When I was finding myself in college, I had a real moment among the alternative music and theater crowds in our various uniforms of black. Black t-shirts, black turtlenecks, black jeans, black belts, black combat boots. To be honest, it felt really empowering at the time. Among my tribes, it offered a sense of belonging. Also, black is a very powerful (and empowering) color. I still love it.

But as I got older, black started to feel a bit severe on me. The moody angst and confusion that came with that time in my life had dissipated, and the color I wore to reflect (or absorb) those feelings seemed less true to the person I’d become. I wasn’t that dark anymore. Or at least I didn’t want to be. I’ve lightened up.

Into middle age, there is still some black in my wardrobe. Most of my dress shoes are black, as are most of my dress socks. There’s also my black tuxedo and one black suit for funerals or that chauffeur gig that keeps never happening. I also have a black cashmere turtleneck. 

And until recently, my winter outerwear featured a black wool/cashmere topcoat and a faded black winter parka. But no more. This year, I traded up my black outerwear for navy. 

Wool/cashmere topcoat in navy from J.Crew

The topcoat came from J.Crew. They’ve been making pretty good topcoats for a while now, and seem to have one of the few handsome options on the affordable spectrum that offers a well-crafted coat with a nice wool/cashmere blend and horizontal flapped pockets, which I prefer over slanted ones.

Wool/cashmere topcoat in navy from J.Crew

I bought the topcoat online, as I buy most of my clothes these days. It was a bit boxy when it arrived, so I took it to my tailor, who did a terrific job slimming the coat all around. He even managed to bring in the shoulders ever so slightly. Tightening the shoulders of a tailored garment like a jacket, blazer or coat can be very tricky business and should only be left to the most skilled tailors. Fortunately, my guy knows his stuff. I love this coat.

N-3B slim parka in “replica blue” from Alpha Industries

My new parka came from Alpha Industries, who’s been making the original N-3B parka for decades. In fact, the company was commissioned by the Department of Defense in 1959 to make outerwear for the U.S. military. The N-3B was the company’s first style, created to protect Air Force members from extreme weather conditions and is one of several iconic jackets Alpha Industries has been making since then. 

N-3B slim parka in “replica blue” from Alpha Industries

Available in several colors, I chose their “replica blue,” which feels like a special shade of navy. The parka also comes in a classic or slim fit. I bought the slim in medium. With the help of the internal draw string at the waist, I slimmed it even more. Among the many things to love about this jacket (the faux coyote hood trim, the faux mouton hood lining, that iconic orange jacket lining, the warmth), I love the pockets. There are plenty of them. 

Faux fur hood trim with faux mouton hood lining

As an added bonus while shopping on the Alpha Industries website, I also treated myself to a slim-fit MA-1 bomber jacket. Made with the same tough flight nylon as the N-3B parka, also in “replica blue,” it’s a lighter option for cool temperatures, but not the deep freeze. Perfect for walking the dogs in the 45ºF – 60ºF range.

When it comes to rain, I also went blue. A company called Rains makes what has become my favorite waterproof option. Stylish, functional, great materials. I love this raincoat. 

And that’s about it. Coming into the cold and wet weather, I feel really good about these purchases and, of course, the color. Blue. It’s my new black.

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  1. Great story on updating to blue. Any suggestions on a blue blazer preferably soft with little padded construction?

  2. For the bulk of my time living in Center City Philadelphia (1988 to 2000), I wore almost all black, tempered with bits of gray (diluted/deluded black) and staccatos of white. People would always say, “You belong in New York.” I wore this with all the pride a 1950s housewife would wear her Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. When I moved to Manhattan in 2000 (where I live to this day), I still wore mostly black and even was so haughty that when a friend from Texas (oy) contacted me and said she was visiting and asked what she should wear, and threatened purple, I told her that no New Yorker in her right mind wears anything but all black. I may have even rolled my eyes and sniffed with derision, pulling a long drag on an imaginary cigarette in a long Holly Golightly holder.

    I’ve since changed my game and my color scheme. Now I’m all about the navy as well, a color I used to think was the purview of blondes with names and noses far less Jewish than mine. Now I swoon for navy, I salute it, embrace it, and revel in it, just as you do.

    But I’ve also added many other colors as well, because along with ditching the all-black uniform, not wanting to look like a Robert Palmer girl anymore, I went the vintage route and discovered the glory of other colors as well, so now instead of color defining me or, maybe, representing me, it’s the groovy style of the ’60s and ’70s, all original to the time period, and I finally feel like the combnation of Mary Tyler Moore, Marlo Thomas, and Jackie Onassis that I’ve always dreamed of being as a so-called adult.

    When I was in middle and high school in the ’70s, I swore I would never wear that stuff again, prefering the style of the ’50s and desperately wanting Fonzie on my arm. I should have saved my wardrobe and my mom’s as well, because I’ve barely grown since then and would maim someone for the red bell-bottom hiphuggers with white topstitching I snitched from my mom’s closet “on the reg”.

    But enough about me (maybe). You look ABSOLUTELY SMASHING. Your style is divine, and I keep hoping to run into you on the street, both of us dressed to the elevens, instead of bumping into you while in my running togs and feeling like something Lenore and/or Smoky dragged in.

    P.S. Who is your tailor? I could use a few nips and/or tucks (my wardrobe, not my body).

  3. George! All of these are great options and have me thinking about my next coat or jacket.

  4. Lewis Thompson

    George, this sounds trivial, but I need to know what colour jeans to pair with a raw indigo denim jacket. I rarely stray from indigo jeans, but I want to avoid the dreaded double-denim look!

  5. Jeff Barnett

    Yes, your tailor did a great job on your top coat. It fits like a glove.

  6. I’m interested in where you get your blue T-shirts. They look good

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