Believe it or not, I was born and raised on a farm – far away from any “fashion” scene.
Honestly, I was never really interested in fashion, but the notion of personal style always intrigued me. In my opinion there is an important difference between the two. Fashion happens in major cities (runway shows, designer collections, boutique shops, etc). Style, however, can happen anywhere. It’s a way of life, a certain swagger, an expression of individuality.
An important element of good style, as I’ve written before, is starting with practicality of functionality. Being appropriatey dressed (for the occasion, the whether, the activity, etc.) is the first step. Your look should reflect the lifestyle you are participating in, whatever it may be at the time. So when I visit home, for example, I can’t be wearing 3-piece suits on the farm.
The good new is, this doesn’t mean you need a whole new wardrobe for each of your separate activities – just an understanding of which pieces can work for which occasion. In fact, due to the current landscape of menswear, it has never been easier to put together a wardrobe that can effortlessly take you from the big city to the country, or anywhere in between. For example, most of the pieces featured in this post have already been featured in other posts shot in gotham city NYC, just styled differently.
It’s no secret that workwear and utility apparel are trending (due in part to recent economic woes and a flight to durability and versatility). High-end department stores in big cities are selling re-invented versions of the garments that I grew up wearing on the farm. Think naturally distressed jeans, denim shirts, plaid flannels, quilted jackets, hard-toe boots, etc.
Here, 4 looks from my recent visit back to the farm with each of my family members.
1. Working in the Shop with Leo
My passion for style is my brother Leo’s passion for mechanics. If you can roll it into our workshop, he can probably fix it.
When I’m home I like to wear denim shirts. They’re tough and they get better the more you wear and wash them, so I don’t have to worry about getting them dirty – because they will inevitably get dirty.
Bonus Tip: Brushed cotton chinos are the type of trousers that can translate to just about any outfit or activity. They’re also another type of garment that build character the more they are worn.
Bonus Tip II: I wore these boots to a meeting/interview in Times Square yesterday, with a tweedy winter weight.
Denim shirt by RRL (M). Tank by Fruit of the Loom (M). Chinos by Polo Ralph Lauren (34). Leather belt by Banana Republic (36). Boots by Red Wing (Iron Ranger).
2. Country Boy Toys with Rich & Laura
If there is one thing my brother Richard (and his awesome wife Laura) know how to do, it’s have a good time. I’ve been watching him build grown man toys since we were in highschool – whether it’s mountain-climbing jeeps or wheely-popping dirtbikes.
Plaid flannel shirts, waffle henley undershirts and broken-in denim jeans are all farm essentials. With a slightly updated fit, and a down vest over top, this is a look I can wear to race in the dirt with my brother or hit central park with my lady.
Bonus Tip: When it gets chilly out, use a long sleeve waffle as an undershirt, and don’t be afraid to show a little bit of the sleeve with a nonchalant roll.
Bonus Tip II: A western style shirt makes perfect sense back home.
Bonus Tip III: There are shirts for all seasons. Just as linens, seersuckers and poplins are for warm whether, flannels, oxfords, and chambrays are best for the cold.
Bonus Tip IV: I like desert boots, but the suede ones are hard to care for. These beeswax versions are great because water/dirt/mud wipes right off of them.
Vintage flannel western shirt. Henley by American Apparel (M). Down vest by the Gap (S). Jeans by Polo Ralph Lauren (34). Belt by Banana Republic (36). Beeswax desert boots by Clarks.
My mother’s dream, since her modest upbringing, has been to live on a farm and own horses. She’s living proof that if you want something bad enough, and work hard enough to achieve it, dreams can come true.
Bonus Tip: The Canadian tuxedo at its finest. Two of them! Funny how what was once a joking matter is now popping up in fashion magazines and runway shows all over the place. This is a look we’ve been wearing on the farm for decades. Kinda makes me think of the quote: “fashion comes and goes, but style is eternal”.
Bonus Tip II: When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When working (or playing) with horses, wear denim and cowboys boots. Just avoid anything pointy, colorful, or embroidered. Stick to a classic round toe in brown leather.
Bonus Tip III: Moleskin (think corduroy without the “ribs”) is one of those fabrics that can transition very well. It’s tough and rugged nature make it fit right in on the farm, but in a tailored shape, it can also be worn over a suit in the city.
Bonus Tip IV: Country dressing is all about rugged fabrics that break-in well. Just about every piece I’m wearing in this post will only get better as it’s build character over time. Not only do these fabrics/pieces look masculine and appropriate, they’re also great investments as you can wear them for a long time. If you’re buying something that you know will last the test of time (like a dark straight leg jean, a corduroy trouser, a tough boot, etc) it’s a good idea to buy quality. You don’t want to have to buy it again, and you want it to last long enough to build the character it needs to look its best. Those $19 H&M chinos cut from 6oz cotton/polyester wouldn’t last two hard weeks on the farm.
Moleskin topcoat by Banana Republic (S). Denim shirt by RRL (M). Jeans by JBrand (33). Belt by Banana Republic (36). Vintage cowboy boots. Bandana as pocket square.
My father is the hardest working person I know – and I’ve met & worked with a number of over-achievers. It was watching his commitment and time management while balancing a full-time job, a full-time business, being involved in the community, and raising 3 crazy boys that taught me that “when there is a will, there is a way“.
Bonus Tip: A quilted jacket is another one of those pieces that transitions well. We’ve been wearing jackets like this (only less shiny and much boxier) for decades. Look how I wore it back in the day HERE.
Bonus Tip II: The tweed vest is part of my three-piece suit (featured HERE).
Bonus Tip III: The same versatile denim shirt in 3/4 looks in this post.
Bonus Tip IV: The new breed of workboot is still tough enough for the workshop, but an updated shape lets you pair it with more tailored pieces as well (like I did HERE).
Bonus Tip V: These burnt orange cords are a great color for Autumn, they just scream “harvest” to me.
Bonus Tip VI: When in doubt, go with an aviator shade. It’s a classic shape that looks good on just about any face shape, and people are comfortable with them just about anywhere.
Quilted jacket by Club Monaco (M). Tweed vest by Michael Andrews Bespoke. Denim shirt by RRL. Cords by Faconnable (33 – available at Nordstrom). Boots by Red Wing (“Iron Ranger”). Shades by Ralph Lauren Purple Label.
Thanks, as always, for reading – and special thanks to my family for a million things.
Yours in style,
Photography by ron&ron photography (Windsor/Lakeshore Ontario)