Into a Time Machine: Woolrich Woolen Mills at Capsule New York
Words by Ben P.
Woolrich Woolen Mills had a big presence on StyleForum four years ago, back when workwear was the ne plus ultra of streetwear fashion, everyone weighed ten pounds more, and spending more than $400 on sneakers was unimaginable. Today, though, and especially since Mark McNairy took over the reins from Engineered Garment’s Daiki Suzuki, WWM has fallen by the wayside. Luckily, their Fall/Winter 2014 season seems a return to form, and features both the return of some old classics (eBay searches no more!) and some realistic expansions within the clear aesthetic boundaries of the brand. At the end of the day, though, WWM is still WWM: it’s heavy-weight wool pieces that harken back to Woolrich’s classic collections from the 1950s and 1960s.
As always, the collection’s high point is outerwear. WWM fans will rejoice in the return of the upland jacket (a perennial favorite) as well as a mixture of heavyweight peacoats, lined trenches and mackinaw-style jackets. I tried to ask the brand representatives if they had any plans to produce another version of the Maine Guide Jacket, perhaps the best piece the brand has ever made, but was met with only confused stares. Sad.
My favorite piece was a kelly green parka with a fur collar. The fur felt real (which wouldn’t be surprising, this is the high-end of Woolrich’s offerings), and the shape was reminiscent of an oversized storm jacket, but lacking much of the overdesign that dooms so many others parkas to mediocrity. Few pockets, few flaps, and a sparcity of zips. Perfect. I also liked the raglan-style wool shirts. Clear references to baseball uniforms aside (which seems to be a mark of McNairy – see his own line, which includes literal baseball jerseys), they seem like great layering pieces that are in line with the nothing-heavy-but-everything-works-together approach of classic WWM. The collection also included a waffle jacket that clearly echoes Dana Lee’s leisure jacket, but seems like an approachable middle ground with a more traditional fit.
In a sense, WWM has been a victim of the rising popularity of workwear in general. Back at the height of the brand – say, 2006-2009 – only a few, higher-end brands offered vintage-inspired, American-made workwear pieces. Buyers were willing to pay a premium for the particular aesthetic, but as the pool of customers expanded, Woolrich started branching out, reforming their cheaper labels to appeal to their newfound audience. Today, Woolrich seems to be trying to return WWM to its previous glory days, and, while the end result remains to be seen (especially if more contemporary stores are willing to pick the label up), it seems a wellfounded effort.