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.

Chore Coat: the one jacket you’ll be bringing into summer

Even though summer is looked forward to by many menswear enthusiasts (who doesn’t enjoy cotton suits and linen trousers?), I always find myself a little disappointed every time the weather starts to heat up. The main appeal of menswear for me was always the ability to layer, which I heartily enjoy with sweaters, coats, and even “casual outerwear”.  This past fall/winter, I was able to put on vintage leathers and varsity jackets in order to go for a more “rugged” casual look, which isn’t always something you can do in the warmer months, where men opt for something a bit cleaner and “vacation” oriented. However, I think the cotton chore coat helps bridge that gap.

The chore coat really isn’t anything new in men’s fashion. Under different names like the “engineer sack coat” or known globally as the “french chore coat”, this piece of simple outerwear has been always been a big part in workwear, during the 1900s-1950s as much as today.

Originally, chore coats were worn mainly by laborers and artisans alike, as a layer to protect the clothes from dirt or paint, featuring big pockets just begging to carry tools. The fit was loose and boxy, as it was conceived as a utility garment, not something that required drape or excessive tailoring. Blue was the most common color, but I’ve seen them in light browns, denim, and even grey; the variations are probably due to the fact that almost every country has their own version of this heritage piece of workwear. As a result, you can find a plethora of inspiration images, from Diego Rivera, the late Bill Cunningham, to almost any Japanese workwear enthusiast.

While it might be easier to work it in with a fall outfit (think flannels, a fair isle, and wool tie), I think that chore coats can have life in the spring and summer; it helps if you avoid the heavy moleskins or rigid duck canvas and instead go for cotton drill (that will break in more easily).

chore coats blue workwear casual tailoredThe traditional rich blue color ensures that it will go with pretty much anything, almost like a navy blazer, but you can definitely find some in olive or khaki. For an extremely casual look, the chore pairs well with a simple tee (or cotton crew neck sweater) and chinos. Some guys are hesitant about putting it with tailoring due to how casual and rugged it looks, however, whether you go with something vintage or brand-new, don’t think that the fit needs to be tailored in order to work with classic menswear. It’s a great shirt-jacket due to its ease (think of it as your go-to cardigan for summer) and works as a casual piece over a patterned shirt and pair of trousers. It’s honestly become a joke of sorts for my close friends, since I’m almost always wearing one after work. It definitely helps “dress down” a shirt and tie!

I will always appreciate the vintage chore coats, not just for the added “personality” but because you can usually find them at extremely affordable prices with the personality already mixed in. My first chore coat (I have two, blue and grey) was purchased at the Rose Bowl Flea Market and it has been my go-to since then. It’s a rich blue color with old plastic buttons and a roomy body that ends slightly past the waist. Like most pieces of vintage workwear, mine has a few holes and stains that add some character.

For those of you who don’t have time to peruse your local vintage store, here are some online recommendations. And if you’re not completely sold, here are some inspiration pictures.

 

Broadway and sons – $50+

CHORE COATS SUMMER

Broadway & Sons is a Swedish vintage store that specializes in military and workwear pieces. Because they are a vintage dealer, nothing is ever the same; as a result, you can find different chore coats in different sizes and with different details. I prefer the classic blue with triple patch pockets, but you can always experiment with the olive ones (for a military look) or any of the more unique pieces. Even though they are vintage and can have some wear, these pieces are curated and seldom have any serious damage to make them unwearable.


Le Laboureur Chore Coats – $110

If you want an affordable way to try out a new chore coat, check out Le Laboureur. The design is pretty classic, featuring a short collar, 5 buttons, and 3 patch pockets. They also make the coat in different colors and fabrics, if you want the same design in something more suitable for fall/winter. It’s honestly pretty damn close to the vintage chore coat I own, just without the stains, tears, and holes!


Tellason Denim Chore Coat – $149

If you want to lean into the workwear look, I suggest looking at the Tellason denim coverall jacket. It’s a 14.5oz denim which can be tough to wear with summer tailoring but it still can be done for the more milder days; a break-in period can be expected too. A striped tee and trousers would be my choice if it was really hot. My pal Spencer tends to wear his with either linens or chinos, with a nice sport shirt or an unbuttoned oxford when he’s off work. The biggest draw to me is the cool slanted newspaper pocket on the left side that is perfect for sunglasses. They also make it in hefty 16.5 selvedge, for you trueblue workwear guys.


Rogue Collective Men’s Shop Coat – $178

I got to see the Rogue Collective shop coat in person during the Gooch Collective events in LA. Available in colors other than blue, this MiUSA chore coat is a more minimal take on the classic garment. The collar has rounded edges and the buttons are quite large, making it almost like a cropped mac overcoat. As you can see on their website, the fit is actually quite slim; I actually found it to be slightly longer, which can be a plus if you want something that is more of a traditional jacket dimensions instead of a shirt-jacket. Another interesting design choice the rather high placement of the side pockets.  It also lacks a breast pocket, adding to the cleaner look which can work better with tailored attire. It’s probably my favorite out of all the contemporary options.


Drake’s Chore Coats – $315

Drake’s has been killing it with their product diversity, moving far beyond just a tie brand.  In keeping with their easy approach to tailoring, they’ve developed a line of overshirts in linen. These will probably serve the tailored guys much better, as the linen will mesh better with more traditional fabrics. Some of their models have pleated flap pockets, which actually makes them more like a safari jacket, but I think the effect is the same. In addition to the plain blues, I actually really like the navy pinstripe since it calls to mind the vintage striped canvas that old chore coats were made out of. The price for these are pretty high, but if you’ve got a handle on your style, it can be quite worth it. You can literally just hop on to the Drake’s instagram for ideas on how to wear it.

Menswear Thrifting: a Smart, Ethical Way to Shop

My menswear journey is much more recent than most people. I caught on to the #menswear pretty late and soon realized my tiny wardrobe was not going to leave me satisfied.

There’s nothing wrong with being a minimalist (in fact, I am jealous of those who are able to keep essentials only), but I knew that it wasn’t for me. Instead of buying fast fashion for the easy way out, I decided to build my wardrobe by buying through eBay and thrift stores. A lot of menswear guys don’t like the idea of buying old or second hand, but I still think it’s one of the best ways to fill out a wardrobe. Whether you’re a newbie who wants to dip his toes into high rise or a seasoned guy looking for something new, the thrift store always delivers.

IT’S EASIER TO FIND GOOD QUALITY ITEMS AT A THRIFT STORE THAN AT THE MALL

Firstly, there’s the aspect of vintage. I briefly talked about it on in my brief guide on thrifting, but the fact remains that a large part of clothing made in the 1960s and earlier were made with much more quality than most stuff made today.  Jackets (unless they were completely unstructured) contained canvassing and fabrics were almost always made of natural fibers like wool and cotton. Obviously, there are some designs that are more “dated” than others, but I’m certain that many posters on Styleforum will be able to judge a classic garment from one that looks too vintage. Stuff like ivy style sack-jackets from the 1960s-1970s are extremely versatile in classic menswear no matter the style and can be found pretty easily in thrift stores or eBay. Trousers are probably the best bet, as most stuff pre-1990 will have a high rise and/or pleats. Just make sure your finds don’t contain synthetics!

While it can be possible to thrift contemporary pieces from big name brands, it’s also important to remember that there were also small tailors that made some great garments. For example, not all of my sack jackets are old Brooks Brothers; it appears that local California haberdasheries caught on to the ivy trend and made their own suits and sportcoats. This even extends on to the early iterations of modern designers, as I’ve seen old J. Crew, Banana Republic, and GAP pieces that had pretty classic designs, made of decent fabrics. This doesn’t’ just apply to suiting and jackets; long collar OCBDs and even classic foulard ties can be found at Goodwill, all lacking that desired brand name. In any case, I always think it’s worth it to actually try on any garment that has a great design rather than just hunt for a label.

THRIFTING AS A WAY TO EXPERIMENT WITH YOUR STYLE

One other aspect of thrifting that I’ve really enjoyed is that it lets you experiment with different styles in an affordable way. I distinctly remember coming across pleated trousers from Ambrosi and B&Tailor online and wishing that I could try my hand at incorporating them into my wardrobe. At the time, all I had was skinny, flat front J. Crew pants, and I wasn’t about to spend hundreds on something I wasn’t sure about. Instead, I looked through my local thrift stores and used my honed skills to find quality pleated trousers for a cheap price. I brought them to my trusted tailor, where he was able to slim them down enough to make for a classic look. My latest experiment took the form of pleated brown cords. I’ve never worn cords before, but now that I’ve had the opportunity to try, it opens myself up to experiment further.

This use of thrifting for experimentation even applies to jackets!  As Simon Crompton said, wider lapels and a 3-roll-2 stance have been “a trend” for classic menswear. While it may be easy to get these details on something from a brand like Ring Jacket or customizing them on MTM, it’s still a little aspirational for younger guys. Thankfully, most classic menswear trends aren’t anything new, and you can find these details on garments found in thrift stores or online. Like with the trousers, the money you save on the purchase price can be used to alter the garment to fit you!

Thrifting also allows you to find statement pieces for a great price.  Obviously, while everyone should have a navy blazer and grey flannels (which are pretty easy to find), I think it’s important to have a few garments that are interesting and one-of-a-kind to spice up your attire. Most old garments have fabrics and patterns that you simply can’t find anymore, especially not at the mall. It’s much easier to try out a colorful checked tweed from Goodwill rather than go straight to bespoke for something you may not wear often.

THRIFTING IS A SUSTAINABLE AND ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY CHOICE

Lastly, I think it’s important to keep the cycle going. As I move forward in my journey and career, I’ve been able to afford quality items in a “slow fashion” rather than having an exclusively thrifted wardrobe. Instead of throwing away my old clothes, I end up giving them to my friends and acquaintances who were also getting into classic menswear. The only difference is that these thrifted pieces have now been cleaned and altered from their found state so that they can be added confidently into someone’s closet. I’ve already given some of my old thrifted suits to my friends as I graduate onto different pieces, and they accept them knowing that they will one day pass them on as well.

I know that classic menswear is “slow” when compared to other sects of fashion, but we aren’t immune to the impact on the environment. Countless suits, shirts, and trousers, flood thrift stores and eBay, waiting for their new owners to save them from the landfills. You should pass on things that are damaged or really dated (1980s fashion suits, yuck) but it’s always worth looking at your local thrift store, whether you want to build your wardrobe economically or experiment with something new. Although Classic Menswear has that odd stigma against buying things that are old or pre-worn, I hope more people will start considering thrifting an acceptable avenue to take in their menswear journey.

 

Style Icons: Jimmy Stewart

I love vintage style, but there are a lot of things that set me apart from other enthusiasts. While many enjoy period hobbies, I definitely don’t swing dance and I don’t watch a lot of old movies. It comes as a shock to some, as the latter is how most people I know came to be involved with vintage menswear. Sure, I may have seen a few of the big name classics, but it’s not something I consider monumental in my personal style journey; that doesn’t mean I haven’t been influenced by them, nor that I’m unfamiliar with them. Screenshots of films, promo shots, and candids of Golden Era actors used to fill my Tumblr. So with that, it’s no surprise that Jimmy Stewart was someone I saw often.

As you may know, Jimmy Stewart was a movie star during the “Golden Age” of Hollywood. Initially, he had attended Princeton studying architecture, but he soon found himself acting in small performers troupes. Eventually, he moved to Los Angeles, encouraged by Henry Fonda, and began his career in Hollywood, starring in almost 30 films until he enlisted in the Air Force during WWII. Stewart currently holds the distinction of holding the highest rank of any other actor who served in the U.S. Military.

For me, the appeal of Jimmy Stewart stems from how natural he makes everything look. I was never a fan of the prim and proper Cary Grant photos (who is loved for his 1950s-1960s style) or the “badass” look of Humphrey Bogart; I always felt more drawn to the candid and lifestyle shots of Stewart. Admittedly, Rear Window and It’s a Wonderful Life are the only Jimmy Stewart films I’ve seen, but I am familiar with his work (and style) through the countless images I see.

One thing in particular that I appreciate is that he had a very classic style. With flannel suits, striped shirts, and the occasional foulard tie, his style is a preview of some of the stuff you can see today. While the suits are cut in the classic Golden Era style (broad shoulders and wide leg pants), it’s not done in a costumey way. The fit is always on point, with a tapered waist and trousers that seldom break, which is a hard contrast to what most people think of when it comes to vintage style. He was sharp for the times without subscribing too much to the trends that we covered before.


During the 1930s and 40s, many actors would wear their own clothes in films. Because of this, men like Stewart were perpetually well dressed, both on and off the camera. One of my favorite outfits of his appears in a photo where Jimmy is sitting on a white fence, in which he wears a wide peak lapel houndstooth tweed jacket with navy trousers and white bucks. It really goes against the common style rules that we abide by today, like combining tweed and summer shoes. He does employ the “sprezza-tie,” with blatant disregard for its length and whether or not the back blade is showing. The entire outfit seems to be slightly ivy in its execution, as other pictures show that he was, in fact, wearing a striped cloth belt.

Another outfit that comes right in time for spring-summer, is Jimmy wearing a gaucho style polo shirt with the same peak lapel jacket. Not only is this cool because it showed that he reused a lot of the same pieces, but it also shows a little bit of the unique, trendy items of the 1930s. Gaucho shirts are largely similar to polo shirts but they featured a deep loop button placket and spearpoint collars; the hems were usually all ribbed. They grew in popularity among Golden Era actors during the late 1930s, and were seen on many stars, including Jimmy Stewart.

Gaucho-style polo and a tweed peak lapel jacket.

Gaucho-style polo and a tweed peak lapel jacket.

This image speaks wonders about Stewart’s style, though it might be a costumer’s idea. In a huge contrast to the well put together Cary Grant, Jimmy wears an unfastened chalkstripe DB suit, with a striped shirt and striped tie. Talk about sprezzatura, right? I remember seeing this years ago being inspired to experiment with triple pattern mixing–even if it’s all stripes. It’s hard to see people do that today, let alone make it look so natural, which made vintage style appeal to me even more today.

Jimmy Stewart in Philadelphia Story

Obviously, there are more great looks from Jimmy Stewart than the three I’ve examined here. It’s all very indicative of classic 1930s-1940s style without getting into the bold or flashy styles of Fred Astaire or George Raft (both of which are inspirations nonetheless). I’ve included a small album of my favorite looks from Jimmy Stewart for you to look at. I think that he was pretty consistent with his look, which you can definitely see in his later years. He may not have the spearpoint collars, but he still rocked the collar bar and the runaway collar until his death in 1997. Honestly, I think a lot of his attire can be used as inspiration today, whether you’re going for a true vintage look or something more contemporary. I certainly look to him quite a bit.

Incorporating Vintage Menswear Silhouettes

After my last article detailing the differences of suit silhouettes from past eras, I thought that it would be helpful to offer some advice on how to mix pieces from different eras and incorporate vintage menswear silhouettes into your wardrobe. It’s something that I’ve done for the past few years as a lot of my wardrobe was thrifted, found on eBay, or purchased from a vintage store.  Be sure to look at my guide to thrifting as well!

The first thing that I take a look at are the shoulders, which in turn usually points toward the structure of a jacket.  Each era of menswear has a different treatment of a shoulder, which corresponds directly to the overall silhouette. Broad, padded shoulders usually requires a wider, fuller pant leg while natural, narrow shoulders can work with a slim trouser.  Interestingly enough, this reflects the 30’s and the 60’s respectively as well as contemporary tailoring styles around the world.  You wouldn’t wear a structured British jacket with a slim chinos, would you?  Probably not.  It just so happens that soft jacketing is how tailoring has moved in recent time, so anything soft or unstructured (from the 1960s especially) would definitely work well today.  

The next thing I look at is length and buttoning point.  Like shoulders, each era had their own treatment too.  Typically jackets with a “classic buttoning point” (with the last button on the pocket line) lead to a classic and versatile proportions.  Jackets that have a low buttoning point usually have a longer body and will look much more dated.  Suits and jackets from the 1930’s and 1960’s are the best and creating this aesthetic and can be worn with most contemporary pieces, while other “bold eras” like the 1940s-50s and the 1970-90s are much too out of place.  Obviously 1920’s and earlier jackets were designed to be slightly edwardian and have an exceedingly antiquated look to apply today.  

Fabric also plays an important part.  It’s important to remember that looming technology has changed significantly since the 1920’s, which is why older vintage clothing has a certain weight and texture to it when compared to contemporary fabrics.  To make them work today, I find that it’s best to combine vintage garments with similarly weighted and textured garments like flannels, tweeds, and brushed cottons.  Try to avoid novelty fabrics like sharkskin, since they’re hard to pair.  Personally, I find that most vintage garments looks quite odd when worn with super fine worsteds. Patterns will definitely play a part, as old fabrics will usually have some heavy striping or checks, so it’s best not to over do it.  Grey flannel trousers will usually be your best friend when wearing a vintage jackets, though creams, navy blues, and browns can help too.

Lastly, the main way to pull off vintage garments is to style them classically.  Usually the jacket (or suit) is the star of the outfit, so it’s best to keep everything else toned down.  Resist the urge to “complete” the vintage look with bowties or skinny 60’s ties.  Wearing normal striped shirts with repps and foulards is what I always recommend to people, since it’s inoffensive and classic enough to not look like a costume.   Obviously you can mess around with details like collar lengths (like rolled OCBDs or long point collars) or accessories (like a collar bar/pin) but I find it best to keep things simple, especially if you don’t normally wear vintage garments.

As I’ve written before, buying vintage is not only a way to save money on a quality garment but it’s also a great method to add some statement pieces into your wardrobe. Most people avoid vintage since they assume it’s too costumey and aren’t sure how to style it.  I’d like to think that this article helps put a different spin on vintage pieces and while they are a little quirky when compared to contemporary garments, they still have a great place in a classic menswear wardrobe.  

Beginner’s Guide to Thrifting Menswear

Ethan Wong has already shared his love of thrifting menswear with our community. In this piece, he details how he chooses the pieces worth saving, and lays out a guide for thrifting that any men’s clothing hobbyist can follow.

We created a downloadable PDF guide with a checklist that you can consult whenever you’re out shopping for thrifted goods.


It’s no surprise to anyone that I can’t afford to always buy bespoke or MTM clothing, considering how much I love menswear. Instead of buying cheap knockoffs from fast fashion retailers, I almost exclusively buy thrifted and vintage pieces for my wardrobe. With a good eye and some education, I’ve found that it’s a great way to acquire quality garments for an extremely affordable price. Here’s some a brief guide that I live by when I go thrifting.

  • Check your local thrift stores

    • You never know what you’re going to find!
    • Wealthier places may have better pieces (contemporary, designer/brand), but they may already be popular with other pickers.
    • Not all thrift stores operate on donations; some receive general shipments of clothing.
  • Stay cognizant of promotions and holiday deals

    • Some stores have rotating promotions around certain colored tags or item categories.
    • There’s almost always sales during holidays that can apply to clothing!
  • Put your education to Use

      • The amount of stuff you see at a thrift store can be overwhelming; use the “touch test” and run your fingers through the racks. If something feels familiar (wool, flannel, tweed, cotton), it’s worth inspecting!
    • Your knowledge of brands and manufacturing can come in handy. A Purple Label RL suit will be much different than a Lauren by RL one.
  • Check interior labels and tags

      • Fabric labels will let you know if there is a semblance of synthetics (ie; polyester) within the garment, as well as any other blends. I typically go for 100% wools.
      • If you’re in America, union tags will be present on anything made pre 1980s. Different union tags correspond to different years, so this can be helpful when encountering vintage suits and sportcoats!
    • Font can play a difference. “Artsy” labels are usually earlier while stiff, corporate ones usually denote the 1960s-1970s era.
  • Consider the design and cut of the piece

      • Shoulder padding varied throughout eras and especially from designer to designer. Make sure that the jacket you get has the right amount for you, because that is something you cannot fix later.
      • Vintage and quality made garments usually have half-lining or less; most mass produced stuff post 1970s will be fully lined.
      • Always look at button stance and configuration. If the last button on the suit is below the pocket line, the overall buttoning point will be too low and results in an extremely dated look.
    • Trousers with a long fly (11in or more) will usually mean that they feature a high rise.
  • Focus on Unique Pieces, not Workhorse Stuff

    • Keep an eye out for cool details like patch pockets or belted-back jackets!
    • You can always find a quality navy suit at any store, so try to find pieces with great patterns like herringbone or houndstooth since they’re pretty common in thrift stores.
  • Be Aware of What You Can and Can’t Tailor

    • Make sure the shoulders fit!
    • Inspect the garment carefully for extra fabric allowance.
    • Sleeves and chest can always be taken in, but letting them out/down depends on how much fabric is available.
    • You can shorten a jacket by less than 2”; anything more will ruin the balance and proportion of the garment.
    • Trousers are the easiest to alter, provided that you take in the waist and taper the leg. Like jackets, making them bigger depends on the fabric allowance.
    • Tailoring will always cost more than the purchase price, but it can be worth it to make something wearable!

thrifting menswear thrifted menswear guide to thrifting styleforum

  • If you like it, buy it; if you don’t, pass on it.

    • Buy it when you can, since someone may take it when you put it down!
    • They add new things everyday, so you can always come back if nothing catches your eye.
    • Normal wear and tear is expected with thrifted pieces, but pass on anything with holes or major non-seam rips.

This is typically how I approach thrifting. It takes some time to get used to, but it’s really fun if you have the education, eye for detail, and a great tailor. It’s how I’ve gotten great stuff like a 1960’s olive green ivy jacket, the infamous 3PC brown chalk-stripe suit, or even a Camoshita suit. Whether you want to build a wardrobe or find some statement pieces to experiment with, it’s always worth it to check out your local thrift store from time to time!


You can keep up with Ethan’s thrifting and vintage adventures on his Instagram (@ethanmwong) or on his blog Street x Sprezza.