February is here and that means it’s the time for denim/workwear/militaria boys to come to LA for one of the coolest trade shows around.
Thankfully I wasn’t in a harrowing car accident and was able to have a great time!
We’ve talked about Inspiration LA a few times before (and discussed it on the podcast), so if you’re even just a casual follower of mine, you’ll be familiar with this event. It’s basically a big trade show and gathering of vintage and vintage-inspired workwear, denim, leather, and militaria. You’ll see a wide swatch of cool people in great clothing, whether they’re hard core vintage pickers, artisanal makers, or just enthusiasts with handle on personal style. It may not be Pitti Uomo with all the tailors and suits, but it’s still something I’m heavily interested in and consider a big part of my personal style.
Even if I don’t buy anything personally (as the curation level here is off the charts), it’s still great to see some of the rarest and most interesting pieces in the world. The show can come across a bit intimidating since people bring the best of the best. For example, I may be lucky to find a vintage 1950’s grey sweater at a flea market, but they’re bountiful here and with small details to make them even rarer, whether it’s the type of stitch or a label; hell you could even find 1950’s Ivy league sweatshirts, which are even more desirable. Apply that to things like leather jackets, military pieces, and work trousers/shirts, and you’ll find yourself drooling, wishing you had brought more cash to buy more things.
Of course, it also provides the opportunity to meet friends and colleagues from around the world, which is what I always look out for. As you all know, I’ve been certainly expanding my style palette, and Inspiration LA certainly helps in that regard, as it’s the conversations/networking that help me explore rather than simply looking at the pieces themselves. In any case, it’s a fun time that I hope you were able to take part in! It’s every February, so be sure to keep an eye out for the next one.
It’s also conveniently the same weekend as a Rose Bowl Flea Market, so if you didn’t cop anything at the trade show, you still have a chance to grab something cool…
Raggedy Threads Pre-Show Party
Now each time Inspiration comes around, a few stores in the LA area have parties before the show starts on Friday (I typically attend Saturday because I work during the week). I’m a pretty introverted dude and not as outwardly into the whole lifestyle as some other people, so I tend to keep my distance if I’m by myself. However, I’ve started to make it a point to go to the party at Raggedy Threads. It’s one of the best vintage stores in LA and I like going there because it’s in Little Tokyo; there’s no way in hell I’m going far west.
This time it was a bit more intimate, but it was still cool! I hadn’t been to the store in a while, so the it was surprising to see the small rearrangement the place had since the last I’d stopped in. The Gooch Brothers and Doug were unable to attend (I know, I miss them too), but luckily I was able to bring my new good friend Adam along with me. He’s not into menswear (yet) but he’s a good sport and had evidently gleamed a bit off my long instagram stories where I recap my blog posts. Of course being LA natives, it was not hard for us to step into conversations about film (both in movie and photography form) with some attendees. I was also very happy that Marco was able to come as well!
It was a find little shindig of good style that was conveniently close to some great ramen restaurants for dinner (though being in Little Tokyo, that’s no surprise).
Inspiration runs for two days, but typically the boys and I go on Saturday since we have work (or school) during the week. It does mean we some cool items are already sold or that we miss out on celebs (apparently Jason Momoa was there), but it’s totally fine; we’re just there to have fun!
This time there was no crazy car crash, so we had plenty of time to check out the entire show without being pressed for time. Sure, there are some crazy vintage dealers here who make sure to bring their best stuff, but it’s still a trade show which means there were also a bunch of artisanal makers who brought their wears to show off. In between all the clothing enthusiasts and friends catching up, there were definitely legitimate buying trips happening for independent menswear stores. It’s like Pitti; it’s more than just a peacock show.
Because we had so much time, I made sure to go around as much as I could, photographing our well dressed friends and capturing the best products, both new and vintage. The goal is to give you FOMO, so you can all come next year! It’s free and a great time.
Okay I’m going to legit talk about the much awaited (to me) collaboration between my friends Eli and Damian, the latter of which is world famous for Monisivais & Co, his brand for expertly crafted vintage styled caps and shirts all made in his shop in Los Angeles. I haven’t been into Damian’s store recently, but I’ve been following their latest developments on Instagram and I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to try them out.
The collaboration was the Tobacco Road Sport-Togs which are probably the coolest styled RTW vintage-styled jackets. Their first jacket was a cossack styled model that was made in a variety of cloth, from leather and military grade wool to Pendleton blanketing fabrics, all vintage of course. The other was a short jacket made from Chimayo fabric and corduroy, as a nod to the rare vintage Chimayo pieces I’ve only seen on other people or in pictures.
They really represent the journey of most vintage collectors; at a certain point, you decide to just produce the things you’ve tried to find and it helps if you are able to sell it to other people! The Sport-Togs (apparently that was early slang for casual jackets) really are amazing, quality jackets that are unlike anything I’ve seen from the vintage-casual market (most are leather or denim jackets) and I hope they got a few orders during the show! They’re a bit out of price range right now, but like most things, the price is justified for the cloth and the fact that they’re made right here in LA.
Himel Brothers is another maker that is always worth a mention. While I like to say that I first got into the brand since Himel produces leather jackets for Brycelands, but I realized that I had come across Dave Himel’s blog years ago when looking for info on vintage leather jackets. Like Damian and Eli, he turned his vintage collecting into a full business, producing bespoke leather jackets that have been built on years of picking the best pieces.
It’s no wonder why Himel is considered one of the best leather artisans and why someone as specific as Ethan Newton trusts them to make their vintage-inspired jackets.
Seeing Spencer in a silverbelly western fedora, worn chore coat, and a camo fun chinos shouldn’t be a surpise to anyone. It’s definitely become his signature look for days where tailoring is not necessary. Sure, it might lean a bit more into the bold workwear/vintage look, but hey, it’s Inspiration! I particularly like it because it’s the “denim jacket and military pants” outfit, but redone with more interesting pieces. Bringing in a parachute scarf (literally made from vintage parachute cloth) and yellow socks give it more of a refined edge as well.
Also note the Chromexcel Indy boots! Spencer has finally joined the Alden club.
MJ has come a long way from the last time he’s been at Inspiration. It’s just a natural occurrence of a genuine interest in fashion, as he’s a frequent lurker on MaleFashionAdvice and my Facebook community, as well as simply just coming out to events and taking in street style whenever possible.
His outfit this time utilizes a lot of layers, which are damn cool. The Garments for No One corduroy chore coat has been one of his favorite pieces (no surprise here; chore coats are easy for everyone) and he was happy to rep the brand during the show. His trousers are one of my slubby workpants from myfun trouser article that I gave him after I upgraded to some HBT ones. But the real powerhouse is the layer in between these two things.
Boom, there it is! By a stroke of luck, MJ copped an LL Bean hunting vest-jacket during Zebulon LA, a small flea market put on by Western Gifts. If it looks familar, it’s probably because you’ve seen it worn by Brian Davis of Wooden Sleepers. It’s a rare one that I’ve been searching for and MJ took this because this one was just a size too small (marked a 36). It was also only $50 which was a damn steal; the two tone nature and quad-patch pockets make it so cool!
Like I said earlier, I’ve been wanting similar jackets for a while. It doesn’t have to be this LL Bean one, but the unique combination of micro buffalo plaid against the tan color body is just so good!
I’m so glad that we’re starting to see more of Marco now! An old user of MaleFashionAdvice, he’s certainly a shining example of what happens when you start dressing post-classic menswear. The funny thing is that I can see all the “roots” in his style. For example, the outfit above is just a short jacket, sport shirt, cream chinos, and derbies; each of those things are tweaked slightly by a designer to give them a bit more character, though the root is still there. It’s not like he’s wearing anything super avant garde or high fashion like Yohji or Rick.
It’s such a great outfit that makes great use of color and pattern, but not in a crazy way. To me, it actually comes off as lowkey and easy going, which fits his personality. I do like the beret as a way to lean into the slouch; it even acts like a grounding piece to tie into the color of the shoes.
Elliot is a shopkeeper at Standard & Strange and is a mod over at r/MaleFashionAdvice. Despite these pretty stellar menswear credits, he’s a super cool guy that was extremely inviting and friendly during that one trip to SF; it was only natural that I was excited to see him when he told me (literally a few days ago) that he was going to come on his store’s trip to Inspiration.
Ever since he started working at that store, he’s seemed to have had a transformation in his style. And it’s damn good; working in menswear always puts you in contact with great maker sand designers, which will then be literally reflected in your attire as you come to try them out. His store stocks all of the pieces here, which I’m incredibly jealous of, because they’re all so fantastic.
The moleskin cossack is great and a fun alternative to the typical suede you see; it gives it more of a true workwear feel. His plaid shirt seems “normal” but upon closer inspection, you’ll see that it has great western detailing. However, my favorite has to be John Lofgren engineer boots. Elliot’s fit really makes me want a pair of engineers, to complement my Tanker, Chelsea, and Chukka.
And last we have little ol’ me. Last year I went with a straight forward workwear look (jeans and leather jacket) so this time I decide d to change it up and get a bit more tailored, at least by comparison. I took inspiration from European casual wear, like French 1930’s cyclist attire as well as a few of the layered looks from Wilhem, who wears some cool vintage german stuff with great layering techniques.
Because it’s been a pretty consistently cold LA climate, I wanted to wear a turtleneck, which I then placed as a base layer under my two-tone 1940’s sport cardigan. With the navy wide leg trousers, the result is something a bit monochromatic (with all the blue) but a bit interesting thanks to the two-tone/checked nature of the sweater. Adding in a light leather jacket completes the look and gives it more of an edge; the light color also provides contrast, though I’m wondering if my other dark leather jackets would have been more appropriate. Oh well!
I debated on wearing a fedora, but in the end, I just went with my trusty paper beret which has a great open weave (great for LA) and has a resultant oversized/slouchy silhouette that makes the whole thing look much more casual and easy going, despite being a bit dressy compared to the other people in attendence.
White socks and penny loafers finish it off with a nod to ivy style, even though the whole outfit isn’t really ivy. Go figure!
I’m really happy with this past Inspiration. I was definitely a bit scared considering the last one I went to, but we arrived and departed without any hiccups! It’s a bit weird to have the show at the LA Convention center rather than the downtown location of years prior, as it the environment seems slightly “too big” and corporate for something so fun, but I do like that it’s easier to find; the space also has pretty good lighting for pictures! In the end, I’m just glad it’s still going strong and provides a space for enthusiasts, makers, and new people to come together and enjoy this aspect of menswear.
And if you’re wondering, no, I didn’t buy too much. I’ve been really conscious of my spending lately due to some personal things and even if that wasn’t the case, I already bought a black double rider (something I’ve been waiting for) last year! There wasn’t anything that was really screaming out to me, which is definitely good, as I re-evaluate a few things and focus on purchasing something I know I want instead of just “shopping”.
However, I did get a green westerner (that unfortunately shrank a bit after I washed it) and a vintage deadstock zip-hoodie, but they cost a total of $55! Even the next day at the Rose Bowl, I only got a Ralph Lauren alligator belt (dated 92) for $100. Not crazy buys, but they’re just things I know I’m going to wear. I can’t really think of anything else I want, other than Aldens, which I know I’m going to save for. Plus tax season is coming and I want to make sure I have enough money to pay incase it arises!
In any case, I’m much more happy that I was able to see a bunch of my stylish friends and take their picture. I just hope I’ve achieved my goal in giving you guys FOMO and that you’ll join in the vintage menswear/workwear fun next year!
Always a pleasure,