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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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