A Visit to Bode LA

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Is this the start of something new?

Introduction

A while back, I had a conversation in my Patreon Discord about how I am not a true customer of menswear. This may come as a shock to you guys, as I am an obvious fan of all the darlings of menswear: The Armoury, Drake’s, Bryceland’s, J. Mueser, and even the “crossover” brands like Noah and ALD. But the truth is that I seldom shop there, at least directly. When I own things from those brands (mainly Drake’s), they are bought second hand or on sale. A majority of my regular purchases are indeed vintage or custom made. All of this to say that my followership of said brands is mainly for personal inspiration and news rather than as a haberdashery to regularly acquire new clothing.

Most of the time, these brands do things that I can do with my existing wardrobe. It’s still new and I needed exposure to it for me to get into it, but the commitment is quite easy to make. I already liked workwear jeans and blousy 40s rayon shirts; Bryceland’s showed me I could wear them with tailoring. The J. Mueser boys showed that its fun to lean into the dark vibes of a suit and embrace solid ties instead of constantly rocking the separates of The Esquire Man. ALD/Noah helped me make good use of my existing merch and hoodies. Perhaps I need to pay them for the intellectual property I’ve taken from them, since my money hasn’t actually been spent on their clothing.

I will say that lately it’s been a little static. This is not a bad thing, as classic menswear is inherently, well, classic. It’s also great as my essays throughout the pandemic have been about introspection rather than new purchases. That being said, my new purchases over the past two years have been extremely intentional and have only enhanced what I’ve always wanted (I’m referring to my slouchy Ring Jackets, my brown DB, and my Aldens). I really do feel like I’m becoming more and more comfortable with myself, even if it may seem like I’ve got too many characters to dip into. Of course that doesn’t mean I’m done discovering things I like. New things are bound to excite me! Perhaps not to buy off the bat, but for me to see how I can get into it within my chosen realm of menswear.

This is where Bode comes in.

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Patchwork quilted pants by Bode.

My friend Marco was who introduced me to Bode. I don’t remember if the above photo (Bode made the pants) was the first time I saw it on him (it was probably a fit pic on reddit), but I think it shows you exactly what the brand is about.

Bode (and other adjacent brands like Story mfg.) to me represents Vague Menswear. It’s not about simply recontextualizing the typical ideas of Americana-Heritage like Brycelands or even ivy-prep or Yuppie style in the way that ALD/Noah does. Instead, Bode is about approximating a different side of menswear, focusing more on details of craft and novelty. The term is a bit cringe, but I feel like the word “bohemian” works in my mind. Emily Bode is known for collecting vintage textiles, who then makes it into jackets, sport shirts, and pants that evoke midcentury sportswear in its full silhouetted glory. This makes each piece almost completely unique, as PTO noted in a 2017 article; a few are even one of one!

The entire brand feels so familiar to me, almost as like I found vintage homemade pants or sportshirts with novelty embroidery from the 60s or 70s in deadstock condition. It’s a bit different than the “cleaner” vibe that defines my menswear approach without being as rugged as milsurp or workwear. The entire thing has a bohemian or homemade aesthetic to them, Obviously the pieces are quite expensive, so I won’t be buying them anytime soon, but they are great to look at to appreciate the designs as well as the overall styling.

From a fashion/cultural standpoint, I like that the brand’s popularity (which has skyrocketed on the internet during the pandemic) is indicative of a return to slouchy silhouettes, as well as a newfound appreciation for vintage-inspired details. It echoes everything that Tiktok and Frugal Aesthetic has been hinting at: a departure from logo mania that has been replaced with an approach by lowkey, artisanal approaches that are comfy/slouchy. It contrasts against the minimalist hype of ALD/Noah as well as the “optimizing” focus of Arc’teryx and gorp/techwear. It’s like Bode is fighting the good menswear fight, without being being fully menswear.

The fact that fashion-focused brands resonating within me is not new, as my friends (and Discord) have pointed out that I’ve been more “fashiony” than straightforward trad/tailoring the last couple of years. I’m still figuring out why, but its most likely due to my increased agency (as well as more discretionary income); since I don’t work in menswear, I’m free to dress for my interests than what I think the industry wants me to look like (or perceives of me). Add in the fact that designer clothing can be approached more like art and fun rather than uphold tradition and function, and you’ll start to see why menswear has been a bit disillusioning. I think that my interest in Bode (at least as an idea) reflects this shift pretty well and may even be the start of another evolution in my style!

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I mean just see how Marco wearing Bode! The garments look like something I’d definitely be into, with the “oversized” fit in the jacket and the high waisted, straight leg trouser. The only difference is the quirky, DIY details, like the patchwork in the jacket (with yellow stitching) and the bold, boating-esque stripe in the trousers. I love it. It’s like taking my alternatives theory in casual wear and kicking it into high gear on the “fun”.

The only thing is that Bode was intangible, by which I mean I wasn’t able to easily try it for myself. Because it was relatively small, I could only see the brand via the official instagram/website, worn on Marco’s body, worn by the new wave of menswear on Tiktok/IG, or reseller sites. It’s wasn’t an absolute must for me (my true love lies in traditional tailoring after all), but it would be nice to get a feel for it. As much as I enjoy looking at clothes online, nothing beats the experience of handling it in person. It’s why the best, non-regret purchases I’ve has been at the flea market or at the very least, done after trying something on for size IRL.

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The Store

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The Bode store is located in Melrose, a neighborhood of LA that I seldom visit due to its horrid parking availability and distance from where I live (Pasadena). If I am to start exploring this fascination with fashion (or rather designer based clothing), I may have to just deal with it. Luckily, I snagged a parking spot a block away. Sunday meant that it was free!

Now even though this was something I was into, these types of stores were always intimidating to me. After all, I haven’t been to many stores like this; in LA, I’ve checked out Magasin (RIP) during a Stoffa trunk show and Mohawk during the Throwing Fits party. Like I said at the top of the page, I am not a true consumer and I often get more inspiration from these visits that may or may not lead to a future purchase. Add on the fact that these stores are not in my wheelhouse and you’ve got a recipe for nerves! That’s why I was glad that my friend Silvia joined me (Marco and Annie were unavailable). She is heavily into designer clothing and was intrigued in the brand as well.

The store is quite expansive. A stark concrete floor is offset with wooden “cubbies” housing different garments, organized mainly by color. References to species of animals adorn the tops of these cubbies, which make the whole place feel like a private natural history museum. Near the cash wrap, there is an area to try on shoes and three changing rooms. The staff walk around in variations of the Bode “uniform”: a blousy top (could be a sportshirt, tee, or a cardigan), a pair of straight legged trousers, and the brand’s take on Grecian slippers.

Everyone was incredibly nice while I was there! I was dressed a little Bookcore, which may have helped me fit in, but everyone else had great style too. Not only was Silvia dressed to the nines in Thom Browne, but I also so a dude in a modern take on Western wear wearing a bespoke Nick Fouquet hat, a couple of older (but stylish) LA people (socialites or art scene patrons?), as well as a couple who were probably influencers or models. Certainly not the typical clientele of The Armoury or even The Bloke (RIP), but its fun to notice (though to be fair, classic menswear stores were usually empty when I visited).

So good!

While Silvia was trying on a Myriad of things, I settled on sticking to the main garment that intrigued me most about Bode: the trousers. I have nothing against their sport shirts and chore coats, as they are beautiful and made of great material, but I definitely think that the pants are Bode’s strongest item. They definitely echo a bit of the fun pants attitude I have with milsurp and workwear trousers, but instead of being rugged, Bode pants come off a bit more bohemian and relaxed. I could see myself wearing their pants (specifically ones with decorative embroidery or patch work) with tailoring. It’s quirky but still a different vein than tartan odd trousers.

The pants fit similar to vintage ones from the 60s, with a flat front, high rise and a straight leg. They fit small, so I sized up to a 34 when trying on the Rancher pants. These particular ones have side tabs and no belt loops, which add to the sleek look. The heavy black flannel is offset with red floral embroidery that goes down the sides of the leg, almost as if its echoing the satin stripe of formal wear. Unfortunately the hem is also embroidered, which prevents proper hemming (and you can see I need it as I am short).

I didn’t get to try on the elastic waist pants or any quilted ones (they were sold out of a lot of sizes), but I did take note of the variations. In addition to the side tabs, they also feature cinch-backs (no doubt a call back to chinos of workwear and collegiate descent) as well as side ties. No, not side tabs, but side ties: two strips of fabric lay on the side of the waistband, where you can then fasten them yourself.

As my day was wrapping up (Silvia ended up buying some shirts and a chore coat), I quickly tried on a few other things (none of them shirts, unfortunately). One was their Grecian slipper, which unlike the Bryceland’s ones has a leather sole making it good to wear outside of the house. I’ve been enamored with type of shoe for a while, as it plays up the feminine qualities I appreciate in a loafer while being extremely comfortable; I also like how much of the foot (or sock) it displays. As per my Paraboot size, the 40 fit me perfectly.

A fit similar to military chinos.
Literal side ties.
The buttons are mother of pearl!
Loved this as well.
Cool details!

I also made sure to try on their chore coats, one in wool (S/M) and one in polyester (L/XL). The cobalt blue one was my favorite, as the wool has a natural sponginess to it that felt quite cozy. It also is a great fit for high rise trousers, echoing what I like from a leather jacket; I guess by this fit, their overshirt is closer to a blouson. It’s also clear that the S/M is the right size for me!

As you probably expected, I didn’t buy anything. This isn’t a slight against their brand, as I’ve visited plenty of stores without buying anything in that specific moment; who’s to say that I won’t return to buy in the future a la Drake’s or The Armoury? That being said, Bode is still quite expensive and with my personal connection to vintage, it makes it difficult to fully pull the trigger on Bode pieces (especially at retail). While I don’t deny that the garments are cool and certainly unique, I still see a lot of references to things I’ve seen or can find out picking. And at that price, I don’t trust that I can treat them (or wash them) like my true vintage. I mean, maybe I can, but I’d have to get over the sticker shock first!My girlfriend is also a huge fan of sustainable and craft-based fashion, often showing me artisans and brands that are not as ubiquitous as Bode. Perhaps I’ll have to try those out, if the Bode aesthetic (which has always existed, though not to this scale of popularity) resonates with me further. Maybe it’ll inspire me to do my own DIY like adding patches to old trousers or even thrifting some cords so my friends can come over and decorate them, effectively making my own Senior Cords. In short, I don’t need Bode. Specifically!

However, I still think the store is worth a visit! The staff are wonderful and it’s great to to try on and get a sense of this designer. I can see how people who are not existing vintage collectors see merit in the garments. And to give the brand proper credit, I do think there are a lot of pieces that are truly unique and can’t be replicated in vintage. If you are really into their take, just as I can be into a specific Drake’s foulard or how a certain tailor cuts a jacket, then I’m sure you’ll find worth in it. I’m not going to lie—I found myself tempted by many pieces!

I guess that in the end, this store visit is like all the others: inspiring me to think about clothing in a new way and perhaps getting me to attempt something new with what I have (or what I can find). As I stated earlier, this is one of the first times that I’ve been intrigued by the idea of design and I wonder where it’ll take me. Though to be quite fair, the leap from vintage and classic menswear to this isn’t that far off.

Maybe this is the first step!

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The staff who was there that day!
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Different pants.
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Fun embroidery!
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The quilting was cool.
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While this is nice, I definitely feel like I’ve seen variations of this at the flea market (though not with this specific iconography of course).
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I love this! Reminds me of some of the casual garments my extended family would wear.
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This is one of the strongest pieces there: a simple sportshirt with the added bonus of delicate lace.
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Silvia wasn’t a fan of it, but she did try it on.
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Lovely colors
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A fun touch to a pocket tee. It makes me want to try it for myself!
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She did end up getting this green shirt. I think that these are the best part of Bode, as you would be hard pressed to find vintage variations.
This shirt was cool, but unlike my vintage shirts, it was stiff due to how new it is. I’m sure it would break in but at that price, I’d be scared to throw it in the wash (as I do with my sportshirts).
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This was Silvia’s other purchase.
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Organized by color.
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I might have liked these more if the chino panels were more vibrant.
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Embroidery details on the Rancher pants I tried on.
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These are fantastic.
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I wish they had quilted pants in my size that I could try! The cotton ones would be the thing I would get from Bode (if I had the money).
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Not my favorite shape.
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The Grecians were really nice.
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Super tempting!
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How cute!
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Thanks for having me!

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget that you can support me (or the podcast) on Patreon to get some extra content and access to our exclusive Discord. I also stream on Twitch and upload the highlights to Youtube.

Always a pleasure,

Ethan M. Wong

Big thank you to our top tier Patrons (the SaDCast Fanatics): Philip, Shane, Austin,  Audrey, Jarek, and Henrik.

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