Chinos From The Halcyon Days

Buying authentic Ivy can be a minefield. You have to be on point for all the staples: Burlington socks, Brooks Brothers shirts, Levi’s Vintage 501s, and of course Bass Weejuns, Of course the Internet has made things much easier, especially for those who don’t live in the USA. In the UK, the go-to shop for all things Ivy has always been J. Simons, a bastion of Ivy Style for me since I was in my late teens with American classics in more of a ’50s feel. However, no one can stock everything. We did have some great surplus shops in the ’80s on the Kings Road, Chelsea. So a natural shoulder sports jacket, or a pair of genuine Army chinos could be had for next to nothing.

I am now approaching my sixties, and we live in a world where large parent companies buy brand names like collecting stamps. The cost of a Baracuta G9 soars from Ј100, to Ј230. Not only that, everyone seems to be reinterpreting or updating classic designs. I say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Frustration with the current crop of classic flat-front chino designs, including those from Gant, Bill’s Khakis and Ralph Lauren, all trying to re-invent the wheel, lead me to a search on the web. About a year ago, I stumbled across a company called Bronson MFG Co. Basically, military-styled casual clothing with a distinctly American flavor. I dipped my toe in with an order for socks, pocket tees and a Hawaiian shirt, followed swiftly by a pair of selvedge 501-inspired jeans, which pretty much blew any of the current crop of Levis Vintage offering out of the water both in price and quality.

This lead me back to the elusive chinos. Bronson stocks three designs, one of which is called Ivy, yet has pleats. The other two, however, are about as close as a could find anywhere and really look like the real deal, You can go down the Japanese specialist’s route, like Real Mccoys, or Buzz Rickson, and end up paying way too much for what is, after all, a pair of Army trousers.

Recently I received a pair of 1940s pattern, 11.5-ounce cotton flat-front chinos. The style and quality took me right back to those halcyon days in the ’80s. Good rise, great relaxed cut, fantastic quality, no detail left off and absolutely no modern twist. They do a ’50s pattern as well, which has a 14-ounce cotton and a slightly narrower opening on the leg. And get this, only $80. Yes, that’s right. Now don’t get me wrong: I never have regretted paying up for quality clothes, and still don’t count quality and style above cost, but judge for yourselves. — ANDY CARD

22 Comments on "Chinos From The Halcyon Days"

  1. Bronson is a RRL knock-off for U.K. hipsters.

  2. Vern Trotter | April 18, 2021 at 7:44 pm |

    I bought a pair of button fly khakis once many years ago at an Ivy style shop in downtown LA In the Roosevelt Hotel. The biggest pain in the neck (?) ever. Gave them away real pronto. As far as Levi jeans, only for the ranch. C’mon, man!

  3. Roger Sack | April 18, 2021 at 8:53 pm |

    Never could wear them . Too long in the rise
    and too baggy in the seat. My first European
    cut chinos/ jeans in the late 60s were a godsend.
    Usually French or Italian.

  4. John Carlos | April 18, 2021 at 9:09 pm |

    Vern Trotter- I agree. Button fly is too much trouble. For my money, O’Connell’s has the best trad khakis. Bill’s has become silly.

  5. Nice post, Andy. I prefer Buzz Rickson’s to Bronson. If Bronson is a knock-off of any clothing line (if ‘line’ is the correct term), it’s BR. History Preservation sells BR’s ’42 chino and the slimmer, trimmer Steve McQueen special
    ( Considerably more expensive, of course, but the quality is considerably higher. The Japanese do repros better than anyone. Far better than RRL or LVC. Still, I prefer Bills M1.

  6. whiskeydent | April 18, 2021 at 10:34 pm |

    Once you actually arrive in your 60’s, you’ll find that the button front can lead to some frustrating and embarrassing moments in the mensroom of your favorite bar. There’s a reason why zippers were invented.

    I’m sticking with Orvis Ultimate Khakis. They fit well, hold to abuse, come in a wide range of colors, and cost less than Ralph, O’Connell’s or J. Press charge. The two-pair discount is excellent.

  7. I’ll use this khaki-focused post to again ask whether anybody has any experience with All American Khakis? To my eye (whose personal ‘heyday’ for khakis was late-80s Duck Heads), they look very, very trad. There are canvas, twill and poplin versions, a ‘performance’ version (which I’m not interested in), and even something called “cotton gabardine” (!). They’re made in the USA and sell for just under $100.

    If none of our little tribe has any insights, it may be time to go ahead and treat myself to a pair or two, and report back to the group in a subsequent post.

  8. Old School Tie | April 19, 2021 at 11:40 am |

    I just got vintage Made in USA RL chinos off Vinted for 10 euros, so about £8.50. There.

  9. Too Much Johnson | April 19, 2021 at 1:19 pm |

    @ Scary_Cooper – Uncle Ralph has gone entirely off of the rails if his website offerings are anything to go by – hardly a damn thing on there that I’d wear if you gave it to me. Those chinos in particular are as ugly as they are hideously overpriced.

    @ Paul – My personal recollection of my mid-1980s heyday Duck Heads (Sperry Topsiders & Brooks or PRL OCBD, natch) is that they contained a certain percentage of synthetic fiber (rayon?) which gave them their “feel”. As much as I loved them then, I am frankly not sure that I’d wear them today.

    @ Old School Tie – Hear, hear! I’ve been buying late 80s – early 2000s NWT PRL khakis off of FleaBay for the last dozen or so years. Cheap and cheerful and if you can remember which cuts and models flatter you, nothing made today even comes close in terms of value.

  10. Too Much Johnson | April 19, 2021 at 1:25 pm |

    @ whiskeydent – Some of us have quite the opposite problem which buttons go a long way to prevent…

  11. MacMcConnell | April 19, 2021 at 3:24 pm |

    The trousers shown in the images are nothing like RL’s, except the color and the watch pocket. I own foreign made 501s with better construction. The best trousers I’ve owned are late 70s RL and 60s Corbin. O’Connells has well made with good detail also. Never buy trousers other than jeans that don’t have tailorable split waist construction.

  12. @Paul Here’s a link to a 2018 review of All-American Khakis on Ask Andy: Not sure if the short zipper/long rise problem has been solved.

  13. I like the button fly. It’s like a mink trap down there.



  14. MacMcConnell | April 20, 2021 at 12:04 pm |

    The fly on my 501s are longer than many of these new trousers, even the RLs.

  15. Frederick J Johnson | April 20, 2021 at 12:04 pm |

    JD’s seem to press all the right buttons for me..

  16. Charlottesville | April 20, 2021 at 2:13 pm |

    I’m still a Bill’s M2 fan, but a friend is giving me a pair of O’Connell’s khakis, so soon I will be able to compare them.

    Paul and TMJ – I also loved Duck Head khakis in the 80s. At that time they were all cotton, at least the model carried by Alvin-Dennis in Lexington, Virginia, and cost about $30 if I remember correctly. The revived version I have seen online does not appear to have much in common with the original. I bought them a few inches too long and had them cuffed. I also cut the exterior yellow Duck Head patch off with a razor blade, after which they could pass quite well for so-called “dress” khakis that cost twice as much. I generally don’t like wearing labels or logos on the outside, although I have made exceptions on occasion, such as for the crocodile logo on Lacoste tennis shirts.

  17. michael powell | April 20, 2021 at 4:14 pm |

    I want to stand up for Bill’s Khakis. I’m a fat old man, and Bill’s (new old stock size 50) fit me perfectly. Bronson’s go up to size 38. Just because a guy can’t still wear the same size pants he wore in high school, doesn’t mean he doesn’t want (or can’t) look stylish.

  18. @michael powell–I’m a larger man myself, and I, too, like Bills M1. I wear a blazer and tie to work, and Bills always look sharp.

    @Mac McConnell–Glad to hear that your 501s have a nice, long zipper–a long front and back rise, too, I assume. The Ask Andy commenter reviewing AAK found the zipper too short for the front rise.

  19. MacMcConnell | April 21, 2021 at 10:07 am |

    501s are jeans with a fairly low rise. Levi 501s are button fly by definition, no zipper.

    You and Michael Powell are right about Bills, top drawer and very similar to WWII kaks. I’ve examined them, but never purchased as I had just previously restocked with O’Connell’s. I did desperately try to procure a pair of Bill’s heavy wool flannel Blackwatch trousers in my size, no luck. Bills stuff is bullet proof.

  20. Thanks J.G. for the link on All American Khakis.

  21. @Mac McConnell–My mistake. I’ve not owned a pair of Levi’s. I hope that that doesn’t sound like a boast, or worse still, virtue signaling. I don’t know your size, but there are several pairs of Bills wool blackwatch trousers for sale on eBay:

    @Paul–You’re most welcome. I hope you found the review helpful.

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