The Elbow Patch Repair

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Sometimes shit happens.  And sometimes it happens to your favorite OCBD.

Despite being a vintage collector, I always preferred that the pieces I owned would be in pristine condition.  Or at least close to it. It probably stems from the fact that I started out collecting suiting rather than milsurp or workwear.  I would always discard tailoring that had crazy stains or moth holes; I didn’t trust myself to launder them correctly (dry cleaning can be harsh on 30s-40s clothing) and reweaving was too expensive. Obviously wear adds character, but its not something you tend to want on your favorite suits.

Wear and tear on other things, however, were slowly coming around to me.  The biggest thing was shoes.  I knew I wanted to have a variety of shoes, from loafers to bluchers, but I didn’t have an unlimited budget.  So I got used to thrifting and eBaying shoes.  Not ones that were extremely damaged, but a few wrinkles and a well-worn sole were okay for me; shoes didn’t have to be absolutely perfect for me to enjoy them.

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You can barely see it, but these tassels are used but still plenty good!

This mentality soon transferred to actual pieces of clothing. No, still not suits, but other pieces, especially if they were casual.  I wouldn’t pass up a slightly faded foulard or a decent OCBD at the thrift store; stains and multiple holes it seems, was the main thing I avoided (and you should too).  Even some of my vintage sportshirts had a few frays, but I didn’t mind.

Being okay with those slightly worn pieces soon lead me into enjoying milsurp and workwear.  Character was a big part of it (it’s unique!) but ultimately, nothing beats the details of true vintage, as good reproductions are hard to come by.   It also helped that I had two versions of things depending on the vibe I wanted.  I had a beat up/paint splattered chore coat for easy days while I had my Drake’s overshirt for dressier outfits.  I had fun WWII chinos for rugged ivy while I had my pleated J. Crew ones for something a cleaner.

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A well worn vintage chore coat.

Of course, we’ve already talked about raw hems and distressing before.  It has a sense of DIY and ruggedness that I find appealing, echoing the repair of vases or even in old Japanese indigo workcoats, bringing new life to a piece. While we all know that this is typical in denim, it still has roots in classic menswear as suede elbow patches on sportcoats were done as a quick repair (and to prevent you from simply throwing it away).   There’s also that fun ivy-trad facet that wear signs on your OCBD collar is a good thing, because it means you really are wearing it (to death, it seems).

I’ve been pretty good at doing this, though it helps that most of my oxfords are vintage and already have some wear; I can’t wait to get my new ones (like my bespoke Ascot Chang spearpoints or my Kamakura ones) to be broken in like these.  However, I will maintain that too heavy of wear can be bad, so I have flipped the collar and repaired holes on some OCBD collars. It makes it my shirt!

Preps were also known to patch their OCBDs when materials blew out (and let’s not forget using left over material for the Brooks Bros. “fun shirt”). But so far, it was only the shirt collar that was showing it’s age.  I had no major problems yet!

A chambray-ish shirt that needs to be fixed.  But look at the great wear on the collar!

Like I said,  I was fortunate enough not to have any issues with my finds (the most I’ve done is turn around frayed OCBD collars) and I certainly didn’t seek out project pieces as Spencer or Doug have done in the past. As you saw with my jeans, the only thing I’ve done was cut the hem myself rather than be forced to do it after years of wear.  At least, that was the story until this happened.

I was initially pretty sad, because this OCBD was one of my first thrifted shirts ever.

I’m unsure on the age, but its 100% cotton (as it should be), has a medium length unlined collar (compared to my spearpoints, which are pretty long), and a classic/loose fit. If you look closely, the shirt has such a great red stripe that actually has hints of green.  It is a great, versatile shirt that I was disappointed to have “ruined” it when the elbow blew out (perhaps the gym was working after all).  The cost was cheap (under $10, no tailoring needed), but I didn’t want to get rid of it!  After all, that’s the appeal of vintage: in most cases, it’s so unique that you’ll never find another one.

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With a Drake’s sweater and my Balloon.

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However, I wasn’t sad for long.  In fact, I feel that hanging with Doug and Spencer (with their ratty clothing) had prepared me for this very moment. I was ready to get it patched.  It seemed that my IG followers agreed, with my ivy-trad enthusiasts hyping up for becoming a “real prep” thanks to this tear.  On some forums, they even said that a contrasting patch from another oxford cloth is “GTH as can get”.

I selected an old blue oxford cloth, fresh from the discard pile of sold out AC fabrics. Because the shirt was striped, I felt that the blue would be a fun point of contrast!  I probably would’ve liked chambray for more of that “repaired denim” vibe, but alas, I couldn’t find any.  I then brought the swatch to my tailor who had the elbow patched within a few days!

Not exactly the suede elbow patches on a beloved tweed sportcoat, but it’ll do!

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And boom here it is!  Don’t the patches look cool?  Yes, I know there was only one hole, but my tailor decided to do both just in case it would happen again; it is an old OCBD after all! Now it officially is my oxford with a bit of a story behind it.  I can confidently say that I’d be open to doing this on any of my shirts, whether they’re an OCBD or one of my spearpoints or sportshirts. Hell, it may even be interesting to try and source vintage shirts (or just fabric) simply for future repairs like this!

I’ve been very proud of my shirt collection and I don’t want to get rid of my shirts anytime soon.

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The best part is that it’s not really noticeable when you wear a jacket!  The patches don’t make for an entirely new look at all and exist only to prolong the life of the oxford.  Hell, I feel like I’d even consider replacing the cuff or patching a part of the body if needed. My only caveat would be that the front of the collar and body would have to be “normal”, as that’s the part that interacts with the tie and jacket. I know some people like wearing “fun” patchwork OCBDs and while I would love it for casual days, I couldn’t wear it with full tailoring and a tie.

We’ll see if any of these opinions change, as I’m definitely coming around to patch work and repairs on all other casual pieces like chinos, jeans, jackets, and [now] shirts! I hope you all enjoyed this quick blog post and hopefully it’ll help you save some of your beloved shirts!

I’ll be sure to update this post whenever one of my other shirts fall to the wear and tear of time.

Always a pleasure,

@EthanMWong

4 comments

  1. shem · November 26

    hi ethan, i know you seldom hear solid colored ocbd. Are there particular designs you find yourself reaching out to often? I’m planning some drake’s MTO shirts and planning to branch out from my usual uni stripe/reverse stripe shirts. Many thanks!

    Like

    • Ethan M. Wong · November 26

      I typically wear variations on stripes, like university, reverse, or bengal. All of my shirts (even spearpoints) have similar ones, though I’ve been wanting to break into checked shirts, like tattersall especially in fall/winter! Hopefully that helps!

      Like

  2. thakaragg · November 27

    If you want a more discrete fix, I know a lot of shirt makers use fabric from the tails to fix collars or other parts so it matches the shirt.

    Like

  3. Pingback: The Menswear in Knives Out (2019) | STREET x SPREZZA

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