Style Off the Cuff: Current trends rooted in history

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

A Levi's 501 jean display is seen at the flagship store Oct. 11, 2005, in San Francisco. These days, our country’s (arguably) best-dressed men can often be spotted wearing field jackets, chambray work-shirts, duck canvas pants, selvedge denim and tweed. It’s clothing you might have expected to see on farms and in factories, or even “when you were younger.”

There is a certain frugality, both monetarily and aesthetically, to buying based on quality and tradition.

Clothing that is made well, with the right fabrics, is simply going to last longer. Colors and fabrics that work well together are always going to make sense. Suits that fit your body and are flattering to your figure (yeah, this is important for guys as well as it is ladies) are always going to look good.

These are the reasons why, as a man, there are traditions and “rules” to getting dressed.

(Now, if you’re shaking your head and fidgeting in your seat, this may be a good time to tell you to wait for next month when I spend some time talking about some triumph stories of that-type-of-rule breaking. Otherwise, continue on!)

If you think the past few sentences sound a lot more like your father or grandfather as opposed to a 26-year-old fashion writer, you are certainly among the majority. However, over the past few years, we have seen men of all ages migrate toward a fashion-consciousness that embraces the very rules and traditions they probably once scoffed at and rejected.

These days, our country’s (arguably) best-dressed men can often be spotted wearing field jackets, chambray work-shirts, duck canvas pants, selvedge denim and tweed. It’s clothing you might have expected to see on farms and in factories, or even “when you were younger.” So why are these pieces making their way out of the fields and onto the runways?

It’s because these clothes, and this style, have history. There is a story told in the shape and design of a pair of Red Wings, the cut of the Levis Vintage Clothing 1947 Shrink-To-Fit 501’s, and the craftsmanship behind a Gitman Brothers button-down shirt.

As culture grows evermore disposable, as ads fill our brains, and as manufacturing becomes more about quantity and less about quality, people (men in particular) have started looking for a comfortable recess from the fast-paced world of trend-driven fashions. Michael Williams, the man behind AContinuousLean.com — a website that really embodies Americana and heritage style — said in an interview, “For a long time we invested in this throwaway culture where everything was fast and new and you bought something for a season. There is push back to that now. People, and brands, too, are realizing there is value in heritage and in this classic stuff.”

In another interview, Williams said, “Products, especially old ones, were all born out of necessity, and people are starting to appreciate the history of things.”

Williams captures the spirit of this heritage-style revival. Regardless of why, whether it’s the endless recession rollercoaster, the rising awareness of unethical manufacturing practices, or a number of reasons, people are beginning to care about how they spend their money. And when shopping for a new pair of shoes, a suit or even a pair of jeans, these enlightened male shoppers are looking for a product with character, with quality, and sometimes most of all, with history.

When you wear a product that has been made the same way in the same place for a hundred years, you are taking part in something bigger, something with more character. You are not only supporting and celebrating the ideals and the work that built our country into the place it is today. You are breathing life into the idea that if you are going to make something, it is worth making it great.

And the idea isn’t going anywhere for a number of reasons. These “artifacts” are still going to be in closets years from now because they last. They’re revisited because they tell us the story of our country’s past, and they’ll survive to tell our stories with us.

— David Hall can be reached at go@ljworld.com.

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