There are moccasins, and then there are Quoddy mocs. I thought I knew all the vintage names–Minnetonka, Weejuns, Sebago, et al.—until I came across the Q word embossed on the insole of a plain ol’ pair of black penny loafers. Hand sewn in Maine for over 100 years, Quoddy takes its name and its traditional craftsmanship from the native Passamaquoddy of Downeast Maine. These mocs are gloves for your feet made soles ‘n all from flexible, durable leather that molds to its wearer rather than forcing the foot to accommodate it. Because of its pieced construction, leather panels can easily be replaced as needed for a lifetime of use. Started in 1909 by Harry Smith, Quoddy once sold through historic Maine outfitters like L.L.Bean. Now the company remains headquartered in Perry on the Passamaquoddy Bay with its manufacturing in downstate Lewiston, and its shoes are carried by J.Crew, Need Supply Co., Unionmade, and a number of specialty boutiques. Of course, you can also have your pair made to order through Quoddy’s website, which indicates that if you don’t find what you’re looking for in the colorful selection of boat shoes and boots and loafers that have been added to the traditional moccasins, then they just might make it especially for you–but allow four to six weeks to get them. The above sampling were some of my faves from their website.
When I discovered one of these odd, somewhat fussy caps in a thrift shop, I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but I liked it. Was it part of a chauffer’s uniform? Wardrobe for a Janet Jackson video? I was attracted to its chic navy blue on black coloring, military styling, embellishments, the weight and warmth of the dark wool, its reminiscence of tweed newsboy caps. The hat was clearly labeled on its inside band as a “Greek Fisherman Cap Made in Greece.” A search for others like it on Etsy revealed how common it was, and how varied. Though my blue-black version or all-black seemed the most traditional, there were brown, gray, white, tan, and brighter blue versions. They came in leather, corduroy, and cotton as well as wool. They were vintage, newly manufactured, or modern pieces inspired by the original. Aegean–in the black and white advert above—is the most prominent of its historic manufacturers and is still in business today. Wiki claims the Greek Fisherman’s Cap is also popularly known as a “John Lennon Hat” because of his wearing one on the Beatles’ original American tour in 1964 (pictured top), followed by other musicians and before him, Bob Dylan. Though popular since the late 19th century, the cap certainly left its occupational roots behind and reached its fashion acme as a boho unisex accessory of the swinging 60s, although it has surged since at times and has popped up very recently on models and blogs like those below.
Two vintage-inspired men’s spring looks with menswear staples from classic American brands:
Top—J.Press tweed blazer with pastel blue and salmon windowpane, Ralph Lauren Oxford button down with Polo pocket crest, vintage silk handkerchief with Greek key border, folk needlepoint belt (navy/yellow/white), The Florsheim Imperial tasseled loafer in deep oxblood.
Tasseled, fringed, Weejun, driving moc–Seems for men, ‘Loafer’ is the new ‘Black,’ and any breed of loafer besides the Top-Sider is the new ‘Top-Sider.’ With every other #menswear blog pulpit anointing its own alternative, there does not seem to be a wrong way to step up from the boat shoe heading into this spring/summer. Top-Side or Dockside, Sperry or Sebago–the boat shoe (and many of its loafer relatives, for that matter) have long held the status of a classic, especially among the Ivy League set, cycling in and out of more mainstream fashion in the 50s, 80s and again today. The boat shoe’s latest resurgence has traveled beyond trend into national uniform territory. College kids are wearing them to class throughout the winter. City boys are taking them into office high rises with their shoulder bags. I’ve showed up to a visit with my Grandfather and found us wearing matching pairs of navy and white laced Sperrys. From the Top-Sider revolution, driving moccasins were an easy progression with their similar mixture of purposeful comfort and panache; now they seem to be available in a bolder variety of colors and materials than their predecessor. But the loafer love hasn’t stopped there, shifting into dressier penny loafers, tasseled, fringed and bow variations, and even velvet monogrammed Prince Albert slippers for outdoors–all equally worn without socks no matter how dressy in an affectionate boat shoe bastardization.
The latest loafer revolution is especially good news for vintage enthusiasts since there are generations worth of these classic styles readily available in thrift stores, yard sales and online specialty shops. I found not one but twin pairs of the very vintage “Florsheim Imperial” tasseled loafers (top), one in black and one in a nice oxblood that’s not too red. The Bass Weejuns (center left) give a good twist on the traditional glossy black or oxblood penny loafer with their matte medium brown and contrast stitching. The Minnetonka driving moccasins (center right) look a little tame with all the bright hues and fabrics available now, but you get the idea. Driving mocs aren’t the only style that offers variety either, as evidenced by the Italian tasseled loafers (bottom) with their light color, perforated sides and unique basketweave top. From the pics at least, it looks like my choice is made–tassels all the way.
When I think of tweed, I think in herringbone shades of brown and gray, of coarsely woven wool caps and jackets as synonymous with fall and winter as leaf piles and fireplace hearths. I forget that tweed comes in all hues–blue and green, cream, pastels–until I come across a piece for the shop that doesn’t fit in or isn’t limited to the seasonal rotation of fabrics and colors. Instead of featuring tweed for autumn, these pieces have me thinking about tweed for spring–in bolder colors and patterns, or at least paired with them. Colorful wool tweed can come in handy through the cold of early spring when the mood is getting brighter and warmer than actual temperatures, or even later when the days do heat up but mornings and evening are still very cool.
Or this post is really just an excuse to show off the green tweed blazer (top) for St. Patrick’s Day. Added to its rich color is a windowpane plaid of black and varied green stripes, classic 3/2 lapel roll, and cool 60s patterned lining and label, which reads, “PhD / Philosophy of Dress.” The second jacket is Harris Tweed. Yes, it’s gray but the tweed contains subtle yellow and blue pastels that can be accentuated for spring by a shirt of the same color like this Land’s End Oxford button down. Worn a different way, it’d be just as at home in another season. The next Harris Tweed however–cream with pastel stripes–is hard to imagine anywhere other than an Easter egg roll. The darker blue jacket (bottom) may be the biggest stretch however its worn, but it’s still more colorful than the usual brown or gray. Just writing about these makes me wish the vintage gods had given me bolder examples.
Every so often on the hunt for vintage, I come across an article of clothing I don’t quite recognize, like the 60s shave coat or 80s reversible vest profiled in past blog entries. The curious item usually has more historical interest than fashion cachet, as in the blue plaid tie with pearlized snap pictured above, which was listed in the shop this week. I’m not sure I’d ever recommend wearing one, or in what context (although GQ’s Style Guy has approved the use on at least one occasion), but it was unusual enough not to pass up. Before I could list it though, I had to know what to call it, besides ‘a variation on a bow tie consisting of an adjustable strip of fabric that snaps where it crosses at the neck, leaving two short ends.’ Answer: the ‘Continental tie’ or ‘crossover’ tie. My three internet sources–a blog on men’s black tie dress, a forum for fans of culture from “The Greatest Generation;” and GQ’s “Ask The Style Guy” guy, Glenn O’Brien–may not have given a ton of information but they did provide consensus. The crossover tie was introduced in the U.S. during the 1950s as a streamlined, “Continental” alternative for men’s formal neckwear and was popularized during the 1960s by rockabilly and country western musicians like Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. It’s simple formality crossed over into women’s wear and became associated with uniforms as well. The Continental tie is still available today from Western outfitters (and uniform suppliers) although you’d be better off getting a stylish one from an antique or vintage shop (which is where the red satin number on this model recently styled for b store came from).