As life becomes ever more complicated and my work obligations balloon all around, I am sad that I haven’t had more time to post here, but there ARE some new things, so rather than doing a comprehensive post, I will post some new developments here as teasers and encourage you to do your own research into what appear to be interesting new products and some updates on things/companies I have reported about in the past:
Hepcats – a new women’s dance shoe company has popped up, courtesy of Polish dancer Bogna Jabłońska, thanks to Jenna Applegarth for the tip! Check out their Instagram for lovely things to come.
Trashy Diva – my obsession continues and they plan to release a New Orleans/Preservation Hall/jazz-themed print in the impending future. Watch their Facebook page or Instagram for updates about the release.
There is a lot of documented history about the creation and performance of The Big Apple line dance in the 1939 film “Keep Punching” – if you don’t know this story already, take a gander at Wikipedia, The Lindy Circle, and Savoy Style. It’s the story of a dance within a dance craze! I love this clip for its energy, the individual style (dancing and clothing) of each of the dancers, and also because they keep it simple and functional – this clothing is obviously their own normal street clothing, with the exception of the coordinating Whitey’s Savoy Lindy Hoppers tee shirts. I imagine this is a snapshot into what they might wear on any given night of the week out at a dance (compare to the more fancy street clothing/costumes in Hot Chocolate (Cottontail) or the outright dance costumes in The Harlem Congaroos clip). There is an array of interesting clothing in this clip – from the dancers to the more fancy daywear/cocktail attire of the actors/extras to the orchestra in tails.
There are so many pieces of clothing worn by the dancers in this clip that are accessible today, so let’s dig in:
First, those custom Whitey’s Savoy Lindy Hoppers tee shirts – we don’t have the light background with the darker graphics, but Chloe Hong has reproduced this graphic on dark blue and dark red tees that you can order from her website. Since none of us hold a candle to the original Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, we can view these shirts as aspirational/inspirational, a tribute to these original dancers and innovators. I love that some of the tee shirts in the clip are worn as-is and others are worn over another shirt, as layers. This makes me think of the ever present battle of sweat management – if that tee shirt has to last through a day of many film takes under hot lights, you might need that base layer to keep things fresh on the outside.
Since men’s reproduction knitwear is still a bit of an outlier, your best collared “undershirt” solution to get the look from the video is to pick up one of Simon James Cathcart’s short sleeved polos with that distinctive spearpoint collar – they are also made of wicking bamboo fabric, so extra helpful with sweat management. Available in nine colors and I wouldn’t be surprised if SJC was going to release some more in the future. Even though the men in this clip are wearing the spearpoint collars, these polos are also great for women, I have a few and I love them.
A few of the women in this clip looks like they may be wearing either some sort of collared or uncollared blouse underneath their tee shirt or they may be wearing a scarf tied loosely around their neck and tucked in a bit at the tee shirt collar. The House of Foxy’s 1940’s shirt in crepe would give a similar effect to the pointed collar blouses in the clip, with just the top points peeking out and the crepe being flexible enough to work around the tee shirt collar and lay right. One of the women is wearing a belt with her flared skirt and it looks awesome, but the video quality is such that I can’t tell if the belt is leather, fabric, or some other material.
While there is one woman in a flared skirt (and I say that relatively, as we’re not talking Dior “new look” volume, just a bit more twirl than the other women), rest of the women in this clip are in A-line skirts, something with a more streamlined profile, but with enough radius at the hemline to allow for kicks and movement. This skirt silhouette and just-below-the-knee hemline shows the fashion transition to the 1940’s silhouette, when you contrast with the calf-length skirts from the film A Day at the Races that came out just two years before Keep Punching.
UK brand Heyday has a nice A-line skirt, available in several prints and solid colors, I love the quality, wearability, and washability of their pieces. If you are going for the more full skirt, it looks like the House of Foxy’s Whirlaway Skirt fits the bill of being not to full, not too A-line, but just right in terms of fullness for the purposes of this clip. It’s also available in 7 colors and ditto on the quality coming out of this UK brand. Would wear both of these skirts for dancing and for work and for anything, really.
Men’s bottoms look like your standard fare for trousers, tucked in shirt or not tucked in – I mean, whatever’s comfortable for you after umpteen takes, right? If you are looking for something high waisted, I can’t say enough good things about SJC’s 1930’s chinos, which can handle belt or braces. Or just go and buy whatever lightweight, breathable trousers you can find and wear that shirt untucked! The exact right pants are usually hard to find, but for this look it’s not an absolute essential, the devil is in the other details. For the tucked-in crowd, note the dancer with the skinny belt – how skinny is up to you and your pants loops. Google was an absolute failure at looking for skinny belts (“no, Google, I mean REALLY skinny, 1.5 inches wide isn’t skinny!”), so dive deeper into your internet searches and/or go to the women’s section of a department store to buy one because nobody cares where it comes from.
The footwear is all over the map. I see white Keds-like sneakers with dark socks (that may color-coordinate with the collared shirt under the tee shirt) and in other colors (Gray? Black? Oh, wait, we’re not in Technicolor), or maybe even a shoe with a more substantial sole closer to Vans’ classic shoe (or their newly engineered more flexible/lightweight version).
I see a couple of pairs of saddle shoes thrown in the mix and, though most modern associations are with the 1950’s, the saddle shoe’s popularity boomed in the decades prior to the 1950’s, as well. Most saddle shoes I see today have a crepe sole, which isn’t my favorite for dancing, but Re-mix carries them with a leather sole. I’d consider giving this Restricted pair from ModCloth a whirl because they have leather interiors (for my sensitive feet), what appears to be a flat synthetic sole, and because the blue/brown color combo is awesome. Then I go and find this yellow and white Chelsea Crew pair…I need to stop while I’m ahead.
Finally, one dancer has some classic leather oxfords on, which previous discussions on my blog have covered everything from buying them used at thrift stores to getting your first pair of Aris Allens to splurging for a pair of Allen Edmonds (or finding them used on eBay).
To recap: classic dance shoes of your choosing, socks, comfy pants/skirt, signature tee shirt, optional undershirt/collar/scarf action. One might say this is not too far from what we are wearing on the dance floor today. Now, time to go practice the second half of the Big Apple that I never seem to remember….
He may not know it outright, but Simon James Cathcart is here to serve swing dancers – that is, serve up classic, rare, and sought-after reproduction menswear pieces in great fabrics. His latest offerings are all cotton, which means it’s all breathable and washable for us sweaty dancer types.
The workwear cotton stripe is being offered in four pieces, a belt back jacket, a waistcoat, a pair of trousers, and a cap, all inspired by 1920’s workwear. From the website:
“SJC has woven this exclusive cloth, which recreates the striped pattern from a pair of genuine 1920’s work-wear trousers in the company’s collection of vintage clothing. The cloth has been brushed on the inside for warmth…”
The details on these pieces are wonderful, as per usual – notice all the careful seams and generous use of pockets. Of interest to dancers would be the note about ample room in the thigh of the trousers, which translates to more room for your legs to move about unrestricted.
Finally, you just need some basics and SJC is, again, delivering the goods – what’s more basic than a pair of chinos or a pair of jeans? The workhouse chinos come with all the casual air of a weeknight DJ’ed dance, but have all the details you expect from period trousers, such as buttons for braces, a cinched back, and a nice V at the back of the waistband.
Cotton = breathable = sweat and dance to your heart’s content! Keep it comin’, Simon!
I will continue to sing Simon James Cathcart’s praises – his fall releases thus far consist of matching separates in salt and pepper or Dutch blue chambray, inspired by nineteen teens, 20’s, and 30’s workwear, and I think the concept of purchasing mixing and matching pieces you like is brilliant, not to mention all of these could be worn separately or together as a suit. And all the pieces are great – two jackets (belt back or Norfolk style), two styles of trousers with proper buttons at the fly and for braces (narrow or wide leg), a waistcoat in each color, and a dart cap in each color.
But what to wear with your new workwear? How about a work shirt in 4 different colors, two stripes and two solids? SJC gives you a great jumping off point for many different workwear inspired looks. Add some work boots or oxfords, add a tie to dress it up, add a henley to dress it down…
ALSO, there’s a 40% off sale on those magical chinos that everyone keeps looking for on my blog (high waist, wide leg, breatheable, danceable), as well as the summer weight flannel trousers (which I think would be more perfect for fall around these parts), the signature zig zag neckerchief, and the vintage style polos in bamboo fabric that every dancer needs as part of their wardrobe of comfort and style.
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.
I had already backed the Kickstarter for the navy/cream spectators and ordered my Deco polo when I started to see the Simon James Cathcart apparel on others, first the polo on Nicholas Centino while vintage shopping in Cleveland for All Balboa Weekend, then on Glenn Crytzer on Facebook, and then on just about every vintage-loving gent I ran across in person. That the Deco polo was so prevalent and widespread so quickly speaks to its necessity. Vintage clothing isn’t always about being dressed up for fancy affairs, we want to look sharp in casual-wear, with all those nice vintage details that are missing from modern clothing. Unfortunately, not a lot of vintage knitwear survived, so we’re lucky SJC decided to do something about it.
My navy spectator shoes arrived in the mail week before last, so of course I have gigs all weekend and then it rains all week so I can’t wear them. I had already seen their glory on Facebook, through SJC’s posts of customers who shared their first ensembles with these glorious shoes. It was so inspiring that I couldn’t help but plan an ensemble of my own. Who am I kidding, I already had my outfit planned out, maybe three outfits…
The first sighting of the canvas and leather spectators in person on another person occurred at Classic City Swing in Athens, Georgia – a pair in acorn/cream on the feet of Augusta, Georgia dancer Keith Beckman. He came over to show them to me, I squeed a bit, he thanked me for posting about the shoes, and he had good reviews for their danceability – the leather sole is top notch, you can tell just by looking at it, but Keith was worried about the small rubber bit on the rear outside of the heel. What he discovered is that the rubber didn’t get in the way of his dancing, spinning, or sliding, but he could use the rubber as a stopper depending on how he distributed his weight. Of course they looked impeccable, I had already spotted him across the room in them before he came over to talk to me, because they are SHARP AS HELL.
I finally got to wear my navy and white spectators this Friday, with navy trousers and a striped shirt. It didn’t take long to break them in and by the end of the day they felt comfortable, even though I had worn them at my standing desk all day and walked around downtown during lunch for about 20 minutes. They are men’s shoes, but they fit well – my heel is a regular size, but the ball of my foot and toes can err on the side of wide and I had plenty of room in the toe box without feeling like I was wearing shoes that were too big for me. I wear a 7 in women’s U.S. sizes and I took a size 4 in SJC’s U.K. men’s sizes. I received several compliments on my shoes during my lunchtime walk and some dude in the parking deck was definitely checking out my shoes when I got out of the car that morning.
On Saturday I went out to lunch at Monuts in my green Deco polo, which was perfect for a fall transitional day – it was a season-appropriate color and matched my 1940’s Wild West scarf, but it was also good for the weather, which was sunny and 80-something degrees. It was comfortable and easy to dress down with jeans and Keds, but I have seen this paired with jackets for a more dressy look. I really struggle with that sort of in-between look that so many Americans seem to gravitate toward, not dressy, but not too casual – it seems I’m either in a fancy dress or in my pajamas, so the Deco polo is filling a bit of that in-between niche in my wardrobe. For sizing reference, I typically wear a U.S. women’s size 10 and I took an XS in the SJC polo. I’ll leave you with this description of the polo from the SJC website:
“Beautifully tailored and made from the truly remarkable bamboo plant. It is circular knitted in the old school style and thus very slubby giving the shirt a distinctly raw 1930’s look. Super soft feel and at 230 grams these polos have a nice weighty feel about them.”
I am so pleased with my Simon James Cathcart purchases. It’s important to remember that these items are limited batch specialty items and some are based on Kickstarter/pre-orders, so it doesn’t give you a lot of time to ponder, “Do I need this?” The spectators and polo were an easy choice for me because I almost never find good navy shoes (much less vintage two-tone navy flats) or green shirts and these are things I want in my wardrobe. There are only the acorn/cream spectators left on the website and some of the Deco polo colors have sold out, so be sure to act swiftly to secure what you like.
I can’t wait to see what SJC comes up with next, he seems to have a knack for finding these “holy grail” vintage items and then reproduces them for us to enjoy today.
As you may have read in a post earlier this week, I wept tears of infinite sorrow that there were no Simon James Cathcart spectators in my size that I could order through SJC’s wonderful summer shoe Kickstarter, BUT THROUGH THE MAGIC OF THE INTERNET I have spoken with SJC and he has offered to make this shoe available to us sizes 7-8 US women’s/sizes 5-6 US men’s/sizes 4-5 UK men’s (I wear a US women’s 7) on one condition: he needs 8 of us to back the shoe at each size in order for it to be cost-effective for the factory to produce this size as a part of this run.
I wasn’t sure if could rustle up enough support from people wearing these shoe sizes, but this is such a quality, unique shoe that I thought there might be enough lady dandies or gents with smaller feet that we MIGHT be able to pull this off. It can be any of the three colors, we just need 8 people to back the SHOE at each SIZE.
Can I find 16 people who love this shoe and need it in their lives? I know you’re out there!
A few more details on this marvelous shoe:
They are made by hand in Northampton (the shoe capital of England) on 1930’s lasts, so the shape is there from the start.
They will last a lifetime. How? They are “Goodyear Welted” (the gold seal of quality) which means as the soles wear out they can be easily replaced while the shoe remains totally intact.
The shoes are lined in soft calfskin for comfort, with a super comfortable cork footbed so your feet breathe.
They come in three gorgeous shades; Navy, Oxblood and Acorn – order whatever color you like, we only need 8 people to order a particular SIZE.
The real bargain here is they are going to be 2.5 times this price out in the real world and if we don’t do this, the real tragedy will be they will never be in our size. NEVER AVAILABLE TO YOU EVER AGAIN.
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!