The “Style as Empowerment” Panel at the Dapper Day Fall 2019 Expo

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It wasn’t a Permanent Style Symposium, but a panel on personal style at Dapper Day seems more my speed.  It was a bunch of fun!

I can’t reiterate enough how influential Dapper Day was for my menswear journey.  With its roots in getting people dressed up for the Disney parks (and later partnering with LACMA for great soirees), the event planning organization really gave me an outlet to dress up outside of church.  It also was the first opportunity I had to find like-minded stylish guys, both vintage and modern, forming the basis for some of the topics and events you’ve come to know from this blog.

Even though I no longer go to the Parks during the Disney outings (I mainly prefer the museum events if I’m being honest), I always make sure to go to the Expo.  Not only is it easily accessible, but there are always great live music, interesting vendors, and (quite obviously) Downtown Disney!

In recent Expos, Dapper Day has started to include programming. You’ll know that two years ago, I was invited to do a presentation on vintage and classic menswear.  It was done as one of the first panels that Justin Jorgensen (the founder of Dapper Day) created as not only a way to fill out the Expo festivities but to create and ongoing dialogue about fashion and style, as these events are meant to have an encouraging and inclusive air.  They’ve continued these panels with a other topics/guests including Alicia Malone/TCM, Besame Cosmetics, and Charles Phoenix.

The Spring 2019 Expo actually introduced a new panel series entitled “Style as Empowerment”,  featuring stylish guests discussing their personal take on fashion and how they interact with the world around them.  I unfortunately missed it due to extreme traffic, but I heard that it was great, especially as the panel included the dashing jazz singer Dandy Wellington, and Natty Adams, the prolific dandy writer, to represent menswear.

To my surprise, Dapper Day reached out to me to be a part of the panel for their Fall Expo, and I obviously accepted.  I was incredibly elated to have been asked, since I love being able to describe my slouchy/natural worldview of menswear with other people, especially since not too long ago, I was a menswear hopeful who just happened to go to one of these events.  Like I said earlier, Dapper Day was such a formative part of finding my own style and now that I’ve evolved into my own thing, it would be great to share pieces of that journey with an audience!  The only catch was that I was meant to go to SF for a mini vacation that evening, but the Dapper Day people set it up so I would get to the airport on time.

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I obviously wasn’t going to be alone up on stage! Justin and his team had assembled a fine cast of characters to share their own story. Here’s who was up there with me:

It really was great to hear about their backgrounds and stories. A few things were shared by all of us, from our love of vintage (leading us to find our own personal style) to how we started thrifting to find those details or designs that we couldn’t find anywhere else.  Dressing in our preferred method (whether it’s vintage or modern) gives us confidence, as it allows us to be ourselves in an outward facing way.

It was especially interesting to listen for me, as my life is vastly different from theirs, namely because I’ve become a bit more subdued/less period-accurate during my style journey and I work in the menswear industry.  Those qualities came into play when the topic drifted to how we interact with the world around us.  Since suits are common in my particular context, I don’t get animosity/comments from other people, though that could be because I’ve pivoted my career in a way that my mode of dress is acceptable (with a few quirks).

Here were some highlights, which you may already recognize from oft-repeated points on the Style & Direction podcast.

  • Personal style is a journey and it takes time.
  • Mistakes will be made, but look upon them fondly.
  • If people are genuinely interested, they will ask about your outfit/fashion without being rude.
  • People who are critical usually aren’t fashion-minded people at all.
  • Eventually you’ll hone in on your style and it helps to be specific.
  • Get inspiration from all over, whether it’s from classic movies, illustrations, to modern style icons.
  • Pay attention to all the details and learn what you like.
  • In the end, what matters is that you’re happy with how you look!

It was so much fun! I believe the panel was recorded, so I’ll be sure to include a link once it’s available!

It makes me wish we had more of these things, particularly with a menswear focus.  I don’t think Simon Crompton is coming to LA anytime soon, but that just means I may have to take matters into my own hands…

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Big ups to my friends for coming out to support!

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Me and Tisha (TeamSparkle).

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Angelique and Severely Mame.

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Jasmin, the Vintage Vandal.

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Talking about #pocketfisting.

Attire

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This was MJ’s first ever Dapper Day event, despite being one of my oldest friends and having been pretty active in other outings (like the Bloke or the Gooch Collective).  It does make sense when you realize that he’s been slowly coming into his own regarding menswear and personal style, mixing in the pieces he’s obtained with a Uniqlo employee discount with hand-me-downs from yours truly.

Despite not needing to go full sartorial (as I tend to do), he’s not unopposed to a tie, which came in handy for Dapper Day.  The sack-jack is a cotton 60’s guncheck/gingham (from me), which pairs wonderfully with a chambray shirt and knit tie; the wide leg pleated, cropped chinos offset the soft-short silhouette of the jacket making for a Japanese inspired ivy look.  It’s not super dressy but it’s smart!

Also big ups to him, as he helped me take some of these pictures (especially during the panel).

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Hector always looks forward to any semblance of events, not simply because he lives the furthest out of the SoCal Squad, but because he’s our resident bespoke enthusiast. Hell, if I had a closet full of great commissions, I’d be itching for any opportunity to wear them out!

Like MJ, he opts for a brown shepherd checked jacket cut the soft way from Moon and Son’s; you guys all know how much I love brown checked jackets, so I was practically drooling. Instead of grey trousers (as I tend to prefer), Hector dons some navy, which has a somber effect when worn with brown. The vintage RL shirt and tie echo the blue in different shades with the addition of turning the outfit into a pattern-mixing fiesta. Hector finishes off the outfit with a cap by our friend Damian and some burnished toe loafers from Bodiley’s.

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That tie is fantastic.

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Hooboy, when’s the last time Raj was on the blog?  My old college friend finally has a decent schedule and was able to finally come to an event and kill it, like he always does.  As the first real slouchy-sartorial dresser I knew, he showed up wearing a well-loved (and hella faded) cotton suit.  In fact, this rumply number is one of his only suits, as he never had any need for a normal worsted suit.  Raj doesn’t go crazy with patterns like Hector, instead opting for a plain shirt to tone down a vintage paisley tie, obtained during one of our college thrifting excursions.

Even the way he stands just exudes a natural, slouchy energy.

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Spencer looks like he reads the blog and certainly knows how much I love to wear navy jackets and brown trousers (the alternative of brown jacket + grey pants).  The 5-pocket cords are a great choice here (I also own a pair) and help make for a more casual vibe, which is fitting as Spencer doesn’t wear ties as much anymore.

Overall, it’s a very late 60’s look, especially thanks to the earth-toned check sportshirt worn on top of a mustard turtleneck.  Spencer’s been digging that direction lately and its definitely a good thing.  I think the outfit is a perfect “off duty” Ethan look for fall/winter!

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I have a feeling I’ve done this outfit before, because it’s definitely right up my alley! Nguyen rocks some typical Ethan moves: brown trousers, white socks + loafers, a sleeveless cardigan, and a brown checked jacket.  I haven’t been able to do a look like this since it’s always a few degrees hotter where I live, but he’s got me excited for layers and tweeds.

I love the use of cord here, using a more formal pair when compared to Spencer’s. Instead of a 5-pocket jean style, Nguyen has a pleated wide legged variation in a lighter shade, complete with permanent turn-ups for a cleaner drape.  I too have these cords and they’re languishing in a storage box until it finally goes in the low 70s.

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Yes, those are purple socks and shell cordovan pennys. More on the latter soon!

Does it get anymore Ethan than this?

Like the two compatriots before me, I also wanted to wear cord; however, I went with a full suit!  It’s been a dream of mine to own a super-dark brown suit and while I love my cotton one from Atelier Fugue, this takes the cake in terms of color.  It’s in the Neapolitan style from Spier & Mackay, whom I have bought jackets from but not trousers.  I’ll be sure to go into more depth in a future post, but you can see that is pretty good and hits most of my marks: soft shoulders, 3-roll-2, patch pockets, a high rise, and a moderate leg opening.   The cord is heavy (from Brisbane, same who supplies Drake’s) so it was a bit heavy for an early LA fall, but I know I’ll wear the fuck out of this great suit.

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Double corduroy.

From a fashion standpoint, it’s really fantastic.  Cord is a casual fabric (compared to worsted) and is more appropriate for SoCal than flannel, so it was perfect for this panel. It’s “formal” in the sense that it’s a suit and a very dark color, but it comes off as vintage and slouchy, which is exactly my vibe.  Add in a contrasting tattersal waistcoat (also in cord!), a beret, and my trademark pinned spearpoint collar, you get a wholly Ethan outfit that bridges the gap between vintage and contemporary tailoring!

Snapshots

Despite the fact that I had to literally jet after the panel, I made sure to take plenty of pictures!  For once, there was so many of us present that it reminded me of the first time I ever went to Dapper Day, when I went with a group of nearly ten people.  Things have certainly changed since then, especially in terms of our style and the composition of the group, but at least one thing stayed the same: we’re still just a bunch of dorks.

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I feel like the peace sign is my default pose after pocket fisting.

 

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Benny Reese, going casual for once!

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MJ perusing some jaunty scarves!

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Apparently they had scarves for cheap, but I can’t find them listed on the website.

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MJ and Scott, two of my oldest and best friends.

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Fixing my son’s tie.

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Podcast hosts and TLJ stans.

 

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Purple Sock Gang.

 

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This could be a meme format.

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Nguyen admiring shell cordovan.

 

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Before the panel!

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Justin looking sharp in Edward Sexton bespoke.

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College buddies.

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You couldn’t ask for a better group of well dressed guys (but apparently you can, because we’re missing a few people like Michael, Doug, and the Gooch Brothers!

Conclusion

Despite attending every Dapper Day event since 2013 and getting a few chances to “host”, I am still in shock that I was actually able to take part in the greater conversation and be a part of the festivities.  The panel was such and amazing experience and while it may not be industry-centric or involve my contemporaries like Permanent Style/Pitti, I think this may be more important.  I say that because I have much more in common with the attendees of Dapper Day, who are mainly Disney-vintage enthusiasts looking for their style and having fun with clothing; getting to reach them with my experiences and answering a few questions are why I do what I do and why I continue to write for this blog (and do a podcast).

I was also very happy that nearly all of my friends (both menswear and otherwise) were able to come out to the Disneyland Hotel and support me.  As you know, Dapper Day has gotten a bit lonely, mainly since it’s just Spencer and I attending; thankfully other menswear events have great attendance.  Like I said earlier, having a bunch of friends at Dapper Day really reminded me of my first few outings. I understand that everyone has different schedules (and not everyone wants to commute to Disneyland, even if it’s the hotel), but it really did make me nostalgic and happy.  Plus, it’s always nice to have an event that isn’t directly related to a store or trunk show, which is why I love going to Dapper Day.

Since I’ve said my peace, I’m not sure I’ll be in future panels (but I’m always open to it).  However, I will continue to support and attend as many Dapper Day events as possible.  According to their website’s 2020 schedule, we’re going to have the annual LACMA soirée on January 18 while the next Disneyland/Expo event will in April 18.  I hope you’ll put on your favorite contemporary or vintage suit and join me!

Always a pleasure,

@EthanMWong

7 comments

  1. Nenad · November 10

    Ethan,its a pleasure to read your blogs and to see and learn how to develope a personal style. This is what separates you from most of other bloggers and makes your content much more interesting.
    You are not trying to sell anything or trying to say that you have to spend couple of grands on outfit to look well dressed and put together as most of other classic menswear bloggers are implying.
    Thank you and keep up the good work.

    Like

    • Ethan M. Wong · November 11

      Wow, thank you very much Nenad! That is exactly the vibe I want to get across with my writing and photography. I’m glad you enjoy my work!

      Like

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