Camel hair is extremely warm, just a little rough, and has been used in clothing for centuries—at least in countries where camels roam. Its rough texture (as compared to the best cashmere, that is) can be softened before it is woven into fabric, but I digress. It’s not only the camel’s hair that is so important to many; it’s also the color. A versatile beige tone that complements everything—every other color or combination of colors—it is suited to outerwear, and occasionally the odd jacket or two.
My preference, like many before me, is the camel hair overcoat; a classic that need not necessarily be woven from a camel’s hair (although the authentic is always best), and that is a smart alternative to somber topcoats worn by men during the day, especially in climes where despite the freezing temperatures, the sun shines as bright as on a summer’s day. And I prefer the classic camel hair coat—in this case by Brooks Brothers, who in this age of ‘heritage’ hip, are probably best equipped of any retailer to mine their archives for styles from a forgotten era; forgotten, that is, unless you are a fan of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. With a suit and tie, and a nice pair of brogues, you can channel your Prohibition era obsession (Speakeasies in Brooklyn?) and with jeans or khakis and a sweater or turtleneck, a New England WASP, but however you wear it, it will always be simply a mark of good taste.
Made in Italy of a thick but soft—and extremely warm—Loro Piana camel hair fabric (for ‘Made in USA’ fanatics: if the fabric is from Italy, might as well make the coat there, right?), the Brooks Brothers coat, essentially the same coat both Al Capone and J. Edgar Hoover might have worn, has a place in every man’s closet, and at a price that any wannabe bootlegger can justify. Brooks Brothers may be your grandfather’s store, but hey, your grandfather is hip.