Where Does Stuff Go?
Some of my best vintage finds have been at estate sales. If you’re lucky (or smart) enough to find a home filled with quality menswear, they can be a real treasure trove. They’re rare, of course - husbands often die before wives, for one thing, and many men simply don’t have nice clothes - but when it works out, it works out big.
Estate sale shopping has been part of my life since I can remember, since my mother’s an antique dealer, but for many it’s a strange prospect. Stranger still is the idea of selling the contents of an estate. When a relative passes, even people who can handle things like burial arrangements are completely unprepared to deal with the stuff their loved one has left behind.
Martin Codina owns a company that runs estate sales in San Francisco, where my mom lives, and he’s a charming character. (When you’re a regular at these things, you get to know the folks in line with you, and the people behind the counter, it’s one of the pleasures of the pastime.) Martin’s been writing about estate sales for a while, and he’s just put together a really interesting and lovely book called Liquidating an Estate: How to Sell a Lifetime of Stuff, Make Some Cash, and Live to Tell About It.
The book has a pleasant style (important for such a weighty subject), and outlines clearly how to evaluate and sell the contents of an estate, from silver to linens to (yes) clothing. It’s also full of fascinating stories about estate sales past.
If you’re interested in checking out some estate sales in your area, try searching on EstateSales.net, Craigslist (search “Estate” in the garage sales section) and even in your local paper. And don’t be afraid to sign up for the email lists of local estate sale companies - they’ll usually send out an email Wednesday or Thursday detailing the contents of their weekend sales. Look for “designer menswear” and show up early.

Where Does Stuff Go?

Some of my best vintage finds have been at estate sales. If you’re lucky (or smart) enough to find a home filled with quality menswear, they can be a real treasure trove. They’re rare, of course - husbands often die before wives, for one thing, and many men simply don’t have nice clothes - but when it works out, it works out big.

Estate sale shopping has been part of my life since I can remember, since my mother’s an antique dealer, but for many it’s a strange prospect. Stranger still is the idea of selling the contents of an estate. When a relative passes, even people who can handle things like burial arrangements are completely unprepared to deal with the stuff their loved one has left behind.

Martin Codina owns a company that runs estate sales in San Francisco, where my mom lives, and he’s a charming character. (When you’re a regular at these things, you get to know the folks in line with you, and the people behind the counter, it’s one of the pleasures of the pastime.) Martin’s been writing about estate sales for a while, and he’s just put together a really interesting and lovely book called Liquidating an Estate: How to Sell a Lifetime of Stuff, Make Some Cash, and Live to Tell About It.

The book has a pleasant style (important for such a weighty subject), and outlines clearly how to evaluate and sell the contents of an estate, from silver to linens to (yes) clothing. It’s also full of fascinating stories about estate sales past.

If you’re interested in checking out some estate sales in your area, try searching on EstateSales.net, Craigslist (search “Estate” in the garage sales section) and even in your local paper. And don’t be afraid to sign up for the email lists of local estate sale companies - they’ll usually send out an email Wednesday or Thursday detailing the contents of their weekend sales. Look for “designer menswear” and show up early.

There’s been some buzz on the web about the auction of some Steve McQueen-related film items, like his jacket from LeMans and his Husqvarna motocross bike. That’s all well and good, but what’s been left unmentioned is the real gem of the sale: Gene Wilder’s costume from Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. The bidding starts at a generous $40,000, but on the plus side: it’s guaranteed to take you to a world of pure imagination.
(Thanks, Aaron!)

There’s been some buzz on the web about the auction of some Steve McQueen-related film items, like his jacket from LeMans and his Husqvarna motocross bike. That’s all well and good, but what’s been left unmentioned is the real gem of the sale: Gene Wilder’s costume from Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. The bidding starts at a generous $40,000, but on the plus side: it’s guaranteed to take you to a world of pure imagination.

(Thanks, Aaron!)

There’s Nothing More Classic Than A Pea Coat
I bought my pea coat at a yard sale in Portland. I was in high school - maybe 15 or 16. A nice woman was selling some of her late grandfather’s things. He’d been a navy man in his day, and she was excited that the coat fit me. I think I paid $25.
That pea coat saw me through some drizzle-soaked outdoor makeout sessions my junior and senior years of high school in San Francisco. It came with me to UC Santa Cruz, where it protected me from the winter chill and from soft thinking. It’s still in my closet today, and while the collar and cuffs are a little more worn than they were back then, I still wear it whenever it’s cold.
The pea coat is probably the military garment which has made the smoothest transition into civilian life. Without insignia or rank patches, it can be (and has been) worn by everyone from former military to peace protesters to preppy lacross player types. It’s also been knocked off by every fashion designer ever. But nothing beats the real thing.
Luckily, buying a real US Navy pea coat is the cheapest way to cover yourself in melton wool, and not just the most authentic. Few are the vintage stores that don’t have a rack of decommissioned coats. You can also find them on eBay, and on sites like this one. This guide on Fedora Lounge will help you date yours - the golden age runs from WWII through about 1970.
When buying, expect to pay $50 to $100, depending on condition. Buttons can be sourced and replaced pretty easily, but if there are moth holes or excessive cuff wear, those are much harder to manage.

There’s Nothing More Classic Than A Pea Coat

I bought my pea coat at a yard sale in Portland. I was in high school - maybe 15 or 16. A nice woman was selling some of her late grandfather’s things. He’d been a navy man in his day, and she was excited that the coat fit me. I think I paid $25.

That pea coat saw me through some drizzle-soaked outdoor makeout sessions my junior and senior years of high school in San Francisco. It came with me to UC Santa Cruz, where it protected me from the winter chill and from soft thinking. It’s still in my closet today, and while the collar and cuffs are a little more worn than they were back then, I still wear it whenever it’s cold.

The pea coat is probably the military garment which has made the smoothest transition into civilian life. Without insignia or rank patches, it can be (and has been) worn by everyone from former military to peace protesters to preppy lacross player types. It’s also been knocked off by every fashion designer ever. But nothing beats the real thing.

Luckily, buying a real US Navy pea coat is the cheapest way to cover yourself in melton wool, and not just the most authentic. Few are the vintage stores that don’t have a rack of decommissioned coats. You can also find them on eBay, and on sites like this one. This guide on Fedora Lounge will help you date yours - the golden age runs from WWII through about 1970.

When buying, expect to pay $50 to $100, depending on condition. Buttons can be sourced and replaced pretty easily, but if there are moth holes or excessive cuff wear, those are much harder to manage.

Updated Backpacks

Put This On is on record as against backpacks with suits (a position I stand by—it usually looks silly and can ruin a suit’s shoulders), but I don’t wear a tailored jacket most days, so I do carry a backpack. I’d love to go to work with nothing but a wallet, keys, and a smile but most of the time I’m lugging more: lunch, a camera, a laptop or tablet, and gym clothes. A backpack is the easiest and most comfortable way to move that stuff. A recent Wall Street Journal piece pointed out that packs have become the luggage of choice for runway designers, although these design-first bags are often short on usability. Modern technical packs from outdoor stores/brands have pockets to spare and good technical performance, but I find the best balance of utility and design in between the technical and design worlds. I’ve handled a lot of the packs on the market and can recommend a few in different price ranges.

Under $100

Herschel Supply: Herschel Supply cracks the list because they make a basic update of the 1980s/90s day packs that became schoolbook staples and because they’re inexpensive. Herschel Supply gets important, basic things like water resistance and internal laptop sleeves right, and offers a variety of relatively subdued styles plus some wilder fabric patterns. Despite a healthy dose of heritage-y branding, Herschel is a young brand and the bags are imported and frankly a little flimsy compared to other options.

Vintage: Buying a pack vintage is risky—you don’t know what leaked on that pack’s last hike. But there are some sturdy, good looking packs on the vintage market. Yucca packs are basic canvas packs often used by Boy Scouts in the pre-Jansport era (and stamped accordingly with BSA insignia). They’re large, floppy canvas bags, and sell pretty cheap. In my opinion, fine for a trip to the farmer’s market, but I wouldn’t trust one with my laptop. Swiss packs in “salt and pepper” fabric are quite roomy and look great with some patina on the leather straps, but some are frankly past the point of realistic usability, and the market has become more competitive in recent years, driving some prices north of $100.

$100-$200

Archival Clothing’s daypack is your basic modern heritage backpack—one big compartment that zips closed, smaller open side pockets, and unpadded webbing straps. AC’s cotton duck fabric is not waterproof, but it’s lighter (and less costly) than the waxed fabric AC uses in some of its other bags. AC’s build quality is universally top notch and I really like their unfussy designs, which reference older styles without requiring a full hikerdelic wardrobe.

The Kelty Mockingbird is the long-standing gear company’s modern interpretation of one of its 1960s mountaineering models. Made of Cordura nylon, it has a cinch-top main compartment, padded straps, and removable lash-on side compartments. (Cordura is the brand name for the woven nylon fabric used in much, if not most, modern soft luggage. Most bags, including the Mockingbird, are 500 denier—a measurement of density—but some use 1000 denier, which is more durable but stiffer and heavier.) Kelty made vintage-style bags for the Japanese market for several years before bringing the designs stateside. I’ve carried this pack most days for over two years with few complaints. One potential drawback of this era of design is the number of straps, pulls, and lash tabs—not the place to look for a minimal appearance.

$200 and up

In the heritage-styled arena, I like California’s Altadena Works, which makes a daypack-styled bag that checks every box on my personal pack list. Cordura fabric, Horween leather-reinforcement on the bottom, seatbelt nylon webbing straps with wool felt padding, and thoughtfully laid out pockets, all made in California. Like a better, more worldly version of the Jansport I carried in high school.

Cote et Ciel provides an alternative for those not as interested as I am in looking like a 1970s Patagonia catalog. The Isar rucksack has two significant compartments: a zipped, padded laptop/tech compartment that  sits against your back, and a larger gear compartment that zips vertically down the center then folds over to give the bag its asymmetrical appearance. Padded straps attach in the middle of the pack rather than at the edge toward the body (it’s complicated; Carryology has a good review that explains with photos) and hug the tech compartment to you. Cote et Ciel uses a number of cotton blend fabrics, all of which claim to be water resistant.

-Pete

The amazing sports uniform blog Uni Watch has a great set of scans from a 1965 varsity jacket catalog. (In high school, I lettered in cutting class to go get salami sandwiches.)

Ebbets Field Flannels Sweater Jackets
Ebbets Field Flannels just announced these stunning sweater-jackets. They’re based on a vintage model from the 1930s found in a thrift shop, and they’re totally amazing. Ebbets only made six of each size, and my hometown team (the San Francisco Seals) is already completely sold out. Above is the New York Black Yankees. Find what’s left here.

Ebbets Field Flannels Sweater Jackets

Ebbets Field Flannels just announced these stunning sweater-jackets. They’re based on a vintage model from the 1930s found in a thrift shop, and they’re totally amazing. Ebbets only made six of each size, and my hometown team (the San Francisco Seals) is already completely sold out. Above is the New York Black Yankees. Find what’s left here.

Back In Stock: Vintage Rayon Pocket Squares

I spent about a year collecting rayon from the 1940s and 50s to make our collection of vintage rayon pocket squares. We just realized we’d allow some of the few that are left to drop out of stock in our store - if you’d like to get in on the action, take a look at what we’ve just relisted.

And how about this? If you’re getting ready for the holidays, here’s a special deal: spend $250 or more, and get fifty bucks back with the code HOLIDAYREADY.

Slate says Cary Grant’s sunglasses in North by Northwest are the coolest item of clothing ever.

Shopping Vintage: Big Mac flannels

When vintage shopping goes well, it warms the cockles of my thrifty heart. A great suit that can be altered to fit, like John’s Gieves and Hawkes featured in Derek’s post? Excellent. But I have a garbage bag full of shrunken sweaters and improbably proportioned suit pants that reinforces that for every vintage hit, there are misses.

One of my favorite and most reliable vintage brands to hunt for is Big Mac, a private label of workwear sold by JC Penney from 1922 to the 2000s. They made denim and outerwear as well, but for wearable value the flannel workshirts are the winners. Vintage Big Macs feature bias-cut pockets that set off the great plaid fabrics they use. Solid, chamois-style Big Mac shirts are out there, but I prefer the plaids, often colorful and large in scale. I picked up the red plaid shirt above at Mister Freedom a few years back, the blue is on ebay. The shirts have slightly long point collars, and in my experience, a larger yoke than most. They’ve inspired literal reproductions, and the influence of Big Mac-style plaids is visible in offerings from brands like Post Overalls. For anyone tired of the seasonal plaids at the mall and who balks at $200 workshirts, Big Macs are a great option.

The fit of Big Macs is less reliable. Like a lot of vintage work shirts, the arms are shorter than we expect on modern shirts (not a problem if you roll your sleeves a lot). Likewise, the armholes are usually generous. These features are helpful for not getting your sleeve caught in a machine and not limiting your movement, but these are not our prime concerns when browsing Etsy on our Macbooks. Big Macs are also difficult to date specifically to a particular era, since they were so common for so long. Most are cotton and many are made in the USA, but there are poly cotton blends (in my opinion, totally OK) and various countries of manufacture on the market (also totally OK).

The good news is that they’re usually cheap. Every one I’ve seen is machine washable, so they’re unlikely to have been damaged by a washer or dryer (of course, many are worn out, but that’s easier to see in photos). Most Big Macs sell for $30 or less on ebay, and for as little as a couple of bucks on the rack at the thrift store.

-Pete

The History of Men’s Raiment: Spring & Summer, 1912

The final chapter of our journey through The History of Men’s Raiment is Spring & Summer, 1912. It was the current collection when the chapbook was published, and it’s not far from looking like a current collection for a designer today.

From the pamphlet:

The whole theory of dressing to-day has been reorganized and is accomplished upon a far less involved basis. Dress has almost become a uniform but we gauge excellence of clothes, or beauty of clothes, or appearance of clothes, by a different scale: They must keep their shape and cut and wear well - stand the brunt of Twentieth Century service.

What a wonderful collection of stuff.