Ametora – The Story of American Traditional in Japan

American Trad Hits Japan

The subject of American style in post war Japan, particularly Ivy has always been of interest to me. Pre-internet days one could only guess at the roots – Hollywood movies, GIs in occupation, loss of confidence in Japanese tradition after the war.

Well it turns out that these are good guesses, but the whole story is far more interesting. It’s told in an entertaining fashion by David Marx, an American based in Japan, who appears to have had sufficient access to the history of the principal players in the story of Japan’s Ivy and Americana obsession to create that rare thing – a documentary on the subject of mens fashion in the online age that reads as authentic.

The Classic Miyuki Dori Ivy Kids Upsetting the Official Olympic Image in 1964

Far from clearing up the mysteries of sartorial history, the online world usually just finds the nearest factually incorrect material and reproduces it until it becomes a new truth (like how Steve McQueen wore Tod’s before the company existed – or more recently ‘wore Sanders’; GH Bass’ current marketing pretending they invented the beefroll loafer and not the penny strap; and let’s not get into Brooks Brothers OCBD cuts and labels down the ages).

Even serious history has always been rewritten and untruths compounded through distorted lenses and, in the area of such ephemera as ‘button down shirts in post war Japan’, most people would take the lazy route and just regurgitate the usual stuff. So hats off to David Marx for going for the detail needed to bring the story to life (it’s a Japanese obsession story after all, so detail must be a prerequisite).

The Van Jacket Logo – Where it all started for Japanese Ivy

‘Aibii Riigu’

The actual background stories to just how this ‘aibii’ style came to dominate Japanese menswear and then infuse into the export market in the late 1990s on beyond (Levis Vintage Clothing was perhaps the first example of what became a flood on these shores from the 90s onwards) reads like a comic strip in itself. Key players controlled the print media, the manufacturing and the marketing of Ivy in a way unthinkable in the West, thus allowing a homogeneous style to dominate mens apparel in Japan for decades.

Ivy Fish Out of Water

It’s fun to read of the early ‘mistakes’ made by the first adopters of the elusive Ivy style and the somewhat warped view the young Japanese had of exactly what the USA was really like, what students wore, what was really hip on campus compared to what they’d misread in Esquire or misinterpreted  as Ivy from Hollywood examples. This mirrors what I’ve written in the past about studying the clothing worn by American tourists in London in the 80s for the tell tale clues to copy – flat fronted chinos, soft collar OCBDs, Burberry raincoats, surcingle belts – all clues but often adding 2 + 2 to make 5. Ivy writer JP Gaul has said the very same thing – amusing to me as we would have been active at the same time, but pre-social media, who’d have known? Just like these early Japanese ivyists, we all thought we alone were strange obsessives.

The background to the promo film that provided the impetus for Take Ivy in 1965 is also amusing – the Japanese crew finding that actually no one at Princeton wore suits to lectures and not quite believing the (studied) nonchalance of their American idols.

The Famous Ivy Boy Poster From 1962

The only thing that lets Ametora down is the very poor quality of the actual book. The paper and hardcover are like those cheap hare krishna books they used to give away at airports. The photos are great, but consequently not done any justice by the cheap semi transparent paper. It’s a shame because the book is well written and a key piece to the global puzzle of Ivy outside of the USA, with all its idiosyncrasies normally rightly lost on its original American practitioners. However, we should be thankful that Marx has taken the time to set this down on record for us non-Japanese and given us a glimpse of a such a key time in the global spread of the Ivy look.

Available on Amazon globally since Dec 17th it’s well worth a read over the Christmas holidays.

The Return of Hutton Famous Desert Boots

“Desert Boots The Way They Used to Be Made”

That’s the slogan for the latest re-emergence of a classic heritage brand, Hutton aka Hutton of Northampton. For those followers of The Weejun and any online reference to suede chukkas, Hutton will of course be known as the original makers of the classic playboy chukka as worn by ‘you know who’, Steve McQueen.

Despite the legion of online stories to the contrary (some references insist that McQueen wore Tod’s when the brand didn’t even exist until after his death) it wasn’t Sanders’ now-classic boot that Steve loved to wear both off and onscreen, but the Hutton boot.

How can we be sure of this? Well, Hutton of Northampton had a patent on the construction of the playboy chukka for many years and fought infringements rigorously. There were imitators of course, such as Bates Floaters but they are instantly recognisable with the applique heel piece and their foam rubber soles were a poor substitute for the delights of real crepe.

Sadly, as we know, Hutton went bust a few decades ago leaving a big gap in their wake. Little known, though, is the fact that Hutton also made a plethora of other suede and crepe combo shoes, not the least of which were classic desert boots.

Made in UK?

Making desert boots in the UK is a non starter these days. Witness Clarks’ marketing ploy with their 75th anniversary model made in the village of Woolaston (the birthplace of Dr Martens) which retailed at an eye popping £250.00 a pair. Sure they looked lovely (apart from them messing around with the original stitching and last yet again) and if Clarks hadn’t moved their production offshore you can bet that would be the price in 2015 pounds we’d be (not) paying for a pair of their iconic desert boots.

As it is, the standard models are pretty expensive for a made in Vietnam boot, and as an owner of more than a dozen pairs, I can attest to the wild variation in quality of the making and the suedes they’re using. So I was suitably animated to return from a long dry spell from posting when I learned of the return of Hutton, albeit a desert boot so far and not the playboy chukka – yet.

Hutton Famous Desert Boots

Made in Italy!

As I understand it, these new Hutton Desert Boots will be handmade in Italy and will go a long way to addressing the lack of options for a premium desert boot – ‘how they used to be made’ – as Hutton’s new slogan goes.

We all know that despite the alleged British origins of desert boots (really they’re Dutch South African ‘veldt’ shoes) and their huge success in the USA in the 50s and 60s, it’s been the Italians who’ve kept the traditional desert boot alive ever since, leading up to the fashion revival in the last decade that forced Clarks to finally take their desert boot seriously again.

Certainly, if the photo of the early Hutton prototype from their Facebook page is anything to go by, these boots are going to be pretty nice.

No confirmation on prices yet but I suspect they must retail for more than the regular Made in Vietnam Clarks Originals – after all they are handmade in Italy from local materials, and that still counts for something.

In Praise of De Paz. One of the Great Stores of The World.

De Paz, Via Ugo Bassi, Bologna

One of the reasons for my blogging slowing down is that often the posts can take a negative turn and that’s no fun to write or to read.

Today’s post is most definitely a positive one. These days real tradition is being rapidly lost in favour of faux heritage brands. That and the trend for rebranded traditional firms hiring ‘designers’ to ‘modernise’ their wares, means the story of this wonderful store with three generations of history, needs telling.

C’era Una Volta… (Once Upon a Time…)

In the mid 1980s I used to travel every couple of months to Paris to escape dreary grey London. In Paris there was JM Weston, Bowen, Paraboot, literally dozens of small boutique menswear stores selling classic clothing, much of it with an Ivy League or at least American flavour. There was a big movement for vintage clothing styles being reproduced and sold new. In London we only had the vintage option for most things. The British traditional style was also still everywhere and mainstream in Paris in those days –  a look typified by the very expensive, but very special, Old England.

The latter was a store that sold everything traditional and British but in great colours, fabrics and styles that had long departed from our shores. Whereas the Scotch House in Knightsbridge would sell you traditional British gear, it would only do so in scarlet and cream or camel and black. By contrast Old England had deep chestnuts, bottle greens, lovat heathers and even lilac. Their Burberry raincoats would usually be 100% cotton instead of the Terylene versions sold here. At that time Paris represented a treasure trove of traditional clothing along with the hip modern providers of vintage style – Chevignon, Et Vous and Chipie.

Old England, Blvd de Capucines, Paris. Sadly Long Gone

Hard to imagine any of those brands being subtle but they all were back then. With these regular trips to Paris along with telephone orders from much pored over catalogues from Brooks Brothers and LL Bean, there was no need to buy much in London other than knitwear from the late lamented Westaway & Westaway, the odd vintage item from Flip (already drying up then) and of course J Simons in Russell Street.

I couldn’t afford the trip to New York in those days and a planned trip to Maine to visit Sebago and Bass factories to buy stock was scuppered by blizzards in the winter of ’88 (Winter of 87/88 sounds like some old Wild West term, doesn’t it?).

1988 – First Trip to Bologna – First Time at De Paz

I can remember my Dad trying to convince me that whilst Paris had its charms that I should really be looking to Italy. One day in January of ’88 he finally insisted I go with him to Bologna; then a true working city which despite its incredible medieval history attracted very few tourists outside of the Trade Fairs and visiting university guests. In those days most tourists went to Florence and Venice, passing only through Bologna on the Intercity trains.

I had finally succumbed to the Italian way of life and what I found literally changed my life. Sure, compared to London at that time Paris had classic style in abundance but it also had many rude inhabitants and for me, terrible food with everything smothered in sauce – French food supremacy being a global marketing myth thankfully resigned to history these days.

Tartan Jacket Covers in De Paz – No Change in Decades… (the cord jacket on the far left is a new old stock J*Keydge made in France in the old longer cut. Last one in size 54 if anyone’s interested)

What I found in Bologna (and later in other cities) was style combined with easy friendly charm and glorious, simple food prepared with incredible ingredients. The city also had literally hundreds of small independent stores, many of which still had their 1930s to 1950s deco-inspired signage and interiors. There were virtually no chain stores, no international brands with the same crap in every store. Not long before my visit McDonalds had opened in Bologna and as a result the store was stoned for several nights in riots by paninari, despite agreeing to restrict its branding to the ochre colours of the city. Italians were aghast at the audacity of McDonalds and doubted anyone would eat there. These days it is of course packed full of young Italians – a sign of changing times.

True Italian food changed my life, as did exposure to the Italian interpretation of classic style – as it still existed in the 1980s. From the roots I’d built up copying 1950s and 60s movies, buying clothes from John Simons and Flip, along with those trips to Paris, I added a new layer of colour and a mixing of layers that was uniquely Italian.

Dante De Paz behind the counter at Via Ugo Bassi

Food, Style and Passeggiata

On that trip I bought my first pair of Persol 714s – the folding glasses I’d only previously seen on Italian tourists, outside of McQueen in Thomas Crown. Another other revelation for me was the passeggiata – the daily ritual during which Italians of all ages would window shop, eat ice cream, old men walking arm in arm with coats draped cape-like over their shoulders, gangs of fur-clad elderly women resembling little bears and beautifully turned out young women who confirmed Fellini’s assertion that the Bolognese girls were the best in Italy. If Lacoste shirts in lilac were the fashion, then everyone from 8-80 would be sporting the look. Even if some things were not items I’d wear, they were almost always classic, understated and simple garments. Never the garish fashion that American movies attributed to Italy. A year before my first trip I’d briefly met Ermenegildo Zegna in New Bond St. He was dressed head to toe in English tweed with a shooting jacket from Holland and Holland and a pair of Tricker’s brogues. “In Italy those with style wear English clothes”, he told me. “We Italians then export ‘fashion’ to the rest of the world. We don’t wear it, it’s just our business.”

Back then, around every corner in Bologna was a surprise; one which almost always involved true style in the classic sense. I can remember buying a pair of yellow driving lenses for my Ray Ban Outdoorsman glasses from a tiny back street optician and a pair of olive moleskin trousers that came ready with Ivy-correct cuffs.

Capelleria Dante Barbetti – It still looked much the same until 2010 when it closed after nearly 200 years

Everywhere you looked there were classic shops, stuck in a time warp. Men’s stores with cashmere cardigans, peccary loafers, blue button down shirts, over the calf cotton lisle socks, Valstarino suede jackets, Made in England Baracutas (virtually impossible to find in London at that time) all carefully pinned and displayed behind vintage windows with wonderful lettering. I bought a cashmere Borsalino cap with fold down ear flaps (no such thing could be found at home) at at incredible store called Cappelleria Dante Barbetti, opened in 1821 and looking pretty much the same still. All the hats were displayed outside in the deep windows and inside were lettered mirrors with faded silvering and drawers of hat stock.

Right Hand Side Window at Via Ugo Bassi – Trickers, Lerwick Shetlands, Fair Isle Slipovers, Mackintosh raincoat, natural shoulder corduroy jacket, college scarves, British made Harrington and Barbour styles along with Paraboot Michael…

Classic & Traditional Italy

The common thread seemed to be that classic and traditional were the norm for most people. Of course there were ‘i Dark’ (Italian Goths) and strange hangover styles from the 70s, and not everyone could be called well dressed, but in the cold afternoons elderly women gathered in fur coats styled in the 30s and even the youth cult of the day ‘i paninari’ wore classic Americana. You could dress very well from every level of pocket – from traditional pullovers and copies of English Lavenham quilted jackets (a decade before being rediscovered by British city workers and football fans) at the local weekly market to the very of best of imported British clothing at the best store in Bologna – De Paz.

Left Hand Window at Via Ugo Bassi – Tweed caps, Grenfell shortie raincoat, Harris Tweed, lambswool knitwear, repp ties, button down shirts, Irish sweaters, quilted hunting jackets

De Paz Still Thrives

This brings me to the point of this story. A couple of weeks ago I returned to Bologna for the first time in seven years. For a long time things had been changing in Italy. The adoption of the Euro made it a very expensive place to visit with the weak pound and the lure of further shores like Tokyo and New York meant I didn’t return to Italy for a while. I found Bologna to be very much changed, even since 2007. Capelleria Dante Barbetti had closed, leaving only the beautiful signage, as had countless other stores I remembered on the main street, Via dell’Independenza, all now replaced with international tat. The Italians themselves were now bizarrely dressed in the main, no overriding style, just a cannibalistic usage of the ‘fashion’ they once only exported. Even in 2007 I’d noticed there was a kind of Russian call girl style taking over women’s clothing, but today it’s reached extremes where even Church’s (now Italian of course) were displaying shiny patent brogues covered in punk chrome studs.

Bolts of Traditional British cloth, tweeds and worsteds, Lerwick shetlands made for De Paz, Scottish cashmere sweaters

However, there amongst the chaos stood a beacon of style hope, holding out against the tide of trash. Like the famous photo of St Paul’s cathedral standing alone in the chaos of Luftwaffe destruction, so today De Paz stands alone in the chaos of the fallout from the very ‘designer’ fashion that the Italians started, exported and then finally consumed themselves.

In all the many times I’ve been to Bologna over the last 26 years, even if just passing through, a half hour gazing at the incredible assortment in the window has always been a must. Nothing had really changed. Fashions had come and gone, but De Paz had always held its own with its enviable display of Shetland knitwear, soft shouldered tweed jackets, Tricker’s brogues, and little union jacks everywhere.

Some of the muted colour De Paz Shetlands I bought. Cabled, V neck slipover and plain knit.

“It’s Like Those Stores on Regent St – Only Fantastic!” Ben from Herb Lester on Seeing My Photos of De Paz

When I sent Herb Lester some photos of the store from this trip, he hit the nail on the head: “It’s just like those stores on Regent St that sell tartan and cashmere – only it’s a fantastic one!”

Clothing for ‘gli proprio inglese’

In 1989, I was in Bologna with John Rushton, on our our way further south to buy Italian copies of American loafers and we stopped off at De Paz. I can remember John chatting for hours with owner Dante in John’s perfect Roman Italian all about ‘gli proprio inglese’ and how it was all very different now in Britain to this image the Italians had of Principe Carlo and Lady Diana, polo, Twinings Tea and Jaguar cars. Dante nodded a lot but didn’t quite believe him. I had a similar conversation with Dante the other day, about the mere handful of English shoemakers left in Northampton and how it was so hard to find some of his stock at home. He nodded a lot but again didn’t quite believe me.

A wonderful William Lockie shawl collar cardigan in lovat Shetland.

For Export Only

In those days, a lot of the best clothing we produced were mostly hidden to us in Britain, and outside of a few stores in Jermyn St, most of the finest garments and shoes made here in the 80s went to Italy, USA and Japan. All of them without exception were the finest only because the buyers from those countries insisted they should be, never because the producers here offered the perfect product. Here in Britain we got the ‘also ran’ versions, the ‘just good enough’ products, made to compete on price with increasing imports – a battle we all know would soon end in tears for most traditional firms.

Dante De Paz helps me with a navy Melton Grenfell Grampian coat
The Grenfell coat features a yellow wool lining. A bit hot for the 25C day I tried it. The plaid jacket is just for sizing the coat – an unstructured jacket similar in weight to my regular Keydge. Incidentally, De Paz used to stock the old J Keydge and still had one cord jacket left on the rails

De Paz Sold Tricker’s Long Before They Went ‘Fashion’

One of De Paz’s key brands even then was Tricker’s. In 1988 no one wore Tricker’s in Britain who wasn’t to the manner born, with a very few exceptions. For locals here, Grenson probably occupied the closest market space to that which Tricker’s now holds. Expensive, but flashy and garish. Every year in the Jermyn St sale Tricker’s would have some export models made for Japan or Italy at reasonable prices and the ancient men who worked the store would tolerate us youngsters for the duration of the sale for the sake of clearing a few oddments they’d rather never have had in the store.

De Paz on the other hand helped to make Tricker’s mainstream in Bologna. The brogue and heavy storm welted loafer, usually in Tricker’s’ famous tan, but also in grain and tobacco suede, these were shoes for the cognoscenti. Today it’s amusing to see how Tricker’s have sold their very soul (soles?) to the global flash in the pan that we’ve witnessed in the last three or four years. (Tricker’s’ fashion styles are now so ‘out’ of fashion, and having had no clue as to why they had their success in the first place, that the factory is working a three day week whilst the other classic Northampton factories are busier than ever).

Deadstock Drumohr Shetlands – Made For Old England of Parma

A cable knit electric blue Shetland and a similar scarlet cashmere-soft Geelong, both 1970s stock by Drumohr. They came with tags containing wool for mending!
The three Drumohr sweaters I bought. A fourth kelly green shaggy dog not pictured
Drumohr Geelong Cable Knit – Label Reads Drumohr Made for Old England of Parma
Baby blue shaggy dog style brushed Shetland cable – Label Reads Drumohr Made for Old England of Parma

Sure enough last week in De Paz, the sight of the traditional Tricker’s brogue in tan in the window was like stepping back into that time before Tricker’s lost the plot completely. I really hope Tricker’s recover their composure because without brands like Tricker’s and William Lockie, Grenfell and Mackintosh, then De Paz would have an uncertain future.

It’s still a little hard for Italians to understand that we have a drought of classic knitwear here. Five years ago you couldn’t even buy decent Shetland sweaters. Now, thankfully there are a lot more outlets, even if they come in the guise of Monocle-endorsed fashion retailers like Oi Polloi and Present.

Old Stock scarves in obscure checks. The one on the left is USA Bicentennial Tartan from 1976

But what we no longer have here is a De Paz-like purveyor of the simple classic basics in wonderful colours. Westaway and Westaway was like a temple to me in the 80s and early 90s. I can remember going regularly to request for items like a cardigan in baby blue (having seen Fred Astaire in Funny Face) and the manager simply phoning up their supplier (Lockie) and ordering one in my size. Herb Lester was right, the only places left here that sell traditional knitwear are those peculiar Filipina-staffed cubby holes in Regent St and Oxford St, but even those are fast being cleared for the endless regeneration of the area into boring global brand HQ of the world.

De Paz has somehow weathered all these storms and remained steadfast in its vision of offering the best quality traditional British clothing albeit through Italian-tinted spectacles.

Third generation owner Dario de Paz helps me with the deadstock Drumohr selection

Dario de Paz, the third generation to run the shop in the same location on Via Ugo Bassi, explained that his grandfather had started importing British cloth in 1932 when he opened the store. Apart from a few years during the war when the shop was forced to close for obvious reasons, De Paz continued in the same format until Dario’s father Dante took over in the 1960s. Dante began to shape the store into what it is today – an emporium stuffed full of the best of English, Scottish and Irish knitwear, outerwear, shoes, ties, socks – pretty much everything you need for an entire wardrobe of classics. A few touches like Italian made button down shirts and French Paraboots, along with Loden coats from the Tirol add up to a complete outfitter.

1970s Shetlands!

Shetland Heaven

I made three visits to the store during my five day trip to Bologna. I also accompanied Mrs Weejun on her visit to the De Paz women’s store, just down the road near the legendary Atti e Figli delicatessen, just off from Bologna’s ‘jazz street’ Via Drapperie. The women’s shop is run by Dario’s mother, a wonderfully elegant woman of the old school. Whilst Mrs W perused the cashmere scarves and beautiful calf leather gloves, I chatted with Mrs De Paz about the steep decline in the standards of dress I’d noticed over a quarter century – in Italian women in particular.

Lerwick Cable Knit Shetlands at Via Ugo Bassi along with William Lockie Shawl Collar Shetland cardigans in Lovat and French navy, Fair Isle sweaters above…

Once upon a time the ‘bella gente’ could be found every Sunday afternoon parading in the passeggiata in beautiful knitwear, classic fur trimmed coats, subtle accessories  – these days the style is more Russian prostitute than Audrey Hepburn. ‘It’s difficult to run a store like this today,” Sra De Paz told me. “It’s not just the ‘crisi finanziaria’ but the ‘crisi di gusto’ – the crisis of good taste.”

Cable Knit Lerwick Knitwear for De Paz

The menswear store fares better these days, especially with promotion on Facebook and the existence of enough customers to still sustain the shop, but Dario concedes that the heyday for De Paz was the 1980s, ‘we were very famous in Bologna at that time’ he says. Rightly so.

“It’s Not So Easy Selling Classic Clothes in Store in 2014”

The unseasonably hot October weather was also playing havoc with De Paz’s winter clothing stock and as elsewhere in the city a lot of things were already on sale. Once upon a time discount sales only occurred in July and January, but these days, as in the USA and UK, retailers have to respond faster than ever to uncertain weather and other man made crises.

1970s Drumohr sweaters alongside an old stock Grenfell trench

Of course, it isn’t just Bologna, or Italy in general, that’s changed. London has changed a lot too, some for the better and Paris finally succumbed to the worst excesses of global style like everywhere else. Old England ended up selling expensive and bad Italian suits and went bust just when traditional style was starting to pick up again, and JM Weston now only grudgingly carries its legendary models alongside hideous grey winklepickers and Berluti  copies. Chevignon is a down market catalogue brand and even Michelin no longer pretends Paris is the best place for food.

Dario De Paz checks the Shetland V Neck Sleeveless pullover sizes for me

For those of us who love classic clothing, the internet has long been the place where we find the lost, misplaced, the deadstock, the lone remaining maker of some obscure product, along with the new providers. But the thrill of walking into a store and finding so much that you would wear and so much dedication to its preservation is a rare and wonderful thing.

Another corner of the Via Ugo Bassi store, more knitwear, an unstructured pea coat in the foreground and my Grenfell Grampian coat hanging to the right

Taking advantage of being able to physically try things on, I bought quite a few Shetlands, including four of the 1970s Drumohr deadstock, some brushed, some cable and one Shetland patterned geelong, along a stunning dark navy Melton car coat by Grenfell. The coat was based on their Grampian model, but with a stunning yellow wool lining – it’s these details that make the Italian take on ‘British’ so interesting.

Traditional British Crosses Over Into Ivy Style

Of course, much of the stock in the shop also falls into ‘Ivy’ – these are items that the Americans sold in the Andover Shop, CCC, and of once upon time Brooks Brothers; duffle coats, Shetlands, sleeveless cardigans, college scarves, heavy English brogues, Mackintosh raincoats and Argyle socks.

Just like other legendary niche stores around the world, O’Connells, Cable Car Clothiers and John Simons, being the most obvious, De Paz also needs its suppliers to stay in business in order to provide its clients with the best possible quality. The handiwork of tiny production units in Lerwick to Hackney to Northampton, all ends up in the tall entrance windows which frame the store. I remember on my first trip being most impressed with the tartan suit covers of the dozens of jackets hanging in the store, and thankfully some things don’t change.

Lerwick Cable Knit Shetland and De Paz bag back at the hotel

Like our friends at John Simons, De Paz used to buy their Shetlands from Laurence J Smith, but since they ceased trading (and became Laurence Odie) they’ve been sourcing them from Lerwick. However, they also have a secret stash of Shetlands from the 1970s, made by Drumohr (an other venerable brand, made bankrupt by idiot owners a few years ago and turned into bad fashion by Italian owners) for a store called Old England of Parma – a store which of course no longer exists.

When I got back I sent John Rushton a photo of me with Dante and the phone rang within a few minutes. I can’t believe it’s still there, fantastic!,” said John, and told me he would be making a trip to Bologna when he goes to Italy at Christmas. “Osso Bucco at Diana (a local landmark since the 1920s and thankfully still there) and a walk up to De Paz to buy some knitwear – perfect day trip.”

In a world of constant and sometimes needless change, it’s great to find a beacon of tradition, still holding out.

Thank God for De Paz!

(Special thanks to Dante and Dario for their help and kindness beyond the call of duty and thanks to Mrs Weejun for the in situ photos)

The Weejun enjoying espresso waiting for De Paz to open across the road
The Weejun in De Paz trying on pre ‘hipsterised’ Grenfell
De Paz Cable Shetland with J Keydge
The Weejun caught like a rabbit in the headlights by the well stocked windows of De Paz

(Updated) A Deadstock Lion of Troy Popover, Casablanca & The Genome Project

(Update at the bottom – 3rd Sept 2014)

I know what you’re thinking.

The Weejun must have really lost the plot this time. What has the movie Casablanca and the nobel prize winning race to crack the human genome code got to do with the Ivy Look?

Deadstock Lion of Troy Shirts

Well, I found some kind of ivy holy grail for sale online, bought it, thought I’d write a post about it and in digging up some of the story of the company that made the shirt, I came across more than the usual background information.

The shirt in question is from one of the legendary Ivy League makers, Lion of Troy. Not to be confused with the later incarnation as Troy Shirtmakers Guild, Lion of Troy was the trademark of M. Nirenberg & Sons, a New York based shirtmakers.

The older Nirenberg came from Odessa and went to work in a New York shirt factory – the shirt makers of the Non Pareil brand who featured a prancing lion as their company crest. Later he came to buy the company and manufacturing some of their product in the town of Troy, New York the step to call the new shirts Lion of Troy seems an obvious one. Lion of Troy were much sought after on the London Ivy scene in the 1960s and John Simons and co were stockists and purveyors to discerning button down shirt lovers this side of the Atlantic.

The shirt I tracked down is not only a rare Lion of Troy oxford button down, but also deadstock with it’s original makers tag and WPL number, but also that rocking horse doodoo rarity, a popover!

Strangely this shirt had been listed online for sale online for the last three months along with the others below, a couple of tab collars, including a Beau Brummell brand and another Lion of Troy and Troy button down with regular placket. The regular placket was a poly mix but the popover is 100% cotton and in a classic boom years ivy colour of mauve. Probably the fact that the seller didn’t provide the brand details in her description helped keep this a secret, who knows?

Classic Lion of Troy Ad from the 1950s

According to my research about the brand, Nirenburg’s daughter in law was one Joan Alison, co-author of the unfinished play ‘Everbody Comes To Rick’s’, subject of one of the most famous behind the scenes stories in Hollywood legend, that eventually became the screenplay for Casablanca.

If, along with a cult shirt brand in the family, that wasn’t enough the founder’s grandson, Marshall Nirenberg Jr., became the first US Government scientist to win a Nobel Prize for his work on ‘deciphering the human genetic code’ in 1968.

M Nirenberg Jr in the late 60s – An Ivy Man himself from those lapels…

Surely one of his Dad’s Lion of Troy Shirts?

Also found in my search was this wonderful example of a trade correspondence from 1937 between the Nirenberg factory and the Michigan based outfitters Springer Rose regarding a missing carton of shirts.

Letter from 1930s From Nirenberg to Retailer

The current trend for hugely expensive vintage popovers on eBay thankfully passed over this example which I picked up for a very modest fee from one of those middle of nowheresville sellers who specialise in strange trinkets and jewellery. Just as well, as the correct description would have pushed this deadstock button down stratospheric.

Elusive Popover Style with Original Tags

The history behind Lion of Troy is also the history of families that built America in the 20th Century. It is endlessly fascinating how the trail left behind online really does form it’s own ‘web’ of interconnections that otherwise would remain only known to a small group of disconnected people.

Lion of Troy – The Bold Look from their 1940s Heyday

A post script to this entry comes from reader Woolster in Finland (who comments below). Well known to readers of FNB as someone that digs up some choice items, he found this very cool popover in ‘Authentic Power Loomed Hopsack’ with ‘Raglan Sleeves’. And I thought Gant Rugger were stretching it with some of their repro names on shirts…

Woolster’s Deadstock Lion of Troy Hopsack Raglan

Woolster in Warmer Days in Finland with Said Popover…

Speaking with John Simons on Tuesday, he also remembered how he used to visit the firm two or three times a year in the Empire State Building. ‘Whaddyawant? Close Outs?’, they’d ask.

One day in around 1972 Lion of Troy were closing down and John bought all their remaining madras shirts for $6 a dozen – 50c each, and had to get a special covering letter to avoid being hammered by British customs thinking it was a dummy billing scam. However, in the 70s, there was much less demand for madras shirts in London and they still had stock on them by the end of the decade, and were giving them away to regular customers. To think of that now…



The Troy shirt arrived yesterday and looks like something that came from a store yesterday. Incredible condition for a deadstock shirt and no signs of the usual discolouring along the folds. A 30 min dip in Vanish and a quick wash in the machine and it should come out perfectly.

Neat Little WPL Tag

John Simons was correct is suggesting it would be a slim fit. After all this would have been a fashion shirt in the mid 60s, especially in this mauve colour. This would have been a button down popover for college kids to wear with tight highwater levis and weejuns or desert boots, not fusty professors or trad J Press dressers of the day. It’s easy to lump all ivy style into the one field.

45 Year Old Cardboard and Pins Packaging – No Iron Mould Stains from Pins Either….

As a vintage 16-16.5 the collar is slightly big on me, but it’s a sport shirt so no issues there, and the sleeves are slim and not quite half arm length – again a nod to fashion of the day. Also it features a third collar button but not a locker loop – with the long point collar it’s similar to some Lands End shirts I picked up three years ago (that were remarkably good – unlined collars, back button, pocket flap etc). It fits pretty much the same as The Woolster’s version above.

Back Button but No Locker Loop


An Update September 2014

I’ve just received this beauty from the US for the princely sum of USD$9.00, actually $2.50 less than it’s original price tag. Surely a bargain. It’s a dark pink lightweight oxford with a reddish hue to it and the colour is stamped ‘Rhododenron’ on the tail (and best shown in the top photo). A perfect description.

1960s, Made for The Claymore Shop

I would imagine late 60s early 70s, unlined long point collar made for The Claymore Shop and featuring  a Claymore Shop original price sticker on it. Also in the bag was a contemporary Hathaway white oxford retailing at $9.50, also pinned and in it’s original bag (photo on Tumblr).

The Claymore Shop still exists in Birmingham, Michigan although their website shows Euro stylings these days.

Interestingly, although the Lion of Troy brand references the city of Troy, NY, the seller shipped from a Troy, Michigan. He also had a couple of other shirts presumably from the same source as they were all a similar size. A Huntington blue oxford, a Sero made rebranded blue end on end polycotton and a more modern blue oxford pinpoint, from the price tag probably 1980s and made by Gitman as it features their unfortunate double stitched collar edge. I was tempted by the Sero as my favourite shirt is a Sero cotton end on end but I can’t deal with poly really. I have tried, but 65/35 in favour of the poly – it’s just so hot to wear.

Lion of Troy Pink Oxford 1960s Deadstock

Lion of Troy Deadstock Oxford Shirt

Lion of Troy Deadstock Oxford Shirt

Lion of Troy Deadstock Oxford Shirt

1960s Deadstock Bleeding Madras Shirts – A Nice Little Haul

Like many people I know obsessed with the look, I’m always buying stuff out of season. When things are rare, old stock or even just plain old limited edition; well what can you do but buy ’em up and store ’em away for the metaphorical rainy (or perhaps sunny) day?

Unusual then, that I found this little haul of deadstock bleeding madras recently ready for wear during the current season. Eagle eyed regular readers may well have spotted them on my Tumblr a few weeks ago.

Colin Gives Me The Nod

Tipped off by Colin from FNB who’d got there first and snapped up three or four of the shirts being offered on Etsy by the seller, he’d originally offered to sell me one of them when his shipment arrived. “I don’t really need so many deadstock madras shirts,” was his reasoning.

Well, understandably, when they arrived he changed his mind, but he did suggest that I get in touch with the lovely Tressie from Funkomavintage.

Incredibly, Tressie had some more of these beauties, all in Medium, all deadstock and all in a really usable blue based madras cloth that she was waiting to list on her Etsy store.

She emailed me a few days later to say she was going to be posting them in the middle of one Sunday night  UK time.  Thankfully, the sandman’s job is over early chez Weejun so at 5am BST on a Monday morning, I suddenly remembered to look, couldn’t believe they were still there and then I bought them all. I don’t think I even saw the prices at the time – I just confirmed they were the same great shirts that Colin had snaffled earlier.

A Northern California Estate Sale

Finding one lone deadstock shirt in a usable size is never easy, but finding more than half a dozen? I mean, these things have been laying around nearly 50 years.

I asked Tressie about the provenance of so many deadstock bleeding madras shirts:

“….well, it was one of those Northern California estate sales, that you go to at 6 am in the morning! I was looking for small home decor and the like and was not expecting clothes, but there they were.

I couldn’t figure out what the guy did for a living…usually I know right away, but this one is a mystery, but clearly he had money and very good taste ;-)”

Clearly the guy was worse than I am at buying stuff that he never used and that was to eventually outlive him. Wherever that guy is, hopefully he was smiling down as the first shirt was unpinned, carefully hand washed and then worn with much pride one June Saturday in 2014 halfway around the world.

This is Not a Store!

As is usual whenever I post images of deadstock stuff I’ve had a bunch of emails, mainly from Japan, thinking this blog is some kind of store and asking to buy them. Well, can’t blame them for asking, but these babies are definitely not for sale. One of each colour is for wearing and the others are for storing away (read: The Weejun’s Estate Sale, God forbid).

The shirts themselves are ‘no brand’ items. The RN number shows an importer of textile goods and they all carry the generic India Madras labels that were so common in the boom years, along with some nice swing tickets explaining how those broken threads and holes in the weave are just ‘character’.

Well, we all love a story and madras cloth which is ‘guaranteed to bleed’ is one of the great marketing success stories of the twentieth century.

Our very own Leith of course makes wonderful shirts in bleeding madras and even old Ralph has a few items that turn up on ebay from time to time in bleeding madras, but generally these days dyes are chemical and fixed.

There are various histories online about the origins of madras cloth, and the American history of using bleeding madras in particular, so I won’t repeat those here – a quick Google search will suffice if you’re curious.

I understand from Guy of Leith that they have a ton of cloth left over from making their shirts. It would be nice to see some full length Bermudas in bleeding madras!

Then, A 1960s Deadstock Gant Hugger Bleeding Madras Popover!

Incredibly, the same day I bought these I also found a holy grail piece – a Deadstock 1960s Gant Hugger Bleeding Madras Popover. Jesus, how many ivy grail boxes does that sentence tick?

I kind of knew it was going to be too big for marked at 17 but I bought it anyway. You know, just in case it somehow transformed its size. Of course it was waaaay too big for me, but it was surely a joy to behold, a thing of real beauty.

I thought about framing it for a while, but then I really like to use deadstock clothes in the real world if possible, so I passed it on to guy who was extremely happy and who is no doubt wearing it on today’s scorching Wimbledon semi finals Friday.

1960s Gant Hugger Bleeding Madras Popover

Hot Sun Summer in the City (But We Still Need Raincoats, Don’t We)

Now, on the subject of buying stuff out of season – the long awaited John Simons raincoats and golfers have finally landed. More news soon…

In Praise of O’Connells

A few days ago the Buffalo Times did a great piece on the modern day 56 year overnight success of Buffalo’s greatest landmark, O’Connells. Once the preserve of those ‘in the know’ O’Connells is now about as great a niche online success as it’s possible to find.

Traditional Meets The Modern World

It’s a heartwarming tale in a world where the custodians of ‘heritage’ at old established brands and businesses trade upon the word heritage whilst spitting right in it’s eye. LL Bean, Brooks Brothers, even Levis Vintage Clothing that once stood for true reproductions have all simply bandwagonned the whole American Heritage movement. Some of O’Connells new found fame and success may be down to the kind of bloggers who can’t tell the real from the ersatz but let’s be sure of one thing, O’Connells’ success is down to O’Connells.

They do things right and they do them well. Whilst we could all do with a little more description of the articles and a few more images of them, too, O’Connells service, lead on the online front line by Ethan Huber is second to none. And moreover O’Connells sells the kind of product that proudly says ‘we are not fashion’.

Once upon a time every town in America had it’s own version of O’Connells. One by one, they all disappeared – often by ‘modernising’ for sake of it or simply being stuck in a timewarp that no one wanted anymore. Somehow, O’Connells manages to pull of the rare trick of being at once authentic and niche and at the same time entirely approachable.

Those New Old Stock Seros – Just a Sample of Some I Picked Up From O’Connells

The Weejun Visits O’Connells But Doesn’t Quite Make It

A couple of years back I tried in vain to book a train to Buffalo for the sole purpose of visiting the store in person. An online colleague, David R, had visited a couple of years earlier  and kindly picked up some shirts for me. His description of being in an Aladdin’s cave had me daydreaming about arriving at the store and delving through their incredible deadstock Sero shirts collection (now mostly sold apart from a a few items in fewer sizes). I was heart broken when I found out that you can get to Buffalo by train leaving early in the morning from NY but you can’t get back again the same day. We had too little time, so I passed on the chance.

It certainly saved on wallet stress because that may have been a once a lifetime chance to buy deadstock madras trousers and try them on (made the way they used to be with those little cardboard ticket sizing labels stitched on to the waistband), or find that rare and desirable Sero shirt that somehow hadn’t made it on to the website’s New Old Stock section.

Service Second to None

Each time I’ve bought from O’Connells either online directly or via Fred in LA the service has been great and the items superb. Literally like stepping back in time, but all available at the click of an Apple trackpad.

I really love it when you see small well run businesses make a success without compromising and O’Connells know the secret of how the internet should have saved more businesses like theirs – that their customers are no longer just on the doorstep looking in the window, but everywhere in the world. In small numbers, granted, but enough of us to keep a store like this going for another 56 years and beyond.

Interestingly, the news articles explains the origin of those familiar sewn in store labels : Lucas, Chelf & O’Connell – the original owners were Buffalo Bills players.

O’Connells, I salute you!

The Buffalo News article can be found here

O’Connells Website Can be found here

I Took My Own Advice: 1970s Tan Bass Weejuns

1970s Deadstock Tan Bass Weejuns

Shopping Your Own Closet Really Works!

Last week I wrote about ‘shopping your own closet’. Well, I thought I’d take my own advice today and start digging around in some of those carefully preserved items way back at the bottom of stacks of shoe boxes in what’s supposed to be my office.

As everyone knows, these days Bass Weejuns (with the exception of the odd Made in Maine by Rancourt models) are no longer lovingly crafted out of top quality materials, but appear instead to be almost injection moulded out of licorice and tar paper.

1970s Tan Weejuns for Summer

I recently bought a pair of the tan Logan model which uniquely amongst the regular stock of unlined versions of the classic shape, are made from a very flexible tan leather. It’s by no means full grain, but it doesn’t have that nasty baked on teriyaki glaze the others have. It’s great for knocking around, soft enough to wear without socks for what our American cousins call ‘yard work’ and now they’re breaking in, I can just about live with the fact that the sole and heel edging IS coated in terayaki sauce of the darkest hue.

Whoever spec’d that model in tan but didn’t think to leave the edges unglazed or at least give them a sympathetic light transparent one was a stylistic illiterate.

The original version of the tan Weejun in soft chromexcel type leather first appeared in the late 1960s and was often worn with off white jeans or a wash’n’wear poplin suit. Bass offered the model for some time and although I don’t remember John Simons stocking them at the beginning of the 80s (I could be wrong about that) the Natural Shoe Store in Neal St was the importer and had a few extra models. My friends and I bought ours there and wore them till they fell apart at the seams.

The Ivy Style in 1980s London

Finding these shoes brings up a lot of memories of when I was a teenager first finding my way into classic American style.

It may be nearly impossible to imagine, but our view and understanding of American clothing tradition at that time came only through three distinct prisms.

1. Jazz and The Look

Firstly, the much mentioned jazz album covers. At the turn of the 1980s there was maybe one book on modern jazz in print in the UK (by German critic Joachim Berendt) and even the best record store had no more than a random handful of jazz reissues. This informed us of the cool history of the look as far as we could tell. But as far as buying these clothes was concerned? Well, good luck on that score. Maybe at Flip, if the rag bale sorters didn’t have the items wrongly pegged as ‘rockabilly’ or that horrible oversized and ripped 501 and satin MA1 jacket ‘Bros look’ that passed for ‘cool’ in the 80s – a look that was typified by actor Jesse Birdsall and ‘style guru’ Robert Elms – and had ramped up the price.

2. Out Of The Past and Into the 80s

Secondly, movies. These didn’t even have to be old. The American classic look was so uniform still (and it was a uniform) in those days that even current movies featured hard to find here items; like Brooks Brothers shirts and flat front chinos. Almost all trousers sold in the UK at that time bar terrace wear Farah slacks which were a total no-no for us were pleated.  Of course weejuns or a version thereof where part of that look, too.

Movie actors like Robert Redford, Clint Eastwood, Jeff Bridges or William Hurt – the few who understood the traditional of American style and were never fashion conscious – would wear Lacoste polos, chinos, early era Nike trainers, LL Bean field coats, A2 jackets, heather grey Ts, plaid shirts and the like. We saw this as a direct line that came down from Cary Grant and Gary Cooper era, via William Holden and Rock Hudson, through the button down years of Lemmon, Randall and Peppard and the mavericks like McQueen, Newman and Perkins to those present day actors. In the 1984 movie Against All Odds (itself a remake of the Robert Mitchum classic Out of the Past), compare James Woods dated euro trash style with Bridges’ understated classic look. Bridges was definitely aware of American style as a continuum.

This was what classic dressing looked like in 1984. Barring a few details the look had not and has not changed for 60 years. Similarly, it wasn’t the cliched rocker look of Mickey Rourke in 1982’s Body Heat but William Hurt’s seersucker wearing small town lawyer that was the real style interest.

This doesn’t mean we then wanted to imitate the 2 button side vents or the too tight on the bum chinos these guys often wore (not to mention the blow dried hair), but the overall impression was one of reinforcement of the American classic style, in the just the same way as Mitchum in the 1940s was way baggy and billowy, but still wore Weejuns and knit shirts and hunting jackets.

3. American Tourists Were Cool

Third, and by no means least, were real Americans themselves. It must sound incredible to anyone born after the internet but the world was a very big place back then.

Few of us saw more than a small part of it in person. Instead we’d check out the American tourists in London, compare their contemporary clothing with stuff from we liked from the movies or record covers and then this would inform our purchase at Flip or John Simons. Flip of course had the vintage pieces and John sold the stuff as it was then, as it was still being made and worn by the majority of American males.

I don’t think we really distinguished that much between old and new – we just loved American style and mixed it together. These contemporary Americans still wore seersucker, tartan trousers, boat shoes, Burberry’s raincoats with collar protectors, roll neck jumpers under a button down shirt and of course Weejuns by the box load.

Exotic stuff that British people never wore. Even the labels of the clothing were different and there was already then a distinct traditional feel with the push back to all cotton shirts and natural fibres.

And Then There Was Ralph Lauren…

Under this umbrella must also fall Ralph Lauren.

Again seen from today’s ubiquity it is probably too hard to imagine the caché that the Ralph Lauren Polo brand once held on these shores.

Ralph was the only carrier of the ivy look torch available to us outside of Flip and John Simons. Gant was still a US brand and unknown to most Europeans, but Ralph sold tartan flat front trousers and white buck shoes and button down chambray shirts.

The only place in Britain you could even buy the stuff was in one single store in Bond St (now the kids store). There was no diffusion range. No dodgy small town fashion retailers or pony knock offs then. You’d see the international set wearing the polo shirt in Hampstead, but on locals they were rare.

Most items were way out of our financial grasp but the polo shirt, Made in USA of course, was just about manageable at £24.50 (roughly the equivalent then of £150.00 of today’s spending money). We’d dress up just to walk up the few steps into the store, and never, ever window shop. If you went in there, it was to buy, not to waste the time of the ‘beautiful people’ who served there.

American Tradition

The Tan Weejun was definitely a part of that mixture. Not really a boom era look, but at the same time a contemporary classic. More Redford in Downhill Racer than Peppard in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Because of that, I’ve always had a sneaking fondness for this softer, even more casual, underdog in the Weejun canon.

Five or so years ago, I found a deadstock pair on eBay from a guy in Oregon – it wasn’t so hard to find this stuff back then.

In fact, if you think about it Oregon makes a lot of sense as a place for the tan Weejun to end up. This is almost East Coast style gone as far West as it can go and then North some to team up with Pendleton shirts and dark Levis with perhaps a hint of workwear and a Filson jacket when Filson was unhip utility wear.

Recent resurgent US-made loafer styles have often harked back to this un-stained edge and softer leather look for their loafers but, without exception, these have been beefroll versions.

So today I found this pair again in their original box.

They’re from the plastic heel plug, swept waist sole era which sadly means they are about one whole size bigger than the lasts Bass were using after around 1986 or so when the shape of the shoe and sole changed towards a more stubby cut.

I’ve padded the tongues with foam, placed leather insoles inside – all in an attempt to make them not fall off with every step. I bought off white WigWams Husky socks in New York a couple of years back to wear with them, but still they remained neglected in their box. The only wear they’ve had has been on wooden floors at home and I’ve been paranoid about them stretching even more, soft and pliable as they are.

Now, however, I’m finally getting them out and going to go for it. All this deadstock stuff just ends up as more crap if you don’t wear it or sell it.

Back to the Future

It’s funny how something as simple as finding an unworn pair of shoes get take you off on another track, remembering how you got here. These days everyone mixes everything once again and it’s normal and probably a lot more fun than the old days of strict tribes. But the end result is still an admixture of tradition and classic style. The tiny details may change, but the reasons for the clothing and the fabrics and comfort don’t.

Maybe Americans got so stuck on tradition because they felt they had none in the 20th century. So they cultivated their own traditions (whilst blasting through those of everyone else) and preserved them against the onslaughts of our fickle euro fashion. Even today, it still fights back and can be felt in the roots of High St chains like Gap and J Crew.

You Know Where You Are With Tradition

When you watch an American movie from 1960 you can be sure of the clothing the actors will wear along with pretty much every person in the movie. Ditto when you watch an American movie from the 40s or the 80s.

Compare that with any British movie from those eras in which you could never in a million years describe the general hodge podge of mongrel clothing styles of everyone in a film, down to the minutest details, before watching it.

The tan Weejun of 70s vintage is a niche taste to be sure, but if you’ve ever put your foot into a regular plastic coated Weejun then you’ve no idea just how soft and like thick slippers for the outdoors the tan Weejun once was.

I think that this tradition is a great thing to be part of even if it is not by birthright.

J Keydge – Here to Stay? Could Be After All.

Two years ago, almost to the month, I wrote a piece about how the J Keydge jacket was a triumph of existence in spite of itself.  That it seemed – from the outside at least – that it might be a miracle if the company survived into another season.

In early 2012, with virtually no web presence and a seemingly random liason with even their most long time customers, coupled with some very peculiar Sgt Pepper-meets-Boden style jackets in some not so choice colours, it really seemed worth grabbing any jackets out there before the inevitable happened. Rumours of past financial issues didn’t help and panic buying was the order of the day chez Weejun. At least that was how it seemed just a short couple of years ago.

Phoenix Risen from the Sack Cloth Ashes

Since then I’ve seen that original post crop up time and again on Google searches for other ivy stuff. To be honest I’ve felt a bit guilty at having written them off as not being up to the necessary challenges to sell in the modern world and that my piece was always cropping up when the word Keydge was searched.

These days with a new (and for the most part functioning) website, regular news updates from owner Fats and a continuing evolution of the item of most interest to us – the Ivy Slack Jacket  – one could be forgiven for thinking the owners took it as a personal challenge to show this idiot they were here to stay.

New products were launched, which culminated in the summer of 2013 with John Simons stocking Ivy Slack Suits in peached chino fabric. Fevered emails and PMs flew around the Ivy grapevine – Keydge suits with tapered trousers! Damn!

I bought all three colours. (There was also a great British Tan version but only in a couple of larger sizes – JS still had some last week).

Those summer suits were no flash in the ‘pain’ (very bad pun) either. A great seersucker version followed in mid 2013. When I bought that, Mrs Weejun pronounced it to be nothing more than food for the moths and determined that I was never going to wear it.

Oddly, it’s the one I’ve worn most – to summer business meetings and even to a wedding in seersucker’s spiritual home of India (where it attracted attention from a London based classic car and bike fan to whom I introduced the Keydge and JS in person last week).

Needlecord Suits in 2013

Then in Autumn/Fall of 2013 came the needlecord suits. I like the chunkier cord jackets but prefer needlecord and these were great – French navy, and dark Granny Smith green and an indescribable but perfectly ivy canon colour that looks dark gray or dark brown depending on how cloudy it is outside.

Meanwhile the stranger Keydge releases continued, modelled by an increasingly odd bunch of fellows on their website, including this curate’s egg called the Tiger – modelled here by Vladimir Putin’s French nephew.

This spring we again had three colours of the peached chino suit – a lighter natural, a darker olive and a true navy (see the top photo). I really can’t think of anyone else producing jackets and suits that are so wearable in modern life. Sure, we all crave those holy grail 1960s sack jackets and Brooks Brothers / J Press suits, but personally, having owned more than a few of them, I like the fact that I can mix with Joe and Jane Public without looking like I stepped out of  some kind of 1960s Mad Men aspic spiked time machine.

Living in the Modern World…

What I love about Ivy clothing – what I’ve always loved about it – is that it’s so completely flexible within the realm of whatever the macro fashion of the deacade is. Each era has its own interpretation of the ivy canon.

It’s 2014. I want to dress stylishly in a classic manner, but I don’t want to be the only guy on the Tube with trousers up to my armpits just because that was normal in 1961. I will confess that there have been times when I’ve slipped in that direction but your inner voice knows enough to chide you when that happens.

I remember working at a large commercial broadcaster in a senior position in the late 90s and turning up for a meeting with execs in my Bahama Yellow 69 911 with a near matching 60s yellow corduroy Abercrombie & Fitch hunting sack lined with green beize cloth and with 12 guage shotgun cartridge head buttons with a dark red LL Bean Chamois Cloth shirt underneath and not being taken very seriously at all. Looking back I can’t say my fellow execs were wrong, even clad as they were in Suits You Sir tat or flashy Armani.


Original Keydge Man Sports a Needlecord Slack Jacket

Wash’N’Wear Utility

These days the gap has narrowed enormously between executive dressing and retro casual and what’s acceptable within the workplace**. Thankfully the Keydge Slack jackets and suits fit right in there for me. The suits especially work for modern life – being all natural fibres but still wash’n’wear with the jackets casual enough to wear on their own with ‘odd trousers’ without looking odd. Not restrictive but still ‘smarter than your average bear’.

Meanwhile there’s a good thread over on FNB showing how others incorporate this now cult classic into their real lives. Forumite Zarjazz sports a few models here.

A friend recently mentioned he thought that this summer would bring a red seersucker suit to JSA. Not so! laughed John and Paul last week. Oh well, plenty of options to be getting on with.

All I can say is long may they continue.

**Unless of course you’re like one UK based ivyist whose day job is rumoured to be as a Beefeater in the Tower of London and only gets to ‘dress up’ in ivy at the weekends, poor chap.

Buy them at John Simons or J Keydge

Bedford Incident Grenfell Jacket

The other day I was re watching the Bedford Incident with Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier. It’s a fine movie in its own right but always fun to watch movies with some clothes spotting potential.

Poitier plays a photo journalist in the Life Magazine mould who’s airlifted onto Widmark’s warship. He’s wearing a great Grenfell golf jacket – a kind of Baracuta G4 with patch pockets and single button throat latch and no umbrella back.

Bastard G4

It made me think about picking up some more of the old Baracuta G4s whilst there are still some around. Looking online I found the truly bastardised WP version everywhere. I read somewhere recently someone describing those hideous buttons a tiddlywinks counters. What the hell were WP thinking?

Modernise the business, introduce fashion versions for the mindless, trade on the revisionist mod hipster for sure, but why mess with a jacket that has seen little need for change for nigh on 80 years?

Anyway I’m glad I have a couple in my classic Baracuta collection.
Time to look elsewhere like the JSA soon to be launched version of the Grenfell in a great crushable fabric to get that Poitier effect.

PostScript. I popped into John Simons this afternoon and Paul confirmed their own Grenfell style jacket will be in navy as well as natural tan. Definitely going to add the navy to my collection. ETA approximately one month.

It’s also worth noting that Richard Widmark is sporting a particularly good cotton zipped crew neck bomber in this movie. Simple and effective.

The Ivy Is Always Greener Online – Beware of Coveting Thine Own Stuff

Loafer Envy Out East

I was out East having coffee with my pal Herb Lester last week and noticed he was wearing what I thought was a pair of vintage double-soled Weejuns – those with the heft and solidity of the loafers worn by William Holden in that much republished image of him in NY. But no, this was a pair of the John Simons Rancourt loafers in burgundy.

Burgundy vs Tan Grain

Now, I have them in the grain and they’re really comfortable and well made, but when I saw Herb’s burgundy pair I kicked myself for not getting them. I’d tried the burgundy on the day they first arrived in the store and Ivy cousin from LA, Fred, was wearing a pair on his last London visit so why did I not buy them at the time?

Shoes Too New Won’t Do

Herb has a particularly good way of managing to make his various pairs of classic loafers look just the right side of beaten up – in a good way. I confess to have so many pairs of shoes (around 70 odd at last count) that it’s very hard for me to ever wear some of them in. The consequence is that my shoes often look too new, and therefore don’t get worn. A vicious circle.

When I got back to Weejun HQ Herb’s shoes were still bugging me so did a google image search for the JSA Rancourt loafers – as you do. My eye was then caught by pair after pair of classic deadstock Weejuns, Dexters and other assorted pairs of loafing excellence. Where could I get my hands on these rare beauties, no doubt long sold on auction sites or fora?

Wait a Minute – Those Are My Shoes!

Then I realised that at least five of these images were of different pairs of shoes that I actually own and are sitting right now in boxes as I type this. Images in fact from The Weejun.

Deadstock Weejuns Tassel Loafers 1970s

Rare Wide Fitting Plastic Plug Era Tassel Weejuns. I have worn these a couple of times at least.

The Ivy is Always Greener Online…

What’s that all about? Shoes hidden away in boxes (especially seasonal ones like loafers) are never as attractive as that deadstock pair of Weejuns on Etsy or those Kenwoods in a rare colour or finish on eBay.

Time To Dust Off The Deadstocks

So, time to open some of those boxes, dust off the deadstocks and get wearing.

Oh damn, it’s raining again. Well, another day then. Meanwhile, those burgundy JSA Rancourts are calling again.