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5 Classic American Pieces Worthy of a Spot in Your Closet


Jacket on Rail
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Fleeting trends, a revolving door of new designers, and a constantly evolving pop culture can make the bustling world of fashion confusing and intimidating for anybody… especially a college girl on a budget! It can sometimes be difficult to decide which styles are worth investing in, and which will last only a season or two.

In response to the idea of “fast fashion”, there has been a recent resurgence in the popularity of American “heritage” brands: companies whose high-quality, well-crafted pieces have been proven to transcend decades. With their practical styling and versatility, the following five classic American products deserve a spot in your closet.

1. Frye Campus Boots

Frye, the oldest continuously operating shoe company in the United States, first introduced the Campus style in the 1960s, based on a century-old design. Jeans, skirts, casual dresses, and even leggings and tunic tops mesh well with these easy boots. Some traditional features of the originals included:

  • Boxy toe
  • Hand-crunched leather shaft
  • Chunky, stacked leather heel
  • Leather sole
  • Stitch detail

Now, the company offers variations such as tumbled or pebbled leather shafts, different boot heights, shearling linings, rubber lug soles, and a more contemporary silhouette. In addition, the insoles are constructed from shock-absorbing memory cushion, making them as insanely comfortable as they are wearable.

Frye Boots
Product Information: Frye Campus Horse Stitch Boots – Zappos, Frye Jane Horse Stitch Boots – Zappos, Frye Campus 14G Boots – Zappos.

2. Levi’s Denim Trucker Jacket

This classic jean jacket brings a vintage-cool vibe to any outfit (careful with double denim) and is the perfect weight for slightly chilly weather. Front and back seams give it a great fit, while welt pockets and button-through tabs pay tribute to the 1970s-era original.

Levi's Dark Trucker Jacket
Product Information: Levi’s Trucker Jacket – Levi’s.

3. Keds Champion Sneakers

Did you know that Keds’ “Champion” sneaker is only 5 years short of its 100th birthday? They’ve been spotted on everyone from Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing to Kristen Stewart in Twilight: New Moon. Though the old school all-white exterior gives an especially crisp and classic look, the Champion is available in tons of colors. You can also purchase leather Keds, or even design your own at their official site.

Classic white canvas Keds sneakers
Product Information: Keds White Canvas Sneaker – Keds.

4. Coach Leather Handbag

While arguably costlier and more ubiquitous than many bags, with proper care, a Coach product will hold its value and be stylish for years to come. Founded in 1941, Coach is still going strong; the brand was recently named one of the best stocks of the decade. Pick a classic shape and color to ensure you get the maximum life out of your purchase.

Coach Bags
Product Information: Alexandra Tote – Coach, Madison Sophia Satchel – Coach, Willis Bag – Coach.

5. Pendleton Wool Shirt

Popular among grunge rockers and Hollywood starlets alike, a plaid shirt gives off a laid-back feel, while a slouchy fit and quality fabric make the piece as comfortable as it looks. Since it’s doubtful this iconic style is going anywhere (it was made famous by a little band called the Pendletones in the 1960’s…you may know them as the Beach Boys), invest in a durable piece by nabbing a classic Pendleton shirt.

Pendleton Woolen Mills has been around since 1889, and the brand is renowned for its quality craftsmanship, utilizing its expert fabric for everything from Indian blankets to handbags. Some Pendleton collaborations include:

While most of Pendleton’s designs for women don’t feature their famous fabric, steal his style and rock the men’s “Board” shirt. It’s created from 100% pure virgin wool, and available in sizes as petite as XX-Small for a closer fit.

Pendelton blue and green plaid shirt
Product Information: Pendleton Board Shirt – Pendleton.

What do you think?

Have you ever purchased (or been handed down) any of these items? Do you know of any other classic American brands noted for quality? How would you incorporate one of these pieces into your wardrobe? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Posted on on January 20, 2011 / Filed Under: Fashion Tips / Tags: , , , , ,

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27 Responses to “5 Classic American Pieces Worthy of a Spot in Your Closet”

  1. 1
    January 20th, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    I actually don’t own any of these haha, but American style was never really my thing to begin with.
    I really like the Frye boots though. They look very durable and they probably age well.

  2. 2
    January 20th, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    I think that jeans should have been added since jeans are a very american thing

  3. 3
    January 20th, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    I also think that jeans, t-shirt, and a leather belt are missing in the list.

    I absolutely adore the Coach Madison Sophia Satchel, you just gave me an excuse to go shopping for that bag! <3

  4. 4
    January 20th, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    i own exactly none of these.

    i’d like to see more lists of different style essentials for certain looks (you guys have done a lot of specific events; dressy, campus style essentials, etc.). I’d like to see “fashion essentials for the urbanite” or for the “ultra chic,” or the “edgy fashionista.”

    but more than anything, I’d like to see a “how to accessorize” for those of us (me) who are extremely bland in accessory choices. my outfits always match and look well put together, but i’m lacking in pizazz.

  5. 5
    January 20th, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Actually, I’ve never heard of Frye Campus Boots. And the Levi’s Denim Trucker Jacket, I’ve only seen on tweens. And the Keds Champion Sneakers, I’ve only seen on little kids or very old people.

    The Coach bag is nice (since I own one), but I don’t think it’s something that screams “American!”

    I think my top American Pieces would be:

    -Jeans (pants, shorts or skirts, I think they’re an American must)
    -Converse Shoes (who hasn’t owned a pair?)
    – Plaid Shirt (definitely!)
    -Or just any T-Shirt
    -Depending on where you live, I would add cowboy boots or a baseball hat.

  6. 6
    January 20th, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    I have the Frye harness boot which is cheaper than the Campus, but still has the box toe. When buying Frye boots it is important to check where they are manufactured, since some boots are now made in Mexico, and these aren’t worth the Frye price tag. Anyway, most of these items, while great investments, are a bit pricey for most college students. However I understand why you didn’t offer cheaper alternatives.

  7. 7
    January 20th, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    ps- i LOVED accessories 101.. but I may need more help than that! <3

  8. 8
    January 20th, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    Haha I own none of these either. I’ve never heard of Frye campus boots or the Pendleton wool shirts, but they don’t seem like things i’d like to own. Keds are all right, though i’ve only worn them in middle school and don’t really care for another pair of them, and same goes for the Levi’s denim jacket. The coach bag is nice, and i’d love to own one, but maybe when i’m no longer a college student on a budget :)

  9. 9
    January 20th, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    All of these items are nice, and I like most of them, but I would hardly call them essentials…at least not linked to specific brands. I personally loathe Coach…theyre so overdone and everyone has a fake these days. It leaves me assuming 90% of the coach bags I see are ripped off. I much prefer Cole Haan, marc Jacobs, or Michael kors for bags. Keds are also very not my style, but some girls wear them nicely. The boots are nice, but I prefer the more edgy look of Rosegold boots. Still, I suppose its a preference thing in the end.

  10. 10
    January 20th, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    Thanks for all the feedback!
    Though I definitely agree that jeans, a t-shirt, and leather belt belong on a list of classic American pieces, I was mostly trying to select brands that are specifically known for excelling at crafting a certain product, and couldn’t really narrow down just one brand of jeans or tees that really dominates the market! Any suggestions?
    Perhaps Gap khakis, Ralph Lauren Polos, Lucky Brand jeans, and Converse Chuck Taylors need to be on here as well…ah too many to list!!! :)

  11. 11
    January 20th, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    These are different from what I expected, and I don’t own any of these. I guess they just don’t fit with my personal style or could just be where I live.

    They’re interesting picks, though.

  12. 12
    January 20th, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    I only own a coach bag but that’s because it was a gift. Asides that, I wouldn’t want to buy any of those things, but maybe its because it’s not my style.

  13. 13
    January 20th, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    I love the plaid shirt! But, then again I’m a grunge girl. (I rock the grunge boots, the plaid shirt, torn jeans, long hair, and I <3 my Alice in Chains :) ) Other than that, none of these "classic pieces" appeal to me.

  14. 14
    January 20th, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    I don’t think that every girl should own them but rather that they are a good representation of classic American style pieces. Clothing types that have been popular for years and will continue to be. And i dont think that they are the brands themselves, but the general item such as a denim jean jacket, simple sneakers, or a plaid shirt.

  15. 15
    January 20th, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    Sorry about the title being misleading, guys – obviously we didn’t mean you have to have this stuff! I’ve updated it to be a little more true to what this post is getting at. Also, keep your suggestions coming – maybe we’ll do a part two with your ideas!

  16. 16
    January 20th, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    Thanks for the update Zephyr! :-)
    I definitely see where you all are coming from; you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who wanted/owned ALL of these items. For example, I live in the Frye boots, but can’t quite picture myself in the jean jacket – though I’ve seen girls that pull it off and look great! Mostly, I admire each brand’s loyalty to their signature style or materials that made them well-known in the first place.

    @Racheal…I’d never heard of Rosegold, but looked up some of their items after reading your comment. They definitely make darling ankle boots and booties!

    @Annie…My clothing budget is pretty limited also. One good thing about these older brands is that they’re easier to find in vintage/thrift shops…which is where I picked up those Frye boots I mentioned for about 1/5 of what they retail for. Had to dig around a bit, but I consider them one of my best finds.

    Love reading your comments!

  17. 17
    January 20th, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    Frye boots may be the best American classic in my opinion. I love how they go with everything. Best purchase I have made in a very long time, and I love seeing them on this list.

  18. 18
    January 20th, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    When I think of all-American brands, I think of Sperry Top-Sider shoes. I think it’s such a staple in any closet, even if they have a rep with your run-of-the-mill frat boys.

  19. 19
    January 20th, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    My family is from Pendleton, Oregon (where the Pendleton Woolen Mills came to be) and I think that for every occasion someone gets a Pendleton product as a gift.
    They have amazing quality and I have even seen some of their products sold at Urban Outfitters. Strange how this came out of such a SMALL cowboy town.

  20. 20
    January 21st, 2011 at 3:09 am

    i have tried Frye boots on probably 15 times. But they seem like the type of thing that’s only comfortable after they are broken in. They are just sooo uncomfortable brand new and they are heavy too. I love the look of them though so I’ll prob eventually break down and get some. lol great post!

  21. 21
    January 21st, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Instead of the denim jacket, I would have added a pair of Levi’s jeans.

  22. 22
    January 21st, 2011 at 10:07 am

    i love that you included CLASSIC coach bags. one of my biggest peeves is that lots of what i see from coach are these fluorescent/glittery monstrosities that don’t appeal to me now and will probably appeal to nobody in a years time. their simple, leather bags, however, are classic. my mom actually gave me her first coach bag, that she bought 40 years ago, and it still looks GREAT!
    i also own a pair of frye boots, but i have the harness ones instead.
    as for plaid shirts, i own plenty, but i’ve been meaning to get a pendleton one for a while now.
    as for other american classics, i always think of ralph lauren oxford shirts and maybe the LLBean canvas tote bags

  23. 23
    January 23rd, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    I don’t think I would wear any of these. Then again, American style is quite….boring and unoriginal.

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