I remember being so amazed the first time I went to Inspiration LA way back in 2016. Spencer and I walked through The Reef’s hot, cramped basement floor (The Reef was some art expo space in DTLA) and saw some of the rarest, curated vintage as well as the wares from some of the coolest makers in the milsurp/workwear/rugged Americana space. In essence, it was a “trade show”–just open publicly for enthusiasts. And I loved every minute of it. Sure, there wasn’t much in the way of tailoring, but it was one of the ways I could tangibly learn about vintage menswear, especially since there was stuff that my local vintage stores didn’t have.
Spencer and I make it a point to go every year and have even attended a few of the parties surrounding the weekend, such as the one at RRL (its also open to the public). The buying has always been sporadic (it’s very expensive due to its curation), but the friends have always been the main part of the show. Inspiration LA is how we’ve met many other pals you’ve come to know like Aram of 2120, Doug, and the Gooch Brothers; hell, we even ran into Kenji of Bryceland’s there. The show is always something we look forward to, since it’s the closest we have to a true menswear industry (ish) event that isn’t Dapper Day. It’s definitely one of our traditions.
The last show took place at the LA Convention Center in 2020 before going on hiatus due to the pandemic. This was most likely due to the heavy amount of Japanese brands and sellers (and attendees), making attendance very hard to predict. I had expected the show to be done forever, but thankfully that wasn’t the case! Inspiration LA 2023 was set to be held at the Pasadena Convention Center (right in my backyard) during the 2nd weekend of April. I actually didn’t even hear about it until that same week. Luckily I was free to go!
I was honestly interested to see how the show was going to be after its three year hiatus.
A renewed interest in vintage has been a theme of the Post Pandemic Menswear Mood. This is no doubt due to a few things: zoomers wanting to go against fast fashion trends by going to the past (going further than the 80s/90s), an intrigue for practicality and well-made garments, the rise of hustle culture (specifically through reselling), and the rise of Tiktok influencers like Edgy Albert whose look is exactly what Inspiration LA is all about. I’ve already seen the effects of this out and about: thrift stores are picked through, friends (who aren’t just zoomers) have become full time resellers, and flea markets are full of super knowledgable and stylish youngins slinging admittedly great vintage. These cultural moves have already made the Rose Bowl become especially curated and changed its overall vibe; I was certain Inspiration LA was also going to reflect these cultural stages.
And boy was I right! There were so many young people, both as sellers and attendees. I remember in the past thinking that my friends and I were some of the only twenty-year-olds who were into this, though it’s entirely possible I just never crossed paths with the others. I’m definitely happy that others (not just young people) have gotten into this world and are letting this continue. Inspiration LA seemed to be as alive as ever, but despite the energy of the newcomers, I couldn’t help but feeling just a bit different this year.
Don’t get me wrong, it was great to catch up with friends in the space (many of which came about because of the recent Americana resurgence)! I think the feeling I had was…non-excitement for the clothes themselves?
I wasn’t really looking to buy anything, but that’s probably because I wasn’t too impressed with the products at the show. This might be because after ten years of doing this hobby, I own [almost] everything I want. I’ve got the USN peacoat, the jungle jacket, the m-43 cargo pants, the L.L Bean Sportvest, and all the spearpoint workshirts and rayon gab sportshirts I could want. It’s not that I’m fatigued by these pieces because I love wearing them every chance I get. I’m not into reselling in the slightest and I’m not really about selling things to make way for new things I don’t need (or even want). I’m certainly not the type of guy to collect every piece of milsurp/workwear, especially when I know that I wear tailoring the most.
Many of the sellers at Inspiration LA also sell at the Rose Bowl and Long Beach flea markets, so it does make the show feel just a tad less special (though I do appreciate it was right in my backyard). I’ve also noticed that I don’t buy at flea markets in general anymore, outside of a few special pieces like my cowboy boots; I’ve actually been more intrigued by furniture lately, which definitely has more of the “thrill of the hunt”. And so if I’m not in the mood to buy anything, it really doesn’t feel like I needed to be there. I feel like I might have enjoyed it more if the show had more makers and specialty brands, who I always find exciting even if I’m not planning to buy their products. That’s why I was glad brands like Clutch Golf, Monsivais, and others were there among all the resellers (who made up a majority of the show). EDIT: I looked through the attendee list again and it seems like I just missed visiting quite a few other makers who were present. That’s on me!
Again I’m glad the world is still booming and expanding, but at this point in my life, I’m much more concerned with wearing clothes than buying them. I’m still working through my thoughts on this, but I definitely had a “meh” vibe at certain points during the show.
That being said, it was still a generally a good time! Inspiration LA was basically a backdrop for my friends to hang out and get tangible with clothes without the need to buy anything. Again, this is because most of us already own the vintage we’ve always wanted, but that’s why it’s freeing. I also don’t work directly in the industry anymore, so I was personally free from the pressure to try too hard to connect with people; I’m just there to have fun and hang out.
Nonetheless, I did end up buying a few things: a thin black western belt (from a Japanese maker) and crew socks (which I’ve never tried before). Not exactly the most exciting purchases (I didn’t expect to buy anything that day), but I know for a fact I was really into them when I saw them and that I’ll wear them a lot. They were always on my “list”, so I’m glad I came across them at the show. This excited feeling is how you should feel whenever acquiring clothes!
nyway, lets move on to our outfits. Inspiration LA is definitely an occasion to dress for. Hell, it’s almost like a fandom convention, just for rugged Americana and not anime and movies. As such, we all wore the right “costume”, even though it’s just clothes we all own and wear regularly.
I always make it a point to wear my favorite leather jacket when Inspiration LA rolls around; I also do self-imposed “challenge” to lean into my vintage casual look instead of just doing some form of Esquire Man alpine sportswear. The result was pairing my brown double rider (which I’ve had since 2016!) with a green spearpoint workshirt and black wool tie, which honestly made me look a bit camp counselor (the shirt is a boy scout one after all). Instead of WWII khaki chinos, which would have been the conventional choice, I decided to go with my senior cords, which add a bit of whimsy and literal slouch thanks to the illustration and plush corduroy fabric respectively. Cowboy boots (Danner boots or blucher mocs would be more conventional) and my silverbelly fedora were added to mix up the vibes and get into the Inspiration LA spirit. The result is something that harkens to the outfits I normally wear to visit flea markets but with a bit more intentional flair.
Mostly everyone else was also in the Inspiration LA spirit, though they naturally dress in that vein on a daily basis. MJ wore his sport vest with a workshirt, foulard tie, and my old LVC 1878s; I like that he wore paraboots. Spencer was all gab-ed out with a Ricky Jacket, sport shirt, and khaki trousers. The only non-rayon pieces were his silverbelly fedora and cowboy boots (what a copycat). Jay dressed well, like Jay with his trusty lapeled-workjacket, band collar shirt, and WWII chinos complete with the Jay move of wearing a bandana. James also dressed like himself, which made him the only one not on theme; he’s always in that Husbands-adjacent look with a hopsack jacket, grey flared Wranglers, and black Cuban heeled boots. I guess Silvia, who I didn’t even know was going, was also a bit different, wearing designer like she normally does; I really loved all the blues done up in her iconic slouchy silhouette.
We had a lot of fun catching up, especially since Jay and Spencer haven’t been able to come to any fleas or events lately (due to them living in OC); the most we’ve really done together recently is visit Joyride (which is also mostly about hanging out rather than buying). Only two hours were spent at Inspiration but that was all we needed; a big show where you don’t buy anything can be pretty overstimulating. There was a RRL after party as per usual, but we didn’t go because we had more pressing matters: it was my friend Youmna’s birthday dinner and I was looking forward to celebrating with her with some Mexican food and board games.
After all, hanging out with friends (while wearing cool clothes) is what this is all about, right?
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