London Calling

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Warning: Long post again!  It wouldn’t be long if I didn’t have pictures, but where’s the fun in that?

London was the last half of my family  euro-trip.  Unlike in Paris, we only had a few guided tours, which freed me up to explore on my own and meet some cool people! While the style documentation is in a separate article, this post will summarize  what I did each day as well as briefly talk about the outfits I wore.  I hope you enjoy!

The day after my Versailles excursion, my family and I arose at 6AM in order to get on the Eurostar train to London.  Luckily there wasn’t too much to re-pack, as I had only worn casual vintage sportshirts and denim during my stay in Paris.  We arrived in London on Sunday afternoon, but we didn’t start exploring until the following Monday!

Like Paris, a lot of the trip was characterized by tours, shopping, and walking.  We didn’t stay in central London and instead stayed in Kensington, about 15 minutes west.  The nearby tube stop was Earl’s Court, which housed a bunch of different businesses like pubs, Sainsburys, and restaurants.  Our hotel in Kensington was the Marriot Kensington, which was pretty much a business hotel rather than a tourist one (like the Les Bulles in Paris).   Fortunately, we didn’t spend a lot of time in the hotel; I was basically out and about almost every evening.

Because I used up almost all of my sport shirts in Paris, you’ll notice that most of my outfits are more sartorial focused than before.  This was also because I wasn’t sure exactly sure who I’d meet and what stores I was going to.  Even though I was in a blazer most of the time, I still had my trusty bag with me, which housed my camera, chargers, extra batteries, and advil (in case I got a headache.

Sunday

On Sunday evening, I took it upon myself to explore with a friend.  I didn’t have an Oyster card yet (their equivalent to a metro card), so I used uber to go into Picadilly Circus!  I’ve got to say that Picadilly was basically Times Square (or Hollywood and Highland) since it was filled with shoppers, tourists, advertisements, and street performers.   I didn’t really know my way around, but my friend and I walked through Hyde Park and saw Big Ben, the Admiralty Arch, and Trafalgar square! I was certain I’d see these places again with my family.

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Throughout the trip (and thinking of Paris as well), I noticed a stark difference between life here and life in California: the use of public transportation.  It amazes me how easy it is! Here in Los Angeles, public transport only works if you’re in the main part of the city.  I live outside of it, so driving your own car is a must if you want to go to places in Glendale, Riverside, or Orange County.  It’s pretty great that everything is within 15-20 minutes from a tube station.  Additionally, I felt pretty safe about taking the Underground by myself!

I will also express disappointment in the fact that a lot of the sights we saw in England had a “no photography” policy at their exhibits. While I am grateful for just being able to see things like the Crown Jewels or the State Apartments, I wish I could’ve shared them with my friends!

Monday:  Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and the Ritz

We started our first “real” day by taking a taxi to Westminster Abbey.  This time, we were joined by my aunt, uncle, and grandparents, which made this into a full fledged family vacation.  The last time we were all together on a trip was back in 2010 when we went to China.

Our tour guide was wonderfully thorough with the history of the place.  I learned terms like “perpendicular gothic” and “diaper” (in the architectural sense) as well as got a brief lecture on the dramas that plagued the English monarchies.  Like the tours in Paris, we didn’t have to wait in a queue to get in, but we weren’t allowed free time to explore the exhibits on our own.  We also weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the Abbey.  To further add to the disappointment, it was a Bank Holiday that day which meant that there was no changing of the guard.  Fortunately, this meant that we got to stay a little bit longer in the Abbey to get more history!

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Simple was the name of the game that day, so I went with a cream J. Crew cotton sweater, black jeans, and Stan Smiths.  It’s nothing impressive but it was comfortable enough for me to go around in.  My vintage M-43 field jacket served as the heavier replacement to my chore coat, worn just in case it rained! I will say that it still makes for a pretty good look all together, even though its basic as hell.

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We then walked down Hyde Park to see Buckingham Palace.  It made for an interesting walk since there was a 10k happening, with the finish line at the palace.  I cheered on as many people as I could!

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Trafalgar Square.

After Buckingham palace, I split with my family to meet up with a new friend in Covent Garden. Stupidly, I decided to walk the 20 minute distance for some exercise.  I was able to check out The Real McCoy’s shop (to try on their Ghurka shorts and compare their leather jackets to vintage ones) and even walked a bit on Jermyn Street!

Getting a nice pair of chukka boots has been on my list for a while, ever since I saw the Alden one on the Drake’s website.  Obviously spending $700 on a pair of boots goes against the fabric of my being, even though I know that Alden makes some of the greatest footwear out there.  I looked at Crocket & Jones and Church’s, but I eventually checked out the Kempton boot based on a recommendation from an Instagram follower. The price was even right at £195; the price would be cheaper once the VAT was taken out. The Jermyn store didn’t have my size (6.5UK) in stock but they said that the Bow Lane store could order it in order to receive it by Friday.

I could only stay out for a bit before heading home to change into a suit for our tea reservation at the Ritz! I decided to go for a mix of different styles by wearing my trusty 1960’s sack suit (sans vest), striped spearpoint collar shirt, and brown foulard tie.  I really think that this type of combination, which combines a 1960’s ivy style with 1930’s detailing, is really the basis of “Ethan style”.

This suit, cut from a worsted herringbone flannel, was the only suit I brought with me on this trip.  I didn’t use the pants again (since it was way too hot for that), but the jacket served as a great blazer for the remainder of the trip! You’ll definitely see this as the article continues.

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I’m not really a tea guy but I did end up going with a passion fruit tea simply because I prefer drinks with a bold flavor. It was pretty good, though I used brown sugar and creamer to make it right.  The sandwiches and scones were particularly delicious, with the latter being enhanced with the clotted butter.  I definitely need more of this in my life.

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Family picture!

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My dad, looking very sharp!

Tuesday:  Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Oxford

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Since there was four of us to a room (sharing one bathroom) and the fact that eight of us had to take the tube, we had to wake up early in order to meet our bus tour at Victoria Coach Station.  After some issues with our reservations (like the fact that we weren’t on the list) we finally joined our fellow tourists to embark on a one-day trip to three distinct locations in England: Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Oxford University.

The first stop was Windsor Castle, the Queen’s second estate, which was 45 minutes outside of London.  Like our tours at Versaille and Westminster Abbey, we didn’t have to wait long to get in, but we only had a limited time to explore before heading out again.  Luckily I saw most of the things I wanted to see: the Doll House, the State Apartments (with the fantastical armoury), and a real royal guard! I couldn’t take pictures of the inside, so please enjoy the exterior of the castle!

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After only an hour and a half at Windsor Castle, we jetted off in the bus again for an hour ride to Stonehenge. While we we did have an audio guide for Stonehenge, our physical guide on the bus gave us some history.  It was a druid worshiping site that continues to be a mystery of sorts, since the stones utilized in the structure are from hundreds of miles away! You were once able to physically touch Stonehenge until the late 1800s where it was classified as an active archaeological site since new information is being uncovered everyday.

We were dropped off at the visitor center (which housed a small exhibit, gift shop, and cafe) to wait for yet another bus which took us to the actual structure.  We didn’t want to do the mile or so walk from the visitor center to Stonehenge, so we waited the 20 minutes for the bus.

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The clouds and field made for a dramatic backdrop.

After Stonehenge, it was yet another hour drive to our next stop: Oxford University.  I had heard Oxford was a college town, but it wasn’t what I was expecting.  Unlike typical college towns like Georgetown which has a clear separation of student and residential places, Oxford literally has it’s buildings scattered amongst the city.  This means that the library could be a 10 minute walk through apartments, stores, and cafes from your class.

Like a majority of my trip thus far, I was completely enamored with the buildings and architecture.  The Perpendicular English Gothic style is beginning to be one of my favorites, though I will always prefer Mid-Century Modern since I’m a basic bitch.

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This was the outfit I wore for this day-trip.  It might be a little ostentatious for something like this (or any trip for that matter) but I wore it for two reasons: I wanted to look like am Oxford student in 1936 and had dinner plans with a sartorial friend immediately after this trip.  Obviously I didn’t want to wear a tie, so I donned my SJC 1930’s polo (Oviatt model) with the basic ivy uniform of khakis and blue jacket. It’s almost a dead ringer for the left guy in this picture.   Obviously the details are a bit different since my jacket is from the 1960’s, the trousers are slim and pleated, and I have white socks and loafers, but the overall ideas are there! It’s basically my own interpretation of the style.

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I’m not sure if you guys know, but I’m a fairly active user on the subreddit Male Fashion Advice.  While it’s a sizeable internet community that focuses on helping fashion beginners, a lot of the redditors in that sub have quite different styles.  Obviously my sartorial approach to bridging the gap between 1930s, 1960s, and 2010s style isn’t what an accountant would wear to an audit, but I still use my knowledge to help others and give inspiration.

Anyway, I became friends with one of my fellow MFA-ers and found out that he goes to Oxford! A few days before the trip, I told him that I would be at Oxford in the afternoon; he then told me that he was going to be in an exam from 2-5:30PM and he might not be able to meet up.  Cue the actual day when I found out I was going to be in town from 4:30-6.  I texted him, telling him where I was, but all I got was radio silence.  Right at 6PM when we were boarding the bus, I got a Facebook message saying that he was out of his exam!  I then saw a robed guy in skinny jeans jodphurs run out.  Dom and I took this picture as quickly as we could and soon I was off!  I wish I was able to hang out with him more. I think it’s pretty cool to turn your internet friends into real friends, don’t you think?

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Apparently it is the Oxford policy for students to wear a robe to their exams.

Later on that evening, I met with Buzz, who is a fellow sartorial enthusiast who has networked with guys from The Armoury, Drakes, and bunch of other places!  We talked about the menswear industry and shared a couple of personal stories.  I can tell that he’s going to be a close friend of mine for years to come.  Be sure to read my style coverage article to see his dope outfits.

Wednesday:  Victoria & Albert Museum, the Tintin Store, and the Pub

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My next day was sort of a free day (without any strict scheduled tours!) so my main family went to the Victoria & Albert musuem, which unfortunately was the only museum we had time to see during our trip.  My brother went to the theatre section, where he was delighted to see costumes from wicked up close, while my mother and I got tickets to see the Balenciaga exhibit. I’m no expert on women’s wear, but I definitely love how avant-guard and different he was from other designers in the 1930s-1960s.  I wouldn’t apply the same principles to menswear (mainly because I don’t know how to do it) but I think that we can always learn from it.

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Like the day before, I had plans to meet people later on in the evening and so I wore something sartorial so I wouldn’t have to go back to the hotel to change! I went for a pseudo 1940’s look, with my brown patch pocket jacket, checked spearpoint collar shirt, and pleated high rise khaki chinos.  What makes it 40’s you ask? Besides the popped collar on the lapels (which people did back then), tight knit checks gained popularity during that time.  They weren’t just used on casual loop collar sport shirts!

You might think that the popped collar is a bit too 1970’s, but I don’t think it looks that way.  The details like the pleated chinos, brown jacket, and the curved spearpoint collar (instead of a wide triangle) give off a slightly different vibe than if I wore a turquoise suit with a popped paisley shirt.

Before I left for the pub, my family and I made a stop at the Tintin store in Covent Garden.  As an American Tintin fan, it was hard for me to express my love for the intrepid reporter and his dog because there simply is a lack of merchandise for the character in the US!  The store had everything: figures, plushes, T-shirts, and model cars!  I spent a pretty penny in that store getting as much as I could.  Yes, they have a website that offers international shipping, but it is certainly a different experience to go physically into the store.
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I met up with fellow vintage-ite Alex Hills who is a newly promoted cutter at Saville Row tailor shop Dege & Skinner.  These tailors have served a variety of clients; I was able to see the patterns of Michael Jackson and President George H.W Bush! One cool moment was when I saw the tailcoat of Prince Charles, which was brought in for adjustments.  Apparently the Prince wears his clothes to hell and brings them in when they’re falling apart!

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Alex and I then walked through Saville Row, met up with his fiancé Lucy, and then went to The Speaker which was a small cozy pub in Victoria.  To add to the group, Simon James Cathcart (founder of SJC) and Hanson Leatherby (a professional photographer) were already at the pub; Buzz joined us later on.

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I don’t drink often if at all, but I got by with a pint of Aspel’s which was basically apple cider.  It was pretty good, though I got a headache almost immediately after finishing it.  I’m not sure alcohol is for me! For those of you wondering, throughout high school and college, none of my friends drank or partied, so alcohol was never really part of my life.  Hell, I don’t even drink coffee or soda.

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What I loved about this little get together was the fact that many of us were involved in different things other than vintage.  The vintage community in LA is a bit closed off in this regard when compared to the U.K scene.  Even though Alex loves vintage (he made the suit himself, cut from deadstock 30’s fabric and based on a 30’s pattern), he is heavily involved in the contemporary menswear scene due to his position at Dege & Skinner.  He’s able to talk fabrics and clients with Buzz, who has little-to-no detailed knowledge of 1930s-1940s menswear.   Buzz and I were also able to talk  details with SJC, since he is a designer and the best reproducer of 30s/40s garments.  I’m a huge fan of his polos, since no one makes pieces like them anymore.

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This is what I wore to the pub! I simply added a 1930’s tie to elevate the look since I was certain that Alex was going to be in a full suit.  The entire look together makes it a semi-modern interpretation of a 1940’s look.  Like I’ve said in my style guide, it’s the details that matter. There aren’t clip on suspenders or fedoras to be found here; simply by using large lapels, the exploding pocket square, and the collar bar, I achieve a vintage inspired look!

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Thursday:  Spitalfield Market and Kent Wang

Thanks to a recommendation by Alex and SJC, I decided to use the next chill day and drag my family to join me at the Spitalfield Market, a free market that they’ve gotten some cool finds at!  It was quite a long tube ride (almost 40 minutes then a 10 minute walk) but I was excited.  When I got to the market, I felt a little short-changed.  Vendors peddling their cheap leather bangs and screen-printed “fun” tee shirts.  Luckily I decided to walk to the other side of the market, where I then found the good dealers selling antiques, oddities, and vintage clothing. 

I only brought a hundred pounds with me in order to limit my spending.  This was also due to the fact that vintage clothing in the U.K is much rarer and expensive than similar pieces in the States.  While the prices were definitely high, the pieces I saw were very rare.  

1940’s English leather jacket with side adjusters and bi-swing back.

1930’s band collar shirt

1930’s casual pull-over shirt with spearpoint collar

1930’s shirt

An odd 1950’s shirt with “Italian collar”.

My haul.

I ended up walking out with two 1930’s spearpoint shirts and the 1950’s leather jacket.  The jacket was from Ben’s Leather Goods Co, another vintage enthusiast who had a fantastic selection of vintage.  At his booth, he sold things from old school pennants and pins to a glorious selection of 1940s-1950s sport shirts.   The spearpoints were from a lady who has been collecting and selling rare vintage for 10 years.  In addition to a crazy offering of spearpoints, she also had a bunch of vintage chore coats, military pants, and odd 1920’s trousers.  These two sellers are enough reason to check out the Spitalfield market.

You can’t tell form the picture, but both of those shirts are pop-over poplin spearpoints from the early 1930’s.   The fact that their pop-over makes them earlier than most shirts since most button ups were made in pop-over style until later.  Obviously there are a few exceptions, but many of the early shirts I’ve seen (especially european ones)  were pop-overs.  These two shirts are probably the only true-vintage spearpoint shirts I own. I’ll probably do an entire article on 1930’s spearpoint shirts in the future!

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Later on, I was able to meet up with designer Kent Wang for drinks and snack! He was dressed head-to-toe in his brand and we were able to talk about the future of his business.  I wouldn’t be surprised if we started seeing Kent Wang furniture in the near future!

You can probably tell that my London experience was heavily divided between tourist spots with my family, shopping, and making new friends with classic menswear enthusiasts.

Friday:  Tower of London, Drake’s, Trunk Clothiers, Anglo-Italian, and Blue Loafers

Since Friday was my last day in London, I packed it with as much as I could.  I started the day by going to the Tower of London with my family.  Like I said earlier, we couldn’t take pictures of the Crown Jewel exhibit, but I was at least able to take pictures outside!

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Grandparents and ice cream.

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We went on the Thames to take pictures!

After eating Fish and Chips on the Thames, I hot footed it to the Bow Lane Loake store, which had just received the chukkas in my size.  I took the tube to Bow Lane and was greeted by an interesting site.  The area must have been apart of the financial district since there were loads of people in professional clothing.  At least two business guys came in while I was trying on my chukkas!  Thankfully the shoes fit, so I purchased them  and was soon back on the tube to head to my family’s reservation for the London Eye.

Conquering my fear of heights!

The night was completely mine after the Eye, so I decided to head back to Saville Row to check out the Drake’s store on Clifford St. before they closed at 6PM.  For those of you who don’t know, Drake’s is a fantastic company that got it’s start by making ties.  Amazingly, this is one of the only brands I know of that keeps the 1930’s alive through producing ties with untipped edges.  In recent years, they’ve extended their product offering to RTW clothing like shirts, denim, and sportcoats.  Here’s some shots from their Haberdasher Street store.

I’d wear each of these ties.

Spearpoint collar??

Their Alden suede shoes.

After shooting the Drake’s team, I took the train to Marlybourne to check out Trunk Clothiers.  Trunk stocks a mix of classic tailoring and casual wear from Boglioli, Camoshita, and Engineered Garments.  I didn’t try anything on, but I was very impressed with the store; if I had the money, I’d definitely shop there! Overall,  always interesting for me to see retail stores like this since LA really doesn’t have anything close to Drake’s or Trunk (Gentleman’s Quarter comes close, but they don’t have any tailoring).  Unfortunately, I didn’t try on anything or take any pictures of the store but I took pictures of the sales associates!

The Anglo-Italian company sat only a few blocks away from Trunk Clothiers.  Their soft opening took place the week before my trip, but I wasn’t sure they’d even be open! Imagine my surpise when I walked by their open store and was greeted by Jake Grantham himself, wearing a Aloha shirt, light wash jeans, and suede boat shoes; his business partner and friend Alex Pirounis walked in shortly after.

Their store looked fantastic (again I wish I took pictures), looking like a minimalistic 1960’s tailor shop instead of the “gentleman’s lounge” that most shops tend to go for.  In our brief conversation, they both noted that they wanted to do away with the leather chairs, “whiskey, and cigars” that characterize a majority of the menswear world and instead wanted to focus on what was really important: good clothes and good company.  Their house style was a 3-roll-2 jacket with extended/soft shoulders and wide lapels with high rise, pleated trousers.  It obviously was a blend of English and Italian tailoring at an reasonable price point that featured as much handmade craftsman ship as possible.

I must say that this was one of coolest moments of my life, since you guys can obviously tell that I hold Jake Grantham in high regard.  Not only is his style so effortless (he’s one of the reasons I started putting my hands in my jacket pockets) but he’s one of the few menswear shop owners I know of that literally worked from nothing.  There’s nothing wrong with wealth, but there certainly is a difference between a well-off shop owner and someone who decided to pursue menswear after a career in finance.  Our conversation (where I  described Dapper Day to them) ended when a client walked in.  Even though I wish I we were able to talk about menswear, I was glad that the client came since I that’s how I was able to learn more about their brand and their unique approach to menswear.  I could see the love and joy within both of their eyes, since these gents were finally doing something on their own!

I finished off my trip with a dinner reservation with Mikolaj Pawelczak, Robin Pettersson, and Buzz at a fancy Italian restaurant.  We talked about the menswear industry, which was new to me since I’m really not connected within it.  These guys have been connected with other bloggers and tailors and have been to more Pitti’s than I’ve even seen!  The stories they shared were certainly well received by me; I was extremely thankful to have been invited out.

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Since I knew I was meeting a bunch of people this evening, I decided to go with something quintessentially Ethan.  It’s pretty close to what I wore to the pub, just with a more traditional palette. I wore my 1960’s jacket, a striped 1930’s pull over (that I got from Spitalfield), a 1930’s tie, and my pleated grey plaid trousers. It’s still very much Ethan style, don’t you think? The ideas  could be repeated in something more contemporary, but it’s the details that make it vintage.

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Pattern mixing.

Conclusion

I loved London; never have I been around so much menswear in my life!  Honestly, LA pretty much sucks when it comes to classic menswear.  The city is surrounded by brand enthusiasts (guys spouting Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein, and other terrible fashion houses) and it’s refreshing to be around people who have a deep appreciation of tailoring, both new and old.  If my career lead this way, I would definitely move to London.  I’m glad I was able to dress up and explore this amazing city.

Apart from menswear, I really enjoyed this trip! History has always been a huge passion of mine (I used to want to be a history teacher) and it was fantastic to be able to go to all of these historical sites. It was difficult for me to juggle everything I wanted to see (hang with family, culture sites, and menswear) but I think I saw a lot for the short time I was there!  I’m think that I’m incredibly blessed to have been able to share this trip with my family.  Since I’ve been in grad school and my brother away at college/work. we haven’t all been together as a family for a long time.  Hopefully it’s not long before we can all travel together again!

Always a pleasure,

Ethan W.

Street x Sprezza

Photography by Ethan W. and Buzz T. 

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8 comments

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  6. William John Wharton · October 4

    Hi Ethan, just read your experiences in London and am so pleased you enjoyed it. I’ve followed your blog for a long time and just adore your enthusiasm and the wonderful pleasure you always manage to convey when describing your own interesting take on menswear. The fact that you are able to search and find the vintage style that helps to define you as a person, affording you such delight in being able to make these styles your very own in such a thoughtful and expert manner must be a huge source of pride and enjoyment to you. I’m enamoured at your beautiful smile and your oh so optimistic and cheerful writings which I hope shall continue to thrive and develop over the years ahead.
    With my very best wishes to you and your lovely family members.

    William John Wharton UK

    Like

    • Ethan W. · October 4

      William,

      I am speechless. Thank you for such kind words about myself and my blog! I am glad that you enjoy my work. Actively enjoying menswear is something that I think is lacking in a time when guys are either taught to treat it as businesswear or some long-lost art. Sometimes admitting a jacket looks dope is a great concise way to do it!

      My very warm regards,

      Ethan Wong

      Like

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