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.

Style Icons: B&Tailor

As I’ve moved forward in my style journey, I find myself looking toward more contemporary dressers for inspiration. There’s nothing wrong with looking at old pictures of Jimmy Stewart or Laurence Fellows illustrations, but the fact remains that those sources are finite!

That’s why I’m drawn to contemporary guys that have a bit of vintage flair, like Bryceland’s. But while they can skew more workwear, the guys at Seoul’s B&Tailor find ways to keep vintage style (across different eras) alive in an elegant and modern way.

B&Tailor and Chad Park were the subjects of one of my first blog posts that covered contemporary style. Stumbling across their account was a big moment for me, as it showed me that there was still a place for high rise trousers, pleats, and wide lapels. Started in 1980 by Jung Yul Park, the brand has already made quite a name for itself, taking fittings all over the world and even creating a casual RTW line called Chadprom, no doubt named after his son Chad. To most of my friends, they are a great source of inspiration and a bit of an aspirational goal for clothing.

It probably helps that Park’s sons Chad and Chang have worked hard to brand the company, with Chad being the face of B&Tailor, expertly shot by Chang for their Tumblr and Instagram profiles. With natural light, somber expression, and fantastic clothing, the pictures rack up engagement on all social media, presenting an almost streetwear-esque way of making clothing look cool. As the brand has grown, they’ve also included more pictures of their other staff, consistently making their associates style icons in their own right. But let’s look at how their style specifically appeals to me.

Like with Brycelands, the vintage appeal comes down to two things: the design of their tailoring and the way they choose their accessories. First, let’s explore the jackets. The jackets are cut with an extended shoulder, featuring a broad chest and nipped waist, echoing the draped figures in the 1930s and 1940s. Of course, this isn’t something new as the English have been doing that for a long time; the real charm is in their lapel treatments.

Their standard notch is quite wide (looks like it approaches over 4 inches), with a notch placed quite low compared to most brands. B&Tailor goes a step further by making the notch’s “mouth” go pretty wide (almost a full 90 degrees) yet without making it go too far into the body of the lapel. The resulting “droopy notch” not only makes the chest appear fuller but it appears to be lifted directly from the detailing on a 30s-40s suit. For their peak lapels, they maintain the width but again place the peak low. While models definitely vary, Chad and the rest of the B&Tailor crew tend to favor a peak that juts out far from the collar, recalling both vintage designs and the treatment favored by Polo Ralph Lauren in its early days. Whether it’s a notch or peak lapel, the lines are accentuated with a slightly lower lowered buttoning stance for a classic look (which is pretty 1940s to me).

The high rise is standard for B&Tailor (a trait that extends to even their Chadprom denim), which is always a sign of classic style. In fact, the rise seems higher than most, appearing to sit a little above the navel. Pleats are also a welcome sight among their tailoring, which when combined with a fuller leg, makes for an “old school” look. Most of the complaints about vintage style usually concern how baggy trousers can look, but luckily B&Tailor ensures that they are expertly tailored, done with a shivering break to prevent pooling at the ankle and a hearty cuff.

While we can talk about the cuts and designs of their suits, the real style comes in how they wear it and how they spruce it up with accessories. If you go on any of their social media platforms, you’ll see that they always prefer long collars, whether it’s pinned, a button-down, or a spread; in general, a longer collar makes for an “older look,” evoking the spearpoint collars. They match their shirts with a variety of great sevenfold ties, in foulards, abstract prints, and colorful stripes. Like I said before, wearing these with a striped shirt brings to mind the styles of the 1930s-1940s where there was a lot of similar styling. The look can be a bit bold for some (especially compared to the minimal approach from Brycelands), but they carry the look with confidence.

They also have a few novelty pieces that I feel are directly lifted from casual 1940s-1950’s styles. One example, in particular, is their Hollywood waist trousers, complete with “dropped loops”. This design, which is essentially a continuous waistband with loops placed fractions of an inch below the top, was a trend in the mid-1940s until the 1950s, worn by young men with extremely thin belts. It strikes me as particularly interesting move since most gentlemen today prefer suspenders or side tabs for keeping their trousers up.

Keeping with this casual vintage design, they’ve also done a few runs of cuban collar shirts, which have been increasingly popular during the past year. While they are technically known as cuban collars to most, I’ve always called them “loop collars” since vintage pieces have the top button fastened via a loop rather than a normal buttonhole cut into the fabric. They wear them their tailoring, which makes for a cool, sartorial-casual look that skews more vintage-inspired due to their fuller cut.

They also have a few idiosyncrasies that make their style unique; at some points, they experimented with multi-stripe vintage fabric, which was the norm back in the Golden Era (flat, plain suits weren’t common). They’ve also created cropped sweaters and jackets that are just begging to be worn with high rise trousers. Their love of turtlenecks even brings to mind some 1960s-1970s inspired looks. A big one is their latest preference for designing DBs that can be rolled to a 6×1 configuration. While these were a trend in the 1930s-1940s, it’s most commonly seen from Armani in 1980s-90s, emphasized further by their bold (power?) tie combos. B&Tailor keeps this vibe going by wearing their high waisted, light wash denim with their tailoring. Who would have thought that the 1980s-90s have a place in classic menswear?

I could keep writing about the observations that I’ve seen from B&Tailor, but the best thing to do is to look at the pictures and see it for yourself. There’s something about this brand that seems old school and yet not anachronistic at all, as they take their cues from different eras and mix them together to create such a unique look not just with the sartorial designs, but with the styling. Even Chad Park’s glasses skip around with different styles. In any case, I think they’re a good source of inspiration, not only for regular wear but for a great indication of making vintage-inspired style look wearable (and elegant) in the modern day.

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Aloha shirt: a summer staple

As much as I love suiting, I let it take a back seat during the summer months. Sure, there are Minnis fresco suits, linen trousers, and madras button-downs, but I’ve always preferred to go bolder and casual than traditional classic menswear.  And nothing screams “casual summer” quite like the aloha shirt. It’s a unique piece that has a perfect place in a summer wardrobe, and it can be worn casually or even elevated with tailoring, if you want to go bold.

In Aloha Shirt: the Spirit of the Island, Dale Hope shares a few different stories about the origin of this American classic. One model was made in the 1920s by Gordon Young’s mother, who made sport shirts out of printed cotton yukata cloth that was normally used for kimonos. In 1935, tailor Musa-Shiya Shoten advertised RTW and MTO “Aloha shirts”.  However, the term was trademarked later in 1937 by the Chun family who sold similar shirts (also made from kimono fabric) in King-Smith Clothiers. There are other stories of course, but the main idea was that the shirt was born during a time when men were starting to opt for “sportswear” or casual dress.

Overall, it’s pretty similar to sport shirts (loop/camp/cuban collars, whatever you want to call them) in design. This most distinctive feature is the band-less collar, which results in the floppy open collar that lays flat on the shoulders of the shirt.  The garment has a clean french front and a square bottom, meaning that it can be worn tucked or untucked, adding to its casual nature. The aloha shirt retains all these features with the addition of an exploded floral pattern or scenes; later patterns would adopt more vertical, tiki-inspired designs.

I personally like the older designs that are large-scale and have some space between the designs. There’s nothing wrong with tighter, vertical print shirts, but they tend to look a bit more modern than I’d like and bit too Tommy Bahama.

In terms of material, most of the 1930s-1940s shirts I’ve seen were made of rayon or delicate voiles (in cotton or rayon); later, they would be made from cotton or polyester.

Before the tee shirt and OCBD took over as the go-to shirt for men in the 1960s, aloha shirts (and by extension, plain sport shirts) were a distinctive type of shirt in the 1930s-1950s. Images of the Beach Boys, Elvis, and Frank Sinatra rocking colorful aloha shirts come to mind instantly.

While some think that they are a bit old school to wear now, I heartily disagree. We’ve been seeing the return of camp collar shirts in general, thanks to a couple of fashion forward guys at Pitti wearing them over their jacket lapels like youth in the 1950s. We’ve also seen it come in the mainstream fashion world, being the shirt of choice of Harry Styles, rocking vibrant full cut aloha shirts to contrast his skinny black jeans and slick chelsea boots. It’s certainly something to consider if you’re feeling fatigued from your tie-less linen shirts and Friday polos.

Embracing the uniqueness of the alohas shirt is all apart of the fun. The bold florals and painted scenes are exactly what summer style is all about! When I wear an aloha shirt with tailoring, I usually opt for chinos or summer weight trousers and loafers as an updated 1940s-1950s casual look. I know that Kenji Cheung and Ethan Newton of Bryceland’s have done similar looks.

You could even wear it with a pale linen suit, using the jacket to tone down the bold print. I’ve begun to wear aloha shirts with pleated shorts and a chore coat, as it’s starting to get hotter. For those of you wary of the 1980s/Miami Vice connotations, you can always opt for the classic rockabilly look by wearing an aloha shirt untucked with selvedge denim. Maybe leave the pomade at home and go with slimmer denim and canvas sneakers to make it a bit more contemporary.

In addition to some images to serve as outfit inspiration, I’ve included a couple of places where you could pick up a shirt for yourself! They vary in price and quality, but I think there’s something here for everybody.

Two Palms

two palms aloha shirt

Two Palms was my first real foray into wearing aloha shirts. They are extremely affordable MiUSA at around $45 (with free US shipping) which means that they can be your gateway too! Their cotton shirts are cheaper, but I prefer their rayon ones in the vein of being “traditional”. It might take some careful perusing through their website to separate the “good shirts” from the more “dad vibe” ones, but you can’t go wrong with most of them. Surprisingly, they have pretty solid construction despite being on the lower end of the spectrum and they even take care to match the fabric on their chest pocket. The only caveats are that the cut is pretty full and the collar is pretty small compared to the vintage ones; I’m sure that you guys will find the latter more desirable since it’s easier to wear in the modern day. 

J. Crew

You’ve gotta hand it to J. Crew for making a pretty good Hawaiian shirt. They’re about $10 more than Two Palms and they only have a few models to choose from, but it’s still a good buy if you lean more toward shopping in person. Instead of rayon, these J. Crew aloha shirts are made in linen-cotton, which is a bit more wearable (and washing machine friendly) if you’re not used to the traditional fabric. According to the website, these also have a roomier fit, but I would assume that it’s slimmer than the ones from Two Palms.

Avanti Shirts 

 I always have a soft spot for shirts that display scenes, because they’re different than the aloha shirts that you normally see.  It also has the bonus effect of looking a bit more old school, lifted almost directly from the styles in the 1940s-1950s. Like the Two Palms shirts, they also feature a breast pocket that is carefully matched to the shirt.

Onia 

Onia makes a few great camp shirts and I’ve included a picture of their most “aloha” one here. It’s pretty much the same thing as the other ones, with a modest collar and a chest pocket (that again is not matched). The fabric is cotton voile making it extremely delicate (and hand-wash only), so I would say to wear with caution. It does seem ideal to wear when relaxing on vacation!

 

Gitman Vintage 

 

 I’ve gotta say that these ones from Gitman really hit the spot.  Like the Avanti ones, they have a bit more interest than the typical florals, but they also bring back the wide collar! They also do away with the chest pocket in order to maintain a clean front.

 

RRL

 

RRL takes us back to the original 1940s-1950’s manufacturing with their rayon camp shirts.  Like the Gitman ones, there’s just something so much more interesting when the prints are something more than oversized florals.  According to the official website, this particular design was based on 1930’s tattoo art, which I think is super cool. The shirt also features two breast pockets (making them similar to plain sportshirts of the era) and also opts for a modest collar.

RRL also has an indigo camp shirt with a more straightforward floral print, while Polo RL has more scenery based prints for half the price.

Sun Surf

 

Sun Surf is probably the best reproduction brand for aloha shirts, which makes sense considering Japan’s love affair with Americana. I’ve come across these in some of my favorite vintage stores, and they’re practically indistinguishable from true vintage pieces apart from the fact that the Sun Surf ones are new. Being a detailed reproduction, a lot of their prints are influenced directly from old garments; most of the time they go all out with their large-scale, bold prints. This is what makes them my favorite, since it’s a great way to get a true vintage flair that is completely different than the more standard florals and smaller scale scenes that you can find in the previous examples. They also keep the long, floppy 1940s-1950s collar and make them in the traditional rayon. You could own the character and wear it by itself or cover it up with a chore coat or casual jacket to tone it down.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a lot of places to find them other than a few boutiques, but they do pop up occasionally on Rakuten, Grailed, and eBay.

 

Brycelands 

 

Brycelands stocks a selection from Groovin High, another Japan-based company.  Like the Sun Surf ones, these are damn good designs lifted from 1940s-1950s shirts. The ones sold by Bryceland’s aren’t necessarily true aloha shirts since the prints are more geometric than floral/island based, but they still can be used for a similar look.  The shirts are made up of luxurious rayon/silk and have a wide collar, two breast pockets, and long sleeves.

Prada

 

We can’t have a proper list without a bit of luxury.  This voile shirt by Prada is really growing on me! The coloring is vibrant and leans more 80s-90s rather than strictly 1950s; think DiCaprio in Romeo + Juliet. In addition to having an amazing beach scene painted on the back, this shirt is made of delicate voile and features black mother of pearl buttons. At a certain point, you’ll just have to go ahead and go all in on the price; you won’t find another one like it.

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.

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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.  

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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.