The Merchant Fox: All the casual jackets reviewed

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By Manish Puri

In between short walks to the kitchen to restock on mince pies and watching Home Alone for the 83rd time (this genuinely may be an understatement), the festive period offers a singular opportunity to contemplate weighty matters concerning the passage of time. When did my nephew grow taller than me? When did Quality Street swap the foil wrappers for paper? And when did The Merchant Fox’s offering become so extensive?

Launched in 2011, The Merchant Fox is the retail arm of the clothmaker Fox Brothers and one of the brands showcased at the first Permanent Style pop-up back in 2017. My recollection is that the range was tasteful but relatively small: some F. Marino ties, a selection of cloth caps and, of course, a splendid array of vintage bolts.

However, as part of last December’s pop-up, The Merchant Fox returned and filled 20 Savile Row with a wide assortment of gowns, shirts, trousers and jumpers; so much so that I walked straight past the shop on my visit – my peripheral vision disregarding it as a pop-up on account of how well laid out and amply stocked it seemed.

Once inside it quickly became apparent that our planned article providing an overview of The Merchant Fox’s range would be quite a challenge; and so, in keeping with Permanent Style’s recent theme of exploring casual jacket alternatives, I’ve focused this piece on their jackets, overshirts and Tebas, which are often collaborations with specialist makers using Fox Brothers cloth – a big point of consistent taste and quality.

The pop-up provided a unique opportunity to see and try everything in person. Hopefully my rundown helps answer all those style and fit questions you might have had remotely.

The Utility Jacket (£570 to £720) (above) is made for The Merchant Fox by Hervier Productions – a family-run atelier that Fox’s Managing Director Douglas Cordeaux stumbled across while on holiday in France – and has traditional details like piped pockets and a smaller scythe-shaped collar.

The jacket combines the style of a chore coat (straight hem, triple patch pockets and one internal pocket) with the punch of Fox’s toughest cloths. The navy, for example, is cut from a 34/35 oz military issue lambswool; a cloth that - to borrow Malcolm Tucker’s put-down of a cabinet minister - is so dense light bends around it.

The robust nature of the fabric does make it less refined than some of the other chores in my recent guide, but if you like the short style and small collar, it would serve as faithful partner to knitwear, heavier trousers and casual shoes and boots.

Most of the Fox garments I tried worked well for me in size medium (I generally flit between small and medium depending on the brand and the style), but the Utility Jacket had a slim sleeve finished with a barrel cuff. Some folks will no doubt be comforted by the snug embrace of the wool and should go for their usual size. I’m of a somewhat fussier disposition and would be happier going for a size up.

Fox works with Spanish tailors Justo Gimeno on a few different models, and I tried their Teba and Safari jacket.

The Tebas (£650 to £795) adhere to the classic template: shirt-sleeve shoulders and cuffs, ventless back, four button front, a breast patch pocket shaped like your favourite coffee mug, hip patch pockets (some models with flaps and some without) and an internal pocket with button. All crowned by the signature notchless lapel – a shawl collar sketched by a Cubist.

I tried a medium which was perfect – sitting just off the shoulder with room for a Rubato jumper and an ideal sleeve length (you may recall from the chore coat guide that I had a devil of a time finding something that wasn’t too long in the sleeve).

Whilst you can source Justo Gimeno Tebas from other retailers (Beige Habilleur among them) what you won’t find is the range of Fox Brothers cloths. Compared to the Utility Jacket the fabric options are still geared towards autumn/winter but are substantially lighter (12/13 oz) and finer (merino). I particularly liked the char-brown flannel (above), the ambiguity in hue leads to a tug-of-war of outfit possibilities: should I lean into dark and tonal, or contrast with warmer, earthier colours?

If you prefer the meaty cloths used for the Utility Jacket you can also look at the Wellington Fox navy coat or the Khakee Town & Country Coat – both available to pre-order and with some design details carried over from the Teba.

I’m usually not super keen on field/safari jackets. I don’t know if it’s the incongruity of a nipped/belted waist with four bulky pockets orbiting it that doesn’t appeal. Or perhaps it’s just the sheer number of pockets – I have enough difficulty remembering where I put my phone in a two-pocket bomber.

However, I really liked the Fox Safari Jacket (£755 - returning in the spring) and was won over by the fit, the collar shape and the crisp lightness of the cloths (such as the olive-green Fox Air above), which I think help reduce the volume of the hip bellows-pockets compared to say, a stiffer cotton canvas.

The Safari Jacket comes with an internal drawstring to cinch the waist and a central vent in the rear.

In Simon’s recent article on overshirts he neatly defined two shirting categories: those that feel like a heavy version of a regular shirt and those that are more akin to a woollen jacket.

The overshirts (£240 to £490) made by The Merchant Fox in Casentino wool (below), flannel (above) or tweed - all weighing in around 17/18oz - sit firmly in the latter camp. The newer shirts have a straighter hem (which generally looks better untucked), two breast flap pockets and bands of ribbon on the reverse of the placket and the collar – a good way of reinforcing buttons and buttonholes, keeping heavier wool off your bare neck, and usually an indication that the shirt is a layering piece rather than something to tuck in.

There are also a couple of moleskin shirts which are very similar to the overshirts but, at around 8oz, would make better candidates for trouser tucking.

One nice detail on the overshirts (which are mostly made by Jokoto Tailoring in Bristol) is the placement of a button just a few centimetres below the collar button. This strikes me as a good way to keep the chest fully covered on a chilly day while teasing your admirers with a glimpse of whatever scarf/neckerchief/bandana you’re rocking at the neck.

The question of sizing depends on what sort of layering piece you want it to be. If you want your overshirt to top a T-shirt or shirt at most, then I’d recommend your usual size. If your layering style has been likened to Sanka from Cool Runnings (thermal T-shirt, shirt, thick jumper, scarf, hot water bottle, the works) I would size up.

One final piece to call out is the Borestière jacket made by Chato Lufsen from a couple of Fox Brothers cloths - a 17/18oz char-navy twill tweed and an 18/19oz flannel.

The jacket wasn’t available when I went in store, but I’m tempted on the strength of the cloth choice and Tony Sylvester’s write-up of his commission of a modified Bores jacket alone.

Many of the garments discussed here are available on a made-to-order basis. For example, the Teba jacket can be made for customers in a variety of styles (classic, pocket, safari or River Tone – which is fully lined), with simple tweaks made to the standard block (sleeve length, hem length, etc), and,
most crucially, in the Fox Brothers cloth of your choosing. Prices for MTO will vary accordingly but you can get more information by reaching out directly to The Merchant Fox .

Before I sign-off I’ll leave you with a tip if I may: The Merchant Fox regularly unveils small batch, limited edition versions of products via their newsletter, so I would recommend signing up.

As ever, all questions happily answered in the comments below.

Manish is @the_daily_mirror on Instagram

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JL

Simon I think you’ve hit the nail on the head re. safari jackets. The issue is the TOP pockets – when you put stuff in them they weigh down the jacket and really pull it out of shape. If you don’t have heavy structure (and even if you do) the whole thing becomes mis-shapen really quickly…Real shame

Gary Mitchell

Top Tip; when on safari have the porters carry the heavy stuff and leave top pocket for linen handkerchief and emergency condom only.
🙂

SteveB

Is the latter item for your head in a sudden downpore?🙂

And

To be honest the pull down effect also happens if you put a normal-sized smartphone in your tailored jacket’s breast pocket.
In my mind the real problems are simply that
1) it’s just too much visual space, and
2) I find you don’t actually need a second (or third, if you have an internal one) small pocket. The bottom pockets are the ones getting real use for most things, and they’re often large enough to hold books. Most of the time the 4th/5th pocket just means you’ll spend your time trying to remember in which pocket you actually put your small item e.g. keys, if you even use the top ones at all.

jim

My feeling on this is that the safari jacket is and was fundamentally designed as a practical garment is probably therefor best worn as such. Don’t worry to much about misshaping, just wear, use it, live in it. It feels to me that this concern rather trivialises the whole design and just turns it into a rather pointless fashion item worn only for effect. I happen to find the pristine safari jacket/ Panama hat look to be rather distasteful and would much rather seen one properly worn and ‘misshapen’.

SteveB

Exactly Jim.

Gary

Logically, the same issue must arise with the top pockets on M65 jackets and others with a similar design.

SteveB

I think the thing is with the use of pockets in anything is balance; we don’t put our keys, wallet & phone in one trouser pocket. Likewise, with safari or chore jackets you balance & free up other pockets on trousers. Ideally multi pocketed clothes have buttons to safely secure these items & then they can be strategically placed ( lighter loads for top & heavier for lower ).Yes the structure of the material affects this balance, but generally the lighter the material Is for fair weather fewer items are needed or reduced in size I.e. card holder rather than full wallet. Personally I like safari/field jackets & chore jackets with more than just two pockets, they are useful & can also look good & free up the need for bags.

Peter Hall

I do like a teba. Finding a well fitting teba(sleeve length!) is another thing all together,so the opportunity to have one altered is always welcome.
Obviously the main discussion point Re Quality Street is tin size .

Layering ,whilst maintaining a style that isn’t laundry basket tipped over head(looking at you men under 30) can be a challenge .Nice to see a more options. It’s always a sleeve length,especially if you are not of a slimmer build.

JH

For these Tebas and overshirts, would you wear them inside as well as outside? I get that they’re at the heavier weight end of the spectrum and definitely outermost layers but would it be weird to keep them on inside (like keeping a coat on inside) or would they work in the same way as you’d, for example, wear a heavyweight sports jacket inside?

Bruce

Manish, thank you for a post I’ve been looking forward to. However, I hoped to see photos of you wearing the jackets since a major drawback of the Merchant Fox website is the dearth of pictures of their clothing being worn. I’d be grateful if you are able to add some of these to your commentary. If so it would be helpful also to know your chest measurement and height.

Jack

Hi Simon, what kind of trousers do you think would go well with the Fox char brown flannel teba jacket? I assume flannel trousers would not look good.

Many thanks,
Jack

Gary

It appears that you have ruled out Merchant Fox’s cricket white flannels (£525). New & Lingwood’s cream flannels (£350) would be fine too. A cheaper option would be moleskin trousers or jeans (e.g. Cording’s) as cords would look a bit heavy IMO.

And

I assume the whole point was not to wear double flannel as separates.

Manish

Some photos incoming

Manish

Utility jacket (M)

I’m around 38” chest and 5’10”

9FE1A66B-C60E-407C-BDF0-E24EB05B7C6F.jpeg
Bradley Tompkins

This looks great, and is probably my favorite of the lot….

Manish

Teba (M)

12B0954A-2A37-4FF2-8D23-8C905DC535CA.jpeg
Bradley Tompkins

I do like this; however, the lapel seems to sit very flat….I think it would look great with a bit of a roll

Manish

Safari jacket (M)

8C5CD805-3AD3-4502-8800-29DC008E18C7.jpeg
Gabriele

Style-wise, to me the safari jacket is actually the most appealing. With a couple of tweaks it would be even better: straight hem, only one top pocket.

Manish

Overshirt (M)

55850A42-DE1D-47DE-AF77-C29DCF70C90F.jpeg
Manish

Overshirt (L)

1AF6396A-E283-496F-8F80-C5C19693943B.jpeg
M

Thank you for the photos. One thing that has leht me puzzled over all your write ups is why aren’t the photos part of the main article? That would make much more sense no?

m

I figured that would be the case. I can understand the need to maintain a level of quality and having photos in comments is definitely better than not having them at all but I feel visual information like this would fit so much better up there.
Then again I guess the benefit of having photos in comments is that you can discuss each one individually.

Bradley Tompkins

Wow…this probably isn’t your usual style, but it look great!

OES

This is very helpful. About the overshirts: are you wearing them with or without a thin sweater underneath? For someone who is 5’10” with a 39″ chest who would want to wear not just a shirt underneath, but at the same time not layering a lot, any thoughts about size – medium or large?

Yash

Hi Manish,
Another superb article and very timely for me, especially along with the previous ones on the Chores etc – do keep knocking them out of the ballpark!
How do The Merchant Fox’s safari jackets etc compare to similar offerings at A&S Haberdashery which they also offer in various fabrics etc? Things like the travel jackets and the Nick Sullivan and Airmail projects (I do already have their navy flannel Airmail jacket).
Quality wise, Style, Purpose etc etc?
Many thanks in advance.
Yash

Stephen

Hi Manish, (and Douglas),
Another enjoyable and informative article (so often one gets the latter without the former!), you are by far my favourite guest author ( no disrespects to the other great guest writers).
A question: These reviews are particularly useful as they are objective and go far further in description and measurements than those generally found online. You mentioned the narrowness of the arm in the utility jacket, is it more akin to a suit style jacket? I want to layer up underneath so do you think sizing up would help offset the narrowness? I’m normally a medium, so am thinking to go up to large.
On a separate point, Douglas is the perfect model for his garments and I saw him recently in a small slot on ‘Escape to the Country’ (don’t ask!).
Douglas, if you are reading this, a question. I purchased my favourite soft shouldered tailored jacket and blazer from a pop-up, in I think 2018, both still going strong, but I guess that’s the point. I still regret not buying a third one! Do you ever plan to do tailored jackets again?
Thanks again Manish for a great article and Douglas for some great clothing.

Paul

I managed to pick up a beautiful belted safari is a nice wool before Christmas in the pop-up. One issue though is the customer service- a day later I discovered all the pockets were frayed through, and nearly lost my keys.

While this was obviously why it was reduced more in store, no-one mentioned, and I heard nothing back from the email i sent. It’s not a difficult fix and I’d have bought anyway so its a shame it was avoided, as raises a question over quality of finishing.

Nicolas Strömbäck

Simon, on the topic of fabric. What is the best twill-fabric for a white business-shirt? Preferably something smooth that feels good on the skin around the neck when wearing a tie. I have found quite a big difference in different types of cotton fabrics in terms of how the feel on the skin. Maybe its just me.

Nicolas Strömbäck

Thats the thing. I have tried a few but werent educated enough to know the difference. Hence, I have no idea which ones they were. The best one so far I the first ever shirt I made with Luca, which was a twill, albeit not a superfine. I take it superfines are softer yet less durable?

Nicolas Strömbäck

Many thanks!

Gary

I remember trying on Justo Gimeno’s Teba jackets at a PS pop-up shop a few years ago. IIRC the seller’s name was Girdwood. I can’t find a website for the brand now. Did it fold?

Curzon, an established Seville brand run by an English couple from London, sells Tebas for under €200 – https://www.curzon.es/en/50-tebas. I’m tempted by the Fraser in Gun Club and Herringbone tweeds.

daniyal

great article and the safari jacket looks soo awesome