On Menswear Communities & The Importance of Friends

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We’ve talked about POV and Slouch, but do you guys wanna know the real way to pull of an aesthetic in confidence? Have a good community and friend group. I’m serious.

Be sure to listen to the podcast before reading the essay! Spencer and I discuss how important communities and friends were to our style journeys and how it really set us on a good path to being intentional and confident in our style. We also talk about the various style communities we’ve been a part of.

As we discuss in the podcast proper, a lot of what we’ve discussed over the past few months are not really meant to be a catch all topic for crafting outfits, how to develop a POV, or how to make sure you aren’t out of place. Instead, they are all components of things I (and Spencer) think about. In particular, slouch was something that was hard to sell to a few people, especially since we do admit that how slouchy you appear is dependent on the world around you. Obviously a general biology university class may not get what you’re going after with your outfit (granted, they may not even truly notice you), but the guys at a Drake’s trunk show will. The human element of community, friendship, and approachability is perhaps one of the biggest tenets of our style, and one that deserves a discussion. Especially since it’s the greatest response to the common critique of menswear: your outfits do not match your context.

That’s why you change your context and community until it makes sense. In a good way, of course!

I’m of the belief that communities make a hobby much more engaging and interesting. I can’t say that it can make every hobby better (I know some people like to hike on their own or paint locked in a studio), but community certainly plays an aspect into it. For the hiking example, you’ll probably take a picture and share it, recommending others to try the path (or avoid it). Menswear is no different. Even if you dress for yourself, there will always be need of the community aspect, as community allows you to open your mind, grow, and get validation, at least from those that matter. Standing out alone is definitely onerous, but slouchily standing out with friends is admirable and ultimately preferable, at least to me.

Despite being a rather introverted guy (who spends a lot of his time writing essays for no reason), I love community. Like I state in the pod, I’ve always been rather alone in my hobbies. Despite being a nerd with amazing people in high school and college, I still felt like I was alone. At first it was about film score, as I thought that no one would understand my appreciation of it. Then I found JWFan and a few other sites that discussed the very things I thought of. While I wasn’t exactly in the conversation (I’m not a fan of engaging in forums nor am I as musically educated/cognizant as the other users), I found it remarkably comforting. It was proof that I wasn’t singular in my hobby. The validation, however small (as people still think my music taste is weird), was beneficial for confidence. But as you could expect, menswear is different.

Menswear, both vintage and contemporary, is an outward facing hobby. With composing, painting, or practicing photography, the practice is singular; people will only see your “work” if you decide to share it. When you craft a fit, people will see it. You walk around and go on with your daily life wearing your artistic endeavor. It can definitely be tough! And as Aldous says (that I have slowly agreed on) there is a hypothetical potential that no matter how much slouch you have, you will stick out, which can be good or bad. For beginners, that can be daunting experience and it can be impossible to fathom that people will be into it. In the discord, we’ve discussed that certain “rooms” that you walk into in your life will be tough to convert. That’s why I believe in changing your “rooms”.

I don’t think my thought process was “there must be a menswear community just like this film score enthusiast world”, but it certainly provided some insight into the fact that subcultures exist. I mean after all, I stopped randomly discussing music with my friends (to the best of my abilities) and saved those observations for the JWFan forum. That’s why I made sure to look at vintage menswear communities, because as you know that’s what I was into when I was in college. Obviously, as I was primarily into vintage, there really wasn’t a #menswear group for me in 2014- I didn’t think about StyleForum and Reddit just yet so my modern style was in limbo (as I’ve written about before). However, I was able to immerse myself in vintage.

What I did have was the Fedora Lounge and later the plethora of vintage menswear facebook groups. It was such a great resource, being able not only to see photographs and illustrations, but plenty of actual garments too. I attribute my knowledge of historic menswear to the years I spent in that community. However, it wasn’t just a one way thing! You guys know that I dressed the part, sharing my outfits and personal experiences in these FB groups in order to further the community. I attended the occasional BBQ’s, vintage sales, and Dapper Day events where I could be around like-dressed people and have a fun time.

Even at this stage, I was able to meet a lot of great people over time, from fellow vintage enthusiasts to modern menswear guys who happened to see me on tumblr. My nerdy gamer friends probably thought that my hobby of collecting old clothes was weird, but at this point it didn’t matter- I had a community where it was acceptable and validating to wear what I was into. Hell, this was when I met Spencer and Raj, who was proof that people IRL could be into the same things. Sure, I might look weird wearing a spearpoint collar, fedora, and a 1930’s suit walking out of my car, but if those onlookers saw that I was headed to Dapper Day or some other vintage hang out, they knew that I was appropriate for the environment.

Of course you guys know the rest: I gave up on #menswear and vintage, period-accurate menswear and fell into my own way of combining the two. As a result my communities changed. I started to post more on r/MaleFashionAdvice and occasionally on Styleforum; I also started to follow and talk to other contemporary menswear enthusiasts. The approach was the same. I definitely wanted to share my outfits and views (since I wasn’t a beginner anymore), but I also wanted to focus on learn and gain more inspo, because at this time, I still basically only had Spencer, and we were obviously pretty narrow in our exploration of men’s fashion. I’m not going to say that it’s easy to be accepted, but luckily, going from H&M and boaters to period fedoras and suits in the vintage community prepared me well for the onslaught I got with my contrarian clothing choices on Reddit. My trademarked smiling/laughing fit pics probably helped show that I really didn’t take myself seriously anyway; I’m happy that people understood it, even if it took a while.

That’s why I love online clothing communities- you can take part at your leisure and it only gets better the more you engage. Even if it’s insular and mostly digital, it provides some security in what your creative clothing outlet. You get to see so many things shared, from inspo albums and what others are wearing, to fully fledged discussion threads and challenges. MFA, StyleForum, and random “dapper” FB groups all exhibit those features, though I’m personally biased toward the first one since it’s where I’m the most active (and I find it the most approachable).

I’m not going to lie- it’s daunting at first, but since it’s an online community, it’s easy to close the tab and turn off notifications if the comments are getting to you; at least you aren’t getting dunked on in person! Engaging with an online community a great way to build confidence, learn, and give back all in one. And it’s definitely fine to dress up for a fit pic, even if your outside context isn’t appropriate for it yet. I think most menswear guys (both vintage and contemporary) realize that this hobby is quite niche, so no one really makes fun of a good fit pic (at least when it’s not influencer content). I even started my own FB group for readers of the blog because I wanted my own group for likeminded people. The population is on the smaller side, but it’s been nice to see it develop, as I’ve always wanted one that was a bit more specific than the other groups I note in the podcast, but still retains a good natured, open-minded quality.

That later developed into the discord (exclusive to patrons of the podcast), which I think is an even better evolution since it has a rapid fire nature (instead of standalone posts on FB) and has the ability for video/audio chats for further community engagement. I made sure to add in plenty of channels for a variety of topics. Menswear ones range from tailoring and shoes whereas non-menswear contains everything from movies to gaming. I really just wanted it to be place where the modern menswear guy (of any level) can hang out and have fun in a more modern environment that was easier to get into than a forum or subreddit- I think I’ve succeded in that regard. Even though the Patreon Discord is small, it’s very active and has fostered a lot of friendships, which I’m very proud of! The best part is how diverse the community is; quite a few don’t even live in the States!

Obviously we don’t live our entire lives on the internet, but the good thing about online communities (other than bringing people together who wouldn’t normally have met) is that it has the potential to turn into something IRL. This usually just comes with time, as your menswear cohorts typically follow you (or DM you) the they get more accustomed to your fit pics and contributions to the discussion. Thanks to a few years in posting on reddit and Styleforum (as well as healthy shares of the blog and podcast), I’ve been quite fortunate to meet a lot of people, first talking to them on the communities, then occasionally messaging on social media, which ultimately leads to an IRL hang if we happen to be at the same place at the right time. This is how I get to meet other menswear guys seemingly wherever I go! Not just guys from the industry (which I also wouldn’t have met personally if I wasn’t active in the menswear community since I’ve never been to pitti), but fellow enthusiasts who don’t necessarily have direct ties to the brands we enjoyed. Whatever the job or background, we at least know we have similar taste in clothes and share a weird obsession with classic menswear.

Some lived far, like Aldous in Toronto, Nick in NYC, and Eddie & Daniel in the Bay Area, but to my surprise, a few lived around LA, like Ryan, Nguyen, and Michael! In fact, I feel like I meet new people everywhere I go, which results in how I met new friends in London, Paris, and Tokyo that I absolutely must go back and visit once the pandemic is over. Meeting people, combined with the power of social media, eventually becomes a positive feedback loop and you get to meet a lot more people who share your hobby. Obviously not everyone has the same aesthetic, but that’s the best part- you get to learn and experience something new!

Many of these start out as “menswear only” friends, mainly because they become someone to talk about menswear with outside of the community. Over time, they can be come real friends too (if that’s what you want)! I may have started hanging out with Ryan when he stopped by Ascot Chang, but since then we’ve gotten dinner and countless bobas since then. It’s nice to have a friend to catch up with and give an excuse (outside of our own personal initiative) to get dressed up; fashion is both dependent on internal and external inspiration, after all.

For expanded examples, Josh/Garret Gooch, Michael, Doug, and others have been friends I could catch movies with and bring to trivia nights at my favorite bar. I’ve even made great friends (like Chris) during the pandemic! And It really becomes less of finding people to discuss clothing with to actual friends you hang out with – you all just simply happen to like wearing cool clothes.

That last point is what I mean when I say that you have to manufacture the “rooms” that you’re a part of. Obviously intentionally evoking slouch can help you feel a bit more secure in your choices and intentionally unstuffy, but the real confidence comes when you’re around people who not only understand it, but take part in it as well. This is why I’m pretty good about dressing the way I do when I’m in public and presumably why the rest of the menswear world does to. Sure, you might look a little odd to the random guys on the subway or your fellow dining room compatriots when you wear your Drake’s tie and neopolitan jackets, but who cares- you’re there with friends. And like Spencer says in the pod, the “odd” factor listened when you’ve got a group; you might even look cool in the eyes of bystanders. Because that point, it’s less of a costume and more of just your regular life.

Obviously, it’s easier when you work in it, which is why it’s fun to keep up with the latest adventures of the Bullshot Book Club. These guys all have made some of their closest friends by working in the industry and going to countless tradeshows and trunk shows; and before you call that networking, I really don’t think that these guys only talk about clothes at those events. Hell, if you want to make more menswear friends, try getting a job at one of the brands or some men’s store that’s local to you. Even though Banana Republic and J. Crew wasn’t exactly Drake’s, it was fun for Spencer and I (irrespectively), especially it was a step up from our non-menswear friends (and our vintage enthusiast community). It’s a good outlet if you aren’t able to meet up with people that you interact with digitally.

As you know, I spent a few years at Ascot Chang as the social media manager, which really helped me get to know others in the industry (as it is small after all). People began to notice the photos I took, which lead to an opportunity for me to help shoot some of the first content for the Wellema Hat Co. Eventually, Cody Wellema began to make hats for many guys in the greater menswear world like Simon Crompton and Ethan Newton (and Brycelands), which in turn, helped me “network” further and meet new menswear pals around the world! I definitely think that being proactive in the industry (and constantly writing about my experience) was an integral part in letting me gain the friends I have. Obviously not everyone aspires to work in menswear, but that’s okay!

We also can’t forget about menswear events, like trunk shows, trade shows, or parties, which are really quite effective at bringing together industry and enthusiasts of clothing. Obviously trunk shows were hard to come by here in LA (they seemingly happen everywhere else but here), but Spencer and I made sure to go to as many as we could at The Bloke (RIP) or every Inspiration LA event. It helped us fulfill a few things: we got to meet people in the industry (with a variety of styles), it gave us a reason outside of work to “dress up”, provided an opportunity for us to meet fellow enthusiasts, and introduce menswear existing friends with budding interests to something tangible. It really gives boosts your confidence to be in a place where not only are people similarly dressed and share the same interest.

I also have to note how great menswear stores are. Even though The Bloke was a conduit for visiting tailors and brands, it also just happened to house some great menswear, with pieces that I wasn’t able to try on in person (like Drake’s or Ring Jacket) until they opened. But even apart from that, a menswear store (or vintage store) is a great place to meet and hang out. I linked a great article by Derek below, but he’s right when he talks about how much value a menswear store provides the community. You can check in every once in a while, see the new products, and chat with the staff; adding in a “town square” vibe. Many a lazy Sunday afternoon was spent wearing a cool outfit at The Bloke or Joyride, where I’d use it as a homebase to catch up with friends or do some work; both of these places also had a plethora of old menswear catalogs for studying. And yes, I’d occasionally talk to customers even though I didn’t work there. Maybe they’d commit to a purchase and return again, adding to the community! I know that Ryan has done that a few times since he loves visiting Sid Mashburn often.

On a different level, we also made sure to go to a few Dapper Days, even though it is a bit more costume-y; it’s still a great outing to attend, especially if you want excuse to dress less trad and a bit more dandy! It’s also an event free from the pretense of being directly tied to the industry. Hector, an NYC transplant who owns a lot of bespoke, tries to make it out to each one because it’s just a lot of fun (and the most open thing for LA). We also like going to flea markets and talking with the vendors and [occasionally] fellow pickers. It’s more fun that way!

Not only does going to events make the overall community much more holistic, but it also adds to your personal community, showing that this isn’t just a one-off thing- this is your life and something you do regularly, especially if you start hanging out on your own with friends you’ve made. Suddenly wearing tailoring (or any aspect of menswear) means more than just wearing aesthetically pleasing garments. It becomes a natural part of who you are and is reflected in the company you keep outside of these events.

God, writing that out really does make me hate the pandemic since that in-person community aspect has been missed for over a year. I guess that’s why I’ve put so much energy into my Discord!

In the end, this really isn’t about strictly joining menswear communities and making well dressed friends, but rather about people who see things on your wavelength. Honestly, I think it would be pretty boring if I only had menswear friends; I’m glad I don’t. Having friends who aren’t expressly into clothing helps me understand that this isn’t all that serious. Contrary to popular #menswear belief, there is certainly a life beyond fitpics and discussing the latest drops from Drake’s and 18East! And since I don’t work in the menswear industry anymore and don’t really do much in social media clients, this is truer than ever before. Chatting in the Patreon discord routinely delves into non-menswear topics (this even happens when we’re livestreaming), fostering what I believe is a deeper connection. I even think that it makes their critiques and validations of your outfits much more effective. You should join, it’s a great place.

On an even more practical level, having non-menswear friends teaches you how to dress appropriately for your context. I wouldn’t wear a suit to hang out with my friends playing Super Smash or grabbing popcorn chicken. The good thing about having decent friends who appreciate your POV is that even if you happened to show up in a tie and tailoring (for whatever reason), they’re cool with it! They might not dress on the same level, but that’s not important; what matters is if they are open-minded enough to accept your hobbies. Even my pal Scott, who you’ll see in the pictures below, was able to understand slouch without reading the essay or even going to a trunk show. I’ve never used menswear as an elitist tool or turned it into a matter of formality (because I think that’s dumb) and my friends understand that. We’re all just living life; I just happen to be that nerdy friend who also likes classic clothing.

I really recommend that you do what you can to get that menswear community and bridge the gap between menswear as a “lifestyle” and being to insular. It really does wonders to your style and perspective on clothing. Like I said, I am constantly humbled the more I meet people, not just in terms of learning about details and brands, but in the different ways in how we express ourselves. A good community, whether it’s expressly menswear or not, will help you get more confident in wearing classic and provide you with the needed context to wear clothing without fear of outside critique. Provided that you’re not acting in an elitist way, having a community and friends only adds to the slouch, even if it’s the simple addition of helping you feel more comfortable.

I’m not sure why I’ve incorporated this practice into my mantra, as I’m not overly concerned with evangelizing people to my way of dress. Sure, I might write a lot about it, but it’s more so for something to share to the people who ask. Perhaps I’m just about showing that clothing can be fun and that anyone can be into it If you think otherwise, then you just haven’t met many people; both the wider menswear community and the friends I have are proof that you can enjoy menswear no matter what your background is. The world I envision is one where a bunch of guys in varying modes and interest of dress can hang out and have fun grabbing boba and talking about Star Wars. And thanks to the world of social media this has helped me find some cool guys where I seem to be. The dumb questions about “where I’m going” or “what my context” is doesn’t matter, because my little pocket of the world makes sense thanks to the community and company I keep.

As Spencer says in the podcast, a singular guy in a suit might look a bit off. Weird, if you have a particularly negative outlook. But a group of guys in tailoring or milsurp? Now that’s just a group of guys wearing cool clothes slouchily and confidently living their life. You obviously might still be “overdoing it” to minds of the normies watching you from afar, but you certainly won’t be out of place . No, instead, you’ll be right where you belong, with the people who really matter.

Podcast Outline

  • 0:15 – Intro
  • 0:55 – “I’m not a ‘friends’ guy, I don’t have those things.”
  • 4:15 – The Perfect Shirt
  • 7:00 – Menswear Communities
  • 8:50 – “I didn’t have a lot of friends who had the same interests as I did.”
  • 10:40 – “You want to fit in somewhere and feel accepted, it’s great to wear what you want but eventually you might not be around people that dress like you, which is a huge hit on confidence.” 
  • 11:45 – Online Menswear Communities
  • 11:45 – “For those who don’t live in a metropolitan area or work in the industry, maybe you’re still in school, you’re forced to dive deep into online communities.”
  • 12:50 – “There are so many different online subcultures, when you’re starting out it’s hard to know where to begin. When choice is oversaturated, where do you fit in.”
  • 16:05 – “If your style is validated by your community, it removes the need for mainstream appeal. As you expand and get deeper into your subcultures, the opinions of the guy at the fishmonger don’t matter as much. At a certain point, you should stop caring what the average person thinks, and seek validation from people who know what they’re talking about.”
  • 27:15 – “You have to find the groups that accept you and challenge you in a positive way, because you’re not going to be able to grow without it.”
  • 28:20 – “Starting out, you’ll likely look like a tryhard because you are in fact trying very very hard. As your style develops, you become more easy-going.”
  • 31:30 – IRL Community
  • 32:30 – “If you are with a group of well dressed people, no one is going to think you’re an overdressed guy. They’ll say ‘look at this fancy group.’”
  • 36:35 – “I believe in dressing for self, but I also think you need to separate yourself from the clothes you’re wearing.”
  • 41:00 – Our Communities
  • 47:30 – “I dressed for myself but I also dressed to stunt on people. With vintage if you get a cool belt back or DB suit, you’re going to want to show it off. Those pieces help with being ‘period accurate, and if you can learn the look, you’re in.”
  • 49:15 – “The issue with those facebook groups is that you end up getting feedback from a very specific group of guys, usually older. Being young was a novelty.”
  • 1:00:10 – “The main thing with these communities is that they get you to think more deeply than you would if you were just going solo.”
  • 1:02:10 – “If you’re listening to this and fresh into menswear, I do highly recommend MFA. Don’t let anyone get you down and be open to critique. Without that open mindset in these communities, it’ll be hard to last in those forums. It’s real world practice.”
  • 1:10:10 – “In the end, you don’t need menswear friends, you just need friends.”

Recommended Links

Me and my pal Arthur (from Socal Asian Interactive, a wholesome FB group) just hanging out.
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Ryan and I catch up quite often!
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Me and Chris.
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A trad outfit while I got boba with Om.
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Different styles, but homies all the same.
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Get friends that you can get boba with, while wearing a cotton sportcoat.
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YC and Spencer.
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When they’re your real friends, you can go to a grocery store to get wine while wearing chore coats.
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Just hanging out.
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The founders of Hall Madden. Got to meet them thanks to the menswear community!
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Spencer and I go to flea markets together and we don’t look out of place.
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Karaoke while we’re in ivy-trad/Americana.
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Good friends won’t care what you’re dressed like.
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Elliot and Marco, friends from Male Fashion Advice.
Simon and Buzz.
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Sometimes your friends will join in on your hobby!
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It’s not a menswear dinner, just a regular dinner with menswear guys.
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A workwear look and a barbour jacket, surrounded by friends just having fun.
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NYC guys have fun too!
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Nick, visiting from NYC, and me.
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My pals join me at the flea!
The Bullshot Book Club is a great example of a cool menswear group.
MJ and I might be the guys who like clothing the most, but that doesn’t mean we’re different than the rest of these board game enthusiasts!
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MJ and RJ talking outside of a trunk show.
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Cool conversations with menswear guys!
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Matt & Chase of J. Mueser are a good example of a great menswear duo.
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Being active in menswear allowed us all to meet!
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I wore a “menswear” outfit to Anime Expo and it was just fine!
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Menswear events bring us together.
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A menswear guy at the bar.
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Got to meet Ron and Audrey during my trip to Japan thanks to our mutual interest in menswear!
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No one really cares what you dress like at a house party, especially when you’re with friends.
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Gooch Collectives were a great opportunity to dress up and meet other people.
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I’m very lucky to have friends who accept my hobby.
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Raj, one of my earliest menswear friends.
Team Cozy Boys made it to the cover of WM Brown!

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It helps if you don’t take things too seriously.
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Nguyen, Spencer, me, and Hector.
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Do you think they planned on this?
Trivia Night with good friends! Not out of place at all.
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Chris of Drake’s. Got to meet him thanks to a trunk show!
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With Albert.
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We’re dumb, but we’re all friends.
They hung out thanks to the podcast!
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From my London trip, where I got to meet Alex and Buzz.
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Aram, Garret, and Doug.
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Dapper Day is a good excuse to go all out with your pals.
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I might be overdressed, but I’m where I belong.
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From the J. Crew event. Seriously, go to every event you can!
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Got to meet this guy during my Japan trip!
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The flea market is an unofficial “menswear” event where you can meet cool people.
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Talked to both of these guys online (Aldous and Stephon) and got to finally meet them IRL when I went to NYC in 2018.
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Not a menswear dinner, but Spencer and Jay happen to be dressed nicely.
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We all look like this normally, so it’s fine!
Pogi.
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Juliano.
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With Eddie, Ian, and Daniel.
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A menswear event is how I met Silvano, one of the founders of Clarke & Barba, LA leather makers!
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Trung! Het knew me through MFA and hung out with me in NYC.
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I’ve been in contact with Raymond ever since my vintage collecting days.
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Always nice to hang out with the NYC menswear crowd.
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Got to hang with Chris Pizarro, who I’ve talked to before about vintage.
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Great to meet Kenji, co-founder of Brycelands, at Inspiration LA.
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Back when I went to Drake’s for the first time.
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With Dan of The Armoury NYC.
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We’ve been friends for a long time.
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Buzz, a good friend of mine and founder of The Anthology, was one of the cool people I was lucky to meet during my trip to London
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Despite the formality difference, Jared was one of my best friends in college.
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I’ve known Scott for over a decade and he gets me (and won’t let me live menswear down).
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Gotta appreciate friends who come out to support you!
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Hector!
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I’m wearing a cord suit, but my friend Annie likes dressing up to shop, so it’s fine!
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All a bit dandy, but totally appropriate because we’re friends.
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With best friends like these, you’re all good.

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. We also stream on Twitch and upload the highlights to Youtube.

The Podcast is produced by MJ and Matthew.

Always a pleasure,

Ethan M. Wong

Big thank you to our top tier Patrons (the SaDCast Fanatics):  Seth Peterson, Austin Malott, Eric Hall, Philip Gregard, Audrey Jessica, and Shane Curry.

11 comments

  1. randy · March 7

    You pick some of the sharpest looking gals to hang with.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Why Menswear Communities, Events, and Friends are Important for Personal Style « Fashion
  3. RM · March 11

    I’m always amazed how much more dapper shorter guys are. Case in point Raj and Brucie Boy. They are forced to know the importance of fit, couple than with feeling comfortable in their own skin and you’ve got a winning formula.

    Like

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