The most immediately noticeable thing about this jacket is, again, the feel of it. To answer part of Drew's question about how the materials compare, it's much, much lighter than the calf suede, which, to me, feels quite burly. The T1 is probably more in line with what people expect in a suede jacket - nappy, soft, with sort of that chamois-cloth feel to it. To be honest, I haven't seen nearly as many suede jackets as I have leather ones, so it's maybe less obvious to me what gradations there are in suede types, but the calf suede certainly doesn't feel less luxe to me than the lamb, just thicker. The lamb is softer, drapier, and I think it's probably more in line with what Drew aims for with TOJ. It's more like a fabric than a leather, in some ways. Although I, for one, am glad that my baseball jacket is the thicker calf rather than lamb, I can see why he would have wanted to change the materials. The Baseball Jacket would be a very, very different piece if he were to do so, and I'd love to see one made in lamb suede. If anyone were feeling particularly daring, I think it would be worth sending an email to TOJ to see if they'd be willing to do a "custom" version for you.
Several posters have mentioned the idea that paying the full TOJ price for suede as opposed to leather feels a bit odd, and they're not entirely wrong. I don't know a thing about the hide market whatsoever, but with the lamb suede you don't get the grainy, buttery feel of the black lamb leather which has become, to an extent, the TOJ trademark. Of course, google will show you that this means nothing, and that suede is at least as expensive - if not far more expensive - than even mediocre-quality "designer" leathers - and my only point here is to say that the T1 is probably not the best "introductory jacket" for children lusting after there first TOJ piece. It does, however, really encapsulate what the brand is about, I think. The patterning on this jacket is really fantastic, from the lower armholes (comfy!) to the pleating in the shoulder and hip that gives the jacket that awesome shape when it's unbuttoned. The fit is slouchy and cool - I don't really know if there's a better way to express it than through analogy, but it's definitely (again) a luc besson piece; it has a sort of parisian chic to it that is matched by the other jackets - well, perhaps parisian is the wrong word, but there's a louche-ness to them that makes you think "yeah, American," but it's through a sort of warped lens that keeps it far, far, far away from the stuff peddled by brands like Gant and Band of Outsiders. It's not really Americana at all, actually, just a fond gesture towards it. It's recognizable but also incredibly distinct, more suitable for a baguette than a sourdough.
The same comfortably well thought-outdetails are all there - horn buttons, straight lines, half-lined pockets (this jacket has two interior pockets which is a serious hallelujah design feature for me), stitched chain - this is actually my least favorite part, because metal makes my neck cold. The only feature of this jacket that bothers me is the cotton lining. It's a nice cotton, and a lovely herringbone, but it just makes it harder to put the jacket on over a shirt, and the satin feels so luxurious on my other jackets that it seems a shame not to have it lining this one as well. That said, I'm not entirely sure it would fit the look of the trucker's jacket, and the cotton gives the piece a more rugged feel - which may or may not be necessary, considering the relative lightness of the lamb, but it doesn't feel out of place.
Again, as with all the jackets, there's a tangible sense of thoughtfulness that's apparent in the pattern design and detailing. I think that I have used the term "labor of love" before, and it applies still. For all of these pieces (the ones I own, I mean), the most important aspect is the feeling of comfort that comes with wearing them - a sigh of relief as you slip a jacket on, the realization that you don't have to put any thought into the "styling" if you don't want to: they're just really, really nice pieces of clothing that stand entirely on their own. I love putting on my sneakers, beat-up jeans, and baseball jacket and going to get coffee, and I have owned enough crap in my life to know that that's not a universal feeling.
I think my favorite bit, actually - aside from the way it looks - might be the way the seams looks on the inside. They're so neat, and the fabric is so light - it's really a thing of beauty. I love those little details; like the side button at the waist, and the pleat that sits just above it, and the way the suede dips down on the back of the collar under the all-seeing-eye. But - and I want to address this - there is a definite feel of handmade goods about all the jackets I own. I think that this is where some people get frustrated, and I would hazard that it's related to the MTM factor as well: Not every stitch is straight. There are dips, variations; quirks that I actually enjoy but imagine that some people with ocd that is more prevalent than mine could find disconcerting.
There's this myth that TOJ deals in absolute, diamond-like perfection, and that's just not true - nor is it true of anything. I think the same thing happens when people focus focus focus on getting the "perfect fit" - something that has been absent recently in the WAYWT and RFT threads, but that I think TOJ unfortunately got a bit caught up in, to no fault of its own. I remember Aeglus talking about how forgiving TOJ patterning is, and that has been my experience as well. People are trying to cut these things, varsities included, as close to the skin as possible, which is pretty unfeasible and is, in my own very humble opinion, missing the point of TOJ. Every jacket I own looks as though it was made for me - and most were - but that's because, in part, of how you wear them. People may remember Drew's post about how my B-Ball is actually a size too big for me (I would disagree), but that thought, combined with the fact that I bought it second hand, should give you an idea of how easy it is throw one of these things on. The only aspect I would caution new buyers about is going too small. Add a half-inch if you think you need one. But - and this is important - the measurements game is give-and-take; Charly knows his business but you know your body. I think there's a disconnect here, between the more, hmm, educated - or seasoned - hobbyists, and people who are buying their first jacket, first piece of clothing, whatever. TOJ does, in part, assume that people know what they want - which a relatively short lifetime of experience has already shown me is practically never true - and some people who are buying TOJ assume that it's like a fire-and-forget thing; where they don't have to do any work at all and a perfect jacket gets delivered to their door. It's not far from the truth, but when you have people who are going in and fucking with the house cut, it's not surprising that there are occasional disappointments. I think that there is, in reality, a bit of a gap on both ends, between a company that is assuming a level of knowledge that customers may not have, and customers who are assuming a level of facility that, frankly, will never exist.
In that same vein, I am still not entirely convinced of MTM's necessity. The ability to adjust lengths is, I think, the most important function of that system - and something that I find useful as well. However, as I've mentioned in the past, fretting over a quarter of a centimeter doesn't do anybody any good. However, the caveat to that is that I've basically been sizing up on everything lately, so when I say "size up" your TOJ, I recognize that it might not work for everyone, and I can recognize (even in myself) the validity of that frenetic desire for spot-on measurements. But, as I said before, thought has to go into the measurements on the buyer's end as well. Of course, the jacket that you guys have NOT seen is my girlfriends 2010 DR, which was sized based on her body measurements, and, frankly, I have no fucking idea how the TOJ guys produced a jacket with such a perfect fit. It's insane. So yes, Charly knows his stuff, but you should still be putting some thought into this, as you would anything else.
I, for one, would like to see what Drew could do with a higher markup. I'm not even entirely sure I would be able to afford it if he went a step up, but it would be interesting nonetheless. There's a real disconnect (in my mind) between the legions of varsity addicts that we saw in the early days and a piece like the 4-zip moto, the T1, or the Bball (or the bombers, which I don't own), which I think are in a different league altogether. It would be neat to see another step up, particularly in the wool department. Weirdly, it seems that my tastes are lining up with Drew's more and more these days (I've never met the man, so that's pure conjecture) - not that that sentiment is really worth anything, but it's interesting to me, at least.
I guess that the reason I have accumulated so many (relatively!) TOJ pieces is that I find them incredibly easy to fit into both my wardrobe and my world-view. There's an ineffable Gorodish-quality to them that I actually find a bit difficult to describe, but I can tell you that all 5 (!) jackets line up very nicely next to my very diverse wardrobe, which ranges from The Gap to Margiela to Rick Owens and Damir Doma. I don't think that TOJ is a universal cure-all, or anything like that, but I do think that for people who have some inkling of what they're after, you basically can't do any better - assuming you like the look of the pieces. I love the idea that I can go from blazer to leather to suede to knit with the same outfit, and that TOJ works itself effortlessly into that mix. Of course, that's a personal preference, and I'm not really one for the "gotta catch 'em all" mentality that some people seem to have towards TOJ, although I'm sure I'll continue to purchase Drew's goods. And just so we're all clear on this, I don't for a second assume that my opinions are representative of even a minority of TOJ patrons - I'm just making an attempt to communicate what it is I appreciate about the brand, the pieces, and the psychology (almost certainly invented, on my part) behind the operation.
I'm sure I'll have more to add once I'm able to actually wear the damn thing (it's 40 and raining here), but those are some first thoughts.
I hope you enjoyed that massive wall of text. Let's see some pictures:
Edited by Synthese - 11/27/12 at 4:47pm