Saturday, May 14, 2016

In Review: Thinking Eastside of the Box - Naked and Famous Kimono Selvedge Chambray Shirt

Japanese noragi-inspired work jackets/shirts are something I've seen around the net over the past few years and I've always wondered if I could successfully work into my own style. This review is an overview of that pursuit.

Jury's out on what this pose means
I tend to lean towards casual Americana and British heritage menswear, which this style does not fit neatly into. And while it's true that brands like Kapital and have been making Japanese Americana for years, Japanese-inspired clothing has been more of a rarity to see in Western wear that isn't streetwear primarily. In that sense this was a challenge for me to see if I could blend them together without looking something like this guy -->

So I took a chance during the last East Dane sale and picked up Canadian brand Naked and Famous' Kimono Selvedge Chambray Shirt, a noragi-inspired overshirt N&F have been putting out for a few seasons. I've spent quite some time now with it, and I think I've come to a point where I'm enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would.

A closer look below.



 

 Materials and Construction



Naked and Famous produces its kimono shirt in various fabrics like printed patterned cotton, a selvedge lyocell/cotton denim, and the selvedge chambray reviewed here. Chambray is a plain woven fabric consisting of a colored warp thread and a white weft, as opposed to denim which also uses a warp/weft but is woven in a twill construction (the warp thread passes over two threads in the weft before going under the next one. That's why the underside of jeans are whiter than the outer surface). This fabric is a beautiful slubby steel grey/blue selvedge chambray of medium weight, though certainly on the lighter side as an outerwear piece compared to a standard denim jacket or a heavier flannel. In low light it reads as a charcoal grey/blue but brightens up considerably into a lighter grey in brighter conditions.



The shirt is minimally designed with long sweeping clean lines. The sleeves have been slimmed down to modern western proportions finished plainly without cuffs, and the stitched placket is fastened with simple ties, though I've found they can be tucked into a small loop stitched on the backside of the fabric to be more hidden when wearing the shirt open.

The interior of the shirt is partially lined with a red printed cotton fabric near the collar, which varies in color and pattern by season and production run. Stitch density and construction overall are of good quality, as I've come to expect from N&F.




The selvedge line runs along the flat bottom of the shirt, which is something I could do without, honestly. I'm sure there are some people who like really conspicuous selvedge details on their clothing, but I'm not one of them. I've come to more-or-less accept the coin pocket selvedge flourish that's become standard with a lot of companies on their selvedge jeans, but aside from the selvedge lines exposed by cuffing I've always found extraneous selvedge IDs to be unnecessarily showy, as if your clothes are yelling "this is selvedge, bitch." That aside, although the line runs the entire length of the shirt, it actually isn't as noticeable as I would have imagined it would be.

Sizing, Fit, and Styling


After wash/dry. Also pictured: Sweater - Barbour, Shirt - Wolf vs Goat, Belt - Don't Mourn, Pants - Rag & Bone

I've split this into two separate sections as I think the garment fits and drapes notably different enough before and after laundering.

I'm ~ 5'11" and 155 lbs after a morning pee and a satisfying deuce, and I normally wear a 36 to 38R in most suiting and a small in most US standard shirting sizes. East Dane's site suggested taking my normal size, though I've also seen other sites like Tate and Yoko state that recommend sizing down. I went with a small (no XS available anyway).

Before Wash

Tate and Yoko are closer to the mark by modern standards if you're used to slim-fitting clothes. Fresh out, the shirt fits over a tee or an oxford cloth shirt easily with room to spare in both volume and sleeve length. It's not terribly blousey, nor would I say it's clearly oversized, but those hoping for what most would consider a comparable S/M/L fit these days - even over another shirt - should consider sizing down.


From a design standpoint, the one thing I would like to have is some sort cuff opening as it otherwise may limit your ability to roll up the sleeves more than a couple turns. Keep in mind, I have the type of forearms some might describe as "dainty" or "like those of a malnourished child," so it's not like I'm bursting out of most shirt sleeves. On the contrary, I definitely skipped arm day (and leg day. And...whatever other days there are).


Though the chambray itself feels rugged, I also found on the whole it seems to drape and wear more gracefully than I would want as an overshirt - almost delicately, I think, due to the minimal design and more relaxed fit. In that sense, I think it pairs best with more of a streetwear style and/or a simple plain tee, which is how I've seen most fit pictures online.

Also pictured: Jeans - Neuw Denim, Shirt - H&M

I couldn't tell at first if it was the fit or the fact that I wasn't used to wearing something in this style that I didn't immediately love the look. Upon thinking about it more and wearing it a few days, I noticed inside at the care tag it said that washing results in 8-10% shrinkage and to make sure to hang dry after washing. I decided to see what it would be like after a quick wash/dry to see if I could achieve a better fit by slimming it down a touch.

After Wash


Left - Before, Right - After
I machine washed the shirt once cold, tumble dried it on low heat (the horror!), and the process definitely made a difference. 1) The whole garment shrunk around a half to a full size down and 2) the fabric looks a little bit more rough and worn in, even after steaming/ironing. If you compare a detail shot of the front ties before laundering, for example, they appear very smooth and delicate. After, the drying process imparts almost a rippled roping effect to the ties, similar to the hem on jeans ("after" detail shots below).

Left - Before, Right - After
You can see in some before/after pics the difference in the silhouette and the way the fabric wears. The sleeves are trimmer as well as a touch shorter - where I used to cuff slightly, now I wear them plainly. The body still has room to move and isn't at all tight, but it's not as roomy as it was before and is shorter as well. Though perhaps subtle, these changes together have made the shirt a much more satisfying fit for me.


Also pictured: Sweater - Ralph Lauren Denim and Supply (I know, right?)

The updated silhouette and more textured appearance also lend themselves better to fitting in with my wardrobe, almost like a shirt cardigan. Though the "after" pics show it worn over a similarly toned chambray shirt, the piece really blends in better with outfits on the whole without reading as distractingly foreign.



Also pictured: Sweater - Banana Republic Heritage





Impressions and Value


Also pictured: Shirt - Alex Mill

It's easy to compare an oxford button-down to another oxford button-down - you know what it's supposed to look like, what higher quality buttons are made of, the differences in construction, etc. So from a strictly materials and construction standpoint, I think Naked and Famous' construction is good, as usual, and their selvedge chambray is great. That's not really a surprise, given the brand focuses on quality textiles probably more than anything. But when it comes to judging value in an item like a noragi shirt, the frame of reference for design is lacking, at least in this hemisphere. Similar to some avant garde higher fashion, there's just less to compare to, and that's where design aesthetic weighs more heavily into what constitutes value. I will say that of all the brands making noragi style shirts/jackets, Naked and Famous' kimono shirt is one of the cheapest, especially on sale.

For my money, I compare the kimono shirt to other overshirts/lighter outerwear. The MSRP on N&F's offerings range from $120-190s, depending on the fabric. That's a little rich for me, though you won't find anything like it for much less than that. Looking across the board, actually, the only other noragi shirts/jackets I would have considered otherwise were either not available (Epaulet NYC's Kamigata), or crotch-squeezingly expensive (Visvim). On sale, I spent $71.68 shipped for the N&F - still not cheap for a random chambray shirt, but when considering the overall product, a price I would pay happily again.

The only way you can really learn what works and what doesn't is to go out and try new things a little outside your comfort zone from time to time. There's really no substitute for that, even taking into account how deep the ocean of information available on the internet is. Sometimes even if you've done your homework it doesn't work out at the end of the day, and that's okay. I've felt at times it can get a little stale in Americana-land (...err...America?), and finding things to incorporate into that style that are slightly left of that box has really been an enjoyable experience. In this case, I took a shot and I'm pretty happy with the results. If you're into street style and looking to pick up something like this, it's really a no brainer. But if you're like me and this may lie slightly outside your comfort zone, give it another look. You may be surprised at what you find.

Pros


  • Japanese inspiration translated into approachable design
  • Beautiful chambray fabric and solid construction
  • Relatively affordable compared to competitors

Cons


  • Potential sizing issues
  • Not the most versatile piece
  • If you're not careful, you're suddenly the Last Samurai or a Uniqlo employee


Where to Buy



Others in the Range


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