I’m back from Japan baby! And with an extra long blog post to boot. You better enjoy it, because this took me a while.
My Japan Trip in Brief
So I actually knew I was going to Japan for a while. Namely because a lot of planning (namely by my mom) went into it.
My brother graduated college this year (2019) and my family wanted to celebrate by taking an international trip. For keen readers of the blog, you’ll note that my last big trip (to London and Paris) coincided with my MBA graduation. Perhaps it was my parents final gift to us, saying between the lines, that if we wanted to do more, we better get our asses into good professions. Luckily for them I chose menswear! (I cry)
Anyway, we departed the evening of the same day as my brother’s graduation. His ceremony was at 9AM (seating started at 8AM and it was about 50 miles from where I live) and our flight was at 1AM, meaning that we had to be at LAX by about 10PM! I made sure to be packed in the days preceding the trip, just to stave off the travel anxiety. I was determined not to have the same issues as my Europe trip (or the NYC trip), so I packed smart. It was mainly going to be tee shirts, jeans, and casual jacketing, with a few button-ups thrown in. Don’t worry, the outfit break down will come soon!
We arrived in Haneda on Tuesday at about 6AM, but didn’t leave for Kyoto until about 1PM. We stayed fairly close to Kyoto Station but it was central enough to every JR line to get anywhere we wanted! Two days were planned in Kyoto, so we did as much as we could, as my grandfather insisted that we do a quick trip to Hiroshima for the memorial.
In Kyoto, we basically did all the touristy sites, with Fushimi Inari shrine being our first stop (literally an hour after we dropped our things off at our hotel. We also did a small stroll through the Bamboo grove and made sure to eat at a local spot. Hiroshima was definitely a different vibe, due to it being a smaller city. I felt the reverence throughout the grounds of the memorial and the Bomb Dome. If you ever have a chance to go visit the memorial, please do take it; it is a powerful experience.
The rest of our trip (about 6 days) was spent in Tokyo, with two days in the middle used up by Disneyland and DisneySea. Some of the highlights include walking through the different neighborhoods (mainly Shinjuku, Harajuku, and Shibuya) and doing some hella touristy stuff like Mt. Fuji, The Robot Show, the Samurai Museum, and the Imperial Palace. Here are some pictures from those things!
And if you’re wondering, yes, I did do a bath house. And no, I didn’t take pictures.
One highlight was getting to hang out with Audrey and Ron of Brillington, the premier tailoring house of Jakarta. I’ve been in contact with them a bit before, but we decided to actually set a time to meet (along with their friend Soe) and have some drinks! I usually have just one beer, but this time I had 2 1/4 and that was just enough. Of course, silly pictures ensued.
Obviously menswear was a bit part of this trip and I can tell that your loins are already burning, so let’s get into it. These stores are in no particular order. And yes, some of my major visits are missing, but that’s because I decided to give them their own space instead of putting them in this overly long blog post. So don’t worry, those will come in due time!
If you follow me on instagram or are friend with me in real life, you already know that I took a LOT of pictures. Pretty early on in the trip, I decided to relegate my DSLR for serious portraits/pictures and to simply use my phone for quick snaps. There was a lot to get through, visit, and try on as you will no doubt see. So please bare with me and my mix of phone and DSLR pictures!
First off, let me say that second hand shopping in Japan in insane and completely awesome. As far as I saw, there were no thrift stores where you had to sift through bad clothing to have the chance to find the good shit. In Japan, it’s all curated. Most likely because almost every store and brand makes some great stuff.
2nd Street is most comparable to places like Buffalo Exchange and Crossroads here in the States. It’s filled with designer/brand clothing that’s marked down to pretty damn affordable prices! There are two locations in California (Pasadena and Santa Ana) so I thought I was pretty familiar with the products. For example, I found United Arrows shorts once (among CDG, BAPE, etc) and thought “okay cool, that’s one piece of classic menswear”. But when I got to Japan, boy was I wrong.
Alden, Crockett & Jones, and Edward Green shoes are what greeted me in a somewhat narrow 2nd Street store in Shibuya. I have literally never seen these shoes outside of their original store or on eBay. Intrigued, I began to foray further, finding great aloha shirts, sack jackets, and just great stuff in general. It helps that some of these stores have a big focus on “American/Trad” as a separate section! Quite a contrast to the mainly streetwear focus of the 2nd Streets back home or the pretty barren Crossroads/Buffalo Exchange (which are filled with old J. Crew).
Adjusted for the currency exchange, prices ranged between $30-200 depending on the item. Considering the quality and brands of some of these pieces, it’s pretty worth it. There were a few bolder items I considered picking up, just because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to find them for that price anywhere else, even on eBay. While I have made the move to more contemporary clothing in the past year, I still used vintage for more bolder/interesting items on a lower price point. But with places like this, why even bother!
I know these stores are plentiful, but I only was able to go to the one in Shibuya and Shinjuku.
Komehyo was literally a random stop after the Shinjuku Robot Show. My family was looking for a place to eat so I decided to venture off on my own for a few minutes; it was our last evening and I wanted to make sure I did as much as I could! I stopped into the Suit Company (more on that below) first and was about to leave when I noticed a tall building next door. I read the signage, which said “We have Aldens”.
At first, I thought it was a department store, similar to Isetan (which I only stopped briefly in Kyoto). The first floor was jewelry so I went up a few floors for the men’s shoes (which again had an Alden sign) and was taken aback. This wasn’t a department store, it was a giant second hand store. Holy fucking shit.
The shoe section had everything as you can plainly see. And it was so much more than the small shelves at 2nd Street. Not just Aldens, but Crockett & Jones, Paraboot, J.M Weston, and so on. It was like shopping in a Grailed or Luxeswap warehouse!
While they were all used, they were in remarkably good condition. Better than most of my shoes (which are all pre-owned Allen Edmonds from eBay). Prices were a bit on the high side like about $350+ depending on condition, a bit more than what you’d see on Grailed, but it makes sense as these are all imports. I even saw things go up to about $900!
I won’t lie, I was tempted to ask for a stuff in my size which I’m sure they would have. I wear about a 7 to a 7.5D and since this is Japan, everything is pretty small. However, I was smart and opted to save my money for something I couldn’t get anywhere else. Plus, I already have too many shoes!
And yes, they had sneakers and other designer shoes, but those were in a separate section. This Komehyo literally had floors dedicated to particular styles and genres!
The clothes were the best part. Like the shoes, the classic menswear (or “American Trad”) had it’s own part of the store; however, there were definitely a few oddities thrown in. Everything was in damn good quality, without holes or stains anywhere. Prices for sportcoats and suits were around $300-500 depending on the brand.
Admittedly, I’m a pretty ignorant person when it comes to brands. I tend to judge things based on aesthetics (soft shoulders, 3-roll-2, wide lapels, vintage-inspired fabrics/design), which comes from my thrifting/vintage picking background. Due to that, the sheer amount of brands and designers was lost on me, though I did take note that quite a few of the pieces were United Arrows, Boglioli, and Lardini with a few bespoke pieces (Sartoria Dalcuore) thrown in!
Again, I found quite a few things in my size, which is such a contrast to my experience in LA, where cool things tend to be on the larger end. In most cases however, they were a bit small due to the Japanese sizing. I didn’t even attempt to try on 44 and 46 (34 and 36 in US); I got the best fit from size 50, or roomier 48.
Apparently there are quite a few Komehyos around, but I only went to the one in Shinjuku and one near Ginza Six.
I was recommended to check out Tomorrowland by my friend Ryan Cecil Smith. Apparently they have an NYC location, but I’ve never been to it! From my brief look into the Shibuya store (literally walked in with 30 minutes left), it’s a retail store that has a few of their house brand products mixed in with others. If I could compare it to a store here in LA, it was similar to Club Monaco rather than a Suit Supply due to the breadth of products and large presence of casual style.
The tailoring looked pretty good, with wide lapels and side adjuster pants at the ready. Some of the patterns are a bit too fashion-y for me (checks seems to be in trend) but still cool. By this point in my trip, I was already getting conscious over money (especially with the great second hand stores), so I was confident I wouldn’t walk out with anything.
I wish I went back to try on more stuff or checked out a secondary Tomorrowland location!
Beams + is a fairly recent addition to the BEAMS family, which is an updated take on classic menswear pieces. It was basically advertised to me as a younger (or modern) trad/ivy store, which makes sense considering Japan’s history with American style. It’s tucked away in Harajuku, sharing a shopping district that contains multiple vintage stores and the original Bryceland’s Co.
It’s a fairly small store (as is the norm in Japan), but its filled to the brim with a variety of pieces. Unstructured 3-roll-2 jackets in varying cottons and linens were hanging all around, including deep placket polos, sportshirts, OCBDS, and striped tees. The jackets are definitely cut the vintage way, with a flapped-patch pockets and a wide button placement, making them look like a full reproduction of a 1960’s jacket (save for the darts). It’s honestly super cool to see those kinds of details on RTW in a modern store, as you can’t find anything soft shouldered or 3-roll-2 in almost any store in LA.
I only spent about 20 minutes in the store (I was meeting with Ethan Newton that afternoon), so again I couldn’t try anything on. However, the helpful staff assured me that I was pretty much an L in most pieces. Overall, I was very impressed with the store (and their selections of Aldens) and definitely recommend it to people visiting. I can’t say how it compares to regular Beams stores, but the Plus is definitely full Ethan.
I ended up buying a striped tee, that looked a bit like the LVC ones that repro 40s-50s pieces. It was about 9.k Yen, which made it just under $10!
Gotemba Premium Outlets
Oh boy the Gotemba Premium Outlets, the random gem of my trip.
So when we left Tokyo for our Mt. Fuji/Bath House excursion, the tour guide let the group know that our final stop would be at the outlet stores. I was honestly a bit surprised since outlet malls (in the middle of nowhere) seem to be a US thing; my mind instantly goes to the Primm Outlets on the way to Vegas or Ontario Mills in…well, Ontario.
If you have even the most basic MFA experience (or you watch the Kavalier), you’ll know that outlets are a bit misleading. They no longer function to sell off the mainline extras; there is deliberately lesser-quality pieces being made specifically to cater to the outlet market. I’m not sure if this is the same deal for Japanese outlets, but I was cautious. The list of the outlet stores was pretty typical, but I was delighted to see that Beams, Tomorrowland, and United Arrows was present.
Because it was a tour, I only had an 1.5 hours to explore, so I did as much as I could.
The Beams outlet was pretty interesting. A lot of ties up for grabs for about $40. You can see instantly that the selection (mainly classic repps) are miles ahead than what ever you’ll find at Nordstrom Rack or Banana Republic/J. Crew outlets. They’re still fully lined and a bit thicker than my vintage or Drake’s ties, but the designs are still very nice.
The jackets ranged from basic two-button ones to a few ivy-leaning, 3-roll-2 jackets. The fit was nice (again I had to size up for the right proportions) but a lot of them were blended with polyester, much to my chagrin. Prices ranged from just under $100 to just under $200.
Last but certainly not least, we have the United Arrows outlet. Now this one felt more like “last season’s pieces” rather than a typical “made for outlet” place. The main floor was extremely busy, no doubt due to the amount of casual clothing (Carhartt sport shirts!), but tucked away on a few lone racks was their sartorial stuff. And it was damn good, namely their Soverign collection.
Just look at the above picture: a solaro DB suit, priced at around $500 USD. While I’m normally a size 50 in Japan, this suit was definitely too big all around. It’s still a fantastic suit, especially for that price. The cloth felt great (its a legit solaro) and the details were on point: wide lapels, wide set buttons, and side tab/double pleated trousers. I would have copped immediately if it fit.
They had a few more pieces, like a whipcord suit, pinstripe suit, and a wool-linen herringbone navy sportcoat, but I ended up walking out with this Sovereign label mohair-wool jacket in a size 50 (The 48 was definitely too short). The price was ¥34k, which was just under $340 USD. A great price for the piece.
I’ve wanted a grey checked jacket for a minute, and while this is definitely on the cool/blue end of the spectrum, it’s great. I especially love the wide lapels, as it will fit in with my wardrobe quite nicely. I just need to take it into my tailor to get the sleeves hemmed and add in the buttons!
Ralph Lauren and RRL
While dropping my grandparents off at church near omote-sando, I decided to walk around. I definitely stopped into Kiddy Land to check out that sweet merch, but I was soon distracted by the RL store across the street. Sneaking away for a few minutes before family lunch (can you tell that I was rushed at almost every moment of my trip), I was soon within the world of Ralph.
This particular store (which I think was the flagship) had everything in one place: Polo, Purple Label, and RRL. Because I don’t typically go into stores unless I’m traveling, it was nice to see what Ralph has been up to. While two button suits are still the norm for most, I saw that 3-roll-2 was making a good comeback, though this could just be done for the Japanese market (who clearly prefer 3-roll-2). I do like that their DB’s have a pretty vintage look, with wide-set buttons and wide peak lapels; it’s damn close to the 1930s-40s.
And as always, RRL is absolutely amazing and blows everything else out of the water. You’ll see in the pictures, of which you can tell I switched between phone and DSLR haphazardly.
So while I was going to visit Time Worn Clothing (who refused to let me take pictures), I had a potty issue: it was a few hours after lunch and I really needed to take a shit. Luckily there was a mall right near the station, with a toilet on the second floor. Right at the corner, stood Momotaro Jeans. They feel familiar, perhaps from our Inspiration LA visits, but I never had any full experience with them.
I was actually looking to find Resolute Denim (and their jeans that don’t need to be cuffed) but it never materialized on this trip. Unfortunately, while their jeans looked great and were available in a variety of fits, they all had an inseam of about 34 or 35, resulting in those heavy workwear/vintage-casual cuffs that I wasn’t looking for.
Their saving grace was their chambray workshirt. I’ve been on a side-quest to replace my old J. Crew one, as the the collar was always too short to fit a tie. Some people have suggested places like Real McCoys (which also looks too short) and Bryceland’s (which is too expensive for me).
Momotaro’s came in at about $130USD and had the spearpoint collar I was looking for. The chambray feels pretty light weight, but I didn’t mind that. The only issues I have was that I had to go with a medium (they do S-M-L sizing) for body fit, but the sleeves and collar are slightly long/big. I hope it shrinks a bit with each wash/dry, but I could take it or leave it. Sometimes the beauty is in the imperfection!
Kent Shop and VAN Jacket
After getting heavily into Ivy the past 1.5 years and reading Ametora, I had to make a visit to the fabled Kent Shop Aoyama. It’s basically a pilgrimage for us ivy/trad boys!
It’s a little bit further down from Amote-Sando station and located on the 2nd floor of an office/strip mall building. The image of a cigarette stand with one old lady talking on the phone and another snoring on a plastic chair is burned in my mind. Perhaps based on my attire, they knew that I was just another menswear guy on his way to see the shop.
If you haven’t read Ametora by W. David Marx, you really should.
The entire store is like an ivy paradise, with old photographs and advertisements scattered on the walls, interspersed between the famous illustrations by Watatani Gahaku and Kazuo Hozumi. Cinch back chinos, buttondown collars in oxford and madras, and a plethora of school-stripe socks adorned the tables and shelves. I wanted to try on everything, just to get a feel, but my immense sweat from walking so much prevented me from doing so.
It was very quiet, just me and the shopkeeper, and it was definitely difficult to contain my excitement. Especially with all the VAN Jacket merchandise, which if you know, really paved the way for Ivy and American style to take over Japan. I’m not sure who still buys from the store, but I hope people do!
I definitely made sure to try on a few jackets, as it’s not everyday you have such an expansive collection of true ivy to wear! The designs are quite literally a perfect reproduction of classic trad tailoring, from the button width and lapel treatment, to the half lining and flap-patch pockets. I definitely prefer these to the ones at J. Press, which have a bit too much structure in the shoulder; these VAN Jacket ones are chore coat soft. On the shopkeeper’s suggestion, he told me to try on a large, which was pretty damn perfect.
Obviously, it being Japan, there wasn’t many L’s to try, but I’m sure the fit would’ve been the same all around. Unfortunately, I had the issues with the jackets as Beams +: the jackets almost always had some form of polyester mixed in. The only ones that didn’t were the full wool suits and the Harris Tweed pieces. Unfortunately none of those were in my size!
In the end I just copped a VAN cap and a pocket tee, both of which obviously carry the logo and slogan. They were pretty pricey as the grand total came to about $120USD or so; a bit more than I was comfortable paying, but I wanted these badly! The cap is a nice cotton with a leather-buckle strap while the pocket tee was a pretty soft knit. I got a size large in the tee and wore it on the plane ride home, which was comfortable, but I am pretty concerned if it will shrink in the wash. I guess we’ll find out!
After Kent Shop, I wanted to walk through Shibuya/Harajuku before finishing up my day at Bryceland’s. On the way there, I made sure to stop at Desolation Row, a place recomended to me by a few Inspiration LA friends (I vaguely remember this brand being there) and David, the owner of Briar Vintage.
I wasn’t too familiar with what they carry, but after walking it, it’s pretty clear that they cater to that artisanal denim/workwear crowd. Awesome overalls, leather jackets (of all kinds), and chore coats were the main pieces that caught my attention, but they had a variety of other pieces too like tees and military shorts.
We have talked about how casual my look has gotten over the years (with workwear and mil-surp inspiration), but I wouldn’t exactly adopt the entire genre. I sort of like the more Bryceland’s way of doing it, giving it more of a sartorial edge. However, I do like the products on their own, especially the leather goods. In fact, I’ve been wanting a black pair of boots for a while.
The cool thing about brands like these is that they’re able to do modern takes spins on classics. By that I mean you don’t have to fret that most vintage shorts were mainly available in khaki or olive; you can find them in more interesting takes like workwear stripes or plaids right here!
The path to Bryceland’s was paved with a bunch of vintage shops. Again, Ametora has shed some light on this phenomenon, but it’s been pretty clear that since the 60’s, Japan has bought up a large chunk of American vintage clothing and sold it right here. Today, it’s a bit more varied in terms of style, containing much more than biker jackets, OCBDs, and military chinos. I even saw one that specialized in skater fashion!
I actually lost track of the names of the shops I entered, just because I was pressed for time; I didn’t want to keep Ethan Newton waiting!
The prices were fairly reasonable, ranging between $40-100 on the type of item and its condition. The rarest things were probably the true vintage Levis (which went up to nearly $300) or the Aloha shirts (which went up to $500). Honestly, I’ve been pretty spoiled lately, what with experienced pickers as friends or even the Roxy Deluxe closing sale. Even though I didn’t buy anything, it was an awesome bunch of stores to just look at.
I do wish they let me take more pictures since there were a few wild collections, like a store that dedicated their entire bottom floor to vintage Levis.
So, while I was in Tokyo, my pal Kousuke (a fellow young menswear enthusiast) hit me up, asking to hang out on his day off. I definitely obliged him and he suggested we meet at Koenji station. Now at the time, my DMs were filled with store suggestions and I’m pretty sure I recognized the name “Koenji” somewhere. Little did I know that it would blow the Harajuku vintage shopping out of the water.
About a 30 second walk from the station was Whistler, our first and most major stop. I have definitely seen pictures of this store before and it still didn’t prepare me for what I was going to find inside (and outside). I definitely just switched to my phone for a majority of these pictures because I just wanted to see what I could find!
On two floors, they literally had everything. The bottom floor contained most of the shoes, along with military shirts, OCBDs of varying years, chorecoats, ties, and school sweaters. I thought that was all until I got to the second floor, which focused more on apparel: military chinos, shorts, 60’s trousers, and 70s-90s clothing. This must have been where all the cool Rose Bowl stuff was sent to!
Unfortunately the afternoon spent with Kousuke in Koenji was the same day as my father’s birthday. That meant I had a very limited time to look at more vintage shops, and you already know that Whistler took up a most of that. Luckily, Kousuke pushed me away and assured me that there was more to see! Safari is really the only store I remembered, but they all sort of blended together at this point. It was a lot of vintage sport shirts, chinos, and casual jackets (think gabardines, windbreakers, workwear). I have too much of those already!
Again I apologize for the lack of pictures, but that’s only because I was trying on as much as I could! All of them had such crazy vintage that you seldom see in America anymore (because it was probably bought here first and then shipped over).
The Suit Company
I’ll going to expand on this phenomenon in the style review, but I’ll say it here: there is so much soft shouldered, 3-roll-2 tailoring in this city. I knew that Japan kept things sharp with business attire, but I mainly expected to see the typical two button, lightly padded-shouldered suits. It’s such a contrast to LA or NYC where you don’t see soft, more detailed tailoring much outside of people in the menswear crowd. And even then, the suits on everyday people leaned more to the classic style rather than the ivy-repros from Beams of Van.
The answer seemed to lie in the Suit Company. I’m not really familiar with it, but it seemed to be their answer to the dreaded Menswear House (Spencer’s alma matter). Everyday, I’d walk by at least one and it was always busy, filled with salarymen or other young guys buying a suit. Intrigued, I decided to see check out the one in Shinjuku.
I was surprised by the quality of their stuff! Obviously there were a few two-button jackets (almost an oddity at this point) and polyester performance stuff (for bike riding), but they had quite a few 100% wool pieces (from Reda), that were quite nice. These particular ones were their most expensive ($250-300) but I liked the design: moderate lapels, good lapel roll, and patch pockets!
I definitely didn’t get their sizing (I think it was chest and sleeves in CM), so I threw on the biggest one I could find for reference. Despite being very short in the body, it was decent. Perhaps you guys should try it if you find one! It’s miles ahead from using J. Crew or Banana Republic to start out, and the fact they do 3-roll-2 makes it already better than Suit Supply.
Again, I was pretty impressed with what I saw from this “starter shop” No wonder the Japanese guys looked so sharp!
Drake’s and British Made
As in London and New York, you know that your boy has to check out the Drake’s store! Yes, I know that the Bloke will always carry a considerable amount of pieces, but it doesn’t compare to seeing Drake’s in their element. And it should be fairly obvious that they’re one of my favorite brands.
Unlike their other stores which are stand alone/floor level ateliers, the one in Tokyo is in a mall. The fancy Ginza Six one to be exact. Drake’s actually occupies a slice of a bigger store, called British Made, a store that stocks their namesake for the Japanese market. While it is definitely a smaller space, it still houses almost their entire offering. With the seats (and their special Drake’s pillows) and a great illustration it actually feels cozy. I noticed that the fixtures and even the signage were all in line wth the other stores, so maybe Michael Hill took a cue from Ray Kroc.
Takahiro is the main one who mans the shop M-F, and he was delighted to allow me to take pictures of his work space! The best part was that he was able to show me all the new offerings from Drake’s SS19 (the Lanzarote and Lisbon lookbooks are a mood), from their linen-wool jacketing to their fun summer ties. The best part was that they actually had my size (36 and 38), unlike the Bloke which tends to skew to bigger sizes for Americans.
Overall, its a great store with great staff (which includes the British Made guys as well). I’m happy to see that Japan has a space for Drake’s! The shop is a full service Drake’s store, with MTO ties and is even a stop for Nackymade (the bespoke glasses makers).
Freeman’s Sporting Club
After talking with Takahira at Drake’s, the mall was about to close. I passed by Freeman’s Sporting Club, a brand that I had always heard about and wanted to make sure I went into. A combination menswear store, barbershop, and at times, a restaurant, it’s really a unique place. I was first introduced to it through the Yoshio Suyama, a man featured in We are Dandy by Natty Adams and Rose Callahan. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it out to see him, so I settled for a quick visit at their shop in the G6 mall.
Now because so much of the content I’ve seen from them is from Yoshio, I actually assumed that it was a Japanese brand; it’s actually American! Unlike my other visits, I really didn’t have time to try on anything. It’s a shame because everything looked so interesting. Like Beams +, it seems that FSC has na updated take on classic (vintage) American clothing.
If you compare the store to their online shop, you’ll find that there is a bit of a disparity. Online only has plain suits, but the stuff in the store is so much cooler. I was able to find a few pieces of the outerwear I saw and their sportshirts, but no more information on the coolest things like their gurkha suit or the patch pocket DB jackets. Perhaps some of these are a part of their MTM program.
In general, it’s a great casual vibe for tailoring and is something I want to explore with my weekend attire. More on that in a future article.
The last store on this recap is Kamakura shirts, which I visited on the morning of my last day (right before stopping by Tsutaya for books). Now I’ve definitely covered my first experience with them on my first NYC trip, but they’re a Japanese brand that makes high quality RTW shirts at an affordable price. Being Japanese, they definitely skew towards the ivy-inspired style, with a few models of OCBDs that feature a long point and some good roll, something largely missing from mall brands like BR and J. Crew. Offered in two fits, Tokyo and New York (a bigger fit), they are a great place to start with dress shirts!
I bought one shirt from them from that first NYC trip back in 2017 and I’ve been meaning to replace it with a few of their more recent offerings. In addition to their Vintage Ivy collection, a S-M-L offering that has more casual fabrics and a shorter collar, they just debuted the Sport shirts. These new ivy sport shirts are their actual ivy-style shirts, with unlined long collar/placket/cuffs that are more dressy than the Vintage Ivy collection. I had the regular Tokyo fit OCBDs which had interlining, making them a bit stiffer than I would like. A visit to the shop to try on the softer shirts was needed.
Kotaro, a wholesale repp that works with the Bloke (who also went to college in Seattle) , reached out to me during my trip and wanted to make sure we met. He was the point man during my visit to the Ginza shop (their biggest one), guided me through trying on sizes, and even clarified a few things. For one thing, I was a little concerned with the limited selection at the Bloke, who carries their Sport Ivy shirts in the NY fit. Kotaro told me that was because there is much more product in the Tokyo fits (their main line) as they only do a few options for the NY fit. This make sense as a majority of their customers are Japanese and require a slim-straight fit.
He even showed me their RTW tailoring (which unfortunately doesn’t have 3-roll-2), a surprise to be sure, as the NYC store only stocks shirts and ties. Unlike their shirts, the tailoring is produced in Italy, most likely to get that desired luxury and softness. Other conversation topics included a desire to work closer with the Bloke and even a hope to someday open a shop on the west coast! It was a great visit and I thank Kotaro for making my Kamakura visit a great one.
My old shirt was a 15 3/4 in the Tokyo Fit and that’s what I ended up buying in the ivy sport. As you can see the fit is quite good, despite being their “slimmer fit”. According to Kotaro, I could technically get along with the 15, but the body was just too trim for my liking. Because it has an unlined collar/cuffs/placket, it’s definitely more comfortable than my previous Kamakura shirt.
My main complaint is that there isn’t much tie space, which prevents a good collar roll when worn with a tie. This could necessitate sizing down, but the 15 really didn’t fit me well. It’s a bit surprising, as the previous Kamakura shirt had a good roll; it’s clear that this is definitely a new collar design. Maybe with repeated washings, it will shrink down!
I knew that I was going to walk out with the OCBD, but the spur-of-the-moment purchase was this bold stripe Vintage Ivy shirt. I normally don’t wear S-M-L shirts, but I had to make an exception for this beauty. If you’re a menswear addict like me, you’ve probably already guessed that I bought this as a substitute for this Drake’s linen popover.
Because it has a shorter collar (with accompanying back button), I’m not sure I’d wear it with a tie (though Kotaro and I both agree a black knit tie would be good, especially with a tight knot). It will be a new experience for me, as my non-tie shirts have historically been sport shirts exclusively. Time to go for that casual ivy look, outside of work!
Japan was honestly one of the best experiences of my life. If I could compare it to anything, I’d say it’s closest to New York, just in a foreign country. I say that mainly due to the availability of public transit, a sprawling metro system (that is incredibly easy thanks to Google Maps and the fact they have signs everywhere), and how it’s literally a huge city. Kyoto on the other hand reminded me of my smaller Pasadena/Glendale town. I especially loved how polite and energetic everyone was to help, from the transit staff to the food service. Plus it definitely helps that I felt safer in Tokyo than NYC (I’m still shaken up from my Oakland experience last year).
Obviously I can recommend visiting Japan to all of you. Don’t be lame and do a tour; you should get out and explore for yourself!
Not only was it cool to be able to see another culture and take turns between relaxing/eating food and seeing the tourist sites, but it was unreal to be able to visit and try on clothes that literally aren’t available in LA. Sure, Rakuten, Grailed, and online shopping exists to get these products, but it’s a totally different experience to enter in a brand’s actual store and get their whole vibe. Plus, the second hand shopping is amazing and unprecedented! Los Angeles will always be removed from the rest of the menswear world and I aim to change that. At the very least, I’ll just write about it for you guys.
I don’t discount the experience with my family either, as it was truly wonderful. I’m not sure if many of you guys know, but my parents have been split up since my high school years. It’s not a big deal, as we still have family meals and gatherings with the extended family from time to time, but a true family vacation is nice too! And they were totally understanding with my other interest and encouraged me to go to these stores and meet up with friends/colleagues in the menswear industry.
It’s pretty obvious that each trip I go on turns into a menswear one, but I’m not complaining. Hell, I think that each trip just gets better and better! Like in my personal life, I feel that I’ve gotten more confident and comfortable to go out of my comfort zone. I don’t think I was too nervous this time around, visiting stores and meeting friends. I can only assume this comes with time and experience, which can come a bit late for me as I’ve had an odd background and have always felt “outside” from everything else. But that’s all in the past now.
All I can say is that I hope that I can return to Japan really soon, with and without the menswear. And don’t worry, there are more Japan pieces coming!
Always a pleasure,
Street x Sprezza
Photography by me!