If I seem like a broken record, I promise it’s not the record, because the tune keeps changing. One of the benefits of doing limited runs and placing orders in advance for goods is that you are only ordering based on the demand and you can easily switch your attentions to the next development. I really like Simon James Cathcart’s business model because he is constantly bringing new items to the market, hence the repeated posts. The downside is that you don’t get a year to mull over whether or not you need something in your life, but maybe that’s best – if it’s not hitting us in the gut or on our mind consistently for a matter of days, do we really need it? You might if you decide you might have regrets later. I’ve learned to trust my gut.
Another thought before I get to the substance of this post – the most searched for item on Lindy Shopper is men’s high waisted trousers, presumably in light-weight, breathable fabrics for dancing.
So what I am telling you is that this item, which is the most sought-after item on this blog, is available to you now on Simon James Cathcart’s website, but not for long! This limited run of 1930’s chinos, available in khaki, navy, and chocolate brown, are what you have been looking for – something off the rack that you can throw on your body with a shirt of just about any ilk, and go out dancing. Washable. Breathable. Movable. Unisex. That’s right, ladies, these trousers are for us, too – though a man’s pattern, given that these sit at the natural waist and have a wide leg, wide enough to accommodate a larger hip/waist ratio, this could work for you, too. SJC’s advertising includes both a male and a female model to show you just how this will work, which caught my eye and took out the guesswork.
We should just start giving all our clothing money to the UK because I’m convinced this is where the giant hub of vintage reproduction clothing is located. Thanks to a Reddit thread about trying to find suits for swing dancing, I’m now hip to Chester Cordite, which offers “a modern take on classic styles from the golden age of 1930s and 1940s, producing limited edition suits and shirts with period influenced fabrics at splendidly affordable prices and all suits made in England.” Chester Cordite got its start with that same frustration of not being able to find the right suits in good condition, and since necessity is the mother of invention, we have this company producing wonderful suits and shirts.
The suits are definitely custom, in gorgeous fabrics, perfect vintage-inspired cuts, and are fairly reasonably priced for custom work. On an even more accessible level are their spearpoint collar shirts, which will give you an immediate vintage look (compare to modern shirt collars) for only 60 pounds (roughly $75 as of the date of this post), about what you would spend for a shirt at a nice menswear store in the U.S. The shirts also come in an array of solid colors and stripes, which I love for dancers because most menswear-wearing dancers I know don’t commit to a jacket the whole night and it’s nice to have something classic other than a white dress shirt to complete your look. All of the suits and shirts are paired with vintage ties in photographs on the website to give you an idea of how your vintage look will work.
Every time I turn around, I hear about a new vintage reproduction company in the UK, which seems to be where I want to spend my dollars-into-pounds lately and the retail climate appears to be thriving for vintage-inspired clothing. Swing bandleader, guitarist, and dancer Glenn Crytzer tipped me off to Oldfield Clothing, “purveyors of fine British sportswear and accessories for ladies and gentlemen,” when he picked up a pair of their 1930’s workwear trousers, wanting something in a heavier weight for loading band equipment in and out at gigs. The Oldfield Clothing collection looks well-suited to incorporating its pieces into modern wardrobes, with vintage takes on standard clothing items like trousers and sweaters.
The trousers really shine – they offer five different cuts, ranging from the most vintage 1920’s golf knickers to the Keaton trousers that look like a standard pair of front pleated trousers (slightly lower rise than their other pairs, but probably higher rise than modern trousers, if you just want to dip your toe into the wading pool of reproduction trousers). There are a range of fabrics, from linen to corduroy and wool, so you can shop and dress seasonally. The workwear trousers Glenn picked are really special, not only for their durable fabric, but also for the details – buttons for braces, button fly, fish tail back, and cinch strap and buckle, to name a few.
Women’s offerings are limited to knitwear (specifically – but knickers, see above), but some really good pieces, like solid sweater vests and beautiful Fair Isle vests and a sweater. Other items that could be unisex include caps, leather goods, and a classic cream long sleeve polo shirt with two collar options.
I keep seeing Simon James Cathcart pop up in my newsfeed and in Facebook groups and everything I am seeing is just fantastic, not only for classic menswear in general, but also for swing dancers. In September I blogged about his 1930’s jeans, something that dancers could wear for everyday and for a more casual dance look with or without vintage styling. All of his stuff presents as carefully crafted, quality goods and I am all about those things! How fancy is SJC? This fancy: “For the past 12 months SJC has been quietly delighting dedicated devotees and attracting new fans from far and wide with limited edition runs of hard to find, high-end, vintage inspired pieces. More than a brand, this is a movement made up of over 200 of the earth’s most discerning menswear’ collectors. Led by Simon James Cathcart we have moved forwards with the meticulous design and construction of otherwise unobtainable pieces.”
We’re here to talk about these glorious two tone spectators, which are presently being sold through a Kickstarter (only 23 days left!) along with some equally sweet reproduction boots. I’m going to lead with the fact that SJC has made these spectators in a wide range of sizes to fit both men AND some women (but not quite small enough for my feet *weeps*). UPDATE: My size, US women’s 7/men’s 5 and US women’s 8/men’s 6 will be available – read the post here and then select the Lindy Shopper reward to get these sizes!
But why Kickstarter?
“Your pledge is going to help fund the production, materials and tooling costs involved with bringing back to life these historical classics. In return, you receive footwear at easily half of the retail price and will walk away wearing hand-crafted pieces of British footwear history.”
The price for these spectators via Kickstarter is around $223 USD (depending on the exchange rate) and that’s only slightly more than Remix and less than those holy grail Allen Edmonds you’ve been eyeballing. Retail price is quoted at $600. JUST LOOK AT THEM, this is a beautiful shoe. I’m wiping away the drool from the corners of my mouth right now. And can we talk about how you can never find a good looking navy shoe? It’s kind of like the shrimp and grits rule, if the stellar navy shoes are on the menu, you get them.
To be clear, this is a summer shoe – the cream portions of the shoe are canvas, with the most of the rest of the shoe (including the lining) being made from leather. The canvas is treated with Scotchguard to prevent marks. Though, now I’m thinking of how cool it would be, once a pair of these did get scuffed up, to get an artists to custom paint the canvas portion of this shoe…a life and an afterlife!
I’m going to post a bunch of gorgeous photos of these shoes now – enjoy, and don’t forget that the Kickstarter ends soon!
I ran across Richard’s Fabulous Finds on the OcTieBer group on Facebook – he had posted a few suits of interest, so I bit. Clicking through to his Etsy page, I was struck by the presentation – everything looked cool, wearable, and pulled together. On closer inspection, it wasn’t just the goods, it was the presentation. A model (perhaps Richard himself?) had on most of the suits, and each suit was fully presented, with shirt, necktie, pocket square, possibly a boutonniere, so that the suit wasn’t JUST a suit, you could see it as an ensemble. I know a lot of men struggle with color and pairings and Richard has done the work for you, at least for starters. Here’s what I’m loving from his Etsy shop:
This menswear resource tip is from Christine Hall of the Decophile group on Facebook – Darcy Clothing, previously The Vintage Shirt Company, has expanded from shirts to include a much broader range of reproduction menswear and accessories from the 18th century to the early 20th century. This is a huge span of time, but there are plenty of 20th century goodies from this UK company to place in your closet.
“The clothing is largely made specially for us and is taken directly from original garments. The shapes and fabrics are uncompromisingly genuine. We only ever use natural fibres in any pre C20th garments. The construction methods however take advantage of modern mass production techniques which means that we can supply costume designers with the authenticity they require at an affordable price.”
I recently went to see The Great Gatsby (2013) and the thing that bothered me more than the horribly anachronistic female costuming and the inflatable zebras were the men’s pants. They were obviously out of place – poorly tailored stove pipes that wrinkled/puddled around the ankles and calves, much in the way that a pair of skinny jeans would on a hipster. David Lochner tells me they used Brooks Brothers’ Milano Fit Trouser, their “slimmest fitting trouser with a lower rise and a plain front.” Something about this description seems like the antithesis of 1920’s menswear. That the film would sacrifice historical accuracy for a modern marketing opportunity is no surprise, but it got me thinking about high waist pants. Is this really the best they can do? When I search for high waist pants, what are retailers offering these days?
The pre-qual to these questions is how we got out of the fashion of wearing high waisted pants in the first place. Whenever I wear modern pants while I am dancing, they slowly inch their way downward or pull unnecessarily on my legs when I wear a belt. Doesn’t it make sense that our bottom garments would be better served by being secured at the narrowest point on our body? As someone with an extremely short inseam, why would I want to make my legs look shorter?
Quoting Nick Wooster of Bergdorf Goodman, “men have become so comfortable with low rise that it’s like bringing back the pleated pant; it took years to get men out of them and now we are showing men how good they can look in them. He sighed, “Men are creatures of repetition and when they get conditioned to like something it takes a very long time to change that.”
Quoting Robert Bryan, stylist, “Nothing looks worse than a long torso with short legs, a look created by pants that rise only to the hips, or these days, considerably lower,” he demurred. “Furthermore, it seems only natural that trousers should rise at least to the natural waist where they can rest for support on the hips and drape from there,”
In closing, “So, men, it is up to you daredevils that want to look tall, erect and sophisticated to bring back this iconic staple to our wardrobes.”
Support and drape sounds beautiful and practical for dancing…so where do we find these high-waisted pants?
Well, a lower rise appears to have overtaken all modern retailers – I asked two of my favorite male sartorialists, Bobby White and the aforementioned Mr. Lochner, about where they find high-waisted trousers with modern retailers and it is just as I feared: nowhere. Sure, you can find waists that are higher in comparison to low-rise pants, but not pairs, for example, like the ones Marlon Brando is sporting in the photo to the left. Mr. Lochner added, “Even the old men’s section at Macy’s lowered the rise.” Your options are to order something made for you, seek vintage sources, or spend countless hours searching for that one elusive pair in a shop and buy every pair they have in your size.
I found a nice selection of high waisted 1950’s pants at the Rusty Zipper, including some sweet looking Army slacks.
A Google search of “men’s high waisted pants” revealed a few, perhaps, not-quite-so-high-but-higher-than-low-rise options:
Cator Sparks says he picked up a pair of Levi’s 517’s, which he says are the pants the cowboys wear. Aside from describing the seemingly endless zipper, I love that Mr. Sparks talks about how he hasn’t felt this comfortable in a pair of pants since he bought a pair of custom made tuxedo pants.
Emporio Armani has this pair, but they don’t look particularly high-waisted to me, rather somewhere just above a low rise.
Dickies, classic purveyors of work-wear, offers this trouser – added bonus: hidden expandable waist and extra pocket on the leg.
And there you have it – with the passing of generations that wore high-waisted pants and the wearing-down of the waistline, so to speak, to more low-rise trousers being en vogue in subsequent generations, we have run out of a resource. If you have resources for high-waisted pants, please feel free to share them here in the comments section below. I know others will thank you for it!
Because men’s dance shoes so rarely appear on eBay, I’m passing along this gently used pair of men’s brown and white Aris Allen wingtips, size 12. Starting bid is $25, but you could buy them now for $32 (plus a very reasonable $4.50 shipping).
Do I know any size 42 gents? If I did or if I remembered you would have received a message from me about this amazing 1930’s suit, labeled “Paramount Wardrobe” as in this suit was made for the movies! I’m just going to copy/paste the seller’s description because this suit is so rad:
“Original Men’s 1930’s two piece BACK BELT SUIT in Size 42” chest in a nice medium cocoa brown wool flannel suiting. The jacket is single breasted with two lower patch pockets and decorative seams down the front. The back is pleated into a half belt and has a “Bi-Swing” action back with two long vertical pleats. The pants have a pleated front and two side and two back pockets. The only markings are an ink stamp on the trouser waistband: “Paramount Wardrobe”
The suit measures:
Across the shoulders: 19″
Down back from collar seam to hem: 31″
Sleeve from shoulder seam to cuff: 24 1/2″
Pants waist: 36″ (can be let out to 38 1/2″
Pants inseam: 31″ (can be let out to 33 1/2″)
There are no rips, tears, stains or mothing, etc on this suit. It’s in excellent condition.” (Emphasis added.)
42 gentlemen, it is your imperative and your directive that you acquire this suit – go forth and conquer!
I have anticipated checking out Alexandria’s Amalgamated Classic Clothing and Dry Goods since April, when I heard of its opening shortly prior to DCLX and the wonders that awaited me – rumors that the owners have a warehouse where items are pulled for Hollywood movies, that the inventory has real swing era stuff, GOOD stuff, and I was salivating. As I ditched the Saturday afternoon DCLX dance to head over to Alexandria I got a text message from Bill Speidel that the shop was closed. Oh, the disappointment!
Thankfully, I had already planned to attend the International Lindy Hop Championships in August, so I knew I’d get a second chance. I messaged the store’s Facebook page a few days prior to the event to make sure that they would be open and should I send my measuremnets. The answers were yes and yes, and I was elated.
I planned to go on Friday of ILHC and at the Thursday night dance I met Beth Midavaine, who had also planned to take a trip to Amalgamated with Bill Speidel, but Bill had bailed on her, so it seemed that fate would have it that we go shopping together. We headed to Amalgamated the next day with Jason Sager and arrived at the store at noon on the dot. The store was closed. I was frantic. We went next door to a knick knack store owner, who didn’t know why the shop wasn’t open. As we regrouped on the sidewalk, the door opened to Amalgamated and it was, after all, open for business. *phew!*
It took us three hours to get through everything in the store and try on the rack of clothes that Beth and I accumulated through our collective digging through the store. The store itself is small is square footage, but packed with everything good – there was no small rack where the few swing era items were delegated – the entire store was pre-1960’s, so 100% of their inventory was everything that you would want to see in a vintage store. It was glorious! The men’s section rivaled the women’s section in size and magnificence (who has an entire rack devoted to two tone Ricky Ricardo jackets?) and a men’s shoe section that took up an entire table, and included children’s shoes (tiny leather and mesh oxfords!). Owner Shelley White took us through boxes in the back room filled with delicate 1920’s beaded dresses, there were racks of glorious dresses and gowns, plus some very practical items that would be perfect for dancing. The women’s shoes had a good selection of larger women’s sizes, which was great for Beth, who picked up a pair of fantastic 1940’s heels.
I don’t think words or photos will do this place justice, so you’ll just have to go and see for yourself. Until then, check out some of our finds below:
Every once in a while I will come across an eBay seller that I can’t quite figure out – does the seller make the clothes? Hand-knit the sweaters? Is this small batch, but manufactured? How can they sell these garments at such good prices?
I came across eBay seller qbiffa’s store when one of their lovely reproduction 1940’s sweaters popped up in one of my searches. I saw that the sweater, which was not in my size, could be ordered in other sizes and, to my delight, there were many other colors and styles of these little short sleeved sweaters available. Then I saw wide leg pants for men and women, men’s button down short sleeved shirts, and 40’s repro jackets, with nothing costing over $120.00. Even better, the seller posted a photo of the original pattern for the sweaters and men’s items, so you can see the origin and maybe get some ideas about what to pair each garment with and how it would have been worn.
The items show can be made in different sizes and colors, simply contact the seller if the item you like is not in your size or colors. 🙂 I wonder why this particular seller picked eBay, it seems like Etsy might be a better forum for this kind of transaction…
I considered this find so good, I almost waited to post until after I bought what I wanted from the store…but there were too many things I wanted and I was too excited! Here are my faves:
Men tend to wear their dance shoes out, so I was pleasantly surprised to see this eBay listing for a pair of black cap toe Aris Allens, size 11.5, gently used. They look to be in great condition and, with a $24.99 starting bid, much cheaper than a new pair. Anyone looking for a replacement or an inexpensive addition to your dance shoe collection?
Some great shoes popped up on eBay from seller hopalong.acropolis, who found several pairs of vintage 1930’s/40’s cap toe shoes from an estate sale in a size 8. Starting price is $19.99 for each pair – take a look!
I’m jumping out of my chair with excitement because the Balboas are back! At least for a limited run, that is – the Balboas in the ivory/parchment combo are available, along with the brown combo and black. If you’ve been on the fence about one of these pairs of shoes, get off the fence right now, sell an organ, take out a loan, and get them while they are in stock because LS has on good information that these shoes will no longer run in their current design.
In other glorious Remix news, the men’s captoe oxford is also available in a new color, a soft brown leather. The popular Anita shoe will be made in metallics – muted gold and silver – which I love because metallics go with so many things and make your footwork shine! Also available in a new color is the Strider, a 1930’s/40’s oxford, which breaks away from muted tones and now comes in a cheerful purple.
I don’t know if I had time to mention this style when they launched, but Remix’s Emily shoe is a lovely brogued t-strap shoe that is simply a knockout. Available in ivory and a bright blue they are calling “Ultramar Blue.” Using my Google skills (rather, looking for a photograph to post), I also found this shoe available in brown at Shoostore.com.
The eBay gods have offered up this wonderful reproduction specimen by American designer Ralph Lauren, who has created one of the holy grails of male swing dancer shopping, his version of the linen Norfolk jacket. In white, breathable, summer weight linen, this Norfolk jacket has oodles of details, like the square pockets in the front, full belting, and what looks like pintuck detailing in the front. Made in a size 40L, it’s a wearable size for a taller gent. At $375, this grail comes with a price tag I’d not normally post on Lindy Shopper, but it was too good not to share and it’s new, with the tags still attached. I always have hope that, if I watch the item long enough, the price will go down or the seller will entertain other offers.