I went to J. Crew and thought I’d write about things I liked!
Note: This isn’t really sponsored, but I’ll explain more within the post.
So as you may remember, I did an event at J. Crew this past weekend. Spencer works there and told me that his boss was planning a fall event centered around free drinks, snacks, and a blogger. Because Spencer knows me, he suggested that I get in touch with his boss and see if I could do the event. You guys know that I’m always about menswear events, so I did what I could to make it happen!
Obviously I was concerned about my editorial voice, but Jeremy (Spencer’s boss) assured me that it wasn’t a big deal. I would simply promote the event on social media, attend, take pictures, and make some posts about it afterward. I’m not sure if I was even asked to write anything further than just the event itself, but I thought I’d take the opportunity to reflect on J. Crew, seeing how I’ve mostly moved on from shopping at the mall.
My J. Crew is at South Coast Plaza
Like Put This On and Die Workwear, I do like J. Crew. I think that they’re probably one of the best mall brands out there who consistently have good quality products for its mass market. I don’t mean this as an insult to Sid Mashburn or Drake’s, but I think that J. Crew exudes a lot of the same Americana-prep/ivy vibes in an easy going way that isn’t too trad. Because of that, it has a bit more personality than Uniqlo, which I find more suited to minimal basics rather than a fully expressed style.
Now the J. Crew at South Coast Plaza used to be my home away from home when I worked at the mall. That’s because even though I enjoyed my tenure at Banana Republic while I was studying for my MBA, I spent most of my time at J. Crew! It probably helps that the SCP J. Crew had a separate store just for the men, which allowed it to function like the Armoury or Drake’s that I had just started to discover. The guys there were friendly and well dressed (way more than my BR associates) and were actually knowledgeable about menswear details. It could also be the fact that this particular J. Crew (at South Coast Plaza) was one of the best ones in California, only rivaling the one at The Grove. As both locations were luxury malls, it made sense that the environment and staff were a touch better than the rest.
This was the store that I got a few things you might recognize, like these straight leg flannel trousers, a great brown lambswool cardigan, pleated chinos, and sweaters. Obviously I prefer vintage (or custom), but there’s nothing wrong with mixing in some RTW, especially when you’re budget conscious. You may not went to spend $$$ on a cashmere sweater, but you also don’t want a polyester one from H&M! That’s where these good mall brands come in.
The fact remains that I haven’t really shopped at a J. Crew in a long time. I know that Spencer works there and he occasionally tells me about new drops or lets me his latest acquisitions in person. I don’t really need new additions to my closet, but like I said, I liked that I’d have an opportunity to see the new stuff from J. Crew. Obviously I’m not going to talk about everything (as I definitely don’t like everything) but there were a few things I was interested in.
So keep in mind that these are not affiliate links. I did not receive monetary compensation other than a complimentary item in exchange for promoting the event (which I will recap later)! These pieces are just what stood out to me and I thought I’d share them with you. Also, big ups to Spencer for holding the garments for my photography.
One of the first things that I was drawn to was these 100% cashmere beanies. Like I said in my blog post, knit hats are great since they’re functional and actively “dress down” a sartorial outfit. I love that they’re available in colors other than simple navy or red (which I own from Knickerbocker). The only downside is that they act more like beanies instead of watch cap. By this I mean that they have a lot of “excess” room and are probably meant to hang a bit loosely on the head. Trying to achieve the same proportions and close fit as my knit caps results in a overly wide hem.
Wallace & Barnes has to be one of the best lines from J. Crew since these designs influence from vintage pieces and clearly reference Americana. This particular flannel is a great one since it echoes the some of the vintage Pendletons that I’ve found at vintage stores. While the loop collar would have been a great touch, it instead focuses on details similar to a chambray workshirt: a point collar (that could work for a tie, but I’m not sure) and buttoning dual chest pockets.
Its the quintessential fall work shirt that I think would look great with tweed tailoring or some pleated, military-esque chinos.
I love fair isle though it’s been a while since I’ve talked about them (here and here)! The look is super 1980’s prep, though if it were a v-neck (or as a sweater vest) I’d get 1930’s vibes. Either way it’s a great alternative to plain sweaters, as I tend to prefer patterns when composing an outfit. It’s nice to see them come back this season, made from lambswool into blue and brown. The wool is fine (though it’s no merino) and feels more comfortable than my itchy, shaggy dog variation that I got on eBay years ago.
I really suggest trying out fair isle and these J. Crew ones are good (since no other mall brand really makes them), especially if you don’t feel comfortable graduating to Drake’s yet.
An A-1 or Cossack jacket has been on my list ever since I attended my first Inspiration LA. It’s sleeker than the A-2 (worn by Indiana Jones), so its a perfect match for tailoring and casual wear. While J. Crew doesn’t make them in leather, it does make them in a sweater variation. The design is largely similar to an A-1/Cossack, but like most modern garments, it’s way too long for high rise trousers. They didn’t have an extra small so I couldn’t see how the silhouette would change by sizing down; if you’re tall, you might have some luck!
The Gooch Brothers (Josh and Garrett) stopped by for the event and got in on the action. Both of them really liked the 1988’s turtlenecks and each tried a different one. Josh wears the cotton cable knit, which I really like since it adds a “fisherman” flair to the garment; most guys tend to go for fine gauge merino which I think is too smooth. Garret also wears a cotton one, this time sans cable knit and in olive.
While I definitely prefer a full roll, the shorter neck length makes it easy to wear with a dress shirt, as it allows the points to come out, all sprezzatura-like. Whether you want that or not is up to you!
Now let’s talk about tailoring. Now I’m not the biggest fan of J. Crew’s details because the lapels are narrow and has a low button stance. If you can overlook those things (which comes down to taste, since there are plenty of bespoke makers who have low stances), they’re worth a look! This herringbone tweed (cloth from Abraham Moon) is pretty dang cool, with a few white threads thrown in for a donegal effect. It has a bit of a 60s-70s ivy feel since it has hip, flap-patch pockets and has soft construction; these two things are hard to find at a mall.
Speaking of ivy, J. Crew released their own version of the quintessential navy blazer. It retains their Ludlow silhouette but opts for swelled edges for a vintage touch. Not too bad!
Garret tries on the unstructured cotton-linen jacket in black, perfect for his minimal, neo-American style. Unfortunately this jacket isn’t online (other than this alternative version), but I think it’s on sale in physical stores!
One thing I am fully on board for is the J. Crew dinner jacket, especially this plaid one. These jackets have pretty sizable shawl collars that evoke the classic evening looks from the 1950s. It can be pretty hard to find decent ones other than bespoke or vintage, so I’m glad that J. Crew consistently makes these pieces so that other guys can dress well for Christmas/NYE!
Who would’ve thought that you’d see a raglan sleeve coat in a mall store? It’s a decent length and has a modest lapel, that again makes it reminiscent of coats from the 1960s. According to the website, the coat is actually water resistant, though I’d prefer a traditional trench for the rain.
My favorite coat was this blue herringbone one all because the collar was nice and wide. If this one looks a bit bigger than the others, its because this one is marketed as “oversized”. It’s probably done as a throwback to 80s-90s coat looks (or to better fit a suit underneath) but the shoulders are definitely a little wide.
The Barn Coat is probably the best thing in the store and ended up being my complimentary J. Crew gift. It’s based on a their old 1983 pattern and has a bit of that rugged ivy vibe that I love for casual wear. We’ll probably talk more about it later, but it’s definitely a good buy if you’re looking for something a bit more substantial than a chore coat or don’t want to wear a military jacket. I got mine in bright red as a 1970’s throwback, but it is available in beige, mahogany (if red is too much), and navy.
To be honest, I was a little bit nervous about making this post and doing the event. I like to keep these articles free from any outside bias and remain under my complete control. For some reason, I thought that writing about J. Crew would make me look like a shill. But in the end, it’s not really like that at all!
Obviously, you guys know that I like vintage and bespoke clothing; nothing will replace that for me. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t go to the mall and get some good stuff from time to time. As I said earlier, I have quite a few things from J. Crew that are in my regular rotation! It was definitely nice being able to go back to one of my favorite stores (literally, the SCP one is probably the best in California) and see what they had to offer. It’s a far cry from H&M or Forever 21; the products are made pretty well with some classic details (though I’d love if they fixed their button stance).
Overall, J. Crew remains one of the better stores out there that keeps that Americana-ivy/prep style alive. I’m not saying that you should shop there exclusively, but you should definitely go in and check out pieces that call out to you, combine them with your vintage, or even mix and match from different stores to pad out your wardrobe. It’s especially helpful for guys who want to try out classic menswear for themselves before graduating to custom clothing or higher end RTW like Drake’s, Sid, or the Armoury. This store will always have a special place in my heart and I’m glad that they’re still making some good stuff.
Always a pleasure,
Street x Sprezza
Photography by who else
If you’re looking for an A-1, I’d recommend Headwind Manufacturing (www.headwindmfg.com). You wouldn’t really know it from their bare-bones website, but they make great reproductions of rare leather jackets, including the A-1 and the Navy equivalent, the 37J1.
I got an A-1 from them last year and it’s been my favorite leather jacket since. They’re fairly spendy (although way less than Eastman or Aero) but for a made-to-order leather jacket I think it’s worth it, plus they have occasional sales which knock a good deal off the price.