Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Frugal Alternative to Gap x GQ 2016 Steven Alan - Buy Actual Steven Alan

I see a lot of this question posted around the net: "What is a frugal alternative to _______?" It's a fair question, and one retailers have been trying to bridge the gap on in part by offering some collaborative collections such as Gap x GQ, HM x _____, and Uniqlo x _____ over the years. 

I was pretty wishy-washy about last year's Gap x GQ Best New Menswear Designers in America collection - one that included The Hill-Side and David Hart, of which I liked some items but definitely would have balked at paying anything close to full price for materials/construction quality concessions. This year's roundup is even less inspiring, at least to me, and going to check it out in person on day one of release gave me the feeling I've heard many of my single friends tell me about, when they see a cute profile picture on Tindr or whatever young people are using for dating now, arrange to meet up and then find out that the picture was overselling things a bit that could not delivered upon.

Higher Designer x Mainstream Retailer collaborations or capsule collections are usually meant to introduce a loftier or niche design aesthetic to a broader consumer base by focusing on design and usually skimping on materials/construction (or remaining at the base level of the retailer) to present an affordable price point. But the whole thing has me perplexed at the moment, because Gap x GQ Steven Alan shirting is more expensive right now than you can find on the actual product.

Some shirts available at C21 currently

From the Steven Alan I've handled, I'm not sure where the exorbitant MSRP comes from, because its certainly not from unique design nor is it from extremely high quality manufacture. But ideally at <$50 on sale, my twitching skeptical eyebrow starts to relax a little and my brain is a lot happier about the price/quality ratio.

Triple Double Denim Shirt - Black
Triple Double Denim Shirt - Taupe
So here's the thing - you can get Steven Alan shirting on Century 21 online right now for as low as $29.99 - such as these Made in Japan, 9.7 oz denim triple needle shirts down from MSRP $265, among many others. For what it's worth, Steven Alan describes these as "inspired by handmade ceramics, abstract art objects and the comfort of humble home furnishings." What that means to someone who isn't on drugs I have no idea, but it is a great price point for Steven Alan - comparable to your normal J. Crew sale prices.

I can't help much on sizing, as I don't own any, but the StyFo thread on Steven Alan was almost more confusing than anything else - I ended up ordering the denim shirt in all colors in my normal size small. These prices are less than 50% of what Gap x GQ is asking at retail (a reverse seam shirt on Gap is $80 vs. the actual product at $33), though if last year was any indication, they should also hit the sale section in a few weeks and I would guess may end up around the same price point eventually.

But if you can get the actual designer's product for less, then...why is this even a discussion?

Link to Steven Alan at C21Stores - Orders above +$75 get free shipping.

**Update** - I received my shirts over the weekend and they fit a clear size larger than I thought they would everywhere except the neck and the arms, weirdly enough - long in length almost past the crotch, arms too long, wide body, etc. I got a size smaller (XS) and the body fits like a slim S, but the arms fit like they were made for someone with stick arms.  Apparently, these are actually made in Japan, not USA as previously described, and I think Japanese people may think American people are built like snowmen. I really like the fit in the body and the fabric, but not sure these aren't going back also. Fair warning.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Heritage a Level Deeper - First Impressions - Yuketen Native Maine Guide Boots

When we evaluate a potential purchase, a little angel on our shoulder usually asks "how versatile is this? Can I wear it with the things I already own and in my usual style? Is this wearable in most seasons?" Those kinds of questions make sense, which is why no one suggests buying a windowpane wool tweed as your first suit purchase. But once in a while, hopefully after you've built up some basics in your closet, you find something that resonates with you and all of that goes out the window.

Such is the case with the Yuketen Native Maine Guide boots.

Also pictured: Shirt - Wings + Horns, Jeans - Naked & Famous, Sweater - Banana Republic

I've made no secret of my admiration for designer Yuki Matsuda's Meg Company in the past, which includes the brands Monitaly, Chamula, Epperson Mountaineering, and Yuketen. Most well-known for its footwear, Yuketen draws inspiration from the archives of American history while simultaneously looking forward in its design, continually pushing the traditionally inflexible boundaries of heritage wear. The lookbook Yuketen releases every season is inevitably always met with the entire spectrum of derision to adoration for the quirky aesthetic, which is not unusual for a designer with no regard for staying inside the confines of established convention.

Over the Labor Day holiday, online shoe outlet 6pm held a clearance sale that sent prices tumbling on a pair of Yuketen boots I had on my radar. Who was I to say no?


Design, Materials, and Construction


Moccasins may be the first true American footwear. Coming from the Algonquin word "makasin," the leather shoes were worn by Native American tribes across the entire landmass of the Americas far before any European ever set foot on American shores. Different tribes utilized their own designs, which were often decorated with beading, fringes, and painted motifs distinguishing the work (or fashion) of one nation from another. When settlers, hunters, and traders from moved into these areas, they often adopted the footwear and eventually the moccasin spawned several more iterations, including several forms that are still widely available.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Is It Okay to Wear a Pope Hat or Not? Cultural Appropriation

Fashion has always been one of the most fluid and readily adopted forms of culture. Taking into account what we consider casual and tailored menswear today, men across the world dress remarkably similarly for that reason. You can see the impact of adopted style and cultural appropriation in the remarkable shift in fashion in Asian countries over the last century, for example.

After WWII, the Japan started studying and importing American style from anything they could get their hands on. Eventually, though, what Japan distilled from the Western world was nurtured into its own distinct style, as evidenced today in brands like Visvim and Kapital. What you see coming out of those labels clearly has roots in classic Americana, but is unequivocally not American.

I would wager that most, if not every modern style of clothing, has been adopted and developed further by a new audience at some point - usually to its benefit. And while trying to develop a more personal style, it's only natural we look outside our familiar borders for new ideas.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Chester Mox Wallets Back on Massdrop

I've bought and reviewed a fair number of products since starting this site, but Chester Mox still ranks among the highest in value and quality among the items I've ever purchased. It was beautiful when I got it almost a year ago on Massdrop, and though I've been using mine daily since then it arguably looks even better today. The materials and construction are top notch and the design is understated, slim and functional. One of my favorite purchases, bar none, and one that I still get a great deal of pleasure from daily.

For the next six days, Chester Mox is back on Massdrop offering the same #53 Compact Bifold in horsefront Chromexcel for $89.99 + $7.75 shipping, but they've now also added an option for Sedgwick Bridle Leather in several colors. If you consider Chromexcel to be on the softer, more pliable side of the spectrum, English bridle feels much more rigid and unyielding. It's renowned for being tough as nails, which is why it easily makes the transition from equestrian use to other items like bags and belting. I haven't seen a bridle leather wallet in person, but I know Sedgwick bridle from belting and it's great stuff. You really couldn't go wrong with either.

One of my favorite things about the drop is that Bellanie (the maker) usually posts progress pics as things are being made in the product discussion thread, and you get to see your wallet come to life in front of your eyes. It's, I dare say, a little magical.

I also have to mention that this may be a little more than you are used to spending on a wallet, but for something that you use every single day I would consider the difference in cost to be negligible over the life of the item. I've seen people throwing away $20 here and there for wallets I can't believe anyone would pay for. I would advise spending a little more for quality gets you a product that's orders of magnitude better in every way.

Link to the Massdrop Sale

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Vintage Hunting and Zipper Dating - A Thunderbird Cowichan Sweater

I finally got a chance to visit the showcase studio of my favorite vintage shop, Briar Vintage, in northeast Philadelphia a few weekends ago and picked up a gorgeous vintage Cowichan-style thunderbird sweater at a killer price. I've wanted a Cowichan ever since I discovered them and ran across some modern interpretations at mainstream retailers in seasons past (I even bought one earlier this year from Banana Republic I quite like). But similar to when Volkswagon brought back the Beetle - it may be successfully reimagined, but nothing beats the original in my opinion.

What we call a "Cowichan sweater" was developed in Vancouver, BC by the Cowichan native people following the introduction of sheep's wool by Europeans in the 1850s. Over time, they incorporated the Fair Isle technique of woven pattern making to incorporate traditional native symbols and designs into their work, eventually becoming the iconic sweaters we know today.

Authentic Cowichan
By the 1920s, other companies had started imitating and copying the designs and the market became diluted with Cowichan-type sweaters - some better than others. If you search "Cowichan sweater," you'll see both new and vintage versions of differing weight, patterns, and finishing. Many are on the thinner side and look very machine-made, while others are quite substantial with a more hand-made feel I prefer. Some of the newer versions also branched out from naturally colored wools in white and browns to include other, often brighter, colors and wacky themes. David Lochner, who runs Briar Vintage, also has a bunch of brightly colored Cowichan-style sweaters in stock with vintage race cars or bowling themes, for example.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Weekend Steal - Gap Raw Selvedge Kaihara in Slim and Straight - $10.18 In Store

I saw this on Frugalmalefashion posted last night and checked it out this morning. It seems that Gap may be trying to kill off their current line of Japanese raw selvedge in store, which rarely went on big sale prior to this. They recently dropped the price to $16.97 and this weekend the extra 40% off applies, bringing them to a ludicrous $10.18. I wonder if Gap is trying to transition over to more stretch fabrics like Uniqlo did a few seasons ago.

I power-walked to the Gap this morning, and they had a smattering of sizes left (mostly 33W, some 31W), though when I asked them to find me a 30 x 32 they were able to scan and find a couple pairs in the back. The associate actually found two - one of this model and a previous season's version, which has a selvedge line coin pocket and a lock stitch at the hem vs. chainstitching on the hem for the current version and a plain coin pocket (both better choices, in my opinion).

The jeans fit a little larger in the waist than the normal 2" vanity to me, so I sized down to a 30 x 32. The rise is also fairly low, and they are indeed pretty slim through the leg - almost bordering on "skinny" for the slim version. My one minute assessment of the quality of build and construction are good. I've always found Gap selvedge to be underrated, and $10/pair is almost inconceivable. Here's to hoping they're not killing off this line entirely.

I'm in Philadelphia, but I've heard of people finding the same deal in different states, as well as having luck calling stores and getting them shipped for around $16 total. If you can get to a Gap or call one that will ship to you, this is one of the better raw selvedge steals to come around this year, and one I doubt will last very long for stock.