December 31, 2009  ·  meta  ·  style

The Unrefinery Award for 2009: Old Navy

Now just hear us out, OK? Every place you shop is going to have a signal-to-noise ratio, and Old Navy's is about as low as anyone's—visit the store and you'll swim in a sea of gargantuan tacky fleece (and occasionally gargantuan shoppers). Just the same, we've always counted on them for solid basics including soft, fitted v-neck Ts in great colours, dark denim jeans that are neither raw and precious nor artificially distressed to s**t, and cotton crew-neck sweaters.

This year, however, they really went above and beyond the call, and their timing could not have been better. In the face of a miserable economic climate, ON responded by moving into Zara/H&M territory with some unexpected pieces that showed a surprising awareness of current style. Great cable knits. A wonderfully chunky shawl collar cardigan that stacks up against similar pieces at J.Crew costing twice as much. A really cool military jacket. And the biggest surprise, an earthy olive/brown herringbone trouser in washable soft cotton that looks like something you'd find at Odin New York at 10 times the cost. Or maybe at ON's sister brand Banana Republic, where it'd go for $70 and be dry clean only.

You could put together a day's entire fit out of Old Navy pieces in 2009, something we could never say before. And you could do it for under $100, and buy it all online. They were there for us during a rough year with just what we needed.

Shown, clockwise from upper left: v-neck T ($7.50) in shawl collar cardigan ($34). Cotton herringbone trousers ($20). Cable-knit crewneck sweater ($18).

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