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.

Capacity:

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 pictured...you 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.

Kit3

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 Dappered.com 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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Weekend in Asheville, NC

chimneyrockflag“Made in USA”, Top of Chimney Rock, NC

The weekend was set for this past October 2014 in the charming southern town of Asheville, NC, nestled in the backdrop of the scenic Smokey Mountains. We had all been meaning to take a road trip together, with a Bucket List floating around somewhere of places far and wide that my college buddies and I wanted to visit together. But as the natural progression goes, presently being a few years removed from [now] such trivial things like “Finals” or “Pledge Hell” Weeks of Eternal Stressdom, we had all gone our separate ways to earn a living or march toward a terminal education. Which made it that much more important to have a mini reunion, so we can catch up and relive the good ‘ol days before full blown quarter life crisis mode kicks in, and our can-still-drink-a-case-without-dying-mid-20s turns into one-pint-and-I-am-out-by-nine-30s and onward.

Having become quite familiar with the Asheville and Western NC area, visiting almost every Fall these past couple of years (see my 2013 post here) to enjoy the colorful foliage lining the Appalachians, I willingly co-chaired the event and picked a “best of” itinerary since most of the group had never been. Wetting their appetites with a busy sampler of historical insight, nighttime escapade, and hiking. The invite went out to All, but as it is often  predicted, only a Few Good Men found the time in their busy schedules to come out (and I suspect our troop’s numbers will dwindle down in the coming years sadly…c’est la vie.) We went for a secluded cabin accommodation in Weaverville which is just outside Asheville. That way, the deer and owls won’t mind our late night drunken antics as much as neighboring hotel patrons!

Travel Kit

Short excursions like these are the perfect excuse to own a “Weekender” to pack with. I went with the classic Filson Small Duffel, which I expand upon in making a case for in this accompanying article. Easily fits enough items to last 3-4 days.

Kit1

Day One: Road Trip

That Friday evening I picked up two of our party who happen to be on the way to the destination. Since I currently drive an economical Volvo S40, I decided to splurge on an AWD SUV rental to better equip for the terrain, and also so my carpooled guests may enjoy some breathing room (unlike my S40′s tight cabin!)

Over a quarter century years old, bitches! Rented a 2014 Kia Sorento, seen below parked in our cabin’s driveway (yeah I will save up for the Range Rover next time.) Protip: Check RetailMeNot and compare all of the listed coupons. Ended up saving a few more bucks with a code I found for Budget Car Rentals that was listed near the bottom of my RetailMeNot search query.

KiaSorentoDress for the occasion. I left my tradly pennies at home and brought my hiking boots instead. And what better setting than the Appalachians in Fall to explore my starved reserves for Americana manly-man-hood? The Filson Twill Cotton Duffel compliments the pairing of JCrew plaid shirt and Raleigh Denim selvedge. For the sake of versatility and restricted luggage space, the techprep Merrells stood in for proper heritage Red Wings for the time being, especially since this outfit was primarily for the drive itself.

Details: American sourced Bridle leather exudes rugged appeal with both the Filson Duffel Straps and Orvis Shotgun Shell Belt. Fall/Winter season-ready green marled socks and green plaid shirt match together. The brass accents and tan canvas on the Duffel match the Belt brass, which match the Shirt golden accent lines (that faintly match the Merrell yellow trademark…boom headshot).

RoadTrip1RoadTrip2JCrew Plaid OCBD, Slim Fit
Raleigh Denim Selvedge, Jones Fit, made in USA
Merrel Moab XCR Boots
Orvis Shotgun Shell Belt, made in USA
JCrew Marled Socks in Green, made in USA
Filson Small Duffel in Tan, made in USA
Seiko SKX009
Persol PO714 SM in Honey Tortoise, Polarized, made in Italy

 

Once we arrived later that night, we met up with the group and head out to nearby Blue Mountain Pizza for hot food and homebrewed deliciousness. I usually bring an odd jacket or blazer on trips because they add a touch of class to otherwise dressed down outfits (the sportcoat also has the double advantage of layering into outerwear if needed). This vintage Harris Tweed with tan braided leather buttons made its debut. Since there is no other traddier odd jacket than a Harris Tweed in classic Grey/White Herringbone, it became a priority buy for quite some time the last couple of years, before copping this beautiful American made treasure find on eBay. This Harris Tweed will serve as anchor in spawning more of my F/W sportcoat collection. Switched the boots for the camp mocs and unbuttoned twice on my shirt collar to finish out a stylish urbanprep response for the evening.

Details: Blue Gingham Square coordinates with Navy palate of the denim and plaid shirt. Camp Mocs light brown Chromexcel Horween leather matches the sportcoat tan leather buttons.

RoadTrip3A required Trad&Prep trademark tag to have hanging in your closet some day.HarrisTweed

RoadTrip4Harris Tweed Wool Herringbone Sportcoat , vintage, made in USA
JCrew Slim Fit Plaid OCBD
Raleigh Denim Selvedge, Jones Fit, made in USA
Orvis Shotgun Shell Belt, made in USA
JCrew Marled Socks in Green, made in USA
Filson Small Duffel in Tan, made in USA
Seiko SKX009
Rancourt&Co Gilman Camp Mocs, made in USA
JCrew Blue Gingham Pocket Square, made in USA

 

Day Two: Sightseeing

Sunrise at Homebase

CabinPorchMorning Fogwoods

After not enough sleep, we were greeted by a chilly fog that later melted into a cloudless blue sky; gorgeous Autumn weather for a busy day. We first refueled at Tupelo Honey Cafe in Downtown Asheville for a quick southern breakfast of biscuits, jam, and yes honey. Then beating an onslaught of tourists, we stopped by my family’s mountain pied-à-terre since most of my friends had never visited a real life Victorian mansion, let alone the largest privately owned in the country. Plus I am obliged to visit this small prairie shed whenever I am in town – to make sure the serfs living off our family land are making quota.

I knew the October temperature was going to rise throughout the day, so I wore a lighter weight Shetland shawl cardigan to spare me the heavy duty warmth of the Harris Tweed. This was my most tradly outfit of the weekend in order to appreciate the grandeur and opulence of Biltmore Estate, which likewise other visitors feed into the Victorian luxury by being seen in Sportcoats+Loafers or Quilt Vests+Equestrian Boots (…although many many more of the mainstream brainless masses are in their usual flips flops, sneakers, faded jeans…)

My driveway.

biltmore1aOverseeing the subjects. Gentlemanly crossing of the legs and biting softly on sunglass temple in deep introspective contemplation, while on a stone terrace overlooking hundreds of protected acres dotted with oranges, browns, and yellows = a Ralph Lauren fantasy. After the Polo Campaign photoshoot, we toured the rest of the home and its gardens before driving to the nearby vineyards to finish out the afternoon.

Details: Light Brown accents of sunglasses, cardigan leather buttons, and camp mocs. Autumn earthy tones of red university striped, british khaki, and gold/orange argyle socks. The cardigan solid navy pulls it all together and grounds the ensemble.

Not my purse.

biltmoreterrace

Outing1Ralph Lauren Rugby Shetland Shawl Cardigan
Brooks Brothers University Striped OCBD in Red, Slim Fit, made in USA
Brooks Brothers Advantage Chinos in British Khaki, Milano Fit, Non Iron
Rancourt&Co Gilman Camp Mocs, made in USA
Orvis Shotgun Shell Belt, made in USA [unseen]
Brooks Brothers Argyle Socks, made in Italy
Seiko SKX009
Persol PO714 SM in Honey Tortoise, Polarized, made in Italy

 

I know of a couple “secret” spots all around the campus, but this one in particular overlooking a pond and my modest bird house in the background is by far my favorite. This is where I shot this magnum opus of a gem two years ago, from my regular iPhone 5 no less. Brought my camera equipment this time around to practice my NatGeo Safari Skillz on willing prey (…I am an extreme amateur in photography btw. I know the basics enough, but when it comes down to it, I know how to press that round button on the top – annnnd that’s about it…) This group shot turned out really nice. Will frame and place on the mantle. Preppy logos and all.

biltmore2aThe pair on the far right happen to be engaged at the time, and our Biltmore Tour was a unique opportunity to snap sweetheart pics for their Story of How We Met Album, or whatever old married people stash away in their kitchen drawer to force their grandkids to flip through.

Details: One of my best friends whom I’ve helped shape his wardrobe over the years. He is wearing a very F/W-appropriate Tattersall Orvis OCBD, Levis 501STF, and Clarks Beeswax Desert Boots. Exactly the kind of basic starters I suggest in The Guide.

coupleMe: “What if we put my cardigan around your back for a preppy country club look?” 10 seconds later. “NahhhshawlAfter free wine tasting and buying a few bottles & souvenir gifts at Biltmore’s Vineyards, we all left for sunset dinner reservations at the historical The Omni Grove Park Inn. Their outdoor Edison Restaurant overlooks the Asheville cityline and the Blue Ridge Mountains, and my hope was to catch a picturesque twilight, but sadly the mild sunny skies of the day turned into a bone-chilly densely cloudy night. Even with ceiling heating lanterns above the table, one of our lady friends asked for my Patagonia Fleece Vest, which she could have; while the other 95% of me who is not a chivalrous Prince Charming selfishly held onto my warm Harris Tweed as repurposed light outerwear over my cardigan. Satisfying the “Rule of 3″, having such pieces for layering is important when traveling! And unlike traditional adorning of a sportcoat/blazer, you now have the excuse to treat a pseudo-coat dastardly: Keep the buttons unfastened, flip the collar against a brisk wind, and keep your paws warm stuffed in the pockets. I especially like odd jackets such as Harris Tweed just for this kind of character duality – I am more delicate with a worsted wool suit jacket and would never suggest to wear it solo, especially as outerwear. But a lumpy tweed? It can take a beating.

After dinner we went to the downtown district to barhop. Wicked Weed is always my first place to start out, making it a habit to taste their newest seasonal brew. Didn’t have a chance to stop by this time, which is a damn pity, because Salsas Restaurant serves crazy delicious Mexican Caribbean fusion burritos. Good for soaking up the alcohol in between bars.Outing3Harris Tweed Wool Herringbone Sportcoat, vintage, made in USA
Ralph Lauren Rugby Shetland Shawl Cardigan
Brooks Brothers Red University Striped OCBD, Slim Fit, Must Iron, made in USA
Brooks Brothers British Khaki Advantage Chinos, Milano Fit, Non Iron
Rancourt&Co Gilman Camp Mocs, made in USA
Brooks Brothers Argyle Socks, made in Italy
Orvis Shotgun Shell Belt, made in USA [unseen]
Seiko SKX009
JCrew Blue Gingham Pocket Square, made in USA

 

Sometime between 2am and sunrise, we made it back to camp safely. Since Friday night, I had been wearing a heather grey techpreppy UnderArmour athletic tee with RL Polo pajamas for lounging around the cabin. Highlighting the necessity of versatility for travel, I then used my RL Rugby cardigan and my thick weight JCrew marled (Fri night) and hiking socks (Sat night) to keep my toesies toasty. Cuts down on having to bring slippers. With the shawl cardigan and flannels particularly befitting as a refined upgrade to your old ratty t-shirt with weird yellow stains combo’d to baggy basketball shorts, no? Very relaxing to step out in the early daybreak when everyone else is asleep to peacefully sit on the porch overhang with a strong cup of hot joe. Watching the sun peak through the birch forest of autumn leaves. That perfect amount of cold snap seeping past the shetland wool into your tired achy bones to wake you up. “Your own piece of serenity, my dear.” – Regards, Mother Nature.

Details: The Buffalo Check pattern compliments the F/W season and the woodsy surroundings.

Lounge1Ralph Lauren Rugby Shetland Shawl Cardigan
UnderArmour Tech Tee, Heather Grey
Ralph Lauren Polo Flannel Pajamas in Buffalo Check
JCrew Camp Socks, made in USA
Seiko SKX009

 

Can’t go to bed without Snuffles the Snuffly Elephant. No, you’re the one who still sucks his thumb. N’huh. You are.

Lounge2

 

Day Three: Hiking

After checking out, we carbed up at Stony Knob Cafe with pancakes and waffles. Yours truly had their breakfast specialty Chicken&Waffles. Washed down with Tony’s specialty Coffee&Mimosa.

stonyknobTheir interior is really cool in an eccentric funky kind of way. Snapped this ninja pic of this space age lantern in the middle of their dining room.

stonyknob2Chimney Rock State Park is about an hour southeast of Asheville. Fun place to visit for a day hike and grab awesome high altitude panoramics. Or if you are lazy, there is an elevator that reaches the top. We wanted to feel our hams and glutes buuuurrn baby burn.

chimneyrockThere is an overlook behind the Rock. Pointing east where Rocky Broad River feeds into Lake Lure.chimneyrock2Looking north towards Rocky Broad River Valley. ValleyAnother friend and his girlfriend were able to come out for the trek. I am actually unsure what brand his boots arebut his plaid shirt, raw denim with rolled cuffs, and heritage footwear thoroughly completes the Americana Uniform.couple2Since great minds think alike, I again wore my JCrew plaid OCBD this time as a midlayer with my UA tee as a base. Made with polyester, I brought that tee for a dual purpose. Initially used as loungewear for the first two nights, and then as throwaway dirty laundry for the last day climb so that its polyester fabric would keep me dry and cool. Lastly, this is a case when I’ll allow croakies for aging fratdaddies way past graduation; since here it’s not solely just a fashion statement as an identifier of your preppy tribe, but actually being used for its intended purpose of physical activity too.

Hiking1JCrew Plaid OCBD, Slim Fit
Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pants
Patagonia Retro X Fleece Vest
Merrel Moab XCR Boots
JCrew Camp Socks, made in USA
Seiko SKX009
Persol PO714 SM in Honey Tortoise, Polarized, made in Italy, attached to old fraternity croakies
REI Flash 22 Daypack
The Game College Bar Hat, strapped to Daypack when not in use

 

For craps & giggles, here is a pic of the hiking kit I packed. Cuz you never know when a 3 hour tour turns into 127 hours lost in a crevice, having to pick which of your surviving former-friends-turned-food you must kill to eat, desperate and having lost hope; until the rescue party finds you in a three foot deep crevice just past the visitor’s center, two hours after you accidentally tripped in. What’s that motto again? Be Prepared.

daypackkitYours truly on top of the world. Shed off the fleece layer and stored in the Daypack when the afternoon warmth rolled in.

hike1aWe departed our separate ways as the Sunday evening drew to a close. It was a fun weekend and I am glad we got to check Asheville off the bucket list together. Hope we can cross out more destinations in the years to come.

 

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Combatant Gentleman: A CollegeTrad Exclusive Review

 Editor’s Note: Keeping to my moral compass in benefit of you the reader, I have only recently started entertaining third-party offerings or sponsorships. My “closed door policy” to Industry was originally to ensure that my writings remain pure in personal opinion for my – and my alone – interpretation of what I consider to be authentic Trad and Preppy style; giving my raw translation for your own discernment, so you can pick up whichever themes I live by in my personal style into yours. However, it would be a disservice to you just as well to nail the door shut completely, in refusing a potentially favorable Industry update. I have now corrected my course a bit to now allow myself to cipher between the various campaign requests (…not that I receive a ton or anything)… with an open mind; only accepting to write a featured post if something new can be brought to the table. Usually to jumpstart a particular nuanced topic of conversation, as I had with Vintage Campus USA and Bobobos. However in this case, the following below is the first of its kind in CollegeTrad’s five year history: An exclusive review of samples sent directly from the company. I include open disclaimers when needed, starting with this one, to not betray your trust. So without further adieu…

 

source combatgent.comIntroduction

Perhaps nothing perplexes a young gentleman more than buying his first suit. Fortunately for you the reader, you had stumbled upon this blog where I can at least point you to the right direction. Or at the very least, you had the foresight and care to do an inkling of preliminary research online, or perhaps at your Barnes&Noble flipping through mens lifestyle magazines like Esquire and GQ as you kill time sipping on a Tall Cappuccino at the in-house Starbucks cafe. To go along with the other thousands of articles, slideshows, video clips, blog posts, and forum posts you had found in your Google query – I have also written about formalwear plenty of times in my articles and Ask Me replies. There is already The Guide that lays the foundation, and then this extended primer on fitting a suit. So you are probably tired of the proverbial “beaten dead horse” by now.

But what of the rest of our fallen brethren? The majority of the population, whose uninitiated members make up the brainless mainstream masses, as like to colloquially call out Average Joe Brothers…where is their Savior? You see them growling about, with their head down in despair, lumbering behind his Mommy or Girlfriend at a mall department store, making him adorn a Black 3 Button Pinstriped Suit that is clearly two sizes too big. For his cousin’s morning wedding no less in July, where the black itchy wool swallows up the sunny gentility. That black suit will surely look smart for such a fun occasion, according to his Mom’s or Lady Friend’s so-called-expert-intuition-on-the-other-sex’s-way-of-dress. Indeed…these victims need someone to look up to…A Savior that can rescue their poor souls from the clutches of an Evil Tyrant Loved One, who declares her menswear savvy by forcing her emasculated victim to fasten all 3 buttons on the suit jacket. Oh, the humanity! Well, lucky for our plenty of Average Joe friends, there is a new sheriff in town. A crime fighter who guards the Gotham evening skyline, helping these clueless young gentlemen to escape from the intimidating grasps of the fashion police, or worse, his misguided omniscient Girlfriend/Dominatrix.

There in the night! Our Hero’s own calling sign, shining as a beacon of hope into the dreary night filled with countless bad guys: Department store collections showcasing ill-fitting suitwear from “name brand” Calvin Klein and Nautica. Polyester blends. Mall brands Express and Banana Republic and their overpriced rags.

…A Combatant-of-sorts, that does the job for you, for double the quality and half the expense…

source twitter.comcombatgentAlright. So I could not resist a corny buildup, seeing that black & white logo above got me reminiscent of Batman (we want another one damnit, give us what we need Nolan and Bale!) and just ran with it. But as it turns out, this audacious newcomer actually does have something to offer us; not just simply looking pretty on the pages of a fashion magazine/comic book. Something intrinsic. Thoughtful and Tangible. And its quite good. Certainly so for the Average Joe who knows nothing about mens style…but YES, even for us God Mode Preps and our impeccably high tastes that scoffs at the 99%er suiting options at Macys and JosABank.

*****

Fashion-Product-Photography for Combat GentlemenBackground

Last Autumn, I received a pleasant greeting from a Mr. Hafez Adel, a marketing strategist for Combatant Gentleman, who inquired if I may be interested in sampling their product in return for a blog review. At the time, I had never heard of this venture, and so naturally I was part skeptical and part curious. Mr. Adel went on with his sales pitch, saying how their aim was to provide suits in quality finishing and perfect fitting. They do this through an eCommerce Model that passes the savings directly to you – cutting out the middle man, the brick&mortar, and even your tailor – with exceptional product.

Which is not an entirely new concept mind you. It has already been proven before as a very profitable model by the original innovators, like Neo-prep outfitter Bonobos and the Neo-politan outfitter SuitSupply. Also adapted by established MTM online suitmakers such as ThickasThieves and Indochino. Therefore, what does CombGent have to offer that differentiates themselves from the pack? Well, I will let the company speak for itself. Here below are the highlights from Mr. Adel’s email to me, with my taking the liberty of bolding the noteworthy for your ease:

“…We offer 100% wool (Super 140s) half-canvassed suits for $160, in both modern and slim fits. Our dress shirts start at $25, and our ties start at $16. The reason we can offer quality clothes at these prices is because of our vertical integration – from our 80 year-old wool mill in Italy, to our cotton fields in India, to our factories in the US and abroad, we control the product every step along the way and cut out the middlemen (and their unnecessary markups). We even own our own sheep! We’ve been featured in Men’s Journal, Forbes, and CNN Money, among other outlets…”

Did you nod approvingly at the eye-grabbing details the same way I did? if not, then you may lack the surrounding context. I will add perspective of how potentially awesome CombGent’s value proposition truly is over their competitors: Consider than one of their main online rivals, Indochino, sells their lowest priced Essential Line Suits at $449, and that it is only made of Super 120s wool woven in China. While the Combatant’s starting pricepoint is cheaper by almost three hundred bucks and comes in a better quality wool that is sourced in Italy! Plus, they even own their own sheep…actually have no idea if the others do either…but c’mon, that is a cool sound byte!

My first brownie points awarded, my intrigue captured. But still need to be impressed by more cool company facts?

Interesting Tidbit #1) CEO & Co-Founder Mr. Vishaal Melwani is a third generation tailor coming from a family lineage of Versace boutique owners.

Interesting Tidbit #2) “We want to be the bad-ass version of Men’s Wearhouse…” as he eloquently said. Men’s Wearhouse is the antithesis to anything fashionable who push out crap to the mainstream public. So it is nice to know that Mr. Melwani is a fellow MW hater! A good sign that he aspires above the mainstream masses just like us! You want someone In the know running a fashion house in-considering.

Interesting Tidbit #3) Return rate at CombGent’s is only 4% for suiting, which is shockingly low thanks to their own proprietary algorithm (called the Fit Tech) that predicts sizing to a pinpoint 98th percentile. I doubt Indochino can compete with those kinds of retainment stats. Reading from the many disgruntled users on this SF megathread led to my own personal decision to cross Indochino’s MTM service out when I was in the suit market myself a few years back. My research led me think that all of those returned product forced the Indochino executive decision to introduce the Traveling Tailor to help mitigate the customer in his physical process of finding a true size. All the while, Boy Genius Crusader over here smugly developed his own complex algorithm that promises a great fitting – the first time – from the comforts of his Combatant Cave.

Background Reasoning: Price to Quality

Before going on, some of you who know me all too well are, at this moment, calling foul on my review. “I thought Tony only recommends buying from the Best of the Best? Those so-called ‘authentic heritage outfitters’ that source their suits in prized homelands like the United States or Europe. Especially given the fact this is for suitwear?”…Yup. Correct. You caught me. In strict following my own commanding 10 Rules with unquestioned discipline, one may negate CombGent by default. A Combatant Gentlemen suit is ultimately imported from a production point in China and ultimately going against my hardcore biases. My go-to fallback for suitwear is the Brooks Brothers 1818 Collection that is made right here in the USA. And truth be told, I still abide by this original intent; that declares your first few suits being of a CollegeTrad Approved label like Brooks or HSM or Hickey. However, you should also recall that my principles are mere suggestion, assisting your judgement in keeping True North while exploring the whacky world of Trad&Prep. My hardened curricula derives from a blend of sartorial theory. Which in reality, empirical findings will always take precedent. The real world can never be perfect, and so theory can never be neither with too many input variables.

Plenty of my readers simply cannot afford a Brooks Brothers Fitzgerald suit, despite my protips of treasure hunting on eBay or stockpiling discounted gift cards or whathaveyou. Even at its cheapest pricepoint of ~$500 during the annual post-Xmas sale at Brooks (when the 1818 line is at its lowest) many of you still cannot sacrifice a semester’s worth of textbooks for your very first staple suit. You will realistically wear that 2 Button Fitzgerald Navy maybe, what, twice a year? It is a better decision to spend that $500 of student debt elsewhere. Yet, you still need that aforementioned first staple suit for the rare event you actually need it – which happens to be your cousin’s upcoming wedding in three weeks. And the Xmas sale at Brooks Brothers is half a year away! Many of you who are in high school, college, or just starting out in your career will need budget friendly options as alternatives to pricey Granddaddy Brooks. In my blog’s mission statement, I leave myself an exit door for this very purpose…that even I don’t follow my own rules all the time. Bipartisanship is required. I fondly push for cheap Lands End chinos that are made in China just as I do for my Bills Khakis made Stateside. And the same argument applies here folks! Aim for the premium custom tailored Golden Fleece suit whenever your wallet allows down the road, and obey your common sense now with a safe cheap option that does the job in the mean time.

Which leads to another justification: CombGent provides us an extremely affordable suit that is fashionably forward for the upward mobile. This fact, on top of the earlier mentioned pros of using raw textile from quality sources such as Italy that removes the often-pricey step of requiring major surgery at your favorite tailor (don’t worry, she will have your dozens of other clothes to alter and keep her busy!), and then stacked with the notion that most all other budget outfitters heavily rely on imported goods too; gives us our biggest corollary yet: That if your suit is Made in China, then why go with the likes of J Crew’s Ludlow suiting that is more expensive? Or Express? Banana Republic? Bonobos? If your small budget can only afford a starter suit that holds you off through college, internships, first few years on the job (again, at least until you can buy that $7000 bespoke Brioni suit when you become V.P. of Daddy’s Firm), then why not go with the Least Common Denominator? CombGent has set a new high bar….or low in this case….for our wallets. They cut out the big competitors in providing all of the awesome brownie point extras, with the $160-entry-level making up the biggest brownie of them all, that more than makes up for the CombGent’s Chinese birth. So what, if it was assembled in China when all the other guys have their factories set up there too? After all, we should accept that the third world labor is what allows for the incredible Price to Quality Ratio that outperforms a significant amount of the competition to begin with, giving us one of the best values on the market today. The Combatant’s resultant Value Proposition is easily amongst the best I’ve seen from any outfitter, pound for pound. Thank you Capitalism (?)

If Hickey, Press, HSM, and the rest of the heritage labels make up our Promised Land, then CombGent gives us a steadfast life boat to float us to that fabled island where GMPs run amok. A quick and easy solution for the Now. While JCrew, Indochino, and other popular mall brands – that we would have initially looked to – are starting to reveal the leaking holes in their moldy hulls.

Here is one last reason that plays on our necessity to have a balanced, versatile wardrobe that is made up of trad, preppy, and fashionably forward elements: We know that CombGent is not inherently reminiscent of the Classic East Coast Style that this blog so heavily gets its inspiration from. Yet, that is perfectly fine with you and I, because we take a Slim Cut Modern Suit for what it is. Not a tradly Ben Silver 3/2 Sack Roll Blue Blazer with Gold Buttons that fits conservatively boxy, worn only to fraternity meetings and happy hour at the country club . Instead, a CombGent suit sits poised in our horse stables as our sophisticated stead. A $160 Charcoal Two Button that is just quiet enough to wear to your first professional job interview on Monday morning with a Big 4 Recruiter, paired beautifully with a solid Kent Wang blue Grenadine Tie and Allen Edmonds Park Avenue Captoes; and then vogue enough to wear to an uptown lounge in some renovated basement of a tobacco warehouse on the following Friday night, sans tie, top two shirt buttons unfastened, and bare ankled Cordovan Alden Tassle Loafers in relaxed triumphant celebration, treating your closest buddies with a round of spirits in honor of learning that you just nabbed that job. (Jakes on you! Have fun working those 70+hour weeks and becoming a depressed accountant/office drone!)

Customer Service

Mr. Adel, and one of CombGent’s Personal Stylists Ms. Nikki Hablani, walked me through the steps of ordering a suit. I was asked to fill out a Fit Profile, seen below, which provides them the coordinates for which to map out a good custom fitting, as decided by the earlier mentioned Fit Tech algorithm.

(Note: I am unsure if the Fit Profile is still utilized for the current customer process. It appears Fit Tech, seen on the website as you choose your sizing, has replaced the profile)

fitprofileIf our continued correspondence over these past few months has been any representation of their approach to individualized customer service, then I eagerly award CombGent more delicious brownie points. Both Hafez and Nikki have been top notch professionals in their sincere assistance. For example, where then was an unforseen logistical lag period in the manufacturing stage that delayed my samples, Hafez had personally saw to it that the delivery of my package was in an orderly and apologetic manner. Nikki was able to answer my rather detailed inquiries, at one point being the liaison between me and their Graphics Dept. (which I will get into soon). Good to know that there are professionals running the scene of their brainchild!

Sizing

As many of you already know, OffTheRack sizing often leads to clothes that never feel absolutely perfect on your body. My own measurements are particularly annoying because I enjoy the occasional gym session, and have developed body stats that test the very extremes of clothing sizing. I have a 10 Inch Drop, meaning my chest and waist circumference is ten inches apart. And with the normal practice of Suiting paired in Jacket+Pants combos cut from the same cloth (which is to decrease the chance of imperfection), buying a suit with the industry standard 6 Inch Drop makes it harder on my wallet since I require the costly supplementary step of having my tailor expertly, but severely, alter a 42/36W slacks to a 32 in a risky surgery known as Re-Cutting. That procedure is way more expensive than a simple Take-In…It seems the major downside to maintaining an athletic prose is the exuberant detriment to one’s wardrobe!…Hence, it is utterly fantastic to see CombGent offering Separate Suiting. And their suit catalog comes in Slim and Modern (i.e Regular) Fits, giving us even more ample freedom to select according to body type. Likewise, their shirts are stocked in Slim, Modern or Regular, and Athletic Cuts. These extra incentives allow for all types of customers to choose their fancy. 3 more brownie points to the House of Gryffindor…err CombGent!

My unique body proportions led me to ask Nikki for the specific numbers. Below, straight from their Graphics Department, is the raw data:

Slim Fit Jacket ChartClassic Fit Jacket ChartSlim Fit Shirt ChartClassic Fit Shirt ChartNotice that their vanity sizing for button downs start at 15.75/34 for a Regular Small. Conversely, a Slim Large is 15.5/34 which is unusual because many of the other retailers carry that size in a Medium. Peculiar.

Mr. Adel allowed me to pick a suit, shirt, knit (i.e. sweater), and a tie. [Disclaimer: These samples were given complimentary in return for my online review. I informed Mr. Adel that I would be objective in my critique, which he happily honored.] Ended up going with the staple choice of the Slim Fit Charcoal Suit (MSRP $160), Pink & White Windowpane Semi Spread Collar Shirt ($40), Black Cardigan ($35), and an Inversed Stripe Tie ($14; my trim no longer offered).

It’s the small things that end up mattering the most! I like the fact that their suit slacks come in 36″ unhemmed, despite the imposed super ease of Separate Suiting. This encourages you to get the pants altered to your exact individual leg size (basically hand holding the uneducated guys of the mainstream masses into submission, so they may finally be introduced to their neighborhood tailoring shop!) But what I really love is that Combatant is extremely candid about their products. You will see the “Produced in Southern China -Shenzhen” and “Poly/Rayon Blend Lining” specs alongside the “100% Italian Wool” selling point on their website catalog. The other guys will try to smother these dark details on their garments with the Imported tagline, while CombGent wants to be refreshingly honest. Because they know that their customer base is starting to care about that kind of stuff and will ask those kinds of questions. And that being upfront with honesty, they know we will forgive the minor-in-the-grand-scheme trivia of the China made aspect, especially with making it up to us in cash savings. CombGent is not aspiring to be the next Tom Ford or Oxxford or Brioni. They know who they are and they wear that identity proudly: “An outfitter of stylish products at an affordable price.” They may not be the first one to do this, but they are certainly more deserving of our attention than most of their predecessors. Will I totally switch allegiance from my favorite mall retailer JCrew to CombGent? No of course not. I still love my JC Cotton Cashmere V Neck sweaters. But for a righteous path to painless suit shopping? I have been persuaded to the Combatant. The Ludlow Shop can keep their high markups!

Another detail that I love. CombGent’s tag replaces “China” with “PRC”. People’s Republic of China. Absolutely genius. Honesty without the blatancy. Maybe the random guy who happens to glance at your CombGent button down shirt’s inner tag while you two love birds are in the gym locker room will know what the PRC stands for. Maybe he won’t.

“Proudly Made in PRC”. Not China. PRC.

CGPRC*****

Fit Pics: Before Tailoring

Very basic but organized packaging. (Please disregard the box condition. I blame the shipping service)

box1You get a simple unbranded plastic suit bag and wooden hanger. These modest supplies are to be expected – CombGent wants to give you a nice suit at the sub $300 range, so there will be some obvious shortcuts. No complaints from me. You wear the suit, not the bag.

box2

Charcoal Suit in Slim Fit. 2 button, notch lapel, double vent, slanted flap pockets. The suit pictures below were taken before any alteration.

I can honestly say that this was the best fitting OTR jacket that I have ever tried on. I was completely bewildered by how great it felt coming straight from the producer and not having visited my tailor yet. As previously explained, my extreme 10″ Drop always forces me to buy a jacket that fits my chest correctly, but makes the rest of my torso swim in the extra fabric. This was not the case here. The jacket shoulders and its minimal padding did not protrude past my own. The armholes were not too low, allowing for a “glove”-like feel. The sleeves ended exactly at the point above my wrists, allowing a sliver of dress shirt cuff to show. Just these few defining characteristics alone made me super impressed. There was still some work to be done for the jacket and pants to be perfect for my tastes, but it would be a very light job relatively speaking. It was also the first time in my history of suits and sportjackets of not having to take up the sleeve length and take in the shouldering. You cannot imagine how excited I was about that.

For visual reference, I am 6’1 and currently weigh a lean 170lbs. I wear a 15.5/34 shirt, 42R jacket, and 32 pants waist.

1The chest felt exactly true-to-size and did not give any slack. This shows when my jacket is stretched at the slightest.

2 4 I am very pleased with the jacket silhouette. I had to keep reminding myself that it came straight from the box and not the tailor shop!

Guantanamo Prisoner Pose.

36Unbuttoned side view.9The Slim Fit shoulders are a hugging 18.5″ while many other 42R jackets come in at 19″.7 8 I did not take shots with my whole bottom half because the pant hemming was still unfinished. Waist felt true-to-size. 10The Details. I am happy to report that the horrifying “Made in China” is not stamped anywhere visible. More brownie points awarded! They had the foresight to know we do not like see those disgusting words, especially on the prominent hanger tab (I hate brands that do that!)

jacket tag 3 The only merchandising I saw on the suit. No price tag to cut off since you did not buy this at a Brick&Mortar.tagThe buttons are somewhat left to be desired. Not demanding Mother of Pearl or anything, but the buttons are a give away of the suit’s humble upbringing. However, only 0.01% of people would notice this, and foreseeably 0% of that group would care. The suit is handsome otherwise, and the fitting is what makes this $160 suit look like it cost $1600.buttonThe contemporary labeling can go two ways. I like the nouveau spirit of it for one, proudly showing off a new company that champions e-commerce retailing. On the other hand, I would have opted to not show the website (anyone curious enough will google the name anyway, with the homepage coming up as the first result). I feel like it cheapens the image. jacket tag “Not for the uninitiated….but for the uneducated”. Here again though, I think this extra label on the right inner breast is not needed. A trademark mentioning of the 80yo Italian Mill (based in Naples to be exact) used to make the suit and/or a “140s 100% Italian Wool” tag would have been better.

Chevron-like vertical pattern on the inner lining.jacket tag2Double vented tail. Those sewn finishings are the lone details, unlike the higher end suits that typically have shoulders and jacket buttons unfinished too. Again that is perfectly okay with me. Just hope the “uninitiated” remember to cut off those white threads…..too many times I have seen such unspeakable evil.tailBoth pockets on the back of the pants have button closures. I favor this over other formal slacks having only a single.back pocket Tab closure. Medium rise for comfort. I like the minimal tag here. Rise is a fashionably forward but comfortable 9.75″ for a 32 inch waist.waist tag

Fit Pics: After Tailoring, Final Product

My tailor only had to taper the jacket sides and the pants slightly for the very slim silhouette I wanted. Hemmed to No-Break. I chose to not do our default tradly Pant Cuff to emphasize the fashion forward minimalism. For me, my CombGent suit is NOT intended to be the preppiest option in my wardrobe. I save my staple Brooks Brothers for interviews, and this Combatant mostly for going out to fun and informal venues without a need for a stuffy tie, belt, or even socks.CGposttailor1 CGposttailor2

CGposttailor3Jesus Pose.CGposttailor7CGposttailor4 Unbuttoned side view.CGposttailor5Double Vented Tail actually long enough to “CYA”, unlike other modern offerings that are too short.

CGposttailor6

 

Fit Pics: After Tailoring, Sample Kit Ensemble

CombGent suit, shirt, knit tie, and cardigan thrown together. Worn with Merlot colored Allen Edmonds Grayson Tassel Loafers to compliment the red accents. Think Friday Business Casual for a young Analyst.

CGposttailor8 CGposttailor9Worn with Black Cardigan Knit. Size Medium and very slimming. Tie removed, cardigan thrown on, and top two shirt buttons unfastened for the Friday evening date with a long-legged date.CGposttailor11 CGposttailor12 CGposttailor13The Pink & White Windownpane Spread Collar Dress Shirt is a size Regular Small in accordance to the odd novelty sizing extrapolated to my own measurements. The Regular Cut is decent and similiar to most all OTR shirts I own. Construction seems paper-thin which is unfortunate for the rather steep $40 MSRP all things considering. The 34 sleeve length ended up shrinking post-washed, as expected, but perhaps a little too short in comparison to my other OTR shirts. CGposttailor10Comb Gent logo on the bottom of shirt placket.CGshirtlogoWhats Next: Eveningwear

I have berated the point by now. Combatant Gentleman’s suitwear is not grandstanding like the rest of ‘em! They really do give us the best suit at the lowest pricepoint. The “$160 that looks like $1,600″-kind of suit. Cheap, but only in regards to retail, and yet just as formidable as…if not more than…the pricier JCrew, Bonobos, SuitSupply, Indochino, and all the other neoprep fashionably forward big labels.

Something was still missing though. An *almost* perfect menswear outfitter. Their knits, shirts, ties, and accessories prove a valid point that supports the Comb Gent flagship catalog of suiting, so what gives? When I did my initial research a few months ago, I thought it strange that CombGent had not offered formal eveningwear. It was the missing elephant in the room. Tuxedos were quite noticeably gone from their lineup, and I was very close to putting that wasted opportunity against them, when I noticed just a few weeks prior to this very publishing that their tuxedo collection made its debut in the upcoming Spring/Summer 2015 collection. This is great news! This helps to answer a larger untapped need for affordable tuxedos, given that there are less choices out there than even budget suitwear. Young men such as you and me are now acclimating to the Red Carpets of the Social World. We find ourselves actually looking forward to dressing up in our best formal gear; whether it be for counting down for New Years, dropping your stacks of George Washingtons at a Carnival cruise with your law school buddies, or bidding on a pair of courtside game tickets at a fancy charity fundraiser. Endpoint being, you wanna impress the golden head of blond locks across the dance floor, with her hazel eyes hiding mysteriously behind an ostrich feathered mask, and you in a pitch black laser-guided-cut tuxedo; whisking the sweet princess away from the masquerade ball when the clock strikes twelve. Or simply look like a balla’ in your friend’s Instagram feed. Sure, you’ll want a Tom Ford or Brioni tuxedo eventually, but you don’t need Daniel Craig’s tuxedo branding of choice just to feel like you are a sexy and sophisticated British agent. If there was ever a need for the quick n’ easy fix, the affordable tuxedo is the one to fill up that void the fastest. Maybe you are a Best Man in a wedding only a few weeks from now. Renting is out of the question. And you do not want the same lump of coal that you wore for your high school prom. Although, you also don’t want to allocate too much of this year’s shrinking clothing allowance to an outfit that you will wear, at best, twice or thrice a year. What to do?

As predicted, CombGent proves as a worthy challenger on the dressiest side of the spectrum too, giving us one of the best Quality to Price Ratios for the lower budget market. Their bigger mainstream peers suffer too much from the markup. Ludlow Tuxedo Jacket *alone* costs more than double the Combatant Jacket+Pants kit. While SuitSupply’s tux is much lower in cost than JCrew….and has those fugly airplane wings for lapels. Banana Republic premium label Monogram is not only expensive (Jacket alone is $274 right now. On Sale from $475. Pants sold separately.) but someone in their design department made the egregious forced effort to update the handsome minimalist look of a dinner jacket by adding a ticket pocket and double venting (FYI a tuxedo jacket traditionally has no vents or at most a single). Dinner jackets are not meant for your business client meetings! The version from Express comes with a jacket that suffers from stitched lapels that screams UNCLASSY. Oh and yeah of course it is $$$ just like all of the above. H&M appears to be the only big mainstream retailer that offers a suit under three hundred bills (H&M cheapest tux is actually lower than CombGent’s $200 pricepoint to be fair) but even at a total of ~$110 MSRP for dinner jacket and slacks, I fail to see H&M’s justification for the savings with…is it a fad gone wrong?…stitched accents! And cheap imported synthetic fiber. Lastly, the growing BlackTux.com rents their slim cut suits for around the $100. I’ve actually had a chance to try their product for a wedding party I was a part of and it was not too bad. But for the money, why not spend a few Twenties more for something you can keep?

CombGent gives us Italian wool and satin lapels with a proper, modern width that is not too choking nor too Dumbo Ear-ey. Just as well, the shawl option is perfectly wide enough to give that relaxing vibe that is not too casual either. I like the various colors, that with the lower price almost begs you to grab a tuxedo in two or three unique tones. Black for the Opera Premiere, Charcoal Shawl for a champagne party, and the all-the-rage Midnight Blue for kissing your new girlfriend Lady Hazel Eyes at an exclusive Hollywood shindig you got invited to because she knows Beyonce’s personal assistant.

There are some downsides that The Combatant could work on. A tuxedo, no matter how fashionably forward it is in cut, should always obey the rules of yore. This is not to suppress the creative juices (because we must recall that CombGent is urbanprep in distinction and not a heritage label like Ben Silver that appeals to our conservative tradly needs) but to remind the creators and customers alike that you shall not mess with perfection. The tuxedo is a gentleman’s blank slate. We let our female companions be the eye catching arm candy that gives happy detail to the void. Thus, the recipe remains as follows: Always a peak lapel (or shawl). Always single vent or none at all. Always one button. Always two jacket pockets. Always a satin strip running down the slacks. Always a slight break with no cuffs. Less is More is rarely so true as it is for mens eveningwear, which is precisely why our best sartorial saints continue to look timeless – Connery, Grant, Dean, Bond. We can now even go more minimalist these days by shedding the studs, the “cumbersome cummerbund”, and the frilled placket shirts. But don’t mess with the basic skin.

My humble plea for Combatant Gentlemen: Remove the extra ticket pocket. Remove the second jacket button. Go with the peak, not the notched. Those design elements are the signatures of a timeless dinner jacket. Mind you, my knowledge sources from the best of the best, as one of my favorite sartorial mentors Glenn O’Brien of GQ reiterates the “no notch lapels” mantra as well. Peaked lapels are the only extravagance to the otherwise somber tuxedo, and using the notched destroys any pomp displayed – replacing the novelty with boredom. I want to feel special that night, in my polished shoes and Dinner Jacket satin regalia; and instead not feel like I just took a taxi from a court hearing I was summoned to, wearing an all-too-common 2 buttoned notched suit jacket that pretends to be worthy of real deal evening etiquette!

The satin-esque finishing on the lapel and chest pocket, along with the jackets with satin finishes on the non-flap pockets, are divine. Definitely keep those options, especially the availability of the slanted double non-flap pockets which helps to further cut down on any material excess with absent outer flap. And I have no doubt that the quality and fitting of the tux line is on par with your flagship suiting that I am obviously so fond of. Same approval for the flat front satin-running slacks.

The few major plotholes I talked of above are the only hesitations that prevent me from buying a Comb Gent tuxedo in this present state. Remove the second button and replace with a peaked lapel. I will ask my readers to make up your own mind on these proceedings, since my hangups may not be as sinful as I depict. There are tons of makers who do not know any better either. Our infallible Grandaddy Brooks has been my one true mating partner in a love/hate relationship for the longest time, as for example they too sell a notched lapel Fitzgerald when they should know better. Yet, the 99.99% of those dudes who are not a tyrant clothing dictator, like yours truly, will barely have enough attention span to notice that second button – much less know to never fasten it so that both buttons are closed, nor know how to tie a bowtie, nor know that the long satin tie is not an alternative for said bowtie. Never ever ever never. Anyway, I just think the current Combatant Tuxedo can can be improved upon to reach those final few points to make it perfect, but it is your trigger to pull. $200 is a good deal nevertheless.

*****

CollegeTrad Recommends:

The takeway cliffnotes.

Pros

Super 140s Italian sourced Wool, Staples starting at $160 (and lowest seasonal suiting at $140), Separate Suiting, Various Fittings, Attention to detail like “PRC” and hidden labeling, Unhemmed slacks, and Amazing OTR fitting that reduces need for extra alteration. Half-Canvassed Suit Jackets [see edit below].

Cons

Made in China, Tuxedowear is promising but not yet perfect, Rest of clothing collection besides suiting is so-so for the money. Vanity sizing that can be confusing.

Verdict: Combatant Gentlemen is now my favorite supplier of budget conscious suiting.I suspect they will see me as a repeat customer. The Price to Quality is unmatched by their competitors. Use CombGent for your starter suit(s) if you cannot afford the higher quality range just yet, especially if you are a student or young professional. Or if you are like me and want a cheap and fashionably cut option as your 4th,5th,6th+ on top of your tradly, higher quality, primary suitwear. The rest of the CombGent collection of shirts, knits, and ties are on par with other brands and can be skipped over. Keep a close eye on their tuxedos for future improvements.

 

P.S. Here is another CG review for your consideration by Dappered.com

 

[**Edit 5/5/15]

A fellow reader asked if their suiting is half-canvass or fused. Sorry I forgot to add this rather important detail in my original publishing! As seen in this Dappered Forum posting from a company brand rep, the Combatant Gentleman suits are half-canvassed. Since pretty much all of their competitors use fusing to save costs, which is arguably deemed to be of lesser quality than canvassing, this reply from a Dappered user sums it up:

“Wait, half canvassed 140s wool from Naples… for that price?…. I think you’ve got our collective ear.”

FYI my usual favorite suiting suggestion, the Brooks Brothers 1818 Line, are half-canvassed. Brownie points to CombGent. Brownie points galore!

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