Monday, November 30, 2009

Dress Like Hemingway: Viyella Shirts



[Pictured: Hemingway in what appears to be a Viyella shirt, Cuba, 1956. Picture courtesy of The Life Archives.]

I apologize if you thought this was going to be a neat, little style retrospective.  I could have easily done that with one swift browse of The Life Archives, but instead I'm going to focus on something a tad more tangible and practical. 

Ernest Hemingway, next to McQueen and a few others, is one of the (un)offical mascots for all this Americana, hertiage stuff and is frequently sited as a style icon.  I can't argue with this.  For a lot of guys, Hemingway is a man to be admired (even if only sartorially).  A talented man's man, who never sacrificed his beliefs, Hemingway and his life is easily romanticised.  There is nothing wrong with any of that and I'm just as guilty as the next blogger, but enough with the blog-osophy...

My Dad is a huge Hemingway fan.  From reading countless biographies to joking about getting 4 dogs and naming them after Ernest's wives, the man knows and loves him some Hemingway.  While home for Thanksgiving my Dad put me onto some interesting information regarding Hemingway's shirts.  In 1983 the Hemingway biography Papa Hemingway: A Personal Memoir by A.E. Hotchner was published.  On pg. 157 there is a brief mention of Hemingway's sartorial preferences. 

It was 1955 in Key West, Florida and Mary, his then wife and a woman known for being able to take infinite amounts of abuse, had just ordered a large selection of goods from the Abercrombie & Fitch catalog for Ernest to sort through.  Getting American clothes in Cuba meant paying heavy duty so while in Key West she took it upon herself to stock up for her husband.  Despite looking at the clothes "suspiciously" and making a remark about a "new uniform", that seemed to indicate a certain uneasyness about these new clothes, he did emerge with six new Viyella shirts, among a few other things.

Viyella are known for “blending 80% long-staple combed pima cotton with 20% Australian Merino wool before spinning the two choice fibers into yarn gives the fabric its unique combination of durability and softness that only gets better with age.”  Since reading this passage sometime in the 1980's my Dad has built his own collection of Viyella shirts and for all you heritage nuts out there who constantly look to Hemingway for inspiration, a Viyella shirt is a great way to actually dress the part. 

Viyella is a "luxury" fabric and retails for $129.00 over at Orvis, but this appears solely based on branding markup.  For a resonable $49.00 you can pick up the shirts at Cabela's Sporting Goods and avoid the 80 buck Orvis tariff.  I know fit is a big deal for a lot of people, so I'm going to recommend sizing down.  All fit aside, the fabric is extremely comfortable and I can see why Hemingway grabbed six.  If nothing else,  I see these being a great gift for your own Dad as the holiday's are fast approaching.  Thanks to my Pops for doing all the legwork necessary for this post (he's Sartorially Inclined's unpaid intern).  The next time anyone tries to tell me how awesome Hemingway was, I am going to politely stop them and ask to see the tag of their shirt before we proceed.

-L.A.S

8 comments:

  1. Orvis used to do an own-branded viyella type (maybe it was) shirt. just like their current http://www.orvis.com/store/altview_mult_nw.aspx?item_color=NATURAL&pf_id=72CR&viewall=LARGE

    Am wearing it as we speak, present from mom-in-law, bless her.

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  2. I also happen to be wearing a Viyella shirt atm, mine from LE.

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  3. Tattersall viyellas are my top picks for winter weekends.

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  4. There is a lot of good research in this post but I can't say I've ever worn a viyella weave. That, I'll have to fix.

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  5. I finally read The Old Man And The Sea this summer. Brilliant!

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  6. Liked this and thought you might like this:
    http://chroniclesofchloegreene.blogspot.com/2011/12/part-eight-love-and-red-viyella-shirt.html

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  7. I just happened to have recently picked up an *alleged* Viyella shirt at a "Good Will" store of all places. The tag says "Viyella by Gant". Now, I never heard of any such but then, I am more price than name brand conscious.
    What caught my eye was the part of the tag that said "made in British crown colony of Hong Kong."
    The tag, shirt, all looks too new. I sense a knock off.
    Anyway, thanks for the info.
    Jim (Jillian is my wife)

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