Grungy Gentleman

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The Jace of Hearts has Gentleman in spades. No, no, not that token, neutered kind of “gentleman” who only pretends to care about other people so that he can avoid an argument. I’m talking about that old school college boy, the man who feels at home on the rugby pitch just as much as being captain of the debate team. I’m talking about the men who manage to pull off varnished pine flooring, golden chandeliers, and leather accents without a whiff of irony, the men who play their cards right no matter the hand, and make their worlds a wonderland of possibilities.

Those are the men for whom Grungy Gentleman tailored their Fall / Winter 2017 collection. They opened their show at White Street NYC with Mindaugas Kuzminksas, a forward for the Knicks. Of course, his comfortable, determined stride was right at home on the hardwood runway, and the only doubt I was whether the same label which could design button-ups and rakishly undone collars for a seven foot Russian, made anything in my size.

Well, to be fair, I did have a few more substantial questions about the line. To the point, Grungy Gentleman doesn’t really have much, well, grunge. Form-fitting knits and perfectly weighted wrist stripes on the jackets give off a distinct varsity vibe. There were dark jeans, sure, but the denim had such obvious craftsmanship that the outfits projected more of a “casual Fridays at the eating club” than they did Nirvana or skater chic. I don’t think it’s just a quirk of this year’s release, either. I mean, Jace wouldn’t have debuted “Drink Me” Hennessy cocktails of ginger beer and orange peel unless he was trying to keep everything classy.

Make no mistake: the end result works. Equal parts hunting boot and basketball hi-top guarantee that your shoes will make a statement in every environment, whether you go for the granite white or classic navy kicks. Sunglasses by Maui Jim and graphic tees from the limited collaborations Grungy Gentleman x New York Knicks and Grungy Gentleman x New York Rangers keep everything casual, letting you stay in the brand ecosystem even when you’re just shuffling between your apartment and the local bar, and that is where you want to stay.

There are dressier options, like khakis with ankle stripes, and they do look good. The problem is they look like they were consciously designed to fit the line, which for me kind of disrupts the whole everyday appeal of the shirts and shoes.  Not to say that the line is passé. “Organic” and “lived-in” are very much what Grungy Gentleman has gone for these last six years, and the that we recognize their aesthetic as a trope is partly because they’ve been so repeatedly successful. It’s also partly because Grungy Gentlemen has become the latest undisputed champion of the sexy safari / sports merch / guys night out look, joining the ranks of Steve & Barry’s, Eddie Bauer, and OG Abercrombie. But making that look work demands a certain kind of boorish disregard for fashion finery, so the khakis feel irredeemably out of place.

Which, by the way, is fine. Grungy Gentleman isn’t the kind of label you would build your wardrobe around. It is, like musky cologne, best enjoyed sparingly, through a jacket worn out to brunch with the new valentine or a t-shirt which plays well in any outfit. That’s how grungy gentlemen, from Justin Holliday to Jack Griffo to Danell Leyva, do it. That’s how it should be done.