Style Off the Cuff: Heritage revival brings back classic fit, construction



Carl Styers lifts a spool of dyed woolen chord onto a rack where it will be twisted together with others to make yarn in the mill in Woolrich, Pa., in this Dec. 17, 1998, photo. Woolrich’s roots go back to 1830, when John Rich founded the company to make fabric for wives of hunters, loggers and trappers.

Last month I talked about traditional style and the resurgence of a classic, Americana style.

While many would argue (correctly) that such style and focus on quality American manufacturing never stopped being relevant, it has undeniably made a mainstream resurgence over the past several years.

There are manufacturers like Levi’s that continue to produce the iconic, new-again staples from the ‘50s and ‘60s, and they are thriving by going through their archives and recreating those pieces stitch for stitch.

In each piece you’ll find an inherent timelessness in fit, fabric and style. While they may not be offering anything truly original, the stuff just works, and it always will.

There are also, however, other manufacturers infusing this heritage revival with modern fits and splashes of unconventional patterns and colors. Woolrich Woolen Mills, for example, is a company as steeped in tradition as anyone around.

Woolrich Woolen Mills is a collection born out of a collection dedicated to using fabrics constructed in the original Woolrich mills, which date back to the origin of the Woolrich company in 1830’s Pennsylvania.

By bringing together original American-made fabrics, traditional outerwear and workwear garment details, and modern patterns and fits, WWM captures that nostalgic feel of truly vintage pieces while also remaining relevant to a more fashion-conscious audience.

And while these pieces from designers and manufacturers such as these may not have the stylistic staying power of truly traditional pieces, they offer the same construction quality and manufacturing integrity that is becoming evermore important to a more educated consumer.

So what does it actually look like? All this talk of melding vintage with modern, and I haven’t offered up any examples!

GQ offers up a nice review of the Spring/Summer 2012 collection from WWM that serves well to encapsulate this vintage-meets-modern ideology. See it at

You’ll find each look offers up a certain familiarity, almost making you feel as if you have seen it before. The fits, however, have been updated and the patterns are fresh and experimental. You’ll find jackets that are classic enough to fit into anyone’s existing wardrobe alongside a surprising set of African-print shirts and scarves.

There is that definite sense of higher-fashion in these daring combinations, but it doesn’t reach so far as to turn away someone uninterested in today’s revolving door of trends.

Mark McNairy, the designer behind the WWM line for the past several seasons, also has his own line of footwear that serves as another great example of mixing classic shoe styles with fresh colors and details. See his collections at

Here you’ll find a classic tassel loafer revamped with navy suede and a bright yellow sole, a green suede chukka and a black pebble-grain brogue, all of which will surely turn some heads. But pair them with the right classic pair of dark denim or chino and you’ll have the perfect modern addition to an already classic outfit.

Within any collection that attempts to mix modern fashion with style that has existed in its own steadfast right for decades, you are going to find pieces that you love and pieces that you hate. Nonetheless, everyone can appreciate reinvention — whether it’s for paying homage to our collective history or for forging new ground and creating a new page in menswear’s ever growing history books.

— David Hall can be reached at


Stuart Sweeney 8 years, 6 months ago

Just shows Wal-Mart cannot destroy everything with the cheap Chinese crap!

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