Millennial Fogey columnist Daniel Greenwood just returned from another epic tour with The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players, during which he zigzagged across half the country. When he has down time, he likes to seek out traditional independent menswear shops that have managed to survive. Here are his favorties so far.
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I travel frequently these days — sometimes for pleasure, but mostly to earn my living. While planning my time off, I try to include a visit to some kind of traditional, independent menswear shop. Usual sources include Internet fora, local news, dealer directories, and word of mouth.
Independent shops have their own character, their own history, and their own raison d’être. They also reflect local taste and owner philosophies, which might interest those of you that enjoy informal anthropological studies.
Here are shops, some well known and others perhaps new to you, that I highly encourage you to visit and, more importantly, to patronize. They range in size and prestige, are presented in no particular order, and the only criteria I used was that I’ve visited them in person.
Many of these will appeal more to eclectic trads than to Ivy purists. There is also a lot of overlap in products, as there was in the heyday (how many stores sold Gant buttondowns?), yet each store is still unique, independently owned, and immensely enjoyable to visit in person.
Watson’s Men’s Store
My family and I spent countless wonderful summers on Cape Cod. As part of a trip into town for errands, my father and I would often stop in at Watson’s. Not only are their prices always reasonable, but visiting Watson’s is also a good way to see a cross-section of Cape Cod life. They carry Viyella shirts, Berle trousers, Hardwick blazers, Harris Tweed, Leather Man belts, etc. But what keeps the lights on during the winter months is workwear from Carhartt, Pendleton, Woolrich and the like. This is the clothing for local working men that spend their winters fishing, building, or otherwise maintaining the infrastructure of the Cape, keeping it up and running while the Nantucket Reds set are home in the Boston suburbs. Incidentally, they also carry Nantucket Reds. Look for sports shirts, Preston of New England belts, embroidered trousers, and New England charm, both genteel and salty.
I first ducked into Thomas Farthing while my mother was browsing the British Museum gift shop (she has an addiction to art hardcovers, and I’m not a very patient person). The amount of fantastic colors and textures in this store is damn near overwhelming. Trigger warning: betweeded London hipsters. If you can get past the fact that you share certain tastes with such whippersnappers, this is a fantastic shop for fine British clothing and accessories. Schoolboy scarves, ties, brollies, fantastic woolen outerwear — all appropriate for an orthodox Ivy closet. If you’re feeling a little heterodox, excellent off-the-peg, English-style tailored clothing at reasonable prices as well. Take special note of wool/silk opera scarves, hats of all shapes and materials, and Fair Isle sweaters.
Bruce Baird & Co
I was performing with the Chattanooga Symphony, a top-notch regional orchestra, and was put up in a historic hotel down the street from the venue. Halfway between the two, I chanced upon Bruce Baird & Co, a true Southern gentleman’s shop. The men working there were dapper and chummy, and the goods reflected regional heritage as well as that particular strain of Southern Anglophilia. A Southwick retailer, I was told that most of the MTM jackets were three button and darted, but a sizable number of customer requests were for 3/2 sacks. I stopped by multiple times to check out Harley of Scotland sweaters, Seaward & Stearn ties, Crittenden jackets, and to enjoy the general Southern bonhomie.
Hipsters again — sorry. But the tweed tailored clothing is extremely well priced, if you’re feeling like a Caledoniaphile (that has to be word, yes?) Tweed caps, tweed ties — much of what’s in the store was at one point attached to a Scottish sheep (to keep prices affordable, they ship Scottish tweed overseas and manufacture elsewhere). Can’t speak to their other location in London, but the Edinburgh original is a comfortable interior, if perhaps a bit contrived.
PM Jacoy Menswear
San Marino, CA
South of the preppy California enclave of Pasadena is the charming suburb of San Marino. I found myself there when my lunch plans fell through. Gladstone’s, a seafood place on the Pacific that I like, was going to take over an hour and a half to get to — such is LA. So I spent my break browsing PM Jacoy instead of eating. This is about as traditional as I’ve found in Southern California, so the clothes were good quality but lacking Ivy details. They did carry Bill’s Khakis, and a salesman and I discussed how distressing it would be if Bill’s moved production overseas. He felt, as I do, that made-in-America should mean something more than a marketing ploy. Speaking of solid American craftsmanship, the store does carry Alden, with calfskin penny loafers their bestseller. The owner also mentioned that even if Alden charged him more, he wasn’t sure he would raise the price for customers, since he was satisfied with the margin he would be making. In this age of greed, and in Los Angeles, no less. Buy your Aldens here, SoCal guys.
Rush Wilson claims to have “ introduced the natural-shouldered, New England style to the southeast” and they’re still selling it. Greenville overall is a fantastic place: nightly shag dancing at my hotel, great food (I recommend The Lazy Goat), and lovely people. Add to the mix a shop selling real-deal Ivy style clothes, and this town has captured a special place in my heart. R. Hanauer and High Cotton bow ties, Southwick and Samuelsohn suits, salesmen sporting 3/2 sack jackets — these guys know the score. Take advantage of their Custom Package and get three MTM Southwick suits for $2,995. Or, more modestly, a Ledbury shirt.
Denver was another symphony gig, and one of my favorites. Not only is the orchestra top notch, but the performing arts complex is unparalleled. Then there’s Homer Reed. The entrance looks straight out of the Alps, and as a lover of all things Swiss, I give the storefront top grades. Hickey Freeman MTM, Hiltl trousers, their own line of shoes, and they also sell Gitman Bros shirts, which are currently on promotion. After you finish shopping, swing by the Brown Palace Hotel’s Ship Tavern across the street. I don’t know if it could get any more coastal New England so far from any ocean.
What traditional, independent shops would you recommend to a traditionalist traveler, a young guy, or a seasoned aficionado? Be sure and let me know. I’ll be on the road again soon enough. — DCG