The sharp-dressed team hopped into another Hong Kong trunk show the last two days, before making their first trip to Mainland China in Shanghai. As usual, they set up shop at Admiralty’s JW Marriott, suits, ties, and other accessories in tow. But this time, the valet rack had a welcome addition: eight blocks of MTM suits for a new program. After a bit of catching up, Joe asked if I’d like to take the measuring process for a spin. Now, how can you say no to that?
Good denim is alive and well in southern California, and its southernmost outfitter looks over the Del Mar racetrack.
On my recent trip back home to San Diego, I made a point to revisit my city’s thread culture, which I would describe as Ready-to-Beach. Between surfing historic breaks and digging toes in warm October sand, we San Diegoans are
spoiled blessed with miles and months of beachfront paradise. This endless summer of life is something we preach, breathe, and undeniably wear.
By most local standards, anything past a tired pair of jeans, a hoodie, and merch booth band tee might prove as superfluous as a second layer between lunch and dinner. Lone Flag, however, proves that I was either presumptuous or misinformed in my assessment.
*DISCLAIMER: I do not mean to disparage the company with the above title. I’m just a really big fan of Sisqó.
I can sum up my first and only experience with subscription goods with the following: “Fool me once . . .”
San Diegoahns in search of red & white delights head north to Temecula, a stretch of road lined with award-winning vineyards. I once underestimated a multi-stop tasting tour, which ended with me in my friend’s wedge heels “to feel taller,” and a wine club.
“Clubs are fun, and free!” I hiccuped to myself.
Two weeks later, I learned that wine clubs are, in fact, not free, and that I really only need a glass of Sutter Home every six months. I thank the customer service rep on the other line for understanding my mistake and cancelling my membership.
In the last couple of years, I’ve noticed subscription services make their way into the menswear community. Of these, two stand out: Bespoke Post, and Trunk Club. On a chance encounter, I visited the Los Angeles branch of the latter.
Since it was acquired by Nordstrom last August, Trunk Club has expanded real estate in major cities, adding a face to a name, as well as inviting potential and regular clients to take suit measurements. Entering their LA warehouse of sorts, stylist Tim O’Neill welcomed me for a brief tour.
For being next door neighbors, Hong Kong and Shenzhen share little on the subject of suiting style. Where the average Hong Kong twenty-something prefers a typically western palette of banker’s blues and notched grays, their mainland counterparts stretch towards hyper fashions and over-the-topitude. Silk chests under suede lapels. Übertight black stretch trousers. Square-padded shoulders. Designer names in boldface.
However preferences lie, Hong Kong boasts an international port of call for revered trunk shows and the haberdasheries that host them. However, the People’s Republic has waited sorely without either. That is, until now.
What makes a great pair of jeans?
I submit my six year-old pair of Levi’s 511 dark wash, seldom actually washed skinnies. It’s been cuffed and rolled, scuffed and crumpled, stains and dirt caked into weathered grooves. A crotch blowout repaired at a Korean dry cleaner is Astoria Queens, signs point to another before too long. One of the few times I washed it was when I returned from a long vacation to find it caked in mold – war Shenzhen will do that to ya. It gave when my waist favored the Chipotle craze, and it took when I my calves fell into triathlons. They still sit among the top of the pant stack.
So when I caught wind of the initial craze of premium denim, I stood unconvinced that a pair of jeans five times the price of my good ‘ol blues was worth the hit to my back pocket. You can take your precious red seam stitches and kick rocks.
But as my admiration grows for the art and skill imbued in honest clothing, so does the attraction of finer cloths. And eventually dark washes, glorious fades, and even those red train tracks put me on course for my first pair of raw denim. The question is, which one?
Well, time-killing stroll in northern China decided it for me.
On my last day in Tokyo, I momentarily caught myself in the tourist shuffle: wandering into an alley, then another, searching for any hint of address, doubling back, pacing in square circles, swearing that the café we researched had to be right around here. I took a moment at the buzzing Harajuku intersection to grasp any sense of direction. Waiting at the crosswalk, I saw no less than:
- One pastel woman in Doc Marten boots and a Victorian wig
- Two of four perfectly chromed hubs bouncing to the hydraulic initiations of a lowrider impala
- A corner shop dedicated to a rainbow of prophylactics, appropriately called Condomania
I bet everyone has caught their own version of this scene in Japan, a self-contained ecosystem of idiosyncratic flairs. The Galápagos of style.
In the metro, the cavalier mode above contrasts with everyday businessmen, commuting in hues as muted as the subway cars that transport them. Gray, navy, black. Crisp, polished, deft. It was as if the underground spreads of Brooks Brothers surfaced into bubbles of cosplay. Except here, there’s no sign of caricature or false characterizations.
For whatever reason – be it the lifelong reverence to improving upon one’s craft, or the flawless execution of foreign signatures, at-times to the point of succeeding its progenitor – Japan has always been able to embody an assortment of styles on any given day with breathless ownership.
And I think that’s what’s kept Ring Jacket relevant through its sixty-one years.
What’s something you use that is so well-disguised in it’s indispensability that the second you perceive it, becomes impossible to ignore?
Something like, say, breathing.
Pumping columns of air into diaphragm and out through nostrils in tiny flares.
into, out though . . . into, out though . . . into, out though.
If I’ve made you aware of your own breathing, I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience. But since you’re attention is already on it, go ahead and just take a deep breath. Pull a mighty draft in. Let your chest bellow with volume. Make it audible. Make it count. To five.
It’s rich, isn’t it? We cycle a whole day in reflexive, measured respiration. But oh, what a feeling to take a deep breath. It’s different. It’s more. It makes you notice how valuable this habit really is.
Everyone’s wheelhouse of routine contains something akin to a deep breath. The hefty sheet of parchment for the rare handwritten letter. The good china for your parents’ dinner visit. The Swingline from your paralegal days whenever the office stapler is being extra useless.
In my case, a fine necktie.
This evening we toasted to Double RL’s first year in Hong Kong with canned spirits, the twang of a folk duo, and the appreciation of a damned good denim outfit.
For those unfamiliar, Double RL aka RRL is a fine project for the house of Ralph Lauren. The outpost of Mr. Lauren’s ardor, this collection showcases his admiration for the frontiersmen and frontierswomen who built the great Americana. Iron-jawed union heroes and the rigid jeans a 15-hour shift could break. Sentinels of naval shipyards with only the pockets of a wool pea coat to save their hands. Daredevils of industry and the finely combed haberdashers who suited their panache. Every piece in this store carries the familiar tune of honest pay for honest work. A well-dressed museum of American history, if you’d ask me.
The RRL staff were generous in hosting the event, offering much more than new items to their impressive stock. Matt Abergel – owner of HK eateries Yardbird, Sunday’s Grocery, and Ronin – led his staff in passing artisan cheese sandwiches and cans of Suntory highballs throughout the night, which made this morning’s hangover completely deserved. The house band upstairs played out the celebration with bluegrass and and country harmonies, ringing in the anniversary with all the right tunes for a house of this style.
Last night I had the pleasure of attending the fourth-year anniversary of The Armoury – Hong Kong’s premier haberdashery – at their new Landmark location in Central. Below is what I can remember through snifters of Kilchomann.
The Armoury 2 has moved across the hall from its previous location to accommodate their growing fan base, as well as to expand into distilled offerings with new partner The Whiskey Library, a connoisseurie of liquors that pair seamlessly with a three-piece in wool. This collaboration proved impeccable last evening, with high spirits all around.
A recent article attributed the punctuality of the Hong Kong subway system to an algorithm. This single calculation pattern is responsible for moving 5.2 million people in a single day with a 99.9% on-time record. Mechanically speaking, the Hong Kong MTR operates precisely like a stopwatch.
As its passengers, we must move from turnstile to train queue with reciprocal efficiency; keep the stopwatch perfectly on time. If there is a queue, it is maintained. If there is an empty seat, it is filled. If you are standing on the escalator, it is on the designated side to allow others to pass. Take your time if you wish, but never others’.
The twenty-four hour Hong Kong suit is a product of this pace. Men and women who fly through this city to reach every corner of the globe, and on a layover can get measurements at Saturday lunch for a finished suit at Sunday brunch. This seems to be the selling point for most tailors in this city, and a buying point for most tourists, myself included. In the age of download speeds and same-day delivery, how can one deny the allure of an in & out custom-made suit?