April 27, 2011

Springtime In The Southland: We Do Love A Wedding

It's that time of year down here when folks like to get hitched in the out-of-doors and especially in historic locales. Saturday we were happy to make the trip just outside of Franklin to Carnton Plantaton to attend the wedding of our thoughtful and creative friends Tim and Sarah.
Classic Antebellum architecture

The backdrop for the ceremony was an ancient Osage-Orange tree.

A door on one of several outbuildings on the property.

 The battle of Franklin (fought within view of the mansion) was a devastating loss for the Confederacy and set the stage for the Battle of Nashville which would put the Army of Tennessee out of commission for the rest of the war. Wounded Confederate soldiers were carried to Carnton, which had been converted into a field hospital. Nearly 1500 Southern soldiers who died in the battle are buried here.

 Slave quarters.

This was what I would call a "navy blazer affair" (though I did see a few fellows in seersucker, pushing the season in my opinion, even on the eve before Easter.) I went with a basic white OCBD, some lightweight glen plaid trousers, a madras bowtie, and suede Aldens.  All proved perfect for enjoying a sweet ceremony followed by Memphis-style brisket under a tent. Moments like these, holy unions confirmed and celebrated in the shadows of our rich (albeit painful) history are some of the reasons I love living in the South. All in all, a lovely evening was had.

April 3, 2011

The Blues

I admit that my enthusiasm for the oxford button-down could be described as borderline fanaticism at times.  (I can be seen wearing a blue one under a blue blazer in my high school senior yearbook photo and even now I wear one just about every day of the week.)  In my opinion, there are few things that say as much about masculine American style better than this traditional shirt. But while the basic design has hardly changed in the century-plus since John Brooks first found inspiration in English polo players (who were acting more out of functional need than fashionable know-how in their attempt to keep their collars from flapping while riding) the details are where variety can be found today in this stalwart of style.

I boil the main differences down to three basic items: Collar, Color, and Cut.

Collar - Probably the primary source of variety among shirt makers, the collar can also be the most crucial in accomplishing "the look" you are after. The more you compare the more you'll notice that the length, point, softness, and roll of a collar are often details unique to its maker.

Color - As you can see from the pictures below, color can vary slightly even within a unique hue. Of the four blue shirts I compared, not one is the same as another in its degree of colorfulness. Granted, this can change over time and exposure but not to the degree that these differ.

Cut - By this I simply refer to the patterned shape of the shirt as it relates to fit. Slim, full, traditional, athletic, baggy, and regular are all common adjectives when referring to cut.

Four distinct shade of blue from four different makers.

Classic LL Bean (not the disgusting non-iron variety). This shirt is baggy and soft and the lightest blue of the bunch.

Brooks Brothers traditional. A full cut with a perfect roll over a tie. This is the classic blue.

Close-up reveals improvement with age...fraying.

J. Press flap pocket. A slimmer fit than the Brooks but by no means too slim. Probably my favorite cut. Collar could stand to be softer and does not roll over tie like the Brooks. Most similar to the Brooks in color.

Ralph Lauren Yarmouth. Nice baggy fit without as much extra material as the Brooks. Collar is on the small side but still dresses up. The "greyest" blue of the bunch.

The most often worn of the above shirts is the Brooks with the J. Press coming in at a close second. All of these shirts are sized as dress shirts, which obviously helps in the fit area compared to some other brands that might otherwise be worth comparing. I've heard great things about the Hyde Park oxford from Lands End but I've never tried them. I do, however, have my sights set on a couple of Mercer & Sons OCBDs this year so I'm anxious to see where they fall in the mix. If you have a brand that you think is worth highlighting, please weigh in with a comment.