Sweater Inspiration

As it dips into the low 70s here in Los Angeles, I’m proud to say that sweater weather is finally arriving! I’m ready to pull out my fair isle sweater vests and cotton-wool crew necks out of the bottom drawer of my dresser and start wearing them with tailoring.  But as I do that, I’m reminded of the fact that while high rise has come back in recent years, the length of the sweater has not changed. The hem should really be shorter!

While long sweaters did exist in the 1920s (probably since they were intended as the final, outer layer), there actually was a time when sweaters were hemmed to hit at the natural waist, instead of close to the hips as is done now. This was mainly done in the 1930s-1940s, as you can see in the included images. Also unlike today, the sweaters were cut with higher armholes and a trimmer body in order to make a very fitted silhouette. This silhouette was further emphasized with the wide ribbing, which ensured that the sweater would “cinch” at waist well.

It’s just a personal observation, but I think that sweaters were made this way not just to wear under a sportcoat, but to play into the masculine ideal of the time: broad shoulders, small waist, and long, wide legs. Overall, it’s also probably done to echo the tailored look of a waistcoat (which also tends to be on the long side today). This has since disappeared the closer we got to the modern times. As rises got lower, sweater hems got longer to compensate; sweaters also lost that fitted look.

Now I like to wear sweaters, but it’s definitely a problem with high rise trousers since manufacturers haven’t quite caught up. I run across this problem whether I’m buying good basics at Uniqlo/J. Crew or when even when looking at contemporary, higher quality ones on eBay. To make up for the length I either just tuck the excess fabric into itself or do some awkward blousing which almost always results in a slight muffin top effect. The effect is made obvious as I’m not particularly tall or lanky, which means even a standard small can be a bit long and puffy on me. Though it may be my fault for preferring an extremely high rise, I’m sure that some of you can understand this frustration with your own wardrobe.

A sweater cut for extremely high rise trousers.

A sweater cut for extremely high rise trousers.

It’s especially tough when rocking sweater vests (both the pull over and waistcoat style), since the long length can’t be hidden with any sort of tucking. And having a good fit is probably one of the only ways to make sure you pull off the sweater vest.  Some guys try to cheat the system and shrink them in the wash, but then it could potentially be an expensive mistake. You can always hide the blousing with a sportcoat, but it’s not quite that cold  in LA to layer too much; plus I like the more “casual” look of simply wearing a sweater with denim or chinos.  And as much as 1990s Ralph Lauren is a vibe, I’m not sure many guys are willing to tuck their sweaters into their trousers, especially if they are wearing a button-up and tie underneath.

Luckily, some makers have taken notice. One that comes to mind instantly is Simon James Cathcart, a niche vintage reproduction brand. They have released a virtually identical sweater to ones from the 1930s, complete with a high V, waist-correct length, and wide ribbing for a fitted figure. It’s pretty perfect, though it probably leans a bit too vintage for most and there aren’t many options available yet.

Thomas Farthing, another UK brand, also has a waistcoat style sweater. I also seem to remember that the Drake’s x Armoury sweater vests are cut higher to for this reason. I own an original one from Drake’s and they fit the bill just as well; I also leave the last few buttons unfastened so that the true length isn’t as apparent. I’m sure there are others who have taken notice and with the rise of online custom, it won’t be long before guys are able to order a decent length for high waisted trousers.

For now, I’ll try my luck with vintage since it’s an affordable way to get the details without compromising too much.  Picking a true vintage one from the 1960s or 1970s (hopefully in natural fabrics) can be common in select thrift stores and still comes with a decent length for high rise trousers.  Occasionally I’ll come across ones from the 1930s-1940s online, which are the real gems. I’ll just take the small moth holes as signs of character.

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If vintage isn’t for you, trying on modern brands in a size smaller than you’re used to could also achieve the look; not only will it be shorter in length, but the trimmer fit could be more desirable, especially in a merino wool (I wouldn’t recommend that for a thick shetland number).  Of course, there are a bunch of DIY tricks I’ve heard from other guys like shrinking or even hemming it at the tailor but that’s also a dangerous road to tread. Or we can just be hopeful that the market will lean in our favor, just as they did for high rise trousers.

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18 East: A Chat with Antonio Ciongoli About His Travel-Inspired New Project

Antonio likes Italian, but now he wants you to try something Indian. Other options include Japanese, Irish, or North African, because, for him, each place offers something interesting.
We’re chatting in La Cumbre, one of the restaurants in San Francisco that claims to be the birthplace of the Mission-style burrito, and Antonio is all smiles.
“Man, you guys have it good. There’s probably a million places to get Mexican food out here. I love it.”  We’re talking about Antonio’s new project, 18 East, which was born, in part, from his visit to Rajasthan a few years ago. He was struck by the various patterns and silhouettes that, while commonplace there, are relatively unused by Western designers. Inspired by his visit, he designed a handful of clothing for his subsequent collections for Eidos, but it wasn’t enough.
“I loved my time at Eidos, but there was so much I couldn’t do,” he recalls. “For one thing, there are so many artisans all over the world, but with Eidos, I could only use their Italian factories. Not that they weren’t great – their knitwear is simply amazing – but they just can’t recreate what we saw in India. In Jaipur, there are huge indigo fields as far as the eye can see where they hand-dip and then air-dry garments. No factory in Italy can do that.”  
“Besides, the idea of massive two-season collections doesn’t make sense to me,” he continues. “There’s the stuff I’d do for Eidos, and then the exclusives for various vendors, like Barney’s and Bloomingdales – literally hundreds of pieces, all at the same time. Guys aren’t looking for polo coats in September – they’re looking for transitional pieces.” With 18 East, Antonio is able to focus on a few dozen pieces seasonal-appropriate every couple months. “I’d rather do a few unique pieces that I’m really excited about, rather than producing an item just to check off a list.”
While it’s true that the items from this drop are influenced by the textiles he saw in India & Nepal, they are not simple imitations. The next day I go to Unionmade to check out the clothes in person, and I’m impressed with just how wearable everything is. Sure, there’s a uniqueness to them – the hand-blocked prints and intricate woven patches, especially – but nothing is so far out that would make the wearer self-conscious. “I didn’t want to create a line that would alienate people,” Antonio says while sipping a beer at the store. He then points to the corduroy sherpa coat hanging on a mannequin. “Take this jacket, for example. It’s my favorite from the collection. It reminds me of something you’d see at a Vermont head shop.”
18 East "Charlotte" sherpa travel vest and belter corduroy rancher coat.

18 East “Charlotte” sherpa travel vest and belted corduroy rancher coat.

Online, I immediately was drawn to the red pajamas (inspired by Steve McQueen’s character in Bullitt) and made a b-line over to them on the rack.  Unfortunately, photos and words can’t do them justice – they really are special.  In two seconds they were off the rack and bagged at the counter, and I wore them that night.  They’re a little different, but the muted color and repeating kalamkari and bagru patterns provide just the right amount of visual interest, and I’ve found they go well under sweaters and jackets.
18 East "Julian" Vintage pajama created with kalamkari - a traditional block-printing method.

18 East “Julian” Vintage pajama created with kalamkari – a traditional block-printing method.

I also picked up the tie-waist cardigan. Made from a donegal-style yarn of sheep’s wool and yak, Antonio chose to use a basketweave to fashion this kimono-style sweater, giving it an insane amount of depth and texture. “That cardigan was a happy accident,” he recounts as I try it on. “We first made it without the placket, and the ends curled up in a funky way.  Then someone attached this placket from the inside, and it just fell perfectly.”
Prices are reasonable, and the general silhouette of the clothes, while loose, is far from baggy.  As a reference, I’m 5’8” and 160lbs, and I took a small in everything and felt comfortable. This first drop had nominal sizing information on the 18East website (e.g. “This garment is oversized”) and it took me a couple tries to find the best size for me in person. Future collections will have measurements to minimize confusion and help get a better idea of how each garment fits. It’s a departure from his much-beloved suiting at Eidos, and for the time being, Antonio isn’t planning on introducing any tailored clothing at all.
18 East "Hima" chainstitch crewneck and "Nomad" tie waist cardigan.

18 East “Hima” chainstitch crewneck and “Nomad” tie waist cardigan.

“Don’t wear any of these clothes with a tie,” he chuckles. “Matching tops and bottoms, though, that’s something I’d like to explore a little in the future.” He shows me pictures from a photoshoot he did earlier in the week with Marco (@KamoteJoe on the forum) wearing pants and a shirt in matching fabrics. “You see this often in India, and it looks fantastic. You’ll see something like this later on. Don’t get me wrong – an Italian suit is great, but it’s not the only suit there is.”
While it may be an obvious statement that there is wearable fashion everywhere, it’s another thing entirely to incorporate global influences in a way that doesn’t come off as ethnic appropriation. From Antonio’s collections, you get the feeling that if Antonio wasn’t in fashion, he’d be a chef, finding inspiration in local flavors around the world.
“But what is local?” he asks back at the restaurant, and it’s a good question. The Mission burrito, stuffed to cylindrical hugeness with equal amounts of beans, rice, and meat, is undeniably San Franciscan, but has origins elsewhere. Ditto for cioppino, chop suey, sourdough, Irish coffee…the list goes on. Like many international cities, the Bay Area readily embraces foreign tastes and incorporates them often into their dishes, because how boring would it be to eat the same thing over and over again?
“I couldn’t agree more,” Antonio says between bites. “As much as I love the pizza in Napoli, I love Philly pizza just as much. As long as it’s good, does it matter where it comes from?”

Photos courtesy of 18East and Ian Anderson
Discuss 18 East with other Styleforum members on this thread.

Starting a Tie Wardrobe – Styleforum Picks

Starting a tie wardrobe in 2018 can be daunting; with the variety of options that are just one click away, it might be hard to determine whether a tie is going to get some use or will lie in a cedar box untouched for years.

This list was compiled following the directions of some Styleforum members who discussed pretty extensively the merits and versatility of the following ties on this thread.

A starting wardrobe of 12 ties might contain:

  • Two navy solid ties (a grenadine and a repp, for instance)
  • Two other solid ties (i.e. forest green grenadine, a chocolate brown repp)
  • One glen plaid, guncheck, or shepherd’s check tie in black and white or navy and white
  • One houndstooth tie
  • Two pindot ties
  • Two “neat” ties –  small, evenly spaced designs
  • Two repp stripe ties

See below for some great options that will help you complete your tie collection.


Navy solid ties

Yellow Hook $130      •       Kent Wang $75

Solid ties in other colors 

Vanda Fine Clothing $123       •      Yellow Hook $130

Glen plaid / Guncheck / Shepherd’s check ties

Vecchio Anseatico $95      •      Vanda Fine Clothing $123

Houndstooth ties

Drake’s micro houndstooth $195    •      Drake’s puppytooth $185

Pindot ties

Shibumi Firenze $126      •      Vanda Fine Clothing $123

Neat Ties

Spier & MacKay  $35      •      Shibumi Firenze $126

Repp stripe ties

Ralph Lauren  $125     •      Vecchio Anseatico $95

Fall 2018 Menswear Trends

I always get excited about fall clothes. Perhaps it’s the fact that the additional layers allow one to express oneself in subtle whispers that rival the boldest aloha shirt, but perhaps I’m romanticizing it just a bit. It helps that the coldest it ever gets in San Francisco is a laughable 40℉ (about 5℃), so I can enjoy the clothes without having to suffer too much discomfort. Yes, that’s an admission of guilt.

This season, designers seem to have pillaged from various styles of modern fashion. Of course, this is nothing new, but it seems especially apparent this time around. Therefore, each designer will have a throwback song or album that I feel encapsulates it.  A little reductive, yes; but think of it as your shopping soundtrack to get you in the mood and help you decide what look best fits your style.  Ready?  Here we go.

Classic Menswear

Collection: Drake’s 

Song: The Innocence Mission – That Was Another Country

 

Ah, 1995. I had just moved to upstate New York, and getting ready to experience my first deciduous autumn as a Southern California boy. As soon as the first chill happened, I was surrounded by new sights, and not just of the trees: khakis, cords, chunky sweaters, scarves, and big jackets. Suddenly the stifling temperatures of summer eased to allow the real fun to start, when you can play in a rugby shirt without dying of heat exhaustion, and as your sweat cooled in the dusky late afternoon air, you’d start the barbecue with crispy fallen leaves while sipping on a Red Hook; after dinner, you’d borrow someone’s roll neck (everybody had at least one) to watch the sun set over the fiery hills of the Adirondacks, and the Innocence Mission would play in the background, and everyone would be smiling.

Drake’s pulls from such happy, loose-fitting, carefree mid-90s nostalgia but makes it modern by keeping the pants moderately trim and jacket lapel gorge above the pectorals. Nothing is offensive, everything looks comfortable, and you’d feel completely fine if everyone in the world dressed more or less the same way (“Oh, you have a cable sweater in periwinkle? Mine is in moss. Let’s swap!”).

In less capable hands, such a decision can get old quick (sorry, J Crew), but the creative genius of Drake’s is taking classic themes and curating a selection that incorporates contemporary tweaks, unimpeachable fabrics, and flattering patterns that prevents it from sliding into stale insignificance. Their tweed raglan and corduroy belted overcoat are particular standouts, but basically, anything is a sure pick. Seriously, they could do this for the next 100 years, and it would still look great.

Shop for the new stuff here.

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Collection: Brooks Brothers

Song: The Dandy Warhols – Every Day Should Be A Holiday

When Brooks Brothers revealed its Fall 2018 show at Pitti last winter, everyone was a little bemused. Why was one of the longest-running outfitters of US presidents headlining opening night at one of the peacocky-est shows of the year for its 200th anniversary? No one really had a clear answer, except for the fact that now an Italian is running the show (Claudio del Vecchio is the current President and CEO), and instead of recalling the best of its storied history, many of the looks were uneven, with never-off-the-runway oddities like tucking in suit jackets into pants. Yes, you read that right. You can see a brief video overview of the show here.

Despite that, the best looks were actually distinct and non-chalant, like louche double-breasted suits worn open, three-button jackets worn with the collar up, and Chelsea boots. Much of the capsule drew from 60s British and American rock and roll archetypes, which made onlookers wonder if they were actually watching a Brooks Brothers or Burberry show. Who influenced who? Does it matter, as long as it’s done well?

Similarly, on The Dandy Warhols album Come Down, never has an American band sounded so British so well, especially on the seventh track, Every Day Should Be a Holiday.  It’s got groovy reverb, a sweet guitar hook, a touch of electro, and just the right amount of oohs and aahs that make it one of the best Britpop songs, even though it hails from Portland. Go figure.

Online picks: purple donegal crewneckpatchwork crewneck

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Collection: Corneliani 

Song: Cranberries sing the Carpenters who sing Richard Chamberlain who sing Burt Bacharach – Close to You

Corneliani is one of those brands that doesn’t get the love it deserves. The company has been around for decades, and besides producing for its own label, it has made clothing for Karl Lagerfeld, Krizia, and Trussardi, among others. Despite this, one thing you can count on for Corneliani is their unobjectionable, consonant stylishness. When they were making for Ralph Lauren from 1998 to 2016 there were no less than five Polo models at any given time (more than a dozen, if you count two- and three-button models, tuxedos, and double breasteds) but you always knew it was a Corneliani. If you liked how they fit, you could be fairly confident that you’d like their other stuff. This season shares the same DNA, and whereas nothing is revolutionary, they’re up-to-date pieces that anyone can wear and look great. My favorites are the belted raglan overcoat (taken from their archives) and their no-brainer combinations of gray, navy, and camel, in colors that complement practically everyone. Really, you can’t go wrong with anything they’ve made over the past 10 years.

I kind of think of Burt Bacharach as the Corneliani of the music world, and I mean that in the best way possible. In addition to writing songs for himself, he’s written for countless others: Perry Como, Dionne Warwick, Tom Jones, Rod Stewart, Elvis Costello, etc – not to mention all the songs he’s written for the screen. The thing about a Burt Bacharach song is no matter who sings it, or how, you know it’s a Burt Bacharach song, and even though it may not be particularly groundbreaking, it always – always – sounds great. For crying out loud, even the Library of Congress says there’s a thing called a “Bacharach sound”. Nowhere is this more apparent than when, in 1994, the Cranberries cover the Carpenters’ “Close To You” of 1970, which was itself a cover of the same song sung by Richard Chamberlain in 1963, which was written by Bacharach. Honestly, I can’t decide which one I like the best, and if someone were to redo it again today, I’d probably like that one too.

Click here to find a stockist

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Classic Menswear / Streetwear

Collection: Giorgio Armani

Song: Giorgio Moroder – Chase

I swear, one of these days, we’ll all be dressing in Armani, and wondering why we didn’t make the jump earlier. This season includes a few suits, mostly in an 8-to-6 (!) double-breasted configuration, which looks a little adolescent as a suit but positively virile as a velvet blazer. Most of his collection for Fall/Winter 2018 is filled with what the designer does best: soft drapey goodness, taking patterns that we already know, deconstructing them, and recreating them in fantastic fabrics that you’d want to lounge all day in.

Nothing in the runway would be confused for conservative business dress, but if your work environment allows it, you’d be hard pressed to find cooler threads. This collection, like many of his, has a retro-futuristic tenor, not unlike listening to Chase from Giorgio Moroder. The synthesizer he became so closely associated with is admittedly dated, yet sounds like it hails from a future of warp speed and molecular transport, like something we’d wear if the robot apocalypse happened and we all lived in climate-controlled spaceships, wore cashmere velvet suits, animal fur, and band collar shirts, which would be perfectly fine to me.

Stores around the world, but their online shop has quite a bit of selection as well.

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Collection: Margaret Howell

Song: Siouxsie & the Banshees – Slowdive

For someone who has been designing for almost half a century, Margaret Howell still manages to remain current.  Her secret?  “You never tire of good designs,” according to a GQ interview  Indeed, a quick perusal of her collections – over a hundred of them – and you’d think they’re indistinguishable. Upon closer inspection, however, you’ll notice subtle changes over the years, like an unhurried widening or narrowing of a trouser leg or a slight increase or decrease in trouser rise. In other words: different, but same.

Siouxsie Sioux has more or less been doing the same thing, for almost the same amount of time. The music is always dramatic and moody, her voice alluring and passionate. Even though her sound hasn’t changed in decades, every song is very uniquely her. This is not to say that she’s stuck in a rut, but rather reflects someone who is confident in their style. Just listen to Slowdive from Siouxsie & the Banshees.  Made all the way back in 1983, it inspired one of the best bands of all time (yes, that Slowdive) and perhaps predictably, was later covered by LCD Soundsystem.  Try and tell me those thumping beats and purring vocals come from a demure, equivocating artist.

Margaret Howell style hasn’t changed much either, and yet the little changes she does do are what continuously make her collections so compelling. In a world where bold statement pieces get all the love, keeping the same roster of old standbys seems like a sure path to irrelevance, but the Howell deftly modifies them just enough to keep them fresh. Unlike clothes that scream individuality with conspicuous, exaggerated designs, Howell’s clothes are for those who prefer subtly unique takes on classic clothes. Think of it as streetwear for those that like menswear.

Their online shop is based in the UK, but some items are at Mr Porter.

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Streetwear

Collection: 45R

Song: The Stone Roses – Fool’s Gold

45R (formerly RPM) never ceases to trigger the “buy now” muscle in my index finger when browsing, and fortunately, the ridiculous prices of most of the pieces keep me from clicking myself into debt.  For those of you unfamiliar with Japanese fashion, it can often be described as maximalist fashion – way over the top.  While for some reason it looks great on their models, it is admittedly not for everybody, nor everywhere, but when you’re in the mood, brands like Kapital delivers. For the rest of us, there’s 45R.

It’s not that it’s any less interesting, per se; much, if not all, of their collection is completely exclusive to them, including the fabric.  The talent of the company lies in taking something that you’d never wear and making it wearable. It helps that most of the items are in easy-to-wear shades of indigo, brown, and gray.  Take the stripe hoodie below as an example.   For crying out loud, that’s a rug fabric, and yet somehow it looks like something I can incorporate into my wardrobe without a second thought.  But the prices, oh the prices – this one will set you back a seizure-inducing $624.  My recommendation: save up and get one piece and pair it with all your other boring clothes.

You can purchase directly from their site, but if you’re lucky enough to live near the few stores they have in US, definitely drop by, as most of their items need to be seen and handled in person to fully appreciate them.

Scrolling through the lookbook, you can pick up a funky undercurrent; the clothes seem to boogie when worn. Even if it’s not your bag, the comfortable ease and eye-catching motifs from cultures around the world resonate with anyone with even half a pulse, which reminds me of the 1989 baggy Madchester anthem from the Stone Roses, Fool’s Gold. Starting from the first cymbal taps, this is one of those addictive, slow-burning jams that you never tire of, even after the end of its nine-plus minutes.  Boasting arguably the grooviest bass line and drum beat ever produced, its alternatively funky and psychedelic wah-wah guitar effects and hushed vocals boast more than enough feel-good vibes to make the most wooden wallflower jump on the dancefloor and commence the head bobbin’.

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Timex x Todd Snyder Marlin Mesh Watch Review

Once again, Timex and Todd Snyder have released another variant of the reissued 1960’s-style Marlin. With demand for previous versions leading to very limited stock over the past two years, it’s no surprise that Todd Snyder continues to us new variants of the same classic Marlin. This go-round, it’s in a sliver on silver colorway with a Milanese-style mesh band. Nothing else has changed from what we can see, so you’re getting more of the same classic mid-century style that the re-imagined Marlin originally brought to us in 2017.

Photo: Todd Snyder

Timex was kind enough to lend me a Marlin for this review, and I have to say I’m very impressed (and kind of sad to send it back.) Yes, I am a barbarian of a guy with a 7.5” wrist. Yes, the Marlin sports a 34mm case in a day when even a 36mm watch is considered tiny for a guy. Still, it feels and looks right.

Barbarian arms can sometimes be made to look a little more classy.

While light enough to not be noticeable during the day, a thin bezel and a thick, domed acrylic crystal make it feels more substantial than it has any reason to be. Overall thickness is 10mm, which is still within dress watch range, and would fit under a cuff very easily.

It feels thicker than it is. Or so she tells me.

And under a cuff.

Minimal branding, maximum style

The band is very nicely done as well. Easily adjustable, and well-finished, it’s comfortable for the whole day. The Marlin’s minimalist style carries over to the band, with a sans-serif TIMEX on the clasp the most overt branding on the entire watch. I’m guessing it could be easily polished off if you were so inclined.

A sticker on the caseback noted that the hand-wound movement is made in China, which is expected given its price point of ~$200. Somewhat surprisingly, I have observed a +2 seconds/day variance in timing during my testing. It’s also quiet and smooth. You’re not going to notice much ticking with this Timex.

If you’re buying this watch, it’s really for the dial. It’s a gorgeous, slippery silver, with a hint of sunburst radiating out from the center. Reflective silver hands point to Arabic numerals on the even hours that are styled somewhere between Art Deco and Art Nouveau. You can see right away why the updated Marlin has been in and out of stock so often– the details are period correct, and correct, period. At $200, it’s a no-brainer. Buy it.


Disclaimer: this is not a sponsored post. To read Styleforum’s review policy, please click here.

Examples of My Favorite Menswear Deals When Thrifting

Even though I find myself drawn further and further into the world of contemporary classic menswear, I don’t think I’ll ever leave vintage behind. It’s less about cosplay or wanting to live vicariously in a different age, but it’s more about getting certain details that I wouldn’t be able to find or afford otherwise.

If you’re familiar with my blog or social media, you’ll know that I attempt to bring vintage pieces into a modern context, making them wearable-yet-eccentric pieces. I decided to write about a couple of my most interesting pieces in today’s article and a bit about where I got them.

If you’re new to thrifting and vintage shopping, check out this Guide to Thrift Shopping

Outerwear is probably the easiest one to incorporate since it usually functions as a finishing layer for an outfit. If you go on eBay or get lucky at your local goodwill/vintage store, chances are you’ll find something interesting. One of my most favorite pieces of outerwear is a 1940’s, single-breasted overcoat, made from a brown wool with an extremely faint green windowpane. Made by Curlee Clothiers (a sought after yesteryear brand by collectors), it is half-lined and has a long length, two details seldom seen on modern overcoats. It’s served me during this past California winter and definitely did its job when I visited NYC last December. It really was a lucky purchase at one of the LA vintage stores I frequent; they had just put it out when I walked in!

Another random find was my 1950’s brown leather double rider at the Dapper Day Expo, a community event that celebrates classic style at venues like Disneyland and LACMA. Unlike other 50’s jackets, the one I found was cropped short, lacked any epaulets or “punk” elements, and was generally similar to the ones found in the 1930’s. Despite it looking rather 1930’s to my eyes, the dealer said that due to the nitty gritty details (buttons/zipper/labels) itthe jacket was actually made in the 1950s, making it was way more affordable than a 1930’s buco. In the fall, it has been my go-to casual jacket, perfect to wear with turtlenecks, denim, and flannels.

Wearable vintage tailoring (like jackets and trousers) is a bit harder to find, especially if you’re used to getting things custom, but there are still times when you come across something cool. From Paper Moon, I was able to obtain a pair of 1950’s chocolate brown nubby rayon trousers. Thanks to their full cut and interesting fabric, they make a great summer trouser that is just a bit different than a regular linen or cotton pair. For trousers, I couldn’t pass up a lightweight flannel cinch back, made for college students in the 1950’s when cinch-back chinos were a short fad. You can thank eBay for that one!

One stand out piece that I almost always gets a fun comment is my 1930’s belt back jacket. It’s made in USA, out of a soft, broken-in white linen that has soft construction, making it widely different than a majority of the tailoring in the same era. Despite the bi-swing back and the fact that it’s ventless, it comes across as very contemporary on account of its subtle waist suppression, natural shoulder, and relatively normal sized lapel. It’s become one of my favorite pieces to wear in the summer. It was actually a lucky bid on eBay as similar jackets go for high amounts while it only cost me $200 years ago, purchased with my first paid internship income. I’ll always wonder if it simply passed under other collectors’ radars.

Apart from that linen jacket, I also have a few 1940’s Palm Beach garments: a jacket purchased from Reese’s Vintage Pieces (a guy with the biggest non-warehouse stock, selling out of his Pomona home) and a full suit sold by a theater wardrobe on eBay. This material is inherently special due to the fact that the patented PB fabric (a mix of wool, cotton, and mohair) is no longer in production after the brand was sold and the factory closed; for future reference, anything Palm Beach post-1950s isn’t the original fabric. It’s not really an open weave, but it drapes well and wears pretty cool, offering up a heartier alternative to normal cotton jackets. Like my linen jacket, my PB jackets softly tailored (perhaps even more so) and fit really well with a more contemporary wardrobe. The small detailing like swelled edges, lapel width/shape, and button stance offer the vintage charm that you can’t really find anywhere other than a willing custom tailor. My odd jacket gets plenty of wear, while the full suit (and it’s full cut) only get worn during more appropriate events.

In addition to these summer jackets, I think the obvious “unique” pieces are my collection of tweed sack jackets obtained from eBay, Etsy, and NYC’s own Sean Crowley. Not many affordable makers make interesting checks and plaids in soft shoulders and 3-roll-2 stance, so vintage is always my go-to for fun cold weather jackets. Two are from Brooks: a 1960’s grey/blue plaid and a 1970’s light brown/red plaid. The grey might get more wear than the brown due to the silhouette differences, but my favorite has to be my green check one. There’s no way I’d be able to find something similar without going bespoke. I just can’t wait for it to be cold again!

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the smaller stuff like my sweaters and ties. I have two 1930’s sweaters (that have seen better days) that I think are completely different than the knitwear you find today. Not only do they have a shorter length, which is necessary for high waisted trousers, but there is something about the specific colors and design that mark it something that only vintage could create. There are also a few fun Cuban collar/sport shirts that have gotten plenty of wear during this past hot summer season.

As for my ties, I generally cycle between 1960’s reps and 1930’s brocades, but my favorite one has to be this fantastic blue abstract print/foulard. It was actually apart of a lot of ties I purchased from a local vintage guy; I didn’t even expect to love it as much as I did! Like most ties of the era, it has a short length (again, great for high rise trousers) and a more shapely blade, ending in an untipped edge resulting in a lightweight, unique tie that is unlike any other out there. I often have to stop myself from wearing it too often, not just to prevent repeat outfits, but to ensure that it lasts as long as possible. One of the reasons I love it is how similar it looks to the tie’s you’d expect from Drake’s.

In reality–like many things in life–my favorite vintage pieces are usually the most recent ones that I’ve acquired. It’s always nice to have something that’s a little bit different than the staples that most people tend to recommend, coming with a unique buying experience that feels rewarding after careful hunting. Whether you get a vintage leather jacket, overcoat, or even just a tie, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. Do you have any fun vintage pieces yourselves? Let us know by commenting below!

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How to Bring Old Shoes Back to Life

Since winning the 2018 Styleforum Shoe Revival Challenge I have been asked by a number of people how this transformation was possible. I have been accused of everything from photoshopping to taking a picture of a new pair next to an old pair to dark magic…really?? In reality, it is not as complicated as it may look.
This is how I do a transformation to bring old shoes back to life:

Allen Edmonds Cream Polish  •  Saphir Pate de Luxe  •  Saphir Mirror Gloss

To start I strip the leather with Fiebings deglazer (you could substitute Angelus or Saphir products here). This is an acetone-based solution that strips off any old polish and the factory dye coatings. It should leave a dry and basic tan looking leather after.
The challenge pair in particular didn’t really require much stripping since the factory finish was fairly non-existent from the get-go. Now some leathers that are too highly processed (corrected grain leather) and are more “plasticky” in nature will not strip at all. So mid-tier to higher quality brands like Allen Edmonds, Magnanni, Santoni, Ferragamo, and this To Boot New York pair tend to do better. 
After deglazing, I use Venetian shoe cream to condition the leather as the stripping process dries it up some. You could substitute a Saphir conditioning lotion here too…both are all non-tinted white creams or lotions.  
Now is where the magic begins. I use Fiebings alcohol-based dyes. Again you can substitute Angelus or Saphir products. I only have used Fiebings and have been very pleased with them. I start from light to dark. Pick a lighter base coat…beige, tan, oxblood, light blue etc. Then move on to darker colors for accents, brogueing, burnishing and antiquing like medium brown, chocolate, mahogany, navy blue. For the challenge pair, I used buckskin base color and black for the antiquing. I probably did 2 rounds of base coat and 2 – 4 of antiquing.  
After each round of dye, some will penetrate, staining the leather and some will remain on the surface. I use the Venetian shoe cream in between coats to recondition the leather and to remove surface dye….remember its alcohol based so it dries the leather again. You can substitute Saphir cream and can even use tinted creams in between dye coats to add some color and create a more durable finish. If not done in between dye coats then definitely at the end of the dye process I will use a number of coats of colored cream polished with a thorough brushing in between.
For the challenge pair, I used a few coats of Allen Edmonds Saddle Brown cream polish over the entire shoe only at the end after my dyeing was complete. 
Finally, I use the hard waxes to top coat and give the mirror shine. Even the inexpensive waxes in a tin can give satisfactory results here but I prefer Saphir pate de luxe and the Saphir mirror gloss. I will typically use a very light coat along the vamp, sides and flex points as well as a very light tinted color here. A light coat because a mirror shine on the vamp will crack when the shoe bends….don’t do it!
For the heels and toes, I use a darker tinted polish to enhance antiquing and many more layers to give that mirror shine. Again mirror on non-bending areas of the shoe only.
For the challenge, I used Saphir cognac pate de luxe on the sides and vamp and dark brown for the heels and toes. I finished with Saphir mirror gloss in neutral for the perfect shine on the toes and heels. 
If you would like a custom antiqued pair hit me up on Styleforum username Mbaldinger, or on instagram under MBShoeDoc, or eventually on my website www.MBShoeDoc.com (this is a work in progress and is not up and running yet).
Mike Baldinger aka TheShoeDoc

Sicilian Tailoring

When Vittorio Palmisciano was 11 years old, he starting helping a friend of his father’s at a tailoring shop in his spare time after school.  His mother already knew how to sew trousers and shirts for his father; the trade seemed logical. But it took him a long time to open his own sartoria in Catania.
“There’s a saying in Italy,” he begins. “Impara l’arte e mettila da parte. I worked with several tailors in my youth. There’s a lot to learn. First, you master straight seams, then curved ones, then important parts of the jacket like the collar and shoulders. You can’t master everything in a few years. I didn’t start my own business until I was 27.” Now, almost 40 years later, he admits he’s still learning. “But I like the suit I made for you. Send me another picture of it when you get the chance.”
 
A brown fresco suit from Vittorio Palmisciano in various stages

Drafting the pattern for a straight-to-finish (no fittings) sport coat
The final product

Grey fresco suit, straight-to-finish (no fittings)
The final product

At a cafe in Palermo, Guido Davi and I are engrossed in caffè and conversation. As a child, Guido would accompany his father to the sartoria and help.  When Guido was in his 20s, he started working with his father full time.
“It takes years just to master a buttonhole,” he explains. “My father was truly un sarto maestro – he had 60 years of experience. My father wouldn’t let me cut a pattern for a suit for the first seven years. These guys that say they are tailors after a couple years…” he puts his thumb and fingers together and shakes it up and down in that quintessential Italian way. “They are not tailors.”
Salvo Ioco works at I Sarti Italiani, a Sicilian tailoring house, as designer, fitter, and operates the day-to-day activities and projects. The laboratorio employs about 10 tailors, each doing several jobs in various stations and with different machines. “We have sewing machines that our tailors use for straight seams,” Salvo says as we walk among the workers, “but certain parts are only done by hand using needle and thread, like attaching the sleeves to the armhole and stitching the canvassing to the chestpiece.” Although he takes the lead in most of the projects and lends a hand in the construction from time to time, Salvo is quick to deflect. “We’re a team. There are tailors, office workers, and those who deal directly with the clients.  Everybody has an important role in the sartoria. Together they have over a hundred years of experience,” he proudly says. “They are very good at what they do.”

The sartoria has been an integral part of Italian culture for parts of three centuries, faithfully passed on from one generation to the next. Originally transferred to Italy via Britain, Italy’s jacket differs in at least one aspect: canvassing. Guido, who has worked for a designer on Savile Row, comments: “The jacket in London descends from the uniform, which is very elegant but generally uses stiff canvass to create more angular chest and shoulders. Italian tailors took the British jacket and mellowed it.”
Vittorio concurs: “I have a client from London, where the style is more rigid compared to what we do here,” he says. “Not any more or less comfortable, but definitely softer.”   
After being imported to Italy, regional subtleties began to manifest themselves. Sicily’s style developed more or less at the same time as Naples and both share similar characteristics: a clean body, high armholes, open quarters, and soft canvassing. Differences may exist, but if so, they are very small.
“I’d say our jackets are usually less substantial than that of Napoli,” declares Guido. “But not by much. Sometimes not at all.”  Not only do Sicilian tailors favor light fabric (at least two have called my 10oz fresco “winter cloth”), but they also use lighter canvassing.
“The Sicilian summer is deathly hot,” Salvo says as he waves his hands. “You want the lightest jacket possible.”  
To put things in prospective: whereas British tailors may use several layers of horsehair cloth from top to bottom, most Sicilian tailoring houses and tailors typically use just one layer in the chest and shoulderscrine di cavallo – enough to give a suit its shape, but keep the weight down. The rest of the canvassing is far lighter. Pelo di cammello (camel hair cloth) is layered along with the crine and comes in various weights. The lightest is tela, which has a consistency similar to linen. All of these together are used to give shape to the jacket. 
“It’s like reinforced concrete,” describes Franco, Salvo’s father and the founder of I Sarti Italiani. “Without rebar inside, it won’t retain its shape. It’s necessary to give the jacket its form and structure, but it shouldn’t be so heavy that you notice it.”
Many think that a lean chest and narrow, rounded shoulders are part and parcel of the southern Italian style, but it would be more accurate to say they are currently di moda (a trend)A full chest does exist: Guido, for example, calls drape cannello but says it’s also called piega (“a fold”). Elsewhere in Sicily it’s known as lama (“a blade”), and strangely enough, drappeggio. As for extended shoulders, tailors are intimately familiar with them. In truth, one need only give a cursory look at Detective Montalbano – one of Italy’s most popular series and set in Sicily – to dismiss any notions of their scarcity. Like all trends, they may very well swing back into fashion.
Another notable difference between Britain and Italy is the method in which suits are produced. Whereas larger tailoring houses that employ many tailors exist in Italy, they are uncommon. Mostly you find the hole-in-the-wall family-run sartoria, with one tailor doing most of the work. The advantages to smaller shops, the theory goes, is that there is less chance of miscommunication if the same person takes your measurements, makes the pattern, cuts it, sews it, and fits it on you. In my experience I’ve found this to be true – sometimes. Vittorio once made an entire suit just based on my previous measurements and a few messages on WhatsApp. When it arrived at my home in San Francisco, it fit perfectly.  
Speaking of his experience on Savile Row, Guido remarks: “Their way is different. They have one person who is the pattern maker, another who is the cutter, still another who is the fitter. Then there is a trouser maker, a separate vest maker…there is a specialist in every area. And they do it exceptionally well – very precise. In Italy though, a tailor is a tailor. You do it all.” 
This doesn’t mean that he always does; currently, his mother and brother help him. “But If I need to make pants, I can. A jacket, a vest, an overcoat…everything. That is a true tailor.”
Noteworthy is the fact that the word for the job of cutter or fitter in Italian is virtually unheard of in Italy.  Only sarto.
 
Guido Davi’s work in various stages

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For well over a century, the general population of Italy had one – maybe two – nice suits made from the local sartoria, designated for church or festive occasions. As the suits for church started to show signs of wear they became suits for the field, another suit was commissioned, and so on. Before mass-produced suits became the norm, local tailors were in constant demand in Italy. Things are much different now.
“In the old days,” Guido recalls, “there used to be, without exaggerating, one tailor on every block.” Now there remains only a handful in Palermo, and he notes that the average age of a tailor in the city is in the 70s, as it is in most of Italy.  When asked about the future of tailoring in Italy, he shrugs.
Boh.  Something has to change.”
He’s not talking about demand; there’s plenty of that. The resurgence of interest in artisans has grown the client list of many tailors. Some have even raised their prices, something they haven’t done in over ten years. He’s talking about the continuation of the craft by the next generation, and it doesn’t look good.
Most trades in the United States have a program that provides classroom instruction and connects the students with contractors so that the majority of their training is working on-the-job alongside a journeyman; I followed such a program by the IBEW to become a Union Electrician. Apprentices are paid a percentage of the wages of a master tradesman based on their time in the field. The reasoning is that an apprentice’s output is a fraction of that of a journeyman, especially at the beginning. As their speed progresses and expertise grows, so does their salary, and when they have enough experience to become a journeyman and pass the state test, they are certified in their trade and can demand a full wage. Thus the continued availability of qualified craftsmen and women is secured, without being an economic burden on either the teacher or the trainee. Everyone benefits.
Such a program doesn’t exist in Italy. On the contrary, the law stipulates that everyone working a particular trade must earn equal salary, regardless of their experience. This means that master tailors have to pay an apprentice the full wage of another master tailor, not a percentage. Since becoming a master tailor takes at least five years – taking on an apprentice is an expenditure they can’t afford, and so the craft is dying out.
“It didn’t used to be that way,” Guido clarifies, “But since the change, hardly anyone has taken on an apprentice. If they do, there is an agreement sotto tavola but they risk getting a fine.” He then tells the story of a fellow tailor who was fined more than 15000 euro for doing so, despite having paid the apprentice a commensurate salary.
A few tailoring schools do exist, but they focus more on teaching theory than real-world field experience. “I have kids that come to me after graduating from these schools,” Guido relates, “but I have to turn them away because they have no technical skill. It’s sad, but they’re really no better than anyone else.”
Vittorio agrees. “These schools last two, maybe three years,” he remarks, “and they don’t even cut a suit. It’s better to get experience first, and then go to school.”
Salvo contends the law has to change to allow programs similar to the ones in the States, and then deliberates for a moment. “Everything happens slowly in Italy,” he says finally. “I don’t see change happening anytime soon. But how else are we going to be able to afford training apprentices?”
All the tailors I talked to learned their trade when they were still young, either because their parents made them or they themselves were interested. Guido, though, has no children to whom he can pass on the trade. Vittorio does have children, but when asked about them, he sighs. “It’s hard work. I have to work eight, ten, sometimes 12 hours hunched over.  They don’t want to do that.” When I ask him whether he thinks children or parents are to blame, he pauses to reflect. “I don’t know, but if kids do anything now, it’s just school. That’s fine, but what if you can’t find a job in the field you spent so much time studying for?  You need a skill that you can fall back on.  Like I said: impara l’arte e mettila da parte.”

In his sartoria, Guido shows me the various stages of a suit as its being made. The first one has all the tell-tale marks of the first fitting: no sleeves, collar, and uncovered lapels.  
“Did you notice there are no pockets?”  He asks.  I didn’t before, but now the detail screams at me. 
“A first-time client will always have the prima prova like this,” he says as he points. “You must see how the jacket fits the client before the pockets; a returning customer can skip this step. And when the pockets are put in, a good tailor will put the pouch behind the canvas. This is very important. It’s more difficult and time-consuming, but when you put something in it – like a pocket square or sunglasses – the jacket lays more flat.” Then he smiles. “I have just told you a tailor’s secret.”
Salvo concedes that his experience is relatively shallow. “Because of my age, I’m always looking to others to better myself,” he says. “There is an indispensable coalition of tailors that I can learn from, and I only stand to benefit from their experience. When I meet another sarto who doesn’t mind sharing his knowledge, I take advantage of it.”
 
First fitting of a corduroy suit from I Sarti Italiani
Final product
Another suit from I Sarti Italiani in summer tweed from Die, Workwear!
It’s true, you do learn from your mistakes,” Vittorio observes. “But I had guidance, too. I worked for fifteen years with different tailors before starting my own sartoria. They would share their experiences, I’d get together with them for coffee to talk shop, and sometimes I’d cut open a pair of trousers so I could see how they were made.
Really, tailors learn – no, steal – from each other. And after you’ve mastered the basics, you need to have a little imagination and make everything that you learned your own, with your own sartoria. Hopefully, you can pass that on to the next generation.”

An ode and a guide to tapered jeans

SLIM TAPERED JEANS


The first pair of “raw” denim jeans I saw that were not my father’s Levi’s Orange tabs ($29.95 at Zellers back in 1980) were Helmut Lang’s “Narrow” and “Straight” cuts, which I stumbled across the Beverly Hills Barneys in 1998. The hems of both seemed improbably tight and unfashionable to me at that time, when 16-18” hems were the norm, and the $300+ price was prohibitive to a graduate student without a trust fund.

A few years later, the North American premium denim movement, which started in LA, where the bulk of denim manufacturing is located, began in earnest. My personal favorites were Scott Morrison’s first brand, Paper Denim & Cloth, which was revolutionary for its time; and Levi’s Premium, among the first of Levi’s many attempts to gain a fresh foothold in the new fashion landscape. In the early 2000s Scandinavian brands, led by Nudie, gained a following in North America, helped by representation from the super agency WANT. During my honeymoon in Spain, finding Nudies in Madrid was a major goal, and I dragged my new wife on a several-hour walk just to find the small boutiques I was interested in – I know that more of you sympathize with this than would care to. ACNE (also represented by WANT) were the next to gain popularity in the US. My Norwegian friends told me that in Scandinavia, Nudie were for the douche-bro crowd, and ACNE was the jean of choice for the less objectionable, but my loyalty to Nudie – at this point ingrained – didn’t waver.

These were all gateway drugs to the Japanese denim that had been popular in Japan a decade earlier. In usual form the States were a decade behind, but our interests were stoked by retailers like Self Edge and Blue in Green, who were as much a product of the times as they were the flag bearers. Like everyone else swept up in the trend, I agonized over shrinking, stretching, and the much-sought-after wear marks, which Babelfish awesomely translated from the Japanese as “vertical falling.” Those were heady days for the raw denim crowd. Ultimately, I came to the realization – as did all of my denim-nerd peers – that forcing yourself to wait six months before washing a pair of jeans is madness. I always thought that the sizing-down-so-that-the-jeans-stretch-out stance was a terrible idea, so I didn’t have to learn that lesson at the cost of the months – even years – of testicular pain, that so many others paid.

“Shrink to fit” Levi’s commercial from the 1980s

Today, my denim collection resembles an archaeological dig site that spans the past 15 years and has its beginning with the premium denim trend of the very early 00s. And while I am sure that my preferences will continue to evolve, I’m at the point at which comfort, or at the very least, not-extreme-discomfort, will always be a consideration. This means that the recommendations below have some breathing room through the seat front and thighs, and hit comfortably at the hipbone. Since tapered is still the standard, both are slimmer from the knee down. Generally, I like the feeling of heft in my jeans – no paper-light stretchy jeggings for me – but super heavy jeans are never all that comfortable, so jeans between 13.5 and 17 ounces, light enough to be nimble, heavy enough to have some real power, hit that sweet spot.

If you’ve got big thighs, check out this article on Jeans for Men with Big Thighs

“Slim tapered” jeans from Big John’s “Rare” line have the minimalist trappings of designer jeans – a plain, midnight blue, deerskin indigo back patch, a placketless fly, and no gratuitous branding; and they are cut not unlike the Helmut Lang jeans that I used to think were too narrow at the hem, with a mid-rise and a tapered leg. But they are made from inky “Ransei” denim (meaning “king of denims”), which is the highest quality denim made by Japan’s “first” Americana-inspired denim brand and is designed to fade in an extremely attractive manner. I hesitate to describe them as versatile, since that’s only a few steps away from suggesting that they will go from “the boardroom to the bar,” but I will say that all of the very different people to whom I’ve recommended them have liked them.

BIG JOHN Slim tapered jeans, 14 oz raw denim - via No Man Walks Alone

BIG JOHN Slim tapered jeans, 14 oz raw denim – via No Man Walks Alone

The other pair I frequently wear are even more of an amalgam of the trends of the last fifteen years than the Big Johns: a collaborative project (collaborations went from novel to ubiquitous between 2003 and 2006) from American retailer Blue Owl and Japanese manufacturer Momotaro; the very precisely-named (and discontinued) BOM005 (the closest analog is now the BOM008). The “modern,” mid-rise, tapered cut is borrowed from its sister brand, Japan Blue, and the heavy denim appeals to both denimheads and fashion customers alike, with weft threads (the colored threads in a jean) that are nearly black when first worn, and fade to a dark indigo with wear. They also have a black leather patch – plain or tonal patches seem to be popular with the minimalist set these days – and instead of the typical contrast stitching, the thread is tonal save for the single line of pink running along the inseam.

momotaro blue owl denim jeans tapered

These two pairs take me through most days. Not a decade ago, I would have recommended a much lower rise, tighter jean, possibly in the heavier denim. Those cuts and weights still exist, and there is always a race towards the heaviest possible denim, but as a retailer once said about super heavy (18-ounce and greater) denim, “that’s for kids.” I do have a pair of 23-ounce jeans that I wear when I get nostalgic for the age of sick fades, though. Jeans, after all, are about the memories.

How to choose a Fedora that suits you

Fedoras will always get a bad rap, despite being a fully functional and stylish accessory. It’s probably due to the infamous status of “vintage hat”, gracing the heads of Golden Era illustrations, period films, and your latest Gatsby party (it should be noted that the story takes place in the early 1920s, and the fedora hat reached the peak in popularity in the mid-to-late 20s). The stigma is hard to shake, and I’ll even admit that a fedora hat is one of the few things I can’t really bring myself to wear often, despite being a vintage enthusiast. But that’s changed in recent history.

In my free time, I’ve hung out and shot with Cody Wellema, a hatmaker the California suburb of Pasadena. He is completely self-taught and has gone from fulfilling orders in his apartment to opening up a storefront in a building that has existed since the 1920s. Our friendship led him to develop more of an appreciation for classic menswear, while he has shown me a different side to fedoras. When looking at the old pictures of Jimmy Stewart or even candid pictures of regular Golden Era people, he noted that these people wore their clothes (and hats) naturally. They weren’t trying to put on a certain look, as some guys do today. Wearing a fedora at the time was the same as wearing a bucket hat or a beanie today; you sport it with a suit on a hot day or with a chambray shirt when working. Back in the day, there wasn’t a concern about being dapper.

Black felt Wellema. Works well with minimal outfits.

A couple of guys follow this same mantra. The guys at Bryceland’s are one great example. As I’ve noted before, they have a vintage-meets-modern sartorial/workwear style where the fedora comes in perfectly. Both their personal hats and RTW stock are made by Wellema, which you can see them wear across their social media. They really wear them with everything, from tailoring to rayon shirts to 1950’s pin-up print tees. It might be a bit too bold for some, but it’s definitely miles ahead of any gangster cosplay. Seeing them do it well, in addition to my many conversations and pictures with Cody, really inspired me to get some made for myself. I currently own two Wellemas, a dressy grey and my own take on the brown fedora; they have seen more wear in recent history.  

Yet Bryceland’s isn’t the only ones who wear it. You can see a bunch of people do it during the F/W Pitti. Drake’s featured a floppy brimmed one a few seasons ago. Like pleats, established gentlemen continue to wear it while the like-minded younger generation is seeing the appeal. At no point does it look like a costume or something affected. With the tucked tie before it, it simply takes confidence in your look. But even before that, it takes careful consideration to find the one that suits you.

Like with shoulder styles, lapel width, and jacket length, you need to pay attention to your proportions.

Fedoras vary widely in terms of crown height/shape and brim width, with some combined details bringing specific eras to mind. You don’t always have to play to your facial structure, but at least be conscious of the look you’re projecting. Once the shape of your hat has been determined, you should also decide on the ribbon width: wider ribbons with a bow are more formal whereas thin ones are more “western” and casual. The same can be said for brim treatment; a snap front and upturned back are more traditional and having it up all around is more dressed down.

Color is personal preference, but you really can’t go wrong with a grey or brown, with the latter as my personal favorite despite the ever-present imagined Indiana Jones archetype. Contrasting your hat with your outfit is definitely needed, as to not appear matchy-matchy. A grey fedora works well with a brown suit or navy suit, while brown works especially well with grey or green. For me, I think that grey becomes a bit too formal; brown tends to work better with denim as well as a flannel suit. I’ve also seen the tan/silverbelly one grow increasingly popular since it subverts a lot of people’s expectations over the fedora. You’ll see that in the album I’ll include below.

Lastly, it just stands to say that fedoras are more of a fall/winter item. Due to the “structure”, it creates for your head, it really works best with a fuller cut suit. I don’t mean that you have to wear a 1940’s draped suit, but keep in mind that a close hugging jacket and skinny pants won’t cut it. The idea is to be relaxed in your clothing. Adding coats, sweaters, and scarves also help add to this proportion building, as to not make your head/hat appear too wide.  


FEDORA HATS THROUGH THE YEARS

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Here are a couple of places that I think have some great fedoras other than getting a vintage one from eBay or vintage store.  

Wellema Hat Co. 

Cody Wellema makes each hat by hand, making him one of the few bespoke hatmakers in the US. He doesn’t have a house style, which means that you can ask him to do anything you want, whether it’s something period authentic or original. He is a wealth of knowledge and a perfect gentleman, who is dedicated to making the hat you want thanks to his enormous collection of hat blocks and vintage ribbons. It is a bespoke service, so it works best if you go in person to get measured (with late 1800s equipment) and consult on the details. He’s done things as crazy as burn distressing to indigo dyed felt! The lead time is a 6-8 weeks since they are done by hand, but it’s completely worth it to have a hat that’s entirely custom and made with the highest quality.


The Armoury 

The Armoury fedora is similar to the Stoffa one, in that the crown is unblocked, allowing it to be styled to its owner’s preference. The brim is 3”, which is a bit too much for my taste (I prefer a sub 2.5” at most), but that just means it looks especially rakish and is sure to protect you from the elements.  The ribbon is thin, which makes it easy to wear casually.


Borsalino / Stetson

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Borsalino and Stetson, who are perhaps the biggest brand name hatmakers in the world.  I will admit that I have no real experience with these apart from true vintage models (which even then were some of the highest quality on the market), but I’m sure that there are many out there who are pleased with their modern hats.  The Borsalino Traveller and the Stratoliner are probably my picks of the bunch, though the colors available aren’t the most versatile. I’d also suggest leaving the feather at home.

 


Stoffa 

The Stoffa hats are like a combination of a fedora and the original panama hats: they can actually be rolled up! The brand is all about making things more accessible and natural, so these soft felt fedoras lack a ribbon in order to help them float the line between casual and formal. The felt is extremely pliable, so you can style the brim and crown anyway you like. It’s a great one for guys unsure of wearing the traditional fedora, but still want to don one.

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