The Run Down
OK, so here we come to the meat and potatoes of this article. A blow by blow comparison of 4 dark blue cord ‘slack’ ‘sack’ ivy patch & flap jackets.
To the uninitiated (and I get a few comments here from those kinds of people that are not even worth publishing) these four jackets will look identical. But we know they’re not, right?
If you’re reading this it’s probably because, like me, you are a clothes nut, or an ivy nut and you can also see the subtle differences between items of clothing. One small difference maybe we tolerate but when you get two, three, four differences that stray from what you expect and want – well no one wants to buy those things.
The FOUR jackets under discussion here are very similar, but they are NOT identical.
So I’m gonna run through each of them with their pros and cons and the good news is that you can buy 3 out of 4 of them today, the fourth was custom made for me, but there’s no reason why you can’t do that, too. It was not even expensive compared to a store bought example.
There’s a fifth jacket that should probably be included here, but I don’t have an example to compare and that is the John Simons 1955 jacket. It looks good, but to get one sent here with the stupid Portuguese customs – who make up their own fees and taxes – would end up being around €600. That’s not happening any time soon, nor is a trip back to London on the cards. But bear in mind that John’s model is definitely a viable alternative to the four below.
So we have the following:
J Keydge Jumbo Cord Slack Jacket from circa 2011
J Keydge Needlecord Jacket from circa 2015
The Weejun’s own copy of the above, with some tweaks
Kamakura Ivy Collection Needlecord Ivy Jacket
Now, you might be wondering, ‘Weejun, how the hell do we go back in time to 2011 to buy a J Keydge jumbo cord jacket?’ Well, read on and you will find out. The fact is that they are available today (albeit somewhat obscurely hidden) so I feel they are a worth including in this comparison.
Let’s take them in order, with photos to illustrate the different points.
J Keydge Jumbo Cord
This was one the earliest models I had from Keydge. For years I’d seen them in John Simon’s store, even back in Russell St days, but there were elements that I didn’t find attractive about them. I felt they had too many (not so) flat felled seams and in some material this gave a schoolboy blazer kind of look, or as if it had been put together with a knife and fork.
It wasn’t until around 2010 when I used to help Peter K in Los Angeles to avoid issues importing large amounts of John Simon’s products that I changed my mind.
I would pick up massive stuffed bags from John and take off the labels, repack them as a home made parcel and send them off to Peter. In return, Peter used to bid on things on US eBay for me and then ship them to me in London in ugly homemade packages that almost always sailed through UK customs. Those were the days…
Peter was always buying all of the J Keydge options every summer and every winter. One day he had a dark navy cotton jacket in the pile, so I thought I would try it on. Damn, it looked awesome. A classic example of something that when hanging on a peg looks OK but when worn looks a world of difference.
So being the ADHD person that I am, I started buying almost every one too. I think to date I own 15 jackets and 7 suits.
Anyway this jumbo cord was the only corduroy on offer at that time. Now, I’m not usually a fan of jumbo cord. To me it looks like French labourers material and that’s not a look I ever liked (apologies to anyone who loves those French worker jackets – just never been my thing). So this Keydge was borderline for me. But not so borderline that it stopped me from buying the alternate bottle green version a few weeks later!
However, over the years this jacket has softened and come to fit like an old glove. I’m really fond of both navy and green, but the navy gets the most wear as it shows off The Weejun’s twinkly blues.
There’s one more thing here, and that is that this cord jacket was one of the last Made in France examples and the length from bottom of collar to hem in a 50 was 31cm. So this jacket fits me very well, as someone who’s 6’2” (186cm) tall.
These days the jacket wears like an old cardigan but with the benefit of being ‘smart’ especially by today’s’ uber casual standards. Sometimes when I wear it people ask if i’m going to a wedding or even to Court. I’m sure you can all empathize.
This has the ‘poker chip’ buttons, two on the (opening) cuffs and is generally pretty great.
All in all, this is a pretty nice jacket but there are others I will pull out of the closet first…
J Keydge Needlecord Slack Jacket
This jacket is actually part of a suit – to be honest the trousers from Keydge suits never really fit me, they would cling on the legs and make my ass look like I was wearing a nappy, so I tend to wear all the suit jackets on their own with the exception of the seerscucker suit from Keydge.
This is also a different kind of blue – probably what you would call French Navy. Because the material is much finer than the jumbo cord above, the details of the visible flat felled seams work much better here. And I really like the color. I do also wear this as the full suit from time to time, but to be honest there’s probably only around 3 weeks a year in Lisbon that you could wear a full corduroy suit!
These Keydge cord jackets, in fact all of the cotton ones too, were vat dyed which meant that sometimes the colors came out differently – navy one year, was not the same as navy the next.
What else is there to note about this model?
Well, this was one of the first that were Made in China. I don’t have any problems with where something is made – lay people who don’t understand the manufacturing business think that Made in China must be bad.
But then most things they own or buy from an iPhone to Uniqlo socks are made there. The issue of quality has nothing to do with any particular country of manufacture. The thing that makes or breaks these products is the company that oversees them. Apple doesn’t let the Chinese tell them how to make phones. Apple tells them and has rigorous standards they must uphold. The same with Uniqlo. So, if you’re comparing with say a pair of chinos from your local discount store, that is simply because the Chinese were following the order instructions.
I’m pointing this out not because I’m anti Made in China, but for the simple reason that Mr Keydge changed the pattern.
There is a distinct difference between the Made in France jackets and those made in China. That is in the sizing and dimensions. The Chinese made version were still a size too small but they were also shorter in the body. (I’m a 38 which is a 48 Euro, but always had to upsize to a 50). I am only guessing but I think Keydge wanted to modernise their slack model to be more like the then current trend for skinny however late to the party they were. Thom Browne, slim fit and all that nonsense that we all had to endure for a decade.
For me, these jackets fit better but the length gave me issues. With this actual jacket the length is 30cm, but with others from the time, especially the wool ones, sometimes it would be 29cm and that makes it a bum freezer for me.
So all in all I really like this jacket. When the material was interesting and length ok, they were my preferred models if I”m honest.
If you’ve read my contemporary comments on Keydge on here LINK the you will know the company had a few issues along the way. Personally, I think that making womens’ jackets and other weird models for men spread their business too thin. Having a model on their website who was a dead ringer for Mr Putin, didn’t help either.
The website was terrible, really, really bad, But sometimes you could find a bargain in the sale. Although I remember seeing John Gall wearing a great chambray Keydge, and found one left in my size on the website but when it arrived it had yellow stitching like mom jeans. It was not what was in the photo! I sold it on eBay to someone who wanted to look like a ranch dude rather than have the hassle to send it back.
It was shortly after that that Keydge went dark for the second time in a decade. It was this that caused John Simons to have to recreate his own version to ensure supply continued. (Don’t be fooled by the Made in England tag – that can hide a multitude of sins too – poorly paid immigrant labour or parts cut and sewn in India fro example and ‘assembled’ in England. I’m not suggesting John’s jackets are like this but just another reminder that Made in X is nonsense, it only matters if the company ordering maintained a quality standard).
So this French Navy Needlecord jacket has a thumbs up and is a regular go to in my closet. Let’s see below where it came in my table.
The Weejun’s Bespoke Slack Jacket
When Keydge stopped making for the second time, and before John Simons produced his answer to the slack jacket, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands and get one made. I found a company that was prepared to do it for me all I had to do was provide an example (another Keydge model) and give them instructions. My instructions were very, very clear. Copy this exact jacket except make the sleeves 0.5cm longer and the length 1cm longer. Doesnt sound like a big difference but it was.
However, when they sent me the first jacket that was supposedly Bottle Green all cotton needlecord but in reality looked like a kind of vomit – it was totally the wrong size. Every measurement was two inches more than my donor jacket. How on earth was this even possible. They had a model in front of them, they make clothes all day long but can’t use a tape measure? It looked like someone put my jacket on the floor and then drew around the outside with chalk like those murder victims on Columbo.
I have no idea how this happened. Maybe they thought I might grow into it. This is what happened in the late 80s when I had a pair of yellow English cords made by the long gone Bedford Riding Breeches behind Marble Arch. I ordered a 32” waist and they came at 35”. When I pointed this out to weskit’d Dickensian salesman said ‘Our trousers are made for a lifetime sir, so we leave a little space for Sir to fill out over the years’. Ridiculous. And I never did fill out, I’m the same 32” waist today!)
Anyway, I complained about the jacket, sent them photos of the donor jacket on top of their example and the whole thing was much bigger. I sent photos of tape measures on both jackets. What happened next was sadly all too common when you order something and they f*** it up. They acted like it was somehow my fault and refused to give me a refund even though it was factually wrong; the jacket they made.
I took a deep breath and thought about it and decided yeah they were totally out of order but I really wanted my perfect jacket. Such is the life of ivy addict – we get beaten down and disappointed but we have to get up and have another go (45 paris of chinos later….)
So I made a deal with them, ‘make me the jacket again but with trousers for a suit’ (they already had my trouser pattern so I wasn’t really risking much there) and they told me they had no more of the vomit green cord.
Oh dear, I said. What do you have?
Only midnight navy, sir.
Now midnight navy is perhaps my favourite color so we agreed on this and I eagerly awaited the suit.
When it arrived it was spot on. The size matched the donor Keydge (I still don’t understand how they couldn’t take measurements as tailors!) the trousers were really nice, all the details were there and the jacket had that little tiny bit of extra length.
BUT, it will not win this review. Because they made it out of that awful stretch corduroy with elastane in it. What the f*** .Of course they didn’t tell me because to them ‘what’s the difference?’
It’s not the same material. Stretch corduroy should be left with making childrens’ bib and brace or cushion covers and that’s about it.
So the suit looks perfect, the sizing is perfect but I hate the way the stretch corduroy moves on the body when I wear it. When I put my arms in the sleeves they feel like the sleeves are made of rubber. It’s just not necessary.
Kamakura Navy Needlecord ‘Ivy Jacket’
Now, an explanation is needed here. In all the years of blogging I have never ever accepted either advertising nor promo products and I’ve never written a review influenced by anything other than my own opinion. And you all know how important I think that is, haha.
But seriously, I never looked for, nor accepted making a post like that.
However, I am already a fan of Kamakura. I had real problems with their sizing back when they launched their Ivy shirts a decade ago, watched with envy when friends like Ben or Dean would buy their shirts and they would look awesome. But I also regularly paid attention to what they were doing. One day one of their ads targeted me on Instagram. Damn, they made a slack jacket. I hope it’s not good. I really hope it’s not good. It looks good. Damn it is good. Damn. Damn. Damn. Walk away Gary, pretend you haven’t seen it.
The reason for that is, as I have mentioned over and over, the random fees that Portugal customs adds to anything. Even a replacement debit card from my US bank attracted their avaricious attention and they wanted me to pay 15 euros to allow me to receive my card. Needless to say I only use a virtual one these days.
Anyway I kept looking at these jackets, modelled by the guy who looked like a 60s jazz sideman, and thought to myself damn, they got it dead right. Graham Marsh, British Ivy veteran had already steered them into some very cool shirts, and shirting like the recent dark madras model. No one does dark madras properly anymore. But Kamakura did with Graham’s help.
Then I basically stopped looking because for me with ADHD out of sight is out of mind!
Then, a few weeks later, I was going through my Instagram message requests. Jenny wanted to know if I was a singer ‘i like you very much’. Yes I am. Are you a man in India pretending to be Jenny? Yes he was.
Roberto wanted to know if I needed 10,000 followers in one week. No I don’t.
So, I was clearing and blocking all of them very fast and then, just as I was about to block and delete the last one, I saw ‘hello Weejun…’ And I stopped myself just in time.
Who’s this in the spam folder who’s using my handle?
Turned out to be Kotaro from Kamakura. He was asking if I had seen their new Ivy jackets by any chance? And if so would I like to try one?
I took ‘try one’ to mean they would send me one but I told him I’m in Lisbon and it’s almost impossible to get samples through customs without being stung by the sardines. No worries, we can sort that out for you.
OK, that sounds great.
‘You don’t have to write something good, and if there are bad things please tell us privately so we can fix them’.
Sorry, but in my years of experience only the Japanese would take that attitude. Imagine a British company listening to its customers! God forbid, if they had done hundreds of firms would still exist.
Kotaro then told me that my old blog posts on the Keydge and what was good/bad about them were a big influence on them when they designed their Ivy jackets. Yes! Someone listened, haha. He also told me that this was a separate project to the Ivy shirts by Graham Marsh called Ivy Classics and that he was in charge of curating and their global distribution.
When I was chatting with Kotaro I was also thinking, ‘mmm I have so many navy cord jackets’, and then I thought it would be fun to do this comparison. I told Kotaro that just from the images I thought their Ivy jacket would come out well in a comparison, but I thought it would not win because it has lining in the sleeves.
My Ralph ivy jackets also have that and it makes them too hot to wear in the kind of weather they were made for. So I made a mental note that this would count against the Ivy Classics version. But, I have to admit, that when the jacket arrived I didn’t even notice, that’s how spot on they were to add a very fine lining. This even allows you to do the corduroy double – shirt and jacket without that dreadful velcro effect you normally get from Keydge if you tried that. (In fact even just with a chambray shirt for these pictures, putting on and taking off a Keydge is not something to do on a first date, without looking like an Ivy Houdini. In contrast the Kamakura slips on like a pair of old slippers.
I assured Kotaro that I had never written about anything where the company had sent it to me, but that I really was a fan of Kamakura and therefore I would be happy to accept the jacket and that I would write about it.
I then told him of my woes with the early shirts, and he said they had fixed that in the intervening years. Of course, I had also noticed they had some really nice needlecord shirts, in some great colors. When I mentioned they looked great, Kotaro offered to send me one of those as well. I was really torn between the cord jacket and a lovely grey herringbone in the same model and then between the bottle green and navy in the cord shirts, but Kotaro made my mind up for me when he said ‘ok I will send you the navy cord jacket and green shirt’.
Now this is an aside, but a few weeks back I wrote about how none of the ivy staples except for Brooks Brothers knew how to put collar buttons in the right place, but Kamakura does, and used an image of their shirts to show as an example. If you read that piece you may know that the modern trend for two buttons on the cuff, neither of which is ever in a good place for my wrists, is something I hate. So are the ever present sleeve placket buttons – (what are they even for?). I’m pretty sure this has to do with Graham, but this shirt has collar buttons perfectly placed, only ONE button on the cuff (also in the correct place) and NO extraneous placket buttons. Men wore basically the same models of button down shirts for 80 years before some twerp decided they needed EXTRA buttons wherever they could fit them.
And Kamakura nailed the sizing too. I am a 15 in Brooks Brothers, so I went for a 15.5 based on the dimensions on their website. Spot on, perfect fit. You can see it on my Weejun IG feed.
(I had some fool putting comments on the blog regarding the collar button piece saying he couldn’t tell the difference. So I looked at his blog and immediately understood why. The nonsense that people still put on their blogs, eh?)
So the jacket and shirt arrived in a couple of days with zero drama with the customs thieves.
To be honest I was nervous about the jacket because all of the dimensions made sense to me except the chest size which seems massive for an M. Later, after I posted some images on Instagram a whole bunch of followers commented that they, too, thought the jackers looked awesome but were confused by the sizing. I spoke to Kotaro about that and he said they would try to make it clearer where the measurements were taken.
But I am 50 in Keydge, 38R in normal jackets, and M in 99% of things I buy – if that helps. I went for the M and the fit was perfect. Better than even the one I had made.
So don’t be afraid to reach out to Kamakura to ask about sizing, they clearly have customer service high on the agenda.
Now, the comparison
So here is my table of the pros and cons of the four examples
All of the jackets feature a 3/2 roll, a hook vent, patch and flap pockets and swelled/felled seams.
J Keydge Jumbo Cord Navy
- Material: All cotton. A little heavy but nice when it breaks in over timeSizing: Good length ( a 50 runs to 31cm from BOC) but always need to size up on Keydge (ie 48 EU needs 50 EU)
- Vat dyed Yes
- Lined No
- A little heavy but nice when it breaks in over time. Has the infamous ‘poker chip’ buttons, Front quarter panels are too squared off to be correct ivy.
- Made in France
- Available Today No but also Yes (see below)
- J Keydge Needlecord French Navy
- Material: All cotton.
- Sizing: Good length
- Vat dyed Yes
- Lined No
J Keydge Needlecord French Navy
- Being Vat dyed (read boiled alive) the corduroy is a little stiff when new but softens immensely with wear – like jeans I suppose. The sizing is smaller, the jacket and sleeves shorter (a 50 runs to 29.75cm from BOC) but again I always needed to size up (ie 48 EU needs 50 EU)
- Has the infamous ‘poker chip’ buttons
- Front quarter panels are too squared off to be correct ivy
- Made in China
- Available Today No but also Yes (see below)
- The Weejun’s Custom Midnight Navy
- Material: Cotton w/ 3% elastane (Grrr!)
- Sizing: Custom – near perfect, they got the back of the shoulder a little off
- Vat dyed No
- Lined No
The Weejun’s Custom Midnight Navy
- Material: Cotton w/ 3% elastane (Grrr!)
- Sizing: Custom – near perfect, they got the back of the shoulder a little off
- Vat dyed No
- Lined No
- Based on the J Kedge cotton/ramie model but with the following details
- Correct buttons – very dark horn, front quarters properly rounded, material is much better quality, but loses points from me for the elastane, Cord with elastane to me stretches when you don’t want it to.
- Very well made even if it took two attempts. Lapels a little slimmer than Keydge.
- It’s a nice jacket but there are two things wrong with it
- The shoulder at the back where it joins the armholes is too baggy
- You can see some strange shapes over the shoulders – this is caused by the awful elastane mix corduroy when the jacket has been hanging in the closet on a hanger. I really don’t think there’s anything that can done about. Very annoying. Cotton cord would not do that permanently.
- Made in India
- Available Today :Yes you just need to find yourself a good tailor somewhere like India, Indonesia or even Eastern Europe.
Kamakura Ivy Classic
- Material: 100% Cotton
- Kamakura ‘Ivy Classics’ model in Dark Navy needlecord
- Sizing: M Regular fit
- Vat dyed No
- Lined Yes – Sleeves only
- Comments Correct buttons – very dark horn, front quarters properly rounded, material is much better quality than any Keydge ever was in Corduroy. Much higher quality and look and feel/finish than the two Keydge. Closer to the 80s/90s Ralph Lauren cord but not darted of course.
- Re sizing there was some confusion over how they measured but this has been clarified on the Kamakura website, but I chose M from the website measurements and the fit is perfect for me.
- Made in Japan
- Available Today :Yes for a limited time on the Kamakura website.
Well the two Keydge have seen a lot of wear by me over the last decade. But there was always something not quite right about them for me. But for many years J Keydge was the pioneer of this style of jacket and the only brand other than Ralph Lauren who from time to time, produced a jacket based on the Ivy aesthetic.
But J.Keydge kind of lost their way (twice) and now only exist as a kind of ghost brand. What do I mean by that?
Well, there have been several sightings on Instagram suggesting a comeback. One of my followers bought a seersucker jacket to order (probably eliminating the size issues) but the highly enigmatic founder Francois Ferdinand hints at a return but we’ve not yet seen it available off the peg. Who knows, it wouldn’t be the first time J Keydge has risen from the ashes. You can hit up FF on instagram, but his English is not great so speak French to him.
My custom jacket was borne out of necessity. Keydge had stopped, John Simons had yet to start and Kamakura were only making dress shirts at that time.
So I’m glad I had it made, I’m glad it’s part of a suit (with regular pockets – I know everyone loves the frog mouth and they are very distinctive but they make me look like I’m wearing a nappy and that is not a good look).
So when Katoro-san of Kamakura reached out to me a few weeks ago, I thought ‘Gary, do you really need another cord jacket in any color?’
The answer is no, but it must also be yes.
Let me explain why. I’ve been wearing ivy style for 40 years now (OMG did I really just write that!?) and at any time during those years if I saw this Kamakura jacket for sale I would have bought it on the spot.
I would have gone without paying the rent (as I did many times in the 80s in order to do ‘layaway’ with John Simons) because I’m of an age where if you saw it you had to buy it, because the chances were that you would never see it again. Hands up who recognizes that feeling?
I have arguments with friends who say that these days you can find everything online. Well, most things yes, but not super niche items like our ivy style and not even tons of rare records, not everything is even on Discogs.
On that basis this is a classic. Around 10 years ago I made the budget stretch to buying items from Rakuten in Japan and having them proxy shipped. When I got the first pair of jeans or shirt, then I immediately bought at least one back up. My friends and many followers thought I was mad. A decade later I get comments on Instagram saying things like ‘oh those Lee Westerners look great I should have bought them when I had the chance.’ Because strangely they’re not currently available in the quality they were in 2009/13 even in Japan.
Having found an item that fits me I don’t ever want to be without it again. I’m going to be dressing more or less the same until I leave this earth, so to me it makes perfect sense.
Kamakura appears to me to be a strong and dynamic company, and Kotaro-san is a true believer in the Ivy cause. But what happens when he leaves and the next guy gives Ivy the thumbs down? Who is going to provide you with future Ivy items? If you’re just passing through Ivy as some do, then it’s not relevant, but if you, like me, found your comfortable and easy to wear style within the Ivy canon then and since then you’ve pretty much stuck to one variation of the style or other, then can you really afford not to get the few items that come onto your radar once in a blue moon?
So don’t hesitate even if you’re just thinking of buying one. When I was formulating this article in my head, II thought the Ivy Classics jacket would lose points from me for the lined sleeves which on similar Ralph Lauren jackets make them really hot and uncomfortable. But when the jacket arrived and I put it on it felt super comfortable. So much so that I didn’t realise I was supposed to hate the lining! Actually, I’m glad it’s lined up so that shut me up.
I will tell you this now, this jacket is awesome. It’s what I’ve been looking for my whole life. So much so that after posting this I will go and buy the grey wool herringbone model, too. Yes I have 5 J Keydge wool, herringbone, one a 100% cashmere etc, but this is the real deal.
And you guys who’ve read this over the years know that I’m kind of brutal with stuff that I see and think is all wrong. Even when my eponymous namesake at GH Bass offered a me a free pair of Weejuns and asked for a review there’s no way I would do it. Their product is hideous, plastic crap. So take that as you will.
Yes, Kamakura were kind enough to send the jacket, but I can promise that even if they didn’t I would have bought it once I worked out the sizing.
And now I’m gonna get the other one, but then I will block Katoro-san and unfollow Kamakura on Instagram because I do not want to be tempted by the things he told me are coming down the line for next season!
Of course I’m only joking. I actually can’t wait to see next season’s stuff in the flesh. Some very exciting items I believe.
A Brazilian ex-girlfriend taught me a great phrase that they use over there. When you get something new and you have to hold it, keep trying it on, take it to bed and put it where you can see it when you wake up, they call that ‘namorando’ which basically translates to ‘making love to/being in love with’, the item. I think that is kind of apt as now I finished writing this piece I will go downstairs and try it on again. And again, and again.
Winter is only weeks away here…
The J Keydge current availability
I know I made reference above to J Keydge still being ‘kind of’ available, so I just got the info from Rene on Instagram.
They have a website, but the link in their IG bio doesn’t work!
However, the guy’s name is Ahmet Temel and he’s on IG @ametheme_s
Apparently he has all the old J Keydge patterns and will make to order.
Just in on Instagram is this message from Leon S.
Just had a suit made by Ahmet while I was in Paris for an art fair – dark brown cotton twill and it’s stunning. The jacket he nailed on the spot, the trousers needed some work, which he did overnight. 625 € and he personally drove my suit around Paris so I really cannot complain.
Next one will be a charcoal tweed suit, which will only cost 50 € more – he also said he can order a lot of other, possibly higher end fabrics, but I am fine with these for now.