Rugged Fancy: Winter Style for Men

If you wear menswear, this is the winter for you. Last year’s fishermen/workwear look has made babies with the heritage prep resurgence and the baby looks like this:

Baby in Gant Rugger.

Sometimes, with fashion, a creative process occurs familiar to anyone who works in the arts. Say you have a FRIEND who’s writing a book, and has been for three years. Your friend works his ass off, spending his entire 2.5 hour round-trip commute and swaths of his weekend, say, crafting a story that’s dynamic, thoughtful, engaging, etc. There are a lot of moving parts, and so your friend (okay, your friend, Thomas) thinks he’s all done and sends it out, only to realize, “I am not done! I don’t even really have a narrative arc.” True story.

So, of course, I sit down to revise and what happens? The magical subconscious has made the whole arc in my sleep or some shit, and everything comes together. The moral is that that’s the creative process! Pride, failure, terror, and, hopefully, synergy.

That was an aside. The point is, we’ve waited a long time for menswear to look this good. Utilitarian but fancy, modern but classic, sleek but  rustic.  Something has been germinating over the last few seasons and now even the most inept dude can walk into J. Crew (or online order from Topman) a few key pieces (in, duh, the correct size) and look awesome.

No judgement, but if you are currently in baggy jeans and a hoodie (or an ill-fitting suit), it has never been easier to cast off that crap and shine.

How? With sweaters!

Topman Teal Pattern Crewneck.

A sweater that fits is every guy’s secret weapon. It’s a great layer, and if you’ve got nothing else going on, this alone will make you look like you care about yourself. A sweater, dark jeans, and a (fitted*** presume I mean it always and forever) blazer makes you appear rugged and citified simultaneously. Why? Because this is actually the appropriate combination for a professional person navigating a cold, unforgiving city landscape. Do you need waxed pants? Probably not. Do you need multiple layers that fly at the office/bar? Probably so.

Add some lace-up brogues for a complete winter-y crossover look (that’s also practical and kick-ass):

Mr B.'s Brogues.

What’s so great about this present moment in menswear is that everyone on the masculine end of the spectrum can work with the classic palette available and make it their own. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a sweater and thought of five different friends that could rock it, all of them differently. Now that’s all I see.

Manastash Mountain Vest at Wharf Clothing & Wares.

These vests are great for wearing over jean jackets, blazers, or collared shirts. Again, with everything else neutral, paired down, and fitted. And with some great boots.

Topman Navy Fair Aisle Tank.

Wear a (hand-tied) bow tie with this instead of a tie! Do it at work. You look awesome. Or, stick with a tie, and experiment with pattern mixing. And throw on a winter jacket. You look EVEN MORE AWESOME:

Gant Rugger.

I have recently learned that I like cooking. How did I learn this? By fucking up a bunch of stuff, then making the same thing over and over, then getting bored. But the fucking up allowed me to figure out what I liked (roasted vegetables, greens cooked in olive oil, etc.) and now I have specialties. It is not that hard to figure out what you really, really love and then experiment. In style, as in life, curiosity from a stable base yields an adventurous, grounded self.

Steve McQueen in an Aran Sweater.

Steve McQueen was a man who knew what he liked, and what looked good on him. It is a coincidence that a thick knit sweater–with its attendant masculine glamour–is often associated with him? Look, by comparison, at his compatriot. Is that a track suit? That is how he’s immortalized in this awesome photo of McQueen. Food for thought.

My point is, it’s not that hard, friends. We are in the era of the well-dressed, classic man. You don’t need a million dollars to look like it. From designers to J.Crew to a solid thrift store, Fair Isle/knit sweaters, tailored blazers, and pants that fit are a basic canvas that can yield as many results as the men in them.


About Thomas Page McBee

Gentleman first, always. James Dean is my patron saint, poet is my gender. More about me here:


  1. Isn’t it amazing how menswear always returns to the classics, even when there is a subtle change the heritage is always present

  2. emerson rose

    Hey Thomas (and other IBC folks!)–
    This post is lovely. Do you have any thoughts on how to magically locate well-fitting menswear for female-assigned folks who aren’t so slender and have hips and a chest to account for? I know tailoring’s important, but sometimes it is difficult to be as dapper as I desire while living on a meager non-profit stipend. Any advice would be much appreciated.

    • I totally hear what you’re saying, Emerson, as a former nonprofit employee who is now in journalism, which is basically the same thing. If you’re “not so slender” and therefore don’t have to find xxs, you actually might be better off. I’d highly recommend Topman, who has lots of cool stuff for reasonable prices. Also, you may consider shopping for menswear at thriftstores and then picking 1-2 pants and 1-2 dress shirts to take to the tailor. If they fit mostly but just need some adjusting, a tailor is an inexpensive route. For example, I once bought a pair of Levis for $40 that fit me okay but were huge in the butt. I went to my tailor and for $20 he made them fit perfectly. So, overall, I paid $60 for a pair of jeans I’ve worn for three years and counting. If you want to just bone up your wardrobe with a couple nice, fitted items and don’t want to go to the tailor, then Topman, J.Crew, and the supersales at Gilt are all good places to start. And as for hips: the pants don’t need to be skin tight, you just need to not swim in them. If you’re concerned about your hips, consider going to a Levi’s store (if there’s one near you) and trying on a bunch of stuff to see what size makes you comfortable. Again, Topman has great dress pants, too. And chest: sweaters! Knit, chunky sweaters won’t emphasize your chest, so you’re all set for an especially dapper winter season.

  3. adamboehmer


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