Going to Inspiration LA 2017

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The guys and I are no stranger to vintage clothing.  Whether it’s true vintage suits  or even putting together something “vintage casual”, we definitely love vintage.  While the former has a very niche following (the vintage community as I affectionately call it), the latter is huge in the mainstream society.  With loop collar shirts, cool sweaters, and straight/wide selvedge denim, this special breed of vintage enthusiast is typically what most people tend to go for when they want a “vintage look”.  There isn’t a huge tradeshow like Pitti Uomo, Inspiration LA is the event to go to if you like that look.  It’s certainly a great place to go to see some of the coolest vintage pieces (that still exist) as well as some of the best dressed guys in the world that aren’t in suits.

We’ve been to Inspiration once before, and it was amazing.  Like an exhibition hall at comic con, the floor was filled with bustling people, dressed to their “rugged nines”, shopping from vendors boasting their hand made goods or vintage finds.  Most of the vendors were reselling vintage (Benny Reese was there!) but there were some reps from established companies; Himel Bros and The Real McCoys were there and they are some of the best modern makers of leather jackets.

Obviously many of the pieces  for sale (whether new or vintage) were expensive, especially to me.  Vintage leather jackets cost $3-800 while the new ones (like Buco) were in the thousands.  Stuff like novelty print tees from the 1940s-1970s cost almost $90!  I’m not trying to say that these pieces aren’t worth it, but its definitely over budget for a guy like me.  There are definitely deals to be had, if you look hard enough or haggle with the vendors.  If you want to walk out with something cool, be sure to bring at least $500 in cash (so you don’t get charged an extra percentage).  I wish I was able to take pictures of some of the cool pieces I saw, but almost every vendor said to refrain from photography.  Don’t ask me; maybe they don’t want reproductions made?

In terms of style, there was definitely a huge variety.  You’ll see later on, but I wasn’t able to take many street style pictures and was only able to get people I actually knew. For shirts, most guys were in cool vintage tee shirts, loop collar shirts (with awesome prints or embroidery), or chambray/denim workshirts. For layering pieces, some guys wore leather while others wore military jackets; it really depends on your personal style. According to some conversation with dealers, Inspiration has really grown in the mainstream community, so there was some streetwear presence with joggers, vans, 90’s sweaters, and light wash jeans.

Here’s what we wore to the event!

Spencer 

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Spencer is the king of vintage casual.  We all like to wear tailoring as often as we can, but the truth is that it’s simply impractical to wear, especially as a college student.  This is his uniform for everyday attire:  sport shirt, short jacket, and selvedge denim + boots.  It’s basically what young people would wear in the 1940s and 1950s, when tailoring was on its way out as the “trendy” thing to be in style.  Its an inoffensive look and fits in the with Americana/workwear craze that most modern guys tend to dress as when they’re going casual.  The only difference is the wider leg jeans (straight cut actually) and the use of the loop collar shirt (most guys today would wear a regualar flannel) and the vintage jacket.  It’s the small details that make Spencer’s outfit pop from regular people.

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Amazing print on the 1950’s shirt and a chunky belt to firmly put this outfit in the casual zone.

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The functional bi-swing back adds mobility

I found Spencer’s jacket way back when I first went to San Francisco. It obviously didn’t fit me, but it was such a beauty that I had to pick it up!  It’s an “Allen” brand western short jacket that has a bunch of cool details.  Firstly, it boasts a bi-swing back which allows for more “give” in arm movement.  Today you can find these openings on most motorcycle jackets but back in the 1930s-1940s, you could find them on suits as well as casual jackets.

To add for waist suppression, you can see that it has a button fastener.  Super cool!

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Details are freakin’ everything when it comes to vintage.  Just look at his box pleat pocket and the asymmetrical, slanted breast pocket with an O-ring zipper.  Stuff like that is highly prized in vintage jackets.

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Can’t do Inspiration without wearing your raw  selvedge denim! Spencer has worn his so much that his has produced some cool rips and some sick fades.   They’re a wonderful light color that really does go with everything! There’s a reason why blue jeans haven’t gone out of style.

1940’s Western Jacket (thrifted), 1950’s loop collar shirt, Levis 501 raws, Chippewa Boots 

Blake

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Blake has a relatively simple outfit, but its absolutely badass all thanks to his “new” leather jacket.  It’s actually mine, but I sold it to him since it never really fit right (pretty snug and too short) and it fits him perfectly, as you can see.  The jacket pairs well with his vintage work chinos and boots, providing a slight ruggedness to his look (though not as much as Spencer’s). The entire thing has a bit of military vibes due to the use of green and different shades of brown.  It’s something I avoid for that reason, since I prefer to pair brown with navy blue.  

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The jacket is an absolute beast of piece.  Made of horsehide, it’s a very supple and smooth leather.  The collar is pretty large but that only makes it better; i’m not a fan of leather jackets with short collars even if they are vintage.  The jacket may look military but it’s actually a civilian model. Still, it makes Blake look like a 1940’s fighter pilot!

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I definitely love the cool pocket design and the amount of ribbing on the sleeves and waist.  As you can see, the waist is pretty shredded but that only adds character right?  That can always be fixed or replaced but at least the leather is in amazing condition.

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Quilted lining to provide warmth!

1940’s Leather flight jacket (eBay), 1930’s green windowpane spearpoint collar shirt, 1930’s work chinos, boots 

Ethan

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I seldom to any sort of workwear look since my casual looks to tend to skew toward tailoring. So I hope you guys like my own rendition!  I brought my epic 1930’s biker jacket (purchased at the last Dapper Day) and paired it with my trusty high rise 501Ct jeans.  It works out, since the jacket is cropped; I probably wouldn’t be able to wear it with a regular pair of mid to low rise jeans.  For my shirt choice, I wore my casual spearpoint shirt.  It’s a custom job from Natty, so I was able to add two breast pockets (that aren’t pictured) to make it have the same look as a vintage loop collar shirt (but with a spearpoint).

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Just so you know, I’m not advocating the “air tie”.  Wearing your top button buttoned was how it was done with workwear since the 1920’s! It also allows people to see the awesome 3.5″ spearpoint collar.  Unlike the other ones you’ve seen on my blog, this one has an unfused collar (making it soft) and a shorter collar length.  It’s all to make it more casual than my dress shirts.  It definitely has a cool pattern and reminds me of a 1930’s work shirt or stuff you see at RRL. I just wish that the shirt was made of something more textured than a simple cotton dressy material.

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Like I keep saying, details are everything.  It’s the main reason that I buy vintage, since modern manufactures seldom have any cool details unless you go super expensive or bespoke.  Just check out the awesome, large lapels on this jacket as well as the asymmetrical pocket (with cool zipper), side zip pockets, and the flap pocket with a Native American head button.  Also note how the leather has aged giving it unique character and softness; modern leather jackets are usually stiff!

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Since this is a biker jacket, it makes sense that it has a bi-swing back!  Perfect for reaching for the handles of your BSA-A7.  I’m still in awe that I was able to get this jacket for only $150.  Thank you Sneaky Tiki!

1930’s Biker Jacket, Custom Spearpoint shirt from Natty shirts, Levi’s 501 CT, Shell Cordovan Florsheim Imperials 

The Floor

Our day was mostly spent walking around trying on different clothes and talking to our friends! Like I said in the beginning, not many people or store owners wanted their picture taken, so there isn’t a lot here.  However, I will say that I loved all the leather jacket companies (Himel Bros, Real McCoy’s). There were a few vintage stores that had some great stuff for affordable prices as well!  Here’s some of the cool things we saw and people that we met!

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I wonder if President Nixon is okay with Agnew having a head again.

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Our pal Benny Reese was at Inspiration, selling his wares! He kept most of his suits at home and was mainly selling fedoras, sunglasses, shoes, and jackets.  Unfortunately, Benny didn’t have a vintage casual outfit but he went all out with a cool single breasted peak lapel suit, brown shirt, and a 1940’s wolf tie.  He even has the exploding pocket square! 

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He did have one great suit with him that fit Blake perfectly! It’s a 1910s-1920s three piece suit (pants not worn).  cut from a rough grey wool with subtle blue windowpane.  You’ll notice that the lapels are pretty classically proportioned which makes it a suit that stands the test of time, unlike the other crazy suits of the 1920s.  The only thing that’s weird is the button placement.  I’m pretty sure that this spacing means that both buttons are meant to be fastened!

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Here we have Damian Monsivais and his girlfriend Sarah, the owners of Monsivais & Co and the Sarah Marie Shop! Damian started out making caps part time but has finally opened up his own space and expanded his shop after years of hard work.  If you check out his online shop, you’re going to see some of the best vintage reproduction caps around.  Cut from actual vintage fabric, you’re going to see everything from the basic 8-panel cap to a “sun-burst back” model.  At his pop up booth, created by fellow vintage enthusiast Will Lidderdale of The Set Shop, he also featured vintage reproduction denim caps and aprons along side his normal cap offering.  The aprons and caps aren’t usually favored by sartorial fans of vintage, but they’re big if you like workwear and casual style!
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It was super cool for me to meet and photograph Jan, who works at the Armoury HK !  He’s wearing an awesome vintage 1930’s four patch pocket work vest.  Note the high closure (and lack of visual “V”) which makes it way different from a traditional waistcoat.  It’s also cool to note his awesome ghurka style trousers (a new model from The Armoury) featuring the traditional double forward pleats and extended closure.  I don’t think Jan’s ever read my blog, but he’s definitely kicking it ivy style with white socks and loafers!

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I was finally able to meet Matt Deckard, vintage menswear historian and former creative director for Stetson! He’s one of the first people to make reproduction spearpoint shirts and belted-back suits! In fact, the suit he’s wearing right now is one of his own creations! I didn’t take many close ups, but it’s practically a dead ringer for the 1930’s design, boasting wide notch lapels (with rounded edges), a high rise, large patch pockets and a belted back with a center reverse pleat.

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Bring back the action suit!

 

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A Levi’s denim Tuxedo.

My Pickups

Even though vintage leather jackets and novetly tees were expensive, I didn’t leave empty handed!  I definitely found some cool stuff for an affordable price that will definitely find great use in my wardrobe.

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Picked up this vintage bomber for $80.  The body is blue while the ribbing is black, making it look like a dead ringer for the NASA bomber, which is currently en vogue.  I’m not sure about the history of this jacket, but the patches make it that much cooler.  Details are why you buy vintage, since I can definitely say with confidence that you’re never going to find something like this at the mall!

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In my latest interest in expanding my casual style, I’ve discovered the “vintage indigo chore coat”.  It’s nothing new, since it’s always been a big thing in workwear/Japanese style and used with simple laying with tees/sweaters! There’s something about its inherently casual nature that appeals to me that combines the utility of the M-43 field jacket and the blue cool of a denim jacket.  Thanks to an end of day sale, I was able to pick this up for only $35.  There’s no label on it, but it’s a gorgeous color and in great condition.  It’ll be my new lazy jacket.

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Nothing casual with this purchase but I got a Tattersall vest for $40!  It’s perfect to wear as an odd vest.  I’ll explore it in a future blog article, but I wanna mention that this vest has a knitted back.  This means its more flexible and stretchy than the regular vests that use a belt for waist suppression.

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These dead stock 1960’s chinos was my greatest purchase of the day, costing only $40!  The booth I bought them from was perhaps the most chaotic; his best stuff was on hangers while everything else was simply piled up on a row of desks.  What makes these chinos special is the fact that they are high rise!  I’ve worn chinos before, but they aren’t true high rise.  These vintage flat front ones were the pants to get  during the height of the Ivy style.  Might be too basic for other people, but I’ve always wanted to find some!  These definitely need to be dry cleaned and pressed, but I can’t wait to wear them with my white socks and loafers. 

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The label that was stapled to the pants.

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Always get 100% cotton chinos!  32×30 means I shouldn’t have to tailor anything.

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Tunnel loops, a detail from the 1920’s that’s made its way to these particular pair of chinos!

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These pants have a cuff already!

Conclusion

Inspiration was definitely a great day!  Not only were we able to meet some cool people, like Jan and Drew Tarver, but I was able to find some fantastic vintage for very affordable prices.  After the event finished, we went to the RRL (Ralph Laurens’ vintage brand) store on Melrose to attend the after party! I wasn’t able to take pictures (though a photographer took a picture of us eating burgers) but it felt like an even more exclusive gathering of vintage denim/workwear/leather royalty.  Alessandro Squarzi was there in his signature military jacket! The event had free burgers and homemade chips by LocoJ, which was a delight to me since I spent all my cash on what I bought at the show! We took sometime to check out RRL and while there were definitely a lot of great stuff (for stupidly expensive prices) my main gripe was with how their jackets (suede, leather, etc) aren’t cut for high waist trousers.  They have a bunch of vintage details but the length is what matters! If I wore them with my typical pair of trousers, the jacket would close at my hips.

Personally, I really enjoyed it because I was able to become exposed to a variety of outfits and gain inspiration for expanding my own casual style!  We definitely talk about suits and other tailored garments, but there will always be a place for vintage casual style like selvedge denim, leather jackets, and boots.

I definitely recommend checking out Inspiration next year! It’s expensive to shop and definitely more so if you buy early access tickets.  I hear that the pre-show and first day attendance is absolutely crowded.  If you’re like us and don’t have much money, just get a Saturday afternoon pass for $10!  Perfect if you just want to walk around and window shop.

Always a pleasure,

Ethan W.

Street x Sprezza 

Photography by Ethan W. and Vince H. 

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12 comments

  1. Evan C. · February 14

    Hey, I’ve been looking through the blog for the past few days to add a new level to my style and to sharpen up my wardrobe, I’m really enjoying everything.

    I wanted to let you know that the blue bomber jacket you picked up is a USAFA (Air Force Academy) jacket. Cadets still wear similar ones today to class every day. It is from a in 10th Squadron Class of 1988, so it was probably issued in 1984. Really nice find all in all.

    -Evan

    Like

    • Ethan W. · February 14

      Evan,

      Thanks for reading!

      That’s awesome! That info is super cool. Is there any reason for its cropped length? Perhaps for high waisted trousers?

      Like

      • Evan C. · February 14

        That’s probably it, typically we (I’m at West Point) wear our pants pretty high here. The jacket also can be worn with a flight suit and thus will sit higher up than usual. I think my tailored pants for class sit at least 2 inches above the contemporary “waist” and I’m sure in the 80s it was a bit higher too.

        Like

      • Ethan W. · February 15

        Makes perfect sense. Thank you for the info! It pairs wonderfully with high rise trousers.

        Like

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  4. Daniel Nash · March 21

    Beautiful jackets!

    Like

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