It’s about time that my casual attire has gotten it’s own article. It’s certainly changed a lot throughout the years, becoming an entity that’s almost entirely separate than my sartorial outfits.
Casual Ethan is a wild beast and has had a crazy journey. Like I’ve said many times before, I always had a hard time dressing down, mainly because I felt that casual style was the only way for me to be “cool”. Sure, my sartorial style was becoming more confident (and wearable), with it’s styling of contemporary and vintage piece. But casual? That’s the stuff for dates, hanging out with non-menswear friends, and simply being in public.
So on the days when I was off, I was in white sneakers or chelsea boots, slim black jeans, a tee shirt or sweater, and a cool vintage jacket. In some cases, it’s a bit more inspired by 1940’s casual wear (as detailed in our Inspiration LA podcast and shownotes), but it’s mainly just a step up above simply wearing a nerdy tee and baggy jeans, as was my main mode during high school. Spencer was at least always sharp, opting to look like a 1940s-1950’s youth on his off days.
You can see this style in action a bit in some older articles, like this and this. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these outfits, but as you can probably tell, I found it basic. Especially when you compare it to how much I effort I put into refining my sartorial style.
It’s an issue that I’ve seen among younger sartorial guys or vintage enthusiasts. Their suits, shirts, and ties are always immaculate, but they seem lost or just not as into casual attire. Most of the time, it looked like even their casual style was too dressy; I definitely fell into that trap. Remember that dressing well doesn’t always mean dressing up.
While I have done prep/ivy casual (with chinos, pennys and military jackets) well in fall, I was at a loss for way to do casual outside of that, especially in summer. I always felt that my casual style deserved attention and enjoyment, but I was completely lost. It felt like I was just defaulting to things rather than being creative. Sure, I might have gotten a few new things like chore coats and jungle jackets, but they seemed to get along better with tailoring rather than anything casual I had. Even cool shorts didn’t seem to help me. And while you could argue that I could just be dressed up all the time, I just didn’t have that need to do so. I wanted to be casual but exude tailoring somehow, and not by simply wearing a softly shouldered jacket and a polo shirt (instead of a dress shirt) as many of my contemporaries do.
What I needed was some form of inspiration to try something a bit different. And thank God for MFA, because it gave it to me, at least at first.
For those of you who don’t know Male Fashion Advice, you should definitely check it out. While it is mainly a place dedicated to helping men get their start with fashion, it actually has a pretty diverse demographic. You’ll see more interesting takes on style by looking at the main guys who post on the tri-weekly outfit threads, rather than the basic outfits for work or going out (that most people know it for). It was by participating in these threads that I finally got the drive to improve and change my casual style.
Being a part of the community for a few years helped expose me to a lot of new ideas. At first it helped with me with tailoring and allowed me to see different brands (including a better understanding of Drake’s and The Armoury). But over time, I found myself looking more so for casual inspiration. The subreddit as a whole isn’t very tailored, but that was okay, since I had many friends and colleagues on Instagram for that.
Perhaps that simply was the case; I started getting interested in something a bit different and rare as it wasn’t a part of my normal feed. Whatever the case, I was on my way to attaining that inspiration for my casual style. Much like Ethan Newton, it was a case of seeing other people do things that I had only had an abstract idea of. And what I learned was that I needed to simply think of it in sartorial mindset, even though it may not technically be true tailored separates.
And even though it may not be exactly something I’d wear, there was plenty of ideas (mainly the silhouette and palette) that I could pull ideas from.
Let’s use this outfit by my pal Chase as an example. To you guys it may just seem like a loose outfit that isn’t jiving with you. But to me, I see an different take on tailored separates. Firstly, the shirt-jacket can be comparable to a slouchy sportcoat. Underneath could be a breton striped tee (the blue stripe OCBD of tee shirts). The wide leg trousers speak for themselves, as I tend to like a big leg opening. And finally the espadrilles are basically loafers. Add the bucket hat for extra slouch points, and there you have it!
I know it sounds like a stretch, but its really how I reconciled it in my head. It was all about replacing the ideas found in tailoring with more casual pieces. Because all of my sportcoats were soft, it was easy to compare them to overshirts and chore coats, due to their equally slouchy nature; this idea is best stated as the “Is This a Blazer” blazer in this PTO article. I’m guessing that the trousers might be the biggest oddball to you all, but the wide leg/no break was something I’ve always been exposed to, from my true vintage 30’s trousers and military chinos to the ones touted by Scott Fraser Simpson.
Seeing other MFA outfits through this lens really gave me the confidence, because I soon saw how I could approach it without having to buy too many “new” things just to be casual. I’m not really sure what to call this particular style, but it’s a lot of loose shirt-jackets, wide trousers, and chunky shoes or loafers. The silhouette as a whole is vaguely Japanese in my eyes, but the pieces themselves aren’t rooted too far into Americana/workwear/ivy, which makes it quite interesting for me to put in my own context.
While I wasn’t about to copy the style wholeheartedly (as my passion will always be classic menswear), I knew that this was something I could do. It also helped that I’m internet friends/mutuals with some of these guys and continually see them post on MFA and instagram. Guys like Chase, Max, Ravikiran, and Aaron have been the biggest inspirations for me on this front, with Chris providing me with a similar take but in rugged-ivy vibes.
Of course, we always have to bring it back to classic menswear. You guys should already know the effect that Bryceland’s has made on our casual style (as noted in our Inspiration LA show notes). They really were one of the first guys in my realm that started using this idea of “replacement/alternative pieces”, at least that’s what it was in my eyes. It results in a great case of “high-low” outfits that puts a spin on the casual side of menswear.
The picture above is a great example of this. Instead of doing an open OCBD and jeans as most guys would do, Ethan Newton takes it a step up by doing a chambray workshirt and a wide legged pair of denim trousers. It’s certainly a lot more rugged and “weird” than say typical 501s or even chambray trousers. I find that it fits the slouchy vibe I saw in my MFA compatriots and isn’t just a “suit guy on his day off”. It may not be correct or versatile than most, but that’s why I like it. Normal is just a setting on a washing machine!
Of course, it’s most interesting when it’s done with actual casual clothes! There’s still something clean about this, despite being even more similar to the MFA outfits earlier. It’s equal parts militaria and vintage casual (due to the safari jacket, gurkhas, and tee) but it also seems like a case of using alternative items. I’m sure most guys would would probably prefer to wear full chinos and a button up, though I like Kenji’s choices here. Much more interesting!
The next step in my casual journey was looking at tailoring was strictly casual in its design. Ya know, to put a fun spin on the “suit”, as it is quite obvious that I’m toying with this loose interpretation of suits and jackets/blazers. While materials definitely have a part to play (cotton especially), the real clincher is in the design of the jackets. Again, think about the “is this a blazer” blazer.
We’ll get into Teba jackets in a moment (the obvious choice for a mix of casual/workwear in tailoring), but what really grabbed me in the moment was “chore suits”, or basically a chore coat (with 3 or 4 patch pockets) with matching trousers. Without those pesky lapels and shoulder pads, it’s an instant way to give off the clean vibe of a suit without the corporate (or dapper) connotations. Brands like Engineered Garments, Universal Works, 18 East, and Evan Kinori do it will with varying degrees of suit-to-chore coat designs.
Admittedly some of the jackets are a bit too crazy and the way it’s styled by most of them isn’t exactly how I’d do it myself, but the inspiration is always valuable. Again, it helps that I look at it through my replacement-item lens. Even if I didn’t get to buy EG during my Japan trip, I could approximate it with wide leg rolled chinos and a chore coat, right?
Now one of the most famous classic menswear interpretations of that chore coat/blazer thing is the overshirt from Drake’s. It shares a lot of similiarites with traditional chore coats, but to me, it really echoes the tailored sportcoat thanks to a wide collar (lapels, anyone?), big patch pockets, and longer length. It also helps that you can commission it in tailoring-friendly fabrics. What makes it more interesting is the amount of buttons, which make the overshirt feel just as slouchy as a button-up. It is called an overshirt after all.
It looks great with a tie, but I think I’d prefer it worn with more of a workwear/Japanese-Americana connotation, rather than just business casual. Perhaps thats the “subversive” MFA influence coming through!
Almost as a natural extension of the overshirt comes the Safari jacket. Popularized by Ascot Chang’s work through the Armoury, the safari jacket is one of the most classic pieces of casual menswear. Whether you think of Clark Gable in the 40’s or random disco dudes in the 70’s, it’s a pretty louche garment, complete with utilitarian pleated pockets and a dope matching belt.
Personally, I find it a bit too busy (thanks to all the details) to work in my more minimal take on casual wear; it’s also a very popular piece in menswear that gives me a snese of fatigue. However, it merits an inclusion here because I’m pretty sure I’d find a way to make it work with the vibe I’m going for.
You can see here the chore coat vs the safari jacket, courtesy of my friends at the Anthology. Both of these really exude that MFA/worksuit vibe, but done in that clean, sartorial lens. The outfit on the left is probably one of the best looks I’ve seen, combining a cream seersucker chore coat with wide, white trousers; the untucked band collar shirt in contrasting black really is the power move. To me, it looks like such an easy look, but with all the cohesion and fit really just represents a slouchy take on the concept of tailored separates. And that’s the theme of this blog post.
Then we have the Teba jacket. If you want some good reading on it, check out this piece by Tony Sylvester for Beige Habilleur or this Die Workwear piece. Personally, I find it the love child of a chore coat and a sportcoat; Derek calls it a “shirt jacket, combining Neapolitan form with British-like style”. It probably leans more toward the chore coat end, due to the close-ness of the buttons (of which there are more than three), and hard-edged patch pockets. The shape is usually boxy (again echoing the chore coat or overshirt) and the lack of open quarters make it much more casual. The main connotations toward suiting come in the shape of the collar, which is rolled to resemble a lapel, despite the lack of it.
It also looks a bit more “closed up”, again making for an interesting aesthetic similar to the chore coat/overshirt rather than a blazer, where the lines are meant to go outward (the broad shoulder, the sweeping quarters). It’s a great pair for minimalistic looks.
It’s not super popular, but you do see a handful of guys wear it as an alternative to sportcoats, mainly by the guys of The Armoury (who developed their own take, entitled the City Hunter) or by Tony Sylvester. It’s definitely a bit more subversive than the chore coat and sportcoat (since it has elements of both) and it’s taken a while to grow on me, especially as I’ve come to work on my own casual style. Like the overshirt, I think most guys keep it a bit too business casual, but it’s still giving me ideas if I ever got one.
Arnold Wong, is a noted lover of Tebas, featuring them on his IG very prominently. I really love the use of the jacket with shorts, as the long sleeves seem a bit incongruous for the length of pant, yet make for an intentionally interesting combination. AKA, it’s casual but formal (as one can get), I guess? He really is one of the masters in this realm of casual menswear, utilizing vintage and contemporary silhouettes, especially through the use of wide trousers.
Arnold’s tobacco linen teba suit is probably one of the coolest things I’ve seen, since it “fulfills” that worksuit-vibe I talked about earlier. It’s definitely a suit (being a jacket + trouser of the same material) but the design of the jacket is what makes all the difference: wide collar, patch pockets, and squared quarters. Basically, a suit jacket, but only in the literal sense of the term. I can imagine that this suit is pretty versatile, looking great with shirt + ties just as much as a tee or sportshirt.
As I continued onward, I started branching out from the chore coat tops and started to appreciate other things like popovers and anoraks. I always felt like anoraks were too casual, akin to athletic wear, but not all are made equal (or at least styled to foster some outfit inspiration). Seeing a few of them, again by Japanese or Japanese inspired designers) has that ivy-Americana-workwear lean, which puts it into a great context for me.
The above outfit is a great example of that, wearing a tan anorak with wide leg chinos and chunky derbies. Again, in my mind, I can see the anorak taking the place of a chore coat or even a cotton blazer. Bit of a stretch, but it works for me.
Another source of inspiration for this casual style, is Scott Fraser Simpson, the designer behind his eponymous label. He creates some epic wide leg trousers and fantastic sportshirts and the way he wears them is just stellar. Thanks to a relaxed fit, bold shirting, and use of loafers, the whole vibe is very louche and casual, removing any corporate connotations from his suits. Perhaps that’s the appeal to me: using classic menswear in a way that isn’t traditional.
Just look at that top image: a slightly structured suit that is a bit short in the body (30’s style, but perhaps a nod to chore coats?) with some wide leg pleated trousers, cut from a lovely linen. He rocks the runaway collar on his knit Italian-style shirt but note that it’s untucked. Despite all the classic pieces, he’s wearing it in a way thats slightly subversive, which succeeds in making the attire casual.
His whole feed is filled with similar vibes. I’m a particularly a big fan of his trousers and how he wears them. With the wide leg opening, they remind me of vintage military chinos but with a few shades of regular suit trousers (due to the material and clean tailored lines).
I want to address the tee shirt + suit combination. Now I’m normally not the biggest fan of it when done in the typical influencer way, with a skin tight suit and tee. But here, it takes more a different connotation (perhaps I’m just a hypocrite) through Scott’s vintage lens. Striped shirts and wide leg trousers always have a vintage vibe, so that’s definitely clear, but the inclusion of the suit jacket makes it more special.
Like I said, the striped tee is the OCBD of tee shirts, and it really does go with everything. I’ve definitely seen striped tees with chore coat suits, but a jacket with lapels? Subversive and cool, especially thanks to the overall relaxed fit.
And lastly, we have to talk about Tony Sylvester again. I briefly mentioned him last year as one of my major contemporary inspirations, but let’s talk about why that is. Firstly, I love how often he uses long jackets with shorts, furthering my notion that shorts are simply a replacement for chinos, instead of a totally different garment (in styling terms). The juxtaposition of shorts and a long sleeve shirt or jacket makes for a fun use of proportions and puts the spin on the age old rule where you’re not “supposed” to wear a jacket with shorts.
Tony does it exceedingly well, mainly through a vintage-militaria lens. He’s not wearing a Neapolitan jacket with slim shorts, but rather a rugged chore coat or jungle jacket with wide legged, pleated shorts. For shirts, he’s in band collars, sport shirts, and popovers, all perfectly suitable alternatives to the typical open-spread collars guys wear (though OCBDs go both ways). Hopefully you guys are finally able to understand how I view casual looks through this sartorial lens.
Before we get into my own casual outfits, I would be remiss if I didn’t include a few actual vintage outfits. Obviously the context is a little bit different when compared to now, as outfits were mainly done by job or activity rather than full sartorial enjoyment. In the present, they still serve as big inspirations for me and proof that wide leg is a look that has a place in casual and formal looks. Plus, they just look so comfortable in their attire, or at least thats how the illustrator has them.
Here it is: Casual Ethan. Just take everything you just learned and put it into practice, mixing in vintage pieces, wide/slouchy silhouettes, striped tees, and a reference to Japanese-Americana designers, ivy, workwear, and militaria. Neutral and solid colors is also important, losing out on the stripes + prints that I tend to wear in my tailoring. The biggest thing though, is the concept of alternatives, which define how I put outfits together.
I think the outfit above illustrates this perfectly. It’s a “suit” due to the navy cohesion, but it’s really made up of a twill Drake’s overshirt (finally copped a grail) and some navy gurkha shorts. Could be comparable to a safari outfit or a chore suit, just done with shorts. In order to make it more interesting and give it some more vintage casual flair, I paired it with a striped Beams + shirt.
The idea of long jackets and shorts is probably one of my most favorite things to do, not only because it’s subversive, but because it plays along with alternatives. The above fit would probably be most appropriate with some military chinos, but instead, I went with gurkha shorts; it was also because it was hot. It puts a new spin on this military fit, but is still comfortable. And yes, the shirt and jacket are light, the latter definitely more so.
Gurkha shorts just seem to be the most interesting thing to use, simply because they resemble trousers well due to their pleats, wide leg opening, and side-adjuster closure. Again, we have a long sleeve + shorts combo, which leans a bit more on my own personal preferences rather than redoing workwear or military wear. The rugby and chino is a classic prep look, but has a slightly different vibe thanks to the gurkhas and having it be tucked in. And then we have a slouchy linen chore-blazer, that brings in workwear ideas; it also slightly matches the shorts and creates a “suit” or at least separates.
The whole thing pulls off so many different vibes, but it result in a look that feels completely natural to me, in both my style and the clothes I already happen to own. It’s a weird way to think, but it’s certainly a different take than simply wearing a polo shirt and shorts as a casual summer outfit.
Now lets get into the concept of the “full suit” and “separates” that utilize long trousers. This has really been a favorite of mine in the summer, for days where I feel like I’ve been wearing shorts too often or I just want a different vibe. Again, I think these really approximate my love of classic menswear, but rely on the shirt/accessories and fit of the trousers to remove any corporate connotations.
I wore the fit above during my birthday at the beach (I changed into trousers after I tried off from the water). I think the outfit definitely echoes the MFA vibe thanks to the slouchy nature. A brown sportcoat and white trousers aren’t exactly special, but it definitely takes a new meaning when you change up the details. The jacket and trousers have more in common with workwear rather than clean tailoring, while the espadrilles and polo give it a vacation vibe. It really is one of my favorite, most “chill” outfits I’ve worn.
If you can’t already tell, that brown linen chore blazer is probably my most favorite garment. It works extremely well with gurkha shorts (to make a “short suit”) but it’s also fine with regular chinos, approximating a chore suit of sorts. I love doing the “suit” as a bit of a Japanese-Americana look, with sportshirts and bucket hats, off set by sneakers or some other chunky derby. Keen eyed followers of my instagram will probably remember some of these pictures from last year, serving as my first foray into Casual Ethan”.
The chinos are actually a high-rise pleated pair from Uniqlo. They have a bit of stretch in them but they were cheap and serve these looks well, as my other chinos were a bit too dressy. There is a slight taper in the body and the length is a bit short, which made it a bit hard to wear, so I eventually raw hemmed them with scissors to make an edgier look.
That “chore suit” look soon gave way for me to try different interpretations, like this one utilizing a more traditional chore jacket with wide legged brown seersucker trousers. You guys know I love my navy jacket + brown trouser look, so this definitely a natural extension of the look, replacing my favorite tailoring pieces with someting more dressed down . I opted to close up the chore coat completely to lean into the overshirt vibe but also to remove connotations to tailoring. The result is something minimal and clean, which is a big theme of Casual Ethan.
I think the next few looks should help illustrate how Casual Ethan takes different forms, replacing different menswear pieces with casual alternatives, playing with wide silhouettes, and taking inspiration from everything I talked about before.
One recent purchase that I’m excited to use more is this noragi, purchased during my trip to Japan. It’s made of a scratchy cotton and features a fun floral pattern. If we’re talking about this in terms of my alternatives approach to casual, I think that it serves as a replacement to both a navy blazer and a chore coat. The pockets even help, as it has a breast patch pocket and regular hip pockets (not patch). I’ve actually wanted one for a while, being inspired by some kimono jackets and happi coats, but both of them lacked any pockets, which are a pass from me.
Instead of being rugged, it actually comes off a bit more louche and relaxed, being similar to leisure wear. This is probably because it closely resembles a smoking/dinner jacket, as the rounded collar are (it doesn’t really have a lapel/collar) approximates a shawl collar. It also has a string closure, which just screams out comfy.
So far I’ve just worn it with a bit slightly dressier outfits (no tees or shorts yet), but I’m sure that will change as I wear it more often! It’s also a bit weightier and stiffer than my chore coats, so it might just be relegated to milder weather.
Here’s what I think is the epitome of Casual Ethan. Like some of the one’s before it, this one is very monochromatic and utilizes a slouchy/wide silhouette. The linen chore-blazer makes an appearance here, worn over an open-weave 1930’s spearpoint shirt (no doubt made for summer) and my trusty wide-legged Uniqlo U seersucker trousers. The slouch is offset but the chunky sockless wallabees, which plays into the alternatives theory.
If this was more “classic menswear appropriate”, it would probably use a wider lapeled jacket or a safari jacket, with pleated trousers, and loafers (or espadrilles). It’s the intentional differences that make it a bit more fun and leans into the casual vibe.
Also notice the tie as a belt. Really plays into the wrinkles and easy-going nature of the outfit! Still looks sharp all together (it is “suit-adjacent after all), but is more interesting than just a tee shirt and jeans.
Now enjoy some more fits, all using the loose “ideas” of tailoring to varying degrees!
I can firmly say that I am now proud of my casual style. Obviously I’m going to have a soft spot for rugged ivy, workwear, biker, or straight militaria and will continue to wear them, but I’ve always wanted to do something else, something that can pull ideas from my sartorial attire. The result isn’t just a “suit guy on his day off” but something (hopefully) a bit more unique, combining ideas from everything I like including cues from my MFA compatriots and a little bit of back-tracking to more “weird” vintage-casual attire. I no longer feel like I’m just “defaulting” when I dress down, but rather using a new exercise in style creativity.
The key that makes it work in my head is the idea of alternatives; I’m actually not sure if other people do the same thing. Instead of doing the “proper” way of crafting an outfit, I simply replace a piece with something that has a similar vibe, but differs in details. In most cases this means a chore coat instead of a sport coat or gurkha shorts instead of full length chinos. Or it could mean wearing an almost-matching chore coat and chinos to approximate a “work suit” instead of my traditional suits I wear to work. Doing these looks with sportshirts (and tee shirts) instead of OCBDs is a great way to put a spin on the ideas of classic menswear, without simply doing a straight military or workwear look. The same goes for the use of wide legged trousers to bring the ideas of vintage menswear/bespoke into a casual context, juxtaposed against a much more casual top.
Obviously these ideas aren’t really radical when compared to my friends at MFA or brands like Evan Kinori, Engineered Garments, or Universal Works (or just Japanese-inspired style/silhouettes in general), but I think it can be a bit subversive when you compare it to how I usually dress (or even some of my immediate friends/colleagues). I still love being sartorial/vintage-inspired in an Ethan way, but I wanted my casual style to have just as much character.
Doing these ideas in my way has been super fun and has really come to define my casual attire over the past year, slowly evolving over time as I acquire more pieces. You guys know that I’ve been wanting to invest more in casual wear (especially for summer), and now that it’s done for fun rather than necessity makes it all the better. And a few guys have already noticed! One of my IG friends even noted how my slouchy grey gabardine 40s suit echoes the baggy suit trend of streetwear, going on to say how cyclical it is: those baggy suits are a redeux of 80s/90s Armani which is a redeux of the 40s-50s silhouette. It’s all about reinterpreting fashion ideas in different style and mediums!
I hope you guys enjoyed this article and that I was able to explain my inspirations/thought process a little bit! Maybe it’ll get you to rethink some of your casual wear. 😉
Always a pleasure,