Genius is in the detail. Rarely more so than in the obsessional world of Americana, in which the shade and weight of denim, the length and angle of a jean pocket and the authenticity of a vintage shirt, if not correctly articulated, can have the same sartorial impact as a Savile Row waistcoat with the bottom button done up.
Fortunately, Tennessee’s Imogene + Willie, riding the new wave of Nashville’s Americana, gets it right every time. Scrolling through the pages of Imogene + Willie, it is almost impossible to put a foot wrong in this rarefied world – the final frontier of the greatest pioneer nation. At its heart are classic straight-leg men’s jeans, Willie Rigid ($250, first picture left). Beautifully tailored, high-waisted selvedge jeans, cut and sewn in Nashville, using unwashed 13.5 oz “rigid” indigo denim woven on antique shuttle looms, these jeans are more American than apple pie.
There are six variations on the “rigid” theme, from the tapered Barton Slim ($250) to the low rise, rock ’n’ roll cut Barton Black Rigid ($105). The women’s equivalent is the Elizabeth Slate ($198, first picture middle), high-waisted but figure-hugging in stretch denim. But that’s just the start. Imogene + Willie, set up in 2009 by Matt and Carrie Eddmenson, who have known each other since they were 10 in Kentucky, and who named their company after Carrie’s maternal grandparents, use traditional jeans as a first step to a total look. “Everything Matt is drawn to and everything he designs is inspired by something old, interpreted in a modern way,” says Carrie from Imogene + Willie’s base in a former car-repair shop in Nashville’s über-cool Belmont neighbourhood.
There are impeccably cut denim truckers’ jackets ($295) and chambray shirts (the Carter, $225, first picture right, is named after former president Jimmy Carter, a long-time friend of Carrie’s family) of double-chain stitch construction with ‘”fish-eye” buttons. Stunning trench boots ($485, second picture), by Oak Street, in Chicago, are based on footwear worn by US marines in the second world war, in black with high lacing and Dainite soles. Canvas and leather totes and rucksacks (from $250) are straight out of a Steinbeck novel, and guaranteed to age gracefully as the lustrous Horween Chromexel hide grows worn.
The Imogene + Willie Americana coup de grâce is clicking on the One of a Kind link, opening up a world of vintage, pre-worn and seductively aged unique one-offs. On any given day there’ll be 1960s bikers jackets (around $500), fringed suede buckskins (around $300), a vintage Easy Rider Wyatt crash helmet ($200 upwards), bandanas, Native American moccasins and blankets and Stetsons. But you have to move fast. A lot of people want genuine icons of the Old West, and Imogene + Willie is a richly rewarding source.