THE WELL-MADE ESSENTIALS MANIFESTO
If you’ve spent any time reading menswear magazines (online or off the rack), chances are you’ve encountered a well-dressed man list. There are hundreds of them—all trying to guide the reader towards a wardrobe of essential pieces.
These listicles are a handy resource for the dapper gentleman. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a member of the denim community that identifies as a dapper gentleman. We think about style and outfit-building in very different ways that the managing editors or staff writers at GQ or Esquire.
But where is our list?! If we are looking for rugged garments designed to take on character as they co-journey with the wearer, where can we turn? What are our essentials?
Introducing the Well-Made Essentials Buying Guides
To answer these questions, we looked far and wide, digging and digging until our shovels struck bedrock. After months spent deep below the surface, we’ve stepped out blinking into the sun. Our hands (and our jeans) are filthy, but our pockets are stuffed with solid gold nuggets.
We’ve grouped these nuggets into a dozen categories, each representing an essential, foundational workwear piece. Every item included is both essential and well made. (We’ve defined these two terms here.)
We stand behind both the categories and the items within them. A complete well-made rotation should include at least one piece from every category, and we feel confident saying that our buying guides cover the truly iconic makers.
Of course, you’ll find denim jeans, jackets, and shirts among our essentials, but we didn’t stop digging there. We have endeavoured to make this list as complete as possible. And we continue adding to it as new essential pieces come to our attention.
Our Principles and Priorities
We recognize neither the principles nor the priorities of the well-dressed man. In his world, our essentials are an afterthought.
The Principles of the Well-Made Essentials
The fashion principles that underpin the world of the well-dressed man are not wrong per se. They are just very different from the ones we adhere to.
The well-dressed man’s fashion ideology is something many of us have fled from. The world of the well-dressed man values luxury and places a premium on labels.
By and large, luxurious menswear is soft—even delicate. It’s meant to be worn, cleaned, and stored with the utmost care (the aim, of course, being to keep the garment for as long as possible in pristine condition).
Our principles are very different. Rather than babying our clothes, we seek out opportunities to abuse them.
We assign value based on how well the garment will stand up to abuse and, paradoxically, how much it will wear this abuse on its face.
We are drawn to the rough more than to the soft, to the heavy more than to the light, to the durable more than to the delicate.
Rather than bending in the wind like the reed, we seek styles that, like the oak tree, have thick historical roots. We want clothes that weather changes in fashion rather than adapting to them.
Yes, denim enthusiasts have a deep respect for labels, but this respect comes from a very different place. Adored makers like Iron Heart, Samurai, and Momotaro have battle-won their reputations in the hard-wearing trenches—not on the runways. We adore these labels because they have demonstrated over and over again that they share our principles.
The Priorities of the Well-Made Essentials
The well-dressed man is, by definition, a well-suited and a well-heeled man. Those who share these priorities dig deep for the Italian or English suit and the cashmere overcoat. They build the rest of their essential wardrobe with the change they find in their sofa cushions.
To those of us with both feet planted firmly in the worlds of raw denim and workwear, this is all backwards.
Sure, the men we recognize as style icons (Steve McQueen, James Dean, The Boss and The King) stepped out in suits occasionally. With their iconic looks, though, they gravitated to the rough and tumble fabrics of the working man. The linchpins of their looks were beat-up denim, leather jackets, and well-worn boots. We gravitate to these style icons because they share our priorities.