Famous for its stand-up collar and buttons up to the neck, the Nehru jacket has an interesting and culturally complex history. Besides its iconic silhouette, the Nehru jacket has also come to be associated with minimalist style — a movement that started in the early 60s with a group of artists in NYC. The “Less is more” philosophy is clearly reflected in the clean, uncluttered lines of the jacket, worn without a tie and with only the most unassuming of shirts (collarless or even an inconspicuous t-shirt).
The look is best achieved in a neutral color palette, like beige, black, and navys. For example, a beige Nehru jacket with a barely-visible white shirt atop trousers in the same tone or a shade or two lighter. Cut, of course, to fit like a glove. This is a favorite for weddings. On the other hand, opting for a contrast jacket with trousers can provide more creative license to the adventurous dresser. In silk, tweed, or vibrant colors or patterns, this type of Nehru jacket can serve as a tasteful eye-catcher when paired with understated trousers.
Like so many menswear staples, the double-breasted jacket’s origins began in the military. In the late 19th century, naval pea coats inspired a new civilian style for casual outings, like tennis and country affairs. At the time, it was considered inappropriate for the office. The design was eventually adapted into a more formal piece – championed in part by the Prince of Wales (later known as the Duke of Windsor). By the 30s and 40s it was a business-formal look and the uniform of Wall Street bankers. Though different styles of tailoring have enjoyed popularity over the years, it remains a favorite for the office.
These days, the jacket sits close to the body with shoulders that are tailored yet natural and soft. It’s a distinctive look and when fitted well can be very flattering. There are many ways to wear it. A double-breasted suit with a 6×2 button construction works well for the office – usually in traditional solid or stripe with a tie. For smart-casual, you can lose the tie and pair with different trousers, mixing solids with classic patterns or chinos.
You might know the morning coat as a cutaway or simply as tails. Today this longline coat is the height of formality, a far cry from its origins. It can be traced back to the late 19th century frock coat. The morning coat’s knee-length design was adapted for horse riding. Instead of straight front edges, the coat curves back into an elegant sweep to free the rider’s knees. The younger generation quickly adopted it as a contemporary alternative. When the stylish Edward VIII reached the throne in 1936, one of his first actions was to abolish the traditional frock coat from court dress in favour of the morning coat.
Although the coat’s heyday continued into the ’50s, these days it’s reserved for formal occasions. True to its name, it’s still only really appropriate for day time (we’re talking before 6pm) events. The modern morning coat is single-breasted, usually in a peak lapel and worn with a contrast waistcoat. Black is the classic color, typically paired with charcoal stripe trousers. That said, it’s not uncommon to see men (and especially grooms) these days play with grays, navy and other neutral hues with monochromatic styling.
The waistcoat or vest came about in the West in the 17th century, inspired by designs seen in Persia and India. It became a permanent fixture when King Charles II decreed it part of a proper Englishman’s dress. These waistcoats were much longer and more elaborate – think bright colors and intricate embroidery – than what you see now. Over time, the style grew more subdued and around the 19th century, it became more of an undergarment to streamline the figure – shorter and tighter. Not long after, legend says King Edward VII started the trend to leave the bottom button undone to accommodate his belly – a tradition still alive and kicking today. The waistcoat stayed a well-loved part of men’s wardrobes, doubling as a way to keep warm throughout the austerity of the Great Depression and Second World War.
Single or double-breasted, with collar or without, there are many ways to wear a waistcoat. Today, it’s most commonly the essential element of the three-piece suit. You can even wear it more casually with your favorite jeans or, for a complete 180 from its formal roots, with a t-shirt.
The safari jacket is a versatile piece of menswear. As the name suggests, it was originally designed for wear while hunting in the African savanna. The British Army soon introduced the style while stationed in South Africa, at a time when soldiers required fabrics that beat the heat – lightweight, breathable materials like cotton drill. The jacket was designed in utility-inspired hues like khaki or sand, with large pockets, two on the chest and waist. These iconic pockets were used for carrying necessities like bullets, knives, and perhaps a cigar. The style was later adopted by civilians traveling across Africa and featured in films on Hollywood’s leading men.
Today, the style is available in a range of modern colors and designs. Equal parts polished and practical, the lightweight jacket still works as well in the city as the bush. Wearable as a heavier shirt, light layer, or summer jacket, this style has become a much-loved staple for the modern workplace and weekend wear.
You couldn’t be blamed for assuming this style was first developed for the sport of polo. But in actual fact, the polo that we know today was born from a different sport – tennis. Back in the 1920s, tennis players used to wear the same white sports shirt with a button-down collar popular in polo when the all-time great, René Lacoste, kicked up some dust. He traded in his tennis uniform, which had long been a long-sleeved Oxford shirt, wool trousers and even a tie for a completely new, short-sleeved shirt with a simple, flat collar and a shortened 3-button closure. The shirt was also made from an innovative piqué knit (a stretchy cotton fabric) – a huge leap in comfort and movement. Any other player may not have gotten away with such a controversial move. It didn’t take long for this new design to become a hit, both on and off the field.
Today the shirt style hasn’t strayed too far from its classic design and has now inspired modern woolen knitwear versions like this one, with long and short sleeves enjoying equal popularity. Dressier than a tee but less formal than your office button-up, the polo knit strikes a sweet spot that allows for optimum versatility.
Unlike its v-neck cousin, whose name is an obvious reference to form, the crew neck and its origins aren’t as immediately apparent. A flush, rounded and relatively high cut neck – it is actually said to have initially been worn by members of a ship or boat crew, hence its name. While some reports point to fishermen, some to the military and others to athletes as the first to wear this style, the effortless functionality of the neckline is the undisputed logic behind its invention. Comfortable and pragmatic, the crew neck has a ribbed neckline to help maintain its shape after being pulled over the head.
Nowadays, the crew neck cut is considered to be an extremely neutral look, likely explaining its status as one of the most popular styles. Flat and therefore easy to use as a layering piece, a crew neck knit can be worn year-round. Alone or with only an undershirt in the warmer months, or on top of your button-up and beneath a jacket when the temperature drops or a dressier look is desired.
Zipper was conceived as a moniker for the sound made by the slider as it runs along the teeth. The name was actually coined years after the zipper’s initial invention in the early 1920s, after a few less inspiring options like “separable fastener”. In the decade that followed, the zipper came to be used on leather jackets, then on children’s clothing to encourage self-reliance, and eventually as a welcome alternative to the button fly on men’s trousers. Today, the zipper is the world’s most common type of fastener thanks to its quick and uncomplicated functionality.
Our full-zip style features an open two-way zipper: allowing the top to be pulled down and the bottom to be raised to create more room at the hips or to better mirror the line of a top layer, such as a jacket. With its ease of use, the full zip is arguably the most practical style of knitwear, and it’s half-zip counterpart a pragmatic cross between the mock neck (when zipped) and polo (unzipped). Both slightly more casual than their buttoned equivalents, and equally capable of walking the line between laid-back and sharp.
Said to be based on a knitted woolen military vest that became popular in the wake of the Crimean War, the front-buttoned knitwear we know today was named after its most infamous wartime wearer: the 7th Earl of Cardigan (a historic county in Wales). While originally sleeveless, a long-sleeved version soon emerged and eventually became the standard. Having long been associated with golf, university life, and fishermen, Kurt Cobain essentially rebranded the look when he wore an oversized mohair cardigan during Nirvana’s 1993 appearance on MTV Unplugged: you can’t put the cardigan in a box.
Although the cardigan has since seen many advancements and incarnations over the years, affected in no small part by the evolution of industrial knitting machines, its main appeal has long been agreed upon: you don’t have to put it on over your head. An ideal warm-to-cold transition piece, perfect for layering, or as a back-up in unpredictable weather. Sometimes worn as a more casual version of the waistcoat and often in combination with a button-up shirt, tie and/or tailored jacket.
Few necklines conjure up a range of associations as wide as that of the turtleneck. Made rebellious and artsy by beatnik counter culture, collegiate by preppy fraternity brothers, and smart by masterminds like Carl Sagan and Steve Jobs – the turtleneck can cover a lot of territory. Although the silhouette is said to date back to Elizabethan and even some medieval styles, the modern turtleneck is more directly related to the functional garb of 19th-century fishermen and other naval workers. Clearly, it’s almost chin-high, folded-down neckline is skilled at keeping you warm when the weather is not. For this reason, the style has also been worn by polo players since the 19th century, which explains its alias ‘polo neck’ in the UK.
These days, the turtleneck is still loved as a stand-alone top and for its ability to elegantly replace the shirt and tie beneath your jacket. Some men have even started to wear it as a modern twist under their tux or dinner jacket. However you wear it — tucked in or out, as formal or leisure wear, to the office or out with friends — the turtle neck combines effortless sophistication with practical comfort and warmth.
A shorter version of the turtleneck, the mock neck offers a similar look with two notable differences: it reaches high on the neck, but not quite as high as the turtle and without folding down. Consequently, the mock neck is slightly less warm and less perceptible to the wearer, making it the perfect alternative for those who want the look of a turtleneck with a more open feel.
Seen on stars such as John Lennon and Tiger Woods, the mock neck can go from nonchalant to smart casual to office alternative simply by adding or removing your jacket and your choice of shoes. It’s ideal as a base layer underneath an overshirt, and for brisk or transitional weather.
Clean cut and generally in line with the slim-fit aesthetic of the 21st century, the flat-front trouser boasts a “plain” front, sans pleats below the waistband. It’s been around since the full-length trouser beat out its knee-length predecessor (the breeches) in the early 1800s. That said, the popularity of the flat front has waxed and waned since. For example, in more recent history, the flat front largely took a backseat to the pleated trouser in the 1980s, but came back to dominate the menswear landscape for a while in the early 2000s. Now they share the mantle.
Usually worn a little lower than the pleated version, the flat-front trouser offers a straight, modern, and no-frills silhouette. Naturally, this means its fit becomes the main focus, making the tailoring all the more crucial (also in terms of comfort). The silhouette of a well-fitting flat front usually provides all body types with the most slender look possible.
When pursuing a specific look or feel, pleats (or a lack thereof) are a modest but meaningful piece of the puzzle. Referring to one or more small folds stitched in place at the waistband on the front of each leg, the pleated trouser first gained in noticeable popularity around the mid 1920s. While the pleat may still evoke a hint of the debonair style made iconic by 1930s and 40s classic Hollywood, and the likes of Fred Astaire and Cary Grant, the design option itself is a neutral choice with a variety of elements to consider.
Pleats help visually extend and preserve the line of a front crease, or offer a hint of one if no crease is present. They’re generally a flattering silhouette for any body type. People may also prefer the feel of a pleated trouser thanks to its slightly looser, more relaxed fit — which makes for something sartorial yet exceedingly comfortable. And, last but of course not least, the pleat can simply provide some much-welcome variety to an otherwise well-rounded wardrobe.
Eventually adopted on a wide scale thanks to its superior comfort and practicality, the chino made its first appearance on British soldiers during their occupation of India in the mid-19th century. Service demanded a camouflaged look, the tropics demanded breathability, and so soldiers’ uniforms were replaced with trousers made of lightweight cotton, dyed in the then-original color of khaki – derived from the word for ‘dirt/dust colored’ in Hindi. According to one theory, when American soldiers returned home from the Spanish-American war of 1898 a few decades later, they brought the trousers with them.
Jumping forward about 50 years, the chino was becoming an increasingly visible part of civilian dress. In fact, it was initially something of a fashion statement on Ivy League campuses, helping to explain the preppy associations they still have today. Clean cut, durable, and made from breathable cotton, the chino has since gone on to achieve the rank of menswear staple. Polished and refined or cool but collected — today, its sensibility is entirely up to you.
The history of the 5-pocket trouser begins with the invention of jeans. In the decades after the original patent wore off, jeans evolved from pure workhorse to the fashionable 5-pocket style that may now be the most universally loved of all pants. What’s the deal with that fifth pocket? While you may have heard it called a coin pocket before, this detail was first added to securely hold a pocket watch (a common possession of late 19th-century workers). Surprisingly, it wasn’t actually the fifth pocket to be added: jeans initially had only three pockets — two front and one on the back right — then came the watch pocket in the late 1800s and, finally, a fifth pocket on the back left in 1901.
Today, 5-pocket pants can be seen as the uniquely adaptable child of jeans and chinos: combining the more casual fifth pocket and durable metal rivets with the refined look of cotton twill in a wide variety of colors. With sneakers and a hoodie for your weekend adventures, or a collared shirt and tailored jacket for smart-casual affairs.
In the mid 1800s, the California gold rush attracted a wealth of new settlers, including miners and businessmen eager to meet their needs. Among them was a Bavarian-born seller of dry goods — Levi Strauss, perhaps you’ve heard of him — and (about two decades later) his Latvian-born tailor in crime, Joseph W. Davis. Jeans as we know them today were made official by the pair’s 1873 patent on a new, more durable type of pocket: reinforced by copper rivets hammered onto the corners. Strauss imported a sturdy cotton twill from Nimes, France (de Nîmes in French became “denim”) and colored them blue with indigo dye from Genoa (bleu de Genes became “blue jeans”). Virtually eliminating the Achilles heel of work pants, this new, long-lasting design soon became a bestseller.
Initially worn exclusively for physical labor and, amusingly, called ‘waist overalls’ until about 1960, jeans eventually evolved from workhorse to rebellious fashion item (hats off to Marlon Brando and James Dean) to, eventually, essential wardrobe staple, now available in stretch or rigid and a huge range of washes.
From the time denim was first invented up until the mid-20th century, all denim was selvedge denim — the word being textile jargon for the cloth’s “self edges,” produced as the fabric is woven on vintage shuttle looms. Simply put, selvedge jeans have these neatly finished edges on the outseam of each pant leg, recognizable by white edges with a colorful thread. Back when one mill was responsible for producing the denim for all your favorite brands, the colored thread helped the mill distinguish who the denim was for – the levis and wranglers all had their own color. Roll up the leg on your jeans and check the seams on the outside to see if you’re wearing selvedge denim or its contemporary counterpart.
So, why wear selvedge jeans? First, they’re a nod to tradition — well-loved by enthusiasts the world over. Second, they’re a mark of exceptional quality — made only by premium denim mills with an eye for detail. And third, this method creates a slightly less uniform, less “perfect” result — for those who agree character is a good thing. Now available in a whole range of qualities, including raw or washed, rigid or stretch.
Buttoned shirts first appeared in Europe around the 17th century, originally designed as a kind of underwear to protect expensive waistcoats and frock coats from sweat and soil. Less than a century later, they had transformed into garments in their own right. England paved the way, with friends of the Regency and dandies sporting well-styled linen. As white shirts soil so easily, manual workers found it impractical to own them. Only those considered to be gentlemen could afford to keep them clean and so they became a symbol of status. As laundry techniques improved, buttoned shirts did become more popular among the masses but remained a staple of ‘white-collar’ middle-class men.
The collared shirt has since expanded far beyond white, coming in a wide array of colors and designs. A classic white button-up is still perfect for formal or work attire. Solid colors, stripes, and other prints can be paired with chinos or drawstring pant styles for something more smart-casual. Or you can even play with more fabrics like linen and flannel to make it even more relaxed.
As the name suggests, this stiff, short collar has tips that stand up and point out horizontally resembling wings. It was the natural evolution of the Gladstone collar, named after the prime minister of England, William Gladstone. This dramatic version inspired a more subtle (yet still heavily starched) version that became particularly popular during the early 1900’s and part of the everyday dress of men in the Edwardian era.
Though the collar slowly lost popularity due to the rise of more comfortable options, the classic winged collar is still often preferred for formal and ceremonial events. The design allows your choice of bow tie to stand out, making this the perfect black-or-white-tie dress shirt. Today, it tends to be crafted in either classic white or black, plain or with a pleated ‘bib’ to be worn with a traditional tuxedo and, of course, a bow tie. When styling, don’t forget to tuck the collar points behind your bow-tie for the most sophisticated look.