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Men’s Winter Essentials – 2011

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OHIO—Congratulations, JIs. After a semester’s worth of lineups, odd wake-up times, and hours upon hours of catering to those who came before, you are now among the actives. Enjoy your stay.

With that said, now is the time to truly build your identity as an active. Your Sperry Top Siders, properly hemmed shorts, and Brooks Brothers oxford cloth button downs (OCBDs) have taken you this far; though the uniform is tried, true, and tested, variations upon the classics will take you even farther. A wise man once said “Clothes don’t make the fratdaddy,” and, while the validity of this statement is debatable, quality threads will aid you in everything from garnering even more respect from the next pledge class to sealing the deal with that top-tier sorostitute at last call.

As noted, just as your pledge period has passed, so has the weather. Regardless of location, you are in for colder weather and therefore must build your wardrobe to fit the needs of Mother Nature. While there are those who steadfastly believe anything outside of our standard uniform to be “NF” or “GDI,” that belief system is inherently incorrect. We gentlemen pride ourselves as the cream of the crop, and an inability to walk the walk as we talk the talk will do nothing except make us look like geeds.

The first item to be addressed is of footwear. Examine any fratstar’s closet and the classics—Sperry Top Siders, Clarks Wallabees, New Balance 993s—will be well represented. While these are undoubtedly the foundation of fratting, two other options are both viable and desirable: the L.L. Bean “Bean Boot” and the Bass Weejun loafer.

The Bean Boot is a classic, having been produced by All-American outfitter L.L. Bean for decades. Bean Boots, often referred to as “duck boots,” are composed of a rubber sole and bottom combined with either a leather or canvas upper. Equally perfect for Northern brothers braving a blizzard to snag that next Natty rack or Southern brothers tracking wildlife in muddy conditions, the Bean Boot is versatile, well-constructed, and a quality option for the conditions that demand a bit more from us.

The Bass Weejun loafer, on the other hand, can enter your wardrobe with more frequency than the previously mentioned Bean Boot. Having first caught fire in the Ivy Leagues in the 1960s and again in the prep-idemic of the 1980s, the Weejun is to the fall and winter what the Top Sider is to spring or summer. Of course, there will be individuals who scream about the perceived frattiness of the item, but the debate is clear: there isn’t one. The loafers are versatile, appropriate anywhere from class to a grab-a-date, and the affordability (around $120) make them a more fiscally responsible choice than, say, a pair of Aldens. (Again, anyone who debates fiscal responsibility is obviously new money. Save it.)

With the evolution from shorts to pants, you’ll face a multitude of options throughout the season. For our brothers in the South, wearing your khakis is still a viable option. To diversify, however, look into Brooks Brothers Milano chino in either the navy or taupe options; they inject darker colors into your wardrobe while still maintaining a similarly proportioned fit and style. For the more formal events in the season, if you opt for a blazer/trouser combination, look again to Brooks Brothers for a heavier pair of either flannel or wool trousers. They can be worn with a classic blue blazer or a seasonal jacket; again, here, simplicity is key: opt for a flat front (no pleats) style, tailored to break (touch) at the top of your shoes.

Shirts, as with any season, stay nearly the same. Per usual, you should pursue OCBDs from either Brooks Brothers or Polo. Your oxford collection should be based in four colors: white, blue, pink, and yellow, in that order; to further build, look for options in a university stripe (often referred to as a banker stripe) or tattersall.

The final item is important yet inherently based on location. Coats should never be overlooked, yet the style desired will ultimately depend on your geographic region. If you have the benefit of hailing from an area with relatively mild winters, water and windproof options from The North Face, Columbia, or L.L. Bean are again wise choices. If winters are harsher affairs, or if you find yourself jetting out to visit relatives or ski, wool options are preferred. A nice topcoat from either a department store or individual clothier is wise, as it can be further used at a more formal event than just the Christmas season.

Alas, JIs, I hope this column has served you well. You are now among the ranks of men and must dress accordingly. While there will always be a time for frocket tees and Costas, changing seasons warrant changing options, and the items presented here will make the seasonal segue that much easier.

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