Sunday, August 5, 2012

On the Topic of CPO Shirts

As the season begins to change and the weather takes a change for the worse, I find myself thinking about the small updates, that the wardrobe needs for fall. One thing I've been wanting for quite some time now is a sturdy woolen overshirt or rather a CPO shirt or CPO jacket. What got me started was probably seeing some from Engineered Garments or Post O'alls make-ups years ago, but then I read this small anecdote from a member on the forum AskAndyAboutClothes 

"Back in the early 60's most young people I knew wore a wool CPO shirt on very casual fall occasions, typically with khakis, penny loafers and an OCBD. While it will never replace a Shetland sweater, I've recently grown nostalgic and thought I might like to wear one again."

After reading this it all made sense and fell into place. Or maybe it didn't, but I felt that I wanted one even more. It's going to be a perfect layering piece over a OCBD shirt.

Right now I think my best bet is one  by Fidelity, which can be had for pennies in the US, however I'm a bit unsure about the fit. It might just have very short sleeves and a billowy fit judging from the poor pictures, I've been able to find. But the quality is definitely good - 22 oz melton wool (basically the same weight as a heavy commercial peacoat) and made in the US by a company that has been handling contracts for the US navy.

I got really excited, when I saw one from something called Fidelity by Gerald and Stewart in a shop in Denmark. I don't know much about this brand, if it's a private label, designer collaboration or some sort of Fidelity fashion offshoot. But the fit was awful. It was tiny  and I could barely fit into a size XL, though my normal size is something along the lines of L or M. It wasn't any good as an overshirt at least.

Another option I quite like, although it isn't authentic in any way, is the collaboration between the Woodlands Shop in Oregon and 3Sixteen. It's obviously not a CPO, but it's very wearable as an overshirt. Furthermore the fit looks a lot better than the aforementioned options and the quality is still good using Pendleton wool. Another plus are the colours - They're great.

Again, I realise, that this isn't a CPO either, but I've over the years created a saying, that goes "When in doubt, go for Filson". Filson is just great and their Jac-shirt looks like it fits the bill. They basically never do anything that isn't good - but they do quite a lot of things nowadays that aren't made in the States unfortunately.

Other options include Japanese repro brands like The Real McCoys and Buzz Rickson obviously, but they come with a hefty price tag.

Like this one from Buzz

If you want to read more about the CPO, you can gather more information here and if you've got some information on a good and hopefully better alternative, please do share them.


  1. I've been wanting one myself for quite some time as well. I also had a look at the Fidelity one but I would hate to pay about 1000 kroner for something I know I could get for much less in the US. I acutally thought about buying one when I was in NYC in May but I simply couldn't get myself to buy something that thick and wooly in May. Of course I regret that now...

    I'm not really into the 3sixteen version. For me it has been altered too much and it seems like the collar is slightly disproportioned with the more modern and slim fit in general. On the other hand, I think the Filson one isn't bold enough. So for me the (original) Fidelity is definitely the best.

    One reason for me wanting a CPO is that I know Jack Kerouac had it as one of his favourite pieces of clothing. I really like that he writes so much about his clothes in his books and it's interesting to trace the style of that period through his works. He probably bought most of his clothes in surplus stores for a few dollars while we spend hundreds and thousands today to get the same look.

    His CPO shirt is in a museum in SF.

  2. Lars, thank you so much for sharing that link. I'm a HUGE Kerouac fan and I've read On the Road too many times and I hold Dharma Bums and Big Sur in high regards. I generally like the all American writers like Raymond Carver (obviously), Hemingway, Bukowski, Jack Black and so on and so on.

    I think you're definitely right about the Fidelity. It's bang on the buck - if you search a bit here and there, you'll find some insanely cheap options and furthermore I think it could be the overall best option in terms of style and quality. I mean 22 oz melton wool. Give me a break.

    If you want a similar jacket to Kerouac's here's a few good options - - just search for CPO.

  3. I thought you might like Kerouac. He's my favourite writer of all time. This fall semester I'm actually writing my bachelor thesis where I'm comparing the aestethics of Kerouac and the photographer Robert Frank - you should take a look at his "The Americans" if you don't know it already. So far Dharma Bums is my favourite but at the moment I'm reading Visions of Cody which could easily become my new favouritw. Some amazing language in there.

    I actually didn't know about that site myself before yesterday when I did a bit of searching on the topic. Spent a few hours just looking at the pictures after that. I don't think I would like one similar to his; I'm not quite ready for the woodsman look yet...

  4. Hi.
    Really like your blog.
    I was extremly close to buying a CPO from a store called Save Khaki when i was in NYC in the start of October. It seems they don't have it in their webstore though. There might be some floating around at other stores or Ebay though. I found some pics on Gilt though.

  5. Hi Karl, thank you very much for the kind words and thanks for sharing yet another CPO option. The one from Save Khaki looks really good, albeit a bit on the short side, but that could also work well.

    Have a great day