When any piece of writing about your brand commences with “It might be a cliché…” there’s a fair chance you’ve really made it. It might be a cliché to gush about the greatness of Albam, but they get a lot of things very, very right. I’m unlikely to rush out and start wearing a neckerchief or waistcoat, even though Albam sell those items. I’m equally unlikely to swan around calling things “shirting” but I respect how they’ve maintained their initial mission statement to perfect basics in addition to some more technical pieces — the Alpine jacket for instance — and continually tweaked them seasonally. There’s a definite performance streak that runs though several designs (a climbing/biking fixation?) that stops the brand’s output from ever descending into dandyism.
It’s 23 degrees in the daytime at the moment, so what better time to start banging on about thick cotton fleece again? Fuck it. Sweatshirts are always relevant.
Not content with attempting the perfect t-shirt from their launch in late 2006, (itself a very subjective thing — alas, as a less-refined oaf, I favour something with more bulk and a thicker neckline, but their Egyptian cotton creation is admirable), their quest for the perfect crew-neck sweatshirt has been visible over the last couple of years. It’s curious to see Brits recreating iconic American styles from scratch, but there’s a certain obsession that’s unique to this country when it comes to clobber and music and one that can transcend Japan’s preoccupations. I loved the 2009 incarnation of the Albam crewneck (there’s a rant on here somewhere about it), but in its current form, it can totally take out the import, Americana-fetishist short-arm, short body efforts at half the cost too (£77). The fit seems to have become a little more forgiving and the elbow stitches, flat locked seams, cuff and waist rib details that remind me of Polo rugby shirt sleeves give it its own identity.
The UK and Portugal make something that’s not another Costa Rican made fat suit fit, with the 50-inch chest, There’s plenty of details in the mix (inner pocket stays winning), but as is Albam’s way, it’s assigned an identity of its own without a fussiness that makes it gimmick gear. In Saffron, it works very well too. The current store offerings (despite a dearth of sizes 3 and 4s due to popularity) are tremendous — the Artisan Shirts (winter’s red chambray version was phenomenal) and Ring Snap Shirts (green wins) are some of the best yet, but I feel that with our yankophile ways, we’re more swayed by the impending UK arrival of J. Crew, whose recent presentation looked hyper-awkward, and whose offerings lately (bar New Balance) look a little too college-jerk/middle-management for my tastes. Albam is doing a far better job, with better build (I haven’t heard too many moans about quality since the loose buttons on the original cagoules talk) and more logical price structuring.
I feel Albam was partly responsible for a quiet revolution in men’s clothing down south. Every apparel designer from any brand I’ve spoken to visiting London since 2008 has carried a scrap of paper with “ALBAM, Beak Street (Off Carnaby Street)” on it or had the address lurking on their BlackBerry.
I love residing in a town outside London that pays little attention to trends that aren’t Ed Hardy, Full Circle or All Saints, but even in Bedford I’m seeing the parka, cuffed chinos and work boots creep in. And bear in mind that when I first broke out the Fisherman’s Cagoule a few years back (second generation with the white buttons) I was the source of much amusement — I got “Yarrrr” in a faux sea-captain voice, plus some freestyled sea shanties from more creative members of my peer group. Now I see them clad in Albam-lite, purchased from High Street spots with designers taking hefty “inspiration” from the Albam inventory and blog realm in general.
One joy of living somewhere detached from any Google Blogsearched notion of cool is that any sighting of a look there is the ultimate barometer that a trend has transcended any notion of tastemaker to become a full-fledged phenomenon. As long as Albam keep on dropping seasons like the current one, I remain a fanboy. Props to Mr. Shaw and Mr. Rae on almost five years of strong work — and congratulations to Jude on the new addition.
Total digression, but what’s the story with Glenn O’Brien’s Wu-Tang themed broom in the Life + Times site interview the other week? It’s amazing.