The photo above is easily one of the most stylish images I’ve ever come across. It’s of American journalist George Frazier, who started his career as a noted jazz critic for the Boston Herald before moving on to general journalism. He was known for his acerbic wit, arch style, and most of all, tremendous sense of class. I’d say his article in the September 1960 issue of Esquire, “The Art of Wearing Clothes,” is the single best essay ever written about men’s clothing. A must read in this category, if there ever was one.
In the photo, George is shown wearing an American button down collar shirt, a simple dotted tie, sweptback hair, and a Russell plaid sport coat. Russell plaid is similar to a giant scale glen plaid, except that the horizontal sections of the check have been striped away, so that the vertical lines dominate. For the lateral sections, there are just thin stripes, typically in dark brown, burgundy, or rust orange. Those colors complement the ground of the fabric, which usually ranges from golden wheat to tan.
After much searching, I finally found my ideal Loden coat. Surprisingly, it was through Aspesi, a brand I previously only thought of as a supplier of down coats and M65 jackets.
First, a bit about Loden. There’s the fabric, and then there’s the coat. The fabric - usually dark hunter green, but sometimes in other colors as well - is first loosely woven together from the coarse wool of mountain sheep before being put through a lengthy wet finishing process. This shrinks it by a third so that it becomes something like dense felt. It’s then brushed and sheared, a process that’s repeated up to twenty times until it achieves the desired surface nap. The result is a marvelous cloth that’s dense enough to keep out the rain, snow, and wind, while still maintaining a beautiful, almost hairy, look.
Then, we have the Loden coat, which of course is made from Loden cloth. The coat is meant to be worn like a duffle – unfitted through the body and reaching just below the knees. Its back is made with a deep center vent that swings out from the shoulder blades; and its front has a fly opening so that the buttons are not exposed to the underbrush. Its typically worn by Austrian shepherds, farmers, and hunters in the mountainous area of Tyrol, from where it originates.