This past Saturday was my last day at Banana Republic. Might not be the last day of retail for me, but it was certainly an interesting experience. Here’s what I wore on that last day.
Going Full Ethan
I’ve already made a name for myself at work as the “guy who suits up”. Most of you have probably been to a Banana Republic or J. Crew and noticed that no one really dresses up for a mall retail job; my co-workers were no exception. However, I believe in dressing for the job you want to have, so I decided to always dress like someone at the Armoury or Bryceland’s Co. This outfit is the most suited that I’ve ever done to BR with some Ivy, some sprezz, and some 1930’s style thrown in. It’s basically all Ethan.
You can’t go wrong with a blue suit, especially if its an awesome vintage 1960’s ivy style three piece sack suit. The best part is that it isn’t even that apparent that it’s vintage. If you read that article, you’ll see that I slimmed down the jacket and the trousers to a modern silhouette. It’s not skinny, but its not as wide as a vintage suit either. The result is one of my favorite suits that allows me to play with the patterns in my shirt and tie.
Guys today seldom wear three piece suits, let alone striped shirts and foulard ties. In fact, whenever my co-workers would dress up it would usually be a plain tie worn with a gingham shirt. There’s nothing wrong with it, but I find it’s a basic look; I like to stand out! A true 1960’s ivy outfit would be a plain shirt and tie and that’s pretty boring to me as well! That’s why I decided to wear a striped spearpoint shirt and foulard tie. The combo something a bit more Italian and a clear throwback to the 1930’s style of mixing patterns together. This combo and the addition of he collar bar are a great way of going with a Golden Era throwback style without committing to an entirely period accurate look. Either way, walking this line between modern (yet classic) tailoring and vintage styling is what my personal aesthetic is all about!
I’m not a big fan of modern waistcoats because I believe that they are much too long (yet never reach the pants) and often are ill-fitting. Vintage waistcoats are the best because they fit very close to the chest (as they should) and emphasize the torso, as they are meant to end at the natural waist (where your pants should begin). This combination of high-rise trousers and “short” waistcoats are another sign of classical, Golden Era tailoring. Look at how it keeps my torso “fit” and yet ensures that my legs are lengthened. This is another reason why its much better to buy vintage or go bespoke than to buy a low-rise, oddly proportioned mall brand suit.
Overall, you could say that this “conservative” yet playful outfit (thanks to the patterns in the tie and shirt). It’s definitely refined due to wearing all three pieces, but not exactly something a “normal” person would wear. However, al of the elements work together with perfect fit, and I hope that on my last day, a customer or coworker was able to learn something about classic style and tailoring and apply it in future sartorial outfits!
1960’s Ivy Suit (eBay), Custom Spearpoint shirt, thrifted foulard tie, AE loafers (eBay)
I joined BR July of 2015 as a means of both getting some needed retail experience and some extra income for my graduate studies. Unfortunately, my area is sort of a “fashion desert” and the closest cool store was an hour away at South Coast Plaza, one of the luxury malls of Southern California. It wasn’t Ralph Lauren, Canali, or Berluti, but it was a stepping stone. I never had any retail or fashion experience before this and so I took the job.
Honestly, I loved my time at BR and never once had a terrible day. I learned how to scan and do stock checks, how to fold properly (with a board) and even use a cash register and perform sales, returns, and exchanges. I had never done that before as all of my previous experience was at an office. It was pretty difficult at first, but I got the hang of it. I wasn’t ever promoted but I became the trusted sales associate to help sell suits and perform the measurements and pinning for alterations.
The product was always interesting to me. When I started, I was still in my #menswear phase, wearing BR and J. Crew anywhere I could. The more I worked, the more I realized that I wanted to put myself apart from my brand and my coworkers and dress like my inspirations. Instead of using my employee discount, I would just take my paycheck and go on eBay or thrift stores and find those items that I really wanted. I wasn’t going to settle for non-iron shirts with stiff fabrics, suits with small lapels, or even weird “trendy” ties. I think that BR got wind of this fact and started to change their products. They eventually added supima cotton shirts with soft collars, expanded their selection of soft-wash shirts, got suits in plaids and pinstripes, produced foulard and striped ties, invested in better merino wool sweaters, and even increased the quality of their denim. They even had a line of kaihara selvedge jeans! Still not enough to make me buy their products, but I considered it. I think it was great step forward. If I wasn’t as into clothes as I am now, I would definitely buy from Banana Republic.
The most important thing that BR did for me was break me out of my shell. As I said before, a lot of my work experience was spent in an office. At the accounting firm, I barely talked to anyone apart from my supervisors, who would just give me work. I made friends at my current office job, but there’s something different than catching up with your desk mate and being able to greet and assist someone new every 15 minutes.
At first I was too nervous to talk to anyone but by the end of it, I was striking up conversations with everyone! I would ask people about what their favorite garments were, what their personal style was, and even take the opportunity to educate them about how to style their suits and how it should fit. I think that it even helped me become a better blogger. It’s this aspect that was the main inspiration for me to continue pursuing retail and hopefully work for a haberdashery like the Armoury.
In the end, I decided to leave for more personal time. I’ve been going through a lot, necessitating personal growth, and the fact that I was driving in three different cities every weekend and had an hour commute each way for a part time job wasn’t worth it. I wouldn’t mind working retail full time, but as the opportunity hasn’t arisen, I’d like to take some time to myself and do other things I like and explore my own interests. Finally having free weekends and evenings gives me that opportunity!
Black Friday, weekend rushes, and long closes were fine. In fact, I enjoyed my time at BR and working retail. I can now say that I can see myself working at Ralph Lauren (RRL would be cool) or someday a store like Bryceland’s or the Armoury. Talking about tailoring to customers at BR was fun, but it never really went anywhere. Working somewhere with a sartorial and tailoring focus will allow me to have deeper conversations with customers and co-workers. Having an enriching working experience where I can sell myself as well as a brand that I enjoy through my personal style is the goal. My experience at BR has prepared me for the future and I won’t forget the lessons I’ve learned, my mistakes, and my fantastic coworkers and managers.
I will say that I am saddened at the loss of the only job where I could “dress up” to. As I’ve stated before, dressing up for the office isn’t fun, so I probably won’t be taking as much sartorial outfit shots as often anymore. However, it does provide me an opportunity to explore different styles and casually tailored outfits with my new free time. This also will allow me to explore different places and even meet and shoot with new people. Overall, it’s a good thing that this happened, both for my blog and my personal life. I just can’t wait to see what the future holds for me.
Always a pleasure,
Street x Sprezza
Photography by David W.