Ethan Wong

About Ethan Wong

Ethan Wong lives right in the middle: he’s too modern for the vintage scene and yet too vintage for classic menswear. When not at work, he spends his time writing and taking pictures for his blog, Street x Sprezza, which is all about bringing vintage style into the modern day. With a large collection of thrifted vintage and contemporary clothing, he often wonders when his closet will finally implode.

How to Wear Black in Classic Menswear

Black and menswear have an interesting relationship.  For a start, black is necessary for conservative and formal dress: menswear experts will tell you that you need a black pair of oxfords for business suits, your tuxedo, bowtie (which must be black as well), and so on.  They will also say to avoid other black pieces like the plague. Black dress shirts look cheap, black suits are never appropriate (except at a funeral), black odd trousers don’t go with anything, and I’ve even heard that black loafers are antithetical to the concept of black or loafers (as in loafers are casual, but black is formal).
As a result, for the longest time guys avoided incorporating black into their outfits. However, that seems to be changing.

Scott Fraser Simpson in black shirt:shoes and olive slacks.
Scott Fraser Simpson in a black shirt, shoes, and olive slacks.
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A Guide to Classic Menswear Shopping in Japan

Because of my passion for clothing, every one of my vacations tends to turn into a menswear trip at some point or another. This is most likely due to the fact that there are only a few classic menswear spots in Los Angeles, leading me to feel a bit starved with a healthy dose of FOMO from many of my friends and colleagues.  It’s always a fun game, tip toeing between family time, seeing cultural sites, and getting to go to some of the amazing stores you’ve only seen pictures of. After practicing during previous trips to London and Paris (and smaller stuff like NYC or SF), I was prepared to tackle my 10 day trip to Japan. And boy, it became one of the best experiences of my life.

Paraboots at Komehyo
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Altering Jacket Shoulders is Possible

I went against rule number one when considering tailoring modifications–altering your jacket shoulders. For a (recovering) vintage collector like me, the risk was completely worthwhile in order to try to salvage some of my most prized pieces. The results ended up surprising me, just like how they will probably surprise you as you continue in this article.

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Why a thrift store is the best place for last-minute Christmas shopping

Thrifting is a fun hobby to have.  Sure, I understand the allure of buying something from a store or getting it made, but you never know what you’re going to find when you walk into your local Goodwill, Savers, charity shop, or vintage store. It may seem daunting or even a hassle if you’re not used to it, but if you look at it instead as a fun, low-risk gamble and not just an opportunity for cheap clothes, I think you can have a good time.  And what better time to check them out than this holiday season!

First off, let me say that I’m a terrible gift giver. It’s not laziness or apathy, but it probably has to do with how specific I am; I just want the person to either love the gift or have some genuine enjoyment out of it.  As a result, I used to either give gift cards, cash, or exactly what the person wants. But lately, thanks to a plethora of fun white elephant exchanges with friends and family, I’ve tried to adopt a new view on gift giving. Something quirky or even funny.  It’s much better than simply giving them something that they would buy for themselves anyway. So the next time you’re out thrifting for menswear, try looking for out for these cool pieces, perfect for your close friends or that next joke white elephant swap at the office.

Thrifted Clothing

Obviously clothing is a no brainer, since you’re already there and chances are not everything is going to fit you.  I’ve written about how to thrift for clothing, but this time try to match the measurements to your friends, that way it feels more like a score even if you don’t get something for yourself.

There’s always a plethora of oxfords and other dress shirts that can be great stocking stuffers for friends who don’t necessarily dress too well; you could even throw in complimentary tailoring if you feel the need to be extra charitable.  Tweed jackets, corduroys, and shoes are also a good buy if you get lucky. And if all else fails, a good repp or foulard tie can usually be found on the way out. I can’t tell you how many times my friends always ask me to find things when I’m out thrifting!

One last thing to look out for (if you have streetwear-oriented friends), are cool 1980s-1990s T shirts.  You probably know the ones I’m talking about: stuff from old company parties, band (both rock and brass) festivals, or just ones with “totally radical” graphic design.  Perfect for lightwash 501s (which are also good to find while thrifting), tucked into chinos, or as a fun PJ shirt.

Glasses and Decanters

I’m not a big drinker, but I like the opportunity to make it look like I am. Instead of buying fancy glassware or china, I like looking at the aisles for interesting containers or decanters.  It was a big hit in my college days when I would put apple or grape juice in the decanter to have a non-wild night with my friends. As you get older, juice turns into the fermented versions and getting a unique one is usually the way to go until you’re in a position to get an expensive one.  Or you can get one for your own holiday parties; just don’t forget to clean thoroughly after bringing it home.

Books

While a majority of books found at thrift stores are cookbooks and outdated advice books (which can be hilarious in itself), you can definitely find some grails. Obviously I tend to look for older editions of classic books or general ones centered around history or culture that my friends will find interesting; the best ones are usually ex-library books, still “mint” in the wrapping.  

Coffee table books are common to find and can be given to friends who have interests in those topics. I’ve come across a few menswear books (like Dressing the Man, by Alan Flusser) but painting, photography, and architecture compendiums are the usual faire. Again, older ones tend to be more interesting, if you can find them that is.  

Unique Toys, Bric-a-brac, and Accoutrements

I used to think that bric-a-brac was something reserved specifically for grandparents, but I’ve come to love it! It’s something completely unique that you really can’t find anywhere else that makes for a fun story or at least a funny reaction.  One of the most common ones are 80s-90s toys that my friends and I can reminisce on about your youth. I tend to prefer menswear related ones, like a cool wooden statue of a dandy gent that brings to mind the old esquire mascot.

Depending on your thrift/vintage store or antique mall, you could also find things like vintage cufflinks/tie bars, cameras, and even watches.  Other than that, nice models of airplanes, bookends, or figurines can be equally as nice. It’s just always worth a look!

Records

Lastly, we have the music. More and more people are getting record players and  collecting vintage LPs. While you may not find that crazy-rare jazz record at a Goodwill, you can find some hidden gems; I personally have found the old 1960’s score to Mary Poppins and the first Pink Panther film! Usually, random jazz recordings, orchestra compilations, or obscure 1970’s groups are what populate the racks.  I’m not a huge physical music collecting guy, but it’s fun to find something with great album artwork and to listen to music that you can’t really find online.  Just be sure to inspect the record for any scratches before you buy them!


Turtlenecks in Menswear

As soon as sweater season rolls around, you can be sure to see menswear guys post pictures of Steve McQueen in Bullitt and caption it with “mood.” It’s a no-brainer, the turtleneck look is absolutely killer and has gone on to influence countless gents around the world. Not only is it stylish, but it’s pretty practical and is perhaps one of the easiest things a guy can wear due to its minimalistic, yet sharp look. The best part is that no shirt or tie is necessary (unless you really want to wear them, despite them not being seen).

Now, most people know the progression of the turtleneck thanks for the copied content across different blogs. Some of the more romantic bloggers say that knights wore one of the first variations, an undershirt to protect themselves against their chainmail and armor. It then was adopted as a sweater, no doubt to keep the wearer warm and to prevent the need for a scarf, which featured an extended neck. Then, they briefly touch on Noel Coward before ultimately landing at the 1960s and later, calling it the uniform of the anti-establishment, citing beatniks, the Beatles, Steve McQueen, and Steve Jobs. This alone should be enough to point you in the direction of this loved sweater. If not, that’s why I’m here.

More personalities than people imagine wore the turtleneck back in the Golden Era. You could find it across everyone from film actors to the naval officers to even university students. In general, the chunkier turtleneck (whether plain weave or in the cable knit) was the main one worn, no doubt due to it’s more utilitarian nature. The finer weaves were reserved for loungewear at home rather than to be worn out. Early pictures and advertisements will have the turtleneck done in bold block stripes or with embroidered years or motifs, something that seems to have been lost today. Still, many guys back then wore them on their own or with full tailoring.

Inspiration can be found across all eras. While everyone likes to bring up Clark Gable and Noel Coward for Golden Era moods, one of my favorite has to be a 1910s illustration of a student wearing a cream roll neck with a stingy billed cap, grey flannels, and opera pumps.  Pretty rakish, but I’m sure that it provides plenty of inspiration for your own outfits. I also have found photographs of the Prince of Wales wearing one with jodhpurs and the beret combo from an old archive of 1930’s European family pictures.

The 1960s-1970s definitely reflected the shift away from mainly utilitarian use and more as a true replacement for the shirt and tie combo. The chunky cable knit ones were still in play, but it’s the thinner, finely woven ones that took the spotlight. These newer turtlenecks were more form-fitting, echoing the trends in the mod and disco phases. Now they were available in much more than dark navy, black, or cream: you could now see them in saturated colors and earth tones. Though they were a classic item, they were definitely a trend during this era.

In some cases, the growth of their popularity was indeed a rejection of corporate culture (think artists and musicians) as other people have noted. In others, it’s more of a futuristic fashion trend that negates the need to think too much about shirts and ties. For example, a solid turtleneck will contrast or help mute a tailored outfit making for a sharp, minimalistic look. Even if you were against neckwear from the beginning, you could achieve a more formal vibe with a turtleneck than if you simply wore an OCBD and a crew neck sweater; this is all thanks to the high, closed neck that subtly harkens back to the tunics worn by royalty back in the day. Michael Caine even doubled down on this “high neck closure” by wearing it with a double-breasted suit.

Looking back now, we have a plethora of different examples to follow if you want to rock the turtleneck. Obviously the most common is that minimal 1960’s look with a nice, slim finely woven variation. It’s not a bad look, as it looks fantastic with most tailoring and serves as the starting out point for many. Navy blue is probably the best choice to get since it will work across a variety of outfits, but you could always experiment with something in light browns or burgundies/yellows to evoke the earthy palette of the 1970s. It especially helps when you feel like the patterns in your suit or sportcoat are too loud and need a bit of grounding. If you want to go for that look, I suggest looking at merino wool, since it’s supposed to be ultra fine in its texture. Luckily, you can find these at most stores like Uniqlo and J. Crew at a great value. There’s nothing wrong with experimenting with the different colors they offer (pairing it with simple grey trousers is great), but keep in mind that they won’t be as versatile as the navy or black ones.

Despite the fact that I live in California and merino are the only pieces I can wear without vigorously sweating, I definitely have a soft spot for looks that incorporate chunky turtlenecks. These make more sense if you’re wearing selvedge denim, heavy peacoats, double-riders, and scratchy tweed. It feels a bit more nautical and workwear-focused, that’s for sure, but I’ve always been a fan of a more rugged take on tailoring. Cream is probably the way to go, but soft greys and intricate weaves or even fair isle patterns can also work. North Sea Clothing is a place to consider if you want a solid wool one that echoes the traditional maritime ones, complete with a wide ribbing on the neck, cuffs, and hem.  Lambswool variations can be found at Drake’s (whose latest lookbook has plenty of turtleneck ideas) while the cashmere ones can be found anywhere from Uniqlo, Todd Snyder (at $300), and at Berluti ($1000+). I personally wish they made heavy guage in cotton for warmer climates, but a guy can dream!

J. Crew           •         Berluti          •         North Sea Clothing


Todd Snyder        •        Uniqlo          •          Uniqlo

Overall, I really recommend that you guys try the turtleneck out if you haven’t already. The utilitarian benefits are clearly there, but I like the added bonus of being able to look sharp without having to wear a tie or even a shirt.  While I like that this “throwback” piece of clothing has stuck around, I just hope that the horrid v-neck sweater/turtleneck hybrid doesn’t make a return appearance.  That simply belongs in the mid-1960s and should stay there forever.