Before there were hipsters with ironic moustaches and women’s jeans, there were the original beard-sporting, plaid-wearing men’s men. Unlike the hipsters who expect mummy and daddy to buy them a new iPhone every time they drunkenly drop theirs in a toilet, the originals had to fend for themselves.
It was a simpler time. Hungry? Go kill something. Threatened? Go fight something. Need shelter? Go build something. The rugged man could bend nature to his will and did whatever it took to carve out his space in the world.
Was it subtle? No. Was it masculine? Yes. Is it something worth aspiring to in 2014? Hell yes.
Today we take inspiration from our formidable forebears, throw in a few elements of modern elegance, and arrive at the ultimate stylish hybrid: the rugged gentleman.
The Lowdown: How To Look Rugged
Since presumably you have no need to kill food or fight off threats to your homestead or chop down trees with your bare hands, what exactly is a rugged gentleman these days?
He is an alpha male. He is physically masculine. He knows how to get things done. He takes no shit and no prisoners. He takes cues from the hards-as-nails men who came before him – the warriors, the adventurers, the blue collar workers, the mountain men – and adapts them to 21st century life.
Where his wardrobe is concerned, versatility reigns supreme. There are no frills or embellishments, no materials that can’t take a beating, nothing so tight it’s restrictive and nothing so baggy it’s cumbersome. A rugged man’s clothing never puts form before function – but a rugged gentleman manages to strike a sophisticated balance between both. He cuts an imposing figure.
How To Get The Look
To master rugged gentleman style, look to purpose-built garments designed for other no-nonsense men. Start with traditional workwear, like flannel shirts, leather boots, wool coats, tweed trousers and denim. Then look to the military for field jackets, trench coats, and other earth-toned pieces that are tough and functional. Then move on to gear meant for outdoor activities and sporting pursuits. Traditional hunting patterns like buffalo plaids and gun-club checks have a strong visual link to the rugged man’s heritage.
Remember that it never needs to be perfect. Embrace the wrinkles, the frays, the holes, the wear and tear, the minor damage. These are work clothes. They have character. Add patches and repair when needed, rather than replacing the garment. And please avoid the urge to grow a handlebar and borrow your girlfriend’s jeans.
When it comes to your torso, some staple items are musts in a rugged gentleman’s wardrobe.
Think Barbour, Filson and Belstaff. Coats and jackets should be in neutral and earth-toned colours. They look like they’d be right at home roughing it off the grid, hunting in the countryside or fighting in the trenches. Useful features like storm cuffs, snug-fitting collars, waterproofing and flap pockets are encouraged. Durability and functionality are key.
Blazers aren’t the first thing that come to mind when you hear “rugged,” but stick to the right brands and your blazers will fit right in. Try Gant Rugger and Ralph Lauren. Look for fabrics and materials that have strong heritage or sporting connotations (wool, suede, plaids, tweeds, etc) and you’ll be on the right track.
Speaking of plaid…this is the perfect time to bust it out. If we had to pick one item to represent the rugged gentleman, it would probably be the plaid shirt. You’ll find one almost anywhere you look, but J.Crew and White Mountaineering make some of our favourites
All that time spent exposed to the elements means the rugged gentleman needs as many layers of protection as he can get. Knitwear from the likes of Woolrich and S.N.S. Herning is the order of the day. Look for high-quality, a minimal aesthetic, and heavy, chunkier knits that bump up the masculinity factor.
We’ll keep it simple on the bottom. There’s just two things you need to know:
Denim & Trousers
Duh. Who doesn’t need denim? But for the working man, denim becomes especially important. Leave the fancypants jeans to the hipsters – what the rugged gentleman needs is something sturdy and straightforward that gives his ankles room to breathe. No trendy washes, dyes, fades or embellishments. Brands like Levi’s Vintage and Edwin are good bets.
Combine the rules from everywhere else and you’ve got the rules for your trousers. They should be heritage- and workwear-inspired, in neutral or earth tones, and functional. Traditional fabrics (and patterns, if you’re feeling bold) should be adhered to. Steer clear of anything too baggy or too tight.
And finally…your feet.
Could you work your way up a mountain, through a field, or across a desert in your shoes? Good. A rugged gentleman’s footwear should look like it came straight from the outback, even if it’s never left the city. Leather boots are the essential piece. Try Wolverine or R.M. Williams.