openings, your sweat is literally vaporized as it’s pulled through the micropores. Science, bitch!

Modern GORE-TEX hardshells look more like body armor than outerwear. While the style isn’t for everyone, GORE-TEX jackets are at home in streetwear, techwear, and even some Americana/outdoors-influenced wardrobes. All that fashion and function does come with a price: GORE-TEX jackets typically start around $300, and climb exponentially from there. Fashion-focused shells from brands like ACRONYM, nanamica, and White Mountaineering can easily hit 4 figures.

Worth noting: the best hardshells in the world are made by Vancouver, BC-based Arc’teryx, the outdoors innovator responsible for the look and fabric behind 99% of the world’s modern technical gear. Arc’teryx is the Blastoise to a light jacket’s Squirtle.    

My recommendations: Patagonia Piolet Jacket ($), Arc’teryx Beta AR ($$), ACRONYM J1A-GT ($$$), nanamica Cruiser ($$$)

 

Mountain Parka

Decades ago, a 60/40 cotton-nylon utility jacket was the peak of mountaineering technology: wind and water-resistant fabrics, heavy duty zippers, and reinforced seams built for trekking. Just the name “Mountain Parka” brings to mind newsreel images of explorers on windswept peaks, conquering the heavens in the name of glory and empire. The traditional Mountain Parka is a zip-front, multi-pocket garment that’s equal parts anorak and military field jacket. In its day, both summit-chasers and weekend hikers alike owned one of these venerable – and functional – jackets.

In the present, Mountain Parkas have become a rugged style piece, due in no small part to their legendary pedigree. The Mountain Parka is the best fashion-meets-function garment on this list – modern iterations are windproof, lightweight, and remarkably handsome for their age. My current favorite is the Penfield Vassan in Navy pictured above: it’s the perfect complement to neutral chinos and leather boots, with all the tech you’d want without any over-the-top features. If I had to choose a single spring jacket, this would be it. 

My recommendations: Uniqlo Mountain Parka ($), Penfield Vassan ($$), Topo Designs Mountain Jacket ($$$)

 

Retro Pile Fleece

Continuing with our celebration of the great outdoors, the Retro Pile Fleece represents all things warm and good about dressing for spring. The archetypal Retro Pile Fleece is made of polyester fleece and abrasion-resistant nylon paneling, designed to take a beating and smile through it. Polyester fleece is warm, breathable, and altogether durable – what’s more, it’s even eco-friendly. Most modern polyester fleece is made from recycled plastics, meaning your new favorite spring jacket helped save shorebirds from castaway soda bottles. That fuzzy feeling you got from saving the planet? A Retro Pile Fleece keeps you warm, inside and out.

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It’s truly hard to go wrong with a fleece jacket. I own multiple, wear them often, and love the comfort and durability of a well-made piece. Some fleece jackets may be a little toasty for 55 degree Spring picnics, but there’s nothing stopping you from shedding a layer when you get warm. As for style selections, stick to the outdoors brands that made fleece famous. Old school-inspired options from Topo Designs (above), Penfield, and Patagonia round out the package, making the Retro Pile Fleece a solid choice for Main Street and mountain trails alike.

My recommendations: Penfield ($), Topo Designs Fleece ($$), Patagonia Synchilla Jacket ($$$), The North Face Denali ($$$)

 

Mac Coat

Backing away from more technical options, our first “fashion-oriented” entry on this list is the Mac Coat. Also known as the Macintosh Jacket after its inventor, Scottish chemist Charles Macintosh, the first version of this eponymous rain coat was produced in 1823. The traditional Mac Coat is a knee-length rain jacket made from laminated fabrics coated in liquid rubber. The result is chic, waterproof, and loooooong. If your winter coat can be described with the adjectives “parka” or “Expedition”, a Mac Coat will feel right at home.

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I often recommend Mac Coats to my tall friends or those with office jobs. For all intents and purposes, it’s the functional equivalent of a “light topcoat”: Mac Coats retain the uninterrupted lines and tailored silhouette of a wool overcoat, without the heavy wool that would boil you during even the coldest March rain. The Mac Coat is right at home in Northeastern Prep/Trad wardrobes. Nearly every major fashion brand, from Gap to Land’s End to Banana Republic, produces a Mac Coat equivalent (similar styles go by the name of “Commuter Coat”, “Car Coat”, etc – just make sure you’re not buying one with winter insulation). For a particularly stylish take on the heritage design, check out the J. Crew Bonded Mac Jacket (above). It’s surprisingly technical, and handsome to boot.

My recommendations: Gap ($), ASOS ($$), Lands End Canvas ($$), J. Crew Bonded Mac Jacket ($$$), Mackintosh ($$$)      

 

Blazer

A refined jacket for a more civilized age. Internet #menswear writing voice aside, blazers really aren’t bad outerwear. They’re warm for their weight; wool is naturally water-resistant; and they’re tailored to accentuate the male silhouette. It sounds clichéd, but blazers just look put-together. Most American traditional brands will produce an exceptionally elevated piece. Own more hoodies than button-ups? No problem. Thanks to modern trends towards fashion casualization, blazers are available in a wide variety of fabrics and fits – it’s not uncommon to see a cotton blazer worn casually, sometimes even paired with a tee and sneakers. In my opinion, it’s hard to beat the classic navy wool. When it’s time to dress up, a notch-lapel blazer says “I mean business, but casually.” Just don’t touch that bottom button.

Off-the-rack blazers are a difficult game. With 95% confidence, even the jacket that “fits” you in the store won’t actually fit you right. And with anything that leans towards business attire, getting it right becomes invaluable. So, if you have the time, I highly recommend Googling “alterations near me” and stopping into your neighborhood tailor before you go shopping. Get measured, shake their hand, and promise to come back in with the jacket that “fits” once you get back from the mall. For a small price, they’ll give you the best-looking jacket on the block (and make it actually fit right, too).

My recommendations: H&M ($), Uniqlo ($) J. Crew ($$), Brooks Brothers ($$$) 

 

 

Denim Jacket

Since Levi Strauss invented the first “Triple Pleat Blouse” sometime in the 1880’s, the riveted indigo jacket has become the unofficial uniform of the frontier. Everyone from Nevada truckers to New York street gangs, Hell’s Angels to fashion designers have adopted the simple garment as a symbol of freedom, self-expression, and power. Punk rockers and auto mechanics don’t agree on much, but this piece of heritage outerwear is as close to universal as it gets. The Denim Jacket is as American as apple pie and counterculture. John Bender, eat your heart out.

Denim Jackets aren’t exactly technical. At its core, it’s simply cotton, metal, and then more cotton. In a world of GORE-TEX and coated nylon, it’s hard to argue that a denim jacket is anything but a fashion piece. That being said, what a piece.

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In my opinion, denim jackets diverge into two distinct genres: workwear and streetwear. The former are heavy, bulky, and generally unadorned. This is where you’ll find names like Levi’s, Naked & Famous, and Double RL (above left). The latter are typically distressed, customized, and designed as statement pieces. Famous examples include jackets by SupremeVisvim, and 424 on Fairfax (above right). Regardless of their expression, the two share a genealogy over 130 years old with one very common result: killer good looks for the Rebel in all of us.

My recommendations: Levi’s Trucker Jacket ($), Naked & Famous ($$), LVC ($$$), Visvim ($$$)

 

 

Leather Jacket

Continuing on our series of “manly coats” is the most testosterone-fueled piece of them all: the Leather Jacket. It would’ve been impossible to write this whole section without the word “badass”, so here goes. Every movie, book, and cultural badass owns a leather jacket. If you too would like to be badass, invest in a leather jacket. As a monument to our evolutionary prowess as a species, wearing the skin of our food is forever entwined with being a badass. James Dean. Easy Rider. Arnold in T2. Wolverine. Fighter pilots. The Road Warrior himself. All badass.

Badassery aside, for the better part of human existence, leather jackets made a lot of sense. Leather is natural, durable, wind-resistant, and readily waterproofed. It’s warm, breathable, and even receptive to stitching. Ethical concerns aside, animal leather makes sense as material for outerwear. There are too many styles of leather jacket to list here, so instead, I’ll use this space and my recommendations to hopefully point you in the right direction. Many of the brands listed make multiple styles of leather jacket, so shop based on budget/use and make your aesthetic choice at the checkout screen.

For style: Urban Outfitters ($), ASOS ($), Schott ($$), Saint Laurent Paris ($$$)

For function: Orvis ($$), LL Bean ($$), Eddie Bauer ($$), Schott ($$$)

For actual motorsports: Alpinestars ($$), Dainese ($$$)

 

Military Jacket

The more I read, the more fascinated I am with what we take for granted. For instance, the “simple” M65 Field Jacket: this olive green, four pocket utility coat was designed to provide US soldiers with a versatile, durable, and camouflaged garment that would keep them safe in the jungles of Vietnam. The original M65 featured a roll-up hood, detachable inner liner, Velcro cuffs, and a full-front brass zipper, many of which were novel features for 1965. Compared to the heavy M51 “Fishtail” parka, the M65 was a paradigm shift. Today, it’s just a “Military Jacket.”

Well, it’s not just a military jacket. Thanks to years of milsurp purchases and fashion design interpretations, the M65 has joined the ranks of the Denim Jacket and Leather Jacket to become an archetypal “masculine” fashion piece. It’s easy to see why: a utility background, attractive features, and good looks in neutral colors make the Military Jacket a menswear go-to. Like the Mac Coat, nearly every label under the sun makes a military jacket, so buy based on budget and shop with confidence. While Alpha Industries makes the original (and still best on the market) M65 Jacket, I own an American Military Jacket (above) that is easily the highest dollar-per-wear jacket I’ve ever bought.

My recommendations: your local Army/Navy ($), American Eagle Military Jacket ($$), Alpha Industries M-65 Field Jacket ($$$)

 

Coaches Jacket

Coaches Jackets continue to perplex me. I just can’t find much real historical evidence to support their athletic pedigree. In futbol, the coaches wear suits; in football, sponsored sportswear; in baseball, team uniforms. Yet, the archetype of a “coaches jacket” now has an identity all its own. The typical coaches jacket consists of a 100% nylon or polyester shell, a cotton liner, drawstrings to fit, and a simple button-front closure. All in all, a deceivingly simple garment that technically offers wind and water resistance. On function alone, they’re nothing special.

Yet, it’s this simplicity that has turned the coaches jacket into a streetwear staple. That unadorned nylon exterior leaves plenty of room for graphics, applique, and all manner of logos – in essence, turning the coaches jacket into an artist’s canvas, the outerwear equivalent of a graphic tee. Nearly every streetwear label produces a coaches jacket with some combination of the following: their name, their logo, a simple center-back graphic, and a dark neutral color scheme. I personally like overstated printed jackets (ex. the SS14 Supreme x The North Face collaboration "Atlas" jackets), but think they take a specific wardrobe to execute well. If you own Vans Old-Skools and know Thrasher as a magazine (not a sweatshirt), a coaches jacket might just be your new favorite spring piece.  

My recommendations: H&M Coaches Jacket ($), Rothco Lined Coaches Jacket ($), HUF Satin Coaches Jacket ($$), Supreme ($$$)

 

 

MA-1 Bomber Jacket

Last but not least: the simple spring jacket that's taken the fashion world by storm. The original MA-1 Flight Jacket (or “Bomber” jacket, as it’s commonly known) entered Air Force service in the 1950’s. At the time, high-density nylon was as cutting-edge as the automatic transmission: light, waterproof, and snag-resistant, the innovative material was a perfect match for high-altitude conditions. The US military wasted no time in outfitting pilots with this novel take on WWII leather jackets. The most iconic colorways of the MA-1 are its original Air Force “Midnight Blue” and the later Army “Sage Green/Orange” popularized by twentieth century youth culture. The recent reemergence of 1960’s era “Souvenir” jackets display a whole other side of this quintessential milsurp-inspired jacket.

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60 years later, bombers have carved out a niche as the streetwear jacket of choice. Thanks to the influence of designers like Raf Simons, Helmut Lang, and Demna Gvesalia (of Vetements fame), the classic MA-1 bomber is the choice of fashion bloggers and creative types alike. Seriously – I challenge you to scroll through any “Fashion Week Street Style” album from the past 5 years without finding at least one MA-1. When a tour merch stand lists a jacket alongside hats and CD’s (ex. Kanye West’s “Yeezus”Travi$ Scott’s “Rodeo”), you know it’s achieved something great. In 2016, the MA-1 jacket is as ubiquitous as Starbucks and Stan Smiths. There’s no way around it: the MA-1 Bomber Jacket is a legend in the making.

My recommendations: H&M ($), Alpha Industries ($$), Stampd ($$), maharishi ($$$), Dries van Noten ($$$)

(A special note: there are tons of jackets that follow the “bomber” genealogy but couldn’t really be characterized as MA-1’s. Varsity jackets, baseball jackets, and souvenir jackets, for example, all retain the general silhouette and details of the MA-1, but riff on the military detailing to establish their own unique identity. In the interest of brevity, I’ve linked to brands/information for each of the above, but will not devote a whole section to what’s truly a minor variation on a theme.)

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There you have it: 12 popular spring jackets, with links and pictures to boot, all curated to help you find your next favorite jacket. Do you agree with the choices? Did I miss your all-time favorite? Comment below or on Facebook here to start the conversation.

AS RAKESTRAW | The personal site of Alex Rakestraw.