Let’s face it: the vast majority of the millennial generation has little idea what “hard labor” is – hard labor, like manually fixing a fence in a hail storm or field dressing a whitetail, not like weekend hiking in the park or mowing your lawn with your brand new 22 horse power John Deere X710… Yet while most contemporary gentlemen are only more occasionally partakers in the hardships of true manual work, the garb of such activities has seen a revival unmatched so far: the rugged style. Whether you, our reader, are actually an outback-southern country boy, or rather you simply like to dress like Indiana Jones on an suburban safari to REI, this overview is for you all the same.
Leather jackets, denim jeans, and boots have become omnipresent in all social circles. We consider it our duty to weigh in on the dos and don’ts just to help out with channeling the great flood of impressions, information, and ideas around the new style that is everything but new. As a matter of fact, it is quite old. In many ways, it is older than some of the items considered most conservative, like the tuxedo. However, it did not make its way into the closets of socialites, stars, and starlets until recent days; and only a few public exponents were devotees. Until recently, the rugged style was very much associated with rebellion, and characters like James Dean or Paul Newman were more teen idols than respectable guests at the governor’s next cocktail party…
Today, the rugged style satisfies a desire of a gentleman to be perceived as rough and tough, ready for all eventualities. More often than not, it also represents a superior sense of quality. While more and more prominent, luxurious brands start to eye the growing potential of the rugged market, smaller and more traditional manufacturers have established a devoted customer base, strong reputation, and high brand loyalty. Keeping that in mind, the gentlemen at GD simply want to point out that there is a time and a place for most attire. After seven o’clock at the dinner table however, will not require your leather and jeans…
Our Guidelines to “Rugged”:
1. The first guideline for a gentleman – as always – is to be respectful of his surroundings.
This of course means that a gentleman will adhere to certain standards when being invited to an event, a night out on the town, or simply to a nice dinner at a friend’s house. Jeans – even if it is one’s favorite and most comfortable pair – should then stay in the closet. A gentleman is not defined by his persistence, but by his ability to adapt and be the best in any situation. He can certainly still “be himself” when dressing properly for the occasion.
2. This leads us to our second guideline: whatever you do, do it to your best ability.
Dressing included. A gentleman should strive to equip himself with the best possible quality [within his budget] and the highest functionality. Of course, we will not wear a suit for our next dawn ambush in the wood duck hole, but for the in-between occasions pick a comfortable – and very functional – jacket from Barbour or Filson. A gentleman will always be suitably equipped in such manner.
3. The third guideline: less is more.
We have said it over and over again: for a gentleman, we will always recommend to go for subtle elegance instead of flashy brilliance. With the rugged style, it is no different. Simple lines, simple patterns, high quality materials, and no frills will suit the gentleman way better than a ton of accessories, conflicting patterns and rainbow colors. Keeping it simple will blur the lines between ruggedness and elegance.
Where to Buy:
For starting your gentlemanly rugged wardrobe, we recommend the traditional brands of Barbour of England (we also have our review of the Classic Barbour Waxed Jacket here), Filson, Belstaff, or Ernest Alexander. Though if you are truly just starting a rugged wardrobe, we suggest you first begin doing some rugged things with your time…
Lastly, for the proper brick and mortar experience available to our international adventurers, we highly recommend two great boutiques in Zurich, Switzerland: the state of the art VMC and DeeCee Style. We would also hail a visit to the fine people at F.M. Allen had tragedy not struck the cosmos and prevented their Nairobi-London-New York City chain from continuing to flourish. We are sure that Abercrombie & Kent shed a tear or two as well.
If you are not already a loyalist, let Garden & Gun know you would like to become part of their readership. The rugged Gentleman will do well to pull a few pointers from their featured artisans and southern United States outdoor enthusiasts.