A pair of vintage-inspired summer looks with menswear staples from classic, mostly American brands:
Top—1950s Thread & Thimble single-button sack jacket in olive green hopsack; 1980s Calvin Klein shirt; Gap (“Lived-In Slim” fit) twill khakis in bright blue; Birkenstock sandals; vintage Italian silk “Symphony Square” by Handcraft, Inc.; Ray-Ban Clubmaster in gold & tortoise.
Bottom—Vintage Brooks Brothers stripe linen shirt; Bally woven leather loafers; vintage straw hat; cutoff J.Crew white twill trousers; vintage yacht flag pattern belt; Polo Ralph Lauren cotton crew neck sweater.
A little photo essay on the local tobacconist in our college town, Maison Edwards of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Although it’s not exactly vintage menswear (there is a nice selection of men’s shaving accoutrement to go with the smoking paraphernalia), inside it feels a lot like what I’d want in a brick-and-mortar men’s shop. Wood everywhere, huge old French posters, studded leather chairs, yellowed walls (ok, maybe not those yellowed walls). Jazz crooning from the speakers that face out from the loft office mixes with the smoke off good cigars and easy conversation with strangers. Not every guy who comes in gives a second thought to his clothes, but I like to imagine the smoke shop gets more than its share of natty dressers. With mainstay local men’s shops largely a thing of the past, sneaking off to Maison Edwards for a smoke in nostalgic style can feel like the next best thing.
Summer months in the shop remind me that some of the best vintage is outdoorsman vintage! Much of the mystique of men’s vintage clothing (and women’s) can come from the former ideals of masculinity (or femininity) that various pieces evoke—as if to put on a porkpie hat, bomber jacket or slim sixties suit is to try on the manly personas of those who originally wore them. Nowhere does that seem clearer than in the man-vs-nature charm of vintage camping, fishing and hunting clothes. Leather, wool flannel and cotton canvas fabrics. Buffalo check and camouflage patterns. Boots for wading backwoods streams; thick, scratchy hunting pants to beat the early morning chill; hats and vests for holding shotgun shells and attaching lures. Sure, now we have performance fabrics and high-tech gear that are far superior in every way, except perhaps aesthetics. There is an obvious sportiness, durability and purpose to vintage outdoor clothing like those pieces in the above shop gallery, not unlike the men who once wore them.
Sure, some of 70s women’s fashion is as regrettable as men’s, but there is also lots to love (from Bohemian halters to Halston jumpsuits), whereas it can be hard to even find 70s men’s fashion untainted by spreading collars and poor synthetic fabrics. Discussing with a fellow vintage lover what might be redeemable about men’s 70s fashion brought up racing jackets such as Steve McQueen wore in “Le Mans” and those from other late 60s and 70s films like “The Italian Job,” “Vanishing Point,” “Dirty Mary Crazy Larry,” “Little Fauss & Big Halsey,” “The Last American Hero,” and “Two Lane Blacktop.”
The Style Auto pieces pictured above attempt to capture that classic look. Most date to the early to mid-80s (some as early as the late 70s), but these were as close to the originals as I had on hand in the shop. The good news for anyone interested in the look is that Style Auto jackets are readily available on the vintage market and affordable (perhaps to a fault).
While the jackets themselves are abundant, there isn’t much written online about Style Auto, which isn’t surprising since it’s a recent, relatively cheap product with often ephemeral event-specific or promotional intent. However, plenty can be learned from the many current Etsy and eBay listings. As typical for 80s apparel of its ilk, most all pieces I researched were produced in Hong Kong (despite the “Style Auto California” branding on the label) with the earliest example made in Canada and the latest made in China. In addition to nylon jackets, the only other types of Style Auto garment found initially were acrylic sweaters and poly-cotton sweatshirts and zipper vests (pictured fourth). What else did Style Auto make?
The graphics on these pieces feature endless automotive racing makes and models in printed, patch and embroidered form, including some cars no longer in production. And not only auto brands were represented but many companies related to the racing and automotive industry including: driving schools like Bondurat; industrial manufacturers like IngersollRand; team sponsors like Budweiser and Winston; and races and raceways themselves. Often the only difference between jackets is that the graphic has been changed, as depicted in the photo second from bottom. This variety and mutability of the Style Auto pieces creates further opportunities for vintage clothing and auto enthusiast alike, whether building a collection or altering the patches to suits one’s tastes.
I scored one of these 60s woodcuts by Harry Greaver on a vintage clothes shopping mission and went in search of more online. I found examples of his other work in print and watercolor as well as the work of his artist wife Hanne Greaver, but the above earlier woodcuts of his remain my favorites. As usual, I want them all. Both Harry and Hanne trained professionally in art schools, and the couple has been exhibiting out of their Cannon Beach gallery on the Oregon coast near Portland since 1978. Before that, Harry taught in the Department of Art at the University of Maine, Orono, from 1955 to 1966 and was Director of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts in Michigan from 1966 to 1978. That may explain why I discovered his 1968 woodcut (now hanging at home below) in my nearby Michigan town–and might even mean its subject (and that of those above) is a Great Lakes-inspired local scene.
A pair of vintage-inspired spring looks with menswear staples from classic, mostly American brands:
Top—Double breasted multicolor stripe linen blazer by Daniel Hechter; vintage hand printed bow tie in orange & purple; white poplin shirt and linen pocket square; Allen Edmonds “Fairfax” wingtips in honey brown; vintage Par-Temp trench in green/brown micro-houndstooth pattern.
Bottom—”Pit Loom” Madras plaid trouser by Corbin; L.L.Bean blue & white stripe Oxford button-down shirt; linen & leather spectator shoes by Stanley Blacker Couture; Cole Haan braided belt; linen flat cap by Country Gentleman; vintage 3-2 roll poplin sack jacket in navy blue; vintage Paris print silk pocket square.
There’s plenty of inspiration in these aged beauties from the far side of the world, especially for the vintage minded. I want one of these antique rugs for every floor of the house, or better yet, on the walls and in layers and for seating, or any other way suggested by the King Kennedy Rugs tumblr from which all of these images were taken. Many of the rugs seen there are available for purchase in the Etsy shop of the same name. And if that isn’t enough inspiration for you, rugs are but a side project for both sites’ Mikael Kennedy, who is a Brooklyn-based photographer with an impressive body of work you can get lost in here.
Menswear brands are constantly adding new labels now, lines and licenses targeting ever more exclusive or democratic markets with fresh derivatives of their logo. I’d heard of Polo Ralph Lauren, Polo Sport, Chaps, Purple Label, Black Label, Lauren, Rugby, and on—but not until I started selling and buying vintage did I see a label for Polo University Club (like the one above). Without so much as Googling it, I can say I only started seeing the label on mostly traditional sport coats and suits with 80s accent colors, cut and silver union tag–of solid but no special quality–and also only in smaller sizes so far. The ‘University’ moniker combined with the prevalent sizing and middleweight style and quality made me think these sport coats were marketed as starter staple jackets for college guys in the early 1980s. How long did the line last and what was its relationship to the parent brand? Did it include any items beyond suits and sport coats?
Threads of men’s online style forums (styleforum.net, Ask Andy About Clothes, The Fedora Lounge) confirm the easy observations above and tell how Polo University Club was licensed in the early 80s to the same company making Chaps at the time, the Greif Cos., and was constructed of the same or slightly better fused quality–still significantly better than Chaps or entry level suiting is now. The Ralph Lauren Corporation supervised the styling and worked with the manufacturer to capture the Polo expression in an inexpensive suit that would not compete with the designer line. This moderate, youthful cut features a soft shoulder, low button stance and suppressed waist. The multitude of Etsy and eBay listings indicate no extension of the line beyond the familiar suits and sport coats. Plenty of ridiculously affordable listings—along with the timelessly moderate styling and solid quality–also make Polo University Club a good vintage buy. From the mid-80s into the 90s, the “Club” was dropped from the name, and eventually so was the style and quality, so you might avoid “Polo University” labels and stick with “Polo University Club.” I find some of the accent colors dated in a not great way, so look out for a scheme that’s tolerable for you.
As snow at last changes to rain, mighty winter wool gives way to the streamlined trench coat. The top two come from Burberry’s London collection for Spring 2014. The chartreuse trench below is from last week’s NYFW collection by Rag & Bone for Fall 2014, but I find plenty of spring inspiration in it. When you want to spread your wardrobe dollar around more than investing in a designer piece like these allows, the trench coat is a solid vintage option. Its classic design hasn’t changed all that much, so decades-old examples can be just as in style today. Going vintage can mean finding many fetching variations in colors, fabrics and features that give yours a sartorial edge. Since overcoats often command a hefty investment, the savings can be equally significant. As tastes in clothing, and especially work wear, have evolved, the trench coat is not the staple of every man’s wardrobe it once was, though it is a piece those men held onto and took care of. All which means there are many readily available on the vintage market today. The middle two pairs of trench coats are listed in the shop now, and plenty others like them have passed through in the past year or so. Below the photos of paired trenches are details of past shop listings like the gray wool trench, Burberry plaid lining, and familiar double breasted front. The classic trench design is taken from military uniforms and consists of a belted, 8×4 or 10×5 double breasted front, Ulster collar, raglan sleeves with shoulder straps and belted cuffs, storm flap, khaki cotton blend shell and removable insulated lining. As even the few photos above indicate, the trench has evolved to be worn with or without any combination of these features and in as many colors and fabrics as the army of men who still favor them.