All posts in Lifestyle

Trad Icon: Peter Kaplan

It’s been a while since I put the spotlight on an individual, but this guy deserves it. He not only knew trad like the back of his hand, but unlike a lot of people that know trad he knew how to look cool wearing it. He had a preference for tortoise shell glasses, khakis, and blue OCBDs (my kind of guy!). From the earliest pic I have seen of him (skateboard, striped tee, wallabees) until his untimely death in 2013 at the age of 59 he was cool.

If you don’t know Peter Kaplan here is a little background. At heart he was an old school journalist, but he is also known for moving journalism into the digital era. His father was the owner and president of clothing manufacturer Complex Industries Corp. This may have been where his interest in clothes began. He is a Harvard grad so there’s that too (his roommate was RFK JR. btw). He went on to become editor-in chief of the New York Observer for 15 years. This is where he hired freelance writer Candace Bushnell who wrote the column, “Sex and the City.” After that he was editorial director of Fairchild Fashion Group where he oversaw the relaunch of M magazine. If you are reading this blog you may recognize his name from his epitaph on The Trad by John Tinseth which you can read here.

From Politico
From The Trad

Peter Kaplan Trad

Collar Button And Hanger Loop: Ivy Shirts To Shed Frills By Bob Hallman

Back Collar Button & Locker Loop

This article is from The Gastonia [North Carolina] Gazette for Sunday, November 7, 1965 and was re-posted on AAT by member Charles Dana. I have my own thoughts on both the back collar button and locker loop that I will be sharing in an upcoming post.

Two simple things that practically go unnoticed on some men’s shirts are causing monumental concern in the apparel industry. A button and loop on the back side of traditional shirts have many producers losing sleep and pacing the floor. REASON: To leave them on or take them off.

For the past decade, a rear collar button and a hanger loop have become standard equipment on shirts styled in the traditional pattern. They have become accepted, taken for granted, and ignored. But now comes along one of the major traditional shirt houses in the nation and says buttons and loops will cease to be on their future models.

The stir this revelation caused was akin to jamming the panic button. Contemporary firms were taken by surprise, uncertain if this was a right or wrong move. Many are still trying to decide. Gant shirtmakers, the best-known traditional shirtmaker in America, touched off the wave of restlessness. This would seem reasonable since the firm pioneered in the field of button-down collars, back-side buttons, loops, and box pleats; plus the tapered waist. Gant led and others followed. But following the leader doesn’t come so easily when a loss of business is a likely possibility. The big question coming to mind with manufacturers was simply this: ‘How will the young man react? Since this kind of business is directly pitched at the collegiate and high school set, such a query had to be resolved, else what appears to be a good move could easily turn into a bad move.

“What would be the reaction to a change? In the Carolinas, often called the Island of Natural Shoulder History, removal of both the button and loop wouldn’t cause a ripple. For, as some store men say, nobody is looking for either one any more. Samplings around the two states of stores reveal that a general feeling of ‘not important’ is being attached to both horns of the dilemma. Tommy Frederick, furnishings manager at Matthews-Belk Co., who cut his teeth on Ivy League clothes, opines: ‘I don’t think the removal of either or both will make or break a sale. If the shirt has color, fabric, name, and quality, it will sell. This feeling was reflected in areas from Raleigh, a hotbed of traditionalism, to Charleston, S. C. The consensus of opinion was that both were first introduced as fads and this has since run its course. At the same time some stores point out that while the button serves no real purpose, the loop does. You can hang up a shirt by it. So…retailers would prefer keeping the loop.

Men who have made studies in this area of apparel say the change was inevitable. Labor costs for the two operations run into six figures for many companies. Dropping them could direct attention to other areas of shirts that need improvements–like longer tails, better and more secure buttons…. The only objections to removal came from the high school set that goes steady. It seems that a boy wearing a shirt unbuttoned at the back is going steady. That means hands off.

A Couple of Leads

If you’ve been into this trad/ivy thing for a while you already know most of the shops. One of the reasons that I stopped blogging (the first time, lol) is that I felt like I was mostly just saying go to JPress or O’Connell’s. Nothing wrong with that, but it seemed to me that I was not adding a lot to the conversation. I will try to add something new in this post.

If you are looking for a Made in USA Brooks Brothers OCBD for the low checkout my guy Steve Smith’s eBay store he has got them for cheap. He’s been around the scene since the Ask Andy Trad days selling slightly flawed (and some not flawed) shirts from the North Carolina factory. He still has a great inventory to this day. Prices range from around $48-78 dollars for a BB OCBD. This is a great place to a get a great shirt. It’s especially nice for those that are on a budget, but still want all the bells and whistles.

Next up is a vintage spot. I don’t shop vintage all that often, but I do hit up the Placid Vintage Etsy shop. I’ve primarily purchased ties here, but there are lots of goodies to be had and the prices are fair which is rare in a curated vintage shop. Bradley has a great selection of shirts and sport coats. There are even a few things that I have my eye on right now.

Hopefully one of these places is new to you. Apologies in advance if I blew up any ones secret spot. That was not my intent, but I don’t want to gatekeep the goods. If you have a lead on a shop that you’d like to share we’d love to hear about it in the comments.

OCBD Memories

The Lands’ End Original Oxford was the shirt that got me in the OCBD game. It was affordable at $29.99, 100% cotton, must-iron, and had collar roll that was supported by its 3 1/4″ collar point length. I got my first one in 2008. I scored a bunch more when they were discontinued around 2010. These shirts hold a lot of memories for me.

Sure I had OCBDs before the LE Orginal Oxford. The difference is that back then I wasn’t all that concerned with the details. The truth is that not only was I unconcerned with the details, I was unaware of them at that time. These shirts on the other hand were purchased because they had the right details. I got these as I was leaving college and entering the workforce. These were my first adult OCBDs.

While I was new to OCBDs, I was not new to clothes. So when I saw the price drop to $12 I knew that something was up and whatever it was was most likely was not good. Thanks to my Spidy-senses I bought a few and asked for more for Christmas. I can remember how funny my family thought it was when I opened gift after gift from my grandma and they were all the same blue shirt. I had to assure them that this was exactly what I wanted and not a running joke.

My stock of these shirts is dwindling. I have two that are still fighting the good fight and could be worn in an office setting. I have 5 more with collars and cuffs that are in varying stages of deterioration. Before everyone chimes in, I know about flipping collars. I may flip 1 or 2, but I have a good amount of OCBDs and don’t need these to look especially presentable. I like wearing my well worn OCBDs with blown out collars casually. I know that I am not the only one.

A couple years ago I took a step to preserve one of the shirts. I didn’t flip the collar, but I did have some repair work done. I asked my mom to sew the collar back together in a rustic way using contrasting red thread. Many of you that follow me on Instagram have seen this shirt. It is one of my favorites. I may even do a few more. Thanks, mom!

At times when I wear these shirts memories come flooding back. I think about my first post-college job, I think about my grandmother who has since passed, and when I wear the one with the red collar repair I think about my mom. When these OCBDs are not sending my down memory lane they are comfortable and familiar like an old friend. I will continue to wear them until they are truly unwearable.

If you have clothes memories, whether that’s a fond a memory of a piece of clothing or a piece of clothing that brings back a fond memoryv I’d love to hear them in the comments.

My Top 3 thrifts

I used to thrift a lot back in the day. Back then I had more time than money. Fast forward to now and I have very little of either (insert laugh track), but seriously I have started to dabble in thrifting again. This time around it’s just for fun rather than out of necessity. To pump myself up for future thrifts I decided to revisit my top 3 thrift scores. I will also give a few tips that I have learned along the way.

Basket weave Tweed Sport Coat

1. The perfect tweed jacket – If you know anything about me you know that it’s hard for me to find my size in jackets. The best otr reference I have is that a 37S Brooks Brothers Madison jacket fits me pretty well. That’s not a common size btw. About 10 years ago I was headed to an out of town meeting. I left myself plenty of time to stop in a Goodwill not far from where I was headed (Tip #1). After arriving I scanned the sport coat rack looking for jackets with 2-buttons on the cuff (Tip #2). This is not a fail-proof method for finding trad sport coats, but it helps when you want to quickly scan a lot of inventory. I sued this method and found this basket weave Donegal tweed sport coat complete with all the right details (3/2 roll, swelled edges, patch pockets) that fit! It’s still my favorite sport coat to this day.

Kelly Green G9

2. Baracuta G9 jacket – The G9 is a trad’s perfect spring and late summer/early fall jacket. Made cool by the king of cool himself, Steve McQueen. Even if I don’t find Mr. McQueen all that cool myself I do love a harrington jacket. It was back in 2010 that I found a kelly green Baracuta for $1.99 on a typical Saturday morning thrift run. The jacket is from one of the less desirable periods in the 80s when they were made in Hong Kong by Van Heusen instead of being made in England. Nevertheless I was excited. I still get a lot of wear out of this jacket.

3. Ties, ties, & more ties – Ties are the most thriftable item in menswear. This is because outside of width we all wear the same size (Tip #3). I have scored the bulk of my ties this way. However, one particular tie haul stands out from all the rest. I stopped in one of my regular thrift spots and scored a few great ties. Whomever they belonged to had great taste as these were exactly the types of stripes that I would pick. They were also from a few local-ish menswear shop which I thought was extra cool. I went back the next day (Tip #4) in hopes that they may have put out more of this man’s ties and I was not disappointed.

Scores like the ones listed above will keep you going back for more. If you want to be successful going back is the most important part. Like most things in life consistency is key. Thrifting is no different. This time around I am simply out to enjoy the hunt and not the kill. I have no pie in the sky dreams or grails that I am seeking out. Just some good clean affordable fun. Good luck out there!