Alden of New England

Alden LogoLet’s see how much of the Trad&Prep Encyclopedia you’ve mastered with a Pop Quiz.

Question: Who is the DEFINITIVE American shoemaker?

Shoemaker ListAnswer: Alden.

Explanation: That should’ve been easy, no? Of that iconic list of shoe manufacturers – each quite innovative to the evolution of American fashion in their own right – only one satisfies all the prerequisites of what we expect the DEFINITIVE RedWhite&Blue cobbler should be:

  • Proven Heritage Label – Charles H. Alden opened his Middleborough, MA factory doors in 1884. Over 130 years later, Alden is the lone survivor of originally hundreds of New England shoemakers who closed up throughout the following century. Some of the few left notable neighbors are relative newcomers compared to Ol’ Timer Alden: Rancourt&Co (reestablish. 2009), Quoddy (1998), Sperry Topsider (1935), LLBean (1912), and New Balance (1905)….and, mind you, just Rancourt, Quoddy, and Alden produce entirely in-house instead of overseas. This fact alone is what disqualifies GH Bass from real contention to Alden, since the Maine birthright of 1876 no longer makes its once-great Weejun in the USA….more talk about that later.
  • Uncompromising Craftsmanship – Multi generational family owned and operated in the same birthplace city it began. The likes of Sperry, Bass, New Balance, and of course Nike, had long ago chose profitable imported mass production over attentive custom manufacturing. While Alden steadfastly relies on traditional welted shoemaking with use of only the highest quality raw materials. And unlike “that other” more mainstream domestic source from Wisconsin (and a lil’ bro at that….est. 1922), 100% of Alden’s catalog is Made in USA. Yup, not even our gold standard supplier of corporate-climbers Allen Edmonds is infallible to the global economy. See for yourself AE’s casual line where most disseminated models are from the Dominican Republic.
  • Innovation of [Cult] Classics – 403 Indy Boot. Tassle Loafer. Unlined Chukka. Longwing Blucher. Plain Toe Cordovan Blucher. Leisure Handsewn Loafer aka “LHS”. Bred over the decades for gritty combat by our WWII GI’s, or hostile acquisitions by refined boardroom executives; and now most recently, Lumberjack wannabes with smelly goatees and raw denim alike – Alden is not just some boutique player or has-been, having proved itself over and over in the traditional shoe game.
  • Shell Cordovan - More durable [read: pricey] than your usual calfskin, Alden is synonymous with this ultra luxurious hide; especially as the largest stockist of Chicago-based Horween Leather Company since the 1930s (renown heritage label, one of the oldest US tanneries left continuously running).

Visible Horween Shell Stamp outside  & inside my own LHS pair, Unlined version from Brooks Brothers.

Alden LHS new 3Alden LHS for Brooks Brothers

As much as I recommend the popular Cheesehead Badger on this blog, Allen Edmonds is actually quite entry level on the overall gentleman’s footwear spectrum. The Park Avenue Captoe is so likened by yours truly and the rest of the menswear blogosphere because of its ~$200 mark on sale, perfect for young professionals who need a staple dress laceup of American quality and budget. Yet, Allen Edmonds and all of its glory is trumped by Alden in all regards. Which that ruling should resonate with you: Allen Edmonds, Made in USA and crafter of beautiful timeless designs in its own damn right, is the very MINIMUM of a proper shoe game. And yet how many grown men own a pair of AE Park Aves? Let alone Alden,Crockett & Jones, Edward Green, Carmina…. outflanked by the brainless masses in their rubber-soled plastic flimsy Florheims (once a heritage American maker like Alden…now an afterthought sold at Macys).

The DEFINITIVE American Shoe: The Penny Loafer

No shoe serves best with this metaphor than application to our DEFINITIVE American shoe. True, the Weejuns were there first, but we can all agree that the Bass Weejun of modern day is forgettable with mass produced Chinese replicas of its former American made glory (again with the exception for its recent special USA made collections, such as the Fenmore that Yours Truely also ownes and can attest to!)

Alden picked up where Bass had dropped long ago. Of course, the topic of “Who makes the best…..” is always hotly debated, but you can find the most anecdotal support for the Alden LHS on the forums and blogosphere (ex. SF, AAAC, Dappered, etc), developing a cult-like following. But at an ever-rising, high dollar pricepoint that has reached $700 FOR A DAMN PAIR OF LOAFERS – kind of MSRP…..Its easily a waiting game for the majority of us to scrap together the pennies [editor's note: horrible joke].

Makes sense that the Goodyear-welted, American handcrafted loafer made of rare Cordovan Shell commands a premium. But this is one of the star players of your entire wardrobe, and a wear-for-a-lifetime kind of shoe if there ever was one. Well all know that penny loafers are our best versatile shoe, casual enough to wear barefoot and with shorts on the weekends, yet sophisticated enough for all semi-formal occasions up until you require the suit+laceups like the Captoe. It was said that our Original Preppies of the 50s/60s-80s would wear their pennies until they required duck tape, and could get away with owning a single pair for classes Monday to Friday and church on Sundays.

You start with your first leather slip-on, probably a boat shoe like Sperry Topsider, in middle school and wear to college. Then upgrade to a calfskin Cole Haan Pinch Penny or AE Cavanaugh as suggested on this very blog, wearing through college on to early adulthood as a First Year Business Analyst or Med Student. Maybe you also have begun spreading outwards, finishing out the rest of the leather loafers: Tassled, Beefroll FullStrap, Moccosin, Kiltie, et al. Then by your mid/late 20s, you are promoted to Associate or start Residency as a fresh Doc, and your old frat cleat pennies have worn through and are too embarrassingly-scuffed for use at the office or patient floors. Along with donating your last remnants of college memories (ie Southern ______ graphic print frockets and your Costas with croakies), you retire your first pair of pennies to strictly casual and rain-wear. Finally finishing out your penny loafer apprenticeship and prepared for the rest of your successful adult life.

…..then you smoothly sail to the rest of your life. Wearing your trusted dependable guys to Casual Fridays as a future Partner, your First Born’s backyard bday cookout, rocking chairs with the Ol’ Lady at your Hilton Head retirement home. Taking proper care of your lifelong best friend and true wardrobe investment, horse brushing your Cordovan pennies so often and always using cedar wood trees immediately after wear. And since its a gentleman’s shoe, unlike the glue rubber wrecks found at DSW and Macys, you have your LHS restored once the sole requires it. Nope, this is a men’s best friend that will carry your feet into the grave.

Hell…Smooth sailing my ass! FYI it doesn’t stop there. This is your life now. You blow every Xmas bonus on a new pair of LHS until you collect every limited production trim, waiting ever-so-patiently for TheShoeMart to start backorder ….first #8, then Black, then rarer Cigar and Whiskey, then unicorn Ravello….After you’ve cleared the LHS you move on to the Short and Longwing Bluchers…. then Chukkas….The hoarding stronger than your Shaggy Dog and Snap T Synchilla obsessions!  Feel free to drool through this AAAC thread for a glimpse of your future. Warning: NSFW.

 Enter: The God Mode Prep


noun [/ɡäd mōd prep/]

1. This is the ideal young gentleman we all aspire to be.

“Mr. Calvin Sloan is a rising rock star Jr. Associate. BA from Yale, MBA from Wharton. His father was Managing Principle at our Atlanta branch for over twenty years. A GMP kind of guy, one of us. Thinking we should fast track him to leadership. All agreed? Good. Now let’s go snort coke off dead hookers.”

Three years ago I created this All-College Trad-Comprehensive meme (along with a Tolkien nerd speak that should NEVER be repeated outside this blog). Was just after I brought my other wardrobe staple and lifelong investment – a Barbour - and made an official decree: That one is simply not complete with his Classic East Coast training until he is blessed by the Holy Trinity of these Heritage Porn Stores: J Press, Barbour, and Alden.

Specifically owning these 3 must-haves for a complete Holy Trinity:

JPress Shaggy

Barbour Beau

Alden LHS Pennies

That’s it. Do not buy anything else I tout about on this blog if not for these 3 quality flagships. You’d be so far ahead of those already In the Know that only fellow elitist GMP’s will be able to recognize. Whether you complete the major milestone of one’s personal journey as a college senior -  President of your Middlebury Chapter whose been raised from classical GMP birth and gifted by Daddy a pair of LHS before graduating on to Georgetown Law to follow in Daddy’s footsteps at his Firm. Or like Yours Truely – painstakingly educating thyself from the start and collecting such prized investments over years of saving beer money, just now circling back to Trad Heaven with his very own Alden LHS….the Capt. Ahab to his White Whale, his Holy Grail, his Perfect 10/10 Brunette…. as a mid-20s young professional and 5+yr author of a clothing blog he barely updates anymore (sorry about that folks!) My personal journey will never be complete, but my new pair of LHS rounds out a spiritual goal of transforming my collegiate youth into a capable, well-dressed man schooled in the tradly and preppy ways.

[editor's note: As always....jumped the shark with all of this random symbolism of clothes....its just clothes people. I know that. Haven't lost it. Right? Stage 1]

 CollegeTrad Recommends:

As alluded, your first pair of Aldens to buy, or even singularly own forever…as if thats humanly possible to keep only to a lone pair [see above: Hell...Smooth sailing my ass!... ] is the Model #986 Leisure Handsewn Loafer.

Meet your last BFF you’ll ever need to meet: A pair of LHS Cordovan Color #8 Burgundy.

034H_BURGUNDYNormally I prefer that you go to the “original source” company that first innovated the particular product. However, you’ll notice that I advocate for the Brooks Brothers collaborated version of the LHS instead. This is because their version is Unlined, which makes it easier to wear and breathe during the summer months; while Alden’s own make (most popularly found at The Shoe Mart) comes with Lining only. The downside comes when you want to buy the various colors, which Alden only offers for its own make. Thus I suggest buying the popular Rosso Corsa Red Ferrari of LHS shoes and get the popular #8 Color with Brooks Brothers and all the other trims with Alden. But you can be the judge of which lining is best for you.

Many owners have also added that the BB Unlined LHS “fits like a glove” and are comfortable enough for house slippers, requiring very little breaking-in. I have generally found this to be the case for my own although I do think there is some breaking for a true comfort fit.

My Brooks Brothers LHS fresh out of the box (bought NOS via eBay).

Alden LHS new 1 How to Buy

The advantage of the Brooks Brothers Unlined LHS is that it usually qualifies for their biannual 30% Off Sale. So at the present MSRP of ~$730, they would drop to a mere ~$510. CHEAP! Right? But at least you can factor in the points to your BB Credit Card (you have one…right…) that add up to reward gift certificates.

The downside is that since the Unlined LHS can only be found at Grandaddy Brooks, stock is easily Sold Out and it can take more than a few months to replenish backorder. In fact, when I was looking to buy my LHS early Spring of last year 2015, the #8 trim was completely gone at BB online and nationwide (via checking with my local BB Sales Assoc.) They were not able to get another order in until F/W 2015! That reason, and the fact that LHS price keeps going up and up since it was around $500 just a few years ago, means you should buy as soon as you saved up. Once they’re out of stock at BB then it may take another year before showing up again, at probably a higher price.

The Shoe Mart also carries seasonal discounts, typically in the 15-20% range off their Alden catalog.

Although you have a tiny chance of finding them less $500, by pure luck by searching eBay and the clothing forum Buy&Sell sections. You can find a lightly used pair for under $400 but often there are not too many listings at any given time, so your size take some patience. One eBay Powerseller in particular, SteveSmith of SF/AAAC membership fame, happens to source his Brooks Bros NWT items from the secretive Garland Factory Store. He had carried very few select sizes of Old Stock LHS before. (Friendly Plug: I actually scored mine with personal discount since I happen to know Mr. Smith in real life….won’t say what I ended up paying out of respect, but it was one of my best treasure hunts ever! The LHS he sold me in mid-2015 was floor stock with minor scratches that had discoloring on the right shoe due to the display lighting. It only took a few weeks of leaving the pair out in the daylight to even out, before wearing.)

eBay is also how I picked up my lightly used Suede Tassles – since Alden supposedly innovated them. $508 brand new, sniped for $125 with shoe trees and original box. Not bad at all!

My twin precious.

Alden LoafersProtip: The LHS uses the Van Last. It’s generally advised to buy at least ONE HALF SIZE DOWN from your normal loafer size for the Unlined. Some owners have suggested a Full Size. Results vary.

Other Useful Links:

StyleForum Alden FAQ

StyleForum Official Alden Thread


Cleaning Shell Cordovan and “The MAC Method”

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Spring & Summer, 2015

 Calling on me like a young OG.
I’m a classic man.

Selected outfits from late Spring to early August ’15. Continuing a major theme of CollegeTrad, this article includes examples of Rule #10 (proving that nice clothes can be affordable if you know how to shop!)


Café lunch with lady friend. One of my favorite dress shirts. Picked up my first pair of Donnelly’s as my most tapered chino, less for trad and more for fashion forward casual outings like this. (FYI: my go-to favorite American chino maker, Bill’s, recently launched Trim Fit M4 to compete with Jack’s.) Also my first Weejuns – took me long enough to acquire an authentic American made trad staple. Treasure hunt retold on the IG.

2b (2)-Brooks Brothers Slim Fit Non-Iron Bold Gingham Dress Shirt, $35 via “3 for $179 everyday deal” plus add. 30% off Corporate Double Discount Day and stacked $20 Brooks Card Birthday gift card (MSRP $92)
-Jack Donnelly Slim Fit Dalton Chinos, made in USA, $25 used via eBay (MSRP $105)
-LL Bean Chino Belt, 1″ width, vintage, made in USA
-Bass Fenmore Weejuns, made in USA, $148 with limited stock (MSRP$295)
-Seiko SKX009 Watch


Visiting The Matriarch for Easter. Church service and Easter brunch invite from family friends at their country club. Actually killed my wallet and paid full price for this KW tie…but its sooo good especially for S/S season versatility.

Easter Trad 2015-JCrew Ludlow British Khaki Irish Linen Suit, on sale $250 (MSRP ~$460)
-Brooks Brothers Slim Fit Non-Iron Spread Collar Dress Shirt, $35 via “3 for $179 everyday deal” plus add. 30% off Corporate Double Discount Day and stacked $20 Brooks Card Birthday gift card (MSRP $92)
-Kent Wang 3″ Sky Blue Grenadine Tie, made in Italy
-BB red and light blue pocket square, made in USA
-Allen Edmonds Clifton, made in USA, $60 used via eBay (MSRP $350)


Climbing up the ladder. Attending a big wig meeting. KW repeat since the sky blue gives a sense of keeping calm & cool & carrying on during the height of summer. All the while hoping they dont call on me. This suit was another hellavua deal, definitely one of my GOAT treasure finds. RL Black Label is a young professional’s fresh-off-the-runway outfitter for an ultra dignified fashionably forward version of Trad&Prep haute couture. Known for its elongated lapels and broad shouldering to enunciate your corporate shark mentality.

3Sans belt for modern minimalism in line of the RLBL aesthetic. 3aJacket removed while staring at excel sheets in the office. Can’t do my usual Politician’s Roll due to the french cuffs. 3bThe Deets. Functioning Surgeon Cuffs. Subtle cotton cuff links in blue and red that suggestively wink at the blue tie, burgundy merlot shoes. Don’t feel like Im at the senior level to have sterling silver cuff links just yet, cotton links placate the ostentatious french cuffs for the junior league. Pay your dues first, Mr. Future CFO. You can be mean when you look this clean. I’m a classic man.3c-Ralph Lauren Black Label Grey Anthony Sharkskin Suit, made in Italy. $200 used, slightly repaired via Styleforum B&S Section (MSRP $1895)
-RLBL Spread Collar French Cuffed Bond Dress Shirt, made in Italy, $30 via eBay (MSRP $295)
-Allen Edmonds Clifton, made in USA
-Seiko 5 SNKE01 Watch


Workday. Felt like putting on the Dandy.

44aThe Deets. Argyle & Sutherland twin socks and tie.4b4c-Ralph Lauren Polo Seersucker 3/2 Roll Sportcoat, made in Italy
-Brooks Brothers Slim Fit OCBD, made in USA
-BB Argyle & Sutherland Repp Tie, made in USA
-BB Natural Craftsmanship Collection Navy Linen & Cotton Dress Pants, made in Italy, $104 on sale (MSRP $348)
-BB Argyle & Sutherland argyle socks (S/S Collection ’13), made in England
-Trafalgar Engine Turned Plaque with with brown calfskin strap
-Alden for Brooks Bros. Cordovan Horween LHS Penny Loafers, Color #8 Burgundy, made in USA, <$250 NOS via AAAC B&S Section (MSRP $728)
-American Optical Original Pilots, made in USA


Saturday night clubbin’. KW fitted polos have mother of pearl buttons and an innovative spread collar, “dressy” for the night yet cool for the sweaty dance floor. Has a cult following and as seen on GQ. Sh*tkicker pennies for high heel scuffs, spilled liquor, projectile vomit, etc. The dance floor is a minefield. Black and mist green makes a nuanced warm night combo.

5-Kent Wang Black Polo
-Brooks Brothers Milano Fit Cotton & Linen Pants
-Cole Haan Pinch Penny Loafer


Just for giggles, if it were a South Beach venue, sippin’ on my third caipirinha and staring at Latina hotties in 11″ heels and 2″ tropical dresses; I would balance the casualness of the polo with pompous tassel loafers. Also prefer breaking up the black with burgundy to round out the color spectrum of these outfits, instead of having two harsh dark & light ends. Make sure pants are as slim as the shirt.

5a-Allen Edmonds Burgundy Grayson Loafers, made in USA, $100 used via eBay (MSRP $385)


Outdoor picnic calls for summer plaids and tartans. Novelty shorts are the easiest way. Violet family goes with Green, just want to tone it down Mr. Joker. Campbell Clan variation I believe. Ya goatfu*ker.

6-Brooks Brothers Lilac Slim Fit Polo,  ~$18 via flash sale (MSRP ~$65)
-Ralph Lauren Polo Tartan Shorts, ~$15 clearance sale via Dillards (MSRP ~$90)
-Hamilton Khaki Field Watch with NATO Strap
-Sperry Authentic Originals Boat Shoes
-Persol SM 714, made in Italy, $275 new via eBay (MSRP $400)


Errands and then gym/run. Representin’ Terbacker Road. Repeat of last year, adding yet another championship. They aren’t too happy ten miles down the road. Rare moment I go for the prototype Fratdaddy look these days a few years removed from undregrad. Will leave it to further down the Brotherhood family tree. College affiliated tee works in lieu of frocket is fine. Generic Nike Logo graphic tee is not.

7aTry not to be a bigger Brand Whore than I already am, keeping the sport logos to a duo. Short shorts per usual, athletic gear at 7-8″ inseam. John Stockton and I agree. Less wind and motion resistance when you are bouncing the ball[sack].

7 -Nike Athletic Fit Tee
-Nike DriFit Running Hat-Ralph Lauren Polo Seersucker Shorts, ~$15 clearance sale via Dillards (MSRP ~$90), hemmed to 6.5″ inseam
-Adidas Tennis Shorts
-New Balance high top socks
-NB 993, made in USA, NOS via Joes Outlet, ~$110 (MSRP $145)


Downtown dinner and drinks with friends. Sophisticated urbanprep vibe. 8 Unbuttoned twice with jacket on. Permission to wear suit top as odd jacket if it is a seasonal fabric/pattern, like this linen. Never with dress worsted wools.8aThe Deets. Subtle varying shades of brown – tattersall matches walnut brown hues of jacket, shoes, accessories; blue hues of denim, polarized lenses, and pocket square. 8b 8c Unbutton twice to make the jacket less stiff for afterhours.8d June bug humidity compounded with whiskey gets me flushed. Unbutton once when jacket removed to appear less Guido-ish. Chest hair need not apply. Like, oh me, oh me oh my. I know many women want to be in my life.9e-JCrew Ludlow British Khaki Irish Linen Suit Jacket
-Brooks Brothers Spread Collar Dress Shirt, made in USA
-Raleigh Denim Jones Fit Raw Selvedge, made in USA
-Trafalgar engine-turned plaque with BB British Tan leather strap, made in Italy
-JCrew gingham pocket square, made in USA
-Allen Edmonds Strand, Walnut, made in USA, ~$200 on clearance via Shoebank Factory Second


Friday before Independence Day Weekend. Worked a few hours in the silent halls. Business casual with chinos and barefoot loafers (S/S Holidays with 90% of officemates gone are the only time socks may be an option). Dressed it up a tad with blue blazer and weejuns. Taking note from Don Draper, he knew to compliment the height-of-summer with Indian Madras Plaid.

3Kept jacket on most of the day to mute the plaid and belt. With jacket at back of my chair and sleeves rolled to type up reports. Motif needlepoint to celebrate Lady Liberty’s 239th Birthday. Doesn’t look a day over 200. 4a-Anderson-Little Blue Blazer, made in USA, vintage, thrifted $5
-Brooks Brothers Country Club Plaid OCBD, woven in Italy made in USA, tailored, $~20 via Garland Factory (MSRP $225)
-Smathers & Branson American Flag Needlepoint Belt, $115 on sale via Onward Reserve (MSRP $165)
-BB Milano Fit Non-Iron British Khaki Chinos 
-Bass Fenmore Weejuns, made in USA


Independence Day BBQ. All American combo of white shirt+nanny reds. The original nanny reds by the way, more of a “salmon pink” by sea salt fade. Linen cool into the firework-lit night.

July4th15The Deets. Red, White, Blue. Worth investing in a patriotic belt for the summer holidays - treasure hunt documented on IG.July4th15b-Brooks Brothers Slim Fit Linen Shirt
-Murray’s Toggery Nantucket Red Shorts, hemmed & tapered to 7.5″ inseam from bermuda length, $36 used via eBay (MSRP $80)
-Smathers & Branson American Flag Moftif Needlepoint Belt
-Sperry Authentic Original Boat Shoes


Casual affair. Nanny Reds part deuce. Muted with black for dog day August afternoon.

2-Brooks Brothers Original Fit Polo, inherited from my Father
-Murray’s Toggery Nanny Reds
-Rancourt Gilmore Camp Moc, made in USA


Scored free passes to the RBC Heritage in April. My boy Spieth fresh off [his first] Masters win in August, just down the road from Hilton Head. As if I needed a reason to visit a Trad Mecca.

IMG_2645Despite a penchant for plaid shorts, Yours Truely isn’t much of a golfer. Does not mean I can’t appreciate the tradly spirit of The Game. There is the Green Blazer, and then there is the Heritage Plaid blazer. Accredited by the Council of the Scottish Tartan Society. One yellow bar removed from Royal Stewart Tartan to make it custom to the Cup. IMG_2690 Southern breakfast. Deviled Eggs a must. IMG_2664Chicken n’ Waffles. Yup. Bacon bits. IMG_2667 And some cherry pie.IMG_2668Cathills Market in neighboring Bluffton. IMG_2669 Madras the epitome of a Summer Sportcoat.IMG_2674 -Ralph Lauren Polo Indian Madras Sportscoat
-Brooks Brothers OCBD, made in USA
-Bills Khakis M3, made in USA
-Bass Fenmore Weejuns, made in USA


After years of visiting South Carolina, finally picked up my very own Salty Dog Frocket. Famous around deez here parts. Cheaper to buy from the Factory where they print ‘em than at the actual restaurant.

IMG_2694This Flying Beast guards the gates of a coveted Southern Frocket Medallion. Fratdaddies from UVA all the way to Miami University have fallen prey to its razor sharp talons to earn the right to wear The Dog.



Groceries. Fratdaddy alumni.1 I like a golden yellow against a saltwashed navy. Blucher mocs lovingly broken-in and aged. Not trying to keep those pristine, meant for the elements. DatAss.1a-The Salty Dog Cafe Frocket
-Duck Head Chino Shorts, hemmed to 6″ inseam
-LLBean Blucher Moc


Brother and I visiting The Matriarch.

TradFamilySummer15a#TradFamily.TradFamilySummer15First Born Heir to the Throne: JCrew Ludlow Linen Suitjacket (borrowed from me), Brooks Brothers OCBD made in USA, Chipp2 Blue Grenadine Tie made in USA (borrowed from me), JC Broken In-Chino, Cole Haan loafers, AO Original Pilot shades (his own upon my consult, same as mine).

Her Majesty: JC cardigan, BB summer dress, custom made pearl necklace gifted from The Patriach, Dooney & Burke summer purse, and her generic fashion watch and old lady comfort shoes to my chagrin.

Young Master Prince: BB Fitzgerald Fit Chambray Sportcoat, BB NonIron Slim Fit Light Blue Houndstooth OCBD, BB madras patchwork bowtie made in USA, BB Milano Fit Cotton Linen Pants in S/S season white, my staple Trafalgar plaque belt with dark brown strap to match my loafers, Alden LHS made in USA, Persol PO276 shades made in Italy.



Your needs get met by the street, elegant old fashioned man.
Yeah baby I’m a classic man.

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Filson Bags

Filson Small DuffleMy Filson Small Duffel with “Guaranteed Warranty” Registry Tags

In preparation for last October’s weekend excursion, I bought my first (and probably my last) “Weekender” -  a dressed down bag meant for elective quick turnarounds or as a carry-on for exotic outbounds. Something sturdy that can be easily thrown in the trunk of a Harvard Boy‘s vintage Mercedes station wagon. Enough volume to house a few days worth of his outfits, yet small enough to squeeze between his St. Bernard’s big ass sleeping cushion and gym bag full of lacrosse gear in the boot. Able to gracefully age over multiple instances of Beethoven’s slobbered antics as he rides with Harvard out of Cambridge for the weekend, or carelessly dropped onto the gravel driveway hours later when the duo arrives at Grandma’s lodge at Cape Cod.

As with all niches that fill up our Trad&Prep Lexicon, there is an undisputed icon that readily comes to mind, as the Americana-rebellious area of my otherwise tradly brain opted for the Filson Small Duffel to fittingly go along with raw selvedge denim and plaid shirts one wears on the weekends to take a break from the workweek buttoned up uniform. All great staples of our beloved style share a common trait, with Filson being exceptionally famous for this battle-worthy quality that propels the stature of all such classic wardrobe items. A Filson bag feels somewhat heavy in hand even when empty, which I like because it confirms the authentic craftsmanship of a solid American made build. The abrasion/water proof oiled twill cotton exterior develops that amazing sought-after patina we love dearly after years of wear, akin to our favorite pair of sh*tkicker pennies. You end up looking forward to your Filson Duffel developing its own persona that serves as a visual storyteller of your past-and-future escapades. I have an ever growing list of domestic and international destinations to lug my Duffel to, and am excited to see our partnership renew – after too many weeks or months of monotonous paper chasing – time and time again. Of which, it is certainly foreseeable for my Filson to reach that Last a Lifetime Prize we aspire for. Always talked about in fashionista masturbation, but still too early in your new friendship to see for yourself. (You can however witness Filson’s testament of enthusiasts who are farther along their journeys in this huge SF thread.) The Seattle-based company is so uncompromising on their promise of delivering top notch quality that they offer a Lifelong Guarantee for each of their bags.

I suspect you may use your Weekender quite often throughout the year, say for upcoming road trips, fraternity formals, professional seminars, romantic overnight outings with the girlfriend, or impromptu weekend layovers. A Duffel is exactly the mobile carry-on you would want for these frequent affairs. You may even find yourself reaching for that Duffel moreso than your bulky luggage set that you paid $500+ for, but has been collecting dust in the attic ever since last June, when you regrettably went on a headache-inducing week long family cruise over summer break. Grandma pestering you the whole boat ride about finding a nice gal to marry, as you tried calmly sipping your watered down $12 Daiquiri, getting a lobster tan beside a top deck swimming pool filled with nasty diseases and some kid’s urine. Hopefully your Weekender sees better days than your American Tourister.

Unlike those annoying Roller bags with collapsible handles that your fellow airport companions trip over in a crowded terminal, a Duffel sings to the whimsical melody of ‘Get up and GO’ that harmonizes your noisy lifestyle. Given you only have 72 or so hours of mental freedom between mindnumbing Excel sheets at work or ten page essays about existentialism in Philosophy 102, would you not want dependable luggage that frees your mood for a relaxing vacation oasis? Why rack up more stress aneurysms with those stupid Rollers that have dozens of interior compartments that only serve to waste precious space, thereby your 2 shirts + 2 pants + jacket exploding the rigid exterior past the limits of those damn tiny overhead airplane bins; forcing you to check-in and then waste ample time on the tarmac, waiting for your dumb Roller to unload by some manhandler in a yellow vest, that you could have spent enjoying those few more extra minutes basking in a warm Miami Sun, before reality bites and forces you back into a fluorescent-lit Chicago cubicle. Get up and Go.

Stash away your Made in Italy Tumi Roller (a favorite of the traveling executive, and one of my top recommendations for your non-Weekender) for the next business trip. Pull out your Made in USA Filson Duffel for everything else. The tough canvas won’t mirror your stiffy power suits and cufflinks the way a Tumi Metallic Hardshell does. Rather, your Filson Duffel embraces a soothing minimalism in complimenting a casual getaway. As if you haphazardly grabbed your most prized possessions and threw them into your Weekender/Emergency Escape Pouch in a mad dash out the door once Friday afternoon strikes 5pm. The decade old Brooks Blue OCBD must-iron with an awesome frayed collar and soft touch. Paired with very familiar Weejuns that has a fourth-replaced sole by your neighborhood Cobbler. A pair of vintage Murray’s Toggery “Nanny Red” chinos that Dad passed down to you; the Coral Pinkish Red having kissed the New England sun and sand every summer since you were born. This is the state of serenity you want for a perfect three day distraction. And the organic texture of your Filson in earthy colors of Tan or Otter Green is what your poor overworked self needs to rehab your colorblind soul, treating a tech-ridden landscape attributed to all other commonplace garment bags, laptop briefcases, and attachés that riddle the airport terminal in boring lifeless Gunmetal and Black.

Trading Manhattan with the Hamptons for the weekend. Sporty Casual Americanwear is what Michael Bastian does best. (Note: He is wearing a military surplus rigger, not a Filson Duffel L/XL, but the utilitarian sentiments of this awesome look remains the same. Also, cool to point out he appears to be wearing the original Nantucket “Nanny” Red Murray’s Toggery for his summer take on The Uniform of OCBD+shorts.)

source TheSartorialist Michael BastianThe minimalist theme again comes into play with simple no-frills construction. Filson Duffels have a single compartment with two interior wall pockets on each end. An outer storm flap and a rust-proof brass zipper. That’s it. No various meshed pockets and zippers that imprison your clothes with separate encasings that theoretically offer up clean organization, but realistically just eat up valuable real estate. It is oddly refreshing to just “pile it all in” into a roomy zipped enclosed abyss. Supported by tanned Bridle leather straps and two-snag grip for easy palm or shoulder carry, you can just whisk away your belongings and be out the airplane easy peasy. While the portly fella in a crumpled three button pinstriped suit a few rows back is still struggling to get his desperately-needed-matter-of-life-or-death Roller handle out before departing the fuselage, creating a backlog of aghast passengers behind him. You’ll brisk away past the food court before he even steps out! Lastly, an undervalued advantage of the pliable Rugged Twill cotton is that it expands or compresses with the needs of the contents. This means that two day’s worth of clothes actually reflects two day’s worth of feathered physical footprint. Not so with a Hardshell. So while a Duffel is a yellow polka dotted bikini when it can be, carefree and shapeless; a Roller or one of its many cumbersome cousins is more like a beached whale, lunky and sad. A Hardshell keeps its bulky proportions no matter if it is holding one outfit or many.


Because the Filson Duffel comes in size S-M-L-XL, it is natural to think the Medium would be the best option for intermediate space befitting of a few days of holiday. This is actually not the case. I strongly suggest the size Small for your first Filson, as having done the full background research when contemplating between the sizes myself (ex. read this Reddit review), I found disagreeing issues with the Medium that mostly stemmed from its sheer over-capacity. Even though the Small is seemingly *just shy* of being the “Perfect Size” for a couple of days, most owners would rather deal with the Small efficient (18″W x 10″H x 11″D) dimensions as compared to the Medium cavernous ( 24″W x 13″H x 10 1/2″D) dimensions. Again, assuming you need a simple carry-on that is not too bulky, the Medium actually will NOT fit into an airplane overhead bin if inflated to the max. The Small does. And although the latter may not be adequate for a pair of winter puffy coats, six shirts, and four pairs of shoes all at once…think of this confinement as a blessing. The Small’s physical boundaries forces you to consider only the bare essentials that reduces unneeded clutter. As the life lesson goes: Less is More.

How to Pack:

Not that I want to give the false impression that the Small Duffel is barely big enough for a Shih Tzu’s droppings. Remember: the prompt statement for a proper Weekender requires just a compact clothing kit. This given variable is defined within our dressed down problem set and follows assumption that you already know how to pack economically while maximizing versatility (ie utilizing solid colors, layering, etc.) Hence, the Filson Small solves all parts of the equation by offering us a basic unfiltered void for which to practice. Just obey your logical senses. Resist the urge to overpack! Bring  2 pairs of shoes, and flip flops if needed, that will get you through most levels of the formality spectrum. You do not need your heavy Dress Captoes for Saturday night dinner if your Loafers suffice. Passover the Sunday Suit and work in an odd sportcoat instead, (which btw has the added bonus of doubling as your outerwear!) Wear your post-Friday night festivities’ wrinkled OCBD on Monday morning’s coffee run on the way back home. Use athletic gear for sleep on Friday night then get it sweaty at the gym Saturday morning. Pack for the two day recharger, not the month long sabbatical! My protip is to generally pack a shirt for a “day less” than the total time length (ie 2 OCBDs for a three day), then at least 1 pair of tradly chinos for any dressy-ish occasion and 2 or so bottoms that goes with the outing spirit (ie seersucker shorts & nanny red chinos for a Memorial Day beach weekend or raw denim & corduroys for a NYC Thanksgiving break). Also, I always bring a lone sportcoat/blazer that you can layer into outerwear as mentioned before. When done right, you can have multiple pairings at your disposal that easily lasts you through the vacation, with these shortcuts honoring the very high ideals of leaving complicating wardrobe mishaps – along with everything else less trivial haha – behind. To just Get up and Go. 

I was able to store three days of clothes into my Small Filson comfortably when I packed for Asheville last autumn. I accounted for the weather forecast and intended outings of social dinners, tours, barhopping, and hiking. Likewise, I want you to consider these factors too. The destination’s climate, each individual outing’s degree of formality, your comfort, and the very type of activity planned for each part of the itinerary will all weigh heavily on what you should pack. Adjust accordingly to the variability by utilizing each clothing item for multiple purposes – your workhorse khaki chinos may be worn for a Tuesday morning affair with blazer+tie, Tuesday afterhours hitting the town with a V Neck, and Thursday red eye back home with that blazer again sans tie. The mission here is to bring out the most of your limited stock.

You may follow my expanded porn stash of ensembles worn in the Asheville post that are based on the raw sources pictured below. Kit1Here is a breakdown of this particular Fall weekend that hopefully adds further insight into my sartorial reasoning.

(1) Raw Denim – Worn for comfort on Friday afternoon car ride. Premium selvedge in “respectable” dresscode for Friday night dinner at a casual setting. Dark Indigo Navy for afternoon-into-night color versatility.

(1) Chinos – Non Iron to reduce wrinkles from travel. Worn all Saturday day and night, so I wanted a darker hue in British Khaki for color versatility, which doubles as a F/W seasonable alternate to a lighter Stone or Khaki. Part of my traddiest outfit for the weekend with cuffs and no-break. Worn to sightseeing tour, dinner at a nice restaurant, and barhopping in the city.

(1) Athletic Hiking Pants – Worn on Sunday hike and evening car ride back.

(1) Athletic Tee – Worn for Friday and Saturday night loungewear. Then for Sunday hike as a base layer afterthefact since it was already dirty. Moisture Wicking for the physical activity. Solid Heather Grey for color versatility.

(1) Pajama pants – Loungewear. Buffalo Check to match Americana vibe of mountains and F/W season.

(1) Shawl Cardigan Sweater – Worn Saturday day solo, night under sportcoat, and worn for Friday and Saturday night loungewear. Dark Navy for color versatility.

(1) Harris Tweed Sportcoat – Herringbone and Tweed Wool for F/W season. Worn Friday night for casual dinner and Saturday night for nice dinner, and as outerwear for city barhopping.

(1) Fleece Vest – Worn for Sunday hike and afternoon car ride back. [Offered to and worn by friend on Saturday night city barhopping.]

(1) Shotgun Belt – Matches Americana vibe of mountains. Worn Friday afternoon car ride with denim, casual dinner, and Saturday all day and night with chinos. **I do not like bringing multiple accessories on short breaks so I try to keep to one item per.

(1) Waxed Canvas Dopp Kit – For toiletries, etc. Matches Americana vibe and mirrors the Duffel. Although not a Filson, it is also manufactured in the USA by Blue Craw Co. Gifted to me from a friend.

BlueCrawCoDoppKit1 BlueCrawCoDoppKit2(1) Sunglasses & Watch [not pictured] – Single quantity for short stay. Croakies for Sunday hike. Diver sportwatch for casual & athletic versatility. Sunglasses with Polarized Blue lenses and Turquoise Frame for outdoor mountain vibe & fashionable versatility.

(1) Baseball Cap – Worn Sunday hike and evening car ride.

(1) Day Pack – Worn Sunday hike.

(1) Camera Bag & Tripod – Hobbyist custom photos for friends backed by mountain scenery.

(2) OCBDs – Plaid shirt matches Americana vibe for Friday evening car ride and dinner, Mid Outer layer for Sunday hike.

(2) Pairs of Shoes – I consider Camp Mocs typically a F/W shoe. Urbanprep with raw denim for Friday night casual dinner and “dressy” for Saturday tradly outfit. Comfortable supple leather and insole for extended Saturday of sightseeing tour, dinner, and city barhopping. Trail Boots for Friday evening car ride, Sunday hike and evening car ride back. I sacrifice the space and weight to bring cedar wood trees for protecting my leathered shoes, left inside the pair not currently worn during the day, or otherwise in the Camp Mocs overnight. Shoe Bags for Camp Moc protection [not pictured]. **The shoe trees and bags are not urgently required for short excursions so I will leave this suggestion as entirely optional.

(3) Pairs of Socks – Marled Green Camp Socks for Friday afternoon car ride and dinner, matches green accents of paired Plaid Shirt and F/W season. Worn Friday night as loungewear. Navy Hiking Socks for Saturday night loungwear, Sunday hike and evening car ride back. Brown Argyle Socks in Orange and Gold accents to match F/W season, worn Saturday all day and night for tradly outfit.

(3) Pairs of Underwear [not perverts] – My only uncompromising need to wear fresh daily, as it should be. Saving Duffel storage space be damned!

Keeping in mind I have an outfit adorned (ie one Shirt, Pants, Shoes, etc.) for the car ride to and from Asheville, there was even some space left over after the rest of the kit was packed.

Kit2After closing the Duffel, I situated the Day Pack and Sportcoat under the tabbed handles for simpler mobility. I carried the Camera Bag and Tripod separately. And if it weren’t for the camera equipment, I could have gotten away with carrying one packaged item. Aiming for this effortless fluidity sets the tone for a relaxing getaway.

Side profile of packed Duffel. Another pro for the Small is that it is easier to carry by shoulder or hand even if ballooned up, while the larger sizes tend to be a nuisance over long periods of time. This difference becomes painfully evident when walking down a half mile long airport terminal.


CollegeTrad Recommends:

The Filson Small Duffel runs for $285 MSRP. Many big name retailers collaborate with Filson, such as Nordstrom and JCrew, but rarely will their Filson quantity be largely discounted. Thankfully it is our go-to Trad&Prep outfitter Grandaddy Brooks that has the cheapest solution…or so I’ve heard. Around early December, Brooks Brothers will offer up to 40% off their Accessories, as seen in this 2012 PSA. Their Filson collection is included with the promotion, however when I was shopping for the Small last Fall 2014 a few weeks prior to the road trip, Brooks Brothers had already sold out of their Tan and Navy trims. Only the Otter Green was left which I did not want personally. Furthmore, as of this publishing date it appears there are no plans to replenish their Small Duffel stock for the remaining 2015 S/S season. I also do not remember seeing the fabled 40% Accessories deal this past December 2014 either. But if it pops up again then you can score the Medium Travel Bag (with dimensions close to that of the Small Duffel model) for $195 down from $395 MSRP. If the Small Duffel comes back to BB then it will be a steal at ~$170. Keep your fingers crossed!

Tan is the flagship trim that I own and highly recommend as your first, much like how a virgin Ferrari owner goes for Rosso Corsa. The Navy is handsome but does not exemplify the same amount of rugged undertone that the Tan has, nor will it develop as noticeable of a patina aesthetic in my eyes. The Otter Green comes in as my third choice, reminiscent of military gear. Black and Brown are my least favorites.

The Small Waxed Canvas Duffel version of the classic Cotton Twill is more affordable with a MSRP of $120, but I hesitate to fully recommend it because it may not be as durable as the Cotton Twill in the long run. Caveat emptor!

Since I was in a crunch at the time of my Filson treasure hunt, needing that Weekender for the road trip and subsequent vacations planned intermittently after, I wanted to purchase right away and could not wait for Brooks Brothers to have their winter sales (if they even offered it for Filson anyhow). Which is why I love eBay, ultimately coming through for me once again in scoring a NewWithTags – and presumingly NewOldStock – Filson Small Duffel from a powerseller with only two listings of minimal wholesale inventory. Final bid price was ~$210. Not exactly killer savings, only coming in at around 25% off MSRP, but it is a happy life long investment that will pay for itself. Like the Barbour Beau, the Alden LHS, and the JPress Shaggy; a Filson Bag sits among the elite quintessential artifacts that hold up our beloved style’s lexicon.

There is good reason why Filson is one of our most enduring Heritage Labels and personally my most trusted Americana supplier. Many imitations. Only one original. Made in Seattle since 1897.

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