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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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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Style Icons: Bryceland’s Ethan Newton and Kenji Cheung

Vintage style is something you never really see anymore. It makes sense that people have an aversion to it, as it can come off as a costume or kitsch. As a vintage enthusiast myself, I was confident that all it needed was an example of someone doing it right. Enter in Ethan Newton and Kenji Cheung, the owners of Bryceland’s, the latest menswear haberdashery in Japan and HK. I think they make a strong case for incorporating vintage style in the modern world, though theirs is very subtle.

Unlike a lot of the other “menswear ateliers” that have opened up in recent memory, Bryceland’s stands out because of its old-school -almost rugged- vibe. They might work with contemporary tailors like Dalcuore, W.W Chan, and Ambrosi Napoli, but they also stock rayon sports shirts from Groovin High, 1947 reproduction denim, and have even held trunk shows with vintage pickers. All of this results in a unique look; you can spot Ethan in a sawtooth denim shirt worn under a suit or Kenji in a Dalcuore DB with wide-legged military chinos. The look may not be for everyone, but we can’t deny that it’s certainly different from the regular menswear uniform we see from other stores.

Now you might say that vintage style is easy to pull off in casual/workwear attire; after all, it’s not hard to look good in a leather jacket, breezy rayon shirt, and selvedge denim. But what if I told you that the owners of Bryceland’s had a vintage look present in their sartorial style as well? It’s a little more subdued compared to their overtly old-school casual/workwear style, but it’s still there. Honestly, that’s what I prefer when looking for inspiration: great ways of making vintage look contemporary. I’m not really about looking period accurate when I step out the door, rather I focus on capturing a look that evokes timelessness while suiting modern situations.

One of the easier ways they incorporate a vintage look is by wearing striped shirts with printed ties. While it’s not exactly uncommon in our circles of vintage clothes aficionados, it’s an anomaly compared to the rest of the menswear world; most guys prefer to keep things rather plain. Ethan and Kenji offer a unique selection of patterned ties: instead of the tight geometric patterns that can be found on the WAYWT threads, you’ll find that their Sevenfold collaborations are a little more eclectic, with their prints being a little bit more abstract and spread out compared to the regular options. Even their striped ties stand out among the reps and regimental ties frequented by Ivy enthusiasts. As a whole, their ties have a vintage look to them, even if they were made recently.

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They combine this eccentricity with their love of unique collars. Made in collaboration with bespoke shirtmaker Ascot Chang, Ethan and Kenji have developed a couple of different collar styles. One great example is their tab, club collar shirt. Unlike most collars today, the points are a little bit longer, with the tab giving a vintage feel to the shirt. When worn with a 3PC as they do, it simultaneously gives off a late 20s or even 1960s vibe. It might be a bit rakish for some, but it’s not costume-like in the slightest. Kenji and Ethan have also developed a button down collar that definitely seems to have been inspired by the classic Ivy style OCBD. Again, there are some slight vintage connotations, but it isn’t anything anachronistic.

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Now let’s take a look at the tailoring itself. In general, they don’t really pick anything overly bold, which is usually done by “vintage” enthusiasts. You might see a Prince of Wales suit or a plaid tweed every once in a while, but they largely stick to subdued, plain colors like navy, brown, or even cream. These choices definitely help “ground in” the vintage style, which separates them from the more dandy vintage dressers.

Obviously, there are trends in classic tailoring, as high rise, pleats, and wide lapels no longer seem to be “old school” but are actually the trend. However, tweak some these details further, and it can result in an even more vintage look, even to seasoned bespoke enthusiasts. If we look at the Bryceland’s house model from Dalcuore, you’ll notice that they opt for a lowered gorge, which was the style back in the 1930s-1940s compared to the tailoring of today, which usually features the notch placed high on the chest – almost at the shoulder.

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This attention to detail is continued in how they cut and style their DBs. Whether it’s from Dalcuore or W.W Chan, both Ethan and Kenji opt for straight horizontal lapels, again with a lowered gorge. Like the SB lapels, this goes against the grain from the rest of the menswear world, where most prefer a little bit of a belly to their peak lapels. For those who don’t know, horizontal peaks are characteristic of Golden Era Tailoring. In terms of trousers, they definitely like to have their pieces pleated and cut nice and full with just a little bit of taper. It’s most apparent on Ethan Newton, who has a larger frame, but you can still see that Kenji wears them as well. One great outfit that puts this all together is worn by Kenji on a wide, horizontal peak DB that features a fishtail trouser. It’s completely modern with an old-school charm.

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One last thing that I’d like to point out is that they also accessorize their outfits well. We’ve heard that the white pocket square is the ultimate go-to, but it certainly hasn’t seen a lot of wear lately as most go for muted prints and designs. The plain white is classic and when done with a bit of nonchalance, definitely has a 1930s actor vibe to it, which is why they seem to wear it almost all the time. I’m also sure that the white pocket square is necessary when your tie choice is just a tad more adventurous than what others pick. White socks are also seen as what is presumably an Ivy throwback, though you can sometimes see it worn with dress trousers and suits instead of just chinos. Ethan and Kenji also add collar pins and tie bars for extra measure. While the former can sometimes be seen among more rakish dressers, the latter is certainly not: most gentlemen today either tuck their tie or let their blades run wild.

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Looking back, a lot of what makes “vintage style” is doing things that no one does anymore. This doesn’t mean just wearing something old, but rather taking elements of a bygone era and incorporating them into the contemporary world. I think that Ethan Newton and Kenji Cheung do this exceptionally well. All of their stuff is still made today but with a tweak of the design, like a lapel shape or a tie with an interesting print, it gives you a Golden Era look.

They don’t opt for anything too bold either other than the occasional plaid or pinstripe, choosing for their suits the more muted tones of browns, blues, and greys, keeping things rather classic and versatile. Overall, I think they make the case that 1930s-1940s era styling can still be done. This idea helped me improve my own style, as I’ve moved beyond period authenticity, to making something a bit more contemporary with a few nods toward the Golden Era. Perhaps we can all take some inspiration of them and bring that vintage style in the modern day.

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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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Shirt Collars: Different Styles Over the Years

The shirt collar is an often overlooked aspect of menswear since many people buy and stick with one style. However, minute details- the length, height, tie space, and spread can completely change an outfit; they can even point to a specific era.  As we have discussed before with suits and ties, shirt collars have gone through numerous changes from the beginning of the century. While the spread collar reigns supreme today, different collars work better for different people, so taking cues from the past can help, especially if you’re on the path of creating your own style.

Washing shirts in the 19th and early 20th centuries was a difficult and time consuming process. To save time, men would wear shirts with detachable collars and cuffs– which, since they were the only exposed parts of the shirt, could be washed separately. These collars were often stiff, made of either paper (which could be simply wiped clean), or actual fabric, which had to be washed and starched.

By the 1910s, standing collars and wing collars were being phased out in favor of turndown collars, which framed the necktie well. While it wasn’t uncommon to see patterned shirts sold with matching collars, they were oftentimes paired with contrasting plain white collars.

During WWI, men had become accustomed to the soft, permanently attached collars of their service shirts. Upon returning home, veterans purchased dress shirts with the same features. Detachable collar shirts still saw the lion’s share of sales until the end of the decade, and they were still popular among the wealthy and seen on formal shirts (and they will remain in vogue until the 1950s). The spread collar was introduced around this time, but short point collars were standard wear; club collars were popular as well. The 1920s also saw a boom for the button down collar, which was first introduced in the 1890s by English polo players.

Point collars got longer in the 1930s, and what resulted was called the spearpoint collar shirt. This collar (my personal favorite) had a subtle curve near the point that resembles a teardrop. Generally, they were about 3 ½ inches long, but some Hollywood celebrities, such as Walt Disney or John Barrymore, had shirts with collars as long as 4 or 5 inches. Collar bars or pins complement this shape quite well, and they can be worn open casually as the “runaway collar”, with the points lying flat on a jacket’s lapels.

Not all spear points were the same, as brands would come up with their own designs and versions of it, changing the spread and length of the collar. Also popular during this time were short, rounded collars and eyelet collars, which you can see in advertisements and illustrations of the period. All styles were usually designed for small, four in hand knots.

vintage shirt collars styleforum

The spearpoint collar continued to be worn into the mid 1940s, but would begin to fall out of favor with the introduction of “the bold look”: suits were bigger and bulkier, ties were wider and longer, and the windsor became the go-to tie knot. To compensate, wide spread point collars came into fashion. At the same time, button down collars worn with bow ties became a minor fad. Also during this decade, the “convertible collar” (better known today as the cuban collar or camp collar) became incredibly popular for casual-wear.

vintage shirt collars styleforum

By the mid-1950s, the bold look had faded, and the new trend leaned towards simplicity. A 1952 issue of Esquire describes the unprecedented variety of collar styles on the market: short point collars, spread collars, and tab collars were just a few of them. Still popular was the button-down collar, this time with many more varieties including a wide spread for windsor knots, rakish rounded button down collars, and models with an extremely exaggerated roll. The trend would continue as the ivy look gained dominance in the ‘50s and ‘60s. A shorter version of the club collar also gained prominence in that time.

Fashion is definitely cyclical, seeing how the late 1960s and early ‘70s drew much inspiration from the clothing of the 1930s. Suits once again featured wide lapels, nipped waists, and wide trousers, with a “modern” twist. Shirt collars too, were reminiscent of the spearpoints worn decades earlier, with one major difference: the teardrop curve was now absent. The body of the collar was wider, the band higher, and the points longer, leading to an exaggerated look. Use of polyester, “the fabric of the future”, was gaining popularity, and these disco shirts were often cut from 100% synthetic material, with built-in collar stays to preserve the shape. The idea was that they wouldn’t flap around while you were dancing!

vintage shirt collars styleforum vintage shirt collars styleforum

Normal 1980's shirts worn with awful suits.

Normal 1980’s shirts worn with awful suits.

Shirts returned to a more traditional look during the 1980s and onward: simple point collars were the norm until the 2000s, but the 1980s and ‘90s saw trends of their own.  Gordon Gekko style spread collars with contrasting fabric and tab collars were popular among businessmen, while the band collar was often seen on casual looks. Thanks to the “Mad Men” craze of the late 2000s, 1960s style short collars gained steam. Later, the already short 1960s point collar was reduced even further by “fashion-forward” designers, with some barely holding a tie knot. Menswear soon moved away from these tiny point collars and embraced the spread collar.

The classic spread collar isn’t actually a modern invention, but it’s definitely different enough from the point collar to mark it just touch more interesting. Classic menswear enthusiasts know not to fill up the extra space with a wide windsor knot; the lightly exposed parts of the tie attributes to this collar’s charm. Eventually, the spread collar gave way to the more exaggerated cutaway collar (again, not a modern invention), with fashion designers going for the extreme. The spread even influenced the latest iteration of the OCBD, with some brands offering wide spread OCBDs with a huge roll.

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Time can only tell what the next fad in shirt collars will be. For the past few years, the spread collar has been king, however, with the resurgence of ivy style, OCBDs have been getting more wear as well.

Personally, I think that a collar choice is up to the individual.  You can’t go wrong with the spread or button-down, but if you’re someone who likes playing with different styles, or simply wants more variety in his closet, a look at the past will provide more inspiration than a quick browse of the #menswear trends on your Instagram feed.


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

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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An Overview of Suit Silhouettes by Era

One of the most important things that I’ve learned in my menswear journey, is that every era has a specific silhouette.  Vintage, for most people, is all encompassing, but there really is a distinct style and shape for suits that sets the 1930’s apart from the 1940’s, and the 1920’s from the 1960’s. One of the best ways to differentiate the eras is by looking at the shoulders, the lapels, and the amount of waist suppression.  


1900-1920

Early suits from the 1900s-1920s definitely carried an influence from the 1890s due to their predilection for high button stances, odd jacket wasting, and slim “high water” pants.  Jacket shoulders weren’t as padded as you would think, but it’s a combination of other details that make for this archaic look.  


The 1930’s and 40’s

Next we have the 1930’s and 1940’s, which is my favorite era.  To contrast the form-fitting nature of the early 1900s, this era gives us the quintessential classic look that emphasizes the masculine physique.  Padded shoulders, wide lapels, drape cut, waist suppression, and a moderate button stance help place the 1930’s as the golden era of menswear; pants became wider, but were still tasteful as they were mainly flat front.  The overall styling of striped shirts and foulard ties also help hammer in the classic look.  If you look at some of the illustrations and photographs, it doesn’t look too far off of what we see in the WAYWT thread today (excepting the trouser width).  The 1940’s added to the classic look by increasing shoulder padding, lowering the button stance, widened trouser legs, and added pleats  Shirts remained the same while ties became much more bold, with abstract designs and crazy colors.  

Gallery: the 1930’s

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The post-war period was a prosperous one for America,  so suits kept going with what was learned in the 1940’s.  Button stances dropped even further and padding was again increased, to emphasize broad shoulders and long torsos.  Worsted wools stepped down from the pedestal as twilled gabardines and atomic fleck suits were used for comfort and standing out, respectively.  To add to this “bold look,” ties began showing off vertical designs, which when worn with a low-buttoning jacket, visually elongate the torso.  

Gallery: the 1940’s


Gallery: the 1950’s

 


The 1960’s

suit silhouettes by decade styleforum

A 1960’s herringbone sack suit.

The 1960’s were a direct response to the bold era that preceded it.  For the “Mad Men” era you can expect slim lapels, a roomier, un-darted front, natural shoulders, and a 3-roll-2 stance.  Trousers returned to a flat front but became slimmer.  While moderate lapels came back into fashion in the mid to late 1960’s, you’ll find that slim lapels were the norm.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gallery: the 1960’s

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The 1970’s

If you look closely, you’ll see that the 70’s looked toward the 1930s and early 1940s for inspiration with jackets that featured padded/extended shoulders, an extremely slim waist, and overly wide lapels.  However, lapels from this era cut a high-sitting notch (compared to the lower ones from the preceding decades) which only emphasized the V shape figure.  Trousers remained high rise, but opted for a slim thigh and slightly wider ankle.  Crazy bell bottom suits did exist, but most suits were much more moderate.


The 1980’s and 90’s

1980’s and 1990’s decided to make changes to throwback looks, which is why it seems that they adopted the 1940s and 1950s and made them look even more oversized. Shoulder padding and wide lapels (with low notch) was brought back while the button stance got even lower, perhaps to further emphasize the excess top half. Trouser pleats returned, but having a sharp fit was never on the table; wearing trousers at your hips grew more popular while breaks began to reign supreme.  It’s almost as if the more excess fabric you had, the more stylish you were.  

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2000-2010

The mid 2000s to early 2010s fought back against the excess of the previous two decades.  Slim fit everything seems to be the name of the game, as jackets began to be tighter with slight padding in the shoulder.  To combat the elongation of previous eras, jackets began to be cut shorter with a higher button stance and slim lapels. No doubt, this was partly influenced by Thom Browne. Trousers were also cut with a higher hem as a protest against breaks.  


 

Current Suit Silhouettes

suit silhouettes by decade styleforum

A modern suit by Camoshita.

 

Today,  we are seeing a lot of the older details come back in updated, versatile ways. Jackets as a whole are returning to older designs, with wide lapels and longer length. However, it seems that soft tailoring is the current trend.  Drake’s is a good example, as they have made ivy style 3-roll-2 jackets that are completely unstructured/unlined that work for a variety of situations.  

Trousers have widened up, and some even feature pleats after a decade of being a sort of sartorial pariah.  This style of relaxed yet elegant suiting has defined classic menswear in recent years and is one of the reasons why brands like Eidos and Ring Jacket have become popular.  

 

 

 

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I hope this overview of suit and jacket silhouette helps you learn more about vintage style and how to incorporate them into your wardrobe!  

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

 

 

Why I’ll Never Stop Loving The Big Shirt

I cherish my weekends. During the work week, my fiancée is gone early and returns late, and outside of our daily dog walks and once-weekly picnics (if you’re not picnicking once weekly with your significant other, reconsider your life), Saturday and – sometimes – Sunday are the only days we have to relax with a cup of coffee, our dogs, and a breakfast that isn’t a granola bar.

Every weekend, once I’ve had my coffee (decaf now, sadly) and am ready to start cooking, I invariably reach for the same garments: a comfy pair of shorts (or pants, if the morning is chilly), my Birkenstocks (say what you will), and a Big Shirt. And by Big Shirt I don’t mean an oversized gym tee. I mean a loose, oversized button-up shirt that I wear with the sleeves rolled halfway up my forearm. You may remember these from glorious 90’s moments such as this one:

Conversely, for a few years while I was in college, slim-fit shirts were the Holy Grail of menswear. At the same time that brands such as Band of Outsiders and Gitman Vintage were just getting popular on Styleforum, all my friends and I were constantly lamenting the unsightly ‘pooching’ effect you’d get around your middle when you tucked a ‘dress shirt’ from Express, or J Crew, or wherever into your ‘dress pants.’ Many things have changed since then, among them my own style, the relative tightness of your average shirt, and the knowledge of how the latter should fit.

The thing is, I’ve always been a t-shirt guy. I’m wearing one even now, although there’s a blazer over it, and a body-hugging button-up shirt just isn’t and never will be as comfortable. But a t-shirt just isn’t always appropriate, and when you want something with a collar, your recourse is the Big Shirt.

I have been, in many ways, groomed since birth to favor the Big Shirt. My mother is a painter, and many of my childhood memories involve seeing her in her own Big Shirt – either stolen from my father or purchased for herself – covered in paint, charcoal and wood chips. Similarly, my father chronically finds all clothing intensely uncomfortable, except for his selection of ancient and heavily-worn oxford cloth button downs. He wears them all the time, with everything – including under a sweater when skiing. As neither of them have ever been particularly interested in fashion or clothing, I never saw anything else. It should come as no surprise that the comfort I take in wearing a Big Shirt is both physical and mental.

My first Big Shirts were hand-me-downs from my father, and I still have them: pastel pink and pastel yellow oxfords from Polo by Ralph Lauren; even years after he gave them to me the shoulders are too big and the sleeves too long. They are, however, loose enough to be comfortable in the summertime, and offer just barely enough in the way of decorum so that if a friend comes over for brunch on the patio I don’t feel the need to change. I’ve also snuck them into the occasional casual outfit, usually secreted beneath a casual blazer or a heavy cardigan and paired with an equally casual pair of jeans or trousers.

I have a few other shirts I consider Big Shirts: one is a hand-me-down from my mother, one is a relatively new chambray workshirt from RRL, and the last is, similarly, a workshirt from Yellow Hook. The latter two are just about fitted in the shoulders, but cut loose enough through the waist to trick the wearer into forgetting they’re wearing a shirt. I’ve even tried to incorporate Big-Shirtness into the other aspects of my wardrobe, and one of my favorite shirts that isn’t for casual outfits is a Haider Ackermann women’s blouse in gold silk that is truly Big.

Speaking of, part of my love for the Big Shirt is due to its androgynous appeal – women and men alike look great in Big Shirts. Old Ralph Lauren ads are a truly great source of inspiration for oversized silhouettes, and the women’s suits of the 80’s are still fantastic. 80’s Armani and Versace advertisements are equally great, and all three brands showcase the elegance of billowy clothing – and of the Big Shirt in particuarly. I still love the look of billowing fabric and a cinched waist, and although trim-cut shirts are certainly still – and likely will be for the foreseeable future – very popular, there’s nothing better for a relaxed outfit than a Big Shirt.

You can, of course, head to your local Ralph Lauren outlet and buy an oxford a few sizes too big if this is an itch you’re interested in scratching, but 1) that lacks magic and 2) going to malls and outlets is a terrible experience. Instead, I’d recommend shopping Ebay or Etsy for old shirts. The key is really to find a shirt with a giant armhole and a pleated sleeve, because as much as we like to say that high armholes improve mobility – and they do – you’re much more mobile in a shirt that fits like a sack.

There are more than a few brands playing with bigness these days – popular names on Styleforum being Christophe Lemaire and Kapital – but if you’re sitting on the more classic side of the style spectrum, I’d suggest trying the vintage route first. Start with a plain white or blue oxford. Get yourself a narrow, over-long belt, then tuck your shirt into a pair of soft, pleated trousers; or wear it with comfy, worn denim; or be like me and wear it over a pair of beat-up hiking shorts. You just might find that what your wardrobe needs is a little bit of Big Shirtness.

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Member Focus: SprezzaTrash on Embracing Vintage Style

SprezzaTrash is a relatively recent newcomer to Styleforum. Even so, he’s proven to have a style and sensibility that fits right in with Styleforum’s emphasis on (or obsessiveness with) details. In his particular case, inspiration comes from a wide variety of sources – here, he talks about what drew him to vintage clothing, and the enduring charm of styles long-past .


I didn’t get into “fashion” until about 5 years ago. Even then, I dressed as the poster child for #menswear, wearing floral shirts and skinny suits and ties.  However, whether it was from reading Tintin as a child, or from watching the inaccurately-costumed Great Gatsby movie of 2013, I felt as though vintage style was my true calling – and, through a chance Facebook meeting, I began to make contacts and friends in the vintage community.

Eventually, I began actually purchasing  garments that looked like what I had only seen in images and illustrations. It was so different than what I saw on Tumblr or Instagram.  The basic details of my new purchases were all there: the wide lapels, the high rise, the “correct” double breasted configuration.  

I was only a student (still am), so I purchased as many full suits and tie lots from all eras as I possibly could.  I still have a modest true vintage (my term for 1920-1940s) collection, but I made do with what I had to create as many outfits as possible.  As I went to more vintage events and talked with more people, I learned a lot about what made true, Golden Era style.  None of it involced the clip-on suspenders, wacky bowties, or tweed jackets that everyone touted as “vintage” (or dapper) style.  I began to see the real, specific details: the drape cut, the horizontal peaks, spearpoint collars and collar bars,  the wide lapels with  blunted edges and low notch, “exploding pocket squares;” I saw that tie prints differed from each era, and that many men used advanced pattern mixing within one outfit.  Eventually I decided that I didn’t want to buy vintage for the sake of buying vintage.  This meant no more low buttoning 1950’s suits and no crazy swing ties from the late 1940’s. No, I wanted to dress in the 30’s.

member focus sprezzatrash styleforum

By the time I started posting regularly on social media, I was torn between my two sides: my desire to remain modern and my love of vintage clothing.  The main thing holding me back was how rare and pricey vintage clothing was.  Even though I obtained most pieces “on the cheap”, I couldn’t bring myself to wear these nearly-100 year old garments everyday. It also didn’t look right; I liked the aesthetic but I was still conscious of wearing an “old” look in the modern day. It wasn’t until I discovered the guys from The Armoury, Drake’s, and Bryceland’s that I learned that it was definitely possible to dress with 1930’s vibes while wearing modern clothing!  They had the wide lapels, the foulards and print ties that I loved, and the striped shirts.

Obviously, I don’t have enough money to go with bespoke or high end RTW, so I made some concessions.  I started to thrift and find 60s-90s clothing that still had the wide lapels, half-lined jackets, and high rise that I was looking for. Soon, I began to retire my super slim, low rise fast fashion pieces, and started to thrift exclusively; my keen eye for detail has helped me come across some great pieces at extremely low prices. Thanks to developing a close relationship with two different tailors, I was able make my finds wearable and similar to modern tailors’ work.  I mix eras all the time, but I think my style still comes across as “old school” due to simple styling; particularly in the ties I choose to wear, as certain tie prints and designs are incredibly specific to various eras.

I’ve now become comfortable and confident in my style.  Even if I’m not always wearing true vintage, I’m able to have the vibes and aesthetic that I like.  If you compare me to my two original sources of inspiration, I’m much too modern (in terms of fit) to be vintage and too vintage to be modern (in terms of style).  As a friend has told me, I dress “like a man from 1938 came to the modern day and spent his life thrifting.”  That said, sometimes I do a modern interpretation of a 30’s outfit or I do a vintage version of what I see on the Armoury.  It really proves that nothing is new under the sun.  I’ve even recently “discovered” ivy style, and it’s dominated my non-suited looks for the past 6 months.

Many people have misconceptions of what vintage style is and often get it wrong; no one back then dressed in zoot suits or like what you see in Goodfellas.  I think that’s what drove me to start a blog – I definitely want to prove that people can dress with vintage vibes in the modern era – you just have to study carefully and have a good eye for detail.  There are plenty of nuances that come from each distinct decade, and pulling what you like from each one with careful accuracy is important if you want to develop a vintage style and pull it off well.


You can follow Ethan’s vintage adventures both on his blog, and on Instagram at @ethanmwong.