It’s time to revisit one of the big reproduction companies, SJC.
NOTICE: I received two polos and one pair of chinos for this review. I also purchased a separate pair with in my own money and paid the shipping fees with my own money. SJC has not read this review beforehand and had no say in the content.
I first remember seeing Simon James Cathcart and his London based brand on the Fedora Lounge facebook group. At the time, he was advertising some of his balmoral boots and spectator shoes, financed via Kickstarter (or some similar site). After I did a bit more research, I found that he was a fledgling reproduction brand, who had previously made a couple of denim trousers, belts, and bandanas. I didn’t think much of it, as at the time, I was mainly into 1930s-1940s tailoring and had no need for fun denim trousers (I guess the joke is on me now).
They didn’t fully get on my radar until he started to pump out spearpoint polos, now as a legitimate webstore rather than a crowdfunded option.
As I noted in my blog post, I felt that most polos (bar the knit ones) were boring and lacked a fun, wide vintage collar. The designs have changed over the years, but I was in love with the style, because it really was different than what anyone else had out there. This was especially true in the reproduction world, as most common repros were of 50s-60s shirts; barely anyone took notice in the Golden Era. Overall though, people really enjoyed the polos and were clamoring for more. It was clear that SJC wanted to break out of being just a repro brand and become and full outfitter of menswear by bringing back vintage style.
For a long time, they only had the polos and workvests, which was fine not just because I wasn’t working full-time yet, but also because there were a lot more coming down the pipeline.
Upon a suggestion of a few of our vintage friends, Spencer and I joined the SJC forum. It’s open to the public and showed a bit more insight how the brand was developing. I was happy that many vintage enthusiasts were coming together, sharing pictures/details of their own pieces, and helping SJC translate that into RTW. Some of those pieces included pleated chinos, soft shoulder belt-back 3PC suit, shawl collar sweaters, and a double breasted blazer in a fresco-esque fabric. They had certainly come a long way from just being the place to get a 1930’s style polo shirt!
In addition to increasing their product line, they also revamped the website and Instagram. Now they have journal entries, an easy to use webstore, and a plethora of content! Unfortunately, I had started to further develop my tastes in menswear, particularly drawing to contemporary guys and ivy. Obviously I knew that I could figure out ways to style their pieces to make it “Ethan friendly”, but I didn’t have the drive to commit, especially as I wanted other things like cotton suits/shell cordovan loafers and i I didn’t want to trouble myself with shipping/returning from London. However, there were a few things I was definitely intrigued about, especially the wide-legged chinos.
Now even though I’ve expanded my style, I definitely still wear a few of my SJC pieces despite my change in style over the years, just in a new context. In total, I had four things: two spearpoint polos and two workvests. I have since sold my green polo and my blue workvest to friends, as I didn’t wear them much, but I absolutely love the ones I’ve kept.
The long sleeve polo is probably one of the coolest things I own, despite it being more of a winter weight. The collar is bold and wide and the loop closure gives it some character, making it look a bit more louche when worn with layers. It even comes across as a fisherman’s smock of sorts, just made from a stretchy bamboo cotton.
It’s definitely a statement piece, but combining it with ivy/prep gives it an entirely new vibe, similar to my approach with casual wear.
So let’s get down to business now.
A few weeks ago, Freddy, their new brand manager (I’m assuming), contacted me to see if I was interested in doing an honest review. In the past, they had sent the SJC products mainly to friends in the vintage scene, but I guess with the rebranding, they wanted some official reviews! I was honored, as I had really wanted an excuse to try the brand. It is a bit intimidating, as the products come from London and while they do accept returns, you would have to pay the return shipping yourself.
He offered up two polos and a pair of chinos, which was exactly what I wanted! Like I said earlier, I loved my fall/winter version of the deco polo and was intrigued by the new design and cloth. As for the chinos, you know I’m always happy to try some wide legged pants; right now, my only wide legged pants are vintage casual ones, so I was really excited to receive the pieces. In fact, since I was going to be sent the three pieces free of charge, I decided to buy another pair of chinos, as I really wanted navy and brown. I felt that this also gave me a monetary stake in the review, almost similar to if I had bought something MTM for myself.
After nearly a week, they came in!
The Waffle-Knit Spearpoint Polo
Let’s start with their new waffle knit polos. While they are marked true-to-size, I decided to go up to a medium. This was because I had purchased a medium in the past and had washed it, resulting in a good/relaxed fit; I vaguely recall Simon himself recommending me to size up if I’m in between certain sizes.
Upon receiving the new polo, I found that it was obviously too big for me, going slightly past my crotch in the length. However, the fit was comfortable and at least I knew that the polo would never get untucked; it did shrink a bit after the wash and it’s great now, if not still slightly long. I also don’t mind the long sleeves and extended shoulder seam. It may not be the tight fit that most guys preferred back in the 1930’s, but I prefer comfort over being period accurate (and I don’t want people to see the outlines of my dadbod).
You can see that there are a few differences between this and the fall-winter one I had a few years ago. The most noticeable is the collar, which now has a shorter, more triangular design instead of the longer/bolder one of the previous model. It still lacks a neckband, which allows the collar to lay flat (like a sportshirt) but retains the iconic loop closure. Overall, I actually think it’s much more versatile and can compete with modern polos.
The second thing is their new waffle-knit cotton fabric. As someone whose only experience was fairly thick fabric (with fleece-like insides), this was a breath of fresh air. It’s got natural stretch and is breathable, making it perfect for warm weather or year-round wear in Los Angeles. The price is £59, which is pretty good for a unique polo that harkens to the past and is still wearable today.
It’s a damn good match to be worn under a sportcoat, but I do like it when it’s worn on it’s own. With the full body (no chest pockets or button through front) and deep placket, it’s like a pullover take on a sportshirt, making for a very minimal/slouchy vibe. Because I already have a bunch of white/cream sportshirts and polos, I chose the burgundy and black, the former because of Pablo Picasso and the latter because I’ve been feeling edgy lately (if my nails were any indication).
The Ellington Wide-Leg Chino
Up next is the Ellington wide leg chino. They currently have the Ellington and the slim/flat front Astor chino, of which I picked the Ellington as I really wanted more wide legged trousers. My pleated stoffa ones are cool and make for a classic/contemporary vibe, but my slouchy casual style made me miss the wider 1930’s silhouette just a bit; getting the Ellingtons would be a great edition, especially in versatile navy and brown (named coffee on the site)!
They looked rather good based on the plethora of image and I know a few people who had been impressed with their pleated chinos in the past. I was pretty excited to get my own pair and lightly retire my stoffas and other slimmer-legged cotton trousers. At £99, they’re a bit pricey for an everyday chino, but it’s definitely hard to find a comparable chino in a wide leg that isn’t military-inspired.
The details are nice: two shallow forward pleats, a buttoned coin pocket, and tab adjusters (that are more on the back rather than directly on the side). The buttons feel pretty sturdy and are present throughout the fly, a cool detail that won’t result in the “zipper bulge” but might present problems when needing a quick restroom break. The one thing I don’t like is that the suspender buttons are sewn through the waistband. It make make them stronger, but can be distracting if you don’t wear a belt.
Now before I show you what they looked like on, I want to note the sizing. According to the website, Simon, and Freddy, the sizes run small and they recommend going with something bigger. I’ve always been a size 32, so they recommended I get a size 34. Unfortunately, the size 34 was much too large and would’ve been a night mare to tailor down, so I paid the return shipping to get a 32. The waist was much better, so I washed the chinos to soften them up and got them hemmed with a 2″ turn-up.
After the wash, they definitely slimmed down a bit but was still wearable. However, I noticed that the crotch was very tight. Perhaps I was too concerned about getting the right waist size (the 34 was ginormous) that I neglected to look at the rest of the trouser. It appears that the crotch area under the fly, was simply not long enough for me; it could also be my thighs. I’ve never had an issue with this for RTW and I even hike up the trousers more than most people. I recall having a similar issue with my Ascot Chang custom suit but it wasn’t this bad.
You can see that it’s incredibly tight on the crotch and inner thigh. I personally think it’s a combination of my body type and the way the trousers are constructed. If there was just more length from the fly to the fork, I think the issues would be rectified. BurzanBlog has the slim version of the chino and while he didn’t say there are any issues, I can see that the crotch ends a bit higher than a regular trouser.
I also think I’m not used to seeing such a long fly follow the front “curve” of the crotch. Sure, I’ve had long flys on all my trousers, but they stay “straight” on the front of the trouser. However in retrospect, I think the cheap WPG UK officer trousers had a similar design, but definitely still had room in the crotch. Oh well.
Anyway, I took them back to my tailor (as I had just noticed the issues after getting them hemmed/cuffed) to see if there was anything that could be done. I know that RTW doesn’t usually have much allowance, but I really liked the cut and color of these chinos.
Just look at that side profile! So damn good and a perfect template for a future bespoke order (whenever that is). And you can see that despite being a wide leg opening (10″ according to the site), they don’t look bad at all; the shoe is still seen without being swallowed.
Here are the chinos post alteration. Still not perfect, but infinitely more comfortable and wearable than the previous iteration. The cotton is very hefty and wrinkles easily, so you can see a combination of stress marks from the fact that I’m seated for most of my day. I wish that my meaty thighs weren’t so large, because I think the main issue is the inner thigh needs more room (though my tailor let out as much as he could). By measuring flat right at the crotch, the SJC Ellington is about 1″ less than my Atelier Fugue pleated cotton trousers or even my flat front WWII chinos. Perhaps that’s the reason why the feel a bit more snug in that rea.
Either way, I was already in the hole on these guys. I had already bought a pair of chinos (with shipping) and paid for the return on the ones that didn’t fit, so these were mine. SJC offered to take them back and refund me the cost of the pair I did buy, but I really wanted to keep these, at least for now to get some wear out of them. The brown is such a lovely color and they are a great alternative to the Stoffa ones that I wear almost all the time; I also wanted a navy chino to use as an odd trouser, as I don’t currently have a navy pair. The wide leg (more specifically the 10″ leg opening) provides a different silhouette that not only echoes my past with vintage menswear but exudes that slouchy casual style I’m after.
So it was only natural that one of my first outfits with the chinos was to be a fully Ethan outfit: blue and brown. I think this might be the best explanation of my ideal suit silhouette as well: slouchy extended shoulder, slight waisting with open quarters, and wide-straight legs with cuffs. It’s definitely a relaxed take on that 30’s drape cut.
Also note those slick Alden tassels from my friends at Brogue. More on those later!
Honestly, I keep looking at the crotch because the issues were so noticeable before. Perhaps I’m making it worse by directing it to you guys, but it’s one way to cope with the anxiety. It definitely doesn’t look that bad to me anymore and I think it’ll just take repeated wears for me to get over it. I also know that cotton is especially notorious for wrinkling, and that’s all a part of the charm, though I definitely thought having a wide-legged pair was going to solve that (since it won’t be cut close to the body). Like I said in the profile shots earlier, the silhouette is damn good; I still do feel a bit in the thigh/crotch but it’s not uncomfortable.
The funny thing is that I usually have problem with back rise and a sagging back thigh/seat. While it will take a while for me to not notice the stress marks, at least the leg line is very clean. There’s definitely a lot of positives for me here, as it definitely lets me learn more about my body and how to compensate for my shortcomings. Combining elements of these SJC trousers with other observations/experiences will definitely result in some good custom choices in the future.
I think that I like the navy a bit better, most likely due to the fact that it’s darker than the brown so the wrinkles don’t show. It’s also nice to finally have a pair of navy odd trousers, as I hadn’t owned a proper one before; my slim BR chinos don’t count. They are great to wear with greys and blacks, providing a conservative air to a casual fabric.
Again you can see how clean/straight they fall, with no real taper.
Simon James Cathcart will always be special to me because they are probably one of the first real repro brands that I liked. It probably helps that they have a fairly active forum where vintage collectors can communicate with Simon himself to give feed back or ideas for new products; Simon also posts updates on stuff that’s rolling out! As a result, I was (and still am) pretty happy with my workvest andold spearpoint polo; I simply don’t wear them as often because they’re meant for cold weather.
I’m glad that they reached out to me to do a review of their wide leg chinos and latest iteration of the polo shirt, especially since these are perfect for year-round wear in Los Angeles. The waffle knit polo is incredibly soft and despite sizing up, is perfectly in line with how a majority of my other tops fit. While I do miss the bolder spearpoint shape of the past models, the new one is more versatile with outfits (vintage or modern) due to it’s altered, contemporary shape. I’m happy that they kept the 3-button loop closure, as this isn’t really done anywhere else and serves as a point of interest.
My main issues with SJC lie with the trousers, as you can no doubt tell by now. Their 32 actually fits my waist pretty well, despite their suggestions to size up, but resulted in a weird fit and wrinkling in the crotch and upper thigh area; the waist itself is spot on. However, I think my legs are the issue here, as I ended up having to let out the problem areas as much as possible in order to make them even remotely wearable (and not too distracting). There is still visible stress marks due to the fact that it’s cotton, which do bother me slightly but I’m pretty sure I’ll get over it with more wear. Again, I might be an anomaly, as others who have owned the pants have not had any problems with the crotch or thigh. But upon some inspection, these stress marks appear even with their slim models here and here.
Other than those issues, I do like the cotton trousers and have worn them quite a bit! The colors are lovely and versatile, with the brown being my preferred shade (you guys know I love a dark brown) and the navy serving as my needed conservative odd trouser (in LA appropriate cotton). I love how the cotton twill has broken in and softened over time (I washed/dryed the pants); it’s certainly a different feeling that the cotton-elastine in my Atelier Fugue suits and has resulted in a very soft texture.
The details are nice, offering both belt loops and side adjusters so you can have them fit exactly the way you wanted to. The leg opening is amazing and as you can see in the pictures, don’t look costume-y at all (which is how many menswear guys view wide-leg silhouettes). The waist is nice and high though it comes with a long fly that goes almost all the way to the fork (which is interesting to me).
Now I can wholeheartedly recommend the polo shirts, but it’s really up to you on the chinos. If you’re confident in your measurements/their size guide and usually have no issues with RTW, then go ahead. That’s pretty much me, but I was left disappointed a bit, mainly as I have avoided having big tailoring projects lately. Again, based on other people’s experience, I could just be a one-off that simply doesn’t work on their pattern perfectly. I know my followers who utilize bespoke will no doubt hold this over my head!
Shipping/Returning to the UK is no joke, so I’d be very wary of trying it yourself unless you can commit to the pieces. Though SJC did send me one pair, I decided to buy a pair for myself, so I’m pretty much stuck with them and might as well keep them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to wear them as much as I can, but I’d honestly would have rather had a trouser that never had any issues, especially since I’ve never had a crotch/upper thigh problem ever (and I have both slim and wide trousers). If SJC had a stockist in LA where I could try them on before purchasing or offered free shipping/returns, then I’d be more inclined to recommend them to you.
Either way, I’m very happy with my SJC pieces, namely the polos, but rest assured, I will still wear the chinos. At the very least, this whole experience has given me great insight into what blocks work for me, what alterations are needed to correct certain issues, and definitely provides insight into how I’ll approach future custom commissions. Whenever the hell that will be. But for now, they’re a great wide pair of broken in, wide cotton and an extremely cool polo that I will wear as much as I can in LA.
Which may as well be everyday.
Always a pleasure,