Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

The etiquette of gentlemen's snow wear

Watching the news last night, I could not help but notice that every single reporter standing in the snow reporting on wrecked cars/stranded commuters/snowmen were wearing a Michelin Man jacket with the words the North Face embroidered in the breast. A brand new to me (I have a Nicole Farhi shearling) - do they show in New York or Milan?

Meanwhile in this little BFI film from the snowy winter of 1963, we see a steam train set out alone the English landscape as it were en route from Moscow to Novosibirsk. Tough navvies clear the snow from the tracks wearing what appear to be tweed jackets, caps, mufflers and in one case, the hint of a tie. And bare hands. The train driver, obviously, wears a tie, as do the passengers.



17 comments:

Tiah said...

Not sure if you are serious, or being funny.
North Face - an outdoor brand that is very big in the US. Often sold at REI. Of course, it has turned into rather "yuppie" outdoor gear...but still a rather well regarded brand and thus their logo is more commonly found on items such as tents.

Marian D said...

For more on gentlemen's wear for (melted) snow – in this case inappropriate footwear – check out Bill Cunningham's "On the Street: The Water Dance" feature in the NY Times. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/01/31/fashion/20090131-street-feature/index.html

Mopsa said...

It used to be Berghaus, Berghaus all the way

Rita S. said...

I'm surprised given the time you've spent in Canada - a North Face jacket is essential to coping with minus 40 temperatures! I live in Calgary, and around five years ago Alberta premier Ralph Klein decided to give every man woman and child $500 from the millions of surplus oil money revenue sitting in provincial coffers (this instead of using the money to improve the health care system or to build low income housing). I took the money and bought a black North Face coat that falls to my ankles. I call it my "Ralph Klein" which always gets a laugh out of people (get it? Ralph Lauren - Calvin Klein?) It is second in warmth only to a Norma Kamali sleeping bag coat I have from the eighties, which is super warm but the most unattractive silhouette on earth and no closure.
But to be really fashionable, a Moncler (from Italy) is what you want. (When I featured it in the shopping column I write the store sold them out.) But they're not cheap - $900 Canadian for a short bomber style jacket. And I have yet to see one on any newscaster in Calgary.

Deja Pseu said...

I've noticed that many men seem to be gravitating to "high performance" clothing like North Face even though the only winter sport they engage in is running for a subway. I think this goes along with the desire to own an SUV even though one lives and works in the city/suburbs. It's that desire to project a rugged outdoorsman image.

Toby Wollin said...

What ever happened to a nice wool coat? My father had a ferocious tweed one that weighed a ton that he used to shovel our driveway in all the time. But perhaps the 'weighed a ton' is the factor. In the reporters' cases, however, it again makes me wonder if they even have a dress coat to go out in.

chris said...

i own a north face coat too and it's been one of my best purchases ever. i agree with rita s. - that coat keeps me warm when the mercury plummets. while a well-made wool coat looks better, i found that it doesn't quite keep you warm when it's -30C (without windchill).

lagatta à montréal said...

My normal winter coat is a wine-red cashmere/woollen coat; I also have a grey loden coat. I hate the Bibendum coats, as I'm short and plump and they make me look dwarfish and obese. But I confess there were a coupld of bitterly cold days this winter I would have liked to have had such a thing, as the weather was so foul that nobody was looking at each other.

People on the Prairies have no choice, as they have much more extreme temperatures.

Rita, Linda will correct me, but I believe she was studying in Hamilton, then Vancouver, neither typically very cold.

Perhaps it is because the newscasters were spending a lot of time outside in the weather - and obviously they aren't as tough as the navvies were. But it could be that outdoorsy image. It simply wasn't that cold in London and in some ways -5c with snow is more pleasant than +3c with driving rain or persistent cold drizzle.

The "outdoor gear" stuff really annoys me as an urban cyclist; we've always been cycling in normal town clothes and trying to look nice, an idea the many cycling-chic sites and the Sartorialist have taken up, with photos of cyclists in Copenhagen, Amsterdam and now, Paris.

joanie said...

I've been lurking for quite awhile but had to weigh in on this one ...in Michigan where I live we have had unrelenting cold and snow since before Christmas. Northface is de riguer here, second only to the Columbia brand. Both are expensive but good quality, however, I feel, from personal experience, that the MUCH cheaper LL Bean and Lands End brands are just as well made. Also, they hold up better in the wash.

My daughter is at a university on a VERY windswept snowy campus and she has had great good luck with an Eddie Bauer down coat that is mid calf and stitched so that it isn't big and bulky.

Northface has become quite a status symbol among the highschool/college age kids, at least here in Michigan and they will save up every last penny to get a coat of that brand.

BTW, I love your blog!

Rubiatonta said...

After four years in the fog of Monterey, CA, I returned home to RI for one of the snowiest winters in a good while -- so I had to tog up! I've got a Lands' End knee length down coat, which saves me from the Bibendum look through an a-line shape and narrow quilting around the waist. It's just about as chic as those things get. For dressier occasions, I've got an aubergine Hilary Radley boiled wool coat -- and a beautiful handmade wool felt hat that's patterned with ginko leaves.

My fella leans toward a tweed jacket, but when it's really cold, he goes in for a Hugo Boss down coat, with coyote-trimmed hood. He's not from around here! ;-)

lagatta à montréal said...

joanie, yes isn't it a lovely blog? I was just savouring the writing in the article about Katherine Whitehorn a couple of days back.

badmomgoodmom said...

I acquired quite a few the North Face items while living in Berkeley and Boulder. The brand is not well known outside of the US. I remember a German graduate student was astonished that my North Face down parka stood upright on its own when I took it off in class. When the weather outside was -24F (-31C), she bought her own down parka.

The stuff is well made. I am still wearing TNF clothes I bought many years ago, when I regularly biked, hiked and X-C skied above tree-line in Colorado.

I went to high school with the daughter of one of TNF's executives. I used to be jealous of her gear. While I had to save up for my gear, she got tons of TNF stuff for free. Moreover, she rarely left pavement. How else would she be able to carry her posse and her bong with her? The joys of growing in in SF.

Anonymous said...

badmomgoodmom is wrong when she says North Face gear is not known outside the US/Canada. You see it everywhere, in Peru, France, Australia, NZ and anywhere folks want to keep warm but aren't trying to be stylish in the old-fashioned way. Similar brands such as Patagonia and Kathmandu are also seen and many of us living in the tropics but who travel widely have a jacket like this for colder climes. You can keep your city snow, however!

Anonymous said...

What a superb little film — I loved it, especially the sound track. Thanks for sharing the Little Train That Could (and Did) thanks to those navvies.

Duchesse said...

The purpose of the North Face or Moncler or other supremely-stuffed down parkas is to allow the male to wear only the thinnest t-shirt underneath, and then complain "I'm boiling in this!" Status item unless in temps lower than -20C but men can't resist them.

Anonymous said...

BBC reporters used to be clad in Berghaus. The Daily Mail has a bit of a debate going on re this matter.
I used to live in Russia and ended up going native and having a fur coat as nothing else did the business.All my expat friends had fur-eventually. I haven't worn it since coming back to the UK,(partly ethical reasons-though once it's bought it's bought, and I was very careful about where the coat came from) I have a Berghaus and a Land's End down-filled- both lovely and warm but so unglam. (I live in a snow-prone area which is regularly on tv at this time of year).
The video was lovely- nostalgia overload. Real snow, hard men and a snowplough. All long gone these days......

Anonymous said...

Perhaps they have endorsement deals with the stations? I recall watchign American coverage of the Olympics or some others news thing with people outside where it was clear that they were sponsored as they were all wearing matching black North Face coats. The white logos were even bigger than those on the usual coats sold at the time so that it'd read properly on tv.

Those kinds of coats are fabulous for extrememly cold weather. As for wearing the performance gear vs. a dress outfit - many don't have occasion to wear a dress coat. I'll take that stuff anyday over woll in the rain / drizzle.