The past is present at J.Crew menswear. It always is. Frank Muytjens and his team start their process by dialing into an archival American moment: last season, the early twentieth century in Winslow Homer's Maine; for Fall, thirties New York, as seen in Lewis Hine's photographs of the foremen and workers toiling on the Empire State Building. Constructing a new skyscraper—that's a more or less apt metaphor for the company's towering ambitions.

To Muytjens' credit, he wears his inspirations lightly. "I don't want to say workwear so much anymore," he explained at the company's co-ed presentation (the first time in several seasons it has brought its men's and women's lines together to be seen). "[But] we took those hefty, masculine, functional fabrics and put them in a slimmer silhouette."

The palette was mostly dark and the fabrics—to which Muytjens drew special focus—were unblemished deadstock. (A few pieces in Harris tweed marked a renewed collaboration between the American brand and the Scottish mill after a break of a few years.) The cuts and pieces felt more familiar. There were ventures into wide-leg chinos (in selvage fabric) and trouser-cut jeans, but the silhouette on the whole hewed to the slim, pegged denim and trim suit shape J.Crew has been gently selling American guys on. In the end, the label seemed to be playing less on thirties history than on its own recent and successful past. That's a compliment. Here's another brick on the building.