Last time we talked about the tattersall waistcoat, a garment with a checked pattern that instantly screams vintage when it’s worn with a suit or separates. For those of you looking for a throwback ivy style, the tattersall is for you. However, we here at Street x Sprezza are always looking for ways to look even older. Nothing screams 1930’s than a two-tone, patch pocket vest; unfortunately, they’re extremely rare to find in perfect vintage condition. When we heard that Simon James Cathcart was about to reproduce one in a heavy flannel, we jumped on it right away.
What is SJC?
Simon James Cathcart (SJC) is a brand that specializes in creating reproduction garments, ranging from 1930’s polos to even an upcoming belted-back suit. Based in Britain, they operate on a pre-order basis, similar to projects found on Kickstarter. New products are discussed and designed in the forums which are then put through different manufacturing trials. Once the prototypes have been accepted and finalized, SJC opens up orders on the main website where you are able to buy the products (usually at a discount, with group deals). When production has finished the products are then shipped out to customers who have already paid. Remaining products are then up for sale on the website!
I heavily recommend you guys to check out the SJC forum. It’s a bit like StyleForum except with a huge emphasis on vintage and reproduction clothing. Gentlemen share their archives of 1930s-1940s advertisements and illustratons and even show off their rarest pieces of the collections. It only takes a group of dedicated members to convince SJC to offer a product; that’s how this two-tone workvest got started! SJC is very open with the process and constantly updates the threads at each stage of production, sharing original patterns, fabric swatches, button choices, and factory prototypes. If you prefer wearing “new” garments with vintage details, this is the place to go.
Work vests are an interesting part of menswear, as they are both fashionable and functional. In contrast to the softer “suiting” waistcoats, work vests were usually cut of heavy wools and flannels in order to remain sturdy. The use of patch pockets, usually four, was a necessity to provide easy access to tools, pencils, or whatever else you had to hold on your person. While work jackets did exist, vests/waistcoats were more practical to work in as they allowed for better arm movement.
At first, most workvests were similar to the Brown’s Beach ones you see above. These types are a bit “old school” and reflect the late 1890s and early 1910s. This is apparent in the high, rounded closure and the thin edges. Jan from the Armoury wore one to Inspiration LA! However as time went on, workvests began to evoke the design of typical suit waistcoats, which had a “V” neckline and points at the bottom. It’s not entirely common for men to wear these with a suit, but they were all the rage with denim and work trousers. Here are some cool images shared on the SJC forum that eventually resulted in the product we received!
As you can see, they’re very old school. Like the tattersall vest, the two tone nature and patch pockets definitely make it much different than any other waistcoat currently in existence. Just look at how cool Jimmy Darmody from Boardwalk Empire looks in his two-tone cardigan. Double breasted waistcoats with lapels come pretty close but I think they’re much too dandy. I know it sounds odd for me to say that, but I prefer garments that are much more “lived in” and “easy”.
A wool waistcoat in two-tone (which no one does anymore) is a perfect addition for my wardrobe, which can be worn with suits, separates, or even high rise denim! I’ve only had one two-tone piece before and it wasn’t even a waistcoat! It was a 1940’s cardigan that was still wonderful. Since then, I’ve been looking for more two-tone vests that I could incorporate into my wardrobe that could give me the vintage pop that I like adding into my outfits! That’s why I ended up buying two from SJC.
For a total of £193, I bought two vests: the Aubergine/Brown and the Grey/Navy. Orginally they were £95 each but I received a £20 discount for the initial “pre-order”; shipping was £20 and included a tracking number. I placed the order in November and recieved the two vests in February, despite the expected shipping date of Dec/Jan as stated on the website. The vests were wrapped in plastic and shipped in a bag (not a box).
The vests looked fantastic. Since they are technically workwear, they’re thick, heavy, and stiff, cut from 24oz melton wool. It’s unlined (most likely to reduce weight) and features four patch pockets with trim that matches the edge of the placket and end points. Unlike most traditional waistcoats, this work vest has a 6 button configuration. I happen to recall Dan Trepanier from Articles of Style saying that in design school, he learned that vests/waistcoats should have odd numbered buttons; even numbers are too “neat” and easily cut the body in half. I don’t mind the 6 buttons, as only 5 will be fastened, but I think that anything more or less would be odd.
I really love the craftsmanship and attention to detail. The buttonholes look amazing and the subtle curvature of the patch pockets is great. Aubergine and Brown was a great combination for this vest and makes it definitely versatile to be worn with a multitude of colors!
I ordered a 38 even though I’m closer to a 38s. As a result, I think the vest is slightly too long and goes far beyond the top of my trousers. The fit is also very snug, which is due to the sturdy, thick nature of the fabric. This fact also makes it difficult to fit the buttons through the button hole; most of my buttons are now loose from attempts to fasten the vest. I think it looks pretty okay, as waistcoats are meant to fit close like a corset, but I could stand to lose a pound to get the fit just right!
Great detailing on the belt and buckle (which is pretty heavy). Note the stitch at the top-middle of the back. This is from the attaching the SJC label and is unfortunate that it shows. Both of my vests (and Spencer’s) has this feature, so it is not a singular issue.
Full Suit on Ethan
For my first outfit with the SJC vest, I went for a look similar to Jimmy Darmody. This meant wearing a textured suit (wool + cashmere) in order to play with the rough fabric of the waistcoat. It is important to wear rough textures with rough textures since the dissonance of pairing the waistcoat with something smooth like worsted wool appears a bit affected. It’s one of the reasons why I’m not a fan when guys wear tweed with super smooth worsted or sharskin in order to create a “vintage look”. Even though this outfit is more formal that anything workwear, this use of texture is more masterful and reflective of true Golden Era style of the 1920s-1940s.
As you can see, the Aubergine/Brown colors pair amazingly with the flecked brown suit. It provides just enough pop (though not as much as the tattersall vest) to be an interesting addition to this outfit! Aubergine (or burgundy) is one of my favorite colors and it works really well with other earth tones.
I know that we’re supposed to be talking about the SJC workvest, but I really want to use my outfit as a case study for having 1930’s style with modern clothing. The suit is modern, but its got a gorgeous fleck (which is already different than what most people wear for suits) and wide lapels. Wide lapels (with an exploding pocket square) are some of the things I talked about in my guide, but it really goes beyond that. The custom contrast club collar striped shirt (which no one wears) and vintage dotted tie (which is untipped with hand rolled edges) are what make the look pretty 30’s; the two tone vest really take it over the edge. The suit is still modern fit (soft, unpadded natural shoulders, la spalla camica) but it is the combination of all these details (along with a high rise) that firmly place the look as a truly accurate modern interpretation of 1930’s style. The fact that almost no one wears details like this (apart from the true vintage community) lends credence to this outfit’s vintage nature. Bryceland’s in Japan probably comes close.
I truly wish that people would approach vintage style in this manner instead of simply wearing clip on suspenders, bowties, and skinny suits with skinny lapels. This method is much more “classic” and still passable by modern standards. It might be different than what people wear to work or what you see at Pitti Uomo, but it’s much more masterful and elegant than looking like a hipster at Dapper Day.
Wool/Cashmere Patch pocket suit from Suit Supply, Custom Club Collar shirt from Natty Shirts
SJC Workvest, 1930’s Tie (thrifted), Florsheim Imperials (thrifted)
Separates on Spencer
Spencer gives us two major points: wearing the the SJC vest with true vintage and showing how easy it is to wear it with separates. The ensemble is similar to what he wore for our Brown and Blue post, as well as the Laurence Fellows one but its still a great one nonetheless! Like his tattersall combo, Spencer lets his vest take the spotlight as its dark, saturated colors contrast sharply with his jacket, shirt, and light grey trousers. Like I always say, wearing separates shows much better mastery over menswear than simply wearing a suit. This is because it requires much more pieces and coordination! Spencer is really king in that regard as he prefers to wear separates over suits!
True to Golden Era Style Spencer mixes patterns and prints. You’ll note that he wears a micro herringbone jacket with a striped spearpoint shirt and a 30’s print brocade tie. If I simply made the image black and white, it would pass for streetwear in 1938. Of course some of the details are off, like the pointed nature of the lapel notch, but for our purposes its still a great look! The lapels are still wide enough to be classic and still present a great interpretation of 1930’s style. You don’t have to be completely authentic, but knowing the basic details to get right is important to do the “vintage made modern” look without looking like a costume.
1960’s Herringbone jacket, Custom Spearpoint Shirt from Natty Shirts, 1930’s Brocade tie,
SJC workvest, 1940’s trousers, Johnston Murphy Captoes
“Workwear Inspired”on Ethan
For my last look, I decided to go with something influenced by Americana/Japanese workwear to feature the Grey/Blue model. Obviously, it doesn’t follow the strict rules of workwear but it has some of the typical details like the ragged chore coat, band collar shirt, workvest and high rise selvedge denim. The white socks and tassel loafers give it a more tailored casual feel that fits more in line with my typical casual style. Gotta add the “street” in Street x Sprezza somehow, right?
It’s definitely an easy, laid back look. The workvest could be replaced by a simple sweater, but I think it adds some extra pizzazz that firmly places the vintage influence. I’m not sure if I’d like the look without the chore coat, but it would definitely echo the Jan’s look from Inspiration! The vest definitely keeps me warmer than the chore coat could, since the coat is unlined and made from a thin cotton.
The entire look is almost monochromatic, featuring blue in a lot of places. However I am still digging the two-tone nature of the vest, where the grey is allowed to contrast the saturated blues. Even the Aubergerine/Brown vest could work well here!
vintage chore coat, 90’s band collar shirt (thrifted), SJC workvest, 501Ct from Club Monaco, AE loafers (eBay)
If you can’t tell, Spencer and I are really loving our SJC work vests. They’re extremely well made and full of detail that you just can’t find anywhere else! Two-tone vests are a detail that just scream vintage and no one makes them anymore. Brown’s Beach work vests come pretty close, but they aren’t really sartorial. SJC’s model can definitely be worn with both workwear and tailoring! I do wish that they were made of something softer instead of a coarse, thick melton wool. Fall and Winter aren’t particularly cold in Southern California, so I’d prefer if they were cut from a soft flannel!
If you’re interested in getting a great odd vest that will definitely up your vintage game, I heartily recommend buying the SJC work waistcoat. They were originally available in a bunch of different color combinations, but the only two still on the site are the ones that Spencer and I have: the Grey/Blue and the Aubergine/Brown. Luckily, these colors are very versatile and can be worn in a variety of outfits! The SJC vests can work for most of you, whether you wear strict vintage like Spencer or go vintage inspired like me! Hell, they’re great if you want to add some pop to your workwear outfits!
SJC has some great stuff coming down the pipeline. His 30’s polo is the stuff of legends and is a great vintage alternative to the long sleeved ones that guys tend to wear today. I know that he’s currently working on belted-back suits, priced at under $1,000! Definitely keep him on your radar. He’s a friend to both vintage collectors and vintage-inspired dressers alike!
Always a pleasure,
Street x Sprezza
Photography by Ethan W. and David W.