I returned to the city so nice that they named it twice (the other name is Manhattan)! This time, I decided to bring my friends along for a full vacation/menswear trip.
Do I even have to warn you how long this is going to be?
Until this post, almost every trip I’ve ever taken has been a family vacation or school related. One example was my trip last summer, where my family went to Paris and London. It was a fun, tour-filled/sightseeing trip, but I did get a chance to explore a bit on my own and meet up with some other people. However, that was really the first time I’ve done anything like that in my late teens and early twenties. I never really did road trips with friends to Vegas or fly to Germany with your college buddies. I really wanted to change that.
Luckily last December, my job allowed me to go to NYC. I didn’t have much free time as I stayed in my manager’s house, but I was allowed one night and one day where I was able to stop by at some of the menswear stores I had only seen on the internet. Even though it was short, it was an amazing experience and I couldn’t wait to go back. I entertained the idea with Spencer and a couple of friends from our Facebook Community. To my surprise, a few of them were actually down to make a real NYC trip. And by real I mean, no one had to go to work and that we had full days to do whatever we wanted.
So Spencer and I were joined by Aldous (blog reader/podcast guest from Toronto) and Trung (from Dallas, who joined us on Wednesday) from the week of August 19-25. As expected, AirBnb’s in Manhattan were super expensive and prices were shooting up, especially since it took a long time to get the group together and organized. I was really excited to make it work, since I have never really taken a trip with friends, let alone somewhere other than Los Angeles.
In the end, we picked a spot in West New York which was actually in Jersey, a bit north of Weehawken. The commute wasn’t bad: every morning we’d walk to the NJ Transit bus, which would take us into NYC’s Port Authority, where we would then take the subway wherever we’d want to go. Our return journey was a bit odd for us since there were always long lines of people at the PATB waiting to go to home to Jersey; the buses were also less common the later it went, which made it difficult to stay out late. Overall, $3.50 a bus ride and a $33 week-long subway pass wasn’t too bad and I recommend this method if you don’t want to stay in Manhattan .
After a five hour flight (left LAX at 3AM), we unpacked and settled into our West NY room at about 6PM. Not wanting to hang out in Jersey City or Hoboken, the guys and I took our first bus into the city. We were met by my friend Cristian, who (like the Aldous and Trung) was a reader of the blog and connected with me through instagram. Since PATB was so close to Times Square, we decided to walk through it before taking the train to the East Village, where we ate pizza at Luzzos. I can’t recall exactly which ones we ate, but it was damn good.
Overall, I was really glad to finally hang out with Cristian as we had become close friends ever since he DMed me early last year. Who would’ve thought that some of your besties could come from the internet?
Our first official day started on Central Park South, where I stopped by Ascot Chang to do a quick errand. Since it was so close, the guys and I decided to check out Columbus Circle and Central Park, specially the areas where I actually took a few of my lunch breaks during my work trip. There was a mall at Columbus circle, where we thought it wise to head to J. Crew and buy a umbrellas since we were a bit unprepared; unfortunately they didn’t carry any.
Natty Adams (writer of the book I Am Dandy) contacted me to tell me that he was visiting NYC that day and would love a chance to hang out and perhaps have a small Dapper Day reunion. We happily obliged and agreed to meet him at the Armoury in the mid afternoon, which gave us some time to check out some of the shop in the area.
Our first stop for Bergdorf Goodman’s which was basically the same experience I had when I went into Harrod’s back in London. We also went a bit down Madison Ave. where we stopped into a few of the stores we definitely don’t have in LA.
We would be remiss if we didn’t see Brooks Brothers on 346 Madison or the J. Press Yale Club shop. Unfortunately only one of those stores remains the trad mainstay that it used to be. The Brooks store was massive, with the first floor being mainly shirting, the second housing their sportswear, and their third containing their suits. Almost as a parody of itself, it had a giant screen golf simulator. We didn’t buy anything, but it was interesting to see how this American menswear giant has treated its historic site.
J. Press was another story. I know that their brand has seen some troubled times (they’ve just closed their Cambridge store), but I really liked the small space we visited. Located near Grand Central terminal, this true-trad shop was really surprising. Everything was still made in its traditional 3-roll-2, sack cut and styled accordingly. We obviously prefer vintage pieces when we can get them, but we almost walked out with a few things! It didn’t help that they were also going through a summer sale.
Just want to take a brief moment to say that we’ve all been a bit obsessed with madras jackets lately. As a guy who loves to wear patterned sportcoats, it’s really a must-have for summer pattern mixing. It definitely has trad connotations, but also leans a bit more 70s-80s, which is new for us.
Also it’s apparently Mad-Ress, not Mah-Drahs as we originally believed.
Tucked away in the back of the store is Jay Walter, a bespoke tailor who has been crafting garments all his life. He told us a bit about himself, his family, and how he strives to cut classic garments instead of pursue fashion like a lot of other brands.
Walter was proud to show us some of his latest creations: outerwear with raglan sleeves. His peacoat was incredible, but my favorite has to be the waterproof overcoat that featured a long sport collar. It felt straight out of 1973!
You could probably expect that we were running incredibly late to meet Natty at the Armoury, but we were all pretty surprised to see how much menswear progress we had made on our first day!
We kept this going during our visit to the Armoury NYC, where the guys and I went bananas looking over everything we literally had only seen on instagram. Natty and Kamau (a friend of his and an established menswear industry colleague and model) were extremely patient with us, especially since we were also waiting for Rose Callahan (photographer of I Am Dandy) to join us.
Max Papier greeted us at the Armoury, surprised since I originally told him that we were going to stop by on Friday with Trung. Like I said, we were making crazy amounts of progress on this monday. He encouraged us to try on anything we wanted and answered a few questions we had of him (he’s currently the head of e-commerce now). We did our best not to take up too much time, since we knew we’d have more time later in the week.
I will say that it was great to finally meet more of the Armoury team this time around. I don’t think I was as nervous as I was last December; it’s cool to see them as friends/colleagues instead of the internet famous people as I had originally viewed them. Makes things way less awkward a lot more fun!
The newly created five-some left the Armoury and decided to check out a few more menswear places. The J. Crew Ludlow shop was pretty okay (not a big fan of their lapels/cut) but I had heard good things about the Liquor Store. It’s almost a bit like J. Crew’s answer to RRL, where you have a bit of a more americana-workwear-Japanese vibe. True to its name, the shop is built from a converted libation seller though contrary to popular belief, they don’t actually serve alcohol. They do offer a few things that you can’t normally find, like a few more Wallace & Barnes products as well as a collaborations and 3rd party merch. Definitely a cool shop that I think would fit right in Los Angeles.
Our next stop was Rowing Blazers, one of the newest entrants into the menswear scene. While it’s technically classic (erring on the preppy side) thanks not only to their chinos and ocbds but to their rugby shirts and literal rowing blazers, it has such an interesting appeal. To me, it feels a bit like Supreme meets Polo RL in a great way that is super refreshing for menswear. I think you’ll be able to see the vibes in the pictures. While it can look pretty fratty, I think that’s apart of the appeal. I’ll get more into it when I write it’s own article.
We got to meet a few of the guys on their team like John the store manager and Devon, their latest hire, who invited us to stop by their Thursday night event. Apparently, they have a shindig every Thursday (usually coinciding with a new drop or collab), which only ads to the streetwear connotations.
Again, this might be one of the more youth centric (ie: hip) brands to take the menswear market.
Our last stop was Drake’s, only a few blocks away from Rowing Blazers. It was really great to see the Crosby St. guys again, as they were enthusiastic about our visit. They had just re-merchandised the store, getting it ready for the fall-winter season. There were also a few stragglers of their summer sale, where Spencer got a few clearance shirts and pocket square and I got a foulard tie. I’m sure you guys are going to see them worn real soon.
We spent some time catching up with the guys and taking a few pictures (as we do). I also was able to design my own MTO tie, which you guys will read about in the next few weeks!
After Drake’s, it was just Rory, Spencer, Aldous, and I and we got dinner at Ippudo NY. Even though it is a chain of sorts, it was really good ramen. Eating out for every meal was going to be murder for my wallet, but it was going to be worth it. Rory then took us to Strand Bookstore to finish the evening. I actually found a tiny 1940’s book on composers, which was my first official purchase of the trip!
Tuesday was a pretty chill day, considering that we went to almost all the main stores that was on our list. We started our day by going to Grand Central Station and checking out the Brooks Brothers 200th Anniversary exhibit. It was a lot smaller than I expected, almost akin to a popup. There were different suits on display, from a 1940’s diamond weave sack suit (sold to BB by vintage friend) to Thom Browne collabs and the Gatsby collection. Our favorite part was the different shirts that were on display. We really love that OCBD!
Ethan rant time. They called this a 1940’s tie, when it clearly looks like a 1970’s monstrosity. It’s probably due to the fact that the tie has a “43” on it, but it’s probably a reunion tie. The placard also calls the jacket a 40’s model but you can clearly feel the polyester from the picture alone. I would’ve thought that the massive pick stitching would’ve given away the late 60s early 70s vibes immediately; it also had a low button stance.
Wanting to get some culture at least once on the trip, we spent most of the afternoon at the Met. One of the featured exhibits was Heavenly Bodies which explored the relationship between designers and Catholicism. It was hauntingly beautiful and something a bit different than the tailored menswear we spent our Monday with.
We were joined for dinner (Korean food) by Will Utama, a Drake’s alum, and his lovely girlfriend Diana! Will was the only Drake’s guy I didn’t get to meet during my last trip, so it was really great to finally hang out with him! After dinner we got ice cream in the MSP Shake Shack, where we took more pictures and met up with Derek, whom you guys might remember from my old NYC trip.
Even though I barely drink, we decided to go out at least a few times. Chris took us out to Otto’s Shrunken Head which was a small Tiki bar in the Lower East side. I actually wanted an Arnold Palmer, but they gave me an Parnold Dalmer (or whatever) which was basically an alcoholic version of it. It was pretty tasty.
We then walked over to this cheap junk food joint which was something straight out of the county fair! Everything on the menu (which was basically just pictures on a wall) sounded delicious. I ordered a dozen fried oreos for $6 and barely got through them before feeling extremely full.
Our Day 3 was pretty intense, so I’m going to get more into detail in a separate post about vintage stores. Basically, we spent a majority of our day in Brooklyn. Our first stop was Wooden Sleepers, located all the way in Red Hook. It’s a small workwear-americana store, but the selection was awesome. There were XX Levis, military chinos (both khaki and olive), flannel shirts, and more. Unfortunately we didn’t buy anything, but Bryan the owner told us that we could always DM him if we’re interested in something specific or if it was on the IG.
After a crazy Lyft ride (it was $6 total thanks to a promotion) with a literal wasp, we arrived at Crowley Vintage. As you remember before, Sean Crowley was a designer for Ralph Lauren (among other places) who also sold vintage in his free time, ultimately opening a shop in Brooklyn. When I went last winter, it wasn’t officially open, but he now keeps weekend hours with weekday appointments.
We tried on a bunch of shit, which I’ll go into more detail in the companion post, but just know that he has a bit of everything. It’s more sartorial than Wooden Sleepers, but we love both! Vintage sack-jackets, ties, and accessories fill the shop, which might be one of the best and most curated clothing stock that we’ve seen.
Since we were in Brooklyn, we would be remiss if we didn’t go take some #basic pictures at DUMBO. Chris Pizarro was our guide and took us around the area, culminating in a short visit to Front General Store, one of the best thrift/vintage stores as told my NYC natives. Again, more on that later.
The last stop of the day was back at Drake’s (again), where we met with Alex, Chase, and Matt for dinner. I had always wanted to try Great Jones Cafe, a cajun joint that always looked so good on the Drake’s gram but it was unfortunately closed indefinitely due to the owner passing away. Instead, we went to Fanelli’s where I had dinner with the same guys during my last visit. The only difference was that I now brought a flash so that I could take some decent pictures!
I ordered a steak sandwich and it was so freakin’ good.
Thursday started out great thanks to some coffee (I actually had a latte) from Will, who works at Simon Sips. We even got to meet the eponymous Simon, who was actually a driving force for Will to get into menswear! It was at this shop that we got to meet Stephon Carson, an menswear enthusiast (and J. Crew manager) that I didn’t get to meet the last time I was in NYC. We took the opportunity to take some portraits/silly pictures right outside before getting Japanese food for lunch!
Before heading out of Madison, we took the opportunity to try on some shoes. Our first stop was at Alden, which I’ve always wanted to try (the Bloke stocks them but doesn’t carry my size). Unfortunately I didn’t have the $750 for these shell cordovan pennys, but I would’ve copped if I could. I want to join the #aldenarmy so badly.
Carmina was close by and provided a much more inviting environment, as the shop was decorated very well, almost like a luxury lounge. While these shoes are beautiful, I will say that I prefer the Alden last, as the Carminas are a bit to elongated and elegant for my taste. However, at a $450+ price point, they are a bit more accessible to us.
The staff was incredibly helpful and encouraged us to try on different sizes in order to ensure that the fit was correct.
Our afternoon was spent on Canal St. with Raymond Chu who wanted to walk and talk on the way to Church St. Surplus, another vintage store. You guys might recognize him as one of the gentlemen featured in the book I Am Dandy. He and I connected through the vintage community and I’ve always wanted to hang out with him for years! It was his birthday, so he couldn’t stay too long.
Right before we headed back to Rowing Blazers for their Thursday evening event, we stopped at the RRL store. It was insane and much bigger (with better selection) that the one on Melrose. It’s really great to see a brand keep the vintage aesthetic alive (down to the gritty details, in some cases), though the prices are expectedly insane. I was totally okay with window shopping.
We also used the store as a meeting place for some other friends who wanted to join us at the RB event.
I’ll always be so entranced by fashion events since it literally never happens in Los Angeles; if there are, it’s usually streetwear and I don’t know about them/not invited. It was definitely a good move for me to bring my friends since I can be a bit shy in these situations, but I actually got to loosen up and have a bit of fun talking to new people and playing some foosball.
The store and the event will have its own blog post.
Friday was a “do what else we want to do since we leave tomorrow” type of day. I went back to the Armoury to actually get a good photograph of the entire team and to actually try on some more stuff, as I had only experienced their tailoring. I considered walking out with a Slowboy x Armoury pocket square, but the one I wanted actually sold out. In the end, I decided to try on a few different pairs of shoes before settling on the new Jubilee their suede split toe derby.
I think it was a good buy, not only for the quality (I seldom buy new shoes) but because this might be the only way for me to ever get a Yohei Fukuda shoe!
After making the leap with the Jubilee, I decided that it was time to also treat myself to something at Drake’s. Their clearance items are all still great, at up to 50% off the original price. Spencer already helped himself to a couple OCBDs and a pocket square and I was struggling with what tie to get. I considered the sailboat tie since I don’t have many solid blue ties (most of mine are foulard), but I ended up just getting the regular burgundy medallion. It jumped out at me instantly and it’s a good example of both a Drake’s tie and a typical “Ethan tie”.
Meermin was a few blocks away, so I thought it would be worth it for the guys to try them on and get a sense of the size and last. As I stated in my review, the shoes are $250 making them a good value for guys who want to start upgrading to better shoes. The fact that they have a US store makes it much easier for sizing and returns, but nothing compares to the in-persona experience.
The store is in SoHo on the second floor of a building that you need to be buzzed into. It must have been a studio apartment or something, since it was just one big room with a giant shelf in the back, housing all of their stock. Only one man was working, which made me feel bad since there were two other people besides Spencer, Aldous, Trung, and me.
We each tried on their new unlined loafer, which is perfect for someone living in Los Angeles. While they were comfortable, we weren’t a big fan of their elongated last; their regular loafers had a much more classic silhouette.
Our last official menswear stop was with Articles of Style. They were the first blog I really looked at when I was first starting to get into menswear and they even featured me, which was a huge honor. AoS doesn’t do too many articles anymore, but they’ve pivoted into becoming a custom clothing brand, offering MiUSA suits, shirts, and outerwear. Dan Trepanier, the founder, has moved to Massachusetts to be closer to the factory, while guys like Wes and Ben run the day-to-day from NYC.
Ben is actually the developer of the site, which technically means he could be doing his job remotely, but it was nice being able to meet with him. While Wes was finishing up with a client, he told us about how their clothes are made. It’s a new-age of MTM and bespoke, as they send you a basted fitting garment which acts as your first fitting; adjustments are then made to your final product.
Wes was basically like a kuya to me (older brother in Tagalog) so we got along just fine. We had talked a bunch of times on IG and I’m glad to have finally met him in person! He’s been with the AoS for a long time and it’s super cool to see him be such a big part of this small company.
I also was gifted a sample suit that didn’t quite fit Wes (or was it another client?). It’s a more modern cut, if you couldn’t tell by the slim legs, but the jacket was pretty spot on! They always go for soft construction, which is what I really prefer. To my surprise, the jacket was a 3-roll-2 with hip patch pockets, making it look like a 1960’s sack jacket! It will make a great sportcoat.
The last evening of the trip was pretty chill. By this time, my feet were incredibly blistered and sore, so I was just trying to take it easy. Luis and Cristian met up with us again, and we walked the Highline, an elevated path that takes you from 14th up to 30th with views of the city. The guys and I grabbed a quick dinner at Five Guys before getting a last drink all together at some random bar that had a giant jenga set.
Trung was the one who finally brought it down!
This trip was by far one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. I was originally hesitant since I’ve never done something like this for myself since it was a big monetary investment (airfare, transportation, food, etc). However, I think it was totally worth it! There wasn’t any strict schedule or tour dates; we were literally free to do what we wanted and hang out with as many people as possible. In a sense, it gave me a look into what life would’ve been like if I moved to NYC: fast paced, right in the industry, and full of late nights, photographs, and blistered feet.
Obviously the highlight was getting another chance to hang out with the people I had only previously talked (or simply followed) online. As I’ve stated so many times before, LA has no menswear scene, which in turn leads to a lack of events/colleagues and a feeling of isolation. When I first came to NYC last December, the guys from Drake’s and The Armoury were all like mini-celebrities to me. After having sometime to calm down and take a step back, they’re all just regular dudes who work in menswear,enjoy clothing, and like to hang out. Being able to see them in this new light is probably the best thing for me, especially if I want to continue working in this industry.
Another facet of this trip was the concept of “treating myself”. Many of you guys know that my wardrobe is about 80% thrifted/eBay items. While I will never give up vintage, I have been taking the steps to try out new items, whether they’re custom like my stoffa trousers and Ascot Chang shirts or RTW like my Drake’s tie and Armoury Jubilee. A part of it is me trying to get more into the world of classic menswear, as it’s hard to be any kind of authority without experiencing the pieces. If I’m being honest, however, it’s mainly teaching me to stop being so tightfisted with my money and understand that it’s okay to spend a little extra on something you really like, new or not. I’ve never been a vintage purist and I’m glad that now I actually own pieces from my favourite stores!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this rather personal and lengthy blog post. While it is fun to talk about my latest finds or a few of my menswear opinions, I do like putting something a bit more person out there once in a while. It was a huge pleasure getting to see old friends and meeting new ones! Everyone was extremely friendly and welcoming, which was honestly very needed since menswear and it’s community can be intimidating for some. I really hope I find the time to come back again.
Also a big thanks to Trung for being the other photographer in the group and helping me take pictures!
Always a pleasure,
Street x Sprezza
Photography by Trung M. and Ethan W.