This is Not Fashion
I went to a small cocktail party the other day where no one really knew each other. It was sort of a work thing and people were asking me what I do for a living. I explained that in addition to some other things, I write a newsletter about men’s fashion. It was the easiest way to explain what I do, but it didn’t feel quite right.
Sometimes it’s hard to explain to people that I have a newsletter about fashion because most of me hates the fashion world. Maybe hate is not the best way to put it, I just don’t understand fashion with a capital F. Instagram reinforces this feeling every day, especially when the Met Gala is going on. I also don’t dress like a fashion person which only complicates things further. There’s nothing wrong with Fashion, but it’s definitely not what inspires me or what motivates me to be part of the that larger conversation. If I had to identify what it is I like about clothes or style or whatever you want to call it I would guess it would be a few different things. I love finding small companies that make things well. I appreciate finding a different perspective on value. I’m a contrarian and want to try and move in the complete opposite of hype at all times.
While I don’t love Fashion, I do really like clothes. The other day I was mentally making a list of the things that I have bought this year. Then I started making a list of brands that I really like and that are on my radar this autumn. So this is a buyers guide of sorts, and also a perspective on the types of apparel companies which are most appealing to me. This list is certainly not complete, but each one of these companies are great and each is worthy a look. As a reminder, there are no affiliate links here or inclusion for any other reason than pure appreciation.
Earlier this year my friend Davide from Ghiaia gave me a Fay fireman’s coat and it’s fantastic. These vintage Fay jackets are simply some of the greatest pieces of outerwear that I have ever seen. Obviously these jackets are Barbour inspired but definitely better (in certain ways) than the real thing. The major downside of a Barbour in my opinion is the sheer ubiquity. You see them everywhere. That's why Drake's is doing a clone and there are some others making Barbour inspired jackets, because the style is great and there's enough people who like the look but don't want the same jacket as everyone else. The Fay jackets are hard to find, but very good. So they check all of the boxes. (If you want to buy one of these Fay Fireman’s canvas coats call or email Ghiaia directly.) Here are a few other different Barbour style jackets.
There are always basic things that you need to replenish. I've done very little of this over the past year. When we had a new baby last year I was up in the middle of the night buying stuff from Hill City, which GAP has sadly shuttered and much of those garments have been worn a lot. You can still find some of it on eBay if you want to go that route, but the layering pieces, outerwear and swim trunks are really great. As I've mentioned on Central Division, I’ve also bought some 8" shorts from GAP this summer and have worn them a lot. I wouldn't recommend the tech fabric versions, as they seem to wrinkle a bit more than I would want, but the cotton shorts are very much to my liking in terms of fit, color and fabric.
On the other end of the spectrum is Sunspel.
Years ago I went to visit the Sunspel factory in Nottingham, England and saw first-hand the company that Thomas Hill founded in 1860 is still making beautiful clothing. Anyone I have given Sunspel product as a gift has gone on to tell me how I have ruined other brands for them — that’s how good everything is. It’s a good gift because it’s something very nice that people might not want to splurge on for themselves. The tee shirts, specifically the Sea Island cotton tees are undoubtedly the finest tee shirts you will ever find. Granted, they are not inexpensive but we can all dream right? (I would say that the brand runs slimmer than a typical American brand and would recommend taking a size larger than normal.)
Everything Sunspel makes is very good and the company remains a privately held business that is run by very good people. It’s always the best case scenario when good people make a really nice thing. That’s the moment the world aligns to give us hope.
I don’t want to be that guy, but I was a big Alex Mill fan when it was just Alex Drexler selling mostly shirts. The brand has evolved a lot since then (with Mickey Drexler at the helm) and I’m even more of a supporter now. These chino pants are especially great, the work jackets are excellent and there’s a lot more to like in the line. The product quality is good, the pricing is fair and the vibes are good. As more people figure out that the brand is solid I can only see it continue to grow.
I've bought a handful of pairs of shoes this year. Some Hoka One One running shoes which I love to wear whenever I'm around David Coggins so he can be sad. These are less on-the-nose dad style sneakers than New Balance. Rancourt & Co. makes my favorite loafers and other traditional moccasins. The Ranger Mocs are my absolute favorite shoe in terms of versatility and comfort. I can get away with wearing suede all year in California and that's unbelievably great. Muji closed it's stores in L.A. and I haven't been able to buy any canvas sneakers in persona as I have in the past from them, but I still have a few pairs that I have stockpiled. The Muji US e-commerce site seems to have them in stock though. It's great to make a bet on something like that and buy five pairs that can hold you over. Those are in my opinion the best canvas sneakers when considering fit, price and design. Too bad it can be a hunt to find them.
The Crockett & Jones Pembroke Brogue Derby leather shoes are another style that I have worn for years. There are so many good C&J shoes to wear for autumn, but I typically stick to a few of the boot styles and the Pembrokes. I've mostly given up wearing heavier boots and more rugged brands in favor of some more dress oriented shoes that have proven to be more versatile.
I haven’t given up all boots. The Gardner boots from RM Williams are the other footwear that I love and wear the hell out of. To me they are super versatile and you can wear them with almost anything (even shorts!) and almost anywhere.
I haven't allowed myself to buy many new bags in the past five years because I really don't need any bags — this is probably true for the rest of my life. The few trips I have taken this year have brought my Ghurka Express No 2 (which I have in a khaki twill that isn't available now; this is a good alternative) into service and my appreciation of it has only grown over time. That right there is a case study for buying nice things. It's hard to spend the money when you do, but over time you become thankful that you made the investment to own something well-made and unique.
The Zip Tote from 1733 is a bag I would like to buy but have so far been able to resist it due to my rules about buying bags. The inventory for those bags drop occasionally and then sell out quickly, so you have to watch on instagram (or perhaps sign up for the emails) to snag one.
MIS CALIF is another company that I've mentioned in the past and love to buy things from. The pricing is a bit better than some other brands (including 1733) but the branding is a bit more front and center. The Multi Pocket Tote Bag is very good and I highly recommend this brand to anyone looking for a well-made and classic nylon bag.
If you aren't opposed to backpacks Evergoods out of Bozeman makes an excellent line of backpacks and other bags. The designs are well thought out and I know the founder well and respect the sh/t out of him. When I travel with the family I will often use my Civic Bag from them to free up hands for all the other things we have with us.
Speaking of Montana, Mystery Ranch is another favorite that supplies Hot Shots firefighters, military and other serious people. Everything is not made in the USA anymore, but some still is and the quality is solid. There's just so much to like about these bags and the brand.
American Trench is best known for its socks (or maybe for making things in the USA), but over the past few years the offerings have expanded into other categories like knits and other clothing. Outerwear was the original product, hence the name, but the socks seemed to gain a lot of momentum and attention over the years. I met the founder Jacob Hurwitz years ago at Pop Up Flea and ever since hearing his story for the first time I have been impressed by his passion and determination to do things that seem impossible. Through the years he and his coworkers have bootstrapped and battled to build a business through sheer determination. They make a nice product and do it all in America. It’s a wonderful story and a great group of people.
Corridor — I mostly buy shirts and some jackets from Corridor but the line has expanded to include much more. The brand keeps growing and evolving but it’s still very cohesive and cool (without trying too hard or if at all).
Kamakura — Most of my dress shirts that I wear with suits are from Kamakura. The stores in NYC are gone, but you can still order via the online shop and everything arrives more quickly than you might think. The dress shirts are the best for me with regards to quality and value for money.
Junior’s — Last week I mentioned the great Shetland sweaters at Junior’s, but everything that Glenn Au is doing is great. The cords are excellent, the OCBDs are solid and the tailored looks good. Junior’s is off to an amazing start and in time it is going to be a truly great retailer.
Portuguese Flannel — Great shirts. Everything ships out of Portugal and arrives quickly. I bought a few camp shirts from these guys this summer and love the fit and quality. The prices seem to be better direct from the brand’s online shop versus other retailers (which makes sense).
Trunk Clothiers — What’s your desert island retailer? Mine is Trunk. If I could only have one place to shop this would be it. The staple items are excellent, the brand mix is interesting and unique. The vibe is good and the service is excellent.
Rivay — A good choice for shirts, tees and other clothing. Rivay has stayed true to it’s aesthetics over the years and it’s a great indie brand that deserves more attention than it gets.
Adsum — Great guys. Solid product. Good design. Not a hype brand.
Quaker Marine Supply — QMS is famous for its made in USA long bill hats that Hemingway would wear, but in the past few years it’s come under new management and has expanded its collection to include more clothing. The chinos are solid (Coggins apparently has no idea) and so is the rest of the collection.
Magill — As you might remember, I interviewed Todd Magill a few months back. This LA brand makes great staple pieces and alternatives for the mass brands we see everywhere. Magill is very much a labor of love and nothing is better than supporting these types of companies.
Wythe — Is Wythe a (micro) indie Ralph Lauren? This is the though that goes through my head sometimes. Whatever it is trying to do I am digging it. The collection is small but growing and each new piece is wearable and cool. Keep an eye out for the AW21 collection which we will hopefully see soon.
Sid Mashburn — People ask me for a recommendation for a tailor in LA and my response is always Sid Mashburn. More than tailored clothing, the rest of the collection is solid and this is just good foundational men’s style at its best.
Tanner Goods — This is the only place I buy belts from. The business model seems very challenged because I only buy a belt aprox every 4 years. It’s amazing. Why buy a cheap leather belt when two good ones from Tanner Goods will last a decade at least. Everything else I own from Tanner is exceptionally well-made and it has managed to keep making great stuff all of these years.