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Jackets, Sweats and Shirts to Update Your Outfits

Coats capable of replacing a blazer, vintage T-shirts, suits you can wear wherever and more.

new essentials tops

A version of this story first appeared in Gear Patrol Magazine. Subscribe today.


Hi there, T-shirt collector, jacket addict or sweatshirt snob. If I had to guess, you, the one reading this right now, are probably one of these aforementioned people. I'm, by virtue of my job, a little of each, and therefore I understand why someone might gravitate toward owning a ton of similar jackets or a museum-worthy archive of band or movie T-shirts.

It happens: you find something you like, whether on the rack or on you, and you wear it all of the time. (Maybe even too much, your friends or family could argue.) Why not if looks good, right? Life's all about experiences, and, honestly, you're not living dressing life to its fullest potential if you find it impossible to part ways with your North Face puffer every once in a while. Get out there, experiment. A mundane uniform may soothe some people's minds — see: Steve Jobs — but keeping it interesting keeps things, well, interesting.

These are the eight types of tops you should own — to keep things interesting.

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new essentials tops

A dozen months without worrying about how we dressed deteriorated even the oldest of style codes. For example, blazers aren’t the be-all end-all of semi-formal or business casual anymore. In their place now are chore coats and other soft-shouldered workwear silhouettes. See: a blazer-like top resembling a baker’s overshirt made from medium-weight twill, a charcoal-colored chore coat knit from twice-boiled merino wool, or a knit jacket constructed from supple, organic cotton. Put any of these over a shirt and tie for a casual take on traditional suiting. Embrace their cardigan-like qualities and riff on something Mr. Rogers would’ve worn — it all works.

MORE CHORE COATS

Navy Felted Chore Coat
Buck Mason

Buck Mason's Felted Chore Coat is built like a blazer and dresses up like a blazer, but it isn't a blazer. Magic!

Simple Wool Bakers Jacket
Universal Works

Wool gives this traditional workwear style a healthy dose of elegance.

The Prout Jacket
Taylor Stitch

Although The Prout Jacket is soft, it's plenty sturdy, too, thanks to its blended organic cotton-nylon construction.

new essentials tops

Prep is popular again, but there are less Nantucket Red chinos and long-sleeve Vineyard Vines T-shirts this time around: They’ve faded in favor of rugby shirts. These are less son-of-a-banker and a bit more punk — like a school uniform with a rebellious twist. Fittingly, the style originated at a school literally called Rugby School. (Located in Warwickshire, England, it’s also the birthplace of rugby.)

Worn initially as sportswear, early woolen editions were white and had tiny, stiff collars. Soon cotton came to replace wool, and the collars grew. Then, as the sport gained steam, rugby shirts featured colors unique to particular teams. Whenever two smaller teams merged, their hues would be equally represented on the new rugby: Cue contrast collars, patch logos, stripes and vertical color blocking — aka all of the fun parts.

New preppy designs riff on these origins while making tweaks for the modern wearer. Collars have become more practical and color combinations more fashionable, transforming the rugby into something you can wear everyday.

Rugby Shirt
Adsum

Adsum's new rugby shirt arrives right in time for fall. 

Ruben Striped Rugby
Norse Projects

Gray isn't boring. It goes with everything. And a gray rugby is an excellent gateway into better, brighter iterations.

Block Stripe Rugby
Rowing Blazers

Rowing Blazers really drove the return of the style, which, for a while was left for dead (with the rest of prep).

casual polo

In the world of polo shirts, rigid pique and performance fabrics once reigned supreme. However, they’ve since been surmounted by sun-faded terry and slubby cotton. There was no official overthrow of either Lacoste or Ralph Lauren by any means, but polo shirts once seen as stylish are now considered stiff and too “back nine” to go with most bottoms. Loosen up a little, and leave pique and performance fabrics in the past.

BUY JAMES BOND'S POLO

Terry Button Down Polo
Todd Snyder

Todd Snyder's Terry Button Down Polo screams tropical cabana...or quick work chat. Your call.

Polo
Tombolo

This mint green polo has a classic air to it, probably because of its exaggerated collar and its light, swooping neck.

Terry Polo
Birdwell Beach Britches

This option has everything you love in traditional polos but plenty of added flair, too.

new essentials tops

It’s difficult to pin down what will be popular 20 or 30 years from now. As such, purchasing something you’re determined to one day let your kids (or your friends’ kids, or another collector) inherit is hard. But what about something so classic it could never go out of style? Try Ghiaia’s generational raglan crewneck, a sweatshirt-style sweater knit from 100-percent cashmere. Sure, it costs the better part of a paycheck, but cashmere only softens with wear. Plus, Ghiaia’s garments boast the structure to withstand regular wear long enough for another generation to enjoy them, too.

MORE CASHMERE SWEATERS

Solid Cashmere Raglan-Sleeve Sweater
Ghiaia

Know that raglan-sleeve sweater I talked about above? This is it.

Solid Cotton Raglan-Sleeve Sweater
Ghiaia

The cashmere option a bit too costly? Go with cotton. It's still super soft and it's $200 dollars less. 

Ribbed Turtleneck Sweater
Ghiaia

I'm not the biggest fan of turtlenecks, but this ribbed one from Ghiaia looks pretty good.

new essentials tops

We'll spare you a long-winded lowdown of the tech embedded in Arc’teryx’s Alpha AR jacket. Just trust us. Get aboard the gorpcore train! Utilitarian, waterproof jackets have always been commonplace in the closets of hikers and campers, but only as of late — say the past five years — have they entered the realm of high fashion. You see models sporting them in runway shows, celebs rocking Arc’teryx on stage and the hypebeasts you’ve pledged to ignore wearing them in every single Instagram post.

Consider the coast clear: get your own. You won’t be a poseur if you really put it to the test. Trudge to the coffee shop around the corner in a torrential downpour; trek rugged terrain in the height of summer storm season; scale Mount Everest. (Or maybe don’t.) No matter the task, Arc’teryx jackets remain up for the challenge.

Alpha AR Jacket
Arc'teryx

Even if you're not trekking through the woods under torrential downpours you could still use a jacket capable of keeping you dry...if you were to do so. Walks wherever become pretty pleasant with the proper attire.

Alpha AR Jacket
Arc'teryx

Like the jacket but not quite feeling Marigold (that orange color above)? Go green.

Alpha AR Jacket
Arc'teryx

Or gray.

vintage

Graphic T-shirts are a great way to develop personal style. But modern ones emboldened with sports teams or cartoon characters aren’t the coolest. Want a tip? Track down an obscure (or recognizable — who cares) vintage T-shirt with a graphic you can get behind. Merch from the 2011 Murraysville Marathon? Amazing. An old mayoral campaign cap? Sure, but check their platform first. (Or risk getting schooled.)

HOW ONE VINTAGE SELLER ENDURED THE PANDEMIC

1970s Single Stitched "Annual Evergreen Town Race" Distressed Tee
Unsound Rags

This T-shirt will probably sell out. Honestly. There's only one like it. But that's the beauty of vintage shopping: once it's gone, you'll probably never see it again — on the shelves if you didn't cop or on someone else if you did.

1990s "Rigazzis" Faded Black Single Stitch Tee
No Maintenance

Rigazzi's! Home of the...frozen fish bowl? WTF?

70's Panthers Tee
Kissing Booth

F-U-L-L-E-R! P-A-N-T-H-E-R-S!

new essentials tops

Add Camber to the list of trade-oriented clothing companies — which already includes Carhartt, Gildan, Dickies and Cat — now coveted by the fashionable crowd. The tiny company, which is based in Norristown, Pennsylvania, takes larger orders via catalog or sells privately through wholesalers. Overseas, the brand’s sweatshirts — specifically the soft, sturdy 12-ounce #232 Hoodie — are sold by a select few menswear shops savvy enough to acquire stock.

And what makes their wares so covetable, exactly? Word of mouth. Heralded as the best sweatshirt ever made by menswear bloggers, Japanese YouTubers and London shop owners alike, Camber’s made-to-order products have been feverishly hunted by the style conscious ever since.

MORE HOODIES FOR MEN

Camber USA - 232 12oz Pullover Hoodie - Natural
Camber USA

South London's Blacksmith Store stocks Camber sweats in a few different colors. A difficult feat considering Camber only really sells their hoodies wholesale — or B2B. Buy 'em while they last.

Camber USA - 232 12oz Pullover Hoodie - Ash Grey
Camber USA - 232 12oz Pullover Hoodie - Forest Green
new essentials full canvas suit

Cop a full canvas suit. In the long run, even though you’re handing over quite a wad of cash up front, it’ll save you money. Not only will it form to your body in a more flattering way, but full canvas suits withstand dry cleaning better, are more durable and are less likely to rip at a suit’s stress points (the elbows and shoulders). Think about the drape: ones with canvas on the upper half only don’t hang the same way. Plus, most of these plush ateliers offer free alterations with every order.

SPLURGE-WORTHY STYLE ITEMS

Gregory Wool Serge Suit
Purple Label

It's Purple Label...but a blue suit. Just know the Purple, like age statements on whiskies, signifies quality.

Gregory Handmade Wool Houndstooth Suit
Ralph Lauren

Want a few of the same suit — with subtle tweaks, of course — in a few different colors? Do you need to wear one everyday? Go with the Gregory, which was made from blue wool above and wool houndstooth here.

Regent Fit Plaid 1818 Suit
Brooks Brothers

And if you're on a tight budget, go with Brooks Brothers' Regent 1818 Suit. It's a steal for being full-canvas. 

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