What I’ve Worn On My Birthday

Happy Birthday to me! It’s okay if you didn’t get me anything, since I actually have something to give to you: a deep dive into what I’ve worn when celebrating my annual trip around the sun.

Enjoy a preview of our Bonus Pod Episode, with the full episode exclusively for our Patrons!

We’re approaching almost four months in quarantine.  It’s been a tough time for a few reasons: I’m unable to work full-time, its hot as fuck, and a lot of many events have been cancelled.  Obviously this is only a small sacrifice to make in the long run, as it’s much more important to stamp out COVID by strict social distancing, but I would be remiss to say that I don’t miss the things I’d normally get into during this time, namely Dapper Day Spring Expo, some cool trunk shows (RIP The Bloke), the occasional summer trip (either with friends or family), and my birthday!

The school boy look and a bucket hat.  I was ahead of the game.

Now my birthday isn’t really a menswear event (since most of my IRL friends aren’t big enthusiasts anyway), but its something I look forward to every year! When I was a kid, I celebrated mainly by playing laser tag (since paintball and airsoft can be a bit intense) and eating pizza. But as I’ve gotten older, I started to develop a sense of occasion and, quite obviously, style. It wasn’t necessarily about being fancy, but about blending my budding clothing hobby with an event that others can join in on. And if they want to join me in dressing up, then by all means!

Since I can’t really celebrate my birthday this year, at least to the same level as in the past, I though it would be great to share a few memories of my birthdays with you guys (and if you’re a Patron, you can listen along to the bonus podcast episode).  It’s a bit cringe, but it actually follows my menswear journey quite well, with each outfit being a culmination of whatever I was into at that time.

I’m currently writing this wearing pajamas, which is definitely not something I wanted to wear on my birthday.  I actually just realized that I haven’t done a full editorial of what happens on my birthday, though that’s usually by design; I just want a day to hang out with my friends free from work and the blog/podcast.  However, here I am, reflecting on the years past and how my style (and life) has changed.

I’m sure you guys are going to love the cringe outfits and wholesome memories. Now let me embarrass myself.

Birthday Attire

My 16th birthday was the first time I decided to dress up for my birthday.  It’s an awkward time for my menswear journey in that it predates any of my overt interest in clothing; it was before my discovery of #menswear, before Dapper Day, before Gatsby and Gangster Squad. As a result, my trademark “theme” approach to dressing wasn’t fully formed yet. I probably just wanted to dress up because it was fun and because 16 was a big year (I was a high school senior).   And yes, I made my friends dress up for the occasion too!

Drake’s Lookbook.

While I definitely am a fan of black in tailoring now, this is clearly an example of it not being done well.  The suit was a Hugo Boss x Nordstrom suit that I thought was the coolest thing at the mall and it became my go-to for any formal event; I’m pretty sure I even bragged about how “modern” it was with the super 120s fabric and the superiority of two buttons. Oh how wrong I was! I’ll give myself a pass because I’m only 16 and had no idea what great style was.

Despite all that, I remember feeling nice that I was dressing up. As a guy who spent everyday wearing a school uniform (ill fitting blue polo and khakis), having a reason to wear something cool that  [slightly] exuded my personality, or at least the person I wanted to be, was a lot of fun.

My 17th birthday was spent in the Philippines during a family trip and unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of what I did or what I wore during that time.  What I do have plenty of pictures of is my epic Great Gatsby themed 18th Birthday party.

I can’t understate how influential the Great Gatsby film was for me; there’s even a whole podcast episode about it (along with a deep analytical dive into its attire).  The white trousers, collar bars, repp ties, and windowpane jackets all jumped out at me as a way to dress up without looking too corporate or too much like a prom attendee. It was eye-opening, especially as the movie’s plethora of looks satiated my need for menswear inspiration, as I hadn’t discovered the vintage community or classic menswear just yet.

Inspired by that “dapper CPK dinner” I had with my friends two years prior, I wanted my 18th to be big.  Since I missed out on Dapper Day, I decided to do my own thing at my grandparent’s house! I invited as many people as possible and encouraged them to dress up; I certainly used my budding menswear knowledge to help out my guy friends, since I at least knew that a black suit+white shirt+black tie wasn’t exactly 1920s. Bless their hearts for listening to me and going along with it!

As the man of the hour, I had to go full Gatsby for the party; I was turning 18 after all!  The white suit with olive/brown waistcoat and gold tie was the epitome of “not corporate menswear” and so I had to my own spin on it.  And boy was it difficult, considering that the mall (where I shopped) wasn’t exactly kitted out for a menswear wardrobe back in 2013.

The jacket was a “premium wool” one from H&M and wasn’t too bad! It had a decent weight to it, cool horn-esque buttons, twill weave, and patch pockets.  Unfortunately, it was only a jacket, which left me to source out some white trousers.  I found a “match” in some horrid cotton twill chinos from Forever 21, an even more desolate fast-fashion wasteland. Worn together, they didn’t look too bad, though upon looking back, they clearly are made of different materials.

I thrifted the grey waistcoat, which was a decent alternative to the brown one worn in the film. Either brown waistcoats were rare or they were only offered in tweed, and I definitely knew that tweed was not for summer.  It at least “appeared” vintage since it had wide spaced buttons and had a higher buttoning point!  The yellow repp tie was purchased from Nordstrom Rack and is actually the most decent pick of the bunch.

Surprisingly, the contrast collar shirt was purchased from H&M of all places (bought on a different day than the jacket).  It was one of their $14.95 Non-Iron shirts, but when compared to the others I got from them (I built a wardrobe from it), the collar and cloth was actually pretty soft!  Gatsby actually wears a lavender shirt in the film, so the use of this was creative liberty.  I personally like it, because it provides a much more “vintage” feel to the outfit that wouldn’t have been apparent if I just wore a plain blue shirt.

The only thing truly vintage was the straw boater, which I got on eBay.  I actually still own it, though I can’t fathom wearing it out today.

Out of all of us, I think that Jeremiah (far left) actually has a solid outfit.  Check out that shawl collar blazer!

I love that everyone got in on the fun!

In viewing each consecutive year and it’s accompanying attire, I’m really reminded of how my birthday seems to sum up what my current menswear mood is.  And if my 19th birthday attire is any indication, it marked my full entry into the vintage menswear space!  I wore it to a Wolfgang Puck (super bougie) lunch with my family and retained it for a burger dinner with friends.  Definitely over dressed, but that’s okay!

So on my 19th birthday, I wore one of my favorite vintage suits, purchased from one of the best vintage stores in LA, Paper Moon Vintage.  It’s a great DB suit (dated 1945 I believe) cut from a heavy multi check worsted that actually has appeared a few times on this blog, like here.  The silhouette is absolutely fantastic and it frames me well! The shoulders are padded but not overly “zoot”. The lapels are wide with a lazy peak and have the wide-set buttons that I love so much.  All I had to do was get the trousers hemmed!

The shirt was one of my dad’s poly-blend shirts from the 90s and it was as uncomfortable and un-breathable as you could expect. However, it had a fun texture and a long point collar that I knew was important for a period look! A collar bar and a 1940’s foulard helped seal the deal. The only “mistakes” were the brown 40s fedora was a fun touch that I admittedly didn’t wear much (it was too small and yet had a wide brim) and the tan Aldo shoes.

I learned pretty quickly that dark brown shoes were the way to go for more effective footwear.

Obtaining this suit so early on in my vintage-menswear journey really helped me discover that all of these details (jacket length, button stance, gorge height) were extremely important to me, so luckily I didn’t make the mistake of buying “bad” vintage.  I mean looking back, it’s so good! Despite the structured shoulders and wide legs, the latter of which I’ve come to embrace, the suit looks great. I ended up giving it away just because I didn’t really wear period suits anymore and I wanted money to buy other things like cotton suits or my perfect brown checked jacket.  Also the cloth was just too heavy for LA.  I’m sweating just thinking about how I ever wore it during July!

I had definitely come a long way from approximating the 1920s with random mall pieces.  This was largely thanks to actually attending Dapper Day and meeting a few true vintage enthusiasts, who I then learned (and bought) from.  As I’ve stated on the podcast, this was how I learned many of the basics about silhouette and tailoring, as well as the distinct differences between eras.  Even though I don’t really associate with the vintage community much anymore, they were just as formative to the menswear guy I am today.

My 20th bday outfit is a doozy.  This was 2015 and was around the time I started my blog! As I’ve mentioned before, the mid 2010s was a period where I wore vintage and modern menswear, but not effectively; its was more like I dressed like what my #menswear IG feed looked like whenever I wasn’t wearing period accurate clothing. This purple “suit” is a great example of  that.

It’s a “suit” because like the Gatsby outfit, its made out of two different pieces. The peak lapel jacket is from Topman (gross, I know) and was actually a lucky thrift store find.  Keen readers of the blog will know that I used to own a 1920’s peak lapel jacket in purple herringbone wool, and this thrifted piece was alternative for everyday wear (since I was too scared about my true vintage piece).  The fit of the Topman jacket was alright and the smooth wool was decent, though obviously I have since passed it on.   I’m not sure it would’ve found a spot in my current wardrobe anyway.

To my surprise, the jacket actually matched a pair of purple chinos I already owned from Uniqlo, so naturally I wore them together to make a “suit”.  I’m not sure any maker (apart from Indochino) would’ve had a purple suit like this for a college student.  Now, purple isn’t bad (it’s my favorite color, especially for socks), but obviously a purple suit isn’t the most versatile for classic menswear. But hey, I wanted to stand out as I moved out of teenager-hood.

Honestly though, upgrading everything here wouldn’t be too bad.  I think if this was a deeper purple (or even more brownish or burgundy), it would’ve been great to have in corduroy (and in a sack or Neapolitan cut instead of peak lapel SB). The only real crime are the weird striped socks, cheap anemic-collar H&M shirt, and the overly skinny pants.  Yes, these were tapered extensively and hemmed quite high after I bought them.  At least the polka dot bow tie was from the 1940s.

My 21st is where things start to get interesting.  Not only is the blog starting to be the publication it is today, but I was also starting to feel more comfortable about incorporating vintage and even finding suits with a classic silhouette instead of having two distinct styles.  In other words, I had finally found B&Tailor, Ethan Newton, The Armoury, and Drake’s on Instagram.

As a result, this family dinner outfit wasn’t too bad! The suit was one of my first sack-suit (ish) purchases from eBay and was made of a summer-weight super wool that had a 3-roll-2 and a decent lapel.  The jacket had some padding and the trousers were slimmed down significantly, but it actually wasn’t too bad for this age; my only complaint is that the cloth was a bit too light and smooth for my own taste, which is why I no longer own it. But hey, the suit was less than $100! (It’s also worn in this article)

It’s hard to see, but with the suit, I’m wearing a red stripe spearpoint collar and a 1940’s red/blue foulard tie. I wouldn’t wear something too tone-on-tone today (especially a red shirt and red tie), but it was decent back then, especially since I was more concerned with simply wearing a striped shirt with a patterned tie to bridge my vintage aesthetics with “classic” suits.  Despite all that, it’s a decent look!


IMG_5307

Of course, I needed to have one day where I could go full Dandy; it was my 21st birthday after all!  Luckily, my celebration of another trip around the sun coincided with the first ever Dapper Day x LACMA event (even though it was a day after the actual date).

My blog post goes into more detail about the outfit, but basically, since it was summer and a big event, I went with my epic 1940’s Palm Beach suit. The fabric has great drape and is the vintage ideal for summer tailoring. This suit is literally one of the coolest vintage pieces I own that actually is wearable in the modern day due to it’s soft approach to tailoring.  For a big museum event like Dapper Day (and my birthday), it was a no brainer. I definitely felt the correlation to my Great Gatsby 18th B-Day Party, though this feels like a better step in the right direction.

This 1940’s abstract/sail boat-motif tie was the perfect way to make the outfit a bit more fun, though it did require a plain shirt which was a 1950’s small spearpointArrow shirt I thrifted. Upon looking back, I do think that a subtle striped spearpoint would’ve been just as effective (or even just more Ethan), but its not too bad here, pulling in the subtle greens of the tie.  I’d probably wear this again, or at least another riff on it, if I just had the tie. Unfortunately, I have not seen the tie since that day in 2016.

Contrary to popular believe, I actually don’t mind the spectators here.  They’re Stacy Adams and not that great quality, but they were definitely my favorite shoe to wear with vintage, especially since I only had those Aldos for a while.  I’m not sure if I would wear spectator shoes today, but a two-tone loafer would be quite cool.

DSC01545

I spent my 22nd birthday just getting ACYE KBBQ with my friends.  You’ll definitely notice that my outfit is rather toned down compared to the other outfits in this post and that’s because that year, I had started my job at Ascot Chang.  Being officially a part of the menswear industry and community certainly did wonders to my style, inspiring me to find a better bridge between vintage and contemporary clothing.

A plain white sportshirt with the runaway collar was the best way to do a fun casual look that transitioned well from work to play, especially since it was currently en vogue for the menswear world in summer.  The collar points lay well on a 1930’s DB belt back jacket that I bought as a present for myself, which I was completely enamored with (and would someday love to reproduce).  LVC 1878 Pantaloons were my jean of choice that featured fun vintage workwear details that elevated the look to something a bit more than just regular jeans.

What surprises me most about this look is that I actually still own (and wear) everything in this outfit! The idea of a brown jacket, casual shirt, and selvedge jean is a solid one and something I could definitely lean back on if I felt inspired.  The only thing I would change are just perhaps upgrading the Allen Edmonds tassels, as I have since traded up for Aldens in shell cordovan. Maybe a darker shirt or one with a pattern would have been cool too.  And perhaps a beret to make it more interesting.

For family dinner, I was wearing my Palm Beach suit yet again! Note the fun pattern mixing with the shirt and tie.  A much more Ethan style move when compared to the Dapper Day one!

IMG_9724

Now you can see the Ethan that you’ve all come to love (or at least tolerate) taking form in this portrait taken during my 23rd birthday. Everything is much more understated, blending vintage and contemporary menswear in a way that isn’t too dandy.

Worn here is my prized 1950’s Brooks Brothers sack suit, stated so not only because it’s got a great ivy cut, but because it’s brown! It’s actually a three piece, but I felt like making the suit a bit less stuffy, so I went without it. A blue striped button-down (also vintage Brooks) and a fun foulard tie help turn these old pieces into something that wouldn’t look out of place at the Armoury or Drake’s.  My source of inspiration was becoming clear!

You already know that I have kept all of these pieces, since they come up occasionally on my daily attire. However, I will say that in the spirit of getting older, I feel like it’s time to pass on this Brooks sack suit.  Like with the 1940’s blue checked suit on my 19th, I’ve outgrown wearing true vintage suits and think that my resources would be better used on commissioning custom suits that allow me to have great control over the details.  This is mainly because the suit is a bit too heavy for LA and because the trousers have a false cuff; maybe I should get something from Tailor Caid!

Looking back though, I do wish I had my beard much earlier.

IMG_9746

IMG_0939

Now there’s nothing to roast about what I wore on my 24th birthday because it’s just damn good.  It was also only a year ago, so it’s basically the same Ethan you know today, beard and all (though its just missing the messy hair).  For this birthday, I actually had two celebrations with my friends, with this first one being worn to an escape room and dinner.

Fresh from my summer Japan trip, I couldn’t wait to break out my brown balloon jacket, which really is one of the best sportcoats I own. With the vintage OCBD, sweater vest, foulard tie (also worn on my 23rd birthday), raw hemmed jeans, and bluchers, it seems like a very Drake’s outfit.  And yes, I’m very aware that the sweater vest is actually from Drake’s.  I think this is probably my favorite “tailored” look from this post because it’s easy going and casual, yet incorporates layers and a tie! I was working that day after all.

I actually changed the sportcoat to a jungle jacket since we were doing an escape room to celebrate.  A bit more practical for Area 51 (which was the theme of the escape room), don’t ya think?

Look at all these stylish guys! Suits ain’t necessary to be well dressed.

My actual birth-date (on a weekend for once!) was spent at the beach with all my friends.  I still live at home and can’t really host a party, so having a gathering at a public place where people can come and go as they please and a bunch of space the move.  I invited a bunch of people, both menswear and not, and I’m very glad that my friends used it as an opportunity to wear some great beach attire that we don’t normally get to do. Just look at the cool sportshirts and alohas!

Obviously, wearing a terry cloth shirt was the way to go, keeping me dry after dips in the water and with pockets to hold my drinks and chips. I wore the terry shirt with my Uniqlo swim trunks (which aren’t really much to write home about-they’re navy and fit nicely) and my trademarked faded bucket hat.  It was a fun afternoon filled with food, music, and sharing stories.

The more “elegant” menswear outfit came after the sun started to go down (so no more swimming) and when we decided to go grab some dinner. I wanted to trade my wet terry shirt and trunks for something a bit warmer, so I put on my 1930’s rayon polo, my french linen chore coat, and some wide legged 1940’s workpants. It’s a great case study for my Casual Ethan essay, since it uses tailored alternatives to create an informal outfit that still exudes the ideas I love from full suiting.

It was a great outfit to finish off what is probably one of the best and most fun days spent with my friends.

A very slouchy Casual Ethan fit for my 25th, spent socially distant with my family.

Spencer

Spencer has also taken the opportunity to dress up on his birthday.  We get more into it on the exclusive podcast episode, but here is just a sample of what he wore in years past.  Personally, I think he killed it every time, mainly because he’s never been that bold of a dresser and he actually started his journey earlier in his life than I did.

He also benefits from the fact that I was there to photograph him.

Untitled

A damn good outfit that works today! All that Spencer is missing is the beard.

 

 

Untitled

Spencer may have a great vintage tie and glen plaid jacket, but he apparently couldn’t resist the $14.95 H&M shirt

On his birthday, Spencer met the OG Hamilton himself while wearing a great western short jacket and a plaid workshirt.

IMG_1247

Worn to one of the Gooch Collectives, he’s got a casual tailoring outfit that actually seems more like something I’d wear, from the denim shirt to the brown plaid jacket.

IMG_1266

IMG_8163

Etherway coincided with Spencer’s bday back in 2018 and since it’s a a relatively recent event, his rugged ivy x milsurp look has been fully formed.

61750033

His most recent birthday in Februrary of this year sees Spencer fully embrace the 70s take on ivy and milsurp.

 

IMG_3459

Conclusion

Submit Your Questions & Stories

Thanks for listening and reading along! Don’t forget to support us on Patreon to get some extra content and access to our exclusive Discord. And we stream on Twitch too.

My initial plans for my 25th birthday were to have a nice dinner (or maybe just KBBQ again) with my close friends and then do another big beach party like the one I had for my 24th.  Obviously COVID has put a dampener on that, not only taking out big gatherings and sit-down locations, but making it tough to even see my friends in general.  But like I said in the beginning, it’s a small price to pay if it means we can meet up again in the future, with everyone happy and healthy.  You can definitely bet that I’m going to take a lot of pictures for my 26th next year.

This reflection also gave me an opportunity to look at how much my personal style has evolved over the years.  In fact, it each year provides an insight into exactly what I was into, whether it was using H&M to be Gatsby, collecting true vintage, or finally blending all of it to do my own thing (or basically looking like Drake’s).  I do wish my birthday was in the fall/winter, since it would’ve freed me up to do some cooler outfits instead of have to deal with the LA heat, which as you know is one of the limiting factors of my wardrobe.

You can see that it was a long process to get to where I am today, but it’s just a testament to the fact that your personal style is constantly progressing! As I get slouchier and more confident with my clothes, I’ve even grown out my hair on my head and face, two things that the 18 year old Gatsby Ethan could never have fathomed!  I may cringe over some of my old choices and can only conjecture as to what my thought process was, but if my smile is anything to go on, I was completely happy with what I was wearing! And the best part is that I had my friends with me every step of the way, laughing along and having a great time.  I’m certainly lucky to have friends and family who don’t mind this weird little hobby that has taken over my life.

Hopefully this blog post provides a better insight into how much my style (and even this blog) has transformed with my own life journey.  Maybe this just means I should do an even deeper dive into “Old Ethan” for the blog and pod…

Always a pleasure,

Ethan M. Wong | StyleAndDirection

The Podcast is produced by MJ and Matthew.

Comment Away!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s