Online Shopping Picks: J. Crew Factory

Up to 50% off everything with J. Crew's sibling brand.
J. Crew’s sibling brand puts out a similar product for far less cash, in most instances.

Editor’s note: Normally, brand or site round-ups haven’t been covered here on the site. However, sometimes seasonally appropriate or standout items just jump off the page. These choices don’t reflect sales picks at the moment, but simply offer a snapshot of great products from a (hopefully) affordable brand.

J. Crew Factory is the more budget-friendly, yet still equally stylish, sibling to J. Crew. Make no mistake, the two brands are completely separate — they’ve squared off in Dappered’s annual Store Wars challenge as recently as this year.  With that separation still comes a brand aesthetic that matches fairly closely with what J. Crew does. Given that, some of these picks might overlap with similar items you could find at the bigger brand — and yet the key is the price! Below, find the top 5 ‘best’ (most stylish?) current picks from the site as of now.

#1.  Factory Donegal Shawl-Collar Cardigan — $88

Style this piece like Bond himself, for far less.
Style this piece like Bond himself, for far less.

Normally $98, the $10 price drop isn’t quite as significant as some of us would like. However, given the mileage a piece like this could see, it’s probably worth the investment. This would play with dark jeans across the coming months, as the marled texture and deep brown buttons give it just enough visual difference from blue denim. A classic shawl-collar cardigan is also a masculine style essential that’s gained a lot more notoriety in recent years after being seen on the likes of James Bond and his stylish real-life counterpart. This is definitely one less expensive way to steal that look in real life.

#2. Factory Indigo One-Pocket Shirt – $49.50 

A dark indigo shade ideal for colder weather.
A dark indigo shade ideal for colder weather.

We’ll stick with another navy option here, yet this time in a shirt that’s very appropriate for the colder climes of fall. The thicker texture of denim acts just like chambray, yet unlike the all-season versatility of chambray, an inky indigo denim shirt like this would do much better in the fall and winter. The chest pocket and button-down collar break things up nicely in terms of details. Additionally, that dark color gives it lots of versatility to pair with grey trousers or dark brown chinos, for example. It would also look right at home under a thicker-weight blazer (maybe this option from J. Crew).

#3. Factory Sutton Cord — $42.50 

A nice price for a trim, modern corduroy pant.
A nice price for a trim, modern corduroy pant.

Corduroy has gotten a bad rap over the years as the type of pants your wild professor might wear, but modern iterations have solved problems with older corduroy, giving them a thinner wale, a slimmer fit and the ability to style them in more ways. The Sutton cord features a slim fit that sits below the waist, and while I don’t have personal experience with J. Crew Factory’s cords, a few in-store try-ons bode well for a trim fit. The price is right when compared to more expensive cords, too. And in a deep shade like charcoal, these pants could be worn easily with the denim shirt or cardigan above. The charcoal color also provides a neutral canvas for working in something like a burgundy cardigan or a blue henley.

#4. Factory Slim Long-Sleeve Contrast Pocket Tee — $27.50

A fall-ready layering piece  for not a lot of cash.
A fall-ready layering piece for not a lot of cash.

It’s not quite T-shirt season, but it’s not quite full-on polar vortex weather, either. That’s where a great long-sleeve shirt (similar to the Bonobos blue henley linked to above), comes into play. A piece like this one is light enough to be layered under a crewneck sweater or cardigan, and yet it can also be worn easily on its own. To be fair, $27.50 is an awful lot for a long-sleeve tee — but not one that can be worn with plenty of colors and under plenty of layers, too. When you factor in a color that’s different than a typical heather-grey, it becomes an even better pick-up for wearing casually this fall. Pair it with dark denim and some sturdy boots the next time you take a stroll in your local park, or wear it with the above cords.

#5. Factory Calvert Boots — $58 or $68

Pick up two of these boots for roughly the price of one set of Clarks.
Pick up two pairs of these boots for roughly the price of one set of Clarks.

Depending on which shade you pick up, the price jumps or falls $10 here (however, the boots above are $68). That price compares exceptionally favorably to a pair of suede Clarks desert boots, and also speaks to the versatility of J. Crew’s sibling brand — offering shoes and other accessories alongside traditional menswear offerings makes it mighty hard to pick just five from the site.  The rust color of these boots practically begs to be worn with dark denim and, say, the navy cardigan listed above. While the crepe sole leans casual, these also wouldn’t look out of place under charcoal trousers and a V-neck sweater at the office. The best part about these is that you could pick up about two pairs for one pair of full-price Clarks — given that, why not make them a standby fall and winter shoe?

That’s all for this edition of Online Shopping Picks. Do you have any favorite picks from J. Crew Factory? Any personal experience with the brand? Leave it all below!

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The Product Review: Gustin Waxed Charcoal Chore Coat

Jacket by Gustin. Henley by Frank and Oak. Jeans by American Apparel. Boots by Palladium. Photo credit: Liz Todd.
Jacket by Gustin. Henley by Frank and Oak. Jeans by American Apparel. Boots by Palladium. Photo taken in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Photo credit: Liz Todd.

Although it’s been unseasonably warm in New York throughout October, in the past few days, we’ve really seen the start of what I like to call autumn. And with that change in seasons in mind, I reached for a recent wardrobe addition: Gustin’s Waxed Charcoal Chore Coat. A chore coat brings to mind strong workwear influences that have become so prevalent in recent years — once worn by those in real rough and rugged industries, everything from chambray shirts to sturdy work boots has gotten the high-fashion treatment from major retailers like J. Crew, whose Wallace and Barnes collection, for example, always draws heavily from functionality and utility. And these items have a timeless appeal that can be incorporated into many different looks (take, for example, the ever-versatile chambray shirt).

Chore Coat by Gustin. Henley by Frank and Oak. Jeans by American Apparel. Watch by Timex.
Enjoying the beautiful autumn weater. Watch by Timex.  Glasses by Burberry.

Gustin’s Chore Coat adds another rugged layer to workwear’s style-minded resurgence. The jacket was funded earlier this year using Gustin’s sourcing platform and shipped in mid-summer; until now, it’s been far too warm for such a hardy jacket. Thankfully, Gustin’s pieces (and this one in particular) are worth the wait. While the brand’s denim gets lots of love, they’ve expanded their offerings to chinos, chambray shirts and CPO jackets, and if they’re all done as well as this chore coat, they’d be worth a look. Unfortunately, this jacket isn’t available in the exact color seen here at the moment, but a relatively similar Honey Brown Chore Coat is being funded on the site now.

The Chore Coat uses a thick plain-weave waxed cotton (weight: 13.5 oz., if you’re keeping track), and it’s got some nice heft to it for fighting the chill of fall and winter without being crazy-heavy.  It also features two front patch pockets and one chest patch pocket; the right chest pocket includes a button flap. The waxed cotton feels sturdy and durable, yet moves well. It’s not overly stiff by any means; already through just a handful of times out of the closet, it’s beginning to break in at all the right places, including through the arms and across the shoulders. Although chore coats of old were cut wider and bulkier, the body of this jacket is nice and trim, as advertised. The sleeves are slim but provide enough space for layering sweaters or perhaps an additional jacket underneath, and there’s more than enough mobility thanks to the jacket’s high armholes (something feasibly not found on older chore coats).

Paired with clean, simple staples and some unconvential Palladium boots.
Paired with clean, simple staples and some unconvential Palladium boots.

This jacket should continue to break in exceptionally well, and thanks to such a trim cut, I can see it being worn in many different situations. The neutral color and workwear inspirations should lend a rugged vibe to seasonal shirt-and-tie combinations (like a chambray shirt and wool tie) or a casual sweater (like a navy crewneck) and dark jeans. It also complements traditional rugged staples, like the henley seen in these photos. I paired it with slim American Apparel black jeans and Palladium boots; although the Palladium boots are much more unconventional than a rugged pair of Wolverine boots, for example, they  actually grip quite well when on the move thanks to the vulcanized rubber sole. Additionally, the canvas upper is sturdy and thick, meaning that these could be worn well into fall (and possibly winter, too). Just like those Palladium boots, the chore coat should see significant use in the coming months — although it’s sometimes tough to find similar options out there, picking up a workwear-inspired coat in an updated fit is a great way to inject rugged style into your daily get-ups.

Shopping on a Budget: An Updated Men’s Style Starter Kit, Part 4

Last week was a departure from regularly-scheduled programming on Siblings With Style, as I shared with you a profile on a fast-moving start-up company, Linjer Leather Goods (who has now raised a whopping $71,240 of its initial $50,000 goal). But this week, we’ll get back to the basics — and back to the bottomline — with the final part in an ongoing series on rebuilding (or adding to) your wardrobe on a budget. While previous entries have tackled dressier items, casual knits and basic footwear, this week will wrap things up with the details that can sometimes be most important — your accessories. Read on and prep your shopping cart for a budget-friendly revamp.

The Versatile Jacket: Old Navy

A classic silhouette at an affordable price.
A classic silhouette at an affordable price.

For one of the more essential accessories a guy can have in his wardrobe, we turn once again to Old Navy, a store with a history of providing polished basics at affordable prices. They’re a great place to go to for easy-wearing knits, and the same proves true of their classic bomber jacket. It’s a piece that’s absolutely on-trend at the moment, while also being utterly classic. The ribbed cuffs and trim silhouette aren’t overly flashy — just straightforward and reliable. While it would also be useful to diversify your offerings with, say, a more rugged denim jacket or a dressier belted trench coat, starting out with a classic piece in an easy-to-match color makes a lot of sense. This particular silhouette is a lot like the classic Harrington coat, but this option is a lot more affordable.

TOTAL: $40

The Overcoat: Uniqlo 

Dressy? You bet. Casual? Works there, too.
Dressy? You bet. Casual? Works there, too.

While a lightweight jacket like the above option can get through at least two (or three) seasons of the year when taking the right approach to layering, there are times where something more polished-looking (and slightly warmer) is required. Uniqlo’s topcoat has been popular across the blogosphere for a while now, and it’s a solid option for a piece that can work over a variety of outfits. It’s long enough (and dressy enough) to cover blazers and suits, yet it can (and should) be worn casually, too (see No. 1 on this list for more on that). Although it’s not the warmest of coats (at least according to some reviews), it should be fine when layered properly (think dress shirt, sweater, blazer, topcoat, if it does indeed get extra cold). Again, this isn’t necessary the only coat you should have in your fall or winter wardrobe, either (a workwear-inspired coat might also be nice to have), but it’s one heck of a versatile jumping-off point.

TOTAL: $150

The Belts: Old Navy

Assuming that from this wardrobe rebuilding (or revamping), you’ll be incorporating both black and brown shoes into your wardrobe, belts that match both those shades are a definite must. And if you’re already an old pro at creating fail-proof outfits, it never hurts to find out a low-budget alternative to cheaper belts, right? Old Navy again and again offers surprises in the #menswear department, especially these belts. Available in black and a middle-of-the-road brown (with an eye-catching gold buckle), either would work well for business casual wear or even more dressed-down outfits, particularly at 1 1/8″ wide.  Scoop up two now for a total of about $20 and you’ll be set for dozens of outfits.

TOTAL: $20

The Sunglasses: American Optical Aviators 

A timeless frame with military history.
A timeless frame with military history.

It’s tough to argue with something as classic as an aviator silhouette, especially the choice above. They were James Bond’s sunglass of choice in his most recent outing, and they’ve gained notoriety plenty of other places, as well. They look good on a variety of face types, they’re wearable with casual and business casual outfits, and they’re a style that won’t be going away any time soon. If these aviators don’t strike your fancy, J. Crew Factory offers a rose-gold aviator option, as well as other sunglass styles for even less than the pair pictured here. Although the price tag might be a little misleading (cheaper generally equals lower-quality), this company’s the real deal — a military supplier with pedigree, and more affordable than Warby Parker or Ray-Ban.

TOTAL: $60

The Watch: Invicta

Rolex Submariner styling for thousands less.
Rolex Submariner styling for thousands less.

It’s true that not every man needs a watch, or wears a watch, for that matter. But it’s an accessory that can set one apart for those same reasons. In an age of so much digital technology, there’s something comforting about a solid, sturdy wristwatch. Since loading up with several watches is something of an aspirational, long-term goal, the focus here is on one timepiece that, like the rest of these offerings, works for both casual and dress situations. A silver dive watch fits the bill perfectly — it doesn’t need to be matched with black or brown leathers, and that in-the-middle color also means it can be worn with brown dress shoes and a brown belt. Mimicking the classic Rolex Submariner, the Invicta Pro Diver is affordable, versatile and durable. In my own personal collection, the diver has worked wonderfully with everything from T-shirts and jeans, blazers and chinos and a light grey suit.

TOTAL: $87

The Socks: Express

Lots of color and pattern for not a lot of dough.
Lots of color and pattern for not a lot of dough.

While some would rule out Express when building a well-curated wardrobe, it’s an often-overlooked starting point for crisp, well-fitting dress shirts and even other pieces (as long as that pesky logo stays out of the way). Namely, socks hit the sweet spot at Express — while a bit much at $10.90 per an individual pair, bundling through their frequent sales can net as many as four pairs for $25. That’s a pretty good deal when you look for pairs in versatile (yet fun) colors that can complement pieces already in your wardrobe. They offer a couple different options, too — some marled dress socks, a zany plaid pair or a more traditional Argyle pattern all definitely work here.

TOTAL: $25

The Rest: H&M, J. Crew Factory 

Both wallet-friendly options that will fight the cold.
Both wallet-friendly options that will fight the cold.

The truth is, not everyone needs cold-weather gear (and if you’re one of those lucky people, good for you!). For the rest of us who need to bundle up against a vicious polar vortex at least once a winter, staying warm is essential. There are definitely ways to splurge on fine gloves and scarves (look no further than MR. PORTER’S website, for example). However, there are definitely ways to save money, too. H&M’s leather gloves, while perhaps on the slightly-thin side, are one way to keep some money around for a potential upgrade later on. Up top, you could add in an extremely affordable beanie cap as a finishing touch. And as far as scarves go, one reliable option that would be a step up over H&M is J. Crew Factory. Featured earlier in this budget series, you can get a neutral-colored knit scarf for under $25 when on-sale, a far cry from other, significantly less affordable options.

TOTAL: $53

When factoring in all the necessary accessories you might need to build a basic (and functional) wardrobe, that brings today’s total to $435.  Across the entire four-part series, that brings the overall total to $1,285 (so the $1,300 Budget Challenge is in effect for next year!). As with the other parts in this series, the total here is substantially more than last year’s overall recap. However, this year’s series is much more inclusive, more category-driven, and more focused on season-specific pieces, like gloves, a scarf and an overcoat for the fall and winter months. It’s also worth noting that all of these pieces don’t have to be bought at once — in fact, your wardrobe should be replenished gradually over time. Additionally, these pieces are exceptionally versatile and should last for multiple seasons — granted, they won’t last as long as long as major investment pieces might, but sometimes, buying a piece at a lower price gives you more time and motivation to save up for a larger splurge down the road. We can’t all dress on James Bond’s budget, but you can steal similar looks for lots less.

Brand Profile: Linjer Leather Goods

A very new start-up plowing through a successful Indiegogo campaign.
A very new start-up plowing through a successful Indiegogo campaign.

Editor’s note: Although this post was originally supposed to cap off the Budget Style series, there was a change in plans — look for that entry early next week!   It’s not been often on this site that specific brands have been featured (outside of the Starter Style Review series) but Linjer Leather Goods is a great place to start. An extremely new start-up currently flying through an initial Indiegogo campaign, the brand is looking to fill a unique niche that could actually apply to lots of working professionals and even students looking for a bag upgrade. Right now, the brand makes a soft briefcase and portfolio bag in black or cognac, a messenger bag, a satchel bag (both in black) and a cardholder in black or cognac — any of which could hit the sweet spot in a few months’ time for professionals or students (shipping is set for January 2015). And about that name — it means ‘lines’ in Norwegian, reflecting the Scandinavian heritage of co-founder Roman Khan.

Vegetable-tanned leather, an upgrade over chrome-tanning.
Vegetable-tanned leather, an upgrade over chrome-tanning.

The intriguing name reflects the brand’s back story. Finding a high-quality bag without the ridiculous mark-up initially proved difficult for Roman and his co-founder, Jenn. Coming from conservative industries where a nice bag was a must, they consistently ran into quality problems with cheaper bags. So they launched Linjer, looking to craft affordable leather pieces at price points that the ordinary professional could actually afford. So far, it’s paying off — the brand has already raised $55,592 (at the time of this post) since launching its campaign earlier this week. More importantly, the bags look sleek and simple, and even the website and e-commerce site photos reflect polish and professionalism — both positives when considering donating to a campaign. Down the line, a women’s collection is also in the cards for the brand. It’s worth noting, however, that some Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns have resulted in missed delivery dates and poor-quality product — tread carefully, and yet note that early indicators are largely positive for Linjer.

Understated and yet worth the price.
Understated and yet worth the price.

And the fact that these bags bring so much style and polish is absolutely worth noting. Instead of carrying around a regular backpack or laptop sleeve, something with some character to it could undoubtedly make the difference in your appearance at work or in the classroom. A sharp bag that complements the rest of your outfit is yet another step to take in improving your personal style, and unlike other items you might buy on a budget and rotate, a fine bag might feasibly go with you everywhere. Where Linjer looks to set itself apart really comes through in the leather itself. Their products are made with vegetable-tanned leather, a more natural process than chrome-tanning (more can be found on their site here). That process results in a richer patina over time, a great thing when you consider that the leather should take on its own character based on where you go and what you do.

If you're in need of a bag upgrade, you might want to check out Linjer Leather Goods — soon!
If you’re in need of a bag upgrade, you might want to check out Linjer Leather Goods — soon, based on their Indiegogo campaign.

There are several pieces in their lineup that could come in handy in the future — although right now I carry around a trusty Kenneth Cole messenger bag, I would consider making the leap to Linjer’s black messenger bag or perhaps a portfolio case. Right now, the Indiegogo donation lines run from $1 to a $769 bundle featuring two soft briefcases, two cardholders and free U.S. shipping. Overall, subsequent donation amounts seem to reflect affordable pricing for a long-term purchase. In the coming weeks, a product review will hopefully be coming down the line. Keep your eyes peeled, and in the meantime, check out the brand’s Indiegogo page for more information.