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At the end of July, the world changed. And when I say the world, I mean men’s fashion. And by men’s fashion, I mean J. Crew.
J. Crew Men’s revealed its first collection under the creative direction of Brendon Babenzien – founder and designer of Noah, early hire and longtime employee at Supreme prior to that. It feels like the dawn of a new era in menswear, one that’s turning back the clock toward timeless classics (and, dare I say, moving away from streetwear). Fine, I’m not a menswear trend forecaster. But I am…inspired.
The J. Crew Men’s Fall lookbook is the jumping off point for my autumn wardrobe – but I’m drawing inspiration from similar sartorial streams and old J. Crew catalogs to make it all feel more Carolyn Besette than carbon copy prep. Keep reading for my ultimate autumn style guide based on the anatomy of the new J. Crew.
Do You Have A Perfect Button Up (Or Three)?
The premise of this entire style guide might be labeled: KISS. Keep it simple, stupid. The new J. Crew is all about timeless styles and neutral colors made fresh with subtle silhouette changes and styling upgrades. I’m talking oxford, I’m talking cotton poplin stripe, I’m even talking…patchwork.
For a classic button down that does all of the work for you, head to Buck Mason – the Men’s Draped Twill One Pocket Shirt ($108) and Oxford Button Down ($115) are instant classics, whether layered or standing on their own with a simple denim or loose pant. If you don’t typically shop the Men’s section, I hope this style guide wins you over. A tighter Women’s cut isn’t going to work here. Trust me.
For something a little more bespoke (and well worth the price spike), shop Bode’s patchwork long ($530) and short-sleeve shirts ($600). It’s clear that J. Crew has borrowed from (or been inspired by…) Bode’s shirt-work, so you can always go with one of the patchwork shirts ($79.50) from the new Men’s collection at a price point that’s much easier on your wallet. The more timeless Brushed Twill Shirt ($79.50), particularly in the Dole Grey Navy and Devora Navy Green, is also flirting heavily with my add-to-cart button.
And, when all else fails – or perhaps your first stop, if you’re willing to work for your $8 treasure – go to the men’s section at your nearest Goodwill, and hunt for some Brooks Brothers.
Speaking Of Shirts – Yeah, You’re Going To Need A Rugby Shirt
Rowing Blazers’ Dad Rugby is a solid starting point: heavyweight, 100% cotton, and most classic in a Black, Navy, or Hanover Green. For something lighter, look to Kule’s collection. The Women’s Rugby and Men’s Rugby ($88) are both perfect in any of the cream stripe colorways, and the solid neutrals with cream collar contrasts will have you looking sharp – but idiosyncratic enough to keep your distance from the hardcore prep aesthetic.
The Chino And Trouser Of It All
Straight up, if you’re looking for a Men’s pant, probably just buy these from J. Crew. I don’t have any further guidance for you there, due to my opinion that these pants from J. Crew are totally awesome. I’m going to point you directly towards The Giant-fit Chino ($89.50), inspired by 90s J. Crew catalogs and made from a 100% cotton twill that’s stone- and enzyme-washed for a lived-in feel. If they made these small enough for my feminine frame, I’d wear them in an instant.
For my feminine frame, I’m looking at pants that evoke the same crisp but relaxed vibe:
Ciao Lucia’s Pietro Pant in Black Cotton ($295)
Simple Retro’s Madge Caramel Trousers ($85)
Mango’s Pleated Cotton Trousers ($80)
Reformation’s Vesta Linen Pant ($178) and Rayne Utility Pant ($148)
Let’s Talk Knitwear
The new Men’s J. Crew is blatantly borrowing from vintage Polo Ralph Lauren, and I’m grateful for it. The Rollneck Letter Sweaters are just one example – and if I were Diet Prada, I’d also call them out for copying Ralph with a dog-embroidered sweatshirt that looks like the RL bear’s not-so-distant relative.
So here’s how you can copy J. Crew, copying Ralph. For a really special piece, you’ll want to somehow get your hands on a Bailey Goldberg pullover. For something more accessible:
- Rowing Blazers’ 100% Lambswool Cream Fisherman Cable Knit Sweater ($245) and/or Vest ($295)
- Ciao Lucia’s Venezia Polo ($325) or Nonno Sweater ($325)
- Reformation’s Cashmere Polo ($148) or Crew ($148)
- Vintage Ralph Lauren on ebay (some combination of –“ralph lauren knit sweater” will get you everywhere – thank me later)
The Footwear Situation
Get ready to revamp your shoe collection with some timeless classics. Loafers, derbys, sneakers – OH MY!
The Forever Loafer: G.H. Bass’s always perfect Whitney Weejun in Cognac, or Black/White Contrast ($155)
The Modern Day Spin: A Black & Brown Penny Loafer (with a gentle platform) from Charles & Keith ($76)
The Derby: I want (need) the suede Derby styled in the J. Crew Men’s Fall lookbook – so I found it for all of us. I both want to wear these AND date a man who wears these. Shop Paraboot via Farfetch for the Michael Suede Derby ($402) in a delicious Whiskey colorway, and the Leather version ($473) because it’s gorgeous, too.
New Balance Is The Answer: J. Crew is selling some great NBs, namely the Made In UK 991s ($265) – it’s crazy that these are still in stock, so basically get them now. Otherwise, shop directly from NB, focusing on the 990s in any iteration that calls your name, or the Made In UK 920s ($249.99), which are also shockingly still available.
And now, for some extraneous finishing touches. Bags, hair bows, and classic jewelry don’t necessarily belong in a J. Crew Menswear collection, but they will complete your look:
- The Miriam Bag from NOIRANCA ($220)
- Structured purses from Staud – whether you’re reaching for a beaded number ($295) to balance a preppy outfit, or a classic suede piece ($350) that will go with everything.
- A ribbon in your hair – free, taken from old gift wrap or from your last online shopping purchase
- Pearls two ways: made modern by SENIA (from $125) and made edgy by Justine Clenquet (price varies)
There you have it: a timeless capsule wardrobe that says “I still have a landline and don’t know what Tik Tok is.” Please, steal my favorite autumn aesthetic, and I’ll see you at the proverbial boathouse.