The cable-knit is a sweater knitted with an overlapping cable stitch, resulting in a bulky, textured garment often showing elaborate, almost sculptural patterns. It originated in the fishing communities of the Isle of Aran, off the west coast of Ireland, where each family had a different and identifiable pattern of sweater. The twisting “ropes” on the sweater were said to imitate ship’s ropes or fishing nets. These days, a cable knit Aran sweater is a great choice for wearing outside on a fall day or even for skiing.
The cardigan is a kind of woolen sweater, with or without sleeves, that is open at the front like a jacket and can be closed with buttons or a zip. It takes its name from James Brudenell, seventh Earl of Cardigan, who led the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War, returning unscathed from the Russian guns. James is said to have disliked pulling woolen undergarments over his well-groomed head.
Once a big, baggy staple of the ’90s wardrobe, cargo pants are now trimmer, not so colourful, and much less likely to get you mistaken for a Marine. The new silhouette mimics your favourite jeans, and the pockets, while still in place, are more streamlined. Cargos are now a great weekend look. Swap them out with your favourite chinos to mix it up.
Cashmere is woven from the wool of khel goats, gathered either by shearing or combing. Combed cashmere creates the finest and best quality wool. The individual hairs of a cashmere goat are very thin, producing a soft and lightweight material that provides excellent insulation. Cashmere sweaters make an excellent layering piece because of this and are very comfortable against the skin.
Other than proper cleaning, the single most important favour you can do for your shoes is to invest in a pair of unvarnished cedar shoe trees. Put them in when you take your shoes off at the end of the day. The natural wood absorbs moisture which stops the shoe leather cracking. The shape of the tree helps prevent creasing.
Chelsea boots were invented in mid-19th-century England as a short, ankle-high riding boot for women. Its great innovation was a side panel of elastic that made it much easier to get on and off than a laced riding boot. In the 1960s, they were taken up by men into the mod scene, especially when The Beatles and their imitators started to wear them. Now they are as elegant and convenient as ever, but with a blunter toe than was fashionable in the era of swinging London.
Chinos should really be made of chino, a cotton twill fabric developed in England during the 19th century. The American Military deemed it durable enough for active service on their bases in the Philippines when dyed a pale shade of khaki brown. Returning soldiers popularized the chino trousers in the U.S., worn as a less casual alternative to jeans. Chino has expanded to become a synonym for tan-coloured five-pocket pants regardless of whether they are made of pure cotton or blended fabric.
Chukka boots are named for a chukka, the period of play in a polo match. Originally, they were ankle-high suede riding boots with short laces and only two or three eyelets on each side of the boot. The design has been adapted: Today’s chukkas can look very smart when made of polished leather, great with a pair of casual trousers and something of a statement when worn with dress pants.
A “classic fit” suit jacket is cut to be looser and more forgiving than the modern, fashionable trim styles. The jacket is slightly longer and not as fitted through the waist as the trimmer styles, but still has a polished and masculine appearance.
The contemporary fit is a compromise between the classic and the trim silhouette. It follows the line of the body closer than a classic fit and tapers in slightly in the waist. It is also slimmer in the sleeves with a higher armhole for a smart, tailored look.
Corduroy is a durable cotton fabric with unmistakeable sunken lines between the pile. It takes its name from the French phrase cord du roi, meaning “the king’s cloth,” because it was originally created to be worn by the huntsmen of one of the more clothes-conscious Bourbon kings. Corduroy may have a wider or narrower “wale,” meaning the number of ridges per inch. Cordury trousers have an air of informality that makes them a useful bridge between dress pants and denims or chinos.
Cordovan, or shell cordovan, is durable high-sheen leather used for making shoes and other leather goods. It takes over six months to create enough leather for one pair of shoes. The waterproof nature and durability of shell cordovan is known across the globe. The unmistakable sheen has been prized by royalty in years past. The natural burgundy colour of undyed shell cordovan led to the colour of the same name.
Cotton is one of the most versatile and widely used textiles today. Cotton plants grow in tropical and subtropical climates around the world, with long-staple cotton being the most valuable. This material can be woven into a huge range of fabrics suitable for shirts, socks, underwear, jeans, chinos, sweaters, jackets and T-shirts. Processed and blended cotton is used in a variety of clothing, such as mercerized cotton for athletic wear.
As a trim for hoods and collars coyote fur traps warm air and protects the face from extreme cold. Much fur comes from coyote farms but some companies such as Canada Goose will only use fur from wild animals trapped in the far north (the hunt is strictly regulated and supports native Canadian communities).
A crewneck is a high, rounded, collarless neck usually appearing on T-shirts and sweaters. Adapted from military uniforms, the crewneck T-shirt was used to absorb sweat under hot wool uniforms, and later used by football players to avoid chafing from shoulder pads. Crewneck T-shirts and sweaters are still great for playing sports and layering up for more casual looks.
Cufflinks, like their inseparable companion, the French-cuffed shirt, were once seen only on formal or semi-formal occasions. Today, cufflinks have become far more whimsical and flamboyant, offering opportunities for individual expression that range from subtle elegance to eye-catching bling.
The cummerbund is part of a man’s black-tie outfit, a sash-like waistband that serves the useful purpose of covering the area where the dress shirt meets the tuxedo trousers. It has no place with the traditional white-tie outfit or with men who wear a waistcoat under their tuxedo, and it is pointless extra bulk for anyone who keeps his dinner jacket buttoned. If it’s pleated, remember the pleats should point upwards. Keep to either a black or white cummerbund.
Denim is made from cotton twill or cotton-synthetic blends. It is primarily used for making the jeans which we know and love, which originated in 18th century France for sailor’s trousers. Now that designer jeans are big business, a new vocabulary has come with it: raw denim, meaning unwashed after the dyeing process; selvedge, a type of weave that prevents fraying or unravelling; and sulfur dyeing, which produces jeans in a rainbow of colours.
Desert boots, stylish but informal, have been with us since World War II when British officers stationed in Egypt paid cobblers in the Cairo bazaar to make them simple ankle boots out of undyed suede with rubber crepe soles. English Mods adopted them in the 1960s and they have drifted into and out of fashion ever since. Though they stand up to spring or fall weather, they are also lightweight enough for summer. And they’re versatile, looking equally great with jeans, chinos or corduroy pants.
These more informal shoes go by many names, including bluchers, bucks and Gibsons. They were originally commissioned for soldier’s kit, and slowly made their way into men’s country and hunting wardrobe due to the construction, which is more rugged and waterproof than oxfords. Derbies are easily distinguished from oxfords as the vamp is sewn over the throat of the shoe, and the laces are placed on top.
A double-breasted jacket features two rows of buttons down the front and is cut so that the left lapel overlaps the right. The inside button, called the jigger, secures the underside for a smooth appearance. A double-breasted jacket is usually considered more formal than a single-breasted, and has seen a resurgence in popularity due to the move away from the business casual looks of the late 1990s and 2000s.
Birds use their undercoat of down feathers to stay warm, and so do we. These insulating feathers make wonderfully warm and lightweight coats. Most down comes from ducks or geese, with goose down being the superior product because of the higher fill power. Fill power refers to the amount of down that can be crammed in per cubic inch. The more down used, the warmer the insulation.
A classic tailored cotton shirt has a split yoke at the back to compensate for the fact that a man’s shoulders may be of different heights. A triangular gusset adds strength where the back meets the breast of the shirt. The more stitches in a seam the better – again for added strength.
Drivers are literally shoes meant for driving. Typically they are an adaptation of a slip-on moccasin, lightweight, flexible and comfortable. They often have an extended rubber sole that curls up to protect the heel and back of the shoe.
The driver’s cap, or flat cap, is a round-backed, wedge-shaped hat with a peak, often made of tweed or wool. Its origins lie in the north of England where it was the usual headgear of working men in the 19th century. In time, the landed classes also adopted it as a usefully informal hat for country pastimes such as shooting or golf. Lacking a brim, it was also less likely than most hats to blow off when driving an open motor car.
The duffle coat, like so many examples of iconic male outerwear, has a military origin. The English had long used the word “duffle” to describe coarse woolen cloth before the first duffle coats were produced in the 18th century. What sets them apart from other variations of heavy riding or coaching coats is the hood, the spacious patch pockets and horn toggles rather than buttons. The duffle coat remains a classic piece of outerwear wherever winters are cold and damp.