This is a fantastic jacket. Don’t buy it new.
You may recall a previous essay about the joys of purchasing great sweaters online. Now that autumn’s deliciously bracing chill has finally displaced our summer-long sauna, it’s Wool Season once again. And for this autumn and winter, I highly recommend hunting down a nicely-used classic tweed jacket woven from Harris Tweed wool.
“Harris Tweed” is a legally-protected name for a specific, highly durable wool fabric from the Outer Hebrides Islands off the western coast of Scotland. In days of yore there were numerous big-name clothiers (ie., Land’s End, Brooks Brothers, Jos. Bank) who offered jackets woven from Harris Tweed, but their numbers are dwindling. Legendary ultra-prep/Ivy League haberdashers J. PRESS is a holdout– their black-and-white herringbone can be yours for just short of $900… making it a luxury item beyond the budgets of all but a few. But this is Danny’s Table, which means that there is a useful hack for you somewhere in this essay.
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Think for a moment about iconic products that are famous as luxury goods AND enjoy a reputation for rugged durability. The more I ponder this, the smaller this category seems. Take, for instance, STIHL chainsaws… they are the best and most reliable saws (just check out what every professional tree crew uses) AND they are more expensive than all their competitors. But that doesn’t make them a luxury item… they are simply the most expensive because they are the best-built. How about Land Rovers? A worthy entry, in theory; however, ruggedness and luxury have yet to coincide in this marque– the early post-war Rovers were famously durable and yet almost comically spartan, while their newest models are precisely the opposite. I could go on and on, but here’s a short list of what I’ve come up with for goods at the intersection of luxury and ruggedness– Rolex Watches, Ray Ban Aviator Sunglasses, Weatherby Mark V Deluxe Rifles, and… Harris Tweed jackets.
A hallmark of said ruggedness among these goods is that they often outlive their original owners, thereby fostering a significant second-hand market. Would I buy a used Rolex? I doubt it… maybe the previous owner dropped it in the toilet or something. Used rifles? Sometimes they just don’t shoot as straight as they should, and might be available second-hand for exactly that reason. And Ray-Bans from the original manufacturer (Bausch & Lomb) command high prices on eBay even when they are scratched or otherwise show “visible signs of wear.” (If you nonetheless want to goggle up like a 1960’s fighter pilot without any such defects, look for “NOS,” i.e., “new old stock,” and be prepared to part with at least three Benjamins.)
But a used Harris Tweed jacket is different, because unlike high-end watches, rifles, and eyewear, they improve with age like blue jeans and baseball gloves. This means that by heading to eBay and scouring the used blazer/sportcoat market, you can get something better than new and pay way less than the new price. No brainer. Oh, your used jacket might be missing an easily-replaceable button, or it might have a tiny hole or signs of wear, but we’re talking about tweed, not a tuxedo. I want my tweed jacket to look like someone earned a graduate degree in it.
It kind of makes me look smarter.
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A quick review on eBay reveals that numerous authentic Harris Tweed jackets are presently available for well under $100. I wear a 43L, and my birthday falls on November’s first Saturday this year.