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What goes with what

How to look more rugged

How to look more rugged

You probably don't work down a coalmine. It is rare that you need to chop your own wood for fuel. But, for 2019, we think it's time your wardrobe embodied a more hands-on, practical aesthetic. The very fact that you don't need clothes that you could fell trees in is precisely the reason to embrace them. Make this the year you step into the rugged side of life.

“I think the reason why we look to utility and ruggedness is because we’re very far removed from it,” says Thread stylist Luke McDonald. “There’s no real hard labour aspect to our lives. So we’ve romanticised the notion – it’s the classic ‘Brooklyn lumberjack’ thing.”

But, as Luke points out, what makes ruggedness so appealing is that it's timeless, easy to wear and suits anyone. “The clothes are classic pieces that tend to flatter most shapes, whereas elegant clothing or streetwear might not look good on some guys. Workwear, and by extension ruggedness, is for the everyman.”

In fact, for a very long time, workwear was the default dress mode for the majority of men as they went about their business in the fields, mines and factories. Today, the clothing is attractive as it’s both practical and easy to match with other garments.

“There is a version of this look for everybody,” says Luke. “Variations of these items have been around in America for 120 years or so. They haven’t changed drastically in that time period, so you’re future-proofing your wardrobe.”

As a starting point, look to military- or hunting-inspired clothing, and don’t worry about getting them roughed up. The point isn’t to look polished and perfect – bear in mind that the rugged dresser can pull off a wrinkled shirt or a frayed cuff. And if your clothes have seen better days, then think of repairing instead of replacing them. To be honest, it just shows you’ve actually worn these pieces and not just bought a Rugged Man costume.

All of which means you need to put less effort into nailing your style. "Look for things that are easy to wash and throw on," says Luke. "Nothing too precious, as that undermines the whole aesthetic.”

The fundamentals

When it comes to fit, you want clothes that allow for a full range of body movement. Anything too tight is impractical, which goes against the rugged aesthetic, but you also don’t want to swamp your frame with anything too baggy either.

Aim for traditional workwear pieces that are functional and made from hardwearing materials such as denim, leather, tweed and canvas. Avoid anything overly fussy – so, no excessive frills or embellishments – and go for classic as opposed to modern.

“But don’t go over the top by making it cartoonish,” says Luke. “At the end of the day, we’re living in 2019 so we have to dress accordingly. You want it to be an updated version, not like you’ve just walked out of a sepia photograph.”

The colour scheme

“Because labourers’ clothes were simple and had to be washed loads of times, they tended to be in a neutral palette of greys, blues, black, browns and plaid – which doesn’t show wear very strongly,” says Luke. To channel this, steer clear of pastel hues, neon brights, and most patterns that aren’t plaid or stripes.

Instead, you’ll find a lot of indigo in rugged men’s wardrobes and that’s because it’s a dye with plenty of history and character. It says unfussy and down-to-earth – key characteristics for this look. Natural materials like leather also feature prominently, hence the abundance of browns, too.

The finishing touch

Going for practical footwear is a non-negotiable when it comes it dressing ruggedly. Try hiking boots or work boots as a solid place to start. As Luke says, “You want something quite chunky, with a heavy sole, and that looks like it’s made for the outdoors. It shouldn’t look like it’s supposed to be kept clean.”

As for accessories, try limiting it to a simple watch. Anything old-fashioned or ultra-practical like a diving watch would suit better than a digital or smart watch. It just looks anachronistic when you’re going for the Mountain Man vibes. In the spirit of practicality, avoid jewellery and anything that could get caught in heavy machinery – it’s not that you’ll be using a log splitter today, but you could. If you needed to.

Words: Theresa Harold
Photography: Jon Cardwell
Styling: Freddie Kemp