My Contemporary Inspirations

From The Armoury to Drake’s, there’s plenty of inspiration to be had from the guys today.  It ain’t always about vintage!

As I move forward with my menswear journey, I’ve started to look more at contemporary guys for inspiration.  Not that there is something wrong from looking at 1930’s Laurence Fellows Illustrations or snapshots of Jimmy Stewart, but those have a finite amount of pictures.  I’m pretty sure every variation of vintage pictures, whether they are advertisements, candids, or glamor photos, are already up for grabs on the internet.  My hunger for more inspiration left me to look somewhere else.

While I may be a vintage collector deep down, I am certainly not one of the people who thinks that fashion ended in the 1950s (because believe me, there are people like that).  I think that there are plenty of guys and brands today that are absolutely killing it.  Even though this stuff has more of a modern flair (higher gorges, long ties), you might even get a bit of vintage feel to it.  It’s certainly modern, but it’s classic; some of it doesn’t seem to far removed from 1930s-1950s style.

Note that the pictures aren’t in any chronological order! Beware that some posts are more recent than others.

The Armoury

Album

The Armoury (in HK and NYC) is probably what inspired me most to do more contemporary classic menswear.  They are not a tailoring shop as they are really a retailer, stocking some of the best menswear pieces in the world.  For bespoke options, they have hosted Liverano and Tailor Caid, with MTM (or Su Misura) by Orazio Luciano and RTW by Ascot Chang, Ring Jacket, and Rota.  According to Mark Cho, one of the founders, they aim to have a style that is “internationally classic”, which makes sense as it really blends Italian tailoring with the rest of their makers.

The photography is also really solid.  I read that back in the day, they would turn off all the lights in the store and only use natural sunlight, which resulted in fantastic dramatic imagery.  You can probably see that I took a lot of cues from them when developing my own photography style! Unfortunately they don’t do many intimate shots anymore (HK does it, but not NYC), but it’s still cool to see their products and styling every once in a while.

This inspiration album also contains the style of their different salespeople along with their colleagues.

Mark Cho

Album

Mark Cho, as I stated minutes ago, is one of the co-founders of the Armoury.   I don’t know too much about him other than that he is a savvy businessman who took a big risk in creating the Armoury.  Not only did he start a trend of the new-age haberdashery, but he also branded it in a way that was totally unique for the late 2000s.  Mark was also instrumental in bringing Ring Jacket out of Japan and has gone on to be one of the owners of Drake’s, which has now evolved to be much more than a tie maker.

In terms of style, Mark is all over the place (in a good way). He obviously has some great taste, with suits from Ring Jacket, Orazio, and Liverano, all ranging from business attire to funky fabrics.  He also has a small soft spot for American Ivy style, which is why he started to bring Yamamoto-San of Tailor CAID to NYC for trunk shows.  As a whole, I think his style is a version of Ivy, but in a more contemporary way; it doesn’t always fall into the rules/guidelines of the style.

Alan See

Album

Alan See is the other founder of the Armoury.  I don’t see him up to much now, but he’s mainly in Hong Kong running the two Armoury stores there.  He has some great tailored pieces (again mainly Orazio and Liverano) and has a much more strictly contemporary look.  If you’re not too into vintage styling, then he is the guy to look at. You’ll find mainly classic/plain items with traditional shirts and ties.

Jake Grantham

Album

Jake Grantham is started out as an Armoury shop boy turned buyer.  In fact, he could be considered the face of the Armoury since a lot of Mark and Alan’s photography featured Jake casually slouching the shop! He has since gone on to do his own shop, the Anglo-Italian Company, started by him and Alex Pirounis (another Armoury alum).   The shop is RTW and MTM and has some great stuff; I visited him during my London Trip!

In an old video, Jake considers his style to be if “Prince Charles grew up in Italy”.  As such, you’ll see a lot of medium-wide lapeled pinstriped suits with striped shirts and striped ties.  It’s kind of English in the styling, but with that soft and updated Italian ease.  Like most of us, Jake’s style has since gotten a bit more subdued, but he’s still a great source of inspiration.  He’s also also infamous for the careless (read: sprezzy) way he wears his tie.

The dramatic and slouchy portraits people have taken of him will forever be etched in my mind as my favorite photography style.

Ethan Newton

Album

Oh man, Ethan Newton is the king. Not only do we share a name, but we also share a passion for vintage menswear!   He was one of the original founders of the Armoury along with Alan and Mark, but he left pretty early on to do his own thing.  Ethan eventually opened up  Bryceland’s in Tokyo, which I honestly think is way more in line with his aesthetic.

If you’ve seen his tumblr or his instagram posts, it’s apparent that Ethan loves beautiful garments.  He finds the craftsmanship and intimate detailing in everything, whether it’s a 1940’s rayon shirt, a Lee Chore coat, a gorgeous pair of Saint Crispin shoes, or a bespoke suit by Dalcuore.  In the album, you’ll find a wide berth of personal style. Some days he he opts for full contemporary bespoke (which fit him perfectly even if he is a larger man) while others are reserved for casual Americana/workwear.   I’m sure you’ll notice that the former has a vintage charm to it, as he likes wide lapels (with a lowered gorge), abstract ties, collar pins, and fedoras.  He’s certainly a great person to follow if you like to mix the line between vintage and contemporary menswear.

Kenji Cheung

Album

Kenji Cheung is the other guy behind Bryceland’s.  Like Mark Cho, he is a businessman who has forged something new in the world of menswear; after a around 5 years of the same retailers, it’s nice to see someone try something new.

Kenji’s style is similar to Ethan’s in that it takes a lot of cues from vintage menswear.  He definitely has his bespoke suits or selvedge+rayon, but he’ll also mix in some crazy stuff.  You might find one of my favorite pictures in the album: he wears a fisherman knit sweater under a navy jacket, but makes the bold choice to wear camo trousers and a beret.  It’s a bit of vintage, workwear, and tailoring rolled into one.

Bryceland’s

Album

While I was compiling images for Ethan and Kenji, I decided to save some pictures from their store, Bryceland’s Co.  You might find some repeat pictures, but this one focuses more on the details of their pieces. For example, their house model with Sartoria Dalcuore maintains the extended, roped shoulders but the lapels are shaped a little differently than what you’d expect: they have a lowered gorge.  They also have some great fuller-cut trousers from Ambrosi (whom I’ve heard can cut pretty slim), beautiful ties from Sevenfold, and other odds and ends that I find very interesting.

I’m going to Tokyo next year for family vacation and I can’t wait to check it out for myself!

Arnold Wong

Album

Arnold Wong currently works for Attire House and used to be a salesman at the Armoury HK. His style stood out to me because while everything is bespoke, he opts for a high rise and full cut.  It makes all of his suits look vintage even though they are made today!  Honestly full cut suit are a little more interesting than most of the other stuff out there, as we discussed here and here.  He supplements this throwback tailoring with a penchant for vintage ties.

Honestly, if I did bespoke, it wouldn’t look too far off than what you’ll find here.

Tony Sylvester

Album

Tony Sylvester is a relatively new find for me.  I really don’t much about him other than that he is the lead singer for the rock group Turbonegro.  He’s similar to Ethan and Kenji in that his style is a bit more eclectic in it’s interpretation of menswear, mixing in classic tailoring with vintage/military/workwear. There are also times when he does some fancy-as-fuck outfits like a dinner jacket with tartan trousers or a pajama shirt with embroidered slippers, as seen above.  While it’s someting slightly new for me, I’ve found that it fits in nicely with my preferred aesthetic.

You’ll definitely see more of this guy as inspiration moving forward; I’ve already gotten started with this and this.

B & Tailor

Album

B&Tailor is a tailor house in Seoul, Korea. Believe me when I say that if I could pick one place to do my bespoke commissions, it would be from them.  This album shows off all of their employee’s personal styles (who are all young) and the details on their house style. They even have gone to RTW for casual stuff, which is starting to grow on me.  Personally, I’m a fan of their lapel treatment, full cut trouser, and the fact that they have wide set buttons and horizontal lapels on their DB.  These details are hard to find anywhere else and I’m glad that they are keeping it alive!

Also shout out to them for having beautiful photography.

Chad Park

Album

Chad Park is the poster boy for his family’s tailor shop (B&Tailo).  His amazing, almost vintage-inspired tailoring is photographed by his brother, which is posted across Chad’s personal instagram and the company tumblr account.  My long time readers might remember that one of my first articles on contemporary menswear was about Chad!

To me, his style is contemporary with a couple of vintage-esque tendencies. In addition to their already fantastic house style, Chad seems to also like to wear pinned collars,  sport shirts, and crazy printed ties. Again, I don’t think he realizes it, but I see a lot of 1930s-1940s inspiration here.  He also gives no fucks about his necktie, which is always a baller move. Other than Jake, I think Chad is one of the most photogenic menswear guys I’ve seen.  He just makes everything look so effortless, even when he’s wearing something bolder than I could wear.

Drake’s

Album

Drake’s.  I think that Drake’s has absolutely killed it in the branding game. They’ve come so far from being a tie maker! Now they stock house label tailoring, shirting, and knitwear and style them in a way that’s completely accessible to regular guys. I would say that their style is a little bit of English (with Italian soft construction) with some ivy and “smart casual” pairings.  If I’m being totally honest, their vibe is what I got from J. Crew back in the early 2010s except done a lot better.  This brand can now serve all of a man’s needs, from his first suit to his wedding tuxedo.

You’ll find a lot of tweeds, striped shirts+patterned ties, and denim in this album.  It’s not as sartorial (or workwear for that matter) as the previous albums, but that isn’t a big deal. In fact, I seldom wear full suits as often, as I’ve become much more enamored with separates.  I honestly think that separates are a better way to approach menswear since it’s not as stuffy; add a beanie or outerwear and you don’t look out of place!  They also make a strong case for cool footwear, as the chukka boot, penny loafer, and split toe are extremely popular among the Drake’s staff.

The best part about Drake’s is the imagery, which is very diversified.  Some days you’ll get lookbook shots, either in a studio or out in the wild.   The other stuff is all pictures of their own staff which use photography styles, depending on whether it’s in London or NYC.  I’m more partial to the NYC pictures, since I like it when menswear is photographed in the city rather than inside a store or studio.   They really make menswear look accessible and natural!  While the Armoury influenced my intimate photographer, Drake’s (specifically Jaime Ferguson and F.E Castleberry) has their hand in my regular portraiture.  I think you’ll really enjoy the pictures in this one, along with their outfits.

 

The Guys at Skoaktiebolaget

Album

Skoaktiebolaget, based in Stockholm, sells some of the best shoes in the world.  Their staff is also incredibly well dressed, opting for a more elegant and minimalistic take on menswear compared to the other guys in this post.  Oliver Dannefalk, Carl Pers, and Gabriel Öberg make up the album and really are my go-tos when I want to do something a bit more understated.

 

 

Conclusion

These are all guys who I think are absolutely killing it in the menswear game.  Even though they are wearing suits that I could only dream of wearing, I can still gain inspiration from their outfits!  I mean I still look at vintage stuff from time to time, but I’m always hungry to see something new that I can try.

The best thing about these guys is that this is really them.  In other words, it’s all authentic.   The Armoury, Bryceland’s, and Drake’s all take pictures of their own employees and use their employees as photographers.  Sure they might have a few hired models every now and then (mainly for lookbooks or e-commerce) but a majority of the social media is done with regular dudes.  I like that because it makes everything inherently personal and more accessible to regular people.  Plus, imagine what it would be like to get helped by a guy in the store that was literally on the instagram post you saw earlier!

Honestly, reflecting back on all of these great dressers made me realize how far I’ve come, shifting from vintage to something a little more classic.  I’ve learned that I will always skate the middle ground between vintage and contemporary menswear in order to create forge my own path that I’m comfortable with.   I obviously can’t recreate all of these outfits faithfully nor will I always be able to do period accurate dress; I don’t even wear my Golden Era vintage unless it’s Dapper Day. The way I approach it is that I look at different combinations, like the socks to wear with grey flannels or a patterned jacket with a patterned tie.  Doing my own version of it with by own random vintage/thrifted pieces is how I get by!

I hope you’ve enjoyed all of these inspiration albums.  It took me a long time to compile them all together but I think it was worth it.   I bet that I’ll look at them far more than you guys anyway.    And just so you know, I also have other sources of inspiration for my more casual outfits, but that’s a post for another time.

Always a pleasure,

Ethan W.

@ethanmwong 

Street x Sprezza 

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